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Repost: Stray, Chapter Four: Auror Borealis - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: Stray, Chapter Four: Auror Borealis
Fixed a whole lot of typos commenters had caught (and probably proceeded to add more), and sharpened Sirius's perception of what's going on with Remus and Tonks. Just a bit of clarifying here and there.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Sirius froze at the window, not sure what to do.

The Auror was obviously not there to interrogate Remus. They seemed to just be having a long, casual conversation, and it clearly wasn't the first. When they began to clean up, they moved together in an easy, familiar way. When she bumped the table and knocked over a stack of boxes, he caught them with a practiced flick of the wand; when he brushed against her, she reached up and mussed his hair affectionately. It occurred to Sirius that they might, in fact, be more than friends--something in the easy physicality suggeted it, but there was nothing here that implied a lovers' tryst.

Sirius took a few steps back from the window, his great paws making soft thumps on the stone, then sat back on his haunches. It had never occurred to him that Lupin might be close to an Auror, one way or the other, though they had both had friends in the division before. It had never, if he was going to be honest with himself, occurred to him that Lupin had made any close friends. Hiding a fugitive would be a strain on--

The door opened suddenly spilling candlelight out into the night, and the girl stepped out, still looking over her shoulder. She was carrying a large bowl of leftovers.

"Aren't you meant to be expelling the hogboon?" she said. "Thought the whole point was that your landlady didn't want to give him sacrifices anymore."

"It'll keep him quiet for the night," Remus called. "I'll get back to work on expelling him tomorrow."

The girl shook her head and rolled her eyes, then turned and gasped, dropping the bowl with a clang. She was staring directly at Sirius.

Remus came out. "What hap--" He froze, then said in a perfectly untroubled tone, "Oh, sorry. Dog's been coming around for scraps. I think he swam over from the next island."

Sirius admired the quick lie.

"Gave me a start," the girl said. "You ought to keep him, though. I've been telling you for years that you should get a pet."

The corners of Remus's mouth twitched. "Yes, well."

"Won't he eat what we leave for the hogboon?"

"Probably," Remus said. "I should bring him inside and feed him properly, so he doesn't."

Sirius wagged his tail eagerly, and fought not to actually nod.

"I'll see if I can get the sauce off some of the leftover chicken," the girl said and went back inside.

"Auror," Remus mouthed.

Sirius nodded and followed him in.

By the time they were in, the girl had poured chicken curry into a large bowl, and was pointing her wand at it with a dubious expression. "All right," she said. "Kitchen spells. I know this one. Pullus denudo."

The curry sauce, much to Sirius's disappointment, disappeared.

"It worked," she said, delighted.

"As it's a third year spell," Remus said dryly, "I would hope so. You just have a mental block about it, Dora."

Sirius blinked.

Dora?

It couldn't be...

But he looked at the young Auror again--bright eyes, high cheekbones, crazy hair color.

Andromeda's daughter, Nymphadora Tonks--always called Dora as a child--had been able to change her hair color and face at will by the time she was five. But she was just a small child, only...

He did the math. He'd last seen her when she was eight. It had been thirteen years. She'd be twenty-one.

He looked up sharply at Remus, who nodded subtly.

Sirius looked at his paws miserably. He'd imagined Harry growing up year by year in Azkaban, so seeing him hadn't brought the time home to him; he'd looked almost exactly as Sirius had imagined he would. But Nymphadora... she was a little girl he'd once adored, but to whom he hadn't given much thought while he was in prison. Now here was a lovely young woman, and the child was gone, and the years he'd lost seemed suddenly a deep and uncrossable chasm, one he would fall into if--

The bowl clanked down to the floor in front of him, and Dora buried her hands in his scruff. "Aren't you a good one?" she cooed. "But you're soaking wet and cold! Here." She waved her wand dried his fur--which was really only a bit damp from the grass--then gave him a wonderful warming charm. "Do you have a bowl for water?" she asked Remus.

Remus Conjured one and filled it with clean water, then pointed subtly over his shoulder at the glasses on the shelf and a bottle of mead on the counter. Sirius didn't care. He put his snout in the bowl of chicken and nearly inhaled it. He'd eaten less well over the past several years.

Dora sat beside him on the floor cross-legged, scratching behind his ears. It was comforting.

"Dora," Remus said, "don't you have shift?"

She checked her watch. "In forty minutes." She leaned over and kissed the top of Sirius's head. "You really should keep him. He's such a good dog!"

"He is," Remus said carefully. "And he's had a bit of a rough road. I wouldn't want to see it get any rougher."

"Which is why you ought to take him in," Dora said. "Honestly, Remus. If you have to think of it as a way to be self-sacrificing instead of self-serving, imagine the food you'll need to give up."

"I'll try to keep that in mind."

Dora petted Sirius quietly for a few minutes, then sighed deeply. "I really don't want to go to work," she said. "They still think I let him go."

Remus kept his face carefully blank, but Sirius could see the awkwardness creeping into his stance. "I thought Kingsley Shacklebolt took care of that."

"Oh, he reminded them that Sirius has got away from all of us, but that doesn't stop them from whispering. You know the Black family--loyal to one another at all costs. The fact that Aunt Narcissa tried to block me from being trained seems to have escaped their notice." She frowned up at Remus. "What's wrong? And don't say 'nothing,' because you look like a crowd of fifth years has been practicing Stunning Spells on you."

He gave her an appraising look, then said, "Nothing I can really talk to you about."

She hissed angrily and slapped her hand on the floor. "Oh, honestly, Remus, what do you think I..." She stopped. "Oh. The Black case."

He nodded.

"You believe the children that Snape said were Confunded, don't you? You think he's innocent."

"I think you can live without the conflict of interest that my answer would likely give you. You can't do anything about it."

Her hand stopped moving in Sirius's ruff, and she stood up quickly. "You know, Remus," she said, "maybe I should decide what I can and can't live without. Just for fun." She picked up a battered old book bag, still covered with quill doodles that Sirius supposed dated back to Hogwarts, and went to the door. "I have to get to work. Call me if you ever decide there's something you can talk about."

She slammed the door and was gone. Sirius moved to transform, but Remus held up his hand.

The door opened again, and Dora leaned in. "I'm sorry," she said. "I really..." She rolled her eyes and went to Remus, who was still sitting down. "I do want to talk about this," she said, then leaned over and kissed the bridge of his nose, a weirdly intimate gesture that was apparently entirely normal for both of them. "But I'll wait until you're ready to tell me."

"It's not that," Remus said. "But... thank you. I do want to talk to you about it. But not while there's nothing you can do."

She nodded in a resigned way, then went back to the door. "You really should keep the dog," she said before leaving. "It's not good to be alone." Then she closed the door again and went out into the night.

Remus watched warily for a few minutes, then nodded. "She's gone," he said.

Sirius transformed and sat on a moth-eaten tartan armchair. "That's my cousin Dora?"

"Yes. I'm sorry, Sirius, I want to tell her everything, but she can't do anything about it, and it would just tear her up."

"She already has her doubts..."

"She's not entirely certain of her doubts." Remus shook his head. "She was fourteen when she found out I was a werewolf. Andromeda and Ted always knew, of course, but I hadn't got around to telling Dora yet. She found out on her own."

"Was she angry at you for not telling her?"

"No. But she managed to end up in detention for most of the next term for getting into duels and fights with anyone who said the slightest negative thing about werewolves. Reminds me of someone else whose name I can't quite remember." Sirius grinned dutifully. Remus rubbed his forehead. "The Ministry isn't Hogwarts. If she does that at work, she'll lose her job, and it won't do you a bit of good." He stood up wearily. "Come on. She brought enough to keep me in curry for the next year. Have some real food, served on an actual plate with genuine cutlery."

Sirius didn't follow him into the kitchen. His mind was still gnawing at the idea that the young woman he'd noticed was really little Dora. "She's grown up," he said.

"What?" Remus called from the kitchen.

"Dora. She grew up while I was in there."

Remus brought out a steaming plate and handed it to Sirius without answering. Along one side, he'd propped a fork and a wholly unnecessary knife and spoon. "Are you all right?"

"Who else don't I know anymore?"

Remus sat down on the sofa and gave Sirius a long look, then smiled feebly. "Well, there's Dumbledore. These days, he's all-knowing and wise. And Minerva McGonagall has got to be quite strict with her classes. Mad-Eye was Dora's mentor in the Division, and she says he's becoming paranoid, convinced there's a curse around every corner. Arabella Figg is raising kneazles. Old Dung turned out to be a thief, and Severus Snape, shockingly, is unpleasant and abrasive."

Sirius was surprised into a laugh. "Next, you'll tell me that Hagrid's taken a liking to monsters."

"Well, I didn't want to shock you, but as long as you've brought it up..."

They laughed, and Remus Summoned the mead. Just as Sirius was about to tip back his glass, something started tapping on the window. Beyond it, bright white against the night sky, was a tired and angry looking snowy owl, a piece of parchment tied to one leg.

Sirius frowned. "That's Harry's owl. Did he send word to you when I told him I was coming back?"

"What?" Remus stood up, a puzzled expression on his face, and went to the window to let the owl in. "No."

She soared to the floor and landed in front of Sirius, giving him a hearty peck on the ankle before lifting her leg and showing him a very tattered piece of parchment.

With a sinking heart, Sirius realized: "She must have been following me. I stayed a few days in a couple of places, but she must have got off track there. She knows it here, and must have followed me directly..." He looked at Remus. "I went west from Brazil. I've been most of the way around the world. She's been all the way around it, if she's been following."

"For how long?"'

"I started... almost two months ago. I don't know how long ago Harry answered. Did he write to you in between?"

"Write to me about what?"

"His scar," Sirius said, and frowned at the blank look on Remus's face. "He didn't tell you? It was hurting. He wrote to me for advice, and I told him I was coming back straightaway. I just assumed he'd written to you as well."

"Harry?" Remus shook his head. "Harry probably dithered for a day before deciding to write to you, and you're his godfather. He doesn't ask for help easily."

"But he'd asked you last year..."

"When I was his teacher, and not until after his encounters with Dementors had cost him a Quidditch match and his broomstick."

Hedwig hooted insistently, and scratched her talon in the air.

Sirius quickly unfastened the parchment, then absently Summoned the remainder of the food in his dog bowl for her and poured some water into a Conjured dish.

Dear Sirius, Harry had written. I reckon I just imagined my scar hurting, I was half asleep when I wrote to you last time. There's no point coming back, everything's fine here. Don't worry about me, my head feels completely normal. Harry.

Sirius raised an eyebrow at Remus. "Don't tell me--you taught him the fine art of communication by letter, as well." He tossed the parchment to him.

Remus caught it. "He's lying."

"I caught that much. Do you know anything about curse scars? I don't trust this at all."

"No one knows about scars from this particular curse. Harry's is the only one. It could mean nothing, or it could mean everything."

"That's not going to be helpful to him."

"I don't imagine so, no."

Sirius sighed. "Do you have a bit of parchment and a quill?"

It was mostly a rhetorical question--as long as Sirius had known Remus, no matter how poor, he'd had at least one tattered quill, a scrounged ink bottle, and a piece of scrap parchment. Sirius wrote a brief note back to Harry, not pretending to believe a word of Harry's protestation, and promising him that he was somewhere safe. He looked at Hedwig--lovely, smart animal, out of place anywhere near her--and quickly added an instruction not to use her. It wouldn't do to have such a distinctive owl dropping by, especially if Remus's place was being watched. Different owls coming and going wouldn't attract much Auror attention, but the same one visiting frequently? It was nearly asking to be intercepted. He closed with an admonition to tell Dumbledore about the slightest twinge in the bloody scar, then gave Hedwig back the letter. "You can rest here, tonight," he said. "But take that to Harry in the morning."

Hedwig glared at him, then showed him her tail and buried her head beneath her wing.




They drank for an hour and talked about inconsequential things. Sirius went out and got Buckbeak from the hill and brought him down into the flat land behind Remus's house. He'd caught dinner on his own.

Remus told Sirius to take the tiny bedroom that night, on the rationale that he was the guest, and hadn't slept properly for some time, and furthermore, Remus had to get up early to start dealing with the hogboon, and--

Sirius hadn't been in a mood to argue. He went to the room, which was barely big enough for the sagging, moldy-smelling bed, and collapsed into the pillows. He dreamed of London. He was with Dora, but Dora as she had once been, not as she was now. She was wearing bright green pigtails, each tied with a hank of oversized pink yarn. They were walking together in the square outside of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, but she couldn't see it and started to cry. Sirius crouched down and cuddled her.

"There now," someone else said, and Sirius looked up, entirely unsurprised to see Regulus, also a young child, though dressed in Death Eater's robes and carrying his mask. He was standing on Dora's other side, and was patting her shoulder. "You'll see, it'll all work out. You're still blood."

And then he became blood, a fluid statue, pulsing with his heartbeat. He reached out and touched Sirius's forehead, smearing him with gore, then dissipated in an explosion of scarlet mist that drenched both of them. Dora continued to cry, unmindful of what had happened, then looked up suddenly. "Why, he was right!" she said, and laughed. "It's right there! Can we go in now, Sirius?" She smiled, her teeth very white in the midst of all that red, and tugged on his hand.

He woke up to a thin northern sunshine reaching feebly through the bedroom window, and went out to find the rest of the house deserted. Remus had left a note on the table, a shopping list with a symbol at the top that they'd used in Hogwarts to tell one another to break a spell on hidden letters. Sirius broke it and read, Have whatever you'd like for breakfast. Rest if you want to. I'm working on that hogboon; as Dora reminded me, I really am meant to be doing so. His mound is the hill on the other side of the house--it's a good thing you didn't choose that one to tie Buckbeak on. If you come out--or get too close to the windows--it might be wise to transform. Dora Tonks is not the only Auror prone to paying rather abrupt calls on me this year.

Sirius burned it, then took the first thing that came into his hands for breakfast--a single slice of bread. He wasn't planning to eat Remus out of house and home.

In the daylight, the shack was rather cheerful, in a truly hideous, back of beyond sort of way. The windows were small but clean, and let in a surprising amount of light. The furniture was battered and mismatched and the carpet threadbare, but it was impeccably neat. A small work table, possibly once a child's play table, sat beside a narrow bookcase, and Sirius smiled fondly at its contents. One book, its place carefully marked. A pile of other books stacked by the front left corner. A bottle of ink, a cup of quills. And two piles of parchment, one clean and unused, the other obviously bits of used scrap. It was a touch of complete familiarity--Remus's workspace. He had always made a point of saving copies of any important correspondence, but couldn't afford fresh paper for his records, so he used the backs of old scrawlings, sketches, and notes. Seventh year, when he'd been applying frantically for apprenticeships he had never believed he'd get, he'd actually used the back of essays he'd saved from earlier years.

Sirius leaned over them. The letter on top of the current pile seemed to be written on the backs of class lists, which made sense, as the letter he'd copied onto it was a report on his teaching last year. Sirius probably would have left it alone, except that Harry's name was near the top. The date on it was in late August.

Mad-Eye, Remus had written. If I'm not to be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, I'm rather glad you are. I shall tell you about all of the students you should know, but I'm sure you'll be particularly interested in my third year Gryffindors, who will be your fourth years--Harry and Neville will both be in that class. Neville has lost some of the ability they both had as babies to crawl into trouble headfirst (I'm sure you remember Frank Levitating half of headquarters trying to find them when they'd crawled under Lily's cauldron to play with Arabella's kneazle, and managed to get Silencing Solution all over themselves), but as I'm certain you've heard, Harry has honed it to a fine art...

The rest of the letter appeared to be less a report on his class than a reminiscence about each particular student. It was several pages long. Other than his third year Gryffindors, he had long entries on Fred and George Weasley ("I recommend giving them detention as soon as possible; they collect detentions from all of their professors, and you wouldn't want to push them into doing something drastic to get one from you"), a girl called Pansy Parkinson ("Off-putting at first, but actually quite a good student who has good observations in and out of class"), a Slytherin named Adrian Pucey ("Watch where he sets his 'good luck charm'--I suspected more than once when it was on the floor that he was using it to look up the robes of the girl beside him, but I couldn't prove it"), a Ravenclaw named Luna Lovegood ("She's very sharp; don't let her dreamy look fool you"), and several others from all of the houses. His note on Narcissa's boy, Draco Malfoy, was uncharacteristically brief: "Bright and ambitious." Sirius supposed no more was needed--they both knew what sort of man Draco's father was, and what he'd undoubtedly been raised with. If he had behaved in some manner that wouldn't have been expected from that, Sirius was sure that Remus would have noted it.

"Enjoying my personal correspondence?" Remus asked behind him.

"Well, it's more interesting than the letters you sent me. I never got to hear about tea with second-years or charms for voyeurs." He put the letter down and turned around. Remus had come back in, covered with dust and looking perfectly comfortable. "How is Mad-Eye, anyway?"

"Grown into his nickname," Remus said. "He lost an eye not long after you--well..."

"Ended up in Azkaban," Sirius prodded.

"Yes. He got it replaced with a magical one. Now when he stares at you like he's looking right through you, he probably actually is."

"Is he enjoying teaching?"

"I haven't actually heard from him. I suppose he feels awkward about it. Or is just too busy. The other schools should have arrived yesterday for the Triwizard Tournament."

"What day is it, anyway?"

"Halloween," Remus said. "Did you want a pumpkin to carve? I'm sure Hagrid could spare one if-- Sirius, are you all right?"

"Fine," Sirius said, but he was suddenly deeply cold, all the way to his bones. "But not entirely in the mood to celebrate this particular holiday."

Remus paled. "I'm sorry, Sirius. I... the first few years... But... I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

Sirius shook his head and sat down on the sofa. "The worst part of it was that James always loved bloody Halloween. You know he and Lily would have had the place decorated. They might even have been wearing costumes when Peter gave them up. They might have--"

"Sirius, don't. Don't do this to yourself."

"The first Halloween after Harry was born, James wrapped him up in gray blankets and said he was a flobberworm. I remember, two or three days before they died, he said he'd made Harry a little cloth hat with prongs on it. Our little joke. He didn't have it on when Hagrid carried him out. They must have already put him to bed."

"I don't know what happened to it," Remus said quietly. "Would you like some tea?"

"No, I don't want bloody damned tea. Or chocolate," he added before Remus suggested it.

Remus took a deep breath and ground his teeth, and set about making lunch, with which he brought both tea and chocolate. Sirius took both; neither helped.

The rest of the day passed in at an excruciatingly slow pace. Sirius replayed that horrible Halloween thirteen years ago, nearly minute by minute. He'd spent the day at ease, working on his motorbike, and simply thought it might be a good idea to go check on Peter, who'd been so nervous lately. And then Peter's house had been empty. And then...

Over and over. Last year, it had driven him into Hogwarts castle itself, where he'd screamed at the Fat Lady while she demanded passwords he didn't have. Finally, he'd slashed at her with a knife.

If he hadn't done that... if he'd just gone to Dumbledore's office... if... if...

Remus brought him supper. They ate. Sirius transformed into a dog in a last ditch effort to make the useless thoughts stop circling. It worked. He fell asleep by the fire.

And that was how he spent his first full day back in his homeland.




The black mood--so to speak, Sirius thought bitterly--lifted on its own over the next few days, and by the fourth of November, he had largely put it out of his mind. Transformed again, he was out on the island, not far from the hogboon's mound, hunting with Buckbeak while Remus, ignoring the hogboon entirely, set about building up a tower of peat (along with some wood he'd magicked in from the mainland) for a bonfire tomorrow. Kingsley, whose last name turned out to be Shacklebolt, had appeared for an unexpected tea on the second, and Remus had lied to him with great ease. Sirius was beginning to regret coming here, on some level--Remus was weaving a deep enough web of lies that, unless Sirius's own name was cleared soon, he'd be in Azkaban himself if he wasn't careful.

Or worse. There was always the possibility that Azkaban wouldn't want to handle a werewolf every month. Sirius didn't want to think about what they'd do instead.

Still, Remus never complained, and seemed glad of the company. Sirius was as well.

The weather was tenuously good--a chilly north wind had been blowing hard across the island for days, and Sirius thought he could smell rain on it, but given how much rain generally fell here, it might have just been a permanent part of the smell of the air. Of course, he wasn't smelling much of anything at the moment; he'd got a noseful of mold poking his snout into a rabbit hole, and was fighting not to sneeze.

He looked up a the sky to check the cloud-line.

A small speck was being buffeted back and forth, trying to circle in to land.

Sirius dropped the hunt and bounded up the mound to the top. Remus had made a truly prodigious pile of flammable materials, and was now placing a few anonymous guys on it.

Sirius barked sharply and looked up at the sky.

Remus looked up. "Owl," he said.

Sirius rolled his eyes.

Remus pointed his wand at the bird, helping to steady its flight, and, with some difficulty, it made its way down to where Remus could actually reach it and guide it the rest of the way. Shivering, it hopped across to Sirius. The note on its talon was addressed in Harry's hand... but the address suddenly changed from "Sirius" to "Professor Lupin."

Sirius looked up.

The pop from Apparition had been lost in the high wind. Dora Tonks was cresting the top of the mound, an amused little half-smile on her face.

"Working hard on the expulsion, I see," she said, eyes twinkling.

Remus gave her a weak smile. "Well, it may not like the bonfire."

"Mm." Dora looked down and saw Sirius. "Oh, your dog's still here. Good!" She dropped to the ground on her hands and knees and made a rough barking sound, then grinned and hugged Sirius. "Wotcher, pup," she said, then looked at Remus. "Have you given him a name yet?"

Remus gritted his teeth, and Sirius could nearly see the train of thought--"Padfoot" would be fine, unless she mentioned it to someone who may have heard Sirius called that in school. No one had guessed why the boys had the nicknames they did, but nearly everyone had heard them at one point or another. And they'd never even discussed a different name. In the silence, a fat raindrop plopped down to the ground. Finally, he shrugged and said, "I've mostly called him, 'You there.'"

"That's not very hospitable." She turned back to Sirius with an appraising gaze. "He's got the snuffles," he said. "I shall call him Snuffles."

Remus nodded soberly. "Snuffles it is, then." While her back was turned, he made a less than mature face in Sirius's general direction. More raindrops were landing.

"The owl seems to like him," Dora said, and Sirius noticed that the owl, intent on delivering its message, was still insistently presenting its leg to him.

Remus grabbed it and took the message, ignoring the squawks of protested dignity. "Apparently it's a new one," he said. "Can't tell the difference between a person and his dog." He glanced at the sky, which had suddenly darkened. "We should get inside," he said. "Or I'm going to end up with nothing but soggy parchment." He cast a quick protective spell on the bonfire base, then headed down, slipping the letter inside his cloak.

By the time they got to the house, the rain was steady and pounding. Sirius poked his head out the back door to check on Buckbeak, who was sleeping perfectly comfortably in a pile of fragrant grass (Sirius could tell by the impression in it that he was there). He came back in and sniffed the letter, which Lupin had placed on the work table, carefully treating it as nothing of great import.

"I brought you the Daily Prophet," Dora said. "Thought you might be interested in this."

Remus took it with some interest, then frowned. "Four champions?" he said. "Who put Harry's name in?"

He tossed it on the floor, the headline up.

Sirius ignored their conversation (Dora was fondly accusing Remus of sounding like Mad-Eye, he thought), and read the little blurb at the bottom of the page.

HISTORIC GLITCH IN THE "TRI" WIZARD TOURNAMENT
In a mistake without precedent in the ancient Triwizard Tournament, four champions, not three, have been chosen to compete... one of them significantly underage.

After duly selecting a champion from each of the three participating schools, the Goblet of Fire stunningly selected fourteen-year-old Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, as a fourth participant in the tournament, which carries a significant prize in gold as well as public acclaim. Representatives of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang expressed grave dissatisfaction, but are magically bound to continue the tournament once committed to it.

The
Daily Prophet will keep you informed of this historic event as it unfolds.

Sirius glanced over at Harry's letter, knowing what was inside of it now but wanting to open and read it anyway, unable to do so with Dora sitting four feet away.

He looked at Remus, who shook his head very slightly.

"...other champion from Hogwarts is Cedric Diggory," Dora was saying. "His father isn't happy with the Prophet for not mentioning his name."

"Yes, that's the salient point," Remus said.

"I know Cedric," Dora told him. "He deserves a bit of fame. Of course, his father's an idiot. Always was. The night Cedric showed up in Hufflepuff, he was very worried about what his father would say about him not being in Gryffindor. I sat up with him. He was fine after a while, and he loved Hufflepuff right off. He's supposed to have become a good Quidditch player."

"Very good," Remus said. "I saw him play last year. He beat Harry, though that wasn't really Harry's fault. There were Dementors."

Sirius barked sharply.

"Do you need something to eat?" Remus asked, raising his eyebrows.

Sirius barked again, having no idea what Remus was getting at.

Remus looked apologetically at Dora. "He's a bit of a slob when he eats; I've been feeding him in the storage room in back. Do you mind...?"

She didn't.

Remus brushed by the work table, upsetting his pile of correspondence and dislodging Harry's letter from its place. He picked everything up and--in a move Sirius could only admire--slipped the letter up the sleeve of his robes. Judging by Dora's uninterrupted patter, she hadn't noticed anything.

Remus led Sirius by the scruff into the back room and opened the letter, lying it on the floor beside an unused dog food bowl.

Sirius barked a thank you.

"If she comes out here, hide it," Remus whispered.

Sirius nodded impatiently, and Remus went back into the main house.

It was a very brief letter, only a couple of sentences (one of which was well-wishing for Buckbeak), but it established one thing with absolute certainty: Harry had not put his own name in the Goblet of Fire. He had no idea who had done so.

Sirius lay down, his chin covering the letter, his paws over his ears. This form made it more difficult to think clearly. What he really wanted to do was transform back to human--in his fantasy, Dora gaped for only a moment, then accepted him--and sit down to write a letter to Dumbledore, then head out and become Hogwarts' new guard dog. Particularly for the fourth year dormitory at Gryffindor Tower. What he had to do was find a way to contact Harry more quickly, be able to go back and forth without wind-tossed owls losing the thread of the conversation.

A Floo conversation would be perfect, but Remus had never added this place to the network. Sirius needed to know the lay of the land, and if he was going to get it, he needed to interrupt... just whatever it was Remus was doing with Dora.

He stood up and nosed the door open, and went back into the living room. Remus and Dora were sitting across from one another. She wanted to place a house-to-house bet (Sirius marveled that his cousin had been a Hufflepuff... if Mum hadn't disowned her from birth, she certainly would have then), but Remus didn't appear to be in much more of a mood for bantering about the subject than Sirius was.

Sirius ground his sharp teeth, thinking that Dora had certainly got to be quite the talkative girl, frustratingly so. She seemed to be...

He sat back on his haunches.

She seemed to be deliberately stalling.

He looked at her again. Beneath the surface chatter, she was wary. He didn't think she suspected the truth, but she damned well suspected something.

"All fed?" Remus asked, seeing him lurking in the door.

Sirius barked once, briefly. For good measure, he went over to Dora and licked her face, letting her scratch his ruff.

She kissed his snout, then stood up. "Well," she said, "I'd best get back. I'll let you get to your letter."

"I'm sure it's nothing pressing," Remus said. "Some of the children still write to me."

"Yes, of course. Clearly, it's my cousin Draco, pouring out his hopes and dreams..."

"That's unquestionably it. It's completely unmitigated by the fact that his hopes and dreams include getting rid of half-bloods and werewolves."

The letter, Sirius realized dimly.

What did a person do when he got a letter? Opened it, of course, even if it was just to check and see that no one was sending him a note about an emergency. But Remus had set it aside to entertain her, completely unopened.

And who might an Auror think such a letter was from?

Sirius cursed the owl's timing.

"Well," she said, "tell him I said hello." She kissed Remus on the nose again--Sirius wondered briefly what that was about--then left.

Sirius waited until Remus said, "It's all right, she's Apparated," then transformed.

"I don't like this at all," Sirius said.

"I'm sorry. Telling her to leave would have been suspicious. I always let her stay as she pleases."

"I've noticed that. And you're getting free kisses for it." Sirius smirked.

Remus took a moment to manufacture a horrified look, then dismissed it with a wave of his hand. Sirius thought about needling him, but there were more pressing matters. "Harry didn't put himself up for this," he said.

"I guessed as much."

"I have to talk to him."

Remus gave him a shrewd, sidelong look, and Sirius fully expected to be told it was impossible, that he needed to stay safely away. Instead, Remus said, "Let me think about how to do it."

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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 15th, 2009 08:31 am (UTC) (Link)
hey...i'm a longtime lurker coming out finally. i've read almost all your hp fics and i love them. you are definitely the best ff writer i've come across, though i suppose you hear that on a regular basis. your writing is so balanced and your plots are so extremely creative...and yay for stray!!! great chapter..and even though i've read this fic upto where you wrote it earlier, i'll be following with the same enthusiasm...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi!

I'm glad you like the fics, especially enough to re-read what you've already read. :) Hopefully, I'll be keeping a decent pace with this one.
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: March 15th, 2009 11:51 am (UTC) (Link)
:-)
Another great read. I'm looking forward to the next chapter.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Next chapter's an interlude. I miss interludes in the Teddy stories. :)
From: severely_lupine Date: March 15th, 2009 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wrote out this whole long thing, and then the internet ate it, so let's see if I can remember the key points:

Poor Remus, that Harry didn't even think to tell him about his scar.

I love how you write animals. You always give them such personality.

I love that bit after Sirius asked if there was anyone else he didn't know. That always cracks me up.

It was fun to read Lupin's reflections on his students. I love how you write him as such a born teacher.

It's great to see Tonks and Lupin's interactions through Sirius's eyes. He obviously notices something that Remus doesn't. It's sad he didn't live long enough to see them get married. He should have been the best man.

I know you've written one or two ficlets that take place during this year (like the one where Dora finally sees Sirius transform). Are you going to include them into the body of this story?
From: severely_lupine Date: March 15th, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes, I also wanted to say...

How exactly does one mouth "auror" in a way that someone else would be able to interpret correctly. The dearth of consonants is a bit of a problem.

He looked at Hedwig--lovely, smart animal, out of place anywhere near her -- Is that supposed to be "near here"?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why yes, it is. I read right over that.

The vowels in "Auror" are pretty round, and I expect Remus exaggerated, but I'd still imagine that if Sirius didn't already know she was an Auror, he'd be kind of confused.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
This story kind of josses "Conflict of Interest," though the events are worked in. That would mean waiting until after the third task to really have Tonks in the loop!
golden_d From: golden_d Date: March 15th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's great rereading all this. :) One thing:

Remus had made a truly prodigious pile of flammable materials, and was now placing a few anonymous guys on it.

...Remus burns people? I feel like I'm missing something.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 15th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's certainly going to burn Guy Fawkes.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, effigies. Though I have the wizarding community sort of more generalist about their effigies, making them into anyone they feel a little aggressive about. ;p
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 15th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, too bad Sirius didn't notice if the effigies had a particularly distinctive nose.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: March 15th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
And the sense of foreboding starts to build... Great chapter!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks!
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 15th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely love how your Sirius and Lupin interact. It's the perfect balance of awkward familiarity between the two; you can see it really well in the discussion of Halloween. Lupin has gotten over the painful memory while Sirius is still stuck in the grief.
The bit with Remus offering tea or chocolate and Sirius stubbornly refusing. I love how he puts it out anyway because he knows Sirius needs it even if he's going to be a stubborn pillock about it!

The excerpt of Lupin's report to Moody was so cute! If you ever do a challenge call I would love to see baby Neville and Harry getting into trouble!
Excellent chapter, Fern!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Trying to conduct a top secret meeting with two babies in the house must have been very interesting...

Sirius has had nothing but time to think about that night, and I think it's achieved an almost holy status to him, while to Remus, it's a night when something bad happened that really changed his life... but not the thing that sent it into complete ruins. He's had something of a life, if often an empty one, since. Sirius hasn't.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 15th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why didn't I understand the significance of Sirius' attack on the Fat Lady on Halloween until Remus said "Halloween" here? I feel stupid now.

Loving the story, as is to be expected, and cursing you for keeping me up far too long ;)

~Hermione Stranger~
malinbe From: malinbe Date: March 16th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I finally made it to a computer!

The letter to Mad-Eye was really sweet of Remus, too bad Mad-Eye never read it (or that it went straight into the hands of Barty Crouch Jr after he did).

I had never really realized the significance of the attack to the Fat Lady on Halloween until I read this, either. It makes perfect sense that that was the night when he acted crazy and broke the portrait.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 17th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love all the little snippets showing Remus' Marauder side. ;)

Halloween was absolutely heartwrenching and beautifully written.

Like Sirius I am enjoying seeing what will develop/ has developed between Remus and Tonks. :)
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 25th, 2017 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
"James wrapped him up in gray blankets and said he was a flobberworm."
Oh god, how cute and sad!
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