Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Dora left two days' supply of Wolfsbane Potion over a magical fire in the corner of the kitchen fireplace and Molly left stew, suggesting that Remus eat quite a lot before the full moon to keep his strength up, as those dark circles were starting to show beneath his eyes again.
Remus thanked her before Sirius could start protesting that he could at least cook.
"So, the moon is mid-week this time," Sirius said when they'd all left. "You're not going to work the next day again, are you?"
"I'll see how I feel Wednesday morning when I change back. But I won't stay up all night the night before this time, so it shouldn't be awful."
"Are you still going to one of those shacks? Because there are plenty of rooms here..."
"We've been over this."
"So what were you and Molly talking about for so long?"
He shrugged. "She brought me stew. I ate it. She asked me nicely to discourage the children from joining this group. I told her I'd pass on the message but not pretend to agree with it."
"Sounds like a good compromise."
"Then she asked if Mum really was like her portrait... if she'd said those things to me. It was strange." He sat down. "I told her a bit. You know... about Mum." He looked up sheepishly, as if caught doing something he oughtn't. Remus wasn't sure what to say. "I don't remember her shouting a lot," Sirius said. "Mum, I mean. I think she'd slipped a bit by the time that portrait was painted. And then Molly asked about Dad and Regulus. Can you believe it?"
Remus frowned. It did seem odd, particularly since Molly had not been sent down with some sharp words after their absence, but had instead simply come down the stairs with Sirius. "Did you tell her?"
"Tell her what? That Dad was about as talkative as the wallpaper around here, and Regulus could be a world class git?" Sirius sighed. "I don't know what she wanted to hear. I think I mostly talked about Reg. She had younger brothers, too."
"Gideon and Fabian. I remember them."
"Right. So she said that's what she thinks about when the children go off and do wild things."
"What about you? Do you think about Regulus?"
"They're not becoming Death Eaters, Remus." He shrugged. "Anyway, the conversation just went on a bit. We actually got laughing over oldest-sibling sorts of business. I didn't think that would happen."
Remus said nothing.
"Then said she thought I'd be different when I had children of my own, and that was the end of it. Does she really think I'm treating Harry like he's a stranger?"
"I'm sure she just means going through all the scraped knees and whatnot that children get when they're small."
"I'm his guardian," Sirius muttered. "I don't remember Best-Friend's-Mother being some official authority figure."
Remus laughed aloud before he realized he going to, and waved his hand and Sirius's glare. "Really, Sirius. If I had a sickle for every time Mrs. Potter told you not to drive that motorbike so fast, or please don't curse so, I wouldn't be nearly as hard-pressed for money as I am."
"She never told me not to do what was right."
"You were an adult when you got involved in the war. So was James."
"I'm never going to get along with Molly."
Sirius stared at the table for awhile. "What do you think?" he said suddenly. "Do you think I'd be different with a child who had scraped knees and such?"
"Different from Molly? Certainly."
Sirius rolled his eyes, but didn't press the question. "I wouldn't mind finding out," he said. "After my name is cleared... I suppose... it might not be awful, being married, having a family, all that."
"It's always sounded nice to me."
"Then what the devil have you been wasting your time on? I was in Azkaban. What's your excuse?"
"Fangs, fur, and finances," Remus said. "I'm not anyone's notion of a perfect husband. Why are we having this conversation?"
"Do you think it would be different if James and Lily had lived?"
"I'm not sure why it would be."
"I just wonder sometimes. I wonder what would have happened on November the first if... if that hadn't happened on Halloween. And on November the second. And so on. I know it would have been different for me. And I'll wager it would have been different for you, too. You've just been drifting. Lily never would have let you get away with that."
"Don't play what-if. That's what I did the first five years. Just... don't."
Sirius was quiet for a long time, then he took a deep breath, as if clearing his mind. "Did you ask anyone?"
Remus turned. "What?"
"You know... was it fangs, fur and finances, or was it you deciding ahead of time that they would be a problem?"
"This really isn't something I care to discuss."
"So you didn't."
Remus felt his jaw going painfully tight--he knew that Sirius was trying to egg him into an outburst, and he wasn't going to play along. "As it happens," he said, "I haven't met anyone I was inclined to trust with the information. Do you plan to run out into the square and tell the first pretty girl you see that you're an escaped convict?"
"I knew it," Sirius said complacently. "You don't do anything without the rest of us pushing you into it." He looked over to his side, then quieted, his spirits falling.
The rest of us.
Except that they were the only ones left. There was no one else to look at when he turned around.
Remus had caught himself looking around more than once in the first year after James and Lily had died, meaning to scold James, or point something out to Peter, or share a joke with Lily (one of the few people at Hogwarts who had shared his sense of humor at that age). Even in his anger at Sirius, he had sometimes found himself rolling his eyes and starting to complain about some idiocy of the Ministry, only to realize that he was alone. Phantom pains from missing limbs.
His irritation with Sirius disappeared. "Well," he said, "you're back now."
Sirius smiled, looking older than Remus had ever imagined him, then the old light started coming back into his face. "I think we should play a prank on someone. Just for old time's sake."
"Anyone in mind?"
"My cousin Narcissa."
"You're really sure it's her, aren't you?"
"I'd like to find out."
It was a mad idea, really. Sirius's pranks always tended to go one step too far and spin out of control. And the risk of being caught...
"You know you're in," Sirius said.
Remus sighed. "What do you have in mind?"
"I don't know yet. We may want Dora on board. I'll work on it. We can talk about it after the moon. But you're in, right?"
"Provisionally," Remus said. "I'm not doing anything that will break my cover or get you caught."
"Well, that spoils my best ideas," Sirius said, grinning.
Remus went upstairs to sleep, leaving Sirius to pace and plan.