The next morning, Remus was up early. Harry was safe and content, back under the charms. The toddler was slowly becoming more resistant to the charm over all, which meant that these little excursions would have to end soon, but there were two more trips that were needed to complete before he could settle down with his young adopted nephew to raise him right. If all went well, then he wouldn’t have to face such a momentous task alone…
It was time to figure out what really had happened two nights ago.
*Relax.* Moony murmured. *Let down your walls. This won’t hurt again, I swear to you. Focus on the sensations you feel during the Change–running through the forest, the earth underneath your pads, the wind in your face…*
It was like falling, boneless, to the ground, only to land on his hands and … paws? He glanced down in surprise to see two very large, furry paws with lethally sharp claws curving out of the ends.
Ignoring Moony’s amused huff of laughter, he padded into his bedroom, where he had a full length mirror on the back of his door.
A young adult wolf stared back at him. Tawny gold, to match his own burnished locks. Warm dark brown eyes laughed back at him, almost almond shaped and tilted slightly at the corners, rimmed by dark pigment and enhanced by molten gold flecks. He was rather on the lanky side still, Remus thought critically, and lean, although the potential to broaden out was there.
*Yes, yes. We are gorgeous and we’ll have all the she-wolves lining up, bitches and witches thought they may be.* Moony teased. *Shall we go?*
Remus snorted, mentally rolling his eyes at himself and his counterpart, and left.
They covered the twenty miles between his cottage and the Potter’s in no time, using that ground-eating lope that was inherent to wolves. Moony got them inside, leaping neatly over the detection and barrier spells, and allowed Remus to take over, but kept them in wolf-shape.
James was still there, and Remus assumed Lily would be too, under a preservation spell as part of the crime scene. He knew the Aurors had already been through, and would return to complete clean up when then received instructions as to burial details.
James had been an Auror; Lily, a mediwitch and Trauma Healer attached to his unit. As such, they had been required to write up a will and fill out the necessary forms in the event that they were killed in the line of duty. James also had additional paperwork, as was his responsibility as the Head of House Potter; but Gringott’s had control of all of that, so it wasn’t a concern for Remus. Yet.
While he had been lost in his thoughts, Moony had taken back control briefly, using their enhanced senses to scan the room in ways humans wouldn’t have thought of.
*Remus. Go to James’ body, near his head. There’s a scent there, that I almost recognize…*
The wizard complied, crouching gingerly and trying to push the overwhelmingly sense of grief back as he let the wolf take over to lean in close, inhaling deeply. James looked like he was merely sleeping, his mouth open and his body sprawled out in a position that would probably be extremely uncomfortable to anyone else. Moony stuck his nose practically in James’s mouth and sniffed, before backing away and snorting, shaking his head.
*Do you smell that? It’s a potion of some sort, I know it is. Slughorn always started off with it in Advanced Potions. Draught of death or something…*
“Draught of Living Death.” Remus breathed, finally recognizing the repugnant smell of the dangerous potion from their days at Hogwarts. “The Sleeping Beauty potion. Suspends everything – heart rate, breathing, vitals – slows them all down so that people believe you’re dead. Lily told me that they use it for extreme cases in the hospital, like for dragon pox patients. Diseases can’t spread if the body isn’t functioning and doing the work. Gives the healers time to create an antidote to at least slow it down, enough to give families a chance to say goodbye.” he rattled off absently, lost in thought.
*But why would James have taken it in his duel against Voldemort?*
Remus frowned down at his friend, thinking. “The Killing Curse does the opposite of what the Draught does; speeds everything up, so essentially you die of an aneurysm. Blood vessels bursting in your brain.” He mused. “James, you crazy bastard…What if he took the Draught to counteract the effects of the curse?”
*That’s…absolutely mental.* Moony breathed.
“Desperation. A wild card play. Something no one knew about, not even Sirius–but maybe…Lily?”
*We’ll check in a minute.* Moony ordered. *Let’s lean down close, check for his heartbeat. A normal witch or wizard wouldn’t be able to hear, would assume he was dead, but we can hear it…*
Remus lightly rested his head on his friend’s chest, holding his breath. Seconds ticked by, infinitely slow. But then…
“He’s still alive!” Remus breathed.
*Go check Lily!*
They raced upstairs, frantically scanning underneath and around her body for another vial…to no avail.
“Dammit!” Remus slumped against the wall, closing his eyes in renewed grief.
Moony was quiet, letting him grieve for the bright, vibrant, kind young witch who had been his first friend, even before James and Sirius.
*Dumbledore said something about her sacrifice, and Petunia’s blood protecting Harry.* The wolf said quietly after a few moments. *You don’t think he meant a blood ward, do you?*
“It’s possible.” Remus responded tiredly. “Knowing Lily, she sacrificed herself to save Harry’s life, which means any protections activated would be through her blood.” He cursed vividly. “It wouldn’t have worked if Harry had stayed with Petunia, though. She and Lily are sisters by marriage, not by blood. Lily’s mother remarried when Lily was young, and her blood sister Marigold was out of the house; their father was a Muggle politician; he died of cancer, I believe. Mari was also a witch, but she was ten years older than us, so she was gone before we started Hogwarts. She moved, to France I think, with her mother after their parents divorced. And she stayed with her mother’s maiden name after their father married Petunia’s mother, so no one made the connection to Lily Evans. Only a couple of people knew anyway…I don’t think even James was one of them, actually.” He stood up, wincing at the stiffness. “We should probably tell Dumbledore…”
Startled, the wizard frowned. “Why not?” he demanded. “We may not trust him as much, but he’s still a great wizard–”
*–Who is playing a much bigger game in which we are all pawns.* Moony finished flatly. *We trusted Sirius, and he betrayed us–*
“Sirius!” Remus growled, instantly distracted. “I still don’t believe it, but then I never thought that he would accuse me of the same things, either.”
*Easy.* Moony warned. *One thing at a time. So. James is not dead. We don’t know what the potion does in reaction to the curse. Therefore, we need to let the wizarding world assume that they’re dead, and the funerals need to commence as planned.*
*Yes. The potion will preserve him, and pureblood tradition requires that they both be encased in the Potter family crypt, not the graveyard. His body will be preserved and safe. The world must believe that they’re both dead. For now. Including Dumbledore.*
Remus growled again, low and rumbling.
*Yield, wolfling.* Moony said gently. *You know that I am right.* He waited, watching as the wizard’s emotions slowly subsided. *Let us return home, check on Harry, and make plans.* He continued quietly. *We will not allow our pack mate to remain unprotected, Remus. But now is not the time.*
They apparated back home, in no mood to take the long way. After taking care of Harry and himself, Remus sat at his table with some parchment, thinking.
“I should probably get in the habit of talking to you in my head.” He said wryly. “I’m considered to be mental enough as it is by the rest of society.”
Moony snickered, accepting the unspoken apology. *A problem for another day. You think better out loud, Professor.*
The wizard grunted at the teasing nickname, which had been bestowed upon him by James and Sirius within the first month of their friendship, but let it go. “So, since we have to wait, I might as well make plans for what we’re going to do once we have him.” He mused, pulling out some parchment and a quill. “ I can come back after the funerals and get his body with no one the wiser.”
“Sirius needs to know about James, yes. I owe him that much. But first, I need to know the truth.” He ‘looked’ at his companion. “Can we wolf-Apparate to Azkaban?”
*Yes. Sirius is still Pack, though the bond is weak. I cannot shield you from the Dementors in human form though, so we need information quickly.*
“Good. Let’s not waste any time then.”
Remus wolf-apparated directly into Sirius’s cell at Azkaban. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dank dimness of the barren space. He staggered as the violent sea winds shoved him a few more steps inside, towards the back wall.
What he had believed to be a leftover, forgotten or discarded pile of rags rustled and moved. A long legged, shaggy, coal black dog emerged from the darkness, stiff legged and growling, head lowered in warning as it glared at Remus.
“Change, Black.” Remus ordered, letting Moony rumbled through his voice and eyes, which were full gold. “We need to talk.”
The dog held his gaze balefully for a long moment, before slowly morphing, lengthening, changing to the man whom Remus had once called his best friend and brother.
Sirius had always been roguishly handsome, with his coal black hair and clear ice blue, almost silver, eyes, and his aristocratic features. Three days in Azkaban under the devastating effects of the Dementors had aged him twenty years, though fire and awareness still burned in his eyes.
“Why?” Remus demanded fiercely. “Why are they saying that you betrayed James and Lily, that you killed Peter? What happened, Sirius?”
“Peter. Murderer. Rat. Secret betrayer. Ickle little Wormtail, who would’ve ever thought the rat was truly a rat? A rat, with the heart of a worm and the colors of a Gryffin!” Sirius cackled. “Dead men tell no tales. Switch the secret, no one will ever know!”
“Sirius!” Remus cried desperately. “Focus! Tell me what happened!”
“S’all my fault. I killed them. Dead, all dead, cuz of mee! Should’ve known, shouldn’t of told…” Sirius cackled again before descending once more into mumbling and nonsense. After a moment, he melted down, until the large black dog was once more standing before them. He bared his teeth warningly before moving back into the shadows and lying down, his back pointedly to the world.
*Remus. The Dementors are too strong. I fear it’s too late. We may never know the truth.* Moony said sadly.
“Padfoot…” The wizard pleaded one last time, to no avail. Gritting his teeth, he let the wolf Apparate them away, back home.
Remus took solace in Harry, cuddling the boy and breathing in his scent, so comforting and soothing and familiar. They were in the rocking chair, the motion soothing to them both. The boy was dozing lightly, one chubby hand clutching a lock of Remus’s hair tightly, even in his sleep. The wizard angled his head, carefully working the strands out.
“Grip like a lion, this one.” He chuckled, though his throat was tight with tears. “James would be so proud.”
*He will have a chance to experience it for himself, in two days.* Moony replied lightly. *Is everything set? Do you have the antidote?*
The wizard nodded, careful not to rouse the sleeping child on his chest. “Yes. They were wary about accepting all of us, but are willing to at least give us sanctuary until we can figure out our next move. I never would have thought of that particular location.”
*Wolf Haven Sanctuary in Washington State has long been a haven for magicals of all types who just want to live in peace by the old ways, instead of being governed. That includes werewolves and a father and son pair who somehow have both done the impossible and survived the Killing Curse.* The wolf said drily. *The main difference is that they will not ask questions, and will not reveal our location.*
“I sure hope so.” Remus murmured sleepily. “Else we’re all buggered…”