Fic: The Story of What Could've Been..., pt. 3 (Remus/Sirius, NC-17) for i_phiannasa Author:wook77 Recipient:i_phiannasa Title: The Story of What Could've Been, What Should've Been and What Was Rating: NC-17 Pairing: Remus/Sirius Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters engaging in sexual activity are 16 years or older. Summary: When a butterfly flaps its wings, it doesn't create the tsunami, it only changes the path. When a word is spoken or an action is taken, the path of the future changes until the could've beens and the should've beens and the was mix together. Warnings: Canon compliance. AU. Disparate timeline. Word Count: 21,100 Auhor's Notes: to i_phiannasa - your very open request gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore a story that's been haunting me for a couple of years. I thank you for the opportunity to write it and gift it to you. I've also included virgins, just for you. Many thanks to my betas, the three J's and the two T's. Obviously, all mistakes are my own.
What Should've Been
Sirius can't shake his suspicions and they start colouring his interactions with his mates. He can't take this much longer; he's never been one for postponing a discussion but this time, the ramifications are so much more important. The owl from Dumbledore arrives just before his patience bursts.
I have heard that they are unveiling a new ale at the Hog's Head. Perhaps you could join me at 10am today for a sample?
Sirius arrives at the Hogshead, waving to Aberforth as he shouts about letting in the weather. Aberforth's goat wanders up to him from behind the bar and Sirius scratches it behind the ears, then makes his way to the booth in the back where Dumbledore sits with a glass of butterbeer in front of him. Ears popping as he passes through the silencing spell, Sirius sits down and leans in.
"Any news on what happened?" Sirius looks around to see if anyone's watching. He knows he's acting suspicious, and if anyone's watching, they're sure to wonder just why Sirius is meeting with Dumbledore and scanning the room like he is. He doesn't much care, though.
"There have been some developments." Dumbledore pauses and then says, "There is a prophecy."
Sirius sits back, head hitting the back of the booth hard. He's never been a big believer in prophecies. They're all a bunch of shite as far as he's concerned, but, for others, well, for others prophecies are important things. The more credence one gave them, the more powerful they became. With Dumbledore believing in this one, it had to be important.
"There was an unfortunate incident and one of the parties mentioned in the prophecy now has access to it." There's that pause again and Sirius wonders just what it is that Dumbledore wants from him.
"Who's the prophecy about?" Dumbledore stares at him and then realisation dawns. "You Know Who."
"Very good, my boy. Yes, it is about Voldemort."
"Who else, though?" Sirius's mind races with who and what the prophecy could possibly describe.
"Of that, we are not certain. There are two possibilities. We shall have to see in time." Dumbledore fumbles in his pocket and pulls out a sweet, popping it into his mouth. "Until then, do be certain that when you are instructed not to tell anyone about something, you don't tell anyone. I realise that the four of you have no secrets from one another but there might come a time when secrecy will keep each of you alive. Try to remember that," he says, and then pats his pocket again before asking, "Sherbet Lemon?"
Sirius declines the sweet and then asks once more, "Do we know anything more about the spy? Is that who told Voldemort about the prophecy?"
"We will have to wait and see." Sirius opens his mouth to speak, but Dumbledore cut him off, "Patience. We'll figure it out."
"It's not one of us," he says emphatically. "It can't be one of us."
"Time will tell."
"You think it's me, don't you? You think it's either me or Remus, just like Moody does."
"Alastor Moody has, unfortunately, developed a fondness for suspicion. I rather think it has something to do with a friend of his losing a, erm, a buttock to a wand incident," Dumbledore says with the twinkle back in his eye. Sirius doesn't relax though.
"Do you think it's me or Remus?"
"Of course not, my boy." Aberforth interrupts and sets down a couple of pints before wandering back off, muttering invectives under his breath.
"Cheerful man, isn't he? Breath of fresh air and sunshine."
Dumbledore smiles at him and then takes a sip of the new drink. "So tell me, how is your charmwork? Still as strong as it had been while you were in school?"
The conversation descends into the minutia of regular life as Sirius and Dumbledore drink their pints. When the clock strikes the hour, Dumbledore stands and makes his way back to Hogwarts.
"Always got a plan, that one. Playing with people all the time. You'd think he would've learned, but he still thinks he's smarter than anyone else." Aberforth sits another pint glass down in front of Sirius.
"What do you mean?" Sirius asks and, when Aberforth starts to leave, grabs his sleeve.
"What do you think I mean? He's always playing with everyone. Thinks he's god or something. He suspects you, boy, don't think any different on that one. Otherwise he would've told you about… well, that's that." Aberforth pulls his sleeve from Sirius's grasp.
"What? What do you know?" Sirius doesn't release his hold even when Aberforth tries to pull away.
"Your friends are in trouble and Albus is playing games. You just remember that when you think him so smart and important."
"All of them?" Sirius lets go, completely stunned and doesn't even realise when Aberforth wanders off.
Ignoring Dumbledore's entreaty for silence and secrecy – after all, no one told him to keep the prophecy a secret – Sirius owls Remus before making his way to James and Lily's flat. Harry greets him at the door, tumbling into his knees as he tries to walk. "You'll get your legs under you yet, Harry," Sirius says before picking up Harry and swinging him around. "Oi!"
"Oi yourself," Lily says as she comes from the kitchen. "It's customary to knock on other people's doors, you know."
"You're not other people, though, are you?" Sirius stops swinging Harry even though he's giggling and beyond happy to go flying in circles. "James about?"
"He's in the back. Why?"
"I need to talk to the two of you. Dumbledore said something today that I think we all need to talk about."
"All? Should I owl the others?" Lily asks as she cleans her hand on a tea towel.
"Got Remus and he'll get Peter. We should keep it amongst ourselves for now, I think." Sirius goes deeper into the flat, pausing only to kiss Lily's cheek as he looks for James. "Oi! Where the everlasting hell are you, James?"
"No need to yell, I'm right in here." James's voice comes from Harry's room, so Sirius goes in.
"Dada!" Harry burbles out and reaches for James, making little grabbyhands and straining himself. Sirius sets him down and lets him toddle over to James.
"Hey, old man, visiting with your Uncle Sirius?"
"Paddywhack?" Harry asks, turning to look at Sirius. "Pway!"
Sirius rolls his eyes and then shifts, turning into Padfoot. Harry grins and grabs great handfuls of fur before leading Padfoot about. They end up in the hallway, Harry sitting next to him and chewing on his one ear, when Remus and Peter arrive. Sirius changes back, ear still in Harry's mouth, and hair still clenched in tiny fists. It's the work of a minute or two, with Remus and Peter laughing at his misfortune before he's able to extricate himself.
"What's going on?" Peter asks. "What smells so good?"
"You'll have to ask Sirius about the first and I'm making a roast as to the second. There's enough for all of us if you want to stay," Lily offers.
"Rolls?" Peter looks hopeful and Lily laughs and nods in response. "Sounds great, thanks, Lily."
"It needs a few minutes, enough time for Sirius to tell us whatever it is he needs to tell us." She looks pointedly at him as James comes out of the bedroom.
"There's a prophecy and it involves us. Something to do with Voldemort. I don't have a very good feeling about this at all." Sirius blurts it all out at once, a giant rush of ambiguous information.
"Prophecy? Do you know what it is?" James asks.
"Dumbledore didn't say. Hell, he didn't tell me all that much, either. Just said it involved Voldemort but Aberforth said something about it involving all of us." Harry looks up and makes his grabbyhands again so Sirius picks him up.
"I'll ask him," James says. "We need to be prepared, especially if someone's selling us out like they are."
"You guys hear anything else about it? Nothing's gone wrong since mine, right?" Sirius asks as he looks at each of them and hates himself for the small distrust that he feels.
"Nothing. Wonder if Voldemort killed the bastard when you didn't die," James says as he walks over to Lily to swing an arm over her shoulder.
"Maybe my dear cousin did when she didn't get the chance to kill me. She's been looking for the opportunity since I was about five so I wouldn't put it past her." Sirius laughs when he speaks, hiding the distrust under the teasing.
"Let's not talk about this. Let's just eat and talk about Quidditch or something," Lily interjects.
"Quidditch? You must be desperate for a change of subject," Remus says and then heads in to the kitchen. "Can I help you with anything?"
"I'll help, too. Least I can do is get the rolls from the oven," Peter says and enters the kitchen behind the other two.
James comes over to Sirius and leans in, whispering, "You think it's bad?"
"It's only going to get worse. There're only a few people who knew that the Prewetts and I were going on that mission. They swear they didn't tell anyone and only ones I told was us. You think someone caught Dumbledore's owl or something?"
"Come on, into the kitchen already! I'm hungry!" Peter's whine interrupts the conversation.
"Fine, fine! Did you see the way Osprey took that last Snitch? Bloody brilliant on a broom, that man is," James says with one last look at Sirius and Harry.
Moody doesn't stop watching him. It gets to the point that he can hear that leg clanking behind him at all times, even in the middle of the night during his dreams. He starts withdrawing from everyone, afraid that they all think he's going to join the Death Eaters and sell out the Order.
It doesn't help that he has to sneak around to find Regulus and keep working on him to leave the Death Eaters, stop being such a fucking coward and own up to the fact that he's on the wrong side. There's one close call, especially, when he comes out of a pub to find Moody standing off to the side, eye spinning in his socket.
"Beautiful night for a meeting, isn't it?" Moody asks before stomping off into the darkness.
What Could've Been
Remus can't believe the prophecy. If he concentrates on it, he'll get sick to his stomach so he doesn't. Instead, he concentrates on moving his things back into Sirius's flat and finding a job. Anything but the fact there's another disappearance and then another. Things are so tense and it's obvious the spy is a member of the Order. James and Lily are forced into hiding when they barely escape their flat before the Death Eaters swarm it.
"I'm too obvious of a choice," Sirius says as they sit around the table after eating Lily's pot roast.
"That's what makes the plan so brilliant! They'll think that we think you're too obvious so they'll be scrambling when, the entire time, it's you anyway!" James crows at his own brilliance.
"What? That makes no sense," Peter says as he looks from one person to another. "Don't you think that they'll just go after Sirius anyway?"
"They're after all of us anyway," Sirius says.
"But they're after you more than the rest of us, especially Bellatrix." Remus doesn't want Sirius to be at the 'tender' ministrations of his cousin, especially not with what he suspects happened to Regulus.
"They haven't got me yet and they won't, not with all of us working at it. Besides, I grew up with half these people. I know how they think. They won't get me." Remus can see the way that Sirius is twisted up with the idea that no one trusts him but he can't help but think of what Sirius is taking on.
"I think this is a bad idea," Remus says regardless of the betrayed look that Sirius shoots him.
"So do I," Peter agrees.
"I think it's a brilliant plan," James says and Lily, after a nudge or two from James agrees. "Sirius? You're the deciding vote."
"Yeah, ok. I'll do it." Remus sighs, making Sirius glare at him. "What?"
"You might as well put a target on you and dance around naked." Remus tries to sound pissed off but all he sounds is scared.
"It'll be fine, Moony, you'll see. Can't fail. It's an amazing plan."
Remus's worry only increases over the next few days as they make the arrangements for the Fidelius Charm. Sirius is so busy with James and Lily that when Dumbledore tells Remus to go on a mission, he doesn't have a moment to tell anyone but Peter. Everything will be fine, though. He'll just have to apologise afterwards.
When he wakes, it's raining and dark. Remus's entire body aches and he can't breathe right. His hands feel like they weigh a thousand pounds and there's a throbbing just under his ribs. The rain falls in his eyes as he opens them so he promptly closes them. There isn't anything to see other than a blurry Dark Mark floating in the air above him, snake twisting and weaving through the skull.
He has no memory of what happened. The last he can remember is meeting Alice Longbottom and Apparating to the sight where they were supposed to meet someone called Dean Fredericks. The rest is a complete blank until now with his pulse pounding in his ears and behind his eyes. He wiggles his fingers and toes and is slightly relieved when they move at his command. He tries for a deep breath but it catches in his throat as pain flares across his chest.
"Broken rib, at least," he whispers out loud and doesn't recognise the scratchy voice as his own for a moment. Thunder sounds and he flinches as the pulse flares into complete pain behind his eyes. "Concussion, too."
With the endurance built up over countless full moons, he raises his hand, though it weighs so much, and touches his face, chest and stomach. There are a few cuts but he'll, obviously, live. If only he could remember what happened. After pushing himself up to a sitting position, he wipes the mud, blood and rain from his face and opens his eyes again. He promptly wishes that he'd never done it because Alice Longbottom is sprawled in an ugly pose, legs and arms twisted as if she'd been a rag doll thrown through the air. "Oh, Alice," he whispers.
The sickly green light of the Dark Mark and the brief flashes of lightning illuminate the ruins where he sits and he sees the twisted remains of another body. He pushes himself to a crawling position and wanders over to see a black man of his own age lying with his tall form curled in on itself. Remus closes the man's eyes and whispers a brief prayer he'd learned from his mother before crawling over to Alice and arranging her in a much more respectful pose. He closes her eyes, too, and mutters the same prayer.
Heart heavy, he sends out his Patronus to Sirius. Sirius will get him help.
What the hell had happened? He can't remember and it's frustrating to him. He rewinds what he does remember and goes over it bit by bit.
Dumbledore had told him that Alice and he were to make contact with Dean Fredericks and, if he wanted, offer him the protection of the Order.
He'd only told Peter about the mission.
He'd met Alice at the Screaming Banshee pub and then Apparated to the rendezvous spot.
He'd only told… oh god. Sirius had been right. The spy is one of them. It's Peter. Silly, slightly behind the rest of them, friendly, goofy Peter. It's Peter. It has to be. He's the only one other than Alice, Dumbledore and him that had known. Remus wants to ignore the possibilities, wants to think that it has to be someone else but he can't convince himself.
"Remus? Remus? Where are you?" Sirius's voice is panicked and Remus never wants to hear that panic again.
"Here, over here," Remus calls out and listens as Sirius runs over, gravel and stone giving way under his feet.
"Where're you hurt? What happened? Why didn't you tell me about this? Don't you ever do it again, I swear on all that's holy, you ever go off on your own without telling me again and I'll kill you, I will. Don't think I won't. Oh god, you could've, but you…" The words are one big blur as Sirius embraces Remus, crushing his broken rib under his tight hold.
"Broken rib, let off a bit, Sirius." Remus holds on to Sirius, clinging as he hides the broken body of Alice from his gaze with Sirius's shoulder. "Is there anyone else coming?"
"Yeah, they'll be here in a moment. Hared off immediately, barely paused to send a note to anyone before I came."
Sirius would've continued but Remus interrupts him. "Quiet for a minute. Act like you knew about the mission, yeah? Just, please, go along with that."
"Why?" Sirius asks and pulls back to stare. His thumb brushes across Remus's nose and Remus turns his face into the gesture.
"I'll explain but I don't have time right now. It's important that you go along with it."
"All right," Sirius agrees but Remus can tell that he's skeptical. They run out of time to discuss it further when other Order members arrive. Frank Longbottom runs over the Alice's body and pulls her head into his lap, brushing the hair out of her face and touching her cheek. It hurts to watch, as it's painfully obvious to anyone that Frank's crying. Remus and Sirius exchange a look, agreeing without words to let Frank grieve alone for the moment.
James runs over to Sirius and Remus, hugging them both where they kneel together. "Fuck's sake, Moony, why didn't you tell me?"
"Did you tell anyone else that I didn't tell you?" Remus asks urgently, voice low.
"No, haven't had a chance to even think, let alone talk about it."
"Good. Act like I sent an owl or something. I'll explain later." Remus watches Sirius and James share a look as they both agree to the charade.
"Let's get you to St. Mungo's," Sirius says and helps him to his feet. James goes over to where Frank rocks back and forth with Alice's body in his arms.
"Let's get her taken care of, yeah? Come on, mate," James says and then leans down to help Frank gather Alice's body in his arms.
"She can't be dead," Frank moans and Remus's heart aches even more. "Neville needs his mum, she can't be dead."
"Come along." James looks over at them as he holds on to Frank and his burden. "I'll Apparate us, all right?"
Frank nods and then they disappear from sight. Remus curls into Sirius further and then they both land at St. Mungo's. After far too much poking and prodding, invasive exams and potions, Remus finds himself ensconced in a bed in the dark creatures wing. He hates it here but there isn't much he can do. They won't let him in the regular area because of his status. Worse than his own pride, the way that Sirius rages at the Healers hurts.
"Can't believe they shove you in here with… with…" Sirius is clearly at a loss for words and then points to the hallway, "them!"
"It's fine, Sirius," he says though it isn't, not really. "As long as they're providing care, I don't care where I sleep."
"I care, Moony, I care quite a bit! They're treating you like you're not human when you almost died to protect someone."
"Calm down and come here, we need to talk." Remus pats his bed. Once Sirius sits, Remus leans his head against Sirius's chest though he's braced for Sirius's outburst. "I know who the spy is."
"Who is it?" Sirius's voice goes cold and low sending shivers up Remus's spine.
"I only told one person about the mission." Remus waits as Sirius puts it all together. The outburst comes as quickly as he'd expected as Sirius jumps up. "Sit down, Sirius. I might be wrong."
"You're not. You aren't. That fucking little rat. When I get my hands on him, he'll wish that he'd never met any of us." Sirius starts to pace back and forth as his ire builds. "By the time I'm done with him, Benjy getting slashed to pieces won't be anything compared to how they'll find him. I swear I – "
"Sit down, Sirius," Remus orders. "I might be wrong and you're threatening one of our best friends, when we don't have the entire picture. We need to discuss this rationally. With other people."
"I'll get Dumbledore in here right now." Sirius starts for the door and Remus calls him back. "What? We need to get this settled right now."
"We don't have the complete picture. I could be wrong. Someone might have heard me tell Peter. He's been our friend for years, Sirius. He deserves the benefit of the doubt."
"He doesn't deserve shite if he's the one that killed the Prewetts and almost killed both of us."
"If, Sirius, if he did it."
"Think about what you're doing, Regulus! Think about it for just a minute without mum, dad or our cousins around. Think for yourself for the first time in your life! People are dying! Pure-blood people! And you're just blithely going along with it, as if it doesn't matter! You say Voldemort wants to save the pure-bloods, but he's out there murdering them!" Sirius is shouting at Regulus in the back of a pub in the middle of Diagon Alley. He's the most enraged that Remus has seen in quite awhile. Remus doesn't want that ire pointed towards him – and he's completely certain that if Sirius knew he'd followed, Sirius would point it square at him – so he takes another sip at his Polyjuice potion.
"You just want me to think like you, instead!" Regulus sounds petulant and like the child he is.
"I want you to think! If this is really what you want, then fine, I'm done with you! But, I don't think it is. I think you're just scared of going against Bellatrix and mum. I think you're terrified of what they'll do to you."
"They won't do anything to me, because I'm loyal! You wouldn't know a thing about that, though, would you? When's the last time you talked to your family?"
"I'm talking to what's left of my blood family right now. But there's more important things than blood any day." Sirius rakes a hand through his hair, a gesture that tells Remus just how at a loss Sirius really is. "Look, Regs, just… just think. That's all."
"I have. Some day, pure-blooded wizards aren't going to have to fear Mudbloods stealing magic."
Sirius's temper flares once more, "You mark my words, some day, they're going to push you too far and you'll find out just how awful they are. You'll find out just what it is that they're really all about and when that day comes, don't you dare come to me because you're no family of mine."
Remus watches as Sirius gets up from the table and stalks out of the pub. He remains where he is so that it doesn't look suspicious for him to follow Sirius. After all, he's not expected at home for another few hours and that'll give him almost enough time to think about why he followed Sirius and what this confrontation might mean in the future.
Remus wants them back the way they'd been but… but after the way that Sirius had sent him packing, well, it doesn't really seem possible. He really has lost his humanity now because he's lost Sirius. The irony of the loss – and the wretched poetry of the sentiment – doesn't escape him.
Another thing that doesn't escape him is the way that Sirius stares at him, distrust quickly hidden by empty eyes. He flashes back to the conversation he overheard between Sirius and Moody and the way that Sirius had seemed so defensive, evading the questions and getting argumentative. He takes to staying in his flat as much as he can, avoiding Sirius. Only visiting James and his family when he knows Sirius isn't there; Remus still talks to the others but it's not nearly often enough – either for his own wishes or for theirs.
The owl, when it arrives, is short and succinct. He is to go to James and Lily's place as soon as possible, as they need to have a Marauder's meeting. Though it clearly means that he's stuck seeing Sirius, he gathers up a few things he's collected for Harry and then Apparates.
He walks in and the mood is sombre; Sirius looks downright morbid while James paces and Lily chews on her bottom lip. The nervous habit of Lily's is the one that worries him the most. Peter arrives shortly after him.
"We're going in to hiding," James says without any sort of preamble at all.
"Sorry, what?" Peter voices Remus's own concerns.
"We've tried everything we can but… but there isn't any other option. Not right now."
"Just hold out a bit longer," Peter urges.
"I can't risk Harry. Voldemort's chosen him and with the close call last week, we can't delay any more." James stops pacing. "We're going under Fidelius."
The room turns quiet as each of them look at one another. Finally, Remus asks what they're all thinking, "Who's the Secret Keeper?"
"We'd like Sirius," James says when Lily makes to say something else.
"James. You know that I think Dumbledore is a better choice," she says after he finishes.
"We talked about this. I want Sirius. No one else will protect us like he would."
"Fine!" Lily tosses her hands in the air and huffs. "I'll be tending Harry since you all obviously don't need my input!"
"You sure Sirius is the best choice?" Remus asks and hears the inhalation from Sirius. "What I mean is, he's an obvious choice and, let's be honest, he's already a target just for being who he is."
"That's what makes the plan so brilliant. They'll think that we think that Sirius is too obvious of a choice, so they'll look elsewhere when he'll be the choice the entire time."
"That makes no sense," Remus says in response.
"It makes perfect sense," Sirius says back, bitterness in his voice. "Of course I'll do it."
"Good. That's settled, then. I'll go placate the old lady," James tries for a light tone but the stress of the past few months has obviously got to him.
"I've a meeting," Remus says in an attempt to get away from Sirius's glares.
"So do I," Peter seconds.
"I've got nothing better to do but stay here and watch you grovel, old man," Sirius says to James, echoing his light-hearted attempt.
While James, Lily and Sirius work out the details of the Fidelius, Remus goes on mission after mission for the Order. Some of them are simply protection work for wizarding families. It's one such mission that goes horribly wrong.
It starts out easy enough. Dean Fredericks contacts Dumbledore to receive some help, considering that he's received threatening letters from the Death Eaters and, coupled with his Muggle fiancée, he's nervous about staying where he is. After meeting Dorcas Meadowes, Remus accompanies her into the ruins where Dean Fredericks is to meet them. The sky opens up and pours rain in great sheets that pound against their scalps.
"If I were prone to superstitions, I would take this as a si –" He doesn't get to finish what he was about to say as they're suddenly surrounded by Death Eaters. As he dives behind a large section of wall, he sees an extremely tall black man get hit with a Killing Curse and fall to the ground, body folding in upon itself as it goes. Dorcas cries out in pain and Remus comes around the corner to see her suffering under a Cruciatus Curse. He casts a hex at the robed body wielding the spell and is hit from behind by a Stunning Charm. He hits his head on the rock and his world goes black as he hears one of the Death Eaters say, "Well, Black …"
When he wakes, it's dark and his world is illuminated only by the Dark Mark hovering in the sky and the occasional flash of lightning. It's a struggle to sit up but he forces himself with the strength born from countless full moons. Once he's up and he can feel the way his ribs protest the treatment, he sends off his Patronus. As he waits for help, he makes his way over to the body he assumes is Dean and closes his eyes, keeping the rain from desecrating his body any further.
He takes his time, crossing his arms over his chest as he hears James yelling. As James comes sliding through the mud towards him, Remus mutters a prayer for his soul. He's in shock, he has enough awareness for that, but everything seems muted and quiet. He doesn't notice the blood coursing down his face, not when there's rain in his eyes, and the pounding headache is buried under the sounds of thunder. James is muted too, all dark greys and blacks against a dark grey and black background.
"Remus?" Remus feels James give him a shake. "Answer me!"
"He's dead, James, he's dead," he says numbly, "they're both dead."
"Come on, I'll get you to hospital."
"Where's Sirius?" Remus just wants Sirius in this moment, wants Sirius to come to him and tell him it will be all right, that this isn't his fault no matter what had happened. He wants Sirius to tell him that he's been forgiven for leaving Sirius, that Sirius will give him back his humanity, because all these deaths just mean that it's slipped just that much further away from him.
"He'll be by. Come on, mate, can you stand?" James tugs at his arm to pull him up.
"My ribs are broken."
"All right but can you stand? You need help?"
"Think the wrist you're holding is broken, too." James drops his wrist immediately and Remus can feel a bit of pain spike up his arm as it hits the ground. "Yes, definitely broken."
"You're scaring me, Moony, let's get you to hospital." James tugs him up and when they turn, Remus sees other Order members standing about, taking care of Dean and Dorcas.
"They're both dead," he whispers again as he leans against James.
"I know, Moony." James brushes the hair from his eyes and Remus starts to thank him but, instead, passes out.
He comes to, strapped into a bed. Outside, he hears people arguing and after a minute or two, he realises it's James and Sirius.
"They're dead! Only ones that knew were Dumbledore and Moony!" Sirius says, voice angry.
"Someone else could've found out. We don't know who Dorcas told."
"She probably didn't tell anyone. You know how she was, so secretive that I don't think she even told herself when she had to take a shit."
"That's not fair, Sirius. Just because he dumped you – "
"Don't fucking start that again, mate, not if you want to stay mates. It's been over and done with for long enough."
Remus sits up straighter, ribs protesting the sudden movement. He can't believe that Sirius would ever suspect him, push the blame off on him. As he makes to get out of the bed, figure out how to get himself out of the straps, he sees Peter sitting watching him.
"Wotcher, Moony," Peter says quietly.
"Wotcher, Pete." Remus can see tears on Peter's face and then he remembers that Pete and Dorcas had been dating recently. Or sometime recently. Remus can't quite remember when they'd broken up. "How are you?"
"Could be better I guess. I mean, she was always a bit opinionated but she…" Pete's voice trails off as he sniffles again.
"I'm sorry," he says and tugs at the straps once more. "They came out of nowhere at us."
"Not your fault. Someone told them where you'd be, right?"
"It's his fault that Dorcas died. Not yours." Peter gets up and goes to the door. "He's awake."
James and Sirius shut up and enter the room. Sirius doesn't make eye contact but James hurries over to him. "Can't believe they strapped you in like you're some beast or something. Not like you're going to go all werewolf on them, considering that the full moon isn't for weeks yet."
"As far as they're concerned, I am a beast."
"That's rubbish and you know it." James looks over his shoulder at Sirius. "Come on, help me charm these off of him."
"Yeah, all right," Sirius says, sullen and withdrawn.
"It wasn't my fault," he whispers as they work at the straps tying him to the bed.
"I believe you," James says but all Remus hears is the silence from Sirius.
"Albus, you're too trusting," Moody says as he leans towards Dumbledore.
"And you're not trusting enough," Dumbledore replies.
"You have to keep an eye on that Black boy. Apple don't fall far from the tree and he's living with a dark creature." At Moody's words, Sirius feels the rage slip through his system until it's roaring like a waterfall, demanding the chance to spill out. Instead, he steps back from where he'd been eavesdropping and makes his way back to the rest of the group. When he sits down, he slides his hand under the table to hold on to Remus's hand tightly. Right now, the physical contact is more vital than the knock that his pride might take if people see them holding hands like little kids.
"Everything all right?" Remus asks, as he leans in and brushes his lips against Sirius's ear.
"I'll tell you later," Sirius responds, with every intention of following through, but then things happen and the conversation he'd overheard slides into the back of his mind, forgotten for now.
What Should've Been
Sirius barely Apparates Harry away as the Death Eaters enter the small flat. It's the fourth time in a month that the location of the flat James and Lily share has been leaked. Each time, it's got worse and worse, closer and closer to not getting out in time.
When they land in the flat that Sirius shares with Remus, he looks at James and Lily, resigned to the fact that they are going to have to go with Dumbledore's suggestion of a Fidelius charm. He can see the knowledge in their eyes too.
"It's got to be you," James says as they share a look.
"What's got to be Sirius?" Remus asks, as he comes out of the kitchen. "Everyone all right?"
"We're fine," Lily says and then hurries across the room, grabs Harry, sits on the sofa and then bursts into tears. Harry struggles against her grip, crying out 'mama' in terror at the way she sobs as if her heart is completely shattered.
"Of course I'll do it," Sirius agrees without another thought. When he looks to Remus, he can see the dawning realisation.
"They'll hunt you, Sirius," he whispers, crossing his arms over his chest. Sirius sees the worry and walks over to embrace him.
"Better me than them, yeah?" he whispers back against Remus's ear. "Besides, I'll have you and Pete protecting me. We'll all work to protect James, Lily and Harry."
As he spoke to Remus, he could hear James comforting Lily. The murmur of voices makes the screams and hiccupping sobs of Harry slowly abate.
"You're the obvious target."
"You don't trust me, do you?" Sirius pulls back from Remus and glares at him.
"Sod that for a lark, you berk. They'll be after you. I meant what I said, you're going to be the obvious target and just think for a moment. Bellatrix already wants to kill you. Now she'll have double the reason for it."
"And still half the skill of any of us. It'll work out." Sirius pushes the hurt back, because he knows that Remus is concerned about him.
"We'll start it immediately," James says from the sofa.
"Yeah, sounds good," Sirius agrees and feels Remus wrap himself around him.
Time suddenly starts moving faster as they prepare for the Fidelius Charm. Peter and Remus go along with it, though they share the same concern with Sirius being chosen. Even Dumbledore doesn't agree with the choice. All of it only makes Sirius dig his heels in further. It takes a week, a nerve-wracking week spent moving the Potters from household to household until the Fidelius charm is active.
Sirius feels the knowledge burn into his soul as the house disappears from his view and then reappears. He turns and walks away from the house in Godric's Hollow. When he gets home, he sees Remus sitting on the sofa. It's obvious that Remus isn't reading the book in his hands, not from the way that there's tea spilt and his hands are shaking.
"It done, then?" Remus asks.
"Yeah," Sirius says and then sits next to Remus, pulling the book from his grip and holding on to the cold, clammy hands. "It'll be all right."
"You think this will keep Voldemort from going after them?"
"Yeah," Sirius agrees. "No one's going to get that secret out of me, even if I'm dead."
In another two weeks, he finds out just how right he is when Voldemort starts hounding the Longbottoms. Sirius extricates them from their flat just in time, just like what had happened with James and Lily. Neville sucks on his thumb as he looks around with eyes wide and scared. Alice clings to Frank while they whisper to one another. Sirius isn't sure how to react to Neville so he merely holds him as the other two talk.
"The charm, the one Lily and James are under, it's working, isn't it?" Frank turns and asks Sirius.
"We need it, too." Sirius agrees that they do, but refuses when they ask him. He's already got two strikes against him. A third will ensure his death. He pushes Peter as the next best thing. He refuses to make Remus more of a target than his close relationship with Sirius has already made him. Peter agrees and the deed is done as quickly as it had been with James and Lily.
There's a week of relative peace and then another week, before the world explodes into a shower of chaos and death. Sirius arrives at Longbottom Manor to find it a smoking ruin. He sees Hagrid holding a crying Neville as he wipes tears from his face.
"What happened?" Sirius demands as he dismounts from his bike. "Hagrid! Tell me what happened!"
"They came and killed Alice and Frank, Frank's mum too."
"How?" Sirius shouts and then realisation sets in and he barely keeps from collapsing to the ground.
Peter is the traitor. Peter told Voldemort where the Longbottoms would be. Peter is the reason that they're dead. It's Peter.
Sirius roars with pain, howling as he tilts his head back and then runs back to his motorcycle to fly to Peter's flat. Hagrid's weeping can be heard over the thrum of the engine, but not over the raging pulse in Sirius's temples. When he gets to Peter's flat, he finds it empty, devoid of anything and everything. He has to calm down and think. He has to figure out where the fuck that little traitorous bastard would go. He has to… he can't think, can't think about anything but the way that Hagrid held on to the crying Neville and the way that Neville shrieked for his mama.
The world slips into that surreal vision, he's half in and half out of his own body, and then he realises. Peter will go to his mum; of course he'd go to his mum. Sirius runs out of the flat and then flies to Nottingham, landing just beyond Peter's mum's place. He runs down the street and then stops abruptly as he sees Peter standing right there in the middle of it.
"You killed them," Sirius yells, brandishing his wand without a care for the Muggles that surround them. Peter pulls his wand and then suddenly crumples to the ground. After looking around for a trick or an attack, Sirius hurries over to Peter's body. He gives it a poke with his foot and then another, harder this time. A third follows. "Get up, you murderous filthy traitor! Get up!"
"Sirius," James says, as he comes out of the alley. "He's out cold. Kicking him won't bring them back."
"But it'll make me feel better." Sirius kicks Peter once more. "You feel that, you bastard? You feel that?! I'll make you feel much worse before long!"
James walks up to Sirius and holds him, a comforting weight at his back as he fights against kicking Peter again, raging at the way that he's betrayed all of them. He wants Peter to pay for the way that, in hindsight, it'd been so fucking obvious that he'd tried to kill the Prewetts and succeeded in killing the Longbottoms. The way that he'd angled for another Secret Keeper for James and Lily, the way that he'd planned on getting Harry killed, all of it boils as he kicks Peter again and again. "You fucking arsehole! We were best mates! You don't kill your best mates! You don't do it! You fucking arselicking shit! Mates don't do that! Mates go for a pint! They don't try to kill their best mate's kid!"
Arms come around him from the other side. Remus whispers into his neck, "Sirius, he can't defend himself. Come on, mates don't kick one another when they're down."
"He's no mate of mine, nor of yours either! He tried to get us all killed how many times?" Sirius holds on to the arms around him, uncaring of which one is where.
Cracks sound and then Dumbledore is there along with a team of Aurors and Obliviators. As the Obliviators deal with the Muggles, the Aurors take Peter into custody. All too soon, the three of them are left on the street, still holding on to one another. Sirius waits as the Muggles start to mill about before he whispers, "That could've been you."
"Never. I picked you for the Secret Keeper, didn't I?" James whispers back.
He can feel Moody's eyes on him every time they meet. Resentment boils under his skin. Moody's judging him because of his blood just like the Death Eaters judge the Muggleborns. It's unfair, completely and totally unfair. He can't help that his parents are who they are, and he certainly can't help that his brother is such a fucking moron that he can't even pick the right sort of friends. He's tried, hasn't he? He's tried to tell Regulus that he's picked the wrong side.
Only problem is, Regulus hasn't responded to any of his owls in weeks.
What Could've Been
Sirius is all for killing Peter. The idea appeals so much that he refuses to even see Peter, on the off-chance that he'll mess the trap up. It's hard enough to lie via owl but to that no-good traitorous rat's face? It'd be nigh on impossible what with the way he's always been one to hex first and ask questions later. So he fakes being ill when he knows Peter'll be around. He leaves the face to face talks to James and Remus.
Eventually, the trap is set and the three of them – James, Remus and Sirius – crouch in the bushes next to the old farmhouse. If nothing happens, then Sirius owes Peter pints for the rest of his life for the false accusations. If Voldemort shows up, though, Peter's a dead man, he just doesn't know it yet.
If the situation wasn't so dire, Sirius would have a laugh at the way that three grown men crouch, intertwined and uncomfortable, underneath James's invisibility cloak. As it is, however, Sirius thinks about the way that his back starts hurting or James's foot presses into his calf and makes it go numb. He thinks that he can smell Remus's shampoo and James's aftershave and what an interesting set of smells they make; hopefully not so interesting that someone will sniff them out and kill them. He thinks that it's a good night, because the sky hasn't opened up with rain like it'd been threatening to earlier in the day.
He thinks about anything but what's to come.
The crack of Apparition interrupts his contemplation of the way that Remus grinds his teeth when he's nervous, and how very loud it sounds when it's right in your ear. Sirius startles and then bites off the self-deprecating curse that wants to follow. Instead, he waits, still and breathless, as Death Eaters walk up to the house, a full cadre of them with wands out and masks on.
Voldemort walks among them, face uncovered, as he approaches the door, spells it open, then walks in. His roar of outrage echoes out of the house while his minions look at one another, confusion apparent from their gestures. When Voldemort exits the house, he goes straight to one of them and curses him. The screams of the victim echo louder than the outrage had.
"Let us not linger, we have other enemies," Voldemort says before disappearing from view. The rest of the Death Eaters disappear as well, all but the one Voldemort had tortured.
"Come on, we should go see who it is," James whispers.
"Better be fucking Peter," Sirius says back.
They flip the cloak off of them and start over, hobbling with the cramps and reinvigorating nerves. When they get to the weeping figure, Sirius puts his knee directly into the body's sternum and presses it into place. James puts his foot on the out-flung wrist while Remus crouches and pulls back the mask.
"I knew it. I fucking well knew it." Sirius folds his hand into a fist and then hits Peter as hard as he can. He pulls back, intending to hit him again, when Remus's hand stills him.
"Why?" Remus asks quietly.
"My mum, he was going to kill my mum," Peter says as he weeps. "They were going to kill her, don't you see? I had to. She's my mum!"
"Shut the bloody fuck up, you traitorous bastard." Sirius slaps him with his free hand. "What else have you told them? What else? Who's next on the list?"
"I haven't told them anything!" Sirius's disgust swells with the toadying way Peter's speaking. Was he always this much of a coward, or is this something new? How hasn't he seen the way that Peter puts on a face for whomever is the nearest?
"Bullshit! Who's next, Peter? Tell me who and I won't kill you," Sirius says as he grabs his wand and pushes the tip deep into the flesh under Peter's weak chin.
"Frank," he whimpers.
"Frank Longbottom?" James asks and Peter nods. Remus sends out a Patronus message to Dumbledore, the ephemeral dog running as quickly as it can.
"Tonight?" James follows up and Peter nods again. "We have to go."
Sirius hexes Peter to sleep and then another spell sends ropes swirling around him. James tosses the invisibility cloak over his bound body and then they all Apparate to Longbottom Manor. They find the front door open and can hear Neville shrieking for his dad. They stumble over the body of Augusta in the foyer and then rush up the stairs to see Frank dead on the floor and Neville in his crib shrieking. His little hands reach for them as he turns red and blotchy from his tears.
"He's got a mark on his forehead," James whispers as he crosses the room and picks up Neville, holding him close and comforting him. "It's a lightning bolt."
"Fuck him! Fuck him sideways and up and down and with a stick! Fuck him if he thinks that I'm going to just keep owling his murdering arse!" Sirius throws up his hands and yells.
"Nothing still?" Remus asks.
"Not a thing! Fine, he can have his insane mates. I'm done." Sirius stomps into the bedroom and misses the look that Remus gives him. He's done with this whole thing. After all, he's spent years trying to get Regulus to turn away from them and the only thing that it's netted him is Moody's suspicions.
He wants to throw things, break up the few knickknacks that sit scattered through the bedroom. He wants to hear the crash of porcelain but he knows that Remus would get cross at him, considering that most of them are from Remus's mum. Instead, he leans against the tall chest of drawers, face resting on his arm where it rests against the edge and breathes deep.
Remus's arms come around him and he feels comfort entering with the warmth from his body. He wants it too much so he shrugs out of the embrace and hides in the bathroom.
Sirius wants to believe that Remus didn't have a thing to do with Dorcas's kidnapping and subsequent murder. He does, he really, really does because, damn it all, he still loves Remus, regardless of the way that the relationship ended. But he can't, because only Moony, Dumbledore and Dorcas knew about the mission. The obvious choice is Moony, what with the way he's been secretive, moody and withdrawn especially about his meetings and missions.
Now that Sirius suspects Moony, he can't stop the suspicious thoughts. Every comment makes him wonder, when, before, he'd merely laugh or express concern. It gets to the point that he can't think of anything else. He becomes obsessed with protecting James from Remus. That's why he goes to Peter about being the Secret Keeper.
"Are you certain?" Peter asks.
"I'm too obvious a choice. They won't suspect you."
"Yeah, no one suspects me." Peter looks down at that.
"That's the brilliance of it. I'm the loud target and you're the dagger in the dark, protecting us all!" Sirius likes the image of being the obvious protector, the guard at the gates of the castle when they have an assassin waiting in the wings to really protect the king. "We just can't tell anyone else or the plan'll be rubbish and we're putting you in danger for no reason."
"Yeah, just the five of us need to know." Peter nods in agreement.
"Just the four of us: you, me, Prongs and Lily."
"Why not Moony?"
"Less people that know, the less danger they're in. Moony's out talking to werewolves and putting himself in enough danger. Let's protect him by not telling him," he says but it's not the real reason. He doesn't want Remus to know because he doesn't trust him and he feels the love he has shatter just a bit more.
"Yeah all right." Peter seems resigned to it, but Sirius crows with triumph. This is, without a doubt, his best plan ever. It's so sneaky and filled with so many doublebacks that it's sure to work.
It's a week later that he's standing beside a crater in the middle of a Nottingham street outside Peter's mum's place as Aurors take him into custody.
There's a knock at the door. When Sirius opens it, he sees Moody standing on the other side. Moody stomps into their small flat with his eye swirling as he looks around. Remus steps into the kitchen and calls out, "Can I get you something to drink?"