Written for the QLFC, Season 5, Round Six.

Position: Captain

Position Prompt: Lost Boys

Title: Red-Handed

Word Count: 2,500

Beta(s): CUtopia (you're a star!)

Go Wanderers!

"I'm sick of this," James said, rubbing his brow in frustration, his head bent low over a copy of the Prophet covered in red ink.

"No surprise there Prongs, you're always sick of something, and you will be until the day you have the sense not to read the news," Sirius said, taking another pull from his cigarette. They sat behind the broom shed out by the Quidditch pitch; Sirius was making a daisy chain and throwing sidelong glances at Remus. "You look a bit pale," Sirius muttered, poking Remus with his toe.

"Hm?" Remus asked, looking up from his books on psycho-linguistics to feign interests.

"Are you sick?"

"Would you two stop carrying on like a pair of bloody birds, that's the third student that's gone missing this term. Look!" James claimed, turning the page he'd been reading to face the group sat on the ground next to him. With an accusing finger, James pointed to an article where the subline: 'Alecto Carrow Missing', was circled in crimson.

"The third Slytherin," Peter pointed out, shrugging.

"Their lot have a lot going on at the moment in fairness," Remus said, raising an eyebrow at James.

"True, it's just like that at home," Sirius chimed in. "We're talking: charity events, justice rallies, petitions for peace, and the maintenance of a pure spirit. It's no surprise they're not available for comment when the paper attempts to disrupt their charitable works."

"But Sirius, aren't your family a pack of… well, Death Eaters?" Peter asked, his face scrunched up as he watched Sirius picking out another daisy.

"That doesn't mean they don't have other social obligations Wormtail, but now that you mention it… That could be the answer to your worries James. Carrow's a year ahead of us, she was probably of age. Ripe for the brand."

"But then why would the bloody family draw attention to it? It was the same with Malfoy, and Lestrange, it just doesn't make any sense."

"Do you always find it this upsetting when your enemies disappear without a trace?" Sirius asked.

"Wasn't Lestrange your cousin?" Wormtail quizzed.

"No, he was engaged to my cousin. Substantial difference, in the sense that if it was my cousin we'd be having a party. Whoever's running this disappearing act would do well to take care of someone who actually poses a threat. Bellatrix beheaded a House elf over Christmas, she needs to be neutralised."

"What happened to these Slytherins heading into the abyss of their own free will?" James asked, crossing his arms.

"Well that wouldn't be very interesting now, would it?" Sirius asked, and his grin was sharp as a knife.

"You're bloody impossible."

Hogsmeade was bustling with Hogwarts students on the second Saturday of November, and the Marauders were lost among them. The smiling faces of their classmates blinking and waving at them from their lost posters set a bizarre tone. Slytherin students were particularly affected, many remained at the castle with unsigned permission forms.

Even Sirius was beginning to question the 'Death Eater Induction' theory he'd grown so fond of.

"Prongs? James?! Is that you?" Sirius cried, pushing through a crowd of older witches to get a better look at his friend. One of them pointed her wand at him and simply blasted a gust of wind at him as he walked on without further notice.

"Piss off!" James replied, attempting to take cover by blending into a group of younger students.

"I'm afraid you've rather given away your position," Remus said, smiling at James who'd just joined him among the third year Ravenclaw's.

"What are you doing with this lot, asking for homework tips?" James asked, looking too pleased at his own joke.

One of the group, a girl with a pronounced overbite and owlish eyes, turned and scowled at him before whispering to her friend about the company some prefects keep.

"Oi! Shouldn't you be with your ginger-coloured dreamboat?" Sirius shouted, his voice just carrying through the crowd.

"For fuck's sake," James exclaimed, rubbing his eyes under his glasses.

Remus reached out and put a hand on James's shoulder. "At least she agreed to meet you. That's something."

"Does this look like an up and coming trend to you?" James asked, pointing to a large red stain on his shirt.

"Is that…" Remus trailed off, retracting his hand.

"I have no idea, some bloke peddling a big jar of it was looking for students with scars to try it out on and she threw it at me."

"Ah, mate," Remus sighed, his face screwing up in sympathy as they arrived at the base of the forested path back up to the school.

"What did you do to her?" Sirius chimed in, catching up to them in the thinner crowd.

"I don't want to hear it," James complained, tugging at his unruly hair.

Remus surreptitiously checked the hand that he'd patted James's shoulder with.

"Hear what?" Sirius asked, shrugging.

The spot where a red blotch rested on Remus's skin suddenly felt as though it was sizzling the moment he laid eyes on it.

"Ah," Remus grumbled, and unthinkingly jammed the finger in his mouth.

A scream followed, shrill even with the murmur of the crowd so close.

"A body!" A girl exclaimed.

"Angie don't go near it! Get the prefect!"

"It's that Slytherin girl!"

"Is she dead?"

Before Remus could quite comprehend what was going on through the fog which had just clouded his brain, James was running up the path to meet the Ravenclaws.

"There were Professors in the Hog's Head, Sirius," James called over his shoulder and Sirius's grey eyes were wide at the sight of a pale hand emerging from a bush just a little way up the trail.

"Go," Remus said.

Sirius was still grinning, but his lips were white. "Right," he choked, and sprinted back into the throng.

Remus reached the others on unsteady feet.

"You need to get back," he told them, putting himself between the Ravenclaws and the body. "Just don't look."

The body was clearly that of a Slytherin student, and shifting the shrub just a bit Remus gasped. He quickly let go of the bush which sprang back into place, littering the still visible portions of Alecto Carrow's cloak with small loose seeds. It shielded what was left of her face from view as one of the boys among the group of Ravenclaw's tipped forward and vomited on his shoes.

Days later, Remus still wasn't back to himself.

"You saw it James, you saw what it looked like."

He sat with his friends in the back of Slughorn's dungeon.

"We were with you the whole time on… the other night. It's not possible."

Remus hadn't felt right since he'd seen what was left of her. The sight of her had been so familiar. A mauled dead student was a vision which had haunted him on countless nights before he'd even started at Hogwarts.

"Did you see her hair all over the ground, like feathers surrounding some pigeon on a train track."

"He hasn't been sleeping," James pointed out as he walked through a recently discovered passage full of empty frames. They stood on either side, enjoying the pointless task of making the decorations crooked one after the other.

"Does he ever?" Sirius asked.

"No, listen. He's not right, he keeps bloody trawling the papers, and he got an A in his last Charms assignment."

"Right, so now you two have finally got some things in common," Sirius said, glancing pointedly at the red ink covered Prophet perpetually sticking out of James's back pocket. "Worried you're going to have to compete for Evans?"

"He thinks he did it, you know? He think this is all him somehow."

"He blames himself for everything."

"He thinks we let him murder someone."

"Not deep down, if he really believed that I'd be running much lower on cigarettes since they don't' stock them in Azkaban."

James passed one frame already tilted, and decided to straighten it. "How would you feel if you couldn't remember what you did the night you were roaming the school grounds as a Werewolf and then someone turned up dead and mauled on the grounds?"

Sirius paused for a minute and stared passed the wall in front of him with a distant look. He shrugged. "Horny?"

"You're so bloody transparent."

The day before the full moon, Remus was white as a sheet. His teeth chattered at the slightest noise and as if it might allow him to blend in, he would open his eyes bizarrely wide against his desire to squint in the light.

This month was like any other in most respects, aside from the startling rash on Remus's hand, and Madame Pomfrey's ability to tell from across the Great Hall that Remus had a fever and nab him just outside to be treated in the hospital wing.

"I hate when she does this, with things the way they are I can't risk exposure."

The cause of Carrow's death had been confirmed as the work of a dark creature, suspected Werewolf. For whatever reason, Dumbledore hadn't so much as glanced in Remus's direction since the news hit the papers.

It seemed any staff in the know were determined not to make the connection, they trusted Remus. For this reason more than any other Remus was ashamed that he had in fact been out of the shack on the moon before. This night he couldn't allow himself to get carried away with his friends again.

"You look like you've been burnt. I had a blister like this from reaching for a biscuit over the kettle. The steam melted me," Peter pulled up his sleeve as though expecting to find a scar which had no doubt been magically removed years previous.

He held out a smooth arm next to Remus's, which was mottled and angry looking.

"You really think this is because of the gunge Lily got all over my clothes?" James asked

"It affected me as soon as I came into contact with it."

"You seemed fine at the time."

"I just haven't felt right since."

"That's probably just guilt because a part of you is worried that we're covering for you on Carrow's murder and that you're actually a cold-blooded killer," Sirius chimed in, wiggling an eyebrow.

"Or it could be the gunge," James said to Sirius, through gritted teeth.

That night Remus, of course after a lot of arguing, was completely alone in the Shack before his transformation. His friends would not be joining him, not under any circumstances.

He was the only one to know that the moon was still below the horizon when he began to change, it wasn't right, none of it was. It was different.

Remus felt ill, his hand pressed over his mouth, it was Christmas morning. He stood frozen at the window in the kitchen with the morning edition in his shaking hand.

A body had been recovered. Another Werewolf attack in the vicinity of Hogwarts. Unlike in the previous case, someone had come forward to make a statement: 'Attacks will continue, I have personally revisited many of my fortunate heirs to be sure the wolf is strong enough to do its work. They will have my blood on their hands, and then yours.'

The article went on to describe Greyback boasting about sharpening his tools, explaining how he was hitting the wolves he'd created with blood-lust. He'd used a concoction which contained traces of his own blood, and several potent ingredients chosen to turn a wolf as feral as possible.

A big bloke who was looking for students with scars to try it out on.

He'd been looking for Remus, and through sheer dumb miserable luck, he'd found him.

Remus's eyes returned to the name of the deceased once more before he tossed the paper in the sink and turned on the tap.

Bellatrix Black.

"Is there nothing to be done then?" James asked, taking a slug from his Butterbeer. The four friends sat together in James's bedroom on New Year's Eve; Sirius was still in funeral garb.

"If Greyback were to keel over the blood magic might fail, but… I'm hoping that's not the only way. This thing in me, it's already a killer, but it's been provoked, it's been… I could kill someone." In his heart he worried he may have already. He worried everyday that his friends had covered it up. He flexed his hand; the blistering was moving across his back now, and the skin up to his elbow had become tight and pink.

"You didn't… you're not going to kill anyone."

"You can't know that, none of you can. The last moon before the break, you weren't there, and look at this, look." He pulled the shoulder of his shirt aside to show the extent of the rash.

"Stranger things have happened to wizards driving themselves bloody demented over a cliche boogeyman like Greyback," Sirius pointed out; he'd brought a bottle of Firewhiskey from the funeral but he hadn't offered to share.

"That might be more helpful if he was an imaginary creature under my bed but he's very real."

"We're coming out with you next time," James said.

"I'm not going to allow you to incriminate yourselves, and the wolf is so feral now, so unpredictable."

"You haven't done anything," Sirius mumbled.

"You can't… you can't know that."

By an unfortunate miracle, Remus didn't see the rather obvious look his friends shared.

Sirius was familiar with the sort of dark magic Greyback had used on Remus and he knew it wasn't going to stop without drastic measures.

Remus had told Sirius where Greyback would be in a few days time. Sirius felt a little embarrassed for assuming this was some extra Werewolf sense. Apparently Remus had just seen the monster of a man's court date in the paper.

"Do you lot not get tired of bringing me in here? You've got nothing. I'm an innocent man one night out of every thirty."

Sirius rolled his eyes from his seat in the public audience.

Sure enough for the fourteenth time in a decade, Greyback walked out of the court that day.


Sirius smiled from a few paces behind the putrid Werewolf.

He walked alone into the same quiet side street he would die in.

"It says they found him in a similar state to the Hogwarts victims," Remus said, his eyes wide as he bent over the paper reading avidly. "But it wasn't a full moon, you don't think the mixture he made somehow did something to wolves on some other night, do you? Did any of you see me get up, or go anywhere that morning? It was so early, I would've still been asleep here. I should've been. This could be the second person that I've… I should go to the Ministry, I should… I don't know."

"Remus just stop talking, do you really think you spent that moon alone, that we'd let you spend a single one alone? Bloody hell, you walked around a clearing trying to sniff your own wolf arse for about an hour, did some howling, and tried to eat a hedgehog. You're not the only thing that goes bump in the Forbidden Forest. There's obviously some other creature involved," Sirius announced, hopping up to put the kettle on.

"Mate, I can't believe Fenrir Greyback's been… eaten," James said, utterly bewildered.

"But how did that happen? I've never heard of anything like that happening outside of a full moon in the middle of the morning. I can't think what would even be capable, other than some vampiric creatures," Remus mumbled, accepting the tea Sirius handed him with his newly healed hand.

"You're such a nerd," Sirius said, and his grin was sharp as a knife.