Chapter 9: Honesty
After they had searched the castle and found no trace of Sirius Black, Dumbledore instructed the staff to get a couple of hours of rest before the start of classes. No one knew how he could have gotten past the Dementors.
Remus never fully believed the theory that Sirius wanted to hunt down Harry Potter to finish the work Voldemort started, and yet, he broke into the school and tried to get into the Gryffindor Tower, proving them all right. Whatever shred of hope Remus had for him was gone. He didn't know who Sirius Black was anymore.
Remus proceeded to his quarters and found the door guarded by Snape.
"Severus." He tried to smile at him but seeing the calculating gaze, he gave up on the pleasantry.
Snape barely moved his lips. "Black got in here undetected. As if he had an accomplice - a friend on the inside."
Remus wondered when fingers would start pointing at him. "Sirius Black betrayed and killed his friends. Do you really think that someone like that would have any friends left?"
Snape narrowed his eyes into slits. "I'm watching you, Lupin."
The black cloak billowed behind him as he sauntered away. Did Dumbledore have any doubts as well? Did he regret inviting Remus to Hogwarts?
Remus sat on his bed and took the picture of his friends out of the drawer. He liked to remember Sirius this way - the rebellious but lovable teen, charismatic and carefree. Sirius in the picture spat his wild hair out and shook his head to keep it out of his eyes. James shoved him playfully. Peter, the smallest of their group, laughed at them both, covering his large front teeth as usual. Sirius shoved James back and Remus tried to separate them.
Remus remembered that day well. It was the first summer after they had graduated from Hogwarts when life was pretty much perfect. A few years later, James married Lily and had a son, Harry, while the three of them tried to get used to adulthood. Remus remained in close contact with all of them, but most especially with Sirius.
Countless times Remus had searched his memories for any signs, a clue that would've warned him that his closest friend aligned himself with Voldemort but never found any. How could he have missed that?
He couldn't sleep and when the sun rose just a couple of hours later, he put his worries aside and returned to teaching as if all was well. The students were cautious and spooked by the threat of Sirius Black, whispering theories of how he might have gotten into the school or what he might have wanted.
Not all students had known why Sirius tried to get in but from the way Harry's friends started acting protectively towards him indicated that Harry knew. But did he know the whole story of who Sirius was? Possibly not. Would he suspect Remus if he knew how close they once were?
The next day, the weather outside matched everyone's mood. Despite the hail storm, the Gryffindor Quidditch team still practiced. They ran back inside to hide from the chill, soaking wet and shivering. Remus observed Harry, who tried to wipe his fogged up glasses with a wet shirt.
He was looking forward to seeing him play. The boy looked a lot like his father, but his character reminded Remus of Lily. He wished they could've seen the wonderful son they had brought into this world.
"You're all wimps. We could've played longer!" someone complained, and Remus looked away from Harry to the rest of the team.
"I think I've pushed them as far as they can go," Oliver Wood said. "I can't win the game with sick players. We're done for today. Let's go upstairs and change out of these wet clothes."
The team grumbled in agreement and moved on, leaving Jack Nix behind. Unlike the others, he wasn't shivering or hunched over even though he was just as wet and his white hair was plastered to his face.
Peeves the poltergeist popped into existence right in front of him. "Jack-Friend!"
"Peeves! I had a blast today! The weather is crazy and it made it so much more fun!"
Peeves flipped in the air and shook a finger at him. "Jack-Friend has been naughty. Peevsie knows."
Jack rubbed the back of his neck. "But Peeves, they love my tricks. We're playing a game in a couple of days and I'm only a reserve but I reeeeeeally hope I get to play."
Peeves' grins stretched from ear to ear. "Do you want Peevsies to help you?"
Jack laughed. "I'll tell you when it's time for some mischief-making. What have you been up to?"
Remus leaned on the wall and crossed his arms, amused at this interaction. He had never seen anyone chat with the poltergeist as if he was just another Hogwarts student.
Peeves rubbed his hands together. "I'm planning something explosive. Wanna watch?"
Peeves floated over to grab Jack around the waist and they immediately vanished. Remus blinked, unsure if he had seen that correctly. What had Peeves done? He knew that the spirit could make himself invisible or appear and reappear wherever he wished but had never heard of it being able to take someone along.
He used his keen senses to detect him. Jack's signature scent which was shared only by his sister, was no longer there. He really had disapparated with Peeves.
Remus promptly ran to his office and added an extra page to the letter he wrote earlier. There was no more knowledgeable expert on spiritous beings than his father who devoted his life to studying them. Maybe he could make sense of what Remus had witnessed.
On his way back from the Owlery, he was stopped by Mr. Filch who held his ancient growling cat in his arms. "Professor," he grimaced as if he found it difficult to say, "all teachers have been called to the Headmaster's office."
Remus thanked him and rushed to Dumbledore, hoping he wasn't late. He found that everyone was already there, standing around the office or sitting on the sofa. He stood behind Professor Flitwick who grinned cheerfully.
"You're just in time."
Dumbledore paced around his office slowly, his hands behind his back, deep in thought.
"As we feared, Sirius Black has come to Hogwarts." He didn't look at them yet but turned to the other side of the spacious room. "I believe you are all aware that Harry Potter is his target. I ask that you discreetly watch over Mr. Potter. I don't want you to alarm him to this precaution."
"That's an excellent idea, Headmaster." McGonagall stood nearby and addressed the gathered teachers. "Can I trust you all to walk him to his next class?"
"It will be no problem."
The professors agreed but Dumbledore didn't look placated.
"Headmaster," Flitwick chimed in, "should we announce…"
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, Filius, we should. It is now official that a Ravenclaw student, Sue Li, has gone missing." A murmur went through the room and he raised his hand to quiet them. "I ask that you not alarm the students though the news will soon spread anyway."
"Did Sirius Black kidnap her?" Snape asked.
"There is no evidence of that though the timing is suspicious. She was last seen the morning before Halloween."
"Could she have helped him get in?" McGonagall asked.
Flitwick gasped. "I can vouch for my student. She is a victim."
The gathered began to argue, some siding with McGonagall, some with Flitwick. Snape remained quiet and glared at Remus.
"If I may have your focus," Dumbledore said loud enough for them to quiet down. "There is no reason to suspect Miss Li at the moment and we shall treat her as a missing student. Filius, Minerva and I shall handle that issue. I need the rest of you to focus on the riddle of how Sirius Black might have gotten into this school."
The teachers whispered among themselves but no one offered theories.
Dumbledore continued, "We've sealed all known hidden passages in and out of the castle. It worries me that there might be another one we had not discovered yet. Does anyone have any theories about how he was able to get past the Dementors?"
Remus had already inspected all secret passages he knew but did not find his friend's scent there. It appeared that he walked right through the front door.
"No human should be able to pass by them. I want you all to think hard."
Someone might have put a freezing charm on Remus for the ice he felt in his stomach. Yes, no human could get past the Dementors but Sirius was an animagus - he could turn into a dog. This was how he was able to survive Azkaban and escape it. Why had he not thought of it before!
"Remus?" Dumbledore was suddenly in front of him. "You knew Sirius Black best. Can you think of anything?"
Remus almost said it but stopped himself just in time. The four of them kept this secret for a very important reason. Sirius, James, and Peter had learned how to become animagi for Remus so they could keep him company on the full moon, so he wouldn't have to be trapped in the Shrieking Shack. They broke him out of there every month and in their animal forms, they roamed the Hogwarts grounds, the Forbidden Forest and even the castle.
It was a risk to trust that they could control him, a risk Remus overlooked because it allowed him to be a happier werewolf and brought him closer to his friends. If he told the story to Dumbledore, he would have to reveal that he had betrayed his trust, that the plan to keep a werewolf student contained within the Shrieking Shack had failed. In the end, werewolves were untrustworthy.
"I have no idea," Remus answered, his heart thumping loudly in his ears. "I'll tell you as soon as I think of anything."
Dumbledore's gaze penetrated deep into him like brilliant-blue lie detectors.
"I trust you will. Harry's life might depend on it."
A/N: We've reached the end of Act 1. Can you believe it? The good news is that Fun and Games type of chapters are next. Bad news, I'm going to make you wait for it. Noooo. I know, it sucks but it would suck more if I gave you the few chapters that are ready and later revised them.
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In the meantime, what do you think of what's happened so far? What are you excited for? What do you wish for?