The Marauder's Map.
Lupin willed his hands to stop shaking as he rolled the parchment and tucked it into his robe. Harry and Ron were looking at him as if he'd grown another head, so he scolded Harry for his carelessness and headed back towards his office. He knew Harry was oblivious to what this map meant, what it *could* mean.
Lupin sighed heavily, the name that had haunted him for twelve years now resonating loudly with each heartbeat. Was it possible, really possible, that Sirius was lurking around Hogwarts grounds, waiting for an opportunity to finish what he had started by betraying James and Lily?
The professorial side of Remus Lupin drained away as he passed familiar portraits and was greeted merrily by various ghosts. He wasn't Professor Lupin to many of them; he was still Remus, little Remus Lupin whose best friends in the world were James Potter, Peter Pettigrew.....and Sirius Black. The first day of the term, Lupin had wandered toward Gryffindor Tower, only to be greeted by a cheerful cry from the Fat Lady: "Remus Lupin, I declare! And where are your friends, dear?"
It was the first of many such exclamations. Lupin had taken to holing up in his office as often as he could that first month, the halls haunting him as he recalled happier times. Voldemort may have been driven to weakness and be in hiding, but there were still gaping wounds and fresh scars on those left in his wake. The security and comfort of Hogwarts was false; it was a waking nightmare for this man whose memories were built into the very walls.
Back in his office, Lupin shut the door behind him and pressed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. The Marauder's Map was still in his pocket, and the rustle of parchment reminded him of how the map had come to be.
In a fit of mischief during their seventh year, Sirius had declared that the Marauders had a duty to the students who followed them. The four of them were the only students, at least of their generation, who knew all of the castle's secrets. Sirius and James came up with the idea of making a map, and it was Peter who declared that it be made magical, and it was Remus who came up with the idea of the map's ability to give away the locations of people in the castle. Lily had suggested the part about Invisibility Cloaks being impervious to the map, much to the amusement of James, who used his own cloak on several occasions for the purpose of troublemaking.
Once the map was finished, they set about trying to decide on a younger student with whom to entrust it. They settled on a fifth year named Thomas L'Engle, who tried it out for the first time about three weeks before classes let out for the summer. And he'd promptly gotten caught by Filch, and the map was confiscated. Not that Filch knew what it was, exactly; Thomas had forgotten to wipe it until the last second, and when he performed the charm Filch swiped it from his hands.
Lupin smiled weakly, remembering that night and how furious Sirius had been with Thomas L'Engle. All that work! And it was a brilliant idea, too.
But how did Harry Potter come to be in possession of the Marauder's Map all these years later?
Lupin could only think about Sirius. He wanted to believe that the map was forged, that it wasn't the same one, but he'd seen what the map had written to Snape. He himself had come up with that protective enchantment, and James had been the one to charm it particularly against the likes of Slytherin interference. Could it be that Sirius was trying to use the map to lure Harry out of the castle?
Lupin pulled the map from his pocket and tapped it with his wand. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
The words nearly choked him, as he thought about Sirius Black and how, in the end, he really had been up to no good. In the worst possible way.
Sprawling script raced across the parchment.
"Mr. Wormtail would like to greet Mr. Moony and wish him a merry time while using this map."
"Mr. Prongs would like to congratulate Mr. Moony on his appointment as professor at Hogwarts. May all your adventures be grand while using this map."
"Mr. Padfoot welcomes Mr. Moony back to Hogwarts and wishes him the best of times while using this map."
The words stood out on the parchment, blurring a little as tears sprung to Lupin's eyes. How he missed them all - James and his wild-eyed ideas, his bravery and his unassuming nature; Peter and his timidity, his willingness to take part in every adventure; and Sirius. Sirius with his unwavering loyalty, his fierce protectiveness of Remus and the others. How had it all gone wrong? How was it that Remus Lupin was the only one left standing, left on the side of light and truly alive?
The parchment changed, the corridors and rooms and secret places of Hogwarts appearing, the names of various occupants floating over tiny dots. Lupin saw his own name in his office; Snape pacing in his; Dumbledore in McGonagall's office across a desk from the Transfiguration professor. The names Harry Potter and Ron Weasley appeared in the Gryffindor common room, and their friend Hermione Granger appeared to be sitting at a desk, likely studying.
Lupin unwittingly searched the parchment for James, Peter, and even Sirius. Once, before they gave the map to Thomas L'Engle, James had told them he was going to the Quidditch pitch for a little late practice; Sirius whipped out the map, and he and Remus stood laughing as the names James Potter and Lily Evans appeared in an empty classroom on the fourth floor.
But those names were nowhere to be found.
Knowing that he should give the map to Dumbledore, tell him that these fears, tell him that Sirius Black had been Padfoot once upon a time, made Lupin a little ill. He wanted, for so long, to believe Sirius was innocent. The breakout and the evidence of his presence at Hogwarts made Lupin's heart ache. For twelve years, when the wolf would take over and he was shut in dark rooms, often chained and bound, Moony would howl for his friends, especially Padfoot. Padfoot who would howl with him, Padfoot who would wrestle with him, Padfoot who would guard the door for him.
He didn't take the map to Dumbledore. Instead, he wiped it and rolled it up, locked it in his desk. He was tired, so tired, and feeling much older than his thirty-four years. Lupin then made his way back to Snape's office, needing to take the first goblet of Wolfsbane Potion for the month.
Snape glared at Lupin as he entered the room, clearly still seething over the map and Harry's escape from punishment.
"Let it go, Severus. He doesn't know any better. He doesn't know about Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs."
Snape nearly spat out his response. "But I do, Lupin. And Potter having the map could only mean that Black is here, waiting to pounce."He took a breath, looking only slightly calmer afterwards. "I can be a man about this. I won't get angry at you now for a childhood prank." Lupin stood quietly, not wanting to point out Snape's obvious grudge against himself and the Marauders for another, not so harmless prank. "But the map must be brought to Dumbledore and used as evidence. If Black's here...."
"He's not, Severus," Lupin said, a heavy sigh following his words. "The map doesn't lie. And Black's name was nowhere to be found."
"Where is the map now?" The snarl was back in Snape's voice.
"I burned it. The past is past, and we have to learn to move on."
The men stared each other down, one too tired for an argument, the other too wound up.
"I suppose you came for your potion, then?"
"Yes, if it's ready."
"Of course." Snape handed Lupin a steaming goblet, the foul smell drifting between them. The taste was brutal, and a shiver went down Lupin's spine.
"Thank you, Severus."
Snape didn't answer. He took the goblet and turned his back, busying himself with something at his desk. Lupin turned to leave.
"Lupin, if I find out you are in league with that criminal, I will see to it that you burn for it."
The threat was voiced in a harsh whisper, the voice of a man driven to carry it out. Lupin left the room, and the halls greeted him with the same rush of memories as they always did.
And Moony retreated to his room for the night, haunted by the ghosts of Wormtail, Prongs, and Padfoot.