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What was the nature of your involvement with Sirius Black?

Remus missed the funeral. When the aurors ran out of questions, they began repeating them.

What was the nature of your involvement with Sirius Black?

We were friends.

By all accounts, very close friends.

As close as James and Sirius, Remus had replied.

The aurors let him out just before the full moon. They had their traitor, his screams plastered on the front page of the Prophet. It was time for peace, and paperwork.

His place in Greyback’s camp was long gone- he had new punctures between his ribs from when his cover had been blown. Peter was dead. James was dead.

Within twelve hours, he had found an old mausoleum, heavy stone walls and no windows. As he shut, bolted, and spelled the door, he laughed- appropriate had been the first thought that came to mind, and just after it, Moony’s being maudlin again.

Is he? Sirius would say. I’ll fix that

The laughter was too much. Remus choked on it.

James, Remus thought, but all he could see were the pictures the aurors had shown him, his eyes wide and empty. Lily’s body on the floor.

He breathed in, and the aliveness of breathing was like a punch to the gut- it bothered him to chew even plain white bread, the starch sliding down his throat. He hadn’t been able to stomach meat for several weeks, not that he’d been given much. He was weak.

Weak was a dangerous way to begin a full moon. He could feel the wolf moving under his skin, eclipsing his consciousness. It was angry. It smelled old, decayed bones with no warm body to tear, which only infuriated it further. He felt something like hope, at that.

What was the nature of your involvement with Sirius Black?

*

Remus breathed out.

The first thing that trickled through his consciousness was the bustle of noise- the clatter of dishes, small feet pounding across the floor, birds chirping away out in the fields. Hogwarts, he thought, and his body relaxed. He’d been an only child, and after a year at school he couldn’t sleep in the hush of his parent’s cottage.

Fred, no running in the house!

’M not Fred!, a boy complained.

George, no running in the house!

Mum, I’m not even running!, another boy complained.

Remus heard a peal of laughter in response. He could feel the late morning sun through his eyelids, and moved to grasp the sheet covering him. He couldn’t quite close his fingers, and he waited a few more moments to gather his strength.

“HE’S AWAKE,” shouted the first boy’s voice, then the light footsteps ran off again.

Another, heavier set of footsteps approached. “So he is,” a woman said, and sat next to him with a sigh of relief. “Goodness, I’ve been on my feet too long.”

Remus opened his eyes. The bright morning light made him cover his eyes on reflex, and the white cotton fabric wrapped around his hand brushed his forehead. He pulled himself upright, and winced.

The room was filled with hundreds of oddments- children’s drawings held with sticking charms, whirling painted toys. Overlarge quilts in a variety of patterns, a stack of letters atop a small mountain of Prophets. A teakettle whistled Celestina Warbeck from the adjoining room.

“I’m sorry,” the woman continued, flipping her ginger hair into a bun with one hand. The other held a spatula. “We’re a bit tight on space. Of course, once you feel well enough you can use Bill’s room while he’s at school, but he’s on the top floor, see-“

“Sorry,” Remus pulled himself to sitting, “but I’m not sure where I am.”

“Oh, silly me,” the woman said, immediately placing a hand behind his back to help him sit. “I’m Molly. We’ve met once or twice, but I don’t imagine you remember.”

Remus collected his brain from wherever it had run off to, and studied her for a moment. “You’re in the Order,” he supplied finally. “But I never saw you much.”

“Oh, I wasn’t at most of the meetings,” she waved a hand at the surrounding chaos. “I was a bit busy.”

“I didn’t often come to meetings either,” Remus replied.

“Well,” Molly gave him a pat, “then neither of us are at fault.”

Silence stretched between them, and Remus peered toward the kitchen. It seemed they had an audience of four boys lined up around the doorjamb.

“Molly,” Remus asked, “how did you find me?”

“Oh, I didn’t,” Molly answered. “That was Albus. He said to tell you that he enjoyed the challenge.”

“Ah,” Remus said, feeling around the edge of the thick bandage on his stomach. “And how did I get to-“

“The Burrow,” Molly finished, a hint of pride in her voice. “I’m the default emergency contact. When others can’t be reached.”

“For the Order,” Remus supplied.

“Yes,” Molly answered. “Happens more often now than it used to.” Remus felt some alarm as she moved closer and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You know, dear, when my brothers died, I thought I’d go with them. Couldn’t imagine any life that they wouldn’t be a part of. But I woke up the next day, and I was needed,” she looked over at her children. “There are so few of us left,” Molly met his eyes.

“Thank you for patching me up, Molly,” Remus said stiffly, moving away until the hand fell from his shoulder. “I’ll be going now.”

Molly, to his surprise, only smiled, the corners of her eyes beginning to crinkle. “I think you’ll find your current condition is self-limiting, dear.”

Remus, testing himself, stood only to fall back on the couch. A chorus of giggles sounded from the kitchen, and a child began to cry.

“Oh, he hates being left out,” Molly said, and went to tend to the crying baby while Remus examined the intricate splint currently holding his thigh together. She returned a moment later with the wailing toddler, and plopped him into Remus’ arms. The boy’s eyes were wide with interest as he peered up at Remus, and he ceased crying at once.

“Like a charm,” Molly stood.

“I can’t,” Remus stuttered, “I don’t know-“

“Nonsense,” Molly replied. “Just make sure he doesn’t fall while I’m feeding Ginny,” she said, and disappeared into the kitchen. The boys were still wholly entertained watching Remus, and whispered amongst themselves.

“Ba!” the toddler in Remus’ arms cried, and slapped Remus in the face. He jumped in surprise, and the boy giggled.

After Molly had seen the older boys off to day school, she helped Remus limp to the kitchen and gave him a plate of what looked like six eggs and a quarter pound of cheese. Her tea was brewed strong, and Remus drank it black with sugar. He watched her strong arms knead and roll dough for about an hour as he continued to hold Ron in his arms, who was endlessly entertained by Remus tickling his feet.

“Molly,” Remus said finally, and she turned, her whole front covered in flour. “I have to use the toilet.”

“Oh, of course!” Molly put the rolling pin down the way others might a bat. She put Ron in his highchair, and facilitated Remus’ slow limp. Thankfully, she was able to deposit him on the toilet and leave him there.

“Ought to change your bandages now, too,” Molly said when he tapped on the door.

“Oh,” Remus flushed. “No, I can do that.”

“I’ve been slipping pain potions into your drink,” Molly said, reaching under the cabinet for strips of cloth, which she neatly sanitized with a tap of her wand. “It’s worse than it feels.”

“I know,” Remus tugged the cloth away from her, and slipped his shirt off to start. “I’ve done this before.”

“Oh,” she took in the ropy scars crossing his torso, shining white lines, puncture wounds that were not yet faded. Her face crumpled in pity, and he looked away to peel back the first bandage, testing the healing line of flesh that had been spelled together. “If you’d prefer,” she said.

“I would, thank you,” he replied, and she turned away.

“This is only curiosity,” Molly started, “and, as such, terribly rude.”

Remus didn’t respond as the awkward silence hung between them.

“I’d assumed, recently, with the war,” she carried on. “But most of those aren’t recent at all, are they?”

“No,” Remus replied.

“How old were you?” Molly asked, the question rising in pitch.

“That is a very personal question,” Remus answered. “But I was four. No, I don’t remember it. And I’m used to it, now,” he lied.

“Oh dear,” Molly said. “Oh, I can’t imagine.”

It was odd, to hear the empathy in her voice; so few people knew what he was, and they had either approached it with steadfast acceptance or humor.

Tetchy, eh? That time of the month?

Remus saw, in one bright moment of clarity, the way James’ face pulled into a smirk as he darted away from Remus’ hex. Things like that made someone alive and irreplaceable, he thought- that way that James’ lips quirked, that no one else in the world could replicate. His breath caught, and when he breathed in it hurt from his lungs to his gut.

“I’ll let you know when I’ve finished,” Remus said.

“Right,” Molly said, and wandered back off to the kitchen.

*

A week later, the leg splint was ready to come off, and Remus could walk the perimeter of the house. He liked getting up early in the morning with the first birds, and staring up at the structure Molly and Arthur had expanded seven times. He’d learned to change nappies, make a pot pie, and a cleaning charm for stainless steel.

“Well,” Remus coughed to clear his throat as Fred and George came tumbling past. He caught George before he tripped over his father’s shoes, and pushed him along. “I ought to be-“

“You ought to go outside with the boys,” Molly interrupted. “They’ve far too much energy.”

“I-“ Remus started.

“Play quidditch with us, Remus!” Fred yelled.

“No yelling in the house,” Molly said.

“I’ve always been pants at quidditch,” Remus said.

“Well,” Fred eyed him. “You can be on Percy’s team, then.”

“It’d be a big help,” Molly said, bouncing Ginny in her arms and feeding Ron cut pieces of chicken.

It was dark out by the time the boys were willing to call it quits, and Remus could feel the mosquitoes from the marshes still feeding on him.

“They’ve killed me,” Remus said, sprawled over the couch. George laughed uproariously from the next room as Percy shrieked. “And they’ve got energy to spare.”

Arthur chuckled from his armchair.

“I do believe this was her plan all along,” Remus said.

“Hmm,” Arthur raised the Prophet to cover his grin.

“Help,” Remus covered his face with a pillow. “How do I make her stop?”

“I’ve always thought it wise to do as she says,” Arthur replied before one of the boys launched themselves at Remus’ unprotected stomach.

“He’s injured!” Molly yelled from the kitchen.

“Not any longer,” Fred mumbled as Remus wheezed.

“Apologize now Fred Weasley!” Molly shouted.

“Sorry,” Fred mumbled, and shuffled off.

“Sorry,” Molly patted Remus on the back. “Perhaps you should take Bill’s room, now that you can climb the stairs. You can lock the door. Although,” she narrowed her eyes at Fred and George, who were whispering. “They’ve figured out at least two of the unlocking spells.”

“I ought to-“ Remus started.

“Oh, and Albus sent your clothes today,” Molly dragged a case over from the door. “From your flat.”

“I haven’t got a flat,” Remus stared at the case.

“It was locked up as evidence in the Ministry,” Molly said. “But they’ve begun to clean house.”

“Oh,” Remus trailed off. The clothes he’d left in Sirius’ flat.

What was the nature of your involvement with Sirius Black?

“I’ll help you get it up the stairs,” she said, passing Ginny off to Arthur, who smoothly accepted the hand-off.

“Molly,” Remus said firmly. “I ought to be moving on.”

“Just until you can get back on your feet,” Molly went to the stairs with the suitcase. “Save up a bit, figure out where you’re going next.”

“But,” Remus protested.

“I’m not putting you out on the street,” Molly crossed her arms, suitcase still in one hand. “I’ll start looking at jobs in the paper tomorrow, but you can help around the house until then.”

“I don’t need your charity,” Remus said. “You’ve enough mouths to feed.”

Molly laughed. “Charity? Remus, dear,” she pressed at a knot of muscle in her neck. “I’m trying to raise seven children to hopefully be decent adults one day. Do you believe that what I do isn’t work?”

“No, I didn’t mean-“

“Then you’ve been working,” Molly finished. “Quite hard, might I add. And it’s been an enormous help to me. Now,” she pushed him towards the stairs, “let’s make up your bed so I can put the little ones to sleep.”

“Yes, Molly,” Remus said, and Arthur snorted into his tea.

“Lift and tuck the sheets,” Molly demonstrated. “Yes, there you’ve got it.”

Remus sat down on the bed with a groan, flexing his leg to pull the ache from it.

“I understand that when people who have been struggling get a bit more energy, it can be a difficult time,” Molly said, still standing. “I have to say this, you understand.”

“What?” Remus felt like squirming under her gaze.

“If you do anything to yourself that might traumatize my children, I will find you in the afterlife. Do you understand?”

“Oh,” Remus winced. “Yes. I mean, I wouldn’t do that.” Here.

“Good,” she said brightly. “That’s all, then. I’ll put Ron and Ginny to bed.”

“Good night, Molly,” Remus said.

“Good night, Remus dear,” she smiled.

For the next two weeks, Remus had nightmares nearly every time he closed his eyes. He dreamed that Sirius, with ragged robes and chipped teeth, escaped Azkaban and crawled through Harry’s window to bite him. He dreamed of Greyback coming for him a second time, only this time as a human, and holding him down with greasy hands as he bit deep into his ribs, blood shining on his teeth. He dreamed that he lost himself to the wolf, and came after James with a monster’s growl from his human throat.

He prowled the kitchen for tea with late night bouts of insomnia, but Molly began to restrict him to herbal and make sure he was good and exhausted every day. That way, his heart pounded as he ran from a wolf that became a shaggy black dog, but he did not wake.

Moony. Moony, love.

What was the nature of your involvement with Sirius Black?

“What about,” Molly began, paper rustling as she clasped it. “But no, you’ll need more flexibility than that.”

“It’ll be the full moon in two days,” Remus said.

“I know, dear,” Molly did not look up from the paper. “What about a bookkeeper position? It’s not got any benefits, but if you ask they may be able to accommodate your needs.”

“Molly, this is important,” Remus insisted.

“Albus has said you can apparate to the shack in Hogsmeade,” Molly answered. “I do have to admit, I felt quite smug when I solved that mystery.”

“Hm,” Remus hesitated.

“That won’t work?” Molly asked.

“No, that’ll be the safest option,” Remus admitted. “I just prefer not to rely on Albus.”

Molly sighed, and chucked the paper at him. “We’re human. We all rely on one another.”

“I’m not human,” Remus said. “Not really.”

“Oh, tosh,” Molly scolded. “You stop that. Now, why don’t you go do the groceries,” she handed him a scrawled list, “and you can stop in at the bookshop and put in an application.”

“Yes, alright,” Remus agreed.

“And take this,” Molly handed him the last apple with a squeeze to his hand. “You’re still looking far too thin.”

“Any luck this round?” Arthur asked that evening.

“I’ve been hired by the bookshop,” Remus said, and waved away Arthur’s handshake. “Don’t get too excited. Jobs rarely last me more than a couple months before they figure it out.”

“Ah, well,” Arthur clasped his shoulder. “You never know. People may surprise you.”

“Hmm,” Remus said. “You’ve never said how you feel about my being here. I’d understand if you’d rather I moved on.”

“Molly and I both chose to open our home if needed,” Arthur replied. “You’re not the first who has been by, though I would say I’ve never seen Molly quite so committed. Or anyone so determined to believe they’re a bother.” Arthur leaned forward. “I’ve a question for you.”

Remus felt his stomach sink. “Hmm?”

“Percy has told me you grew up with a muggle mum. Is that true?”

“Yes,” Remus said, not able to help the defensive tone.

“Oh, no, don’t get me wrong,” Arthur said, leaning forward. “It’s just, I have a fascination with muggle elecktric devices.”

“Oh,” Remus said, relieved.

“How is it,” Arthur said keenly, “that they get the electrick through the wires?”

“Well,” Remus blinked. “I don’t really know.”

“Nevermind,” Arthur looked disappointed. “It’s just, I’ve acquired what they call a Ford Anglia, and I’ve been considering,” he lowered his voice, “for research purposes, you understand, doing a bit of enchantment.”

The words came out before Remus could stop them, spilling in a rush. “Sirius enchanted his motorbike to fly.”

“Did he now,” Arthur’s eyebrows shot up. “Clever man, you can say that about him.”

“Yes,” Remus agreed, and the sudden rush of rage was so strong that he had to breathe through it.

It’s brilliant, Remus revved the engine, and Sirius puffed up like a pidgeon.

Yeah? Sirius cocked his hips. You like something big and hard between your legs, Moony?

Hmm. Something vibrating, maybe.

He returned from the shack at dawn, managing the stairs to Bill’s room before he shut himself in and locked the door. He started at the bookkeeper’s Monday, and thought vaguely that if he gathered a couple month’s pay he might manage a shared flat. He slept, and dreamed of Sirius- he always dreamed of Sirius after the moon.

It’s over, Moony. You’re safe.

When Remus woke, he found he was crying for the first time since October, and hated that it was not for James or Lily or Peter. Sirius, was all his body could think. Where’s Sirius?

“In Azkaban,” he said aloud. “Where he belongs.”

The bookshop did not fire him the first month. November faded into the shorter days of December, and heavy clouds drizzled cold rain on his walks from work and his stops for Molly’s errands. He learned how to balance a budget, and to consider nutrition for a house of growing children. He also learned the lyrics to every Celestina Warbeck song ever penned.

“They remind me so much of Gideon and Fabian,” Molly said one day as Remus helped her chop vegetables and the rain poured outside the stained glass window that had been joined with lead. The house smelled of cloves and cinnamon.

“Fred and George?” Remus said, observing the boys as they rolled in the mud outside.

“My brothers were such troublemakers,” Molly said. “They always had a smile for me, though. I remember when they set off firecrackers on my birthday. Enchanted to look like bursting puffla flowers, if you can believe it. My name in the sky above the castle. Everyone remembered me, then.”

“James was like that,” Remus said. “He’d do anything for the people he cared about.”

“I met him briefly, a handful of times,” Molly nodded. “He was a cheerful lad.”

“Yeah,” Remus swallowed past the constriction in his throat. “Him and Lily both. They were the most alive people I’d ever met.” If anyone deserved to live, if there were anyone he couldn’t imagine death coming for so suddenly-

“It doesn’t make much sense, does it?” Molly said.

Remus shook his head. Not for Sirius. Not any way he looked at it, any direction his nightmares tried to make plausible. “I don’t think about it.”

The job continued to hold, and Remus passed another full moon with manageable injuries. He was ready the day after, when he was exhausted and sick and had to dig his fingernails into his palms to stop himself from wanting Sirius. He organized the books. He did the shopping. He made dinner and played quidditch and de-gnomed the garden.

“You’re looking a bit better,” Molly commented, eyeing her work. “Healthier.”

“That’s one word for it,” Remus replied.

“How long has it been since you’ve been on a date?” Molly asked, and Remus dropped the dough.

“No trouble,” Molly said, flicking her wand to pull a ginger hair from the dough.

“Uh,” Remus said.

“I just thought, it seemed like you were quite isolated during the war,” Molly continued, “and it occurred to me you haven’t once mentioned a girlfriend.”

“I, no,” Remus said.

“I think it would be good for you,” Molly concluded. “Everyone needs to be touched.”

“Ah,” Remus spluttered.

“Seven children, Remus,” Molly said unblinkingly.

“It’s easier not to,” Remus redirected the conversation. “And better for everyone else if I don’t.”

Molly shook her head. “The world’s not as bad a place as you think it is, dear. Not always.”

Thus began the stream of Mary, Julia, Flora, Kate.

“She just won’t stop,” Remus said to Arthur, having fended off Kate’s persistent kindness.

“Molly? No,” Arthur said. “Almost winter hols. I’ve decided to make another room this weekend, for when Bill comes back for his.”

“Oh no,” Remus sat up, alarmed. “Don’t trouble yourself. I’ll do fine on the couch for another couple weeks.”

“No, I’ve thought for a while now it might be smart to have a guest room. Just haven’t had the proper motivation to get the job done. Spare some time to help?”

“Well, of course, but-“

“I’ve another question for you. And you should know I’ve never gotten a satisfying answer,” Arthur said, peering intently at him. “What is the function of a rubber duck?”

The room was finished despite Remus’ protests, and when Bill returned he must have been owled about Remus’ presence, because he simply accepted it with a nod and continued with dinner.

“Charlie, finish your vegetables,” Remus said, extricating a fussing Ron from his highchair.

Charlie sighed, and sat back down to pluck at his greens, eyeing the pear cobbler.

“Remus, can we play quidditch tomorrow?” George asked.

“It’s far too cold,” Remus replied.

“Not with the sweaters mum’s going to give us come morning,” Fred replied.

“I’ve given you naught but coal,” Molly rebutted, and Fred only laughed.

It turned out Fred was given a lump of coal, but he was also given a sweater. As was Remus.

“Molly, I can’t accept this,” he said uncomfortably. “I couldn’t get you anything.”

“I’m not about to unravel it,” Molly said. “Just wear it, dear. Make me happy.”

“Talk to Sue,” Arthur interjected, pulling on a thick pair of knitted socks. “Make her happier.”

Remus felt suddenly as if he couldn’t breathe. He stood, alarmed, and noticed his hands were shaking. Nine round faces peered up at him, and he knew before it happened that George would turn to Fred in his confusion.

“Need some air,” Remus managed, and stepped out into the cold. He desperately wanted one of Sirius’ smokes, but thought at once that Molly would skin him if he exposed the children to cigarettes.

“What am I doing here,” he said to the brown, shriveled fields. How had it happened, that several months had passed without his realizing, in some alternate reality where James and Peter and Sirius were gone and parents handed a werewolf their children. He had gotten far too comfortable here.

“Remus?” Arthur stepped outside and shut the door behind him.

“I’ve been thinking it’s time to move on,” Remus answered.

“Well, I can’t stop you. Even Molly can’t do that, if you really want to go.”

“I have to,” Remus said, the panic easing as he made the decision. “I’ve got to figure things out. Myself.”

“Maybe,” Arthur acknowledged. “But today, it’s Christmas. Play quidditch with the boys. Tell Molly tomorrow.”

“Yes,” Remus sighed. “You’re right.”

“Often am, funny enough,” Arthur said, and shivered. He turned the knob on the door, and a brown streak shot out.

“Scabbers!” Bill yelled, his voice high with panic.

Reflex had saved Remus where it had failed others, and not a single thought had passed through his head before his wand was out and the rat was still on the ground, its whiskers twitching.

Bill ran out to the rat and picked it up, sniffing. “Thanks,” he said. “He keeps trying to get away, ever since I got home. Even bit me just now,” he showed Remus his hand. “I don’t understand. We’ve been good friends ever since I found him.”

“Let me see,” Remus said with about a quarter of the authority of Molly Weasley, examining the bite. “Your mum’s got some salve…” he looked at the rat’s soft, crooked ear, and froze.

“Bill,” Remus said softly, the urgency of his tone making the boy shrink back. “Where did you say you found this rat?” The round eyes, but surely all rats were similar.

“Hogwarts,” Bill said, confused. “Mum and Dad said it was ok to keep him, as long as he wasn’t anyone else’s pet. And I felt bad for him, ‘cause he’s missing a-“

“A finger,” Remus’ heart pounded, far off and urgent.

“A toe,” Bill looked at him oddly, then looked to his dad, whose brow had furrowed.

Remus pulled out his wand and pointed it at Bill.

“Remus,” Arthur said urgently, and Remus heard the door creak as the other Weasleys spilled through.

Remus flicked his wand, and an arc of blue light shot towards Bill as Molly gasped and Arthur leapt forward. He stopped mid-movement, and watched the creature in his son’s arms twist and fall to the ground, reforming into a shape that was far larger.

“Peter,” Remus said, blinking.

“Petrificus totalus,” Molly barked out, and Peter froze on the ground, staring up at the gathered crowd with wide eyes.

“He’s alive,” Remus said, and looked to Molly.

“It seems so,” she said, appearing nearly as surprised at herself. “He was my son’s rat.”

“He’s an animagus,” Charlie said proudly.

“Yes,” Remus said.

“You don’t seem surprised,” Arthur noted.

“No,” Remus agreed.

“Boys, to your rooms,” Molly ordered. “Take Ginny and Ron with you.”

“But mum,” a chorus of two replied.

“He’s my rat!” Bill argued.

“Do not argue with me!” Molly said dangerously. “Up, now!” She pointed her wand at Peter, and floated him indoors.

“I think you’d better tell us what you know,” Arthur said to Remus.

“I never meant- I thought it didn’t matter, anymore,” Remus said.

“Start with this man,” Molly scowled, poking Peter’s still form, “pretending to be a rat.”

“They did it for me,” Remus could barely find the words. “To protect me, during the full moon.”

“Genius,” Arthur replied, looking genuinely excited. “Werewolves only attack humans, yes?”

Remus nodded mutely.

“So that would be James and Sirius as well, then?” Molly asked.

“Why didn’t he tell me?” Remus looked at her, lost. “He’s been alive, for months. Voldemort is dead. We- the war is over.”

“We’re about to find out, dear,” Molly said grimly. “I’ve not got Veritaserum, but I know ways of finding the truth.”

Peter sat tied to the kitchen chair, trembling as he looked away from Molly towards the two men.

“MY SON,” Molly shouted. “FOR MONTHS.”

“Remus, please,” Peter made an odd sniffling noise reminiscent of a rat. His fingers twitched like scrabbling claws.

“I think you’d better answer her, Peter,” Remus said softly.

“I told you,” Peter wailed. “I was frightened!”

“OF WHO?” Molly yelled. “BECAUSE I GUARANTEE THAT ANYONE WHO ENDANGERS MY CHILDREN WON’T HAVE A BODY TO BE FOUND!”

“Sirius!” Peter sniffled.

Something crept over Remus’ consciousness, large and certain. Understanding.

“SIRIUS BLACK IS IN AZKABAN PRISON,” Molly continued.

“He’ll find me,” Peter’s eyes twitched side to side. “He’ll kill me.”

“Why?” Remus said softly. “Why you, Peter? How could Sirius possibly care so much about you?”

Peter bristled. “Shows what you know,” he spat.

“Sirius never considered you a threat,” Remus said. It wasn’t a goad; it was fact, and the glint in Peter’s eyes showed he knew it.

“You don’t know anything,” Peter laughed. “You always thought you were so smart, Remus.”

“James and Lily are dead. If you thought Sirius might escape Azkaban, you should be protecting Harry,” Remus said. “But that’s not your style, is it, Peter?”

“Of course I would, poor little Harry,” Peter’s eyes grew large and wet.

“James died to protect the people he loved,” Remus said absently. “Sirius would have. But you were afraid, weren’t you, Peter? You couldn’t be trusted.”

“He trusted me!” Peter protested. “More than anyone! You or Sirius!” His nose twitched, and Remus felt the certainty crash over him, quiet and heavy, drowning out any other thought.

“You switched,” Remus heard himself say even as he watched Peter catch himself, eyes wide. “It was you. That’s why you’ve been hiding all this time. Sirius knew.”

Peter shook his head, eyes round and bulging from their sockets, but it didn’t matter. Remus knew what the rat looked like when he’d been caught.

Molly and Arthur shared a significant look, raised their wands in tandem, and neatly stunned Peter before he could begin to protest.

“Sirius,” Remus said his first thought aloud, feeling sick. “Sirius, we have to-“

“He ought to be taken to the Ministry,” Arthur studied Peter’s body, slumped over in the chair. “They’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“Wait, dear,” Molly held up a hand. “This needs to be done right, this time. I’ll contact Albus.”