Albus Dumbledore had, in his many years of life, heard a lot of stories. Fantastic tales and awe-inspiring myths and many, many more. He knew that most of these stories had a kernel of truth in them. After all, even the most extravagant of legends had to come from somewhere. And, sometimes, this made it worthwhile to investigate such fairy-tales.
Especially now that Voldemort was back.
Albus had revived the Order of the Phoenix in turn, yes. But they lacked strength. They needed all the help they could get to oppose Voldemort. Any allies, human or otherwise, were desperately needed. Many of the current members of the Order were doing the best they could to recruit more members. But it was slow going; the Order had to stay secret, and the Ministry was doing its best to cover up Voldemort’s return.
Which had led him here. Or, more accurately, to the stories of a small Muggle town in America known as Amity Park. A town which was, apparently, often attacked by some form of magical creatures. The Muggles called them ghosts, but they weren’t like ghosts at all.
No, these beings were solid – but still capable of becoming intangible like a ghost. They could perform quite an array of magical tricks, leave quite a bit of devastation. But, above all, most were humanoid in both appearance and intelligence, which was like ordinary ghosts.
Which meant that, if the stories were true, these beings could be recruited. Unless, of course, they were all as malevolent as the stories suggested. Or if the other wizards were right about this being a Muggle hoax.
But if these beings were real, they were powerful. Even the weakest of them possessed versatile magic. And, most importantly, they were unknown. Even a single individual of these ‘ghosts’ could alter the war. They could catch the Death Eaters, and Voldemort, off guard.
And Albus knew that there must be some truth to the stories. Muggles were a creative bunch, yes. They very eagerly came up with all kinds of explanations and stories, some remarkably similar to the world of magic they knew nothing about. But this many stories, of such scale…
It was worth investigating, at the very least.
Not by him, of course. He was an extraordinarily busy man, even before Voldemort’s return. Besides, he was too well-known. If he traveled not only to America, but to some small unknown Muggle town, he would draw too much attention.
Luckily, Albus knew just the right people to send in his stead.
“You want us to what?”
Albus watched, face smoothed out as always. He didn’t even blink at the shout – he had quite expected it.
“Ignore him,” Sirius pleaded, giving Remus a short shove. “We would very much love to go to… where did you say, America? We would very much love to go there.”
Remus shot the other man a dry look. “Sirius, you’re literally a wanted criminal.”
“And if I have to stay in this house for any longer it’ll be deserved.” Sirius crossed his arms, then turned to look at Albus again. “Order business, right?”
“Of course.” Albus smiled, his eyes twinkling. Sending the two of them was a bit of a gamble, but one he had carefully considered. Besides, Sirius’ volatile nature would likely be calmed by Remus. The only reason it hadn’t worked out back when they were students was because James was too much of a troublemaker, too.
Remus, apparently noticing that he couldn’t win, sighed. Then he pinched the bridge of his nose and turned to Albus as well. “So you’re sending a werewolf and a wanted criminal to America. It must be pretty important, then.”
Albus nodded, before spreading a couple of pictures on the table they were sitting at. They were all still, Muggle in origin. The photos displayed a variety of magical beings, all completely different from each other, bar the fact that they all glowed.
A huge black-furred bipedal wolf, which one might’ve called a werewolf if they weren’t familiar with actual werewolves. A sky-blue dragon, perfectly ordinary except that the photo depicted it flying through a building. A metallic humanoid launching some sort of projectiles at another being, this one perfectly human except for his white hair and odd clothes. A giant green dog mauling a branch – or was that just a small tree?
“What are these?” Sirius asked, leaning forward to inspect the photos. “I’ve never seen magical creatures like these before.” He picked up the first picture, with the black wolf on it. Showing it to Remus, he grinned. “Look Moony, it’s your family.”
But Remus only frowned. “These are from that small town in America, aren’t they? I thought it was decided that these were all a hoax? Since no traces of magic, from wizards or otherwise, were detected?”
“That’s true,” Albus allowed, folding his hands together on the table. “But spells and hexes can be tricked. These magical beings, or whoever is behind them, are completely unknown. Perhaps they can’t be detected by traditional magic.”
“So you want us to check it out?” Sirius put the photo back again, looking a little disappointed that Remus hadn’t reacted to his joke. “To, what? Attempt to recruit them to the Order, or something?”
“How do you even want us to get them back?” Remus looked away from the pictures to look at Albus again. “If they’re somehow immune to detecting magic, who says magical transportation will work?”
Sirius laughed, picking up the picture with the two beings. “Yeah, and no matter how humanoid these are, I highly doubt that the Muggles will let them travel their way.”
“I’m sure something could be managed.” Albus smiled a little, the corners of his mouth turned up. “But first, the two of you will need to learn more about them. We know nothing about them, except that they’re allegedly powerful, almost all malevolent, and that the Muggles call them ‘ghosts’.”
Snorting, Sirius flapped the photo around in the air. “They’re calling these ghosts? They’re nothing like actual ghosts!” Then he put the picture down again, the corner creased a little where he had held it.
“What if they’re all malevolent, or unwilling to join us?” Remus asked instead, ever-serious. “Or worse yet, if they are more interested in joining Voldemort?”
“Ideally, you would be able to avoid mentioning him until you were certain that these beings would join us.” Albus eyed the two wizards. He was sure that they would do a good job. He wouldn’t have picked them otherwise. But he also knew that Remus was a responsible man, and perhaps, a little too insecure. “And I’m sure the two of you will do an excellent job.”
Remus frowned, but nodded his approval. “Why us, anyway? I mean, we’re a werewolf and a wanted criminal. Not exactly the type of people you would send to another continent to recruit new members.”
“Perhaps not,” Albus agreed. “But you two are more than just ‘a werewolf and a wanted criminal’.”
“Obviously he picked us for our good looks.” Sirius grinned, wide and toothy. “We’re gonna charm these supposed ghosts to our side.”
“Ha ha.” Remus rolled his eyes. “Sir, I can understand why you’re sending me, but surely you don’t expect that Sirius will avoid notice just because it’s a different continent?”
“He is also a highly skilled Animagus.” Albus quirked a single eyebrow at Remus, challenging.
“’He’ is also right here,” Sirius interjected, throwing an arm over Remus’ shoulder. “And quite ready to leave this damn house, even if I have to be a dog the whole time.”
Remus sighed but didn’t protest. He just shook his head, looking rather exasperated. “Fine, alright.”
“And surely you don’t believe that I have made these decisions without careful consideration?” Albus kept his tone light, a little teasing. Most, if not all, wizards believed him to be infallible. And while he was certainly powerful, certainly wise… Infallible, he was not.
But that didn’t stop him from relying on his reputation. It was just another tool in his repertoire.
“Of course not.” Remus looked almost offended by the suggestion. “It’s just… It seems like a dangerous choice, the two of us. Former Marauders on a mission to gather information and potentially recruit new members.”
“You two were the most suitable.” Albus stared him down, gaze a little stern. “I trust you two, and your abilities.” Then he allowed a small smile, a quirk to his lips. “Besides, Sirius very much needs to leave the house.”
“Thank you!” the man in question exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air. “Because you’re absolutely right! This house is driving me crazy.”
“You already were crazy,” Remus remarked under his breath. Both other men pointedly ignored it in favor of Remus’ follow-up statement. “And I’m supposed to come along to what, keep an eye on him?”
“Well, we can hardly have a dog asking around for information about these magical beings, no?” Albus smiled a little, kindly. “And Remus, you already have experience with recruiting new members for the Order. You have value beyond being Sirius’ caretaker.”
“Hey!” the man barked, a somewhat offended note to his tone. “I don’t need a caretaker!”
“Yes, because there’s nothing suspicious about an enormous black dog wandering around without any supervision.” Remus rolled his eyes, a little less agitated now. “And I suppose the two of us are estranged from society enough that our disappearance won’t be noticed.”
“Indeed.” Albus nodded, raising his still-folded hands off of the table to rest his elbows on it instead. “I have already taken care of transportation, and I expect regular check-ins on your status. Weekly, at least. More often if you’ve uncovered important information. I don’t expect that you’ll run into much trouble, as I doubt that many Death Eaters will have traveled to America, but still.”
“Right.” Sirius’ smile had dropped, his face now serious and focused. “And where was it that we were going, again?”
Albus smiled, unfolding his hands.
“Amity Park, USA.”
Traveling to their destination was… an adventure. In some ways, it wasn’t as disastrous as Remus had expected.
In other ways, it was far worse.
Reaching the headquarters in America via Floo Powder was easy. Checking himself and his ‘dog’ in was also easy.
Getting to Amity Park, a small Muggle town in the middle of nowhere… Not nearly as easy.
Floo Powder wouldn’t work. Besides the fact that the fact that they required several transitions to even get to the right network (who knew that America needed multiple?) there also weren’t any available in Amity Park itself. There was a single fireplace registered, but it apparently belonged to an elderly witch, and they could hardly Floo themselves into her house.
And so Remus and his beloved ‘dog’ found themselves in a Muggle taxi. A few helpful wizards had helped them convert their money into American dollars, and had hailed the taxi as well. Once Remus had mentioned their destination being Amity Park, the driver had nodded understandingly.
“Going to see the ghosts?” he had asked, but he hadn’t waited for an answer as he already drove off. “I hope your dog doesn’t spook easily, then.”
Sirius, in answer, had created a sound much like a laugh.
“He doesn’t,” Remus had confirmed. The taxi driver just eyed them, a twinkle of joy in his eyes. But he had remained quiet the rest of the drive, something that Remus was glad for.
Once they finally arrived in Amity Park, their troubles weren’t over. The two of them still had to find a hotel to stay in, and one that would accept dogs.
Luckily Amity Park had become something of a tourist attraction to Muggles. Even if they were a little early for the Summer Holidays (for America, at least), most hotels were ready for visitors. Finding one that would let Sirius stay with Remus wasn’t too difficult, either.
“Here for the ghosts?” the receptionist had asked, with a smile on her face. And, once again, “Hope your dog doesn’t spook easy.”
“He doesn’t,” Remus had confirmed again, frowning a little.
He knew that the stories of Amity Park’s ghosts had spread far and wide. That was the whole point. It was known as a tourist trap to Muggles, a small town that had made up stories to lure tourists. It only made sense that the people who tourists would interact with would play up this reputation.
That didn’t account for the group of teenagers they ran into that afternoon.
“Hey sir!” a voice called, and Remus whirled around with a quirked brow. A group of teenagers, dressed in red-and-white jackets approached him. The one in the front, with gelled blond hair and blue eyes, stepped forward with a smile. “Can we pet your dog?”
Remus glanced at Sirius, who still looked as mangy and shaggy-haired as always. The dog, in turn, looked at him a little pleadingly. Remus considered, for a moment, to ignore Sirius’ wordless plea. Then he took mercy on his friend.
“Better not,” he told the teenagers. “He’s a little shy.”
“Oh!” one of the other teenagers exclaimed, an Asian boy. “You’re British! Are you a tourist?”
“Yes. Do you get a lot of them?” This could be a good way to dig for information. Adults might be coaxed into playing along, but teenagers were headstrong. They couldn’t be forced into a lie if they didn’t want to be.
Sirius sat down by his feet, looking around as if he was surveying their environment. He kept his ears twisted towards the teenagers however, clearly listening.
“You’re a little early, but yeah,” the blond boy said with a shrug. “They come to check out the ghosts. For some reason no one ever believes that they’re real.”
“You don’t look like the typical ghost-chasing tourist, though.” The Asian boy frowned at him, discerning. “Usually they’re more… I dunno. Weird. Like fanatics of the supernatural.”
“And I don’t look like that?” Remus had dressed himself as normally as possible, of course. But… maybe this town did get magical visitors.
“Nah.” The blond boy scoffed, flapping his hand. “You look like shit. But not like, interested in the supernatural.”
“Doesn’t matter anyway,” one of the other boys added. “Whether you believe in ghosts or not, whatever reason you have for coming to Amity Park. You’ll see a ghost sooner or later anyway.”
“That’s… good.” Remus smiled a little, ignoring the hurtful comments from the boy who appeared to be the leader. “Since that’s why I’m here, and all that.”
“Yeah, sure.” The boys started walking again, following the blond boy. Under his breath, the boy uttered, “Weirdo.”
No, definitely not used to wizards. But they did believe in these ‘ghosts’. Either they played along with the hoax, or… maybe Dumbledore had been right. Maybe these magical beings were real.
The rest of the week was much of the same. They hadn’t yet encountered any magical beings, both human or otherwise. There had been a few supposed ‘ghost attacks’, but due to the sheer size of the town, Sirius and Remus had managed to miss all of them.
The damages left behind were fairly convincing, however.
“I just can’t imagine Muggles causing this kind of damage just to lure tourists,” Sirius remarked, leaning against a tree. They were looking at a huge crater left in the park, the fountain cracked and several blackened patches in the grass.
After the first few days Sirius had concluded that no wizards came to Amity Park, and promptly decided to stop pretending to be a dog. He still stuck around in canine form in the hotel to save money, however.
“If they make enough money off of it, why not?” Remus shrugged.
“Surely they don’t.” Sirius frowned, looking over the damages again. “I mean, for a wizard it would be an easy fix. But Muggles can’t just magic away the damages.”
“And you don’t think Dumbledore is wrong about his suspicions?” Remus knew Sirius well enough to hear the silent comment. “That there probably is something magical happening here, even if these so-called ‘ghosts’ aren’t real.”
“I mean, I’m just happy to be out of the house for once.” Sirius grinned, looking happier than Remus usually saw him. The outside air was doing him some good. “I don’t mind spooking around town a little longer.”
“But it would be nice to find some proof?” Remus recognized the sound of longing. If they could just dig up enough information to prove that Dumbledore might be onto something, they could excuse a longer stay.
The silence lingered after that. But it wasn’t cold, or uncomfortable. It was a warm silence, one between friends who knew each other well enough to surpass the need for words. Sometimes… Sometimes just being together was enough.
“I bet James would’ve loved these things,” Sirius eventually muttered.
Remus scoffed. “He definitely would’ve found a way to pull a prank with one, that’s for sure.”
“I wonder what Harry would think of them.” Sirius’ voice was quiet, but Remus heard him nonetheless. He wished that he could give some sort of supportive reply, an assurance that Sirius could just ask the kid when they got back. But he knew that that was impossible. There was a strict no-talking-to-Harry rule.
Instead, he went for, “Why don’t we find out if they’re real, first?”
Which wasn’t as comforting as he would’ve liked. But at least it would get Sirius out of dark mood and back into something more productive.
“Yeah, alright,” the Animagus grunted, pushing himself off of the tree. “We’re not learning anything new from this place anyway, and it doesn’t look like these supposed ghosts are coming back, either.”
“Maybe we should pick a spot that they frequent and wait?”
Sirius hummed noncommittally. “Like what, the school? I’m sure that that would go over well.”
“It’s the weekend, Sirius.” Remus rolled his eyes. “We could try the mall or the restaurant.”
“It’s weekend already?” Sirius blinked, somewhat stunned. “Huh. But, uh. I think the mall would be better. They’ll probably expect us to pay if we’re staking out the restaurant for several hours.”
“Probably,” Remus agreed with a sigh. “Let’s just try and at least get enough information to satisfy Dumbledore tonight. If we can prove that there is something going on, we can stay for another week.”