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Rise of the Dark, the Neutral, the Light

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On May 31, 1991, Harry James Potter vanished from under the care of his sitter, Mrs. Arabella Doreen Figg. The aurors were alerted some hours later by Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Harry Potter’s magical custodian. The only clue as to his disappearance was a floo activation at Mrs. Figg’s residence at precisely 5:32 in the afternoon. It was a matter of extreme delicacy in need of the utmost professionalism, competence, and secrecy, so of course by June 1 all of wizarding Britain knew had heard the news while ministry officials were more focused on the press than they were on the disappearance. And the press, the press was salivating.

Over the next few weeks, no matter the publication, the cover was a feature on this great mystery. Are our aurors up to the job? Minister Fudge to hold another press conference this afternoon. Gilderoy Lockhart gives his thoughts on the Potter case! What would the Potter’s think if they were alive today? Most of the articles showed little regard for facts and instead 8767focused on reactions of people from the common folk to the famous and the speculation of the ill qualified and of course the usual lies and slander. Rita Skeeter dived into things with her usual gusto with a daily column in the Prophet. By far the most popular article Miss Skeeter wrote during this time was a feature which payed particular focus to what she viewed to be a string of bizarre “coincidences?” surrounding not only his disappearance but the boy himself. Wasn’t it strange for The-Boy-Who-Lived, savior of the wizarding world, to placed in the care of muggle relatives? Why leave the boy to grow up in the muggle world? Why was Mister Potter’s nanny a Squib if he was indeed meant to be growing up away from the wizarding? And the timing of things! After years kept distanced and sheltered from the wizarding public young Mister Potter disappears months before his due re-entry, with the coming of his first year of Hogwarts. Dear faithful readers, do we not have to wonder at the timing of these events? Could it be that Harry Potter is a squib himself and this disappearance is merely a ploy to continue the deception?!

Not three days later, after these scandalous implications hit coffee tables and offices alike, one young reporter, recently graduated from Hogwarts, by the name of Raina Black (of no relation to the ancient and most noble house) came forward with an article simply titled “The Boy We Failed”. The story was the first in a series of seven all of which were realized over the following week. Instead of finding foundation in conjecture, Miss Blacks’ articles were backed by facts. Instead of imagining scandal, they brought to light scandalous truths. Instead of slinging mud and wild shots designed for readers reactions, the accusations and the questions she raised were targeted and backed with the righteous outrage that only a Hufflepuff could pull off. Over the course of the week Miss Black revealed life of The-Boy-Who-Lived from the night of the He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named disappearance to the evening of his own vanishing from the world. With seven articles a single young witch reached more minds and hearts than any report could have previously claimed. The resulting ripples shock wizarding Britain. But in end they did not help to find the lost little boy anymore than any of the words that had been printed before them.

As weeks grew to months, with every sighting and tipoff leading to nothing, attentions and dedications began wavered. Daily updates dwindled to a few weekly articles and over time dwindled further still to a small monthly column in the back pages of the column. Months became a year and after the first anniversary passed the column was stopped. On the two year anniversary the profit ran a modest article on the 7th page recapping the events of the initial disappearance, the details of the search, the truths that came to be revealed about young Harry Potter’s up bringing, and all the fall out that came after, all wrapped with a closing message to readers that should they have any new information, that they should report it via owl to the ministry for the care of Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt. A year later and another article was published a nearly verbatim copy of what was written the year before and another copy was planned and prewritten for the next.

 

.*.*.*.

 

One of the last articles in Raina Black’s had focused on Sirius Black, raising long forgotten questions in the publics mind as to why godfather and friend would commit such a grievous betrayal, calling to light the lack of a trial where these answers should have been received and raising the public to call for action. It was perhaps the largest of the ripples Miss Black’s words stirred. Sirius found it ironic that his freedom came from Harry’s 10 years of misery. After all he had thought all he wanted after freedom and revenge was to see Harry happy. Now, after years of fruitless hope Sirius would have returned to Azkaban if he his sentence came the assurance that Harry would be found, safe and whole.

After his release the now Lord Black had returned to his ancestral home. There had always been little joy to be found within the walls of Number 12 Grimmauld Place but where once the misery and darkness came from the walls themselves Sirius knew it now came from him. He was the source of the misery now and It was getting worse with every day that passed because with every day that passed they were moving closer and closer to the four year anniversary of Harry’s disappearance.

Besides him the small click of a tray pulled Sirius out of his abject wallowing. Kreacher was besides him with a platter of food. It was all fresh and beautiful and healthy but did little to stir Sirius’ appetite. Perhaps that was the greatest sign of his depression, Sirius thought. That not only did he put up with Kreacher but he found as the years had gone on he was actually coming to appreciate the retch. Though he would admit , if only to himself, that the old elf was nothing as he had been during Sirius’ childhood.

From the first day Sirius and Moony and the order had arrived at Grimmauld place Kreacher had put himself to use. Though he sneered and glared and showed open dislike for all including Sirius, he saw to everyone’s meals and comfort, he helped them with the removal of all cursed objects, and had pointed out the tombs in the Black family library that would help them in purifying the house of all it’s lingering malicious energies. He had even helped them to removed Sirius’ Mothers portrait from the entry hall. And though Sirius was loath to admit he needed it, Kreacher took care of him. Most of his day was spent with Kreacher tucked into a corner somewhere watching him. It was Kreacher who blackmailed and bullied Sirius into living to the basic standers. It was Kreacher who saw to it that he woke up and dressed and left his rooms every morning. Kreacher saw to it that he changed before returning to bed each night. It was Kreacher who saw to it that he ate two small meals and two snack at set times every day. And in the spaces in-between Kreacher saw to it that Sirius did nothing to reckless, he saw to it that Sirius excused himself from polite company before he went about burning bridges or starting fights, and he saw to it that Sirius marked the days that passed so he would never forgot his friend, so he was always there when the full moon approached, so Remus was never alone. Kreacher was his watcher and so guarded him with relentless commitment, and so under Kreacher’s fierce stare he picked up his spoon and got started with his lunch. With a jerked nod of approval Kreacher returned to his corner.

Half way through his roast chicken Remus came appeared in the doorway. As somber as Sirius mood had grown it was usually possible to find a smile for Remus. One look at his friends pale face bought that smile a quick death and his appetite right along side it.

As Lupin made his way over, Sirius hesitantly questioned, “Moony?”

With a try at a reassuring smile Remus settled himself in the tall chair across from Sirius. It was than Sirius became aware of the large envelope Remus fingered in his hand. He had just made out a few letters written in blue ink when Remus began to speak.

“We’ve had word from Kingsley,” he said stealing Sirius’ ability to take his next breath. Kingsley had been one of the aurors to work on Sirius’ case when it was reopened. He had been present for Sirius’ interrogation in Azkaban when he’d finally been allowed to share the truth about Peter and been listened to. Kingsley was a good man and one of the few aurors Sirius could stomach. He had also been in charge of Harry’s case for the last three years.

“Word about Harry,” he guessed, wanting answers but dreading them for the look on his friend’s face.

Nodding Moony reached into the envelope retrieving what looked like a photograph. Holding it out to Sirius he visibly braced himself before saying, “They think they’ve found him.”

It was a shock to hear those words. For so long they’d waited with no solid leads or word or hint as to Harry’s fate. For Kingsley to send word of anything he would have to be confident, but to actually believe they had found him? But for news such as that to leave Remus so grim it couldn’t be the good news they’d been dreaming of. All the nightmares from the last four years danced across Sirius mind, dragging claw and dripping blood as they went. Had they found him broken and beaten? Had they found a body long dead? Staring down at the photograph Lupin held out to him Sirius was reluctant to take it, but with hands shaking hands and a clenched jaw he forced himself.

And there he was. There was Harry. Lily’s retched sister and her whale of a husband had not had any pictures of Harry but they had been able to get some from his school. They were muggle and flat and lifeless but those photos had let them learn Harry’s face. It had been heartbreaking the first time Sirius saw them. If not for the eyes he could have sworn it was James he was looking down at with each picture that passed through his hands. But over the years as he looked at those picture again and again he had learned to see the differences. He learned to see Harry and not a young James. And there he was. There was Harry hardly moving within the shot but breathing and blinking and there. Harry alive. Harry who’d inherited the Potter’s unruly hair and striking features with Lilly’s green eyes. He was older. He looked even passed his 15 years. His hair was long and not only wild but unkempt and unwashed. His skin was more sallow than pale. His eyes were cool as the stared down the camera. He was sitting in on the floor of a room of light grey stone. There was a sink in the corner and a bed handing from the wall. It looked like a cell and Harry looked like a prisoner. He knew the look well after a decade in Azkaban. Sirius felt himself go cold inside.

“How long ago was this taken? Do we know?”

“This morning,” was Remus’ quiet reply.

Sirius let that sink in. So this is what Harry looked like probably at this very moment. This was Harry as he was now. “So we’ve finally got a ransom demand then,” he asked.

Lupin’s answer was surprising enough to startle him from his anger. “No, not a ransom.”

Feeling his brow furrow in confusion Sirius looked between his friend and the boy in his hand. “Then… What? Where is he,” he demanded.

Lupin kept his gaze and some time measuring what he saw there, he answered. “In prison.”

Stunned, Sirius blinked at his friend, trying to understand what he was saying. He looked back down at Harry in his cell taking in the sunlight leaking in from the window just outside his bars. “That isn’t Azkaban.”

“No, it’s not,” Remus replied steadily. “He’s under the French ministries custody, not ours.”

They sat in silence as Sirius tried to make sense of what he was hearing, trying to figure out what to ask next. Eventually his mind settled on what seemed of most importance. “How long?”

Lupin hesitated. “Over three months.”

Sirius stared in disbelief. Three months. His godson had been in prison for three months. The French prisons might have a reputation for being more humane than Azkaban but he was only fourteen, fourteen and had already been through so much along with god knows what since he’d disappeared.

As Sirius’ thoughts fanned his anger Remus was reaching back into the envelope. He retrieved three more photographs and a scattering of newspaper clippings which he swiftly handed over to Sirius. At the top of the clippings was a picture not unlike Sirius own mugshot. But where Sirius was wild and yelling, Harry was calm and still. It looked like the long hair had not been the gift of prison care.

“There is a market in Dijon,” Remus explained. “Noir Place du Marché. It has a reputation as France’s Knockturn Alley. It’s a known gathering place and refuge for criminals, Dark wizards, and those of creature blood alike. Unlike our aurors the French hold regular raids looking for law breaking, contraband, and along with unregistered werewolves and vampires. During one of their raids several of their targets managed to get away. They suspected it the involvement of the witches or wizards present in the crowd. They detained everyone for questioning and everyone was cleared…except for him.

“When the aurors tried to question him he wouldn’t answer. He would not declare what business had brought him to the market. He would not give his name. For his refusal to cooperate he was placed under arrest. The French authorities have a policy of ninety days waiting period. If ninety days in prison does not persuade the accused to cooperate than they are allowed to administer Veritaserum. It was only after they administered it that they realized that he was physically in capable of speaking with them. They got in their curse breakers and who have found evidence he’s bound by intricate series of vows which keep him from cooperating. It was at this point they decided to get a healer in to see him. The healer was the one to inform them he was indeed a minor.

“Since he couldn’t tell them anything about himself they placed a bulletin around the ministry and out to the papers asking for any information as to his identity. Clare Coupe came across one the clippings and recognized him. She was able to get in to see him this morning. She was the one to take the pictures. She sent them and all this along to Kingsley.”

Clare Coupe. The name brought to mind dark blonde hair and daydreams kisses and hickies hidden under a Gryffindor scarf. He vaguely remembers asking Clare to Hogsmeade for Valentine’s weekend. He distinctly remembers the very public rejection and Lily’s refusal to change her friends mind. “How is Clare,” Sirius asked dumbly.

For the first time since breakfast Lupin looked amused. “Happily engaged to Sarah Vardi and working as the ministry’s ambassador to France.”

Sirius felt his eyes widen owlishly but couldn’t help it. He had not made the best of efforts to catch up with the world since her release form Azkaban and this was all news to him. Long dormant memories began to light up of Clare’s recounting of summers spent visiting relatives in France and the way she never had time for anyones advances and never made any of her own but was always of whispering with on girl or another. Thinking back he wasn’t very surprised.

Pulling Sirius from his musing Lupin got them back on track. “Clare’s using her authority to get things stared on her end while Dumbledore and Kingsley are working things from our end. They’re trying to keep things quiet all around and are hoping to at least get a transfer from French to British custody but there is interference as they can’t actually prove he is Harry.”

“You would think the curse scar would be a clear give away,” Sirius growled angrily, fuming until he noticed how still Lupin had gone. A bolt of trepidation traveled up his stomach. Then unwelcomely he realized at the start Remus had said ‘They think they found him.’ Think. Think not know.

“The boy they have in custody, he doesn’t have any scar on his forehead.”

Sirius felt the last of the hope he’d felt sink and cool. “Dumbledore said that scar couldn’t be healed.”

“I know.”

Grief suddenly over took Sirius as Remus reached out, clutching his together in his own. “There’s still reason to hope. Even if it turns out he isn’t Harry, it’s a lead. It’s our first real lead in years. Someone would need to have access to Harry in order to copy his appearance so completely. They would need fresh skin and blood from a living host. And it could be him. We don’t know anything for sure yet Padfoot.”

Sirius nodded along but he didn’t really feel reassured. He was certain the boy was not Harry. There were ways he knew, ways beyond Polyjuice to copy a persons appearance. There were several dark potions and rituals that could copy everything about a person down to their memories and endow them to another person. He had books and books about them stored away in the Black library and the family vault. The one thing they all had in common was that they could not duplicate scars and augmentations. If it was not natural to the body it was not transferred.

Looking down he felt it in his bones. He had been fooled. No, this boy in this picture was not Harry. He was just another lead and Sirius feared another lead that would not pay off.

Chapter Text

The French Ministry was posturing and their officials were barely competent. Over all this was nothing surprising to Sirius. Fudge had seen fit to insist on his joining their contingent. He said his presence and backing would make Harry’s transfer run more smoothly. In reality all it managed was to make things far more complicated than they needed to be. This also was hardly a surprise to Sirius but it was serving to piss him off. His mood which was already foul had grown even fouler knowing he was going to be willingly entering a prison. A prison was a prison. Even if this one was free of dementors, it brought up fears and memories Sirius would much rather repress. With each hour of waiting that passed Sirius became more agitated and resentful. Poor Remus was consistently having to pull him back from snapping and snarling at Fudge and his collection of goons and ass kissers. Particularly one toad-faced secretary. The women had the gall to question the validity of Remus’ involvement and Sirius did not care that she sited the French’s restrictions on werewolf travel because he knew from her tone and the the way her nostrils flared whenever Remus that the she approved of those restrictive, prejudicial mandates which made life and travel for werewolves in France even more of a hell than the laws she’d helped to see passed on within their own Ministry.

Their party had started simply with five; Remus, Dumbledore, Kingsley, and himself along one of Kingsley’s fellow aurors. Once Fudge join their number continued to engorge until it reached ridiculous proportions. For wherever a Minister went a mass of muscle and excess fat was sure to follow. When last Sirius had bothered to check their bloated group had come to included over half a dozen aurors, a gaggle of under secretaries, a wide-eyed young man who would be serving as their linguist “should the need arise” that looked as though he should still be running through the halls of Hogwarts, and once they reached France, Claire, and with Claire they expanded to even greater size with the addition of the French lot which included French Min once he was informed of Fudge’s presence and just like Fudge he came with his own backing of protecting and little parade of ducklings following his every move, altogether bloating their number even farther! Did they expect to try to cram together up against the cell bars!?

Sirius looked around at all these face and fumed. This had been the problem with the initial investigation into Harry’s disappearance. Too many politically minded idiots looking to put their stamp on things and in the process making everything loud and complicated with too many opinions and too little action and too many mouths free to go around blabbing into the wrong ears. There first real lead in years and already it looked as though it would be bolloxed like the others before it.

At one point Remus had been forced to cast a hasting set of privacy spells when Sirius had let loose on a tangent that lead to him none so quietly sharing what he thought was a satisfyingly vicious plan to slip into his animagus form and maul the minister if he the idiot loused this up for them. Remus had then given him a thorough telling off for saying such things in public and around ministry ears.

After three days of waiting and politics and bureaucratic nonsense they were finally escorted to Dominer Tour, the prison where the imposter was being held. The warden was there to meet them at the gate and after many security checks for the great number they had been allowed through to an expanded visitors hall. There the warden went over what they all had already learned from the initial reports and had subsequently been reminded of several times over as the points and facts had been hashed and rehashed, again and again. Sirius found himself wondering if once you were signed into office your retention rate dropped, and so this excessive amount of repetition becomes necessary for them to remember anything.

The only knew bit of news the warden had to provided were in regard to the events of which took place directly before their arrival.

“As requested the healers and curse-breakers have finished a return visit in order to recheck there findings and attempt to find any new information in light of resent revelations. The healers say beyond evidence of past broken bones and malnutrition is his in perfect health. They find no illness, no scars. They say apart from appearing older than what they would expect from a fourteen year old, he is perfectly normal. The curse-breakers do not agree. Beyond the evidence they had already discovered of bindings of silence and secrecy they found several abnormalities. During a stream of thorough detection spells they were able to direct the presence of several vows, they could not identify the type of vow. They were also able to get a clearer sense the bindings but the could not locate the tethers that should be anchoring these them to his magical core. Nor were they able to properly examine the trace evidence of curses and other strong magics attached to the boy though the found signs of both. They say it appears as the though the boy’s magic is acting to hide things from them. They said that they found had instances where his magic had extended a thin covering of itself over the residual magics, camouflaging it amongst the fibers of his own magical core. They claimed to have never seen a wizards magic behave in such a manor as his does. Though one of the curse-breakers believes to have seen something similar in a case with a keystone which had the ability to hide new alterations made to its ward set. The spellwork on the stone was centuries old and the knowledge of how the stone is believed to have been long lost and that none have come forward with a viable theory as to how to replicate the effect.”

So the boy was a mystery. That was hardly news but Sirius could agree the specifics were worth knowing.

“And how does he seem,” the French Minister asked.

“Suspicious. He spoke voluntarily for the first time to our guard this morning. After the healers and curse breakers finished he asked why he had so many visitors these last few days when he had so few during the first months of his stay.”

“And what did you tell him,” Fudge asked quick to step in before the French Minister.

The warden turned to Fudge with a look of a man whose sense of honor had been poked. “We of course did not respond. Our guards do not speak to the prisoners here unless it is to give instruction. We are here to oversee, not to build a rapport or provide conversation. Interrogation is the job of aurors.”

The French minister was nodding with approval.

From there things quickly fell back to into the rehashing of previously spoken matters and decided upon matters.

So far the boy had been unwilling or -as they now believed- at least partially unable to cooperate with everyone they French had put before them. They had hoped if perhaps the person was not French that might have more success but he had not responded to Clare either. Dumbledore suggested that perhaps he would be more willing to cooperate with someone outside the authority of either ministry. Perhaps a friendly, impartial face would be more welcome? Fudge voiced Sirius as an option, as he was Harry’s godfather. But it could not be Harry and therefor Sirius could see no reason why the boy would respond to him more than anyone else and no amount of convincing would convince him otherwise. As Sirius continued to refuse Dumbledore offer Lupin as an alternative. The French ministry was extremely outspoken with their hesitance to put a werewolf in with one of their prisoners while their ministry presented less prejudice objections it was clear to Sirius their objection was to Remus’ condition as well. In the end Dumbledore exercised his sway pulled and it was agreed Remus would be given an audience with the boy. As this had all been decided the day before Sirius did not understand why it all needed to be gone over again in the cramp confines of the visitors hall.

Sirius didn’t like the idea of Moony alone with the imposter when they knew nothing about him but he would not voice his objection when he knew how badly Remus wanted to be of use. There had been so little for them to do to help the search and if the search was to continue within French borders where Remus had barely been allowed there was no way he would be able to obtain permission he would need travel freely to wherever the search may lead. So Sirius kept his objections himself and offered a supportive smile to his friend as they made there way through to the interrogation room the guards had moved the boy to for his interview with Remus.

 

.*.*.*.

 

Remus was trying his best to remain hopeful. There was so many things he could be feeling but he continued tried his best to center on hopeful. Between the Ministries and Sirius it was proving difficult. Both the French and British officials viewed him as less than a normal wizard due to his lycanthropy and Sirius had become a bristly aggressive mess. Remus didn’t know which was harder to deal with, Sirius as he was now or the Sirius who had been wallowing in his depression for the last several years. He knew Sirius was feeling tricked. Like the fates offered them a Rose only to find it was riddled with worms. But this was a lead. Whoever this boy was they could lead them to Harry. It could be they were free or blame and as much a victim as Harry. Surely that was reason enough to approach this with a calm head, to stay hopeful instead of turning to anger.

The interrogation room was large and circular with mirrors evenly spaces along its walls which were linked to locking glasses through which the others would be able to see and hear whatever happened next. Kingsley and two of the French guards would wait just inside the door while Sirius would wait jin the hall with Albus and a collection of aurors. While Remus would have support, he would stand alone.

The boy was sitting against the far wall when Remus entered. His hands were bound to his forearms to prevent the possible use of wandless magic. His eyes were shut in rest. His hair was a mess of tangles and his skin was layered with grim and sweat but he was not filthy. He looked in good shape for someone who’d spent the last three months in a small prison cel. He looked so much like James.

Remus quickly pulled his thoughts away from such thing. This was probably not Harry no matter what he looks like, he reminded himself and did his best to cement it as truth in his heart. He needed to remain objective. He needed to remain calm. But these things were harder to do when with every step he took closer to the boy across the room the wolf in him would push a step forward in his consciousness. It was a completely jarring experience. The wolf had never been this active so far out from the full moon. There was still a week until the full moon but he was there prowling forward in the space of Remus’ mind. From the moment the arrived at Dominer he’d been waiting. Remus thought it was his nerves but he had been wrong. It was the wolf. And now that they were in the room with the boy, the wolf was done waiting. It felt like the it was pushing, not to get out but to press against the bordered between them, to see, to hear, to smell. It was pushing in on Remus’ senses so it could see the boy and the closer they got the more restless it became. Remus imagined he could see it in his mind, panting, and scratching, and whining as it paced the boundary. It wanted closer. Closer to see. Closer to check. Closer to know.

In the center of the room was a single chair. It had no back but it did have large grand arms. It was a chair to declare strength and authority designed to present the interrogator as an imposing figure without giving a prison cover to hide behind. There one was to sit, assured of your position and safety while a prisoner were made to stand or take to the cold floor as the boy did. It was a chair that wouldn’t do for Remus’ needs at all. He was surprise no one had thought to switch out the furnishings would something that would make the boy more comfortable. He couldn’t have been the only one to see the sense in that. Had he not left his wand in the hall with Sirius he could have transfigured it into something more suitable. Ignoring the grand seat Remus began to work off his outer robes. Exaggerating the movement he was sure to make as much noise as he reasonably could, hoping to draw his companion’s attention without asking for it outright. When he’d finished, robes discarded and draped over one of the arms, he turned to find a pair bright green eyes opened and fixed upon him. If Remus was reading the expression right what he found was not suspicious, merely inspection. The boy was looking Remus over, taking in the details, trying to figure him out, more like a puzzle than a threat.

The smile he put into place took more force of will then he liked. Moony was still there near the forefront of his mind, intent and focused on the boy for reasons Remus was hesitant of. Ignoring the beast and the peculiarity of what was happening as best he could Remus worked to keep his agitation out of his voice. “Hello.”

Surprise flitted across the boy’s features. “Anglais?”

Remus worried. If the boy did not speak English it was going to make things much harder going forward. Remus’ french had never been more than a limited proficiency and the last few days had done little to under years of allowing the skill to atrophy.

“It’s been awhile since I heard that accent,” he said wiping Remus worries away. His own accent carried a distinctly British mark. Remus never had much of an ear for dialects but he thought it matched what Harry ought to have had growing up at the Dursley's.

Remus hadn’t thought he would get such a jovial response so easy. From all accounts the boy barely acknowledged those who had approached him before. Deciding to take this as a good sign he decided to move closer and get a better look at the boy. The wolf rumbled with approval and once he was close enough to breath the boys air he realized that should have told him he was doing the wrong thing.

The wolf was howling, its voice carrying threw Remus mind, body, and soul. Ours! Ours! Yes, ours! Our pack! The lost cub! Found! Found! The impact and ferocity of it's certainly shook Remus. Ours, taken. Ours, found. Ours!

Harry - No, Remus couldn’t simply take the wolf’s word. The Boy’s eyes were dissecting him again, traveling over his face and taking everything in. He watched, now slightly wearily as Remus moved closer still, lowering himself down, squatting only a few feet across from the boy.

“I’m Remus, Remus Lupin,” he introduced himself.

A guarded flash of something like recognition passed over those green eyes before hiding away.

“What’s your name?”

Those eyes went flat. His expression went lax.

Ours! The wolf still howled pulling at Remus’ attention. “Not going to answer,” he asked showing a touch of disappointment but no true upset at being slighted as though they were two passengers on the night bus and his attempt at conversation had been denied.

The boy still did not respond.

Ours! Ours! Ours! The wolf insisted. Ours found! Claim. Protect. Ours. On and on, an instant instinct begging to be listened to, begging him not to loose them the cub again, begging him to make things right, and for the first time since his turning the man listened to the wolf. He put aside what he believed as a wizard, and answered to his instincts as a werewolf. For once Remus gave himself over to what he was.

He waited in silence for a few moments, just taking in the boy in-front of him, breathing in the boy’s scent. There were things there the man could not recognize but the wolf did. The wolf took it all in and knew it was Harry.

“Are you all right?” A voice asked pulling Remus out of his trance. It was Harry’s voice. It was Harry looking at him with concern taking over speculation.

“Not quite,” Remus admitted freely. Free. He felt more free in that moment than he had in decades. It was like a weight had vanished from him. He felt this only a few times in his lifel when his marauders accepted him despite knowing what he was, when both Lilly and Harry made it through the delivery hale and whole, and when Sirius forgave him for his doubt though the weight of Harry’s disappearance had damped that forgiveness. A sad smile stretched Remus’ thin lips. “It’s been a long search. We’ve been so worried about you.”

Harry startled at his admission and then flinched, his jaw tightened as though in pain. His eyes harden as he seemed to resign himself to something. In a flat voice he said, “I don’t know who you think I am-”

Tell him. Claim him. Instinct urged. Listening Remus cut off anything more he had to say. “You are Harry James Potter,” he declared, his voice brooking no argument.

Shock, confusion, pain, and hope all passed and washed and blended into muddy mix of distress on the boy’s face. “How,” he forced out on a breath, pain filling the word.

“I knew your parents very well. They were my friends. They were my family. So were you. You inherited much of your looks from your father. You have your mother’s eyes though. Always have. From the day you were born. They would be impossible not to recognize.”

“How,” the boy asked again, lost and distant as though he had not heard what Remus said.

Suddenly his wide-eyes went squinted and shrewd, focusing in on Remus’ own. Leaning forward he stared, not into Remus eyes but rather at his eye, first the left and then the right. Twisting his bound arms he managed to bring them up in order to cup a hand to Remus’ face. He heard Kingsley and the guards stirring at the door but Remus waved them off as Harry placed fingers below and above his eye. With gentle care he pried the lids back leaving Remus’ eye open to Harry’s examination. He moved, cocking his head back and forth, up and down until, quite abruptly Remus found himself released and freed from Harry’s scrutinization.

With a vaguely dazed expression Harry fell back against the wall. A trill of slightly manic laughter slipped from his lips before his full attention snapped back to Remus. A wide smile spread across his face. His expression was filled with a sort of wild wonder.

“You're a werewolf,” he declared with obvious relish. Continuing seemingly unaware of Remus’ distress he repeated, “You’re a werewolf. Of all the things.”

He shook his head laughing in a way that was verging on hysterics. Remus’ distress quickly shifted from Harry’s sudden knowing of his condition to the what appeared to be an approaching meltdown. He reached a hand out to clasp Harry’s arm. Harry twisted himself to lay his hand atop of Remus’.

“You're a werewolf,” he said again, the same elation still held in his voice from his first declaration of his discovery. “Of all the things you could be only as were would you not have to believe, you would know!”

The instant the words passed his lips his body jerked, his face contorted in pain, and his hand clamped down on Remus’ as he began to moan in pain.

“Harry,” Remus questioned as the boy curled in on himself. Kingsley and one of the guards rushed over but Remus paid them no mind instead keeping his focus was on the red staining Harry’s lips. Carefully he set Harry upright against the wall. “Harry?”

Obviously still in pain the boy a look of determination crossed his face before he through his mouth open as wide as it would go. Immediately his body began to spasm but he kept himself upright. He kept his mouth displayed.

Amongst the blood and flesh was something gold. Placed over the tip of Harry’s tongue, made of thin strips of gold was what Lupin could only describe as a cage. A small delicate cage was held in place by a raw looking piercing through the meat in the center of the tongue. It looked to vicious to be jewelry. When Harry flipped his tongue to show top and bottom the metal, clanging against his teeth, Remus could see no obvious means of removing the piece. As Remus stared in horror filled fascination he saw the metal burn hot and steam begin to rise from the flesh it surround and causing the blood pooling around it to sizzle. Focus pulling back to the boy as a hole Remus’ hands rose quickly over their own accord to either side of Harry’s head, his thumbs tucked under his jaw coxing him to close. “I see, I see,” he assured dumbly wiping away the tears that had streamed from Harry’s eyes.

Drawing his mouth closed Harry shakily extracted himself from Remus’ hands and lowered his body to the floor. Every line of his face and body distorted in obvious pain. Remus helped him to settle and ran a tender hand through the boys tangled locks. Breathing deeply through his nose with his mouth clamped shut, Harry seemed to slowly settle under Remus’ hand as the werewolf tried to understand how the pieces he’d collected of the puzzle fit together. When he thought he understood he turned to Kingsley and the guard behind him.

The guard looked cross while Kingsley looked expectant. Easing into things, Remus ventured, “I don’t remember hearing about a tongue piercing in any of the reports.”

The guard looked plainly confused. “The healers nor the curse-breaker made no mention of any piercings.”

“You don’t check when prisoners are being admitted,” Kingsley asked.

“Of course we do.” A helping of outrage relaxed the guards face only for the confusion to return all the more greatly. All his features seemed to be scrunching in on themselves towards a central point.

Turning his attention from the guard Lupin spoke to one of the viewing mirrors, “He has a piercing through his tongue.” Though piercing hardly seems an adequate description for such a thing. “I think it best the curse-breakers come back to get a look at it.”

Attention free he returned it to Harry on the floor. With one last stroke he let his hand fall still. The shaking had lessened and the bleeding seemed to have stopped, but his eyes were still closed tight and his breathing was still irregular.

“Alright Harry?”

He got a small nod in reply.

“The pain, is it getting better.”

Another nod.

Remus hesitated to ask his next question. “The piercing punishes you when you try to talk about certain things? It tries to stop you, doesn’t it?”

A pause, then a nod, then violent shiver at what was probably immense pain.

“But it isn’t just pain is it,” Remus asked watching more blood trickle past Harry’s lips. The shaking had worsened again and he was panting now.

A quick nod and then Harry raised a hand to his neck. Fingers spread wide and curled like claws he ran his nails down his throat in a claying motion.

Looking up to the mirror again Remus was quick to impart, “Perhaps the healers as well” before focusing back on Harry again. He worked quickly to sorting through which questions were necessary and which were not.

“Can we remove the piercing?”

A single small shake of the head. Harry raise his hand again and made a slicing motion with a finger across his throat.

Remus could feel the blood drain from his face. “If we remove it, you’ll die.”

A slow nod and Harry was dabbing his finger into the blood at his mouth and holding the out to show Remus.

“You’ll bleed to death,” Remus asked.

Harry did not respond but Remus supposed he felt it wasn’t worth further injury and pain to answer. He would die. That was enough.

Harry was getting very pale and the blood as pooling in a small puddle under his cheek. “Harry, what can we do? How can we hep you?”

Green eyes blinked open and look tiredly up at Remus’. As a new flood of increased pain seemed passed through Harry’s body he began to shake his head.

Remus felt his heart drop. “I’m sorry Harry. I know it hurts. I know it’s hard. But, please, I need you to fight a little longer. If it’s punishing you there is something it doesn’t want you to tell me. Some way of helping you you're not meant to let us know. I want to help. Please tell me how to help you.”

He looked in to Harry’s watering eyes wanting the pain to stop almost as much as wanted for Harry to never have to feel this pain again. Harry opened his mouth and a steady stream of blood oozed from between his lips. Gulping down three deep breathes, he steeled himself in a manor so reminiscent of like Lilly it was impossible to ignore the comparison. Eyes full of steel and locked with Remus’, he spit out a single work that morphed into a scream the pulled out of his lungs and sputtered blood until his body slumped and consciousness left him. “Legilimency!”

Chapter Text

After an interrogation was completed, supervising guards of Dominer Tour were to returned the prisoner to their cell. This was their protocol and protocol was always to be adhered to. As such Remus was very grateful for it when they guards, without any such order received from the warden, chose to take Harry directly to the prison infirmary, instead dropping his unconscious body back in his cell. With a few quick bits of transfiguration and charm work, a stretcher was arranged and with the greatest of care Remus helped to transfer Harry’s limp body from the floor. Once Harry was secured the guards were off. Kingsley and the other aurors were at their heels and with them Remus, intent to remain at Harry’s side, until he was physically stopped by Sirius. In the time it took to shake free of his grip the group had disappeared with Harry down the maze of twisting halls. The wolf was in fits. Whining and scratching as the looked down the hall to where Harry had been. As undignified as such a fit would be for a man of his age, Remus was tempted to join his wolf.

Sirius and Dumbledore had questions and none of the answers Remus gave pleased them. Yes, he truly believed the boy was Harry. Yes, he knew that the odds were against it. No, he could not explain where Harry’s scar had gone. No, he had not lost his sense. Sirius was a mess of accusations and confused betrayal. Remus could see clearly see Sirius felt betrayed by Remus’ acceptance of Harry’s identity. As a result his line of inquiry became less disbelieving and more aggressive until it broke down to colorful ways of repeatedly questioning Remus’ sanity. Dumbledore’s was much the same, but managed with much more diplomacy.

Despite Moony telling him to knock sense into Sirius, he managed to stay calm. He explained again, in careful detail what had happened from his perspective. He explained as best he could the instincts the boy had triggered. He explained the wolf, active and prowling in his mindscape. He tried to make Sirius, if not Dumbledore understand the certainty that filled him. The more he tried to explain the clearer it became that his words were doing nothing to convince the two wizards. Dumbledore, Remus could understand. He was a man of his mind, like Remus usually was. Sirius though, Sirius had always been led around be his emotions and lack luster impulse control. Remus felt Sirius should be able to understand, especially after all the time in Azkaban had forced him to spend in his animagus form. Sirius often spoke of the difference the animal instincts made, of how it lingered in him if he spend to long shifted, of what it was like obeying and living by a second more animal set of instincts. But Sirius was not trying to understand. Instead Sirius only looked at him as if he was mad.

“I know it doesn’t make sense. I know you only have my word, but, Sirius, it’s him. I know it in my heart. It’s Harry. I’m certain of it. Moony’s certain,” he tried as one last desperate explanation, but he could see it in Sirius’ eyes, that he did not - could not believe. In Dumbledore’s eyes Remus only saw pity and condensation.

Remus knew he was behaving abnormally. He knew under normal circumstances he would be standing beside them. He would be the one calling for hesitance and hedging off any convictions within himself until he’d been shown solid evidence. And it would have been all the worse after being so wrong as to believe Sirius capable of betraying Lilly and James. Even young and naive and impulsive, Remus had never been so quick to fall into certainty. He may have loved with all his heart but he lived too much in his head to always listen to it. Much of the time when a decision needed to be made he was busy tossing it back and forth between heart and head so nothing got decided expediently unless a choice was forced. Usually it was Sirius’ rash insistence, or once upon a time Jame’s charm that focused a discision. This time it had been Moony. Moony who allowed him no room to doubt, to allow his head too second guess his heart, to allow his heart to hesitate with fear. It didn’t matter what was normal. He knew what he felt now. Remus knew he had found Harry, and he would not believe otherwise.

The walk back to the visitors’ hall was quiet and tense. If was a relief to push aside the large door and be met with sounds from people who had no interest in him. Remus moved himself to an empty space of wall beside the entrance, leaving himself slightly removed from his companions. He felt Sirius’ attention follow him though the man himself did not.

Looking around, Remus counted a quite a few less bodied than they’d arrived with. Many of the underlings were missing. Several quills were scratching hasty notes in the various hands of those that remained. The attentions of the room were focused on the two ministers were seemingly squaring off in the center of the room. Only, when Remus listened to what the two men were saying he realized they were not in fact squaring off. Fudge and Duret were engaged in what appeared to be a grave but amicable discussion. It was a surprise to watch as they were reaching easy agreements, accepting the other’s points, and making concessions without fuss. Remus lived with magic every day but this seemed like a more like a work of magic then anything floating candles or dancing teapots ever had. Two ministers, one of which was Fudge, negotiating without posturing. He turned to share a bewildered look with Sirius but he was met with Sirius most petulant expression instead.

“As you’ll be allowing us to bring over extra aurors I think I can allow your unspeakables access-” Fudge’s acceptance cut off as he finally noticed their return. “Ah Dumbledore. Good. We’ve received word from the Matron. The boy is stable but she is insisting his needs are beyond her and that he be sent to hospital.”

“We’ve already sent word to St Astra’s,” Duret said, stepping in for his British counterpart. His focus only flickered over Albus before settling on Sirius. “Their healers should be arriving shortly. They will check his stability then transport him back with them. St Astra’s employs some of the best healers in the world. They will take excellent care of him.”

The minister had obviously been expecting Sirius, as Harry’s godfather, to be distressed or anxious, and could not understanding the disinterest and impatience with which his assurances were received. Still, Remus felt his opinion of the French minister rise slightly for making the effort. His opinion of Fudge however remained quite the same as he nodded along looking agreeable with his focus still firmly set on the people of power in the room, meaning himself, Duret, and Dumbledore.

“Quite right, Quite right,” Fudge agreed before moving back to his intended line of speech. “A team of French aurors will be meeting them here to provide guard until what time we can bring over more of our own to replace them. Duret has agreed to lend us a Legilimens and his unspeakables will be looking the boy over and will continue to have access to him and his case.”

It was a statement of what would happen. There was no space for objections. No freedom for those who had an actual connection to Harry to decide his treatment. Remus found himself imagining Sirius following through with his plan to maul the minister. To his surprise, he imagined Moony joining in, and found he the idea didn’t upset him the way it should. In fact it filled him with a kind of vicious satisfaction that was coming entirely from the man, not the wolf.

“Hopefully the Legilimens will be able to get some answers,” Fudge finished.

Dumbledore stepped forward to join the conversation, hands clasped behind his back. His grandfatherly demeanor was set aside for a more solemn air. He held the lull for a second longer before counseling, “If the boy has studied legilimency himself an invasion into his mind would provide excellent cover for a counter attack. We can only be assured of the validity of any finding if the Legilimens is an accomplished Occlumens as well.” He gaze turned to Remus, eyes apologetic. “And I believe it would be prudent to have our Mr. Lupin examined for signs of a legilimency attack as well.”

The pieces fell together for Remus. Legilimency. Dumbledore believed his belief in Harry’s identity was implanted during their meeting. He supposed if Sirius had stood in his place, Remus would not have dismissed the theory. By the protective anger that was practically singing off Sirius, Remus took a guess to say his friend had accepted this theory completely. Remus repressed a sigh and wondered what it would take for Sirius to let go of this explanation of things. Sirius could be far more obstinate in the face of reason than most and Remus was not looking forward to shaking him of it.

 

.*.*.*.

 

Remus believed the imposter was Harry, their Harry. He kept going on about Moony and scents and werewolf instinct and certainly and the longer he went on the more convinced Sirius became that his friend had lost his mind. Of the two of them he was meant to be the unstable one but there Remus was spewing this ridiculousness. It wasn’t Harry. It couldn’t be Harry. Dumbledore had said as much. Harry bore a mark one of powerful dark magic, of the avada kedavra and nothing they could do would touch it. Harry had been scarred by Voldemort and he would carry it his whole life. And it wasn’t as though any illusion or disguising magic had been detected to show the imposter was hiding scars, let alone a curse scar. Then again no one had noticed the great hunk of gold in his mouth either… Sirius shook the thought from his head. It didn’t matter, and it didn’t matter what Remus’ nose told him. It wasn’t Harry. The fact that the imposters scent was anything like what Harry’s had been as an infant was just further proof it couldn’t be Harry. People scents changed. They were always changing with age and diet and all. Harry’s scent shouldn’t be the same from the last time Remus had gotten to scent him, when he was small and still swathed in the scent of infant. This was just a symptom of whatever magic was disguising him.

Sirius had been so busy stewing he’d barely registered what had been going on around them. Finding they’d reached the visitors’ hall had been a surprise. When the minister spoke to him he knew something was expecting of him but he could not be bothered to figure out what. He was fraying, in a way he did sometimes. Usually at this point Kreacher would take him away from polite society and seclude him away until he could pull himself together again. But Kreacher was not there and Remus who was meant to be his stability had flipped everything around.

The only one he could be assed to pay due attention to was Dumbledore and as usual he was glad he had. Legilimency! Of course Remus was acting as though he’d lost his mind, because he had! The imposter must have gone into his mind and taken away his reservations and sense and than taken advantage of his condition to use the wolf as the perfect excuse to believe. The full moon was still too far off. Moony should have been silent in Remus’ mind and he probably was. What Remus thought was his wolf was poisoned fruit left to tempt him.

Sirius felt his anger at the imposter grow. He wondered, when things were all said and done and they had unmasked him, if Sirius would be allowed to get a few minutes alone with him. All those curses he’d picked up growing up amongst Blacks should be put to some good.

Looking at his friend, he found Remus studying him. He could see Remus coming to some sort of decision.

“I will not object if it’s what need you need for your peace of mind, Albus,” Remus said calmly. Meeting the Headmaster’s eyes Remus stood locked in stillness. The headmaster did not reply. He merely stared back at Remus, their eyes locked. It took a moment for Sirius to realize Remus had given the Dumbledore permission to inspect his mind himself and Dumbledore had taken it. Distantly hoping no one realized what was happening, Sirius eagerly awaited Dumbledore’s verdict. The sooner Remus knew he’d been manipulated, the sooner he could begin throwing it off.

Meanwhile, outside Sirius rather limited attention, Fudge was sputtering, mouth agape, looking back and forth between the two wizards and occasionally Duret with a kind of bug-eyed expression that fell somewhere between befuddled and indignant. “Legilimency,” he cried, calling attention back to himself.

Dumbledore slipped out of Remus mind and turned sluggishly to Fudge while Remus blinked away the daze and Sirius glared at the prime minister for interrupting. Fortunately none of the Fudge’s bodyguards noticed when he bared his teeth.

“When in the world would the boy have the time to become a Legilimens. And even if he had, why should he use it against someone who is trying to help him!?” The minister questioned Dumbledore in the same way someone might question another’s sanity.

Dumbledore countered, in a tone so reasonable and collected that it should have been impossible for anyone not to see his words as anything but sense. “We have to keep in mind Cornelius, that we do not know that this boy is indeed Harry Potter. As we don’t know their true identity we cannot possibly judge their motives or guess as to their abilities, nor what motivates them.”

Fudge’s face slide to a decidedly indignant set.

“Hem, hem,” a high voice cleared, drawing the room’s attention to the toad Umbridge. She stood perfectly positioned behind Fudge, but just enough to the side to stand apart, in a showing her own authority while backing his. The corners of her wide mouth were turned up the smallest fraction and her eyes shined in a malicious parody of Dumbledore’s usual twinkle. With her high, girlish voice she addressed the Headmaster. “Excuse me saying so Professor, but the only reason we ever held the boy’s identity suspect has been due to your insistence. You have repeatedly spoken as to the permanence of a scar left behind by he-who-need-not-be-named. But unfortunately, you never presented the boy to the proper authorities after the Potter’s most unfortunate demise. And so his injures were not evaluated. As such we have no evidence as to their extent nor their permanency. We have only your judgment on the matter. Perhaps if you had allowed him to be seen by a healer, we would not have been laboring under this, presumably now false assumption all along. As things stand I hardly see reason to continue with it,” she concluded, her voice still sickeningly sweet.

“Madam Pomfrey,” Dumbledore began, but Umbridge was quick to cut him off.

“While I am sure Madam Pomfrey is perfectly qualified to deal with snuffles and scraps and the kind of minor injuries which so regularly occur at Hogwarts, it hardly seems reasonable to expect her expertise to extant to an infant, recently survived to the killing curse at that. In fact as such a thing has never been known to have accrued before, I can hardly see why you felt your own alone to be sufficient? When it seems quite obvious that in such an unprecedented situation no one persons judgement could, nor should, have been enough.”

Dumbledore had no rebuttal and as he continued to remain silent no one rose to his aid. Even Sirius, bowing his head in reluctant agreement, did not feel his could defend against those words.

The truths that had swarmed after Harry’s disappearance had not only effected Sirius, and Fudge, and the ministry’s standing with the public, but Dumbledore’s as well. He survived the resulting waves with much of his authority in tact, people had not forgotten. His sway had lessened drastically and while his opinions were still listened to and his guidance still sought, people no longer trusted him as they did. People could no longer believed him infallible, Sirius included. Dumbledore was a man, and great wizard, but first a man and therefor by the laws of nature he was as flawed as the rest of them and just as able to make mistakes. And for the mistakes he had already made some would never be able to forgive him, Sirius mused, thinking of the cold indifference with which McGonagall had continued to treat the headmaster for the last four years.

It seemed Umbridge’s speech served its purpose, as Dumbledore bowed back. He did not choose to insert himself into the conversation and he was not consulted again as the Ministers returned to their deliberation. As the two politicians drowned on and on Sirius paid them little attention. He let his mind drift to the matters that concerned him and disconcerted from the room and people around him.

Eventually, when it seemed all the details had been settled and things were drawling to a close, Claire stepped forward.

“If I may Ministers,” she asked. At both their nods of acquiesce she continued, “As Harry is not only a British citizen, but also a minor who has been incarcerated under French law his wellbeing is appears two be quite under my purview. As such I feel its best I follow to St Astra’s and oversee his treatment. And as Lord Black and Mister Lupin would probably be more settled if they could remain close to Mister Potter, and as they can hardly be of use at the ministry, it seems St Astra’s is where they will best serve to be, as well.”

Her statement was met with silence.

“I would not be averse to serving as their escort,” she added.

Duret hesitated momentarily before cautioning, “As a werewolf…” Sirius felt himself bristle on Remus’ behalf.

“I am aware of the laws and the responsibilities serving as his escort would entail. I have faith it will not be a problem. Besides there is the matter of getting the paperwork started. Best to be on hand and get things rolling once the boy regains consciousness and Harry may be more willing to cooperate with a Mister Lupin present. After all, he is the first Harry has reached out to.”

The easy way Claire identified the imposter as Harry rackled Sirius, but as everyone seemed to have accepted the imposter as Harry he knew he shouldn’t be surprised. And while he did not know exactly what responsibilities someone took on becoming escort to a foreign werewolf on French soil, he could guess the repercussions for failing them would be damning to Claire’s future as Ambassador to France and so Sirius was grateful Claire was willing to take them on for Remus. For as long as Remus believed the imposter was Harry he would want to be close. Even if Sirius did not wish to be.

Quick enough things came to a close and the ministry representatives began filing out. Sirius looked to Dumbledore, wanting answers as to what he’d found in Remus’ mind. Their old headmaster passed by his side on his way out the door. Meeting Sirius’ expectant gaze he gave a small shake of his head and a gentle squeeze to Sirius shoulder offering support. Then he joined the tail of the group departing for French Ministry Headquarters.

Disappointment deflated Sirius. Remus had not been legilimenized. His convictions were his own. Not wanting to accept it he tried to think of another explanation that could explain things as well as legilimency had.

“Well, then, shall we,” Claire asked coming to his side with Remus besides her. Sirius found the last thing he wanted to do was follow after the imposter. He just wanted to take Remus and return to twelve Grimmauld Place. But as much as he wanted to do it, he knew he couldn’t. Being here, seeing this through, was all he could do to help the search for the real Harry. A search that could not continue in earnest until this mess had been sorted out. Reluctantly Sirius agreed. Taking the portkey Claire offered to him.

 

.*.*.*.

 

Sirius had expected to find himself in the hospital. So he was rather surprised to find himself in a rather deserted office filled with desks and memos and papers. The few workers who were there were running around with the kind of manic energies owls sometimes developed during Christmas delivering rush.

“Welcome to your embassy,” Claire explained, striding across the room to a door. Opening it, she beckoned them inside to what appeared to be a meeting room. It was large and empty and quiet with comfortable looking stuffed chairs and a drink cart that was calling to Sirius. But there was no fireplace and as Sirius had assumed that was where Claire had been leading them he was left more than a bit confused as to what was going on.

Gesturing for them to settle themselves, Remus choose to stand while Sirius discovered the chairs to be as comfortable as they looked. Claire proved herself to be as lovely as she looked when she headed for the cart gathering three glasses. Her loveliness took a steep downgrade in Sirius’ regard when she began filling those glasses from the water pitcher.

“I thought we were heading to the hospital,” Remus asked, sounding as perturbed as Sirius felt for the lack of alcohol in his drink.

“They won’t let you in to see him yet,” Claire placated. “He needs to be processed and examined and until that time there is nothing for you to do. It has been a stressful few days and it doesn’t look like it’s over yet. I don’t think taking an hour to pause will do you any harm,” she explained. Her tone was just the same as it had been in their school day; obey, no arguments. As a perfect, Remus may have let the marauders get away with things but Claire certainly never had.

“Besides,” she continued, settling into the chair at the head of the table. “I’m sure you have a few questions that could use answering. Do you even know anything about St Astra,” she asked, directing her question at Sirius. She had a single delicate eyebrow raised. Ah yes, Sirius recognized that expression. He remembered it well. He should as it had been directed at him hundreds of times. Usually after he said something to Claire intended to be charming. It was an expression that meant ‘I may tolerate you but that doesn’t mean I will forever.’

Sirius did not infact know anything about St Astra beyond vague rememberings of Remus and the doctors at St Mungo's encouraging him to seek their care after his release from Azkaban.
But, as with most things Remus could be relied upon where he could not. “It’s a teaching hospital isn’t it?”

“Teaching yes, but many so they can have access to new minds and new ideas. St Astra’s focus is less on teaching and more on development and experimentation. It drawls healers, potion makers, alchemists, researchers, and genius from all over the world. Both for positions as students and experts.”

Remus was nodding, a small smile on his lips. “I know they’ve been trying to get Severus to join them for years.”

Sirius just about snorted his water. Severus may have earned Remus’ graditude for brewing his monthly wolfsbane but that didn’t mean the world was any closer to Sirius believing Snivellus a great mind.

“Yes, they asked me to speak on their behalf several times, but he’s too loyal to Dumbledore to leave.”

This time Sirius did snort. Both Claire and Remus ignored him.

“When they announce a new study, applications come from just as far flung as their employs. They took Auror Moony on during his forced leave a few years back. They tried to fix some of the damage done to him over the years but it been too long since initial injury to do much. It didn’t help that he refused any treatment that would leave him bed bound for more than a few hours. I think he only did it to get Amelia off his back.”

Sirius did not know who Amelia was meant to be but as both Remus and Clare joined each other in a laughter he knew he should know her.

“She always was fierce. She was so intimidating leading us first years up to the dormitories for first time. I thought I’d never break a rule with her around. But you and James hardly let that resolution stand,” Remus said turning, smiling, to share the joy of the memories with Sirius.

Amelia. Amelia Bones. She had been a perfect and later headgirl. She had caught the marauders making their mischief almost as much as Claire later. She’d been with the aurors before Sirius was carted off to Azkaban and had been at his hearing when he was cleared. Sirius tried scratching up what she was up to now and what her connection to Mad-Eye was but he just couldn’t find. Seeing his incomprehension Remus’ smile fell.

Taking up the slack before the awkwardness could set in too heavily, Claire continued to tell them about St Astra’s. “Along with their international patients they have locals referred by the community hospitals within the French territory. St Astra’s focus is innovation and where they can’t find new solutions they work on perfecting the old. They have dozens of wards and each ward has its own specialty; Diagnostics, Magical Core Manipulation, Malicious Magics, Neurological and Psychiatric, Spell Misfire, Maternity, Fertility, Pediatric, Physical Restoration, Poisonings and Toxins, Parasites and Invasives, Infectious Curses, Creature Casualties, Age Deterioration. The Unspeakables even have their own wing.

“Harry,” Sirius felt his hackle rise at the name that did not belong to the imposter, “will be placed in a private ward reserved and secured for high ranking Ministry officials and foreign dignitaries. So his security and care will be of the best quality. His case will be handled by a Hospital Liaison. It will be their job to see that the right people are consulted and that the rest don’t get to browbeat their way onto the case. Harry will have leading experts working on helping him. There won’t be any reports sticking their noses in trying to get their scoop unless of course someone is fool enough to bring them in. And no one should be able to steal him out from under us. He has been found. He will be safe. He will get the care he needs. So, what is your problem Sirius.”

The abrupt turn in conversation through him but Claire obviously expected an answer. Remus threw back his water before making his way over to the drinks cart keeping his back firmly to Sirius. Remus already knew Sirius’ opinion and it was clear he did not want to hear it again. But Sirius had no choice but to answer and speak his mind. It needed to be said. They couldn’t be allowed to go on deluding themselves. Squaring his shoulders he answered, “It’s not Harry.”

Claire studied him while Remus dallied refilling his glass. “We don’t know that,” she counter.

Fuze lit, Sirius was ready to argue, but Claire raised a hand and as reasonably has Sirius had only ever seen Dumbledore manage she continued, “But we don’t know he is either.”

In his periphery Sirius caught Remus’ hand tighten on the picher.

“We don’t really know any more than we did this morning, not with any certainty. We are still in limbo. He could be Harry. He could not be Harry. But either way we need answers. If anywhere is better suited to give us those answers than St Astra’s, I haven’t heart of it. Sirius, think. There will be experts in every field focused on him, examining him thoroughly. They are not trying to make anyone happy and they won’t bow to someone else’s desires. Their job is not about pleasing patients, or the public, or any ministry. They are in fact a private hospital separate from the ministry. Their goal is healing and finding new ways to do it better. Everything they do is going to be about treating this boy, and part of that will be confirming whether or not he is who we think he is. The ministry may be ready to believe but they won’t take their word on it. Not without evidence. Not without proof. They won’t risk hurting their patient because they didn’t confirm background. I’ve dealt with St Astra’s. It my job to make sure the witch’s and wizards who come here for trials and care are looked after. I escort most of them myself for their first visit. They know what they are doing. They are the best. Even if you really believe this can’t be Harry, you have to know that the best way of finding him is finding out how this boy came to look so much like him. St Astra’s is the best place with the best people to figure that out I promise you.”

Sirius found it very hard to turn away in the face of Claire’s conviction. He’d forgotten she could be like this. How much she cared. How often she saw things the others missed. How protective she had always been, watching out for her fellow lions. Lilly had been the same. It was part of what made them such good friends. And just like Lilly where Claire had always excelled was in speaking up. Most of Gryffindor had been perfectly happy to tell him he was an ass, most of the time in a loving way. Claire was one of the few who told him to pull his head out of his ass and do better. And when she told you, it was clear she expected you to do it. She and Remus were about the only ones who did, on occasion, make him feel poorly when he fell short of their expectations. He understood what she was expecting of him now.

He had been so upset to discover that they hadn’t found Harry. He had felt spiteful at the world for teasing him and than with Remus so suddenly willing accept…Sirius could admit, if only to himself that it had felt like a betrayal. He knew it wasn’t logical but he also knew he had not been on the best of terms with logic since Azkaban. And again, if only to himself, he could admit that the problem had actually started long before Azkaban. But, right now he had to be logical. Right now he had to be a responsible grownup even if he had no idea what that should look like on him.

He should ask about this hospital liaison. He should thank Claire. He should check Remus was holding up all right. He should ask for a recap of the things he had not paid attention to at the prison. Instead Sirius opened his mouth and found easier, less important words slipping out. “So, your engagement to Sarah? I don’t suppose that’s an open relationship.”

Yes, he definitely remembered the correct meaning behind that eyebrow, and he really he should have remembered Claire’s propensity for throwing her drink in his face when he cross the limit of her tolerance. At least the water was better than pumpkin juice.

Chapter Text

Contrary to what most people thought, after receiving his trial, Sirius had not been freed.  Declared an innocent man the bars of Azkaban were replaced for a secure room at St Mungo's. 

Under their oppressive supervision meat was put back on his bones, memories of cold and pain were suppressed so he could sleep, and day after day they tried to heal the damage done to him by the dementors. Day after day they failed.  They failed because they refused to understand what had been done to him.  How were they to succeed when they did not understand?

What they refused to understand was this; Dementors do not need the kiss to reach a soul.  Their very presence is corrosive to the core of a being.  Sirius tried to make them listen.  He tried to make them see.  He tried time and again in all manor of both respect and colorful wordings, but they did not listen, they refused to believe.  They kept on insisting that he was wrong.  That though he might feel as such, his soul was very much intact.  They had no doubt never lived under the torture of dementors.  They probably had never even seen a dementor without a patronus present.  They new nothing but what their text told them and yet they kept insisting they knew better, that dementors could not effect the soul from the distance, and that Sirius needed to move past these ideas or he wouldn’t heal.  None of them would even consider what the man who had spent years with the creatures was telling them.  None even bothered to humor Sirius long enough to find discover why know his soul to be damaged.  Only Remus had listened.  He listed without prejudice and leaning on his preconceptions.   Day after day he listen as Sirius tried to make the healers understand.  And night after night he was the ear Sirius confided to in the dark.  Eventually Remus came to believe him, and with that belief came nightmares and grief and guilt even more than what he had already carried.

Eventually Sirius smartened up and stopped arguing with the healers.  After all, they were his jailers then as much as the ministry had been before.  He needed their approval to be released out amongst the public.  Without their approval he would never be allowed a new wand.  He would never be allowed to reconnect to his magic.  So he had kept his mouth shut and played the part of recuperating and adjusting back to the real world, slowly but surely making his way back to a safe sane member of society pretending it was there treatments when in fact it was Remus’ support and presence, and he never said another word of souls.  He endured their fussing and uselessness for three months before he earned real freedom.  To finally have it, to finally be free should have been a relief, a joy, a triumph but it was not.  All the good was sullied by Harry’s disappearance, the absence of James and Lilly, and Peter’s betrayal for which he had yet to pay.  How could Sirius be happy when Harry was missing, his friends were dead, and Peter had escaped.  How could he be happy when he knew he had not avvenged his friends.  How could he be happy when he knew if he had not have gone after Peter he could have been there for Harry and Remus. 

In the three months he spent in hospital Sirius having become all to familiar with the walls, halls, and ways of St Mungo’s had dubbed himself a resentful expert and with his title backing him he felt fully qualified in say St Astra was far and away beyond St Mungo's.  

At her office Claire had explained and lectured to them for what felt like hours and Sirius had done his best to listen.  She’d gone over staff, and procedure, and uniforms.  She’d gone on and on and while it had all sounded very efficient and initiative she had said nothing to prepared them for the hospital itself.

Everything was new and fresh and so very different from what Sirius had come to expect wizarding establishments to be.  It was modern and smooth with rounded edges and flowing lines.  There were no candles or lamps.  Light mainly came from windows spaced along the ceiling, all spelled to show the clouds and pearl glow of an overcast day.  Then mounted on the walls were frosted glass boxes glowing with warm white light that chased away any shadows the windows could not reach.  The effect was halls and lobbies filled with diffused soft light that seemed to soak into everything.  All the furniture and fixtures, the walls and the floors, were done in creams and soft greens and the art.  There were no portraits there to whisper and judge you.  There were only views of rolling fields and still waters and quiet sunlit forests.  Even the air felt different.  It felt like with each breath Sirius took it felt as though the weight which had attached itself to his bones was floating away leaving Sirius feeling lighter than he had since James and Lilly went into hiding.

All around the hospital there were signs and plaques be the longer the went on walking the few there were to spot unil eventually there were none at all.  But Clare continued leading them with confidence and as the turned one final corner it was clear they’d reached their destination.  Kingsley along with dozen or so aurors and hospital guard were standing clustered together before a large door creating a blockade of bodies and ready wands.  

Before being allowed to pass they had to submit to a series of increasingly invasive security measures.  With each new prod and scan Sirius from the the peace of St Astra’s slipping away from him.   Sirius was just about to slap at the guard examining his wand when Kingsley stepped forward and took over.  With Kingsley’s familiar presence and distracting small talk Sirius made it through the rest of the checks without making a spectacle of himself.

 

With the guards done their duty their little trio was let through into a large lounge whose entire ceiling was nothing but spelled windows pouring more of the wonderful light down on them.  Most of the room was divided into sitting and work spaces with a coordinated variety of chairs, couches, benches, and desks.  And again everything was done in shades of cream and green.  The only piece that didn’t match the whole was the large, darkly stained reception desk which stood claiming a  large corner of the room.  Behind said desk stood a short, busty woman in green hospital robes with cream trimming on her sleeves.  Her hair was up in a bun high on her head which bobbed wildly as she move back and forth sorting and shifting and marking the staggering collection of papers and folders spread across the desktop.  Behind her four fireplaces, set two by two, burned low with a small pot of floo powder attached to each mantle.  Claire greeted the women warmly then moved on to introductions.  “Elma may I present Remus Lupin, and Lord Sirius Black.   Sirius, Remus, I’d like to introduce you to Mrs. Elma Thornton, Hospital Liaison in charge of Harry’s case.”

“If there’s anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask,” Mrs. Thornton greeted them in an accent decidedly not French but one which Sirius could not identify.  Sirius continued to wonder and try to place it as she started to give them a updating them on the boy and the treatment he had received so far.  Sirius became far more focused on her voice than what she was saying but he later he did remember that the boy was “still unconscious” and they were “awaiting results” though beyond tests Sirius wasn’t sure what for.  There was also something about the piercing. When Sirius realized how studiously Remus and Claire were listening he tried to pay better attention but was saved from the effort when one of the fireplaces flared.  At which point Mrs. Thornton was quick to excused herself before promptly turning and to answer the floo call.

Being dismissed, Remus and Claire led the way to a loose circle of chairs near the reception desk, where presumably they planned to wait for Mrs. Thornton to become free again.  Remus and Claire settled into easy conversation about the boy and the situation and details that Sirius tried to pay attention to but found himself continually distracted by Mrs. Thornton busily moving back and forth from on end of her desk to the next and accepting floo calls and opening the floo to accept deliveries and to send papers out and that was simply too much movement and energy and distracting and irritating.  Eventually with a quick grumbled excuse he bowed out of the conversation and his better intentions and made his way over to the far side of the room.  With his back set firmly to Mrs. Thornton’s domain of organized chaos he did his best to block out the world and mostly succeeded.  Remus and Claire’s conversation went on in hushed voices that he could easily let wash over him.  In fact it was almost calming to close his eyes and let the voices lull him as warm light shined down from above and he sunk further and further into the excessive padded chair he’d chosen for himself.  In fact the more he sunk he could almost imagine he was receiving a hug from the cushions.  Sirius felt himself relaxing and reclaiming the peace he’d found before the security screening.  It was lovely and restful and for a while it seemed he was floating through time.  Sirius found himself hoping the imposter would need to stay for a few days.  Sirius imagined he would be content to stay right there in that chair for the duration.  It was lovely and peaceful and so of course it could not last.

Drifting as he was it took some time for Sirius to notice that new wave of bodies that was entering the room lead by a short, squat leader in bright pink.  With a glare Sirius lamented the arrival of Fudge’s pride pet toad and her gaggle of hangers-on.

There was something about the Toad Umbridge that brought out a fierce hate in Sirius.  Perhaps it was the self important, authoritative baring with which she cared herself.  Perhaps it was how she looked down on Remus.  Perhaps it was her high ridiculous voice or her stupid face.  Sirius did not know after all there was so much to choose from.  What he did know was the woman brought out the long disused prankster in him and the now familiar urge to take to his dog form and bite.  But as satisfying as shredding the toad might have been Sirius thought she would be far more effected by a blow to her pride than to pain.  Of course if he was caught doing either he would be sent bak to Azkaban.  And even if he wasn’t caught they would still know he had done it and than Remus would be worried.  

Still weighing the opinions and consequences Sirius watched the Toad and make her way over to Mrs. Thornton’s desk.  Besides her, charging ahead with a longer stride was the women Sirius believed to be the undersecretary to the French Minister, or whatever the french equivalent to loyal dog may be.  Sirius scolding himself for not having paid better atttention earlier.  He knew he’d been introduced to several dozen people but he should have at least been able to remember a few names.

Before the two could reach Mrs. Thornton, Claire and Remus placed themselves firmly in the way.  Thinking that this may be something good Sirius cast a subtle eavesdropping charm and was not surprised to find it blocked.  He was dealing with politicians after all.  But a block charm would not stop a Marauders from his mischief, especially when he had an ally on the inside.  It was a heavily more complicated bit of non-verbal spell work but Sirius was familiar enough with it not to draw attention to himself.  With the ease of a spy Sirius cast a tether out to Remus who like the wonder he was accepted and anchored it without a flinch of recognition.  Gleeful Sirius settled himself back for a listen.  He had promised to be more attentive after all.

What followed was the kind of overly polite knife throwing Sirius had only ever encountered in the wilds of high pureblood society and politics.  Claire politely inquire what the hell the two esteemed undersecretaries were doing there along with their respective collection of ministerial servants.  It was not as though they were needed as Claire would have of course sent along word of anything of importance.  After all the whole reason for her being there was to serve both ministries in her role as Ambassador and take care of all the bureaucratic nonsense on that side of things.  Umbridge countered this reminder of position and dominion with a series of blatant insults wrapped in honey sweetness to both Claire and the French Ministry.  This involved a large number of references to standards and seeing things done properly that did not speak well to the longevity of the respectful and cooperative attitude their two ministers had adopted at the prision prison.  The French Undersecretary retaliated by voicing her full confidence in Claire, which she did in French.  She then proceeded to admitted to only being there because Umbridge was and the French Ministry could not let it appear as though they weren’t just as attentive to the situation as the British Ministry was.  Nothing she said was overtly rude but judging by the toads expression, she did not speak French and so her paranoia was leading her to imagine all manor of grave insult.  And thanks to their privacy measures none of her minions would be able to translate for her.  Sirius nearly cackled at her twisted expression.

From there things quickly became boring with Claire updating the Undersecretaries, sparing Mrs. Thornton from the task.  With little nothing to hold his interest Sirius became increasingly aware of just how many people were now packed in the room as most of the seats around him were filled with Ministry lackeys chattering away and posturing in both French and English, and under that was the sound of scrapping of quills.  The room was suddenly all too small and filling with other peoples air.  With a pang of irritation at the world and himself Sirius felt the claustrophobia setting in.

The weight rush back to his bones and with it’s return fled Sirius good mood.  His face began to scrunched in on itself more and more with each passing second and the chairs embrace of him now felt too tight and the room too small and the warmth too consuming and all these idiots around him and-  A gentle touch closed around his arm.  Jerked out of his spiral Sirius’ attention turned to face Remus’ worry.  

With a quirk of a smile Remus was asking if he was all right.

A roll of his eyes and a glare at those around them Sirius had shaken off his friend’s concern.

Accepting the gesture Remus inclined his head to something off behind Sirius back.  Turning discreetly in his chair Sirius spotted Mrs. Thornton looking at them meaningful look.   Remus rose and Sirius followed and noting their approach Mrs. Thornton made her way over to the frosted double doors besides her desk that Sirius believed must lead to where they were treating the boy.  She presented her wand tapping a little beat which caused the door to release.  By then they had reached her side and without notice or fanfare they were lead through to what was not the sickroom Sirius was expecting but rather a small foyer with a hallway to the left and another to the right and three curtained archways laid out in-front of them.  And still all was creams and greens and light and blessed quiet as the sound of the lounge had been cut off when they stepped through the threshold.  

“Has he woken,” Remus was quick to ask.  In an unusual lapse of manors his attention not on Mrs. Thornton.  In fact, if Sirius did not know better he would have said Remus was scenting the air, in public, in front of a stranger.  But if that was what it looked like it couldn’t have been  Remus always did his best to hide and suppress his werewolf nature even in the privacy of 12 Grimmauld Place.  He would never do something so blatant here were he was so exposed, or so Sirius believed.

“Not just yet.  The doctors don’t expect him to be waking up for an hour at least which is to be expected considering the state he was in when first administered,” Mrs. Thornton comforted.  “Magical exhaustion is not something to be overcome quickly.  Then of course there is the issue of the blood loss and the physical toll this afternoon and his time in Dominer Tour took.  Once we get the last of our testing done we’ll be able to help move his recovery along but as I said earlier given the mystery surrounding the boy we don’t want to be exposing him to any foreign magics until we have a clearer picture of things.  For now we’re limited to the most basic of means; magically inert potions and balms, water to keep him hydrated, and the best environment we can provide him to rest.

“How much longer will those tests take,” Sirius asked.

“We expected the will take a few more hours and then after the Legilimency examination-”

“So you are going ahead with the Legilimency,” Sirius interrupted perhaps a tad too excitedly.

“Of course,” Mrs. Thornton confirmed hesitantly.

“Headmaster Dumbledore was concerned that the Legilimens should also be a master Occlumens,” he continued.

“Very sensible,” Mrs. Thornton replied, seeming at a loss as to what point it seemed Sirius was trying to stress.

“The ministers seemed to feel it was rather unnecessary,” he explained.

There was a slight twitch of Mrs. Thornton’s face brow.  “This may be our ministerial ward Mr. Black, but we at St Astra’s are not the ministry and there by it is we who decide what is and is not necessary.  Given that we have no history for the boy and there for know little of what protections may be in place in his mind, then also given the sensitivity of this case I will of course be assuring that whoever is to do the examination be a Master of both Legilimency and Occlumency as well as having a skill to be proceeding gently given that as far as we are aware we are dealing with an adolescent mind.”  

The longer she spoke the less reassuring and the more defensive her voice grew leaving Sirius uncertain how to proceed without causing further insult.

“Please forgive Sirius,” Remus said placing a hand on his shoulder.  “He has a fierce distrust for authority.  Particularly that which the Ministry wields.”

Mrs. Thornton seemed to settle at those words.  “It’s only to be expected given everything you’ve been through,” she assured Sirius. 

She looked about to say something else when Remus stepped in. “You said earlier you might have a lead on the piercing?  As Harry hasn’t woken, am I right in assuming you have some news on that.”

“Yes.  And I’m afraid you're not going to like what I have to say.”

Sirius could see Remus stiffen besides him.

Eying the two of them Mrs. Thornton went on to say, “I think it would be best I take you through to him, let you see he is well.  Get you settled with a cup of tea?  Perhaps something to eat before we get on with the details?”

As much as Sirius had no desire to stand vigil at the imposter’s bedside, the longing on Remus’ face took the choice of denying away from him.  “Yes, thank you,” he conceded.

Nodding Mrs. Thornton led them to the left archway and pulled back the curtain for them to enter.

Inside the walls were white not cream, and the light came from a large bay window to their right spelled to show only a dull frosted glow.  Compared to the rest of what they had seen of St Astra’s the room seemed dreary and sterile.   The limited light left most of the room in darkness and what the light did fall on was still cast in sweeping shadow.  The effect was not kind to Remus’ features, leaving his friend looking old and worn.  Or maybe the effect had less to due with the lighting and more to do with what Remus was looking at , Sirius pondered, following Remus’ gaze to where the imposter lay in a wide bed of white sheets.

From where Sirius stood, and with the boy’s face cast in shadow, there was nothing to identify him as anything but a teenage, a child, pale and hurt and sleeping.  His shirt was gone leaving his only cover the sheet laid over his legs, folded neatly at his waist.  He looked very small laying there.  It was almost possible for Sirius to feel pity for the boy, to forget whose face the imposter was wearing.  Almost, but not quite.

Remus approached slowly, with a look of something like fear.  Remus was not a large man but standing there in compression the boy looked seven smaller.  With the same slow reluctance Remus reached out a laid his hand on top the boys head.  There were so much emotions in his eyes as he looked down on the face.  Then oh so gentle he lowered his forehead to rest his forehead against the boys.

Watching him now, seeing how effected Remus was, Sirius felt like a pang of guilt in his stomach at the lack of support he had given his friend.  The pang quickly grew to pain. It was hard to remember at times just how broken Remus was.  Sirius may have been alone in Azkaban, but he’d had his animagus form and his anger and the truth.  But Remus, Remus had been left not only alone but with nothing and no one to comfort him.  His entire pack gone in an instant.  His entire world shaken by the thought that Sirius had been the one to betray them and that Remus had trusted him and in the end that trust coast him everything.  He spend years alone and blaming himself for not knowing, for not being there, for not doing more to protect his pack.  Harry had been his only light; that Harry had survived. But the light had been whisked away and Dumbledore insisting it was best Remus not visit he never got to see it with his own eyes.  He never got to hold Harry and know that he was okay.  He had only Dumbledores word and the need to trust it to be true.

 Since getting Sirius back and learning the truth Remus always stayed close, always watching, always guarding.  Knowing that with Harry missing, Sirius was all he had left.  But now he thought he had Harry.  Now he believed another member of his pack, his family had been returned to him.  Not any member but his light.  James’ boy.  The cub of their pack.  Remus believed this was Harry, hurt and pale and small.  What he must be feeling.  And what he would be feeling when that belief was ripped away.  There was no question about it; Sirius knew when it happened Remus’ heart would break.

Lights began to appear around the room.  Small soft lights pointed up towards the ceiling and down at the floor, casting shadows out of corners and making the room seem less daunting without fully casting out the darkness.

““Merci, Darcy, Eben.  Un peu d'intimité si vous le feriez,” Mrs. Thornton’s soft voice asked, drawing Sirius’ attention to a man and a women whom he had not noticed before.  They were dressed in green St Astra robes with green caps on their head like that Madam Pomfrey wore.  With a swift little bow each the departed out the way they had entered, the sound of their footsteps abruptly disappearing as the curtain drew shut.

As they were leaving Mrs.  Thornton was busy transfiguring tree simple chairs from a stack of boxes left stacked against the wall. With simple a swish and flick of her wand they slid silently into place with besides Remus at the boy’s bedside.  “If you would please have a seat,” she instructed.

It took a few long moments before Remus pulled away from the boy and took his seat.  From one breath to the next the heavy emotions drained out of his expression as he whole demeanor became studious and attentive just as it use to in their school days.  Only now it was focused on Mrs. Thornton not McGonagall.  

Reminded that Remus needed him as much as he needed Remus and with guilt still rolling through him Sirius made his way around the bed and took his seat besides his friend.  Then, acting on desire not thought he reached out to clasp his friends hand.