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Author's Chapter Notes:
Dedication: Written for unanon in the remus_remix. Thanks to Karen for the absolutely last minute pinch-hit beta (including those pesky Americanisms) and title help.

Note: Some of the dialogue is taken directly from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Original Drabble: "Oh, Bleakness" by Unanon

“But he’s suspicious of you. He’s down there right now telling James and Lily that you can’t be trusted! I don’t understand why you aren’t angry with him.” Peter’s heels thumped rhythmically against the side of the stone wall upon which he was perched. “Remember, he almost made you a murderer once, Remus.”

“Who says I’m not?” The other boy’s voice was carefully light.

Peter glanced at him sharply. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, and then opened it once more. His chins quivered when he spoke. “You’ve forgiven him then?”

“Perhaps.”

Peter sniffed. “You’d forgive him anything, wouldn’t you. Probably even murder.” His voice turned bitter as he continued. “I wonder, would you do the same for me if I killed…” Peter’s eyes skittered away from his friend’s penetrating gaze, “even indirectly?”

Remus’ wan smile was warmed only by the fading light of the sunset. “Wormtail, my friend, let’s hope we never find out.”



oh, the bleakness of the moon (the waning, waxing remix)

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf and once upon a time he almost killed one of the other students at school.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf and he almost killed a student and not even his best friends tell him all their secrets.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf and he almost killed a student and his best friends didn’t tell him everything and he never learned how to smell a rat.

Remus remembers this, but it doesn’t upset him, not after he almost killed Snape, all because of a prank. Nothing will upset him again, he thinks, and not because he’s finally learned to be happy-go-lucky and cheerful.

Peter doesn’t understand that, the imperturbable mind, the lack of reaction. They have this conversation twice a week, sometimes less, and lately, more; the words change, but never the intent.

Each time, Peter pushes just a little bit farther, and Remus still hasn’t figured out what Peter knows that he doesn’t, but he’s sure Peter will tell him. Peter, who didn’t lure someone to the shack to be killed, in fun. Peter, who stayed out of their arguments, and worshipped from afar, or at least as close as any of them would let him get.

Peter, the non-entity, Remus thinks sometimes, but Peter is still his friend, so he listens. He no longer tries to make Peter understand, though. He’s not sure anyone can understand.

“But he’s suspicious of you!” Peter’s voice is too high—his every word is almost a whine even when he is calm, and the pitch is in the rafters when he is upset. “He’s down there, right now, telling James and Lily that you can’t be trusted! I don’t understand why you aren’t angry with him.”

Peter’s heels thump against the wall, in a steady, staccato rhythm, and it makes Remus want to cover his ears. He’s tired, the afternoon after the full moon, even more so because he didn’t have his friends by his side to distract him last night.

“He almost made you a murderer once, Remus.” Peter, so unassuming, has never hit the nail on the head quite like this before; Remus wonders for a minute how Peter could have known where his own thoughts linger, but shrugs it off. For once, Peter just got lucky.

“Who says I’m not?” Remus asks, keeping his voice light, a small smile turning up the corners of his mouth. He’s not, he doesn’t think, but there are some things he just can’t quite remember. Maybe he’s killed a hundred people. Maybe Snape wouldn’t have been the first.

“You’ve forgiven him, then?” And though his voice tilts up at the end of the sentence, Peter isn’t really asking a question; he knows the answer and Remus knows he knows. Just like Remus knows Peter is about to cry; he recognizes the telltale quiver of the chin, the hesitation before speaking.

“Perhaps.”

Remus shrugs after he speaks, as if it’s no big thing. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s easy to forgive being mistrusted by the one person who always swore he knew you and understood and said you’re not a bad bloke at all.

“You’d forgive him anything, wouldn’t you?” Peter sniffs too often, and Remus wonders if that’s another sign of pending tears or if he’s just spent too much time as a rat. Remus doesn’t think he shows any signs of the wolf most of the month, but maybe it’s so much a part of him that he doesn’t notice.

Maybe he walks around with his tongue lolling out, sniffing everyone he meets.

“Probably even murder.” Peter shakes his head, repeats himself. “You’d even forgive him murder, wouldn’t you, after he tried to make you a murderer.”

Remus doesn’t say anything; nothing to say, really, except I forgive you, and he’s already said those words. Nothing except I still trust you, and he’s already said that, too.

Peter’s nose twitches; he’s definitely been in rat form too often lately, even if he doesn’t always keep company with Remus during the full moon. “I wonder, would you do the same for me if I killed…” His voice is bitter, low and rough and almost unrecognizable.

Remus looks at him, for the first time, and Peter’s eyes skitter away from his penetrating stare; no matter how hard he tries, he can’t make Peter meet his gaze.

“…even indirectly?” And the whine is back, the uncertainty.

“Wormtail, my friend, let’s hope we never find out.” He puts his hand on Peter’s shoulder, and squeezes, just once; his lips lift higher, and he feels the fading light of the sunset on his face, the only warmth he recognizes, safety leaving him behind.

~~*

Remus remembers that conversation with Peter when Sirius kills Peter and the Muggles who got in the way and is carted off to Azkaban. It comes back to him in layers, a sentence here, an image there, and it’s not until later that he realizes Peter was wrong. He can’t forgive Sirius murder, not when everyone is dead but Remus and Sirius. No more Peter. No more Lily. No more James.

No more Remus, he hopes, but somehow, continues to live.

He’s not to be trusted, because if he wasn’t a murderer before the war, he is now, and he could tell himself that they were just Death Eaters, that they deserved what they got, but he doesn’t. Because if even Sirius was a traitor, a Death Eater, they couldn’t all be lumped together, they couldn’t all deserve death.

Sirius doesn’t, not even now.

Neither did Peter, or Lily, or James.

His thoughts circle like that, always, when he doesn’t have anything else to hold his attention. He’s forgotten how to be imperturbable, forgotten everything except how much it hurts when he trusts.

He makes a trip to the site of the murders, Sirius’s murders, a pilgrimage, and the Muggles have already been there, but he can still see what happened, where Sirius stood, and Peter, and all the innocent people who didn’t even know there was a war, or that they were caught at the tail end of it.

He pictures a finger, just enough to identify Peter, and how Sirius must have looked, head back, laughing; he always had a laugh that could frighten, because he was used to power and money and getting his own way. Remus really thought Sirius had given that up, left behind everything when he ran away from his mother, and tucked himself into James’s family life.

Sirius gave up everything but his name, Remus realizes, and maybe a name is like a dark mark. You can never remove it, and eventually you’ll always answer its call.

Remus wishes Peter had scampered away to safety as a rat, wishes that Sirius had trusted him just a little bit more, before all this; Remus told Sirius his secrets, all of them, but Sirius never returned the favour.

He tries to forget the images he’s conjured up within his own mind, but he’s afraid it may take years.

~~*

Remus visits the shack first thing when he returns to Hogwarts. Second thing, really, because first he has to get through the opening banquet, and Dumbledore’s speech, but as soon as he has his own time, he heads straight there, through the passage under the Whomping Willow.

The last time he was in the shack, he hadn’t been alone; they’d all turned out, the last full moon of the school year, and he thinks they probably had fun, the werewolf, the dog, the stag, and the rat. He can’t remember, of course, not like he can remember full moon nights now, but they were close to freedom, close to graduation, and half of them—three-fourths, really—were loved and in love. And that was almost enough to make the horror to come worthwhile.

He wonders if it wouldn’t be easier to know that they’d fought, that the wolf had turned on the dog, angry because it was in his territory, but he imagines that, after so much time, the dog was part of that territory, and always smelled familiar.

He imagines the wolf knew that even the rat, thick with food scent, was off-limits, and the wolf was aware it couldn’t do more than tag the stag—maybe with a little teeth, but never at the throat.

He breathes in, deep, and wonders if, somehow, their scents are still here, faint but still mixed in the air in every breath. He wishes he had better senses when he wasn’t a wolf, and breathes in again, harder.

Remus can almost hear Peter’s voice in his head:

“But why can’t you smell us? The books all say werewolves always smell everything, even when they’re men.” And Peter would have scratched an itch; by the time they’d left school, anytime his face itched, he would rub at it with the back of his hand, and Sirius always teased him about being a giant rat, even when he wasn’t.

He’d jerk his head back and forth, checking the corners of the any room they were in, twitching at shadows, which only enhanced the image of rat. But maybe Peter had just been scared; Remus still gives him the benefit of doubt. After all, there had been plenty of reasons to be scared, and maybe Peter had been smarter than they’d given him credit, and he’d recognized the coming betrayal on some unconscious level.

Remus wants to wish that he’d seen the truth, back then, but there are too many good memories to want to wish away everything. He’s stopped hurting every minute of every day; now it’s just occasionally, a flare up of pain when he sees something Sirius would have marvelled over, or when he wants to tell him a particularly interesting bit of his day—it’s especially difficult then, because it makes him remember how they’d crowd together on his bed and exchange their stories.

It’s really a good thing that he rarely has interesting days now, he decides, and leaves the shack. He’ll lock himself in his office on the next full moon, because Snape has promised him a potion to keep him sentient, even while he’s a wolf, and he can always visit the infirmary in the morning. There’s no need to hide in the shack, these days, and certainly no good reason.

~~*

He doesn’t return to the shack until the end of the year, and he’s too distracted to allow himself to remember anything, then. Even if he wanted to stop and daydream, he can’t, because he can hear Hermione upstairs, screaming for help, screaming Sirius’s name. He’s not sure which drives him up the stairs faster, the danger to his students or the chance to see Sirius, one of the many he’s lost, just one more time.

He has to pull out his wand to open the door, and he holds it ready after the door bursts open, the spell leaving a shower of red sparks. He’s not sure where to look first; Ron, on the floor, Hermione right there next to the door, close enough to escape, or Harry, up against Sirius, his wand pointed and ready to kill.

Expelliarmus!” he shouts, and catches three wands—one from Harry, two from Hermione—and he has no idea what he’s doing. He moves into the room, and hopes he looks steadier than he is; his knees keep threatening to give out, and he’s having trouble focusing on Sirius, a bundle of dirt on the ground. Hermione’s cat is on his chest, and doesn’t seem inclined to move.

“Where is he, Sirius?” Of all the things he wants to say, this is the least of them, but there will be time for all the rest, he hopes, if he finishes this one thing.

Sirius stares up at him, his expression blank, but at last he points, so slowly that Remus wonders if he even has the strength to move, at Ron.

“But then…,” Remus mutters as he speaks, and can’t take his eyes off of Sirius’s face; once upon a time, he would have known exactly what Sirius thought, and maybe, if he looks hard enough, he still can, “…why hasn’t he shown himself before now? Unless—unless he was the one … unless you switched … without telling me?” He can feel that his eyes are too wide and his words come too fast, but of all the various situations he’s considered, he’s never imagined this.

Sirius continues to look at Remus, his gaze so focused and fathomless, and nods.

“Professor,” Harry says, and though he speaks loudly, Remus can barely hear him, because his thoughts are so turned inward, his attention only for Sirius, “what’s going on—?”

Remus lowers his wand, lets his hand fall to his side and it’s as if he drops the world off of his shoulders at the same moment, he feels so light, so incredibly different, and he recognizes this feeling, after a moment—it’s relief. And happiness.

He crosses the room to Sirius and pulls him to his feet, ignoring Hermione’s cat when it falls to the floor, and now he can finally, finally wrap his arms around Sirius, around the sunken waist and the too-prominent ribs, and squeeze and hold him. And finally, finally, the world is right.

“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!” Hermione screams, and this cuts through his contentment, and Remus releases Sirius, and turns to look at her. She’s standing, now, and staring at him, her hair bushy and her eyes too bright; the pointed finger carries so much accusation that her words almost aren’t needed. “You—you—“

“Hermione—“ Remus tries to say, but she keeps going.

“—you and him!”

“Hermione, calm down—“

“I didn’t tell anyone!” Hermione shrieks. “I’ve been covering up for you—“

Remus realizes he’s never really appreciated quite how intelligent this girl is. “Hermione, listen to me, please!” he shouts. “I can explain—“

Now Harry joins in, shouting and ranting and he looks so much like James in a pique that Remus just stops speaking and stares at him for a moment.

“I trusted you,” Harry shouts, his voice wavering, “and all the time you’ve been his friend!”

“You’re wrong,” Remus says when he can speak again. “I haven’t been Sirius’s friend, but I am now—let me explain….”

“NO!” Hermione shrieks at such a high level Remus can’t help but wonder if she has a banshee in her family tree somewhere. “Harry, don’t trust him, he’s been helping Black get into the castle, he wants you dead too—he’s a werewolf!”

In a flash, Remus remembers the accusations, Sirius’s doubts, Peter’s pointed questions, and he looks at Harry, hoping to see the same steady belief in his eyes that always shone in Lily’s no matter what everyone else had to say.

When he speaks, he knows his voice will stay calm, because he’s had more than one lifetime’s worth of experiences to practice being imperturbable.

“Not at all up to your usual standard, Hermione,” he says. “Only one out of three, I’m afraid. I have not been helping Sirius get into the castle and I certainly don’t want Harry dead….” Even saying the words makes him think of all he’s lost, or thought he’s lost, and he realizes the only truth in the past decade has been the fact that Lily and James are dead. He shivers, his skin twitching at that thought. “But I won’t deny that I am a werewolf.”

Ron falls halfway to standing, and Remus starts to go to him, to help him, but Ron immediately gasps. “Get away from me, werewolf!”

It is a kick to the stomach, another visceral reminder that, though he now remembers how to feel, this comes along with that ability, this pain at being judged, at not being trusted now, though half a day ago, the students seemed to love him.

Remus has to force himself to turn to look at Hermione. “How long have you known?” He doesn’t really care—all he wants is to sit down and talk to Sirius, to hug him again—but the situation needs to be diffused. And maybe he’ll learn one more trick on how to keep his secret.

“Ages,” Hermione says, her voice so quiet he had to strain to hear. “Since I did Professor Snape’s essay….”

“He’ll be delighted,” Remus says. On the scale of troublemakers and dangers, Snape never ranked very high, but he always enjoyed picking at Remus’s scabs, and it was just like him to use the students to get his revenge. “He assigned that essay hoping someone would realize what my symptoms meant…. Did you check the lunar chart and realize that I was always ill at the full moon? Or did you realize that the boggart changed into the moon when it saw me?”

“Both.”

It almost hurts to laugh, but he does, because even though he knows she’s smart, he’s never admitted just how much. He underestimated her, and it cost him; perhaps he’ll never learn.

“You’re the cleverest witch of your age I’ve ever met, Hermione.”

“I’m not,” Hermione says, her voice still low. “If I’d been a bit cleverer, I’d have told everyone what you are!”

“But they already know,” Lupin says, and he’s surprised that she hasn’t realised this part, too. “At least, the staff do.”

“Dumbledore hired you when he knew you were a werewolf?” Ron’s voice sounds strangled, caught halfway between speech and a gasp. “Is he mad?”

Remus shrugs, used to people questioning Dumbledore’s sanity, along with his own. “Some of the staff thought so,” he says. “He had to work very hard to convince certain teachers that I’m trustworthy—“

“AND HE WAS WRONG!” Harry yells. “YOU’VE BEEN HELPING HIM ALL THE TIME!” He points at Sirius, who crosses to the four-poster bed and sits down, hiding his face in one hand. Remus thinks that the weight of the accusation, coupled with just how like James Harry is, is too much for Sirius in this state. He knows it’s too much for himself; he has no choice but to face it.

“I have not been helping Sirius,” Remus says. “If you’ll give me a chance, I’ll explain. Look—“ He tosses the wands back to their owners; he’s memorized what each one looks like, of course, but each wand carries the feel of the user, and they leave his fingertips tingling. He tucks his wand back into his belt and holds his hands out. “There. You’re armed, we’re not. Now will you listen?”

“If you haven’t been helping him,” Harry says and glares at Sirius again, “how did you know that he was here?”

“The map,” Remus says. “The Marauder’s Map. I was in my office examining it—“

“You know how to work it?”

“Of course I know how to work it,” Remus says, waving away the words. He’s too impatient to listen to silly questions, and at the moment he wishes Harry was bright enough to match Hermione. “I helped write it. I’m Moony—that was my friends’ nickname for me at school.” And suddenly there is something very warm and very large building in his chest.

“You wrote—?”

“The important thing is, I was watching it carefully this evening, because I had an idea that you, Ron, and Hermione might try and sneak out of the castle to visit Hagrid before his hippogriff was executed. And I was right, wasn’t I?” He catches himself pacing, but it helps him think, helps him find the right emphasis for his words, so he doesn’t bother to stop, even though the dust rising with each step makes his nose itch.

“You might have been wearing your father’s old cloak, Harry—“

“How d’you know about the cloak?”

Remus wishes Harry would stop asking inane questions, and he waves this one away, as well. “The number of times I saw James disappearing under it…. The point is, even if you’re wearing an Invisibility Cloak, you still show up on the Marauder’s Map. I watched you cross the grounds and enter Hagrid’s hut. Twenty minutes later, you left Hagrid, and set off back toward the castle. But you were now accompanied by somebody else.”

“What?” Harry’s voice is full of disbelief. “No, we weren’t!”

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Remus says, and ignores Harry. He’s speaking to himself, now, and to Sirius, speaking fast to cover all the years and all the lies. “I thought the map must be malfunctioning. How could he be with you?”

“No one was with us!” Harry insists.

“And then I saw another dot, moving fast toward you, labelled Sirius Black…. I saw him collide with you; I watched as he pulled two of you into the Whomping Willow—“

“One of us!” Ron says, his voice full of anger.

“No, Ron,” Remus says. He tries to gentle his voice, because this is going to be a betrayal all around. “Two of you.” He stands still now, finished pacing, and stares at Ron. “Do you think I could have a look at the rat?” It’s a chore to keep his voice even.

“What? What’s Scabbers got to do with it?” Ron sounds afraid, again.

“Everything,” Remus says. “Could I see him, please?”

Ron pulls Scabbers out of his robe slowly; the rat thrashes in his hands and Ron grabs his long, bald tail to hold onto him. Remus can see enough from here, but still he leans closer; he can’t breathe, now, all the air is stuck in his throat. He can’t deny what he’s seeing, and he doesn’t really want to do so, but this is so beyond anything he’d ever dreamed when he’d wished that Peter could have taken his animal form to escape.

“What?” Ron asks. He clutches Scabbers to his chest, his eyes wide. “What’s my rat got to do with anything?”

“That’s not a rat.” Sirius’s voice is rough and thick with lack of use, but his meaning is clear.

“What d’you mean—of course he’s a rat—“

“No, he’s not,” Remus says, keeping his voice quiet. “He’s a wizard.” And he used to be a friend, but Remus allows that to go unsaid. I thought he trusted me most of all.

“An Animagus,” Sirius says, “by the name of Peter Pettigrew.”

Remus looks at Sirius, and neither speaks, for a moment, but what goes unsaid has always been the most important thing of all.

~~*

Remus watches as Sirius reads a letter from Harry, the sixth one in as many weeks. After the term was over, he joined Sirius on the continent, near the coast, and they’ve had a glorious summer. It’s nearing an end, too few hours to make up for the years lost to distrust and betrayal.

“He’s going to see the Quidditch World Cup,” Sirius says. “James would have liked that, too.” Remus nods, and puts his hand on Sirius’s shoulder; it’s still too thin, his flesh stretched across bone, but he’s eating better—no more rats—and he’s rested.

Sometimes, he even looks happy, for a moment.

Remus remembers it clearly, the afternoon with Peter, and Peter’s questions. “You’ve forgiven him, then?” and “Would you do the same for me, if I killed, even indirectly?”

No, Peter, Remus knows now. I would not.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf and he almost killed a student and his best friends didn’t trust him and he never learned how to smell a rat.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf and he almost killed a student and not even his best friends trusted him with all their secrets.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf and once upon a time he almost killed one of the other students at school.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted; he is a werewolf.

His name is Remus Lupin, and he’s not to be trusted, not ever.

But somehow, he is.


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