He heard a rapid scratching and thumping at the door, and then a whine, and a low bark. Frowning, he put down his tea and opened it to find a huge, shaggy black dog.
As the dog scurried over the threshold of the tiny little cottage, he transformed into a man, stumbling and grasping hold of the front of Remus’s robes, panting in exhaustion. ‘What are you-?’
‘It’s happened,’ Sirius babbled, his eyes mad looking. ‘Remus, it’s happened-’
‘What’s hap-?’ Remus began, baffled.
‘We should have killed him! We should have ignored Harry and fucking killed him-’
‘Peter?’ asked Remus, watching as Sirius paced madly, his every movement jerky and sudden, gripping at his own hair. ‘Sirius, calm down, tell me-’
‘I knew it, I knew something like this would happen, this is exactly why I came back, this is exactly why we should have fucking killed him-’
‘What’s he done?’ asked Remus, his stomach turning icy as he tried to ake sense of his hysterical friend. Sirius rubbed his hands over his face, and with a sudden, painful growl, thumped his fist against Remus’s kitchen wall.
Remus winced, and then carefully approached him, taking him by the shoulders. ‘What’s happened? Sit down…’
He guided Sirius to the kitchen table and sat him down, flicking his wand at the kettle to get it boiling again. ‘What are you doing here? I thought you were staying up near Hogsmead to keep an eye on - is Harry all right?’ he asked sharply. ‘Has something happened with the Tournament?’
Sirius leant his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands. Remus gripped his shoulders tightly, leaning down and staring, with increasing dread, at the pale fingers covering his face.
‘Sirius? Is Harry all right?’ Remus repeated, loudly and clearly.
Sirius then said possibly the least reassuring words Remus had ever heard. ‘He’s alive, somehow.’
Even though it was early in the morning (his newspaper hadn’t even arrived yet), Remus sensed that this conversation would require something strong than tea. He had been saving his bottle of firewhiskey - what for, he never really worked out, but now seemed a good a time as any. He summoned it over, along with two glasses, but Sirius seized it and took a swig straight from the bottle.
‘What’s happened?’ Remus asked quietly.
Sirius swallowed, and looked sullenly down at the battered old table. ‘The Order of the Phoenix is being reformed,’ he said hollowly. There was a beat of stunned, dreadful silence. ‘He’s back.’
‘Lord Voldemort?’ Remus asked, faintly. Sirius nodded. Remus sat perfectly still for a moment. The terror didn’t wash over him like a wave, but silently and swiftly crept up, like the tide unexpectedly cutting him off from shore. He took the bottle from Sirius, and drank too.
‘Tell me exactly what has happened,’ he said firmly, after the burning sensation lessened in his throat.
Sirius gave a shuddering, quiet sob, leaning his head into his hand and closing his eyes. Remus grasped his shoulder tightly, an unpleasant sense of impending doom twisting in his chest.
‘Sirius,’ he prompted, urgently.
Sirius told him.
Remus listened, his lips parted in horror, his grip growing tighter and tighter on Sirius’s arm as, in a low, shaking voice, he told him what Harry had witnessed. At times they paused, to soften their emotions with firewhiskey, falling into silence as Remus imagined, vividly, the bright boy that had eaten chocolate with such fierce determination before continuing to learn the Patronus charm, with the same expression James had had when he was studying to be an animagus, who had given Lily’s exact withering glance whenever a Slytherin said something stupid or unpleasant in his class, who had, according to Sirius, screamed into the night as he was tortured.
‘You’re right,’ Remus muttered viciously. ‘We should have killed Peter.’
‘I will, one day,’ growled Sirius. ‘I’m going to look him right in the eyes as I do it. Forget wands, I want my hands round his throat, it’s all he deserves.’
‘He was our friend, Sirius,’ Remus groaned. ‘I don’t understand it… I don’t understand how he could…’
‘After everything James did for him,’ Sirius spat. ‘And he’s the spitting image - and Peter watched and laughed with the rest of them last night.’
Remus didn’t want to think of it anymore. ‘How did Harry get away?’
Sirius explained Priori Incantatum. ‘…And then he said that James came. Told him what to do. Told him to break the connection and run to the cup. Then when he did, they surrounded Voldemort so he couldn’t see.’
Remus sighed heavily, and drank again. ‘Of course he did,’ he replied hoarsely. ‘Of course James would do that. That sounds exactly like him.’
‘Seems to me,’ said Sirius, a little loudly, ‘that he… You know, he knew what was going on. Knew what to tell Harry so he could escape.’ His face screwed up; he seemed to be trying very hard to keep his voice level. ‘So he knows how much I’ve let him down.’
‘Yes - I’ve let him down. Harry was… he’ll never be… I…’ Sirius let out a great, growling groan of despair, sinking his head onto the table. ‘What use have I been? I’ve calmly watched him walk into a trap, I was sat in a cave while he was getting tortured-
‘He’s safe now,’ Remus told him firmly.
‘For now,’ Sirius corrected bitterly.
‘Yes, for now. If the Order is regrouping, we’ll need to-’
‘Word’s already spreading,’ said Sirius abruptly. ‘That’s why I was sent to you. I went to old Dung and Figgy first.’
Remus raised an eyebrow. ‘Must have been quite an experience for them.’
‘Figgy already knew about me - apparently, Dumbledore was worried I’d turn up in Surrey last summer so clued her in. Disturbingly Dung seemed ready to help me even before I could explain I was innocent - tried to charge me 100 galleons to stay with him.’
Remus tutted irritably. ‘Well, at least you know it was definitely Dung.’
‘He’d have only taken the money and then let the Ministry know I was there anyway,’ said Sirius. He rubbed at his eyes again. ‘Dumbledore told me to lie low with you.’
‘Oh,’ said Remus awkwardly. ‘Did he?’
Sirius looked up at him curiously, and, feeling his cheeks warm rapidly, Remus jerked his head to the cardboard boxes piled up in the corner behind him. ‘I’m only here another week. I’ve been evicted again.’
‘Non-payment of rent,’ said Remus wryly. ‘I knew it was coming.’
‘Where will you go?’
‘I’ll find somewhere.’
Sirius stared at him for a very long time, apparently considering something. Remus, who had nothing more to add, simply drank more firewhiskey, pleased that the lightheadedness it gave him made him stop thinking about Harry laughing at the back of his class with Ron.
‘Come and stay with me,’ said Sirius eventually.
‘In your cave?’ asked Remus lightly. ‘I may have to, I suppose - is there anywhere for my mugs?’
‘In my parents’ old place,’ said Sirius.
Remus’s eyes flicked over to meet Sirius’s. ‘I seem to remember you vowing to never set foot in that place again,’ he said.
‘Well, obviously I’d rather not,’ said Sirius, something dark crossing his face. ‘And I expect it’s a total wreck by now, but it is mine, technically. And there’s loads of room. Space for you, and space for Harry when he’s not at school - clearly I can’t look after him from a sodding cave in Hogsmead, can I?’
‘Sirius, I can’t-’ began Remus hesitantly.
‘Come on, Moony, don’t be proud. If Voldemort’s back we’re going to have to focus on what’s coming, not constantly moving you up and down the country or trying to hide me in caves. And it’s got to be better than this dump.’
‘Hey,’ said Remus, his mouth twitching into a smile as he looked around his tiny ex-miners cottage. ‘This has been one of my nicer homes, thank you.’
Sirius scowled around it. ‘It’s quaint, I suppose. And I expect Grimmauld Place is currently an actual dump.’ He looked back at Remus. ‘But we could sort it out… give Harry… something. The house has plenty of protections on it as it is, we could always add more for him-’
‘Has Dumbledore said he can live with you?’ asked Remus gently. ‘Because I know Molly Weasley’s tried a few times-’
‘I’m his godfather,’ said Sirius stiffly. ‘If you think, after everything that happened last night, I’m just going to-’
‘All right,’ said Remus soothingly. ‘We’ll sort it out. Throw ourselves back into the Order, eh? Like old times.’
‘The meetings are going to be very strange,’ said Sirius faintly, ‘without James in them.’