- The Dark Arts
- Remus Lupin/Sirius Black
- Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs
- Darkfic Action
- The First War Against Voldemort (Cir. 1970-1981)
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 12/06/2008Updated: 12/09/2008Words: 13,767Chapters: 4Hits: 4,737
Chapter 04 - A Personal Target
- Chapter Summary:
- Four changes to two when James leaves, but then Sirius finds out who killed the Potters....
For two weeks, it looked like James might really manage to maintain his distance. After a week of silence, Sirius sent him a letter. Camilla, my owl, returned with the missive still sealed. I composed a second one, saying we accepted his decision and would still like to be friends. After waiting another week, I sent it. That one too came back unread. Peter reported that James had closed his floo.
Things might have gone on that way for a while, but a few days after that unsuccessful letter, I started to head home via the Leaky Cauldron, and spotted a familiar head of messy hair bent over a pint at a table in the corner. I bought a pint of my own and headed over, casting a subtle privacy spell before slipping quietly into the free seat across from him.
"Are you all right?"
James jerked to alertness and spent a moment staring. "Oh," he said. "You."
"Sorry," I answered. "Not your favorite person right now, I know. I miss you, though."
"You used to be the nice one." He was on the edge of drunk. "Don't understand how you could do it."
I had thought about this, fortunately, in the wake of his dismay. I knew I wouldn't get many chances to reconnect with him.
"I was never the nice one," I said gently. "I was the not-nasty one."
He looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "And the difference, Socrates?"
That was good. He was amused, at least. "You and Sirius take everything personally. You looked at that child, and you saw the son you gave up, and needed to protect him. Sirius looked at him and saw a Death Eater's spawn -- practically vermin. I just saw a stranger, too young to even separate 'me' from 'them,' but old enough to be used against us."
His eyes closed. "Don't you care?"
I bit my lip, using the pain to collect my composure against the betrayal in his voice. "Of course I do. But I care the most for my friends. A stranger is nothing if weighed against you and Peter and Sirius."
His eyes opened again and he looked down at his beer. "I can't do it -- not after that."
That was what I had been waiting for. I reached across the table, forcing my hand to stop just short of his arm. "That's fine. We accept that. We'll even lie to you, if you need to not know what's going on. Just don't cut us out, James. We miss you."
He shifted his arm forward, tacit permission to touch him, which I took.
"Lily won't talk to me. I've tried telling her that things are different now, but I don't know what to say, and she doesn't believe me."
I grinned. "Tell her you've stopped letting Sirius run your life."
He stared at me for a moment. "That sounds like we were ... I don't know ... lovers?"
"So? Maybe that will make her curious enough to ask."
He laughed slightly and toasted me with his beer. "Still think you've gone round the twist."
"Probably. But if I hadn't, I wouldn't have Sirius, now, would I?"
I was just getting back to the table, new drinks in hand, when the grate flared and Sirius stepped out of it. He looked around, saw me, and then halfway to me, saw James. He nearly ran the rest of the way.
James glanced down, but Sirius caught at his arm, speaking quickly. "James, look -- I'm not the Dark Lord, and you're perfectly welcome to resign -- you can do that. But please don't -- it has to mean something!"
There was an embarrassed silence. Slowly, James looked up. "Yeah," he said. "Missed you too."
Sirius yanked over a chair from the next table, straddled it, and took a swallow of my beer.
"How've you been?"
With James, of course, we lost Peter. That was inconvenient, but not insurmountable. Yes, it had been simple to have an animagus rat to levitate through upper windows, but Sirius knew any number of unlocking charms and wove them, with luck charms, into various devices. Over the next month, he and I were very active, perhaps to prove we could be. We occasionally met James, although he did not visit us anymore.
One night, Sirius came home from an evening with the Prewitt twins and woke me with an insistent kiss.
"Hm?" I struggled for awareness. I had fallen asleep on the couch, and Sirius was kissing me.... "Someone get you worked up?"
"Fabian and Gideon had news."
"Oh?" I was almost awake now. New targets didn't usually make Sirius aggressively amorous, but by now he had straddled my lap and was sucking at my ear.
"Mm. Yeah, they caught a bit of conversation. They know who killed the Potters."
I shoved him off. "WHAT?"
He grinned unrepentantly at me. "The Lestranges, at least the brothers and maybe even my cousin who's married to one of them. I'll happily kill them all, to be sure. Shall we invite James?"
I shook my head. "No. He's trying to get Lily back -- let him."
"But he'd want to...."
"And we're not going to tempt him. We'll tell him afterwards." I stood up. "Did you do any research?"
Sirius laughed. "In the past twenty minutes? No. We can start tomorrow."
"All right. Let's get to bed."
He yanked me back towards him and nipped at my neck. "Bed is good. Just don't expect to sleep."
We discovered that Rabastan Lestrange lived alone, so we decided to target him first, and then try to take out Rodolphus and Bellatrix -- the cousin -- in the same night. Using a strategy that had worked for us before, we planned to wait for a night when all of them were likely to have been out late, and attack soon after. We didn't know how they kept Saturdays, but Halloween was coming up, and You-Know-Who tended to use his servants to full effect on that night. We started over to Rabastan's place when we thought it was late enough. The job was textbook. We left his body still lying in his bed and headed out to take on the couple.
Getting in seemed easy, but it must have been a trap. When we opened the door, we were hit by simultaneous disarming hexes. Before I could recover, a hand had grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled me close, and a wand was pressed painfully into my neck.
"Well, well, what have we here?" The woman holding me looked very like Sirius in hair and build, but her features were coarser, and hard with pleased cruelty. She licked her lips as she looked from me to Sirius. "Could that be my bloodtraitor cousin? I don't recall inviting you, vermin."
Her face twisted as she spat out the last word. I tried to stay limp. Sirius wasn't moving, I'm sure because of the threat to me.
"Watch this one, love." She shoved me at Rodolphus, a large, dull-looking man. I expect that whatever these two did, she planned. Rodolphus didn't feel the need to grab me -- he just kept his wand trained on my chest. I hoped that Sirius wouldn't hesitate to change form and attack. Having come here on our own suddenly seemed the height of folly.
Sirius screamed and fell. I'd read about the Cruciatus curse, of course, including first-hand accounts, but it was one thing to know about it, and another to see Sirius, with his ridiculously high pain tolerance and not inconsiderably machismo, falling to the floor in spasms of agony.
I tore my attention away, looking back at my guard -- and discovered that he, also, was intently watching Sirius writhe. In an instant, I was a wolf, and launching myself at the woman's back.
I crashed into her, and she went sprawling. Her wand shot out of her grip and skittered across the floor, and I raked at her with my claws, and then seized her shoulder in my teeth, pulling her between me and the shouting man. It would be difficult for him to target me with the two of us so close and moving, but I wasn't willing to be any more vulnerable than necessary. As soon as I was oriented, I pushed her forward again, changed quickly, and grabbed my wand and Sirius's wand from beside her. I was putting up a Shielding charm even as I turned, which no doubt saved my life. The hex from Rodolphus sizzled around the edges of it and burnt a stray lock of her hair.
We fought back and forth, hexes and charms, while I desperately hoped Sirius would recover before Bellatrix reached her wand. She was trailing blood as she pulled herself across the floor to it. I decided direct attacks against Rodolphus wouldn't do it -- the man's defenses were too good.
"Reducto!" He had a Shielding charm between us, but I hadn't aimed at him. He didn't have time to adjust his guard before the ceiling above him exploded and rained down in chunks. As it covered him in plaster, he bellowed in rage, the sound going higher with pain as sections of wooden beams followed. Beneath that cacophony, to my immense relief, I heard a familiar "Stupefy!"
After disarming the man, or possibly his corpse, I slowly straightened and turned.
Bellatrix was gaping, not insensate. A glance at Sirius explained the imprecision -- he had cast with her wand. Slowly, like an old man on a cold morning, he rose to his feet. His eyes locked on hers, he took the wand and snapped it over his knee.
"Here." I passed him his own. He looked better as soon as he was holding it. With a deliberate, vicious stalk, he walked straight up to Bellatrix, first casting a Binding hex on her and then bringing her fully alert.
"You filth! You dog!"
She hadn't been expecting Sirius to laugh -- at least not that way, with real amusement. He muted her voice, so that she could speak, but not loudly.
"Cousin." She was wearing a knife at her side; he drew it and cut her sleeve. We were not surprised to see the Dark Lord's Mark there. "Now, now," he chided. "Don't you know that Blacks are not servants?
She spat, hitting him in the face. "To serve my lord is an honor the likes of which you will never know. You are a disgrace to the family, with your half-blood friends, and your Muggle --"
He talked over her. "You are going to die. First, though, I want you to know why. Remus, make sure the other one is dead, will you?"
After moving a few of the larger chunks of debris, I found that Rodolphus was still twitching, so I cast a Freezing charm on his lungs. "Done," I called back.
Bellatrix was furious, but I didn't care. I kept lookout and listened while Sirius told her about the Potters, about how much better they were than his parents, about how he loved their son like a brother.
"They're dead now," she taunted. "Dead and molding and full of worms, and you can't bring them back!" She cackled madly, and he slapped her.
"Poor, ickle Sirius. Does he miss his second mummy? Does --"
Quite suddenly, she gasped and spasmed. Wary of traps, I moved forward, but she was twisting in obvious pain.
"Master, master! Please, master, my lord, my --"
Sirius grabbed her wrist and pulled her arm out. The Mark had flared to a dirty red, but even as we watched, it faded, first to brown and then to grey, until it was a barely perceptible shape in white, like an old scar.
I nodded, although I thought weird didn't half cover it. Bellatrix began to thrash again, wild to break free of her bonds. "My master! I need to go to him -- I need to find him! Master --"
"Has no use for your corpse," Sirius interrupted harshly. "Now," he said, "the dog is going to kill you."
And he did.
We lingered there -- I'm not sure why. Oh, I know what we did -- Sirius wanted to look for information, and then he wanted to have sex -- but it wasn't the sort of foolishness we usually indulged in. Time around a job was time that you could get caught. Still, I fucked him with indulgent leisure across his cousin's bed, and he screamed with delight, as he earlier had with pain. It was the best remedy for the Cruciatus that I had at hand.
Finally, in the first light of dawn, Sirius let out a yawn, and I suggested that it might be time for our own bed.
As our living room swerved into focus around us, it was clear that something was wrong. The place was swarming with people -- Aurors! Several were clustered around James, wands drawn, and Peter was standing to the side, wringing his hands.
"HERE!" James shouted, over the first syllable of a Disarming charm, and Peter yelled "NO!"
Predictably, the Aurors' attention flicked briefly to them, and Sirius Apparated us right back out. Looking over his shoulder, I had half a breath in which to see James become a great stag, his head already lowering. He had no intention of escaping.
(I didn't tell Sirius that until much later -- he would have gone straight back to die by James's side, I'm sure.)
The Apparation brought us to our hideaway -- our private one, fortunately, because there were no doubt Aurors at the old bolthole for the Free-Blood Guards. From there, we used the portkey that Sirius had lifted from Malfoy Manor. Charms hadn't told us where it went, only that it was a long way and over the water. It landed us in a nice stocked cave, but we couldn't be certain our travel wasn't recorded somewhere, so we raided the cache for two blankets, the spare wand, and some water flasks, and headed out to find a refuge of our own choosing. We spent the light of day in a hay-shed, sharing the sleep of the dog tired, and woke refreshed and undiscovered.
Despite the risk, Sirius insisted on tracking down a wizarding paper before we moved on. He did it with proper stealth, fortunately, because even in France -- that was where we'd ended up -- the business made the front of the International section, below the fold, including photographs: a candid shot of Peter, distraught, and an old portrait photo of James.
He had died in that charge. Perhaps the worse shock was that Peter had betrayed us in return for leniency, apparently hoping to leave James out of it. That was a bit absurd, for while we certainly would not have mentioned James if he hadn't come up, I doubt he would have stayed silent through our trial. Perhaps Peter was hoping that we would die being taken, as James did. The tenor of the article was that an Auror reverting to lethal force was understandable when she had just seen her partner gored to death inches from her, and I suspect that a charging dog, or wolf, would have met much the same fate.
James, according to the article, had walked into the stakeout, waving a news clipping of the latest Death Eater murder -- Lily Evans -- and shouting that we were going to get those bastards. It was somewhat incriminating, and the Aurors had been distracted by the business of taking him into custody when we arrived. The photo above the fold was Lily with the baby -- James's baby -- not because of the association with James, but because in the intervening day, it had come out that she had been killed, not by Death Eaters, but by You-Know-Who himself, and while she had died, the child had survived, reputedly destroying You-Know-Who in the backlash. The hold of the Dark Lord on Britain was broken, not by James and us, but by this wisp of a son whom he'd never met.
That's the story, to the best of my memory. In stark black and white, it looks worse than it felt at the time. My next task is to distill the salient points out into letters -- one for Dumbledore, to whom I feel I owe a confession, and one for the child, when he is old enough. The problem is, I am having trouble imagining what age that will be. I expect it would be good for him, when he is young, to know that his father did not leave them for want of caring, but because of it. Still, I do not want to inure an innocent child to the idea of killing people. Perhaps I should write two letters, one for when he is six or seven, and one for ten years on. I expect Gringotts would take them and move them to his vault in the years that I specified.
At any rate, that must wait for later. Sirius is back from that horrible bar he frequents, and has called up the question of would I do 'our specialty' for money? I'm not sure, but whatever my answer, I suspect I'm in for a ride.
That's it! I hope you enjoyed the story that has been described as "The Marauders as a terrorist hit squad". I have occasionally speculated as to what Harry's life would be like in this universe, but I don't expect to write any of it.