Book Four and Three Quarters
by Maeve "Mab" Roberts

~

< >"Moon - Moony?" Sirius gasped, and Harry looked curiously over his shoulder. The only person he knew Sirius could possibly be talking to was Professor Lupin, his old Defence Against Dark Arts teacher, and, sure enough, there at the door stood Remus Lupin - wizard and werewolf. Harry was about to greet him enthusiastically when he stopped himself, as did Ron and Hermione: there was something wrong.

< >Because the normally slightly scruffy professor was looking even more disheveled than usual, and as ill as he had done when they had first met him; as Harry peered closer he saw to his shock that Lupin was leaning heavily against the door frame, cradling his left arm in his right. His face was bruised and scratched, and his clothing torn and bloody. Harry wondered what had happened to him. The only thing about his appearance that was in any way improved from the last time Harry had seen him was his robes; they looked new, and ever so slightly too large for him.

< >"Moony?" repeated Sirius.

< >"Hello, Sirius," replied Lupin wearily.

< >It was at least a full two minutes before Sirius regained his composure enough to remember to ask his friend in, during which time Harry, Ron and Hermione had each been wondering whether they ought to remind him of it, and Lupin had been alternately eyeing the interior of the small room and looking back over his shoulder into the dark anxiously.

< >"Er - come in," said Sirius hastily, as he realized he'd been standing staring. Lupin limped forwards.

< >Harry and the others watched him come. It looked as though he had been in a fight and then dragged through several hedges backwards; a bandage was becoming unravelled underneath his sleeve, and he winced it seemed with every step he took.

< >"Remus!" cried Sirius, as the smaller man stumbled slightly. "Sit down. Whatever happened?"

< >"Severus Snape," replied Lupin, sinking down into a chair at the table and smiling at Ron, Hermione and Harry. "How are you all?" he added.

< >Ron and Harry were still gawking at the combined sight of their old professor and mention of Snape's name, but Hermione said they were all fine, and would he like some tea.

< >"Yes, please," said Lupin. Sirius had re-bolted the door, and now sat down at the table opposite his old friend.

< >"What did Snape do?" he asked, and Harry shivered at the sound of his voice. He nearly - but not quite - felt a bit sorry for Snape. Any sympathy he might have had, however, disappeared quickly with another glance at his battered ex-professor.

< >Lupin shrugged himself into a more comfortable position, and looked tired. Hermione was busy making tea, and Harry and Ron eased themselves quietly into seats to listen to the professor's story.

< >"I was actually looking for you," he began. "Dumbledore sent me an owl last week telling me to get in contact with you and give you a message, that you were here, with Harry… It took me a while to find you, I must say. I have a letter, Sirius. Anyway, it was the full moon two nights ago," he continued, and Sirius looked up sharply. "And of course now I'm no longer teaching - or doing anything else, for that matter - I no longer have access to the wolfsbane potion. So usually I just lock myself in somewhere, or go somewhere where I know there won't be many people about. I usually manage to avoid being seen, but this time - well, this time there was Snape. I think he'd been looking for me. Anyway, I was at the edge of a forest - I hadn't transformed yet - and suddenly there he was, with two other men I'd never seen before. He told me to follow him and he would brew me up some wolfsbane, and I really didn't have much choice but to follow; the men with him were rather like an adult version of Crabbe and Goyle, Harry. I didn't have much time: I only had a few minutes until the moon rose, and I didn't want to hurt anyone. So Snape took me to an old deserted castle and told me to wait in a room while he went to prepare the potion. Only he locked it behind him, and I realized there wouldn't be enough time for me to drink it, even if he made it straight away."

< >Lupin stopped for a minute, and toyed idly with a mat on the table. "It wasn't big," he said after a while. "About - well, about a quarter of the size of this room, I suppose. I ought to be grateful to Snape, perhaps; at least he made sure I didn't hurt anyone."

< >"He just wanted to see you tear round the room biting yourself, you mean," sneered Sirius, frowning.

< >A strange and rather sad look flickered across Lupin's face; he didn't contradict Sirius, and Harry knew that too much had gone on between him and Snape for the Potions master ever to have locked the professor in the room merely from the goodness of his heart. The room must have been tiny: the kitchen they were sat in now wouldn't have comprised of half the size of a normal one, and even Harry, who had spent much of his early life in a cupboard under the Dursleys' stairs couldn't imagine being locked up in something a quarter of the size of it. And for a werewolf - well, Harry knew it was natural instinct for werewolves to attack whatever there was to attack, and if there was nothing else there Lupin would just have bitten himself. Harry guessed that was where much of the blood that stained Lupin's clothes was from.

< >"Which I did," acknowledged the professor mildly. "It was just like being back in the Shrieking Shack. Well, when I'd worn myself out I imagine I just curled up somewhere and laid still. I remember Snape was there, poking at me with a stick or something… he must have thought I was asleep, and…"

< >"And?" prompted Sirius, as Lupin trailed off.

< >"And he was wrong."

< >There was something decidedly wolfish about Professor Lupin's brief grin as he said this, and Harry found himself almost laughing. But the smile faded quickly, and as Lupin took the tea Hermione offered him gratefully, wrapping his long fingers round the cup, Harry noticed he was shaking.

< >"I don't think I bit him," he continued. "At least, I know nothing tasted as unpleasant as I'd always imagined Snape would… But I think I tried, and that would have given Snape all the excuse he needed to keep me there - he probably told the men he was with that I was a dangerous beast, in need of …subduing."

< >Hermione frowned. "What did they do?" she asked.

< >"Subdued me," replied Lupin lightly. "And afterwards I think I must have been either unconscious or fallen asleep; anyway, the next time I was aware of anything, I was back to human and tied up, and there was Snape standing there looking at me."

< >He broke off, to take a long sip of tea, sighing and leaning back into his chair as if he felt suddenly better.

< >"What did he do?" asked Ron, drinking some of his own tea and grimacing; it obviously contained more than just tealeaves.

< >"He made the same mistake as he did when I was transformed," replied Professor Lupin. "He thought I was still asleep, and prodded me again with something just to make sure. Only this time I didn't move, and he started to untie me."

< >He drank some more tea, and Hermione leaned forward over the table impatiently.

< >"So how did you escape?" she demanded. "How did Snape let you go?"

< >"I - er - I knocked him out," said Lupin.

< >"You did what?" exclaimed Ron, delighted. "Knocked him out? Excellent!"

< >"It was quite satisfying," admitted Lupin, rubbing his knuckles absently. "I waited until he'd finished cutting the rope, then hit him. Unfortunately I wasn't quite up to flooring him straight away, and we had a bit of a scuffle - but neither of us used wands; didn't have the opportunity to get them out, I suppose. He was angry about something - really angry; I don't think it was anything to do with me. Anyway… to cut a long story short, I knocked him out, found to my delight that he conveniently had a small flask of polyjuice potion on him, tied him up, swapped our robes and was able to escape looking like him. Fortunately that wore off after a while."

< >"Thank God," muttered Ron, under his breath.

< >"So, I splinted myself up as best I could - you know me, Sirius, I was never the best at healing charms - and found my way here. I wonder what Snape did when he woke up. Tried to follow me, I expect. I'd better leave soon - if he comes here, I don't want any of you getting into trouble because of me - "

< >"Don't be stupid," said Sirius harshly.

< >Hermione glanced anxiously at him, and the others exchanged worried looks. Sirius was trying to peel back the arm of Lupin's robe to see what damage had been done to his arm, and Lupin was batting his hand away while he attempted to draw his friend's attention back to the rest of his news.

< >"That's not important, Sirius," he said impatiently. "I came here looking for you to give you Dumbledore's letter. Here," he reached a hand inside his robes, delved around for a while, and finally handed Sirius a worn-looking envelope. Sirius tore it open, and scanned through Dumbledore's writing, his face growing darker and darker.

< >"Have you - " he began, when suddenly for the second time that night there was a pounding at the door. Five heads jerked up simultaneously, and then looked at each other in concern.

< >"Who - " started Ron, in a whisper, but Sirius waved a hand at him to be quiet. The banging continued, and then there was a voice.

< >"Black! Sirius Black," it shouted.

< >"Snape," hissed Sirius, and leapt to his feet to wrench the door open. He was not as quick, however, as Lupin, who anticipated this move and somehow contrived to place himself between the door and his friend, clutching a handful of Black's robes as he did so.

< >"Sirius," he said, warningly. "Snape is on our side. Remember that. He was acting in my best interests when he locked me in that room - he just took it a little further than necessary, and after what happened at Hogwarts that time can you really blame him? We have to forget our differences now. We have a common goal, and fighting between ourselves is not going to help us achieve it." He released his friend abruptly as Sirius swept him aside, and grabbed hold of the door handle. Snape, who had apparently been leaning against lock and listening, stumbled in.

< >"Black," he gasped, and Harry, Ron and Hermione were delighted to notice that he had a tremendous black eye spreading across the left-hand side of his face.

< >"Snape," growled Sirius in return, snatching hold of his collar at the same time. Snape looked up furiously at him, and pushed his hands away.

< >"Where is Lupin?" he demanded. "Get off me, you - " He emphasised his words with another push at Sirius, who returned it wholeheartedly.

< >Lupin stood up again from where he'd stumbled into the wall, and had reached the fighting men in a few long strides. Grasping Black's shoulders, he hauled him away from Snape with a strength Harry would have hardly thought him capable of in his present condition, and now stood facing Severus Snape, hands against the man's chest, restraining him from going any further. Snape looked like a dog straining at a leash to reach Sirius, his eyes fairly bulging, and despite the situation Harry couldn't stop himself from laughing at the image. The laughter was contagious, and much to Snape's anger, Ron, Hermione and even Sirius joined in.

< >"Shut up, Potter," Snape snarled at him, changing the object of his focus to Harry and forcing Lupin to quickly readjust his hold on him. The laughter stopped, and Sirius started towards the Potions master again. Harry had the distinct feeling that things would have deteriorated rapidly if Lupin hadn't at that moment fallen to the floor, clutching his injured arm, and lost his hold on Snape. Snape, who had been almost leaning against Lupin, fell forwards too, and the pair of them landed in a tangle on the floor. Lupin looked exhausted.

< >"Enough," he said, holding up his unhurt arm with a sudden degree of authority that silenced even Snape. "Enough." He got to his feet, pulling Snape up after him, who quickly snatched himself away from his hold. "We have work to do. There is no time for this. Severus, I presume you have come here for the same reason as I have?"

< >"Yes," said Snape sulkily, massaging his cheek and glowering at Harry and the others.

< >"Good," said Lupin. "Then I suggest we get on with it. Sirius, if you could perhaps just re-splint my arm quickly, I shall attend to it more seriously later. Harry, Ron, Hermione; I'm sorry for this… perhaps you could…"

< >All of a sudden, he stopped talking, and his face screwed up in pain.

< >"Sorry," he repeated, faintly, before collapsing into Snape, and the potions master - perhaps just out of sheer instinct - caught him before he fell to the floor. Looking rather confused at his own action, Snape promptly let him go, and there was a nasty crack as some part of Lupin made contact with the stone flags. Sirius glared.

< >Harry exchanged an uneasy glance with Ron and Hermione. Lupin had been the only thing as far as he could tell that was preventing Sirius and Snape from murdering each other, and with him unconscious…

< >"Fix him up," said Snape to Sirius, with surprisingly little rancour. "And I'll brew him a restorative potion. We can see to this… business later, when he's back to normal."

< >Sirius looked as though he was about to disagree, or come up with something to say to Snape, but with one look at Harry and the others standing anxiously round his friend he shrugged and started towards them. Snape busied himself with the fire and small cauldron, and Harry stood aside to let his godfather attend to Lupin.

< >"Come on," he said quietly to the others, "Let's go for a walk."

< >"Potter!" called Snape, as they reached the door. Harry turned round slowly, his face expressionless.

< >"What?" he asked.

< >Snape hesitated - looking like he was about to say something really scathing - then shrugged. "I need some dock," he said. "And also some willow. See if you can find me some - if you remember what it looks like."

< >Harry nodded curtly, and walked out with Ron and Hermione behind him. He was only too glad to leave the tensions that had been mounting in the room, albeit slightly worried about leaving Sirius there with only Snape and an unconscious Lupin for company. But Lupin had said Snape was on their side, and he knew Dumbledore trusted him… At least now they had a reason to be outside, and they looked for the dock and willow Snape had requested. Dark though it was, and even with the possibility of the howling thing being out there somewhere, the night was preferable to being in a confined space with Severus Snape.

< >"I only wish I knew what was going on," said Ron, peering at the ground for the dock so intently Hermione had to grab him quickly back to stop him walking into a tree. He shook himself free, looked at her curiously, and went back to stooping before actually managing to walk into another one instead. Hermione rolled her eyes, and snapped some willow twigs from it.

< >"I think Snuffles and Professor Lupin will tell us," she said.

< >"Stop calling him that!" exclaimed Ron. "He's not a dog now - and it's a daft name, anyway."

< >"It is not!" retorted Hermione, indignantly. "He asked us to call him that."

< >"It makes him sound like some old granny's lapdog," said Ron, finally locating the dock and uprooting it rather savagely. He poked at the loose soil with his toe, and shook the earth out from where it had gone up his sleeve.

< >"That," said Hermione icily, "Is the whole point. If someone overheard us talking about him we don't want them thinking he is who he is, do we? We don't want to get him into trouble."

< >Ron it seemed couldn't think of a suitable comeback to that, and contented himself with a despairing shake of his head. "What do you think it's all about, Harry?" he asked. "Hey - Harry?"

< >Suddenly, he and Hermione looked about them in concern. Harry had disappeared.

< >"Er - Harry?" called Ron, anxiously. Silence.

< >"Harry!" The alarm was evident in their voices, now. This was a typical thing to have happen at such a time and they were, by now, used to it; but nevertheless they were still worried.

< >"Er - help?" came Harry's voice faintly, from above their heads. Startled, Ron and Hermione's heads jerked upwards - and when they saw Harry, they were hard put to it not to laugh.

< >A rope descended from the highest branches of the tree they were stood next to, and attached to the end of this rope, swinging gracefully from his left ankle, was Harry. His glasses were hanging precariously from one ear, and he looked rather embarrassed.

< >"Wow," said Ron, sounding impressed. "How did you get up there?"

< >"I don't think that's the issue here," said Hermione, nudging Ron in the ribs. "I think the question is - how is he going to get down?"

< >"I don't know," said Harry, well aware that his two friends were laughing at him. "But any suggestions are welcome… the sooner the better, please…"

< >"It must be some kind of trap," said Hermione to Ron. "Any ideas?"

< >Ron considered. "Welllll…" he said. "I suppose I could climb up that tree and cut him loose… worth a go, anyway…"

< >Much to Harry's alarm, Ron began to swing himself up into the lower branches and make his way over to where he could reach the rope. Harry wondered how he could see where to go in the dark.

< >"Be careful," he said nervously. Ron beamed at him. "Oh, I will be, thanks," he said.

< >"Careful for me, not you!" snapped Harry. "I don't want to land on my head, thanks."

< >"I doubt it would make much difference," said Ron, glibly. Harry flashed a scowl at him worthy of Severus Snape.

< >"Can't you think of something else?" From where he was, the ground seemed a very long way away, and the prospect of falling onto it was not at all attractive.

< >"Well, if you don't want us to help, fine," said Ron, apparently affronted. Harry thought he was getting more and more like Fred and George by the minute. He really wasn't helping things much.

< >Ron sat astride a large branch and squinted at Harry.

< >"How did you manage to get there, really?" he said conversationally.

< >"I don't know," replied Harry, beginning to lose his patience. "One minute I was walking along listening to you complain and the next minute I was up here. I must trodden in a loop of rope or something - I dunno. Now do you think you could please get me down?"

< >But Ron seemed to enjoying every minute of it, and Harry made a mental note to thump him when - if - he got down. However, he was saved from further talk with Ron by Hermione's voice drifting up to them, sounding very pleased with itself.

< >"There's a rope down here," she said. "Tied round the trunk. I think if I just let it go - oops - "

< >She had, apparently, done just that, and Harry suddenly dropped a foot.

< >"Ugh," he said. "Ow."

< >"Wait a minute," said Ron, scrambling down the tree like a monkey. "I'll help. Hold it there, Hermione… wait - wait!"

< >Harry had promptly descended another good two or three feet, and Hermione was obviously having problems holding his weight.

< >"Why didn't you wait?" asked Ron, bemused.

< >"Well, you try holding him here like this for hours on end!" Hermione exclaimed crossly.

< >"Hours!" repeated Ron, and Harry could see him shaking his upside-down head at Hermione's exaggeration.

< >"Please…" Harry said weakly.

< >"Oh - right - hold on, then," said Ron. He took the rope from Hermione and began to lower Harry slightly more slowly.

< >All of a sudden a loud bang could be heard from the direction of Sirius's house, and Ron looked back over his shoulder nervously, letting go of Harry as he did so. Harry fell the last two or so feet and lay there sprawled in an undignified heap on the ground, glasses crushed beneath him.

< >"Oh - hello, Harry," said Ron, looking round again. "Better now?"

< >"Wonderful," muttered Harry moodily, surveying his broken glasses with distaste. He held them out mutely to Hermione, who stared back, apparently despairingly at him.

< >"Oh, Harry," she sighed. "You know we can't use magic outside Hogwarts. Honestly. You'll have to get Sirius or Lupin to fix them." Harry jammed what was left of the frames back onto his face with unnecessary vigour, and squinted.

< >"Wonder what that noise was," said Ron uneasily. "You don't think Snape's trying to kill Lupin and Sirius, do you?"

< >"I expect Sirius just turned him into a pickled onion. He likes them," said Harry. "Come on. We'd better go back."

~

< >When they returned to the small hut, they realised that matters had not improved in their absence. Remus Lupin was once again conscious, but only just, and was trying to make himself heard above the shouts of Snape and Sirius.

< >"Look what you've done to him!" Sirius was yelling furiously at the Potions master. "All because of some stupid school prank. Look at him!" Whilst he spoke, he was flinging his wand about the place angrily, causing great swathes of bandages to wrap themselves around Lupin's arm and left leg.

< >"Sirius, I don't think - " tried Lupin, pushing at the bandages and getting somewhat tangled up in them. Sirius ignored him, and continued shouting. Harry, Ron and Hermione stood in the doorway in awe, unnoticed.

< >"You're not helping him much yourself, are you Black?" retorted Snape, holding a small bottle of potion in his hand and shaking it violently as though he wished it were Sirius or Lupin.

< >"Severus, will you - "

< >Again, Lupin was ignored. The bandages were beginning to mummify him, and Harry and the others had stuff their fists into their mouths to stop themselves from giggling. Apparently impatient, Lupin took his own wand and muttered something at the reams of white cloth, and all of a sudden they flew back to Sirius and Snape and began to wrap themselves around their mouths, creating an effective gag. Both men turned to stare at Lupin in astonishment. Neither could speak to summon a charm of any kind, and Lupin sunk down into his chair looking spent.

< >"If you could both stop bickering for a while," he said. "Thank you. Harry, Ron, Hermione - come in, and shut the door. Now. Sirius, Severus - for pity's sake just shake hands and stop shouting at each other - we don't have the time for it… and my head aches enough as it is. Shake!" He shouted the last word, and to Harry's amusement both Sirius and Snape were startled into obeying him. Lupin grinned a crooked grin, and waved his wand at them.

< >"Releaso," he said. The bandages fell to the floor, and Sirius and Snape glared at him, looking so alike that Harry wondered briefly whether anyone would be fool enough to point out their similarities. Fortunately though no one was, and Lupin continued.

< >"We need to act fast," he said. "Can you give me whatever it is you've brewed up, please, Severus?"

< >"I need some dock and willow first," replied Snape reluctantly, and even more reluctantly took the missing ingredients from Hermione's waiting hand to add them to the small bottle. He said something quietly under his breath to it, and steam rose through the cork. Harry and Ron looked at him suspiciously, but Lupin took it when Snape offered it to him and downed it quickly, grimacing as he did so.

< >"Eugh," he said, wincing. No one failed to notice the rather smug look that Snape hastily buried at this response.

< >"Remus," said Sirius quietly, apparently weighing up his friend's state of health and looking - not surprisingly, thought Harry - slightly doubtful, "Will you be well enough to return to Hogwarts?"

< >Hogwarts! This was getting even more curious, thought Harry. What on earth was going on?

< >Professor Lupin nodded. "If you'll just bandage me up a bit, Snuffles," he replied, with a slight grin at Ron. "Though not quite as enthusiastically as last time, please." He stood up. "I suppose we'd better swap robes back, Severus," he added, shrugging painfully out of the thick black cloak he was wearing and handing it to Snape, who willingly flung the injured man's own tattered garments back at him.

< >Harry couldn't quite hide his sharp intake of breath at seeing Lupin without his robes on; Snape's clothing had had the effect of making him seem slightly bulkier than he actually was. Lupin was almost stick thin, as thin as Sirius had been the first time they'd met him after he'd escaped from Azkaban, and his shirt was torn and bloodstained beyond recognition.

< >"You bastard," hissed Sirius, before Lupin or anyone else had the chance to stop him. "Look what you've done to him! You're meant to be on our side… You…"

< >He was shaking with rage, and Harry suddenly sensed that the whole thing may well blow up in a minute. Lupin was close to passing the point where he would be able to play the role of peacemaker any longer - and he shouldn't have to in the first place, Harry thought with a small burst of anger. He was just about to speak when Hermione stepped in instead.

< >"Look at you both!" she shouted shrilly. "Two grown men bickering like schoolboys when all you both really want is to get him - " she jerked a thumb at Lupin, " - better. Well why don't you just do it? He's fit to collapse in a moment!"

< >Everyone turned to stare at her in astonishment, and she turned a little pink.

< >"Well, it's true," she added defensively. Snape glowered at her like he wanted to strangle her and Sirius was also apparently not particularly pleased at the interruption, but Harry and Ron chimed in as well.

< >"Professor Lupin's going to fall over soon," predicted Ron. "Look, see? He just did."

< >"He's broken the teapot," said Harry, looking.

< >"And the chair," added Hermione.

< >"Yes, OK, fine," said Sirius, hurrying to drag his friend upright - accompanied, much to everyone's surprise, by Snape, who took the other arm and then slapped him gently - for Snape, at least - round the face to bring him round.

< >"Hey - " began Sirius, and then stopped as Lupin woke and Harry kicked his ankles.

< >"Quiet," snapped Snape. "The potion should start to work in a moment. Why don't you bandage your pet wolf up?" But his words lacked the biting edge they'd possessed earlier, and Sirius ignored him successfully enough.

< >Sure enough, the potion did appear to be taking effect, and Lupin stood when Sirius had finished, thanked him, and drained the rest of his tea.

< >"Right," he said. "We should be off."

< >Harry glanced round at everybody. "Er - how?" he asked, voicing the thoughts of at least Ron and Hermione and possibly the others as well.

< >"Well - er - " hesitated Lupin, looking at Harry as though he was weighing him up, and Harry prepared himself for some bad news.

< >"Yes?" demanded Snape.

< >"Well we can't apparate; at least, Harry and Ron and Hermione can't, and anyway I think Voldemort is strong enough to sense that kind of magic now… He'd be onto us if we tried anything as strong as an apparating charm. I think the best thing we can do is to… walk."

< >For a moment there was a silence. Sirius opened his mouth to speak, but Snape got there before him.

< >"Fine," he said gruffly. "When do we start?"


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