A Padfoot sighting.
Inspired by an
incident on an underground train.
AN: This is one of
those wonderful stories where you get an idea, sit down at the computer and it
just flows out. It took my exactly an hour and two minutes to write this and
completely out of character with myself, I didn’t agonize over one single
sentence of it. This is dedicated to Christine, as a belated birthday present.
He really, really, really
hated the Underground.
To him it felt like a
maze, a myriad of trains and stops and people, a place where it didn’t apply
that he should always follow either wall to get out.
Perhaps it was because it
was underground, but Remus without exception lost his usually keen sense of
direction whenever he descended the stairs to a tube station. He’d gotten lost
on the Underground more than once, no matter how detailed his directions, even
if people wrote down the smallest details like ’Turn left there – there’s a
yellow wastebasket in the hall where you’re not supposed to go...’ he
usually managed to muck the directions up to no end. Sometimes when he’d
started to despair that he’d ever see the blue sky again he used directional
magic, but in a place like the Muggle Underground that was extremely perilous.
Most times, the Floo
network or a Portkey could deliver him to his destination. The rare trips on
the Underground were reserved for those times when everyone else could Apparate,
and no one had taken into consideration those who could not, or who were
forbidden to learn.
Thus it was with his
usual dry humour that he normally entered tube stations, wondering where he’d
end up this time – after all, his underground adventures had allowed him to see
a larger part of Muggle London than most other wizards knew existed – but today
he was not in the mood for humour, anymore than he was in the mood for getting
totally lost on the Underground.
He was, in fact, not in
the mood for going anywhere at all.
His transformation only
two days gone had been exceptionally bad. He was still limping and sore and
bruised. He was heartsick, homesick, basically sick of being himself, and
wishing more than anything that the Wizarding world would just go away
and forget that he ever existed.
Six months. Six months
had gone by and he still found no solace for himself. He couldn’t visit his
memories because none of them were without the presence of a traitor. He
couldn’t go to sleep because his dreams were haunted by the very same man.
Every object in his home seemed to have a memory attached. He found no reprieve
in books or in work, it felt worthless, now, when the Wizarding world was free
but he had still lost everything and everyone that had been dear to him.
And lost them to the hand
of a man whose memory he couldn’t escape.
Even the hated
Underground reminded him of the betrayal, and Remus hated it all the more for
it. He hated himself for allowing the memories to surface in his mind, memories
of Sirius, wild-eyed on an escalator, or his unquenchable curiosity at how it
Sirius had loved the Underground.
Every time Remus had been forced to travel somewhere the Muggle way, Sirius had
been delighted to do likewise – even if he didn’t need to be where Remus was
going. So Remus’ adventures on the Underground had slowly turned into crazy
escapades and for a while he’d hated the Underground a little bit less.
The hate was back full
force now, though.
The familiar Underground
wind started up, slowly, as a train came out of the tunnel and into the
station, pushing air in front of it. Remus managed to catch the direction on
front and consult his slip of paper. Correct. He entered the train,
minding the gap, and sat down in a vacant seat, staring out the window, as if
there were something extremely interesting to see.
He was supposed to stay
on for some ten stops. He wasn’t supposed to go off until at the very end of
the line. ’Can’t mess that one up, hopefully’ he thought grimly,
watching with blind eyes as people exited and entered the front of the train,
every last one of them in a hurry, trying to remember whether this was the
first or the second stop since he entered.
The train started up, and
gathered speed as it hurtled into the dark tunnel. Remus felt slightly
uncomfortable, watching a multitude of pipes and wires along the tunnel wall.
He dropped his gaze from the window, to the floor in front of him, and for a
split second he thought his heart was going to stop.
The only difference,
really, were the brown eyes that stared into Remus’ hazel ones, unblinking. If
they’d had been blue, Remus would probably have alerted Ministry of Magic
officials, secrecy in front of Muggles be damned.
The huge black dog was
lying in the aisle, next to his seat, and staring unwaveringly up at him. Then
suddenly it stood up, gave a small whine and laid his muzzle on Remus’ knee.
Remus felt his chest
contract painfully, and he drew a shaking ragged breath. The girl across the
aisle who was holding the dog’s leash looked up from her book and yanked it.
“Snuffles!” she said in
indignation “You’re not supposed to do that! I am so sorry for my dog, sir,
he is very affectionate but usually doesn’t know where to draw the line, if you
know what I mean...” She smiled apologetically.
‘I know precisely what
you mean’ Remus thought.
“I don’t mind. I am very
fond of dogs...” His voice sounded shaky, but the girl just smiled and went
back to her book.
For a few moments the dog
stared into Remus’ eyes again. It was almost like it knew that it
represented something to him. Before he could stop himself, he reached out and
fondled the dog’s ears in a familiar way. The dog – Snuffles, she’d called him
– arched to the touch, then licked his hand, then looked pleadingly up at him.
He shot the girl a sidelong glance, but she was engrossed in the book she was
reading – something by someone named ‘King’ – and didn’t notice when he leant
down and whispered almost conspiratorially to the dog:
“What do you want, eh?”
Snuffles whined. “What makes you think that I might have something for you?”
Snuffles whined again, and put his muzzle back on Remus’ knee, a gesture that
was so terribly familiar that it ached somewhere very deep, where Remus hadn’t
even noticed he’d been aching. “Okay, okay, you know, you’re terribly
persuasive...” Remus rummaged around in his bag. He thought he still had some
of those biscuits he’d bought the other day... ah, there was a pack. Shooting
another glance at the unsuspecting owner, Remus pulled out the biscuit and gave
it to the dog, who munched on it for a while, then whined, almost contentedly
and nudged Remus’ hand with his head. “Oh, very subtle. Want a scratch, do
you?” he whispered, scratching Snuffles behind the ears all the way to the next
stop, where the girl gathered up her things, smiled prettily at Remus and led
an unwilling Snuffles away from his newfound friend.
When they were out of
sight Remus took a deep breath and let his head fall back against his seat. He
berated himself silently – indulging in nostalgia like that always had nasty
repercussions. Dwelling on the "what ifs" only led to wallowing in
his own misery later on.
Much to Remus’ surprise,
neither repercussions nor wallowing showed up, and somewhere in his heart he
had to acknowledge that the wound was healing. It made him almost resentful;
after all, the pain was the only thing he had left of his friends, of his youth
and of his past.