CATCHING UP by InFabula
Disclaimer: these wonderful characters belong to JK: I
just borrowed them for a bit.
Chapter One DOGGED
It was mid-morning before he reached Remus’s house.
He padded down the dirty cobbled street, too intent on finding his
friend to bother about what the passers-by might think. The sight of a big, scruffy dog on the loose
was obviously a common one, however, as his presence was mostly ignored.
Sirius stopped in front of the tired-looking two-up,
two-down terraced house. The paint on
the door and windows was peeling and there was a pane of glass missing from the
window at the top of the house which had been carefully boarded up from the
inside. There were signs though that the
occupant was trying to make up for the shortcomings of the building. There was a blaze of wild flowers in a vase
on the front window-sill and in contrast to its neighbours, the door knocker
was polished till it gleamed. No mistaking
Remus’s home, he
thought grimly, he was still making the best of things.
He was about to paw the door and whine till Remus came
but stopped in his tracks. A plump
little witch with a basket of vegetables under her arm shooed him out of the
way and knocked smartly at the door.
Giving her the hint of an impatient growl, he
retreated to the other side of the street, sat down on his haunches and
waited. The door opened and Remus
Although they had had irregular correspondence, it was
the first time Sirius had seen him since the Shrieking Shack and his first
proper look at his old friend since he had been in Azkaban. The flecks of silver in his hair which had
just started to show thirteen years ago, were now more pronounced: his face looked
careworn and so much older than Sirius remembered. Older than his years, McGonagall had once
called him: Sirius amended that mentally to old before his time. Only his eyes belied the world-weariness in
his face. Even from where he sat among
the busy flow of pedestrians, Sirius could see they were as alert and intense
as ever and currently highly amused.
A smile had crooked Remus’s mouth and he looked as if he were fighting to stop it widening into a
grin. The witch was in full flow, loud
enough for Sirius to hear:
have to eat your greens up, didn’t your
mother always tell you? They’re key to a growing lad like yourself, make you
strong and hale and hearty - best thing you can do is have a nice healthy plate
of vegetables for your dinner - set you up a treat for the day-”
She thrust the basket under Remus’s nose which wrinkled a little. The produce was not at its freshest: the
witch had picked up the stray vegetables left on the ground from the early morning market. Bruised tomatoes, a few wilted cabbages,
straggly carrots and some rather scrawny potatoes.
Remus held up a hand to stop the patter, picked out a
selection of the sad vegetables and disappeared inside. He reappeared and offered her a handful of
Knuts which the witch accepted graciously.
The door closed and Sirius stood up, ready, but the
witch still stood there, digging around in the
pockets of her robes for something.
The door opened again and Remus emerged, rolls of parchment bundled
together neatly under one arm, his battered briefcase in his hand. He looked startled to see the witch still
give you this, dearie,” she
explained earnestly, thrusting a clump of dried heather at him. “Bring you
lots of luck.”
“Well, I can
always find a use for luck,“ came the
dry response. “Thank you.“
He closed and locked his door, took the heather from
her and hurried off down the street in the manner of someone who had an
appointment to keep.
To Sirius’s annoyance,
the witch kept pace with him, babbling as they went about a variety of topics:
it did not seem to worry her in the slightest that the conversation was
one-sided. Sirius crossed the street and stalked the pair of
them as they turned the corner into a more prosperous part of town.
After five minutes of pursuit, he made up his mind to
simply barrel into them and pounce on Remus.
He imagined the look on Remus’s face:
surprise and shock followed by recognition and a warm smile of welcome. Sirius suddenly found himself very hungry for
that acknowledgement. It was one of the
human dignities that he had not even noticed had been taken from him in
Azkaban. The reason why he was there to
see Remus did not lessen that hunger.
He readied himself to spring forward and in the same
split-second, changed his mind. Two men
loomed into Remus’s path. The witch shrank away, muttering something
about places to go and people to see.
They let her leave: it was Remus they were interested in.
Sirius slunk down against the wall a few feet behind
Remus. He recognised the men: Christie
and Peabody. He had seen them visiting
Azkaban and knew they were both employed by the Ministry although he was unclear
as to their exact roles. Christie was
as tall as Remus with a thin frame, his face pointed like a rat - Sirius
stopped that thought in its tracks.
Peabody was shorter and rather portly, his manner genial and charming:
Sirius sensed that of the two, he was by far the more dangerous.
J Lupin,” Peabody
greeted him. “What a pleasant surprise!”
“What do you
want?” Remus’s abrupt tone told Sirius volumes: it took a lot for his friend to be
Peabody tutted noisily. “Manners,
Professor, manners. Mr Christie and
myself were just on our way to call on you. Do you have a few moments?”
seemed to have recovered some of his composure.
“I have a
meeting at the Museum of Antiquities and I-”
“Why, let us
escort you there, Professor,” Peabody
beamed. “We would be honoured, Mr Christie, wouldn’t we?”
“Deeply,” replied Christie in a thin, nasal voice. He took up a position at Remus’s left shoulder and Peabody on his right. Sandwiched between them, Remus found he had
little choice but to accept their company.
As the three men walked on, Sirius trotted behind,
doing his best to remain unobtrusive.
Luckily for him, none of the three glanced round.
“It’s just a courtesy call, Professor,” Peabody began.
“We haven’t seen you for a while and we wondered if any
old friends had been in touch - a school reunion, maybe?”
froze. Instinctively, he wanted to turn
and run but he made himself go on.
“Do you mean
Sirius Black?” Remus was obviously not in the mood to play
games. “I have no idea where he is.”
Please don’t turn around, Moony, whatever you do, Sirius
“Now we know
you saw him last year,” Peabody
continued pleasantly. “There seems to be a little confusion over
exactly what happened, but there was a suggestion that you may have helped him-”
the Ministry’s questions
at the time,” Remus
stopped just short of snapping. “As I said then, someone whom I thought I knew,
whom I trusted like a brother was responsible for the death of one of my
closest friends and his wife and deprived another of his chance for a happy
life. That’s the truth, Mr Peabody. The
last thing I would ever want to do is help that person. If I ever see that person again I am much
more likely to kill him.”
His voice rang with steely resolution and Peabody
raised his eyebrows. Even Sirius, who
realised Remus meant Peter rather than himself, felt a shiver of apprehension:
Moony made an implacable enemy.
Turning yet another corner, they walked on for a
moment in silence until Remus came to a standstill.
“This is the
Museum, gentlemen,” Remus
announced. “If you’ll excuse
smiled. He clasped Remus’s right hand between his two palms and shook it
vigorously. “Mr Christie and I must be on our way too.”
He let go and the pair stood back, waiting for Remus
to go into the Museum. Remus looked down
at his hand as if he had a strong desire to wipe it on his robes then nodded
curtly at both of them, turned on his heel and entered the building.
Sirius saw the smile slide from Peabody’s face in an instant. He stared unblinking after Remus then pursed
his lips and turned to his colleague.
time. Let’s go.”
Sirius watched them walk up the street and realised he
had been holding his breath. He let it
out slowly. He looked at the Museum
entrance and grimaced: dogs would not be welcome. He put his big front paws up on the left-hand
window-sill and peered in at a small room lined with books.
To his delight, he saw Remus in deep conversation with
a man who looked like the curator. He
gave a few small barks to try and attract Remus’s attention but decided with exasperation that the windows were
The curator was poring excitedly over the rolls of
parchment Remus had been carrying which were now spread out across his
desk. He was nodding enthusiastically as
he read and Sirius guessed that Remus had undertaken some translation or
As the man rolled up the parchment, Remus said
something. The curator’s body language changed immediately. He stiffened up, walked round behind his desk
and sat down. He started to talk, waving
his hand expansively around the room.
Remus let him finish and then spoke again.
This time, the curator shook his head firmly and
folded his arms. Remus gave a slight
shrug and started to gather the rolls of parchment together. The curator’s hand shot out, gripping his arm.
Remus stopped and looked at him.
Sirius saw the man wilt under the intensity of that gaze and
sympathised: he remembered how that look felt.
The curator dug into his pocket and produced a
Galleon. He dropped the coin into Remus’s palm: Remus simply studied it then lifted his
eyes to the curator. The man tried to
hold his gaze but to no avail: he sprang to his feet, thrust a second Galleon
into Remus’s palm and
then walked to the door and threw it open.
Remus nodded a goodbye and left.
Sirius dropped to the pavement ready to greet his
friend. Suddenly, from nowhere, came a
loud squeal, “Ooh! A doggy!” and a pair of arms was flung around his neck.
Panicked, Sirius started to struggle but found himself
surrounded by a handful of children. The
pair of arms belonged to a young girl of about nine who had a vice-like
grip. Another slightly older girl knelt
down and threw her arms around his body, squeezing his ribs painfully
hard. A third girl, this time about six,
smacked him repeatedly on the shoulder.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sirius saw Remus
disappearing up the street oblivious to the scene behind him. He fought to extricate himself from the
children but they hung on like limpets.
Something cold ran down Sirius’s back and
he twisted his head over his shoulder in time to see the lump of ice-cream
slide down his fur. He glared angrily at
the little boy who had dropped it by accident but the child was busy screaming
his dismay at the top of his lungs and ignored him.
“It’s a doggy, Nanny Roberts,” the first girl announced to a breathless
middle-aged witch who had arrived, panting hard. “Can we take
him home? I’m sure Mummy and Daddy won’t mind.”
call him Sparkle,” breathed
the second girl, continuing to hug him fiercely.
“No, Amelia,” said the first girl crossly, “his name is Angel.”
“Jell-jell,” repeated the six-year-old solemnly. “Love
Sirius suddenly realised that the smacks she was
administering were meant to be strokes: it did not stop him wincing.
call him Smell,” said a boy
of about fourteen who looked positively fed-up at having to be seen with the
girls in public. He glanced down moodily
“Stupid dog,” he said and then slumped against the wall.
Lydia, we really can’t take the
doggy home. He may have fleas…he may have diseases…” Nanny Roberts’ voice
trailed off as she looked uncertainly at Sirius.
He did his best to look like as unsavoury as possible
then gave a sudden yelp: someone had stamped on his tail. He did not need to look round to know it was
the older boy.
gave a threatening growl which was sufficient to make Amelia let go. He growled again more loudly and Lydia
straightened up. He curled his lip and
showed his teeth. Mesmerised, the girls
backed away, eyes wide. Spotting his
chance for freedom, Sirius took it and ran full pelt up the street after Remus.
Amelia looked furiously at her older brother.
“It’s your fault, Crispin,” she scolded. “Sparkle knew you called him smelly.”