A/N: I've always wanted to write a post-First Wizarding War story, and I got this idea a while back. It's been a long time since I've published anything, but I hope you guys like this! I've written a lot of it already so I'll be updating pretty regularly; make sure you follow and fav if you want to know what happens next! And please please please REVIEW!
No copyright infringement intended.
Lastly, a couple tips for reading this story. Pay attention to the dates and times, as they sometimes jump around from chapter to chapter! And give the plot a little time to build.
The Leaky Cauldron
Christmas Eve, 1981
Serpent Wine burned the back of Remus Lupin's throat as he downed another glass in one gulp. He was past the point of registering the sting it caused in the stomach when ingested too quickly; all he cared about was reaching the bottom of the glass so he'd be one step closer to wiping another night from his memory. He'd thought about it before—Obliviating himself, pretending nothing had happened since Halloween—but he couldn't muster the strength, so alcohol would have to do.
He waved his wand lazily in the direction of the bar to summon another bottle, but when he looked up he saw no wine floating towards him. He sighed; that would make it the fifth night in a row Tom the Bartender had cut him off before midnight, and on Christmas Eve no less. If he wasn't careful, one of these nights he'd surely be caught for performing magic under the influence.
Remus sighed heavily and burped, grimacing at the leftover taste in his mouth. If he thought a full moon was nearly unbearable, it was nothing compared to this. The first holidays without James and Lily, without Peter, without Sirius…even without—Remus couldn't even think the name, despite how only days ago he had begged Dumbledore to let him go visit, just for an hour or two, please, because it's Christmas.
It was as if a whole part of him was missing without the people who made his life as close to normal as it could get for a lycanthrope, and almost as horrible as the pain was the apathy towards everything and everyone else that he knew was getting worse. He'd never understood how people could wind up in pubs in the middle of the day, running up their tabs, but he knew now. He'd become one of that crowd. Sitting there, drunk at his usual table and spending Christmas alone, Remus doubted he'd ever get out of this slump. He wasn't even sure he wanted to, because that would mean facing the reality of what had happened to his best friends.
"May I sit down?" a voice asked. In his semi-stupor, Remus shrugged and gestured sloppily to the other side of the table, his eyes too bleary to see if there was even a chair there. "I thought I might find you here, Remus."
Remus looked up to see none other than Albus Dumbledore sitting before him, dressed in Yuletide robes, a glass of eggnog in front of him. Remus's first instinct was to get up and leave, but his feet seemed to have detached themselves from his body and were no longer obeying his brain's (albeit impaired) commands.
"I quite like this drink. Muggles love it this time of year," Dumbledore said cheerfully after a moment of pause. Remus glared across the table in disgust. How was he so jovial? "I understand why you're angry with me, and I don't deny that you have a right to be. But you do understand why I couldn't let you go," Dumbledore said cautiously. It wasn't a question.
Remus's face contorted in pain and he averted his eyes, feeling them start to brim with frustrated tears. "I just want to make sure he's alright," he finally choked out.
"I can assure you that Harry Potter is perfectly safe," Dumbledore said calmly.
"You assured me James and Lily were safe, too!" Remus said angrily, a surge of courage coming to him. "How can I believe anything you say anymore?"
"What happened at Godric's Hollow was a tragedy none of us could have foreseen. But Harry is with his aunt and uncle now, his only family—"
"So I don't count as family, then?" Remus scowled and clenched his cup in his hand so hard he thought he might break it. "Lily's sister all but disowned her, you know that! She used to cry about it to me, did you know that too? Of all the places to send their son—Muggles, no less—he'll completely lost when it comes time for him to go to Hogwarts."
"As he should be." Dumbledore maintained his level tone despite Remus's increasingly agitated one. "The front page of the paper is no place for a child to grow up."
"And a Muggle neighborhood where he'll have no idea where he came from is? The poor boy will never know his parents, Albus, and now you're keeping his—our—whole world from him too! The truth will be more of a shock to him when he turns eleven than it would be if he grew up knowing it."
Dumbledore looked at Remus with such a piercing stare that it sobered the younger man up considerably. "I have nothing but Harry's best interests at heart. When the proper time comes, he'll learn. Until then, I am confident he is in good care, away from all this."
After a deep breath, Remus said more calmly, "I just want to see him, so he knows he's, he's got someone."
Dumbledore peered over his spectacles at Remus with as close to a disapproving look as he could muster towards the young man who not long ago was one of the best students he'd ever seen. "You're not stable, Remus—"
"Well, Harry and I'll have that in common one day won't we?! Living the way he prob'ly is with that lot, that'd fuck anyone up f—" he was starting to slur his words again, not even bothering to watch his language.
"—and what's more, you have barely got the means to take care of yourself, let alone a child that is not yours."
"I'm not asking to raise him!" Remus spluttered, "Just to see him, a few times a year! I'm the only person he might even recognize from before V—before they died. You'd think you could lift th'protective charms for me of all people, I'm his godfather!"
Dumbledore shook his head. "No, you are not."
"W-well…I'm as good as! Seeing as the real one's a damn traitor." Remus spat on the floor and made a move to get up, but Dumbledore raised his hand slightly and Remus sat back down sulkily. Neither man said anything for a few moments. The sounds of the Leaky Cauldron that filled their lull in conversation—muffled laughter, the voices of carolers walking down the street outside, glasses clinking against each other in a toast to good tidings—seemed unusually loud and obnoxious to Remus.
"I did bring you this," Dumbledore said finally, reaching into the depths of his emerald robes. "A Christmas gift, if you will."
Remus scoffed. Dumbledore held out a small square envelope and nodded at Remus to take it. He did, and downed the very last drops of his wine before opening it. Inside was a small stack of photographs. He looked at them with a mixture of elation and terrible sadness. There was Lily's hand at the edge of the frame, slowly rocking a tiny moving cradle with an even tinier baby Harry inside. One-year-old Harry on a toy broomstick, held up by what were unmistakably Peter's thin hands as the pair zoomed around, James and Lily laughing as they held their fussing baby boy. Remus held back a sob; these couldn't have been taken long ago. How had they had no idea that in such a short time they'd all be betrayed by their own friend?
"They were recovered in Godric's Hollow in the days afterwards," Dumbledore said, and Remus nodded, his throat too thick from holding back tears to say anything. He got to the last photograph, an unusually still shot of Harry in a larger crib next to another baby boy who had much chubbier cheeks. "I do keep in contact with Lily's sister when necessary," Dumbledore explained. The only thing that looked different about Harry himself was the jagged scar on his forehead.
"I know it's not easy, Remus," Dumbledore whispered. "But I promise you, Harry is exactly where he needs to be. So, I might add, is Sirius Black."
Remus flipped through the photos again, furrowing his brow as Dumbledore's last comment registered in his foggy mind. That seemed an odd thing to say. Of course Sirius was where he deserved to be, there was no doubt about that. He'd done something Remus would have sooner died than do: he sold James and Lily to Voldemort, and by extension betrayed and belittled everything the Order had ever worked towards. Not to mention at least a dozen people—and Merlin knows how many more—were dead because of him. How none of them ever saw it coming was a question that plagued Remus's mind to no end.
"Thank you, sir," Remus finally said with difficulty. "I owe you an—" He looked up to shake Dumbledore's hand, but as swiftly as he had appeared, the man was already gone.
A/N: And so begins my newest Harry Potter fic!
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