A/N: Hello all. A/N: This used to be a collaboration between myself and another author, Jade Caminus. She became too busy to keep up with my usual writing schedule and I've decided to write the rest of this story on my own. I'm also taking this story in a different direction than we had originally planned. I'm leaving Jade with full permission to proceed with our original idea however she sees fit. I won't speak of our original plan, in case she wishes to use it for her own.
Two days, Remus thought. Two days since Harry's last letter. He clicked his fingers restlessly against the windowsill, scanning the sky for a sign of Hedwig, a school owl, anything. But there was nothing there.
There's time yet, he told himself. Harry's probably just finishing the next letter. Probably hasn't even sent Hedwig off yet. His clicking fingers did not stop. On a sudden impulse he whirled away from the window and headed off into the house, heading for the kitchen.
"Ron!" he called, swinging open the kitchen door.
"Whad ifts id?" Ron said around a mouthful of bread.
Remus shook his head at the teenager, but continued on his brainwave. "You haven't gotten an owl from Harry, have you? In the last two days?"
"No. Hafent 'ad one sfince Hedwig wasft lasft 'ere." Ron swallowed. "Why?"
"Just…thinking," Remus said, half-dodging the question. Ron gave him this I-don't-believe-any-of-that-crap look, but didn't say anything. "Thanks, Ron."
Past his conversation with Ron, there wasn't anything Remus could settle to. He paced the house—Sirius' house—for most of the afternoon, brooding on possible scenarios of what might be keeping Harry's letter delayed. That, and trying not to think of Sirius.
He hadn't let himself think about it, what had happened that night. He hadn't let himself grieve, even though he knew Sirius was not going to come back, no matter how much he, or Harry, wanted it. To let himself grieve, and let go would make it more final that he was willing to deal with. The loss of James and Lily had been hard enough…made more so by what Peter had done. He and Sirius had at least been able to help each other for a small amount of time. But who was here to help him with this?
Pacing the floor was doing nothing to calm him, he realized, and made a beeline for the living room. It was late afternoon by this point, and most of the people residing in the house were congressing with their fellows, and minding their own business. Therefore, Remus had the living room all to his lonesome. His wandering thoughts were broken, however, when Hedwig flew threw the open window.
Oh, thank God, thought Remus. He quickly detached the letter from the bird's leg. Patting her pleasantly on the head, he immediately tore it open.
Everything's going fine here. Been kind of boring, but otherwise good. The Dursley's are being nice to me, so you don't need to worry about that. Well, I've got lots of homework to do, so I'll write to you later.
Remus laid the short letter down on the coffee table, relief flooding him. He's alright then, he told himself. The nagging feeling that something wasn't right entered his mind before he pushed it away. Harry was fine. He'd just read the note.
"Hey, Remus." said a voice from behind him. "It's time for supper. Mum told me to come and get you. Hey, you got Harry's letter. Is everything okay?"
"Yes, Ron. Everything's fine." he said, handing the boy the letter, knowing he'd want to read it.
The teenager quickly skimmed the letter, all the while muttering to himself, "They don't let him do his homework…" but Remus had already walked out the door, not hearing the boy's words.
Harry rolled over on his bed, finding the position he'd been in for the past hour was becoming extremely uncomfortable. He looked at the clock sitting on his bedside table, and only then noticed it was almost time for dinner. Well, for the Dursley's at least. He didn't presume to think they'd offer him anything that could possibly keep him alive. He was, on the other hand, suspicious of his aunt Petunia's lack of voice. She was usually screaming at him to cook their meal by now.
Perhaps this is a new kind of torture? he asked himself. As he hadn't eaten in days, only the bits he managed to steal while cooking their dinner, he was starving. Maybe they knew he'd been stealing the food. Maybe they just wanted him to suffer now, even more than he had been before, by completely cutting him off from any food. He knew if this was the case, he'd be in deep trouble soon. A month into his summer vacation, and he was already losing weight at a disturbing rate.
Harry sat quietly, trying to discern if anyone was even in the house. For all he knew, they'd gone out for dinner. This thought was denied, however, when he heard the boisterous voice of his uncle, calling for his son to come down for dinner.
"Dudley, it's time to eat!" he yelled.
"I'll be right there!" was immediately returned.
The slight teenager sat up on his bed, in the attempt to look less lazy. At least, less lazy to his relatives. He knew they'd be coming in momentarily. And he wasn't disappointed. Not a minute later, Harry heard the many locks on his bedroom door being undone. Finally, the door was pushed open, creaking loudly on rusty hinges, as his uncle Vernon strolled nonchalantly into the small room.
"You've got five minutes." he muttered, and pointed down the hallway. As the daily ritual went, Harry would have exactly five minutes to get his business finished with in the bathroom, before he was locked, once again, into his bedroom, until the next day. "Make it quick boy, my supper's getting cold." he hissed.
"Yes, uncle Vernon." he quickly replied, before doing a brisk walk down the hallway. Running wasn't a good idea, not in Vernon Dursley's house, he thought darkly. As soon as the door was closed behind him, Harry quickly relieved himself, washed his hands, and drank as much water from the faucet as he possibly could. He took a lidded cup out of his baggy pants pocket, something he kept on himself for these occasions in particular, and filled it to the rim, replacing the lid. Slipping it back into his pocket, he made a hasty return to his bedroom, where Uncle Vernon was waiting impatiently.
"About damn time, boy. You take entirely too much time in that bathroom. If you can't get done quicker, I just might have to take off a few minutes." he threatened, before shoving Harry back into the room. The door was immediately slammed, and Harry listened tiredly as the locks were replaced.
Harry didn't think he'd be able to get as much done if the man made good on his threat. Five minutes was just barely enough time. He knew he was getting done before his time expired; the man was just being an ass.
He stooped down beside his bed and placed the cup underneath for later. He couldn't risk being caught with it, and slid some of Dudley's old toys around it as camouflage. With that finished, he threw himself resignedly onto his bed. He didn't think he'd be getting out of this until the end of summer, and even then, it'd only be if he hadn't starved to death. His uncle had instructed him in what to say in every letter he wrote to his friends, or the Order. No hints, whatsoever, had been released. Except for one. He just wondered if anyone would pick up on it.
Early the next morning, Remus awoke to a rainy, dreary day, and wished he could just remain in bed. But it wasn't to be, he wasn't that lucky. Today he had a meeting with Albus Dumbledore in less than an hour. He was under the assumption that the rest of the Order would be called upon as well, but he couldn't be sure. It had been a spur of the moment kind of thing, when he had retired to his room the previous evening. He hadn't been that surprised to see Albus' head sticking out from the fireplace, but he was more than a little curious when the older man had insisted he join him the next morning.
He was less than enthusiastic this morning, and had to literally drag himself from the bed. It seemed that the days were getting more and more difficult for him. It appeared that life without his best friend was getting tiresome. He could only imagine how poor Harry was putting up with it, alone with his dismal relatives as his only source to distract him. He had an entire house full of Weasley's and an occasional Order member to pull him from his funk. Harry had absolutely no one.
He managed to get himself a shower and a quick shave before he was due at Hogwarts. He grabbed a rumpled robe from his 'clean clothes' pile and pulled it on. Discovering his hair was looking less than stellar this morning, he pulled a comb through it before making his way downstairs. He cursed himself for not having any floo powder available in his room, and had to enter the living room just to obtain some. He hadn't expected to run into Mrs. Weasley.
"Good morning, Remus." she said cheerfully as she sipped from a cup filled with some unknown substance. She put the newspaper she had been reading, he assumed it was the Daily Prophet, on the coffee table and rose to meet him. He could feel her eyes on him as he grabbed some floo powder from its pot.
"Going somewhere?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm to meet Albus at the school." he answered, and began to leave the room.
"Will you be back this evening?" asked Molly, taking another tentative sip from her teacup. In the past couple of weeks, she'd become like a second, albeit much better, mother to him. Asking questions you would ask your teenager seemed to be her thing.
"Yes, I will. May I go now?" he asked, letting a little tinge of exasperation enter his tone. The woman could be a little overbearing at times. He knew she meant well, but all the same, he wished for some privacy at some points.
"Forgive me, Remus. I only worry about you. You haven't been yourself lately." she added, looking somewhat worried.
"Don't worry about it, Molly. I'm fine." He put on a fake smile for good measure.
With one last wave of goodbye, he headed back to his room to use the privacy of his own fireplace. A minute later and he found himself in Albus' office. Remus immediately noticed that only one other Order member was in the room.
"Hello Alastor." he pleasantly greeted the older man, even though his heart wasn't totally in it.
"Lupin." he curtly replied, his magical eye roaming almost skittishly. Remus realized that Dumbledore wasn't yet in the room, and took a seat opposite Moody. The older man looked a mite nervous and worn out. Perhaps he was getting as little sleep as he himself was.
He was beginning to wonder if Albus was ever going to show when the door opened and in he walked.
"Ah, I see you made it." he addressed Remus, but he also didn't miss the quick look that Moody had sent the headmaster. It appeared as if the scraggly haired man was attempting to tell Albus something with his eyes only.
What are they hiding? he asked himself. I guess you're about to find out. Or, at least he hoped as much.
"Remus, I have a proposition for you." began the Headmaster. "I know you might turn me down, but think about it first. I would like for you to take up the Defense Against the Dark Arts position again."
The old man waved down Remus' protests before he could practically open his mouth to voice them. "I realize you have your concerns, but I need you here for more than just your teaching abilities. I would like for most of the Order members to be here at Hogwarts when school begins. It's been brought to my attention that Voldemort might try and steal Harry right from underneath us. He must be protected at all costs. Having you teach will just be a bonus." he added, with a twinkle in his eye.
Remus realized Albus was killing two birds with one stone. He'd have a DADA teacher, as he apparently hadn't been able to ascertain one, and plus he'd have him here as Harry's personal body guard. There wasn't much to think about. He knew he'd do it, if just to be close to Harry. Plus, it wouldn't hurt to be working, as it kept his mind off of more difficult matters. With having all this free time, he found it hard to combat the feelings he was experiencing over Sirius' death. It would be much easier if he kept himself busy.
"I accept." he stated, much to Albus' surprise.
"Very good!" exclaimed the headmaster happily. "I'll expect you here two weeks before term starts, if that is agreeable with you?"
"Yes, yes, that's fine. If there's nothing else, I've got much to do." he said, hoping Albus would let him in on whatever secret they were hiding.
"No, that's all I needed to speak with you on."
Remus took the hint and made his escape. As he wearily made his way back into his bedroom later that day, he found his mind was drawn to that moment in the headmaster's office. He couldn't help but wonder what Moody had been doing there, and what the big secret was.
"I hadn't expected you here for another day or so." stated Albus. "I assume you've found something important, since you weren't able to speak of it in front of Remus."
Alastor Moody tapped his foot impatiently on the hardwood floor. "Of course." he rasped. "We finally got that information on the Veil."
Albus immediately turned intense eyes towards the other man. "And what did you discover?" the headmaster had found that his legs had gone weak, and he immediately sat himself down in his chair. His fingers subconsciously found a lemon drop from their bowl, and popped it in his mouth, waiting for Alastor's answer. Finding his manners, he offered one to his guest.
Mad-Eye favored the lemon drops in disgust. "No, thank you. Back to business," he stated.
Albus chuckled at the man's apparent distaste for sweets. He hoped he never became that suspicious over everything in life.
"You were right…there's more to that veil than meets the eye." he said excitedly, or as excitedly as the man could manage.
Albus propped his elbows on his desk, thinking intently, Moody all but ignored. He vaguely heard the man mumbling about senile headmasters. He merely smiled in response. Things were definitely about to change. He hoped.
A/N: So, what'd you think? It will get more interesting, I swear. So, please review to let me know what you think about it!