A/N: Am very sorry this chapter took so long in getting out! I'd no idea it was going to take this long, but an unexpected nine hour (groan) car trip out on horse business for a week caught me off guard. The next thing I know it's the 9th (my birthday!) and I finally have time to start writing this chapter!
So. Before I continue, one of the (very, very wonderful!) people to review asked whether this story was going to turn Slash, and I thought I'd get that answer done with quickly. The answer is no, there will be no mention of slash in Heartbreak simply because I don't intend for it to be long enough for any kind of relationship between Harry and anyone else, and to be honest, I'd never pair Harry with an adult because I don't feel that is ever going to happen in canon, and I'll leave it at that!
You can interpret anything you see however you like, of course, but the relationships in this story are primarily going to be ... father/son...ly. xD
Much, much, much love to everyone who reviewed, I read all of them and sit at my desk and grin like an imbecile for several hours thereafter.
Disclaimer: Jo does. I don't. Some of the text in this chapter has been taken directly from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. They will likely be the only well-written and edited portions of this story. I beg your premature pardon.
"A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty." -- Author Unknown
The Dursleys had been predictably explosive upon finding Harry on the edges of sleep at the bottom of their staircase, leaned against a man Vernon charmingly described as "that filthy wastrel from the station."
Lupin -- Remus, Harry's mind corrected numbly -- had managed to sedate the Dursleys without any real threat of bodily harm on their persons, although Harry (who was still feeling oddly drained from his encounter with Voldemort, and remained propped up against the wall at his ex-professor's feet) had seen the werewolf stiffen with anger when Harry's Uncle had referred to his nephew as "that freaky hooligan."
Owing, he supposed, to both his brief posession and his fall down the Dursleys' staircase, Harry was too dazed to question Remus as the older man led him into the Dursleys' back yard and sat him on the freshly-painted bench. His mind was still reeling with exhaustion from the day's events, and the hole of grief which seemed to have opened anew in his chest would not allow him to sleep. He hardly noticed as Remus spoke quietly into the tip of his wand and, with a precise flick upward, something silver and winged shot from the end and disappeared beyond the fence line.
A rustle of fabric at his side told him the man had taken a seat beside him on the bench. There was a moment of awkward tension before the shoulder at his side butted against his own, and despite himself, Harry smiled. Remus, he was quickly discovering, had no more idea how to show -- affection? He wasn't sure what to call it, now that he thought of it -- than he did himself, and what instincts the werewolf did have seemed distinctly canine.
"I've just sent a message to Dumbledore -- we'll have to assume Voldemort is telling the truth, I'm afraid, and you'll need to be moved to a more ... secure location should he attempt to invade your mind again."
So that I don't wind up killing the Dursleys, Harry thought wryly, but thought it wise not to voice this particular notion.
"Secure location?" Harry winced at the sound of his voice, which was hoarse enough to rival Remus' own.
Remus glanced at Harry apologetically, and at once the sixteen-year old could guess their destination: Headquarters. He was not aware his breath had hitched until Remus' hand gripped his shoulder with slightly more strength than was strictly necessary, but it told Harry what Remus would not say himself; the man was no happier about this situation than he was.
"I'm not certain, to be honest," Lupin lifted a hand and rubbed at his temples distractedly, and again Harry wondered how close to full moon it was. "I expect we'll be hearing back from Albus within the hour."
A strange flood of guilt and affection hit Harry with the sound of Lupin's voice, and in an effort to echo the man's earlier movements, he bumped sideways. Instead of butting shoulders as he'd intended, the two companions knocked heads painfully. Reeling back in shock, Harry toppled over the side of the bench.
"Ow," said both, and the werewolf turned sideways in time to see Harry rubbing the side of his head and swearing vehemently.
Remus burst out laughing.
Harry spent a moment scowling at the man who was presently bent over and dissolved in irrational laughter which made him look ten years younger -- Harry had the fleeting impression that this was the first Remus had laughed in a very long time. He felt his lips twitch.
"That wasn't funny!"
Remus glanced up at him, still grinning, and quickly schooled his lined face into something solemn and stern.
"Not at all funny."
A moment's silence, and the werewolf fell back into peals of laughter.
Caught somewhere between amused and irritated, Harry scuffed the ground with the palm of his hand, located a particularly grubby clod of Petunia's choice fertilizer, and chucked it. It hit with a squelch between Remus' shoulderblades, leaving a thoroughly unpleasant stain on his already shabby cloak. Harry snickered hoarsely.
The reaction was quick enough to catch the normally alert teenager off guard, and a strange, yellow-tinted breeze passed over him. For a moment nothing happened, and he raised his eyes, ready to tease Remus for a failed attempt, when he was suddenly aware of a powerful itch behind one shoulder. Harry had no sooner craned one arm around to scratch the offending area when a stronger itching started along his ribs and further down his back. Scratching frantically, he was aware of Remus' amused monologue in the background.
"Gah! Agh -- can't -- reach -- take it off!"
"Really Harry, you ought to know better. Throwing clumps of old manure at your Defense teacher, unacceptable behavior."
"What the -- ugh -- hell is this?"
"Demangius -- the Itching Powder hex. The more you scratch, the worse it gets. Ought to stop that, really."
Harry paused mid-way from raking furiously at his scalp. His hand twitched.
"Off. Off, take it off!"
"I may need convincing. This stain on my cloak may never come out -- finest quality cotton, they just don't raise sheep like they used to, anymore."
Apparently having given up on not scratching, Harry went back to trying to twist around to reach the more difficult spots. This was quickly driving him mad.
"Go on, Remus -- agh -- I'll tell you where I got the Map!"
Lupin appeared to consider this for a moment, before flicking his wand at Harry with a cheerful, "Finite!"
Harry managed to glare at the early-aging man for a pathetically short amount of time, before smiling reluctantly, and accepting the offered hand helping him to his feet.
"I still itch," He noted grumpily, scratching at a particularly persistant spot behind his left ear. A wave of relief came from between his shoulders, and Harry realized that Remus had slung an arm over his shoulder, and was scuffing his fingernails helpfully over Harry's robes.
"Yes, well, you will for a bit. After-effects, and all that. Sirius used to cast in on your dad at every oppurtunity; said it was payback for turning into an animal too tall for fleas." Remus' expression was soft, but not as sad as it had been in the past. Harry thought this strange, because the mention of his godfather cut through his heart.
"What did my dad do?" Harry questioned softly, half from curiousity and half because Remus rarely talked about his days with the Marauders, and the look in the man's eyes suggested he might have enjoyed talking about it a bit more.
Sure enough, the lined face broke out into a fond grin, but he cast his eyes sideways at Harry and raised an eyebrow.
"Tell me about the Map first -- you've no idea the ways we tried to get it back. Where on earth did you find it?"
And so Harry told him about Fred and George, and the story they had told him. Remus actually laughed out loud when Harry mentioned the drawer labeled "Confiscated and Highly Dangerous".
"And they opened it?"
"Got it in one. You can't really be surprised, Pro-- Remus! This is Fred and George we're talking about."
They talked quietly as the stars began to come out and the street lights turned on along Privet Drive, swapping stories of the Marauders for those of "the Brat Pack" as Remus affectionately labeled Harry and his friends. A not-quite-full, waning moon was unveiled by the clouds once, and Remus paused in his story-telling to shudder sharply, and though Harry knew too much about fear to want to mention it, he did lean casually sideways, knocking heads with the werewolf once, playfully, before resting his head on the weathered robes. Remus continued with the story -- his voice soft -- and did not look up to the moon again.
Remus, Harry concluded as the gentle voice described the night the Marauders confronted him on his lycanthropy, was very different from Sirius when it came to this sort of thing. Sirius had been charmingly young at heart. Sirius had been playful and exuberant, seeming to know exactly how to convey affection without the slightest embarassment. Sirius protected with an intensity that was often frightening, but often spoke most harshly to the very same people he would die for. He gave excellent advice, which he then failed to follow himself. He could be sullen, resentful, bitter, and vicious. Most of all, Sirius loved.
Harry wondered if even Dumbledore was as old as Remus, at times. He was surprisingly gentle, he seemed wary of affection and longing for contact all at once. It was strange to think of his ex-professor as a man who, for the majority of his life, hurt -- but that seemed to describe Remus best. He hurt, and he got through it, and he continued on with his life. Even now, when his voice shook with the pain the memory of his friends brought back, Remus continued to speak.
Dumbledore did arrive, eventually, strolling out of the night quite as though he was simply in the neighborhood and decided to stop by for a chat. He informed Harry that all of his things had already been "safely transported to our destination" and had seemed not the slightest bit repentant in setting up an unauthorized portkey right in the Dursley's backyard.
Arriving at Grimmauld Place -- stepping into the hallway which still smelled of dust and Doxy Spray and Sirius -- had left him all but winded. He strongly suspected he'd have broken down like a child had it not been for Remus' hand on his shoulder. Dumbledore left them rather hurriedly, suggesting that Harry get to bed early, as Ron, Ginny, and Hermione were due to re-paint the drawing room tomorrow morning. Feeling as though he was stuck in an ongoing bad dream, Harry turned for the staircase, but a voice behind him stopped him short.
Harry turned. Remus was looking back at him with an odd expression. He wanted to ask what it was Remus wanted to say, but he himself could not speak past the lump that had been growing in his throat since he stepped foot in this horrible house.
"He never got a chance to ... tell you how much ..."
But Harry, who was certain he would lose his composure if Remus finished, stepped forward and Remus, understanding immediately, pulled him close, resting his chin on the mess of black hair.
Remus stayed awake long after Harry retreated to bed, indulging in Ogden's Old Firewhisky as he hadn't done since Sirius' death. When he was thoroughly pissed and the pain had still not diminished, he dropped his head to his arms, cheeks damp and eyes swollen, and felt himself begin to doze. The voices he heard, he thought vaguely before drifting into sleep, were a side effect of intoxication.
"Can't believe it, Moony getting drunk."
"And all those lectures about how our livers were going to be the death of us."
"Not even close!"
"He and Harry have each other, now."
"They miss you terribly."
"The ones we love never really leave us, Mr. Prongs. And now, if you'll follow me, I have a godson to check on."
Author Notes: So. That is the end of that, unless something in Half Blood Prince screams out for another chapter. What did you think? Reviews are hearted. Muchly. All the love, and thanks for reading:D