Full Summary: AU. Seven-year-old Harry is discovered missing only a day before Sirius Black escapes Azkaban, and an angry werewolf, among others, immediately begins to search for him, hoping to find the boy before the criminal does. Little does anyone know that Harry has a secret of his own…
Rating: PG for some mentions of child abuse.
That's it. For the record, this is (or hopefully will be) the only time I'll put my Author's Notes at the top. From now on, unless there's something really important, I'll put them at the bottom.
And, without further ado…
One — Prologue
(November 20, 1986)
Harry could never be sure if it was nighttime or early morning when he ran away. He only remembered the darkness of the cupboard under the stairs, empty of anything at all except the small tattered backpack filled with all of his possessions: two sets of Dudley's old clothes, a woolen blanket that he had stolen from under Aunt Petunia's bed earlier that day, and The Hobbit, a book Dudley had never read and probably wouldn't miss. He remembered the how the cupboard door had been unlocked that night, and how stealthily he had slipped out. He remembered grabbing a few fruits and bits of bread to last him for a day or two, and then he remembered the easy click of the lock on the front door as he stole away.
After that, all he could remember was the wind in his ears as he hurried away from everything he had ever known. He ran from Uncle Vernon's beatings and shouts of anger, Aunt Petunia's scoffs of disapproval and disgust, Dudley's taunts and punches. He ran away from "normal". He wasn't normal and he never would be, so the least he could do for everyone else was get away. Uncle Vernon had told him time and time again what a liability he was, how his existence had ruined their lives. It was better off this way. At least he could be a freak where no one would find him.
Running came easier than he had expected, especially considering the bruises and scars that littered his entire body. It also calmed him, and his thoughts became less and less frantic with every step he took.
It was the kind of night where the moon was silvery and round in the heavens, but not quite full. Stars were scattered everywhere, soft and dim, and a few clouds drifted sleepily across the sky, as though reminding Harry that he should have dozed off a long time ago. He eventually tired and his running slowed to a jog, then to a walk. A gentle breeze ruffled his hair, and his bright green eyes glanced at the dark shapes of trees and bushes that loomed along the road.
It was then that Harry realized for the very first time that he had absolutely no idea where he was going. His plan had included…well… pack up, grab some food, and leave. He hadn't really thought about where to go; the important thing at the time had been leaving. His steps began to slow almost to a stop. He didn't even know where he was; he didn't even have a plan.
There was a gentle hoot from somewhere behind him; Harry jumped and spun around to see a pair of brilliant golden eyes. An owl. The boy shuddered, turned back around and continued walking, hugging himself to keep warm. He didn't know what to do.
He was still in a residential area, but the houses weren't as neat and tidy as Privet Drive's. Weeds and plants grew haphazardly in all of the yards, and the paint on most of the houses was peeling. Vines were starting to grow up many of the walls of the houses. Some of the shingles on the roof were missing or falling off, most of the doors were boarded up, and many of the windows were cracked or broken completely. He'd never been this far from the Dursley's before. The houses here looked much more comfortable and more casual than Privet Drive had, and this more than anything made Harry nervous: it was as though it had taken until now for him to realize that everything was going to change. Harry gave an involuntary shiver.
Then something hit him.
His steps quickened again as he realized something that he should have known all along: Wherever I'm going, it's got to be better than what I'm leaving behind.
(One year later, November 25, 1987)
Remus sipped the tea out of his cup slowly and deliberately, as though drinking tea was a function that took a lot of concentration. His brown-and-slowly-fading-to-grey hair was a bit untidy, and his eyes were staring across the room at absolutely nothing.
He sat in the main room of his home – Wolfden Cottage, London. The word cottage, of course, happened to be something of a misnomer: he lived either in a rather large, spacious house or a small, cramped mansion – whichever version you prefer. It was a nice place to live, to tell the truth, and Remus was quite lucky to be living there. The muggle who had sold it to him had priced it very cheaply as a result of the rats and termites that had made their homes in the walls. After a few charms, however, everything was as good as new. There was far more space in the cottage than he really needed, and he ended up only using a few of the rooms – a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and the living room.
A fire crackled away heartily, flames dancing and making long, dancing shadows around the room. They seemed merry, twisting and turning with a happiness that contrasted sharply with the werewolf's sullen mood.
In truth, Remus wasn't thinking about drinking his tea or sipping slowly or anything of the sort. His thoughts weren't even in the present, but in the past. His eyes were unfocused, and his mind had long since slipped back to a time when everything was less complicated.
A raven-haired man threw a small child into the air, catching him as he fell back down. The man's clear blue eyes sparkled in amusement as the infant giggled and laughed, clearly enjoying himself. After a while, the man caught the baby one last time and held him in his arms, smiling and peering down at the bubbly, gurgling child. How could a traitor look down at someone he would betray with such tenderness?
"You naughty boy, Harry," the man said playfully, fake-admonishing the child. "You know better than to play with Padfoot's hair."
The baby boy just cooed and reached for a lock of Sirius' shiny, dark hair.
"Ah-ah-ah!" The man said, laughing. "Play nice, Harry! This calls for more punishment."
Sirius threw the child up in the air, his grin widening when the young child shrieked with joy, flailing his arms and legs.
Another man watched, a man with jet-black, scruffy hair. James' hazel eyes danced with amusement as he observed his friend's antics and his son's laughter.
"Be careful, Sirius." he grinned, "You drop my son and I'll revoke all of your godfather privileges." His eyes followed his son's progress through the air, but he was still grinning and carelessly leaning back in his chair. His feet were propped up on the table, hands resting casually behind his head. He knew, really, that Sirius would never do anything to harm his child.
Sirius grinned again. "Careful is – "
" – your middle name," said Lily, her red hair catching the light as she shook her head fondly. She slapped at James' feet, and her husband just laughed and put them on the floor, having the decency to at least look mildly apologetic. "As I recall, your middle name is also trouble, sexy, and prankster. I suppose it changes whenever it wants to."
Sirius just shrugged, catching Harry again. "One can have multiple middle names." Lily just smiled, her green eyes only watching Harry half the time. She trusted Sirius. They all did.
Back then, Remus and Sirius used to come over almost every night for a home-cooked meal. They were both busy with Order work, and Lily was always more than happy to cook for herself and the three of them: Peter wasn't usually available these days, so there was more often than not an empty chair at the table, except when her old friend Arabella dropped by. Nevertheless, the conversation flowed freely from Quidditch to Harry's newest accomplishments to what their old Hogwarts friends were up to and just about everything else. The world was all smiles and laughter, at least for the hour or so every day when they were able to play and joke as though a war wasn't going on.
"Bye-bye, little Harry. I must go," Sirius said, pausing dramatically. "Duty calls…that, and the fact that Lils and Jimmy-boy are kicking me and Rem out of their house for the night."
Sirius deposited the baby in his father's arms. "There's a full order meeting. Tomorrow."
James nodded solemnly, his expression shadowing a little. It brightened quickly. "I half wish we were still young enough to prank Snape. The dirty ba—(Lily shot him a look)—The dirty man—glared at me all of last meeting after I talked about Harry."
In a chair near Lily and James', Remus chuckled. "You mean you wish you were still immature enough to be 'allowed' to prank him."
"What do you mean 'wish'?" Lily laughed, and opened her mouth to chastise them for ever pranking the potions master. Sirius, upon seeing this, hastily spoke first.
"Bye, Moony! Bye, Prongs and Lily-Flower. And bye, Prongslet!"
"Bye, Padfoot. See you tomorrow at the meeting."
Sirius nodded curtly, still smiling as always, and stepped out into the dark night to be surrounded by shadows.
To this day, Remus still couldn't understand it. Why would he have done something like that? What reason would Sirius have had for selling his best friends out?
An idea popped into Remus' head, disappearing almost as soon as he felt it. He tried to grasp it, but it slithered away to bury itself deep within the recesses of his mind until a time when it would find its way back out to tease him once more. It had often taunted him over the years, letting him get close, then shimmering away in the blink of an eye. It was the key to unlocking the reasons behind Sirius' actions, he knew – the missing piece to the puzzle. It only popped up when he was thinking about his best…ex-best friend.
Remus grumbled, resuming his original activity. He sat on the couch for over an hour, thinking by firelight, before finally drifting off to sleep.
His eyes snapped open as the flames in the fireplace burned an emerald green. He sat up to watch it flicker and flare for a moment, and then someone stepped out of the fireplace. He recognized his old friend at once by her dark blonde hair and grey eyes.
"Bella!" He said to the woman, getting out of his seat. "How are you? Would you like to sit d—?"
"No time for that, Remus," she cut in abruptly, and the worry covering her face quickly wiped the smile off of Remus's. He looked at her. She was a bit older and grayer than he remembered, but that was to be expected. Besides, he assumed that he probably looked just as worn as she did. Losing your best friends all at once did that to people. Her eyes had lost the bright spark they had carried for so long, and she looked tired and anxious. Her hair stuck out here and there, as though she had been in such a rush to talk to him that she had hurried through it. She brought her eyes up to meet his, and they were filled with sadness and a hint of guilt.
"Is something wrong?" he asked quietly, still searching her as though he could find the answer.
"Yes. Remus, when was the last time you heard from Harry?" Remus blinked. That was a surprise.
"I haven't. Not since…not since that Halloween. I've tried to get custody of him more times than I can count, but the Ministry won't let a werewolf take care of a child." He said regretfully, and almost bitterly.
Arabella looked at him with sympathy, knowing how much Lily and James' son meant to the man. Then she straightened up and looked him in the eye, and Remus mentally cowered in fear at what could possibly be so important that the normally joyful Arabella would be so serious.
"I haven't heard from him either. Not in a while, anyway. Then, today, I finally went to the Dursleys to ask where he was—in my disguise as an old lady, of course, since I'm supposed to watch Harry using that—and…they don't know. Or care."
Remus' mind was numb, and he spoke hazily. "Can you repeat that?"
"Harry's lost, Remus. Or run off. They'd hardly ever let him out of the house before, and I hadn't seen him in ages…of course, I'd been busy with other things at the time and I didn't notice," Arabella said, looking angry with herself. "Anyway," she continued, shaking her head, "I told Dumbledore just this morning. He doesn't want to do it, but he feels like he should contact the ministry about this whole thing. He hasn't had an Order since You-know-who's downfall, so he'll need Aurors or investigators or Hit wizards or heaven knows who else to look for him. I suppose the more people who know, the better. That way someone's bound to find him. But with Fudge being the minister…"
She left the sentence hanging, but Remus knew what she meant. The minister wasn't the best person to have in office, stubborn git that he was. Who knew how he would react to The-Boy-Who-Lived's disappearance.
"Where could he have gone?" Remus whispered.
"I don't know Remus. I just don't know."
Disclaimer for all chapters: Harry Potter and all related characters and all that junk belong to J. K. Rowling and/or Warner Bros. and definitely not me.
A/N: Alright, what do you think so far? Constructive criticism is welcome, but please, no flames!
Thanks for reading, and reviews will make the next chapter come faster!