Disclaimer – JKR (and several other companies etc) owns the characters that you recognise. I own the plot
This is a sequel to 'Harry Potter and the Soul Gems' and REALLY won't make sense if you don't read that first.
Notes – the following story is very AU! Based on a 'what if the Ministry exiled Harry after he defeated Voldemort…' and then went on to build himself a new life and career. We will be seeing more of the cannon characters in this story, and using their POV. (So there should probably be a multiple POV warning as well.)
The same disclaimers about accents and dates from the last fic apply here.
And for those of you who clearly don't bother to read the warnings – mention of MPREG (though it's not Harry this time…) and slash…
Pairings – all the usual ones that I write for – eventually.
Harry Potter and the City of Tents
Severus and Remus
Severus Snape was pleased, in a deep corner of his soul, to see that the glare he'd spent years perfecting on low level Death Eaters and Hogwarts students was as potent as ever. The Auror in front of him was shifting his weight minutely from foot to foot and avoiding eye contact at all costs. Severus was vindictively wondering if he could get the idiot to actually wet himself when there was a chime and the port key that had been forced upon his lover returned.
Remus looked as if he'd been weeping, and Severus mentally cursed the brat for upsetting his already worn lover. The absence of said brat made it probable that his werewolf had been sent away with a flea in his ear, and Severus knew he'd likely be spending weeks with a moping former Marauder as a result. Remus was not as much fun when he was moping, and this turned Snape's ire up even further.
The Aurors in the room leapt forward and hit Remus with a variety of spells, designed to reveal any magic other than his core and wand that the werewolf may have been carrying with him. Apparently, the brat had achieved a small amount of success as a curse breaker, a piece of information that had been passed along clandestinely to them via a former colleague. She had died last winter, much to his sorrow. McGonagall had taught him a lot, and not only in the classroom. Remus staggered under the impact of the spells, but came out clean. The brat hadn't cursed him at least, which was something. The Ministry's Compulsion was broken, so Remus had delivered the message as required.
"Well?" the senior Auror barked, "What did he say?"
"He gave me a letter," Remus struggled for breath, and Severus itched to hex them away from the werewolf. Remus pulled the folded and sealed piece of parchment from his pocket, and Severus' sharp eyes noted that the blue wax had gold flecks in it, but no sigils or crest, "He wrote it in front of me and sealed it without magic."
The letter was floated from his hand with a spell and Severus divided his attention between the Aurors inept checks for further Dark magic, and Remus as he slowly regained his breath. Something in his chest eased when the werewolf finally straightened to his usual slouch and flicked a glance at him.
"To the Minister of Magic and his Representatives," the lead Auror read aloud, and then unsealed the letter with a flick of his fingers. The paper unfolded and was scanned again: Severus didn't bother to contain his sneer. There were only three lines on the parchment, and again the senior Auror read them aloud.
I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request. (That means no.)
With a snarl that didn't even compare to the ferocity of a moon torn Remus the Aurors threw the door open and stomped out, summoning the spent port key from around Remus' neck so roughly the leather thong burned his neck as it snapped. Remus breathed in sharply in reaction to the pain, and it was all that Severus could do to restrain himself. He stepped forward instead, took the other man by the upper arm and practically hauled him along to the atrium where they Flooed home.
He had no doubt whatsoever that the Ministry would barge in again and take them back to the Aurors offices to send Remus yet again with another futile message. The problem was that he had nowhere to run to. The man he'd once considered a mentor had turned out to be even more two faced than the Master Spy, and their potions business covered basic living expenses with a little saved for emergencies. He hadn't had time to access their funds today and was certain that the Aurors would be back tomorrow.
Their only option was to run, but he didn't know where they could go. For all his vaunted skills as a spy, his former boltholes were no longer viable, and they'd been so closely watched that privacy was almost non-existent. Remus seemed to recover the moment that they crossed their own hearth, turning to lock the Floo with a savage twist of the wards, and then gripping him tightly by the upper arms.
"This is no time for hysterics, Lupin," Severus snapped, hoping to head things off at the pass. He was given a very impatient shake in return, and Remus pulled another piece of parchment from up his sleeve. It was sealed with the same wax, and he pushed it into Severus' hand before stepping back and collapsing onto the couch in an exhausted heap. Severus went and sat beside him, yanking impatiently until his lover was curled with his greying head in his lap. He flicked the parchment open and unfolded it with a sensation akin to dread roiling in his stomach. He knew that whatever he was about to read would change their lives, and they would likely have very little time to deliberate upon it one way or the other. Remus was shaking lightly in his lap, but not for any good reasons, so Severus resented the slight movement.
The writing on the parchment was neat, and precise, marching across in orderly lines. There was still something of the scrawl he'd been used to seeing in the brats homework and essays, but it was tamed here. There was no honorific at the beginning.
'I am in a position to offer you both honest work, teaching magic to 11+ year olds. You would be given control of the curriculum for your area, and responsibility for overseeing the less experienced teachers. Remuneration would be commensurate with your Mastery and experience, and living quarters would be supplied. Should you choose to turn down the teaching position, temporary living quarters could be supplied for you if you so wish, with further support towards re-establishing your current business.
This offer has a time limit to it – we are both aware that the Ministry will be monitoring you closely and they are not inclined to respecting a man's limits.
Should you wish to accept the offer you will both need to tap your wands to the bottom of this parchment. Should you wish to decline it, simply burn the parchment in your grate. The offer ends at sunrise.
Severus wound his fingers into greying hair and looked at the clock on the mantle. It read 'time to make a decision' and he restrained an exasperated snort. He tugged on the hair he was holding and Remus pulled his wand. That was clear enough, his lover wanted to take the offer. Alternatively, he was threatening to hex him for the hair pulling. Either way, Severus smirked into the dim room, appreciative of his lover's spirit.
"The things I put up with," Severus sighed long sufferingly, wanting his protest registered from the start, and pulled his own wand. Together they touched their wands to the parchment. It glowed once and there was a sharp pop. Two house elves stood in front of him, looking vaguely familiar. The male held his hand up for silence and handed Remus another note before running after his mate. Severus sighed again and leaned over to have a look. The elves were packing and would give them a port key once the job was finished. The entire contents of the property – anything that was moveable – would be coming with them, apparently including a large part of the garden. Only the buildings would be left behind.
The Ministry was not set up to monitor the use of magic inside their house, no matter how hard they'd tried, and the elves actions would go unnoticed. Severus shook his head and pushed Remus out of his lap, going to silently supervise the packing of his lab.
"How the hell did you conceal a magical parchment?" his lover's first words as the port key released them were entirely typical. Remus laughed and let go of the cushion that Dobby had produced, whirling away from Severus in an excess of relief. He hadn't been sure what his lover would do with the offer that Harry was making, in fact he hadn't even been sure what the offer was. Harry had said that there would be an offer, and that they would signal acceptance by putting their wands at the bottom. Remus had wanted out so desperately that he was willing to accept anything going as long as it got him free and clear from the Ministry.
"Harry wrapped it around my wand and then charmed it," Remus laughed, "The note was passive until it felt me channel magic through the wand to activate the house wards. Those Aurors never had a chance."
He took a breath, taking in the thunderous face of his lover and seeing beneath it to the worry and concern. He flung himself into Severus' arms impulsively, knocking the man back a step as he sealed their lips together in a kiss rough with love and passion. Several breathless minutes later Severus regained his presence of mind enough to unseal their lips and push him back.
"Remus! Focus man! You mangy oh my god!"
Remus grinned and refrained from speaking with his mouth full.
By the time they were done, the elves had discretely finished unpacking and left them to it. Remus had fetched up flat on his back with Severus sprawled smugly on top of him, both of them rather breathless and dishevelled.
"When I said focus, that wasn't what I meant," Severus finally summoned the strength to complain and Remus rolled his eyes and played with the potion masters hair, as was his wont in the post coital moments.
"Where in the name of Salazar are we?" his lover rolled off him and sat up with a grunt, rearranging his robes and looking around. Their couch wasn't too far away and Severus got up, hauled Remus after him and staggered over to it, sprawling onto it and pulling Remus down, fussing until he had the werewolf arranged to his satisfaction.
"Lake Victoria, source of the Nile," Remus tucked his face into a pale neck and let Severus poke and prod until he was ready to settle, "In a heavily warded camp."
"Potter's camp," Severus muttered, "Did you read the offer?"
"Not yet," Remus admitted with a yawn and nearly went cross eyed when the crumpled parchment was shoved in his face. He pulled his head back until he could focus and read the terse note quickly, "Oh… that's very… generous actually."
"Does he know that I'm your lover?" Severus snarked, which was his way of agreeing. Remus smiled and settled his head back when a long finger jabbed the back of it, flexing his fingers idly in the soft black robes Severus preferred to wear.
"He does," Remus confirmed, hiding his grin when he realised that he would have a chance to get to know the wonderful children that had clustered around Harry, his self-declared 'Herd'. He'd also have a chance to see Severus meet the man that Harry Potter had grown into, and meet the children that Harry had helped create. He'd not met Harry's spouse yet, and was rather surprised that James' son had managed to put the one he'd loved and lost to exile aside to love again. James had always been an all or nothing lover, and once he'd fixed on Lily as his future, nothing had swayed him. Harry had shown all the signs of being similarly fixed, but perhaps Remus was being a bit too harsh. After all, it was more than ten years since he'd left England, and Harry had been forced to make a life for himself in a way that no other young man of his generation had.
"Well, which do you want? The teaching position or the business?" Snape sighed, and Remus looked up at his lover. He kissed the end of the large nose just to provoke the scowl he knew the action would garner, and smiled.
"I wouldn't mind teaching," he murmured, and Severus sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Will you lie still, man?" he complained, and Remus laid his head back obediently. Severus had turned out to be a post coital cuddler, though the cuddling was very much on his terms. Remus didn't mind; in fact, it was an oddly comforting ritual to be harassed into a cuddle.
"I should have known that you'd want to saddle me with the brats again," Severus grumbled, "If I have an aneurism I shall come back and haunt you."
"Yes Severus," Remus' tone was meek, but he was smiling into the warm chest. They both knew that the business had never done better than break even, and it would take time for him to re-establish the garden to the point that they could start again. Remus had loved teaching, and knew that despite his complaints Severus had also relished the challenge.
"Hello the tent!" Harry's voice called, and Severus tightened his arms, throwing a leg over Remus' as well to prevent him from moving. As they were both fully dressed, if a little rumpled, Remus had no intention of moving. Harry would have to accept him and his lover as they were, just as he would have to learn to accept the man that Harry had grown into.
"Come in Potter," Severus called, and the dark brown curtain in the room rustled, with Harry ducking through gracefully. He smiled at Remus, and nodded to the shocked man he was lying on, rubbing the back of the child that was called Kit.
"I see he won't let go," Remus said quietly, and Harry shook his head, perching on the coffee table that walked from its place near the door to its accustomed spot in front of the couch. They'd been occupying that space earlier, which explained why it was out of position.
"He had grass seeds in his ear again. Canker," Harry kissed striped hair, and tightened the arm he had around the little boy, "Our Healer had to summon them out, which makes his ear hurt worse, and the potion he has to take upsets his stomach."
"Humans don't get canker," Severus snapped quietly, in deference to the obviously upset child cuddled protectively in Harry's lap. Instead of the flash of anger or dislike that Remus had been braced to see, Harry merely smiled gently and patted his son on the back again. This was not the angry young man that Remus had known in the last days of the war, as was ably proven by his reaction to the old impatient tone that Severus was using. Remus felt his lover register that, and was relieved.
"He was a tiger cub at the time he was running through the grass, Mr Snape," the reply was soft and calm, "He's a natural born animagus, and he enjoys running in his form. I think he was playing catch with his sister's werecat. They often run together."
There was a moment of silence, and Harry glanced around the main room of their new home, evidently checking that everything was laid out correctly, though Severus would probably rearrange several things out of principle.
"I'd like to know what you've decided. I'm sorry to rush you into this, but if the teaching positions are to remain open we'll need to advertise, and my assistant is leaving for Canada in two days with his family for a short break," Harry shrugged the shoulder not occupied by his son, "He'll advertise while he's there and set up the interviews for me."
"We accept," Severus informed the green-eyed man, loosening his grip on Remus when he realised the werewolf had no intention of moving, and Harry had no intention of saying anything. Harry smiled and seemed relieved.
"Oh good," he sighed, "No interviews. I loathe them, and the rest of the team refuse to take responsibility for them, ungrateful wretches. Now, given that you're extremely experienced in the field, Mr Snape, I'd like to offer the position of Headmaster to you. You'd be in charge of several Masters in their chosen fields, but they're all either too young to have had an apprentice, or too used to teaching adults with a firm grasp of the basics. We've got the last stages of the approval for the Nomadic Academy of Magical Excellence going through the International courts now, and your first year class would only be three students. That is typical of the class sizes, so you'll have a lot of latitude when it comes to setting up the schedules. Ray has a packet of information for you, and we'll negotiate a salary for you both. Remus, I presume you'll be taking a class?"
"Yes," Remus nodded, finding it extremely odd to be taking part in a job interview while draped over his lover, "I was thinking of Care of Magical Creatures, actually."
"Good, we don't have a Magizoologist in the camp full time, he's already working at Beaubaxtons," Harry nodded, "Well, I'll let you settle in. There is a Charter, which you'll want to be familiar with, and of course, I'll expect to see you for the communal dinner at six tonight. The rest of the camp will want to meet the new Headmaster."
"I want Remus as my deputy," Severus announced suddenly, making Remus jump a little. He hadn't been expecting that at all.
"I don't see why not, Headmaster," Harry got up with a soft grunt and a wince, "It's your school now. I'll see you both at dinner then."
Remus watched in astonishment as Harry walked to the dark brown curtain, a slight limp marring his stride. The green eyed man ducked through the curtain with the graceful ease of someone long accustomed to such a motion, leaving Remus to look at his lover, bewildered by the changes he'd noticed.
Potter had left a book behind on the table, which was untitled and included the Charter that he'd mentioned. It was surprisingly complicated – the rules for the camp, the schedules of payment for communal services, the wards and customs all laid out for the neophyte to absorb. In the back there was a very firm statement about the equality that the camp members expected to be treated with, and mention of several non-human inhabitants, one of which was denoted as a werewolf.
Severus was furious that Potter had deliberately put the information in, seeing it as a slap at his lover, but Remus had merely lifted his head and sniffed for a moment, then calmly informed him that there was another werewolf in the camp, one that was very young.
They were met at three minutes to six by an older couple who introduced themselves as Damian and Barbara, and were listed in the Charter as the Headmaster of the non-magical school, and head of the communal day-care tent. The communal dinner area was little more than a few tables under a canvas flap, but Remus perked up happily and handled all the social niceties that he was so good at, leaving Severus to his observation and data gathering. Potter was seated at one of the tables, surrounded by a crowd of children, though Severus couldn't spot the longsuffering woman that had been foolish enough to have gotten involved with him.
During the pudding, which was excellent, a little girl approached Remus, who growled at her. Recognising the instincts of the wolf, Severus watched curiously as she was drawn in closely, her neck sniffed, and then shaken gently by her scruff. She leaned into his lover with a whine and was gathered to his chest quite protectively. Remus rumbled approval and then let her go, giving her a gentle push towards the anxiously hovering father in the background. That it seemed, was the end of that.
"That's Sally Morgan," Damian informed him, as if he'd asked, "She was bitten a year ago. I take it from her reaction that you've also been bitten?"
"I was three," Remus nodded, and Severus stirred himself to inform the man that he supplied his lovers' potion personally.
"Our current potions master also supplies for Sally," Barbara spoke up, and then turned to speak to someone who was calling her name. Severus wondered who that was and made a mental note to find out what sort of ingredients they had on hand. The elves had packed all that he'd need for Remus, it had been the first thing he'd insisted on, but there were other ingredients that he had been running low on.
They were introduced to the camp by announcement at the end of dinner, Damian shooting off a rainbow of sparks to get people's attention. Remus, the Gryffindor, also informed people of his Bite, and Severus was pleased to note that the only reactions were ones of sympathy, not disgust.
Potter left immediately after the announcement was done with, taking the horde of sprogs with him, and Severus blew out a sigh of frustration. As little as he wanted to, they needed to tell the brat what was going on at home, and would have to do so soon. He hadn't seen the tent that Potter entered, and although each tent was distinctly coloured, patterned or otherwise marked, he didn't yet know how to read them.
Remus was showing signs of strain, and he hauled his lover back to their tent and put him to bed. The wretched man wouldn't stay there unless Severus lay with him, which he did with the intent of getting up again once his lover was asleep. His own body betrayed him though and he woke early the next morning, at what he estimated was his usual time. He'd never suffered travel-lag, as some wizards did, so the change in time zone had not affected him. He'd never known if Remus suffered from it, and made a mental note to have a mild restorative on hand for him, just in case.
The kitchen was not difficult to locate, as it was occupied by Remus and smelt of breakfast and tea. They were interrupted in their washing up by a stranger's voice calling,
"Hello the tent," in what seemed to be the camp equivalent of knocking. Of course, it was difficult to knock on a tent, but had they never heard of bell pulls or warding chimes? Remus let their visitors in quite happily, and Severus had to suffer through a round of introductions of the five people that called themselves 'Harry's team'.
"We do need to speak to Potter," Severus informed them blandly, "As a matter of some urgency. There are things he needs to know."
"Potter isn't here, he left before sunrise," the Goblin of the group announced, looking none too impressed by the action, "We're not sure when he'll be back."
"If it's about the school, then I've got the details for that," the blonde who had introduced himself as Ray Fraser spoke up, and Severus crossed his arms over his chest in the fussy little movement that annoyed people without fail.
"It is personal, and not related to this camp," Severus informed him in an icy tone, the effect of which was ruined when Remus opened his yap.
"It's about events back home," his lovers' mild tone caused a lot more consternation that Severus thought the statement warranted. How typical of Potter to choose to surround himself with people who were as melodramatic as he was.
"Ah, well, we wanted to talk to you about that," the arithmancer, Harding Welsh gave them what was evidently supposed to be a friendly smile, "Harry has made it quite clear that he doesn't want to be involved in whatever it is that is going on in England. He's put you all behind him."
"Tactful, Harding," his wife snorted, "What he's trying to say is that we'd prefer it if you didn't spend a lot of time reminiscing about the good old days with Harry. He'll only get upset, and we'd like to avoid that."
"As his 'team'?" Severus sneered and the petite Italian woman snorted, speaking up for the first time.
"As his family," she informed them, "There is not a day that goes by that you all aren't missed, but his life is here now, and it's a good one."
"We aren't interested in reminiscing," Severus informed them, "And we do need to speak to Potter."
"I said he isn't here," the Goblin growled, "He left before dawn."
"Cowardice? How refreshing," Severus muttered, not quite under his breath. Their reactions were not what he was expecting. Instead of being incensed by the accusation, they rolled their eyes and shook their heads.
"Potter works for… an international law enforcement agency… and was called away on a mission," the Goblin announced with carefully shaded insinuation, "He is not expected back for several days. Don't ask me what or where, not even I know the answer to that."
"With Argent so close to her time, you couldn't expect him to take you, Trinket," Fraser said quietly, "Besides, you're holding the wards now that Harry is out of camp."
"And don't think we won't be having words about that little trick when I get back," Trinket scathed, and subsided into fluent Gobbledegook, which Severus had neglected to learn.
"Actually we came to catch you up on several key points in Harry's life;" the linguist waved the Goblin silent impatiently, "There are a few things you need to know about our Harry."
Severus exchanged a subtle glance with Remus. Evidently, things were not as they seemed.
Four days later Remus emerged from their tent early in the morning in time to see Harry limping slowly and laboriously up the path that Remus himself had first used to get to the camp. His best friend's son was relying on a thick branch for support and one arm was tucked inside his robes in an improvised sling. He was grimy and dusty, but his face lit up in a smile when he spotted Remus and he held a finger from his uninjured arm across one lip in a gesture for silence.
Severus and Remus had been discussing exactly what they were going to tell Harry, and Remus had come to realise that their arrival in camp was probably the quickest way to get Harry to interfere with the goings on in England. It had been a bitter pill to swallow. Remus didn't want Harry anywhere near the events occurring in England, but he knew there was no way that the former Chosen One would just stand back.
Remus hurried over to Harry's side, and Harry paused casually, as if coming up the path bloodied and torn was an everyday occurrence.
"Good morning Remus," Harry's voice had a slightly rough edge to it, and up close Remus could see the bruising around his neck, "Settling in?"
"What?" Remus gaped at the ridiculous question and made as if to take Harry's weight. He was waved off sharply, and Harry continued on his way, the frustrated werewolf falling into step beside him.
"What the hell happened?" Remus spat, and Harry shrugged with his good shoulder, aiming for the white tent that just screamed 'hospital'. While they were talking, Severus had emerged from their tent and was moving to intercept them, a comforting black streak in the corner of Remus' vision.
"The wee beasties were a mite frisky," the Scottish brogue was pure McGonagall, and Harry tilted him a sly look, "I had to be stern with them."
"Potter, you're delirious," Severus snapped, "Look Remus, he's been bitten."
Sure enough, there was a double puncture wound on Harry's thigh, though that was not the leg that needed the support.
"It was just a cobra," Harry waved it off; "He was a little frightened by all the shouting."
"Don't panic," the new voice made Remus look up and he recognised the Head Healer of the camp with relief, "He's immune to mundane snake bites. It's an interesting side effect of being bitten by a Basilisk and then healed by a Phoenix."
"When in Salazar's name did that happen?" Severus gasped, shocked out of his usual equanimity. Harry gave him a doubtful look as he was settled onto a bed, sighing in relief as his weight came off the injured leg.
"Second year at Hogwarts," even his voice sounded disbelieving, "There was a Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. The students were petrified because none of them got the full effect of its glare. I thought the staff at least had been told, but then again considering who was in charge of the staff…"
"You've killed a Basilisk?" Remus sat on an empty bed in shock, and the Healer chuckled, his wand waving calmly over Harry's body.
"He's killed two," the Healer said, "And he's getting better at it, because the second time he didn't get bitten. We had some very valuable potions ingredients out of that one."
"Oh yeah," Harry chuckled, "I thought the resident potions master was going to kiss me, or marry me or something."
"Have your children?" Severus offered in a dry voice, "Oh no, that's right. You've been doing that yourself."
"And a fun time was had by all," Harry muttered, his eyes drooping a little in fatigue, "Armando, I'd like to have dinner with the kids."
"You'll be up by then," Armando nodded, and Remus shot him a startled look. Surely, Harry would need more rest than that. He was terribly thin, pale and weary, and from the crunching noises, in need of a bone setting draught.
"Would you like to join us for dinner, Moony? I'd like you to meet the Herd;" Harry blinked slowly, "Mr Snape is also invited."
"Thank you, Harry," Remus smiled, and Severus rolled his eyes, which meant he'd come, "We'll be there. Six o'clock too early?"
"Come at five, that way you can meet them before they hit the feeding frenzy stage," Harry mumbled and his eyes fluttered shut. Remus looked at the man drowsing on the bed and wondered if he'd ever feel that he truly knew him again. Even when Harry had been a teenager Remus hadn't known all of him. It saddened him to think that his friends' child was such an enigma.
"We have meetings," Severus reminded him, in a 'don't make me go alone or I'll hex someone' tone of voice and Remus nodded, tearing himself away from Harry's side. They would see him tonight, and that would have to be soon enough. He'd already agreed with his lover that it would be best not to wait to tell Harry what he should know.
The thought that he had been placed in the position of a School Founder, that he was in fact the first Headmaster of an international academy by the grace of Harry Potter, was something that Severus found hard to accept. Magical schools were not formed lightly, and usually had a way of enduring one way or another for many generations. Of course, he was in charge of a tent school, not something that was finely crafted from sturdy stone or wood to suit their purpose, and that took some of the prestige away from the idea. Typical Potter, to give with one hand and take away with the other.
Potter's tent was near the edge of the communal area, and Severus had recognised over the last several days that the camp was organised according to profession. Potter's team were clustered with him, the masons and smiths were together, the guilds and associations in another group, and the support personnel mixed in with them all. His and Remus' tent had been placed nearer to the school tent, but still on the side near Potter's team. His lover was pleased by that.
From the outside, Potter's tent was a standard khaki canvas affair, with an awning and roof ventilation panels. The awning was a dark blue, with a gold fringe, and it struck Severus that the wax used on Potter's correspondence matched the awning.
He stood back and let Remus call for entry, and they were admitted without ceremony by an answering hail. Potter was standing by a brightly patterned curtain and he smiled as they entered. He certainly didn't look the battered figure he'd been early this morning, dressed in the neat casual Muggle clothes that were favoured in Arabic countries, though these ones fit at least in comparison to the oversized rags he'd worn in Headquarters almost a decade ago.
"I'll be right with you," Potter waved to the couch, "Have a seat and help yourselves. I'm afraid we've had a small crisis. Won't be a moment."
It seemed that his manners hadn't improved any; a proper host would never consider leaving guests to fend for themselves. There were refreshments on the table however, so he'd at least learned the rudiments of hosting. Remus seemed quite happy, looking around keenly and settling onto the smaller of the couches. Severus took the armchair, in a purely tactical move.
The tent was a mixture of furniture styles from all over Asia, Europe and Africa, and there was a small scattering of children's toys about the place. There were several bookshelves and many photos, which he could see his lover was clearly dying to examine. Severus had pleaded with the man, but he knew that there would be an appearance of the dreaded photo albums before the night was out.
The curtain rustled and a chuckling boy came out from behind it, batting at damp hair in an effort to get it to sit down. Severus felt his heart stop for a moment, as the miniature Harry Potter, sans the scar and green eyes, gave up on his locks and walked towards them, a smile on his face.
"Hullo!" he held his hand out to Remus politely, "I'm Davy. Daddy says that you're our Uncle Moony?"
"Yes," Remus beamed and Severus rolled his eyes at the naked emotion in his lovers' voice, "I'm pleased to meet you Davy."
"Daddy said to check that you were alright for a few more minutes? We had an incident with some paint, some pets and some accidental magic earlier, and he's still trying to clean the rest of us up. Don't ask," Davy Potter, a ridiculous name that only Potter could inflict on the boy, smiled engagingly and Remus reassured him that they were quite all right.
"I'll go let him know then, and see if I can rescue a few more of us for you to talk to," Davy shrugged and headed back for the curtain that seemed to be hiding a multitude of sins. Once the boy was out of sight Severus heaved a sigh and hauled himself over to sit with the overly emotional wreck on the couch, dropping a firm hand onto one knee.
"He looks so much like Harry," Remus cleared his throat, "And he called me Uncle Moony!"
"Wipe your face," Severus muttered in a long suffering tone and handed his lover a crisp linen square, "And get hold of yourself man, before you frighten them all away."
He kept his hand on Remus' knee until the man stopped leaking at the eyes and patted it once before tucking his hands into the sleeves of his robes. The curtain rustled again and this time Davy of the insipid name was back with more Potters, the eldest of them all trailing along behind his brood. Potter swept them with a keen look but didn't say anything about the state of the werewolf on his couch, which at least showed the brat had learned some tact in the last decade or so.
"Well, you've met them in passing, Remus, but I thought we should formally introduce them to you," Potter smiled, apparently as happy to ignore Severus as he was to be ignored, "Children if you wouldn't mind introducing yourselves properly, I'd take it as a personal favour. This is your Uncle Remus Lupin, whom is also Moony. The gentleman next to him is Headmaster Snape."
"David Ronald Potter," Davy redeemed his name, and shook hands properly. The next was a redhead, James Remus, followed by a girl with a snake peeping out of her sleeve, Maria Hermione. Upon the snake hissing to her, she hissed back, which then sparked off a round of hissing between herself, the snake and her eldest brother. Potter senior hissed something at them all, and they subsided, with sheepish looks in the direction of their guests.
Remus had quivered in shock at hearing one of the horde partly named for him, but it was Severus who got a shock when Lily Sirius presented herself, her hair a little too dark to be truly Lily's colour. He didn't bother to contain the snort upon hearing her middle name, and skewered Potter with his best 'you idiot' look. He was aggravated to see that it slid off the brat like water from a ducks back.
Elizabeth Molly followed with hair in several bright and clashing colours, which changed as he watched. Christopher Arthur, he of the tiger cub, was next, a single red stripe falling through black tresses, followed by twins with matching bright blue hair, Evan Rubeus and Abigail Ginerva. Each child shook Remus' hand politely, and then nodded to him when his own hands stayed firmly inside his robes.
"Three metamorphmagus, an animagus and two parselmouths," Severus summed up when the greetings were over, and Harry beamed at him proudly. He was mildly disappointed to see that the days when it was easy to bait the boy were over, and a little chastised by the glance his lover threw at him. Perhaps it was best not to pick a fight in front of the children.
"Yes, all my children are very talented," he agreed, and Remus relaxed beside him when the brat saw fit to ignore his tone, "I've been very blessed."
Severus sat back with a rustle, and let his lover distract them from the potential argument by asking the children enough questions to keep them occupied until adulthood.
Dinner with Harry's children had been lively. The eight children had been well mannered for their ages, but they'd all been keenly interested in hearing stories about 'daddy' when he was younger, and Remus had obliged them, a tinge of happy guilt tweaking his conscience. Harry had moaned and huffed and whined, to which his children had responded with giggles and looks of such love that it had quite taken Remus' breath away.
Pudding was followed by teeth brushing, pyjamas, stories, and bed, in a whirl that was well practiced and organised down to the smallest of tasks. From youngest to eldest, the children were slowly but surely put to bed for the night, Harry moving from room to room until the curtains were pulled shut and peace settled over the main rooms. Harry came back to sit with them, taking a cup of the aromatic tea he'd left for them to drink and collapsing into his armchair with an exhausted sigh.
"I'm sorry," he apologised, "It's hard to be a good host at bedtime."
"They are remarkably well trained," Severus surprised Remus with the comment, as his lover had been mostly silent since the children had emerged from the bathroom prior to dinner. Harry gave the comment a tired smile and shrugged.
"I quickly learned that routine and consistency were the main weapons in a parent's arsenal. And they've got me well and truly outnumbered…" Harry chuckled and ran a hand through hair that was as messy as it ever had been. He drew his knees up to his chest and cradled his tea against them, peering at Remus over the bony escarpment.
"Something has been bothering you all evening, Moony," the tone was gentle, compassionate, "And Armando warned me that you'd both insisted on speaking to me about a personal matter. What is it?"
"We need to tell you about the Weasley's Harry," Remus sighed, "I'm afraid it's not good news."
He watched his almost godson become paler and paler as Severus outlined in terse dry sentences the fate of the family that Harry had loved as his own. Upon his exile, the Weasley family had been virtually under house arrest, as had several other people who had publicly supported Harry. They had been branded as Dark Sympathisers, and had been subject to the same level of scrutiny that Remus had due to his status as werewolf. Ironically, there were one or two former Death Eaters who had fared better than one of the oldest Light families in Britain. With the advent of a new self-declared Dark Lord, Britain had once again been plunged into a climate of fear and violence. This Dark Lord was intent on domination of this plane of existence and several others, including the realm of demons. He was attacking the Ministry of Magic repeatedly in an attempt to breach through to the Department of Mysteries, and the supposed wealth of artefacts held there that would help him achieve his goal. During one such attack two years ago, Arthur Weasley had been cursed, and no one had been able to break it. The family patriarch was slowly dying, and it was heartbreaking to watch. It was feared that the end was near, and that fear had gathered all of Arthur's children, and their spouses and children, to England to be with him and their mother at this time.
The Ministry, in its wisdom, had decided that for the safety of the family, and presumably, to prevent them from defecting to the ranks of the newest Dark Lord, it would be best to take the entire family into protective custody; they had promptly been locked up in the bowels of the Ministry itself. The Minister himself had announced that their arrest was justified by their past public allegiances to another declared Dark Lord, one Harry Potter. Upon hearing this, Harry had made a noise like a wounded animal and buried his face in his knees.
"They were supposed to be safe," he whispered, and Remus shot Severus an uncertain look. They had both debated as to the reasons that the Weasley's had left Harry to live in exile all alone, as had several of their acquaintances. None of them had ever been able to determine the full reason.
"When they came to my room in St Mungo's they told me that accepting the Exile was best for all concerned. I could avoid Azkaban, and the Weasley's could live their lives. Arthur was employed by the Ministry, and his pay was just enough to cover his families' living expenses. Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were still in school, and needed to graduate. No one would employ them without qualifications, and I couldn't take their futures away… Percy was dead, but the twins had their business in England, in fact, the only ones that could earn a living out of the country were Bill and Charlie. They told me that if I maintained contact with the family, or initiated it with the two eldest sons, then they would be sent to Azkaban to keep the rest of the population safe. The Minister said that in the current climate no one would put up with another Dark Lord raising an army and that there would be no one to support me. Dumbledore said if I hadn't tried to Crucio Bellatrix LeStrange when I was fifteen he might have been able to help me, but it was for the best that I leave now."
Remus wanted to be ill, and from the expression on Severus' face, it was apparent that his lover was equally disturbed to hear the blatant manipulation that a weakened and injured teen had been put through. Harry would have been at his most vulnerable just after the final Battle, and if reports were to be believed, he'd have had almost no magic to defend himself with. Exhausted and isolated, he'd have believed the words of his trusted Headmaster.
"That does not explain why you have remained apart from them," Severus spoke up, baring the significant part of the mystery in his usual direct style. Harry lifted his face from his knees, his lashes wet, but composed.
"The year that Ginny graduated, in fact it would have been the day she graduated from Hogwarts, I was sent a letter by the Minister, stating that he had signed an execution warrant for the Aurors, effectively revoking my Exile and declaring me a rogue. If I return to Britain, I will be killed. If I contact anyone living in Britain, they will be held, without trial or recourse, in Azkaban. The formal seal of the Supreme Mugwump of the Wizengamot was also attached," the green-eyed man sighed and sipped at his cool tea, leaning his head back against the armchair he was sitting on, "It wasn't worth the risk."
Severus hissed under his breath in shock, and Remus resisted the urge to swear long and loud, aware that there were children sleeping behind the curtains around them. Harry sighed after a moment and then stood, wincing as he did so. Remus recalled that the day had started with Harry arriving in camp injured and exhausted and stood as well, getting Severus up from the couch with a well placed glare of his own.
"Thank you for telling me this," Harry put his cup down and stumbled a little, righting himself with a sharp breath and a muttered curse, "I'm more tired than I thought…"
"We'll go," Remus hastened to his side and hugged him carefully, "I'm sorry we had such frightful news to tell you."
"Good thing I'm not in the habit of hexing the messenger," Harry hugged him back and nodded at Severus, "I'll see you later, Moony."
"Yes," Remus agreed and stepped back. Severus nodded at Harry in reply, and together they ducked through the curtain, the action already becoming normal, and headed back to their own tent.
It wouldn't be until breakfast the next day that both Severus and Remus realised how well they'd been deceived.
Next – Ron and Hermione aide and abet a criminal act
Author's final note – yes, I do intend to tease you about who it is that Harry loves and pines for, for just a little bit longer!!