Within the Marauders, there had always been mini-alliances. Jamesandsirius was the best known of them, as they were the ring leaders, and Remusandpeter who were quieter, more willing to settle down and study while the others hexed Slytherins. From sixth year onwards, there was Siriusandremus, when they had finally admitted their feelings for one another thanks to one James Potter and an enchanted bottle of Firewhiskey.
Outside the Marauders, there were other alliances. Before Jamesandlily there was Remusandlily, not in any romantic sense, but as prefects, and friends. In fact, when he graduated, Remus would have named Lily as his best friend, Sirius as his boyfriend (as much as neither of them liked to say that word because it made them Poncy Fairies) and Peter and James as his fellow Marauders. It was Lily who Remus went to for discussions over pots of Irish Breakfast tea, while Sirius and James tinkered with Sirius' bloody motorbike and Peter gnawed at his fingernails in worry.
It was Remus who Lily came to when she found out that the reason she had thrown up the morning before Christmas wasn't James' inability to cook, but instead a pregnancy. Remus had taken it well, considering, only breaking four mugs before Lily gave him that I thought you were meant to be the sensible one look and Remus responded with a No, that's Peter, I've told you a thousand times until they smiled. Remus poured them tea and tried to take it like an adult rather than a rather scared nineteen year old (which is what he truly was).
"A baby," Remus repeated. "So James is capable of breeding. I fear for our future."
Lily swatted him on the arm and drank her tea with the look of one who wished it was something far more alcoholic. Her look softened and those green eyes took on the shine that no one was able to resist, and he shook his head vehemently.
"I don't know what you're planning, Evans," he said, taking great delight in still using her maiden name. "But you can stop right there with that bloody look on your face."
"I want you to be godfather," she said, unperturbed.
"James will want Sirius," Remus pointed out.
"Bugger what James wants. Oh, Rem," she sighed as his blue eyes flashed dangerously. "It's not that I don't trust Sirius, I love him like a brother. And he'll spoil Prongs the second no matter what his position is in our life. Most likely he'll be as much his guardian as you are. But I want it to be you, legally."
"I'm a werewolf," he swallowed, taking a gulp of tea to hide his discomfort. "It's not going to be easy."
Lily snorted. "Because barely-twenty year olds raising a child during a war is going to be," she said, as if that settled matters.
- - -
And so it did. Lily Potter, with hands on hips style of dealing with people, bullied and wheedled and somehow convinced the Werewolf Registrar to allow Remus to be godfather of what they now knew would be a baby boy. Remus was quite glad he had avoided both that and the flaming rows he was sure Lily and James had over who would be godfather, because she could be terrifying at the best of times, and pregnant triply so. Sirius, to his credit, had shrugged it off good-naturedly, wondering aloud why James married a harpy, to which Remus had rolled his eyes and made sure his ego was massaged a little more than normal that night.
- - -
July died and Harry was born; Remus didn't think anything was more wonderful than seeing his godson for the first time. He held the child close, protectively, rocked him and smiled, stroking the tuft of black hair which is already atop Harry's head. Remus turned to hand him to Sirius, as he was sure Sirius has been waiting too long but only gets a shake of the head in response. Sirius wrapped an arm around him, resting his chin on Remus' shoulder and smiling fondly at the green eyed child in his boyfriend's – Merlin, they had to get used to using that word – arms.
"Not interrupting anything, are we, boys?" Lily smiled and blew on her tea, and Remus rolled his eyes at her because he's the only one allowed to do that in the room. James settled on the end of the bed, and looked at them with his serious face, the one that he had always used as Quidditch captain.
"If anything happens to us, we want you two to take him," James said, as if it were a natural thing to say with a five hour old baby in the room. Sirius spluttered, the usual response to the thought that any of them could happen to any of them. Remus was used to this, and he continued to think like it, in spite of the fact the James and Lily had come close to death on four occasions, James still walked with a limp and Sirius, personally, had been dead to the world for six full days. He supposed that at twenty, Sirius was allowed to believe that nothing could kill him – Remus just wished he could take part in the fantasy.
"Of course we will," Remus murmured, and heard the sucking in of breath at his shoulder. He ignored the implication – but that's something real couples do, raise children – and just nodded at Lily, who looked grateful and oblivious of the horror that was obvious on Sirius' face. "Prongs, you want to take him?"
James nodded and after depositing Harry in his father's arms, Remus jerked Sirius' arm, pulling him out of the door. Sirius was barely past the mint green door when Remus pushed him up against the wall of the hospital with the strength everyone always forgot he had.
"What the fuck are you playing at, Padfoot?" Remus snarled.
Winded, Sirius just gasped and stared back at the brunette. "What?"
"You don't think we're capable of doing something as normal as raising a child?"
The grey eyes flickered and slid shut, a mirthless laugh spilling from his lips. "'Salways about you and your insecurities, isn't it Moony?" he breathed.
"Sirius," Remus growling his name like that seemed out of place, far too strong a reminder of the bedroom when they were meant to be arguing. "What were you flinching about back there, then?"
Without warning Sirius shoved him back, sending him stumbling backwards across the hallway. "You great dolt," he snapped. "It's nothing to do with us. It's... fuck. If you admit that something can happen to us," Remus knew, this time, it was a more general 'us' than the first. "...it becomes more real. They can get us if they think they can."
"They can already get us, Sirius. You didn't think they could and you were unconscious in a bed like Lily's for six damn days!" Remus stalked back across the hall. "Whether we admit it or not, we're living in a war time, and being cocky is just going to make you more of a target!"
Sirius drew him up to his full height and probably would have let loose with a torrent of abuse if James had not wrenched the door open at that moment.
"Can you two not have one day that is about life instead of death?" he thundered, seeming far older than his twenty years. "Get back in this room, shut your mouths and coo over my son before I silence you both and let Lily yell at you instead."
Remus and Sirius exchanged a look that said Oh, gods, James Potter really is a father, and stepped back into the room meekly. Lily smiled, satisfied, stroking the quietening boy in her arms.
"Tea will make it better," she said cheerfully.
"Lily, dear, you think tea will make it better because the nurses have been slipping a mild sedative draught into your pot," James said fondly, kissing his wife on the forehead. There was a chuckle, from whom they would later argue about at length, which bubbled and rose until laughter filled the air, and Sirius felt comfortable enough to lay a hand at Remus' back. A smile, a lean into the touch, and things were well again as the sound of friends laughing washed over them, chasing away the mental boggarts which seemed to haunt them more often these days.
There was a pop, and Peter apparated into the room, looking tired and worn and skinnier than any of them had ever seen them. He raked a hand through his sandy brown hair and smiled tiredly.
"Sorry I'm late, Jones didn't come to relieve me for hours after she was meant to," he said, and leant over the bed. "Oh, he's..."
No one knew what Peter was about to say as in that moment, Harry decided it was time to spit up. Lily smiled serenely, cleaning up the mess as Peter retracted his hand and instead reached up to clap James on the shoulder.
James smiled at his wife and son, pleased with his three best friends in the room with him.
- - -
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...
It was Remus who caught Lily as she fell in Dumbledore's office, clutching her to his chest as Sirius restrained James. Blue eyes met grey as an agonised scream rent the room, and Harry began to cry.
- - -
"You've got to let someone do it, Lily," Remus urged her, the five of them settled around the Potter kitchen table. "It's not safe, being here, having Harry here."
"Remus is right," Peter spoke up, his hands shaking a little around the mug of Firewhiskey and tea. "You've got to save yourselves."
Sirius' eyes flicked to Peter for a moment, but looked back to James, laying a hand on his friend's. "What do you think, Prongs?"
"Harry needs a family," James exhaled slowly. "If we go into hiding, you won't be able to see him. He needs more than his parents."
Lily nodded, twisting her fingers through her red hair. "You are Harry's family, I don't want him to grow up in isolation."
"There's a war going on out there!" Peter snapped.
"And there's a child growing up in here," Lily stood, jutting out her chin determinedly. "We're his parents. We'll decide how we raise our child, thank you."
- - -
"You cannot give a five month old a broomstick, Sirius!" Remus said, shoving him lightly. "Lily will beat you over the head with it, then garrote you."
"But he'd be so good at it," Sirius wheedled.
"Surely something loud to give Prongs a headache would work better? What about those Always-Beating-Bongos?" there was a slight edge of desperation to Remus' voice, as he had been told quite severely by the red head in question that he had Responsibilities in regard to his godson's safety. Personally, he believed Sirius was right – Harry would get on a broomstick when he wanted to – and if it meant having something loud to prove to her that she was wrong, so be it.
Sirius' lips curled into that smile that meant no good could come of what he was planning. "Brilliant idea," he hummed, and grabbed the drums. "Think we could – "
Whatever Sirius was planning died in his throat as a silvery mongoose bounded through the air to stand on it's hind legs a few feet in front of them.
"Send help to the Watchers," Moody's voice wheezed, and Sirius dropped the drums as they both apparated away, ignoring the stunned gasps of the shoppers around them. They reappeared on a dirty grey field a kilometre or so from James' parents house. Without words or exchanging looks, they took off at a run, rounding the corner to see a terrifying sight.
Moody was lying unconscious on the ground, Peter hunched over his body, wand still drawn defiantly. Two Death Eaters still stood before them and around them lay three bodies, all face down and unrecognisable as Order members or Death Eaters Two more cracks sounded and Kingsley and Marlene appeared, and four voices called four separate hexes – "Stupefy!" "Petrificus Totalus!" "Incarcerous!" "Deprimo!"
The Death Eaters sprang up faster than Remus thought he'd ever seen them move, and they swooped down on their fallen comrades. He couldn't really say how all four of the spells missed, but he truly had no time to consider it as his body hit an instinctive response level. At the sight of the blood, he was upon Moody before the Death Eaters had disapparated, the sound of hysterical laughter echoing in the distance as he ripped the Auror's robes to examine the wound.
"Fucking Bellatrix," Sirius swore, kneeling beside Remus as Peter mumbled incoherently. "What's happened here?"
"Cursed wound," Remus replied tersely. His eyes flickered to Kingsley, who was knelt over the body that Remus now could see was that of Alice Longbottom, and he gritted his teeth, pushing down the question that immediately sprang to his mind. "It's pretty bad. Marl, take Pete. It'll take Sirius and I to manage Mad-Eye. Kings, you alright with Alice?"
"I'll have to be," Kingsley said shortly, picking the limp body up as if it were a toy. "Get him safe. Stay out of Mungo's."
Marlene's gentle hands took Peter's shoulders as Kingsley disapparated with a crack. Glassy brown eyes looked up at her and she smiled.
"See you later Black, Lupin," she said softly, hauling Peter to his feet with more ease than it looked like her body could manage. She, too, was gone, as Remus ripped a strip off of his robe to try and staunch the bleeding.
"James' place?" Sirius asked, having cleaned the wound as well as he could.
"Yeah," Remus muttered, pulling Moody's body into a sitting position. Sirius mirrored his movements, and they disapparated.
Reappearing in the Potter lounge room, Remus stumbled heavily on his leg, which had been wounded rather badly the previous week with the moon. Biting back a whimper of pain, because Moody was the one who needed to be worried about here, he shifted his weight quickly. Sirius glanced at him despite his attempts to silence it and narrowed his eyes as they deposited him on the lounge.
"You sit too," the dark haired man snapped. "You told me that leg was fine. I'll find Lily."
Remus exhaled loudly and nodded, but as soon as Sirius disappeared into the kitchen, knelt to the ground. Pulling the robes up above Mad-Eye's knee, he winced at the way the blood still oozed from the deep gash, cut so far into the flesh that he could see the horrible flash of ivory that was bone. He sponged the blood from the skin surrounding the wound, but it was so deep and massive and had that green tinge to it that meant it was cursed.
He swore quietly. He'd known, deep down, and had said that it was most likely cursed – though with Bellatrix, no one really knew, she did carry a knife around – but that awful colour, that meant it was lost. They couldn't mend this one, and it was in a position that meant Moody would probably lose the entirety of his calf and foot. That... that was not something he wanted to think about, because this was Moody, brilliant Mad-Eye who could see right through you, who's eye still whizzed around eerily when his body was unconscious, and if he could chose one person who he would deem indestructible, it would be Moody.
Remus himself didn't stand a chance, if they could do this to Mad-Eye.
"I told you to sit!" the frustration was evident in Sirius' voice as he re-entered the lounge room.
"I'm crouching, it's close enough," Remus' eyes fell on Lily. "Where's Prongs? Do you need help?"
"James is on a mission," Lily said bracingly. "Sirius will help me. You go put Harry to bed, I was dressing him for his nap when Sirius almost broke the door down."
Remus nodded as Lily summoned her healer's kit from across the room, stepping back. It was only when he heard his godson's cry that he pulled himself from the moment, limping upstairs and switching from Order member to godfather in the length of a staircase.
- - -
"The McKinnons are dead, Lily! Smart, brilliant, quick Marlene, and her parents, and her siblings. Her thirteen year old brother, Lily," Remus stood across the kitchen table from her, palms flat on the wood. "She could put Prongs down in a duel if she wanted to, and she's dead!"
Lily glared back at him, hands on hips and green eyes bright. "I know, you dolt! I know! But making Harry live in a house with just James and I... that isn't living!"
"You'd rather him die? He's only eight months old, he won't know the difference."
"The Longbottoms aren't under the Fidelius, are they?" she ground her teeth.
"The Longbottoms didn't ask me to love their son as my own," he snapped back. "How many more have to die before you realise what you're doing to all of us?"
He spun on his heel at that, disapparating with a crack, leaving Lily to crumple onto a chair at the kitchen table, sobs wracking her body.
- - -
"Lupin," Moody grunted as the Order meeting broke up. "C'mere, will you?"
Remus hated the fact he looked to Sirius first, and it was only at the other man's small smile and gentle touch at his lower back that Remus stepped towards Moody. His brows knitted together as Mad-Eye limped into another room; he followed silently, utterly lost as to the intention of this meeting away from the others' eyes.
"Potters couldn't come today?" Mad-Eye said abruptly; somehow it is both a question and a statement.
"No, they're moving again," Remus replied, unable to keep the bitterness from his voice.
"Right," Mad-Eye sniffs and pulls a thick sheaf of parchment from his robes; where, Remus doesn't particularly want to know. "You know that Dumbledore thinks there's a spy in the ranks?"
"Yes," the assent is almost silent, as if Remus doesn't want to admit it may be true – which is correct. Loyalty has always been important to him, and he hates the idea that someone is leaving that ideal behind. "What do you think?"
"I think Dumbledore is far too clever for his own good," Mad-Eye shrugged and handed over the parchment. Remus looked at it curiously, but opened the sheaf. Inside was a thick stack of photographs, and from the first one Sirius' face stared back at him. His frown deepened and he shuffled through the images, each one involving Sirius. The dark haired man strode towards a door, pulling his cloak up around his head and turning his face away. He came to a doorstep with an ornate knocker, which a house elf opened and hurried him inside. Remus frowned; he recognised this house from somewhere, though he couldn't say where. The final image was a wide view of the manor, and he gasped in genuine shock.
"No," he shook his head. "No, Sirius hates his cousins. This can't be right!"
"Did you know that his brother died?"
"Regulus is dead?" Remus' eyebrows disappeared into his shaggy fringe. "When?"
Mad-Eye shrugged carelessly. "We don't track Death Eaters killing their own."
Remus swallowed visibly, and looked down at the second-to-last image, where the house elf hustled Sirius inside and shut the door decisively. "When was this meant to be?"
"Three days ago."
He groaned. Sirius was meant to be watching over Lily's muggle sister's family that day, and Remus hadn't seen him in daylight hours. He'd come home unhappy, blaming it on hours spent hovering on his motorbike, disillusioned and silenced and utterly bored.
"You don't know where he was, do you?" Mad-Eye's magical eye was fixed on a point to his left, but his natural one stared right at Remus. He nodded, mutely, and shrunk the photos down, slipping them into his pocket.
"Lupin!" Moody called out as Remus started to walk out. "This doesn't mean anything."
The unspoken word of "yet" hung heavy in the air as Remus left, finding Sirius chatting to Benjy Fenwick. He forced a smile onto his face and lay a hand on Sirius' shoulder.
"I wanted a word with you, Fenwick. Is your sister going to keep taking field assignments with a baby who hasn't had his first birthday?" he asked, a semblance of normalcy in his teasing tone.
"Mate, if I had a choice, my sister would be locked inside permanently. I think she's going to let me be Secret Keeper, though," the relief was evident on the blonde man's face. "Frank's finally coming 'round."
"Merlin, took him long enough," Sirius' relief mirrored their friend's. "Stubborn git."
"Says James Potter's best friend," Benjy pointed out and glanced at his watch. "Oh, I'm going to be late. See you later, lads."
Sirius turned to Remus and leant into his touch in a much more significant way as Benjy hurried off. "What did Moody want?"
"The next moon," Remus replied, feeling nauseous at the ease at which the lie came out.
- - -
It's not a nickname she accepted from many people; Remus and Sirius still called her Evans, James called her Lily-flower and yes, he did sometimes shorten it to "Lil" or "Lils", but she didn't particularly like it. That was what the girls at school called her, and it was what Remus called her when he really wanted something.
She stared determinedly at her son, who is blowing big blue bubbles and making her smile. She tried to ignore her best friend, and did feel slightly guilty, as she was starting to see the argument that she knew he was going to direct at her.
"Oi, Evans!" Remus sounded remarkably like Sirius when he said something like that, she mused, trying to figure out yet another way to stall.
"Look, he said 'mama'," she said, steadfastly looking at Harry.
"He's been saying mama for a month," he pointed out, crossing the room to tickle his godson, who shrieked in delight. "Look, Lils..."
"I know what you're going to say," she said in a rush. "Look, I... Not yet."
Remus frowned. "Why not yet?"
"I... I want Petunia to see Harry," she whispered. "I have to wait."
"Oh, Lily," he sighed, and pulled her into a hug. When his hands rubbed at the spot between her shoulder blades, he realised that this is a position he has found himself in with Sirius more times than he can count, but this is different. This is Lily, but this is not her as Harry's mother or James' wife, but an overwhelmed twenty-one year old. He smiled sadly, and kisses the top of her head as she exhales and pulls away.
"Right," she says briskly. "Pot of tea?"
Remus leans down to pick up Harry, and followed Lily to the kitchen. He rocked Harry and tickled under his chin and pretends that he can't see the shake of Lily's hand when she pours the tea.
"When you do, I want to be the Secret Keeper," he said, without preamble.
"James will want Sirius," Lily murmured, unconsciously repeating Remus' words from more than a year earlier.
"No," he said sharply, and her brow knits as she turns back to him.
"You two haven't had a lover's quarrel, have you?" she asked, placing the mugs on the table in front of them.
He rolled his eyes. Lovers. That was worse than 'boyfriend'. He made a fuss of putting Harry in his bouncer before blowing at his tea, trying to ignore the way her eyes were drilling into his skull.
"He's too obvious," he said, after a pause.
"You're godfather. You're obvious," she pointed out, arching an eyebrow.
"It's his family, alright?" it was an explosion from that which had been bubbling below the surface since Moody had pulled him aside after the Order meeting. "This is Bellatrix, who set his hair on fire when he was twelve. This is Narcissa, who is as vicious as her sister and would happily skin him alive if it meant the Malfoy name would gain more power in the world. This is... his... brother."
He choked on his lie and shut his eyes, taking a long drink of tea.
"I want to be Secret Keeper," he repeated, and Lily nodded silently. He sighed, and smiled, and they finished their tea, trying to forget that tea had never been known to win a war.
- - -
It was the Prewett brothers' death which pushed the Potters over the edge. A pair of brilliant wizards, it was their horrifying deaths that made the Potters truly realise that Death Eaters do not play fair, whether working on Voldemort's orders or not. They needed more than wards and each other - yes, they needed a Secret Keeper.
The room hummed with the power as James squared his jaw, looking into Remus' eyes. Remus stared steadily back, trying to ignore the unrecognisable feelings he saw there; he couldn't think about the distrust and resent which hung in the air between them. Professor Flitwick - neither of them could refer to him by his first name - sat across the table from the pair, the only one with wand drawn.
"Do you take this responsibility as Secret Keeper willingly and with the full knowledge of the consequences that will result?" James asked, his tone level and unwavering.
"Yes," Remus responded shortly.
"Do you promise to to protect this secret and therefore my family with all that you are?"
"Fidelius," Flitwick said quietly, and the humming reduced in volume until silence reigned. James turned to the Charms professor, an inquiring look on his face. The short man cleared his throat and opened his mouth; it was a moment before he closed it again.
Remus turned to James with a relieved smile. "You're safe."
James scowled. "I'm trapped. A prisoner in my own home."
The brunette sighed. "James..."
He didn't get an audible response; James just stood from the table and left the kitchen to commiserate with Lily upstairs.
- - -
Four days after Flitwick sealed the Potter's fate in Remus, he was taken. A group of Death Eaters lurked at his supposedly safe apparation point, only a few metres from the front door of the flat he shared with Sirius.
He could hear Bellatrix's inhuman shriek as darkness settled around him, and his last lucid thought was Blood is thicker than water, then.
- - -
The first time the Cruciatus Curse hit, Remus thought he would rather die. If he died, the secret died with him; Voldemort would never find the Potters. He could die and protect Harry, protect Lily, protect James. He could save them.
It was only after the pain faded and Dolohov's horribly grinning face filled up his vision that he realised that this... this, yes, was painful. But he'd gone through almost two hundred transformations since he was bitten; a pessimist was not what his mother had raised him to be. So instead, Remus bared his teeth in a savage approximation of a smile, and spat in Dolohov's face.
He wasn't surprised when they brought the silver out.
The shackles were painful in themselves, but Remus still found it within himself to laugh as his skin burnt and bubbled beneath the metal. His laughter died in his throat, though, as he caught a glimpse of that which thought was Peter. He whipped his head around and the whimper was torn from his lungs as his cheekbone and temple smacked the stone, his wrists jerking against the silver shackles, previously untouched skin rubbing against the cold metal.
"Oh, didn't you know your little rat was around?" Mulciber – or at least he thought it was, the names of the Death Eaters were largely irrelevant now – sneered from somewhere near his right ear. He shoved Remus' head against the stone once more before calling out. "Come on, then, Peter, show your dirty face."
Remus' heart beat a tattoo against his chest as his fellow Marauder shuffled into view, his head hung in shame. Gritting his teeth, Remus turned his head back to straight in front of him, the room shifting out of focus as he stared into the middle distance, wondering how he'd been so very blind. Not Sirius. It could never be Sirius. Sirius was too loyal to James, who was his true brother, too thankful to Dumbledore for all he'd done, too strong to be broken by Bellatrix.
"Go on Pete. Show your friend what the Master had brought in from Nurmengard," it was the same Death Eater – Mulciber, Karkaroff, Travers, it didn't matter too much, did it? – taunting from nearby. It seemed distant, though, as though he was speaking through a tunnel. Remus couldn't help but look at the bulky... thing... which was brought near his face, largely leather in material, though a thick piece of metal jutted out from close to the base. The stiff leather formed a sort of semi-circle, but it was only as Peter shoved it onto his face that he realised what it was.
A scold's bridle.
With a silver gag.
Remus began to scream as the metal was shoved between his teeth, trying to keep his mouth open wide enough to avoid touching the metal, but when a loop of leather wrenched his jaw shut, he couldn't avoid the blistering burning rushing pain.
He passed out in less than five minutes.
- - -
Time had no meaning any more. He had not been broken, though he didn't think he would even be able to speak after three uses of the bridle. His tongue and mouth were so swollen that even the water they dribbled into his mouth each day to keep him alive could barely fit. When he was rendered unconscious, images of Sirius and James and Lily flashed through his mind, with such frequency that in his lucid moments, he wondered if Lord Voldemort was practising Legilimency against him.
It was irrelevant, he supposed. They wouldn't break him; they would continue to try, but he was keeping James and Lily and Harry safe.
Though time seemed to have no passage here, the moon did. He awoke in a cage one night, his head throbbing enough to drown out the whispers from outside, and he knew it must be the full. That meant he had been in here for almost three weeks.
Just before moonrise, he allowed himself a small smile. After years of being "the weak one" compared to Sirius and James and even Lily, he was proving his strength. He was the protector.
But after seven years of running free at the full moon, accompanied by his pack – mostly metaphorical, in the case of Wormtail and Padfoot and Prongs, though occasionally literal, since he ran with Greyback and his followers since graduating – the wolf did not appreciate this cage. Even in the shack he had room to move, and things to gnaw and scratch and destroy. Here, there was only one thing, and that was himself.
The wolf managed with what he was provided with.
- - -
Broken and bloody, Remus' days blurred, dragging out. The marker of a day was a Death Eater shoving some rice into his mouth and possibly leaving him a goblet to drink from. More than once it had been silver. Those days were not good, but they were also unmemorable. Nothing was worth remembering in this place; Peter had been a few times, and he perhaps remembered those days better than the others. He couldn't really tell any more, because light didn't enter these dungeons and days upon days of Bellatrix's nonsensical threats and Mulciber's complaints that he should not be doing servant's work became more than he could comprehend as separate occurrences.
Remus wondered if he was going to die, where he was, if his friends were safe, if the Death Eaters held any serious hope of breaking him.
Remus wondered if there was a time where the pain would get bad enough that he wouldn't have to think any more.
Remus wondered if the pain could, in fact, get worse.
- - -
Another month, apparently, had passed, as he was back in the cage. He couldn't rightly fathom how it had been a month, but they had no reason to place him in the cage unless it was the full moon – they couldn't harm him as effectively when there were bars between them. Especially when the bars were spelled to withstand the wrath of a werewolf.
The wolf howled as the moon rose, but attention quickly turned to destruction once more. The bars proved simply annoying, but the feeling of flesh beneath teeth –
Pack . That was the smell of pack.
The wolf tilted it's head to the side, momentarily confused. If there was pack, why was there bars? And why was the pack incomplete? This wasn't right. The anger rose and rose and the wolf turned it's attention back to the rip of flesh under teeth, burying the confusion under layers of pain and violence until it wasn't recognisable any more.
It was only when the feeling of another body hitting his registered in the wolf's brain that he realised the bars were gone. No more cage. Freedom. And now, stronger, the smell of pack. Rolling the body – the dog, the dog who ran with him, who was pack – over, a whimper was all he needed to prove dominance before a human smell overwhelmed his senses.
Another collision, a desperate whine; the wolf stumbled, confused, snarling at the dog. His mind was torn between human and pack and why there was two missing. The stag and the rat... if there was pack and room to run, there should be two more.
And this running – this was not as it should be. There was stone and sharp edges and the ground was hard under his feet. The noises were loud – and wrong. Very wrong. The smells were not right and there , there was the human and there was something to follow. Dog had different ideas, though, and snapped at him every time he chased the human, taunting the wolf to follow, follow up and...
Even the wolf could tell that that place was bad. Noises echoed behind them but the wolf took the opportunity to take off across the grass, the dew on his paws natural and right and the only things missing, now, were the stag and the rat. But here was the dog and a wide open field before him, and here it smelt better than inside.
- - -
Somewhere in his head, Remus knew it was some time in November that he woke up. Sometimes he wondered why he had utterly inappropriate thoughts, though, as his first thought upon hearing his godson call him "Moony" for the first time should be something like "I kept Harry alive!" or "He knows who I am!" not "It must be November, or perhaps early December, as they couldn't have sedated me for an entire full moon."
He began to giggle, even more inappropriately, as he opened his eyes. The light was too bright, the blankets were itchy, his head felt like someone had set fireworks right beside his ear, but he was awake and he could hear Harry. In fact, he could see Harry, now that he managed to raise his hand to wipe the gunk from his eyes, and it made him smile.
He couldn't remember the last time he smiled.
"Moony," Harry repeated with a toothy grin, and Remus' giggles faded as he pulled the young boy into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"Oh, Harry," Remus whispered. In one moment, with one word, a not-yet toddler had reminded him that it had all been worth it, if he had kept Harry safe.
His eyes left Harry for the first time to settle on Sirius, who apparently had been standing by his bed side since he'd woken up. Swallowing hard, he reached out a hand to entwine his fingers with Sirius', still holding Harry with an almost possessive grip.
"I'm sorry," Remus murmured, the slide of their fingers together, Sirius' thumb rubbing a circle on the back of his hand so familiar he thought he would cry. Sirius, though, blinked rapidly, and gave a bark of laughter.
"You get captured and manage to survive almost two months in the custody of Death Eaters as batshit insane as my cousin, and you're apologising?" he asked incredulously.
"Language around Harry," Remus said absently, almost automatically, but couldn't help but notice that Sirius flinched at the admonishment. Frowning, he stroked at Harry's hair. "What? Lily's been yelling at you for swearing since Harry was born."
Sirius was always a terrible liar, worse to people who knew him. He didn't even really bother trying with Remus, just shoved his free hand in the pocket and tried avoiding the question.
"How are you feeling?"
"Sirius," Remus said, warningly.
"You've been passed out on the bed for three weeks while I've taken care of Harry and tried to be here for you, I deserve to be able to ask," Sirius snapped. "How are you feeling?"
"Sick. Sore. Like you aren't telling me something," Remus bit the inside of his lip as Harry made displeased sounds at what was threatening to be a fight. "Why aren't Lily and James watching Harry?"
That flinch, again. At Lily's name, not James'. A heavy silence, which Remus refused to break.
"James is in the next room," Sirius said softly. "He... caught... I don't know. He should be dead, by rights."
Remus' throat constricted. He didn't think he'd be able to respond, but he managed a croaked "Lily?"
Sirius couldn't look up from the floor, his grip on Remus' hand tightening almost to the point of pain. "I'm sorry."
Unbidden, huge sobs wracked the brunette's body, and Sirius grabbed Harry as Remus rolled over, pulling his knees to his chest. He couldn't talk, couldn't think he was crying so hard, couldn't comprehend anything past the pain that ripped at his chest. In his seven weeks captured, he hadn't cried like this – he'd let a few tears past, but this, this was more than a few tears. His shoulders shook to the point that Sirius called in a Healer, and he was being forced onto his back and a potion into his mouth before he understood what was happening. The trembling lessened until Remus was simply sniffling his tears, arms tightly wrapped around himself.
"Mr Lupin. I'm sorry for your loss, but as your body has gone through a lot lately, I cannot allow you to become hysterical. If needed, we will place a supervising nurse in the room to administer sedative potions as required," the Healer said calmly. "Food will be served in about half an hour. You must eat, and if you do not, it will be fed to you. Your body needs time to recover – the full moon is in a week, and if your body is in this state when it comes, you will most likely tear yourself apart."
Remus nodded silently, his eyes back on Sirius, who was calming Harry. The Healer left as quickly as he had arrived, and Sirius sighed softly.
"Peter's in Azkaban. Voldemort is dead," he said, before Remus had a chance to speak. "Something... when he... when Lily died, something went wrong. He turned the wand on James, but the killing curse didn't work. James is alive – slipping in and out of consciousness, but alive – and it... rebounded onto Voldemort, or something."
Remus stared, wide-eyed. Voldemort dead? That was, of course, the intention of the War, but it seemed like such an abstract ideal that such a feat never would have been achieved. He couldn't focus on Sirius, and, much as he had in the basement, he let his focus fade until he saw only vague shapes, and could concentrate on his thoughts.
Lily was dead.
James was severely injured.
Because they had come to save him. If he hadn't needed saving, Lily would be alive and James would be whole and Harry's parents would be fawning over him at that very moment. He'd failed to protect them, completely.
"You've got that look in your eye," Sirius said accusingly.
"What?" Remus responded, a little blearily.
"That look that means you're trying to figure out how all of this is your fault," Sirius swallowed visibly and stepped closer, laying a hand on Remus' shoulder. "It's not. Harry, what is your Mummy?"
"Mummy is hero," Harry said promptly, waving a chubby hand at Remus, who smiled sadly. Yes, pup, and if it wasn't for me, Mummy would be alive.
"You have to stop that," Sirius said mildly. "Until James comes back to himself, we've got a child to raise."
"If anything happens to us, we want you two to take him."
Remus looked down at his sheets. They'd all accepted the possibility that they'd die fighting for what they believed worth protecting when they joined the Order of the Phoenix; he'd certainly been willing to for any of his friends. This wasn't an absolution or a belief he deserved to be free from guilt, but Lily would want her son to be raised in an environment as close to normal as possible. Mourning his best friend would be done in private, and rebuilding the broken links between he and Sirius also – in public, Harry needed those who loved him to rally around him and teach him to be his mother's son.
Remus took a deep breath and shifted so there was room enough for Sirius to climb on.
"May as well start now, then."