Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognize in the Harry Potter universe. It, sadly, still belongs to JK Rowling.
A/N: If this story looks familiar to you, it's because I had it up a few years ago, then took it down due to my lacking the ability to concentrate on it. But due to the tenth person that has asked me what happened, I decided to give it another shot.
In the very early hours of the morning, a man walked down the sidewalk of Privet Drive. He seemed to know exactly where he was going—his pace was steady as he passed the houses, hardly noticing the numbers on the mailboxes. If any of Privet Drive's residents would have been awake, they would have watched the man warily. He was dressed in plain clothing, his jeans full of holes and his shirt faded in color, and he seemed very ill on top of it. The first and only time he hesitated was when he passed Number Four. He stared at the dark, well-kept house for a few moments before sighing and continuing towards his destination. On Wisteria Walk, there was only one house that showed any signs of life. The porch lights were on, waiting for him, and he could hear the sitting room television through the windows. He walked up the front steps and found a tabby cat blocking the door.
The cat hissed at him as though telling him he was not welcome. He raised a tired, light brown eyebrow at the animal. "I was invited," he said in a hoarse voice. The cat glared at him for a few seconds before darting off the porch and into the bushes. Shaking his head and chuckling a little, the man raised a fist to knock on the door. As soon as he'd approached, the noise inside—what he'd assumed had been the television—was silenced. He saw a rustle of the window curtain and glanced over, briefly seeing the house's owner looking out at him. A few more seconds and the door locks were being undone.
"We wondered if you'd gotten lost," said the elderly woman in a stern tone. "We were about to send out a search party."
He smiled tiredly in greeting. "I lost track of time," he said apologetically, entering the home and following her to the sitting room.
Here, he found the source of the noise he'd heard on his arrival. They were people he hadn't seen together in the same location for nearly three years and he recalled their last meeting much more clearly than he wished to. Three people sat on the sofa: an elderly man with silver hair and a hat most people hated, a woman with long black hair and startlingly deep brown eyes, and a man whose face was scarred as a result of many years of war. Sitting beside them in an armchair was another elderly man with long white hair and a matching beard. Twinkling blue eyes shone behind his half-moon spectacles.
"Good evening, Remus," this last man said with a smile. "It is good to see you again."
Remus smiled back and sat in a chair the homeowner, Arabella Figg, had brought out for him. "And you, sir," he said quietly.
After a few moments of idle chitchat, Albus Dumbledore sat forward in his chair. "I am certain you are all wondering why I have asked you here so late," he said rather somberly. "Our last meeting, I am certain you will all agree, was bittersweet: the war had ended, but at a tragic cost." Remus quickly swallowed a lump of emotion. "You are all aware of who lives just down the street, and he is the reason I've asked you here."
Remus' brow furrowed, several questions coming to mind, but he held them back for the time being.
"Harry Potter is in danger," Dumbledore said simply. Remus vaguely thought that the Headmaster was the only person in the world who could have pulled that tone off with that particular sentence. "It has not yet been reported by the Ministry due to the fear of spreading panic with their lack of information, but there has been an escape from Azkaban Prison."
All of the color drained from Remus' body and was replaced by a cold feeling of dread.
"Who was it?" Emmeline Vance asked, a hand covering her mouth and her eyes wide in shock.
Dumbledore sighed, the former twinkle in his eyes gone. He looked directly at Remus as he responded, "Sirius Black."
Remus had been expecting this answer since Dumbledore mentioned an escape, but he still felt a wide range of emotions varying from sadness to fear to anger and hatred. He carefully hid every one behind the expressionless mask he'd mastered before entering Hogwarts.
"Though the reason for the escape or how it was managed is currently unknown," Dumbledore went on, "Minister Bagnold and I fear Black may be after young Harry."
"And what do you want us to do, Albus?" Mad-Eye Moody asked, seemingly unsurprised at hearing about Black's escape.
He's probably known as long as Dumbledore has, Remus thought to himself.
"Harry will need to be kept safe at all costs," Dumbledore said. "He is to be taken from his relatives' home, far from Surrey, and kept under a disguise until the danger from Black passes."
Remus looked at his mentor. "I thought Harry was safest with the Dursleys?" he asked hoarsely. "He cannot be touched while within the protection of Lily's blood." The others made noises of agreement and looked to Dumbledore for the answer.
"Something has changed," the Headmaster said mysteriously, "and the blood protection Lily Potter provided to her son has been compromised."
"Compromised?" Elphias Doge repeated. "How?"
Dumbledore didn't reply for some time, choosing instead to look around at his old friends as he seemed to decide what was safest to tell them at the moment. "I apologize that I cannot reveal that information to you. You will know, but for the time being, I must keep it to myself for several reasons."
"What's your plan, Dumbledore?" Mad-Eye asked, not the least bit offended at Dumbledore's secretive nature.
"Emmeline and Remus will take Harry," the Headmaster said. Remus and Emmeline looked at each other in surprise. "They will act as Harry's parents, all three of them under glamour charms performed by myself. A home has already been setup for them in London, and stories have been concocted to keep their identities from being revealed. It must seem to both the Dursleys and Black that Harry is still residing on Privet Drive. To ensure this, I have asked Alastor to pose as Harry, both to keep up appearances and to protect the Dursley family. Enough Polyjuice Potion has been prepared until other arrangements can be made." Remus inwardly amused himself by picturing Mad-Eye as a four-year-old boy. "Elphias will remain in the area with Arabella as extra security, should Black arrive here," Dumbledore said.
"We will not meet with each other again, lest we risk the chance of ruining our plan. Each of you will be kept up to date with how the others are faring and you will be contacted once a week by myself in the normal way." He sighed, looking incredibly older than Remus knew him to be. "This is perhaps the most important mission we have ever executed and failing could mean the end of our world. Good luck, my friends. I hope to see you all again soon."
That afternoon, Remus and Mad-Eye kept themselves well hidden as they watched children on the playground. The one they were there for—a small, skinny four-year-old—was alone in the sandbox. Unfortunately, they couldn't risk taking him just yet; they couldn't risk being seen in the packed playground. Remus did his best to keep his mind empty of all thoughts as he watched his best friends' son. He'd seen pictures of James as a young child, but couldn't recall his friend ever looking so sad and pathetic. From what Arabella had said, Harry's life with the Dursleys had been less than perfect. She hadn't gone into details, but Remus got the feeling Harry wasn't quite welcome with his relatives due to his parents' lineage.
Nearing sunset, Mad-Eye finally seemed to perk up a bit: most of the children were being called home by their parents, and Harry wasn't leaving.
"How exactly are we doing this, Alastor?" Remus asked, watching Harry pick up handfuls of sand and let it fall through his fingers.
"Sleeping charm," Mad-Eye grunted. "A mild one. No one seems to be paying him any mind, so if it looks like he's gone to sleep, you can grab him after dark, I'll take his hair, and get back to Number Four."
They waited another fifteen minutes until only Harry remained. Very carefully, Mad-Eye performed the charm, and the two wizards watched the boy slump over in the sand in a deep sleep. When the sun went down, Mad-Eye muttered, "now," and Remus quickly stood, ignoring the stiffness in his back and legs, and grabbed Harry from the sandbox. He took the child back behind the bushes, checked that he hadn't been seen, and sat him on the dirt. Mad-Eye yanked a few hairs off Harry's head—Remus marveled that the boy could sleep through that, even with the use of magic—dropped one in a flask Remus knew to be Polyjuice Potion, and placed the rest safely in a baggy and into his pocket.
"See you soon, Lupin," Mad-Eye said, raising the flask. "Good luck."
"Same to you," Remus said quietly as the Auror put the flask to his lips and drank deeply. Once all the potion was gone, Mad-Eye put the empty flask into a pouch and waited. Minutes later, the wizard shivered violently and began to change. His magical eye popped out—Remus caught it and placed it on top of the pouch—he shrank considerably, his face becoming much smoother than Remus had ever seen it. His hair darkened several shades, becoming jet black, and his eyes turned bright green, matching Lily Potter's exactly.
"Transfigure my clothes," Mad-Eye said in a young child's quiet voice. "I'll do the eyes..."
Remus turned Harry around and got a good look at what he was wearing. Once he was certain of it, he murmured a few spells, turning Mad-Eyes cloak into a baggy child-sized t-shirt and shorts. While he did that, Mad-Eye had turned his magical eye into a pair of round-rimmed black glasses, an exact replica of the ones Harry was wearing. The final detail was adding a lightning bolt scar to Mad-Eye's forehead, and the transformation was complete. Any other time, Remus would have been highly amused at the current sight of Alastor Moody, but his mind reminded him why they were doing this and his amusement was squashed immediately.
"Well, take care, Lupin," Mad-Eye said in Harry's voice, standing from the ground and grabbing the pouch of Polyjuice potion flasks. "Get that kid out of here and don't let anyone see you." By the time he'd finished his sentence, Mad-Eye was already preparing to cross the street.
Remus watched the Auror until he was out of sight, then stood, taking Harry in his arms again and prepared to Apparate.
Remus entered the Muggle apartment building, disillusionment charms over both himself and Harry, and took the stairs to the fifth and topmost level. At the door of flat five-eighteen, he tapped his wand against the doorknob and waited. The knob seemed to shine brighter for a few seconds, recognizing Remus, before the locks unlocked themselves. He entered the flat quickly, closed the door behind him, and walked over to lay Harry on the sofa before undoing the disillusionment charms. Just as he was finishing, Emmeline entered.
"No problems, then?" she asked, standing beside the sofa and staring intently at the child.
Remus shook his head and sat in an armchair. "None at all," he said. "Mad-Eye is in Number Four as Harry, and nobody saw us take him." He sighed, shaking his head again, this time in disgust. "You'd think someone would have spotted a child being taken from a playground..."
She nodded in agreement and sat beside Harry. "But from what Arabella has said..."
She trailed off, but Remus knew what she was thinking: the neighborhood Harry was living in thought of him as a freak and a troublemaker. They probably would have been pleased to see him kidnapped... "Anything from Dumbledore?" he asked after a few moments.
"He sent a letter saying Minister Bagnold has decided to announce Sirius' escape," she said, reaching over to the coffee table to hand him a folded piece of parchment. "She's holding a press conference tomorrow morning."
Remus quickly read Dumbledore's letter, inwardly thankful to the Minister for at least waiting for Harry to be taken to safety.
"There's soup on the stove, if you're hungry," Emmeline said. "We should probably put Harry to bed—we can explain everything to him once he's gotten some good sleep."
Remus stood and walked over to pick Harry up. "Lead the way," he said with a smile to the witch.
Once they'd gotten Harry changed into proper pajamas and tucked him in, the two went to the kitchen were Emmeline demanded that Remus sit while she got him a bowl of soup. When she placed the bowl in front of him, he said thank you and began eating, vaguely wondering why she was watching him so intently.
"Could I ask you something?" she said quietly when he was halfway through his meal.
He nodded, setting down the spoon in the bowl. "Of course."
She seemed to hesitate. "I just wondered if you believe all the things the Ministry says Sirius has done," she said carefully. He raised an eyebrow in surprise, but let her continue. "I've known Sirius as long as you have, and though I didn't know him as well as you, James, and Peter, I just never saw him as evil or even capable of hurting anyone, let alone killing his best friends and Muggles."
He sighed, looking directly at her when he replied. "Sirius Black was and still is capable of absolutely anything he sets his mind to," he said evenly, thinking of everything Sirius had accomplished in his life, good and bad. "He spent his entire life doing everything possible to separate himself from his family's reputation, you know that. And during the time that I knew him or thought I knew him—while he occasionally did some extremely boneheaded things, he was one of the best friends I ever had—I saw all of this. It has taken me some time to realize that Sirius has it in him to do everything the Ministry has said he's done and then some. And to be honest, even now I still second guess myself at times. But when I think about Lily and James and Peter and Harry..." He swallowed his emotion and shook his head a little. "I know who is responsible, and I can only hope he has suffered as much as I have due to what he's done."
Emmeline only nodded in response and looked down at the table. Remus watched her for several minutes before she stood. "Well, I should get to bed. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a long day."
"Good night," he said quietly. He watched her leave and looked back down at his bowl, finding he'd lost his appetite. After dumping what was left of his soup, cleaning the bowl, and putting away the leftovers, he went to the third bedroom of the flat, and lay in bed for hours, staring at the ceiling, thinking. He didn't fall asleep until after sunrise.
A large black dog snuck through the backyards of the perfect neighborhood that was Privet Drive, scavenging through trash bins, mostly for newspapers—he had found half a ham in one of the bins earlier and rolled his eyes at how wasteful Muggles could be. His overall objective was to catch a peak at his godson, though he didn't really think he had a shot, considering it was long past what a bedtime for a near five-year-old should be. Nevertheless, he was hopeful as he approached the kitchen window of Number Four. And it was just his luck that when he put his front paws up on the windowsill and looked in, he spotted a small child with familiar black, unruly hair entering the kitchen. With his excellent canine hearing abilities, he was even able to make out a few words of what Harry was muttering: something about bloody Muggles. Then Harry did something very odd. From his oversized pajama pocket, he removed a hipflask and drank deeply from it, shivering all over his small body as he finished.
Why does that look so familiar? the dog asked himself.
From the icebox, Harry took out things to make a large turkey sandwich, put the sandwich on a plate, and started to leave. While the dog was thinking that the child had an incredible appetite—probably inherited from his father—Harry stopped dead in his tracks and slowly began to turn, looking straight at the dog. It was a piercing stare that made the dog fear he'd been found out, and before Harry could so much as turn on a light for a better look, the dog had already bounded off into the bushes, hoping to be far from Little Whinging by morning.
In London, the real Harry Potter snapped his eyes open. The last thing he remembered was being at the playground, in the sandbox. Had he fallen asleep there? Panicking at the thoughts of how his aunt and uncle would punish him, Harry sat straight up and a blanket fell off his body. His attention momentarily diverted, he wondered how he'd gotten a blanket and further wondered where these very comfortable pajamas he was wearing had come from.
Once some of his panic and fear had subsided a bit, Harry slowly got out of the child-sized bed that most definitely was not the one he'd slept in before last night and looked around the small room. He wasn't sure where he was, but he did like this place. There was a toy chest that he ached to explore, books that called to him. A small desk was beside the window with crayons, paper, and coloring books. The walls were covered in posters of cartoon characters and superheroes—if Harry didn't know any better, he would have said this room looked just like Dudley's. On top of the desk chair, the clothes he'd been wearing at the playground were folded neatly and his shoes were on the dark green carpet below them.
Confused, Harry carefully went to the bedroom door and pulled it open slowly looking out into the unremarkable hallway. This definitely was not Number Four, Privet Drive. But then where was he? He'd heard Aunt Petunia warn Dudley about strangers that would kidnap him if he wasn't careful, and though she didn't seem to find the need to warn her nephew as well, he'd always been careful about talking to people he didn't know. As far as he could remember, he hadn't spoken to anyone at the playground yesterday. Like every time he played there, the other children and parents ignored him and avoided any area in which he wanted to play. Besides, who would want to kidnap a freak like him? It couldn't be for money; the Dursleys would never pay to get Harry back...
Acting far braver than he felt, Harry ventured out into the hallway and began looking around, marveling at how soft this carpet felt under his feet—the carpet at the Dursley's was rough and made his feet itchy. He entered what looked like a living room and looked to his left, freezing where he stood. He'd spotted two people sitting at a table, talking quietly over breakfast. They were a man and a woman, and they both looked friendly enough. The woman spotted him first. The man was trying to talk to her, but she'd looked over at Harry and her mouth dropped open a little. Realizing he'd lost the woman's attention, the man followed her line of sight to the hallway and looked at Harry.
"Good morning," he said kindly in a slightly hoarse voice. "Would you care for some breakfast?" He'd gestured at a seat beside him, but Harry stayed put. After a few moments, the woman stood up and made Harry a plate, setting it in front of the chair the man had pointed out. "Feel free to join us..." The man then turned back to the woman and continued the conversation they'd been having as though Harry had never entered.
Neither of them looked at Harry again, and something about this made the boy feel more comfortable with them. Finally, he slowly made his way to the table and climbed up on the chair, cautiously reaching out for the fork to eat some eggs. He was rather hungry...
Remus did everything he could not to smile when Harry sat beside them at the table. He and Emmeline had discussed it early in the morning, and had decided that the easiest way to get Harry accustomed to them was to let him make the decision on whether he wanted to. Every so often, Remus glanced over at the child as he ate. Not once did Harry look up at either of them; he only looked at his plate of food as though he was afraid to make eye contact with anyone while they ate.
After breakfast, Emmeline began to clear the table and Remus stood to help her. In the kitchen, he stood close to her while pretending to be emptying the plates into the trash. "Should we sit him down and just start telling him what's going on?" he asked quietly, looking into the dining room as Harry slid off the chair and went into the sitting room. "I've always done best when people were open with me."
"No," Emmeline said quietly, patiently. "Let him come to us with his questions. There is no quicker way to overwhelm a child than by filling his head with a bunch of information that will mean absolutely nothing to him."
Remus nodded and sighed, and left Emmeline in the kitchen to go find Harry. The child was looking around at some of the pictures Remus had decided to put up—mostly ones of his old friends. He'd been smart enough to freeze the photos so they looked like normal Muggle ones. Harry looked at the photos briefly before going to the window and looking down on the London street the apartment building stood beside.
"Nice view, isn't it?" Remus asked, his hands in his pockets. He could almost see Emmeline roll her eyes and sigh as he ignored her advice. "Have you ever been to London?"
Harry started and turned around, looking sheepish. He shook his head and avoided eye contact with Remus.
"My mum and dad used to bring me to the city when I was little. We would walk around all day long, not really going anywhere, but we always went for ice cream before dinner—it was one of the things I looked forward to when we came here," Remus said, slowly walking forward and sitting in the armchair. "My mum always pretended to be irritated with my dad when he suggested ice cream, but I knew she loved it. And I never got bored with coming here."
Harry looked down at his feet for a few moments before turning around and looking back out the window. Then he turned back to Remus, his brow furrowed. "Who are you?" he asked very quietly. It was so quiet, in fact, that Remus wondered if he'd imagined it.
"My name is Remus," the wizard told the child simply. "My friend in the kitchen is Emmeline."
Harry nodded at this information. "Why am I here?"
It looked to Remus like Harry was fighting not to ask these questions. So far, the child in front of him did not resemble James in the least, like Remus had expected him to. Actually, he reminded Remus of himself as a child, particularly when he'd started at Hogwarts.
Remus heard Emmeline sigh behind him. "Harry, Remus and I were friends of your parents," Emmeline began to explain. Harry's eyes widened. "We took you from your aunt and uncle to keep you safe from a person who may want to hurt you."
"You knew my parents?" Harry whispered in awe. "Really?"
Remus nodded. "They were some of our best friends," he said.
Emmeline sat on the sofa, and after a few minutes of staring between the two adults like he'd never seen another human being in his life, Harry sat beside her. With the ice broken, Remus and Emmeline took turns explaining what they knew about Sirius, James, and Lily in terms they believed Harry would understand. By the time they'd finished, it was nearing lunchtime and the Daily Prophet had finally arrived. Harry watched the owl curiously as Remus paid it and took the newspaper. Once the bird had flown away, Remus unrolled the paper and kept his face blank as he looked directly into the eyes that he had always seen full of mischievousness. Now they were dead and hollow. Remus hardly read the article about Sirius' escape. He caught a few sentences—Black is to be considered armed and extremely dangerous; Black's crimes include passing information to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named on the whereabouts of Lily and James Potter; murderer of a dozen Muggles and one wizard.
"Doesn't look even a bit like him anymore, does it?" Emmeline asked quietly, leaning over his shoulder to look at the article. "He looks horrible."
Remus cleared his throat before speaking and opened the newspaper to another article that had absolutely nothing to do with his former friend. "Well, that's what happens when you're convicted of murdering dozens of people," he said flatly. "You rot away..." He looked around the sitting room. "Where'd Harry go?"
"He asked if he could go play with the toys in his room," Emmeline said, moving to sit on the sofa. "Do you think he understood anything we told him?"
He shrugged. "I have no idea," he said honestly. "But he seems to realize we're not going to hurt him, and I think that's the most important thing at the moment."
She nodded. "Now we just have to introduce him to magic..."
Remus snorted a laugh and grinned. "That's easy," he said, waving it off. "You and I just have to start rearranging the furniture with our wands. I think he'll realize there's something not quite right with us when he sees that..."
Emmeline rolled her eyes, but smiled a little. "Come on," she said, standing. "Let's go see if he's up to a board game."
Chuckling, Remus placed the newspaper on the end table and stood to follow her to Harry's room.