Remus was up at a bright and early hour that most would consider inhuman, but this was nothing new. After all, from the fifth-year pre-O.W.L binges on, it was he and Peter who had the job of sobering James and…and Black up before classes began and the professors could take points from Gryffindor. Since then, it had become something of a habit, except on the days immediately before and after the full moon.
He tiptoed into the kitchen, careful not to wake Harry, and prepared himself a quick bowl of fruit, and a slice of toast.
Just as the sky was tinged pink with the rising sun, Remus heard the tap of the Daily Prophet owl at the window and got up to retrieve the paper.
The front page contained an editorial. This was intriguing, because it didn't usually happen unless it was on a controversial topic that the mercenary editor thought would sell papers. This one—Remus realized quickly—was sure to fit that bill.
It was from an irate fellow werewolf protesting the motion put forth by "some upstart Ministry hag" for tighter restrictions on the employment of those the motion termed "werewolves, giants, and other such mongrels."
Remus knew that the sympathy and opposition the werewolf was hoping to garner were not likely, but a controversy was a controversy. To him, all these new restrictions meant was that if they passed it would be even harder for him to find a decent job. He would most likely have to look in the Muggle world, which had difficulties of its own since his employers often wondered where he disappeared to for three days every month.
"Damn!" he yelled, surprising even himself, as he was not in the habit of cursing.
He heard the hallway floorboards creak as tiny feet ran across them.
"Y– you're up," Harry stuttered.
"I am, but I didn't mean to wake you. It's far too early for little cubs to be up."
"But I've gotta cook. I guess I was s'posed to be up earlier, but I didn't know when you'd want breakfast or want you liked to eat," Harry replied.
"Harry, you don't need to cook for me."
"I cooked for the Dursleys all the time. I make real good bacon. Bacon is Dudley's favorite. Do you like bacon, Remus?"
The wolf inside of him gave Remus a carnivorous preference, so it was no surprise that the very thought of bacon made him almost salivate. Yet, he wanted to have absolutely nothing in common with the Dursley boy, and furthermore, the idea of Harry burning himself with sizzling bacon fat was repulsive. "Harry, you're five," he pointed out gently.
"Almost six," said Harry, sticking out his upper lip indignantly, but a look in Remus's kind eyes assured Harry that he meant no harm. Rather, he seemed genuinely worried. "I'll be six soon."
This was not to say that the Dursleys had ever made much of his birthdays. In fact, they completely ignored them, but Mrs. Figg had once told Harry that his birthday was on the last day of July.
Thinking of Mrs. Figg, he was very glad she would no longer babysit him. At least, he assumed that to be the case, not that he was with Remus. It was not that she had ever truly been mean to him, she practically ignored him unless it was absolutely necessary that she pay attention, which he frankly preferred when contrasted with the outright hatred of the Dursleys and Aunt Marge. Still, Mrs. Figg had too many cats, and her house smelled like it. It smelled like cats, and cabbage, and old people.
He couldn't pinpoint what Remus's house smelled like yet, but he knew he liked it, and he resolved to be good enough that Remus would let him stay long enough to find out.
Remus's eyes crinkled in self-deprecating good humor. "Of course you will be, silly me. But even six-year-olds—old men that they are—won't be cooking in this house, not matter what they did at the Dursleys. And they shouldn't be up until at least seven, or else they won't get enough sleep to grow taller. And we can't have you ending up scrawny like—I mean you want to grow taller, don't you?"
Remus knew he would have to check any tongue-in-cheek references to James until Harry had grown better accustomed to him and his dry sense of humor.
"As tall as you are?"
"Or taller," Remus chuckled.
"I guess so," Harry acquiesced, "but I'm not tired."
"Well, why don't we go into your room, and I can read to you until you drift off again."
Remus had an ulterior motive for this. He was hoping to get Harry tired enough, to circumvent his what Arthur warned him was a severe distrust of magic and get him Healed. Harry, it seemed had other plans.
"I had a dream about that puppy last night," Harry informed him, pointing to a picture in The House That Jack Built. "I was riding on his back, but I've never seen him before when I was awake."
Remus paused, trying to figure out how to frame this without quashing Harry's overall curiosity that was only just beginning to emerge.
"Actually, it may have been a memory," he hedged. "You're mummy and daddy…they had a big black dog like the one in the picture when you were little. "
"Did Mummy like animals? Aunt Petunia didn't like them at all."
"You mummy and your aunt were very different, Harry. Lily liked animals. This particular dog was very slobbery, so Lily used to tease him about that, but she was very fond of him."
"What was his name?"
This conversation was getting a little too deep, but Remus couldn't think of a good enough reason not to answer. "His name was Padfoot, and if you go back to sleep, I'll bet you'll dream of him again."
"Okay," Harry sighed, snuggling further down into the covers.
It took another ten minutes for Harry to truly fall asleep, but once that crisis was averted, Remus quickly produced a Patronus."Poppy, my abject apologies for the early hour, but you must Floo 'Lupin Cottage, Berkshire' immediately. Extremely urgent, Remus Lupin."
The silver wolf hurried away with the message.
Shortly thereafter, the fireplace in the den flared, casting a faint green glow onto Harry's face by means of his open bedroom child stirred, and murmured in his sleep.
"Shhh, little one," Remus soothed, and Harry settled slightly, at least enough so that Remus could tiptoe into the den to meet the matron, whom he greeted in a whisper.
"Remus Lupin, it's six in the morning," Pomfrey scolded
"And yet, you look remarkably bright-eyed." He observed that she had already forgone her tartan nightdress for Healer's robes.
"Habit, I suppose. That fool of a Hufflepuff captain who just graduated often decided it was a bright idea to have Quidditch practice at dawn, usually with disastrous results. Last time for instance, a very tired Chaser—who even in her waking hours is the clumsiest girl you've ever seen—attempted to swerve to avoid a Bludger, and ended up engineering a mass collision."
"The headmaster brought them in himself. Thank goodness he was on his morning constitutional."
"Speaking of the headmaster, I'd appreciate if this little meeting stayed between us."
Madam Pomfrey nodded. "You, more than anyone, know that I practice Healer-patient confidentiality."
"I do, and I've never been more grateful for it in my life since I hold Dumbledore partially, if indirectly responsible for what happened here." He led her into the open bedroom.
"Dear sweet Merlin!" the matron cried. "Is that who I think it is?"
"It is," Remus confirmed. "Harry was…er appropriated from his relatives yesterday."
"By you?" Pomfrey asked, eyeing him suspiciously.
"By good Samaritans. I came across them by chance, and Harry came into my care by our mutual agreement."
"And are you purposefully keeping these 'good Samaritans' anonymous."
"I think that's best for now since their actions would likely be frowned upon by people in high places—Dumbledore particularly. Harry is not safe with his relatives, and even under Cruciatus, I wouldn't let him be taken back there!"
Taking a beat to compose herself, Pomfrey schooled her face into a mask of trained detachment. "What on earth ails him?"
"The Muggles Dumbledore left Harry with abused him beyond the scope of my Healing capabilities. That's why he can't know I have Harry under any circumstances until all the formalities of guardianship are observed, and not even Dumbledore can take Harry away from me. That time hasn't come."
"Yes, yes, I understand. Let me run a diagnostic spell, so I know what I'm dealing with."
She waved her wand, bathing Harry in light of a soft blue color, at which Harry failed to twitch this time. Strange, Remus thought. Just another thing about Harry that was very strange.
The list that enumerated Harry's various injuries grew steadily longer and Pomfrey muttered to herself as each new one appeared.
"Well?" Remus prompted.
"Severely malnourished, certainly."
"We had dinner at the Weasleys last night, and he couldn't keep it down," Remus reported.
"That's to be expected. I've healed those of his lacerations that aren't infected; he'll need a salve for the ones that are. I have that in my bag, He also appears to have broken bones that have healed improperly. No internal injuries, that's a small mercy. Oh!"
Pomfrey started as one final thing wrote itself on the parchment.
"Careful," Remus cautioned. "The lousy Muggles taught Harry to mistrust magic, and you'll scare him if he wakes up to see you waving a wand around."
"He better learn to trust it, and quickly! You must teach him to trust magic and to control his own."
"Is his core extra powerful?" Remus questioned. "He did some amazing accidental magic as a baby."
"Has he shown any since you've had him?"
"Not that I've seen, no."
"That pretty much confirms my diagnosis, then. Harry has Empathy. It is very rare, but more commonly seen in abused children. Once Empathy is employed, the more ostentatious shows of accidental magic usually go away, except in times of extreme stress, because it's very draining in and of itself."
"What does it mean?"
"The theory is that Empathy is a way for the magic of an abused child to protect them. An Empath can sense the emotions of others, and pattern his or her behavior accordingly."
"So Harry warmed to me rather more quickly than I anticipated because he sensed I wouldn't hurt him," Remus guessed.
"Correct. An Empath's intuition can usually be trusted, but in one so young, it needs to be trained. Someone with enough skill can easily manipulate any type of magic that is based on emotion. Luckily, as I said, it's extremely rare, so not many know about it. I've only known of one other case myself, and that was in the seventies. Anyway, I highly recommend you read up on the topic further, so that you'll be able to teach Harry the discipline he is going to need. In this situation especially, his life could depend on it."
Several minutes after Pomfrey showed herself back to the Floo, Remus sat at Harry's bedside, the matron's words echoing in his mind.
His life could depend on it… His life could depend on it…depend on it.
After what seemed to be only a few minutes, but was in reality much longer, Harry came awake once more.
"Is it seven yet?"
Remus looked at the sun outside Harry's window. "As a matter of fact, it's seven-thirty, and we need to get going because I have a full day planned."