Remus Lupin was convinced that his feelings were simply more intense than other people's. One full moon when he was seven years old, he had been struck by the realisation that his mother was in danger. Despite warnings never to do so, he had raced outside only to find the garden strewn with blood stained laundry. His mother had bled to death and he had been bitten by a werewolf. He had never seen the moon or himself in the same way again. Ever since, his hunches had been painfully bona fide. He knew now that it had to be some inherited animalistic foresight. The day his friend James had fallen fifty feet from his broom, Remus had become nauseous at the very mention of quidditch. The day his friend Sirius's father had almost killed him, Remus had been overcome by a migraine and a cold sweat. The morning James's wife Lily had gone in to labour with their son Harry, Remus had woken with a stomach ache. When he woke up alone in bed beside a two way handheld mirror with a scolding fever, he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that somewhere out there somebody he loved was dead.
Faint and delirious, he stumbled downstairs shouting for Sirius. They had been friends for four years and lovers for eight. Just out of school and in the face of war, they had not hesitated to join a secret society dedicated to its opposition. Eighteen months ago their friends James and Lily and their newborn son Harry had all been forced in to hiding. For months they had lived like gypsies and Remus and Sirius had taken solace from their worry in one another, preparing a nursery for Harry to visit once the threat had blown over. One month ago Remus had agreed to infiltrate the werewolves. Civil words had grown less and less between him and Sirius as the days went by. They argued and they fought like never before and their tender kisses became less about love and more about making up because war had made all of the lives around them so short. Lying in bed after passionately reaffirming their love, one would stare at the other as though trying desperately to read their thoughts. Every time Sirius returned home late and danced around the topic why, Remus struggled under the crushing weight of his own guilt. There was a growing suspicion of a rat in their midst. Whilst Remus did not want to think the worst of the man he loved, his shifty behaviour and continual hostility had given him no cause to think otherwise, and this was a war. Wanting just didn't come in to it.
The Dark Lord Voldemort, whom they all fought valiantly against, knew exactly how to target a person's weaknesses and Sirius's was sitting obediently at his right hand. His little brother, Regulus had joined Voldemort whilst he was still in school. The chasm that had grown between Sirius and his brother in years past was Sirius's biggest regret. Remus may have been an only child but he knew that blood was thicker than water. He doubted that there were many things Sirius would not have done to repair that broken bridge but this did not change the fact that if he had sold out their friends and their infant son, Remus vowed to hunt him down and show him the true meaning of pain. They had all come too far not to go down together.
When he found no evidence of Sirius in the house and the front door hanging wide open, he ran carried on outside and threw himself in to the lake. He let the cold water rush over him in hopes of easing his fever and diluting his guilt. Sirius had left no note and there were no stars in the sky. Everything felt unbearably still. Then a loud, guttural engine erupted from the above. A large motorbike Remus knew well was soaring towards him. Sirius had returned him unharmed, not a traitor but as pure as the day he was born. "Hagrid?" Remus's voice broke under his regret. Dumbledore's henchmen, the half giant Hagrid was sitting astride Sirius's beloved motorcycle and he was nowhere to be seen. Remus's heart sank, squelching into the muddy shallows. Hagrid pulled the waterlogged bike to the shore and to the side of the cabin. "Where's Sirius? He gave you his bike? Is he al-"A baby's cries echoed from inside the folds of Hagrid's coat. He pushed away his beard to reveal a blinking green eyed, messy haired infant strapped to his wide chest. His bloody contorted face reaffirmed Remus's fears and he fell back against the open door with a hand over his mouth.
"Please Hagrid," he begged breathlessly, "Tell me it isn't true..." Hagrid placed a huge hand on Remus's shaking shoulder. He couldn't take the extra weight and crumpled to his knees. Hagrid turned away to eye the lightening sky with trepidation.
"Can' we ger inside Lupin? I feel out 'n the open like this." Hagrid nervously stepped around Remus and through the low doorway in to the house. Remus remained on the 'oh not you again!' doormat struggling to breathe as an early morning rain began to fall. Then he shook his head and managed to pull himself to his feet. Precautions had been put in place in case of such an occurrence and he ran back and forth with arms rose casting numerous protective enchantments. He had to keep stopping to wipe the tears from his scarred face. Baby Harry's crying mixed with the rain and Remus regretfully stepped back over the threshold of the home he had shared with a good for nothing traitor.
In the cold living room, Hagrid had taken baby Harry away from his chest and was trying to hush his wailing. To a baby Hagrid's huge bushy face must have been all kinds of terrifying and Remus wasn't entirely surprised when Harry didn't stop screaming. Remus shut the door and went about the room pulling windows to a close and drawing curtains. Harry exhausted himself and was looking around the room as though searching for something. "Papa?" Remus turned to stare at the baby as he cried out for his father. Hagrid's whole body tensed as though he hoped he could force the tears back in. When his father did not emerge, grinning from behind a curtain, Harry continued to ask for him and Remus grimaced with every request. "Papa!"
"Won't yer take 'im?" Hagrid pleaded with him, at a loss with someone so small and wanting.
"I'm not his Godfather Hagrid-"Remus clutched a leather jacket to his chest as though if only his arms were full Hagrid would not hand him the baby.
"Black ain't 'ere! 'E gave me 'is bike, said 'e wouldn't be needin' it no more 'an he took off." Remus sank into an armchair almost missing it altogether, clutching desperately at the jacket now. Hagrid looked as though he felt so sorry for him that it actually hurt. "The boy wouldn' stop bleedin'. I couldn' take 'im to his aunt an' uncle's like tha' now coulda?" Remus looked up from behind the jacket.
"His aunt and uncle? Sirius is his Godfather, which leaves him with custody-"Remus dropped the jacket and took baby Harry from Hagrid. He stopped crying instantly.
"Dumbledore's orders. You Know Who's been destroyed-"
"Yes. We're all safe. Lily and James...are dead-"Remus stated impassively, trying to convince himself of the facts.
"The babe gone an' done it!" Remus held Harry at arm's length staring at him as the last of his infantile tears dripped down rosy cheeks into a plaid blanket. He was so small that Remus could not grasp the idea that he had defeated the darkest wizard of all time without lifting an impossibly little finger. "'E tried to kill the boy an' he lived. 'E's gonna be famous! Dumbledore wants 'im away." Remus pulled Harry to his chest, rocking him lightly and stroking his head. The day he was born, Lily had kissed Harry's head and promised him that he would never be alone and now he was to be banished. Remus wished to be so lucky.
There was silence as Hagrid lit the fire, warming the room and Remus disappeared into the kitchen. He stood by the stove warming a pan of milk and holding baby Harry to his chest. Tears rolled down his face but he had no hands to wipe them away with. He fumbled with the milk spilling it across the tiled floor and got down on his knees with a sigh and a tea towel, sopping it up. He could have easily cleared the mess away with magic but he was simply too upset to do much at all. "'Ow did Black know where the 'ouse was?" Remus flinched. Hagrid had followed as though afraid to leave Harry alone.
"I don't know-"Dumbledore had alluded to plans for a secret keeper to protect the Potters but Sirius had never implicitly stated that he had been chosen. He hadn't trusted Remus with that kind of information.
"Yer don' think that-"
"I don't know what to think Hagrid..." Remus was unable to consider which of his childhood friends had betrayed the others to their untimely deaths. "Needless to say, Peter was not where he said he would be tonight and Sirius took off unexpectedly..." Remus took the milk from the stove and poured it into the baby's bottle. He sat down beside Hagrid at the table. He reached for the bottle, rolling it in his massive hands to test the temperature and then squirted a little into his mouth to taste it himself as though he expected it to be poisoned. Offended and overwhelmed, Remus passed baby Harry back to Hagrid. He rested peacefully in his hairy arms, sucking on the bottle, holding it proudly himself, with hands which seemed impossibly small in comparison to Hagrid's.
"Black won' do anythin' rash will 'e?" Remus returned to the stove to reheat a bowl of leftovers for Hagrid.
"If you found yourself in his place, what would you do?" Remus asked, placing a small crate of eight butterbeers down on the table. Hagrid was silenced; the only sounds in the kitchen were the leftovers bubbling, Hagrid gulping, Remus sniffling and baby Harry suckling. The air was thick with tension and unvoiced questions and Remus could not stop his hands from shaking.
By the time Remus was handing Hagrid the reheated leftovers, Harry had finished his bottle. Hagrid parted unwillingly with him but he fell asleep almost instantly, nestling into Remus's chest. He made his way out of the room and Hagrid started up out of his seat. "I'm just taking him up to his nursery. I'll sing if you like...though I can't hold a tune. That was always Sirius's forte...I'm really quite harmless this side of the full moon." Remus had looked worse for wear before Hagrid had given him the bad news. Now he looked utterly destroyed. Hagrid sat back down looking guilty and Remus left the room with baby Harry. He took the stairs, one at a time as though he was slowly turning to stone. He stopped frozen before the room at the very back of the house. The door bore a small golden plaque engraved with Harry's initials but it was shut. The door beside it was wide open and in that room Sirius's handheld two-way mirror was lying atop an unmade bed. "Where are you Sirius?" He opened the locked door and ignited the candles in the ornate gold hanging lanterns. They cast a soft rose glow over the room. It looked so fresh and new; uninhabited. It was painted white and had a soft fur rug and wooden floors. At the centre of the room there was a large cot with a hanging mobile of quidditch players, moons and stars. The silk quilt inside was gold with red ribbons and Harry's name was embroidered across the pillow. Remus carefully placed Harry inside of the cot. He took some cleansing wipes from a nearby cabinet stocked with bottles, dummies and baby clothes and wiped Harry's face of the blood and dirt of the last few hours. He rubbed the raw lightning bolt scar with a thumb and Harry twitched. Remus leaned in to the cot, kissing his cheek. "You will never hurt again."
An hour or so later, Remus had finally fallen asleep in the rocking chair by the window when Hagrid came into the room, thrusting the Daily Prophet under his nose. He could barely fit through the door and great pearly tears were falling into his beard. Remus noticed that they were angry tears rather than sad ones. He was exhausted and had suffered enough tragedy for a lifetime, let alone a night and took little notice of the newspaper. Hagrid dropped it into Remus's lap and he shot to his feet, like it burnt. He could not read but there was no need. The photograph taking up more than half of the front page told him all he needed to know; 'AS BLACK AS HIS NAME; BETRAYS POTTERS TO YOU-KNOW-WHO, MURDERS SCHOOLFRIEND & 12 MUGGLES. SIRIUS BLACK SENT TO AZKABAN WITHOUT TRIAL'. The more dire the circumstance the less inventive the resulting front page titles were. There was just no need to draw people in with intrigue. Remus had seen so many photos of Sirius but he knew that the one which graced that cover would come to define him. It showed him being forcibly restrained by Aurors. He was wearing the striped muslin given to convicts, his hair was caked with dust and dirt and he was laughing maniacally. Remus threw the paper beneath the cot because he never wanted to see that photo again. He dissolved into silent sobs afraid of waking Harry. "Peter too..." Remus was completely alone; the last of a band of self-appointed brothers. He could not restrain his pain for long and Harry stirred and began to fuss. Hagrid ducked into the small room and pulled the curtains open, letting daylight into the room.
"Now 'e's got to go to 'is aunt an' uncle's, don' he?" Remus wondered whether just what Sirius would do and that nothing he could have said or done would have stopped him were two of the many things Dumbledore had had the sense to know before they happened. He jumped towards the cot and picked Harry out, cradling to his chest, hugging and hushing him. "Dumbledore's expectin' me Lupin."
"We painted this room together...If only I were less despicable, Harry could stay in it..." Remus laughed and it was filled with sick desperation. He kissed baby Harry's forehead and handed him back to Hagrid. "What am I saying? Nothing ever flowered in this house but lies. The boy is better off out of this, away from the harm and the hurt of our kind." Remus fell to his knees, filling a bag with the contents of the stocked cabinet and pushing it into Hagrid's hands. "Take him Hagrid. Hide him. Never can he know how we have failed him."
"You're gonna' be alrigh'?" Hagrid asked as Remus ushered him from the room and locked the door of the nursery behind them. He saw Hagrid out of the house and back onto Sirius's bike. He took a pair of goggles from one of the bike's leather side bags and magically stretched them out.
"The rain has stopped but it doesn't hurt to be careful..." Hagrid slipped them on and made sure baby Harry was strapped securely to his chest. "Drive safely Hagrid...Harry..." Remus lowered his lips to a part of Harry's head that wasn't cut open and kissed it. "Know that I love you...but I won't let you fear the moon too." Hagrid went as noisily into the sky as he had come. Remus collapsed to his knees and curled up on his side. He was the last of a dying species and he begged to know why he had been left exempt. If Sirius had spared him because he loved him too much, he needn't have bothered. He wanted to be put in to the cold, wet earth too. There was nothing left for him on this floating sad rock now.