Introductory READ ME!

This be slashy slashy slash. Don't like that? You're in luck - you don't have to read it! The back-button is your friendly exit portal.

This was my entry to the 2011 Snupin Santa, for a recipient whose favorite character was Remus Lupin - meaning it is very pro-Remus.

Pairings: Snape/Lupin, past Remus/Tonks, past Remus/Sirius, unrequited Snape/Lily, and various canon pairings

Era: Post-DH slight AU.

Further Warnings/Content: pottymouth!Snape, lots of Teddy Lupin, some Malfoys, Weasleys, and Harry Potter himself; OCs in minor roles; non-explicit adult content, i.e. coyly written sexytimes; off-screen violence; incorrect details on werewolves and the size of the wizarding population.

Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling, who would certainly be horrified by this AU if she ever knew about it. I make no profit whatsoever from this Herculean task of getting Snape and Lupin together.

Mount unto the Stars

From the most holy water I returned
Regenerate, in the manner of new trees
That are renewed with a new foliage,
Pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.

~Purgatorio, Canto Thirty-Three
Dante Alighieri

Four Days

"I can't believe it's come to this," Harry muttered.

"Sorry," Remus said, but he was more concerned with keeping the bundle in his arms from squirming away.

Harry turned large eyes toward him, shadowed by the underside of the desk above them. His glasses were smudged and his fringe was sweaty. "You should be," he said. "This is all your fault."

"Now, Harry old son," George said, from underneath his own desk across the aisle. His nose was black with soot; his eyes gleamed. "You know you should apportion dreadfulest blame where it belongs. This is clearly the fault of"—he pointed at the bundle in Remus' arms— "Remus' truly evil spawn."

"Bang!" Teddy cried, throwing his arms up. As if on cue, a series of bangs, whistles and hissing howls exploded (anew) somewhere in the air above their desks, to the shrieking glee of children.

"I'm so proud," George said. "I hope my own spawn is one day half so bad."

"You want this one?" Remus asked, wrestling Teddy back into his arms and tickling him ruthlessly. "I'm thinking I'll be glad to tie him in a sack and sell him to you."

Teddy shrieked happily and grew fangs, which he sank into Remus' cuff. His eyes, which had turned bright yellow with excitement, darted up to Remus' face, since there had been some very stern lectures on how you didn't grow fangs and bite people just because.

"Chom' chom'," he said, chewing on Remus' cuff.

Someone with a tangle of long red hair landed on their side of their desk with a thud. Ginny scrambled in next to Harry, smelling like singed cotton.

"Holy damn!" She was grinning and wide-eyed, her hair flying out in straggling pieces. "A firework boom almost took my head off. What happened?"

"Remus' offspring is making an early bid as king havoc-wreaker at Hogwarts," George said fondly. "Bless him."

"Ginnee!" Teddy cried, the tips of his hair morphing red to match her shade. "I blew up!"

Ginny reached across Harry to tickle Teddy. "I'd say he'll win the bid, the whole room is on fire."

"He somehow got a packet of Busting Phillibuster's lit," Harry said, with a tinge of pride his voice. "Then he chucked them at a bunch of kids standing near the Glorious Goop of Glory display, and, well—"

"So that's why there's slime," Ginny said approvingly.

"I'm glad you all appreciate Teddy's budding talents," Remus said, making his voice very serious. "When we're banned from every household and business establishment in Britain, I hope you'll let us come over to wreck everything you own."

"In a heartbeat," George said. "It's such a pleasure to mold twisted young minds. All right—I say we've been under these desks long enough, aye? What say you, team?"

"I could go out with a bang," Harry said, taking out his wand. Ginny and George pulled theirs out, too.

"Ready?" all three of them said, as the tips of each wand started to glow. Teddy was watching avidly, trapped in the circle of Remus' arms.

Harry, Ginny and George scrambled out from beneath their desks and lobbed lit fireworks across the shop-room; Remus managed to get to his feet in time so that Teddy could watch. Children screamed joyfully as the fireworks pelted into them, sizzling and banging. A billowing cloud of smoke flashing with bolts of lightning exploded from floorboards to rafters, shaking the foundations of the room and knocking products off their shelves. Ginny and Teddy cheered. George made a solemn bow.

Harry grinned at Remus, looking equal parts happy and sheepish. "I'm just glad Hermione wasn't here to see that."

"If you speak of the devil, Harry," Ginny warned, smirking.

George waded forward. Singed and awed children crowded round him and a haze of green-purple-black smoke hovered. He started levitating fallen boxes off the floor for his customers to grab, which they did, shoving and climbing over each other now they'd seen their full power on display. Remus had a blinding vision of the increased workload that would sweep Accidents & Catastrophes from hundreds of children being armed to the teeth with Wheezes' fireworks.

"Well," he sighed, "now that's over..." And he swung Teddy upside down, keeping hold of him by his calves. Teddy cackled joyfully.

"What punishment shall we devise?" he asked, swinging him gently from side to side.

"Nevereversussend!" Teddy called.

"Then it's the Pygmy Puff cage for you," George said, his voice like leaves blowing through a tunnel. When Remus heaved Teddy upright, George looped him neck-to-knees in a Gryffindor scarf. Teddy loved this.


"Uh oh," Harry said.

Remus turned, the scarf-wrapped bundle of his very badly behaved son in his arms—but it was only a wide-eyed Hermione and a curious-looking Ron, waving smoke out of their faces as they came in through the door. They stared at a clump of soot-stained children; Ron started to grin.

"What have you been doing?" Hermione asked, coming down from surprise to weary suspicion.

"Nothing," Ginny and George said together, both adopting wide-eyed looks of innocence that wouldn't have fooled even Teddy. Of course, Teddy was very sharp at sniffing out suspicious behavior. He liked to be a part of it.

"Hi Hermeenee!" Teddy said brightly. He'd got one arm free of the scarf to wave at her. "I been verrbad!"

Hermione stepped over some cardboard carcasses of Wheezes' gifts to kiss his cheek.

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" she asked dryly. Teddy's smile turned sweet and charming; his eyes went from yellow to china blue.

"Because he's a little devil," Remus said. "And I don't mean that in the precious way."

At eighteen months, Teddy understood most things that were said to him now, even if it was only tone. He peeped up at Remus and turned his hair to golden ringlets.

"I can't believe I missed it," Ron complained to Harry.

Hermione rolled her eyes but didn't comment. Remus took note that after eighteen months of dating Ron, she had given up on scolding many things. Still, it was better she hadn't been there during the fireworks fight.

"You're not working today, are you?" she asked Remus. "Do you have time to get a bite before you have to meet Andromeda?"

"Let's see—can you tell me what time it is?" he asked Teddy. When he lifted his wrist, Teddy obligingly tugged down his sleeve and grabbed the watch to read, glaring at the numbered face with concentration.

"Eleventy-two!" he declared.

"We're working on it," Remus told Hermione.

Garlands flecked with magical snow hung on every storefront and wound around the lamp-posts. Each window's buttery glow poured onto the wet, icy cobblestones; a welcome sight, since the sky had been hard and low and grey from the start of December. With its evergreen boughs and glowing storefronts, Diagon Alley would have looked quite peaceful, were it not for the fact that each business was fighting a ferocious competition to out-do all the others with the extravagance of their decorations—trains that wove through snowy villages crafted in miniature; skating house-elves (fake, of course, since house-elves would consider ice-skating a horrendous waste of time that could otherwise be spent working); baubles changing their colors from cobalt blue to ghostly silver, crimson and emerald; sparkling fairies that lived in holly garlands; wreaths twisted into snowflake and star shapes. George's disastrous creativity had him changing his decorations once a week, a stroke of brilliance which fed the mayhem around him as his neighbors scrambled to keep up. Two days ago on Friday, this had led a rampaging polar bear display destroying the front windows of Wisacres Wizarding Equipment.

Remus (carrying Teddy, who had all his mother's powers of ill-coordination), Hermione and Harry left the Weasleys supervising chaos at George's shop, and schlepped through the icy drizzle to the restaurant Hermione had picked. Ron didn't like restaurants very much, and when cajoled into going out, only wanted to eat British food at pubs. For anything more adventurous, Hermione had to find other comrades or go alone; and Remus, having spent a couple of years being victimized by Dora's intrepid food choices, always offered himself as a sacrifice.

He missed Dora. He supposed he always would, the way he would always miss Sirius and James and Lily. For a moment he pressed his cheek against the top of Teddy's head. His son looked curiously up at him, and then smiled a sweet, almost heart-wrenching smile. He was extremely manipulative, Remus thought with a twist of pride.

"Now we are not going to blow anything up," he said sternly to his son, whose nose changed slightly to a more angelic shape as his eyes went china-blue again, his hair returning to golden ringlets.

"And no biting anyone, either," Harry added cheerfully. "Oh, damn, that's a reporter—"

He ducked around Remus' right side, tugging his hat low over his scar. Remus glanced over as they navigated the around a quadrangle of shoppers; a youngish man wearing a fedora was examining a pair of identical twins dressed in violet voile, his expression one of avaricious interest. The photographer at his side was picking his teeth.

Remus continued: "And no setting anything on fire. No growing pointed ears to scare the waiters." They still hadn't got to the point where Remus could take Teddy to Muggle places. It wasn't that he didn't understand he couldn't morph in front of them without causing chaos; it was the fact that he did understand that.

"You know what this is, Remus," Hermione said, sounding rather smug as she pushed open the restaurant door, "it's payback for all that havoc you wreaked in the Marauders."

"The thought had occurred to me," he said wryly.

The restaurant, Dimly Dim Sum, was up a flight of stairs above Amaneunsis Quills; its windows looked down on Diagon and the thrum of Christmas shoppers. Whether from its own involvement in the Christmas Decoration Skirmish or from personal taste, the restaurant's walls were crimson, painted with magnificent gold and green dragons, whose scales flickered in the lamplight.

Even though it was two o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, the place was crammed with shoppers; Remus, Harry and Hermione were just able to crowd inside the door behind a pair of overdressed matrons waiting to be seated. One of them was wearing a hat along whose brim ran a working model train. Remus made sure Hermione was standing between him and the woman's hat, so that Teddy couldn't grab it off her head.

"...just terrible, what happened to poor Agnes," Monstrous Hat was saying. "An awful prank to pull on the poor girl, and just before Christmas, too!"

"Poor, poor Agnes," said her friend. "St. Mungos'll soon have her straightened out, leastwise, poor dear. But is it true the whole party—?"

"Oh, aye, it's very true—every soul she'd had over to dinner! Well, she thinks it was Melody Batton, of course, they've never got on, and she did send an invite to Melody's sister but not Melody, so she has a bit of a reason—but Richard is on the Accidental Reversal Squad, and he said..."

Whatever Richard had said was lost to time as she and her friend left with the hostess.

"Accidental Reversal Squad, eh?" Harry said curiously. "You hear anything about it, Remus?"

"Oh—yes, although it's not anything you'd want to hear while—" Remus paused as they all crushed themselves against the wall to let a family of six go past, each person trailing at least three shopping bags apiece.

"Table for three?" the harassed hostess said, returning. "Or four?"

Remus was pleased that fate awarded them a table by the window; he liked to be able to look out of rooms. The hostess simply pointed them to it, and they sidled through what space they could.

"We wouldn't want to hear while we what?" Harry said, ducking a wizard's wild gestures accompanying the story he was telling his bored date.

"While you eat." Remus lifted Teddy over his head, blithely ignoring the people around him who were alarmed by Teddy's delighted squeals. They could pass judgment when they had to keep the worst-behaved eighteen-month-old in the wizarding world entertained.

"It was that bad?" Hermione said. She squeezed into her chair, accidentally knocking a wizard's hat into his congee in the process.

"It's only rather—well, it's a bit gruesome, but it's not nearly the worst thing I've ever heard of a potion doing." He offered Teddy a seat beside him on the booth, but Teddy was in the phase where he never took the first offer and chose to sit in Remus' lap instead. He grabbed the wax pencil (meant for marking their food choices on the menus) and started scrawling more manic-looking versions of the wall dragons all over the menu.

"You're not making us want to hear it any less," Harry said.

"All the things I'm thinking on my own are quite dreadful enough to put me off lunch in any case," Hermione added.

Some spirit of Christmas mischief made Remus say: "Are you very, very sure? I'm not so sure you're sure." He couldn't help laughing at the expression on Hermione's face and relented. "Honestly, I'm really not sure she was talking about the same thing. I did hear about a dinner party on Friday night winding up in St. Mungos from some kind of potions backfire, but everyone in Accidents & Catastrophes tells me that's so common around this time of the year—"

"Dragong!" Teddy produced his artwork with a George-like flourish.

"Very fearsome," Remus said.

"Feersum," Teddy agreed.

"Looks like we'll have to order for you, Remus." Hermione smiled at Teddy, who was now trying to give himself glowing gold and red eyes like the dragons on the wall.

"How does this work?" Harry picked up the wax pencil and made an experimental nick on the laminated menu. "Do we mark it with these pencils?"

"Yes, just however many of each dish you want in the little box there. They're fairly small, so Remus is going to have to order about fifty of everything." Hermione's smile faded in a flash of concern. "I didn't think about that. Remus, do you want to go somewhere else—?"

"I like dim sum," he assured her.

Harry grinned at him, looking such a mixture of Lily and James it was impossible to tell where one left off and the other began. "I hope there'll be something left in the restaurant for us to eat."

"I may leave you a plate," Remus said. "A single plate."

Teddy stood up in his lap so Remus could get a good look at his dragon eyes. The pupils were slitted, the irises rings of red and gold.

"Fearsome," Remus told him, pushing his curls back from his face. Teddy grinned and gave himself dragon fangs.

His morph had relaxed by the time a waitress squeezed through the throng to take their orders. In one of the rare moments when Andromeda partially thawed toward Remus, she had explained that achieving a morph was easier for them when they were young, but that they couldn't hold it until they got older; Dora had said it took concentration to keep it in place. Teddy could flicker through morphs like mad, but they always lapsed within a minute or two. When they handed their menus—well, Hermione and Harry's—to the waitress, Teddy's hair and eyes had reverted to their regular dark brown.

"Do you mind if we keep this one?" Remus asked the waitress, holding up Teddy's dragons. "It's become a work of art for the present."

"Oh," she said, beaming at Teddy, "aren't you a sweet little thing."

Teddy gave her a haughty look. In a split second his dragon eyes had returned, and he grew out fangs to match. "Feersum," he declared.

She dropped their menus. Harry tried not to laugh and ended up snorting his water. Teddy looked enormously pleased with himself.

"Teddy," Remus said in a warning voice. Teddy's brown hair melted to glittering gold and his eyelashes grew preposterously long.

"Oh my." The waitress bent to scrape the menus off the floor. "That's—that's amazing. I'll just go put these orders in, Professor, Miss Granger, Mr. Potter." Then she thrust back through the crowd, looking flushed.

"Celebrities even in the dim sum restaurant," Harry said, "that's us." He leaned forward to muss Teddy's golden hair, grinning. "And now you."

Keeping his tone stern but not scolding, Remus said to his son, "Teddy, that is exactly what you should not do."

"It must be very hard to maintain discipline with everyone encouraging him all the time," Hermione said to Remus, but she was giving Harry a stare as pointed as a flint.

"Hey," Harry protested, "I think he comes by it naturally. Neither of his parents were ever glowing models of good behavior." His next grin was for Remus.

"I think you were right the first time, Hermione," Remus sighed, conjuring a straw for his glass of water, which he held for Teddy to drink. "It's retribution for all my sins."

For all Teddy's other iniquities, he had good table manners for an eighteen-month-old. He only dropped about half his food on regular occasion and perhaps only three quarters of the dim sum, which was not the best kind of food to feed a baby; it tended to fall apart even in the grown ups' hands. Harry was scraping the scattered fillings of his dumplings off his plate with a spoon, and Remus was simply vanishing everything that dropped onto his lap and the floor.

"Messy, aren't you?" Harry said to Teddy, who was mangling a sweet rice dumpling beyond all recognition with his dragon fangs.

"Messee!" Teddy agreed, slapping at a plate of soy sauce and slopping it all over his hand and the once-pristine tablecloth.

Remus dried his son off with a napkin while Hermione navigated the dish to safety. "Actually," he said, "Andromeda's got him fairly tidy for a baby his age."

He wished his voice didn't sound so distant, because—yes, there it is, he thought when Harry and Hermione traded a flickering glance. But they didn't say anything. Probably they didn't know what to say. There was nothing new on the custody front. There never was. And all of Harry's appeals and Hermione's attempts at repealing had only come up against a wall of prejudice and social indifference as thick as an Arctic continent.

"At least we got to go out today, hm?" He smoothed back Teddy's hair again and smiled at him; Teddy had picked up on the sudden tension and was looking at all of them suspiciously, but especially at his father.

"Go out more," Teddy said sternly. He turned his eyes and hair the color of Remus' and folded his arms, the way Remus had done when he walked into Andromeda's sitting-room and found that Teddy had pulled all the ornaments off the bottom of the tree.

"When did Andromeda say she wanted to—pick him up?" Hermione asked, sounding almost timid.

"After her appointment was over at Healer Tatiana's." He checked his watch again. "Which should have been... Lord, half an hour ago at least."

"I told George where we were," Hermione said anxiously, "do you think she could have—"

She stopped, her eyes narrowing on Harry's face. Remus knew why; he'd seen the flicker of guilt, too.

"Harry," she said in a low, ominous voice, "what did you do?"

Harry made the bad choice of faking nonchalance. "I just asked Ginny and George if maybe they could keep her distracted for a bit, so we could finish lunch."

"You mean you told them not to tell her where we were!" Hermione said angrily. "How could you?"

"I didn't have to tell them, they agree with me," Harry said, his anger matching hers now.

Without a word Remus started winding Teddy into his coat and scarf, which was shaped like a bright green snake, Teddy's current favorite animal. Teddy's eyes were moving from Hermione's angry face to Harry's, and the tips of his hair were starting to glow silver like an incipient Lumos.

"If they'd told her where we'd gone, she'd have showed up here in the middle of everything and taken Teddy away without a by-your-leave—"

"Which is her right," Hermione hissed, throwing some galleons on the table; Harry did the same. They were both glaring at each other.

"You think I like it?" Hermione continued in a furious undertone as Remus scooped up Teddy. "You think that's what I want to happen?"

"No," Harry snapped, banging the restaurant door shut behind him and thumping after her down the stairs; Teddy was watching them over Remus' shoulder, silent and clinging to his lapels. "I don't, all right, but I don't see why we always have to let her push—us around!"

Push Remus around. At least he had enough delicacy not to say that.

"Because if we ever want custody, we have to play by the rules, Harry! However unfair they are! I can't believe I always have to explain to you—"

Remus was glad to be able to slip into the noise of the street below, to let the bubbling crowd swallow their argument. He bounced Teddy slightly, gaining his attention, and smiled. "We're going to see Gran," he said. "Show her your dragon eyes."

Teddy nodded solemnly. Remus wondered how much he had understood, just now. He laid his head on Remus' shoulder and grew a monkey tail, looping it three times around Remus' wrist.

"Mr Potter!" Oh damn, they'd walked straight into that reporter. His quill was out, his eyes gleaming like the lens of his photographer's camera. "Trouble in paradise? Why don't you tell us all about it?"

"Why don't you keep straight who's my girlfriend," Harry snarled; Hermione grabbed his right arm, presumably to stop him from going for his wand.

"Ignore them," she bit out, but she gave the reporter a truly malevolent glare as she hauled Harry past. The photographer took a shot anyway, his camera belching a cloud of smoke that was sure to cling to everyone's hair.

"Bad!" Teddy scolded, pointing over Remus' shoulder at the reporter. "Sod you stupid!"

"I'm glad Andromeda didn't hear that," Remus muttered, grabbing Teddy's accusing hand and picking up the pace before the reporter could take a picture of his son. He heard another flash behind him, but he plunged into a crowd of shoppers.

The three of them staggered free of the shopping crowd within half a block of George's shop.

"I hate those people," Hermione said fiercely, shoving her hair out of her face. "Human vultures. Now they're going to be printing all sorts of lies about me and Harry—"

"Like they do every day." Harry tugged his glasses straight; the left end had come loose from his ear. "At least it'll break the monotony from all those stories about me losing my mind."

"Honestly," Hermione said. "I wish they'd just leave the poor man alone, he's dead, isn't he?"

"Snape was innocent," Harry reminded her sharply; Remus sensed this was an argument they lapsed into often when they were together. "He deserves to be exonerated at the least!"

"I know he was innocent, Harry, but maybe you should be doing something else besides fighting for his reputation—I don't mean to be indelicate, you know I don't, but there's so much wrong right now and I think some other focus might be more—"

"Thank Merlin." Ron appeared so suddenly in the front entrance to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes that Remus almost walked into him; he stopped suddenly enough that Hermione and Harry piled up against his back.

"She's furious," Ron muttered, jerking his head to the left, presumably where Andromeda was stewing in a rage. "I don't think any of us are her favorite people right now, but especially Ginny—"

"You couldn't tell her where we'd gone?" Hermione demanded.

"As if Ginny would've let him," Harry said, squeezing past Remus. "They in the break room, Ron?" he called over his shoulder.

"Yeah," Ron called back. "Damn, he's brave," he said, awed, as Harry pushed open the violently purple curtains to the break room and disappeared inside. "I mean, I know he faced down You-Know-Who and all those Death Eaters, but he is really brave, I'm just telling you."

Remus fought the urge to laugh. He let enough of it out to smile at his son again, even though he wasn't looking forward to this at all.

"Come on," he said, bouncing Teddy, whose monkey tail, to Remus' surprise, was still wrapped tightly around his arm. "Let's follow your godfather into the fray, hm?"

"Yes." Hermione's tone was terse and resolute. She grabbed Remus by the other wrist and they went, although Remus wasn't sure who was guiding whom. They were probably mutually reluctant.

"I've, er, got to supervise," Ron said hastily, and beetled off. Hermione rolled her eyes hugely and reached for the break room curtain.

"—don't care if you are, it's none of your right," Andromeda was saying furiously, her voice as loud as if she were trying to be heard across a crowded room.

"I never said it was," Harry replied, his tone implacable. He didn't sound remotely abashed. "It's Remus' right to spend time with his son. I'm just along because I like him."

"Hello," Remus called loudly. Andromeda and Ginny turned toward him, but Harry remained with his eyes narrowed, watching Andromeda with every sign of dislike. Remus wished he were closer so he could step on his foot. Not in front of Teddy, he thought. If only Harry were a Leglimens like Snape had been. Or even slightly subtle.

"How is everyone?" he added. Hermione stood beside him like a waxwork.

He gently unwrapped Teddy's tail from his wrist and used it to tickle his son's chin. Teddy gave a tiny shriek and squirmed, growing a pair of fangs with a 'pop' and making chomping motions at Remus' hand.

"Don't bite your own tail," Remus warned, laughing.

"Maybe you should let him," Ginny grinned. "Then maybe he wouldn't bite everyone else."

Andromeda seemed to have got herself under control. She came forward, her face as cool as a mountain lake and her arms held out. Remus transferred Teddy to her, trying not to feel as if his heart was being pulled free.

Andromeda's frosty expression thawed into a smile as soon as she was holding her grandson. "Did you have fun?" she asked him. "I heard you were very naughty."

"Who, mee?" Teddy asked, turning his tail to a red panda's.

"He learned that from George," Ginny said. "Not the panda tail, I mean. George only wishes he could grow tails."

Andromeda did not acknowledge this. As if no one had spoken since her aborted argument with Harry, she said, "Well, it's time to go home."

Tucking Teddy against her hip, she headed for the mantle, where George kept a Floo powder in a rather risqué (and literal) bust of a mermaid. Teddy twisted in her arms and reached for Remus silently, growing red panda ears to match his tail. Hermione made a soft noise at his side, but she said nothing. No one did.

Remus moved forward and pushed his hand through Teddy's brown hair. "I'll see you in a few days," he said, and kissed his son's forehead, trying to keep his grip gentle. He wanted to rip him away from Andromeda, shove her through the fire and blast the grate apart, so she could never come back, never take his son away from him again—

"Gentian Hollow," Andromeda said, dropping a handful of powder into the grate. As the flames flared green to knee-height, she stepped into the fireplace, cupping Teddy against her, and with a flash of emerald, they were gone.

A/N: All authors love the feedback, if you've got some to spare ^_^