Chapter 1 : The Good and the Bad.
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July the thirty-first…
“Okay, take deep breaths—good—and for Merlin’s sake stop worrying about James!” ordered Remus Lupin.
“Where IS HEEEEE? I want him HERE! NOW!” wailed a very red-faced, extremely sweaty and heavily pregnant Lily Potter, as Remus helped her sit straight on her labour bed.
“Lily, he’ll be here soon. He’s got the message already,” assured Sirius Black, and, looking at Lily’s worried face, added, “Look, he’s in the middle of an Order work and—and you know he can’t just leave it in the middle without getting someone to substitute—”
“I DON’T CARE—”
“Pads, there will be times when your calm and calculated reasoning will be highly appreciated, but this is not quite the moment,” said Remus, exasperatedly.
“Okay, okay! So what am I supposed to do? Scream like our Madame Lily here, or panic like you?”
“You could help me, help Lily do her…”
“AAAAHHH! Woman, I still love my hand!” yapped Sirius, scowling at Lily and wringing his hand. Lily had squeezed his hand, hard- the hand she had been holding firmly since they had arrived at the Muggle hospital.
It had all happened in a flurry of confused activities. They were having a peaceful dinner, after which James left for his Order duty. Sirius and Remus were helping Lily do the dishes when she complained of pain in her stomach and excused herself. When she came out of the bathroom, she was looking slightly dazed as she announced to them that her water had broken.
After which Remus and Sirius, spent the next couple of minutes gathering bags and clothes and—calling for an ambulance. Lily had insisted that they take her to a Muggle hospital. Remus tried to argue, saying St. Mungo’s would be a better option, given she would benefit from the use of magical methods of pain relief pre and post delivery. However, Lily was adamant, giving no particular reason and since Sirius sided with her, they decided to go to a Muggle hospital. They just about managed to remember to grab some Muggle money from Lily’s wardrobe before heading off.
Since arriving at the hospital, things sped up even faster, with Sirius filling up forms for a room and other hospital formalities, Remus meeting up with the doctor who would be seeing Lily. Only when they wheeled Lily into her labour room, did they have a moment to breathe easy.
The nurse, who had earlier conducted the Lily’s preliminary check-up, now standing beside Lily’s bed clutching a clipboard, said, “Don’t you worry Mrs. Potter, everything will be just fine—we’ll have to wait for another half hour though.
“Don’t think the baby’s ready to come out yet,” she said, as she gave a reassuring squeeze to Lily’s shoulder and moved out of the room.
Remus and Sirius exchanged nervous looks- neither were sure what consequence ‘another half hour’ would have on their physical and emotional states. He was already worried, given the fact that, Lily’s delivery date was not due until next week, and from whatever he had heard and read of pre-mature deliveries, he didn’t feel too confident. Hence, Remus was already at the end of his wits; and he was clueless about what they should do to help her have a normal, less painful delivery.
Seeing the looks on Sirius’ and Lily’s faces, and feeling rather helpless himself, Remus thought he ought to do something. Hence, it was up to the stories he had heard from his grandmother, of the time when his mother was giving birth to him, and the pregnancy books, which Lily had bought during the past nine months, and which Remus had brought, for lack of anything better, to take them past the ‘half hour’
“Just thirty more minutes, Lily—”
“—what did the chapter on contractions say, Moony?”
“—yeah, keep doing that—that’s a good girl—”
“Get a towel—wipe her forehead—”
“—you wanna have water—err—warm water—”
“—take it easy—breathe—in and out—”
“—and—is someone yelling your name?” asked Remus, trying to keep steady, holding Lily’s shoulder and craning his neck to look at the people walking past their room.
“Lily? LILY? LILY? Where are you?” shouted a tall, thin, raven haired man with glasses, as he sprinted past Lily’s labour room.
“Hey, wait—” called Sirius, as he ran out of the room in search for the beleaguered father-to-be.
“Oh, Merlin! Lily! Honey, are you all right?” panted James Potter, as he rushed to her bedside. His face was as white as the hospital bed-sheet, and his hands shivered slightly. He reached out for her and she grabbed him by his collar and embraced him.
“How long has it been?” asked James, still holding Lily in his arms.
“An hour and a half. Prongs, you got someone to substitute for you?” asked Remus, wiping his sweaty forehead.
“I—umm—got someone to—Lily, is it hurting too much?”
“‘Course it’s hurting and it is gonna hurt even more! Mind you—it might hurt less than the battering my ears and hands took a few seconds back. By the way, Prongs, did you send a message to Dumbledore?” asked Sirius.
“No—not yet. We’ll do that once the baby comes.”
“Oh, don’t worry! We’ll spread a word to the whole world! It’s not every day Prongs and Mrs. Prongs become parents,” quipped Sirius. While that the men were chatting, Lily had been silently holding on to James’ arm and panting slightly. Suddenly, she began panting rapidly, her already flushed face becoming even redder, and cried, “Call the nurse, quick!”
“Call the nurse!”
“Where’s the nurse?”
“There she is!”
“Hey, sister, our lady is about to give birth! Hurry, do something!”
There was a flurry of activities as the nurse, who had been attending to Lily before, came in along with a male doctor, who was murmuring instructions to the other two nurses. One of the nurses then turned to the men and asked them to leave. However, James wanted to be with Lily, and Lily wasn’t showing any sign of letting go of James either; so the nurse shooed Remus and Sirius away, while James was allowed to stay in the room, beside Lily’s bed.
Remus and Sirius stood outside the labour room, wringing their hands, shrugging their shoulders and trying to get feeling back into their arms. A nurse hurried past them into Lily’s room, carrying an arm full of towels. Feeling anxious about what was happening inside; they started nervously pacing the length of the passage, occasionally staring at each other, as the sound of Lily’s screaming reached their ears. The tension was too much, even for them! At least James was inside- had he been outside, he would have been a nervous wreck.
They were so consumed in worrying about what was going on inside that, when a silvery-blue boar darted up to them, they nearly jumped out of their skins. It was lucky that no Muggle was present in the corridor at the time, as Alastor Moody’s Patronus wasted no time to give them its message.
“What’s this now?” asked Sirius, sounding annoyed.
“Well, it didn’t say much, did it?” mumbled Remus, looking anxious.
“But we can’t go now—” said Sirius, sharing Remus’ concern.
“It didn’t say much—Mad-Eye doesn’t want to give out details—guess it’s a situation with a couple of Death Eaters- the usual—” deduced Remus, with a grim look. He turned to look at the happenings inside through the glass, but couldn’t make out much.
“I know. We shouldn’t leave them,” said Remus, his eyes still trailing the window, but not seeing anything in particular.
“Look, I’ll go and see what the situation’s like—” he said suddenly, moving away from the door.
“— and I’ll send word to you. If things look like they can be managed, you stay here—” said Remus, nodding his head toward the closed door, “—if not, tell Prongs—then join us. Okay?”
“I don’t like the idea much, but we can’t leave them alone here either. You’d better send word as soon as you talk to Mad-Eye. I’ll try to keep Prongs posted,” said Sirius, and, giving Remus a sharp look, added, “Send a message right away if there’s trouble.”
Remus nodded seriously. “Don’t worry about Prongs, I can tell he won’t be torn between wanting to stay here and wanting to come with us, this time— it’ll be best if things can be resolved quickly—”
Another silvery something darted to them and almost yelled to them, “NEED HELP!” It was a message from Dedalus Diggle.
“What the—I’d better go! Take care of them!” spluttered Remus as he made to run towards the exit of the ward.
Sirius shouted a stern, “Send a message”, as Remus started to sprint.
He had hardly gone halfway down the passage when he stopped in his tracks and turned back to look at Sirius, who was looking at Remus thunderstruck and wide-eyed. A baby’s cry could be heard very clearly over the din of the hospital.
They stared at each other, still not able to believe their ears. There was a baby—James and Lily’s baby—inside the closed hospital room. Still unsure of how to react, Remus retraced his steps, slower than before but with the same level of anxiety. He tried to catch a glimpse of the baby- if there was one—his brain had not yet fully comprehended the meaning of the cry he had heard a few seconds back— but instead caught sight of James.
James was standing a bit further away from the bed now. Remus and Sirius could only see the side of his face and, from what they saw, they understood that the rest of his face must be as animated. They grinned at each other when they saw James nervously running his hand through his hair. Lily, however, could not be seen—nurses were crowding all around her that it was difficult to even catch a glimpse of her fiery red hair.
Remus still could not catch a glimpse of the baby. Sirius, standing beside him, was craning his neck to get a better view of the inside, and was murmuring under his breath. Knowing Sirius too well, Remus guessed that it was probably the mildest of swear words.
Then, a large nurse, who had been obstructing their view of Lily, crossed the room towards James and appeared to have handed him something- something wrapped in a bundle of white sheets. Only when she moved back to tend to Lily did they realise that the ‘something’ had a mop of jet-black hair, and James’ shoulders had gone rigid and he was not moving. Then there was a cry and they saw James move his shoulders sideways, slowly.
After probably few seconds, James turned around to face the door, he probably couldn’t see their faces through the, now, partly misted window, but smiled, lifting the bundle a few inches higher on his arms, knowing they were there, and that is when they somehow managed to connect the ‘something’ with the cry that they were hearing.
‘Blimey! Moony—that’s the baby!” exclaimed Sirius, still not able to take his eyes away from the little miracle- both of them kept staring at the baby and James. Remus had trouble putting the exact feeling that was going on inside him into words. Sirius, however, in his very Sirius-like way, said “Bloody hell! Bloody hell—so weird!”
That summed up everything pretty nicely.
After a moment, he turned to Sirius and saw him smiling indulgently. He was beaming like a little child himself. Sirius pulled him in a bear hug and exclaimed “Congratulations, Moony! You are an uncle now!”
“You too, Padfoot!” grinned Remus, feeling happy, truly happy in a long time.
“Alastor? Hey, Mad-Eye!” shouted Remus at the retreating back of a man with frizzy blonde hair. The man turned around with his wand at the ready, but let down his guard when he realised it was Remus.
“It took a long time for you to show up,” growled Alastor Moody, otherwise known as Mad-Eye Moody.
“Showing up late for an important order mission in not acceptable Mr. Lupin—and disappearing during a scheduled look-out job”, thundered Moody, his magical eye uncharacteristically unmoving, fixed on Remus.
“I get this feeling you and Potter and Black—” he continued, moving menacingly towards Remus, like he were about to cane Remus for being late to a class.
“Was—at the— hospital—Lily—just—gave birth!” panted Remus, as he hurriedly tried to explain Moody the reason for his lateness.
“Merlin! I take it we’re not expecting Potter to join us for our rendezvous tonight!” exclaimed Moody, rubbing the bridge of his nose, his brows furrowed slightly, however, he was pleased with the news, that could be clearly seen on his face.
“Nor is Sirius, though he might show up if we send a word,” said Remus. “So—what happened? What’s the—emergency?”
“Death Eater attack— up North—two teams have been sent already. The Normans and Fabian joined them a few minutes back—I was about to Apparate.
“Sources say they are trying to recruit some new blood into their ranks—by force—if they are opposed, they indulge in their favourite hobby- murdering the lot. The Dark Mark has been seen—”
“Well, then hurry up, Mad-Eye! What are we waiting for?”
“Dumbledore’s order. He suspects that the Death Eaters are playing a little game with us.
“Divert attention and pull a fast one when every body’s fussing about a lame Dark Mark,” growled Moody, his magical eye spinning with dizzying speed.
“Pull a fast one? Where?”
“Alastor, Remus, --where are Sirius and James?
“I had hoped to take you lot to where I think you are definitely needed,” said Albus Dumbledore, his eyes shining in the moonlight.
“Albus, Lily gave birth—just a few minutes back,” said Remus, grinning widely and still feeling dazed at the idea of Lily becoming a mother and James—Merlin! James was a father!
“Goodness—well that calls for a celebration! I thought she wasn’t due until mid-August- that’s what James had told me last week at the meeting.”
“Nevertheless, happy occasions are always welcome, even if they come uninvited,” exclaimed Albus Dumbledore, although his eyes didn’t twinkle with happiness. Remus thought they looked thoughtful, and a little—apprehensive? However, Remus didn’t get much time to ponder, as Albus Dumbledore bombarded Remus with questions.
“Few minutes back you say, Remus— I take it, in the last fifteen minutes?” asked Dumbledore.
“Ummm, well, not exactly fifteen… I’d say about twenty minutes back—I don’t even know whether it is a girl or a—” he broke off seeing that Dumbledore’s eyes had suddenly become slit-like, as he frowned deeply.
“What time is it, Alastor?”
“So, the Potters had their child yesterday—the thirty first of July?”
“Well, it just might be—I’m not sure of the exact time—” said Remus, not understanding why Dumbledore was thinking about the time and birth date of James and Lily’s new born when there were other things to do.
“And where are they now?”
“At a Muggle hospital—it’s in London, near—”
“Are they alone?”
“Sirius is with them—”
“Alastor, Remus, I need you to keep a look out at the Ministry. I will join you shortly. If my hunch is right, there’ll be few of Voldemort’s followers trying to force their way into the Auror Department to harass Peter Rawlins—I’ve just got the information—”
“Rawlins? The fresher?” asked Moody in disbelief.
“Yes, indeed. He was in Slytherin. His brother, a Death Eater, wants him to join them. I’ve heard he is a promising Auror and has put up a fight till now—this time I’m guessing they’ll play it rough.”
“I’m not letting them play their little games with my Aurors. Come on, son, let’s hurry,” he added to Remus.
“But Albus I had the impression you were to join us,” said Moody, looking at Dumbledore inquiringly.
“Ah, yes that had been my initial plan. However, now I have just thought of something, that needs my immediate attention.
“It can’t wait Alastor, but if you need my assistance, send me a message right away. I will try sending Frank Longbottom after you to the Ministry,” said Dumbledore.
And then both he and Remus gave curt nods to Dumbledore and Disapparated.
When Remus and Moody reached the Ministry, it was a scene of complete mayhem- the Atrium was full of witches and wizards running around, clueless, with terror in their eyes. They saw some elderly wizards running towards the exit, from the Department of Mysteries and the courts.
“That’s Crawford. Looks like they are implementing their divide attention tactic,” growled Moody, trying to jostle the crowd to reach the lifts. Remus’s nerves were tingling as he and Moody waited for the lift to reach the floor of the Auror Department. As they reached the third floor, Remus cast the Disillusionment Charm on himself. Moody did the same a second later.
As they rose higher, Remus felt that the floors were getting eerily quieter, and prepared himself to take aim as the doors slid open. They waited a few tentative moments inside and, hearing nothing, walked cautiously out into the department.
They stood motionless, waiting, expecting to see Death Eaters. However, there was not a single soul in sight, no noise, no sound, the Auror Department, where they had expected Death Eaters to be was absolutely quiet.
Remus peered into the cubicles, his wand at the ready and wished they’d had more people backing them up. He saw Mad-Eye remove the Disillusionment Charm and enter his cabin. Remus could see very clearly from where he was standing that the Death Eaters had completely wrecked Mad-Eye’s cabin. Leaving Moody to assess the damage, Remus continued with his search.
Fifteen minutes of shifting through debris of cardboard, wood and papers led them nowhere, and there was no blood in sight. Remus was starting to think that the Death Eaters had vandalised the Auror Department to create diversion. That meant that there must be other places to look for actual damages, thought Remus, lifting the charm on himself.
“This is where Rawlins sat—” stated Mad-Eye, without emotion. He peered into a cubicle beside the magical window of the Ministry building and added “—his work station looks fine—untampered— ”
“What was he doing in the Ministry so late—shouldn’t he have been at home –new recruit and all?” asked Remus, shifting through the files and papers on Rawlins’s desk.
“Night duty for him today—” replied Moody, checking a yellow duty chart stuck on the cubicle wall with a pin.
“Maybe he escaped—or they took him with them,” said Remus, giving up on looking for clues in the small cubicle. They decided to scout the entire department to be extra sure. Fifteen minutes into the search Remus had given up hope of finding anything worth. If Rawlins was indeed there in the department, he would have been found by now; either dead or alive. However, Remus had to admit that the Auror Department was not a two room flat.
Mad-Eye was still relentless in his search and his magical eye was in overdrive. They were about to give up, nearly having seen into every cubicle, the broom closet, the store room, when Remus’s eyes caught on something. It was a shiny black boot, lying sideways near the water cooler, at the very end of the office. When Remus shifted to look beyond the water cooler, he saw a body in a pool of blood, just hiding behind the very last cubicle of the Auror Office.
“Over here,” called out Remus, trying not to let the repulsing sight and the smell of blood make him sick.
“Looks like he was tortured before being killed—typical Lestrange work,” said Moody brusquely.
“So they killed—why didn’t they set up the Dark Mark though—
“It’s not like them to just forget about something like that,” remarked Remus, his eyes trailing Moody, as he walked around the lifeless body, searching for evidence.
“Makes me wonder, too—”
“Thank goodness you’re back! We’re all bamboozled as to what to do!” cried a petite witch, clutching her wand tightly and pointing it at the open door through which she had come in.
“Mayfair, where are the other night duty Aurors? What happened in here? I want explanations!” said Moody, shaking with anger.
“Yes, of course! They were talking to Edward—then they got violent—that Bellatrix Lestrange and that awful husband of hers!”
“Their lot attacked people in the Atrium and the departments on the first floor—all of us rushed to see what was happening, then the night duty Aurors came in to fight them.
“Then some of us saw the Lestranges take the lift, we wondered, some of us made to stop them, but were blasted out of their way,” said the witch, her voice quavering easily.
“I decided to run towards the Department of Mysteries to hide, as no Death Eater seemed to go that way, but instead—” she stopped to breathe, then continued, “—I was met by an army of Ministry workers, running towards me, away from the Department of Mysteries—”
Her entire body was quivering positively, Remus just managed to reach her before her knees gave away. Holding her steady, Remus, helped her to an empty chair.
“—he’s here—I saw him Mad-Eye—The Dark Lord—”
“—and Dumbledore has just arrived—”
Without wasting another second, Remus and Moody made for the lift.
But as soon as they hit the floor, they realised they were too late. Dumbledore was standing beside the Founder’s Fountain talking to the man Remus now knew to be Crawford. He was, by the look of it, interrogating the man.
“And he asked you for—something? To show him something?” Remus heard Dumbledore ask the eccentric looking Department of Mysteries worker.
“No— he just wanted to know if any prophecies were made during the last couple of day—something regarding someone’s birth—if there was a name or something—
“—said he wouldn’t harm me if I acted sensibly and told him all that he had to know—that’s when one of his men came to him with some news and he moved out—seeing my chance I escaped while he was barking orders to his men near the courtroom,” finished the man, looking dreadfully frightened.
Dumbledore looked thoughtful, and, seeing Remus and Moody, nodded his acknowledgement of their presence. He turned to the man again and asked, “Do you suppose he had time to re-enter and—”
“No, Sir, I don’t think so. Apart from the doors, there are other protective charms—you do understand what I mean—” said the man, hesitantly, trying not to look at Moody or Remus.
So why didn’t we see him? Where was he then? And when did the Lestranges escape?
Remus’ mind was in overdrive thinking about how narrowly they must have missed confronting either Voldemort or the Lestranges.
“Oh yes, I understand—I say you must have had a trying day—get some sleep—” said Dumbledore, giving a ghost of a smile and a twinkle of his bright blue eyes.
“Well then, Alastor, it seems Voldemort got the better of us this time,” said Dumbledore, taking leave from Crawford, and joining Remus and Moody.
“This place looks like hell, Albus, and we weren’t on time—they reached ahead of us—” said Moody, looking highly displeased.
“We had no clue about the Dark Lord himself attacking the Ministry—and our sources were late on the Rawlins information—our methods are getting rusty, Albus.”
“Rawlins? Bless his soul,” sighed Dumbledore. He surveyed the magnitude of destruction and injury with sad eyes.
Meanwhile, a pack of medics had arrived from St. Mungo’s and Moody went over to quicken the process by barking orders to his workers. Remus, too, chipped in, even though he felt exhausted because of sheer excitement and anxiety. He was helping a badly injured man onto a stretcher when he heard Dumbledore say to a young witch, who was holding on to his hands and crying, “Be brave—it has been a long night for all of us, and it won’t cease to be for another couple of hours.”
It had been a long night for Remus indeed. After helping the injured, he was then asked by Moody to accompany him to the Auror office to give his official statement of what he had seen at the scene of the murder. The procedure went on till the early hours of the morning, and they were also joined by the other members of the Order, who had been to wizarding villages where people had reported seeing the Dark Mark.
He finished his giving his statement and was waiting for Fabian to finish his, so that they could head home together. He heard Fabian say that Frank Longbottom had not turned up to join their ranks. Moody grumbled his displeasure at Frank Longbottom’s unaccountable action-, he had been expecting Longbottom to show up. As he was an experienced Auror, he would have made the task of taking account of witnesses an easier job. But this news was another cause of worry for Remus- Where was Frank Longbottom?
Later during the day, he got a message relayed by Sirius’ patronus, asking him about his whereabouts and reprimanding him for not messaging them, to which Remus replied telling them that he was okay and so were the others, and that he would be coming to meet them sometime during the day. However, he got caught up with a few more assignments for the Order and it wasn’t until the next evening that he got a chance to meet his friends.
“You should have told us—we were worried—”
“—Remus, you nearly had James and Sirius leaving me and Harry at the hospital and going after you—it hadn’t been for Dumbledore—he made us go home—and—” Lily hesitated, and James chipped in, “Here, we saved a bit of chocolate cake for you—”
Remus took the cake gratefully and unceremoniously shovelled large pieces into his mouth. He hadn’t had anything proper to eat for more than twenty four hours. Finally, when he met up with the new parents at their home, he was welcomed by the news that the baby was a boy and had been christened in the wee hours of the second of August, and that Sirius had been made the godfather.
They toasted to the well-being of the newborn and his parents, and also raised a toast to the new godfather and Uncles Remus and Peter (although Peter was not present). He beamed at the new father, mother and the godfather; and the news of Sirius having been made Harry’s godfather made Remus come out with the choicest of Remus-like comments; teasing Sirius that now perhaps he would become a bit more serious with his life and settle down, which earned him an elbow in his stomach.
As Remus finished his cake, leaving not a single crumb, he felt surprisingly warm and settled, even though he had had a not so heartening experience a couple of hours before. He caught hold of the pillow that James threw at him and settled himself comfortably on the couch, listening to his friends talk. He looked at the little boy, sleeping soundlessly in his mother’s arms and felt a ray of hope shine from his innocent baby face.
He did not know why- all babies probably made one feel such emotions, made one feel that there was a lot to live for, and to fight for, to not surrender but always endeavour to bring happiness into the world. No matter what Remus had gone through in the preceding forty eight hours, he knew he would always remember that day as the day hope was born- the day Harry James Potter was born.