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Chapter 3 : The Guardian
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August 1, 1991, 1:14am
The bus pulled into a deserted stop not far from Hogsmeade in the early morning hours, depositing the last of its passengers and rumbling off into the night. Remus rubbed his eyes and glanced around tiredly. The journey had been as taxing on him as his young charge, who stood swaying, half asleep next to him.
The night air was chilly, and Remus bent down and opened the trunk containing Harry’s belongings. Rummaging through it, he located a light weight jacket and with some resistance from a sleepy and increasingly agitated Harry, managed to help him into it with a minimal amount of contact. Closing the lid, he pulled it upright and grasped the handle, then held out his hand to Harry.
Harry, however, was apparently finished with Remus, refused the hand and shrunk away when Remus tried to approach him. Remus sighed, he was too tired to force the issue, “Stay next to me, Harry. Can you do that?”
Remus began to walk slowly, looking back to make sure Harry was following, satisfied to see that he was. There was a good fifteen minute walk from the bus stop to Hogsmeade, and then another ten minutes to Hogwarts grounds. Remus only hoped the child could stay on his feet long enough.
He realized with a pang of guilt that Harry hadn’t eaten at all, their hurried rush to the bus having pushed all thoughts of food out of his mind at the time. There was nothing to be done now, Poppy would surely have something for him when they arrived.
The road was too dark to see properly, and Remus withdrew his wand to light the way. Harry showed no surprise or interest in the wand or the light it was providing, his heavy eyes averted to some point in the distance. He continued to follow Remus almost blindly, and for not the hundreth time that day, Remus wondered what the child must be thinking or seeing for that matter.
Ten minutes into the walk, and Remus could now see the village. Harry still followed, but at an increasingly slower pace, stumbling occasionally, near exhaustion Remus was sure, his hands clenched together tightly in front of his chest. Remus stopped and knelt down in front of Harry, trying to offer him some support, but Harry backed away from him, moaning pitifully.
This wasn’t working. Harry was exhausted, his increasing agitation evident in his trembling body, his eyes swollen and red rimmed. They still had quite a bit of ground to cover, and at this rate they would be another hour. Harry wouldn’t make it.
Carefully, so as not to frighten him, Remus withdrew his wand, and with a moments hesitation, and thankful that Harry’s attention seemed to be directed elsewhere, Remus cast a sleeping charm. The effect was instantaneous, Harry slumping towards the ground, Remus catching him as he fell. He held him for just a moment, and then cautiously lifted him up, so that Harry’s head rested against his neck, his legs dangling down around Remus’ hips.
Harry’s warm breath ghosted across Remus’ neck and he took the opportunity to give the child the embrace he’d been longing to give him since he’d first seen him at Privet Drive. Even in sleep, Harry stirred at what was apparently uncomfortable to him, and Remus felt tears well up in his eyes. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Swallowing back some of the grief he was experiencing, Remus began walking again. Harry wasn’t heavy by any means, and Remus was able to quicken his pace towards the lights blinking just ahead. Hogsmeade would no doubt be mostly deserted at this time of night, but it was comforting to be so close, reassuring Remus that they were that much closer to the safety that Hogwarts would provide.
Dirty and disshelved from a long trip, they must have made quite a sight as he walked wearily past Madame Rosmerta’s, if anyone had been looking that is. Remus did not stop however, as appealing as it was to step in for a rest, he wanted nothing more than to be at Hogwarts. The pub was not terribly busy, just a few patrons inside by the looks of it, but it wouldn’t do Harry any good to expose him so blatantly. There was no telling who might be there.
Remus’ burden slept on, only his soft moans breaking the crunch of Remus’ footsteps, and the hum of insects in the trees surrounding them. When they reached a curve in the road, Remus was able to see Hogwarts at a distance. They were nearly home.
Home. Remus’ mind drifted as he walked, back to the quiet peace of a night eleven years before. It was funny that he should think of it now as quiet or peaceful. They’d been in the middle of war, and at the time, no one would have considered it a happy time. But, it was in reality. If only he’d known then that night would be the last time he would see Lily and James alive, the final time he’d see their child, whole and healthy in their arms. They were young, they’d all been impossibly young, and as cold as the world outside the doors of that cottage had been, they’d been full of hope.
It had been tense, the war was not going well for them, but the night had been lightened in deference to the child Remus now carried in his arms. They’d smiled and laughed for his benefit, surrounding him with their attention, in spite of the worry in their hearts. How could they have done otherwise? They were safe, hidden away and together.
Remus had held Harry that night, long into the night, rocking him as he’d slept, the conversation among the adults turning to the war, and the Order’s plans to attack the Death Eater’s strong hold. They would never have a chance to see that plan through, Remus could barely remember the details of it now. All he remembered now was rocking Harry, the way Lily, James and Sirius’ faces had looked in the amber glow of the fireplace that lighted the room. Strange that it should seem so pleasant in his mind, but he would give anything to be there now.
He was at Hogwart’s gates before he realized it. Dropping the trunk, he shifted Harry’s weight to his other hip, and cast the Patronus charm as a signal that they’d arrived. He waited impatiently, feeling more anxious now that they were so close than the whole time they’d been traveling.
A minute or so later, he saw a faint light moving towards them, and soon he made out the hulking form of Hagrid making his way to the gate. Remus sighed in relief, giving Harry a soft kiss on his forehead as he moaned again in his sleep, “It’s alright baby,” he said softly, “we’re home.”
Hagrid gave him a broad smile, his eyes sparkling in even in the darkness at the sight of Harry resting in his arms, “Remus,” Hagrid said quietly, his hands working feverishly to with his monstrous key ring, “Fell asleep did ‘e?”
“Yes,” Remus replied, unwilling to detail exactly how that had occurred, “He’s sleeping.”
Hagrid nodded happily, looking as though he were ready to pull the gate off its hinges in his excitement. Remus waited patiently, trying to keep his calm, but all the while wishing that Hagrid’s fingers were a little more nimble, that he could manipulate that lock a little faster and let them through.
Finally, the lock clicked, and Remus rushed through, grateful beyond relief to be inside Hogwarts grounds. “Want me ter take ‘em?” Hagrid asked anxiously.
“No,” Remus replied possessively, but seeing the disappointment on Hagrid’s face added, “He has been terribly upset Hagrid. He’s sleeping now, I just don’t want to wake him. You could help me with this trunk though.”
It seemed to work, Hagrid nodded in understanding, and picked up the trunk with both hands. They walked in silence toward Hogwart’s entrance, Hagrid never taking his eyes off Harry as they neared the castle.
It was a relief to be inside, and Remus was pleased to see Dumbledore waiting expectantly within for their arrival. He eyes softly roamed over Harry’s sleeping features, and then he addressed Remus, “I am so relieved you are both here safely. Thank you for this Remus. Petunia replied to my post that they pick up had occurred. I am beyond grateful for your assistance.”
It was a thank you, but somehow it felt like the end of something to Remus. He only smiled in response and tightened his hold on Harry.
“Shall we continue to my office?” Dumbledore asked, somehow aware of Remus’ sudden discomfort, “I am sure you have some questions.”
“Yes,” Remus said, “That would be fine.”
“Splendid,” Dumbledore said quietly, turning and heading up the main staircase.
Remus followed, Hagrid looking at him worriedly as he ascended each step, “Sure ya don’t want me to take h’m, Remus? It’s no trouble, none t’all?”
“I’m fine, Hagrid,” Remus said as steadily as he could manage, “Really.”
By the time they reached the revolving staircase to Dumbledore’s office, Remus was sweating profusely, ignoring Hagrid’s worried looks. Dumbledore opened the doors and Remus stepped through gratefully, surprised to see McGonagall and Snape, standing within.
“Minerva. Severus,” Remus said in acknowledgment.
“Lupin,” Snape replied, his eyes glittering like liquid ink in the warm glow of the Headmaster’s office.
“Is that...?” McGonagall said moving closer, almost hesitantly, with a look of surprise.
“Yes,” Remus said, shifting Harry again, “This is Harry.”
“Have a seat, Remus,” Dumbledore said gesturing toward a comfortable chair positioned in front of his desk, “You must be exhausted.”
“Thank you,” Remus replied, circling around McGonagall and Snape and sitting down heavily with a sigh of relief. He pulled Harry closer to him still, feeling somewhat ill at ease for reasons he couldn’t quite fathom.
Dumbledore removed his outer cloak, drapping it across the back of his chair, and then sat for a long time staring first at Remus and then at Harry as the others too their seats. It was an uncomfortable silence, and Remus felt suddenly very awake and somewhat agitated by it. It was the kind of silence that seemed to precede some bad news, or ill tidings, and for the life of him, Remus couldn’t imagine why that would be.
“What’s going on?” Remus finally asked, his mind too exhausted to handle a slow dive into whatever topic was causing such hesitation.
“Everything is fine, Remus,” Dumbledore said gently, “We were simply waiting for your arrival. You’ve been out of touch for so long, and I felt sure, that you would have some questions about our plans for Harry.”
Everyone was looking at him cautiously, as though he might suddenly flee the room. McGonagall biting her thin lips, Snape’s eyes narrowed so that he could only see the blackness of his pupils, Hagrid shifting and coughing nervously near the window.
“Yes,” Remus replied carefully, “Of course, I would be grateful to know. Is there something I should be concerned about?”
“No,” Dumbledore said shaking his head, “Not at all. Though, you may not be in total agreement with our decisions concerning Harry’s therapy and education, there is, in reality, nothing that you should be concerned about if you can keep an open mind, which I have no doubt you will be able to do.”
“You’re scaring me, Dumbledore,” Remus said, resting his chin on top of Harry’s soft hair, his hand caressing the back of the boy’s neck, “Tell me what has been decided.”
Dumbledore sat back in his chair, his eyes focused on the portion of Harry’s face that was visible. After a moment of silence, he began, “Nine years...no perhaps it was only eight...when Petunia first informed me about Harry’s...well his condition...”
Remus shifted uncomfortably, eliciting another low moan from Harry. It wasn’t like Dumbledore to be so hesitant. Not that he wasn’t one to engage in a long, sometimes circular story, but he was most decidedly unsure, and that wasn’t like Albus at all.
“The autism,” Remus finally supplied when Dumbledore seemed to lapse into silence again.
“Yes,” Dumbledore said sadly, “The diagnosis that Harry was autistic.”
Remus glanced at McGonagall, who seemed to be steadying herself for this speech, her hands fidgeting nervously in her lap. What was going on?
“Please, Albus,” Remus said tiredly, “I don’t know who you think I am. Perhaps, you’ve mixed up...well...an old friend’s temperament with mine. Whatever, it is, just tell me. I promise to reserve my judgment until you have finished.”
Dumbledore smiled, “Yes, perhaps I have forgotten. Very well. Eight years ago then, when Harry’s aunt informed us of his condition, we,” he said indicating McGonagall and Snape, “immediately began researching the best therapies, treatments available in our world, with the intention of preparing ourselves for the eventual admission of Harry on his eleventh birthday. During this time, I corresponded frequently with Petunia, to keep abreast of any developments. We,” he said again indicating McGonagall and Snape, “also made useful inquiries at St. Mungo’s, and have over a number of years corresponded with expert healers, in order to prepare and to better help and Harry with this ailment, for lack of a better term.”
Remus nodded, the worry he’d been experiencing stifled somewhat at this revelation. It was a relief to know that they had not spent those years idly. Now that he thought about it, that seemed an absurd thought. Of course Dumbledore would be preparing for Harry. It was ludicrous to think otherwise.
“So,” Dumbledore continued, “here we are eight years later, and prepared to accept the responsibility for his well-being, and hopefully his eventual recovery. We have all the hopes in the world that we will free him from this imprisonment, and that he will be able to take his rightful place in our world. I have all the confidence that will happen.”
This was like a ray of hope to Remus. Dumbledore spoke to the grief that had been building in his chest all day, and he was for the first time relieved and excited, “How Dumbledore? How did this happen? Harry was a completely normal child the last time I saw him. What caused this?”
“From our research,” Snape began, “we have learned that a severe blow to the head, like the one Harry experienced at such a young age, can cause autism, among other things. There are not, fortunately and unfortunately, many documented cases of the effects of such a powerful curse on a child, but it is our belief that the curse was so powerful, it caused the damage. This, of course, is just our theory. Infantile autism could also be a possibility, but that is almost unheard of in our world, so unheard of, in fact, that we were unable to find any documented cases of it at all. The only reasonable conclusion, the only one supported by our research, is that the autism was brought on by the severe impact of that curse.”
Remus glanced down at Harry, the red scar, shaped like a lightening bolt just peeking out beneath his dark messy hair. He ran his hand through the dark locks, covering it.
“You mentioned a cure?” Remus said directing his question to Dumbledore again.
“Not so much a cure,” Dumbledore replied, “It isn’t that simple, but we do believe that with 24 hour, consistent treatment, we can break down the walls that have been erected around his mind.”
Remus hadn’t really considered that. Of course, Harry wouldn’t be ready to join the mainstream of the school. It was ridiculous to assume he would be ready to move in with his peers to a mostly unsupervised dormitory. Most first years struggled with that change, the adjustment of leaving their homes, away from their parents and siblings for the first time, expected to find classrooms, to be on time and prepared. Harry wasn’t anywhere near ready for that. Not yet.
Dumbledore leaned forward a bit in his chair and Remus looked at him questioningly, “Harry will be residing with Severus for the duration of his therapy.”
Remus straightened in surprise, unconsciously tightening his grip on Harry, and turning with a look of wide eyed disbelief towards Snape. Snape stared back at him, a tight grin on his face, looking smug and satisfied in Remus’ opinion.
It took every bit of restraint Remus could muster to hold back the expletives that were forming in his mind. Perhaps, Dumbledore had not been mistaken in being cautious. Right now, Remus felt a surge of fear and confusion coursing through him that could only be described as debilitating. Of course he knew that Snape would have some involvement in Harry’s life, that was a given. He was a professor here after all, a trusted confidant of Dumbledore’s, but twenty four hours? Practically a guardian? The sole caretaker? That he had not expected.
Remus steadied himself, “You want this Severus? You have agreed to this?”
“Yes,” Snape replied silkily.
“May I ask why? I mean...” Remus found himself tripping over the words that wanted to come out.
“I know what you are thinking, Lupin,” Snape interrupted, “But, your concern is misplaced.”
Remus nodded, swallowing hard. It was late, he was exhausted, his mind having volleyed back and forth between grief, relief and now shock. It was too much.
“I’d like to speak to Albus alone,” he said finally, stiffly.
“I expected as much,” Severus replied dismissively, “It is late, Albus. I would like to get Harry settled in. I believe Poppy is expecting us in the hospital wing quite early for a physical.”
Remus loosened his hold on Harry, and looked up at Dumbledore, who smiled at him calmly. He looked over at McGonagall, and Hagrid, they too seemed calm, placid. No one appeared to be surprised by this announcement but Remus. There was no point in keeping Harry here in the room while he spoke with Dumbledore, it wasn’t as though Remus feared that the moment Snape took him from his arms, he would douse the boy with poison or toss him into the Forbidden Forest. No harm was going to come to him in Severus’ care, no physical harm anyway.
Reluctantly, Remus stood and faced Severus, who swiftly walked towards him, placed his arms under Harry’s back and knees and took him. Remus felt utterly bereft as soon as the comforting warmth of the boy disappeared, and he stared hard at Snape who fixed him with an equally unwavering stare. “Harm him,” Remus thought deliberately, “And you will pay.”
Snape’s face broke into a thin smile at the threat, before he turned and walked out of the office, his black cloak billowing behind him. Hagrid and McGonagall looked a Remus cautiously, offering their goodbyes almost timidly before following one another out the office door.
“I know you are concerned, Remus,” Dumbledore said breaking into Remus’ thoughts, “but you will be here as well. Severus can give Harry the kind of structure he needs. It will not be easy, Remus. At times, the therapy may seem almost cruel. Harry will need and requires, well, persistence, an unflagging toughness. Severus, has prepared for this task for a long time. I trust him with my life, Remus.”
Remus wiped his eyes, “He can’t love him, Albus,” he said shaking his head, “I’m not sure Severus is capable of that.”
“He will have all that and more,” Albus said moving next to the younger man and placing a hand on his shoulder, “Trust me, Remus. We have a long road ahead of us. We cannot succeed if our past prejudices cannot be laid aside. Do it for Harry’s sake, Remus. Give Severus a chance.”
“If I find out...” Remus began, but Dumbledore interrupted him gently.
“No harm will come to him. None. Not from Severus. There are other forces seeking the destruction of this child, Remus. We must succeed in this task, no matter what. Severus knows this.”
Remus allowed Dumbledore to guide him out of the office, “Sleep, Remus. We all need our rest. Tomorrow things will not appear so overwhelming. Remember, we are all here to oversee this task. If there is ever a time when you become concerned, you can always come to me, but allow Severus the opportunity to work. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
Remus made it to his quarters, though looking back he could not remember how he’d gotten there. It was as though his mind was blank. The only thing he could see was the face of Lily and James’ child, innocent and troubled. Even when he closed his eyes, that was all that he could see.
Author’s Note: I can hear your questions now...why wasn’t Remus chosen as the guardian? Why would Snape? Believe me, it will all seem reasonable, in the end. Thanks for your reviews, comments and thoughts. Take a moment and review if you will! More soon...
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