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We Must Not Sink Beneath Our Anguish, But Battle On by The Last Marauder
Chapter 2 : Despair
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 10

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Remus clutched both sides of the chipped sink in his bathroom with his hands. He stared at the reflection in the cracked mirror. He was twenty-six years old, but he might as well have been fifty. His hair was starting to turn grey. His face was pallid and gaunt, lined with every thought that disturbed him. His whole body creaked with the stiffness of an old man waking from a troubled sleep. He was reaching breaking point. There was only so many times his body could go through the shock of being bent, broken, stretched and battered as he was forced to transform each month. He was not only beginning to look old, he was beginning to feel old too.

As bad as it sounded, Remus missed the war. He missed the camaraderie of the Order, the sense that they were all united against a common enemy, that they were on the same side. He missed that feeling of belonging, that sensation of being part of something greater than himself. He missed the thrill of fighting for his life and how he took risks and jumped out of his comfort zone because he didn’t know how much time he had left. But Remus had loads of time now, so much time it drawled on and on. His friends had all died fighting, all died trying to protect the ones they loved. But he had been left behind, left here with time to watch himself grow old. He was no longer able to cheat death in battle, no, he had to sit here and just wait for death to come and find him and it would take years and years. Yes, he missed the Order very much. He missed the sense of being included, of actually mattering. He had felt like he belonged at Hogwarts and in the Order, but now he didn’t belong anywhere. It was that sense of camaraderie that he missed the most. He missed the feeling of knowing that someone always had his back, that he had friends in his corner, that people actually cared. And Merlin damn it, he even missed Sirius, Sirius the traitor, Mr Stab-You-In-The-Back-Black. Though Sirius had shown his true colours in the end, Remus found it very difficult to forget all those years of friendship, the idea that no matter what happened Sirius would always be at his side, defending him against those who called him monster.

Remus tore his gaze from his own ghostly reflection and looked at his cracked sink with distain. Everything in his house was old, everything was broken. The furniture was all chipped and scratched. The legs of every table and chair had been broken and repaired so often, that each wobbled precariously when touched. All his clothes had holes in them, in fact, most of his robes were more patches than actual robe. Everything was thread-bare and frayed, from his clothes to his carpet to his curtains. Everything was dusty. Everything was dilapidated. Everything needed to be replaced. But he just did not have the gold.

Remus’s stomach suddenly moaned rather violently, as his insides ached with hunger. He was constantly hungry these days, but he had to toughen up and just put up with it. He had to make his money go as far as it could. That meant he could only afford one decent meal per day. His stomach groaned again, and Remus’s insides contracted in a vain attempt to make it stop. Oh, how he hated the first exception Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. Most the world’s problems could be solved if there were only four exceptions to that law. His life would be so much easier if he could just wave his wand and make good food appear out of nothing. Sure, he could multiply whatever he had, but the copies always tasted bland and stale, turning into ash in his mouth and, what was more, these dreadful duplicates went off twice as fast as the real thing. 

His stomach rumbled again. He punched the wall in frustration. He hated this, absolutely hated it. He wasn’t in this position out of choice. He was here because it couldn’t be helped, no matter what he tried. His hunger was rooted solely in the fact that, try as he might, he could not get a job. There was no legislation banning him from getting work, but there might as well be, as no place would hire a werewolf. His name was down in the registry at the Ministry, and all any would-be employer had to do was check, and once they were privy to this piece of information, Remus’s chances of getting the job were nil. 

In desperation, he turned to the Muggle world to find employment, but, even there, it was impossible to get any sort of paid job. Even for the most basic jobs, Muggles wanted A-Level and GCSE results, and Remus could produce neither. His OWLs and NEWTs were worthless here, and, though he hated himself for doing it, occasionally he confunded his job-interviewer, making him forget that Remus had no A-levels. This seemed to work nicely, but it was only a temporary solution, as, when he finally did get job with Muggles, there was one obstacle he could not confund his way out of: his lycanthropy. His Muggle employment only ever lasted about four or five months because there was only so many times he could call in sick at the full-moon. Sooner or later, his boss would demand a doctor’s note he couldn’t provide, or worse still, the manager would come to the conclusion that Remus wasn’t sick, but merely incapacitated from having a few too many drinks the night before. 

And that was the perverse circle he was encased in. He simply moved from Muggle job to Muggle job, never quite sure where his next pay-slip was coming from. Job interviews never went well. He didn’t have any decent clothes for one thing, and he could never supply any references either, because his previous Muggle employers would surely comment on his shabby attire, his monthly absences and his suspected drinking problem. So Remus had to go to each interview and confund his way around A-Levels and pretend that he had never been employed before. This really didn’t do him any favours because if you are twenty-six years old and have had no previous job experience, it looked pretty bad in employers’ eyes. Remus couldn’t get a job with a reference and he couldn’t get one without. He was stuck in limbo. He was going absolutely nowhere.

In his growing anxiety about his food situation, Remus looked to finding his own employment, travelling from Muggle house to Muggle house, enquiring if anyone would pay him a few pounds to clean their house or tidy their garden. This rarely produced results. People just did not like the look of him and were very reluctant to let him near their home. He didn’t blame them, willingly letting a stranger into your house was definitely not advisable, and Remus had point-blank refused, on principle, to confund any Muggle in this instance.

Aberforth was kind enough to offer him a job every Christmas, though Remus was fairly sure that Dumbledore had bent his brother’s arm in this instance. But he didn’t care. Work was work. So, for two glorious weeks during Christmas, Remus journeyed to the Hog’s Head and worked behind the bar, serving all the people who had come to Hogsmeade village to do their Christmas shopping. December was the busiest time of year for Aberforth, but he simply did not have the patronage to hire Remus for the rest of the year. But that gold he earned during those two weeks meant that Remus, for the most part, could have a somewhat comfortable Christmas, and that meant more than Aberforth could ever know.

The food situation preyed constantly on Remus’s mind. When things got really desperate and his money had dwindled to nothing more than a fiver and a handful of Knuts, Remus left the house and journeyed to the woods to gather berries. But they only appeared at certain times of the year, and even then, he couldn’t sustain himself on them alone. He would also snare rabbits or summon fish from a lake, when they were in season. He hated killing the rabbits the most. Snuffing the life from their tiny bodies made him feel more like a wolf than anything else in the world. But as much as he hated it, as much as he detested himself and his situation, it could not be helped. He was hungry. He could do nothing else.

One afternoon, when he was re-reading some of the old books he had found in his wardrobe, he come across a photo of Harry lodged between the pages of Practical Defensive Magic and it’s Uses Against the Dark Arts. Remus had forgotten this photo existed. Harry was sitting on his knee, laughing as James made sparks explode from his wand tip. How old would Harry be now? Remus wondered. Well, he was just over a year old when they died, so that would make him six. Six years old, now that was a mad concept. Remus hadn’t seen Harry since he was a baby, but he was six now and completely different to the smiling infant, with the fat little fists and the mop of jet-black hair, who was sitting on Remus’s knee in this photograph.

Dumbledore had, of course, forbidden Remus from contacting Harry; and for good reason too. The enormity of his situation, of what happened to him, and his parents, was too much for a young child to handle. His aunt and uncle would explain everything to him once he was old enough to understand. Remus had often contemplated writing a letter to Harry. He wondered what he would tell the little lad; that his parents loved him deeply, that he had his mother’s eyes and his father’s hair or that Sirius had given him a toy broomstick for his first birthday and that he had nearly killed the cat while riding it. Remus smiled at these reminiscences, but he was sure that his aunt and uncle would have told Harry all that already. 

Mad-Eye Moody came over to visit every Tuesday evening, without fail, except when Tuesday fell on the full-moon, obviously. Remus did not know if Moody visited of his own accord or if it was on Dumbledore’s orders. Remus believed it was the latter reason. Dumbledore himself dropped by occasionally too, more so during the school holidays. They would drink Fire-whiskey and Dumbledore would tell him news from Hogwarts, and Remus always found, in spite of himself, that a warm feeling swelled inside him at these visits, but he never knew if it was because of the Fire-whiskey, the company or the stories from the place he loved more than any other: Hogwarts.

It was Tuesday. It was seven o’clock, and, right on queue, there was a knock on the door. Remus sighed and put down the book he was re-reading. He pulled open the door and almost instantly found a wand-tip pointed right into this face.

“Declare yourself!” Moody barked. 

Remus rolled his eyes and droned his response, for what must be the two hundredth time. “I am Remus John Lupin, a werewolf, and a member of the Order of the Phoenix. My friends used to call me Moony, and you, Alastor Moody, saved my life by pulling me out of the way of a killing curse the night you lost your eye.” 

Seeming satisfied, Moody hobbled into the old house, leaning heavily on his long staff. He did not lower his wand. Instead, he pressed his fingers to his lips, indicating that Remus was to be quiet. His electric-blue eye swivelled in his head, searching all the rooms in the immediate vicinity. Then, he pushed passed Remus and began to physically search the rooms in the dank, dusty house with his wand held aloft. Remus had learned from experience that it was just easier to let Moody do this, because no matter how many he times he told the Auror that the house was empty, Moody would still check every room. Occasionally, Remus would hear the sound of something smashing. Mad-Eye had suddenly cursed one of Remus’s possessions, thinking it was a Death Eater in disguise. He would then repair the object, apologise once and mutter something about a trick of the light or a draft coming in under the door. Remus didn’t care. Everything he owned was broken, chipped and cracked anyway. Moody’s attacks on his house really made no difference.

Remus and Moody both went into the sitting room. The latter settled himself on the moth-eaten couch, clutching his wooden-leg for a moment as he did so. Then, he placed a stack of the previous week’s Daily Prophets on the wobbly-legged coffee-table. Moody knew that Remus could no longer afford the paper, so he hoarded the week’s issues and kept them for delivery on these Tuesday visits. Remus appreciated the gesture. It was nice, and it guaranteed that he, at least, had something new to read each week anyway.

“Want a cup of tea?” Remus asked, before he took his usual seat opposite Moody. He knew full-well that the Auror refused to drink anything he had not prepared himself, but nevertheless, Remus made this offering each week, out of politeness.

“No, I’ve got the hip-flask,” Moody growled in response, pulling the flask from an inner pocket of his robes and taking a quick swig of whatever was inside it.

It was actually lucky that Moody never wanted tea, because Remus actually didn’t even have any in the house to offer. Remus sighed and went into the kitchen to get some water. He felt Moody’s magical eye watch his every move. He still wasn’t used to that electric-blue orb. It unnerved him, particularly the fact that Moody could use it to see through walls and even, most grotesquely, through the back of his own head. Conscious that he was being watched, Remus poured some water into a dented metal jug and took a chipped mug from the press rather quickly. He didn’t want to be slow about it and have Mad-Eye think that his delay was due to the fact that he was not Remus Lupin, but a Death Eater in disguise. So, with jug and mug in hand, Remus returned, rather sharpish, to his very paranoid visitor in the sitting room. 

Moody fixed Remus with an unreadable stare as he entered. His face got more scarred and battle-worn every time Remus saw him. Soon, Moody’s visage would be more scar than actual skin. His eye was gone, not to mention a chuck of his nose, and, even now, it was becoming pretty difficult to distinguish his mouth from all the other trench-like scars on his face.

Remus set the jug and mug down on the table, which creaked dangerously, before he collapsed into the old armchair opposite Moody.

“You’re thin,” Moody barked. 

It wasn’t a question. It was a blunt statement. Remus didn’t know if Moody was just making an observation or if he was voicing some sort of concern.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Remus replied rather harshly, clutching the bridge of his nose. His insides were aching with hunger. He didn’t need Moody to point out the obvious.

Moody continued to fix Remus with that unreadable look, but then made a decision to steer the conversation back into more familiar waters. He opened his mouth and updated Remus on all the exciting things he had done in the week since they last saw each other. Moody ranted on and on about this new kid, who Moody was convinced would be head of the Auror Office in a few short years, Kingsley Shaklebolt. Remus didn’t care about Kingsley Shaklebolt. He felt that if he heard this bloke’s name one more time he would explode. 

Remus both loved and hated his Tuesday evenings with Moody. On the one hand Mad-Eye provided him with that human contact and conversation he craved so much. On the other, Moody was completely incapable of having any sort of conversation, serious or otherwise, that didn’t contain the words: Aurors, Death Eaters, chase, battle, fight, capture, tail or trial. Sometimes Remus found this type of conversation a relief. It was nice to talk about something normal, something every day. But other times, Remus found himself silently screaming out to have some sort of meaningful conversation with another living person. He desperately wanted to laugh and joke with a friend about old times, but he and Mad-Eye had shared no good times to laugh about. The only memories they shared were full of battles with Death Eaters, of images of people being blown to bits and of the sight of friends dying before their eyes as they tried and failed to save them. They could not laugh or reminisce about those times. Those memories had to be repressed, locked away, forgotten.

Every Tuesday after this particular one, Moody came over carrying, not one, two bundles: the first containing the usual pile of newspapers and the second enclosing several loaves of bread, a square of butter and a sack of fresh fruit. Remus felt awful accepting this gift, knowing that he could never pay back such kindness. As much as he wanted to refuse the present, he knew that he had to accept it, he’d starve otherwise. This arrival of Moody with a parcel of food puzzled Remus. Again, he thought that maybe Dumbledore and Mad-Eye were having conversations about him, and that the former had asked the latter to bring over food. But then Remus remembered Moody’s comment of the previous Tuesday: You’re thin. Maybe Dumbledore hadn’t told Moody to do anything, maybe Moody just cared. 

Remus smiled. No one had cared about him for a very long time. It was a nice feeling. He felt himself grow a few inches, and that evening he shared a few laughs with Mad-Eye, and didn’t even roll his eyes when he heard about how young Shaklebolt had single-handedly captured two very elusive Death Eaters. That night Remus went to bed, feeling better than he had done in a good long while. The food and company Moody had brought had done him the world of good. But it was the thought that there was at least one person out there that actually cared about him that lit some sort of unquenchable fire inside his soul. As mad as it sounded, Remus was actually looking forward to seeing Mad-Eye next Tuesday, sure, he was even starting to take a real interest in this Shaklebolt character.

The months rolled on and on. Autumn gave way to winter, and with it, the promise of a job in the Hog’s Head for two weeks. It was just a nice feeling to have money again. It made Remus feel safe and secure. But the money never lasted long, no matter how careful he was. The snows of winter soon melted and were replaced by the budding flowers of spring. Too soon for his liking, Remus found himself snaring rabbits in the woods again. In fact, if it hadn’t have been for the food Moody brought every Tuesday Remus was pretty sure he would have died of starvation.

In March, Mad-Eye was sent to St Mungos Hospital after he had suffered a severe reaction to some random, unknown curse from a Dark Wizard. Dumbledore wrote to Remus informing him of the fact. Remus spent the entire week at Moody’s bedside. The Auror was unconscious. He looked more or less the same, with his horribly scarred and distorted face, apart from the fact that a purple bruise ran from his left temple right down to his neck. The Healers assured Remus that Moody would be fine, they were just trying to find the right counter-curse, but once they’d found it, Mad-Eye would be back chasing down Death Eaters in no time. 

Remus even got to meet the infamous Kingsley Shaklebolt during these hospital visits. The lad came in to visit Moody, bringing a pocket Sneekoscope with him. He told Remus that it was just a comfort thing. He felt that old Mad-Eye would feel better if he knew he had a Sneakoscope at his bedside. Remus liked Kingsley the more they talked. He was bald and tall, with a deep voice and kind eyes. He was a very sound, down to earth sort of bloke as well. He even told a few tales about Moody and his obsession with Muggle dust-bins. These stories made Remus laugh, but he assured himself that he would eat his socks if even one of these tales proved to be true.

Four days later, Moody was awake and alert, his wand pointing at every single person who entered the ward. He seemed glad of Remus’s company and he point-blank denied everything when Remus informed him of Kingsley’s dust-bin stories. Remus found himself laughing, and, as though he couldn’t help it, Mad-Eye was laughing too.

Before Remus knew it, it was July. The sun was shining and there was very little rain. But still he had no job, and his money situation wasn’t getting any better. He only had a fiver to his name and that certainly wouldn’t get him anywhere. Muggle money was strange. They valued paper over gold, well, it was more that the paper represented gold that was hidden away in a treasury somewhere. They also liked to put their Queen on their money too. It seemed funny to Remus, to have a non-moving picture stare up at him from a piece of paper money. He found the image fascinating. It was something different. He couldn’t take his eyes off it whenever he was lucky enough to actually have Muggle money.

Harry’s birthday was fast approaching. Remus couldn’t forget Harry’s birthday even if he tried. Harry’s birth had just taken them all out of themselves during the war. It was a very dark time; people were dying and Voldemort was building up an army, hunting down all who opposed him and brutally murdering them. It was a time when you didn’t think something as normal as a child being born could happen, but it did. Harry came, and everyone just forgot themselves, forgot the war, forgot the danger, forgot everything really. Harry had arrived, with his bright, happy smile and brilliant green eyes. His presence had just lifted everyone. When Harry smiled, you smiled. When Harry laughed, you laughed. It couldn’t be helped. The boy’s positive mood was just infectious, filling them all with the warmth and hope Remus associated with phoenix song.

Remus went to bed late one night, having lost track of time while reading. Suddenly, he found himself in a dark room. He did not know how he got there. He didn’t even know where ‘there’ was. Wherever he was, it was dark, cramped and covered with dust and cobwebs. Slowly, very slowly, Remus started to hear sobbing. It was barely discernable, but he was almost sure it was sobbing. Wherever he was, he wasn’t alone.

“Hello?” Remus called into the darkness.

There was no reply.

“Is anyone there?” he shouted, louder this time.

There was still no response, but he felt sure that he had heard sobbing. Remus closed his eyes and strained his ears, trying to discern if the sound was real or imaginary. He heard laboured breathing, the sort that came hand in hand with tears. Someone was crying, make no mistake about it.

“Hello? Anyone there?” he repeated, casting his eyes around, hoping to see some sign of life in the blackness.

A light clicked on and Remus suddenly had a clear view of where he was. He seemed to be stuck between two different rooms. One was small and dark, looking, more or less, like a cupboard under a stairs. The second was a bright hallway, with family photos hanging from the brightly wallpapered walls. It was a home, a Muggle home, he guessed by looking at the television and video recorder in the sitting room just off the hall. But it was the cupboard that intrigued him. It was filled with umbrellas, odd shoes, bags, and different shaped boxes. Bizarrely enough though, someone had stupidly tried to cram a sort of cot-like bed into this tiny space, and had thrown ragged blankets over it, as if they honestly expected someone to sleep there. But no one in their right mind would ever want to sleep in a spider-filled, dusty cupboard when the rest of the house looked so neat, clean and bright.

Suddenly, the bundle of blankets stirred. Merlin, someone was actually sleeping there. Remus tried to move forward to get a closer look, but he found that he was not able to move at all. Someone might as well have put a full-body-bind curse on him.

The person lying on the bed turned over, and Remus’s heart skipped an entire beat. It was a child. A child was sleeping in this horrible place. It was a boy, a very small boy by the look of him, maybe five or six years old. The boy was crying. Remus could see the tears cascade down his little cheeks. They were those silent, lost, despairing tears, the ones that only came as a response to a pain that was worse than any that hex or curse could cause. The boy was whispering in the blackness, whispering to Merlin knew who, because there was no one around, save Remus, but he was sure the boy could not see him. 

“I want to go away. Please, someone take me away,” the boy sobbed quietly. “No one cares about me. Please someone – anyone – take me away from here.” The boy’s tiny voice was breaking. 

Remus felt a knot form in his own throat. He had never seen anything so pitiful and so sad in his life. This child could not be older than five or six, and there he was, completely alone, locked up in the dark, with no one running to comfort him.

“No one loves me,” the boy half-shrieked, his little voice rising several octaves. “I’m a waste of space. No one cares. I’m all alone.”

Even though Remus didn’t know this poor boy, he was filled with a strong desire to just run over to him and hold him tight and tell him everything was OK. Remus tried to move again, asserting all the will power he possessed. It was no good. He was rooted to the spot, doomed to observe, not to help.

The boy continued to cry. His tears drenched the old pillow-case on which he was resting his little head. This was beyond cruelty, locking a child up like this. It wasn’t right. Someone had to do something. Again, Remus tried to move and again he found he could not. He didn’t even know where his wand was. If only he could remember where he left it, then he would be able to help this poor boy. 

“Please, somebody, anybody, please help, save me, take me away, please.”

Remus felt his own eyes burn. The knot in his throat swelled, making swallowing difficult. Suddenly, his attention was drawn to the hallway adjacent to the cupboard in which this poor unfortunate boy was imprisoned. A man burst in the front door and ran to the cupboard. Relief flooded Remus. Finally, someone was coming to save the boy. Remus watched the man. He was tall, with black hair that grew all over the place and large round glasses that rested over his hazel eyes.

“James?” Remus said, without thinking.

The man did not answer. Instead he started to bang on the door of the cupboard hysterically. He was shouting a name, over and over, a name that Remus’s heart heard before his ears did.

NO! Remus thought in horror, as his whole body began to tremble with shock and pure fear over what he was witnessing. NO! It can’t be. It’s not. I won’t believe it.

“HARRY!” James shouted over and over. “HARRY! I’M HERE! I’M RIGHT HERE!”

Harry could not hear his father. Harry continued to cry silently in the darkness, completely oblivious to the fact that his Dad was so close.

James continued to hammer frantically on the door of the cupboard, calling out to his son, but Harry could not hear him. James rammed the door with his shoulder. It did not move. He pointed his wand at it and shouted. Nothing happened. 

“Harry, I’m here!” James screamed. He was near tears. “I’m here, son. I’m right here.” 

Harry couldn’t hear him. Harry continued to cry. “Nobody wants me. Nobody cares about me. I’m just stupid and a waste of space.”

“Harry, son, I love you,” James screamed, the tears pouring down his anguished face. “I care about you, me and your mum. Harry, please hear me, please!”

But still, Harry could not hear. 

A single tear ran down Remus’s own cheek. His heart hammered and his frame trembled. He was stuck in-between the wall. He could see James on the outside, and Harry on the inside, though neither James nor Harry could see one another. 

James continued to pound the door, screaming at his son that he was there. Harry continued to cry in the dark, unable to hear. James rammed the door with his shoulder repeatedly, screaming as he did so. “Harry! I’m right here, Harry! I’m right here! I’m coming to get you, son, I’m coming, just hold on! Harry! I’m coming! I’m going to get you out!”

Remus tried to move, but his body was outside of his control. He fought and he fought, but whatever spell was holding him in place could not be over-come.

“Your dad is coming, Harry!” Remus shouted. “He’s coming for you, just hold on!”

But Harry couldn’t hear Remus either.

“Nobody wants me. Nobody cares. I want to go away, please, someone take me away.”

“HARRY!” James and Remus screamed together.

The boy was still unable to hear them. They could use all the magical megaphones in the world and still Harry would not be able to hear them. 

James continued to pound the door. He was close to losing the little composure he still possessed. He pointed his wand at the door of the cupboard and muttered every spell that came into his head. Nothing worked. Harry continued to cry in his prison, completely unaware that his Dad was just outside, doing all in his power to get in.

James kicked, punched and pounded the little door, but to no avail. Remus continued to struggle against whatever force kept him still. He fought and fought, screaming Harry’s name as he did so. Then, James suddenly slid to the floor, tears falling onto his robes. He buried his face in his hands and cried.

“I’m so sorry, Harry,” he sobbed, his voice muffled by the fingers enclosing his face. “I’m so sorry couldn’t save you. I’m so sorry I didn’t keep you safe.”

Remus had never seen James lose all control and composure like this before. Remus found himself shaking. He was shaking all over. He couldn’t stop shaking.

“You have to save him, Moony,” James said, raising his head and looking directly at where Remus stood, immobilised. “You have to save him. You’re all that he has left. You have to save him.”

But before Remus could open his mouth to reply, he found himself being pulled backwards, squeezed through time and space, before he landed with a thud and a moan of bed-springs on his mattress and woke with a start. 

“HARRY!” he screamed into the blackness. He was shaken beyond belief. He was frightened, more frightened than he had been in a long time. He was trembling all over, his pyjamas were stuck to his sweaty skin and his wet fringe was pressed flat against his forehead.  

It was a dream, only a dream, he assured himself over and over inside his head. It wasn’t true. It could not be true. No one was so heartless that they would lock up a six-year-old child like that. 

A seven-year-old child, that little voice inside him reminded him. It’s Harry’s birthday tomorrow, today in fact

That was true. Remus was sure that the dream was brought on because Harry was on his mind, because the boy’s birthday was drawing close; and Remus’s subconscious connected Harry to Remus’s own sense of entrapment and repressed loss and despair. That was it. Harry was perfectly fine. He had to be.  

You could check, said that little voice. Just to be sure to be sure

Remus thought of James and that anguished look on his face; how he had looked as though he was experiencing pain beyond endurance. Just to be sure, just to make quite sure, he’d check on Harry. He owed James that. Plus, he would like to check on Harry himself. That dream had deeply troubled him too. He wanted Harry to be safe and well just as much as James did. 

Knowing he would probably be (accidently) jynxed into oblivion if he woke up Mad-Eye at this hour of the night, Remus waited until a little after day-break before he apparated to the Auror’s house. His heart was still hammering and his head was still swimming with the terrible scene he had witnessed in his nightmare the night before.

Remus raised his hand and knocked loudly on the door three times. Suddenly, he realised that he was unable to move his hand. It was stuck, quite literary stuck, to the large oak front door of Moody’s house. Suddenly, a large telescope-like contraption popped out of a panel above the door. It thrust itself into Remus’s face, and from it issued Moody’s growling voice.

“Declare yourself!”

“It’s me, Remus!” he shouted to the telescope, not in the mood to indulge Mad-Eye paranoid tendencies at the present. He still could not remove his hand from the door.

“Prove it!” barked the telescope, moving so close to Remus now that he actually went cross-eyed trying to keep it in view.

“I am Remus John Lupin!” Remus shouted, still trying to extract his hand. He was angry at Moody wasting his time like this. “I’m a werewolf, sometimes called Moony. I was there the night you lost your eye, Alastor. You saved me from a killing curse, by pulling me out of the way. We both saw Fabian Prewett die. We couldn’t do anything, all we could do was watch him fall.”

Remus heard several metallic clicks and suddenly, his hand was released as the door swung open almost instantly. “Lupin,” Moody muttered, casting furtive looks left and right. “You’re alone?” 

“Yes, I’m alone!” Remus replied, very frustrated. His hand felt as though it had been burnt.

Moody shuffled aside and allowed Remus to enter. He glanced all around the garden again with both eyes before turning to Remus, giving him a searching look. “What’s happened?” he muttered, his scarred face exceptionally hard to read.

“Nothing,” Remus replied.

“Then why are you here, boy?”

“I need – a – a favour,” Remus began, quickly.

“What’s happened?” Moody asked again. Remus thought he heard concern or maybe fear in the Auror’s voice, or perhaps he was just angry at being called on at such an early hour. It was hard to tell.

“Nothing’s happened,” Remus said again, a little exasperatedly. “I just want to borrow your invisibility cloak, if you’ll consent to lend it to me.”

Moody gave Remus as searching look. “Not going to rob a bank are you?”

“Rob a – what? No!” Remus said, slightly offended that Mad-Eye would even think that he would rob a bank.

Moody looked relieved. “That’s good,” he replied conversationally. “I’d hate to have to send my Aurors after you.”

It was Remus who shot Mad-Eye a look this time.

“I mean, what would I do every Tuesday if you were in Azkaban?” Moody mumbled, his real eye staring at his shoe.

Remus opened his mouth to reply, but words seemed to fail him as the enormity of what Moody had just admitted hit him. What would I do every Tuesday if you were in Azkaban? It seemed that Mad-Eye visited Remus every week, not because he pitied Remus for being all alone, but because he, Mad-Eye Moody, was lonely too. Moody desired his company, just as much as he desired Moody’s. Mad-Eye’s Tuesday visits meant as much to him as they did to Remus.

Conscious that he was standing there with his mouth gaping, Remus replied, half-serious, half-amused, “Do you honestly think I’d rob a bank?”

“No,” Moody replied firmly. “But I do think that you are in a very bad space at the minute and in desperate times people do what they have to.”

Wow, Moody really was revealing a lot about his feelings towards his friendship with Remus in this short conversation. It seemed that Alastor Moody was, indeed, capable of having one serious, meaningful conversation after all.

Abandoning all forms of pretence, Remus said honestly, “I want to see Harry.”

“Potter?” Moody replied, completely nonplussed.

“Yes, Harry Potter! Who else would it be?” Remus knew that he should be a little more patient with Moody, but right now he was still filled with the panic and horror of what he had dreamt last night. He was wasting time. He had to go and check on Harry now.

“Dumbledore -”

“Dumbledore forbade me I know!” Remus replied, cutting across his friend. “But I don’t intend to talk to him. I just want to see him, check he’s OK. Please, Alastor, it’s important.”

Mad-Eye gave Remus another funny look, before he limped into a room off the hall.

“Thank you!” Remus called after him.

In the time Moody was gone, Remus looked around the dwelling in which he found himself. He had never seen Mad-Eye’s house properly before. The large telescope device hung just above the back of the front door, which had no less than ten locks on it. Several Sneakoscopes stood sentinel at either side of the door frame. The wallpaper in the hall was old and peeling. Disturbing pictures hung from the walls of tortured souls and dark creatures. Remus could just about see into the sitting room, whose door stood ajar. Moody’s large foe glass stood propped up on the mantle-piece; blurred, ghost-like faces swam around inside it like some sort of bizarre type of gold-fish. The walls were covered in pictures of Death Eaters, old newspaper clippings and large maps of various towns and cities across the country. Different coloured pins were littered at various intervals on these maps, no doubt marking the various sightings of Death Eaters. These pins were all joined together with an intricate spider-web of black thread. The whole thing gave the impression that the room belonged to a giant spider, not a human being. The various photos of the Death Eaters leered at Remus with their wild, mad grins. Some were laughing insanely, others were fighting bonds, and others still were staring with a dangerous, murderous glint in their eyes.

Remus heard the dull clunk-clunk of Moody’s wooden leg pounding against the floorboards of the hall. He suddenly tore his gaze from the sitting room and looked at his friend limping towards him. He had a long silver cloak in his hand. He handed it to Remus.

“You better look after that now,” Moody growled, “they’re not exactly a Knut a piece.” 

“Don’t worry, I’ll look after it,” Remus assured him, taking the cloak. “And thanks, for understanding.”

Moody nodded and opened the door to let Remus out. Remus stepped over the threshold, thanking Mad-Eye again as he did so.

“Lupin,” Moody called, as Remus was about half-way down the garden. “I know you’ve been alone for a very long time, and I know you miss him, miss all of them, but Harry’s not James, don’t forget that.”

Remus turned to look at Moody. The Auror looked worried, perhaps even frightened. The retort on Remus’s lips was quelled instantly. Moody was genuinely worried about him and what he was doing. Moody was afraid that Remus felt so alone that he was seeking Harry out just to have some small connection to the happy life he once knew.

“Don’t worry,” Remus said reassuringly, with a small smile. “I won’t forget.” 

With that, Remus tucked the invisibility cloak under his arm, turned on the spot and disapparated, with Little Whinging fixed clearly in his mind.

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