Chapter 3 : Hope
| ||Rating: 15+||Chapter Reviews: 15|
Change Background: Change Font color:
Not knowing what else to do, Remus put one foot in front of the other and began to explore the spider-web of streets laid out in front of him. The sun beat down on the road, making the air above it shimmer. Remus could feel the back of his neck burning as the sun’s rays bore down upon him. But this sunshine was a good thing. It was the summer holidays. Harry was surely outside playing with his friends. Without doubt, he was having a birthday party at this very moment. There would be a whole gang of children out enjoying the sunshine. Remus was nearly sure of it.
He turned the material of Moody’s invisibility cloak over and over in his hands as he walked. This cloak was very different to the one that James had. This one was thinner, and it had a few holes in it, no doubt from the various hexes fired at it while Mad-Eye was using it. James’s cloak had been incredibly old, but it was absolutely pristine. Remus remembered how the material had felt like water cascading over his hands. Moody’s cloak definitely didn’t feel the same. But it did its job well, and that’s all that mattered.
Remus spent hours walking up and down nearly identical streets. Trees and little grass verges lined the foot-paths. Low walls separated one home from the next. Every house was almost the same, except for the colour of the curtains, or the style of flower-pots in the garden, or the type of car in the drive-way. After about three hours walking, he passed a little knot of shops clustered together in-between two rows of houses. One of them was a post office, the other an auctioneers, and the last one sold Muggle newspapers and sweets. Remus clutched the five pound note in his pocket and walked inside.
He had, of course, been in Muggle shops loads of times before. Each one was unique and he found each one fascinating. This one was small, but quaint. Large fridges ran along one wall, containing ice creams, milk and different coloured drinks in bottles. The opposite wall was devoted to newspapers and magazines. None of the people in the photos moved. It was just weird to see a single instant frozen in a picture, never to change. In the middle of the shop a teenager stood behind a circular counter that was groaning under the weight of hundreds of different types of sweets. Remus stared at all the brightly coloured wrappers in amazement. Muggles were definitely spoilt for choice. The only problem now was that Remus had no idea what to choose; which piece of chocolate did Harry like best?
Remus walked around the long counter for a while, staring at each of the bars in turn. Occasionally, the teenager minding the shop would look up from his magazine and stare at Remus, as though amazed that a full-grown man found sweets so interesting. Remus saw Mars bars and Moros, Dairymilks and Galaxy Bars, M&Ms and Malteasers, each looking more interesting than the last. He had just decided to pick one at random, when a small boy ran into the shop and stood in front of the counter, his eyes searching frantically. He had dark hair and large grey eyes. He seemed unable to stand still. He suddenly grabbed a Mars bar and gave it to the boy behind the counter.
“This please!” he said excitedly.
“Fifty p,” the teenager replied lazily, flicking his long hair out of his eyes.
The little boy placed a small coin on the counter and ran out of the shop faster than a speeding Bludger, the Mars bar clutched tightly to his chest. That settled it. That boy didn’t even take time to choose the chocolate bar he wanted, he knew right from the off that he wanted a Mars. If the Mars bar was that boy’s favourite, then surely it would be Harry’s too. Remus picked up a Mars bar and placed it on the counter.
The teenager looked at him, as though he had never seen anything as strange as Remus in all his life.
“Fifty p,” he said dully.
Remus handed over his crumpled five pound note. Even though money was very tight, Harry was worth every little Muggle penny. Remus thanked the teenager as he received his change and turned to leave the shop. He stared down at the Mars bar in his hand. Harry deserved so much more than this meagre present. It was Harry’s birthday. Remus couldn’t give him much, but he wanted to give Harry the best he could.
His fingers enclosed around the four-pound-fifty in his pocket. He faced the counter again. He picked up another Mars bar. He then started grabbing sweets at random, Twixs and Milkybars, Crunchies and Opal Fruits, M&Ms and Skittles. Happiness flooded Remus as he stood there, choosing sweets. He hadn’t been able to give anyone a present for a long time. He had forgotten how good it felt.
Remus placed his assortment of sweets on the counter. The teenager looked at the pile, then at Remus, with an expression that just said: Are you kidding me here?
“Four-fifty,” the boy replied, after he had finished counting the bars Remus wanted to buy.
Remus handed over all the money he had. Then, filled with a warm fuzzy feeling, he thanked the teenager and left the shop, pocketing all his sweets as he did so.
“Well, Harry,” Remus said brightly, more to himself than anyone else. “It’s not much, but it’s the best I can do.”
He spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the housing estates in Little Whinging. He had been hopelessly naive to think that he could just apparate here and find Harry without a problem. In fact he wasn’t even sure Little Whinging was the right place. He had a vague recollection that that was where Dumbledore had told him Harry was going to live, but that was years ago. He could very well be looking in the wrong place. He should have just asked Dumbledore for the address, but truth be told, Remus didn’t want Dumbledore to know that he was making this visit. Surely Mad-Eye would tell the headmaster where Remus had gone, but by the time that conversation had taken place, the visit will have been finished. Dumbledore couldn’t intervene.
At around four in the afternoon Remus’s insides were screaming out in hunger. He was just about to give up and try again another day when he heard children’s voices in the next street. He figured it was worth checking out. Remus walked on and looked down the nearest road. Three boys and a girl were playing football in the middle of the street. Football was such a strange sport. It was like Quidditch, except there was only one ball and no one could fly. There were also eleven players on a team, not seven, and there was only one goal at each end of the pitch, not three, and these goals were large and rectangular, not small and round. Plus, players could only kick the ball, no hands allowed, except from the Keeper. Also, there were three referees in football, not one. Actually, the more he thought about it, the more he realised that football wasn’t really like Quidditch at all, except for that fact that everyone in the Muggle world followed football, just like everyone in the Wizarding world followed Quidditch.
Anyway, the three boys and the girl were playing football, one was screaming something about a yellow card and another was yelling something about Man United, which Remus guessed was some sort of team. But it wasn’t these children, Man United or their game that intrigued him, it was the little black-haired boy sitting at the edge of the road staring longingly at them.
It was Harry.
Excitement bubbled inside Remus, making him forget how hungry he was. Remus threw the invisibility cloak over himself and marched towards the little boy. When he was close enough, he just stopped and stared. Harry was James in miniature, except for the eyes, they were Lily’s bottle-green, containing all her fire and courage. Remus could not help but smile. But then he saw the lightening scar on the boy's forehead, the scar that marked him as the boy who lived. It was really there, just like everyone said. But the more Remus looked at Harry, the more he realised that something wrong. Harry was thin, but not in the way James had been. Lupin felt a rush of anger at this. What were Harry’s aunt and uncle doing? They clearly weren’t looking after him properly. No seven-year-old should resemble a stick.
A sort of raging monster reared inside Remus. He knew what it was like not to have enough to eat and to see Harry in that situation made his blood boil.
Harry was staring that the children playing football. Remus knew that look, it was the look of one who wanted more than anything else to be including in the events going on in front of them. Remus knew what it was like to feel unwanted and excluded. Harry was only seven. He shouldn’t have to go through all that.
Then, with a rush of fierce determination in his large green eyes, Harry rose and walked straight over to the boys and girl playing football. “Can I play?” he asked, very bravely. His voice was so small, so child-like. This was the first time Remus had ever heard him speak. The effect gave him goose-bumps.
The boy nearest Harry bit his lip and frantically looked left and right, as though checking if the coast was clear. “Em...” he began, his eyes darting around, looking anywhere but at Harry.
“Killian,” one of the other boys said warningly, “we can’t, you know we can’t.”
“Sorry, Harry,” said the boy called Killian. “Your cousin – I mean – Dudley’ll kill us if we let you play.”
“I won’t tell him,” Harry said honestly, desperation evident in his little voice. “He won’t ever know.”
“He’ll find out,” Killian replied, looking at his shoes. “He’ll find out and he’ll come get us.”
Harry seemed to shrink on the spot as all the fire when out of him. He looked absolutely deflated.
“Sorry,” Killian said, looking guilty.
Harry said nothing, but returned to the edge of the road, where he watched the children continue to play their game. Harry looked upset, near tears even. He stared at the children hungrily, wishing he could share in the joy and excitement of their game.
This wasn’t right. Harry’s cousin, this Dudley, was stopping all the kids on the road from playing with Harry. It was absolutely outrageous. Why on earth would anyone do such a thing, and to their own cousin? Whatever about not wanting to play with your cousin yourself, but actually going out of your way to beat up kids who did... it was utter madness.
Remus sat down beside Harry, and looked him, drinking in every little detail. His hair stuck up at the back like James’s. His smile mirrored Lily’s. He even looked like he had inherited James’s father’s knobbly knees. Remus couldn’t help but smile. In Harry he saw his two old friends and he felt closer to them than he had done since they died. But all these wonderful things were eclipsed by the simple that Harry looked like a lost, neglected child. His glasses were broken, held together with what must be the Muggle equivalent of Spellotape. And, what was more, he was dressed in old clothes that were at least three sizes too big for him. He looked even more small and skinny for that.
The more Remus saw the less he liked. This wasn’t right. Harry wasn’t being looked after properly.
I’d look after him, Remus thought fiercely.
You can barely feed yourself, how are you going to look after Harry? said that rational voice inside his head.
I’d make him feel wanted and cared for. I’d love him as though he were my own son, Remus replied avidly.
Sometimes that’s just not enough.
I’d make it enough.
What would happen, then, at the full-moon? Who would mind him then? Sometimes love isn’t enough.
Realisation crashed over Remus, ending the naive notion that had entered his head at the sight of Harry. The voice was right. He was too poor and too dangerous to care for Harry. Harry, James and Lily’s son; Harry, the brave little boy who deserved so much more than what he had been given in this life. He deserved to be in his parents’ arms. He deserved friends, deserved a life free from the cruelty he had experienced. In short, he deserved a warm, safe and loving home, which definitely was not the life he was living now, and certainly not any life Remus could provide for him.
A few minutes later, the boys and girl were called in for tea by their parents. Harry watched them leave just as hungrily as he had watched them play football. He saw Killian’s mother put her arm across his shoulders and bring him into the house. Harry watched that gesture, with a look of longing on his little face, as though he wished someone would do the same for him.
Remus didn’t think he could watch anymore. It was too horrible, Harry, little Harry, deserved so much better than this.
Harry stood up and walked over to a discarded bottle that was lying on a grass verge a little way down the road. He picked it up and began to throw it high in the air, and then catch it. For a moment Remus’s mind strayed back to those wonderful summer days under the beech tree at Hogwarts, where James would take a stolen Snitch from his pocket, and release it and catch it, only to release and catch it again. Remus smiled. Harry definitely had the making of a good Chaser, like his father, or maybe even a Seeker. Remus watched as Harry threw the bottle higher and higher. Several times Remus was nearly sure he would drop it, but Harry didn’t. His reflexes were sharp and fast. He never missed a catch.
Harry seemed at peace while he ran around throwing and catching the bottle. He seemed happy, he was smiling at least. The game seemed to take him out of himself, made him feel free. Perhaps he was imagining himself as a Seeker, that is, if he even knew what Quidditch was. Maybe he was pretending to be a fielder in Rounders or Cricket or one of those other Muggle sports that involved catching tiny balls that were hit with a bat. Whatever Harry was imagining, he was definitely very good at throwing and catching this bottle. He was just having fun and it was a nice sight to see.
Remus watched Harry play for a long time. There was something therapeutic about seeing the smile on the boy’s face, about hearing him cheer and shout when he made a particularly difficult catch. Remus was just starting to think about how best to give Harry his sweets when the whole scene changed with the arrival of a gang of boys about Harry’s age. They were a very unfriendly bunch, most of them big in stature. One boy, the leader by the looks of it, was absolutely massive. He had blonde hair and a rather smug look on his face. The others followed his every move. When he walked with his hands in his pockets, the others did too. When this boy spat on the ground, the others copied him. It was a strange spectacle. Harry, it appeared, was too engrossed in his game with the bottle to notice the new arrivals. The leader of the gang spotted Harry almost instantly. He pointed at him, sniggered and gestured for his gang to follow him.
Sensing that something bad was going to happen, Remus drew nearer to Harry.
The leader of the group, who was a lot taller than Harry, reached up and caught the bottle Harry had just thrown up into the air. Surprised and caught off guard, Harry turned around and glared at the blonde boy. His face was set.
“Give it back, Dudley!” Harry said bravely.
So this was Dudley. This was Harry’s cousin. Remus had had misgivings about this child as soon as he and his gang had walked onto the road, but now Remus realised that Dudley was probably going to hit Harry and Remus wasn’t going to let that happen. His fingers enclosed around his wand in his pocket, just in case.
“Give it back, Dudley!” Dudley said in a mocking, high-pitched voice, holding the bottle above his head out of Harry’s reach. The other boys sniggered.
“Give it back!” Harry shouted. Remus really had to admire Harry’s courage here, standing up to Dudley like this when it was blatantly obvious who would win in a fight. Nevertheless, Harry didn’t back down.
“Or what, Potter?” Dudley jeered.
“Or else!” Harry replied, with a look of pure loathing on his face.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh!” all the boys said in unison.
Harry glared at them with the same loathing stare he had given Dudley. Dudley grinned at Harry and threw the bottle over a high wall; it rose in the air in an arc, before falling out of sight. Harry watched it go, with a look of anguish, as though he were seeing his best friend leave. Then, Harry turned to Dudley and pushed him, which Remus thought was a brave, but extremely stupid thing to do. Even though Harry put all the strength his little body possessed into the shove he gave Dudley, the latter barely felt it. Dudley simply laughed, all the other boys joining in.
“I hate you, Dudley!” Harry said angrily.
“Ohhhhhhhhh!” the boys chanted again.
“You’re not going to let him get away with that, are you, Dud?” piped up the smallest boy in the gang. He had a face like a rat.
As though he had been waiting for this invitation, Dudley turned to his gang of friends and grinned at them. Instinctively, Remus drew his wand and pointed it straight at Dudley, the curse already on his lips. But, he hesitated. Could he really use a spell on a seven-year-old child? But he shouldn’t have hesitated, because Harry paid dearly for Remus’s lack of conviction. Just when the rational part of Remus’s mind stopped him from performing a spell, Dudley drew back his fat fist and punched Harry in the face. Harry’s glasses were knocked off his nose. He fell backwards with the force of the blow. He hit the ground hard. His little hands reached up and clutched his nose. There was blood everywhere.
And Dudley and the boys just laughed.
Horror and revulsion rose inside Remus. He was furious with himself for his moment of hesitation. Dudley and his gang advanced forward. He and the rat-faced boy had drawn their legs back, about to kick Harry while he was lying on the ground. It was the absolute height of cowardice. Remus was not going to let Dudley hurt Harry anymore. Harry was not a punch-bag to be hit and kicked. Remus pointed his wand between the advancing bullies and Harry, casting a shield charm.
It did the trick.
Dudley and the other boy drew back their legs, but instead of kicking Harry, they kicked the shield charm instead. Dudley let out a howl of pain and clutched his foot. Personally, Remus hoped all the boy’s toes were broken. He deserved it. The other boy whimpered and started crying. Taking advantage of the chaos, Harry staggered to his feet and ran off down the road, away from his howling, cowardly cousin and his thuggish friends.
Remus noticed that Harry had left his glasses behind in his haste to exit the scene. He picked them up. They were broken, cut in half right down the bridge between the two sides of the frame. The right lens was cracked and the left one had been knocked out. Remus pocketed these pieces and tore after Harry, his heart hammering.
He was absolutely disgusted by what he had just witnessed. No one deserved such treatment, especially a seven-year-old boy. It was barbaric and disgraceful. And people called Remus a monster because he turned into a wolf once a month? Dudley was worse. At least Remus had no choice, Dudley did, and he actually chose to inflict pain and suffering. And what made things worse was that Dudley was seven. If he was acting like this at age seven, Remus shuddered to think what he would be like when he was older. He was definitely going to end up in prison somewhere.
For a little lad, Harry was very fast. Remus had trouble trying to catch him, despite the fact that his legs were much longer than Harry’s. Remus had no idea where Harry was going. He was tearing through the housing estate, trying to put as much distance between himself and Dudley as he could. His nose was still pouring blood; little droplets were littering the pavement. Suddenly, Harry ducked down a side alley and ran across a large grassy space, stopping only when he had reached a little thicket of bushes that stood in the middle of the green. He pushed his way inside, the bushes rustling and shedding leaves as he did so. Remus followed, still hidden under the invisibility cloak. There was a tiny clearing in the middle of the thicket, the perfect place to remain hidden and protected. Remus was almost sure that this was not Harry’s first visit to this place.
Harry collapsed onto the grass, his little hands caked in blood. He drew his knees up to his chest and hugged them tightly as the tears began to fall, thick and fast down his cheeks. Remus’s stomach lurched and his heart panged with grief. This wasn’t right. Words didn’t even exist to describe the tragedy of this scene.
Remus bent down in front of Harry, though Harry could not see him, and tried to access whether or not the boy’s nose was broken. It was very hard to tell, but judging by the copious amounts of blood pouring from both nostrils, it probably was. Very quietly and daring not to even breathe, Remus removed his wand from his pocket, pointed it at Harry’s nose. The effect was instantaneous. Very startled, Harry suddenly gripped his nose with both hands. Remus guessed he had just felt the bone repair itself. It had been a very long time since Remus had had his nose broken, he couldn’t remember if this healing spell hurt or not, he hoped it didn’t. But, judging by the fact that Harry had not cried out, the healing process must have been smooth and pain-free. The bleeding had stopped too. Remus was just starting to work out a way of cleaning off the blood when Harry grabbed the end of his T-shirt and wiped his own face clean.
Despite his newly repaired nose, however, Harry continued to cry. Boiling hot tears leaked from his green eyes, spilling down his face, before being absorbed by the material of his T-shirt. Remus knew what this felt like. He understood what it was like to be hated. He understood what it was like to feel excluded and to be treated as something sub-human. But Harry was worse off. He was only seven-years-old and no one cared about him. He was a seven-year-old child. He should be in his parents’ arms. He should be having a birthday party and a cake with seven candles. He should be out playing Quidditch with his friends, or off exploring the streets of Godric’s Hollow. He shouldn’t be here with a family that not only didn’t love him, but actually neglected him. At least Remus was thin because he had no money, not because his family didn’t give a damn about him. At least Remus had Mad-Eye and his mad visits every Tuesday, and those evenings with Dumbledore drinking Fire-whiskey and swapping stories. Harry not only didn’t have a friend in the world, he had never had one. Harry had never known friendship, that sense of camaraderie, of belonging, of other people looking out for him and watching his back. At least Remus had known that. He had lost all his close friends in the war, but at least he had had ten wonderful years to spend with them.
It was at that moment that Remus realised how lucky he really was. At least he had known, and actually still knew, true friendship. At least he had known his parents. He had hundreds of happy memories of them stored safely away in his mind. That was miles more than what Harry had. Harry didn’t even have happy memories of James and Lily to look back on. Remus had that, not Harry. Harry had never been shown any love or affection that he would be able to remember and carry with him. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. This was Harry, this was James and Lily’s son. He had been so loved but he couldn’t even remember it.
Harry continued to hold his knees as the tears rolled down his little face. Remus was overwhelmed with the urge to just remove the invisibility cloak and hug Harry. He just wanted to dry the boy’s tears and tell him that in spite of all that had happened to him, in spite of how neglected and worthless he felt, there was still one living person on his earth who cared about him, who had cared about him ever since he was born. Remus wanted to hold Harry close and tell him that he loved him, that he cared, that he held him as a baby when he was so small. He wanted to tell Harry how much his parents loved him. How, even though they were gone, they still loved him. But Dumbledore forbade Remus from contacting Harry, so Harry couldn’t know all those things. One day he would, but that day was not today.
Remus suddenly found a bout of fury roar inside him at the thought of Dumbledore. How could Dumbledore have left Harry here of all places? Anyone would have taken the boy in and raised him as their own son, yet, that possibility was not even considered, instead Harry was brought straight here to be neglected and mistreated. How could Dumbledore condemn Harry to such a fate?
Dumbledore loved Harry, just as he loved James and Lily, said that rational voice inside Remus’s head. If Dumbledore says that this is the safest place for Harry, then it is. Dumbledore would only condemn Harry to this life if it was protecting him from something much worse.
Remus’s rage calmed. He trusted Dumbledore completely, more than he trusted anyone else. Dumbledore was kind; he let Remus, a werewolf, come to Hogwarts. Dumbledore really cared about Harry, just as he cared about Remus. If Dumbledore said that this was the best place for Harry, then, it was. As bad as he was treated here, at least he was alive and safe, protected from something much worse. Dumbledore loved Harry, just as he had loved James and Lily. As bad as it was, if Dumbledore said this was the best place for Harry, then Remus believed him. He wouldn’t do anything to mess up the protection Dumbledore had cast for Harry, whatever the reason. He trusted Dumbledore wholeheartedly.
Even still, Remus couldn’t stand the sight of Harry crying like this. He had to do something. He had to show the little lad that there was still one living, breathing person out there that cared about him, that thought about him, that loved him. Remus knew what information like that could do. He remembered how when he had learned that Mad-Eye Moody genuinely cared about him, that it had lit a fire in his soul, a fire than no amount of misery or water could extinguish. This fire gave him hope, gave him a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a reason for living each day as it came. Mad-Eye had given Remus that gift, and now, he, Remus, would give it to Harry.
After all, we must not sink beneath our anguish, but battle on.
As quietly as he could, Remus stood up and walked behind Harry, and from his pockets he took all the chocolate bars he had bought and placed them on the grass at Harry’s back. Next, with a clever flick of his wand, he got all the little daisies in the clearing to surround the small pile of chocolate and spell out the words: Happy Birthday Harry. Then, with another click of his wand, Remus conjured up as small snitch-sized golden ball. Now Harry would have something of his very own to play with. He wouldn’t have to throw empty bottles in the air anymore. Remus took the little ball in his hand and placed it on top of the small stack of sweets. Finally, from an inside pocket of his robes, he removed Harry’s broken glasses, repaired with his wand and left them there too. He stood up silently and admired his work.
Remus turned to Harry. The boy still sat crying with his head buried in his knees. “Happy Birthday, Harry,” Remus said softly, hoping against hope that maybe his gesture would get Harry to smile. The boy lifted his head up and looked left and right, searching frantically for the person who had spoken.
“It’s not much,” Remus continued, “but it’s the best I can do.” Harry turned around, looking in the direction of where Remus’s voice had come from. It was then that Harry noticed the pile of sweets, his mended glasses and the small golden ball, left there just for him. Shock and surprise consumed him. He looked down at the present and he read the words spelled out by the flowers. He closed his eyes, then opened them again, just to have confirmation that he wasn’t dreaming, that this gift was, indeed, left there for him. A smile spread across his little face, it was Lily’s smile, the best smile in the world. Remus smiled too, Harry’s smile was just infectious, as it had been when he was a baby. When Harry smiled, you smiled. It couldn’t be helped. Harry then tore his eyes from the present and looked all around for the giver.
“This for you, Harry,” Remus said, smiling down at the little boy who could hear him but not see him, “and know this, I love you, and I care about you.”
“Who are you?” Harry called, still looking all around for Remus.
Remus couldn’t reply.
Instantly frightened, Harry got up and started to look in all the bushes, “Please, don’t go!” he said, the plea in his voice plain and clear.
With his heart breaking, Remus stayed silent, hidden under the cloak. Harry could not know that it he who had left the present.
Harry continued searching the bushes. He ran out of the little copse and glanced around the green in all directions. But there was no one else there. He ran back inside. He looked at his present again, still amazed that it had not disappeared as quickly as it had come.
“Please don’t go!” Harry said again, his little voice desperate now. He turned around on the spot, looking everywhere his eyes would let him. Desperate to find the one person who not only knew it was his birthday, but cared enough to give him a present. “Please, don’t leave me,” he said, sadness returning to his voice now.
The words tugged at Remus’s heart strings. “I’m sure we will meet again sometime,” the words had escaped his mouth without his volition. He couldn’t help it. “Until then, keep the head up, Harry, and please don’t sink beneath your anguish, but battle on, like your mum and dad.”
Harry was looking directly at where Remus stood hidden under the cloak. He knew Remus was there, because he had heard him speak. Their eyes met, Remus’s brown looking into Lily’s green. A knot formed in Remus’s throat, constricting his wind-pipe completely. It was then, at that moment, when Harry’s eyes held his, that Remus knew he had to go. He had to leave, because if he didn’t, he knew he would never find the strength to stop looking. He knew that if he did not go now, he wouldn’t have the courage to trust Dumbledore and leave behind Harry in this awful place.
His eyes burning, and Harry’s anguished look piercing his heart, Remus turned, leaving Harry alone in the clearing. He had given the boy hope and, maybe, just maybe, that would be enough.