Lost And Found, Chapter One
Summary: Imagine a universe in which Remus never went to Hogwarts. The Marauders never became Animagi, and so Peter had nowhere to run when Sirius cornered him after the Potters' deaths. Peter was the one who ended up in Azkaban, whilst Sirius was granted custody of Harry. Fast-forward six years or so, to a sunny day in April 1988....
Rating: PG; PG-13 for the whole story.
Warnings: Grief and bereavement issues and graphic medical content for the whole story. None for this chapter.
Paddington station was crowded as usual. Remus Lupin held on tightly to his worn leather satchel of papers as he joined the heaving mass of humanity filing onto the escalator with blank faces. Even this early in the year, not even out of April, the air in the Tube station was stifling, and Remus was glad of the light linen jacket that let a breeze ripple over his thin cotton shirt. He would really rather have used the Floo or Apparated home, but the streets of Oxford had been so crowded that there was simply nowhere to escape from Muggle eyes. It was simpler to take the train to King’s Cross and the relative anonymity of Diagon Alley, where he could Apparate without arousing more than a passing glance.
There was something about the Muggle Underground that made people retreat into their own little worlds. Remus rather enjoyed watching people as they threaded through the crowds; the gaggle of excited French students studying an upside-down map, the businessman who stepped around the tourists and shoppers as though they were some kind of slightly distasteful insect, the harassed mother shepherding a brood of unruly children onto the platform –
Remus hesitated mid-stride. Over by the wall, looking around with fear etched clearly on his face, was a very small boy, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved, dark red T-shirt. Rather incongruously, he seemed to be clutching a large toy snake. He couldn’t have been more than eight, and he was entirely alone. Remus paused for a moment, looking up and down the platform for someone the boy might have been with, and then wove his way through the crowd, crouching down in front of the child.
‘Hi there. Are you lost?’
The boy turned to face him, startling green eyes wide and frightened under a striped cotton hat. ‘Yes.’ His voice was very small.
‘Don’t worry; I’ll help you. My name’s Remus. What’s yours?’
‘Harry.’ The child took a hesitating step towards him.
‘How old are you, Harry?’
‘I’m seven.’ He thought for a moment. ‘And three-quarters.’
Remus hid a smile. ‘Okay. What happened? Did you lose your mum and dad?’
‘I haven’t got a mum and dad. They’re dead.’ Harry’s lip trembled a little, and Remus started to reply, but the boy continued in a rush of words. ‘I’ve got Sirius, he’s my godfather, and we were getting on a train, and I was holding his hand, only a big man pushed between us and the doors closed and I was on it and Sirius wasn’t and then the train went, and so I got off it here but I don’t know where I am or where we were and I don’t know how to find him again!’ Harry began to cry, tears streaking his face, sobbing with the little hiccupping gasps of a frightened child. Instinctively, Remus held out his arms, and Harry came to him unhesitatingly, clinging to him tightly and burying his face in his shoulder.
‘Hey, it’s okay.’ Remus rubbed the palm of his hand in little circles over the small, shuddering shoulders. ‘We’ll find him, don’t worry. I bet he’s looking for you right now.’
Harry continued to sob, but as Remus spoke reassuringly to him, one hand resting gently on his back, the sobs quietened to sniffles, and he looked up at last, his face wet with tears. Remus sat back on his heels, reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out a clean white handkerchief.
‘Here. Dry your eyes; it’s okay. I’ll stay with you till we find him.’ Remus hoped it would be as easy as he made it sound. He could Apparate with the boy to the station he’d come from, and then Obliviate him, but he’d rather not put the child through the unpleasantly disorienting experience. Besides, it would be difficult to find somewhere to cast the spell without being seen.
Harry rubbed his eyes with his knuckles, the rather soggy handkerchief clutched tightly in his hand. ‘Sirius says I’m not to go off with strangers.’
Remus smiled. ‘That’s a sensible rule. It’s always best to stay safe.’ He thought for a moment. ‘How about if we go and talk to that man over there? He’s got a station uniform on, look, so he must work here. Do you think that would be okay?’
Harry hesitated, and then nodded. ‘I’m allowed to talk to people in uniform, like policemen.’ He stuffed the handkerchief into his pocket, and then shyly slipped his hand into Remus’. ‘Will you come with me?’
‘Of course.’ Remus gave him a reassuring smile and then got to his feet, brushing the dust off his jeans. ‘Let’s go and sort this out, shall we?’
For all his protestations, Harry sat very close to Remus in the stationmaster’s office, glancing up at him frequently with a worried expression. Remus smiled reassuringly at him, and when the boy hesitantly reached out to take his hand, he gave the small fingers a comforting squeeze. The stationmaster, brusque but not unkind, with the beginnings of a beer-belly underneath his blue shirt, leaned forward across the desk and regarded Harry with a florid face.
‘Now, young man. Which station were you at when you lost your godfather?’
Harry looked close to tears again. ‘I don’t know. I’ve never been on the underground trains before. I didn’t see the sign at the station, and I got lost again when I got off.’ His voice was wobbling a little on the last word, and Remus put an arm around his shoulders.
‘Don’t worry; we’ll work it out. Where had you been before you got on the train?’
Harry looked up at him, the beginnings of trust in his green eyes. ‘We’d been to the zoo. They had lions and everything. And snakes!’
‘I see one’s come home with you, too!’ Remus nodded at the soft toy still clutched in Harry’s hand, and was rewarded with a shy grin. Remus looked quizzically at the stationmaster, and the man nodded.
‘Probably Baker Street. He’ll have got here on the Circle Line. I’ll give them a call.’
The man started to leaf through a small telephone directory on his desk, and Remus smiled at Harry. ‘You liked the snakes, then?’
‘They were great. One of them was a python; he was from Burma. Well, his mum and dad were, but he was born in the zoo. He likes it there though, he likes watching the people, and they feed him so he doesn’t have to hunt.’
‘Well, I can see why he’d enjoy that,’ Remus replied with a smile, amused by the boy’s imagination. ‘Was he your favourite?’
‘Yes, I really liked him. Sirius bought me a cuddly one in the gift shop – ’ Harry broke off as the stationmaster began to speak to someone on the other end of the phone.
‘Afternoon, Bill. Frank here, at Paddington. I’ve got a young lad here, says he’s lost his godfather – ’ He listened for a moment, and then broke into a grin. ‘That’s the one. Yes, he’s fine, another passenger found him. Does he want to – hold on.’ He held out the phone to Harry. ‘There’s someone here wants a word with you.’
Harry took the phone eagerly. ‘Sirius?’ He paused. ‘I know, I couldn’t get off. ‘S’okay, I wasn’t really scared.’ He cast a sideways glance at Remus. ‘Well, maybe a bit. But it’s okay, Remus found me and brought me to the office.’
‘Remus. He saw me and asked if I was lost. But I didn’t go off with him, except to talk to the station man. He’s nice.’
Remus smiled down at the floor, finding that he rather liked being thought of as ‘nice’. Harry looked much more relaxed and happy now that he was speaking to his godfather, and Remus was pleased to see that he was clearly not in trouble over his misadventures.
‘I don’t know. Do you want to talk to the man again?’ Harry listened for a moment, and then held out the phone to the stationmaster. ‘He wants to know how to get here to pick me up.’
The man took the phone with a smile. ‘What’s that, sir? Oh, yes, of course. Paddington station, on the Circle Line.’ He paused. ‘Well, you’ll need to get a ticket.’ A frown wrinkled his brow as he listened. ‘What, no cash at all?’ He tapped his pen on his bottom lip, thinking. ‘Hmm. Let me have a word with Bill again.’
Harry leaned against Remus again, watching with worried eyes as Frank spoke to his colleague, and Remus squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.
‘The gentleman hasn’t any cash on him, Bill. Can you do him a ticket to get here?’ He sighed at the response. ‘I know, I know, but it’s exceptional circumstances, ain’t it?’ A pause. ‘Well, Accounts will just have to shove it up their –’ He glanced at Harry. ‘…jumpers.’
‘Excuse me.’ There was a tone of amusement in Remus’ voice. ‘If it’d help, I can take Harry to meet his godfather, if it’s okay with him. I’ve got some cash on me.’
Frank looked thoughtful. ‘Well, sir, you’d better have a word with him. It’d help us out no end, but you’d better sort it out between you. Bill, can you put your chap on again, please?’
He held out the phone, and Remus took it and put it to his ear. ‘Hello?’
‘Hello? Remus, is it? Thank you so much.’ The voice on the line was well spoken and warm, with an audible tone of relief. ‘I hope he hasn’t been any trouble.’
‘Not at all, I’ve enjoyed his company.’ Remus smiled over at Harry. ‘Listen, I understand you’re having difficulty getting over here to pick him up. How would it be if I brought him to you? I quite understand if you’re not comfortable with that, of course, but if it’d help –’
‘That’s so kind of you. Are you sure you wouldn’t mind? I mean, I always tell Harry not to talk to strangers, but you’ve already brought him to the station office, I mean, if you were going to hurt him you wouldn’t have – not that I think you would – I mean – ’ He broke off in utter confusion, and Remus laughed softly.
‘I quite understand. And no, I don’t mind at all, it’s not even out of my way. If you’re sure it’s okay with you, we’ll see you in a few minutes. We’ll meet you on the Circle Line eastbound platform.’
‘Thank you so much. Can I have another word with Harry?’
‘Of course. Hold on a moment.’ Remus passed the phone over to the anxious-looking boy.
‘Sirius?’ He paused, listening intently. ‘Okay. Yes, that’s okay, I told you, he’s nice.’ Another pause. ‘I will. Yes, I’ll hold his hand when we get on the train. ‘Kay, see you soon.’ A hesitation, then, shyly, ‘Love you too.’
‘Well, that’s a happy ending all round!’ Frank was grinning as he replaced the receiver. ‘Thanks for your help, sir. You take care now, young Harry.’
‘I will. Thank you.’ Harry gave him a shy smile as he slid off the seat to stand beside Remus, reaching up to take his hand. Remus reached into his pocket with his other hand, digging out a few coins and passing them over for Harry’s ticket.
‘Okay, Harry. Let’s get you back to Sirius.’
It was an odd name for a Muggle, Remus pondered as they made their way through the crowds. He was sure he had heard it before, there was a sense of familiarity to it somewhere in the back of his mind, but he was almost sure that had been in the wizarding world. Still, if the man was around Remus’ own age, he would be a child of the sixties, and Muggle naming conventions had been rather unorthodox throughout that decade. He was probably lucky to have escaped being called Flowerchild-Moonbeam or some such monstrosity.
Harry’s hand tightening on his brought Remus out of his daydream, and he looked up to see a train approaching. He smiled reassuringly down at the boy, who was looking up at him with a nervous expression. ‘Hold on tight, Harry. I won’t lose you, I promise.’ He was rewarded with a shy smile, and as the doors opened and he stepped onto the train, Harry was pressed so close against his side that he almost tripped. The small boy staggered as the train moved off with a jolt, and Remus put a hand on his shoulder to steady him.
‘You okay?’ Harry nodded, and Remus smiled. ‘We’re only going two stops; it won’t take long. All these different trains and platforms are a bit confusing when you haven’t been on them before, aren’t they?’
‘I tried to read the map when I was lost, but I couldn’t work it out,’ Harry confessed. ‘I didn’t know what colour line I was supposed to be on, or where Sirius was or anything. And anyway I didn’t know how to find the right train.’
‘Well, we worked it out in the end. Look, here’s our stop. Have you got Snake?’
Harry brandished the green cuddly toy at Remus with a grin. ‘Hold on to me again?’
‘I will, don’t worry.’ Remus held out his hand, and Harry clung to him as they stepped off the train, the doors closing behind them with a hiss. As the crowds dispersed around them on the platform, Harry looked around anxiously, and then let go of Remus’ hand and ran down the platform with a happy shout.
‘Harry!’ A young man, his shoulder-length black hair just brushing the collar of his leather jacket, dropped to one knee on the platform and held out his arms, laughing with relief as he was almost bowled over by the weight of a small boy hurling himself against his chest. ‘Are you okay?’
‘I’m fine, Remus helped me.’ Harry gestured at Remus who was walking up rather more slowly behind him. Sirius got to his feet and held out his hand to shake Remus’ with a firm, warm grip.
‘Thank you so much. I really don’t know how to thank you.’
‘There’s no need, really. He’s been no trouble, and I was coming this way anyway. I’m glad I could help.’
‘Remus?’ Harry was standing very close to his godfather now, as though he were afraid to let go of him again, but he took a step forward and offered the crumpled handkerchief to his new friend. ‘This is yours.’
Remus regarded the rather soggy square of cloth, and smiled. ‘That’s okay, Harry. You keep it.’
‘It’s okay, I know it’s all wet, but Sirius can Scourgify it for you.’ He clapped a hand over his mouth as soon as he had spoken, and Sirius gave him a sudden, sharp look, but Remus looked from boy to man, realisation suddenly dawning on him.
‘He can – but you’re – Harry Potter?’
He didn’t even see Sirius move. One moment the man was standing with an arm casually slung over his godson’s shoulders, the next he had Remus pressed up against the cold stone wall, his wand jabbing sharply into his ribs. He spoke in quiet, measured tones, flint-grey eyes fixed on Remus’ face.
‘Harry? Go and sit on that bench over there. I’m going to have a quick chat with Remus, okay?’
‘Okay.’ Out of the corner of his eye, Remus saw the small boy clamber up onto a nearby bench and sit with his legs dangling, watching his godfather curiously. Sirius’ wand dug more sharply into Remus’ ribs, and he looked around again to meet his eyes.
‘How do you know my godson? I don’t know you. You weren’t part of the Order, and you weren’t at Hogwarts. Start talking.’ There was an edge of quiet menace in Sirius’ voice.
Remus forced himself to stay calm, keeping his tone low and even. ‘I was in the Order, but undercover. I didn’t go to Hogwarts, but I am a wizard. My name is Remus John Lupin; you might have known me as Roman; that was my code name for the Order. Dumbledore thought it best that I had no contact with the rest of you, except via Patronus. And I know of Harry from the newspapers, of course. You must be Sirius Black.’
Sirius’ jaw tightened, but he gave no other confirmation. ‘You’re Roman? The one who went on the mission to – well, if you are, then you’ll be able to tell me what your mission was.’
‘Which one?’ Remus’ voice was humourless. ‘There were several, but I imagine the one you know about is the one to the werewolves. It wasn’t a success.’
‘Damn right it wasn’t.’ Sirius’ expression was still hostile. ‘I heard how it almost got Roman killed.’
‘Pretty close,’ Remus replied shortly. ‘But you’ll recall the Patronus I sent; I understand it arrived in the middle of an Order meeting. My Patronus is a wolf, and the message was ‘Rome has fallen’.’
There was a long, tense silence. Remus could feel hot breath on his cheek; Sirius’ body so close that Remus was aware a faint scent of spice and citrus clinging to his skin. At last, some of the pressure on Remus’ ribs was relieved as Sirius lowered his wand very slightly. ‘I do remember that. Moody and Dumbledore went charging off as though Voldemort himself was after them.’ He hesitated. ‘But if you’re a wizard, explain to me how you weren’t at Hogwarts. I know you weren’t, you’d have been around my year. I’d remember you.’
Remus swallowed. There would be no option but honesty now; the truth was his only defence. ‘I couldn’t go to Hogwarts. The Ministry said it would be too dangerous.’
‘I’m a werewolf.’ Remus closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable blow. Sirius was already angry and afraid; a werewolf at his mercy could expect nothing but violence now. He turned his face to the side, anticipating the smash of a fist in his teeth, but instead there was a silence and then a long, drawn-out exhalation.
‘I thought so.’
‘What?’ Remus opened his eyes, turning his head and looking in confusion into Sirius’ face.
‘It made sense. I mean, who else could infiltrate Greyback’s pack like that? And the name, I mean, isn’t the wolf the symbol of Rome? And your Patronus is a wolf.’
‘It’s not – I mean, you’re not bothered by that?’
‘Not by that, no. I wasn’t sure how much we could trust a double agent when Dumbledore first told us about you, but you never betrayed us, and he always had faith in you. And you risked a lot.’
‘We all did.’ Remus was relaxing a little now, Sirius’ wand only loosely resting against his chest.
‘True enough.’ A shadow passed briefly over Sirius’ eyes. ‘Look, I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t hurt you. It’s just, Harry and I have been let down before, you know. And for you to suddenly turn up like this – ’
‘You were shocked, and scared for Harry. It’s quite understandable, and I’m fine.’ Remus took a careful step away from the wall. His ribs would be bruised in the morning, but there was no lasting harm done. He had feared for his life for a moment, when he had looked into Sirius’ eyes and seen an icy resolve there; not anger so much as fear for his child and the certainty of doing whatever was needed to keep him safe. Now, though, the grey eyes simply looked tired, and a resigned smile tugged at the corner of Sirius’ mouth.
‘I suppose it’s not a very Death Eater-ish thing to do, anyway, stopping to help a lost little boy.’
Remus laughed suddenly. ‘It’s not what they’re best known for, is it? You never know, though, maybe they run an after-school playgroup in their spare time.’
Sirius grinned. ‘You’re all right, Roman. Or is it Remus these days?’
‘Remus is fine. No point in bothering with codes now.’
‘Remus it is, then.’ Sirius half-turned and held out his hand to Harry, who came running over with an unquestioning smile. ‘Listen, are you heading for Diagon Alley?’
‘Yes – and you were going the wrong way if that’s where you were trying to get to before.’ Remus smiled at Sirius’ crestfallen expression. ‘You were on the westbound platform; we want the eastbound. Shall we go together? I know my way around the Tube fairly well.’
‘That’d be great; thank you. Actually, I was going to ask – we’re planning to go to Fortescue’s for ice cream on the way home. Would you like to join us? It’s a rather better way of thanking you for helping Harry than threatening your life, I’d say.’
‘Oh, yes, come for ice cream, Remus! Please come!’ Harry was almost jumping up and down in his enthusiasm, and Remus bit back a laugh. Fixing the small boy with a grave look, he replied in serious tones.
‘Well, that rather depends. Do you think they’ll have chocolate sprinkles? Because I couldn’t possibly patronise an establishment that didn’t have chocolate sprinkles.’ He risked a look at Sirius, and hid a smile at the amusement sparkling in the grey eyes.
‘They do! Don’t they, Sirius? And butterscotch sauce!’ Harry’s face was a picture of anxiety, and Remus allowed himself to break into a grin.
‘In that case, I’d love to join you.’