Summary: Lily trusts her instincts.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Title, Author and URL of original story: Wrapped Around by osmalic.
A/N: Title stolen from Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Something's Always Wrong." I really enjoyed working on this remix. I wrote a very unexpected story, and I couldn't be more delighted. Thanks to midnitmaraud_r for the beta!
The Spaces In Between (Failure to Meet and Mend Remix)
"Just ask him already, you know he'll say yes."
Lily raises a disapproving eyebrow at James, but doesn't argue. Of course Remus would agree to babysit, he loves spending time with Harry, but she can't help but feel guilty about asking him at the last minute simply because he hasn't found a new job–yet, she reminds herself. He hasn't found a new job yet. Still, it isn't fair that they often depend on Remus more than Sirius or Peter when they need someone on short notice.
She bites her lip and reluctantly looks at the fireplace. A little pinch of powder, and before she could have the word "please" out of her mouth, there would be a babysitter dusting himself off on her hearth.
"Lilyyyyy," James croons in her ear as he walks his fingers up her back, making her shiver from head to toe. "These tickets were dreadfully hard to come by. It would be a crime to let them go to waste."
Lily's giving in. She knows she is, but she has to at least try and put up a good fight.
"Peter gave them to you because Dumbledore called for him. How does that qualify as 'dreadfully hard,' hmmm?"
James puts an arm about her waist and spins her around, pulling her flush against him and kissing her sloppily–but endearingly so–on the corner of her mouth.
"You got me there." His hands grab her arse and he pulls her even closer. "The tickets aren't what qualify as hard around here."
"Oh, for goodness' sake, James." Lily wants to groan at his horrible sense of humor and yet–
One night out, just the two of them. Dinner, dancing, and hopefully one drink too many.
She pulls away and tosses the Floo powder. Remus agrees readily, smiles brightly and Lily feels her heart unclench, feels it let loose a bit of the guilt. Remus loves Harry–loves her, loves James–and, after all, he might as well be family. These days, family sticks together.
Times they can all get together are rare occurrences, so when Lily suddenly finds herself facing an overabundance of friends and an under-supplied pantry, she couldn't be more delighted.
She hugs Peter, Remus, and Sirius all at once and forces them to submit to kisses as well. She's seen each of them separately over the months, but to have everyone in her home at the same time is an occasion worthy of celebration, even if all they have on hand are crackers, cheese spread, and a few bottles of cheap wine.
Harry is the center of attention, naturally, as they talk, laugh, and enjoy each other's company on the unusually cool spring evening. He crawls right into Sirius' lap and pulls at his hair, laughing as his godfather makes the most ridiculously pained faces at each new tug.
"Yeeeeowwww! Lily, did you teach him to do that?" Sirius asks, though he makes no effort to untangle his hair from Harry's tightly-clenched fist.
As much as Lily loves watching Harry interact with James, something always tugs desperately at her heart when she sees how Sirius brightens while playing with their son. Or giving him a bottle, reading a story, or even changing his nappy. She doubts Sirius will ever marry, or at least not for a very long time, and it saddens her because he'd make such an excellent father. But he's too wrapped up in the war, in keeping those he already loves safe. He's lost weight and color, and that worries her, but when she sees him like this, energized and playful, she can't help but feel hope for them all.
So she swallows the lump in her throat and laughs along with him.
"Of course, Sirius. I told Harry that pulling Uncle Sirius' strings was as easy as–"
Harry takes the opportunity the moment provides, and spits up all over Sirius' shirt front.
"Now, really, Sirius, you should know better than to shake a baby around like that," Peter chastises as he plucks Harry out of his arms despite the fact that a handful of Sirius' hair goes with them.
James howls with laughter as Sirius rubs at his tender scalp.
"Prematurely balding and dribbling your dinner? Shall I see if the Wizarding Home for Barmy Blacks has any openings?"
"I'm afraid they're full up at the moment," Sirius replies, the smile slipping slightly from his face.
Lily doesn't want the mood to dampen, doesn't want Sirius to start thinking about his family and all the baggage they sent him off with. Before she can worry too much, though, Remus dabs at the spit-up with a hand towel and chuckles lightly.
"Don't worry, Pads, there's always room at Loopy Lupin's. And the rates are more affordable."
It's not a good joke, but it does the trick. Sirius smiles affectionately at Remus–and it's been a while since he's done that–as he pulls the towel out of his hands to clean up after himself.
"Well, I can't get him to burp," Peter says as he continues patting Harry's back while Harry is simply interested in poking a chubby finger in Peter's ear.
"That's because he did the deed on me," Sirius says in mock indignation.
Peter shrugs, gives up, and hands Harry to Remus.
"Um-," Remus says as Peter plops the baby against his shoulder.
Lily finds his sudden awkwardness charming, but does her best to hide her amusement as she continues to enjoy the scene playing out before her. It takes her back to Hogwarts, in a way, when she'd watch the antics of these four boys from a distance. She'd never dreamed she'd one day be a part of it; that her son–James' son–would be a part of it.
"Maybe so, but you wouldn't want your godson to end up with a belly ache because you let him swallow down that bottle too fast, now would you?"
Sirius opens his mouth to protest, but his words are cut off by an unexpected wail. Lily's heart skips a beat as she turns toward her son and finds him twisting away from Remus as hard as his small body is capable of; reaching out as if wishing to be held, despite the fact that someone already has him in their arms. And Remus...
Remus quickly hands Harry to Lily and mutters something about Excuse me and Off to the loo. She's left with Harry's arms tightly wound about her neck as his sobs begain to recede.
"That was a bit odd, don't you think?" Peter says. "He's watched Harry on his own before, hasn't he?"
No one answers, but Lily sees James hang his head slightly and Sirius clench his fists as hard as Harry's had done in his hair.
She feels guilty. Horribly and inconceivably guilty. Sitting on the downstairs sofa while both her boys sleep, she is tempted not to watch; to simply erase the spell and whatever results it might have produced, smash it all to bits and pieces.
But she can't. She's a mother. She tries to be a good mother and if there's anything she needs to know about the time Remus spends alone with Harry–
Lily shoves the guilt hard to the side, flicks her wand, and says the incantation. The small mirror from Harry's nursery begins to glow brightly. So brightly, as a matter of fact, she has to squint and Lily wonders if the spell worked at all.
Slowly, however, the intensity of the images softens and she begins to see familiar shapes. Harry's crib, the rocking chair next to it. Remus is sitting in the chair, exactly where he'd been when she and James had gone out simply to buy some new clothes for Harry earlier in the evening.
They venture out less and less these days. The risk is too high, but sometimes it's actually more stressful to stay hidden than it is to take a bloody walk down the street. Voldemort is a very real threat to their lives, but they refuse to let him dictate their every move. Neither she nor James wants to raise Harry to live in nothing but fear.
She picks the mirror up off the dresser and watches as Harry tries valiantly to pull himself up into a standing position. He almost makes it, but then falls down on his bum with a frustrated, "Nah!"
Harry tries and fails again, simply too tired to get his balance right. Remus glances at him briefly before returning to whatever book it is he's reading. Harry, having obviously had enough, begins to cry. He turns toward Remus and reaches out, putting his hands through the bars.
"Now, now, Harry. Play with your toys," Remus says, almost–but not quite, Lily notes–giving one of Harry's hands a pat.
Harry continues to cry, but pulls his hands back inside the crib. He grabs hold of the bars and tries to shake them, which obviously gets him nowhere and he begins to truly scream. Lily's heart is pounding against her chest and she desperately wants to climb inside the mirror and comfort her poor child, and she almost tries but then Remus finally puts his book down and stands up.
Lily takes a calming breath. It'll be fine. Remus will pick Harry up and everything will be fine.
"Anything, Harry," Remus says as he stares down at Harry, who is once again attempting to pull himself up. "Anything, anything, anything, but please. I can't do this. I can't, I'll do it all wrong and if anything happened to you, I don't know what I'd– "
Harry manages it. In his frustrated anger he has found the strength to pull himself up to a standing position and Remus stumbles backwards in his surprise, kicking a toy fire engine left haphazardly lying on the floor. The toy lights up and its sirens wail; Harry wails and falls back down. Remus reaches out and Lily holds her breath.
Remus turns away.
Lily cries herself to sleep along with Harry as she clutches the mirror to her breast.
Remus knows how to make himself small. He knows how to blend in, step back, hide in plain sight. He's been doing it all his life, and for a while –a crazy, horrifying while– he'd thought this particular talent would actually be useful. He's done everything Dumbledore has asked of him; he's alienated friends because of necessary secrecy, all the while telling himself it was okay, they'd understand once the war was over. He'd make it up to them, he wouldn't lose them; they were all he had.
To find out he's lost them irretrievably; that he'd lost Sirius–that they'd all lost Sirius–apparently so long ago...
He's sitting across the street from the Dursley's house. The sky is beginning to find it's light, but slowly, and it's so very cold. Not that the temperature matters. Freezing to death would be a blessing, after all, though Remus is well aware that no blessings are coming his way. If he had any he'd give them all to the still-sleeping baby across the street.
Remus just wants to make sure that Harry is found, that someone opens the door and picks him up, holds him close, gives him a bottle and a clean nappy. He owes that much to James and Lily; he owes it to Harry for all the times he'd been entrusted into his care and he'd let him down, unable to comfort him for fear of...of what, exactly?
Harry starts to cry and the familiar sound kicks Remus' heart into his throat, and he can admit that, yes, he'd been afraid of loving Harry so much he'd have entertained the possibility of having a child of his own one day.
Of course, hindsight certainly is twenty-twenty. Remus knows how stupid he'd been not to have realized that he already did love Harry exactly that much.
As Harry's cries pick up in intensity, Remus can see him struggling with the blankets wrapped tightly around his body. He hugs his knees up to his chest and wishes he could hide his face in his hands, but he doesn't take his eyes off Harry. The door will open soon. Lily's sister will find Harry, she'll take him in and Harry won't have to cry anymore.
Remus waits, but nothing happens. The door doesn't open and Harry doesn't stop crying. He's not getting much louder, as if he knows the futility of life already, but he doesn't stop. He cries and Remus waits.
Remus shuffles his feet and rubs his hands together, trying to satisfy the urge to move, to pick Harry up and comfort the one thing left in his life that might possibly remind him of what had once been good. All he has to do is stand up, walk across the street, and...
But he doesn't. He doesn't.
Instead he finally rests his head on his knees and cries along with Harry, until they both fall asleep in the early morning light.