Remus had moved their camp again after Mr. Weasley had come to bring Ron for a visit and to tell Remus that Albus had caught wind of their petition to take custody of Harry. They were in a wooded area somewhere near Outgate Remus had said, but as soon as he'd helped Remus set up the tent Harry had moved off into the trees to be on his own. He didn't understand how Remus could just try to pawn him off like that. He barely even knew the Weasleys. He'd only played with Ron a few times and he'd barely said more than a few sentances to Ron's father. But he'd spent eight months with Remus. Eight months learning and playing games, reading stories, talking and laughing and joking. Eight months on the run from the rest of the world. Maybe Harry was just a burden for Remus to want to give all of that up. Maybe those things didn't mean the same to Remus as they did to Harry.
Harry picked up a stick and began batting at shrubs with it and banging it on trees as he passed absentmindedly. What other plans did Remus have for him that he didn't know about? The Dursleys were always threatening to get rid of Harry. It seemed like every month his aunt or uncle came up with new imagninary places to send him away to. The orphanage in London, the circus, St. Brutus', the streets, America, the crazy cat lady down the street who had once stuck up for him after she saw Uncle Vernon push him down the steps. Now the Weasleys were added to the list. He liked Ron and Mr. Weasley didn't seem that bad. That didn't mean he wanted to go with them. He'd never be part of their family. Remus was the closest he'd ever come to family and it felt like it would be the closest he'd ever get. Or maybe he wasn't as close to Remus as he thought he was. He banged the stick on another tree as he passed.
"Who are you?"
Harry paused, stick still in hand and wondered if he could just pretend he didn't exist and that would make it true.
"Well? This is my property. You're tresspassing. Father will have a fit if he finds out Muggles are here."
Harry turned slowly to find a boy about his age with blond hair. His eyes moved from his face, to his expensive clothes, to the dirt that was all over his hands and knees. Was it safe to tell him he wasn't a Muggle? He didn't have to tell him his name or anything. Remus wouldn't even have to know he'd met a boy in the woods.
"You're not deaf are you? Mother told me there was a home for deaf Muggle children in the next town over."
"I'm not a Muggle," Harry finally said.
Draco scrutinized Harry's appearance and then asked, "How old are you then? When are you going to Hogwarts?"
"I'll be 11 soon, and I'm not going."
"You're going next year?" he queried. "I just turned 11 and I'm going at the end of this summer."
Harry didn't know what to tell him. He'd told Ron everything because they'd been invited to know by Remus. Maybe he shouldn't have spoken to this boy at all. He didn't seem too bad though.
"Are you part fae or something?"
"You know... not all human. Vampire, werewolf, elf? You're too normal looking to be giant, dwarf or goblin. I heard there was a fae school somewhere but only fae get invited."
"And they let werewovles in?" Harry asked skeptically. He remembered Remus' story about Dumbledore helping him go to Hogwarts.
"Not until recently. They didn't used to let Vampires in either. My tutor taught me about it."
"Is that it then? You're a werewolf?" He looked interested.
"Not exactly," said Harry. "I'm all human."
"But you're not allowed to go to Hogwarts?"
"I'm allowed," Harry said, "but I can't go. We're on the run... my dad and me," Harry tested saying it out loud. He felt like Remus was his father, even if Remus didn't want to be and didn't want Harry to call him that. He felt a little rebellious telling this boy Remus was his father when Remus didn't want him to say things like that, but Harry suddenly felt like Remus shouldn't get a say in what he said or did.
Draco looked him up and down again and then sat down on the ground cross-legged and looked up at Harry expectantly. What? Did he want the whole story? Harry sat down on the ground too facing him and began picking at the dirt with his fingers.
"We're not- you know," Harry said, "-death eaters or anything. We're not criminals. But they're looking for me because I'm not where I'm supposed to be. No one but us knows where I'm at."
"What's your name? I haven't heard about any missing wizards."
"I'm not supposed to tell you."
"Well I have to call you something. And what are you doing here in the woods anyway?"
"We live in a tent. We move a lot." Harry shrugged.
"Hm. They can't find you, that makes you a lost boy, doesn't it?"
"I guess." He certainly felt lost with the recent revelations about Remus' plans for him.
"Then I'll call you that. My name's Draco, and I am going to Hogwarts. I'm going to be in Slytherin."
"Voldemort came out of that house," Harry said warily. So did Professor Snape, a voice in the back of his head said quietly, and he's not so bad, even if he had been a Death Eater for two years.
Draco looked surprised that Harry had said the name but recovered quickly. "So? Big deal. A lot of my family has gone to Slytherin. Sometimes we end up in Ravenclaw but I know I'll be Slytherin."
"My parents were in Gryffindor."
"That's ok Lost Boy."
Harry gave him a look and then said, "Watch out for Professor McGonagall. My dad dueled her a couple months ago. She's not very nice."
"That's why I'm gonna be in Slytherin. Uncle Sev is the head of house."
"Severus Snape. He teaches Potions. He's not my actual uncle. He's not even my godfather. But we're third cousins twice removed or some nonsense like that. Sometimes he comes to my house to talk to father and he's always nice to me. Father says he'll watch my back when I'm at school."
Harry wanted to say that he knew Severus Snape so he could have something in common with this boy, but held his tongue. That might put them at risk if Draco said anything to anybody. People might figure out that Snape was helping them. Instead Harry felt lame as he said, "You ever read Peter Pan? I finished it a few months ago." The name Lost Boy had reminded him of the story.
"That's where I got the name for you! It's one of my favorites! I took father's broom once so I could pretend to be Peter Pan. I flew around the manor and he was so angry I was grounded for weeks!"
Harry gave him a sideways glance and then jumped up. "I don't know about brooms," he dropped his stick and held out his arms like he used to do when he was younger and pretending to be an airplane.
Draco grinned and stood up holding his arms out too. "Follow me to Neverland Lost Boy!" He ran off and Harry chased after him laughing, jumping up onto a log and then diving off of it as if he could really fly. They ran around the woods until Harry forgot about his problems with Remus and Dumbledore and the Weasleys and Hogwarts, and Harry felt good to forget it all.
After the two of them finally collapsed and lay on the dirt on their backs staring up at the tree canopy for several minutes, Draco asked, "Who's looking for you? Who are you running from?"
The world, Harry thought, but instead he said, "Captain Hook."
Draco sighed. "If I go home, are you going to disappear to Neverland? If you do I might not see you again."
Harry turned his head to stare at his new friend and realized he was right. If he never went to Hogwarts he'd never see Draco again.
"You're Peter Pan," he said. "If I disappear you'll find me." Harry stood up, realizing he'd been away for a couple of hours and Remus might come looking for him if he stayed any longer. Draco sat up and watched as Harry started walking away. Harry turned though and gave him a grin, "Besides. Neverland doesn't sound that bad, does it?" Draco didn't get up to follow him as Harry walked back towards camp. Back towards Remus and the reality that Remus didn't want him. Remus, Dumbledore, Uncle Vernon, Hook. All the same.
Remus stood up when Harry walked back into camp. "You left before I could put the barrier up."
"We're on wizard property," Harry said flatly, not looking at Remus at all. "We have to move anyway."
"How do you know? If I'd put the barrier up they might have detected it with their own property wards."
Harry shrugged and went into the tent to get his backpack. When he came back out, Remus shrunk the tent and chairs and picked them up and then looked awkward for a moment like he was uncomfortable before he gently took hold of Harry's wrist and apparated them away. When they re-appeared they were on a wide windswept ledge high up over a wide valley.
"Where?" Harry asked as Remus let go of his wrist.
"Not that far," Remus said quietly. On a mountain above where we were." He pointed to a grouping of trees and fields. "Outgate is down there. Almost too far to see but not quite."
Harry didn't say anything. He just stared in the distance to where Remus had pointed. To where Draco was probably still in the trees or maybe walking home, wherever that was. He sat down on the ledge and continued to just look from his perch high up as the wind roughly blew through his hair.
When he didn't respond Remus sat down next to him. Harry figured he must have set up the tent and wards already by this time. "Harry, I'm sorry."
Harry didn't respond and Remus sighed. "I'm only human," he said. "Even with my best intentions, I'm going to dissapoint you. It's not exactly fair of you to hold me to such a high standard that I can never live up to it."
"You promised me Remus," Harry said. "You promised me. It wasn't something I made up or asked you to do."
"I promised to protect you. That means taking measures to ensure you're protected even after I'm gone."
"Yeah, well that's not what I heard."
Harry turned away so his shoulder was to Remus and there was a long pause before Remus asked quietly, "What did you hear?"
"You said you'd never harm me."
"I did say that."
"But you have your hidden agendas just like Dumbledore. You have things you expect of me and I don't even get a choice in the matter."
"I don't expect anything-"
"Yes you do," Harry snapped. "You expect me to just give you up and go live with some other family because you don't want to deal with me anymore. You promised not to hurt me. That means not giving me up Remus. But you've been planning on giving me up from the start."
"I never had the intention of sending you to the Weasleys when I first took you. I didn't even know we could trust them until recently."
"You took me when you knew this couldn't last. That's not fair to me Remus. You told me on day one you were gonna get caught. And when you got caught, you planned on just giving me up. You said no matter what. You said that Remus! I should have known better than to listen to promises."
Harry got up to walk away and realized he didn't have anywhere to go but inside the tent, so he went in and laid on his cot with his back to the tent flap. It was after dark by the time Remus came in and Harry heard him sit on his own cot. Harry didn't know why he expected Remus to say something when he came in. He wanted him to say something to make it all better. He wanted Remus to tell him he was wrong, but the words never came. Eventually Remus laid down on his own cot, and they laid there in silence until Harry fell asleep, feeling like the lost boy Draco said he was.
Long after the sound of Harry's steady breathing filled the space, Remus lay staring at the dark canvas ceiling as the wind made the tent walls flutter. Harry was right. He had promised him to look after him and not to hurt him. Remus had never thought Harry would attach himself so firmly to him though. Earlier that day when Arthur had brought Ron to see Harry again and deliver his news, he'd mentioned that Ron had been calling Remus, 'Harry's dad,' for several weeks. He had always thought he'd be caught. Harry was right about that too. It wasn't fair to let him get attached and then just let him go if he got caught. Knowing the way the Dursley's were, he had a feeling Harry just wanted someone to fight for him, just the once. Remus wished not for the first time that Harry could have just known his parents. Lily had fought to her death for him, and so had James. Harry didn't know them though, and he didn't know that. He only knew that Remus had come out of the blue one day to take him away, and now he had tried to make arrangements to separate himself. Remus fell asleep late that night feeling more foolish than he ever had, and also more alone, despite that Harry was sleeping in the cot across the room.
* * *
"It was Wesely Ward."
Remus turned the name over and over in his mind like a stone being washed down a river. He couldn't place it although it sounded familiar.
"He was in Hufflepuff a year behind us," Severus said before downing the last of his coffee by the campfire. Harry was across the campfire sitting on the stool and pretending to read, though he wasn't fooling anybody.
"That's right. Little Wesely," Remus nodded as he remembered.
"He works in the Child Affairs department. When Arthur and Molly told him they wanted to start a petition to get custody of Harry he filed all the papework and sent it along to the court. He also sent a copy to Dumbledore since he is Harry's guardian outside of the Muggle world. I doubt he realized he was notifying the one person Arthur and Molly didn't want him to."
"Why does he have guardianship over me?" Harry asked, looking up from his book. Remus had explained to him once that since Harry had been orphaned in the wizarding world but had gone to live with a Muggle family that a guardian had been appointed over him in the magical community to oversee his bank funds and schooling. "How did it end up to be him?"
Remus cleared his throat. "Sirius had guardianship over you because it was in James and Lily's will. When he went to Azkaban the Headmaster petitioned for guardianship on the grounds that you needed someone who wasn't in prison to help you make desisions and navigate our world. Since he was already the Headmaster at Hogwarts it made sense to the courts and they gave him custody."
Harry stared into the fire. It didn't seem fair, did it? He had just been handed off over and over. He was just a baby then and didn't really have a choice, but he was almost eleven now.
"If you'll excuse me," Remus said, standing up, "I have to reinforce the wards. I'll be back shortly." He walked away into the trees leaving Harry and Severus alone in the darkness, the only light and noise coming from the crackling flames of the fire.
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Severus commented, "You have been unusually quiet."
Harry looked up and shrugged. He set his book down and stood to get the coffee pot to re-fill Severus' cup and then poured himself some coffee, which surprised the Potion's Master. When Harry sat back down, a thought occured to him and he asked, "Do you know Draco Malfoy?"
Severus looked up. "I do. How is it that you know of him?"
"We tried to set up camp at the edge of his property. I left camp before Remus had the wards up 'cause I was mad at him and I ran into Draco."
"What did you talk to Draco about?"
"I didn't tell him anything important. He asked when I was going to Hogwarts and I said never. He wanted to know if I was going to the school for fae instead and I explained that I just couldn't go to Hogwarts because I was on the run. I didn't tell him my name or anything. He mentioned you and that you were cousins or something."
"He said he's going to be in Slytherin. What house d'you think I'd be in?"
"That's where Ron figures on ending up. What other kids do you know?"
"Why do you ask?"
Harry shrugged. "Well I only know a couple of kids, and Ron will be going to school soon so I won't get much chance to see him, and I can't anyway now that his family is being watched, can I? And I'll probably never see Draco again."
"It does not sound like you spent enough time with him to wish to see him again."
"We played Peter Pan. He was Peter. It was nice to have someone to have fun with. Even if it was just for a little while."
Severus wanted to ask if Harry had thought about going to Hogwarts, but didn't. He knew the boy must have thought about it, especially after speaking to other children who were on their way there at the end of the summer.
Remus returned from checking the wards and brought an armful of firewood with him. Harry handed him the full cup of coffee Severus had assumed the boy had poured for himself, and they fell into silence again. Severus had been coming every day for the last few days to talk to Remus about plans and Remus had made sure Harry was present for all discussions. Now that Hogwarts was out for the summer Snape had explained that Dumbledore expected him to be out looking for Harry and Remus as often as possible. He had even paid him extra for hotel room and board during his travels.
Severus broke the silence first. "I believe we should consider sending Harry to Hogwarts."
Remus looked up. "I would love to send him and I'm sure he'd love to go. The question is how?"
"I could just go," Harry said. "Then we could figure out a way for you to get me at the end of the term before I have to go back to the Dursleys."
"What about holidays?" Remus asked. "He'll insist you go back at every opportunity and Hogwarts observes two weeks for Christmas and one for Easter. It might be possible for me to snag you once... maybe even twice. But beyond that and he'll have figured out magic to keep you out of my reach."
They looked over at Severus.
"-we could convince him that it is more beneficial for Harry to stay at Hogwarts than to return during breaks."
"The million Galleon question is how."
"If we believe his reasons for keeping Harry with his family are to help him win a future battle, then it would be reasonable to assume that he would be willing to let him stay if he were staying to receive extra training to win that future battle."
Remus nodded slowly. "Dueling skills, learning about advanced healing potions, advanced defensive spells... don't get me wrong Severus, you'd make an excellent teacher, but wouldn't he insist that Harry just receive extra tutoring throughout the year and still send him home on breaks?"
Harry stood up, feeling a little excited about the prospect of going to Hogwarts, but also anxious about what leaving Remus meant. "Draco has special tutors doesn't he? What if there were tutors who came in just on breaks to teach me? Aurors or something? Remus you said there was money in my vault, right? I could pay for them. It wouldn't make sense to pay them over and over to come out during the term to teach me for just an hour here or there after classes. It'd be better to have them out for a week at a time."
Remus looked over at Harry. "Draco who?"
"Malfoy," Severus said. "Harry spent time with him when you landed on wizard property."
"Ah. That explains how he knew."
"I didn't tell him anything," Harry said.
"No," Remus agreed. He knew Harry wouldn't tell anyone.
"I want to go to Hogwarts," Harry said after long moments of silence. "But I don't want to go if Remus isn't there."
"That would be impossible," Remus said sadly.
"You thought about teaching before. Isn't there some way you could pretend to be someone else?"
"Polyjuice," Severus said. "And there is a defense position open as there is every year. However, nine people have already applied."
"Please Remus? It'd be a good job wouldn't it?" Harry pleaded. "And I could still see you all the time. Couldn't you just go apply and if you got it then we could make a decision about me going?"
Remus and Severus looked at each other and Remus stood up to pace. He seemed to be feeling anxious too.
"We need to think about this more carefully first. Even if I do get the position, and Severus can somehow convince Dumbledore to let you stay over Christmas and Easter holidays, that still leaves the summer. He won't let you stay over the summer. And there's no guarantee that once you're at Hogwarts that the Headmaster can be convinced of anything."
"If we got there and Christmas rolled around and he planned on sending me back, then we could just leave and not come back." Harry said hopefully. Remus watched him carefully. Harry hadn't been speaking to him much in the last couple of weeks and it felt strange to hear him talk so much now. He seemed so excited.
"Severus?" Remus asked, hoping for his opinion.
"The chances of getting caught will be higher if he goes to Hogwarts. However, I believe I can convince the Headmaster. I can also brew the Polyjuice. I have just enough stock to get you through an interview. We will have to find someone qualified for you to imitate however and you will have to learn that person's personality and live by it in the public eye. For the first several months you and Harry would have to have limited contact during the term or else suspicions may arise."
"Harry will be busy with new friends and classes anyway," Remus said, giving Harry and his eager face another look.
"You will also have to lower the wards long enough for a Hogwarts owl to deliver his letter. The Headmaster sends new owls out every day but his letter is always returned. There is also the question of his supplies. I believe he has been to see Olivander. If you go for supplies too early Harry may be returned to the Dursleys until the start of school."
"We could go the day before," Harry said.
"I have also heard of plans to have Shacklebolt at the train station. I believe the Headmaster hopes you will show up so he can apprehend you there," he said to Remus.
Remus sighed. "Perhaps we should focus on one thing at a time. Let's just work out the interview part first and see where things go from there. After that we can figure out school supplies, money for the supplies, and how to get Harry to school."
"I vote smuggling me in in Draco's trunk," Harry said, but when the two men only looked at him he raised his hands. "What? It was a joke."
After Severus had left and Harry and Remus were in the tent, Harry stopped in the middle of pulling his shoes and socks off. "Remus?"
"This'd all be easier if you bit me."
Remus gave Harry a hard look, but Harry pressed on. "Draco said there's a school for fae. He said they started taking werewolves and vampires recently. If I was like you then you could get a job there and I could go, and we could just forget about Dumbledore."
"Go to bed Harry."
"Ok. Just think about it won't you?"
Remus opened his mouth to chastise him again for wanting to be a werewolf, but Harry had already rolled over in his bed and pulled the sleeping bag right up over his head to deny him the chance.