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He woke to the sound and shake of a storm. Not harshly, but still suddenly, rising to wakefulness with the long rumble of thunder. Pale, rain-lashed light came through the room’s single window, then lightning, and then immediately the thunder again. His room, the attic, on the third floor of the Order’s safehouse on the top of a hill, wobbled slightly. Not enough to be concerning, if you weren’t the type of person to be easily concerned, and at this point in the war, Remus wasn’t such a person.

He rolled onto his side, deeper into the small crevice formed by the sharply acute angle formed by the sloping ceiling and the bed. When Sirius stayed with him, which was more nights than not lately, they took turns sleeping on that side of the bed. It felt safer.

Remus tried to remember if thunderstorms were usual this time of year. He didn’t think they were, and he wondered if the rain would turn to snow as night dropped. He found himself listening for the familiar grumble of Sirius’ motorbike beneath the storm. It was too dangerous to ride, but that wouldn’t have stopped Sirius.

There was nothing, just the cold hand of winter against his neck where the quilt had ridden down when he’d rolled over. The cold leached into him, stole down his bones, made his hips ache.

He laid there for a few more minutes, pondering the possibility of going back to sleep. With a heating charm, he could easily ignore the cold.

The house swayed again with another clap of thunder, and he sighed and sat up, pulling the blanket around his shoulders as he did so. The party would start soon in any case, and he should see what he could do to help.

James was in the kitchen. A knife at his elbow chopped a pile of potatoes into progressively smaller pieces, and Lily’s head was in the fireplace.

“Oh, Remus!” she said, noticing him first. “You’re awake.”

“How are you feeling?” said James. “Merlin, Moony. Sit down.”

Then James waved his hand and a chair came hurtling from the dining room and bumped into the back of Remus’s legs. He sat.

“Thank you,” he said. He looked at the clock and realized he’d been asleep for the better part of the day. He wondered if James had been here that whole time. “Is there tea?”

In response, James gestured for a mug. It went flying towards him.

“Are you sure you should be up?” said Lily. Remus watched her in a kind of dazed fascination. The color of her hair matched the color of the flames. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. Lily kept talking.

“Honestly, I associate that kind of idiocy with James or Sirius more than you. You could have died, Remus!”

“That’s funny,” said Remus distantly. He accepted the mug, now filled with faintly steaming tea, from James. “Sirius said the same thing.”

It was pretty impressive, the way James and Lily managed to exchange glances despite the fact Lily was on eye level with James’ ankle. Remus wondered where she was, that she could spare James her attention, but not actually be present in person. Brewing potions, probably. Dorcas could only pilfer so much from St. Mungoes’ lab.

“He’ll get over it,” said James, just as Lily said, “He slept at our place last night, in case you were worried.”

Remus blew on his tea to avoid answering. He hadn’t been worried, exactly. It had been more likely than not that Sirius had gone to the Potters’, and more likely than not was better odds than Remus usually had for knowing where Sirius was. There were times Sirius disappeared for days, only to reappear with long blond hairs on his robe. Remus would wonder where Sirius had been, who Sirius had been. But he knew better than to ask.

“You really scared him, I think,” said Lily.

Remus blew on his tea, and then he gave Lily a long, steady look.

“It was four against one, Lily,” he told her. “You would have done the same.”

Lily was silent. She glanced quickly at James.

“All right,” she said, frowning. “You’re right.”

“Hopefully Sirius gets here soon,” said James grimly. His knife had moved on to chopping onions, now, and the potatoes were being dropped into a giant pot. “He’s responsible for the -.”

“Oh!” said Lily. “Didn’t I tell you? Marlene’s bringing that now.”

“She is? Then who’s - ”

“Dorcas,” said Lily. “And the Prewetts are bringing the pixie lights.”

“Oh, good. Speaking of, I’ve been meaning to ask Gideon about where he’s sourcing his screaming cabbages.”

Remus sat silently, letting the mug warm his hands as he listened to James and Lily talk. That was the miracle of Lily and James. Each, on their own, could be exhausting in their intensity. But. together, they created a closed loop, and Remus could float on that energy instead of needing to figure out how to respond to it.

He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knew, James was shaking him by the shoulder.

“Moony,” said James. Behind him, Remus could see that Lily had emerged fully from the flames. “Not that you don’t always cut a dashing figure, but the party’s starting soon. You might want to change.”

As he got up to go back to the bedroom, James stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

“You know he’s owled me four times today, asking how you are?”

“Has he?” said Remus. “And what did you tell him?”

“That you were sleeping.” James smiled and squeezed Remus’s shoulder. “And that you were our Moony, and that you’ve had worse, and that you’ll be fine.”

**

“Moony!” Peter was downstairs by the time Remus hobbled back down. His eyes were round and owlike as he took Remus in. “You look like shite,” he said.

Remus smiled. “It’s good to see you, too, Wormtail.”

Peter shook his head. “Can’t believe you went in without telling me,” he said, almost wistfully.

“You really wanted to be in that firefight?

“No, but I would have liked seeing you blast your way out.”

Remus snorted. “It wasn’t that impressive,” he said. He made his way towards the kitchen. He was starving. And he wanted a drink.

Peter followed.“Are you going to be up for the singing tonight?” He looked at Remus hopefully. “We should make it a tradition. It was nice, last year.”

Last year, thought Remus bleakly, when James had been lying bloodlessly pale in a bed at St. Mungo’s.

“Maybe,” said Remus. He nicked a bottle of firewhisky from the counter and handed it to Peter for safekeeping. “Or maybe the new tradition is grievous injuries. It’ll be you or Padfoot next year.”

He kept his voice light as he said ‘Padfoot.’ So far, Peter hadn’t given any indication he knew Sirius ran off in a strop the night before. Remus would like to keep it that way; he didn’t need every one of his friends to know every time he and Sirius argued.

“Haven’t you heard, Moony?” said Peter. “This time next year, we’ll have won.”

Remus laughed loudly. “You sound like Prongs.”

Peter just gave him an impish look and opened the bottle. He lifted it to Remus in a toast.

“To next year,” he said solemnly, his hand over his heart, “and victory. Or, failing that, Padfoot’s grievous injury.”

And then he drank.

“Hey, now,” scolded James, appearing suddenly behind Peter. He slapped Peter on the back as Peter spluttered. “We’re only allowed to plot Padfoot’s demise to his face. That’s the honorable thing to do.”

Peter made a face. “Where is he anyway?”

James glanced at Remus quickly, and just as quickly looked away. Remus was sure Peter caught the look anyway. But Peter, bless him, didn’t comment.

“You know Sirius,” said Remus. “He always likes to make an entrance.”

“But he loves parties. Unless he’s in one of his moods,” pressed Peter.

Remus made a noncommittal noise, and he was saved by further discussion by the arrival of the Prewetts.

“Lupin!” bellowed Gideon. He said everything at a bellow. He clapped Remus hard on the shoulders from behind and shook him. Lightly, for Gideon, but still enough to make Remus wince. “We heard all about yesterday’s stunt! Alice said it was six Death Eaters?”

“Only four,” said Remus. He disengaged from Gideon carefully. He sidled over to stand beside Peter, who offered him the firewhisky. James had disappeared -- though Remus thought he could hear him welcoming other Order members in the parlor.

“Only four,” repeated Fabian softly, standing, as usual, in his brother’s shadow. “Your legend grows by the hour.”

Remus smiled politely. He liked the Prewetts, but he wasn’t used to their attention. And he certainly wasn’t used to this kind of attention.

“He barely made it here,” said Peter with relish, clearly enjoying the role of storyteller. “Sirius found him passed out in the garden.”

Remus flashed him an annoyed look. He must have heard it from James, who must have heard it from Sirius.

“Who’s passed out?” said Marlene. “The party’s just started!”

Remus didn’t wait for the answer. He took the opportunity to slip away and retreated to the staircase. He sat down near the top and settled in to watch the party. Like most parties, it grew in a trickle, and then in a burst, until it seemed as if the entire Order was there. Remus spotted even Dumbledore’s silver head, a sprig of holly tucked behind one ear. Who would have thought the entirety of the resistance to Voldemort was being run out of a crumbling house in Leeds? So there was no Order business that night -- just music and light and laughter only just beginning to verge on hysteria.

He wondered sometimes if the Death Eaters ever gathered this way. It was odd to think of them as Death Eaters, as the enemy, when he remembered most of them as his classmates. They had been pale, skulking, unpleasant, even frightening on occasion, but he’d never have thought any of them capable of murder. It was hard to think of people you saw in the hallways on the way to class, that you ate almost all your meals with for years, as murderers. They were all mostly still skinny teenagers in his mind. They were all mostly barely done being skinny teenagers. Were they all sitting somewhere together, contemplating the turning of the year and hoping You-Know-Who knew what he was doing? Probably not. Probably that was the benefit of fanaticism.

Sirius certainly wouldn’t think so. Remus had brought up a similar thought once, in a roundabout kind of way, and Sirius had snapped, “Don’t be ridiculous. They’re monsters, Moony. I grew up with these people, remember?”

“So you’re including Regulus in that assessment, then?” Remus had asked, mainly because he had wanted to be cruel in that moment. It hadn’t felt as satisfying as he had hoped to watch Sirius’s face darken and fall.

His eyes scanned over the heads of the partygoers. There was still no Sirius. Not that Remus expected otherwise. He didn’t think it was his bias that made it seem like everyone paused whenever Sirius entered a room. He would have known if Sirius had arrived. But, still, knowing and hoping were different beasts. He sat down, leaning against the balustrade of the stairs. Someone would spot him there soon, he was sure, and either try to chase him off to bed or recount his heroics.

Then, out of the kitchen, stepped Sirius, shaking snow from his hair. Remus was gratified to see the way half the room seemed to bend towards Sirius, like grass in the teeth of the wind.

“Black! You’re late!” boomed Gideon.

“And you’re already pissed,” said Sirius, grinning. He clapped Gideon on the arm, hugged Fabian, nodded coolly at Caradoc Dearborn, gave Emmaline Vance a kiss on the cheek, threatened to do the same to McGonagall. Remus watched this all smiling, and, eventually, Sirius worked his way across the room to where James was pontificating at Lily and Peter.

Sirius’s shoulders relaxed fractionally then, not so much that anyone who didn’t know him well would have noticed. They were too far away for Remus to hear what they were saying, especially over the general hubbub of the room, but Remus could make out Sirius’s face clearly. Peter was talking to him, and Remus thought he saw Sirius say his name in response, the furrowed marks of a question on his face. James nodded and then looked around, frowning.

Sirius, as if he could feel Remus watching him, looked up.

Their eyes met. Slowly, Remus raised his hand. A greeting, if not quite a wave. James looked up then, too, and scowled at Remus. He made a gesture that clearly meant, ‘go back to bed!’ Remus made a gesture in response that even more clearly meant, ‘go fuck yourself.’

Sirius threw back his head and laughed, loud and ringing. The sound made Remus glad. There wasn’t any other way to explain it. It made him glad.

This time, when Sirius walked through the room, he didn’t stop to greet anyone. He kept his eyes on Remus.

 

“Is anyone sitting here?” said Sirius, once he’d climbed up the stairs.

“Just me,” said Remus.

They looked at each other for a long second, and then Sirius sat down beside him. The stairway was just wide enough to fit the both of them, and, even then, it was a snug fit. Remus didn’t mind. He leaned his head against Sirius’s shoulder. Sirius traced a pattern on Remus’s thigh. Remus shivered, breathed in Sirius’s scent of cigarette smoke and the cold.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Sirius in a low, soft voice.

He didn’t apologize for anything else. Remus didn’t apologize for anything at all. ‘Sorry I almost died,’ was no way to get through a war. Remus thought they could continue in this way for quite some time: neither ever apologizing and therefore neither ever having the upper hand of being right.

“It’s okay,” said Remus. He turned his hand palm up on his thigh, and Sirius knitted their fingers together.

“Peter wants to sing again,” said Sirius conversationally. “He’s sure you won’t be up for it.”

“And he’s tasked you with convincing me?”

Remus could hear the grin in Sirius’s voice when he responded. “Wormtail seems to think I have some kind of special pull with you.”

Remus laughed into Sirius’s shoulder.

“Well, you don’t have to pull anything,” he said. “I can manage it.”

“Maybe I want to pull something,” said Sirius innocently. Remus pinched him.

“Lecher,” he said fondly.

Sirius grinned and turned his head so that the point of his chin dug into Remus’s forehead.

“I told him you’d be fine. Wormtail should have more faith in you.”

“He’s just scared,” said Remus. “He’s looking for something to grab onto.”

Sirius was silent. It was a bruised and brooding silence. Remus was familiar, and so he knew to be patient.

“I went to the sea,” said Sirius eventually. “Today,” he added, though he didn’t need to; Remus understood.

“How was it?”

He felt Sirius’s shrug.

“I looked at the water and yelled a lot. I needed to get out of this...” He trailed off. He could have said any number of things: this house, this country, this war, this life, all of it increasingly claustrophobic.

Remus tried to picture Sirius on some chilly, gray beach, alone except for the waves and the shouting seabirds. He didn’t say: ‘I was worried about you.’ Sirius would just say something like, ‘How do you think I felt?’ and they’d be back to where they were last night.

“I wasn’t that hurt,” said Remus eventually. “I got out fine.”

Sirius breathed in sharply.

“But you could have been… Like James, last year…” Sirius clenched his jaw and looked away. He had a hard, handsome profile. His eyes shone.

“We knew what we were getting into.”

“Did we?” said Sirius.

“You’re not - ” started Remus. Sirius shook his head quickly.

“I just hope Dumbledore knows what he’s doing,” he said.

“Well,” said Remus dryly, “we’re all pretty well fucked if he doesn’t.”

Sirius didn’t laugh. He just stared down the stairs, eyes narrowed in a scowl. Then, abruptly, he turned to Remus.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he asked.

“And go where?”

Sirius kissed him. It was an abrupt and clacking kiss, all teeth and heat and desperation. Remus grabbed Sirius’s arm to steady himself, and then, as one, they were standing. They stumbled up the second flight of stairs to Remus’s room. They were through the door, and Sirius shepherded Remus to the bed - and immediately knocked his head against the slanted ceiling. He yelped.

“Fuck! Moony,” barked Sirius, his eyes wide. He jerked back, sitting on his heels and stared up at Remus. “Are you okay?”

Remus laughed, wincing, and cupped the back of his head. It was tender, but he would live. He sat down on the bed, a little breathless. Sirius hovered above him, his sleek, black hair already disarrayed, eyes wide and anxious.

“I’m okay.” He laughed again. “These damn ceilings.”

“Move in with me,” said Sirius suddenly.

Remus looked at him in surprise. Sirius had a flat in London, paid for with the money Sirius inherited from his uncle, Quidditch posters and Muggle novels, a terrace just large enough for two people to squeeze onto and have smoke together. Sirius was rarely there. He hated being alone.

“I mean it,” said Sirius, before Remus could answer. He surged upwards, nearly knocking Remus into the wall again, and tackled Remus onto the bed.

“Padfoot!” said Remus, laughing. “You’ve got to give me a chance to think about it.”

“Don’t think about it,” said Sirius. “Just say yes.”

“All right,” said Remus. He was still laughing. “Yes.” He kissed Sirius, missing his mouth and getting his jaw. “Yes.”

Sirius made a soft, melting noise and turned his face, kissed Remus deeply. He pushed at Remus’s robes.

“It’s all right,” said Remus soothingly, as Sirius paused once Remus’s robes were off. Sirius’s hands hovered over the angry red line that slashed its way diagonally across Remus’s body, from hip bone to shoulder.

“It just looks bad. It doesn’t hurt,” he added, lying. It at least didn’t hurt very much.

Sirius just scowled at him. Remus cupped his face, traced his thumb along the wing of Sirius’s brow.

“I’m in more pain after the moon,” said Remus, honest this time.

Sirius laughed roughly. “Oh, good,” he said.

Remus shook his head and pulled Sirius back to him, kissed him softly.

He hadn’t gone looking for a fight. He’d been tailing a Ministry employee on Dumbledore’s orders when the man had taken a turn down Knockturn Alley and a stifled cry had caught Remus’s attention - a witch, a Muggleborn he recognized vaguely from several years above him at Hogwarts, and three Death Eaters. Remus didn’t even think about it. He’d ducked behind a skeletal tree, the closest thing there was to cover, and cast Expelliarmus.

And that had been when the man he’d been following turned around, no longer wearing the face of a Ministry employee, but instead the snarling features of Rabastan Lestrange.

Remus didn’t have time to cast Protego before a red lash of light sailed from Lestrange’s wand and slashed Remus across the chest. As he’d scrambled out of the way of the next spell, Remus had thought it lucky that most Death Eaters were sadists in addition to being stupid. It would have been so much simpler for them just to kill him. His other thought, as the curse pulsed across his chest in a lacerating fashion, was that he was lucky to be so used to pain.

It wasn’t the only hit he took in that fight, but, at least the woman got away. After, he’d apparated to the safe house and stumbled past the protective hedge of holly and immediately passed out, face first, in the front garden, where Sirius had found him an hour later.

There wasn’t any apologizing for it. Sirius would have done the same, and Remus suspected that part of why Sirius had been so angry was because he’d known it.

And in Sirius’s kiss now, in the present, with Sirius’s hands on either side of Remus’s face, as he straddled Remus’s lap, Remus thought he could feel all of Sirius’s desperate, hopeless love and rage. There wasn’t anything Sirius could do to protect him.

There wasn’t anything Remus could do to protect Sirius, and so he kissed Sirius back with every matching ounce of fear and pain.

**

“You tricked me,” said Remus afterwards, into Sirius’s neck.

Sirius laughed, low and rumbling, the shape of it knocking through Remus’s own chest. He shifted, so that more of his weight was on top of Remus. His soft hair fell against Remus’s cheek.

“Tricked you into what?” he said softly, and his breath stirred his hair against Remus’s face.

“Into resting,” murmured Remus. He was already half-asleep, caught as he was beneath Sirius’s weight, in Sirius’s warmth.

“Oh, no,” said Sirius. “How terrible.”

Sirius sighed happily and shifted again, so that his head was now beside Remus’s. Remus turned his face and looked at Sirius. Sirius looked steadily back. His eyes were clear and gray; his expression, for once, serene.

“You’ll really move in with me?” said Sirius.

With tremendous effort, Remus lifted his arm and laid it along Sirius’s cheek. Dimly, he could hear the sounds of merrymaking rising from below, voices and laughter rising up like heat, filling the room like light.

“Yes,” said Remus, though he couldn’t be sure if it came out correctly. Half-asleep as he was, his own voice seemed to blur; it seemed to come from very, very far away.

**

He woke to darkness and cold. Sirius had slipped out of bed, he realized blearily. He groaned his displeasure and rolled into the warmth Sirius had left.

Sirius laughed somewhere above him, cheerful and low.

“Sorry, Moony,” he said.

“What time is it?” said Remus. The words were distorted by a hard yawn, but apparently still intelligible, because Sirius replied:

“I don’t know. Late? I think everyone’s left.”

“We missed the party,” said Remus, sitting up.

“It’s past four!” said James’s voice, from beyond the door. “But we’re still here!”

Sirius snorted. “So that’s what woke me up,” he said. He threw open the door, and James and Peter tumbled through, bringing with them a yellow slice of light.

“Typical,” sniffed James, surveying the room as he used Peter to right himself. His face was flushed. “Absolutely typical.”

“Shut up, Prongs,” said Remus and Sirius at once. They looked at each other and laughed, and Remus leaned over the side of the bed, groping for his jumper and pants. It wasn’t like Peter and James had never seen him naked before - they had, in all honesty, probably seen Remus naked more times than he could count - but a man still had to have his dignity.

“Ran off to shag,” said James mournfully. He shook his head. “Despicable.”

“S’all right, Prongs,” said Peter, slurring. He listed slightly under James’s weight. “Least they’re still here. You can tell us the good news!” He looked at Remus and Sirius and added, in a low, conspiratorial tone, “He told me had good news.”

“Yes!” cried James. We’re having a baby!”

With that, he propelled himself away from Peter and then sat down on Remus’s legs.

“Well, Lily is, I guess. But it’ll be both of ours once it’s born.” He laughed. “Can you believe it? I’m going to be a dad. I mean, it’s early days yet.” He laughed again. “I shouldn’t be telling you. Evans’ll kill me for sure.” He patted vaguely in the region of Remus’s stomach. “But you all can keep a secret. You won’t rat me out.” He gave Peter an apologetic look. “No offense, Wormy.”

“No,” said Peter solemnly. He slid down to the floor wobbily and sat there in a heap. “I’m offended.”

“Ah,” said James sorrowfully.

“Lily’s pregnant?” said Remus, stunned.

James laughed again, a little hysterically this time. “She is. Bloody awful idea, isn’t it?”

Remus didn’t respond. It was too close to what he was thinking. It would be one more person to worry about, someone else they could lose.

Peter hugged his knees.

“Merlin,” he said.

“You’ll name him after me, of course,” said Sirius, speaking finally. His voice sounded thick, and when Remus glanced at him, Sirius tilted his head down so that a curtain of hair obscured his face.

“Yes,” said James sincerely. “My firstborn. Good ol’ Fucknugget Potter.”

Sirius laughed raggedly. “Fuck, Potter. I can’t believe it. But, Merlin. I’m happy for you.”

“You don’t sound it.”

“I’m processing!”

“Congratulations,” said Remus, finding the right word at last. He squeezed James’s shoulder. “That’s incredible news. How are you feeling?”

James laughed wildly once more. “Happy,” he said. “Isn’t that mad? We’re too young. It’s terrible timing. We could die basically any minute. But I just…” He waved his hands vaguely, whatever emotion he felt too large or too vague to convey in words. “It makes me hopeful.”

“That’s good,” said Remus, after a pause. He rubbed James’ head fondly and tried to picture him as a father. It was easier than he thought it would be. Two years ago, it would have been possible. But James, of all of them, had somehow grown into the war, rather than been stunted by it.

“We should celebrate,” said Peter. He yawned. “But I think we already drank all the bubbling fizzers.”

“There were fizzers?” said Sirius, affronted.

James snorted. “You had your chance.”

“It’s Christmas.” said Sirius. “Have a heart. If you were a true friend, you would have saved me some.”

“That’s right,” said James. “It’s Christmas. Happy Christmas, you lot.”

They chorused the wish back at him, and then Peter said, a little too loudly, “So are we going to sing again?”

“Sing?” said James, and then, “Oh. Like you did last year?”

“Yes,” said Remus, feeling oddly embarrassed. Last year, it had felt necessary, a way to keep their minds off the direness of the situation. But this year it just felt silly: they were just four grown men, up far too late on Christmas morning, crowded into an attic. But:

“We should sing one,” said Sirius. He added, reluctantly, as if he hated to agree with Peter, and usually he did except when it was Peter agreeing with him, “It was nice last year.” He laughed ruefully.

“Okay,” said Remus. “All right. We’ll sing again.” He said the name of the carol, the Welsh syllables like trying on an old jumper - a little awkward, but they mostly fit.

“What’s it mean?” said James.

“It means…” Remus struggled for the right word and then settled on, “Dawn. Or, daybreak, really, I guess. The moment when you first see the light on the horizon.”

“And you sang this last year?” said James.

Remus nodded. “We were… waiting for you to wake up.”

James had been ambushed. No one had ever gotten more details than that; James’ memory of that entire day entirely gone by the time he woke up. It hadn’t been the first time any of them had wound up overnighting at St. Mungo’s, but it had been the first time Remus thought one of them might die.

He and Peter had spelled Lily and Sirius from their vigil, and Remus had thought tasking Sirius with getting Lily home would have kept Sirius from coming back to St. Mungo’s himself. He had been wrong. Sirius was back within the hour, and Remus hadn’t even put up a token protest.

They had sat in a flat and unnerving silence, broken only by James’ occasional wheeze. Remus hadn’t been used to being on this side of the hospital bed, and for the first time, he understood why his friends had undergone the trouble of becoming animagi. He would have done anything, in that moment, to never have to see James like this again.

To break the silence, he had said, “This sort of reminds me of when I was really young. There are - in Wales, there’s a traditional Christmas morning service that starts at three in the morning. You light candles and sing carols until it’s almost dawn.”

Hope had only brought him a few times, in the years immediately following the bite. He used to think it was a Muggle tradition, since it was something he shared only with his mum. But then he grew up and realized Muggle wasn’t synonymous with Welsh. But the memory stuck with him.

Sirius and Peter had absorbed this information without looking at Remus, and it had felt almost as if he hadn’t spoken at all. He’d sat there, feeling small and foolish, and then, slowly, Sirius had lifted his head and looked at him.

“Can you sing one of the carols?” he’d asked.

And, to the best of his memory, Remus had, and, eventually, to the best of their ability, Sirius and Peter had joined in.

“Do you even remember the words?” said Remus in the present.

“Absolutely not,” said Sirius cheerfully. He paused, scowled at James, who was now taking up most of the bed, and then sat on the floor beside the bed.

Remus sighed. “Peter, could you close the door?”

Peter complied, and Remus lifted his wand and waved it. Shimmering blue letters spilled from his wand and hung in the air, casting a scant, eerie light on the faces of his friends. They weren’t the proper words -- none of them, himself included, could actually read Welsh -- but it was the sounds of the words, spelled phonetically as best he could.

He sang. His voice sounded thready and thin to his own ears, but he kept the tune. It felt, for those long, several seconds that he sang alone, like holding a single, flickering candle against the darkness. And then the others joined in: Peter’s surprisingly pleasant light tenor, and Sirius’s warm baritone, and James, who could barely hold a tune, singing in the quiet cadence of a lullaby.

They sang the same song several times, a little surer with each rendition. It was like a spell itself, as if with every loop they wrapped themselves more tightly in a layer of protection. Remus didn’t know how long they sang for.

Strangely, as one, they knew when to end. There was no external cue, just a mutual sense that if they kept going, the power would diminish. They held a final note, and their voices lingered, resonant, and then seemed to fade like the slow pulling out of the tide, and then they were just in silence, in darkness, still at least two hours before the dawn.

“I don’t understand why it’s called daybreak,” said Sirius, after a moment. “It’s still dark.”

“Yes,” said Remus. He groped for Sirius’s hand and found it. He pressed down gently.“Sirius, that’s the point.”

End.