The Wrong Grate
Trying hard to bear all this in mind, Harry took a pinch of Floo powder and walked to the edge of the fire. He took a deep breath, scattered the powder into the flames, and stepped forward; the fire felt like a warm breeze; he opened his mouth and immediately swallowed a lot of hot ash.
"D-Dia-gon Alley," he coughed.
It felt as though he was being sucked down a giant drain. He seemed to be spinning very fast - the roaring in his ears was deafening - he tried to keep his eyes open but the whirl of green flames made him feel sick -something hard knocked his elbow and he tucked it in tightly, still spinning and spinning - now it felt as though cold hands were slapping his face - squinting through his glasses he saw a blurred stream of fireplaces and snatched glimpses of the rooms beyond - his bacon sandwiches were churning inside him - he closed his eyes again wishing it would stop, and then…
Harry fell, landing on the ground roughly. His glasses hit the ground and snapped. Harry, now with blurry vision, sat up, holding his broken glasses in his hands. He had no idea where he was, but he could see enough of his surroundings that he could tell he was not in Diagon Alley.
Footsteps echoed and Harry could see a blurry figure enter the room.
“Are you okay?” a male voice asked.
“I'm sorry,” Harry apologised, scrambling to his feet. “I didn't mean to Floo here. I was trying to get to Diagon Alley.”
“No harm done,” the man said, then added, “Do you need me to fix your glasses?”
“Um, okay,” Harry agreed and held out the broken frames.
The man said a spell that Harry faintly recognised as the same one Hermione had used the previous year to fix his glasses. Now that they were fixed, Harry slipped his glasses on and looked at the man with caution.
“Um, where am I?” Harry asked, looking around.
“This would be my home,” the man explained, smiling slightly.
“Oh,” Harry replied. He felt awkward at the way the man was staring at him, seemingly trying to absorb everything about him.
Harry cast his eyes toward the floor, regretful of his celebrity status. At least the man had not asked to see his scar yet.
“Seeing as I know you, but you don't know me, I should probably introduce myself,” the man said. “I'm Remus Lupin.”
Harry looked up again, but the man was at the stove now, warming a kettle of water for tea. Harry studied him now that Lupin was not staring at him.
Remus Lupin was wearing ragged robes and looked exhausted, as if he hadn't slept in days. He was pale, thin, and almost sickly looking. His appearance startled Harry.
Remus turned and caught Harry's gaze. Their eyes met for one long second, but then Harry flushed, embarrassed at being caught staring, and looked away.
The man chuckled softly at this, but did not comment. Instead, he asked, “Whom were you travelling to Diagon Alley with?”
“The Weasleys,” Harry replied.
“Molly and Arthur?” Remus questioned.
“Ah, they're a good family,”
“You know them?” Harry asked, curious about just whom this man was.
“Oh yes. I knew them well. I used to baby-sit for Molly when I was much younger. Me and a few friends of mine,” Remus replied, avoiding Harry's eyes.
Remus set a cup of tea in front of an empty chair and invited Harry to sit down.
Harry sat, feeling comfortable with this man now, though he had only known him a few minutes.
“I, uh,” Remus started, sounding awkward.
Harry looked up at him. “What?”
Remus opened his mouth, then closed it before shaking his head. “Nothing. We should get you back. They'll be worrying about you,”
“Oh. Right,” Harry agreed. He stood up. His tea was still untouched and Harry stared at it for a moment, wondering why he had even been given it. It seemed the man had been hoping he would stay longer than this.
“I don't have any Floo powder, I'm afraid. I'll have to Apparate you to Diagon Alley,”
“Apparate?” Harry repeated the strange word.
Remus nodded. “It's another form of transportation. You'll learn it in sixth year,”
“Okay,” Harry agreed.
Remus led the way out of his kitchen and outside. He lived in a forested place, Harry noted. There were no roads leading to the house at all. It was as if Remus was purposely secluding himself from the world.
“You'll have to hold onto my arm. It might be a bit disorienting,” Remus warned, holding out his arm for Harry to take.
Harry grabbed Remus' arm, and then, Remus turned on the spot and Apparated.
Harry felt as if he were being squeezed through a too small tube, but it only lasted a few moments, and then he was standing in the middle of The Leaky Cauldron with Remus. People paused to stare at them but then went back to their own business. Remus directed Harry through the pub into the back. With a tap of his wand, he opened the wall and they walked through together.
Harry scanned the alley, which was full of shoppers. When he spotted a mob of red hair, he pointed them out to Remus. “There's the Weasleys,”
Remus nodded. “I'll just leave you here then,” he said, his voice suddenly sounding a bit bitter.
Harry looked at him curiously but Remus only smile sadly at him. “Goodbye, Harry,” he said.
Harry nodded farewell and started down the street, easily catching up to the Weasleys.
Remus stared after the son of his best friend, conflicted. As a werewolf he had been rejected custody of the boy, though he had fought for it. In the end, he had even been banned from ever seeing the boy. Remus had struggled to not reveal his connection to Harry. That would not be allowed, no matter how much Remus wanted it.
It was wistfully that Remus stared at Harry, who stood chatting to the youngest Weasley boy and a frizzy hair girl, probably about his recent adventure. Once they all turned and disappeared off down the streets, Remus sighed and turned back to the Leaky Cauldron, wondering if he would ever see Harry again, even if just a glimpse.
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