“Shh...shh. Sleep, Teddy, sleep. You don’t want to wake Mum up, especially since she gave you such a lovely meal just a half hour ago.”
Remus tried whispering in the most soothing voice he could muster. It was late and Dora really needed some sleep. Teddy squirmed in Remus’ arms as Remus lifted him from the cot and tried cradling him. Remus was still very unsure of the proper way to hold the baby. Teddy was only a few weeks old. But he was learning and Dora did need some more sleep.
Teddy seemed to like being picked up as he quieted down a little, but he was still whimpering a bit.
“I guess I should sing you a song, shall I?” said Remus. “How about a lullaby? You like those when Mum sings them to you. I think I might know one. I don’t even know how I learned it but I always wondered what mockingbirds looked like. Maybe you will learn someday and tell me, right, Teddy?”
Teddy stared at Remus. His eyes went from purple to blue to brown, matching Remus’ eyes.
“That’s a yes. All right. Here I go. I don’t have the best voice, mind. But you probably don’t care that much.”
Remus smiled at his son and softly began to sing.
“Hush little baby don’t say a word/Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”
Teddy make a content little noise and his eyes began to droop. His hair turned blue.
Remus smiled and rocked him. “See this isn’t that bad. Although why would you need a mockingbird?”
Teddy was looking at Remus again, eyes wide open again. Remus picked up the song.
“And if that mockingbird won't sing,/Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring turns brass,/Papa's gonna buy you a looking glass...”
Teddy began drifting into sleep. Remus kept singing very quietly, gazing at the little perfect face of his son. He had a son!
By the last verse, Teddy was asleep. Remus leaned in to put Teddy back into his cot and was thinking of getting some sleep himself, when he noticed a movement in the window from the corner of his eye. It took all his willpower not to drop Teddy and just throw a curse at whoever it might be. But his rational side prevailed. There were wards on the house and it was unlikely that a Death Eater has found them. If Teddy woke up again, however, his wife or mother-in-law would kill him for sure.
Remus slowly lowered his sleeping son into the cot and turned to look at the window. As he saw the person staring back at him he thought he must have fallen asleep himself, or maybe his overworked and tired brain was starting to hallucinate.
Because looking right back at him, with a small tentative smile, was the handsome face of Sirius Black.
It was not Sirius as Remus remembered him from two years ago, on the day Sirius fell into the Veil in front of him, which was one of the most horrible days of Remus’ life. Instead, it was Sirius as he was when they were young, just starting out to fight in the war. Sirius without Azkaban lining every pore of his body.
Remus pinched himself. Sirius, young looking Sirius, was still there, with a small faltering smile and slightly panicked eyes. Then Sirius waved at him. A tiny hesitant wave of his hand. And Remus knew that this was no illusion. For this uncertain Sirius was only known to him and James and Peter. If anyone was going to impersonate Sirius, they would go for brash. Even in his deepest dreams Remus rarely saw Sirius like this, shy and vulnerable. This Sirius had to be real.
Remus quietly tiptoed out of the room. Teddy keep sleeping. Wand firmly in hand, Remus carefully opened the back door in the kitchen and slipped out into the garden. Sirius was still standing close to the nursery window but he was facing Remus now.
“What are you?” asked Remus quietly as he came closer. He kept his voice low but it was firm and deadly. Sirius took a step back and flinched a little but quickly recovered. Sirius raised his hands to show that he had no evil intent and that he had no wand ready to blast too trusting souls to pieces.
“It’s me, Moony. It’s Padfoot. Please believe me. Look, I can explain.”
“Do it quickly,” said Remus. Once, long time ago, he and his school friends used their secret nicknames to make sure no one was impersonating them, trying to find information or get close to the Order. But that information was more widely disseminated now, ever since Harry Potter and his friends found their map. Ever since Peter escaped and helped He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named to come back. Snape, that murdering bastard, was also aware of those nicknames now, the ones Remus’ friends used only in the quiet of the Shrieking Shack and never, ever where others might overhear. Remus couldn’t relax his guard now as this Sirius probably hoped he would do.
Remus gripped his wand tightly, despite the wild beating of his heart and the need to get close to Sirius, an alive and breathing Sirius, and hold him as tight as he could.
“There was an accident. In the Department of Mysteries. In the Time Room. I was...it doesn’t matter. Now I’m here. I don’t know how. But you are here and you have to help me.” Sirius sounded a bit too calm for someone who just been in an accident but Remus could detect a slight edge of panic in his voice. Remus knew all of Sirius’ tells.
“Look, Moony, I don’t even know what year this is. By the looks of you, twenty-first century. Which is bonkers. Although maybe we should go to a concert or a club. Future music. Is punk still a thing?”
Remus let out a small unintended gasp and lowered his wand. He beckoned Sirius to follow him and led him to a shed not that far from the house. Sirius let out a breath and followed Remus.
“You believe me?” asked Sirius in a low voice as they walked through the wet grass.
“Long time ago you told me that if you ever appear unexpectedly and strangely but start asking about punk music, it was really you. To believe you and help you. And you told me that again, quite randomly a few years ago. I thought you were drunk.”
Sirius smiled and released a deep breath. “Huh. I get back then, I guess. Good to know. I should remember to tell you about ‘punk music.’”
“I hate time travel,” mumbled Remus.
“What year is it anyway? 2005 or something?”
“1998. April 30th.”
“Oh.” Sirius was silent for a minute. “Well, you look…”
“Like shit, I know. There is a lot going on. Best not to ask for details. You don’t want to mess with time too much. Plus, you know, werewolf. Not that great for the skin.”
Remus got to the shed and pulled open the door slowly, casting a silencing charm to make sure the door didn’t squeak. Once they both were inside and he pulled the door closed, he cast a spell over the shed so that no one could see or hear anything in it and lit his wand.
“You look great. I mean… I didn’t mean…” Sirius stumbled over his words, turned slightly red, grimaced and kept his eyes on the ground. Remus looked at him from the corner of his eye.
“You are from 1978 then or early ‘79,” he said.
Sirius looked up in slight surprise. “Yes. It’s late January ‘79 where I am. How did you know?”
Remus smiled but didn’t say anything. When he was young, he was oblivious about Sirius’ feelings for so long. Looking at the blushing and awkward Sirius now he couldn’t believe he was so dense about it. If Sirius hadn’t thrown caution to the wind and kissed him on a bitter cold February night in ‘79, Remus might never have even had a clue that his feelings were returned.
But this Sirius, Remus realized, didn’t know his feeling were returned either.
Sirius was standing a little too close. His eyes looked a little less scared but the undercurrent of terror was still there. Remus tried to put him a little at ease. If Remus was ever out of his time, he would be pretty terrified too.
“How did you end up here, anyway? I mean by this cottage. How did you find me?” he asked, hoping that Sirius could relax a little by recounting what happened.
To his surprise, Sirius blushed again.
“I just ended up here. By your window.” He said unusually quietly.
“But how? You can’t just accidentally travel almost twenty years into the future to randomly end up at my window?” said Remus.
“Not random, I guess. Just before it happened... And I can’t give you specific details on what happened. I’m sorry. But Department of Mysteries is strict about...” Sirius paused, glanced at Remus and then looked at the ground again. After a short pause he added, “But when it happened, I was thinking of you. Of what you would be like when you’re old.”
“Hey, I’m not that old. I just turned 38.” He paused, smiled and added, “You know, this would have been funnier if I was still 37.”
They both chuckled at the same time. One summer during their school days, all four of them met in London for a day, snuck out really. They went to the Muggle theater and saw “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Sirius loved it the most.
“Anyway, I’m not old.”
“I know. But that’s what I was thinking.” Sirius didn’t want to look up and Remus suspected that Sirius was giving him a sanitized version. After all, this Sirius was too young to know that they often talked of their future together, of what they would do if they actually got old. Remus’ heart squeezed uncomfortably. He tried focus on the Sirius in front of him. Besides, Remus doubted that he would live long enough to be truly old.
“So you are here. Now what?” Remus asked. “Can you get back or are you stuck here? Well, I do think you got back before in my time. Or will you be whisked back automatically after a certain period, or something?”
“I wish,” said Sirius. “I mean, I’m technically not stuck. There is a way to get back. There is a device in the Department of Mysteries to return a traveller to his time. We just have to go get it. I just don’t know enough about the future in your time here to be sure that everything is in its place.”
Remus frowned. He raised his hand to his neck and squeezed. He was trying to find the right words.
“What is it?” asked Sirius.
Remus looked at him.
“You are making your ‘I don’t want to tell you, it’s awkward’ gesture.”
Remus let his hand fall.
“We, kind of, can’t go to the Ministry for Magic right now. It’s not practical.’ He said. “Things going on. I’m sorry I have to be vague but I don’t want to influence your actions in the past. But right now, we just can’t. Also the Time Room was sort of destroyed a few years ago. There isn’t much left there.”
“Why can’t we just go check? Are you an outlaw? Have they cracked down on werewolves? Did…did He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named succeed? Oh, I know, I’m a Minister for Magic and wizards and witches won’t be able to handle two of me.” Sirius grinned but his face fell quickly. “You know about the Time Room?”
“I had visited Department of Mysteries a few years ago. Just, it’s not that simple, Sirius. Trust me. We can’t go there.”
Sirius was silent. He was thinking.
“Then I must have hidden the device somewhere else. If I got back with the knowledge that it can’t be in the Ministry. Then I hid it. I’m sure. Maybe I gave it to you?”
“I really hate time travel,” said Remus and started thinking if Sirius ever gave him something to keep, to guard, to preserve for the future. And then he realized why this would be impossible.
“I don’t think so.” He paused again trying to find the right words. “You see, a few years from your time period, something happened. You...went away and I sort of destroyed a lot of your things or left them behind. When...when I moved.”
Remus remembered having this conversation with Sirius a few years ago when they both moved to Grimmauld Place and started to live together again. Or rather Sirius never asked if Remus kept anything from their youth, and when Remus volunteered, Sirius didn’t seem surprised. Now Remus realized why.
“And by destroying my stuff…”
“Set it on fire.”
“Wow, you must have been really mad at me. What did I do?”
“It was a misunderstanding. But at the time I was mad. Can we not talk about it? I dwell enough on the past.”
“Right,” said Sirius. “So I didn’t give it to you or tell you where I hid anything, right?”
Remus shook his head in agreement.
“But I must have stashed it somewhere where I can find it but you wouldn’t destroy it during whatever it was. Are you sure I didn’t tell you later? Or do we not talk now?” Sirius blanched as he asked the last question as if this idea, which just occurred to him, was the most horrible thought he ever had.
“We did.” Remus closed his eyes. Opened them and tried again. “We didn’t talk for some time but then we were ok.”
“And now? Are we friends?” Sirius asked and Remus’ heart broke. He didn’t know how to tell him. So he changed the subject.
“But I don’t remember you ever telling me to look for something or where you might hide anything, even when you told me about punk music.”
“Right,” said Sirius. It was clear that he wanted to push Remus on his question avoidance but thought better of it. “So where would I have put it, a safe place that you wouldn’t ransack.”
Sirius started chewing his lip, thinking. Pain rose unbidden in Remus’ chest and in his stomach, together with an impulse to kiss him to stop Sirius from his bad habit.. It was all the little things and habits he wasn’t even aware of that he missed about Sirius.
“What about Hogwarts?” asked Sirius.
“Also a little tricky to go to now,” said Remus.
Sirius frowned, “This future is less appealing by the minute.”
Remus was about to agree but then he thought of Teddy.
“And the Shrieking Shack?”
Remus thought furiously. “That might work,” he said. “The only person to really go to that place since we graduated was you, barring a few visitors. But they were distracted. Yes. It is worth a try.”
“And if I get back, then that is where I left it. Time travel logic. We can go through Hogsmeade if Hogwarts is ‘tricky’.”
“Hogsmeade is crowded with Dementors. But I know a way.”
“It’s what?!!!” Sirius spoke loudly and Remus was never happier with his Silencing Charm. He still shushed him just in case.
“Never mind. Just follow me,” said Remus and opened the shed door.
Remus walked carefully to the edge of the property, felt a shiver when he passed various defensive wards and then offered his hand to Sirius.
Sirius stared at it.
“Hold on for Side-Apparition. It will be easier than explaining where I want to Apparate to.”
Sirius slowly took Remus’ hand and exhaled. Remus held his hand, so different than Remus remembered, less calloused, less tight when gripping him, almost tentative, and closed his eyes to concentrate. He didn’t want to Splinch them just because his mind was overwhelmed just with this small contact between them.
A dark tunnel and they emerged on the edge of the Forbidden Forest where the Hogwarts boundary ended but where Remus knew no Hogsmeade alarms could be tripped. There were no alarms for creeping into the village without magic. Remus met with Aberforth this way in the past when he didn’t want to send his Patronus.
Remus realized that he was still holding Sirius’ hand. Sirius didn’t immediately let go as if he was savoring the moment. As soon as Sirius noticed that Remus was watching him, he let go, and Remus felt like his hand was missing something almost at once.
He motioned to Sirius and started walking carefully in the direction of the village, making sure they would emerge at the village boundary, close to the Shrieking Shack. With any luck, there would be no patrols nearby.
They stayed quiet and walked carefully. Remus was relieved not to feel any dark thoughts that would indicate any Dementors nearby.
There was an entrance to the Shack if one snuck around the proper fence and there was a hidden door on the side that looked like a wall but could be opened with a regular key, not by magic. They both knew where it was, that emergency exit, and they made good time. Remus did not relax, however, until they were inside.
He closed the door behind him and only then cast a Silencing Charm and said, “Lumos.”
His wand illuminated the dreary hall. The place looked even more abandoned than ever.
“Wow. This place has gotten even more creepy.” said Sirius, looking around. “Why would I be visiting it?”
Remus didn’t answer. He looked around but realized he didn’t know what he was even looking for.
“Your device? What does it look like?” he asked Sirius.
‘Like a little hourglass. Maybe two inches tall. But don’t cast Accio or anything. It would break.”
“Well, where would you hide it?”
“Upstairs in the main bedroom.”
Remus raised his eyebrows. That reply was a little too fast.
Sirius smiled out of the corner of his mouth. “It’s where I would hide it, so I probably did. There is a little cubby hole close to one wall, where I used to stash food and some - magazines - to pass the time while we waited in the mornings on the full.” He blushed again.
Remus smiled too and led his way down the hallway toward the rickety stairs to the upper floor. He didn’t know about it. But he was too busy trying to keep his insides from spilling out on the mornings after the full moon. And he never went inside this place when he didn’t have to.
“So how long have you been married?”
Remus looked back toward Sirius and saw him looking at his wedding ring.
“Since July,” he said, choosing to leave out the time he nearly left.
“That’s not that long ago. And that’s your kid?”
“Yes. Teddy. Edward. We named him after Tonks’ father.”
“Tonks. Wait? Do you mean Nymphadora?”
“Are you kidding? My little cousin. She’s a child.” Sirius’ voice went higher again.
“She grew up.”
“She’s much younger than you.”
“She made me want to live again after...Nevermind. She’s good to me even if I’m not always the best husband.”
“I see.” Sirius said, and Remus knew that he really didn’t understand. He could hear disappointment in his voice.
“Well, I guess we are related then, by marriage.” Sirius put on his fake cheerful voice now and Remus’ insides churned like he just survived another transformation. “That’s nice in a way. Was I at your wedding?”
They got to the top and entered the room. Sirius looked more dejected than ever and Remus couldn’t stand it anymore.
“You died. I’m sorry. But I can’t let you think that I would just marry someone else if you were still alive. But you died. And Tonks was comfort and sweetness and she gave me hope. I wanted to be good to her.”
Sirius stopped breathing for a minute and closed his eyes. “I think I knew. When you were avoiding my question before. Don’t tell me how I die or when. I still want some surprise left.”
“So you said.”
Sirius was staring at him now, brow frowning and Remus knew what he would ask next. He could see that Sirius was trying really hard not to get his hopes up.
“You wouldn’t marry someone else if I was alive? What did you mean by that? Why not?”
Remus came a little closer. It was not often when one could confess feelings and see the sun rise in the other’s person’s face more than once.
“I was in love with you. We were in love. We were together before you died.”
Sirius couldn’t speak for almost two minutes, which was a feat in itself.
“We were in love. You’re not just mocking me?”
“I wouldn’t do that. It wasn’t always good or happy…”
“Like when you set my things on fire.”
“Yes. But we were happy in the end. I carry it with me.”
Sirius moved. He moved quickly and before Remus could even register his intent, Sirius’ mouth was on his and his arms were on his shoulders. Sirius pulled him in and didn’t hold back.
Remus got lost in it for a few moments. This was Sirius. Not his Sirius, tired, weary, often drunk and worried, in whose arms Remus could find the precious shelter from the storm, but Sirius still. All tongue and no finesse, Sirius who was still figuring out who he was with all the future stretched across from him.
He pulled back though, even as his whole body just wanted to keep kissing him, even as it demanded that he lose any barriers between them and just be. But this was his past, not his present.
Remus held on to Sirius’ hands on his shoulders. They were both breathing heavy. Sirius tried to get closer again.
“I can’t, Sirius. I’m married.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Does she know about me, about us? In your past, I mean.”
“She does. She understands.”
Sirius let go. He was still agitated and started to pace the room. Then he moved close to Remus again and Remus thought that if Sirius would kiss him again Remus wouldn’t be able to stop. But Sirius didn’t kiss him, just stood close and took his hand.
“What happens, Moony? Tell me. I can change things. Change the future. I could avoid dying. Avoid even that time where you were mad at me. Tell me one thing. Change it. I can see that things are hard here. He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named wins, right? Tell me how I can stop it. For us.”
And Remus wanted to. He wanted to tell him about Peter, about trusting Remus not being a spy, about the Department of Mysteries. He wanted desperately to be standing here with his Sirius, the one who didn’t die with that surprised look on his face. It was on the tip of his tongue.
But then Teddy’s face came to his mind’s eye with his changing hair and eyes, and his cute little chin. He couldn’t. He couldn’t trade his personal happiness or even the fate of the whole world for Teddy. Teddy had to exist and live and thrive. Remus would make sure of that.
“I can’t,” he said instead, squeezing Sirius’ hand. “I wish I could.”
“Is this really the world you want to live in? With Dementors in Hogsmeade?”
“Yes. It’s the world that has my son in it.”
Sirius closed his eyes. They didn’t speak.
“Tell me one thing,” Sirius finally said. “When I get back, do you already love me then?”
Remus smiled tenderly. “Oh yes. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t.”
“Good,” said Sirius. “I’m assuming I will make a move on you soon then. If I get back.”
Sirius finally let go of Remus’ hand, only to draw him in for a hug. They held each other for more than a minute.
The little hourglass was exactly where Sirius thought it was going to be. It was a tiny little thing with green sand.
After a last smile at him, Sirius turned the hourglass. And then, in a blink, he was gone.
Remus sat down on the bed.
In less than two weeks in Sirius’ time, Sirius would make a move. He would catch Remus by surprise and kiss him with perfect confidence. And they would be happy for a while. But then the war would catch up to them, distrust would set in, and, despite knowing some of the future, Sirius would begin to doubt him.
At least some puzzles solved themselves now. Sirius did tease him about Dora’s crush on him, with sort of wistfulness in his eyes. And he made him promise to move on if anything ever happened to him.
Remus knew that he did the right thing. He wanted to change the past so many times. Not anymore. There were more lullabies to learn. He wanted to be a better husband, the man Dora knew he could be. And he needed to fight for his son’s future whatever the outcome. This day was a gift and he would cherish it.