Remus would remember the night after Harry was born as the last night that everything was right with the Marauders. The war was upon them and they had already lost friends and colleagues in the Order, but the Marauders were together. It was true that things weren’t quite as they’d always been – James was becoming every more anxious about impending fatherhood, while Sirius was increasingly unreliable and erratic, Peter was making snide comments about Sirius and James when they weren’t around, while Remus was drinking far too much to calm the chaos inside. But tonight Remus could put it all out of his mind as they celebrated with a couple of bottles of firewhisky in the sitting room of the house at Godric’s Hollow.
Remus had gone to see Lily and James and their newborn son at St Mungos. Sirius was there already, beaming almost as much as James. Peter was there as well, holding an oversized toy niffler.
“Look at him, Moony. He has tiny fingers.”
Sirius’s voice was hushed, filled with wonder. There was a light in his eyes that Remus hadn’t seen in some time. It reminded Remus of a much younger Sirius, his face alight with mischief and delight, standing on his bed and waving his arms with an enthusiasm that Remus knew would probably result in detention. It was the look he’d had when he’d told them about his idea to prank the Slytherins with an itching jinx on their Quidditch robes, or the time one of the Hufflepuffs lent him a Sex Pistols record and he spelled his hair to look like Johnny Rotten and his school shirt into a Union Jack tee, or when he showed them the charm he’d created to make copies of “Seeker’s Weekly” look like History of Magic textbooks.
“Moony, I held him. He’s so small. Look.”
Sirius had grabbed Remus’s arm and pulled him closer to the bed where Lily lay with the baby in her arms.
“What’s his name?” Remus asked, looking down at the blotchy red face and the tuft of dark hair. Already like his father.
“Harry James,” Lily replied, a small smile on her lips.
Remus glanced across at James, who was sitting in a chair on the other side of the bed. He looked nearly as tired as Lily.
“Lily vetoed any traditional Potter names,” Sirius said.
“Thankfully,” Peter added.
“What, you don’t think he looks like a Fleamont, or a Hardwin?” James said with a look at Remus. He sounded like he couldn’t summon much effort for joking, even though he’d been the one poring through the Potter family tree for ever more horrible names to suggest to Lily. Remus suspected he’d made up half of them.
“Hello, Harry,” Remus said, looking down at the baby but not reaching out to touch him. That felt wrong, as if he might contaminate this innocent, new life.
“Do you want to hold him?” Lily asked.
Remus backed away.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t want to disturb him. He looks so peaceful.”
“You must, Moony,” Sirius said, pushing him forward again. “We all have.”
“And Marlene was here before. We practically had to prise him from her grip,” Lily said. “Go on, Remus.”
Lily lifted Harry slightly and Sirius arranged Remus’s hands and arms until Lily was satisfied. One hand was under the tiny boy’s head, another under his body. He almost seemed to fit completely in Remus’s large hands. And then Lily’s hands were gone and Remus felt as if he couldn’t breathe.
“There you are, Remus. You’ve got him.”
Remus just stood there, not moving, as if he’d been petrified. He stared down at Harry, noticing that his eyes were half open and that he was opening and closing his mouth slightly. Remus held him a few moments longer before passing him back to Lily. She gave Remus a kind smile, but Remus noticed a glance between Peter and James. He chose to ignore it.
A medi-witch came bustling in soon after Remus had handed Harry back.
“You should be resting young lady, not entertaining your…”
The medi-witch scanned the room, taking in first the respectable-looking Peter, then Remus in a tatty jumper with holes in it and then Sirius with his long hair, leather jacket and ripped jeans.
“… –friends,” she said, distaste in her voice.
“And you,” she continued, looking at James. “You need to go home and get some sleep. Merlin knows, it may be the last decent night’s sleep you get for some time.”
Sirius had taken James home on the back of his motorbike, while Peter and Remus had apparated back to Godric’s Hollow. Somehow, they all knew it was pointless to send James home alone to sleep. He was tired, but he was clearly not going to sleep.
Sirius poured James a firewhisky and sat him down on the sofa.
“Drink,” he said, and James obediently downed the contents of his glass.
“We should do a toast,” Peter said.
“Right,” Remus replied, grabbing more glasses and handing them around. Sirius poured firewhisky into each.
“To James Fleamont Potter,” Peter said. “Congratulations on being a Dad.”
They all raised their glasses, then drank.
“To Lily,” James said, “for making me the happiest man alive. Again.”
They raised their glasses and drank again.
“To Harry,” Sirius said. “With his his teeny, tiny hands and feet. And the cutest little nose.”
They drank again.
“To Sirius,” Remus said, thinking of the man he’d seen at the hospital, the best version of Sirius, the one who made him feel that everything was going to be alright, “who’s going to be the best bloody Godfather ever.”
Then James toasted his parents, who had died a couple of years back, and Remus toasted Lily’s parents, who had died in suspicious circumstances less than a year ago, and the mood shifted. The deaths of Lily’s parents had come at the same time as the deaths of several other muggle families with magical connections. It wasn’t clear that they had been murdered by Death Eaters, but it wasn’t clear that they hadn’t either. Then Sirius toasted the Prewitt brothers and they all began to toast Order members they had lost.
“What the fuck am I doing?” James said suddenly, in a quiet pause as they remembered a muggle family whose names nobody could remember, who had been murdered less than a week ago. Once, Remus had memorised the name of every person killed by the Death Eaters, but it wasn’t just because he’d drunk too much that he couldn’t remember their names. There were just too many now.
“You’re drinking, Prongs,” Peter said.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Sirius said, raising his glass and taking another gulp, but James didn’t even glance at them.
Remus stood, wobbling only slightly, and walked across to pick up the bottle. He topped up James’s glass, then his own, then checked to see if Sirius or Peter wanted more. After topping them up as well, he put the bottle down and weaved back to his seat.
“What the fuck am I doing, Moony? Bringing a child into this world? This dangerous, fucked up world. What kind of life will he have?”
“He’ll have a great life, Prongs. He’s got you for a Dad and Lily for a mother. He’s got Sirius for a Godfather and Marlene for a godmother. He’s got Peter and me. He’s got…”
“He’s got the Marauders,” Sirius said. “He’s got the four of us. No child could want for anything when he’s got the Marauders behind him. We’ll be there to watch and protect him when he’s small. When he’s a teenager, we’ll be there to help him get into trouble – just enough – and then get him out of trouble when he needs it. Prongs will dote on him, Wormy will spoil him rotten, Moony will be sensible and kind, and I’ll teach him to play Quidditch.”
Sirius was in full flight now. He’d stood and then climbed onto the armchair he’d been sitting in. It was a little soft to stand on and he was wobbling alarmingly, spilling the firewhisky from his glass. But he’d grabbed the bottle as well, so he began drinking directly from that.
“He’s going to have a great life. It’s going to be amazing. We will have so much fun with him and he’ll be the happiest boy alive because he’s got us. He’s got the Marauders!”
“To the Marauders,” James said, his dark moment forgotten, swept away by Sirius’s passion.
“To the Marauders,” Peter said, standing and then drinking the rest of his glass.
“To the Marauders,” Remus said, as if he meant it, as if he was sure that everything would be fine.
Tonight, he would pretend that it was.