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You Only Live Twice

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The first thing he heard was his mother’s lilting voice in the distance. Just out of reach, as always. He rolled over, intending to chase the dream back into unconsciousness when he smelled laverbread. Which was impossible. He hadn’t had a full Welsh breakfast since—well. 

Remus forced his eyes open and his body slightly more upright, taking in his surroundings. Twin bed flush against the old window, despite the chill, because he loved the view of his mother’s garden. Two shoddy bookcases exploding with novels and old textbooks alike. A small desk where he wrote to his friends and diligently prepared his summer assignments. A Bowie poster Sirius had given him for Christmas and a handful of photographs of his friends stuck to the wall.

It was all... exactly how he remembered it. Which was, once again, impossible. He hadn’t been in this room some twenty years.

But something had happened. Something unfathomable and crazy and completely, utterly impossible. And yet here he was in his childhood bedroom, with his mother’s voice drifting from the kitchen. Was it more than a mere dream?

His hands flew to his torso, sliding under his oversized T-shirt to catalog his scars. Many familiar raises, welts, and punctures were there. Others... conspicuously absent. And his body felt, well, it felt more whole, as of yet untouched by age and destitution. The transformation had worked. His decades of memories remained intact, but his body was firmly fifteen.

Shell-shocked, Remus made his way to the kitchen and found her over the stove, frying up laverbread and bacon.

“Mam,” he croaked, tears pricking his eyes. Hope turned around and her smile was just as he remembered: warm and reaching out across her tanned face, creating the little crow’s feet that he had always loved.

“My darling boy,” she greeted him, rising up on her tip-toes to smooth his rumpled hair, “be a lamb and set the table, would you? Your father should be out of the shower any moment.”

He nodded mutely but his body stayed rooted in place, refusing to put any distance between himself and his mother. She raised an eyebrow at him, asking, “What’s this, then? Still half-asleep, are you?”

“Just happy to see you,” he smiled softly, pulling her into a quick hug. Her laughter echoed through his ribs as she wrapped her strong arms around him.

“You’re a charmer, you are,” she chuckled, drawing back. “Now get to it! Table’s not going to set itself.”

He huffed a laugh and turned away, heart soaring up out of the kitchen and into the clouds above.

Lyall sat down at the table a few minutes later, nodding gruffly at them as he shook open the Daily Prophet. Remus snuck a glance at the front page, checking the date: August 18th, 1975. There were two weeks until the school term started: fifth year, the calm before the storm—back when they all thought they couldn’t be touched, that their adolescence would stretch on forever.

Remus knew better now, although a part of him longed for those delusions. He’d take any time he could siphon away with the people he loved. For the next two weeks, he soaked up his mother’s easy laughter and tender presence. He sat with her often while she puttered about in the garden, her with a trowel and him with a different book every day.

All he could do was wait for September 1st.

 

 

Remus fiddled with the frayed sleeves of his jumper. He’d gotten to the station early, alight with anticipation, even as he kissed his parents goodbye. Now he sat in their usual compartment, knees drawn up and hugged in close to his chest. This was the same compartment he’d shared with not only his fellow Marauders for seven years but with Harry and his friends during his short tenure as a Hogwarts professor. It was strange, being a teenager again. In the weeks since his arrival in this timeline, he had felt the emotions and thoughts of his fifteen-year-old self come flooding back. Thankfully, they were tempered by the broader perspective granted by his lived experience as an adult. 

Lost in his thoughts, he was startled back to the present by the slam of the compartment door as his three oldest friends in the world burst through, fresh-faced and startlingly young. Sirius’s grey eyes were bright with excitement, with no trace of the shadows that Remus remembered after his many years in Azkaban, and his dark hair was still in the process of growing out, soft waves not yet brushing his shoulders.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t our resident swot.” Remus's heart leaped at the familiar aristocratic drawl.

“What’d you expect, Sirius? I bet our Remus is just jonesing to get back to a real library. Textbooks alone cannot sustain him for an entire summer.” James winked at Remus and grasped his forearm, drawing him up and into a firm embrace. He folded his arms around James in return, marveling at the feeling of his friend, alive and well.

“I’ll have you know that I didn’t even finish the Standard Book of Spells, Grade Five,” Remus quipped reflexively.

“A technicality, surely,” Sirius scoffed as he pushed James out of the way, wrapping his arms around Remus. A low voice in his ear, “Don’t think I didn’t notice you squirreling away with Frank’s old copy last term. You’re the biggest swot I’ve ever met, Remus Lupin.”

Remus flushed and chuckled, “Get off me, you menace.”

“H-hey Remus,” Peter smiled as he reached up to tentatively pat Remus on the back. Whatever Sirius and James lacked in regard for personal space, Peter made up for in spades. It was just as well too; while Remus knew that the boy who stood before him wasn’t the man who had betrayed his family in the original timeline, it might have been difficult to reconcile in just one day.

Peter smiled with his lips firmly pressed together, still self-conscious of his buck teeth. Remus smiled back at him tentatively, taking in his dusty blonde hair, open face, and ruddy complexion. He was just a boy, Remus reminded himself.

They settled into their compartment, Sirius throwing his legs over Remus’s lap and beginning a steady stream of chatter about their summer escapades (Peter had accidentally dyed his mother’s kneazle flamingo pink), possible pranks for the new term (what about dying the hair of all Slytherin fifth years instead?), and as always: girls.

“All I’m saying is that I think I have a real shot this year!” James argued with a cocky grin. He pushed up his shirt sleeve and flexed his wiry, brown arms for effect.

“Maybe in your dreams, mate!” Sirius laughed. “Evans doesn’t seem the type to be swayed by good looks alone.”

“So you admit I am good looking?” James teased, waggling his thick eyebrows.

“I think you’re reading too much into it, James,” Remus smirked. He felt Sirius’s laughter reverberate through his body, now leaned against his side. “Besides, Lily’s much too good for you.” 

“That’s true,” James sighed, a dreamy expression stealing over his face. Then he turned to Remus and clutched his chest with dramatic flair. “But Remus, are you suggesting I give up on true love? I think not! I’d spend the rest of my days pining from afar before I let your cynicism bring me down!”

“It’s okay, James,” Remus smiled slyly. “You don’t have to listen to me. What do I know? I’m just a realist.”

At James’s squawk of indignation, Peter lost it. His giggles filled the compartment, and soon the other Marauders joined in as well.

James lifted up his wire-rimmed glasses to wipe at his eyes. Grinning, he said, “Remus, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I think I can imagine,” Remus said dryly even as a smile stole over his face. Oh, how he’d missed this, missed being with them.

“But really,” James leaned forward. “Don’t you think I have a chance with Lily this year? I have a whole ten-step plan!”

“Oh lay off it, James,” Sirius laughed. “Lily may have ‘flaming locks of auburn hair’ but she’s not worth it! How about Marls? She’s a right laugh.”

Remus started humming Jolene under his breath as the others bantered, catching Peter’s eye with a smirk as he finished the first verse. It had become a running joke among the three long-suffering friends when they first heard Dolly’s hit single. Lily matched the description of ‘Jolene’ almost perfectly with her “ivory skin and eyes of emerald green.”

Sirius caught the idea, turning from James to begin singing in earnest, slipping into his role as James’s jilted girlfriend while Remus played Lily. James groaned in exasperation at his friend’s antics. He’d been subjected to many such performances since the song had been released in fourth year. 

James cleared his throat loudly and pointedly checked his watch before glancing at Remus. “Don’t you have somewhere to be, Mr. Prefect?” 

“James, no!” Sirius complained as Remus wriggled out from his clutches and shot out of his seat. “Why did you have to remind him?”

Remus didn’t stick around to hear the answer; he flew through the door and down the hall to the meeting.

 

 

As the majority of students sat down to eat in the great hall, Remus scanned the room. Surely, he should have seen her by now.

The first years lined up for the Sorting Ceremony. Professor McGonagall stood by the hat and four-legged stool wielding her parchment of names.

“Before we begin, I’d like to introduce a new student. She'll be entering her fifth year, although she has not studied with you all previously. I hope you’ll give her a warm welcome to Hogwarts,” McGonagall pursed her lips as she scrutinized the student body.

“Hermione Longbottom," she called and Hermione stepped out of the shadows. She towered above the first-years as she made her way to the Sorting Hat. It barely touched the top of her head before shouting, "Gryffindor!"