Never had anyone looked so lost in their own home before.
Remus Lupin looked around at the chairs and the tables and the clocks and the photographs as if they were foreign to him, as if they were a code he had to decipher. Face haggard, he slumped down on the sofa, pressing his long, shaking fingers to his closed eyelids as tears slipped from beneath them and snaked down his pale face. The fire in the grate burnt low and tired, flames flickering about the wood half-heartedly, like they'd want nothing more than to die out slowly into ashes, and a puff of annoyed sparks flew out suddenly, spraying the threadbare carpet with soot.
Face pinched and blotchy, Remus stood, breathing shallow, knelt in front of the temperamental fire and threw a weak handful of Floo Powder into the flames, wincing as they flared up green. He spoke in a hoarse, cracking voice.
The fire cleared to show a homely looking living room, and Remus crawled through, too tired to use the conventional method of Flooing.
"Remus!" His kind, bearded father came hurrying into the room, face curved in a broad smile. "I've just put her to bed, I didn't realise you'd be back so early…are you alright?"
"Dad…Sirius…" Remus' knees buckled, and Lyall gripped him tightly under his arms, supporting him to the sofa.
"What happened? Is he alright?"
"He…he betrayed us. Lily…James…and Peter…they're all dead…they're all…"
"Oh son…" Lyall went to hug him, but Remus held out a trembling hand.
"Sirius…he betrayed them…he's in Azkaban, Dad, he…he…"
Remus fell into choked, broken sobs, and his father embraced him, rubbing his back the way he hadn't since Remus was a child. There was the quiet little patter of footsteps on the stairs, and a little girl peeked her head around the door, mousy hair falling into her grey eyes.
"Hi honey," Remus sniffed once, wiping his eyes on his sleeve, and smiled weakly. Her little face broke into a radiant smile and she ran up to the sofa, nearly tripping on the edge of the carpet, flinging her arms around his neck.
"Daddy! You're back!"
Gulping back tears, Remus nodded as she snuggled into his lap, not trusting himself to be able to speak.
"When will Paddy be home?"
Remus closed his eyes at the mention of her other father, Sirius.
"Daddy?" Hermione Lupin's voice was insistent, loud. "When will Paddy be home?"
"I'm not sure, sweetie,"
"Can you owl him and check?"
"Not right now."
"You should be in bed Mione-"
"But why not?"
"Please, baby, Daddy's really tired right now."
"I'm tired too!"
"Hermione, please." Remus wiped his eyes, and she frowned at him.
"Why are you sad Daddy?"
"I'm not sad honey."
"Yes you are! I can see! You're crying!"
"It's past your bedtime, Mione," Lyall took her out of Remus' arms, giving Remus a sympathetic smile. "Come on-"
"But why is Daddy crying Grandpa?"
"He's…um…" Lyall looked at Remus, panicked. "He's just tired, pumpkin. Come on, and I'll read you another story, how about that?"
"But I don't you to read me a story, I want Daddy to read me a story!"
"Daddy's a bit busy at the moment…what do you want me to read, Cinderella? Or Babbity Rabbity?"
"No, Paddy always reads me Cinderella! I want my Paddy! I want him to read me Cinderella!"
"Go get into bed, Mione, and I'll come and read you a story in a minute."
Remus sounded tired, so tired that Hermione stopped protesting, wriggled out of her Grandpa's arms and tottered out of the room. Taking a few deep breaths, Remus stood up, running his hands through his hair, and Lyall watched him sadly.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to look after her. I'm going to make sure Mione is safe. Other than that I don't know."
"Would you like to stay here?"
"No, no thank you. I won't impede on you any longer. Could Hermione stay in here tonight, though?"
"Of course, of course- are you sure you don't want to stay?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Thank you, Dad."
They hugged, and Remus' heart ached again.
"Mione?" Remus opened the spare room door and Hermione peered at him, sat straight up in bed.
"Daddy? Are you still sad?"
"A bit, sweetie."
"Do you want a hug? That's what you and Paddy give me when I'm sad."
"That would be lovely sweetheart."
She struggled to wrap her arms all the way around him, and her hair tickled his cheek.
"Can you read me a story now?"
"Which one would you like?"
"Um…I don't know…"
"Do you want Babbity Rabbity?" Remus sorted through the pile of books on the shelf.
"The Tale of the Three Brothers?"
"What would you like, then?"
"No, no, no Daddy! I want Paddy to read me Cinderella!"
"Paddy's a bit busy, Mione, do you want me to read it to you?"
"Oh…can you read me…the one about the little people, and the mirror?"
"Yes, that one!"
Remus felt heavy with grief as he picked up the book and perched on the edge of the bed, but her grey eyes, so like Sirius', were bright and excited as he started to read aloud, making sure to show her the pictures.
"Once upon a time in a far away kingdom, there was a King and a Queen who loved each other very much. They tried to have children for many years, so when the Queen became pregnant with a beautiful baby girl, they were full of joy. One day, the Queen weaving in the winter, and she pricked her finger on the spindle-"
"Like in the Sleeping…Sleeping Beauty!"
"Yes, honey, like in Sleeping Beauty."
"She doesn't go to sleep in this one, does she, Daddy?"
"Why don't you listen and find out?"
"The Queen pricked her finger on the spindle, and she wished for a baby with lips as red as blood, with hair as black as ebony, and skin as white as snow. "
"Is ebony very black, then, Daddy?"
"I suppose so, Mione. Now, shh and listen to the story."
Hermione yawned and laid back on her pillow.
"The Queen gave birth to the very same beautiful baby she had wished for, and for she was so fair, the King and Queen named her Snow White."
Barely half way through the story, Hermione had fallen asleep in her bed, mouth open. Kissing his sleeping daughter on the forehead, Remus quietly stepped back and closed the bedroom door. Lyall was waiting in the hall.
"Is she asleep?"
"Yeah," Remus leant against the wall, breathing heavily, and then righted himself.
"Have you been to the Ministry?"
"They intercepted me on the way back to the apartment. Said...said they needed me to make a statement."
"They would do, wouldn't they? I am sorry, son. If there's anything I can do-"
"Thank you for having Hermione for tonight."
"My pleasure. She's a lovely girl."
"She is, isn't she?" A hint of fatherly pride showed in Remus' voice as he staggered into the hall, stepped into the fireplace and let go off his fistful of his Floo powder.
"Thank you Dad. Remus Lupin's apartment, Central London."
Minerva McGonagall was standing in the centre of his living room, face grave as she clasped his hand tightly.
"They've put him in Azkaban."
"Is Paddy going to be back today, Daddy?"
The next morning, Remus was brushing his daughter's hair in front of the mirror in her bedroom as she fidgeted uncomfortably.
"Paddy isn't going to be back for a while, honey."
"Why not? Where is he? Did his friend get sick?"
"No, baby, his friend isn't sick."
"Is he with Auntie Lily?"
"No, he's not with Lily, or James."
Hermione's face lit up. "Can we go see Auntie Lily, Daddy?"
"Auntie Lily's also gone somewhere sweetheart."
"Where? Is it Ame-ri-ca?" She sounded out the most exotic place she knew.
"No, Auntie Lily's gone somewhere special, and unfortunately you're not going to be able to see her again."
"What?" The little girl was on the edge of tears. "Can you tell her to come back?"
"I'm sorry, honey, but I can't. She's up with your Grandma now."
"She's with Grandma?"
"Can we see Uncle James then?"
"No, he's with Lily and Grandma too. So is Uncle Peter."
"What about 'Arry?"
"He's going to stay with his aunt and uncle, Mione."
Her bottom lip wobbled as she started to cry, and Remus put his arms around her.
"Oh, it's okay baby, don't cry-"
"Is Paddy with Auntie Lily, Daddy?"
"No, Paddy is somewhere else, honey."
"Somewhere far away."
"Can I see him Daddy?"
"I'm not sure. Not for a while."
Hermione Lupin cried, and Remus Lupin battled tears as his daughter shook in his arms.
"Please don't leave me, Daddy!"
Hermione was clinging to Remus Lupin's neck, crying hysterically.
"Mione, listen to me, this is for the best, baby. You're going to be safe with Dan and Emma, and when you're a bit older and it's safer I'm going to come and get you, okay?"
"But you can't leave me with them! They're not my Daddies! They're not…they're not…Daddy…I want Paddy…I want…I want…" Remus wiped his eyes and set Hermione down on the doorstep, drawing out his wand.
"I love you honey." His voice shook and cracked. "I love you Hermione."
"I love you."
There was a second of the longest silence.
Remus Lupin jolted awake, tears pouring down his face, staring up at the ceiling, his little girl's cries echoing in the empty space.
I hope you liked it!