Remus had never expected to see him again. Certainly not once the first year passed, at any rate.
When he heard from Harry that Draco Malfoy hadn't returned to Hogwarts in their seventh year, he merely sighed and expressed his regrets to Snape and that was that. When they never faced him in battle, when Snape never saw or heard news of him at Voldemort's gatherings, he expressed his further condolences that the younger Malfoy was regrettably deceased.
No one had argued with his conclusion, Snape least of all.
Which was why it was so startling two years later, as he began the long and thankless task of clearing Voldemort's stronghold in the weeks following his defeat, when he came across Draco's filthy and malnourished form huddled in the corner of a cell.
"Shhhh," he said to the pair of men behind them, waving them off without taking his eyes off Draco. "Someone find Carlisle." He had a feeling the mediwitch was the first person they'd be needing to see.
"What have you got?" one of them asked him.
"A survivor," he said, and with a wave of his wand he opened the cell.
Draco screamed -- not a yell or a shout or any other sort of exclamation, but a terrified scream -- the moment he finally opened his eyes and saw Lupin.
Remus froze for a moment, then swiftly backed out of the ward. Whatever it was, now wasn't the time for Draco to face it. He was bathed and fed and his injuries tended, but he was far from well.
"Remus," said Arthur, giving him a friendly nod as he approached. "I flooed over as soon as I heard. Never liked the boy, but nobody deserves that."
"No," agreed Remus. Draco'd never really had a chance. "Do you know where Severus is these days?"
"Madrid," said Arthur, needing only a moment's thought. "Shall I have him summoned?"
"I think that would be best," said Remus. He glanced back at the door, though Draco had made no further sounds. "We never even looked for him."
"We had no reason to believe he was anything but the enemy."
"Yes, but he was also a student," said Remus. "We did him wrong, Arthur."
"Voldemort did him wrong," said Arthur. "We did what we had to. And we don't even know yet what happened to the boy. For all we know he was locked up for not bowing low enough to his master."
Remus doubted that, but he just made a neutral noise and, with a hard clap on the shoulder, Arthur left him to take care of business.
"I'm not certain what you think I can do for the boy," sniffed Severus, but Remus knew worry and sorrow when he saw it. "But very well. I shall see him."
"He looks like hell," Remus said, causing Severus to pause for a moment before passing through the door, "but he has no signs of a Dark Mark, Severus. You won this one."
"Perhaps," he snapped, "but what did I win him?"
"Freedom," said Remus, and let him go.
There was much left to be done, and too few hands to do it. Remus, with no employment prospects elsewhere, took on the task of cleaning up Voldemort's mess with as much dedication as he could muster. With Draco in good hands, he returned to the country house and took up his wand again.
That was where Severus found him.
"I was not," he said, standing in the rubble with his arms crossed over his chest, "the best choice."
"You were the only choice," said Remus. "Did he speak to you?"
"Once he was able," said Severus. "Only to spit on my robes and tell me he'd rather die than go back. At least we can be certain where his loyalties lie."
"He did what?"
"Spit on me. Merlin, Remus, the boy believed me to be a Death Eater. Whyever did you think bringing me in there would be good for him?"
"I thought it would be good for you."
Severus just scowled. "He's calmed, now," he admitted finally. "Someone needs to find a place for him to stay. I won't have him left to rot in St. Mungo's."
"He could stay with you."
"I would not wish that on him," said Severus. "Find something, Remus. You're the one who dug him out of this pit." Remus just nodded at him, and when Severus said nothing more, he went back to work. A few moments later, Severus joined him.
"I can't believe you even asked me," said Harry, pacing his office. "I can't believe you thought it was possible--"
"I haven't got any other home, Harry."
"And what of it?" said Harry. "You can stay there as long as you wish. But not him. I can't believe you asked."
"He hasn't got anywhere else either."
"That's not my problem," said Harry. "I seem to recall he has a rather large manor house to return to. Let him do that."
"He can't be alone."
"Then let him stay in hospital!" said Harry, throwing up his hands. "It's not on you to take care of him, Remus. He's not your responsibility."
"He never joined them, Harry. I'd think that would mean something to you."
Harry's expression tightened. "He was still a bully. He was still an awful person. I don't want him in my home, Remus. Let him be someone else's problem."
"Then thank you for your hospitality," said Remus with a sigh. "I'll move out of the house by tomorrow."
"Remus! I didn't say--"
"I found him, Harry. I saw what they had done to him. He was there all along and we did nothing, we didn't care. I need to do something now."
Harry turned his back and stared out the window. "You take on too much, Remus," said Harry. "He's still Draco Malfoy. Don't forget that, all right?"
"Does that mean you'll permit him to stay, then?"
Harry nodded, without looking back. "Be careful of him."
"And with him, as well," said Remus, opening the office door to let himself out. "Thank you."
The closest Remus could get was the seat across the room, when Draco finally permitted his presence. "I'd rather stay here," he snapped. "Werewolf."
Remus sighed and rubbed absently at his tattoo. "That is an option," he admitted to him. "But I expect not one you'll want to make permanent."
"Of course not," said Draco. "When I'm well I'll return to the manor."
"Alone," said Remus. "You want to return to the manor alone, with all your father's things surrounding you. Very well, that is your choice. You shall have to wait for the Ministry to clear it, of course."
Draco looked angry enough to spit. Remus was glad he was out of range. "Better that than being trapped with a werewolf."
"It's not as though I have fangs and claws most days of the month," said Remus, with as little bitterness as he could. "I am a better option than most that are open to you right now."
Draco just stared at him, then turned his head and stared at the wall.
Snape laughed at him. It was both startling and terrifying.
"You are the strangest, stupidest man, Lupin," he told him. Remus had no doubt he was being absolutely sincere. "Of course he rejected you."
"Why? Because of my condition?"
"Yes," said Severus shortly. "And because he is rejecting everyone. And if you had even the most rudimentary concept of human nature--"
"I think I have a good notion of human nature."
"--you would know that he has been a prisoner for years. He wants to be alone, Lupin. He wants to be cared for. He needs our help, but he certainly does not want it. He is a terribly unwell young man."
"I am trying to do something about that."
"Indeed," said Severus. "I shall never understand you, Lupin."
"No," agreed Remus. "I expect that may be true. He is a lovely boy, Severus. He deserves better than this."
"Lovely, is it?" mused Severus, drawing himself up taller for no reason other than to enable him to look down on Remus. "You haven't any idea what he's like, Lupin. Do not presume too much."
Remus did not believe he was presuming anything.
"It's really perfectly understandable," said Hermione, cataloguing books in the library at Grimmauld place. "You've got a need to have something to care for."
"A need? I'll have you know I spent more years alone than you've been--"
Hermione waved him off. "Yes, you've been withdrawn and neglected and misjudged people all your life. And now you have a need to atone."
"Atone," he said. "This isn't atonement, Hermione."
She set down her book and looked at him appraisingly. "Perhaps it isn't," she told him, "but whatever it is, it's not logical. This isn't an act of desperation. This isn't your only option. It's probably not even your best one."
"We're none of us in any condition to determine what is 'best' these days," he muttered, and left her to her work.
"For what it's worth," she said before he left the room, "I've no objections to him coming here. I'm still on battle reflexes. I can take care of myself. Even the days when you're... indisposed."
"You won't need to," said Remus, and hoped that was true.
"I will not be the one to convince him of this," said Severus. "I cannot be the one to convince him of this. And loathe as I am to leave him in your company, I must return to my research."
"It's the right thing," said Remus. "It's the right thing to do."
"I hardly think you're the best arbiter of right and wrong, Lupin," he said. "It's what you want. That's why you're doing it."
"It's what I want because it's the right thing."
Severus looked wholly unconvinced. "He is still suspicious of me, despite the hours I have spent with him recounting the war. He will not do a thing because I ask it."
"You might remind him the house belonged to a relation of his. You might suggest that I'm not bringing him to some shack in the woods."
"You might," said Severus crisply, "try telling him so yourself."
Draco, when he was cleared by the mediwizard treating him as being in sufficient good health, came to Grimmauld Place only because, as he said, his mother would have wanted him to reclaim it from the riffraff.
He had never spoken of his time in the cell. He had never spoken of what had brought him there.
"I need a place for my things," said Draco. "Large, clean, with a window." Draco had, in fact, no things that needed to be placed.
Remus could give him the master suite, but it still smelt of feathers and Sirius and no one had used it in years. Or the second floor just off the landing, but it had no view and Molly had used it for storage in years past. There was one on the third that would do nicely, though.
The fact that it was next to the room Lupin had claimed for his own had no bearing on this decision.
"You need something to eat," he said.
"What I need," hissed Draco, "is to be let alone. My room?"
Remus led the way, though he had become convinced, in recent weeks, that no one ever really knew what they needed.
Harry no longer came to visit. He hadn't come often before, but now he never came. Remus didn't like to think Harry felt driven from his own house, but it wasn't as though it was Harry's home. It wasn't as though he didn't intensely dislike the place.
Remus had to ambush him in his office one evening, long after Harry should have gone home for the night.
"Have you come to tell me I was right?" Harry asked him from his broad desk, "Or have you come to tell me I was wrong?"
"Neither," said Remus, and took a seat without being asked. "I've come to invite you to dinner."
"No," said Harry. "Thank you."
"You could be civil," said Remus. "There are worse things than this."
"I could," Harry agreed, "but I don't have to. And I don't like doing things I don't have to anymore. You could come to mine, I could get takeaway."
"I've just got him used to being there," Remus declined gently. "I just got him used to being with me and not being afraid."
Harry huffed. "You should just leave him be, Remus," he told him. "Why does it matter? Just let him go."
"He'll die if he goes," Remus said bluntly, saying the cold words for the first time. "He hasn't got what it takes to survive anymore, not yet. He needs... time."
Harry's look asked him why that mattered, either.
"You were the one who found me," said Draco without looking up from his book.
Remus saw no reason not to say, "Yes."
"I don't remember," said Draco, "but I've figured it out. You were the one who found me. And I was there for a very long time."
"I would imagine that you were," said Remus carefully.
"And the war is over. And my fa- parents are dead. And Voldemort as well."
"Yes," said Remus.
"And Professor Snape switched sides."
"No," said Remus. Draco looked up. "He switched sides when you were an infant. As long as you have known him, he has been on this one."
Draco looked down again. "I wouldn't have guessed," he said after a moment. "I thought, when he encouraged me to think for myself, it was to reject the teachings of the school, not the teachings of my family."
"I would imagine you were brought up to think that way."
"You don't know anything about how I was brought up!" Draco snapped. He slammed the book down, but he didn't look angry, not exactly. "I rejected the Mark in spite of him, not because of him."
Remus nodded his head. "I wouldn't recommend you tell him that," he said.
"You are an incredibly difficult man, Lupin." Remus just stared, knowing he needn't retort that Snape would know all about being a difficult man. "I left a colleague watching my brew. If this turns out to be frivolity..."
"It is not," said Remus. "He wished to see you."
"He wished to see me?" said Severus, "Or you wished it for him? I shall not be as forgiving if I am spit upon a second time, no matter how fond I might once have been of the boy."
"It might help if you dressed in something other than black," said Remus critically, "but barring that, I think he is prepared to look upon you--" Not kindly, not respectfully. "--with an open mind."
"Black seldom stains," said Severus, sweeping his robe up about him. "If this is anything other than what you present it to be..."
"I am all too aware of what you could and would do to me, Severus," he said. "It's the second door on your left. Go on."
With a sharp, menacing, parting glare, Snape went.
Draco cried on the twenty-seventh day, at eleven in the morning just after a lengthy and filling breakfast. Cried and yelled and broke things and would let neither Remus nor Hermione anywhere near him, though he seldom spoke to Hermione regardless.
When it was over and Draco was left shaking and panting, curled up in the corner, Remus sat across the room from him and picked up a book and waited until Draco was composed again. Not impatient, not judgmental, not anything but present.
Draco came to him, finally, only to touch his shoulder and then silently leave the room.
"He's been in your room," said Hermione one afternoon. "I thought you ought to know."
"Might I ask how you know this?"
"Detection charm," said Hermione with an indifferent shrug, sipping her tea. "I'm surprised it's taken him this long, to be honest. Don't you lock your door?"
"Not with anything he couldn't break," admitted Remus. "It hardly seemed important. It's only a bedroom."
"Yes, but it's your bedroom," said Hermione. "Your private space. He certainly wouldn't take it well if you violated his." Remus had, more than once, and he didn't fool himself into thinking Draco didn't know that. "You need to say something."
"I don't see that I do," argued Remus. "I chose not to bar him from it through any extraordinary means. Nor you."
"The more fool you," said Hermione. "For all that he rejected Voldemort, he is still unstable. He can't be trusted."
"He's been trusted with everything else in this House and no harm has come of it, to any of us," said Remus. "He can be trusted as much as any of us can anymore."
"That's not saying much," admitted Hermione. "Be careful."
"He wanted nothing to do with me," said Remus.
"Well clearly that has changed."
"I have thirty-seven marks carved onto my back," said Draco over tea in the study, as though he were talking about the weather. "One for each time I refused to take his Dark Mark."
Remus couldn't say a word.
"The Mark has to be taken willingly, you know."
He nodded and searched for his voice. "Yes," he said finally. "That I did know."
"My father carved them."
Draco even met his eyes that time, and his voice was steady though his hands shook. He set down the teacup before he spilled.
"I haven't trusted anyone since the first time he did it."
"Yes," Remus got out after another painfully long pause. "I can imagine you haven't."
Remus didn't even lock the door that night, and still slept like a stone until he felt the first whisper of fingertips against his forehead. His eyes shot open and he stared into the darkness until he saw Draco's face.
He wore no expression, not one that Remus could read, he just stood there. Was just standing there touching.
"What do you want?" Remus asked softly.
Draco just shook his head and let his robes fall around his feet and curled his hand around Remus's jawline. "I need you," he said, and he crawled into bed.
I have thirty-seven marks carved onto my back, Draco had told him, and Remus licked every one of them.
This may have been the very wrong thing, but Remus needed it too.