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Bad Habits

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The first night Remus had found Harry sleeping under his bed he hadn’t thought much of it.  His initial panic, thoughts of Death Eaters and the Dursleys came and went when he heard soft breaths coming from below the bed.  As far as Remus was concerned, Harry was a victim of violent abuse and had just been snatched away from everything he considered normal.  If sleeping on the floor helped him to feel safe, then he would leave it be for the time being.  The behaviour had fizzled out.  Sometimes Harry slept on the bed, sometimes underneath.  It didn’t feel like a battle worth having.

Four months into Harry living with them, Remus had become accustomed to strange behaviours and habits that Harry had developed at the Dursleys.  He would never forget the feeling of pure fear when he saw the child kneeling on the countertop with one leg while standing on a wobbly stool to reach the hob where he was attempting to make breakfast.  At six in the morning.  For Remus and Sirius.  That habit had been easy to break; an alarm was put in place so that when Harry left his bedroom either of the couple would be alerted and would apparate into the kitchen.  They took it in turns, as long as one of them beat Harry to it, the child couldn’t try to cook for them.

Bathing had been harder.  Having been advised by healers that showering would be dangerous given the frail state that Harry had come to them in, Remus took to drawing him a bath nightly.  Harry needed to be lifted in and out of the bath, a challenge that Remus took on.  He did, however, leave Harry alone in the bathroom for the duration of the bath.  The child was weak, but he was also nine years old and deeply embarrassed by the ordeal.  Privacy, Remus and Sirius had agreed, would be central to building trust. 

Yet, although Remus knew that Harry was having these baths, the child never seemed to get clean, and after the first week of Harry staying with them his hair was practically matted together with grease and dirt.  Before drawing his bath that night, Remus sat Harry down and asked him what was going on.  The conversation had been difficult.  Petunia had not allowed Harry to have proper baths.  She had washed his hair over the kitchen sink, never once showing him how to do it himself, and she had let him wash himself standing in the downstairs loo with an old sponge and the hand soap.  Harry admitted to knowing neither what to do with the soaps and shampoos that lined Remus’ tub, nor if he was even allowed to use them in the first place. 

Remus helped Harry with his hair that night, lathering it over and over with shampoo and conditioner and gently combing out that knots.  He then put body wash onto a flannel and told the boy to wash himself.  After a few nights like this, Harry had gotten the hang of baths, but they agreed that Remus would wash his hair until he was strong enough to shower.

These habits kept creeping up.  One day they were praising Harry for how good he was at clearing the kitchen table, and later they realised that it was obsessive and out of fear of punishment.  Weeks of not greeting Remus when he came home from work turned out to be associated with Vernon often being angry after a day in the office.  Avoiding Padfoot wasn’t a general fear of dogs, but one developed from Marge having hers chase the boy and attack his ankles.

The horrors that Harry had endured in nine long years seemed to be never ending.  Remus was growing frustrated, and he feared that the environment they were trying to build wasn’t the right one for Harry.  Perhaps it was too isolated.  Perhaps he needed someone more experienced with dealing with this kind of trauma.  Once prodded Harry would open up to them, but he still wouldn’t approach them with problems, and he hadn’t laughed once.

Tonight was close to a full moon and as usual Remus’ senses were sharpened.  He couldn’t sleep.  Sirius’ soft breaths sounded thunderous lying next to him, and the wolf pulled himself from bed to try and rest in the living room.  Passing Harry’s room, he decided to look in, but Harry wasn’t in his bed.  Remus entered the room properly and sat on the floor across from the bed.  By the sound of his breathing, Harry wasn’t asleep.

“Can you come out Harry?”

The boy crawled out; blanket clutched in his hand.  He didn’t look afraid, which Remus easily took as a win.

“Sorry Remus,” Harry said.  “The bed’s just too soft sometimes.  Couldn’t sleep.”

Remus blanched.  All these months he thought that Harry was scared at night.  That he slept under the bed because he felt better protected.  But no, it was the cupboard.  The damn cupboard that Remus had pulled a semi-conscious Harry from the day Sirius and he had rescued him.  He should have known; Harry had spent years of his life sleeping on a wooden floor.

“Ah Harry,” Remus knelt down and scooped him up, lying him back in his bed.  “Here.”

He pulled his wand out and threw a spell at the mattress so that it hardened.  Not as uncomfortable as the floor, but so Harry would be able to sleep.

“We can make it softer slowly, get you used to a proper bed.”

Harry looked at him in awe.

“How d’you do that?” he asked through a yawn, as Remus tucked him in, fussing with his pillows.

“Do what?”

“Fix everything,” Harry sighed closing his eyes.  “Thanks, Moony.”

He hadn’t called Remus Moony before. 

“Because I love you Harry,” Remus replied.  “I’ll always help you; you just need to ask.”

Harry nodded, half-asleep already.