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A Second Chance

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CHAPTER ONE:

 

They were dead.  

 

They were both dead and it was all his fault.

 

He didn’t cry.  He had no tears left in him to cry.  He didn’t rage; he’d spent weeks doing just that, slamming his fists into the stones until his knuckles had bled; until his fingers were broken, but the pain never fazed him.  He ate mechanically as the healer fixed his hands and the next day, he’d punched the stone all over again and again trying to feel something … anything.

 

He screamed.  He shouted that he was innocent.  He threatened to kill his former best friend, his brother.  But it was for nothing.  

 

It was all for nothing.  

 

He was the one who had been betrayed; the spy who wasn’t; he was guilty in the eyes of the world and nothing he could say was going to change that.

 

And no one was listening anyway.

 

At first he thought that at least he would come.  His best friend; the one who he had trusted most outside of the one who was his blood brother.  The one who he had kept secrets for; the one who was so thankful and confused as to why they even called him friend, called him brother in the first place.  

 

But he never came.  

 

He too thought he was guilty; that he was just like the family that he had tried so hard to run from.

 

The days turned into weeks which turned into months.  He paced; he ran on the spot; he spent hours doing push-ups and sit-ups; contemplated making a noose with his thin shabby sheet and just ending it until the rage consumed him once more.  He was not going to take his own life; not while he was out there, the truly guilty party, the spy, the one that he had once called friend and brother.

 

The months dragged into that first year and his thin hold on his own sanity started to slip away from him as he counted the days, digging the rock into the stone to tally his sentence.  

 

On his twenty-third birthday, he spent the day in fitful dreams; memories of the woman that he had called mother holding her wand above him and telling him how worthless he was; how spineless and unworthy he was to be in the Most Ancient and Noble House.  He relived the feel of the torture curse, seeing his mother holding the wand; relived the pain of the belt that his father struck across his back and when he heard his own screams echoing in the stone cell — he clawed at the stone until his nails bled.

 

By the second year, he forced himself to transform the moment the memories came to the surface.  He forced himself to think of happy thoughts, but he couldn’t remember any.  Had he ever been happy?  He was innocent.  It wasn’t a happy thought, but it wasn’t a miserable thought either so they couldn’t take it away from him.  He hadn’t murdered those people, true.  But could he really be considered innocent?  

 

It was his fault that they were dead; his decision; his stupid mistake.  

 

He was innocent.  

 

He was guilty.  

 

He was innocent.  

 

He was guilty.

 

He paced the cell back and forth; back and forth, marking the days each morning when he woke.  He slept as a dog; woke to eat the gruel that they called porridge; one hour of push-ups; one hour of sit-ups, keep the body disciplined, keep the mind sane, he told himself repeatedly.  He’d nap as a dog; wake to eat the gruel that they called stew and as the first wave of unhappy memories would unfold into his system, he’d transform and whimper in the corner.

 

By the third year, he had his routine down to a science.  No one spoke to him.  The healer came to check on him once a month; let him wash with a bowl of lukewarm water and a clean cloth.  The healer never spoke and the soul-sucking creatures hovered as the healer trembled, waiting for him to finish so that he could leave.  The moment that the healer was gone, he became a dog once more.

 

When he started his count into year four, he knew that he would die alone in this very cell.  No one would ever discover that his old friend had been the real one to betray them; the real one to trick those who cared for him.  

 

No one would ever know his story.

 

“Sirius?”

 

The voice sounded foreign, almost too far away.  He recognized the Scottish burr, but he couldn’t place it.  No one had spoken to him in four years, six months, and seventeen days.  Was that his name?  His head pounded, but for the first time all day it was clear, telling him that the soul sucking creatures had distanced themselves, at least partially, from his cell.

 

“Sirius Black?”

 

The hesitation in the voice now got his attention and he realized that it wasn’t a memory; someone was actually speaking to him.  

 

Someone was outside of his cell.  

 

He moved towards the bars, long thin fingers gripping the iron and his grey eyes bruised around the edges meeting the square beady brown eyes that he recognized so well and his heart stopped at the sight of them.

 

“Minnie?”  he whispered hoarsely, the old nickname slipping out before he consciously thought about it.

 

The brown eyes rolled in exaggeration at him and for the first time in four years, six months, and seventeen days — he felt a bubble of laughter rising in his throat.

 

“Sirius,” she said softly, reaching to hold his ice cold hands where they clutched the iron bars tightly.  “You remember me?  I was worried that I might have been too late.  The healer said… never mind.  You know me.”

 

He shook his head, clearing the cobwebs that lingered there.  “Yeah,” he said roughly.  “Why are you here, Professor?”

 

Her eyes looked sad as she gripped his hands tightly from where they were clutched  around the bars.  “I’m sorry that it took so long, Sirius, I’m so sorry, but you are finally getting a trial.  A trial to prove your innocence.”

 

His dark grey eyes met hers in shock.  “What?”

 

“I don’t believe for a moment that you betrayed James and Lily, Sirius.  I never have.  James was like a brother to you and you… you loved that little boy.  You deserve a trial.  Maybe if we can understand why you…”

 

Sirius snorted now, his fingers gripping hers as he realized what she was saying.  “You believe that I murdered thirteen people in a crowded street, but I didn’t betray my best friends.  Interesting view you have of me, Minnie, my dear.”

 

“Sirius,” she said again, her voice quiet and stern.  “I believe that you are innocent and I have been campaigning for you to be set free from the moment that you were arrested.  Finally, the Minister has taken heed of my words and agreed to give you the trial you should have been given years ago.  It will be in three days time.”

 

Sirius squeezed her fingers gently.  “I am innocent, Minnie.  I would never have betrayed them, never!”

 

McGonagall nodded, smiling at him.  “I know.  I will see you in three days, Sirius.  I’m rooting for you.”

 

As he watched her leave, he felt the darkness pressing in on him once again and he moved away from the bars, letting his back rest against the cool stone.

 

Four years, six months, seventeen days — but he was getting a trial.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO:

 

22nd of April, 1986…

 

It was the Auror, Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody who arrived three days later, his wand unlocking his chains only to lock them again to the Dementor, who would be following them to the Ministry of Magic for his trial.  He felt sick as the Dementor brushed him and the moment they stepped into the round courtroom that would be holding the trial, he vomited.  He didn’t even know that he had anything in his system to be throwing up, but he threw up just the same.

 

Moody, his wooden leg making him limp, reached up to click the chains around Sirius’ wrists and ankles, locking him into place in the iron hanging cage in the middle of the room.  Sirius breathed a sigh of relief when the Dementor stepped back.  His eyes moved around the room, looking at the assembly of the full Wizengamot before him.  He could feel his Aunt Druella’s dark eyes boring into him from the public gallery and he refused to make eye contact with her.  But he did wonder why she had dragged herself to his trial and why his own dear mother wasn’t here to ask them to toss him back in and throw away the key.  But he was thankful not to see her.  She would be the last person to support him in his fight to clear his name.  Dumbledore sat before him as Chief Warlock and McGonagall sat in the public gallery which cheered him up some.  His eyes fell on the golden orbs of Remus Lupin and his stomach twisted at the sight of disgust in the eyes that he had once trusted so much.

 

The chatter died down and he gripped the iron bars before him, slowing the shaking of the iron cage a little as the Auror Bartemius Crouch stepped forward, wand pointed at the cage.  His pencil thin moustache was starting to go grey and his perfectly parted short hair had streaks of salt peppered among the dark locks.  His bright eyes were locked venomously on Sirius as he spoke.

 

“This man, Sirius Orion Black, sentenced to life in Azkaban Prison by yours truly on the first of November 1981 for leaking the hidden location of James Potter and Lily Potter nee Evans, resulting in their death as they were then murdered by He Who Must Not Be Named; resulting in the attempted murder of their son Harry James Potter otherwise known as The Boy Who Lived; for the murder of thirteen people, one wizard called Peter Pettigrew and for twelve Muggles listed as follows: Alfred Bern, Madison Daniels, Lillian Fox, Justine Finch, Logan Matthews, Linda Morton, David Morton, Peter O’Shea, Pauline Preston, Gregory Sampson, Vincent Simpson, and Kendrick Wessex - all who were caught up in the explosion caused by the use of the blasting curse.”  Crouch declared, his eyes cold as they stared Sirius down through the iron cage.  “One life sentence of a hundred years for each life you took means that you will die in Azkaban Prison before your sentence of thirteen hundred years has been served.  How do you plead?”

 

“Not guilty,” Sirius said, his voice hoarse.  

 

His eyes were on Remus who was staring at him with so much contempt that he wanted to vomit again.  His best friend believed him to be guilty of such heinous crimes; of betraying his true family.  It was the worst feeling knowing that, worse than any torture that they could possibly inflict upon him.

 

“How are we, the court and the jury, supposed to believe that you, Sirius Orion Black, are not guilty of such charges when the evidence is so overwhelmingly against you?”  Crouch demanded.

 

The man standing next to Crouch, dark locks over dark skin gestured for Crouch to back down.  Sirius jolted as he recognized Kingsley Shacklebolt.  “Mr Crouch, we asked you here as a courtesy to oversee the trial that you denied this man, but remember, you are no longer an Auror.”

 

Crouch seemed to be seething in response, but his face kept its stern, disgusted look as he glared at Sirius.  “I repeat: How are we, the court and jury, supposed to believe that you, Sirius Orion Black, are not guilty of such charges when the evidence is so overwhelmingly against you?”

 

Sirius swallowed carefully, his throat so dry that it hurt to speak, but McGonagall had gotten him this trial and he wasn’t going to do anything to screw up his chances of getting his story heard; no matter the consequences.  He wasn’t going to let her down after all that she had done for him.  

 

“I was made out to be Secret Keeper for the Potters, this is true.  They were in hiding because it was rumoured that the Death Eaters were searching for the Potters; but we believed that there was a spy amongst us and James and I…”  Tears welled up in his eyes for the first time in years as he spoke.  “We decided to change Secret Keepers at the last minute to keep them safe.  We agreed that I was the natural choice and that Voldemort —“

 

“DO NOT SPEAK HIS NAME!”  Crouch bellowed, interrupting his speech.

 

Sirius licked his lips.  “That HE would know that they would choose me so we asked Peter, Peter Pettigrew and he agreed.  Lily performed the spell almost immediately and they went into hiding right after.”

 

“Are you saying that you were not the Secret Keeper for the Potters?”  Crouch demanded, his eyes still cold as they stared him down.

 

The tears blinded his vision, but he held them back, refusing to let them spill down his cheeks for fear that he may not be able to stop them once they fell.  “That is correct, Sir.  Peter Pettigrew was the Secret Keeper.  I… it was my job to check on him; to keep him safe.  But on Halloween, when I went to pick him up, he wasn’t there.  James and Lily had invited us over for All Hallows Eve and when I arrived to bring him over, he wasn’t there.  I waited around for about thirty minutes and then I really started to worry so I headed to the house.  James and Lily… the house… the whole side where Harry’s nursery was… it was destroyed and they were both dead.”

 

Crouch’s cold eyes blinked at this before he turned to whisper something to the short woman sitting next to him.  She had toad-like features as she nodded and scribbled down whatever he had just told her to write.

 

“What did you do when you found the Potters dead?”

 

Sirius swallowed carefully again, this time his eyes moving to McGonagall, whose brown eyes were urging him to go on.  “I held Harry.  I couldn’t believe that he was even alive after I had seen the house and then Hagrid came, Rubeus Hagrid.  He told me that Dumbledore had sent him; that he would keep Harry safe.  It was at that moment that I realized that this had happened because of Peter -- that he was the spy -- and I wasn’t going to let him get away with it.  So I gave Harry to Hagrid and I went after Peter to find out what had happened.”

 

“Did you find him?”  Crouch demanded.

 

Sirius nodded.  “I did.  It took me almost a day, but I found him.  I demanded of him how he could have betrayed us this way, betrayed his family, his friends who loved and protected him and he cowered away from me, used the Sonorous Charm on himself and bellowed to the entire street that I had betrayed James and Lily Potter and that I was the reason that they were dead.  Then he blew up the street with a single blasting curse and vanished before my eyes.”

 

“He vanished?”  Crouch said with a smirk.  “How completely convenient for you.”

 

“He’s an Animagus.”

 

Crouch’s eyes widened, locking onto Sirius’ face now.  “He’s a what?”

 

Sirius swallowed slowly.  He knew that revealing this now was almost like breaking a promise to his best friend, but after everything that Peter had done, Sirius wasn’t taking any chances in letting him get away.  “He’s an Animagus.  A rat.  He transformed and vanished amidst the chaos of the curse and left me there, surrounded by dead bodies.”

 

Crouch turned back to the woman next to him to confer and they whispered fervently amongst each other.  Shacklebolt was staring at Sirius, his face revealing nothing of his thoughts.

 

Sirius’ eyes found Remus in the crowd of the public gallery again.  Remus was looking at him now in wonder.  The contempt in his eyes had lessened slightly and Sirius could see the wheels turning in his friend’s head as he tried to comprehend the story that Sirius had just told to the room at large.

 

“Sirius Orion Black, where is Peter Pettigrew now?”  

 

Sirius snorted.  “Hiding somewhere is my guess.  He’s a fucking coward is what he is.  But if you find him, kill him for me.”

 

“If you cannot produce the whereabouts of Mr Pettigrew then I cannot in good conscience allow a convicted murderer such as yourself freedom without evidential proof.”

 

McGonagall stood up now, her eyes flashing in anger.  “Crouch!  That is preposterous and you know it!  You have heard the boy’s story and still not given him a fair trial!  Have you even listened to what he was saying about Pettigrew?”

 

“He is a not a boy, McGonagall!”  Crouch yelled.  “Black is a twenty-six-year-old-man who has been tried and convicted of hideous crimes!  His use of the blasting curse not only slaughtered twelve Muggles, but left nothing of Pettigrew but a finger!  Now he’s claiming some cock and bull tale about Pettigrew turning into a rat!  Innocent is not the word that I would use on such a criminal!”

 

McGonagall huffed angrily.  “He was never tried, Crouch!  I believe every word that has left that young man’s mouth!  He is innocent!  Use Veritaserum if you must!  View his memories!  Why haven’t you checked his wand?  I thought that this was to be a fair trial!”

 

“Permission must be given to use truth potion as you very well know!”  Crouch exclaimed, the vein in his head popping slightly above the skin.  The fact that he had been forced by the Minister to give the man before him a trial to begin with irked him enough and he wasn’t going to be made a fool of in his own courtroom.

 

“Permission granted!”  Sirius shouted, his grey eyes on McGonagall.  The bubble of hope that had sprung up in his chest when she had so vehemently defended him had caught him off guard.  Minerva McGonagall had always been there for him and seeing her now defending him so passionately was more than he ever could have asked for.  “Use truth potion on me.  You’ll see that I’m telling the truth!  Take my memories!  Whatever you need to do!  The Aurors took my wand; look at my spells if you must — I didn’t do it!”

 

Crouch turned back to the woman, but this time it was Dumbledore that stood up to speak.

 

“Bartemius, I think using truth serum is an excellent plan,” he said calmly.  “Auror Dawlish,” he said turning to the young Auror trainee at the door.  “Why don’t you grab a phial from the Auror Department?  I assume, Alastor, that you brought Sirius’ wand with you from Azkaban?”

 

Dawlish nodded, hurrying out of the room as Alastor Moody stepped forward.  “I did, Albus, it’s here,” he said producing the wand from his pocket.  “Twelve and three quarter inches, dogwood, unicorn hair, made by Ollivander and belonging to Sirius Orion Black since August of 1971.”

 

Crouch looked livid.  His eyes glaring daggers at Dumbledore as he issued orders to his staff in the courtroom.  But he could see the jury shuffling in interest so he took his seat, fuming silently.  He kept his mouth shut until fifteen minutes later when Dawlish stepped back into the courtroom with a phial of truth serum in his hands.

 

“Do you, Sirius Orion Black, allow us to administer this potion of Veritaserum to you?”  Crouch asked tensely.

 

“I do.”  Sirius announced clearly.

 

Crouch handed him the phial and Sirius accepted it, tossing back the liquid and wincing at the sweetness of it as it burned a path down his throat.

 

“Sirius Orion Black, are you willing to speak truthfully now?”

 

“Yes.”  Sirius responded calmly.  He could feel the effects of the potion already tangling his tongue, demanding that he speak nothing but the truth.

 

“Were you the Secret Keeper for James and Lily Potter?”

 

“No.”

 

The chatter around the room heightened and Crouch held his hand up to silence them.

 

“Sirius Orion Black, who was the Secret Keeper for James and Lily Potter?”

 

“Peter Pettigrew.”

 

“Did you kill Peter Pettigrew?”

 

“No, I did not kill him.”

 

“What happened to Peter Pettigrew if you did not in fact kill him?”

 

“He blew up the street with a single blasting curse and transformed into a rat.”

 

“How do you know that Peter Pettigrew is an Animagus?”

 

“He became one in fifth year.  I watched him learn.  He was my friend, my dorm mate.”  Sirius said calmly, stopping himself from continuing to tell the room that he himself was also an Animagus.  He hadn’t been asked the question so he wasn’t obligated by any sense of disloyalty or by the potion to confess as such.

 

Crouch nodded, his cold eyes boring into Sirius’.  “Did you, Sirius Orion Black, kill any of the twelve Muggles in the street the day you went after Pettigrew?”

 

“No.  I have never killed anyone in my life.”

 

The chatter filled the room once more and this time Crouch didn’t stop it.  Dumbledore spoke now, his eyes on Crouch.

 

“It seems that Mr Black has been honest here, Barty.  Perhaps you would also like to view his memories to be even more positive that we have convicted an innocent man?”

 

Crouch’s eyes hardened and his face flushed.  “Actually, I would Dumbledore.  Bring me the Pensieve from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” he demanded of Dawlish who only nodded and scurried out of the room again.  

 

Moody stepped forward and handed Crouch the wand in his possession.  “Let’s look at the last spells that he used while we wait, Crouch.”

 

Crouch looked positively livid, but he accepted the wand and performed the revealing spell.  The courtroom watched as echoes of the last spells performed by the wand appeared before them: lumos, a dog patronus, a stunning spell, a dog patronus, and a summoning charm.

 

“Well, Bartemius, if Sirius did perform the blasting spell, he clearly did not use his own wand to do so,” Dumbledore stated as Crouch shoved the wand back into Moody’s hands, his eyes flashing in anger.

 

“You are not in charge here, Albus!”  Crouch exclaimed angrily.  He turned back to the woman making notes and he whispered something to her.  She nodded and quickly scribbled away.  “Now, it is time to extract those memories to be viewed.”

 

“At this point, it seems like overkill, Barty,” Moody said as he tucked Sirius’ wand away in his coat.  “His wand and the truth serum have proven him innocent of the crimes that he has been accused of.  We never should have sent him to Azkaban in the first place.  Minerva is right, he’s innocent.”

 

There was a murmur of approval around the room and Crouch’s face flushed again.  “Are you questioning my authority, Alastor?  Are you questioning the authority of the very department that you work for?  Of the Wizengamot?  I have spent years rounding up Death Eaters and have never been questioned by how I did my job; by how those who followed He Who Must Not Named should be punished!  Did I not put my own son away in Azkaban Prison for his crimes against the Longbottoms?”

 

Moody stared at him for a moment.  “You were a great Auror, Barty, but this man deserved a trial and we never gave him one and it looks like he was innocent the entire time.  It was a mistake.  Our mistake.  And you’re not an Auror anymore.”

 

Crouch only stared at him, his nostrils flaring angrily.  “We need those memories.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE:

 

“I’ll do it,” McGonagall said, standing up and moving to the centre of the room where Sirius was hanging in the cage.  “He trusts me, which as we all know, makes extracting memories safer for all of the parties involved.”  She stopped in front of Sirius and gave him a small smile of reassurance.  “That is of course, if that is alright with you, Mr Black?”

 

Sirius nodded, his grey eyes staring at her gratefully.  He was too afraid to think about them actually setting him free and he could see that it was clearly the last thing that Crouch wanted: To be forced to admit that he had been wrong.  He was intrigued however at the idea that Crouch was no longer an Auror, he wondered why that was, but he pushed it from his mind.  He had more important things to be worrying about at the moment.  “It is.  You have my full permission.”

 

Crouch handed her three phials, nodding his acceptance of her taking on this task.  “Black, I need three memories: The one where the Secret Keeper was changed; the night of Halloween 1981; and the day that you tracked down Pettigrew and were arrested.”

 

Sirius nodded and concentrated as McGonagall’s wand brushed his temple.  Five minutes later, all three phials were full and the Auror called Dawlish had returned with the Pensieve.

 

Crouch carefully opened the first phial and poured the memory inside.  He muttered an amplifying charm and the Pensieve flashed above the room onto the ceiling so that the entire Wizengamot and jury could view the memory.

 

Sirius watched it unfold, tears pouring down his face as the memory of his friends, his true family, played before him and making him feel like they were in the room with him once again.

 

“I’m just saying, Evans, I remember how much Prongs drove you crazy, it only makes sense that you’d be annoyed by him still.”  Sirius said as he wiped Harry’s face with a washcloth, trying to get all of the carrot mush off of his nephew’s chin.

 

“It’s Potter now, Black, and oh, I am annoyed with him, but only because he keeps inviting you over.”

 

“Aw, come on Lily, you know you love me,” Sirius said kissing her cheek.  “I’m your favourite Marauder, we all know that you just married James as a front.”

 

Lily rolled her eyes, tucking her long red hair behind her ear.  “Oh, you caught me, Black.  I’m madly in love with you.”  She rolled her eyes, turning to pick up Harry from his high chair.  “Ignore your crazy uncle Padfoot, Harry — he’s a moron.”

 

“Hey!  I take offence to that!”

 

Lily laughed and handed her son to him.  “Go play with your godson while I clean up in here.”

 

Sirius bounced Harry in his arms who cooed happily at him.  “Come on, Prongslet, we have manly things to do.”  He left Lily in the kitchen laughing at him, Harry in his arms and smiled at James and Peter who were sitting in the living room.

 

“Here’s your son, Prongs; all fed and cleaned up by yours truly.”

 

James took Harry, smiling happily as he kissed the top of his son’s head.  “Hi Harry, did Uncle Padfoot make a big mess feeding you dinner?”  

 

Harry only waved his arms and muttered, “Padfoof!”

 

James grinned and kissed his son again, sliding down to the floor to let Harry wander as he toddled around -- almost running, even though he had only been walking for three months.  “Flirting with my wife again too?”

 

Sirius only smirked.  “I told her that we should run off together.  She only rolled her eyes at me.  I’m wearing her down.”

 

“You know Lily loves me.  And that you are the last person that I can imagine tying himself down ever, let alone Lily actually running off with.”

 

“True.  But maybe if it was for someone as amazing as Lily, I’d consider the scary commitment thing.”

 

James grinned at his friend, slapping his shoulder.  “I’m the luckiest bloke alive, I know.”  He used his wand to make the tiny toy cars and trucks zoom around the room for Harry’s amusement before he turned to his friends.  “I asked you guys here tonight for an important reason.  Moony’s keeping busy underground otherwise I’d ask him to be here as well, but Dumbledore thinks that we have a spy amongst us.”

 

“What?”  Peter squeaked, his eyes widening.  “D-d-does he know who it is?”

 

James shook his head, sending the fire truck racing towards his laughing son.  “I don’t think so.  He warned Lily and I to be on our guard.  After our last near escape from Voldemort… well, he’s after Harry now.  We know that for sure.”

 

“Do you know why?”  Sirius asked, watching his giggling godson in amusement.  “I mean, I’m sure that he’s a bright kid, Prongs, but Harry’s not exactly going to be duelling Voldemort to the death any time soon.  Why would he care about a baby?”

 

“Voldemort wants him dead… we don’t know why; maybe out of spite for Lily and I seemingly always escaping his grasp.  I don’t know.”  He smiled when Harry plopped himself onto his lap and snuggled close, yawning.  “But for now, the spy is the problem.  Dumbledore is worried that Lily and I will be compromised and he wants us to go deeper underground.”

 

“You’ve already stopped doing almost everything, Jamie, and now he wants you to be even more underground?  You and Lily have been hiding for months as it is!”  Sirius exclaimed, his eyes wide.

 

James nodded, dragging his fingers through his hair.  “It’s the last thing that I want to do, Sirius.  All I do lately is sit around and do nothing to help with this war while my friends are out there risking their lives every day, but if it will save the life of my wife and my child — I won’t hesitate.  And I know that we talked about it before with Remus here last week, officially going underground and having a Secret Keeper to hide our location.  But it’s something that needs to be done today.  We need to figure out who the spy is or none of us will be safe.”

 

Peter shifted uncomfortably and his friends turned to look at him.

 

“What’s up, Pete?”  James asked as Harry crawled over to Peter and handed him his fire truck.

 

Peter let out a long breath before he spoke, accepting the truck from Harry and zooming it off with his wand so that Harry could chase it.  “I-I didn’t want to say anything.”

 

“Say what?”  Sirius asked, his eyes on Peter.

 

“I think… I mean… I’ve had some suspicions about a spy myself.  Things that I’ve learned on my missions who… who I’ve only told one person about, that have found their way to You Know Who and his Death Eaters.”  Peter said quietly, his eyes darting between his two friends.  “I thought maybe that I was just getting paranoid, you know, but after hearing this from you guys, maybe I’m not so paranoid.”

 

James’ arms reached out to steady Harry as he tripped over his feet in his attempt to catch the fire truck zooming across the floor.  “Go on, Pete.”

 

Peter sighed.  “I think it’s Remus.”

 

“WHAT?”  Sirius exploded causing Harry to start to cry.

 

“Shh, Harry, it’s okay,” James soothed, glaring at his friend as he picked his son up.  “Don’t scare the baby, Sirius!”

 

Sirius ignored James and glared at Peter.  “How dare you fucking accuse Remus of being a spy, Wormtail?  Remus would never!”

 

Peter shook his head, his eyes wide and fearful.  “I don’t want to believe it, Sirius!  But I’ve told him things about my missions!  About how Greyback seems to be working closely with certain Death Eaters and about how your brother got killed and… and well, things that the Death Eaters than used against us!  How did they find out, Sirius?  How did they know that we would be in Glasgow a few months back or in Piccadilly?”

 

Sirius shook his head, his grey eyes stormy in denial.  “Remus would never fucking betray us, Peter!”

 

“Siri!”  James hissed, tilting his head at Harry.  “Children are about!”

 

“Peter’s trying to say that Remus is the spy, Jamie!  Language isn’t my concern at the moment,” Sirius said, glaring at Peter.  “Remus would never fucking betray any of us and you should be fucking ashamed for even bloody thinking it!”

 

“Siri say fuck!”  Harry exclaimed, grinning widely as James glared at his friend.  

 

“Way to go, Uncle Padfoot,” James muttered.  “That’s a very bad word, Harry, and Uncle Sirius shouldn’t have said it.”

 

“Fuck!”  Harry said again and James covered his face with his hands.

 

“I’m telling Lily that this is all your fault.”

 

“What did Sirius do now?”  Lily asked as she came into the living room.

 

“Padfoof fuck!”  Harry said and Lily’s eyes widened before she cuffed Sirius across the back of the head.

 

“Sirius!”

 

“I’m sorry, it just slipped out!”  Sirius said trying not to laugh.  “But Pete is trying to convince Jamie and I that Remus is the spy and it made me angry!” 

 

“I don’t want it to be Remus,” Peter said softly.  “But what about Marlene?” 

 

James looked at his friend darkly.  “Don’t say her name, Pete.  Lily… she doesn’t want to hear her name.”

 

“It’s all right, Jamie,” Lily said, moving to sit on the floor next to her husband and to cuddle her son who immediately crawled towards her.  “It hurts, but I can hear her name.  I don’t think that I’m ever going to get over losing one of my best friends.  What about Marly, Pete?”

 

Peter hesitated before he spoke.  “I told Remus that Marlene and Mary were hiding out in Glasgow after You Know Who’s attack on their families.  Two days later, McKinnon was murdered by Death Eaters.”

 

“That’s just a coincidence, Pete,” James said softly.  “Its pure conjecture.  Remus would never hurt Marlene.”

 

“I told him where I hid Mary to keep her safe and three days later, Mary was murdered by Death Eaters,” Peter told them softly.  “I don’t want to believe it.  Please tell me that I’m wrong, but… Remus is the only person that I told that too.”

 

Sirius crossed his arms in front of him.  “It’s a coincidence, nothing more.  I’ll talk to Remus when he comes back tomorrow.”

 

Peter nodded, holding his hands up in surrender.  “Okay, I trust you guys.  If you think that I’m wrong, than I’m wrong.  I just thought that with Moony’s missions among Greyback… the way he’s become rather attached to that Roberts bloke and his disciples… that maybe something in him snapped.  But I hope to Merlin I’m wrong.”

 

Lily reached out to squeeze Peter’s hand in her own.  “It’s not Remus, Peter — it just can’t be.”

 

Peter smiled at her.  “I hope you’re right, Lily.”

 

Lily smiled at them.  “Did Jamie tell you that Dumbledore wants us to go deeper into hiding?”

 

Sirius nodded, still glaring at Peter.  The thought of Remus being the spy was preposterous, but Peter’s words were echoing in his head in a way that made him very uncomfortable.  Marlene McKinnon dead; Mary McDonald dead — Remus was NOT responsible he thought.  He shook the thoughts away and smiled at Lily. 

 

“Yes, he did.”

 

“He wants us to use the Fidelius Charm to keep ourselves completely hidden in plain sight with the protection of our chosen Secret Keeper.  We talked about this last week and about how we considered you, Sirius,”  Lily explained, smiling when James wrapped his arm around her.  “Remember how Remus agreed and said that it was a great idea?”

 

“Dumbledore offered to be our Secret Keeper when we told him that we discussed it with the three of you,” James told them as Sirius and Peter stared at them in surprise.  “But I told him no.  I wanted Sirius.”

 

“What?  Why?  Dumbledore is like the strongest wizard alive, James!  He defeated Grindelwald for Merlin’s sake!”  Sirius exclaimed, still surprised that his friends had chosen him.  Even after a week of thinking about it, it still shocked him.

 

“I know,” James said, smiling.  “And I trust him, but I trust my friends more.  Rem agreed with me that you are the best choice, Sirius.”

 

Peter nodded as Harry came towards him again, crawling into his lap and reaching for the toy car that Peter had been fiddling with.

 

“Mine, Wormy, mine!”  Harry said, smiling when Peter handed him the car.

 

Peter smiled and showed Harry how to make the car move.  “Like this, Harry, see —vroom!”

 

“Voom!”  Harry said, grinning widely and making himself comfortable on Peter’s lap, car in hand.

 

James nodded, smiling at his son. “We’d like Sirius to do it.  He’s Harry’s godfather after all -- and I would trust him with my son’s life.”

 

“As would I.”  Lily said, smiling at Sirius.  “Will you do it, Sirius?”

 

Sirius stared at them in surprise.  “I’d be honoured.”  He smiled when Harry crawled off of Peter’s lap and into his, wrapping his arms around the baby with a smile.  “You really want me?”

 

“Sirius, I trust my Marauders more than anything in the world, but you have been like a brother to me; are my brother in every way that counts especially after my parents took you in.  You are the best of my best friends and I want you to be the Secret Keeper.”

 

Sirius nodded and then he frowned.  “No.”

 

“What?”  Lily asked in surprise, her fingers twining with James’.

 

Sirius shook his head as Harry crawled up his chest and tugged on his hair.  Sirius carefully pried the tiny fingers off of his shiny locks and used his wand to make the cars zoom across the floor again.  “I’m honoured, beyond honoured actually -- but what James just said is why it shouldn’t be me.”

 

“I don’t follow,” Peter said, staring at Sirius in surprise.  “He said that he trusts you.”

 

“As he should,” Sirius said calmly.  “But Voldemort will know.  Think about it, Jamie — we are brothers.  We have always been side by side in everything.  You made me best man at your wedding; hell I even walked Lily down the aisle because her own father couldn’t be there.  You made me godfather to your son.  Of course he’s going to know it’s me!  I’m the bloody most obvious choice!”

 

“I don’t see why that’s a bad thing, Sirius,” Lily told him and then her eyes widened as she realized what he was saying.  “He’ll go after you.”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Let him!  I’m not scared of Voldemort, what I’m scared of is something happening to you three… Pete!”

 

Peter jumped at the rather sudden exclamation of his name and he rubbed a hand over his right forearm.  “Yeah?”

 

“You should choose, Peter.”  Sirius suggested, his eyes alight now.  “Voldemort would never think of Peter.”

 

Peter shrugged at that, smiling at his friends.  “I am the least formidable opponent, it’s true.”

 

“No,” Sirius said with a laugh.  “Not that, Pete, but that Voldemort would obviously think it’s me, not you.  It would be sending him on a wild goose chase.”

 

James nodded in understanding.  “You do have a point.”  He looked at his wife, gently brushing her hair back from her face.  “But it’s not just me that has to make this choice.”

 

Lily smiled at her husband.  “Pete’s a Marauder, of course we trust him.”

 

Peter stared at them in surprise, his eyes alight with a gleaming happiness.  “I would be honoured.”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “You can even stay here in Godric’s Hollow, Voldemort will never know.  Halloween is next week.  We’ll all come over and dress Harry up.”

 

Lily laughed.  “I bought him a pumpkin costume, it’s so adorable.”

 

James grinned and kissed his wife.  “Okay, Pete, let’s do this.  Lily will perform the charm now.  Sirius, you’ll protect him?”

 

Sirius grinned at Peter, clapping a hand to his shoulder.  “With my life.  Let’s do it.”

 

The memory faded from view and the entire courtroom was quiet.  Sirius watched as McGonagall took the memory from the Pensieve and carefully slipped it back into his mind, the warm pressure of the memory against his temple only reminding him of the tears that rolled unabashedly down his cheeks.

 

“Well, Mr Black was indeed not the Secret Keeper.  Onto the night of Halloween then, 1981.”  Crouch said, pouring in the next memory and amplifying it above as he had the first, for the entire courtroom to see.

 

“James, does Lily really have him dressed up as a pumpkin?”  Sirius asked the mirror in his hand as he pulled his helmet off to hang it over the side of his motorbike and made his way down the street amidst the children walking around in costumes.

 

James’ face was in the mirror in his hand and he grinned widely.  “Yeah, look at him!”  He held Harry up to the mirror in his pumpkin costume and Harry grinned.  “Siri!  Padfoof!”

 

Sirius grinned, running his fingers through his hair to make sure that it wasn’t too messy from the helmet.  “He looks fucking adorable.”

 

“Fuck!”  Harry said and Sirius winced.

 

James laughed.  “I know, right?  And stop swearing around him — he copies you!”

 

“Moony’s got a worse off mouth than me!  He’s the one that got him saying shite and tosser!”  Sirius exclaimed as Harry then proceeded to shout out those two words and he winced.  “Sorry, Prongs.”

 

“Lily is going to beat both of you to death if you don’t control your language around him!  Anyway, listen we’ll dress him up again when you get here.  I’m going to take it off of him now so that we can feed him dinner.  The kid makes way too much of a mess,” James told him with a grin.

 

Sirius chuckled at that.  “Should be there soon.  I’m heading to Pete’s flat now.”

 

“Gotcha, see you blokes when you get here — and stop swearing, you git!”

 

Sirius laughed as the mirror went blank in his hand and he was left staring down at his own face.  He tucked it away in his pocket and hurried his pace down to the end of the block and up the steps to the third floor.  Peter’s flat was quiet and Sirius was pleased to see all of the wards were still strongly in place.

 

He let himself inside, tugging his scarf loose in the heat of the room.  “Pete!”

 

There was no answer so he made his way into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of a water, drinking it eagerly.  After a few moments of still not hearing movement, he began to wander the flat in search of his friend.  Finding it empty, he frowned checking his watch.

 

It was ten after five, Peter should have been home from work over an hour before and he had known Sirius was coming by for five.  He waited a little longer, looking out the window for any signs of his friend, but he only saw a normal street below full of children in costumes.

 

He tapped his fingers on his leg, checking his watch again.  Maybe something had happened with Peter’s mother as lately she hadn’t been doing well.  He glanced towards the Floo and contemplated calling her to check in and then changed his mind as the clock struck half past.  He didn’t want to needlessly worry her.

 

But something didn’t feel right.  

 

He locked the flat up behind him and hopped onto his motorbike, using the new flying mechanism that he had installed as he flew straight to Godric’s Hollow.  He quickened his speed as he landed and moved down the street and the sight of the Dark Mark blazing green in the sky tore through him.  He jumped off of the bike as it crashed onto its side and he started to run.

 

The sight of the cottage made him fist his hands over his heart.  The front gate was blown open and the entire left side of the house, the second floor where Harry’s nursery sat, was blown apart.  Sirius gasped for breath as he hurried into the house.

 

“JAMES!  LILY!”

 

His eyes widened when he saw James sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, his glasses askew on his face, his hazel eyes always so full of light staring blankly ahead.  The sob tore threw him and he crumpled to the ground at his friend’s feet.

 

“James!  You’ve never lost a duel, what the hell happened?”  He grabbed his friend’s hand, holding it to his heart and that’s when he noticed that there was no wand.  He jumped to his feet, tears welling up in his eyes as he found the wands of both James and Lily sitting on the couch in the living room next to a pumpkin Halloween costume and a camera.

 

“Fuck,” he muttered, clutching the wands in his hands.  “Jamie, you idiot!  Why didn’t you have your wand?”  He swiped furiously at the tears and then he thought of Lily’s wand… had she still managed to Apparate away?

 

He bolted up the stairs and he choked back another sob as he saw Lily lying in front of Harry’s crib, her red hair full of blood and her green eyes staring blankly ahead.  But it was the body of the pale dark haired wizard lying next to her that caught his eye.

 

Voldemort was dead.

 

“Siri!  Padfoof!”

 

Sirius’ heart literally stopped as he saw Harry standing in his crib, arms outstretched for him.  His little chubby cheeks covered in tears and blood.

 

He stepped over Lily, picking up her son and cradling him into his arms.  “Harry, little man, it’s okay.  Uncle Sirius is here.”  

 

He used his wand to clean the blood away from Harry’s face and frowned at the lightening bolt cut that sprang from his forehead.  He attempted to heal it, but it didn’t work, so he kissed it softly and snuggled the baby to him.

 

His eyes fell on the form of Voldemort and they darkened.  He pointed his wand at the body and flung it out of the hole in the side of the nursery, watching it splatter on the ground below.  He would not let that monster rest beside Lily Potter.

 

He kissed Harry’s cheeks as he made his way downstairs, trying to shield Harry’s eyes from the sight of his dead parents as tears rolled down his own cheeks.  

 

“I’ve got you, Harry, don’t worry.  Uncle Padfoot’s got you.”

 

“Mumma!  Dada!”

 

Sirius only shook his head and kissed Harry’s cheeks.  “I know, Prongslet, I know.”  He stepped onto the front porch and then he finally collapsed to his knees, cradling Harry close and he cried.

 

It was where Hagrid found him ten minutes later.

 

“Sirius.”

 

Sirius’ tear-stained face looked up at him.  “Hagrid.  James and Lily… they’re dead!”

 

Hagrid nodded, helping the young man to his feet.  “Yeh need to give me ‘Arry, Sirius.”

 

“What?  No!”  Sirius exclaimed, holding Harry tighter against him, “I’m his godfather, he stays with me!”  Hagrid reached for Harry and Sirius jumped back, holding the child closer and away from Hagrid’s reach.  “He belongs with me, Hagrid!”

 

“Sirius, Dumbledore asked me ter come take ‘im.  ‘E needs ter be wit' his family now.”

 

“I AM HIS FAMILY!”

 

Hagrid looked sad, his large hand squeezing Sirius’ shoulder in reassurance.  “Sirius, ‘e needs blood protection.  Yeh aren’t ‘is blood.”

 

Sirius shook his head, tears rolling down his cheeks.  “I am his family, Hagrid.”

 

“Sirius, give him ter me.  ‘E’ll be safe, I promise.  Lily’s sister will take care of ‘im.”

 

Sirius stared at him for a long moment.  “Petunia?  She hated Lily!”

 

Hagrid smiled sympathetically.  “She’ll take care of ‘Arry.”

 

Sirius’ hands trembled as he finally passed the baby to Hagrid and Harry cried out for him.  He leaned in to kiss Harry’s cheek.  “I love you, Harry.  I’ll come see you soon, okay?”

 

“Padfoof!  No go!”

 

Sirius smiled at his godson and then he turned his attention to Hagrid.  “There’s something that I have to do.  Take my bike, Hagrid.”  He tossed him the keys.  “I won’t be needing it.”

 

The memory ended there and Crouch nodded at Sirius as McGonagall again retrieved the memory and planted it back into his mind.  Crouch poured the final memory into the Pensieve and one last time amplified it across the wall.

 

Sirius marched down the block, following Peter’s trail from where he had chased him from his mother’s house.  He hadn’t Apparated away, but instead had made a run for it, surprising Sirius more than anything as he followed him to the end of the crowded block.

 

“Think being in a crowd of Muggles is going to save you, Wormtail?”  Sirius exclaimed, grabbing Peter by the shoulder and punching him in the face.

 

Peter fell to the ground, his nose bleeding.  “S-S-Sirius!”

 

“Don’t you even start with me, Pete!  You tried to turn us against the other!  You tried to convince Jamie and I that Rem was the spy!  Did you do the same to Remus?  Is that why he said that he couldn’t trust me?  Did you tell him that I was the fucking spy?”  He kicked Peter in the ribs and Peter whimpered.  “And it was you all along!  You spineless little worm!  WE TRUSTED YOU!”

 

He raised his wand, but Peter was faster, and he was blasted back by the explosion, his ears ringing.

 

“HOW DARE YOU BETRAY JAMES AND LILY, SIRIUS?  HOW DARE YOU?”  Peter bellowed into the crowd, blood dripping from his right hand.

 

Sirius jumped to his feet, his ears ringing and his wand out.  Then his eyes widened as he watched Peter transform into a rat and make a beeline for the sewer.  Sirius slipped in the blood of the bodies near him as he tried to go after him just as six Aurors and Hit Wizards Apparated around him.

 

“Sirius Black, you are under arrest!  Drop your wand!”

 

The laugh snuck out of him in desperation as he dropped his wand to the ground.  

 

Peter fucking Pettigrew had tricked all of them and he had never even seen it coming.

 

The last memory finished and Sirius said nothing as McGonagall again returned it to his head.  Crouch conferred with the people around him for almost ten minutes and then he nodded, standing up.

 

“Sirius Orion Black, after hearing your statements before and after obtaining truth serum; after using the revealing charm on your wand, and after viewing your memories, I regretfully admit that we were wrong and that you are innocent of all of the charges brought against you at this time.”  He held his hand up to silence the room.  “The court will compensate you one thousand six hundred and thirty Galleons, one for each day that you were held wrongfully as a prisoner in Azkaban Prison.”

 

Sirius snorted at that, but breathed a sigh of relief when the cage was opened and Moody waved his wand, dropping the chains and he rubbed his raw and bruised wrists gently.  Dawlish approached him and handed him the wand that had been taken from him the moment that he had dropped it on command; held in the Azkaban offices until his death (where it would then be broken) or in the rare case that he was to be set free.

 

His eyes moved to where Remus had been sitting and was surprised to find his old friend had left the courtroom altogether and he felt a wave of sadness at that.  

 

Had he stayed the whole time?  

 

Why had he left?  

 

Did he still think that he was guilty?  

 

He found himself embraced by McGonagall before he could wonder more about it and he hugged her back fiercely.  She had always been there for him and now he owed her his life.

 

“Minnie, thank you!  Thank you for believing in me!”  he told her, kissing her cheek as she pulled away.

 

McGonagall beamed at him.  “Always.”  She hugged him again as Dumbledore stepped towards them.

 

“Sirius, I am glad to learn that you have been cleared of all charges.  Minerva was most insistent on your innocence and I am only sorry that it took so long for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Wizengamot to see reason in allowing you to sit a fair trial for your crimes.”  Dumbledore told him, shaking his hand.  “You are a free man now.”

 

Sirius nodded.  The words still seemed to be a surprise to him.  He said goodbye to them both and found himself face to face with his Aunt Druella.  “Hi, Auntie.”

 

Druella Black sneered at him.  “I thought that when you were sent to prison that you had actually manned up and did something for once in your pathetic life, but I can see now that even that was too cowardly for you.  You couldn’t even kill an old school friend.  Your parents were right to be disappointed in you.  You’re worse than my blood traitor of a daughter.”

 

“Always nice to talk to you too, Auntie,” Sirius called out after her as she stormed out and Sirius found himself standing almost alone in the middle of the courtroom, unsure of where to go or what to do next.

 

He was free.  But what did that mean for him?

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR:

 

He was free.  But what did that mean for him?

 

He accepted the change of clothes from Dawlish and removed his ratty prison uniform, feeling better about himself just from the change of clothes and then he left the Ministry, not wanting to spend a minute longer there than was absolutely necessary, and made his way to Diagon Alley.  The clothes were the ones that he had been arrested in and the jeans were a little baggy, outlining the weight that he had lost while he had been locked away.  He took some money from his vault and exchanged some of it for Muggle currency.  He bought some healing potions for himself as well as some clean clothes and some fresh toiletries before he headed into Muggle London and rented himself a large hotel suite for the night, desperate to be alone and away from the magical world for a few moments.

 

He needed to clear his head.

 

He undressed in the bathroom, staring at himself in the mirror.  His sleek black hair, always so polished and clean was now ragged, covered in dirt and hanging halfway down his back.  He had a full scruffy beard, hanging off of his chin and he scratched at it, feeling the dirt and buildup from being locked in the cell for so long without a proper washing.  He definitely had lice too, he realized as he scratched.  He used the razor provided and shaved the monstrosity from his face, deciding to leave a light dusting of stubble.  He cut his hair next, trimming it until it was just brushing the top of his collarbone and then he turned the shower on.  The hot water beat down on his sore and bruised body and he let the tears fall as he scrubbed at years of dirt from his skin.  He scrubbed his hair and his scalp until the water began to cool down.  He rinsed himself clean and then he finally turned off the shower only to fill the tub full of hot steaming water and bubbles.

 

While the tub filled up, he wiped the steam from the mirror to look at his reflection again. He brushed his hair, parting it to the side and smiling at the familiar look. He was starting to feel like himself again despite the haunted cheekbones and the dark circles under his eyes.  He used the potion that he had purchased in Diagon Alley to heal his gums and teeth after years of misuse and gulped it back, trying to fight the urge to vomit.  Then he magically cleaned his teeth and crawled into the tub, sighing in pleasure as the hot clean water enveloped him.

 

Four years, six months, and twenty days he had spent in prison.

 

It had felt like a lifetime.

 

He was twenty-six years old, would be twenty-seven in November, and he felt like he was fifty.  He leaned back in the water, relaxing in the bubbles until the water chilled and then he climbed from the tub and dried himself off.  He tied the towel around his waist and turned back to the mirror.

 

He could almost count his ribs, he thought as he touched his sides. His arms were still muscular, but he was skinny. The pushups and sit-ups he had done every day for hours in his cell just to pass the time, had helped keep him in great shape, but the lack of proper nutrition had affected him as well.  He looked at the tattoos on his body and for the first time all day he let out a small smile.

 

The first tattoo that he had ever procured he’d gotten when he’d been sixteen.  Peter had come with him, he remembered.  They had gone to the tattoo parlour in Knockturn Alley and Sirius had asked the guy to inscribe the circular phases of the moon chart.  It was how he had kept track of the days in Azkaban.  The moon was charmed to change on his chest as it did outside, always telling him what day it was.  A month later he had tattooed the Gryffindor house crest in bright red and gold on his right shoulder blade with the words: Where dwell the brave at heart.  

 

The tattoos had infuriated his parents and he had loved them all the more for it and being the rebellious sort, he had then continued to cover his body in the gorgeous art that made his mother angry, and him so proud.  The Marauders Crest over his left shoulder blade, detailing the friends that meant so much to him; the true family that he belonged to with their motto: I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.  All four of them had gotten it tattooed before their seventh year.

 

His eyes fell on the portrait of the rat and rage filled him.

 

He still couldn't fathom how Peter could have betrayed him like that; betrayed Lily and James.

 

He held his wand up for a moment ready to blast the rat from the crest altogether, but he stopped.  The crest represented their friendship and the good memories that the four of them had shared together all those years ago.  He wasn't going to change that by blasting apart his back.  He loved that tattoo and he wasn't going to change it.

 

He wasn’t going to let Peter take something else that he loved from him.

 

Sirius dropped his wand and traced the runic symbols along his left forearm that stood for friendship (ᚠᚱᛛᛖᛅᛞᛋᚻᛛᛈ), family (ᚠᚨᛗᛛᛚᚥ), and Marauders (ᛗᚨᚱᚨᚢᛞᛖᚱ) that were outlined in the tiny footprint pattern from the map that they had created at school.  On the inside of his left wrist, he had the outline of a red and gold phoenix sketched in flames that came around in a half circle.  The raw bruises from his chains had cut into the tattoo slightly and he winced at the pain of them.  At least they would heal, he thought and he knew that it wouldn’t damage the phoenix.  He remembered how he had gotten it as a symbol of hope.  One could always use more hope in their lives.

 

His right arm, a complete sleeve done in different shades of black, greys, and blues -- of a wolf howling at the moon, while a stag, dog, and rat circled around him, protecting him.  The Celtic knot closed off the scene at the bottom encircling his arm just above the wrist.  Above the scene was the star chart of Sirius and of Orion encased in a circle and covering his entire right shoulder.  Across his collarbone it said: Mischief Managed in loopy cursive.  Across his right side, over his ribs he had his motorcycle apexed by three stars.  And finally he then traced the Gothic lettering that was his godson's name, the last tattoo he had placed on himself, on his left side vertically down his ribs it said: Prongslet, HJP, July 31st, 1980.  As he traced the lettering he remembered the way that Harry had called out to him from Hagrid's arms that night and he buried his face in his hands.

 

Harry.

 

He needed to see his godson.  He needed to make sure that he was alright.  His stomach grumbled loudly surprising him and he brushed his hair back from his face.

 

One step at a time, Sirius, he told himself.  One step at a time.

 

Two hours later, Sirius had treated himself to a steak dinner and a large pint at the hotel restaurant and then he had crawled into the large bed in his hotel room and slept fitfully before sleeping on the floor, finding it more of what he had been used to over the last four years.  The bed was just too soft and he almost felt like he didn't deserve the comfort of it.

 

When he woke in the morning, he felt surprisingly refreshed.  He ordered himself a full breakfast of bacon and eggs and ate every last bite before showering and grooming himself before he checked out and Apparated to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.

 

He stared up at the house in Claremont Square that he had grown up in, his hands in the pockets of the jeans he had bought the day before.  He hated everything about this place.  Now his father was dead and his brother had been killed by Death Eaters two years before he had gone to prison.  He took a deep breath and he headed into the house, stepping through the front door and wincing as the full sized portrait of his mother began to scream at him.

 

"DISGRACE!  A TRAITOR TO YOUR BLOOD AND TO YOUR FAMILY!"

 

Sirius ignored the portrait and headed straight up the stairs to his old bedroom.  He was halfway through packing his things when his mother’s old house elf stood in the doorway.

 

"What are you doing here, you traitorous boy?  You broke my poor mistress’ heart!”

 

"Getting my stuff — and we both know my mother doesn’t have a heart, Kreacher.”

 

Kreacher glared at him.  "Be quick about it.  The mistress doesn’t want you here."

 

"And I don't relish being here.  I'm almost done."

 

Kreacher stayed where he was, watching him as he grabbed the last of his things, his eyes on the Gryffindor banner and the Muggle posters on his walls.  "When you moved back in here to be closer to your friend Pettigrew, the Mistress allowed it.  It was temporary she told me, and it really was.  Less than two weeks and you went to prison.  She was proud — oh yes.  She said that you were finally doing what a Black should be and being imprisoned for such a dark crime was to be applauded.”

 

"For a crime that I didn’t even commit," Sirius spat at him, swinging his bag onto his shoulder.  "And this was the last place that I wanted to come.  Fee and Monty were my real parents in every way that counted.  I didn't want to come back here and I don't want to be back here now.  I just came here for my clothes.  Don't worry, my dear mum will never have to set eyes on me again.  Where is she anyway?  Hiding until I’m gone so that she doesn’t have to face me?”

 

Kreacher sneered at him.  “The Mistress never want you here!”

 

Sirius rolled his eyes at the deranged house elf and stormed past him and hurried down the stairs.

 

“DISGRACE!  FILTHY BLOOD TRAITOR!  YOU ARE NO SON OF MINE!”  The portrait of Walburga Black screamed as he closed the front door behind him letting out a sigh of relief.  

 

He had been more pleased than he wanted to admit to only have to see Kreacher and to not be forced to deal with his mother for even a moment.

 

As he stepped out into the street and the house disappeared behind him under the warding, he let out a deep breath of relief, and started walking.  He had walked for almost three blocks before he realized that he had no idea where he was even going.

 

His Uncle Alphard had left him his old bachelor flat in London as well as the big cottage out in Sidmouth in Devon.  He had lived in the flat after graduating from Hogwarts, but he had sold it a few years later.  He had been planning to move in with Moony after his father had died, but then… they had stopped trusting each other he remembered.  Peter had planted those seeds of deceit.  He had been without a home. 

 

Once James and Lily had gone into hiding, Sirius had returned to Grimmauld Place, because it was close to Peter, easy for him to keep his eye on his friend -- or so he had thought.

 

He remembered how James had tried to talk him out of it.

 

"Padfoot, you can't go back there!  That place is poison!"

 

"It's just my mother now, Prongs, and that crazy old house elf.  I'll be fine.  It's just until I find something else.  I never planned to stay in Uncle Alphard's old flat anyway.  It was too small for me.  It's only going to be for a few weeks, until I know that you guys are all safe.  I have that cottage out in Devon, maybe I'll go there.  But I need to be close by. Just until your safe.  I can put up with Walburga until then."

 

James had only glared at him. "If you would just talk to Remus —"

 

"We did talk, James — I'll be fine.  I'm not a child any more and I can deal with a few weeks under my mother's roof."

 

But the two weeks that he had spent with his mother had been terrible.  The memories of that house had haunted him and he had spent more time riding his motorbike, looking for clues; going on missions for the Order of the Phoenix, and trying to make the world safe for his best friend and his family.

 

Moony, he thought.  His trunk and his stuff had all been moved into the Lupin cottage. They had planned on living together in the house that Remus' father had left to him when he had died.  Remus hadn’t wanted to be alone and Sirius had leapt at the opportunity to live with his best friend again.

 

But then Peter had wrecked it.

 

Sirius had let him wreck it, he realized.

 

"Do you honestly think that I'm the spy, Sirius?"  Remus had demanded, his hands fisted in his hair.  "After ten years of knowing me and suddenly you can't trust me?"

 

"I don't know, Moony!  How did Voldemort find out about McKinnon and McDonald? Pete says that he only ever told you!"

 

Remus' mouth opened and then closed again. "Mary McDonald was my first girlfriend, Sirius.  I adored her!  And Marly… Merlin, how can you even think this of me?"

 

"I don't… I mean, I don't believe you'd hurt them, Remus.  I just don't know anymore! Someone amongst us is spying on the Order."

 

"And how do I know it's not you?"  Remus demanded.

 

Sirius looked outraged.  "You think that I'm the spy?  Are you fucking daft?  I'm doing everything that I can to protect James and Lily!  They asked me to be their Secret Keeper, for fuck’s sake.  Me!  Not you, Remus!”

 

Remus snorted in amusement.  ”Of course they picked you!  Can’t trust a werewolf, right?"

 

"Oh, don't you fucking use the werewolf thing on me, Rem!"  Sirius yelled. "I've known you for ten years and I know that you're not a monster!  But those missions you go on to get information on Greyback and his cult; they are the real monsters and you being around them is not safe for anyone!  I don’t care about how different Adrian seems, he is a dangerous werewolf who wants you in his pack!”

 

Remus' bottom lip trembled as he spoke. "I don't think it's a good idea for you to move in here anymore."

 

"What?"

 

"You heard me.  I'll figure out how to afford this place on my own.  But I can't have you here if you don't trust me and I don't trust… I don't know anymore, Siri.  I don't know what to believe or who to trust anymore."  Remus said, falling into the chair.  "I think that you need to go."

 

Sirius only stared at him.  "Moony, I sold my flat to move in here with you."

 

Remus' amber eyes looked up at him. "You can't stay here, Sirius.”

 

Sirius grabbed his wand off of the table. "I'll come back for my things."

 

Then he had slammed the door behind him.

 

Remus had left for a mission the next day, he remembered and it had been the last time that they had spoken.  Sirius adjusted the bag on his back. 

 

It was time they did.

 

He Disapparated to the England-Welsh border and slowly made his way through Wrexham until he came across the familiar trail that led to the Lupin family home.  The smell of the trees and the mountains made him sigh in contentment.  He had missed being outside and feeling the cool air on his skin.

 

Sirius trudged through the woods, heading towards the small cottage that he knew was hidden back there.  When the cottage came into view, a small smile formed on his face at the familiar sight and he knocked at the door.

 

There was shuffling inside before the door opened and Remus stood there, a cup of tea in his hands.

 

"Sirius."

 

Sirius smiled at him; the relief of seeing his old friend coursing through him.  “Hi, Moony, can I come in?"

 

Remus simply stared at him and then he nodded, moving inside to sit down at the kitchen table, his tea still in his hands.  "Do you want a cup of tea?"

 

"That would be great."

 

Remus poured him a cup, adding the three sugars that he knew he liked, and finally speaking as he passed the mug towards him.  "You look better than you did yesterday."

 

Sirius nodded, sipping the hot tea and relishing in how good it tasted; how good everything had tasted the last two days.  The taste of freedom, he thought.  ”Showers will do that to you.  Just need to fatten up a bit now."  When Remus didn't respond, he sighed.  "I understand why you thought it was me that betrayed them.  I get it, Moony.  I'm not mad at you.  The evidence was against me and it looked… it looked like I was guilty."

 

Remus let out a breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding.  "I didn't want to believe it, Sirius, but… Peter… he had convinced me that you were the spy, using the same excuses that he told you and James and Lily about only you knowing the whereabouts of Marlene and Mary and… then when I came back from my mission, you were in prison for killing Peter — and James and Lily were dead… Harry was… I didn't know what to think!”

 

"I know, and I'm so sorry for ever even thinking for one second that you were the spy! We were going to tell you that we had switched Secret Keepers, but you had left for another mission with Adrian’s pack and well… you didn't exactly come back in time."  Sirius said quietly, his hands holding his mug of tea.

 

"Until I saw those memories, Padfoot, I… I've been hating you; believing that you were the reason all of my friends were dead and now… Peter's still alive and you've been set free.  It's a lot to take in." Remus admitted, his gold eyes on his friend's grey ones.  "I'm sorry for what I said to you the last time we spoke.”

 

Sirius nodded.  "I know.  I'm sorry too.  It’s why I came here, to see you, to apologize for everything.  I’m sorry, Moony.”  

 

Remus nodded, his amber eyes on his old friend.  “Me too.  I should have trusted you.”

 

“We should have trusted each other,” Sirius said simply.

 

Remus sipped his tea.  “So… what are you going to do now?”

 

Sirius was quiet for a moment.  "I feel kind of lost, you know?  I need to heal myself first, I know that.  I took a few potions last night… but I'm going to see Dumbledore about seeing Harry and I think I'll ask Poppy to give me a once over.  I don’t want to go to St Mungo’s if I can avoid it.  I need a haircut.  I just… I want to be me again, you know?"

 

"You definitely need a haircut — though I see you cut off most of the shaggy mess you were wearing yesterday."

 

Sirius grinned.  "I want it the way it was before, my hair that is."

 

"Always were a right pain in the arse about your hair.  It had to be perfect.”

 

Sirius smiled at him.  "You were always jealous of my shining locks of perfection."

 

Remus snorted, standing up and opening a box of biscuits to put on the table, smiling when Sirius immediately grabbed one.  "Once you fix your hair, you'll feel normal again, will you?"

 

Sirius fiddled with the silver hoop at the top of his left ear. "I don't know, but I think it will be a start.  I want to look like myself and not like… not like I've spent over four years in prison.  I don't want to scare Harry when I see him."

 

"Harry's living with Lily's sister Petunia and her family in Surrey," Remus told him, reaching for a biscuit.  "I went to visit him right after the funeral and… she said that she'd take care of him."

 

"How's he doing?  He has to be so big by now, five years old," Sirius said with a grin, remembering the adorable chubby cheeked baby who he had loved unconditionally.  "I can't wait to see him!  Does he know that I went to prison?  Of course, he doesn’t!  I hope that he wants to see me.”

 

Remus smiled sadly, tapping his long fingers on the side of his cup.  "I don't know how he's doing, Sirius.  I haven't seen him since after the funeral."

 

Sirius' eyes hardened.  "Why the hell not?  You're his Uncle Moony?  He WANTS to see you!"

 

Remus leaned back in his chair, sighing.  It made him angry as well, but he needed Sirius to understand why he had stayed away.  "I went to see him, like I said.  Petunia let me in and let me say goodbye to him.  She told me that she had promised Dumbledore to take him in, to take care of him, but only if he was completely unaware of the magical world.  She wants him to grow up normal.  She told me that he was to have no contact with anyone from our world and that unless I was taking him from her, that was to be my only visit.  So I kissed him goodbye and I left him with his cousin and his aunt and uncle."

 

"Why didn't you take him, Moony?"  Sirius asked in bewilderment.  "No contact with anyone from our world?  Why didn't you take him with you?"

 

"And what, Sirius?"  Remus demanded, his eyes flashing angrily now.  "I have no claim to him!  I was a family friend.  A werewolf!  The Ministry would never have granted a monster permission to raise a child if they found out!  And how could I raise him?  I have no one!  My parents were dead.  My friends were dead!  What would I do when I transformed?  How would I take care of him?"

 

Sirius shook his head, anger vibrating through his body as he spoke through clenched teeth.  "You — are — not — a — monster!”

 

"The Ministry of Magic thinks that I am and therefore would never have granted me custody if they ever found out!  You know that I would have to register myself as a werewolf to gain custody of him, which would be a catch-22 in the end, wouldn’t it?  I have no claim to that child, Sirius.  I am not his family, not by blood.  Petunia Dursley is."

 

"Well, I do," Sirius said, standing up now.  "He's my godson.  James and Lily made me his legal guardian.  I have the paperwork in my vault at Gringotts to prove it."

 

"Are you ready to be a single father, Sirius?"  Remus asked him quietly, his amber eyes staring intently at his old friend.  "Do you really want to take him away from the family that he has been living with for four years; where he has a cousin his own age to play with, and an aunt and an uncle who care for him?"

 

Sirius shrugged, tucking his hair behind his ears.  "Probably not.  But after I see Harry, if Petunia isn't going to let me be part of his life, I'll fight for custody of him.  I don't want to scare him when he sees me again, if he even remembers me at all.  But I will be part of his life.  Petunia won’t stop me.  I just need some time to get settled in first; find a place to live for starters.”

 

"I still have that spare room," Remus said with a smile.

 

Sirius grinned at his friend.  "I remember.  I was hoping you might also still have all of my stuff in it?"

 

Remus smiled.  "It's all still there, from the posters of The Ramones to the two boxes full of motorcycle magazines and the box of your records.  I didn't touch anything.  I thought about… I couldn't bring myself to touch any of it."

 

Sirius reached out to touch his friend's arm.  "Thank you, Moony."

 

Remus smiled and stood up, bringing his empty tea cup over to the sink.  "Obviously you're free to stay here, but if you do decide to take Harry, you're going to need a bigger place and I don't have the room here.  You know the cellar is where I — it would be too dangerous for him to be here.“

 

"Uncle Alphard left me that cottage in Devon, remember, in Sidmouth?  I haven't been out there in years, not since Jamie and I worked there that summer.  I think that I'd like to check it out and see what it’s like.  I think I’ll move in there, I remember it was pretty decent sized," Sirius told him.  "I think that I'd like to stay out of the city; enjoy being outside again.  But until I get myself organized, I appreciate you giving me my old room.”  Sirius smiled, standing up and tugging his friend close, hugging him tightly.  "I missed you, Moony."

 

Remus hugged him close, smiling against his friend's shoulder. "I missed you too, Padfoot."  When Sirius stepped back, Remus smiled and leaned back against the counter.  "Of course, you can crash here as long as necessary.  And I'll do you one better, we'll head into town and go to the salon.  Merlin knows it must be killing you to look in the mirror with that hair."

 

Sirius laughed and stretched to his feet.  "Sounds great.”

 

 

 

~ASC~

 

 

 

Two hours later, Sirius followed Remus back to the cottage. The hairdresser had fixed his hair, chopping the ends and layering it around his face so that the front pieces were at his chin, parted to the left side and his hair just brushed his collarbone. He had always liked his hair just a little long; long enough to tie back in a stubby tail if need be.  He ran his fingers through the shiny new conditioned black locks and grinned at his friend as he leaned against the wall, lifting leaning his foot against it and posing dramatically.

 

"Am I sexy again?"

 

Remus rolled his eyes.  "Let's say that your hair looks great and leave it at that.”  He headed into the kitchen and opened the ice box.  "I haven't done much in the way of grocery shopping, but I can probably throw a stew together."

 

Sirius nodded, slipping his hands into his pockets.  "That's okay, Moony.  I'm going to bring my stuff to my old room, find my old jacket, and head to Hogwarts.  I want to get some potions from Poppy and talk to Dumbledore about Harry.  I'll grab something there.  I'll be back later tonight."

 

Remus nodded and watched Sirius head into the spare bedroom and come out a few minutes later with his black leather jacket.  He watched him Apparate from the yard and for the first time in almost five years, his heart felt a little lighter.

 

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE:

 

Sirius landed in Hogsmeade, walking along the familiar path to the gates of Hogwarts and smiling at the familiar grimacing face of Argus Filch, the caretaker.  He wanted to talk to Dumbledore, but he first made his way to the Hospital Wing to let Madam Pomfrey check him over.

 

“Thanks for doing this again, Poppy,” he told her as she checked his heart rate and examined his ribs for signs of malnutrition.

 

Madam Pomfrey smiled at him as she used her wand to examine him.  “Of course, Sirius.”  

 

He drank the potions that she offered him only partially listening as she explained how this one would help his teeth, that one his strength, and how one was full of protein antibodies.  He wanted to do everything that he could to get healthy again as spending time in prison wasn’t exactly the best place to get a tan and to build up a strong body when you were locked in a dark dank cell with no windows and lived on a diet of porridge and stew.  When she loaded him up with a few more days worth of potions to take care of his problems; healed the raw bruises and cuts on his wrists and ankles; and told him that he would be back to normal soon, he made his way to Dumbledore’s office feeling immensely better.

 

He smiled at McGonagall as the spiral staircase opened and she came off.

 

“Minnie!”

 

McGonagall rolled her eyes, but let him hug her.  “Sirius, you’re starting to look like your old self again!  I like the hair,” she told him with a smile.

 

Sirius grinned and ran his fingers through it, his hair falling just so in the layered waves.  “Thanks.  It was my first step in trying to feel like my old self again.  Thank you, again, for everything.”

 

McGonagall smiled and gently squeezed his arm.  “Of course.  Dumbledore is waiting for you.”

 

“He always knows, eh?”

 

McGonagall smiled.  “I think we both had a feeling that you would be arriving soon.”

 

Sirius smiled and headed up the stairs to Dumbledore’s office, his hands in his pockets.

 

“Professor,” he said as he stepped inside, closing the door behind him.

 

“Albus is fine now, Sirius, I’ve said it before.  I haven’t been your professor in many years,” Dumbledore told him with a smile.  His blue eyes twinkled at him from behind his half moon spectacles.

 

“Right,” Sirius said with a smile.  “I’m here about my godson.”

 

Dumbledore’s fingers danced together as he spoke.  “I figured that you might be.”

 

“I want to see him.”

 

“He’s safe, Sirius.  He’s living with Lily’s sister and her family in Surrey.”

 

“I know that,” Sirius told him, taking a seat across from Dumbledore.  “Remus told me and I remember Hagrid telling me that that’s where you were planning on sending him.  But from what I remember about Petunia Evans she wasn’t exactly full of charm and she hated Lily.  The last thing that she must have wanted was for her estranged sister’s son to be forced upon her, especially after the death of their parents.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, leaning forward, his half moon spectacles sitting on the edge of his nose.  “Lily Potter sacrificed herself for her son, Sirius.  You were there, you saw the way that she died in front of Harry’s crib.”  When Sirius only nodded, Dumbledore continued.  “That’s old magic; forgotten magic.  Her blood protected him from harm and I think that is how he defeated Voldemort.  The world has been calling him The Boy Who Lived.  They’re claiming that he’s a hero.  So I sent him to the only living person who shares his mother’s blood — Petunia Dursley.”

 

“But Voldemort is dead!  I tossed his body out of the nursery myself!”  Sirius exclaimed, crossing his arms as he spoke.

 

“His body yes, but… I don’t think that he’s truly gone, Sirius.  You were in Azkaban, do his followers believe him truly gone?”  Dumbledore asked, his fingers continuing to tap.  “No one ever found the body, Sirius.”

 

Sirius hesitated.  Those first few months, when he had been hopeful of getting out, of someone learning the truth about Peter, he had listened attentively.  The other prisoners, the ones who had been followers of Voldemort had screamed all sorts of things.  He even remembered hearing his cousin Bellatrix’s voice shouting how when Voldemort rose again the world would see darkness like never before.  

 

“There was talk about… some said that he had gone further in death than anyone.  I didn’t know what they meant by that, but most were convinced that he wasn’t truly gone.  At least, that’s what they were screaming when they first arrived,” he said.  “Before they went quiet like the rest.”

 

“Exactly,” Dumbledore said carefully.  “Voldemort went further into the dark arts than anyone that I have ever met and I don’t think that he’s truly gone, but how long until he returns, or if he will return is unknown.  I want Harry to be safe and living with Petunia Dursley gives him blood protection unlike any other.  I know that you want that for him as well.”

 

Sirius nodded, shifting his seat.  “I want him to be safe, yes, but I am his godfather, and James and Lily made me the legal guardian of Harry if anything were to happen to them.  I have the paperwork to prove it.  He should be with me.”

 

Dumbledore smiled.  “Sirius, in all honesty, are you really ready to take on the responsibilities of raising a five-year-old-child by yourself?”

 

“I’ll be ready if I have to be, Albus,” Sirius told him sincerely.  “I’m working on getting my life in order again, but I wanted you to know that I want to see Harry.  I’m not saying that I’m going to swoop in there and take him away from his aunt and uncle.  I just want to see him; to be a part of his life.  If he’s happy and safe with them, who am I to take him away from all of that?  I don’t want to disrupt his life, I just… I want him to know me.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, smiling.  “For now, let’s get you settled back into the world.  You still need to find a place to live; maybe get a job or put your life back together after being imprisoned for so many years.  But I’m sure that you will find a place in Harry’s life, Sirius, don’t you worry about that.”

 

“All things that I plan to do,” Sirius told him.  “But I wanted you to know that I plan to see Harry.  I knew that you put him under protection and I didn’t know what that meant in terms of getting visitors or warding.”

 

“I never said that you couldn’t see him,” Dumbledore told him with a smile.  “Just one step at a time, alright?”

 

Sirius nodded in agreement.  He left Hogwarts feeling immensely better.  The last thing that he wanted was to take Harry away from a home that he loved.  He didn’t want to ruin the child’s life, but he wasn’t going to let Petunia Evans Dursley keep him away from his godson, nor was he going to let Dumbledore.  Not that Dumbledore was trying to keep him away, Sirius thought, he was looking out for the best interest of the boy, and he respected that.  Dumbledore was a good man.  But he wanted to get the chance to know Harry, to tell him about his parents, to teach him how to be a Marauder, and most of all, to show that little boy how loved he still was by the family that his parents had chosen for him.

 

Sirius made his way back to Gringotts after leaving Hogsmeade.  Dumbledore was right, he did need to figure out where he was going to live.  If he wanted Harry to come spend time with him, he wanted his godson to have his own space, maybe even his own bedroom so that he could come and stay with him, maybe on the weekends some time.  Remus was right, he wouldn’t be able to do that if he stayed at the tiny two bedroom Lupin cottage.  He knew Remus wouldn’t want him to see the cellar where his friend locked himself off in during the full moon either; at least not right away.  To figure that out he needed to go to Gringotts and to organize his estate.

 

His Uncle Alphard had died when he had been seventeen and had left him a small fortune and all of his assets, infuriating his mother who had cut him off from the Black Family wealth over a year before.  It took him an hour to get all of his paperwork in order from the goblins.  The Auror Department had transferred his money from his wrongful imprisonment as well, he noted, as he headed to the house that his uncle Alphard had lived in to see if it was indeed habitable.

 

Alphard Black had been a bachelor for life, but he had taken a shining to Sirius when he was young, and was one of the few family members to keep talking to him once he had been sorted into Gryffindor, and a few years later when his own mother had disowned him and blasted his name from the family tree — Uncle Alphard had still been there.  He had always been nice to him, but Sirius still hadn’t expected the old codger to leave him everything.

 

He used the keys provided for the two story cottage in Sidmouth in Devon off the coast.  The cliffs overlooking the beach on the English Channel were only a ten minute walk away and the lush forest surrounding the cottage was private enough that no one would know the house was there unless they were looking for it.  He wondered if the Morrisons still lived in the yellow cottage on the right.  He remembered the elderly couple from when he had been a teenager; they had always been kind.  

 

The outside alone; the fresh air and the beautiful scenery made Sirius decide that this was where he wanted to live.  After almost five years in a dark dank windowless cell, he wanted every opportunity to enjoy the outside world and living in the country would definitely provide that for him, he thought as he breathed in the fresh air.

 

Sirius stepped inside, coughing at the dust and lit his wand to see through the room.  His uncle’s house elf had died a few weeks after his uncle had and he imagined that no one had cleaned or touched the place since.  Sheets covered the furniture in the living room as he stepped through to the large kitchen.  There was a sunroom off the kitchen that was piled high with boxes.  He made his way upstairs where there was a large master bedroom and two large bedrooms on the other side of the hall.  One large bathroom at the end of the hall and a private bathroom in the master which he knew his uncle had installed himself a few years before he had died.  Or rather, he and James had done it for him, he remembered, the summer before fifth year.  The stairs at the end of the hall led up to the attic which was also a large room full of dusty boxes and sheet-covered furniture.

 

“Well,” he said, rolling up his sleeves.  “Time to get to work.”

 

It took a full week to clean almost eight years worth of dust and cobwebs from the house.  He’d eat breakfast with Remus and then head straight back to the cottage in Devon; working well into the night to put the house back in order.  

 

But when he was finished, it was gleaming.  

 

The hardwood floors shined, the walls were clean and grime-less and it smelt lemony pine fresh.  He bought paint and supplies and he repainted the living room in an off white and soft blue, the natural wood of the room accenting everything.  He bought new furniture, comfortable chairs and a sofa in blue and white.  

 

The kitchen he decided to keep the cheery golden yellow, he just repainted it and fixed the dark backsplash, remembering how he and James had carefully glued each grey stone to the wall that same summer.  He polished the wooden shutters, letting the sunlight into the kitchen.  He left the sunroom closed up, deciding to go through the boxes in there another day. 

 

Upstairs, he painted the master bedroom an off white and bought himself a brand new king-sized bed before he got to work on what he was thinking would be Harry’s bedroom for when his godson came to visit him.  The bedroom had a small balcony that looked out the back of the cottage, over the cliffs and the English Channel.  It was the biggest of the two room choices and he decided to paint it grey, the wall the bed was against he painted a dark grey.  He purchased a new Queen sized bed as the room demanded it, getting a Gryffindor bedspread and matching sheets.  He put Gryffindor banners on the wall and some of James’ old Quidditch posters giving the room red accents to brighten it up.  

 

He added the photographs next: James and Lily; James and Sirius; James, Sirius, and Remus.  He put up a few photographs of the four Marauders so that Harry would know who his parents friends were despite how much he wanted to scowl at seeing Peter’s face.  He found one of James, Sirius, Euphemia, and Fleamont, so he framed that as well, hanging it on the wall.  Baby photos of Harry were the others: Ones of Harry with his parents, ones of Harry with Sirius and Remus, one of Harry just with Sirius, one of Harry zooming around on a baby broomstick, etc.  He soon made a photo wall of memories for his godson to have.

 

He went to Diagon Alley again and found his way to the children’s toy store and filled an entire chest full of toys including a toy broomstick before finding a Muggle toy store and buying more toys including a football, and to his delight, a children’s motorcycle.  He bought a few pairs of clothes as well and a few pairs of pyjamas, the woman in the store helping him happily.

 

He hung up the new clothes, folded the others in the dresser and carefully painted Harry J. Potter on the trunk that held the toys at the end of the bed.  He placed a stuffed white stag, a stuffed black dog, and a stuffed golden brown wolf on the bed and smiled at his work.  It looked great and inviting and he couldn’t wait until Harry was going to see it.  He was well aware that he had probably gone overboard -- okay definitely had gone overboard, especially with the toys -- but he had missed out on four years of Harry’s life.  

 

He planned on making up for it in any way that he could.  And if he spoiled the child a little bit, well, there was nothing wrong with that in his opinion.

 

He made a little plaque for the door that read: Harry’s Room, Prongslet; and felt like he was finished.  By the end of the second week, he had moved all of his own belongings into the cottage and reaffirmed all of the wards.  

 

Being a Black, his Uncle Alphard had been paranoid already and the cottage was completely unplottable, invisible, and impossible to find with strong protection wards guarding every entrance and Anti-Apparating charms in place.  Knowing the location allowed entrance onto the property, but if someone hadn’t been there before, the property remained invisible unless access was granted by a Black.  The Floo in the living room wasn’t officially connected to the Ministry of Magic, but it was similar in that if you knew the location and had been granted access, you could find it.  Sirius reinforced the charms himself and bought fresh groceries, making himself dinner and eating quietly by himself.

 

The knock on the front door surprised him.  Other than Remus, no one else even knew that he had decided to settle here.  He held his wand out as he cautiously moved towards the entrance and he sighed in relief when he recognized George Morrison, the neighbour.

 

“Mr Morrison,” he said pulling open the door.

 

Mr Morrison nodded at him.  “I told Margaret that it was you who had moved in.  Heard you were in prison, boy.”

 

Sirius nodded, scratching the back of his neck.  “I was.  They released me.”

 

“And you’ll be living here now?”

 

Sirius nodded again.  “Yes, Sir.  Uncle Alphard left it to me and it’s where I’d like to stay.”

 

Mr Morrison stared at him for a moment.  “Alphard Black was a good man.  He thought that you were something special.  You were always kind to him and I remember back when you and your friends helped Margaret and I after that big storm.  We’re happy to have you living out here, Sirius.”

 

“Thank you, Mr Morrison,” he said with a smile.

 

“You’re a grown man now, son, call me George.  Will you be living here alone?”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “Not always no.  My godson will be here quite frequently as well.  He’s five.”

 

Mr Morrison nodded.  “Good, good.  This place needs youth.  Welcome home, Sirius.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Sirius watched Mr Morrison head back to his own cottage and he grinned.  He was very glad that he had decided to come here and to make it his home.  He had friendly neighbours, if he wanted them, but Black Cottage was far enough away from them if he didn’t.  He couldn’t wait to show Harry his home.

 

When he made his way up to bed that night, he undressed and looked at himself in the mirror again.  His face didn’t look haunted anymore.  His eyes were lighter, the dark circles were gone and the potions that Poppy had given him had obviously helped as his teeth were back to normal and his gums were healed, the weight loss seemed less extreme though he knew that would still take some time.  He continued to do pushups and sit-ups every morning and night, but he felt like he looked good.

 

He didn’t look scary and that was most important to him.  

 

He didn’t want to scare Harry.

 

He climbed into bed, smiling.  

 

Tomorrow morning, he was going to see his godson. 

 

 

 

~ASC~

 

 

 

Sirius woke up the next morning, did his exercises, showered and dressed, tucked his shaggy locks behind his ear, parted it to the side and ate a full breakfast.  He locked the door behind him and headed out past the wards to Disapparate.  He appeared silently in Surrey and made his way towards Little Whinging.  He transformed into his dog form, bouncing along the street as he made his way to Number Four Privet Drive.  

 

He had decided that morning to just scope out the house first.  

 

It had been an interesting few weeks trying to get his own life back together and learning how to live again, something that had been a lot harder than he had expected.  Dumbledore had told him that Harry was okay living with his aunt and uncle and the last thing that Sirius wanted was to take his godson away from a happy home.  Blood protection was indeed a very strong and a very old branch of magic and if Petunia really had taken Harry into her home, she must have changed somewhat from the snotty little miss perfect that he remembered from James and Lily’s wedding.  But Dumbledore had told him that he could visit and he would.  

 

But first, he would meet Harry in his furrier form.  After all, every little boy wanted a dog and Harry had always loved his ‘Padfoof.’

 

He hopped the small gate into the backyard of Number Four, sniffing around eagerly before his eyes looked through the glass doors of the gazebo and saw the family eating breakfast.  The sight made him smile.  There was Harry, sitting on a chair at the table eating a piece of toast.  His little legs were swinging back and forth on the chair.  His black hair was standing up in every direction just the way that James’ used too and those bright green eyes that belonged to Lily, were hidden behind round glasses.  He looked just like James, he thought; wondering if the glasses were a true sign that Harry might have even inherited his father and grandfather’s atrocious eyesight.  A chubby blonde boy sat across from him stuffing his mouth full of bacon.  Vernon Dursley was reading the newspaper and Petunia seemed to be trying to get her son to use a napkin rather unsuccessfully by the looks of it.

 

Sirius crept a little closer to the house as Padfoot the dog, his ears perked up to listen through the open window that let the cool May air into the house.  He watched as Harry finished his toast and hopped down from his chair and pulled a stool over to the sink and he began to wash the breakfast dishes.  He was doing chores already, that was good, Sirius thought.  Petunia was instilling a sense of responsibility in him.

 

But then his smile faded as he watched Harry reach for the heavy frying pan full of bacon grease which naturally weighed too much for his small frame and it tipped, splashing hot grease on his arms.  He yelped and dropped the pan, tears bubbling up in his eyes.

 

Petunia grabbed Harry’s arm, yanking him towards the sink and pushing his arm under the cold water.  “Don’t you dare cry!”

 

“Boy!”  Vernon growled.  “Look at the mess you made!  Who do you think is going to clean that up?”

 

He bit his lip as the tears fell over his face and Vernon marched over to him.  

 

“Your aunt told you not to cry, boy!”

 

“Sorry, Uncle Vernon,” Harry said softly, sucking the tears back as his aunt dabbed the cool water on his arm.

 

“He’s fine, Vernon,” Petunia said, letting Harry’s arm go.  “It’s not a burn, just a little red.  It was more of a shock, you know?”

 

Vernon picked up Harry by the back of the oversized shirt that he was wearing and carried him to the back door, opening it, and tossing Harry onto the grass.  “Water the flowers, boy!  Petunia will clean up your mess and you’ll be spending the rest of the day in your bed if you make another mess with any of your chores!”

 

He slammed the door behind him and Harry sniffed, crawling to his feet as he cradled his red arm to him.  Padfoot approached the boy cautiously and stopped when Harry took sight of him.  Harry froze, reaching for the hose and watched Padfoot approach him.  As the dog leaned forward and licked his hand, a small smile formed on Harry’s face.

 

Padfoot licked his hand again and Harry’s face broke out into a huge grin.  Harry tentatively reached out and scratched him behind the ears and Padfoot yipped in pleasure, placing two massive paws on Harry’s chest and licked his cheek.

 

Harry giggled and threw his hands on the dog’s paws to hold him in place.  “You’re a big puppy!”

 

Padfoot nuzzled his snout into Harry’s neck and Harry hugged him tight, laughing as his face was licked again.  Sirius’ eyes went to the redness of Harry’s arm and he was pleased to see that it was indeed okay, the redness already fading, but the shock of the hot splash had probably hurt him more than the actual injury, he thought.

 

“Boy!  Why aren’t you watering that garden?”  Vernon bellowed from the house.

 

Harry scrambled to his feet.  “Go on, boy.  If Uncle Vernon sees you in the yard, we’ll both be in trouble.”

 

Padfoot only watched him, following him around the yard as he watered the rose bushes with the tiny watering can and the potted plants and then to his surprise a large garden full of lilies.  When Harry was finished, he put the watering can away and rolled the hose back into place and then he went to sit in the grass in the corner of the backyard.

 

Padfoot brought a stick over and dropped it into Harry’s lap.  Harry picked it up and let it fly across the yard, laughing when Padfoot ran after it, yipping playfully.  He brought it back to Harry, who scratched him behind the ears and took the stick, throwing it again.  After twenty minutes of that, Padfoot collapsed on the ground next to Harry, loving the sound of the child’s laughter as he wrestled with him, licking his face.

 

“Get away from that flea-infested mutt at once!”  Petunia shrieked, running into the yard with Dudley waddling behind her.  

 

“He’s friendly, Aunt Petunia,” Harry told her, his arms wrapping around the dog who nuzzled into his neck.  “He won’t hurt you.”

 

“Shoo!”  Petunia shrieked, waving her arms at the dog.  She grabbed Harry’s arm and yanked him away.  “Get inside, quickly!  If that dog is still there in ten minutes, I’m calling the pound!  You have to get ready for school!”

 

Harry looked back at the dog sadly as his aunt dragged him into the house.

 

Sirius waited until they were inside and then he bounded out of the yard, wandering a few blocks away before he transformed back into himself and Disapparated.  Dumbledore was right, Harry was okay, but there was something about that sweet child that he was positive that he had missed.  The burn had alarmed him, but Petunia had put cold water on it, and the redness had already faded.  Not to mention that it had looked as if his godson was the only child in that house with chores.  He was skinny and the clothes that he had worn had clearly been much too big on him, which he did wonder about, but James had always been a skinny and scrawny kid up until he was thirteen or so, therefore that could be nothing to worry about at all.

 

But he definitely didn’t like the way that Vernon Dursley had spoken to his godson.

 

Sirius decided that he would go back the next day in his dog form before he made any rash decisions.  After all, he didn’t even know if Harry would remember him let alone want to go with him.

 

The next morning, he hopped the gate again and watched the family eat their breakfast.  Harry ate toast again, and when he was finished, climbed back on the stool to do the breakfast dishes.  He wiped off the kitchen table and then he made his way outside again to water the flowers in the garden and the potted plants on the patio without incident.

 

Padfoot snuck through the rose bushes and barked and Harry’s face practically split open with glee.  He ran towards the dog, arms outstretched and hugged him tightly, laughing as the dog licked his face.

 

“Come on, boy — I have to finish,” Harry told him, moving to finish watering the plants.

 

When he finished, he grabbed a stick and played fetch again.  Harry laughed as Padfoot jumped into the air to catch the stick, running towards Harry at full speed and knocking him to the ground to wrestle as Harry giggled.  He was worried that he had pounced too hard when he saw Harry visibly wince when he hit the ground, but when he had licked his face, Harry had smiled, and slowly sat up, seeming to be fine and had proceeded to wrestle the dog, giggling.  Then they both lay on the cool morning grass and Padfoot snuggled next to his boy, who wrapped his arms around him tightly.

 

“Who do you belong to, boy?”  Harry asked as he scratched Padfoot’s belly.  “I had a dream I had a dog like you once.  I called him Padfoot.”  Padfoot barked at the name and licked Harry’s face.  “Padfoot?”  Harry repeated and Padfoot barked again making Harry smile.  “Do you like that name?”  He barked a third time and licked Harry again.  “I’ll call you Padfoot.  I told Uncle Vernon about my dream and how Padfoot turned into a man.  Uncle Vernon told me that was stupid — but it was only a dream.”

 

The dog whined and licked him again.

 

“Padfoot will be your name,” Harry said smiling and hugging the dog close again.  “You can be my friend.”

 

Padfoot nuzzled Harry as he laughed until Petunia came out shrieking again and shooed him away.

 

Sirius spent a full week visiting Harry as Padfoot the dog.  He played with him every morning after his chores and continued to watch the house carefully until Harry left for school.  Harry was okay as he saw from the first day, but he wasn’t sure that he liked what he saw.  In addition to the breakfast dishes and the garden chores, Sirius watched as Harry scrubbed the kitchen floor, helped cook breakfast and swept up the grass after Vernon Dursley had mowed the lawn.  

 

Each day, when Harry saw Padfoot, his face would break into a huge grin and he’d hug the dog tightly and each day, Harry told him something new.  The Dursleys largely ignored him, he realized and Harry seemed desperate for a friend.  After a full week of watching his godson, Sirius decided that it was time to stop being a pet, and time to visit him properly.

 

When he left Harry that last morning, he Disapparated to Hogsmeade and made his way up to the gates of Hogwarts.  It was Hagrid that greeted him, making him smile.

 

“Hagrid, just the bloke that I was looking for!”

 

Hagrid smiled at him.  “What can I do for yeh, Sirius?”

 

Sirius grinned.  “I was wondering if you knew what had happened to my bike?”

 

Two hours later, Sirius had the unused 1970 Triumph Bonneville motorbike that he had left in Hagrid’s care, purring under his hands and took off towards Surrey arriving in Little Whinging just a little after one that Saturday afternoon.  He pulled his helmet off, the familiar smell of his leather jacket bringing back memories and making him smile.  He parked the bike behind the shiny new car in the drive and made his way up to Number Four, ringing the bell.

 

He tucked his hand into the back pocket of his worn blue jeans, his wand in the inside pocket of his leather jacket, The Ramones tee shirt that he wore was tucked loosely into his jeans.  He fiddled with the tiny diamond stud in his left ear and the silver hoop at the top of the same ear as he heard shuffling in the house before the door opened and the smiling face of Petunia Dursley quickly lost all of its colour.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX:

 

“What are YOU doing here?”  she demanded, her voice squeaky in her attempt to keep it lower.

 

“Hi, Petunia, lovely to see you again after all these years,” Sirius said, grinning widely at her.  “Aren’t you going to invite me in or would you like me to stand out here for all the neighbours to hear our business?”

 

Petunia ushered him inside quickly, slamming the door shut.  “How dare you come here?”

 

Sirius’ eyebrow rose questioningly.  “How dare I come here?  He’s my godson and I want to see him.”

 

“I heard that you were in prison.”  Petunia stated, her eyes looking at his torn jeans, rock t-shirt, scuffed black boots, and black leather jacket in absolute horror.

 

“Was.  They let me out.”

 

Petunia flushed at that as she reached for the chubby blonde boy who waddled into the room and hugged him towards her as if worried Sirius might snatch him up.  “You need to leave — now!”

 

“I will.  After I see Harry.”

 

“I told the other one of your kind years ago that I would only keep Harry here if no one from that world came here.  He will have a normal childhood!”  Petunia insisted.  “I don’t want any of that freakish business of his in my house!”

 

Sirius tugged his sunglasses off and hung them on his shirt.  “Displaying signs of magic already, is he?  Good little, Prongslet.  Now where is he?”

 

“Petunia, dear, have you seen my blue and silver tie?”  Vernon mumbled as he stepped down the stairs and his eyes widened at the sight before him.  “Who is this riffraff and why is he in my house?”

 

“Sirius Black, Dursley — surely you remember me?”

 

Vernon merely opened his mouth in surprise and then glowered at him.  “You and your kind are not welcome here, Black!  I insist that you leave — at once!”

 

“As I already told your absolutely charming wife… not until I see my godson.”

 

“Boy!”  Vernon bellowed.  “Come here!”

 

Sirius’ mouth thinned.  

 

In the week that he had spent watching Harry, he hadn’t once heard anyone in the house use his actual name.  Of course, he had only seen him in the early morning, watching until he had gone to school, and twice after school, but he had yet to hear his aunt and uncle call him Harry.  But then his heart leapt as the door to the cupboard under the stairs opened and a scrawny mini James stepped out, black hair messier than ever, round glasses perched on the edge of his nose and Lily’s bright green eyes looked out at him.

 

“Yes, Uncle Vernon?”  Harry asked timidly, closing the cupboard door.

 

“You have a visitor,” Vernon said, his teeth clenched as if it caused him great pain to admit to such.

 

Harry looked up then, his head tilting slightly to the side as his gaze landed on Sirius.  Sirius knelt down from his spot by the front door and smiled at Harry.

 

“Hi, Harry,” he said softly, watching the boy closely.

 

He was wearing clothing that was hanging off of his skinny frame.  The cut on his cheek that he had scratched on the rose bush that morning hadn’t been tended to, Sirius noticed, and the lightning bolt scar was bold against his pale forehead.

 

“Hullo, Sir,” Harry said carefully, staying in front of his cupboard.

 

“My name is Sirius Black,” Sirius told him, smiling kindly.  “I don’t know if you remember me, but I used to babysit you when you were a baby.  You used to call me Uncle Siri,” he said with a grin.  “I thought maybe since it is a Saturday, your aunt and uncle might let us hang out today.  Would you like that?”

 

Harry’s eyes darted towards Uncle Vernon whose face was flushed with rage.

 

“No!  I forbid it!  You’ve seen the boy, now get out of my house!”

 

Sirius simply stood up.  “I didn’t come here just to see him, I came here to get to know him; to be a part of his life.  And I’m taking him with me today.  I’ll have him back in time for bed.”

 

Petunia made to protest, but Sirius reached for Harry suddenly, and Harry moved away, plastering himself against the door of his cupboard — eyes wide and full of terror.

 

“Ha!  He doesn’t want to go with you!”  Vernon exclaimed, looking incredibly pleased with himself.  “He knows that you’re a hoodlum!  Torn jeans and long hair and earrings!  You are a disgrace!”

 

Sirius ignored them and knelt down in front of Harry.  He hadn’t meant to scare him and he wanted him to know that.  “I’m your Uncle Sirius, Harry.  You don’t have to be scared.  Would you like to come to the park with me?  We’ll have fun, Prongslet.”  

 

He extended his hand and Harry’s eyes watched him for a moment, his eyes lighting up at the nickname as if he recognized it, but then he stepped away from him.

 

“He doesn’t want to go with you — now get out!”  Vernon demanded, holding the banister so tightly that his knuckles had turned white.

 

Sirius turned to glare at him.  “Why does he look so terrified, Dursley?”

 

“Look at yourself!”  Vernon exclaimed, his face flushing purple.  “You look like a hoodlum, why would anyone trust you?”

 

Sirius simply turned back and smiled at Harry.  He hadn’t counted on Harry being scared of him.  He had seemed so loving and affectionate when Sirius had visited him as a dog.  He took a deep breath and tried again, smiling kindly at the boy in front of him.

 

“You can trust me, Harry,” he said, an idea forming.  Ignoring the Dursleys, Sirius stepped back from Harry and before he could change his mind, he transformed into the big black dog and watched in delight as Harry’s eyes lit up.  Harry’s arms went around him immediately and he nuzzled his neck, licking his face, and then he stepped back and transformed back into himself.  “I’m your Uncle Siri, Harry -- or Uncle Padfoot.  You called me both when you were little.”

 

Harry stared at him in awe and amazement.  His eyes were wide as if he couldn’t comprehend what had happened, but believed it wholeheartedly.  

 

Vernon’s face on the other hand had turned an even darker shade of purple.  “How dare you use that — that freakish stuff in my house!”

 

“Shut up, Dursley!  Your nephew is a wizard and he deserves to know,” he held his hand out again to Harry.  “Do you want to come to the park with me, Harry?”  Harry nodded before he gently placed his hand in Sirius’, who beamed at him.  “Seems like he wants to go.  We’ll be back later tonight.”

 

He led Harry out of the house by his hand, ignoring Vernon and Petunia, who were still protesting, and gently helped him into the child seat that he had installed that morning on the back of his motorbike, strapping him in and placing the helmet onto his head.

 

“Are you ready, Harry?”

 

Harry nodded as Sirius kicked the bike into gear and with a loud roar they zoomed out of the drive, Harry laughing at the speed as they headed out.  Sirius took him to one of the larger playgrounds nearby and they climbed out and headed towards the jungle gym.

 

“Come on, Prongslet,” he said with a smile as he climbed the monkey bars, holding his legs up high as he flew across the bars in gesture.

 

Harry hurried up to the top, smiling and followed Sirius’ lead, flying across the bars with ease before following Sirius up the rope bridge and across the fort, giggling as he flew down the slide.  They played for over an hour before Sirius decided to call it quits and thought that it was time for a snack.  He grabbed the bag that he had packed and pulled out the bacon sandwiches that he had brought with some pumpkin juice and some fresh apple slices.  He had used a cooling charm as well as a fresh charm on them in his pack.  He spread a blanket on the ground for them as Harry sat down and accepted the apple slice that Sirius handed him.

 

“Are you in school, Harry?”  Sirius asked as he made a plate up for the boy and poured him some pumpkin juice.  He wanted to know all about him and after watching him leave for school every day this week, he had wondered how Harry had fared in a Muggle school system.

 

Harry nodded, eating so quickly that he almost choked.

 

Sirius pat him gently on the back and Harry practically jumped away from him.  “Hey, hey, Prongslet, it’s okay.  Come sit down and eat.  Slow down.  You don’t have to eat so quickly.  The food’s not going anywhere.”

 

Harry slowed down a little, but he kept staring at the food in wonder as if surprised to see it still before him.

 

“So school?  Do you like it?”  Sirius prompted.

 

“It’s okay,” Harry said, swallowing his sandwich.

 

“Do you have lots of friends?”

 

Harry shook his head and drank the pumpkin juice.  “No.”

 

“No?  How come?  Don’t you want to make friends?”

 

Harry shrugged.  “No one wants to be my friend.”

 

Sirius frowned at that, looking closely at his godson.  He was eating slower now, but he kept glancing at the food in awe as if wondering why Sirius hadn’t taken it away from him yet.  He was dirty too, Sirius realized and not all of it was from playing in the park.  The too big clothes on his little body.  Looking at him closely now, Sirius knew that he really didn’t like what he saw at all.

 

“How come no one wants to be your friend, Harry?”  he asked him, eating his own bacon sandwich and watching his godson carefully.

 

Harry used his hand to wipe the back of his mouth and Sirius handed him a napkin. 

 

“Use this, Harry.”

 

Harry did as Sirius showed him and used the napkin to wipe his face.  “Dudley doesn’t let them.”

 

“Dudley’s your cousin?”

 

Harry nodded.  “Evan was nice to me.  He let me play with his fire truck, but then Dudley took it — and broke it — and now Evan doesn’t like me anymore.”

 

“Hmm,” was all Sirius could think to say about that.

 

Harry didn’t talk much unless he was prompted, but Sirius urged him to talk about his teachers, his classes, and what he had learned at school.  His favourite thing was apparently story time which made Sirius smile.

 

“You like it when people tell you stories, eh?  You must bug your Aunt Petunia for stories all the time.”

 

Harry shook his head, his eyes wide.  “No.”

 

“No?”  Sirius asked, smiling at him.  “Why not?  Doesn’t she tell good stories?”

 

“Only to Dudley.”

 

Sirius nodded as they finished up their food and he put everything away.  Only to Dudley, he thought.  Petunia was not giving him the attention that he deserved.

 

“You’re a dog,” Harry said quietly, surprising Sirius who had initiated all conversation for the afternoon.

 

Sirius smiled at him.  “Sometimes.  I thought maybe that I’d meet you as a dog first, to see if you remembered me.  I think you did.  You knew that my name was Padfoot.”

 

“But you’re not a real dog,” Harry said carefully.  “You said your name is Sirius.”

 

Sirius grinned, leaning back on his hands.  “Your dad used to tell me that I made a better dog than a man sometimes, but I’m not a real dog no.  I’m an Animagus.”  At Harry’s blank look, he smiled.  “It’s a skill a witch or wizard can learn where they can turn into an animal at will.  I can turn into a dog and my nickname was always Padfoot, but my real name is Sirius.  You can call me either one.”

 

“You said, ‘wizard’.”

 

“There’s magic in the world, Harry.  I’m a wizard and so are you.”

 

Harry only stared at him.

 

“Come on, Prongslet, we’re going to go on an adventure.”

 

“An adventure?”  Harry asked, looking at Sirius in wonder.

 

Sirius smiled, reaching down to swing him up into his arms and stopping when he saw Harry flinch and scramble away from him before he could pick him up.  His hands fisted at his sides immediately, but he kept his face calm as he held a hand out, which Harry tentatively accepted.  “Yeah, an adventure.  Come on, little man.”

 

He strapped Harry back into the motorbike and smiled when less than two minutes into driving, Harry was sleeping soundly.  He used the invisibility charm and roared off into the sky, landing near his new home in Devon.  He drove through, parking the bike by the side near the shed and carefully unstrapping the sleepy child and carrying him into the house.

 

Harry woke up as he stepped into the house and his eyes widened in surprise to find himself in Sirius’ arms.  His eyes stayed on Sirius suspiciously, but he didn’t try to climb down.  Sirius carried him up the stairs and brought him into the bathroom.

 

“Alright, Harry, Uncle Padfoot is going to help you clean up and we’ll put on some new pyjamas and then I’ll teach you a fun game before I take you home, okay?”

 

Harry wrapped his arms around himself as Sirius filled the tub with warm water, his eyes wide and fearful as he looked towards the tub.  “I don’t want to have a bath.”

 

Sirius smiled at him.  “We got pretty dirty at the park, Prongslet.  We have to clean up or your Aunt Petunia will think that we rolled around in the mud.”

 

Harry shook his head, biting his bottom lip.  “No, please.”  he said, his voice whimpering now.

 

Sirius looked at him then and the fear in the child’s eyes had him stopping.  “Harry, look at me.”  When Harry’s green eyes met his, he reached out and carefully took both of Harry’s hands in his own.  “I am your godfather.  I will always protect you.  I will keep you safe and I will never hurt you.  Do you believe your Uncle Sirius?”

 

Harry’s green eyes stared at him for a moment and then he nodded.  “Yes, but I don’t like baths.”

 

Sirius reached a hand into the warm water.  “It’s warm, see?”  He reached for the children’s bubble bath that he had purchased.  “And we can fill the water with fun bubbles, watch this.”  He poured some of the rainbow liquid into the tub and smiled when Harry’s face lit up at the blue, green, purple, and pink bubbles that floated in the water.  “And,” Sirius said, reaching under the cupboard and pulling out the two ships he had bought.  “We have toys.”

 

Harry stared in wonder and then he nodded and moved to get into the tub making Sirius laugh.

 

“Harry, wait we have to take your clothes off first, silly.”  

 

He reached forward to help him, but Harry took another step away again, looking scared.

 

“NO!”

 

“Harry,” Sirius said carefully.  “You can’t take a bath in your clothes.  Come on, Harry, let’s get undressed.”

 

Harry hugged himself tightly and shook his head, backing away from Sirius.  “No!  You can’t see!  Uncle Vernon said no one can see!”

 

Sirius’ eyes narrowed at the sheer panic that was radiating from the small frame of the child in front of him, dread filling his chest.  “What can’t I see, Harry?”

 

Harry turned and booked it out of the bathroom before Sirius could stop him.  Sirius climbed to his feet as he chased him, catching him just at the top of the stairs and when his hands gripped the child’s shoulder, Harry flinched, and he carefully loosened his grip.

 

“Harry,” Sirius said carefully.  “Does Uncle Vernon hurt you?”

 

Harry was trembling under his hands.  “I’m not supposed to tell!  He’ll get mad!”

 

Sirius gently rubbed his hands along Harry’s arms.  “It’s okay, Harry.  I won’t tell, I promise.”

 

“Really?”  Harry asked, his green eyes wide. 

 

Sirius nodded and held his hand out to Harry.  “But you have to come with me and have a bath -- that’s the deal, okay?”

 

He stared at Sirius for a long time before he slowly reached for Sirius’ hand and nodded, letting his godfather lead him back into the bathroom.  Sirius carefully helped him undress and when he turned to climb into the tub, Sirius’ heart jumped up into his throat.

 

Harry’s tiny back was covered in fifteen welts.  Some were fading; some old and scarred, but some were blistered, red, and ugly looking.  Sirius felt the blood leave his face as he looked at them.  His own father had used a belt on him more times than he could remember and he knew how painful they could be.  The water was going to sting some on his poor back.  He grabbed his wand and muttered a pain free charm on Harry’s back before the child submerged himself in the water.  It would only last thirty minutes, but he hoped it helped.

 

The Dursleys, he thought viciously, there was no way that he was allowing Harry to stay with them.  Dumbledore had been wrong.  Sirius should have taken him a week ago instead he had assumed that he was fine like an idiot; he had played the loyal pet when he should have swooped in and taken his godson the moment that he had seen him.  He should have trusted his instincts.

 

Harry smiled in the water, laughing when Sirius blew the bubbles making them float around him, and he splashed with the ships watching them float as he played in the tub.  After ten minutes of play time, Sirius reached for the shampoo and smiled at Harry.

 

“Okay, time to wash up now.  You can keep playing while your Uncle Siri washes your hair, okay?”

 

Harry nodded as Sirius tugged his glasses off and placed them on the floor, using a small cup to wet Harry’s hair, but Harry jumped to his feet and plastered himself against the wall of the bathtub.  The water rose up from the tub; twisting like a water tornado, and shooting Sirius straight in the face as Harry’s eyes widened in fear.  

 

“NO!”

 

“Harry,” Sirius said calmly, holding the cup of warm water in his hands and spitting out the soapy water.  He waved his wand, trying to control the water twister to no avail so he instead kept his focus on his godson’s face.  “I’m only going to wash your hair, little man.  There’s nothing to be scared of.”

 

“Please don’t hold my head under, I’ll be a good boy, I promise!”  he exclaimed as the twister rose higher, brushing the ceiling.  

 

The coloured soapy water splashed the walls, splashed Sirius, and poured over the edge of the tub onto the floor, hitting everything but the boy plastered against the side of the tub, eyes wide in fear.

 

Sirius had never felt such rage in his life.  But he talked himself down, smiling warmly at his godson.  “Harry, I would never do that to you.  Never.  Sit down, and I’ll wash your hair while you sit here.  Okay?  Let’s put the water back in the tub.  The water is safe.  You’re safe.  I promise.”

 

Harry stared at him a long moment, his eyes wide as saucers.  Sirius only continued to stare back, wondering if the child was going to move and then he let out a slow breath of relief when the twister crashed down into the tub, overflowing down the sides, sending soapy bubbles across the bathroom floor.  But Sirius didn’t think twice about the mess, his eyes were on his godson who had slowly sat back down in the tub.  Sirius gently held a hand over his forehead to block the water and he gently poured water over his hair.

 

“See, just like this,” he told him reassuringly as he lathered shampoo into his scalp, rubbing and massaging softly, but vigorously.  

 

He smiled as he remembered the last time that he had given Harry a bath, the kid had stood up in the water and peed, grinning proudly.  Sirius had been forced to drain the tub and start all over again as Remus, who had been helping him babysit at the time, had laughed up roaringly.  He rinsed the shampoo from his hair and delicately lathered the soft washcloth with soap and carefully scrubbed the grime from Harry’s body, and anxiously washing out the welts and cuts on his back and the back of his small legs.  Once he was clean, he let used his wand to refresh the water, which had turned murky, to let Harry play some more.  He used his wand to make the bubbles dance above his head as Harry grinned widely.  Then he transformed into Padfoot, jumping into the tub with the child and making Harry giggle as he rubbed bubbles into his fur.

 

When bath time was over, Harry let Sirius lift him out of the tub and Sirius carefully dried him off with a warm fluffy towel.  Sirius used his wand to clean up the big mess, reassuring Harry that he wasn’t mad about the mess before he used some baby powder on him and Harry grinned as the powder went everywhere in the air.  Sirius helped him into the new Star Wars pjs that he had purchased for him.  He combed his hair, smiling at how it stuck up anyway, exactly the way James’ had.  Then he took his hand and led him downstairs and into the kitchen.

 

“How about a ham sandwich for dinner?”

 

Harry nodded, dragging a chair over to the counter.  “Okay, Uncle Siri.”

 

Sirius grinned at the sound of his name and then he realized that Harry was trying to make the ham sandwich.  He lifted him off the chair and dragged the chair back to the table.  “Nuh-uh, Prongslet, Uncle Padfoot will make the sandwiches.  You just sit here and wait like a good little boy.”

 

Harry looked confused, but did what Sirius asked, and then ate every bite of the ham sandwich and drank all of his milk without a word.  He was yawning again as Sirius cleaned up the dishes and he brought him into the living room.  The kid was exhausted from their day.

 

Sirius took a seat on the couch and gently pat the seat next to him for Harry to join him.  Harry sat down and looked at Sirius as if waiting for what to do next.  Sirius moved closer, draping his arm over the back of the couch so that Harry fell towards him a bit and he watched as Harry seemed startled by the close contact, but then he gently let his head rest against Sirius’ chest and Sirius smiled.

 

“How about a story, Harry?”

 

Harry nodded and Sirius summoned the stuffed stag down from Harry’s bedroom as well as The Tales of Beedle the Bard.  He handed the stag to Harry, who looked at it in awe, and then snuggled it close to him.  As Sirius began to read, Harry’s eyes drooped and before he had even finished the first story, Harry was sleeping soundly, the stuffed stag cuddled in his arms.

 

Sirius carefully extricated himself from the couch, wrapping Harry up in the blanket before grabbing a handful of Floo powder and throwing it into the flames, sending his head flying towards the hospital wing of Hogwarts.

 

“Poppy!”  he called out and he soon heard footsteps hurrying towards him.

 

“Sirius!  What’s wrong?  Did the potions I give you not work properly?”  Madam Pomfrey asked him.

 

“No, no, the potions are fine.  I need a pedia-healer.  Do you qualify?”

 

Madam Pomfrey looked confused, but she nodded.  “Well, yes, but I’m a school healer, Sirius.  St Mungo’s is a much better route.”

 

“I know, but for now I just need some advice.  How do I treat welts -- like as in made from a man’s belt?”  he asked, his eyes dark with rage.  “Will a regular healing charm work if they are a few days, if not a few weeks, old?”

 

Madam Pomfrey’s eyes hardened.  “On a child?”

 

“Unfortunately, yes.”

 

She took a moment to compose herself before she told him the healing charm needed and passed him the salve that he would need to keep them from being infected as well as a pain potion.  “It will be painful, but there’s three doses there to be drunk every twelve hours.”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Understood.  Thanks Poppy.  Can you also let Dumbledore know that I will be there for breakfast tomorrow morning to speak with him?  Tell him it’s rather urgent.”

 

“Of course, Sirius.”

 

Sirius ended the Floo call, pulling his head from the fireplace with the potions and salves in his hand.  Harry was sleeping soundly on the couch and he saw that it was only seven thirty.  The park and then the bath, Sirius had worn the little tyke out.  He knelt down beside the boy and gently touched his shoulder.

 

“Harry, wake up, Prongslet.”

 

Harry’s eyes opened slowly and he eagerly accepted the glasses that Sirius held out for him.  “Is it morning?”

 

Sirius smiled and gently pressed a kiss to Harry’s forehead, surprising the boy momentarily.  “Not yet, Prongslet.  I got some salve for the cuts on your back.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened in horror.  “You weren’t supposed to see!  You said you wouldn’t tell!”  He jumped to his feet, his eyes terrified as he struggled to kick off the blanket and get off of the couch.  “Uncle Vernon said that no one can see!”

 

“Shh,” Sirius said, taking Harry’s hand and trying to keep him still.  “Harry, I won’t hurt you.  I won’t let Uncle Vernon hurt you ever again.  I promise.”

 

Harry stopped struggling and his green eyes stared up at him with so much hope that Sirius felt his heart jump into his throat.  “Promise?”

 

“I promise.”  He said, kissing Harry’s small hand.  “But the salve I have for you, it’s going to make you feel better, but it’s going to hurt when I put it on because the cuts on your back are deep, okay?  But it will only hurt for a little while, I promise, and it will make it feel better afterwards.”

 

Harry nodded and then carefully pulled his new pyjama shirt over his head.  Sirius winced when he looked at the cuts again.  They were definitely at least a week old, but he could tell that they hadn’t been treated properly and he wondered how badly they would scar him.  He delicately applied the salve that he knew must be incredibly painful, but Harry didn’t move a muscle or make a sound.  Tears leaked down Harry's face, but he stayed silent.  Sirius finished applying the salve and gently guided him to drink the potion, using his wand to heal the welts around the salve, and Harry let out a tiny squeak before biting his lip.

 

“I’m sorry, I won’t cry!”  he said, his voice terrified and ashamed.

 

Sirius gently brushed a finger down his cheek, kissing it softly.  “You are a very brave little man, Harry.  I know this hurts — and you go ahead and cry if you want to.”

 

Harry only stared at him, his eyes wide as Sirius gently finished applying the second layer of salve and helped Harry back into his pyjama shirt.  Then he held his arms out to Harry.  Harry looked at him for a moment and then he carefully offered his hand instead.  Sirius took his little hand in his own, wishing that he could cuddle the child to his chest in reassurance, but was terrified of scaring him -- so he simply helped him off of the couch.  He bent down to pick up the stag and smiled.

 

“Don’t forget Prongs.”

 

“Prongs?”

 

“Your stag,” Sirius told him with a smile.  “Come on.  I have something to show you.”  

 

He led Harry up the stairs and turned on the lights in the hallway as he approached the door with Harry’s name on it.

 

“That’s me!”  Harry exclaimed, pointing to the lettering on the door.  “What’s Proglt?”

 

“Prongslet,” Sirius corrected affectionately.  “That’s your name too.”

 

Harry stared at the door in wonder. 

 

Sirius grinned.  “It has your name on it because this room is all for you.”  

 

He pushed open the door and turned on the lights and Harry’s eyes widened as he looked around the room.  Sirius took a seat on the bed, gesturing for Harry to come over and Harry’s eyes got bigger.

 

“This is my bed?”

 

“Yeah, it is,” Sirius said with a smile.  

 

“This bed is bigger than my whole cupboard!”

 

Sirius scowled at that.  His cupboard?  What the fuck did that mean?  “You are never going back there, Harry.”

 

Harry climbed up onto the bed and touched the stuffed animals there, smiling as he touched the dog and then the wolf and then his eyes met Sirius’ for a moment.  “Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs.”

 

Sirius grinned in surprise.  He remembered some things, he thought.  “That’s right, Harry.”  He tugged the covers down and Harry eagerly climbed into the bed, his stuffed animals around him.  “When you wake up in the morning, Harry, I’m not going to be here.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I have to go talk to someone.  But your Uncle Moony is going to be here.”

 

“Uncle Moony?”  Harry asked, yawning as he picked up the wolf.

 

Sirius nodded, smiling.  “Yeah, Uncle Moony or Uncle Remus.  He’ll make you breakfast and I’ll be back before lunch.  You be a good boy and Uncle Remus will tell you all of the stories you can ask for.  He knows hundreds.”

 

Harry grinned at that.  “I like stories.”

 

“Me too,” Sirius said, tucking Harry in carefully.  “Goodnight, Harry, I love you.  My bedroom is right down the hall if you need me, okay?”

 

“Okay,” Harry said quietly as he yawned.  

 

Sirius knew that the potion was kicking in as he watched his bright green eyes flutter closed and he placed Harry’s glasses on the table next to his bed.  He left the door open just a crack and he used the baby monitoring charm and the quiet sounds of the child breathing filled the living room before he Flooed Remus.

 

“MOOOONNNNNNYYYY!”  Sirius bellowed into the fire as Remus came running from his bedroom.

 

“Merlin, Sirius — no need to howl!”  Remus said as he sat down in front of the fire where his friend’s head was floating there.

 

“Sorry, it’s just that I need you.  I need you to come to my new place in Devon, my Uncle Alphard’s old place, do you remember where it is?”

 

“Vaguely,” Remus said, scrunching his forehead in concentration.  “Is that the one by the cliffs?”

 

“Exactly,” Sirius said with a grin.  “Right now would be great.”

 

Then his head disappeared and Remus sighed, grabbing a pinch of Floo powder and dusting himself off as Sirius took his hand to pull him from the fire.

 

“Merlin, Sirius, what’s the rush?  I haven’t seen or heard from you since you moved out here a few weeks ago.”  Remus exclaimed as he looked around.  “Wow, Padfoot, this place looks great!  You really have been keeping busy.”

 

Sirius nodded, plopping himself down on the couch.  “Yes, the last few weeks, but that’s not important.  What’s important is that I’m going to Dumbledore in the morning — and demanding full custody of Harry.”

 

Remus’ eyebrow rose in surprise.  “Padfoot, we talked about this…”

 

“We did, yeah -- and I said that I wanted to be part of his life -- so I went there, as a dog, and I played with him for a week — watching and —“

 

“You went as a dog?”

 

“Well, I figure that kids love dogs and this way I could see how he was doing without being suspicious.”

 

Remus looked like he wanted to say something in response to that, but he shook his head.  “No, actually I agree with that plan.  So I assume that you are planning to reintroduce yourself to the Dursleys then?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “I may have already done that when I took Harry out for the afternoon and er — kidnapped him.”

 

“Wait, what?”  Remus exclaimed, his eyes widening as he grabbed his friend’s arm.  “What do you mean you kidnapped him?  Did Petunia not let you into the house or something?”

 

“Rather grudgingly, but yeah, she let me in, and she mentioned that you also came by once -- in a really condescending way by the way -- but anyway, he can’t stay with those people, Rem!  He’s terrified!  Trying to touch him, he cowers away from you!  He has deep welts on his back from being beaten and he sleeps in a fucking cupboard!  I told Petunia that I’d have him home before bed, but after what I saw… he’s never going back there, Moony.  Never.”

 

Remus stared at his friend in shock.  “They beat him?”

 

“I gave him a bath and he begged me not to hold his head under the water, Remus!  What kind of fucked up people torture a child like that?”  Sirius demanded, his anger vibrating off of him in droves.  “He deserves better and I won’t let those people touch him ever again.”

 

“Agreed.  What do you need from me?”

 

Sirius looked at his friend gratefully, “Thanks Moony.  I knew that you’d understand.”  He sat on the couch and rubbed his fists over his face.  “He’s powerful already.  I mean, we always knew that he would be.  Remember when he summoned me to his crib in my dog form?  Or when he kept changing his mashed carrots into mashed apricots?  Anyway, I was giving him a bath earlier and he turned the water into a twister, sprayed the shit out of me and everything around me — but the water didn’t even touch him.  He’s going to be a powerful wizard one day.”

 

Remus smiled.  “I would have liked to have seen you get blasted in the face with the twister.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “I’m sure that it was rather entertaining.  Listen, I told Harry that his Uncle Moony would be here when he woke up to give him breakfast and to tell him stories.  I promised that I’d be back by lunch.”

 

“Of course, but you said be cautious with him?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “No sudden attempts to touch him.  If you watch his eyes he wants to know where you are at all times.  That’s most important, Remus.”

 

Remus nodded in understanding.  “Got it.  He’ll be safe here, Padfoot.”

 

Sirius rubbed a hand over his face.  “Yes, he will.  He’s never going back there.  Not as long as I’m alive.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN:

 

It was after midnight when Remus left and Sirius headed up to bed, but he slept fitfully.  He still wasn’t used to the luxury of a comfortable bed and the dreams were still too close to the surface.  His own childhood memories combined with the knowledge of how Harry had been mistreated and he soon found himself staring at the ceiling of his room, wondering how he was going to raise this child.  How was he going to get Harry to trust him?

 

He was pulled from his insomnia by Harry’s cries some time after two in the morning.  He rushed from his bedroom into Harry’s, and sat on the edge of the bed, turning the bedroom light on.

 

“Harry?”

 

Tears rolled down Harry’s cheeks as he clung desperately to the stag stuffed animal.  “I’m sorry!  I tried to wait until morning!  I tried!  I’m sorry!”

 

“Tried to wait for what, Harry?”  Sirius asked and then he felt the wetness under his hand and realized what had happened.  Harry had wet the bed.  “Harry… it’s okay, don’t cry.”

 

Harry looked at him for a moment, his face tear-stained.  “You won’t push my face in it?”

 

The outrage Sirius felt must have shown on his face because Harry cowered away for a moment.

 

“No, no, Harry — I’m not mad at you.”  He took Harry’s hand in his and squeezed lightly.  “I would never push your face in it.”

 

“I tried to wait until breakfast!  I did!”

 

“Harry, why were you trying to wait?”  Sirius asked, already afraid to learn the answer.

 

“Uncle Vernon says I can’t get up in the night, I have to wait until breakfast time to use the loo.  And the door is always locked so I can’t get out!”

 

Sirius kissed Harry’s little hand making his eyes widen in wonder.  “No rules here, Harry.   You use the toilet whenever you need to go.  That door will never be locked.  Now, let’s clean this up, shall we?”  He pointed his wand at the bed.  “Scourgify!”  The bed instantly became dry and clean.  He pointed his wand at Harry’s pyjama pants, “Scourgify!”  Harry was clean.

 

Harry stared at him in amazement.

 

Sirius smiled and tucked him in again.  “Magic, I told you.”

 

“Uncle Padfoot?”

 

“Yes?”  Sirius asked, smiling warmly.  The sound of Harry’s little voice calling him Uncle Padfoot made him feel ridiculously warm and fuzzy inside.

 

“I had a dream that you were a dog like this,” he said holding up the stuffed black dog and holding it out to Sirius.

 

Sirius smiled at him, accepting the stuffed animal.  “I can be sometimes, remember?  You used to love it when I was a dog when you were a baby.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened.  “It wasn’t a dream?  You really are the dog.”

 

Sirius tucked him in and then transformed into his dog Animagus, hopping onto the bed and snuggling himself next to Harry.  Harry’s arms came around him, giggling when Sirius licked his face.  He snuggled the dog close, his sweet child smell making Sirius smile.

 

“Stay, Uncle Padfoot,” he whispered and then he drifted off to sleep, his head snuggled against Sirius’ soft fur.

 

 

 

~ASC~

 

 

 

Sirius woke up in the morning with Harry still snuggled up to him.  He carefully pried himself from the child and transformed back into himself, heading to the bath to shower and change.  When he got downstairs, Remus was already there making breakfast.

 

“Good morning, Moony,” he said, grabbing his leather jacket from the kitchen chair.  “I showed him my furrier form and I slept with him.  He was calm for the rest of the night.”

 

“Good,” Remus said, his eyes looking towards the ceiling.  “We’ll be fine.”

 

Sirius nodded and headed outside to rev up his bike.  He had been planning to see Dumbledore first, but after last night’s bathroom incident, he had changed his mind.  He used the bike’s flying mechanism and soared through the sky invisible to the world around him and landed on the front lawn of the Dursley residence.

 

He rang the bell consistently until Vernon Dursley pulled it open and glared angrily at him.

 

“Where’s the boy?”

 

Sirius pushed his way into the house, closing the front door behind him.  “That boy is never stepping foot in this house again.”  He shoved Vernon backwards until he was up against the wall.  “How dare you treat your nephew with such contempt?”

 

“We never wanted him!”  Vernon shouted.  “He’s a bad seed and was always getting into trouble — never doing what he was told!”

 

“So you beat him?”  Sirius asked quietly, punching his fist forward as Vernon yelped in fright and Sirius’ fist hit the wall next to his head.  “Instilled a fear in him,” he said, punching his fist out again and causing Vernon to yell as his fist hit the wall on the other side of Vernon’s head.  “That innocent little child and you beat him and mistreated him in ways that I can’t even imagine.”  He tightened his grip on the front of Vernon’s shirt and glared menacingly at him.  “I should kill you right now.”

 

“No!”  Petunia screamed, her hands covering her mouth in horror from where she stood in the kitchen doorway.

 

Sirius dropped his hands away from Vernon and ripped open the door of the cupboard under the stairs, staring in disgust at the dirty soiled cot and clothing there.  His eyes fell on the large stuffed white stag that he had bought for Lily as a joke back in sixth year, the one that she had given to Harry and he grabbed it, leaving everything else behind.

 

“You sicken me, Petunia.  Lily always spoke highly of you.  She always said how she regretted the way the two of you had drifted apart and how she wished you could be close again.  How do you think she would feel about the way that you’ve treated her son?”

 

Petunia whimpered, holding Dudley close to her as his arms wrapped around her legs.  “We never wanted him,” she whispered.

 

Sirius let his fist fly again, but this time he aimed for Vernon’s gut and watched as the man doubled over in pain.  “You will never see him again.  You will never touch him again.  You will never hurt him again.  Do you understand me?”

 

Petunia rushed to help her husband and she nodded.  “Yes.”

 

Sirius looked at where Dudley stood, his hands covered in chocolate as he greedily ate a large piece of chocolate cake with his hands.  Then he stormed out of the house, hopped onto his bike and flew straight towards Hogwarts making the eight-hour rode trip in just under two hours.

 

By the time he arrived outside of the front gates, most of his rage had calmed down, but not enough of it.  He made his way up the stairs and found Dumbledore sitting at his desk, drinking tea and eating toast.  “Albus, I see that you’ve been expecting me.”

 

Dumbledore gestured for him to take a seat.  “I expected you to be earlier if I’m honest.  Would you like some breakfast, Sirius?”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “No.  Albus, I would not like some damn breakfast!  I’m here about Harry.”

 

Dumbledore nodded as Sirius took a seat in front of him.  “Did you go visit him?”

 

“I kidnapped him actually.”

 

Dumbledore’s eyes widened.  “You — what?”

 

“Didn’t plan on it, mind you,” Sirius told him.  “I was only going to take him to the park, get to know him a bit, but he can’t stay there another minute, Albus.  The Dursleys are abusing him.”

 

“Abusing him?”  Dumbledore asked in alarm, his eyes narrowing slightly over his half-moon spectacles.  “That is an austere accusation, Sirius.”

 

“He lives in a fucking cupboard under the stairs!  He’s scared of baths because someone holds his head under the water!  He has deep welts across his back; can’t bear to be touched or come upon suddenly in any way!  He peed his bed because he’s too afraid to go to the toilet without permission.  He’s afraid to show pain for fear of being punished.  He has no friends because his cousin scares the other kids away from him and it’s only been one day, Albus -- I know there’s more that I haven’t even come across yet.  I’ve barely scratched the surface of the mistreatment this child has undergone,”  Sirius explained, his eyes dark with rage.  “He is NEVER going back there.  I won’t allow it!”

 

“Agreed,” Dumbledore said, his eyes on Sirius’.  “I kept my eye from a distance and from where I could see that Petunia didn’t love him, he looked safe and that’s where I was wrong.  You did right, Sirius.  I will terminate any guardianship Petunia Dursley has over her nephew immediately.”

 

“And what about them?”  Sirius demanded.  “I want them punished for the way that they treated their nephew.  In fact, the punch to the gut I gave Vernon Dursley a few hours ago hardly compares to what those horrible people deserve!”

 

Dumbledore closed his eyes.  “I wish that you wouldn’t have done that, Sirius.”

 

“I want them punished, Albus!  I want them punished for what they did to him — for how they treated him!”  Sirius exclaimed, his eyes flashing in anger.  “And I’m telling you this because it took everything in me not to kill them.  I can’t afford to go back to prison.  Harry needs me now more than ever.  I am his godfather.”

 

Dumbledore nodded.  He could see the rage vibrating from the young man in front of him and the restraint that he was holding back.  He had made the right decision and Dumbledore was ashamed that he hadn’t done more to check on the boy’s welfare.  

 

“You have the paperwork listing you as guardian?”  When Sirius nodded, Dumbledore folded his hands in front of him.  “First thing tomorrow, I’ll bring it to the Ministry and we’ll get the ball rolling on your custody case.  Don’t worry about the Dursleys, they will be getting a visit from the Auror Department very soon.”

 

Sirius simply stared at Dumbledore.  “Make it sooner.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT:

 

Harry woke up in the big bed, the stuffed dog and stuffed stag cradled in his arms.  He blinked owlishly as he looked around and then he remembered the man who had come to visit him; the man who could turn into a dog.

 

“Padfoot,” he whispered, a small smile on his face.  He carefully climbed down from the bed, grabbing the stuffed wolf as well, and keeping them in his arms as he slowly crept to the door, peeking out.  There was no one in the hallway so he tiptoed to the stairs and looked down.

 

The sunlight was peaking through the front windows, illuminating the living room below.  Harry slowly walked down the stairs, the three stuffed animals clutched in his arms.  When he got to the bottom step, he heard sounds coming from the kitchen and he froze, listening.  Music was playing and it sounded like pots and pans were clanging around.  The sounds seemed normal so he tiptoed closer, peeking his head into the archway of the kitchen and eyes watching the unfamiliar man there.

 

He had golden brown hair and he was wearing blue jeans and a long sleeved denim shirt rolled at the elbows.  One long thin white scar from his elbow to his wrist seemed to shine as he poured batter into the pan carefully.  A minute later, he scooped two big fluffy pancakes onto a plate and turned, jumping when he saw Harry and smiling warmly.

 

The smile made his whiskey coloured eyes twinkle and Harry felt himself smiling back.

 

“Hi, Harry, do you like pancakes?”

 

Harry shrugged, clutching the stuffed animals closer to his chest.  “I don’t know.”

 

The man continued to smile at him.  He had a crescent shaped scar over one eye, very small, but Harry found himself staring at it.  “They’re delicious.  We’ll cover them in warm maple syrup, you’ll love them.  Come sit down.”  

 

He pulled a chair out for Harry and Harry carefully walked over.  He put the animals on the chair and climbed up, clutching them back into his arms.  The man sat down next to him, still smiling.  

 

“I’m Remus, but you can call me Uncle Remus or Uncle Moony if you’d like.”

 

Harry held the wolf up to him.  “Moony.”

 

Remus smiled and nodded.  Leave it to Sirius to get him stuffed animals to distinguish the Marauders right away.  “That’s right.”

 

“Uncle Padfoot said that you know lots of stories.”

 

“I sure do.  I love stories,” Remus told him, carefully cutting up one of the pancakes.  “After you eat some breakfast, I’ll tell you one.  Deal?”

 

Harry nodded, watching as Remus poured syrup over his food and held the fork out to him.

 

“Why don’t we take Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs and sit them over here while you eat?”  Remus suggested, holding his hands out for the stuffed animals.

 

Harry stared at him a moment and then carefully handed the animals over, eyes watchful, as Remus sat them on the other side of the table so that Harry could still see them.  He accepted the fork and slowly stabbed a bite of pancake and brought it to his lips.  His eyes widened at the taste and he eagerly ate, a small smile on his lips.

 

Remus poured him a glass of chocolate milk and watched as Harry looked at it suspiciously before again, smiling after tasting it.  “Is it good?”

 

He nodded.  “Yes, thank you, sir.”

 

Remus stood up and cleaned up the kitchen as Harry ate.  When he was finished, he placed Harry’s breakfast dishes in the sink and turned to smile at Harry.  “Why don’t you run up to the bathroom and wash your hands and face while I wash the dishes?  When you come back down, I’ll tell you a story about a boy named Arthur who pulled a sword from a stone.”

 

Harry grinned and ran up the stairs.  Remus finished cleaning and scooped up the three stuffed animals, smiling as he looked at them: the wolf, the dog and the stag.  He carefully placed them on the couch as Harry came down the stairs.

 

“Let’s go back upstairs, Harry, I forgot to show you your toothbrush and we’ll get dressed before story time.”  Remus told him, holding his hand out.

 

Harry tentatively accepted his hand and followed him back up the stairs.  Ten minutes later, his teeth were brushed, his hair was combed and he was dressed in sweatpants and a white t-shirt.  He followed Remus as they went back down the stairs and into the living room.  He saw his stuffed animals on the couch and he quickly climbed up, clutching them to him as if surprised to still find them there.

 

Remus handed him a tall glass of orange juice, which he had used to disguise the healing potion that Harry needed to drink for his back, and took a seat next to him, stretching his long legs out in front of him.  “Drink all of that up for me, Harry.”

 

Harry drank the orange juice slowly, his eyes on Remus warily, but he drank every drop.

 

Remus smiled, putting the glass on the table.  “Thank you.  Are you ready for a story?”

 

Harry nodded eagerly, his green eyes wide as they looked at him, waiting for him to begin.

 

Remus smiled.  “Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a young boy named Arthur Pendragon…”

 

By the time that Remus had gotten to the lady in the lake, the potion had kicked in and Harry was fast asleep.  Remus carefully turned him, so that his neck wouldn’t hurt and wrapped him up with the afghan on the back of the couch.  He brought the empty glass back into the kitchen and then stood at the counter, eyes closed and fists clenched.

 

He never should have left Harry with those people.  He closed his eyes as the memory washed over him. 

 

Remus stood outside of Number Four Privet Drive nervously rocking on his heels and trying to work up the courage to knock.  It had been just over two weeks since his entire world had collapsed around him.  James and Lily: dead.  Peter: dead.  Sirius: imprisoned for murdering Peter and twelve Muggles and worst of all — for betraying James and Lily Potter.  He still couldn’t even believe that Sirius had been the one behind everything; the spy in the Order, the one working for Voldemort.  It all seemed like some horrible dream.

 

His best friends, his true family, all gone in the span of a week and he was only twenty-one years old.

 

He dragged his fingers through his golden brown hair and finally lifted his hand to the door to knock.  Dumbledore had told him where he had sent Harry, explaining how it was the safest place for him.  Remus agreed with him.  But Harry was the only family that he had left.  He wanted to make sure that he was truly alright.

 

The door opened and he recognized Lily’s sister immediately.  He had only met her the one time at the wedding, but her and her husband Vernon had made an impression.

 

“Petunia, Remus Lupin,” he said, extending his hand.  “I was a friend of Lily and James.  We met at the wedding.”

 

Petunia merely stared at him.  “You were in the wedding party.”

 

Remus nodded, smiling.  “I was.  I wanted to check on Harry, see how he was adjusting to life with his aunt and uncle.”

 

“He’s fine.”  she said curtly, crossing her arms in front of her.  “I don’t really like unannounced visitors coming by the house.  I’m trying to keep Dudders and our new guest on some form of schedule.  It’s not exactly easy to have two children under the age of two.”

 

Remus nodded, sticking his hands in the pockets of his pants.  “I understand.  I’d just like to see Harry for a moment, just to make sure that he’s alright?”

 

Petunia sighed before she nodded stiffly and opened the door wider, allowing for Remus to step inside.  “Fine.  But be quick about it.”

 

Remus nodded as she closed the door behind him.  He stood in the entranceway of the house just as the boy he was looking for came running out of the living room towards him, arms outstretched in joy.

 

“Unca Moo!!”  he shrieked, running into Remus’ arms.

 

Remus’ face broke out into his first smile in weeks as he scooped Harry up into his arms.  He ruffled his black messy hair and kissed his chubby cheek, hugging him close.  He pulled back to grin at him and his eyes found the lightning bolt cut on his forehead.  He gently brushed it with his finger and his eyes found Petunia’s.  “Is this where he —?”

 

Petunia nodded.  “From what I understand yes.  It doesn’t seem to bother him.”

 

Remus nodded.  He knelt down on the floor, standing Harry in front of him and grinning at him.  “I missed you, Harry.  Do you like it here with your aunt and uncle?”

 

“No!”  Harry said sternly, “I go you Moo, Padfoof!”

 

Tears welled up in Remus’ eyes and he choked them back.  “Afraid not, little Prongs.  This is your new home now.”

 

Harry crawled up his body, hanging off of his shoulder as he spoke.  “No, go now!  Mumma!  Da!”

 

Remus looked at Petunia and sighed.  “I know that he’s safest here with you, but hearing him… I want to keep him safe.  If Voldemort ever truly does come back… we don’t know for certain that he’s gone and Harry could be in the most danger if he ever finds out that he’s still alive.”

 

“Unca Moo,” he exclaimed, his hands moving across Remus’ face, fingers in his mouth as he grabbed at Remus.

 

Remus merely grinned.  He was the cutest kid.  It still surprised him how much he had come to love this little boy.  When he called him Unca Moo his heart literally soared.  Nothing made Harry happier than when Remus and Sirius would come to visit and Sirius would turn into a dog.  The ‘doggie’ would make Harry giggle and laugh and Remus would hold his hands as he rode the dog around.  Then Sirius would turn back and Harry would laugh, begging for the Siri to make the Padfoof come back.

 

Sirius had loved him.  Remus could see that.  How could Sirius have done this?

 

“Do you have enough stuff for him?  Clothes and whatnot?”  he asked Petunia, holding Harry close again as he jabbered incoherent baby talk in his ear.

 

“Yes.  From what I understand, the house is destroyed so I have whatever Dumbledore brought with him,” she told him.  

 

She had moved to pick up her own son, who was trying to touch the vase full of flowers on the table.  He was a chubby blonde toddler who seemed to waddle as he walked.

 

“It was,” Remus said.  “I just want to make sure that he’s well taken care of.  He’s a very special boy.”  He kissed Harry’s forehead and Harry snuggled into his embrace.

 

“Slooch Unca Moo,” he said and Remus kissed him again.

 

“I’d… I’d like to come by and see him when I can.  Maybe once every few weeks or so.  I can tell him about his parents and spend time with him.  Get to see him grow up and become the great wizard that I know he will be.”

 

“No,” Petunia said sternly, moving to place Dudley in the playpen she had set up and crossing her arms in front of her again.  “Absolutely not.”

 

“I’m sorry?”  Remus asked in surprise.

 

“No,” Petunia repeated.  “I let you in today to say goodbye to him as a courtesy.  I agreed to take the boy in for his own safety, but I won’t have it in my house.  No magic.  No powers.  No mention of an evil man who killed his parents.  I will let him stay here with my husband and my son if and only if, I can give him the chance of a normal childhood.  No funny business.  How am I supposed to do that if you come around here and tell him those things.  Absolutely not!  I forbid it.”

 

Remus stood up, Harry still snuggled in his arms.  “I get where you’re coming from, Petunia but… my friends, my family are all gone.  Harry is all I have left.  I’d like to find a place in his life.  Be the uncle to him that I was meant to be.”

 

Petunia glared at him, her hands on her hips.  “Then you can take him off of my hands.  That’s the only way that you can have contact with him.”

 

“I can’t take him,” he said desperately.  There was no way that he could take Harry home and raise him safely not with his furry little problem.  How could he possibly keep Harry safe when he himself was a danger to him three nights a month?

 

“If you won’t take him then that’s it.  Say goodbye.”

 

Tears welled up in Remus’ eyes.  He understood what she wanted.  It was safer for Harry if he had no contact; if no one magical even knew where he was.  Dumbledore was right about that.  This was Harry’s family and they would take care of him.  But the thought of leaving this little boy broke his heart.

 

But a broken heart was something that Remus Lupin was used to.  He had already lost everything that mattered in his life: his parents, his best friends, his family.  Losing Harry was in the best interest of keeping Harry safe and that’s what truly mattered.

 

He kissed Harry’s cheeks and then the lightning shaped cut on his forehead, holding him close for a hug as he spoke, “If I write to you, will you keep me informed on how he’s doing?”

 

“No,” Petunia said sternly.  “Either take him with you or say goodbye.”

 

Remus nodded, unshed tears in his eyes.  He cuddled Harry close.  Harry tugged on his hair and planted a wet kiss on his mouth before he sat him down the ground.

 

“You’ll take good care of him?  Keep him safe?”  Remus asked her as Harry tried to shimmy back up his leg.

 

“I will raise him to be normal,” Petunia told him.

 

Remus nodded, wiping his tears away.  “Thank you.”  He leaned down and kissed the top of Harry’s head.  “I love you, Harry.  Be good for your Aunt Petunia.  We’ll meet again someday, I’m sure of it.”

 

Harry began to cry and it took every ounce of will that Remus possessed to walk to the door as Harry screamed after him, tears pouring from his eyes.

 

“No Unca Moo, go too, Unca Moo.  Go — uv you!”

 

When Petunia closed the front door behind him, he stood on the front porch, tears pouring down his cheeks.

 

Harry would be safe.  Nothing else in the world mattered, especially not the broken heart of a werewolf.

 

He opened his eyes, wiping the tears away.  He had never in a million years thought that Petunia would hurt that little boy.  If he had known… it was too late for what ifs now, he told himself.  Now it was about keeping Harry safe.  By taking him away from the Dursleys, Sirius had lost him the blood protection that he had with Petunia, and Remus knew how important that was to keeping Harry safe.

 

He made himself a cup of tea and took a seat on the couch next to Harry.  He slipped the boy’s glasses off, putting them on the table and gently ran his fingers through the soft messy hair, smiling when Harry turned and snuggled into the wolf stuffed animal.

 

Sirius would keep him safe and Remus would do everything he could to help him.  He opened his book and began to read, glancing at the clock.  He wondered how Sirius was faring with Dumbledore.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE:

 

Sirius left Dumbledore’s office still feeling rather enraged.  He needed to get the paperwork in order for the next morning to pass onto Dumbledore about filing for custody of Harry.  He needed to find a pedia-healer to look him over and make sure that he was all right.  

 

He was about to become a full time guardian to a five-year-old-boy.  He leaned against the castle wall and let out a long breath.

 

He had never been so terrified in his entire life.  What if he messed it up?  

 

Then without a second thought, he turned and headed down to the lower east floor to the transfiguration wing, knocking briskly on Professor M. McGonagall’s door.

 

She opened it and smiled at him in surprise.  “Sirius, this is a pleasant surprise.  Come in.”

 

Sirius took a seat in the chair in front of her desk, smiling when she opened a tin of ginger biscuits and offered one to him.  “I remember the first time that I ever sat in here.”  When McGonagall only raised her eyebrow in question, he smiled.  “I’d only been at Hogwarts about a month.  My family was furious that I had been chosen to be in Gryffindor; my mother had sent that Howler and come down to the school to try to force Dumbledore’s hand into switching me into Slytherin House.  It was beneath me to be friends with blood traitors like James Potter and a half-blood like Remus Lupin; she forbade it.  She told me that my cousin was watching my every move and would report back to her what I was doing.  So I listened and I pushed them away.  You sat me down in here and you told me that I was brave and that’s why the Sorting Hat had chosen me for Gryffindor and that sometimes being brave meant going against the tide and making friends with who I wanted to be friends with.  That family didn’t always mean blood.”

 

“I sound wise,” McGonagall said, taking a seat on the edge of her desk. 

 

“Wisest woman I know,” Sirius told her.  “You told me not to push my new friends away.  That I needed them and that not being friends with them only because my mother told me that I couldn’t be, wasn’t a valid reason to push them away.  And I listened — and it was the best choice I ever made.  James and Remus and Peter, they were… they were my family.  And Pete he… he destroyed that.”

 

McGonagall reached out and took Sirius’ hand in her own.  “I know what kind of household you came from, Sirius.  You never told me details, but I could see the pain in your eyes and when you were with your friends that pain lessened.  All of your friends, even Peter.  I can’t tell you why he made the choices that he did.  Maybe one day he will tell you, but he made the wrong choice and has been in hiding ever since which tells me that he knows he made the wrong choice and most likely has regretted it every day since.  Sometimes fear brings out the worst in a person and they do things out of that fear that they normally wouldn’t do.”

 

Sirius only nodded, squeezing her hand.  “Those Muggles… they weren’t treating Harry right and I can’t… I can’t let that little Marauder stay with them.  I told Dumbledore I want custody of my godson.  He should have been with me from the moment that James and Lily died.  The abuse he’s suffered in their care, I blame Peter for that as well.  I know that it was my choice to go after him — I made that decision when I should have taken Harry and ran but… I still blame Peter.”  He pulled his hand away and covered his face.  “And I’m terrified of being a parent to that little boy.  What if I mess it all up?  What do I even know about being a parent?”

 

McGonagall smiled warmly.  “When I lost my… I thought my world would end.  Teaching here has been everything that I could have hoped for, seeing all of these young and eager faces, some more trouble than others,” she added as Sirius smirked.  “But I’ve seen them and I’ve watched them grow up to be incredible witches and wizards and you, Sirius Black, you are a good man.  James and Lily Potter never doubted for a second in choosing you as Harry’s guardian.  Will it be hard?  Undoubtedly.  Will you be scared?  Every day.  Will you mess it up?  Not everything is going to be as right as rain.  But you won’t be alone.  You have friends who will step in and help like Remus Lupin for instance and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Now, did you just come and see me for a pep talk?”

 

Sirius laughed, standing up and wrapping his arms around her.  “I love you, Minnie.”

 

“For Merlin’s sake, Sirius, these nicknames you continue to bestow upon me —“

 

He laughed and hugged her tighter.  “Minnie McG, always.”  When she smiled he grinned back.  “No, I love you.  You were always there for me when I needed you even before Fee and Monty took me in.  You always believed in me, even when you put me in detention.”

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever given as much detention to any other student as much as you and Potter.”

 

“I was an angel who did not deserve the months of detentions that you bestowed upon me.”

 

McGonagall snorted.  “More like a hellion, but sure you can believe what you want.”

 

Sirius grinned at her.  “You always believed in me; you always went out of your way to look after me.  You always told my mother exactly what you thought when she came to the school to cause trouble and you were the first person to tell her that my real family was with the Potters.  You believed in me when I went to prison and worked tirelessly for  over four years to get me a fair trial — and you succeeded.  I guess I just wanted to say thanks.”

 

McGonagall sniffed back tears and pat his arm gently.  “Oh, you, getting an old woman all emotional!”

 

“Minnie McG, you are not old!”

 

She laughed and hugged him.  “If you need anything from me in terms of getting custody of Harry, let me know.  You will always hold a special place in my heart, Sirius.”

 

“You love me like a son,” he told her as she laughed.

 

“Merlin, Black, I have missed you!”

 

Sirius nodded, smiling at her.  “So, McG, just out of curiosity, did you ever know how many things Potter and I actually got away with in school?”

 

McGonagall rolled her eyes.  “So help me, Black, I don’t want to know.”

 

Sirius only grinned wickedly at her.  He really had missed her too.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sirius arrived back at the cottage just before lunch, feeling better about Harry and about himself.  He had gone to St Mungo’s afterwards and made an appointment for the next morning with a pedia-healer for Harry.  The receptionist had told him a Healer A. Castellanos was free at ten the next morning.  Sirius had put his own name down, not wanting to broadcast the fact that The Boy Who Lived was going to be around the hospital.

 

When he stepped inside, he saw that Remus was lying on the couch, his head tilted back as he snored and his long legs stretched out across the chesterfield.  The familiar sight made him smile and then he jolted in panic.  

 

If Remus was sleeping, where was Harry?

 

He hurried forward and froze when he saw the tiny boy, snuggled between Remus’ arms, his face resting on his stomach, rising and falling with Remus’ snores.  They looked comfortable, he thought.  He turned to make his way into the kitchen and froze when he saw the staircase behind the living room.  The cupboard under the stairs where his uncle had always kept their shoes now seemed menacing.  Without a second thought, he used his wand to tear the door down, tossing it out the front door onto the porch.  His eyes took in the shelves there and he nodded.  He’d keep it open and make sure that Harry never saw it and remembered his place at the Dursleys.  He’d fix it up, make it part of the room, he decided.

 

It would be his next project.  With that in mind, he put a charm over the living room to not disturb Harry and Remus and got to work.  An hour later, it looked completely different and he was satisfied.  It would no longer be a scary sight for Harry.  He thought he could store his records there.  He made his way into the kitchen, lifting the charm from the living room, and leaving Remus and Harry to their nap as he thought about what he was going to make for lunch.

 

Sirius opened the ice box and looked inside.  He really needed to learn how to cook.  He decided on tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  He turned on the wireless record player, deciding to play The Rolling Stones on low as he worked, humming along to himself as he pulled out the bread, butter, and cheese.

 

Harry woke to the music, startled to find himself wrapped in the man’s arms on the couch.  Remus, he remembered, Uncle Moony.  He had been telling him a story about a knight.  He scrambled away, his heart beating in his chest, but then he stopped, standing over and looking at the face before him.  The man had been holding him but he hadn’t been scared, he realized.  His small hand reached out and gently traced the thin white scars on his face, the roughness of the stubble surprising him.

 

The singing from the kitchen caught his attention and he wandered towards the sound, hiding in the doorway, not wanting to be seen.

 

I said I know it's only rock 'n' roll but I like it, I know it's only rock 'n' roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do, Oh, well, I like it, I like it, I like it, I said can't you see that this old boy has been a lonely?”  Sirius sang and Harry’s face split into a grin as he watched him wiggle his hips and dance around the kitchen, pretending the wooden spoon in his hand was a microphone.

 

He spun in a circle, catching sight of Harry and almost tripping.

 

“Harry!  Didn’t see you there, little man!”  Sirius said, catching himself on the counter and putting the spoon down.  “Did you have a good time with Uncle Moony?”

 

Harry nodded, his hands staying on the edge of the door frame.

 

Sirius smiled at him.  He was going to put a stop to this constant fear in his godson’s eyes.  He wanted Harry to understand that he was safe here.  That he was free to be affectionate and happy.  He knelt down and crooked his finger.  “Come here, Prongslet.”

 

Harry hesitated and then he stepped into the kitchen and walked towards Sirius, staying cautiously a few feet away.

 

“Come here, come closer.”  Sirius said, crooking his finger again.

 

Harry’s big green eyes stayed on his face for a moment and Sirius thought that he wasn’t going to move again, but then he took a tentative step, and moved closer.

 

Sirius smiled warmly at him and then he carefully put his hands on Harry’s waist and lifted him up into his arms as Harry’s eyes widened in fear.  He stiffened as Sirius simply sat him on his hip, handing him the wooden spoon.  “Want to help me stir the soup?”

 

Harry stared at the spoon for a moment before he accepted it and carefully stirred the tomato soup in the pot, relaxing slightly.  The arms holding him were strong and the man smelt like a wood and leather.  It felt weird to be held like this, but he felt secure; not afraid that he was going to be thrown to the ground.  When he finished stirring, Sirius took the spoon from him and placed it on the counter, walking to the icebox and pulling out a pitcher of milk.

 

“Pour a little in the pot, little man,” he instructed as Harry did so, taking his time to be extra careful, but when he still spilt on the counter, he stiffened in panic, and he covered his face with his hands.

 

“I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to waste it!  I’m not ungrateful!”

 

Sirius leaned in and kissed the hands that covered his face.  He kissed the fingers and the backs of his hands until Harry lowered them from his face, looking at him in bewilderment.  Sirius leaned in and kissed Harry’s forehead.  “Harry, it’s okay.  It was an accident.  I spill things all of the time too.”

 

“You do?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Sure I do.  Accidents happen.”  He grabbed his wand off of the counter and quickly cleaned up the spill.  “See?  All clean.  Good as new.”  He handed Harry the wooden spoon again.  “Now, I need help stirring this soup again.  Would you like to help me?”

 

Harry nodded, accepting the spoon and stirring the soup.  Sirius kept him on his hip as he worked around the kitchen, buttering bread and slicing up thick chunks of cheese, giving pieces to Harry to eat as he worked and Harry smiled.

 

“I make the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the whole world, you know.  They are so cheesy delicious and full of melty goodness,” Sirius told him as Harry ate the chunk of marble cheese in his hands.  “You know what I love most about making them?  When you pull them apart and all the cheese melts away in this web.  It looks brilliant, do you think so?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

Sirius grinned at him.  He put the bread together and placed the sandwiches in the pan.  He used his wand to flip them high into the air and Harry giggled, making him smile.  He flipped them twice in the air and caught them on the plate.  “Voila!  Sirius’ Grilled Cheese Perfection!”  He cut the sandwich into fours and picked up one quarter showing Harry how the melted cheese seemed to go on forever.  “What do you think?  Does it look good?”

 

Harry nodded, licking his lips.

 

Sirius smiled and put the plate on the kitchen table.  He plopped Harry down into the chair and grabbed a bowl from the cupboard to put the tomato soup in and placed it down in front of Harry.  He poured a little extra milk in the soup to cool it down and then poured a second bowl for himself and helped himself to a grilled cheese sandwich.

 

He took a seat next to Harry who was looking from the soup to the sandwich in confusion.

 

“What is it, little man?  Do you not like tomato soup?”

 

“They’re both for me?”  he asked, pointing to the soup and the sandwich.

 

Sirius nodded, smiling.  “Of course.  You can’t have tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich.”

 

Harry picked up his spoon and took a small bite of the soup, licking his lips.

 

Sirius smiled and picked up his sandwich half.  “This is how I like to eat mine.”  He dipped it into the soup so the melted cheese blended with the thick creamy soup and then he took a bite.  “Mmm, Sirius’ Grilled Cheese Perfection!  You try it.”

 

Harry put his spoon down and carefully picked up a quarter of his grilled cheese, dunking it in the soup.  It fell right inside with a plop and soup spilt onto the table.  Harry’s back flung against the back of the chair, his eyes looking at the mess that he had just made in horror.

 

Sirius laughed, reaching into the soup to pull out Harry’s sandwich.  “Try it, Harry.”

 

Harry took the sandwich quarter, covered in thick creamy soup and took a bite, his eyes widening in pleasure and his hands sticky.  He ate every bite, drinking the milk Sirius provided him and then moving to his second sandwich quarter in silence.

 

Sirius watched him.  He seemed surprised by the options of getting more than one thing for lunch, which made Sirius wonder exactly what kind of food Harry had been eating at the Dursleys.  He had watched his godson serve bacon and eggs to his family but had only ever seen Harry himself eating toast.  He hadn’t even tasted a grilled cheese before which made him even more sure that he hadn’t tried tomato soup.  They ate in silence as Sirius’ foot tapped to the music and Remus stepped into the kitchen.

 

“Sirius!  So sorry, I conked out!”

 

“It’s all right,” Sirius said smiling at his friend.  “I know it was a full moon two nights ago so I imagine you needed it.  There’s a sandwich over there for you and help yourself to some soup.”

 

Remus smiled gratefully at him, making himself a bowl as he took a seat across from Harry.  “Harry seems to be enjoying his lunch.”

 

Harry’s eyes met Remus’ for a brief moment before he turned back to his soup.

 

Sirius smiled at his friend.  “He knows that I make the best sandwiches.  How did the morning go?  Before your nap?”

 

“Fine,” Remus said, dipping his own sandwich in the soup.  “We had pancakes and then we washed up and I started to tell Harry the story of King Arthur.  The potion knocked him out before we were halfway done.”

 

“Good.  He can have the last dose tonight.  We’re going to St Mungo’s in the morning.  I made an appointment with an A. Castellanos, a pedia-healer.  I want her to look him over and make sure that he’s healthy.  I think that they were starving him, Moony.”

 

Remus nodded as he watched Harry eat with enthusiasm.  “I suspected the same.  I don’t think that he’s tried very many foods before.”

 

“I have to learn how to cook,” Sirius said with a laugh.  “Or we’ll be living on grilled cheese, marmalade sandwiches, and lasagna.”

 

Remus chuckled at his friend’s predicament.  “I can help with that.  You know I’m going to be here for you both, right?”

 

Sirius nodded, smiling at his friend.  “Without question.”

 

Remus smiled.  “I saw that you had some chicken breasts in the icebox.  I’ll head into town and pick up some fresh rosemary and thyme to marinate it with for dinner.  Maybe I’ll stuff them with cheese.”

 

“Moony, you’re a godsend.”

 

Remus laughed and picked up his spoon.  “I’ll lend you a cookbook.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN:

 

After lunch, Remus offered to clean up the kitchen so Sirius scooped Harry into his arms and took him upstairs to clean up.  Harry had stiffened when he had grabbed him, but as Sirius placed him on his hip, he relaxed as they walked up the stairs.  He washed his hands and his face and then Sirius took him outside into the backyard.

 

Sirius grabbed a football from among the toys that he had purchased and the two of them spent almost an hour running around the yard and kicking the ball around.  Every time Harry scored (kicking it past Sirius), Sirius would swoop down, pick him up and swing him around in his arms.  By the third time that he had done this, Harry looked forward to it, grinning and giggling as he spun in a circle.

 

They went back inside the house and had some water and Remus offered to continue his story.  Sirius, not wanting Harry to clam up again, picked up his godson and simply sat him on the couch next to him, his arm around his shoulders, and his head resting against his chest.

 

Harry stayed there as Remus continued the tale of how the lady in the lake guided the young knight to find the Sword of Excalibur.  They decided to take a break so that Remus could start dinner so Sirius picked Harry back up into his arms and they went back outside.  

 

Sirius transformed into his dog form and wrestled the boy, loving the way that he laughed and snuggled into his fur, relaxed, until Remus called them in for supper.

 

Remus finished the story after they finished eating and then headed home for the night.  Sirius got Harry ready for his bath.  Harry hesitated, but this time only for a moment, before undressing and climbing into the big tub, his hands already reaching for the toy boats.  Once he was scrubbed and cleaned, his teeth brushed, his hair combed, and the last of the potion drank -- Sirius tucked him into his bed, leaning down to kiss his forehead.

 

“Uncle Padfoot?”

 

“Yes, Prongslet?”

 

Harry yawned, the last of the potion Pomfrey had given him already kicking in.  He bit his lip when the light went out and the soft whimper that came from him made Sirius sit back on the edge of the bed.

 

“What is it, Harry?”

 

“I don’t like to be locked in the dark,” he whispered.

 

Sirius stretched out on the bed next to his godson, turning to look at him.  “It’s not that dark in here, Prongslet.  See the sliver of moonlight coming in through the window?”  When Harry nodded, he smiled.  “And the stars too.  But sometimes, it’s still too dark so how about this,” he shot sparks out of his wand and a dozen tiny fairy lights sprung around the room, illuminating the room in a soft incandescent glow.  “How’s that?”

 

Harry smiled, snuggling the two stuffed stags close to him.  Sirius had cleaned the larger one that he had taken from the cupboard under the stairs at the Dursleys and given it to Harry before bed.  “Thank you.”

 

Sirius smiled and gently brushed a fingertip down his cheek.  “You are very welcome.”

 

He climbed off of the bed and made it to the door before Harry spoke again.

 

“Uncle Padfoot?”

 

“Yes, Harry?”

 

“Don’t go.”

 

Sirius turned and smiled at the child.  “You know, I can’t stay in here with you all the time, Prongslet.  I have my own bed to sleep in.”

 

Harry nodded, his eyes wide and sad.  “I’m sorry.  I’ll be good.”

 

Sirius crawled back onto Harry’s bed, smiling at him.  “I’ll stay — until you fall asleep, okay?”

 

Harry smiled sheepishly and nodded, holding the stuffed dog out to him.  “Dog?”  he asked, his voice slurring as a result of the healing potion.

 

“Okay, Prongslet,” Sirius said with a smile and he transformed.

 

Harry snuggled into the dog’s thick fur, sighing in contentment and in less than two minutes was out like a light.  Sirius stayed snuggled with the child for most of the night, finally sneaking off into his own room some time after two.  He transformed back into himself, crawling into his own bed and closing his eyes.

 

Tomorrow would be another day.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sirius decided that using the Floo network was probably the best way to get to St Mungo’s the next morning in time for their appointment.  After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon, he helped Harry dress in jeans and a tee shirt.  He made sure his teeth were brushed and his hair was combed before he stood him in front of the fireplace in the living room.

 

“Now Harry, you know how I’ve been showing you how we can do magic things?”  When Harry nodded, he smiled.  “Well, one of the ways that witches and wizards can travel is by the Floo Network which is by fire.”  

 

Harry’s eyes widened in fear as he looked at the flames and Sirius knelt down in front of him, his hands on his shoulders. 

 

“Don’t be scared.  It doesn’t hurt.  And I would never do anything to hurt you.  I promise.”  When Harry nodded, he continued.  “I’m going to hold you tight in my arms, we’re going to take a pinch of Floo powder and say the location of the place we’re going which for us is St Mungo’s Hospital.  Then we’ll drop it and boom we’re spinning through dimensions until we land in the grate that we want.”

 

Harry didn’t look convinced but when Sirius’ arms came around him, he twined his arms around his neck and held on tight.  Sirius smiled, grabbing the powder and stepping through the flames.  When they arrived at St Mungo’s, Harry was grinning like a fool.

 

“I like to spin!”

 

Sirius laughed and adjusted the hat that he had placed on his godson’s head to hide the scar from the gawkers.  “See?  Nothing to worry about.”

 

He headed to the spell damage floor with Harry in his arms, veering off to the end where the small children’s clinic was.  He told the receptionist that Sirius Black was here and took his seat with Harry in his lap.

 

“Can we spin again?”  Harry asked him as they sat down.

 

Sirius grinned.  “When we go home we can.”

 

“Sirius Black?”

 

Sirius stood up, putting Harry on his hip as he followed the receptionist back into an examination room, sitting Harry up on the soft padded table.

 

“Healer Castellanos will be in with you momentarily.”  

 

The woman closed the door behind her and Sirius smiled at Harry.

 

“Remember what I told you this morning, Harry?”

 

Harry nodded.  “The healer is going to check me over.”

 

“That’s right.  And?”

 

“And it won’t hurt.”

 

“That’s right, Harry,” Sirius said.  “And I’m going to be here the whole time if you get scared or if you need me just ask, okay?”

 

Harry nodded, swinging his legs back and forth in front of the table.  “Okay.”

 

The door opened and the woman in the white robe surprised Sirius.  She was very beautiful.  Golden blonde hair pinned up in a ballerina bun, loose tendrils dancing around her neck.  She had soft hazel eyes and a pretty smile, but it was her age that surprised him.  She had to be very young, he thought, maybe even a few years younger than himself.

 

“Mr Black?”  she asked, her eyes finding his dark grey ones.

 

Sirius nodded, extending his hand.  “That’s me.  You’re Healer Castellanos?”

 

The healer smiled.  “I am.  And what are we here for today, Sirius?”  she asked Harry, who immediately looked down at his feet.

 

Sirius smiled.  “No, that’s me, I’m Sirius Black.  Healer Castellanos —“

 

“Healer Thea is fine, I know Castellanos is a difficult name for most people.”  she said laughing.  “If you’re Sirius, then who is my patient?”

 

“I gave my own name to keep it quiet.  I know that healer-patient confidentiality will prevent you from saying anything.”  When she nodded, her eyes alight in curiosity he continued.  “This is Harry Potter,” Sirius told her, tugging Harry’s hat off and watching her as her eyes immediately flickered towards his scar and then widened in understanding.

 

“Oh, yes!  I see.  Probably wise to keep his identity under wraps in here.  Everyone is quite fascinated with The Boy Who Lived.”

 

Sirius nodded, moving to hold Harry’s hand.  “Exactly.  Listen, Healer Castellanos — Healer Thea — I’m in the midst of gaining custody over Harry, my godson.  I recently took him from his aunt and uncle’s house and they mistreated him.  I just want to make sure that everything’s okay.”

 

Castellanos smiled warmly at him.  “Of course.  First things first, he needs to take off his shirt.”

 

Harry immediately wrapped his arms around himself.

 

Sirius smiled and took a seat on the table next to Harry.  “Prongslet, remember that she’s not going to hurt you.  I’m going to be here the whole time.”  He tugged Harry’s arms away from his body.  “Healer Castellanos needs to see your back.”

 

Harry shook his head.  “I’m not supposed to tell!”

 

“Shh, you can tell her like you told me.  It’s okay, I promise.  You’re safe, Harry.”

 

Harry’s eyes stayed on his as Sirius gently lifted the tee shirt over his head.  He trembled as Sirius helped him stand up so that the healer could look at his back.  Sirius held the little boy’s waist, his eyes on his the whole time, leaning in to kiss Harry’s nose and making him giggle.

 

“Madam Pomfrey of Hogwarts gave me a salve.  I put it on two nights ago and have been giving him this healing potion every twelve hours since,” Sirius told her, still holding onto Harry gently while Castellanos looked at his godson’s back.  “He took the last dose before bed last night; three times all together.”

 

Castellanos leaned forward, her wand out, gently tracing the lines of the welts.  A warm golden glow emitted from her wand as they went over each welt, healing them into soft pink lines.  Harry’s hand squeezed Sirius’, but he didn’t make a sound.  

 

“The salve was good,” Castellanos told him.  “It worked on getting any infection out, which has allowed for me to heal the welts.  I’m going to give you a cream to rub over the pink lines and it will greatly reduce the scarring.  Hopefully all of it, but one can never be a hundred percent on these things, especially when they aren’t recent.”  

 

She had Harry sit back down and she listened to his heart; checked his throat and inside his ears and had him stretch his arms up high over his head.  She examined his scar, checking for any signs that it was affecting his brain.  She measured his height and his weight and checked his reflexes.  She used her wand to do a full diagnostic scan of his body.  She told Harry to put his shirt back on when she finished the scan. 

 

As Sirius helped him with his tee shirt, Castellanos made notes on his chart.

 

“So?”  Sirius asked, tucking his hair behind his ear.

 

Castellanos smiled at him.  “He’s a very brave little boy, Mr Black.  A bit malnourished.  I don’t like seeing the outline of a child’s ribs like that, but I’m sure that you will remedy that?”  At his nod, she continued.  “I have that cream for you and I’d like you to get him started on a regiment of vitamins and protein.  My receptionist can give you the paperwork.  He needs to have three well-balanced meals a day full of vegetables, fruit, calcium, and protein.”

 

Sirius nodded.  “No problem.”  

 

He held his arms out to Harry and Harry wrapped his arms around his neck, snuggling in comfortably.  Harry was trusting him now and Sirius found that it was a huge relief.

 

“But I think after seeing the damage of those welts on his back and the way that he seems to be frightened of touch, I think getting a child Mind Healer is a good idea.  There are some great Mind Healers here at St Mungo’s, but I can recommend a few private clinics as well if you’d prefer it.”

 

“He doesn’t need a shrink,” Sirius insisted stubbornly, his arms holding Harry.  “I’ve been just picking him up and holding him and he’s learned that he can trust me.  He’s not as afraid he… he craves affection.”

 

“Which is a great thing,” Castellanos told him.  “Whatever you’re doing with him is working, I can see that he trusts you quite a bit already.  But sometimes there’s more emotional damage that you might not realize and maybe getting him to open up about it might help.  Have you asked him how he got the welts on his back and his legs?”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “He was too scared when I first saw them.  It took everything I had to get him to stay in the bathtub.”

 

“Ask him.”  She handed him the prescription paper and smiled.  “Come back in a month so I can check his progress and do another diagnostic scan.”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Thank you.”

 

Castellanos smiled warmly.  “You’re very welcome.”

 

The door closed behind her and Sirius smiled at Harry.  “Harry, you did very well.  You were such a good boy for the healer.  How about some ice cream as a treat?”

 

Harry smiled as Sirius placed the hat back on his head.  “Yes, please!”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN:

 

After ice cream, Sirius got the potions and the cream that he needed as well as the vitamins and supplement potions from St Mungo’s and a proper food nutrition guide for children Harry’s age.  They went shopping for clothes in Muggle London afterwards, and soon Harry had close to thirty new outfits and six new pairs of pyjamas, plus socks and underwear and undershirts.  Sirius knew that he had gone overboard, but he wanted Harry to have a wardrobe; something that he knew was his and only his.  He wanted Harry to feel wanted and to feel loved and at the moment, he didn’t care how much money he spent on him to help him feel that way.  

 

He wanted Harry to never want for anything ever again.

 

They stopped at a pub for lunch and Sirius ordered Harry a hamburger and chips, which he ate with a smile, dipping the chips in the thick gravy with interest.

 

When they got back to the cottage, Sirius sat Harry down on the couch in the living room, his thoughts on what Healer Castellanos had told him.  He did need to know how his godson had obtained the welts.  Sirius knew from his own childhood the damage that a belt could do, but he wanted to know what Harry had done that the Dursleys had warranted such a harsh beating.  And most importantly — had it happened before?

 

Sirius handed Harry the stuffed animal of a doe that he had purchased for him that day and smiled.  “Harry, there’s something very important that I want to talk to you about.”

 

Harry snuggled the doe close to him, solemn green eyes on Sirius.  “Okay.”

 

“Your parents made me godfather of you which means that they wanted me to take care of you if something bad ever happened to them.”

 

“Like a car crash?”

 

“Car crash?”  Sirius asked, his eyes clouded in confusion.

 

Harry nodded.  “Aunt Petunia said my mummy and daddy died in a car crash and they got landed with me.”

 

Sirius pursed his lips.  “No!  No, Harry — that’s not what happened.”  He ran his fingers through his hair, tucking it behind his ears and turned to sit sideways on the couch so that he was facing his godson.  He hadn’t imagined that Harry didn’t even know what had happened to his parents.  “Your mummy and daddy were two of the bravest people I ever knew.  But there was this bad man named Voldemort.  He was an evil wizard, Harry, hurting people and he came after your mummy and daddy.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened and his mouth opened slightly, but he didn’t speak.

 

“James and Lily, your parents, they tried to hide from him so that they could keep you safe, but he found them.  Your dad, he tried to protect you and your mum, but the bad wizard killed him and then he went after you and your mum.  Your mum tried to save you and the love your mummy and daddy had for you gave you protection from the bad wizard.  But it didn’t protect them and your mummy was killed too.  This scar,” Sirius said, gently pressing his finger to the lightning bolt.  “Is all you got when the bad wizard tried to kill you.  Just this scar.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said quietly.  “How did I get to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house?”

 

Sirius smiled, gently brushing Harry’s hair out of his eyes.  It pleased him not to see the boy flinch anymore, but his eyes still watched him warily as if he wasn’t entirely sure if he trusted him completely.  

 

“I was so mad when I found out that your mummy and daddy had died.  I knew someone had done something bad to find them because no one knew where they were hiding except for their friends.  So Hagrid, a friend of ours, he took you somewhere safe and I tried to find out why your parents were killed.  But I got tricked and then I had to get locked up.  So Dumbledore brought you to your mum’s sister, Petunia, and asked her to look after you.”

 

“You got locked up?  In a cupboard with no lights and lots of spiders?”  Harry asked, his voice higher than usual.

 

“Kind of, yeah, but an important friend of mine, your Auntie Minnie,” Sirius said, grinning as the words left his mouth.  Wouldn’t McGonagall love it when he got Harry calling her that?  He chuckled internally at the image.  “She helped find out that I was tricked and got me released.  So, I came to find you to see if maybe you liked living with your Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon or if maybe you wanted to come live with me instead?”

 

“Live with you?”  Harry asked, his eyes wide.  “Live here?”

 

Sirius nodded, smiling at Harry, tugging him up into his lap.  “Would you like to stay here with me, Harry?”

 

Harry smiled up at him, his bright eyes full of trust as he nodded.  “Yes, please.  I’ll try not to be ungrateful.”

 

“Shh, I don’t want to hear you say that.  I am so grateful that I have you here with me.”  He kissed the top of Harry’s head, smiling when Harry leaned back against him.  “Harry, can you do something for me though?”

 

Harry turned to look at him, his eyes wide as he nodded. 

 

Sirius gently ran his fingers through the thick mess of hair.  “Can you tell me how you got those marks on your back?  The ones that no one was supposed to see.”  As Harry trembled, Sirius pulled him closer, hugging him.  “I promise that no one will ever hurt you like that again, Harry.  You’re safe here.  But you have to tell me what happened so I can make sure that no one ever hurts you again.”

 

Harry’s arms wrapped around Sirius’ neck and he held on as Sirius gently ran his hands over Harry’s shoulders and the top of his back.  They sat like that so long that Sirius was convinced that he wasn’t going to talk to him, but then he heard the whisper near his ear.

 

“I burned the bacon because Ripper chased me up a tree.”

 

“Who’s Ripper?”

 

“Aunt Marge’s dog.  He’s a bad dog.  Not like you.  You’re a good dog.  He doesn’t like anyone but Aunt Marge.  She told him to eat me, so I ran, because he wanted the bacon.  I climbed up the tree and Uncle Vernon shook the tree so hard I fell out.  I hurt my arm,” Harry said, holding his arm as if it still hurt.  

 

Sirius took hold of the arm Harry was holding and gently kissed the spot where Harry was rubbing and Harry gave him a sweet smile.

 

“Aunt Marge grabbed my hurt arm and pulled me inside the house.  She ripped off her belt and gave it to Uncle Vernon.  She said that I needed to be taught how to be a good boy; how to behave proper.  Then she held me down on the chair and Uncle Vernon hit me.  I cried and she hit my cheek,” Harry said, tears in his eyes as Sirius kissed the cheek tenderly.  “I tried not to cry, but it hurt so bad.  And Aunt Marge told Uncle Vernon that he wasn’t hitting me very hard so he hit me again and again and then Aunt Petunia came in and she screamed.  She pushed Aunt Marge away and pulled me off the chair and into the bathroom.  She cleaned my cuts and she made me promise never to tell anyone what happened.  She said that Uncle Vernon would be so mad if I told.  Then she made me go to my cupboard and she locked me inside.  She didn’t let me come out for breakfast.  I had to go to the bathroom on my bed,” he said, blushing and tears in his eyes.  “Aunt Petunia was mad.”

 

“Who’s Aunt Marge, Harry?”  Sirius asked, feeling slightly relieved that Petunia had at least seen the horror in what her husband had done, at least in terms of embarrassment rather than actual concern, but still angry because she had done nothing to stop it and had locked her nephew in a cupboard to starve him and make him sit in his own filth for Merlin knew how long as if it had been his fault that he was beaten.

 

“Uncle Vernon’s sister.  She says I’m an ungrateful little brat who deserves rotten shite.  Aunt Petunia got mad when I asked what ‘rotten shite’ was.”

 

Sirius nodded, hoping Harry couldn’t feel the anger from him.  “It’s not very nice, Harry.  Did… did Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon lock you in your cupboard a lot?”

 

“Uh-huh.  Uncle Vernon locked the door every night after supper and I never get out until it was time for breakfast.  Aunt Petunia gives me five minutes to use the toilet and then I have to make breakfast.  But don’t burn the bacon or no toast for me.”  Harry told him solemnly.  “I’m sad when I don’t get toast, then my tummy hurts.”

 

“Did you get a lot of food, Harry?  I mean, what did you eat at Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house?”

 

Harry shrugged.  “If I burnt the food I got to eat that because I’m trash so I can eat the trash.  Sometimes warm bread and chunks of cheese.  One time I ate a strawberry,” Harry said, his voice full of wonder as if a strawberry was the most magical thing he could imagine.  “And when I fell at school and hurt my knee, Miss Emily gave me a red lolly.”

 

“Prongslet, look at me,” Sirius said, waiting until Harry’s eyes fell on him.  “You are not trash.  You are a very special, incredibly loved little boy who deserves nothing but the best in life.  I want you to remember that.”

 

Harry nodded.  “Okay.”

 

“Harry, did Uncle Vernon ever hurt you again after that day with Aunt Marge?”

 

Harry wrinkled his nose.  “Sometimes when I ask a question he holds my neck like this,” he reached forward and put his small hand on Sirius neck, trying to wrap his hand around it.  “He holds me up and it hurts and I can’t breathe.  Sometimes he just lets go or he throws me in my cupboard or against the wall.  It always hurts so I don’t ask questions.”

 

“You can ask me a million questions every day if you want to,” Sirius told him, kissing Harry’s forehead.

 

Harry reached up to touch Sirius’ lips with his fingertips, jolting when Sirius kissed the fingertips.  “Why do you put your lips on me?”

 

Sirius’ heart broke a little as he kissed his forehead again.  “That’s a kiss,” he kissed Harry’s hand and smiled at him.  “It means I love you.  Sometimes it makes a hurt go away; sometimes it just means hello or goodbye, but it always means I love you.”

 

Harry smiled and gently placed his lips on Sirius’ cheek.  “Like that?”

 

Tears welled up in Sirius’ eyes as he remembered how freely Harry had planted big wet kisses on all of them as a baby.  Remus, James, Lily and Peter — slooch, he would say — before planting a big wet one on the side of your face or on your mouth.  And now, the poor boy didn’t even know what it was.

 

“Exactly like that, Harry, slooch,” he said smiling.  “That’s what you used to call them when you were baby.”

 

“Why?”  Harry asked, eyes full of bewilderment.  “Slooch?”

 

“Smooch,” Sirius said with a smile.  “It’s another word for kisses and your mum used to always say that she wanted smoochies and you couldn’t say that so you said slooch.”  he told him.

 

Harry gently placed a kiss on Sirius’ cheek and smiled.  “Slooch, Uncle Padfoot.”

 

Sirius kissed his cheek in turn.  “Back at you, Prongslet.”

 

The fireplace glowed green and Harry’s grip tightened around his neck.  

 

Sirius gently ran a hand down his back.  “It’s okay, it’s just the Floo, remember the spinning?”

 

Harry grinned at the memory, holding onto Sirius as he stood up.  A tall thin man with a long white beard stepped out of the fire.

 

“Albus!”  Sirius exclaimed in surprise, “I didn’t expect you.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, gently dusting off his robes.  “I know, but I wanted to tell you in person about my day at the Ministry.  Hello, Harry.”

 

Harry buried his face in Sirius’ shoulder.

 

Sirius gently rubbed his back and carefully sat him down on the couch, slightly flattered when Harry attempted to hold on before agreeing to sit by himself.  “Harry, this is Professor Dumbledore.  He’s the Headmaster of Hogwarts.  It’s the school where me and your parents and Uncle Moony went.  Can you say hi?”

 

“Hello, sir,” Harry said quietly, grabbing the stuffed doe and holding it close again.

 

Dumbledore smiled warmly, his eyes twinkling in such a friendly manner that Harry smiled back.  “Hello, Harry, it’s nice to see you again.  And what’s that you’re holding so closely?”

 

“A doe.  Her name’s Lily.”

 

Sirius smiled and shrugged at Dumbledore.  “Lily’s Patronus was a doe and James’ was a stag, I thought that he’d like to have the stuffed animals as a reminder, you know?”  When Dumbledore nodded, he crossed his arms.  “So, what’s going on?  Did you go to the Ministry of Magic?”

 

Dumbledore nodded.  “I did.  I explained to Cornelius that Petunia Dursley had been granted custody of Harry due to her being his only blood relative and that the guardian chosen by his parents had been wrongfully imprisoned.  Now that you have been declared innocent and all charges have been dropped and expunged from your record, you are now his legal guardian and therefore should be able to gain status.  Cornelius explained how it would be a simple switch and in less than twenty four hours, you would be able to claim sole custody.”

 

“What did he say about how Harry was treated?”  Sirius asked, his eyes on Dumbledore.  “I wasn’t kidding, Albus, I want them punished.”

 

“I understand, Sirius and that part is going to take a little longer.  I did receive a copy of his medical chart from Healer Althea Castellanos this afternoon.  The welts on his back and the malnutrition aside, you have further proof of his mistreatment?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “He just told me some of it before you arrived.  Physical and psychological abuse — reminds me of home.  Thank Merlin they’re Muggles because if they had access to the Cruciatus — they probably would have used that too.”

 

“Sirius, no one would use that on a child,” Dumbledore said sternly, his eyes dark with rage.  “Don’t even joke about that.”

 

Sirius thought it was probably best not to tell Dumbledore just how often Walburga Black used that particular method as a form of punishment when he had been a child.  “Right, anyway — what’s happening?”

 

“The Auror Department is looking into the case.  The more facts we have, the more crimes we can pin to them.  But Alastor says that they can be fined and possibly be looking at time in prison if we push for it.”

 

“Azkaban?”  Sirius asked hopefully, an image of that whale cowering under the Dementors alone in a dark cell more pleasing to the eye than it should have been.

 

“Not likely,” Dumbledore told him.  “A Muggle prison.  Alastor plans to present the case to the Muggle law enforcers and then have them follow up on the case.  He’ll twist it so that no one will come looking for Harry or looking into where he is now.  But they will be punished.”

 

Harry had stood up now, grabbing Sirius’ hand and squeezing it.  “I have to go pee.”

 

Sirius smiled and lifted Harry off of the couch.  “I told you, little man, you don’t have to ask.  Go on.”  Harry hurried up the stairs as Sirius watched him go, turning back to Dumbledore.  “They denied him toilet rights, Albus.  So much so that he wet the bed his first night here because he was terrified to go to the loo without permission.  And then he was terrified that I would shove his face into his soiled sheets.  That shouldn’t be a fear.”

 

“No,” Dumbledore said, his voice sad.  “It shouldn’t be.  Sirius, I know that you don’t want to hear it, but I am very sorry I ever placed Harry there.  I thought as his mother’s sister, she would protect him and treat him like her nephew, if not her own child.  At the time, I thought that it was the best choice for the child.”

 

“Sometimes, Albus, your choices are shite.  You should have given him to Remus.”

 

Dumbledore nodded.  “I’m an old man, Sirius, and sometimes those choices are indeed shite.”  He reached for the Floo powder and looked around the cottage.  “It’s very nice here.  The wards are strong and it feels well protected.  If you ever need anything for Harry, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

 

“Thanks,” Sirius told him as he watched him vanish into the flames.  

 

He picked up Harry’s stuffed animals and made his way upstairs.  It was time for someone to have a bath.  He knew that Harry probably didn’t need another bath, but he wanted to keep a routine going.  To show Harry that baths were normal; that they were fun and meant to get clean.  He wanted him to see the routine that he was putting together for him as normal.  He also needed to get that cream on his back before bed too, he remembered.

 

They both needed to get used to the routine.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWELVE:

 

By the end of the second week, Harry and Sirius were settling in with each other quite well.  Harry was willingly reaching for Sirius, wanting to be held and cuddled and not flinching whenever he moved close to him.  He was starved for affection and attention and Sirius had every intention of giving him as much of each as he could.  They’d settled into a fairly good routine of breakfast; playing outside; lunch; nap time; more outside fun whether a walk into town or out in the backyard; cooking dinner; bath time; followed by story time, and then bed. 

 

The only problem was bedtime.

 

Every night, Sirius would finish the story and Harry would beg him to stay in his dog form.  And every night, Sirius caved.  He’d transform into his dog Animagus and let Harry snuggle up against him.  Once Harry fell asleep, he’d sneak out and finish up his own tasks before going to his own bed.  And within two hours, Harry would wake up and cry out for Padfoot.  Sirius would transform once again and end up spending the rest of the night in dog form snuggled with the child.

 

He explained this to Remus that Sunday as Remus put together a pot roast for them for dinner after spending the day playing football with them in the yard. 

 

“I don’t know what to do about it, Moony,” Sirius told him, brushing his hair out of his eyes.  “He’s napping now and he’s fine during the day, but when it’s night time, he wants me there in my Animagus form.”

 

Remus nodded, looking pensive as he chopped carrots.  “Well, you did re-introduce yourself as the dog first and he immediately trusted you as such; he feels comfortable with the dog.  Maybe he feels safer.  You already said that he doesn’t like the dark and even with the fairy lights, he feels calmer once you climb up into the bed with him as a dog.  He feels protected.”

 

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to deter him from trusting me,” Sirius admitted, taking a deep drink from the pint that he had poured himself when Harry went down for his nap.  “But I also really want to sleep in my own bed, as you know, me.”

 

Remus chuckled, moving to the sink to slice the potatoes that he had washed.  “That’s understandable.  As someone who used to have pretty frequent nightmares myself, especially after a hard transformation, cuddling with a big friendly dog always made me feel safer.  You make him feel protected, Sirius — that’s what dogs do.”

 

Sirius smiled as he remembered how many nights he had let his friend cry all over his fur after a gruelling night of the full moon.  “I know.”  Then his eyes widened and he looked up at Remus in awe.  “That’s it, Moony!  I should get him his own dog!”

 

“Wow,” Remus said, turning to look at his friend.  “Padfoot, that’s a lot of responsibility for a five year old!”

 

“He’s going to be six in a few months time and really think about it, his own puppy!  He could sleep in his bed every night; he’ll guard him and play with him.  I think that it would be good for him.  It would give him someone else to trust in his life; someone else to love; someone else who will love him unconditionally.  Think about it.”

 

Remus was quiet for a minute but then he nodded.  “You know it’s not the worst idea.”  When Sirius grinned, he held his hand up.  “But, how are you going to be with another dog in the house?”

 

“I’m not actually a dog, Moony -- despite years of joking that I’m a better dog than a man.  I love dogs.”  He stood up, heading into the living room to find parchment and ink.  “I’m going to write to Healer Castellanos and see what she thinks.  We were talking about his mental state of mind and I think this is a great idea, but a professional opinion is always good too, right?”

 

Remus nodded, smirking at his friend.  “And this would of course have nothing to do with the fact that this Healer Castellanos is, I quote: One fine bird.”

 

Sirius rolled his eyes.  “Moony, Moony, Moony, how many times must I tell you, finding a bird attractive does not mean that I’m smitten.  I just want her advice on the dog idea, that’s all.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Remus said, turning back to the potatoes.  “Let me know what she says.”  

 

But Sirius was too busy scribbling away to respond.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sirius was meeting Dumbledore at Hogwarts the next morning to discuss the progress on Harry’s guardianship.  Remus had agreed to stay with Harry as Sirius didn’t think bringing him to Hogwarts was a good idea.  It was the first time since that first morning that Remus would be alone with Harry and he found himself rather looking forward to it.

 

In the two weeks that Sirius had Harry, Remus had only seen him twice.  That first day and then yesterday afternoon when the three of them had played football and he had made dinner for them.  But even in that two week span, Remus had noticed a difference in Harry.

 

He no longer flinched when Sirius came towards him.  He was accepting of Sirius touching him; of picking him up and of almost everything that Sirius did.  His bright green eyes would follow Sirius around the room, almost in adoration.  Remus wondered if it was combination of the complete trust that Harry held for the dog that Sirius turned into as much as for Sirius himself, but the trust was there. 

 

But it wasn’t yet there for Remus.

 

Remus could feel the big green eyes following him as he moved around the house.  Remus was careful to always stay within his eye of sight, to not move too quickly or do something that would startle him in any way.

 

It wasn’t that Harry was uncomfortable around him, Remus could see that he was okay to be around him.  He liked the stories that he told and he was always very polite, but he didn’t laugh or smile the way he did with Sirius and Remus wanted that to change as soon as possible.

 

Sirius had just left and Harry had moved to the couch in the living room, his stuffed dog held tightly in his arms and his bright green eyes watching Remus.

 

“So, Harry, what would you like to do today?”  Remus asked, sitting down on the couch next to him.

 

Harry shifted just slightly away from him and shrugged.

 

Remus smiled warmly at him, trying to ignore the ache in his heart at the thought of Harry moving himself away, even only a little.  “Is that Padfoot in your arms?”

 

Harry nodded, smiling.

 

“Aren’t you going to talk to me today, Harry?”  Remus asked him, still smiling.  “If I don’t know what you want to do, how are we supposed to have fun together?”

 

Harry bit his lip and then he spoke softly.  “I like your stories, Uncle Moony.”

 

Remus smiled.  He did love stories and sharing them with the adorable little boy in front of him was one of his favourite past times.  Then he grinned to himself.  He had the perfect idea.

 

“I have an idea, Harry.  Would you like to go on a little adventure for stories with me?”

 

“For stories?”  Harry asked, his eyes wide. 

 

Remus nodded.  “Yes.”  He stood up and offered his hand out.  “Do you want to come with me?”

 

Harry stared at him for a moment and then he placed his hand in Remus’ and stood up.  “Okay.”

 

Remus pointed to the fireplace.  “We’re going to have to use the Floo to get there.  Uncle Sirius said that you like the Floo.”

 

“It spins!”  Harry exclaimed, grinning.

 

Remus grabbed the notepad on the top of the fireplace and scribbled a quick note to Sirius letting him know that they would be back before dinner and then he smiled at Harry, bending down and holding his arms out.  “Come on then.”

 

Harry’s eyes stayed on his as he let Remus pick him up, the dog still snug in his arms.  He was shifted onto the man’s hip and he wrapped his arms around him, the stuffed animal smushed between them as they stepped into the fireplace.

 

“Hold on tight, Harry.”

 

Then there was a whoosh and they appeared into The Leaky Cauldron.  Remus dusted both of them off, said hello to the barman, and headed out to Muggle London with Harry still in his arms.

 

“Have you ever ridden the tube, Harry?”

 

Harry shook his head as Remus carried him down to the subway station, placing his money in the slot and leading him towards the train in the London Underground.

 

“It goes very fast,” Remus told him as they took their seat on the train.  

 

There was only one seat available so Remus carefully sat Harry on his lap, keeping his arms around the boy’s waist.

 

Harry was looking around at the people in interest.  A very large man came through the doors and shoved his way through the crowd.  Harry stiffened and he moved closer to Remus, turning his head into his chest.

 

Remus gently ran his hands along his back.  “Shh, it’s okay.  You’re safe with me, I promise.”

 

Harry looked up at him, his bright green eyes grateful and Remus smiled at him.

 

“Look, here we go!”

 

The train started to move and Harry’s eyes flew to the windows, trying to see the objects as they flew by.  They were on the train for less than ten minutes before Remus stood up, holding Harry on his hip as they headed out of the station and headed to the Paddington Library.  

 

Remus put Harry back on his own feet as they stepped inside the library, holding his hand out so that Harry would take it, smiling when the small hand fit into his own.  

 

“This is a magical place full of stories.  It’s called a library, Harry.  Have you ever been to one before?”

 

Harry shook his head, his eye wide as he looked around at all of the books.

 

Remus smiled.  “This is the place of thousands of stories.  Come on; let’s go see what we can find.”

 

Harry nodded and eagerly followed him to the children’s section.  Remus took a seat on the floor in front of one of the shelves and gestured for Harry to do the same.  Harry sat down next to him and folded his hands into his lap.

 

“You can look at any book you want.  Which one appeals to you, Harry?”

 

Harry’s eyes fell onto a hardcover book with green writing and he pointed to it.

 

“Go on,” Remus urged, smiling when Harry slowly and carefully pulled it down from the shelf as if it was made of precious glass.  He showed it to Remus with a smile.  The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame,” Remus read.

 

“There’s a frog fishing next to a… rat and a… a…”

 

“Badger,” Remus supplied with a smile as Harry carefully opened the book, coming across a full picture of a little house and a map showing the forest.  

 

“There’s a mole too and he’s wearing a coat,” Harry told him.

 

Remus smiled.  “He sure is.”

 

Harry held the book out to Remus.  “Can you read it to me, Uncle Moony?  Please, Uncle Remus?”

 

Remus smiled, surprised at the way that Harry had interchanged his name.  “I’d be happy to.  But before I do that, let’s keep exploring for more books.”  He took the book from Harry and placed it on the ground next to them.  “Because do you know what the amazing thing about a library is?”

 

Harry shook his head.  “No.  What?”

 

“You can pick as many stories as you want and we can bring them home and read them.”

 

“I can take them back to Uncle Padfoot’s house?”

 

Remus nodded, smiling at him.  “You can take them home and then after you read them, we can bring them back and you can trade them for new stories.  What do you think?”

 

Harry’s eyes brightened.  “Let’s find more stories, Uncle Moony.”

 

Remus grinned.  “Sounds like a good idea to me.”

 

Thirty minutes later, Harry had made his way around the library with glee and Remus was holding ten books in his arms.  He smiled at the excitement in Harry’s eyes as he realized how many books that he would be taking home with him.

 

Remus led him to the front desk and they signed up Harry for his very own library card.  Harry stared at the card with his name on it in awe and thanked the lady when she handed it to him.

 

“Your son is so polite,” the librarian said to Remus.

 

“Oh, he’s not —“

 

“And so well behaved,” she continued with a smile.  “I hope you enjoy your stories, Harry.”

 

Harry beamed at her as Remus thanked the librarian, placing the books in his bag and taking Harry’s hand in his own.

 

“Where would you like to go next, Harry?  Are you hungry?”

 

Harry shook his head.  “May I please have a drink of water?”

 

“Absolutely,” Remus said, smiling.  They headed to small coffee shop in the station and Remus pointed at the menu boards.  “You can have anything you’d like, little Prongs.  You can have water or chocolate milk or maybe some juice or some lemonade?  What would you like?”

 

Harry stared at him in wonder.  “I can choose?”

 

Remus nodded, taking his wallet out of his back pocket.  “Of course you can.”

 

“Chocolate milk please,” Harry said with a smile as they approached the counter and Remus ordered two small chocolate milks and added two chocolate biscuits along with it.  

 

He led Harry over to one of the tables and they took their seats.  He opened the milk and put a straw in it, handing it across the table with the biscuit and smiled.

 

“I’m a big fan of chocolate myself,” he told him as he broke off a piece of the double chocolate biscuit and took a bite.  “And this is chocolate paradise.”

 

Harry licked his lips, breaking off a piece of the biscuit to try it and he smiled.  “Mmm, chocolate paradise.”

 

Remus chuckled as he opened his own chocolate milk.  “So Harry, do you like living with Uncle Sirius?”

 

Harry nodded, his eyes wide.  “He’s nice.  He turns into a big black dog.  And he plays with me and he makes Sirius’ Grilled Cheese Perfection.  He smells like a forest.”

 

Remus smiled at the description.  Sirius did often smell rather woodsy and a bit like leather.  It was a mix of the soap he used and the jacket that he always wore and Harry obviously found it soothing.  

 

“He’s pretty great.  He’s my best friend.”

 

“Uncle Sirius said my dad was his best friend.”  Harry told him as he reached for another piece of biscuit, looking to Remus to make sure that he was allowed.

 

Remus pushed the biscuit towards Harry with a smile.  “We were all best friends.  Me, Sirius and your dad.  I’ve known them since I was eleven years old.  How do you like your room?”

 

“It’s big!  And I have my own bed with a red blanket with a lion on it.  Uncle Padfoot said its Gryffindor.  And there’s a poster on the wall of people flying on broomsticks and it moves!”  Harry told him, bouncing in his chair as he spoke.  “The picture moves, Uncle Moony!”

 

“It does?  Are you sure?”  Remus asked him, finishing up his chocolate milk and pushing the rest of the biscuit towards Harry.

 

Harry nodded eagerly.  “It does!  Uncle Padfoot said that he was going to show me how to fly on a broomstick, but I have to get bigger first.”

 

“It sounds like you are making it a home,” he said, smiling.  “I’m glad to hear it.  Maybe sometimes, you can come visit me at my home.”

 

“Why?”  Harry asked curiously.

 

“Well, so we can play and have fun together like we did today.”

 

“Okay.”  he said with a smile.  Harry finished his biscuit and drank all of his milk and then looked at Remus beneath his lashes, a small smile on his face.  “Uncle Moony?”

 

“Yes, little Prongs?”

 

Harry’s grin widened at the nickname and then he looked more serious as his fingers picked at the jeans that he was wearing.  “Is Uncle Padfoot going to keep me forever?”

 

“Keep you forever?”  Remus asked, his eyebrow raising in question.  “What do you mean by that, Harry?”

 

Harry shrugged, his eyes looking up at Remus.  “He won’t send me back?”

 

Remus sighed and gestured for Harry to come close to him.  “Come here, little Prongs.”

 

Harry hopped off of his chair and moved to stand in front of Remus.

 

“Will you sit with me?” Remus asked him.  Harry nodded and Remus picked him up, sitting him on his knee.  “Uncle Sirius and I… we both love you so much.  You are the most important little boy in the world to us.  We want you to be safe and to be happy and we would never send you away.  Never,” he promised him.  

 

Harry was staring at him, eyes wide and Remus leaned down and gently kissed his forehead.  Harry flinched, but then he threw his arms around him and hugged him fiercely.  Remus hugged him back, blinking back tears.

 

“Thank you,” Harry said against his shoulder.

 

“You’re welcome, little Prongs.  What are you thanking me for?”

 

Harry kept his head on his shoulder as he spoke.  “You don’t want to send me away.”

 

“Never,” Remus said with a smile.  “I love you and Uncle Sirius loves you and we will always be there for you.  Always.”

 

Harry pressed his lips to Remus’ cheek and gave him a small smile.  “Slooch, Uncle Moony.”

 

Remus laughed.  “That’s what you used to say when you were a baby.  But I loved your slooches then and I love them now.”

 

Harry reached up and tentatively brushed his fingers across the faded scar on Remus’ left cheek.  “You have a big scar.”

 

Remus nodded, letting out a slow breath.  “I have a lot of scars, Harry.”  

 

Harry touched the one on Remus’ eyebrow carefully.  “And another one here,” he said, pushing his own hair back to show Remus the lightning bolt on his forehead.  “I have a scar too.”

 

Remus smiled at him.  “Yes, you do.”  He leaned in and pressed his lips to the lightning bolt, smiling.

 

Harry beamed at him and kissed the scar on Remus’ cheek.  “We’re the same!”

 

Remus bit lip as it trembled.  This little boy, this precious little boy was beaming at him and Remus felt his heart expand with love.  He would never let anyone hurt him ever again.  

 

“Yeah, little Prongs, we’re the same.”  

 

And then he wrapped his arms around the child and tried not to cry.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

When Sirius arrived back at the house, he saw the note from Remus and smiled.  He had no idea where Remus had wandered off to but he hoped that he was enjoying his time with Harry.  He knew that Remus wanted to get to know him just as much as Sirius did.  Remus had given Sirius the time he needed to try to spend time with his godson, not to mention that Remus had been picking up double shifts at the Muggle book store he worked at lately.  Sirius had barely seen him and had been relieved when he had offered to babysit while Sirius finished up the final paperwork.

 

Harry officially belonged in his care now and the relief that he had felt when he handed over the paperwork had been instant.  

 

Harry was home.

 

He stepped into the kitchen to grab a drink of water just as the owl flew through the open window.

 

Sirius gave him a treat from the box in the cupboard, filling a bowl with water and watching as the owl drank eagerly before he took the letter.  He recognized the medical coat of arms and smiled.  He hadn’t expected to hear back from the healer so soon.

 

Dear Mr Black,

 

I am very glad to hear that Harry has opened up to you in terms of the suffering and neglect that he endured in the hands of his last guardians.  As to you inquiring about getting him a pet, specifically a dog, I think this is, in all actuality, an amazing idea.

 

Studies have shown that animals often help bridge a child’s emotions.  By trusting the animal, it helps them to trust the people as well.  A puppy would be a pet Harry could trust and grow with.  If you are indeed serious about this decision — my brother’s dog is pregnant — and he would be more than willing to give you one of the puppies.  The dogs are golden retrievers, which are actually great dogs to help with anxiety.  They are fiercely loyal and loving and would be great for Harry to have.  But there are many other kinds of dogs that would work the same: Labrador retrievers, terriers, boxers, pugs, etc.

 

If you have any other questions or concerns please let me know.

 

Althea Castellanos

St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries

Pedia-Healer

 

The healer agreed with him.  And it looked like she even had puppies coming soon that he could choose from.  Sirius glanced at the calendar with a smile, a little over two months until Harry’s sixth birthday.  He grabbed a fresh piece of parchment and began to respond, a smile on his face.

 

Dear Althea,

 

Thank you for that fast response!  I knew you’d agree with me about the dog being a good idea.  Well, I hoped you would which amounts to the same thing.  I am definitely interested in the golden retriever puppies.  I know that they are great dogs and if you have puppies being born soon I am even more intrigued.  Harry’s birthday is the 31st of July and I was thinking that it might be a great present for his sixth birthday.

 

I’d like to surprise him.  Any chance that I can meet the momma pup?  How soon until the puppies will be born?

 

Thanks again for your help.

 

Sirius

 

He sealed the letter and held it out to the owl, who was eagerly drinking water from the bowl.  She flew over and held her leg out for him to attach it.  Sirius stroked her wing and smiled.

 

“Thanks girl.”

 

He watched the owl fly out of sight and smiled to himself.  He couldn’t wait to see the look on Harry’s face when he gave him a puppy.

 

And he couldn’t wait to tell Remus his idea.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTEEN:

 

Sirius smiled warmly at Harry as he listened to his godson tell him all about his trip to the library and eagerly showed him all ten books that he and Remus had picked out.  

 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights by Ted Hughes

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

The Wonderful World of Oz by Frank L. Baum

 

Sirius inspected each book that Harry handed him, reading off the titles and the summaries with a smile and then grinning at Remus when he was finished.  “Some of these might be a little too old for him, don’t you think?”

 

Remus shrugged.  “Possibly a few might go over his head, but that’s why we’re here.”  he told him, stretching his long legs out from where he sat in the chair.  “And the ones that do aren’t going to hold his interest anyway.”

 

Harry, holding the book by Roald Dahl, left the other books with Sirius and climbed into Remus’ lap, surprising him.  He smiled warmly, making room for the child as he made himself comfortable in the big armchair next to Remus.

 

“This is about chocolate, Uncle Moony, and you like chocolate.”

 

Sirius laughed, grinning broadly as he brushed his fingers through his dark locks and Remus sighed in envy at how perfectly his friend’s hair fell into place.  He had always found it incredibly unfair.  Not that his own hair was incredibly unruly, but it was very wavy and never seemed to cooperate much.  

 

“Harry already knows your weakness, Moony,” Sirius told him with a grin.

 

Remus accepted the book from Harry with a smile, smiling at Harry’s own messy locks.  Thank Merlin his hair was never as unruly as the Potters; though he had to admit, the messy locks suited the face much in the same way that it had always worked so well for James.  “It is about chocolate, a chocolate factory where they make all of the delicious chocolate goodness.” 

 

Harry grinned widely at him.  “Will you read it to me?  Please, Uncle Moony!”

 

Remus smiled.  He had honestly enjoyed his day with Harry so much and now this precious child was begging him to read a book that he had helped him pick out.  There was no way that he could turn him down even if he wanted to, which he most certainly did not.

 

“I’d be happy too, little Prongs.”

 

Sirius smirked at him from across the room as Remus opened the library book, moving his arm so that it was draped around Harry as he held the book.  Their heads together as Remus’ voice rang out.

 

These two very old people are the father and mother of Mr Bucket.  Their names are Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine,” Remus read.

 

Sirius merely grinned at them, only partially listening to the story.  He was glad that Harry seemed to have bonded with Remus, especially over something so simple like a love for stories.  Remus had always been the more literary one of the four them.  He was always reading something or another.  It was one of the reasons that he had become friends with Lily back in their first year of Hogwarts, the two of them had both shared a love of reading.  James had loved stories too, specifically epic tales like The Odyssey and The Count of Monte Cristo.  Monty had always spent time with his son, filling his head with stories of adventure and great mythic quests, but Sirius knew that it was rare for James to sit down and read a book himself.  He had always simply had too much energy; always bouncing and bubbling around him to sit and concentrate on the book; though again that might have been because Monty had been so good at telling the story that actually reading it was moot.

 

Sirius had never been much into reading or stories.  He couldn’t ever remember a time in his childhood when his parents had sat him or Regulus down to read them a story or to tell them about an adventure.  He had been surprised the first time that he had gone over to James and Lily’s house and found Lily reading Harry The Tales of Beedle the Bard and had listened with rapt interest, ignoring James, who had teased him for his sudden intense interest in the children’s story.

 

He was glad that Harry was going to get something like that from Remus.  His attention moved back to the two of them when he heard Harry speaking.

 

“Chocolate!”

 

“Very good, little Prongs,” Remus said in surprise.  “You didn’t tell me that you could read on your own.”

 

Harry blushed and bit his lip.  “Not good, not all the words.”

 

Remus smile and pulled the bookmark out from the middle of the book to hold it under the current line that they were reading.  “How about you read out loud to me and we’ll help each other?”

 

Harry beamed at him, eyes on the words as he carefully read aloud.  Walking to school in the mornings, Charlie could see great slabs of chocolate piled up high in the shop windows, and he would stop and stare and press his nose against the glass, his mouth watering like mad.  Many times a day, he would see other children taking bars of cr-cree-creamy chocolate out of their pockets and munching them greedily, and that, of course, was pure…t-tor…” he turned to look up at Remus for help.

 

“Torture,” Remus supplied with a smile.  “You’re doing great, Harry.  Keep going.”

 

Sirius smiled at both of them.  Harry could read pretty well on his own, he realized.  He hadn’t even thought about stuff like that -- reading, writing, arithmetic.  Harry had been going to school for almost two years, he concluded.  He had watched him head out to school from the Dursley household.  

 

How much did he know?  

 

Should he send him to school?

 

He had been homeschooled himself by his mother.  He hadn’t been given the opportunity to learn how to read by reading a story about a boy named Charlie who loved chocolate, Sirius had been forced to learn by reading the Black family history books and about the accomplishments of those who were worthy of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black.  That was probably the reason that he had never developed a love of reading in all actuality.

 

His father had been the one to teach him arithmetic by having he and Regulus help him count the gold in the vault by making lists of valuables and adding and subtracting their value.  As for writing, his mother had been pretty fond of making them write lines, specifically lines about why the Black Family was basically considered to be royalty in the wizarding world.

 

Sirius definitely didn’t want Harry to learn that way.  He wondered if Harry knew how to write his own name or anything else for that matter.  He remembered that Harry had recognized his name on the door to his bedroom so he probably could write it.  What kind of things did kids Harry’s age learn in school anyhow?  As he watched Remus help Harry sound out the letters of the words he didn’t know, he smiled at his friend’s kind disposition.  

 

Remus had always wanted to be a teacher.

 

Sirius knew that it was a dream that he had put aside because of his furry little problem and it was something that had always bothered Sirius.  Remus was always so patient and he had that aura of someone who genuinely enjoyed knowledge and the ability to share it with others was something so wonderful to him that he couldn’t wait to do it.  He had tutored other students when they had been at Hogwarts and he had always done very well at it.

 

Leaving his friend and his godson to the story of Charlie Bucket, he headed into the kitchen to throw something together for dinner; lost in his thoughts.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Remus and Harry had read through the first two chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before deciding to stop for the night.  After dinner, Harry begged Remus to come play with him while he took his bath, surprising Remus who sat on the floor and played with the boats in the water; and then Sirius had put him to bed, snuggling in as Padfoot when Harry asked him to, until the child had fallen asleep.

 

He found Remus sitting on the couch when he came back downstairs almost thirty minutes later.  

 

“He’s finally asleep.  He really loved being with you today,” Sirius told him as he took a seat on the couch next to his friend.

 

Remus smiled at Sirius.  “I really loved it too.  He’s such a great kid and I want him to want to spend time with me.  His reading is really good, Sirius.  I think that he’s definitely reading at a higher level than his age.”

 

Sirius nodded, scratching his eyebrow.  “I was thinking about that earlier.  Not his reading specifically, but — what he knows.  He was in school when he lived with those tossers.  He would have been finishing up his second year in primary school.”

 

“That is true.”

 

“Did you go to a Muggle school, Moony?”  Sirius asked, suddenly curious and then he froze, cursing himself.  “Sorry, I wasn’t even thinking.  I’m an arse.”

 

Remus smiled at his friend in reassurance, gently nudging his friend’s arm.  “It’s alright, it was an honest question.  The answer is yes, I did go to school at least until I was bitten.  Then my father was too afraid of letting me be around other children.  Mum homeschooled me after that.”

 

“I was homeschooled as well,” Sirius told him.  “But I’m sure that you can imagine what kind of horrors my parents taught me.”

 

Remus smiled sympathetically.  He did know what horrors his parents had taught him.  Sirius had always been afraid that he would turn out like his parents and despite how many times he and James, Peter, and Lily told him how different he was; he still sometimes had a hard time believing it.  

 

“Do you want to send Harry to a Muggle primary school?”

 

Sirius shrugged, putting his feet up on the coffee table in front of them.  “I don’t know, do you think I should?”

 

Remus was quiet for a moment, a pensive look on his face.  “Well — what if he displays magic in front of the Muggles?  Or if he tells one of his new friends that his godfather turns into a big black dog?”

 

“All valid points,” Sirius told him as he considered what his friend had said.  He couldn’t remember if James and Lily had ever talked about how they planned to school Harry when he got older.  They shouldn’t have had to discuss it; they should have had years with their son before it was a concern.  But that had been snatched away from them.  “That’s okay, Professor Moony can teach him what he needs to know.”

 

“Professor — what?”  Remus asked, his eyes going wide.

 

Sirius simply grinned at his friend.  “You can teach him.”

 

“Why me?  You’re his guardian.  You teach him!”  Remus insisted stubbornly, his eyes wide in panic.

 

Sirius laughed.  “Moony, you’re the intellectual one.”  When Remus snorted in response, he continued.  “You always wanted to be a professor and honestly you have the patience for it.  We need to figure out what he has already learned and then I think that you should teach him.  Maybe three or four days a week or something and obviously I will pay you for it because it’s literally going to be a full time job until he goes to Hogwarts.”

 

Remus flushed at that.  “I won’t take your money, Sirius.”

 

“It won’t be mine, it will be James and Lily’s.  I’ll use the money from the Potter Estate to pay for Harry’s schooling and don’t give me that look, Remus, you know that James would insist on it.  You working in that Muggle book store is quaint and all, but you said so yourself, the manager is not impressed with the amount of absences that you’ve had.  All things that Harry and I will understand — it’s the perfect job for you.  You love to teach!”

 

“I’ve never been a teacher in my life!  How would I know that I love to teach?”  Remus insisted as his friend laughed.

 

“You told me that you wanted to be a professor in sixth year.”

 

“But I knew that it was never going to happen,” Remus exclaimed, his eyes wide.  “I can’t be trusted to be around children and no one will hire me.”

 

“Should I ban you from seeing Harry then?”

 

Remus glared at his friend.  “I would understand it if you did.”

 

Sirius shoved Remus so hard that he almost fell off of the couch.  “What the fuck is wrong with you, Rem?  After all these years and you still think that I don’t know exactly who the fuck you are?”

 

He carefully moved back into his seat, his eyes downcast.  “That’s not… I didn’t mean…“

 

“You are the nicest human being I’ve ever met, Rem.  You’re the kindest soul; always have been.  James and I bonded instantly because we were both more or less gits, but you… you always put us in our place and we respected you for it,” Sirius told him, his eyes raking over the soft white scars that adorned his cheeks, one down the side of his neck, one on his arm from his wrist to his elbow.  “You’re beautiful inside and out.  You’re intelligent and you have a genuine love for knowledge that makes you patient and understanding -- which is what always made you such a great tutor back at school.  Any school would be fucking lucky to have you as a professor and if you would think about it for two fucking seconds before you get your back up, you’d know that I’m right.  Dumbledore would give you a teaching job in a heartbeat.”

 

“Dumbledore’s an old fool,” Remus told him, his golden eyes smiling at his friend.  Sirius had always had the ability to make him feel so grateful to be his friend.  “Parents would protest.”

 

“They don’t have to know.”

 

“You can never keep these things a secret forever, Sirius.”

 

Sirius stared at him for a moment.  “We didn’t do so bad.”

 

Remus smiled.  “When I stepped onto the train that first year, all I thought about was how lucky I felt to be going to Hogwarts, but how terribly hard it was going to be to keep this big secret inside.  If Dumbledore hadn’t been Headmaster, Sirius, I never would have been allowed to attend school.  And then you three, you just pushed into my life and lying to you each month about being sick or my mother needing me home was so hard.  When you realized what I was — and none of you were scared — it was like this miracle.  I couldn’t understand why you had all been so nice about it and then when you wanted to become animals so that I wouldn’t…”

 

Sirius put his arm around his friend.  “One of my biggest regrets about going to prison, Moony, is that I wasn’t there for you when you needed me.”

 

Remus hugged his friend tightly.  “That you even think that just goes to show what I’m trying to say.  You three made me a better person and made me feel like maybe I wasn’t a monster.  But it wasn’t just you three.  Snape found out and Lily… it’s not something that you can keep hidden and parents wouldn’t want a monster teaching their children.  That is a fact, Sirius, no matter what you may think on the subject.”

 

“You never even told any of the girls you were with, did you?”

 

Remus shook his head.  “There’s a reason that I don’t deserve to be in a relationship, Sirius.  I can’t even be honest with another person about what happens to me three times a month.  Mary was the nicest girl at school and she knew that I was lying to her.  She accused me of cheating on her and you know what — I admitted to it, because it was a better alternative than telling her the truth.”

 

Sirius only stared at his friend, his eyes sad.  “One of these days, you’re going to realize that you deserve more happiness than anyone else.”  At Remus’ blush, he smiled.  “But as I’m the only quote on quote ‘parent’ in this situation, I vote that you are now Harry’s professor as I don’t give a flying fuck that you’re a werewolf.  You can start next week.”

 

Remus found himself smiling at his friend.  “What am I going to teach him, Sirius?”

 

Sirius only shrugged.  “Whatever the hell you want, Moony.  You’re the professor.  So profess.”

 

“That’s not what a professor… never mind,” Remus said, shaking his head.  He knew better than to try to correct Sirius’ logic as he would then find himself in a debate that he had no desire to part of.  “And what are you going to do while I’m teaching Harry?”

 

“Haven’t decided yet.  But I know that I’m not going to sit around here and twiddle my thumbs,” he told him, looking around the living room.  “I want to fix up my bike, maybe add some things to it.  Fix up the back garden, you can help me with that, the garden and whatnot; you always had a green thumb.  I’d like to have a good shag at some point, as it has literally been years.”

 

Remus laughed at that, shaking his head at his friend.  “I’m actually surprised that it wasn’t the first thing you did upon getting out of prison.”

“With who?”  Sirius asked, looking at his friend in bewilderment.  “Not to mention that I didn’t exactly look my best when I got out.  And it’s not like the Dementors are helping in that matter; though on the plus side, didn’t really make me think about how much I wasn’t shagging either so a little positive note.  But no, I wasn’t feeling or looking my best when I got released from prison, Moony.  Then I’ve been dealing with the house and with Harry.  Sex hasn’t exactly been an option.”

 

Remus chuckled.  “You always found a way.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and that healer you keep writing will give you a pity shag.”

 

“Oh piss off,” Sirius exclaimed, throwing a pillow at his friend’s face.  “For the last time, I’m only corresponding with her about Harry’s well-being.  And I’ve only written to her twice concerning the idea of getting Harry a dog!”

 

Remus only grinned widely at his friend.  “Didn’t you once tell James, Pete, and I that you were only ‘helping’ Hestia Jones with her ancient runes homework when we caught her going down on you in our dorm in sixth year?”

 

Sirius shrugged, smiling at his friend.  “She was learning the runic symbols of my new tattoos.”

 

“The tattoos that are on your arms with her mouth wrapped around your —“

 

“— Shut it, Remus,” Sirius demanded as his friend laughed.

 

“And what about that time you were only ‘chatting’ with Greta Catchlove about the importance of learning charms?”

 

“We WERE talking about charms!  She was one of the best students in the class!”

 

Remus only raised his eyebrow.  “And the fact that you were both completely starkers?”

 

“Well, the talking about charms might also have extended to using some of my considerable charm…”

 

“Uh-huh,” Remus said with a laugh.  

 

Sirius only glared at his friend.  “Like you were so innocent!  In seventh year, James and I found you humping that Ravenclaw prefect in the broom closet by the Great Hall.”

 

Remus blushed as he remembered how his friends, having seen him on the map, sought him out and opened the door just as he had pinned Nora to the wall.  “That’s not the point, Sirius.”

 

“Or what about that topless snog with that blonde Hufflepuff in Hogsmeade?  You two were getting pretty heated when Pete and I found you out by the shack!”

 

“What about that time that you were looking for your potions paper underneath Glenda Chittock’s skirt?”  Remus exclaimed, trying to turn the attention off of him as he blushed in embarrassment.

 

“Moony, she was sitting right on top of my paper!”  Sirius protested, his eyes laughing at the memory.

 

“How unfortunate that you had to search so thoroughly when she only would have needed to stand up?”  Remus suggested, his eyes twinkling in laughter.

 

Sirius simply grinned widely.  “Well, my fingers were very busy checking for it.”

 

Remus smirked, chuckling aloud.  “You still have the worst excuses that I’ve ever heard.”

 

“I thought that they were quite clever.  Besides, you wankers never wanted to hear my tales when I started to explain how Sarah Anderson and I snogged in the broom cupboard across from Filch’s office,” he said smugly.  “Or how Anderson and I almost got caught going at it in the Muggle Studies classroom — so I improvised.”

 

“Needless to say, you weren’t exactly a monk which brings me back to my original point of you and this healer.”

 

“Purely professional, Moony, I swear it.”

 

Remus only smiled at his friend.  “I’ll let you keep your delusions.  But I will teach Harry.”

 

Sirius beamed at him.  “Knew I could count on you, mate!  What are you going to teach him?”

 

Remus picked up his bag from the floor and shook his head.  “I have no idea.  That’s what I’m going to work on for the next few days.”

 

“Good.  Thanks, Moony.  And if the healer shows any interest, well, maybe I will get that shag I need.”

 

Remus chuckled as he finished his drink.  He said goodbye and used the Floo to head home as Sirius shut off the lights and made his way upstairs for the night.  

 

Sirius peeked into Harry’s bedroom and saw his godson sleeping soundly, snuggled with the stuffed animals of the Marauders sprawled all around him.  

 

He slipped into the bathroom, planning to have a hot shower and after his conversation with Moony that had reminded him of the good times, his jeans were fitting a little uncomfortably in the crotch so maybe a wank was in order as well, he thought to himself.

 

Because Remus had brought up a good point, Sirius had always liked sex, but he wasn’t looking for a serious commitment or a relationship for that matter.  Despite it being Remus’ term, he was more of a lone wolf and always had been.  He knew what he liked, but he had lived for his friends; had never really made the time to invite a woman into his life, not like James had with Lily.

 

Sirius undressed, locking the bathroom door behind him in case Harry woke up and wandered inside.  He stepped into the shower, letting the hot water and steam encase him and he sighed in pleasure, just loving the water for a moment.  After almost five years of nothing but lukewarm water from a bowl and a washcloth, standing in a hot shower was by far the most pleasurable thing in the world.  The water washed over him and he sighed, reaching down to grip himself tightly, letting his head rest against the wall of the shower as he worked himself from base to tip.  He couldn’t even consciously think of anything in particular except his own pleasure as he stroked himself faster and faster.  When he finished, he had an image of the healer smirking at him and he grinned to himself.

 

Maybe his thoughts on the healer weren’t completely professional after all.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

The next morning, after giving Harry his breakfast and getting them both ready for the day, Sirius decided that it was a good idea to write to McGonagall about how to help Harry with his education before Hogwarts.  She was a professor — the best professor actually — and who else to give him some ideas and pointers on the subject.

 

Dear Minnie,

 

Harry and I have been adjusting well to living together and he is such a gem!  Remus and I were talking last night about his reading abilities and what he learned in school when he was living with the Muggles.  It got us thinking:  What exactly are we supposed to teach him?  Reading and writing sure, but what else?

 

You’re the person I’d ask, being a professor, not to mention the most brilliant woman I know.  Why don’t you come over for tea on Sunday?  Harry and I would love to see you and I’d love to pick your brain on the subject.

 

Love,

Sirius

 

He folded the letter into the envelope and smiled at Harry who was sitting on the floor in the living room playing with the action figures of the Knights of the Round Table that Sirius had bought for him.  He watched him play for a moment, a small smile on his lips.

 

McGonagall was definitely one of the best people to ask in his opinion.  It wasn’t like he had any family that he could talk to about raising kids; his mother was the last person he would even consider going to.  If Euphemia and Fleamont were still around… Merlin he missed Fee sometimes so much that his heart hurt his chest.  She had taken him under her wing and mothered him as if he had been her own son.

 

He would never forget the moment that he had stepped off of the train for the Christmas holidays in sixth year and she had engulfed him in her arms, kissing his cheeks, and telling him that she and Monty had the best surprise.  When they had arrived at the Potter House, James had only grinned at him, gesturing for him to follow his mother up the stairs.  Sirius had stopped in front of James’ bedroom, planning to throw his stuff on his friend’s bed, but James had stopped him.

 

“No, mate, you’re not staying with me.”

 

“What?”  Sirius had asked, looking confused.  “But I always sleep in your room.”

 

Euphemia had only smiled from a few feet away as she pushed open the door next to James’.  “Well, if you really want to stay with James I won’t stop you, but the three of us have been working rather hard on your room.”

 

Sirius had only stared at her, his eyes wide in shock.

 

James had taken his arm and tugged him towards the door.  The room had been painted a soft grey.  There was a large double bed in the centre of the room with a warm quilt on it.  Gryffindor banners on the wall with pictures of Sirius and his friends.  Muggle posters of motorcycles and Muggle girls in bikinis; a complete diagram of an engine; music posters of The Ramones, The Beatles, Queen, and The Rolling Stones; and on the door in gold lettering it said: Sirius’ Room.”

 

He had been embarrassed to feel himself choking up, but Euphemia had simply wrapped her arms around him.  “Jamie picked out the posters himself; sent them along.  I thought grey is such a lovely colour like your eyes, darling, almost stormy.”  She kissed his cheek.  “And both of my sons deserve their own room with their own things.”

 

“Fee,” he had said simply, kissing her cheek.  “I never… when you said that I could stay I didn’t… thank you.”  He looked over at James who was grinning widely at him.

 

Fleamont was standing next to Sirius’ bedroom door, his hands in his pockets as he bounced on the balls of his feet.  “Welcome home, boys.  Are you ready to decorate the tree?”

 

He had never felt more at home in his entire life.

 

Euphemia and Fleamont Potter had been his parents.  He had practically lived with James from the summer of third year, spending most of his summer between James and Remus’ home and one week each year with Peter.  But after fifth year when he had gone home and had it out with his parents, resulting in them kicking him out at the age of sixteen, he hadn’t expected the Potters to welcome him so openly.  Then that Christmas, presenting him with his own bedroom had been the best gift of his life.

 

They had given him a family.

 

He had a home with people who loved and cared for him.  Nothing had made him happier.  And he missed them both more than he could possibly say aloud.  Dragon pox had carried both of them off in less than three weeks, only six months after James had married Lily.

 

James had told him that he could stay in the house after they had passed, but Sirius couldn’t stay there.  He had moved into the flat that his Uncle Alphard had left him; not wanting to be alone with the memories of his only real family.  It still made him sad to remember how excited Fee and Monty had been about the prospect of being grandparents.  Euphemia had spent so much time helping Lily decorate the nursery; she had knit Harry’s baby blanket and talked about all of the children that James and Lily would have for her and Monty to spoil.

 

But Lily had only been four months pregnant when they had both died, devastating all who had known them.  Sirius wished that they were around to see how wonderful their grandson had turned out.

 

His Uncle Alphard was the only relative that he had ever really liked in his family and he had died when he had been in sixth year; leaving his seventeen-year-old-penniless-nephew a fortune.  The only member of the Black Family who hadn’t been furious with that announcement was his cousin Andy and she —

 

Andy!  

 

Sirius cursed himself for not thinking of her immediately.  Andromeda had always been nice to him.  They had always gotten along, despite her being almost eight years older than him.  She was just as much of a disgrace to the Black family name as he had been, especially after she married the Muggleborn Ted Tonks.  Aunt Druella had been so furious when she found out that she had immediately blasted Andromeda’s name off of the family tapestry.  He had been fourteen when she had written him with the news that he had a new baby cousin.

 

Baby cousin, he thought, his eyes going wide.  Andromeda had a daughter!  She was probably old enough to be in Hogwarts now, he thought with a smile.   She would be in Hogwarts, he thought doing the math in his head.  And if anyone would know anything about educating children before Hogwarts, it would be Andy.  She would be the perfect one to ask.  He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t thought about her immediately.  But in all fairness, he hadn’t spoken to her since he had been released from prison.

 

He smiled at Harry, standing up with the letter to McGonagall still in his hands.  “Come on, Harry, we’re going to go visit my cousin Andy.”

 

Harry was still playing with his knights and only nodded vaguely.

 

The fact that Harry was so absorbed in his own world was a good thing.  He was comfortable enough to let his own imagination take over.  Sirius thought it was an excellent sign.

 

“Harry,” he said again and this time Harry turned to look at him.  “We’re going to go visit my cousin Andy.  Go put your toys away.”

 

Harry picked up his toys and carried them back upstairs to his room, coming back down with the stag in his arms.  “Can I bring Prongs, Uncle Padfoot?”

 

Sirius smiled and picked Harry up into his arms.  “Absolutely.  We’re going to take my bike, okay?”

 

Harry nodded, grinning when Sirius put the helmet on him and handed him the sunglasses he had purchased for the him the other day when they had been in town for groceries.  He let Sirius strap him tight to the seat on the back of the bike, loving the feel of the rumble beneath him as they sped off.

 

Sirius drove for almost forty-five minutes, peeking behind him at every light and stop sign to make sure that Harry was doing okay.  He had a big grin on his face the whole time, making Sirius smile.  When they drove into the town of Shoreditch, Sirius turned down the road towards the Tonks house with a grin on his face.

 

He had missed Andy.  As he pulled up in front of her house, it occurred to him that he probably should have written first.  Just showing up on his cousin’s doorstep after spending almost five years in prison was probably frowned upon; not to mention the fact that he hadn’t spoken to her since he had gone to prison.  

 

Did she even know that he had been released?  

 

Did she know that he was innocent?

 

He didn’t get a chance to reconsider however, because the front door opened as he shut off the bike and Ted stepped out, his eyes raised in interest to see who was outside of his house on the motorcycle.

 

Sirius pulled his helmet off, shaking out his hair and hanging his sunglasses on his shirt.  “Hi, Ted, sorry to drop by unannounced.”

 

Ted stared at him for a moment and then he smiled.  “If it isn’t Sirius Black, the second White Sheep of the Black Family.”

 

Sirius laughed, grinning widely.  He and Andromeda had always joked that they were white sheep as opposed to black just because of the misnomer with their surname.  “It’s me.”  He reached down to pull the helmet off of Harry and unstrapped him, lifting him up into his arms.  “And my godson, Harry Potter.”

 

Ted’s eyes widened in surprise.  “Harry — The Boy Who Lived?”

 

“The one and only.  Is Andy around?”

 

Andromeda stepped out from behind her husband.  Her long black hair curling around her face and her arms crossed in front of her.  “Edward Tonks, do not let him take another step towards this house!”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOURTEEN:

 

Sirius stopped his progress, Harry still in his arms.  He felt his face drop in shock and sadness before he quickly masked it.  He didn’t know what he had been expecting from the only blood relative that he actually liked, but he was extremely disappointed by the result. 

 

But then he stumbled back in surprise when her small body tackled him.  He found himself holding Harry closer as the boy held his breath in fear of the sudden invasion that was Andromeda Black Tonks hugging Sirius like her life depended on it.  Sirius turned his head to kiss the boy’s cheek in reassurance and he burrowed closer into Sirius’ embrace.

 

Andromeda pulled back with tears in her eyes.  “Why did you wait so long to come and see me, you stupid prat?”  she exclaimed, punching him in the arm.  She wiped at her tears furiously, her eyes flashing in annoyance.  “I only just found out yesterday that you were released from Azkaban weeks ago.  Weeks ago, Sirius Orion!”

 

He nodded, smiling at her and relaxing.  “It was in the papers.  Innocent man set free after four years, six months, and twenty days in prison for a crime that he never actually committed.”

 

“I never read the damn paper anymore.  There’s never anything good in it,” she told him honestly.  “And who is this little darling?  Hi, sweetheart.”

 

Harry turned his head into Sirius’ shoulder, holding Prongs tight in his arms.

 

“This is Harry.  He’s a little shy.”

 

“Well, come in; come in!”  Andromeda exclaimed, ushering her husband to go inside as Sirius and Harry followed.  

 

Sirius took a seat on the lumpy couch in the living room that was surprisingly comfortable and grinned at Ted as he sat across from him in the rocking chair.  “I’m sorry to just drop in unannounced like this.  I was literally pulling up in front of the house before the thought even occurred to me that I should have written first.”

 

Andromeda waved her hand as if that was nonsense, taking a seat on the arm of the chair that her husband was in.  “No!  I’m so glad to see you, Sirius!  And you’re looking so well too!  When you were arrested… Ted and I couldn’t believe it.  Ted mentioned something about you supposedly working for He Who Must Not Be Named and how you had betrayed the Potters and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it!  But… we kind of lost touch a little so I didn’t know what to believe if I’m completely honest with you.

 

Sirius nodded, understanding.  “I know.  And I’m sorry that we lost touch.  With the war going on, I was working undercover a lot trying to help with the Order.  You know how dangerous some of those missions were.”  When his cousin only glared at her husband, who had indeed found himself on a few of those dangerous missions working with the Order of the Phoenix alongside of Sirius, he continued.  “I became focused on being with my friends and trying to keep them safe — which I failed spectacularly at.”

 

Andromeda moved to sit next to him, taking his hand in hers and squeezing lightly as Harry only moved closer to Sirius and away from her outstretched hand.  “You were trying to protect your friends; anything that happened because of that is not your fault.”

 

“I’m the one that insisted that they change Secret Keepers, Andy.  If I had let them use me like James wanted to, they would still be alive.”

 

“You don’t know that,” Ted said, leaning forward in his chair.  “You don’t know what would have happened.  James and Lily Potter were very powerful, but they had a lot of close calls and you can’t tempt fate, Sirius.  Maybe they were meant to die young.  I’m not saying that it’s right, but fate works in mysterious ways, like that little boy you’re holding — The Boy Who Lived.”

 

Sirius smiled, turning Harry so that he was facing Andromeda and Ted.  “If I hadn’t made such a stupid mistake and gone after Peter, I would have had him from the start.  Lily’s sister was his guardian and she didn’t take care of him.  He’s been living with me for almost three weeks now, but he’s still rather shy around people that he doesn’t know.”  Sirius gently brushed a finger down Harry’s cheek.  “Harry, this is my cousin Andy and her husband Ted.  Can you say hi to them?”

 

“Hello,” Harry said softly, cuddling Prongs closer in his arms.

 

Andromeda smiled warmly.  “How would you like some pumpkin juice, Harry?”

 

Harry nodded.  “Yes, please.”

 

Andromeda smiled and stood up.  “Sirius, would you like some tea?”

 

“That’d be great, thanks.”

 

Ted stood up to help his wife and a few minutes later, they returned with tea and biscuits and a glass of pumpkin juice for Harry.  Harry moved over to sit on the floor, still holding onto Prongs as he accepted the pumpkin juice.

 

Ted had pulled out a box of dominoes and opened it up on the floor next to Harry and was quietly showing him how to stack them close together and to build a winding trail around the room.  Harry looked up at Sirius when Ted asked him if he wanted to build with him.

 

“Go on, Prongslet, it’s okay,” Sirius told him with a smile.

 

Harry beamed at him and crawled over to the dominoes that Ted had set up and listened attentively as Ted explained how you had to stack them just so to make the effect work when you knocked them down.

 

Sirius smiled as he watched Harry for a moment before he turned back to Andromeda.  “Listen, I wanted to see you, obviously, and with everything that I’ve been doing — trying to get my life back on track, and now trying to organize my life with Harry… I’m his godfather, if you remember — and I have full custody of him now.”

 

Andromeda nodded, her dark hooded eyes smiling at him.  “I remember.  You were so proud the day that you rushed over here and told me that your godson had just been born.”

 

Sirius chuckled as the memory washed over him of the day that he had become a godfather.

 

He had been pacing within the halls of St Mungo’s with Remus and Peter.  James and Lily had been in the room for hours; felt like days.

 

“Sit down, Padfoot!”  Peter insisted, leaning back in his chair.  “Pacing back and forth like a mad man isn’t going to make it go any faster.”

 

“Pete’s right, Sirius; come sit down,” Remus told him, patting the bench next to him.

 

Sirius only looked up at his friends, eyes wide.  “I can’t.  I’m too… edgy.  James is in there having a fucking baby!”

 

“Well, technically, Lily’s having the fucking baby, but I know what you mean,” Peter said, grinning widely.  “Never would have believed that tosser would have got the chance to date Evans let alone convince the poor girl to marry him and breed.”

 

Remus laughed, dragging his fists over his tired eyes.  “That tosser wore her down and she had the hots for him for years; we all knew it.  She was just smart enough not to show it.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Remember that time that she told him she’d rather kiss every Death Eater on the arse than spend another moment talking in his presence?”  

 

Remus laughed, smirking at his friends.  “Merlin, I thought Prongs was going to die.  He stuttered and stared at her like she had suddenly grown three heads.  Now they are having a baby together.  It seems like the world is really changing.”

 

“Just because they’re having a baby doesn’t mean our world is changing,” Sirius insisted, his eyes on his friends.  

 

“Babies change things, Padfoot,” Peter told him, crossing his feet at the ankles.  “Babies change everything.”

 

The door at the end of the hall opened and James rushed out, black hair sticking up worse than ever, crooked glasses and a face splitting grin plastered across his mouth.  

 

“It’s a boy!  Quick, come see!”  he exclaimed, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he waved them forward.

 

Peter and Remus stood up, following Sirius who was in the lead, as they made their way into the room where Lily was sitting.  She was propped up in the bed, her dark red hair damp and plaited at her neck as she held a tiny bundle in a green and blue blanket knitted by Euphemia Potter.

 

“Marauders, I’d like for you to meet the first Marauder of the new generation, Prongs II,” James announced proudly, beaming so brightly that he was practically glowing.

 

“James, for the last time — we’re not naming him Prongs II!”  Lily exclaimed, rolling her eyes at her husband.  She smiled warmly at the three of them.  “Come closer and meet your nephew, Marauders.”

 

“Nephew?”  Remus asked, smiling brightly. 

 

James grinned widely.  “Obviously, Uncle Moony.  Say hello to Prongs II.”

 

“Harry,” Lily said, chuckling.  “His name is Harry James Potter.”

 

“After my grandpa,” James said with a smile.  “He was an Auror and the coolest bloke around.  And James for the coolest bloke in this little man’s life: Moi.”

 

“Um, excuse me — godfather claims that status,” Sirius said raising his hand in acknowledgement and taking a seat on the edge of the bed, looking at Harry.  “Hi there, Prongslet, I’m your godfather.”

 

“That’s Uncle Padfoot, Harry, otherwise known as Uncle Sirius or Uncle Moron,” James said, smiling down at his son.

 

“Your dad’s the moron, Prongslet.  I’m the cool one.  Stick with me, little man and we got this.”

 

Lily smiled up at the four men around her.  The Marauders; the man she loved more than life itself, and the men he called his brothers.  “Sirius, would you like to hold your Prongslet first?”

 

Sirius beamed as Lily carefully placed Harry into his arms.  “He’s so small, Lil; barely weighs a thing!”

 

Peter leaned in, smiling.  “He’s got James’ black hair disaster.”

 

“You don’t know that it’s going to be a disaster, Pete,” James said defensively, looking at his son’s mop of black unruly hair.

 

Peter only smirked.  “I think we do, Prongs.”

 

Sirius gently ran his finger down Harry’s cheek, grinning when Harry’s tiny hand gripped his finger hard.  “Hi there, Prongslet, strong grip you’ve got there.”  

 

Sirius passed the baby to Remus who looked panicked.

 

“Um, Peter can — oh boy,” he exclaimed in panic as Sirius left the baby in his arms.  “Hi, little Prongs.”

 

Lily smiled at him.  “Relax, Rem, he’s fine.”

 

“He’s so precious,” Remus told her, a soft smile on his face.  “Right, Harry?  Are you precious?”

 

Harry only stared up at him, fingers twitching until he grabbed a hold of Remus’ finger.  Remus smiled and carefully passed the baby over to Peter who held him with expert ease.

 

“Hi, Harry,” Peter said, cradling him against him.  “You are going to be a great little Marauder, aren’t you, Prongs II?”

 

James grinned widely.  “See, darling, even the boys agree that the Prongs nickname must live on!”

 

Sirius smiled.  “He is Prongslet, little Prongs, Prongs II.”

 

Lily smiled at them.  “His name is Harry, but whatever endearing nicknames you three give him is for you blokes alone.”

 

James took his son from Peter, holding him closely in his arms.  “He’s our Harry,” he said, taking Lily’s hand in his own and leaning down to kiss her softly.  “Thank you for giving me my son.  I love you.”

 

Lily held his cheek in her hand, her green eyes on his as she kissed him.  “I love you, James.”

 

His lips met hers again for a longer kiss and Peter cleared his throat.

 

“Well, we’ll leave the new family alone to get acquainted.  But we’ll see you when you head home.”

 

Remus and Sirius nodded, saying goodbye before the three of them left the room.

 

“James and Lily have a fucking son!”  Sirius exclaimed, his eyes wide.  “I have a godson!  We have a fucking nephew!”

 

Remus grinned widely.  “It is rather marvellous, isn’t it?”

 

Peter nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets.  “It really is.  When my cousin had her first, it’s the greatest thing.  But now we’re like uncles and that’s just… the ultimate, you know?”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “I have to go tell Andy!”  

 

“But Sirius, it’s three in the —“  Remus began as Sirius Disapparated on the spot, leaving his friends staring after him in amusement, and arrived just outside of the house in Shoreditch.  He practically ran to the front door to ring the bell.

 

Andromeda answered, her eyes half closed, but they widened when she saw her cousin there.  “Sirius, what’s wrong?  Are you all right?  What happened?”

 

Sirius grinned like a fool, picking her up and swinging her around in his arms.  “I’m an uncle, Andy!  I have a godson!  A fucking godson!”

 

Andromeda stared at him, her mouth open in shock for a full thirty seconds before she comprehended what he had just said.  “Sirius Black!  Did you just wake me up at three forty-five in the morning to announce that your godson was born?”

 

He grinned sheepishly.  “I don’t even care, Andy!  I’m godfather to the cutest mother fucking kid in the universe named Harry James Potter and I’m proud as hell.”

 

Andromeda finally smiled.  “I can’t even be mad, you git!  Congratulations, Sirius.”

 

Sirius hugged her again.  “I’m going to be the best godfather ever to this kid.  My little Prongslet.”

 

“Prongslet?”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Nickname — long story.”  He leaned in and kissed her cheek.  “And a new tattoo idea.  See you Andy!”

 

He Disapparated again before she could respond and she was left standing at the front door of her home, grinning widely.

 

“It was one of the best days of my life.  When James and Lily asked me to be godfather back before they even knew if they were having a boy or a girl, I was just so honoured and so excited, you know?  Especially with Fee and Monty having passed before Harry was born.  It meant a lot to me,” Sirius told her, smiling.  “And I loved that baby from the first instant that I held him.”  He looked over at Harry who was smiling at Ted as they shifted the row of dominoes around the side of the couch.  “I want to be the best godfather I can be to him.  He needs me, now more than ever.”

 

Andromeda smiled at him.  “He looks pretty content to me.”

 

Sirius grinned at her.  “The people that he was living with, they mistreated him; abused him.  He’s really come around the last few weeks with me and he’s just really starting to trust Remus too, which is good.  Remus is going to help out as much as he can as well.”

 

“You know that if you need anything you only have to ask,” Andromeda told him with a smile.  “And Dora is old enough to babysit herself now when she comes home for the summer holidays.  I’m sure she’d love it if you asked her over to play with Harry.”

 

“Old enough to babysit?  You’re kidding, right?”

 

Andromeda chuckled, reaching for the picture frame on the table next to her.  “I’m not.  She’s going to be thirteen in June.”

 

Sirius grinned at the photo of his cousin standing between her parents.  Her long brown hair was streaked with a dark pink, braided to the side and she had three earrings in each lobe making him smile.  “I love the earrings.”

 

“You would,” Andromeda said as she looked at his adorned left ear.  “She wants the top of her ears done now.  I promised her that when she was thirteen we’d talk about it so I can imagine what our summer conversation is going to be.”

 

“The pink looks great too, I’m surprised that you let her dye it.”

 

Andromeda smiled.  “Actually, I didn’t.”

 

Sirius chuckled, his eyes wide.  “She went out and got it done herself?  Brave little bird.”

 

“Oh, she is that — but no.  I guess you never got the chance to find out, but well, Dora’s a Metamorphmagus.”

 

“What?”  Sirius asked in surprise.  “As in the ability to change her appearance at will?”

 

Andromeda nodded.  “One in the same.  No one has had the ability in our family in four generations.  I kind of assumed that it had died out, but here we are.”

 

“That’s brilliant!”

 

“She thinks so.  She started young with it, but Ted and I didn’t catch on.  We thought that it was just her magic coming through.  But do you remember how I could never decide what her eye colour was as it always seemed to be changing?  She was doing that.  And her hair would grow and shorten, it seemed almost with her mood, but when she was five, she asked me why the neighbour had such a strange nose.  When I asked her what she meant, she showed me on her own face and I just about jumped out of my skin!”

 

“What did you do?”  Sirius asked, rather intrigued.  “How did you find out?”

 

“Well, I took her to St Mungo’s where they tested her blood and found the gene that had gone dormant in the Black bloodline was active again in her bloodstream,” Andromeda explained.  “And Dora controls it so well.  By the time that she started Hogwarts she could change her entire appearance in under thirty seconds.  I’m hoping that she uses her powers for good, but Professor Sprout is always writing me letters about her escapades at school.  It seems that she is a bit of a prankster.”

 

Sirius beamed.  “Excellent.”

 

Andromeda laughed.  “You would love it.  I think that you got into more trouble at school than anyone I knew.”

 

Sirius grinned, shrugging good naturally.  “Possibly.”  He grabbed a biscuit from the tray and grinned at his cousin.  “I did actually want to talk to you about something.”

 

“Of course,” Andromeda said, smiling warmly at him.

 

“Remus took Harry to the library yesterday.  He likes stories, our boy does, and we discovered that he reads pretty well.  He was attending a Muggle primary school before he came to live with me.  But now that he knows about the magical world, I think putting him back into a Muggle school isn’t the best idea,” Sirius explained, looking over at Harry who was still ever so carefully stacking the dominoes.  “I asked Remus to be in charge of his schooling.  He’s the smartest person that I know and he has such patience for teaching; bloke always wanted to be a professor.  But the two of us were talking, and we don’t really know what we should teach him.  I mean, what are the most important things that he has to know before he goes off to Hogwarts.  What did you and Ted teach Dora?”  Sirius asked with interest.

 

Andromeda smiled, sipping her tea as she looked thoughtful.  “I assume that you are thinking like I did that the Black family way is not the best method.”  When Sirius only rolled his eyes in response, she laughed.  “Ted and I talked about it and we decided that teaching Dora what we wanted her to know was all that mattered.  Latin of course, and reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also some history, some literature, and some potion making.  Ted taught her how to make some healing salves.  Things they can do without magic.  Ted also wanted her to know about the Muggle world so we went to see movies and concerts in the Muggle world and we had fun.  It's about having fun, Sirius, and teaching Harry what you think he needs to know to be successful in the world.”

 

“Oh,” Sirius said, relaxing.  “I think that I was making this out to be a lot bigger in my head — like I needed to know some secret to teach him.”

 

She chuckled and set her tea cup down on the table.  “No.  So, tell me, did you move into Uncle Alphard’s old place, the cottage in, where is it?  Sidmouth?”

 

Sirius nodded, looking over at Harry who had his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth as he carefully lined up each tile as Ted instructed him, before turning back to his cousin.  “I am.  I repainted, but it’s in pretty good repair.  The garden needs some work, but I’ll get to it.  I think once Remus starts teaching Harry, I’ll have some more time to myself.”

 

“If you need help with the gardens let me know and I’ll avoid you.  I absolutely do not have a green thumb,” she said with a laugh.  “But I’d be happy to help you pick out some lovely flowers or shrubs that I think will look nice.  Just don’t let me touch them.”

 

Ted chuckled from the floor and grinned up at Sirius.  “She’s right about that, Sirius.  I gave her roses for her birthday and they were dead the next day.  I don’t know what she does wrong.”

 

Sirius grinned as Harry placed the last domino down.  “Good to know.”

 

“Push this one right here, Harry,” Ted instructed, pointing to the first domino that Harry had stood up.

 

Harry looked hesitant as his eyes moved around to the large circular trail they had built.  “Push it?”

 

Ted nodded with a smile.  “Yes.  It’s what you do when you play dominoes.  You watch the effect of your careful planning and see if you stacked them up properly.”

 

“Go on, Harry, I want to see,” Sirius said, coming to sit on the floor next to his godson.

 

Harry bit his bottom lip before he gently pushed the domino and grinned widely as the effect knocked all of them down in a mechanical motion, following the trail that he had built.  “Wow!”

 

Sirius laughed and kissed his cheek.  “Good job, Prongslet!”

 

Andromeda stood up and smiled at them.  “You’ll stay for lunch?”

 

“I never say no to free food, Andy,” Sirius said with a grin, remembering the letter to McGonagall that he had put in his jacket pocket when he moved to stand up.  “Hey, can I borrow your owl?

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

After leaving Andy and Ted’s house, Sirius and Harry headed to Diagon Alley.  Sirius needed to purchase his own owl if he was going to be corresponding with anyone.  He remembered the owl that he had when he had been at school.  Her name had been Snow in direct contradiction of her dark feathers.  She had passed away shortly after he had left school; having belonged to his family for almost twenty years.

 

He held Harry’s hand as they stepped into Eeylops Owl Emporium later that afternoon.  He smiled at the clerk behind the desk before they walked around to look at the owls.  Harry’s eyes were drawn towards a large tawny owl with red in her feathers.

 

“Do you like that one, Harry?  She’s pretty, isn’t she?”

 

Harry nodded, looking up at the cage.  “I like her tail,” he said, pointing to where the reddish feathers fanned off into a soft gold and white.

 

“She is a beauty,” the clerk said from behind him.  “She’s five years old; used to belong to my aunt, who sadly has passed on.  Her name is Persephone.  Are you interested?  I can let her go for thirty Galleons.”

 

Sirius watched as Harry tentatively reached a finger out to stroke her wing and Persephone closed her eyes, hooting in contentment and he smiled.

 

“Sold.”

 

The clerk beamed at him.  “Let me ring you up.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIFTEEN:

 

Sirius spent the rest of the week cleaning out the sun room at the back of the house.  The sunroom had three walls that were all windows and he was thinking that it was the perfect place for Harry to have his studies with Remus.  It was brightly lit, full of sunshine, and large enough for them to spread out if needed.  Plus it was near the kitchen and had a view of the open back garden looking out into the forest.  

 

After the first hour of Harry sneaking around into the room to watch him and trying to help out, Sirius agreed to let him.  He did want Harry to get used to doing chores, but he was afraid to push it after seeing what Harry had suffered at the Dursley residence.

 

But Harry helped him wash the windows, laughing when Sirius held him up and put the rag on his back, dragging Harry across the glass as the child giggled in his arms.  Sirius used his wand to get rid of the boxes of junk and found a long wooden table in the shed that he thought would be perfect for Harry and Remus to use.  He bought two chairs to go with it and Harry helped him build the blackboard, asking questions as Sirius hammered the nails into the frame, letting Harry swing a tiny hammer as well and finishing off the work.

 

Sirius hung the chalkboard up on the wall and then built the other side of the wall up as a bookshelf.  It took him the entire week to finish the room, shopping for new light fixtures and school supplies with Harry’s help.  He had found it surprisingly fun and cathartic to do everything the Muggle way as Harry asked an endless stream of questions about what he was doing.

 

Harry had immediately become intrigued when Sirius had explained to him that they were building a classroom.

 

“Why?”

 

Sirius had just smiled at him, pulling the boy into his lap as they took a rest with some pumpkin juice and some cheese and crackers for a snack.  “So that you can learn.”

 

“Learn school?”

 

“Well, instead of going to a real school, Uncle Moony and I thought that you could learn here and Uncle Moony will be your teacher.”

 

Harry had looked at Sirius in surprise.  “Just Uncle Moony and me?”

 

“Yup, just the two of you.”

 

“No other kids?”  he asked in confusion.  

 

Harry couldn’t imagine a school without kids, but a school without other kids meant that he didn’t have to try to make friends with them.  It meant that Dudley wouldn’t hurt them if they tried to be friends with Harry.

 

“No other kids.  But don’t worry, Harry, we’ll find you some kids to play with eventually,” Sirius told him with a smile as he watched his godson eat the snack that he had prepared.

 

That was something else that he hadn’t considered either.  Harry would need to be around other kids at some point; it wasn’t a necessity as long as he kept people around Harry.  He didn’t want him to be shy and unsocialized with others, but he selfishly wanted to keep him to himself a little bit longer too.

 

Harry smiled up at Sirius.  “I can’t wait to learn in my new classroom, Uncle Padfoot.”

 

Sirius beamed at him.  “Me neither, little man.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

By the time that Sunday came around, Sirius was even more anxious for McGonagall to come over and visit.  He wanted to show off the small sunlit classroom that he and Harry had prepared.  Remus had seen it the day before and had told Sirius that it was perfect.  He had even made a list of books that he wanted to get over the next couple of weeks to use in the future.

 

But at one fifteen on Sunday morning, Sirius’ excitement over the classroom and McGonagall visiting was pushed back because it was the first time that Harry had had a nightmare in the four weeks that he had been with Sirius.  Sirius’ heart stopped in his chest when he was suddenly woke from a dead sleep in his dog Animagus, in his godson’s bed, where he had continued to sleep most of the night — every night.

 

Sirius transformed back into himself as Harry screamed.  He could see that he was still asleep, his little body writhed in terror as he moved around the bed.  Sirius reached out to touch him and he screamed in panic again when Sirius’ hands reached out to touch his body in an attempt to calm him and a surge of blue shot out and shocked Sirius.  

 

Sirius immediately let go, dragging a hand through his own hair, his eyes wide in terror and his hair now standing up on end from the jolt that Harry had just given him.  Merlin, the boy was powerful, he thought.  

 

“Harry?”  he called out calmly, trying to stop the fear from etching into his voice.  “Harry, wake up, little man.  Come on, Prongslet, wake up!”

 

It took him almost two minutes to pull the child from his nightmare.  Harry’s green eyes opened and the horror in them made Sirius’ heart stop.  He sat on the bed and held his arms out to the boy.

 

“It’s okay, Prongslet, it was only a dream.  It’s okay.”

 

Harry’s wide eyes stared at him for a moment as if not processing that he was really there.

 

“Come here, Prongslet.  I’ll make everything okay,” Sirius told him, still holding his arms out.  

 

He wanted him to know that he was safe.  And he wanted Harry to come to him, he didn’t want to scare him -- not with those green eyes already so wide in terror.

 

Harry continued to stare at him for a moment and then he moved into Sirius’ arms, letting the man cradle him to his chest as he started to cry.

 

“Shh, it’s alright, Harry, Uncle Siri is here,” he murmured, kissing the top of his godson’s head.

 

Harry’s fingers clutched the front of Sirius’ shirt as his tears soaked into the fabric. 

 

“Tell me about your dream, Harry,” Sirius told him, gently running his hand over the boy’s back in concentric circles, kissing his cheek as they rocked back and forth.  “It will make you feel better to tell me.”

 

Harry shook his head, his little body trembling.

 

“You can always tell me anything, Prongslet,” Sirius murmured reassuringly, dropping another kiss to the top of the boy’s head.  “It will be okay, I promise.  You are safe here, little man.  Uncle Padfoot’s here.”

 

“I… I was in my cupboard,” he began, his voice barely a whisper.  “Dudley was hitting the door and yelling so Uncle Vernon pulled it open and made me come out.  Dudley told him… my teacher’s hair turned blue.  Dudley said that I did it, but I don’t know how it was me!”

 

A magical sign, Sirius thought, he had wondered how many Harry might have had and how much it had contributed to the way his relatives had treated him because of the fear they held for something that they didn’t understand.

 

“Blue hair and she was so mad.  My teacher screamed when she saw that it had turned blue.  She never blamed me for it, but Dudley said it was my fault.  Uncle Vernon made me tell him why I had done it.  I told him I didn’t know how I did it.  He… he hit me so hard in my tummy I fell over.  He yelled at me to stand up and then he hit my tummy again.  When I started to cry, he yelled at me.  Freaks don’t cry.  Freaks don’t belong.  Freaks don’t matter,” Harry repeated bitterly, the venom in the words clutching Sirius’ heart like a vice.  

 

The way that Harry had repeated the words like a mantra told him that they were words he heard more often than anything else.  

 

“He hit me in my tummy again and I threw up all over the floor,” Harry said, his voice a little louder now, but still soft as if he still was dreaming.

 

Sirius continued to rub his back, not speaking.  He didn’t want to interrupt him.

 

“Aunt Petunia gave me a bucket so I could scoop up the puke with my hands.  It smelt bad and I threw up again — on my clothes.  Aunt Petunia yelled and said I was an ungrateful filthy little freak.  She dragged me upstairs to the bath and made me get in.  The water was cold and I sneezed, but then she pushed my head under the water.  My throat hurt and I couldn’t breathe.  I choked, but she kept pushing on my head and,” he snuggled closer, resting his face over Sirius’ heart as he spoke, his warm tears soaking through Sirius’ shirt.  

 

“Then there was a crash and Aunt Petunia screamed.  I choked on the water when she let go and when I looked up, the mirror was broken and there was glass all over the bathroom.  Aunt Petunia said it just blew up and she hit my cheek so hard I fell back into the water.  Uncle Vernon said only freaks make stuff blow up and that no one would ever love an ungrateful freak like me.  He pushed me back under the water and then he picked me up with his hand on my neck and he squeezed — and it hurt — and then he threw me into my cupboard and I hit my head on the wall.  He locked the door and said if I made a peep he would beat me bloody.  It was so dark, I couldn’t see and my tummy rumbled, but they didn’t let me out.  All day and I… I had to go pee and they didn’t let me, so I peed in my cupboard.  The next day my tummy hurt, but Aunt Petunia said that I was too ungrateful for food and it was dark and scary and I was all alone!  I was all alone!”  he cried, trembling again as his voice became slightly hysterical now.  “I called and called for you, Uncle Sirius, but I was locked in the cupboard!”

 

“Shh,” Sirius crooned, realizing now where the horror had come in.  He had become trapped in his memory, calling for Sirius, but the nightmare had held him in too tightly.  “I’m here, Prongslet, I’m right here.  I’m not going anywhere.  I promise.”

 

“It was so dark,” Harry cried, the tears rolling down his cheeks.  “And I hurt all over, but they wouldn’t let me out.  I couldn’t get out!”

 

“Shh,” Sirius continued to croon, his arms cradling the boy as he rocked back and forth in his spot on the bed.  

 

Harry was still crying and trembling, but the fear seemed to have subsided a little.  He hummed quietly under his breath and when he recognized the tune of the song, he smiled to himself and began to gently sing as he moved, leaning back against the headboard and pulling the blankets up to wrap around both of them as he sang.

 

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung, nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game, it’s easy.  There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made, no one you can save that can’t be saved, nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time, it’s easy.  All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love; love is all you need,” he sang, smiling as Harry relaxed against him a bit.

 

As Sirius held Harry and kept singing he realized that the last time Harry would have heard this song was when James had sung it, rocking baby Harry to sleep in his arms.  James was a huge Beatles fan and he would sing this particular song to his son almost all of the time to calm him down.  James was by far the more talented singer, but Sirius had a decent voice.

 

He remembered one of the first days that he had gone to visit James and Lily after Harry had been born.  Lily had answered the door, smiling at him and giving him a hug as he came inside.  Her red hair was in a messy braid down her back and she was wearing a Gryffindor Quidditch tee shirt and jean shorts.

 

“Sirius!  Lovely to see you!”

 

“Hi, Lily, you’re looking lovely,” he told her, handing her the gift of two large Honeyduke Chocolate Bars that he had brought with him.

 

“Liar.  I’m a mess right now,” she told him as she put a hand to the messy braid her hair was in.  “Chocolate, how sweet of you!”

 

He shrugged.  “It was Remus’ idea, so you can thank him.  He said that babies get all of the attention and sometimes the mum needs a little treat for herself.”

 

Lily’s eyes welled up and she hugged him tightly.  “That’s the sweetest!  Sorry, my hormones are still a little out of whack and sometime I can’t stop the waterworks,” she told him on a laugh.  “James is upstairs in the nursery with Harry.  I’m going to take a shower — much needed.”

 

Sirius smiled and watched her head off to the bath so he made his way upstairs to the nursery, smiling when he heard his friend singing.  He stood outside of the door, out of view from James who was sitting in the rocking chair, holding his two-week-old-son in his arms.  His finger was clapped tightly in Harry’s little hand and he was smiling at his son as he sang and Harry was staring up at him wonder.

 

“There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known.  Nothing you can see that isn’t shown.  There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be, it’s easy.  All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love; love is all you need.”  

 

He turned his head to kiss Harry’s small head and Sirius stepped into the nursery as James looked up at him.

 

“Starting him off with the Beatles early on, eh Prongs?”

 

James smiled, standing up with the sleeping child, kissing his cheek tenderly, and gently laying him down in the bassinet.  “Can never be too early.  He likes it when I sing to him.  So far I’ve been alternating between ‘All You Need is Love’, ‘I Will’ and ‘Blackbird.’  He likes to hear me sing.”

 

He carefully crept away from the sleeping baby and gestured for Sirius to follow him down into the living room.  He flicked his wand and the room suddenly filled with the soft sounds of Harry breathing.

 

“What the…?”

 

“Baby monitoring charm,” James explained, grinning at his friend.  “So, what have you been up to, Padfoot?  It’s been almost a week since I’ve seen you!”

 

Sirius shrugged, stretching out on the chesterfield and dragging his hand through his locks as they fell around his face.  “Not much.  Figured I’d give you and Lily some time with the new baby, get a routine down… like singing to him.”

 

“You’re just jealous because I can sing better than you.”

 

Sirius grinned at him.  “You can sing well, that’s true.  Probably could have been famous if you made an effort at it.  Lily still love it when you play the guitar for her?”

 

James smiled.  “Of course.  I’ve played for Harry once too.  He becomes very calm when I sing to him.”

 

“The Beatles, every time?”

 

“Mostly,” James said with a grin.  “What did you think I was going to go all conventional and sing ‘Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly’ or ‘Hush Little Baby’ when there are so many amazing songs by The Beatles to sing?”

 

Sirius laughed.  Babies may change people he realized but not where it counted.  “Never.  You rock out to the Prongslet, Prongs.”

 

“I will.”  James had said simply.

 

Sirius knew that James sang to Harry almost every single night before he went to bed and he had wondered if on some conscious level, when he had started to sing The Beatles’ lyrics to his godson, if Harry had remembered his father singing to him and had felt comforted by that just as much as by Sirius holding him.  He hoped so.  He hoped that James was here now, watching over his son and knowing that Sirius was doing everything he could to calm him and to show him how much he loved him.  

 

He continued to sing and Harry relaxed more and more against him and then Sirius felt himself calm down when Harry had finally fallen asleep.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sunlight flashed before his closed eyes and he blinked owlishly.  He hadn’t remembered falling asleep himself.  He felt the shift of the tiny body still snuggled close to him, his head resting over his heart and he smiled.  It was the first time that he had comforted Harry as himself at night, not as a dog.  Harry had been completely relaxed and trusting of the man holding him and not the dog.

 

He thought about the things that Harry had told him last night and he suppressed his anger.  He wanted to know what was going to happen to them; what repercussions they would be facing for how they had treated such an innocent and sweet child, but at the same time — he was afraid to find out.  He already knew that if they weren’t as harsh as he wanted them to be he might not be able to stop himself from making them so.  And Harry needed him.  He wasn’t going to do anything to hurt his godson and him not being there would definitely not be in Harry’s best interest.

 

He wasn’t going back to Azkaban.

 

He shifted slightly and Harry stirred, rubbing his cheek against Sirius’ chest.  Sirius gently rubbed his hand over his back.  Harry snuggled into his embrace before he blinked owlishly, looking around half asleep.

 

“Good morning, Prongslet,” Sirius said to him, smiling warmly.  He reached over to grab his glasses and gently slid them onto his godson’s face.

 

Harry’s green eyes focused on him through the lenses and he smiled.  “Morning, Uncle Padfoot.”

 

Sirius sat up, lifting Harry with him and sitting him on his lap.  “Did you sleep okay?”

 

Harry nodded.  “Uh-huh.  Can I have breakfast?”

 

“You bet.  What do you want to eat for breakfast this morning?”

 

“Pancakes and bacon,” Harry said with a grin.

 

Sirius chuckled, standing up and sitting Harry on the bed as he did so.  “Sounds great.  Let’s go to the toilet first and then we’ll go make some.  I’ll show you how to make them with fresh blueberries.”

 

Harry grinned widely and Sirius watched him hurry into the bathroom.  He was going to be alright; he might not even remember having the nightmare, but he was going to be okay.

 

They would both be fine.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

McGonagall arrived by Floo that afternoon, dusting herself off as she stepped into the living room, looking around the room in mild interest.  She smiled when she saw Sirius sitting on the couch.

 

“Sirius, thank you for inviting me over today.”

 

Sirius grinned at her and ushered for her to take a seat.  “I wanted to be settled in a bit before I did so, but you were definitely getting an invite.”

 

McGonagall sat down in the armchair and smiled at him.  “Where’s Harry?”

 

“Having a nap,” Sirius told her, glancing at the clock.  “He should be up in the next half hour.”

 

McGonagall smiled.  “Already have him on a schedule, look at you the proud papa.”

 

Sirius shrugged, grinning.  “He’s an amazing kid.  And he’s really anxious to meet you today.  I told him that when he woke up from his nap we’d have a guest over.”

 

“How are the two of you doing, adjusting to each other?”  she asked, her eyes taking him in.

 

Sirius Black was still a very good looking young man.  He sat before her in white-washed blue jeans with holes in the knee and a white muscle shirt.  He had one leg crossed over the other, his feet were bare.  His hair hung just so, parted to the left and perfectly around his face.  The silver hoop and the diamond stud in his left ear gleaming.  His face was covered in dark stubble that suited him, made him look slightly dangerous.  His toned arms were covered in tattoos, hints of more beneath his shirt and he wore a set of dog tags around his neck.  He looked the part of the handsome young rebel -- twenty-six and dangerous -- but he had a heart of gold and was now taking on the responsibilities of being a full-time parent.

 

McGonagall had to admit that she was more than impressed in him doing so.  It was a lot of responsibility especially for someone who had thrived on avoiding responsibility all of his life.  And spending almost five years in prison must have made him thrive to be even less responsible: To be wild and rebellious, and to live the life that he had deserved to be living all of those years that he had spent trapped with the Dementors.

 

Sirius smiled at her, stretching his arms up over his head.  “We’re doing pretty great, I think.  He finally really trusts me, McG.  He actually trusts me.  He had a nightmare last night.  Part nightmare, part memory actually, and he woke me up screaming.  I couldn’t touch him because it only added to the horror and panic that he was experiencing.  It took me almost two minutes to wake him, which was terrifying to me — the longest two minutes of my life!  Once I finally woke him, he just clung to me, and I was so relieved that he was awake that I just held him and I sang to him.  We fell asleep like that.  I woke up this morning with him cuddled over my heart and it felt right.”

 

McGonagall’s eyes were sad.  She couldn’t understand how anyone could hurt a child so badly that he had nightmares about it.  “Did he tell you what he was dreaming about that was so terrifying for him?”

 

“Part memory like I said.  I told you those Muggles that he was living with severely mistreated him,” he said and she nodded in acknowledgement.  “It was something they did because he accidentally did magic.  He’s a powerful child.  From just the glimpses I’ve had into his past, he’s turned a teacher’s hair blue and exploded a mirror.  I’m sure there’s been others, but even those are pretty extreme cases of underage magic.”

 

McGonagall nodded.  “It sounds like fear forced them to the surface as well.  Fear is a motivator for magic, but not always; sometimes one’s fear suppresses their magic and sometimes it magnifies it.”

 

Sirius nodded, fiddling with the dog tags around his neck as he thought about it.  The only times Harry had shown magic so far had been when he had been scared so McGonagall’s logic made sense.  

 

“The son of James and Lily Potter is bound to be powerful.  He jolted me last night when I tried to wake him; felt like I’d been zapped by a current — and the first night I gave him a bath, he made a water tornado that shot me straight in the face.  Both times he was afraid.  He’s powerful already.”

 

“Yes, he is,” McGonagall said, her eyes wide.  “I imagine that he will be even more so when he gets older.  Sirius, what are those tags you wear?  I remember you having them years ago too and I’ve always wondered.”

 

“These?”  he asked, letting them drop out of his hands.  “A running gag between James and I.  He bought them for me for my seventeenth birthday.  They say: Padfoot’s Pride, if found please return to Moony or Prongs.  Then the second tag reads: When he annoys you, put him in the doghouse.

 

McGonagall chuckled.  “Very entertaining.”

 

“I’ve never taken them off and they didn’t take them from me when I was imprisoned, something I was incredibly thankful for.  It just makes me feel close to James.  I like to keep that with me,” Sirius told her, smiling.

 

“As you should.”

 

The Floo roared to life and Sirius looked up in surprise when Remus stepped out, dusting himself off.

 

“Hi, Padfoot.  Oh, hello, Minerva,” Remus said in surprise as he stood in front of the fireplace.

 

“Hey Moony, didn’t expect to see you until Tuesday.”

 

Remus nodded, wiping ash from his sleeves.  “I know. I just wanted to drop off that book list I was telling you about and I was going to see if you wanted me to make something for dinner, but you have company.”

 

“Oh you can definitely stay and whip up something for dinner,” Sirius said on a laugh.  

 

Remus grinned.  “I’m going to make myself a cup of tea then.  Minerva, would you like one?”

 

“Oh, right, host and all that,” Sirius said with a grin.  “Sorry Minnie.”

 

“I would love a cup of tea, Remus, thank you and it’s quite alright, Sirius.”

 

As Remus headed into the kitchen to make tea, McGonagall smiled at Sirius.  “I’m glad to see that Remus is helping you with meals.  Are you not much of a cook?”

 

“Not much as in barely at all.  I can do breakfast — mostly, and I can warm stuff up, but otherwise cooking is most definitely not my forte,” he told her with a laugh.  “But I’m trying to learn and Harry helps me.  He has a surprising knack for it and stops me from making anything too disastrous.  He might be the chef in this family when he gets older.”

 

She chuckled, crossing her legs in the chair.  “So your letter mentioned that you were thinking of homeschooling Harry?”

 

Sirius nodded, crossing his own legs.  “Remus is going to teach him.  I spoke to my cousin Andromeda about what she taught Dora.  Remus and I spoke a little about it last week: About his skill level and what kind of things he should learn.  But I thought hearing your thoughts were definitely important.”  He stood up, holding his hand out to her.  “Come see what Harry and I did.”

 

McGonagall accepted his hand and let him lead her into the sunroom off of the kitchen.  She smiled when she saw the bookcase and the chalkboard and the table all set up.  

 

“Sirius, it looks wonderful!  It’s warm and inviting.  I think you’ve made a wonderful environment for Harry to learn in.”

 

Sirius’ neck flushed red a little from her praise.  “Thanks.  We worked hard at it and obviously we will be adding lots of books to the shelf and Remus will put together what he needs.  Maybe we can cover most of this wall with Harry’s schoolwork.  It’s going to be great.”

 

She followed him back into the living room and sat back down.  “I’m honoured that you’d think of me, Sirius, but what you decide to teach Harry before he comes to Hogwarts is entirely up to you.  Reading and writing are obviously important but subject wise, Harry will learn the important things when he comes to Hogwarts.”

 

“Uncle Sirius?”  a small voice asked as Sirius turned in his seat to grin widely at the messy haired boy rubbing his eyes with one hand as he clung to Prongs and Lily in his other arm.

 

“Hey, Prongslet, how was your nap?”

 

Harry pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and nodded.  “Good.”

 

Sirius smiled at him.  “Come here, Prongslet.  This is the guest that I was telling you would be here when you woke up, do you remember her name?”

 

Harry walked over to where Sirius was sitting on the couch and turned to smile at McGonagall.  “Hello, Auntie Minnie,” he said softly, climbing up into Sirius’ lap.

 

“Auntie Minnie — did he just…?”  At Sirius’ wide grin she laughed.  “Sirius Black, you have to be joking?”

 

Sirius laughed up roaringly as Harry smiled at the two of them.

 

“What’s so funny, Auntie Minnie?”  Harry asked, his eyes moving between McGonagall and Sirius.

 

McGonagall smiled warmly at Harry and shook her head.  “Nothing, Harry.  It’s lovely to meet you.  You look just like your father.”

 

“Except for the eyes,” Remus said as he stepped into the living room carrying a tray of tea and snacks.  “He has Lily’s eyes.”

 

Harry jumped off of the couch and hurried towards Remus, hugging his leg as he placed the tray down.  “Uncle Moony!”

 

Remus chuckled and picked up Harry.  “Hi, little Prongs, did you have a good nap?”

 

“Yes.  I had a dream about singing.”

 

“Singing?”  Remus asked in interest.  “Were you singing?”

 

Harry shook his head as Remus took a seat on the couch, pushing Sirius’ legs off and sitting Harry between them.  “No.  A man with messy hair and glasses was and he was playing a guitar.”

 

Sirius’ eyes whipped to his godson’s face.  He had stirred up memories last night; memories of James Potter singing to his son.  He was incredibly pleased with himself at the thought.  “What was he singing, Harry, do you remember?”

 

“No, but it was nice.”  He eyed the tray Remus had placed on the coffee table with interest.  “Can I have a biscuit?”

 

“May I have a biscuit, Harry,” Remus corrected, smiling.

 

“May I have a biscuit, Uncle Remus?”

 

Remus grinned and handed a biscuit to him.  “Of course.”

 

Sirius was watching Harry carefully and he seemed to catch himself, smiling and turning back to McGonagall.  Harry just happening to have a dream about his father singing to him and playing the guitar wasn’t merely a coincidence.  Sirius had jogged an early childhood memory for him and he was ridiculously pleased with himself.  He wanted Harry to remember the good things no matter how tiny and insignificant they were.  Not having memories of the two people who loved him more than life itself was tragic and he hoped that he could remedy that in any way possible no matter how small.

 

Harry finished his biscuit, his eyes on McGonagall.  “Do you have a little boy, Auntie Minnie?”

 

McGonagall looked taken aback by the question and Remus snorted into his tea, coughing.

 

“S-s-sorry,” he choked, catching his breath and glaring at Sirius.

 

“No, Harry, I don’t have any children.  I’m a professor at Hogwarts.”

 

“What’s Hogwarts?”  Harry asked her.

 

“It’s a school where you learn magic,” she said with a smile.

 

Harry’s eyes were wide.  “Learn magic?  Like what Uncle Padfoot and Uncle Moony do?”

 

“That’s right,” she said, smiling warmly.  “When you get older you’ll come and learn too.”

 

“But not now,” he said, his eyes on his two uncles as if concerned that he was being sent off to some school of magic that very day.

 

Remus shook his head, finally controlling his coughing fit.  “Not yet, no.  You go to Hogwarts when you turn eleven.”

 

Sirius smiled at Harry.  “Harry, there was something else that you wanted to ask Auntie Minnie, wasn’t there?”  

 

His eyes were twinkling in mischief and Remus was looking between Harry and Sirius in mild amusement and horror.

 

Harry smiled widely, hopping off the couch and approaching the chair where McGonagall was sitting.  “Auntie Minnie?”

 

“Yes, Harry?”  McGonagall asked warily.  

 

The boy in front of her was absolutely adorable, but the way that Sirius’ eyes were twinkling in anticipation, she was ninety percent positive that the next words out of his godson’s mouth were going to be something that only Sirius Black would come up with.

 

Harry looked up at her for a moment, biting his bottom lip before he spoke.  He smiled sweetly at her and she felt her heart soften.  “Uncle Sirius says that you can turn into a cat.”

 

“He’s right, I can.  I’m an Animagus.”

 

Harry nodded, understanding the term and smiled at her.  “So does that mean you have a litter box?”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIXTEEN:

 

After Harry’s help all week in putting the classroom together, Sirius had decided to slowly start implementing some daily chores for Harry into his routine.  Every morning after breakfast, he showed Harry how to make his own bed before he got dressed for the day.  And he put Harry in charge of setting the table before each meal.  They were small things, but he wanted Harry to get used to doing them and he could see how eager the boy was to help out in any way that he could.  He remembered how much he liked being able to help Euphemia and Fleamont when they had taken him in.  Being useful was more helpful to one’s mental health than one would imagine.

 

By the third day, Harry didn’t even have to be asked,  He made his bed all on his own (albeit a little lumpy, but he did it) and he had climbed up onto the chair to get the dishes for breakfast before Sirius had even figured out what they were having.  It made him smile.  They were adjusting well to each other and he hoped that Harry was finally realizing that this was his home.

 

After breakfast that day, Sirius was taking Harry to see Healer Castellanos again for his second check up.  They Flooed to St Mungo’s as Harry giggled at the spinning in the flames before they stepped off into the hospital and made their way down to the children’s ward.

 

A healer let them in immediately and Sirius sat next to Harry on the high padded table when the door closed.

 

“You remember Healer Castellanos, Harry?”  Sirius asked him, gesturing for him to take off his shirt in preparation for his examination.

 

Harry nodded, pulling his shirt off and passing it to Sirius.  “Yes.”

 

“She’s going to check you over again and just make sure that everything looks good, all right?  I don’t want you be worried.”

 

Harry smiled at him as if to say that he wasn’t worried.

 

When the door opened and Castellanos stepped in, Sirius had to grin at her widely.  He had forgotten just how pretty she was or he had convinced himself that she wasn’t actually as pretty as he had remembered.  Either way, he had been wrong.  Her golden blonde hair was pinned back with a clip today, loose tendrils sweeping her face.  She smiled warmly at both of them as she closed the door behind her.

 

“Hi, Harry, how are you today?”

 

Harry gave her a small smile.  “Good.”

 

Castellanos smiled at Sirius.  “How’s his eating?”

 

“Good.  We have a good routine going, I think.  He has breakfast and then a snack, usually about three hours later, lunch around one, a little nap, and sometimes a snack when he wakes up.  We have dinner around six and he’s in bed by eight thirty or nine.”  Sirius explained to her, smiling warmly.  “And he almost always cleans his plate.  Snacks sometimes include biscuits or ice cream, but usually he has cheese and crackers or fruit.”

 

“Excellent,” she said, making some notes on her clipboard before placing it down on the table by the door.  She pulled her wand from her sleeve and smiled at Harry.  “Harry, I’m going to check you over like I did the last time, okay?”

 

Harry nodded and followed her instructions as she checked his heartbeat.  She poked his ribs, looked at the thin scars on his back -- mostly healed over, but lightly left imprints were still visible and probably would be there his whole life.  She checked his ears and checked his throat.  She weighed him and measured his height, writing down the results with a smile. When she was finished, she handed him his shirt and he tugged it back over his head.

 

“Everything looks really good.  He’s put on eight pounds in the four weeks since I’ve seen him which is a great start.  Ideally, if he could put on another ten to twelve that would be wonderful.  You said that his father had a similar build?”

 

Sirius nodded, watching as she tugged a quill from behind her ear and grabbed her clipboard.  “James was always scrawny and skinny up until we were about thirteen.  Then he finally started to fill out, you know?”

 

“Family history should be taken into account with his weight,” Castellanos explained as she made her notes.  “He’s getting healthy and I can see the improvement in his nutrition and in his demeanour, I’d say that you’re doing a very good job, Mr Black.”

 

“Sirius.”

 

“Hmm?”  she retorted, her eyes looking up at him from the over the clipboard she was scribbling on.

 

“My name — it’s Sirius.”

 

She only stared at him for a moment.  “As I said, Harry’s looking great.  Keep up what you’re doing.  Keep up with his diet of nutrients: Fruits, vegetables, calcium, and protein.  Has he been taking vitamins?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Every morning, right, Prongslet?”

 

“The red candies?”  Harry asked, his green eyes smiling.  “I like those.”

 

“See, every morning,” Sirius said with a smile.

 

“Good.  I can see that he’s progressing well.  Unless something comes up that is concerning you, I don’t think that I need to see Harry again for another three months.  I’ll check on how he’s doing and he’ll be six by then?”  At Sirius’ nod she smiled.  “We’ll have some immunization potions for him by then.  Six is the normal age that we implement a few key ones such as dragon pox and spattergroit which helps build up a child’s immunity to the disease.  Also a potion for scrofungulus and vanishing sickness.  They won’t stop him from catching them, but if he contracts them he will already have an antibody in his system fighting the disease which can only benefit him in the future.  I’ll have the front desk give you some literature on them for our next meeting.  Until then, Mr Black.”

 

“Castellanos,” Sirius said, putting his hand on the door to prevent her from opening it.  “What I wrote to you about, is there a day coming up where I can visit your brother about the you know what for you know who?”

 

Castellanos turned around to look at him.  “I’ll talk to him tonight and owl you the details.”

 

“Thanks,” he said with a grin, reaching up to gently tuck a tendril of her hair back behind her ear.  “Maybe we can talk it over one night, over dinner perhaps?”

 

Castellanos only smiled.  “I’ll see you at Harry’s next appointment, Mr Black.”  

 

Then she hurried out, closing the door behind her.

 

Sirius merely grinned.  Not the result he had been hoping for, but he supposed he was out of practice.  

 

Besides, she hadn’t actually said no.

 

He turned back to Harry and smiled.  “Ready to go home, little man?”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Harry had his first day of school with Professor Moony, as Uncle Padfoot affectionately told him to call his new teacher, that Friday.  Harry was excited about the prospect of going to a school that wasn’t really a school.  He ate breakfast, oatmeal with berries, and smiled when Sirius helped him pick out his clothes for the day.

 

“I’m going to be gone most of the day, Harry,” Sirius told him as he helped him button up the plaid shirt that he was wearing.  “But Uncle Moony will be here.  You’ll see me for dinner, all right?”

 

Harry nodded.  “Okay.”

 

He brushed his teeth, hugged Sirius goodbye and watched him ride off on his motorbike before he made his way into the sunroom where he would be learning from now on.  Uncle Remus was already there, writing on the chalkboard that he had helped Sirius build.

 

“Good morning, Harry,” Remus said, smiling at him.

 

“Good morning, Professor Moony.”

 

Remus chuckled.  “Harry, you don’t have to call me professor.”

 

“Uncle Padfoot told me too,” Harry told him as he took a seat in his chair.

 

Remus smiled.  “Well, if you want to, of course, but uncle works just the same.”  He dusted the chalk from his hands and smiled.  “So, I know that we’ve been working on reading this week while we’ve finished up the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I think that we should start with writing today.”

 

Harry nodded, looking up at the alphabet that Remus had written on the board both capitalized and small letters.  He had also written a list of random words and names next to the alphabet: Harry James Potter, Sirius Orion Black, Remus John Lupin, Padfoot, Moony, Prongslet, Prongs, Lily, Persephone followed by dog, cat, house, classroom, school, pencil, quill, godfather, uncle.

 

Harry stared at the board in interest.

 

“Come over to the board, Harry.  I want you to write your name for me, can you do that?”  he asked, holding a piece of blue chalk out to the child.

 

Harry accepted the chalk with a smile and carefully printed his name on the board.  Remus grinned at him.  “Perfect.  Looks like we’re off to a great start.”

 

By the end of the first week, Remus had focused mainly on writing and reading skills.  Harry would write out sentences as requested and spell out new words at the end of each class.  By the second week, Remus started him on numbers, distinguishing between Roman numerals and Arabic numerals and he was surprised to find Harry picking up on both with no problem.  

 

By the third week, Remus had formed more of a general schedule from nine am to three pm.  They would spend the morning working with math, taking a break outside around ten thirty and then moving onto writing and literature where he would have Harry read aloud from whatever story that they were using at the time; followed by new words of the day and sentence structure.  After lunch, they would spend half an hour outside, running and playing and doing whatever Harry wanted before he would have a nap.  While Harry napped, Remus worked on his next lesson.  

 

He had decided to teach Harry history since the boy loved stories and what was history if not great stories?  He had always been fascinated and since his mother had been a Muggle and Hope had always shared her love of history with him as a child, he had quite a bit of knowledge on the subject.  He wanted to teach them side by the side -- that is Muggle history and Magical history -- to give Harry a thorough understanding of the world.  

 

After Harry woke up from his nap, they would have a snack, and then Remus would quiz him on his spelling words.  They would spend the last thirty to forty minutes of their time together learning the beginning fundamentals of Latin.

 

Sirius and Remus had decided that they didn’t want to overwhelm Harry, so Remus would teach him every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and every other Friday from nine to three.  The days Harry didn’t have school, he would hang out with Sirius or Remus either at the house or go out with them wherever it was that they needed to go or do.

 

So far it was turning out to be quite a success between the two of them.

 

Harry had also spent some time at Remus’ house; a few hours here and there throughout the week, playing in the forest with Remus or going through his books.  He’d asked to visit and it made Remus smile to know that Harry was comfortable enough with him now to want to spend time with just him and to come to his house to do it.  Sirius had even helped Remus turn his spare room into a second bedroom for Harry for when they decided it was time for Harry to have a sleepover.  Remus painted a map of the world on one wall and Harry picked out his own sheets and bedspread.

 

Sirius spent most of the time away from the house while Remus was with Harry.  When he was home, he was in the garden, blasting Muggle rock as he worked on his motorcycle.  He had taken apart his 1970 Triumph Bonneville T120, buying new parts for it and completely rebuilding the engine and adding special features to it, such as safety mechanisms for when he drove with Harry.  He had extended the seat, adding a removable child seat.  He painted the bike all black with silver accents and polished the chrome to a shine before he played with the charms.

 

He increased the pressure and speed of the bike with the hover and levitation charms, combining the two to help the balance of the motorbike.  The invisibility charm was still going a little wonky as it tended to only last for short periods of time.  Sirius fiddled with the charm, working it into the engine and adding a disillusionment charm to decrease the chances of being seen if the invisibility charm acted up.

 

He was having the time of his life doing it.

 

True to her word, Castellanos had sent him an owl about her brother’s puppies the day after Harry’s healer appointment.  His dog was due any day now and he promised to owl Sirius the moment that she had given birth.  It was only two days later when that owl arrived and Sirius headed out to the house to visit the puppies.  

 

Apollo Castellanos greeted him warmly when Sirius knocked on his front door.  He had the same blonde hair as his sister, but his was darker and Sirius put him as a few years older.

 

“Come in, come in!”  he greeted, ushering Sirius inside.  “Sorry about the mess, but with so many animals in the house at the moment it’s hard for Medea and I to keep up on it.  The puppies need a lot of attention right now.”

 

Sirius followed him through to the back of the house, smiling at the small brunette who stood up, wiping her hands on her pants. 

 

“Hi, you must be Sirius.  Thea told us about you.  I’m Medea, Apollo’s wife.”

 

Sirius shook her hand with a smile.  “Nice to meet you.  Thea told you about me, eh?”

 

Medea laughed.  “She said that you asked her out.”

 

“I did,” Sirius said with a grin.  “She never answered me.”

 

Apollo grinned, reaching down to scratch the ears of a large retriever with a golden brown coat.  “She can be stubborn when she wants to be,” he admitted.  “This is Zeus, he’s the proud papa of the puppies.  His mate is Aphrodite, my golden beauty sleeping over there.  She had ten puppies yesterday.”

 

“Ten?”  Sirius asked in surprise, following Apollo over to the bed that he had prepared for the dog.  She was sleeping peacefully, her ten puppies snuggled against her.

 

“Yes.  Average for retrievers is to have between eight and twelve, guess we got lucky.”  Apollo said with a smile.  “And as much as Medea and I love animals — we also have two cats so we can’t keep ten more dogs around.  We don’t have the space for one thing.  We agreed to keep two.  Both female we think… we haven’t decided yet to be honest.”

 

Sirius nodded, grinning as he bent down to look in on the pups.  “They’re beautiful.”  Each puppy was an interesting mix of gold and bronze, some lighter and some darker than others and some with a reddish tinge to their coats.

 

“Thea mentioned that you were looking for your son?”

 

“Yeah.  He’ll be six at the end of July.  He… he’s my godson technically and before I got custody of him he was living in a bad way and he’s a little shy and he’s been through a lot.  I thought having a dog might help him in more ways than one, plus give him a loyal friend to love.”  

 

Medea smiled warmly.  “He’ll love it.”

 

“I think so too.  I am very interested in one of those puppies if you’re looking to sell when they’re old enough that is,” Sirius told them.  “I want a male.”

 

Apollo grinned, still scratching Zeus behind the ears.  “We have seven males in the litter so you will have your pick.  Why don’t you stop by again next week and you can take another look, maybe hold and feed a few before you make your decision?”

 

Sirius smiled as he looked down at the adorable litter of puppies before him.  “Sounds great.  Maybe you can tell me how I can get Thea to give me an answer on that date?”

 

Medea laughed and linked her arm through Sirius’.  “Oh honey, you’re on your own there.  Thea is too stubborn for that.”

 

Apollo smirked.  “And then some.”  He opened the ice box and pulled out two beers, offering one to Sirius.  “What do you want to know about my sister?”

 

When Sirius left an hour later, he was feeling very good about Althea Castellanos.  Apollo had told him that he was the fourth child of five in the Castellanos family, Thea was the youngest.  They had three older brothers: Acheron, Aristokles, and Adonis.  They had grown up in Athens and moved to England when their father Alexandros was hired by the Ministry of Magic as the Greek Ambassador for International Magical Relations when Althea had been fourteen, but all of the Castellanos children had continued to attend the Durmstrang Institute.  Althea had always dreamed of being a pedia-healer and had been accepted into the Healer’s Academy right out of school.

 

Althea was also single; living in London near St Mungo’s in a flat with her best friend and fellow healer Priya Dara.  She was twenty-three and the proud auntie of nine.  And according to Apollo, was too stubborn for her own good.  Apollo had also mentioned that his sister had a weakness for Muggle films and seven veils gelato.  

 

Sirius took that to mean that Apollo approved of him and would keep it in mind for the next time he saw her again, which he hoped would be soon. 

 

In the meantime, he visited Apollo and Medea once a week to check on the puppies.  He discovered that Apollo also had a fondness for motorbikes and while they played with the dogs; they often became lost in discussions on how the engine ventilation breathed in the ’70 Triumph Bonneville, something it solely lacked in the ’68, and how much better the smaller oil-filled ignition coils were in the ’70 Triumph.  Medea only rolled her eyes when the two of them started talking about motorcycle anything.

 

It was nice to find someone as interested in the inner mechanics of automobiles and motorbikes as he was.

 

Sirius had also gotten back into a workout routine.  Three days a week, he found himself without anything to do from nine to three so he needed to keep himself busy and active.  He felt his screaming underused muscles from years of imprisonment start to rebuild their stamina through a routine, made him feel better.  He did push-ups and sit-ups every morning when he woke up, but he could feel the muscles in his arms working hard as he fixed up his bike, lifting tires and parts and rebuilding the shed in the backyard to store his tools.  He hung up his motorcycle pin-ups along the walls and thought it was really starting to feel like his home.

 

He had also taken to digging out the garden in the back; getting rid of the dead plants and planting new seeds.  Ted had sent him an envelope full of seeds to plant of various flowers and vines with a note promising that Andromeda hadn’t even touched the seeds, which made Sirius laugh.  He wondered what it was about his cousin that plants took such a disliking too.

 

Sirius went to Gringotts as well, organizing a private account for Harry and putting the rest of the Potter fortune into a trust until Harry reached the age of seventeen.  He sorted out a direct deposit fund from the Potter Estate to Remus Lupin, as professor to Harry Potter.  After talking to McGonagall about what a decent wage for a professor was based on annual salary, Sirius calculated that if Remus taught Harry four days a week, every week for the year, Sirius should be paying him roughly sixty four Galleons, four Sickles and 1 Knut per day.  He arranged to have the payment of two hundred and fifty six Galleons, sixteen Sickles and four Knuts transferred weekly into Remus’ bank vault.

 

Remus’ splutter of protest was met upon deaf ears.

 

Sirius knew that James and Lily would expect him to do nothing less than to force the payment upon Lupin for his teaching and he wasn’t going to let his friend try to talk him out of it.  He knew how much Remus had struggled from the moment that he had graduated from Hogwarts.  His father had left him the small cottage when he had passed and Remus had struggled to afford it.  No one would hire him because he needed time off to deal with the full moon; too many sick days — and they considered it a poor trait in an employee when he never gave a valid reason why.  Sirius wasn’t going to watch his friend scramble to make ends meet when he could help out and Fleamont Potter had left the Potter vault with billions (if not trillions) of Galleons.  James had always said that he and six generations could live off of the interest, and still be rich.

 

Therefore, paying for Harry’s education by Remus Lupin from the Potter Estate vault not only made the most sense, but Sirius knew that the Potters would have approved wholeheartedly.

 

But the surprise came for him at the end of June when an owl arrived from the Ministry of Magic.

 

Dear Mr Sirius Black,

 

Please be at the Wizengamot Administration Services Office to see Darcy Floras at three p.m. this Friday, the 27th of June.

 

Sincerely,

Darcy Floras

Wizengamot Administration Services

Department of Magical Law Enforcement

Ministry of Magic

 

Sirius stared at the letter in confusion.  Why would anyone from the Wizengamot Administration Services want to speak with him?  He had received his payment for his wrongful imprisonment after being released from Azkaban.  Why would they need to see him about anything, especially almost eleven weeks after he had been released? 

 

When he had shown it to Remus, he had been equally as flummoxed.  “I have no idea, Sirius.  But the Wizengamot doesn’t only deal with the courts system.  And it says the administration office, I bet there’s some paperwork that you need to file or deal with concerning the custody of Harry.”

 

The thought still made him slightly nervous.  Did something go wrong?  Had there been a problem with his guardianship that was listed very clearly in the wills of both James and Lily Potter?  He had finished all of the paperwork already.  He was sure of it.  

 

He felt uneasy about the entire thing. 

 

When Sirius stepped off of the elevator onto level two of the Ministry of Magic that Friday afternoon, he took a deep breath before making his way over to the Wizengamot Administration Services Office and smiling at the woman sitting at the front desk.  He hung his sunglasses on his shirt and smiled causing the woman to smile back with an almost dreamy expression in her eyes.

 

Sirius only used it to his advantage.  “Hi, darling, I’m here to see Darcy Floras for a three o’clock appointment.”

 

The woman blushed, having caught herself staring and Sirius grinned.  It was nice to know that he still had the power to charm women with his looks.  He had always felt it to be a strong quality.

 

“Miss Floras will see you now, Mr Black.”

 

He winked at her and she turned red, watching the saunter of his butt in the tight jeans he wore as he headed to the office.

 

Darcy Floras, a pretty brunette with square glasses smiled at him when he knocked on her office door.  “Ah, yes, Mr Black, please come in.”

 

Sirius stepped into her office, looking around in interest at the bookshelves and the paperwork that seemed to litter her desk.  “Nice office.”

 

“Thanks,” she said, smiling warmly at him.  “Please have a seat.”  Once he was seated in front of her, she crossed her arms over the desk, smiling at him.  “I have two separate things to discuss with you today; both are needing your signature as well.”

 

Sirius only nodded, leaning forward in his chair.  “Can you tell me what they are in regards too?”

 

Floras smiled, her soft brown eyes lighting up in confusion.  “Do you not know?  Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr Black, I thought the reasoning was obvious.”  When he only continued to stare at her, she blushed and the grin he shot her way made her knees tremble.  He was entirely too handsome for his own good — and he knew it.  “It’s about the custody of one Harry James Potter and the Black Estate.”

 

“I’m sorry, did you just say the Black Estate?”

 

Floras nodded, shuffling folders on her desk until she found what she was looking for.  “Correct.  You are Sirius Orion Black, son of Orion and Walburga Black?”  When he only nodded, Floras opened the folder and began to read aloud.  

 

The last will and testament of Lord Orion Black, Viscount of Falmouth.  In the case of my death, I bequeath my entire estate and fortune to my wife, Walburga, with a trust left for my son, Regulus Arcturus Black, not to be received until his seventeenth birthday.  If for some reason, times continue to be hard and Regulus is not around to inherit, then the entire estate and titles of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, home and fortune, will be entrusted to my eldest son, Sirius Orion Black. 

 

She looked up at him, handing the copy of the will towards him.  “It came across my desk at the end of last week, having been put aside due to your imprisonment.”

 

“Due to my… I’m sorry, my father left everything to me?”

 

“Yes,” Floras said, tapping her fingers on the will.  “You are now the sole heir to the Black Family Estate.”

 

“My-my mother?”  he asked, completely bewildered by this rather sudden turn of events.

 

Floras looked sad for a moment, but she masked it.  “I’m very sorry to inform you, Mr Black, but she died last year.  Her will came forward in September, after her death, outlining that upon her death -- the will of Lord Orion Black would come into play.  With your brother and father having passed away six years earlier, you were the only living heir left.  However, you were imprisoned in Azkaban.  When you were released, the goblins at Gringotts immediately sent word that you needed to claim your estate and the paperwork was re-sent out having been held in trust by Lord Cygnus Black.  I apologize that it took so long to come forward, but it was rather backlogged I’m afraid because of your circumstances.”

 

Sirius was only partially listening to her.  His mother was dead.  

 

That was why his Aunt Druella had been at the trial and not Walburga; she had been there to see what the truth was.  When he had arrived at Grimmauld Place, he had thought it looked a little dusty, but he had been so intent on getting his things and getting out of there that he hadn’t really focused on anything else.  Kreacher had been weird, he remembered, but nothing out of the ordinary.  If he was living in that house all alone with no one to talk to but the portrait of his mother, that would explain a lot of things and a lot of the weird.

 

He waited for some form of grief to work through him.  His mother was dead.  The woman who had given birth to him was dead… but he felt nothing but a sense of relief.  She hadn’t really been his mother — only biologically.  His real mother had been Fee and when Euphemia Potter had died of dragon pox, he had sobbed uncontrollably for days, feeling like his heart had broken into millions of pieces and exploded out of his chest.  He and James had comforted each other in their grief and then when Fleamont had died less than week later, they had drank themselves into oblivion to mask their sorrow.

 

He closed his eyes and focused on the words that the woman in front of him was speaking.

 

“— So if you could just sign here, we can get everything taken care of.”

 

“I’m sorry, sign what?”  Sirius asked, focusing his attention back on the pretty brunette.  “I’m afraid I wasn’t really listening.”

 

Floras smiled sympathetically at him.  “I only need you to sign here that you have heard and seen the will and then I can give you the key to the vault and the deed to the house.”

 

Sirius nodded, signing his name and accepting the key and documents that she passed to him.  “Thanks.  What’s the other thing pertaining to — about Harry?”

 

Floras shuffled more paper around, finding what she was looking for.  “These are the papers detailing your official custody of one Harry James Potter.  Everything is in order, the will of James and Lily Potter does specifically state that upon their death, Sirius Orion Black is to be the legal guardian of their son.  I just need you to sign here stating that you have now officially filed all paperwork for guardianship and that’s it.”

 

“Seems like a lot of paperwork for so little,” he mumbled, picking up the quill and signing his name.

 

Floras nodded, rolling her eyes.  “Tell me about it.”  She stood up, offering her hand out with a smile.  “Thank you for coming in, Mr Black.  Everything is in order now.”

 

Sirius accepted her hand, taking the key and the deed to the house in London off of the desk.  “Yes, thank you.”

 

When he Apparated back home, he found Remus making dinner in the kitchen.  Harry jumped to his feet when he stepped in the house and had run into his arms.  Sirius swung him up, making him laugh and carried him on his hip into the kitchen.

 

“Did you have a good day at school with Uncle Moony?”

 

Harry grinned and eagerly began to tell Sirius all about what he had learned that day: A new story about a girl named Dorothy who travelled to a place called Oz, conversational Latin -- est tempus ad prandium? (is it time for dinner?) -- and that in a place called Mesopotamia, there was a famous king known as Gilgamesh.

 

Sirius nodded along, smiling at Harry as he listened with interest.  Harry really liked school and it made him smile to see it.  He especially liked how Harry greeted him when he came home after being away.   When Remus announced that dinner was ready, Sirius told Harry to go upstairs and wash up.

 

As he hurried off to wash up, Sirius placed the folder on the table.  “My mother died.”

 

Remus, who was in the middle of scooping the chicken Alfredo pasta into a bowl for Harry, stopped and stared at him.  “What?”

 

“My mother — died.  In September, apparently.”

 

“Oh,” Remus said quietly, continuing to fill up Harry’s bowl and placing it on the table before he grabbed a second bowl for Sirius.  “Are you sad?”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “I don’t even care.”  He stood up, slamming his fist on the counter and turning to look at his friend.  “I’m mad at myself for not caring.  She was my mother, shouldn’t I fucking feel… I don’t know… something?”

 

“Don’t be,” Remus said softly, placing the bowl of food on the table.  “She wasn’t there for you.  It’s not wrong to not be sad when she treated you like she did.”

 

Sirius nodded, closing his eyes.  “I know, but I was remembering how I grieved for Fee and Monty and… I feel bad that I won’t grieve for her.  But all I can think of is how she kicked me out of that house.”

 

Remus sighed, his eyes on his friend.  “She didn’t deserve you, Sirius.”

 

When Sirius walked into his house the first day of summer holidays after fifth year, he literally sighed when the door closed behind him and he was engulfed in the semi-darkness of the entranceway.  The large portrait that his father had gotten of his mother the year before, life-sized and massive, immediately began to scream at the sight of him.

 

“YOU DISGUST ME!  NO CHILD OF MINE WILL BE A GRYFFINDOR!”

 

Sirius ignored the portrait much in the way that he had all of last summer when Orion had hung it in the entranceway.  He remembered how his father had merely winked at him.  “Listening to her nag and scream would definitely deter any robbers or assassins from this place; won’t even need the warding.”

 

Regulus had laughed.  “Father, don’t let Mother hear you saying that!”

 

He dragged his trunk up the stairs to his room as Walburga, Orion, and Regulus chatted about how great Regulus’ school year had been, barely acknowledging him.  It was how he liked it best most times.  He wondered how long he would have to wait until he could go see James.

 

He plopped himself onto his bed and stared up at the ceiling, grinning at the topless blonde Muggle in denim straddling a 1973 Gilera 125 Strada.  James had found the poster for him last year when he had gone to New York with Fleamont.  Sirius had enjoyed using a permanent sticking charm and placing it on his ceiling just to spite his mother who would hate it for the nudity and the fact that it was Muggle.  A Muggle who had great breasts, he thought, staring up at them.

 

His door banged open and he merely raised an eyebrow, his arms folded behind his head.  “Hi, Mum, realized I came home too?”

 

Walburga Black stood there, hands fisted at her hips and her lips curling into a sneer.  “How many OWLs do you think you will bring home?”

 

“Couldn’t say; won’t get my results for a few weeks now, will I?”

 

“I assume you're doing well in your studies though Regulus says that you seem to spend a lot of time in detention.  Why am I just hearing about this now?  Your Head of House should be writing to me to inform me when you step out of line.  I will be writing to Dumbledore about McGonagall’s absolute incompetence in keeping me informed of your well-being,” she demanded, looking around the room in disgust when her eyes fell on another Muggle poster, this one was a redhead in a purple bikini leaning against a 1964 BSA Thunderbolt.  “And why must you decorate your walls with those awful Muggle machines?”

 

“I think they’re cool,” he told her.  “McG doesn’t write to you because she knows you don’t care.  I always get good grades, I’m sure my examination marks will be the same.”

 

Walburga only stared at him.  “Your father and I have been talking about your choices and your behaviour.  In November, you’re going to be seventeen.”

 

“Aw, you remembered my birthday?  I’m honoured, of course it’s only June.”

 

She was across the room and her hand slapping his cheek before he could blink.  He sat up on his bed and grabbed her hand.  “I’m not a child anymore, you better think again before you hit me.”

 

Her eyes widened in fear for a moment before she masked it.  “You will be seventeen this November and as the eldest son and heir of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, it’s time for you to start to think about your future.  The Dark Lord, he’s approached your father and I about helping him build a better world.  You should think about how you want to help him, Sirius.  You would bring honour to your family.”

 

“This so called Dark Lord is recruiting henchmen to kill and torture Muggles and Muggleborns.  No thank you.”

 

Walburga’s eyes darkened.  “He wants to build a world where the pureblood wizard is praised — is worshipped — and is treated with respect!  It’s about time that you realize what it means to be a Black.  Your father and I have decided that you will wed Alecto Carrow.  She’s fifteen and a member of the sacred twenty-eight.  You will marry when she turns sixteen.”

 

Sirius’ mouth opened in horror.  “Or not.”

 

“No, you will.  I am tired of seeing my eldest son make terrible choices.  It’s bad enough that you were put into Gryffindor House over Slytherin and are hanging around with a Potter — blood traitors, the whole family has been for centuries — but to be seen with that half-blood Lupin and Regulus tells us that the redhead you hugged goodbye at the station is a Mudblood!  You should be ashamed of yourself!”

 

“Don’t call her that!”  Sirius exclaimed, his anger rising.  “She’s an amazing woman and I would choose her over you any day.”

 

Walburga merely smirked.  “You will marry Alecto Carrow.”

 

“No, I won’t.”

 

“You will marry her or I will get a message out to the Dark Lord about where this Mudblood of yours lives and we’ll see how quickly you change your mind.”

 

Sirius stood up, towering over her and pointing his wand at her heart.  He didn’t care that he was underage; he would use it if he had to.  “If you touch her, I will kill you.”

 

Walburga smiled.  “There’s the Black blood in you, my dear boy.  Toujours Pur.”

 

Sirius lowered his wand, a sense of disgust washing over him.  He was NOT like his family.  He wouldn’t let himself be.  “I’m not like you.”

 

“Crucio!”

 

Sirius collapsed to the ground, biting his lip to keep from screaming as the curse brought him to his knees.  When she lifted her wand, he breathed in relief, catching his breath.

 

“You will marry Alecto Carrow.  You will produce at least two pureblood heirs, preferably male.  You will graduate with honours and join the ranks of the Dark Lord as a proud member of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black,” she demanded, her wand pointed at him.  “And you will abandon all ties with that Potter boy and his traitorous parents once and for all.  Have I made myself clear?”

 

Sirius wiped blood from his lip, spitting on the ground in front of her.  “Screw you.”

 

The curse hit him a second time and he screamed as it coursed through him.  He felt like his insides were on fire, like someone was holding them in the midst of a burning flame and crushing them with rocks at the same time.  His eyes caught movement in the doorway and his eyes met his brother’s who was watching wide-eyed, hidden off to the side.  When she finally let him breathe, he gasped for breath and rolled onto his side.

 

“It’s about time you start showing respect to this family,” she demanded, her eyes glaring at him with hatred and contempt.  “You are an embarrassment!”

 

Sirius climbed to his feet, grabbing his bed frame to steady his shaking legs.  “Better an embarrassment than to be like you.”  When she raised her wand he grabbed it, ripping it from her arms.  “I’m not a child that you can control anymore.  The Imperious stopped working on me when I was twelve and this is the last time that you will ever use the Cruciatus on me so I hope that you fucking enjoyed it!  I am going to be seventeen in November and I am going to be in charge of my own future and my own destiny.  I will not be marrying a pureblood bitch just to breed with her.  And I will not abandon my friendship with the blood traitor Potter as it would be a tad hypocritical of me being that I also befriend Muggleborns and purebloods alike.”

 

“This is your last warning, Sirius!  If you want to be part of this family, you will do as I command!”

 

Sirius stared at her.  “Then I don’t want to be part of this family.  I haven’t been, not really, in a long time.  You trying to make me now is a fucking waste of both of our time.”

 

“You disgust me!”

 

Sirius merely shrugged.  “So you’re nagging portrait told me when I walked in the door.”

 

“Get out!  Get your stuff and get out of my house!  You are no longer welcome here!”

 

Sirius only stared at her for a moment and then he simply grabbed the trunk that he had dragged up the stairs and pulled it behind him as his mother screamed at him all the way back down.  He dropped his mother’s wand at the foot of the portrait and the last thing he heard was his mother blasting his name off of the family tapestry as he stepped back out on to the London street and he never looked back.

 

“She wasn’t my mother, Moony,” he said as Harry came bounding back into the kitchen and sat himself down at the kitchen table.  “A mother wouldn’t treat her child the way she treated me.”  

 

He took the bowl of pasta from his friend and sat down across from his godson.  He served a helping of salad to Harry, urging him to eat the fresh vegetables, and he smiled.  He had a family and he had never once regretted choosing the family he had over the family he had come from.

 

Not once.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN:

 

The month of July kept Sirius and Remus busy trying to figure out how they wanted to celebrate Harry’s sixth birthday.  Sirius knew that he wanted to do something amazing.  He was positive that Harry had never even had a birthday party before let alone had anyone celebrate his birthday.  At least since Lily and James had thrown him his big first birthday bash which he obviously didn’t remember.  As the days got closer, Harry never even mentioned that he had a special day coming up, let alone had he asked for anything at all, which only confirmed Sirius’ suspicions. 

 

Sirius wanted to take him somewhere fun for the day and to spoil him rotten.  Not to mention give him the puppy that he had picked out of Aphrodite’s litter, a dark reddish golden retriever with soft brown eyes.  He would be going to get the puppy while Remus took Harry back to his cottage with him so that Andromeda and Nymphadora could sneak into the house and decorate.  

 

But they still had a few details to work out.

 

Sirius was considering those details as he leaned against his motorbike in tight black jeans, a white muscle shirt and his black leather jacket outside of St Mungo’s with a double scoop of Seven Veils Gelato in his hand just as Healer Althea Castellanos stepped outside for her lunch break.

 

He winked at her, grinning as he stepped into her path.  “Castellanos.”

 

Castellanos looked at him in surprise.  “Black.”

 

“Thought you might be looking for something sweet,” he said as he handed her the gelato.

 

She made to protest, but then she sniffed suspiciously.  “Is that Seven Veils?”

 

“The chocolate gelato of your dreams, why yes it is,” he stated as if genuinely surprised that he happened to be holding it.

 

She accepted the cup with a smile.  “This is my favourite flavour.”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “Apollo might have mentioned it.”

 

Her eyebrow raised slightly as she licked the spoon.  “When I said that I would introduce you to Apollo to help you pick out a puppy from the litter, I didn’t mean for you to make friends with him.”

 

Sirius shrugged.  “We have a bit in common, not to mention a love of a good engine.  He told me that you were stubborn.”

 

She scooped another bite of gelato into her mouth and sighed happily as she swallowed.  “I am.  I’m also not interested, did he mention that to you as well?”

 

Sirius stepped closer to her, his hand gently brushing a tendril of her hair away from her face and her breath hitched causing him to smile slowly.  “I’m not a healer, love, but the breathlessness, the increase in your pulse, and the way your eyes just brightened there.  Babe, you are very much attracted to me.”

 

“Attraction and interest are two very different things,” she insisted, stepping away from him and taking a seat on a nearby bench.

 

“True,” he said, moving to sit next to her.  “But attraction is also the first sign of interest.”

 

Castellanos merely stared at him.  “Has anyone ever told you that you are a very annoying human being?”

 

“It’s been mentioned once or twice,” he said with a grin.  “Usually they just go on about what a great kisser I am.”

 

She snorted.  “I rather doubt that.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Guess I’ll have to prove it to you.”  He leaned in and stopped half an inch from her slightly parted lips, letting his slow smile return.  “Someone is interested to see if I’m right.”

 

Castellanos jerked herself away from him, standing up.  “I’m not actually.  And I’m a very busy woman.”

 

Sirius grinned widely at her.  “Oh, I know.  But I know you’re off on Sunday and I thought maybe you’d like to come by for Harry’s sixth birthday party?”

 

Castellanos looked at him in surprise.  “You’re inviting me over for your godson’s birthday?”

 

“Well, yeah.  It’s a small gathering as Harry doesn’t know very many people, but I thought as many people as he does know would be a good idea.  So what do you say Castellanos?  Are you woman enough to come to a kid’s birthday party?”

 

She merely stared at him.  He could see her weighing the options and when her eyes stubbornly went blank, he sighed.  “Thanks for the gelato, Black.  I’m afraid that I have plans on Sunday, but please tell Harry that I wish him a happy birthday.”

 

Sirius ran his hand through his hair, smirking at her.  “Scared to be alone with me, Castellanos, worried I might actually be the best snog you’ll ever have?”

 

“As I said, Black, I’m not interested,” she insisted, her eyes flashing in annoyance.  “I’m a very busy woman and I hardly have time to get into a relationship with a man who is single-handedly raising a child, who is also a patient of mine.”

 

He merely licked his lips.  “Alright, if you insist we can just have a few great shags.”

 

Her mouth dropped open. “A few great shags?”

 

“Well, calm down now, love.  I’m an excellent lover.  One time just wouldn’t do it for you.  You’d be putty in my hands and you know it.”

 

Castellanos merely shook her head and made to turn and go back to the hospital in a huff of annoyance.  Sirius grabbed her hand, spinning her around and pulling her up against his body.  When she made no move to protest this, he swooped down and watched as her lips gently parted for his and he kissed them so softly that it was barely a whisper.

 

“Just wanted to give you something to think about, Castellanos.”

 

He let go of her hand and was only a little surprised when her hands immediately fisted in his hair and she pulled his mouth down to hers.  The kiss was hard and fantastic.  He could taste the chocolate gelato on her sweet lips and when his tongue met hers, she made a delicious whimpering noise that made him smile.

 

When he pulled away, still tasting her on his lips, he smiled.  “Castellanos, I’m impressed.”

 

She merely shrugged.  “If you’re going to snog someone, Black, make it worth their while next time.”  

 

Then she headed back into St Mungo’s and left Sirius grinning after her.

 

She was a little stubborn, he admitted, but he was hard-headed himself.  And she was a pretty damn good kisser, he thought, grinning widely.  He climbed onto his bike, whistling.  She had definitely given him something else to think about.

 

He hoped that she thought about him for the rest of the day too.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

When he got back to the house, Remus and Harry were just finishing up their lesson for the day.  Sirius had picked up Chinese food while he was in London and he carefully placed the take-out on the kitchen table, moving to find plates as Harry hurried upstairs to wash up for dinner.

 

“Are you staying for food, Moony?”

 

Remus nodded, smiling at his friend.  “If you wouldn’t mind.  That smells amazing.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Right?  I was flirting with Castellanos and saw the restaurant on my way back.  I invited her over for the party.”

 

Remus’ eyebrow rose in surprise.  “Is she coming?”

 

“Nah.  She’s got plans — or so she says.”

 

“Do you even know what the word no means, Padfoot?”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “Sure, I do.  It means try again later.”

 

Remus laughed and helped his friend open up all of the containers of food.  “You are a terrible influence.  No means no, Padfoot.  Leave her alone.”

 

Sirius simply shrugged.  “I will, when she actually tells me the word.”

 

Remus stared at his friend for a moment and then nodded.  “Fair point.”

 

“You’re still taking Harry on Sunday morning?”

 

“Yes, Padfoot; don’t worry.”

 

Sirius shrugged, grinning widely.  “Can’t help it.  I know it’s only Friday, but I’m excited.  I told Apollo that I’d be there by ten thirty to pick up the puppy.  I bought all of the stuff for the dog today.  I got him a collar, some toys, a dog bed, dog food, his own dishes.  He should be set.  Plus I got that toy broomstick I bought before I even brought Harry home.  I have that wrapped too along with his other gifts.  I know that he’s going to be spoiled, but I can’t help it!  I don’t want him to miss out on anymore than he already has.”

 

Remus smiled at his friend.  “I agree with you and if I had the money like you do, I’d be spoiling him too.  I already bought him more than I had planned on as it is.”

 

“He hasn’t even mentioned it to me once that it’s his birthday.  I wonder if he even knows?”

 

“He knows,” Remus said with a grimace.  “He let something slip, I think by accident -- the other day when we were reading Alice in Wonderland.  He said something about how Dudley had gotten invited to his friend’s birthday and that he had been surprised because he didn’t know that everyone had their own birthday.  He had thought it was something unique to his cousin Dudley.  Petunia told him that he was stupid and that everyone had a birthday.  She told him when his was and then when his fifth birthday came around a few months later, they completely ignored it.”

 

“Fucking tossers,” Sirius muttered under his breath, his grey eyes darkening.  “I want Harry to know how special his birthday is.”

 

“He will.  Andromeda’s making the cake, right?”  Remus confirmed.

 

Sirius nodded.  “She is.  It’s going to be great.”  He looked up as they heard Harry coming back down the stairs.  “Let’s eat.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Remus took Harry to his cottage on Sunday morning under the pretence of baking cookies.  But he had found a book in his room when he had gotten home the night before, one his mother had given him, and he had wanted to share it.  He showed Harry the warm leather cover of the first edition copy of Oliver Twist that his mother had given him for his sixteenth birthday.  It was still one of his favourite books mostly because of the wonderful memories that he held in regards to reading it and having it read to him by his mother over the years.

 

Harry eagerly looked at it and he asked Remus to sit outside and read it to him.  He still loved nothing more than stories and it pleased Remus that he enjoyed spending so much time with him.  They were sitting under a big tree at the edge of the forest, Harry resting against Remus’ arm as Remus read aloud to him.  

 

The reading was interrupted when a beautiful silvery blue dog jumped towards them and Harry’s eyes widened in wonder.

 

“It’s so pretty, Uncle Moony!  Look!”  he exclaimed, standing up and pointing at the dog in amazement.

 

Remus smiled and closed the book, climbing to his feet.  “It is, isn’t it?  That’s a Patronus, Harry.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“A spell,” Remus informed him with a smile.  “A very powerful charm.  Each Patronus is unique to the wizard or witch who casts it.  Patronuses can send messages to people; they amplify happiness, they can drive away the darkness, and they are a symbol of who you are — inside your soul.  That dog belongs to Uncle Sirius.”

 

“It does?”

 

“Doesn’t it look like Uncle Padfoot?”  Remus asked as the dog Patronus jumped around them.

 

Harry grinned, his eyes flashing in recognition.  “It does!  It is Uncle Padfoot!”

 

Remus smiled and held his hand out to Harry.  “That’s our cue to take you home, little Prongs.”

 

“I can’t stay with you all day,” he whined as his bottom lip moved out into a tiny pout.  “You said that we were going to bake cookies!”

 

Remus smiled and ruffled Harry’s hair, tugging the boy close for a hug.  “We got caught up in the story and ran out of time.  But I promise you that the next time you come over, we’ll bake tons of cookies.  I’ll even let you lick the batter.”

 

Harry grinned widely.  “Deal.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sirius was practically bouncing in excitement.  He had locked the new puppy up in the sunroom with a dish of water and some food, putting a silencing charm on the door so that Harry wouldn’t hear the dog barking.  His eyes had fallen on the chocolate cake with rainbow frosting that Andromeda had baked and brought over.  In loopy red writing it said: Happy 6th Birthday, Harry!

 

He grinned widely at Ted when he came into the living room.  “Do you think he’ll like it?”

 

Ted smiled sympathetically, patting Sirius on the shoulder.  He remembered being just as excited for his own daughter’s first few birthdays.  Sometimes it was harder on the parent, he thought.  “Can’t see why he wouldn’t, Sirius.  The place looks great.”

 

Sirius grinned up at the decorations.  His thirteen-year-old-cousin, Nymphadora, had helped him decorate, and the living room and kitchen were covered in red and gold balloons.  Sirius figured that he might as well keep the Gryffindor spirit up for the party.

 

Nymphadora was sitting in the big armchair in the living room, her feet crossed at the ankles as she blew a giant pink bubble from her mouth, popping the gum loudly with satisfaction.  Andromeda had let her pierce the top of her ear, he noticed.  She had three earrings in each lobe and two hoops at the top of each ear.  Her brown hair was to her waist and streaked with bright pink.  She had it in a long braid down her left shoulder.

 

Sirius moved to sit on the edge of her seat.  “Have I told you how great the place looks, Nymphadora?”

 

Nymphadora rolled her eyes.  “Please don’t call me by that atrocious name.”

 

Sirius smirked.  “Atrocious?  Why Nymphadora, it is a long and beautiful name!  Nymphadora Andromeda Mary-Ellen Tonks.”

 

“My friends just call me Tonks.  I’m trying to convince Mum to do so as well.”

 

“Bit confusing though when there are two other Tonks’s in the room,” Sirius told her with a smile.  “Let’s stick with Dora for family occasions, okay?  I promise that when your Mum isn’t around, I’ll call you by your surname.”

 

Tonks grinned sheepishly.  “Deal.  By the way, Sirius, how old were you when you got your first tat?”  she asked, standing up and grabbing his arm, turning it to check out the sleeve that was the full moon with he and his friends in their animal forms running below it.  “They’re all so gorgeous!  I’d love to maybe get one some day.  How many do you have?”

 

“I was sixteen,” he told her, smirking.  “Which is how old you have to be to get one without a guardian’s permission, so don’t hold your breath there, princess.”

 

Tonks rolled her eyes.  “I don’t mean right now.  Besides, I can give myself a tattoo whenever I want.”  She scrunched up her nose in concentration and on the entire left side of her face blue vines began to form, blooming into flowers as the tattoo continued down her neck.  “See?  But it’s not the same.  They don’t have the same authenticity.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Nice.  I’m not big on face tats; they’re tacky.  If you’re going to get a tattoo it should mean something to you; not just to get one to say that you have a tattoo, you know? Remember that, Tonks, my advice to you.  And for the record, I have twelve tattoos.  I’m thinking of getting another one.”

 

Tonks’ eyes widened.  “That’s brilliant!  What do you want number thirteen to be?”

 

Sirius smiled at her for a moment.  “Something to symbolize my life over the last few years, I think.  But I haven’t really decided yet.”

 

The fireplace came to life and Sirius jumped to his feet, his grin so wide that it could crack his face.  “Excellent!”  Then his smile faded when McGonagall stepped out.  “Oh, hi, Minnie.”

 

“Don’t look so disappointed, Sirius, I’ll feel unwanted,” she said, dusting herself off.

 

Sirius hugged her, kissing her cheek.  “No, sorry, I’m just excited for Harry to get here.”  He took the gift from her with a smile and placed it on the coffee table.  “I think you’re the last to arrive.”

 

Tonks smiled at McGonagall.  “Hi, Professor, fancy seeing you here.”

 

McGonagall nodded.  “Miss Tonks.”

 

Ted and Andromeda stepped out of the kitchen, both snacking on grapes.  “Has Remus arrived yet?”

 

“No,” Sirius said gloomily, plopping himself back down on the arm of the chair next to Tonks.

 

Andromeda laughed, rubbing her hands up Sirius’ arm and kissing his cheek.  “You’d think it was your birthday or something.”

 

The fireplace lit up again and Sirius beamed as Remus stepped out, holding Harry in his arms.  Harry looked around the living room as Remus put him down, his eyes drifting to all of the people before he simply ran to Sirius, his arms outstretched to be be scooped up.  Sirius picked him up, kissing his cheek, his rough stubble making him smile as it brushed his skin.

 

“Why are all these people here?”  Harry whispered, his eyes wide.

 

“For you, Harry,” Sirius said with a smile.  “Happy Birthday!”

 

Harry’s forehead wrinkled in confusion.  “But it’s not my birthday for three more days?”

 

Sirius kissed his cheek again.  “This is your birthday party and we decided to do it a few days earlier!  We have guests and food and birthday cake and presents.”  He pointed to the table towering with gifts.  “Happy Birthday, Prongslet.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened in amazement as they slowly took in the room, the decorations, the people and then the presents.  “For me?”

 

Sirius placed him back on his feet, his hand on his shoulder in reassurance.  “All for you, Prongslet.”

 

Tonks laughed, coming over to kneel down in front of him and tickling his stomach.  “No one else is turning six years old, Harry!”

 

Harry, who had only met her two weeks ago when she had come to visit and play with him — had instantly fallen in love with her charm.  She was always tripping over things and changing parts of her appearance into a pig or a rabbit or making her hair funny colours.  He threw his arms around her neck, giggling as she tickled him.

 

“I’m turning six!”

 

“You sure are,” Sirius said with a grin.  “And we have quite a day planned for you, Prongslet!”

 

Tonks picked him up, carrying him over to the table full of gifts.  “And look, everyone brought you a gift.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened again.  “No one’s ever given me a gift before.”

 

Sirius’ eyes darkened slightly, but he pushed his emotions back.  He had known that already so hearing his godson say the words shouldn’t bother him as much as they did.  He watched Tonks lead Harry around the room to show him all of the decorations and the food.

 

Harry was grinning widely as he spoke to McGonagall, who handed him some of the cheese and crackers from the table.

 

“Is he happy?  He looks happy,” Sirius asked Remus who had come over to stand with him.

 

“He looks very happy, Sirius,” Remus told him with a smile.  “I think you did well here.”

 

“I didn’t want to invite too many people, I mean, I didn’t want to overwhelm him, you know?”

 

Remus nodded.  He agreed with Sirius’ reasoning.  Ted, Andromeda, Nymphadora, and McGonagall were more than enough.  Sirius was right, it was better to keep it small with all of the people that Harry had already met and was comfortable enough with.

 

Since Nymphadora had finished her term at school, she had been stopping by once or twice a week to play with Harry.  Harry always smiled when he saw her.  She was always laughing and playing games.  She had taught him how to play football, tripping over the ball in the process and making Harry laugh as she had landed flat on her face.  Remus had run over to make sure that she was all right and she had blushed furiously, insisting that she was fine.  He hadn’t wanted to embarrass her but he had been worried by how hard she had landed on the ground.

 

The next time that she had come over, she had brought chocolate brownies that Andromeda had made and she took Harry into the kitchen to show him how to make chocolate icing and together they had covered the brownies in the sweet icing, Harry grinning widely as Nymphadora had let him lick the spoon. 

 

Harry loved it when she stopped by, his attention immediately leaving Remus’ studies and going to the fun that he was going to have with Tonks as she affectionately insisted Harry call her.  He was quite taken with her and he loved when she came over to play with him. 

 

McGonagall had been by twice and once Harry had broken the ice about the litter box, she had laughed herself silly and entertained Harry by changing into her cat Animagus and letting him pet her, which she insisted was a one time thing -- and only because he had asked so nicely.  Remus thought that it was a miracle that Harry hadn’t accidentally revealed that Sirius could turn into a dog at this point, but he often had a sneaking suspicion that McGonagall knew sometimes.  

 

But he could never confirm it.

 

Andromeda and Ted were just the friendliest people and Sirius loved seeing Andy.  Ted was funny and he had told Sirius that he was going to help him build a treehouse and fort in the backyard for he and Harry.  Sirius was thrilled with the idea and he and Ted had already started putting their heads together over how to design it.  It would be a fun surprise for Harry when it was done.  But they were still working on how and when they were going to build it, not to mention the design of it.

 

They were a small group, but it was a good group and Remus thought that it was just the right amount of people for Harry’s first real birthday party.  And maybe by this time next year, Harry would have met kids his own age to invite.  But for today, this was perfect.

 

His thoughts were interrupted as Sirius slapped his shoulder with a grin.  “Think it’s too early to start with gifts?”

 

Remus chuckled.  “No, of course not.  But leave the you-know-what for last.”

 

Sirius nodded, grinning widely.  Everyone had eaten by now and he was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet.  Remus was positive that he was more excited than Harry and found it highly entertaining.

 

Sirius immediately whistled and Harry, who was learning how to play Exploding Snap, jumped when the deck exploded in Tonks’ face and he started to giggle.

 

“Singed eyebrows really go with the look, Dora,” Sirius said, winking at her.

 

She made a v with her fingers and then apologized when her mother glared at her.  “Sorry, Mum.”

 

Sirius laughed and rubbed his hands together.  “Well, I think that it’s time for the birthday boy to open up his presents.  What do you think, Harry?”

 

Harry smiled, his eyes moving to the mountain of gifts on the table.  “Okay.”

 

Sirius grinned and gestured for Harry to take a seat on the couch next to Remus before he carefully handed his godson the first gift.  “Read the cards aloud, Harry, so everyone knows who the gift is from.”

 

Harry nodded nervously, his smile twitching in excitement.  He had watched as Dudley had always gotten mountains upon mountains of presents, ripping open the paper in a reckless frenzy to find the surprise inside, but he had never been given the opportunity before.  He found himself both excited and a little insecure.

 

He accepted the large box from Sirius and carefully opened the card.  “Happy Birthday Harry, from Professor McGo-naa-gall, your Auntie Minnie.”  He smiled warmly at her as he struggled with her last name and she smiled back.  

 

He carefully tugged on the paper, afraid to rush it.  The box was almost as big as he was and Remus was helping him hold it as he unwrapped it.  He pulled out a red leather ball.  He smiled politely.  

 

“Thank you, Auntie Minnie.”

 

McGonagall smiled.  “It’s a Quaffle, Harry.  I thought maybe that you can practice throwing and catching.  Your father was an amazing Chaser and when you come to Hogwarts you can help Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup; if you’re in my house, of course.”

 

Sirius laughed, picking up the Quaffle and tossing it up in the air before catching it.  “Excellent!  And don’t worry, Minnie, I’m sure that he’ll be a Gryffindor and I’m equally as sure that at least a trickle of James’ Quidditch talent found its way into our boy here!”

 

Harry carefully put the Quaffle back in the box, noticing the book that was in there as well and picking it up.  It was called Quidditch Through the Ages.  

 

“Just a little sport history for you, Harry.  Remus told me that you like stories and I thought maybe that you’d like to read about some Quidditch stories,” McGonagall told him with a smile.

 

Harry smiled back at her.  “Thank you.”

 

Sirius handed him a brightly coloured gift bag.  “Next one.”

 

It was from Tonks.  She’d given him a bag of sweets, an even mixture of Muggle and magical desserts.  She had also gotten him a tee shirt that said: Padfoot’s Prongslet which made Sirius grin widely and applaud.  Andromeda and Ted had gotten him some clothing for the fall, a few jumpers and some new jeans.  Andromeda and Ted had also given him a chess set which Ted offered to teach him how to use.  Harry was fascinated by the way the pieces moved around in the box.  Remus’ gift was small, but Harry loved it the moment his eyes had fallen on it.

 

Remus had given him a framed photo of Harry, Sirius, and Remus from the week before.  Harry was sitting on Sirius’ motorbike, sunglasses on and Remus and Sirius stood on either side of him.  Along with the photo, there was three brand new books of stories for him and a necklace.

 

Seeing how fascinated Harry was by the dog tags that Sirius always wore, Remus had thought it was a good idea to get Harry his own.  The silver tags read: Prongslet, 31st July 1980 and the second one: Harry James Potter, Marauder of the Next Generation.  He thought it was something that Harry would grow to love when he was older as well.

 

Harry had hugged Remus tightly, thanking him for the gift.

 

Sirius’ gift was last.  Remus could see that he had definitely gone a little overboard, but being Sirius, he wasn’t surprised.  First he had bought a small leather jacket for Harry, eagerly grinning and telling everyone how they would match now when they rode the motorbike; second, a child’s broomstick which flew only two feet off of the ground (Harry had immediately wanted to learn and spent almost ten minutes flying around the living room in glee until they convinced him to come back and sit to open more presents); third, three new Muggle board games; fourth, his own set of Gobstones; fifth, a toy lightsaber; and last but not least — the gift that he had hiding in the sunroom.

 

“Come here, Harry, I’ve got one more important present for you,” Sirius told him, grinning widely.

 

Remus smiled as Harry left Tonks’ arms, who he had been hugging when she was playing with his lightsaber and making noises as she slashed it through the air, and hurried towards Sirius.  Sirius was practically bouncing in excitement at the prospect of showing his godson his new puppy.

 

“Harry,” Sirius said, holding the boy’s hands in his own as he led him into the kitchen.  Everyone else was staying in the living room until they came out, so Sirius knelt down in front of Harry by the kitchen table.  

 

Sirius was slowly trying to stop spending every night in his godson’s bed.  Harry was feeling more comfortable in his own room, but at least three, sometimes four nights a week, Sirius was awoken by his cries and Harry would beg for Padfoot.  Sirius would transform into his dog form and sleep snuggled around the calm child.  But it was no longer every night anymore and that was a good sign.  He hoped that the new puppy would make it a permanent thing.

 

“You know how at night you like it when Padfoot cuddles with you?”  At Harry’s nod and smile, he grinned.  “Well, I thought that maybe since you’ve been such a good boy that for your birthday I would get you your very own version of Padfoot.”

 

Harry stared at him in confusion.  “But I have you, Uncle Padfoot.”

 

Sirius smiled.  “You do.  And you always will.  But this is something for you.  Go in the sunroom, Harry.”

 

Harry turned towards the door, looking back as Sirius ushered him forward.  He opened the door leading to the sunroom and the tiny puppy jumped in excitement, running towards Harry, jumping up and licking his face.

 

Harry’s entire face lit up with joy.  He fell to his knees, arms outstretched as the puppy showered him in love and kisses, yipping in excitement.  Boy and dog wrestled happily, both yipping and giggling with happiness.

 

Sirius knelt on the floor next to them, scratching the puppy behind his ears, a huge grin on his face.  “What are we going to call this puppy?”

 

Harry’s eyes were wide and wet as he looked up at Sirius.  “He’s really for me, Uncle Siri?”

 

Sirius smiled happily at his godson, placing his hand on Harry’s shoulder.  “He’s all yours.  You’ll have to feed him and play with him and take care of him.  Can you do that do you think?”

 

Harry nodded eagerly, his hands still in the puppy’s soft fur.  “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!”

 

Sirius grinned.   “You are very welcome.  I love you, Harry.”

 

“I love you too, Uncle Siri,” Harry said fiercely, throwing his arms around him and shocking Sirius.  “I love my new home!  And I love my new puppy!”

 

Sirius hugged him back tightly, blinking back tears.  He hadn’t realized how much he had wanted this little boy to love him back until the words had come out.  He kissed him again, smiling warmly as he hugged the child tightly.  

 

“Love you too, Prongslet.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN:

 

Once everyone had greeted the new puppy, who in the excitement of seeing so many people had promptly peed on the floor, Sirius let Tonks take Harry and the puppy outside to play.

 

Sirius grinned as he looked out the window and watched his godson throw the frisbee that he had gotten in the five other gifts that he had to open (which included all of the dog toys and necessities) and watched him chase after it, tail wagging in excitement.

 

“The dog was a good idea,” he murmured, smiling.

 

McGonagall placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled.  “An excellent one, I think.  You’re doing a great job with him, Sirius.  Look at how he’s smiling out there.  This is a day he will always remember.”

 

“I hope so.  I just want him to be happy.”

 

McGonagall smiled warmly.  “He is, Sirius.  He’s a very happy little boy.  You should be proud.”

 

“I am.  He just told me that he loves me, Minnie.  It’s the first time… since he was a baby.”  Sirius told her, surprised to find his eyes a little wet and he blinked back tears.  “I thought my heart was going to burst.”

 

McGonagall’s smile deepened and she linked her arm with his.  “He does love you.  You are doing a really good job with him and being the father that he needs.”

 

“I’ll never be his father,” Sirius told her, his eyes on Harry through the window.  “I don’t ever want to replace… James.”  The name came out almost like a whisper.  “He would have been the most amazing father to him, you know?”

 

“James is gone, Sirius,” she said quietly.  “That doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t have been a great dad because you’re right, he would have been an incredible father, but he’s gone.  You are his godfather, yes, but you are also the father figure that he needs right now.  Be proud of what you have accomplished with him already.  And don’t be afraid to be a father to him, you won’t be taking anything away from who is father is.”

 

Sirius smiled at her, leaning in to kiss her cheek.  “I am.  And I will be the best godfather to him that I can be -- father figure, big brother, friend, whatever he needs, I will always be there for him.  I will stand by him and for him.”

 

“That’s right, you shake it off and you stand, no matter what.”

 

Sirius grinned at her, hugging her tightly before moving to lean back against the kitchen counter where he could still peek out the window to spy on Harry and Tonks with the new puppy.  “You always told me that when I took a stand for myself and for those I loved that I would be able to do great things.  I had no idea that it was going to include raising James and Lily’s son, but I guess that’s why life’s like a book with the end ripped out; we’re not supposed to know where it’s going to take us.”

 

McGonagall watched him for a moment.  “Sirius, you always were much stronger than you thought you were.”

 

He nodded, remembering the first time that she had ever told him that.

 

He was thirteen.  

 

It was the end of his second year at Hogwarts and he had gotten into a fight with a few Slytherins when they had called him a ‘Mudblood loving tosser’.  He had been talking to Lily Evans out by the lake and Avery, Rosier, and Snape had wandered over, taunting Lily about being Muggleborn and Sirius had snapped.  He’d punched Rosier in the face and jinxed Avery.  Evans had begged him to stop, but he hadn’t been able to.  And her friend Snape had done nothing to stop his friends from insulting her and it had infuriated him.  He’d gotten detention and the next morning a Howler had arrived from his mum.

 

“SIRIUS ORION BLACK, HOW DARE YOU DEFILE YOUR ANCESTORS!  HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO AND OR CORRESPOND WITH THOSE WHO ARE BENEATH YOU!  YOU ARE GROUNDED FOR THE ENTIRE SUMMER HOLIDAYS!”

 

The letter had burned up at the table and Sirius had smirked at James.  “Looks like I won’t be able to come by this summer.”  He tried to look amused but the sadness in his eyes made James put his arm around his shoulder.

 

“Don’t worry, mate.  We’ll jailbreak you if necessary.  Do you think they’ll really hold you hostage all summer?”

 

Sirius had only shrugged.  To be honest, he wouldn’t be surprised if his mother attempted to brainwash him into thinking like her.  Now that he was strong enough to fight off the Imperius Curse, he had made her life a little more difficult.  Of course, she could always chain him up in the basement again like she had last summer.

 

He shuddered at the thought.

 

But when he had arrived home for the summer, that was exactly what had happened.  Not right away, he had first been banished to his bedroom, but when he had received a letter from Lily Evans asking about his summer holidays, his mother hadn’t been pleased with his correspondence.  He had then spent almost a month chained to the wall in the basement of his family home.  His mother had claimed that he had needed to be taught a lesson and that being locked up was the only way that the lesson was going to be learned properly.  His wrists and ankles were rubbed raw from the chains.

 

Kreacher, the family house elf, had brought him food twice a day, sneering at him.  Regulus had snuck down to see him after the second week.

 

“Siri?”

 

“Hey, Reg, I’m okay,” he told him, trying to smile at his eleven-year-old-brother in reassurance.  

 

His father had belted him so hard that his back was still bleeding a little, but he kept it hidden from his brother.  He had never wanted his little brother to see the pain his parents had bestowed upon him.  It was his job to protect him.  Always.

 

“Siri, why do you have to make them so angry?  Why can’t you just… do what they want?”

 

Sirius smiled warmly at his brother.  “I want them to understand that I’m my own person, Reg, and I don’t want to be like them.  They’re cruel and they’re horribly set in their ways and I’m not going to stop being friends with people just because of their blood.  We all bleed red, Regulus.  It’s all red.”

 

Regulus had only stared at him, his bottom lip quivering.  “What if… what if I’m not put into Slytherin House either?”

 

Sirius stared at him for a moment.  Regulus would be starting Hogwarts that September and he was both simultaneously excited and terrified for his baby brother.  “It would be better if you weren’t.  I could protect you better.  But the hat gives you a choice, Reg.  I chose to be something different.”

 

“Is Slytherin House bad?”

 

“No!”  Sirius insisted, wincing at the muscle spasms in his arms and legs from a combination of the chained position he was stuck in and from the Cruciatus Curse, courtesy of his father only two hours earlier.  “None of the houses are bad, none of them.  It’s just… our entire family is in Slytherin and the pressure in that house to do what the pureblood mantra is and does — that’s a lot and I don’t need that.  I love Gryffindor, not because of the house, but because of the people in it.”

 

Regulus stared at him, his eyes wide.  “If I’m not sorted into Slytherin, this could be me next summer.”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “No, Reg, I won’t let them do this to you.”

 

Regulus was quiet for a moment before he spoke.  “If you kept quiet, Mother and Father wouldn’t… hurt you.”

 

“My friend Lily wrote me a letter, Reg.  Mother intercepted it.  She claimed that the name Evans sounded too common and too simple to possibly be anyone worth my time.  When I told her that she was Muggleborn, she sneered as if she had known the entire time.”

 

“You should have denied it.”

 

Sirius smirked.  He knew better than to bother.  “Reg, they know every pureblood in the fucking sacred twenty-eight.  I couldn’t have denied it if I wanted to.  I told her we were friends and well, here we are.  You do what you need to do, Reg, but I promise, if you decide that you don’t want to be in Slytherin — don’t let our parents force you.  I’ll protect you.”

 

Regulus stared at him for a moment, then he turned and hurried up the stairs.  Sirius had simply hung his head and tried not to scream from the pain.  The day before the Hogwarts Express left for his third year, his mother had used the Cruciatus Curse on him again, making him promise to stop befriending Muggleborn scum and to make more of an effort to be nice to the Slytherins.

 

He had said he would, but only to make the pain stop.

 

When he had boarded the Hogwarts Express the next morning and Lily Evans had run towards him to give him a friendly hug hello, he had considered it.  Regulus had been sitting next to him in the compartment and his eyes had narrowed the moment the redhead had come into the room.  Sirius introduced him and Lily had smiled warmly, wishing him luck.

 

When the Sorting Hat had called out Slytherin, Sirius had felt his heart break.  On some level he had known that it was the first step his brother was taking away from him.  He’d excused himself from his friends, claiming that he needed to use the loo, leaning against the stone wall outside of the Great Hall to catch his breath.

 

Professor McGonagall found him there a few minutes later, rubbing his raw wrists and gasping for air amidst a small panic attack.  She had wrapped her arm around him, tugging him into a nearby empty classroom and told him to breathe, gently guiding him back to his normal rhythms of breath.

 

“Mr Black, it’s quite all right to be upset that your brother was put into a different house.  Not all siblings are put together,” she said kindly.

 

Sirius ran his hands through his shaggy hair and nodded.  “I know, Professor.”

 

McGonagall’s eyes were on the marks on his wrist.  “What are those, Mr Black?”

 

Sirius shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets.  “Nothing to worry about, Professor.  I spent some time paying for my sins this summer is all.  Punishment is what I deserve most, isn’t it?”

 

Her nostrils flared angrily.  “Those wrists are rubbed raw.  You should go to the hospital wing to get Madam Pomfrey to take a look.  They look quite painful.”

 

Sirius only smiled at her.  “I’ll be fine, but thanks McG.”

 

McGonagall rolled her eyes, taking a seat next to him in one of the desks.  She tapped her fingers on the desk for a moment as if unsure on how to proceed.  “Black, you know that as your Head of House I’m a lot more than just your Transfiguration professor?”  When he nodded, she smiled.  “I’m here as an advisor… a friend and a confidant if ever you need anything.  Even if it’s only to talk.”

 

“Talk about what, Professor?”

 

“Anything you want.  Homework, classes, your parents, your brother, your friends, your home life… I am here for you.”

 

Sirius nodded.  “I don’t have anything to talk about.  My brother… he’s a Slytherin, he’s the golden hero of the Black Family now.  I’m just the loser of the fight who keeps getting tossed back in and refusing to… toujours pur — that’s what my mother says.”

 

“And you don’t believe those words, do you Mr Black?”

 

Sirius’ eyes stayed on hers for a long moment and then he shook his head.  “No, I don’t.  I don’t know where my life is going to take me, but I do know that it’s not going to be the direction that my family wants it to go and sometimes…” he trailed off for a moment.  “Sometimes, I don’t think that I’m going to get away.  That I’m not strong enough to make my own decisions.”

 

McGonagall smiled warmly at him, reaching out to touch his arm.  “You are very brave, Sirius, and that’s only one of the many reasons why the Sorting Hat put you in Gryffindor.  You are a lot stronger than you believe yourself to be.  You may feel alone and helpless, like you’ve lost your fight — but you haven’t.  You have friends.  You have a family here and you’ll be alright.  My grandmother used to always tell me to just stand and I always think back to it as being the best advice that I was ever given.”

 

He nodded, oddly touched by her words.  He did have a family here.  He had James and Peter and Remus and Lily and Marlene and Dorcas and Mary.  And he was beginning to see that if he wanted -- he had McGonagall too. 

 

McGonagall smiled at him.  “You stand for yourself and for those you love, Sirius.  Nothing in the world is more important because when push comes to shove, you taste what you’re made of.  You might bend until you break because it’s all you can take.  When you’re on your knees, you look up, and decide you’ve had enough.  You get mad, you get strong, but wipe your hands, shake it off — and you stand.  You just stand and you keep holding on.  Every time you fall down you get back up, and one more small piece of you starts to fall into place.  You stand.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”

 

He did understand.  No matter how many times his parents beat him down, physically, verbally, and emotionally into submission, he kept standing back up; he kept choosing his own path.  “Yes, Professor.”

 

“So you stand,” she told him with a smile.  “Life’s like a novel that has the end ripped out.  We’re not supposed to know where it’s going to take us or what’s going to happen along the way.  But those we keep with us and those we choose to spend our lives with; they make the difference.  Family isn’t always blood.”  She held her hand out to him and when he took it she tugged him to his feet.  “Now let’s go enjoy that feast while we can.”

 

Sirius smiled at her.  “Thanks, Professor.”

 

McGonagall only nodded.  “My office is always open, Sirius.  No matter how big or small.”

 

Family wasn’t always blood, he thought.  And McGonagall had always managed to remind him of that.  He pulled her into a hug, surprising her, but she returned it in kind.

 

“Mr Black, I think that it’s time we head back to the feast, is it not?”

 

He only grinned at her.  “It is.”

 

Sirius grinned at the memory.  “Then you stand, Minnie.”  

 

When McGonagall smiled back at him in kind, he turned and watched Harry running around outside with the puppy and with Tonks.  He was proud, he thought, he was very proud and he loved that little boy more than anything in the world.  He had chosen his family and that family had chosen him right back. 

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

That night as Harry finished getting ready for bed, Sirius picked up the puppy and plopped him into Harry’s bed.

 

“I think that you wore him out today,” Sirius said, as the puppy yawned, moved himself in a circle before he curled up on one of Harry’s pillows, eyes closed.  “What are we going to name him?”

 

Harry gently touched the soft fur, the puppy stretching under his hand.  “I don’t know.”

 

Sirius tucked Harry in, grinning as Harry smiled happily at the dog next to him.  “Well, we don’t have to name him tonight.  We have plenty of time.”

 

Harry smiled up at Sirius.  “This was the second best day ever, Uncle Padfoot.  Thank you.”

 

Sirius smiled, leaning down to kiss Harry’s forehead.  “You are very welcome, Prongslet.  Now, I know that your actual birthday is on Wednesday, and Uncle Moony and I are going to take you out someplace where we can play games and have some food.  You’ll love it.  But today, we wanted to give you a party.”  He gently brushed Harry’s hair out of his eyes, thinking about what Harry had just said to him.  “Why the second best day?”

 

Harry’s eyes were beginning to droop close and it made Sirius smile.  “Second,” he slurred quietly.  “Best day was when you brought me here to be my dad.”

 

Then he was asleep, curled on his side, the puppy next to him and Sirius couldn’t get the smile to leave his face.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

When Sirius woke up the next morning stretched out in his own bed, he felt relief and a little sadness.  As happy as he was to actually be in his own bed for once, he was surprised to realize that he missed waking up beside the child.  He padded into the bathroom, washing his face and brushing his teeth before he snuck his head in Harry’s bedroom.

 

It was just a little after seven and Harry was sleeping soundly, the puppy snuggled up against his back.  The image made him smile and he headed downstairs.  He noticed that Andromeda had tidied up the kitchen before she had left and he felt extra grateful that he didn’t have that to worry about it this morning as he poured himself a glass of water and eagerly drank it, quenching his early morning thirst.

 

The owl flew through the open window, depositing his Daily Prophet and he rifled around in the kitchen drawer to find the money to pay him.  He took a seat at the table and opened the paper, skimming it in earnest.  He wasn’t sure why he bothered to get the paper every day.  He very rarely read it all the way through, but sometimes skimming the news articles made him feel like he had some clue as to what was happening in the world.

 

The article on the third page caught his attention immediately.  His eyes narrowing as he read:

 

MAGICAL CREATURE REGISTRATION — TO HELP STOP A WEREWOLF!

 

It has come to our knowledge that there are many witches and wizards with the blood of magical creatures in their system, who have not come forward and registered themselves with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

 

“We’re not trying to single them out,” Simon Fawley reported.  “But it’s important for us to study all blood types, even those with one quarter Veela, half-giants, part-troll, part-goblin, part-fae, those bitten by werewolves, new vampires, and anyone else who may be unique.  It’s all about learning and helping others.”

 

This has come as a shock to most people, who are unwilling to come forward and admit if they have any magical-creature blood in their system, but it should be done as soon as possible so as not to miss out on opportunities to help them find inner peace and to sort out what exactly the disease is that they may have.

 

This has become extra important today when Potioneer Damocles Belby told the Prophet that after years of hard work, he has founded a potion that helps one control the disease of the moon cycle, lycanthropy.

 

“It is not a cure,” Belby told the Prophet.  “I must stress that as being most important.  It is not a cure.  But it does help someone who is suffering from the disease keep their memory when they are forced to transform into the monster that lives inside of them.  Once bitten by a werewolf, you immediately have lycanthropy, a disease that three nights a month, due to the rotation of the moon cycle, will turn you into a bloodthirsty monster.  The night before the Full Moon, the night of the Full Moon, and the night after the Full Moon — all affect those who have the disease.  You will want blood and you will need to hunt, but come morning, when that fever breaks and you have turned back to your human self, all memory of the night before is erased.  People are often afraid of these monsters because of what they can do and how they do not show remorse for any of the damage that they have inflicted due to memory loss.”

 

Will this potion help them show remorse?  Belby says no.  What it does is allow one to keep their wits about them when the monster takes over their body.

 

Belby has been nominated to receive the Order of Merlin for his work on curing the dementia during a transformation of a lycanthrope in something he is calling the Wolfsbane Potion.

 

Anyone willing to try the potion and to see the effects must be monitored by Belby and his research team.  Registration by the Ministry of Magic is required for all participants including making your name known on the official Werewolf Registry if you want to try the potion.

 

“The fuck is this,” he mumbled under his breath, throwing the newspaper into the trash in disgust.

 

Dementia during a transformation of a lycanthrope.

 

Sirius grabbed the paper again.  One of the things he had hated about being friends with Remus Lupin, was having to watch his best friend suffer.  The disease as they called it, made him tired, feverish with chills, aching joints, lust-filled, hormonal, and testy.  But the worst part always was the way that Remus’ eyes would pour over every inch of their bodies the next day taking in every nick or paper cut and the guilt would fill his eyes before he hid it away.

 

Remus had always been convinced that he was a monster and that he would hurt one of them.  And they hadn’t exactly kept their distance from their friend when he had transformed, becoming Animagi to be with him during the full moon was something that Sirius had never regretted.  But being with Remus during such a turbulent time meant that there had been a few close calls.  

 

Sirius had been slashed and scratched a few times in his dog form, but James had always been quick with healing charms and when they did have to go to Madam Pomfrey, they were thankful that she never asked too many questions.  He had a scar on his right thigh, another on his left hip and a third under his right ear.  Any scratches made by a werewolf, even when he was transformed into his Animagus, scarred.  But Sirius didn’t regret a single one.  

 

Only once had it been critical.  

 

Sirius hadn’t pulled him back in time and Remus had sliced James right across the abdomen.  The white stag had fallen to the ground as his blood poured out and the howl that Remus had let out had chilled their blood.

 

It had taken everything that Sirius had to pull his friend away from his brother, from the smell of the blood that was attracting him.  But he had done it.  And Remus had been even more upset when he had discovered that they had lied to him.  When he didn’t remember what he had done, the guilt in which he assumed he had done the absolute worse, always consumed him.  No matter what anyone had said, he took it to heart.  He had the disease.  He was the one who became a monster.  It infuriated Sirius to watch him put himself down.  He had never once in all of the years that he had known Remus Lupin looked into his soft amber eyes and seen a monster.

 

And if this potion, this Wolfsbane Potion, gave someone who turned into a werewolf the ability to keep their own mind when they transformed — that was a miracle.  But there was no way in hell that he was going to let his best mate go down to the Ministry of Magic and register himself as a werewolf.  

 

Lyall Lupin had done everything in his power to keep his son safe and free from the scrutiny of being seen as a monster.  He had made him promise to stay under the radar as long he as he could.  Sirius remembered how Remus had discovered why he had been bitten as a child; how much that discovery had hurt him.

 

He had been seventeen and it was the summer before seventh year and he had shown up on the doorstep of Potter House, tears rolling down his cheeks.

 

“Moony!”  James exclaimed, throwing his arms around his friend and tugging him into the house.  “What is it?  What’s happened?”

 

Remus clung to James, the sobs wracking his body.  Fleamont came into the entranceway, his eyebrow raised before moving to wrap his own arms around his son and his friend.

 

“It’s okay, Remus.  Come on; let’s go take a seat, shall we?”  Fleamont suggested, leading Remus into the living room.  “Jamie, go and get Sirius.”

 

James had only nodded, turning to find Sirius standing there.  “Padfoot.”

 

Fleamont kept his arms around Remus, until he pulled back, wiping at his eyes in embarrassment.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t be.  Are your parents all right?”

 

Remus nodded.  “Yes.”

 

Euphemia came into the living room holding a tray of tea and biscuits.  She placed it onto the table, moving to sit on the other side of Remus and wrapped her arms around him, cradling his head to her breast as if he were a child.  

 

“How’s my boy doing?”  she gently brushed her fingers through his hair, leaning down to kiss a new scar just below his ear.  “Always so brave.”

 

He blushed and hugged her back as James and Sirius moved towards him.

 

“I’m sorry to just show up like this,” Remus began, but James shook his head.

 

“Don’t be daft!  What happened?”

 

Sirius nodded, sitting on the floor at Remus’ feet.  “Want us to get Peter here?”

 

Remus shook his head, wiping furiously at his eyes.  “It’s stupid.  I’m making a big deal out of nothing.  I don’t want to bother Peter too.”

 

Fleamont shifted over so that his son could sit next to his friend.  “I doubt that.  Would you like us to leave you boys alone to talk?”

 

Remus squeezed his hand gratefully.  “It’s alright.  I know you… you know what I am — a monster.”

 

Sirius scowled and James’s eyes hardened.

 

“Stop fucking calling yourself a monster, Rem!  You are the furthest thing from it!”  James exclaimed as Sirius nodded from the floor beneath them.

 

Euphemia leaned over and kissed Remus’ cheek.  “You are a sweet boy — young man,” she corrected, her eyes smiling warmly.  “My boys are all young men now.”

 

Remus blushed at her words -- my boys.  Euphemia and Fleamont treated Sirius, Remus, and Peter, all like they were their own children and he had never felt so blessed as he did when they were around.  He closed his eyes as he spoke.  “I found out… I know how I…”

 

“How you what, Moony?”  James asked, his eyes on his friend and his arm gently linked through Remus’.

 

Sirius reached up and touched Remus’ other arm.  “You can tell us, Rem.”

 

Remus let out a slow breath.  “I know why I was bitten.”

 

Euphemia gasped.  “Remus, knowing the why doesn’t matter!  It happened a long time ago.”

 

Fleamont reached behind his son and Remus and touched his wife’s shoulder, shaking his head.  “He should know, Fee.  Why do you think you were bit, Remus?”

 

Remus swallowed slowly, focusing on the feel of his two best friends as they touched his arms in reassurance of their presence.  “My father… it was Dad.  He… he made an enemy of a werewolf named Fenrir Greyback.”

 

Sirius’ eyes widened.  “Greyback?  That vicious bastard who’s following Voldemort and attacking all of those Muggles?”

 

“One in the same,” Remus muttered.

 

“How did your dad know him?”  James asked, patting Remus’ arm gently.

 

Remus’ hands turned into fists as he spoke.  “Dad used to work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.  Ironic that his son would turn into a dangerous creature,” he muttered, wincing when James and Sirius both kicked him lightly.  “Sorry.  But he… Greyback was questioned over the death of two Muggle children, not surprising, I know.  Dad said that back then the Werewolf Registry wasn’t controlled very well and everyone was so afraid of werewolves that they didn’t press trying to find out who they were because they wanted to make every effort possible to avoid them all together.  Greyback claimed that he was just a Muggle and a vagabond at that, who was shocked to even be in a room full of wizards in the first place.  But my dad, he… he didn’t trust him and he thought that he exhibited specific signs of lycanthropy, specifically in his behaviour.  He tried to get the committee to hold him for twenty-four hours because the full moon was coming up, but the committee thought that he was innocent and told Dad that he was crazy.  They laughed at him.”

 

Euphemia rubbed Remus’ back gently, her hand squeezing his.  “He was embarrassed.”

 

Remus nodded, swallowing slowly.  “He… he got so angry and he yelled out that all werewolves are ‘soulless, evil, and deserving of nothing, but death.’”

 

“Rem,” James said, wrapping his arm across his friend’s shoulders.  “Rem, he didn’t know.  Like you said, no one really knew about werewolves except to be afraid of them.  He didn’t know.  He didn’t mean what he said.”

 

“He did mean it!”  Remus insisted, pulling away from his friends and standing up.  He dragged his hands through his wavy hair, his eyes wide.  “Soulless evil!  That’s what he thinks of me!”

 

“No, he doesn’t,” Sirius said coldly.  “Your dad loves you.  Whenever I come to visit, he does nothing but boast about how smart you are; what kinds of things you’ve learned at school and to go on about happy you are and how happy it makes him.  He does not think that you are soulless and he certainly doesn’t think you’re evil.”

 

Remus didn’t respond.  He stood in the middle of the room, both of his hands still clutched in his hair as he spoke.  “Dad was removed from the Ministry.  They were going to alter Greyback’s memory so that he wouldn’t remember the Ministry of Magic, but he overpowered them with the help of two accomplices, who had been lying in wait for him, and he remembered what Dad had said about him and… he told his pack.  He found out where we lived and two months before my fifth birthday, he snuck into my bedroom window and he… Dad saved my life, but he was too late for…”

 

Euphemia stood up, wrapping her arms around Remus, ignoring his attempt to get free.  “And he realized that everything he had ever thought about werewolves was false.  You were still his son.  His pride and joy.  The clever and lovable child that he knew and admired and on those frightful periods of the full moon when he was forced to watch you suffer, his heart broke a little more each time.”

 

“He hates me, Fee.”  Remus murmured into her shoulder and then he began to cry again, his arms clinging to her as she soothed him.

 

After a few minutes, when he pulled away, wiping tears from his eyes, Fleamont stood up and wrapped an arm around his wife.  “Remus, I knew your father before you met Jamie.  I didn’t know that his son had been bitten by a werewolf, but I did know that Lyall Lupin was spending his time doing endless research on werewolves, on lycanthropy, and on how to find a cure.  He came to me about a potion, something that could take away your pain during a transformation.  Of course, he didn’t say those words, only that he was wondering if there was a way for a werewolf to undergo the transition without pain.  To be honest, I thought maybe that he had been bitten and was looking for himself, but there’s nothing.  I gave him a few healing and painless potions, but he always came back claiming that they hadn’t worked.  Then about four years before you went to Hogwarts, he disappeared, and I never heard from him again.  He uprooted your family over and over again, Remus, to keep you safe.”  Fleamont insisted.

 

Remus shook his head, but he didn’t speak.

 

James and Sirius each moved from their spot, taking Remus by the arm and tugging him over to the couch to sit between them.  

 

“Listen to Mum and Dad, Moony,” James said kindly.  “Why did your dad decide to tell you this?”

 

“I asked him,” Remus said simply.  “Mum has been… she’s speaking kind of incoherently lately.  The cancer is eating away at her brain and sometimes she’s not always clear on what she’s saying and she said that… she told me that Greyback had bitten me because of Dad.  I demanded of him what she meant and well, it all came pouring out of him.”

 

“What happened after he had told you?”  Sirius asked, his hand squeezing his friend’s lightly.

 

“I told him that I blamed him,” Remus admitted, his voice low.  “That I could have had a normal life if he had just kept his mouth shut.  We rowed about it.  He yelled that he had given up his life for me; to protect me because of a mistake that he had made.  He said that he regretted it more than anything, but that my being bitten was a wakeup call.  He said that it proved that werewolves could be human-like.  ‘Human-like,’ those were his exact words.”

 

James’ eyes widened.  “Remus, he didn’t mean it like that.”

 

“He loves you,” Sirius insisted.  “He loves you and he loves your mum.  He doesn’t think that you’re a monster.  He knows that you’re not.”

 

Remus had only half-smiled at them.  “He said that he loved me despite the disease and that my mum had made him promise to take care of me.  He said that with Mum getting sicker, I can’t stay there for the full moon that I need to find someplace to… Dumbledore said that I can go to the shack.”

 

James nodded, his eyes on his friend.  “We’ll be there, Rem.  I promise.”

 

“Peter too,” Sirius said with a smile.  “Prongs and I will bring him.  He’ll want to be there for you.”

 

Euphemia smiled, leaning down to kiss Remus’ cheek.  “And if you’re not ready to go home just yet, Monty and I will make up the cot in Jamie’s room for you for as long as you’d like it.  You always have a place here with us.”

 

Remus had only half-smiled.  “Thanks, Mrs Potter.”

 

Fleamont snorted.  “Remus, for the hundredth time, it’s Fee and Monty.”

 

“Or Mum and Dad,” James supplied with a wink.

 

Euphemia kissed her son’s cheek.  “Jamie, go get the cot ready for Remus.  Moony is going to write a letter to his father letting him know where he is and when he will be going back home.  I think that you both need a cooling off period before you speak again.”

 

Fleamont nodded.  “Just remember, Remus.  Parents aren’t perfect.  But your dad loves you more than you can possibly imagine.  Don’t let his biggest regret and his mistake influence your relationship with him.”

 

Remus had only stared at them, his golden eyes wide.  “Thank you.”

 

Euphemia beamed at him.  “While Jamie digs out the cot, you two can come help me with dinner.  We’ll have steak tonight.  Sirius, you can set the table while Remus helps me peel potatoes.”

 

The memory made him smile.   Remus had stayed with them for a week; going to the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade for the nights of the full moon before going back home.  He and his father spoke about it and Remus forgave him for keeping it a secret.  As much as he wanted to blame his father, the fault belonged to Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf who had decided to exact revenge on Lyall Lupin by attacking his four-year-old-son in the middle of the night.  

 

Lyall and Hope had moved around a lot; kept him home and away from other children; had protected him until Dumbledore had shown up on their doorstep and promised that he would be able to attend Hogwarts and learn with the other students as a normal child.  For the first time in Remus’ life he was going to be able to make friends and he had.  James and Peter and Sirius had all become the greatest friends he ever could have asked for and Sirius was thankful every day that he was friends with Remus.

 

Sirius’ eyes stayed on the newspaper article.  Potions had never been his strongest subject, James had been the potioneer of the group, but still not to the level that his father had been.  Lily had been the potions princess, but as neither of them were around, he was the only one left.  He wondered if there was anyway he could find out the ingredients to the potion.  Was it hard to make?  What did it entail?

 

If this was something that he could do for his friend than he wanted to do it.  He just had no idea how.

 

Persephone hooted at him from her perch by the kitchen window and he smiled.  If anyone could find out for him it would be McGonagall.  He grabbed some parchment and a quill with ink and quickly wrote out a message.

 

McG,

 

Just saw the Daily Prophet about Belby and this Wolfsbane Potion.  Is it real?  Have you heard anything?  If anyone deserves that potion it’s Remus, but like hell if I’m going to let him register with the Ministry as a dangerous magical creature just to obtain a sample of it.  He has had a hard enough time finding work on his own, if the Ministry knew he had lycanthropy they’d ban him from even more jobs than he’s already lost due to his absences.

 

I know he’s too stubborn to ask, if he’s even seen the paper, which I doubt as he never reads it, so I will ask for him.  How can we find out how the potion is brewed and what it entails?  

 

Thanks!

 

Love, 

Sirius

 

Persephone hooted happily at him as he called her over to tie the letter to her leg.  As he watched her fly off, he wondered again just what this potion really did and whether or not it would even benefit his friend.  Or whether or not it was even worth getting his hopes up over. 

 

Sirius didn’t know, but he did know that it was a chance that he wasn’t willing to give up.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINETEEN: 

 

When Harry’s actual birthday came around, Sirius and Remus took him out for the day.  Remus had thought that it was a brilliant idea to spend the morning at the London Zoo.  Harry was fascinated by the animals and he held tightly to Remus and Sirius’ hands as they walked through looking at all of them.  For lunch they ate at a bistro and then Remus bought Harry an ice cream cone which he ate happily as they headed to the theatre.

 

Sirius remembered the first time that he, James, Remus, and Peter had gone to the movies and had loved every second of it, he wanted Harry to experience it too.  It had been Remus’ idea to go one summer before fourth year.  Sirius and James had never been before, but Peter and Remus loved films.  He wanted Harry to have the same feeling of excitement. 

 

Remus had suggested seeing The Great Mouse Detective being that it was a children’s movie, but Sirius was insistent that they were seeing Top Gun as it looked so cool.  They loaded up on snacks and took Harry inside, sitting him between them.  Harry loved the film, his eyes wide and his bum on the edge of the seat (Remus had to carefully whisper a charm to stop it from flipping the child back and trapping him into place) but he loved it.

 

After the movie, Sirius suggested that they go shopping so that Harry could pick out one gift to get on his actual birthday.  Harry had simply stared at him in surprise but they went to a toy store in Muggle London and Harry chose a case of Legos.  When they got back home, Sirius and Remus spent almost three hours helping Harry build the biggest castle with all of the Legos in the case.

 

It had been the best birthday ever, Harry had insisted while Sirius ushered him to get into the bathtub that night.  As he climbed into his bed, he was still gushing in excitement about the day as the puppy jumped up, licking Harry’s face and making him giggle.

 

The puppy snuggled up next to Harry. “I’m glad that you had so much fun, Birthday Boy.”

 

Harry grinned widely.  “It was the best!  Thank you, Uncle Sirius!”

 

Sirius smiled, leaning forward to kiss Harry on the forehead.  “You are very welcome.  What would you like to hear as a bedtime story tonight, Prongslet?”  Sirius asked, climbing into the bed next to Harry and stretching out next to him, leaning back against the headboard.  He put his arm around Harry, who sat next to him, his head resting back against Sirius’ shoulder, the puppy on his other side.

 

“Tell me about my mummy and daddy,” he asked, his voice almost a whisper.

 

Sirius smiled, handing Harry the stuffed doe and stag.  “Lily and James, they were two of the best people I ever knew.”  Harry snuggled the animals in his arms, looking up at his godfather eagerly.  “Lily was one of the smartest witches in school, if not the smartest.  She was witty and funny and not to mention sassy.  She was so talented at Potions and Charms, they were her best subjects.  All of the teachers loved her.  James was really smart too.  He hardly ever needed to study, stuff just came naturally to him.  He loved Transfiguration and Defence Against the Dark Arts.  He was funny and he always had a smile for everyone.”

 

Harry smiled up at him as he spoke and Sirius grinned.

 

“One time, Harry, just after you were born.  You were maybe two months old,” Sirius said, remembering the moment clearly with a smile.  “I popped in to visit and your dad was sitting on the couch, his guitar in his lap and he was playing ‘Free Bird’ and you were just staring up at him in wonder.  Your mum came in and she walked over, kissing your dad and he changed the chord and started singing to her.  She got this look in her eye and she kissed him again.  They were so in love.  You could see how much they loved each other in the way they were.  But your dad loved to play the guitar and he loved The Beatles more than anything.  He loved Elvis Presley too and B.B. King.  He was big into music, Muggle music specifically.  He was always singing, his foot always tapping or bouncing to some internal beat.” 

 

He smiled as he remembered how often they’d be sitting in the common room or study hall and James’ foot or fingers would be tapping to some beat that only he could hear and when you’d call him out on it, he’d suddenly belt out whatever song he was mentally rocking out too.

 

“When we were fourteen, your dad and I once snuck out of school and went to London to see The Rolling Stones in concert.  Auntie Minnie was so mad when she caught us sneaking back into the school.  We had detention every night for a month.  But it was worth it,” he said with a grin.  “Bloody fantastic concert.  When we saw Queen the next year though, it was even better.  Your dad always wanted to see The Beatles live and I remember when we were fifteen, your grandfather showed us a memory that he had gotten from someone he knew and Jamie and I were able to watch The Beatles play at Shea Stadium in New York in 1965.  It was the greatest concert ever according to your dad.  We felt like we were there.”

 

Harry smiled at him.  “Uncle Padfoot, was my dad a good singer?”

 

“Yes, he was.  He had a really great voice.  He used to sing to you all of the time.  Do you remember?”

 

He vaguely remembered a dream where he had heard a man singing to him so he nodded.  “Sometimes, I think so.”

 

Sirius kissed the top of Harry’s head.  “He loved you so much and your mum too.  They loved each other and they loved you more than anything in the whole world.  They would be so proud of you.  I know they’re watching over us, checking in from time to time to make sure that I’m taking good care of you.  They loved you.  I don’t want you to ever forget that.”

 

Harry smiled up at him.  “I love them too.”

 

Sirius kissed the top of Harry’s head again with a smile.  “Alright, Prongslet, I think that’s enough story time.  He reached over to rub the belly of the sleeping puppy next to him.  “I think it’s time for you two Marauders to get some sleep.”

 

He stood up and Harry grabbed his hand.

 

“Yes, Prongslet?”

 

“Marauder.”

 

Sirius’ eyebrow rose in question.  “Yes?”

 

“Why were you and Uncle Moony and Dad called that?”

 

Sirius grinned, moving to sit down on the bed again.  “That’s a good question, Harry.”  He tucked Harry back in and smiled.  “Me, your dad, Uncle Remus, and Unc — Peter,” he corrected carefully trying not to grimace at the name.  “We were all friends in school since our first year.  We fancied ourselves being a popular gang and thought it would be rather brilliant to have our own name; something spiffy and unique to us.  We ended up calling ourselves the Marauders.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, marauder means to roam about or to search for plunder or treasure.  It’s a special name for rogues and we fancied ourselves as being vagrants of the castle.  But it was actually Auntie Minnie that gave us the name.”

 

“She did?”  Harry asked in surprise.

 

Sirius smiled as he remembered fondly the day.  “She did.  It was right at the beginning of our second year, end of September.  Jamie and I had just gotten detention for making all of the Slytherin robes scream in terror when they saw one of the students in our year, a boy named Snape.  It was hilarious, but McGonagall knew that it was us at once as we had already kind of made a name for ourselves in the troublemaking department and she marched over to our table at breakfast, arms crossed in front of her.  It had actually been your Uncle Remus’ idea, but she didn’t need to know that.  Anyway she looked at us sternly and simply said, ‘It is only September, can’t you four marauders just behave for one year?’  We loved it and after she gave us our punishment and took away house points, we agreed that we should call ourselves ‘The Marauders.’  So we did.”

 

“I like it,” Harry told him, smiling.  “Marauder.”

 

Sirius grinned at him.  “Me too, Prongslet.”

 

Harry smiled.  “That’s his name, Uncle Padfoot.  He’s a Marauder like you.”

 

Sirius smiled, scratching the puppy behind the ears.  “Marauder it is.”  He reached for the collar the puppy wore and gently etched the name into the bronze tag with his wand.  “Now you and Marauder need to get some sleep.”  He kissed Harry’s forehead with a smile.  “I love you.  Goodnight, Harry.”

 

“Love you too,” Harry yawned, turning to snuggle into the puppy.  “Goodnight.”

 

Sirius left the door open a little and he made his way downstairs.  Marauder was a great name for the puppy, he thought.  In fact, it was perfect.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Harry was sitting on the swing that Saturday, kicking his little legs out in front of him as he swung higher and higher above the ground.  Remus had brought him to the park to play that afternoon after they had gone shopping at a local bookstore in a nearby town called Ottery St Mary.  

 

But he was more excited now to be at the park even though it was almost dinner time and there were no other kids playing there.  He loved the feeling of being on the swings and to be able to go as high as he could.  He almost felt like he was flying.  He waved at Remus who was talking to a white-haired man by the bench that he had met in the bookstore.  Remus was asking him questions about the British Monarchy, one of the books that he had been looking for her.  The man was a secondary school history teacher and Remus had soon found himself in an interesting conversation with him about teaching Harry history.  Harry had gotten bored waiting for him, so they had continued the conversation across the street in the park.

 

Remus waved back at him and he grinned, slowing down and jumping off of the swing in joy, seemingly to float in the air for a moment, soaring before gravity took over and he rolled as he hit the ground and Marauder barked happily running towards him in glee.  

 

He grinned at Remus, who’s eyes looked like they had practically bugged right out of his head at the sight of Harry jumping off of the swing.  Now he was staring at Harry with a mixture of pride and relief on his face which made Harry smile back at him.

 

Harry wandered over to the sand box, letting his hands scoop up the sand and watch it slowly roll down his skin and back into the sandbox.  It looked like someone had recently been playing in it from the indents and the grooves in the sandbox.  There was a teenage boy standing by the tree at the end of the park talking to a teenage girl who was laughing at something he had said.  The girl’s laugh reminded Harry of Tonks who had been coming over once or twice a week to hang out with him.  She was fun.  He liked it when she came over as she always made him laugh.  

 

He dusted himself off and hurried up the rope bridge, laughing as Marauder eagerly followed him into the wooden castle in the middle of the playground.  He belly crawled into the tall tower, lifting himself up through the hole by the fireman’s pole, reaching down to lift Marauder up into the tower with him and stopping in surprise when he saw the tiny girl curled up there.

 

He had thought that he would be alone in the castle.

 

She had fiery red hair and freckles on her nose and her eyes were a dark chocolate brown as they stared at him in wonder.  Then she merely threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly in lieu of greeting and planted a kiss right on his lips.  

 

“Hi!”

 

Harry looked at her, feeling rather startled to be hugged and kissed by this random girl he didn’t know, surprised by the feeling of warmth it gave him.  “Er, hi.”

 

The girl hugged him a second time and then she greeted the puppy even more enthusiastically as he eagerly licked her face in greeting.  She hugged him and scratched his belly and Harry grinned.

 

“He likes you.”

 

“He’s beautiful!  What’s his name?”  she asked, giving his belly a long rub that made Marauder’s tongue hang out happily.

 

“Marauder.”

 

She grinned, giving him one final pat and then put her finger to her lips when they heard the sound of someone's voice outside.  “Shh, I’m hiding.”

 

“From who?”

 

Her dark brown eyes twinkled in mischief, “I buried his journal in the sandbox.”

 

“Why?”  Harry asked, cocking his head to look at her in curiosity.

 

The little girl grinned widely.  “To hide it, silly boy.  Charlie wanted to see it so I took it.  He wants to know all about Anna.  But it’s none of his business!”

 

Harry nodded, still not quite following.  “So you stole it so Charlie couldn’t read it?”

 

She grinned, giggling.  “But it’s in the sandbox where I hid it.”  

 

“Is Charlie your friend?”  Harry asked, wondering if she was hiding then who was looking for her.  He had only seen the two teenagers talking nearby.

 

She shook her head.  “Brother.  I’m Ginny and I’m going to be five soon!”

 

“Harry,” he said smiling back at her wide grin.  “I’m six.”  

 

He scratched his forehead and her eyes shot to the lightning bolt scar near where he was scratching and they widened.

 

“Harry Potter?”

 

“Yes,” he said in surprise as Marauder yipped and nosed him in the leg.

 

She was in his arms again hugging him closely as Marauder barked happily and tried to butt his way in between them rather unsuccessfully.  “I’m sorry about your mummy and daddy.”

 

The words surprised him.  He knew that his parents were dead.  He wondered about them sometimes, but he didn’t really think about them.  He hadn’t in a while he realized because of Sirius and Remus.  He had a home and he had someone who wanted to take care of him; who loved him like his parents would have.  And Sirius and Remus were always willing to tell him stories about them whenever he asked.

 

Harry hugged her back, jolting when she kissed his cheek before pulling away and Marauder immediately made himself comfortable on Harry’s lap. 

 

Ginny smiled widely at him and offered her hand out.  “Come on; let’s go get the journal.  I think he’s coming.”

 

“Who?  Charlie?”

 

Ginny shook her head as she slid down the fireman’s pole and Harry followed her, carefully holding Marauder in his arms, just as a loud voice yelled out, “Ginevra!  What did you do with it, you little minx?”

 

Ginny giggled and hid behind Harry, holding his hand tightly in her own.

 

The angry voice had scared Harry.  When people got angry, bad things happened.  But Ginny wasn’t scared.  She just kept giggling and then a tall figure stood over them.  His fiery red hair was the same colour as hers and he wore it a little long and shaggy.  Harry realized that he was the teenager who had been with the girl.

 

“Did you bury it?”  he demanded, his arms crossed in front of him. 

 

He looked at Marauder in surprise when he barked at him.

 

Ginny giggled again, moving around Harry and holding her arms up to the young man who simply picked her up and kissed her cheek.  “I was hiding it from Charlie.”

 

“Uh-huh,” he said, shaking his head.  “You’re a little mischief maker, little one.  But I love that you keep all of my secrets for me.”  He kissed her cheek again and he smiled at Harry.  “Who’s your friend, Ginny?”

 

“That’s Harry Potter!”  she exclaimed, her eyes wide.  “He’s nice.”

 

Harry smiled sheepishly, putting his hands in his pockets as Remus approached them.

 

Remus put a hand on Harry’s shoulder and smiled at the teenage boy who was still holding Ginny.  “Hello.”

 

The redhead smiled at Remus.  “Hi, my sister was just causing trouble.  I’m Bill and this is Ginny.”

 

“Remus,” Remus said, extending his hand.  “Harry, did you make a friend?”

 

Ginny jumped down from Bill’s arms and hugged Harry tightly again.  “You come to my birthday!”  Then she simply held her arms out to Bill again so that he would pick her back up.

 

Harry simply beamed at her and Remus smiled at Bill.  “Looks like they both made a new friend.  When is her birthday?”

 

Bill smiled.  “The eleventh of August, but we’re having her party next Sunday.  Harry would be more than welcome if he wants to come.  Is he really Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived?”  He asked, looking at Harry with interest.

 

Remus smiled.  “He’s really a six-year-old-boy, but yes, his name is Harry.”

 

Bill flushed in embarrassment.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… it’s just, he’s become rather famous, you know?  My parents even tell Ginny his tale as a bedtime story; about how he saved the world from You Know Who.  It’s sometimes hard to believe that a child is the one who really defeated him.”

 

“I know,” Remus said still smiling.  “I just want him to have a normal childhood.”

 

Bill nodded.  “Well, he’s most welcome at The Burrow, as are you.  It’s on the tenth.  Be there at one.  We’re just five minutes away in Ottery St Catchpole.”

 

Remus smiled warmly.  “We’d be happy to come.”

 

Bill smiled brightly.  “Good, I know Ginny would be disappointed if she invited a new friend and he didn’t show up at her birthday.”

 

Remus smiled back, taking Harry’s hand as they headed away from the park.  Harry looked back to watch Ginny point to the sandbox, giggling madly again when Bill started to tickle her before they dug out the journal that she had buried.

 

“Can I go, Uncle Moony?”

 

Remus smiled warmly, watching the way Harry’s eyes stayed on the tiny girl who was being tickled quite incessantly by the tall boy and they were both laughing like loons.  “To her birthday?”  At Harry’s eager nod, he smiled.  “Of course, you can.  We’ll have to get her a birthday present.”

 

Harry grinned widely.  The feel of the small girl with her arms wrapped around him had left a warm feeling inside of him.  He had never had a friend before.  He let Remus pick him up and he side Apparated back to the house, clinging to Remus and holding a squirming Marauder tightly.  He didn’t like Apparition quite as much as travelling by Floo and he was pretty sure that Marauder didn’t like it either.

 

Sirius was waiting for them when they got back and he grinned widely, hugging Harry tightly as he ran into his arms.  “How was your time in Ottery St Mary?  Did you guys buy any books?”

 

“Harry made a new friend,” Remus said as he closed the front door behind him.  “A pretty little redhead named Ginny.”

 

Sirius grinned widely, greeting Marauder who was jumping eagerly for attention at his feet.  “A girl, eh?  And a redhead at that, he really is Prongs’ son.”

 

Remus chuckled.  “I think we have eons before we have to worry about that, Padfoot.”

 

Sirius laughed, putting Harry back on his feet.  “I picked up some pasta in London on my way back.  There’s a warming charm on it, but let’s go eat.”

 

Harry went upstairs to wash up and Sirius turned to Remus.  “So a redhead, eh?”

 

Remus grinned.  “Yes, a redhead.  She’s turning five next week and Harry was invited to her birthday next weekend.  I told him he could go.  She was with her brother who extended the invitation to us.”

 

“Where is the party?”  Sirius asked, leading Remus into the kitchen to scoop out some pasta for Harry.

 

“Someplace called The Burrow in Ottery St Catchpole.  I’ve never heard of it, but I’m sure that it can’t be that hard to find.  They’re wizards as the girl recognized Harry by his scar.”

 

Sirius nodded as Harry came back downstairs, hands freshly washed and took a seat at the table.  He eagerly dived into the pasta with meat sauce.

 

Sirius smiled at his godson.  “So, Harry, tell me about your new friend?”

 

Harry smiled widely.  “Her name is Ginny.  She hid her brother’s journal in the sandbox.  She has red hair and brown eyes and she hugged me and kissed me right on my mouth!”

 

Sirius chuckled.  “First kiss already and from a redhead at that.”

 

Remus rolled his eyes.  “Don’t start, Padfoot.”

 

Harry only grinned at them.  “She kissed my cheek too.  Marauder liked her.  She said she was sorry I didn’t have a mummy and a daddy.  She was nice.”

 

Sirius looked sad for a moment.  “She knew you were Harry Potter?”

 

Harry nodded as he ate.  “She saw my scar.”

 

Sirius sighed, leaning back in his chair.  “Harry, remember how I told you that a dark wizard had killed your parents, but that when he tried to kill you, he was… he disappeared?”  At Harry’s nod, he continued.  “People all over Britain tell your story.  You are the little boy who made the big bad disappear; people feel safe again.  They call you The Boy Who Lived.”

 

“Oh,” Harry said, looking pensive for a moment.  “Because I didn’t die like my mum and dad?”

 

“Yes, Harry, exactly.”

 

Harry was quiet for a moment.  “So everyone knows that I don’t have a mummy and a daddy?”

 

Sirius smiled at him, looking at Remus and they both moved in and kissed Harry on either cheek so that he was squeezed between them like a sandwich, making him giggle.  “Your mummy and daddy will always love you, but you have me and Uncle Moony and we will always love you too.”

 

“And we will always be here for you no matter what,”  Remus told him smiling.

 

Harry smiled at them, hugging them both.  “I love you, Uncle Siri.  I love you, Uncle Remus.”

 

Remus’ eyes widened and Sirius grinned back at him as they both sat back down to finish their meals.  He understood how his friend was feeling.  Hearing Harry say those three little words meant more than he could possibly explain.

 

After dinner, Harry helped Sirius clean up the dinner dishes, standing on the stool as he carefully dried their plates and forks.  Sirius helped him put the dishes back on the shelf as Remus took Marauder outside to pee.  

 

Marauder was investigating a nearby bush in curiosity and Remus jumped when he saw the figure move out from behind the house.

 

“Nymphadora, you scared me!”  Remus exclaimed, placing a hand over his heart.  “What are you doing here?”

 

Tonks shrugged, moving over to scratch Marauder behind the ears.  “I had some Transfiguration homework for a project to finish at Charlie’s house and thought I’d stop by on my way home.”

 

Remus’ eyebrow rose.  “Does your mother know that you just wandered off from a friend’s house?”

 

Tonks rolled her eyes, popping a large pink bubble before she spoke.  “I’m not a little kid and I used the Floo to get here.  Sirius told me that you were outside.  Charlie’s little sister was all excited because she met Harry Potter at the park.  Mrs Weasley thinks her daughter is hallucinating slightly, I think.”

 

“Weasley?  Arthur Weasley?”

 

Tonks shrugged, taking a seat on the bench.  She wore a purple plaid skirt and a black vest with a black jacket over her shoulders.  Her hair was in a high ponytail today and her black boots reached her knees.  “I think so.”

 

“I didn’t catch Ginny’s last name when we met her at the park this afternoon,” Remus told her as Marauder finally peed and was now running around the yard, barking playfully at the butterfly that was flying near his head.  “Arthur Weasley I’ve heard of though.  I believe he does something concerning Muggles at the Ministry.  And his wife, I think that she may have been a Prewett, I went to school with her twin brothers and I seem to remember their sister marrying a Weasley.”

 

“Don’t know,” Tonks told him, hopping off the bench.  “Did Harry choose a name for that adorable puppy yet?”

 

“Marauder,” Remus told her with a smile.

 

Tonks smiled back at him.  “Perfect!”

 

“Yeah, it’s a pretty great name.”  Remus told her, smiling.  “I see that you decided to add a darker pink to your hair.  It looks nice.”

 

Tonks blushed.  “Thanks.  Mum says the pink is too punk looking, but I like it.”

 

Remus smiled at her.  “It is a little punk, but that’s what makes it look good.  You have the colouring to pull it off.”

 

She blushed harder, tripping over a small rock and her eyes widened when Remus caught her in his arms before she could fall over.  “Thanks.  I’m always so clumsy.”

 

“You should be more careful.  I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

 

She beamed at him, a little disappointed when he let go of her arms.  “I won’t.  Thank you.”

 

Sirius stepped outside with Harry who ran to Tonks happily and hugged her.  Tonks smiled at Remus before she gave Harry her attention and they took turns tossing the Frisbee across the yard at Marauder.

 

Sirius wiggled his eyebrows at Remus.  “Could see her blushing from the kitchen window, were you flirting my dear, Moony?”

 

Remus’ face flushed.  “Flirt — Sirius!  She’s thirteen!  I would never!”

 

Sirius chuckled, slapping his friend on the back and leading him over to the two lawn chairs they had on the patio.  “I’m just teasing, calm down.  She fancies you.”

 

“What?”  Remus spluttered, his neck flushing now.  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

 

“I’m not,” Sirius said with a grin.  “She does.  Andy noticed it as well.  She said how it seems like Tonks wants to spend all of her free time over here with you and Harry.”

 

“She loves Harry,” Remus said stubbornly as he watched her throw the Frisbee rather impressibly as Marauder barked and yipped in his attempt to beat Harry to the toy.  “She loves to spend time with him.”

 

“True,” Sirius said.  “But she also usually pops by when I’m not here.”

 

Remus’ mouth opened in surprise.  “Well — you… you’re usually out and about and she’s here when I’m teaching Harry.  That’s just a coincidence.”

 

Sirius rolled his eyes.  “Moony, you’re sexy in her eyes, deal with it.  It’s just a crush.  We all had them.  Remember when I was in love with Rosmerta?”

 

“Did you ever stop?”  Remus asked him, making him laugh.

 

Sirius grinned wickedly.  “On my seventeenth birthday, I snuck into Hogsmeade to get some Firewhiskey from Aberforth, right?  But I popped into the Three Broomsticks first to tell her that it was my seventeenth birthday.  She was what, twenty-three, twenty-four at the time?”  At his friend’s nod, he grinned.  “She told me that she had some beer in the back I could have to celebrate.  I followed her into the store room and we snogged.”

 

Remus’ mouth opened in surprise.  “You never told us that!”

 

Sirius shrugged, grinning widely.  “We really, really snogged.  I think she was a bit embarrassed and made me promise not to tell anyone.”

 

“Did you only snog?”  Remus asked, his gold eyes on his friend’s now.

 

Sirius’ grin widened.  “That time.”

 

“Sirius!”  Remus exclaimed with a laugh.  “How long did this go on?  How on earth did you keep this a secret from us?”

 

He grinned, stretching his long legs out in front of him.  “About three times before she said we had to stop.  Let’s just say I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor in front of her while she held onto the top of the shelf in the storage room.”

 

Remus laughed.  “Not that you complained.”

 

“Not once,” he said with a grin, licking his lips at the memory.  “But seriously, our little Tonks has the hots for you.”

 

“I’m twenty-six, Sirius, she’s thirteen.  I think she’s a bit delusional.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “The heart fancies who the heart fancies.  And hey, obviously you’re not going to do anything because she’s a child, I just wanted to let you know since you’re probably the most oblivious person on the face of the planet when it comes to that sort of thing.”

 

Remus looked offended.  “No, I’m not.”

 

“Okay, oblivious isn’t the right word, denial is better.  You always assume you’re wrong because no one could possibly like you, ‘oh no, I’m a lonely young man who turns into a terrible beast, no one can ever love or want me.’”

 

“Shut it,” Remus said, scowling.  “I don’t sound like that.”

 

“Do too,” Sirius told him, smirking.  “Anyway, be mindful of her is all.”

 

Remus let his gaze fall back across the yard on the pretty young girl and he nodded.  The last thing he wanted was to hurt her feelings.  But she was only thirteen.  She had to realize that he wasn’t interested.  

 

“I will, Padfoot.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY:

 

It had been a week now since Sirius had brought Castellanos the gelato and had sneakily convinced her to kiss him.  She’d been on his mind almost every day, but he had been trying to be strong and stay away for a bit.  After all, absence made the heart grow fonder, did it not?

 

But that Monday, Harry was having his lessons with Remus so Sirius hopped on his bike and sped off to London.  He learned from her very cheerful receptionist that Castellanos only worked half days on Mondays.  After making the young woman stutter and blush, he discovered that Castellanos usually walked home from work.  He only waited about fifteen minutes outside of St Mungo’s before she stepped out of the hospital and he smirked at her, arms crossed as he straddled his motorcycle.

 

Castellanos didn’t see him at first, but then when her eyes landed on him, they widened, and she simply turned on her heel to head in the other direction.  Sirius jumped up off of the motorbike and hurried after her.

 

“Hey, that was just rude.”

 

She merely let out a breath of exasperation.  “I don’t have time for this, Black.”

 

Sirius shrugged and tugged her over to his motorcycle.  “The receptionist told me that you only worked half days on Mondays.”

 

“Well, she’s fired first thing tomorrow,” Castellanos told him, making him laugh.

 

Sirius was still holding her arm as he straddled his motorbike and offered his helmet out to her.  “Dare you.”

 

Castellanos stared at him.  “Of all of the childish things you could say to me that’s what comes out of your mouth.  You dare me?”

 

Sirius’ grin widened.  “Double dog dare you.”

 

Castellanos bit her lip and swore under her breath, taking the helmet from his outstretched hand.  “I’m hardly dressed appropriately to be getting on this thing.”

 

Sirius, watching as she climbed onto the seat behind him in her knee length black skirt riding high as her thighs pressed against him.  She was in black high heels and a white sleeveless silk blouse.  Her bag had her healer robe tossed over the top as she carefully extended the strap to tie it across her shoulders.  She put the helmet on her head and wrapped her arms around his waist and he grinned widely.

 

“Isn’t this much more comfortable, Castellanos?”

 

“Let’s get this over with,” she mumbled into his ear as he revved the engine.

 

Sirius only grinned as he sped off through the city.  He drove down to Hyde park, stopping the bike and parking it on the street.  Castellanos carefully climbed off, tugging the helmet over her head and handing it back to him.  She adjusted her skirt, sighing as she looked around the park.

 

“Well, I took a ride.  I’ll see you next month at your appointment with Harry.”

 

She made to walk off but he took her hand, tugging her up against him.  The feel of her pressed so close to him, after she had just spent the last twenty minutes with her legs wrapped around him from behind made him tremble.  She let out a small sigh when his hand wrapped around the back of her neck and he bent his head to kiss her.  Her lips parted for his easily and he slid his tongue between them greedily, smiling against her mouth when her arms twined around his neck and were in his hair.  He pressed her closer to him by the small of her back, making her very much aware of just what he was feeling as he kissed her.

 

Sirius licked his lips as he pulled away, grinning widely.  “Fancy getting a bite, love?”

 

Castellanos eyes were glazed over a bit when she opened them.  “I… we… I… we can’t do this, Black.”

 

He nipped gently at her lips.  “Why not?”

 

“Because I’m Harry’s healer.”

 

“Uh-huh,” he said, nipping at her neck.  Sirius sucked at the pulse point there until her head fell back.

 

“It’s unprofessional.”

 

“It is,” he agreed, his thumb rubbing the exposed skin on her left hip where her blouse had ridden up.  “If I were the patient — but I’m not, Harry is.”

 

Castellanos pushed him away, tugging her blouse down as discreetly as she could.  “I am Harry’s healer and with that comes responsibility on my part to be professional in all aspects of his life.  That includes not letting myself get involved with his guardian.”

 

Sirius grinned, moving close to her again and sitting his hands on her hips.  “All very gallant, Castellanos, high praise.”  Then his lips were on her neck again and she moaned, making him grin.  “So wanna grab a bite to eat, love?  Or would you rather I Apparate us somewhere a bit more private and I can bite you in all sorts of naughty places?”

 

She flushed against him, pushing him away.  “Sirius Black!”

 

“Althea Castellanos!”  he exclaimed in the same shocking tone she had just used.

 

“Don’t you know the meaning of the word no?”

 

“I do,” he told her, smirking.  “As I just told my friend Remus the other day, it means try again later.”  His hand squeezed her hip gently.  “And I hate to break it to you, baby, but you haven’t actually said no.”

 

Castellanos flushed in response and squealed when he pushed her back against the large tree, his knee between her legs and he kissed her deeply.  Her fingers twined themselves in his dark soft locks and she sighed against his mouth.  His fingers sat on her hips, gently stroking the soft skin from where her blouse had lifted.  His lips met hers over and over as his tongue danced with hers.  When he pulled away to catch his breath, she sighed.

 

“I should say no,” she mumbled as his lips trailed hotly over her collarbone.

 

Sirius smirked against her skin, letting his thumb pop open one of the buttons at the top of her blouse revealing more bronzed skin and the lace of a white camisole.  “But you won’t.”

 

“You don’t know what I’ll do,” she insisted stubbornly as his lips brushed along the top of her camisole.

 

Sirius let his tongue trail along the side of her neck and he kissed her lips softly.  “You’re right.  I don’t know what you’ll do.  But I know when someone is interested and when someone is not — and you, babe, are interested.”

 

At her look of annoyance, he grinned.

 

“But I also know that if we don’t grab a bite at that bistro I had in mind across the way in the next few minutes, I’m going to cast a privacy charm and take you right here against this tree.”  His hardness was pressed against her stomach and she merely nodded.

 

“Merlin,” she murmured, her eyes on his.  “Okay, you win, I’m interested.”

 

“Okay what, Castellanos?”  he demanded, grinding himself against her now.

 

Her breath hitched and she nodded again.  “Bistro.”

 

Sirius kissed the pulse point in her neck again before he stepped back, holding his hand out to her.  “Bistro it is.”

 

Castellanos’ hand curled into his and she smiled.  “But for the record, I could have stopped you any time that I wanted.”

 

Sirius smirked as he led her across the street.  “Oh, of that I have no doubt — but that’s the key phrase, isn’t it, Thea?”

 

“What?”  she asked, her voice breathless.

 

“You didn’t want to.”

 

She stared at him eyes wide as they stepped into the bistro and got a table.  “You are the most infuriating man that I have ever met.”

 

Sirius smiled, ordering a glass of wine as she did the same.  “I’ve been called worse.”

 

“It wasn’t a compliment,” she retorted, grabbing the menu from the table.  

 

Sirius only stared at her, smiling widely.  “You’re absolutely gorgeous.”

 

She flushed, but she kept staring at the menu.

 

“First time I saw you, I thought she’s beautiful.  But you’re more than that.  Gorgeous… breathtaking… all of that bronzed gold skin and the dark eyes.  A Greek goddess waiting for me to plunder her.”

 

“I’m hardly waiting for you to… do you even know what comes out of your mouth?”  she insisted, her eyes flashing.

 

Sirius grinned, leaning back in his seat.  “Yes, I know.”

 

The waitress came back and they each placed their order before Castellanos turned back to him.  “Okay, I’m not playing ignorant here.  We both know that I’m obviously attracted to you.”

 

“Aw, really?”

 

“Shut it,” she told him, half-smiling.  “I’m just saying that I don’t… it’s unprofessional to date someone who you meet at work.  Even though you’re not my patient, I see you on a professional basis because you have guardianship of your godson.”

 

Sirius nodded, taking a sip of his wine.  “I get what you’re saying and I respect that.  But I still want to lick every inch of you starting at your toes.”

 

Her toes curled in her shoes.  “That’s not my point,” she insisted.

 

“I know what your point is, but I’m saying it doesn’t change the way that I feel.”  He took her hand in his and gently pressed a kiss to the centre of her palm, spearing heat through her system.  “After lunch, you should show me your flat.”

 

“No, I really shouldn’t,” she said, her voice breathless.

 

Sirius merely grinned.   “Scared?”

 

Castellanos only stared at him.  “Maybe a little.”

 

“Good,” he said simply, letting his thumb move in concentric circles on her hand.  “So, Apollo told me that you have four older brothers and that you spent the first fourteen years of your life in Athens.  Tell me about it.”

 

Castellanos made to move her hand out of his grasp but he only smirked at her and held on.  “I’m Greek obviously.  I loved living in Athens and I often think about going back, but my whole family lives here now, and I love them and would hate to be away from them.  I like knowing that they live close by, you know?”

 

Sirius smiled.  “What’s Durmstrang like?  You always hear rumours about the other magic schools, but no one really knows details.  My parents contemplated sending me there after I misbehaved too severely in my first year.  It’s said that you actually learn the Dark Arts there — is that true?”

 

She nodded, her dark eyes on his.  “They didn’t force it upon you or anything, but it was an advanced class for anyone who was interested.  I was most definitely not interested.  My favourite professor was Professor Dragomir.  He was actually the charms professor, but he taught a duelling club that showed us how to defend ourselves against dark spells, much more useful I’d say.  He was really helpful when it came time for me to take my final exams and to do my healing tests.  I still write to him sometimes.”

 

“Sounds like a cool bloke.  I wish we had someone who did that at Hogwarts.  I mean, Flitwick, our charms professor, he taught a duelling club as well and he really taught some mean charms and tricks, but he didn’t have any real tips on defending oneself against dark spells.  To be honest, I didn’t even think there were specific things you could do.”

 

Castellanos shrugged.  “Yes… and no.  But I found him helpful nevertheless,” she sipped her wine and smiled at him.  “You said that you misbehaved in your first year?”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “More like all of the time, but yeah.”  When she chuckled in response, he continued.  “My best friends and I were quite the pranksters and troublemakers at school.  Our head of house called us the Marauders and it kind of stuck like our own little gang.  They were my family in every sense of the word; my best friends and my brothers and we had the most fun when we were at school.”

 

“That’s nice,” she said as the waitress placed their food choices in front of them.  

 

Castellanos watched as the waitress fluffed her hair and cocked her hip at Sirius as she spoke to him and the flame of jealousy that spit through her made her blanch.  She did not get jealous, she thought.  She had no claim to this man.  Sirius smiled at the waitress and turn to his food, his black locks framing his face and the dangerous stubble on his chin made Castellanos realize that she did want to claim him.  Maybe not forever, maybe not even for that long -- but the thought of that mouth starting at her toes and working its way up, and that stubble, scratching and tickling her skin while he moved.  She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.  If he made love even half as good as he kissed she was definitely in trouble.  

 

Not that she was going to sleep with him of course, she told herself.  But if she let her imagination think about it… she loved stubble on a man.  It just made them look so dangerous and who didn’t love a bad boy?  She might be in trouble, she thought.

 

He was giving her a knowing smile as if he could read her thoughts and she glared at him, pushing all of her thoughts behind her.  “What?”

 

“Nothing,” he said, grinning as he took a bite of his turkey sandwich and munched on a chip.

 

“Tell me about Harry,” she said quickly, reaching for her own chip.  “Why are you his designated guardian now?”

 

“I was always meant to be,” he told her.  He picked up his wine glass and drank quickly.  “I was named godfather to Harry before he was even born.  James and Lily asked me to sign papers that if anything were to ever happen to them that I would raise him.  I promised I would and we made it official.  Lily’s parents died in our seventh year at school; a car crash.  She was devastated.  And James’ parents… Fee and Monty died of dragon pox when Lily was pregnant with Harry.  James was like a brother to me and his parents were the most incredible people I had ever known, I basically grew up with them.  Anyway, they asked me to be guardian if anything were to happen and when Harry was fifteen months old… well Voldemort attacked; killed both of them and I discovered that they had been killed based on information one of my best friends had given Voldemort.  I let my anger get the best of me and I went after him.  He framed me.  I got arrested and I went to Azkaban.”

 

She nodded, her hand on her fry.  “After you left that day, I asked about why your name was familiar to me.  My receptionist told me that you had recently been released from prison after having been declared innocent.”

 

Sirius nodded.  “After I got out, I wanted to get to know my godson.  He was being kept with Lily’s sister and her husband and they mistreated him as you saw — and now he’s with me, where he’s safe and happy.  I gave him Marauder, his puppy that he loves and sleeps with every night and plays with most days.  The puppy sleeps at his feet while he does his studies and he plays with the dog in the yard after dinner and in the afternoon.”  Sirius told her, smiling.  “He’s happy.  And I’m happy.  My best friend, Remus Lupin, helps me out with Harry.  He’s practically his guardian as well as far as I’m concerned.”

 

“And where is Harry at the moment?”  Castellanos asked, taking a bite from her chicken wrap.

 

“At home with Remus.  He’s teaching him.  I said I’d be home for dinner.”  Sirius told her, smiling.  “But Remus has been wanting Harry to sleep over at his place and that can definitely be arranged soon.”

 

Castellanos smiled as she ate.  “I’m sure that it can.”

 

They finished their lunch, talking about this and that before Sirius paid, taking her hand and leading her back out to his motorcycle.  He held the helmet out to her.

 

“Hold on tight.”

 

She climbed up behind him and wrapped her arms and thighs around his waist.

 

“Where do you live, Castellanos?”

 

She bit her bottom lip as if she was debating actually telling him that information and then she nodded and rattled off an address and Sirius revved up the motorbike and zoomed out.

 

It took less than ten minutes for her to get home, pointing to an area where he could park the bike.  He killed the engine and she pulled the helmet off, handing it back to him.

 

“You should really wear a helmet too, you know.”

 

He only grinned and helped her off of the bike, extending his hand.  “I’ll walk you up.”

 

She hesitated.  “You can’t come in.”

 

Sirius smiled at her.  “I’ll walk you up.  It would be rude of me not to.”

 

Castellanos accepted his hand and led him up to the third floor.  Her flat was the second door on the left and she smiled as she pulled her purse over her shoulder.  “Thank you for today — it was nice.”

 

Sirius nodded, taking her purse from her so that she could find her keys.  “It was nice.  Thanks for finally agreeing to it.”

 

She nodded, tugging the keys free.  “Well, to be fair — you didn’t give me much choice.”

 

He grinned.  “Sure I did, I dared you — but you could have said no.”

 

“I did.  Then you double dogged dared me.”

 

“You didn’t say no, Althea,” he said softly and she licked her lips.

 

“Well, goodbye then.”

 

Sirius only smiled.  “You know that I’m going to kiss you goodbye.”

 

“Are you?”  she asked before she turned and threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.  The keys in her hand hit the floor and he pinned her back against the door, deepening the kiss.

 

Every inch of her was pressed up close against him and all he could think about was how much he had missed women.  How much he missed this close contact with another person; how much he missed sex.  Her lips were soft and firm and as his tongue met hers, she let out a deep moan and sighed when he pulled away.  He pressed the keys into her hand with a smirk.

 

“Unlock your door, Althea.”

 

Castellanos turned around and fumbled the key into the lock, unlocking the door.  “You can’t come in, Sirius.”

 

Sirius’ lips brushed hers so softly it sent a shiver through her body.  “So you said.”  He let his lips linger once more over hers.  “Go out with me again this week.  When’s your next day off?”

 

“Saturday,” she told him, kissing his neck.

 

He grinned, letting his head fall back to give her better access.  “I’ll pick you up for six.  Wear a little black dress and heels.”

 

Her eyebrow rose, pulling back to stare at him.  “Are you honestly telling me what to wear now?”

 

Sirius grinned and bent his head to brush his lips with hers.  “Wear a little black dress, Castellanos.”  He tossed her purse onto the floor of the flat and grinned when she tugged him by his jacket towards her and kissed him deeply.

 

“My roommate only works until four,” she murmured against his lips.  “That’s why you can’t come in.”

 

Sirius lifted her up by the hips and her legs wrapped around his waist.  He pinned her back against the wall of the living room that they had just walked into and his hand slid provocatively up her thigh.  “It’s only two thirty.”

 

She moaned when his fingers brushed higher up her thigh, touching the silk panties she wore.  “No… no, we can’t,” she groaned.  “Stop.”

 

Sirius nipped her lips as he slid her down his body, letting her feel every last inch of him as she descended back to the ground and gently took a step away from her.  “I’m stopping.  Why are we stopping again?”

 

Castellanos’ own breathing was heavy, but she shook her head.  “No.  This is just… too fast.  Saturday, six o’clock.  I’ll wear a dress.”

 

He grinned at her.  “A short one?”

 

“Don’t push your luck, Black.”

 

“See you Saturday, Althea.”

 

When she closed the door to her flat behind him, she leaned back against it and let out of a long sigh.  Sirius Black was trouble alright, she thought and the real trouble was that she liked it.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sirius was whistling as he drove his motorcycle around the back of the house and into the yard.  He had a date with Althea Castellanos and he was looking forward to it.  He shut the engine off just as Harry came bolting across the grass towards him with Marauder tripping over his feet behind him.

 

“Uncle Siri!  Uncle Siri!”  he shouted as Sirius climbed off of his motorcycle.

 

“Hey Prongslet, where’s the fire?”  Sirius asked him.

 

Harry threw his arms around Sirius’ waist, grinning widely up at him.  “Guess what?”

 

“What?”  Sirius exclaimed, picking him up and hoisting him onto his hip.

 

“There was a big volcano called Vesuvius!  And it went pow!  And boom!  And it covered all the people in ash!”

 

“There was?”  Sirius asked, his eyes going wide in shock as he winked at Remus who was sitting in a lawn chair on the patio grinning at the two of them.

 

“Pompeii,” Remus supplied.  “Just a little Muggle history lesson today.  Harry seems to like the Romans.”

 

“Ah,” Sirius responded, reaching down to scratch Marauder behind the ears who was begging for his attention.  “Very interesting.  What else did you learn today, Harry?”

 

He listened attentively as Harry told him all about his daily activities.

 

“Wow, it sounds like you had a very busy day.”

 

Harry nodded, his smile wide.  “I did and Uncle Moony said that I didn’t have to have a nap if I didn’t want to.”

 

“Oh really?”  Sirius said, placing Harry back on his feet as he plopped himself into the chair next to his friend.  

 

Harry bolted back across the lawn, seemingly to burn off an endless supply of energy as Marauder barked and chased after him.

 

Remus shrugged, shifting his left leg over his right.  “He’s six now.  He doesn’t really need them.  I figured I’d see how he dealt this week without a nap, but he seems fine.  Look how much energy he has,” he pointed to Harry who was shrieking in laughter as Marauder chased him.  “How was your day?”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “Great actually.  Had lunch with Castellanos and convinced her to go on a date with me on Saturday.”

 

“Oh,” Remus said with a knowing smile.  “A date, eh?  I kind of thought she was going to keep being stubborn.”

 

Sirius laughed.  “I let my lips do the talking, Moony.  No one can resist these beauties,” he replied as he made kissing noises with his mouth.

 

Remus laughed and shook his head.  “Oh, sorry, forgot who I was talking to.  You are so full of it.”

 

“Still got the date,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.  “And hopefully a shag will soon follow so what about having that sleepover with Harry at your place on Saturday night?  That way, if things go as I think they will, I won’t be so worried about getting home late.”

 

Remus nodded, smiling at his friend.  “That sounds good actually.  You know I’ve been wanting him to come stay overnight with me.  By the way, I meant to say something to you yesterday, but you distracted me with the whole Nymphadora fancies me shite.”

 

“Oh?  You mean when I pointed out that our young Dora thinks you’re sexy and you got all flustered?  Yes, do go on.”

 

Remus ignored his friend, but the backs of his ears reddened.  “Nymphadora mentioned that she had been working on a transfiguration project with her friend Charlie Weasley and his little sister Ginny had been excitedly telling her mum about how Harry Potter was coming to her birthday party.”

 

“Weasley?”

 

He nodded.  “I vaguely recognized the name, but I wasn’t positive.  Didn’t Fab and Gid’s older sister marry a Weasley?”

 

“I think so, yeah.  Man, I haven’t thought of them in years.  Remember when I snogged Gideon on a dare back in fourth year?”

 

Remus laughed, scratching the stubble on his chin.  “I do.  James told you to keep your tongue in your own mouth before he vomited.  And then when you snogged Dorcas he threatened to vomit on you.  I believe he said watching you suck face was enough to make Snivellus want to shower.”

 

Sirius grinned as he thought about the memory.  “Gideon was a good snog too, I’ll give him that.  Dorcas was too eager, I guess is the word.  But she had breasts and touching them was better than any snog Gid could ever give me.”

 

Remus chuckled.  “I remember when Fabian dared you to touch Dorcas’ breasts, you were practically bouncing in excitement.”

 

“Ha, those were the days!”  he said with a laugh.  “I wonder how Fab and Gid are doing?  We should write them and get them over here for dinner or something?”

 

Remus’ eyes darkened and he shook his head.  “Padfoot… they’re dead.”

 

“What?”  Sirius asked, his eyes wide.  “What do you mean they’re dead?  They were two of the most talented duellists I’ve ever seen outside of James and Lily — and Dumbledore, of course.”

 

Remus only stared at him a minute.  “About a month, maybe two, after you were arrested, Sirius… both of them.  Dolohov went to prison for killing them, but Moody said that it took five DE’s to take them down.”

 

“Damn it!”  Sirius exhaled, dragging his fingers through his hair and away from his face.  “I guess we never got around to having that conversation, did we, Moony?”

 

Remus shrugged, turning in his chair to face his friend.  “The Order officially disbanded about two years after James and Lily were killed, but within six months we had all stopped going on missions.  But yeah, we lost… a lot of amazing people, Sirius.  Frank and Alice too, before the Prewetts.”

 

“That was mentioned at my trial,” Sirius said, vaguely remembering the Longbottom name being mentioned by Crouch.  “I didn’t know what Crouch had meant about his son in pertinence to the Longbottoms.”

 

“You remember Bartemius Crouch Jr?”  he asked.  “He was two years behind us in school?  Apparently he was a Death Eater.  He worked with your cousin Bellatrix and her husband.  They were interrogating those they suspected of working with Dumbledore in the Order, trying to find information on how Harry survived and their master had vanished.  They tortured Frank and Alice with the Cruciatus.”

 

“They had a son about Harry’s age, didn’t they?”

 

Remus nodded, his eyes moving to Harry, who was now throwing one of Marauder’s toys and watching the puppy bound after it gleefully.  “Neville, yeah.  He’s a few days older than Harry.  They’re not dead, Sirius.  Frank and Alice are… they’re insane.  They live at St Mungo’s.”

 

Sirius stared at his friend for a moment, his eyes dark.  “Idiots.  Even my parents understood that to hold the curse into place for longer than two minute intervals attacks the brain.  You don’t get information from insane people.  Poor kid — who’s raising him?”

 

“Frank’s mum.  Remember her?  Augusta Longbottom?  She’s a powerful witch and one of the most formidable women I’ve ever met.  Even Frank was afraid to cross her.”

 

“Poor kid,” Sirius repeated, his eyes finding Harry who was giggling as Marauder wrestled with him.  “I think it’s better that James and Lily are dead.  To have them… but to not really have them — that’s got to be way worse, right?  Do they even know that he’s their son?”

 

Remus shook his head.  “I don’t know.”

 

“We should get Harry and Neville together sometime.  They could be friends.”

 

“That’s a good idea, Sirius,” Remus said with a smile.

 

Sirius tapped his fingers on the side of the chair as they watched Harry play with Marauder before he spoke.  “Who else is gone, Moony?”

 

“Well, you knew Marly and Mary were killed before James and Lily.  Dorcas Meadows, remember Voldemort personally took her out two days before James and Lily.  We didn’t find out until after… and Edgar Bones?  Death Eaters killed him, his wife, and his children just before Christmas.  Benjy Fenwick was blasted apart by Death Eaters — Moody said that they had only found bits of him,” Remus told him, his eyes sad.  “And Caradoc.”

 

“Bloody hell — Dearborn too, eh?”

 

Remus nodded.  “He went missing.  He’s still officially MIA according to the DMLE, but we’re positive he’s dead.  Last we heard, he was being chased by Death Eaters while on one of his missions.  He was working with Fenwick when he went down so… all gone.”

 

“Guess I should have known that losing James and Lily wouldn’t have been the end.”

 

Remus nodded, closing his eyes as he sadly remembered those he had once considered friends.  “Once the known Death Eaters were rounded up and arrested, everything mostly calmed down by the end of January of ‘82.  But we both know that not all of the DE’s are in Azkaban.  A lot of them are still unknown or too well protected to be proven.  Dumbledore kept the Order going for almost two years after James and Lily died, he was convinced that Voldemort was still out there somewhere, but after Frank and Alice… the DE’s that hadn’t been arrested were hidden well underground and the war was essentially over by then.”

 

“Like Peter,” Sirius spat bitterly as Harry approached them, taking a long drink from the glass of water on the table.

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Who’s Peter?”  Harry asked, still holding the water glass in his hand as he sat down cross legged on the grass at his godfather’s feet.

 

“Hmm?”  Sirius asked.

 

Remus rolled his eyes.  “Sirius, don’t feign ignorance, it’s beneath you — and he deserves to know.”  Remus let out a slow breath before he answered his nephew.  “Peter was our friend, Harry.”

 

“Was?  The other bloke in the photos?”  Harry asked, his eyes on Remus.  “Is he gone like my mum and dad?”

 

“I fucking wish,” Sirius muttered, taking a long drink of water from the glass in his godson’s hand.

 

“Sirius, don’t swear in front of Harry,” Remus hissed at him.

 

Sirius stared at Harry for a moment.  “Peter’s not dead, Harry, but he deserves to be.  He was our friend and he betrayed us.  He fell in with Voldemort and his Death Eater’s and he…“

 

Remus reached over to squeeze Sirius’ arm in reassurance when he trailed off.

 

Sirius swallowed slowly before he spoke.  “He’s the reason that I had to get locked up and the reason why you don’t have parents.”

 

Harry just looked at them.  “Oh.”

 

Remus reached down to lift Harry up into his lap.  “Don’t worry, Harry.  He’s gone deep into hiding.  Sirius and I would never let him hurt you.”

 

Harry nodded, hugging Remus.  “I know that.”

 

Remus kissed Harry’s forehead with a smile.  “Hey, Harry, how do you feel about coming to stay over at my house on Saturday?  You can bring Marauder and you guys can sleep over.  Then on Sunday, I’ll bring you home in time for Uncle Padfoot to take you to Ginny’s birthday.”

 

Harry nodded eagerly.  “Can we bake chocolate chip biscuits?”

 

“Definitely.  And we’ll make our own pizza and we can watch a movie on my new V.C.R..”

 

“Can Tonks come too?”  Harry asked as he grinned widely.  “She loves movies!  And she makes the best chocolate brownies ever!”

 

Sirius grinned widely as Remus hesitated.  “Yeah, Uncle Moony, can Tonks go too?”

 

Remus ignored his friend and gently brushed Harry’s fringe back.  “Well, I’m sure she’s busy, little Prongs, but we can ask her.”

 

Sirius only smirked at him.  “Bet you ten Galleons she’s free.”

 

“Shut it, Padfoot,” Remus said as Harry hurried off to play again.  “Just don’t say anything.”

 

Sirius only grinned wider and wiggled his eyebrows.  But he kept his mouth shut.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE:

 

Harry was sitting on the ground at Sirius’ feet as he sat on a crate next to his motorcycle.  Tools were spread out all around them and the back wheel of the bike was leaning against the wall of the house.

 

“Harry, can you pass me that lug nut there?”

 

Harry reached for the nut and passed it to Sirius with a smile as Sirius explained what the lug nut was and what he was currently using it for.  Sirius loved these moments with Harry.  He loved fiddling with his bike as he taught his godson the intricacies and delicacies of an engine, of what a motorcycle represents, and how to repair it.  Harry would listen attentively, asking questions that were actually quite inquisitive in Sirius’ opinion.  

 

After a few days of having Harry help him with the bike: checking oil levels, keeping it clean and working on the engine, Harry was now skilled enough that he knew what tool to pass Sirius when he asked for it.

 

Sirius blared Muggle music through the wireless record player that had been a gift from James for his fourteenth birthday.  Thinking of his friend, he played The Beatles — switching back to Queen and The Rolling Stones, but always going back to The Beatles.  Harry sang along to the songs that he knew, the ones that Sirius played often enough for him to have learnt.  It made him smile to hear him singing, but unlike his father, Harry had next to no singing talent whatsoever, which only made it sweeter.

 

That Saturday morning, Harry was helping Sirius wash the bike, soaping it up and cleaning the motorbike with great care.  He wanted it to be shiny for his date with Castellanos that night.

 

A large shadow fell over them and Harry looked up in awe at the figure of the tall man who stood over them.  His hair was long and brown and scraggly as was his beard.  He stood taller than the tool shed and he wore a big grin on his face as he looked down at Harry.

 

“‘Arry!  I ‘aven’t seen yeh since yeh was a baby!”

 

Sirius grinned widely, wiping his soapy hands on a dry towel.  “Hagrid!  What a nice surprise!”  He extended his hand and the giant took it.  

 

Sirius looked down at where Harry was still sitting on the ground, his mouth open and head all the way back as he stared up at Hagrid seemingly in awe.  

 

“Harry, this is Hagrid, he works with Professor Dumbledore and Auntie Minnie at Hogwarts.”

 

Hagrid chuckled.  “Auntie Minnie, eh?  ‘Ow’s Minerva liking tha’?”

 

Sirius grinned sheepishly.  “She’s annoyed and ridiculously touched at the same time.”  He bent down to pick Harry up, sitting him on his hip.  “Say hi, Harry.”

 

“Hi,” Harry said, his eyes still wide.  “You’re tall!”

 

Hagrid’s beady eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled.  “That I am!”  He reached forward and a big hand ruffled Harry’s hair.

 

Sirius smiled in surprise.  First, Harry hadn’t flinched at all.  Second, Hagrid was very friendly, but he had still expected more shyness on Harry’s part.  And third, Harry was still staring up at the gamekeeper with a look of awe on his little face.

 

“You’ve shocked him, Hagrid,” he said with a laugh, putting Harry back on the ground.  “Harry, run into the kitchen and get two bottles of Dragon Scale from the ice box and you can have some pumpkin juice.”

 

Harry nodded as he eagerly ran off towards the house.

 

Hagrid watched him run off with a smile.  “‘E’s so big now, ain’t ‘e?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Yeah, he just turned six.  Come around the back and have a seat,” he said leading Hagrid around to the patio.  He tugged his wand out of his jeans, converting two of the old lawn chairs into a large chair for Hagrid before taking a seat on the bench.

 

Hagrid took a seat, his eyes roaming the backyard with a critical eye.  “Could use some yard work out ‘ere, Sirius — yer poor plants are dying over there!”

 

Sirius winced.  “I know, Hagrid.  I’m working on it.  I don’t know too much about gardening and landscaping.”

 

Hagrid nodded.  “I’d be ‘appy ter ‘elp out!”

 

“Thanks.  I’ll be sure to ask your advice when I get started.”

 

Hagrid beamed as Harry came out the back door, carefully carrying the three bottles in his arms.

 

Sirius took them from him, passing one of the bottles of Dragon Scale to Hagrid before he helped Harry open the bottle of pumpkin juice.  Harry sat next to him on the bench, drinking eagerly.  Sirius opened his own beer, drinking deeply before smiling at Hagrid.  “So what do we owe this visit, Hagrid?”

 

Hagrid smiled, placing his beer on the ground next to him.  “Dumbledore sent me.  ‘E wanted ter come ‘imself, but th’ Ministry needed him urgently for somethin’ or other.”

 

Sirius nodded and waited patiently for Hagrid to continue.  He had always been charmed by the old gamekeeper, but he hadn’t known him as well as Lily had.  Lily had befriended him in first year; asking him questions about his gardens and helping him plant and dig and water on the weekends.  She used to go over for tea once a week too, Sirius remembered.  

 

“The whole Dursley situation ‘as been taken care of.”

 

“Meaning?”  Sirius asked, regretting the words immediately.  He already knew that if the punishment wasn’t as severe as he wanted that he was going to be angry.  It was better if he didn’t know.  “Actually, Hagrid, don’t tell me.  Just… are they being disciplined?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Sirius nodded, slipping his arm around Harry and tugging him against his side.  Harry merely grinned, leaning into the hug.  “Good.  I don’t need to know anymore about it.”

 

Hagrid smiled.  “Yer doing a great thing ‘ere, Sirius, takin’ ‘im in, raisin’ him.”

 

“He’s a pretty great kid,” Sirius said, grinning down at his godson.  “My only regret is letting you take him that night.”

 

Hagrid nodded solemnly.  “I was only followin’ Dumbledore’s orders, it was’na personal.”

 

“I know,” Sirius told him as Harry put his juice down and hurried off across the yard to play with Marauder.  “And it wasn’t you, it’s where he ended up.  I know Dumbledore had the best of intentions, but they were shit and Harry suffered needlessly at the hands of those ruddy Muggles.”

 

“He’s a good man, Dumbledore, best there is, but ‘ow was he supposed ter know?”

 

Sirius’ fists clenched together.  “He should have kept better tabs, but he didn’t and well, here we are.  I have him now.  He’s safe now and that’s all that matters.”  He looked out as Harry chased Marauder and he smiled.  “And I think that he’s finally happy too.”

 

“Sure looks like it,” Hagrid said grinning.  “Tha’ ‘is dog?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Yes.  I gave him to him for his birthday two weeks ago.  He named him Marauder.  He’s ten weeks old.  Do you still have that big boar hound?  Merlin, what was his name… Kane?  No, Cujo?  No, it was Killer!”

 

Hagrid chuckled, “I do.  Killer is still kickin’ it.  ‘E’s still a coward too!  I found ‘im a mate, her name’s ‘Untress.  Met a chap down at th; pub interested in breedin’ ‘em.  Might get meself a new pup.”

 

Sirius smiled.  “Sounds great, Hagrid.”

 

They chatted some more about dogs.  Hagrid filled Sirius in on a few gardening tips; asked about the bike, complimenting Sirius on the new look of it and then he took off.  He waved goodbye to Harry, who grinned widely at him and headed back to Hogwarts.

 

Sirius glanced at the clock as Hagrid left and grinned.  He used his wand to quickly do a fresh clean on the bike, taking off any residue or soap scum that may have lingered due to the interruption and then he grinned at Harry.

 

“Time to go inside and pack up what you need for Uncle Moony’s, Harry!”

 

Because he had a date.  And he couldn’t wait.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

When Remus came to pick up Harry, he was only slightly startled to find Nymphadora there as well.  He had thought that he had crushed any idea of her coming over to spend the evening with he and Harry, but when he looked at his friend’s smirking face, he knew instantly that Sirius had known his plan and had changed it.

 

It wasn’t that he didn’t want her to come, he told himself.  He liked Nymphadora.  She was spunky and funny and she always made him smile and Harry absolutely adored her.  It was just now that he knew she fancied him, he felt rather awkward.  What if he sent the wrong message across?  What if he gave her the wrong impression?  Or worst of all — what if he crushed her or hurt her feelings?  It was the very last thing that he wanted.  His life had been so much easier when Sirius had left him alone in his ignorant bliss.

 

He scooped Harry up into his arms, making sure that his knapsack was full of clothing and his toys before he grabbed the other small bag that held his stuffed animals and food and toys for Marauder.

 

“Are we ready to go, little Prongs?”

 

Harry grinned widely.  “Bye, Uncle Padfoot!  See you tomorrow.”

 

Sirius smiled back.  “Bye, Harry, have fun with Uncle Moony and Tonks.”

 

“Nymphadora, can you bring Marauder?”  Remus asked as he stepped into the fireplace.

 

Tonks nodded, holding onto Marauder’s leash as she scooped the puppy into her arms and followed Remus through the Floo.

 

Remus was helping Harry take his knapsack off as she let go of Marauder and he made a beeline towards Harry.

 

Tonks dusted herself off, smiling warmly at Remus.  “Thanks for inviting me tonight, Remus.”

 

He nodded, his eyes on Harry.  “Harry wanted you to come.  You’ve made quite the impression on him.”

 

She smiled warmly, “I’m glad.  He’s an adorable little boy.”

 

Remus nodded and let out a long, slow breath.  It would be fine.  He wouldn’t let her know that he knew that she fancied him.  She was just a kid and he would treat her as such.  Sirius had made him worried for no reason.

 

Remus told Harry to put his stuff in his bedroom as Harry eagerly showed Tonks the room they had renovated just for him.  Remus knew that overtime the room would show signs that a boy lived there, but Harry loved it just the same.

 

“Well, if it’s okay with you two,” Remus began.  “I thought that we could start with making those biscuits and brownies.”

 

Harry grinned and jumped up in excitement as he made a beeline for the kitchen. 

 

Tonks laughed and clapped her hands together in anticipation.  “I have all of the stuff for brownies right here.”

 

“Great,” Remus said with a smile.  “Let’s get started.”

 

Thirty minutes later, the three of them were laughing.  Loud music was playing, Tonks had chosen Billy Idol who according to her was a total boss, and so tidy.  Remus, who actually enjoyed Billy Idol himself, only rocked along to the music quietly as Tonks led the way in brownie baking.

 

Once the brownies were in the oven, they moved onto the chocolate chip biscuits.  Harry eagerly slid his finger along the cookie dough in the bowl, grinning widely as he ate out the sweetness after they were finished.  

 

Remus could see how much Harry loved to help out.  Sirius had mentioned the chores and tasks that the Dursleys had forced Harry to do for them, treating him like a servant instead of their nephew.  Sirius had started Harry off by doing simple chores, firstly because Harry wanted to help out (having been used to doing things constantly at the Dursleys) and secondly because Sirius knew how important it felt to do things, to help the people who took you in (Sirius had learned that while living with the Potters, he wanted to show how grateful he truly was for them allowing him to live there) and third, he wanted it to feel like home and being at home, one had these kinds of responsibilities.

 

Remus agreed with Sirius for all of the above reasons, but also because unlike Sirius, he had come from a much more modest household.  His own mother had been a Muggle and his father, after having to change his job to deal with his son’s new werewolf tendencies, had taken quite a big pay cut.  The three of them had worked together to keep their home.  He had grown up with the thought that a child should help out with the chores, not having a house elf like some of the wealthier families.  Remus was very pleased that Sirius seemed to be keeping the same mindset, despite his own wealthier upbringing.

 

The three of them cleaned up the mess they made as the sweets cooked in the oven.  It was quite warm outside, so Remus had filled up three baskets full of water balloons.  He dug them out and Tonks grinned mischievously, grabbing one and immediately crushing it over Remus’ head.

 

Harry’s eyes widened in amazement and then he spluttered when a red balloon crashed into his chest and water exploded.  Soon the three of them were outside having the time of their lives (Remus taking a short intermission to pull the desserts out of the oven) before jumping back into the fray.

 

By the time that the last of the balloons were gone, the three of them were drenched and clutching their sides in laughter.  Remus handed Tonks and Harry each a towel to dry off and he tugged off his own tee shirt, wiping his chest and shoulders, oblivious to the way Tonks’ eyes had widened as she stared at him in awe.

 

Harry immediately hurried over to him, touching the tattoo that he had on his left shoulder.  “It’s just like Uncle Padfoot’s!”

 

Remus smiled, kneeling down so that Harry could examine it more closely.  The summer before their final year at Hogwarts, the four of them had decided to get matching tattoos to commemorate their friendship.  He had designed the crest himself, he remembered, the Marauder crest with their four animals each representing a side.

 

“Are we sure that we’re doing this?”  Peter asked for the twentieth time as they approached the tattoo parlour in Knockturn Alley.  “We have to be positive!”

 

“Wormtail, you’ve come with me for all of my tattoos — when am I not positive?”

 

“Not you, Padfoot!”  Peter said, rolling his eyes.  “Us other normal three, who have yet to mark up our beautiful skin with ink.”

 

James’ arm came around Peter’s shoulder.   “I love the idea, Pete!  Something great to memorialize us!  And the crest that Moony designed is perfect, don’t you agree?”

 

Peter nodded, grinning up at James.  “No, I agree.”

 

Sirius grinned widely at the guy behind the counter.  “Hey, Larry, I brought some friends with me this time,” he said as he pulled his shirt off.  He already had the moon chart; the Gryffindor crest; the star chart of his own name on his shoulder; and runic symbols with the footprints from the map surrounding it.  “We all want the same tat.”

 

Larry nodded.  He had spiky blue hair and fifteen visible piercings.  Both of his arms were completely covered in tattoos in bright vivid colours.  “Sounds great, Black!  What did you have in mind this time?”

 

Remus reached into his pocket and pulled out the parchment where he had detailed the Marauder Crest and the words: I solemnly swear I am up to no good.  “This here.”

 

Larry nodded, eyeing the sketch.  “Looks easy enough.  How big are we talking and where is it going?”

 

Sirius hopped onto the table, bunching his shirt in his hands.  “About the size of a coaster?”  he suggested, lifting one off of the glass table and holding it up to his friends who all nodded in agreement.  “Wicked.  I’ll go first, since I’ve done this before.”  He lied on the table and pointed back to his left shoulder blade.  “Just here, Larry.”

 

Larry nodded, getting to work to find his ink pallet and grabbing his wand.  James, Remus, and Peter watched as he muttered a spell and used his wand to burn the ink into Sirius’ shoulder blade.  It took thirty minutes as he sealed it over.  He added a quick charm over the tattoo, making each animal move in their area of the crest.

 

“Done.  It looks great, Sirius,” Larry told him.

 

Sirius grinned, jumping to his feet and checking out his back in the mirror.  “Yeah, it does.  Great work!”  He turned and grinned at his friends.  “Who’s next?”

 

James pulled off his tee shirt and hopped up onto the table.  “Me.  Same spot,” he said, lying on his stomach.

 

Peter went third.

 

“Left shoulder blade?”  Larry asked, holding his wand in his hand.

 

Peter shook his head.  “No.  I want it here,” he said pointing to his right forearm.  “Here by the base of the wrist.  I want to see it.”

 

James grinned and slapped his friend on the back.  “Perfect place, Wormtail!”

 

Peter grinned, tugging his shirt off so that the artist had better access.

 

When he was done, the three of them turned to Remus.

 

He only smiled and pulled his own shirt off.  None of them commented on the multiple white scars.  They only smiled at him.

 

He sat in the chair and smiled at Larry.  “On my shoulder please,” he said tapping the top of his left arm.  “Right at the top.”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “Great choice.”

 

When Remus’ tattoo was inked, James pulled a camera from his bag.  “Larry, would you mind?”

 

Larry grinned at them, accepting the camera.  “Not at all.”

 

James and Sirius turned so that their tattoos were visible.  Remus stood sideways in between the two of them, his left shoulder visible, and Peter stood next to James, holding his forearm out.  When the camera flashed, the four of them grinned widely at each other.

 

“My mum is so going to kill me,” Peter said as he looked at the tattoo of the four moving animals with a grin.  “Worth it.”

 

Remus laughed, looking at his shoulder with a big smile.  “Definitely worth it.”

 

“Hey, Lar, you got time to do one more quick one for me?”  Sirius asked as the three of them rolled their eyes.

 

“Sirius!  What do you want on your body now?”  James asked in bewilderment.

 

Sirius grinned at them.  “‘Mischief Managed’ right across here, wicked right?”  he asked as he pointed to his collarbone.

 

James laughed.  “It’s totally you — do it!”

 

Sirius sat back in the chair and grinned.  “Oh, I plan on it.”

 

Remus smiled at the memory.  Every time he looked down and saw the crest on his shoulder he thought about his friends and it made him smile.  It had been one of the best decisions that he had made and the only mark on his skin that he liked to see.  His chest had three large scars across it: One across his left ribs, one on his right, and one just at his collarbone.  Both of his arms had two scars over the forearms and his back was marked by four or five long thin scars across his skin.  Sometimes, when he transformed he couldn’t stop himself from hurting his own body.

 

He realized that Tonks and Harry were both staring at him and he shook the memory from his mind.  “It defined our friendship,” he said with a smile.  “We wanted to mark it upon ourselves and it’s one of my favourite memories.”

 

Harry gently touched it.  “I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” he read.

 

Tonks grinned.  “A great motto if I ever heard one.”

 

Remus smiled at her.  “I don’t know if Sirius told you, but we got into a bit of mischief when we were in school.”

 

“Mum mentions it whenever she gets a letter from Professor Sprout,” Tonks told him honestly.  Nymphadora, you better not be following in your cousin’s footsteps — that boy was always in detention!  she mimicked in a well done impression of Andromeda.

 

Remus laughed, drying his hair with the towel and wringing out his wet shirt.  “Are you a mischief maker, Nymphadora?”

 

She smiled mischievously.  “Only if I get caught.”  When Remus laughed she grinned widely.  “At the end of the year, I morphed into Professor Sprout and told our house that even though we had lost the House Cup to Slytherin, we were still having a party to celebrate our accomplishments.  Then I went to the kitchens and got food and drink and we had a grand old time.”

 

Remus’ eyes widened.  “You morphed into one of your professors?”

 

Tonks nodded, grinning widely.  “Only once or twice.  Let me tell you, Snape does not find it amusing at all when he catches you.”

 

“Snape?”  Remus asked in surprise, recognizing the name.

 

“Yeah, Professor Snape?  Was he not a teacher when you were there?  I guess he is pretty young actually, only finished school a few years back."

 

He remembered who Snape had once hung around with, and he suddenly had an image of him teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts (and it wasn’t a good one).  What was Dumbledore doing even employing him at Hogwarts?  Remus had suspected him to be a Death Eater before they had even left school; all of his friends had turned out to be.  But he had never heard anything or seen anything on any of his missions with the Order about Snape actually working for Voldemort.

 

“I do know, Snape.  Sirius and I went to school with him.  He was a greasy-haired git back then too, but we were never very nice to him.  What does he teach?”  Remus asked in interest.

 

"He teaches Potions and he’s Head of Slytherin House too.”  Tonks said, grabbing the peach juice that Remus had brought out with him earlier and passing two of the bottles to Remus and Harry.

 

“Hmm, well I find that very interesting,” Remus told her.  

 

Potions had always been a special subject of Snape’s.  It wasn’t the worst choice, he thought as Slughorn must have retired.

 

"He's crabby, but maybe that’s only to me because I sent him hair care products anonymously every week for a whole semester until he caught me packing up the basket in the Owlery one day.”

 

“Oh, that’s priceless!"  Remus busted into laughter.  He could picture Severus Snape opening a package of hair care products, a look of pure disdain upon his face and his greasy hair falling forward.

 

Tonks grinned widely, moving to help Harry dry his legs better and squeezed out the water from his trouser legs. 

 

“Definitely the same git.  I tripped over someone’s bag and knocked a textbook off one of the desks and he looked at me and said: ‘Ten points from Hufflepuff since Miss Tonks isn’t capable of walking into a classroom.’  Git.”

 

"Nymphadora, do me a favour and don’t tell Sirius that Snape works at Hogwarts.  He’ll never shut up about it.”

 

Tonks laughed.  “Yeah, no problem.”

 

He glanced at the clock.  “I was thinking that we could make our own pizzas and roast them on a fire outside for dinner — what do you two think?”

 

“Wicked,” Tonks said with a grin.  “Don’t you think, Harry?”

 

“Wicked!”  he repeated with a big grin.

 

Remus smiled at them.  “Well, what do we say then?  Or are you guys up for a game of football first?”

 

Harry grinned, running to grab the football and kicking it eagerly.

 

Remus just smiled.  It was turning out to be quite a fun night.  He wondered how Sirius’ date was faring.  

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO:

 

Sirius pulled his motorcycle up in front of Castellanos’ flat at exactly six that evening.  He had made a reservation at an Italian restaurant in Lancashire.  He planned on taking her to a nice romantic dinner in the fancy magical village and then maybe they’d go for dessert at the ice cream shop down the street.  He wore black jeans with a navy blue dress shirt untucked and his black leather jacket over top to bite the wind.  He left his helmet on his bike and made his way up the stairs to knock on the door.

 

It opened immediately to a tall gorgeous dark haired woman.  She had black curls cascading down her back and her mocha skin was very revealing in the short cut-offs and red tank top she wore.  She smiled appreciatively at him.

 

“Well, Thea didn’t quite let on just how fit you were,” she said with a grin.

 

Sirius grinned back and looked her up and down just as obviously as she had just done him.  “And she didn’t mention how sexy her roommate is either.”

 

The woman grinned back.  “I’m Priya; come on in, Sirius.”

 

Sirius followed her into the flat, watching the sway of her hips.  “Where’s Castellanos?”

 

“She got called into the hospital for an emergency this afternoon and she’s running a bit behind.  She should only be a few more minutes.  Can I get you anything to drink while you wait?”

 

Sirius shook his head, smiling at her.  “No thanks.  So what do you do, Priya?”

 

“I’m a healer like Thea, but I specialize in magical bugs and diseases.  I give her high praise working with children all of the time.  The few of them that I see are usually quite the handful.”

 

“They can be.  I have a six-year-old at home who definitely takes up all of my time.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

 

Priya smiled.  “Okay, that’s sweet.  Oh, here’s Thea.”

 

Castellanos had stepped out of the door on the right.  She was wearing a short tight black dress, black high heels and a white leather jacket.  Her golden blonde hair was fluffed down and waved around her face.  Big gold hoops were in her ears and she had a long gold knotted chain around her neck, dangling between her breasts.  Sirius’ body reacted immediately and he shifted his stance slightly hoping that it wasn’t completely obvious.

 

“Castellanos, looking sexy and you wore a little black dress.”

 

She rolled her eyes.  “I didn’t do it for you.”

 

He only grinned and winked at Priya.  “She did it for me.”

 

Castellanos smiled at her roommate.  “See you when I get back.”

 

Priya shook her head.  “No, I’m staying at Pasha’s tonight, remember?  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

Castellanos said goodbye and she followed Sirius outside to where his motorcycle was waiting and her eyebrows simply rose.  “You wanted me to wear a little black dress and heels, but you want me to ride that thing?  Why don’t we just Apparate?”

 

Sirius put his hands on her hips and let his eyes wander appreciatively down the tight dress, the bronzed legs and thighs and he sighed in appreciation.  “I’d prefer you’d ride me, but for now the bike will have to do.”

 

Her mouth dropped open and he grinned.

 

“Come on, you know you love the bike,” he teased, holding his helmet out to her.  “Those tight thighs clenched around my waist, the rev of the engine under you.  It’s sexy as hell.”

 

She took the helmet and carefully slipped it over her hair.  When she climbed behind Sirius wordlessly, her dress rode so high that if her thighs hadn’t been clamped around his waist, she would be giving the world a full show of her black lace knickers.  But when he started the engine, she had to admit (silently and to herself of course) that yes, it was sexy as hell.

 

Sirius flew the bike to Lancashire and when they landed in front of the restaurant, she punched his arm.  

 

“You failed to mention that the bike flies!”

 

He grinned.  “I might have tweaked it a bit,” he told her, helping her off the bike and letting his eyes travel down her body appreciatively again.  “Going to turn me in?”

 

Castellanos handed him the helmet and ran her fingers through her hair, hoping it wasn’t too flattened by the helmet.  “No.”  Her eyes widened at the restaurant choice.  It was one of the best known restaurants and she had always wanted to eat here, but hadn’t been given the chance before.  “You have excellent taste, Black.”

 

He twined his fingers with hers and tugged her up against him, taking her lips in a deep kiss and grinned at her.  “I know ‘cause you taste fucking amazing.”

 

She laughed.  “That was cheesy.”

 

Sirius shrugged.  “But it made you laugh and you do taste amazing.”  

 

He leaned in to nip at her lips again.

 

“Food, Black.  I’m starving,” she told him, kissing him once more before she pulled away.  “But you don’t taste so bad yourself.”

 

He followed her into the restaurant, telling the hostess his name and a few minutes later they were seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant.  The waiter brought them red wine and they ordered an antipasto before he grinned at her.

 

“Did I impress you?”

 

She smiled, sipping the wine in her glass.  “A little.  I’ve always wanted to come here.”

 

Sirius picked up his own glass.  “It’s a great place from what I remember.  I’ve been a few times with my friends years ago.”

 

Castellanos nodded, her eyes on the menu.  “I don’t even know what to order.”

 

He leaned across the table to whisper to her.  “You know what the best way to order at these places is?”  When she shook her head, he smiled.  “Don’t.  Let them choose for you.  It’s always amazing.”

 

She closed the menu and grinned at him.  “Deal.”

 

They placed their ‘surprise us’ order with the waiter, who smiled pleasantly and hurried off and then she turned to smile at him.  

 

“So, you finally got me on that date without a dare.”

 

“I did,” he said, grinning widely.

 

Castellanos only smiled at him.  “Where’s Harry tonight?”

 

“He’s having a sleepover with Remus.  They were going to bake biscuits and have pizza and something about watching a Muggle film.  He’s bringing him home to me just before lunch tomorrow.  Harry has a birthday party of a new friend to attend to tomorrow and he’s pretty excited.”

 

“Sounds fun.”

 

“Should be,” Sirius told her with a smile.  “And Harry insisted on my cousin Tonks going over as well, which means Moony is all flustered.”  At her blank look, his smile widened.  “She’s thirteen and fancies Moony a bit.  He’s quite embarrassed by it, but she loves Harry and enjoys spending time with him so I figure it’s a win-win situation for her — even if it makes Moony a bit uncomfortable.”

 

Castellanos chuckled, sipping her wine.  “I can see how that would make him uncomfortable.  Moony is also Remus?”

 

“Right, sorry, nickname,” he said with a grin.

 

“And Tonks is a name?”

 

“Surname,” he said with a grin.  “Her name is Nymphadora and she rather despises it.”

 

Castellanos laughed.  “I can see how that is a bit of a mouthful for her.”

 

The antipasto came out, melanzane ripiene alla parmigana, and Castellanos told him about the emergency that she had been called to the hospital for.  A child had suffered a severe reaction to an exploding potion.  It had taken over two hours to calm the child and to get the boils off of the skin.  Thankfully, he was going to be fine.

 

By the time their food was served, Sirius learned that she would be turning twenty-four in September and that she was leaving just after her birthday to spend a few months in Sri Lanka.

 

“Why Sri Lanka?”  Sirius asked her as he dug into his scaloppine tosca that the waiter had brought him.  “You told me last time how close you are to your family and how going back to Greece was too far?”

 

She smiled, taking a bite of her own meal, the pollo speciale.  “It’s for Healing Hands in Habitat.  It’s a wonderful organization started about a decade ago by a Scottish healer named Grant.  It’s completely run on volunteers.  You go for twelve weeks -- room and board are taken care of -- and you go where you’re needed to heal and to help those in need of medical care.  Sri Lanka is currently amidst a rather intense civil war and thousands if not millions of people could use the help.  It’s an amazing thing and I want to be a part of it.  I want to help in any way that I can, no matter how small.”

 

“Wow,” Sirius said, eyes wide.  “I’m really impressed right now.”  When she blushed he grinned.  “No, honestly.  That’s the bravest and most brilliant thing I could imagine.  If I had the healing skills you do, I’d consider it myself.  So you’d be back just before Christmas?”

 

She nodded, stabbing a fresh mushroom with her fork.  “Or just after.”

 

“And you’re a hundred percent on board?”

 

“A hundred and ten percent on board.  I’ve already got my work visa and my magical license to practice in another country set up.  The portkey is taking eight of us from St Mungo’s on September 30th,” she explained with a smile.  “I’m excited and terrified at the same time.  There’s a Muggle equivalent organization that works nearby and from what I understand we work with them to a great extent as well.”

 

He just grinned at her.  “That’s truly amazing.”

 

She smiled at him, wondering what he was thinking.  “Are you disappointed that I’m going to be gone in two months after you finally got me to go out with you?”

 

Sirius grinned, reaching for her hand.  “A little, but as I plan on shagging your brains out tonight, my mind may be on other things at the moment.”

 

Castellanos smirked at him.  “You really are bold, Black.  You just assume that I would let you go all the way with me after this fancy dinner?  I said I’d ride your motorbike not your broomstick.”

 

Sirius smirked, his eyes twinkling at her.  “With your roommate conveniently not being home tonight, Castellanos — you want me, and you know it.”

 

“I did tell you that I’m a busy woman and that I don’t have time to get involved in a relationship,” she told him.  “This was in the works when you first asked me out and I got confirmation yesterday that I am indeed part of the team going to Sri Lanka.”

 

“And I did mention a few great shags was all I was looking for,” he kissed her palm, his eyes twinkling.  “You’re gorgeous and sexy and I like you -- but I’m not looking for a relationship either, Althea.  I’m just getting my own life back on track and adjusting to being Harry’s full time godfather.  I’m looking to get to know you is all and where that may or may not end up well, that’s half the fun of finding out.”

 

Castellanos closed her hand, the heat of his mouth still on her skin.  “You make an excellent point.”  She stepped out of her right heel, letting her foot trail up the leg of his jeans, smiling seductively at him.  “And I suppose maybe, I might possibly, let you convince me that it would be worth my while to invite you…”

 

Sirius shivered as her foot gently kneaded his leg.  “I’d be more than happy to try.”

 

He paid the bill and when they stepped outside, he tugged her up against him and kissed her deeply, his hands moving to her waist, one sliding around to squeeze her bum in the tight dress.  Her hands fisted in his hair and his tongue met hers fiercely, both fighting for control of the kiss.

 

When he pulled away, his eyes stayed on hers.  His hand slowly slid up her torso, caressing a breast and moving over her arm, gripping her hand.  “Want to grab some ice cream?”

 

Castellanos jolted in surprise and then her smile broke out.  “Sure.”

 

Sirius linked his arm through hers as they strolled down the street to the ice cream place.  They each had a cone, Sirius chose strawberry and Castellanos chose chocolate and vanilla swirl.  They walked back to the motorcycle as they ate and Sirius grinned at her as he finished his cone.

 

“Mmm, I do love strawberry ice cream, but there’s definitely something else I’d rather be doing with my mouth,” he told her, swooping down and tasting the ice cream on her tongue as he kissed her.

 

She licked her lips when he pulled away with a smirk.  “You’re a tease, Sirius Black.”

 

His eyebrow rose in amusement.  “A tease?”

 

She finished her cone, cleaning her hands with the napkin provided and tossing it the rubbish bin nearby.  “Yes, a tease.”

 

Sirius placed his hands on her waist and smiled at her.  “How am I tease?”

 

Castellanos wrapped her arms around his neck, almost at his eye level due to her heels.  “The other day, you said that you wanted to lick me all over — now you say you’d rather be doing something else with your mouth: Tease.”  She kissed the side of his neck and pressed herself up against him, her eyes on his before she deliberately stepped back.  “It’s been a really great night, but you should probably take me home.”

 

She turned and picked up the helmet before he spun her around, crushing his mouth to hers.  His hand slid over her bum, kneading and squeezing and his other hand trailed along the edge of her short dress, brushing the skin there seductively.

 

When he let her go, her eyes were glazed over and he grinned at her.

 

“Get on the bike, Castellanos.”

 

Once she was wrapped tightly around him, he sped off towards her flat, parking his bike and following her up the stairs.  She unlocked the door, turning to smile at him.

 

“We both know that I should say goodnight and close this door.”

 

Sirius grinned, leaning down to brush his lips gently across hers.  “Do we?”  he murmured and then he smirked.  Two could play this game, he thought.  “All I know is that I can’t wait to taste you on my lips.”

 

She flushed and he grinned.  She grabbed the front of his shirt and tugged him into her flat, kicking the door shut behind him.  Her hands fisted into his hair and she kissed him.  

 

Sirius met her demand, mouths meeting furiously in a desperate kiss and he grinned.  His hands slid down her body, gripping her bum tightly and using his other hand to tug her leather jacket off.  She yanked at his own jacket, dropping it to the floor and she unbuttoned his shirt.

 

“This is crazy,” she told him.  “We barely know each other.”

 

He nipped at her ear, suckling the skin just below it and smiled.  “Doesn’t mean a thing when you’re wet for me.”

 

“Bloody bastard,” she hissed, pushing his shirt over his shoulders and sliding her hands up his chest with a smile.  “Maybe I just want to use you tonight — how does that make you feel?”

 

His grip tightened on her bum and she smiled.  “Maybe I’ll use you right back.”  

 

His lips met hers again and he slid his hands down her bum and under the hem of her dress, the firm outline of her bum just barely covered by the dress’ posterior.  

 

“Merlin, it’s been too long,” he murmured, his hand squeezing her bum in appreciation.  Just the thought of what he wanted to do to her made him hard and he knew that he wasn’t going to last long.  It had been too many years since he’d been with a woman.  

 

“Mmm, where’s the zipper on this thing?”

 

She grinned at him.  “You just, you know… peel it off.”

 

“Merlin,” he groaned as he slowly lifted the dress upward and he leisurely exposed more of her golden skin.  When the dress hit the floor, he smiled completely beholden by her.  She wore black lacy knickers and black high heels and he hardened even more at the sight of her.  She hadn’t been wearing a bra.  “You truly are a goddess.”

 

Castellanos crooked her finger at him and he followed her to her bedroom, grinning like a fool.  He pulled her close to him, letting his mouth linger down to her breasts, tasting the skin there and suckling.  Her head tilted back as he kissed her and he slid his hand between her legs, rubbing his fingers against her knickers and she groaned.

 

“Stop teasing me, Sirius!”  she begged, her hands fisting desperately in his hair.

 

Sirius let her fall back onto the bed, crawling up over her as she undid his jeans, popping them open and sliding them down his hips.  He covered her hand to stop her from tugging them off.  He never wore undergarments, preferring not to, and at the moment he didn’t want to be completely naked in front of her yet.  

 

He had other plans.

 

His lips dropped from her breasts to her stomach, trailing down in hot open-mouthed kisses that had her hips arching to meet him.  He grinned, kissing her belly button and letting his tongue trail lower.  He placed his hands on her thighs, spreading her legs wider and he nipped at the sensitive skin along her thighs, kissing softly.  Her dark blonde curls were damp and he grinned against her, letting his tongue trail along her thigh close, but not close enough to the heat where she wanted him to be and she groaned.  His tongue slid along the crease of her thigh, nuzzling her gently.

 

“You’re so beautiful,” he murmured, brushing his lips over her.  “Sexy,” he said, brushing his lips over her again and she bucked against him. 

 

“Sirius,” she moaned.

 

He grinned against her, nuzzling her again and then very softly kissed her.  Her hands fisted tighter in his hair, but he didn’t mind as he kissed her again, open mouthed this time and then kissed her some more.  He let his tongue trail along the edge of her, gently dipping in and out in a teasing fashion that had her panting.  

 

“Mmm, so delicious.  Better than ice cream,” he said as his tongue worked her over.  

 

By the time he started sucking she was screaming his name and when his fingers found her, she literally lifted her hips off of the bed in pleasure.

 

“Don’t stop,” she begged,  “Don’t stop!”

 

He didn’t stop, and when the orgasm ripped through her, she screamed his name — and he kept sucking her.  She came twice before he finally let go of her and moved his mouth back up her body to suckle her breasts.  He laved at her hard nipples eagerly and she desperately pushed at his jeans.

 

“I need you inside of me — now,” she demanded.

 

Sirius grinned and licked the underside of her breast.  “I could spend all night between your legs.”

 

“Sirius, fuck me — now!”

 

He simply grinned wide and kicked off his jeans.  “I’m not going to last long,” he warned her.  “How do you want me, Thea?”

 

Althea flipped him, straddling him.  Her hand gripped him and she sighed at the heat of him as she worked him over and he groaned beneath her.  “Now,” she told him, guiding him into her.  She placed her hands on his abdomen and she rode him.  He felt her going over again so he sat up a little, pushing himself deeper into her and slipping two fingers between her legs and watching her head fall back in pleasure.

 

“So beautiful,” he panted, his mouth finding her breast.  “So fucking sexy!”

 

“Harder,” she told him, gasping when he answered her call.  “Just like that… oh!  Just like that!”

 

He grunted and she came, her hands clutching his shoulders desperately and he followed her over, gripping her bum tightly and riding her hard.

 

As they both caught their breath, she nuzzled his chest as his arms came around her.

 

“That was…”

 

“Amazing,” Sirius supplied, kissing her cheek.

 

She grinned against his chest.  “You have a magical tongue.”

 

He grinned.  “I like to be thorough.”

 

“Thorough,” she said, still panting slightly.  “That was… God help me, the best thing I’ve ever… you can do that again whenever you want.”

 

Sirius laughed, kissing her neck and collarbone and running his hands along her damp back.  “Gladly.”

 

They stretched out across the bed and Althea reached out to trace her fingers along the motorcycle tattoo.  “These are all so beautiful.  Do they each have a meaning?”

 

He nodded, explaining each one as her fingertips traced them.

 

“The one for your godson is so sweet,” she told him, kissing the tattoo.  “And beautiful.”

 

Sirius tilted her head up to him and kissed her.  “Did I see a tattoo on your back?”  He turned her, smiling at the tiny medical coat of arms on her right shoulder blade.  “Very nice.”

 

“Priya and I got them when we finished at the Healer’s Academy,” she told him, turning back to look at him as her fingers traced the lines in his chest.

 

“A sense of accomplishment, I like it.”  He kissed her softly again.  “It’s been a while for me, you know, prison and all, so that was a bit quicker than I usually like.  Let’s go again.”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Turn around.”

 

She only smirked at him, but did as he asked, gasping when his thick length slid between her legs and she reached behind her, stroking his neck as he suckled a breast under her arm.  All she thought was, she could definitely do this all night.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sirius woke up the next morning to the feel of a hand gently fondling him.  He smiled, grey eyes meeting dark brown ones.  “Morning Castellanos.”

 

“Morning Black,” she responded, kneading his sacs gently.  “Did you sleep alright?”  Her hand shifted to stroke along his length and he bit his lip.

 

“Brilliant.  You?”

 

Her nails scratched lightly and his breath caught, making her grin.  “Quite brilliantly.”  She used her thumb to gently wipe his tip and then brought her thumb to her mouth and licked making him groan.  “What time do you need to be home again?”

 

“Eleven thirty,” he told her as her hand teasingly worked him over.

 

“Mmm,” she said with a smile.  “Good thing it’s only seven.  I am not done with you, Black, not by a long shot.”

 

“Althea,” he moaned as her hand movements picked up the pace.  “I’m not going to last if you keep that up.”

 

She smirked at him.  “Why don’t you let me taste you and we’ll see?”

 

When she moved under the sheet, he merely grinned.  “No arguments here, babe.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

When he strolled into his own house at ten after eleven, he was whistling and grinning like a fool.  He hurried upstairs to shower and was just fixing his hair when he heard Remus and Harry come in.  He finished what he was doing and went downstairs to greet them.

 

Harry grinned at him when he came down the stairs.  “Uncle Padfoot!  It’s Ginny’s birthday party today!”

 

Sirius grinned widely, nodding to the gift on the coffee table.  He had taken Harry shopping for it on Thursday.  Harry had picked out a stuffed animal of a dog for her as well as a huge container of coloured sidewalk chalk and a big bottle of bubbles with a few different sized blowing sticks.  Sirius thought they were perfect as they were all Muggle gifts too which meant that they most likely would be something she didn’t already have.

 

“We sure are, we have to wrap her present though.  Go on into the sunroom and get some wrapping paper, tape, and scissors.”  Harry hurried off eagerly and Sirius turned to Remus.  “So how did it go?  He seems fine?”

 

Remus smiled.  “He was great.  He slept fine, though he did crawl into bed with me around two.”

 

“He did?”  Sirius asked, grinning in surprise.  Harry hadn’t done that to him yet.

 

“I think he felt strange not being in his own bedroom.  Of course, with him also came Marauder,” Remus said with a smile.  “But he slept well.  We had fun.  And Tonks stayed until it was Harry’s bedtime, then she Flooed home.  We had a great time.”

 

Sirius smiled at his friend.  “I’m glad it went well.  That means I won’t feel so guilty when I’m not here next time.”

 

“Did you feel guilty?”

 

“A little, yeah,” Sirius admitted.  “But then I was shagging Castellanos and mostly just felt pleasure.”

 

Remus laughed as Harry came back into the room.  “Naturally.  You going to see her again?”

 

“Oh, I am mostly definitely going to do her again.”

 

Remus rolled his eyes, chuckling at his friend.  “Come on, Harry, I’ll help you wrap Ginny’s present.”

 

An hour later, Remus said goodbye to Harry and Sirius and headed home.  Remus was going to take care of Marauder as he said he had things to do and wouldn’t be attending the birthday party with them.  Sirius shrunk the birthday present and put it in the tiny trunk compartment that he had added to the back of his bike, strapping Harry in and making sure that his helmet was on.  When he revved the engine, Harry grinned widely.

 

“Let’s go, Uncle Padfoot!”

 

Sirius grinned at him, revving the engine louder to make Harry laugh before he took off down the street and headed to the nearby town of Ottery St Catchpole.  He drove into the town and slowed to ask the woman near the Owl Post Office where he might find the Weasley residence and she told him to drive through the town and make a left and the Burrow would be straight ahead.

 

Sirius drove the bike in the direction she told him and headed up the lane towards a tall stone structure six stories high and slightly crooked.  It had a charming farmhouse appeal to it.  He slowed the bike down, grinning slightly when three small red-headed boys hurried out of the house followed by a tall thin dark haired woman holding the hand of a small blonde girl at the sound of the motorcycle.  He shut off the engine and pulled off his helmet, shaking his hair out.

 

He grinned at the woman.  “Hi, is the Burrow?”

 

The woman nodded, smiling kindly.  “Yes, it is.  And you are?”

 

“We were invited to a birthday party.”

 

One of the red-headed boys, who Sirius realized looked completely identical to the boy next to him, moved closer, his eyes on the bike.  “That’s wicked,” he said.

 

Sirius grinned.  “Pretty brilliant, right?  Sometimes Muggles know what they’re doing.”  

 

He tried not to smirk when he bent over to get Harry and he heard the woman mutter, ‘oh my.’  He always knew when someone was checking out his butt, he thought.  And he should know, as he had a damn nice arse and he knew it.

 

“Molly!”  she called out, “Molly, you better come out here.”

 

“What’s wrong, Pandora?  Did you find out where that noise was coming from?  Oh!”  she said in surprise, stepping out of the house.

 

Sirius turned with Harry in his arms, unshrinking the birthday gift and handing it to Harry as he placed him on the ground.  He hung the two helmets on the motorcycle and made his way past the gate with the three boys following him and Harry.  Sirius smiled when Harry stopped in front of Molly and Pandora.

 

“Hello,” he said softly.  “Uncle Padfoot and I came for Ginny’s birthday party.”

 

Molly smiled sweetly at him.  “Of course you did, my dear!  And who are you, darling?”

 

“I’m Harry,” he said, extending his hand.

 

Molly’s heart stopped.  “What impeccable manners!  I’ll have to get you to teach my heathens, Harry,” she said with a smile.  “Welcome to the Burrow.  I assume you must be Padfoot?”

 

“Guilty as charged,” he said with a grin, extending his own hand.  “Sirius, actually.  Sirius Black.  This is my godson, Harry Potter.  Your son and daughter kindly invited us over today.”

 

Molly simply stared at him, her mouth agape.  The dark haired woman, Pandora, smiled at Sirius.  “You’ll have to excuse Molly, she thought Ginny’s imagination had gotten the best of her and didn’t actually believe her daughter had invited Harry Potter to her birthday.  I’m Pandora Lovegood, this is Molly Weasley.  We’re pleased to have you here.”

 

“Mum!  Mum!  Come quick, Charlie’s stuffed Percy up the chimney!”  Ginny exclaimed, running around her mother and spotting Harry.  

 

“What?”  Molly exclaimed, flushing red as the twin boys both yelled.  “Wicked!”

 

“Harry!”  Ginny exclaimed, running over to hug him happily as her mother hurried past her to deal with Charlie and Percy.

 

Pandora sighed.  “Never a dull moment in this place.  This is my daughter Luna.  The twins are Fred and George, don’t ask me to tell you which one of them is which, and this is Ron.  I see Harry already knows Ginny,” she said with a smile as Ginny took Harry’s hand and tugged him inside.  “So come on in and welcome to crazy.”

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE:

 

Crazy was definitely a good word for it, Sirius thought.  He followed Pandora Lovegood through the small kitchen and out into the backyard where Mrs Weasley was standing with her hands on her hips, shrieking in rage at the two boys on the roof.  One of them had his legs sticking out of the top of the chimney while the other one held him by his ankles, shaking him.  The sight made him laugh and he bit his lip when Mrs Weasley’s eyes flashed to him angrily.

 

The two boys climbed down from the roof, the younger one rubbing soot out of his hair and glaring at his elder brother.

 

“CHARLES SEPTIMUS WEASLEY, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”  Mrs Weasley demanded as the thirteen year-old shrugged in response.

 

“He was being a ponce, Mum!”

 

“That is no reason to shove his head down the chimney!”  She pulled the other boy to her, cuddling him to her breast.  “Percy, darling -- are you quite alright?”

 

He nodded, eyeing his brother with annoyance.  “I’m fine, Mum.  We were just messing around.”

 

Mrs Weasley huffed in response.  “Well, no more messing around!  Today is Ginny’s day!  Now you boys go inside and finish making up the vegetable trays.  Percy, go clean yourself up!  You’re covered in soot!”

 

Sirius merely grinned, taking a seat at the picnic table outside.  It looked like the boys in this family certainly knew how to have fun, he thought with a grin.  His eyes found Harry amidst the kids of different ages around the yard and he smiled.  He was sitting next to Ginny on the bench swing in the yard, their legs pumping back and forth to propel motion.

 

He looked up at the tall thin red-headed man who sat next to him.  His hair was wavy and dark red and was starting to thin a bit at the top.  He adjusted his glasses and smiled warmly, offering his hand.

 

“Arthur Weasley.”

 

“Sirius Black.”

 

“Ah, right, the black sheep of Walburga and Orion,” he said with a smile.  “I have heard many tales.”

 

“I prefer to call myself the White Sheep of the Black Family to be honest,” he said with a grin.  “And you, a Weasley — the biggest blood traitors outside of the Potter family in the last century, according to my mother that is.”

 

“Most certainly,” Mr Weasley said.  “Welcome to our humble home.  And yes, it usually is this chaotic.”

 

Sirius laughed as he looked around and listened to Arthur point out the people in the yard.  He was the father of seven.  Bill was fifteen and was pushing Ginny and Harry on the swing.  Charlie was thirteen and the troublemaker who had dangled his soon-to-be-ten-year-old-brother, Percy, down the chimney.  The twins, Fred and George, were eight and at the moment were conspiring with his youngest son, Ron, six, by the broomshed.  Sirius had noticed that one of the twins was holding a Zonko’s bag and it made him smile to see it.  Ginny was the youngest, turning five the next day, and the only girl.  

 

The dark-haired woman, Pandora, was helping Mrs Weasley bring food out from the kitchen.  Her daughter, Luna, was sitting in the middle of the yard blowing on dandelions and watching them float around the yard.  Pandora was a Potioneer and she was married to Xenophilius Lovegood, editor of The Quibbler magazine.

 

Septimus and Cedrella Weasley were chatting with their two other sons, Bilius and Alphard; a healer vaguely introduced as cousin Lancelot; and great-auntie Muriel, who was drinking her tea and currently lecturing her great-nephew Charlie on why it was disrespectful to dangle younger brothers down chimneys, were all sitting at the picnic table next to Sirius and Arthur.  Bilius’ wife Lucretia was currently talking to one of her sons, Septimus.  He was twenty-two and home on vacation from where he worked as a Herbologist in the jungles of Brazil.  Gaius at twenty, worked as an Arithmancer at the Ministry of Magic.  Marcus had just finished at Hogwarts and was working part-time as a Quidditch referee.  Tiberius was in school with Bill.  

 

Arthur explained that his brother Alphard and his wife Maureen’s eldest son Caradoc had moved to New York and was working as an International Ambassador with MACUSA which was why he wasn’t present; Valerius was a Healer in the Healing Hands in Habitat volunteer organization and was currently stationed in Afghanistan, where he had been working steadily for the last four months (which was why he wasn’t present); Gabriel was a trainee in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures; Maximus was entering his final year at Hogwarts; and Marius was in the same year as Charlie Weasley.

 

“Big family you have, Arthur,” Sirius commented as he absently listened to the introductions on who was who.  “Only time my parents ever had all of the relatives over was for formal balls.  Not a lot of girls in your family for those, eh?”

 

Arthur chuckled.  “No, it’s a rarity in the Weasley family.  My Ginny is the first girl born to a Weasley in seven generations.  Molly had her heart set on a daughter and we were gifted with our Ginny.  Sixth time is the charm, I guess.”

 

Sirius grinned as he watched Harry and Ginny hurry over to where Fred, George and Ron were playing, Ginny tugging Luna up to her feet and having her follow.  “You definitely have your hands full.”

 

“You have no idea!”  Arthur told him, his eyes on his four youngest children.  “The twins alone!  They showed signs of magic at the youngest age of all of my children as well.  At their first birthday, they somehow set half the house on fire and singed off Percy’s eyebrows when their birthday cake exploded in his face.”

 

Sirius laughed, holding his stomach at the image.  “That’s hilarious!  At Harry’s first birthday, he blew the candles out on his cake but they somehow turned into fireworks.  Scared the shit out of Jamie, especially because the firework flew off the cake and into his hair while Harry clapped, yelling, ‘Da-Da pretty’ and Lily just stared in shock.”

 

Arthur grinned.  “Well, exactly!  It’s funny now, but in the moment, Molly and I were in shock.  They’ve turned Percy’s hair blue and Bill’s purple; somehow transfigured Ron’s stuffed animal into a giant spider when they were five — let me tell you the chaos that ensued!  Molly’s great-auntie Muriel vowed never to come back four years ago when George set a ghoul on her, who by the way has now made a home for himself in our attic with no intentions of leaving.  Muriel did obviously come back again.  They figured out how to break into the broomshed and stole Charlie and Bill’s brooms to fly in and out of the house.  And just last week, Fred and George somehow re-arranged the furniture in Ginny’s room to be in Ron’s room and vice versa.  They are a constant headache.”

 

“And you love every minute of it,” Sirius said with a grin, looking at the eight-year-old-hellions with more interest.  “Just wait until they get to Hogwarts.”

 

“Merlin,” Arthur said with a grin.  “Then they’ll be Dumbledore’s trouble to bear.”

 

Sirius laughed as he tried to imagine McGonagall’s face when the twins started pranking everyone at Hogwarts.  He knew that she’d immediately remember what life had been like when the Marauders had been at school.  It brought a smile to his face just thinking about it.

 

Fireworks took off from the twins’ hands as Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Luna watched in awe and Arthur sighed.  

 

“I triple locked that broomshed door,” he muttered standing up.  “How the hell did they get in there?”

 

Sirius laughed again as he watched Arthur hurry over to his children.  He always appreciated good pranks and he wondered if it would be completely tactless of him if he gave the twins any ideas.  He chuckled to himself at the thought, smiling as Harry hurried over to him.

 

“Hey, Harry, having fun?”

 

Harry nodded, grinning widely.  “Uncle Sirius, we’re going to play tag.”

 

“Okay, Prongslet,” he said as Harry rushed off, chasing after Ginny who was giggling madly.

 

By the time the twins were lectured on letting off the fireworks without permission, Mrs Weasley had served sandwiches and chips.  Five picnic tables were full and the younger kids all sat on the grass.  Sirius found himself in discussion with Cedrella, who happened to be his third cousin or something akin to it.  She was asking him about his parents.

 

“They’re both dead now,” he told her.  “We weren’t close and Mum blasted me off the family tree when I was sixteen.  Fleamont and Euphemia Potter took me in.”

 

Cedrella nodded, smiling sympathetically.  “Monty always did have a big heart.  I always figured that he and Euphemia would have had a house full of children, but James came late in their lives and Dorea always said that they spoiled and doted on him.  They gave you a home?”

 

“Best home I ever had.  They treated me, Remus, and Peter like we were their kids,” Sirius told her.  “Honestly two of the best people I ever met.  Dragon pox took them both a few months before Harry was born.  They would have adored being grandparents.”

 

Cedrella smiled at the thought.  “Yes, they would have.  When I fell in love with Timus I knew that I would be disowned despite the fact that he was a pureblood — he was after all a Weasley.  The day he proposed, my parents told me that I was a traitor to the Black family.  I’ve never regretted for one moment my decision to choose Timus over my family.  I have three wonderful sons and sixteen amazing grandchildren that my parents never got the opportunity to know.  I couldn’t be happier.  You seem pretty happy yourself.”

 

Sirius smiled at her.  “I am.  I wish my best mate was here to see and raise his son, but I’m here for Harry, and I always plan to be.”

 

“Good,” she said with a smile, her eyes smiling as Ginny hurried towards her.  “Hello, my darling!”

 

Ginny wrapped her arms around her with a big smile.  “Gamma, Mum says I can open gifts now.”

 

Cedrella hugged her only granddaughter tightly and kissed her cheek.  “Well, it must be time then.  Go and tell Papa.”

 

Ginny hurried into the arms of her grandfather, making his wide face light up as he covered her face in kisses.  Sirius smiled when Harry crawled into his lap, gently brushing his hair out of his eyes.

 

“How was tag?  Did you win?”

 

Harry nodded, watching Ginny with her grandparents.  “I’m fast.  No one caught me.”

 

Sirius kissed the top of Harry’s head, watching his godson’s eyes stay on Cedrella and Septimus.  He knew what he was thinking.  “I wish you could have known your grandparents, Harry.  They were the best people in the world and they couldn’t wait to meet you but, well, they got sick and they passed away before you were born.  They were like parents to me.”

 

Harry hugged Sirius.  “It’s okay, I have you.”

 

Sirius’ heart felt like it was going to burst as he kissed his godson’s head.  “You definitely do.  Always.”

 

Harry grinned when Ron beckoned him over to the gift table and he took off, hurrying towards his new friends.  Sirius watched him with a smile.  He loved seeing Harry so happy.  He watched as Ginny opened her presents, one by one and then to his surprise she opened a large box that exploded confetti and flour and sprinkles all in her face.  Fred and George were cackling in laughter as Ginny merely glared at them.  But to Sirius’ surprise, she didn’t yell.  She simply wiped her face and thanked the twins for the prank.

 

Forty minutes later, Fred and George were stuck together upside down over the broomshed and Sirius had a sneaking suspicion that the tiny redheaded girl was behind it.  He found himself oddly enchanted.  He helped the twins down, grinning widely at them.

 

“I heard that you two are the mischief makers of the family, but obviously not the only pranksters.”

 

Fred grinned widely.  “We like to have fun and yeah we’re learning not to mess with Ginny.”

 

“No harm in it,” George supplied with a smile.

 

Sirius knelt down in front of them with a grin.  “I was a bit of a prankster myself back in school.  You know what I used to do to my little brother?”

 

“What?”  They both asked eagerly.

 

Sirius grinned.  “One time I put whipped cream in his hand when he was sleeping, then I tickled his face with a feather until he slapped himself and put whipped cream right in his face.”

 

Fred smirked.  “We’ve done that to Percy — twice.”

 

“And once to Bill, but we used chocolate pudding.”

 

Sirius laughed.  “I put itching powder in my all of my brother’s underpants.  He scratched for weeks.”

 

“George put ants in Charlie’s underpants while he was still wearing them,” Fred supplied as George smirked.

 

“I put hair dye in my mother’s shampoo and turned her hair green, but I heard you two have done that a few times as well.”

 

Fred grinned widely.  “A few times and we put a hair growing charm in Percy’s shampoo and his hair grew down to his bum and he got a moustache.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Once my friend Jamie and I filled balloons with jelly and used James’ mum’s bra to slingshot them out at people in the street.”

 

“Mum would kill us,” Fred said with a laugh as his eyes twinkled at the image.

 

“And one time, Jamie and I inflated all of the furniture in the Gryffindor common room to be like balloons so whenever someone sat down they would pop it and fall to the floor.  Or my personal favourite, switching food around on people.”

 

Fred’s eyes widened.  “Like what?”

 

“Fill a jar of sandwich mayonnaise with vanilla pudding and then eat it right out of the jar or putting toothpaste in the middle of chocolate biscuits or using shaving cream instead of whipped cream on desserts.  Lots of tricks like that.”

 

George smiled.  “We had an idea, but we were unsure on how to do it right.”

 

“Oh?”  Sirius asked with interest.

 

Fred leaned in closer to him.  “Charlie gave us an entire pack of Dungbombs for our birthday.”

 

Sirius simply grinned.  “Have you ever placed them all together in one spot before?”

 

The twins shook their head.

 

Sirius grinned wickedly.  “Listen up boys, I’m about to make your wildest dreams come true.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Harry was having the time of his life.  Everyone was so nice.  He had been mildly intrigued when Ginny had pulled him aside and asked him to help her apply the Sticking Charm Potion to Fred and George’s backs.  Ginny had poured it into a spray bottle and they had squirted the twins with it when they weren’t paying attention.  Harry had helped her by telling them that he didn’t believe that they could climb on top of the broomshed.  He and Ginny had climbed up after them and Ginny had pushed George into Fred, causing them to stick together and then she had simply taken the rope from her belt and tied them to the tree branch hanging over the shed.  With Harry’s help, they had made it tight and she whistled as she winked at her brothers and left them dangling upside down by their ankles over the broomshed — completely stuck together.

 

Harry had merely stared at her.  “You’re tricky.”

 

Ginny grinned.  “I’m learning from them.”

 

Harry laughed as he followed her over to where Ron was.  He showed them how to use the chalk that he had gotten Ginny for her birthday and the three of them drew pictures.  Ginny made a hopscotch design and eagerly insisted that Harry and Ron play with her as Luna instructed them on how to go through the game.  Then they used the bubble blowers, Ginny laughing as they floated around her.

 

Ron made him laugh by pretending to miss one of the hops and falling out of the chalk lines, which annoyed Ginny and she lectured him which only led to Ron doing it wrong again on purpose.  Soon the four of them were laying in the grass laughing like loons when there was a sudden explosion from the house.

 

Luna jumped to her feet immediately, eyes wide as Harry did the same, but Ron and Ginny stayed where they were.  “What was that?”

 

“Fred and George,” Ron and Ginny said together.

 

“How do you know?”  Harry asked.

 

“It’s always them,” Ron said with a grin.  “Wait for it…”

 

“FREDERICK GIDEON AND GEORGE FABIAN WEASLEY IF THAT GREEN SMOKE COMING FROM PERCY’S ROOM IS DUNGBOMBS YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE!”  Mrs Weasley shrieked from inside of the house.

 

Ron busted into laughter, standing next to Harry to get a closer look at Percy who had stumbled out of the house surrounded by green smoke and the smell was so atrocious that they coughed.

 

Harry gagged, his eyes watering at the smell.  He smiled gratefully when Ginny took his hand in hers and tugged him away from the house over to where the Weasley’s large extended family were still gathering.

 

“What did they do?”  Ginny asked her father as Bill scooped her up into his arms and put her up on his shoulders.

 

Arthur sighed.  “A whole box of Dungbombs inside Percy’s bed by the sound of it.”  He stood up.  “I better go see Molly before she strangles them.”

 

Bill grinned as he watched his father sigh at the prospect of having to go ‘discipline’ his boys.  He knew his father always wanted to discipline, but he was a push-over and he always enjoyed the pranks as much as his children did.  

 

“It was quite clever, Dad; they somehow fit them all in his pillow and under his blankets, using the balloons from the party to hide them.  When Percy tried to move the balloons, they all popped and set off the Dungbombs.”

 

“There were fifteen in that box,” Charlie said, grinning at Bill.  “I think they used every one.  Percy’s room is going to smell like shit for days.”

 

Arthur groaned at this news and made his way into the house.

 

Bill smirked, grinning when Ginny ruffled his hair.  “Just wait until Percy gets even.”

 

Charlie laughed, slapping his hands together.  “What do you say, Jitterbug, want to help us play a prank on Fred and George?”

 

Ginny grinned widely.  “Yes!”

 

Sirius smirked into his drink, grinning at the three remaining Weasley children who were considering getting even.  He had always loved prank wars; instigating them had definitely been his speciality.  

 

Once in second year, he had stuffed Peter’s dirty socks into James’ pillow every day for a week.  He’d concealed them with an invisibility charm and James had slept with his pillows on the floor, trying not to gag at the smell.  When the charm had finally worn off and he discovered Peter’s socks, he had proceeded to stuff his Quidditch practice robes under Peter's sheets, close against the mattress.  Peter had literally vomited at the smell wafting out of his bed — which inherently started one of the biggest prank wars between the four boys.  It had only ended when Remus defeated all of them by covering their bed in Muggle cling wrap and watching as they bounced off of it in an attempt to get into their beds in the middle of the night.  The three of them consistently struggled in the dark until the fifth time when James fell on the floor, finally realizing what it was, only to get through and find himself trapped in his bed by a giant bubble charm.  To this day they had never figured out how Remus had done it.  But they had called a truce and voted against major pranks on each other in favour of major pranks on others instead.

 

He had really missed pulling pranks, he thought feeling slightly bad for the role that he had played in the current prank placed on Percy as he watched Mrs Weasley lecture her sons on using Dungbombs in the house.

 

“Better hope Mum doesn’t find out you gave them the Dungbombs, Charlie,” Bill said with a grin. 

 

Charlie only smirked.  “She won’t.  They know I won’t supply them with anymore Zonko’s products otherwise.”

 

“Smart move,” Bill said.

 

Charlie simply grinned.  “Besides, I’m the one that suggested they let one or two Dungbombs off in Percy’s room in the first place.”

 

Bill laughed.  “Still mad at him for telling Mum you had a baby dragon in our room?”

 

Charlie sighed.  “I knew that I couldn’t keep him, but still, he tattled like a little git.  Maybe next time he’ll remember the importance of keeping a secret for his big brother.”

 

Bill smirked in response.  “I could say the same.”

 

“Hey, Ginny stole that journal of yours — not me!”

 

“I know because she is the best secret keeper in the world, right, Ginny?”  he asked, grinning up at his sister.

 

Ginny leaned down and hugged Bill’s head from her spot on his shoulders.  “Yes!”

 

Charlie stood on his toes to kiss his sister’s cheek.  “Yeah, she really is.  She helped me with the dragon for two weeks before Mum found out.”

 

Bill smiled.  “Speaking of Mum, I think she figured out where the twins got their supplies.  Let’s make a run for it.”

 

Ginny giggled as Bill took off towards the pond, her bouncing on his shoulders and Charlie hurried after him.  After all, they were the only two siblings who had access to Zonko’s on a regular basis and Mrs Weasley was going to figure out which one of them had supplied the Dungbombs.  

 

She just hoped Fred and George didn’t have any more hiding somewhere in the house.

 

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR:

 

Spending the day with the Weasley Family had been fun.  Harry loved it and from the moment they left, he'd rattled on and on to Sirius all about Ron — who collected Chocolate Frog Cards, loved to read some comic about Marvin the Mad Muggle, and liked to play with the garden gnomes.  About Ginny — who loved to have fun, prank her older brothers, and who adored Bill completely.  Harry told Sirius about how he helped her prank the twins near the broomshed.  About Luna — who was Ginny’s best friend from the village, and how they loved to play outside and climb trees, and dance.  Luna was nice and she liked to talk about all sorts of strange things that Ron and Ginny claimed weren’t real.  She had kind of a dreamy expression a lot and she also like to play with the garden gnomes.

 

He was excited to see them again and Sirius had promised him that Ginny, Ron, and Luna could all be invited over soon.  They ate dinner and Sirius got Harry’s bath ready for him.  Remus dropped Marauder off on his way home just in time for Harry to go to bed.  

 

As Harry crawled into bed that night, he smiled warmly at Sirius.  “Today was fun.  Thanks, Uncle Siri.”

 

Sirius smiled, leaning down to kiss Harry on the forehead.  “You’re very welcome, Harry.”

 

“The Weasleys are nice,” he said, yawning hugely as Marauder licked his face, making him giggle.

 

“Yes, they are,” Sirius told him, smiling.  He tucked Harry in and gently scratched Marauder behind the ears.  “Goodnight, Harry.  I love you.”

 

“Goodnight,” Harry said, smiling widely.  “I love you, too.”

 

Sirius kissed his forehead once more before he stood up and closed the door halfway behind him before he made his way downstairs.  He had thoroughly enjoyed himself that afternoon and he was pleased to see that Harry had as well.  The Weasleys were a loud and boisterous group and Sirius thought that they were exactly what Harry needed:  What a real family looked like.

 

He cleaned up the kitchen a bit before he sat down at the table with some ink and parchment.  There were a few things that he wanted to do over the next few weeks and he jotted them down as a reminder.  The next thing he knew it was after eleven and he decided to head up to bed.  He locked the house up and then checked on Harry, who was sleeping soundly with Marauder.  He changed into plaid pyjama pants and he climbed into his own bed.

 

His eyes had barely closed before he was fast asleep.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

It was dark.  

 

He knew it was night time, but the darkness encircled him, and he shivered under the thin sheet.  His stomach growled impatiently and he rubbed a hand over the ache, hoping it would stop.  He reached for the string that turned on the light, forgetting that he had lost the privilege of having a lightbulb in his cupboard.

 

He could feel something crawling on his arm and he swatted at it, wincing when he felt the spider fall off.  Spiders didn’t really bother him, but he didn’t want them crawling all over him.  

 

It was the third night in a row that he had been locked in his cupboard.

 

A little girl named Chloe had befriended him at school.  She had curly blonde hair and a big smile.  He remembered how she giggled and clapped when he had hung upside down from the monkey bars in the playground.  She had hugged him after recess and said that they were going to be the best of friends.  The warm feeling in the pit of his stomach had made him smile.  

 

He was excited to have a friend.

 

She waited for him at playtime and they ran to the monkey bars -- laughing, and having fun.  Then Dudley had come over, shoving Harry off of the top so that he fell over the side, landing awkwardly on his leg.  He’d bitten his lip so hard that it had bled in his attempt not to cry.  

 

Chloe had fallen next to him.  “Harry!  Harry!  Are you okay?  Does it hurt?”  she asked, touching his leg in concern.

 

“Yes.”

 

Dudley had snickered.  “Baby.”

 

Chloe stood up, her face red in anger.  “You pushed him off, you big bully!”

 

Dudley shoved her and she fell back onto her butt.  “Did not!  Liar!”

 

Chloe’s bottom lip trembled as tears fell down her cheeks.  “You’re mean!”

 

Dudley laughed, grinning at Piers Polkiss, a friend of his who laughed along with him.  “Don’t hang out with baby Harry, Chloe.  Find a better friend.”

 

“I’m not a baby!”  Harry demanded, standing up, his leg shaky beneath his feet.

 

“You wet the bed!”

 

Chloe’s eyes widened at this declaration.  “You do?”

 

Piers laughed uproariously and Harry flushed.  “Baby Harry!  Only babies pee in their nappies!  Are you wearing a nappy under those trousers?”

 

Harry glared at them.  “No!  I don’t wear nappies — I’m not a baby!”

 

Piers grinned at Chloe.  “Unless you want to be a big baby too, stay away from that freak!”

 

“Freak!”  Dudley yelled, shoving Harry so hard that he fell back on his bum.  “Freak!”

 

Dudley and Piers’ taunts had been enough to drive her away.

 

He had limped into the house, his ankle swollen and sprained from his fall — and Dudley had shoved him.  He tripped in front of his cupboard, sliding across the floor.

 

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!”  Aunt Petunia shrieked, picking Harry up by the shoulders and shaking him so hard that his glasses slid down his nose.  “I just washed the floor!  Put your school things away and get over here!  You can re-do the smudges you made!”

 

Harry immediately got to work under Aunt Petunia’s critical eye.  He scrubbed the hardwood floor with a sponge and a bucket of soapy water.  He had just finished when Uncle Vernon came home.  He stepped over Harry, looking down at him in distaste and chastely kissed Petunia on the lips.

 

“That freak causing trouble again?”

 

Aunt Petunia pursed her lips.  “He dirtied my clean floor.  Dudders said that he was picking on some poor girl named Chloe today.”

 

“That wasn’t me!”  Harry exclaimed, standing up to glare at his aunt.  “Dudley was doing it!  She’s my friend!”

 

Petunia stared at him.  “My Dudders would never pick on a little girl!  How dare you tell such lies, Harry James Potter!  You are a dirty ungrateful little freak who will NEVER have any friends!”

 

“I’m not a freak!”  Harry yelled back at them and then yelped when the back of Uncle Vernon’s hand hit him so hard that he fell to the ground.

 

“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO YOUR AUNT LIKE THAT, BOY!  WE TOOK YOU IN OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF OUR HEARTS AND YOU WILL TREAT US WITH RESPECT, YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SNOT-NOSED BRAT!”  

 

He raised his hand again and Harry winced a second before the slap hit him and he cried out at the pain in his ankle when he fell on it once more.

 

Uncle Vernon picked him up by the scruff of his shirt and bodily threw him into his cupboard.  He unscrewed the light bulb and closed the door, locking it. 

 

“Let me out!”  Harry cried, banging his fists on the door.

 

Uncle Vernon smacked the door loudly.  “You will not a make sound in there, boy!  Not one sound!  You can come out when I have deemed you grateful.  Only grateful children deserve light.  The dark will do you some good!”

 

It had been three days and Harry hadn’t been let out of the darkness.  He had soiled himself repeatedly.  His head pounded, his ankle was swollen, and his stomach cramped in hunger pains.

 

When he finally was free, Aunt Petunia had forced him into an ice cold bath, scrubbed him so clean that his skin was red and blistered and then had sent him off to school without any breakfast.  If he could be a good boy at school, he would get something to eat when he got home she had told him.

 

Chloe had approached him carefully at playtime, her head downcast.  “Hi, Harry.”

 

“Hi, Chloe,” he responded already knowing why she was talking to him.

 

Chloe smiled at him.  “I want to be your friend, but Dudley and Piers… they’re so mean.”

 

“It’s okay,” he told her.  He was used to people leaving him.  “I know.”

 

He watched her hurry off to play with another girl named Amy and he sat on the ground by the monkey bars all alone once again.

 

Harry woke up, his heart pounding in his chest and blinked owlishly at the semi-darkness as the memory left him.  He wiped tears from his eyes.  He had always wanted a friend.  Chloe had been so nice, but he hadn’t dared try to talk to her again in fear of what Dudley and Piers would do.  

 

Ginny, he thought.  She was the nicest person he'd ever met.  She had a big smile and she was full of laughter and Ron — he was funny and kind and Luna, so sweet.  He grabbed the stuffed animal of the doe, hugging Lily to himself as the tears fell.

 

What would they do when they found out what a freak he was?  They wouldn’t want to be his friend anymore either.  Sirius still liked him, he thought, grabbing the stuffed dog of Padfoot.  The fairy light charm illuminated his bedroom and he felt comforted by it.  Marauder was sleeping next to him, which was comforting too, but he wanted his godfather, he realized.  

 

He crept silently out of the bed and stuck his head out the door.  A small light lit up the hallway to the bath, but the downstairs was dark.

 

Harry moved into the hall and slowly made his way to Sirius’ room, pushing open the door quietly.  Sirius was sleeping sprawled across the large bed, snoring lightly.  Harry hesitated for a minute.  He had never snuck into Sirius’ room in the middle of the night before — what if he got mad?  He hovered in the doorway for a moment, trembling, and then he made up his mind, hurried into the room and climbed up onto the big bed to make himself comfortable under the covers.  He moved closer to Sirius, until he felt his arm touching him, and only then did he close his eyes and go to sleep.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Sirius woke up with daylight shining through the window.  He had forgotten to set an alarm, he realized, glancing at the clock in front of him.  It was almost eight.  Still early, but a little later than he liked to get up for his daily routine with Harry.  He felt movement next to him and he turned, surprised to find Harry snuggled in his bed.

 

He reached for the child, tugging him close as he kissed the top of his head and Harry stirred in his arms, wrapping his arms around Sirius’ neck and hugging him tight.

 

“Good morning, Prongslet,” Sirius said with a smile.  “What are you doing in here?”

 

Harry flushed in embarrassment.  “I’m sorry.”

 

Sirius kissed his cheek.  “It’s okay, Harry.  You can always come to me.”  He gently brushed the dark hair away from his face.  “What’s wrong, Prongslet?  Did you have a bad dream?”

 

“No,” he murmured, tears rolling down his cheeks.

 

Sirius sat up, pulling the child fully into his lap and keeping his arms around him.  “What’s wrong, Prongslet?”

 

“Ginny… and Ron… and Luna… they won’t be my friends anymore.”

 

Sirius’ eyebrow rose.  “What makes you say that?”

 

“Freaks don’t have friends.”

 

“Prongslet,” Sirius said carefully.  “You’re not a freak.  You have never been a freak.  And you will never be a freak.  Of course they’re your friends.”

 

Harry shook his head.  “Uncle Vernon says I don’t deserve friends.”

 

“Well, Vernon is a fucking arse,” he said, his eyes flashing in anger.  “Harry, everything your Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia ever told you — is a lie.  I don’t want you to ever listen to it or believe it.  Nothing they ever told you is true.  Nothing!”

 

Tears welled up in Harry’s eyes and he sucked them back, looking up at Sirius.  “In my dream, I remembered how Dudley scared Chloe away and Aunt Petunia told me it was me.  What if they find out about me?  They won’t like me no more.”

 

Sirius kissed Harry’s forehead, then both of his cheeks and then he cradled him in his arms like an infant and rocked him back and forth.  “That would be stupid of them.  And what are they going to find out about you, Harry?  How kind you are?  Or funny?  Or nice?  Or how much fun you like to have?  Or how you like to read?  Or how helpful you are?  That all sounds like a pretty amazing friend to me.”

 

Harry let the tears fall and stayed snuggled in Sirius’ arms, his face pressed against his godfather’s bare chest.  “Promise?”

 

Sirius simply held him close.  “I promise.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

After a hearty breakfast and some more reassurances, Harry seemed to have recovered from whatever nightmare had put him into a twist about his new friends deserting him.  Sirius mentioned it in passing to Remus and they both agreed that it was obviously a good idea to invite one, if not all three of them, over as soon as possible to let Harry know that he still had friends.

 

It only further reminded Sirius of the terrible way that the Dursleys had treated Harry.  Every time he hoped Harry was past it, something dark crept up from the boy’s memories and it irked him.  He wanted Harry to be past it and he knew how unrealistic that was.  He had spent over four years being abused by them; he didn’t even remember what it was like to be happy and to be loved by his parents.  Sirius needed to remind him of that.

 

He hugged Harry goodbye as he settled himself into the sunroom with Remus.  Sirius stepped into the Floo and landed in McGonagall’s office, checking his watch, and knew that she must be around somewhere.  He had just stepped into the hallway when Peeves zoomed by, backtracking and cackling with glee.

 

“Why Sirius-so-serious, whatever are you here for?”

 

“Not now, Peeves,” Sirius said impatiently, ignoring the poltergeist who merely cackled as he zoomed away.

 

He had just stopped in front of Dumbledore’s office when the statue moved and Dumbledore himself stepped out. 

 

“Sirius!”  he exclaimed in surprise.  “Was I expecting you?”

 

Sirius shook his head, shoving his hands into the pockets of his black jeans.  “No.  I just… I was looking for Minerva actually, but if you have a moment?”

 

Dumbledore nodded and stepped back to allow Sirius into the moving staircase.  “Of course, after you.”

 

They rode up to the office together and Dumbledore followed Sirius inside, sitting on the edge of his desk and gesturing for Sirius to take a seat.  

 

“How’s young Harry doing?”

 

“Good.  He’s doing good.”  He ran his fingers through his hair and then let out a big breath.  “He has nightmares about the Dursleys.”

 

Dumbledore’s eyes looked sad.  “I regret that more than I can possibly put into words, Sirius.  How are you dealing with his nightmares?”

 

Sirius shrugged, sitting down.  “I don’t know.  I comfort him.  I hold him.  I kiss him.  I tell him how loved he is.  I told him that everything his aunt and uncle ever told him is a lie — and to not believe it.  I don’t know if I’m doing it right.”

 

“It sounds right to me,” Dumbledore told him with a smile.  “You’re giving him the love and attention that he needs.  Trust your heart, Sirius.  You love him, and that alone means that you’re doing what feels right.”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Prof-Albus, he doesn’t remember anything about James and Lily and how much they loved him.  I mean, tidbits here and there.  I sang to him one night after a bad dream and he faintly remembered the song as something Jamie used to sing to him; a far-off memory etched in his brain.  I think that’s wonderful, but I wish he remembered more.”

 

“It’s rare that anyone remembers anything of their life before the age of three and having suffered through a trauma such as watching his mother die before his eyes, anything he may have remembered he might have pushed further back inside of him,” Dumbledore explained, tapping his long fingers together as he spoke.  “I imagine the image of Voldemort pointing his wand at his head after having killed his mother is not something that he would want to remember even if he could.  Then I made a terrible decision and put him with his Muggle relatives and he suffered abuse, emotionally and physically.”

 

“So it’s a miracle that he’s even as kind and loving as he is, is that what you’re telling me?”

 

“He’s a remarkable boy, Sirius,” Dumbledore told him.  “But children are amazingly resilient.”

 

“I know he is,” Sirius said, smiling.  “He’s smart and he’s kind and I absolutely love his laugh.  He’s starting to laugh a lot more now; deep laughs that seem to start in his stomach and work their way up.  I want him to be happy.”

 

“He is and over time he will get past the bad memories he does have and he’ll remember all of the good ones you have given him in their place.”

 

Sirius nodded.  He knew that was true, but sometimes he just worried so much about what Harry had gone through and it made him remember his own childhood.  The last thing that he wanted was to inflict any damage on Harry the way his parents had damaged him.  “I just wish that there was a way he could remember the good stuff about his parents.  They loved him so much, Albus.  Jamie used to sing to him and Lily would dance with him in her arms.  The silly stories they used to tell him.  I just… I wish they were here to see their son.  That’s all.”

 

Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling and he stood up from his desk and moved to the cupboard by the door.  “When one becomes Headmaster of the school, there are a few wonderful artefacts we are gifted with.  One of them is a Pensieve.  Do you know what that is, Sirius?”

 

Sirius stood up to look at the Pensieve, watching the silvery liquid swirling within, and nodded.  “It contains memories.”

 

“Memories that can be relived.  It helps clear the mind and helps one to see things more clearly.  They can be immensely useful as proved at your trial, but many wizards are afraid of them, for they can unintentionally hold all of our dark secrets,” he explained, twirling his wand in the silvery substance.  “But sometimes, reliving a memory can be a wonderful experience, something to bring joy back to our lives.”

 

Sirius stared at him a moment and then a slow smile crept into his face.  “You think I should fill a Pensieve for Harry?”

 

Dumbledore smiled.  “He’s a little young yet to truly understand, but if you were to start collecting memories, not just from yourself, but from those that knew his parents — I would imagine you could give him a wonderful gift in the future, maybe even obtain his own early memories and slip them into the gift.  It could be the ticket to help him remember those who loved him and who love him now.”

 

“Albus, that’s genius!”

 

“I have my moments, I daresay,” he said with a grin.  “My brother Aberforth knows a few people who deal in the metal-making of a Pensieve bowl.  I would be happy to speak with him about getting one made for you?”

 

Sirius nodded, smiling widely.  “That would be fantastic.  Thank you.”

 

“Of course,” he said warmly.

 

“Albus, there was something else that I’ve been wondering.  I wrote to Minerva to ask her opinion on the subject, but I haven’t heard back yet.  Did you see that article about the potion invented by Belby in the Daily Prophet?”

 

Dumbledore nodded, moving to take a seat in one of the chairs.  “Yes, the Wolfsbane Potion.  It seems to be causing quite the stir at the Ministry as of late.  The Wizengamot sessions have been full of it.  You are thinking of Mr Lupin, I presume?”

 

“Yes,” Sirius told him.  “I know he doesn’t read the paper much, so he probably isn’t even aware of its existence yet, but — what do you know about it?”

 

“Alas, not much,” Dumbledore admitted, scratching the end of his very long nose.  “From what I understand by drinking the potion, the transformation of the werewolf is the same, but it allows one to keep their own mind; be aware of their surroundings the entire time and not lose themselves in the mind of the creature.  Which in turn, keeps them calm and tame.  It is very advanced magic, but not a cure by any means.”

 

“I understand that,” Sirius said carefully.  “But Remus… the not knowing if he hurt someone or how he hurt himself… it's eaten at him as long as I’ve known him.  If this is truly a chance for him to stay himself and to take away the chance of him hurting himself or others, I think that it’s something good.”

 

“I agree,” Dumbledore said carefully.  “But you are aware that the potion is only being released to those who register and cooperate fully within the Ministry of Magic guidelines of the experiment under the Department of Regulation and the Control of Magical Creatures.  They are not planning on selling it at any Apothecary — they want full access to anyone with lycanthropy.”

 

Sirius’ eyes darkened as he took a seat across from Dumbledore.  “Oh, I’m well aware of that.  And that’s exactly what’s not going to happen to Remus.  He’s mistreated enough in our community as it is for being ‘ill’ so often.  You have connections within the Ministry, is there any chance that you can get the ingredients to this potion?  I’ll make it for him if necessary.”

 

“Sirius, this is a very difficult potion to brew.  I’m not saying that you couldn’t make it, but any tiny mistake could alter the effects catastrophically.”

 

“I have to try.”

 

Dumbledore smiled and nodded.  “Your love and admiration for Mr Lupin is remarkably well placed.  I’ll do what I can to try to find out more about this potion; what it contains and what the warnings are in terms of brewing it.  I can’t make any guarantees, but I will promise to look into it.”

 

“Thank you, Albus.  That’s all I ask.”

 

Dumbledore smiled and stood up.  “Well, I myself am very late for a meeting with Madam Bagnold and Cornelius at the Ministry and I imagine that Fudge is positively fuming with my tardiness by now,” he said as Sirius chuckled.  “Minerva is probably still out on the Quidditch pitch if you happened to still be looking for her.  She likes to fly in the mornings when the students aren’t here.”

 

“Thanks,” Sirius said, extending his hand.  

 

Dumbledore shook his hand with a smile.  “You’ll hear from me soon, Sirius.”

 

Sirius watched him step into the fire and Floo away and he smiled.  He felt surprisingly better.  He made his way out of Dumbledore’s office and down out into the grounds.  He could see two figures zooming around on brooms and it made him smile.  McGonagall always had been a bit of a Quidditch fanatic, especially with her house team, but he had never before seen her fly.

 

He made himself comfortable on the bleachers and watched as she zoomed around, then realized it was Madam Hooch who was flying with her.  He only waited ten minutes before she landed smoothly in front of him.

 

“Sirius.”

 

“Minnie,” he said in the same tone as he grinned at her.  “I didn’t know you were a flyer.”

 

“I’m not really, but I like to be out on the field every once in a while.”  She turned to Madam Hooch, promising to meet with her again for lunch and took a seat next to Sirius on the bleachers.  “What are you doing here today?”

 

“Looking for you,” he said with a smile and leaned in to kiss her cheek, making her blush.  

 

“Oh you!”  she exclaimed, smacking his arm.  “Never did have any manners.”

 

“I told you I’d marry you, but you turned me down.”

 

“First of all, you were in second year.  Secondly, I am much too old for you and third, it was a ridiculous statement.”

 

He chuckled and draped his arm over her shoulders.  “I’d say it was fifty-fifty in the how much I actually meant it department.”

 

“I should have said yes and watched you squirm,” she told him with a grin.  “How’s Harry?”

 

Sirius shrugged.  “Alright.  Still has nightmares every once in a while, but he trusts Remus and I and he’s quite really taken with my cousin Tonks so that’s kind of nice.  We were at the Weasleys’ house yesterday, young Ginny was having her birthday celebration and Harry was invited after meeting her at the park.  He’s worried that they won’t want to be his friend because he’s a freak according to that dickwad named Dursley.  I told him that was stupid and that he’s wonderful and of course they are his friends.  It’s just… I’m always worried that I’m saying the wrong thing,” he rambled, surprising himself in how much had simply come out at the sight of seeing McGonagall.

 

McGonagall smiled warmly at him.  “It sounds like you’re doing the right thing, Sirius.  These things take time.  You can’t expect him to just be perfect after one day with you, nor a few months.  He’s going to remember the bad times as well as the good ones.”

 

He nodded.  “I’m coming to understand that.  I ran into Dumbledore when I was looking for you and we talked.  He suggested that I store memories in a Pensieve to help Harry remember his parents.  I really like that idea.  I think Dumbledore’s right and he’s a little too young now to appreciate them, but I would like to start collecting them.  I want Harry to remember how loved he was and to see how loved he is now.  That’s important to me.”

 

“That sounds like a wonderful plan,” McGonagall said.  “I’d be happy to supply a few memories for him myself of some of the escapades you boys got into while in my classroom.”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “We were angels, Minnie.  I don’t know why you spout these lies.”

 

“Bollocks.”

 

“Minnie!  Language, my dear!”

 

She rolled her eyes at him.  “I’m sorry I haven’t replied to your owl concerning Remus either, I just haven’t had a moment to look into it.  I think speaking to Dumbledore is the best course of action as he has Ministry connections.”

 

“I did actually speak with Dumbledore about it this morning,” Sirius told her with a smile.  “He said that he would look into it for me and we’ll go from there.”

 

“Good,” McGonagall told him with a smile.  “Now, why don’t you walk me back up to the castle and tell me more about Harry.”

 

Sirius offered his arm out to her when she stood up.  “Of course.  When are you coming over for dinner so that Harry can see his Auntie Minnie?”

 

McGonagall smiled at him in amusement.  “You’re lucky I like you, Sirius.”

 

He simply smirked.  “Don’t I know it.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Remus spent the morning working on Latin with Harry.  He was doing very well and he enjoyed watching Harry’s progress, but there was something today that seemed to be bothering him.  Sirius had mentioned the fact that Harry had snuck into his room last night, but he hadn’t said much else.  But as Remus watched him he could tell something was wrong.

 

After an hour of reading and translating the Latin, he decided a break was very much in order.

 

“Alright, Harry, let’s take a little break for the day, yeah?”

 

Harry simply nodded, sliding down to the floor to rub Marauder’s belly.

 

Remus smiled.  “Let’s let Marauder run outside for a bit.”

 

Harry opened the backdoor, grinning when Marauder made a beeline for the yard and took off, but he didn’t follow.  He simply moved to sit on the grass and watched Marauder in the distance.

 

Remus moved to sit next to him, criss crossing his legs the way Harry was sitting.  “Wotcher, little Prongs?”

 

Harry shrugged and peeked at Remus under his lashes.  “Okay.”

 

Remus watched him for a moment before he spoke.  “You know, when I was at Hogwarts with your dad and Uncle Sirius and your mum, they always told me that I was the best listener.  They could always tell me anything and I would just listen.”

 

Harry didn’t say anything.

 

“Your mum especially.  She used to complain about her big sister Petunia and how she used to call her a freak, but she thought maybe she was just jealous because she didn’t have any magical powers.”

 

“Aunt Petunia called my mum a freak?”

 

Remus nodded, his eyes on Harry.  “She did.  All the time.  It hurt your mum’s feelings, not because of the name-calling, but because she felt like her big sister didn’t like her anymore because she could do magic and Petunia couldn’t.”

 

“Aunt Petunia said I was a freak.”

 

“You’re not.  Neither was your mum.”

 

Harry glanced at him shyly.  “I had a dream that I was back in my cupboard and it was dark and I was hungry and all alone.  They locked me up because I was a freak.  And Dudley scared Chloe off so I was a freak with no friends.  I was alone.”

 

“You’re not alone now, Harry,” Remus said softly, squeezing the boy’s shoulder gently.  “I’m here and Uncle Sirius is here for you and you started to make some new friends with Ginny Weasley, didn’t you?”

 

Harry nodded.  “She’s nice.”

 

“How was her birthday party?”

 

“It was fun,” Harry told him with a smile.  “I met her brother Ron and her friend Luna and her brother Percy and her brother Fred and her brother George and her brother Charlie and her brother Bill.  They were nice.  Uncle Siri said they are my friends and they won’t call me a freak, but…”

 

“But what, Harry?”  Remus asked gently.

 

Harry stared at the grass, tugging on the pieces as he spoke.  “What if he’s wrong?  What if Uncle Vernon was right and I don’t deserve any friends?”

 

Remus smiled sympathetically.  “Well, I don’t think that he’s right.  Ginny really liked you and she invited you to her birthday and she introduced you to all sorts of new friends.  That doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t want to be your friend.  And I think that you know by now that Vernon and Petunia… they weren’t very nice people.”

 

“Uncle Sirius said Uncle Vernon was a fucking arse.”

 

“Er, well yes.  Harry, let’s try not to repeat those kinds of bad words, even if Uncle Sirius says them, okay?”

 

Harry stared up at him.  “But the other day when you tripped over Marauder you said —bloody fucking bollocks — is that okay to say if you said it?”

 

Remus flushed, sighing as he realized that he was honestly just as bad when it came to swearing as Sirius was.  “No, definitely not.  Sirius and I will try to… we’ll stop saying bad words and so will you.  Deal?”

 

Harry smiled.  “Deal.”  He stood up, moving to hug Remus tightly.  “I love you, Uncle Moony.”

 

Remus hugged him back, kissing his cheek.  “I love you too, Harry.  And remember, you have lots of people who love you and lots of new friends who want to get to know you.  Don’t forget that.  You are NOT a freak.  You’re special.”

 

Harry nodded, grinning at him.  “I’m special.”

 

“Very special,” he said with a smile.  “Now, how about we ditch school for the day and go see a film?”

 

Harry grinned widely.  “Really?”

 

“Really,” Remus said with a grin, standing up and extending his hand.  “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE:

 

While Remus and Harry went to the show, Sirius left Hogwarts and headed to London.  He waited outside of St Mungo’s about five minutes before he noticed Althea heading out and he waved at her.

 

She smiled and headed in his direction.  “Why, hello there.”

 

Sirius grinned at her.  “Hello to you too.”  

 

He wrapped his hands around her wrist and tugged her up against him, lowering his head to kiss her deeply.

 

Althea's face was flushed when he pulled away.  “I was hoping you’d stop by this afternoon.”

 

“Yeah?”  he asked her, his voice rough with arousal, making her smile. 

 

“Most definitely,” she murmured, moving closer to him and kissing him again.  “Where’s your bike today?”

 

“Home; just came from Hogwarts so I Apparated.”

 

Althea smiled and fisted her hands in his hair.  “Hold on tight.”

 

Sirius barely had time to register that they were Apparating before they landed somewhat haphazardly outside of her flat and he grinned.  “Trying to seduce me, Castellanos?”

 

She took his hand, leading him up the stairs as she turned to grin back at him.  “I didn’t know that I had to try.”

 

Sirius grinned wickedly and followed her into her flat.  The door barely closed behind them before he pinned her back against the wall and feasted on her neck in such a way that the whimpering noise she let slip from her lips made him grind his hips closer to her.  His hands slid her healer robes off, dropping them to the floor and finding the grey skirt and dark green short-sleeved blouse beneath.  He unbuttoned the blouse, ripping it open impatiently and letting it fall to the floor before his hands slid her skirt down.  His mouth never left hers as he left her standing before him in a pale green lace bra and matching knickers with black heels.

 

“Mmm,” he murmured, humming as he kissed her neck, her collarbone, her shoulders, the exposed skin above her bra.

 

Althea moaned, letting her head fall back.  “You have too many clothes on.”

 

Sirius only grinned at her, kneeling down in front of her and using his teeth to tug her knickers off as she gasped.  Then his mouth was on her and her fingers clutched his hair desperately, her hips jumping off the wall to meet his eager and talented tongue.

 

“Oh God, yes,” she gasped.

 

“Sirius is fine,” he murmured, smirking at her.  “God is much too formal.”

 

She swatted his head as he bent back down to her.

 

By the time he stood up, she was panting and then he spun her around, lifting her hips and lowering her onto him as his lips locked onto the back of her neck.  She groaned, reaching back to squeeze his bum as she rode him.

 

They slid bonelessly to the floor afterwards, panting, and Sirius kissed her.

 

“Have I told you how glad I am that you only work half a day on Mondays?”

 

She laughed, kissing his chest.  “No, but I’m starting to think it’s a good choice as well.”  She stretched cat-like next to him and climbed to her feet, stepping out of her high heels and he sat up, slapping her behind.

 

“You have the nicest arse,” he said, spanking it again.

 

Althea grinned at him.  “Is that why you keep riding it?”

 

Sirius stood up, his hands settling on her hips as he kissed her.  “Want me to stop?”  

 

She reached down and gripped him.  He was hard again and she smiled against his mouth.  “Naturally.  I have too many things to do.”

 

“Do me instead,” he told her, pushing into her hand.

 

Althea chuckled, kissing him softly.  “I don’t think that was on my to do list.”

 

“Give me the list, I’ll add it.”

 

She grinned, gently stroking him torturously.  “It’s my to-do list, shouldn’t I be the one adding to the list?”

 

Sirius nipped at her lips as she continued her ministrations and he groaned.  “I think I need to see this list.”

 

Althea slid her other hand down between his legs and he moaned.  “Don’t think so.”  Her hands squeezed and stroked and tugged and rubbed until he was panting and then she merely slid her hands up his chest and kissed the pulse in his throat.  “I think it’s time for you to go, Sirius.”

 

“Is it?” he asked grabbing her hand and tugging her to her bedroom, where they fell laughing onto the bed.  He pinned her wrists over her head and kissed her deeply, his tongue trailing down her throat, between her breasts and circling her belly button before he placed a soft kiss on the apex of her right thigh.  By the time he reached her lips again, she was panting.  “So are we coming or going, Castellanos?”

 

Althea struggled until he let go of her wrists and he was sitting on the bed grinning at her.  She straddled him, lowering herself onto him, her hands fisting in his hair.  “I’m planning on coming, are you?”

 

He groaned against her throat as she rode him; her head falling back and giving him a perfect view of her firm, round breasts bouncing before him and his stomach tightened.  “I’m definitely coming,” he moaned.

 

And they did.

 

Sirius zipped his jeans up a little while later and handed her the ripped blouse.  “This may need to be replaced.”

 

Her eyebrow rose slightly.  “You’re going to owe me a whole new wardrobe, Black if you keep this up.  I’ve never been any good with household repairing charms.”

 

He smirked at her, tugging his shirt over his head.  “Too bad Priya had to work late, or she would see exactly what your wardrobe looks like strewn across the entrance here.”

 

Althea blushed.  “Next time we have to get to the bedroom first.”

 

“Oh?  Are you saying that there’s going to be a next time?”  Sirius asked her, his eyebrows rising in surprise.  “Is that on your to-do list?”

 

She smiled as he took her hand and brushed his lips across her knuckles.  “If you play your cards right.”

 

Sirius stepped into his shoes, picking up her lace knickers as he did so.  “I happen to be excellent at cards.”  He passed her the undergarment and she grinned.

 

“See you around, Black.”

 

He shot her a wicked grin as he opened the door to her flat.  “See you around, Castellanos.”

 

When the door closed behind him, he couldn’t stop grinning. 

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

When he got home, he found the place empty except for Marauder, who yipped in excitement to see him.  He let the puppy outside; wincing when Marauder took off after a rabbit.  He chased him for five minutes, finding him in the back garden of the Morrisons little pink cottage.  After making small talk with the neighbours, he dragged the puppy home lecturing him on the responsibilities of staying in the yard before he headed up to take a quick shower.  Thirty minutes later, he stood in the kitchen, opening cupboards and desperately trying to decide what to feed his rumbling stomach.  He decided on bacon sandwiches and soon he was frying up bacon and watching in amusement as Marauder sniffed the air in appreciation.

 

Remus had been helping him a lot with the cooking and when he realized that his friend had a pot roast simmering in the crock pot on the counter, he thanked his lucky stars he didn’t have to find food for dinner.  Once he had put his mind to it, cooking wasn’t that hard.  It was like following a particularly detailed potion, something he had always done well enough at.  It had always infuriated Remus and Lily how he and James barely had to study as things just came naturally to them both.  Remus was still a much better cook than he was, but he wasn’t terrible, and Sirius figured that was a vast improvement.

 

He remembered that there were potatoes in the pantry and he figured he could mash those up with some garlic and cheese and throw a salad together to go with the pot roast.  He almost winced to himself at how incredibly domestic that sounded.  But he liked it, he realized.  He liked being domestic and taking care of Harry. 

 

It was the two of them against the world and the feeling made him feel great.

 

Occasional bad dreams, shyness, and hesitation around adults he didn’t know — but those were small things, and Sirius knew that McGonagall and Dumbledore were right, — he would eventually get past them.  But it wasn’t going to happen overnight.  He wanted to help him in any way that he could.  

 

He thought about the chores that Harry had quickly adopted over the last two months.  He made his bed every morning, he set the table and helped with the dishes, and he was even helping Sirius with some of the cooking (he was a quick study in that department).  He was great with tools and Sirius loved teaching him about the mechanics of an engine.  He was a great little helper.

 

He should probably have an allowance, Sirius realized.  He was working hard and should get something for it.  He’d talk to Remus about it, he thought, draining the bacon grease from the pan before he made a few sandwiches.

 

He ate standing up in the kitchen lost in domestic thoughts about chore charts, allowances, and cooking.  When he finished eating, he grabbed the Queen album A Night at the Opera and placed it on the wireless, cranking the music up as he cleaned up his mess in the kitchen.  He sang loudly; dancing around as he peeled potatoes and crushed garlic for dinner that night.

 

Sirius only realized Remus and Harry had returned because of the flash of the camera and his eyes widened as Remus simply smirked at him, camera in hand.

 

“Did you just take a photo of me?”

 

Remus grinned widely, turning down the record player so that he could speak.  Padfoot Domesticated — what do you think?”

 

“Piss off, Moony!  There’s no bloody way we’re keeping that photo!”

 

“No bad words!”  Harry exclaimed, his hands on his hips as he looked sternly up at Sirius.  “Uncle Moony said so.”

 

Sirius’ eyes widened in surprise.  “He did, did he?”

 

Remus put the camera down and rubbed the back of his neck.  “Sirius, we have to be more careful around him.  The last thing we need is for Harry to grow up swearing like a sailor.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “The first week of school you told James and I that we were full of bleeding shite and to stop fucking taking the piss out of Peter.  Are you saying that was bad?”

 

“Yes!”  Remus exclaimed, flushing at the memory.  “I was eleven and that was very bad!”

 

Sirius laughed.  “True.  Alright, Harry, Uncle Remus and I will try not to say so many bad words, all right?”

 

Harry grinned.  “Okay.  I’m going outside with Marauder.”

 

“Sure, Prongslet,” Sirius said, smiling as he watched Harry head into the garden with the dog before he turned to Remus.  “This pork roast smells amazing, Moony, have I mentioned how much of a Godsend you are in terms of cooking?”

 

Remus smiled, moving to take a seat at the kitchen table.  “I find it cathartic to cook sometimes.  What are you making?”

 

“Figured garlic and cheesy mashed with a salad?”

 

Remus nodded in approval so Sirius continued what he was doing.

 

“Harry told me about last night,” Remus said casually.

 

Sirius nodded, slicing potatoes carefully.  “I spoke to Minerva and Dumbledore today.  I just don’t know if we’re doing it right, Moony.  I mean, he seems fine, but then at night… something scares him… or someone?  How long is he going to be…”

 

“I think you know the answer to that, Sirius,” Remus said quietly, tapping his fingers on the table.

 

“I didn’t have a problem trusting people,” Sirius told him.  “It was only… it was different.”

 

Remus didn’t say anything.

 

“It was different,” he insisted. 

 

“You have to have noticed how similar you and Harry are by now, Sirius,” Remus said carefully.  “You were both abused by those who were supposed to take care of you.”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “It’s different, Rem.  I was older when it started for me, Harry was still a baby.”

 

Remus merely tilted his head, eyes flashing in annoyance.  “It’s not different.”

 

“It is!  I remember the first time that my parents punished me for something.  I was six years old and I’d run outside into the street to play after my father came home and I made friends with one of the neighbouring boys, a Muggle.”

 

“That boy is a Muggle, Sirius.”

 

“I know, Father,” he said grinning.  “He said that he’s going to show me how to play football.  I don’t know what it is, but it sounds brilliant!”

 

“He’s a Muggle, Sirius, we do not associate with such filth.”

 

Sirius’ brow furrowed.  “He wasn’t dirty.”

 

Orion gestured for his son to follow him into the living room and told him to sit down.  “Sirius, we’re wizards.  You know what that means?”

 

“We have magic.”

 

“Yes, and Muggles can’t do magic.”

 

“They can still do other stuff.  Like those cars, Father — I want to drive a car!”

 

Orion glared at him.  “You will never do such a thing!  Muggle inventions and Muggles themselves are disgustingly low creatures.  They are not worthy to lick the mud from your boots, do you understand me?”

 

“Muggles are bad.”

 

“Very bad.  We are so much better than them.  We do not associate with them.  We do not play with them or speak to them at all if avoidable.  Am I clear?”

 

Sirius nodded, his eyes downcast.  “Father, can Regulus come outside with me tomorrow to meet Robbie so he can show us what football is?”

 

The slap sent him reeling.  He fell off of the chesterfield, holding his cheek, his eyes wide as he stared up at his father.  His eyes watered and Orion raised his hand again.

 

“That boy is beneath you, Sirius, and you will not learn a stupid Muggle sport from him nor play said sport nor subject your younger brother to that disgusting and foul creature.  Have I made myself clear?”

 

“But why?  He was so nice.”

 

The second slap jogged his tear-ducts and they ran down his face.

 

“Blacks don’t cry,” Orion said sternly.  “Now get upstairs to your room and think about what I told you.  At dinner you will tell me what Muggles truly are.”

 

Sirius scrambled to his feet, sucking back his tears as Orion watched him.  “Yes, Father.”

 

“I’m only doing this for your own good, Sirius,” he said quietly.  “I don’t want to hit my son.”

 

“I’m sorry, Father.”

 

Orion nodded.  “Go on now, upstairs, and think about what you’ve done.”

 

He shook the memory from his head.  “I was never really… I was eight when they used the Imperius on me because I wouldn’t follow the rules,” he said.  “Mum was pissed when I could throw it off by the time I was twelve, but I think that she was secretly pleased too, you know?  Only the strongest of wizards can throw off the Imperius Curse.”

 

Remus’ mouth opened and then he closed it again. 

 

“What?”  Sirius asked in annoyance.  He knew that look and Remus was trying to bite his tongue.  “Just spit it out, Moony.”

 

“Just because your physical abuse didn’t start until later doesn’t mean there wasn’t emotional abuse early on.  I won’t say anything else on it, Sirius.  I was only saying that you understand Harry in a way that I never will because of what you both went through.  He trusts you and he trusts me explicitly and that’s great, but he’s wary around other adults.”

 

“I know,” Sirius said, moving to sit at the table.  “He just needs to spend more time with them.  Like the Weasleys for instance, they were great and they have such a big family, six sons and a daughter — they’re friendly and full of life and I think that’s a great influence on him to see that.”

 

“I agree,” he said.  “We should try to get him to talk more about it or I don’t know, try to implement more rules or something.  He’s… he’s an angel and so sweet all of the time.  Not that it’s not wonderful, because it is, but boys his age should want to be a little devilish sometimes. He should want to get into trouble — to cause pranks and mischief.  He just… goes along with whatever we ask of him.”

 

Sirius nodded, eyes on the window watching his godson run around with his puppy.  “He helped Ginny prank her twin brothers yesterday.  When he told me about it, his eyes were just full of laughter and joy.  He’ll get there, Moony.  We just have to give him the opportunity.  Speaking of the Weasleys, I noticed that they had this chore chart on the wall of the kitchen and I kind of liked the concept.  I was thinking that we should start one up for the three of us.”

 

Remus rolled his eyes.  “I don’t live here, Padfoot; I’m not letting you con me into doing your chores.”

 

Sirius laughed, brushing his hair out of his eyes.  “Damn, I thought I had you.”  At his friend’s grin, he continued.  “Harry makes his bed every morning and he helps me with dishes, sets the table, and helps with the cooking.  But I thought maybe we could give him like a checklist of things to do over the week and as he completes them, he gets a prize or an allowance or something.  I noticed Molly had gold stars and a list of things like five gold stars earns extra flying time or something.  I don’t know it was something I was tossing around in my head earlier.”

 

“I think it’s a great idea, Sirius.  You can also implement a meal plan; you two can decide together food choices for the week, I can help with that and it will also help ensure Harry gets the vegetables, protein, calcium, and fruit that he needs on a daily basis.  Plus it will stop you from having to figure out what to make each and every day, which is a chore in itself.”  Remus suggested, smiling at his friend.  “And Marauder is his puppy, he should take more responsibility for him.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

“As for pranks,” Remus began, smiling at his friend.  “I was thinking we could start playing little pranks on him.”

 

“What?”  Sirius asked in surprise.  “Play pranks on the child?  Moony, are you joking?  That can’t be good parenting!”

 

Remus laughed, folding his arms in front of him on the table.  “Now, now, hear me out,” he said chuckling.  “I mean fun things to make him laugh and to help him realize that it’s okay to have fun.  Like filling a glass full of jelly with a straw so it hardens and giving it to him as juice.  Or making up our own daily fortunes as a lunch time surprise.  Something funny like ‘your brain is zombie food.’  Freeze a bowl of cereal and give it to him in the morning.  Or hide bubble wrap around the house under the rugs and watch his surprise when he steps on it.  You know, stuff like that?  My mum used to help me do those kinds of things all the time as a kid.  I loved them.”

 

“This explains a lot, Moony,” Sirius told him with a grin.  “Jamie and I always wondered how you were so annoyingly good at coming up with pranks.”

 

“Mum once put a balloon in a cake pan and covered it with icing and sprinkles for my birthday.  When I went to cut the cake it exploded everywhere.  I laughed myself silly,” Remus told him with a grin.

 

Sirius slapped his hands together, grinning wickedly.  “I’m in.  Operation Prank The Piss Out Of Harry Potter has commenced.”

 

Remus grinned at his friend.  “Let’s start tonight.  I have the perfect idea in mind for dessert.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX:

 

Harry ate every bite of his pork roast, mashed garlic and cheese potatoes, and his spinach salad.  He made faces as he ate the spinach, but he swallowed it all.  It was rather chewy, but he thought the dressing helped it slide down easier.  He wondered if Uncle Sirius would be mad if he said he didn’t like it.

 

Remus smiled as Harry cleaned his plate.  “Good job, Harry.  It’s nice to see you eating all of your dinner.  How about some dessert?”

 

“Yes, please,” Harry said with a big smile.  Dessert was his favourite.

 

“There’s a platter of chocolate chip cookies on the counter or if you check the ice box, there’s a plate of brown-e’s.  You can choose.”  Remus told him with a smile.

 

Harry grinned, jumping down from his chair and heading to the ice box.  He loved brownies.  He carefully carried the covered plate over to the table and put it in front of Sirius.  “Brownies please.”

 

“Open it up then, Prongslet,” he urged, winking at Remus.

 

Harry carefully pulled back the foil and his eyes widened.  The whole plate was covered in brown letter E’s.  “Uncle Moony!  This isn’t brownies!”

 

Remus’ eyebrow cocked in surprise, “Sure they are, little Prongs,” he picked up one of the E’s made from cardboard and painted dark brown.  “See, it is brown and it is an E.  A plate of brown-e’s.”

 

Harry stared at him for a minute and then he laughed.  “Uncle Moony, you’re silly.”

 

Remus smiled at him.  “Sometimes.  Sirius told me that you helped Ginny pull a little prank on her brothers so I thought maybe I’d pull a little prank on you.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Prank War’s on, Moony, better watch out.”

 

Harry stared at them in fascination.  “Prank War?”

 

Sirius grinned widely.  “It’s going to be fun, Prongslet, just you wait.”

 

Harry learned exactly what a ‘prank war’ was over the next few days.  

 

Remus replaced Sirius’ dishes with dog bowls; Sirius made Remus’ shoes sing Werewolves of London; Remus put purple hair dye in Sirius’ shampoo; Sirius and Harry painted pictures all over Remus’ face when he fell asleep on the couch (including a very well-endowed penis covering most of his friend’s arm); Sirius froze Harry’s cereal and Harry put yellow food colouring in water, pouring it on Sirius’ pillow while he slept; Remus let jelly harden in a glass with a straw and gave it to Harry for lunch; Harry put salt in the sugar container and watched Remus scoop it into his tea;  Sirius put itching powder in Remus’ boxer shorts; Remus put dog shampoo in Sirius’ shampoo; and so on.

 

None of them could decide who the winner was, but they all laughed up-roaringly and Harry giggled in excitement at the prospect of being allowed to participate in such events.  

 

By the end of the week, he was even urging Sirius and Remus to pull pranks.  When the letter came from the Weasleys that weekend, inviting Harry over for the afternoon, Sirius thought that it was the perfect opportunity to let Harry have fun in a different way than their Prank War.  

 

Sirius used the Floo to drop him off the next afternoon, dusting him off as they came into the Weasleys’ living room and smiling warmly at Mrs Weasley.

 

“Thanks for inviting Harry over, Molly,” Sirius told her with a smile.  “He’s very excited, right, Harry?”

 

He nodded eagerly as he smiled at her.  “Thank you, Mrs Weasley.”

 

She smiled warmly, a flowered apron around her waist.  “You’re very welcome, Harry, dear.  Ron and Ginny are out back, go on!”

 

Harry turned to look at Sirius and he smiled.  “Go on, Harry.  I’ll come pick you up after dinner, okay?”

 

Harry grinned at him before he hurried out the backdoor.

 

Sirius smiled at Mrs Weasley.  “He’s been bugging me about seeing your kids again, so thanks for the invite.  Maybe next time they can come to my place?”

 

“Of course.  Our house is always open and really what’s one more?”  she said on a laugh.  “Is seven o’clock all right with you to come get him?”

 

“Perfect,” he said, smiling.  “I’ll be home all afternoon if anything happens or if Harry needs me.”

 

Mrs Weasley smiled sympathetically.  “He’ll be fine, Sirius.”

 

“Right,” he said, grinning.  “See you later.”

 

Harry was having the time of his life.  They were playing hide and seek and he was loving every minute of it.  They switched to tag and then Ginny convinced him to help her dress up the garden gnomes.  He had been bitten three times, but they looked so silly, like little potatoes dressed in doll clothes, that it had been worth it.  Especially when Ron showed him how to swing them in a circle and throw them across the field.  At first, Harry felt bad, but when he saw that it didn’t hurt them, he soon assisted Ron in tossing them away.

 

He wondered if he could sneak a garden gnome into Sirius’ bed.  That would be funny.

 

By the time Mrs Weasley called them inside for a snack, he knew that Sirius had been right.  They were his friends.  And they didn’t think that he was a freak.  He had told them about the pranks he, Sirius, and Remus had been playing on each other and Ron and Ginny laughed appreciatively before they told him about some of the stuff Fred and George had pulled off.  

 

He had laughed so much his sides hurt.

 

They stepped into the kitchen where Mrs Weasley had prepared a snack of cheese, kielbasa, and crackers and made themselves comfortable at the table.

 

“Go wash up first,” she instructed as Harry followed Ron and Ginny upstairs to the loo.

 

Once they were clean, they sat down at the table and Harry eagerly took a bite.  They were delicious.  He looked up when the tall thin red-headed man came into the room.  He recognized him as Mr Weasley and his eyes stayed on him as he ate.  He hadn’t really spoken to him before and he wasn’t sure what to make of the newcomer.

 

Mr Weasley moved around the table, greeting his children and smiled at Harry.  He put his hand on his shoulder ready to squeeze in lieu of greeting, the way he had just done to his children.  Harry jumped up from his seat so far, he knocked his pumpkin juice onto the floor, spilling it everywhere.

 

“Harry!  Sorry, son, I didn’t mean to scare you!”  Mr Weasley explained, taking a step towards Harry in apology.

 

Harry moved further away, his eyes on the mess that he had just made.  His stomach was clenched tight in a ball of fear that he couldn’t quite explain.  “I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to spill it!  I’m sorry!”

 

“It’s okay, Harry,” Mrs Weasley said gently, reaching down to pick up the cup and using her wand to get rid of the mess.  “It was an accident.”

 

Harry nodded, his breathing uneven and he continued to back away slowly until his back was pressed against the kitchen wall.  They had invited him over and he had been ungrateful; he’d made a mess.  They wouldn’t want him to come over ever again.  And Mr Weasley, he was the head of the family, and the head of the household always punished those who were ungrateful.

 

“Ungrateful little brat, I’ll show you what the head of the household does to little twerps like you!”  Uncle Vernon’s voice echoed in his head.

 

“You think that hurt the other day, I’ll show you what happens when you break something in this house that doesn’t belong to you!”

 

The memories consumed him for a moment and his whole body trembled in irrational fear as Mr Weasley walked over to him.

 

“Really, Harry, I didn’t mean to startle you.  Come back to the table, son.”  Mr Weasley took a step closer to him and Harry panicked.

 

“NO!”  he screamed so loudly that all of the Weasleys jumped in alarm as the three kitchen windows shattered, exploding glass all around the room before Harry bolted out the backdoor and ran into the yard, his breathing heavy.  He wasn’t even sure why he was running, but when he got to the pond, he stopped to catch his breath, his eyes alight in panic when he saw Mr Weasley following him.  

 

“Don't you run, boy!  If I have to catch you, you’ll have no food for a week!”

 

“I’m sorry!”  he yelled, his eyes wide and terrified as Uncle Vernon’s voice echoed in his head.  “I’m not ungrateful!  I’m sorry!  Don’t — don’t hit me!”  The last words coming out in a panicked whisper as he held his arms up to protect himself.

 

“Hit you?”  Mr Weasley exclaimed in astonishment.  “Harry, I would NEVER hit you.  Son, I’m not going to hurt you.”  He turned when he saw his daughter next to him and watched in amazement as she ignored Harry’s panic and wrapped her arms around him.

 

“It’s okay, Harry.  My Daddy is the nicest man in the whole world!  He’s not mad at you.”

 

Harry seemed baffled by her hugging him, but he soon wrapped his arms around her too and his breathing slowly returned to normal.  The sense of panic slowly leaving him.

 

Ginny had just stepped back from him when he saw Sirius hurrying towards him and he bolted straight for his godfather, arms outstretched and let Sirius scoop him up into his warm safe arms.

 

“Harry, are you okay?”  Sirius asked, hugging him close, kissing his cheek and sighing when Harry merely curled into him, clinging tightly with his face in the crook of Sirius’ neck, as if terrified he would disappear before his eyes.

 

Mr Weasley looked baffled as he stared at Sirius.  “I’m terribly sorry, Sirius, I seemed to have startled him.  I reached down to squeeze his shoulder in greeting and he just… I’m sorry.”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “It’s not your fault, Arthur.  He doesn’t… it’s not your fault.”  He kissed Harry’s forehead and his ear.  “Prongslet, no one is mad at you.  It was just an accident.  Mr and Mrs Weasley know that.”  He gently rubbed his hand up and down Harry’s back as he spoke.  “Do you want to come home or do you want to stay and play with Ron and Ginny some more?”

 

“They won’t let me stay,” he whispered, his lips tickling Sirius’ neck as he spoke with his head buried against his godfather.

 

“Of course they will,” Sirius told him.  “No one is mad at you.  You’re not in any trouble, I promise.”  When Harry’s eyes met his, he smiled.  “Would I ever lie to you?”

 

Harry smiled a little.  “No.”

 

Sirius kissed his nose and made him laugh.  “Do you want to stay or do you want to go home?”

 

Harry hesitated and his little hands fisted in Sirius’ tee-shirt before he spoke.  “Can you stay too?”

 

Sirius smiled.  “Definitely.”  He put Harry back on his feet, his hands on his shoulders as Harry turned to look at Mr Weasley.

 

“I’m sorry, Mr Weasley,” he said quietly.

 

Mr Weasley smiled at him.  “No worries, Harry.  It was my fault, I scared you.  Go on now and play with Ron and Ginny.”

 

Ginny took Harry’s hand, tugging him with her.  Harry looked back at Sirius questioningly as Sirius smiled at him and urged him to go.  He let Ginny tug him away as Ron gestured for them to follow and the three of them took off across the yard heading to the little orchard where Bill, Charlie, and Percy were playing Quidditch.

 

Sirius shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed.  “Thanks for calling me, Molly.”

 

Mrs Weasley nodded, staring at her husband.  “I just didn’t want to scare him further.  He seemed like he was going to have a panic attack.  I’ve never seen a child look so terrified.”

 

Sirius sighed.  “Don’t make any sudden movements around him, Molly.  He needs to be aware of where you are at all times.  If you do that, he won’t panic.”

 

Mr Weasley looked across where the kids disappeared by the orchard.  “I’ve never seen a child react like that before.  He… he begged me not to hit him.  As if I would ever strike — is he alright, Sirius?”

 

“The people he was living with before mistreated him.  He’s going to be fine.  But if he’s too much for you lot to handle, I will take him home.”

 

“No!”  Mrs Weasley insisted, her eyes sad.  “We love to have him here and Ginny and Ron like him so much.  Arthur and I will be more cautious.  It just seemed to happen so suddenly it surprised us.  The windows exploded and… thankfully no one was hurt and it was an easy fix, but the poor boy was terrified!”

 

Sirius shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets.  “That’s partly my fault, I should have warned you.  He’s really only been around Remus and I and my cousin Tonks for the most part and he trusts us but he doesn’t… he doesn’t know you yet.  Remus and I are still working on making him more comfortable with us.  We’ve been pulling pranks on him to make him smile and he’s starting to prank us back, which is fun.  He’s loosening up, not being so afraid to be a child.  Being here with you and your family, I think it shows him what a real family is and that’s good for him too.  He trusts Ginny and Ron.”

 

“Ginevra embraced him and hugged him tight until his breathing evened out and he let her,” Mr Weasley commented.  “It surprised me that he just let her move in on him like that after he was so terrified of me just standing near him.  He trusts her.”

 

Sirius smiled.  “Children aren’t the problem, Arthur.  His tosser of an aunt and uncle were.”

 

Mrs Weasley nodded.  “Well, come on inside then, Sirius.  If you’re staying for dinner, I’d better get started on it.”

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

Spending time with the Weasleys was very good for Harry.  He helped Ginny and Ron play tricks on their older brothers, usually with the help of Fred and George.  And over the next two weeks, Harry had spent five separate days at the Burrow.  He idolized Bill a little and he asked him endless questions about Hogwarts.  Charlie was on the Quidditch team and Harry loved watching him soar around the orchard on his broom and his eyes gleamed in fascination.  He couldn’t wait until he was old enough to fly a broom.  He loved it at the Burrow and he hadn’t had any other panic attacks or bad reactions to anything at the Weasley household since that afternoon.  On the fifth day, he had even hugged Mr Weasley goodbye, surprising Mr Weasley, who pat his head affectionately.

 

As for the Prank War at home, Sirius and Remus were still keeping it strong.  They had covered Harry’s bed in raisins and convinced him it was mouse poop; Remus had switched out some of Sirius’ albums so that when he went to play AC/DC, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun belted out or The Rolling Stones album was suddenly playing I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor and Blue Öyster Cult was Aretha Franklin demanding a little Respect; and Sirius cut tiny holes in the little bags Remus carried in his pockets full of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans so he kept leaving trails of candy wherever he went.

 

But it was the end of August when Harry had worked up the courage to pull a prank on Sirius and Remus together.  He had been working on it for two days, keeping it a secret from them, but he had gotten help from Tonks, who was thrilled at the idea of endless pranking taking place.

 

They rigged the fireplace up with flour and confetti and sprinkles so that when someone tried to use the Floo, the hidden bucket would spill out, dusting the person in a mess.

 

Remus had Apparated that morning, but Sirius was heading out to see Althea and Harry was anxiously awaiting him to use the Floo.  He didn’t know who Althea was or why Sirius was going out to see her, but he couldn’t wait to see his godfather get covered in his concoction.

 

But it wasn’t Sirius.

 

The Floo lit up and a tall man with a crooked nose, a long silver beard, and half-moon glasses stepped out of the fireplace, covered from head to toe in flour, confetti, and sprinkles — and Harry giggled.  The giggles turned into fits of laughter as Sirius and Remus stared open-mouthed at Albus Dumbledore.

 

“Albus, what exactly were you up to before stopping by?”  Sirius asked, laughing.

 

Dumbledore carefully wiped his eyes which were twinkling in laughter.  “Sirius, you may have a slight problem in your fireplace.  The Floo seems to be malfunctioning.”

 

Harry roared, clutching his stomach and Remus’ eyes widened.

 

“Little Prongs, did you do this?”

 

Harry nodded in between his laughter.  “It — was — supposed — to — be — Uncle — Padfoot!”  he gasped in between his laughs and Remus busted into laughter.  

 

“We’ve created a monster, Sirius,” he said with a grin.

 

Sirius smirked, bending down and picking up Harry by the legs, holding him upside down, as the child cackled.  “You thought I’d look funny like that, did you?”

 

“Yes!”  Harry squealed, laughing as Sirius swing him upside down back and forth in front of his feet like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.

 

Dumbledore smiled, using a quick cleansing charm on himself.  “I see you three are getting along quite famously.”

 

Sirius lifted Harry up into his arms, settling him on his hip and grinning when Harry merely monkey crawled onto his shoulders.  He reached up to hold his waist and to keep him steady as Harry’s hands played with his hair.  

 

“Been having a bit of a Prank War, Albus, sorry that you got caught in the crossfire.”

 

Dumbledore waved his hand in front of him as he grinned.  “Not to worry, no harm done.”

 

Sirius smiled.  “Harry, do you remember Professor Dumbledore?  He’s the Headmaster of Hogwarts.  You met him once a few months ago?”

 

Harry nodded, smiling kindly at the man.  “Hello.  I’m sorry for the prank.”

 

Dumbledore chuckled.  “It was a very good prank, Harry.  I’m only sorry that I didn’t get to see you cover Sirius in it.”  When Harry beamed at him, he smiled.  “Sirius, may I have a private word?”

 

Sirius nodded, lifting Harry down from his shoulders.  “Of course.  Down you go, Prongslet.”  He left Harry with Remus and he led Dumbledore into the sun room, closing the glass door behind him and placing a silencing charm.  “As private as we can get.  What can I do for you, Albus?”

 

Dumbledore smiled.  “It seems you three are working well together.  The fact that you have Harry pranking the two of you is quite a feat.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “It was Rem’s idea and I think it was brilliant.  We’re trying to get Harry to see that he doesn’t have to be a little angel all of the time.  We want him to, you know — be a kid and have fun.”

 

“An excellent idea and one I think is being executed well judging by that prank he had planned for you,” Dumbledore said with a smile.  “Has he had anymore nightmares since we spoke last?”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “No, none that he’s remembered anyway, but he has snuck into my bed twice more since then.  And he had a panic attack at the Weasleys two weeks ago, but he’s all right now.”

 

“A panic attack?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “I think he had some flashbacks of memory too from the way Arthur explained it to me, but Arthur Weasley startled him, and well it just set him off.  He accidentally exploded all of the windows in their kitchen, but he loves going there now.  He’s even become friendly enough that he hugged Arthur goodbye the other day.  He’s coming around.”

 

“That’s good to hear.  Him wanting to be close to you at night is perfectly normal as well,” Dumbledore told him.  “I’m glad to see him smiling and seemingly so at home and happy.”

 

Sirius grinned.  “Me too.  Like you said, it takes time.”

 

Dumbledore smiled as he reached into his cloak.  “I have two things for you.  First is this,” he said as he un-shrunk the package that he had just pulled from his cloak to its rightful size and handed it over.  “It’s a Pensieve dish.  Make sure that you find a safe place to store it as you don’t want anyone stumbling across it accidentally.”

 

“Thank you,” Sirius said, his eyes on the wrapped box.  “I haven’t even mentioned this to Remus yet.  But I want to get started on it soon.”

 

Dumbledore nodded.  “I think it’s a wonderful idea.  Secondly, about the potion we spoke about.”

 

Sirius’ eyes whipped up to his.  “Did you get the recipe?”

 

“Yes, and no,” he said carefully, taking a seat on the edge of the desk.

 

“What does that mean?”  Sirius demanded.  “Can we get it for Remus or not?  The next moon isn’t until the middle of September but — what’s the verdict here?”

 

Dumbledore hesitated before he spoke.  “It is an extremely volatile and difficult potion to make.  It needs to steep for exactly six hours and must be drunk within thirty minutes of steep time completion and it must be drank within two hours of the sun setting.  The ingredients are expensive as well.”  He rattled off a steep price, but Sirius just shrugged.

 

“I don’t care how much it costs, I want to know if we can brew it.”

 

Dumbledore shook his head.  “It takes a lot of effort and a lot of time to make it once a month; something you won’t be able to do with Harry around — but I think I have a solution for you.”

 

“I’m open to anything,” Sirius told him gratefully.

 

Dumbledore nodded.  “I’ve spoken to the potions professor at Hogwarts and he has agreed to faithfully brew the potion for Remus if you supply all of the ingredients.”

 

“Done.”

 

He hesitated.  “You would have to come to Hogwarts the day before the full moon to take the first sample of the potion to bring back to Remus.  Once it is in his system, he can drink from the same potion for the next two nights, but it must always be within two hours of the sun setting for the potion to take full affect.  Belby recommends one hour before, but says a two hour window is allowed if necessary.”

 

“Not a problem, Albus.  I’ll make sure he drinks all of it.”

 

Dumbledore smiled, tapping his long fingers on his thigh.  “Severus will start brewing it on the morning of the seventeenth of September.  You can come pick it up for Remus that evening.  You will take the rest of the potion home for him for the next two nights.  Severus will give you proper instructions then.  Understood?”

 

Sirius nodded, grinning in excitement.  “I can’t believe this is happening.  I can’t believe there is a potion out there that will finally help him!  And the fact that old Sluggy is willing to — wait, you said Severus not Slughorn?”

 

“I did, yes.”

 

Sirius’ eyes darkened.  “Albus, who exactly is the Potions Professor nowadays?”

 

“Severus Snape.”

 

“Fuck no,” Sirius exclaimed, crossing his arms in front of his chest.  “There’s no fucking way Rem’s taking anything that prick brews!  He’ll bloody poison him!”

 

“I assure you that he will not,” Dumbledore told him quietly.  “Severus is not going to let an old schoolyard grudge get in the way of helping a man in need.  He will faithfully brew the potion for Remus without fail, I give you my word.”

 

Sirius simply stared at him.  “Bloody hell, Albus, Severus Fucking Snape — you hired bloody Snivellus?”

 

“Snape is a brilliant Potioneer and he came to me amidst the war seeking refuge.  All of his friends had turned Death Eaters.  I took him in and I gave him a job and he has never once disappointed me,” Dumbledore told him sternly.  “He will brew the Wolfsbane Potion for Remus.  Unless you think that you can brew it yourself, truly?”

 

Sirius’ fists clenched at his sides.  He had always excelled at his studies, but Potions had never been his strong suit while Snape had O’s across the board.  Dumbledore was right, he was a brilliant Potioneer and turning down this opportunity to help Remus because of an old schoolyard grudge was not only petty and stupid, but it was downright ridiculous.  He wouldn’t let his cloudy judgment stop him from helping his best friend. 

 

Even if he didn’t trust Snape as far as Harry could throw him.

 

“Snivelly can make it,” Sirius spat out and Dumbledore’s eyes merely stared at him.  “I mean — Snape can make it.”

 

He smiled.  “Good.  You’ll be receiving an owl with a bill for the ingredients by the end of the week.  The seventeenth, Sirius.”

 

Sirius nodded, removing the silencing charm as Dumbledore headed out to go.  “I’ll be there.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN:

 

“What was that about?”  Remus asked, opening a pint of Dragon Scale from the ice box and taking a drink as Dumbledore Disapparated from the front drive.

 

Sirius shrugged, leaning down to kiss Harry’s forehead from where he sat at the kitchen table, drawing.  It was pouring rain outside and he knew that Harry was disappointed to be stuck inside.  “A few different things.  I’ll fill you in later, I’m late as it is.”

 

Remus smiled.  “Castellanos must be getting angry.  Are you taking her on a real date again soon?”

 

Sirius chuckled as he opened the door to head outside and Apparate.  “We don’t go on real dates, Moony — we’re just shagging.”

 

Remus rolled his eyes and Sirius smirked at him before he Disapparated.  He hurried up the stairs to Althea’s flat and knocked on the door.

 

Althea pulled it open and his mouth dropped.  She was standing before him in a black heels and a red sheer nightgown with a lace trim.  The red knickers and matching bra she wore beneath it were silk.  She leaned against the doorjamb, twirling her hair around her finger as it fell down her back and over her shoulders.

 

“You’re late.”

 

He closed his mouth and stared at her for a moment.  “I’ve never been so sorry in my life.”

 

She continued to twirl her hair.  “I don’t tolerate tardiness.”

 

Sirius’ eyebrow rose in amusement.  “Guess you’ll have to punish me.”

 

She grabbed him by the front of his shirt and tugged him inside.  “Oh, I plan to.”

 

The door closed behind him and she led him into her bedroom, pushing him down onto the bed.  To his surprise, her knees indented the bed on either side of his head and she smiled down at him.

 

“As punishment, I’m going to use you terribly,” she told him, wiggling out of her knickers sliding the silk along his cheek.

 

His breath caught and his cock twitched in his jeans.  “I understand, I’ll try not to enjoy it.”

 

Then he grabbed her hips and pulled her closer and his mouth got to work.

 

By the time he let go, she was crying out his name.  She eagerly tugged his jeans down just enough and she took him into her, riding him hard and fast until they collapsed against each other, breathless.

 

Sirius tugged off the rest of his clothes.  “Have I been punished enough yet?”

 

She spanked him lightly, smirking when he looked at her in surprise.  “Don’t be late next time.”

 

He crawled back onto the bed, his mouth covering her breast through the nightgown and bra she wore.  “I had an unexpected visitor.  I’m sorry I was late.”

 

Althea smiled as he tugged the nightgown over her head and unclasped the bra so that she was naked before him.  His lips trailed over her stomach and her hands fisted in his hair.  “It’s all right.  You can buy me some pizza and we’ll talk about it.”

 

Sirius simply grinned and lifted her hips, sliding in deeply.  “After.”

 

“After,” she agreed, holding him tightly.

 

Afterwards, they sat naked in her bed eating pizza and drinking wine as Sirius filled her in on the newest prank by young Harry.

 

She laughed.  “I wish I could have seen the stout and sturdy Professor Dumbledore covered in flour, confetti, and sprinkles!  That must have been a sight!”

 

“It was,” Sirius told her, grinning.  “But the sight of Harry just rolling on the ground and laughing, that was the real sight.  He’s… he’s a kid, Castellanos, and it’s the greatest thing.”

 

Althea smiled at him in understanding.  “I told you that it would take time, but that it would happen.  Has he started acting out yet?”

 

Sirius looked at her in confusion.  “Acting out?  I just told you about his epic prank on Dumbledore.”

 

“No,” she said laughing.  “I mean, that is pretty amazing, but I was talking about him testing you; feeling out your boundaries.”

 

“I’m not following.”

 

“Well, you said the last time that you and Remus were implementing more rules and making him eat more veggies and do more chores — has he questioned any of this?”

 

“A little,” Sirius told her honestly as he thought back to the last few weeks.

 

He had made a chore chart with stars and Harry had no problem with it.  He picked up Marauder’s poop every morning from the day before.  He fed Marauder and once a week they gave the puppy a bath (Sirius and Remus both helped).  He made his bed and he cleaned his room, laughing when Sirius had tickled him with the feather duster and stuck it to his butt, as he slid him along the walls to ‘dust’.  He helped with dishes and he set the table, he helped with some of the cooking, and he was starting to make food requests and complaints.

 

“He has been complaining a bit about the spinach in the salads or even begging for desserts.  And he’s been whining a bit about bedtime, wanting to stay up later.”

 

Althea smiled as she sipped her wine.  “Normal behaviour.  But yes, he’s starting to test you now.  He knows the good things you do for him and he wants to see how much good stuff he can get, especially because it’s all new to him.”

 

“So he’s going to start acting out more?”

 

She nodded.  “Oh definitely and it’s a good sign,” she told him with a smile.  “And you’re going to have to start thinking about how far you’re willing to let him go.  What kind of rules you want to instigate?”

 

“Rules,” he said with a grimace.  “I hate rules.”

 

“They’re not for you, Sirius,” she said with a grin.  “For Harry.  Where he is allowed to go; what he is allowed to do; when he goes to bed; when he can have a treat; when he has friends over and what they are allowed and not allowed to do.  Those kinds of basic rules that every family needs to maintain healthy boundaries and a healthy lifestyle of order.”

 

He nodded in understanding.  “Yeah, that makes sense.  He’s just been so good that I haven’t had to think about it.  Remus and I definitely got him enjoying the pranks though so that’s always fun and it’s nice to see his mischievous side too.”

 

“You’ll figure it out,” she said, licking pizza sauce off of her baby finger.

 

Sirius nodded, reaching across the bed to hold her small breast in his hand.  “How do you feel about rules, Castellanos?”  His finger gently massaged her nipple, making it hard.

 

“Oh, I’m very big on rules.”

 

Sirius gently kneaded her breast, leaning in to kiss her neck.  “I always felt like rules were meant to be broken.”

 

Althea placed her hand over his, sighing at the loss of contact when he let go of her breast.  “Depends on the rules.”

 

Sirius grinned at her.  “Rules suck.”

 

Althea shimmied out of his grasp and hopped off of the bed.  She moved to the other side of the room, grabbing a notepad from the top of her dresser and quickly scribbled something down before ripping off the first page.  “First rule of the night, Sirius — read this.”

 

He rolled his eyes but accepted the piece of paper, chuckling.  “Althea’s To-Do-List?”

 

“Shut up and read it,” she said, climbing back onto the bed.

 

Sirius cleared his throat as he began to read:

 

Althea’s To-Do-List:

  1. Have pizza and wine.
  2. Get on knees and enjoy Sirius Black’s wand — fully.
  3. Do Sirius Black

 

Sirius swallowed slowly.  “This is a VERY detailed and naughty list, Castellanos.  You are a very naughty bird.”

 

She simply smiled at him and slid down to her knees.  “What comes after pizza and wine, Black?”

 

He glanced at the list and he grinned at her.  “Enjoy Sirius Black’s wand, fully.”

 

She stared at him as he moved to the edge of the bed and she positioned herself between his thighs before she looked up at him.  “Still don’t think we should follow the rules?”

 

Sirius simply watched as her mouth moved over him and he let his head fall back.  So maybe some rules were okay.

 

But only some.

 

 

 

~ ASC ~

 

 

 

When he got home late that night, Harry was already in bed and Remus was half sleeping on the chesterfield in the living room.  He lifted Remus’ legs up, plopping them into his lap as he sat down next to his friend.  Then he simply gripped his friend’s legs and shoved forward and Remus slid off the couch, swearing when he hit the floor.

 

Sirius laughed and Remus turned to glare at him.  “Really?  Are you twelve?”

 

Sirius shrugged as Remus took a seat back on the couch, rubbing his eyes.  “What time is it?”

 

“Just after one.  I thought you were taking Harry to your place tonight?”

 

“By the time we cleaned up the big mess his prank made in the living room, we decided to just stay here.  How was your non-date?”

 

Sirius grinned widely, stretching his long legs out.  “My broom was well-ridden.”

 

Remus snorted.  “I’m sure it was.  What the hell are you two then?  Do you ever go out?”

 

Sirius shook his head.  “No.  Not since that first date.”

 

Remus simply smirked at him.  “It’s been a month.  I can’t believe she’s okay with this.”

 

“She’s leaving in a few weeks for Sri Lanka.  Neither one of us are looking for anything serious.  We’re having fun and really great sex, which is all we both need right now.  I don’t want to be in a relationship right now, Rem; I’m still figuring things out with Harry.  He doesn’t need any other big changes in his life at the moment and frankly, neither do I.”

 

“You can’t use Harry as an excuse to stop living your own life, Sirius,” Remus told him, eyeing his friend carefully.

 

“I’m not,” Sirius told him.  “I like Castellanos, don’t get me wrong, but she’s going away in few weeks and she’s going to be gone for months.  I’m not going to start something up that’s not going anywhere.  If she comes back and we’re both still single, maybe, but right now — I’m just enjoying her.”

 

Remus smiled at his friend.  “That makes sense.”

 

“When’s the last time you even got laid, Rem?  Why are you hitting me up about girlfriends, you never let yourself find a girlfriend?”

 

“I’m different.  I have other problems to deal with.”

 

“Bullshit!”

 

Remus sighed.  “And I’ll have you know I met a nice girl named Robyn over Christmas.”

 

“And?”

 

Remus simply smirked.  “We spent two lovely weeks in her hotel room.”

 

“That’s my boy!”  Sirius exclaimed making his friend laugh.  “Anyway, I’m glad you and Harry stayed, I want to talk to you about why Dumbledore was here.”

 

“When he asked to speak with you in private I was worried that it had to do with Harry?”

 

Sirius shook his head, standing up.  “Let’s go into the kitchen.  I think we both need some whiskey for this.”

 

Remus followed, his eyes on the back of his friend’s head.  He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of needing whiskey to get through a conversation.  It sounded ominous to him.  He took a seat and watched his friend pour two fingers in a glass for each of them before he sat down.

 

“Do you read the Daily Prophet, Moony?”

 

“No, I stopped reading it years ago,” he said watching as Sirius took a sip of his whiskey.  “I don’t trust what they print, as you very well known.”

 

“There was an article about a month ago about Belby, a Potioneer at the Ministry, and he’s invented a new potion that helps with dementia.”

 

“Er, okay?”

 

Sirius nodded.  “Dementia that is specific to those who have lycanthropy.”

 

Remus’ eyes shot up, amber orbs twirling in thought.  What?”

 

Sirius quickly explained about the article, pulling the old newspaper out from the drawer and showing his friend the article.  By the time he started to explain how he had approached Dumbledore, Remus was trembling.

 

Sirius stood up, moving around the table and wrapping an arm around his friend.  “I know you’re scared, Moony.  But think of what a difference this potion can make.”

 

Remus pushed his friend away as he climbed to his feet.  “I’m not scared, Sirius.”  He moved to the window and stared out into the darkness.  When Sirius put his arm around his shoulders again he sighed.  “I can’t believe you did all of this without talking to me first.”

 

“Rem - “

 

“No, Siri!”  Remus shouted, turning to look at his friend and shoving his arm away again angrily.  “I know you meant well and you were right to think that I wouldn’t have done this for myself but… how expensive is this potion?”

 

Sirius hesitated.  “The ingredients are hard to come by, I’ll give you that, but Snape is going to brew it for you.”

 

“How much, Sirius?”