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AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)

Please Note: Laocoon's Children is a parallel of the Harry Potter books, and therefore passages from the books themselves are occasionally useful. In this chapter, portions of the Knight Bus and Firebolt scenes are taken directly or rephrased from The Prisoner of Azkaban.

***

The messenger that Dumbledore sent to speak to Remus wasn't Snape, as he and Sirius had assumed it would be; it was a tabby-cat with squarish marks around her eyes. She was waiting for them when they returned from a lunchtime outing, calmly washing one paw and sitting on their welcome mat.

"Deputy Headmistress, this is a pleasure," Remus said, opening the door and allowing her to lead the way inside. "I assume the Headmaster has sent you?"

Sirius shut the door after the boys and the cat stretched and transformed, ending up as a tidy-looking witch with square spectacles on.

"He has," she said with a small smile. "Hello Mr. Lupin, Mr. Black. Harry, Draco."

"Professor," Harry and Draco mumbled by way of greeting.

"Won't you have some tea?" Remus said.

"I'm afraid I can't linger; I'm needed at Hogwarts again by two," she said.

"Of course. Please tell the Headmaster that I've decided to accept his offer," Remus replied. "Contingent on one or two points, but I'm sure those will be no bother."

McGonagall smiled more broadly than Harry and Draco thought possible. "Wonderful, Remus. I'm certain you'll be an excellent professor."

She reached into her sleeve and took out a wooden scroll-case, sealed at both ends with wax bearing the Hogwarts imprint. "This should contain all the necessary information. Albus would prefer you sent him your lesson plans via Muggle post -- there's an address in with your papers -- and ride up to Hogwarts with the children on September First."

"That's easily enough done, but..." Remus glanced at Sirius. McGongall waited. "Well, Sirius had thought about moving up to Hogsmeade. It'll make it a bit rough on him if he can't get there until the term starts."

"Your duties will, of course, require you to room at the castle," McGonagall said significantly.

"Yes, I know, but Sirius would like to be near his godson and his cousin's son, considering everything," Remus answered easily.

"Mr. Black may take a room at the Three Broomsticks until he finds suitable lodging; surely that will be acceptable," she said. Remus sighed.

"I suppose it will have to be. Are we permitted to come to London a few days early, to see Andromeda and buy the boys their school things?"

"I don't believe the Headmaster will object."

"That's fine. Tell the Headmaster I'll take the Knight Bus to London with Harry and Draco, and we'll catch the Hogwarts Express as usual," he said.

"Of course. Good afternoon, Professor Lupin, Mr. Black. Boys," she added. Harry and Draco grinned impudently at her as she passed.

"She doesn't like me," Sirius said, watching the tabby cat wander up the lane to Cwndu Road.

"I think she doesn't like us," Remus answered.

"She loved you at -- "

"That's not what I meant."

"Oh. Oh, do you really think?" Sirius said, turning to look at Remus, who shrugged.

"It may be she simply disapproves of Professors bringing along an entourage," he answered. He looked at Harry and Draco, who were sharing some kind of private joke. "Well, lads, that's done then. Which reminds me, we'll need to speak with Narcissa, or at least have Andromeda speak with her, when we get back; Draco's got to get his Hogsmeade permit slip signed."

"I'll talk to Andromeda about it. I think she likes needling Narcissa once in a while," Sirius said, touseling Draco's hair. Draco beamed up at him, and Remus smiled; he'd suspected years ago that Draco had a deep hero-worship for Sirius, and the summer had only confirmed it. Early on, when he'd just arrived, Draco had clung to Padfoot constantly and followed Sirius around like a pale-haired shadow.

"And I had better start working on a lesson plan," he announced. "I wonder if I still have my old Dark Arts notes..."

"You don't need notes, Moony! You're a walking encyclopaedia!" Sirius grinned.

"Yes, but it'd be nice to remember what was taught at which level," Remus said. "Though it was patchy at best, wasn't it?"

Sirius frowned. "Yeah. The curse."

"Is it real, then? The curse?" Draco asked. Sirius gave him and Harry a gentle shove into the kitchen and followed then in. He sat at the kitchen counter while Remus went to the icebox for some milk.

"Nobody knows if the curse is real or if it's just a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said. "Some teachers while we were there just flat out ran away after a year, as far as we could tell. And you know, Dark Arts is nothing to muck about with."

"Oh god," Harry said. "It's the Talk."

"Talk to your kids about the Dark Arts!" Draco mimicked a popular wizarding wireless advert. "They'll listen!"

"Quiet, you two," Remus warned.

"As I was saying," Sirius continued, "We had -- was it eight or nine, Moony?"

"Eight and a substitute," Remus replied. "Dumbledore certainly treats it as if it were real, you know."

"Dumbledore treats Father Christmas as if he were real. We had a couple of professors with nervous breakdowns; one of them was eaten by a rogue hippogryff and another by a dragon just after her first year ended. One or two were yearly substitutes who weren't planning on staying any longer, like Dora."

"Professor Dora," Harry corrected primly. "You will be careful, won't you Remus?"

"Wouldn't want you getting eaten," Sirius added. Remus smiled.

"I survived seven years there as a boy," he said. "I know Hogwarts better than anyone, except maybe Sirius and the Headmaster. I'm not worried."

"You don't know this," Sirius said to Draco, "But before Harry came to live with us, Remus traveled the world in search of adventure. He's been all over. He'll be fine."

Remus smiled tolerantly.

"Were you really an adventurer?" Draco asked.

"I wouldn't call it that. I did a lot of research, and I did travel, but I never went looking for adventure. It'll be interesting to try teaching what I've picked up to others," he mused. "I wonder...I think my notes are out in those cartons in the garden shed, the ones that we never unpacked. You boys want to go exploring?"

"Yeah!" Harry said.

"Did you really keep all your old school notes?" Sirius asked curiously, as Remus led the boys down the hall to the back door of the River House. There was a little shed to the left of the path that led down to the river, tightly sealed and dusty-windowed.

"Of course. Didn't you?" Remus asked.

"Never took notes, did I? Besides, anything I had left over from Hogwarts was in a box in Sandust," Sirius said glumly. Remus gave him a sympathetic look. Five years later, the burning of Sirius' bookshop was still a painful topic.

He unlocked the door and threw it wide, revealing a messy interior with a few cardboard cartons, one or two empty milk crates, and a very dusty potting table on one side. Fungus was growing out of the table. Draco and Harry stayed on the threshold, peering around the doorway and inside. Remus lifted one of the boxes onto the table, avoiding the mushrooms, and opened it.

"Moody put some never-damp charms on everything, but they might be wearing off..." Remus peered into the box, wrinkling his nose. "Sirius..."

"Mmh?" Sirius asked, spit-shining one of the windows so that more light could come through.

"Is this yours?" Remus inquired, lifting a pair of boxer shorts from the carton. Harry and Draco began to laugh.

"I've been looking for those for years!" Sirius crowed.

"This is all clothing...Sirius, Merlin, no wonder you had to buy all those shirts when we moved here. Half your clothes are in this box," Remus said, shoving it over to him. Sirius took out a couple of t-shirts emblazoned with band names from times long past. He threw them at Harry and Draco, who struggled into them, still laughing.

"Split Enz," Draco said, looking down. "Is that a place?"

"It's a band. Old girlfriend gave me that," Sirius said. "Never listened to them myself."

"Look, I got Pan Demonium!" Harry held out his shirt for Draco to admire. "Remus has a phonograph of them somewhere."

"The sins of my youth revisited," Remus murmured. "I fancied the lead singer."

"What, the one that transfigured horns for himself whenever he performed?" Sirius asked, helping Remus shift another, heavier carton.

"Listen, I didn't say it was a tasteful decision. Phew, this is it!" Remus exclaimed, as a cloud of dust rose up from the inside of the carton. Thick, tightly bound rolls of parchment were stacked on top of a pile of black fabric that itself lay atop a dozen old schoolbooks. Each scroll was bound with twine and labeled -- First Year Potions. Sixth Year Arithmancy. Third Year Defence.

Remus sifted through the scrolls, taking out nine all told, and then lifted the fabric out from under the rest. He shook it, then held it up in front of himself. "Well?"

"Is that your Hogwarts robe?" Harry asked.

"Sixth and Seventh year. It's the one I wore when I passed out of school," Remus said proudly. There was the Gryffindor insignia on the chest; a Prefect's badge was still pinned to the collar, and one of the sleeves was wrapped in gold braid.

"Prefect and high academic honours," Remus said. "Not bad for a scholarship boy, eh? Sirius had high honours too, but James -- "

He hesitated suddenly, glancing at Harry.

"James had high honours and his Head Boy braid, and it snagged on a banister and Lily had to fix it with a transfigured hairpin..." Sirius said nostalgically. "And at the party after he took all his braid off and tied it up in her hair."

Draco looked sidelong at Harry, who was listening hungrily.

"Well. That's the notes I need, at any rate. You, troublemaker, take this back up to the house and figure out if you still want any of it," Remus said, putting the carton of clothes in Sirius' hands. He gathered the scrolls up in his own long, capable fingers and gestured them all out.

"Sirius, can I have this one?" Harry asked, pointing to his shirt as they made their way back to the house. Remus paused to lock the door, listening to them talk.

"I don't need it. Draco, do you want Split Enz?"

"Nah. Have you got any Deaf Wizard?"

"I think so -- how do you know about them? They're not for your tender ears, that's for sure."

"Neville nicked some from Dora ages ago. Them and The Merlingerers."

Remus smiled. Harry and Draco were flapping around in shirts a few too sizes too big -- well, Sirius was a broad-chested man -- and Sirius was trying to sort out when kids who used to listen to Faerie Tails discovered hard wizarding rock. And there he stood with a handful of memories from school, the first step in returning to Hogwarts, which he loved. Oh, he had loved Hogwarts.

Even with Lucius Malfoy on the loose, this was going to be a good year. He could feel it.

***

Professor Flitwick, Professor McGonagall, and the Headmaster were terrifying enough when seated together, although a little bit of Padma's mind was giggling uncontrollably at the tableau they made, like a rising bar-graph. A larger part of her mind was, however, consumed with curiosity about the tall, dark-skinned man sitting next to the Headmaster.

The rest of her was nothing more than a bundle of anxious nerves. They were all sitting on the other side of the desk from her.

"Mrs. Patil, Miss Patil," the dark-skinned man said, standing as she and her mother entered. "Please, sit down. My name is Kingsley Shacklebolt; I'll be conducting your interview today."

"Thank you," Padma said politely, sitting on the edge of her chair. She glanced at Flitwick, her Head of House, who gave her a cheerful wink.

"We're very grateful for this opportunity," her mother added, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Padma's well aware of what a privilege this is."

"A privilege and a large responsibility," McGonagall said severely.

"She has read the official caveats, Minerva," Dumbledore said, "and no doubt understands them much better than I do."

"Mrs. Patil," Auror Shacklebolt said, "I've received your letter of petition, as well as letters of recommendation from the Deputy Headmistress, Headmaster, and Miss Patil's Head of House. I was a Ravenclaw myself, you know," he said to Padma, who smiled at him. "I'm inclined to approve your petition, but we're all aware of what happened last May. I'm concerned about Padma's ability to handle the stress of an increased workload and, of course, we're always required to ensure that this isn't because of...parental pressure," he said delicately. "I'd just like to ask you a few questions, Padma. There are no right or wrong answers -- you'll just have to trust that I will make the right decision. Do you understand?"

Padma nodded and took a deep breath. Her mother squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.

"All right then. Let's begin..."

***

"Harry -- Draco -- it's nearly time."

Harry rolled over and glanced at the yellow-lit doorway where Sirius was standing. "Muh?"

"Come on lads, up you go."

Draco had spent his summer sleeping in a bed that had been crammed against the wall of Harry's room opposite Harry's bed. Now he rolled over and sat up, automatically avoiding banging his elbow on the wall or his hand on the bedside table the boys shared. Sirius flicked the lights on and both boys winced.

"Sorry," Sirius said, as Harry sat up and reached for his shirt, shedding his pyjama shirt and tossing it into the open trunk at the foot of his bed. "Get dressed -- Remus has gone to fetch the taxi."

Betwys Beddau only had one taxi-cab, and its driver was a retired military man named Carl. He had agreed to drive them to the outskirts of Llangynog, the closest large city, where they would catch the Knight Bus to London and put up with Andi and Ted for a few days. Hedwig had arrived in mid-August with a letter from Andromeda, saying she was expecting them, and took one back from Sirius thanking her and giving her the day they'd be there.

Harry and Draco stumbled out into the chilly Welsh air, lugging their trunks, and reached the main road just as the taxi arrived. Sirius stood and talked to Carl amiably, blocking his view of the fact that there was no house anywhere nearby, while Remus helped the boys put their trunks into the boot. His and Sirius' belongings, as much as they would need for the year, had been shrunk into a third trunk which was settled between the boys and Sirius in the back seat.

"Back to school, eh?" Carl asked them, as Remus climbed into the front.

"Yes, sir," Draco replied.

"Best years of your life. Vocational academy, isn't it?" Carl asked Remus.

"Er, it's certainly a training ground," Remus replied.

"But not one of them poxy, pansy places like Eton?"

"It's up Edinburgh way," Remus said. "Harry does sport, don't you Harry?"

Harry snickered.

"Reckon young Daniel will too, won't you, after this summer?" Carl inquired. "Never seen a better natural batsman in m'life."

"I...I might," Draco stammered.

"Sure, you should try for the house team," Sirius said. "Harry'll have a word with your Captain, won't he?"

Harry shrugged and grinned. "I don't mind trouncing Daniel."

They talked of schools, mainly of Carl's memories of his own academy, until they reached a hotel just outside Llangynog.

"Bus for us from here -- ta, Carl," Remus said as he paid him. They waited until he had disappeared, then looked carefully up and down the street.

"What is the Knight Bus, anyway?" Harry asked, as Sirius took his wand out of his pocket and casually pointed it outwards at the road.

"Wizarding transport -- I prefer trains, but this is a less noticeable way to get to London," Remus answered. Just then there was a loud bang and a screech of brakes. Draco stumbled backwards from the kerb.

Before them stood a violently purple triple-decker bus carrying the legend "THE KNIGHT BUS" in gold lettering on the windshield and the side. A conductor in a purple uniform leapt out of the bus and began speaking loudly, reading from a little card held none too subtly in his palm.

"Welcome to the Knight Bus, auxiliary transport for witches and wizards. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I am your conductor this morning -- "

"Right, right," Sirius said impatiently. "Fares gone up this year?"

The rather spotty young man turned the card over. "Eleven sickles for a single fare, orange juice and croissant for fifteen, newspaper eight knuts extra."

"Four breakfast fares and a newspaper, please."

The conductor rang up four tickets. "Three galleons, nine sickles, sixteen knuts."

Sirius paid and Remus shepherded the boys aboard, then reached around for the trunks.

"I'll do that, sir!" Stan-the-conductor said, hurrying forward. Remus watched in amusement as the young man struggled to get all three trunks aboard. He tipped Stan a galleon while Sirius wasn't looking.

"What's the ride like to London this time of day?" Sirius asked the driver.

"Oh," the man said in a scratchy voice, "Got a couple'a pickups to do first. Ever'on's goin'ta Lonnon this time'a year, aren' they?"

"Might as well settle in," Remus said, leading them to one of the many small round tables lining each side of the bus. Sirius sat down with a pleased sigh and picked up the croissant that appeared at his place. Harry and Draco eagerly sat nearby and tore into the chocolate croissants at theirs.

"Sports page?" Sirius asked, offering it to Remus.

"Good god, the Cannons won? Is the world ending?" Remus said, studying the headlines.

"Nice to have Magical news again," Sirius said. He glanced down at the front page, then quickly folded it over and smoothed down the crease.

"My dad's on the front page, huh," Draco asked. Sirius looked at him, then at Remus, pleadingly. Remus chewed on his lower lip.

"Draco," he said slowly, "You're probably going to have to get used to a certain amount of your...family business being aired publicly, until all this is over."

"I'd like to see it," Draco said, in a remarkably authoritative voice. Remus blinked at him. Sirius shrugged and passed him the folded front page. Draco unfolded it and smoothed it out on the table. Harry leaned over his shoulder.

MALFOY STILL AT LARGE, the headline read.

"The Ministry of Magic confirmed today that Lucius Malfoy, one of the most infamous inmates of Azkaban prison, is still eluding capture," Draco read aloud. "We are doing all we can to recapture Malfoy, said the Minister for Magic this morning, and we beg the magical community to remain calm. Meanwhile, witches and wizards live in fear of a massacre like that of twelve years ago -- "

"Surely they're aware that wasn't Malfoy alone," Remus said, brows knitting.

"Peter's old news," Sirius grunted. "Enough. You'll hear enough about Lucius Malfoy at school, I'm sure, some children being the pissant little scrubs they are."

"Not from Slytherin he won't," Harry said angrily.

"It's all right," Draco said, folding the paper in half. "Besides, I'm only half-Malfoy, right?" he asked, glancing up at Sirius, who grinned.

"So it seems. Hey -- Harry, look at this!"

Harry looked at the paper, which Draco had turned over to the below-the-fold headline. "Ministry of Magic employee scoops grand prize -- that's Mr. and Mrs. Weasley!"

"Arthur Weasley, head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office at the Ministry of Magic, has won the annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw. Oh, well done Arthur," Remus said, reading with his head tilted to adjust for the awkward angle. "We'll have to try and catch the Weasleys in Diagon and congratulate them."

"Molly can't possibly still be angry about the Anglia," Sirius agreed.

They spent the rest of the ride to Diagon, amidst the bumpings and bangings of the Knight Bus, reading the paper from cover to cover and making plans for the rest of the trip: school book shopping, a trip to Mardjinn Alley, dinner out with Neville and the Tonkses. Sirius was going to go up to Hogsmeade ahead of everyone and start looking for a flat.

"Are you and Sirius really going to live in different places all year?" Harry asked Remus, bending his head low over the table and speaking quietly. Remus followed his gaze to where Sirius was standing at the front of the bus with Draco, watching the scenery speed past. "I mean, that can't be much fun for you, can it?"

"It won't be so bad; there'll be a direct floo portal, and professors can come and go into Hogsmeade as they please," Remus answered. "You live away from us all year and it doesn't change anything."

"Yeah, but that's -- different."

Remus nodded. "That's true too. On the other hand...Hogwarts is a place with its own laws and its own reasonings. You'd understand this better than anyone. When you become a teacher you make certain commitments, certain sacrifices, because you're invested with an awful lot of power. I...didn't always do as I should have, when I was a Prefect."

"I don't believe that!" Harry laughed.

"We all grew up a lot during the war, Harry. And when we took you from the Dursleys, we had to grow up even more, Sirius and I. At school we were terrors, really."

Remus was staring past Harry now, and Harry had the distinct sensation that where he was looking was not a place, but a time.

"I owe Hogwarts," he said quietly. "More than anyone knows, including Sirius."

Harry was about to ask him to expand on this when the Bus made an enormous bang and wheezed to a stop in front of the Leaky Cauldron.

"Here we are," Remus said with a sudden grin. "Come on, we'll leave our stuff at Andi's and go run amok in Diagon, sound all right?"

***

Andromeda was thrilled to see them, and just as thrilled to see them leave again; she was in the middle of fitting first-year robes to half a dozen new Hogwarts students and begged Remus to take a restless, rambunctious Neville away with him.

"We'll buy you dinner tonight," Remus said, kissing her on the cheek and following Harry and the other two boys out the door. Sirius was already outside, romping around the boys as Padfoot and playing Knock-Over, a spirited if simple game in which the object was to push someone into sprawling on their arse. It had gotten a lot harder in the past year of course, as the boys had shot up in height, but Sirius did love a challenge.

"How've you been, Neville?" Remus asked, as they dawdled their way down Diagon towards Gringott's, where they could change their Muggle cash for Wizarding and make a withdrawal from Draco's trust.

"Brilliant," Neville said. "Harry, I have something to show you. You too, Draco."

He led them down to Quality Quidditch Supplies and elbowed through the crowd with the other two close behind. Padfoot begged for sweets from the children clustered around the display window and Remus leaned forward to try to get a better look.

"It's a new prototype," Neville said. "Professor Snape pointed it out to me."

"When did you see Professor Snape?" Draco asked.

"He's always around, mooching after Dora," Neville said absently. "Look at this."

He gestured at the window. Harry actually gasped.

The broomstick in the window looked almost as if it was moving, though it was resting on a sleek silver stand. It had a wild look about it, predatory in fact. Harry found himself staring at it, nose pressed to the glass despite Remus, in the back, scolding him for it.

"Fastest broom in the world," Draco whispered, awed. Harry studied the little placard below the amazing broom intently.

THE FIREBOLT! FASTEST BROOM IN THE WORLD!

THIS STATE-OF-THE-ART RACING BROOM SPORTS A STREAM-LINED, SUPERFINE HANDLE OF ASH, TREATED WITH A DIAMOND-HARD POLISH AND HAND-NUMBERED WITH ITS OWN REGISTRATION NUMBER. EACH INDIVIDUALLY SELECTED BIRCH TWIG IN THE BROOMTAIL HAS BEEN HONED TO AERODYNAMIC PERFECTION, GIVING THE FIREBOLT UNSURPASSABLE BALANCE AND PINPOINT PRECISION. THE FIREBOLT HAS AN ACCELERATION OF 150 MILES AN HOUR IN TEN SECONDS AND INCORPORATES AN UNBREAKABLE BRAKING CHARM.

PRICE ON REQUEST.

"Ash and birch?" Harry asked Neville. "Is that smart, do you think?"

"Blowed if I know, you're the Quidditch man," Neville replied.

"It's definitely new," Draco said.

"Irish International Side's just put in an order for seven of them," said a man from the shop door. "Hullo Nev!"

"Hullo sir!" Neville called. "Look who I brought!"

"Blimey, it's Harry Potter," the man said. "Thinking of buying one, Mr. Potter? I hear you're going to be playing for England in a few years."

Harry grinned at him. "When I'm making pro-Quidditch salary, maybe. Price on request, huh?"

"Ten percent off for the Boy Who Lived," the man said with a wink, and disappeared back inside. Remus finally managed to "excuse-me" his way through and tweaked Harry's ear.

"No noses on glass," he scolded.

"Remus, look at it!" Harry said. Remus gave the broom a professional once-over and nodded.

"It's craftsmanship," he said. "Might want to wait and see how they do in play, though. Besides, you have a perfectly good Nimbus, lad."

Harry grinned and scratched Padfoot's head; the dog had his paws up on the ledge and was covering the glass in snouty nosemarks.

"Come on, let's go get your books," Remus continued. Harry saw him exchange a significant look with Padfoot, but assumed it was simply a scold for snouting up the glass.

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