Laocoon's Children: The Fugitive from Azkaban
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.)
Warning: This chapter contains a M/M sex scene towards the end.
"Spaghetti," Sirius said, offering the menu back to the waitress who was hovering over him. She smiled prettily at him and almost squeaked as she took his menu. He'd forgotten what life in the
Wizarding World was like; people stopped and stared and pointed at Sirius Black, heir of the Black family and dapper bachelor about town. The waitress was almost visibly drooling.
"You always get the spaghetti," Andromeda said, grinning at him teasingly. "How boring, Sirius!"
"I like spaghetti," Sirius answered. He glanced at Remus and winked. Remus flushed.
"Shrimp linguini, please," Remus said firmly. The waitress smiled at him too, took his menu, and dashed away to giggle about Sirius with her comrades. Ted refilled their wine and leaned back, holding up his glass.
"To London again," he said, and the other adults toasted. "And to wherever you slink off to during the summers. It's done Draco a world of good."
"I enjoyed myself," Draco said shyly.
"I can tell. You're brown as a nut," Andromeda said. "Nice to see some colour in your skin. Merlin, you boys grow up fast."
"Watch out," Remus said to Ted, grinning at Andromeda. "She'll be looking for boot-faced cats again soon."
"Mum isn't happy unless she's got someone to spoil," Dora agreed. "Ah -- be right back," she added, and everyone followed her gaze.
"Did he have to come?" Sirius asked Ted in a low voice.
"Play nice or kiss your kneecaps goodbye," Ted answered, and raised his hand in greeting to Severus Snape, who had just come into the restaurant. Dora threaded her way through the tables and hugged him hello; to no-one's surprise, his returning hug was fraught with awkwardness. Andromeda gave Sirius a warning look as Harry jumped up and ran across the restaurant to say hello to his professor.
"Good evening," Severus said, taking the empty seat between Andromeda and Dora. "Neville, Draco. Lupin. Black," he added, drawling the last name as disdainfully as possible.
"Don't," Dora said out of the corner of her mouth. The waitress rushed back over and Snape stopped her in her tracks with a glare.
"Penne pasta salad," he said. "Off with you."
"I see your manners are improving," Sirius remarked. Remus' leg twitched slightly and Sirius winced.
"I wish I could say -- "
"Severus, how about some wine?" Ted asked, interrupting him. "We were just saying how big the boys were getting. Doesn't Draco look well?"
"He appears not to be malnourished," Snape allowed. "I suppose it's too much to ask that any of you have retained an ounce of knowledge over the summer?"
"I read the books you sent me," Harry said.
"Repeatedly," Remus added with a tolerant grin. "He's become quite the Graveworthy fan."
"Really! Did you give him Wizard Bird? That was clever of you," Andromeda said. "There's a new one coming out, you know, Harry. And you're a Slytherin, you really should read Two Kneazles."
"Ill-researched," Snape murmured.
"It's all about Salazar Slytherin!"
"That doesn't mean it's objective," Snape answered. "Graveworthy was a Slytherin too."
"Cynic," Dora said affectionately. "You'll be really horrified when you hear about Mum's Grand Plan."
Sirius glanced at Andromeda. "Finally taking over the world, are you?"
"Well, I was thinking of waiting because this is really a dinner to welcome you lads home," she said. "But I'm bursting with the news, so if you don't mind..."
"Go on! We're all fascinated now," Remus said.
"Well, I've been thinking about what to do with the flat on the top floor since you boys are abandoning me for Hogsmeade this year," she said. "And Ted and I talked it over and decided we wanted to do something useful with it. But it's -- well, you know, it's a flat, it's hard to put a flat to good charitable use."
"But," Ted said, "we eventually found a group that'll let us take people in and give them some housing. It's a tax break on the building, too."
"We're registering the flat with the Werewolf Support Network," Andromeda said. "It'll be available for people recovering from new infections, or people who've been put out because of the restrictions on werewolf employment."
Sirius, Harry, Snape, and Dora all instinctively looked at Remus, who had a glass of wine halfway to his mouth. His lips were open slightly. He blinked, looked from Ted to Andromeda, and -- after a very tense moment -- smiled.
"Very appropriate," he said, setting his wine down. His grin widened and he laughed a little, quietly. "Very apt, Andi. Well done."
"You know the kind of attention you'll get for it," Snape said sharply. "You'll lose business."
"We're not planning to broadcast it," Ted said. "Besides, we always have a few job openings now that the shop's really taking off. More work than we can keep up with. We'll be able to pay under the table, help them get on their feet again."
"How does it work?" Remus asked. "I've never even heard of this group."
"It's only about a year old, there's no reason why you should have," Ted said. "When the new restrictions were passed, someone decided to do something about it, I suppose."
"Ah. Yes. Umbridge," Remus murmured.
"Are you sure this is wise?" Snape persisted. "Some of these people -- "
" -- are sitting at this table," Sirius said sharply.
" -- are genuinely dangerous for more reasons than the obvious," Snape retorted.
"Sirius, be quiet," Remus said. Sirius fell quiet, sullenly. "He's right, Andromeda. I think it's great, but he does have a point. People who are down on their luck, who've been rejected by their families -- it isn't pretty. It can be dangerous."
"If nobody ever trusts them, it'll never get any better," Ted replied. "Besides, everyone knows Dora's an Auror, and I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but her mother's pretty fearsome in her own right."
"Look, food!" Dora said with mock-cheer. "Everybody dig in until you've stopped sulking."
"God, you are your mother's child," Ted said, but he smiled as he said it. Across the table, Draco lifted an eyebrow at Harry, who rolled his eyes.
"I'm still interested in how it works," Remus said, once Snape and Sirius' mouths were safely full of food.
"Well, it's fairly simple. Newly registered werewolves are given the Support Network's contact information by Healers at St. Mungo's -- apparently they have to get round the Ministry by privately asking Healers in the intensive wing to hand them out," Ted said. "It's all strictly confidential; any werewolf can contact a vastly underpaid woman who runs the Network. They can give a false name, or no name at all; she meets with them and evaluates what they need. There are apparently a couple of shops that regularly donate food and clothing, mostly seconds and dented cans, that kind of thing. She's in touch with a few Muggle charities too, but she doesn't like to house werewolves with Muggles."
"Industrious woman," Remus remarked.
"I think she lost a son," Andromeda said softly.
"Ah. Yes, there is a certain...parental drive," Remus answered, glancing down at his plate suddenly.
"At any rate, we're on the list now, so she sends them to us and we agree to provide safe housing. In return, our tenants agree to do their best to find work and also to change at the moon in a secure location."
"Such unnecessary charity," Remus murmured. "If it weren't for the new regulations..."
"Things will change," Ted said. "People are still living in fear from when You-Know-Who was in power. This next generation -- the boys here -- they'll change things."
Harry looked at him with such a grave, adult expression on his face that Ted bit his lip.
"Yes," he said. "Count on it."
"Harry's going to be Minister for Magic," Draco teased.
"Great way to pick up girls," Remus added, breaking the tension.
"I'm sure that's why Fudge did it," Snape remarked sarcastically.
"Can you imagine him getting any otherwise?" Remus asked. Sirius almost choked trying to keep his laughter down.
Neville wanted Harry and Draco to sleep over that night, and Remus and Sirius were just as happy to have some time alone, so they parted ways after dinner and made for the Leaky Cauldron while the rest of the party wandered slowly back to Tonks&Tonks, a second bottle of wine tucked securely under Severus' arm. Dora held the other one just as securely, since Severus preferred to be seen escorting her rather than childishly holding hands.
Back in Neville's room in the spacious flat above Tonks&Tonks, the boys set about unpacking bedrolls Ted provided and discussing plans for the new school year. Neville joined in Harry's valiant crusade to convince Draco to go out for Beater on the Hufflepuff team.
"You can practice on my Nimbus," Harry offered, as Draco's mother had been horrified, years ago, at the idea of buying her son a broomstick. "You can even play on it when Hufflepuff isn't playing Slytherin."
"I dunno," Draco said. "I was thinking of maybe organising a Cricket eleven. Well, two elevens, really. There've got to be at least that many Muggleborns interested in playing, don't you think?"
"Not with Quidditch around," Harry answered. "Come on, Draco, it's like Cricket in the air! I know you can fly well and you've got wicked aim with a bat."
"Mum'd never allow it."
"Don't bloodywell tell her!" Neville exploded. "You needn't tell your mum everything you do, you know."
"She'd find out anyway," Draco retorted. "They cover the school games in the Prophet."
"Yeah, and your mum of course reads the sports page," Harry grinned. "Just try out, will you? I know there's an opening this year."
"If you stop harping on it," Draco said.
"Done deal!" Harry licked his palm in the style of the Betwys Beddau boys and offered it to Draco, who rolled his eyes. Grinning sheepishly, Harry wiped his hand on his trousers instead. Draco cast around for a subject to change to.
"Tell you what, let's get some snacks and barricade ourselves in for the rest of the night," he said. "The grownups are just going to have boring wine and talk about politics."
"Sounds good," Neville said. "There's ice-cream in the kitchen and a box of biscuits and some sandwich stuff. We'll have to sneak the ice-cream out," he added, turning to Harry. Or rather, where Harry had been. Now there was nothing but a pair of sneakers and about two inches of trouser-leg that ended abruptly in nothing.
"Your shoes are showing," Draco sighed. "Here, take it off, you're doing up the wrong buckles."
Harry shed his invisibility cloak and handed it to Draco. Sewn across the back and at the throat were a series of leather straps, designed so that the cloak could be hitched up or lengthened depending on the height of the wearer. Harry had always buckled the lowest strap across his throat, almost doubling the cloak's material around him. Over the summer, however, he'd gained a few inches and now he was on the third buckle. Draco did the other two up across his chest to keep the cloak closed.
"You two go for the sandwich stuff," Harry said. "I'll snag the ice cream."
In the hallway, however, they stopped suddenly at the sound of the voices in the dining room where the Tonkses and Snape had gathered. They weren't the usual cheerful tones of four people enjoying an after-dinner gossip; Ted's voice was low and serious, and so was Dora's when she spoke. Severus sounded oddly defensive.
"...makes no sense not to tell him," Ted said. "He should know, if only so that he doesn't make risky mistakes. He's thirteen, Severus, and old for his age."
"I'm aware of that," Severus said, annoyed. Neville held up a finger to his lips, unnecessarily shushing the other two.
"They'll listen to you, maybe even more than they will to Remus. You've been their teacher for two years. They need to know how important it is not to go running around in the forest or Hogsmeade or wherever they go when they get bored with school," Andromeda said. "I love them but they're such..."
"They're clever, all four of them, too bloody clever by half," Snape said. "That doesn't mean they need to know this."
"He sort of has a point," Dora said. "Tell one, tell all. I don't think they have any secrets between them."
"Harry and Draco make a pretty tempting target together," Andromeda sighed.
"They will be safe at Hogwarts. Why stir up old trouble?" Snape asked. "Lucius hasn't been seen since his escape. He's probably dead."
Draco made a soft little gasp, quickly stifled by Harry's hand.
"He's not dead and we all know it," Andromeda replied. "And he'll come for the boy sooner or later."
"Draco is not your responsibility," Snape said sharply.
"No -- he's yours," she answered, just as sharply. "Doubly so because of your friendship with Lucius. You knew him better than anyone -- Draco should know about his father, what his father's capable of. You're the only one who can tell him that with authority."
There was a long silence. When Snape spoke again, it was in a surprisingly sad voice.
"The boy is ashamed enough of what his father is," he said. "He's happy at school, away from Narcissa, away from that house. I was just as glad to see him away from it this summer. She fills his head with wrong ideas and I can't even credit how he manages to avoid turning into the perfect little copy of her. Let him have one place where he isn't constantly reminded of his father's misdeeds."
"You don't want him to hate you," Dora said.
"I didn't say that."
"He knows you're not like Lucius."
"I am more like Lucius than anyone ought to be."
"All right," Andromeda said suddenly. "It's your decision, Severus, but I hope you know what you're doing. Let's find something more cheerful to talk about."
Neville turned to look at Draco. The other boy was pale white, fists clenched into balls at his sides. His grey eyes were brilliant in his face.
"Take him back," Harry whispered in Neville's ear, startling him. "I'll get the food."
Neville pulled Draco away from the doorway, back into his room, and when Harry returned they were sitting on Neville's bed, Draco with his fists pressed into his lap, too-long silver hair falling across his face.
"Did you know?" Draco asked them both, in a controlled, furious voice. "Did you know he knew my father?"
"Not me," Neville said, glancing at Harry. Harry shook his head.
"No idea. I don't see why they'd be friends," he said. "It's not like Professor Snape is...I don't think he's even pureblood, is he? Why would your dad be friends with him?"
"I'm going to find out," Draco said determinedly. "Once we're back at school."
"Draco, listen, maybe it's better if you don't," Neville said hesitantly. "I mean. Maybe Professor Snape is right. It's done with now -- "
"He's free, and he's going to come for me. It isn't done with at all!" Draco said, and began to cry.
Neville and Harry looked at each other, utterly lost. Boys didn't cry, especially thirteen-year-old boys. True, he was crying in a very manful fashion, snuffling desperately and trying to hide it, choking on his own sobs, but he was still crying.
"Give him a handkerchief, I haven't got one," Harry said to Neville, who produced a grubby kerchief from one pocket.
"I'm not afraid," Draco said, swiping at his face with the cloth.
"I hate him. My father. And I hate my mum too, and it was such a nice summer..."
Harry mutely offered Draco a biscuit from the tin, and Draco nibbled on it, falling silent.
"You've got us," Neville said. "Me and Harry and Padma, I mean. And Professor Snape, and Remus too. And Dora's out chasing him all the time. And we'll get Hogsmeade weekends, that'll be fun, and Harry and I will make you try out for Quidditch if we have to glue you to the broomstick."
The mental image was apparently funny enough to make Draco laugh -- rather snottily, through his tears, but laugh all the same.
"Ghaaaaa," Sirius said, flopping down on the bed in one of the nicer rooms at the Leaky Cauldron. Remus grinned at him and leaned on the bureau, tilting his head from side to side. There was an alarming crack as his bones popped.
"Nice to have an evening to ourselves," he remarked, as Sirius worked his left shoe off using the toe of his right, still lying across the bed.
"You know I love Harry," Sirius said, working at the other shoe, "and I'm in a fair way of being very fond of Draco."
"But it's nice to spend an evening without once feeling the urge to strangle one of them?" Remus asked, smiling. Sirius stretched his arms.
"It's just nice not to have any responsibilities for a bit," he said. He propped himself up on his elbows and grinned at Remus. "Which reminds me, will you open our trunk? I got you a present."
"A present?" Remus asked, sounding perplexed and delighted at the same time. "What on earth for?"
"For getting your professorship," Sirius replied. Remus lifted the lid of the trunk and studied the mess inside skeptically. "Okay, lift up the blue jumper -- no, the knit one -- there -- and then kind of wiggle it out from under my trousers."
Remus grinned at him and grasped something deep in the trunk, tugging it free finally. It was a large, oblong thing, wrapped in brown paper; he tore it off and held his gift up to the dying light coming through the window.
"Sirius, it's marvelous," he said, fingers stroking the leather exterior of the briefcase appreciatively. It was golden-brown and buttery-smooth, the perfect size for carrying student papers and lesson plans. He turned it over to admire the brass latches at the top and burst out laughing.
"Professor R.J. Lupin," he read, tilting the briefcase so that the light picked out the sheen of the gold lettering stamped on the top of the case. He flicked it open deftly, his hands exploring the more durable interior. "Thank you."
"Got to have proper supplies before you go off to school," Sirius replied, grinning. "You like it, really?"
"It's wonderful," Remus said, and Sirius flopped back again on the bed, contented. "You didn't have to, you know."
"Yes, well, I'm Sirius Black, I don't have to do anything." He sighed blissfully. "It's a nice feeling."
"Very nice," Remus agreed, but it sounded as though he'd moved; after a second, Sirius nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a hand clasp his leg gently. He propped himself up on his elbows and saw Remus leaning over his right knee, kneeling on the floor.
"Though it's not terribly private here," Remus continued, hooking his thumb in Sirius' sock and pulling it down and off. His hands were warm and sure, and Sirius had the sudden idea that perhaps Remus had been as frustrated all summer as he had. One sometimes couldn't tell, with Remus.
His hands moved to the other foot, holding Sirius' ankle lightly. When he was done removing the sock, he slid his fingers up slightly, just under the cuff of Sirius' trousers.
"There are silencing spells," Sirius said, as Remus' other hand came to rest just above his knee. Remus rested his head against Sirius' thigh.
"I've just cast two," he said. "And nobody's going to come knocking."
Sirius sat up further and ran a hand through Remus' hair, affectionately. "Why, Professor Lupin, what on earth are you implying?"
Remus leaned forward and slid his hands down Sirius' calves, then up over the fabric, past his thighs. His thumb brushed Sirius' groin and he smiled when Sirius moaned softly.
"I think you ought to know," he said, curling his fingers in the waistband of the jeans and tugging them down, "that I appreciate what you're going to have to put up with this year."
Sirius' breath hitched as Remus pulled his clothing down and away. His left hand slid under Sirius' shirt, hiking it up.
"I think you ought to know that living apart will be difficult," Remus continued. He rose up and leaned over Sirius, pushing his shirt further up around his chest. The soft nap of his trousers brushed tantalisingly against Sirius' erection. "I want you to know that we'll find ways around it. I'll find ways around it."
"We will," Sirius moaned, head tilting back. He lifted his arms and let Remus tug the shirt up and off.
"So glad to have your cooperation, Mr. Black," Remus murmured in his ear. Sirius shivered. Remus had very few kinks, but they always emerged at the most opportune, entertaining times. He couldn't have known, for example, that he would find lying naked under a fully-clothed Hogwarts professor so very...stimulating. But Remus had known.
"Anything for Professor Lupin," he replied, and Remus laughed and kissed a line down his chest.
"With an attitude like that you'll be head boy before long -- "
Sirius groaned and twined his hands in Remus' shaggy hair. "Awful."
Remus, in reply, hummed deep in his throat and darted his tongue out, licking a line up Sirius' cock.
Sirius decided he could get used to Professor Lupin.
This time he knows it's a dream.
In the dream (the dream the dream) he can feel the hollow coldness inside. He remembers from other dreams the way this felt. In the dream he's lost everything -- not just James and Lily and Peter but Sirius too, irrevocably lost Sirius. The ache is always there, like a hollow space between his spine and his heart, for everything he's lost in the dream. His health, too; he can feel how taut the skin is on his ribs, he can see the way it stretches over his knuckles. Fingers metaphorically scrabbling, broken-nailed, for a handhold in the world.
He tries to think about where he really is, which is buried under a rat's nest of blankets and sheets in the Leaky Cauldron with Sirius curled up around him and drooling on his neck, both of them exhausted and slick with sweat from lovemaking. He tries to think about the pasta and wine they had for dinner, still warm in his stomach. He tries to think about the moments he still has, every day, where he looks at Harry or Sirius or the books on the shelves or the nice furniture or the full pantry and feels safe.
But the truth is that in the dream he's a skinny, underfed, ragged-robed man sleeping under a patched cloak in a freezing-cold rail compartment, with a handful of kids who only sat here because it was the last place they could all fit in together. In the dream he hears Harry's voice for the first time, the voice of a stranger with James' familiar timbre nonetheless.
There's Ron Weasley, whose mother had taught Harry before they left for Betwys Beddau, asking who he is, and some girl he doesn't recognise, replying; and there Ron prompts Harry to tell him the story of something, some argument that Ron's parents had. And the girl warning Harry not to go looking for trouble.
"I don't go looking for trouble," says Harry, sounding nettled. "Trouble usually finds me."
Too right, thinks the cold, exhausted man under the cloak.
"How thick would Harry have to be, to go looking for a nutter who wants to kill him?" asks Ron, shakily, and Remus thinks he means Sirius, but that can't be, because Sirius is lying warm in bed with him, not some crazed murderer. Sirius belongs to him, Sirius would never betray him.
Except he has. Sirius abandoned him and went to kill Peter after he killed James and Lily, oh, Sirius.
In the bed in the Leaky Cauldron, Sirius woke suddenly and wasn't sure why, until he heard Remus moan softly. His skin was cold and clammy even under the blankets. His face was twisted up into a pained, wizened expression that made him look far older than he was.
"You killed them," Remus whispered, horrified. Sirius opened his mouth to ask who, but Remus was still asleep, and he moaned again.
"Moony," he said quietly, trying to keep his voice steady. He propped himself up for better leverage and rested a hand on the other man's chest, wondering if he should wake him. "Moony, it's just a nightmare."
But it wasn't nightmares with Moony, not always; sometimes it was presentiments, glimses of some other world that Remus was convinced existed somewhere, a world where Harry had never come to live with them, where somewhere things had gone horribly wrong.
"Moony, come on," he soothed, sliding his hand up to cup the side of Remus' throat. "I'm right here."
Remus' back arched suddenly, nearly pushing him off the bed. As Sirius scrambled for leverage he screamed "Expecto patronum!" and the room was filled with blinding white light. Sirius shut his eyes and buried his face in the blankets as Remus fell limp against the bed again; he sprawled out over the other man and tried to hold him down, but Remus was unresisting now and it wasn't even necessary.
For a few heartbeats, the world was awash in white even behind Sirius' eyes. When he was finally able to open them again, he peered past Remus' prone body to the diminishing source of the light.
"Bloody fuck," he said. An enormous silver-white dog, faintly transparent, was staring at them both over the edge of the bed.
Even as he watched it faded off into little wisps of light and then vanished entirely. He looked down at Remus, who was wide-eyed and staring at where the dog had been.
"My patronus," he said quietly.
"You cast it wandless," Sirius replied, equally subdued.
"I had a bad dream," Remus answered. He rolled towards Sirius, twisting the blanket tight around him and pressing his face into Sirius' chest. Sirius eased himself down slowly, his breathing a little less frantic now.
"Did you see anything I should know?" he asked. Remus shook his head, clinging tightly to him. "Do you want to tell me about it?"
"I love you," Remus replied. "And I don't believe them."
Remus didn't answer.