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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.)

"Sniveheellus," Peter Pettigrew said. "Sohh good to see you haa...gain."

Harry's eyes widened, and if Snape's hand on his mouth hadn't reminded him to be silent, he might have screamed.

Pettigrew stood next to Quirrell, just in front of the mirror, shoulders slightly hunched. His presence alone made Harry want to bolt for cover, made all the horrifying memories of the kidnapping come rolling back to him -- he and Dora, imprisoned and taunted by Bellatrix, forced to watch as Pettigrew completed the ritual that would grant him immense power. The fight afterwards, and the snakes....

The snakes. His first Snake, who'd had his back broken protecting Harry. The snakes had done something horrible to him, Harry realised.

Pettigrew's face, with its curious goat's-eyes, was a mass of what had at first looked like open sores. Now Harry saw them for what they were: old open gashes from snake bites, still leaking little dribbles of blood once in a while. They covered face and neck, even up into his dull, patchy hair. His mangled lips and even part of his tongue made it a horror to watch him talk.

There were bloodstains on the shapeless dun robe he wore, and his hands were thick and swollen with bites, with blood, with infections here and there. Somehow the snakes had done this -- had torn him nearly to shreds, and he hadn't healed.

"Oh, gods," Snape said.

"Ahhrrrn't you pleheased to scheee me?" Pettigrew rasped. "Yhou've grown, Harrh...eey."

Harry stared at him, horrified. Behind them, the smoke boiled in the mirror.

"Make sense to you now, Severus?" Quirrell asked. His voice was lower than usual, and the stutter was completely gone; his face was composed and cold. "The deaths of the unicorns, the troll, my motives? You can see why I wouldn't give you a reason before."

"I knew it wasn't just greed," Snape muttered. "You're a fool, Quirrell."

"A fool?" Quirrell snickered. "It may have taken me longer than you to discover my way to this chamber, but I am here as you are. Does a fool apprentice himself to a powerful dark wizard? Become his right hand?"

"You've been fooled by a ruthless murderer," Snape replied. There was a rasping, choking noise of disapproval from Pettigrew.

"Puhut the wand dow...hng," Pettigrew said. "Ahnd let me show Suhnivellus how ruthless I...cahn be."

Quirrell hesitated, but eventually he spun the wand and tucked it back into a pocket in his robes. Pettigrew reached up to touch his own temple, and Snape would have pitched forward if Harry hadn't been there. As it was they stumbled, and Snape fell to his knees at the top of the stairs, clutching the scar on his face. Harry bent over him.

"Stop it!" he shouted, as Snape struggled to breathe. "Stop it!"

Pettigrew smiled cruelly, and let his hand fall. Snape slumped forward, unconscious.

"Cohme....hereh, Harry," Pettigrew ordered.

"Come here or he dies," Quirrell added, when Harry gave them both a defiant look. "And let me tell you a little story about my master."

Harry could feel his own wand in his back pocket, but there was no way to reach for it and he had no idea what he would do with it if he could. He descended the stairs slowly and warily. Quirrell stepped directly up to him and put his hands on Harry's shoulders, teacher-fashion. Harry suppressed a shudder.

All year while he had sat in Quirrell's class, while he had received grades, answered questions, been praised and occasionally scolded by the professor, Quirrell had been serving Peter Pettigrew. The traitor who had in turn served Voldemort.

"My Master, you see, found me," he whispered, "and asked for my care. How could I say no? My poor Master," he added, turning to look at Peter, who had gone back to examining the mirror. "We tried unicorn's blood, but that only keeps him alive; it doesn't heal his wounds. Wounds you caused," he added, a brief flash of anger crossing his face. "But I know the Elixir of Life can cure him. And so," he said, "we must find the stone."

"It's not here," Harry said loudly.

"Not yet," Quirrell agreed.

There was a deep breath from the top of the stairs, and Snape pushed himself up, just barely.

"You'll never get it," he said hoarsely.

"Tell me how to get it out of the mirror or the boy dies," Quirrell replied.

"You won't kill him," Snape answered. "You..." he wheezed. "You need him. To find..." another choking breath, "The Dark Lord."

"Then you tell us or you die," Quirrell snapped. Snape gave him a ghastly smile.

"The Mirror of Ynitsed," Snape answered. "Unless you're...destined to have the'll never get it."

Quirrell turned to look at Pettigrew, and Harry made a move for his wand -- but Quirrell's hand shot out and caught his wrist, though the tall man didn't even look at him. Pettigrew gestured him over clumsily with one swollen hand, and Quirrell dragged Harry with him.

What the billowing mirror-smoke showed Quirrell, Harry never found out; he was torn between closing his eyes tightly and looking at whatever horror it had to show him. Pettigrew, shaking his head, pointed a finger at the mirror.

"I see mh...yself whole," he rasped, and Snape let out a small groan of despair behind them. Harry could hear him dragging himself along the ground, towards the stairs. "S...erving mhy mha....ster..."

"Lord Voldemort," Quirrell said, in a reverent whisper. Harry, watching the smoke move faster and faster, waited for the first vision in the mirror to appear. He didn't notice Pettigrew until the man's head snapped up, and he scented the air, nostrils twitching like a bloodhound.

"Bhoy," he said, and Harry's eyes jerked away from the mirror. "Him. His destiny to get the stone."

Quirrell jerked aside, holding Harry in a viselike grip in front of the mirror. The smoke reached fever pitch and cleared; Harry braced for another horrible sight, but all he saw was --

Himself. Uninjured except for a few scratches he'd gotten during the battle with the Devil's Snare. Behind him, he could see Quirrell --

No. Not Quirrell. A ghastly impersonation of Quirrell, sunken-cheeked, grey-faced, eyes rolled up in his head, the whites tinted strangely green. Quirrell's corpse.

On the other side, Peter Pettigrew, whole and rosy-cheeked, smiling horribly.

The mirror-Harry gave him a little smile and held out his other hand, balled into a fist. When he opened it, a small red stone lay on his palm.

It looks so plain, Harry thought. It looked like a smooth river-stone -- pretty enough, but nothing special.

Then the mirror-Harry stepped forward, and his hand, his arm, came out of the mirror as though it were nothing more than a spiderweb or a sheet of thin paper. Quirrell, triumphantly, reached for the stone, but his hand passed right through it; Pettigrew tried a second later, with the same results.

"He has to take it," Quirrell said. Harry was hardly listening; he could see Snape, in the mirror, reach the bottom of the stairs, and roll over onto his back, breathing hard. He was reaching for his wand.

"Take the stone, Harry," Quirrell ordered, grasping him by the hair, forcing him forward.

"I won't," Harry protested, trying to pull away.

"Ta...hake the stone or Snivellus dies," Pettigrew snapped, as much as he could around the peculiar gasping speech impediment.

"Don't do it, Harry," Snape called, but Harry had already reached out and taken the stone from his mirror-image's hand. The moment he did, smoke blew across the mirror for a split second, and everything changed. Even Snape, on his knees behind them, looked different, though Harry couldn't say how. Quirrell's face was beginning to decay, now, and Pettigrew's horrible, unnatural eyes had changed colour, had turned pure white, and something was wrapping its way around his neck --

Harry was thrown away, skidding backwards towards Snape. Quirrell produced a jar from under his robes, filled with a silvery powder, and held it out to his master. Pettigrew dropped the stone into the jar, and the powder began to move, as though it was full of worms, or somehow alive.

"Harry," Snape whispered. "Get out. Go back through the flame, it won't hurt you. I'm sorry."

"I'm not going anywhere," Harry said, trying to help prop him up.

"If you don't go now you won't have another chance -- Merlin fuck," he swore, as Pettigrew gave them a swift glance, and the scars on his face glowed.

"They won't kill you if they've got me," Harry replied. "Someone'll come."

"Nobody's...coming, Harry," Snape managed. "Get out now."


There was an hysterical laugh, and both of them looked up; Pettigrew had filled the jar with water and was drinking it, with the stone still inside. Quirrell was laughing, applauding delightedly and slightly insanely.

"Is that all?" Harry asked in a whisper.

"Sublimely simple," Snape answered.

"One draught to cure," Pettigrew said, wiping his lips as he finished. His wounds were already sealing over, and when he wiped blood off his face, they could see clean, whole skin underneath. "And one draught to -- "

"Expelliarmus!" Snape shouted as his wand shot out. The jar went flying; there was the sound of breaking glass in the shadows, and they could hear the stone skittering away.

"You never could manage to be anything more than an annoyance, Snivellus," Pettigrew snarled, gaining coherency as the wounds on his throat and mouth healed. "I can live without immortality for a minute or two, in order to take care of you."

He started forward, but Quirrell cried "Master!" and he turned. Quirrell was staring in the mirror, touching his face. Furious, Quirrell whirled on Snape.

"Let me kill him," he said softly. Pettigrew hesitated, but then smiled cruelly, and waved his hand.

"Be my guest," he said. Harry tried to slide in front of his professor, but Snape shoved him away.

"Will you stand, Snivellus?" Pettigrew asked, sneeringly. "Take your death like a man?"

Snape pushed himself upright, drew his feet up under him and stood, swaying unsteadily. He lifted his wand.

"This is your last chance, Quirrell," he said quietly, waveringly.

"Did you hear that?" Pettigrew said, with a sinister smile creasing his now-smooth face. The last of the blood, drying on his skin, flaked and fell away. "He's given you a last chance."

"Very kind of him," Quirrell agreed. "But I doubt," he added, turning back to Snape, "that you have enough energy left for a simple summoning charm. And so, I think -- "

"Avada Kedavra," Snape said, calmly. Harry was blown backwards by the blast, which slammed him into the steps and knocked the breath from his body. Green light filled the room, and Quirrell was thrown into the mirror, which shattered splendidly. Snape turned to Pettigrew.

"Never give a man time to pool his resources, rat," he said, just as Pettigrew lifted a shaking hand and pointed at him. The scars glowed bright amber again, and Snape collapsed completely.

Harry threw himself forward, willing to scratch those goat's eyes out of Pettigrew's face, but an arm caught him around his chest, and two men darted past him from behind. Before Harry could think, let alone react, Sirius was there, running for Pettigrew, who snapped his outstretched fingers and vanished just before Sirius reached him. Dumbledore, on his other side, was already bending over Snape.

"It's all right, Harry," Remus said in his ear. "It's okay, we're here."

Harry looked down and realised that the arm around his chest was wearing Remus' favourite red pyjama shirt. He glanced up, and saw Remus' worried face. Sirius, standing where Pettigrew had been, bellowed in rage.

"He's still alive," Dumbledore said. Harry felt himself trembling, despite Remus' protective embrace. "Sirius, stop being a fool. See to Quirrell."

Sirius knelt, wary of the shattered glass, where the other man lay.

"He's dead," he said, voice shaking. "Someone's used an Unforgiveable on him."

Just then Snape began to cough, and Dumbledore helped him to roll over. He dry-heaved twice, spat, and tried to push himself to his feet once more.

"Now is not the time," Dumbledore said, when he saw Sirius open his mouth, "to ask questions. Someone must go back through to the room with the potions, and drink the smallest but one. Pass through the purple flame and find the other children. Help them through and we'll all go up to the hospital wing, quietly and calmly, together."

Harry turned away from Dumbledore, who was helping Snape to walk, and buried his face in Remus' shirt. Now that it was over, he felt weak, as though he could hardly move; after a moment there were other arms, and the sharp, clean smell of Sirius, who was lifting him, carrying him back through the black flame, towards safety.


Severus Snape woke slowly, to sensations rather than a concrete world: throbbing pain in his jaw and one of his wrists, bright white colour, noise. He lay still, unsure where he was or if awake was quite a safe thing to be; slowly the world resolved itself into a pillow under his head, white flannel pyjama trousers, a hospital blanket on his bare chest, something wrapped around his wrist. And words -- voices.

"And Draco?"

"He'll be all right. The chesspieces were designed to be malicious, not murderous, and aside from a nasty bump on his head, he's healing nicely. I'm told Madam Pomfrey's feeding him ice cream."

Severus felt a relief he wasn't sure he understood, since why wouldn't Malfoy be all right?

"What about...the body."

"Quirrell? You heard Harry. It sounds to me as though he got what he deserved."

The second voice, the one answering questions, that was Dumbledore; it took him a minute more to identify the first as Lupin.

"Sirius is with him now," Lupin said.

"I imagine he is being a very solicitous parent."

"Yes, well. As soon as he's made sure Harry has all his fingers and toes still, you should probably prepare yourself for a shouting match."

A pang of amusement shot through Severus. That would be Black, always trying to shout down whoever disagreed with him.

"You aren't shouting, I notice."

"I've found there's rarely any need for it. Especially after the fact."

"You aren't angry that Harry was endangered thus?"

"From the sound of it he endangered himself, and Severus hadn't much choice. It's quite clear he put Harry's interests above his own."

The memories came rushing back, at that point, and Severus moaned. Yes; he had cast an Avada Kedavra to protect Harry. Something he had done only once before, and once had been more than enough to put the fear of a punishment in the afterlife into him.

He was in a world of trouble. Worlds. Many, many worlds of trouble. An entire solar system of trouble.

"Looks like he's coming round," said Lupin, and Severus shifted on the bed. An arm snaked under his shoulder, and Lupin helped him to sit upright, although he nearly pitched forward from the vertigo. He rested for a moment, while the other two were silent, and then drew up his knees, setting his arms across them and resting his forehead on his arms, taking deep breaths.

"Harry's all right?" he asked, just to be sure.

"He's fine. Just a few bruises," Lupin answered.

"Malfoy and the others?"

"Almost better than Harry," Dumbledore said. "Mister Longbottom and Miss Patil are keeping Mister Malfoy company while he recuperates in a more private room."

"The stone?"

"Recovered. Unfortunately we've had to...disable some of the security surrounding it, but several Aurors have already arrived to take personal custody, and are arranging new measures until it can be destroyed."



"He'll be back."

"The wards have already gone up," Dumbledore answered, and Severus turned his head to one side to look at them. "He came in with help, and he left through magic, but he won't be able to get back in either way."

Severus nodded, and turned back to contemplating the sheets. It was a relief not to have to think too much.

"You haven't asked about Quirrell," Dumbledore said gently.

"I don't need to."

There was a long silence, and footfalls could be heard at the far end of the infirmary room.

"Harry's sleeping in the next room." Black's voice. "I've asked Nymphadora to stand guard outside the hospital wing with her partner."

"The school is perfectly safe," Dumbledore answered.

"Forgive me, Headmaster, if I don't have much faith in your ability to protect my son," Sirius answered sharply.

"Here comes the shouting," Lupin murmured. Severus let out a weak, dry chuckle.

"Let us discuss this in my office," Dumbledore said, "away from those who need their rest."

When they had gone, Severus lifted his head and looked around. Sunlight filtered through the windows; he must have been unconscious for hours. It had already been past midnight when the whole mess had begun, and if he could see the sun through the high rose window at one end, that meant it was at least past ten in the morning.

Quirrell dead -- he didn't regret that much, he'd never liked the man, and anyone who hurt Harry deserved to die. Pettigrew healed and escaped -- no doubt he would begin causing trouble soon enough. He'd had no idea Pettigrew was even involved, or how the man had latched on to the Philosopher's Stone as a cure for the perpetual injuries -- or even why those had occurred. It wasn't as though a charm had been cast. He had simply been ripped to shreds by snakes, acting on Harry's command two years before. Two years of life like that must have been torture.

Well. Severus had never liked Pettigrew either.

The Mirror of Ynitsed had shattered. That was just as well. Severus didn't trust centaur magic, and the thing was centaur forged; still, it would create an imbalance --

"Professor Snape?"

He looked over at the doorway, and found Harry standing there uncertainly, clad in hospital-issue pyjamas.

"You should be sleeping," he said to Harry, by way of greeting.

"I was tired," Harry answered truthfully. "But Sirius went a little insane about me getting hurt. I pretended to go to sleep so he'd go yell at Dumbledore instead of yelling about Dumbledore to me."

"Just about Dumbledore?" Severus asked. Harry came forward into the room, wandering slowly down the aisle created by the facing beds.

"And you too," Harry answered. "He wants you sacked."

"How charitable of him. I probably deserve imprisonment."

"Cos you killed Professor Quirrell."

"Not just because I killed him; that was self-defence. It was the manner in which I did so. That spell's forbidden; it's an Unforgiveable curse."

Harry sat on the edge of the next bed over. He didn't ask how Severus knew the curse.

"I told them Peter Pettigrew did it."

Severus stared at him.

"You what, Harry?"

"I told them he did it. Killed Quirrell. They believed me."

"Harry, why did you lie?"

Harry shrugged. "Cos you'd have been in trouble if they knew you'd killed him, and you didn't deserve to be. 'Sides, I'm a Slytherin. Everyone keeps telling me we're supposed to cheat."

Severus considered this. The boy had a point. In Harry's place, had he been quick-witted enough, he'd have done the same.

"That was all right, wasn't it?" Harry asked.

"You may have saved my life," Severus said quietly.

"Good," said Harry, decidedly. He glanced down at his hands. "Professor Snape?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Padma was sure that you were the one who was after the stone. She made a good case for it," Harry continued. "I mean. Who wouldn't want to live forever with all the gold they could ever need?"

Severus watched him for a while before replying.

"Wizards," he said, after a moment, "Witches and Wizards, both, usually live well into their second century. One forgets this, many of those who would still be alive, like Dumbledore, have died. Many in the last war, with the rise of the Dark Lord. The Headmaster is himself well over a hundred years old."

"He looks it," Harry said. Severus smiled thinly.

"Pray you age as well as he has, Harry, or that you are permitted to live long enough to do so. We already witness so much in our lives; I have no desire to live beyond my alotted span. There was a time when I cursed that I had even as much time as I did to live."

Harry gave him a curious look, and Severus realised he'd said more than he ought; he changed the subject quickly.

"As for the fact of the stone turning lead -- or any other metal -- into gold..." he shook his head. "It's a question of economics. Too much gold and the value drops. Beyond that, I've always found it to be a rather gaudy metal."

"But you could quit your job. You hate teaching."

Severus arched an eyebrow. "Hate teaching? Whatever gave you that idea?"

"You're always shouting at someone or telling us our marks aren't good enough, or you're refusing to give us the answers to the homework until we've worked it out our...selves..." Harry trailed off, blinking.

"Tell me, Harry, do you consider...say, Professor Binns to be kinder than I?" Harry refused to answer, but Severus already knew. "And whose class do you work harder in?"

"Yours," Harry mumbled.


"Because it's harder to please you."

Severus nodded. "When I was sixteen I surely never imagined this is where I would be at thirty-two, but I think perhaps I ought to be grateful for that. I don't want to live forever. And even if I had, I would not have gone against Dumbledore's wishes. I do try not to betray those who have placed their faith in me," he mused. "Besides, someone has to ensure competence amongst the students. In my class, you know, you learn more than just potions-brewing."

Harry gave him a troubled look, but he didn't speak; after a while, Severus closed his eyes.

"You could've died," Harry said.

"That's very true. So could you, considering your idiotic refusal to go to safety."

"But he didn't kill you," Harry answered, ignoring the scolding. "He didn't kill you, but when Professor Quirrell dared you to kill him, you did."

"Peter Pettigrew is arrogant, and stupid. He has power for the sake of power and no idea how to wield it; he desires an audience. I..." he sighed. "We all desire an audience, some more than others, but the difference is, some of us are not proud of our atrocities."

"Are you glad you killed him?"


"Me too. I hope they don't sack you. It had to happen."

"Oh?" Severus asked, amused at his childish confidence.

"When I looked in the mirror..." Harry hesitated. "I saw what was going to happen. Sort of. I mean I saw him -- " Severus noticed with a start that Harry never said Pettigrew's name, if he could help it, " -- healed again. And I saw me, and I was okay, and you were -- well, not really okay, but you weren't dead. And Professor Quirrell was. I don't think I liked that mirror much."

"Destiny's tricky," Severus agreed. "It changes with our decisions. The mirror only shows what might happen, and never even shows that very clearly. Which makes sense," he added. "It's just like the centaurs that made it."

"Will they be angry you broke it?"

"Immensely. It was part of a set of mirrors, and their magic was interlaced; without one, the others may become...unstable."

The Erebos mirrors, he thought -- the mirrors that saw into the outer darkness. Ynitsed, Erised, and Noitoved. Without Ynitsed, the other two might have to be destroyed as well. The centaurs would be furious.


"You're supposed to be sleeping," said a new voice, and they turned to see Dora Tonks watching them from the doorway, arms crossed. "Nearly gave me a heart attack when I went to look in on you and you weren't there, Harry."

Harry rose, reluctantly, and let her tousle his hair as he passed back into the private room Madam Pomfrey had given him.

"You all right then?" she asked, and Severus realised she was talking to him.

"Fine, thank you."

"I heard about Quirrell."


"Yeah -- word is, Peter Pettigrew murdered him in order to distract you while he made his getaway."

Their eyes met for a long moment, and then she winked. "My parents send their love," she said, and vanished into Harry's room.

He sat for a long time, watching the fall of light through the stained-glass window, collecting up his thoughts and deciding what to do with them; it was a process he'd learned from an old teacher. To turn over one's thoughts, decide upon one's emotions, and set them aside in a corner of the mind; it was necessary.

He had been arrogant and stupid, perhaps even more so than Peter Pettigrew. He should have gone to Dumbledore after Quirrell released the troll; he had rationalised to himself that Dumbledore would scoff at him, but Dumbledore never scoffed. The truth, and this cut to the bone because it meant that he was indirectly responsible for the childrens' injuries, was that he had wanted the glory of catching Quirrell in the act -- or he had wanted a triumph over Quirrell. That was it; he had wanted to beat the man at his own game.

There would be no publicity about this, whether he had played the hero or the villain in it; Dumbledore would never allow the scandal of a teacher's murder to be published. The Minister would have to be informed, but publicly Quirrell's death would be chalked up to something else -- an unfortunate adventure in the Forbidden Forest, perhaps. The stone would still be destroyed on the solstice, and if Draco's mother was even informed of the accident, which he doubted would happen, she would be told he had tumbled down some stairs, or been fighting with another boy.

The rest of the children would know; Neville Longbottom was indiscreet. But they would only know half-stories and probably embellish those into myths that had so little bearing on reality that they were safe, for now.

He would be called to testify in front of the Minister on the subject of Pettigrew's misadventure with the stone, and he would have to uphold Harry's lie about Quirrell's death. It was a good lie, a lie he was grateful for. He had been Harry's secret-keeper for two years; Harry could keep one of his.

He was so tired.

Madam Pomfrey, having assured herself that Draco Malfoy had enough company to keep him awake until the concussion wore off, and having seen Harry sleeping safely in bed, found her oldest and least compliant patient asleep when she checked on him. It was just as well; Sirius Black had only just stopped his furious tirade, and Severus would only have provided a second target.

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