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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.)

Dear Harry,

Well, if I wasn't already going grey, I'd be able to send you a picture of myself to show off all the new grey hairs Sirius has given me. Between the trip back to Andromeda's, the day spent calming Sirius' fretting and listening to him pepper me with worries about you having forgotten or lost something -- you haven't, have you? You've only to say the word and it'll be in the post -- and the Prophet (see attached), I'm a wreck!

Nobody's mad at you, of course, in any way, and there's no shame in being a Slytherin. Some of the most powerful wizards in history have been Slytherins, and not all of them have been bad. Remember that yours is a house of ambition, not necessarily amorality. It's possible to want great things and still be a strong, brave, honest boy -- as I know you to be.

Listen, I don't know what Sirius has written to you, and I didn't ask. Just remember that if he overreacts, it's because he loves you and wants you to be happy at Hogwarts, and because he's sometimes an ignorant git. There's a reason Padfoot is a large, droolsome dog, Harry.

Make friends, do well, study hard, and stick with Neville, despite the Sorting. I have a feeling he'll need you, and it never hurts to have a Gryffindor in your corner in a pinch. And if you're hungry, find the painting of the bowl-of-fruit and tickle the pear. Don't be afraid of the house-elves, they like to help.

Write soon.

From the old grey Hogwarts boy, feeling older by the day,



Remus looked up from the letter he was finishing, and watched as Sirius -- unshaved, pyjama-clad, and cranky-looking -- entered the kitchen at 12 Grimmauld Place. Having returned to the Wizarding world, they were loathe to leave it, and Andromeda had offered them a few days' housing before they took the train back to Wales, to pack up the River House. Last night, after the evening Prophet with the list of all the new students and their Houses was published, Sirius had ranted for a good solid hour about Slytherins and their sneaky ways and how no godson of his was going to be one, until Remus had given in and shouted.

It was something he never did, making it a rare reserve weapon that usually got results. It had shut Sirius up, though it hadn't done anything for his mood; still, Remus thought with a fond grin, there were worse ways to end the evening than rough, angry sex. Besides, Sirius wasn't angry at him, so where was the harm?

Sirius was going to like this morning's Prophet even less.

The dark-haired man charmed himself a bowl of oatmeal, perfectly heated despite two years without a wand, and sat at the table, sullenly sprinkling brown sugar on it. Remus wondered if Andromeda still had any of Harrison's Wondrous Eggs, little candy eggs that hatched, when mixed into oatmeal and doused with milk, into sweet sugar dragons that wandered around the bowl until they were eaten. Sirius looked as if he could use a few.

"Morning," Sirius grunted.

"Morning," Remus answered. "You look a mess."


"Well, you do."

Sirius glared, and Remus' sense of mischief, which was less obvious than Sirius' or James' but often more wicked, made him say something he knew was probably only going to get him into trouble.

"You ought to wash up and shave," he said, tossing the newspaper across the table. "You don't want to lose your reputation."

"Reputation?" Sirius asked. Remus tapped the paper, which was folded to the society pages.

The headline on the page read HANDSOME BACHELOR BLACK RETURNS TO LONDON and, in smaller letters, Potter To Attend Hogwarts As Godfather Is Spotted In Diagon Alley. There was a nice, lengthy article below it, and a photograph of Sirius crouched in front of Harry on Platform 9 3/4, with Remus standing nearby.

Sirius choked on his oatmeal so hard that Remus worried medical measures might be necessary, but when he recovered his voice was more than clear.

"I'LL HEX HER INTO NEXT WEEK!" he shouted, picking up the paper and slamming it on the table. "How dare they photograph my godson! Where are the Prophet offices? I'll go down there right now -- "

"Not in your pyjamas you won't, unless you want to make the actual front page of this evening's edition," Remus said, fighting a smile that was threatening to break through his composure. "Black Menaces Journalist In Sleepwear."

"Fine, I'll get dressed -- it's not funny, Moony! -- and go lodge a complaint. First I'm going to get her fired and then I'm going to make her life an absolute hell -- "

"Look!" Remus said cheerfully, pointing to the caption on the photograph. "I've been reduced to servitude. Farewell on the platform; left to right, Sirius Black, his unidentified valet, and Harry Potter, on Platform 9 3/4."

Sirius, meanwhile, was reading the article itself, muttering the words under his breath until he reached --

"Sirius Black may, after his return from seclusion, be considered the Wizarding World's most eligible bachelor," he read, stunned. "The handsome and wealthy scion of the ancient and noble house of Black is reportedly single. Not for long, however, with wealth, looks, and a knack with small children, evident by his obvious talent with his godson Harry Potter, whose adoring gaze never left his godfather's face until they were parted by the Hogwarts Express -- "

"Drivel," Remus drawled. "Reads like a bad novel."

"Look, there's a whole opinion piece on Harry going into Slytherin, too..." Sirius groaned, sinking into the chair.

"Nothing at all nasty, though, thank goodness. At least someone on the Prophet staff has a sense of propriety. This Skeeter woman's just shameless," Remus tapped the article with his quill. "I'm attaching a copy of the article to my letter to Harry. He'll find it hilarious, I'm sure."

"It's not funny," Sirius sulked. "They've no right at all to do that to Harry. Did you send my letter?"

"It's in my pocket, I'll send it out on the morning post with mine," Remus replied calmly.

"Add onto yours that in case I end in Azkaban for killing Rita Skeeter, I love Harry and I leave all my favourite books to him, since Remus Lupin is a heartless bastard who laughs at his friends when they're written up in the paper," Sirius said sourly.

"It is a bit funny, Sirius, come on," Remus protested. "There's no actual libel in it, and you shouting at some hack society columnist is only going to make more news to put in the paper."

"Are you saying I should just let her say these things?" Sirius demanded.

"They're very flattering things."

"Not about you, they called you a valet!"

"I don't care. Would you rather they called me your lover?"

Sirius wrinkled his nose at the term, and Remus grinned.

"Thought not. Are you going to eat that oatmeal?"

Sirius looked down at it, and then picked up a spoon and slowly stirred the brown sugar into the cereal. He ate a few bites in sullen silence.

"I thought I'd only have to worry about Peter getting to him," he sighed.

"Seems Peter's the least of our worries, if you listen to Severus Snape. Those clippings he sent all say the same thing. Peter Pettigrew, apparently alive, only seen by a very few people, no word since. They had to give Severus veritaserum before they'd even believe him."

"Peter didn't die," Sirius declared.

"I know that."

Sirius smoothed the oatmeal with his spoon, then took another bite. "I suppose it's flattering, in an awful sort of way."

"They do say you're very handsome."

"And I guess if I have to go punch everyone who writes an opinion piece on Harry, it's going to go very ill for me."

"Ignore them."

"Harry won't."

"He'll have to. He's famous, Sirius, there's no getting around that. Besides, how much trouble can he get into at Hogwarts?"

"Do you remember your troublemaking career at Hogwarts?" said Andromeda, from the doorway. She walked into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of tea, and leaned on the counter. "Worried about Harry?"

Sirius held up the newspaper, and Andromeda giggled into her teacup.

"You of all people should know how much mischief can be had at Hogwarts," she scolded.

"Not that sort of trouble, I'm afraid," Remus sighed.

"Well, if it gets too bad we'll hire him a publicist," Andromeda said with a grin. "Do stop to draw breath between temper tantrums, Sirius."

"Yes, you'll need it for beating the women away with a stick," Remus grinned.

"Who reads the society pages anyway," Sirius grumbled, into his oatmeal.


Harry woke, his first day in the Slytherin dormitories, to the absolute silence of four other sleeping boys, and the first rays of sunlight filtering in through the high, narrow windows that looked out on ground level of the castle. He'd only briefly been in the Slytherin dorms before, but he knew the general layout; unlike Gryffindor Tower, where the dormitories were stacked one on top of another, the Slytherin Dungeons (what a charming name! he could hear Sirius say) were a byzantine sprawl of rooms and corridors, lit only by windows which were barely visible from the grounds. Harry rather liked the maze of oddly-shaped hallways and irregularly-sized rooms.

He glanced at the ancient clock over the room's fireplace, and saw that it was only five-thirty; he'd picked up the early-rising habit from Remus, and clearly the other students...hadn't.

Blaise Zabini was in with him, as was a smallish boy by the name of Theodore and two hulking hoodlum-looking types named Crabbe and Goyle. Harry wasn't overly pleased with the majority of his new House-fellows, since Crabbe and Goyle seemed a bit dim and Blaise and Theodore rather mean, but no doubt they'd grow on him.

He tossed the covers back and stumbled into the bathroom to wash, emerging to find Snake creeping slowly around the banister of Blaise's bed. Scolding quietly in Parseltongue, he lifted Snake around his shoulders and kept up a near-silent monologue to the small, sleepy creature as he dressed.

Where are the big ones? Snake asked. This place tastes different.

You'll get used to it, Harry answered. Snake was a little smarter than the last snake Harry had kept as a pet, and mischevious to boot. He'd have to have a talk with him about creeping up on sleeping dorm-mates and the possibility of having one's tail smashed in a panic.

I always do, Snake answered calmly. Harry held up his tie -- formerly plain black, now striped with green and silver -- and put it on. Why are you here with all these littler ones?

I told you, it's called school, Harry replied, smoothing his Hogwarts robe and unpacking a few books, putting them into the little shelf at the foot of his bed so that he could reach his new shoes.

Have the big ones gotten rid of you? Snake teased.

You're not too big to be fed to Professor Snape's python, Harry replied.

Don't I protect you? Snake asked, and Harry smiled indulgently. Don't I tell you when there are Bad Tastes? They taste bad, he added, swinging his head around to fix his eyes on Crabbe and Goyle. Bad littler ones.

Harry stroked Snake's head, soothingly. They're my burrowmates, he explained, as he worked at a bit of loose skin just behind Snake's head. You're shedding, he observed. Do you want to go outside? There's some nice itchy gravel in the flowerbeds.

I want to come with you today, Snake answered. I like the way this Indoors tastes.

Suit yourself, Harry said, quickly, because Theodore was stirring.

You don't want the littler ones to know you talk to me, do you? Snake asked. Harry made sure Theodore was snoring again before he replied.

They might thing I was strange. Abnormal, Harry answered.

Aren't you? You're the only one I know who talks to me, Snake said reasonably. Harry felt the coils around his neck tighten just a little, an affectionate gesture.

I want them to like me.

And they won't like you if you talk to me?

They might not.

Stupid humans.

Harry laughed, softly.

You won't stop talking to me, will you? Snake asked, nervously. Harry stroked his sleek head reassuringly.

Of course not. It'll be like at the old school. We'll talk when we're alone.

Snake made the serpentine equivalent of a relieved sigh and coiled his way into a pocket in Harry's shirt, a warm weight against his chest as Harry tossed the black robe over his head. He took out his book bag, stocking it with quills and an inkpot before adding several tightly-wound brand-new rolls of parchment and carefully placing his wand in the special pocket on the outside flap. He added his textbooks for the day and a handful of the sweets Sirius had slipped into his trunk, then buckled the flap over them and reaching out to close his trunk.

One of his old plush frog's flippers was sticking out, and he gently freed the soft toy, laying it on top of his spare robes. There was a slight difference in the colour and texture of the fur, where Remus had repaired it the day they took him away from the Dursleys. Next to the frog lay the copy of the Mabinogion inscribed to him by Professor Snape, and after a moment's hesitation he picked it up and added it to his bag. If nothing else, it was a pleasant, secure weight on his shoulder.

He wondered, for a moment, if things would have been different if he'd stayed with the Dursleys. Well, obviously; he wouldn't have lived the last two years at the River House, or have the long shallow scar where Peter Pettigrew had drawn his blood. He probably wouldn't know who he was, or who Lord Voldemort was, or any of it; he mightn't have even gone to Hogwarts. The Dursleys might have forbade it.

He wandered out to the Common Room, which was also empty this early in the morning, and got his first really proper look at it; there was a long study table in the center of the room, and several old portraits and tapestries hanging on the walls, which were oddly-shaped, with lots of pleasantly cozy-looking nooks and crannies to explore, when he had the time. The deep green rug was thick under his feet, and ancient banners hung from the low rafters.

He smiled and gave the portrait near the door a wave as he left, and she giggled something about first-years as the door closed behind him. From here it was straight ahead and then two lefts to get to the stairs --

He nearly ran into Professor Snape, distracted as he was by remembering how to get up to the main hallway, when the man stepped out of his quarters. They stared at each other in surprise for a minute, and then Harry felt his face redden as he looked away.

"Hello, Harry," Professor Snape said quietly.

"Professor Snape," Harry mumbled. He was unsure why he should be embarrassed; perhaps because he wasn't a child anymore, but a student, and he couldn't hold his arms out for a hug as he wanted to.

"Did you sleep well?" the tall man inquired.

"Yes, sir," Harry answered.

"You're awake rather early."

"I usually am," Harry ventured, and saw the corners of Snape's mouth twitch upwards, slightly.

"A good habit to cultivate. Breakfast should begin soon," Snape observed. "I am walking that way myself."

Harry fell into step a little behind the tall professor as they wound their way through the corridors and up the stairs, out into the more brightly-lit ground floor of Hogwarts. The Great Hall was quite close and, at the doorway, Snape paused.

"It does not do to seem too familiar with one's professors, this early," he said, still in that quiet, subdued tone. "You and I have much to discuss, I believe, but we should wait for a while, first. Do you understand, Harry?"

Harry nodded, though he wasn't sure if he did; the words did call to mind vague memories of various children being taunted in the schoolyard as a teacher's pet or a kiss-up.

"Within the classroom, do not expect preferential treatment. I do not believe you would, at any rate."

"Yes, Professor Snape."

"In a few weeks' time, I should like to speak with you in my quarters. Until then, Mr. Potter," he added, and passed into the Hall through the entrance nearest the high teachers' table. Harry pondered for a moment, then deliberately wandered down to the other end of the corridor and entered through another door entirely.

It was early, very early, but breakfast was already waiting under shining silver covers. Harry lifted one and helped himself to waffles and bacon, then dug out some parchment and his quill and ink to write a letter to Remus and Sirius as he ate. There were only two students beside himself at the Slytherin table, though the other tables were slightly more crowded, mostly with first years who looked as anxious as himself. Professor Snape was sitting with Professor McGonagall, who was showing him something written on a parchment, while Headmaster Dumbledore talked amiably at Professor Quirrell, who was slowly stuttering out a reply.

Harry turned to his parchment.

Dear Sirius and Remus,

I guess you heard by now that I'm in Slytherin since Marcus Flint told me they publish the lists in the papers. Its all right though I think the other Slytherins are sort of strange, don't ask me how. Snake says Crabbe and Goyle are bad but they look like they're really just not very bright. Thats a horrible thing to say I guess. But they really do!

Hogwarts is like you said it would be Sirius, only even better, theres all sorts of interesting things to do. I don't reckon I'll go exploring in the Forbidden Forest like you used to but everyone wants to know whats in the third-floor corridor on the right hand side because Headmaster Dumbledore said it was out of bounds. I heard some of the older kids have already gone up and given it a good looking-at and dared each other to touch the doorway but the doors locked and probably hexed, so I shan't.

My beds pretty nice and the common room is cool. Breakfast is good though the waffles aren't as good as the ones Sirius makes on account of not having chocolate chips in them. I miss you and the River House, but theres lots of kids here and I've already made friends with Neville and Draco and a girl named Padma, who has a twin sister whose in Gryffindor, but Padmas in Ravenclaw. I'm writing this at breakfast but I guess I'll write another letter after dinner to let you know how classes went.

Harry paused, wondering what to write next, and looked up. He was just reaching for the inkpot again when he heard his name shouted, and Draco Malfoy ran down the aisle, skidding to a stop in front of him.

"Look, Harry!" he cried, as Harry turned to regard the smaller boy. He spread his arms and spun around. Harry lifted an eyebrow like Remus did when he was confused and didn't want to show it.

" your robe on okay?" he asked.

"I'm a Hufflepuff!" Malfoy said joyfully.

The eyebrow inched up a little. "Did you, er, want to be a Hufflepuff?"

"Oh yeah, ever since I heard on the train that people don't mind them -- the Hat made a big fuss, said all Malfoys went into Slytherin and that I was sure to catch hell if I didn't, but I said I'd rather be Hufflepuff thanks, and we argued about it for a while, and then the Hat said fine and on my own head be it and look! My tie is YELLOW!"

Harry grinned at Draco's obvious pleasure, and offered him a waffle, which Draco took and nibbled as he sat next to Harry. "What're you writing?" he asked interestedly.

"Letter to my godfather and Remus," Harry replied. "If you think you'll get hell for being a Hufflepuff, just wait till Sirius finds out I'm in Slytherin. He hates Slytherin cos his whole family went there." Harry paused. "But I guess you knew that."

Draco nodded absently. "Will he shout?" he asked. "He might send you a Howler. I think Mum might send me one, except she'd have to go out and have it specially made and she hates going out, so maybe not. She might make our house-elf Mendy do it, but Mendy'd find a way to send me a regular letter instead. She likes me."

"Nah. Sirius isn't like that. Well, not with me. He never shouts at me," Harry answered. He unfolded a copy of his class schedule and began noting it down in the letter for Sirius and Remus to read.

"Not ever?" Draco asked, still nibbling the waffle.

"Not really. He shouted at me when I broke my leg but he said later he wasn't really angry at me, he was just scared and angry at himself cos he was supposed to be watching me," Harry shrugged.

"How did you break your leg?"

"Fell out of a tree."

Draco's eyes widened. Just then, Neville appeared on the other side of the table, and thumped down on the bench across from them.

"Wotcha, Harry! Hi Draco," he said, helping himself to scrambled eggs and toast.

"Hi Neville," Harry and Draco chorused, as Neville began making a very tidy scrambled egg sandwich. "Sleep well?" Harry asked.

"Not a wink," Neville answered cheerfully. "I couldn't think about anything but classes and how scary all the teachers looked last night. Professor McGonagall looks frightfully mean, don't you think?"

"I hear she can turn into a cat," Draco whispered conspiratorially.

"She's an Animagus," Harry put in.

"Well, anyhow, I found my tie so that's something, and I reckon if Nymphadora can get through seven years here, I can," Neville said, around a mouthful of egg and toast. "Look, there's Padma. Oi! Padma!" he called, and the dark-haired girl with the blue bow tied around her braid turned to find them.

"What're you doing here? This is the Slytherin table!" she said. Neville offered her a slice of toast.

"Nobody's here," Draco pointed out. "It's not like we're stealing anyone's seats."

"It doesn't matter! Houses aren't supposed to eat together. Especially Slytherin -- Penelope Clearwater told me they're very particular. Sorry Harry," she added, when Harry gave her a dark look.

"Well, I'm not particular," he said loftily. "Go on Padma, sit down, nobody cares."

Padma sighed and dropped into the seat next to Neville, who gallantly dumped a helping of scrambled egg onto her plate while she fixed herself some oatmeal. Draco finished nibbling his waffle to death and started on a sausage.

"Letter home?" Padma asked, indicating Harry's parchment. "I wrote mine last night, but I've no idea where the Owlery is."

"I'll take it for you," Harry volunteered. "Just finishing copying out my schedule for them, then I'm done, I think."

"Ta," Padma answered.

"Schedules out then," Neville announced, "Let's see what everyone's got."

Padma took out a little card she'd apparently copied her schedule onto, and Harry gave his to Neville once he'd finished writing down the last course. Draco pulled a rather tattered, crumpled sheet of parchment out of his pocket, which earned him a disapproving look from Padma, who at once took out another card and stole Harry's quill to copy down Draco's schedule with.

"Look, most of the classes are doubled up, so we'll always have someone or another in class with us," Neville said. "I've got Harry in Potions and Draco's got me in History of Magic, and Padma and Harry are together for Transfiguration -- "

"We've got Thursday night Astronomy together," Padma added, to Draco.

" -- and then it's me-and-Padma and Draco-and-Harry for Defence Against the Dark Arts."

Draco made a small panicked noise at the mention of Dark Arts, and took a quick drink of pumpkin juice.

"Yeah, scares me too," Neville answered. "Professor Quirrell looks nice, though."

"I've met him," Harry said. "He stutters."

"So do I, when I'm scared," Neville answered.

"I'm not afraid at all," Padma said, passing the neatly-copied card to Draco, who gave her a shyly pleased look before putting it in his breast pocket.

"Me either," Harry agreed. "I think it's brilliant."

"What, not even a little?" Neville inquired. "I'm terrified and Malfoy looks like he might be ill."

"I do not," Draco protested weakly, and as if to prove it, took a large bite of his sausage.

"You don't sound scared," Padma pointed out to Neville.

"Well, that's the trick, isn't it?" Neville answered. "If you talk loud enough about how scared you are you end up less scared."

Padma rolled her eyes and bit into her eggs, as more people began to pour into the Great Hall.

"Look, there's the prefect, we'd better hop," she said, and Harry wondered how she already knew who was his House prefect when he himself was unsure. Draco scuttled over to Hufflepuff, leaving some sausage behind, while Neville hurried almost as quickly to Gryffindor, and Padma walked with dignity, and her plate, to Ravenclaw.

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