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.)
Although this story focuses on Harry, it features a romantic/sexual relationship which develops between his two guardians, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. This is not the major focus of the story. The few chapters with explicit (in that you can figure out what's going on) but not graphic (no four-letter words or detailed descriptions) scenes will be rated Mature and a warning will be posted in the Chapter Notes.
Harry Potter was eight years old, and he had a wonderful secret.
Harry had a lot of secrets: that his hair, even when freshly cut, grew so fast it was always unruly the next morning...or that sometimes he seemed to make things happen without meaning to...or that he swore sometimes he could understand what snakes were thinking.
But this was the best secret, especially because it involved doing something that was Against The Rules, and any eight-year-old knows that Against The Rules is more fun than anything.
It had to do with the house on the corner, and the Sandust Books shop on High Street.
Sandust Books was the shop that he and Dudley were never allowed to go into, the one that Aunt Petunia always dragged them past with a tightly-set frown on her face and her considerable jaw jutting out. It was strange, too, because it wasn't like Woman's Intuition, the bookshop a few doors down. All the children were banned from that bookshop, but nobody else was forbidden to go to Sandust Books.
Dudley didn't like books, and so didn't care, but Harry had once stopped to press his nose to the glass of the front display, and seen all sorts of wonderful, colourful books in it, and instantly his heart was set.
He had to get into Sandust Books.
Perhaps he and Dudley weren't allowed in because, it was rumoured, the bookshop belonged to the strange man who lived on the corner of Privet Drive, the only one on the whole block who didn't own a car or have gnomes in his front yard. Instead his yard was overgrown with rows of strange herbs, and he owned -- this was the most brilliant part -- he owned a motorbike.
Harry didn't see why sharing a street with strange Mr. Black should mean he couldn't go into the bookshop. After all, nobody actually knew that he owned it, and he had it on good authority that the shop itself was mostly run by another man named Moony. Harry reasoned that anyone named Moony could hardly be a bad person. And he'd often seen a great black dog lazing on the doorstep, its coat dark and sleek in the afternoon sun. It had a collar that read "Padfoot" and all the children said it was a brilliant smart dog who would fetch books if Moony told him to, or do tricks or watch little children while their parents browsed.
Harry thought Sandust Books might just be the best place on Earth, especially since it was Forbidden.
So, today, he'd crept away from Aunt Petunia while she was doing some shopping -- knowing that, having met one of her friends in the market, she could gossip for hours -- and sidled along the alley next to the bookshop, and peeped in the back door.
Inside it was dim, but he could see shelves and shelves of books crammed together, and tables, and large wing-chairs.
And two giant glowing yellow eyes.
He yelped and tumbled backwards, and saw teeth flash --
The enormous black dog, Padfoot, was gripping him by the shirt with his teeth, preventing him from tumbling off the back step. The dog gave a little growl and tugged him forward, and Harry realised Padfoot probably didn't want to eat him.
Once he was inside, the dog let him go, and he put his hand on one of the tables for balance, pulling his shirt straight. The dog whined, almost apologetically, and nudged him with his nose.
"Padfoot, what are you doing back here? I thought I heard someone -- "
Harry looked up as a tall, well-dressed man appeared, towering over him. He was thin, with a strange face and brown hair; Harry thought he looked older than he really was, somehow. At the moment he was frowning, perplexed. Padfoot whined again, and moved to stand behind the tall man's legs, staring up at him.
"Pads, what did you do?" the man asked quietly, entirely as if the dog could answer.
"He caught me," Harry said. "Don't hit him."
"Hit him?" The man asked. "I'd as soon hit a child. Caught you from what?"
"Falling," Harry said, gesturing to the back step, then to his shirt, which was stretched slightly. "I got scared...he was just guard-dogging."
"Yes, well, I'll deal with Padfoot later. Are you all right?" the tall man asked. Harry nodded. "Not scared, are you?"
"Course not," Harry said scornfully. Padfoot slunk out from behind the man's legs, and nudged him again. "Hey, stop that!"
"I think he likes you, Harry," the man said, with a smile.
"How'd you know my name?" Harry asked, curiously.
"That's not important. My name's Moony," he said, holding out his hand. Harry took it, feeling very grown up.
"I know. Everyone talks about you."
Moony smiled. "Does your aunt know you're here?"
"How do you know -- "
The man waved a hand. "That doesn't matter."
"She's in the market. She won't be done for hours," Harry said, expressively. Padfoot nosed under his hand, begging to be petted, and he skritched behind his ears.
"You'd best come in now, it can't be helped," Moony said with a sigh. Harry wasn't sure he understood, but he followed Moony through the shelves, to the front of the store. Padfoot followed him, head nuzzling under Harry's arm.
"What can't be helped?" Harry asked, when they reached the front of the store. Padfoot sat next to him, tongue lolling out.
"Oh -- I was just talking to myself," Moony replied. "You like to read, Harry?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Pads, what sort of book do you think Harry would like?" Moony asked the dog. Padfoot's tail thumped on the floor. "You find something," he said finally, and Padfoot, to Harry's amazement, rose and trotted away.
"He's a smart dog," Harry observed.
"A little too smart for his own good," Moony said cryptically. He reached behind the counter and located a jar of yellow humbugs, popping one in his mouth before offering them to Harry, whose eyes went wide.
"How'd you know I like humbugs?" he asked. Moony winked.
"Magic," he said. Harry took one, carefully, and crunched up the peppermint outside, until he could taste the caramel in the centre.
"Aunt Petunia never lets me have humbugs," Harry said, around the caramel in his mouth.
"I reckon there's a lot of things Aunt Petunia doesn't let you do," Moony said sadly.
"I get by."
"Yes, Harry, I'm sure you do. Ah, here we are," Moony continued, as Padfoot returned, pushing a book with his nose. "Oh, excellent. Pads has very good taste in books," he added.
"Good dog," Harry said dutifully, patting Padfoot on the head. "Can he read?" he asked, impressed. Padfoot yawned.
"Well, Padfoot's literacy is neither here nor there, at the moment," Moony answered. "Can I trust you to keep a secret, Harry?"
"Course," Harry answered stoutly.
"You know you're not supposed to be in here. So when you leave, you can't tell your aunt you've been, or else you'll get Pads and me in trouble."
"I won't tell," Harry said fervently. Padfoot whined.
"And you can't show anyone this," Moony said gravely. "It's a book just for you, Harry, and you're not to even show Dudley or anyone at school, or tell anyone where you got it."
Harry didn't even think to ask how Moony knew who Dudley was. He was quite sure that Moony knew the secrets of the universe, and if Moony couldn't answer a question, Padfoot could.
"I promise," Harry answered. "Cross my heart."
Moony smiled, and reached out, lifting up the hair on Harry's forehead. Harry felt him touch the odd-shaped scar there, gently.
"Boy's as good as his word, you think?" he asked suddenly, turning to Padfoot. The dog's tail thumped again. "Right then," he said. "Here you are, Harry. A present from Padfoot."
Harry accepted the book, looking down at the cover.
"The Magician's Nephew," he read aloud. He looked from Padfoot to Moony and back. "What's it about?" he asked. Padfoot regarded him solemnly.
"If we told you, it'd spoil it," Moony said. "There, will it fit in your pocket?"
Harry nodded, and shoved it in the front pocket of his oversized, hand-me-down coat.
"You should get back to your aunt," Moony said, with a small frown. "She'll be looking for you soon. Wait..."
Harry had turned to go, but Padfoot put out his head, blocking the boy from moving. Moony scrabbled behind the counter for a small paper bag and poured some of the humbugs into it.
"There. Don't tell," he said, with a grin. Harry grinned back, and scratched Padfoot under his collar. The dog's tail thumped wildly against a bookshelf.
"Off you go, then. Padfoot'll go with you as far as the market," he said. Harry, proud master of a sack of his favourite candy and a new book all his own, put one hand on Padfoot's broad back and followed the dog out of the shop.
"Oh, bugger," Remus Lupin said softly, when they'd gone.
He walked around the counter and found a scrap of parchment and a ballpoint pen, writing quickly and neatly, before folding it and crossing to a window that opened into a side-alley. Outside, perched on a potted tree, an owl was sleeping, head under wing. He poked it.
"Claw, please take this to Dumbledore," he said, holding out the letter. Claw -- Sirius had been allowed to name her, a mistake Remus would never again make -- hooted irritably, accepted the letter, and flapped off.
He had barely turned around again before Padfoot returned, heaved a doggy sigh, and trotted into the back office, where they kept the books-to-be-shelved, the books-we-can't-show-the-Muggles, and the ancient electric teakettle. There was a soft noise, like an exhalation of breath, and Sirius Black walked out of the office, head bowed, face grave. He shoved his hands in his pockets, and leaned against the counter, thoughtfully.
"You tell Dumbledore?" he asked.
"Just got through," Remus answered quietly.
"I couldn't help it."
"Wasn't your fault," Remus replied, without looking at him. He picked up the jar of humbugs, and turned it over in his hands, thoughtfully. "He came looking for us, not the other way around."
"I didn't mean to scare him."
"I don't think you did."
"He'll like the book."
"Course he will."
"Think he'll tell?"
Remus glanced at Sirius then, and shook his head. "I think Harry keeps too many secrets already to go blurting this one out to that odious aunt of his." He turned the jar again. The remaining humbugs rattled. "You know when I found out he liked these, I started keeping them in the shop...I'm not sure if I was trying to lure him in, or just waiting so that when he did come -- "
"I know." Sirius took his hands out of his pockets, crossing his arms. "I put the book aside for him. I thought about Tolkien, but he's too young -- I thought, you know, he ought to be reading about magic and that..."
"We're pathetic, aren't we?"
"We're looking out for the boy." Sirius shrugged. "It's my job. Merlin, but he looks like James."
"That he does. Smart as a whip, too. You saw. He's got Lily's eyes."
"Wish I could've seen him in colour," Sirius mumbled.
"Well, I sent you off so that you could Change if you wanted. I thought you would."
"Of course you..." Remus trailed off. He set the humbugs back on the counter, slowly. "Oh."
"If I could talk to him I wouldn't have been able to keep myself from blurting the whole thing out. If I'd had arms to -- to hug him -- nobody thinks it's weird if a strange black dog wants to be petted, but god forbid his own damn godfather should want to..." he put a hand over his face, composing himself. Remus waited patiently. "It would have scared the boy."
"He liked you."
Sirius met Remus' eyes, and a smile spread slowly across his face. "He did, didn't he? He liked me. He wasn't even scared at all, was he?"
"Did you see the way he looked at us?"
"Like we were...magic."
They shared a happy grin, before Remus' fingers plucked nervously at the bookmarks sitting near the cash register.
"He'll come back, you know," he said. "It's dangerous. If That Woman finds out...or his uncle..."
"Well." Sirius looked grave. "We'll just have to make sure that he doesn't get caught."
"Which means...?" Remus lifted an eyebrow.
"Which means that next time, we find him."
"Sirius, you know what Moody and Dumbledore will say about that."
"Moody and Dumbledore don't have to know."
"We promised we wouldn't make trouble for Harry. We swore up and down and on Moody's disgusting removable eye that we would keep our distance."
"Well, we did, didn't we? It's not our fault That Woman wouldn't let him in our shop. He was bound to want to see what all the fuss was about, sooner or later."
"It's not right, Sirius."
Sirius gave a dramatic groan, and flopped into one of the wing-chairs nearby. "Listen, all right, here's what we'll do. The next time his aunt brings him along shopping, I'll follow around. If I see him sneaking away, I'll make sure she's occupied. By force, if necessary," he said, with a toothy grin. Remus smiled. "Woman's Intuition has a dog, he's unusually bright and I'm sure I could show him what he needs to watch for."
"Right. Somehow you'd think they'd own a cat, really."
Sirius shrugged. "Anyhow, he can keep a lookout and if we see That Woman coming, we can hustle Harry out the back door and claim ignorance complete."
"You know you'd think after seven years at school and ten years out in the world, I'd be able to say no to you, once in a while."
"Thwack me with a newspaper," Sirius grinned. He streched, and Remus pushed away from the counter as a customer entered, fluidly transitioning into his professional, bookish 'shopkeeper' demeanour. Sirius, who had never mastered the art of politeness to strangers, left him to it.
Aunt Petunia hadn't even noticed he was gone, but Dudley had; Harry had to bribe him with a handful of the precious yellow candies before he'd keep mum about it, but there were still three or four left after Dudley's cut.
Moony was a magician. Harry was sure of it. You didn't get giant black dogs who could read if you were just a regular old bookstore owner. Moony was a magician and the reason Harry wasn't allowed in the store was because Aunt Petunia didn't hold with any fantastical nonsense.
When they got home he wanted to go straight to his cupboard and look at his book some more, but he had to help put the groceries away, and then clean up after Dudley dug a hole in the flower bed, and then he had to help cook dinner. He wasn't able to get away from the Dursleys until after dinner.
He picked up his coat and pulled the book out of the pocket with some difficulty. It was a small, cheap paperback, with a yellow cover and a picture of a forest on the front. He curled up on his bed, back to the door so that even if someone did open it unexpectedly he'd have time to shove the book under his pillow. It looked exactly the sort of book Uncle Vernon would take away from him, if he was caught, and then what would he say when he went back to Sandust Books?
He grinned. Of course he was going back! A real live Magician was not the sort of thing you ignored, once you knew about it!
Eventually Aunt Petunia did thump on his door and tell him to turn out the lights, and he pulled on the chain that would turn off the one bare overhead bulb. After waiting to a count of four hundred, just to be safe, he fumbled under the bed for an old battery-powered torch he'd salvaged from the garage. The glow was dim and the batteries dying, but it was enough to read by.
He read through the night, fascinated. Evil magicians and good boy heroes and witches and lions, and animals that talked, and good magicians too. Maybe Moony was from Narnia, and Padfoot was a talking dog. Harry hoped he'd talk to him next time.
Across town, Remus stood on the front step of Sandust Books and locked the door, checking the knob as he had every day for nearly seven years. Padfoot sat on the step, patiently. He waved to a couple of fellow shopkeepers, shouldered a battered satchel, and began the walk down the street to the bakery, Padfoot at his heels. He always bought an apple turnover or a muffin for himself, and usually they had some treat or other for Pads, as well; three years ago the big dog had run down a thief who'd made off with most of their money, and Moony'd had to pull him bodily off the man, who by that time was gibbering in fear.
Everyone agreed that Moony was nice chap, a bit odd, but his dog was all right.
At the end of the street, they ducked into an alley briefly; Moony emerged on the other side alone, walking towards his flat. After a pause, a black-haired man in a leather coat walked out of the alley, got onto the motorbike that was always parked nearby, and drove off.