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.)
Harry was drawing in the living room, after dinner, when Sirius picked him up -- both men had that habit, of simply lifting him by the waist or armpits, moving him about as if he was a piece of furniture, much to Harry's delight. Harry shrieked happily and let Sirius hold him up in the air, legs kicking.
"All right, Harry?" Sirius asked. Harry squirmed, and Sirius tossed him onto the couch.
"All right, Sirius!" Harry cried. "Do it again!"
"Not right now, Harry, I've got to talk to you," Sirius answered, dropping onto the couch. Harry crawled across him and grabbed a book. Sirius closed the book gently.
"We need to talk, Harry," he said, putting it aside. "I need to tell you a story."
Harry looked up at him and grinned, and Sirius ran a hand over his face. In the other room, the actual emotional memories were waiting in a Pensieve; he ought to be able to do this and retain his composure.
"Harry, your aunt and uncle told you that your parents died in a car crash," he said, as Harry settled in comfortably. "And now I have to tell you the real story."
"The real story?" Harry asked, curiously. Sirius nodded.
"Has Molly been teaching you about You-Know-Who?" he asked. "Voldemort?"
Harry shrugged. "A little. He was a Dark Wizard. He killed a lot of people."
"Aye, so he did. He was a very Dark Wizard, and there were...wizards in Britain who were fighting him."
Harry nodded. Sirius sighed.
"Your parents were two of the people fighting him," he said. Harry's eyes widened. "Along with me, and Moony, and Headmaster Dumbledore, and Professor Snape. Your parents found out he was going to try to kill them, and you, when you were just a wee one." Sirius paused, to make sure Harry understood, and then continued. "So they decided to hide, and they only told one person where they were hiding. One of our friends, named Peter Pettigrew."
"You and Moony talk about him, sometimes," Harry observed.
"That we do," Sirius answered. "He was a good friend, so we thought. But he was a spy for Voldemort, and he told him, and the Dark Wizard came to your home, to kill you and your parents."
Harry, caught up in the story, snatched in a breath.
"And that's what really happened to your parents, Harry," Sirius continued. "He killed them. And then he tried to kill you. That's how you got your scar," he added, lifting Harry's hair to press the small lightning-bolt scar with his fingers. "But for some reason he couldn't kill you. He tried, and the spell rebounded. It hit him instead. It killed him."
Harry leaned back against Sirius, curling into one of his arms. "So I killed him."
"No, Harry. He killed himself, trying to kill you." Sirius stroked his hair. "You, little one, are a hero. Everyone in the Wizarding world knows who you are. That's why when you go around with Professor Snape, you have to be in disguise. That's why we have to make sure you're safe, all the time."
"He killed my mum and dad?"
"Mmhm, and he still has followers out there, who might want to hurt you."
Harry considered this. "What happened to Peter?" he asked.
Sirius saw Moony's shadow, leaning in the doorway. "He ran away," Sirius said. "And one of Voldemort's followers tried to kill him. But he got away. He's in hiding somewhere."
"But you're safe here, Harry," Moony added, from the doorway. "There are protections on this flat, and on you."
Harry sat in silence for a while, secure against Sirius' warm body, while Sirius stroked his hair.
Sirius could only see the rise and fall of Moony's shoulders, but he knew his friend too well not to see that Moony was weeping, silently. He felt no need to join in the grief; he felt distant, detached from the story he'd told, and knew that the Pensieve had worked.
"Why is Moony crying?" Harry whispered.
"He misses your dad and mum," Sirius answered.
Harry slowly disentangled himself from Sirius' arms, and walked over to Moony, who crouched and hugged him when he held up his hands.
"I miss them too," Harry said, and Moony pressed Harry's face to his neck. He felt a few hot tears slide out of his eyes, for the parents he didn't remember.
"We will always, always protect you, Harry," Moony said hoarsely. "Sirius will always look after you, I will always make sure you're safe."
Harry nodded, against his neck. He heard Sirius moving, felt him brush past them into the kitchen, and after a while, felt him return. Moony gave him to Sirius, and wiped his face. Sirius was grave and silent, Harry's head pressed to his hip, one of his large hands covering the boy's head.
"It's so close to being done," he said, to Moony. "It's so close to being history. They're hardly ghosts anymore."
"Except for Peter."
"Except for Peter," Sirius agreed. "I hope you find the bastard."
"I'll keep looking until I do."
As it turned out, Remus didn't get back 'from India' for a week solid, and then some; he sent a desperate telegram to Sandust saying that he was going straight to the Shrieking Shack, and would Sirius please tell Harry he was simply delayed. The telegram was probably the best thing to have done -- Sirius was still wary around telephones, even after seven years in the Muggle world.
Harry knew better, this time, than to shout and stomp when he came home to find Remus curled on the bed, covered in cuts and scratches. Instead, he clung to Sirius, who made them a quiet, subdued dinner, and took soup in to Remus. Harry, not wanting to be left out, listened secretly at the door as Remus ate his soup, hunched over the bowl, Sirius sitting on a chair nearby.
"This can't go on," Sirius said quietly.
"Other people do it. I'm fine."
"You're not fine. You're about as far from fine as you've ever been."
"It's not scarring," Remus said petulantly. "And your soup is awful."
"Don't change the subject."
"We've gone over this," Remus said, proving his lie by drinking the soup hungrily. "It's the only way to keep Harry safe. If neither of us are human it's as bad as if we'd left him alone all night. One of us has to be human and sane."
Harry stared hard at the two dim figures.
"What about that potion you were reading about in the Prophet?"
"It's not finished yet," Remus said, coughing as he choked on a noodle. "Mightn't be for years. It's just until Harry starts school, Sirius, that's not long at all."
"Twelve times three is thirty six," Sirius said.
"Two and a half," Remus countered.
"Minus two -- "
"This isn't a bidding war! This is your life!"
"Yes, it is my life," Remus replied, softly. "My life, Sirius, not yours, not Harry's. We knew there'd probably be some time when you married, or when I moved on from Sandust. You can't be my guard-dog forever." A pause. "What? What's that look?"
"I always thought...I know you don't spend much, I thought maybe you wanted to buy half of Sandust. Someday. Own it with me."
The pair of them lapsed into silence, and Harry slunk quietly into the room.
"Hi there, Harry," Remus said, smiling suddenly. He set the empty soup bowl on his nightstand, and gave Harry a hand onto the bed. He might look sick, Harry thought, but his grip was still firm. "And how've you been? Haven't starved, I hope?"
"Nope," Harry answered. "How was India?"
Remus smiled. "Crowded. And futile. But I did bring you a present."
Harry's eyes lit up, but he waited patiently while Remus directed Sirius to his satchel, and a paper-wrapped parcel inside it, tied with twine. He untied the twine deftly, and Harry tried not to look at the marks on Remus' hands, as he accepted the box from them. He tore off the paper, pulling up the lid, mindless of the tape and slightly torn cardboard.
"What is it?" Harry asked, delightedly. He lifted an oblong bronze object out of the tissue paper. It had a scowling, toothy face on one end, and a strange triangular blade on the other.
"It's called a Phurba," Remus supplied. "Tibetan Buddhists believe it's the only kind of knife that can kill a ghost."
"You got him a knife?" Sirius asked.
"It's not sharp," Remus answered.
"Did you go to Tibet?"
"Of course not, do I look daft?"
Harry, meanwhile, was jabbing at Remus' pyjama-clad chest, prodding him with the rounded, dulled blade.
"So if ghosties and ghoulies try anything smart," Remus said, catching the blade in one hand, "you'll be prepared."
"Where can I get one of those?" Sirius asked, with a grin. Remus gestured at the satchel.
"Under my socks," he said. Sirius lifted an eyebrow, and pulled out another parcel, rather more flat.
"What, you think I was going to bring Harry something and not you, o spoilt one?" Remus asked. Sirius grinned and tore the paper off with significantly more abandon than Harry. He pulled out a flat piece of glass, about the size of a Galleon coin, covered in what looked like gold leaf.
"It's your name, in Hindu lettering," Remus said. "It's for..." he tapped the side of his neck, and Sirius grinned, unbuttoning his shirt collar to reveal the thin nylon dog-collar, reading PADFOOT along one side, underneath. He hooked the glass onto the collar, and leaned over Harry.
"Think it's good?" he asked. Harry grinned, and nodded, and poked him in the collarbone with his dagger.
"Hey!" Sirius swung him up, holding him upside down; the dagger fell onto the counterpane. "I'm not a ghost!"
Remus watched as Harry wrestled his way around Sirius' side, grabbing onto his belt and hitching it up. After a moment they both tumbled to the floor, roughhousing, until Sirius cried uncle.
He thought briefly about the memory he'd shown Sirius in the Pensieve, and gave a little prayer of thanks to any god that might be listening, for the lost owl that had kept him in England on that awful night seven years ago.
This time, one of the cuts on Remus' face didn't heal fully, and there was a thin brown scar on his cheek, just in front of his left ear; when he returned to Sandust, several of their regulars commented on it, until Sirius -- slumped on the floor as Padfoot, enjoying the squealing attention of a couple of youngsters in the children's section -- began to growl whenever anyone brought it up. Remus didn't seem bothered by it, but then with Remus it was hard to tell.
It might almost have seemed that their lives had settled once more. Sirius wasn't satisfied with Remus' solution to things, but he accepted it. Harry was attending school, and every so often would go to Hogsmeade, or Hogwarts, or Diagon Alley with Professor Snape. Remus twice caught Sirius trying to sneak after him as Padfoot, and while he agreed that this would have been smart, he didn't approve of spying on them. How was Harry to trust the pair, if he knew they were following him? he asked, and Sirius...caved.
It even seemed as though some kind of truce had been made with Dumbledore, between Remus' peace offering of a rare volume on Phoenix mythology, and their agreement to allow Snape to be a part of Harry's education. Snape kept his own counsel on that, though there were murmurings from both men living with Harry that he spent entirely too much time with Slytherins.
Which was why, though Sirius shouted, Remus was pleased when Harry tumbled out of the fireplace one afternoon, after a Saturday spent at Hogwarts, to announce that he'd been invited by Oliver Wood (whowaseleven, Sirius, andkneweverythingabout QUIDDITCH!) to stay in the Gryffindor dormitory for a night.
"He's arranged it with Dumbledore and everything," Remus said reasonably. "And it shows a remarkable independence of spirit..."
"It shows remarkable stupidity on Dumbledore's part!" Sirius was shouting, but at least he was shouting in the mainly-soundproofed back room of the shop, while Harry was out in the front.
"It'll do the boy some good, to see how Wizarding kids live," Remus countered.
"He's ours, Remus! He doesn't belong to Hogwarts yet!"
"Oh, I see," Remus said, only a trifle sourly. "This isn't about Harry, this is about what you own and don't own."
Sirius was suddenly dangerously quiet.
"He's ours only in as much as we raise him, Sirius," Remus continued. "He doesn't belong to us. He's a boy, not a book or a strange new toy to play with."
"I know that! Don't think I don't know that!" Sirius ranted.
"Then act like it," Remus said sharply. Sirius stopped, mouth open to reply. After a moment, he shut it.
"You have to be so fucking logical," he said sullenly.
"Well, excuse me for spending two minutes at a time in thought, I'm sure," Remus replied, not at all in the mood to deal with Sirius' hysterics.
"I don't want him sleeping in some strange place where we're not there in case he -- in case he needs us!" Sirius continued.
"Sirius, when was the last time Harry needed either of us during the night?" Remus asked mildly.
"He might yet!"
"He's a boy, Pads, he wants to spend the night with his friends in the dormitory. Wood's a Gryffindor, it'll do him good to escape the Slytherins for a while. Why are you so against this?"
Sirius gave him another sullen look, and Remus shook his head. He knew why Sirius was against it. He was used to the lad, used to him being there, used to expecting to wake in the night with Harry needing something, even if he never had.
They were used to Harry.
And Sirius didn't like change.
"He'll have fun," Remus said quietly.
"Be good for him to make more friends than just Ron and Ginny and the twins."
"Give us both the night off. You could..." Remus swallowed and played a bitter but important card. "Take Moira out somewhere. And...and stay out, if you wanted to. Without having to explain it in the morning to Harry."
Sirius rubbed his eyes. "If you make me go out with Moira one more time, Remus, I might kill her."
Remus stared at him. "Make you go out with her? You do realise how very little I like her, don't you? You know those remarks about her were sarcastic?"
Sirius stared back.
"But I thought you...you kept bringing it up..."
"Well, I'm not happy about the idea, you know! But I thought I ought to at least show willing!"
"Willing to let you marry if that's what you wanted," Remus answered, controlling himself. "I don't know that it's really very...healthy, the two of us giving up our lives completely, that's why I thought, I don't like the idea of marrying just to give Harry a mum, but..." he made a frustrated noise. "If that was what you wanted I thought I ought to at least offer to watch Harry for an evening."
He gave Sirius a sudden smile.
"And it's not right, you know, a sex manaic like yourself not getting any," he added. Sirius, who'd been staring in consternation and deep thought, grinned.
"Who says I'm not?" he asked.
"I see you in the mornings -- "
"Locker room talk from a shopkeeper like yourself! For shame!"
"Well, are you or aren't you?"
Sirius laughed. "No, as it happens, I'm not. And now that I know you aren't actually behind me going out with Moira, I can stop doing that, and I won't even have any female contact," he sighed.
"She's that bad?"
"She's just not for me. Perfectly nice girl on her own. Not my type."
"Well, what is your type?"
Sirius ran a hand through his hair, making some of it stand on end. "Well, you know. You've met my dates."
Remus made a gesture, that might have looked to a casual observer as though he was holding two cantaloupes in front of his chest. Sirius laughed. Harry's head poked through the door, and he emerged from the front of the store, carrying a quill, inkpot, and roll of parchment.
"I need help," he said plaintively. "Mrs. Weasley wants two inches on Muggle literature by tomorrow."
"Well, Harry, welcome to Sandust books," Remus said, with a wry look. "That's all we sell, you know. Mostly, anyway," he added, glancing at one of the high shelves, with the magical books locked in it.
"No, she wants it on someone named..." Harry consulted the scroll. "James Joyce. I'm supposed to find a bi'graphy and Copy Down Important Facts."
Remus saw Sirius' eyes light up. Sirius, against all odds, was passionate about Joyce. Remus privately decided it had something to do with a similarity in lack of coherent thought between the two.
"All right, Harry, let's see what we can find," Sirius said, leading him out into the shop and towards the back sections. Remus was going to follow, out of curiousity, but just then Mr. Barin came in, for his weekly helping of gory murder mysteries, accompanied by his daughter, and Remus stopped to talk to them instead.
When he glanced over from his conversation on the merits of Rex Stout, he saw Sirius lifting Harry up so that the boy could pull a weighty volume on Joyce off the shelves. Sirius pulled the boy back, whispering something in his ear, and Remus could tell by Harry's reaction that he'd just told him he could spend the night in Gryffindor with Oliver.
It would have been impossible for Remus to say which of the two he loved more, in that moment.