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.)
There was a certain amount of tension that Harry could sense, when he arrived in the bookshop; having grown up with the Dursleys, Harry was unusually attuned to the moods of the people around him. It was a survival trait more than anything.
Sirius, though he welcomed him back, didn't stay human very long after Harry returned. Remus smiled and was happy to see him, but he was also quiet -- even for Moony -- as Harry sat in one of the wing-chairs, Padfoot's head resting on his knee, and told them about his sleepover in excruciating detail.
Except, of course, for what Percy had been researching.
It was a quiet group that left Sandust as Remus locked up, and Harry, arm slung across Padfoot's broad doggy shoulders, followed him down towards the bakery. The brothers who worked there had already assembled their evening purchase -- a day-old bagel with honey for Padfoot, an apple turnover for Moony, and an oatmeal cookie for Harry.
Harry fed Padfoot the bagel in little bits, as they walked towards the flat. Moony was silent, lost in his own thoughts; Harry was watching him, covertly, to see if it was really true -- if you really couldn't tell a werewolf from a human.
By the time they reached the front door, he'd decided it didn't matter.
"Come into the kitchen, Harry, you ought to wash up. I don't care if he's an animagus, dog drool is dog drool," Remus called, setting his satchel down in the kitchen. Harry came in and climbed the stepstool to the sink, while Remus unpacked his turnover and set it on a plate, leaning on the counter to eat it tidily with a fork.
"Is Sirius changing back tonight?" Harry asked, hearing Padfoot throw himself down in front of the couch in the living room.
"I don't know," Remus replied. "You could ask him."
"Are you fighting?"
"You and Sirius." Harry dried his hands. "When Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia used to fight, she wouldn't speak to him."
"No, Harry, we're not fighting," Remus said, around a mouthful of apple. "When civilised people fight, they sort out their differences as they go, so that they don't have to resort to childish things like the silent treatment."
"But Sirius can't talk when he's Padfoot."
Remus considered him shrewdly. "Harry, you know how you have Frog?"
"And you know how afraid you were when you first came to live with us? And you wouldn't let Frog go?"
Harry grinned and nodded.
"Well, being Padfoot...for Sirius, it's rather like Frog. When he's upset...it gives him space to think about things."
Harry reached up and broke off a corner of his apple turnover. Remus pushed some icing onto it. Harry popped it into his mouth and chewed, thoughtfully.
"So what's he upset over, then?" he asked.
Remus looked startled. Harry waited patiently.
"Well...erm...it's difficult to explain," he began. Harry sighed.
"Is this another grownup thing?" he demanded, slightly impatiently.
"I guess we've used that excuse a lot, these past weeks, haven't we," Remus admitted. "It's just...Sirius is sorting a few things out. He needs to think really hard about them. That's all."
Harry considered the wary-looking man in front of him. After a moment, he nodded.
"All right. But if he isn't Sirius again by tomorrow I'm going to make him take a bath," he concluded. Remus smiled and ruffled his hair.
"Run on in, maybe Padfoot wants you to read to him tonight," he said, watching as Harry left the kitchen and clambered up onto the battered old couch. Padfoot joined him, and Harry took a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes from the end-table. He listened to Harry read for a few minutes, over the occasional thump of Padfoot's tail against the couch when Harry spelled out a particularly long word, before turning back to the kitchen. There was dinner to make, after all.
He'd stood just about here when Sirius had kissed him. And he'd stood just about here when they'd made tea together, and --
Crockery crashed, and Remus swore.
"All right, Moony?" Harry called from the living room. Padfoot's ears perked.
"Fine, Harry, I just knocked a plate off the counter," he called back, hurriedly fixing it with a Reparo! and a flick of his wand.
Enough of this foolishness. They would go on as they had gone on, hadn't he said that himself?
Better get on with going on then, hadn't you, Lupin...
Padfoot slept on Harry's bed that night, though he was human and hogging the shower when Remus woke the next morning. He seemed as though whatever issues he'd been sorting out had been sorted, and for Harry's sake, Remus tried to treat their interactions as normal, but it was difficult. He hadn't realised how much they ribbed and teased each other, until he was no longer comfortable doing it.
It was almost a relief to leave for Sandust, and know that Sirius was taking Harry to a Sunday matinee at the cinema. Sometimes he rather thought it was Harry taking Sirius -- Harry was much more accomplished at handling Muggle money, and better at choosing which movie they ought to see.
This week it was a comedy of some sort, as far as Remus could tell, when Harry and Sirius met him at the door. It was Sirius' turn to cook, which meant that as long as he didn't smell smoke when he stepped inside, it would probably be edible. He sniffed; pork chops. Mashed potatoes...and mushy peas.
Sirius Black comfort food. The sort of thing you'd cook if your best friend was upset with you. Despite the fact that Remus didn't like mushy peas, or have a particular affection for pork chops.
He shook his head. Sirius, so haplessly self-absorbed sometimes.
"Early dinner tonight," Sirius called, from the kitchen. "We're going stargazing."
"We're what?" Remus asked, as he walked towards the bedroom, Harry trailing him.
"Astronomy. Do you know Harry doesn't know a single constellation?" Sirius said, from the kitchen doorway. Remus pulled off his shirt, changing it for a Muggle t-shirt and a jumper.
"Not one?" Remus asked Harry, who shook his head. "Well, that definitely has to be solved, but..."
"I thought we could take the motorbi -- " Sirius paused at Remus' look. "Or the train, the train works too. Get outside the city a little, take a star-chart, you've still got your old textbooks, haven't you?"
"We can be back in plenty of time for Harry to get a good night's sleep for school tomorrow, and they're going to start on constellations soon anyhow, Molly said," Sirius continued. Remus, realising that Sirius had planned this carefully, if quickly, dug around in the bureau for his gloves.
"Sounds fine," he answered, walking back down the hallway, Harry running on ahead. Sirius looked at him blankly.
"It does?" he asked.
"Sure, as long as Harry'll get enough sleep. I haven't done any astronomy since school," he said. Sirius continued to look at him. He flashed the other man an enthusiastic grin. "Let's eat, then," he continued.
Sirius, after a few seconds, matched his grin.
"Splendid," he said. "Grand. Let's eat."
"Yay potatoes!" Harry said, climbing into one of the dining-room chairs. Both of them looked at him.
"Did you like mashed potatoes when you were eight?" Remus asked.
Sirius shrugged, and pushed Remus gently towards the table. "He can have my peas, too..." Remus called after him.
"Not after the brandy. You?"
"Got a warming charm on."
"Asleep. On top of my leg."
"Serve you right."
"Being all...parental and that. Serve you right, kid falling asleep on your leg."
"You weren't supposed to drink the whole flask."
"I didn't. You had at least half."
"A quarter, and I hold my liquor better."
"Lies and falsehoods, Padfoot!"
"You'll wake Harry."
"Well, we did come all the bloody way out here on account of him."
"Look at that."
"There's the dog star."
"Hmm, and Orion. I always liked Orion."
"Easy to find."
"No, really, why?"
"First constellation I ever learned. My dad taught it to me."
"One of the first Harry learned, too. We taught him."
"Indeed we did, Pads."
"Taught him the dog star first, though."
"Well, of course."
"I don't mind, you know."
"Harry sleeping on my leg. I don't mind...I love him, Moony."
"Course you do. Course you do."
"No but like...not on account of he's James' son or on account of I'm supposed to. I love him. Cos he's him."
"D'you hear something?"
"Dunno. Probably nothing."
"Move over a bit."
"What're you on about?"
"You're warmer than me. I'm cold."
"We ought to go soon."
Harry was indeed lying on Sirius' right leg, head pillowed on his calf, but he wasn't asleep; he was looking past Sirius' boot, to where a pair of low, shining eyes glittered in the dark.
Hello, said Harry, barely above a whisper. Do you live here?
Hello, big one, said the snake. I live here. Do you?
No, I live in the city, Harry answered.
Then why are you in my field?
Harry thought about this. Sirius took me to look at the stars.
The snake bobbed its head. The what?
What are those?
Look up above you, Harry said.
The snake turned its head to look up, then looked back at Harry.
I don't see anything, it said.
I'm sorry, Harry said politely. Maybe you're too small.
There's a mouse next to you, the snake said. I'm going to eat it.
Harry heard movement, felt Remus shift his weight on the blanket the three of them were sharing, moving closer to Sirius. When he looked back, the snake was darting away, after a shadow -- the mouse it had intended to eat.
"Sirius?" he said, sleepily.
"Yes, lad," Sirius' voice, low and even. "I think it's time we packed it in for the night."
Harry pushed himself up, and saw Sirius sitting up too, rubbing the back of his head. Remus was lying next to Sirius, hands behind his head, still staring up at the stars. "Come on, Moony," Sirius said, poking him. Remus smiled, barely visible in the starlight, and rolled off the blanket. Sirius folded it a few times, then wrapped it around Harry and scooped him up in it. Harry shrieked, surprised.
"Come on, we'll catch the last train back," Sirius said, setting Harry down again and giving him the blanket to wrap around his shoulders. "Coming, Moony?"
Both turned to see Remus, standing there, looking up at the moon. He glanced at Sirius, then back up again.
"Moon's waxing," he said quietly.
"Does every month," Sirius answered.
"So I'm told," Remus said, with a sudden smile. "Right, we'd better get back or Harry'll fall asleep in school tomorrow and Molly will tan both our hides."
The next week-end, Harry visited Hogwarts again, excited to be able to see his first actual Quidditch game. It was going to be Slytherin against Hufflepuff, and Harry wanted to sneak away to sit with Oliver and listen to his play-by-play, but he was content enough to sit next to Professor Snape and cheer on his friends in Slytherin house.
"I hope you aren't cold," said Professor Snape, as he followed Harry up the ladder and into the stands. Harry waved his black knit gloves, and pulled his red hat tighter on his head. "You must take care, it's quite windy today."
Harry didn't point out that he'd been in the stands when they were empty, many times before, without accidentally falling to his doom. Instead he let Professor Snape put a steadying hand on his shoulder, and lead him to a pair of really great seats. He waved at Oliver, who grinned and waved back.
"You may see your friend after the game," Professor Snape said, coolly. Harry perched himself on the bench, and sat, fidgeting excitedly. "Do be still, child," Snape said. Harry satisfied himself with looking over every inch of the Pitch, and trying to name off all the students nearby. He knew a good number of them, by now, mostly Slytherins and Gryffindors. He still found it peculiar that the two houses didn't talk.
A small waxed-paper sack appeared next to him, and he glanced up at Professor Snape, who was apparently watching the players walk out onto the Pitch. He picked it up, feeling it warm against his palm. The sack was filled with sweet roasted almonds, the sort that one of the students was selling before the game.
"Thank you," he said, below the cheering of the students. Professor Snape didn't answer.
He cheered fairly indiscriminantly; it was fun to yell for Slytherin, who were winning, but also a secret sort of joy to root for the underdog Hufflepuff, who were obviously trying harder. Oliver seemed to be pulling for Hufflepuff as well.
Then he saw the Slytherin Seeker dive, and knew she'd seen the Snitch -- he fancied he could make out the small golden ball as well, and he actually caught his breath when her hand snapped closed around it, and she pulled away from the dive, circling the stands to riotous cheers.
"They won! Did you see?" Harry asked, forgetting himself and tugging on Professor Snape's arm. He let go immediately, but the older man merely glanced at him, and the edges of his mouth quirked momentarily.
"I did see," he said, calmly. "It was well done."
He waited while Harry ran across the stands to talk to Oliver, who was less cheerful, but no less excited.
"This means Hufflepuff's out of the Cup running, and it'll be Gryffindor and Slytherin for the cup," he explained, sharing the last of Harry's roasted almonds. "Bill Weasley promised me I could help them get dressed and carry their brooms for them before the cup, what'd'ya think of that?"
Harry was awestruck. "I'll root for Gryffindor then!" he said. "I'm sure I'll be let come back to watch the last game. I've got a red and gold shirt even, and Si -- and my dad'll give me a sickle to buy a pennant with."
"Parvus," Professor Snape called.
"I've gotta go. Tell Hufflepuff I'm sorry!" Harry called, as he ran back towards Professor Snape, shoving the empty waxed paper into his pocket. He held out his hand, and like second nature, Professor Snape took it, leading him through the crowds, towards the ladder.
"Where're we going now?" Harry asked.
"Back to the dungeons, you've had enough excitement for one day," Professor Snape replied. "You may help me feed the animals."
Harry clambered down the ladder, waiting at the bottom for Snape, who dusted himself off before joining the crowds walking back towards the castle.
"Will you take me to see a grownup Quidditch game sometime?" Harry asked. "In a stadium and everything?"
"We shall see," Snape replied. "I think you are rather too exciteable."
"I'll be good," Harry promised. "Please?"
"We shall see," Snape repeated. "Until I decide, do not speak of it further."
Harry obediently fell silent. He'd found the best way to please the cranky professor was to be quiet, and do as he was told; it was hardly ever a chore, especially if he was being quiet and doing as he was told in a place like Diagon Alley, where one didn't need to talk to experience the wonders of the magical shops.