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.)
"You know, I was thinking," Sirius said, over dinner that night, after Harry had given his usual monologue about the day's events.
"Oh, dear," Remus sighed. He'd been quiet through dinner; there were a few new scars, and he was self-conscious about the one on his hand. "It's never good when Sirius has been thinking," he said to Harry, who laughed and took an enormous bite of his roll.
"Smaller bites, please," Sirius scolded, before continuing. "As I was saying before the peanut gallery interrupted, I've been thinking that there's no actual reason we can't go see the Cup, as well."
Remus and Harry both looked at him, perplexed for a moment.
"But I thought Professor Snape was taking me," Harry said.
"Well, there's no reason Remus and I can't go root for Gryffindor as well," Sirius said reasonably. "Plenty of parents come to see the Cup. I'd be willing to bet Arthur and Molly are going. Bill's captain now, they'll want to see his last Cup game."
"It might be dangerous. If people see us they'll be looking for Harry, and I've never thought that a little glamour and some long hair were enough to hide him," Remus said warily.
"Well, they won't look for him in the Slytherin stands," Sirius answered. "Which is where he'll be."
"I wanted to sit with Oliver but he gets to carry broomsticks and towels and all so he's going to be out on the field," Harry interjected. "I guess I'll sit with Professor Snape."
"Who're you going to root for?" Sirius asked. Harry looked pensive.
"Snakes are cool," he said. "But Oliver's cooler and he's a Gryffindor."
"If you're in the Slytherin stands you should probably root for Gryffindor very quietly and circumspectly," Remus advised.
"Up Gryffindor!" Sirius cheered.
"Up Gryffindor!" Harry chimed in.
"We'll go and cheer for you, won't we, Moony," Sirius said.
"Perhaps we can get seats with Arthur and Molly, make an afternoon of it," Remus agreed reluctantly.
"Molly makes good potato salad," Harry advised. "But she puts ham on her sandwiches. So I fed it to the ducks."
"Ducks?" Remus asked. "Is she keeping ducks now?"
"The whole sandwich?" Sirius asked.
"No, we were in the park," Harry replied amiably. "Just the ham. I took it off. I didn't know ducks liked ham."
"When were you in a park?" Remus inquired.
"Yesterday. We all went for a picnic and to study..." Harry thought hard. "E-co-systems. Molly says it's a Muggle idea. Bout how everything feeds everything else. And then we fed the ducks, which just goes to show," he finished, setentiously.
Remus was staring at Sirius.
"School. Molly's taking the boys and Ginny on a picnic."
"Harry'll like that. I'm fine, Pads. Just sleepy."
He thought he'd dreamed it, though...
Sirius stared back, guilelessly, eyes almost inviting the question. Not here at dinner, however, not with Harry going on about ecosystems.
"...so we tried to catch a real frog, but they're too fast, and Ginny said she didn't want a frog anyway, she wanted a rat like Percy has. Sirius?"
Sirius broke the stare, and glanced down at Harry. "Yes?"
"Take your plate to the kitchen, then, and I'll be in to read with you in a little while."
"Can I bring my markers?"
Sirius nodded, and touseled his hair as he took his plates to the kitchen.
"I want a word with you," Remus said, in a low voice, when Harry was out of earshot.
"After Harry's asleep," Sirius answered.
"I don't like this, Sirius -- "
"You were hurt, you needed me. We'll talk later," Sirius added, as Harry returned, carrying a package of cheap coloured markers and a pad of thick white paper.
Remus worked at the desk in the corner, settling Sandust's book-keeping -- which was always a little fractured after the days Sirius had minded the shop -- while Sirius read a book about sled-dogs to Harry and Harry drew picture after picture of sleds, and dogs, and occasionally a little green frog off in one corner. Neither man could honestly claim that they thought Harry had any great talent, but by god he knew what he liked. Dogs and frogs.
It was very difficult to stay angry with Sirius.
It was very difficult to figure out why he was angry with Sirius in the first place.
It was an abuse of trust, that was what it was, crawling into the bed of a man who could barely move and kissing him like that. He couldn't shake the belief that this wasn't Sirius-in-love (and Sirius had been in love once or twice, Remus knew, but for one reason or another it never worked out). This was Sirius, knowing that his best friend fancied him, and enjoying the fact.
Sirius hadn't asked him for anything, though. He'd just lain there and held him and been a really good kisser.
Remus watched as Sirius closed the book and crawled down onto the floor to lie there on his stomach, next to Harry, and admire his drawings. It really wasn't fair that Sirius was such a natural father on only three months' practice.
It wasn't fair that he was forced to live with Sirius and Harry and watch that and not really be a part of it. It wasn't fair that he wouldn't leave now even if he could.
It wasn't fair that Sirius was such a bloody genius when it came to magic and yet too stupid to realise that he wasn't in love, he was just...bored, or lonely, or something.
It wasn't fair that Sirius should kiss him like that. It wasn't fair that he didn't even remember it fully and it was still better than anyone else he'd ever had.
It wasn't fair that Sirius was charming and handsome and his best friend.
Sirius glanced up, smiling from something Harry had said, and caught him staring. The look in his eyes darkened, into something like desire.
Remus glanced away, then back down at his figures. Accounting. A steadfast rock of mind-numbing boredom in a world that was rapidly going to pieces.
Sirius looked back down at Harry's drawings, realising that he'd just embarrassed his friend, and also that he was far more turned on by the intensity of Remus' amber-brown stare than a man ought to be when he was supposed to be playing at markers with his godson.
"What's that now?" he asked, as Harry drew a lopsided square in black, colouring the bottom a sandy tan shade. Harry uncapped a dark brown marker and drew a squiggle. He was pleased that his voice didn't tremble.
"It's a...terr...arr...ium," Harry said carefully. "Professor Snape showed them to me."
"That's a tree for the snake to crawl on."
"The snake, eh?"
Harry nodded and drew a black lump in the corner. "An' that's a place for them to hide. Snakes like to hide."
"Is the snake in there?"
"No," Harry said scornfully. "Where's the fun in that?"
Sirius heard Remus chuckle, from the desk.
"Where's the snake going to be?" Sirius asked.
"Right here," Harry said, pointing to a little dent in the sand, beneath the squiggly tree. He looked up. "Remus, what colour should I make the snake?"
Remus glanced up from his paperwork, surprised. "I don't know, Harry."
"Well, what colours do you like?"
Remus considered the matter. "Red," he said finally. "And brown."
Harry nodded, and selected a red marker. "I saw one that was white and red striped with Professor Snape."
Sirius watched as Harry finished the snake, drawing careful diamond patterns and a brown outline, and then tore the page out of the book of paper, standing and carrying it to the desk. He presented it gravely to Remus.
"That's for you," he said.
Remus accepted the paper, looking down at it, perplexed. Sirius could see Harry's face, hopeful and growing worried. Remus' fingers traced the square of the terrarium, drifted up to a couple of small frogs in one corner of the page. Finally, he smiled.
"Thank you, Harry," he said. "It's great. I'll hang it on my wall."
"Next to the picture of the tree?"
Remus nodded. "Sure. I'll get a frame for it tomorrow."
"Harry can help you hang it," Sirius suggested. "Come on, lad, it's time you were getting to bed."
Remus set the drawing carefully on a corner of the desk, rising once Harry and Sirius were brushing their teeth, to tidy up the markers and set them and the paper in a neat pile for Harry to take back to his room. He went into the bedroom, fingers drifting idly over the assortment of things on his dresser top, the detritus of emptied pockets and knick-nacks collected over the years, odd bookmarks, spare change in a small wooden bowl, the bottle of cologne Sirius had said he'd borrowed, a tin of Magic Hair Demessifyer he used occasionally, when he had to look more presentable than a casual bookshop-owner generally did.
How had he filled this room on his own? Well, his bed had been a bit bigger, and he'd taken out a bookshelf, but still. The flat must have been echoingly empty without Harry and Sirius here. How had he not noticed?
And what would he do if one day Sirius decided to leave? Harry would, anyway, and sooner than it seemed. Two years was hardly anything. Sirius would no doubt get a place in Hogsmeade so that he could be near the boy, probably sell Sandust. It wasn't as though Sirius lived on the income from Sandust, though you probably could.
You probably could, he heard himself think. You could buy Sandust, you've enough saved for a down payment.
He heard Sirius close Harry's door, and pad down the hall to their bedroom, closing that door too. He was still standing, staring at the things on his dresser, when Sirius spoke.
"I was going to explain it to you," he said. "After Harry was asleep. I was."
"I'm sure you were," Remus replied. "Tell me, was it both times, or did I dream the second time?"
He glanced up at Sirius, who looked vague, and spread his hands. "Both times."
"Was this time the first time you'd done that?"
"Listen, it's not as though I committed a crime," Sirius tried. "You were hurt."
"It's exactly as though you committed a crime," Remus sighed. He hadn't even the energy to shout. "You didn't give me a choice. I couldn't very well push you away, could I. You took advantage of that."
"If you'd told me to stop I would have."
"I did tell you to stop, Sirius."
"Yes, and then you kissed me back." Sirius leaned on the top of the dresser, so that Remus could either meet his eyes or move away. "If you'd told me to stop twice, I would have."
"And if you didn't? Would it have been three times?" Remus crossed his arms, bowing his head. "What you did was wrong, whether or not I...enjoyed it."
"Did you?" Sirius' voice cracked. Remus looked up.
"I trust you to help me when I'm sick, Sirius. I trust you not to use that to your own ends. And now I can't. So whether I enjoyed it is immaterial. Whether I want you coming to the Shack the next time is a question we have to settle now."
Sirius turned pale.
"Was it so awful?" he asked quietly.
"How do you think I felt, thinking it was just one more dream and then finding out it wasn't and I'd been acting like a fool all day? Do you think I enjoyed finding out from Harry that it hadn't been?"
Sirius looked like he might even be near tears. "You were in pain. I hate to see you like that. Why do you think...why do you think James and Peter and I spent three years trying to find a way to help you? And now because I have everything I wanted, because I have Harry, you have to go through it all again. I just wanted to help you. I wanted to make you feel better."
"If I want your help, Sirius, I'll ask for it," Remus said, gently.
"But that's just it, Moony, you won't," Sirius exploded. "You weighed nine stone when I hired you for Sandust. How much do you weigh now?"
Remus muttered something rebelliously. At Sirius' look, he cleared his throat. "Twelve, maybe thirteen."
"You won't even ask for things you need, let alone things you want."
"I'm a grown man -- "
"Starving, Remus. You were starving to death. Every bloody week you said you'd a new job and you were sure you could hold this one and every bloody week you lost it because they found out what you were which is not your fault, or they wanted you to work a full-moon day." Sirius growled. "And you didn't say anything until you went to stand up and fell bloody over and I had to take you to St. Mungo's. And it's the same now. I don't know what you want me to do because you won't tell me -- "
"I don't want you to do anything! You have Harry and you're happy, that's all I care about."
Sirius regarded him carefully. "What about you? Don't you want anything?"
Remus sat on his bed, miserably. Sirius circled the dresser and crouched next to him, brushed hair out of his eyes. He flinched away, and Sirius sighed.
"Everything you want is right here for you to have, if you ask for it," he said softly. "Harry loves you. You can care for him too, it's okay. You can take him places and read to him, and tell him to do his homework and buy him things and teach him things. All you have to do is ask." He swallowed. "And...you can have me, too. Everything you want. Harry and me and a partnership in Sandust and a place in the world."
Remus was silent, lost in some inner thought process Sirius couldn't decipher.
"But you have to ask for them," Sirius added. "If you want it you have to take it."
Remus leaned forward and put his face in his hands.
"I need more time," he said finally. Sirius sighed.
"Another full moon?"
"Please, Sirius. If you lose me all you lose is me. You still have Harry and Sandust and stable income. If I lose you I lose Harry, I lose Sandust, I lose everything." He looked up. "And I need to know that I can survive that, first. If we...have...anything, it needs to be because we want it, and not because if it ends one of us is going to starve again."
"I'd never let that happen."
Remus gave him a bitterly amused look. "You'd be surprised what happens when people start to hate each other. One more full moon, Sirius."
"Let me show you," Sirius said, as persuasively as he knew how. "Just until then let me show you, Remus -- " he swayed forward, and pressed his face in Remus' neck. This time the other man didn't shy away. "Look what you could have," he murmured, against his skin.
Remus made a soft little moan, in the back of his throat. "Egotist," he replied, breathlessly. Sirius, in reply, slid his lips up over the edge of Remus' jaw, pushing him slowly backwards.
"Harry's in the next room," he whispered, though he was turning his head to find Sirius' mouth as he said it. Sirius ran his tongue along his lower lip, heard that pleasant moan again. "Sirius, please."
Sirius leaned back, heart racing.
"One more full moon," he said. "I can wait that long."
A small smile curved Remus' lips. "The patience of Atlas," he said.
Remus lifted an eyebrow.
"Can I kiss you?" Sirius asked plaintively. "Not when Harry's around or out in public, just -- once in a while -- I think you ought to know what you're missing," he added, with a stab at his usual good humour.
Remus reached out, hesitantly, and touched his hair, stroking it a little.
"All right," he said quietly.
"And can I -- "
Sirius smiled again. "Can't blame a chap for trying."
"Can and would," Remus answered. "Don't do that again, Sirius. Bad dog," he added lightly, though it sent a shiver down Sirius' spine.
He nodded. "I should...change. For bed. My own bed," he added virtuously.
He was halfway across the floor before Remus said, "Sirius."
"If...if Padfoot liked, he could sleep on my bed," Remus offered. "I...did...like having someone there."
The next morning he woke with the heavy weight of Padfoot's shaggy head resting on his hip, the enormous dog curled up between him and the wall. Padfoot didn't move or even open his eyes when Remus stroked the silky fur between his ears, and murmured, "Good dog."