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.)
Sunday came hard on the heels of the full moon, and Sunday meant the Quidditch Cup. Harry barely slept from excitement, the night before.
Sirius was wiser and Remus more cautious than to dress him in Gryffindor scarlet and gold, despite the fact that he had a plenitude of clothing in the colours -- his rugby shirt was already fading from continual wear. They did, however, have just enough House spirit to keep him from wearing green. Instead he went in carefully chosen black and blue...but only after Sirius promised to wear the same.
Sirius brought his field glasses, but spent more time scanning the stands than the grounds; they found seats in the informally-declared Parents' section, a row behind Arthur and Molly, across the aisle from their boy Percy, who was willing to sit near his parents if not precisely with them. When Sirius finally saw a black-clad shape rise over the edge of the Slytherin stands, he elbowed Remus, and indicated Harry following the dour Potions Master. Neither of them had ever seen Harry in his disguise, and even Remus had to admit that he mightn't have known Harry if they passed on the street.
"Big git," Sirius muttered, watching Snape lead Harry to a seat next to a couple of big Slytherin boys, who gave him familiar if not terribly friendly waves. Remus was grateful that Sirius had a grudge to occupy his mind with; it kept Sirius from pestering him. There hadn't been a repeat of that angry, confusing night; sometimes he woke with Padfoot on his blankets, but more often Sirius was in his own bed, and he was beginning to grow comfortable with the idea of...of all of it, he supposed...
There was a sudden crash, and bits of burning things peppered his shirt and arms. Remus flinched and brushed at them -- not actually on fire, just very, very hot --
"Oh, bloody -- Dora?" Sirius asked, brushing his own shirt to get rid of the extremely hot popcorn that had showered on him as well. Remus wasn't sure where to look first; the great crashing thing turned out to be a thin young woman, already trying to help him pluck the fast-cooling popcorn from his clothing.
"Listen, if I have to yell at one more person to call me Tonks -- " the girl stopped, suddenly. "Sirius?" she asked, gaping at Sirius.
"Little Dora?" Sirius demanded. "Merlin, look at you!"
"I haven't seen you in ages!" the girl blurted. Remus, now completely at a loss, gave up and concentrated on brushing salt from his arms.
"Not since you left for Hogwarts -- "
"Mum's been wondering where you'd got to!"
"Oh -- you know how it is...do you remember Lupin? I'm sure you met him at least once before you went off -- "
"...yes..." the girl called Tonks said uncertainly. Tonks -- Sirius' cousin had married a Tonks, hadn't she? And they'd had a little girl -- he'd met her once when visiting Sirius over a school holiday. "I'm so sorry -- "
"It's fine," Remus said, giving her a reassuring smile. He shook the last of the kernels from the folds of his shirt, flicking one into the aisle, where Percy's pet rat darted out and grabbed it. Percy gave him a shy grin as the rat raced up the ouside of the boy's trouser leg and perched on his knee to eat it; Remus turned back to the conversation.
"...like Muggles, it's sort of like long-term camping," Sirius was saying. "Of course we have some conveniences..."
"You should write to mum, dad's Muggle-born you know, and he gets Muggle post all the time," the girl replied. "She says she hasn't heard from you in months."
Sirius looked uncomfortable, and then the girl's mouth formed a small 'o' of surprise.
"It's true, isn't it?" she asked, her voice dropping. "You went into hiding!"
"I wouldn't say hiding. No, I wouldn't call it that," Sirius stammered. "Listen, I meant to write to your mum and I just didn't -- "
"Is it true then? You've got Harry Potter? There were rumours going around that someone saw you with him in the Leaky Cauldron, but everyone says if you haven't had him up till now you wouldn't be allowed -- " she clapped a hand over her mouth.
A slow smile spread across Sirius' lips.
"That's a good way to be, Dora," he said quietly. "Hand over mouth, when it comes to Harry Potter."
She nodded, wide eyed. Remus coughed.
"Oh, I've gotten your shirt greasy, haven't I?" she asked, flustered. "I'm so sorry. Here, I'll clean it -- "
"No -- " Remus put up a hand quickly. "Thank you, I'll just do it myself," he said firmly. He was remembering more about Sirius' cousin's daughter, now -- Sirius sometimes came back from lunch with Andromeda Tonks with amusing stories about Dora's latest mishaps.
"Well -- all right then..." she looked uncertain, and he smiled at her as he charmed the shirt clean again. "I should go -- friends waiting -- game about to start..."
"Run on then," Sirius smiled. "Say hi to your mum for me!" he called after her. She waved and dashed off, tripping several people in the process.
"Rumours," he said darkly, while Remus, amused, watched her extricate herself. "I've wondered what the Wizarding world had to say about us..."
"Yes, I'd rather thought we'd have more people gawking at the bookshop," Remus agreed. "But then, nobody's known where Harry was for almost eight years, so why that should change at all -- and we were only seen in the Leaky Cauldron for a minute. I know Molly and Arthur are circumspect, and the other children probably simply haven't had the opportunity to mention it to anyone who would care. It's remarkable how well some secrets get kept," he added.
"I should have words with Andromeda," Sirius said.
"I agree. It's not as though you actually are in hiding," Remus answered. "Look, the game's about to start."
"Where's Harry?" Sirius asked, picking up his field glasses again.
"Aren't you going to watch the game?"
"No," Sirius said with a grin. "I'm going to watch Harry watch the game."
Silence. He glanced over at Remus, who was looking at him with an indefinable expression; confused wasn't quite the word for it, but it came close. "What is it?"
"Nothing," Remus said quickly, turning to watch the players enter the Pitch. "Sometimes you surprise me, that's all."
The game was a good one, close and well-played; Slytherin cheated, but Remus had somewhat resigned himself, long ago, to Slytherins being cheats. Normally he would have had to hold Sirius in his seat to keep him from crying foul and trying to start a riot, but Sirius wasn't paying the slightest attention.
Sirius didn't even notice Gryffindor had lost until they were back at Sandust, waiting for Harry.
Remus, listening to Sirius talk, was rather reminded of Harry, come to that.
"Did you see his face? It just -- it just lit up. He followed everything. He's going to play Quidditch, you know. We'll get him the best broomstick you can get. What is that now, a Nimbus?"
"Probably," Remus murmured, doing a crossword. He always felt drained after a Quidditch match; he'd never particularly liked the sport. He hoped Harry was eating all right -- Snape had said he would feed the boy dinner in Hogsmeade after the game, before sending him back.
"He says one of the Slytherin girls once let him catch a Snitch. Small enough to be a Seeker. James was too, really, but he didn't think there was enough action -- the way he looked when Gryffindor made that save, you'd think it was him." Sirius vanished into the back room, but his voice drifted out. "We had some books on Quidditch, didn't we?"
"Had an enthusiast come in, he bought a few," Remus called. "Try the shelf above the Dark Arts books."
Sirius came out carrying A Beginner's Guide to Quidditch and Quidditch Through The Ages. Remus gave him a mild smile.
"He's read those."
"He asked me for them a few weeks ago. And I think his friend Oliver's been lending him copies of Quidditch Monthly."
Sirius looked mildly dismayed. "He never told me."
"When you were nine, Sirius, didn't you have hobbies you didn't tell your parents about?"
"I didn't tell my parents anything, ever, but please, tell me you're not comparing me with them. I'll slit my throat."
"They weren't the most hospitable of people," Remus murmured. He'd met Sirius' mother once, before her death; she'd actually come to Sandust, Merlin alone knew why. It had been ugly.
There was a whooshing noise from the fireplace, and a young voice piped "Sirius!"
Sirius dodged into the back room and swept Harry up into a bear-hug, dragging him out into the bookshop and settling him on the counter. Harry helped himself to the jar of humbugs, greeting Remus with a wave and a grin.
"Were you there?" he asked. "Did you see me?"
"We did," Sirius answered. "Have you eaten?"
"Mmmhm, Professor Snape bought me dinner at the Three Broomsticks," Harry said. "And he said he wants to see you tomorrow."
Sirius raised his eyebrows. "Me?"
Harry nodded. "He said he wants to talk to you and will you please floo his office tomorrow at two," he recited.
"Did he say why?"
"Nope. Maybe he needs books," Harry shrugged. "He reads a lot."
Remus and Sirius exchanged a look.
"Two o'clock tomorrow," Sirius repeated. Harry nodded.
"I'll bring the teacakes," Remus said grimly.
A letter arrived by owl post the following morning, and Remus handed it to Sirius, who took it sullenly and slit it with the air of a long-suffering martyr. Harry was off at the Weasleys', his last week before Molly closed up the little home-school for the summer and the other Weasley boys came home -- Percy from his first year and Bill, no doubt, to recuperate from NEWTs; Charlie had got a very prestigious assistantship, and wouldn't even be home before he packed it off to Japan for two months.
Sirius was grumpy. He hadn't slept well or enjoyed his breakfast. He hadn't actively, personally encountered Snape since the day in the Leaky Cauldron, and before that, well, not in a long, long time. He used to hate Snape for no reason, and after Harry's weekends with him, he had a thousand reasons. But all that was forgotten for a moment as he sat up and stared at the letter.
"Good news?" Remus asked, shelving a handful of books.
"It's from Andromeda -- Dora must have spoken to her about seeing us at the Quidditch game. She and Ted want to buy the townhouse on Grimmauld Place."
"That old deathtrap? Isn't it...still...full of things?" Remus asked. "I didn't know you owned it."
"Yes, well, my esteemed mother didn't leave a will, at least not that anyone could find. Everything comes with the house, and that's entailed on the male line or she probably would have left it to that Malfoy spawn by Narcissa. As it is, I got saddled with it. I haven't even thought about it in years. "
"Your family," Remus sighed. "So charmingly archaic."
"She says now that Dora's leaving school next year they want a big place, in London -- want to make the bottom floor into some sort of shop." Sirius grinned and shook his head. "They can have it for a sickle. I certainly don't want it."
"Might want to hold onto it for Harry."
"I'll buy Harry something nicer than a mouldering ancestral home full of Dark materials and House-elf heads," Sirius replied. "Goodbye and good riddance."
"Speaking of which, it's about time you floo'ed Snape," Remus said, checking the clock on the wall. "Shall I close up shop and come chaperone the pair of you, or do you think you can be civil?"
"I can if he can."
"More reassuring words were never spoken," Remus said, and turned the sign on the shop door to "closed", following Sirius into the backroom. Sirius knelt on the hearth, and Snape's head appeared in the flames.
"Harry says you wanted a word with me," Sirius growled.
"Not hunched on a hearth, if you please," Snape replied. "I'll come through."
Remus opened his mouth to remark that this was an incredibly bad idea, as Severus and Sirius in one room could very easily destroy themselves and ten surrounding blocks, but Snape was already appearing in the fireplace, stepping out, dusting ash off his severe black robes.
"An inelegant way to travel," he remarked. Sirius crossed his arms. "Do all your patrons receive such a warm welcome, Black?"
"You're not my patron, Snape," Sirius replied. Remus, behind him, poured himself a cup of hot water and added tea contemplatively.
"I should think not," Snape answered.
"Did you want something from me?" Sirius asked.
"Thankfully, no. Except your permission."
Remus cocked his head, interested. Sirius was silent. Snape cleared his throat.
"I understand Par -- I understand Harry will be nine on the thirty-first," he said slowly, in the deep-throated growl which, doubtlessly, struck terror into the hearts of his students. "I would like to give him a...gift. A pet. Something to teach him some responsibility."
Sirius looked stunned, but gathered his wits a little too quickly. "What do you know," he drawled. "It has a heart after all."
Remus began to wonder if perhaps he should have brought popcorn. Or something heavy with which to separate them.
"I am not required to stand on your hearth and accept your abuse," Snape snapped. "I merely thought that someone ought to be teaching the child something more than..." he flicked his fingers, "pranks and bad cooking."
"And you're the one to do that, are you?" Sirius asked, dangerously still now. Remus remembered that stillness. He'd seen it at school whenever Sirius was about to do something violent, or stupid -- usually both, really...
"May I remind you that it is on Dumbledore's orders -- "
"To hell with Dumbledore's orders! I'm his godfather!"
Snape smiled a terrible, cruel smile. "Ah, yes. So trustworthy that the boy was sent to live with Muggle relatives -- "
Sirius was across the intervening space before Remus could move, and in reality he was disinclined to try. Snape was no slouch at fighting, even without wands; he had his hands up and had got hold of Sirius' collar by the time Sirius was drawing back to punch him in the head. Sirius couldn't get enough leverage for one really good hit, but Snape couldn't get away; they grappled for a few seconds, shouting obscenities at each other, before either even thought to go for their wands. Fortunately both thought it at the same time, and each blocked the other's hand.
Remus sipped his tea.
When they were coming close to knocking up against a shelf of rare books, he thought perhaps it was time to intervene. He never had at school, and Sirius had never tried to assault someone since, so it required a little thought.
"Yes, it is absurd, isn't it, Harry?" he said.
Both men instantly stopped and glanced around, expecting to see the boy. Remus continued, addressing an empty chair.
"That's how immature people solve their problems. No, I don't understand it either."
He knew that both Sirius and Severus were staring at him as if he'd gone round the twist, but at least embarrassing himself in front of them was going to get them to stop for a moment.
"Oh, I shouldn't, if I were you, Harry, you're far too intelligent to go wasting time hitting people who don't agree with you," he said, to the imaginary Harry. "You're far better off trying to set an example for those who look up to you."
Sirius sullenly shoved his hands in his pockets. Severus dusted off his sleeves, imperturbably.
"You wanted to give Harry something for his birthday, I believe?" Remus asked mildly. "That's very kind of you, though not at all expected."
The professor glanced warily at Sirius.
"I thought...perhaps..." he began, sulkily. "He seems to have taken a liking to the snakes I keep. It crossed my mind he would like one of his own. I felt it would be polite to speak to you first," he said, to Sirius, who looked away, studying the bookshelf. "I will supply everything necessary, of course."
"Harry'll like that," Sirius muttered, rebelliously.
"Then you have no objections," Snape stated, straightening his collar slightly. Sirius shrugged.
"Do what you like," he said, and brushed past Remus, out into Sandust again, slamming the door after him. Snape turned to go.
"A moment please," Remus said amiably, crossing his arms. The Potions Master turned back. "If I ever catch you coming here and deliberately provoking Sirius in that fashion again, Severus, I will personally make sure that you don't walk for a month, and don't speak for two. Understood?"
Their eyes met. Severus nodded slowly.
"I'm sure Harry will love anything you give him. He speaks very highly of you," Remus continued. His tone hadn't once changed. "For the sake of my own nerves, I would appreciate it if you didn't give him anything too poisonous."
"I'll arrange things," was all Snape said, before vanishing back into the fireplace.
The last day of school, Remus and Sirius both came to the Weasleys' for dinner, bringing soup and a bottle of wine to celebrate the end of Molly's classes and the return of the Hogwarts boys. They also had to have words with the Weasley parents about their children; it seemed obvious that Harry would still visit over the summer, and as Bill and Percy -- who knew him only as Parvus -- would be home, they would have to be sworn into the secret.
The pair of them minded the children while Arthur and Molly went to gather their sons from the station; Harry joined in the rush of redheaded children as they ran out to greet the two.
"Hallo, Parvus, what are you doing here?" Bill cried. "And your nice hair's been cut -- "
He stopped, then, when a breeze lifted Harry's fringe off his forehead, and looked up at his parents, who were standing with Remus and Sirius.
"What...?" he said, confusedly.
"His name's not Parvus," Ron said scornfully. "That's Harry Potter!"
Percy joined Bill in his bewildered stare.
"Bill, you remember Sirius Black, don't you?" Molly said significantly. Bill, still looking at a loss, shook Sirius' outstretched hand.
"Like a word with you boys," Sirius said, slinging an arm around Bill's shoulder and leading him away, his other hand guiding Percy with a firm but gentle grip on the back of his neck. Bill glanced over his shoulder to watch the others hustle inside.
"I could swear..." he said, slowly. "That's Harry Potter? The rumours -- "
"Yes, all true," Sirius said, turning the boys so that they faced him.
"He's got a bloody twin, you know," Bill said.
"Professor Snape's nephew looks just like him!" Percy blurted.
Remus, helping Ginny up from a spill on the steps, watched as Bill and Percy's faces changed from confusion to shock, and then to recognition, while Sirius explained the situation. They were both very quiet when they passed through the house and out into the back garden, where Molly and the twins were laying a table. Neither boy took their eyes off Harry -- who was busy sticking the blunt end of a fork up his nose to impress Ron and Ginny -- until the meal began.
"Did you know, Bill's taken his specialty in hexes and charms?" Arthur said to Sirius, who nodded politely. "He's going to India in a few months, they've had some nasty problems with some old tombs there."
"Interested in Eastern work, then?" Remus asked.
"Nah," Bill shook his head, and accepted the potatoes from Fred. "Pyramids are where the real work is. This is just a stepstone."
Molly tsked. "Far too dangerous if you ask me."
"Aw, but they're brilliant, Mum!"
"I've some very interesting manuscripts on translating magical idiograms at the bookshop, if you'd like to come by sometime," Remus offered. "Sirius, pass the rolls? -- and I'm sure we're never going to sell them otherwise. We don't get all that many magical customers."
"D'you sell Muggle books?" Percy asked.
"Mostly," Sirius rumbled.
"Sirius rather likes Muggle novels," Remus said with a sidelong smile at him.
"Don't suppose you sell car-repair books," Arthur inquired. "Only I've acquired an automobile and I'm trying to discover what precisely makes it tick."
"A real auto, dad?" Bill asked. "Can I see it?"
"After dinner, if you please," Molly cautioned them. "At any rate, you'll have a solid month before you've got to leave for India, and I shouldn't wonder if you need it, poor boy," she added.
They spent the next few minutes coming to the satisfied consensus that Bill looked ruddy awful, that NEWTs were a grueling and terrifying ordeal, and that what he wanted was rest and lots of feeding up.
"And what're you doing this summer then, Harry?" Arthur asked. "Godfather of yours going to take you on a holiday, perhaps?"
"Thinking about it. Might take a house in the north and spend a month or two teaching him Quidditch," Sirius answered. "Haven't made any plans yet."
"But you'll be here for your birthday, Harry?" Molly inquired. Harry grinned at his godfather and nodded, mouth full of chicken. "Your first birthday in the Wizarding world. We ought to have a party."
"I don't -- " Remus started, but Ron and Ginny drowned him out.
"Do lets," Ron begged. "He's never had a proper birthday, he told me so."
"Would you like a party, Harry?" Sirius inquired.
Harry put down his fork and appeared to think seriously about it for a minute.
"Can I have a cake?" he finally asked. Sirius grinned. "And party hats?"
"And balloons if you like."
"I'd like that."
"Then it's settled. We'll have it here," Molly announced. "With the twins and Ron and Ginny, and Percy and Bill."
"Can I invite Oliver too?" Harry asked Remus, who glanced at Molly.
"Oliver?" she asked.
"He's a friend from school," Percy put in.
"The one who's always loaning out his Quidditch magazines to Harry," Remus reminded Sirius.
"I don't think so," Sirius said gently. "He doesn't know who you are, Harry, and the more people who know...the more danger you're in."
"Percy, don't let Scabbers up on the table," Molly scolded. "It's unhygenic."
"He got away from me," Percy protested, plucking the unlucky rat from a bowl of roasted potatoes.
"But you'll have all the Weasleys, and Sirius and I," Remus continued. "That'll be enough, won't it, Harry?"
Harry nodded and exchanged a grin with Ron, who flicked a piece of chicken at him.