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.)
"We are going," said Professor Snape, the next weekend, as he led Harry down the now-empty corridors of Hogwarts, "to get you a haircut today."
Harry, trailing behind him, felt odd wandering through the nearly-empty castle without his usual long hair, but still wearing the glamour on his scar. "It never works, you know."
"What never works?"
"Haircuts," Harry said, slightly morosely. "Aunt Petunia used to give 'em to me all the time. They never worked. My hair always grew out again."
Professor Snape stopped, and turned to regard him curiously. "Do you mean to say it grows like that on purpose?"
"Shouldn't it?" Harry asked.
"I had assumed your maladjusted guardian had something to do with it," Snape muttered.
"Besides, Sirius said I could grow it long," Harry added. "Like yours. Only I didn't tell him that part. He doesn't like you much."
"The feeling is mutual," Snape growled, leading him onward again.
"Why doesn't he like you?"
"I'm sure I couldn't say."
"Why don't you like him?"
"I'm sure I wouldn't be allowed to use words like that in front of you."
Harry pondered this as they walked, finally giving up. "What about Remus?"
"What about him?"
"Do you like him?"
"Small children who ask too many questions about things that don't concern them get turned into frogs," Snape said sharply.
"I wouldn't mind being a frog," Harry said contemplatively. "They get to swim all the time and hop and such."
"You'd mind very much having to live your whole life under a log, or on a lilypad."
"My friend Ron says if you hold a frog too long you can get warts."
"And what does your friend Ron have to say on the subject of haircuts?"
"Dunno," Harry answered. "I saw pictures of Remus and Sirius, they had long hair when they were at school. My dad didn't though. His hair looked like mine."
They wound their way across the Hogwarts grounds, down to the bridge that passed from the school through the Forbidden Forest, to the main street of Hogsmeade, Harry asking his usual rapid-fire questions, Snape answering calmly but shortly. When they reached the steps of the barbershop, Harry stopped.
"You're just trying to make Sirius mad," he said, crossing his arms and fixing the professor with a defiant gaze. Snape looked down at him in surprise. "Cos you know he wouldn't let you do it if you asked him nicely."
"We don't have to cut your hair, Harry, if you'd rather not."
Harry considered this.
"I'll do it if you will," he said finally. Snape blinked.
"If you get your hair cut, I will," Harry said.
"I have no need -- "
"Your hair's all long and greasy."
"We are," he said slowly, "at some point, going to have to look up the definition of 'tact' together, Harry."
"If you get your hair cut I will," Harry persisted. Snape sighed.
"Entirely too little discipline at home," he muttered, as they passed inside. He continued a low, internal monologue on Sirius' failings as a parent while they settled into chairs, and a pair of magical scissors suspended itself over Harry's head.
"Bit of a trim for young Master then?" a voice asked behind them, and a man emerged from the back room carrying two towels. Harry stared at the reflection of him in the mirror.
"Professor Snape," he whispered. "He's blind!"
"As a bat, young Master," the man said cheerfully. "Hasn't stopped me yet. Hallo Professor, your usual trim?"
"Something a bit different today," Snape said, and the scissors moved to hover above Harry's right ear. Harry noticed, only slightly disturbed by such things now, that the scissors themselves had eyes. He watched in fascination as a brush, with a single eye in the handle, floated over to join them, and the barber began conducting them, almost like a symphonic conductor would. "The boy first, please."
"Oooh, a challenge," the blind barber continued. Harry closed his eyes tightly as the scissors began to snip. "Curly hair's always a bit difficult, isn't it lad? Friend of yours, Professor?"
"My nephew," Snape said, while the scissors and brush danced around Harry's head.
"And what'll it be for yourself today?" the barber continued. Harry wished he'd concentrate on controlling his scissors, and not on talking.
"The same as the boy."
The scissors stopped moving.
"The same as the boy...but that's nearly all your hair!" the barber blurted.
"You heard me."
"Well, damn me. You've done what his barber of seven years couldn't do, lad," the man said, to Harry. "A proper haircut for Professor Snape, post-haste before he changes his mind -- "
"That will be quite enough, thank you," Snape snapped. "Please try not to lop off an ear in your excitement."
"Nosir, of course not, Professor Snape." The scissors left Harry to the mercy of a floating comb and a tin of mysterious ointment, and moved on to Professor Snape. "So have you heard the news yet today?"
"News? I thought Hogsmeade seemed emptier than usual. Large Quidditch game somewhere, I suppose."
"Anything but, Professor! I just had it now over the Floo News Network -- ain't even in the papers yet, though no doubt the evening Prophet'll have something about it. That Lestrange woman's escaped from Azkaban!"
"Bellatrix Lestrange?" Snape's head whipped around so fast the scissors nearly did take off an ear. The barber tsked.
"S'right. Her what was You-Know-Who's left hand and all. They say she's stark raving mad."
"Dunno, like. Alert just went out. People're locking 'emselves up, I can tell you that. Say it's a sign when You-Know-Who's leadin' supporter just up and walks out of Azkaban."
"Can't you go any faster?" Snape demanded.
"Now, then, Professor, there's plenty of anticipation's gone into this moment, you can't rush a good haircut." The man chuckled. "Ain't like she's going to come after yourself, now, is it? Reckon she's got some scores to settle with her own folk before she goes bothering good honest -- here now, hold still!"
Harry watched in fascination as the older man seethed under the scissors, rising as soon as they were finished and shaking his head to dislodge any loose hairs. The scissors had clipped his hair short, close to the skull, and Harry thought he looked like one of the old Roman wizards from Molly Weasley's history books. He paid the man carelessly, didn't wait for change, and led Harry quickly away from the shop, glancing over his shoulder every few feet.
"What's Azkaban?" Harry asked as they walked, trying to keep up. "Who's Bell...a...trix -- "
"Be silent," Snape answered. "I'm taking you back to the bookshop."
"But I've all afternoon -- "
As they approached the steps of the castle, Harry saw Headmaster Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall waiting for them on the steps.
"I assume you've heard," Snape said, as they approached.
Harry saw Professor McGonagall hide a smile behind her hand.
"As have you," Dumbledore replied, leading them inside. "You will return with Harry, to ensure his safety on the other side of the floo network..."
"...of course, Headmaster..." Snape murmured.
"...bringing this with you." Dumbledore reached into his volumnous robes and pulled out a sealed parchment letter. "If you are needed there, you will remain; otherwise please return here at once. Harry is not the only one in danger from Bellatrix Lestrange."
"Longbottom," Snape breathed. "Of course."
"Indeed. Now, Harry..." Dumbledore was leading them, not to his own office, but to a close-by classroom with a hearth in it, "Professor Snape will go ahead of you to be there when you arrive."
Harry nodded, and waited while Snape stepped into the floo, and vanished.
"Did you arrange his new appearance, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked, quietly.
She smiled at him. "Good lad. Off you go then..."
He saw her exchange an amused if somewhat strained look with Dumbledore, which quickly faded from his view when he called out "Sandust Books!"
He stumbled out into the warm, familiar back room of Sandust, and felt Professor Snape catch his arm to keep him from tumbling over.
He looked up and saw Sirius standing in the doorway, staring. "You're not supposed to be -- ah -- hah -- "
Harry watched Sirius point at Professor Snape, cover his mouth, and go into the sort of badly-hidden convulsions of laughter that he sometimes had when Remus did something silly without meaning to.
"Oh my god, what did you do to him?" Sirius asked, gasping for air.
"I did nothing to the boy -- "
"I wasn't talking to you -- bloody hell -- Remus, come have a look at what Harry did to Snape -- "
Harry saw Professor Snape's eyes flash with annoyance and scowled. "Sirius, stop making fun, something awful's happened," he chided.
Sirius stopped, as Remus walked into the room, carrying two copies of The Empty Space in his hands. He blinked.
"It's not that awful," he said. "I rather -- "
"Bellatrix Lestrange has escaped from Azkaban prison," Snape said sharply.
"Who is she?" Harry demanded. Sirius crossed to him and picked him up, forcing Harry to let go of Snape's robe.
"Someone very bad," he said softly.
"Where did you hear?" Remus asked, his voice tight and tense.
"Dumbledore. He's sent this," Snape added, passing them the parchment. "I imagine it's instructions."
Sirius, busy with Harry, nodded to Remus, who accepted the letter and slit it open. Snape waited expectantly.
"He says we're to stay here -- not here, but at my flat. Harry's not to leave the shop or the flat until we hear word. They'll run a story about her in the evening Prophet edition. We're to put extra wards on the flat again..." Remus' eyes widened slightly. "Dumbledore wants you to leave, Sirius."
"You might be more of a target than Harry -- " Remus began, as Sirius freed a hand and snatched the letter from him.
"I'm not leaving my godson. Not again," Sirius said.
Snape cleared his throat. They both looked at him.
"If I might suggest," he said slowly, "You may be useful in locating her."
Sirius glared at him.
"If it is publicised that Sirius Black has joined the search..." Snape trailed off delicately. "If she is indeed bent on destroying you, in particular, then you make excellent bait, Black."
"So do you, Snape. You're Voldemort's traitor, remember?"
Snape closed his eyes, clenched his fists, and then re-opened them. "Put the boy down and come with me. Lupin can take him home."
"No. I'm not leaving Harry."
Remus touched Sirius between the shoulderblades, lightly.
"Go with him," he said, and Sirius turned, an almost accusatory look on his face. "Sirius, go with him. I'll take Harry home. We'll be safe."
"She killed Regulus," Snape said, voice slick and persuasive. "This is your chance -- "
"Don't talk to me about Regulus -- you -- you have no right -- " Sirius stammered.
"Regulus was my friend," Snape answered him.
Sirius only released Harry, and then with great reluctance, when Harry reached for Remus' neck, wrapping his arms around it.
"Straight home," he said, to Remus, who nodded.
"I'll put up new wards when I arrive. Don't worry about finding us, I'll find you."
Sirius nodded, curtly, and kissed Harry's head.
"Behave yourself," he said. "I'll be home tonight."
Harry glanced from his godfather to Snape, and then back again, watching until they had both floo'd out to Hogwarts. Remus set him down but didn't release his hold on Harry's shoulder as they walked out into the front of the store. Harry was silent while Remus locked the doors, pulled down the blinds, and secured the till; it wasn't until they were out the back door and away that he felt he could speak.
"Who is that woman? Who's Regulus?" he asked.
"Not now, Harry," Remus answered. "Wait until we get home. I want you to be silent until we get home, all right?"
Harry nodded, wishing for Frog, or Padfoot -- something warm and comforting to wrap himself into. Remus made sure Harry walked just a little ahead, and he could feel Remus' eyes on him, when he wasn't peering down side-streets and around corners.
Remus locked the door with extra energy when they were finally inside the flat.
"Come with me. From now until whenever Sirius comes back, you're not to be out of my sight," Remus said, leading him into the bedroom. Harry got up on Sirius' bed, crawling until he could sit next to Sirius' pillow, which smelled like his godfather.
"Normally," Remus said, fingers drifting along the shelves of books, "I would leave this sort of thing to Sirius, but it's best you know now." He began removing books, mostly small, thin, handwritten manuscripts, the ones on the high shelves where Harry wasn't allowed.
"Why's everyone so afraid? Sirius is the best wizard in the world and so're you. And Professor Snape knows all sorts of things," Harry said, burrowing his feet under Sirius' blankets.
"It's down to family, I'm afraid," Remus sighed. "Bellatrix Lestrange was one of Voldemort -- "
"Yes -- one of his inner circle. She was a very powerful woman, very evil -- like her husband. She's also Sirius' cousin."
Harry watched as Remus' deft fingers sorted through the books. "I didn't know Sirius had cousins."
"Yes -- you'll meet some of them someday, I think. One of them has a son about your age. Bellatrix...did some quite awful things. Sirius had a brother, too, named Regulus. Younger than Sirius, quite as brilliant, though not..." Remus paused, and looked at Harry. "I liked Regulus, very much -- Sirius and he were close, once. But the Blacks, by and large, are not very nice people, Harry. They're a very old family, very prejudiced in their thinking."
"Not like Sirius."
"No, Sirius is certainly a sport. Regulus was too, in his way. He was one of -- one of You-Know-Who's followers as well. He tried to escape, because he decided he didn't like killing people." Remus looked down at his hands, holding the manuscripts. "Bellatrix killed him herself. Her own cousin...and that's not the worst of it -- I'm sorry, Harry, these are awful stories for you to hear. But -- necessary, for you to understand where Sirius comes from."
He set two books on his dresser, opening one of them.
"She was sent to Azkaban prison, a wizarding prison -- a horrible place, by all accounts. She went mad there, and now she's escaped."
Harry found that he was not particularly afraid, except because the adults were afraid. But that was only in an abstract way. He didn't fear this Bellatrix woman herself. Really, it was all like something out of an adventure novel, the sort Sirius gave him to read.
"And she might want to hurt you, or Sirius. We don't know what she's thinking," Remus continued, opening the bottom drawer of the dresser and taking out several bottles. "Now, on short notice there's only so much I can do -- will you help me, Harry?"
"Can I?" Harry asked, sliding off the bed.
"You're going to have to. I think a Deception charm, a Misdirection Potion, and..." Remus pressed his palm flat to one page. "Well. One more."
Harry followed him as he took the bottles from the dresser into the kitchen and pulled a few more out of the cupboard, putting them in a saucepan to boil. He continued outside briefly as they laid herbs in the corners of the front landing and along the windowsills they could reach, Remus clutching his wand and chanting in Latin under his breath. Back inside, the flat smelled pungent, like some kind of strong tea, and Remus stirred the ingredients before adding more water and sitting down at the kitchen table.
"How's it work?" Harry asked.
"It's working already. The vapours fill the rooms, misdirecting anyone who comes near. We'll have to watch for Sirius," Remus added.
"As soon as we do the last spell, right?" Harry asked. Remus looked at him sharply.
"You may not want to watch it, Harry," he said slowly.
"I want to help."
"Have you ever seen blood?"
Harry was thoughtful. "I skinned my knees a lot when I was little."
Remus seemed to find this very amusing. "When you were little, of course. All right, well, if you want to close your eyes, you can. In the drawer by your elbow there's a white-handled knife with a silver blade. Bring it to me, please."
Harry did as he was told; it was a small knife, but Remus lifted a napkin out of another drawer, wrapping it around the handle, before he would hold it.
"You're going to learn, sooner or later, that blood is powerful magic, Harry. You and I are related -- your father was my second-cousin, two generations removed."
"Are we cousins?" Harry asked. Remus looked down at the knife.
"Sort of. Very distantly."
Harry laughed. "But you're old!"
"Thank you," Remus said with a small smile. "The reason you've been allowed to stay with us is that my blood, being your blood, protects us. It's an ancient magical quality that can't be overcome, except with great difficulty."
"What's it got to do with now?" Harry asked.
Remus held out his hand. "I'm going to cut myself, Harry, and put the blood on the doorway. This is very old, very frightening magic. You don't have to watch."
Harry looked at him carefully.
"You're just a child," Remus said, slightly desperately. "You shouldn't have to watch."
"Why's it always you?" Harry asked. Remus tilted his head. "Why're you always the one has to get hurt?"
"Harry -- "
"It's not fair," Harry said.
"No -- but nobody ever promised me life would be," Remus sighed.
"I'll watch," Harry said. Remus nodded.
"You can close your eyes, if you want," he repeated, walking into the foyer. When he saw Harry was resolutely standing behind him, he tightened his grip on the blade, and drew it slowly across his left palm.
The cut wasn't deep, but Harry saw red blood well up, and Remus reached above his head, running his hand over the lintel of the door. That done, he cut across the index finger, and wrote, above the drying red streak, NOMOS.
"Bandages," Remus said briskly, moving back into the kitchen and setting the knife in the sink. He seemed to relax once the silver blade was further away, and he dug one-handedly in the cupboard, coming up with white gauze. "Healing charms don't work well on me," he said, wrapping his hand and finger in the stuff, and tying it off, biting the end to separate it from the roll.
"What's Nomos mean?" Harry asked. Remus tapped the bandages with his right hand to make sure they were secure, and began to run water over the knife. It had all been done so...efficiently.
"It's from the ancient Greek," he said. "It...means a number of things. It's part of the rules for the way they live, sort of. It's about...the way people are treated, protected. It's about providing shelter. The way we do for you. Now," he added, businesslike once more, "let's get something for you to read -- we're going to have to sit near the window so we can watch for Sirius, because odds are until he's been inside he won't be able to find the place."
He followed Harry even into his room, to get the book (and Frog) and back out, into the living room, where they settled into the couch, Remus with his legs propped up sideways so that he could look out, Harry on the end with Frog. When Harry looked up from his book, Remus was gazing out the window, rubbing the bandaged hand back and forth across his chin.
"What if she hurts Sirius?" he asked softly.
"She won't. Sirius is smarter than she is."
"But she killed his brother."
"Sirius isn't his brother."
"But what if she does?"
Remus was quiet for a while.
"Professor Snape will make sure she doesn't," he said finally.
"Professor Snape hates Sirius."
Remus bowed his head. "Perhaps. But that doesn't mean he won't protect him."
Harry turned to look at him. "Really?"
"Really," Remus said, absently, without explaining further. Harry was left to muse, in silence, on the contradiction.
The Aurors could find no trace of Bellatrix Lestrange. Sirius, doing all he could to look like unprotected bait, didn't even get a nibble from her. For three days he went out with the Aurors, under the careful (and magical) eye of Alastor Moody; he came back to the flat only briefly to sleep. He and Remus both lived on nerves, eating little, speaking little except to Harry, and never letting him out of their sight -- or out of the flat.
Harry slept in Sirius' bed, with Padfoot curled up on top of the blanket. Sandust bookshop remained closed so long that when Remus finally did leave Harry with Sirius to go check on it, half of the High Street business-owners cornered him to ask what was wrong. He excused it with an illness in the family, and fled back to their home.
He opened the door with a password, a key, and a tap with his wand on what appeared, to outsiders, to be a solid brick wall. One made enough noise these days just getting into the flat that usually anyone who came in could expect to be greeted by Harry and whoever was looking after him; when he opened the door into a silent room, his heart jumped into his throat.
"Shh," Sirius said quietly, and Remus breathed a sigh of relief. He was sitting on the couch in the living room, next to a bundle of blankets and pillows which looked like it might at some point have devoured Harry.
"Asleep in the middle of the day?" Remus asked softly.
"He was restless last night. I think he's having nightmares, but he won't tell me," Sirius answered, setting down his book and standing, rolling his shoulders.
"I didn't notice."
"Well, you sleep like the dead," Sirius answered with a grin, as Remus shed his coat and set his keys on the table. "Plus, you're not the one he kicks at night."
"We could move his bed -- "
"I'm fine with it, he pulls on my fur or kicks for a little while and goes back to sleep," Sirius said. "Besides, it'd be more cramped than it already is."
Remus turned to agree with him, and found Sirius standing dangerously close.
"You can't give a man a little warning?" he said quietly, as Sirius slipped one hand over his neck, pulling him forward. The last word was almost against his lips --
"If I warned you, you'd run away," Sirius said, into his mouth. Remus heard a whimper, realised it was him, and pulled back slightly.
Sirius followed, gripping his neck firmly, backing him into the table. Remus closed his eyes, tasted Sirius, felt his broad warm body. And bent a little, into it.
"See?" Sirius said, breaking the kiss. Remus felt an inappropriate blush crossing his face. Sirius was breathing hard. "Got to catch you by surprise."
Remus ducked his head, unwilling to scold, and Sirius sighed.
"You watch Harry -- I'll make lunch," he said resignedly. Remus dropped down onto the couch, and poked the pile of blankets experimentally. Something deep inside it giggled sleepily.