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.)
And still nothing happened.
Three days stretched into a week, and then a week and a half. There weren't even any sightings of the woman. Slowly the tension in Sirius' shoulders began to ease, and Harry was allowed out of their sight as long as he was still in the flat. Remus began to talk of opening Sandust after Harry's birthday. Sirius was home more often.
Someone suggested that Bellatrix had drowned swimming to shore. Others thought perhaps her madness went so far that she was incapable of coming up with anything so complicated as revenge. The rest of the Wizarding World began to go about their business again, though still with an ounce of caution; people could be heard saying they wouldn't let their children out alone until she was captured.
Severus Snape was still staying, extremely reluctantly, with the Longbottoms. After all, Bellatrix had gone to Azkaban for the torture of Frank and Alice Longbottom. Young Neville Longbottom had not, for fear of the man, come out of his bedroom except when absolutely necessary.
Sirius asked for and got permission for them to take Harry to the Weasleys' for his birthday, although Dumbledore was quite worried. Remus received a private owl from him requesting that he be on special alert. It only made sense -- Bellatrix might be Sirius' cousin, but Remus had far more experience defending against the Dark Arts.
And, as Dumbledore reminded him -- not that he could ever forget -- most Unforgiveable curses didn't work on a werewolf. The worst thing Avada Kedavra had done to Remus, during his dangerous days with the Order, was give him a two-day splitting headache.
Remus, like the Aurors, had trained himself over the years to run towards danger, instead of away from it. Not because he was willing to give up his life, but because it was bloody hard to take it away from him. Aconite in sufficient doses; silver; fire; other werewolves. Beyond that he was well-near indestructible, and that meant that if he got between Bellatrix and Harry, they had a pretty good chance of survival.
Which, as it turned out, was a good thing for all concerned.
The day of Harry's birthday, the first he could remember where someone else would care what the day was, dawned bright and sunny and noisy; Sirius, singing "Happy Birthday" at the top of his lungs, carried him, still in his pyjamas and squirming happily, to a breakfast table laden with food and brightly-wrapped gifts. There was a new bookshelf, and books to go in it; two magical moving posters of Quidditch stars, a few Muggle toys, lots of sweets from Sirius, and one rather plainly-wrapped object in brown paper, as tall as Harry was -- a new Nimbus Racer Twelve, one of the finest brooms on the market.
Harry could barely eat his breakfast, he was so excited. He'd never been given the chance to tear wrapping paper before, or open cards meant for him and only him, or have Sirius tell him which gift to open next. There was a new wallet with ten whole Galleons in it, from Remus, and the sort of rugby shirt Harry liked...
There was more, too; a cloth-covered crate on one end of the table turned out to be a medium-sized terrarium with a muddy-blue snake drowsing lazily inside it, much to Harry's delight, and even a card from Professor Snape -- admittedly it was plain white, and merely gave instructions on the snake's care and feeding, but it did say Happy Birthday in quite small letters and that was all that really mattered.
"Are you going to take him out?" Remus asked, while Sirius tried not to scowl. Harry peered through the glass and shook his head.
"He's sleeping. I'll wait till he wakes up," he said decidedly.
"What're you going to name him?"
"Snakes don't have names," Harry said absently. "They're just called Snake."
Remus exchanged an amused look with Sirius. "All right, then. Do you like him?"
"Very much," Harry replied. "Almost as much as my racing broom."
Sirius smiled at that.
Remus opened Sandust for the morning, and several of the locals came past to wish Harry a happy birthday and make much of his nine-year-old self. Being nine was wonderful, Harry decided, and although he didn't see how, he was sure being ten was going to be even better. For the moment, he forgot the deep worried lines in Remus' face and the constant if suppressed fear lurking at the back of Sirius' eyes, and allowed the future to stretch out before him, full of wonderful things -- holidays with his godfather, Hogwarts school, showing off how well he could take care of Snake to Professor Snape -- there would be flights on his new racing broom, Quidditch with the twins and one day at school with Oliver, and sharing sweets with Ginny and Ron. He'd get to find out what the Groundskeeper, Hagrid, was growing in his garden, and explore every nook of the school, and one day he'd graduate and be an animagus like Sirius and ride a motorbike too, and read all the books that Remus kept on the top shelf because they were Big Dangerous Magic.
But before all that he was going to have his first ever birthday party -- at least, that he could remember.
There were party hats. Of course, they were wizarding party hats, which meant that in addition to the usual cone they had a floppy brim and sometimes a feather or a few artificial cherries on them, but the point was that there were party hats, and there was a cake, and a jumper from Mrs. Weasley, a set of quill pens from Bill and Percy, a pan of fudge from the twins, and a copy of July's Broomsticks Aloft magazine, which featured an article on the Nimbus Racer 12, from Ron and Ginny (along with a handmade card). Everyone crowded around to watch Sirius show Harry how the Nimbus flew, and once confident he could steer it on his own -- "Boy's a natural," Sirius proclaimed proudly -- he was even allowed to take Ron and Ginny on rides, as long as he didn't go too far off the ground.
By the time the sun was setting, even Remus had relaxed a little; Molly and Arthur were sitting at the table with Bill, discussing his packing for India, while the rest of the Weasleys watched Harry try to hover without using his hands -- a feat that resulted in more than one grass-stain on his trouser legs, though there hadn't been any serious injury thus far. Sirius was spotting for him, and Remus was settled on the grass next to the table, keeping one ear on the India conversation, one on the flying lesson.
"Next year Harry'n'Ron can play and then we've nearly got a team," Fred was saying. "Reckon Ron for a Chaser?"
"Nah," George answered. "Your classic Keeper, Ron."
Ron, Remus noticed, was gazing longingly -- and a little enviously -- at Harry's new broomstick. Remus remembered that gaze. It was the look of a child who was happy for his friend, but who was also regretful that he could never have what they had, and would be forced to plead to borrow theirs. He remembered it a little too well.
Seven children raised on a Ministry salary didn't leave much overage for whatever the youngest son wished he could have.
"Harry," he called, "Let Ron have a go on his own, there's a lad."
Sirius glanced quizzically at him, but helped Harry off the broom, and Harry happily gave it to Ron, helping him get it into the air. Ron raised it a few more feet, until he was over their heads, and zoomed around the yard, laughing, Harry and Ginny following him on the ground. Sirius put his hands on his hips, watching.
"Never thought I'd see the day I trusted Sirius Black with a child," Molly said quietly. Remus leaned back, propping himself on the bench of the picnic table, and glanced up at her.
"He does well with the boy," Arthur added.
"Harry's very tolerant of our mistakes," Remus replied, with a grin. "After the way he was living, my little flat might as well be a castle." He watched Ron dismount and offer the broom shyly back to Harry; he could tell Molly was pleased when they saw him mouth "thank you" politely.
"Complete with moat?" Arthur asked.
"We've done everything we can. Sirius is restless, he's tired of being locked up. So am I. I -- "
Arthur and Molly looked down at the brown-haired man, but Remus' body had gone rigid, nostrils flaring, eyes wide and scanning the yard.
"It's her," he breathed, and he was up and running in a fluid motion that was so quick it took Arthur and Molly by surprise. Bill was after him in an instant, because Bill had seen it too -- a pair of eyes behind the hedge the bordered the yard.
"Harry, get down!" Remus cried, but it was too late -- A bolt of blue light flashed through the sunset sky and slammed into Harry's broomstick, pinwheeling it. Harry shrieked a sound that blazed itself into Remus' mind and, with that detached logic which comes while the rest of the brain is panicking, Remus thought that he now had new fodder for his nightmares.
Sirius dove but Remus, with werewolf reflexes, was faster; he caught Harry around the shoulders in a dive and rolled, curling his body protectively around the boy --
Green light burst behind his eyelids and he heard another scream, this time from Ginny -- a high, childish scream of fear. Pain ripped across his body. Killing curse, they'd tried the killing curse. Please god let it not have hit Ginny.
Then there were arms hauling him up, and in the confused half-balance of the spinning world, he could see Sirius charging forward after a flitting shadow. But only one, and suddenly he had the terrible certainty that Bellatrix was not alone.
"Sirius, no!" he shouted, as Sirius crashed through the hedge, an opening forming at a shouted word and a flick of his wand. He shoved Harry at Bill, shouted for him to take the boy inside, and pulled his own wand.
Another burst of light hit him off-centre as he turned, and he slammed into Bill, taking the brunt of the second killing-curse. The younger man collapsed, and Remus clutched at his head, gritting his teeth. He pulled Harry against him, steadying himself on the boy's shoulder, and looked up.
Peter Pettigrew stood between them and the door to the Weasley house.
Remus heard his own breath rattle in his throat. His wand lay on the ground a few feet away, and thank god Harry was behind his hip, because he was everything between Harry and Peter now.
"I knew he didn't kill you," he said, and was surprised at the roughness of his own voice, through the pain.
"Give me the boy and I won't kill you," Peter said.
"Peter -- Wormtail -- he can't mean anything to you. He's just a child."
"Give me the boy, Remus."
"You killed his parents, isn't that enough?" Remus pleaded. He did not let his eyes flick past Peter to the doorway, but he could see Arthur padding silently through it, wand out, waiting to get into range.
There was a shriek somewhere out in the fields, where Sirius was pursuing Bellatrix. Peter's eyes flickered. Arthur raised his wand --
In a heartbeat Peter had whirled to cast another curse, and Remus didn't wait to see if it was another bolt of green light. He picked up Harry bodily and flung them both sideways, around the corner of the house, running like a batallion of Death Eaters was after them. There was a gap between wall and hedge and he slid through it, desperate to be anywhere away from the house, to get Harry somehow to safety.
"Remus -- " Harry shrieked, and Remus realised he had the boy gripped by an arm and a hand on his hip, a painful hold for the child. He shifted Harry without missing a stride, though his head pounded and his legs were already protesting the run, plus the weight of a nine year old boy. Harry's arms wrapped around his shoulders --
And suddenly Sirius was there, matching stride, shouting that Bellatrix and Peter were giving chase, and they'd have to find somewhere to turn and fight. Remus slipped and slithered into a gully, and released Harry roughly.
"Give me your wand," he said, and Sirius tossed it across as he covered Harry with his body, their years of Order training leaping to the fore.
But then there were two more bodies in the gully, and it was suddenly hands and hooked fingers and good god, Bellatrix very nearly had claws. Her face was ravaged by her time in Azkaban, hair cut to uneven lengths around her head and flying out like a harpy's, and there was suddenly a glint of silver in Peter's hand, arcing towards Sirius, underneath him, and Harry screamed. And screamed, and screamed.
Remus watched in horror as Peter raised his face over the limp body of Sirius Black. His cheeks and hands were smeared with blood, and he held a small vial between two fingers.
"Good to see you, Moony," he said.
Remus scrambled for Sirius' wand and heard footsteps approaching; Peter looked up and, apparently not liking his odds, vanished with a crack, Bellatrix following a half-second later with an insane laugh.
Harry was still screaming.
Remus, fingers numb, scrambled across to Sirius, rolling him aside and lifting Harry away, conscious that the blood had not been Sirius', but dripped from a deep gash on Harry's shoulder. Arthur skidded to a stop, kicking dust over them, and Bill leapt down, rolling Sirius the rest of the way as Molly accepted Harry from Remus' hands. His tongue felt thick in his head, as he stared at Bill, who was running his palms over Sirius' neck and chest, searching for -- for a pulse?
God please --
It had been short and brutal and Peter hadn't hesitated to use the killing curse on Remus --
"Missed him," Bill breathed. "He's just stunned. Dad -- "
Arthur slid down next to them, helping Bill haul Sirius up onto flat ground. Remus crawled up with their help, was promptly ill, and collapsed.
Sirius woke to a splitting, world-rending hangov --
He didn't know where he was or who had wrapped his head in cotton wool, but he had to make sure Harry was all right. He rolled off the bed (bed -- always a good sign)...
...and fell over.
There were a few confused minutes after that, composed of hands lifting him, voices shouting insensible things at him, and something cold and wet smacking him in the face, but when the confusion lifted he found himself seated on the edge of a mattress, a cold cloth being held to his face, and Ted Tonks physically restraining him.
"Harry's all right," he heard Andromeda's voice, and immediately the world was a better place. "Stay there. He's just in the next room with the Healer, I'll get him."
"Thought you were done for, mate," Ted said, as Sirius pulled the cloth from his face. The older man gave him a cheerful smile. "You should've seen it when they brought you in. I thought Lupin was going to pass out again."
"Is everyone all right?" Sirius managed.
"More or less. Nasty gash your lad took. Nasty shock my Nymphadora had, too, she's the one answered the floo. Dunno that Lupin's right in the head yet, but I'm sure he's getting there."
"And here's our boy," Andromeda announced, leading Harry into the room. He broke into a run when he saw Sirius, and Sirius caught him around the waist, lifting him carefully into his lap, pulling his head against his chest. "The better for some rest, I'd say."
Sirius felt Harry shiver against him; he also felt a swath of bandages under his shirt, and pulled him back a little. The white crept up his left shoulder, over his neck.
"Merlin, what did they -- " Sirius stared, but Ted put out a hand to stop him.
"Not around the lad," he said softly. He and Andromeda exchanged a glance. "Listen, there's food downstairs if you think you can walk, old man, and tea and all."
Sirius let Harry slip to the ground, but kept hold of his hand as he stood.
"Andromeda," he said slowly, as she gave him a supporting shoulder, "not that I'm not glad, but what are we doing at -- "
And then it really, really hit him.
"What," he repeated, "in the bloody hell are we doing at Grimmauld Place?"
"Safest place," Ted grunted. "Bout a million wards on this monstrosity. Arthur called us soon as they could, and we agreed to meet here. Andromeda found a Healer who'd come with a minimum of stories told -- old Black name's good for something, eh?"
"Damn Peter Pettigrew," Andromeda muttered. "I always knew that little kiss-up was going to cause trouble..."
They reached the bottom of the stairs, Sirius with his ears ringing, and emerged into a warm kitchen, lit by what must have been every butt-end of a candle in the whole house. Andromeda and Ted pushed past him, walking towards the far end where a very shy, frightened looking Nymphadora was absently spilling the sugar as she added it to a cup for Bill. Remus sat near them, and --
Severus Snape, black robes swooping around him, was pacing back and forth. He looked older without the long, lank hair hanging about his face, and almost unrecognisable -- he hadn't seemed to change over the years from the weedy teenager he'd been, but now Sirius could appreciate that they had all grown up -- that they were adults now. Snape clearly had no idea how to deal with short hair, and it bristled a little, around the edges; in fact he looked almost a little like James...
When he saw them, he stopped, and then moved forward quickly. Harry took a hesitant step away from Sirius, who let go of him, reluctantly. Snape bent to examine Harry, and Sirius noticed suddenly, to his shock, that the other man's hands were shaking.
He was sure he could detect sarcasm in Snape's tone and was nearly sure that Snape was saying something in that half-insulting way he had where he could take the most innocent of statements and make it into something hateful, but all of Sirius' attention was focused on the slight tremor of Snape's right hand as the pale fingers ran over Harry's cheeks, his shoulders, plucked up his wrists to examine his hands, pressed on his chest to make sure he was all right.
And then, tearing himself away from the odd phenomenon of Severus Snape showing some emotion that wasn't anger or hatred, he looked up as Snape stood to see badly-hidden fear in the man's dark eyes, tension in his jaw.
Sirius had not realised anyone else might love Harry the way he did, with no thought of self or pride, because Harry was Harry and you couldn't help love him. He knew Remus did, of course, but...Remus was...well, Remus liked everyone, it was only natural he'd take to the boy.
In his mind Harry's visits with the Potions Master had been Snape's way of manipulating something in Sirius' life, to annoy and enrage him.
He glanced at Remus, who was sitting with his face in his hands, not shaking but looking quite shaken. And then he looked back again to Snape's trembling fingers. Harry was smiling up at them, looking from one to another with a gaze of polite bewilderment that he should be the subject of so much attention.
Something momentarily monstrous in Sirius told him that this was a new and interesting weapon he could use against someone who had been more or less his enemy for almost twenty years, and he hated himself. When good sense spoke up, he let it override the small, petty voice, and insead he thought to himself My god, Snape's actually human.
"Perhaps now, someone will be kind enough to explain to me why my student nearly had his throat slit," he said, and Sirius was back to the old, smoldering rage at the utter insolence of Snape even existing.
"Pettigrew," Remus rasped, from the table. He wrapped his hands around a chipped and dusty-looking teacup. "Peter and Bellatrix. They surprised us at the Weasleys' house."
"I told Dumbledore this party notion was a -- " Snape said, wrathfully, but Sirius held up a hand and for once, the other man fell silent.
"If I don't sit down," Sirius said unsteadily, "I'm going to fall over. So your diatribe is going to wait."
Andromeda helped him to a chair across from Remus, and Harry followed. Ted put a hand on Snape's arm, pulling him across the other room with the promise of an explanation, and a request that Snape have a look at some really nasty Dark goblets that he wanted the good Professor's opinion on. Sirius noticed with amusement that both Bill and Nymphadora, recent students of Snape's, skittered out of his way quickly.
"Like to tell us what happened?" Andromeda asked quietly.
"I was about to say the same thing," Sirius replied. Remus pushed his tea across the table, and Sirius nodded his thanks before taking a sip.
"Molly Weasley floo'd us, said she didn't know who else she ought to call on. She called Dumbledore, too, once we'd gotten you here and called a Healer. When we arrived, Harry was bleeding, you were out cold, and Remus was in no condition to explain much of anything...the Headmaster sent Snape to help -- he hasn't been here long..."
"All right now?" Sirius asked Remus, who nodded.
"From what Bill tells me, he took two direct killing curses without missing a beat," Andromeda continued.
"Well -- yes -- " Sirius stumbled.
"It's all right, I've told her what I am," Remus put in gently. "Had to anyway, she tried to serve the tea in a silver service."
"Sorry about that," Andromeda murmured. "All I could find around this place, at first."
"Not at all." Remus gave her a crooked grin. "Adds flavour."
Sirius, whose worldview had just shifted to include the definite existence of Peter Pettigrew, the likely humanity of Severus Snape, and his own sudden presence in his childhood home, felt that this was all a bit much.
"I don't know what they were after," he said miserably.
"Harry," Andromeda supplied.
"No," Remus corrected. "Just part of him."
"That's very reassuring, Moony," Sirius muttered.
"Peter took a vial of his blood. I uh..." Remus hesitated. "I think he might have drunk some."
Andromeda looked vaguely horrified. Remus continued hurriedly.
"I, I think he would have killed him, but Sirius was on top of him and he...couldn't really get enough leverage."
"I don't remember that," Sirius muttered.
"No, you wouldn't," Bill said, joining them. Nymphadora hung back, vacillating between wanting to see the Dark things her father was showing to her Professor and wanting to be as far away from Snape as possible. "Tried to kill you too, but he missed. Barely. That's why you feel like a dragon trampled you."
"Two dragons," Sirius answered. Harry smiled up at him, at the mental image. "Is there a reason we've got him bandaged up like a Muggle, then?"
"Enchanted knife," Bill answered. "I think. Wouldn't heal up under a spell. Mum and Mrs. Tonks and I all tried, and the Healer too."
Sirius sat for a while. Nobody seemed to be willing to bother him, which made for a pleasant change.
"How did he know?" Remus finally asked. "How did they know?"
"Wormtail," Sirius muttered. "Bloody rat probably -- "
There was a thoughtful pause.
"Not all this time," Sirius said, horrified. "He hasn't been...not the Weasleys."
"Not us what?" Bill asked, glancing from one to the other. "What's he on about, Lupin?"
"I'll go," Remus said. "I can walk without thinking hard about it."
"Go where?" Bill demanded. "What's going on?"
"You should come too," Remus said. "I think I may have to replace Percy's rat."
"Scabbers?" Bill raised his eyebrows, as they walked towards the fire burning at one end of the kitchen. "Why -- I don't -- "
"I'll explain after we've gone," Remus said, and he and Bill vanished into the flame, back to the Burrow. Andromeda reached over and put one of her hands over Sirius'; they sat in silence until she cleared her throat softly.
"Hadn't seen you in a while," she said.
"When we came through and saw you laid out on Molly Weasley's dining table like some kind of corpse -- "
"I'm sorry, Andromeda."
She lifted her hand and smoothed his hair. "Don't be angry with me, Sirius. I'm trying to tell you..." she sighed. "Listen, we were scared, all right? And it's...it's down to you and me now, really, there aren't many Blacks left. Everyone else is dead or Narcissa -- "
Sirius gave a snort of laughter. Andromeda smiled.
"Ted got some time off from work, and Nymphadora's not starting training until September, so we can stay here with you for a while," she continued. "If you are...that is, if you do want to sell us the place, we could start on cleaning and such."
"Yes -- of course..." Sirius paused. "Training?" he asked curiously. Andromeda flushed with pride.
"Dora got into the Auror's academy. Top NEWTs across the board. Ted's that proud."
"That's grand, Andromeda. Really and truly."
Andromeda smiled. "I'm just glad she survived Hogwarts," she murmured, as Nymphadora came back into the kitchen, followed by her father and professor. There was a clatter, before she could get very far, and Remus and Bill came tumbling out of the fire, Bill smacking into Nymphadora, Remus stumbling a few feet before straightening.
"I think we have a problem," he said, a small grey rat held firmly in one hand.