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.)
The house on Grimmauld Place was heavily warded, but it could recognise its owner; Sirius and Remus had no difficulty getting inside, and Snape felt barely a tingle as he followed them. He caught up to them on the landing just as they were turning, and suddenly froze. The look of loathing on Sirius Black's face had, he realised, nothing to do with him, but it was still one of the most chilling sights he'd ever seen.
"Where would he take him," Sirius said hoarsely. "They could be anywhere -- how do we find him?"
"I need Frog," Snape said determinedly. Remus opened his mouth, confused. "Show me his bedroom. Right now."
"What are you going to do?" Remus demanded, even as he stepped back to lead the way. "Sirius, tell Moody. Get the Aurors searching, we'll find you at Sandust."
"No, stay here, we'll go together," Snape said, deftly picking through the bedclothes until he found the well-loved toy near the foot of the bed. He picked it up, eyes glittering, and turned to Sirius. "The Aurors can't help now. I can find the boy."
"You -- " Sirius said derisively, then stopped himself. "Can you?" he asked, and Snape heard every ounce of pride that it cost him. Sacrificed for Harry.
Because that was what one did for Harry.
"Be silent. Both of you," Snape said, and clutched the toy tightly, aware of how ridiculous he looked. Children didn't have the barriers that adults did, but finding Harry in the mass of humanity that populated England -- if he was still in England --
He'd gone into the boy's mind precisely twice in the months he'd known him; Harry had never noticed. It wasn't invading his privacy, he reasoned, if the child's own welfare was at stake. The first time, he wanted to be sure Harry was safe with his new guardians, that Harry was well-fed and well-loved. He had been satisfied to see the utter contentment of a child who was cared for, adequately, for the first time ever.
The second time he'd gone into Harry's mind had been the petrifying, terrifying day after Harry's birthday -- only a few days ago -- when Harry had been hurt, when he'd seen his own hands shake with anxiety over the child's safety. And then it had been, he told himself, no different from a Healer closing up his wounds; if Harry was upset or troubled, he merely smoothed it over.
The touch of the boy's mind was unmistakable. The thoughts of most children were more or less alike to any witch or wizard without a personal attachment to them, but Harry's always carried with them a distinct touch, associated in Severus Snape's mind with Voldemort and the night he'd been given his Mark, a bitter mental taste, like a bad memory.
"Please," he heard Black's ragged voice. "Tell me what to do."
"Be quiet, damn you!" Snape snarled, spreading mental touches out across vast distances. It would never work; Harry was too far away, too young. He was not that unique, just another child; the only uniqueness he posessed was that the first child Severus had cared for was --
Pain and terror flooded his mind, heavily tinged with defiance. He saw through Harry's eyes, blurred; the boy must have lost his glasses. After a brief second he pulled back instinctively, caught halfway between where he was and where Harry was, unable to locate either one.
Tell me where you are, Harry.
Don't speak, Harry. Tell me where you are.
An uncertain moment. I don't know.
Are you in a room?
No, it's a graveyard, but I don't know where --
Tang of blood.
Did they hit you, Harry?
There's plants holding me down.
Are you bleeding?
No, a satisfied thrill, but she is.
The bad woman. Bellatrix.
Sirius grabbed his arm. "Bellatrix?"
He must have spoken aloud. "Be quiet or leave -- " Harry, are you there?
I'm scared. Where are you? Where's Sirius? I want Sirius.
Show me where you are, Harry. Do you remember names on the gravestones?
He's here, Peter's here, he's going to hurt Nymphadora --
Harry, stop panicking this instant. Can you see houses? Trees?
I saw a big tree.
Harry, open your eyes.
Sight blended into shadow and Snape fought the urge to pull back again; looking through someone else's eyes was sickening and difficult. He saw Peter Pettigrew, arm outstretched, and heard through Harry the sound of Nymphadora Tonks' erratic, laboured breathing. A surge of power from Peter's direction nearly knocked him off his feet.
Harry, we're coming for you. I have to leave you now but we'll be there soon. If you get free, find a place to hide, stay low to the ground.
Don't go --
I won't be gone long, Harry, I promise.
In a graveyard in Little Hangleton, Harry opened his eyes into Peter's goatlike amber ones.
"Now," Peter said, "We get to play with your baby boy, Bellatrix."
"My godfather's going to kill you," Harry replied calmly. "And then you're going to be sorry."
In the house at Grimmauld Place, Severus Snape opened his eyes.
"I know where he is," he said. "It's an old meeting-place for Death Eaters. I can take you there, but you'll have to follow close. It's heavily warded."
Sirius stared at him. "You're the spy," he breathed, as Severus began to walk quickly towards the door. "The one Dumbledore's been protecting for seven years. You're the Death Eater who turned traitor for us -- "
"And if we don't leave now another traitor is going to kill your child," he answered, as they swept down the stairs and towards the front door. He turned once they were outside. Sirius surged forward.
"I left Harry alone with you, alone with a Death Eater -- "
"Do shut up, Black," he snapped, grabbing the other man at the side of his throat, his other hand catching Remus' wrist. "Look where I'm going. Follow me there. Look," he urged, and Sirius drew a quick breath, as the image flooded his mind. "Can you follow?"
Sirius nodded, and let the breath go when he was released. "Go. We'll follow."
Severus looked at Remus, who nodded also, gulping. He closed his eyes and Apparated to the graveyard of Little Hangleton, somewhere he never thought he'd be forced to go again. He wasn't even fully sure he was there before two cracks followed him, and Sirius and Remus stumbled out of the air.
Peter stood in front of them, one hand wrapped almost gently around Harry's throat, pinning the boy back against his body. He looked only mildly surprised.
"I heard you coming," he said pleasantly. "Just like old times, isn't it?"
"Let him go, Peter," Sirius growled. Behind Peter, Nymphadora was struggling with some sort of plantlike restraint. Bellatrix held a dagger in a perfectly flat line across her throat.
"You even brought a substitute for James," Peter said, still smiling a horrible smile. "Doubt Snivellus is James' calibre, but then, so few were."
Severus was staring at Harry, unblinking. Harry stared back calmly, then flicked his eyes to Sirius.
"Move and I'll crush his little lungs," Peter continued. He held out his free hand, and light crackled around it.
"He's done the spell," Remus murmured. "I didn't think you had it in you, Peter."
"I wouldn't, if you hadn't left your books lying around," Peter answered. "Good show, Moony. I blame you, personally."
"Kill him and we'll kill you, so it comes out even in the end," Severus said, because it was obvious Sirius wasn't going to.
"Oh, I doubt it," Peter laughed. "I very much doubt it."
The light crackling around his hand took on form, and seemed to rise in a spiky, flashing column, behind which he and Harry could hardly be seen.
"Can you get through it?" Severus asked, softly.
"Got a plan?" Remus replied. Severus thrust the idea directly into their minds, and felt Remus tense, Sirius' hands clench into fists.
Remus dove for the column of magical light at the same time Sirius raised his arm and shouted "Stupefy!" at Bellatrix, who dodged away from Dora, nicking her with the knife. Severus saw Peter and Remus hit the ground together, rolling, as he dealt with the burst of energy caused by a werewolf passing through a sheer magical barrier. Harry, landing hard on his elbows, began to scrabble towards Sirius, who scooped him up and shielded him behind a gravestone, against a sudden attack by Bellatrix. The stone cracked and began to crumble.
Remus screamed in pain as Peter pressed hands to his bare skin, hands that transmuted the air around them into silver for as long as it took to burn a werewolf, and Severus leapt, rolling and pulling Remus off of him, both of them slamming up against a tomb.
Light crackled around them, and he felt his muscles cry out, his very bones scream. Crucio --
It lasted only a second before it ended, but he dropped to the ground, exhausted. Next to him, Remus was panting for breath; Sirius, nearby, was trying to get his strength back. He'd hit all three of them at once with the Cruciatus. The power it would take --
Why had he stopped?
Then Severus looked up further and saw Peter reel and catch himself on a tombstone, forehead split open and bleeding.
Harry had a piece of the broken gravestone in his hand. Another one, sharp and bloody, lay near Peter's feet. All three men stared as Harry hurled the second, less effectively than the first one -- it glanced off Peter's chest, tearing fabric -- before picking up a third.
Severus shouted a warning just as Bellatrix lunged from behind, and Sirius turned, wand out, casting a killing curse at close range. Bellatrix screamed once, but only once. There was a dull thud as she fell.
Sirius pushed her body off of himself, crawling towards Harry, who was advancing on Peter. Peter pushed himself upright, finally, and stared at the boy. Remus reached down and pulled Severus bodily up by the collar of his shirt. Sirius stood, supporting himself on a gravestone, reaching uselessly for Harry.
From every direction, thousands of slim, sinewy bodies converged, crawling over stone, over grass, slithering their way with eerie, silent speed over the shoes of the men watching Peter, only Harry cutting a swath in their way. They twined up Peter's arms, around his legs, his waist; he shouted in Latin and some of them dropped away, but there were far too many --
"They'll kill him," Remus breathed.
"Good riddance," Severus couldn't help reply.
Sirius reached Harry, finally, pulling the stone from his hand and wrapping his arms around the boy's slim body. Harry pointed to a white object on the ground, a little china dog, and Sirius picked it up, closing Harry's fist around it and whispering a word. They vanished with the Portkey, a disant sound compared to Peter's shouted hexes. Snakes fell, writhed, surged up again; Peter was bodily tearing them from him, now.
Severus turned to see Remus supporting a nearly unconscious Nymphadora.
"We have to leave him," he said. "If they win, they win; if he wins, we're all in trouble."
"He's too powerful," Severus answered. "He'll win."
"She's going to die," Remus answered. "And if you stay you'll die too."
He nodded. "I'll follow you to St. Mungo's."
Peter's screams continued to ring in his ears as he Disapparated.
Nymphadora was bleeding, but they'd staunched it before it became life-threatening, and she'd managed not to splinch; Bellatrix had apparently kicked her in the head, but the Healers seemed optimistic that she'd be all right. Snape followed Remus' instructions up a floor to fetch her parents, who immediately took control of the situation, found her a private room, had a specialist woken and dragged in to the hospital, and generally made it known that if Nymphadora so much as sneezed wrong when she woke, there would be hell to pay.
Remus was bleeding from open sores on his arms where Peter's silver had burned him; Ted and two Orderlies had to restrain him from leaving the hospital when it was discovered that neither Sirius nor Harry were anywhere to be found. Moody was summoned from the aftermath of the Sandust fire, and stomped around shouting orders until he was thrown out of patient care; then he stomped around in the lobby shouting more orders. Snape, when he heard, had to be sedated while they treated him for aftereffects of the Crucio hex.
Remus, bandaged shoulder to wrist and across part of his collarbone and throat, finally slipped away and ran down to the recieving area, skidding to a stop in front of Moody.
"Any news?" he asked breathlessly. Moody crossed his arms.
"Not hide nor hair, though Bellatrix Lestrange is dead," he said bluntly. Remus sank into one of the chairs, stunned. "Pretty clearly self defence. Had a knife in one hand still. Haven't told Tonks and her brood yet. Don't think she'll take it well."
"What about Peter?"
"Found some bloody footprints. Hell of a tangle of snakes. Probably escaped," Moody grunted. "Next time, finish the job."
"You can have Peter dead or you can have the rest of us alive but you can't have both," Remus answered sharply. Moody snorted. "No word on Sirius or Harry? None at all?"
"Sure they're somewhere safe," Moody said almost placidly. "You'd know where. You know 'em better'n I do."
Remus raised his head, slowly, and met Moody's eyes.
"Yes," he said quietly. "I suppose I do."
The library was always empty this late at night, but especially, almost tangibly so in the summer; it was also dark, but that was the reason Remus had learned one of the few wandless tricks he'd learned, years ago. Ignoring the fire that burned along his arms from Peter's attack, he held up his right hand, green light licking across his palm.
He wandered quietly through the stacks, remembering the smell of old books that even Sandust had never quite imitated -- Sandust, which was now ash and ruin. He passed two tables piled high with books, probably the ones they'd sent here; valuable, rare, and magical volumes, irreplaceable knowledge.
Remus walked until he heard soft breathing, quiet sobbing. He cleared his throat, scuffed his feet on the floor as he moved, so that he wouldn't frighten them.
Sirius was sprawled in one of the enormous sofas the library boasted, next to a window that looked out on the moonlit Hogwarts grounds. Harry was curled on his lap, face buried in his shoulder, sobbing softly.
"It's me," Remus said unnecessarily. Sirius didn't move. Harry stilled, when he rested a hand on the boy's shoulder.
"He won't wake up," Harry said indistinctly. Remus knelt, fingers shaking, and checked for a pulse. The steady throb of blood through the vein seemed to take forever to find, but it was there, strong and even, and Remus felt his whole body relax with relief. He spread his hands across Sirius' face, over his shoulders and down his chest, searching for lingering effects of the hex, or any major wounds; when he was satisfied, he sank down next to them, pulling Harry from Sirius' lap to his, cradling the boy.
"He's just tired," he murmured. "He'll be fine. Are you all right?"
Harry nodded against his chest. "Peter killed Snake," he said softly. Remus stroked his hair.
"How do you know?"
"I heard him die. When he bit him, when the others were biting him..."
"I'm sorry, Harry."
Harry's limbs seized up for a second, and Remus recognised the whole-body sob of a grieving young child. "He tried to kill you and Sirius..."
"We're okay. Shhh, we're all right," Remus soothed. "It's going to be okay."
"Is Professor Snape okay?" Harry asked.
"He's at the hospital with Dora. They'll be fine. Hush now," Remus said.
"He tied us up and the awful woman hurt Dora..."
"Shh. It's okay. We're safe here."
"That's what he said right before -- "
"It's okay, Harry. It's me. Sirius is right here and so'm I. This is Hogwarts, nothing bad can get us here."
Harry fell silent, but Remus could feel him still shaking; when Harry finally began to breathe normally again, to slip into sleep, Remus realised he was shaking, too.
He shifted a little, careful not to wake the boy in his arms, and leaned against Sirius. He ought to be notifying Moody and St. Mungo's; he ought to be there for Andromeda and Ted, and be seeing to it that someone stopped Snape from tormenting the mediwitches. But this was the Hogwarts library, in a stone castle far away from the rest of the world, and he very nearly believed it when he told Harry nothing could hurt them here. If it could just be easy enough, for one night, to believe that there was Somewhere The Bad Guys Can't Get Us...
He listened to Harry and Sirius' even breathing as the moon moved through the sky; not until it was near to setting did he fall asleep, cheek on Sirius' shoulder, Harry still huddled in his arms.
"Oh Merlin, Sirius -- "
Sirius, walking stiffly into the ward the morning after the fight in the graveyard, accepted Andromeda's hug gingerly, head still aching, muscles sore and complaining. Ted, not far behind her, clapped him gently on the shoulder, and he winced; they moved on soon enough to Harry, who was in his arms, Andromeda lifting the boy into her own and making much of him, while Ted greeted an extremely exhausted Remus, who plucked shyly at the edge of his bandages. A whole cadre of Healers and Aurors descended, and Sirius clung tightly to Andromeda's arm, unwilling to be separated from Harry. They worked their way through the crowd, to the room Nymphadora and Neville now shared, and Andromeda set Harry on Neville's bed, carefully. Nymphadora waved, and changed her nose to a pig's snout. Harry smiled at her in greeting, and waved back a little.
"Worried about you, old man," Ted said to Sirius, who was suffering a Healer to examine him impatiently. "Snape's been telling us horror stories."
"All true," Sirius said grimly, as a mediwitch scolded Remus for pulling one of his bandages loose. "I thought it was better to keep Harry away from everything until morning."
"Could have told us where you were going," Andromeda said severely. Harry looked like he might burst into tears again. "I'm not mad at you, Harry," she said quickly. Harry scooted back on the bed, away from the Healers, until his back was against the wall.
"You let him alone," Neville said, to the world at large. Harry drew his knees up against his chest, and wrapped his arms around them.
"Snape all right?" Sirius asked Ted gruffly. Ted gestured to the doorway, where the Potions master was lingering, watching the rest of them warily; a patch of his hair near his temple was still missing, and a large plaster was fixed over one cheek. Sirius turned, and after a moment's eye contact walked forward, hand out.
Snape eyed it, before accepting.
"Thanks," Sirius said gruffly. "You found him; you saved him."
"I didn't do it for you," Snape replied.
"I know. I'm grateful anyway." Sirius released his hand. "No permanent damage?"
Snape touched the plaster on his cheek self-consciously, then peeled it away. Three jagged clawlines ran from temple to lip. Andromeda sucked in her breath sharply.
"It's not a scar," he said. "It's his mark. He clawed me -- when we fought he...changed it somehow." He rolled back one sleeve of his tunic, revealing a faint stain on the skin of his left arm. "Like this one."
Remus and Sirius both looked at him, curious and confused.
"He's gone to find Voldemort," Snape continued, and nearly everyone in the room flinched. "But he has his own power now. He has his own followers, or will soon. And he'll have his own mark. I doubt," he added drily, "that theirs will be as conspicuous."
"Can't it be removed?" Andromeda asked softly. He shook his head.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "It only means he's used me. A cheap taunt, and I've suffered cheap taunts before."
"But your face..."
"It doesn't matter," Snape repeated sharply, and Andromeda fell back a little. Sirius sat on Neville's bed, pulling Harry close, and Ted began quietly to herd everyone else out of the room, until it was just them -- Ted and Andromeda, Dora and Neville, Harry, Snape, Sirius and Remus. There was a collective moment when it seemed everyone was simply too tired to do anything more. Sirius gathered Harry into his arms, cradling him, and Andromeda reached out to stroke Neville's head when she saw the envy in his eyes. Remus picked at his bandage again, looking down.
"I kept Dark Arts books in the shop," he said quietly. "It wasn't a secret. They were curiosities, I always checked buyer references before I sold them, and I almost never did, you know. Sell them, I mean. The spell he found...could have been there. Or there could have been other spells, that would help him find what he wanted."
"It's not your fault, old man," Ted said.
"He said himself he wouldn't have had it in him to do what he did, if I hadn't left those books out -- " Remus stopped in a convulsive choke, still picking at the gauze wrapped around his wrist. "Our shop's gone. Harry's hurt and Neville...he never did anything to deserve -- "
"It's just a shop, Remus," Andromeda said.
"It was our home." Remus sighed, and looked up. "It was the only place I ever belonged. I'm so sorry, Sirius."
Sirius, head bowed over Harry, looked up.
"Don't pick at that," he said, and Remus' hands froze in the act of plucking a stray edge of bandage out. "You'll scar."
Remus stared at him.
"Peter laid hands on him, you know," Sirius said, to Andromeda.
"I know, Sirius," she answered.
"He went right through all Peter's magic," Sirius continued.
"I threw rocks," Harry added.
"You were very brave," Sirius said, and while it was clear from his tone he was talking to Harry, his eyes didn't leave Remus' face. Remus ran his fingers up and down his sleeve, scratching through fabric and gauze. Ted moved slowly to sit on his daughter's bed, and a great sense of exhaustion filled the room.
After a moment, Snape cleared his throat.
"If we're done feeling sorry for ourselves and each other," he said, "I'd like to point out that we are still in danger. Harry won't be able to stay in England. Not with Pettigrew so powerful. You're not safe here."
Sirius glanced at him. "We can find him -- "
"And what, let him kill you? I think not," Snape said sharply. Andromeda put a hand on Sirius' arm.
"He's right, Sirius," she said softly. "Until Peter's caught, you're going to have to take Harry away somewhere."
"This is his home," Sirius protested. "He goes to school here, all his friends are here."
"This is bigger than school and friends, you know that," Andromeda answered. "Remus, tell him."
Remus was still scratching his arm, almost absently.
"Remus," Andromeda prompted, and he started, turning to face her.
"Do try to pay attention, Lupin," Snape drawled.
"There's nothing left," Remus said, with a shrug that was made stiff by bandages and pain. "Not here. We'd only endanger the Weasleys. Until Harry's old enough for Hogwarts..."
"Unless," Snape said, very carefully, "He came to Hogwarts now."
"No," Sirius said.
"I know the boy's habits -- "
"No," Sirius repeated.
"Then you had best prepare him for hiding," said a new voice, and they all turned towards the door.
Albus Dumbledore stood in the doorway, hands clasped, looking grave and unflappable. "Arrangements are being made," he said, calmly. "I've been informed of events. You were warned, Sirius, when you took Harry from his family -- "
"I won't let you take him," Sirius growled. Remus moved slowly to stand between Dumbledore and the bed where Sirius and Harry sat. Andromeda drew closer to Neville.
"Then you must go with him," Dumbledore said smoothly. "Peter should have no more use for young Longbottom," he continued, and Andromeda sighed with relief, "but if he is to find Lord Voldemort, he will require Harry. We cannot allow that to happen."
"Clearly," Snape said, sarcastically, but also very quietly. Remus fought a sudden, hysterical smile.
"Harry will be taken to Hogwarts, and conveyed from there to a safe place until an Auror escort and a Fidelius charm can be arranged to take him into deep hiding," Dumbledore continued. "This is not a point for debate, Sirius," he added, as Sirius opened his mouth to protest. "You may either accompany him or entrust him to my care."
"We'll come with you," Sirius said. Dumbledore gave him an inquiring look.
"We?" he asked.
Sirius gestured with the hand that wasn't wrapped around Harry's waist. "Remus and I."
"Remus cannot come."
Remus turned to look at Sirius, and then back to Dumbledore. His mouth worked for a moment. "Why not?"
"You're needed for the Fidelius," Dumbledore answered. "You will be the Secret-Keeper."
"But I'm -- "
" -- not necessary," Snape said suddenly, cutting him off. "Surely you see what an easy target he'd be, Headmaster. He hasn't an ounce of guile, and aside from sheer bloody-mindedness, very little grip."
Sirius was glaring daggers at Snape, but the dark-haired man moved forward, until he stood next to Remus. "You'll use me," he said. "My qualifications are far superior. This is not a point for debate either."
Everyone seemed to be holding their breath. Snape met the headmaster's eyes unflinchingly, though colour rose in his face and the mark on his cheek seemed to throb faintly. Finally, the silence broke.
"I'm hungry," Neville said petulantly.
Dumbledore turned away from Snape as if he'd just noticed the small boy in the hospital gown, and they heard a slight snort of triumph from the Potions Master.
"Sherbet?" Dumbledore offered.