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.)
"What about France? France has some lovely bits."
"Because it's France, Remus."
"Your Francophobia is appalling, Sirius. It borders on misfrancophy."
"That's not a real word."
"It could be. Fine, not France. Germany's nice. Good music, good beer."
"Nah. Can't speak German."
"Sirius, if we're confined to places that speak English, that's pretty much the States and Canada, Australia, bits of South Africa, and New Zealand. Not that New Zealand isn't lovely, but there are more sheep than people and I am not going to spend the next two, possibly nine, years where the livestock could outvote the residents."
"I wouldn't mind Canada. I've been there, I like Canada."
"One week every few years for a booksellers' convention doesn't count for much."
"Yeah, but it's big, Moony. Easy to get lost in."
"Yes. Easy to get lost in."
"Point taken. Fine. Australia. Anything wrong with Australia?"
"You mean, other than it not being England?"
"Nowhere's going to be England, though."
"He's all right."
"I'm all right. How're you?"
"Righteously pissed off, Sirius."
Sirius gave Remus a small smile, and went back to examining the extensive list of materials required for the Fidelius charm. It'd been eight years since they'd cast it last, and he hadn't been in on all of the work; Peter and Dumbledore had taken over from him in the last stages, so Sirius only knew theory a lot of the time anyway.
They weren't required to gather any of the items, at least; Snape was doing that, in bits and pieces, supplying most of them from his private brewing stash at Hogwarts.
"Me too," Sirius said, in answer to Remus' calm expression of rage. Remus glanced at where Harry was sitting at the boarded-over window, peering through cracks into the summer sunlight below. If they had gone to Sirius' hell when they went to Twelve Grimmauld Place, now they were in his own. He'd cleaned the dust and debris as best he could, when he started coming here again after they took Harry from the Dursleys, but there was no disguising the fact that it was a ripped-up, run-down empty building and no place at all for a child.
He smiled at his own judgementalism. It was the same thing his father had said on being shown the place where his son would spend his transformations. No place at all for a child. But it had heavy locking charms on the doors, and a place to keep food, and beds enough. The logic was sound; they would leave from the Shack for -- well, not-France-or-Germany-or-New-Zealand -- at the same time as decoys left from Hogwarts, and if they were being pursued, the decoys would be the ones followed.
Until then, however -- until Snape had the ingredients for the charm, and the pair of them picked a place to hide -- they spent their days and nights here, and Harry, as any nine-year-old would, was beginning to chafe.
He'd been quiet, at first, and withdrawn to a degree that worried Sirius. Not until Snape had arrived with their belongings from Grimmauld Place, including Frog, did Harry show any glimmer of interest in what was going on around him. He clung tightly to Remus or Sirius, often curling up next to one or the other of them with a book brought from the Hogwarts library by Snape. The rare volumes saved from Sandust by the eripio libris spell were being left in Madam Pince's excellent care, and putting her into fits of bibliophilic glee.
They, for their part, could do nothing but wait, and watch Harry, and try to induce him to go exploring in the old house with them. At night he slept in the largest of the beds, with Padfoot curled up on top of the blankets and Remus on a cot, reassuringly close. After three days, they no longer worried about Harry, except as parents of any child will do; he smiled and laughed more easily, and had stopped kicking Padfoot in his sleep over the nightmares he had.
Remus had nightmares too, but he hadn't anyone in the bed to be kicked, and besides, they weren't his usual sort. They were almost reassuring in their surreality, not at all the frighteningly-real dreams that showed him might-have-beens in other worlds, where Sirius was a convict and Harry perhaps dead, he could never tell.
If Severus Snape had nightmares about having lost Harry and being unable to find him, or about Harry wrapped in roots that grew and thickened until the child was part of a tree he could only pound on in a panic, he never said.
The touch of Sirius' fingers on his arm drew Remus back from his idle contemplation of Harry, and the worries circling in his head.
"We'll have to decide soon," Remus said, and Sirius nodded.
"My vote's for Australia," he replied, still touching Remus, hands moving gently over the lighter bandages Remus had been able to wear this morning; not the full-gauze wrap, just squares taped over the worst of the burns. Some of the lighter ones, more like bad sunburns than a reaction to silver, were visible, shaped like Peter's stubby-fingered hands. Remus hadn't let him see the worst ones, but assured him that in shape, if they did scar, they wouldn't look like handprints, for which Sirius was grateful. The idea of Peter's hands marking Remus for the rest of his life was something Sirius didn't want to think about.
"I don't want to leave Great Britain," Remus said quietly. "But...Sandust is gone, Grimmauld Place is Andromeda's, or soon will be, the lease on my flat was up in a month anyway...the bridges are burnt, Sirius."
"I should never have taken him away," Sirius murmured. "He's still locked up in a cupboard. Or might as well be, in this place."
Remus leaned back, staring at the ceiling. "If you hadn't, he'd be in that cupboard and still be stuck with the Dursleys, too. He wouldn't have people who love him. Even Snape." He swallowed. "And I wouldn't have you, would I?"
Sirius touched Remus' knuckles, scarred where he'd manage to crack Peter across the face.
"I don't know," he said. "We don't know what consequences our decisions have."
"We know some of them," Remus murmured.
"We can't help but wonder," Sirius continued, the tips of his fingers exploring every ridge and valley of Remus' left hand. "But we won't ever know, not really. In another lifetime, I guess I didn't take Harry."
Remus smiled mirthlessly at the cobwebbed rafters. "In another lifetime you couldn't."
"Do you think that's true?" Sirius asked. "Do you think there's a...a me, out there somewhere, who never bought Sandust, or moved to Privet Drive, or any of it?"
Remus didn't answer.
"I think you died," he said finally, in a voice so soft Sirius almost didn't catch it. "I haven't dreamed that. Yet. But I think one day I will. I have these half-memories...I think I lost you in far worse ways than I was afraid of losing you, here and now."
"But I'm not dead," Sirius said, voice deep, not questioning. Certain. His thumb brushed Remus' wrist before he withdrew his hand.
"You are not," Remus agreed, sitting up. "So there's no use dwelling on it, I suppose."
"No. No use dwelling." Sirius drew a breath. "What do you think Peter's likely to do, if he can't find us?"
"You remember Peter. He needs someone to tell him what to do. With Bellatrix dead...he'll pick up someone. Maybe even break someone else out of Azkaban. That's not our worry, Sirius."
"If it involves bloody Pettigrew -- "
"Our concern is keeping Harry safe. Let Dumbledore and Moody worry about Peter. It's what Moody's paid to do, you know," Remus said, drily.
Sirius' gaze drifted to Harry again, only to find Harry watching them talk. He spread his arms, and Harry jumped down from the windowseat, crossing the room to hug his godfather, hanging a bit on his neck. Sirius turned his head a little to kiss Harry's cheek, and Harry grinned and wiped it away.
"Tell us, Harry," Sirius said, turning to face him. "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?"
Harry considered it thoughtfully. "On a holiday?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Hogwarts," Harry said promptly. Both men smiled.
"That's my lad," Sirius said. Remus raised his head, holding up a hand. There was noise on the stairs, and he picked up his wand, crossing the room to open the door.
"It's Severus," he said, over his shoulder, as the other man rounded the end of the staircase. Harry ran to meet him, and Snape spared enough of his dignity to pat him on the head before walking into the room, nose wrinkled with disgust at its state.
"I've spoken to Dumbledore," he said, without preamble. "You're leaving tonight. Be packed and ready to leave by sundown."
Remus glanced at Sirius. "But we don't know -- "
"A place has been chosen. Aurors will escort you directly there. Your flat is being packed as we speak," he continued.
"My flat -- "
"Alastor Moody is there."
"Couldn't warn us in advance much, could you?" Sirius drawled. Snape barely spared him a look. "Where is it then?"
"I've not been told. Headmaster Dumbledore -- "
"I don't suppose we get any say in it," Remus asked, slightly bitter. Snape turned to him.
"If you hadn't taken the boy from his family -- " he began, but Harry took a sharp breath, and all three men turned to him. Snape hesitated. "Harry, I didn't mean..."
"It's not your fault," Sirius said swiftly, pulling Harry towards him. Harry went reluctantly, but eventually relaxed against Sirius' side, his godfather's arm slung around his shoulders.
"Well," Remus said, into the strained silence that followed, "Looks like it might be New Zealand after all. Best get on with it then. Thank you, Severus. I presume we'll be performing the Fidelius late tonight, after we've arrived?"
"Early tomorrow morning, by that time," Snape replied. "Everything's been prepared. I suggest you sleep this afternoon as well."
"We'll take that under advisement," Remus agreed, taking Snape's arm and guiding him towards the door. "Thank you for bringing that message. Is there anything else you require from us...?"
Sirius felt Harry relax a little further as Snape left the room. "He didn't mean it that way, lad," he said, more out of sympathy for Harry than any desire to defend Severus Snape.
"S'true, isn't it?" Harry asked. "If I wasn't here -- "
"Don't say that, Harry."
"But it is true," Harry insisted. Sirius cocked his head.
"Would you rather have stayed with the Dursleys?" he asked, heart in his throat. Harry shook his head without hesitation, and Sirius could breathe again.
"It's not fair," Harry said, rebelliously, as Remus returned. "I'm just me. I can't help it."
"Nobody blames you," Remus said reassuringly, as he sat at the table again, eyes sweeping the room. Sirius released Harry, gently, and began to pick up odds and ends that had acumulated over the days, piling them haphazardly near the door to be packed. Harry threw himself into Sirius' chair and watched, sulking.
"Don't see why I'm so special anyway," he said, into the back of the chair. "Don't see why stupid Peter Pettigrew cares."
"Harry -- " Remus began, then stopped. What should he say, after all?
"Don't see why I have to leave all my friends and Professor Snape and the bookshop," Harry continued. "He's not so great. I hit him with rocks," he added. It had been a familiar phrase, since the battle; Remus fretted about some sort of memory-impairing brain damage, but Sirius had realised it was simply Harry's way of remembering that he had some kind of power. Dwelling on the ways he'd hurt Peter rather than the ways Peter had hurt him.
"Stupid Peter Pettigrew," Harry finished sulkily, and kicked the table leg. Sirius straightened from where he was collecting a pile of parchment sheets covered in crayon drawings, and began to roll them into a tube.
"It's only two years," he said lamely. "And then you'll get to go to Hogwarts and see everyone again. And you'll make friends in the meantime, wherever we are."
They were silent for a while, the only noise the crinkling of the paper as Sirius rolled and unrolled it, anxiously. Eventually, Remus rose from the table and began to help pack, and Harry moved back to the window once more, contemplating the road leading out of Hogsmeade wistfully.
Shortly after sundown, Severus returned for them, carrying a bound bundle slung over one shoulder -- three broomsticks, plus a paper-wrapped packet of ingredients for the Fidelius, and a small packet of letters for Sirius. While Remus checked their bags and Harry pulled his cloak on, only slightly sullen with the Potions Master still, Sirius picked open the twine and flipped through them.
"Andromeda says goodbye," he said regretfully, reading one of the letters. "She has permission to take Longbottom in."
"Well, that's something," Remus said, taking one of the broomsticks Snape carried. Sirius made a small, surprised noise. "What?"
"You opened a bank account for me?" Sirius asked Snape.
"Moody," Snape said curtly.
"This is more than my Gringott's account had," Sirius said, holding up a formal-looking, cream-coloured letter. "Even accounting for the exchange rate."
"Yes, that was Andromeda Tonks and her annoyingly cheerful husband," Snape replied. "Down payment for the health-hazard you call an ancestral home."
"Samuel Brackenridge?" Sirius asked, reading the name on the bank-statement. "Remus, there's one for you too. John Langley."
"A small precaution, for banking purposes only," Snape said, as Remus made a face at his new alias. "Identification is included. Moody is very thorough."
Sirius scowled at the address of the bank. "Where the hell is Llangynog?"
Snape smiled mirthlessly. "Your new home."
Harry flew with Sirius, flanked by two Aurors, with Snape as point and Remus following below and behind, eyes scanning the empty night sky keenly. It was a long journey south from Hogsmeade, and Sirius kept one arm firmly wrapped around Harry's waist, for fear the boy would fall asleep and lose his balance. He grumbled continually about the idiocy of not simply using a portkey, but portkey travel was more easily detectable than broomstick flight, and clearly Dumbledore was taking no chances. They'd seen two separate teams of Aurors leave Hogwarts as they'd walked through the foothills outside of town, dark shapes against moonlit clouds; Sirius wondered if any of them had encountered trouble.
Harry had drawn an excited breath when they kicked off, and he sat a broomstick like a natural -- like his father had, Sirius thought, and he felt the familiar twinge in his chest for James, dead nearly eight years now. Harry didn't notice the slight tightening of Sirius' arm around his waist, too enthralled by the sight of the ground dropping away, the glow of Hogsmeade in the distance back-lighting the view. Sirius had made sure Harry was well-wrapped in a thick cloak and a woolen hat Snape had brought; he and Remus both had gloves and cloaks, but he still felt chilled to his fingertips.
They were leaving his home behind. Not the house on the corner of Privet Drive where for years on end he'd lived each day in the hope of seeing even a glimpse of his godson, or the tiny flat where he'd shared rooms with Remus and learned new ways to love, or even Grimmauld Place, where he'd tried to lay old memories to rest. He was leaving Sandust, the place he'd built as his life, and that hurt most of all, because there wasn't even a Sandust to leave. It frightened him, made him cold from the inside out.
Snape's words from that afternoon rang in his ears. If you hadn't taken the boy from his family --
Harry would still be in his cupboard under the stairs, ignorant of who his father and mother were, of the world he came from. But he wouldn't have the shallow, pink scar on his collarbone; Remus wouldn't be bandaged shoulder to wrist, and Snape wouldn't have three jagged clawmarks across his face. Sandust would still be standing.
Decisions done and sealed. A misstep eight years ago had meant the difference between Sandust and Azkaban prison for Sirius Black, if he believed Remus; who was to say this misstep was anything other than a miracle.
After all, he thought, as Harry turned to ask him, voice nearly snatched by the wind, how much longer it would be -- after all, he had Harry. And Remus. That was what mattered. Their new home would probably be all right. Maybe the High Street would be in need of a bookshop...
They touched down a little later, Sirius following Snape's lead, the Aurors dropping more slowly, scanning the darkened field for any sign of danger. There were two figures awaiting them; Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall, the latter carrying a small black case and a plaid Muggle thermos.
"Welcome," Dumbledore said, as Sirius helped Harry to the ground before dismounting the broom himself, and allowing one of the Aurors to take it from him. "I hope your flight was not entirely unpleasant."
"Where are we?" Remus asked, and Sirius noticed he was rubbing his throat, fingers scratching irritably over his skin -- he looked uncomfortable, downright twitchy.
"The feeling will pass," Dumbledore said calmly. "This is Rhos Y Beddau, near the town of Llangynog, county Powys. Housing has been arranged for you nearby, but you must understand something first, and this is the simplest way to show you. Are you cold? Harry, are you well?"
Harry, standing next to Sirius, shifted uncomfortably. "Yessir," he mumbled.
Remus was still fidgeting. McGonagall offered him the thermos, and he sipped judiciously before passing it to Sirius, over Harry's head. Sirius tasted firewhiskey in the hot mulled drink; it didn't seem to do much for the werewolf, but a slight tension in Sirius' chest faded. The Aurors waved it away, and Sirius set the thermos on the ground near his feet. Dumbledore held out his hand, and McGonagall put the black case in it, carefully.
"Rhos Y Beddau was once a stone circle, of fair size and some import," Dumbledore continued, opening the case to reveal several pairs of glasses, neatly folded in velvet pockets. "It has since, however, sunk into the bogs on which it was built. We are standing in what would have been its centre, once."
Sirius didn't bother to ask Dumbledore what his point was, yet; he had learned Dumbledore would get there in his own time, though he was impatient to be out of this windswept bog, with Harry tucked up in a proper warm bed, and if Remus didn't stop fidgeting soon --
Dumbledore was offering him one of the pairs of glasses, delicate wired contraptions with thin, tinted lenses. Sirius held them up to the light of the moon, and scowled.
"Rose-tinted glasses, Headmaster?" Remus asked, a tinge of amusement in his voice as he accepted one also. The Aurors looked on disinterestedly, and Harry flopped to the ground to sit in the grass until the grownups decided to come to their senses.
Sirius raised the glasses to his face and hooked the earpieces over his ears. Dumbledore touched the bridge between lenses, gently, and suddenly the world filled with white. He could tell by the surprised gasps nearby that Remus and Snape had done likewise.
Looking through the glasses, their surroundings glowed bright; no longer a small darkened valley in the middle of the Welsh countryside, the small bowl of land they stood in was ringed with columns of white, as though Muggle spotlights had been planted in the ground. The ground itself glowed dimly as well; Remus was outlined in a vibrant amber halo, and a point of green light on Harry's forehead all but obliterated his scar. Dumbledore seemed backlit by a faint blue glow, a little stronger than McGonagall's and Snape's; Sirius looked down at his own hands to find them surrounded by the same nearly-invisible blue light.
"You are seeing the world," Dumbledore said, as Remus raised on hand and turned it, examining the amber glow curiously, "as Peter Pettigrew now sees it."
"We're seeing magic," Sirius deduced, gazing again at the white lights encircling them. Off to his right, an avenue of light led away from the circle, off into the distance. Dumbledore gave him a faint smile.
"Peter will, of course, be able to manipulate it as if it were solid; he cannot avoid seeing it. Likewise, however," he added, "there are some magics which will indeed be solid against him."
Remus pointed to a halo of white light in the distance. "What's that?"
Dumbledore turned to regard it, beyond the avenue leading out of the circle. "Walk with me," he said, and turned towards the avenue. Snape fell into step behind him with McGonagall -- teacher's habit, Sirius guessed.
"Up, lad," Sirius said gently, and Harry stood, moving instinctively to walk between him and Remus, the Aurors following.
"Beyond the avenue is the village of Betwys Beddau," Dumbledore said, loud enough for them to hear, as though he were leading some sort of peculiar field-trip. "You're to live on the outskirts. It's a very pleasant little house, comfortable, with a river running past the back garden. Your belongings have been placed in the garden shed for safekeeping; you may unpack at your leisure."
"Why here?" Remus asked, and Sirius watched in fascination as his halo rippled slightly. Werewolf, he thought. His magic's different from ours.
"Betwys Beddau is smaller than Llangynog, and has...other advantages," Dumbledore replied. "As with Rhos Y Beddau, it is surrounded by bog-land, though we've determined the foundations of your house are sound."
Sirius, annoyed with Dumbledore's whimsey, crossed his arms over his chest as they entered the avenue, and the white of the stones -- stones swallowed centuries since by bogland -- rose like columns all around them.
"What does it mean?" Remus asked, reaching out to trail his fingers through the white light, curiously. His amber light spread through the white for a second before fading. "Rhos Y Beddau..."
"Moor," Dumbledore translated calmly. "Moor of the Graves."
"Ill-omened," Sirius muttered. He opened his mouth to ask what Betwys Beddau meant, since it wasn't likely to be much better, when they crested a low rise at the end of the avenue, and the distant white glow was suddnely visible -- and spectacular.
It looked like a night sky, Sirius decided; spread below them was another hill-ringed valley, larger than Rhos Y Beddau, containing a small village laid out in the old medieval plan, with a spired church at its centre, shadowy against the sky. White columns ringed the village in a perfect circle that must be miles across, and within the circle, among the houses and shops, the streets and gardens, rose strange, intangible constellations of light.
"This is Betwys Beddau," Dumbledore said softly. "Known to its founders as the Temple of the Graves."
Sirius felt Harry grope for his hand, and took it, holding tightly.
"The earth has swallowed the stones, but they remember," Dumbledore murmured. "Men defiled by blood sacrifice cannot cross here. Here you will be safe."
"But then -- the Fidelius -- " Remus began.
"Merely a precaution," Dumbledore said briskly, all business again. "You'll be able to come and go as you please; I leave it to you whether to enroll Harry in the village school. Your wands will be charmed with restrictions to the most necessary magic only; they'll be attuned to Harry, and available only when he is in mortal danger. You will not be connected to the floo network, or allowed Owls except in an emergency. Severus, once the charm is completed, will not return."
"And that's our new home, is it?" Sirius asked. "Living like Muggles, in fear for our lives?"
"It was your decision, Sirius, to take the boy into your care. If you were not willing to sacrifice for him, you would better have left him be."
"So I'm continually told," Sirius muttered, gazing down at the village of Betwys Beddau. Remus put a hand on his back, just below and between his shoulderblades, as he removed his glasses. It was a comforting reminder of one more thing they'd gained from all this, but after the first pleased rush, Sirius felt himself flush at the casual intimacy of it. He glanced at the others, who were removing their glasses as well.
"Come," Dumbledore said. "It's a short flight to the village."
As they settled on the broomstick again, Harry twisted around, and craned his head upwards so that he faced his godfather, questioningly.
"Do you wish you hadn't taken me away?" he asked, and Sirius tried, for the thousandth time, to smooth the hair off his forehead.
"Never," he said, gently pushing Harry's shoulder so that he faced forward, as the others kicked off from the ground. He leaned over Harry's shoulder, and whispered in his ear.
"Stealing you was the best idea I ever had."