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.)
They reached the small house on the outskirts of town a few hours before sunrise, and they were busy hours; Harry, who had moved past childish fatigue into childish hyperactivity, explored the little home from cellar to ceilings, laying claim to the rear room that overlooked the back garden, and opening and shutting all the doors as he passed them. Severus, McGonagall, and Dumbledore went about preparing the Fidelius charm, while Sirius chased after Harry.
Remus, because it was what he defaulted to whenever he was upset or frightened or bored, made tea.
Sat and drank tea.
Watched Severus through a window as he spread strange oils on the corners of the house.
Watched the Aurors charm their wands not to respond to any but the most dire of emergencies.
Drank more tea.
Fixed tea for Sirius, who had finally managed to corner Harry and wrestle him into a chair in the kitchen. Found crackers for Harry to eat, in the well-stocked pantry.
"You're twitchy," Sirius observed, as Remus sliced open a lemon for his third cup of tea in two hours.
"I can't think why," Remus answered. "My flat is gone, your bookshop is gone, we've vanished with not a word to anyone, we're hiding from a psychopath who used to be our best friend, and we're living in a place named the Temple of the Graves."
Sirius couldn't argue. Remus flexed his fingers around the cup, and sighed.
"I feel like my skin doesn't fit right," he admitted. "I have since a little before we landed."
Sirius nodded. "Perhaps it's the circles. Didn't you say you...pick up on things like that?"
"It could be."
"Dumbledore said it would fade."
"I hope so," Remus answered. "If I have to spend the next two years like this I'm going to be a wreck inside of six months."
Sirius glanced at Harry, who -- once stationary -- had begun to gnaw on a cracker and was nodding off slowly. If Dumbledore was to be believed, their beds were with the rest of Remus' flat, out in the garden shed, but he hadn't the energy to consider fetching them. At the moment there was a table in the kitchen, a rather battered sofa in the living room, and one large bed, in the room that Harry had decreed would be Sirius'.
The door opened, and murky grey predawn light filtered in from outside. Severus, looking exhausted, stepped inside.
"It's nearly complete," he said tiredly. Remus offered him tea, but he waved his hand away, placing a cauldron full of shredded herbs and various objects on the table. "You'll need to dispose of these," he added. "Burn them in the cauldron."
Remus nodded, and Snape began to turn, when Remus put out a hand, not-quite-touching him.
"Severus -- " he said stumblingly. Snape stared at him. "Er...thank you. For this. Doing it instead of me, I mean."
"I'm the better candidate," Snape said stiffly, dismissively, and beckoned to Sirius, who stood and walked around the table to face him, slightly defiantly.
"As householder, this involves you," Snape said. "Hold out your hand."
Remus watched as Snape placed the key to the front door in it.
"Do you trust me?" he asked ceremonially.
"Yes," Sirius replied.
"Do you entrust your lives to my discretion?"
"Come outside. All of you."
Harry hopped off the chair and stumbled sleepily through the kitchen door, out into the dew-damp grass after Sirius and Snape. Remus followed, and heard a soft exhalation behind him; when he turned, the house was invisible, seemingly hidden by the grove that was actually on the other side of their new home. Sirius covered his face with one hand.
"It is done," Dumbledore said softly. "Tell them, Severus."
Snape turned to the three of them. "Listen closely," he said, crouching to speak to Harry with their faces on a level, "because I won't be returning to see you before your Hogwarts letter arrives. Your home is The River House, Nineteen Cwndu Road, Betwys Beddau, Powys, Wales. Say it after me, Harry."
"The River House, Nineteen Cwndu Road, Betwys Beddau, Powys, Wales," Harry repeated obediently. Remus closed his eyes and memorised the names, unfamiliar syllables strung together with familiar -- Cwndu Road; Powys, Wales....
When he opened them, their house stood before him again. Small, gabled, with large windows and slightly shabby paint, with a garden that was more "fertile" than "pretty".
Home. For now.
"There are other duties to attend to," Dumbledore reminded them gently, and Severus stood abruptly, turning away from the house. Remus watched his shoulders pull in, his fingers flex -- he remembered that posture from years ago.
The Aurors were already preparing to fly. Harry touched the Potion Master's arm, and Dumbledore -- who could see his face, though Remus and Sirius couldn't -- gave them a sage look. Slowly, Severus crouched again, turning his head slightly so that Harry could speak into his ear. Harry said a few quiet words, and Snape replied with a nod, and a hand on Harry's shoulder, briefly, before he stood and dropped his hand, moving away.
Harry ran to Sirius, burying his face in Sirius' shirt as the others mounted their broomsticks, rising and vanishing quickly in the sudden yellow light of the sunrise. Remus shaded his eyes to follow them as long as he could, then turned to the River House once more.
Back inside, Sirius lit a match from the box near the stove, and tossed it into the cauldron on the table, which flared up and burned quickly, settling to ash within seconds. Remus cleared away the tea things, already missing the charmed scrubbing brush. Harry sat, chin on hands, at the table, swiping at his eyes once in a while in embarrassment.
"We should sleep," Sirius observed, while Remus rinsed out the mugs. "When we wake up we can walk into town, it'll be good to stretch our legs. We can buy bicycles -- Harry should learn to ride one. We'll start unpacking the garden shed, too. Harry's new bedroom is bigger than his old one, we could put up some more shelves..."
"Please don't," Remus said softly. Sirius bowed his head. "Let him grieve for a bit."
"There's something in the cauldron," Harry said suddenly. Both men looked over, worried.
"Harry, don't -- " Sirius warned, but Harry was already reaching into the cauldron, making ash fly up.
"The flowers turned into something," Harry announced, lifting out a square, twine-tied packet. The two men watched as he picked the knot and brushed the last of the burnt "flowers" off the cover of a book -- two books.
"What are they?" Sirius asked, with unusual gentleness.
"Books," Harry answered, distracted by the slick card cover of one of them. He set it aside and opened the larger one, in hard black binding, with some kind of fantastical illustration on its cover. Sirius, as if shaking off a freezing charm, came forward to pick up the smaller book.
"The Dark is Rising," he read aloud. "Apt," he muttered.
"And the other one?" Remus inquired, crossing to the table as well.
"The My...big...onion...." Harry tried.
"Mabinogion," Remus corrected.
"Snape must have left these for him," Sirius said.
"Figures he'd leave that one."
"For Harry Potter," Harry read aloud. Remus and Sirius leaned over his shoulder to read the inscription on the inside cover of the Mabinogion.
For Harry Potter,
To keep you from making mischief, as you will no doubt be encouraged by your godfather to do.
Please make study of this volume in particular, as its educational value is of great import in the absence of
PS: You will be tested for content.
Sirius scowled; Remus smiled slightly.
"This is quite enough excitement for one day," Sirius said, closing the book and lifting it out of Harry's hands. "Run on to bed now."
Harry slipped off the chair and made for Sirius' bedroom, and the only bed in the place. Sirius glanced up at Remus, whose fingers were, of their own accord, flipping from front to back in the paperback novel, and then back to front again. He put a hand on Remus' to stop them.
"Still twitchy?" he asked. Remus nodded. "Going to be able to sleep?"
"I don't know," he replied truthfully. Sirius took the book from his hands and put it on the table. "You sleep with Harry," Remus continued. "I'll take the sofa. I don't want to kick," he added.
Sirius wrapped his arm around Remus' waist for a brief moment, and kissed him, their foreheads touching.
"When Harry has his own room, we'll turn yours into a library," he whispered against his temple, "And my room into ours. How does that sound?"
Remus gave him a reassuring smile, one he didn't quite feel. "Of course. It'll wear off soon, Dumbledore said."
Sirius had shut the heavy curtains in his room, and curled up on the bed as Padfoot -- at least this magic was still allowed to him -- with Harry's head pillowed on his ribcage, Harry's fingers twined in the wooly fur of his forelegs. Remus had made sure they were warm, and then walked back into the sparsely-furnished living room, sitting on the sofa. He didn't expect he'd be able to sleep; it was daytime, for starters, and however tired he was, the strange itch just under his skin persisted. Deep magic in this place; sacred stones swallowed by the earth itself, leaving their protection behind. Rubin was right -- werewolves were sensitive to background magic, but he'd always found the magics at Hogwarts and Diagon Alley comforting, welcoming, whereas this place seemed designed to thrust him away.
He sighed and stared at the ceiling, arms pillowed behind his head. If he had to leave, he could at least come back to visit; he wouldn't think that far ahead right now. After all, thinking ahead had nearly lost him Sirius once.
It wasn't any use.
He stood and wandered down the hallway, lingering in the door of Sirius' new bedroom. Harry's chest rose and fell, and he scratched his cheek in his sleep; Padfoot's legs twitched a little, and his breaths were deeper than Harry's, slower. They were barely more than two shadows in the dim room anyway, but they were his shadows.
Yes. It had been right to take Harry. Surely it had. He had no idea how they'd lived their lives without him. He had no idea how he'd lived his life without the promise of Sirius every morning, every evening.
He crossed to the bed, and Padfoot woke. In a heartbeat he was Sirius again, curled protectively around his godson, who slept on, exhausted and oblivious. They regarded each other across Harry for a moment, and then Remus circled, easing himself onto the bed and wrapping his arms around Sirius' waist from behind, burying his face in the back of Sirius' neck.
"All ri', Moony?" Sirius inquired sleepily. When Sirius spoke, something inside him -- something physical, he felt it -- cracked and snapped, like a twig under pressure, and warmth filled his body. His muscles relaxed, one by one, and the itch faded.
"Oh," Remus said softly. "That's better."
"Got Harry," Sirius mumbled. "All ours now."
"Ours," Remus echoed. There was time enough later, after all, to be afraid or worried, and time to worry over the proper things; packing boxes and bicycles, school lessons and bookshelves -- time enough to turn a house into a home, to raise Harry to be a man.
Soon the house was silent, as they slept, and the golden sunlight filled the garden and the river and the grove.