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.)
Remus had seen the outside of the Dursley house many times; in the days just after Voldemort's fall, most of the Order had, at some point or another, covertly come to gawp at it. When it became evident that Harry would have to stay there, and Sirius bought the house nearby to be close to the boy, Remus had spent hours standing at the window of Sirius' house, looking up the street. He imagined Sirius did the same, when he wasn't about.
He'd never seen inside the place, though. He wondered if, today, he might actually get to.
Sirius stood behind him, arms crossed. Remus had to admit that if you didn't know how idiotic Sirius could be, you'd probably be afraid of him.
Well. Up to Remus Lupin to be the voice of reason, as usual.
He knocked on the door. There was a pounding of feet, and Harry opened it, breathlessly. His eyes widened.
"WELL, WHO IS IT THEN?" drifted a voice from inside.
"We'd like to speak to your uncle, Harry," Remus said. Harry nodded, and turned.
"UNCLE VERNON!" he called. There was the sound of someone getting to their feet, and Vernon Dursley's heavy footfalls. Harry scurried away, fearfully, as the thick-necked, red-faced man reached the doorway.
"You," he said, eyes narrowing. "Black," he added, speaking over Remus' shoulder, to Sirius, who -- true to a promise coerced out of him earlier that day -- didn't say anything.
"Mr. Dursley, My name is Remus Lupin," Remus said smoothly. "I see you've met Sirius. May we come in?"
Dursley stood aside, and they stepped into the dim house. It was obsessively clean, but it smelled...well, wrong. Remus could hear Sirius sniff, behind him, and knew the other man was thinking the same thing.
"We'd like to have a word with you about Harry," Remus continued. "As I'm sure you're aware, Sirius is Harry's godfather, and while we understand -- "
"You? The freak with the motorbike?" Vernon said. Sirius let out a quiet growl. Remus, dumbfounded by the man's sheer audacity, gathered his wits.
"Surely you knew James and Lily had named Sirius in their will," he said, hurriedly. "We know that Harry needs protection and that's why he's been placed with blood family -- "
"HA! Protection from the likes of Black! And the rest of the -- the freak world his parents came from!"
"Mr. Dursley, please stop using that word," Remus said, trying to be patient.
"And you! I suppose you're one too," Vernon said, turning on Remus. "A wastrel like my wife's sister and her good for nothing -- "
"If you say that about James again, I will personally put your nose through the back of your head," Remus growled.
"I'd like to see you try it!" Vernon blustered. Remus gritted his teeth.
"Your son's bullying Harry. We want it stopped."
"Dudley's doing nothing of the kind."
"We saw it happen, Dursley."
"He's fed and clothed and has a roof over his head, which is more than you or that godfather of his ever did for him," Vernon said, face turning beet red. "Never saw a penny to help out with our expenses, either. The boy goes about breaking things, making the place untidy -- "
"He's eight years old!" Remus waited for Sirius to break in, but apparently he was exercising some modicum of self control. "Your son throws rocks at old women!"
"Lies and slander!" Vernon roared.
"Sirius, I think you can menace now," Remus said. There was no reply, and he glanced behind him.
Sirius stood in the doorway, one hand in Harry's, the other carrying a disturbingly cheery backpack. Harry's backpack. Harry was clutching a small plush frog in one hand.
"You keep him in a cupboard," Sirius said quietly. "With no lights except a torch he had to steal. You lock him in when you're tired of dealing with him. Your son has broken every toy the boy has ever managed to scrounge up. He torments him mercilessly. So, I suspect, do you."
Sirius picked up Harry, and handed his bag to Remus.
"You're lucky I don't kill you," he said fiercely. Vernon Dursley was too stunned to do more than gape. "You're lucky I don't call the Aurors -- "
" -- police -- " Remus coughed.
"And have you arrested and sent up for being an absolute -- "
"Sirius," Remus said sharply. "Let's go. Now."
Sirius growled at Petunia, who had entered when Vernon started shouting, and was standing between him and the door. She scuttled aside. Harry, arms wrapped tightly around his neck, shivered.
And then they were outside in the sunshine, moving quickly down the street, Sirius grave and furious, Remus silent, inscrutable, Harry still clutching Sirius' neck, and the frog squashed between his hand and Sirius' collarbone.
The door of Sirius' small house slammed open, and he stormed inside, setting Harry down on the counter in the kitchen, so that the boy's legs hung over the edge. Remus laid the backpack carefully on the table.
"Everything the boy owns fits in a backpack," Sirius muttered.
"His clothes, too?"
"I wouldn't touch those clothes," Sirius said sharply. "he won't need them. We'll buy him his own clothes."
"Dumbledore's going to kill us," Remus said slowly.
"I don't care."
Remus looked at Harry. "Really, they locked you in a cupboard?"
Harry, terrified, nodded slowly. He had both arms around the soft toy, now, and was shaking.
"Nothing else to be done, then," Remus mused.
"You're damned right!" Sirius shouted. Remus saw Harry wince. "Did you see? You talked to that monstrous Muggle!"
"Sirius, you're scaring him."
"Well, I'm angry!"
"And he's eight! Shut it, or I'll shut it for you!" Remus snapped. Sirius, stunned by his words, stopped mid-diatribe. He glanced at Harry, who was staring at them.
"I...I'm eight and a half," Harry said quietly. There was a moment of absolute silence.
Sirius threw back his head and roared with sudden laughter. He moved to the counter, wiping tears from his eyes, and hugged Harry tightly. Remus sank into a chair, resting his head on his hands, exhausted.
"Well, what do you think of that, Harry?" Sirius said, when he finally got himself under control. "How'd you like to come live with your godfather Sirius?"
"Can I have books now?" Harry asked timidly. There was a distinctly amused noise from Remus' general direction.
"Absolutely," Sirius promised. "We could go to the bookshop right now -- "
Remus lifted his head. "I think we ought to," he agreed. "I don't think Harry ought to stay here. It's too close to the Dursleys. It's dangerous," he added, significantly, to Sirius, who nodded.
"It's a bit small," Remus sighed. "But I think it'll be safer."
Harry wouldn't let go of the frog, and wouldn't stop shaking, until he was installed in one of the enormous wing-chairs in Sandust Books.
"I think I'll put off that trip to India," Remus said thoughtfully, as Sirius located Diggers, his own personal copy, and gave it to Harry. The boy solemnly tucked his frog between his hip and the arm of the chair, drew his knees up to prop the book on, and began to read. "If we're going to get in hot water over it, both of us ought to be here."
"You'd think you were his godfather."
"James was my friend too," Remus said reproachfully.
Sirius crossed his arms, also watching Harry. "If you want to go, you should go, but I'd rather you stayed."
"Then I'll stay. Besides, you don't know where anything in my flat is," Remus said, lips quirking up slightly. "There's only the bed and the couch, I'm afraid."
"We'll put Harry on the couch, and he can share it with Padfoot," Sirius said.
"I'm getting my summer coat."
"You've been continually getting your summer coat for twelve years, then," Remus answered, aware that he was talking around the problem at hand. "So."
"Do you want to send the owl to Dumbledore, or should I?"
Sirius sighed. "I'll do it. Watch the lad."
"Doubt I'll be doing much else, for the next few years," Remus murmured, when Sirius was gone. He saw Harry's eyes dart up from the book, then back down. After a moment, he did it again.
"Harry," Remus said, slowly, "Are you scared still?"
"No," Harry said, clutching his frog. Remus crouched next to the chair.
"You did want to come with Sirius, didn't you?" he asked quietly. Harry nodded. "Can I see your frog?"
Harry offered it to him, and Remus turned the battered plush toy over in his hands. It was the cheap sort you got from carnival fairway games; Remus reckoned he'd found it somewhere, and turned it into a sort of teddy bear. It was threadbare, leaking stuffing from one of its webbed feet, and unwashed; he considered it for a minute before saying his next words.
"Sirius tells me you think I'm a magician," he said.
"Aren't you?" Harry asked. "Your dog is magic."
"Harry, what sort of magic do you suppose I do?"
"Making dogs smart and making things disappear and turning things into other things and all," Harry said promptly. "And knowing things about people."
"Harry...there are two different worlds, you know. There's the world your uncle and cousin and aunt live in. And we call them Muggles," Remus said carefully. "And then there's another world that you and Sirius and I are a part of. And that's called the Wizarding World."
"Me too?" Harry asked.
"Yes, I should say so, Harry," Remus said. "You're magic. Like us." He took his wand out of his back pocket, and pointed it at the frog. "Want to see some magic, Harry?"
Harry nodded eagerly.
"Scourgify," Remus said, and the dull green shade brightened as a brief cascade of soap bubbles passed over the frog. "Reparo," he continued, and Harry's eyes grew wide as the rip in the webbed foot healed, the stuffing snaking back inside it. The threadbare patches seemed to grow new plush. Remus shook it, making sure there was nothing else to fix, and handed it back to Harry.
"Are you from Narnia?" Harry asked, awed.
"No, Harry. I'm from Yorkshire," Remus grinned. "Listen, you understand you can't tell anyone about this magic, all right? About any magic."
"I won't tell!" Harry squeaked.
"Cross your heart?"
"Cross my heart!"
"There's a lad," he said, as the door to the back office swung open and Sirius walked back in.
"I've sent it off," he said. "Hallo there, Harry, I see Moony fixed your frog."
Harry stroked the frog's head. "Are you magic too?"
"Yup," Sirius said, as Remus straightened. "Like you and your...your dad and mum," he finished, after only a slight hesitation.
"And Padfoot," Harry said. The two men exchanged a quick look.
"Harry..." Sirius said.
"Not right now, Sirius," Remus murmured. Sirius gave him a rebellious look, but subsided. "I think we ought to get Harry something to eat, and show him my flat. I want him fed and rested by the time Dumbledore hears."
"Got to get him some clothes, too," Sirius rumbled.
"Let's take care of that once he's settled. Come on, Harry, you can take the book..." Remus picked up his backpack for a second time, and stared as one of the shoulder straps snapped.
"I tell you what," he said quietly, to Sirius, "We'll get the boy settled, then we'll go back and massacre the Dursleys. Agreed?"
"I wanted to do it the first time round," Sirius said, with a grin.
It wasn't a long walk to Remus' flat, from the bookstore; they arrived about the same time a tall, red-headed man did, from the opposite direction.
"I floo'ed Arthur, too," Sirius said sheepishly, when Remus glared. "I thought he'd know what to do."
"Hallo lads!" Arthur Weasley called, hurrying up while Remus unlocked the door. "Oh, blimey, are you in trouble!" he said cheerfully. "Kidnapping and spellbreaking -- "
"We were hoping you'd come down on our side," Sirius interrupted.
"And is this Harry? Tiny bit of a lad, aren't you?" Arthur said, crouching and clapping Harry on the shoulder. Harry, behind his frog, grinned. "Just about the age my Ron is, I'd wager. Eight, eight and a half?"
"And a half," Harry said shyly.
"Harry, this is Mr. Weasley, he's a friend of ours," Remus said, as they trooped inside. Three grown men and an eight-and-a-half-year-old filled the small living room entirely, and Remus ducked into the kitchen. "Just be a mo, get us some tea -- do you like scones, Harry?"
"Yes, thank you," Harry said, as Sirius helped him up onto the battered, much-gnawed couch. Arthur dropped into a creaking chair, and Sirius leaned against the mantel.
"Now, I want the whole story, before the Aurors and the Ministry get hold of it," Arthur said, leaning forward. "You said something about abusing the lad, Sirius?"
"His cousin bullied him, continually," Sirius replied. "You should see the size of him."
"He eats all the breakfast I make," Harry scowled.
"You make breakfast?" Arthur asked.
"Aunt Petunia makes me."
"And he sleeps," Sirius said, slowly, "In a cupboard. That they lock him up in when they think he needs to be punished."
Arthur raised his eyebrows.
"Dudley has two bedrooms," Harry whispered.
"What sorts of things do they lock you up for, Harry?"
"My hair," Harry said, ruffling it. "It sticks up too much. And once I...." he glanced at Sirius, who gave him an encouraging look. "Once I said I was talking to an animal. Only really it was talking to me," he said mournfully.
Arthur rested a chin in one hand.
"I think I could make a case for child endangerment if I worked with the Muggles on it, but I'd rather we not bring them into this. Will the Dursleys complain?"
"I'll kill them," Sirius said calmly, "If they do."
"Now, now," Arthur remonstrated. Remus entered, carrying a kettle and three cups, against the laws of physics, in one hand, and a plate of scones on the other.
"They're not terribly fresh -- I was leaving, I hadn't done shopping..." he said apologetically. Harry eyed the scones covetously, looking surprised when Remus gave an entire one of them to him. He ate neatly, spilling no crumbs, and sipping his tea as silently as possible, while the other men held a conference of looks and significant throat-clearings. Finally, Remus gathered the remains of the tea things, and asked if Harry wouldn't like to help him wash up. Harry obediently hopped off of the couch, and followed him into the kitchen, leaving his frog behind.
"Boy are you bollocksed," Arthur said frankly, when Harry had gone. "You do know the reason he was with the Dursleys was a protection spell?"
Sirius stared at him. "Of course I did. I didn't think you knew too."
"Which means now he's no longer protected."
"He's got me. He's got Remus. Aren't two better wizards in the world. We'll figure something out."
"There are a lot of old Death Eaters who'd like nothing better than to get their hands on him, you know that," Arthur said soberly.
"Nobody knows he's here. I'll sell my house and get a place somewhere -- maybe in Hogsmeade -- "
"You know you won't be allowed to have the boy around other wizards."
"I don't see why not."
"He's famous, Sirius. He'll never have a moment of peace."
Sirius rubbed a hand across his face. "Well, I've lived around Muggles this long, a couple more years won't matter. Then he'll be at Hogwarts. He'll be safe there."
"If he's shown magical ability," Arthur replied.
"He's James' son! How could he not?"
There was a crash from the other room.
"All right, Remus?" Sirius asked.
"All right," Remus called in reply. "Just a broken cup."
"Well, you know poor Neville Longbottom still hasn't shown any magical ability at all," Arthur said. "There's rumours going about that he might be a squib."
"Sirius! Arthur! Come and see this!" Remus' voice drifted up from the kitchen. The other two crowded into the doorway.
Harry was sitting on the counter, absorbed in a pile of white stoneware chips. Carefully, he plucked one out of the dustpan, and stuck it to the jagged remains of what appeared to be a recently-dropped mug. The crack sealed itself over, and Harry grinned proudly.
"I think that answers your question," Sirius said quietly.