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, declaring that Harry had been through more than any child ought to in one day, made Sirius talk him into taking a nap; the tall, dark-haired man left the boy curled in a nest of sheets and blankets in Remus' bed, and came back out to the kitchen, where Arthur and Remus were in solemn conversation.
"So now we wait for Dumbledore's wrath?" he asked lightly. Remus swallowed compulsively, a sure sign that his nerves were on edge.
"Dumbledore's reply, at any rate," Arthur answered. "How are the wards on this place, Lupin?"
Remus shrugged. "Pretty good. I'll be putting some more on, before nightfall. The ones on now are rather...specialised."
"Brilliant at Dark Arts, Remus is," Sirius put in. "Defence, I mean," he added hastily.
"Got to be," Remus muttered. "You spend half your time in zombie villages in Africa and the like..."
Arthur's brow furrowed. "Are you still running about?"
"Peter's still loose."
The red-headed man scowled. "You're the only one who thinks so."
"Listen, all I know is they didn't find a body -- "
" -- fingers! -- "
"And if there's no body I'm not satisfied," Remus continued. "Fingers aren't a body."
Arthur shook his head. "I never could fathom how Malfoy got there before you did."
"I have my theories," Sirius said darkly.
"I for one am glad he did," Remus continued. "Otherwise it'd've been Sirius."
"I could have handled him!"
"Well, that's a moot point."
"What on earth happened that day?" Arthur asked. "I've been meaning to ask you. Dumbledore never gives a straight answer, and you know what the Prophet reporting is like..."
Remus crossed the kitchen, opening one of the cupboards deliberately, and withdrew a bottle of firewhiskey. He uncapped it, and poured a decent amount into Sirius' cup, and then, after a nod, into Arthur's.
"Sirius was going to be their Secret-Keeper," he said. "But he knew the Dark Lord would look for him first. He thought it ought to be someone that wouldn't be suspected. At the time they thought I was a spy," he drawled, with the amused perspective of one who has had seven years in which to consider matters. "Peter went to the Dark Lord that night, and told him where to find them."
"I can tell it," Sirius said, sipping his tea. "By the time I got there it was over. Hagrid was there, with...with Harry," he said, clenching the mug. "I was going to go find Peter and rip his bloody arms off -- "
"I wasn't even supposed to be in the country, I had a job I was supposed to be taking in Rome," Remus put in. "They were sending me money for travel, but the owl got lost...when I heard, I left for Godric's Hollow."
"Made me send Hagrid off on the bike with Harry," Sirius grumbled. "We started looking, but we took a wrong turning -- "
" -- my fault -- " Remus muttered.
"And Lucius Malfoy got there first," Sirius finished. "They say there was a struggle, a duel. Twenty Muggles dead."
"The papers said eight," Arthur said, astonished.
"The papers lied," Sirius answered. "They got Lucius, and they found a couple of Peter's fingers."
"Which is not proof he died," Remus interjected.
"And the Aurors had Malfoy. Moody says it took three of them to disarm him," Sirius added. "They had him locked up and a Dementor got in..."
"...and he's now a raving maniac," Remus said, only a small note of triumph in his voice. "And serve him right."
Arthur was drinking his tea, listening carefully to the shared narrative.
"Sirius bought the house on Privet Drive, and the bookshop, and after realising that he hated selling things and I was about to be thrown out into the street to starve..." Remus grinned. "He hired me. And then we kidnapped Harry Potter and Dumbledore beat us to death with Harry's stuffed frog."
"He failed Divination," Sirius said, gesturing to Remus with his mug.
"I didn't fail. I refused on principle to take the test," Remus answered.
"And what are you going to do with the boy now?" Arthur asked. "Send him off to school as if nothing happened? You can't watch him every second of every day."
"I'm distant blood-kin to him, the protection spell should at least keep him safe out in the world. The rest of the time Padfoot can watch him."
Arthur grinned. "Where is the big oaf? I thought for sure he'd want to be underfoot during all the excitement."
"Hiding under the bed, I imagine," Remus answered smoothly. "We can keep Harry safe until he goes to Hogwarts. Then it's up to Dumbledore."
"I don't think he ought to go back to that school," Sirius said suddenly. "Not with Dudley Dursley around."
"There are bullies at any school," Remus reminded him.
"Not like Dursley there aren't. And anyway, I don't see why he has to go to school at all, they're not teaching him anything useful."
"No, only reading, writing, maths, and basic science," Remus said, a twinge of sarcasm in his voice.
"I think I'll leave you two to your fistfight," Arthur said. "I've got to get back. Owl me, I'd like to know what happens next," he added, and Disapparated with a crack.
Silence fell over the kitchen.
"Do you see me looking longingly at the remains of that firewhiskey?" Sirius asked.
"That's all I need, Harry Potter napping in my bed, Dumbledore on my front step, and Sirius Black drunk in my kitchen," Remus snapped.
"Didn't say I was going to DO anything about it," Sirius muttered.
When Harry woke, it was to the sound of faint doggy snores, and the heavy weight of Padfoot's head on his legs. The lights were out, and dim illumination from the streetlamp outside the window turned a stripe of Padfoot's black fur to silver.
Harry slid silently out of bed, and walked down the narrow corridor. Light shone out of one room, and he peered inside, carefully.
Moony was sitting at a desk, writing something with what looked like a feather -- a quill, Harry thought, recognizing it from paintings in history books. He took a pinch of something from a jar and sprinkled it over the paper, then poured a few drops of some cloudy green liquid into his palm, and scattered that over the powder. There was a brief flash of light, and Moony looked pleased, folding the paper and tucking it into a crack in the wall.
Harry, not eager to be caught watching Moony do magic, hurried out into the kitchen. He found a glass in one of the low cupboards, and was contemplating how to reach the sink when a pair of hands lifted him, under the arms, and propped him against the counter.
"Thirsty?" Moony asked, with a smile. Harry turned the spigot and filled the glass, and Moony set him down.
"A little," Harry answered, sipping. "Where'd Sirius go?"
"Home, for now. He'll be back in the morning. You're safe here with Pads and me. Now back to bed with you, Harry."
"Where are you sleeping?" Harry asked.
"I don't think I'd sleep much tonight, even if I had a place," Moony said. "But if I'm tired I'll sleep on the couch."
"Are you in trouble cos of me?" Harry asked.
"Sort of. I spent a lot of this afternoon being yelled at, while you were asleep. There's a man named Albus Dumbledore -- you'll meet him when you start school at Hogwarts -- and he wasn't very happy that we took you from the Dursleys."
"I hate the Dursleys," Harry said vehemently.
"Fortunately, you're not going back."
"No. You're going to live here, with me. Or possibly we'll move somewhere safe. We don't know yet."
Harry looked up at him. Moony's hair was brown, but already going grey; his face was lined and worried, but his eyes were bright and warm. He wasn't used to seeing affection in anyone's face, and the sensation was unfamiliar to him.
"What if they take me back?"
"Nobody's taking you out of this flat, unless it's over my dead body, and I am a tenacious bugger," Remus said. Harry laughed. "And once they got past me they'd have to get past Padfoot," he added, following Harry into the bedroom. He took the glass from the boy, and set it on the beside table, clearing away several large books. "Go back to sleep," he said.
Harry curled up, his back pressed to the bony, fuzzy back of Padfoot, and closed his eyes. Remus waited for a minute, looking down at the child -- he was smaller than Padfoot, still.
Remus could remember the day he was born; could still see James holding his son in his arms, absolutely incapable of saying a word. The first child of the four friends; back then none of them ever thought Sirius would marry, and Remus kept his affairs private, and Peter was...well, Peter...so it wasn't surprising that all four of them looked on the child as their own.
He could remember holding Harry in one hand, and wondering how on earth James Potter, of all people, could be a father.
He could remember standing in Godric's Hollow amid the wreckage of what had been the Potters' home, and wondering how on earth James could be dead.
Padfoot lifted his head and regarded Remus, over one shoulder, with solemn dark doggy eyes. Remus closed his eyes and shook his head. He turned and walked out of the bedroom, and down the hall to his small office. If they stayed, it could be Harry's room. If Sirius stayed too, he'd have to get a smaller bed and share his bedroom with Sirius, unless Sirius wanted to spend every night as a dog.
He'd no idea what he'd do when the full moon came again. Fortunately it wasn't due for nearly three weeks, so he had time.
He paused in the office. He could do no more wardings tonight. He'd put every possible protection on the place, at least every protection he could do alone. In the morning perhaps he'd make Sirius help him do a few more.
He turned out the lights and locked the office, continuing into the kitchen. The firewhiskey was still out, and he filled a mug with it halfway, adding cold tea and stirring with his wand to heat it.
Dumbledore had arrived that afternoon, furious and terrifying. He'd actually shouted, and Remus had never in his life heard Dumbledore shout.
Sirius had shouted back.
Remus had sat quietly until Dumbledore's wrath had turned on him, at which point he'd calmly repeated what Harry had told them about how he lived. He'd pointed out, heart thudding in his ribcage, that the spell was already broken, and that he himself was blood kin to Harry, however distant it might be. He'd listened to everything Dumbledore had said and then he had simply said no. No, we are keeping Harry. No, we will not give him back. No, he will stay with us. No, you don't get to tell us what to do.
He understood why Sirius was Harry's godfather -- James and Sirius had always been the closest of the four -- but sometimes he wondered if Sirius understood what was expected of him. He knew his friend would die, without hesitation, to protect the lad. He knew Sirius would kill without hesitation too. But he wondered if Sirius would or even could do the small things that Harry needed much more: feed and clothe the boy, consider his education, teach him some kind of morals, show him how a man ought to live. Reassure him when he was frightened. Listen, even in the middle of the night, for the soft footfalls of a child who was thirsty, or sick, or upset.
He had no doubt that Dumbledore would send them instructions on what they would be allowed to do. They had already been expressly forbidden to take him to Diagon Alley, or Hogsmeade, or anywhere they were likely to run into wizards.
Tomorrow they would buy Harry new clothes, and some proper toys. In the afternoon they would sit at the kitchen table and decide what they were going to do, whether they would stay in the small flat near Sandust Books, or sell the bookshop and move somewhere remote, somewhere they were unlikely to be found. Whether Harry would be sent to a boarding school, perhaps, though Remus cringed at the idea of finally having freed Harry from the Dursleys, only to send him off again.
So many questions.
This must be, he thought with a bitter smile, how James felt, eight and a half years ago.
Harry was ecstatic. Shy, it was true, but deliriously happy. Sirius wasn't sure how one small body could hold so much pent-up excitement.
Remus had stopped only briefly at Sandust Books to hang a sign in the window, announcing the store was closed for the day. Several of the locals, including Clara, who owned Woman's Intuition, and one of the many brothers who worked at the bakery, had met Harry and made much of him as Sirius' godson. They'd gone to the shoe store and bought Harry new trainers; the department store yielded clothing, including a scarlet-and-gold rugby shirt that Sirius insisted on buying though it was a size too big, and which Harry rapturously refused to take off.
Remus found a baseball cap with a frog on it, and talked Sirius out of buying a child-sized safety helmet so that he'd have an excuse to take Harry on the motorbike. Harry was allowed to pick out a brand new book bag, one with thousands of pockets, and Sirius quietly slipped nearly ten pounds' worth of sweets into it, purchased while Harry and Remus were next door in the toy shop.
Sirius fully expected Harry to want one of everything, but the boy was grave and choosy as he picked out a robot that lit up, a new pencil-case shaped like a dragon, and a see-through globe of the world.
"Isn't there anything else you want?" Sirius asked, as he paid for the toys in strange multicoloured Muggle money. Outside, Remus was being accosted by a few of the bookshop's regulars, who probably wanted to know why they were closed.
"No," Harry said, easily. "I needed a new pencil case," he added, holding it up so that the dragon's face was pointing at his own, and growling at it.
"But there's thousands of toys here."
"Yeah, but I don't need 'em," Harry answered. "I like the robot though. It'll light up at night and then it won't be so dark."
"But you know you don't have to have a reason to want a toy," Sirius said desperately. Harry looked up at him, curious.
"I like globes," he said, finally, as if that settled things. Sirius tucked the box with the globe in it under one arm, sighed, and led Harry from the store. Obviously he'd got Lily's pragmatic genes.
They bought ice cream and sat down amid thousands of shopping bags, as Harry was tired and Sirius never passed up an excuse to eat ice cream. Remus has been silent ever since they'd bought Harry's book bag, and while Sirius was used to a certain amount of thoughtful contemplation on Moony's part, this was a bit much.
Harry wouldn't shut up.
"And then I'm going to put all my pencils in my dragon, and try on all my socks, and -- look," he said, pointing to the globe he'd removed from its box. "That's where we are. And there's a boy at school who's from..." he spun it carefully, and jabbed at China, "There, and he brings all sorts of funny food for lunch, it's brilliant. And that's America, and that's Australia, they're upside-down there, you know..."
"All right, Moony?" Sirius asked quietly, when Harry stopped to take a bite of his ice cream. Remus glanced up at him.
"Can't think and talk at the same time," he said, with a small grin. "And I'm thinking really, really hard."
"Among other things."
Sirius nodded. "You're thinking about school."
"Eight hours a day we can't protect him, you're bloody right I'm thinking about school," Remus answered.
"What're you talking about?" Harry asked curiously, standing on his chair to lean further over the table. Sirius reached over and lifted him up, setting him back down in the chair firmly.
"School," Remus answered. "And what we're going to do with you."
"I like school. Sort of."
"Harry, how'd you like to go to a different school?" Sirius asked, picking up the globe and re-packing it. Harry fiddled with the sleeves on his rugby shirt. Remus glanced sideways at him.
"What sort?" Harry asked finally.
"Well, what if you could go to a really small school? With only a few other kids?"
"Sirius, what are you on about?" Remus asked.
"Molly Weasley teaches her kids at home," Sirius replied. "I know she sometimes has a few other kids, too, takes in a little extra money that way. Bet you anything she'd let Harry in."
"We're not supposed to expose him to other magical -- "
"Oh, come on, it's just the Weasleys, it's only school. He can play with Ron, they'll get on well together."
"It'll all end in grass stains," Remus sighed.
"I'd like that," Harry said decidedly. "Can I take my new book bag?"
"I'll speak to Molly about it," Sirius said. Remus gave him a peculiar look. "What?"
"Nothing...that's good. Good," Remus said, and bent to finish his sherbert. Sirius smiled as he watched the child play.
"He's where he belongs now," he said, very softly, to Remus.
"Now we've got to make sure he stays alive long enough to enjoy it," Remus replied.
So like Moony. Always the worrier.