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.)
In the morning, Harry peered into Remus and Sirius' room, and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. Sirius was curled up in a ball in his bed, as usual, but Remus was sitting up, a book propped on his lap, piles of photos and papers surrounding him. He looked up, held a finger to his lips, and gestured Harry forward.
"Morning, Harry," he said softly, hoarsely. Harry, clutching Frog -- who'd been returned to him at some point in the night, probably by Sirius -- came forward. Moony lifted him up and placed him in his lap, so that Harry could see what he was doing.
He was pasting photographs into an album, magical photographs. Harry never got tired of looking at the moving pictures.
"This is for you," Remus said, pointing to the piles of pictures. "I thought, I have all these photos and I wanted you to see them, and Sirius brought me a box too."
"Who are they?" Harry asked.
"Well, that's me," Remus indicated a barely-grown boy, who was standing in the photo holding a stack of books, in what looked like a library. "And there's Arthur and Molly Weasley when they were about my age."
Harry could have told him that; the couple were surrounded by redheaded children in matching knit jumpers.
"And this..." Remus flipped back a page. "Is Hogwarts, where your dad and mum, and Sirius and I, all went to school. It's where you're going in a few years."
Harry stared in awe at the castle, with its pennants waving and strange flying specks in the distance. Remus flipped back another page, and Harry gasped. His father and mother -- he recognized them from the one faded and torn photo he had -- waved at him as they held a baby that must be himself, eight years ago.
"That's James and Lily, your mum and dad," Remus said, unnecessarily. "You're about three months old there -- " he chuckled as the Harry in the picture squalled, and James looked stricken. The chuckle turned into a momentary cough, and Harry noticed the fresh pink skin on his hands, where bite-marks had been the night before.
"Are you gonna be okay?" he asked. Remus nodded, rubbing his throat before speaking.
"I'll be fine, Harry. Look, there's your dad -- " he pointed to what looked like a photo of the sky; after a second, Harry saw a broomstick sweep through it, and a young man that looked like himself, in a set of brilliant scarlet-and-gold robes, riding on it. "Brilliant Quidditch player, he was."
"Fred and George told me 'bout Quidditch," Harry said. "They say it's brilliant. Mrs. Weasley won't let us fly till Ron and I turn nine."
"And right she is," Remus agreed.
"Can we go see a Quidditch game sometime?" Harry asked. Remus stared at the photos a while before answering.
"Perhaps once you start school," he said finally.
"Do people not like me?" Harry asked.
"Why do you say that?"
"I never get to go anywhere. Ron gets to go to Diagon Alley, and Quidditch games, and that," Harry said. Remus touseled his already-tangled hair.
"Harry, there are things I can't explain to you now," Remus replied. "Well...it's not my job. Sirius can tell you..."
There was a grunt from the other bed. "Wossum?" Sirius asked.
"Go back to sleep, you great git," Remus said amiably. There was another grunt, and the blankets shifted slightly.
"We wanted to make sure you were happy here," he continued. Harry turned to look up at him. "There are reasons you can't go to those places, Harry. But it's not my place to explain them. Sirius and I answer to other people about your safety."
Harry turned the pages of the album in Remus' hands. "That's silly."
"Seems like it, doesn't it?"
"Who's that?" Harry asked, pointing to another photo. Remus leaned forward, over his shoulder. A dark-haired boy looked up from a sheet of parchment, brushed hair out of his eyes, and smiled charmingly. Remus smiled.
"That's Sirius," he said, tickling Harry under the ribs. The boy giggled, and jumped off his lap, running to Sirius to leap onto the pile of blankets. Sirius yelped.
"Frog says wake up!" Harry cried. Remus watched as Sirius went through the morning ritual of stifling the urge to strangle Harry.
It was quite sweet, really.
They'd had breakfast, of course, after Sirius stopped being cranky, and Sirius and Moony had talked in low, serious "grownup" voices -- Moony had said it wouldn't scar, and Sirius had said darkly that he didn't like it, and Harry had put in that Sirius said that Moony was going to get sick again. Moony had said that he'd been getting sick for many years and never died yet, but after that, he went silent for the rest of breakfast. That seemed to end that discussion, and the rest of the week passed mainly uneventfully, except for Harry's excited anticipation of a visit from Ron and Ginny on Saturday.
They arrived by floo just as Moony was turning the "open" sign around at Sandust Books. Harry had made a deal that Ron should come visit him at the bookstore -- Ron wanted to see how Muggles did their shopping -- but the grownups had insisted that Ginny should come along too.
"Where d'ya wanna go?" Harry asked, sitting on the front step with Ron, Ginny, and Padfoot. Ginny was petting Padfoot, admittedly stroking his fur the wrong way, but he merely nudged her hand with his nose, making her giggle.
"Got a Joke Shop?" Ron asked. Harry shook his head. "How about a broomstick shop?"
"We've got a hoover-repair shop," Harry said dubiously. "Or we could go to the pet shop. Ginny, you stay here," he said. "Padfoot, come?"
The great shaggy black dog heaved himself to his feet, and herded Ginny inside. They heard Moony say something quietly, and Ginny answer. Then Padfoot was outside again, and Harry led the procession down the street.
Ron was amused by how everyone knew Harry and Padfoot -- especially that more people could name Padfoot than could name Harry. He was appropriately impressed by the electronics shop, especially the televisions; he was nonplussed by the pet store, which hadn't a patch, he said, on the one in Diagon Alley. He laughed at the photo store where none of the pictures moved, and stared every time an automobile rumbled past.
"Ginny, we brought you an ice cream," Harry said, as they wandered back into Sandust Books.
"That was nice of you, Harry," Moony said. He was reading a newspaper behind the counter; Harry could tell by the moving pictures that it was the Prophet. "See your dad's made the news, Ron, tell him congratulations on catching that rogue Ever Talking Telephone. What's he going to do with it?"
"Dunno," Ron answered, licking a drip off of Ginny's ice cream cone before handing it to her. "Probably take it apart. Dad's always taking Muggle things apart."
"Yes, I remember the Transistor Radio Incident a few years ago," Moony murmured.
"Burns didn't even leave a mark," Ron said proudly. "Dunno how Muggles do it."
"We do all right," Harry said.
Ron, Ginny, Moony, and Padfoot all looked at him. He looked back, curiously.
"You're not a Muggle, Harry," Ron said. "You're a Wizard. Like us."
"Am I?" Harry asked Moony.
"I've told you that, Harry," Moony answered. "Don't you believe me?"
"Well, we don't live like Mr. and Mrs. Weasley do. She cooks by magic," Harry said.
"We're still wizards," Moony answered.
"M'kay," Harry said agreeably, not wishing to press the point. Moony watched him over the edge of his paper as Harry led Ron into the back room.
"S'wonderful, this Muggle stuff," Ron said, poking the electric kettle that Moony made tea with. "Dad ought to come by sometime. You could show him the 'ektricks."
"Electrics," Harry corrected. "Wish I could see your High Street."
"What, Diagon Alley? S'not so great."
"Naw, really it's the best," Ron said, grinning, as he crunched up the last of his ice cream. "Don't see why you can't."
"No, I mean, there's the floo and all. We could nip out and nip back, nobody'd miss us."
Harry looked askance at the fireplace in the back of the room. "I'm not s'posed to go anywhere without Padfoot or Moony," he said.
"Don't see why. Not like Padfoot did much, other than bark at that strange dog," Ron answered. "Fred and George go to Diagon Alley all the time."
"They're big kids."
Ron scoffed. "I'm tall as them already."
Harry considered matters. It was true that nobody would miss him and Ron for five minutes; he could hear Moony helping a customer, and Ginny was sitting on the back step sharing her ice cream with Padfoot.
"You could just see Flourish and Blott's and come right back," Ron said. "I know exactly how it's done."
"And other wizards," Harry mused.
"Might even see a hag."
"And I could buy a chocolate frog."
Ron waited patiently. Finally, Harry went to the fireplace, and took down the jar with the floo powder in it.
"You first," he said, holding out the jar. Ron grinned and tossed the powder into the fire. He stepped inside.
"Diagon Alley!" he said, and grinned at Harry as he vanished.
Harry threw another pinch into the fire, set the jar down, and stepped inside.
"Diagon All -- Pads!" he said in a panic, as Padfoot pushed the door open.
The world spun, and Harry at least remembered to tuck his elbows in, but he knew something had gone wrong; when he tumbled out onto the hearthstone on the other end, it was into a dim, dingy, and apparently empty shop.
He glanced around, confused, as he pushed himself to his feet. This couldn't be Diagon Alley, could it?
There was a noise, and he whirled; someone was pushing open a door, and it was ringing a rusty, corroded bell on the handle.
A squat, elderly man appeared behind the counter on Harry's left, and waddled up to the front of the store without so much as glancing in Harry's direction.
"Ms. Malfoy, always a pleasure, always a pleasure," he toadied, bowing and rubbing his hands.
The tall woman who'd entered had a mane of white-blonde hair, and was dressed in black and green; she carried a small leather sack in one hand, and was followed by...
Harry, half-hidden by a corner of the counter, stared. It was a small...green...thing, with huge bat-ears and bulging eyes, tottering under an enormous armful of packages and sacks. It appeared to be wearing a tea cozy and a pillowcase. Harry had never seen anything like it.
He was aware that the pair were speaking, but all he could do was stare at the green thing. It watched the blonde woman -- Ms. Malfoy? -- with unblinking attention. Harry was only brought back to himself when he heard the click of coins on glass, and saw money exchanging hands. She thanked the shopkeeper, added something to the leather sack, and turned, walking with a snakelike grace as she moved to leave.
There was a man standing on the step, hand outstretched to push on the door. Harry saw a pale, narrow face, long black hair, and slim white fingers.
"Narcissa," the man on the doorstep said, coldly.
"Severus," she replied. "Fancy meeting you here. I didn't think you were allowed in Knockturn Alley."
The pale man drew himself up. "I go where I please," he snapped.
"Still teaching at Hogwarts, Severus?" she asked, a sneer in her voice. "Surprised they pay you enough to do any shopping at all."
Harry watched as the pale man stepped aside, gesturing elegantly to the street. "You were leaving, I believe," he said.
Narcissa Malfoy swept past him, and the man she'd called Severus watched her go. After a minute, he stepped into the dingy shop, and the door closed again.
"I require no assistance," he said curtly, to the shopkeeper. Harry watched as his hands moved confidently over the jars on the table, taking measure of this and that, pouring them neatly into small glass vials produced from his pockets. He didn't realise that the man was moving closer and closer until --
He gasped and stepped back as the edge of the pale man's cloak nearly brushed his arm. The pale man turned, eyebrows raising in surprise.
"What have we here," he said, in a low voice.
"I'm lost," Harry blurted.
"Undoubtedly," the man replied. "Wander off, did you? Do you know what they do to children who are disobedient to their parents, in Knockturn Alley?"
Harry gulped. The man crouched until they were on eye level.
"They eat them," he said softly. "Or turn them into mice. Or perhaps they hex them so that they shrink down until..." he spread his fingers, expressively, "...they simply disappear."
Harry wished desperately for Moony, or Padfoot, or even his frog.
"So, little lost mouse, what do we do with you?" mused the man. He tossed a few silvery coins onto the counter, and swept the vials into his pocket. He took Harry by the arm, and pulled him from the shop, walking almost faster than Harry's short legs could carry him.
"Who are your parents?" he asked, as they walked along dirty, crowded streets.
"They're dead," Harry answered.
"Who did you come to Knockturn Alley with?"
"I was trying to get to Diagon Alley -- my friend's there..." Harry said, fighting the urge to cry. The man, frustrated with his slow pace, stopped and lifted him, impatiently.
"Why do I bother," he muttered, as he carried Harry out into a wider, more pleasant street.
"Where are we?" Harry asked, in awe. The man glanced at him, once again looking surprised.
"Diagon Alley. Where else? Haven't you been here before?" he demanded.
"No," Harry said. "I'm not allowed."
"Not allowed...then what are you doing here?"
"I snuck in," Harry said miserably. The man stopped at a bench, outside what looked like a pub, and stood him on it, examining him critically.
"I like you the better for that," he said frankly. "Who looks after you?"
"Moony, mostly," Harry said thoughtfully. "And Sirius."
The man went very still.
"Sirius Black?" he asked. Harry wondered what he'd done wrong. "What's your name, boy?"
"H-harry Potter," Harry replied, nervously. The man's dark eyes bored into him.
"So it's you," he said softly, sneering a little. "I might have known."
Harry was about to ask what he meant by that, but the man swept him up again, carrying him swiftly inside, where he leaned on the bar.
"I need your floo," he said, to the barman, who opened his mouth to ask a question. "I'm not interested in having a conversation about it, I need to use your floo," he repeated.
"HARRY!" someone shouted. Harry saw Sirius pushing his way through the lunch crowd. He arrived breathless, and then he, too, froze.
Harry could feel the tension in the pale man's body.
"Snape," Sirius said, low, and Harry was frightened by how much hate went into the single word. "Give him to me."
"Glad to unload the brat, I'm sure," the pale man replied, setting Harry down. Harry ran to Sirius, who bent to embrace him.
"Harry, I thought you'd disappeared forever," Sirius said, roughly, holding him tight. Harry saw, over his shoulder, Moony arriving behind him. "Don't ever, ever do that to me again."
"I'm sorry," Harry whispered, but Sirius was still talking, reassuring himself that Harry was all right, that he hadn't been hurt, that nobody'd laid a hand on Harry or so help him god he would kill them --
"Nobody hurt me. The tall man brought me back," Harry said, as Moony reached them breathlessly.
"I found Ron," he gasped. "I sent him back to The Burrow."
"I'll thrash him within an inch of his life," Sirius growled. "Him and anyone else who laid a hand on you."
"The tall man saved me," Harry said, twisting to point...
But the tall man was already gone. Harry saw the front door of the pub swing shut.
"Let's get out of here," Moony continued. "Now."
Sirius nodded, and picked up Harry. "Hold tight to me," he whispered, and Harry clung to his neck as they stepped into the floo. Harry found himself in the back room of Sandust Books again; with a loud noise, Moony appeared next to them. He hurried to the fireplace, and knelt on the hearth, calling Molly's name. Sirius carried Harry out into the shop, and set him down in one of the leather wingchairs.
"You're okay, Harry?" he asked. Harry nodded. "Nobody hurt you?"
"No, I told you," Harry said, slightly petulant. "The tall man found me in the shop and he took me to the pub."
"The tall man. Snape?"
"The lady called him Severus."
"She had a green thing!" Harry said. "It had big ears and big eyes and it was wearing a tea cozy!"
"Are you sure you're all right, Harry?" he asked.
"And then the lady went away and the tall man found me and he said if I didn't go with him someone would turn me into a mouse," Harry continued breathlessly. "And he asked me who I was and then he got angry and he took me inside and then you and Moony found me," he finished. Sirius rubbed the back of his head, thoughtfully.
"Severus found you. Where?"
Harry screwed up his face. "Knocker Alley," he said.
"Severus Snape found you in Knockturn Alley?" Sirius demanded.
"I didn't mean to go there!" Harry said, bursting into tears. Sirius stared at him for a second, in confusion, before pulling the boy forward into his arms. Harry, feeling foolish, sniffled against the shoulder of Sirius' shirt, listening to the low, calm reassurances that it was all right, he wasn't mad at Harry, Harry was just tired, he understood.
"I just wanted to see what Diagon Alley was like," Harry mumbled, after a while. Sirius sat back, brushing tears from Harry's cheeks with his thumb. "Ron said it was the best thing ever and I wanted to see it."
Moony emerged from the back room, then, looking suddenly tired, his face an unappealing shade of grey.
"I've spoken with Molly," he said, dropping into another wingchair nearby. "She says Ron and Ginny are home and safe, though from the sound of it Ron's only safe from the world at large, and not from the considerable wrath of his mother."
"It's not his fault," Harry protested. Moony leaned his head back, closing his eyes.
"No," he said quietly. "It's mine."
"Ours," Sirius corrected. Remus shook his head.
"My idea, Sirius, my responsibility, you were busy minding Ginny," he said. "I haven't the energy to argue right now, however, so if I might be allowed to simply have my heart attack in peace..."
Sirius smiled, and Harry risked a damp smile himself. "You all right, Moony?" Sirius asked.
"I'm fine. How's Harry?"
"I'm fine too," Harry piped up. "I told him."
"Guess who brought Harry back to the Leaky Cauldron?" Sirius asked, the smile fading from his face. "Severus bloody Snape."
Remus' eyes opened. "Severus? How on earth...?"
"Harry ended in Knockturn Alley. He says Snape found him and brought him back."
"Lurking about Knockturn Alley, is he? Remind me to be shocked," Remus murmured. "What'd he say to you, Harry?"
Harry glanced from one man to the other. "He asked who I was and who looked after me and that. And said that boys in Knockturn Alley get turned into mice."
"Round the twist," Sirius announced. "Absolutely starkers round the twist, that one."
"He found Harry," Remus answered. "And brought him back to us."
"Probably wanted to sell him to the highest bidder," Sirius grumbled.