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.)
"You're going here?"
Harry was sitting on the bed in Remus' room, holding his world-globe under one arm; he was pointing at India, and looking up at Remus. Remus took his finger and moved it gently about half an inch to the northeast.
"I'm going there," he said, returning to the medium-sized satchel on the bed. He picked up three books and laid them on top of some clothing.
"For how long?"
"Don't know yet. Not more than a week."
"Are you gonna get sick again?"
Remus smiled at the boy. "It's possible, but I shouldn't worry too much. I always get better."
"Harry? Where've you gone?" Sirius' voice boomed from the other room, and they heard the front door slam.
"In here!" Harry called. "I'm helping Moony pack!"
Sirius loomed in the doorway, shedding his leather jacket and boots. "Just been out to see Moira," he said, by way of explanation. "Playing world traveler, are we, Harry?"
Harry presented his globe to Sirius, gravely. "Where's Iowa?" he asked. Sirius frowned. Remus reached out an arm and spun the globe, his finger tapping the appropriate place gently.
"There you are then," Sirius said, as if he'd come up with it himself.
"I made up a game," Harry continued. "It's called Where."
"Just Where. See, I spin the globe, and I find a place..." Harry demonstrated. "And then I go to the encyclopedia you brought from the book shop and find it." He peered at the globe. "Cuz...Cuzek..."
"Czechoslovakia," Sirius corrected. "Tell you what, how about you look up Kyoto instead. It's easier to say."
Harry nodded and left the room, globe under one arm. Sirius leaned against the door-frame, watching Remus pack.
"Thought maybe you'd given up on India," he said. "It's been weeks since you were going to go."
This was true; he'd meant to go to India before they'd even brought Harry to his flat, and that was months ago, now. Harry'd gone on one more 'field trip' with Severus, and Ron's grounding was nearly over. The full moon was looming next week, but he planned to be back before then. He shook his head.
"I won't be gone long, it shouldn't be too difficult -- I have a friend in Calcutta who's going with me, he speaks the local dialects."
"Listen, Moony -- " Sirius rubbed the back of his head. "Do you think Arthur might be right?"
"About Peter. About him being dead."
Remus paused in the act of closing his satchel. "I don't know," he said.
"Then why do you keep...why are you still looking for him?" Sirius asked. "You know I'd come with you in a heartbeat if you asked me to, but you seem to enjoy running off alone, and you know how I feel about the whole mess."
"You'd rather it wasn't remembered at all," Remus murmured.
"I just think after seven years, if he hasn't shown himself, he's probably dead. The British Government thinks so, you know. After seven years missing they declare a chap dead. And I wouldn't put it past Malfoy to kill him, he killed all those Muggles."
Remus sat on the bed, one hand toying with the grips on his satchel. "And if he's not dead?"
"The Dark Lord's gone. Vanquished. Even if Peter tried to come for Harry, or for one of us, he was never a match for us. You and I, Moony, we'll protect the kid. We have so far."
Remus bowed his head. "I know. And this is my way of doing that."
"Dreams," Remus answered, impulsively.
"I'm not chasing a ghost," he said, standing and rubbing his neck, distractedly. "I'm trying to settle something, all right?"
"Settle what, exactly? Make a bet with Dumbledore that you could catch Peter if he was still around?"
"Listen, three years ago I was entirely ready to give this up," Remus answered sharply. "Do you think I like getting stuck for days on end in some backwater in Chile? You think I actually enjoy awful seedy motels in Toronto?"
Sirius stared at him. Remus was...Remus was angry. That didn't happen. Not without Sirius yelling for at least half an hour first.
"I don't like it, I don't want to believe he's alive, unless it's so that I can strangle the man barehanded, but I think I've pretty much got that impulse under control," Remus continued. "And I was ready to give it up and if these bloody dreams hadn't started up I would have, but they did, and they won't stop, and they don't change, and so I'm stuck wandering the globe when believe me, I would much rather be here listening to you whine about Snape!"
Sirius waited until Remus had let out the rest of his breath. "I don't whine," he said sullenly.
"I'm sorry, Pads. I didn't mean that."
"What dreams? You never told me about any dreams. You sleep like the bloody dead."
"They're not the screaming kind of nightmare," Remus answered, calmer now. "They're not really nightmares at all, I suppose. They're just...things."
"About...about that night?"
"Sort of." He sat on the bed again. "You know how I'm always going on about how if I hadn't been held up from going to Rome, and hadn't made you take that wrong turn while we were looking for Peter, it might've been you who got to him first?"
"Well, I don't know about always, but you do seem awfully fixated on it."
"Listen to me. I have this dream." Remus took another deep breath. "And in it, somehow everything's gotten bollocksed up. It's not now, it's a couple of years from now, and I'm not me. I'm a teacher. At Hogwarts. Only I am me, but not..." Remus shook his head in frustration.
"Do you want to hear this or not?"
"I'm in the Shack. And you're there, in the shack with me. Only you're not you. You're awful, and thin, and your hair's matted. It's a terrible sight, Sirius. And you're telling me that Peter survived, that you tried to kill him but he framed you, made it look like you were the spy, and he got away. And he left fingers behind. And you're telling me this and then you're saying that he's right there in the room with us. Only I can't see him. And I have all these thoughts. They're not mine, but they're about us."
Sirius tilted his head, listening to the low, grave tones. Remus was a werewolf, and werewolves were Dark creatures; still, he'd never heard of a prophetic one.
"The thoughts are...I think to myself, oh god, Sirius has been in Azkaban for twelve years, and I've been spending the whole time just...drifting...thinking you were the spy, and...Sirius, if you could see what you look like in the dream. And you keep telling me he's here, Peter's here, we have to kill him, and I can't find him."
Remus paused. Sirius had slid down the doorframe until he was crouched against the wall, looking up, hands clasped between his knees.
"I have to find him, Sirius. He's alive, and if I don't find him, he'll come for us."
Sirius nodded, slowly. "You believe the dream."
"I believe something really, really bad might have happened if you'd got to Peter before Lucius Malfoy did. And I do believe Peter is alive. And I do believe he's dangerous."
"You don't go about as often as you used to."
"Well, I've learned to tell a decent tip from a dead end, for the most part," Remus answered. "And I won't go about as often, not with Harry here."
Sirius looked thoughtful.
"Could you put the dream in a pensieve?" he asked, after a few minutes' contemplation.
Pensieves were expensive to purchase and difficult to make, but Remus balked at asking Dumbledore if they could borrow his. It seemed presumptuous, when they'd caused the Headmaster so much trouble so recently, to go asking him for something like that.
So Sirius did it.
It was the work of a few minutes to get to Hogwarts, and barely a few minutes more before Sirius was standing outside the entrance. He rapped the old Order knock, and sure enough, Dumbledore hadn't taken the charm off; he fancied he could hear, somewhere distant, a bell ringing. It had been their code -- if you knocked in the right way, Dumbledore knew you were with the Order, and a bell in his study notified him.
The door swung open, and it wasn't long before Sirius, nearly twenty-nine years old and a respected businessman, found himself standing in Dumbledore's study like an errant fifth-year.
"I hope you're not having trouble with Harry," Dumbledore said pleasantly, but there was a note of iron behind his blue eyes.
"No, Harry's..." Sirius realised he didn't have words for the way he felt about Harry. He settled for "...fine."
"Molly informs me he's doing well in his studies."
Sirius cursed inwardly. Of course Dumbledore was keeping an eye on Harry through the Weasleys.
"He's a smart boy. He made up this game..." Sirius grinned, and then realised this was neither the time nor the place to play the proud father. "He's fine."
"I notice Remus did not choose to come along for this visit."
"He doesn't know I'm here."
Dumbledore lifted an eyebrow.
"Listen, I'm worried about him and I need your help. I know you're furious that we took Harry and I know it's presumptuous of me to ask, and that's why Remus won't, but I need to borrow your Pensieve."
The other eyebrow raised. Sirius fought the urge to snicker.
"My Pensieve?" he asked, slowly. "Why on earth would you need that?"
Sirius toyed with a strap on his leather jacket. "You know he's still looking for Peter."
"As am I."
Sirius glanced up sharply. Dumbledore smiled. "In more subtle ways than your friend."
"Well, he says he's doing it because he's having these...these dreams," Sirius said. "About Peter. And truth be told, I've had a few screaming nightmares of my own about the man, but these sound like they're something more."
"Or...I don't know. Visions of what could have been?" Sirius shrugged. "I want to see them for myself."
"That's rather dangerous, sharing another man's dreams," Dumbledore pointed out.
"Also I want to..." Sirius felt a small shame creep over him, but he kept on. "Listen, Harry needs to be told who he is and what happened to his parents. He still thinks it was a car crash. I haven't told him, and it's a miracle one of the Weasleys haven't, but it can't go on forever."
"And you want to be rational when you speak with him of the death of your best friend," Dumbledore finished. Sirius nodded. "That is...more understandable. Are you familiar with their use?"
"Yes, more or less. Remus knows more."
"You will be very careful, will you not, about what you show?"
Sirius nodded. Dumbledore rose, and walked to a locked cabinet, removing the Pensieve carefully. He placed it into a wooden case, and Sirius flicked the latches shut.
"I owe you an apology," Sirius said. "I knew it was wrong to take Harry."
"You seem to be settling into fatherhood nicely," was Dumbledore's only reply. "What is done, is done, and perhaps it was for the best, though that is yet to be seen. Severus Snape will collect the Pensieve when he comes for Harry."
Sirius nodded. "Thank you."
"Have a care, Sirius."
Sirius left the office, the wooden case in one hand, the warning still in his ears.
"You know who's really good at this?"
"Don't say Snivellus."
"I do wish you'd stop calling him that, Pads."
"When he stops being a snivelling git, I will."
"He saved Harry."
"And he'll hold that over our heads for the rest of our lives."
"It's probably good for at least ten years, that's true."
"So how do we do this?"
"Well, I very carefully do this..."
"My god, what is that?"
"It's a memory."
"Somehow I thought it'd be less...slimy."
"Thank you. My slimy thoughts."
"Why are you taking out more of them?"
"I've had the dream more than once, you know. I thought if I put a couple of them in there, it'd be more vivid."
"This is disgusting."
"I'm not asking you to drink it, you know."
"All right. So."
"Right. I just lean over?"
"Sirius, do you want me to come along?"
"If you think you should."
"All right, on three. One, two, three..."
The memory began in the middle of a word, spoken by Remus Lupin, though not at all the voice Sirius was used to; a hoarse, exhausted voice that was closest to how he sounded on full-moon days.
Sirius opened his eyes, and felt Remus, next to him, gripping his arm. And saw Remus in front of him, horribly changed, face lined and grey, eyes tired, shabbily dressed, even skinner than he was now -- badly underfed.
"You see what I mean," said his Remus, the real Remus. Sirius turned in time to see...
Himself. Horrifying, but himself. Changed even more than Remus, skin stretched tight across his skull, yellow and dead-looking, eyes sunken beyond belief, matted hair falling past his shoulders. If Remus was shabby, Sirius was in rags, collapsed against one wall. He could hear a sharp intake of breath. There was a blurred moment, as though for a moment the dream faltered, and then he heard this other-Remus again.
" -- unless he was the one...unless you switched...without telling me?"
The guilt flooded Sirius. He had heard those words before, seven years before when he had explained to Remus that he wasn't the Secret Keeper.
He saw himself nod, slowly. In the background were other voices, inaudible, high children's voices, asking questions, but in the room, only Sirius and Remus, staring at each other across an expanse of dusty board.
He heard a rustling and felt Remus brush past him, hurriedly. Remus seized Sirius' hand and pulled him up, embracing him tightly.
"You big girl," Sirius said.
"I haven't seen you in twelve years," Remus answered, watching the pair of them hug. "That's a hug of brotherly devotion, that is."
"Twelve years?" Sirius asked, and as soon as he said it he could hear dream-echoes -- the inside of Remus Lupin's thoughts. Twelve years, twelve years, twelve years...
Still children's voices in the faded background, but they were hardly important. Another jerk, as though the dream had for a moment lacked cohesion, and when it was clear again, the pair had separated.
" -- rauder's Map. I was in my office examining it," Remus said. Another disturbance. "And then I saw another dot, moving fast toward you, labeled Sirius Black.... I saw him collide with you; I watched as he pulled two of you into the Whomping Willow --"
"What's going on?" Sirius asked.
"It's a story I'm telling someone, someone I can't see," Remus answered. "It explains how I got to the Shack."
"Little Peter got the better of me... not this time, though!"
They watched as the monstrous Sirius Black lunged for something neither could see, and Remus looked on in worried consternation.
"I can't see him," both Remuses said in unison.
"They need to understand -- we've got to explain --" Remus continued.
"We can explain afterwards!" snarled Sirius, as Remus tried to grab hold of him. There was another jarring moment.
" -- ever you like. But make it quick, Remus. I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for..."
"I told you," Remus said.
"There were witnesses who saw Pettigrew die," Remus said. "A whole street full of them..."
"They didn't see what they thought they saw! The Marauder's map never lies...Peter's alive."
"Where?" both Remuses said in unison. "Where, Sirius, I can't see him!"
"Peter's alive..." Sirius insisted. "Peter's alive."
And then there was a rushing feeling and the sensation of being pulled away, and Sirius Black came to himself, sitting at the table in the back room of a tightly-locked-up Sandust books. Across from him, Remus was breathing hard, his eyes unnaturally bright.
"My god." Sirius exhaled shakily. "If you'd told me it was like that -- "
"Now you see," Remus was almost as hoarse as the man in the dream had been. He picked up his wand to begin replacing the memories, but his hand was shaking, and after a second he set it down again.
"You all right?" Sirius asked.
"I'm fine. It's more intense, seeing myself live it, that's all."
"I'll make tea," Sirius said decisively. If his back was turned it would hide the shaking in his own hands.
There had been emotion sensations, not quite identifiable, but Sirius imagined that a regular pensieve memory wasn't like that. It was a memory of a dream, and everything was intensified; taken with the fact that Lupin kept so much of his emotions in his head, it was bound to be a more powerful experience.
When he'd seen that shabby, grey-faced Remus hug his own ragged self, there had been some emotion there that was not the brotherly devotion Remus spoke of. Then again, laced all through the dream, there had been raw feelings -- feelings of loss, of frustration, of fear.
He wondered if his friend lived his whole life that way, with the feelings in his head. And that caricature of Remus -- he felt an overwhelming gratitude that he would never see that particular sight again.
"And you see it all the time," he murmured. Remus, who had let his head slide to rest on his arms on the table, looked up.
"I said the tea's ready. Lemon?"
Sirius brought the tea to the table. Remus wrapped his hands around the mug.
"From what I can gather, the world is not kind to men who don't have their best friends to provide them with indoors employment and overpay them," Remus replied, with a wan smile.
"You been skimming the books again?"
"Yes, as soon as I get a million I'll vanish in the night," Remus answered. His hands were steady, now, and he began to slowly restore the silvery threads of memory. "Harry'll be home soon."
"You're leaving for India tomorrow?"
"Want me to come?"
"Nonsense, Harry needs you."
Sirius nodded. "But I need you."
He saw a brief flash of...of something, in Remus' eyes, quickly killed before it even fully became.
"You've got to learn to call out for pizza sometime," Remus said, with a smile. "I'll only be gone a few days. I'm planning on being back two days early for the full moon."
"The Shrieking Shack again?"
"It's not so bad."
Sirius shook his head. "Liar."
"Tu periurare timeto -- commodat in lusus numina surda Venus," Remus replied. Sirius grinned.
"I'll have that translated by the time you're back."
"You always say that, and you never do."