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The Potter's, Both Old And New

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Sirius was coiled with- well, some sort of tension, but he couldn't say whether it was good or bad. (Such a lie, he felt amazing, like he was floating high in the sky without a care in the world.) When little Harry had demanded that 'papa' come play lego with him, Sirius had frowned, looked around, and asked Harry just who 'papa' was. Harry had thought Sirius was playing some sort of game because he giggled and pretended to search the area before 'finding' Sirius.

He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do with Harry calling him that, so he didn't say anything. Did James know? Harry was a bit old to have decided to call him that without any sort of provocation, and while Harry was good for the occasional trick or two, he couldn't maintain innocence after it happened, so James probably hadn’t put him up to it. Not only that, but Harry was going on six, and Sirius had been around non-stop for the last four or five years-- ever since he moved in with James after Lily died to help out. It made sense for him to think of Sirius as his other parent.

They were outside when James came home, Harry flying around the field behind the house on his tiny practice broom and Sirius sat on the bench Remus had found and made they keep.  

James collapsed on the bench and Sirius automatically raised a hand to rub at his back. "I take it it didn't go well?"

"I'm about ready to be a hermit. What kind of ignorant arsehole do you have to be to think a damn baby defeated Voldemort?"

"The special, wizarding variety," Sirius responded promptly, getting a smile out of James. "They would rather believe a baby with some special, ancient, mystical power defeated him because it absolves them from any guilt. If they tell themselves that only the little Prongslet could defeat him, it means they would have been wasting their time to try to fight back."

James sighed defeatedly, still hunched over with his hands propping up his head. "I know, it's just... why can't they leave him alone? Let him grow up like a normal kid?"

Sirius opened his mouth to reply even though it wasn’t technically necessary-- they’d had conversations like this a few times every year since the end of the war-- but was cut off by Harry running over, something cradled in his hands, and yelling, "Papa! Papa look what I found!"

James went rigid under Sirius's hand, and Sirius bit his lip before a curse could make its way out of his mouth. He loves Harry, he really does, but the timing could have been better. Like, for example, after he'd talked to James about it and had a course of action ready.

“What’ve you got there Haz?” Sirius leaned forward and took the opportunity to slide his hand off James. Much as the idea scared him, his touch may not be welcomed right now. Harry tilt his hands, a dirt covered something glinting in the open air. “Ah,” Sirius said, nodding like he knew what it was. “Why don’t you put it down over there and wash up?” Harry left without confirming, but he was obviously doing what Sirius asked.

Before Sirius could say anything, James said, voice tight and angry, “When did he start calling you that?”

The fear Sirius felt was… well, real seemed the best way to describe it. It was no longer an unfounded worry that came with all big developments in life. James was upset and Sirius didn’t know how to calm him. “Today. It sort of makes sense--”

“‘Makes sense’?” James sneered, glaring at him, posture aggressive, and Sirius had no clue where this was coming from and Merlin if that didn’t scare him even more. “You’re not his father, and you never will be.”

“I just thought--”

“That if you could get my kid to call you that, I’d… what? Fall in love with you all of a sudden?” He snorted derisively, and Sirius went cold. This was the only confirmation he had that James knew about his feelings, and to have him react like this was nothing short of a nightmare. There had been hints before, of course, a few slightly altered stories James told about his dates to not bother Sirius, a lie here and there about Sirius’s own interest in dating that James accepted easier than he would have if he’d been ignorant of Sirius’s feelings. But this…

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said quietly. He didn’t know what he had meant. It’s not like he got to say anything, really.

James shook his head and stood up, not looking at him. “Get out. You can come back for your shit tomorrow, but after that I don’t want to see you.”

“What?” Sirius breathed, shocked and more terrified than he’d been facing down Death Eaters. “James--”

“Out. Now.”

Sirius blinked dumbly at him, tears filling his eyes for a moment before he turned and left, refusing to look back because he knew that James wouldn’t be. He wanted to fight back, to scream and cry and make a scene. Would have, if he’d thought it would help.

He landed unevenly on Remus’s doorstep, forgetting to knock, but it was okay. His apparation was loud enough that Remus heard it from inside his flat and came out to get him.


James didn’t know why he did it. It had been a long day, and he wanted nothing more than to have tea with his family, then curl up in bed with Sirius. People at the meeting had talked about Lily a lot, and his nerves were frayed from it. He was just… so tired, so aggravated, on a hair-trigger emotionally, and when Harry had called Sirius ‘papa’ like it was the most natural thing in the world, he wasn’t prepared to deal with it.

He hated that Harry couldn’t remember Lily at all, and in that moment, what he hated even more that Lily’s role was being taken by someone else, even Sirius.

It might have been fine, but then Sirius said that it made sense and James snapped. It shouldn’t make sense. Lily was the one that wanted a kid, Lily was the one that named Harry, and Lily was the one James married and decided to start a family with. Lily belonged here and she wasn’t and all James wanted in the world was to get rid of the person who didn’t, and at the moment, that meant Sirius.

(He didn’t think about the fact that he was the one to ask Sirius to stay with them, he was the one to ask and nudge Sirius into the role of Harry’s other parent, and he was the one who acted like they were married because Sirius had always been careful-- too careful, almost-- to ensure that James knew he wasn’t taking advantage and yet here James sat, having accused Sirius of exactly that and worse.)

Those emotions stayed with him for the next couple days. Sirius slipped in to grab his things, and slipped right back out so James barely noticed his presence. That was when the first pang of guilt hit. A week later he was lonely, and sick with regret. But every time he glanced at Harry, he was reminded why he shouldn’t just apologise and let everything go back to the way it was: Lily. He didn’t think about it too much, and that prevented him from fixing the best relationship he’d ever had.

“Daddy where’s Papa gone?”

“You don’t have a ‘papa’, sprog,” James explained patiently.

To his horror, Harry’s lip started wobbling and tears were falling from his eyes within seconds. “He left me?”

“No no no,” James rushed to assure him, pulling Harry into his arms and tucking him in neatly. “Sirius loves you very much,” as much as I do.

“When is he coming back?” Harry asked, his voice muffled in James’s shirt.

“He isn’t.” That set off a new bout of crying, and eventually he tried again. “Sirius loves you so much Harry, he didn’t want to leave, and I promise it had nothing to do with you.” A lie, but an innocent one all things considered. It certainly wasn’t a lie in the way Harry would assume.

Harry was old enough to remember that Sirius was gone in the following weeks, but every few days he would act like he expected Sirius to pop out of the woodwork to play or talk with him. Considering how often Sirius had done just that, it made sense, but it didn’t make the fallout any easier.

After a year, Harry stopped asking to see him. Eventually, he stopped asking what had happened, if he was coming back. It didn’t make James feel any better when he stopped, but by that point he was committed to keeping it secret. He was a coward for it, and though it ate at his insides like a parasite, he couldn’t bring himself to look Sirius up. How could he ask the person he loved most (aside from Harry) to forgive him for that?


Professor Dumbledore looked at him over his spectacles and Sirius wondered yet again if he could actually see James sure as hell couldn’t without his. Were the spectacles for reading? If they were, it would make sense why he was constantly looking over them like the world’s best human x-ray. “You want to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts?” he repeated.

Sirius shrugged like he didn’t care. “I know it’s a one year gig and that you’re having problems getting a new teacher.”

Dumbledore-- Albus he kept insisting Sirius call him, but really, that was too weird-- leaned back in his chair, still looking at Sirius like he could see every single thing in his mind. “I need a new History of Magic teacher.”

Sirius probably couldn’t be more shocked if he tried. “You want me to teach History of Magic? What about Binns? I doubt he got exorcised since I last saw him. Besides, do you really think I’d be any good at teaching that shit? Dates, places no one’s heard of and don’t care about, aren’t exactly my forte.”

“You and I both know that is not the point of learning history.” Dumbledore leaned forward again, steepling his fingers in front of him. “I do not believe Voldemort is truly gone, Sirius.”

“What? But… Lily.” Lily had died to stop him. Had it been for nothing?

“Lily was a brave woman and a magnificent witch, but Voldemort did things that none of us predicted to save himself from being killed. We need to stop history from repeating itself again, and I believe the students will be safer with you here. Don’t teach dates, teach morals, and you will have done your job.”

Sirius looked Dumbledore in the eyes and asked, “Is Harry in danger?”

“He will be.”

Gods but Sirius didn’t want to do this. Teaching was fun and there was nothing quite like that moment when a student understood what he was teaching, but he had walked into the school fully intending for it to be a one year commitment, a way for him to run away and not go crawling back to James and beg to know what he did wrong. Before he knew what he was doing, Sirius nodded. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

“Dad, everyone’s staring at me,” Harry said, looking supremely uncomfortable where they were stood at Platform 9¾.

“You’ll get used to it,” Dad said with a smirk that was not at all helpful.

“I don’t want to get used to it.”

“Maybe they’ll get used to you and stop before you have to deal with it yourself,” Remus offered. Good old Uncle Moony giving him a way out of dealing with his problems. He was going to miss him so much.

Harry hugged him tightly. “Do I have to go?”

Remus and Dad shared a look before Dad bent down to be on Harry’s eye level. “You don’t have to, but I’d like for you to try. If, in a few weeks, it isn’t working, then we’ll bring you home and find you a tutor. I know you’re scared Harry, but this could be an amazing experience if you give it a shot.”

Harry nodded, still not letting Uncle Remus go. “Can Moony come with me?”

Remus laughed and ruffled Harry’s already messy hair. “Sorry sprog I don’t think wolves are on the list of approved pets.”

“They should be,” he mumbled petulantly, turning to hug Dad around the middle when the five minute whistle went off.

He wished Papa were here, not that Harry remembered much about him. Dad had been happier then, hadn’t he? It didn’t matter anymore. No matter what Dad said about Papa loving him, he had still left. But then again, couples got into fights didn’t they? Maybe that’s what had happened. It would certainly explain the lack of pictures that Harry knew existed but were nowhere to be found. Papa had been around all the time and then… nothing. He couldn’t recall something he might have done to send him away.

Harry wrinkled his nose when Dad kissed his cheek, but his heart wasn’t in it and they both knew that. He would ask about Papa in a few years, when he was old enough that Dad would finally have to tell him the truth. Dad always got… weird when he asked about Papa. Not quite sad, but definitely not in the realm of happy.

“Go on, Haz. Have fun!”

“Hopefully not as much fun as we had,” Uncle Remus muttered under his breath before smiling and hugging Harry goodbye.

“Make sure you write. I’ll get lonely.”

“I will, Dad, once a week like I promised.”

“You can write more if you want, you know. Don’t think that just because--”

“James,” Remus said, placing a hand on his shoulder, “he knows.”

“Right. Sorry.” Dad gave him another quick hug, then gently pushed Harry in the direction of the train.


Sirius nervously fiddled with his fork in the Great Hall. This was the year that Harry would be coming to Hogwarts-- if he did come that is. He wondered what Harry would look like now. The hair had been-- and probably always would be-- all Potter, but as a baby he’d looked more like Lily. As he’d gotten older, it had become more obvious, but maybe that had changed. It had been five years; a lot could happen in that time, especially for a child. Godric and Salazar, Harry probably wouldn’t even recognise him.

As much as Sirius had tried to move on with his life after… after, it wasn’t until this moment that he realised how suspended he was. It had been like this before he met James too, and all the summers in between. It’s like his life only had two settings: With James (and able to grow and change), and Without James (and frozen in time until he came back). Remus was the only one he’d be able to talk to about something like that, but, well, they haven’t been close since Sirius moved to Hogwarts, not that Sirius told him that that’s where he was. They’ve stayed in contact, but it was along the lines of sending an owl every month or two. And they don’t talk about James. All Sirius knows about him and Harry is whatever swill the Prophet decides to print that day, but all it lets him know for sure is that they’re alive, which doesn’t mean rubbish because Remus would definitely tell him if something happened.

“You and James’s boy,” Mcgonagall said from her chair next to him. “I can only imagine the trouble he’ll get up to with you here.”

So he was coming. Sirius’s heart tried to beat its way out of his chest. “Why Minnie, I’m offended. I’m on the teacher's’ side now, you know.”

“You’ll never be on the teacher’s side no matter how long you are technically a teacher, Sirius.”

“You have so little faith in me.”

She gave him a stern look that he smiled brightly at. “I don’t need faith when I have proof.”

Sirius look back to the table where his grip on the fork hadn’t lessened at all. “Relax, McKitty, I won’t get him in any trouble.”

“I don’t imagine he’ll need much help,” she said drily. “From what James has told me-- and from what I’ve seen-- Harry is rather adept at it by himself. With you, Remus, and James raising the boy, it’s no wonder.”

Sirius didn’t say anything. She’d find out the truth soon enough when Harry didn’t recognise him, though the real wonder was her not already knowing if she’d been in contact with James and Harry.

Gods but Sirius missed Harry. He’d begun to think of Harry as his, and even after the fight he and James had, Sirius felt like an absent parent. He wanted to know everything he missed, and Merlin that was the problem wasn’t it? Harry would be here, one of Sirius’s students… but that’s it. That’s all he would be. Sirius couldn’t ‘catch up on what he missed’ because he would continue to miss it unless James had a sudden change of heart and-- Sirius swallowed thickly-- the chances of that happening were about the same as him getting a flobberworm for a pet.

Time passed slowly enough that Sirius was half-convinced it was because of a curse, the way it felt waiting for McGonagall to return. Finally, she entered the Great Hall, tiny first years trailing behind her and looking around in awe.

He easily picked Harry out of the line, staring at the ceiling in half-awe and half like he was trying to remember something. Sirius’s heart lurched as he remembered the weekend he and James had fixed Harry’s bedroom ceiling to look this way, showing the sky without clouds blocking the view. He tried to squash down the hope; James had probably made the change more permanent or maybe brought it back for the holidays.

Merlin’s saggy balls Sirius wasn’t prepared for this.

Sirius clapped at the appropriate times, smiling all the while, but he felt like he’d been scrambled about then thrown into an ill-fitting container. Harry was put into Gryffindor, and for the first time that night, Sirius’s smile was genuine. He’d always thought that Harry would be put there, too much like James (and Sirius himself), too willing to rush into a situation headfirst without pausing to think if there was another way. Of course, he had been a kid at the time, and most kids were that way, but still. It was nice to have something familiar.

Dumbledore was his usual self, causing the first years to look around like they couldn’t decide if it was okay to laugh or if they should be scared. Once the food appeared though, they dove in, talking to each other and the friendly upperclassmen.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t waved at you,” McGonagall said, and- yep, there was the suspicion.

Sirius hummed noncommittally.

“Sirius,” she said sternly.

He sighed, continuing to play with his food. His appetite had been non-existent so far, but it’s not like he could just leave; there were rules for the start-of-term feast. The current topic of conversation sure as hell wasn’t going to help his stomach decide to want food. “James and I haven’t talked in… some time. Harry probably doesn’t remember me.”

When she didn’t say anything, Sirius glanced up to find her staring at him, her eyes slightly widened in shock. “I don’t suppose it is for a reason you would be willing to share?”

Sirius smirked wryly and it felt like stretching half-dried clay. “Not today, Minnie. On my death bed, maybe. I’ll be sure to send you an invitation just to hear the story.” It wasn’t a lie-- he fully intended on dying before McGonagall, more because she didn’t seem the type to die than because Sirius would die young.

When the feast was finally over, Sirius collapsed on his bed but couldn’t fall asleep. He stared at the ceiling for hours, memories from years ago turning through his head. He’d thought about James every day since he’d last seen him, but tonight was worse than usual.

What had he told Harry? Sirius had been living with them and then vanished one day, out of the blue as far as Harry was concerned. Had James bothered to tell him anything? Or had he just brushed off Harry’s questions until he forgot all about Sirius and stopped asking?

He had no idea what to think. Did he ever know James enough to postulate on a decision like this? Given their last interaction, he was inclined to say no. But the years of friendship beforehand made him wish he could say yes, and doubt his immediate, hurt reaction of ‘I never really knew him’.

He sighed and rolled over, closing his eyes in the vain attempt to get a few hours of rest. He eventually fell asleep, but he only knows that because his alarm jerked him awake. It can’t have been long because it felt like he’d gotten one-- maybe two, if he was being generous, which he wasn’t feeling at the moment-- hour of sleep.

Sirius checked his schedule for the umpteenth time just to confirm that, no, he didn’t have any first year classes today. Today was sixth and seventh years, and while those were usually the more stressful classes to teach, it was a relief to be able to wait until he had to see Harry. (Honestly the worse part about teaching the upper level classes was when the students tried to hit on him-- which they always did-- and not the stress of upcoming exams like he pretended.)

Chapter Text

One day between seeing Harry for the first time in five years and having him in class was not enough. Class had been distracting him while it was going on, but he didn’t have enough classes scheduled to take up as much time as he wished (read: all of his time).

Sirius went through his usual introductory speech on autopilot, trying not to stare at Harry but also trying to not make him think his professor was avoiding him. “Before we begin, I want to put a name to each of your faces, so speak up when I call your name.” Sirius pulled the list towards him, and tried not to dwell on the names he recognised from the war. He mostly succeeded, but there was no way of not noting whose parents had died… and which ones had been Death Eaters. This year was worse than usual, and it would probably continue to get worse from this year on. Don’t judge them because of their parents, he kept repeating to himself. They were eleven-- kids-- and he was their professor. He couldn’t afford to be an arsehole like he usually acted, no matter how much he wanted to.

Sirius very carefully didn’t trip on Harry’s name, and no one was the wiser. He let out a sigh of relief when the students were leaving, but it felt anticlimactic. He loved Harry so much and the first time they were in close proximity again, nothing happened. He shook his head. Don’t look a gift Abraxan in the mouth.

“Professor Black?” he heard, and turned to face- Harry.

“Yes?” It was the first time he was seeing Harry up close since he’d left that day, and wow, he’d grown up. It sounded ridiculous after he thought it, but he’d watched Harry grow every day for years and suddenly here he was. Taller, looking more like Lily than ever, and yet still so small. As obvious as it was that Sirius had missed so much, it was just as obvious that there was more to come. More that… he wouldn’t miss but wouldn’t be close to him for.

“This might sound weird but,” Harry scuffed his shoe against the floor nervously, “have we met before? You look familiar.”

Sirius shrugged, but it felt tight in his back. Thank Merlin children aren’t the best lie detectors. “If you’ve been to Diagon in the summers you might have seen me.” Probably wouldn’t have, because Sirius was always paranoid he’d accidentally run into them when he left Hogwarts, but it was possible.

“Yeah, maybe that’s it,” Harry said, but he didn’t seem convinced.

It’s not my responsibility to tell him if James hasn’t, he told himself sternly. Godric but he hated lying to Harry. Sirius smiled, bade him goodbye, and told him he could drop by anytime.

He didn’t know if he was warning against it or begging him to come back.


Harry left, trying to figure out where he’d recognised Professor Black from. He looked so familiar, but the answer refused to come to him, instead niggling in the back of his mind for the rest of the day.

Transfiguration was next, and with it Professor McGonagall. Harry had liked her from the first time they met, if only for the stories about Mum that she told him. (Dad mentioned Mum every now and then, but he never really told stories.) Eventually he liked having her around for herself, but that’s how it started. Harry hoped he didn’t disappoint her, though he knew the only way that could truly happen was if he didn’t try.

It wasn’t as difficult as he thought it would be to maintain a proper professor-student relationship; she didn’t inspire misconduct.

He thought about asking her about Professor Black when class ended, but decided against it. Maybe he just needed to sleep on it, and then he’d remember. If not, he could always ask Dad when he wrote to him at the end of the week, he’d probably know.


If Sirius didn’t think too hard, it was easy to pretend that no time had passed. Worry about Harry? Why would he? The sprog was only five, and James and Remus would ensure nothing happened to him. Sirius was just teaching class, that’s it, nothing to overthink and be stressed by.

Of course, the illusion was always shattered. After that first class, Harry had taken to visiting Sirius when he was in the corridor. Not for long, just a short conversation here and there, but Sirius was quickly losing his professor-ly composure. Emotional distance wasn’t something he was skilled at. James being his best mate after two minutes on the train together proved that.

At the end of the week, he ruffled Harry’s hair with a smile, both of them freezing a moment later. Harry in- recognition? And Sirius because this was definitely crossing the line of what professor/student interactions were supposed to be. He used to do this to Harry all the time, ruffling his hair just to get him grin but pretend to be mad, trying futilely to smooth his hair into something presentable.

Sirius cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Sorry Mister Potter.”

“No it- it’s fine, Professor.” Harry was clearly wracking his brain for information, but drawing blanks. He put his hand up to his hair, petting it down even though it wouldn’t do any good. He gave up on both accounts after a few moments, instead smiling up at Sirius with wide-eyed happiness. “I’ll see you tomorrow!”


James eagerly tore into the letter, making sure to pet Hedwig before he did so (she got cranky otherwise). This was Harry's first week of school and James could not be more excited to hear about his classes, if he'd made any friends, and if he was as fond of Minnie as James was.

For that matter, James was excited to hear about all the professors. He knew McGonagall and Flitwick were still there, but he had no idea about the rest. Binns, too, certainly, which was unfortunate because Harry did so love history, and if there was one way to kill that love, it would be ghosty Binns droning on and on without a care in either world. He and Sirius had always-- no, nope. Not going there.

 

Hi Dad!

Hogwarts is great, but I miss home. I’m not allowed to fly here, that’s probably the worst part. But classes are going good, for the most part. I’m not doing fantastic in Transfiguration, I don’t think it’s for me. Professor McGonagall’s a good teacher though. I think the potions professor hates me, but I didn’t even do anything. Maybe you know him? Professor Snape. Does he hate everyone who isn’t in Slytherin or summat?

Oh! But Professor Black is amazing =) I wanted to ask, have I met him before? He seems really familiar but I can’t figure it out. Oh I don’t think I said, but he teaches history, which is even better! I was worried about Binns but apparently Professor Black has been here for the past five years. Everyone says that the students test better on the O.W.L.’s and N.E.W.T.’s than they ever did before. He’s a lot of fun too.

Neville’s doing good and he says hi (Professor Snape seems to really hate him too, seriously what’s his problem?). Ron Weasley is my best friend, but he likes the Chudley Cannons. Can you imagine? I think he just likes their colours (for whatever reason).

Miss you, love you, give Uncle Moony a hug for me.

Harry

 

James leaned back in his chair, though ‘leaned’ was a nice way of saying it. He basically fell back in it, the parchment crinkling in his too-tight grip. ‘Professor Black’ could only be one person, because there was only one living Black left. Several people in the Black family were still alive, but they were married, belonging to different Houses now, and Sirius had thought about becoming a teacher for a couple years before they joined the Aurors together.  

Sirius… Sirius was at Hogwarts. Teaching. Teaching Harry. He’d avoided him for years and… for what? Harry and Sirius were in the same place now with no sign of that changing, Harry loved him, even if he didn’t completely remember him, and there was nothing James could do about it. Honestly, he didn’t want to do anything about it. His cowardice had cost Harry and Sirius five years together, and it would’ve cost them more if the situation hadn’t been taken out of his hands.

He’d tell Harry about Sirius when he saw him next; he deserved better than to hear about it through a letter. He deliberately leaned towards the table, smoothing out Harry’s letter as best he could to reread it.

Merlin, what a mess. Snape was at Hogwarts too, and apparently doing a bang-up job of teaching. James had never bought Dumbledore’s explanation of ‘He has changed’ during the war, and he felt like Snape picking on Neville was proof. Alice and Frank had been a scourge to Death Eaters, and, unlike James, Snape had no other reason to dislike their family. Not that Harry deserved it either, but James could understand more because of what he’d done to Snape in Hogwarts. …He still wanted to hex him a bit for treating his son that way, but he squashed the urge down. If Sirius could resist-- and he obviously had been if they were both still working there-- then James could too.

He penned a reply, not mentioning Sirius because he couldn’t figure out how to tell him that they would talk about it later but for the moment he needed to not be curious. Hell, there was no good way to say that. He explained the Snape situation as best he could, opting out of telling him that Snape had wanted to date Lily. There were some things better left unsaid, especially in that mess.

He couldn’t stop himself from flooing Remus immediately after though. “Remus? You home?” He should be, James knew his schedule, and they did just about everything together because Remus didn’t like going out in public alone (it was safer).

“Study!”

James took his shoes off, setting them neatly by the door because anything less would get him a scolding from Remus. He padded over, leaning against the door frame.

Remus took one look at him and turned around fully in his chair. “What’s wrong?”

“Did you know that Sirius is teaching at Hogwarts?” James said in a blank tone.

Remus’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Huh. Apparently he didn’t know. James felt better for it. “He never said.” And there was the confirmation that they stayed in contact. James expected them to, but it was odd that Sirius wouldn’t have mentioned anything. Remus must have picked up on that because he said, “We’re not that close anymore.”

“Oh.” That had to be James’s fault. After the war, the three of them had been as close as they were during Hogwarts, more so, almost, for the people they’d lost since then.

“So does Harry remember him?”

“He’s not sure. Gods Moony what am I supposed to tell him?”

“The truth?”

James stared at him flatly. “He’s eleven. And I haven’t even told you what happened.”

“I noticed,” Remus said drily. “I meant, you could tell him that you and Sirius used to be friends, so he was around to help raise him.”

Well James knew he had to say that much, but what about everything else? “And when he asks why he’s not around at all anymore?”

Remus raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know what you want me to say, James. You’re Harry’s father, you’re the one that has to deal with this.” He turned back to his desk. “Unless of course you want to grow a pair and tell me what happened between you and Sirius.” When James didn’t say anything, he added, “That’s what I thought. Let me know how that conversation turns out, yeah?”

“Remus,” he whinged. “Help me.”

“I already gave you my advice, James, it’s not my fault if you don’t want to listen to me.”

James frowned pitifully, but he knew that Remus was right. Regardless, he walked over and put his head on Remus’s shoulder. “Be nice to me, I’m going through a lot.”

“Most of it self-induced,” Remus had the kindness to remind him.

“Thank you so much Moony you really know how to lift my spirits.”

Remus snorted, and James thought it funny that at one point he thought Remus had been the nice one of the Marauders. None of them had been nice, really. “Again, you only have yourself to blame.”

“What makes you think it’s something I did and not Sirius?” he asked curiously. Not that he would let Remus think that Sirius did, but it was the principle of the matter.

“Because if Sirius had done something wrong, he wouldn’t have showed up on my doorstep sobbing and saying that you hated him. He has a very specific way of acting when he’s the one at fault, as do you. He didn’t do anything wrong, James, and we both know it. Like I said, the only way I can actually help you here is if you tell me what happened.”

James mussed his hair as he considered-- truly considered-- it. Eventually, he shook his head. “Maybe in a month or two.”

He stood to leave, but paused when Remus called out, “You can’t run from this forever, James.”

“I know,” he whispered. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to fight like hell to avoid it.

Chapter Text

Harry frowned down at the letter. It hadn’t escaped his notice that Dad had completely ignored the subject of Professor Black, but he did give an explanation for Professor Snape, and said he was happy that Harry could still enjoy history, so at least there was that.

...It wasn’t really enough. Harry was burning with curiosity, so much that he didn’t want to wait for Winter Break to corner him about it and get an answer. After another three letters with no explanation, two weeks of Professor Black not giving anything up, and Moony saying that his father was a bloody idiot but nothing more, Harry decided to ask Professor McGonagall.

She didn’t have any classes or appointments, he had made sure of that before deciding to go to her that day. Her office door was open, but he knocked anyway. She looked up, her eyes warm when she recognized him.

“What can I do for you, Mister Potter?”

“It’s not about school actually,” he said, though he doubted he could call her anything but Professor so long as they were in Hogwarts. Or maybe that was a classroom specific urge. “I… had some questions about my dad I wanted to ask you.”

She nodded, then invited him to sit across from her, stacking the parchment in front of her and setting it aside to let him know she was listening.  

“Do him and Professor Black know each other?”

She blinked in shock at him. “What?” Sirius had said he and James hadn’t spoken in some time, but… well, she thought he meant a month or two after some stupid spat. Never, in her wildest dreams, could she have imagined this : James and Sirius being so disconnected that his son couldn’t recognise him.

Harry shifted nervously. “Well he just seems really familiar, but Dad won’t tell me anything, and neither will Uncle Remus.”

“You don’t recognise him?”

“Well, no, not- really.” She didn’t say anything for a minute, which only enforced the idea that whatever this was, it was big. Harry couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just tell him-- except in Moony’s case, he always did like to make Dad deal with his own messes.

This probably wasn’t any of her business, but she wasn’t going to let Harry suffer because his parents didn’t feel like talking to each other and admitting their mistakes. “Sirius Black and James Potter are… were the best of friends. Even after they graduated, you hardly saw one of them without the other. Inseparable.” She had always thought they would be together. She doubted anyone had been more surprised than her when Lily and James got married. “When Lily died, Sirius moved in with James to help raise you.”

Harry sat back stunned. She hadn’t said much but… raise him? Professor Black had helped raise him? But then- why wouldn’t he have said anything? What changed? Why hasn’t Harry seen him in years?

“Until a few minutes ago, I was under the impression that he was still living with both you and your father over the holidays.” Where he belongs , she finished mentally. Godric and Salazar what had happened to those two? Sirius was going somewhere over the holidays, and she hadn’t thought to ask because the answer had seemed so clear.

Numbly, Harry shook his head. She hadn’t asked a question but… he couldn’t believe it. He knew that his father didn’t tell him everything, but something this huge?

Professor McGonagall came around her desk and put a hand on his shoulder, then squeezed it comfortingly. “Why don’t you take some time to think on this, try writing your father again. If he doesn’t answer you, come back to me and I’ll answer as many of your questions as I can.”

“Really?”

She nodded, giving him a small smile and helping him out of his chair purely for comfort’s sake, a pleasant reminder that she was here for him.

Harry hesitated for a moment, then threw his arms around her. “Thanks Aunt Minnie.”

She pat his back and sighed, but, if Dad were to be believed, she didn’t really mind the nickname. Harry thanked her again, then left. Originally, he was going to wait to corner his father about the subject of Papa for a few years, but if it was Professor Black, Harry couldn’t wait. In a few months, at the most, Harry would finally know what happened.

Chapter Text

“You what?” Sirius hissed.

Dumbledore regarded him calmly. “This is the safest place for it.”

“At the risk of everyone here! Shouldn’t the students be your highest priority? For Merlin’s sake Dumbledore, think this through! Flamel can keep his precious buggering stone in his home and away from the future of the wizarding world! What the hell were you thinking agreeing to this? Why not just paint a giant glowing target over the school and say ‘criminals welcome’?”

“Sirius,” he said sternly, and Sirius stopped his frantic pacing. “Everything I do, I do with the safety of the wizarding world in mind. Someone is after the stone--”

“Then destroy it!”

Dumbledore pinned him with a hard look that Sirius glared at. “Preparations are being made for that. We only have to keep it safe till the end of the school year, and then it is out of our hands.” His demeanor relaxed, and he grabbed his jar of sweets. “Lemon drop?” he offered, taking one himself.

Sirius rolled his eyes but sat in the seat in front of his desk and took one, popping it into his mouth. For Dumbledore to be acting this way… it meant he was as worried as Sirius was.

“I have a few ideas for its defense, but I would welcome any suggestions you may have.”

“I’m a teacher not a tactician.”

“For now. I was once a fighter and not a teacher, as were you. We all change Mister Black.”

Sirius sighed and mulled it over. “We need diversity. Any one approach won’t help. All the person would have to do is find an expert on that subject and they’d sail off into the sunset before we knew what happened.”

Dumbledore hummed thoughtfully. “An excellent idea. Though I do think Voldemort’s own skills would be enough that he would not require assistance.”

Sirius jolted. “Voldemort? You think Voldemort is after the Stone?” Dumbledore nodded absently and Sirius threw up his hands. “When, exactly, were you planning on sharing that information?”

“Right now. There have been whispers, louder than usual, and then just this summer, a break-in for the one item in this world that can grant immortality.” He looked at Sirius. “I need the Stone and young Mister Potter in one location so as to better keep an eye on them. I imagined you would welcome the proximity for your own peace of mind as well.”

“Having Harry close by? Absolutely. Having an item to lure in the person that’s trying to kill him in the same building? Not so much.” Sirius tiredly rubbed a hand over his face. “‘Peace of mind’ isn’t exactly what I’m feeling right now.” Extreme panic, yes, but nothing coming close to contentment. What a cursed mess.

They continued talking, various preparations that needed to be made, discussing what could reasonably be done. It took a few days for them to settle, and when they did, Dumbledore dropped another surprise: he had the Mirror of Erised. He brought Sirius to the room where he currently had it, and they both stared at it with longing.

Sirius walked closer without meaning to, hand reaching out to touch the side of the mirror that was in front of him. Another three steps, diagonal, and a turn, and he could see James again. He had no doubt James would be there.

He drew his hand back to his chest. “What do you see?” he asked without turning around, his voice echoing in the otherwise empty room.

Dumbledore didn’t speak for a minute. “Same as you will, I think. Old friends.”

His footsteps were light, but the sound of the door closing was distinct. Sirius swallowed and continued to look at the frame of the mirror for long enough that he lost track of how long he’d been standing there. Eventually, he took the three steps and turned. And froze.

James was there yes, but he was younger. All of them were, like during the war but without the toll it took of them. Remus and Peter were beside each other, holding hands like they did back when they were in Hogwarts. He’d always meant to ask if they were together or just friends, but then the war happened and then Peter became Pettigrew when he betrayed them and he wasn’t going to ask Remus about it then.

Regulus was also there, by Sirius’s side, and even as Sirius looked at them, the reflection-Sirius and Regulus smiled at each other, a secret little thing like back when they had been children and only had each other. Reg’s arm was bare, free of the Dark Mark he had never wanted.

And James. James was grinning at Sirius like he was the best thing on the planet, his arm low on his waist. An engagement (wedding?) ring glinted on the third finger of his left hand, complementing the one on Sirius’s.

Sirius automatically went to his left hand to feel it, ripping from the dream when he felt that there was nothing there. He looked down and- yeah. He swallowed thickly, glancing at the Sirius-reflection. This was dangerous. Sirius took one last, lingering look at them-- the Marauders, as they should have been, how he hoped they could have been-- and then he left, shutting the door resolutely behind him.

Chapter Text

Harry was vibrating with nerves as McGonagall told Oliver that Harry would be joining the House team. Then he froze. That was- okay a good thing, he missed flying, but it was unexpected all the same, and he wasn’t entirely sure this wasn’t some sort of prank even though McGonagall didn’t seem the sort to do that.

Except then they were both talking at him with excited voices and talks of practises and getting him a broom of his own, and this was a bit far for a joke to go, especially for Professor McGonagall, who’d only shown interest in messing with Dad, not Harry-- and even then they weren’t in the way of pranks.

He was still trying to parse out whether or not it was a joke when McGonagall started walking away, saying something about convincing the headmaster to bend the no-first-years-in-Quidditch rule for them and how Harry had better not slack off. “Okay?” Harry said when it looked like they expected him to say something. He was left standing there feeling like a complete berk, but at least he didn’t get in trouble for what he did during flying lessons.

Of course then his day went to hell because Draco Malfoy challenged him to a duel but didn’t show up and called Filch to get them all in trouble and Peeves was being Peeves and then they ended up in a room with a bloody cerberus that did not look happy to see them.

‘Them’ being Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville, that is. They made it back to the tower without any further problems, thank Merlin.

Hermione was lecturing them about being idiots or summat, although she did point out that the cerberus was guarding a trap door so it wasn’t all bad. “Or worse, expelled,” she finished.

Harry frowned at her. “You think getting expelled is worse than getting murdered?” he asked before she could leave up the girls’ staircase.

She doubled down on her glare, hands on her hips.

Harry knew that he shouldn’t say it, but Hermione was acting all superior and she wasn’t saying anything helpful. “I think my mum would rather have been expelled from school than be murdered by Voldemort.”

It did the trick and she left without another word, paler than before. He ignored the guilt bubbling at the edges of his stomach as they went to bed.

He apologised in the morning, but held that she didn’t need to be so harsh with them given that she followed them for next to no reason, breaking curfew as well. Hermione hesitated, then scowled at her plate. “I thought I could keep you out of trouble.”

“All that would have done is gotten you in trouble too.” She stormed off again and Harry sighed. “Good going, Potter,” he muttered to himself.


“And I don’t know why she got so upset!” Harry finished and it’s possible that he should have chosen someone other than Professor Black to talk to, because the man looked like he was trying not to laugh. Dad would do the same, except he’d tell Harry why what he did was wrong first. Come to think of it, he probably shouldn’t have told a Professor anything, because even though he tried to omit a few details, he knew that he wasn’t good at lying, and he hadn’t really edited out the bits that would get him in trouble-- just the cerberus and that room.

Sirius rubbed at his face, trying unsuccessfully to cover his smile. “Are you done?”

Harry nodded petulantly, expecting a bit of a lecture and was not disappointed. The content was… well, the sort that Dad would give him.

“First things first pup, you don’t bring a goodie-two-shoes out rule breaking with you. Agreed?” He waited until Harry nodded. “Second of all, you don’t go and tell a bloody Professor about it, that’s a good way to get detention.”

Harry’s shoulders started drawing up to his ears.

Sirius sighed. “Ten points from Gryffindor. There. I did my part. Third of all, Harry, you don’t- Merlin. You don’t accept a duel challenge when you don’t know any spells. Actually,” he pinned Harry with an intense look, “don’t accept any duels, ever, it’s a good way to get injured, not to mention an archaic, pureblooded way of dealing with issues. Third of all--”

“You already did third.”

Sirius paused and thought back over what he said. “Okay, fourth of all, I know that right now it seems like the most important thing in the world to be right. Because you will be, often, and people won’t want to listen to you. But Harry, when you’re looking back at your Hogwarts years, you’re not going to remember the people who told you you were wrong and were right about it, you’re going to remember the people that treated you like dirt.”

Harry sunk into his chair and tried to disappear. He thinks he would have preferred Dad’s approach because that, at least, always ended on a good note (except for when he really messed up, of course).

“Hey,” Sirius said softly. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad, Harry. It’s okay to make mistakes, and as far as mistakes go, this is a pretty good one to make. Plus you’re young. Best to make these sorts of mistakes before you’re an adult.”

Harry went back to Hermione after his conversation with Sirius was done, wringing his hands as he walked up to her table in the library. “Hermione? Can I talk to you for a minute?”

She eyed him suspiciously but nodded.

“I’m sorry. You were just trying to help, I didn’t have to be rude about it.”

“Thank you.” Hermione chewed on her lip, obviously thinking something over. “Would you like to join me? We do have that essay for Transfiguration to work on.”

“Oh, er.” Harry nervously shifted his bag.

“You don’t have to,” Hermione rushed to add, clearly thinking he was saying no, “it was just an invitation.”

“No, I know, it’s just- I don’t know how to use a library. It’s not like the one back home.” He’d figured out the Muggle system of organising books simply because they’d had to use it as school all the time, but he couldn’t make head nor tails of the way the wizarding world organised them. Frankly, he’d given it up as a lost cause.

“I can explain it to you?” Hermione offered, hope shining in her eyes.

Harry smiled gratefully. “That’d be great.”

A few days later, Sirius spotted Harry and Hermione talking over breakfast, and he smiled to himself.

Chapter Text

"So are we going to see what's under that trap door or not?" Ron said one day over breakfast. 

"We are not," Hermione said instantly, already pulling up her look of disappointment and reprove. 

Neville nodded in agreement, pouring himself some more pumpkin juice. "I think three-headed dogs are rare enough that whatever it's guarding is bad news, and we should stay away from it." 

"But-" Harry started to argue, only to stop as the post for the day came. Hermione got a letter from her parents, and Neville got a copy of The Daily Prophet because his Gran insisted that he should read it to stay up to date with current events. Business as usual until Hedwig swooped down to where they were sitting and dropped a large package in front of Harry with the help of two other owls that Harry recognised from home that Dad used to conduct business. There was a letter stuck to the top of the box-- easily longer than Harry was tall-- in Dad's writing, and the owls flew off, Hedwig giving an affectionate nip to Harry's ear before she left. He opened the letter, expecting to see Dad singing his praises, and that's exactly what he got. 

OH SWEET MERLIN I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU MADE THE YOUNGEST SEEKER IN A CENTURY I'M SO PROUD OF YOU HARRY. I'M GOING TO COME TO YOUR GAME AND YOU ARE GOING TO LET ME TAKE FIFTY PICTURES OF YOU IN YOUR QUIDDITCH KIT, AND YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO COMPLAIN. 

All that being said, don't stress too much about it. Sometimes your first game doesn't turn out so great, and that's no problem. Remind me to tell you about my first game sometime. Anyways, love you sprog!!! Me and Uncle Moony will be in the stands, cheering you on. 

Love, Dad

Godric, Dad was so dramatic sometimes. It warmed Harry's chest though, and he preemptively was getting embarrassed for the way him and Moony would be acting at the game, but there was nothing he could do about that unfortunately. It had no mention of what was in the package, which probably meant that it would explode in a shower of glitter and mini fireworks with a banner popping out or summat. 

"What did you get?" Hermione asked, peering at it curiously. 

"I don't know, and I don't want to know." 

"Why?" Ron frowned. 

"Knowing my dad, it'll be something totally embarrassing. I'll open it in the common room later." 

Ron shrugged. "If you say so mate." He helped Harry lift it off the table and onto the ground, brushing bits of egg and toast off of it. Their breakfast had been suitably squished, so they reloaded their plates and kept eating. 

Harry scarfed his food down, then hefted the package and made his way to Gryffindor tower. It was better to get it over with now, rather than let it sit all day and forget about it. 

The common room was empty since everyone was down at breakfast, and Harry wondered how much trouble he'd get in for making a mess and not cleaning it up. Maybe he could ask a house elf to help him out? He took a deep breath and ripped it open. Sure enough, glitter showered over him, getting stuck in his hair and going down between his skin and his glasses. There weren't any fireworks though, which was a bit of a surprise. Nothing else came out, and he poked it tentatively, hoping to trigger whatever else was waiting so that he didn't get it straight in the face. 

He frowned when absolutely nothing happened though. He took a deep breath and figured there was nothing else for it, he was going to have to check. His jaw dropped at the contents. A broom. And not just any broom, not the broom he'd left at home when he got on the train to come to Hogwarts, a brand new, shining Nimbus Two Thousand. It was the best broom on the market as Nimbus's had been for the past twenty years, and Harry had looked at this broom in the storefront with hearts in his eyes. Dad had laughed and pat him on the shoulder and said "Maybe next time Haz", and now, here it was. Oh sweet Merlin he was going to pass out because he had a bloody Nimbus Two Thousand as his very own broom, and he was going to be flying on it

He had Charms soon, and he had never wanted to cut class before but he was half a second from it right now just so he could try it out. In the end, he shoved the broom-- glitter and all-- on his bed and raced for class, and that was only because he knew that if he skipped class to go flying, he'd be kicked off the team before he even made it to his first practice. 

The day dragged on and on so long it was like he was trying to swim through pudding, and checking his progress throughout the day did not help. Just when Harry thought he'd be able to take it out for a quick fly before dinner, Professor Quill kept him behind to talk to him about his latest assignment. It turned out to be nothing, but Harry only figured that out after Professor Quill spent twenty minutes stuttering and nervously puttering around the classroom. 

Feeling a little dejected, Harry trudged to the Great Hall to eat, but he perked up when Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor team Captain came up to him and asked if he'd like to get a little practice in before the end of the day. "Yeah, absolutely!" 

"Excellent!" Oliver was beaming like he'd expected Harry to say no and had been sad about it. "I know first years aren't allowed their own brooms, but the school has some extras that you can use." 

Harry nodded along but didn't interrupt. After all, those were the brooms the first years had had for their flying lessons the other day. The school probably had others for the folks on the Quidditch team if they couldn't afford a broom of their own, and that might have been what Oliver was referring to. Harry didn't know, but it didn't matter because, "Actually my dad sent me a broom this morning after he heard the news." 

Oliver nodded. "Right, I saw that, we'll just go get it then." He grinned at Harry as they walked. "He must be really proud of you." 

Harry snorted, reaching a hand up to smooth out his hair. "Yeah. I'm still picking glitter out of my hair from the package he sent." 

"I mean," Oliver continued as if Harry hadn't said anything, looking in the distance with a star-struck look on his face, "James Potter. He has the highest percentage of wins of any Quidditch Captain at Hogwarts, you know." He looked at Harry suddenly, eyes wide. "Do you think he's planning on coming to the game?" 

Stifling laughter, Harry said, "Yeah I reckon he is." 

"Oh Godric and Salazar," Oliver breathed. All at once, he got a determined look and picked up the pace, practically jogging to Gryffindor Tower. Harry ran next to him helplessly. "Right, well I need to see how you fly so we can figure out how to integrate you into the rest of the team. We'll practice you catching a few things, and then we'll call it a day. It's not an official practice and I have a History of Magic essay that's due tomorrow, otherwise we could stay out longer," he said with an apologetic look. 

Harry had mistakenly taken that to mean that the impromptu practice would short. He had never been so wrong about anything in his life. Whether it lasted so long because Oliver legitimately thought of longer practices as lasting an entire day, or because he was impressed with Harry's flying and ability to catch the little Muggle golf balls he was throwing, Harry had no idea and honestly he didn't want to ask. All he knew was that he was exhilarated yet sore by the time they stopped, and it was so late that he almost didn't take a shower before falling into bed. He would have put it off until the morning-- where he would sleep too late and either skip the shower or skip breakfast-- except the sweat mixed with the glitter made him feel itchy all over. 


Ron and Hermione weren't speaking to each other. It was equal parts heart-warming and annoying. Heart-warming because Ron was firmly on his side in all things, and was unwilling to forgive Hermione for what he thought was an unforgivable slight. Annoying because they were two of his best friends and they refused to speak. It left Harry in the middle more often than not, and Neville was unwilling to put himself there to deal with the same things Harry was having to experience. 

Harry didn't think of himself as a mediator, but he was about to have to do something about it because he was going mad. It all came to a head on Halloween when they were in Charms, trying to learn the levitation spell. Ron was having absolutely zero luck in getting his feather to move, and he didn't take it well when Hermione corrected his pronunciation. "See look." She then performed the spell with the correct pronunciation and precise movements of her wand. 

Harry had learned in the past couple weeks that she didn't mean anything by it, but Ron had been so busy being mad at her on Harry's behalf that he thought she was being rude and trying to show off how much better she was. As such Ron was venting as they left the classroom, and Hermione walked by, accidentally running into Harry in her hurry to get away, tears brimming in her eyes. 

"I think she heard you mate," Neville said uncomfortably. 

"Yeah? Well... so what. She knows she was being a berk," Ron said, but he was clearly feeling guilty about it. 

Harry sighed. He couldn't deal with this, and frankly he didn't want to try something and have it blow up in his face as things were wont to do in his presence. So he did what his instincts told him and went to see Professor Black after his next class. He was more worried now than he was before because Parvati and Lavender were gossiping about how she hadn't been seen anywhere other than the girls' loo, crying her eyes out. 

He knocked on the History classroom's door, entering when he heard a loud "Come in!" through the thick wood of the door. "Harry," Professor Black said with a wide grin, setting his quill to the side. 

"Am I interrupting anything?" There was a lot of parchment on his desk, and the one he'd been marking when Harry came in was on a considerably larger stack than the other stack next to it, those already filled with red revisions. 

"No, just," he waved a hand vaguely, getting to his feet as he pushed himself away from the desk, "grading. Wanted to get a head start on it before the feast tonight. What's up?" 

"I was... hoping for some advice." 

"About what?" 

"Getting a girl to like someone?" 

Professor Black blinked, then waved him inside so he'd shut the door. "Alright Harry, what's this about? You fancy someone?" 

"What?" Harry asked, thrown. He went over what he just said, and it clicked. "Oh no, not that, no." He was horrified to find he was blushing, but he ignored that as best he could. "Ron and Hermione aren't getting on, and today he made her cry. I want them to be friends so that we can all hang out, but I don't know how to make it happen." 

"How do you get yourself into these situations?" Professor Black mused aloud, looking at him curiously. 

Harry shrugged helplessly. "I dunno." Dad had asked him this exact question when he'd flown into a tree-- on purpose, not an accident or anything-- and then lost the grip he had on his broom, leaving him trapped at the top of a hundred foot tree as it was about to start storming. 

"Er, here's the thing Harry," Professor Black said, scratching at the back of his head, "I'm not the best at giving advice." 

That was a blatant lie if Harry had ever heard one. "You give me good advice all the time. The last time I needed help with Hermione, you helped me out. And it worked, too, we're friends now." 

"Yeah well let's just say that getting people to not be mad at you anymore has never been my forte." He took a deep breath, rubbing at his eyes. "It sounds like you can't be friends with both of them if this goes on, so maybe tell Ron that and get him to apologise to Hermione before she feels worse and this can't be fixed." 

"That's it?" Harry asked, a little disappointed. 

Professor Black gave him a flat look. "I told you I'm not good at this, it's not my fault you aren't listening. Besides, that's solid advice. If you're so worried then, give her some chocolates and say it's from Ron. Everyone loves chocolates." 

"I'm not sure that's true." Harry himself wasn't overly fond of chocolate, and Moony was rather neutral about it any time that it wasn't the days surrounding the full moon. 

He huffed. "I'm trying my best here, and I already told you my experience is limited. Give it your best shot and hope it works out." 

"Guess I will. See you at the feast, Professor." 

"Yep," he said, looking suddenly sad. "See you." He turned around and went back to grading essays before Harry could question it, so he gave a mental shrug and caught up with Ron and Neville-- Hermione still predictably missing. 

"Hey Ron, have you thought about apologising to her?" Harry asked after a minute alone in the dormitory. 

"Apologise for what? Her being a self-righteous arse?" 

"Ron." 

He sighed. "Look mate just let it go." 

"You're both my friends," Harry pressed, "and she didn't mean anything by it, she was just trying to help." 

"She didn't have to be so condescending about it," Ron muttered. 

"Well making fun of her isn't going to make that any better. Why don't you try telling her next time she does something that way she knows?" 

Ron didn't say anything for a minute, and Harry was worried that now his best mate was made at him as well. "Fine," Ron said eventually as it was time to go down to the Great Hall. "I'll tell her I'm sorry at the feast. Happy?" 

It wasn't something Ron wanted an answer to, but Harry still said, "Yes, thank you." 

They headed down to the feast with the rest of the Gryffindor's, only to find that Hermione was still absent. Harry worriedly checked up and down the table for her, but she wasn't there anywhere. Harry thought about leaving the feast to find her, but it was a giant castle, and it's not like he could walk into all the girls' bathrooms in the building looking for her. He hoped/convinced himself that she would show up at some point. After all, she hadn't had anything to eat since lunch, and she wouldn't be able to stand missing a meal, let alone something as glorious as this feast. Plus... well the food looked really good, and he knew there would be enough dessert that he could eat an entire plate of treacle tarts if he wanted to-- which he fully planned on doing. 

He didn't have a chance to do any of this though, because just as he was fixing himself a plate of food, Professor Quirrell came racing into the Great Hall, pale as the Bloody Baron. "Troll-" he gasped out, hand on his chest as he tried to catch his breath "-in the dungeon. Thought you- ought to know." And then he promptly fainted. 

What kind of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher are you? Harry thought uncharitably. Then he remembered that trolls, while stupid, were giant and terrifying and resistant to spells, which meant that it's not like he could stun the thing to take it out of commission. 

Dumbledore got to his feet, instructing the prefects to lead their prospective Houses back to their dormitories. They started following after Percy automatically, but Harry tugged on Ron's sleeve urgently before they got very far. 

"What?" 

"Hermione-- she doesn't know about the troll, and no one else knows she's missing. We've got to warn one of the Professors." He looked towards the Head Table, but it was on the opposite side of the Great Hall from where they were, and they were already being ushered out of the room. 

"They're too far away, we'll never reach them," Neville said, and Ron nodded. 

Harry let himself be discouraged for about two seconds. "We've got to go get her." 

"I dunno," Ron started, but Harry pinned him with a hard look. 

"We're not going to abandon her." 

Harry expected one of them to tell him that it was dangerous and stupid, but instead Neville said, "I think she's in the toilet closest to the Great Hall." 

There was so many people that it was easy to let the tide push them to the side and out into the corridor they needed. "Percy had better not catch us," Ron muttered. 

"He won't." 

Neville nodded in agreement, sticking close to Ron's side and looking over his shoulder nervously. "He's at the front of the group, he wouldn't turn around for us. He doesn't even know we're gone, and we'll be back before anyone realises." 

"Right," Ron said, trying to convince himself of it as they continued on. "It's- shite." He yanked on Harry and Neville, a fistful of their robes in his hands as he pulled them out of sight. 

Harry only now heard the footsteps that Ron had clearly noticed, and he peeked out carefully to see who it was. He frowned, ducking back. 

"Who is it?" Neville said, more mouth than words. 

"Snape," Harry mouthed back, but they didn't catch it. He rolled his eyes then said, a smidgen louder. "Professor Snape." 

"What's he doing here?" Ron asked suspiciously. 

"Why isn't he in the dungeons with the other professors?" Neville padded after him, sneaking ever so carefully to ensure he wasn't caught, Harry and Ron trailing after him curiously. 

"Dunno. We could follow him-" Ron took an aborted step forward, only stopping because Harry put a hand on his arm. 

"What about Hermione?" 

Ron looked at the corner where Professor Snape had disappeared longingly, then shook himself. "Yeah. Yeah let's go find her." 

They started making their way back towards the girls' toilet when they heard a high-pitched scream, certainly Hermione's. They started sprinting, only to stop cold after making it inside the bathroom. The troll was a twelve foot grey monstrosity, miniscule head and overly large arms, a club bigger than any of them dragging against the floor. Hermione was cowering against the wall, her eyes red and irritated from the crying she'd been doing earlier. She'd been staring in horror at the troll, but when they ran in her eyes darted down to them. 

Harry grabbed a piece of broken ceramic from one of the sinks and chunked it at the troll, hitting him square in the head. It got his attention, and he started to turn around, raising the club in preparation to squash Harry like a bug. Harry got out his wand automatically, but he didn't know any spells, not to mention that trolls were immune to that sort of thing so he stood even less of a chance. 

She inched to the left, clearly hoping to make a run past the troll to join them, only she tripped on chunk of wood, making the troll turn back towards her. She froze, and Harry wasn't sure she'd be able to try and move again, shaking and pale as she was. "Ron, Neville, try and confuse it!" 

Ron took to the role immediately. "Oi! Pea-brain!" He threw a pipe at the troll, but it bounced off his arm harmlessly. 

Neville picked up a length of wood, clattering it against the tile loudly and making the troll turn in confusion. 

"Hermione, c'mon run!" 

She couldn't take her eyes off the troll. 

Ron threw another piece of debris at it. 

"Run!" 

The wood Neville was holding shattered, and the troll decided to go for the closest person. In this case, Ron, who was in a corner with nowhere to go except towards the troll. 

Harry didn't think about it, just ran and jumped on the troll's back. His wand, previously forgotten in his hand, rammed up the troll's nose, a more effective weapon than anything else they tried if the way it screeched in pain was any indication. Its entire body shook as it spun around, looking for the attacker, sending Harry flying off of it, losing his grip on his wand so that it was still stuck up the troll's nose. 

The troll started to raise its club, and Ron pulled out his own wand and said the first thing that came to mind, which, luckily enough was, "Wingardium Leviosa!" He got the pronunciation right, did the proper motion, and the club flew out of the troll's hand, raising in the air above it. 

Ron was gaping, so surprised that it had worked that he lost concentration of the spell and his hand dropped to his side. Spell gone, the club dropped- right onto the troll's head. Its eyes rolled back and it dropped to the floor, rattling the entire room. 

"That was... an experience," Neville said weakly, still clutching the length of wood in whitened hands. 

"Aren't you glad you came?" Harry joked, breathing harshly from where he'd hit the wall and slid to the floor. 

Hermione, apparently over her frozen fear, walked towards it hesitantly, poking its leg with her foot. "Is it dead?" 

Neville shook his head. "I doubt it. They're hard to kill." 

"Is my wand still up its nose?" 

Hermione nodded, looking back at him apologetically. 

"Ew." Harry wrinkled his nose. He wasn't sure he wanted to touch his own wand after this, no matter how much he cleaned it. He was about to get up and retrieve it though when they all heard hurried footsteps and the door burst open, Professors McGonagall, Black, Snape, and Quirrell all piling in. 

Snape bent over the troll to inspect it, Quirrell looked like he was about to have a heart attack, and Professors McGonagall and Black both had their lips pursed like they were trying to hold back rage at finding the group of them this way. 

Professor McGonagall swallowed before speaking. "Why aren't you in your dormitory?" 

They all shared a look. Well, Harry, Neville, and Hermione did. Ron was still shocked speechless at the fact that he'd been able to use the spell and accomplish what he had. "Hermione wasn't at the feast, Professor," Harry said, getting to his feet with a wince. "She didn't know about the troll, so we came to get her." 

"And the fact that this stunt could have gotten all of you killed?" Harry had never seen her look so angry before, and he compulsively tried to smooth his hair down. 

"I'm sorry Professor," Hermione said in a small voice. "They were just trying to help me. There wasn't time to call for help or they would have. If they'd gotten here even a minute later... I wouldn't have been in a position to be rescued." 

That quieted Professor McGonagall, but Snape looked suspiciously between them. 

"If you knew she was missing," Professor Black said tightly, "why didn't you get help beforehand?" 

"We tried," Neville piped up, flinching when Snape's gaze went to him. "All the professors were on the other side of the Great Hall. By the time we would have made it across to tell someone, it would've been too late." 

Professor Black muttered something in French under his breath, and Professor McGonagall swatted at his arm. "You don't even know what I'm saying." 

"I don't need to." She turned back to the students. "The feast will be finished in your House, Professor Black will escort you there." 

Chapter Text

Sirius was quiet as they walked down the corridor, the little first years trailing after him shamefully. He knew he should say something, but Harry just attacked a troll. With his other eleven year old friends. Sirius didn't know if he wanted to lock them all in Gryffindor Tower or bust up laughing. Probably both, but that was because he was feeling a little hysterical. "Everyone okay?" he asked. None of them were splats on the toilet's tile, so none of them had thought to ask when they first saw them. Besides, it wasn't the easiest thing in the world to see four eleven year olds-- one or two of them might be newly turned twelve, but the point was the same-- standing triumphant over a troll's body and think to ask if they were alright. 

There were various mumbles of 'fine' and 'okay', making him glance back at them to see if there were any guilty looking faces-- or at least guiltier than they already looked-- but they were clear. Harry in particular looked nervous, but Sirius refused to lie to him. 

"All of your guardians are going to freak out," was what he ended up saying because nothing better was forthcoming. 

"Gran'll just be happy I made friends," Neville said. "She'll probably be proud, actually." 

Sirius thought about the stories he'd heard of the Longbottom matron and decided that the boy was right, about his own situation at least. "Try not to make a habit of it though, she might learn to be upset by it." 

"Where would we find another troll? I think it's safe now." 

"How did a troll get up here?" Hermione asked. 

Sirius knew, but it's not like he could say that it was a poorly secured obstacle to protect a sorcerer's stone, so he shrugged. "How does anything happen in this school?" He, for one, would like to know because it was frankly ridiculous. Sure Dumbledore was here, but ultimately this was a school for children and teens, not the bloody Ministry of Magic. "That doesn't explain why you lot decided to go after it, wands blazing." 

"We didn't decide to go after it," Neville argued indignantly. "We went after Hermione! And that thing was in the way." 

"You went after Hermione," Sirius agreed easily. "And you did that instead of grabbing a Professor and explaining the situation because...?" 

"You were on the other side of the Great Hall," Harry said. "By the time we could've made it to you and you found her, it might've been too late." 

Sirius's chest warmed at how Harry automatically went from 'any Professor' to 'Sirius' like there wasn't anything special about it. "I'm not going to tell you that was wrong because it likely did save her life, but in the future, do me a favour and try not to put yourself in harm's way?" 

"Yes Professor Black," Harry said. 

Sirius couldn't see that actually holding true, but he appreciated Harry's sincerity in the moment. He definitely thought he was telling the truth right now, and that's all Sirius could ask. 

"Though, I think my dad'll think it's funny. Once he's done being upset that I was in the same room as a troll that is," Harry mused. "Are you sure you have to tell him? It would give me time to break it to him gently." 

"If you want to make a plea, take it up with Professor McGonagall, she's your head of house." 

Harry made a face and dropped it, knowing that he'd never be able to convince her. 

"I suppose my parents won't take it all that well either," Hermione said nervously. "They're convinced that the Wizarding World is filled with dangerous creatures that you can't avoid. I hope they don't ask me to come home, I like it here." 

"Professor Dumbledore will talk to them," Sirius assured her. "Yours wouldn't be the first muggle parents to have some concerns. Granted none of them had a child who went up against a troll, but I'm sure it'll work out. That said, for the love of Merlin, don't try and repeat this. You lot were lucky this time, let's not test it again." 

They all nodded, and continued to walk in silence for a few corridors and staircases. 

"Did I stick my wand up its nose?" Ron said suddenly, sounding shocked and disgusted. 


James got a letter from Hogwarts and frowned, opening it. There hadn't been a quidditch match yet, and it wasn't near the end of term, so what could they have to tell him? 

Dear Mister Potter, I am sending this letter to inform you that your son-- Harry Potter-- was involved in an incident at school and has received detention. A troll was released into the castle, and instead of following his prefects to the common room and telling a professor about the situation, he decided to go looking for a missing classmate. None of the students were harmed in the incident, but we felt disciplinary action was necessary. Harry Potter will be serving two terms of detention tomorrow and the following night. Enjoy the rest of your day, Mister Potter.

And then it signed off with the seal of Hogwarts. A TROLL??? Oh Merlin that was priceless. If James had been there at the time, he'd be freaking out something major, but knowing that Harry was safe meant that he could only see the humour in it. Godric knows that he never would have been able to deal with a situation like that when he was a kid. He walked to the living room and set about putting together a letter for Harry. First to go in was a note that simply said Hilarious, but please never do that again. Love you, and try to avoid trolls AT ALL COSTS-- you got really lucky. Enjoy your first detention! After that was a little glitter bomb and set of fireworks. He sealed it, then charmed it to ensure it would open when Harry got his hands on it. Harry knew him too well by now, and James figured a little parental embarrassment was good for the kid. Besides, there was no reason to send this at all if it wasn't going to be seen by other students. 

He beamed at the finished product and set it aside to be sent out for the morning post. 

A troll though. That was, in a word, concerning. How the fuck did a troll get inside the castle? They weren't exactly grooming the grass right outside. He had a tendency to jump to conclusions, especially where Harry was concerned. He set the letter from Hogwarts aside and made a mental note to show it to Remus the next time he saw him. 


After the shock of going toe to toe with a mountain troll wore off and the subsequent detentions were served, Harry was left with excitement: quidditch season was starting. First match of the season was Slytherin versus Gryffindor, a long standing grudge match that served to make Harry nervous. He'd been flying all his life, but his experience with actual quidditch matches was somewhat limited. He'd been in more than a few pick-up games, but that wasn't the same. What if he messed up something simple? He'd be kicked off the team, and everyone would hate him. Well, except for Hermione, who only cared about quidditch because he and Ron did. 

"Look!" Hermione said, beaming. She was holding a mason jar in her hands, her arms extended towards Harry in her excitement. A blue flame was flickering inside, giving Hermione a ghostly colouring. 

"That's wicked!" Ron exclaimed, huddling closer to peer in the top. Neville didn't say anything, but he moved closer to inspect it as well. 

"That's pretty cool Hermione," Harry said with a grin. "Where'd you find that spell?" 

"It's a secret," she said, a blush dusting her cheeks from the praise. 

"You can't remember, can you." 

The look on her face gave the truth away immediately. "I've going reading a lot!" she defended, like maybe she thought Harry would judge her for not remembering the page and paragraph number she found it on. "We should go outside, take a walk to clear your head." 

"She's right, mate," Ron said, cutting off Harry's attempt to protest that it was freezing outside-- not that the excuse would have done him a lot of good considering Hermione had fire in a jar right now. 

"You're all worried about tomorrow's match," Neville chimed in. "You need to relax a little, or you'll fall right off your broom." 

"I would never," Harry said defensively. 

"It's an expression," Ron said, patting Harry's arm absently as he continued to study the blue flame. Then he looped his arm through Harry's and started pulling him along. "Let's go." 

The walk was cold, but a good idea. Until, at least, Professor Snape was limping across the grounds. On the off chance that the fire wasn't permitted, they closed up around it to hide it from view. Now in Harry's opinion, either they looked guilty, or Snape was a big arse. It didn't really matter, because he came billowing over to bother them. 

"What've you got there Potter?" he asked, looking down at Harry like he was a bug no one was particularly fond of. 

"Quidditch Through The Ages," Harry said, turning the book so he was showcasing it to the Professor. He'd been rereading it, the stories and facts so familiar to him by now it was like a bedtime story. 

"Library books aren't permitted outside the castle. Give it to me," he said, but then he snatched it out of Harry's hands without giving him a chance. "Five points from Gryffindor, now get back inside before I take more." He walked away-- quickly, considering he had a limp-- before Harry could explain that that wasn't a library book, it was his personal copy. 

What came out of his mouth was, "I don't think that's a school rule," instead of pointing out that the book was his. 

"I'm pretty sure it isn't," Hermione agree, frowning in Professor Snape's direction as he disappeared into the castle doors. 

"I wonder what's wrong with his leg," Harry said. 

"Dunno, but I hope it hurts," Ron said with a scowl. 

"Should we go get your book back?" Neville asked, and Harry sighed. 

"I dunno. He'll probably send it to our dormitory when he realises it's mine." 

"I wouldn't count on him to be that nice," Ron muttered. 


It wasn't until after dinner, in the cacophony of the Gryffindor common room, that Harry realised he'd have to go and grab his book himself if he ever wanted to see it again. 

Hermione was helping Neville and Ron with their charms homework, so Harry told them that he was going to retrieve it and left with their well-wishes. The staffroom was his best bet, so he made his way down and knock on the door. Nothing. He frowned and knocked again, harder this time just in case they hadn't heard him the first time. No answer. 

Harry chewed on his lip as he thought. The longer he waited, the bigger the chances were that he'd never get it back. It was the staffroom sure, but students were allowed if they had business there. And if he got caught, he could just explain it. So long as it wasn't Filch, he'd be fine. Slowly, he opened the door, peeking inside. If he saw it laying out, then-- he stopped cold. The two members of the staff he never wanted to see were there: Snape and Filch, and no one else. 

Professor Snape was holding his robes up on one side, showing a leg that was covered in blood. Filch had bandages in his hand, clearly with the intent of helping Snape. Harry had a brief moment to wonder why the professor wouldn't go to the Hospital Wing, but he found the answer as Snape continued to talk-- more like complain, honestly. "Bloody creature. How are you supposed to keep your eye on all three heads at once? And those buggering teeth-" 

Harry tried to close the door, but maybe Professor Snape had an eye on the back of his head like Dad used to joke about having when Harry was a kid. 

Snape whirled around, spitting, "Potter!" like a curse. 

Harry flinched automatically. 

His face was twisted with rage and he hurriedly pushed his robes down to cover the injury. It was too late though; Harry had seen it. 

"I- I just wanted my book-" 

"GET OUT," he roared, and Harry flinched back, turning and running before Professor Snape could work himself into forgetting Harry was a student. 

He probably should have run back to Gryffindor Tower, but Harry found himself heading to Professor Black's classroom, hoping the man would be there. He knocked on the door, and unlike the staffroom, he got an immediate answer. 

"Come in!" 

Harry opened the door and slipped through, closing it hurriedly behind him like he was worried Snape was following him. 

"Harry?" Professor Black asked, looking at with concern. "Are you alright?" 

"Erm." Harry's hands were shaking. "Professor Snape took my book, and- and I went to get it back and." 

"He yelled at you," Professor Black guessed, and Harry nodded. He sighed, getting to his feet. "What book was it?" 

"Quidditch Through The Ages." 

Professor Black walked around his desk and towards the door-- and Harry. "Worried about your game tomorrow?" 

"A bit." 

"Don't be, you'll be brilliant." 

"Everyone seems pretty sure about that." 

"But you're not?" 

Harry made a face. "Just worried I'll let everyone down, I guess." He expected Professor Black to tell him that he wouldn't, but instead, the professor paused. 

"Yeah," he said quietly, "I get that. Did you want to come with me or go back to the Tower? I can bring it to you if you want." 

"I er, don't think Professor Snape would take too well to seeing me right now." 

Professor Black nodded, like that was the answer he expected. "Run along then, I'll make sure you get it." 

"Thanks Professor." 

"No problem. And Harry? Try to relax. Your father was convinced his first match was going to be a disaster too, and he ended up winning by a pretty big margin." 

Harry blinked, then smiled. "Thanks professor." 

Chapter Text

"I'm going to be sick," Harry declared, looking at all the breakfast food and feeling nauseous. 

"Don't be silly," Hermione said. "You'll be fine." 

Ron piled Harry's plate with dry toast. "Here. You can't sick up toast." 

"You sure?" Neville asked. "Because I thought-" he stopped when Hermione gave him a sharp look. "I mean- er, eat the toast Harry? You don't want to get up there and feel lightheaded." 

"He's right Harry. Toast won't make you sick, and it will give you some energy for the game," Hermione said, nodding along. 

Ron slid a cup into his space. "Juice?" 

"If I eat, will you all lay off?" 

They all nodded. 

"Fine." He took a massive bite of toast and looked at each of them in turn, pointedly chewing. "Happy?" he asked once he swallowed. 

"We will be if you finish that piece," Ron said, and Harry sighed, taking another bite. 


The day of the first Quidditch match of the season dawned, and Sirius woke with a complete mess of excitement and nerves and anxiety. Excitement for Harry and to see how he did on the pitch, and completely buggering anxious because there was no way James would miss Harry’s first game. And honestly, there was no way Sirius was going to miss it either. He had briefly-- very briefly-- entertained the thought of not going, but the teachers’ stand was no longer shared with the visitors’. So as long as Sirius was careful, there would be no mishaps. Hopefully.

James wouldn’t be looking for him, so all he had to do was keep his own eyes on the game, then wait to talk to Harry until long after the match ended so James was sure to be gone. 

The issue of it all was that he wanted to see James again. He yearned for it in a way that made his heart squeeze tight in his chest, but inevitably he woke to the cold reality that James didn't want to see him again. Best case scenario was that James treated him politely, like they were old classmates that grew apart. Sirius was pretty sure that treatment would kill him. Worst case scenario was that James hauled off and punched him, but fortunately that wasn't likely. The most probable scenario was that, if anything happened, they'd make eye contact then pretend like it hadn't happened. That thought made him feel nauseous, but what could he do? Maybe he was exaggerating. It had been a long time, chances were that he was building this up in his head to be something it wasn't. 

The time for the game came, and Sirius made his way to the stands. For once, his eyes didn't wander the crowd, looking for who had the best costume or sign. There were always students that went all out for the games. Back in his later years at Hogwarts, that had been him. Harry's friends probably had a sign of support to help with his nerves. Poor boy had looked like he was going to sick up on the porridge at breakfast, and they were all too close of friends for them to not be supportive of his first game. 

Sirius had his old Gryffindor scarf around his neck, his binoculars in hand, and he was keeping his eyes firmly on the quidditch pitch. The teams lined up to face each other, and Sirius felt a burgeoning sense of worry. Harry was the smallest player by far. That was normal for a seeker, but the captain of Slytherin's team was literally twice as big as him and not very likely to play nice. 

It was a good game from the start, the quaffle passing hands neatly and the bludgers flying around looking to cause mayhem. Sirius's heart leapt into his throat when Flint rammed into Harry to stop him from catching the snitch so early. Harry was fine, and the Gryffindor team got a free shot at the goal posts. Lee Jordan's commentary was hilarious, as always, and Sirius was able to get into the game enough that his worry was on the back-burner. 

Until Harry's broom gave an ominous jerk. 

Sirius frowned. Harry had never been uncomfortable on a broom, even when he was three years old and zooming around on a toy one. It jerked again, and it quickly became clear that Harry didn't have control over his broom; someone was cursing it. Sirius got to his feet automatically in concern, though he didn't know what good he could possibly do. 

The match basically drew to a halt as the crowd got to its feet and the other Gryffindor players tried to help Harry off his broom. Then-- when that failed-- they circled the air underneath him, hoping to catch him should he fall. Sirius lost sight for a minute after that because Snape's robes were on fire somehow and the teachers' stands erupted into chaos. As things straightened out again, he saw Hermione Granger of all people, a jar of familiar fire in her hand as she hurried out of sight. Had she done that to Snape’s robes? He appreciated the idea behind it, but the timing was too strange to write off. 

There were shouts and people pointing towards the field, and Sirius looked over just in time to see Harry cough the snitch into his hand and declare, "I caught the snitch!" while holding it high in the air as proof. 

In all the commotion and high running feelings, Sirius forgot all about his plan to go hide inside the castle immediately after the game. He was on the field, part of the crowd that was screaming in either joy or dismay. He loved the energy and found himself grinning. It wasn't until he saw Remus several feet away that he remembered his original plan. He should turn around and leave right now, but he couldn't bring himself to. If Remus was here, then that meant James... 

Sirius's eyes skittered past Remus and landed on James. His breath caught in his throat; James was just as gorgeous as he had always been. Merlin, he'd always been so handsome, but age was a good look on him and Sirius was weak in the knees between one moment and the next. He missed James, and trying to convince himself otherwise had been so bloody stupid. 

James must have sensed that someone was looking at him, because he tilted his head up to scan the crowd. His gaze stopped on Sirius, and for a suspended moment there was silence. It was just the two of them, and a moment that could make or break the rest of his life. Sirius opened his mouth automatically like he could possibly have something to say, and the sound came roaring back around him. He took a reflexive step back, his mouth closing again. He tore his eyes away and did what he should have done in the first place: got the fuck out of there. 

What the hell had he been thinking. What the fuck was wrong with him? What had he been expecting to happen? That James would see him and spontaneously they'd be back to being best mates? Sirius tightened his jaw and walked faster, his eyes burning with humiliation. 

James watched Sirius walk away for a moment, but he turned back to Harry with a smile plastered on his face. "Are they going to let you keep the snitch?" 

"Er, no. Why would they?" 

"It was a tradition when we were at school. The first snitch a Seeker caught in a real game was theirs. They do it in the pro's too. After a famous seeker dies, they can sell that snitch for a fortune. Mabel Lee's caused a bidding war that lasted five hours." 

"Five hours?" Harry repeated. "I can't imagine." 

"Well, it was a worldwide event so there was a little translation going on in that time. Regardless, it was a record breaker. Keep talking to Uncle Moony sprog," James said, ruffling his son's hair, "I've got someone I want to talk to." 

"Alright." He jumped on James and gave him another hug. "Thanks for coming Dad." 

"I always will," he said, hugging him back. 

Remus tried to give him a pointed look, but James left without looking at him, heading the direction he'd seen Sirius take off in. He had to apologise, no two ways about it. He'd thought that maybe the emotions would fade as time passed, but that had been fear in Sirius's face. No matter what else had happened, James never wanted Sirius to be afraid of him. He'd give him a long overdue apology and...

And... 

And what? What was he expecting to happen? Sirius had a life of his own now, he wouldn't want James barging in and making it all about him by dredging up ancient history. He slowed to a stop. He couldn't keep doing this. Merlin knows he had fucked up Sirius plenty with the war and everything that had happened afterward. Sirius deserved better than this. 

James clenched his jaw and looked around. There was Professor Dumbledore, he'd go and say hello. After the war, they hadn't kept in touch, and he was looking after Harry's safety for the next seven years. 

It wasn't until much later, when he and Remus were home again, that he remembered; he had meant to tell Harry about Sirius. Not all of it of course, Merlin he was never going to tell Harry everything about what happened. But he'd meant to tell him the basics: that Sirius was an old friend and they had drifted apart. Okay maybe calling it 'the basics' could more accurately be labeled 'the short, altered version of the truth'. What a Merlin-cursed mess, but there was no getting out of it now. He'd dug this grave for himself, and apparently he was going to have to lie in it. Honestly though, if he had his way, he'd just keep digging until he was so far down there was no hope, which is how he found himself in this position to begin with. 

It was one day later when Harry sent him a letter, and his guilt returned for keeping the secret for so long. James sent him a loving brush-off, knowing that when Winter Break came, he wouldn't be able to ignore it anymore. Not entirely, at least. 

He was surprised when he got another letter from Harry, shortly after. 

Hey Dad! None of the Weasley's have a place to go for Christmas since their parents are visiting one of their brothers, so I was wondering if they could spend break at ours? We've got the room, and you're always talking about how quiet it is. Let me know? 

Thanks! Love you, Harry

"I guess we're having guests," he said to himself as he grabbed a sheet of parchment to reply. He did often say that the house was quiet, but then, he'd always thought things were quiet if Sirius wasn't around. He was thinking about Sirius more and more these days. He'd never truly forgotten about him, but it had been a distant ache, something he could shove to the back of his mind like it hadn't happened. Since discovering that he was at Hogwarts with Harry, that had become impossible. James sighed, dropping his head into his hands. This was not going to be easy.

Chapter Text

"Hey Dad?" Harry asked. 

"Hm? I thought you were in bed?" James said, looking up from where he was making a last-minute batch of biscuits. "Can't sleep?" 

Harry looked at him evenly, appearing far too old for his eleven years in that moment. "Aunt Minnie said you and Professor Black used to be best mates." 

James cleared his throat and went back to decorating the cookies just so he wouldn't have to look at Harry's face as he told him this. At least the rest of the house was down for the night and wouldn't walk in to witness his shame. Good Merlin, Remus was right; he was getting more and more dramatic. 

Harry took the seat across from him and waited. 

"Me and Sirius used to be best mates. When your mother died, he moved in to help me raise you. He was a sort of second father to you for a few years." 

Harry nodded, like that's what he expected. 

James didn't elaborate for a minute, spreading globs of icing on the cookies. "We had a fight and-" he meant to say 'he left' but that wasn't right, so he stuttered out "-and I er, I kicked him out. We haven't talked since." 

Harry blinked. "That's it? You had a fight and refused to talk to him?" 

"It's a little more complicated than that." Not complicated, just personal. He had buggered this up, and he didn't want to lay out all the details for anyone, let alone his son. The specifics of what happened were between him and Sirius, and with them not talking, it meant that the minutiae only existed for him. 

Harry gave an aggravated sigh, running a hand through his hair that made it stand on end. "Why don't you fix it? I- I sort of remember him," he said with a frown as he tried to recall half-faded memories, "and didn't you used to be happy with him?" 

"It's not that simple," he said, but yes it was. He was just a bloody coward. 

"Then make it simple! This can't be so bad that you can't figure it out. Aunt Minnie says that you used to be closer than you and Uncle Moony are now." 

"We were. 'Were' as in past tense. Professor Black doesn't want an old friend barging in on his life and mussing it up." 

Harry made a noise that conveyed he didn't believe James, but he dropped it, getting up and starting to leave the room. 

"Harry?" James called, and Harry paused. "If it's so important to you, I'll think about it. Okay?" 

Harry nodded. "Thank you, Dad." 

"No problem, Haz. Sweet dreams." 


Sirius sat at the high table, picking disinterestedly at his food. He was leaning forward, resting his face on his fist. Throughout his life, holidays had gone from miserable to happy to miserable again. Miserable with the Black family because there was no love there, and certainly no cheer. Happy because then he'd had James and the Potter's keeping him occupied. And now he was back to miserable because James didn't want him around. James was the one person he could always count on to love him, and... well look how that had ended. 

He split a cracker with Albus when the older wizard insisted, and then he'd put on the top hat that popped out because it was easier that way. Everyone else was enjoying the holiday to the fullest, laughing and drinking like the celebration this was meant to be. 

But Sirius just felt tired. He didn't want to bring the party down, so eventually he wandered back to his chambers and collapsed on his bed. "Happy Christmas, James," he muttered to the silent room. 


"You look rather miserable," Remus noted when Harry and the other children were too absorbed in playing games to pay attention to them. 

"Harry knows about Sirius." 

"Knows what about Sirius?" 

James rubbed at the back of his neck. "That he helped raise him." He swallowed thickly. "I was actually- erm, planning on going to see him tomorrow." 

Remus straightened suddenly, as though shocked. "You are? Seriously?" 

"Yeah, if- I mean, unless you think he doesn't want to see me?" 

"James, this is Sirius we're talking about. He literally always wants to see you." 

"I wouldn't be too sure," he murmured, only to jolt when Remus smacked the back of his head, hard. "What the fuck Remus?" 

Remus just stared at him. "I have let you be a total fucking prick about this because I knew that it was hard for you to think about, but now Harry's involved. And if you bugger this up when Harry is involved, you're never going to forgive yourself. So stop being a shit-head and talk to him." 

James blinked in surprise once, twice. "What if he hates me?" 

"No offense James, but you probably deserve it." Remus sighed, slinging an arm around James's shoulders. "That being said, I'll be here to comfort you if things go wrong. It'll be like at Hogwarts when we alternated shots of firewhiskey and eating chocolate." 

"Didn't that make us sick?" 

"Yeah, but then you weren't thinking about how sad you were over Lily turning you down." 

"Yeah cause I was puking my guts out." 

"I don't see how that's against my proposal." 

James shook his head, smiling. "Thanks Moony. I guess I'll take you up on that." 

"You don't know it's going to go badly." 

"Let's just say I'm playing the odds." 

"If you're so nervous, why don't you just do it right now?" Remus suggested. "Get it out of the way?" 

"That's a horrible idea." 

"I think you're just too much of a coward to go through with it." 

It was such a school-era threat that it shouldn't have done anything to James, who was a thirty year old, bonafide adult with a child and a dead wife and everything. But James was hardly mature, and he found the insult needling at him. It was probably the eggnog that made it seem like a good idea even though he'd only had two glasses and the stuff hadn't been very strong in the first place. 

"You'll probably wimp out if you let yourself think about it anymore." 

James glared at him. "That's not true." 

"Oh? So what have the last six years been about? Spring cleaning?" 

"Go fuck yourself," James growled, pushing himself from the wall and storming towards the floo. "And look after the kids." 

He showed up at Hogwarts with a green burst of fire, and he barely dusted himself off before heading towards the professors' quarters. He knew which section of the castle they were in, but he'd never visited them before. His temper abated after a few minutes, and he slowed as something occurred to him. Was Sirius even here for the hols? It had been years, he probably had a house or a flat of his own to spend time in. Hell, he might have a boyfriend and James was trying to crash their nice Christmas evening. He pulled out his wand and laid it flat in his palm. "Point me." With all the protective wards in Hogwarts, the spell would only work if Sirius was in the building. So if he was indeed at home, then- James pulled up short. His wand turned and pointed. He cleared his throat. So much for that theory. 

He cast the spell again as he got closer to the individual rooms, and he knocked on the designated door before he could hesitate. The rooms were soundproofed, so he didn't know that Sirius even heard him until the door opened and he was face to face with the person he had loved the longest. The air was thin, and he felt like he couldn't breathe, let alone speak. 

When Sirius had opened the door, there was a confused little frown on his face. After he saw James standing there, it turned to shock, and they stood there, staring at each other. It was the same feeling as the Quidditch match but magnified. There was no one else here, no noise to cover the sound of their heartbeats, and no weather to help hide their expressions. 

It felt like that time he'd broken a rib in Quidditch, but James managed to draw a breath. "Hi Sirius. Fancy meeting you here." 

"At my doorstep?" 

James winced. "Yeah, that wasn't- er. Listen, can I come in? I want to apologise, and it's been, Merlin Sirius, it's been so long and I know that it's all my fault but I miss you. Can we- can we just talk?" When Sirius hesitated, James quickly added, "Unless you're busy. I mean, if you're busy we can schedule a date or summat." He paled as he realised that he'd just said 'date'. Considering the things he'd said to Sirius the last time they spoke, that was in poor taste. "Or- er- not a date, sorry I didn't mean it like that. I just-" 

"If you're just going to tell me what a terrible friend I've been to you," Sirius cut him, his voice hard but his expression defeated, "I don't want to hear it." 

James blinked rapidly in surprise. "What? You haven't been a terrible friend, not ever. Why would you think that?" 

Sirius looked uncomfortable, and James didn't want to pressure him to answer, so he started talking again. 

"I'd like to apologise is all. And if you want to keep talking to me afterwards, I'd like that." 

Sirius swallowed, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning into the doorframe, effectively shutting James out from his room. "If you want to apologise, then fine: apologise. I'm listening." 

"I didn't mean any of the shite I said to you that day," James said immediately. For all he'd tried not to think about it in the time since, his apology had been rehearsed over and over until it became a nighttime story when he was having a bad day. "I was in a piss poor mood, which I know is no excuse but it's all I have to offer you for why I was such a prick. You're as good as Harry's other parent. You were a parent to him even when Lily was alive, and I'm so sorry I ever made you feel bad about it. You-" he stuttered suddenly because did he really want to say this next part? It would dredge up feelings that were certainly gone after what he'd done. 

But no. He had to say it. "You were never trying to replace Lily, not in Harry's life, and- and not in mine either. You never hit on me or made any advances, and that didn't change once Lily was gone. I know that and I just... I wish I had a better reason for you than 'I was having a bad day' because we both know that doesn't mean shite. I'm sorry." 

There was a tense silence, where James waited for a response and Sirius was processing everything he'd just said. "Thank you," he said quietly. He took a deep breath. "It means a lot. To hear you say that." 

For lack of anything else to do, James nodded. "It's the truth. And I should have said it a week later, not six years. I know this- I know you might want more time-- like, a lot more time-- and if you do, I understand, but... would you come home? Someday?" A beat, hardly a second, and James blurted, "Shit I shouldn't have said that. Just because you're grateful for a long overdue apology doesn't mean you'll want to be mates again, especially not as close as we were. Erm, just, I know Harry misses you. He sort of remembers you from when he was," James held his hand down at his side with a vague motion to represent Harry's height when Sirius left, "you know, so if you wanted to get to know him as more than a professor, you can. And you, I mean, should. If that's what you want." Merlin this had to be the most awkward conversation he'd ever had with another human being. He'd also never fucked up this bad before, so it made sense that the make-up was just as bad. 

"You want me to move back in?" Sirius asked, eyes alight with hope. 

James swallowed thickly. "Yes. But you don't have to in order to spend time with Harry. This isn't all or nothing, it's whatever you want." 

"I would lo-" Sirius started to say before stopping himself. He wanted so badly to move back in with James, to pick up where they left off, but it had been six years, and he shouldn't say yes without thinking it through. If he moved back in and something happened, he wouldn't survive getting kicked out again. He wouldn't. "I need some time to think about it." 

"Of course," James quickly reassured him. "You're a professor, and Harry's here, so it wouldn't make a difference until summer. If you want though, you can visit over break. Get to know him a bit better, or-" 

"I missed you too James," Sirius said, looking down at his feet. "If I visit, it's because I'll want to see you too." 

It took a moment for James to work his throat past the emotion fighting its way up. "That's good too." 

"I, er," Sirius glanced behind him, shifting his weight awkwardly. 

"Right, you're probably wanting to get back to your night." James gave a smile that he hoped wasn't as awkward as it felt. Of course Sirius would want time, but now that he was here, James didn't want to leave. He gave himself a mental slap upside the head. He'd been awful for plenty of years, now it was time to do what was best for Sirius. 

"It's not like I have plans," Sirius explained, "but I... do have some things to think about." 

"Right," James said again. "Of course. I'll just- erm. Have a good night Sirius." 

"Thanks James. You too," he said quietly. 

Chapter Text

Despite James's offer and Sirius's desire to just hop back in that life like nothing had happened, he didn't visit over winter break. He'd meant to. He'd meant to pop in for a quick visit, maybe catch up with Moony since it had been so long and they'd been friends and he'd sort of gotten pushed to the side in the conflict that had nothing to do with him. Sirius didn't regret giving him space from that, knowing that it would've made a bigger mess if he hadn't done, but he should've reached out sooner. Or something. The more he thought about it, the less sense he could make of it. Remus had nothing to do with that conflict, and it had been the right thing to let him stay out of it. In an effort to keep it that way, Sirius hadn't asked a lot of questions. He knew that Remus and James were as close as ever, and after a while there hadn't been stories Remus could share that didn't mention him or Harry. They tried to stay in touch, but it just... hadn't made sense anymore. 

So no, Sirius didn't visit any of them over break even though he desperately wanted to. He tried to talk himself up to it, but every time he decided that it was either too early or too late or too close to a meal time, and maybe he shouldn't drop by because what if that had just been James offering to be nice? James had clearly been sorry for what had happened, but that was hardly an open invitation back into his life. That he had also extended that invitation often dropped Sirius's mind until he'd talked himself into circles for an hour. How genuine could the offer be? James missed what they'd had sure, but did he truly miss Sirius? Sometimes that struck Sirius as stupid, to even think that James didn't care about him. Other times he'd get pulled down in a lifetime game of 'what if'. What if James never liked Sirius as much as Sirius thought? What if James was doing this for Remus and Harry's sake instead of it being something he wanted? What if James did want Sirius back, but not as much as Sirius wanted? Around and around he'd go, until the weeks of winter break came to an end and the opportunity for a casual visit was gone. 

Sirius grit his teeth when the day finally came, knowing that he'd missed his chance. If James was serious about restarting their friendship, he'd understand Sirius's hesitation, right? It wouldn't be a big deal when he worked up his courage-- and wasn't that funny, Sirius trying to find enough bravery to visit his best mate. 

From there, it went from not visiting on break to not saying hello at the following Quidditch games. James came to all of Harry's games, of course, and if asked, Sirius would claim that he wasn't avoiding him. But the bloody truth was that Sirius was avoiding him. There wasn't a good reason for it now that they'd kissed and made up. 

Bad way of phrasing that. 

Now that they'd mended bridges-- much better-- Sirius didn't need to avoid him. Technically, he should be able to walk up to James with a smile and make small talk about how great Harry had done. 

He should be able to do that and he didn't buggering know why he couldn't. 


The day after a Quidditch match-- Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff, a quick game with a spectacularly quick catch of the Snitch from Harry-- Harry knocked on Sirius's open classroom door. 

"Hullo Harry," he said with a smile. He went from pleased to see him to worried, because Harry didn't look like he was here for a friendly chat about his classwork. There was clearly something on his mind, and it wasn’t little stuff. "Something wrong?" 

"Do you-erm, have a minute? I wanted to talk to you about something important." 

Not really. All these papers had to be graded before classes tomorrow, and he was supposed to be finishing up the practice N.E.W.T.'s for his seventh years, as well as O.W.L.'s for the fifth years. And then he had a group of sixth years that were getting worried in advance about their N.E.W.T.'s that wanted him to create a practice exam for their year. Normally Sirius wouldn't worry about it except he'd already agreed. He refused to go back on that promise now, but if this conversation took a while, he'd be losing some sleep tonight. "Of course." 

Harry closed the door. There wasn't a lock, but he would've bolted it if there was, that much was clear. 

"What's on your mind?" Sirius asked, not drawing attention to how strange Harry was acting. 

"How well do you know Snape?" 

Seven years of being students and six years of being teachers together. Pretty well considering how much they hated each other, but not a lot in the grand scheme of things. Sirius shrugged. "Some. Why?" 

Harry chewed on his lip, looking towards the door like he was afraid Snape was going to burst in waving his cape like a stupid bat or whatever the hell it was he was trying to impersonate when he did that-- some of the younger students thought it was scary, Sirius thought it made him look more punchable. "I know that the Sorcerer's Stone is in the school." 

"What?" 

Harry continued like Sirius hadn't said anything, "And I know that Snape's after it! I heard him and Professor Quirrell talking in the Forbidden Forest about it, Snape's trying to bully him into helping him steal it!" 

"What?" 

"And Snape had a bite on his leg from that three headed dog guarding it from when he tried to get past it." 

"What?" 

"Please Professor, you have to believe me! I don't know why Snape wants it, but he's going to steal it before the end of the year, I know it." 

"Er." Sirius leaned back in his chair, feeling rather like that time Remus had tried to spell a flower crown on his head and accidentally shot worms down his shirt instead. "Harry, why don't you start at the beginning and walk me through this like I'm an idiot?" 

Harry took a deep breath and started ranting. Sirius was pretty sure he didn't pause to take a single breath. "So at Halloween when the troll got loose and we went to go find Hermione, we saw him going towards the third floor. And then later, he took my book from me and when I went to get it back, his leg was all bloody and he was complaining to Filch about a three headed dog that had attacked him because he couldn't keep an eye on it. I hadn't heard anything more about it until yesterday after the Quidditch match. I saw him running off to the Forest and thought it might be something bad, so I followed him. He was meeting with Professor Quirrell, trying to make him figure out how to get past the three headed dog and the other enchantments set up to protect the Stone. I know he's going to try and steal it, he's all but admitted it! And you said that the next time there's a problem I should come to you, and- I just want to help, but I can't stop him, I don’t know how." 

Bugger. Sirius sighed, rubbing his hands over his face tiredly. This was not going to be easy. On the one hand, that was some damn incriminating evidence and Harry was right to be worried. On the other, Snape was fucking horrid, but he wouldn't actually go for the Stone. He could do plenty with it, but he wouldn't be able to hide once he had it and the berk knew that. Therefore, stealing it wouldn't do shit for him. "Okay Harry. Sit down." 

Harry took the seat on the other side of the desk, looking half hopeful and half worried that Sirius was going to tell him that it was all in his head. 

"First things first, how the hell do you know the Stone's here? Not even all the professors know." 

"Erm." 

"It's-" Sirius sighed "-you know what, it doesn't matter. Try to keep it to yourself though, yeah? It's dangerous enough without spreading that information around. As for Snape." Merlin, Sirius hated that he was going to have to defend him when he wasn't convinced of Snape's goodness himself. "He's a right arse, but I don't think he's trying to steal the Stone." 

"But-!" 

"I'll talk to Dumbledore about it," Sirius promised. "He knows Snape better than I do, and the Headmaster is one of the only people that Snape will listen to. He'll take care of it, and I won't let him know that it was you, okay?" Of course, knowing Dumbledore, he’d figure that out on his own, but the point was that Harry wasn’t going to get in any trouble for it. 

Harry looked like he wanted to argue for Sirius to personally handle it that instant, but eventually he fell into a sullen expression and nodded. 

"Thank you for coming to me. I promise I'll take care of it, okay?" 

Harry nodded again. "Okay." 

He wanted to tell Harry to keep his head down and not pry into this further, but that wouldn't do any good. "If you say anything else, tell me. You shouldn't have to deal with any of this alone, and my door's always open." He glanced at the shut classroom currently giving them privacy. "So to speak." 

Harry gave a weak chuckle. "Yeah. Thanks Professor." 

"Any time. Look after yourself Harry." 

Harry got to his feet, hesitated like he wanted to say something else, then smiled and bid him goodbye. The door was left open after his departure, and Sirius waited until he couldn't hear his footsteps anymore. Merlin what a mess. If nothing else, Harry had his father's gift for getting into shite. 

Sirius wrote a quick letter to Dumbledore and threw it in the floo. 

Want to tell me why Snape's trying to break past Hagrid's pet and acting like he wants to steal the Stone? -S.B.  

Bloody hell but he didn't really have time for this tonight, did he? Maybe Dumbledore would send back a message that said they'd talk about it tomorrow. If he said that he had it under control though, Sirius was going to fucking riot. He turned back to his papers, trying to scratch in a few words before he got a reply. Less than a minute later, the fire spit out a response that fluttered to the floor. Sirius twitched his fingers and the parchment came flying into his hand. 

Oh dear, that sounds dreadful. Care to explain the full situation to me? Password's candy floss. -Albus  

Yeah he definitely wasn't going to get all this work done tonight. 


Sirius knew that he needed to say something to James. If he didn't, they'd end up not being friends again, and that was the last thing Sirius wanted. He was scared shitless that he was going to mess this up and get hurt again, but he couldn't deny the shining hope that they'd get back to the way they were. 

When they were kids, Sirius had needed James. He would've ended up dead or worse without him. As he got older, he no longer needed James in the same way, but his friendship was the most important thing to Sirius. That had never really changed, and he still thought it was something of a miracle that he'd managed to keep his life from falling apart after that day. He didn’t want to chance that again, and he missed James. 

Hey James, sorry I didn't visit on winter break. I could make up an excuse for why, but I don't really have one. Maybe this summer?

-Sirius  

To Sirius:

It's fine, you're always welcome. Or I guess I should say starting now you're always welcome? I dunno, I just don't want you to think the offer can expire. I fucked up in a big way and I know it. I'm sorry. I meant it when I said you could take as much time as you needed. It was probably a mistake to ask you to move back in straight away, but I wasn't joking. Honestly. Any time you want to visit or move in or anything , you can. Hell, if you want me to install a fence around the property, I will. I don't know why you would want a fence, but I'll do it if that's what you want. 

Bugger I don't know if any of this is coming out right. All I mean is that I know I've got a lot to make up for and I'm willing to do it. 

Anything at all, Si. 

Love, James  

James sent that letter, then spent the next twenty minutes wondering why, in the name of Merlin, he signed it with a love. That was not what Sirius needed or even wanted to hear. Why had he said love? It was true, but that was hardly the point. Sirius already knew that James loved him, he didn't need it shoved down his throat while they were trying to be friends again. 

James,

I appreciate the offer, but what would I do with a fence? Or anything else, for that matter. You know I love that house as it's always been. Probably too honest to say that I'd love to move back in, but you can understand why I'm nervous, yeah? I thought you hated me, it takes a while to remind myself that that's not true.

Trust me, I'm thinking about it. Sirius

Dear Sirius, 

You thought I hated you? Honestly? I wish I could tease you about that, but it's my own bloody fault. Merlin Sirius, I'm so fucking sorry. You never deserved any of that, and I wish I could take it back. I didn't hate you before, and I certainly don't hate you now. I don't know if you'll believe it, but I'm pretty sure you were a better parent than I was. Lily was definitely better than me, and I think she liked you more anyways. If anything, I’m like the third parent for Harry. 

I'm glad you like the house as it is because I wasn't looking forward to making any big changes. I absolutely would for you, but still. Also, this is oversharing, but when have I ever let that stop me? I've cleaned up your old room. It's available whenever you want it, even if it's just a single night. 

I miss you, but I want you to be comfortable. Merlin knows I owe you that much. 

Love, James

P.S. Does it bother you that I say I love you? Because I do, but I can stop if you like.  

James,

It doesn't bother me.

-Sirius  

Sirius sent it off, watching the school's owl fly away, a brown speck against the blue sky. Maybe it wasn't honest to say that it didn't bother him. It didn't make him uncomfortable, but it did stir a dangerous feeling inside: hope. James didn't mean it that way; he never had. When James said that he loved Sirius, he meant it as a friend, the same way Sirius did when he said it to Remus. It still meant a hell of a lot to him, but there was no denying that every time James said it, Sirius hoped he meant in love. He never did. 

He rubbed at his eyes, wishing that he wouldn't do this to himself again. 

But when did he ever listen to his brain? His heart did whatever it wanted and damn the consequences.