The Knight Bus appeared with a crack and Remus dragged Sirius and Harry on, paying the driver whilst trying not to look him in the eyes. He wasn’t particularly concerned about the driver recognising him, but he didn’t want to draw attention to Harry or the fact that he was with Harry. Harry’s whereabouts had been hush-hush in the Wizarding World, and for good reason.
The bus shot forwards before he could reach the nearest seats, and Remus nearly went flying. Luckily Sirius grabbed the back of his coat with his teeth, and none of them got a concussion. The noise and movement of the bus was too much for Harry to deal with he started to cry. Remus wished he could join in. After a fraught twenty minutes they arrived outside the block of flats they would now call home, and Remus hurried up the stairs with what felt like the very last of his strength. In that moment, he would almost rather be carrying out a dangerous Order mission. At least then he’d had adrenaline to keep him going.
When the door finally closed behind them, Remus set Harry down and burst into tears. Sirius was still in dog form, and Harry was covered in tears and snot and someone would have to wipe that up and get him something to play with or eat or…
“I do hope I am not interrupting?” a stern but kindly voice enquired.
McGonagall. Fear coursed through Remus that she would see how badly he was coping and consequently agree with Dumbledore that Harry needed to be looked after by a more suitable adult. He heard rustling behind him, and was surprised to hear Sirius’ voice.
“Good afternoon Professor. Do forgive us, we’ve just given Petunia the news.” Stunned silence filled the room before he added “Oh and yeah… uh… unregistered animagus. James and Peter too, if you think it would help finding the bastard.”
Barely giving her a chance to respond, Sirius strode into the kitchen. “Can I offer you something to drink? Tea, something stronger? We have biscuits.” He was in his polite, respectable, heir to the House of Black mode. Remus knew that sometimes it felt easier to Sirius to slip into that character but it never failed to unsettle him. It was like an entirely different person, with different posture and a new type of fragility. He had only seen it a few times, and all of them had been before Sirius had left his parents’ home.
Professor McGonagall also seemed taken aback, and Remus would put money on the bigger shock being Sirius’ sudden change in personality than the revelation that three of the four marauders had been unregistered animagi. After a few moments she seemed to collect herself. “No need for that, Sirius. I won’t be long, I was just coming to let you know that Molly is happy for you to come over this evening to pick up any clothes or toys you might want, and to introduce Harry to her boys. I believe Ron is the same age. She gave me this Portkey for you to use, they like to keep the Floo clear. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in that the war is over yet. She said to tell you she’d make dinner, and you are welcome at any time. I’ll leave you to it.”
She placed a loosely knitted maroon scarf on the table and nodded at them, before turning to leave.
“Wait!” Remus swallowed. “If it’s not too much trouble, could you tell her to expect us tomorrow? We won’t need food, but I think we all need some peace and quiet this evening.”
“Of course.” With a final nod, she disapparated.
Harry had wandered into the sitting room and begun to play with the stuffed lion that he’d received on Sirius’ birthday, which already felt like months ago. With a flick of his wand, Remus dried his cheeks of tears and snot and retreated to the bedroom, locking the door. He knew that both Sirius and Harry needed him right now, but he simply couldn’t bring himself to do anything but cry.
It was much later when Remus finally woke, judging by the darkness outside the kitchen window. The flat was eerily quiet, and sure enough he found Harry curled up with a large black dog in the main bedroom. Remus’ tears from earlier didn’t seem to be threatening to reappear, rather he felt numb. Making his way to the kitchen, he opened the cupboards and sighed. Beans on toast was a healthy meal for a toddler, right? They could work on vegetables after they’d done a proper shop.
When the meal was finished, Remus settled Harry down in his cot bed and went to sleep in the other room but was stopped by Sirius tugging on his sleeve with his teeth. At that, the tears from earlier suddenly threatened to make a repeat performance. He shook his head and looked at the ceiling in an effort to control the hot stinging in his eyes. Sirius licked his hand and he looked back at him, pleading that he’d understand that he really needed some human company, or none at all. It wasn’t that dogs couldn’t be an emotional support, but that really wasn’t what would help Remus right now. Thankfully, Sirius seemed to pick up on it, and he transformed.
“C’mon Moony, I know you didn’t sleep last night. Let me hold you?”
That was the final straw, and the tear that had been threatening to spill for the last few minutes made its bid for freedom down his cheek. The lump in his throat was such that he didn’t think he could have said anything even if he had wanted to, and Sirius didn’t seem in the mood for talking either. They lay together in the bed, Sirius curled protectively around Remus, and just breathed. Remus was pretty sure neither of them slept until well past midnight, but the silence seemed to speak a lot of what they hadn’t been able to say over the past week. It was going to be bloody difficult, but they were in it together.
The following morning, things did seem a little brighter. The flat was still quiet, even Harry didn’t seem to want to babble much, but the general mood seemed to have lifted a little. It still took them nearly 2 hours to leave the flat, but they successfully arrived in Somerfields a little after 10:30am and completed a shop that Remus’ mother would have been proud of. Store cupboard essentials that would keep them going for a few months, and fresh fruit and vegetables. It seemed that they’d come to an unspoken agreement that although they would buy some basic cleaning supplies for appearances or cathartic cleaning sessions, most of the household chores would be done by magic. Sirius was entranced by the freezer section, and they stocked up on fish fingers, sausages, and chips.
After the main shop, Sirius suggested they have a wander around their local area. Bags disposed of in the flat, they discovered a run down but clearly well used library, a small play park, an Afro-Caribbean Community Centre and a market where Sirius bought far more spices than Remus had ever heard of. On the way back, a poster advertising evening classes at the local college caught Remus’ eye. He didn’t think Sirius had noticed, but when they got home it became apparent that he had.
“Is old man Moony planning on going back to school?” he teased.
“I just… I thought it might be worth getting some muggle qualifications. You know, if I want even a chance to actually get a job. I have some O Levels my mam asked me to take, because I think she knew that I wouldn’t have it easy in the wizarding world, but I always wondered about A Levels...”
“I’m going to pretend I understood that Reems, and I think you should go for it. Something to keep your mind busy and… you could make friends, I’m sure. What would you like to study?”
“Well, I have an English O Level but I failed the Maths, so I think I should retake that. I think mum would have wanted me to. I know I could forge them but this seems a better way somehow. I mean, I could forge some others, but I feel I need to do that one myself. And I’d like to do a History A level. And maybe… Art? And English I guess. I don’t know how realistic it would be to study for three at once though.”
“I don’t know anything about this, you know that, but it did say there was an open Evening on the 16th. We could always go along?”
“It might be best if it was just me. You could look after Harry?”
A flash of hurt appeared on Sirius’ face before he saw the logic in what Remus was saying. Lucille may be on board with their unconventional family but they could hardly expect the same from the wider muggle community. Besides, both Harry and Sirius got bored quickly at the best of times.
Remus turned to put the remainder of the spices in the cupboard and lit the stove, clearly signalling the end of the conversation. They still needed to have lunch, put Harry down for a nap, and talk further about finances before they could go to the Weasleys.