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Blood of the Covenant

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Cottages stood on either side of the narrow road, illuminated by the golden glow of streetlights. Faint shouts of laughter could be heard in the distance, probably teenagers enjoying All Hallow's Eve, despite its relative unpopularity this side of the Atlantic. Sirius however, didn't care. All he could smell was that acidic, burnt, wrong scent and he hurried down the street hoping that his worst fears would not be realised.

As he turned the corner however, he suddenly found he couldn't breathe. There was the cottage, the cottage of laughter and safety and family and... death? The right side of the top floor was blown apart. Sirius couldn't move. His eyes were glued to the sight and his heart felt as though it had stopped beating. This couldn't be real. They were supposed to be safe. There was the fidelius charm, and no one would suspect Peter would be the keeper.

Peter.

But just as the bile began to rise inside him and the incoherent rage descended he heard a cry. A child's cry. Stumbling forwards, he ran towards the ruined house and frantically pulled open the front door, pulling it off its hinges. The cry sounded again and he dashed upstairs. Stood in his cot, in the middle of the wreckage, was Harry. When he saw Sirius his wide frightened eyes seemed to grow and he whimpered:

"Siri?"

Sirius scooped him up and held him close to his chest. Safe. Harry was alive,. Sirius squeezed his eyes shut and held Harry as though his life depended on it. Maybe it did. It was hard to know how long they were stood there before the reality of the situation hit him. Stumbling over some wreckage he tried to find somewhere to put the child down whilst he thought of what to do. James and Lily wouldn't have left Harry here on his own. Lily loved Harry with a love so fierce that Lily...

It was then he saw her. Pale, as always, but somehow different. Her dark red hair could have been the blood that would have made sense of the way she was crumpled on the floor, lifeless. Sirius' heart stopped again. He blinked, slowly, as if he could be imagining things. This could not be real. Harry started crying again and Sirius gasped. This was not something a child should ever see. Just then, he heard a crash downstairs. Grabbing his wand he prepared to disapparate when he heard a muffled sob. It was Hagrid. Why on earth was he here?

Cautiously he headed to the top of the stairs, where he could see James' body. He must have practically stepped over it before and the thought brought a violent wave of nausea. Hagrid was stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking as confused and distressed as Sirius felt. For a minute they just stared at each other.

"Hagrid?" Sirius broke the silence. "What are you doing here?"

"Dumbledore sent me to collect 'arry, t' take 'im to 'is family."

Sirius didn't even question how Dumbledore knew what had happened but he bristled.

"Well, I am Harry's family, and I'm here, so I guess you can tell him that Harry is safe", he replied carefully.

"Ah well, y' see," Hagrid continued uncertainly, "'e said that 'arry should live with 'is Aunt and Uncle."

Sirius felt his blood begin to boil and opened his mouth to shout before remembering he was holding an eighteen month child who had already seen and heard more than anyone should ever see or hear. He gritted his teeth.

"I am his family." he repeated "I was more James' brother than Petunia was ever a sister to Lily. If Dumbledore wants to explain why he thinks a child should be sent to live with those people, he will have to tell me why himself."

With that, he disapparated, but not before the lump in his throat became too much, and the tears finally began to fall.

As Sirius’ eyes adjusted to the gloom of the bare room he had just apparated to, sobs began to wrack his body. Harry began to wail and it was all Sirius could do not to join him. Carefully placing the child down, he slumped onto the bed. None of this could be real. He had spoken to James just earlier today, they had even been talking about a second child. Everything had been normal, as normal as it could be in war time. Fuck, he had just been on his way to have a Halloween meal with his family. Because that's what they were, family. And now they were just gone? It couldn't be real.

Harry tugged on Sirius' sleeve, and Sirius lifted his head to meet the piercing green eyes of his best friend's wife surrounded by the unruly mop of black hair that was characteristic for the Potters. The child's face was covered by a scar, like lightning had struck him and left a trail behind. It hadn't been there last time Sirius had seen Harry, but it seemed almost perfectly healed. Harry's face was stained with tears and his bottom lip was wobbling.

"Dada?" he asked, and Sirius' heart shattered into pieces. He hadn't thought it was possible for it to break anymore than it had as soon as soon as he had seen the cottage, but apparently it was. Breathing deeply, he tried to control his sobbing. The child needed him and he couldn't help him if he couldn't breathe. But it was just that they were gone, and Harry was a toddler, and Sirius had no idea how to raise a child but Merlin's beard he would not let Dumbledore anywhere near. James had always trusted Dumbledore and look how well that had turned out.

The rage began to return then, and with it an ability to think clearly. They couldn't stay here, there was no heating and it was a cold autumn. Honestly he had no idea why this is where he had decided to go, the run down shack where the four of them had spent so many full moons. Four of them. Now it was three - no, two. Peter had...
Just as the red mist began to descend and he reached for his wand Harry repeated his question. The small voice pierced Sirius to the core. It wasn't just him now, Harry needed him. He needed to think. He needed to find Remus. Fuck, he'd left his motorcycle in Godric's Hollow, along with the cloak he had been meaning to return to James. He wasn't sure he trusted his ability to apparate again with a child in tow, the way his head was spinning and his stomach was churning. And now he was stuck in fucking Hogsmeade in an unheated shack with a fifteen month old. Sirius reached forward and gathered Harry up in his arms, holding him close. How on earth could he answer what Harry was trying to ask. How could you explain to a bab-

The door creaked open and Sirius froze. Why would anyone be here, could they have followed him somehow? His eyes scoured the wreckage of the room around him for somewhere safe to hide Harry. If the intruder didn’t know the child was here then maybe Harry would be safe.

“Pads?” a familar voice whispered, and Sirius could almost feel the weight of the relief lifting off his shoulders. Remus’ pale, worried face appeared around the corner, his eyes full of concern.

“Oh thank Merlin you’re here Pads, I was running late to the Halloween meal and I saw your bike so I knew you were there already but then I got the the house and the house was… was… and then I saw Hagrid and he was sobbing and he said that you had taken Harry and that Dumbledore would be angry with him and he didn’t know how to get home because he’d taken a portkey… and I didn’t understand why he was so scared of you and Dumbledore and I couldn’t understand that the house was… that they were… that... “ gabbled Remus without taking a breath, looking more like a ghost than a human being. Sirius reached out and pulled Remus close and held him while they both sobbed. They could have been standing there for a thousand years for all Sirius knew, but Remus finally drew back with a sniffle and a sheepish expression on his face that would have sent Sirius into fits of giggles at literally any other time. “I may have told Hagrid he could use your bike, sorry mate.” he admitted.

This did cause the corners of Sirius’ mouth to twitch and he exhaled sharply. “Mate?” he questioned, eyebrows raised.

At this, Remus blushed and pecked his cheek. “Oh sorry honey-buns, my dearest sweetie-pie.”

Sirius stifled a laugh and shoved him gently, before realising where they were and why. Swallowing, he turned around to look for Harry, and found him curled up on a ripped armchair, fast asleep. Merlin, everything was just such a fucking mess. What on earth where they going to do now? Glancing back at Remus, he realised that he had only just seen Harry. Remus’ brow was creased and he started searching through drawers looking, Sirius realised, for a blanket. Something Sirius hadn’t even considered. Bloody hell, how did he ever think he would be able to raise a child he was too young for th… He was older than Lily and James.

After Remus had tucked Harry in, and used his wand to light a fire in the grate (another thing that hadn’t even occurred to Sirius despite his panic about the cold), he turned back to Sirius with a serious expression.

“You want to raise him.”

It was more a statement than a question, and Sirius simply nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

“Right then. I can go and pack my stuff now and I’ll be gone by tomorrow and you can bring him home then. I think he should be alright sleeping here tonight, probably best not to wake him.” and with that Remus turned to leave.

Sirius was stunned. What did he mean? He hadn’t even considered that Remus might not want to live with Harry, but he couldn’t lose him now. “Wait, Reems, why?” he gasped.

Remus turned back to face him, tears streaking silently down his face and his eyes full of such pain that Sirius had never seen before. “I am hardly a safe person for a child to be around Pads. We both know that. I have places I can go, I could visit sometim-” his voice broke, and he shook his head.

“Remus, you complete twat.” Sirius almost shouted, the relief tangible. “Harry would be far safer with an actual competent adult around and we both know that’s not me. If you want to be there, please stay. I want you to stay and I’m sure Harry does too.” Pausing, he took a deep breath. “Look, I know this isn’t something we have talked about yet and I know we don’t even really have our own place and I totally understand if this is too much for you. I am so sorry I took off from Godric’s Hollow without waiting for you to arrive so that we could make this decision together. But please don’t ever say you are dangerous to Harry, please don’t make that the reason you decide you can’t stay.”

Chapter Text

Sirius woke slowly and groggily, not entirely sure where he was. Rolling over, he saw Remus’ sleeping form next to him, and he smiled sleepily. He would never get used to waking up to that sight. Blinking blearily, he realised he had been woken not by sunlight peeking through the curtains that never quite shut properly, but by a cold breeze. Sitting up, the realisation where he was, and why he was there slowly dawned on him.

“Shit!” he exclaimed, before clapping his hand to his mouth. Too late, a giggle emerged from the pile of blankets on the other side of him. Looking down at the mop of familiar unruly black hair, his heart tightened. Harry was grinning at him, and memories of the previous night’s events flooded back. Attempting to pull himself together he turned to see Remus had woken up, and was looking at him with tears in his eyes.

“Uncles, pancakes?” Harry enquired, smile beginning to falter as he took in the expressions on Sirius and Remus’ faces.

Steeling himself, Sirius forced his mouth into an approximation of a smile, and replied as brightly as he could, “Yes, we’ll have pancakes for breakfast. Special treat!”

“Pads, you spoil him…” Remus attempted to playfully protest, and Sirius shot him a grateful look before scooping Harry up in his arms.

“Right young man, floo powder time!”, Sirius proclaimed and Harry giggled again. Striding towards the fireplace, Sirius glanced back at Remus and waved for him to follow.

***

Sirius’ relief at the familiar surroundings and the sound of Remus arriving behind him was cut short as he noticed who was sat in his chair. He stopped abruptly.
“Dumbledore.”

The old man turned to face them with an infuriating, knowing smile on his lips. “Ah, Mr Black. Mr Lupin. Tom let me in. I was starting to wonder when you would return.”

Trying to hide his slowly growing horror, Sirius adjusted Harry on his hip. “Dumbledore.” he repeated. “What brings you here so early on a Sunday morning? I thought you preferred the Hogsmeade knitting group.”

Dumbledore just continued to smile that infuriating smile and gestured for them to sit down. Sirius noticed he had rearranged the furniture so that there were two chairs facing him across a desk. Like being back in the headmaster’s office.

“I trust you are aware of some of the events of last night,” began Dumbledore, his voice maddeningly calm. “Imagine my surprise when Hagrid returned on a flying motorcycle. I’m sure everything was a horrible shock to you, but in the light of day I hope we can sensibly agree that Harry should go and live with his remaining family.”

Remus stiffened and Sirius realised with a jolt that they still hadn’t had a proper conversation about what had happened last night. Forcing his face to remain neutral and relaxed, he replied simply: “Yes, I think we are on the same page there. As Harry’s godfather it makes perfect sense that Harry should live with me and Remus.”
At this, Harry, who had grown much quieter started babbling, with the only real words that Sirius could make out being ‘uncles’ and ‘pancakes’. How much did the toddler understand? It was clear that either he did not understand that his parents were no longer alive, or that the trauma and shock meant that he just couldn’t process it. But the way he kept repeating ‘uncles’ did seem to show that he wanted to stay with Sirius and Remus. Maybe that would be enough for Dumbledore?

But of course it wasn’t, and the old man looked at Sirius sternly over his half-moon glasses. “I’m sure you are aware that Harry does in fact have an uncle and aunt who live in a nice neighbourhood and even have a son a similar age. They have experience with children and a stable income, something I can’t say the same for yourselves...” This was enough for Sirius to see red but Remus squeezed his hand and he battled to concentrate on the rest of what Dumbledore had to say.
“Furthermore,” their old headmaster continued, “When Lily sacrificed herself to save Harry she invoked a very powerful magic. The love she showed in that act will continue to protect Harry as long as he lives with family. You wouldn’t want to risk his safety if Voldemort was to return, would you? We have no real idea where he went and it would be… hasty… to assume that he was truly dead.”

“I’m more James’ brother than Petunia was ever a sister to Lily!” Sirius burst out, before taking a deep breath in an attempt to control himself. Shouting would only upset Harry. “Petunia has never shown any interest in Harry. She wasn’t there at the wedding or the christening, despite Lily’s increasingly desperate invitations. She hates magic and everything to do with our world, and according to all reports her husband is even worse. You talk about Harry needing to be raised with love, and I agree. That household would hate Harry for what he is, and could certainly never provide the love he needs. No child should grow up hated for something they cannot help. James knew that. His whole family knew that. Lily would agree that no child should grow up without love. They would never allow Harry to live in such a twisted place.”

Dumbledore fixed his piercing blue eyes on Sirius and Sirius stared back defiantly. “Mr Black, I appreciate that you care for the child, but so do I and I just want him to be safe. I am sure that you are as aware as I am that living in your current situation presents certain... risks... even before we introduce the possibility of Voldemort’s return or any Deatheaters attempting to enact revenge. Harry needs the protection the blood bond will provide.”

“For someone who goes on and on about the power of love,” Sirius spat, “You really don’t seem to understand that family is about far more than blood.”

Dumbledore blinked. Clearly he hadn’t anticipated having to argue past mentioning the bond of blood, and the ancient, barely understood magic that came with it. “And for someone so concerned about Harry’s safety, Mr Black, you seem to have forgotten that living with someone with certain conditions is hardly the most secure environment for an infant.”

At this, Sirius could feel Remus shrink back and he was filled with incoherent rage. “How fucking dare you, how absolutely fucking dare y-” he began.

“M-maybe he has a point?” Remus muttered, the words sending shooting pains to Sirius’ chest. “It… it wouldn’t be fair. Monsters shouldn’t be trusted with children. But Sirius is more than capable of raising Harry, with or without me.”

“You are not a fucking monster Reems,” he shouted before lowering his voice at the sight of Moony’s tear stained cheeks. “You are a wonderful, wonderful person and I would want nothing more than to raise a child with you. Don’t you ever think that I wouldn’t.”

Harry was squirming in his arms and though he feared what Dumbledore would do if he let go, he gently released him, only to watch with growing warmth in his heart as Harry ran towards Remus and hugged him tightly. “No cry, uncle, no cry!”

Turning back to Dumbledore he fixed him in a death glare. “Don’t think I don’t know your true colours, old man. I don’t know what your plan is, but I know you are doing this for your benefit rather than Harry’s. People who know they are loved and have worth aren’t much use to you, are they?”

Dumbledore did at least have the grace to look apologetic, although Sirius was sure he was only sorry that his attempt to manipulate had failed, rather than being sorry for the pain Remus was now experiencing. However, it appeared he was not ready to give up yet.

“Harry will be the most famous person in the wizarding world after today.” Dumbledore stated. “There will be a lot of attention on him, and I’m sure that it is possible that people could find out your secrets, even if people do accept that he would be raised by two men. One of whom is a werewolf. One of whom could be assumed to have been the Potters’ secret keeper, if they were to know of the protections that had been put into place.”

Sirius didn’t think he imagined the threat behind those words, but he forced himself to smile sweetly. “Well, I can’t imagine how anyone would discover that information, can you? Peter will be put on trial, as is right, and Harry will be given as much privacy as your influence can grant us. After all we all have secrets. You wouldn’t want us to tell them about Ariana, would you?”

Chapter Text

Dumbledore left shortly after, although Sirius was left with the distinct impression that this fight was far from being over. That said, the sudden silence that filled the room seemed to take the form of a cold, tangible mist which filled Sirius’ lungs and stomach as he attempted to make sense of his thoughts, making it almost impossible to breathe. He needed to talk to Remus, but it felt as though if he opened his mouth all that would tumble out was the thick fog of pain curdling in his stomach. Lurching towards the door, he managed to turn to Remus and smile.

“Love you.” he croaked. “Gotta get some things.” And then he turned and left, cursing himself for his weakness and for leaving Remus alone at a time like this.

Sirius didn’t really have a plan, or even an idea where he was going, he just knew that he needed to get out of that small, stuffy room to somewhere he could breathe. It was with surprise that he realised that, perhaps inevitably, he had ended up back in Godric’s Hollow. Eyes widening in shock, he realised that not only were the quiet village streets noticeably less quiet than usual, but the hustle and bustle was coming from people dressed in all manner of brightly coloured cloaks. In other words, wizards were out in broad daylight giving absolutely no thought to the muggles that shared the village. As baffling as this was, Sirius’ main thought was that he did not want to have to talk to anyone, so he slipped into a side alley and transformed to his animagus form. As strange as a large black dog wandering around on its own may look, he felt confident that no one would give it too much thought with everything else strange that was going on. This form brought with it heightened senses, and as he got closer to the cottage where less than 24 hours ago his family had been hiding he was bombarded with the stench of dark magic.

They had been hiding, but happy. Sirius could picture James cooking shukto whilst Lily followed behind attempting to keep an eye both on the toddler zooming around on a toy broom and her husband, who had a spectacular talent for creating mess whilst in the kitchen. If he had been in his human form, he would certainly have started crying, but there was no time for that.

Slipping through the back door, Sirius bounded up the stairs towards what he was looking for, but at the top of the stairs he stopped abruptly. An unpleasantly familiar scent was filling his nostrils but he couldn’t rationalise why. Why would Snivellus have been here? Unless he was here when, when… it happened. Rage overtook Sirius and he nearly forgot why he had come back in the first place. Of course the greasy bastard would have enjoyed seeing James die, and probably in some perverse way Lily too - if he couldn’t have her, no one could. Fighting nausea, Sirius rushed into Harry’s bedroom and grabbed the teddy bear in his mouth, pausing only to carefully nudge upright the fallen photo frame from by the door. It was a photo of James and Lily two winters previous, dancing in the snow. It was just after they had told him they were expecting a baby, before any of this prophecy nonsense had started. Sirius’ chest constricted and he found he was rooted to the spot. He couldn’t do this. How on earth had he thought he could replace them for Harry?

Seconds later, or maybe hours judging by the failing light coming through the window, Sirius realised he was sat on the floor of the bedroom in human form, simply staring at the photograph. Grimacing, he stood up, and carefully padded over to the fireplace. It had been a joke between them that although it wasn’t connected to the floo network, it was the only place in the cottage where you could apparate, but you’d have to be desperate to try. Crawling into the tiny, sooty opening, Sirius prepared to leave, still clutching both the teddy and the photograph.

He arrived back in their room in the Leaky Cauldron with a jolt, but Remus didn’t look up from the chair in which he was sat, rocking Harry gently with tear tracks staining his cheeks and singing “... ni chaiff dim amharu'th gyntun, ni wna undyn â thi gam…”

***

Remus wanted to be angry with Sirius for leaving him on his own all day with the toddler that was still in his lap, without any explanation of where he was going, or even when he would be back, but he knew that as soon as he looked at Sirius’ face the resolve he had been trying to build all day would crumble. So he tried not to react as he heard him tumble from the fireplace, instead continuing to murmur the song his mother had always sung to him on bad days. Still, he couldn’t help but notice what Sirius was carrying as he walked towards him, past him, to the bed and instantly any anger he had managed to gather melted away. Pads had always been far soppier than he let on, and now there was an actual reason for his moods. Carefully, he lay Harry down in the cot that Tom had brought up earlier before moving to sit next to Sirius on the bed.

Leaning his head on Sirius’ shoulder, he gently placed his hand the other man’s, brushing against the teddy as he did so. The contact between them demonstrated just how much Sirius was shaking, and before he could force words past the lump in his throat, Sirius made a huge gasping sob and collapsed into Remus. Remus held him close and stroked his hair. They needed to talk, but first Sirius needed to cry.

Remus woke early the next morning still cradling Sirius in his arms. Gently, he brushed the hair out of his eyes and softly pressed a kiss to his forehead causing Sirius to sleeping stir and mumble under his breath “Love you”. Remus wanted nothing more than to let him fall back asleep and to spend the morning wrapped up in sleepy cuddles, but it wasn’t just the two of them anymore.

Stroking Sirius’ arm with his thumb, he replied as quietly as he could “I love you too.”. This caused Sirius to look up at him and smile, he wasn’t normally the most vocal about his feelings for the man in his arms. He had always thought that his actions would show how he felt, but since the events of the past few days it seemed especially important that Sirius knew just how much he cared about him - stubborn recklessness and all. “We have to get up Pads,” he whispered, “I don’t know when Harry will wake up but we need to think about what we’re going to do, a pub is no place to raise a child.”

Sirius blinked, and his face crinkled into a smile even as a tear rolled down his cheek. “We?”

“Yes Pads, we.”

“But you… we haven’t even talked… do you really mean it?”

Remus chuckled softly as the half-finished sentences tumbled out of Sirius’ mouth. “I won’t pretend that I’m not fucking terrified, and I’m not one hundred percent sure that this is the best option for Harry but I love him and what you said about needing to live with a family that cares about you and doesn’t hate you for something you can’t change… I think we could give him that, at least.”

His heart swelled as Sirius’ eyes widened as they still did every time he let out a swear word. Pads was honestly the cutest sometimes. But he kept a grip on himself and continued. “Petunia… I just don’t know. She’s never met him and she barely spoke to Lily for the past several years. We need to talk to her. We need to find somewhere to live, we can’t stay here and I don’t know where we could rent with my condition... We need to get a job or some income or… There’s so much to think about and I couldn’t do it alone and I don’t want you to have to either.”

For a long time, Sirius simply hugged him so tightly he could barely breathe. Just as he thought he might have to break the embrace himself (which he really didn’t want to do), Sirius drew back, a serious expression on his face.
“Remus, I did some thinking yesterday.” he started, “I think that the old man was right about one thing.”

Even though Remus knew in his heart that Sirius would not be telling him he shouldn’t be near a child, or that maybe the Dursleys were more fit to care for Harry than they would be, he felt the cold grip of fear in his chest. Sirius noticed and quickly began to stroke his hair before he continued.

“No, no, Remus, nothing like that. Never like that. I just meant that maybe living amongst muggles might be safest. You must have heard the celebrations downstairs last night, the toasts… He will be constantly bombarded by well meaning people and less well meaning ones too - journalists and politicians trying to use him before he even knows why. I don’t think we could keep where we lived a secret, and a child needs to socialise and get out. I don’t want him locked up for the rest of his childhood. He’s had enough of that.”

Slowly Remus nodded. Sirius really had been thinking. He was so glad that he got to see this side of him, that he knew better than to dismiss Sirius as simply reckless or even thoughtless. Besides, he knew in his heart that Sirius was right. But he also knew that they couldn’t do that alone. Whilst Remus himself did have a muggle birth certificate, Sirius and Harry definitely didn’t. And neither of them had any muggle qualifications or any idea of how to get a muggle job. And that was before you even started thinking about housing. Did Sirius even know how to boil a kettle without magic? Slowly he realised Sirius was still talking.

“... and obviously we would need to have somewhere to live and I thought maybe if we reached out to Minnie? I’m pretty sure her father was a muggle and she might know a little more about how things work, or at least who to talk to. I think we had a squib working with us in the Order? Maybe Minnie could put us in touch or something and they would be able to help?”

Chapter Text

Sirius left Remus to draft the letter to McGonagall whilst he showered for the first time in a few days. It was strange how something so simple could make everything seem a little clearer. Still, he gasped as the cold air hit him as he stepped out of the safety of the cubicle, and that small shock to the system served as a jolt to remind him of just how much needed to be done. If he hadn’t showered since that night, then Harry hadn’t had a bath either. Or changed clothes. He assumed Remus would have sorted out food yesterday but…

As he wandered back into the bedroom, towel wrapped around his waist, he spotted Remus stood staring out of the open window. He had clearly sent the letter already. Quietly, Sirius padded up behind him and rested his chin on Remus’ shoulder.

“Hi Moony,” he murmured, and Remus turned his head to gently press a kiss on Sirius’ forehead. “There are a lot of people out there huh?”

Remus sighed a sigh that was too heavy for someone of his age, but that Sirius had become used to hearing from his friends. “There’s just so much Pads, and I don’t know where to start. Tom popped in and said the Prophet had been asking for an interview and I told him to tell them to go away but I can’t help but feel we need to move sooner rather than later. And Harry will wake up soon and we need to feed him something other than pancakes, and soon he’s going to ask about James and Lily and…”

“I know.” Sirius replied. He wanted to add more, to reassure Remus, but he couldn’t think of anything that didn’t smart of false platitudes. It was a lot. Before he could gather his thoughts enough to at least say something, a wail started up behind him. Harry was awake then.

“I’ll get him,” muttered Remus, as he scooped Harry up and disappeared into the bathroom. Sirius quickly got dressed and popped his head into the fireplace to order room service for breakfast. Fruit and porridge this morning, they may as well try and start right with the food after all. All said and done the morning passed quickly after that. Remus and him had taken turns telling Harry stories, and Remus had even transfigured one of their lamps into a wooden replica of the Hogwarts Express that had delighted Harry. It felt almost like a carefree morning babysitting, if not for the weight sitting at the bottom of Sirius’ stomach and the dark thoughts just hiding out of reach.
In spite of this, he was still startled to see how much time had gone by when the bird disturbed them by tapping on the window. He rushed over to let it in, and the owl pecked him mischievously. Sirius chuckled, almost in an attempt to suppress the sudden dread in his heart, and tossed her a treat. He unrolled the note as quickly as he could with his shaking hands and read it quickly.

“I will be there soon. Minister Bagnold may join us.”

It was scribbled on the back on Remus’ carefully written letter, clearly in a hurry. He walked slowly back over to Remus and showed him the paper. Remus swallowed.

“I had hoped that the Minister wouldn’t have to be involved,” Remus began, “But I guess that was a little too optimistic. Still, I guess we should make this place tidy.”

McGonagall arrived around two hours later, looking slightly more flustered than her usual stoic self. Sirius answered the door and enveloped her in a hug before shouting
“Minnie’s here!” at which Remus couldn’t help but cringe.

“Professor McGonagall, ma’am,” he started nervously, “Would you like some tea?”

“You can call me Minerva, I’m not your teacher anymore,” she replied, “But I would love a spot of tea, and a biscuit perhaps?”

Remus quickly made himself busy making a strong pot of tea and locating the all butter shortbread he knew McGonagall liked best. He could hear Sirius chattering away in the background as if with an old friend, rather than their head of house (and supervisor of most of their detentions) for seven years. Harry, thankfully, was taking a nap. Remus hoped that they wouldn’t disturb him.

As he brought the tea over to Sirius and McGonagall, she looked up and gave him a wan smile. “Ah, thank you Remus, my favourites. I was hoping we could have a quick chat before the Minister arrives. Involving her was a necessary step given that we need to liase with the muggle authorities, but I would much rather minimise her control over the details.”

Remus nodded, and she continued.

“Now, Remus, your mother was a muggle and we have muggle school records for you up to the age of eleven. It will be fairly easy therefore to organise a national insurance number for you, and other such administrative matters. I have asked the minister to look into whether it could be arranged that officially you are related to Lily through your father, since he does not exist in the current muggle records, and this would simplify the muggle adoption process. I was thinking a half-brother would have the same claim to family adoption rights as any other sibling, and this will hopefully mean that Petunia is not brought forward as a more suitable candidate. It also fits with the fact Harry apparently already refers to you as ‘uncle’.”

Remus’ head was spinning but he thought he was able to keep up. Certainly, he had spent the first eleven years of his life living with his muggle mother, and most of the summer holidays since. He knew how muggle appliances worked, and it was reassuring to know his current documents could be amended to fit the new arrangements. More useful than his wizarding ones, given they didn’t mark him as a ‘magical beast’. Lost in thought, he suddenly realised that Prof-.. Minerval had not stopped talking.

“... muggles have laws around the relations between two men. Now, I am not saying that it will be a problem for you two to live together, but I must ask that you try to be discreet. The flat we have found for you would not count as a private residence as other people reside in the building. The implications for Sirius especially, if such a thing were to be reported to the police, would be severe.”

Remus blinked. He had forgotten all about that aspect of the muggle world. Sirius looked even more confused, and Remus reached out to place his hand on his knee.

“We’ll be careful,” Remus said, “I was more worried about how we would afford a muggle house, since we should leave Harry’s inheritance for him when he is of age. I don’t have a job and neither does Sirius.”

“One of the Order members, Arabella, is a squib. She lives in a council flat in London and has agreed to move in order for you to take the flat, which should be possible with some administrative wangling. Dumbledore has arranged a nice place for her, pretty close to where Petunia lives. He had planned the move anyway in the case that Petunia was to care for Harry. With your national insurance number, you would be able to take up a muggle job, if you so wished. Sirius is a little more tricky but Arthur Weasley would like to have a word with him and I’m hoping that an arrangement can be reached.”

Remus felt a little bit more reassured. It was clear P-.. Minerva had been thinking this through although he doubted he would be able to hold down a muggle job if he took several days off a month around the full moon. Clearly though, he’d missed something she had said about Sirius, and his eyes fixed on Padfoot’s worried face. Just then, the fireplace shook and out popped a well dressed young witch. All Remus could do was squeeze Sirius’ knee in what he hoped was a reassuring way. They would have to talk once the Minister had left.

The sharply dressed witch stood up quickly and dusted herself off. “Minister Millicent Bagnold.” She stated. “I am afraid this will have to be quick.”

“Th-that’s fine,” Remus stuttered, “Do you want some tea and-”

“No, no.” Bagnold interrupted. “I haven’t got time to deal with all this on top of everything else. I’ve spoken to the Prime Minister, and I’m going to quickly go over a few details with you and then I have been assured that I will not have to deal with you any further. There is a lot that needs to be sorted out after the events earlier in the week.”

“Like the inalienable right to party?” asked McGonagall, sounding for all the world as though this was a serious matter, and not, as Remus suspected, a jab at the Minister.

Minister Bagnold glared at McGonagall. “Exactly. Now. The Prime Minister has agreed to allow Mr Lupin’s papers to be adapted to show a relationship to Mrs Potter. She is not happy about this proposal despite not knowing of his status, as she has very traditional views on what constitutes family. I will say this only once, if the two of you are caught in intimate circumstances, the Ministry of Magic will not intervene. The pun-”

“Wait,” Sirius said, “But we don’t…”

To Remus’ shock Sirius had gone bright red. All he could really do was give his knee another reassuring squeeze, even though he would have done anything to wrap him up tightly in a hug at that moment. This must be what McGonagall had been referring to earlier.

“It does not matter to me, Mr Black, what you do or do not do in the privacy of your own bedroom. However, muggles have laws about such things and a flat such as the one which has been proposed for your accommodation will not count as a private property so even though the two of you are both 21 such activities are still illegal. You will need to make sure that any visitors believe that you are sleeping in separate beds, and that no one suspects the nature of your relationship. Mr Black, you will be a roommate or lodger, and no relation to the child. You may also find that certain... attributes you possess which may have given you favour in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement would be the complete opposite with the muggle police. Do you understand?”

Sirius looked shocked but nodded quickly. Remus knew it was only a matter of time until what the Minister had said would sink in and then Sirius would definitely lose his temper. Hopefully the Minister would have left by then.

“Is that it?” McGonagall interjected tersely. “Or is there any other wisdom you wish to impart on us.”

“That should be it.” Minister Bagnold replied primly, “Just remember that the child will need to be registered with muggle healers, muggle schools etc and that there will probably be social workers inspecting you as a ‘single’ adopter.” With that, she turned and stepped back into the fireplace and with a crack she was gone.

Remus felt as though his head was reeling, but knew Sirius must be in even more turmoil. He turned to look at the beautiful brown eyes of the man sat beside him but McGonagall spoke first.

“Have a biscuit, Sirius.” she said “The flat has two bedrooms and it will not be hard to find furnishings for both. You both have many people ready to support you. In fact, I’ve asked Arthur and Molly Weasley to pop by later. They should definitely be able to help.”

McGonagall’s eyes looked softer than Remus could remember seeing them, and he found the courage to reach up and brush some of Sirius’ curls out of his face, stroking his cheek as he did so.

“Thank you, Minerva,” he started, “We couldn’t have done this without you. It seems like there is a lot still to discuss, but we cannot show our appreciation enough for what you have done for us.”

“It’s not a problem. And I’m sure you both remember Millicent as prefect in your first year.” she replied, and if she sounded close to tears then Remus wasn’t going to mention in. “I best be going, but get in touch if you need anything.”

Chapter Text

The rest of the day was spent playing with Harry and starting to pack the belongings they would be taking with them. Remus was quiet and he noticed Sirius was too, uncharacteristically so. It was only once Harry had been put to bed and they could hear his soft snuffling snores that Remus reached for Sirius and pulled him close. They stood like that, as close to each other as they could be, for what seemed like an eternity but could never be enough. Eventually, Sirius lifted his head from Remus’ shoulder and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek.

“Come, we can talk in bed.” he said.

Once they were all snuggled up in blankets and each other's arms Sirius looked back at Remus again, who felt his heart ache with the knowledge that he would have to explain what the minister had meant.

“So…” he began “The wizarding world may not be completely accepting of two men in a relationship - you know that probably even better than I do. But for the muggles it’s different. They… well basically it used to be illegal. It isn’t now, but there’s so many restrictions that it may as well be. And I know we don’t actually… you know…” he paused here, trying to gauge Sirius’ reaction. This had always been a sensitive subject for him. Sirius simply nuzzled closer and Remus took that as a sign he should continue. “What I mean is, she is right. We need to keep up the illusion that we sleep in separate rooms. We won’t be able to hold hands in public. That kind of stuff. It’s just cos like… we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves and whilst I had hoped the Ministry would be of help if we did get charged with any bullshit by the muggle authorities, I guess that was too much to wish for.”

Sirius tensed as Remus continued to explain about how muggle laws worked, and how they would need to register Harry for muggle schooling and healers, and that there would likely be social workers inspecting them and their home and judging whether they were fit to raise a child. Or, rather, whether Remus was. He didn’t exist according to the muggles. They didn’t care that he was Harry’s godfather, or that Harry’s father - his brother - had just died. They cared more about what they assumed he and Remus did in bed. Which they didn’t do because of him. He knew Remus probably wanted that stuff, and the fact that they would be forced to adhere to all these precautionary methods would probably rub it in further that Sirius would never provide such things. In fact, maybe it was better if Sirius left. It sounded like he would only be causing trouble and suspicion. Remus would be better off without him and his moods, and he could find someone who could actually satisfy him. Sirius was so buried in his thoughts that he hadn’t noticed that Remus had stopped talking and started stroking his hair gently. He released a breath he didn’t know he had been holding and tried to look as though he had been paying attention, even though he knew Remus would see straight through it.

“Pads, look at me.” Remus whispered. Sirius slowly tilted his head up to look at that gorgeous face, scarred and pale but so soft and loving. Remus smiled. “I love you Pads. I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking but I know that look on your face. I love you, and I don’t want or need anything else. And Harry loves you too, and he needs you as much as I do. We’re going to be okay.”

Sirius could still feel the pit in his stomach but it did ease gently. He didn’t deserve this, he thought, as Remus gathered him even closer into his arms and he drifted to sleep as circles were gently traced into his arm.

***

Morning sun shone through the gap in the curtains and Remus stirred. Sirius was curled up in a tiny ball next to him, but facing away. His hair was covering his face, but Remus was pretty sure it would be tear-stained. That wouldn't do, not today. He kicked himself mentally for not talking through the realities of living among muggles with Sirius before McGonagall or the Minister had arrived. For being too weak. Yet again, by delaying in order to cause Sirius less pain he had only made it worse.

Carefully, he sat up and swung his legs over the sides of the bed, burying his feet into the slippers the sleeping man next to him had bought him last Christmas. He didn't really want Sirius to wake up and find him gone, not after how upset he'd been last night. Sirius didn't like to be reminded that their relationship wasn't exactly 'normal'. Not in the sense that perhaps that others would think either, which he knew made it worse for Sirius. Remus sighed. He knew that most of the time Sirius knew he loved him exactly as he was and didn't want anything from him that he didn't want to give, but in times like this he didn't know how exactly to remind him of this fact. Even talking about this topic could provoke a somewhat hysterical reaction, or worse still, a sulky Sirius.

Tiptoeing over to Harry's crib, he was pleased to be see that the child appeared to have slept through the night. Carefully, he leant down and picked him up, holding his breath as Harry stirred but didn't wake. He shuffled back over to the bed and placed Harry in his space and tucked him in.

"I'll be back soon," he whispered.

***

Sirius woke to the smell of pancakes and ice cream and the excited squeals from the small tousle haired creature beside him. Confused, he groaned and rubbed his eyes blearily.

"Happy Birthday Padfoot!" Remus' voice rang out from his left. Birthday? Shit, it must be. He'd totally forgotten with everything else that was going on. Glancing to his left, he could see Remus smiling at him, wearing one of those ridiculous muggle 'party hats' that Lily had introduced them to. Grumbling to be awake at... 7:30am? Was that really what the clock said? he rolled over, only to be met with the sight of a very excited Harry.

"Birfday! Birfday! Uncle! Birfday! Mine?" Harry gabbled.

"No, Harry," muttered Sirius "Mine, so you'd think I would have been allowed a lie in."

"Awww Harry, isn't your Uncle Padfoot such a grumpy old man?" interrupted Remus, a teasing tone to his voice. "I have pancakes for breakfast, and some presents I'm sure you can help open! It's not every day your uncle turns 22."

Resigning himself to the fact that he was, in fact, awake, and it was, in fact, his birthday, Sirius sat up properly and rubbed his eyes. "It's a good job I love you Moony," he grumbled. "And that you brought ice cream." He could see Remus trying to frown but it wasn't long before they were both laughing, and Harry joined in. Sirius patted the bed beside him. "Come on Moons, I gotta at least have my birthday snuggles!"

Remus joined them in bed, placing the tray of pancakes and icecream and strawberries and pretty much every kind of sauce or sprinkles carefully between them. There was of course three hot chocolates on the try as well, topped with cream and marshmallows and... more chocolate. Remus had a sweet tooth, no matter what he would say about the tw-three of them needing to eat healthily. Leaning his head on Moony's shoulder, Sirius allowed himself to just live in the moment. They could think about everything else later, but this was tradition and he was going to enjoy it.

Almost an hour later when all the food had been demolished, sticky faces had been scourgified as well as possible, and Harry's sugar high seemed to be diminishing at least a little, Remus leaned away from the snuggled position they were in and Sirius' heart sank. This pocket of bliss couldn't be over already? But he needn't have worried because Remus' head was soon back on his chest, and there was a pile of presents in his lap! He could hear Remus chuckle at the way he sat bolt upright in his excitement, but right now, Sirius couldn't care less.

"Harry look! I have presents!" he squealed.

"Pwesents!!" exclaimed Harry.

"And you have one too," said Remus softly, handing the toddler a small, squishy package which Harry immediately tried to open, struggling with the spell-o-tape. Sirius leant over to give the small boy a hand, and the wrapping fell away to reveal a small stuffed lion. It was absolutely adorable and Sirius couldn't help but wrap Remus up in an enormous hug, his own presents lying almost forgotten. Harry, wanting to join in with the cuddles and attention, started hitting them over the head with it until Sirius opened his arms to him too. When the cuddles were done and Harry was happily playing with his new toy over by the fireplace, Remus nudged him again. "C'mon then Pads," he whispered, "You can open yours now."

Sirius looked at the pile in his lap, which consisted of 3 flat, rectangular packages. It couldn't be, could it? Unable to wait any longer, he ripped the first one open. "Tattoo You?!" he exclaimed, "I didn't know you were cool enough to know who the Stones were!", which earned him a playful shove from Remus.

"Go on, open the rest," Moony sounded almost more impatient than he felt.

'The rest' turned out to be Motley Crue's album (how did Remus know about them?) and Joan Jett's single "Bad Reputation". Sirius couldn't wait to play them, but first, Remus more than deserved a kiss.

Chapter Text

It was later that afternoon, as the Stones were just beginning the final refrain of “Waiting for a Friend” for the second time, a familiar face popped into the fireplace. Although much paler than her cousin, it was clear that Andromeda and Sirius shared the same haughty Black features as well as the courage to rebel against their family.

“Happy birthday little cousin!” she sang out, “How is the birthday boy?”

“‘Dromeda!” exclaimed Sirius, jumping over the armchair to crouch in front of the fireplace. “My favourite cousin! Do come in.”

Andromeda smiled and reached behind herself before appearing in full on the rug in front of the fire carrying a large wooden box.

“A present, for me? Gosh you shouldn’t have.” said Sirius jokingly.

“For Harry actually, my much cuter nephew… cousin… child.” she replied and Sirius feigned outrage.

“What’s going on in there?” called Remus from the bathroom, before appearing with towel dried hair. “Oh, Andromeda! Wasn’t expecting to see you there, for what do we owe the pleasure?”

“I was just popping by to wish Sirius a happy birthday and pass on this gift from Dory. If you don’t want it, just chuck it out when I leave so I can tell her Harry was delighted and I won’t have to find somewhere to chuck it.”

She deposited the wooden box on the floor with very little sense of ceremony, and lifted the lid to reveal what looked like a painstakingly handcrafted wooden muggle train set. Sirius and Remus just stared for a moment, before looking to Andromeda for an explanation.

“Oh, Ted’s father made it for Dory when they were born. They still play with it now to be honest but when we explained what had happened on Halloween, they wanted for Harry to have it. So I thought I’d drop it round, wish you happy birthday, two birds one stone kind of thing. Anyway, you don’t have to keep it because I’m not sure how big your flat will be if Ted’s parents’ is anything to go by but if Dory asks, Harry loves it. It’s a pretty big thing for her-...them to be giving away, but sometimes these ideas just get in their head and there’s no persuading them otherwise…”

“Oh gosh, what a lovely idea! Dory sounds like such a kind little girl, it’s such a long time since we’ve seen her.” started Remus.

“Ah, about that.” said Andromeda. “Dory is quite insistent that they aren’t a girl. Or a boy. Maybe you remember as a baby they would change their appearance all the time, as metamorphmagus children tend to do. But they would spend days or weeks at a time with a very masculine appearance, then switch to very feminine. Other days they would be a mismatch. It was the same with clothes, refusing to wear anything other than dresses before turning around and throwing a tantrum because they wanted something from the ‘boys’ section of the shop. Since they could talk they have been upset at us using she pronouns, so Ted suggested trying he/him, you know, like Elphias Doge? But that didn’t seem to work either, at least not all the time. So we’re using they for now. You know, to be neutral. Not something I know much about but if it makes them happy I’m going to have to learn, aren’t I. I can’t imagine things will be easy once they get to Hogwarts, what with the separate dorms and new people.”

“Oh… Well, I guess you’re right, their happiness is the most important thing. They are very lucky to have such accepting parents, that must make the world of difference. I have to admit that I don’t know much about it either but it might be that there’s someone we could talk to about it in the muggle queer community? They’re quite active in London I think.” replied Remus, as Sirius seemed to be taking a moment to process what Andromeda had said.

“Yes… yes… what Remus said.” Sirius managed.

“Anyway, I better be off, but I hope Harry does like the trains. If you ever need help with Harry just let us know. Or muggle things, Ted is pretty good with that kind of stuff.” With that, she stepped back into the fire and disappeared.

Sirius sagged back into the armchair before reaching over to the wooden box and picking up an engine. Harry would definitely like this, he thought. It was clearly carved to emulate the Hogwarts express with loving detail but to any muggle it would just look like any other wooden train set. Perfect for Harry, as he didn’t have many toys left. Even some of the ones they’d scavenged from Godric’s Hollow were obviously magical and they wouldn’t be able to take them to the new flat. As if he could hear Sirius thinking about him, Harry woke from his nap with a cry.

“Dada!... Dada!”

The sound pierced Sirius’ chest and settled like a throbbing hot stone below his heart. So far, Harry had barely mentioned his parents and seemed to have thought it was another fun weekend with his favourite uncles, but they had both known that this day would come. His body felt like lead as he dragged himself over to the cot, glancing at Remus who was hovering by the door. Sirius motioned for him to continue, he needed to get to Gringotts before they closed, before leaning over Harry and scooping him up.

“Shhh… shhh…” he murmured, “What’s wrong little one? Bad dream?” Harry paused his howls as he spoke but as soon as he finished speaking they started again even louder.

“Want Dada!!” he wailed.

Shit. He’d known they would have to explain to Harry at some point but he hadn’t even thought what he would say. How could you explain to a toddler that he wasn’t going to see his parents again? He wished Remus was here, that he hadn’t told him to go out. Gringotts would still be there tomorrow, and right now here Sirius was with a sobbing child and no idea what to do. Carefully, he walked over to the armchair, stroking Harry’s back as he sat down.
“Harry, do you remember a few nights ago, Mummy and Daddy were preparing a special meal? Your uncles Moony and Padfoot were coming round for Halloween, which is the best celebration of the year, if you ask me.” His voice cracked.

It was hard to believe he would ever consider Halloween the best time of year ever again. It had been when he and James had truly cemented their friendship in first year, and he’d always loved the pumpkins and the way they lit up even the stuffy gloom of Grimmauld Place. Now he wouldn’t be able to look at Halloween decorations without seeing that destroyed cottage, the lifeless bodies of his friends, the terrified screams of baby Harry.

“Well, a bad man, he got there before your Uncles did. Your mummy and daddy were very brave and had been fighting him for years so he was very angry with them. He… he…”

It was too much. He couldn’t even say it. He just couldn’t. He wasn’t even able to fully understand what had happened himself. So much had happened the last few days that he hadn’t even taken the time to… Fuck. It was all fucking useless. Who the fuck did he think he was kidding. He wasn’t going to be able to raise Harry. He’d fuck him up even more than his parents had done to him, and that’s before you mentioned the trauma Harry had already been through. He deserved so much better than a washed up, disowned, delinquent waster. He had had two beautiful, loving, clever, funny parents and now he was left with Sirius. Fuck knows why they’d chosen him as a godfather, over pretty much anyone else. He had Remus at the moment, but how long would that last until he finally realised that he could do much better than Sirius? Hot tears rolled down his cheeks and he let out a sob of his own. It was like a dam had been breached, once he started crying he couldn’t stop. Huge gasping sobs wracked his body as he clasped onto Harry, holding him tightly. Harry stopped crying in shock, and raised his little hand to Sirius’ cheeks to touch the tears. Merlin, even a baby was taking care of him better than he could. Everything was just so mixed up and upside down and why couldn't this all just be a terrible dream?

Light was fading fast outside and the room was growing dark but Sirius still didn’t move from the armchair. He held Harry in a tight embrace, rocking back and forth. Not knowing any nursery rhymes, he hummed Queen’s “Save Me”, broken and out of tune as the sobs kept coming. He wasn't really sure who he was trying to comfort at this point anyway, Harry or himself.

Chapter Text

Remus knew even before he closed the door that he should have stayed. They were supposed to be doing this together. But he was terrible at this sort of thing, and Sirius had told him to go to Gringotts so that’s what he would do. The walk to the bank was full of him talking himself into the idea that what he was doing wasn’t horribly selfish, or even cowardly. Sirius could take responsibility for the child he was raising, and Remus was doing that too, just in a different way. Sirius was incredibly clever, but didn’t seem to understand things like money - growing up rich had probably not helped but he also wasn’t the type to sit down and work things out before splashing out on a new charm for his bike or the latest toy broom for Harry.

Gringotts was surprisingly busy, given that it was a Tuesday afternoon and he would have expected that most people would be at work, so he joined a queue. Luckily the goblins were very efficient and it wasn’t long before he was stood in front of a Mr Griphook.

“I’d like to make a balance enquiry on Mr Sirius Black’s account, and cancel the weekly direct payments to the Leaky Cauldron with immediate effect. I believe this week’s payment has already been made?”

The goblin peered down at him from the tall counter, then looked at a scroll. “I can see that you are not Mr Black himself. Do you have authorisation to access his account?”

“Yes,” Remus replied quickly. “Here, this is the key. I am Remus John Lupin, I should be named on the account.”

Slowly the goblin reached over and took the key, inspecting it closely, before turning back to the scroll. After what seemed like an hour and just when Remus was utterly convinced that he wouldn’t be able to access Sirius’ account after all, the goblin nodded.

“Balance of 1,040 galleons, 2 sickles and 21 knuts. Weekly payments of 40 galleons to the Leaky Cauldron will be cancelled according to your wishes. I assume you have informed the owner of this business that Mr Black will be ceasing his financial relationship with him?”

“Yes yes,” said Remus hurriedly, producing another key. “I would also like to visit my own vault.”

“Very well.” replied the goblin as he slid down from the high stool he had been sitting on. “Follow me.”

As the cart hurtled into the depths of Gringotts, Remus found his mind wandering back to Sirius and he shook his head as though that would clear his head causing Griphook to look at him strangely. As they arrived at the vault, Remus was surprised to notice that his hands were shaking as he pressed the key into the lock.

The door to the vault swung open to reveal a neat stack of ten galleons and a couple dozen of the smaller denomination coins in a pile. Next to the money was a worn cardboard box held together by elastic bands with a few items on top of it. Remus picked each one up in turn: the photograph album filled with still muggle images starting off in black and white and ending in full colour; the amber colour broach that had matched his mother’s eyes and finally the dented silver locket. He carefully replaced the album and the broach, but kept hold of the locket. It wasn’t real silver, so there shouldn’t be an issue with him wearing it. He turned to leave but then stopped, before picking up the album again and removing a photograph. Nodding to Griphook to show he was done, they travelled back to the main foyer of Gringotts where Griphook handed him back both keys.

“Oh, before I go, could you please let me know the current exchange rates for muggle currency?” he asked.

“They were very turbulent over the weekend but seem to have stabilised for the time being. We currently buy one galleon for £4.90 and sell one pound sterling for 3 sickles and 12 knuts. This is of course subject to change.”

“Thank you, Mr Griphook. Have a nice evening.”

As he hurried out of Gringotts he looked across the street at the Leaky Cauldron. It wasn’t as busy as it had been for the past few days but Tom would definitely be overjoyed with the number of customers he had early on a Tuesday evening. His eyes drifted upwards to the window of their room, which he noticed was dark. Sirius hadn’t lit any of the lamps then, despite the early sunsets of late autumn. A guilty pang twinged in his gut and he started to jog back. He shouldn’t have left Sirius when Harry was upset.

After a few steps however, he stopped. Once again, the cold hand of trepidation around his heart won over the concern in his belly. Sirius was probably fine, Harry was just having his afternoon nap or something. He’d be listening to his new music and messily packing so that Remus would have to redo it all when he returned. No, he didn’t have to go straight home.

It was actually several hours later that Remus finally stood in front of his door, his pockets considerably lighter than a few hours previous. He had paid for a photograph of James and Lily to be fitted into his mother’s old locket, and wandered into muggle London to buy some clothes for Harry. Then he’d apparated to the flat that would become their home. Arabella had moved out but she had left the odd piece of furniture and the overall floral decor reminded him of his muggle grandparents’ cottage down in Wales. Sirius would definitely want to change some things. Finally, he’d returned to the Leaky Cauldron, but still been unable to face going upstairs, for reasons even he couldn’t explain away anymore. So he’d had a couple of pints of butterbeer in the corner, listening to the excited chatter of people who were celebrating his friends’ deaths.

Taking a deep breath, he finally pushed the door open. The room was completely dark and for a moment he was terrified that something truly awful had happened whilst he was out but then he spotted them both fast asleep by the dying embers of the fire. Sighing, he walked closer and saw that it would be impossible to lift Harry out of Sirius’ arms without waking both of them, so he levitated them both towards the bed before carefully removing Sirius’ boots and pulling a spare blanket over the two of them. He could get into bed with them, that was where he usually slept and there was plenty of room but although his very bones ached with exhaustion, his mind was going much too quickly for him to have any chance of sleep.

Shuffling back towards the fireplace, he gave the glowing embers a half-hearted poke with his wand and slumped into the chair, burying his face in his hands. After a few minutes he sighed again, and summoned the firewhiskey and a glass that he kept in one of the top cupboards above their wardrobe. Trying to ignore his guilty conscience, he poured himself a couple of finger-widths of the firewhiskey, before sending it back to the cupboard with a flick of his wand. As long as Sirius didn’t know where he kept it, there was nothing to worry about. At least, that’s what he told himself as he swirled the glass and sipped. After all, he had never said that Remus wasn’t to drink, that was a decision Remus had made to make it easier for him, and he probably already smelled of butterbeer. He would definitely have to shower before going anywhere near the bed…

***

Sirius woke up very confused the next morning because Harry had got his hands tangled up in his hair. He didn’t remember getting into bed last night. Squinting in the semi-darkness, he saw that he was still fully dressed, as was Harry, and that Remus was not in the bed with them. Concerned, he carefully lifted Harry up and padded over to the bathroom, to see if Remus was in there. And to change Harry’s nappy because that definitely needed to have been done a while ago. Sure enough, Remus was stood in front of the sink brushing his teeth and looking for all the world as he hadn’t slept in a week or as though the full moon was tomorrow. Which it wasn’t, they both had Remus’ cycle pretty much ingrained onto their brains by now.

“Everything alright?” He asked, placing Harry down on a counter and reaching for the nappy change supplies.

“Hmm.” Remus managed through a mouthful of toothpaste before spitting it out. “Everything is fine. I saw the flat yesterday. How did you sleep?”

“Surprisingly well, did you put us to bed? I think all the emotions tired the two of us out.”

“Yeah, you were asleep in the armchair when I got back, didn’t look very comfortable. Surprised I didn’t wake you when I moved you if I’m honest, you must have really been exhausted.”

Remus’ voice was flat and emotionless. Something was definitely wrong, but Sirius knew from experience that pushing could make things worse, so he let it be and finished removing Harry’s nappy.

“You had a shower? I was thinking Harry and I could have a bath if you’re done.”

***

Remus took a break from packing around midday, and flopped into the armchair. It felt so odd to be moving out of what should have been temporary accommodation but had turned into Sirius and his home over the past couple of years. Since James and Lily got married really, and found their own place. Sirius had asked Remus to move in somewhere with him but Remus hadn’t felt right about not paying rent (which he certainly couldn’t afford). So somehow they’d ended up in a pub-hotel room which was probably more expensive and they didn’t even have a kitchen. And Sirius was paying for it. He sighed.

Behind him, Sirius was clattering about somewhere, singing along very enthusiastically to Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’. Harry was attempting to join in but it mostly just sounded like shrieking, which he supposed probably fitted the song.

“Remus, do we need our old Hogwarts stuff?” Sirius called from where he was precariously balanced to reach the top cupboards.

“Nah, we won’t have space. The flat isn’t very big and if we need to pretend we’re not sharing a room then…” Suddenly he froze. He kept the whiskey behind those robes and Sirius shouldn’t see-

Too late. Sirius had stopped singing.

“Hey, Remus, why is there a bottle of Ogden’s finest up here gathering dust?” he asked quietly. Remus knew his face looked guilty because Sirius tried to pull on a smile and backtrack. “It’s ok like, I just meant why is it all hidden away? You don’t have to hide this stuff from me, you know I’ve not touched a drop since before the wedding. I don’t mind you having the odd drink.”

“No, no, it was hidden from Harry, wouldn’t want him breaking the bottle and cutting himself.” They both knew he was lying but the conversation had clearly ended because Sirius had started packing again, only slightly more aggressively than before.

Chapter Text

Sirius was trying very hard not to lose his temper because he knew that would scare Harry and probably not get him very far with Remus either. Why the fuck was Remus lying to him? He wasn’t some sensitive baby who couldn’t handle… well OK maybe he could be a little dramatic but he was working on his issues! Personally, Sirius thought he had dealt with the last few days with remarkably few histrionics, last night excluded and Remus probably didn’t even know about that. Where had Remus even been anyway?

His train of thought was interrupted as yet another owl tapped on the window. They had been sending and receiving them all day, mostly with McGonagall to sort out the details of the flat. Remus went to the window and read it quickly.

“She says that although the flat was originally council owned, Arabella bought it earlier in the year. Which makes it easier for us to move in with regards to paperwork, but does mean that she can’t afford the new house given that she spent all her savings. She says that’s fine, but Minerva has suggested that if we are able to we should give her a deposit that she can use for the mortgage on the new property and then pay a monthly sum until we have repaid the total cost of the house.”

Remus looked worried, but Sirius waved his hand. He didn’t understand what a council house or a mortgage was and he didn’t know what difference it made but he did understand that they should definitely be reimbursing the kind woman who had moved out of her home for them.

“How much was the house?” he asked.

“Um… around £10,000. Which is about 2000 galleons.”

Sirius swallowed. He was starting to see why Remus might be worried. “We can give her about half of that as a deposit. You said yesterday I had over 1000 galleons left from Uncle Alphard. We can convert those and she can use them for her… mortgage? And then we can work out a monthly sum once one of us is earning money.”

“Sirius, if we gave her that we’d have maybe 50 galleons between us… That wouldn’t get us far, and whilst I might be used to skipping a few meals when times get tough we need to be able to take care of Harry, and that means money!”

Sirius sighed, but he was saved from replying as yet another bird appeared at the window. Taking the letter and quickly stroking the owl’s beak he scanned the note. The tension that had started to coil in his stomach lessened, as he finished.

“Arthur Weasley is offering me a job! So we should be fine! It says here it’ll be part time and probably not pay too much, but if you managed to get something too then I’m sure we’ll be just fine. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing but he works for the ministry and he said I would be joining his department. He’s going to pop round around 2pm to discuss details and he says he has a car to help us move in to the new flat ‘muggle style’.”

Remus smiled weakly, and Sirius knew he was doubting that he could get a job, but the news that Sirius would be earning had definitely helped his growing anxiety. Then Remus startled.

“Sirius, it’s already 1 o’ clock! We need to finish packing and feed Harry and…”

They scrambled over to the remaining mess that filled the room and began furiously packing, argument temporarily forgotten.

***

Arthur was true to his word, and although they apparated with most of the heaviest items, they did carry some through to his small blue Ford Anglia, so that to any muggles watching them move in it did seem like they had some belongings. As Remus slowly drove them through the London traffic Arthur explained to Sirius more about what the job would entail. Basically, Arthur had been made aware of the existence of Sirius’ not quite legal motorbike after the events on Halloween. Technically, he should be punishing Sirius, but if they kept it between the two of them then he was fascinated by the engineering and if Sirius would talk him through the charms placed on it then he would be more than happy to let it slide “given the circumstances”.

However, the motorbike’s existence showed that Sirius had a familiarity with how magic and muggle objects could be combined and that along with his NEWT results meant that he would be a perfect candidate for the job. Arthur and one other guy was the entire department at the moment and since all the raids on Death Eater’s houses they were both working overtime. Since Arthur had 7 children aged ten or under, this really wasn’t practical and Sirius’ help would be seriously appreciated. The Minister hadn’t yet approved the new position but Arthur was sure that the proposal would be accepted, and that the position should pay around 10 galleons a week for 20 hours.

Basically, it wasn’t perfect and certainly wasn’t masses of money they could probably give Arabella around £100 a month, if Sirius’ mental maths was correct. Which would mean it would take them around 4 years to pay her off… which actually sounded alright? Maybe? It certainly wasn’t ridiculous. Maybe things would be alright after all, although he wasn’t sure if £25 was enough to feed three people for a week and he definitely didn’t know anything about how much ‘elektricality’ would cost. Maybe Remus could find a muggle job, or he could ask for more hours once he’d proven his worth?

***

A few hours later, when Arthur had left and it was growing dark outside, the three of them stood in what would be the sitting room. Harry was playing with his new train and Remus and Sirius were wearily eyeing the boxes they had still to unpack.

“Bedroom first?” Remus suggested, “Then we can at least go to sleep comfortably and sort out the rest tomorrow.”
Sirius nodded and they walked through the rest of the flat which was decorated in a similarly floral style. Sirius could almost feel his hackles raising at the strong scent of cat that permeated the living space. He waved his wand and most of the florals disappeared to be replaced by plainer fabrics. It wasn’t perfect but he wasn’t getting a headache everytime he looked at some upholstery which had to be an improvement.

They had just finished setting up what would officially be Remus’ room when there was a knock at the door. Scooping up Harry, Remus went to answer it - they had decided that he would be much better at dealing with muggle related things than Sirius would.

***

Remus opened the door to see a pretty young woman holding a child who looked to be a similar age to Harry, maybe a little older. Her black hair was styled in braids much like the ones Sirius had worn a couple of summers ago and her brown eyes had a friendly sparkle. She smiled at him, revealing startlingly white teeth which contrasted with the smooth darkness of her skin.

“Hi, I’m Lucille, I live next door.” she started and then before Remus could say anything she continued. “I heard that new tenants were moving in today and well, moving can be such a palaver that I thought I could make some extra dinner and save you the effort of unpacking the cooking items tonight.”

“Oh gosh,” Remus stuttered, absolutely taken aback at the thoughtfulness of this stranger. “It’s quite ok we were going to get a fish and chips or…”

 

She cut him off. “I have a wonderful beef jerk curry that will be ready in fifteen minutes. Now, who is this lovely young man? I guess he takes after his mother? You are all welcome of course.”

“Oh, um, actually… I’m his uncle. His mother was my sister. He looks just like his father.”

“Was?” she questioned, and then froze as she realised. “I’ve put my foot in it haven’t I? I’m so sorry.”

It was then that Sirius appeared, his curiosity having gotten the better of him, and she looked him up and down appreciatively before looking back to Remus with a puzzled expression.

“This is my roommate,” Remus said hurriedly. “We’re splitting the rent since I can only work part time and he’s new to the area and needed somewhere quickly.”

“Hi, I’m Sirius. And this is Remus, and this little fella is Harry. Since Remus probably forgot to introduce himself. I didn’t quite catch your name?”

“I’m Lucille, I live next door, and this is my son Dean.” she said, indicating the toddler she had placed on the ground and who was waddling around in random circles. “Why don’t we go to mine and I can watch the beef jerk while we properly get to know eachother.”

Sirius’ eyes lit up at the mention of food, and so Remus found himself carrying Harry into the flat next door following Lucille as she chatted at a thousand miles a minute.

Chapter Text

Lucille's flat had an identical layout to the one they had just moved into, but otherwise could not have felt more different. The furnishings, though clearly second hand, were bright and modern looking. The kitchen smelt of beautiful spices that, along with the general homeyness and warmth that reminded Sirius of visiting the Potters' for the holidays when they had still been students. Something that seemed a lifetime away now. The Potters' home had been very different to this small London council flat he was currently standing in with it's large windows looking out on beautifully landscaped grounds and the ever present magic whirring away in the background, and the spices had been different of course, but it still had the same welcoming feel, as though this was somewhere safe. Somewhere he could relax.

Glancing at Remus, he could see a smile playing on his lips which showed that the other man was experiencing a similar feeling. Remus let Harry down in the sitting room with Dean and the two toddlers stared at each other for a second before Dean handed Harry a wooden building block and the two started building a tower as though they had known each other their entire lives. The adults then returned to the kitchen, and Sirius breathed in the scent of the cooking food appreciatively.

"Merlin, that smells incredible." he exhaled, before realising he probably shouldn't have invoked the name of an ancient wizard within the first few sentences he spoke to a muggle. Luckily, Lucille appeared not to have noticed as she gave him an enormous smile.

"Well, I probably can't beat your mum's cooking, but it's nice to have a taste of the Caribbean, especially after what must have been a long day!"

"Oh uh, my mum didn't really cook uh..." Sirius spluttered, "James' mum was much more that type - I ate a lot of Bengali food during my teen years..."

"Really? Well hopefully this will go some way in showing what you've been missing out on then. Was James Harry's father?"

Sirius nodded, and then caught Remus' eye and cringed. Shit, he wasn't supposed to reveal that he had known Remus and Harry from before. Let alone that he'd practically been raised by James' family and considered him his brother. He'd spoken how many words to this woman and he'd already fucked up at least three times. It wasn't even like they could avoid seeing her again given that she lived next door. Well, there was no backing out now, and it was perfectly possible for two platonic friends to choose to live together to share rent, right?

"Yeah, we were good friends at school." he replied quickly, trying not to say too much. As if the damage hadn't already been done. He could see her looking curiously between him and a frozen Remus, before she eventually hummed and turned back to the cooker. Sirius could almost feel Remus relax behind him, but couldn't shake the suspicion that Lucille wasn't just biding her time.

The dinner, when finished, was absolutely delicious. A comfortable silence fell as they all tucked into the rice and chicken, punctuated by various adults reaching over to one of the toddlers to attempt to wipe at least some of their food from their cheeks into their mouths. When most of the food had been eaten, and Remus had gone over to take a more active role in helping Harry to eat his remaining chicken, Sirius was startled to realise Lucille had fixed him in her steady gaze.

Puzzled, he stared back, and was horrified to see her wink at him suggestively. That was... not what he had been expecting. I mean sure, he was a good looking young man but he was wearing ratty old muggle clothes and probably looked a state after all the packing and unpacking he had done that day. And, Dean had to have a father, surely? Maybe he was misinterpreting things, it had been a while since he'd had any reason to pay attention to new people beyond the old 'do they look like a Death Eater or not' routine.

But no, he didn't seem to be mistaken, because she was now reaching under the table to place her hand on his thigh. He felt rooted to the spot, and looked at Remus for help but he was too busy wiping Harry's face to see the plea in his eye. What was he supposed to do? Sure, Sirius had had plenty of admirers before and he would always flirt along for the laughs but that had been before Remus. And whilst they weren't meant to be in a relationship that any muggles knew about, he would never do anything that would directly violate that relationship. Not with someone who seemed serious about it, rather than the jokes he and Lily had used to share.

Swallowing, Sirius turned back to Lucille. "So uh, how old is Dean?" he asked, hoping to steer the conversation to more comfortable topics.

"Twenty-one months, he'll be two in February." she replied easily, not moving her hand. Sirius was starting to feel very hot.

"Oh, uh, Harry is... Remus, is Harry eighteen months?" he asked, desperately hoping Remus would turn around to correct him.

"No," said Remus, now wiping the sides of the high chair. "He's seventeen months. His birthday is the end of July." With that, he finally, finally, turned to face them. When he finally noticed Sirius' discomfort, his eyes travelled down Lucille's arm to where her hand could only be in Sirius' lap and his eyes hardened. "Anyway, we better be going," he continued. "Got to finish building Harry's cot and get him to bed." With that, he picked up a startled Harry and almost dragged Sirius out of the room by his shoulder.

"Thank you for the food Lucille." Sirius managed, as he was frogmarched out of the front door. When they were finally on the inside of their front door Remus released his shoulder and he looked at his boyfriend in confusion. "What was that Moony? She's going to think we're a pair of right nutters now!"

"She was touching you." Remus growled.

"Well, yeah." replied Sirius. "I had been trying to get your attention. But she doesn't know we're together! She probably just thought I was a particularly good looking bachelor. Although I'm not sure what Dean's father would have thought of..."

"Pretty sure Dean doesn't have a father." said Remus shortly. "Only took half an hour for her to show just what kind of woman she is."

"Remus!" Sirius scolded. "She's been nothing but kind to us..."

"To you."

With that, Remus stalked off and Sirius could hear clattering from the bedroom as he clearly attempted to start building the cot by hand. Sighing, he set Harry down and followed him, waving his wand to finish the cot.

"Fuck's sake Sirius!" Remus exploded. "We're not meant to be using magic! We're not meant to be using wizard slang! We're not meant to reveal that we even know each other? Can't you just keep your stupid mouth shut for once? We had to get out of there, her advances were just the final straw."

"Remus..."

"No Sirius. I don't want to hear it. You seem to think this is some sort of game. Lily and James are dead! We have their child to care for, and your head is in the clouds! Maybe Harry would be better with Petunia after all. You were certainly too busy blabbing secrets and flirting with some hussy next door to even notice Harry needed help with eating. We're meant to be keeping him safe, not scoring with as many cockney bitches as we can!"

"Remus I..."

"Save it Sirius." A wail started from the doorway, where a frightened Harry gazed up at the two of them with wide eyes.

Sirius swallowed. "OK. I get it. I'll get out of your way."

He turned to leave, only realising once he got outside that he hadn't even thought to grab his jacket.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t as though he could go back inside now though, so he shoved his hands deep into his pockets and hurried towards the staircase at the end of the corridor. It was cold, even for a November evening, and the concrete stairwell was full of litter and graffiti. When he reached the bottom he headed towards the park he thought he had seen across the road from their block of flats when Arthur had helped them move in. Instead, he found himself in an alleyway filled with bins, so he paused to try and orientate himself.

Sirius’ breath was rising from his nostrils like dragon’s smoke and he realised he was breathing a lot heavier than usual. Sighing deeply, he dug his already frozen fingers deeper into the pockets of the torn muggle jeans he was wearing, wondering what it was that he could feel within them. He hadn’t worn these jeans since him and James had gone to that Stones concert in Hyde Park. The realisation brought a lump to his throat and tears threatened to spill and in a bid to distract himself from just how much he missed his best friend he tugged the package out of his jeans.

The object was a small fabric pouch filled with filters, papers and baccy. Sirius found himself leaning against the brick walls of the alley and rolling a cigarette before he could even process how long it had been since he had smoked and how angry Remus would be if he came back smelling of… With that thought, his heart hardened, and he glanced around before using his wand to light the fag which was now dangling from his lips. Remus would be angry either way, and it wasn’t like he was drinking or had any other substances than tobacco in the rollie. It was just one last smoke for old times sakes, and he could almost see James’ cheeky grin across the alleyway, playing with a muggle lighter just how he had that summer evening only two years… two lifetimes ago.

Sirius lost track of time as he stood there reminiscing in the alleyway, rolling one cigarette after another until he ran out of tobacco. As he crushed the last glowing butt into the ground with his boot, he felt a small pang of guilt for the events that had transpired earlier that evening that had lead him to abandon Harry and Remus not even a day after they had moved into their new life together. He just didn’t understand how Remus could possibly doubt how committed he was to their life together, and that Harry joining their little family should only have strengthened that love, not torn it apart? How could Remus seriously think that he was going to go off with Lucille… did he not know Sirius at all?

Another thought struck him and he abruptly stood up and strode out of the alleyway but away from the flat. He wasn’t ready to go face Remus yet and if… If Remus did really think he didn’t love him just because he wouldn’t… consummate their relationship… he just didn’t know what to do. It was an area of insecurity for both of them but he had dared to hope that they had begun to move past it. He’d actually allowed himself to believe that Remus could be happy with someone like him. Unbidden, the image of his mother looking down at him and sighing “foolish boy” sprung to the forefront of his mind and his whole body shuddered involuntarily. He really had no idea how to raise a child. Maybe this had been a stupid idea all along and Harry really would be better off with Petunia. She hadn’t been the nicest to James or Lily for the time he’d known them but he did believe that she loved her son… Dudley? It could be good for Harry to grow up with a cousin. Afterall, for every Bellatrix there was an Andromeda. Seeing Harry’s little face at the sight of him and Remus’ argument had broken his heart more than pretty much anything that had happened in the past few days including Remus’ odd behaviour.

In fact, maybe Remus just didn’t want to do this. He had been spending more and more time out of the room in the Leaky Cauldron and not explaining where he’d been. Plus he had lied about the Firewhiskey… Maybe he had been meaning to break up with Sirius and then Sirius had stupidly assumed he would want to help raise Harry and so he’d made up some nonsense about his lycanthropy as an excuse…

That was probably it. Remus was young and handsome and could have any wizard he wanted. He wouldn’t want to hide away in the muggle world with his admittedly impractical boyfriend and he’d certainly never been that confident handling Harry even when James or Lily had been around. This whole mess was Sirius’ fault for acting too quickly and not thinking things through. Still, it was easily fixed, he would just let Remus know he didn’t have to stay out of any sense of obligation, and he could sort something out. He didn’t know what, but there would be something. He didn’t want Remus to be sad or resentful because of him anymore.

Turning around with the view of heading back to the flat to get it over with as soon as possible, Sirius realised he didn’t recognise his surroundings. He had been wandering through the side streets for around half an hour and not taken any notice of what direction he had headed in. He could see an off-license at the end of the road and resolved to ask the shopkeeper for directions to a familiar location, since he didn’t think apparating home would impress Remus at all. As he drew closer however, the man behind the till reached over and flipped the sign on the door to closed. Undeterred, Sirius knocked, and called out,

“Hi, sorry, I was just wondering if you could let me kno-”

“Fuck off, we don’t keep cash here overnight so there’s nothing for you to take!” shouted the balding white man.

“Oh, no, that’s not what I meant I just-” stuttered Sirius in complete shock.

“I said, fuck off!” repeated the man and suddenly a police officer appeared and put his hand on Sirius’ shoulder.

“Is this coloured bothering you?” the police officer asked the shopkeeper, his voice hard.

“I just wanted t-”

“Shut it. I don’t want to hear your lies. Now, are you going to cooperate?”

“C-cooperate?”

“Oh stop with the bullshit innocent act. Terry - search him!”

Another police officer appeared from the shadows and started to roughly search Sirius. At any other time he would have hexed the pants off all of them or at least had some witty comeback but he was just utterly bewildered at what was happening. Before he realised it, the muggle had grabbed his wand and was looking at it curiously.

“What have you found Terry?” called the first officer from where he was stood a few feet away talking to the shopkeeper.

“Nothing but some stupid twig.” the second officer replied, before snapping Sirius’ wand and tossing it aside. Sirius was too shocked to stop himself from shouting.

“THAT WAS MINE!”

“What, it was your precious stick? Good god I know they don’t have much out in Africa but we have actual real toys here in England.”

Again, Sirius froze. Africa? What? He hoped this was all some nightmare he was having after the fight with Remus. It certainly didn’t make any sense.

“Right then,” continued the officer, “Before we let you go we need to record your name and address.”

“Uh, Sirius… Sirius Black and I li-”

“Sirius Black? You actually expect us to believe that’s your name?”

Now was not the time to explain his parents’ shitty naming conventions but it did give Sirius the time to realise it was probably not the best idea to give his address to the officers. If they visited the flat they would find Remus and Harry and only one double bed made up. “Yes.” he replied shortly. “S - I - R - I - U - S. Black. My address is Flat 43 Ronan Point.” In his panic the only other muggle London address he could think of was Lucille’s. Hopefully they wouldn’t follow up on this…

“That some kind of ethnic name? That’s on our way back to the station, we’ll give you a lift. Let’s hope you actually do live there hey?” The officer smiled, but it was not a friendly smile. Sirius could feel his heart thudding in his chest as the officer prodded him towards the police car.

It felt like it took forever before the police car finally pulled up in front of the block of flats that Sirius now called home. He kept running the events of the night through his head, desperately trying to make some sense of what had happened even as the police officers lead him into the lift and he jabbed the correct number. The lift was slow and juddery and Sirius did not trust that the muggle technology wouldn’t kill them all but eventually they arrived on the floor that held both his and Lucille’s flat. The police officer knocked smartly on the door of Flat 43 and Sirius held his breath.

An exhausted and disheveled looking Lucille answered the door, eyes widening and face paling at the sight of the police officers, before she relaxed a little as the taller officer pushed Sirius forward.

“Claims he lives here. That right?” he barked out.

“Yes, yes. Um, do you need anything else officers or would you be on your way? Only, our son Dean is asleep and he’s only a year old and…” Lucille replied quickly and Sirius flashed her a grateful smile.

Chapter Text

“What the fuck?” hissed Lucille as the door shut. “Remus has been round three times already looking for you.” She bustled Sirius through to the kitchen and shoved him towards a chair.

"Oh um, sorry. I didn't bring my keys with me. I just didn't-"

"Didn't think? Sounds about right. I mean, bloody hell, just disappearing into the night on this estate? Your accent might be posh but that's not what the fuzz will think to check when they see a black guy in ripped jeans hanging around on his own."

"A bl... a black guy?"

"Oh for pity's sake. Have you been living under a rock? The riots were only a few months ago, surely you would have least read about them? It's a bloody good job I'm used to weirdos coming and going next door. You don't half draw attention to yourselves."

Sirius stared at her blankly. Individually all the words she was saying made sense, but whether it was the cold freezing his brain cells or the remaining shock that his encounter with the police had caused, he couldn't seem to piece them together into anything remotely comprehensible. The only thing that had sunk in enough for him to process was that Remus had been looking for him. Three times, if Lucille wasn't exaggerating. He must have been gone a lot longer than he had thought, and pangs of guilt began to stab through his stomach. Standing abruptly, he turned to leave, to get back to Remus, to forget about everything else in this confusing mess until the sun rose.

"Where are you going?" asked Lucille sharply. "The police may still come back, and you don't have a key. I don't even know if Remus is in or if he's out looking for your sorry arse."

Chastened, Sirius sat back down, staring at his hands. Lucille may be little but she certainly was fierce. Kinda like Lily, although that thought was too painful to explore any further tonight.

"Now, what's going on?" Lucille began. "Two men and a toddler who doesn't appear to be related to either of them move in. They seem to have no idea how anything around here works, and they use peculiar slang. Kind of like the young folk who always visited old Mrs Figg at all hours, and I'm not stupid enough to believe they were all doting nieces and nephews. I want to help if I can, but I definitely can't if I don't know what is going on."

Sirius couldn't see a way out of this interrogation, and he had a suspicion that Lucille wouldn't give up easily. Resigned, he decided he would be as honest as possible without mentioning any of the magic stuff, and face the consequences.

"Harry is my nephew and godson. My adoptive brother, James, was his father. He was Bengali like Harry. Him and his wife both passed away on Halloween night and I am now Harry's guardian. Only, I don't have the relevant paperwork. Remus is my partner and he... he does, and it could easily be said he was Lily's brother. Both Welsh. And white. Only, we're pretending to be flatmates because there are apparently muggle laws against-"

Shit, he'd already fucked up by mentioning muggles. And now he was drawing attention to the fact by stopping mid flow and freezing. Sirius painstakingly lifted his eyes from his tangled hands to look at Lucille's face. To his surprise, she was smiling at him softly.

"Muggles?" she asked quietly, eyes glinting and a small smile gracing her lips.

"Oh, um, it means... Uh... Um... It's kinda hard to explain..."

"Just tell me. I won't think you're any more mad than I already do at this point."

"It uh... it means non-magical people. Which is to say uh..."

"So you're trying to tell me you're some kind of warlock? Makes sense." Lucille tipped back on her chair to grab the kettle. "Might as well have a cup of tea whilst we talk this over. Seems like we're going to be here for a while. Milk?"

Not for the first, or even fifth time that evening, Sirius was speechless. If only McGonagall could see him now, she wouldn't believe her eyes. Although on second thoughts, maybe it was good that Minnie had no idea what Sirius was up to right now, seeing as he had seemingly managed to break both muggle and wizarding laws on his first day since moving into the flat she'd helped arrange for him. It was only when he felt Lucille's eyes boring into him that he realised that she expected a response.

"Wizard, actually." he shrugged apologetically. "Only, there's a Statute of Secrecy which I just broke in telling you that."

Again, he felt Lucille's piercing gaze on him, not dissimilar to the numerous times he had sat in McGonagall's office after a particularly ridiculous prank.

"And these people who visited Mrs Figg, they were magical too? Was Mrs Figg a wizard?"

It was weird how calmly Lucille seemed to be taking the news. "Uh, yes probably. They would have been members of the Order of the Phoenix. We were fighting You-Know-Who, the guy who killed Harry's parents. Mrs Figg wasn't a witch though, she was a squib."

"I'm pretty sure I do not Know-Who." chucked Lucille, "Although he sounds like a nasty piece of work. What would a squib be exactly?"

"Right. Um, it means a muggle born to magical parents. They're pretty rare."

Lucille bit her lip, looking pensive before continuing. "And, if a... muggle... and a wizard were to have a child, would that child be magical too?"

It was Sirius' turn to be surprised. She couldn't mean that... Apparently the look on his face was enough, as she abandoned the tea she had set to steep and dragged him into what must be Dean's room, wordlessly pointing at the ceiling.

"Such a child; could it do that?"

The ceiling was covered in glow in the dark stars, presumably stuck there by Lucille herself. That wasn't what she was referring to though. Between the stars, flecks of light danced almost as though they were reflections of moonlight on a peaceful body of water. The curtains were tightly drawn - there was no way the light was coming from the window. Sirius swallowed.

"Y-yeah." he replied slowly. "Is Dean's father around? It can be difficult to deal with the accidental magic when they're this age."

"I haven't seen him since before Dean was born, but he used to visit Mrs Figg all the time before then." Lucille replied shortly. "We were supposed to be getting married but he just up and disappeared when I told him about the baby. Mum just kept going on about how I was stupid to trust that a posh white boy could love someone like me, and I guess on some level she was right."

Sirius nodded slowly. "I wouldn't be so sure he didn't love you." he started slowly, "The war made a lot of us do things we wouldn't normally, in order to keep people safe. Certainly, the muggle wife of an Order member would have been an easy target for the Death Eaters. He could have been trying to protect you. Or..." Sirius stopped himself before he could complete that thought, though he knew both of them knew exactly what he had been about to say. "I could find out if you wanted? If he was a member of the Order I probably know people who knew him, even if I didn't myself."

"Caradoc. Caradoc Dearborn."

Sirius felt his heart sink but he nodded. "I'll ask around."

"Yeah, well. Thanks. I won't get my hopes up." Lucille replied before walking back to the kitchen and taking a long sip of tea and sitting down heavily on her chair. "Oh, you can take this key if you want. Mrs Figg used to ask me to cat sit sometimes, and I didn't get a chance to give it back before she moved. Guess I'll see you around. So sorry to hear about Harry's parents, but your secrets are safe with me. Families that are a little different have got to stick together."

Sirius took the proffered key and turned to leave. He could tell he was being dismissed, and it sounded like they both had a lot to think about. Besides, Remus... shit, Remus! Quickly muttering thanks for the key and the (undrunk) cup of tea, Sirius hurried back to his own flat. As he lifted the key to the lock he paused, memories of the argument from earlier flooding back. He needed to talk to Remus. To apologise. To tell him about Lucille and Dean. To... No. It was too much. He couldn't. The talk with Lucille had brought up a lot of feelings, and it was the first time he had said out loud what had happened to James and Lily. He couldn't do that tonight. Opening the door as quietly as possible, he transformed into his canine form as soon as he was inside. Sirius knew he was being cowardly, but this form couldn't process complex emotions, and the guilt and grief he felt was almost overpowered by the simple pain from being a Bad Dog. He curled up on the welcome mat and drifted off to sleep almost immediately to the sound of Remus singing a mournful tune in a language he couldn't understand even as a human.

"Ni chaiff dim amharu'th gyntun, ni wna undyn â thi gam. Aug hofiar oll o'th addewidion, a wnest i rywun, 'ngeneth ddel..."

Chapter Text

It was a crisp, bright morning when Remus startled awake from the chair he had fell asleep in, stretching his very stiff neck. He was getting too old for this, and Sirius would laugh at him for being an old man at 21. Apparently he already dressed like one. He inhaled deeply and his nostrils filled with the bitter scent of coffee, followed swiftly by what seemed to be burning plastic. He chuckled at the thought of Sirius trying to find his way around a muggle kitchen.

Sirius.

The events of the night before came flooding back and he slumped forwards to hold his head in his hands. Was Sirius back? Where had he gone? What was burning?!

Rushing into the kitchen, he stopped dead at the sight of Sirius dancing around wearing a pink frilly apron, singing to an delighted Harry who was sat in a high chair that they had definitely not owned yesterday. Sirius, who had his back to the doorway Remus was stood in, appeared to be cooking half with magic and half like a muggle. There was a pan of bacon which he was enthusiastically frying in between dance moves, some self scrambling eggs, and slices of toast jumping from the toaster onto the plates set out ready on the side. And, as promised by the scent Remus had inhaled when he had woken up only minutes ago, a large pot of coffee was busy brewing. Just as Remus was about to say something to alert the others of his presence Sirius swore loudly as the eggs started turning green.

"Sirius!"

Sirius spun round, joy disappearing rapidly and looking for all the world as though if he had a tail it would be between his legs. It was probably best not to mention that to him, Remus thought, or he'd be stuck dealing with a large dog and a toddler all day.

"Remus,"

To Remus' surprise, it looked like Sirius was about to burst into tears.

"Where were you?! What are you doing? Why are the eggs floating??"

Sirius crumpled and hung his head.

"I went for a walk and... I was trying to make a nice breakfast and... show you I can pull my weight around here… the eggs are just proof that you're right and I'm useless at all of this and I don't mind if you want to... go somewhere else and enjoy your twenties... I'm sorry I dragged you into this mess. Maybe Harry and I could..."

Remus' heart broke. He walked slowly over and wrapped his arms around Sirius' totally punk rock shoulders, frilly apron be damned. But not before he shot a few quick spells in the direction of the breakfast, in an attempt to avert complete disaster.

"Sirius, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped. I was just worried. I kept asking Lucille and I asked pretty much everyone I could think of if they'd seen you and no one said anything! All I could think is that anything could have happened and that I couldn't bear it if I lost you too and..." he paused for breath and realised it came out like more of a sob. Sirius seemed to be melting into him and it felt in that moment as though all his worries melted away. As long as they had each other, things would be alright. Sirius buried his head in Remus’ shoulders and breathed deeply, clearly having similar thoughts.

“You’re my home,” he mumbled. “You know that right? You won’t get rid of me that easily.”

Remus laughed then through the tears that sprung from his eyes and leant back to plant a kiss on a puzzled Sirius’ nose. “I love you, you silly dog.”

Harry clearly wanted to get in on the hugs because he started banging his little fists on the tray of the highchair before extending his arms towards them when he’d got their attention. Sirius scooped him up chuckling. Remus felt the warm feeling spread in his chest at the sight and he tried to commit the sight to memory forever, even as he began to rescue the breakfast with the realisation that the conversation couldn’t finish there.

Once the table had been fully loaded with a full English breakfast and all the trimmings, Remus sat down with a sigh.

“Sirius, we can’t just pretend last night didn’t happen. I had no idea where you were and no way to contact you and I was so scared… anything could have happened.”

Sirius’ face was unusually somber as he replied. “Yes, I know, I’m sorry. I lost track of time and then the police came and snapped my wand and that’s probably why the eggs…”

“Wait. Police? What the hell Sirius? What did you do? What happened, are you alright? Did they...”

Remus could only feel the tension in his chest grow as Sirius explained what had happened the previous night and he couldn’t even bring himself to scold him for smoking. He knew there had been tensions between black people and the police in muggle London but it hadn’t even occurred to him as something he should warn Sirius about. The pit in his stomach grew as he remembered the Minister’s smirk as she had told Sirius he might not have an easy time of it in the muggle world. She’d known, and she’d found amusement in it. And Sirius hadn’t and just… thank God it was only his wand that was broken but…

“Rems? Moony?” Sirius’ concerned face was peering at him and he realised he must have zoned out. Blinking rapidly, he tried to find some words.

“Moons, Lucille knows, but it’s ok because Dean is…”

Slowly, as though the words were filtering through treacle which was clogging up his brain, Remus’ eyes widened at the mention of Lucille. He stood up quickly and strode towards the door, casting silencing spells at the walls before pacing up and down.

“Moons, listen to me. She knows, but it’s ok. It’s ok. Dean’s dad was Caradoc.”

Remus stared blankly at Sirius for a moment before the meaning of his last few words sank in. “Caradoc? As in…”
“Yeah.” replied Sirius somberly.

“Does… does she know what happened?”

“Not yet. She asked me and I couldn’t find it in me to explain.”

Before Remus could process that bombshell further, a letter rattled through their postbox, bearing familiar handwriting. He picked up the thick parchment and began to read.

Chapter Text

Sirius watched as Remus scanned through the letter.

"What does Minnie want?" he asked, smirking as the nickname caused a predictable scowl on Remus' face.

"She's going to pop in later to discuss the funeral and see how we're getting on."

"Oh." Sirius didn't really know how to respond to that. Yet another obvious thing had slipped his mind and a funeral made it all sound so final, so permanent, so... real. "Um, of course. What time did she say she'd get here?"

"About 8, after the evening meal at Hogwarts."

It felt so weird to imagine life just carrying on at Hogwarts like it had for hundreds of years, as if Lily and James hadn’t just died, as if Sirius wasn't currently bending over to pick up their son. How could the world be carrying on, or even celebrating, when Sirius' own world had crashed and burnt around him? Once again he felt frozen to the spot, and it was as though time had stopped around him. It was only when he felt Remus' hand gently take hold of his arm he realised that he had literally stopped moving halfway through the motion of picking Harry up.

"Pads?" Remus' face was full of concern. "Come here."

Sirius let himself be smothered in a warm hug that felt like home, even as tears rolled down his cheeks. Even though he'd lost so much, no matter where he was he'd always be home if Remus was there. And he knew in that moment that he'd do anything to make sure Remus stayed. He'd be a better partner, he'd do the housework, he'd learn to use muggle money and... and maybe ask 'Dromeda to take Harry for an evening so they could go on a date and... and he'd make sure he was giving Remus everything he could ever need. Remus would never have to worry about anything if Sirius could help it.

"You silly sosej... I'm not gonna leave. I love you Pads. And I love Harry. And we're our own family now."

Sirius wasn't sure how Remus had known what he was thinking, or if he had accidentally said something out loud but he nestled his head into Remus' shoulder and mumbled "I love you too Moons."

Harry apparently wanted to join in on the tender moment and started tugging at Sirius' pyjama bottoms for attention, which caused them to slide down to his knees.

"Oi! Little bugger!" Sirius exclaimed, before covering his mouth when he realised what he had just said. He was really not very good at this.

"Pretty sure you're the bugger mate," Remus replied with a twinkle in his eye as he scooped up the toddler. "Now, I think you were making breakfast?"

"Gah, Moons, always thinking with your stomach!"

But it was nice, as they bustled into the kitchen and attempted to salvage something edible from the remains of Sirius' attempts at cooking. It almost felt as though last night's argument had never happened, or that the circumstances that had lead to them living in this small flat were just a bad dream. Almost.

*

Remus had decided to try and get Harry registered at the GP and try to sort out all the bureaucratic stuff as soon as possible. This was something that Sirius couldn't help with so he spent the morning trying to make their flat seem a little more homely. By lunchtime he had finished furnishing both bedrooms, and the sitting room. It was only really the kitchen and bathroom that needed cleaning left, and the fact that they had next to no toiletries, kitchen utensils or food supplies. He made himself a quick sandwich with the leftover bacon and began to make a shopping list, aware that he had no real idea of what any of it would cost. Maybe it would be worth drawing up a budget, like Father had for the business. Just with less embezzlement of funds or funds at all.

He sat down at the small table in the kitchen and summoned a scroll and quill before staring at it blankly. He had to be able to remember how to do this, Orion had barely spoken to him about anything other than the business, and how he would need to take it over one day. Slowly, he dipped the quill in ink and started writing:

“Income:...”

He paused. There was only really the salary he would get from working at the Ministry for Arthur, and that would be Galleons. If they were really going to give it a go living as muggles they would need to change that to… pounds? He scratched his head, trying to remember what Lily had said about exchange rates when they’d bought tickets for Hyde Park last year. The tickets had cost 6 sickles, but they had said £6 on them, which he assumed was the muggle price. So a muggle pound was around about a sickle? Sirius was starting to get a headache. He sighed again. Maybe Lily had been on to something when she said that they really ought to have to maths at Hogwarts

He exhaled deeply, and stood to grab a glass of water. He could do this. He had to. He wouldn’t be another burden for Moony. Sitting back down with renewed determination, he picked up the quill. Arthur had offered him 10 galleons a week, which was 190 sickles. That meant it was… like 190 muggle pounds? So they would have around £190 a week, but they would have to give half of that to Mrs Figg. Leaving them with £85?

Fishing out the receipt from his breakfast purchases he scanned the items for something that they would probably buy regularly: the loaf of bread had been 37p. He silently thanked whichever muggle had decided to set one hundred pence to a pound and frowned. He would need to do the maths a bit more carefully once he had asked Remus exactly how much the tickets had cost, but this would work for an estimate. The main expenses would be food, bills and stuff for Harry, who was liable to grow out of his clothes and break most things in his path. Sirius didn’t really know anything about bills other than what Remus or Lily had mentioned off hand, but he knew they were important for muggles. Would it be rude to ask Lucille about how much she paid a week and how it all worked? A small voice in his head told him that he should probably wait to ask Remus first, but he ignored it and headed out the front door. He knocked firmly on the door, ready to apologise to Lucille for the events of the evening before, when to his surprise it was opened by a woman he had never seen before who had to be in her mid to late forties.

“Oh hello dear!” she greeted him in an accent that reminded him of Remus in the way it made such a simple sentence sound like a song, but otherwise bore no similarity to anything he had ever heard before, and pulled him into a hug. “You must be the new neighbour! Lucille mentioned you might pop by. I’m Betty, her mother. She’s at work at the moment, but you must come in for a cup of tea.” She chuckled at Sirius’ startled expression and bustled away to the kitchen. Sirius felt he had no choice but to follow her.

In the kitchen, there was a pot bubbling away on the stove which smelt delicious and Dean was sat in the highchair with rice floating around his head like a halo.

“Now, Lucille tells me you know all about Dean here and what his father was.” she stated, but Sirius could tell that she was asking him to speak and that much as though she was a shorter, rounder version of McGonagall, he would do well to do as she wished.

“Uh, yeah.” Sirius said, not really sure what to say. “Caradoc was a member of the Order with us. He uh… he disappeared last year in Belfast. We haven’t been able to trace him since.”

“Belfast?” Her sharp eyes pierced into Sirius’ and he felt as though she could see through to his soul. “You’re not one of those IRA types are you?”

“IRA?” Sirius had no idea what that was but he could tell that she didn’t think highly of it. “Uh, no. We’re uh, wizards? Like, magic people? Dean is too, he got it from his dad. That’s why the rice is…” He gestured towards the high chair, where the rice was still floating around Dean’s head. “He can’t control it yet, but the fact that he’s doing so much advanced magic at this age probably means he’ll be a powerful wizard when he grows up.” Sirius could tell that she wasn’t that pleased with his answer, but it didn’t seem to surprise her so he guessed that Lucille must have filled her in before she went to work.

Chapter Text

Betty's composure never slipped, as she bustled over to Dean, admonishing the child for making a mess.

"Now about that tea," she announced as she gestured to Sirius to take a seat at the kitchen table. "Milk? Sugar?"

"Uh, milk and two sugars please." replied Sirius, still not totally sure of what was happening, or whether it was in fact a dream.

"Ooh, the boy has a sweet tooth!" Betty cackled, before returning to the table with two steaming mugs of tea. "So, do all you wizards have funny names? I assumed Caradoc might have been Irish since Lucille always said he had an accent and they do have strange names don't they. And you, I'm assuming, are named after the dog star. Did you parents have an interest in astronomy?"

"Uh, not all of us have strange names, at least not to us? My name is a bit weird even by wizarding standards, but my father was called Orion and my cousin is Andromeda so you could say the family has a tendency to name their children after features of the night sky. That, or they had a particularly cruel sense of humour. I think it's both to be honest. Caradoc was Welsh I think, same as Remus. He went missing in Belfast but that's the first time he'd been to Ireland."

"So definitely not IRA?" she questioned, still looking a little suspicious.

"Wizards don't have an IRA. I'm not even sure what that is. We're pretty separate to muggles what with the Statute of Secrecy and all. Which I seem to have broken twice in two days..."

Betty nodded, seeming satisfied with his answers at last, and took a large sip of her tea. She gazed at Sirius intently, but he felt he could see some kindness in her eyes. Definitely reminiscent of McGonagall. "So, what was it you needed to speak to Lucy for? I'll have you know she's a respectable young lady and I hear you have already been involved with the police."

Sirius sat up straighter, and self consciously smoothed his hair out of his face. Despite her tiny frame, Betty was quite terrifying. "I was working out a budget. As I think Lucille has explained, my flatmate has recently adopted his nephew Harry after his parents died. I was adopted by Harry's grandparents, so I'm family but not legally, at least in the muggle world. I only have a part time job at the moment, and Remus is going to look for work after Harry is settled, so we need to be careful with our spending. I was just going to enquire roughly how expensive electricality is and how you pay for it."

This elicited a heaty chuckle from Betty. "Ah, the electricity you mean? Not often I meet a young 'un who doesn't seem to know all about it. We're on a meter, I would say it's probably around about three quid a week in winter, heating is bloody expensive."

"Ah ok," Sirius mumbled, brain whirring trying to remember the figures he'd worked out earlier. If that was correct, it would leave him with around £80 a week. Which was what, 4 galleons... 4 galleons and 12 sickles? Maybe? It didn't seem like much, but he supposed Remus had more experience in living to a budget. Hope's house hadn't exactly been large or well maintained, although he seemed to remember Lyall's had been a bit grander.

"Lot to think about, dear? A child is a huge responsibility in anyone's life, and this poor mite seems to be lacking a feminine touch. Lucille and I will be on hand to help as much as we can though, and that way Dean can have a good male role model around... assuming you are going to be good role models." A steely glint entered her eyes as she finished speaking.

"Oh yes, yes. That would be great. Harry could do with a friend I'm sure! What about if you and Lucille come round for Sunday dinner? Remus is a pretty good cook."

"That would be wonderful dear. I'll let Lucille know when she's back from work, I'm pretty sure she has Sunday off this week. We'll pop round after church, around midday?"

"Great, it's a plan then." Sirius replied, feeling somewhat grateful that this seemed to offer him an escape, and trying not to think too much about what Moony would say when he told him he'd invited their new, churchgoing, neighbours for lunch. "I better be going though, in case Remus gets home and wonders where I am. Thank you ever so much for your help, and the tea, it was delicious."

As he traipsed back to his own flat, he allowed himself a grin at the thought of what Betty would think if she knew what the polite, deferential young man she'd just met was really like. Still, even if she was a muggle, they needed the help.

 

Some time later, when Sirius had just about hashed out an approximation of a budget (though he was sure it would need amending once they'd done a proper shop and he knew what prices were really like, Remus returned with a very snotty Harry.

"Moony? What's wrong with Harry?" Sirius enquired worriedly.

"Oh, he uh... heard me explaining that his parents were dead to the receptionist at the GP surgery. So I had to try and explain that. Then he had some vaccinations that he was really not happy about. And then when we were walking back some teenage skinheads started shouting abuse at us, which luckily Harry won't have understood, but I think the shouting scared him."

"Merlin, poor chap. What a morning! Wait, you got shouted at in the street? Are you ok? Why would they..."

"Because I'm a man carrying a baby. And the baby is not white."

Sirius stared at Remus blankly, completely unable to comprehend his second statement. "So uh, they think it should be a woman carrying the baby? Which is just kind of shitty. And kind of doesn't make sense that they would actively shout at you for?"

"I mean, that was probably part of it, but really they were mad that I, a white man, seemingly had an Asian kid."

Now Sirius was completely lost. Sure, the Potters hadn't been part of the sacred 28 and they'd got some slack for that amongst purebloods but the muggles didn't know about all that nonsense.

"So they.. thought that you stole him?

Remus sighed, looking at him with a pitying expression which caused his hackles to rise. "Maybe we should put Harry down for a nap and then I will explain."

By the time that Harry had been tucked in and read to sleep by Remus, Sirius' mind was racing. Minnie was coming over later to talk about the funeral. He'd just invited their new neighbours for Sunday lunch. Remus had been shouted at in the street for simply carrying Harry. He grabbed the sheet which he'd scribbled the budget on - they needed to show Dumbledore they would do a better job raising Harry than Petunia who didn't even...

Didn't even know.

The thought lodged in his chest like an ice cold bullet, making it hard to breathe. Surely someone would have informed Petunia. Sure, she was nearly as odious as her husband, but she had been Lily's sister. Enough of a sister to send Christmas cards. Even if they were only addressed to Lily and made no mention of James or Harry.

Sirius had been there with Lily last time a card from Petunia had arrived. She'd gone quite still, and Sirius hadn't known what to do. Even in human form he could feel the pain radiating from her, so he'd transformed into a dog and licked her face. If she had cried, there were no human witnesses to bear testimony to it. He didn't know Petunia, but he did know difficult family relationships, and he knew that Lily still loved her even if she was a bit of a bitch. Lily missed what was, and what could have been, even the parts that weren't entirely real. He knew how that felt, and Petunia wasn't even a Death Eater.

It was ironic really. The Order was all about protecting muggles and muggleborns, but he didn't think he would be wrong in his suspicions that no one in command would have even thought of letting Petunia know that her sister had died. They would have been happy to dump a toddler in her hands, but since she wasn't useful she wasn't worth even a thought. Or maybe that was just Dumbledore, interested only in his elaborate game of chess in which they were all pawns. He'd have to ask McGonagall when she visited later.

The dull thud of a mug of tea being placed on the table startled him from his reverie, and he blinked at Remus.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Remus looked concerned.

"Uh, you go first. I'll tell you before Minnie gets here though."

Chapter Text

Sirius’ stomach grew knots as he listened to Remus explain that whilst muggles didn’t have blood supremacy in the way that wizards did (because how could they), they had their own system of oppression based on categorising people into “races”, or social categories based on their skin colour, and ethnic origin. This system seemed to have been made up by “white people” who seemed to be those who originated in northern Europe, and had, of course, placed themselves at the top of the hierarchy. People, like Sirius, who had dark skin and thick, curly hair were at the bottom. In the muggle world, they were primarily assumed to have come over to England from either Africa or the Caribbean which were parts of the “commonwealth” - former colonies. Apparently Britain had been the centre of a large empire. Sirius was aware that James’ parents had come to England from India in the early 1900s, but apparently in the muggle world some people felt that this was invasion (which seemed a bit rich, given that by all accounts the British seemed to have invaded just about everywhere). There was apparently a trend where white youths would beat up South Asian people for no reason other than the fact they were brown.

“So, is that why the shopkeeper and the police were so angry with me? They did mention Africa I think…”

“Probably, yes.” Remus sighed. “It’s not something I ever really had to consider growing up in Wales but the muggle police have a reputation to being biased against black and brown people.”

“And I assume that’s what Minister Bagnold was referring to.” Sirius almost spat her name, before following up immediately with his most pressing concern. “Is Harry going to be safe?”

“We’ll make sure he is.” The two of them sat in silence for a while. Eventually Remus broke the silence and stretched, before tucking some of Sirius’ hair behind his ear and tracing his jawline with his finger. “What was worrying you earlier?” he whispered softly.

“Oh…” Sirius sighed. “I remembered about Petunia. Obviously she’s not going to look after Harry, but do you think anyone will have bothered to tell her about Lily?”

Remus froze. Sirius hated how his shoulders tensed and jaw tensed. Finally he responded “I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to ask Professor McGonagall.”

As though summoned by his words, Minerva herself materialised in their hallway with a crack.

“Good evening boys, sorry I’m a little early but I’ve got a lot to do. Is Harry in bed already?” When they nodded she strode into the kitchen and took a seat. “Right, we better get on with it.” Behind her brusque manner, Sirius was pretty sure she was holding back tears. He stood quickly and began to boil the kettle for another round of tea, summoning the tin of shortbread biscuits they reserved for their favourite teacher.

When they were all settled at the table with their tea, McGonagall peered at them over her glasses. “How is Harry settling in? And how are you? I know it hasn’t been easy.”
Thankfully Remus took over answering the questions and did a good job of making it sound like they knew what they were doing. They trusted McGonagall, but she trusted Dumbledore, and they didn’t want him to have any ammunition to insist that Harry be raised by the Dursleys. Or at least that was Sirius’ position. He wasn’t sure if Remus still trusted the old man, he’d never wanted to hear a word against him because he was so grateful that he’d allowed him to go to Hogwarts. Which, as Sirius had pointed out countless times, was basic human decency and probably hadn’t been done with selfless motives. Still, the last year of the war had changed a lot of things, and Remus really hadn’t reacted well to Dumbledore’s silence when people had suspected him of being a spy for the Death Eaters.

Now that the pleasantries and enquiries about welfare were over, Sirius wanted to cut straight to the chase. “So, the funeral,” he began, and McGonagall’s sharp eyes whipped round to meet his, full of the determination he felt.

“Yes, the funeral. Unfortunately, the Minister has decided that it should be a joint public funeral an-” She paused, waiting for Sirius’ angry spluttering to subside. “And she has picked a date. This will mean that the Ministry will provide Auror security, but I do wish it could have been private.”

“W-what was the date she chose?” asked Remus, looking both shocked and worried. “The full moon is-”

“Is on Wednesday, yes. She has chosen Friday 13th, an auspicious day for some. I hope this will be alright, as I’ve noticed that in recent years you have taken less time to recover from your transformations.”

Yes, Sirius wanted to scream. That’s because me and Prongs and W-... Because me and Prongs were there and we kept him safe! And now Prongs is gone and we haven’t even talked about arrangements for the full moon yet. Even with all three of them, a two day recovery had been a big ask.

“Despite the Ministry security, I don’t think it wise that Harry attends, and Dumbledore agrees with me.” McGonagall continued. “Do you think you will be able to arrange childcare?”

“I’ll ask Dromeda.” Sirius muttered. Remus had always said that he didn’t know when to pick his battles, but that was exactly what he was doing now. And it was killing him.

“Ah, good. Now that we’ve gone over logistics, I thought we should discuss the ceremony-”

“James was Hindu.” Remus butted in, and Sirius looked at him in mild surprise. “James was Hindu, the ceremony should reflect that. And Lily’s parents were Welsh, we used to compare stories from chapel. Her Welsh heritage was very important to her.”

Although she appeared slightly shocked at Remus’ outburst, McGonagall gestured for him to continue.

“I don’t know much about Hindu funerals, but there must be people we can ask. Maybe the Patil’s? I remember we cremated James’ parents. And James and Sirius washed them.”

“Well, that sounds like it could be simple to arrange. I imagine you’ll want to wash him in private? And what about the Welsh question, I can’t think of much that would differentiate a Scottish funeral to an English one so how would you propose…”

“Ideally, there’d be a Welsh choir. I don’t know if they exist in the Wizarding World, but I would… I would be willing to sing a hymn.”

Remus’ voice was shocked and shaky and Sirius could feel his own eyes filling with tears, so he leant over and squeezed Remus’ knee, keeping his hand there. “We’ll need to wear white,” he added “That’s what we did for m-James’ parents.”

McGonagall just nodded. “I’ll ask the Minister to drop in and confirm arrangements with you if necessary, but that all seems very manageable. When would you want to wash the bodies?”

“We can do it tomorrow or Saturday? It would need to be before the full moon and I start work next week.”

“Alright, I’ll send you an owl when I’ve spoken to the Minister.” She stood, smiling wanely at the two of them. “I had better be going now, but I’m sure I’ll see you before the 13th.”

“Wait,” said Sirius. “There’s something else I needed to ask.” McGonagall nodded, so he continued. “I just wondered if anyone had thought to tell Petunia. Not that she should take care of Harry, but… Lily was her sister.”

You could almost see the guilt emanating out of their former teacher. “I don’t think so,” she replied. “Unless Albus did.”

“I think we can assume he didn’t. We’ll visit her tomorrow. Let the ministry know we’ll be inviting her and her husband to the funeral, so they need to make any necessary arrangements in the event that they decide to attend.” Sirius was surprised at how cold his voice sounded, but the alternative was to start sobbing. “Maybe it’s worth thinking about why no one bothered to tell her, but were perfectly willing to dump a child she’s never met on her doorstep.”

After McGonagall had left, Remus went to check on Harry. Sirius hung about the kitchen, waiting for him to return. The conversation had raised as many questions as it had answered. Remus entered with a tired expression and set the kettle on to boil again. Finally, he sat down with a long sigh.

“So. You want to tell Petunia.”

“Well, I don’t want to, but somebody has to. And I don’t trust the old man not to twist it to his advantage if he was to organise it.”
Remus sighed again. He’d never liked how Sirius referred to Dumbledore as ‘the old man’, but he didn’t comment on it. “You do realise that she hates you. And even if you weren’t a wizard, I doubt her husband would warm to your charms.”

Sirius swallowed, realising what Remus was referring to. “I know. But we need to do it.”

“We?”

Chapter Text

As soon as the word left his mouth Remus regretted it. He could see Sirius crumple, and even though he knew that the meaning that Sirius had taken from that simple word was so so different from what he had meant, once Sirius had begun to spiral there was almost no stopping him.

“Pads. I didn’t mean I didn’t want to go with you. I was just surprised that you would want me there.”

Remus wasn’t sure whether Sirius couldn’t hear him over the sound of his own howling inner turmoil, or if he just wasn’t responding.

“Pads, look at me. Please.”

When Sirius failed to respond Remus reached to gently push his chin up, just so that he could see Sirius’ face from behind all that beautiful coily hair. Which was another mistake. Sirius flew back from the table and stared at Remus through unseeing, petrified eyes.

“Pads, it’s me. Remus.”

He’d dealt with this before. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising, with Sirius’ family being the way it was and being drafted into the war whilst they were still teenagers (children, thought Remus), but sometimes Sirius forgot where he was. Forgot that the people around him wanted to help, not hurt. It never got easier though, seeing the fear in Sirius’ eyes. Wondering what could have happened to make those beautiful grey orbs full of such utter terror. Knowing that Sirius didn’t recognise you, that he thought you were going to hurt him, it was almost more than Remus could bear.

“Sirius. It’s me. It’s ok.”

He stayed stock still where he sat, but Remus’ mind was racing. Normally, he would be able to catch it before Sirius got into this sort of state. Sirius hadn’t been this bad for a long time, although given the recent events maybe it was almost inevitable that he would have an episode. But last time he’d been like this he’d been drinking and Remus had thought that he was getting better and all he wanted to do was wrap Sirius up in a huge hug and hold him tight but Sirius couldn’t even bear to touch him and that hurt, even though he knew it wasn’t Sirius’ fault. It still hurt.

Blinking away his own tears, Remus tried to think of something else that usually helped. Textures. If he could raise his wand without scaring Sirius further, he could summon the blanket they used when he was in dog form. Maybe the smell would help too - it was unmistakably dog. Carefully, keeping his eyes trained on Sirius, he slowly pulled his wand out of his pocket and cast a silent accio. Unfortunately, the blanket flying into the room panicked Sirius further and a blast of wandless magic hit the blanket, causing it to burst into flames. Remus managed to extinguish it and let it fall to the floor in front of Sirius, who was now backed into a corner.

To Remus’ horror, the noise from Sirius’ accidental magic must have woken Harry, who was crying in the next room. Instead of pulling Sirius into the here and now, it seemed to make it worse. He had his thumb in his mouth and was rocking back and forth. Frozen, Remus didn’t know whether to run to Harry and soothe him, or stay with Sirius, where he was only making things worse. He wasn’t sure it was safe to leave Sirius like this, but Harry needed him and he could probably actually help.

With final glance at Sirius, Remus edged towards the door only to nearly trip over the toddler standing in the doorway.

“Uncle!” cried Harry, and before Remus could do anything to stop him he barrelled towards Sirius. “Uncle sad!”

Harry stuffed the blanket and his toy lion onto Sirius’ lap, and tugged his hands down. Remus was terrified that Sirius might lash out again, but instead he pulled Harry onto his lap and started rocking more slowly, more gently.

“It’s ok Reg... “ he mumbled. “Sisi’s got you.”

Remus wasn’t sure when the tears had started falling, but his cheeks were soaked and his throat tight. He felt so sad, and so sick to think of how someone could have hurt a child like that. GIven that Sirius seemed to have calmed down a little, he crouched down and crawled towards the other two members of his family. Carefully, he tucked the blanket around them, and then sat back, leaning against the table leg. They sat in silence, until gradually both Sirius and Harry’s breathing deepened. Using a hovering charm, Remus floated them over to the bed, and then collapsed into the chair in the corner. He didn’t want Sirius to wake up and worry that he had gone, but he also knew that he would need his space right now. Sleep would just have to be sacrificed. Maybe he could use the time to plan what to say to Petunia, and what they would need to buy on their planned shopping trip, if they didn’t need to postpone it.

Remus wasn’t sure if Sirius would be up to talking to Petunia, but if they were going to invite her to the funeral they would need to tell her soon. And he wasn’t sure he could really leave Sirius on his own after recent events.

---

Sirius woke with a pounding headache, almost like a hangover. He groaned and tried to orientate himself. He didn’t remember much from the night before, other than that he and Remus had been talking about Petunia and then he had spiraled. There was a heavy weight on his chest, which he was surprised to find was toddler-sized rather than Remus sized. Remus wouldn’t have left him would he? Blinking harder, and trying to make sense of his muddled, exhausted thoughts, he spotted Remus hunched over on the chair in the corner of the room. His eyes were puffy as though he had been crying, and he was slumped over a roll of parchment full of unintelligible scribbles.

Sirius tried to move without disturbing Harry, and carried the sleeping child over to the cotbed. His movements caused Remus to startle awake, and he could tell that his partner was watching him with cautious eyes.

“Moons, can we go to the other room?” he whispered, trying hard not to wake Harry. For some reason he’d woken up with both Harry’s favourite toy and his dog blanket - he hadn’t transformed had he? He didn’t remember that.

Remus nodded, and silently followed Sirius into the other bedroom. He looked so tired. Remus always looked tired, but tonight it was almost as if he had aged twenty years whilst Sirius had been asleep.

“Moons?”

“You remember what happened?”

“I… Enough. I remember enough. I overreacted again. I’m sorry.”

“No, Sirius, I wasn’t clear. Please don’t think I didn’t want to accompany you.”

“You don’t have to, though.”

“I want to.”

Sirius was filled with sudden affection for him then, and whilst he knew they should talk more about what had happened, he didn’t want to. He surged forwards and hugged Remus tightly, pushing his hand up through the hair at the nape of his neck. Remus held him and rocked gently, and then drew back a little to kiss Sirius’ forehead.

Sirius wanted Remus to feel as safe and loved as he did so he tilted his face upwards so that he could see the amber eyes gazing down at him, and softly kissed the beautiful lips that were mere centimetres from his. As he kissed, he felt Remus sigh with affection… or was it pleasure? Sirius wanted to make Remus feel as good as he made him feel, so he gently pressed his tongue forwards into the join of their lips. Remus sighed again and let him in, guiding him gently towards the bed. When they reached it, Remus drew back, and pushed Sirius’ hair out of his eyes.

“You know I love you, right?”

“I love you.” replied Sirius, even though he knew that wasn’t answering the question. Instead, he pulled them both onto the bed, and began kissing Remus again. Still, this didn’t feel enough, so he started trailing kisses down Remus’ neck and unbuttoning his shirt. Remus stilled and pulled back a bit?

“Sirius, are you sure?”

Sirius didn’t bother replying, and instead latched on to one of Remus’ nipples. He was going to make sure Remus enjoyed this. When he had first come out as gay to James, his ever-helpful brother had provided him with magazines that explained how to pleasure your partner, and Sirius had studied hard given that none of it came naturally to him. To be honest, it was a bit weird, but Remus deserved the best Sirius could give him.

When Sirius cupped Remus’ crotch, he noticed with some satisfaction that he was hard. He trailed his kisses lower, and tugged Remus’ muggle trousers down.

“Sirius, what are you doing?” Remus asked, starting to sound worried.

Sirius just looked at the rather large penis in front of him, and gulped nervously. He leant forwards to try to take it into his mouth and was startled as Remus pushed him away.

“Sirius, what are you doing?” Remus repeated.

“Making you happy. Giving you what you deserve.” mumbled Sirius in reply.

Remus looked horrified. “Sirius we’ve gone over this. I don’t want or deserve any more than you are comfortable giving. You are enough, just how you are.”

“But… you enjoyed it.” Sirius gestured at Remus’ erect penis. “Most boyfriends would do this for you all the time. I guess I’m just fucked up.”

“Yeah, I had a physical reaction, but that doesn’t mean I want to do things that you aren’t comfortable with. It would be awful knowing you weren’t enjoying it too and just felt like you had to. You don’t. You never have to. And if, one day, you do want to try then that’s ok but not tonight, not when you’re already upset. And if you never want to that’s ok to.”

Sirius could hear the words Remus was saying, but all he could hear was that he had failed again, at one of the most basic acts of pleasure. Of course Remus would want that. It was only natural.

“Sirius, I know you aren’t listening to me.” Remus sighed. “Come here, I want a cuddle.”

Reluctantly, Sirius crawled into Remus’ arms and lay there, warm and cocooned. Safe. Remus was stroking his hair and whilst Sirius still felt guilty, he also felt tired. Maybe they could talk about this another day.

Chapter Text

Sirius fell asleep on Remus’ lap, and, with a presence of mind that astonished even himself, Remus cast a charm to muffle any sounds from outside. Tonight was not the night to explain Bonfire Night. Sirius had never been good with loud noises. He found himself quite unable to sleep until the early hours, thinking hard about the funeral, Petunia, and the looming full moon which they simply hadn’t had time to discuss.

When morning finally came, and the sunlight crept through the kitchen he roused himself and boiled the kettle. There was no point in waking Sirius yet, he needed all the rest he could get - panic attacks normally resulted in a day or more in bed. Which, if they didn’t have Harry, and the issue of Petunia would be exactly what he insisted that Sirius did. But he also knew Sirius, and he knew that if he was at all able to, he would insist on being there to tell Petunia.

Harry woke first, and Remus scooped him up and served porridge for breakfast, which to his complete surprise, Harry seemed to enjoy. No one enjoyed his porridge. It had a texture similar to partly dried cement. Sirius was next. He could hear him stirring in the next room, followed by a long deep groan. It wasn’t a big surprise to hear dog paws padding towards the kitchen rather than human feet. Remus put a plate of bacon on the floor, and let Harry down from the high chair to play with Sirius’ tail. Drinking what must have been his third cup of tea of the morning, he shuffled to the bathroom to attempt to make himself look somewhat closer to Petunia’s idea of presentable. After a shave, an attempt to style his hair, and changing into his newest, least holey jumper, he went back to the kitchen and scooped Harry up. Sirius was nowhere to be seen.

Given his inexperience with toddlers, it was gone 10am by the time Remus and Harry were both ready. Every time he got something done, Harry would have taken off his socks, or chewed Remus' shirt, or Remus would realise he hadn't remembered to take wet wipes. Petunia may know that he was a wizard, but he felt it might be best if he avoided using magic in front of her if at all possible. When everything was finally ready, he walked into the hall to find Sirius, in human form, stood waiting by the front door. He looked exhausted, but he held his hands out to hold Harry and looked straight in Remus' eyes. Remus understood in that moment that there would be no arguing about Sirius coming, but that he would be doing all the talking. Often, after a bad night, Sirius would remain a dog until he felt able to talk but he was clearly making an effort today. That effort would not extend as far as talking, which to be perfectly honest might be for the best - he did have a habit of sticking his foot in it.

"C'mon then chaps," said Remus, doing his best to sound cheerful for Harry's sake, "We're going to visit your aunt and cousin!"

"Cousin?" Harry looked confused.

"Yes, he's the same age as you. They live outside of London but I thought we could take public transport and make an adventure of it!"

Sirius looked a bit concerned at that, and Remus nearly backtracked, but they both knew that he probably wouldn't be feeling up to apparating and splinching would really just put the icing on the cake of a shit few days. Finally, Sirius nodded, and they walked down the stairs together in silence. After relatively few disasters, they arrived in Surrey in one piece. Harry had not enjoyed the tube, but buses were a source of constant amusement. They'd sat behind an old lady with a blue rinse, which Harry had decided was just like one of the wizarding house plants they'd had in Godric's Hollow. Luckily, the lady had just thought that he was babbling nonsense, and gave him some patient smiles. Also somewhat fortuitously, perhaps due to using muggle transport, they did not run into any wizarding folk who recognised Harry.

Privet Drive was exactly the type of road Remus had imagined that Petunia might live in, with neat lawns and hedges pruned within an inch of their lives, but just low enough that someone with a long neck might be able to just about see over. It screamed conformity, and he almost expected to see identical aspidistras in each window like some sort of Orwellian fantasy. They definitely stuck out, even in muggle clothing, so he hurried them towards number 4, knocking on the door before even thinking to check if there was a doorbell. There was.

Inside, he could hear a toddler moaning about something, and a woman assuring her "duddikins" that she would be right back, but that she might have a delivery. The door swung open to reveal a tall, thin woman with pursed lips, who didn't quite manage to hide her shock at who she was faced with.

"Hello, Petunia," Remus started, "Perhaps we could come inside, out of the cold?"

He could see her hesitating, she didn't want them in the house, but he knew she also wouldn't want the neighbours to see the type of people who were visiting her and evidently that side eventually won because she nodded curtly.

"Why are you here?" she hissed, as soon as the door was closed.

"I..." Remus hesitated, "I think you had better sit down."

Petunia's mask of confusion slipped a little to worry, before she plastered on a fake smile and showed them through to the (aspidistra-less) living room. In the middle of the floor was a play mat occupied by a round blond child, who Remus assumed must resemble his father.

"Cousin?" Harry sounded uncertain.

"Yes, cousin." replied Sirius in a voice barely above a whisper, carefully placing Harry on the ground and watching Dudley as though he might explode. "Do you want to introduce yourself?"

Whilst the two boys looked at each other in mild bemusement, Petunia cleared her throat.

"Why are you here?" she repeated.

"Um yes." Now they were here, Remus couldn't think of what to say. He should have spent the travel time thinking about it because his mind was blank. He gestured towards the sofas and they all perched awkwardly in silence, Petunia looking at him expectantly.

Why was this so hard? It was just words, just confirming something they already knew, but he couldn't get his tongue and brain to cooperate.

"Lily is dead." growled Sirius.

Petunia turned white. "This, this isn't one of your pranks is it? Because if it is I'll..."

"No," Remus interjected, finding his voice at last. "Lily and James... they..."

A single tear ran down Petunia's cheek and she swallowed, hard. Then the steel returned to her eyes. "You can't expect me to take the child. Vernon would never agree, and I don't want my Dudley mixing with someone like that."

Remus felt sick, but he heard himself reassuring her that he and Sirius had the situation covered with regards to Harry, and ignoring any pointed comments about their suitability to raise a child. He didn't care whether she thought people like him should be allowed near children or not (especially since she didn't even know the actually dangerous secret he had). Calmly, much more calmly than he expected, he explained that the funeral was in a week's time, and would she like to attend.

"It'll be full of freaks, I suppose?" she asked, eventually.

"I've asked for them to do a church service in a local chapel. There will be wizarding folk in attendance, your sister was a hero to a great many people."

Again, the silence stretched on like a vast ocean with no end in sight. Sirius was jiggling his leg and even the two toddlers were quiet. Finally, Petunia stood up, signalling that it was time for them to leave.

"I'll think about it, and talk to Vernon." she said, voice very nearly steady, and then they were dismissed.

As soon as they were outside, Sirius looked around and then transformed to dog form. Which was stupid and risky, but Remus couldn't find it in himself to feel angry. Just sad that he couldn't, and feeling overwhelmingly tired with a grizzling Harry in his arms. Not thinking too hard, he stuck out his wand to summon the Knight Bus. He couldn't face the idea of muggle transport back to London. They all needed rest and quiet and the safety of their own home.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

If you asked Sirius, the finances talk had gone surprisingly well. Harry had been put down for his nap in the other room and with no other distractions they’d been quite efficient. Armed with the receipt from their shop, and some more detailed information about electricity and gas prices, they’d drawn up an approximation of a realistic budget. It was going to be tight, especially once they had remembered to factor in the costs of muggle transport and Remus seemed like he was about to suggest something a few times, but didn’t in the end. Sirius had decided was probably better not to push him at the moment. Still, they had ended up with a plan which would allow them to pay back Mrs Figg as agreed and hopefully no one should go hungry. Sirius would have to keep an eye on Remus though, he was all too aware of how Remus would sacrifice his food and not say a word.

After Harry woke up, they gathered themselves to visit the Weasleys. Remus fussed about Sirius, making sure his hair was as tidy as it would ever be, and, Sirius noticed, wore his best cardigan again.

“You know of all people, the Weasley’s probably wouldn’t judge us for not having the newest clothes?” Sirius asked gently, but Remus just grunted in response. Maybe it was because Remus was worried, but nerves began to settle in Sirius’ stomach too. He didn’t really know the Weasleys, and Arthur was going to be his boss starting tomorrow. It probably wouldn’t hurt to give a good impression. Besides, he was sure Molly or Arthur would report to Professor McGonagall (or worse still, the old man) if they saw any reason to think Harry wasn’t being looked after correctly. Not really knowing what to do with these new nerves, he grabbed one of Remus’ hats and shrank it to fit Harry. “Cold out,.” he offered as an explanation.

Remus looked at him, amused, and shook his head. “If you can’t get that back to its proper size and it never fits me again I’ll kill you.”

Sirius gave him a weak shove and kissed his cheek. “C’mon Moons, before we both go mad thinking about what else we could possibly need. How can leaving the house with a child be so complicated? They have seven, I’m sure they’ll understand.”

The familiar navel jerk from the portkey startled him, but Harry in particular was not best pleased with this new form of travel. Whilst Sirius leant against a wall and waited for the world to stop spinning, Remus appeared to be having a wrestling match with a most displeased toddler and far more wool than it made sense for there to be. Harry’s accidental magic seemed to be getting stronger by the day, and eventually Sirius had to intervene before the knitted tentacles caused too much damage. Remus shoved Harry into Sirius’ arms and bent over to catch his breath, before bursting into laughter which Sirius couldn’t help but join.

“Blimey, I think I’m too old for this.” Remus huffed, “Muggle children must be bad enough but a bloody enchanted hydra is just too much.”

“You’re younger than me mate, I think you just need to do more exercise than reading - you’ve aged yourself prematurely.” Sirius teased. He smoothed Remus’ ruffled hair and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before rearranging the (thankfully) inanimate scarf that dangled from his shoulder.

Finally, once they looked somewhat presentable again, they made their way towards the fairly spectacular architecture of The Burrow. Even having spent his whole life amongst Wizards (and being pretty good at Charms if he said so himself) Sirius had no idea how it managed to stay standing. Almost before Remus had lifted his hand to knock at the front door it swung open to reveal a freckled face and a lot of ginger hair.

“I’m Bill,” the child said. “Mum’s in the kitchen with the twins, they’re causing trouble again.” With that, he turned round and ran into the house.

“Guess we better follow him?” Sirius asked, bemused.

“Yeah… How many children did you say they have again?” Remus replied as they walked towards the source of the noise (and delicious smells) that could only be the kitchen.

A short, red haired woman was holding two redheads apart from each other, which seemed to be no mean feat given she also had a tiny baby strapped to her chest. Over to the side, the washing up was doing itself and about three different meals appeared to be cooking alongside each other on the enormous range cooker.

“Mum, they’re here.” Another voice piped up, which with some difficulty Sirius managed to discern had come from a small child at the table who appeared to be reading a book, except for the fact that he couldn’t have been more than five years old. With this, the woman dropped the two boys she was holding and turned to face them.

“Sorry, I do hope we aren’t interrupting, we didn’t know what time would be convenient…” Remus started, eyes wide at the chaotic scene in front of him.

“Nonsense,” she smiled, “With seven children, it’s never any quieter. It’s nice to have some adults here for a change. Tea?” With one hand she flicked her wand towards the kettle and set it going and with the other she grabbed mugs from a cupboard. “Arthur’s upstairs with the other two, but I’m sure he’ll be down in a tick.”

Stunned, Sirius allowed himself to be shepherded to the kitchen table, where he sat next to Remus who was next to the child who seemed to be doing a very good impression of studiously reading what turned out to be a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Or more accurately, he was until Harry spotted the moving pictures and reached out to grab a page.

“No!” shrieked the boy. “That’s mine! You’ll make it all sticky like Ron or rip it like the twins or...!”

“Percy dear, where are your manners? These lovely gentlemen and this gorgeous baby are our guests!” exclaimed the woman who was evidently Molly Weasley. “Milk? Sugar?”

Further clattering followed until they were both clutching a steaming mug, surrounded by four ginger haired children and Harry, and a large plate of cauldron cakes in the middle of the table. Molly finally seemed satisfied, and perched at the end of the table with her own mug of tea, before calling up to her husband. Arthur appeared carrying another child who appeared to be a similar age to Harry, trailed by a curly redhead sporting a rather nasty black eye.

“Ah, Sirius! Remus! Glad you could make it. Hope that this isn’t a bit overwhelming for you.” Mr Weasley turned to the boys seated at the table. “Perhaps you could introduce yourselves to our guests? I assume you’ve met our eldest, Bill, already.”

“I’m Percy,” said the ‘reader’, “And those two are Fred and George. They are very boisterous.” He looked very pleased with himself for using such a big word. “Charlie is the one behind dad, he doesn’t talk much.”

“Thank you Percy. This is Ron, he’s a few months older than Harry,” Arthur indicated the child he was holding, “and our youngest is Gregory. Seventh son of a seventh son.” This was obviously something that he was very proud of. Sirius just couldn’t imagine keeping track of that many names, or understand quite how there were so many children apparently all too young for Hogwarts under one roof.

“What happened to your eye?” Remus asked the curly haired child. He looked concerned.

“Gnome.” The boy met his eyes to reply then quickly looked back to his feet.

Most of the cauldron cakes had disappeared in the time it had taken to introduce the (many) children, a fact which didn’t escape Molly’s notice.

“Bill, why don’t you take the others out for a game of something in the garden? I’m sure there’s some excess energy we can use up.” The twins cheered, and Charlie shuffled towards the door, but Percy looked mutinous. “That includes you, Percy. Fresh air won’t kill you. Now, why don’t Ron and Harry play together for a while in here whilst we talk?”

After another commotion, in which Sirius was left with a small insight into why the more wealthy pureblood households may have began relying on staff to raise their offspring, they were left with just the four adults sat at the table, and Gregory, who was starting a feed. All the previous energy Sirius had gained from their surprisingly productive morning had disappeared, and it was all he could do to look interested in Molly and Arthur’s chat about their boys, and how the entire Wizarding World seemed to have completely forgotten about the Statue of Secrecy in the aftermath of the war. Remus didn’t seem to be faring much better, but he did reach out to hold Sirius’ hand, which felt like the only thing tethering him to reality.

With a concerted effort, Sirius brought his attention back to the topic of conversation, which had turned to how busy Arthur was at work due to the raids on Death Eater’s homes. This at least was something he could talk about without wanting to vomit.

“Oh yeah, you mentioned that you might be able to pull a few strings for me? I’d be more than happy to help out.”

“You’ll be much appreciated, I can tell you that. Do you reckon you could do 9-4 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to start with? To be perfectly honest, if I can secure the funding we would probably be looking to make the position full time. It might not seem like much, but it’s a step on the ladder to what I’m sure will be a dazzling Ministry career, if Minerva is to be believed about your ability.”

The hours were around what Sirius had expected, but the mention of a full time position took him aback. With his upbringing, and then the war starting almost coincidentally with their graduation from Hogwarts, he had never even really considered working a full time job or having a… career. It wasn’t like Blacks normally had to work for a living, and the Potters had had plenty of money. He supposed he should feel grateful - Remus would find it difficult to keep a job and they needed someone to support them financially but instead he felt inexplicably panicked. He managed a smile and nod, hoping desperately that no one would notice his spiralling mood.

Chapter Text

Remus couldn’t help but notice Sirius beginning to spiral whilst they had been at the Weasleys (in fact, he suspected that he had probably noticed when Sirius’ mood had dipped before Sirius had). To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t exactly surprising. He had had a very difficult week and Sirius had already been showing signs that he was nearing his breaking point. Remus pointedly ignored the small voice inside him that sounded suspiciously like Lily reminding him that the same could be said about himself. Consequently, it was a relief when they said their goodbyes and apparated back to their relatively peaceful flat.

Well, it would probably be peaceful if Harry wasn’t protesting the absence of his new friends and the unsettling feeling of suddenly being in a very different place than he had been a mere second before. Molly had insisted on sending them home with plenty of food for dinner, so Remus decided there was nothing wrong with them all having a well-deserved nap. Harry was probably overtired and hopefully, cuddles would help Sirius calm down.

Remus strode decisively to the kitchen and deposited the food on the side before carrying Harry towards his cot. Harry however clearly had other ideas and started howling even louder so Remus brought him to the sitting room and deposited him near the toys strewn over the carpet. Technically, he and Sirius could snuggle on the threadbare sofa that occupied most of the room, but Remus wanted nothing more than the comfort of bed right now. It was probably horribly irresponsible, but he charmed the doorway so that Harry would be unable to toddle off somewhere dangerous and retreated to ‘his’ room. If they left both doors open they could see and hear if Harry needed anything.

He had expected that Sirius would follow him but realised just too late that his boyfriend hadn’t moved since they had arrived back in the dark corridor of the flat. Summoning every last reserve of energy, Remus pulled himself off the bed and went to take Sirius’ hand. The only acknowledgement he got was a quick squeeze of his hand, but he pulled them both towards the bed. Now was not the time for words, though they would need to use them later.

Sinking for the second time into the duvet, this time with Sirius’ warmth next to him, Remus thought he might never get up again. He rolled over, curling his body around Sirius and held their still joined hands up to his chest. Sirius squeezed his hand again, and Remus nuzzled into the back of his neck. He always felt safest with Sirius and the fact that Sirius felt the same way made him feel so incredibly happy. It was as though, in the moments when it was just the two of them wrapped around each other, they filled the entire world, and there was nothing except for skin and breathing and the soft fabric of Sirius’ clothes and the soft woody, cinnamony smell that reminded him of a forest after the rain and a hot chocolate and of home.

They lay like that until the sun had well and truly set, drifting in and out of the edges of consciousness. Sirius’ body gradually relaxed, so Remus just snuggled impossibly closer, their hands still joined. They were probably disgustingly sweaty by now, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. All that mattered is that they were together, safe.
Eventually, Sirius rolled over to face Remus, who quickly shifted to give him some room. “Where’s Harry?” mumbled Sirius.

“The other room.” managed Remus, and then he whined as Sirius sat up, breaking the link between them for the first time. Sirius ignored him and padded towards the living room. Thankfully it wasn’t long before he returned with Harry in tow, but to Remus’ dismay, Sirius simply deposited the wriggling child on top of him before leaving again.

Harry seemed oblivious to Remus’ distress, running his tiny hairs over Remus’ scarred face. “Story!” he demanded.

Sighing, Remus heaved himself into a somewhat more upright position and made room for Harry to climb into his lap. “What story do you want, Prongslet?”

“Wabbit!!”

“Babbitty Rabbitty?” Remus wasn’t sure he actually remembered that one. His mother had preferred to tell the muggle legends of Geraint, Owain, Peredur, Culhwch, and Olwen.

“No! Peter!”

Remus winced, and there was an unmistakable crash from the kitchen. Quickly pulling himself together, he began an approximation of what had probably been Lily’s favourite bedtime story to tell:

“Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. They lived…”

They were getting to the climax of the story, with Remus’ somewhat unconvincingly scary Mr McGregor voice getting louder and louder (he had to be honest, he had no idea what the plot was supposed to be) when Sirius reappeared bearing steaming plates. Mercifully this was enough to distract Harry from Remus’ increasingly desperate and silly attempts and they tucked into the doi maach that Sirius had made. Even though he’d known Sirius for half his life, he found it difficult to reconcile the delicious cooking with the skinny child who hadn’t known how to make a cup of tea, or make his own bed.

Eating curry in bed is generally a terrible idea, and even more so with a fifteen-month-old who managed to get rice in surprising places from the relatively restrictive safety of a high chair. The sheets were quickly cleaned with a scourgify but there was no getting around it, Harry would need a bath.

All Remus wanted to do was curl up to sleep between the two living people he loved most, but he rolled over to the side of the bed and put a foot on the floor. Even that pitiful effort felt like climbing Mount Everest, so he remained in his new (admittedly not very comfortable) position whilst he felt Sirius’ weight lift off the other side of the bed. He reluctantly opened his eyes to see a very fond looking Sirius looking down at him, Harry on one hip and his other hand offering to help Remus up. Making sure to groan loudly, so that his displeasure was known, Remus took the proffered hand and pulled himself to his feet, earning himself a gentle kiss on the forehead from Sirius and then, because he couldn’t bear to be left out, a sloppy kiss from Harry.

“C’mon old man,” Sirius murmured, “You get the bath running and I’ll wash up. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

It was only as he sat next to the bath, completely soaked and covered in bubbles that he remembered that Molly had given them food to take home. Sirius hadn’t needed to cook, but Remus was glad he had. Even if it had meant the cuddles were over. Sirius’ doi maach was like a hug in itself. It was normally the first thing he could manage to eat after a full moon, and he could swear it had healing properties. When Sirius reappeared in dog form and licked his entire face with that enormous tongue, he couldn’t even find it in himself to pretend to be annoyed. In fact, sitting on the floor and leaning against the sink surrounded by his family with a belly full of curry, Remus thought that he may just be feeling an approximation of happiness amongst the exhaustion that was threatening to overwhelm him. The next thing he knew, Remus was waking up in his bed next to Sirius, who was peering at him with an amused expression.

“Ah, sleeping beauty wakes at last! Been a while since I’ve had to pick you off a bathroom floor,”

Remus groaned and rolled over, away from the dancing eyes that were teasing him.

“Not even a full moon, or a trip to Soho. No excuse old man.” Sirius continued. “C’mon, we’ve got guests coming for lunch.”

The next thing Remus knew, he was being pounced on by a large black hairy creature which seemed to hold little regard for the pillow that he was weakly holding up in defence. Sensing that admitting defeat was his only sensible option to stop the onslaught of sloppy dog kisses, Remus rolled onto his back in a submissive position.

“Alright, alright, Padfoot, I’m getting up. Make us some tea will you? The old man needs his cuppa.” Remus smiled as Sirius left the room. Five more minutes couldn’t hurt...

Chapter Text

Remus' five minutes turned into more like an hour, as Sirius could have told you it would. When he finally emerged from the bedroom, Sirius had washed, fed and dressed Harry and began basting the chicken they'd bought for Sunday lunch with the neighbours. He felt detached and airy, which was a welcome change from the negative emotions that had filled the week before, and he smiled at Remus as he entered the cramped kitchen.

Once the main ingredients were in the oven, the morning passed smoothly. Remus spent some time sketching, whilst Harry scribbled on some scrap pieces of paper. Whilst they were occupied, Sirius tidied the living room (Harry had made a bit of a mess last night whilst he and Remus were cuddling!) and used a little magic to ensure that they would have enough chairs and table space to accommodate everyone. As Harry quickly got bored of his scribbling, he scooped him up and set him down in the bedroom where he could play without messing up the newly tidy lounge. Time passed quickly as Harry babbled and they pushed the small wooden train between them, Sirius humming along to the record he'd put on in the background, so it was a surprise when the doorbell went announcing the arrival of their guests. He could hear Remus going to answer the door, so he padded along to the kitchen to check on the roast.

___

Remus greeted Lucille, Betty and Dean warmly, realising slightly too late that it may have been a good idea to dress more smartly for the occasion as they were clearly all dressed for church. He hurriedly showed them into the living room and went to the bedroom to collect Harry, making a slight detour on the way back to check on the roast (and Sirius). To his surprise, Sirius was already wearing his perhaps not exactly formal but more socially acceptable clothes and was in a suspiciously good mood. There wasn't time to consider the implications behind or reasons for the sudden change in Sirius' demeanour from the night before, but Remus tried to put it in his mind to follow it up later.

The meal went very smoothly, and Harry and Dean seemed to get on as well as the adults did, which was a big relief. Lucille revealed that she was training to be a nurse and that her mother had been a midwife. In return, Remus shared his ambitions to go to night school, and get some qualifications, which seemed to give him bonus points in Betty's eyes. It didn't escape his notice, however, that Sirius was somewhat detached from the situation. It wasn't something that anyone but the other Marauders would have noticed but he appeared to be performing a role. Not the stiff, heir to the House of Black role he had slipped into when McGonagall had visited but a more subtle version. It meant that to most people he was the gregarious and cheeky person they were expecting but Remus could always tell that the smiles were not reaching his eyes and that behind them Sirius was in reality miles away.

Nevertheless, the meal went smoothly enough that Remus allowed himself to hope that it would go some way in improving the admittedly odd first impression they had given to the family next door. As he waved them goodbye he allowed himself for the first time to feel a little hope that their unusual little family could fit in here and that they could make it work. Lucille and Betty had been full of ideas on how to best occupy Harry and were more than happy to offer to take care of him during the funeral.

When he got back to the kitchen, Sirius was still full of almost too much energy and he'd placed Harry in his highchair with a bowl of yoghurt. Harry, of course, was not eating the yoghurt but instead smearing it all over the tray in front of him. Before he could question it, or attempt to clear up what could only turn into a massive mess, Sirius spun around and grabbed his hands.

"He's alright Moony, Kreacher used to do this with Reg. He'll make some art and he'll eat some of it, and we can scourgify the rest! Now come on, I've practically finished the washing up... dance with me!"

Remus sighed as Simon and Garfunkel started playing from the other room and allowed Sirius to spin him around.

"I think they liked us, don't you Moony? We made a good impression?" This time, Sirius' smile was smaller and more genuine, and Remus leant towards him to gently kiss those beautiful lips.

"Yes, I think we did," he murmured as they swayed to a slower song. "I love you, Sirius."

Unfortunately, this perfectly coincided with the moment Harry knocked the yoghurt bowl off of the highchair tray, and it smashed on the floor.

"You gave him a china bowl?!" Remus shrieked and jumped to collect as many shards of porcelain as he could. Sirius just laughed and flicked his wand at the floor, vanishing the evidence.

"We are wizards you know," he teased, "Although we should probably look into some plastic crockery and one of those sippy cups Dean had."

“Yeah, and maybe remember that reparo exists, you numpty. I was more worried he’d hurt himself.”

___

It wasn't until after they had settled Harry down for an afternoon nap that the feeling of floating left Sirius, and he began to feel the anxiety crawling back into the pits of his stomach. He was going to work tomorrow. Actual, real work. A job. In which he would be earning money to provide for Remus and Harry. So, work that mattered and that he couldn’t fuck up.

And, he thought, desperately trying to add a positive to stop himself from spiralling like Madam Pomfrey had suggested all that time ago at school, from what Arthur had said, work he would find interesting. After all, his bike wasn’t just his pride and joy; building it had been one of the most fun he had ever had, second maybe to the making the Marauders’ map and that concert in Hyde Park with Moony last year. He was particularly adept at charms, after all, and muggle technology had always fascinated him. Remus often said that if he'd been a muggle then Sirius would probably have been an... enginist? Something like that anyway. He should ask him, it might help with piecing together their cover story.

But, interesting though it may be, it was still a job. A job in which he would be stuck in an office, probably surrounded by paperwork, and cursed objects he would recognise from the houses of various Black family friends and he would probably have to wear the formal robes which always felt too tight around his neck, and he'd have to...

A hand landed gently on his shoulder, interrupting his thoughts as they whirled around his brain, vying for his attention. He looked up to see Remus' concerned face, and nearly burst into tears. It was horribly cliche, but Remus had always been his rock in any storm and this was something he would have to face alone. It was ridiculous really, the way he wouldn't think twice about jumping into a duel with the most fearsome of Death Eaters, but the thought of sitting in an office making small talk and completing paperwork had his heart racing and hands shaking.

Remus' frown deepened. "Pads, is this about work?"

Sirius could have cried right then, out of gratitude. How did Remus always know? Especially since they had so many more important things to worry about.

"You know you don't have to go, right? We could... I'll get my money from the muggle government and we have a bit of savings and I could always ask Da if..."

Too overwhelmed for words, all Sirius could think to do was shake his head and bury it into Remus' chest. Remus took his hand, and Sirius squeezed it tight. After a long while, when his breaths finally matched Remus' steady breathing, Sirius squeezed his hand again.

"I can do it," he murmured, trying not to wince at how strangled his voice sounded.

"I know you can." replied Remus. "But maybe we should have a word with Arthur about breaking up the day with practical work in between the desk stuff."

Slowly, Sirius nodded. It wasn't that he'd never considered work, but when he had it had been as joint owner of Sleekeazy's with James, and in those daydreams not that much actual work had been required of him. But there was no way in hell he would ask Remus' father for help.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Sirius surprised himself by getting up before his alarm went, preparing breakfast and bathing Harry before donning his second-best dress robes and kissing Remus goodbye whilst feeling quite chipper. His seemingly good mood lasted all the way to the Ministry entrance (seriously, whoever had come up with the idea of entering by toilet needed to be the recipient of a good hex), but had certainly disappeared by the time he presented his wand to the security witch. She wouldn't let him in based on the fact that it was not 'the most recent wand we have on record for you, Mr Black'. It took half an hour to verify that he was indeed who he said he was and consequently he arrived in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office ten minutes late and altogether out of sorts. Arthur met him with a smile but this did nothing to assuage the feeling within Sirius that he had somehow managed to fuck up before even starting the job. After a quick introduction to an older wizard with fluffy white hair named Perkins, Sirius was shown to his desk which was strewn with paperwork and various objects in various states of dismantlement, which Arthur hurriedly moved aside.

"... and if you need tea or a trip to the gentleman's room, you just turn left at the end of the corridor and then the staff area is the second right after the potted dirigible plum. Any questions?"

Sirius blinked and then shook his head. He really needed to start listening to what people were saying. Arthur gave him another sympathetic smile and clapped him on the back.

"You'll be alright, your NEWTS really were very impressive, and really we're just glad for the help. I've been fighting for more staff down here for years and that was before they started raiding every wizarding house in Britain for Dark artefacts. If you just start with acquainting yourself with the laws hopefully we can get you doing something more exciting this afternoon."

Sirius looked to the scrolls that Arthur was gesturing at and nodded again. They looked shorter than he might have imagined, so he nodded again and took his seat. Their brevity turned out to be a blessing, as the quiet office allowed Sirius' mind to wander. With nothing but the occasional rustle of papers and scratching of quill on parchment to distract him from spiralling thoughts. Seeing people in Auror’s robes on the way in had reminded him that Peter was still yet to be apprehended, and whilst that in itself was enough to make his blood boil it also reminded him that there were countless other Death Eaters roaming free, all with a good reason to want to hurt Harry. Breathing deeply, as Euphemia had taught him, he tried to combat these thoughts with more likely versions of what could be happening. There was no way that any Death Eaters could know where the flat was, that was the whole point of them moving there. It was barely 10 am and Remus was always tired this close to the full, so he imagined them in the sitting room, Remus drinking copious amounts of tea and Harry playing with Dory’s train set.

It was strange how much he missed them, but the morning passed quickly once he had managed to sort out his thoughts, and he accepted Arthur’s offer to get lunch together. What he hadn’t anticipated, was that this meant apparating back to the Burrow, where Molly was waiting with stew and dumplings. The stew was delicious, and to Sirius’ surprise, there were decidedly fewer children popping out of every corner.

Initially, he thought that they may have been outside, but seeing his puzzled expression Molly quickly explained that Ted ran a small school of sorts for magical children to teach them maths and other subjects. Most pureblood children were tutored at home, and half-blood children tended to attend local primary schools, but it made sense that the Weasleys could hardly afford tutors and as Molly succinctly put it, Ottery St Catchpole Primary School probably wasn’t ready for the accidental magic from as many as five magical children at once. So far, it was only the Weasleys and Dory who attended, but apparently, the idea was starting to gather interest amongst the less conservative purebloods.

All too soon, lunch was over, signalled by a large bang which seemed to have been caused by one of the twins, who had previously been suspiciously quiet. Once he had determined that there had been no injuries, Arthur had signalled to Sirius that they should make their exit. The afternoon at work was far more interesting as Arthur ran him through the procedures and charms that they would use to determine if a magical object was simply one that had been carelessly disposed of and therefore fallen into muggle hands or one which had been maliciously enchanted to cause harm. It sounded like Sirius would get the opportunity to really get hands-on and attempt to dismantle any charms or curses, which he was really excited for, and he started to dare to hope that work wouldn’t be too bad after all.

He was almost sad that it was the end of the day until he remembered that Harry and Remus would be waiting for him. As he passed the front desk, he remembered the trials he had gone through that morning, and reluctantly paused to speak to the (thankfully different) witch there. It seemed like the Ministry hadn’t thought beyond using wands as a form of identification, but if he brought his NEWT certificates tomorrow that should do.

As Sirius disapparated he nearly shuddered as the wand seemed to resist him and he resolved that he would have to get a new wand in his next lunch break, even though the thought of spending so much money made his gut clench in a way he was entirely unused to. Much to his shock, he almost landed on top of Betty, who quite understandably let out a piercing shriek.

“Merlins balls,” he swore, as Remus came running to offer Betty a chair and cup of tea, “I am so sorry, I didn’t think…”

“Too damn right you didn’t think,” Remus huffed, “Didn’t we agree you would travel to work and enter the flat like a muggle?”

“I suppose this means you really weren’t joking about being wizards,” Betty’s eyes were still very wide, but her voice was surprisingly steady.

“I’m afraid not,” replied Sirius, “I really am incredibly sorry…”

“Too damn right you are,” said Remus, “Out of the house for eight hours and you forget all your manners!”

Sirius tried not to show that Remus had hit a nerve because he knew Remus would never mean that in the sense that his mother had, and ducked into “his” bedroom, muttering something about needing to change out of his work clothes. When he emerged Betty had gone, and Remus was busy changing Harry’s nappy, so he headed to the kitchen to look at what they could have for dinner. He was so engrossed in the spice rack that he let out a little shriek of his own when Remus’ hands wrapped themselves around his waist from the back, and Remus immediately jumped back.

“Sorry Pads, I thought you’d’ve heard me coming.”

“At least you didn’t apparate into my lap?” Sirius said with a smile and turned round to kiss Remus softly. “I am really sorry about that.”

“I know,” murmured Remus, reaching up to tuck a stray curl behind Sirius’ ear, “You’re lucky you’re so gorgeous I’d let you get away with anything.”

Sirius couldn’t help but chuckle at that, and his heartfelt full in the best way. “Chor chori alright for dinner? We’ve got that pumpkin and it looks like it’s about to turn to mush if we don’t make something with it soon.”

“Sounds delicious. You don’t mind us eating early with Harry, do you? I could do with an early night.”

“No, I think it’d be nice if we could eat as a family as often as possible.” The word slipped out without him even thinking about it, but it did seem the best description. Harry was family, and though they couldn’t replace his parents, they would do their best. He could see a small part of his own sadness that he didn’t think would ever go away reflected back at him in Remus’ eyes, but mostly they showed love. Sirius’ good mood lasted until after they had tucked Harry into bed and Remus had sung him another Welsh lullaby. Unfortunately, Remus’ grimace as he stood up and his knees cracked reminded him that the full moon was only two days away, and they hadn’t yet discussed what they’d do without W- Prongs… or even what they’d do with Harry.

Chapter Text

Sirius woke early again but he didn’t get out of bed straight away. It was far too comfortable in Remus’ arms, and besides, he didn’t want to wake him any sooner than necessary. Instead, he took the time to truly observe Remus’ beautiful face, and carefully trace the silver scars that ran across his arms like rivers seen from space. Eventually, he couldn’t help but press a gentle kiss to Remus’ nose before reluctantly rolling out of bed. Remus stirred but didn’t wake, although Sirius didn’t think he imagined the content smile that had lit his boyfriend’s face after the kiss.

On the way to the kitchen, he could hear Harry stirring, so he popped his head into the other room and was hit with the stench of urine.

“Oh Prongslet, have you made a mess?” he said to himself, before grimacing and picking up the damp and disgruntled toddler. “C’mon then, let’s get you cleaned up.”

After giving Harry a bath (during which Sirius was pretty sure he got wetter than Harry did) and changing the bedsheets in the cot, Sirius barricaded Harry in the living room with his train set and set about making some tea. Whilst it was brewing, he changed into his robes and considered attempting to tame his hair (which had been thoroughly soaked by Harry) before catching sight of the time.

“Shit!” he hissed, grabbing Remus’ mug of tea and pouring his own down the sink.

Sirius walked quickly into the bedroom and carefully placed the mug of tea on the table beside Remus’ side of the bed, before leaning over to press a kiss to the top of his head. This time, Remus slowly blinked awake, and Sirius’ heart swelled at the cuteness of it all.

“Moons, love, I have to go to work now. You going to be alright with Harry? He wet the bed and I changed the sheets but I didn’t manage to clean the old ones in time. He’s in the living room now with Dory’s train.”

Remus nodded sleepily and then reached out to squeeze Sirius’ hand. “I’m proud of you, Pads. Remember to get a new wand.”

*

Luckily, the Welcome Witch didn’t give him much trouble now that he had an official Ministry ID (courtesy of Arthur), so Sirius felt confident popping out to Ollivander’s during lunch to acquire a replacement wand. It was an expense that they couldn’t really be doing with - seven galleons was nearly a week’s wages - but he’d talked it over with Remus and there was no getting around him needing a wand at work even if he learnt to do housework the muggle way.

It was a weekday during late autumn, so Diagon Alley was mercifully empty. Sirius didn’t think he would have liked to try and buy a wand in August when all the first years would be filling the shop. The first wand he tried was dogwood, which nearly made him laugh out loud, but the explosion it caused when he gave it an experimental wave caused Ollivander to snatch it out of his hand with startlingly quick reflexes. He tried a blackthorn next and was rather relieved when Ollivander shook his head decisively. It had reminded him a little too much of his father’s wand. He eventually ended up with a 14 and a half inch ebony wand with a dragon heartstring core. It was a little shorter and heavier than his previous wand, but it responded quickly and he felt as though he would soon be used to it, so he paid Ollivander and headed back to the Ministry.

The afternoon passed quickly, and the spells Arthur had set him to learn were much easier to master with a wand that didn’t resent him. It was with a spring in his step that Sirius headed home, and on a whim, he decided to pop into the shop by their apartment building to buy some rice pudding before he walked back to the flat. He didn’t really like it, but Remus did, and that’s what mattered.

When he reached the flat door he cast a quick homenum revelio and when it showed there were only two people inside he flung the door open and called out, “Honey, I’m home!”

Remus’ head appeared from the kitchen looking exasperated but fond. “Not the most subtle entrance, but at least you didn’t apparate into anyone’s lap this time.”

“Don’t worry Moons, I checked the coast was clear,” he grinned, and planted a sloppy kiss on his boyfriend’s cheek, “I brought rice pudding.”

“Ooooh,” Remus tried to grab the shopping bag from him, “This might just be perfect, I’m not sure whether dinner is going to be edible.”

“Oh Merlin, what did you try to make?”

“Just sausages and mash, but the mash leaves a lot to be desired.”

Sirius laughed as they walked into the kitchen, then stopped dead as he saw the table set with the sausages and mash in dishes ready on the side. “You really made it so that dinner would be ready when I got home from work?”

“Of course, what else for my hardworking man?”

“Such a good little housewife, my Moony is,” Remus glared at him, but they soon both dissolved into giggles. “Just a shame you didn’t wear that beautiful apron I bought you.”

“Sirius we both know you bought that pink monstrosity for yourself,” Remus retorted, “Now come on, or it’ll get cold. I’ll grab Harry.”

*

The mash did indeed have a texture that defied description, but Harry and Sirius both made short work of it, which pleased Remus. And of course, there was the rice pudding with a nice big dollop of strawberry jam which was one of his favourites. His mother had always made it for him when he was recovering from the moon before he started Hogwarts. And on that topic, once they’d put Harry to bed he’d have to have a proper discussion with Sirius about the arrangements for the following day. Remus didn’t want to ruin the good mood Sirius seemed to be in, but sadly the moon had never put much thought into good timing.

And so it was, later that evening as they curled up together on the lumpy sofa watching the old black and white television Mrs Figg had left behind that Remus tentatively brought up the subject.

“I owled Professor McGonagall about the moon tomorrow, and she’s said I can use the Shack.”

Sirius looked puzzled, “But you haven’t transformed there since we left Hogwarts? Don’t we normally find some remote woodland and me and Pr-... oh.”

“Yeah.”

They sat in silence for a while, the weight of what wasn’t being said pressing down heavily on them.

“I- I can still be there with you though. We just need to find somewhere-”

“Pads, no, we can’t risk it. Besides, you can’t leave Harry on his own.”

“He could go to Andromeda’s? She did say that she was happy to help if we ever needed…”

“And how exactly are we going to explain that? It’s not just going to be tomorrow, it’s every month from now on. She doesn’t- can’t know.”

“But you can’t do it alone!” Sirius looked stricken.

Remus smiled sadly, “I can. I have before, and I’ll have to again.”

“Not since you were fifteen! The wolf has only gotten stronger since then you can’t…”

“I have to.”

Tears were falling from Sirius’ eyes, and Remus pulled him closer and held him tight. “It’ll be ok Pads. Moonrise is at 7, I’ll be back before you go to work.”

“It’s not bloody fair!” Sirius burst out, and Remus didn’t know how to respond. As certain as he was that he would have to do this alone, that they couldn’t risk Andromeda or anyone else finding out his secret, he couldn’t pretend to himself that he wasn’t scared. But he had to be strong for Sirius. So he just wrapped his arms tighter around him and rocked him gently.

Wednesday was supposed to be a relaxing day. Sirius went to the park with Harry and came back chattering about how the three of them should go next time when Remus’ bones didn’t ache so much. Remus suspected it was mostly because he wanted to be able to chase the pigeons in dog form. But by the time they had their (very early) dinner, the anxiety and anticipation were almost visible radiating from Sirius, and Remus wasn’t sure he was much better. When it came to the time for Remus to apparate to Hogsmeade Sirius enveloped him in a hug that lasted so long he started to worry it would never end.

“C’mon Pads, you know the sun sets earlier up there. I can’t really be late.”

“I know,” Sirius swallowed thickly, “I love you.”

“I love you too. I’ll be alright, you’ll hardly notice I’m gone.”

And with that, Remus disapparated before he lost his nerve. The Shack was darker and more derelict than he remembered, and he shivered as he waited for the pain to start. Alone.

Chapter Text

Sirius knew as soon as Remus left that there was no way he would be able to sleep. Harry, too, seemed to know that something was wrong as he just wouldn’t settle. Sirius spent the night pacing up and down, trying to soothe Harry despite the lead in his stomach and his nerves screaming. At 4 am Harry eventually fell asleep, his crying having tired him out, and Sirius laid him down in his cot before slumping at the kitchen table with a cup of tea. It was only a few more hours until the moon would set and Remus should be back by 8, so he would be able to see that he was alright before heading off to work. Still, perhaps he should ask Andromeda or Lucille if they wouldn’t mind watching Harry for the morning at least. Remus would be in no state to care for a boisterous toddler, even if it had been the best moon he’d ever had since he was bitten - which it wouldn’t have been. Merlin, there were so many things he hadn’t even considered. And the fucking funeral was tomorrow.

Several cups of tea later, Sirius was craving a cigarette more than he had since he was 16. Not that he would smoke even if he had any tobacco left, Remus would kill him for smoking around Harry and Sirius didn’t want to expose him to the smoke ever. He just needed something in his hands, something to do. It was nearly half-past seven, and he hadn’t heard from Remus. What if he was too injured to apparate or even send a Patronus? He should never have let him go alone. Eight o’clock came and went and Sirius was nearly tearing his hair out. Harry had woken and Sirius was bouncing him up and down as he stared at the clock. Suddenly he couldn’t take it any more and lept up, snatching his wand from the side. He strode outside and knocked rapidly on Lucille’s door before shoving Harry into her startled arms gabbling something about Remus needing the hospital and disapparating, barely caring if anyone saw.

The scene that greeted him at the Shrieking Shack made his heart stop. The thick scent of blood assaulted his nose and despite the complete lack of it in Godric’s Hollow his mind automatically flashed up images of Lily and James lying lifeless. He couldn’t lose Remus too. Quickly his eyes located the crumpled limbs in the corner, and he ran over, hands shaking as he reached out to feel for Remus’ pulse. Sirius exhaled deeply as he felt it, weak but steady. Thankfully then some practicality took over and his emotions seemed to detach themselves as he assessed Remus for injuries in the same way he would for any of his fellow Order members after a run-in with the Death Eaters. Six broken ribs, broken right arm with bone exposed, large bite on his left hip which already looked a little infected, shattered ankle and countless scratches and cuts. Drawing his wand Sirius attempted to summon a Patronus to send to Poppy. She would be able to help. Time and time again he cast the spell but he wasn’t able to conjure more than a silver wisp which he wasn’t entirely sure wasn’t just dust catching the light. Shakily he pulled Remus onto his lap and closed his eyes to picture the flat. The last thing they needed right now was for him to splinch either of them.

By some miracle, they both landed in one piece (or no more pieces than before in Remus’ case) on the double bed in what was officially Remus’ room. By now Sirius was barely holding back the tide of panic as he summoned dittany and pain potions. The move had woken Remus, who simply groaned before slipping back into unconsciousness. It was no exaggeration to say that this had to be the worst state Sirius had ever seen Remus in post-moon. Blood was still seeping from some of his open wounds, covering the bedsheets. Sirius carefully manoeuvred Remus so that he was lying flat, save for the pillow supporting his head, and then stared at the broken man before him. He just didn’t know where to start. He could heal simple broken bones, but if there was any internal bleeding then it would need a qualified medical professional and Sirius knew Remus would never forgive him if he took him to St Mungo’s. His attention was eventually drawn to the nasty bite wound on Remus’ hip. Parts of it looked almost green and he swallowed. Maybe there wouldn’t be a choice about Mungo’s. Better that Remus live and hate him than… No. He couldn’t even think about that. Hands still shaking, Sirius attempted to apply the dittany, spilling almost half of it on the bed in the process.

He was just about to summon some bandages when there was a knock at the door. Sirius ignored the knocking as it became increasingly insistent until to his horror he heard Lucille’s voice talking to what was unmistakably Professor McGonagall. The next thing he knew McGonagall was barging into the room, before freezing in horror at the scene before her.

“Good God,” she swore, turning pale. She blinked for a few seconds before snapping into action. Three silver tabbies shot out her wand and disappeared out of the door. Sirius felt the tears finally start to fall.