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the dogfather

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1.

This is what an ordinary start-of-term Sorting is like:

The first-years, first glimpsed as the backs of a long row of heads, are not and never have been particularly interesting. Severus listens with half an ear, notes the new Slytherins and any likely troublemakers, and never worries about learning the rest of the names until he has a set of atrocious study habits to attach to them.

This year seems much the same. The first-years fidget ‘til their names are called. At least one student forgets to take off the Hat. The Weasley boys make an undignified display of themselves. So, nothing remarkable at all.

The Malfoy boy approaches the Hat. Severus wonders if he’ll be as tedious and uninspired as his father. The previous boy, a newly-minted Gryffindor with a Scottish surname whom Minerva will no doubt favor outrageously, takes a seat. Severus glances over at him.

And then time rewinds for twenty years, and stops.

Sitting at the Gryffindor table is a ghost: a slight, black-haired boy in spectacles, a veritable Polyjuice copy of James Potter, aged eleven, in every detail. Right down to the indefinable air of having been well-cared-for, even adored, that the original had worn so easily, and so thoughtlessly.

Just when Severus is working up a good head of steam about this, the boy glances up-- and his eyes are a vivid green that Severus knows all too well, even now. This is so distracting that he nearly fails to notice Albus and Minerva attempting to slip away from the table unobserved.

Like hell, Severus thinks, and follows.

While Harry is busy wondering about his headmaster’s sanity and, subsequently, eating too much roast beef, one of his professors is attempting to start a row with the other two. Albus and Minerva will not be distracted, though.

“Why was I not told--” is all Severus manages to get out, before Dumbledore cuts him off.

“I know,” he says. “I apologize. There’s a great deal you ought to be informed of. Most of it, I only learned this morning.”

(Minerva does not look the least bit contrite about this. The boy got to Hogwarts safely, which is all that matters as far as she’s concerned.)

“We’ll share the whole sorry tale tonight, never fear,” says Minerva. “But Albus and I have an urgent errand, and it ought to be done before the children finish eating.”

This is not the least bit satisfactory.

“Come now, Severus,” says Dumbledore. “This is happy news, is it not? Lily Evans’ son is alive, despite all our worst fears.”

And they leave. Just-- leave! Scurry off to whatever it is that’s more important than what just happened.

Severus ought to go back into the Hall, but he doesn’t. He paces, instead, outside the doors, muttering to himself. The boy will be his father all over again, no doubt. That ridiculous fig leaf of a surname won’t last; either some bright student will work it out, or Potter himself will grow impatient with the lack of attention, and announce it himself. Either way it will be distracting, unseemly, and vulgar, which is about par for the course with Severus’ prior experience of the elder Potter.

It doesn’t take long at all for Severus to work himself into a temper. He’s furious at the thought of enduring another seven years of a Potter playing glory hound, bully, braggart, and knight in shining armor. The fact that he is thirty-one years old, and the Potter in question is eleven, does not cross his mind.

While Severus Snape stews in twenty-year-old grudges, Sirius Black is doing his best to assuage ten-year-old guilts.

“I don’t know what you think you could have done, Headmaster,” he says. “I wasn’t in my right mind. If anyone had bothered with Veritaserum, or anything else, it might not have done much good, and it’s not as though the entire Wizengamot would have reconsidered on your say-so alone.”

(Sirius has practiced this speech a few times. He really is trying to mean it.)

If Dumbledore still seems troubled, at least it’s not by Sirius himself. He’s relieved, in all honesty: he expected a man who’s been a dog for most of the last ten years to be… well. A little fragile, at least. But Sirius Black looks better, if anything, than he did in the last days of the war: calmer, steadier. The frantic edge is gone, replaced by certainty. He’s settled in himself, at long last.

Dumbledore would be glad, if only the cost hadn’t been so high.

(Remember, Sirius has read every book in Harry’s house, down to the old textbooks in boxes in the attic. The Muggles really have worked out some things that wizardkind could do with, starting with all of Caro’s assigned reading for the psychology class she took in her first year of uni.)

(Sirius feels much more self-actualized than he ever used to.)

So Sirius stands before his old professors and insists that he ought to stay with Harry, at least for this first year.

“It’ll come out, sooner or later,” he says. “It only takes a student noticing the wrong thing, writing home to the wrong parent. Then the Prophet gets hold of the story, and everyone goes mad. You know it’ll happen.”

“And you really think he’ll need-- what, a bodyguard?” Minerva asks. “Here, of all places?”

“Someone will come after him,” says Sirius. “If it’s some random nutter or washed-up Death Eater, Hogwarts might be enough to protect him. But I don’t think that’s who we have to worry about.”

“You think it will be Pettigrew,” says Dumbledore.

“Yes,” says Sirius. “And if it is Wormtail that comes after Harry, I need to be here.”

Harry, of course, never learns the full details of this conversation. Neither does Snape, who gets an edited version that makes him absolutely incandescent with rage.

What Harry knows is that after the feast-- after one of his professors spent the evening glaring at Harry so hard it actually gave him a headache-- he makes his way with the other first-years, up through the many winding stairways of Hogwarts castle, to a talking portrait who ushers him into Gryffindor Tower. He climbs yet another stair, dragging his feet by the end of it, with Ron and Neville and Seamus and Dean, who he is relieved to like already. Finally, at the top of the stair, they are greeted by a cosy room, where their trunks are waiting, where five four-poster beds are hung with heavy red velvet curtains.

And there, curled up with his head on his paws at the foot of one of the beds, is his Padfoot.

 

2.

Let’s pause for a moment, and talk about kindness. There are three ways, in the main, that people learn to be kind, and one is rather easier than the others.

Harry, as we know him here, has been fortunate, and learned kindness by example: from his parents, from his godfather, from most of people he encounters. He has been treated with kindness by these people, and offered in it turn, whether or not it was expected, or even warranted. He understands kindness instinctively, knows cruelty to be unfair and wrong, does not see why people should be unkind when they could choose better. Harry has known a great deal of kindness, and so kindness comes easily to him.

Had his life been different, he might have had to learn kindness by a different path. This is the path with a less certain outcome. He might have been denied kindness, for much of his young life. He might have only known its worth, upon encountering it, for the relief it offered. People raised in deserts know the value of water.

But for some, cruelty teaches them that kindness is a thing they can live without-- something they cannot afford to value, or practice. A weakness, to be stamped out. A vulnerability, to armor against exploitation. Such people are contemptuous of kindness. They have never needed it, they insist, and have precious little to spare. Why should they offer it to anyone else?

(There is a third way. We’ll get to that later.)

At the end of Harry’s first full week at Hogwarts, Hedwig brings him his mail at breakfast. There’s a nice long letter from his mum, full of news about Harry’s primary school friends, with notes in his dad’s handwriting added on around the edges. And there is a shorter note, much more excitingly, from Moony.

I’m visiting Hagrid today, it says, and since you’ve got Friday afternoon off, why don’t you come and meet us for tea at three o’clock? Send Padfoot over before you go to class, we’ve got some catching up to do.

Harry tries to show Padfoot the note as surreptitiously as possible. Hermione Granger, sitting halfway down the long table from Harry, notices this, and frowns.

(Hermione is not very impressed by Padfoot. “Dogs are against the rules,” she notes, their very first morning of classes.)

(“He’s half Scottish wildcat and a quarter jaguar,” Ron says loyally. “Stop making him feel self-conscious.”)

Anyway. Padfoot finishes the bacon Seamus has been slipping him under the table, and trots off to Hagrid’s cottage.

This gives Harry a chance to do something he’s wanted to do since he got to Hogwarts. There’s still quite a bit of time before their double Potions class with the Slytherins, but Harry gets his things together and arrives nearly half an hour early.

The door to the Potions classroom is ajar. Harry knocks on the doorframe, and pushes it open. “Um. Professor?”

At the front of the room, Professor Snape is sitting at his desk, head bowed over a stack of parchment. The classroom itself, Harry notices, is chilly, a bit damp, and he’s not sure he likes all the pickled things floating in jars on the shelves all round the room.

“Class begins in twenty-five minutes,” says Professor Snape, without looking up. “Don’t expect me to reward keenness.”

“It’s not class-related, sir,” says Harry.

Professor Snape looks up. His eyes are sharp and black, though at least he’s not glaring as hard as he did after the Sorting.

“Ah, yes,” he says. “Harry Potter. Our new… celebrity.”

“It’s MacIntyre actually,” says Harry.

This is not, apparently, what Professor Snape expected Harry to say. There is a very long and awkward silence.

Harry, despite himself, sometimes falls into his dad’s habit of filling awkward silences with nervous chatter. Unfortunately, this is one of those times.

“I mean, my parents changed it, when they adopted me. And we didn’t even know I was ever a Potter until I was almost eight, so it’s not really… my name. That I use. And also my godfather says that people might be a bit weird about it, if I used that name, so I’d rather not if it’s all right with you. Sir. Um.”

Professor Snape does not have a ready response to this.

“My mum says that if I want to I can add it back as a middle name,” Harry says, “But I’m not sure because then I’d have two middle names, and that seems like a lot. I’d be Harry Potter Bennet MacIntyre. But Tolkien had two middle names, didn’t he, and he turned out all right, so--”

“What do you want,” says Professor Snape, having apparently reached some sort of internal limit.

“Well,” says Harry, “I was wondering if you knew anyone who was good friends with my mum. My birth mum, I mean.”

There is another silence, nearly as long as the first. Harry fights the urge to babble.

“Why would you ask me that,” says Professor Snape.

“Well, my godfather said you were at school with them,” says Harry.

“Oh, did he? And what else did he say about me,” says Professor Snape.

“Not very much,” says Harry, blithely unaware that this is a far deeper cut than if he had said oh, he complains about you constantly, hates you like anything, never shuts up about it.

In fact, on one of the few occasions Snape’s name did come up, all Sirius said in Harry’s hearing was “I don’t know how Lily put up with him for as long as she did.” Harry does not feel terribly comfortable repeating this sentiment to a teacher, though.

(Sirius has tried terribly hard to put his old grudges aside, at least far enough that they don’t touch Harry. The schoolboy ones, anyway. The wartime ones are permanent, but he doesn’t talk about those in front of Harry either.)

“The thing is,” says Harry, “he was only really friends with her once they were seventh-years, so I was hoping to find someone who knew her earlier than that. Because my godfather has lots of stories about my birth dad when he was my age, but not really very many about my mum.”

“...I’ll look into it,” says Professor Snape, after another silence. “Leave. Class begins promptly on the hour.”

“Thank you, Professor,” says Harry. “And, um, you won’t use my old name in class, will you?”

“I should think you’d enjoy the attention,” says Snape, a little of the usual mean glare returning.

But Harry wrinkles his nose at that. “For something I did when I was a baby? I didn’t even do it on purpose. That wouldn’t be fair.”

Once again, Harry feels as though he has said the wrong thing. He seems to keep knocking the conversation off-balance, without meaning to. He hopes it won’t make Potions class too uncomfortable.

“Very well,” says Professor Snape. “Now. Leave.”

“Right,” says Harry. He flees.

(Potions class is not awkward, as such, but only because Professor Snape studiously ignores Harry the entire time, even when he raises his hand. But perhaps it’s for the best. Neville Longbottom loses a point for Gryffindor, for incompetence, and Hermione Granger another for showing off. Perhaps Professor Snape’s attention might be something best avoided.)

 

3.

On the other side of the Hogwarts grounds, Remus Lupin has just made Hagrid cry. He really didn't mean to. But Hagrid is a sensitive soul, and he’d spent a decade thinking he’d failed, somehow, when the tiny baby he carried away from Godric’s Hollow had vanished so completely. On top of which, there is the Padfoot situation.

Sirius very patiently endures being cried on for as long as he can possibly stand it, and then turns back into Padfoot and goes to sit by Remus.

“Sorry,” says Hagrid, mopping his face with an enormous handkerchief. “Didn’t mean to do that. We all took it hard, thinkin’ you'd gone over to You-Know-Who, and to find out we'd been wrong, and you’d been sittin’ in a cell in Azkaban for no good reason--!”

His face threatens more tears. Padfoot gives Remus a look of mute pleading. Remus returns a look that says, very clearly, that Sirius had better get used to other people and their feelings if he ever wants to be part of wizarding society again.

Fortunately for all three of them, this is when Harry arrives, with another student in tow.

Harry’s a bit taken aback when Hagrid answers the door with red eyes and the overlarge hanky still clutched in one hand. Ron is rather more taken aback than Harry.

Remus introduces himself as an old friend of Harry’s godfather, which is technically true.

“I'm sorry,” says Remus, “but I just delivered some rather upsetting news about a mutual friend.”

(This is also technically true.)

Ron, showing tact beyond his years, remembers something he urgently needs to go and get from Gryffindor Tower, and excuses himself.

“Right,” says Sirius as soon as he turns back to human, “tell me how Potions went. Am I going to have to earn my murder conviction after all?”

Harry is used to Padfoot making jokes like this, but from the way Hagrid reacts it might have gone a bit far.

“It was fine, I promise,” Harry says. He doesn’t mention the bit before class started, when he asked about his birth mum. Harry is not a very secretive person, but this is one of the rare things he wants to keep for himself for a little while.

“I missed you,” Harry tells Padfoot, after they have all settled down with tea and inedible rock cakes. “I mean, you’ve been here, but not-- it’s weird acting like you’re a regular dog, and not talking to you properly.”

“So ye haven’t just been a dog this whole time?” says Hagrid. “Bit of a relief, that. From the way Lupin made it sound--”

“Oh, no. Only out in public, really, anymore,” says Sirius.

“Y’know,” says Hagrid, “when Dumbledore clears yer name, ye’ll be able to go anywhere ye like.”

“On two legs, even,” notes Remus.

From the look on Sirius’ face, he doesn’t seem to have thought of that, or even know what to think of it. Remus, mercifully, changes the subject.

“Your parents send their love, Harry,” he says.

“Send mine back to them, thanks,” says Harry. “Are they doing all right?”

“I think they’re feeling the empty nest a bit,” says Remus. “You know I'd been planning to get a flat nearby, just in case? Well, they wouldn’t hear of it. Insisted I take the guest room, at least while I look for something a bit more permanent.”

The look that Harry and Sirius exchange is frankly conspiratorial.

“Oh good, it worked,” says Harry.

“Wait,” says Remus.

“Sorry,” says Sirius, who is not even slightly sorry. “Tim and Caro need someone to look after, and you’ve been volunteered.”

“I am a grown man,” says Remus. “I'm meant to be looking after them.”

“Best of luck with that,” says Sirius. “A word of advice: if Tim says he needs a bit of help with a small project, just write off the rest of the day and don’t wear anything you don't want ruined.”

Moony looks betrayed.

(But not, really, all that upset about it.)

The rest of the afternoon is nice. Hagrid tells Harry stories about his wizard parents, about himself as a baby, about the trouble Padfoot and Moony got up to at Hogwarts. Harry works out how to soften his rock cake a bit with his tea.

When Hagrid starts telling the story of the night the Potters died, though, Sirius cuts him off. “You know, there’s something I've been meaning to ask you about that, Hagrid,” he says. “Something rather important, actually.”

“When the time comes, I’ll speak up for you before the Wizengamot,” Hagrid says. “Of course I will. Ye don't even need to ask.”

There is a pause.

“...that's not what I meant. But thank you,” says Sirius. “I suppose it’s a bit, well, frivolous of me, but I’ve always wondered. Do you know what happened to my motorbike?”

“Know?” says Hagrid, delighted to have happy news. “Why, it’s parked round the back!”

“Can I ride it?” says Harry.

“Absolutely not,” says Sirius, so reflexively that even he looks a little surprised.

They all troop outside to look it over, and back inside so that Sirius can give Hagrid a long list of recommendations for repairs and grill him about the maintenance he’s been doing. While Hagrid looks for a quill to take notes, Harry notices a newspaper clipping tucked under the tea cozy.

GRINGOTTS BREAK-IN LATEST, it says.

Apparently, there was an attempted robbery the same day Harry went to Diagon to get his wand. Moony notices what Harry’s looking at, and Harry hands him the clipping to read. He gets a very thoughtful look.

“Sirius,” he says. “Leave off, your bike’s been fine for ten years and I've no doubt it will be for ten more. Harry, when do you have to be back?”

When it’s time for Harry and Padfoot to go, Harry gets a big hug from Padfoot, an enormous hug from Hagrid, and a rather more decorous one from Moony.

“Don't let mum and dad boss you around too much,” Harry tells him.

“But let them boss your around a bit,” says Padfoot. “It'll make them feel better.”

“Come back whenever ye like,” Hagrid tells Harry. “And Black, when ye need to stretch yer legs a bit--”

“Oh, that will help, thanks,” says Padfoot. “I'll take you up on that.”

Hagrid and Harry go outside first, giving Moony and Padfoot a moment to talk between themselves.

“Yer a good lad, Harry,” Hagrid tells him. “Ye’ve done well, looking after Sirius.”

“What do you mean?” Harry says. After all, Padfoot is his godfather. He’s always looked after Harry, not the other way round. But before he gets an answer, the door opens behind them. Padfoot is dog-shaped again, and Moony looks a bit rumpled.

“I'll try to come back soon,” says Moony.

“In a month or so?” asks Harry, who knows perfectly well what he means,

“In all likelihood, yes,” says Moony, with a wry look at Padfoot. “You’ll look after him ‘til then, won’t you?”

It’s not until later, after Harry is back in his dormitory, that he wonders which of them Remus had meant.

 

4.

In the week before his first flying lesson, Harry comes to an important decision. He concludes, after some deliberation, that Draco Malfoy is a horrible little bully and he, Harry, will find a way to show him up or die trying.

He does not arrive at this conclusion lightly. Malfoy is consistently nasty to just about everyone outside his own small clique of Slytherins. Harry has heard him call a Hufflepuff first-year an ‘embarrassment to wizardkind,’ a Ravenclaw study group 'too busy reading books to ever do anything useful,’ and Hermione Granger 'a jumped-up Muggle trying too hard to act like a real witch.’ The fact that all of this unpleasantness has a slightly rote quality, as if Malfoy is repeating someone else’s ugly opinions in lieu of forming his own, does not make him any less obnoxious.

Padfoot doesn’t like him either. Harry can tell by the way his ears go flat whenever Malfoy is nearby.

(He tends to do that around Professor Snape, too, but he’s a little more subtle about it, and avoids the Potions professor as much as he can in any case.)

Malfoy is also a show-off, to make matters worse. He crows about the constant stream of letters and packages his owl brings him in the mornings, and then turns around to call other students babyish for getting too many letters from home.

“Honestly, MacIntyre, you ought to be able to do without your Muggles by now,” he tells Harry one morning. “Would you need your real parents to write you so often?”

“They are my real parents,” says Harry. It’s something he’s had to say before, but never to someone who was being so nasty about it.

“Not by blood,” says Malfoy, rolling his eyes.

“What does blood have to do with anything? They’re my parents,” says Harry. He’ll never understand why that’s so confusing to some people.

It certainly is confusing to Malfoy. He sputters for a moment, trying to come up with a suitably mean-spirited reply, until Padfoot growls at him from under the table and scares him off.

“Forget about Malfoy, he’s a git,” says Ron.

“Easy for you to say, he doesn’t go after you all the time,” says Harry.

Ron’s shoulders hunch. “No, he does, sometimes,” he says, and doesn’t elaborate.

Harry doesn’t know what Malfoy said to Ron, but he can make an educated guess. Malfoy thinks the only people worth knowing are rich snobby pureblood wizards who hate Muggles, and the Weasleys aren’t rich or snobby or hateful.

So by the morning of their first flying lesson, when Malfoy first tries to steal Neville’s Remembrall, Harry is wholly determined to puncture Malfoy’s ego by any available means.

But Harry has never been on a broomstick before, despite Padfoot’s ardent hopes. For obvious reasons, his house does not have the sorts of spells on it that would keep Muggles from noticing the neighbor’s son flying around in the backyard. His parents and Moony agreed ages ago that the risks weren’t worth it, and anyway he’d learn as soon as he got to Hogwarts. Harry, not knowing what he was missing, has never been terribly upset about this, until now.

At least he’s not the only one who’s worried. Although he could do without Hermione Granger reading aloud from Quidditch Through the Ages, since the flying tips she chooses don’t seem very helpful and tend to contradict each other. Fortunately, when Ron points this out to her, she scowls at him and switches to taking notes instead.

By three-thirty that afternoon, Harry is both nervous and determined. The lesson starts well, at least. His broom jumps into his hand as if it’s eager to be in the air. Unfortunately, things do not improve from there.

After Neville breaks his wrist, Malfoy quickly finds an opportunity to be awful. Harry, who has reached his limit on Malfoy being awful, sees an opportunity of his own, and seizes it.

The good news is: flying is wonderful. With the wind whipping through his hair, he hardly notices the other students shouting up at him from the ground. If not for Malfoy, Harry thinks he might just fly circles around the castle until nightfall, delighting in how easy and natural it felt to be in the air.

But the bad news, of course, is Malfoy. “Give it here,” Harry calls to him, but Malfoy sneers.

“You haven’t got your guard dog up here,” he says. “Think I’m scared of you?”

“I don’t need Padfoot’s help to knock you off your broom,” Harry says. “Think you can stay on it without Crabbe and Goyle to save your neck?”

“I don’t need them to handle the likes of you,” Malfoy spits back at him. “You don’t know how proper wizards should act, you don’t care a jot about your own blood-- d’you even know who your real parents are?”

“Yes,” says Harry. “I do. And I know who my birth parents were. And they didn’t like bullies any better.” He spurs his broom into a lunge at Malfoy, who only just manages to dodge.

“Fine,” says Malfoy. “Catch it if you can, then!” He throws the Remembrall into the air, high as he can, and flees.

Harry can’t make Malfoy be decent, but he can catch that Remembrall.

The world below him seems to fade from view, narrowing to the air and the broom and the arcing parth of the glass ball, flashing red in the afternoon light. He dives, certain that he can catch it. Everything makes sense, somehow. He knows how fast to fly, and at what angle; when to stretch out his hand, and when to pull up from his plummet so that he topples gently from his broom to the grass, Remembrall clutched safely in his fist.

And then, very suddenly, Professor McGonagall is shouting at him, and the world snaps back into existence.

He does appreciate Ron and Parvati’s attempts to defend him, but he doesn’t make any protest himself. They’d been told to stay on the ground. Frankly, any amount of detention would be worth the look on Malfoy’s face when he realized Harry could hold his own on a broom.

As they approach the castle, Padfoot peels out from behind a tree and joins them, trotting along beside Harry.

Harry gives him a reproachful look. “I told you not to watch!” he hisses. He’d been nervous enough without knowing his godfather was spectating.

Padfoot gives him a look which says, very plainly, that Harry should have known full well that he, Padfoot, would not have missed this for the world.

Professor McGonagall, meanwhile, has not said a word since they entered the castle. She leads Harry to a classroom and ushers him in. To his surprise, Padfoot, who is not ordinarily allowed in the classrooms, follows him. Another surprise: the classroom is quite empty.

The moment the door is shut and locked, Padfoot turns into Sirius. “Did you see that!” he cries joyfully. He seizes Harry in a hug that nearly lifts him off his feet. “I knew it!”

“The boy’s a natural,” says Professor McGonagall, whose usual stern expression has vanished. “I've never seen anything like it. Was that your first time on a broomstick, Potter?”

“It’s MacIntyre,” Harry says automatically.

But Sirius is already talking over him. “Not for lack of trying on my part, that’s for certain. And if I’d known he could do that-- !”

“He caught that thing in his hand after a fifty-foot dive,” says Professor McGonagall, nodding at the Remembrall Harry is still holding. “Didn't even scratch himself. Charlie Weasley couldn't have done it.”

“A born Seeker,” says Sirius, still in raptures. “Who’s Quidditch captain, anyway? You’d better fetch him.”

“In a moment,” says Professor McGonagall. “And I’ll have to speak to Professor Dumbledore, and see if we can't bend the first-year rule. Heaven knows, we need a better team than last year. Flattened in that last match by Slytherin--”

“Excuse me,” says Harry. “am I in trouble?”

There is a pause.

“Not at present,” says Professor McGonagall. She attempts to paste the stern look back onto her face. “But I want to hear you're training hard, or I may change my mind."

The stern look doesn’t last long, though. It vanishes when she looks at Sirius, and says “James would have been proud, I think.”

“He’d be over the bloody moon,” says Sirius.

 

5.

To Draco’s surprise and displeasure, MacIntyre is at dinner that evening, looking offensively cheerful. Draco assumed he’d at least get detention, though expulsion was probably too much to hope for. but apparently neither one is in the offing. it only goes to show, he thinks, how outrageously lenient the school is towards the Muggleborn, just like his father always says.

And MacIntyre isn’t really Muggleborn, if he’s telling the truth. He shouldn’t even have ignorance as an excuse.

Well, he won’t stand for it. If MacIntyre won’t show the slightest bit of proper wizarding feeling, then he, Draco Malfoy, will have to hold the line for Standards, and Traditions, and so on.

(And with any luck, get MacIntyre into the trouble he deserves, in the process.)

Once he’s challenged MacIntyre, though, Draco begins to have second thoughts. After all, it’s not really becoming of a Malfoy to sneak off to brawl with blood traitors in the middle of the night. And yes, MacIntyre promised to leave his dog behind, though he shouldn’t have been allowed to bring the beast to Hogwarts at all-- blatant favoritism, again!

But can Draco really trust him to keep his word, when he clearly doesn’t know the first thing about how honorable wizards behave? Honestly, more likely than not MacIntyre will get cold feet and stay in bed, or Weasley will talk him out of it. Draco wouldn’t even put it past them to tell Professor McGonagall, and get him in trouble instead! For all that Gryffindors talk about bravery, they never show it when it really matters. That’s what Father always says.

Two can play at that game, Draco decides. And with any luck, MacIntyre will learn what happens when you throw your lot in with blood traitors and Muggles.

Draco sleeps soundly that night, with a perfectly clear conscience. And why shouldn’t he?

 

6.

Harry, of course, very sternly forbids Padfoot to come along with him and Ron to the wizard’s duel.

Padfoot, of course, ignores this. He hangs back in the shadow of the doorway until Ron and Harry have left the common room, and emerges to find Hermione Granger in the throes of indecision.

She glares at him. “You could have at least tried to stop them,” she says.

Stopping Harry when his mind’s really set on something is only slightly easier than stopping James, and rather more difficult than stopping the Hogwarts Express under full steam. This isn’t something one can easily convey as a dog, though.

So when Granger makes an indignant noise and goes after Ron and Harry, Padfoot just follows.

They pick up another kid on their way to the trophy room, but that’s all right. Padfoot got into significantly worse trouble at Hogwarts than this without anyone getting hurt, and a couple of firsties flinging jinxes at each other won’t be the end of the world.

Hell, if they all get detention together, they might get along better at the end of it.

And that’s assuming the Malfoy kid even shows up; from what Padfoot remembers of his father, that’s not too likely. Not exactly a battlefield general, was the elder Malfoy. Much more the sort to lead from the rear. First in line for praise, last in line for blame.

The trophy room’s empty when they arrive. The kids cool their heels for a little while. Padfoot tries to get at the itch behind his ear, but can’t quite manage it. He trots out from behind his hiding spot amongst the trophy cases, and flops down next to Harry.

“I told you to stay behind,” Harry says, but his heart’s not in it. Padfoot can tell.

Ron, who is a good lad, scoots closer to Harry so he can scratch Padfoot’s ears.

And then they hear Filch in the next room.

The kids all jump like they’ve been set upon by boggarts, poor things. Padfoot can only vaguely remember a time when something like this was actually worth being scared of. He barks, softly as he can, to get Harry’s attention.

“Can you draw him off, Pads?” Harry asks him, and he barks again.

“That dog of yours is a lifesaver,” he hears Longbottom say on his way out. I’m really not, he thinks to himself, but he’s got enough years and enough distance that it’s more wry than anguished. But I intend to be, if it comes to it .

It doesn’t, of course. Not this time. He leads Filch and Mrs. Norris on a merry chase. Once he’s shaken them, he settles down for a nap in one of the secret tunnels. In the morning, he rejoins Harry for breakfast in the Great Hall, eyes bright and tail wagging, just in time for Harry’s new broom to arrive.

This, Padfoot decides, settling under the table within bacon-tossing range of Seamus Finnegan, is what Hogwarts ought to be. Not what it was in his last years here, with the war looming over them all. Not a fortress, or a seething cauldron of alliances and recruitment. But this: nothing worse than mischief, once in a while, with plenty of time to stockpile good memories in between.

Seamus tosses him half a sausage. Lovely, thinks Padfoot, and snaps it neatly out of the air.

 

 

 

7.

In the days leading up to Halloween, Harry worries about Padfoot, a bit. At home, Padfoot would sometimes spend the day avoiding everyone, curled up at the back of the shed or in a corner of the attic. Some years, he’d stick to Harry’s side like glue, not wanting Harry out of his sight for a moment. Knowing what he now knows, Harry understands it, and his mum and dad have told him to give Padfoot space when he needs it.

But he still worries, just a bit.

He leaves it be, anyway. On Halloween, he tries not to wonder what Padfoot’s doing when he doesn’t see so much as a hair of him all day. He’s got enough to worry about on his own, really: he’s busy all the time, between Quidditch and lessons and homework.

Not to mention the small issue of the huge monster in the third floor corridor, and whatever it’s guarding. He’s got a lot going on, does Harry, without even taking Padfoot into account.

When he and Ron accidentally lock Hermione Granger in with a mountain troll, though, Harry does take a moment to fervently wish that Padfoot could be clingy this year.

They manage to knock out the troll, somehow. Once it’s stopped moving, Harry and Hermione climb to their feet, and Ron stands there frozen, still clutching his wand.

It’s Hermione who speaks first.

"is it -- dead?"

And then the door slams open. It’s Padfoot, at a dead run. He turns into Sirius without breaking stride, and then skids to a halt, wand upraised, and takes in the scene before him.

“We’re all right!” says Harry.

“I knew it,” says Hermione.

“Hang on,” says Ron.

“Oh, fuck,” says Sirius, very heartfelt, but he has to turn back into Padfoot when the rest of the grown-ups flood in.

Hermione, to Harry’s surprise, takes the blame, and the scolding from Professor McGonagall, and the five lost points. She leaves without a word of protest, which isn’t like her at all. As for Harry and Ron, they get much less of a scolding and five points apiece for Gryffindor, so it certainly could have been worse. Even leaving aside the near-death by troll.

Professor McGonagall sends them back to Gryffindor Tower, with Padfoot for an escort. As they go, Ron shoots baffled looks at Padfoot and at Harry in turns, not knowing what to ask first. Before they get very far, though, Hermione steps out from behind a statue.

“Er,” she says. “Thanks. For-- you know.”

“Thanks for not ratting us out,” says Ron, and Harry nods in agreement. He never liked Hermione all that much, before, but he thinks they’re probably going to be friends from now on. Knocking out a mountain troll together is the sort of thing that means you have to be friends afterwards. He’s pretty sure.

“Right,” Hermione says, and draws herself up, pulling on an approximation of her usual know-it-all haughtiness. It reminds Harry of Professor McGonagall trying to muster her stern look. He likes her better now that he knows who she is underneath it.

“I want to know what’s really going on,” Hermione says. “There’s an empty classroom here, we’ve a few minutes before anyone will miss us.”

“Wow,” says Ron. “Once you break a rule you don’t look back, do you?”

“Only when it’s really important,” says Hermione.

Ron shrugs. “Fair enough,” he says. “Sorry, Harry, but I’ve got some questions too, starting with our sixth secret dorm-mate.”

He levels a look at Padfoot, who gives the doggy equivalent of a shrug and trots into the empty classroom.

Once the door is shut and locked, Padfoot changes into Sirius. He seizes Harry in a hug that turns, halfway through, into shaking some sense into him.

“I’m never leaving you alone on Halloween again, you little maniac,” he tells Harry. “Not for a bloody minute.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Harry says. He pries himself free with as much dignity as he can manage, which isn’t much. “Anyway, we’d better tell Ron and Hermione.”

“All right,” Sirius says. He makes a visible effort to settle himself. “But I want to know what they’ve worked out on their own, first.”

Hermione bites her lip. “Well,” she says. “I thought-- Harry. You’re here to protect him, right?”

“Right,” says Sirius.

She turns to Harry, and says “Because you’re not really Harry MacIntyre, are you?”

“Yes I am,” says Harry. Hermione’s Muggleborn, and should know better.

She makes a ‘fair enough’ sort of face, and says, “I mean, you weren’t always. Not originally.”

“Well, yes,” says Harry.

“That’s what I thought!” says Hermione. “Because you're in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century, aren’t you? And I saw your scar at our first flying lesson. And these old pictures I saw in the trophy room, you look just like -- and, well-- it all made sense, when I put the pieces together.”

“Well done,” says Sirius. “I think you must be the cleverest witch in your year.”

Hermione grins, pleased by the compliment.

“Well, I’m not the cleverest witch in our year,” says Ron. “So could someone please just tell me what’s going on?”

“Sorry,” says Harry. He flounders, for a moment, looking for the right way to explain it.

“Remember right before we got off the train,” he says, “when you told me there was a famous wizard named Harry, and people might be a bit weird to me about it?”

“Yeah,” says Ron.

“Well… they wouldn’t be wrong to,” says Harry. “Even if I’d rather they didn’t.”

“... oh,” says Ron.

“Please don’t be weird about it,” says Harry.

“I won’t!” says Ron. “I just need a minute. Hang on, though-- that doesn’t explain him.” He points at Sirius.

“I thought maybe you were an Auror,” says Hermione. “Sent by the Ministry as a bodyguard. But that’s not right, is it?”

“No,” says Padfoot. “I’m Harry’s godfather. My name is Sirius Black.”

Ron goes white under his freckles.

Harry says, all in a rush, “And he was framed for murder and wrongfully convicted and he’s been protecting me from You-Know-Who’s people since I was six but it’s a very long story and we need to get back but I promise I’ll explain all of it and everything you’ve heard is probably wrong.”

“...All right,” says Ron. “I’m taking a lot on faith here, mate.”

“I know,” says Harry.

He explains as much as he can on the walk back up to the Gryffindor common room, but once they go in there’s too many people and too much commotion. And anyway, once he sees all the food, Harry suddenly realizes that he’s ravenously hungry.

So does Ron, by the look of the plate he piles up. At first Harry thinks Hermione must be even hungrier, until he catches her setting her second heaping plate on the floor under an out-of-the-way table. He and Padfoot go over to join her, Ron trailing behind.

“I have so many questions,” says Hermione.

“I can’t believe you’re secretly famous,” says Ron.

“I’m glad you’re the first ones to know,” says Harry.

They both look a little startled by this, but also pleased.

“Don’t worry, mate,” says Ron, “you can trust us.”

“Of course!” says Hermione. “I’d never betray a confidence.”

“I know,” says Harry. “Just-- thanks.”

 

8.

Over the course of the fall, despite his best intentions, Remus finds himself being kindly, thoughtfully, relentlessly parented.

He had planned to take a flat near Harry’s parents, and keep watch without interfering in their lives. Instead, he’s living in their spare room, and every time he isn’t home for dinner they look disappointed.

He spends a weekend up a ladder, pruning trees with Tim shouting encouragingly at him from the ground. Caro keeps giving him books and asking him thoughtful questions about them. They fuss over him when he come home from the full moon. He can’t quite bring himself to complain.

It’s strange, is all. Remus has been living on his own since he left school; he hasn’t spoken to his father in years. There had been a little while, in the brief golden years after Hogwarts, when he and his friends had lived out of each other’s pockets, when the contents of their various kitchen cupboards had been communal property and they’d slept on each others’ sofas as often as their own beds. It was even odds, back then, whether on any given morning he’d wake up in his own flat with his face mashed into the back of Sirius’s neck, or on the lumpy hide-a-bed at Peter’s, or in James’ spare room to the sound of Lily whistling while she brewed a hangover cure and James made breakfast.

(Remus knew, at the time, that there was a quiet conspiracy amongst his friends to look after him. He always seemed to have more groceries on hand than he could remember paying for, and they kept giving him unwanted sweaters and robes, supposedly gifted from from their least favorite relatives, that fit him suspiciously well.)

But he learned, in the two awful years when Sirius was in Azkaban, to look after himself, and Remus has never liked to be coddled. After Sirius came back, he was the one who needed looking after, for a long time, and that suited Remus better than the other way around.

So: it’s strange. He’s an adult. He gets on very well without anyone but Sirius to care for him, on the rare occasions he really needs it. But Harry’s parents miss Harry, and Sirius, dreadfully, and having someone to care for seems to help.

And he owes them, anyway.

They’ve raised James and Lily’s son. They love Harry as much as James and Lily did, and kept him safe while Remus and Sirius looked for him. They don’t seem to hold a grudge about the year and change that Sirius pretended to be their dog. No, they treat Sirius like family, and Remus too. And he’s just about sure they know what he and Sirius are to each other, without forcing him to have a hideously awkward conversation about it.

Having said that, they’re not by any means perfect.

Caro rarely outright disapproves of anything, but by the third or fourth time she asks if he’s really sure about that, dear, Remus generally just gives in. When Remus is working on anything non-magical, Tim has a habit of hovering nearby and offering not-actually-helpful advice until he makes Remus snappish. If he comes downstairs one more time to find the Muggle newspaper lying open on the table, with the employment section face-up and listings helpfully circled, he might be forced to Incendio the stupid thing right there in the kitchen.

So it’s with some relief that Remus decamps to Hogwarts for Harry’s first Quidditch game. He even takes the packed lunch from Harry’s dad.

He and Sirius had agreed to watch from a distance with Hagrid, but they decide it’s just not the same after about three minutes of play. So Sirius turns into Padfoot and they go up into the stands together, finding seats with the rest of the Gryffindor first years.

Ron Weasley frowns at him, trying to work out why Remus looks familiar.

“Hello again,” Remus says. “I think we met at Hagrid’s a few weeks ago? I’m an old friend of Harry’s godfather.”

The girl sitting next to him looks up sharply at that, and then sharper still at Padfoot. Hagrid introduces her as Hermione Granger.

“Ah, then I suppose we have a mutual friend,” says Remus.

Because Padfoot is considerably more soppy than Sirius ever is in human form, Padfoot wags his tail at Hermione, and puts his head on Remus’ knee.

“So you, er, know Padfoot too, then?” Ron asks.

“Oh yes,” says Remus. “Even longer than I’ve known Harry.”

But the game distracts the children from what might otherwise have been a long list of questions. It distracts Remus too, for that matter. He hasn’t been to a Quidditch game in years, and for a little while he’s simply having too nice a time to think of anything else. The thermos Harry’s dad packed even turns out to be heavily spiked with whisky.

But then Harry’s broom makes a spirited attempt to throw him off it.

Remus leaps to his feet. Beside him Padfoot does the same, about to change shape, but there are too many people here. Even for Harry, it’s not worth it, not when Remus can do something instead.

Remus grabs Padfoot by the scruff and hisses “Not here!” before starting up a litany of every countercurse he knows.

He’s vaguely aware of his surroundings. The children whisper urgently to each other. Hermione goes hurtling down the stands, knocking people over in her wake. But Remus doesn’t pay attention to much of anything else until Harry gets his broom back under control, and then, quite unexpectedly, produces the Snitch.

Harry and his friends are herded off to the safety of Hagrid’s, with Padfoot playing sheepdog, but Remus doesn’t follow. “I’ll be along,” he tells Padfoot, and goes to find Severus Snape.

 

9.

When Remus finds him, Snape is glaring at a pile of un-graded essays in his office. It’s the first time he’s seen the man in over a decade. Judging by Harry’s letters and what Sirius says, he hasn’t changed all that much.

Remus has, though. “Hello Severus,” he says. “I wanted--”

“To gloat, I suppose?” says Snape. He marks a grade with a particularly savage flourish before he looks up. “Oughtn’t you bring Black along for that?”

“I wanted to thank you, actually,” says Remus. “And to see if you’re all right.”

Snape’s expression goes peculiarly fixed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The countercurse you performed,” Remus says. “I don’t think I could have kept Harry on his broom by myself. And it looked like you were limping, as you left the stadium. Did something happen?”

“Not there. I was bitten, earlier,” says Snape.

(He doesn’t mean to give an honest answer, but Lupin startles it out of him.)

“Oh, for the love of-- I’ll drag Padfoot down here to apologize,” says Remus. “He said he’d try to leave you alone. I don’t know what got into him--”

And then Snape startles them both by laughing. Not much of a laugh, really, in the scheme of things: a short, sharp bark of amusement. It’s not quite as unpleasant as the last time Remus heard Snape laugh, at least.

(He and James had been about to start a fight with a pack of seventh-year Slytherins who’d surrounded a Muggleborn first-year. Remus emerged with a black eye and a week’s detention, and considered it a price worth paying. Snape spent a night in the infirmary, if he remembers right.)

“It wasn’t Black,” Snape says.

“Well, that’s a relief,” says Lupin.

“Yes,” says Snape. “Now you won’t have to bother trying to extract an apology. A hopeless cause, if ever I heard one.”

“You think so?” says Remus “I suppose Sirius really has been avoiding you, then.”

Snape doesn’t have an answer for that.

“Here, give me some of those,” says Remus.

When Snape only stares at him, Remus sighs and takes a stack of essays anyway. “If you’ll at least accept my thanks for the countercurse,” he says, “I’ll do some grading for you.”

“You’d have to know the material for that,” says Snape. He seems happier on the firmer ground of insulting Remus’ intelligence.

“These are second years; I think I can manage,” says Remus. He settles into the armchair, conjures himself a lap desk, and produces a biro from his pocket. “I have marked essays before, you know.”

“When?” asks Snape. “If Durmstrang or Beauxbatons was desperate enough to hire you, I’d have heard.”

“Nothing like that,” Remus says. Before he starts on the first essay, he taps the pen against the arm of the chair a few times, until the ink turns red.

“I’ve been tutoring, off and on, for a few years now,” he says. “Muggle students, for their A-levels. Latin and French, composition, some history. I’m still rubbish at maths, and Muggle science is a bit beyond me, of course. Caro’s been on at me to get a teaching certificate, but I like the flexible schedule.”

He finishes marking his current essay before he looks up. Snape is staring at him, but quickly glances away. The sit in silence for a little while. Remus hasn’t had to correct so much spelling in ages.

“If you’re claiming that Black’s a changed man--” Snape says abruptly.

“Of course he is,” says Remus. “We all are. I should hope so, anyway, after all this time.”

“He was a preening, arrogant bully,” says Snape. “Potter was a glory hound. If you expect me to think the boy is any less of an attention-seeking, disruptive boor, you will be sorely disappointed.”

Now it’s Remus’ turn to stare. “Harry hates attention,” he says, honestly baffled. “Unless he thinks he’s done something to earn it, and even then he doesn’t like it when people fuss. He’s much more like Lily that way.”

“He’s nothing like Lily,” says Snape, with sudden venom is his voice.

Remus isn’t interested in the fight that Snape seems to be spoiling for. He sits in silence for another little while, trying to choose his words carefully.

“The thing I remember about Lily,” he says eventually, “is that she liked it when the people whose opinions she valued thought well of her. The rest of the world could go hang. Maybe she was different when she was younger, before I knew her well.”

“...no,” says Snape. “She was always like that.”

“Harry’s a bit more of a people-pleaser, I think,” says Remus. “But not nearly as much as James. Really he’s got Tim’s temperament more than anything, and Caro’s sense of humor. You’d see it, if you met them.”

“Oh yes,” says Snape. “What an excellent idea. I do so enjoy being introduced to strange Muggles.”

“You know, I asked Lily once about you,” says Remus. “She said that scorn and grudge-holding made for an excellent shared pastime, right up until it didn’t.”

“As if she ever stopped holding grudges,” said Snape.

“I think she was trying to,” says Remus. “I wish she'd had more time.”

Snape doesn’t reply-- just tears into the next essay with renewed fury. Remus sighs, and turns back to his own dwindling stack.

Near the end, he says, “I do apologize. I meant to do you a favor, and instead I’ve been dredging up things best left behind us. Being here, seeing Harry here, it brings it all up again, doesn’t it? I think of James and Lily all the time, but they feel a lot closer lately.”

“If you meant to do me a favor, you’d stop talking,” says Snape. But he looks less savage, and more pained.

“Quite,” says Remus. He finishes the rest in silence.

 

10.

Remus walks down to Hogsmeade at twilight, and takes a room at the Three Broomsticks. It has a private Floo, which is lucky. He pats his pockets, looking for his two-way mirror.

A few minutes later, Sirius comes tumbling out of the fireplace, and only barely sticks the landing. “Haven’t done that in a while,” he says cheerfully. His face is flushed, and he’s listing a little to the right. When he kisses Remus, he tastes like tea-flavored whisky.

“Hagrid kept topping up the thermos,” he admits, by way of explanation. “But it was worth it. Did you find out anything useful?”

“Severus doesn’t know who tried to curse Harry’s broom,” Remus says. “He didn’t see anything more than we did. And he’s only slightly less awful, as a person.”

“I told you,” says Sirius.

He’s sweet and handsy when he’s drunk, so he keeps interrupting himself to kiss Remus and fumble with his clothes. “I searched the whole stadium, once Harry and his friends were back at Gryffindor. Didn’t smell a rat, or anything else out of the ordinary.”

“And then you let Hagrid get you drunk,” says Remus.

“I was only keeping up with him!” Sirius insists. “For a big man, he’s a lightweight. And terrible at holding his tongue.”

Of the two of them, Remus is the sober one, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Sirius shifts his weight and tips Remus back onto the bed. Honestly, though, he doesn’t mind it in the least.

“Hang on, hang on,” he says, laughing. “What did he tell you?”

“Well, that big three-headed fellow on the third floor is his,” says Sirius.

“I could have guessed that,” says Remus.

“The kids were pestering him about it, too,” says Sirius. He gets Remus’ shirt unbuttoned, and makes a triumphant noise. “At least he didn’t tell them what Fluffy’s guarding.”

“He named it Fluffy?”

“Of course he did.” Sirus levers himself up on his elbows, far enough to grin at Remus. “Apparently Fluffy’s a big softy, really, when you get to know him.”

Remus can’t help but laugh. “That big softy took a chunk out of Severus’ leg. For a minute I thought I’d have to make you apologize.”

“I would never,” Sirius says, affronted. “Think of the taste!”

They snicker like idiots at each other. It’s a mix of giddy relief that Harry’s safe, and alcohol, and the rare delight of an evening alone together without an impending full moon. Remus knows there are things they ought to be worried about, but just for now he’s enjoying the chance to set them aside.

He lets Sirius crowd him back further onto the bed. For a time they stay like that: Remus sitting up with his back against the headboard and one shoe still on, Sirius astride his lap, the two of them necking like the teenagers they used to be.

“We really ought to do this more often,” Remus mutters, mostly to himself.

“Mm-hm,” Sirius agrees absently, busy giving him a conspicuous love bite. Remus has one hand in Sirius’ hair and the other down the back of his trousers. He fleetingly considers moving to Hogsmeade permanently, and then stops thinking at all when Sirius grinds his hips down against him.

Later, after Remus has removed his remaining shoe and everything else besides, Sirius casts a clean-up charm and pulls the blanket over them. “I still can’t believe Harry caught the Snitch, after all that,” he says.

“Glad to see you’ve still got your priorities in order, Padfoot,” Remus says. “Up Gryffindor, eh?”

“I’ll up Gryffindor you,” Sirius says nonsensically.

“I think we already did that,” says Remus. Sirius laughs, and drapes himself more thoroughly over Remus. They fall quiet for a while, warm and drifting.

“Do you think we ought to tell Harry?” asks Sirius eventually. “He and his friends seem keen to work it out for themselves, and they know about Flamel now.”

“Maybe,” says Remus. “Dumbledore usually has a reason for the secrets he keeps, though.”

“I’ll keep an eye on it,” Sirius says. “Hermione's convinced that Snape jinxed Harry’s broom, no matter what I said. Harry was trying to talk her down when I left them.”

“He’ll tell you if there’s a problem, I think,” says Remus.

“Mm,” says Sirius. “He’s a good lad.”

They’re both quiet for another little while. “You know, I met Flamel once,” Remus says.

Sirius makes an inquiring noise.

“I was seven or eight. My father was still casting about for a cure, and took me to see him. I remember helping his wife chop potions ingredients in their kitchen, while he talked to my parents. They were both very kind.”

Sirius lifts his head. “You never told me that.”

It’s a bit difficult to shrug, but Remus lifts the shoulder that Sirius isn’t cuddled up on top of. “I haven’t thought about it in years.”

“It’s being back at Hogwarts,” Sirius says. “Makes you nostalgic.”

“Verging on maudlin, I’m afraid,” says Remus.

“s’all right,” says Sirius. “You know I don’t mind.”

“Because I’ve put up with maudlin and worse, you mean,” says Remus.

“Well, yeah,” says Sirius. “Least I can do. God knows I see ghosts ‘round every corner here.”

“You can just tell Nick to shove off, you know,” says Remus.

Sirius laughs. “You know what I mean. I keep expecting the Prewetts to come barreling past, plotting something. Or that I’ll catch Frank and Alice snogging, in that little nook behind the suit of armor. And then I don’t see Snape skulking after Lily and her friends, half as tall as he is now, or James with Peter tagging along behind. And I remember.”

“Severus seems to have a similar problem,” says Remus. “He thinks Harry is James all over again.”

“This is not the time or place to bring him up,” Sirius says. “Ugh. Anyway, that’s nonsense. I know they look rather alike, but anyone who knew James ought to see the differences.”

“I did try to point that out,” says Remus. “But as long as he doesn’t make trouble for Harry, I don’t think he’s either of our concern.”

“And thank goodness,” says Sirius.

Eventually, they rearrange themselves so that no one will wake up with any limbs entirely numb.

“G‘night, Moony,” Sirius murmurs.”

Remus mm-hmms back, already fading. In very little time at all, he drops off into a dreamless sleep.

He wakes, briefly, shortly after dawn. Sirius is getting out of bed. “Going back up to the castle,” he whispers. “Go back to sleep, it’s all right.”

“Stay,” says Remus, tugging him back down. “Til it’s properly morning, at least.”

He hesitates, but after a moment he gives in. The next time Remus wakes it’s broad daylight, and Sirius is gone, but he’s left a note.

Going to have a word with Dumbledore-- wish me luck. I’ll be home for Christmas. Love, Padfoot.