Sorry, sorry, sorry, guys. I know it's been forever. I just haven't had any time to write until like two days ago. It's mainly got to do with me being busy with uni and work and an internship that's not really left me with a lot of opportunities to stay up until three in the morning and write (and it's easiest for me to write in the middle of the night, annoyingly).
Guest: Putting these –'– as quotation marks is normal in the UK. I know it's different in the US but I'm more at home in British English and besides, it's the way JK Rowling does it, too ;-)
LunaReader6127: Hello :-) I won't tell you how it ends (Tonks and Teddy and everything) but for now, Remus is staying put. I just feel that Sirius would quite like (or even need) some help raising a child and that Remus would be willing to help since he does not expect ever to have kids of his own. I'm glad you like the story :-)
Huge thank you to everyone else who reviewed – I do read the all and I always enjoy it! :-)
Anyway, enough jabber, here we go – I hope you enjoy it :-)
Harry had thoroughly enjoyed himself at Ben's which meant that the two boys had arranged to go on playdates together every few days from then on. Sirius was rather anxious the first time Ben and Sam came around to their place. He had cast Finite Incantatem on everything magical for the duration of the visit and it seemed that he had pulled of pretending to be a muggle well enough.
It was lucky that the house had been inhabited by muggles in the past. All the lights had switches and unless one inspected them very closely, there was no way anybody would notice that there were no actual cables attached but there was a charm connecting them to what Moony had charmed to look like Muggle light bulbs sitting in the lamps.
Otherwise, he hoped that neither Ben nor his Dad would be too interested in "electricity" – Harry had taught him how to say that word properly – or the lack of it. He turned out not to be quite correct about that, however.
Ben's mouth fell open when he realised that Harry lived in a house without a telly. Apparently, the thought alone filled him with all-encompassing horror. Harry did not seem keen to talk about the subject – which seemed to play quite an important part in the life of a boy his age. He had never mentioned wanting one of those machines and even if he had, Sirius would have had a hard time fulfilling that wish. Magic and muggle technology did not mix – the more elaborate the electronic bits the more it would be affected, so a telly was pretty much out of the question.
Still, despite his son's shock, Sam did not seem suspicious at all. He merely chuckled and suggested that they, too, might consider getting rid of the television. Ben stared at him open-mouthed for a second at the proclamation but then seemed to catch himself and realise that his dad was teasing him. He stuck out his tongue and he and Harry thundered up the stairs to play.
'Tea?' asked Sirius, looking at Sam and Moony when Harry and Ben had disappeared. 'Coffee?'
'Coffee would be great,' answered Sam.
'And tea for Remus,' added Sirius with a nod at his friend who smiled back. 'I'll only be a sec.'
As he prepared the drinks, he listened to movement upstairs, and Sam and Moony's voices in the sitting room. Sam had never officially met Moony before and the latter had been quite nervous. They had seen each other in passing at the school gates on occasion but had never had a conversation beyond a friendly nod or a "Good morning".
'…just been doing odd jobs lately,' Moony was saying as Sirius returned with three cups and a plate of biscuits that Moony had baked with Harry's help a few days ago. 'Just to get some money in.'
'So what is it you'd really like to do? Or do you like the flexibility?'
'It's hard to say,' said Moony, a somewhat wistful smile on his face. 'I sort of… missed my chance at taking up a proper profession.'
Sam nodded understandingly. 'Still, not too late, is it? You could take evening classes – catch up on what you missed. It's hard work but maybe it's worth it.'
'I don't think it would help me that much,' answered Moony mildly.
'You didn't miss your chance,' Sirius interrupted. 'That makes it sound like it was your fault.'
Moony sighed tiredly and raised his palms in a gesture of surrender. 'Fine, fine.'
'He has a knack for self-deprecation,' Sirius explained to Sam who picked up on his teasing tone and smiled.
'How did you two meet, then?' he asked.
'School,' answered Sirius promptly. 'We were eleven.'
'We went to the same boarding school and were part of the same house,' Moony added. 'Harry's dad shared a dorm with us.'
Sam was interested in that so they spent a while reminiscing about school days and telling some of the funnier stories (edited to be muggle-friendly, obviously).
As they left late that afternoon, Ben was talking to his father about Harry's collection of dragons, which – although motionless for the duration of his visit – had fascinated the boy to no end. Sirius had been back to the toyshop several times to expand Harry's collection.
Harry was beyond happy to own something that Ben thought cool. In Sirius' opinion, he needed to pull his weight a little more in the friendship… Still, he told himself. What did it matter? Harry had a friend his own age for the first time and he was happy. In time, it would sort itself out and if it did not, Sirius would intervene eventually – or send Moony to do it, as he himself actually had no idea how to do such a thing.
The boys met four times over the course of the week after their first playdate so it did not come as a surprise to Sirius to find Harry talking to Ben and Sam when he came to pick him up from school. He was greeted by smiles and a hug from Harry.
'Harry has just asked me if he can have a sleepover at our house,' Sam informed him.
'A sleepover?' repeated Sirius, confused. So far, Harry had shown himself reluctant to visit Ben alone, even in the afternoon. 'You want a sleepover, Harry?' Harry had never even said that word in Sirius' company as far as he could remember, not to mention a desire to have one.
'Yes,' continued Sam. 'He said on the twenty-third this month.'
Sirius frowned and quickly did a calculation. The twenty-third of November would be the following Wednesday and… 'Excuse us for a moment, please. Harry, may I have a word?' He took Harry aside and looked around to make sure that nobody was listening. 'The twenty-third is a full moon, and I'm assuming that's not a coincidence. What are you doing?'
Harry shuffled his feet sheepishly but seemed determined nonetheless. 'I heard you and Remus arguing. You said that if I wasn't at the house, you could stay with him and he wouldn't get hurt.'
Sirius made a note to himself to make sure that Harry could not hear them when he next discussed something sensitive with Moony. For now, he watched Harry intently. That was a good plan, a very good one indeed. He had thought about it himself but he would never have asked Harry. He did not want to pressure him but now that the opportunity had arisen… 'Are you sure, Harry?'
'I won't be able to pick you up at night if you get scared. You won't be able to contact me at all. Do you understand that?'
'I do. Everyone says that sleepovers are fun. I've never had one but I don't want Remus to get hurt. I probably won't get scared, anyway. I like Bennie, and his dad. Besides, I haven't used the ball once, have I?'
Sirius watched his face carefully as he spoke but could not detect dishonesty. Sirius himself had toyed with the idea of asking Dumbledore to take care of him for a night but he had never seriously considered it. He had been too afraid that Harry would interpret it as an attempt to get rid of him – which obviously did not seem to be the case. He could not argue with Harry's reasoning, either. He pulled him into a hug.
'Thank you, Harry,' he said.
'I don't mind. I want to help Remus, too.'
Sirius smiled and ruffled his hair. 'You really are your father's son.'
Harry beamed. 'So that was a good idea? You're not angry?'
'I'm not angry. What did you tell Ben and Sam? Did you mention Moony?'
'No, I just said I wanted a sleepover.'
Sirius frowned. 'Well, okay, we'll probably have to invent a little story, okay? I'm going to talk to Sam, and you are going to listen closely so that if someone asks you, there aren't any contradictions, okay?' Encouraging Harry to lie… What would Lily say to that? Still, it was for good cause. She would probably understand. She had always felt for Moony.
They returned to the spot where Sam and Ben were still waiting. They seemed a little confused.
'I'm sorry about that,' said Sirius. 'Harry didn't discuss this with me beforehand but the fact is… Well, Remus has a medical condition that means he has to stay overnight at hospital roughly once a month. I like to go with him but of course, I can't do that when I'm looking after Harry. His next appointment is on the twenty-third.'
'Oh, I was beginning to wonder,' said Sam, smiling. 'Of course he can stay over. It'd be our honour to have you, Harry.'
'Yay, we're having a sleepover!' shouted Ben.
Harry was grinning, too.
They discussed it a little further and decided that they should have a trial run, so to speak, to see if Harry really was up to the task. It was promptly arranged for the following Friday and although Harry was nervous and Sirius tossed and turned quite a lot, when he picked him up in the morning, Harry was beaming proudly.
'I did it!' he called. 'I did it, Sirius!'
Sirius laughed and swung him around, ignoring the little stab in his chest that he felt at the thought of Harry not needing him. Where had that come from?
Moony, too, hugged Harry when he told him about the plan and the relief on his face made Sirius swear to himself that he would never let him go back to that place.
Sirius had also been thinking about the conversation that Harry had overheard. What else had they discussed apart from the fact that without Harry in the house, Moony would be able to stay? He did not want Harry to feel like he was being pushed aside and it seemed strange that he did not.
He went through all the late-night talks he had had with Moony that might have been the one Harry had overheard. It took him a long while of pondering but he finally come up with a snippet of a conversation that might serve as an explanation as to why Harry was taking everything so well.
"Harry comes first for you, Padfoot. That is a fact," Moony had said tiredly one evening a few days earlier. It had been coming onto midnight and they had been discussing the topic for almost an hour. "I don't blame you for it one little bit."
"Of course Harry comes first, but that still doesn't mean that I have to sit around and let you do this to yourself."
Then, they had simply been stating the obvious but to Harry it would have been of entirely different value. It was confirmation that Sirius was not lying when he told him how important he was to him.
As planned, Sirius dropped Harry off at Ben's on the eve of the full moon. He was more worried now than he had been the last time but he assured Sirius that he would be fine.
Just like two months previously, they stripped Moony's room and the night was quiet. Sirius woke up in time to see Moony turn back into a man. He got to work instantly, starting to move all the furniture back. Harry was not supposed to know exactly what they had been doing. Moony was out like a light and did not so much as blink when Sirius levitated him into his bed. They had barely ever had a full moon that peaceful.
The hurry was not necessary whatsoever, as Sam would be taking Harry to school directly and Sirius would not be seeing him until that afternoon. He had checked his ball and found it intact, concluding that Harry was okay. They had agreed that should Harry break it, he would come as soon as he could. He paced nervously for an hour or so and then decided that he might as well try to get some sleep. To his great surprise, he actually dozed off for a few hours and when he left to pick up Harry, he was well rested and relaxed.
'Is he okay?' was Harry's first question when they met at the school gate.
'Perfectly fine. He's sleeping now.'
Harry beamed happily. 'So that was good, yes?'
'Very good,' said Sirius. He turned to Sam, who had been watching them with a smile. 'I wanted to say thanks again, Sam, for doing this. It's a great help. I know Remus wants to thank you, too, in person.'
'You're very welcome,' said Sam, still smiling. 'We had fun, didn't we, boys?'
Harry and Ben nodded unanimously.
Since neither of them needed to be anywhere else, they set off for the playground. Harry had been reluctant, saying that he wanted to see how Moony was doing but Sirius assured him that Moony was sleeping and needed to rest. Harry had taken a while to convince but when Sirius had stated that he would not be allowed in Moony's room anyway because he could disturb him, Harry let himself be convinced that an afternoon playing with Ben was not too bad a thing to happen.
'Harry said something last night,' said Sam as they sat on a bench near the sandpit, watching Harry and Ben take off towards the swings.
'He did?' asked Sirius apprehensively, preparing himself to make an excuse. What was this about? There really were a whole bunch of secrets Harry was supposed to keep, he realised with a twinge of guilt.
'Yeah… I wanted to ask you before… well, I know how rumours happen. But I would like to know.'
Sirius shrugged. 'Shoot.' If this was something personal, the worst was already excluded.
'Well, he let slip that you had been to prison.'
Sirius sighed. This was not too bad. He was not going to deny it, had not even asked Harry to keep it quiet. It had been bound to come out eventually. 'I have,' he confirmed. Sam nodded and Sirius knew he wanted to know more. It had to be expected. Sirius would want to know, too, had he been in his place especially if it was someone Harry was in contact with.
'I can't tell you the whole story. Harry doesn't know yet because he hasn't asked me, and I want him to hear it from me.' He paused, choosing how to edit his story. 'I was accused of several murders and sent to prison seven years ago. A few months ago, one of the men I was supposed to have killed was found in hiding. There was a trial and he was proven to have committed all the crimes I was accused of. I was cleared of all charges and released immediately.'
'You were innocent?'
'Yes, completely innocent. Do you think they'd let me have Harry otherwise?'
'No, I suppose not. But how could that happen?'
'There…' Sirius hesitated. 'There was false information going around. It's all quite complicated and I really can't tell you. It has to do with Harry's parents. Everything happened the day after they were murdered.'
'Murdered?' repeated Sam thunderstruck. Sirius was surprised by this reaction.
'Haven't I said that before?'
'No, you said they were killed. I assumed in a car crash or something…'
Sirius shook his head, his jaw tensing. 'No, it wasn't… an accident.'
'But…' Sam was obviously unsure of what to say or do. 'Like… How… Why?'
Sirius considered telling him for a moment. Then, he realised that there was no way he could make the story into anything that Sam would be able to accept. It was too complicated and too far removed from the muggle world. He could not tell him about the war – as far as the muggles were concerned, there had never been one.
'I'm sorry,' said Sam as Sirius hesitated, sobering up. 'I don't mean to pry…'
'It's not that,' replied Sirius. 'It's just… It's a fairly long story. They were good people, the best. They…' He struggled for the right words.
'Don't,' interrupted Sam. 'It's fine. You don't owe me an explanation – you barely even now me. Just…'
'You're worried I might be dangerous,' stated Sirius. Sam begun to shake his head but Sirius did not let him speak. 'I understand – I'd probably feel the same way if I were in your position.'
Sam shrugged sheepishly.
'I swear that the only reason I came here is that I want Harry to have as normal a life as possible. We came here because nobody knew us and we could get a fresh start.' He could not honestly promise that their being in the village did not potentially pose a danger to the other residents. For now, he was quite certain everything was fine but if Voldemort or his followers ever resurfaced and decided to hunt Harry down… Still, he pushed that thought away. At the slightest hint of being discovered, they would pack up and relocate. It would be fine.
Sam nodded pensively. Sirius could not tell whether he had taken note of the omission. When he opened his mouth, Sirius half expected a polite but firm request to stay away from him and Ben. 'I had expected something,' he said instead, sounding ponderous rather than accusing. 'When we first met. No offence, but you looked very ill. I thought you might have been on drugs or sleeping rough or something.'
Sirius shook his head. 'No, that was just the prison.'
'What about him?'
'What's his story?'
Sirius thought about his answer. 'You already know. He's had an illness ever since he was a kid. It's what makes him look unhealthy – I assume that that's why you're asking?' Sam nodded. 'He was a good friend of James and mine back at school. He's one of the kindest people you'll ever meet – and he does not have a drug habit,' he added rather passionately. He disliked that anybody would think badly of Moony. It happened way too often.
'I'm sorry,' said Sam. 'For jumping to conclusions.' He bit his lip as if unsure whether to say something.
'What is it?'
'Well… I don't know if you know – or if you want to know, even… Just… People were talking – about you and Remus, mostly. Harry not so much. They don't deal well with new people, especially if they're a bit…' He hesitated. '… unusual.'
Sirius had to chuckle at the phrasing. He had known that people were talking, had known that as soon as Harry started school they would be the talking point of the village. 'Whatever they say about me, people have said worse,' Sirius assured him. He felt more passionately about Moony and whatever unfriendly explanations people came up with to explain his poor health.
'They'll get bored with you eventually,' Sam assured him, his voice partially teasing.
Sirius laughed but sobered up fairly quickly. 'Would… would it be too much to ask for you to keep my past quiet? Not for me, I don't really mind, but Harry…'
Sam smiled. 'I will keep it to myself. Still, I think that Ben heard, too, and he does not keep secrets.'
'It's not a secret,' stressed Sirius. 'But I would be thankful if you didn't shout it from the rooftops.'
Sam nodded. 'I won't,' he promised.
'Thanks.' They sat in silence for a bit, watching Harry and Ben climb around the monkey bars. Sirius was very glad that Harry had found such a good friend. He really did seem to be doing okay, at school, too. Mr Clark had promised to let him know if there were any problems and he asked Harry every day if anything was bothering him. So far, he was yet to hear anything but reports of tricky maths questions and the sports teacher who refused to let him pair up with Ben. And that, Sirius felt, they could deal with.
'Actually, I was going to ask you for a favour,' said Sam, breaking Sirius out of his thoughts. 'As it turns out, Charlie has been invited to a slumber party on Saturday. Carolyn will be at home and I was thinking of taking her out for a movie and a nice meal. Do you think you could have Ben that night?'
Sirius instantly agreed, grateful for any chance to return the favour. He also took it as confirmation that Sam believed what Sirius had told him about being wrongly imprisoned.
When asked Harry instantly took to the idea, too, and Ben was incredibly excited. His long list of things they would be doing on Saturday night was cut short by the fact that Harry finally wanted to go home for dinner and see how Moony was doing.
Alright, that's it for now! Please do tell me what you think and I think I can promise you that the next chapter will be along quicker than this one was :-)