Everything had gone wrong. Within a matter of hours my dearest friend had lost her husband, perished in the face of hatred, and her orphaned son had been pulled out of my waiting arms to be shipped off to his maternal aunt's home. Almost a month later and it was still all the Daily Prophet could write of. The untimely demise of the Potters was overshadowed by the fall of the darkest wizard in existence and the betrayal from the most unlikely person. But Sirius hadn't betrayed them and I knew that for a fact.
No one was willing to listen to me. They had shackled him up and sent him off to Azkaban to repent for a crime he hadn't committed. Godric, if only I knew who the Potters had changed their secret keeper to. If I knew their identity then I would have hunted down the traitor myself.
It was in the moments were my lust for the blood of the traitor got to me, that I suddenly remembered Lily's eyes – Harry's eyes, and all I could wonder was whether my godson was coping, whether he was being treated well. Although, from the way Lily had described her childhood with her sister I doubted it. The possibility of Harry facing neglect at the hands of his aunt made me want to fight for him in a way I'd never fought for something before. But very few people were willing to take on Dumbledore – after all, it had been his decision to overlook the precautionary last will and treatment created by the Potters in case the worst happened, and to ship Harry off to 4 Privet Drive.
No one was willing to face off against Dumbledore. Except, maybe the man sitting across the breakfast table; he had until his retirement been the most formidable member of the wizengamot. Regardless of Dumbledore's appointment as the chief warlock. My father was busy reading this morning's issue of the Daily Prophet to notice the way I glared at the front cover; a horrendous image of Sirius decked out in the prisoner's uniform. Mother rose from the table when an owl appeared at the window, delivering the morning correspondence and I took the chance to switch seats, sliding into the seat next to the him.
"Dad?" I called out tentatively, waiting for him to peek out from behind the newspaper.
And he did, folding down the corner slightly. "What is it?"
"Sirius Black didn't betray the Potters." Silence followed my declaration and I waited hesitantly to see what he would say.
Father sighed, folding the paper in half and setting it down on the table. "I know you're not sure what to believe but you should trust in the decision made by the Wizengamot. No one wants to believe that a dear friend of theirs could –"
"They didn't even give him a trial!" I exclaimed, cutting him off. The corner of his lips tightened both in annoyance at my interrupting him and at the lack of a fair trial for Sirius. "They decided that a single finger was enough evidence to imprison him in Azkaban for the rest of his life. Dad, he couldn't have done it."
"I mean it," I insisted quietly, before adding hesitantly. "Halloween night, Sirius couldn't have betrayed them because – because he was with me that night. Lily and James's wedding anniversary was coming up and we promised that we'd look after Harry for the weekend so they could get away and that night we were busy babyproofing the house – you know in the way that Molly always goes on about. And so he simply couldn't have done it."
Realising that I was rambling, I trailed off, biting my bottom lip. My father was silent, considering the implications of what I had just confessed to him and if the deep furrow of his brow was any indication, then he was deeply troubled. He sighed heavily and I took his hand in both of mine, squeezing it gently.
"Please dad," I pleaded quietly, "We can't let an innocent man rot in Azkaban for a crime he didn't commit. We do that and there's more victims to add to the list; Harry and Sirius become victims too. If we do nothing with this information then we're just as guilty of committing this crime as the Dark Lord is. He may have murdered the Potters but we're the ones that threw away the key to Sirius' cell."
He sighed again, placing his other hand on top of one of mine. "I always said that when I retired that would be it, but I can't stand by and watch the Wizengamot fail to deliver the justice they're supposed to. I'll see what I can do. But if it comes down to it then you may need to testify."
"Of course," I agreed instantly, breathing easier as relief filled me. "Whatever it takes. But – there's just one more thing I need your help with."
"What is it?"
"There's another case we need to launch; we need to retrieve Harry back from Lily's sister's care. She never wanted Harry to end up with her, not after how Petunia treated Lily throughout their childhood."
"This isn't just the Wizengamot you're planning on taking on," Dad murmured gravelly. "You're trying to overturn one of Dumbledore's decisions. It won't be an easy task."
"I know," I agreed, without a moment's hesitation. "But I don't mind having to go up against my old headmaster; not if it's the right thing to do."
"This is going to be uphill battle," dad murmured as he pushed away from the breakfast table. "I'll need to see you later – for now I'm going to have to owl Minerva."
It took longer for than I had anticipated for the trial dates to arrive. It took over two weeks for the Wizengamot to arrange a retrial – or even a fair trial – regarding Sirius' imprisonment. And from the moment the trial began, it was clear which way the decision would go. The Wizengamot had no substantial evidence to implicate Sirius as the one responsible for the betrayal of the Potters. But it was Sirius's revelation of the identity of the real secret keeper, under the aid of veritaserum, that swung the trial on its head.
He was declared a free man and the witches and wizards of the Wizengamot were left to issue their own apologies about their snap judgement. And I was planning on making sure that he received every single one of those apologies. Once the trial came to an end the auror department were handed the job of locating Peter, and Sirius and I had immediately filed for another trail. We were going to bring Harry home.
It took another month for us to receive a trial date and Harry had, by now, spent almost 3 months in the Dursley home. Godric, I couldn't wait to get him out of there.
Sirius and I, as primary witness and Harry's legal godparents were allowed to sit in on the trail. This was one of the very few times I was allowed the chance to watch my father as he worked on slowly unpicking the wrong judgement of the Wizengamot. The trial had progressed for well over an hour and whilst father was producing countless reasons for why Dumbledore had made the wrong decision, very few of the members of the Wizengamot were willing to go against him. Godric, this couldn't go on for much longer.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot," my father said, turning to address the crowd, "Albus Dumbledore took the law into his own hands. Even if he is the chief warlock of the Wizengamot, no man, woman, or creature should have the ability, the delusion that they are above the law, that any decision they make – regardless of whether it disregards the laws that are the founding blocks of our society, is the correct one."
I wrung my hands nervously, my legs shaking slightly as my father allowed Dumbledore to state his case. By my side, Sirius reached out to put his hand on top of my thigh and squeezed it gently. We shared a small glanced before turning to the elderly wizard.
"I stand by my decision," he announced calmly, "for Lily Potter's sacrifice protected her son and enacted the centuries old protective nature of Blood magic. I believed that the sacrifice of a young mother, a young wife should not have occurred in vain and wanted to see to it that her son remained protected by the blood magic which transferred to her only living relative – her sister. It is with the knowledge of this protective magic that I entrusted young Mr Potter to his aunt."
"Blood magic means nothing," I declared, noticing how Sirius had stiffened at Dumbledore's words. He knew better than anyone that sometimes the people we chose to consider our family were far better than those we had no choice in choosing. "Blood relations cannot overrule the emotional relations we create in our lifetime. The pure magic, the magical force that runs through the very centre of our world is more affected by the relations we choose to make ourselves. Harry would be better protected by his godparents, by people that love him, over an aunt who only ever treated his mother with disdain and regularly emotionally abused her throughout her childhood."
My heated words had murmurs travelling through the Wizengamot and it was then that I got the strange thought that Dumbledore hadn't told the Wizengamot about how bad the relationship between the Evans sister had been. But why?
Silence was called for by one of the members of the Wizengamot and I seated myself again, letting out a deep breath when Sirius squeezed my hand gently. Merlin, we were so close to rescuing Harry and if we managed to lose this opportunity then we'd be forced to say goodbye to the last memento of our dear friends.
My father rose again, calling Professor McGonagall to the stands. And it was her testimony that was the final nail in the coffin. She had spent hours a day revolving around the Dursley family home and was an eye witness to the way Harry had been treated by his family and it was her account that finally turned the tide.
The trial came to an end and Harry was ordered to be returned to the custody of his godparents. Sirius and I had attended Hogwarts at the same time, had shared the same house and year and yet that was the very first time I saw the man break into tears.
The moment we had received news that Harry would remain in the custody of his godparents, Sirius had been prepared to march onto Privet Drive and demand that they hand our godson over. But my father, the voice of reason, had reminded us that such things needed to be handled delicately and by following the ministry's official procedures. I had been less inclined to agree but anything that meant we were closer to bringing Harry home was a good thing, right?
We used the few days we'd been given to start babyproofing Sirius' flat once again. I had floo'd my older sister and asked her for a list of things which a baby Harry's age would need. The shopping list was promptly handed over to Remus who needed something to do to keep him from trying to hunt Peter down; we didn't need him butting heads with the aurors.
And finally, the day had arrived.
We stood in the entryway of 4 Privet Drive, eyeing the muggle couple across from us with very thinly veiled disgust. A ministry worker had spoken to the couple beforehand and told them the official date and time at which we would arrive to pick up our godson and we had arrived not even a second late. Harry's bags had already been waiting for us, the couple clearly eager to get rid of him.
Lily's sister – a right cow – stood with Harry dangling awkwardly in her arms and outstretched him towards me. I took my godson from her without a fuss, cooing down at the young boy who burrowed himself into me and seemed to take comfort from someone for the first time since he had been dropped off to live with the muggles.
Sirius reached into his pocket to retrieve his wand, smirking at the way the sight of the simple length of wood had 'Vernon' recoiling in fear before the larger man caught himself halfway through the action. He levitated the bags out of the house and into the boot of the car and although he could have easily lifted the bags by hand, I got the feelings that the use of magic was deliberately done to undermine the muggle man.
I waited in the entryway to see whether Harry's aunt would show a single ounce of human decency and at least speak to her nephew. But she did nothing. Instead she returned to her husband's side only to disappear into the house when her own son began to cry.
When Sirius returned to my side, I muttered quietly to him, "How can two sisters have such different standards?"
He chuckled, unable to offer me an answer and held out his arms for Harry. "Pass the mini Prongs to me, Prewett. I'll go and strap him into his seat."
With Harry handed safely over to his godfather, I turned my eyes back to the muggle man who was doing a very bad job of pretending not to glare at me. I met his glare with a pleasant smile which only seemed to further infuriate him. It was only when his wife returned to his side that I allowed my smile to drop.
"You're lucky that there are laws preventing the use of magic to harm muggles," I admitted with a shake of my head. "Otherwise I'd have already hexed the pair of you for the way you've treated my godson over the last few months."
With those words I prepared the leave, proud that I had risen above the temptation of hexing them. But then Vernon had to go and open his mouth.
"Oh yeah," he sneered behind me, stopping me in my steps, "and just what are your lot capable of doing apart from lumbering your burdens onto other people? I knew that sister of yours was trouble, Petunia."
"Oi mate," Sirius called out warningly, having heard Vernon's words as he returned to the house. Merlin, he was on the verge of sounding thunderous. This interaction could very quickly become dangerous. "Watch it before I make you shut up."
"And how are you going to do that?" Vernon goaded, ignoring the steadying hand Petunia placed on his arm. Merlin, the muggle just had no idea when to stop.
"Don't Sirius," I said placatingly, stopping him when he went to reach for his wand. I needed to keep a handle on this situation before it spun out of control.
"It's alright," I assured him, pulling out my own wand and pointing at the muggle man. His eyes widened, staring down at the tip of my wand as he swallowed thickly. "Where's your bravado gone now, Dursley?"
The muggle man stammered to try and say something. I merely rolled my eyes before I spouted completely random Latin at him, pretending to cast a spell. Pocketing my wand with a satisfied smile, I linked my arm through Sirius's and together we headed to the car, ignoring the outraged calls of the couple who demanded to know what I had done.
"Who knew those Latin lessons would come in handy one day?" I muttered as Sirius held the passenger side door open for me.
"You know Prewett," Sirius said with an easy grin, pressing an arm to the roof of the car as he leaned down to bring his head level with mine, "I don't think I've ever been so attracted to you before."
I scoffed, rolling my eyes and pushing him away from me. He pulled back with a chuckle, loping round the front of the car to settle into the driver's seat.
As I put on my seatbelt, he asked, "Fancy spending the night at ours? We might need to tag team to handle the little brat."
"What about Remus?"
"He's staying with his dad for a few days," Sirius explained. "So, how about it?"
"Sure, why not?"
Perhaps when I had decided to accept the responsibilities of being Harry' godmother, I had severely underestimated just how much work went into raising a little boy. There were times when, even if there was something I wanted to do, if Harry needed me I had to drop what I was doing and run to his side. There were times when the young boy needed some maternal comfort and he had to make do with my embrace. Those were the moments where I pitied him the most.
The presence of my older sister was heaven-sent. Her home, teeming with life thanks to my nephews and niece, was always open to Harry who loved being around the other children. The first time I had taken Harry to the burrow he had been a little shy, refusing to leave my arms until the older boys – Bill and Charlie – had decided to try and make him feel more at home. But despite their best efforts it was only when a pudgy little Ron pushed Harry over that Harry decided to give what he got and pushed my nephew in return. From then on, they were the best of friends.
I had confessed to Sirius that I didn't understand how that had happened and he simply reassured me that that was how male friendships worked. It was still a little strange, in my opinion. But who was I to get in the way of the young friendship?
After our first visit to the burrow I took Harry with me whenever possible. Sometimes Sirius would tag along with us but most of the time he would claim to have some other business to deal with and I would pretend not to know that he was trying to track Peter down. But this time he had decided to come with us after popping into the ministry to handle some paperwork regarding Harry's Gringotts's vault.
A few hours after our initial arrival, Sirius had appeared at the burrow but the sound of his motorbike was the first thing we heard. Bill, overjoyed by just the appearance of the bike, had begged his mum to let Sirius take him out for a spin and Molly, after half an hour of his whining, had eventually consented.
We were sat in the front room beside the fire, watching Harry and Ron play on the carpet. Molly rocked baby Ginny in her arms when the young girl began to fuss and I smiled, watching as Ron and Harry began to construct a tower of blocks together.
"How are you finding things?" Molly probed tentatively, "Dad says that you've been spending a lot of time at Black's flat?"
"Only to help look after Harry," I explained, grinning when Harry rose slowly to his feet and toddled over to me, a toy block outstretched towards me. I took the block with a smile, brushing his unruly hair out of his eyes and gesturing for him to join an impatient Ron on the carpet again.
Molly called my name quietly, tentatively and I looked at her with furrowed brows. She hesitated for a moment before saying quietly, "Sometimes I look at you and I see a new mother." I stilled a little at her words, unable to meet her eyes, "And then I look at Black and he's nothing like the boy you used to go to school with. When you mentioned that he'd been named godfather I wondered whether he'd ever be able to shoulder the responsibility but he is – he's like a new father."
"Harry already has parents," I reminded Molly quietly, looking back to the dark-haired boy who was oblivious to how sombre the conversation had gotten. "Sirius and I – neither of us are trying to become his parents."
"I know that," she reassured me, "but just be careful, alright? Whilst playing mums and dads – you just might develop feelings for each other and Black has said so himself; he's too immature to make a commitment to any one woman."
"I know Molly, you don't need to worry about that."
My words were of very little comfort to her but the matter was dropped when Bill suddenly ran into the house and made a beeline for his mother. He began to talk excitedly about riding in Sirius' sidecar and I glanced at the former marauder wondering just how much reckless fun he'd exposed my eldest nephew to.
"I made sure the kid was strapped in," he defended himself, clearly knowing what I was thinking. "At least give me that much credit."
"I'll give you the benefit of the doubt."
He chuckled, shaking his head in mock offence before glancing in Harry's direction. "So, how has our little runt been?"
"An angel," I said honestly, watching as Harry clocked his godfather and instantly started to run towards him. "Which is a miracle when I remember who the boy is living with."
Sirius hoisted Harry into his arms, throwing him in the air and catching him safely in his arms. My words prompted an innocent smile from the man but I narrowed my eyes playfully at him. He gave up his pretence, laughing lightly and reaching out to tuck some of my hair behind my ears.
From the moment Harry had re-entered my life, my daily schedule changed to accommodate the presence of the child. I tried my very best to get to the flat within minutes of work ending because I was conscious of just how tiring it must have been for both Remus and Sirius to look after Harry for the entire day. And so, as I usually did, I began packing my things quickly when it was time for me to clock out from work at the ministry. Boarding the lift in record time, I held it open for one of my colleagues when she called out for me to wait.
"Sorry about that," she apologised with a sheepish smile. "I've just got plans that I can't afford to be late for."
"I know how you feel," I reassured her with a smile, pressing the button to close the lift door.
"You know," she started conversationally as the lift set off, "for the last few months you've always run off as soon as work's finished. There's even a rumour going around that you've got a man and a kid waiting for you back at home."
She laughed outright, joking about but really, she wasn't wrong. Realising that I wasn't laughing, her laughter trailed off and she stared at me in surprise, eyes widening slightly.
"No way," she gasped as the elevator doors opened.
"It's not the way you think," I assured her, stepping out of the lift and preparing to rush towards the apparation point. "It's similar but it's not what you think."
I hurried away from her without bothering to explain any further. If rumours spread through the office then at least I'd know who was behind it. But, right now I had bigger things on my mind. The last time I had turned up late to the flat I had walked in on Harry crying until he was blue in the face and Sirius looked damn near close to tears too. He had been adamant that he'd done everything he could think of. And yet, the moment I held him, Harry had stopped crying. That had only made Sirius pout for the rest of the night.
Reaching the apparation point, I apparated into the apartment. The wards shifted easily, allowing me entrance into the flat where I rematerialized in the middle of the front room. At the slightest sound of the apparation, Sirius walked into the front room to greet me with Harry perched on his hip.
The young boy made grabbing motions towards me and I shrugged out of my coat, putting my bag aside and then took Harry into my arms. He instantly began to babble as though recounting the entire day to me and I nodded as if I could understand every word that he spoke. When he was content that he'd told me everything, Harry began to play with my hair and only then did I address the adult male who was watching me with amused eyes.
"Where's Remus?" I asked noticing his absence within moments.
"His dad wanted him to check something," Sirius explained, grinning widely when I began to pepper Harry's face with kisses. He squealed loudly, trying to evade me before relenting and pressing a slobbering kiss on my cheek.
"Godric Prewett," Sirius fake grumbled, approaching me. "You sure know how to make a man jealous, don't you?
"What are you talking about, Black?" I rolled my eyes, watching as he held out his cheek for me.
"Where's my kiss, Prewett?"
"With Remus," I said, handing Harry off to his godfather and dodging out of the way. And just like that Black was pouting again. "Just give me a little bit of time and I'll have dinner ready."
"You don't have to," he protested, following after me as I made my way into the kitchen that I was sure I knew better than I knew the one at home.
I rolled my eyes. "You might not be hungry Black, but I am."
As I moved around the kitchen the boys too their usual place in the corner of the room, watching as I worked. Sirius would occasionally talk to Harry and, when the younger boy made some random vocalisations, Sirius would proudly declare that the boy got his wit from his godfather. I didn't bother pointing out that Sirius was probably the least witty person I knew.
"Mum!" Harry squealed excitedly, the single word draining all the life out of the room.
My breath stuttered, heart hammering in my chest as I prayed and prayed that it wasn't what I thought, that Harry had fixated on the picture of his parents mounted on the kitchen wall – on every wall of this apartment, but the moment I looked to my godson I knew that wasn't true. Godric, he was pointing at me. He looked excitedly towards Sirius, as if expecting praise and we both shared a look over the top of his head. Just last week he had called Sirius dad.
Placing the wooden spoon down, I crossed the kitchen until I reached the pair of them and pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead, "That's not me, sweetheart."
The quiet, slightly melancholy atmosphere remained throughout the rest of the night as we fed Harry and lulled him to sleep. Only when he was safely tucked away in his crib did we comment on the recent occurrences. We pushed the food slowly around our plates; neither of us had an appetite anymore. Sirius was the one to inevitably break the silence.
He sighed, leaning back in his seat as he asked quietly, "What are we supposed to do when he gets old enough to ask us where his parents are and why he doesn't have any parents? It's ok now because he doesn't understand, and a little later it'll still be ok. But when he's old enough to ask questions, what do we do then?"
"Then we tell him the truth," I said firmly, reaching out to put a hand on top of his. "We tell him of how brave his parents are and how much they loved him, how proud they're bound to be of him. And – and that whilst he might not have parents, he still has us and we'll do everything we can for him."
He nodded slowly, thinking over my words. "Whenever I think about that day, about my decision to switch the secret keepers, my blood begins to boil over and Godric, I just want to find Peter and do something to him that'll land me in Azkaban –"
"And then I remember," he sighed, "I remember that I can't afford to be so reckless anymore, that there's people depending on me now; you and Harry. You're both directly affected and I can't risk anything happening to either of you."
"Is this what Molly meant about us being like young parents?" I wondered aloud just as Harry woke with a cry.
Sirius was on his feet in an instant, making his way towards the nursery. I followed a short distance after him and watched from the doorway as Sirius effortless changed his nappy. It was with a fond smile that I remembered the first time Sirius had changed Harry's nappy. He had been too slow and putting the new one on and had ended up with a direct hit on the face. But he had been so pleased; stating that Harry's ability to aim came from his father and would he end up as a chaser like his old man?
Sirius, realising my presence, turned to me with a smile which, when he met my eyes became a little heavier. I cleared my throat, brushing past him to pick up Harry to rock him back to sleep. Forcing myself to keep my eyes on the chid between us, I made sure to avoid the waiting eyes.
Molly had called this – what Sirius and I were doing – playing house, as if we were children playing make believe in the school yard. And yet, sometimes it felt so very real, so very not pretend.
I hated to admit it, but whenever Molly used to complain about having to bathe her children all the time, I thought that she was exaggerating the facts a little. And yet, now that I was responsible for a little child, I knew that she had been telling the truth. It only took minutes, seconds really, for me to look away from Harry and to turn back to find him covered in something sticky and gross.
Today was no exception. I had been busy making pancake batter because for some odd reason Sirius was adamant about wanting pancakes for dinner and I had glanced away for five seconds, or maybe less than that but it was enough. I turned back to find Harry covered in the batter. Sirius had run into the room at the sound of the bowl clattering to the floor, only to peel over in laughter when Harry began to giggle, running his fingers through the sticky batter that decorated the floor.
Remus followed shortly behind Sirius and even he had a hard time trying to suppress the need to laugh. He cleared his throat, brushing past Sirius and into the kitchen with his wand drawn at his side.
"Why don't you go and get Harry cleaned up?" Remus suggested and I nodded, picking the still giggling boy up and holding him at arm's length from me. "I'll tidy up in here and start on dinner."
"Thanks Remus," I said with a grateful smile as I walked out of the kitchen, taking Harry with me. As I passed Sirius in the doorway, I narrowed my eyes at him. "It's nice to know that one of you is helpful."
"Come on, love," Sirius placated, following after me and leaving Remus to clean up on his own. "You don't mean that. I'm plenty helpful."
"Prove it," I ordered, settling Harry into the empty bathtub. Stripping him of his dirty clothes, I threw over my shoulder, "Go and get Harry some clean clothes."
Sirius mock saluted me, heading out of the bathroom and returning minutes later and winking playfully at Harry who was seated comfortably in the tub as it filled with water. The boy was laughing again, playing with the bubble bath I'd added to the water. Placing the clean clothes aside, Sirius kneeled beside the bathtub and our shoulders brushed slightly when he leaned towards Harry to playfully flick some water at him. Harry retaliated by giving Sirius a bubble beard.
Bath time, as it always did, soon became an all-out war with Sirius and Harry splashing water at each other and I was an unfortunate causality, caught in the middle of their fight. I flinched as I was splashed in the face and spluttered, making Harry dissolve into helpless laughter so ferociously that he almost slipped and disappeared into the water. Sirius reached out, catching him quickly before his head was submerged beneath the water. Harry blinked up at us in surprise and event that wasn't enough to curb his laughter.
"I think it's time we got you out, little man," Sirius informed Harry regretfully as I reached for the baby soap.
Harry fussed, growing tired as we finished washing him and by the time Sirius lifted him out of the bath and into my arms where I was waiting with the towel, he yawned largely.
"Just a little longer," I promised, rubbing some lotion onto his skin and cooing a little when he smothered a yawn onto my shoulder. "After you've eaten something you can go to sleep."
Harry rubbed his eyes tiredly as I made him stand on the lid of the toilet to change him into his clothes. He lifted his arms obediently as I slipped his pyjama top over his head. Arms came around me suddenly to do the few buttons at the collar and Sirius hummed questioningly behind me when he realised how I'd stiffened at the sudden closeness.
Clearing my throat quietly, I pushed at his chest to make him slip away from me and pretended to tidy up, leaving godfather and godson alone. As I drained the bathtub and set about cleaning it, I cast a curious glance towards them when Harry began giggling again. Sirius was in the midst of sweeping Harry's already unruly hair up into an even more unruly, messy upward do. At my curious look, he chuckled.
"He looks more like Prongs this way," he explained and whilst he spoke brightly, I heard the sadness coating the words, hidden deep within him. He smiled unconvincingly and I returned the gesture; how long would it take for either of us to recover from the loss?
Shaking his head slightly, Sirius chuckled in a forced manner, "You look like you've taken an aguamenti to the face, Prewett."
"Well, our godson is very playful," I explained, cleaning the bathtub with a quick wave of my wand.
"I like the look on you," he said casually, sounding much closer than he had before.
I turned towards the sound of his voice, startling slightly when I found myself staring at his chest. Blinking twice, I glanced up at his eyes and swallowed slightly at the look in his eyes. I didn't think I'd ever seen him look so, well … serious, since we'd found out about James and Lily.
"Sirius," I pleaded quietly, noticing the danger when his eyes flickered to my lips. "Just think once more."
"About what?" he questioned, "Is this something we need to think about?"
And really, it wasn't. Maybe that was the reason that I didn't say anything when he made his very obvious descent to kiss me. And maybe that was the reason why I let myself go along with it until Harry gurgled from behind us. I pulled away like I'd been struck, looking to the little child as he sat waiting on the toilet lid, giggling when he realised that I was watching him.
"I – I need to go," I said before Sirius could approach me again.
His arms shot out to either side of me, trying to delay my inevitable retreat. But it was no use. Dodging his waiting arms, I picked Harry up and pressed a kiss to his forehead. Handing him off to Sirius, I avoided his eyes as I thought of an excuse, any excuse.
"I completely forgot that I agreed to help Molly with the kids tonight," I lied effortlessly, hurrying out of the bathroom and practically running to the fireplace.
From behind me I heard Remus question my suddenly odd behaviour but I said nothing as I stepped into the fireplace. The last thing I saw, before the flames consumed me, was Sirius standing in the doorway of the bathroom with Harry balanced in his arms.
Good Godric, what had I done?
Molly, as I knew she would be, was accommodating of my sudden intrusion of her home. She had owled our parents to tell them that I was spending the night around hers and had taken one look at my expression before ushering me to the sofa. The kids were all in bed and with my brother-in-law working late, she was able to spend a long time sitting with me.
She walked out of the kitchen with a glass of hot chocolate, knowing my aversion to coffee, and offered to talk anything through with me. I hesitated for a moment. Although the age gap between the two of us was large, she has always been my source of comfort. But this time I wasn't quite ready to open up to her about this. So we talked about anything and everything. She didn't complain once.
The next morning, I woke up early at the sound of the youngest Weasley crying out for her morning feed. Rising from the bed, I tied my hair up and made my way downstairs. Picking up a crying Ginny, I grinned when Molly shot me a thankful smile and hurried into the kitchen to fix her bottle. Looking down at the still crying little girl, I began to rock her in the way that I'd learnt Harry preferred and sure enough, she was soothed within a matter of seconds.
"You're good with her," Molly called out as I walked into the kitchen.
"I think looking after Harry has made me better with babies in general," I explained, with a small smile.
Molly nodded, accepting my words. I watched her test the temperature of the milk on the inside of her wrist and raised an eyebrow when she visibly hesitated for a moment. She looked up at me, sighing slightly and shaking her head as if to dismiss a stray thought.
"What is it Molls?"
"You arrived quite suddenly last night," she explained. "Not that you're not welcome here – you're always welcome. But it was obvious that something was worrying you last night. Even if you won't tell me what that something is."
I sighed this time, glancing down at my niece to avoid her mother's searching eyes. "Remember that thing you said was stupid?"
Silence followed my question and I looked up at Molly in time to see understanding dawn on her. Her eyebrows drew together as she let out a sympathetic sigh.
"You didn't," she murmured quietly, holding her arms out for her daughter.
I nodded slowly. "I'm not even sure when it happened, but I fell for him."
"He kissed me," I confessed, watching as her eyebrows draw up in surprise. "He kissed me and I ran away from him."
"And came here," she said finally.
Crossing the distance between us to give me a one-armed hug, I hugged her close to me, conscious of the small babe between us and tried to take as much comfort from her as possible. At least she hadn't told me what a stupid mistake I'd made. I mean, I knew I'd made a stupid mistake and yet I was glad she didn't rub it in my face. Not that she was the sort of person that would.
"That took a lot of courage," Molly said as she drew away from me to feed Ginny who once again was becoming impatient in her hunger.
"Are you sure?" I questioned sceptically, "Because I feel an awful lot like a coward."
"It was a braver decision than you think; it would be easy for you to give in to something you really want. But it's harder to say no when it comes to something you're after. Do you really like him?" she asked, looking away from Ginny to raise a curious eyebrow at me.
"I lied to you earlier Molls – I know when I fell for him." Rubbing a hand over my face I sighed, "I've like him since before James and Lily's wedding." Molly gasped in surprise but I carried on, unaffected. "And I tried my best to always put it aside, to not act on it because you're right about him; he might be mature when it comes to matters about Harry but he's a self-confessed commitment-phobe."
"Maybe I was wrong." Molly paused for a moment before admitting rather hesitantly, "You've seen the way he is with Harry. A man that's fundamentally against commitment doesn't agree to raise someone else's son as his own and he certainly doesn't act like Sirius does with Harry. Maybe we're both wrong on the commitment-phobe aspect. Maybe we judged him too quickly."
"Have I done something stupid again?" I wondered aloud, meeting Molly's waiting eyes.
Following my heart to heart with Molly, I continued spending my time with Harry and Sirius. But, despite my great efforts to make things return to the way they had been, it wasn't easy. Godric, it was damn near impossible. Sirius had always been prideful and he hadn't taken my rejection well. I mean, who would? There was an odd distance between the pair of us and I wasn't quite sure how to get rid of it. Merlin, even Harry had noticed it and it had confused him in the same way that the walking had confused him for the first time.
I had hoped that by the time Harry's 2nd birthday came around we would have returned back to normal but we hadn't. The chasm between us remained unbreachable. So much so that I was certain that some of the guests would pick up on it. And I had been right.
Augusta Longbottom had pulled me aside, adamant on giving me some advice about my troubles with Sirius and I had merely smiled at the older woman and thanked her for her concern. Even now, as I flittered round the room, busy checking on everything Sirius was there in the forefront of my mind.
Remus was watching the children as they played with all of Harry's new toys and I briefly smiled when Neville hesitantly approached Ron and Harry. Distantly I heard a knocking on the window, the sound indicating the arrival of an owl. Crossing the room, I weaved through the guests and opened the window to welcome in the owl which had a small parcel tied around it's leg. The parcel was wrapped in plain brown paper but it had a rather large red bow attached to it.
I read the note that came with it and startled slightly when Sirius asked from behind me, "What is it?"
It was the first time he'd directly spoken to me since the beginning of the party.
"It's from Dumbledore," I explained, watching as he moved around me to feed the owl some treats before snagging the parcel. "He sent a present for Harry and apologised for not being able to come today."
Sirius nodded, meeting my eyes for a long moment before he cleared his throat. He turned to leave when I caught his hand to halt him, conscious of the attention we were attracting from some of the adult guests.
He pulled his arm away from me and glanced pointedly away from me. "There's someone at the door; would you mind getting it? I'm going to put this with the rest of the presents."
I watched him leave with a heavy sigh. Molly was at my side in an instant and after assuring her that I was fine, I headed to the door and welcomed Professor McGonagall inside. She instantly began to mingle with the rest of the guests and I smiled upon seeing the fond glance she threw towards Harry. I shut the front door behind her and turned, only to find Sirius standing in front of me with the cake held awkwardly in his hands.
"The bakery floo'd the cake over and apologised for it being so late," he explained and gestured with his head towards Remus who was doing his best to look busy. "Remus said to ask you where to put it."
Merlin, Remus was the biggest worrywart and was constantly trying to get the pair of us to make up. Bless. The first time I returned to the flat following my cowardly retreat Remus had warned me lowly that I had better fix the mistake that I'd made. I'd assured him that I was planning to and he offered to help me with my endeavour. He had tried his best and even his efforts were proving unfruitful.
"Um, put it in the kitchen for now – under a statis charm."
He nodded and walked away before I could say another word. For what felt like the tenth time since the party had begun, I sighed.
Once all the guests had arrived and at the first sign of Harry yawning as he grew tired, the cake was cut and the presents were given. The sight of the cake was enough to have the little tyke waking up in an instant. Someone – I was certain it was Bill and Charlie, had decided to take that moment to set off a string of party poppers. And just like that the children were crying and the adults were all scrambling to soothe them.
Molly stole Harry from my arms, glaring at her eldest sons, "The only thing that'll calm them right now is cake. Go and cut it."
I frowned, wanting to protest but trailed off when I saw her gesture towards Sirius. Sirius who was walking into the kitchen with the cake. Quietly wishing me luck, Molly patted my back as I set off into the kitchen, shutting the door behind me as a precaution. He looked up at the sound of the door closing and I thought I saw his defences visibly close.
"How should I cut the cake?" he asked as I walked closer to him, pressing my hip against the counter.
"Can we talk?" I asked, reaching out to take the knife from him and setting it aside.
"We are talking."
I narrowed my eyes and whined slightly, "Sirius."
He almost smiled at that before he caught himself. Walking around me to get some paper plates, he said nothing else. I watched him move with a slight sigh. Right, it was time to lose my pride.
"Are you really going to be so childish?" I demanded making him raise an eyebrow at me. That was not what I'd planned on saying. "How can you just kiss someone without giving them a moment to think about what it's going to change?"
"Why do you need to think about something that's supposed to be so natural?" he demanded, setting the pile of plates down roughly on the counter. "Well?"
"Because it is complicated!" I insisted, "This doesn't just affect the pair of us. It affects Harry too. Say we become serious, and we break up. It'll be awkward. Not only that but we'll be so conscious about each other that we won't be able to treat Harry properly."
"It won't ever come to that," he answered, sounding a little befuddled by my reasoning. "Merlin, you're the only person I know that thinks about a relationship breaking down before they're actually in the relationship."
"You can't promise that it won't ever come down to that." I glanced away from him as I muttered, "It's a big risk that could affect Harry's welfare."
"It is a risk," he agreed, "but is it worth it? Am I worth it?"
I watched him in silence, wondering how best to answer his question. Before his self-doubt could grow, I strode towards him and kissed him firmly on the lips. He let out a stunned breath against my lips, hands hovering around my waist when I pulled away from him.
"Sorry I ran away last time," I apologised sheepishly.
"Don't do it again," he tried to warn sincerely but he smiled partway through, reaching out to take my face in his hands and pulling me towards him for another kiss.
We only drew away from each other when the kids started complaining loudly about having to wait for their cake. Regretfully I pulled myself out of his arms and returned my attention back to the still unsliced cake. Slicing it into small pieces for the kids and larger pieces for the adults, I plated them up and went to deliver them.
Sirius stole the plates off of me, pressing a kiss to my temple before he walked into the room, instantly swarmed by the sugar craving children.