Chapter Seventeen

AN: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the lovely guest who left a review to let me know to fix the chapter. This should now be readable, and I'm so sorry!

Lily was, in theory, making breakfast. Of course, the boys were all still in bed – apart from Harry who was happily chatting away to a stuffed niffler of James' in his playpen – and she was actually staring out of one of the wide, lead lined kitchen windows.

Which meant she nearly dropped her empty mug when a voice from the doorway surprised her.

'Bonjour mon petit, comment ça va?'

Harry, delighted, babbled back.

'Padfoot.' Lily gave him a look, 'I will get you a collar with a bell if you keep sneaking around.'

Sirius threw his head back and barked a laugh, 'I have one! Don't you remember?'

She groaned, 'Oh God… yes, you used to wear it in the common room to weird everyone out.'

He smiled and came into the kitchen proper, bending a little delicately to drop a kiss on Harry's head as he passed, 'No, I used to wear it in the common room to annoy Remus.'

'Coffee?' She waved her wand at the kettle, 'We've only picked up instant, sorry.'

'Instant is great, so long as there is sugar.' He leant against the vast, kitchen table. It was made of a single piece of oak, the edges still holding the shape of the tree.

'Three sugars.' She pulled a face, 'Why do you drink it like that?'

'To spite my father,' He shrugged, 'And then I started liking it.'

Lily laughed then and was rewarded with patented Sirius Black grin.

'Prongs not up?'

'He's gone back to bed, he said it was a hard one?'

Sirius nodded, 'Will be again tonight, I think. A double moon is hard enough, but the wolf was so confused.'

He winced as he reached for the mug, she handed him.

'Sit down and let me look.' Lily insisted.

Sirius opened his mouth to argue and then sighed. He detached himself from the table and tugged his jumper and t-shirt over his head.

Sirius had never been big. Strong, well-muscled but sleek. Godric knew they'd seen him in various states of undress all through school, though never directly after he'd visited his family. It hurt Lily's heart to see his skin – so pale compared to the skin kissed tan he normally managed to achieve year-round, and worse next to the jagged black tattoos – moving over every bone. His left side was a mass of purple bruise.

'What happened?' She managed to keep her tone business like, while secretly wondering if she would have to go and wake James to find similar bruises.

'Padfoot had a high-speed collision with a tree. Prongs is fine.' Not so secretly then.

'Mmm.'

'Lily, please. We know what we are doing.'

Lily grabbed the first aid kit from under the skin and handed him a pot of arnica cream, 'I know, Padfoot, I do. How's Remus this morning?'

'Best left to himself. Sorry.'

She nodded. She had known about Remus' furry little problem nearly as long as the Marauders had. Months where the moon was full for more than one night really took their toll, and Remus found it so very hard to be around humans in the daylight hours between, as though he could feel the pull of the moon far away on the other side of the world.

Sirius, sitting now, pulled his jumper back on, and immediately got stuck, tangled in the layers of fabric.

Lily laughed, stepping in and letting her hair brush past one of his flailing arms before tugging the t-shirt down to help. Surprising Sirius with physical contact was always a terrible idea.

He of course, had no such qualms about surprising other people. No sooner had his head shot out of the jumper, he caught her around the middle, pulling her into a tight hug.

She giggled, surprised, then laid her cheek on the top of his head, stroking long smooth motions down his shoulder blades. She would never admit to it out loud, but she had the worst crush on Sirius for their first few years at Hogwarts. He had been surprisingly close to most of the Gryffindor girls, even after several disastrous relationships. He had never tried it on with Lily, and, in private, they had been quite good friends. That hadn't changed when she and James got married. On nights James had been out on Auror duty, Sirius had sat in the cottage with cards, or music or building nursery furniture to occupy heavily pregnant Lily in anything other than worry. If James were Sirius' brother, then Lily was his sister.

'Are you going to ask me?' He said quietly.

'Ask you what love?'

He made a haughty sound in reply.

'No. You'll tell me about that place when you want to.'

He released her, 'You have my thanks, Lily Potter.'

Lily put her hands on her hips and arched an eyebrow at him, 'Sirius Orion Padfoot Black. What is wrong? You never call me Potter, and you sound posh.'

He chuckled, looking up at her with some emotion she couldn't decode swimming in the liquid mercury of his eyes, 'I have need of a favour.'

'You still sound like twelve-year-old you.'

'Mmm, I'm not surprised.' He shook his head, 'When can you get back in the cottage?'

She frowned at the apparent change of topic, 'The building work is done, but we think we're going to stay here for a while.' She pointed to the Daily Prophet on the table, flashing its bold headline.

'WHAT NEXT FOR THE FAMILY WHO LIVED?' Sirius read, 'Yes, probably for the best.'

'You're in there too.'

'Did they blur Remus out?'

'They did.' She tilted her head, 'Why do you always make them do that? You never care who else the press photographs you with.'

'Because he is dating me, not Sirius Black – disgraced heir.'

Lily nodded, there had been an article in Witch Weekly about her when she and James became engaged. She thought it had been funny at the time, but then James wasn't nearly the tabloid fuel Sirius was.

'Any word from Dumbledore?'

'No. I'm glad of it.' She watched Harry for a moment, 'Until we know, for certain, he is just a normal little boy.'

'Good.' Sirius sipped his coffee, 'I hope you don't mind, I ordered him a new broom.'

'Of course, you did.' She smiled and shook her head, 'They'll both be thrilled.' Lily turned back to Sirius, leaning her hip against the table, 'So, what's the favour?'

He pushed his hair back out of his eyes, 'I need to see my grandfathers.'

Lily nodded for him to go on. He hadn't said a word about whatever Pollux had whispered in his ear to bring him round at the trial. Until now.

'My mother is unwell.' Sirius sounded calm, he spoke quietly, and Lily realised she was holding her breath waiting for the other shoe to drop, 'Has been since Regulus… Anyway. The family has a dilemma.' He sipped his coffee again, though Lily thought he probably wasn't actually tasting it, 'With Regulus serving a life sentence, and Bella and Rodolphus and Rabastan doing the same, the options for the Noble House of Black just became very narrow indeed.'

Lily let all her breath out in a huff, 'What about Andromeda?'

'A woman, with a Half-Blood daughter. Doesn't quite fit the bill, does it.'

He looked up at her again, she expected the hard steel that normally came from any length of conversation about the family, but no. His eyes were still fluid, alive and silver.

'Pollux said they would reinstate me. That's why the Wizengamot didn't put up much of a fight, the family pressured them.'

'Sirius – '

He put up a hand to stop her, 'Let me get it all out.' He took a deep breath, 'I wouldn't have to move back. Or at least, not until after she dies. I sent them a message last week when Remus was out. He doesn't know, nor James. They want a meeting, somewhere neutral.'

'What is the favour Sirius?' It felt like a block of ice had settled in her chest. She knew, was certain what he was going to ask. Technically Sirius' grandparents had never been Death Eaters, but the idea of having them in her house was horrifying.

'Will you come with me?'

She blinked, 'What?'

He sighed, 'It's Pureblood bollocks. James will panic about me and get all prim at them. Remus… until I know exactly what is happening, I want to keep my so called "half-breed" gay lover away from them. And them from him, his temper is more frayed than I like.'

'And I'm not only a sensible grownup, but a Muggleborn to throw in their faces.' Lily could feel her temper rising. He never bloody thought.

'Well yes.' Sirius smiled gently, 'But not just that. You won't let me be goaded, I won't let myself be goaded if you are there. And because if they want me back, they need to know precisely what that means for the future of the House.'

'And taking me along shows them you mean it, they have to deal with the Blood Purity thing or what, face extinction?'

'Effectively, yes.'

'Where are you meeting them?'

'In Hogsmeade. On Beltane morn.'

She took him in, the sincerity of his voice, the calmness in his eyes, 'Yes. Alright.'

Sirius put down his mug with a decisive click, 'Thank you Lily. I will tell Remus, in my own time. But I won't ask you to keep this from James.'

Lily pushed a stray curl behind her ear, 'Are you considering it? Taking them up on the offer?'

Sirius paused, she could see him really thinking it over, 'Maybe. I'm not saying I want it, you know I washed my hands of everything to do with them. But I was born and raised to do it.' He caught her eye again, 'Remus would never have to fear financial ruin again.'

Lily swallowed the thought, the question, now wasn't the time. She flicked her wand at the kettle to fill again, 'Will you help me with breakfast?'

He nodded and stood, 'Full works for the boys. What will you and Harry have?'

Lily beamed at her son, 'Harry, would you like sausages?'

'Mmm, yah.'

'He's started talking again.' Sirius said quietly.

'Yes. I'm so relieved. I asked Dorcus about it,' She fetched the frying pan to heat while Sirius poked in the magically cold larder, 'She says it's to do with the trauma and then what my fucking sister did.'

Sirius reappeared with an arm full of bacon, sausages, and the cardboard egg cartoon, 'Oh?'

'They put him in the fucking cupboard Sirius, how do you think that might – '

She realised too late, '– Oh Merlin, Sirius I'm sorry I wasn't thinking…'

He shook his head, putting everything down calmly on the table, 'You shouldn't have to. Did they hurt him?' He was watching the table though.

'I don't th – '

Sirius' head snapped up and Lily felt like his eyes were physically – more likely magically – pinning her to the spot. There was no point in lying to her Legilimens brother-in-law.

'He had a few bruises, nappy rash. He didn't really cry, I don't think she came if he did.'

Sirius walked down the length of the table, and around to Harry's playpen. He paused only to glance at her for permission. Lily nodded, her chest felt tight with anger and a soul numbing sadness.

Sirius bent, not a care for his bruised ribs now. He scooped Harry up, balancing him on his hip and tucking a curled finger under his chin, 'Regarde moi, bébé.'

Lily knew the only French Harry ever heard was from Sirius, yet the little boy stared up at his godfather with his bright green eyes as though he understood.

'Tu es adoré, by Mama and Dada, by Uncle Moony, by me. We will always love you.'

Harry solemnly patted Sirius' cheek, and then giggled as Sirius pressed his face to Harry's neck and blew a raspberry. Sirius lowered him carefully back into the playpen and padded his way back up the kitchen.

'Never apologise to me for that Evans.' Sirius said without looking at her, waving his wand at the sausages so they flew into the pan, 'You didn't do it to me. Or to Harry. You didn't live it, you shouldn't have to think of it.' He shot her a look, 'And he will be fine, he'll not remember what your idiot sister did, I promise you that.'

James skipped into the kitchen just as Sirius was rescuing the last of the fried bread, 'Morning Pads.'

'Morning Prongs, how are you doing?'

'Fine, fine.' James kissed Lily's cheek and grabbed the plate she had just finished filling, 'You? You know there's several trees in my estate with you shaped dents in.'

'Very funny. I'm fine. I've been entertaining your charming wife.' Sirius waggled his eyebrows at Lily to make her laugh.

'Please, I know you aren't stupid enough to cheat. Speaking of, how's Moony today?'

'Not up yet, I'm just going to – '

Sirius had picked up Remus' plate and turned to the door, then stopped and smiled, that secret smile that was only for Remus, 'Good morning love.'

Lily put the tea pot on the kitchen table, tucking her hair behind her ear again, 'Hello Remus.'

She knew, after all these years that she shouldn't be afraid of him. Remus was the kindest, gentlest man she knew – aside from James – but the haunted, feral look in his eyes and the smooth way he loped the length of the kitchen to Sirius reminded her that somewhere the moon was still full and he was not wholly their Remus.

Sirius put the plate down, and she was struck by the way both of her other men seemed so horribly calm. As Sirius reached out and brushed a curl of Remus' hair from his eyes, she wondered just how many mornings like this at school James and Sirius had stood at Remus' side and protected him.

'Thank you.' Remus' voice was quiet, 'And you Lily.'

She shook her head, 'Not at all, come and sit.'

Mornings in the Great Hall at Hogwarts came back to her, as she watched James jiggle Harry on his lap, making jokes and being a giant messy haired distraction, while Sirius poured Remus' tea and shared more than half of his breakfast with Remus after the werewolf had eaten everything on his own plate. It was a strange insight after years of ignoring their nonsense.

James' boisterous distractions had annoyed her no end before they dated, it was only now she could see how special his talents were, lighting up the room and their day, providing a safety and normality for the other two.

She saw the way Sirius' long fingers rested lightly on Remus' wrist, the little words of French or Welsh that passed between them. It was a sharp contrast to the last time they had all been together, after the trial. Now it was Remus who leant against Sirius and watched him for his cues.

Eventually Sirius stood, gently tugging Remus after him.

'I cooked, so you can wash up Potter.' He smirked at James, 'Thanks for breakfast, and the coffee Lils.'

Remus smiled at Harry as they disappeared, and James cocked his head to listen to their feet on the stairs.

'Well, that'll be Pads getting his own back then.'

Lily nearly dropped her tea, 'James!'

He cackled, 'Oh they're always like this.'

She frowned, 'Not since school.'

James passed her Harry and stood to start the washing up, rolling up his sleeves, 'No. Because we almost always saw them with the Order, or one or other of them was off doing Order work. Then they broke up.'

Lily spotted the bite shaped bruise on his forearm and frowned, but he waved her off, turning on the tap and squirting the soap.

'This is the first chance they've had to be themselves, by themselves since school. And even then, they shared a room with the other three of us.' He shrugged, 'Good on them I say.'

Lily smiled and rested her head against her son's for a moment, wondering how long this chance would last if Sirius' family had their way.