When Sirius woke up it took him some moments to remember where exactly he was and how he had ended up here. He was lying in his own room at Remus' house, that wasn't all that hard to find out, but he wasn't lying in the bed he had been occupying for the past year. Instead he was lying on a cot that definitely had not been in the room last time he had seen it.
The bed was standing next to his cot, and as soon as Sirius realized that it was not empty, the reason for his strange sleeping arrangement came back to him. Harry was lying in the bed, trying to cure out his Dragonpox. And Harry was also what obviously had woken him up. In the dim light Sirius could see the teenager rolling around in his sleep, turning restlessly from one side to the other and mumbling incoherent words.
Immediately, Sirius sat bolt upright, skidded over towards Harry on the mattress and put a hand on the teenager's forehead. Harry's skin was still a bit warmer than it was normal, but nowhere as hot as it had been during his fever seizures the days before. So whatever was wrong with the kid, it had nothing to do with the Dragonpox.
The only answer Sirius received was a low moan and the teenager turned around in his sleep again, stretching out his arms as if to ward off an invisible attacker. There was a layer of sweat on his face and in his hair, the pyjamas clinging to his lithe frame with the moisture. Sirius didn't understand what exactly his godson was muttering in his sleep, but he had the distinct impression that it would be better to wake him up than to let Harry suffer any further from that nightmare.
"Harry? Come on kiddo, wake up!"
Again, Harry only shifted restlessly, hands stretched out in front of him, throwing his head from one side to the other. Sirius put a hand on the teenager's shoulder but immediately drew back when that small contact made Harry flinch and shy away in his sleep.
"Harry, it's me, Sirius. Come on, it's just a nightmare, wake up. Harry!"
Slowly, Sirius was starting to feel helpless. Harry was obviously having a nightmare, but the easiest part of this, the part of waking Harry up, just didn't seem to work. Harry had started talking again, and between the whispers of 'stop' and pleas of 'no, please not' the only other word Sirius could understand was the name 'Cedric', repeated over and over again. Sirius sighed. He should have known that this was still bothering his godson. It had been a year ago, true, but that was not really much time when it was about death and guilt, Sirius knew that. Merlin knew Sirius had ample experience with it. And he knew that he needed to get Harry awake, that he needed to talk about it with the kid.
By now there were some tears streaming over Harry's face, and it pained Sirius nearly physically to see how much his godson still suffered from what had happened over a year ago.
Not shying back this time, Sirius put both of his hands on Harry's shoulders and shook him gently but still forcefully.
"Harry, wake up. Do you hear me?"
It took him some moments, but slowly, Harry's green eyes opened and he stared wildly around the room as if he didn't know exactly where he was and what was happening. All of a sudden, his eyes snapped open widely and he scrambled up into a sitting position. His breath was coming in small gasps, his tear-filled eyes staring at Sirius as if they didn't really see him sitting there.
For a moment longer Harry stared at his godfather, as if he was fighting an inner struggle as to how to react, but after a short moment another sob wrenched free and he flung himself into Sirius' arms, sobbing into his godfather's chest for all he was worth.
Sirius was quite surprised by this development. Harry had never before been open in giving or receiving physical affection, but now he clung to him as if Sirius was his lifeline. Sirius did the only thing he could think of – he held on tightly and just let his godson cry, waiting patiently until Harry had calmed a little.
Harry himself didn't know why he was doing this, really. He had not meant to break down like that, not in front of Sirius. What would his godfather think of him now? Harry was nearly sixteen and it was already bad enough that he was lying here in bed with a children's sickness, he definitely didn't need to add an emotional outburst to his ever growing list of humiliations.
But there had been the dream again, the dream about the Triwizard Tournament and the Third Task. The dream in which Cedric had died, in which Voldemort's high-pitched and bodiless voice had said those three words that had ended Cedric's life, just because Harry had told him to take the winning cup together. Those three words that had haunted Harry for the past thirteen months.
Kill the spare.
Harry could still hear those words in his mind, could still see the green light flashing to end Cedric's life, could still hear his fellow schoolmate's desperate plea to take his lifeless body home to his parents. And then Harry had woken up, and for the first time he had not been alone after that nightmare. Instead, he had found himself face to face with his godfather.
Harry had nearly told Sirius that everything was alright and that he needn't worry himself with his little nightmare, but there had been a look in Sirius' eyes that told Harry that Sirius understood. Somehow, he knew what had been going on in Harry's mind and somehow, he understood what Harry was going through. Or at least that was what Harry hoped had truly been there. Upon seeing his godfather's face directly after waking up, the urge to just bury himself in the older man's arms and let his physical presence chase away all nightmares had become so overwhelming that Harry had had no choice but to act upon it. And now here he was, clinging tightly onto Sirius, crying for all he was worth. And even as the tears subsided a little and the last shadows of the nightmare had been chased away Harry held on to his godfather, too comfortable but also too embarrassed to let go just now.
Sirius just held him, softly stroking up and down the shivering teenager's back, muttering small encouragements under his breath. After some long minutes, he bent over towards the bedside table on the other side and retrieved a tissue which he handed his godson after he drew back a little from the embrace.
"Feeling a bit better?"
Harry nodded and wiped his face with the tissue, but still taking care that not too much physical distance came between them. In the dim moonlight that filtered through the curtains, Sirius saw Harry nod. He continued watching Harry for some minutes longer, giving the teenager the chance to collect himself a bit more.
"What's wrong, Harry?", he finally asked. Harry just shrugged.
"Nightmare." He didn't add that it was nothing to worry about, because he knew Sirius would detect this as a lie.
"Tell me about it." Sirius' voice was firm, but gentle and when Harry looked up there was so much honestly meant concern in his blue eyes that Harry just could not help it. Despite all his worries and doubts about how much to tell and what to entrust Sirius with, a man he knew neither very long nor very well, everything just flooded out of him and once he had started there was no stopping it.
He told Sirius that had been weighing on his mind, told him how he had felt during the year of the Triwizard Tournament, about his fighting with Ron, about how he had felt inside when so many others had waved those 'Potter stinks' badges in front of him. He told Sirius how scared he had been during the night of the Third Task, relived those horrifying moments on the graveyard again in a way he could not have done back then in Dumbledore's office, and finally he even told everything that had happened during the past year. How everybody had either avoided, stared at or whispered about him, how the Hufflepuffs had eyed him warily as if each and everyone of them blamed him for what had happened to Cedric. He even – though he couldn't explain why – told Sirius about Cho, what he had felt for her before everything had happened and how she had burst into tears every time she had met him on the corridor after Cedric had died. Maybe he exaggerated things in his tale, but Harry told Sirius things the way he had seen and felt them, and Sirius just sat there and listened to him, not interrupting him once.
When Harry finally fell silent and wiped his face with the tissue again he didn't dare to look up in Sirius' eyes, afraid of what he would find there. He didn't think he could live with the feeling that Sirius pitied him, or that he saw him as a weak little kid instead of the nearly adult teenager that he was.
He was a bit startled when he felt Sirius' hand on his shoulder, pulling him into a tight hug again. It took some long moments until Sirius said something. It was not easy for him to find the right words, he guessed he knew very well how Harry was feeling, but he also knew that he had absolutely no experience in raising teenagers, in taking responsibility for anything or anybody other than himself. Once he had tried, and - well, the outcome was something he didn't like to think about. So what should he tell Harry? Was there anything he could tell him without lying?
"I wish I could tell you that it'll all get better, that the pain will go away soon."
He pulled back a little and looked into Harry's eyes.
"But I don't want to lie to you, Harry. What happened with Cedric and you that night will stay with you. Maybe one day you'll look at it from a different point of view, but until then I'm afraid it'll continue to hurt you. And as much as I wish it was different, there is nothing I can do to help you, nothing other than being there for you whenever you need me."
Harry dropped his eyes in defeat, his fingers nervously fidgeting with the tissue he held in his hands. He should have known it. But somehow, a small part of him had hoped that by telling Sirius everything that was going on in his mind things would get better. He had hoped that his godfather would know a way to make things better, to let him sleep at night and make the pain go away. And now Sirius told him that exactly this wasn't the case. He shouldn't have started talking about it at all, that would have been better. What would Sirius think of him now?
"Harry? Look at me, please."
Hesitantly, Harry looked up and turned his eyes towards Sirius, though he didn't look into his godfather's eyes.
"I hate being that helpless, Harry. If there was anything I could do to make you feel better about it, I'd not hesitate to do it, but I don't know what that could be. The only thing I can do is tell you over and over again what I think about it.
Harry, you didn't want to be in that tournament in the first place. Somebody enrolled you and you did your best to get through this, despite all the things that worked against you. And you did good in the first two tasks, and I'm proud on how you handled them.
And about what happened during the Third Task, there was nothing you could do about it. You didn't know about the Portkey, and you couldn't have known. Crouch and Voldemort had fooled wizards far wiser and more experienced than Cedric and you. Heck, even Dumbledore didn't notice anything amiss for an entire year. Otherwise, none of you would have touched that cup.
Harry, it's a small wonder that you made it out of that graveyard alive, even more so that you managed to bring Cedric's body back as well. When I realized that something had gone wrong with the tournament, I was afraid that something had happened to you. You were out of reach and I could not help you with whatever you were facing. And I was that afraid for you, thinking that you might have died until I saw you hours later in Albus' office."
Sirius cupped Harry's chin with his hands and forced him to look into his eyes.
"I'm afraid there's nothing I can do or say to make you feel better, Harry. The only thing I can say, and if necessary I'll repeat it over and over again, is that what happened to Cedric was not your fault. You didn't kill him, and you're not responsible for his death.
You had to witness Cedric's death and I'm afraid that those images will continue to haunt you for quite some time. And there might be some ignorant idiots who place the blame on you, but don't listen to them, because those are the ones who didn't take just one moment to really think about it. The people who really care about you know what happened that night, and we know that it's not been your fault. Your friends at school know and when some other idiots try to give you a hard time about what happened that night then they'll back you up. You just have to let them. And Remus and I both are here for you, we both know that you're not to blame for anything.
Harry, you're not responsible for Cedric's death."
Harry bit his lower lip as Sirius said those words. He knew them to be true, deep down inside he knew, but somehow he still didn't believe it. When he looked up at Sirius, he realized that his godfather understood that feeling, if there was anybody who understood it, then it was Sirius. It remained unspoken between them at that moment, but James' name hung in the air between them, the switching of the secret keepers and the blame Sirius still placed on himself for the death of his best friend. It was not the same situation, but it was similar enough that both could understand each other, and ridiculously enough while both did not blame the other for what had happened to him, towards themselves they didn't judge that lightly. Harry did not begrudge Sirius for changing the secret keepers, he did not blame his parents' death upon his godfather, but nevertheless Sirius would always continue to blame himself for it, no matter how often he was told that it wasn't so. Just as well Sirius knew that Harry would always carry around a feeling of guilt for what happened to his schoolmate, no matter how often the teenager was told that he was not to blame for anything that had happened that night. It hurt Sirius that there was nothing he could do about it, nothing he could do to make Harry feel better.
If Sirius got his way, he'd pack Harry into a cocoon and lock him away for the rest of his teenage years in a desperate attempt to protect him from the world out there, but he knew that it just wouldn't be possible. Harry would have to face the world again as soon as his holidays were over, and all Sirius could do until then was to give the teenager the feeling that whatever would happen during the upcoming year, he and Remus would be there to back him up no matter what.
Gently, Sirius ran his right hand across Harry's left cheek and across the bruise that was still visible beneath the pustules, noticing how the teenager flinched a little under the contact. There might be nothing he could do about Harry's feelings of guilt, but if his suspicions were true he'd be damned if he let that muggle get away with that.
"Care to talk about that?"
"About that bruise the size of Kent on your left cheek."
Again, Harry frowned and ran his own hand across his cheek.
"Is there? I really didn't know. But that explains why it hurts when I lie on it."
"Harry, you don't want to tell me that you have a huge bruise on your face and don't know where it comes from."
Harry just shrugged and trained his eyes onto the tissue in his hands again. "I guess Vernon wasn't very pleased that I got sick."
Sirius breathed in deeply and closed his eyes.
"Did he hit you often?" Sirius didn't want to know the answer to that question, he dreaded to hear what his godson would answer, but he needed to know. Harry shrugged again, his eyes still not rising to meet Sirius' gaze.
"No, not really. He got angry quite often, but mostly he didn't catch me. From time to time I caught a slap, that's all. It's nothing, really."
Sirius growled unconsciously at the thought of that fat muggle slapping his godson, but for Harry's sake he refrained from saying anything. He wasn't entirely convinced that Harry was telling the whole truth about the frequency of Vernon hitting him, but he also realized that if Harry wasn't, he could not do anything about it. Maybe Harry told the truth, and maybe he didn't, but whatever it was it was Harry's choice to tell him or not. If the teenager wanted to just leave everything that concerned his muggle relatives behind for good, then Sirius would have to accept that. He'd just make sure that the next time he met Vernon Dursley, he'd let that excuse of an uncle feel how angry he was about what he had done.
"Harry, you know that your uncle had no right to do that, don't you?" As Harry didn't immediately answer, Sirius forced his face up with his fingers under his chin again and thus forced him to look into his eyes. "It's not normal to get hit by your family, absolutely not. I hope you know that I would never do that to you." Inwardly, Sirius cringed at his own words. How should Harry know that Sirius would be different? The kid barely knew him, they had hardly met at all during the past three years. There was just no way Harry could really know.
Slowly, Harry nodded. "Yes, of course I
Sirius looked doubtful, not entirely sure to which part Harry was responding right now. "You sure?"
Harry nodded and rolled his eyes a little. "Yes, I'm sure Sirius. It's really no big deal, please don't get yourself all that worked up about it. Could we just not talk about it?"
They sat in silence for a moment, Sirius lost in his thoughts about what he could possibly do to Vernon Dursley while Harry still fidgeted with the now completely torn tissue.
Harry's soft voice tore Sirius out of his musings and
with quite some surprise he looked at his godson.
"I'm sorry. For waking you. For being nothing but
trouble ever since I came here. First I'm sick, then I get nightmares, you only
worry about me…"
"Stop it, Harry. Stop it right now. You don't cause trouble, and you're not a burden either. You can't help that you're sick, that just happens sometimes. And if that poor excuse of a family had taken you to a doctor in time, it wouldn't have become a problem at all. As for waking me up in the night or telling me about your problems, that's nothing to be sorry for. If you need to talk, or want somebody to listen, don't hesitate to wake me up, that's what I'm here for. Promise?"
Hesitantly, Harry's green eyes locked with his godfather's and he slowly nodded.
"Now, you think you can go back to sleep? Remus will have my hide if he knows I keep you awake in the dead of the night. And between the two of us – he's insufferable when he's angry."
Harry fleetingly recalled Remus saying the same thing about Sirius when he was feeling useless, but he chose better not to comment on it. Maybe those two had just spent too much time with only each other over the past year. Instead he nodded and sank back into his pillows.
"I'll be alright, Sirius. Go back to sleep. And – thank you, Sirius."
"Anytime. Now sleep, I'm here if you need something. Good night."
"Good night, Sirius."
As Harry stretched under his blankets again and felt and heard Sirius shift into a comfortable position on the cot less than two metres to his right, Harry felt more guarded and safe than he had in a long time and soon fell asleep again. At least for that night, the nightmares about Cedric and Voldemort didn't return.
When Harry woke up the next morning, it was to the sound of voices talking lowly somewhere beside him. Upon opening his eyes, he found that Remus was sitting on the edge of Sirius' cot, talking lowly to his godfather. Sirius, who seemed to have woken up not so long ago, for his hair was still dishevelled and he wasn't looking as if he was perfectly awake yet, lay on his back with his head resting on his bent arm, looking up at Remus and listening to what he was telling. Neither Remus nor Sirius seemed to have realized that Harry was awake yet.
But what worried Harry far more than the fact that he again had slept until past nine was that Remus was holding the brown bottle with the potion against his pustules in his hands. If there was something Harry absolutely didn't need right now, it was the smell of that stuff all over him again. At first he had thought that working in Snape's classroom twice a week would have prepared him for everything, but by now Harry was convinced that whoever had invented that potion was even more sadistic than Harry's least liked teacher.
"Good morning, Harry."
"Morning Sirius. Morning Prof…Remus."
Remus just smiled at Harry's near-slip and got up from where he had been sitting on Sirius' cot. As he turned over towards Harry's bed with the potion bottle in hand, Harry screwed up his face, ready to put on a fight should the man come too close to him with the disgusting stuff. Next to him, Sirius chuckled gleefully.
"You were standing this without complaint for far
longer than anybody I've ever heard of, Harry. Most of the people get fed up
with the smell when they get treated for the second or third time."
Harry just grimaced into his godfather's direction and tried to edge away as far as possible from Remus and the threatening potion bottle in the werewolf's hands. Sirius chuckled again and got up from his cot.
"As much as I'd like to stay, but Albus is waiting for me downstairs."
And with another grin into Harry's direction, Sirius vanished from the room and closed the door shut behind himself. Harry just stared at the empty space from where he had vanished, then he cast a pleading glance at Remus.
"I really feel fine again, I don't think that the potion is needed anymore, you know?"
Remus just grinned and put the bottle onto the bedside table.
"Nice try, but the answer is no. As long as the
pustules are there, you'll have to keep on applying that potion. And don't even
think about casting a concealment charm over the pustules, my brother tried
that at the age of eleven and it went horribly wrong. Nearly made himself
invisible, and for about two weeks he ran around all shiny and translucent like
a ghost. Drove my parents nuts, I can tell you."
"You have a brother?"
There was so much astonishment in Harry's voice that Remus nearly laughed out loud.
"Yes, why shouldn't I?"
Harry blushed a little. "No, it's not that. It's just…I don't know. It's just that neither you nor Sirius ever mentioned him, so I guess I was a little surprised."
Remus smiled at Harry, but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
"His name is Janus, he's four years older than me and we don't have that much contact, so it's not all that surprising that you never heard him mentioned."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…"
Remus waved off Harry's apology. "You did nothing you need to apologize for, Harry. And if you thought that you were just too curious, then you have never seen Sirius in one of his more inquisitive moods.
Right, but if my memory doesn't betray me, then we were just about to look after your pustules again."
Harry grimaced and immediately moved away from Remus and the potion bottle. He didn't care in the slightest that he was behaving like a small child right now, all he wanted was to put as much space between himself and that pink stuff as possible.
"Can't I go to the bathroom first? And I'd like to take a shower, I've been lying in that bed for days on end and I don't think putting me in a tub with ice cold water counts as taking a shower."
Remus laughed at that. "No, I don't think it
does. You think you're steady enough on your feet to make it on your own?"
Harry nodded, though he was grateful that Remus stayed by his side as he climbed out of his bed and made his way towards the door on a bit shaky legs. The bathroom was just across the hall, that much Harry still remembered from when Remus had dragged him there after he had been sick on Sirius' lap, but even that distance was enough to make him sit down on the edge of the bathtub in exhaustion as he reached the room. Remus came after him with a new pair of pyjamas and two towels on his arm. He put them onto the small shelf next to the sink.
"All right, there are towels and something clean for you to wear. I put out a toothbrush for you on the shelf, it's the blue one. Anything else you might need should be in here, I guess. If something's wrong or if you need something, call me okay? I'm just across the hall."
Harry nodded and Remus left the room, closing the door behind himself. Slowly, Harry got out of his boxer shorts and climbed into the tub, closing the curtain around it behind himself. He spent the best part of the next twenty minutes under the warm spray of water, rinsing even the last bit of pink potion off of his body. It was good to feel clean again, though he knew it wouldn't last very long, at least not when the potion was concerned.
Harry combed down his unruly hair, brushed his teeth and then spent a couple of minutes staring at the bruise on his left cheek. Now he understood why Sirius had looked so concerned about it, this time Vernon seemed to have outdone himself. Harry guessed that his uncle must have hit him a couple of times to get him awake while he had been lying on his bed with fever, but as much as he thought about it, Harry for the life of him could not remember. Well, the bruise was already turning greenish-yellow anyway, and if things just for once in his life continued to work out for the better, then Harry would never need to worry about Vernon Dursley or any of his other muggle relatives again. Never. He grinned at his reflection in the mirror, and the mirror grinned back.
"I don't have to go back! I can stay with Sirius, isn't that great?"
His reflection just looked at him, then shrugged.
"If you say so. But mind you, he sings in the shower. And he's not exactly gifted with a good voice."
Harry grinned, imagining his godfather singing horribly wrong behind the shower-curtain. No, he couldn't say that this image destroyed his good mood about living together with him. Not really.
A knock on the door made him turn away from his reflection, which was just about to stick out his tongue at Harry.
Remus appeared in the doorframe.
"You alright? You've been in here for quite a while now."
"Yes, thanks. Though I think you should try to teach your mirror some manners."
"Is it talking about Sirius' singing again?" Remus laughed. "It's just not used to having other people except from me around, so when Sirius moved in last year it started its personal vendetta against him. Funny thing is, Sirius is even more malicious than that mirror, you should hear him sometimes when he comes out of the bathroom. A couple of times already I caught him shouting at his own reflection first thing in the morning."
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but then thought better of it. Somehow, he had the feeling that shouting at impolite mirrors was just something that happened with Sirius around and he'd have to get used to it anyway.
"Ready to go back to bed?"
Harry just grimaced at those words. "Do I really have to? I mean, why can't I spend the day downstairs or so?" As soon as he had said them, Harry regretted the words. He could be glad enough that Sirius and Remus had taken him away from the Dursleys, and that Remus allowed him to stay here while he was still sick, he shouldn't be complaining about this being restricted to one room. But Remus obviously didn't notice anything unusual about his last statement, here merely smiled knowingly.
"Yes, you really have to go back to bed. You don't get enough rest and sleep now, your sickness is going to come back with a vengeance. Give it another day, and tomorrow we'll see about moving your downstairs for the day. How about that?"
"I just thought it was worth a try."
Remus laughed. "I imagine it was. Come on, let's get you back to your room."
It struck Harry as odd that Remus was calling the spare bedroom 'his' room when it had been Sirius' for the past year. Still was, actually, because his godfather slept there as well. But that was a line of thought he just couldn't pursue any further today, he was too drowsy and also too hungry to do so.
When he came back into his room, the first thing he noticed was that somebody – presumably Remus – had made his bed and that a plate with breakfast was standing on the now cleaned up bedside table. With a grateful smile, Harry sank down onto the mattress again and placed the plate on his lap. Between two bites of scrambled eggs, he mumbled a 'thank you' into Remus' direction.
"Don't thank me too early, we still have to look after that pustules of yours again before you start scratching yourself bloody."
Harry just nodded and chewed on his breakfast. "What's Sirius doing downstairs with Professor Dumbledore?"
"I don't know, really. He came by shortly before you woke and only told me that he wanted to talk to Sirius. But I'm sure it's nothing bad, otherwise he'd have told us as well. As for now..."
Remus grabbed the potion bottle which – against all of Harry's hopes – was still half filled and waved a cotton cloth in front of Harry's face. Harry grimaced again but obediently took the cloth and shrugged out of his pyjama top. After cleaning away all the crusted potion remnants in the shower, he now had the first real possibility to look clearly at his pustules. They were still there, sadly, but he had the impression that they had somewhat lessened in number and size from when he had first seen them. But maybe that was just his imagination, because upon waking up and finding out about his Dragonpox, Harry had been extremely shocked and maybe overrated the whole pustule issue. Breathing stoically through his mouth, Harry applied the potion as far as he could, allowing Remus to take care of the places he could not reach.
When Remus applied the potion to Harry's face, sitting down on the mattress opposite of him and watched what he was doing with a look of concentration, Harry for the first time took a closer look at his teacher's face. Harry had already noticed during the past weeks at school that Remus appeared to be a lot more relaxed in his whole bearing, and now he realized that the lines around Remus' eyes and mouth were less pronounced than they had been during his third year when he had first met the man. With quite some surprise he realized that Remus' eyes also had an extraordinary colour. Harry by now knew that people in the wizarding world sometimes looked extremely different from what he had seen in the muggle world, but he had never seen somebody with amber eyes ever before.
Realizing that he was being stared at, Remus stopped his ministrations and rose a questioning eyebrow at Harry.
Harry blushed and quickly averted his eyes, trying to look somewhere else.
"No, no sorry. I was just wondering something."
"Well? Out with it, Harry."
"I was just wondering about your eyes. Their colour, I mean. I've never seen somebody with amber eyes before, I think."
Remus smiled, though somewhat sadly Harry thought.
"No, I didn't think you'd have. They've not
always been amber, they changed after I got bitten."
"Your eye colour changed when you got bitten by the wolf?"
Remus nodded. "Yes, during the first moon cycle afterwards. If you know what to look after, the eyes are one of the surest ways to identify a werewolf, which you might have known had you written that essay for Severus back in your third year." But Remus smiled as he said the last part, letting Harry know that he didn't really expect him to have written that essay.
"What do you mean, 'if you know what to look after'?"
Remus sat back in a more comfortable position and thought for a moment.
"Merely judging by the eye colour can be misleading. I don't know exactly, but I'd say that though amber might be an unlikely colour, it's not impossible for somebody to have such eyes without begin a lycanthrope. But what clearly marks out a werewolf even in his human form is that there's always a certain...how to say it...feral quality in them. The closer it gets to full moon, the more distinguished this becomes. It's not exactly obvious, but as I said, if you know what to look after, you can easily detect the animal within the human on the days close to full moon if you watch the eyes."
Harry nodded, thinking this through.
"What colour were they before?"
Remus was a bit taken aback by that question, as if he was not used to people being interested in something about his private life.
"Brown. Not dark brown, more hazel, I think." He shrugged. "To be bluntly honest, I haven't thought about that for ages, it's been nearly thirty-four years ago now."
"I'm sorry, I didn't want to bring up something
you don't want to think about."
Remus shook his head and gave Harry a reassuring smile. "No, it's all right, Harry. It's just that I'm slowly realizing that my memory becomes a bit treacherous when it comes to things that lie so long in the past. I think I might be getting old."
He smiled at Harry again and took the empty breakfast plate.
"Do you need something else from downstairs?
Something to occupy you until Sirius comes up again? Or do you want to sleep
"No, I think I've slept enough for a while. If it's all right, I'd like to send an owl to Ron and Hermione, to tell them what happened and that I'm okay. I'm sure they're worried because I've not written them for so long. If it's okay to tell them that I'm here, of course."
Remus nodded. "They already know, at least Ron. We got a letter from him the day we went to Privet Drive, and because he was so worried I called up Molly in the evening and told her that you were here and that you were relatively all right. But you can tell Ron and Hermione of course, I'll bring you some parchment and something to write when I come up again."
He turned towards the door, but suddenly another question crossed Harry's mind.
Remus turned and mock-glared at Harry.
"Remus, I mean. What about Hedwig? Uncle Vernon didn't allow me to let her out of the cage and she wasn't all that well last I can remember. What happened to her?"
"We brought her here with us. She was a bit worn
out, hadn't had enough food or movement for quite some time, but I fattened her
up for the first day and then she was strong enough to go out hunting on her
own. Right now she's probably sitting in the attic, sleeping next to my owls.
She's fine, Harry."
"You're welcome. I'll bring you something to write in a couple of minutes, and later I'll send down Hedwig."
Remus left the room and closed the door behind himself, leaving Harry alone in Sirius' bedroom. He didn't know how long Remus would take until he came back with something to write and neither did he know when Sirius would be finished talking to Professor Dumbledore, so maybe he should find something to keep himself occupied while he waited for some company to return to him. Slowly, Harry climbed out of the bed and walked across the room towards the bookshelf on the far off wall. Maybe he'd find something to keep himself from boredom there.
Sirius, as it appeared to be, was not exactly a person who read for fun. Though there were many books on the shelf, most of them dealt with some aspect of magic or other. There were many texts and volumes on the Dark Arts, historical abstracts and spell books. Only on the lower shelf were some books that could be considered for pastime reading at all.
But just as Harry had settled back into his bed with a book about Grindelwald and his defeat, the door to his room opened again and Remus appeared, levitating Harry's school trunk in front of him. Seeing the book in Harry's hands, he smiled.
"Interesting choice for pastime reading."
Harry closed the book and put it on the bedside table. "Sorry. I didn't know when you'd come back and thought I might have a look at the books here."
Remus just waved him off.
"I don't mind, Harry. I don't think Sirius has something here that should not fall into the hands of a sixteen year old." He shrugged. "And even if he had, it's not as if you're an ordinary sixteen year old anyway. I just don't think that it's a good read, it will probably bore you to sleep within fifteen minutes. If you want to read something, I could bring you some novels from downstairs."
"That would be great, thanks."
"No problem. All right, here is your school trunk. I hope I packed in everything at your relatives' house, but it didn't look as if you had unpacked much of it already.
And here's some spare parchment for your letters."
"I'll be downstairs if you need something else. And I guess Sirius will be up with you again shortly, he's already drumming his fingers on the armrests impatiently, and if whatever Albus tells him isn't all that important he'll be up here again within half an hour."
Harry leaned over the edge of he bed and searched around in his trunk until he found his quill and ink, then he sat back on his bed and reached for a piece of parchment. Remus had already left the room again and so Harry took his time and started to write his letters to Ron and Hermione.
He told Ron in lengths about the Dragonpox and how plain disgusting the potion with which the pustules were treated was, guessing that Ron could relate to what he was saying. With five brothers and a sister, Harry thought it unlikely that Ron had not had Dragonpox as a child. He didn't go too much into detail with Hermione, knowing already that she would research everything on the sickness immediately anyway. After telling his friends that he was doing as fine as one in his situation could, and that he was staying with Sirius and Remus, though he had no idea where exactly that was, he asked them for news from the weeks in which they had not seen each other and finished the letters. They weren't exactly the longest he had ever written, but right now he just didn't have anything more to say. When one of the adults came up later on, he'd ask them to bring the letters to Hedwig and send her on her way.
But somehow it was as if Sirius had known that he was finished, because Harry had just put the letters aside and been leafing through the Grindelwald book for maybe fifteen minutes when the door to his room opened slowly and Sirius entered, balancing a tray on top of a rather large stack of books. The whole construction swayed dangerously in his arms, but nothing fell down so Harry supposed that maybe Remus had put a sticking charm on it.
Finally Sirius reached the bed and knelt down next to it, placing the books on the floor and taking the tray off the top.
Before he even said something, he placed a hand on Harry's forehead and felt his temperature.
"How are you feeling?"
"Fine. A bit drowsy still, but not really tired."
"Good. No fever as far as I can see, that should mean you're on the mend. In about a week you'll be as good as new."
Harry closed the book that still lay in his lap and softly put it on the floor next to his bed as Sirius reached for the tray on the bedside table.
"Okay, I have some tea here for you, and Remus also made sandwiches to keep you from starving until lunch. He had to head off to Hogwarts with Professor Dumbledore for some reason and so lunch will be a bit later than usual today."
"But I've eaten breakfast only a bit more than an hour ago."
Sirius sat down on the foot end of Harry's bed and gave him a look that clearly said 'And where's the problem?', something Harry was used to after five years of being friends with Ron. Some people could eat anytime and anywhere, and his godfather seemed to belong to them.
"You're still growing, you need to eat. Besides, you don't look as if you've eaten pretty much during the past weeks."
Harry realized that he was fighting a losing battle of wills here, and he truly felt a bit hungry again, so he didn't complain any further. Though the thought that food was available anytime, not depending on Vernon's mood or Petunia's desire to torment him was still something Harry needed to get used to.
"Remus told me to bring you those books in what I guess is another attempt of his to make the people around him share his bookworm-tendencies."
Harry shook his head. "No, that's alright. I asked him for them."
Sirius rose an eyebrow at that, seemingly surprised that Harry had actually asked for books. But Harry just shrugged.
"I can't expect the both of you to sit up with me for the entire day, so I need something to keep myself occupied. I mean, you and Remus surely have something more important to do than to keep me company."
"There's nothing more important than you right now, Harry."
There was nothing but honesty in Sirius' voice, but still Harry felt a bit uncomfortable at hearing this. He knew that Sirius as well as Remus were involved deeply with Albus Dumbledore and whatever it was that his headmaster was doing against the threat of Voldemort. There was a war approaching and with the Ministry in its momentary state of absolute inactivity, Dumbledore needed every good wizard and witch he could get to help him in his cause. Harry just knew that Sirius and Remus had to do something else, and Harry's presence surely caused a couple of disturbances in the plans they had had.
But Sirius seemed to have finished that topic with his last statement, because he didn't say anything more about it but remained firmly seated on the foot end of Harry's bed.
"But right now I'm free and I'm here, and if you want to start reading now I'll die of boredom." He sighed and let himself dramatically fall backwards onto the bed in an impression of what his death of boredom was looking like. "I've had enough of watching people read over the course of the past year, thank you very much." Sirius sat up again. "Remus hardly ever does anything else, really. You finished your letters?"
Harry nodded and gestured at the parchments on his bedside table.
"Yeah, one for Ron and one for Hermione. If you find the time later on, I'd be glad if you could bring them up to Hedwig. Remus said something about her being in the attic."
Sirius nodded. "If she doesn't show up before that, I will. We'll just leave the window open, maybe she comes for a visit anyway. That owl is pretty attached to you."
Harry smiled fondly. "She's been my first real present. Harry got her for me on my eleventh birthday, just after telling me that I was a wizard and that I could leave the Dursleys for most of the year. As if that hadn't been present enough already."
Sirius stopped smiling as Harry mentioned his relatives, and he began to rummage around in the stack of books next to Harry's bed. He cursed loudly as his hand got stuck in the sticking charm that was holding the books together, then pulled out his wand and removed the charm. Stored in one of the books were some sheets of parchment, folded neatly. He handed them to Harry.
"Here, I wanted to show you those. A Ministry owl delivered them while Albus was visiting, otherwise I'd have come up with them immediately."
Harry frowned and took up the parchments. "What is this?"
"Well", Sirius started with a mischievous smile, "let's just say that I no longer do something illegal by keeping you with me."
"They granted you custody?"
Sirius nodded. "I think Albus sped things up a bit, as far he had an influence on it, though he won't admit it. Maybe he even called in a couple of favours, because I had not expected things to go this fast. Or smoothly, for that matter. I had expected them to be a bit more reluctant about it, to have them make unannounced visits or to question you, but nothing." He shrugged. "The fact that your parents announced me as your guardian in their will and the fact that their inspection of my Gringott's account and my post-trial medical examination seemed to have them convinced that I'm financially able and mentally stable enough to take care of you, so I surely won't complain about the lack of people snooping around in our lives."
Suddenly, his face grew serious.
"I hope it's all right with you that all this happened so fast. I know we haven't really talked about it, I thought there would be time once you were up and about again."
Harry fingered the parchment in his hands carefully, as if it would evolve into dust if he touched it wrongly. He could not really believe that he was holding them in his hands, that those parchments meant what he thought they did.
"This means I'll never have to go back to the Dursleys if I don't want to, right?"
Harry's voice sounded a bit too childish for his own liking, but if Sirius noticed he didn't show. He nodded.
"And it means that I can stay with you. They can't change that suddenly and make me leave again, can they?"
Sirius shook his head. "No, they can't."
Harry smiled and looked into Sirius' eyes.
"Then it's perfectly all right. Thank you, Sirius."
Sirius smiled a relieved smile and squeezed Harry's shoulder once. "Nothing to thank me for. Now, I don't know how Remus already told you, but when you're better again we're going to prepare to move."
He searched Harry's face for any sign of surprise, but
didn't find anything. Harry just shrugged.
"Remus said something about moving to your place, but nothing more."
Sirius nodded and settled more comfortably onto the foot end of the mattress. "Right, then I think I should start telling you a couple of things. I spent the days before Remus and I went to Privet Drive going through fourteen years worth of bank accounts and property reports, all stuff about which I really don't have a clue. You see, my parents were not exactly poor and my savings from the few years after school before I got arrested also stayed in my Gringott's account until a week ago and grew interests upon interests there. In addition to that, my parents also left me their house when they died and I lived there until I got carted off to Azkaban.
Now, I haven't been at the house in years, mind you, but from what I gathered from the official papers it's still standing. When you're healthy again I want to take you and Remus along to have a look at it. It might be a day or two of work to do, but I hope that we'll have your birthday party there."
Harry blushed a little. "I really don't need a birthday party, Sirius."
"What?" Sirius roared indignantly. "You're going to be sixteen Harry! Of course you need a birthday party. You'll invite all of your friends over, listen to extremely annoying music and complain about the adults who are hanging around the house, and then you'll try to get drunk on the booze that some of your more daring friends have smuggled in and have a horrible headache the next morning which makes you swear never to drink again. Just like a party for a sixteenth birthday should look like." He shrugged. "At least that's what my sixteenth birthday looked like. Though I think Remus will be after my blood if I let you drink."
Harry laughed. "He didn't agree with you getting yourself drunk on your sixteenth birthday?"
Sirius thought for a moment, then laughed a loud, roaring laugh. "No, you can't say that. He rather was one of the more daring friends – along with your father – who managed to smuggle a bottle of Odgeon's Firewhiskey in behind my father's back to spike our drinks. You might not believe it, but Remus was not always this serious and grown up as he is now. There were times when he proved himself to be an equally talented prankster than your father and I were. But Remus was the only one of us who kept to his vow of never getting himself drunk again after that party."
Harry frowned. "Why?"
"Let's just say that he found out how alcohol works on the werewolf metabolism the hard way. Really, I thought he'd never stop throwing up." He laughed fondly at the memory. "But by now Remus has become a responsible adult, and in case some of your friend plan on...let's say brightening things up a bit at your party, they should prepare on what they're dealing with. That man can get really scary sometimes."
Harry just shook his head and tried to imagine what that might look like. For the life of him, he could not imagine Remus sternly confiscating alcohol on a birthday party, but then again he only knew him as his teacher so far. Sirius surely knew what he was talking about.
But as Harry didn't think any of his friends would try to do anything like this, he needn't worry about it. Okay, Fred and George would surely not arrive at a party empty-handed, but somehow Harry had the fleeting suspicion that if the twins brought something to 'brighten things up', then it would not be alcohol.
And he really didn't need to worry about this now, because the idea of having a birthday party was still a completely abstract concept for him anyway. He'd not start planning a birthday party anytime soon, he'd rather watch and wait how things developed from here on. He was glad enough to be with Sirius right now, happy that he would never have to return to the Dursleys, that was enough for him. He didn't really need a birthday party on top of that.
Sirius waved a hand in front of Harry's eyes. "You still with me?"
Harry blinked rapidly and nodded. "Yeah, sorry. Drifted off for a moment."
Immediately, concern showed on Sirius' face again. "Are you feeling all right? Do you want to sleep?"
Harry shook his head. "No. No, I'm not tired." He smiled wryly. "You wouldn't happen to have some Exploding Snap cards here, would you?"
Sirius' eyes brightened.
"Oh, I don't think you know what you let yourself in for. Just give me one moment." He got up from the foot end of the bed and walked over to the chest of drawers on the wall, pulled open a drawer and started to rummage around. His hands vanished up to his elbows into the drawer, and Harry had the fleeting thought that Remus would have a heart failure if he took a look into that chest of drawers. Remus seemed to be a very tidy person, but his godfather on the other hand...
"Ha!" With a look of triumph Sirius pulled out a set of Exploding Snap cards and quickly shut the drawer again. Harry had the fleeting impression that something had snapped at Sirius' hand shortly before the drawer closed shut, but he quickly dismissed that thought. If there was something living in Sirius' chest of drawers, he didn't think he wanted to know.
Harry obediently sat up, his back leaning against the headboard while Sirius sat down opposite of him and dealt out the cards on the blankets between them. "All right Harry, ready to face the all time ever Hogwarts Exploding Snap champion?"
Harry just grinned. "Bragger." He picked up his cards and they began to play.
When Remus came into the room two and a half hours later, carrying a tray with lunch in front of him, he didn't even bother to hide his smile. Harry's bed was covered in soot as if something had exploded between the bed sheets. A discarded game of Exploding Snape was still lying on the covers, some cards had fallen down onto the floor. Harry was half sitting, half lying against the headboard, his eyes closed and his head fallen to the side. Amidst the chaos of his bed sheets, Sirius lay outstretched across the bed on his stomach, a book in his hands and a bored look on his face as he leafed through the pages of one of the novels Remus had sent him to bring up.
Remus set down the tray on the bedside table, thus drawing Sirius' attention.
Sirius snapped the book close and rolled onto his side. "Yeah. Fell asleep in the middle of a game of Exploding Snap, have you ever heard about something like that?"
Remus chuckled. "No, but I remember somebody falling asleep in the Quidditch stands, in the middle of a Gryffindor versus Slytherin match."
"I didn't get any sleep the night before! And besides, it's irrelevant, because I would have been playing had it not been for that stupid banishment from the team for the game."
The smile on Remus' lips died. Maybe he should not have brought up that topic right now. Sirius had been banned from the Quidditch team for the entire second term of their sixth year as a direct consequence of his sending Snape down the passage of the Whomping Willow. But Sirius didn't seem to think about that sore topic right now, because he leaned up on his elbows and tried to look onto the tray with food.
"I smell lunch! Shall we wake Harry?"
Remus shook his head. "No, let him sleep. A little nap might do him good, his temperature is still a bit higher than usual. Shall we go downstairs?"
Instead of answering, Sirius carefully leaned forward over Harry's sleeping form and grabbed one of the plates from the tray. "Nah, let's stay here. He'll be just bored if he wakes up alone, and from all that I know about him he would not even call for food if he was close to starvation. Thanks to those blasted relatives of his."
Remus mustered Sirius with an intense gaze. "I hope you're not planning anything stupid, Sirius."
Sirius frowned, feigning ignorance. He failed miserably. "Like what, Remus?"
"Like going for another visit at Privet Drive, for example." The look on his friend's face told him that he had hit a nerve with what he had said. "Sirius, leave it be. It won't help anybody if you go banging in there and hex the Dursleys into oblivion."
"Leave it be? Remus, that muggle hit Harry! Look at that bruise on his face, can you imagine how hard he must have slapped him for that? And they didn't even think it necessary to bring him to a doctor when he got sick. I don't even want to imagine what had happened if we had not taken him out of there."
"I know that, Sirius. And I'm just as angry about this as you are. But I also know that it will help nobody if you lose your temper and try to pay the Dursleys back. The Ministry will take Harry away from you faster than you can say 'Quidditch' and then he'll have to go back to them. Do you want that?"
Sirius shook his head in defeat, though there was still a gleam in his eye that told Remus that he had not entirely convinced his friend.
"No, I don't want that."
"Then promise me you won't go back to the Dursleys."
Sirius didn't answer immediately, so Remus went over towards him and put a hand on his shoulder.
"All right, all right, I promise."
Remus nodded. "Thank you." Then he took up his own plate of food. "Good. Just keep that in mind. Let's eat now and then we should probably clean up the mess the two of you left on that bed."
Sirius nodded reluctantly, but he obediently picked up his fork and started on his food. Remus might have coaxed the promise not to go visiting the Dursleys on his own accord out of him, and Sirius would not break that promise, but should the possibility present itself to pay Harry's relatives back some day, he was not all that sure he would be able to keep himself in check. For Vernon Dursley's own sake the man should hope never to accidentally encounter Sirius in his life.