Disclaimer: all characters belong to J K Rowling and Warner brothers.
a/n dedicated to rubie and Shadow, whom both sent swift kicks to my muse's behind [about 11 months ago]
This snip-bit takes place six months after the conclusion of 'Of Western Stars.'
The order of the stories in the 'Of Western Stars' universe:
Of Western Stars by neutral
Of Snow by neutral
Clawtracks of a Star by neutral
Let Winterlight Come by fyre
Hunting for Marbles by neutral
Half of Dueling Range by neutral
Good Intentions by neutral
Part I – of padded dollhouses
Daily Prophet, Breaking News:
… the brief glimpse of The-Boy-Who-Lived six months ago at the Hogwarts infirmary was the last since the wizarding world had seen of the young child. It is rumored that he is residing with his godfather and one time accused murderer, Sirius Black, and a friend of his father's, Remus Lupin, whose secretive past brings to question possible dark activities he may have been involved in prior to the Dark Lord's fall. Although several witches and wizards claimed to have sighted a very similar looking boy with two young men, many still hold to the belief that the young savior is in the hands of one time supporters of his arch enemy. This reporter pleads Minster Fudge to act on our young savior and this world's behalf to…
Set three mugs on the counter. Reinforce two of them with anti-spill and anti-crack charms. Pour lukewarm water from the pot neatly into the cups. Add five teaspoons of coco and stir.
Remus mentally checked off the instructions, working with the mechanical skill of someone well acquainted with the task. He was careful to tip more of the powder into the two charmed cups, knowing Sirius' sweet tooth and Harry's… well, he did it because Harry was seven and was the most adorable little boy who ever graced the earth. If Remus had stepped back and eliminated the parental sentiments involved in that conclusion, he would have realized that his judgments were only slightly biased.
Remus distractedly wondered if this was the same syndrome those parenting books described. Remus had moved into the Moor House with the intention of keeping Harry from being spoiled rotten by Sirius, but it seemed that he had been doing the opposite.
Remus ensured that Harry's cup of coco had an extra handful of marshmallows as well. Sirius could get his own. Harry was too shy and subdued to speak up even if Remus were to accidentally hand him a bowl of dishwater rather than soup. And if one of them were to inquire why Harry wasn't eating, the poor kid would even drink a few mouthfuls to alleviate their worries. Remus added two extra cookies to Harry's tray at that thought.
He let the spoons revolving clockwise in the steaming mugs with a whispered spell and turned his attention back to the sizzling strips of bacon. But through the din, his sensitive ears could discern the soft padding of bare feet drawing tentatively near. Remus watched the reflection of the kitchen door on a metal toaster through the corner of his eye and couldn't hide a grin a small figure with a mop of unruly dark hair cautiously peeked into the room.
Remus would have teased the child and pretended that he was oblivious to his presence if he hadn't known that Harry would have sensed it in a moment. Turning around slowly, Remus gave the young boy a warm smile.
"Awake already?" Remus asked. The child had a rather erratic sleeping pattern; one morning, he'd awake before Remus and another, sleep until noon. But Sirius and Remus humored him.
"Padfoot won't wake," Harry said softly, nervously worrying his lip. "I tried to wake him but… he's still sleeping."
Harry's definition of 'trying to wake' probably involved meekly calling out Padfoot's name and tugging very lightly at a corner of the blanket.
Remus' smile widened as he resignedly shook his head. "Come here, Harry, I want you to see something."
Harry cautiously tiptoed into the kitchen, and Remus couldn't decide whether he should be amused or worried. The child always moved as if treading on thin ice. It was endearing, but then Remus realized who had forced him to act like that.
The child felt feather-light when Remus hoisted him up. Slipping the curtains of the window back, Remus shifted the boy in his arms so that Harry had a full view of the grounds below.
Harry's eyes lit like a glowing Christmas tree, fresh from the celebration of lights.
"It snowed!" he breathed out in wonder as if it had been the first time he had seen such a sight.
"You see, Padfoot is going to be sleeping for a long time yet. He's going into hibernation," Remus teasingly explained.
Harry blinked. "Hiber…?"
"It's December," Remus said gently. "Animals like bears eat to store up fat during that time, before burrowing themselves in a cave and sleeping until spring."
Bright green eyes widened and looked ready to leap from the child's face. "Padfoot will…?"
"No, Harry, of course not," Remus stifled a laugh as he lightly smoothened Harry's untamable hair. "Padfoot isn't a bear, although I'm not quite sure if he's completely human."
Harry's expression blanked again.
"I was only teasing," Remus added quickly.
Harry was gradually beginning to comprehend Remus and Sirius' innocent bickering, it still took a while for him to notice all the signs. Harry understood when one of the two began laughing, but otherwise, he took their words into rather careful consideration.
Remus inwardly grimaced when he tried to imagine Harry innocently questioning his godfather about Remus' earlier words. Sirius wouldn't take it well if Harry confronted him wondering about Sirius' humanity. Silently grinning, Remus contemplated the repercussions. Sirius would know without a second thought that it was Remus who inserted that thought into his godson's head and he'd probably be dragged into another one of their skirmishes.
He wasn't surprised Minerva thought Harry was the only mature one in their household. She always came at the worst possible times.
"Go upstairs and sleep, Harry. Six is too early for someone your age to be awake." Remus made another futile attempt at taming Harry's rumpled hair before setting him down.
"You don't need help?" Harry curiously asked. He tailed Remus through the kitchen like a meek young pet.
"No, I'm fine," Remus assured him. "Go on. Breakfast will be ready soon."
Harry lingered, catching the edge of Remus' sleeve and tugging lightly. "But the bacon…"
Remus suddenly noticed the thick layer of smoke clouding the kitchen.
Sirius unconsciously furrowed his brow as he struggled to ignore whatever feeling of wakefulness that was coming over him. It felt much too early to be up, but there was a pricking feeling at the back of his neck and a strange feeling of unease that was slowly overtaking his lethargy. There was something decidedly wrong.
Reluctantly, Sirius cracked open an eye and scanned the room sluggishly. His other eye was pressed against the pillow and Sirius rapidly decided it would expend too much energy to lift his head and free it.
Nothing. Everything was in its place, or rather, out of its place. Then why…?
That prickling feeling was still there, stronger than ever. Sirius slowly tensed under the warm covers: he was being watched. With effort, he pried open his other eye and sneaked a hand under the pillow for his wand.
"Padfoot?" asked a very small voice.
Sirius' head shot up as all pretense of sleep crumbled.
"Harry? What are you…?" Sirius trailed off when he noticed his godson, head resting on his hands, watching his every move with unblinking green eyes.
"You wouldn't wake before," Harry explained, fidgeting the seat he had pulled up beside Sirius' bed, "so I thought I'd just wait."
… and wake up your godfather by staring at the back of his head, Sirius silently added. Well, it worked.
Groggily, Sirius blinked at the slight figure of his godson swinging his legs on the oversized chair (or perhaps Harry was just the one undersized) and instantly knew that he had lost. He slung an arm lightly over the small child's shoulders for a sleepy embrace and grinned in amusement when Harry patted Sirius' head like an overgrown dog's. The boy would never grow out of that habit.
Sirius drew back to muffle a jaw-popping yawn. Harry, still dressed in his pajamas and his hair in wild disarray, hugged his knees and stared back. Sirius momentarily neglected to answer as he watched his godson.
He looked like five, not seven. No seven year-old should have features like that. Had James been like this when he was a child? If he had, Sirius deeply regretted he had never obtained any blackmail photos.
Harry was adorable, absolutely adorable, Sirius mused. It wasn't his face or his miniature stature that had Sirius wishing he could preserve that face in his memory, but the way he expressed himself. The child was so open, so honest, and so sincere. Sirius was sure that if he were deaf, he would be able to understand Harry just by watching his eyes. The boy would be a terrible liar, even worse than James had been, even when he grew up… if he grew up. Sirius couldn't imagine the child ever being taller than his leg, ever donning on the Hogwarts uniform, ever leading a girl home by the arm.
He knew he was being just a little bit overprotective, but Harry was his godson and a child too timid to speak up in the presence of anyone other than Sirius or Remus. If he hadn't sheltered Harry, he would have been crushed and trampled.
What was that illness that Remus had been accusing him of? Some parenting syndrome… Well, Sirius argued with a defensive note, it couldn't be helped that Harry was the most adorable godson in existence.
Sirius rested his head on a hand and mimicked Harry's thoughtful pose. The child grinned, quickly recognizing the game, and placed a finger on the rim of his glasses.
… not to mention the cleverest godson in existence…
Sirius pretended to pout and dropped his head in defeat. Harry did the same, although his pout was undoubtedly far more effective.
An imitation game was probably too childish for a seven year-old, but for a boy who never had a childhood until he was six, it held the excitement equivalent to the first venture with a picture book. It felt almost like an obligation to make up the past five years with the child. If Harry didn't shy away from crowds, Sirius would have taken him to tour every single amusement center, muggle or magical, just for the sake of keeping him young. Harry deserved to be a child.
"All right, you win," Sirius said with a smile.
After six months of residing in the Moor House, with entire days devoted to every pointless and immature activity he could think of, Sirius was having a hard time imagining living any other way. Sirius remembered the short time when he and Remus had been flatmates after gradation, but comparing those days with the days now, Sirius realized just how much they both changed but how little they have matured. No, that wasn't it… they had grown, been scared in ways no one could imagine and all that rummaging around like immature, overgrown adults was a conscious and mutual choice to reclaim a life they were never able live and to piece together the remains of Harry's childhood.
Harry had affected them both far more than Remus and Sirius understood. Was it the blood oath that strengthened their bond and made them so inseparable?
Lifting a corner of the blankets, Sirius patted the bed and, when Harry crawled onto the four-poster, tucked the sheets around the child. He was shivering slightly from the chilly morning, and instinctively, Sirius wrapped an arm around the boy's small shoulders. Almost intuitively, the child buried his face against his godfather's shoulder.
"Did that tooth fall out yet?" Sirius asked teasingly.
The boy shook his head, his face still hidden against Sirius' shirt, and he couldn't help but smile again. Had his parents made such a fuss over a loss tooth? Sirius couldn't remember. Well, it was Harry's first, so it was only natural.
"Ok, open up. Lemme see… no, don't touch it. Hmm…" Sirius tapped Harry's nose thoughtfully. "Looks like it'll be another day or so. Don't eat any apples in the meantime. And be careful sleeping. You might swallow it."
Harry looked horrified. "You can swallow teeth? Won't it…" the boy shifted, looking very unsettled when he evidently tried to envision it, "float around in your stomach?"
"No, it'll sink and disappear," Sirius couldn't help but laugh when Harry's expression grew even more bewildered. "I'm not good at explaining this. You need to ask Moony."
Harry blinked. "Oh," he said quietly, still very troubled.
Sirius briefly entertained the image of Harry missing one of his front teeth and waving wandless magic with the precision and skill nearing the headmaster's. If any grown wizards were to fall against a child missing a baby tooth, then it would be the most insulting defeat for centuries.
Sirius lightly brushed a few strands of hair from Harry's eyes to see if he was drifting asleep again or just staying quietly thoughtful. The child could be still and silent for hours, Sirius could never quite tell.
"Harry, it seems rather early. What time is it?"
"Six thirty," came the muffled reply. Harry sank under the covers until only his hair was visible as if already anticipating Sirius' response.
"Six thirty?" Sirius spluttered in shock. "Harry, the day doesn't start until nine."
A green eye framed with a round titanium ring peeked at Sirius over the border of the blankets. "But Moony…"
"He doesn't count," Sirius added hastily. At Harry's blank expression, Sirius couldn't resist carrying on. "Moony's old, so of course he doesn't sleep as much."
"But aren't you both the same age?" Harry quietly inquired. Sirius' face fell.
I have to stop falling into my own trap. Sirius chewed the corner of his lip, momentarily forgetting that it was a habit he picked up from his godson and he was really too old for that, and debated the safest course of action. "Well…"
"You both went to school together, so…" Harry trailed off at his godfather's rapidly griming expression.
"We did," Sirius haltingly admitted.
"So are you both old men then?" Harry piped up innocently.
Sirius winced; he was accused of being old by his own godson! This was awful…
Sirius willed himself to be calm as he sat up and folded his arms in a decidedly serious manner. "Harry, you see," he dragged out the phrase until Harry's eyes were bright with curiosity. "Moony has gray hairs while I do not. Therefore, he is older."
"Oh." Harry nodded very understandingly.
Sirius had to grin at the child's thoughtful expression as he digested that. Harry twisted the corner of his sleeve out of habit when he tried to make sense of that.
"But Moony said the other day that you were older because you slept more. It doesn't make any sense."
Sirius' face scrunched up. "He tried to call me old?" What was Remus telling his godson behind his back?
"I think you're both old," Harry said with a shy smile, reaching up to pat his godfather on the head. He said it as if it were the most obvious and simple thing in the world. "It's okay."
Sirius choked. "I am not—" and then he stopped himself.
No, revenge on Moony first, and then correct little Harry's terrible misunderstanding… Sirius dug under the pillow for his wand. Harry, as if already anticipating another scuffle, burrowed himself into the blankets.
"Padfoot," Harry asked suddenly. He looked oddly apprehensive as he peeked at Sirius from beneath the thick covers. "Are you human?"
"What?" Sirius barked out in shock. He quickly lowered his voice. "Wait… what gave you that idea?"
But his mind popped the answer to that question even as it was coming out of his mouth. Sirius silently groaned when he saw the expression on the young boy's face.
"Never mind, Harry, you don't have to answer that." Sirius sat up with as much dignity he could muster and scooped his godson up. "Let's go downstairs and… help Remus with breakfast."
… take to light the recent dispute. Our young savior is residing in a home with two very questionable guardians. This brings to question whether we should risk The-Boy-Who-Lived's life in favor of keeping him in the wizarding world, or return him to the muggle world where he had been safe and untouched for the past five years. Due to the Moor House's (also known as Black Manor) unplotable status, we were unable to communicate to them the current events. The Dursleys, The-Boy-Who-Lived's former family, recently pressed charges against Sirius Black for breaking and entering their home, for kidnapping young Harry Potter against his will, for theft and damage of property, for…
- Rita Skeeter, reporter.
Western Stars was written many, many months ago, so this story probably makes no sense. But those who remember and are still lurking in fandom, thank you!
Ack! Sorry. I kept saying I'll put it up but I never did. It felt wrong to reload it without adding anything to it, and I had hoped to finish it before it was uploaded again, but alas, my muse refused to act, and to keep 'Of Snow' from sitting on my harddrive for another 4 months, it was thrown out without much tweaking. It's likely to be left as is, considering the rewrites of PoM, CoS, and WS are taking much to much time. I'm sorry.
It's been January since CoS was last updated (before the rewrite anyway) and about 6 months before that since Western Stars was completed. Some of you still remember this universe though (thank you! it was a shock to see Hunting for Marbles receive such a response. Honestly, I didn't think I'd get more than 10 reviews). Lots of thank yous!
This story was actually written around December of last year, thus the inspiration for the title, and posted as a chapter in Clawtracks of a Star, but it didn't really fit there. It doesn't really fit just hovering by itself either, but I had forgotten where I intended to go with this story. It was suppose to fade off and die but… well… it didn't quite go. The sappiness of this story won out.
It was going to be another mini-story, but it didn't work well as a stand alone. As for the title: 'Of Snow,' is very abstract like December. Snow insulates. The ground under the snow is warmer than the air above, which is like Harry's world and the world outside. The newspaper articles show a world that's cold and unfeeling, but the world between them is warm. Ack, it's doesn't make much sense, does it?