Chapter 15: You're WHAT?
Tuesday, August 17, began like any other day at the Marauders' Den (a name coined by Sirius in jest, which had stuck). The Pack awakened slowly, enjoying the morning and the company of each other. The positions in which the cubs were found were compared to the ones in which they had begun the night, because they were always different, and almost always amusing.
On this particular morning, for instance, Harry was lying on top of Danger, which wouldn't have been nearly so funny if Danger hadn't been sleeping on her side. "He looks like he's sleeping on a balance beam," Aletha said, touching one of Harry's limply hanging arms.
"Good thing he didn't have a nightmare," Remus commented. "The way he screams, Danger wouldn't have been able to hear anything in that ear for a couple of days."
"He hasn't had one for a while," Sirius said. "At least three days, I think. Nights, rather."
"Neither have you." Aletha wound her arms around Sirius. "If this keeps up, we'll be able to go back to separate sleeping quarters soon."
"And why would you want to do that?" Sirius asked innocently.
Aletha whispered something in his ear. Sirius' eyebrows rose, and a speculative smile appeared on his face. "I like the sound of that," he said, pulling her into his lap and bending down to kiss her.
"I'll get the paper," Remus said, shaking his head. "Don't wake anyone up. And don't forget it's a weekday."
He might as well not have spoken for all the notice they took.
Later that day, Remus was playing "broomstick" with Harry, holding him out at arms' length, belly down, and "flying" him around the house. Hermione hadn't liked the game when he tried it with her, so she was tucked into a corner of their front room, playing with a baby doll. Harry, on the other hand, never wanted to stop playing.
James' son all over. We'll have to go to Hogsmeade some time, the meadows outside town are safe to fly undisguised in. Teach Danger to fly, and take Harry up—he'll love it.
He zoomed Harry down the hallway in the Whites' side of the house that led from their back room, where they denned (Aletha's back room was her music room) to the front room. There were three doors in the hall—the one on his left led to the kitchen, which had a nice view of the house next door, and the other two, both on his right, led to the ground floor bathroom and the coat closet. He glanced into the bathroom and chuckled, as he always did, at the message Danger had written on the wall above the toilet: "Put It Down."
"Hi, Neenie!" Harry shouted as Remus "flew" him into the front room and landed him.
"Hi," Hermione said briefly, then returned to her doll. Harry grabbed a bucket of blocks and sat down near her, dumping them out and sorting through them, starting a tower.
Whew. He's tired of it for the moment. Good. Remus rolled his shoulders. He's getting heavier. Which is good, in theory, but it's hard on my arms!
He went up the stairs, which were along the outside wall, and paused at the top. The normal sounds of the house mingled in his ears: the noise of Harry's blocks, Hermione singing to her doll, and the rhythmic clicking of Sirius' typewriter keys...
Of all the hobbies for him to take up, writing wasn't one I would have picked... but he seems to have taken to it, and far be it from me to stop him doing what he wants.
Sirius had come across Danger's typewriter in one of the upstairs bedrooms and been fascinated by it. She had taught him to type, and soon he was spending several hours every day at the machine, tapping out—what, Remus wondered? Sirius rarely showed what he did to anyone, at least not until he was sure it was perfect.
So, we'll find out when we find out.
Another sound caught his ear.
Someone was crying.
Not one of the children, he could see them and they were both perfectly happy. It sounded like a woman, but Aletha and Danger were both supposed to be at work...
He reached for Danger's presence in his mind and found it almost entirely blocked. He could just sense her, and the emotion predominating her mind—grief, old grief suddenly fresh...
What's wrong? he sent, as gently as he could. Where are you?
A sniffle, audible even mentally. Guest bedroom, our side.
Remus went to the indicated door and tried the knob. It was locked, but before he could get his wand out, Danger opened it herself. Her eyes were slightly red, but she was smiling. Should have known I couldn't hide for long.
Why aren't you at work?
I called off. I couldn't go to work, not today.
What's today, love?
She beckoned him into the room and closed the door behind him. The room was somewhat cluttered with the things they hadn't found room for anywhere else, but Danger had cleared the large desk and placed two framed photographs on it. One showed a slightly balding man with warm brown eyes, the other a woman whose bushy brown hair was streaked with silver.
Oh. Remus began to massage Danger's shoulders gently, offering comfort without pressing for anything more.
It was a year ago, today, Danger said, staring at the photographs. I was so happy. I had the perfect life. And then it all collapsed in front of me. They were my world. I loved them so much... and I couldn't help them, I couldn't save them, I wasn't even there...
If you had been there, you would have died with them, Remus thought, but kept it to himself. It wasn't what his love needed to hear.
I know I couldn't have done anything, but I can't help wishing anyway... Hermione will never know them, except through stories and pictures. I can't possibly be as good a mother to her as my mum was. You should have known them, Remus. You would have loved them.
I'm sure I would, Remus said, sliding his hands down along Danger's collarbone and embracing her. They must have been wonderful people, to have daughters like Neenie and you.
Danger turned within the circle of his arms, buried her face in his shirt, and began to cry. He just held her, offering her the comfort of his presence and his love.
That's all any of us have to give. It will have to be enough.
And, eventually, it was.
The full moon in September fell on the 7th. That day also marked a milestone—the first time both Harry and Sirius had gone for a week without a nightmare. It was decided, by general consensus, that it was time to try sleeping in the bedrooms again.
"We're leaving the children in together, right?" Aletha asked.
"Oh, of course," Danger said. "They're both so little, there's no harm, and it's still not a good idea for Harry to be alone at night. Separate beds, though."
You can put them in separate beds, but I'd be willing to bet that more mornings than not, they'll wake up in the same one. Or in one of ours.
"Yes, they do seem to migrate quite a lot at night, don't they," Danger said fondly, as Neenie rearranged herself closer to Harry.
"We'll lock the door if we want privacy," Sirius said. "Until they learn to knock."
"What an excellent idea," Danger said, employing an ultra-bland tone but raising one suggestive eyebrow.
Aletha punched her in the arm. "Go wash your mind out. As if you won't be doing the same."
"Now that's really none of your business."
Sirius sniggered. "Nothing around here stays private for long. Pack life's like that."
"I'd noticed." At least they don't hear this.
Yes, it is rather nice to have a private channel of communication, isn't it. So, do you have any plans tomorrow night?
Nothing that doesn't involve you...
September passed without incident, except Hermione's second birthday on the 19th, which the Pack celebrated just as happily as they had Harry's. Harry, thankfully, was a little more restrained about Neenie's presents than she had been about his, and Neenie, for her part, was less free with distributing her birthday cake than Harry had been.
I thought I'd never get it off the ceiling after his party, Aletha recalled, smiling to herself as she brushed her teeth. It was October now, October 16, a Saturday, and the Pack had plans to go up to Hogsmeade for the day.
A knock sounded in the bathroom, but it wasn't on the door. Aletha opened the medicine cabinet to face Danger, looking through her own cabinet in the other master bathroom. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Would you happen to have a feminine hygiene product on hand?"
"I do. Maxi or mini?"
Aletha extracted the needed product from a package under the sink and passed it through. "Here you are."
"Thank you ever so." Danger closed the cabinet, and Aletha did the same.
Come to think of it, I'm late. I should have needed one of those last week.
She glanced over her shoulder into the bedroom, where Sirius was still asleep.
Oh, no way. Not this soon. It can't be. I have to be wrong.
But there was a way to find out...
She slipped into the bedroom and picked up her wand, lying next to Sirius' on the dresser, then returned to the bathroom and locked herself in. I do not need to be discovered doing this.
"Revelare Ventris," she said softly. A fine gold mist sprayed from the end of her wand and hung in the air, in a roughly spherical shape. Aletha took a deep breath and blew on the mist.
It turned blue.
I was right.
An incredulous smile beginning on her face, Aletha looked down at herself, at her belly, so deceptively flat at the moment.
We're going to have a baby.
What is Sirius going to say? Or do, for that matter?
Come to think of that, what am I going to do? How do I explain this at work? They don't even know I'm married, I can't very well ask for maternity leave!
Cross that bridge when you come to it, Letha. First things first.
Inform the father.
Her smile grew.
Wish I had a camera. This will be priceless.
"Padfoot, love," she called quietly as she came back into the bedroom. "Wake up, I have something to tell you."
"No, you have to be awake for this. Come on, wake up."
"You want me to conjure some ice down your back?"
"No!" Sirius sat up quickly, facing Aletha, who had established herself at the bottom of the bed. "All right, I'm awake. What's this big thing you have to tell me?"
Aletha took a deep breath. Better not dance around it. Just tell him.
"Sirius, I'm pregnant."
I was right. That's the dumbest he's looked in years. It's right up there with the look on his face when I told him I'd go out with him...
"Pregnant. With your child. We're going to be parents." Aletha grinned. "Harry and Hermione get a little brother. Or a little sister. Understand yet?"
"How did this happen?" Sirius said, still looking bewildered.
Aletha burst out laughing. "Somehow I don't think you need a lecture on the birds and the bees!" she managed to say.
"That is not what I meant and you know it. I... I meant... oh dammit, never mind what I meant, c'mere!" He grabbed her hand and pulled her over on top of him, pulling her mouth to his for a long, passionate kiss. "I love you more than ever," he said when they came up for air. He stroked her stomach. "My child. No, our child. We're going to have a baby!"
They were both grinning now, sharing the joy of a new life begun.
Danger was taking a tray of drop scones out of the oven when Sirius and Aletha got down to the kitchen. Harry and Neenie were sitting on Remus' lap, "helping" him do the crossword in the Daily Prophet.
"Good morning," Remus said, looking over the paper. "You two look very happy about something."
"We have an announcement," Sirius said importantly.
Do you think... Danger murmured silently.
"I'm pregnant," Aletha said, beaming.
"Congratulations," Remus said, removing the children from his lap so he could give Aletha a hug and slap Sirius on the back. "Didn't take you long, Padfoot."
Sirius grinned, sliding one arm around Aletha's waist. "With such beauty to inspire me, how could I fail?" He tickled his wife, making her squeal.
"I'm so happy for you," Danger said, embracing her friend. "When?"
"June, I think," Aletha said. "We'll have to get it checked out, but I should be about a month along."
"Who's going to do the checking?" Remus asked. "A Muggle doctor, or a Healer?"
"That's a good question." Aletha went to the table and sat down, and they all followed her. Neenie climbed into her lap, as Harry went back to Remus. "If I go to a Healer, even with confidentiality, someone's bound to see me coming and going, and that's how rumors start."
"But Muggle doctors don't always know how to treat magical illnesses," Sirius said.
"Pregnancy is hardly a magical illness," Aletha pointed out tartly. "No, I think a gynecologist would be the safest way to go, in this case."
"We can do some research tomorrow," Remus said. "Today, we have an expedition to go on."
"After breakfast," said Danger firmly. "I'm hungry."
"Oh dear." Aletha swallowed. "And I'm not. Excuse me."
Hermione slid to the floor with an indignant sound as Aletha ran for the bathroom.
"Oh boy, morning sickness," Danger said. "You're in for a fun time, Sirius."
"So I see." Sirius got up and followed his wife.
"Well, we can eat at any rate," Remus said, transferring Harry into his booster seat (the high chairs had been put away).
"Will we still be able to go?" Danger asked, doing the same with Neenie.
"Probably. Letha may want to stay home, but the rest of us can go."
As it happened, Aletha felt better after her brief "call to Ralph on the porcelain phone", as Danger put it, and the journey to Hogsmeade went forward as planned. Luckily for them, it was a Hogwarts weekend, so the village was crowded and they went mostly unnoticed.
Aletha Flooed there first, with Sirius in dog form reared up against her so as not to hurt himself. Danger went next, alone in case she got lost, and only when her slightly giddy Made it reached Remus did he scoop up Harry and Hermione, one in each arm, and step into the fire, saying, "The Three Broomsticks!"
The children squealed gleefully as they spun through the emerald flames—apparently they thought it was some kind of ride. Remus almost fell at the other end, the weight in his arms unbalancing him, but Danger and Aletha were ready, one on each side, and caught him. And, he noticed, Padfoot was standing just beyond them and probably would have taken his weight if the women had dropped him.
"Thanks," he said, brushing some ash off his cloak. "Shall we?"
Aletha took Sirius' lead, Danger Hermione's hand, and Remus Harry's. They had decided to go out flying first, then have lunch, and afterwards tour the village. But for flying, they needed broomsticks.
Madame Sylvia's Broomstick Rental to the rescue.
The place was just off the main street, a nice little shop, well-known to the students who didn't have their own brooms. You could rent brooms there by the hour, the day, the week, or the month. There was even a kids' section, with the toy broomsticks that would only go about two feet off the ground and five miles an hour, and had built-in Safety Charms so the child couldn't fall off.
"Two adult, one child, please," Remus said to the pleasant red-haired woman behind the counter.
"Certainly, love. How long?"
"Hmm, three hours?"
"All right. That's two Sickles an hour for each adult broom, and one for the child, so that comes to fifteen Sickles altogether."
The money exchanged hands, and they left the shop carrying two sturdy Comet models, not the fastest things in the world but reliable, and one little Meteorite.
You do realize, the children will both want to ride that little broom, Danger said.
I doubt it. Not when I'm taking Harry riding with me.
You could be right.
"I can teach you the basics, Danger, and Padfoot can watch Neenie while she plays," Aletha said, stopping and unclipping Sirius' collar, since they had left the village behind and were now out in open fields. Sirius sat down and scratched where it had been, then shook vigorously.
"I'll be ready as soon as we get Neenie set up on that," Danger said, waving at the Meteorite.
Remus handed it to her and put down one of the Comets for them to use, then picked the other one back up and looked down at Harry's eager face. "Want to go flying, Greeneyes?"
Harry jumped up and down, shouting, "F'ying, f'ying!"
"All right, just wait a second." Remus held the broom in the air at mounting height and felt it activate. He let go; it hung there, waiting. He scooped Harry up and put him on the broom, making the little boy squeal with delight. Using his wand, he tethered Harry to the broom with a fairly short, elastic cord—not that I'm planning to drop him, but accidents happen, and he's a squirmer. Then he mounted the broom himself and kicked off.
Harry shrieked with joy as they ascended. Remus looked down and saw Neenie cautiously maneuvering her toy broomstick around Sirius, who was watching her with what looked like amusement (canine emotions were hard to read from above). Danger had just got the broom to respond to her command of "Up", and was now practicing how to mount.
"Fasser, Moony!" Harry yelled.
Definitely James's son. "Faster it is," Remus said, laughing, and urged the broom onwards.
For nearly an hour, they circled, swooped, and dived. Harry never seemed to get tired of it. On one dive, he actually let go of the broom—and his balance never wavered. Remus had an arm around him at all times, but Harry didn't seem to need the help. It was as if he had been born to fly.
Which he may have been. James always claimed he never had a flying teacher—he just got on his broom and flew. Whereas my father had to work with me for weeks before I was anything like competent.
Danger came up to meet them after about an hour and flew a wobbly circle around them. "This is fun," she said as she pulled alongside. "But I keep thinking I'm going to fall off."
"Better stay close to the ground for a while, then," Remus recommended. "Time to land, anyway. Letha might want a turn."
"After being sick this morning? I doubt it."
"Well, she Flooed already today, and that's worse on your stomach than flying is."
"It's a completely different kind of feeling. Traveling by Floo is spinning. This is up and down."
Arguing companionably, they descended, slowly so Danger wouldn't lose control.
"You know, we should have got these for them," Danger said as she tried to remove Neenie from the toy broom; the little girl had enjoyed herself, judging by her screech of indignation as Danger pried her fingers loose. "For their birthdays."
"Christmas is coming," Remus pointed out.
High in the sky, two broomsticks circled one another. Aletha had indeed wanted a turn. So had Sirius. No one was in sight, no one was likely to come, so it was safe enough.
Life, Remus mused, is very good.
(A/N: Attention readers: I need input! Do you want the Dursleys to stay part of the story, or should I let them fade miserably into the sunset? I have ideas for both ways... so let me know what you think! Also, if you've put this story on a C2, thank you, no objections, but could you please let me know about it? Thanks!
The responses to this story just stun me. I'm amazed that so many different people all seem to like my work. Thank you a million times, everyone!
Next chapter, "Beautiful Is the Child", coming soon! Maybe not as soon as you want, but soon!)