A few hours after Remus left, leaving behind him some words of encouragement and the promise to stay in touch, and an hour after Leo returned from London, for the first time in almost twelve years Sirius wished he had a cigarette.
Remus had told him to try and that's what he intended to do. He tried to steal a few moments with Caster whenever he could. He would offer homework help, play games with him, ask him questions about his childhood anything to pass the time together. The time they spent together dragged on. Somehow Sirius just didn't know how to relate to the boy. They both struggled through the hours, wondering when the time would be over. The more Sirius spent time with Caster the less he knew what to do and say. He was running out of ideas. It was this that made Sirius feel so nervous about talking to Leo but at the same time he felt desperate to succeed. If only he had a cigarette to calm his nerves.
He knocked on the door to his son's room and entered without waiting for a reply. He couldn't make himself wait; he needed to get this moving as quickly as he could; he needed to know if it was going to work.
As he opened the door Leo looked questioningly up at him. He was unpacking his clothes from his school trunk and slipping them into a tall wardrobe.
"I just need to pick up my things," Sirius explained, pointing to a small pile of his belongings that had been stacked into the corner; a pair of Evan's pyjamas, a half drunk cup of tea and a book Remus had leant him.
Leo nodded at him. "Did Professor Lupin enjoy his stay?"
"I think so… we had a lot to talk about. How was your internship?"
"Excellent," Leo said with a grin, "Providing I get the marks in my NEWTs I can work there next year."
"That's great," Sirius was surprised; from what he'd heard it was even harder to become an unspeakable than it was to become an Auror. Leo must have had some interesting theories… "So have you finished working for the summer?"
"Yes, I should probably focus on my studies for a bit, them and a few experiments" A grin spread across his face that reminded Sirius of James whenever he had an idea for a brilliant prank. "Though I might go and visit Aunt Florence with Caster then go to my friend's house for the last week of the holidays .It's what I usually do."
Sirius took in a deep breath, "I was hoping we might spend some time together."
Leo froze then slowly rose from his stooped position. "Look, Sirius… I know it would be nice if we could all play happy families and I know that's what mum wants but you're too late. I'm too old for this. I don't need a father. To be honest I don't really need anyone. I've always looked after myself- and Caster and even mum so… it's nice to have met you and all but I'm not about to call you dad. I'm not interested in that."
"But-"Sirius tried to intervene but Leo cut right across him.
"As far as I knew my dad was dead- I accepted that long ago. This is just confusing things. I'm practically an adult. We should get this straight from the beginning; I think we should just be friends and enjoy each other's company that way."
Sirius suddenly felt a little lighter… friends. He could do that. He understood what it meant to be a friend and Leo was right; he was too old to be his little boy.
"All right," Sirius said with a smile, "Friends it is." Sirius offered his hand to Leo who took it and firmly shook it. "It does make things easier."
"Do you want to hang out for a while?" Leo asked, gesturing towards his bed, "I just need to pack the last of my things away."
Sirius sat and looked round the room that had become familiar to him in the last week. His gaze fixed on the neatly kept broomstick. It was so neatly kept that it almost looked as though it had never been ridden.
"You said before that you liked flying?"
"Yeah," Leo agreed, "I like the feel of it- Quidditch is too much a distraction though. I'd much rather just bomb around the countryside on broomstick. "
"I used to have just the thing for you."
"A flying motorbike."
Leo dropped the jumper he was holding and stared at Sirius, "You had a flying motorbike!" his eyes were full of excitement.
"Yeah, me and James used to love bombing around everywhere on it. Lily thought we were crazy…" A lump formed in Sirius' throat.
"Where is it now?" Leo said excitedly. "Can we get it? Can I ride it?"
"That's the shame; I have no idea. Else I could have given it to you- no use to me while I'm still on the run."
"Maybe we could track it down sometime…? Someone must know what happened to it. Maybe Professor Lupin…. "
"Last I saw of it Hagrid had it. - I lent it to him, you see, just before I was arrested."
"Well I'm definitely going to be asking him about it next time I'm at Hogwarts! That sounds amazing! Did you have any other cool things you haven't told me about?"
Sirius then started to explain about the Marauders Map and the set of two-way mirrors and all the things he and the other Marauders used to get up to. It made him feel sad to talk about it but at the same time he had never felt so relaxed while staying at the Rosiers. Even when Remus had been there they had still been caught up in his problems of the present but now he was talking about the past- about the good times he could help but feel better, feel a part of them again… as if all his old friends were going to fall asleep in the beds next to his that night, just as they always did at Hogwarts. And once he started talking he found it hard to stop. He had tried to block his happy memories so much in Azkaban and only remember his innocence that he had almost forgotten what it was like to remember them.
"Professor Lupin used to do that?! I never would have guessed…"
"Well of course he did, we all did. We would do all sorts of things…."
Hours passed without the pair of them even given it a moment's thought and while Sirius told his stories Leo also told him about his experiments and what he and his friends got up to. It was only when Sirius looked at the clock and saw it was past midnight that he decided he had better put an end to their conversation.
"Well I'd better be going to bed. I can tell you more about Professor Snape another time."
Sirius rose from the bed and went towards the door.
"Sirius?" Leo caught him just before he left.
"I may be too old for a father but I don't think Caster is."
A knot of fear tightened in Sirius stomach and he didn't know quite what to say, "Goodnight, Leo," was all he could mutter as he left the room.