AN: I thought I was done with this story, but I reread it last night and just couldn't leave it alone. Hope you enjoy.
Thanks to Fawkes Song for beta. I don't understand how she does it so fast. I'm suspecting some kind of dark magic . . .
After staring at the cub for a few seconds, Sirius approached him. "Remus?"
The wolf gave a fierce yelp and sprung towards him, clamping his teeth over Sirius's hand. Had the cub been any bigger, it might have hurt, but he was too small to do more than pinch and whimper as he tried to bite through Sirius's hand.
Sirius reached back to pop his hand against the cub's hindquarters, right over his wriggling tail. The cub let go with a whimper, and it lifted sad eyes up to Sirius before breaking into a helpless howl of pain and injustice.
"You can't bite people," Sirius scolded as he gathered the cub up. When Remus tried to bite him again, Sirius put a warning hand over his squirming rear. "No biting or I'll have to smack you again. I know it hurts, I know you don't like being small, and I know you feel like your life is tragic, but you don't bite anyone."
Remus squirmed around and started gnawing on Sirius's sleeve.
Something rustled outside, a branch blown against the house, and the cub jumped right off Sirius's lap and launched towards the window, barking high-pitched yelps to scare off an intruder.
"There is no one out there," Sirius said, but the cub wouldn't rest, scratching at the wall to get up and see. Sighing, Sirius swept him up and showed him the window. "See? Nothing out there. Why don't you get in bed and tomorrow –"
The cub jumped out of Sirius's arms, right for the window. Thankfully, it was closed, but the cub hit the glass and tumbled to the ground. And he broke into another chorus of wails at the shock and pain and unfairness of it all.
Sirius sat down on the edge of the child's bed and watched the cub sob for ten seconds before breaking into a frenzied run around the room. Sirius thought about changing into a dog and chasing the cub around, but he figured he could handle Remus better in human form and not risk hurting him. The cub raced around like a demon, but every so often he would catch sight of his own tail and commence into a circular pattern where he chased his tail futilely, never able to bite it. Sirius wondered if he ever did manage to bite it if it would send the cub into another bout of wails.
After the running, there was lots of sniffing – sniffing the floor, sniffing the bed, sniffing the door, sniffing Sirius's shoes. Then the cub caught sight of its shadow on the wall and it leaped around in confusion at the pouncing dark shape on the wall.
Struck with an idea, Sirius took the small mirror over the bureau and put it on the floor. The moment the cub saw its reflection, crazed growling and barking broke out as the cub attempted to attack the mirror over and over again.
"All right, sorry for that," Sirius put the mirror back on the wall. "I thought you could recognize your own reflection. I guess your dog side doesn't understand that like a little boy would. You're not little Remus anymore than he's grown-up Lupin. No, no biting! That's it – come here!"
He made a swipe for the cub, but Remus dashed away and ran under the bed. He stayed there, waiting and watching Sirius.
"You come out here and face your punishment," Sirius said, trying not to smile. "You've got a thorough smacking coming for being so bad. But if you come out right away, I might change that to a good tickling. Come on, puppy – come out."
The cub backed further under the bed, panting with its tiny tongue hanging out. As Sirius's hand came near, it laid its snout on the floor and covered its big brown eyes with two furry paws.
"Think you're hiding, do you?" Sirius chuckled. He grabbed the cub up – it gave a surprised yelp – and he hugged it close, petting its furry body and stroking over its silky head.
Remus began to lick at Sirius's fingers, clearly affectionate and forgiving once he realized he wouldn't be smacked. He even lifted his head so Sirius could scratch under his chin, and then he nuzzled against Sirius's arm.
"What's it going to take to tire you out?" Sirius asked. "It's late, even for a wolf cub. You want to go out? You want something to drink?"
He took the cub downstairs and went out into the backyard. The cub twisted and struggled to get down, but Sirius transformed a length of rope to tie around its neck before setting him down on the ground. It was a smart decision because Remus took off the moment he touched the soft grass, and he might have run far away had Sirius not held firmly on the rope. The cub gave him a sad look at being kept on a leash, but then he set to sniffing the whole yard.
Sirius tied the rope to the doorknob and went into the kitchen to heat some milk for the cub. He thought Remus could probably lap up the milk, but the goal was to get Remus to sleep so Sirius transformed a cup into a bottle and poured the warm milk into it before fixing a rubber top over it.
Once he got the bottle ready, he took the cub back upstairs, shaking his head over how active and squirmy Remus was. It was a challenge just to keep a hold on him and not drop him down the stairs.
"Settle down," he told the cub as he sat down on Remus's small bed. "Look, I got a bottle of warm milk. I even added a little honey to make it taste good. So let's calm down – no, no more biting – and drink this."
The cub sniffed the bottle and then he tried to bite it. Sirius held him firmly against his chest, not letting him move, and then he tipped the rubber top into the cub's mouth. Remus began suckling at the milk, staying still for the first time that evening. As he calmed down, Sirius loosened his hold and he started petting the dog again, scratching into his thick fur and patting his back gently.
The cub got very still, and the only thing that moved was his tail that swayed back and forth as he gulped down the milk. Sirius kept petting him, hoping to ease the cub into sleep. The room was warm and comfortable, and Sirius found that his own patting began to soothe him into drowsiness as well.
He sat down on the bed, angling his body back against the headboard to keep the cub against his chest but also to get him as flat as possible, ready to transfer him to the bed once he was sound asleep.
Sirius kept patting, a soft rhythm to lull the cub to sleep faster.
Sirius was not sure when he himself fell asleep, but when he opened his eyes, morning light shone through the windows. And he was holding an armful of a sleeping little boy against his chest, the bottle top still in his mouth.
Sirius shifted, hoping to put Remus in his own bed, but the moment he moved, Remus opened his eyes. He stared up at Sirius, not fully awake, but then he squirmed and spit out the bottle.
"Yuck," Remus sat up. "I don't want a bottle. Why are you here in my bed?"
"Don't you remember last night?" Sirius rolled off the bed and stood up, stretching his sore back. He was getting too old to sleep sitting up.
"No. My teeth hurt. And I'm achy all over."
"That's probably the change. You turned into a wolf cub last night. I gave you some milk to calm you down. I'll get you some breakfast."
Remus whined and snuggled down into his bed, not wanting to get up until breakfast was ready.
Sirius stumbled downstairs and clattered around the kitchen to fix some kind of food for the two of them.
"Parenthood is exhausting," Sirius mumbled. "But parenting a werewolf is a whole 'nother level of madness."
"Talking to yourself already?" a snide voice spoke from the open kitchen door.
Snape stood in the doorway, looking especially pleased with himself.
"Go away," Sirius reached for a pot.
"The headmaster sent me to see how his favorite students were doing – the mangy dog and the wolf."
"Amusing," Sirius said without the smallest trace of amusement. "You could have told me that the potion turned him into a wolf cub. I thought it would put him to sleep."
"And miss spending more time with his favorite friend?" Snape smirked. "I wouldn't dream of it."
"Do you have nothing better to do?" Sirius asked. "Death Eaters to plot with? Students to torture? Harry to outsmart you?"
"Potter does not outsmart me," Snape growled. "I'm onto him and his friends and his nefarious plots, that wicked thorn in my side, ugly teenage –"
"That's right," Sirius paused. "Harry's fourteen now. He would be old enough to babysit. He could use the portkey to come here and babysit for a few hours. I could have a break, then."
"Potter's not stepping foot in my house!" Snape looked wild. "I would die before I let him in here, that disobedient, arrogant, smug –"
"Shut up, Snivelus," Sirius said. "No one cares about you. Leave Potter – Harry alone. And don't pretend that you don't know that the only reason I'm not crushing your miserable face into the floor is because I have to think of Remus first. And we both know who would win in a fight between us. When will the potion be ready?"
"Two more weeks," Snape seethed. "And then you're out of my house forever."
"Agreed," Sirius put the pot of water on the stove. "Though I don't know why you can't afford a better place than this hole. Your salary has to be more decent than that."
"What would you know about salaries?" Snape groused. "When was the last time you had a job? Who would hire you, escaped criminal?"
"If you're going to stay here for a few minutes more," Sirius ignored the last question, "you might as well help with breakfast. I'm going to get Remus ready."
"So now I'm your bloody cook? You think you can order me around like a house elf? I'd poison you both before I would fix you a cup of tea,"
Pushing his temper back, Sirius put the stirring spoon down and faced Snape. "All right, let's go."
"Go?" Snape raised one eyebrow. "Go where?"
"Outside. We've been building towards this fight for a long time. This is between you and me. This isn't about James because he's been dead for thirteen years. I was in prison for twelve for a crime I did not commit."
"You deserved to be there," Snape snarled. "You deserved it, you ugly dog."
"That's why we're settling this here and now," Sirius decided. "Dumbledore's not here, Harry's not here. You and me go outside and take care of this like men, like wizards."
Snape watched him suspiciously. "A fight? With wands?"
"Wands and fists."
"No Unforgivable Curses or eye-gouging," Sirius grabbed his own wand. "No killing either. You have to go back to teach your classes and I have to take care of Remus for the next two weeks. But outside of that, we duel it out. First one to cry 'Truce' is the loser and the fight is over. If the loser needs medical attention, the winner makes sure he receives it, including going for help. And after this, we leave the past behind."
Snape studied him for a moment and then gave a curt nod. "Agreed."
Sirius put his hand out, and Snape took it. Snape's grip was a tad too tight, but Sirius made no comment as they both headed for the door.
The scrap of a backyard was not the place Sirius would have chosen to have a duel, but he went to the center and faced the left side, holding his wand up before his face. Snape faced the right so they were back-to-back and lifted his own wand.
"Eight paces and then turn and start," Sirius instructed. He could already picture Dumbledore's face when he heard about their fight, but Sirius wanted to make sure that it was as fair as possible so when he shredded Snape to pieces the headmaster would not lecture him too much.
"Ready?" Sirius asked.
"I hope you enjoy pain, dog," Snape spat. "Because I'm about to make Lupin watch as I decimate his best friend."
"You wish, Snivelus," Sirius retorted. "En garde. One, two, three . . ."
He counted out to eight, taking a step with each number. On eight, he whirled to face Snape, wand at the ready.