A/N: Alright, give me a moment to once again say: Wow! I really really appreciate all your kind, thoughtful and funny reviews! It's already Christmas over here if you do! Speaking of Christmas, I will be at my 'in-laws' until Christmas Day, and while I truly intend to use the holidays to write more, I'm not sure I'll be able to post there. So this might be the last until then...
Having said this I hope you enjoy this. It's my early Christmas present to you, since it has all your favourites. It has Harry/Sirius bonding, it has Remus being rather smart, it has fun and it has some suspense. Not the Dursleys though (yet), but then nobody likes them. ;-)
Chapter 14 – To Make You Laugh
The grey light of morning filtered through the almost overgrown windows and Sirius mused that the cabin didn't look as shabby as he'd first thought. Okay so it looked a little shabby, but mostly it was just dusty. It looked like time had just forgotten the place. Like someone had just walked out for a blow and never come back. There was even a faded and brittle copy of the Daily Prophet resting on the old fire-whiskey case, that was serving as a coffee table. It dated August the 4th 1977. It seemed quite possible, that nobody had set foot in here for over ten years.
The cabin was small, although like many wizard buildings it was larger on the inside than you would guess from it's outside appearance. It had two rooms. You entered the cabin through a small vestibule, coming into a good-sized kitchen-combined-living-room. Apart from the old couch with two matching armchairs sitting in front of the huge fireplace, there was a heavy wooden table with four chairs, a few bookcases and an old fashioned cabinet. To the right was a small cooking island, with a door leading to the pantry. To the left another door led to a tiny bathroom with an old claw-footed tub and on the opposite side you entered the small bedroom. In addition to that, a wooden ladder led up to a low gallery under the roof. Sirius had not taken a look at it yet, but it might be a nice place for Harry to sleep.
After what had happened in the early morning a few hours ago, Harry had fallen back to sleep on the couch. Sirius on the other hand had been too agitated, and he didn't fancy anymore nighttime visits from sadistic family members. It had not been the dream itself that had shaken him so much, he was acquainted with those, but rather the effect it had had on him. Sirius had not cried in years. In fact he could not remember the last time, he had shed honest-to-Merlin tears. But most of all it had been Harry's reaction that had taken his breath away. It had been the first real physical contact, that the boy initiated. And Harry had hugged him, like there was no tomorrow, burring his face in Sirius long tresses, almost as if he was afraid Sirius would vanish, if he did not hold on.
Now Sirius was looking through the rooms and the cubboards and cabinets. He had been delighted to find the pantry still well stocked. For a moment he mused how long pickled pumpkin or bottled plums would be edible. Another pleasant discovery had been the self replenishing food jars. He had seen those in the kitchen of his childhood home and at Mrs Potter's as well. Instead of having to buy flower or sugar or milk every other day, you bought a perversely expensive jar or bottle once, and it would refill for at least twenty years or such. They were still in working order, as Sirius found out after he had thrown out the dusty remains clinging to their bottoms. Well, that was at least something...
But the most curious thing, Sirius had found in one of the kitchen drawers. It was a long wooden stick, maybe one and a half foot long, with a round flat ending on one side. It actually resembled a wooden spoon. But Sirius knew immediately what it was, and had to stifle a laugh. It was a cooking wand! He had seen James mother using it often enough, but he'd never guessed his uncle would own such a thing. In his opinion, it had always been for old little ladies really. Or for squibs, as his mother would have scoffed, although that was rubbish, since you needed to be a wizard to use one as well. But his uncle had been a rather gruff old man, who was out in the woods most of the time hunting or fishing or what not. And he had a cooking wand. Sirius snorted. The world never ceased to surprise Sirius Black.
But it was in fact a rather fortunate find, since he had no real wand on himself anymore and he wasn't really good with muggle-cooking. A cooking wand was a funny thing. It was no real wand. It was just for cooking and sometimes other housework. The core was a hair of a house elf, which was why they didn't come cheap. House-elf-hair was hard to come by with, since most hadn't any. Now Kreacher, his mothers private house-elf, could have catered to the whole industry. He had more hair in his ears, that most people had on their heads. But of course his mother would never have allowed it. Cooking wands! He could just hear her. „Wizards do not cook. Wizards have house-elfs." His mother had not set foot in a kitchen in her whole life.
Sirius swung the cooking wand experimentely over the dusty surface of the kitchen cabinet. The fluffs stirred. Sirius tried again, picturing the wooden counter polished and gleaming. The dust vanished, leaving the surface clear, if not all that shiny. But then he had never been all that good at household-spells either. Sirius went through the cabin, clearing away the dust and cobwebs until it looked at least habitable. Looking down at his godson, still lying on the couch and scrunching up his nose in his sleep, Sirius decided that he would try to make some breakfast. Maybe not pickled pumpkin, though. He could maybe try for some porridge.
Harry woke up to the sweet, if slightly burned smell of food and immediately felt his stomach rumble. When he looked around he saw Sirius standing in what looked like the cooking area, his brows creased and his lips pressed down. He had bound his long filthy hair away from his face and stared into a steaming pot disgruntled. Harry remained where he was, trying to estimate if it would be safe to approach.
He was still unsure how to act around his godfather. All the rules he had learned at the Dursleys didn't seem to apply. It was quite confusing sometimes. Harry had seen Sirius getting angry at other people and he made his anger very clear. But although Harry had done wrong a lot of times, he had never yelled at Harry, nor had he lain a hand on him. But then Uncle Vernon had sometimes just ignored his misbehaviour as well, just to punish him later on when Harry had been sure he had forgotten it. The other thing was, that Sirius always asked him questions and apparently wanted Harry to do the same, while the Dursleys never wanted him to talk at all and questions annoyed them to no end.
But the most confusing and astounding thing had happened last night. Harry had woken up to the sound of Sirius moaning and to what sounded like sobs. At first he had been afraid to approach the sleeping wizard, but it sounded like he was in pain. Then Sirius had woken up, panting heavily, like he had just run a marathon, and in the faint glimmer coming from the glowing embers in the fireplace, Harry had seen something very strange. Sirius eyes were wide and there were tears glistening on his cheeks and in the tangles of his beard. Harry had never seen a man cry. Uncle Vernon certainly did not cry, and he had always told Harry that he was weak, when he did. Harry had soon learned to avoid tears in front of his uncle by all means. But Sirius was not weak. He was the strongest person Harry had ever met! So why was he crying? Something really really bad must have happened and Harry was not sure what, but it certainly had to be his fault somehow. He so badly wanted to make it right, but he didn't know how. He was sure Sirius would send him away then. But instead he had hugged him, really close, so that Harry had practically been sitting in his lap and he hadn't let him go for a very long time. So, yes, it was really confusing.
„You up for some breakfast?"
Harry looked up startled, meeting the greyblue eyes of the wizard. He was smiling now, the frown gone.
„I made porridge, or at least I tried to. I'm afraid I'm not that good at cooking, and it has been a while. I also never used one of those..."
He held up a long wooden spoon in front of him, scrutinizing it thoughtfully. Then he carried the pot to the table, where two bowls and spoons were already spred out together with two glasses, a strange looking bottle with what looked like milk and a small pot with sugar. When Harry scrambled up from the couch and quickly approached the table, he also saw a bowl with large blackberries.
Looking around, Harry suddenly noticed, that the cobwebs and most of the dust had gone. Sirius must really be a very good wizard.
Albus Dumbledore was an important man, with a busy schedule. Remus knew that. But damn him, why was he never at hand when you needed him? And why did he have to be so damn secretive?
„He is gone." Minerva McGonagall had said, „He'll be back in a few days." And „You know very well, that the Headmaster does not leave a forwarding address when he leaves on private business, Remus. What ever it is that is so important, you will simply have to wait for his return, like everybody else."
So Remus had waited, and paced in front of his desk and buried himself in his research, trying very hard not to combust with the tension that was building inside him. Finally he had received an owl from Dumbledore, informing him, that he would be able to meet him tomorrow afternoon at his office at Hogwarts at three o'clock, and would he be so kind to use the floo network. Remus had crumbled the letter in his clenched fist and resumed his pacing. It was most unusual behaviour for him, even on a week approaching the full moon.
So it might have come as a shock for most people who knew Remus Lupin as a rather mild mannered and slightly reserved man, that the same man came tumbling out of the fireplace before the first strike of the clock had died away, barking „I need to talk to the Dursleys!"
Dumbledore smiled at him mildly. „I'm sure you do." he said. „Why don't you take a seat?"
Remus stood in front of Dumbledore's desk staring down at the calm looking wizard, suddenly painfully aware of his own rumbled and soot stained robes, the unkempt hair and stubble that adorned his chin and cheeks. Finally he let out a deep breath and slumped down in his the chair in front of Dumbledore. „Sorry." he mumbled.
Dumbledore looked at him kindly. „It is quite alright, Remus. Your anxiety is completely understandable."
Trying to compose himself and his thoughts Remus studied the man in front of him for a moment, and then decided for a different approach. „So have you found out anything new?"
Dumbledore rested his elbows on the armrest of his chair, the tips of his outstretched fingers touching in front of him. His blue eyes on Remus seemed to look straight into his mind. He sighed deeply.
„Not very much I'm afraid. I'm sure you have been pondering the same questions."
„How was he able to escape?" Remus asked.
„Ah yes, that might have something to do with him being an animagus. The dementors feed on human happiness, on their joyful memories. They don't have the same effect on animals I believe. And while Black would still have a human mind in his animagus form, it could have reduced the effect."
That was actually a decent explanation, one that Remus had thought of as well. „But... wouldn't the dementors weaken him too much to transform?" Remus asked. „As I understood he was in a high security ward, with dementors outside his door all the time." The thought alone had Remus shuddering.
Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully. „It would take an exceptional strong wizard to do so I suppose. But we both know he was very gifted. And powerful."
„Still, it doesn't make sense!" Remus declared. Jumping out of his chair, he started to pace in front of Dumbledore's desk, shaking his head.
Dumbledore watched him with his eyebrows raised in a silent question.
„Why now?" Remus asked turning towards the older wizard. „He's been there for seven years! Why would he wait until now, when he'd always had the means to escape?"
Dumbledore seemed to give this some thought. „It is not all that easy, even if he had managed to get by the dementors. It is not without reason, that Azkaban is in the middle of the sea, and only one is that we have to keep the dementors as far from the rest of the population as possible. Cornelius actually had the rather peculiar idea to have them search for Black all over the country. What good would it make to expose hundreds of innocent people to them, if they can't even sense him in his animagus form?"
Dumbledore shook his head. It was obvious that the headmaster and the minister of magic did not see eye to eye on those issues. Remus had the suspicion, that this had been the cause of Dumbledore's absence. But that was Albus fight, Remus had his own.
„Still," he said, sitting back down, „why now?"
„I would think that it would need a rather tremendous amount of motivation." the old wizard said, leaning back in his chair. „A thought that on its own might be rather disconcerting."
Remus looked at Dumbledore, understanding exactly what the older man meant. Sirius had done the nearly impossible. He must have been unbelievably determined. The question that remained was again the universal one. Why? What was Sirius so determined to achieve?
Sirius had not forgotten that his godson had commented on his rough looks. And he was sure it could only help the process of building up the boys trust in him, when he turned back into a man a little more completely. It was a nice thought too, really. To be clean and maybe even shaven once again after years of dirt and filth. But first there would be Harry. When Sirius had addressed the subject of bathing after breakfast Harry had looked at him with round eyes and Sirius simply had to chuckle. It was too obvious what was going on in his godson's mind.
„Yeah, I know I probably need it more than you." he had said, and Harry had immediately looked sheepish, telling Sirius that he had read his thoughts right. „But I'm not sure how much warm water there will be, and getting my hide clean might take a few fillings. So I will let you go first."
Harry smiled. „If you want you can cut my hair later." Sirius went on, licking the rest on his porridge from the spoon.
„Really?" Harry asked, much too enthusiastically for an eight year old, and Sirius decided there and then, that he and Harry would have some fun in the next weeks.
„Sure." he said, smiling at the boy. He had noticed, that smiling at his godson did a huge thing about reassuring him and he tried to do it more consciously. „You'd keep me from cutting off my own neck."
„Okay." Harry said. He put his spoon in the bowl and reached for Sirius' as well, which the wizard had shoved away to the middle of the table. He climbed down from his chair and took them to the sink.
Looking at Sirius shyly, he asked, „Do you want me to clean them?"
Sirius blinked at him surprised. „Oh... no, you don't need to, I can do it later."
Harry looked at him, bowls still clutched in his hands, as if he was searching for a trap. Aunt Petunia had sometimes said something like that. „No, you stupid boy, why would you need to do that, since I can obviously do it myself? Why should you do anything at all? You could just lie down on the couch and I can tend to you all day." That had actually been a very good description of her behaviour towards Dudley, but Harry knew she was not serious about it, when talking to him. So was his godfather serious now? Maybe it was just a test.
Sirius stood up and Harry took a step backwards. But he simply took the bowls from Harry's hands, and put them into the sink. Then he ruffled Harrys hair, and with a smile, nodded in the direction of the bathroom. „Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."
Sirius turned on the tabs and the bathtub filled with slightly steaming water. He took a bottle from a shelf and sniffed at it once, before pouring some of the purple liquid into the water. It smelled nice, like lavender and the water started to foam in a pale shade of the same purple as well. Harry smiled. At the Dursleys he always had to bath after Dudley and the water always was kind of bleary already and the foam was long gone. But this looked really great.
When the tub was full, and Sirius turned off the water, Harry looked at him for confirmation, before he pulled of his clothes and climbed in. But the man gave him simply another playful nudge.
„Is the temperature all right?" he asked concerned and Harry nodded. It felt like heaven.
„Yeah. Thank you. This is really nice."
Sirius handed him a wash cloth and said, „You can soak for a while, and if you want I can wash your hair then. Or can you do that yourself already?"
Harry bit his lip. Aunt Petunia had not washed his hair for a while now, and if she had it had always been quite roughly, getting soap in his eyes, and telling him to stop squirming when she did.
„I promise I do my best not to get soap in your eyes." Sirius said, as if he had read his thoughts. Harry nodded then. He knew he shouldn't bother Sirius so much, but it felt really nice to have somebody caring for him, like a real parent.
Sirius grinned at him and putting his hand into the water he send a spatter at Harry, hitting him in the face. Harry blinked in surprise through his suddenly wet glasses. But Sirius just smiled and did it again. „What do you say?" he goaded, „Think you can get me?"
Harry didn't know what to think. Sirius wanted him to spatter him? Tentatively he reached inside the water and sent a half-hearted sprinkle in the direction of his godfather, but falling too short.
„Come on!" Sirius cried. „You can do better than that!"
Harry tried again, more forcefully. But this time he had been a little too enthusiastic, and a gush of water doused Sirius hair and shirt. Harry stared at him horrified, but Sirius just laughed.
„That was a good one." he said looking back at Harry with an appreciative grin, blinking the water from his eyes.
Harry blushed but smiled. And then Sirius shook his head, much like Padfoot might do, sending waterdrops flying all over the room and Harry let out a small giggle.
Sirius looked at him in mock outrage. „You think this is funny, you little tyke, do you?" He reached into the warm water and tickled Harry's feet. Harry squirmed, giggling louder. „No, Sirius, no!" he cried, but Sirius didn't stop.
Kicking his legs Harry suddenly lost his balance and went down flailing. He came up a moment later puffing and blinking and Sirius snorted with laughter, falling back on his bum. Harry looked at his soaked godfather, sitting sprawled on the floor like a soppy mutt, barking with laughter and giving little wet whizzes in between. Suddenly he felt something tickling in his stomach. It crept up in his chest. He tried, but there was no stopping it. And then the soaked boy in the tub started to laugh. He laughed until his sides hurt, and he fell back in the tub exhausted, hiccuping little giggles with a rather red face.
„I need to find out what it is, that Sirius wants with Harry. And for that I have to see for myself." Remus explained. „I know you've already spoken with the Dursleys, but I just have this feeling that it is the right place to start." Remus looked at Dumbledore anxiously. The old wizard had always been extremely secretive about Harry's relatives, and Remus urge to pay them a visit might not be too well received.
„And you are really serious about starting your own investigation?"
Remus simply raised an eyebrow. Dumbledore sighed. It was obvious, that he was not too happy about this.
„Very well, Remus." he finally said. „I admit, that I'm not too sure about the approach the Ministry has on this search. But you must promise me one thing. When you find them, you will call upon me immediately. You will not go after Black on your own. Remember what happened to Peter. And this time there will be an innocent child in the midst."
„I know. And I promise you I will owl you immediately, if I should happen to find anything."
With another small sigh, Dumbledore waved his wand and conjured a blue dotted teapot, with matching cups, sugar bowl and cream, sitting on a small silver plate. He reached for one of the cups, and after filling it handed it to Remus.
„What do you want to know?" he asked.
Remus licked his lips, looking at Dumbledore through the slits of his eyes. „When James and Lily were killed," he finally started, „you were very insistent that he would live with his aunt and uncle. Now I admit that I have only met Petunia Dursley once, but even after that brief experience I would not have thought her the best choice to take care of a little child. But you did. And I have the feeling that there is more to it, than simple blood-relation. There was magic involved, wasn't there? You did some spell? You must have put up some wards? How did Sirius breach them?"
Dumbledore leaned slightly forward, the tips of his fingers once more resting against each other in front of him. „All excellent questions." he said, „Let me see if I can answer them." He paused for a moment. „You are right of course, that there was magic involved in the decision to let Harry grow up with his only remaining blood-relatives, but this blood relation, was in fact the crucial point. You see, Remus, I did not do a spell. Lily did."
„Lily?" Remus asked surprised. „I can't imagine Lily to take measures for such a case. She did not have a close relationship with her sister. That's why they appointed... a godfather."
„Not on purpose. But when Lily gave her life to protect her son, she left a mark on him, a lingering of her love, and that is why Voldemort could not kill him. His spell backfired. It was Lily's love that saved Harry, and it left a protection grounded in his blood. The blood he shares with Petunia Dursley. As long as he was in the care of Lily's sister, in her home, Harry could not be touched or harmed by Voldemort. And that would include him harming Harry trough his Death Eaters."
Remus sat in his seat stunned for a minute, that was not what he had expected. „How was it possible for Sirius then?" he asked.
„This is one of the questions I do not have an answer to. It should not have been possible for him to take Harry out of the house. It could be that Harry left the house. Maybe he ran away, because he was afraid, or maybe he was coaxed somehow. I honestly don't know."
„Or maybe he had other intentions than harming him. Would it have been possible then?"
Dumbledore frowned. „He would have to have been truly pure at heart. The charm goes too deep to fool it with artificial reservations. And I highly doubt that Sirius Black would have a pure heart."
Remus seemed to contemplate all this as he sat staring in his tea cup. When he finally looked up he was about to say something, but then stopped himself.
„Is there something else, that is bothering you, Remus?"
Remus bit his lip. „I was just wondering... I have done a lot of research about it, but the books are frustratingly vague. You said, that Sirius could have easily killed Harry at his uncle's house. But could he really? Would he have been able to harm his godson? Purposefully? By himself?"
A/N: There you go. Hope you liked it. And if you did, you might leave me a review? Like, for Christmas? : )