"It's perfect, Harry," Ginny said.
"There's even enough room to fly your broom out there," Ron added; his nose was pressed against Harry's bedroom window.
"The mark of a brilliant house as far as Ron is concerned," Hermione said tartly; at least they were no longer ignoring one another. She turned from the bookshelf. "Where did you get all of these?"
"Some of them are from Grimmauld Place," Harry told her, coming over to inspect the one she was holding. "The others we bought in Diagon Alley." Which hadn't been easy as they had been mobbed by curious crowds—all of them eager for a look at the infamous Sirius Black, and his reclaimed son.
"Did these belong to Sirius?" she asked.
"That one was his grandfather's." He laughed at the hopeful expression on her face. "Just be careful with it."
She hugged the ancient tome to her chest. "Of course I will."
"Harry!" Sirius' voice carried from outside the open window. "Lunch is ready!"
Harry jogged over to the window and stuck his head out. "Coming, Dad!" His friends were smiling at him when he turned. He shrugged, no longer self-conscious about referring to Sirius that way; it was natural now, and for the first time in his life, he felt normal.
"Let's go," he said, grinning as well.
"Is that Sirius' room?" Ginny asked of the room across the corridor.
"Yep, and there's an extra room next to it, but we haven't had any guests."
He greeted his two uncles' portraits as they passed the room Sirius and Harry had dubbed the library, though several of the tall shelves were empty—they hadn't been able to stomach another trip to Diagon Alley.
Regulus and Alphard paused their lively debate to meet his friends. "Lovely to meet you," Alphard said.
"Where are you off to?" Regulus asked.
"Lunch," Ron said eagerly. "And if we don't hurry, Fred and George might eat all the food."
"His brothers," Harry supplied.
"Ah yes," murmured Alphard with a knowing glance for Regulus.
Chuckling, Regulus said, "Go on, Harry, best not let your friend starve."
Ron wasted no time; he darted from the room. Shaking his head, Harry said a proper farewell, as did Ginny and Hermione before they followed after Ron.
"Kreacher didn't come with you?" Hermione asked quietly. "After Christmas you told us he didn't take clothes because he wanted to stay with Regulus."
"He visits sometimes," Harry told her. "But he couldn't bear to leave my grandmother all alone in the house." Especially not after her husband's portrait had been destroyed. She had been silent since. He didn't explain that Sirius couldn't have stood to have the elf around, not after so many years of Kreacher making his young life miserable.
"Another minute," Sirius greeted him cheerfully as they stepped out into the garden, "and there wouldn't be any food left."
Food, however, was not in short supply. Sirius and Harry had been preparing all morning—with Remus' help when he came over. And Mrs. Weasley brought enough to feed all of them for a week.
Sirius put an arm round his shoulder as his friends found seats. "Did they like your room?"
Grinning, Harry nodded.
"Good," Sirius said. He rumpled Harry's hair and then they took the last chairs at the long table, near Remus. Remus, perpetually smiling since the third task, offered pumpkin juice to Sirius.
"Thanks, Moony." He filled his and Harry's glasses.
"Here you are, Harry," Mrs. Weasley said with a warm smile as she passed along the tray of sandwiches.
With a cooler air, she offered the tray to Sirius. She hadn't quite accepted the situation, though Mr. Weasley had made fast friends with Sirius—they had bonded immediately over Sirius' motorbike, finally returned by Hagrid, who was chomping his way through a chicken at the far end of the table.
"Your fish paste is delicious, Sirius," Dumbledore murmured appreciatively. "Whatever do you put into it?"
"Dill and lemon. Capers as well. And a bit of mustard. My uncle Alphard's recipe."
"We took all of his recipes from Grimmauld Place," Harry volunteered around his own sandwich.
"He loved to cook," Sirius explained. He offered Harry a napkin, waggling his little finger at a smear of fish at the edge of Harry's mouth. "Another reason Alphard was a bit of an oddity as far as the Blacks were concerned."
"A talented oddity," Dumbledore agreed. He patted his mouth with a napkin. His star-strewn sleeve brushed the table as he reached for another sandwich.
"It is a beautiful house, Sirius," Pomfrey added her voice to the conversation. "You will be very glad to be so close to Hogwarts."
"You may be overrun by Harry's friends at Hogsmeade weekends," McGonagall said dryly.
"He won't mind," Harry said, with a grin for his dad. "Will you?"
"And he's already promised to help us with our products," George spoke up. His twin nodded.
"He has loads of brilliant ideas."
Mrs. Weasley frowned in disapproval.
"All of them legal," Sirius assured her. He glanced at Harry as she returned her attention to her plate and said under his breath, "Some of them just barely."
Smothering a laugh, Harry tucked in.
"Is that deep enough?"
Sirius glanced over at his son, considered the hole in the dirt—nearly the size of Sirius' fist; he glanced at the book open at their feet to compare with the illustration. "Perfect. If you pass me the tray of dustroot, we'll put them in." He held up the first specimen, examining the silvery leaves.
He had never actually done any planting himself, though they were using some of the same plants he had enjoyed as a child—and the others Harry had chosen. Lilies especially. As many specimens as they could find.
"Not quite sure how to do this…"
"Mind the roots," Harry told him. "And just put it in." Sirius cocked his head, and Harry shrugged. "Gardening was one of my chores at the Dursleys'."
"Oh." Sirius sat back, the plant drooping in his palm. "We don't have to do this… if it's unpleasant—"
But Harry shook his head. "I didn't mind when I was by myself. I like gardening with you though. You don't shout," he added with a smile.
Sirius' stomach twisted, but he smiled anyway. "Kreacher shooed us away when he was tending the garden. I rather like it."
"It's quiet," Harry agreed as he put soil over the roots after Sirius settled the dustroot into the hole. Patting it into place, he asked, "How are we going to put in the stones?"
Sirius pointed to his new wand with an elbow; his hands were filthy. "Magic."
"Tomorrow though," Sirius chuckled. "The sun's nearly gone." He patted the soil around the last silver leaves—now nearly in shadow—and sat back on his heels to survey their work. "We make a good team, you and me."
Harry, his clothes and face a patchwork of dirt, nodded in satisfaction. "We need more plants," he decided. "If we want a proper garden."
"We certainly do. We'll fetch more tomorrow. Do you know a cleaning charm for your hands?"
Harry swished his wand. "Scourgify," he ordered, which cleared away most of the dirt from his hands; not from under his nails. Sirius took his fingers, and aimed his wand at each one individually as he chanted a more focused spell.
"Accio flannel." Another spell to dampen the cloth. "You look like you've been crawling through one of the tunnels from Hogwarts," he said with a smirk.
"So do you."
"It'll do," Sirius said after a few minutes of attempting to vanish all the dirt. He massaged his kinked muscles and stretched out his legs as he looked around. "It really is lovely, isn't it?" Enough trees to surround the perimeter. They had chosen this property specifically for the trees. The house they'd built to match.
"And we can see the stars," Harry said. Darkness was just beginning to blanket the sky. Threading his fingers together to make a pillow behind his head, Sirius lay back against the cooling grass. He smiled when his son glanced at him, and then followed suit.
"I used to look at the stars sometimes," Harry said quietly, as if he was afraid he would chase the scattered lights away. "But I never really noticed the constellations—not until I went to Hogwarts and took Astronomy."
"They are very important to the Blacks," Sirius said with a small smile. "I think I could identify them before I could read." He pushed himself up at the elbows. "See that one there, that large star through the trees? That one is Sirius. Part of Canis major, there, see it?" He took Harry's hand and pointed until Harry nodded.
He connected the points with Harry's finger while Harry followed the movement. "And, over there, not so very far away, is Rigel."
Harry's eyes slid over. He smiled. Sirius smiled as well, squeezed Harry's hand before returning it to him.
"Can we see Regulus?" Harry asked, turning his head to squint heavenward.
"Regulus," Sirius told him, pointing, "is the brightest star in the constellation Leo. Almost a straight line from Sirius …"
There was no ache of regret in Sirius' chest this time as the rest of the stars awakened. He was free, he had his son beside him, and there was nothing else he needed.
A/N: It is quite probable that there will be one-shots in this 'verse, so subscribe to my author alerts if you care to read along. Plus, I have started an AU for this story, so look for that as well (eventually).
Thank you for reading, and especially to my reviewers and to those of you who waited through my year-long hiatus without too much complaint. ;) It's been so fun to focus solely on this story for the past few weeks. This one is close to my heart, for many reasons. Thank you for loving it as much as I do.