"You missed the meeting," a dull voice said from a shadowed corner. Severus sneered as Sirius stepped more to the center of the hallway.
"Still lurking in corners, Black?" he asked.
"Said the kettle to the cauldron," Sirius retorted. "Don't deny it."
Severus didn't. Instead, he raised an eyebrow. "Out of my way," he muttered.
"Dumbledore wanted me to fill you in on what you missed," Sirius said but he did step to the side to let the professor pass.
"So you decided to wait up for me like a lonely housewife? Forgive me if I don't feel honored."
Sirius scowled at him. "Don't be a twat," he snapped. "I wasn't thrilled about it when Dumbledore told me. I wanted to get this out of the way so I can leave this damn house and enjoy my holidays. Besides, it's not like I sleep at night anyways."
Severus stared at the other man for a few seconds before he let out a heavy sigh. "You can start nattering on then. It's clear you won't leave me alone until you've fulfilled your part of being the Headmaster's owl."
"Owl? That's the best you can come up with?" Sirius challenged, causing Severus to scowl. Obscene words flowed through his mind but before they left his lips, Sirius starting filling the spy in on what he had missed.
Severus was silent for a few minutes after Sirius was done relaying information, balancing what he had just heard with what had been discovered at the meeting Voldemort had called. There had been an increase in meetings on both sides recently and an increase in information. Determining what bits of information should be passed on was becoming more difficult day by day.
And more dangerous. Severus was well aware that he was walking a line that was growing thinner with each passing day.
Sirius stretched and prepared to leave, ready to be out of this horrible house. "I'll leave you to your thoughts," he drawled. "There's a nice beam in the attic you can hang upside down on if you feel the need to sleep."
The sneer Severus gave him was automatic but he stopped Sirius and pulled out a small present.
"I assume you'll be seeing him over the holidays. Give this to him."
Sirius sighed but nodded.
"You two should try actually talking to each other sometimes," he suggested as he pocketed the box. "And not use me as your go-between."
"We have talked," Severus murmured. "But there's only so much we can do so until it becomes suspicious. He doesn't receive the attention he surely would have received if he had been Sorted into Gryffindor but there are still those that watch him closely and there is always someone watching me due to my past."
"That shouldn't stop you."
"Gryffindor idealism," Severus replied with a humorless smile. "The less questions amongst others there are, the better. Could you imagine what would happen if the Dark Lord knew the truth? Or the Ministry? Or even Dumbledore? It's one thing to be the son of martyrs and revolutionaries, quite another to be related to a spy."
"I'm surprised," Sirius drawled. "I would have never imagined you to be so selfless."
Severus refused to comment. Everything he did was carefully calculated and he was determined to get Harry out of this war alive. Maybe once Harry was out of Hogwarts and once the Dark Lord had been defeated, they could try to have a relationship that parents and children were supposed to have but until then, he couldn't act carelessly. His entire youth was filled with reckless actions that had damaged his life and he refused to act that way now and damage someone else's life.
When Sirius saw that he wasn't going to get a response, he rolled his eyes and shook his head before strolling out of Grimmauld Place and apparated away. He had better places to be.
"Harry, wake up!"
Harry burrowed further into his pillow as Tracey's shout woke him up. He considered hiding his head under the pillow but that soon became impossible as Tracey yanked his pillow away from his head.
"Go away," Harry muttered, bringing his duvet up further in an attempt to use part of it as a pillow. Last night he had been up for far longer than he was used to and now he was regretting it. Sirius hadn't come while he had still been awake and the lack of sleep would torture him later today.
"It's Christmas though! Breakfast is ready!"
"I don't smell any food," Harry grumbled. Tracey sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Fine, it's not but it will be soon, once Mum and Dad wake up."
"What time is it?" Harry asked.
"Half past six."
Harry turned to face his bedside table and grabbed his wand, turning it on Tracey's blurry form. "Let me sleep," he ordered, though his words were muffled by a yawn. "Or I'll hex you. Wake me up in three hours."
"But it's Christmas!"
"I don't care," Harry snapped, waving his wand in a threatening manner. Sparks shot out from the end. "Let me sleep. It was nearly two by the time I fell asleep last night."
"You're so boring," Tracey decided but left Harry to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, she took his pillow with her as she left.
Harry sighed and pulled his duvet up further, tucking more of the fabric under his head. It wasn't as comfortable as his pillow but hopefully it would do. The wizard turned on his side after setting his wand back on the bedside table and closed his eyes, ready for sleep to overtake him once again.
The minutes ticked by slowly as Harry waited to go back to sleep, tossing and turning as he did so. No position felt comfortable anymore and the more he tried to will himself to sleep, the more awake he felt.
After what felt like half an hour of this, the dark-haired teen sighed and sat up. There was no point. It was obvious that he wasn't going back to sleep. Muttering mild obscenities under his breath about teen witches who apparently needed no sleep, Harry shoved his glasses on his face and started getting ready to face the day.
When Harry entered the living room, he was surprised to see Sirius there, teaching Tracey a few tricks to help win at Exploding Snap. What time had his godfather gotten in?
"This is why I was trying to wake you up," Tracey said when she spotted Harry. "But you had to be stubborn about it."
Harry glared at her and pulled his pillow off of the chair she was sitting on, dragging Tracey off the chair as well in the process. She yelped as she fell to the ground and glared at him, hand hovering over her wand out of reflex.
"You two remind me a lot of me and my brother," Sirius commented as he watched the interaction between the two teenagers.
"You have a brother?" Tracey asked.
"You've never mentioned him to me," Harry said.
"It never came up before," Sirius said with a shrug of his shoulders. "I usually don't think about him but Christmas has a way of bringing up a lot of memories. We got on a lot better before I went to Hogwarts and then when I was sorted into Gryffindor and he was sorted into Slytherin a year later, we drifted apart. He died during the first war."
"What was his name?" Harry asked softly as Tracey offered up some condolences.
"Regulus," Sirius answered. "He was everything that my parents could never force me to be. Needless to say he was the favorite."
"How did he die?"
"Voldemort, from what I understand," Sirius said. "Regulus always wanted to be a Death Eater but once he got in and realized that it wasn't all that my parents said it would be, he wanted out, but you can't just resign from being a Death Eater. You're one for life, though if Voldemort had his way, a Death Eater would be one in death as well."
"Hey now, it's Christmas," Zach said as he walked into the room, a sniffling Chloe in his arms. "Let's try not to talk about those things. Just for one day."
"I think one day is possible," Sirius agreed quickly. "Who's up for breakfast?"
Harry frowned as his godfather got to his feet and busied himself. He glanced over to Tracey but if she found anything out of the ordinary, she didn't let on. She had taken Chloe out of her father's arms and was working on distracting the baby, who was a lot bigger than Harry remembered her being in September.
Chloe's developments while Harry and Tracey had been away had shocked both of the teenagers. They had been prepared to miss a lot of the big milestones in her development (and already they had received a few letters at Hogwarts detailing what they had missed with pictures included) but they hadn't realized just how much they were missing until they had seen their younger sister for the first time in months.
"Do you think she'll begin to crawl or speak soon?" Tracey asked as Harry approached his two sisters.
"Let's hope not for another couple of weeks," Zach called over to them, having overheard the question. "Or months. I don't know if I'm ready to chase after a toddler. It's been a few years since I had to do that and I remember it being tiring then."
"What are you talking about? I was an angel child," Tracey protested. "Look at the photos. I was always sitting and acting proper."
"Those pictures don't show the hours that it took to get you dressed and in the mood to sit there and not cry," her father countered.
Harry took a few steps away from the now bickering father and daughter pair, heading in to the kitchen to help with breakfast.
"You never sat still long enough for pictures unless they put the cat on your lap and even then, it wasn't a guarantee because half of the time, you two ended up rolling around and trying to play with each other."
"They had a cat?" Harry asked.
"Lily did. I believe she told us one time it was because cats can blend in better in the Muggle world. You loved that thing and James was pretty confident that it was the reason you learned how to crawl so soon."
"I'm never going to hear those types of stories, am I?" Harry asked. "At least I won't be able to hear them from my parents."
"No, you won't," Sirius said reluctantly. "But I was trying to show you that there are people in the world who can tell you those types of stories. And I'm not the only one who has those stories. I can think of a handful of people who would be able to."
Harry said nothing. He knew who Sirius was talking about but somehow, he couldn't see him having this type of conversation with his father.
Both Harry and Sirius breathed a sigh of relief when Catherine stepped into the kitchen, having been awaken by the increasingly loud activity downstairs.
"Happy Christmas," Catherine said, smiling softly at the two dark-haired wizards. "Let's get breakfast on the table so we can eat before everyone else gets here to open presents."
"One of the upsides of having a baby is that extended family wants to visit, especially around the holidays. Of course, that means it's going to get very busy and loud in an hour or so."
And busy it became. Harry had heard about Tracey's relatives here and there but other than her parents and her grandparents, he hadn't met or spent time around any of them before. He was wishing he had now, because meeting everyone at once became quickly overwhelming.
At least he wasn't being the only one overwhelmed. Whenever Harry could catch a glance of Sirius, his godfather also looked amazed at the amount of people the house was holding.
The day passed in a blur, as Harry struggled to remember who he had met and which presents lying around the house had been given to whom. Chloe had gotten the most presents by far, as everyone wanted to spoil her, but she had gotten the most entertainment out of the wrapping paper. Even hours later, she was still fascinated by the bright and sparkling paper that crunched in her hands.
After dinner, relatives trickled out of the house (usually with leftovers in hand), eventually just leaving its usual inhabitants.
"I'm glad you came today," Harry said as Sirius prepared to leave a few hours after everyone else had left.
"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," Sirius replied. "I'm glad you get to celebrate it with family, even if it's not the way I always dreamed it would be."
"They wanted to adopt me," Harry admitted to Sirius. "Still do, I think."
"But you said no." Sirius realized. "Is there any particular reason why?"
"I would have felt too guilty, being adopted while I'm well aware that I still have blood relatives living."
"Sometimes staying with your blood family isn't the best decision. Believe me, I grew up in an environment that wasn't healthy in any way and being taken in by the Potters was the best thing that ever happened to me. They saved my life, quite literally. I wouldn't have survived another year with my mother. You shouldn't feel guilty about leaving a situation that isn't healthy."
"But things could still change," Harry argued softly.
"They could but you can't live your life relying on possibilities and uncertainties. Even if circumstances did change, it doesn't mean they would change for the better. People can try and try to change but sometimes no amount of change will fix things. Don't let the thoughts of what might happen hold you back from the good things in your life or make you blind to what's really happening."
Harry bit his lip in frustration. Sirius waited for a minute, expecting more arguments but they never came. After a period of silence, the older wizard sighed.
"Since we just got done discussing blood family," he muttered under his breath but still loud enough for Harry to understand him. Sirius patted his robes, feeling for the hidden pockets along the seams. "He knew he wouldn't get the chance to deliver it today, so he asked me to give you this."
Harry's eyes widened as Sirius withdrew a small, wrapped box from his pocket and handed it over. He took it with hands that were shaking slightly.
"Thanks," he muttered as he shoved the unexpected present into his own pocket. It was small and flat enough that he barely noticed it and it went forgotten until the end of the night, when Harry was getting ready for bed.
Harry set the present on his bed as he got into his pajamas, wondering what was underneath the wrapping paper. When the curiosity became too great, he finally settled on the bed and quickly tore off the wrapping paper, partially tearing a note attached to it in the process.
To help you figure out where you want to go next in your life.
Narrowing his eyes, Harry frowned and opened up the box. Inside was a pocket watch with a four-pointed star in the middle. Three hands marked the time in hours, minutes, and seconds, but the fourth hand just spun rapidly in circles until Harry focused on it. Then it slowed its rotations until it stood still at the number 3.
It wasn't until Harry spotted a faded E under the 3 that he realized what the fourth hand was—an orienting arrow. There was a compass underneath the clock face but its arrow wasn't pointing North.
Harry set the compass-watch (was there a name for objects of this type? He really needed to find out) on his bedside table. His glasses soon joined his newest Christmas gift and Harry flicked off his bedside light as he settled into his bed. As the teen drifted off to sleep, the compass watch was at the forefront of his mind, so it was no surprise that his dreams began with the spinning arrows of a compass that changed directions every time he tried to follow where it was pointing. A white line seemed to flow out of the compass but no matter how long Harry ran, following after it, the line never seemed to end anywhere.
As Harry ran after the line, he felt his body changing until he was no longer human, but something else entirely, sliding along the floor on his belly. The area around him darkened and became not wooded like the forest he had been running through but a cool stone building. Turning his head from side to side, he could see stone walls stretching for as far as he could see. A corridor and at the end of it, there was a man sitting on the floor.
The man stirred as Harry approached and when he spotted the creature approaching him, vibrations shot through the air as a wand was drawn. The colors surrounding the man went from a cool purple-red to bright orange.
Harry felt his new body rear up and lunge towards the man not once, not twice, but three distinct times, plunging fangs into any body part that he could reach. Blood flooded into his mouth and he relished the taste. He considered striking again to spill more of that warm blood—
Green eyes flew open and Harry shot up into a sitting position, clutching at his forehead. Harry gasped and shuddered, the cool drying sweat on his back making his nightclothes stick to his skin. He swallowed heavily and then retched as he remembered the taste of blood in his mouth.
"Harry, what's happened? Speak to me."
Zach was beside the bed, pulling Harry away from the vomit and into his arms. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry could spot Tracey's form into the doorway. The smaller wizard continued to shudder and gulped in air as he processed what he could still remember.
"I need to talk to Sirius," Harry said as soon as he was able to get out words. "It's an emergency."
Tracey disappeared from the doorway and Harry could hear feet pounding towards the living room. Zach sat with him for a few long moments until Sirius burst through the bedroom door, looking panicked.
"What's happened?" Sirius demanded as he took in the sight of the twisted sheets, pillows kicked off the bed, the vomit on the bed, and the overturned bedside table that Harry couldn't remember knocking over.
"Ron Weasley's father was attacked!" Harry said as quickly as possible. "There was a stone corridor and he was sitting at the end of it. There was this creature—I think it was some sort of reptile—and it attacked him. There was a lot of blood and I…"
Harry trailed off as his stomach rolled again at the memory of all the blood. He pushed away from Zach and vomited a second time, this time on the floor.
Zach and Sirius traded looks. The Davis patriarch gave a small nod and Sirius turned on his heel, striding toward the living room and the fireplace, before flooing directly into Grimmauld Place.
Harry flinched when an arm wrapped around his shoulders but he didn't pull away from Zach. As his breathing slowed down, he felt himself leaning into his foster father's comforting hold. Lifting a trembling hand, Harry rubbed his scar as it continued to twinge painfully.
"Your scar's hurting?" Harry nodded at Zach's question.
"I think it was the pain that woke me up, not you and Tracey," he murmured quietly. "It's never hurt that badly before. It felt like a burning ice pick was stabbing me repeatedly."
"It's not the first time it's been bothering him," Tracey said. Harry straightened up and shot his sister a betrayed glare. "His scar has been causing him pain at least two or three times a week. Has been ever since this summer. I would have said something sooner if I had known that it was causing nightmares."
"It's just been a twinge here or there!" Harry protested when Zach looked at him more carefully. "And this was the first time I've had a nightmare like that. There's no way I would have been able to keep that secret in the dorms at Hogwarts."
Zach sighed. "Catherine is making some hot chocolate in the kitchen," he said. "Do you think you can walk?"
"Then let's see if we can get you a pain potion to help with your scar," Zach said. "Hot chocolate will get rid of the taste and help pass the time while we wait for Sirius to come back. Why don't you two go on and I'll clean up here."
Harry stood up shakily and eagerly headed for the lit hallway. Tracey placed his glasses carefully on his face, having picked them up at some point from the floor. Once able to see clearly again, Harry spotted the scared look in his sister's eyes.
"I'll be fine," he said as they walked down the hallway.
"That was really scary," Tracey said. "Your screams woke everyone up. It sounded like you were getting murdered."
No, just witnessing an attempted one, Harry thought dully as they entered the kitchen. His foster mother looked relieved to see him up and about and pushed two mugs of hot chocolate at the pair of teenagers.
"Where's Chloe?" Harry asked, not seeing the youngest member of the household anywhere.
"Still sleeping," Catherine replied. "That girl can sleep through anything."
Harry breathed a silent sigh of relief, grateful that he hadn't woken up everyone in the house with his nightmare. It was bad enough that he had woken up most of the family.
"Harry needs a pain potion," Tracey said. "It's his scar."
Harry's cheeks flushed a bright red as Catherine gave him an appraising look. "It's not as bad as it was a few minutes ago," he muttered. "I don't need to be fussed over so much. It was just a nightmare."
"Just nightmares don't make you scream like that," Tracey pointed out. Harry glared at her. "Besides, Sirius didn't seem to think that it was just a nightmare."
"It's too early to be arguing," Catherine said lightly. "Drink your hot chocolate."
Tracey and Harry took a few sips as Catherine began to rummage around in the cupboards. After looking in a few, she pulled out a small vial and set it in front of Harry, who reluctantly drank the vile potion. As he was washing the taste out of his mouth and overpowering it with hot chocolate, the pain in his forehead didn't seep away like the pain would have with a normal headache or injury. Harry didn't say anything though, knowing the fuss it would cause. He was already uncomfortable enough knowing that most of the family was choosing to stay up with him.
Zach came in a few minutes later, stretching as he entered the kitchen. He glanced at Harry, who gave him a weak, tired smile, desperate to convey that he was fine. When his foster father looked away, Harry wasn't entirely convinced that he had succeeded.
The next few hours passed slowly. One cup of hot chocolate became two and after two became three for the teenagers, the adults switched to tea, sensing that there would be no sleep for the rest of the night. As much as Harry wanted to believe that what he had was nothing but a nightmare, as more time passed, he became less and less convinced.
And when Sirius returned, there was no denying it any longer. As his godfather came through the floo, Harry could tell that something was wrong. It was only when things were wrong that a person appeared to age ten years in the space of a few hours.
"It wasn't just a nightmare, was it?" Harry asked. Sirius let out a heavy sigh.
"It's true that Arthur Weasley was attacked tonight by a snake," he confirmed. Catherine raised a hand to cover her mouth as a horrified look crossed her face. Zach's face grew grimmer and darker at the news.
"Was it venomous?" he asked.
"We don't know for sure," Sirius replied. "He bled out before any venom could take effect."
"So he's dead," Harry stated glumly. Sirius gave a solemn nod. "If I had woken up earlier—"
Zach and Sirius traded looks, having cut Harry off at the same time.
"It's not your fault," Sirius said. "Don't waste your time on ifs. I've seen too many lives destroyed by people wondering what they could have done better. You made it possible that Arthur was able to say goodbye to his wife and eldest son, something that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't given us a warning. We might not have even had a body to give to the Weasley family if it wasn't for you."
"What do you mean, there might not have been a body?" Tracey asked. Sirius gave her parents a guilty look as it became clear that he had revealed too much. Before he could correct his error, Tracey's eyes widened in horror and her face turned a sickly green color. "That's repulsive," she whispered and promptly gagged.
A solemn silence blanketed the room as the three adults and two teenagers processed the night's events, slowly finishing their third batch of hot chocolate and tea. Harry's fingers twisted nervously into knots, unable to remain still. After a few minutes, a small wail carried through the house.
Catherine sat down her mug. "I've got Chloe," she said. Tracey followed after her mother, desperate to leave the room.
Once the door to the kitchen closed, Zach sighed and got to his feet. He rummaged around in the cupboards before he pulled out a bottle of firewhiskey and three glasses. Setting them down, he poured two fingers worth of the alcohol in each glass before passing one to Sirius and the second to Harry, who frowned as he took it.
"To Arthur Weasley," Zach murmured quietly. "Yet another life lost in this war."
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you thought!