AN: And here is the next installment, because I'm having way too much fun with this right now. Please don't expect frequent updates to be a regular thing. I hate to say it, but they probably won't be. I'm just on a roll this weekend.
Dumbledore was over once again. They were all, Harry included, sitting around the kitchen table. Dumbledore was very pleased that Sirius had accepted the position as Astronomy teacher, and now they needed to talk about specifics. "I would first like to speak about Harry."
"What about me," Harry asked, beating the Marauders to it.
"Merely a few formalities," Dumbledore assured him. "It has been quite some time since we have had professors with children in the school. Harry would not be allowed to floo directly to the school with both of you, but if you wish you may ride the train as Remus did last year to be with Harry. Normally this wouldn't be allowed, but considering certain... Unfortunate happenings that have come to light this summer, Harry may have a room in your quarters, Sirius. Though I would ask that you still allow Harry to stay in the dorms with his friends if he wishes and allow him to have the full Hogwarts experience."
Sirius frowned. He appreciated the offer greatly, but he didn't like Dumbledore's insinuation. "I appreciate Harry having a room with me, and of course I accept, but I would never make him stay there. Hogwarts was some of the best years of my life. I would not deprive Harry of that."
"I didn't think you would." Dumbledore smiled placatingly at his former student and Hogwart's newest professor. "I merely wished to ask, in case Harry felt unable considering..."
Harry shook his head, a small smile on his face. "I'm not afraid of Uncle Padfoot or Uncle Moony."
Said men smiled. Dumbledore did as well. "Very well. On with business. You'll need some sort of lesson plan, Sirius. I'm sure Remus would be happy to aid you if you need help. This is what you'll need to cover in your curriculum..."
As the meeting drew on, Harry grew board. The conversation no longer pertained to him. He was fine with that, disliking being the center of attention, but it meant he didn't really understand anything they were talking about anymore. Still, Harry wouldn't complain. The conversation meant he would get to be close to his godfather throughout the year, and he had no illusions about needing the man. Harry knew that he would be spending time in the dorm with his friends, but he also knew he would be taking full advantage of his room in Sirius' quarters.
The shrill ring of the muggle phone broke the silence. Remus had had it installed back before he was employed at Hogwarts. Due to his condition, Remus had only ever been able to hold a job in the muggle world. Harry, being the only one not involved in the conversation at hand, got up to answer it. "Hello?"
"Oh, good. I was hoping you would be the one to pick up, Freak," the voice of his Aunt Petunia sneered. Harry froze up. His posture became tense, and fear entered his eyes. His aunt had never been quite as cruel as his uncle. That didn't mean she didn't terrorize the child. "Your freakishness finally did it! You've split this family apart! You think that means you get one of your own, Freak? Well you're wrong! Those wizards will see what we saw! They'll figure out what's wrong with you! Then they'll release my Vernon, and you'll be right back to where you were! The pathetic boy living in the cupboard under the stairs! Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Aunt Petunia," Harry whispered quietly, brokenly. The woman, as she always had when he was a child, successfully played on his innermost fears.
Remus had been paying attention to the phone call, knowing it was most likely for him. He grew concerned at the change in posture. As quiet as Harry's response had been, it was not at all difficult for Remus' wolf hearing to pick up. Growing angry, Remus quietly excused himself from the conversation and moved over to Harry. He could make out words like "worthless" and "freak" being thrown at his nephew through the phone, and his anger grew. "Let me see the phone, Harry."
Fear still prominent in his eyes, Harry did as he was told. Remus begged Merlin to let the fear be of the person on the other end of the phone and not of the older wizard himself. "You are worth nothing, and it's only a matter of time until they realize it. They'll do exactly the same to you as Vernon did. They'll realize you deserved it."
Protective anger welled inside Remus. The werewolf's eyes flashed a dangerous shade of amber. "Harry is worth everything. He deserved nothing you wretched muggles did to him, and we would never, ever do the same! I don't know how you got this number, but you best never use it or attempt to contact Harry in any way ever again."
"Who is this," Aunt Petunia shrilled indignantly. "What right do you have to tell me what to do?"
"My name is Remus Lupin. Harry calls me Uncle Moony. And where he is concerned, I have every right to tell you what to do. You are the one who's worthless. You are a petty excuse for a human being, and you do not deserve to have any connection whatsoever to a child as wonderful as Harry. And you would do best to remember what a full grown werewolf is capable of when his cub is threatened," Remus growled threateningly, before forcefully hanging up the phone.
"Uncle Moony," Harry whimpered fearfully.
Immediately Remus transformed back into caring, polite, understanding Remus. He pulled Harry into a comforting hug. "Shhh... You're safe, Harry. What's wrong, cub?"
"She said..." Harry swallowed thickly, pushing back the lump of emotions that had gathered in his throat. "She said you'd figure out what was wrong with me... She said you'd give me back... She said you'd hurt me..."
"Oh, Harry," Remus sighed, pulling the boy closer to him. "We can't figure out what's wrong with you, because there is nothing wrong with you. You are a wonderful, caring child. I think Sirius and I have made it very clear by now that we will never lay a harmful hand on you. If we ever even tried, you could feel free to hex us, though I assure you that shall never happen. And we would never, ever give you up. Especially not back to those wretched muggles."
"I believe that Harry's trust is rather fragile already, Remus. It would be wise not to make promises that you cannot keep."
Neither of them had realized Dumbledore had been listening in until that moment. Harry blushed, thoroughly embarrassed by the barring of his insecurities. Remus glared angrily at the headmaster. "I didn't make Harry a single promise I couldn't keep. I never would."
"As unfortunate as it is, Remus, Harry will have to return to his aunt's house for at least a few weeks during the summer. I am truly sorry." Dumbledore's words rang with sincerity. It didn't make one ounce of difference.
Sirius stood up, his chair flying back with a loud crash that made Harry flinch as he did so. "What the hell do you mean Harry has to go back! There's no way he's going back! She may not have abused him physically, but that doesn't make her any better than her fat bastard of a husband!"
"I'm sorry Sirius, but he must go back. When Lily died to save Harry, she provided him with blood protection. That will only continue as long as he lives with her blood. Harry must return. It is not up for discussion, Sirius," Dumbledore informed him firmly.
"Damn right it's not!" Sirius strode purposefully over to his family and wrapped an arm around his slightly trembling godson. The boy relaxed immediately at his godfather's protective touch. Sirius would've smiled had he not been so pissed at Dumbledore. "Harry is my godson, headmaster! And I am his legal guardian, not you. His welfare is my responsibility, not yours. And I say there's no way in hell he's ever going back to that house!"
Dumbledore glared at the stubborn young man. "Do you want Lily's sacrifice to be in vain?"
Remus glared heatedly at Dumbledore. Sirius and Lily had become close friends after she had come over to the Marauder side, but to Remus, Lily had been the little sister he never had. "How dare you insinuate that Lily died in vain? Whether Harry goes back or not, which he won't, her sacrifice will never be in vain, because the day she died, she saved her son! She saved Harry! And if she were here now, she'd hex you into oblivion for trying to send her baby back to that place!"
The old headmaster gave a tired sigh. "I can see the two of you will not come around. We will discuss this more later. For now I must return to Hogwarts."
Harry trembled slightly under the protective arms of both of his uncles when the headmaster left. Throughout his life, Dumbledore had always been the biggest authority. If Dumbledore said he had to go back, he had to go back. No doubt about it. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes. Right when he thought he was free... "I don't want to go back..."
Sirius pulled his young, frightened godson into a tight hug. James' baby, his baby, never should've had to go through this. Sirius felt a sharp pain in his heart. "I promise you, Harry, I won't let that happen. As long as Remus and I are here, you have nothing to worry about."
Hugging his godfather back, Harry nodded. "Okay."
Smiling softly, Sirius ruffled his godson's unruly black hair. "There's a good boy. It's getting late now, kiddo. Why don't we get you to bed?"
Yawning, Harry nodded. He allowed his uncles to lead him up to his room and ruffle his hair and kiss him goodnight. Harry gladly soaked in the affection that had been missing throughout his childhood. With reassurances from both Sirius and Remus, he began to feel that increasingly familiar aura of safety surround him again. To the reassuring words of his godfather and his honorary uncle, Harry fell asleep.
Later that night, Sirius and Remus both awoke to a heart wrenching scream.
Sirius got to Harry first since his room was right across the hall. Remus was right behind him. Sirius threw the door open, almost removing it from its hinges, and the two men entered, wands at the ready. To their great relief, Harry was not being tortured by a Deatheater. They found no relief, however, in the fact that the boy was instead being tortured by his dreams. He thrashed desperately, tangling himself in his blankets. Harry's screams turned to whimpers, and tears began to leak from his closed eyes.
Wands went away. Sirius went and sat on Harry's bed, pulling his traumatized godson into his lap and cradling the boy to his chest. He rubbed Harry's back and spoke softly, comfortingly. "Shhh... Shhh, Harry. It's alright. It's only a dream. I'm here, Harry. Uncle Padfoot is here. It's just a dream. Wake up for me now, kiddo. C'mon, Harry. It's okay. Wake up."
Slowly, green eyes shiny with tears peeled open. The terror that they still held broke Sirius' heart. "Uncle Padfoot?"
"That's right, Harry," Sirius told him, smiling gently. "It's me."
Remus gave a soft smile of his own as he began carding softly through Harry's tangled hair, making sure the boy was alright. "I'll go and make us all some hot chocolate, then."
Sirius chuckled as his friend exited the room. "When Moony rules the world, all problems will be solved by some sort of chocolate."
Harry gave a breathy chuckled and nodded his agreement. "Ya."
The godfather gently turned his godson around so the two were facing each other. "Would you like to talk about it, Harry?"
"That's fine. I don't need to. I shouldn't be having nightmares, anyway. Only cowards have nightmares." Vernon had told Harry that plenty of times.
Anger formed in the pit of Sirius' stomach. He had an idea of where this illusion of his godson's had come from. Had an idea of how it had been used to torment the child he considered to be his own. "That's not true, Harry. Your uncle is just a lying scumbag. Nightmares are important. Moony could explain it better than I could, but I know I still have nightmares about Azkaban. Do you think I'm a coward?"
Affronted by even the idea of it, Harry protested vehemently. "Of course not! You're one of the bravest people I know!"
With very little effort, Sirius pushed back the pride that his godson thinking that caused. He had more important things to tend to at the moment than his ego. "And there has never been a more true Gryffindor than you, Harry. You're the golden boy of the house of the brave. And when I have nightmares about Azkaban, talking to Moony helps. So how about it, kiddo? Why don't you tell your wonderful godfather what's bothering you?"
At that point, Remus returned with the group's hot cocoa. It really did help. They halted the conversation for a few moments, relishing in the delicious beverage. "Moony, would you mind telling Harry what you told me the first night I had a nightmare about Azkaban?"
"Of course not." Remus could easily see how the same words that had helped godfather could help godson. "Nightmares are the minds way of dealing with things that we can't quite handle when we're awake. They help us to sort through our problems by making us face our demons. I can't tell you how many times I've had nightmares about the night I was bitten, or nightmares about biting someone else. It's nothing to be ashamed of. And a burden shared is always a burden lessoned."
After a few more sips of hot cocoa, Harry decided that maybe it would help to talk to Sirius and Remus. He was sure it wouldn't hurt. "It was about something that happened at the Dursleys, before Hogwarts..." Two arms were immediately intertwined on Harry's shoulders, giving the boy the strength he so desperately needed to continue. "Dudley and his gang were chasing me at school. I accidentally apparated onto the roof of the school to get away from them. When I got back to the Dursley's, I found out the school had called telling them I had been on the roof. They were both really angry that I had publicly displayed my freakishness. It was the worst beating I had gotten up to that point. Vernon threw me in the cupboard like he usually did. But days passed and nobody let me out. I was starving and terrified. Terrified enough to bang on the door and yell to be let out. I knew I wasn't supposed to. Vernon came back and beat me again. Then he put tape over my mouth and taped my hands together so I couldn't yell and bang anymore. It was about a week before they finally let me out. They told the school I had been in juvy for stealing. They had this fake criminal record made up for me so no one would question the way they treated me..."
Horrifying images of his precious little Harry, beaten and bound, gagged and starved, stuffed away in a cupboard, terrified filled Sirius' mind. Sorrow and heartbreak and anger filled the godfather. None of those, however, could outweigh the protectiveness and love that flowed through him for his godson. He crushed the thirteen year old to his chest and rubbed his back comfortingly. "Oh, Harry... Never again... Never here..."
Remus resumed his earlier motion of gently running his fingers through Harry's hair. "We will never let anyone hurt you ever again."
Watery eyes looked up at two of the only adults Harry truly and irrevocably trusted. Hagrid was pretty far up there on Harry's list too, if you would call the man an adult. He knew Sirius and Remus would never hurt him. And he believed they wouldn't let anyone else either. A small smile found its way onto Harry's face. "Okay."
Harry's smile brought a smile to the face of both of the Marauders. Sirius gently wiped the tear tracks from his godson's face. "Think you could get back to sleep now, kiddo? You still need to rest."
Hesitantly, Harry nodded. "I think so."
With his usual soft smile, Remus gathered up the cocoa mugs and kissed the top of Harry's head. "Goodnight, Harry."
"Good night, Uncle Moony." Sirius kissed the top of Harry's head as well and moved to leave. His godson's small hand on his arm stopped him. Harry hesitated, but only briefly. Sirius said he could ask him anything. And above all others, Harry trusted his godfather. "W-will you stay with me?"
The gentlest of smiles found its way onto Sirius' face. He slipped under the covers behind his godson and wrapped a protective arm around the boy he considered his own. "Of course, Harry. Anything for you. You know that." Once they were both settled in, Sirius spoke again, softer this time. It wasn't easy for him to talk about, but as he had told Harry, anything for his godson. "You know Harry, I went through something similar to what you did as a child."
Shock woke Harry from his half asleep state. "Really? Uncle Padfoot, I'm so sorry..."
Sirius shook his head. "Don't be, kiddo. It wasn't half as bad as what you went through. Mostly my parents just yelled at me. I was only ever actually hit a handful of times. And I was sixteen by the time it got really bad. The first time my mother ever really hurt me, I ran away to James' house. The Potters practically adopted me. Those were the best years of my life. My point is, Harry, that as long as you have people who love you, everything will be up okay in the end. And you are so, so loved, Harry."
"Thanks Sirius. Love you too," Harry mumbled sleepily. Sirius planted one more loving kiss on Harry's head before the boy fell into a mercifully dreamless sleep, wrapped in the love and protection of the closest thing he had ever known to a father.