Cottages stood on either side of the narrow road, illuminated by the golden glow of streetlights. Faint shouts of laughter could be heard in the distance, probably teenagers enjoying All Hallow's Eve, despite its relative unpopularity this side of the Atlantic. Sirius however, didn't care. All he could smell was that acidic, burnt, wrong scent and he hurried down the street hoping that his worst fears would not be realised.
As he turned the corner however, he suddenly found he couldn't breathe. There was the cottage, the cottage of laughter and safety and family and... death? The right side of the top floor was blown apart. Sirius couldn't move. His eyes were glued to the sight and his heart felt as though it had stopped beating. This couldn't be real. They were supposed to be safe. There was the fidelius charm, and no one would suspect Peter would be the keeper.
But just as the bile began to rise inside him and the incoherent rage descended he heard a cry. A child's cry. Stumbling forwards, he ran towards the ruined house and frantically pulled open the front door, pulling it off its hinges. The cry sounded again and he dashed upstairs. Stood in his cot, in the middle of the wreckage, was Harry. When he saw Sirius his wide frightened eyes seemed to grow and he whimpered:
Sirius scooped him up and held him close to his chest. Safe. Harry was alive,. Sirius squeezed his eyes shut and held Harry as though his life depended on it. Maybe it did. It was hard to know how long they were stood there before the reality of the situation hit him. Stumbling over some wreckage he tried to find somewhere to put the child down whilst he thought of what to do. James and Lily wouldn't have left Harry here on his own. Lily loved Harry with a love so fierce that Lily...
It was then he saw her. Pale, as always, but somehow different. Her dark red hair could have been the blood that would have made sense of the way she was crumpled on the floor, lifeless. Sirius' heart stopped again. He blinked, slowly, as if he could be imagining things. This could not be real. Harry started crying again and Sirius gasped. This was not something a child should ever see. Just then, he heard a crash downstairs. Grabbing his wand he prepared to disapparate when he heard a muffled sob. It was Hagrid. Why on earth was he here?
Cautiously he headed to the top of the stairs, where he could see James' body. He must have practically stepped over it before and the thought brought a violent wave of nausea. Hagrid was stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking as confused and distressed as Sirius felt. For a minute they just stared at each other.
"Hagrid?" Sirius broke the silence. "What are you doing here?"
"Dumbledore sent me to collect 'arry, t' take 'im to 'is family."
Sirius didn't even question how Dumbledore knew what had happened but he bristled.
"Well, I am Harry's family, and I'm here, so I guess you can tell him that Harry is safe", he replied carefully.
"Ah well, y' see," Hagrid continued uncertainly, "'e said that 'arry should live with 'is Aunt and Uncle."
Sirius felt his blood begin to boil and opened his mouth to shout before remembering he was holding an eighteen month child who had already seen and heard more than anyone should ever see or hear. He gritted his teeth.
"I am his family." he repeated "I was more James' brother than Petunia was ever a sister to Lily. If Dumbledore wants to explain why he thinks a child should be sent to live with those people, he will have to tell me why himself."
With that, he disapparated, but not before the lump in his throat became too much, and the tears finally began to fall.
As Sirius’ eyes adjusted to the gloom of the bare room he had just apparated to, sobs began to wrack his body. Harry began to wail and it was all Sirius could do not to join him. Carefully placing the child down, he slumped onto the bed. None of this could be real. He had spoken to James just earlier today, they had even been talking about a second child. Everything had been normal, as normal as it could be in war time. Fuck, he had just been on his way to have a Halloween meal with his family. Because that's what they were, family. And now they were just gone? It couldn't be real.
Harry tugged on Sirius' sleeve, and Sirius lifted his head to meet the piercing green eyes of his best friend's wife surrounded by the unruly mop of black hair that was characteristic for the Potters. The child's face was covered by a scar, like lightning had struck him and left a trail behind. It hadn't been there last time Sirius had seen Harry, but it seemed almost perfectly healed. Harry's face was stained with tears and his bottom lip was wobbling.
"Dada?" he asked, and Sirius' heart shattered into pieces. He hadn't thought it was possible for it to break anymore than it had as soon as soon as he had seen the cottage, but apparently it was. Breathing deeply, he tried to control his sobbing. The child needed him and he couldn't help him if he couldn't breathe. But it was just that they were gone, and Harry was a toddler, and Sirius had no idea how to raise a child but Merlin's beard he would not let Dumbledore anywhere near. James had always trusted Dumbledore and look how well that had turned out.
The rage began to return then, and with it an ability to think clearly. They couldn't stay here, there was no heating and it was a cold autumn. Honestly he had no idea why this is where he had decided to go, the run down shack where the four of them had spent so many full moons. Four of them. Now it was three - no, two. Peter had...
Just as the red mist began to descend and he reached for his wand Harry repeated his question. The small voice pierced Sirius to the core. It wasn't just him now, Harry needed him. He needed to think. He needed to find Remus. Fuck, he'd left his motorcycle in Godric's Hollow, along with the cloak he had been meaning to return to James. He wasn't sure he trusted his ability to apparate again with a child in tow, the way his head was spinning and his stomach was churning. And now he was stuck in fucking Hogsmeade in an unheated shack with a fifteen month old. Sirius reached forward and gathered Harry up in his arms, holding him close. How on earth could he answer what Harry was trying to ask. How could you explain to a bab-
The door creaked open and Sirius froze. Why would anyone be here, could they have followed him somehow? His eyes scoured the wreckage of the room around him for somewhere safe to hide Harry. If the intruder didn’t know the child was here then maybe Harry would be safe.
“Pads?” a familar voice whispered, and Sirius could almost feel the weight of the relief lifting off his shoulders. Remus’ pale, worried face appeared around the corner, his eyes full of concern.
“Oh thank Merlin you’re here Pads, I was running late to the Halloween meal and I saw your bike so I knew you were there already but then I got the the house and the house was… was… and then I saw Hagrid and he was sobbing and he said that you had taken Harry and that Dumbledore would be angry with him and he didn’t know how to get home because he’d taken a portkey… and I didn’t understand why he was so scared of you and Dumbledore and I couldn’t understand that the house was… that they were… that... “ gabbled Remus without taking a breath, looking more like a ghost than a human being. Sirius reached out and pulled Remus close and held him while they both sobbed. They could have been standing there for a thousand years for all Sirius knew, but Remus finally drew back with a sniffle and a sheepish expression on his face that would have sent Sirius into fits of giggles at literally any other time. “I may have told Hagrid he could use your bike, sorry mate.” he admitted.
This did cause the corners of Sirius’ mouth to twitch and he exhaled sharply. “Mate?” he questioned, eyebrows raised.
At this, Remus blushed and pecked his cheek. “Oh sorry honey-buns, my dearest sweetie-pie.”
Sirius stifled a laugh and shoved him gently, before realising where they were and why. Swallowing, he turned around to look for Harry, and found him curled up on a ripped armchair, fast asleep. Merlin, everything was just such a fucking mess. What on earth where they going to do now? Glancing back at Remus, he realised that he had only just seen Harry. Remus’ brow was creased and he started searching through drawers looking, Sirius realised, for a blanket. Something Sirius hadn’t even considered. Bloody hell, how did he ever think he would be able to raise a child he was too young for th… He was older than Lily and James.
After Remus had tucked Harry in, and used his wand to light a fire in the grate (another thing that hadn’t even occurred to Sirius despite his panic about the cold), he turned back to Sirius with a serious expression.
“You want to raise him.”
It was more a statement than a question, and Sirius simply nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
“Right then. I can go and pack my stuff now and I’ll be gone by tomorrow and you can bring him home then. I think he should be alright sleeping here tonight, probably best not to wake him.” and with that Remus turned to leave.
Sirius was stunned. What did he mean? He hadn’t even considered that Remus might not want to live with Harry, but he couldn’t lose him now. “Wait, Reems, why?” he gasped.
Remus turned back to face him, tears streaking silently down his face and his eyes full of such pain that Sirius had never seen before. “I am hardly a safe person for a child to be around Pads. We both know that. I have places I can go, I could visit sometim-” his voice broke, and he shook his head.
“Remus, you complete twat.” Sirius almost shouted, the relief tangible. “Harry would be far safer with an actual competent adult around and we both know that’s not me. If you want to be there, please stay. I want you to stay and I’m sure Harry does too.” Pausing, he took a deep breath. “Look, I know this isn’t something we have talked about yet and I know we don’t even really have our own place and I totally understand if this is too much for you. I am so sorry I took off from Godric’s Hollow without waiting for you to arrive so that we could make this decision together. But please don’t ever say you are dangerous to Harry, please don’t make that the reason you decide you can’t stay.”