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the most important meal of the day

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Number twelve Grimmauld Place was unusually quiet when Harry tip-toed down the stairs. It was barely dawn; another vague dream, receeding feeling of anxiety, had awoken him, and now that he was up he was unusually awake.

Getting past Sirius' mother's portrait was a bit of a trial, and Harry swore very softly under his breath as he stubbed his toe on the damned umbrella stand, then sighed in relief as he crept into the kitchen to--

"I swear, you never could drink tea properly," groused Remus, and handed a chipped sugar bowl over.

"You just can't deal with my sweet disposition, m'lad," Sirius countered, snapping his teeth at the spoon Remus was waving in his face.

"I just can't deal with your--" and then Remus broke off abruptly, staring at Harry in the doorway for all of two seconds, then smiling just as abruptly. "Good morning," he said.

Sirius stood, with a last baleful glare at Remus as he went to refill the sugar bowl. "Have some tea," he said to Harry, "if old miserly there will let you have any milk for it."

"I simply said," Remus answered patiently, "that you were going to finish another bottle before everyone was up, and we'd have to send out for more--"

The sugar bowl plopped onto the table in front of Harry, who'd sat down in a chair gingerly, unsure whether this was an actual argument or just good-natured bickering. It sounded a lot like Ginny and Fred when one of them had eaten the last custard tart, or Ron and Hermione talking about, well, nearly anything.

Remus put another cup down in front of Harry. "Tea?"

"Milk?" Sirius said, handing him the jug. "Sausages and american pancakes?" he asked, waving his wand. Instantly, the faint sizzle of a griddle filled the kitchen, and the stove - surprisingly Muggle in appearance, though Harry had a suspicion that it was a new addition, since it wasn't covered in grime, and he couldn't see Sirius' family deigning to dine like Muggles in the first place - switched itself on.

"We don't have any syrup," Remus pointed out. He gave Harry his spoon.

"They're good with jam," Sirius retorted, and eyed the griddle. "Just because James and Peter ambushed you that one time with the grape jelly--"

Harry sipped his tea, silently, as he saw Sirius stiffen ever so slightly. Remus, however, just shook his head, actually chuckling. "I'd forgotten about that." He pulled out some dog-eared - and Harry mentally snorted, dog-eared - papers, began leafing through them. "James' front hall was sticky for two weeks straight."

"Only because we sent him an exploding packet in the mail," Sirius managed to say, and just like that the tension was dispelled. Sirius bent over the griddle. "The Potters' liked pancakes, Harry," he said to the griddle.

"I," Harry said, when both Remus and Sirius looked at him. "I'm not very hungry, thanks." He stood up to fetch the sugar for his tea just as Sirius dumped a pile of sausages and thick crepes onto a plate. Harry could smell the food; it was greasy and fresh.

"Looks like it'll be a nice day," Remus said casually, fixing Sirius another cup of tea, milk and two sugars. Harry stayed standing, allowing Sirius to flop into the kitchen chair he vacated. "Pass me the marmalade, Harry?"

The cup in Sirius' hand steamed, as he blew on it gently. "Marmalade, now?"

"Don't start," Remus warned, threatening Sirius with a spoon in one hand and still reading whatever document was taking up his time. "Or I'll put marmalade in your hair."

Harry scrubbed at his eyes, trying to get over being awake so early in the morning. Sirius, for all his attempts at cooking, had simply dumped the plate of breakfast in front of Remus and sat down again, squinting as if he were exhausted. He asked his godfather, "have you been up long?"

Sirius grimaced. "First rays of dawn, just as this one," and he waved a hand at Remus, "was getting in."

Remus eyed him over his cup, and Sirius eyed him right back. Harry got the feeling that he shouldn't ask was Remus was doing; rebelliously he said, "so what mission were you out on last night?"

"Actually," Remus said, still playing around with the parchment in his hands, "I was trying to get a grant from the Ministry for a car."

"A car?" Harry asked blankly.

Sirius absently flicked a piece of sausage at Remus, who threw it in the sink. "A car," Sirius repeated to Harry. "He wants to drive. Not that anyone should allow him behind the wheel, he's a right menace, nearly took out two lamp posts when we were fifteen--"

"But," Remus rolled over Sirius smoothly, "even the office in Manchester was booked up until the end of the week. I'm going to ask Arthur to push something through."

Harry thought a moment. "Won't that look," and he lowered his voice, "suspicious?"

"It's not that I need a licence," Remus answered. "We need insurance for the car in the garage here."

Sirius shook his head, nearly spilling his tea on Remus' work. "I'm not getting in that thing. Even if it was just my brother's, it's not safe."

"We've been over it, even Alastor sniffed around it, and there's no getting around the fact that we need some form of transportation for everyday use--"

Harry could scarcely recognise the easy-going squabbling that Sirius - all right, truth be told it wasn't too bizarre hearing Sirius squabble - and Professor Lupin were engaging in. To see a former teacher actually joking about grape jelly was a bit unnerving.

"--which would sit a lot better with me if it was less likely to blow up in our faces--"

Harry interrupted, "what could be wrong with the car?"

Sirius and Remus both broke off, and turned to look at him. Sirius shrugged. "Anything. The seats could be charmed. The engine could be hexed in all number of ways - I can think of four right off the top of my head."

"He simply doesn't want me driving," Remus told Harry calmly, and started spreading jam on his sausages. Sirius leaned over the table, and snagged a sausage covered in sticky sweet jam, and popped it into his mouth whole, chewing with a content smile on his face. Remus glanced at Sirius fondly. "Just like fourth year," he said to Sirius.

"The lemon marmalade!" Sirius answered, and grinned. "I'd forgotten that, too."

Remus spooned up another bit of sausage, and fed it to Sirius while he told Harry, "your father spent a month putting lemon marmalade on everything because Lily told him it was the foulest stuff ever."

Harry blinked. "But--"

"I know," Sirius cut in, food in his mouth, "it defies all logic, but there's James for you."

After a moment, Harry reached over with a questioning look. Remus held the plate out for him, and hesitantly, he ate a bit of sausage and jam. It was, odd, he decided. Not necessarily bad, but--

"I don't think I like it," he told the two of them.

Remus casually reached over and wiped marmalade off Sirius' mouth, rolling his eyes. "It's awful, really," he said. "But sometimes you get used to things and keep eating them anyway."

Harry nodded, slowly. He could see how that might be the case. "Did, my dad like it?"

Sirius covered his mouth, stifling a yawn or a laugh, Harry wasn't sure. "We never could tell. He was quite stubborn over some things."

"Have some more tea, then," Remus told Harry, and poured him and Sirius another cup. Harry drank it absently. Here in Sirius' family's kitchen it didn't seem too odd to be talking about his father and their school antics; Sirius hadn't been back to the house since before Harry was born, and Remus probably longer, if ever. Still, it wasn't as foreboding as the house usually felt. Maybe the Muggle stove in the corner helped, maybe the drawn curtains.

"Looks like a nice day," Sirius said. "And you'll miss all of it."

Remus yawned, folding up the parchments he'd been pawing through. "I'll just grab a nap," he said. "We can start on going through the fourth floor this afternoon."

"You're a fiend," Sirius told him, and smiled at Remus. Harry glanced up. The smile was soft, and it made Sirius' face look quite different. It was a smile he could envision his father having seen. Sirius pulled Remus' wrist close to his face, tugging his arm across the table and squinting at the dial on Remus' watch. "Molly will be up soon," he said.

"Then I'm going to bed," Remus declared, and drained his tea cup, standing up. Sirius started to rise as well, and Remus put a light hand on his shoulder. "No, you make breakfast for everyone. I'll see you at lunch."

"Good morning," Harry called out softly, belately, as Remus exited the kitchen.

Sirius sat down again. Harry scrubbed at his eyes; it was still abominably early, and yet Sirius had been up even earlier. Already, they could hear people stirring, getting up - and the faint crack of Fred and George stealing the lavatory first. "It's a nice morning," Sirius said again, looking out the window. and it was.