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Finding Home

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Privet Drive looked like something out of a nightmare. 

Each square lawn was an unnatural shade of green, the grass severely trimmed so it stood no higher than an inch. Every house was a carbon copy of its neighbor. The street was eerily silent, even though it was a cloudless day at the height of the summer. No children played outside. No dogs barked. No couples were out for a stroll, hand-in-hand. Sirius stood at the end of the drive for Number 4, scowling at the house in front of him, a perfect cookie-cutter copy of all the rest. This was where Harry had grown up? 

He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised. He’d met Petunia and that vile husband of hers at James and Lily’s wedding, and it had been a privilege to bloody Vernon’s nose that night. He doubted they had changed much in all the years since. 

Curtains in the windows of the neighboring houses twitched, and Sirius had to bite the inside of his cheek to tamp down on a grin. They would be whispering for weeks about the strange man in the leather jacket and Doc Martens who had appeared outside Petunia’s house one sunny afternoon in June. She would hate it. 

Sirius walked up to the front door and, much as he would have preferred to pull out Remus’s wand and blast the thing off its hinges, settled for knocking instead. The door swung open, and Petunia Dursley glared at him. Her face darkened in recognition. 

You,” she said.

“Hello, Tuney,” he said, flashing her what he knew was his most infuriating grin. He stepped into the house, and she had to back up several paces to avoid colliding with him. “I’m here to see Harry.” 

“Why?” 

“I want to have a chat with him.” 

Her jaw tightened. “He’s not here.”

Sirius felt the smile drop from his face. 

“You’re a shit liar, Petunia,” he said. “Where is he?” 

“How am I supposed to keep track of him? The boy’s a brat, out at all hours of the day and night,” Petunia said disdainfully. “No respect for us, none at all. Now, unless you’re about to offer us compensation for all the money we’ve had to spend on him over the years, I suggest you leave my house.”

“I’m here to see Harry, and I’m not leaving until that happens,” Sirius snapped.

“I’ll call the police!”

“Will you?” Sirius plucked Remus’s wand out of his pocket, twirling it between his fingers. “Go ahead, then.” 

Petunia paled. “You freaks are all the same. Just wait until my husband--”

“Yes, how is Vernon?” Sirius asked. “Does he fancy me breaking his nose again?”

“You contemptible little--”

“Where. Is. Harry.” 

Petunia opened her mouth to respond, but before she could utter a word, Sirius heard a quiet cough. His head snapped around, but there was no one else here in the entry hall with them, and the house was silent aside from Petunia’s indignant breathing.

Another cough. Sirius’s gaze flicked to the closed door of the cupboard under the stairs. 

“What’s in there?” he demanded. 

“Nothing,” Petunia said, and Merlin, she truly was a shit liar. “Only some wellies, and--” 

Sirius shoved past her and flicked his hand at the lock, which immediately unlocked. Over the thrumming of adrenaline in his veins, he could only distantly appreciate that that was his first bit of wandless magic since Azkaban, meaning the skill hadn’t been taken from him by the dementors. Good. He slipped Remus’s wand back into his sleeve and yanked open the cupboard door.

The stench hit him first, stale sweat and vomit. Then he noticed the small cot that had been crammed into the tight space, and the dark-haired figure huddled under a thin blanket. 

Harry?” Sirius breathed. The cupboard was so cramped, Harry couldn’t even stretch out properly. He was curled up in a fetal position, his feet near the door, his head in the shadows. Sirius reached out and gently set a hand on Harry’s ankle, rubbing his thumb across the sharp bone. “Harry, it’s me.”  

Harry groaned, and two bleary eyes peeked at him from under the blanket. “Wha--” 

“It’s me,” Sirius said, giving Harry a reassuring smile even though all he wanted to do was scream. “It’s Sirius.”

“Sirius?” Harry struggled into a sitting position, peering at him, and then his eyes widened in horror. “What are you--no, you have to go, they’ll catch you--” 

“No one’s after me.” Sirius caught one of Harry’s hands in his own, squeezing gently. “I’m free, Harry. It’s all sorted.”

“What?”

“My name’s been cleared. We’ve been owling you about it for days, but you haven’t answered.”

“Didn’t get any owls,” Harry said, frowning. 

Sirius glanced at Petunia, who shrugged. “Filthy, disgusting birds. Had to beat them away with a broom.”

“What did you do with the letters?” 

“Burned them,” she said waspishly. 

Enough was enough. “Harry, you’re coming with me.” 

The naked hope on Harry’s face made him want to cry. “Really?”

“I came here today to ask you how you felt about living with me, if you still wanted that,” Sirius said. He glared at Petunia. “But I don’t think I’m going to give you a choice. We’re getting out of here. Where are your things?”

Harry smothered a cough in his elbow, then rasped, “Dudley’s second bedroom.”

“His second what?” Sirius shook his head. “Never mind. Where is that?”

“Upstairs.” Harry rubbed the back of his hand under his nose. “S’locked.” 

“Good thing I’m a wizard then, isn’t it?” Sirius slipped Remus’s wand out of his sleeve again and pointed it at Petunia. “Don’t move.” 

He took the stairs two at a time and spelled several locks off the door at the end of the hall. Inside, he found Harry’s trunk, as well as his owl in her cage. She hooted at him mournfully.

“Have you been locked up here all this time?” he asked, appalled. He opened the cage and charmed the bars off the window-- why were there bars on the window? --and opened it so that she could fly out. She landed on the windowsill and hooted at him again. “I’m taking Harry away from here. You’ll find us. Go on, girl.” 

The owl flew off. Sirius shrank Harry’s trunk and the cage, and put them in his pocket. He glanced around the room for anything else that might be Harry’s, but nothing jumped out at him. He went back downstairs to the cupboard.

“I got your trunk and your owl’s cage,” Sirius said, crouching in front of the door again. “I let her loose; she’ll find us. What’s her name?”

“Hedwig,” Harry rasped. 

“She’s a beautiful bird. Do you have anything else? Clothes or anything?”

“Everything is in my trunk.” 

“Where are your glasses?”

Harry blinked, like he’d forgotten he wasn’t wearing them. “Oh. They broke.” 

“Do you have them still?”

Harry reached over and plucked something off a small shelf Sirius hadn’t noticed before. He put the shattered glasses in Sirius’s outstretched hand. 

“They broke, huh,” Sirius muttered, because this kind of damage wasn’t a simple accident. He’d bet money on it. He tapped Remus’s wand against them with a muttered spell, and the glasses repaired themselves. He handed them back to Harry. 

“Dudley might have helped.” Harry put the glasses on his face, and visible relief washed over him. “Thanks, Sirius.” 

“Come on, kiddo. Let’s go.” He grasped Harry’s hand and helped him out of the cupboard and to his feet. Harry swayed slightly. Sirius steadied him with an arm around his shoulders. With Harry tucked into his side, he could feel the heat pouring off the boy. He must be running a nasty fever. 

Petunia stood in front of the door, arms crossed. “That’s it, then? And what do we get for having to put up with--with him for all these years? We fed him, we clothed him, we let him sleep under our roof--”

“Get the fuck out of my way,” Sirius said, leveling the wand at her. “What do you get out of this? You and your miserable family get to escape with your hides intact. Now move, before I make you.” 

Petunia, her jaw tight, finally stepped aside. Sirius guided Harry out of the house and down the drive to the car he’d borrowed from Remus. It was ancient, an eyesore compared to every other vehicle on the street, and the only reason it still ran was because magic was holding it together at the seams. Remus loved the hell out of it. 

“You can drive?” Harry asked blearily as Sirius opened the door to the backseat. 

“Moony taught me the summer after our sixth year,” he said. He used the wand now discreetly tucked up his sleeve to conjure up a thick blanket and a pillow. “Come on, in you get. We’ve got a bit of a drive, so you should sleep if you can.” 

Harry clambered into the car and stretched out on the backseat. He wrapped himself up in the blanket and settled his head on the pillow. There was a stray road map laying on the floor, which Sirius transfigured into a bucket.

“In case you need it,” he said, and Harry grimaced. 

“Sorry.”

“Don’t.” Sirius patted his leg. “Tell me if you need me to pull over; otherwise, I’m just going to drive straight through. Rest, kiddo.” 

Harry thankfully fell asleep before they were even out of Little Whinging. Sirius was--begrudgingly--grateful that Remus had talked him out of picking Harry up on his motorbike and had insisted on the car instead. Sirius wouldn’t have been able to get Harry back to the cottage in Wales otherwise, not in his current state. 

They made the drive without incident, as Harry didn’t wake up once. It was after dark by the time Sirius arrived back at the cottage, and Remus stepped out to meet them.

Remus approached the car as Sirius killed the engine, his face falling when he saw that the passenger seat was empty. “He didn’t want to come with you?”

Sirius jerked his thumb at the backseat. “He’s sick. Slept most of the way here.”

Remus’s face softened as he glanced into the back. “Poor kid. I suppose that explains why he didn’t answer your owls.” 

“He never even got the letters,” Sirius said, opening the car door and getting out. “Those relatives of his burned them.” 

Remus blinked at him. “What?” 

“That’s not even the half of it, Moony. They were keeping him locked in a cupboard.” 

“Locked in a what?”

“Later.” Sirius opened the door to the backseat and squeezed Harry’s leg. “Haz? We’re here.” 

Harry came reluctantly awake, and Sirius was fondly reminded of what James was like the morning after a party in Gryffindor tower, when they had to drag his hungover arse out of bed to get to class. Except, of course, that had been James’s own fault, while Harry had done nothing to deserve his current misery.

“Let’s get you inside and straight to bed,” Sirius said, wrapping the blanket around Harry’s shoulders as he got out of the car. “Moony, a big white owl didn’t happen to arrive this afternoon, did she?”

“She did, in fact,” Remus said, and smiled when Harry blinked at him in surprise. “Hello, Harry.”

“Professor?” 

“I’m not your professor any longer. Remus will do. Your owl’s made herself right at home already, and I’m sure she’ll be delighted to see you.”

“I’m confused,” Harry murmured. Sirius had an arm around him for support, and led him into the cottage. 

“This is Remus’s home. We’re staying here for the summer. We’ve got a bedroom ready for you and loads to tell you, but you need to get better first.”

“Pads, can I have my wand?” 

Sirius dug it out of his pocket and handed it over, and Remus ran a quick diagnostic spell on Harry.

“Looks like the ‘flu,” Remus said. “Been sick long, Harry?”

“Few days.” Harry leaned against Sirius for support, shivering despite the heat radiating off him. 

“I’ve got some potions that might help. Get him settled, Sirius, and I’ll see what I can dig up.”

Sirius got Harry up the stairs and into his new room. Harry paused on the threshold and murmured, “Oh.”

“Do you like it?” Sirius hoped the question sounded casual despite the anxiety brimming beneath the surface. He’d spent almost a week agonizing over the room, fretting over everything from the furniture to the wallpaper, until Remus wisely pointed out that the room only needed to have the basics in it and Harry could take care of the rest when he arrived. “It’s a bit bland, but we figured you could decorate it how you wanted. And--and if you don’t like anything, we can always get new furniture, or we can rearrange things, or--” 

He stopped, noticing a tear trace its way down Harry’s cheek. “Harry?”

“Oh.” Harry scrubbed at his face. “Sorry. I’ve--I’ve never had a bedroom before.” 

Merlin and Godric. Even Walburga and Orion had given Sirius a bedroom. 

“Sit down,” he said, guiding Harry over to the bed, and then he went to the wardrobe. He pulled out a pair of pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt and took them over to Harry. “We got some clothes for you, just enough to get you started here. Remus said--well, he noticed this past year that your clothes had seen better days, and thought that you might like some new outfits. We had to guess at your size. We can always go out for more when you’re feeling better.”

Harry took the pyjama bottoms from him--tastefully patterned with Snitches, thank you very much--and the plain black t-shirt, and looked like he might actually burst into tears.

“Why?” he whispered.

“‘Cause you’re my godson,” Sirius said gruffly, brushing a hand over Harry’s head. “Change, then get into bed. I’ll see how Remus is getting on.” 

Remus kept a multitude of potions in the cottage, ones that were simple enough for him to brew and which helped him through the symptoms surrounding the moon. He dug up a fever reducer and sleeping draught for Harry, and soon enough, Harry was deeply asleep in his new bed. Sirius set a bin next to the bed just in case, but hoped that the worst of the illness had passed. 

“Cupboard?” Remus asked the moment Sirius stepped into the kitchen. He was fixing them both a cup of tea. 

“Under the stairs,” Sirius said grimly. “They’d shoved a cot in there and he was sleeping on that, under a disgusting old blanket. No pillow. They must’ve just chucked him in there the moment he started feeling sick. It was locked, Moony. From the outside. He was trapped in there.” 

Christ.” Remus had a tendency to slip Muggle exclamations and idioms into his speech, especially when he was stressed. Under normal circumstances, Sirius found it endearing. 

“He about cried when I showed him his room just now.” Sirius took the mug of tea that Remus handed him and summoned a bottle of whiskey. He poured a generous amount into both their mugs. “Said he’s never had one before.” 

“Not exactly the way you envisioned this going, is it,” Remus said sympathetically.

“No,” Sirius huffed. “It isn’t. Remus, did you know?”

“No,” Remus said. “All Dumbledore told me was that Harry had been placed with a good family that could provide for him. I tried to look for him, but I gave up when Harry was...oh, he must have been five or so. I think Dumbledore did something to make sure I couldn’t find the Dursleys.”

“You tried to look for them?”

Remus nodded. “I didn’t want to believe that Dumbledore would have placed Harry with Petunia, but it was a place to start. They were the only lead I had. If they didn’t have Harry, maybe they would know who did. But I couldn’t find them. And then Dumbledore came along one day and made it very clear that if I didn’t stop looking for Harry, he could make things very unpleasant for me. So I gave up looking for him.” He shrugged, his mouth twisting unpleasantly. “I had to eat, Padfoot. Jobs were thin on the ground as it was. I wouldn’t have survived if things had gotten even worse for me.” 

Merlin, how Sirius despised that old man.  

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Sirius said firmly. “You’ve got me, now.” 

“Indeed I do,” Remus said, holding out his mug in a silent toast, and Sirius raised his eyebrows at him. 

“You weren’t all that eager to take my money thirteen years ago,” he said. “You fought me like hell on it.” 

“Well, that was before the Ministry was forced to give you a massive payout for wrongful imprisonment,” Remus said. “I don’t mind spending the Ministry’s money. Besides, I can’t be a good co-guardian to Harry if I’m begging for scraps, now can I?” 

Sirius was suddenly immensely grateful for Remus. “I couldn’t do this without you, Moony.” 

“And it’s what James and Lily would have wanted, Padfoot.” Remus reached out to grip his hand. “Both of us, looking after Harry. Together.” 

Sirius squeezed his hand. “Together.” 

***

The thing was, they hadn’t truly had a chance to discuss, well, them. Not yet, at least. The weeks since that night in the Shrieking Shack had passed in a blur. Kingsley Shacklebolt--an ex of Remus’s that he was on good terms with--had pulled strings at the Ministry to get Sirius’s case in front of Amelia Bones, which thankfully resulted in Sirius’s name being cleared, and then he’d had to spend a week in St. Mungo’s before he emerged feeling almost like a human being again. After that, he and Remus had frantically made plans for Harry’s arrival--they’d had to prepare a room for him, buy furniture and clothes, and make arrangements for Sirius to fetch Harry from Little Whinging. 

And now Sirius had brought a sick Harry home, and that was all he could think about. All thoughts of Remus and their split fourteen years ago, of trying to rekindle things now--all of that would have to wait. Harry was all he could focus on. 

He and Remus shared a bed, though. They’d shared a bed since Sirius had first arrived at the cottage after St. Mungo’s. It hadn’t even been a question. They should probably talk about that at some point, but Sirius couldn’t summon the energy for it, and sleeping anywhere else was unthinkable. 

Sirius looked in on Harry one last time before turning in. He seemed to be sleeping soundly, if not peacefully. Sirius turned to leave the room, and then hesitated. What was he supposed to do, in this situation? What would a parent do? What would James do? Give Harry a goodnight kiss on the forehead, probably, but while Sirius had known Harry since before he was even born, Harry had only met him a couple of weeks ago. It would probably be odd, wouldn’t it? 

He settled for running his fingers through Harry’s unruly hair and whispering a goodnight to him. Harry didn’t even stir. 

Sirius didn’t sleep for long. He woke up in the middle of the night to the unmistakable sounds of Harry being sick. Groaning, he leaned over Remus to snag the other man’s wand off his bedside table, then rolled to his feet and went to check on the boy.

Thankfully, he’d been sick in the bin Sirius had left next to his bed. Sirius vanished the mess, then performed a quick mouth-cleaning charm for Harry.

“Alright?” he murmured, laying a hand on Harry’s forehead. His skin burned, and a quick diagnostic spell showed that his fever had climbed slightly since his arrival.

“Sorry,” Harry whispered, his voice barely a thin rasp.

“Nothing to apologize for, Haz.”

“Sirius?” Remus came into the room, pulling on a dressing gown over his pyjamas. “Should we call St. Mungo’s?”

“I was thinking Pomfrey. More discreet that way. What time is it?”

“Half two.” 

Too early to call on Pomfrey if it wasn’t an emergency. “Do you have anything left we can give him in the meantime? Another sleeping draught, at least. Maybe even a fever reducer? Or something for the pain?”

“I should have something,” Remus said, and went downstairs to go through his collection of potions.

“Thought it was a dream,” Harry croaked. 

“Hm?” Sirius sat on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers through Harry’s sweat-damp hair. “You thought what was a dream?”

“Being here,” Harry whispered. “It’s not, is it? You really came and got me?”

“I really came and got you,” Sirius said, smiling gently. “And you’re never going back to those Dursleys.” 

Remus returned with three vials that he handed to Sirius in exchange for his wand. 

“Padfoot’s going to stay with Harry for the rest of the night,” Sirius told him, and he nodded. 

“Call me if you need me. Goodnight, Harry.” 

***

Sirius lay awake for the rest of the night, curled up as Padfoot next to Harry’s prone form. His heightened senses picked up the scent of illness that rolled off Harry in waves, the smell of fever and sweat and misery. Harry shivered under the pile of blankets, wracked by chills even as he burned with fever. Padfoot huddled close to him, using his own body to provide additional heat and comfort.

At five, Harry came awake abruptly to once more hunch over the bucket, though he only brought up bile and some of the water he’d had earlier. Sirius transformed so he could hold the bucket and rub Harry’s back. Remus, woken once more by the commotion, stuck his head in the room.

“Get Poppy,” Sirius said, and Remus went downstairs to Floo-call Hogwarts. 

Madam Pomfrey arrived fifteen minutes later, perfectly put-together even though Remus’s call must have woken her. 

“Ah, Mr Potter, what seems to be the trouble?” she asked, breezing into the room. Sirius gave Harry’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze and left the room so they would have some privacy. 

Remus was making tea downstairs in the kitchen. Sirius sat at the table and let his head rest on folded arms.

“Fuck’s sake, Moony, I haven’t even had him a day and already I’ve had to call on Pomfrey.” 

“Because those Muggles neglected him,” Remus pointed out reasonably. He set a mug of tea next to Sirius’s elbow and took the chair across from him. “This isn’t anything you did, Pads. You’re doing right by him. Probably the first adult ever who’s done that for him.” 

“That’s so fucking depressing.” Sirius dragged a hand down his face and then picked up the mug of tea. “He deserved so much better than that.”

“I know,” Remus said. 

Pomfrey came into the kitchen half an hour later and gave them both a reassuring smile. Sirius relaxed slightly; surely she wouldn’t look like that if something was seriously wrong with Harry. 

“Mr. Black, are you officially Harry’s guardian now?” she asked. “The paperwork has gone through?”

“It has,” Sirius said, frowning at the segue. “Do you need to see it?”

“No, dear, I trust you,” she said, patting his arm. “But I can only discuss Harry’s condition with his legal guardian. I’m sorry, Mr. Lupin.” 

“I’ll take Harry some more potions,” he said, slipping out of the kitchen.

“He’s going to be alright, isn’t he?” Sirius said as Poppy took a seat at the table. “Remus said it was only a ‘flu.”

“He’ll be fine,” Pomfrey said. “I need to brew some stronger potions for him, that’s all. He’s got a nasty bout of it, and what he needs can’t be easily brewed at home. I wanted to discuss his overall health with you, though.”

“Okay,” Sirius said, still confused. Pomfrey pulled a blank sheet of parchment out of her bag and tapped it with her wand. It multiplied into several sheets, all of which were filled with neat rows of information.

“Mr Potter is no stranger to my hospital wing, as I’m sure you’re already well aware,” she said. “I wanted to bring some...concerns I’ve had to your attention. These are the results from the diagnostic spell I used on him just now. You can see here that he’s ill.” She indicated the first sheet of parchment, which contained Harry’s current vitals. “But what we have here is a list of old injuries that the diagnostic spell picked up.”

She pushed the second and third sheets of parchment over to Sirius. “His body is littered with old injuries, Mr Black. He’s had broken fingers, broken wrists, cracked ribs, his nose has been broken and then healed improperly--it’s all right there.” 

A cold stone formed in the pit of Sirius’s stomach. He knew where this was going. “There’s no chance that these are from roughhousing as a child?”

“That’s what Harry tried to tell me, his first year,” Pomfrey said gently. “No. I don’t believe they are. Especially when you consider that he is undernourished. He’s too small for his age, Mr Black.”

“Yeah.” Sirius ran a hand over his face. “Aren’t you required to report this to someone?”

“I did. I’ve sent four reports regarding my findings and my concerns to Dumbledore over the past three years. He assures me every time that he will keep a closer eye on Mr Potter, and every year he returns to school looking worse off than before. But as you are now his guardian, I can bring my concerns to you.” 

“Those reports you sent to Dumbledore. Can you get them to me?”

She nodded. “I have copies in my office. I’ll bring them over when I bring Harry’s potions. Which brings me to this last page--a treatment plan. Once he’s recovered from this illness, I would like to start him on a long-term series of potions. He needs nourishing potions alongside eating regular meals, as well as immunity boosters. Not unlike the regimen that St. Mungos has you on, I imagine. I can brew a batch of these potions that will tide you over for the summer. When he’s at school again, I will continue to have him take them.” 

“Okay.” Sirius ran a hand through his hair, overwhelmed. “Okay, I can do that.” 

“Yes, you can.” Pomfrey laid a hand on his arm, squeezing gently. “For what it’s worth, I was so pleased when I heard he was going to come under your care, Sirius. I think he’s going to truly thrive here.” 

“I don’t know the first thing about raising a kid.” Sirius sighed. “But I at least know how not to raise one.” 

“Too right.” Pomfrey patted his hand and got up from her seat. “I need to go fetch those potions. I’ll return shortly.” 

She returned less than half an hour later with a crate full of potions for Harry and a thick folder for Sirius. When she had gone, Remus came back into the kitchen. He settled his hands on Sirius’s shoulders, gently kneading the tight muscles. “How bad is it?” 

“Do you want me to start with the fact that those Muggles slapped him around, that they broke his bones, that they denied him food, or that Poppy reported it to Dumbledore every year and he did nothing? Merlin, Remus, I could kill him.”

“Harry needs you to stay out of prison.” 

Sirius reached up and covered one of Remus’s hands with his own. He leaned his head back against Remus’s sternum and closed his eyes. “What do I do, Rem?”

“Whatever Monty and Effie did for you, that summer you ran away. That’s probably a good place to start.”

“I was sixteen then.” 

“Do you think Harry’s needs at thirteen are much different from yours at sixteen?” Remus asked. “He needs food and clothes and love. He needs someone to look after him when he’s sick and to pick him up when he falls.” 

“And hugs,” Sirius said absently, because Monty had always given the best hugs. So had Effie and James, for that matter. 

“Right. Lots of those, too.” Remus ducked his head, like he was about to drop a kiss on Sirius’s forehead, but caught himself in time. Instead, he squeezed Sirius’s shoulders and stepped away. “Come on. It’s too bloody early for either of us to be awake right now.” 

Sirius paused by Harry’s room to look in on him one last time. He was curled up under the heavy quilt, his breathing deep and even, finally sleeping peacefully. Sirius shut the door quietly, and followed Remus to bed.