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Shelter from the Storm

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According to Sirius—although James wasn't entirely certain he believed him—the trenchcoat was the final straw.

"I mean, there are only so many things a reasonable person can be expected to take from an old bat like my mum, right?" Sirius asked, draping himself across James' bed in an unmistakably doglike fashion. "When it comes to clothes—no way. You just can't be a self-respecting Black and let someone tell you what you can't wear."

"You didn't really run away from home because of that," Remus said. "Did you?"

"'Course I did, Moony, haven't you been listening?" Sirius rolled over and let his head hang upside-down over the edge of the edge of the bed. Even in that awkward position, he still managed his trademark air of casual elegance. "Besides, this is a wicked coat. This, with my natural charm and good looks, plus the motorbike—Merlin, girls'll be hexing each other just to get close to me." He twitched an eyebrow at James. "You saw me fly in, mate. Didn't you think I looked dashing?"

"Oh, sure," James said, privately wondering if Lily would like him in a black trenchcoat. Probably not. "You can't deny there's something special about a broom, though, especially if you're a Quidditch star—"

"Which is why everyone's clamoring for a snogging session with you, of course."

"Well, actually—"

"And by 'everyone' I do mean a specific certain someone, you know."

"Oh, shut up."

"Sirius." Remus frowned at him from across the room, where he sat cross-legged on the floor. "Did you really run away for good? You were coming here for the holidays anyway, right?" James had invited Remus to the Potter house for the first half of the Christmas holidays; he'd extended the same offer to Sirius (and to Peter, but his mum seemed to get especially lonely during Christmas), who said he'd have to show up several days late because Mrs. Black wanted him home for a while, "probably to indoctrinate me in a little more Black lunacy". He hadn't been too surprised when Sirius came roaring out of the clouds on his motorbike this evening, black trenchcoat flaring out behind him (which did look pretty dramatic, in all honesty); he'd figured the poor bloke needed some breathing room, as had so often been the case before. The broomstick and trunks—not one but two—lashed to the back of the bike, on the other hand, had been a little more unexpected.

"Don't you think the life of a vagrant suits me?" Sirius asked, folding both hands behind his head, still upside-down. "That would round out the whole 'family rebel' thing, wouldn't it?"

James shrugged at Remus: There was no talking to Sirius in this mood and getting anything useful from him. Just as well, really; if he weren't so determined to play it all off as a big joke, he'd probably be throwing things, or brooding, or storming around James' room in a towering fury.

"Be serious," Remus said, making a last valiant effort anyway.

Sirius grinned. "I'm always Sirius. Even when I'm Padfoot, you know. Can't stop being a Black…"

Actually, James could imagine it pretty well—Sirius showing up at the Black home in a coat he'd picked up Merlin only knew where, and Mrs. Black flying into one of her fits.

"I won't allow one of my children to wear that—that thing! Have you no sense of propriety and dignity at all?"

"For Merlin's sake, Mum, it's practically a robe—it's even black—"

"Muggle children wear these, Muggle ne'er-do-wells—I won't have my son looking like some common criminal!"

"Better than a poncey, inbred pureblood!"

"Get out, you little blood traitor!"

"Fine! Maybe I will!"

…followed by the proper amount of stomping feet and slammed doors. On the other hand, the trenchcoat was minor compared to some of Sirius' other exploits. Next to The Video Game Incident, or The Television Experiment, or the "Let's Make a Muggle Record Player Run on Magic and Have a Rock 'n' Roll Party in the Common Room" Incident (though that one was Moony's fault, really, since he'd waxed ecstatic over Bob Dylan and the Beatles—and other Muggle singers James couldn't even remember—for so long that even Sirius couldn't pretend to be uninterested), let alone the whole Animagus thing, it was almost tame.

Of course, Sirius hadn't brought any of those episodes into his house.

"You know what?" Sirius said. "If I had a gun, I'd look like—James whatever—"

"Bond," James said automatically. "James Bond."

"Yeah, him. Bloody James Bond. I thought Remus was the one crazy about Muggle stuff."

"Not Muggle movies," Remus said. "Usually."

"So, Prongs?"

James could feel his ears turning red. "I heard Lily talking about it in the common room. That and a bunch of other stuff, but it was the only one I remembered. So I…researched it a little."

Remus grinned. "James Potter, venturing out into Muggle society in search of a god movie."

"Ah, what terrible things a man will brave for true love's sake," Sirius said, sitting up and flinging one arm out dramatically.

"I swear, Padfoot, I'm going to hex you."

"Well, hey. At least I didn't leave home over a girl. No offense, mate, but that's a little too cliché for me."

"Clichéd," Remus murmured.

"Right." Sirius glanced out the window. "Blast, it's getting dark…I was hoping to play a little Quidditch before—" He broke off, glancing at James, looking uncertain for the first time all evening.

Maybe he really had meant it.

"What'd you think, I'd make you sleep outside on your motorbike? My parents would kill me."

Sirius grinned again. "Yeah, somebody might kidnap me, and then where would you be without your partner in crime?"

"In less trouble?" Remus suggested.

"Possibly." James stood up, adjusting his glasses. "Remus has got the guest room for now, but there's always room in this house somewhere; I'll just need to dig out—"

"I can take care of that," Sirius said, hopping off the bed and drawing his wand.

"Technically you're not allowed to do that, you know," Remus said.

"Yeah, but who really cares?"

"The Ministry?"

"Hang the Ministry. Not like they'll know anyway, seeing as it's a wizarding household." He waved his wand and a sleeping bag appeared in midair. It uncurled and fell limply to the floor, heavy, oddly slick, and quite black.

All three boys stared at it for a moment; then Sirius forced a laugh and muttered, "Like I said…can't stop being a Black, I guess…"

"Well, anyway," James said, "that should last for tonight for sure, and we'll figure out something more permanent later."

Sirius just shrugged.

Later that night, after a few games of Exploding Snap and another attempt at a rock 'n' roll party (the latter died as soon as it became obvious they still didn't know how to make a Muggle record player run on magic, and the Potters' house had no electricity; Sirius did manage a passable version of Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm," despite being upside-down on James' bed again at that point, until he forgot the words halfway through and Remus, being Remus, remembered enough to finish it, though not so dramatically), James climbed into bed and set his glasses on the nightstand. Sirius' blurry figure—not quite blurry enough to hide the cheerfully hideous pair of plaid Muggle pajamas he'd unearthed in some dodgier part of London—struggled into the sleeping bag across the room.

"Remind me not to Conjure anything when I'm in the wrong mood. Especially if it's something I have to sleep in."

"Need help?"

"Nah, I'm good. Just needed a last-minute bedtime whine, you know."

James grinned up at the ceiling. "You are letting Padfoot take over. You won't start chasing your tail while I'm trying to sleep, will you?"

Sirius snorted. "Go to sleep, Prongs."

For whatever reason, that proved impossible—probably too much butterbeer earlier—and James drifted in and out of a semiconscious doze until a particularly loud rustle from the sleeping bag brought him fully awake. An amorphous shape, blacker than the night-dark around it, padded almost silently to the door, sniffed once, and edged into the hall. He heard another snuffle from the room next door, and then Remus' sleepy voice: "Go 'way, Padfoot."

Snuffle. Thump. A half-hearted groan from Remus. "If you want to talk, you'll have to be human, you know."

More rustling. "Happy now? I just didn't want to wake James up."

"I figured." A yawn. "Okay, I'm awake. So you did mean it about leaving home and never going back, then?"

"Said so, didn't I?"

"Yes, but you were acting like it was a joke."

"I meant it."

A pause. "So…what really happened?"

Sirius sighed. "It wasn't really about the trenchcoat."

"I thought so."

"That's what started it, though…I found it in a Muggle shop near Diagon Alley and came home wearing it—really stupid, I suppose I just wanted to get a reaction—so Mum went up the wall and started screaming about how I was bringing dishonor on the family or something, and then our owl came in with a letter for me and monumentally bad timing—which reminds me…apparently you wrote to Lily a few days ago?"

"Yes," Remus said slowly, "I think that was—"

"What did you say?"

"Well—I don't entirely remember—"

"About me, I mean."

"Oh." Remus paused for a moment, and James strained to listen. "I think…I told her you'd gone home, and I was just…concerned, I guess, your family being what it is and all…"

Another silence. "She owled me. Just this morning. Said you were worried, asked how I was doing, something about keeping up the old Gryffindor courage and not letting the Slytherins get me down. I mean, Merlin, how nice is that? She doesn't even like me that much. Thinks I'm as bad as James. Probably worse."

"Lily doesn't hate either of you."

(James wondered if he was utterly pathetic for taking far more hope from that statement than it merited.)

"Yeah, well. So the owl comes in with the letter for me, from her, and Mum demands to know who's writing me, and I'm such a giant prat, I tell her. I probably hadn't even mentioned Lily to her before—I don't even know how she recognized the name. Maybe Reg told her. Either way, she heard the name, grabbed it, managed to read the bits I mentioned, and went completely mental."

"She called Lily a Mudblood?"

"Well, first she called her a whore. Then she called her a Mudblood."

Remus hissed something distinctly un-Remus-like.

"Yeah, that's what I said too. So then she went off on me again—Hogwarts is going to the dogs, and all these Mudbloods are corrupting everyone, and I'm bringing shame on the Noble and Most Ancient whatever, and it would have been so much better if Grindelwald had beaten Dumbledore, because he had the right idea, and he would have purified the whole bloody wizarding world—"

"She said that?"

"Yeah, she knows all about it, she was twenty when he was killed…Slytherins her age are real big on remembering him, I think, when there's nobody around to tell on them…"



A longer pause, then Remus prompted, "So…"

"Yeah, well. That was—that was just it. The final…whatever. It was just—too much, you know? Toujours Pur and all, pure mad and blind. Couldn't take it anymore."

"So you left."

"Yeah. Bloody Blacks." Sirius paused. "I suppose I should owl Lily back. Don't know what I'll tell her, of course…"

"You kept the letter?"

"Mum would've burned it. That or—well. I made sure to bring it."

A short silence. "You can't do Dark Arts with letters, can you?"

"Don't know. I sort of make a point not to learn anything about all that rubbish."

"I know, I'm just…wondering, is all."

"Doubt it, but—fingerprints, maybe, or if she gave herself a paper cut while she was writing it…you never know, yeah? Better safe than sorry."

Remus snorted. "Never thought I'd hear you say that."

"First time for everything, right?" The bedsprings creaked, and Sirius' footsteps began to pace the room. "See why I waited until James was asleep? I mean, I…you can't say stuff like this in front of your best mate, can you? Not when it's got so much to do with a girl he's fancied practically since the train ride first year."

James exhaled slowly and discovered that he did not feel angry at all, just very, very tired. He wondered, in a vague sort of way, if this meant he was beginning to grow up.

"You'll have to say something eventually, you know," he heard Remus say. "I don't think he ever knows when to take you seriously."

"Oh, Merlin. Not that again."


"I know. All right? Really. But what am I supposed to say—'Well, Prongs, I wasn't joking about that sleeping-on-the-motorbike thing, even though I should be fabulously wealthy, so can I freeload off your mum and dad a while? Oh, and by the way, my mental mum thinks the girl you fancy should be dead. Now how about some Quidditch, eh?'"

"Something like that, possibly."

"Come on, Moony—"

"Besides," Remus said, "you can't—it doesn't work to hide things from your friends. Remember?"

"Yeah, and it'll be all over school the second any of my charming relations get back from holiday. I know."

Sirius, you great prat. Rolling his eyes, James kicked off his blanket, shoved on his glasses, and crept down the hall to the guest room.

Inside, Remus sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing—probably unconsciously—at an old scar on his temple. Sirius, still pacing, spotted James first and froze, one arm raised in the middle of some dramatic gesture. "Oh, blimey."

"Hullo, Prongs," Remus said, looking up.

"You know," James said, lounging against the doorframe, "when you want to have secret conversations in the middle of the night, it's probably wise to make sure I'm asleep first."

Sirius shoved both hands into his pajama pockets. "If that's the most exciting secret conversation you've ever overheard, you've been missing a lot, mate. And putting your cloak to extraordinarily poor use, I might add."

"Yeah, well, if you two've been snogging in the dormitory or something, I'd much rather be asleep, thanks."

Sirius and Remus both looked revolted. "You know, Padfoot," Remus said, eyeing James, "I think Prongs here has been spending entirely too much time with the Muggle telly."

James coughed. "Anyway. I thought we went over this, Sirius. You need a place to stay for a while, and—winter's so rainy here, it'd rust your motorbike, you know. Can't have that. The vagrant thing's got its downsides."

"Right," Sirius said, "because then I'd have to start using my broom more, and I'd probably get better than you, and then you'd end up stuck with Peter and Remus on your team when we play Quidditch—"

"Hey," said Remus, looking distinctly insulted.

Sirius grinned. "Truth hurts, mate."

"Right," James said. "Here's an idea: now that's settled for a bit, what d'you say we actually, you know, sleep a little?"

"Sleeping," Sirius said, "is for nancies. Eh, Moony?"

"I think it sounds like a capital idea, personally."

"Wet blanket."

"This coming from the bloke who has yet to make it through an entire school day without spending at least one full class period practically comatose?"

"He's got a bit of a point there, you know," James put in helpfully.

Sirius scoffed. "We all do that."

"Ah, right."

Remus made an impatient noise and swung his legs back onto the bed. "Out. Or I'll hex you both unconscious, Ministry rules or no."

Sirius cocked one eyebrow at James. "Well, now, it looks like a little sleep deprivation is all that's needed to make Prefect Moony break the rules, eh?"

"What, we didn't already know that? What d'you call full moon, then?"

"Werewolves are grumpy on no sleep." Remus reached for the wand on his nightstand.

"You're making that up," James said, backing out the door anyway.

Sirius made to follow but stopped just inside the room, his smile fading back into uncertainty. "Moony."

Remus, who had already burrowed under his blankets, rolled back over to face him.

"Both of you, I mean—well, you know…" He looked down, shoulders hunching forward. "Thanks for—you know, just…thanks." He ducked past James and slipped back into James' room without waiting for a response.

"Merlin," James said, "bloody Sirius."

Remus mumbled something into his pillow.

"Leave off, Moony, you're not asleep yet."

"Sirius is," Remus said, not quite distinctly, "you know, very much a boy. Uncomfortable with vulnerability and that. The trenchcoat and the joking were easier. Probably," he added, "he will never get any kind of real date."

James blinked. "Where, exactly, did you dig that up?"

"I actually talk to girls occasionally. Beyond what's required for pranking and showing off, I mean."

"And you read too much."

"That too."

James shook his head, half-smiling. "Well, they always say admitting you've got a problem is the first step toward recovery—"

Remus threw a pillow at him.



James half expected to wake up the next morning to a cold, wet nose snuffling against his face (he could remember one frigid December morning last year when Sirius had apparently put a Freezing Charm on his nose before transforming into Padfoot to make the shock even more unpleasant), but instead he roused gradually as a weak winter sun slid between the curtains. A dream about Sirius' motorbike (but no Sirius) and a group of unidentifiable Slytherins gave way to the fuzzy notion that maybe he wasn't asleep anymore, but more complex thoughts stayed mired somewhere in the depths of his brain for several more minutes.

A knock on his door brought him fully awake. "Up or you'll miss breakfast," his mum said, and then her footsteps moved away down the hall.

James rolled out of bed, snatching his glasses and yelping when his feet hit the cold floor. Have to get somebody legal to give this a good Heating Charm or something. "Padfoot," he called, "come on, you can't miss a good old-fashioned Potter breakfast, right?"

Sirius, as seemed to have become a trend since last night, made an awkward flopping motion that almost passed for rolling over and mumbled into his sleeping bag.

"For Merlin's sake," James said, exasperated, "don't any of you talk coherently anymore? I need to lock up my butterbeer, that's what."

Sirius raised his head with some difficulty, his face red through a curtain of tangled hair. "Hand me my wand and I'll be down in a minute."

James complied and waited for Sirius to wrench one hand free of the sleeping bag and grab his wand. "What are you trying to do, exactly?"

"You know what," Sirius said, struggling to point the wand at his sleeping bag without catching himself in whatever spell he was planning to cast, "seriously, don't wait for me."

"Are you…stuck?" James asked, fighting to restrain a laugh Sirius would probably not appreciate.

Sirius glared down at his sleeping bag, raised his wand hand, and fell over onto his side. The floor muffled his oath before he rolled over again. "I really meant it about not Conjuring stuff when you're in a bad mood. Comes out all wrong. Bloody Blacks," he added and awkwardly pushed himself up with the arm still trapped in his sleeping bag.

"Merlin, it shrank, didn't it?" No response. "D'you…want help, or what?"

Sirius grunted, his attention focused on pointing the wand at the exact right spot on his sleeping bag. "Evanesco!" he snarled. The bag vanished at last, dropping him a couple of inches onto the floor with a thump. He raised himself on both elbows, breathing hard, still flushed.

"You all right?" James asked.

Sirius didn't look at him. "Yeah. Sure. Go get Moony and go downstairs, all right? He'll sleep till noon if you let him, even when it's not full moon."

"So would you," James retorted, but he went to rouse Remus anyway. You couldn't be a Marauder without figuring out when your friends, on occasion, actually wanted to be left alone for a bit.

"Where's Sirius?" Remus asked blearily, as soon as he'd recovered from James' flinging open the guest-room windows.

"Still in my room, waking himself up or something. His sleeping bag didn't want to let go."

"Merlin." Remus yawned and stumbled out of bed.


"Should we wait for him?"

"Nah, he'll be along shortly. Anyway, I think Mum's got—" James paused, sniffing. "Mmm. A big Marauder kind of breakfast. Probably eggs and sausages and kippers and—" His stomach interrupted him with a loud rumble.

They thundered downstairs and upset two chairs in a dash for the table (James' mum gave him a good-natured swat on the head and righted both chairs with a flick of her wand).

"Mail come yet?" James asked, or tried to; as his mouth was now stuffed beyond rational capacity with egg and sausage, the words that came out were significantly less intelligible.

Remus threw him a mildly disgusted look. "He said—"

"No need to translate, dear." Mrs. Potter set a jug of pumpkin juice on the table. "I grew up with all brothers. Learning to speak boy was a survival skill."

Remus smiled. "Better than me, then. I didn't know what slobs most of them were until I had to share a dormitory with some of these people, and then—" He shook his head. "Real eye-opener, that."

James swallowed and cleared his throat. "If you're quite done having a laugh at the expense of a poor starving boy who hasn't had a good home-cooked meal all term—"

"Right, because nicking food from the kitchens in between stuffing yourself in the Great Hall is practically torture—"

"See how he torments me, Mum?" James asked, pulling a mournful face. "And you think I'm not homesick. Breaks my heart, it does."

His mum smiled. "At least I can depend on my cooking to bring you home regularly. No, no post yet. The Prophet should be here soon, but all the owls are late during the holidays." She glanced toward the stairs. "Speaking of late, where's Sirius?"

"Er," said Remus.

"He said he'd be down soon," James said.

Mrs. Potter, who was pretty well acquainted by now with the depth of Sirius's appetite, hurried back to the kitchen.

Sirius chose just that moment to appear at the top of the stairs, defiantly wearing his trenchcoat over his pajamas, his hair in James-like disarray. He shuffled down the last few steps and slid into a chair, scowling.

"Eggs?" James offered. "Porridge, scones, possibly biscuits, I think Mum made some really excellent ones with Jelly Slugs baked inside yesterday—"

Sirius gave him a scornful look. "Come on, mate. The dog needs meat."

"Meat it is," James said, ignoring Remus's alarmed glance toward the kitchen and dumping bacon and sausage on Sirius's plate. "Just don't come running to us when the heart attack hits."

Sirius snorted and dug in, shoving three sausages into his mouth at once. A sudden tapping on the window across from the fireplace brought his head around. James scooted out his chair and hurried to the window to let the owl in.

Check that. Owls. A big tawny barn owl perched on the sill just long enough to let James relieve it of the Prophet before it muscled its way back over the others; a smaller grey he recognized as Peter's carried, unsurprisingly, an envelope addressed to him and Remus in Peter's round, tidy handwriting—

and a sleek, appropriately aristocratic-looking black owl (What is it with black things today? James thought) ignored him entirely, flapping into the room and dropping a scarlet envelope on Sirius's plate before soaring back out the window.

James slammed the window shut. Sirius sat staring, as if bound to his chair, and the Howler began to quiver, smoke puffing out from under the flap.

"Oh—" Sirius said, apparently biting back what he really wanted to say; and then, giving up, "Oh bloody hell," and he ripped the envelope open.

A shriek seemed to split the dining room down the middle. James thought he heard something crash in the kitchen, but with the throbbing in his eardrums, he couldn't be sure.

"SIRIUS BLACK, HOW DARE YOU DESERT THIS HOUSE! I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS INSULT TO THE FAMILY HONOR! NO ONE RUNS AWAY FROM THE NOBLE AND MOST ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK—" The next several lines seemed to consist largely of "ungrateful wretch," "shame of my house," and even "blood traitor."

James reflected, wincing, that it was too bad Walburga Black couldn't run out of breath with a Howler; only a healthy dose of Gryffindor pride kept him from fleeing the room, and he could see Remus wrestling the same impulse. Sirius sat rooted to his chair as if Petrified, eyes fixed straight ahead, his face going steadily whiter and his knuckles bloodless where he gripped the edge of his chair.

"FILTHY MUGGLE-LOVER—YOU ARE NO SON OF MINE—YOU ARE DEAD TO ME, DEAD—" And then the screeching pitch oozed down several octaves into a syrupy sneer: "My cowardly little Gryffindor—"

Sirius's face lost all color. He snatched up the letter and flung it into the fireplace, where it really did explode, shaking a brick down from the chimney and blasting fragments of burning wood across the carpet. Mrs. Black's last few words tapered off into an unintelligible shriek as the rug caught fire.

"Aguamenti!" several voices shouted at once. Sirius's aim proved the shakiest, his stream of water only putting out the smallest flame and then hosing down the unburnt rug and the fireplace itself. Remus neatly caught what Sirius had missed and put his wand down first, the wood clattering on the table.

James and his mum lowered their wands simultaneously, glancing at each other across the room. In the sudden, deafening silence, the snap of the charred log collapsing in on itself in the fireplace made them all jump.

"Well," Mrs. Potter said briskly, waving her wand and cleaning up most of the sooty water all over the rug and the floor, "I daresay no one's going to care too much about a few barely underage wizards practicing an extremely useful charm outside school, and nothing here's damaged, so no harm done…" But then she met James' eyes again with a look that clearly said, There is a problem here, and I trust you to fix it, but your friend needs you. James gave her a slight nod; she disappeared back into the kitchen, and he thought, Is this growing up too? Taking care of your friends when they don't know how to do it themselves anymore?

He wondered why that idea felt so heavy and saddening, and final, and then he shook it off—realizing, as gradually as if the thought had traveled a long distance to reach him, that he still had one hand braced against the windowsill, and his fingers had gone pink with cold.

James pulled away, stuffing his wand in the waistband of his pajamas. Remus had already leaned forward to say something to Sirius, his hand hovering tentatively around Sirius's shoulder as if he thought the other Marauder might not tolerate human contact too well just yet (which, James thought, was probably a fair guess). Sirius, for his part, sat hunched, arms crossed and shoulders pulled stiffly inward, his hair dangling over his eyes—his coat black, his hair black, his jawline hard and aristocratic in a way even Sirius couldn't hide. Slytherin-like, actually.

Don't worry, Sirius, James didn't say. Your mother can toss you out all she wants and you'll never stop being a Black. Toujours pur doesn't mean maybe sometimes now and then if you feel like it; and blood runs truer than you think.

But then Sirius shifted back, his trenchcoat falling open to reveal those wretched pajamas , and most of James' dark humor vanished with the image.

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form...

Always some Muggle music appropriate for...whatever. Maybe Remus was right (and Sirius is definitely going to need shelter from whatever storm Mrs. Black might have in mind, he thought). James raked his fingers through his hair and went to drop a hand on Sirius's other shoulder. "Pads, your family's half-mad already. Everybody knows that. Too much inbreeding."

Sirius shrugged, but James could feel his tense muscles still quivering. "She's already blasted me off that bloody tapestry, you know. They'll pretend I don't exist, except when she needs an excuse to hate everyone who isn't pureblooded, and then it'll be—those halfbloods and—you know—stole her son from her, and Dad and Reg'll go along with it because they're Slytherins and they're too spineless to argue—"

"You'll still see Regulus at school," Remus said. "I mean, if you want to. She can't do much there. There's—you know, ways to get around her. If you want to."

"Look, mate," James said, sinking into the chair he'd vacated without removing his hand from Sirius's shoulder, "you've got us. Right? You've got three brothers already, and you've got a home here as long as you need it. That's not the same, but—it's something, right?"

"A lot of something, yeah," Sirius muttered; James chose to pretend he hadn't heard the barely perceptible catch in his friend's voice.

"We aren't going anywhere, you know," Remus added. "I mean. Maybe, you know, eventually—and I can't live here, my mum would have a fit—but, you know—"

Sirius's short laugh sounded dry and faded. "Shut up, Moony." He coughed. "But…yeah. I mean, I'll—pay you back, somehow or other, you know. And if that's not Gryffindor pride, I don't know what is," he added. "I just, uh…thank you, anyway. Both of you. I really…"

"Yeah, you'd do anything for us, right?" James said, grinning.

"Define 'anything.'"

"Sell your motorbike and trenchcoat," Remus said immediately.

"I would not," Sirius said, but then he looked up, a glimmer of his good humor returning. "Under really special circumstances—and if you really groveled properly—I'd go to Azkaban for you, though. Maybe."