- Multiple Eras
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 09/26/2004Updated: 09/26/2004Words: 89,188Chapters: 19Hits: 87,944
- Story Summary:
- SEQUEL TO STEALING HARRY.````Ten years ago, Lucius Malfoy got to Peter Pettigrew before Sirius could, and the universe changed. Sirius spent years watching from a distance, until one day, when Harry was eight, he took Harry from the Dursleys. After two years in hiding, Harry returned to the Wizarding world to attend Hogwarts, only to find himself once more at risk -- once more facing Peter Pettigrew, who would like nothing better than to see Harry dead in the service of resurrecting Voldemort. ````Follow Harry and his friends -- brave Neville, clever Padma, and shy Draco -- as they are caught up in the battle for dominance between the Order and the Death Eaters.
- Chapter Summary:
- SEQUEL TO STEALING HARRY.
- Author's Note:
- Thanks to my beta-reading braintrust: Heidi, Judy, Nny, and Tai for their grammar/style/continuity betas, Em for her Art!Betas and illustrations.
"What do you suppose really happened?"
Severus Snape blew on his tea gently, to cool it, and took a sip; he had learned early on in his career at Hogwarts that the Deputy Headmistress liked a good strong brew, and it was best to sip slowly or risk overwhelmed tastebuds. He set the teacup down on the small table in the Professors' Common Room, and shook his head.
"A unicorn is dead; Hagrid says the centaurs won't speak of it, though I don't doubt his hamfisted method of interrogation has something to do with it," he replied. "They're certain something's been drinking its blood. I suspect werewolves," he added, with a nasty look. McGonagall ignored it.
"Oh, that I knew; Headmaster Dumbledore spoke with me this morning while you were meting out Harry's punishment. I meant to ask what Harry was really doing in the forest."Snape shook his head. "I doubt he will ever say, even to his godfather," he said slowly. "I'm nearly certain he's covering up for something. Very likely his friends were along, though there's no way of proving it. Well, there is," he added, aggrieved, "but I've been forbidden from attempting it on Longbottom, and Malfoy and the Patil girl would prove surprisingly stubborn, I suspect."
"You cannot go about practicing legilimency on the children," McGonagall scolded sharply. "You know you signed the agreement when you began teaching here, Severus. If Albus finds you've been doing anything of the sort -- "
"Legilimency on children?" Snape snorted. "It's hardly difficult to tell what they're thinking without it. I remember my pledge, thank you very much. I was intending merely to shout them into fearful submission."
McGonagall looked mollified, but not by much. "I won't have you terrifying the children either; they've had enough of that this year already," she said firmly. "Although..."
Minerva looked troubled, something she never showed the students, though in the sanctuary of the common room it wasn't all that rare. "I know Sir Nicholas said his head was knocked off by that blast he took, but I still wonder...he is so transparent sometimes..."
"What, you think the children went off to do an incredibly advanced charm on him in the Forest in the middle of the night? With Longbottom along?" Snape gave her a rare smile of amusement over his tea. "No, depend upon it, they were up to some mischief and probably saw Nick going into the forest. A shame Harry won't tell the truth; it's a depressingly Gryffindor quality, covering for one's friends."
"And lying is a distinctly Slytherin one," she shot back.
"I wouldn't be so sure. I know for a fact that the Malfoy boy saves Longbottom from his Potions homework and lies about it."
"He wouldn't need saving if you wouldn't frighten them so."
"Fear is an effective motivator," Snape replied, then winced as he leaned forward too fast. He hadn't had much sleep after Harry's arrival in his quarters at three in the morning, and his head had begun to ache, the right temple throbbing. He was glad there were no classes today, and he could return to his quarters as soon as he'd had his tea.
"Have you had that looked at?" she asked with concern, looking up at him from where she was marking papers.
"Madam Pomfrey provided me with an effective painkiller for tonight. I don't keep such things in my quarters," he replied.
"You can call her Poppy, you know, Severus."
"Indeed, Deputy Headmistress McGonagall."
She laid her quill down. "Soon you're going to have to come to grips with the idea that you aren't junior faculty anymore. Poppy likes you; she wishes you wouldn't be so formal, I've heard her say so. You call Pomona Sprout by her first name."
"We work together far too often in the greenhouses; when one is likely to be devoured by raging ragweed at any moment, formality seems ridiculous."
"Is that the reason?" McGonagall asked, with a smile. "Speaking of Pomona, she says you've been asking after Draco Malfoy. Any particular reason?"
She lifted an eyebrow. He returned the gesture.
"It has come to the attention of some of the other professors that Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Potter keep strange company," she said, returning to her grading. "They find it unnerving to see the houses mixing so easily."
Severus had to admit that his fellow teachers had a point; Gryffindors and Slytherin had always been a step removed from each other, and Ravenclaw normally disdained them both, and all of them ignored Hufflepuff. To see shy, fox-faced Malfoy and scruffy Neville Longbottom flanking Padma Patil, taller than both of them -- to see Harry smile easily and tame a vicious-minded fellow Slytherin with a brief remark, a touch on the shoulder....
Severus knew that Harry was changing the order of things, in subtle ways that they could already see would cause much larger results, years down the line. The Houses wouldn't necessarily alter overnight, but the little knot of interhouse friends had stood firm against all comers so far.
"I'm not sure I like this...intermingling," he admitted, slowly. She nodded.
"Is that your good sense, Severus, or your upbringing showing?"
"A child who wishes to achieve great things must not have others hanging about him like dead weights," he said, rubbing the ache that seemed to lodge under the skin of his temple. "Slytherin has always prided itself on its independence."
"And this hypothetical child you've posited wouldn't happen to have black hair and green eyes?" she asked. "You don't think the other children, Draco and Neville and Padma are...hanging about him? Perhaps acting a bit like dead weights?"
Snape narrowed his eyes. "If the houses are going to mix with each other in common daily interaction, I don't see why we even have them at all. The whole point of sorting the children is to put them in an environment where they will flourish. I don't see how Neville Longbottom spending every evening studying with Harry is going to cultivate either boy into the man he ought to be. Harry is practically an outcast in his own house already; he may be respected, but they aren't his friends."
"I have heard," McGonagall murmured, "That the usual...shall we say, youthful rhetoric about purebloodedness has come to a stop. Harry having a Muggleborn mother, and pureblood friends in other Houses."
"I hadn't noticed," Snape answered. "Although I imagine there will be some rather surprised parents, this holiday."
McGonagall smiled, and stirred her tea. "And what punishment have you prescribed for Mr. Potter, for being out wandering the grounds in the dead of night?"
"I gave him some extra reading," Snape said, a little too casually.
"Extra reading? To Harry Potter? Isn't that rather like giving him a bar of chocolate and telling him his punishment is to eat the whole thing?"
"It's boring reading," he protested. "And it's things he ought to know."
Snape looked resolutely poker-faced. She sighed.
"You're not professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts," she scolded. "If Quirrell finds out that you've been giving students Dark Arts reading -- "
"Do you suppose he'll stutter at me?" Snape asked cruelly. "I should think I can handle him."
"Handle whom?" Albus Dumbledore asked, appearing in the doorway. "You're not going to be starting any fistfights in the halls, I hope, Severus."
"No, Headmaster," Snape said, ducking his head.
"Splendid. Oh look, there's Denbigh with the sandwiches. Shall we?"
"Are you sure we shouldn't let them ride down with their classmates?" Remus asked, as he stowed the overnight bag in the little cupboard near the bed. "That was always a lot of fun when we were at school."
"Harry said he'd rather ride with us," Sirius answered. "Andromeda feels better knowing Neville and Draco are going to be looked after, and it'll annoy Narcissa if she finds out."
Remus remembered the letter, and grinned. Narcissa's reply to Andromeda had said very elegantly and at the same time rather bluntly that if they wanted to look after another loud, messy eleven-year-old over the holidays it was their funeral, but to please keep him away from Bad Influences. It wasn't hard to translate that Bad Influences was code for Sirius Black.
"It'll be fun, like a day out with the boys. We'll wake up in Hogsmeade just in time to buy them some breakfast before the ride home," Sirius continued, throwing himself down on the bed in their small sleeper-compartment, and Remus agreed that he was eager to see Harry again, eager enough to spend the night on the train in order to see him a few hours sooner. They were catching the ten-pm wizarding train out of King's Cross, and would arrive in Hogsmeade as the Hogwarts Express to London was departing. They could feed the boys in Hogsmeade and then catch the ten-fifteen back to London. The holiday would begin, for Harry and his friends, barely a few hours later than for the other children.
Unlike Muggle transport, the bed they'd reserved was remarkably comfortable; by the time dark had well and truly fallen, Remus had settled into it and was staring out the small window above, watching trees and the occasional hill go past. Sirius, sprawled on his side with his arm flung over Remus' chest, nosed a little at his shoulder.
"Should have gone as Padfoot, could have paid a little less," he said.
"We can afford to pay a full-price train ticket, thank Merlin," Remus answered.
"That's not the point. The point is pulling a fast one on the authorities," Sirius answered.
"We are not," Remus replied, broken by a yawn, "seventeen anymore."
"Yes. Our mischief should therefore get exponentially worse with each passing year."
"Shouldn't we be high-stakes jewel thieves by now, in that case?"
"There's still time."
Remus laughed and fell silent, looking out through the window and wondering if he'd be able to see the Dog Star at any point in their trip.
"It has a rhythm, doesn't it?" Sirius said, fingers curled lightly on Remus' chest, over his heart. "The train, I mean. It's predictable."
"I suppose so."
"Is it strange that I half-want to ride through Hogsmeade and not stop?" Sirius asked.
"What, you mean go straight to Hogwarts? The train doesn't -- "
"No. Go away from Hogwarts."
Remus pushed himself up on one elbow, looking down in confusion. "But -- "
"No, I know, it's ridiculous." Sirius rolled away from him, a little, staring at the ceiling. "It's just...what if he's different?"
"Different? You don't suppose he's shaved his head and has a tattoo, do you?" Remus teased lightly.
"I was fifteen when I did that and I had a very good excuse."
"Being fifteen is almost an excuse in and of itself."
"He's a wizard now. He plays Quidditch on the house team. He has his own friends; it's not like the village boys, either, these are proper wizarding friends."
Remus eased himself down again, slowly. "You're worried he's going to come home and hate you."
"It happened with my parents. I remember it. Being a Gryffindor changed me. I didn't fit in the family anymore. A whole family of Slytherins and I was a Gryffindor."
"That early. I knew. I knew I wasn't part of the family anymore."
"You never said."
"What was there to say?" Sirius buried his face in Remus' neck, breath warm against his skin. "I don't want Harry to hate me because he doesn't fit."
"Harry doesn't hate you. Your family was -- "
" -- awful."
" -- awful, yes, but also intolerant. They didn't love you for being yourself, only for being an heir and a marriageable son."
Sirius snorted. "Showed them, didn't I."
"I think perhaps living in homosexual sin with a werewolf could be considered 'showing them', yes." Remus smiled. "He's still our Harry. That doesn't change."
Sirius was silent again, and Remus almost thought he'd gone to sleep when he asked, "Moony?"
"Mm, what is it?"
"Ever had sex on a train?"
Remus burst out laughing.
***Andromeda and Ted met them at the station on the return journey, with hugs for the reluctant, self-conscious boys and the promise of a hot dinner waiting at home. Neville, after being hugged smotheringly for the fourth time, announced that they had better go home before Andromeda started in on Harry and Draco, to which Harry replied that Ted was doing a pretty good job, and Draco had better run for cover.
Draco looked quite shocked when Ted released Harry and gave him a second welcoming hug, touseling his fine blond hair. Harry grinned and gave Draco a wink.
"Remember what we talked about," Neville said to Harry, over dinner. Nearby, Draco scowled and flattened what remained of his peas with his fork.
"It's none of our business," he whispered.
"It is our business! Someone's killing unicorns and tried to kill Harry and I bet you anything it's because of that stone Harry talked about -- "
"What are you three plotting over there?" Andromeda asked, as she spooned more potatoes onto Remus' plate, much to his dismay. Neville elbowed Harry.
"Er," Harry said. "Well, we've...Neville and Draco and me...we have work to do over the holidays."
"Homework?" Dora asked, looking up. "On holiday?"
"Just a little," Harry said. "Neville says Andromeda's put all the books from the old library in the back storage room downstairs. We thought we could look around."
"Draco's got loads of work from McGonagall," Neville said. "And Snape's set me two feet of research to do to make up for exploding his last spare cauldron."
"Perhaps we ought to buy you a few extras for when you go back," Ted said thoughtfully.
"What about you, Harry? Professor Sinistra still pumping you for information about me?" Sirius asked, with a sly grin at Remus.
"I have extra Potions too," Harry said. "Professor Snape said I...could get an early start on spring classes if I did some reading he gave me."
"How kind," Sirius muttered.
"We like Professor Snape," Andromeda answered him, meaningfully. Harry knew that Andromeda and Ted had Professor Snape to dinner, sometimes; he also knew that they always carefully arranged it for nights Sirius was going to be out.
"You were saying, Harry," Remus reminded him. "About the spare books in the storage room."
"We were wondering if we could use them for research," Harry said. "I overheard Professor McGonagall say that the Black family library was the best in England..."
Sirius looked at once proud and put out by this, since saying the Black Family Anything was 'the best' bothered him, as the Last of the Blacks and -- this always made Remus groan -- the Black Sheep.
"I don't see why you shouldn't, all the books in the storage room are harmless enough as long as you're careful," Andromeda answered. "Anything in particular we could help with?"
"No, thank you," Draco answered politely. Andromeda smiled a little to herself.
"Thought we might take you lot Christmas shopping tomorrow," Sirius said, refilling his wine glass. "Have a bit of a lie-in, late breakfast, Remus says he'll show you the back-room of Madam Schaeffer's if you like."
"That sounds fun," Harry said. "The Remembrall still works," he added. "Neville never forgets his tie anymore, do you?"
Neville blushed and muttered "thank you, Sirius," shyly but happily. Andromeda patted his hand approvingly.
"They're testing it now against Ministry of Magic standards," Sirius said. "By April or May they should have permission to produce them on a large scale, and your godfather," he said, turning to Harry, "Is going to make enough money to retire young."
"Such an active life you lead now," Andromeda teased.
"I didn't say I was going to be the one retiring," Sirius grinned. Remus mashed up his potatoes.
"I like working," he said.
"Buy you a bookshop then. That's like work, only not, cos real second-hand bookshops -- "
" -- never sell anything," Remus and Harry both said in unison. Draco and Neville stared at them.
"Old joke," Harry said, suddenly rather embarrassed. "Pass the water jug?"
"I've got it," Dora said, but as she picked up the glass jug, her fingers slipped on the handle and it wobbled out of her grip. She made a good attempt to catch it, but in doing so knocked it sideways. It clattered over, spraying water as it went, and ended by landing on Remus' plate, flooding it and drenching him from nose to knees in freezing water. He gasped, blinking water out of his eyes.
"Oh -- Remus -- " Dora gasped, righting the water jug and flinging a last splash onto his lap. "I'm sorry, here, I'll -- "
"No!" Sirius, Ted, Andromeda, and Remus all said in unison. Dora, reaching for her wand, looked only slightly wounded.
Draco tensed immediately; in the Malfoy household that kind of behaviour would get you locked up for the day in your room, or force you to fry your nose if you were a house-elf. He waited for the roar of reprimand that was sure to come from Remus and the shouting...but it never came. Instead, Harry and Neville began to giggle uncontrollably. Sirius chuckled, then joined in the laughter at the same time Ted and Andromeda did. Dora smiled sheepishly, and even Remus was grinning as he brushed ineffectually at the water all over his shirt and slicked his hair back with wet hands.
"I'll get a towel," Dora said briskly, rising from her chair, but Remus stood faster, and caught her attention.
"First," he said quietly, "I have to do this."
"What?" Dora asked. Remus lunged forward and Draco braced for it -- here it came, the laughter was just nervous anxiety --
"Rrrrawr!" Remus roared, and tackled the young Auror in a freezing, wet hug. She squawked as he bowled her over, and when he helped her off the floor she was nearly as damp as himself. Everyone was laughing, now, and Draco hesitantly joined in.
Dora scrambled out of the room, apparently to look for towels, and Remus dropped back into his seat, squelching a bit.
"Honestly, Remus, you're as bad as Sirius and the children," Andromeda scolded. "Imagine, manhandling Dora that way."
"Yes, what are your motives towards my daughter?" Ted grinned.
"Nothing but honourable affection," Remus replied. "Harry's said on more than one occasion that he's going to marry her, though."
Harry turned red, and Remus picked up the water jug. "Here, Harry, have some water..."
Four or five feeble drops spilled out into Harry's glass, and everyone started laughing again.
Well, Draco thought, it seemed to be a very...informal sort of household.
Andromeda, being a tidy sort of person, had gone through the Black library and sorted out the useless from the useful and the damaged from the whole. The books which hadn't been sold or (and here Harry, having inherited Remus' love of books for books' sake, winced) thrown out, were arranged neatly on the old library's shelves in a large storage space that had once been Jupiter Black's study. There was a carton in the corner marked "Sirius" which Andromeda had said they were not to look into on pain of a hexing, but otherwise nothing was forbidden.
"Andromeda never let me come in here alone before," Neville said, holding up a candle to the nearest row of books. "She said they're all harmless, but if I tried any of them without a wand I could get into trouble."
"None of these are Dark Arts books, though," Harry said, a little disappointedly. "She must have gotten rid of them."
"Reckon so," Neville agreed. "All right, where do we start?"
"Books about philosophers?" Harry suggested. "The book on Professor Snape's desk was about the Philosopher's Stone, and I heard him...mention it once," he added lamely.
"I don't see why they'd get a whacking great three-headed dog to guard a rock," Draco muttered. "Why don't we just ask someone?"
"Because that would let on that we know," Harry said patiently, "and we don't know who to trust. Professor Snape'd throw an awful fit if he found out I'd been spying on his work. I'll look for books about philosophers and Neville can look for books about rocks, and Draco, you look for books about unicorns."
"Unicorns?" Draco asked. "Why'm I stuck with books about pansy unicorns?"
"I want to know why anyone'd want to bite one," Harry said firmly. "Off you go then. I wonder what happened to the comic books Sirius hid in the window-seat."
"Andromeda gave 'em to me," Neville said, as he wandered down the rows. "Do you think he wants them back?"
"Doubt it. Can I borrow some?" Harry asked.
"Sure. I like Rupert the Vampire Slayer the best," Neville called. "It's got all the most interesting murders in it. They still print it -- Dora buys it for me sometimes. She likes William the Bloody better though."
They lapsed into silence as they searched, only making triumphant noises when they found something that looked useful, or calling out to one another to ask opinions.
"I've found mine," Draco said smugly. "Listen to this. The horns and tail hairs of unicorns are used in many different potions and are popular wand-cores in Great Britain. Horns and hair are harvested only from unicorns which have died or shed naturally."
"What's that got to do with biting one?" Neville asked.
"I don't think it was biting, wait till I'm done. The blood of a unicorn is silver and is only used in the darkest of spellcasting or as a cure for those near death. However, killing a unicorn is considered by the Magical community to be a monstrous act which calls down a curse upon the murderer. The blood may preserve the killer, but the price is believed to be a cursed half-life of the spirit."
"Someone was drinking its blood, not biting it," Harry said in a hushed voice. "Someone who was going to die if they didn't."
"I'm never going in that rotten forest again," Neville announced, "Not for love or Galleons."
Just then Draco gave a startled exclamation. "Have you seen this thing back here?"
"What is it?" Harry asked, leaning around a shelf. "Where are you?"
"All the way in the back -- " Draco was interrupted by the crash of some boxes, " -- ow. There's some huge thing on the wall back here."
"Urgh, squash it," Neville said.
"No, it's not a bug, it's a tapestry," Draco said scornfully, as Harry approached. "We have 'em all over at home. Hold up your light, Neville."
"The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, Toujours Pur," Harry read. "What's it doing way in the back here?"
"Andromeda probably didn't want to throw it away," Neville said. "I bet it goes back to the Founders, almost."
"There's Phineas Nigellus," Harry said.
"Who?" Neville and Draco asked.
"Most unpopular headmaster at Hogwarts," Harry sighed. "Listen, I didn't have very many books about wizards at home, I had to make do with what I had and Hogwarts, A History is really quite worth reading -- "
"Andromeda's not on here," Neville said. "Look, neither is Sirius, there's burnt patches where they belong."
"There's Regulus though," Harry said. "He was killed, Remus told me. Sirius doesn't talk about him."
"It must be enchanted -- look, Draco, there's you!"
"Me?" Draco demanded, leaning closer. Sure enough, one of the only names at the very bottom of the tapestry read Draco Black Pur Malfoy. "Look, there's my father, and there's the bit where Aunt Andromeda would go if she hadn't been burned out."
"And there's Bellatrix," Harry said quietly. Neville let out a quiet whine of fear. "It must be charmed, I bet nobody's touched it since Sirius' mum died, but it's been kept up."
"There's only me and two others on our line," Draco said.
"Aren't very many purebloods left," Harry shrugged. "Remus said it's down to breeding."
Draco stuck out his jaw. "What your godfather's valet says about my family -- "
"It's my family too, and he's not his valet, so there," Harry retorted. "Sirius has been my dad for longer than my real dad got to be, and Remus too. I didn't say anything about your family, at least nothing worse than you've said."
"Lads, are you done down here yet? There's snow on the ground in Diagon Alley -- "
Sirius' voice drifted down the stacks, growing louder as he neared the last shelf. When he saw what they were standing in front of, his face went blank.
"Come away from that," he said. "At once."
Harry and Neville hurried forward, out into the long aisle; Draco gave his father's name -- and Sirius' burnt-out one -- a last backwards glance before he followed. Sirius reached out a hand to draw Draco away from it, and the pale-haired boy gave him a startled look.
"There's no good in studying things like that," Sirius said, voice cold -- though Harry suspected it was suppressed fear rather than anger at the boys. "Some history is better forgotten."
There was a silence, then, and Harry felt Sirius' hand on his head, pulling him close for an instant before he drew a deep breath and said, in a falsely cheerful voice, "Come along then, there's snow in Diagon Alley and Florian Fortescue's having a snowman-making contest. Winners get free hot chocolate."
Harry noticed, as they left, that Sirius locked the door behind them.
They didn't venture back into the storage room before the holiday was over; every time one of them would suggest it, the other two would sit silently for a while before agreeing that it wasn't worth annoying Sirius over.
Still, despite their curiousity, they enjoyed their holiday; there were innumerable shopping trips with Andromeda, cooking things that almost never came out the way they ought to with Ted, and streetcorner singing with Dora -- who now had the benefit of three small boys who could set their caps out, instead of just one. The day Sirius came along, he got six times as many coins in his cap as everyone else combined, and Remus sulked for two days about all the floo contact numbers he got with them.
There were also adventures in Muggle London with Remus and Sirius; Draco, who had never set foot inside a Muggle shop, stayed close by his cousin Sirius, but then he tended to do that anyway. Andromeda confided to Sirius a few days before Christmas that it looked like he'd picked up a pale shadow.
Christmas morning, Harry woke first, and bounded into the other bedroom in their flat, landing on Sirius' stomach and nearly knocking them both off the bed. Remus moaned and hid under a pillow, but Sirius, after a moment or two of sleepy confusion, roared about young boys whose presents could still be transfigured into coal, and joined Harry in a race downstairs to see who could get to Neville and Draco's room first. On the way they woke up Andromeda and Ted, who stumbled out of bed just in time to blame Remus for it as he came down the stairs.
Ted disappeared into the kitchen briefly to make tea, while the boys shook their wrapped gifts and Andromeda fetched Dora from her flat through the floo portal; Remus went back to sleep on Sirius' shoulder while Neville opened his first gift from Ted, a box with hidden compartments in it for games and things. Harry's first gift turned out to be magical drawing pencils, self-sharpening and guaranteed never to break. Draco, surprised at the oversized pile of gifts with his name on them -- wrapped in sparkling yellow paper, like Harry's green and Neville's red -- discovered a bone tie-pin in the shape of a badger's head and a magical, flame-illuminated booklight that would stick to anything he pressed it against.
The boys were far too busy showing off their gifts to each other, by the time the adults got around to opening theirs, to pay much attention; besides, it was all silly things like umbrellas and scarves and, in Dora's case, a necklace charmed to look like a lizard's tail, perfect for wearing out on her nights off.
It was undoubtedly a good thing that they didn't notice some of the gifts. When Remus opened the package wrapped in expensive but plain cream paper and peered inside, he blushed immediately and closed the box back up again, trying not to choke at Sirius' whispered suggestion that he practice his painting skills with caramel, and preferably a three-dimensional canvas.
"Be good during dinner," Remus murmured, "and you might be lucky enough to model."
"Draco, you look lost in that thing," Ted called, across Harry and Neville's excited chattering over a self-propelling kite kit that Harry was trying to assemble. "All right there, lad?"
Draco looked up and smiled happily; the jumper he was wearing was a size too big, but he'd assured Dora that he liked it and would grow into it.
"There's a lot of presents," he answered. "Mum even sent me a book, and some shoes." He held up a book entitled A Young Wizard's Guide To Etiquette. Sirius snorted with laughter. "Do you think Mum got her present in time?"
"I'm sure she did, and in the meanwhile thank goodness for indulgent aunts. Shoes indeed," Ted said. "Bring that Muggle toy here and let's see it, I used to play with this kind of thing all the time when I was a kid."
Draco obediently rose and began showing off his new box of "Legos" to Ted and Sirius, who was intrigued by what precisely Muggles were on about, playing with little bricks that snapped together. Draco seemed to like the squarish, cylinder-headed little people especially.
When Sirius leaned back so that Harry could join in the fun, Andromeda bent over the back of the couch and whispered in his ear, "Did Remus talk to you about dinner?"
Sirius groaned. "Yes, he told me about dinner, I promise to behave."
"You promise, Sirius? Because if the two of you ruin Christmas dinner over some silly fight that should have ended ages ago -- "
"I'll keep to my side of the table if he keeps to his," Sirius said sullenly. "Though I don't see why we have to spoil the whole dinner by inviting some cranky, irritable -- "
"Severus is my friend, Sirius, and he's a friend of our family. I've tried to make allowances for the little feud you two have kept going, Merlin knows why, but he hasn't got very many friends and I won't see him be alone on Christmas."
Sirius gave her a defiant look, but kept quiet; Andromeda was, after all, the de facto matriarch of the Black clan, and Remus had offered him a tempting bribe if he was good.
Once the boys had shown off all their new things and they'd cleared away the remnants of the wrapping paper, they bundled up and ventured outside for brunch in Sosi Alley; it was a clear, crisp day, and Dora ran ahead with Neville and Harry, singing carols and annoying those who had hoped for a Christmas lie-in. Draco hung back a bit, content to walk between Sirius and Andromeda and occasionally take out the compass Sirius had given him, which, rather than pointing North like Muggle compasses, pointed in the direction of wherever he wanted to go so long as he knew where the place was.
Andromeda exchanged a grin over his head with Sirius, right before Dora threw a snowball that nearly knocked Sirius off his feet with surprise, and the tranquil family moment was broken up by an epic snowball fight the likes of which Diagon Alley would never see again.
Severus Snape was not, normally, given to shyness; then again, he was not usually placed in situations where he didn't know the people present, or couldn't intimidate them. Andromeda and Ted, however, were his friends and had utterly refused to be intimidated by him; hence, he was still, after two years, slightly...skittish, whenever he arrived at their house. All the more so because the children would be there, and so would Sirius Black.
He had promised Andromeda he wouldn't needle Black, though it was ridiculously easy to do so; she'd promised the man would behave himself, and while Lupin would also be there, normally if left alone he was harmless enough.
Still, he tightened his grip on the packages he carried -- a bottle of wine in one hand and a small wooden box with airholes drilled in the top in the other -- and stepped out of the floo, into the warm living room of the Tonks household.
"Severus!" Andromeda called, from the kitchen doorway. "Prompt as usual."
"Andromeda," he said, coming forward and allowing her to accept the wine and kiss his cheek. "I trust you've had a good Christmas."
"It was wonderful. How is everyone at Hogwarts?"
"Well, so far as I'm aware." He presented her with the wooden box, and she laughed.
"Thank you for doing that. You know I'm hopeless when it comes to animals. Come into the dining room, we're just setting the table."
He followed her dutifully into a room filled with noise, crashing, and children, as well as most of his living enemies.
"Severus," Remus said politely, holding out a hand. He shook it, reluctantly, then shared a mutually malevolent glare with Sirius before turning to the children.
"Look, Neville, Severus brought you your last present," Andromeda said. "We asked him to pick it out for you. Go on, open it."
Harry grinned and gave his Professor a little wave; Draco and Neville were peering interestedly at the box, trying to figure out how to unlatch it. Finally Neville pulled out the latchpin and lifted the lid.
"GROSS!" said Draco delightedly.
"What is it?" Sirius asked."S'a toad!" Neville squeaked, lifting it out carefully. One leg kicked rebelliously until he collected it up into his hand. "Ooooh."
"Now he won't be constantly asking to play with Snake," Harry teased.
"All right, who wants -- haven't you lot finished setting the table yet?" Ted sighed, as he appeared in the doorway. Hovering behind him was a basket of rolls and a large dish of cranberry sauce.
"Neville got a toad!" Harry exclaimed.
"Yes! Well done Severus, he looks very healthy. Put him back in the box, Neville, we're about to eat," Ted said briskly. "Dora, the goose?"
Everyone, Snape included, looked anxious about this, but Nymphadora solved the problem by floating the platter through the doorway, without moving from the spot she was in.
"Er," Snape said, as they were seating themselves. "I was also given parcels for Harry and Draco, from the house-elves."
"The house-elves?" Andromeda asked curiously.
"Yes," Snape said drily. He produced a small, crumpled-looking package from his trouser pocket, and a rather larger one from the pocket of his discarded cloak.
"To Harry, From a Friend, do not open until alone," Harry read aloud, off the tag of the larger one.
"It's been checked for hexes," Snape muttered.
"That was good of you," Andromeda said, smiling indulgently at Ted as he carved the goose.
"Who's that one from?" Harry asked Draco, laughing as he slid his own package under his chair for safekeeping. "It certainly looks like it's been wrapped by a house elf!"
Draco looked for a tag, but finding nothing, tore the paper -- which was glued shut, rather than spelled or taped somehow. He took out the crumpled object inside, and unfolded it carefully.
"It's a hat!" Neville exclaimed.
"Made out of socks," Dora added, staring at it.
"Full of marzipan!" Draco squeaked, removing a smaller package from inside the hat.
"Look, with little..." Harry leaned over and examined the small embroidered figures dancing around the edge of the hat, which did appear to be made out of sock-shapes.
"Dancing...house elves..." Draco said.
"It's hideous," Snape observed.
"But in a stunning sort of way," Dora added.
"Look, you can tell who they are," Draco said. "That's Mendy and Dobby and there's Denbigh and Merion and Radnor in the muffler he made out of butcher's twine..."
"Goose!" Ted said, effectively ending the conversation. Draco, looking rather secretly pleased, slipped the hat onto his head and proudly ate his entire dinner in the company of a string of tiny dancing house elves.