Living with Danger
Chapter 9: A Good Name
By Anne B. Walsh
Chapter 9: A Good Name
Sirius stirred. Someone was calling his name, but he didn’t want to move. He was comfortable where he was...
Well, not that comfortable. There’s a rock sticking in my back. So I might as well wake up.
Something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite place it.
He opened his eyes. Moony was sitting beside him, smiling at him. "Good morning," he said cheerfully. "I wasn’t sure you were ever going to wake up."
"G’morning." Sirius sat up slowly and took in his surroundings. They were on a rocky beach, with the ocean to one side and trees to the other. It was somewhat chilly, but he was warmly dressed, and the sun was shining, so it wasn’t too bad.
As more of his brain warmed up, though, the feeling of "something wrong" intensified.
"Would you like something to eat?"
Good, an easy one. "Yes. What is there?"
"I brought some rolls, and some jam for them, and there’s tea."
"Tea sounds good to start with."
Remus took a thermos out of a picnic basket beside him and unscrewed the lid, pouring the contents into two mugs. "You like it straight, right?"
"Right." Sirius accepted a mug and watched his friend drop four sugar cubes into his own. "How can you drink it like that?"
"I’ve often wanted to ask you the same question." Remus stirred his tea gently, apparently intent on it.
Sirius took a sip of the hot liquid, which did not — quite — scald his tongue. He set down the cup —
— and remembered everything.
The last six months poured through his head in a few seconds, leaving him gasping.
The Fidelius Charm, Halloween, James and Lily dead, Harry gone, Peter — the stinking, rotten, dirty traitor — and then Azkaban...
Last night. It was real. It was Moony, we did escape!
No, it can’t have been. I’m mad. This is just more hallucinations...
"This can’t be happening," he blurted.
"Why not?" Remus asked, lowering his teacup, quiet but intense.
"No one escapes from Azkaban. No one ever has. It’s impossible."
"Tell me what you think happened last night."
"Nothing. Nothing happened, because nothing could have happened. I’m mad, this is all a delusion. I’m still back in my cell, probably screaming like all the rest of them now. I used to wonder, you know. I used to think about when I’d start screaming like the rest, and now I know. It’s right now, this minute, because this can not be happening!"
"If it was," Remus said, still quietly. "If this was happening. You say it’s not, I’ll accept that for the moment. But if it was. What would you want to ask me? You’ve been cut off from the world for six months. Is there something, or someone, you want to ask about?"
Sirius rubbed his face, feeling the unusual smoothness. When did I get shaved? Of course, in a dream things happen instantaneously. Well, I guess I’ll play along. If I’m mad, there’s nothing I can do about it, and even news I invent myself is welcome at this point.
"Harry," he said finally. "Tell me about Harry. Where is he? Who’s taking care of him? Is he all right?"
Remus smiled wryly. "Do you want the answer as of now, or as of two days ago?"
"Is there a difference?"
"Yes. Yes, there is definitely a difference." Remus sighed. "You always did have the gift for picking the hard ones, Padfoot."
Well, I wasn’t expecting this... "Let’s start with now and work backwards. Where is Harry, right now, to the best of your knowledge?"
"About a half-mile that way." Remus pointed into the trees. "Asleep in his car seat, waiting for us."
Sirius smiled. Real or not, that’s a lovely phrase. "Waiting for us." Us, including me... "I hope there’s someone with him, or did you just leave him in the car alone?"
"No, there’s someone there. Someone he knows. An adult."
"Do I know this person?"
"No, you don’t, but I hope you’ll like her."
"Oh-ho, it’s a her, is it? Are the two of you just friends, or is there something more going on here?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?"
Remus extended his left hand, grinning. He was wearing a broad gold ring on his fourth finger.
"That’s a wedding ring," Sirius said. Then the obvious corollary hit him. He gaped at his friend. "You didn’t."
"I did. Her name is Gertrude but she goes by Danger, she has a little sister just Harry’s age, and she’s the one responsible for all of this."
"Well, congratulations," Sirius said, ignoring the last clause of the sentence. Somehow I don’t think she’s responsible for me going out of my mind. "When did this happen?"
"Two weeks ago. But we got off topic. We were talking about Harry." Remus looked grave. "Padfoot, I won’t lie to you. He looks awful. You might be a little shocked when you see him."
"Why? What happened to him?"
"He’s been living with Lily’s sister."
"With..." Sirius had to think hard to remember her name. "Petunia? The Muggle? I didn’t think she even acknowledged Lily. Why on earth would she take Harry in?"
"He was, more or less, dumped on her doorstep. And she treated him that way. Like garbage." Remus scowled. "He slept in a cupboard, and they would sometimes â€˜forget’ to feed him. He’s going to be all right now that we have him, but he’s not strong, physically or emotionally, at this point."
Sirius shook his head in disbelief.
Dammit, I wouldn’t make up something like that. Not for Harry. Not for my Harry.
Could this be real after all?
Remus went on. "Also, I had no idea where he was, because no one would tell me."
"What? Why not?"
"I was informed that it would not be in Harry’s best interests for me to visit him," Remus said bitterly. "Translation, they were afraid I’d steal him." He chuckled suddenly. "Which, ironically, is exactly what we did two nights ago, Danger and I."
"How did you find him?"
"As our former Head of House would say," Remus imitated Minerva McGonagall, "â€˜sheer dumb luck.’ "
"What did you do, see him in the park?"
"Yes, actually. Just about a month ago. Which is also how I met Danger. She was babysitting him."
"So let me get this straight. You married a woman you’ve only known for a month, because she baby-sat for Harry?"
"No, you idiot, I married her because I love her," Remus retorted, shoving Sirius’ shoulder lightly. "But without her, you would still be in Azkaban, and I might well be dead." His face, which had been animated when he talked about his wife — Moony with a wife. That is going to take some getting used to — became flat and almost expressionless. "The day I met her, I was contemplating suicide."
"I had nothing left, Sirius. Everyone I loved was gone. Or so I thought." Remus closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them, his face returning to normal. "Then I found Harry again, and met Danger, and she managed to turn my life upside down within two days."
"Women tend to do that," Sirius said, smiling as the thought of dark fingers on white piano keys drifted across his mind.
"Oh, you have no idea," Remus said with an answering smile, and proceeded to rectify that.
Latent magic, he says. Everyone knows that’s just a theory, and a tenuous one at that. True-dreaming, maybe, though it’s very rare — I mean, how else could he have known about me and Peter — but werewolf taming? Sharing dreams, knowing each other’s lives? It’s impossible, it’s unbelievable...
But isn’t there just the outside chance it might be true?
"Anything else you want to know?" Remus asked.
"Yes. Explain that little remark you made last night. The one about â€˜our mates, our cubs.’ I don’t have a mate."
"Now whose finger was I supposed to measure around and not tell her why?" Remus said innocently.
"That’s unfair, Remus. You think she’s going to say, â€˜Oh, all right, I believe you, even though no one else in the world does and all the evidence is against you’?"
"Yes," Remus said simply. "Because she does believe it. She’s been part of this almost from the beginning — she got us our safe place to go — and you should have seen her face when we told her the truth, Padfoot. She looked as if she’d just been let off a death sentence. Something like you do right now."
A knot of emotion was building in Sirius’ chest. He closed his eyes and thought hard.
I need something tangible. Some real evidence one way or another. I want to believe this so much... but it’s like going straight from hell into heaven, and if it’s not real I’m just setting myself up for a fall. I need to see, or hear, or feel, something I wouldn’t be able to make up...
"I want to see Harry," he said abruptly. "I need to see him. Can we go to him, right now?"
"Of course." Remus got up and dumped the rest of his tea out on the rocks. Sirius, about to do the same, thought better of it and drank the rest of his. It was cold, but still tasted good. He handed his mug back to Remus.
"Let’s go," he said.
The blue truck was parked in a small clearing at the end of a packed dirt trail. Sirius shifted back to human as they got closer, but hung back a bit. He felt unaccountably nervous.
Remus glanced back and sighed. "Sit down," he said, conjuring a chair. Sirius obeyed, staring at the ground and wondering idly where his wand was...
Probably snapped by now, considering who I am, or at least who everyone thinks I am...
I’ve changed a lot. I probably look frightening. What if I scare Harry? Moony said he was emotionally unstable, what if I do something to him, something he can’t recover from? I’m bad luck, I curse everything I come across, I should leave, now, before anything else happens to people I care about...
"Harry, wake up," said Remus’ voice from right in front of him.
Sirius looked up. Harry was stirring in Remus’ arms. As Sirius watched, those huge, adorable green eyes opened and looked trustingly at Remus. "Mooey," Harry said, and nestled a little closer.
Sirius felt a wave of jealousy. Harry loves Remus, I should just go... he doesn’t want me...
"Harry, who’s that?" Remus asked, shifting the boy around so that he was sitting up and facing outwards. Facing Sirius.
Too late now. Sirius tried to smile. Harry was staring at him as if he were a difficult puzzle. "Hi, Harry," he said, feeling almost shy. "Remember me?"
Almost as soon as he spoke, Harry’s face cleared and he squealed with glee. "Pa-foot!" he all but shouted. "I go Pa-foot!"
"See, he knows you," Remus said, smiling, though his eyes looked suspiciously bright. "And he wants you. Here."
He set Harry carefully on Sirius’ lap and walked away. Sirius had no idea where he went. From the moment Harry entered his arms, the child was the focus of his world.
"Just like the day you were born," Sirius murmured to his godson, holding him tight. Harry was sitting on Sirius’ lap with his arms and legs around Sirius and his head against his godfather’s chest. Sirius eased back on his hug, and Harry leaned back against his arms, giggling, to look up into his face.
"The first time I ever saw you, you stole my heart, little one," he said. And now you’re giving it back to me. You are so beautiful, who could help but love you...
"Do you want to hear a story, Harry?"
"All right. This is the story of the day you were born..."
Sirius Black entered the lobby of St. Mungo’s at a run. "Maternity Ward?" he asked the startled Welcome Witch.
"First floor," she said, "but..."
He lost the rest of her sentence as he charged toward the stairs, up one flight, and out into the hallway, where he repeated his question to a Healer. "Around the corner to the right, but there’s security there for some reason," the woman said. "They’re questioning everyone before they let them in, just so you know."
"Thanks," Sirius said, relieved. Wonder if they’re both in there? Probably. Save time and personnel. Besides giving the ladies company.
He went at a slightly more sedate pace around the corner to the right and saw Emmeline Vance standing in the corridor outside the door. "Oh, Sirius, there you are," she said, beaming at him. "James said he’d firecalled you, but I didn’t expect you so soon..."
"Well, it’s not every day I’m a godfather, is it?" Sirius asked, grinning. "Be a sport, Emmy, boy or girl? James wouldn’t tell me."
"Well, if he wouldn’t, neither should I," she said firmly. "You’ll have to go in and see for yourself." She shooed him into the room and closed the door behind him.
"Hello, Sirius," said Alice Longbottom, looking up from her day-old son, whom she and Frank had named Neville. "How are you?"
"Wonderful," Sirius said. "Is anyone else here?"
"No, you’re the first," Alice said. "It only happened a few minutes ago, give them time..."
"Sirius!" exclaimed James, appearing around the curtains at the other end of the room. "Get back here, you old dog! Come meet your godson!"
"A boy, then?" Sirius asked, waving at Alice and following James.
"A boy," Lily answered from her bed, her face almost beatific. She was pale, but in the white hospital gown, she looked like an angel. If angels cradled bundles in their arms. "Here he is."
Sirius felt as if he could barely breathe. The tiny face inside the blankets was red and rather scrunched-looking, but the hair escaping from under the cap was as black as James’ own, and probably as messy, Sirius thought. The Potter hair, besides being untamable, was inescapable.
"Want to hold him?" James asked, seemingly unable to stop grinning.
Sirius nodded eagerly, and James lifted the baby from his wife’s arms and placed him ever so delicately in Sirius’.
"He’s so light," Sirius said in wonder, swaying back and forth where he stood. "So tiny."
"They’re all tiny when they come out," Lily laughed.
"And he looks a lot like you, James. Especially like you with a hangover."
James made a face at his friend. "Does not. He has Lily’s eyes, though. Green as a Welsh dragon."
"He’ll be a heartbreaker when he grows up," Lily predicted.
"What’s his name?" Sirius asked.
"Harry," James answered. "Harry James Potter."
"Just Harry? Not short for anything?"
James shrugged. "It sounds good, don’t you think? Harry Potter. It’s a good name."
Sirius looked down at the baby. "Yes. A good name."
Vaguely he heard the door open and close again, but he was lost in the wonder of the tiny life in his arms...
"I loved you then, and I love you now," Sirius told Harry. "And I will always love you. My baby, my puppy, my little one..."
His voice failed him as he choked up, holding Harry close. He’s really mine now.
And he is really mine.
I’ve decided. This is real. I’m free.
How else could I be so happy?
He was crying, Sirius realized, and he didn’t care. He was simply so happy that he couldn’t stop crying.
Harry looked up at him in bewilderment. "Pa-foot, no c’y," he said, touching Sirius’ face.
"I have to cry, Harry," Sirius said, smiling at his godson. "But I’m not sad. I’m happy."
Harry looked confused. "No c’y," he repeated, looking as if he might cry in a moment.
Sirius pulled himself together, took a deep if shaky breath, and wiped his face. "All right, Harry. No cry. Better?"
Harry nodded. "I huggy," he said conversationally. "You huggy, Pa-foot?"
Sirius was stumped by the question, but only for a second. "Are you hungry, Harry?"
Harry nodded again eagerly.
"Well, let’s see what there is to eat," Sirius said, standing up. "I could stand to eat something myself." It was an understatement. He hadn’t eaten since the previous night, and that had been Azkaban food, which was...
Well, better not even to think about it any more, Sirius decided.
In any case, he had been very active since then, and a cup of tea might be nice, but it was not satisfying.
Now where did Moony go?
He carried Harry around the truck and discovered Remus sitting against its other side.
"How are you?" Remus asked, standing up.
Sirius met his friend’s eyes squarely. He saw no deception, no anger, and no hatred. Only friendship, love, and hope.
I never thought I’d see anyone look at me that way again...
"I’m fine," he said. "Or I will be. Given some time."
Remus’ shoulders, which had been tense, relaxed, and he smiled broadly. "Welcome back, old friend."
He pulled Sirius into an embrace, which Sirius returned wholeheartedly, if with only one arm.
I didn’t know it was possible to be this happy.
I have Harry and Moony back... what more could I ask for?
Well, maybe one other person...
Aletha lay sprawled across the mattresses in front of the fireplace, still fully dressed. She had worn herself out playing and worrying, and had finally collapsed at some point early in the morning.
Her hands were protectively curled around the two wands she had brought home the night before.
"You were friends with Letha when you were little?" Sirius asked around a mouthful of roll. He had been introduced to Danger, and he rather liked her. She was canny and just a bit sassy, exactly the kind of girl Moony needed.
"Best friends. The kind that never went anywhere alone," Danger said, handing Harry another slice of roll. "But then her parents told me she was going away to a special school, and I wouldn’t see her until the summer — and then we moved, and I never did see her again until a month or so ago."
"But they seemed to have no trouble picking up where they left off," Remus added, ducking Danger’s smack.
"She did go to a special school, you know," Sirius pointed out. "Just a little more special than you were probably thinking of at the time."
Danger laughed, a warm sound that seemed to spread around Sirius and invite him in. "Hogwarts sounds wonderful," she said wistfully. "I wish I could see it."
"Someday," Remus promised, sliding his arm around her waist. "When Harry and Neenie go, we’ll go to visit them, and we can show you all the secret passages."
"I wish we still had the Map," Sirius said. "D’you think Filch still has it?"
Danger not having heard about the Marauders’ Map yet, this brought up a round of stories, with the result that it was half an hour later before the group got underway.
"You’d better ride as Padfoot," Remus said to Sirius, buckling Harry into his car seat. "Safer, in case we just happen to be seen."
"Hair," Danger said briskly, getting into the driver’s seat.
"Right." Remus pointed his wand first at Harry, then at himself, turning them both into blonds.
"You look weird," Sirius said.
"I can look weirder." Remus pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket and put them on. "Meet John White," he said. "Muggle neighbor of Aletha Freeman. His wife, Kelly," Danger waved sweetly, "and their twins, James and Jane."
"And now the family has a dog?" Sirius asked, feeling a smile start on his face.
"Yes, their devoted dog Padfoot."
Sirius’ smile grew into something resembling a grin. "A good name for a dog."
"I think Padfoot will probably be adopting Ms. Freeman at some point in the very near future," Remus said musingly.
Sirius, already in dog form, nodded fervently, panting just a trifle exaggeratedly and making Danger laugh again.
He hoisted himself into the car. Danger had thoughtfully padded the edge of Harry’s car seat, which was really more like a booster seat, with the picnic blanket they had used, so he could lie comfortably with his head next to Harry and the rest of him on the back seat.
Time to go home.
"Time to go home," Danger echoed his thought, and turned the key in the ignition.
The phone rang in Aletha’s side of the house, startling her out of her sleep.
It’s morning — it’s the morning! They must be calling to tell me how it went!
She hurried through the archway and down the hall, into her own kitchen, and snatched up the phone. "Hello?"
"Aletha? It’s Kelly."
"Kelly, it’s good to hear your voice." Aletha hoped she didn’t sound too eager. "How is everyone?"
"Just fine. Everyone is great. And we’re all on our way home. We’ll see you tonight."
Aletha took a shaky breath. "Give everyone my love," she said in a voice that only trembled a very little. "I’ll see you all tonight."
"Will do. Bye."
The phone went dead.
Aletha hung up the phone and sank into a chair, feeling as if her head would split if she smiled any more widely.
Tonight, tonight, she caroled inside her head. I’ll see my love tonight...
Not even realizing that she had only 20 minutes to get ready for work could dampen her mood.