Chapter 6 : And Life Goes On
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And Life Goes On
Sirius Black shivered awake in the dark. Overhead, a few stars twinkled in gaps between leaves. Even with a fire, the night was unnaturally cold for late July. The fire. Out. Sirius let out a muffled groan and wiped the sleep out of his eyes. While he held his cloak tightly around him, Sirius stretched his legs and nudged the sleeping man next to him—who should have been standing watch—with his foot. "Wormtail, the fire. You let it go out again."
Peter Pettigrew squeaked and jumped, managing to throw his own cloak off of him. His beady, watery eyes darted around and landed on Sirius. "Oh, right. Sorry, Padfoot. I-I didn't mean to fall asleep." He lit the cooled logs with his wand, after four tries. "I just-"
"I really don't get you, mate," Sirius interrupted. "When Dumbledore assigns you to any mission, even ones like this where we sit and guess dementor populations based on the cold, you're ready to piss yourself, but once you get there you sleep better than I do."
Peter added another stick to the fire and nodded.
"Just keep the fire going and wake me in an hour. Or if any Death Eaters get too close." Sirius rolled over and hugged his cloak tighter. No longer tired enough to sleep, Sirius kept his face away from Wormtail and thought about his son.
Even though Lily and James had never been anything less than enthusiastic to watch Harry, Sirius hated leaving his son for days, especially so close to Harry's birthday. No matter how simple the mission was, Sirius always worried something would keep him late and he'd miss that special day. Of course, leaving for Order business was even harder now that Harry was getting older and understanding that whenever his father left with orders from Dumbledore he might not come back.
For this mission though, Sirius was determined to finish the reconnaissance as quickly as possible. He had not been thrilled about being partnered with Peter, but Sirius knew by now to keep Wormtail's duties limited to keeping the fire going and standing short watches. And if all went well, they'd be at the Order headquarters by the end of the day and home tomorrow.
The last fact was most important to Sirius because the day after tomorrow would be Harry's birthday. And his eleventh birthday. Sirius had already promised him the day in London to celebrate and buy school supplies for his first year at Hogwarts. Although seeing the excitement in Harry's eyes when he opened the acceptance letter had been one of the happiest and proudest of Sirius' life, Sirius couldn't help but dwell on the fact that Harry would be leaving him for school soon. Sirius knew that if he had been spending the past week with Harry and James instead of Wormtail and dementors that thought would not have settled in his mind so bitterly, but now all he could do was accept that his son was growing up, and much too fast in his opinion.
"Sirius! Sirius, wake up!" A hushed and high voice penetrated Sirius' thoughts. "Death Eaters are coming! Sirius, they found us!"
Sirius shot up, wand at the ready. Then he saw what Peter did and smacked his friend upside the head. "It's Sturgis and Dedalus, you nit. None of our alarms went off."
Once identities had been confirmed, Sturgis Podmore and Dedalus Diggle took over the mission and small camp, and Sirius and Peter were able to reactivate the Portkey their fellow Order members had used and go back home.
Sirius was thrown nearly off-balance as 35 kilos of skinny 11-year-old rammed into him. He smiled and held Harry as tight as he could. "Missed you too, pup."
"I'm glad you're back," Harry said into his father's chest.
"So am I," Sirius replied, and kissed the top of Harry's straight, black hair.
"Hey, mate." James stood with his arms crossed, leaning against the front doorframe and smiling. "How was being stuck in the middle of nowhere with only Wormtail for company for a week?"
James laughed. "It was only a week, but I missed you, Padfoot."
"So just how was hosting my well-behaved son this week?"
James snorted and turned to go back inside his house. "Well-behaved my arse."
Sirius followed with Harry, keeping a hand on the boy's back. He raised an eyebrow and grinned at Harry.
"He locked Lily out of all the kitchen cabinets, twice. And managed to blame it on me, twice."
Now it was Sirius' turn to laugh. He turned to Harry and gave him a proud kiss on the forehead. "A regular Marauder."
Harry gave him an embarrassed but accomplished smile in return.
"Yeah, funny for you, I almost didn't eat this week," James said, smiling all the same.
"Excited for tomorrow, Harry?" Sirius asked. He saw his son's light green eyes light up, his smile widen, and his head nod. Sirius couldn't believe he was out counting dementors just a few hours ago.
"Yeah! And I can't wait to get my wand and books and everything. I don't need a potions book though, because Aunt Lily's letting me take hers. She says it was her favorite subject. She showed me how to make the first potion from the book and let me help. Not just help stir it, I got to make it. Want to see? Aunt Lily says it looks just like it's supposed to."
Sirius laughed again. "All right, let's go see your potion."
Harry took Sirius' hand and led him past James and into the kitchen where Lily was.
When she saw Sirius, Lily smiled, put the dish she was hand-washing into the sink, dried her hands, and hugged him warmly. "Glad to see you back safe."
"Glad to be back," Sirius said. He thought the witch's smile, while genuine, didn't quite meet her eyes. But then again, Sirius always thought that after Harry had been staying with the Potters for a while. He knew Lily loved his son with all her heart, but he couldn't forget that for all these years Harry was a living reminder of what she always wanted but never had.
"Aunt Lily, where'd you put my potion? I want to show Dad."
"In this cabinet, sweetheart." Lily tried to open a cabinet above the sink, but the door stuck. "JAMES!"
Sirius put an arm around Harry and snickered quietly, listening to Harry laugh beside him. He would have to make a point of hearing Harry laugh as much as possible before September first.
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