Chapter 14 : Tell Me a Story
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Tell Me A Story
Three days later:
Sirius woke that morning with a tickle in his throat. He felt a bit under the weather, but not enough to stay in bed. Today Dora was home with the boys, because Remus had to attend a conference with the Board of Governors to iron out the new requirements of the curriculum next year. Actually, all the staff of Hogwarts would be attending the conference. Remus looked forward to seeing Harry, Neville, Draco, Luna, Hermione, Susan, and everyone else. The conference would last the whole day and possibly evening as well.
He sprang out of bed and raced into the bathroom, eager to be the first up, so he could take a bath with all the hot water and play in the tub longer. Usually a bath made him feel better, but this morning, after soaking for a long time, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, Sirius felt more tired than anything. His throat felt scratchy and he tugged at his ear, which itched and felt irritated. But he decided to just ignore them and hope it would go away. He never got sick. Never. That he could remember, at least.
He quickly dressed and hotfooted it downstairs to see if breakfast was on the table.
He found Dora making scrambled eggs and ham for breakfast, along with fried potatoes and toast. The ham was leftover from last night's dinner, and Dora didn't believe in wasting good food, so she had used some of it for breakfast. The rest would be used for lunch, in pea soup with ham, or deviled ham sandwiches.
"Morning, Siri," Dora greeted him, smiling.
"Morning! Where's Moony?"
"He's at the Board conference at the Ministry, remember?" Dora reminded him, her hair was now a shade of lavender. She quickly flipped the eggs and ham. "Are Teddy and Jamie up yet?"
"They weren't last I saw," Sirius said. He went to the fridge and poured himself a cup of orange juice.
But then he heard the thud of small feet running and knew that his brothers were awake.
"Sounds like they smelled my cooking," Dora said wryly. She was actually a good cook, having learned from her mother, Andromeda, and also her dad, Ted. She carefully transferred the scrambled eggs and ham onto a platter and cast a Warming Charm over it to keep it hot. Then she flipped the potatoes over, making them nice and crispy and seasoning them. "Siri, will you set the table?"
Sirius pouted. He didn't feel like getting up and doing anything. He just wanted to sit and drink his juice. "But Dora, that's Jamie's job. I clear."
"Today we're going to change chores," Dora told him firmly. "So now you set and Jamie clears."
Sirius heaved a martyred sigh. He really found doing chores to be boring and wished the Lupins had a house elf. He'd never had to do chores in his former life. "All right," he grumbled. Then he went to the cabinet and took out four dishes, and then got the forks and cups.
Once the table was set, he slumped back in his chair and nursed his juice.
Dora had her back to him, finishing up the cooking, and so missed Sirius' odd behavior. Since moving into the Lupins, Sirius had been cheerful and easygoing, most times. Today, however, he was sulky and scowling.
Jamie and Teddy thundered down the stairs, and Sirius found his ear throbbed from the noise. His brothers burst into the kitchen.
"Hey, Mum, smells great!" Teddy yelled, hugging his mother about the waist, his hair changing to match hers.
"Whatcha cookin' good lookin'?" Jamie whooped, also coming to hug his mother. He stole some potatoes from the pan, earning him a smack on the hand. "Aww, Mum! I just wanted to taste."
"James, you keep your hands out of the frying pan," Dora scolded. "You could get burnt. Not to mention, I'm not sure if you've washed your hands this morning."
"I have. See?" Jamie held out his hands, palms up, for her inspection.
Dora looked carefully at her youngest's hands. "Good job! But . . . that still doesn't mean you get to stick your fingers in my potatoes. Go sit down, this'll be done in a minute."
Jamie sighed and went to sit down next to Teddy and across from Sirius. "Hey, how come the table's set?"
"'Cause Dora said we rotated the chores today," Sirius told him. "So now you clear."
"Aww, Merlin! I hate clearing!" groaned the youngest Lupin.
"Tough. Deal with it," Teddy said. He never let Jamie get away with whining, mainly because the younger boy could go on for hours about how unfair it was and he disliked it, ect . . .
Jamie stuck his tongue out at Teddy.
Teddy promptly extended his tongue to reach Jamie's cheek and slurp it, making sure to get Jamie all soggy.
"Yuck! Mum, Teddy licked me!" Jamie whined.
"Quit whining, you brat," Teddy snorted, elbowing Jamie in the ribs.
Jamie promptly elbowed his brother in return.
"Boys, stop it! Before you spend the day cleaning out the garage," their mother warned.
Both Lupins went still. Dora never made idle threats.
A dish of potatoes as well as the scrambled eggs and ham floated over to the table. Dora carried the plate of toast, already buttered and cut into triangles. She fixed each of the boys' plates, then her own.
Sirius chewed and swallowed carefully, for some reason his throat was a little sore. He ate more scrambled eggs and ham than he did potatoes, because they went down easier. So did the toast, especially when he added jam to it.
"Mum, can we go visit Aunt Ginny today? She was gonna teach us some Quidditch moves," Teddy said.
"I'm afraid not, Teddy. Alby and Severus came down with a bad ear and throat infection and are still recovering from it. They caught it from Frankie. So you can either fly in the backyard or do something else until I finish some reports I'm working on."
Sirius gulped. He prayed he wasn't coming down with whatever Alby and Snape had. They had infected him! Then he shook his head. No, he refused to get sick. Absolutely refused!
Teddy sighed. He'd been looking forward to a lesson with Ginny. "Wanna play Quaffle Keep Away?" he asked his little brothers.
"Sure!" Jamie said.
But Sirius disagreed. "No, that's boring. Why don't we play Aurors and Death Eaters?"
"I'm not being the bad guy!" Jamie cried.
"Yes, you are. We all take turns," Teddy stated.
"Why don't you play what Sirius said for an hour or so and then go flying the next hour?" Dora suggested diplomatically.
"Sounds like a plan," Teddy agreed.
His brothers nodded in agreement.
Quarrel averted, for now, Dora finished her breakfast, then helped Teddy wash and dry the dishes while Jamie cleared the table and Sirius swept the floor.
Once their chores were done, Teddy, Sirius, and Jamie went to play outside. Jamie had a paper mask he used to cover his face and also an old hand-me-down robe from Remus. Teddy had a blue and red bathrobe he used for his Auror uniform and his "wand" was a long stick. Sirius surprised them both by shifting into his puppy form and acting like a police dog.
In his dog form as Padfoot, Sirius didn't feel the pain of his sore throat and ear quite so much. And he could scratch his ear too, which made it feel a little better. He helped Teddy "track down" Jamie, and once he'd found where his brother was hiding, which was behind the huge hydrangea bush, he would "hold" Jamie by the hem of his robe until Teddy came and dueled him.
Then they switched and Teddy was the Death Eater and Jamie the Auror. Sirius was the police dog, of course. When it came time for Sirius to be the Death Eater, he said, "What if I was a hellhound instead and you had to capture me?"
"Like with a net on a pole?" asked Teddy.
"Umm . . . yeah."
"We can use Dad's fishing net," Jamie said.
"You'd better not break it though," Teddy warned. "Else you'll be getting your bum warmed."
"I won't break it," Jamie snorted. "But Padfoot might."
"I will not!" Sirius shouted. He was feeling more and more sick, but didn't want to quit playing, and so he was irritable. "You're the one who drops things, James."
"Not on purpose, Sirius!" Jamie cried angrily.
"Butterfingers!" Sirius yelled.
Sirius glared at his little brother. He was trying to come up with a good comeback when he remembered hearing some older kids teasing some younger ones at the park. So he taunted in a sing-song voice, "Baby, baby, stick your head in gravy, wrap it up in bubble gum, and send it to the navy!"
Jamie stamped his foot. "Shut up, Sirius! I'm not a baby!"
"Why don't you cry about it?"
"Sirius, enough!" Teddy said. "Quit teasing him."
Jamie was becoming so upset he was nearly in tears. He ran at Sirius, waving his fake wand and yelling, "I'm gonna hex you good, you prat!"
Sirius laughed and turned into the black puppy again, this time he ran right through Jamie's legs and tripped him.
The smaller boy fell on his bottom with a thud and started bawling.
Sirius barked and raced about his brother in circles.
Teddy, scowling, snapped, "I said stop it! Or else I'll tell Mum about your Animagus form."
Padfoot skidded to a stop, yipped, and changed back. "You wouldn't! You promised!" Sirius cried, hurt.
"Then quit making Jamie cry," Teddy ordered, helping Jamie to his feet. "You're okay, quit making a show of yourself," he said, gently dusting the seat of his brother's trousers off.
Jamie sniffled and glared at Sirius. "You're mean! I don't wanna play with you anymore." And he stalked off across the yard.
"Good! 'Cause I don't want to play with you either!" Sirius shouted. Then he went into the house and slammed the back door.
That brought Dora out from the study. "Boys, what have I told you about slamming doors?" she asked before noticing Sirius was alone. "Sirius? Why aren't you outside with your brothers?"
Sirius pouted. "I don't feel like playing stupid games any more. And Jamie's a little crybaby."
Dora cocked an eyebrow and changed her hair from lavender to a stormy blue. "Sirius, you know I don't like namecalling."
Sirius sighed. "Okay. But he started it." His cheeks were flushed.
Concerned, Dora came and laid a hand on his forehead. "You seem like you're feverish. Let me take your temperature." She did so magically. "You are. I think you'd better get into pajamas and go to bed, little cuz. Looks like you've come down with the same thing as Harry's kids and Neville's."
Sirius shook his head frantically. "No, Dora! I'm not sick. Really I'm not."
"Siri, you are. Now march yourself up to bed, or should I carry you?"
"Aww . . . but Dora!"
"March! Right now!" The Head of the MLE ordered, turning Sirius around and giving him a light swat to get moving.
Sirius obeyed. By the time he had reached his room, he was all achy and hot and his ear was hurting something awful. He didn't fight to hard when Dora put him in a nightshirt, casting a Cooling Charm on the boy's sheets. Then she pulled them back and tucked him in.
She quickly Summoned the necessary potions and gave them to him. Sirius fussed a bit, he'd never liked taking potions. Still, his adult head knew that he needed to keep taking them.
"Here, Siri. Because you didn't fight me too much, now you get to have a reward," Tonks said, and she Summoned a cherry icepop and gave it to him.
Sirius sucked at it happily. It not only tasted good, but it soothed his sore throat and even numbed his mouth a bit, which made his ear stop throbbing.
Dora knew that she was probably going to be nursing all three of her boys before a day had gone by. What one had, the others usually caught. It had been that way with dragon pox and spattergroit.
"When you're done, try and rest, Paddy," she told Sirius. Then she went down to check on her stock of potions. Hopefully she had enough here to treat all of her boys. If not she'd have to make more. She really hoped that by then Remus was home, because he had a remarkable way of keeping sick children entertained.
Ten minutes later, Sirius had finished his ice pop and was fretting about being stuck in bed. He tossed and turned and pounded his pillow to no avail. He still felt hot and achy and there was nothing to do. He got out of bed and padded down the hall to Dora's study.
Dora felt eyes on her and looked up, thinking it was Jamie or Teddy. "Sirius! What are you doing out of bed?"
"I can't sleep," he whined. "I'm hot and I'm bored."
The Head Auror bit back a groan. "Sirius, go back to bed. You're sick and need to stay there, otherwise you'll infect the whole house."
"But I'm not tired, Dora! I'm so bored I could die!" he cried aggravatingly.
Dora rose, and putting a firm hand to the small of the seven-year-old's back, escorted him back to bed again. Once he was tucked in, with yet another ice pop, this time a blue raspberry one, Dora began to tell him a funny story, using her Metamorphmagus abilities to do the character's faces. Sirius laughed so hard he nearly swallowed his ice pop whole.
"That was great! Tell me another one, please," the little boy begged, using his big brown eyes the way a dog would.
"All right, scamp. But only one more, because then I have to get back to my reports," Dora acquiesced. "What would you like to hear next?"
"Something with a lot of excitement."
So she told him about one time during the war, when she and Remus were hunting down a criminal called the Ebony Mask, who enjoyed sneaking into homes of wealthy wizards with little kids and snatching the children and leaving as his calling card a black fabric mask. Sirius listened, rapt, as she described how the evil man hid the children in a secret warehouse, and how Remus had used his werewolf senses to track them and they had battled a troll and a hellhound to get them out.
"What about the Ebony Mask? When did you catch him?"
"We didn't. We were closing in on him, about to make the arrest, when he threw himself off the top of a thirty story building. He had vowed never to surrender to us, and chose to die rather than be out in Azkaban."
"Can't say I really blame him," muttered the former prisoner. "How about another one?"
Dora shook her head. "No, Siri. Close your eyes and go to sleep."
"I'm not tired," he sulked.
"Now, little boy," she said in a tone that meant she was fast losing patience.
Huffing and sighing, he did as she told him. Within moments, he was fast asleep.
After placing a Monitoring Charm on him, she returned to her paperwork, which was evaluations of her Aurors . It was around that time that her sons came back into the house. Jamie was complaining about how Sirius had tripped and teased him.
"Honey, I know he can be difficult at times, and I'll speak to him about playing nicely, but right now he's sick in bed, so please try and play quietly and not wake him up."
"When did he get sick?" asked Jamie.
"I think he woke up with it, but didn't tell me because he wanted to play with you," said Tonks shrewdly.
"Oh." Jamie said, understanding perfectly. He never wanted to stay in bed either when he was sick.
"Maybe that's why he was being a git," Teddy mused. Then he pulled Jamie back downstairs. "C'mon, brat. Leave Mum alone, she's busy. We can get a snack and then we'll play cards."
Dora sighed in relief. She could always count on Teddy to keep Jamie occupied. In that, he was very like his dad.
Harry returned home around suppertime. "Mmm, something smells wonderful," he said, hugging and kissing Ginny as he came in the door.
"It's just my mum's roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes. And I made chicken soup for the boys." She said, hugging him back. "How was the conference?"
"All right. We got most of the changes approved by the Board, and my curriculum was deemed appropriate so it went well."
"Good. Alby's almost recovered and Sev is gradually getting better too. Dora called me and said Sirius has this infection now and she's just waiting for Teddy and Jamie to come down with it. She said she couldn't wait for Remus to come home because Sirius was driving her crazy."
"I can imagine," Harry chuckled sympathetically. "It's too bad they don't have a magical TV like we do." Arthur had tinkered around with a TV set in his spare time last year, and made it so it could get the WWN and also Muggle cartoons and some sitcoms. Since it was magical, there was no danger of it malfunctioning due to Harry and Ginny's auras, and Alby could enjoy watching it along with his parents.
Harry walked into the den, and found his two sick children watching Animal Planet. Alby grinned and ran over to him. "Daddy, guess what? I'm not sick any more!"
Harry picked him up and hugged him. "I'm so glad to hear that."
"But Sevvy still is, just a little," reported the four year old. "We've been watching a snake special. Did you know snakes have three eyelids? An' they can swallow a big frog whole an' a goat if they're bigger?"
"Yes, I remember learning that in natural science in school." Harry said, setting his small son down.
"Did you know your father can talk to snakes?" Severus asked Alby.
Alby's eyes went huge. "You can? What can you say to them?"
"Uh . . . whatever I want."
"Do they talk back to you?"
"Yes, if they have something to say. But I haven't talked to any in awhile. Not since we rebuilt the school," Harry admitted.
"I wanna hear you talk to one. How did you learn it? Can I do it?"
"Uh . . . I was born with it. And I don't know if you have the ability, Alby," Harry said gently. "Maybe when you two are all better, we can go out into the woods by the school and I can find a snake to talk to."
Alby was practically jumping up and down. "Hurry up and get better, Sevvy! I wanna hear Dad talk to snakes. And maybe be friends with one too."
Severus gave the little boy a half-smile. "I'm trying, Alby." His ear infection was almost gone, but for some reason the one in his throat still lingered.
Harry came over and asked how he was feeling. The dark-haired boy told him a little better. "You're taking all your potions, right?" he teased.
Severus snorted. "Of course! I'm not an infant, Harry. But the infection is stubborn and taking longer than it should to go away."
"Well, you can outstubborn any infection, Sev." Harry said, smirking, and gave the boy a gentle hug. "Let's go and eat. I'm starving."
Severus turned off the TV and they all went in the kitchen for supper.
When Severus would have cleared the table, Ginny told him he was excused on account of his being sick.
"But I'm not that sick," protested Severus. "I can carry a few plates."
Ginny shook her head. "You're sick enough to still take potions, therefore you don't do chores. Potter House Rules."
Severus huffed in exasperation. He wasn't on his deathbed! But he knew it was futile to argue with a redhead when she's made up her mind.
The evening was quiet time when Harry and Ginny read to Alby or played a board game or watched a movie. Tonight Alby wanted to have Storytime. "You ever play Storytime, Sevvy?" he asked, crawling up to sit next to his brother on the couch.
"Isn't that where you read a story?"
"Nope. It's when you tell one!" Alby said.
"You ever play telephone, Severus?" Harry asked, sitting down next to his son.
"Yes, a few times." That had been one of Lily's favorite games.
"Well, this is sort of like that, but you start out by telling a story and then the next person adds to it, and so on, until someone ends it. We usually go around two or three times before a story is finished."
"It's fun, because you never know where a story will go," Ginny said, sitting next to Harry. "I'll start. Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there was a noble lady who had hair so long and beautiful that every man wanted to marry her. But her guardian was a mean old man and he didn't want her leaving his house, because he charged a Sickle for anyone who wanted to catch a glimpse of her with her hair down."
"What was her name, Mummy?" asked Alby.
"Harry?" she gestured for Harry to continue.
"Thanks ever so much," Harry muttered crossly. "You know I'm bad with names. Uh . . . her name was . . . Barbara. And her nasty guardian, who had greasy string hair the color of a mouse, was called Grim. Barbara was in love with the son of a woods guide, whose name was Alan, and he was the best tracker, hunter, and Beast Tamer in the whole kingdom. Alan was also a wizard. And he had pledged himself to Barbara. They planned to sneak away from her guardian's house one night and get married. But Grim found out and he locked Barbara in a high tower and the only way to get to it was through a maze. And the maze was filled with . . . your turn, Alby."
"Yay! And the maze was filled with all kinds of monsters. Like umm . . . a troll, and a man-eating lion, and . . .umm . . . a giant . . .oh, and a basilisk and an ogre. And the maze had thorns all over that pricked and cut you when you tried to walk past. It was very scary. But Alan wasn't a'scared, he was brave like my dad. Alan had a pet python, who helped him fight all the bad monsters. And the python's name was . . . Sevvy, now it's your turn!"
Severus took over, pausing for a moment to think of a name for the snake. "The python's name was Kaa, like the python in the Jungle Book, by Kipling," he stated. "While Alan fought the ogre, Kaa hugged the troll till it collapsed and then he was hungry, so he ate it."
"Eew! Troll for dinner!" Alby wrinkled his nose.
"The snake liked it," Severus smirked. "Alan took his broom and flew through the maze, and sometimes he encountered plants liked Devil's Snare or the Venemous Tarantagulla. But he was clever and quick, and used his magic to slip past them. Kaa followed on the ground and sometimes he slithered up a tree, and when Alan came across the giant, he wrapped himself around the giant's neck and squeezed . . ." He paused dramatically and gestured to Ginny.
"Oh, hurry, Mummy! What happened next?" Alby cried, wriggling with eagerness.
Ginny smiled and continued. " . . .Alan used his superior flying skills to tie up the giant, and Kaa let go, because the giant was half-strangled any how. When he came to the basilisk, Kaa talked to it and convinced it to leave them alone and when the man-eating lion sprang on then, Alan used his Beast Tamer magic to calm it. Then he fed it a steak he conjured and it went on its way. Finally he came through the maze and to the tower."
Harry took up the tale then, telling how Alan challenged Grim to a duel. They fought all day until finally Alan turned Grim into a worm and a bird ate him. "But before he did that, Alan grabbed the keys to the tower off Grim's belt. Now all he had to do was rescue Lady Barbara. Okay, Alby. What happened next?"
"Uh . . . he was so happy he flew upside down and did spiralsand stuff around the tower. And Barbara saw it." He looked at Severus. "Then what happened?"
Severus raised an eyebrow. "That's it? You're not going to add anything else?"
"Nope. You tell what happened next."
"Barbara was looking out the window and she was quite annoyed at her silly suitor, showing off instead of coming to let her out of the tower like that. She shook out her hair and yelled, "Alan, you dunderhead, quit showing off and come get me out!" So he flew down and used the keys to unlock the tower door."
"What color hair did she have, Sevvy?" Alby wanted to know.
"She had red hair and green eyes," Severus replied. "When he saw her, he apologized for acting like an idiot, because he didn't want her to be angry with him. She forgave him and then she hugged him and he took her on his broom and flew far away from there."
"Did they live happily ever after?" asked his brother.
Severus frowned at him. "If you'll let me finish, you'll know the answer. Stop interrupting!" He ordered. "They were married and they built a small cottage on the edge of a big forest. Kaa lived in the woods next to it. But though they were happy, they still quarreled like most people, since there is no such thing as being totally happy all the time. In time they had children, a boy and two girls. One of the girls had hair like her mother's, and she was a dead shot with a bow. The middle girl was a Healer and knew how to brew any potion. The boy was another Beast Tamer, like his father, but when he wasn't talking to snakes and taming beasts, he worked as a barber, and styled his mum's hair and his sisters' in the latest fashions. His name was Jack, and sometimes he was Jack the Barber and other times Jack the Giant Killer. His sisters were Diana the Archer and Asclepia the Healer. The end."
Alby clapped. "Yay! That was a great ending, Sevvy! But why was Jack a barber?"
"Because he had to learn a trade to support himself. He can't just go around talking to animals all day," Severus explained.
"Oh." Alby thought about that. "You're right."
Harry and Ginny smiled at each other. It was nice to see the brothers bonding, and Harry was secretly amused at Severus' logical bent. He sincerely hoped that Severus would get his happy ending this time around.
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