FANDOM: Harry Potter
PAIRING: Remus/Sirius, James/Lily, Tonks/OC
SUMMARY: A number of chance encounters with an intriguing man named Remus Lupin sets Sirius off on a path to fall in love, and to learn what it is to fight for the people he loves.
NOTES: Thank you to h4yleyg for making me sound less like an American. Many, many thanks to theemdash for being my sounding board, alpha, and beta as I've fought this fic since the start of the year. Written for the 2009 bigbangblackout. Visit the main archive to see the wonderful artwork mavoorik drew for this story!
« Part 3
Time passed easily enough. The Christmas dinner had put Remus at ease about things that Sirius hadn't even quite realised were making him tense, and by the time winter began to cycle into spring, Sirius felt they had settled into a nice routine of coupledom. Few nights were spent alone for either of them, though neither house could lay claim to seeing more of them; while he had Teddy, Remus kept to his own house, though when his son was off for a few weeks with Dora, he liked to stay at Sirius's. Sirius welcomed the company happily, though of course he never complained when Remus took time to be with Teddy.
In the early days of March, they were tidying Remus's house for an impending Teddification, when the phone startled them both. Remus frowned, and Sirius looked over at him.
"Think Dora's got a problem?" Sirius asked, as Remus went over to answer it.
"I hope not," he said. He picked it up, but apparently whoever was on the other end launched into their reason for calling, because he was quiet for a moment before starting to say, "Oi, Pete . . . hey, relax!" Remus rolled his eyes at Sirius and held up one finger and walked into the kitchen. Sirius shrugged and continued tidying, then sat to watch a little television while he waited.
After fifteen minutes or so Remus returned, dropping with a sigh onto the sofa right up against Sirius. "Peter has a problem. He needs my help."
Sirius pulled Remus's hand up, kissing his knuckles. "Right now?"
Remus nodded. "Yeah. It shouldn't be too long, but I'll have to call Dora to have her hang on to Teddy a little longer."
"You will?" Sirius asked. "Why?"
"Oh, I just mean I won't be able to pick him up on time."
Sirius lifted an eyebrow. "I know, I just mean . . ." He gestured to himself. "I could go get him. I mean, if you wanted."
Remus licked his lips. "Would you? Would you mind?"
"Of course I wouldn't mind!" Sirius grinned and kissed Remus's cheek. "Teddy's waiting to see you, I wouldn't want to make him wait longer. It'll be fine!" Remus smiled and kissed Sirius back. "So that's a yes, then?
"That's a yes. That would be a huge help, Sirius, thank you." One more kiss and Remus stood up. "I'll get going now, then. Do you remember how to get to Dora's?"
Sirius nodded. "Yep. How long do you think you'll be? Just so I can let Teddy know?"
Remus was already getting his things together, grabbing his car keys. "I don't think much more than two hours. I'll bring lunch home, stop at a chip shop or something." He threw the keys to Sirius, who caught them awkwardly. "Just don't tell Dora, she'll get all uppity about eating poorly."
"Got it. And I'll take the car, I suppose?"
"Think that's best, it'll be easier to drag Teddy's things home that way."
Sirius jangled the keys and smiled. "We'll be fine, Remus. Go help your mate, bring back something terribly unhealthy for us, and then we'll have a good afternoon together." Remus came back over to kiss Sirius's head, said goodbye, then hurried off. Sirius waited another fifteen minutes or so, then headed out himself.
Twenty minutes after that, Sirius was jogging around to the side of Dora's house, knocking on the door and putting on his most cheerful face. He hoped Teddy would be okay with going with him.
The door opened, and Dora looked at him, surprised. "Oh. Sirius? I wasn't expecting you."
He smiled and looked apologetic. "Sorry, Dora, I should have called, or had Remus call. He wasn't able to come out to get Teddy today, so I came instead. That's all right, I hope?" He wasn't sure what to make of the look on her face.
"You're late," was all she said, then stepped back, gesturing for him to follow her inside. He sighed and went in after her, figuring at least she hadn't told him shove off, even if she was eager to quibble about—he checked his watch—two and half minutes. She lead him into the kitchen, where Teddy and Dav were cleaning breakfast dishes, Dav doing the actual cleaning and Teddy perched on the counter, drying each one very carefully before putting it to the side.
"Sirius!" Teddy said, his feet kicking excitedly. "Hi!"
Sirius grinned. "Hullo Teddy. Your daddy sent me over to pick you up today, that okay with you?" He noticed that Dav had stopped washing, was standing still at the sink.
"Yup!" He put down the dish and raised his arms; Sirius strode over and picked the boy up high before setting him on his feet, at which point Teddy ran off, presumably upstairs to get his things.
"Didn't know you were coming for him," said Dav once the adults were alone.
Sirius nodded, hiding his surprise that Dav had spoken to him. At Christmas the two men had regarded each other as rivals, each protecting his mate from the wolf in the flock. "It was a last-minute thing, Remus couldn't make it." He considered giving details for a moment, then decided neither he nor Remus owed them one. "Surely it's not the worst thing in the world that I came, though?"
Dora was leaning against the stove, her arms crossed defensively. "It's just . . . unexpected. We didn't realise . . ."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "That I was that close to your son? To Remus?"
Dav cleared his throat. "It's just a bit presumptuous, is all. That you've just elbowed your way into our family."
It took a lot of self-control, but Sirius managed to calmly answer, "Certainly no more than you have, Dav. Remus would not have asked me to help if he didn't think it was appropriate, and I'm sure you can respect his judgment."
"Of course," said Dora, shooting a look to Dav which clearly was telling him to shut up. "As I said, it's simply unexpected. Not . . . not unwelcome."
Sirius smiled, though he knew it wasn't reaching his eyes. "I'm glad for that." There was an awkward silence as they all looked at each other, until finally they heard Teddy's footsteps running through the hallways again, jumping down the stairs, and a moment he was back in the kitchen, dragging a bag behind him, his face split into a wide grin at Sirius.
"Let's go!" he said, holding up one hand for Sirius to take, which Sirius did as he grinned back.
"Have everything you need, big guy?" Teddy said he did, and with a slightly stilted round of goodbyes, the two went out and got into Remus's car. Teddy didn't seem to have noticed anything particularly off between the adults, so Sirius brushed it off, simply making a note to mention it to Remus later when Teddy was in bed. When he did, Remus didn't seem to think much of it, happy enough to accept Dora's word that it was something unexpected, not unwelcome. Sirius agreed to let it go, though in reality he only stored it in the back of his mind, to be further examined later.
Lily got through her first trimester easily, and Harry was pretty excited to find out he was going to have a little brother or sister. Sirius discovered, in a moment of innocent spying on his godson, that the boy had a preference as to which it would be. Everyone had gathered at Sirius's house for a surprise party for Remus, and Teddy and Harry had run upstairs to play after they'd eaten cake and been fully hyped up on sugar. When it had gotten a little quiet for everyone's tastes, Sirius went up to check on the boys.
He found them on the bed in the guest room, Teddy tucked under Harry's arm, sucking his thumb, while Harry read to him quietly from one of the books that had tagged along in Teddy's bag. Sirius stayed just outside the room, listening for a moment, and was about to leave when he heard Harry break from the story of a boy being annoyed by his little sister.
"I think Johnny's a git," Harry said. "Would be nice to have a baby sister, don't you think, Teddy?" There was a soft murmur, some sleepy mumblings of the other boy. "Yeah. I mean, a brother'd be great, too, but I got you for that, don't I? Well, you're not really my brother, but if your dad stays with Sirius, it'll be as good as. So might as well have a sister, doncha think?"
Sirius smiled, tucking the moment away to share with Remus later, and possibly James and Lily after that. He then walked away from the door and approached it again, this time making more noise so that Harry wouldn't realise he'd been spied on.
As Teddy's birthday approached, Remus had more phone calls with Dora, making plans for a party at a geographically neutral location with most of Teddy's class in attendance, along with family and friends of family. Sirius was pleased to learn that his attendance was assumed by Dora, and that James and Lily bringing Harry along to offer a different sort of chaperone for the younger children was more than welcome.
She invited them out to dinner one night, in the week before the party, and both Sirius and Remus felt at ease about what was becoming a fairly mature and healthy relationship between the two couples. The dinner itself started off innocently enough, the starter and fish courses going smoothly. There was a lull before the main course arrived; the waiter came over to refill their drinks, and when he left, Dora sat forward slightly and picked up her glass.
"So, the thing is, we didn't just want to have dinner with you two for no particular reason," Dora said, glancing over at Dav and sipping at her drink.
Sirius looked over at Remus, eyes widening a bit. Remus just looked back at Dora, a look on his face as though he'd seen this kind of thing from her before, and he had a fair idea of what was about to happen.
"Is that so, Dora?" he asked—his voice was a little cold, and Sirius frowned.
Dav leaned forward, gesturing vaguely. "I'm sure this won't come as a surprise to you." He smiled a bit and took Dora's hand in his own. "I've asked Dora to marry me."
Sirius was surprised, and he was sure his face reflected that pretty clearly. It wasn't all that surprising by itself—frankly it was something he'd fully expect for any other couple who'd been together as long as Dora and Dav had been—but since Remus had predicted that Dora would be less than willing to commit yet, Sirius had taken that to heart, and so he hadn't really given it much thought.
Remus smiled a bit, but Sirius could tell that it wasn't entirely genuine. "Well?" he asked, looking at Dora. "Did you say yes?"
She chuckled softly. "Yes, of course I did. You're fine with that, aren't you, Remus?"
"Of course I am," he replied, his tone matching hers; Sirius sensed there was something else between the two at this moment, an old issue that had never been properly addressed. He also got the sense that Remus was waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Dav nodded, smiling. "Excellent. Haven't sorted the date yet, but I expect we've got ages for all that nonsense, don't we?"
Dora pressed her lips together. "Only, there's something else we needed to tell you, too." Remus frowned, but nodded and waited for her to continue. Under the table, he reached over and took Sirius's hand, squeezing it tightly, and suddenly Sirius realised what Dora was going to say.
"Since we'll be getting married, Remus, I . . . that is, Dav and I . . ." She looked down at the table, then back up at her ex-husband. "Look, we're going to ask for full custody of Teddy now that we're getting married. And we would appreciate it if you didn't fight us on it."
Sirius's jaw dropped, and he honestly had no idea how to react. He wanted to shout at the pair seated across from him, but he knew it wasn't his place to cause a scene, not over this issue. Remus was sitting stock-still, his fingers gripping Sirius's like a vice.
Dav cleared his throat. "Remus, mate? You all right there?" Sirius was very proud of himself for not standing up and punching the thick idiot in the face.
Remus took a very careful breath; Sirius braced himself, because while Remus very rarely lost his temper, when he did it was intense, and Sirius never envied whoever was on the receiving end of the anger. "You . . . you want me to just give up my son? Without a fight, even?" His voice was low and smooth, and Sirius felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
Dora, to her credit, looked a bit unsure. "Remus, it's not that you're giving him up, not really. Just . . ."
"Just that I won't be able to see him except every other weekend and a couple of weeks in the summer? You . . ." Remus shook his head, then stood up, picking his jacket off the back of his chair. "I can't believe you. And I can't talk to you right now."
Without waiting for Sirius, Remus turned and left, hurrying out of the restaurant. Sirius looked at them both, considering just storming out without a word, but finally he stood and said, "I suggest you both really consider what you just asked him to do before you try to talk to him again. Just some friendly advice." He dropped down twenty quid on the table to cover at least part of their meals, then hurried to follow Remus out.
Remus was outside, pacing on the sidewalk. Sirius wasn't sure if he should try to go to him like this, but his heart ached to see Remus in such distress, so he approached carefully, giving Remus plenty of time to tell Sirius to back off. Remus let him touch his shoulder, then pull him into an embrace.
For a few minutes Sirius just murmured soothing noises, rubbing Remus's back and trying to put him at ease, then finally whispered to Remus, "Let's go home, love. Go back to my place?"
Remus nodded, taking a deep breath and standing up straight, though he kept one arm around Sirius still; Sirius could feel Remus's fingers gripping his shirt, clinging slightly. "Okay. That's a good idea."
Sirius kissed Remus's cheek softly, then turned and raised his hand to hail a taxi, not wanting to subject Remus to the public on the tube that night. Grateful, Remus kept himself at Sirius's side while they got in the cab and rode to Sirius's house.
That night of the dinner, Remus hadn't wanted to talk about it much, choosing instead to take Sirius to bed, desperate to have some control back. It was angry and sad and scared and desperate, and Sirius felt guilty about how much he enjoyed it, though he knew Remus would be glad that Sirius could find pleasure even in his most volatile moods. When they were done Sirius cuddled Remus and made him feel warm and safe and loved, wanting Remus to know that Sirius was there for him, wasn't going anywhere, and would be at his side for anything. He wasn't sure if the message got across, though the next day Remus seemed more determined than scared, and Sirius liked to think he was somewhat responsible for that.
Sirius didn't want to be the one to bring it up that day, but he didn't have very long to wait for Remus to do so on his own. Sirius called off from work, pleading a family emergency, then cooked up a big breakfast for them both. Afterwards, as they washed dishes together, Remus broached the subject.
"It's not that I wasn't expecting this to ever happen," he said, his voice quiet. Sirius looked at him, waiting for him to continue. "I knew one day we'd stop the equal shared custody, simply because it wouldn't be practical anymore. He'd get older and it would just make more sense to have him settled with one of us rather than shuttling back and forth every couple of weeks." He put down his dishcloth, leaning his hands against the sink, arms stiff and elbows locked. "Hell, it probably would have made more sense to do it like from the beginning, but with her job and everything, we figured it didn't make sense for either of us to really claim more custody."
He was quiet for a moment, and Sirius moved over to stand next to him, leaning his back against the counter and crossing his arms over his chest. "But you didn't expect anything like this, did you?" he asked quietly.
"I thought I had a few years, still." Remus shook his head sadly. "And that maybe Teddy might want to stay with me."
Sirius frowned, sensing a sort of acceptance in Remus's voice. "You're . . . you are going to fight them, aren't you?"
Remus looked over at Sirius, and his face as he shrugged almost broke Sirius's heart. "What's the point? She's his mother, she's the one who's going to be in a stable marriage. Why wouldn't she win? Fighting it would just waste time and money and energy, and just show Teddy how his parents care more about themselves than about what's best for him."
"Hey." Sirius put his hand on Remus's arm, turning a bit towards him. "Who's to say that what you're doing right now, the equal custody, isn't what's best for him? What about that picture he drew of his two families? Isn't that a good sign?"
Remus smiled vaguely, but didn't respond.
Sirius smiled back. "Will you do me a favor?" Remus tilted his head, waiting to hear what the favor was before responding. "Will you at least talk to a solicitor before writing it all off? Just to make sure you're right about your chances of winning?"
Remus sighed, then moved to stand in front of Sirius, leaning into him; Sirius embraced him easily. "Okay. I'll talk to someone. Not for my sake, but for our sake."
Kissing his cheek, then his lips, Sirius squeezed Remus tighter. "I love you very much. And I love Teddy, too. I'll help you fight for him, if that's what you want. You know that, right?"
Remus nodded. "I know. Thank you."
They stood there at the sink for a while longer, not speaking in words, but just soft kisses and touches of reassurance.
Later that afternoon, as Remus took a nap and Sirius found himself with energy to expel, he called James to ask for advice.
"James, mate, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but do you happen to know any solicitors who focus on child residency?"
James laughed, a little startled. "Can't say that I do, Sirius, sorry. Why, what's happened?"
Sirius explained the issue to his friend, and he was pleased that James's own paternal feathers were quite ruffled up on Remus's behalf. "Stroppy bitch!" he declared of Dora. "Something's not right there. You're sure it's just because she's getting married, not because she's afraid of her little boy being raised by, well, a couple of poofters?"
Sirius shook his head. "I can't imagine that would be it. It's not like she didn't know Remus was gay even when she was with him. If she had a problem, why didn't she go for complete custody from the start?"
"Well it's like Remus said, innit? Her job? When the mum's a copper, and the dad works from home, if she doesn't agree to making it all equal, he's probably got a better case for himself than she does."
"Maybe it should have been that way," Sirius said with a grunt. "And I don't see how her getting married will change that. It's not like she's going to quit and stay at home with the tyke, and Dav works full time as well. Travels for work, too, I think."
"I think you just have to tell Remus to fight it, then. Either for the status quo, or maybe even to get more responsibility for himself, if he wants that."
Sirius nodded. "Mm, I think he does. He did mention he'd hoped when Teddy was older, that Teddy might ask to stay with his da. . . ."
"Brilliant then! See them in court with that, and make a judge decide that it's healthier for a child to be put with a mum and step-dad who both have full time jobs out of the house, rather than his father who works from home and happens to be in a pretty serious relationship with a good and responsible man who loves the boy like his own."
Sirius blushed; he'd never explicitly stated his desire to think of Remus's son as his own as well, but clearly James had picked up on that anyway. "Well, I've been trying to get him to at least fight their motion," he said, not acknowledging the other remark, "though that's hard enough, so I'm not sure that getting him to file against her like that will happen. Right now I'm happy that he seems less inclined to just agree." He sighed. "Thanks, mate. I was worried I was being unrealistic, and maybe he just didn't want to tell me."
"You've a good gut, Sirius, all right? Didn't make you Harry's godfather for no good reason. Don't let him give up, yeah?"
Sirius agreed and hung up after saying goodbye, feeling better about what he felt needed to be done. Now all he had to do was get Remus to feel the same.
Sundays were Potter days for Sirius, a tradition that had kept mostly unchanged even as he began dating Remus, and now, if Teddy was staying with his mother, Remus often joined Sirius visiting the other family. Sirius was highly appreciative of the fact that James and Lily considered Remus one of their own now, taking both a sense of approval as well as a hope for longevity in the relationship from them.
Harry was away for the weekend, a school trip up to the Lake District, so the four adults took some time for themselves, enjoying the quiet moments they didn't have to spend tripping over toys left out and dealing with unexpected spills. Eventually, though, the conversation came back around to the kids, and Remus found himself talking to his friends about the issue that was facing him.
"I don't know what to do, really," he said, covering his face with his hands. "I don't want to turn him into an object to be fought over, to be tugged from either end, but . . ." He shook his head. "I don't know what I'd do without him. I wish I could have him more often, really, but I know better than to ask for that."
James scoffed. "To hell with politeness," he said. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I don't think your current arrangement is broken at all, is it?" Sirius gave James a grateful smile, glad he didn't push the idea of Remus going for everything right then.
Lily was a bit more gentle. "I . . . well, I can understand where Dora's coming from." She held up a hand at the sight of three outraged men staring at her. "I'm not saying she's right, and I'm definitely not saying Remus is wrong. But she's finally settling, getting married, and it's natural to want to include her son in that, especially if she has no particular plans to have children with her fiancé anytime soon."
Remus looked at Lily, his face miserable. "So what should I do, then? How do I handle that?"
"Have you spoken to her yet? Since she told you?" Remus shook his head. "Well that's a place to start. Maybe she can explain why she thinks it's a better idea, and you will be in a better position to listen and respond."
"She's been avoiding me," he said, glancing over at Sirius. "She sent Dav to pick Teddy up this time. Never done that before."
Sirius frowned. "Sounds more like they're pushing to get Teddy to see Dav as a parent." For a moment Sirius almost suggested that he be the one to pick Teddy up again, but as that was still a week away, there didn't seem to be a point. "Look, it's not her choice to avoid you, is it? You're the hurt party in this, you get to demand some answers. You get to make her defend her request." He put an arm around Remus, pulling the other man to his side, kissing his temple.
"I guess. I just worry about what she's told Teddy. I don't even know if he knows he's getting a step-father, or what it means."
"That's why you have to ask her," Lily said, nodding. "Don't let her get off easy."
Sirius looked to Lily and smiled slightly; her face was determined and her eyes glinting, a look he'd come to know and fear years ago. Remus was looking a little wary, and Sirius leaned in to murmur in his ear.
"Better do what she says, or she'll get you. Even pregnant." Remus's lips quirked, and Sirius felt him relax into Sirius's embrace, while James snickered, Lily tried her best to look affronted, and Sirius put on his most innocent face.
The problem was that Remus seemed to be right—Dora appeared to be avoiding Remus, and Sirius was being driven up the wall by her petty actions. She was out running errands when Remus went to pick up Teddy that following weekend, despite the fact that he arrived at the same time he always did. Remus left word with Dav to have her call him that afternoon, but she never did. The only good thing about the situation, Sirius felt, was that Remus had not been served papers yet to reconsider the residency arrangements, so at the very least Dora seemed to be avoiding the entire issue. Sirius hoped that it was because she was reconsidering her request.
Once Teddy was settled in at home with his father, Remus took him aside for a while, gently prying him for information. The end result of his careful questioning was that he learned that Teddy knew that his mum and Dav were engaged, though he didn't seem to quite grasp what that meant. Remus let the matter drop; there would be time enough to make sure everything was understood. Sirius was glad, glad that Teddy wasn't completely in the dark, and glad that Teddy probably wouldn't sense the struggle that was coming.
The next weekend Remus was up against a tight deadline, and the issues of the last two weeks had left him in a bit of a hole. Always happy to be Remus's hero, Sirius offered to take Teddy out for the day, to give Remus some quiet time to work. Gratefully, Remus agreed, and so Sirius and Teddy headed out on the town.
Teddy's hand fit into Sirius's trustingly as they walked to the nearest tube station. They were off to St. James's park, a bag of bread crusts tucked away in Teddy's backpack; Sirius was a little amused at how the park was turning into a good place for first dates with Lupins. He found a free seat and helped Teddy up onto it, standing in front of him and watching the boy's face as he looked around at all the people, at the lights of the tunnels streaking past. He caught the eye of a woman watching him, and she smiled, the same kind of smile Remus usually got from strangers when he was with Teddy. Sirius usually teased Remus about them, saying that it was a shame these women found his fatherhood so sweet and attractive when it was completely wasted, but this time he got a warm feeling in his chest. This time he was the father, or so anyone would naturally think, and it felt nice to be recognized like that.
Despite their frequent talks about how to come to a decent compromise on the future of Teddy's residence, one thing that Sirius had kept to himself was how much he himself would be disappointed and hurt if Dora and Dav took Teddy full-time. He was fairly sure that if Remus's time with his son would be decreased, the time he did get would become all the more precious, and Sirius would want to give Remus space during those times, not hog Remus's attention or force him to split it. Which meant, of course, that Sirius would see very little of Teddy, and quite honestly, the idea hurt him deeply.
"Coming up on our stop, Ted," Sirius said, reaching down to lift Teddy up into his arms. "You ready for some serious duck-feeding?"
Teddy nodded his head enthusiastically. "Gonna feed the ducks, an' then feed the Teddy Monster!"
Sirius laughed and tickled Teddy's belly. "That's right! You still thinking about what you want for lunch?"
"I wanna hamburger, Sirius," said Teddy, looking quite confident in his decision. "An' chips! An' a milkshake!"
Sirius widened his eyes comically. "All that, eh? You sure you've got room in there?" He tickled Teddy again, and the boy squealed and wiggled in Sirius's arms.
The train pulled to a stop, knocking Sirius off balance just enough for Teddy to yell, "Whoa!" and make the other riders laugh, which made Teddy giggle even as they exited the train. Sirius carried him until they were at street level again, the full press of bodies at the popular stop too great for him to risk only holding Teddy's hand. Once the crowd dispersed, he let Teddy walk with him, crossing a couple streets before they entered the park and headed down the path towards the lake. There was an open spot near where Sirius had met Remus that one day that seemed an age ago at least.
"How's this?" Sirius asked, letting go of Teddy's hand so the lad could carefully inspect the area. After a few moments of clearly serious scouting, Teddy gave Sirius a thumbs up.
"Looks good. Can I feed the ducks now?"
"Sure, here, let's get your backpack off . . . that's right, and . . ." he rummaged through the bag for a moment, "here's some bread," he said, handing Teddy two crusty ends. "You stay in front of me here, all right? If the ducks swim away, don't follow them."
Teddy nodded, shouting, "Okay Sirius!" as he turned and ran down to the water's edge. Sirius watched for a moment, then once satisfied that Teddy would obey, he sat on the grass, lamenting that he hadn't thought to bring a blanket. Still, it was warm in the sun, and he sat still for several moments, enjoying being outside on a spring day.
Sirius had brought a book with him, but he found himself far more entertained by the epic story unfolding before him, that of Teddy Lupin versus the St. James Ducks. Clearly aware of the damage small bipedal beings could pose to them when allowed to carry on unsupervised, the ducks were quick to get away from Teddy whenever he tried to get closer with his bread. It wasn't that they ignored him completely—on the contrary, they seemed very careful to stay within his bread-throwing range—but they made sure they were also outside his stomp-and-charge range. Teddy was getting frustrated, though, and once one roll had been completely thrown among the fowl, Teddy let them be, running back up to Sirius with a slight pout on his lips.
"How'd it go, Teddy? Get them well fed?" Sirius asked, putting away the book even though he'd only read two sentences.
Teddy flopped down, crossing his legs and resting his elbow on his leg, his chin in his hand. "They don't like me."
Sirius smiled and reached over to ruffle Teddy's hair. "Course they do. What's not to like?"
Teddy gave him a careful look. "You like me, Sirius?"
Sirius blinked, surprised by the question. "Of course I do! I like you very much, you know that." He scooted over closer to Teddy, putting his arm around the young boy. "Why do you ask?"
Teddy shrugged one shoulder. "Dav . . . I heard him say to Mum that you'll be happier once I'm with them." He frowned, and Sirius did as well.
"When did you hear him say that? Do you know what they were talking about?"
"Dunno," Teddy said, shrugging again. "Somethin' 'bout goin' up north?"
Sirius tried not to react, but his body stiffened anyway. Remus had mentioned that Dav was originally from the North, almost to Scotland; now he wondered if Dav meant to move them back there once he and Dora had married and, presumably, they'd won the residency rights for Teddy.
This was getting out of hand.
"Teddy, my boy, don't worry about that. I don't want you to go anywhere." He leaned down and kissed Teddy's head, then murmured. "I love you, kiddo." He felt skinny little arms press around him in a return hug and Sirius smiled. "Come on, let's go see if we can get those ducks to be nicer to you."
There was a small play park down the street from Dora's house. Teddy often talked about it, told them about the other children who played with him there, though until now Sirius had never stepped foot in it. Now he sat on a bench, watching some of the little tykes playing around, trying not to give off creepy paedophile vibes as he gave himself time to think. James would be shocked to know his friend was not running headlong into a bad decision; no, this time Sirius fully planned to take it slow and really decide that this bad decision was the best thing to do.
Teddy and Remus were home; they thought Sirius had gone out to run some errands. He did plan to stop at Remus's favorite bakery on the way home, his apology already planned out. Instead of errands, though, he was here, trying to solidify his anger into a single ball of outrage before letting it loose on Remus's ex-wife. He hadn't told Remus about what Teddy had let slip earlier that day, and he didn't intend to. He did intend to let Dora know that he knew what was up, and just what he thought of it. He didn't hold much expectation about her listening to him, but it would be enough, he thought, just to yell for a while.
Not that he was doing much yelling out here. "Right then," he murmured to himself, standing up and starting to make his way out of the park and over to Dora's corner house. He knew she was home, having seen her walk past about a half-hour ago with a few bags full of shopping in her arms. If she'd seen him, she'd made no indication, so he was fairly confident he would take her by surprise.
He considered going to the front door for a moment, but then considered that it wouldn't do to put on a show for the neighbors if she didn't let him inside. He had no plans on forcing his way into anything, and for all he knew she would slam the door in his face the moment she realised what he wanted, but he had to try, and hope she'd let him yell—well, say his piece; he wouldn't really yell. (Probably.)
Three sharp knocks to the side door were enough to bring her out, wearing a face of confusion. "Sirius? What are you doing here? Remus has Teddy for another week yet."
Sirius nodded. "I know. I came to talk to you." She hadn't shooed him off yet, so maybe they could actually talk.
She raised an eyebrow. "Whatever for? You and I have nothing to discuss. Remus is perfectly capable of coming to me with his own concerns about anything, and he knows that."
"I know. He doesn't know I'm here, because if I'd told him he would have stopped me, but someone needs to say it, and I think it's up to me." He watched as she pursed her lips and folded her arms across her chest, standing more squarely in the doorway. "Why the hell are you doing this to him? To them? I can understand you not caring about Remus's feelings anymore, but I don't understand why you'd do this to Teddy, your son."
"Do what, exactly?" she asked. "Give him a stable home with parents who are there for him?"
"Taking him from his father, you silly woman! His father who adores him and is available to him far more than you or Dav can ever be, and who never asked for more even though he could probably get it because he's an honest and noble man who knows that his son needs his mother, too." He took a breath, but started before she could reply again.
"And don't give me shite about how things wouldn't change that much, because even if you could somehow make the argument that going from two solid weeks a month to every other weekend and two weeks in the summer isn't changing things, moving to bloody Scotland is a pretty big fucking change! It's a lot harder to make the every-other-weekend plan stick when you've got to travel clear across the country to do it, you realise."
Dora's jaw dropped; Sirius shook his head. "You ought to watch out for little listening ears when you talk about huge, life-changing plans. Little mouths don't know when not to say anything."
She gathered herself, visibly, and finally spoke. "I still don't see how any of this is your concern. You have no place here—you said yourself that Remus wouldn't approve of you coming to say this."
He sucked in a breath, finding the strength not to shout. "That's because," he said in a low voice, "he's still fighting himself, the desire to fight for Teddy against his instinct to not turn Teddy into an object to be fought over.
"And anyway," he continued, holding up a hand to forestall any replies, "I think I already stated my place: I'm in love with him, and I don't plan to go anywhere anytime soon, which at least puts me on the same level as Dav in this nice little modern family, so if Dav gets to suggest moving you and Teddy away from Remus, then I get to object loudly and have my position heard."
"Dav is going to marry me," Dora said, as though Sirius had forgotten. "In the eyes of the courts his wishes will be considered far more relevant than yours, the poofy fuck buddy."
Sirius took a step forward, and Dora shrank back. "Don't insult me by degrading my place in Remus's life," he said between gritted teeth. Sirius fought the urge to growl at her, an unbidden desire he'd felt more and more over the last few weeks when thinking about everything that was going on. "And I don't care about the courts. But between the four of us, you need to acknowledge that you have both moved on from each other and found loving and dedicated partners who each love your son as his own."
He stepped back again. "You haven't 'won' here, Dora, and Teddy isn't your prize. And if you go through with all this, Teddy will be the one who's lost the most, because he'll have lost his father, along with a mother who put his best interest first."
Dora said nothing, instead just glaring at Sirius, one hand on the door as though ready to slam it should he say the wrong thing.
"I've said what I came to say." He dismissed her with a wave of his arm as he backed away. "Think about it. Think about all of this carefully. Then do the right thing." With that, he turned and walked out towards the fence, not looking back and eager to get home to Remus as soon as he could, hopefully before it really hit him what a huge mess he might have just made.
Sirius presented the pastries to Remus with a small grin, and the curious look he received in return was enough to know that Remus knew that Sirius had gone and Done Something. It was also enough to know that Dora hadn't immediately called Remus when Sirius left to tell her ex-husband to reign in his dogs. That probably wasn't an actual hopeful sign, but at least she wasn't out to make things worse for Sirius in revenge.
Dinner was a pile of cheese toasties and chocolate milk, celebration for Remus meeting his deadline and having a good article to submit to a gay-themed paper that was considering hiring him on as a recurring columnist. Getting the job would be huge, especially if Remus would have to fight Dora in court for Teddy, not just for the money, but also for the support that would come with the position. Sirius hadn't mentioned it to Dora, both in case Remus did not get the job, and also so if he did, she would never see it coming.
They cleaned the kitchen while Teddy was in his bath, and while he was loathe to possibly start an argument when Teddy could come down and hear them, Sirius figured it was better than possibly waking him up later.
"Remus," he said, his voice hesitant and soft, "I . . . I did something I think you won't like today."
Remus nodded, not looking over as he knelt to put away the frying pan. "I do prefer the raspberry pastries to the strawberry, yes, but it was still better than peach, so I'll forgive you."
Sirius smiled and walked over to Remus, putting his hand on the other man's back. "They were out of raspberry, sorry."
Remus stood and turned to Sirius. "Seriously, whatever you did . . . why did you do it? And why are you telling me?"
"Because I had to. And because I love you. And I'm telling you because I want to be honest, even if I couldn't tell you before I did it since then you would have stopped me."
"Could I have?" Remus asked, his voice light, though Sirius could tell Remus was feeling unsure now.
Sirius nodded earnestly. "Yes, yes you could have. You'd have told me not to do it, and I would have listened, and that's why I couldn't tell you." He pulled Remus into a hug, and mumbled against Remus's neck, "I went and told off Dora about everything today."
Remus's entire body stiffened isntantly; as expected, Remus was not expressing great pleasure in this turn of events. "You . . . what?"
"I went to Dora's. Told her off about this shite about getting full custody rights. Tried to make her see sense."
"You . . ." Remus took a deep breath. "I'm sure that didn't go over well, did it?"
Sirius shook his head. "She said it wasn't my place. I told her it's my place as much as it is Dav's."
"Well, she and Dav are engaged to be married. . . ."
"Fine, then I'll ask you to marry me, if that's what you stupid wankers need to take me seriously!" Sirius stepped away, his hands running through his hair, tugging the ends in frustration. "The point is, what's she's doing—what they're doing—isn't right, and if you won't stand up for yourself and your rights as a father then I will because I love you and I love him and someone has to defend this family!"
Remus stared at him for a moment, then turned away, a faint blush on his cheeks. "Sirius, don't be daft, we can't get married, so it—"
"Oh sod marriage!" Sirius said, grabbing Remus's shirt and pulling him close. He softened his voice, took the edge off his frustration. "It's not a matter of can or can't, laws or rules or any of that. I'm in this thing we have just as much as Dora and Dav are into their thing, and that alone should make us all equals in this. I don't want you to lose your son; I don't want to lose him, either. Remus, Remus he means so much to me, and now I understand why you were careful going into this with me because if something happened with us now, I don't know if I could stand losing both of you." He sighed. "So if you won't do a bit of shouting for yourself, then I'll do it for both of us."
For a moment, Remus was quiet, and Sirius could faintly hear Teddy splashing in his bath and singing to himself, and nothing had ever sounded more wonderful to him. Finally, though, Remus spoke again.
"You still shouldn't have gone, Sirius," he said quietly. "Not alone. Not without at least telling me. I might have let you go, you know."
"I know." Sirius hugged Remus tightly again. "I'm sorry that I had to do it this way. And I'm sorry if it ends up making things worse."
"It really might," Remus agreed.
"But it's not just you in this, okay?" Sirius continued, rubbing Remus's back. "I don't want you to fight alone for your son; I want us to fight together for our son. Is . . . is that okay?" he asked, suddenly nervous, afraid that maybe he was asking for far more than Remus was ever prepared to give.
Remus pulled out of the hug, choosing instead to kiss Sirius softly. "That's . . . fine," he murmured, then his face brightened slowly. "More than fine, Sirius, oh." He hugged Sirius tightly again. "You're . . ." Remus shook his head, as though unable to find words to describe Sirius at the moment. "I'm so happy to have you here with us. Thank you."
Sirius smiled widely. "You're welcome. Thank you." He kissed Remus again, finally feeling like he belonged now, that he was more than a frequent guest, that now he was part of the family. Now all he had to do was help keep the family together.
He wasn't sure what he expected in the days after his confrontation with Dora, but if pressed he would have said either an angry phone call, official paperwork from the courts, or silence. The timid knock on the front door was definitely far from the top choices on his list.
Sirius had left work early, taking advantage of an out-of-town boss and a light workload to indulge in a surprise school-hours shag. Afterwards they strolled over to the school to pick Teddy up and give him a piggyback ride home as Sirius and Remus held hands. The new, conscious sense of family and togetherness that the weekend had brought was infectious; once home, Teddy and Sirius snuggled on the sofa and watched cartoons, while Remus put dinner together, occasionally calling out to remind Sirius that he'd have to learn to cook sometime. Dinner was nearly ready when they heard the knock on the door, and Teddy quickly slid off the couch and ran to answer it.
"Mummy!" he said with a squeal, and as Dora knelt to hug her son, Sirius sat up and looked back towards Remus, who came out of the kitchen with a carefully blank look on his face. Sirius didn't stand; this was still Remus's house, and Remus was here, so he would let Remus handle whatever was about to happen.
Dora kissed Teddy's head then patted his bum. "Why don't you go play upstairs, sweetheart? I have to talk to Daddy for a bit." Teddy's eyes went wide, but he nodded and hurried up the stairs. Once sure he was out of earshot, Dora spoke again. "I'm sorry for barging in at this hour, I hope I haven't interrupted your supper?"
Remus shook his head. "We hadn't started yet. What did you want to talk about?"
She looked down at her feet, then back up, to meet Remus's eyes. "Dav's been offered a position in York. Just a couple of weeks ago."
Sirius clenched his fists, and turned to look at Remus, the pained look in Remus's eyes more than obvious to him.
"He's accepted," Remus said, not bothering to ask. "And you want to take Teddy with you when you move."
Dora shook her head. "He hasn't accepted, not yet. I wouldn't do that to you, Remus. I know you don't think much of me these days, but please believe me when I say this was not something we knew about when we . . . made our request, and I know it is not a simple answer."
Sirius managed to keep his mouth shut, keep his question to himself: How long were you going to wait before telling us?
"So you want my blessing, then? You want me to tell you to take my son halfway to Scotland and just be happy to stay here with my . . . 'fuck buddy'?" Oh, clever Remus, Sirius thought, biting back a smirk as he saw a hint of shame cross the woman's face as her eyes darted to him for just a moment. Just long enough to express her guilt.
"I want to do what's right for our son. That's all I've ever wanted to do, you know that." Remus said nothing, allowing her to finish her defense of her actions. "But good intentions don't stop me from getting it wrong sometimes."
She didn't speak again for a few moments, and Sirius shifted in his seat, wondering where she was going next.
Remus finally broke the silence. "So. Where does that leave us? Where does that leave me?"
Dora sucked in a deep breath. "I don't want to fight you in courts, Remus. I think we'd win, and I'd . . . I'd always feel . . ."
"You'd feel? You?" Remus's jaw was tight. "And what about I would feel, knowing that I had at least a few years of time with my son taken, if not more?"
"I know I've been selfish," she snapped, then took another deep breath. "I've been selfish and scared, because I always thought it would be just the two of us influencing him, and now . . ." Her eyes darted over to Sirius, just briefly, but Sirius saw it. He bit the inside of his cheek.
Remus said, softly, "And now we both have someone else in our lives, and things aren't as simple as before." He tilted his head slightly. "You think you're the only one who's had to get used to changes? I've watched you and Dav get closer for over a year; I knew before you did that you'd marry him."
"But that's . . ."
"That's the same as what you're starting to understand, now. That I've brought someone else into the family, and that he's not going anywhere anytime soon." Sirius felt himself sit up a little straighter, proud and thrilled to hear Remus say that. "You know the answer isn't to take Teddy and run away."
Dora nodded slowly. "I know. And I'm sorry that I've taken the long way around to accept that."
Remus stepped forward, coming up behind the couch, his hands resting near Sirius's shoulder. "So . . . what now?"
Sheepishly, Dora said, "I don't suppose you both would want to move to York?" Neither of them answered, unsure as to whether or not that was a joke or an honest suggestion, though Sirius found himself pleased that she asked them both, and not just Remus. She waved her hand. "I didn't think so. I'll tell Dav to turn down the position, then. Explain the situation, hope that maybe something like it will open up down here."
"And what about our arrangement with Teddy?" Remus asked, his voice carefully hiding any signs of hope.
She sighed. "We keep on as we are for now, like we'd planned in the beginning."
Remus nodded. "Eventually he might have to choose."
"Whichever one of us he doesn't choose, we'll have to be supportive of his choice, completely."
She nodded. "Of course."
Remus took one long, deep breath, his eyes closing briefly before he opened them and smiled. "Would you like to have dinner with us, Dora?"
She turned to Sirius, the look on her face clearly waiting for permission, granting him the role of Remus's equal in the household, and he gave her a small smile and nodded. She smiled back widely. "I'd love to."
Sirius stood and looked between them both. "I'll go get Teddy, then, have him wash up." He leaned over to kiss Remus's cheek quickly, then hurried over to the stairs, taking them two at a time until he was up on the next level. He leaned against the wall and sighed heavily, letting the tension release from his body. After a moment he stood straight again and continued on to Teddy's room to get him ready for dinner.
It was hot again, one of the hotter Augusts Sirius could remember seeing, but nobody really minded being stuck indoors, not with a new baby around to keep everyone entertained.
"She still sleeping?" Sirius asked, kissing Lily's cheek as Remus put Teddy's shoes aside while the boy ran upstairs to find Harry.
Lily shook her head. "No, she's up. James is changing her. You've good timing." She smiled and turn to Remus, kissing his cheek in greeting as well.
"How are you feeling, Lily?"
She gestured to them, leading them towards the living room, where she sunk into the sofa. "I'm feeling fine. Tired, to be sure, but pretty good, all things considered." Sirius sat in a chair, while Remus perched on the arm next to him, a hand going around his shoulders. "How about you both? Settling in?"
Remus chuckled. "Teddy's still getting used to his new room, but yeah, we're settling."
Sirius gave a sly sideways glance to Remus. "You say that like you've had no problems at all." They'd moved in to their new house nearly a month ago now, timed so Teddy would be with Dora and not underfoot as they compiled two fully-furnished houses into one. Considering neither of them had lived with another adult in many years, the blending process had gone fairly easily. Remus and Sirius each now had his own room in which to work, which Remus absolutely loved.
However, moves were never completely simple. Remus seemed to have issues in the bathroom and the kitchen, which amused the hell out of Sirius. Remus was more settled now, but Sirius still liked to tease him about the night Remus stumbled sleepily into the loo and ended up taking a piss in the shower.
Remus playfully slapped his hand against Sirius's cheek. "Stories stay at home, Sirius."
Lily snorted. "Nice try, Remus. You move in with our Sirius, you get to air your dirty laundry with us, too." She winked, then shifted in her seat; trying to find a comfortable position a week after giving birth was not easy. Sirius knew that James had been trying to keep her in bed, but she was stubborn and wanted to keep on acting as though it was any other day.
Sirius turned and looked up at Remus, batting his eyelashes. "You know I'm worth it. Just accept it, and—" He was cut off by the sudden sound of footsteps, children barreling down the stairs and coming into the living room.
"Daddy!" Teddy shouted, his eyes wide with excitement. "Uncle James said I can . . ." he stopped running just in front of Remus, paused for dramatic effect, "hold the baby!"
Sirius immediately looked at Lily—he remembered how protective Lily had been about who could hold Harry as a newborn, and he wasn't sure if an enthusiastic six-year-old was likely to be high on her list.
"Did he?" Remus asked, reaching out and tugging the boy over to adjust his shirt collar. "And where is this going to happen?"
Harry, having stopped running as he'd hit the bottom of the stairs, walked over to the adults casually. "Dad's bringing her down here, he said if Teddy was very still and sitting on the couch, he could hold her."
Lily smiled. "I'm sure Teddy will do just fine," she said, patting the cushion next to her with one hand, crooking a finger at Teddy with the other. "Come up here, sweetie, I'll show you how to sit. . . ."
James came down, and Sirius watched with a fond smile as Teddy sat perfectly still as he was handed little baby Margaret—Maggie, James said they would call her. Teddy curled his hands around the baby, staring in awe, and Sirius looked up at Remus, who was watching his son with the same expression that James and Lily wore as they watched their daughter. Sirius then looked over at Harry, who looked like he was trying to seem bored with all the fuss, but Sirius remembered that overheard conversation from months ago, and knew that Harry had to be thrilled to have a baby sister.
Remus shifted, tensing as Maggie started to make complaining noises and Teddy's eyes grew wide and he looked up at Lily. Before Remus could say anything, though, Lily was speaking softly and stroking Teddy's hair, and he was relaxing as Maggie calmed at the sound of her mother's voice. Sirius leaned into Remus, looked over at James, and smiled. He felt an intense wave of love for everyone in the room, for his family. And he felt quite sure that they would never disappoint him.
Thus ends the longest fanfic I've ever written. Feedback is very much appreciated. Thanks so much for reading.