Title: Growing Up a Little

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: G (er, maybe PG for very mild violence?)

Parings: Sirius/Remus implied

Spoilers: HP3, Beginning of HP5

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns the Harry Potter-verse and its characters. I write this only in fun, I mean no harm, I get no money from this.

Summary: I'm constantly mentioning how I don't feel Sirius ever really had a chance to grow up. So I thought I'd try my hand at a story that goes against that. Cold night, lots of tension, sneezes, a little brotherly hurt/comfort, and profuse use of nicknames.

Note: This was written in just a few short hours and edited even faster. It was an attempt at a 100-minute fic, but I didn't quite make it in time.



Growing Up a Little


     The first thing that came to James' mind 'which spell to use?' for he already had his wand in hand. There had been a loud hiss and the sound of something crashing. And when he looked out, there was the dark figure of a man looming at the end of the walkway, barely visible through the thickly falling snow. He didn't run for his parents as there wasn't time. He didn't hide himself and wait until the man came closer. He just went for his wand, heart thumping so hard he could barely swallow.


     If it was a Death Eater, better to confront him now than cower and wait for him to kill them all, because Avada Kedavra was nothing if not quick. With a deep breath of confidence, he threw open the front door and raised his wand. "Get out of here now!" he shouted to the figure. It lifted its head, and though still shrouded in darkness and thickly falling snow, James could see no death eater hood and cloak. Maybe it was just some drunk who wandered over from the pubs. "Go on, bugger off!" he shouted again. But the figure did not obey. Instead, it hung its head and started up the walk to him. James wished he had remembered to turn on the outside light. He felt unprotected and vulnerable here in the dark, but knew he could duck back into the house at any time. He raised his wand. "I'm warning you!" The figure lifted a hand and James jumped. Whoever or whatever was going for a weapon. James held his wand tightly in hand. With a strong voice, he began, "Lum--"


     "No! James, no!" yelled the voice and the figure broke into an awkward sort of run towards him.


     James backed up so that he was inside the house, prepared to slam the door closed if needed. But as the figure drew closer, James recognized the face. "Sirius, what are you doing here?" He shook Sirius' hand, then pulled him inside, shutting and locking the door behind quickly to calm his nerves.


     James was normally the more disheveled of the two, but this time Sirius had him beat as it appeared Sirius had been beaten. He sported a black eye on one side which looked somewhat fresh and very painful. His hair was a matted mess and he was moving much more stiffly than usual. Without answering James' question, he spoke, "What do you think you're doing, about to use magic like that? Want to get yourself expelled?"


     "I thought you were a Death Eater, Mate." He went to take Sirius' cloak, but Sirius clung to it, pulling it tighter around himself. So James settled on lightly brushing the melting snow from Sirius shoulders.


     "I don't get that a lot," said Sirius. He meant it as a joke and tried to smile, but looked as though that action caused him pain. The result was a half-smile and half-grimace that made James shudder. "Look, can I stay here for the night? It started to snow and I didn't know where else to go and I couldn't ride that damn bus all night. It really made me nauseous and they kept giving me mean looks and asking me for a destination. And..." he broke off, voice cracking. He turned his eyes away from James' in shame but did not have a chance to finish his sentence of for James to ask him to do so. He turned on the spot with his back to James, drew a deep breath, and cupped a hand to his mouth and nose. "huhktshhhhh! hehktchhhhhh!"


     James eyed him, then put a hand on his back. "Let's get you a hot drink to warm you up, and you can tell me about it if you want to when you feel better."


     Sirius sniffed, rubbing the back of his wrist beneath his nose, and followed James into the kitchen. The Potters' home was nothing at all like No.12 Grimmauld Place. It was always a peaceful sort of quiet, and every bit of furniture and picture on the walls seemed happy and comforting. He took a seat at the table and the candles on every wall burst into flame all around them. James bustled around, making two cups of hot chocolate. It burned Sirius' mouth as he drank it down too fast, but that didn't seem to slow him.


     "I'm going to go tell my parents you're here before they walk in and get sur... prised..." he looked up to see his father in the doorway, wearing the exact expression of surprise James had anticipated. James jumped to his feet. "Father, you remember my friend, Sirius?" This introduction did not seem to do much for Sirius' benefit. They guessed that James' father was thinking of the multiple detentions they had been given together.


     Sirius cupped a hand over his nose and mouth. "ihekshhhh! Ketchhhh!" he sniffed and rubbed his nose on his shirt cuff. Any moment now, he would be asked to leave, to head back into the cold, snowy, dark night with no where to go.


     But Mr. Potter looked from Sirius to James, then back to Sirius again. He stuck out a hand for a shake. "My wife and I will go get the spare bedroom made up for you right away. Stay as long as you need to, Lad."


     With a sigh of relief, Sirius rose from the chair and took a firm hold of James' father's hand. He leaned to the side a bit as he shook. "Thank you very much, Mr. Potter." He winced briefly as they stopped shaking. He gripped his side, leaning a little more, then fell over completely with a grunt of pain. Both the Potter men dropped to the floor after him. James put a hand on Sirius' shoulder, and Mr. Potter pried Sirius' hands from his side to examine what was hurting him. "No," Sirius groaned, trying to push both men away. "Don't. I'm fine. Just tired and cold." But neither believed nor listened to him. Mr. Potter pulled up Sirius cloak and shirt to see large blue bruises on Sirius' side.


     "On second thought," whispered James' father, taking a deep breath and gently lowering Sirius' shirt. "Perhaps we should get you into bed right away."


     James and his father helped a protesting Sirius to his feet and marched him carefully up the stairs and down the hall. Sirius leaned on James while Mr. Potter quickly turned down the bed. James attempted to help Sirius in, but the other boy shook him off, carefully getting under the covers. James sat down on the edge of the bed, putting a comforting hand on Sirius' shoulder through the blankets, and this time Sirius let him.


     Mr. Potter disappeared and returned with fresh hot chocolates for all, with magic no-melt marshmallows piled to the top, and with Mrs. Potter at his heals. They said nothing to him, but gestured for him to sit up, which he did with a minimal amount of wincing. Mrs. Potter dabbed a cool cloth against the whole side of his face, then against the bruise that had formed around his eye. As she held it in place, she examined the bruises on his side, actually clucking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. She ran her hands through his hair to comb it out a bit, then placed a soft kiss on the top of his head. "We'll look in on you a little later, but call right away if you need anything. I don't want you getting out of bed unless you have to. There are clean towels in the guest bathroom and no reason to get up early tomorrow morning." She took his hand, squeezed it reassuringly, and guided it up to his eye so he could take over on the compress. "Sleep well, Love."


     Sirius nodded and both James' parents left without another word. James remained a while later, drinking their hot chocolates and counting to see who had eaten the most marshmallows. Sirius was relieved not to have to explain what he was doing, for once in his life. James' parents, like James, seemed to have all understood that he didn't want to talk about it just now. Such horrors could wait until they'd all had a good sleep. But when James finally left him to go to bed, he couldn't fall asleep.


     He tried to sleep, but memories kept popping back up before his eyes. And his side hurt terribly. He had checked the medicine cabinet in the bathroom for something to take to dull the pain, but there was nothing there. He simply found himself staring at his reflection, battered and bruised, worse for the ware. "huhktshhhhh! hetshhhhh! hih-ehklshhhhh!" He stole a few tissues from the box on the toilet tank and buried his nose in them with some soft snuffles. He thought of taking a shower but wasn't sure he could stand upright for long enough, and did not want to wake anyone at the sound of it. So he returned to the bedroom, pulling the comforter around himself as he sat down on the edge of the bed.


     Sirius stared out the window, up at the sky. The snow concealed almost everything outside, save the moon which shone brightly from the corner of the window, almost out of range as it journeyed to the top of the sky for the night. The moon was nearly full, and somewhere far north of there, Remus Lupin was enjoying his last restful night of sleep before his transformation. The footsteps behind him were so light and silent on the carpet that he did not realize James was back until he felt the antlers brush his back and chest and the same time as the stag nuzzled his good side. Sirius reached over and patted the stag's snout. "Hey Prongsy. Can't sleep either?"


     The stag shook his head, and transformed back into human form. It was such subtle magic that they had learned the ministry wouldn't pick up on it. They were cracking down, but wouldn't bother with something during the winter holidays. With a stretch, James sat down on the bed beside Sirius. "Your sneezing woke me. I thought I should check on you. Are you coming down with something?" That was all Sirius needed, after all he'd been through already that night.


     Sirius shrugged. "Wouldn't doubt it. I was standing down on the sidewalk in front of your house for an hour before that cat picked a fight with me." He shivered and tightened the blanket around his shoulders. "I hate cats."


     "An hour?" Almost unconsciously, James began rubbing his hand up and down Sirius' back, both to comfort and to warm. "Why didn't you come up and call? You scared me, just standing there the way you were."


     "Sorry." Sirius shrugged and turned his head away. "huktushhhhh! hehchishhhhhh!" He ran a finger under his nose, sniffling miserably. "heh...hahUHktchshhhh!"


     James rubbed the back of his head and squeezed the back of his neck. "I'll go get you a tissue." He left and returned with the whole box of tissues from the bathroom and an extra blanket that he draped around them both. Sirius leaned closer to him, under the blanket, for warmth. They sat in silence for what seemed like hours, with Sirius sniffling more often than not and James handing over tissues whenever it sounded like Sirius needed one. After a long while, James spoke again. "Bet Moony misses you like mad tomorrow night."


     With a deep sigh, Sirius gave a nod. Only then did he James realize his sniffles weren't only from whatever he was coming down with. James wrapped an arm around Sirius' shoulders and drew him close. Sirius did not actually cry, but came as close as James had ever seen, shaking and panting a bit. Sirius buried his face in James' shoulder, clinging to the front of his pajamas, fists tightening around the cloth. James wrapped his arms loosely around his friend and let him stifle sobs and sniffle as long as he needed to. Finally, Sirius gave an angry grunt and broke away, nearly taking half of James' shirt with him. "It was Regulus," he mumbled, looking out at the moon through teary eyes. "He saw us setting that prank on the Slytherins just before break."


     James tensed up, straightening his top. "But they asked him. Why didn't he say...?"


     "He doesn't care about me getting another detention. He just wanted another chance to show me up in front of my parents." Sirius blinked back the tears and grabbed a tissue from the box and blew his nose furiously until he sounded much less congested. "It wasn't really about the prank, you know, though they weren't happy to hear about the damage to the Slytherin common room. It was about you lot. What deviant, underhanded things you and Remy and Pete influence me to do. How I shame the whole family just to call you all friends. They called you all names, slagged Remus' family for being poor, and Peter for not being the brightest in the bunch and you for your family being a disgrace to purebloods. And that was when..."


           Sirius paused, and James jumped, quickly offering over a tissue.  But Sirius shook his head, giving a slight smile. "No, I just didn't know how to say it."


     James put his arm around Sirius again. "I didn't ask you to tell me. You don't have to, Mate."


     He took the tissue anyway and blew his nose again. He balled it up in his hand, tightening a fist around it so hard his whole hand shook from anger. With a deep sigh he decided to come out with it. "He told my parents about me and Remus."


     It was horribly dramatic, but James couldn't hold back a gasp. It was the last thing he'd expected to hear. Considering Sirius and Remus were terribly discrete about it, especially outside of Gryffindor Tower. "He didn't!"


           Sirius nodded. He reached up and felt around his eye gingerly. "Mum screamed and slapped me, Father punched me, and Reg... he just stood by them and grinned." Sirius closed his eyes. "They've never yelled so much. Never. Called me every name in the book and a few I think they made up on the spot. Not just a disgrace to their blood but an unnatural bastard and... and the names they called Remus..." Sirius shook his head, unable to even repeat them. "I had to go, Jay. I went to pack my things but there he was at the top of the stairs, just gloating at me. I made to push past him but Regulus kneed me in the groin and pushed me down the stairs." He ran a hand over the injury on his side. "I just ran for it, I did. Or as best as I could run, that is. Then I called the Knight Bus and here I am." He shrugged and tilted his head to the side, resting it on James' shoulder.


     "Here you are," James said. "And you never have to go back there again. You heard my parents, you can stay here until break's over. And the summer holiday as well if you like."


     Sirius smiled and pulled away, both hands to his face again. "huhTchuhhhhh! Hiktcshhhhhh! ihhTchhhhhhh! hihklshhhh!"


     James handed over more tissues, then set the box to the side. "Come on, I'll see you to sleep. You're getting worse by the second." Sirius let James put him to bed this time, tucked tightly under the covers. Both on their sides, James lay on top of the blankets, behind Sirius, his arm draped over the man behind in a loose hug. "We'll owl Remus in the morning and tell him you're staying here."


     Sirius shook his head. "He's got enough to worry about, what with tonight. Doesn't need to add me to the... list... huhKutchhhhh! huktchhhh!"


     "Bless you," said James, giving him a bit of a squeeze from on top of the blankets. "Look, we'll start planning something for your brother. We'll get him good, I promise."


     "Thanks James. But it doesn't really matter to me. I don't care about them." James gave him a tight squeeze. If anyone were to think Sirius hadn't grown up, all they had to do was look at him now. He knew who he was, what he believed, who he loved, and he wasn't going to budge a bit for anyone.



*          *          *



     "huhtchuhhhhh! huhIHHtchhhh!" Sirius emptied his nose into another tissue and sighed, sitting back against the pillows and headboard.


     "Bless you, Love," called Mrs. Potter as she came in through the door with a tray of lunch.


     Sirius, in only boxers and one of James' t-shirts which was a size too small, jumped in surprise at his sudden visitor and pulled the blankets up to his chest.


     "Now, now, don't you worry." She pulled the blankets back down and tucked them in at his waist. "We'll take good care of you."


     "I'b dot that bad, really," Sirius insisted. A day and a half had passed since arriving at the Potter's and the smothering was getting worse and worse. At Number 12 he was lucky whenever they left him alone. He wasn't at all used to getting so much attention. And though he didn't mind it, he always tried to explain that they really didn't have to go out of their way for him. "I cad... I cad get ub. I'll helb aroud the house. I'll--" She tucked the blankets around him tighter, smiling.


     She pressed her hand to his forehead and shook her head. "Still a bit too warm, I'm afraid. No getting out of bed until you're temperature's back to normal." James' mother put the tray down on his lap. "Hope you like tomato soup?"


     He nodded. "It's by favorite." He looked over to see James appear in the doorway with a fresh box of tissues and a soda. "Thags Brs. Botter." He sniffed hard, blushing a bit at how bad he sounded.


     She smiled and headed out, hanging back for a moment to call, "When you're feeling better, I'm sure we'll find enough things to make you feel like you're earning your keep. But it's not necessary. It's the times, you know. We've got to look out for each other. Those of us who, well... we take care of each other." Sirius nodded and gave her a smile, and she left.


     "Since when do you like tomato soup? I thought chicken soup was your favorite?" said James, crossing the room to him.


     Sirius had already dipped a piece of bread in and taken a large bite from it. "Well, today, by favorite's tobato soub. Because that's what she bade be." He ate a few spoonfuls, savoring the warmth and creamy, sweet taste. "I cad't rebeber by bother ever brigig be soub id bed."


     James held back his laughter as he handed over the box of tissues. "Blow your nose you prat. I can't understand a word you're saying."


     Sirius ripped open the box and pulled a tissue out to do just that. James reached down to pick up some of the tissues strewn about the bed but Sirius grabbed his wrist, a pained expression on his face. "Don't..."


     "Sirius, if I were going to catch this from you, it would have happened already. And even if I did, it wouldn't matter. Now, let me take care of things, all right?" He broke free of the grip and picked up the tissues littering the bed, then walked them over to the trashcan which was near to overflowing. "I brought you some pop. How's your throat today?"


     "A little better." The day before he'd been practically unable to say a complete sentence. He took a good drink of the soda and smiled. "But this feels great goig dowd. Thags..." he took another tissue. "huh...heh-ehtushhhhh! ihkshhhhh! ehtchhhhh! Uh... excuse be."


     James nodded. "I come brining tissues and soda and..." he pulled a small envelope from his back pocket, "...a get well note for you from a certain Mister R. J. Lupin." Sirius nearly overturned his lunch in his haste to get at the letter. He tore it open and read silently, a wide grin spreading on his face, and a bit of a flush coming to his cheeks. When he'd finished reading and stuffing it under his pillow for safe-keeping, James laughed. "Well?"


     "He says to tell you hullo. And wishes we could have all beed together for the full bood. Add the rest is sobewhat... bore persodal id dature."


     James laughed. "Well then, I won't bother asking." But the grin and blush spoke for themselves and did not go away so easily. "Look, when you're feeling better, Mum wants to take you shopping for clothes and things since you can't fit into mine." James was, after all, incredibly skinny. And while Sirius was in no ways beefy, he was a bit broader in the shoulders and had a bit more muscle to his chest and arms. "And Dad wants you to help him in the garage with some engine thing." He dropped his voice down to a whisper, "And I want your help in planning our next mission. And I don't care what you say, I'm getting Regulus back, one way or another." With a smile, James patted Sirius' back. "Get some sleep. I'll be in later."


     "Thags, Jabes," Sirius snuffled. As James headed out, Sirius pulled Remus' letter back out to reread it.


     "Hey, Pads?" James, said, turning back as he got to the doorway.


     Sirius quickly hid the letter beneath the covers, not realizing James was watching him. "Yeah?"


           James paused for a moment, his hand tensing and releasing around the doorway molding. He looked down at his feet, mumbling, "If you'd rather... when you're feeling up to it of course... and not that it's not grand here I'm sure... though I know I was closer and we'd love to have you, obviously... but I mean, if you want to stay at Moony's house instead of here, I'll understand."


     Sirius smiled. "Jabes Botter," he stated sternly. "How log have we beed best bates?"


     James shrugged. They'd been best mates since they were in diapers and their parents had tried to keep them apart. "Dunno," he mumbled, now trying to look interested at the way he'd tied his shoes. "Forever."


     "That's right," nodded Sirius. "I cabe here because this is where I wadted to be, bore thad adywhere else. Because you're here... add I deeded... y-you." Another few sneezes struck, making him hurry to finish before he could bury his nose in a handful of tissues. "huktchhhh! Hehktchooo! uhhTushhhhhh!" He sniffed wetly, then blew his nose until he felt better. "Add leave it to be to ruid a sedibedtal bobedt with sdeezes."


     James laughed, looking back up at a grinning Sirius. "Blow your nose, you prat. I can't understand a word you're saying," he lied with such affection in his voice that he could have said anything and Sirius would have understood the meaning. "And feel better, all right?" Sirius nodded again and didn't try to hide the letter this time as James left, though he knew James would glance back.