Left Holding the Baby

BY : scaranda
Category: Harry Potter > Slash - Male/Male > Snape/Sirius
Dragon prints: 4900
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and make no money from writing this story. All recognisable characters belong to JK Rowling and her associates. I earn nothing but the dubious pleasure of knowing you enjoyed this.

Sirius turned on the grass when he heard the swoosh of Apparition again, as Lupin and Minerva arrived together, more witnesses to the atrocity, more tears to shed over the fact that there was no such thing as being just too late; you were either on time or you weren't. He felt McGonagall relieve him of the small white bundle he was barely aware he was holding, the last remnant of the line of the Potters, bloodied but somehow unbowed, still wondering how this had come about.

Barely half an hour ago he'd been sitting in the Three Broomsticks with Regulus and Lucius to see if there were any way of getting Regulus out of the Death Eaters' clutches. He had been surprised that Lucius had taken on the role of devil's advocate until it became clear to him that things were becoming unacceptable to even Malfoy. Sirius knew well that despite what Malfoy had recently claimed, he hadn't been forced by any magical means to join the Dark Lord; the coercion had been much more subtle, the lure of power and the glitter of fame, all for a mutual price of course. Voldemort needed the unplumbed depths of the Malfoy millions, and Lucius needed to bask in the glory of being the darling of the Death Eaters, the Dark Lord's right hand man.

Sirius could see he was frightened now; things had escalated out of control, and Lucius's name was mud, his life forfeit if he made any attempt to leave, as his wife's had been only two weeks before for failing to conceive the Dark Lord's child just three bare months after the birth of her first son. Voldemort was nothing if not fair; he dealt his retribution to his friends and enemies with evenhandedness. Sirius stifled the compassion he felt for Malfoy; he was only reaping what he had sown for so long, it served the bigoted fat tart right. It was a pity about Narcissa though, he supposed grudgingly, cold bitch that she had been; she didn't deserve to die just as her son began his life. He watched Lucius start, looking across at the door as it opened, relaxing as he recognised Sturgis Podmore stride across the bar, pausing only to nod to Sirius as he passed them by.

'I think you should get the Potters out of the country for a while,' Malfoy said as he tossed over his Firewhisky. 'There's too much talk about them. I should not care to be the one to break the news to Severus if you let anything untoward befall them.'

Sirius frowned inwardly in puzzlement at the reference to Snape, but he didn't care to quiz Lucius; he shook his head instead. 'The Potters are safe; no one can find them.'

'You fool, Black,' Lucius hissed, and his Charms hovered dangerously close to disappearing and revealing his true identity to the entire bar. 'Don't you think the Dark Lord will find a way to get the truth from you? He has the means at his disposal.'

'Oh yes,' Sirius replied, 'he won't have thrown Severus's recipe book away just because he left the Death Eaters. Unless our Snape is still doing a little freelance work?'

Lucius shook his head in disgust. 'You don't change, do you?' He glared across at Sirius and then nodded to where Regulus sat quietly on his own, two tables away. Apart from a couple of brief words of greeting, Sirius's brother had maintained a moody aloofness, not even glancing at them. 'Anyway,' Malfoy went on, 'I want you to take Regulus to your family home. I have a suspicion that the Dark Lord will not take kindly to him changing the object of his affections.'

Sirius watched Lucius look down for a moment in some emotion he didn't recognise; pain, shame, neither, it didn't really matter. The rats were deserting the Dark Lord's ship and Dumbledore had made it clear that they were to be given protection wherever possible; the only priority over them was the safety of their own people. 'He hardly needs my permission to go to the family home, if you could call it that,' he said flatly.

'Perhaps not, Black,' Lucius replied and lifted the silver-blond eyebrow only Regulus and Sirius could see through his complex Charms, 'but he does need your good grace.'

Sirius nodded; he needed Regulus's good grace too. Whatever he was, or as seemed now, had been, he was his brother, and blood calls to its own, especially wizard blood. 'I know,' he whispered, suddenly choked with emotion and strain and Merlin knew what else. He found himself reaching his hand across the table to the man opposite him. 'Watch out for yourself, Lucius. He will become even more dangerous than he is now when he finds he's being thwarted from within.'

'I need to go,' Lucius said, drawing his manicured fingertips away from the touch, as he stood up and took a last nervous look around the Three Broomsticks. 'Remember, Black, the Dark Lord will know you are James Potter's Secret Keeper; he'll know you know where he is.' He began to turn away.

'Actually I'm not,' Sirius declared.

'Lupin?' Malfoy spun to him again. 'He's not strong enough. What possessed you to take such a risk?'

Sirius grinned. 'Not Remus either,' he said in some small degree of triumph. 'Someone your Lord will never think of.'

'No...' Even under his Charms, Malfoy paled. 'Not Pettigrew. Please, Black, tell me it's not Pettigrew.'

'Why?' Sirius had stood up in alarm; he grabbed Malfoy's cloak. 'Why not?' he asked, as Regulus turned to see what was going on, his interest sparked at last.

Malfoy had seen Regulus turn; he pulled Sirius to him quickly, as though embracing him in farewell. 'Peter Pettigrew is a Death Eater,' he hissed into his ear.

*****

And he'd been too late; even as he got to the door of the Three Broomsticks to Apparate to Godric's Hollow, he knew he was too late. As he saw James's Patronus materialise from nowhere to beg him for help, he knew he was too late; when he saw the bright white light, created by the man who had sent the mighty stag, already faltering at the edges, like weak flames being tossed in the wind, Sirius knew James was already dying.

And now he stood there on the lawn trembling in shock, watching the last of the conflagration die down as Dumbledore quenched the blaze that had consumed Lily and James's home to little more than a smoking ruin, and Hagrid stood on the front step blubbering his heart out as his boarhound howled in anguish.

They began arriving in twos and threes, the Order Members, those just sympathetic to their cause, and those too frightened to show their support before now, coming out of the woodwork as the news spread that, not only were the Potters slain, but somehow their infant son had turned the Dark Lord's own Curse against him. Even through the shock of what had happened here at Godric's Hollow, Sirius could feel the undercurrent of jubilation in the crowd, the release of tension as men who had ceased to nod abstract acquaintance with one another once again found themselves gossiping with virtual strangers ... and the word began to spread; the Dark Lord had fled.

*****

Sirius sat nursing a glass of whisky as Lupin watched him. It would be so easy just to drink himself into oblivion, that way it wouldn't be so painful ... that way he could pretend he wasn't responsible for the death of his best friend.

'You can go now,' he said, pushing his glass away. 'I've more important things to do than drink myself to death in remorse.'

'You didn't do this, Sirius.'

'No? Perhaps you can tell me just who made Pettigrew James's Secret Keeper?' Sirius said. 'I'll be really glad if it weren't me, Moony, because right now I feel like shit.'

Lupin sighed.

'Are you going to help me or not?' Sirius asked.

'I have an option?' Lupin scratched his head, the way he did when he was nervous or at a loss. 'I think you're forgetting he was my friend too. And maybe if I hadn't been a werewolf you might have made me his Secret Keeper.'

'Yeah, and if my grandmother hadn't died, I wouldn't have had to bury her.'

'My point precisely,' Lupin replied. 'You didn't do this.'

Something crossed Sirius's mind again as he filtered through the awful images of the day: sitting with Malfoy and his reference to Snape, Snape standing pale and silent under the chestnut tree at Godric's Hollow after Hagrid had almost pole axed him to prevent him going into the flames before Dumbledore put them out. He wondered what it was. 'Was Lily having an affair?' he asked.

'Lily? I doubt it,' Lupin responded. 'The boy's only a couple of months old. What made you ask that?'

Sirius shook his head. 'It doesn't matter. I didn't think so either.'

'What made you say that?' Lupin pressed.

'Snape ... not that she'd ever look at a greasy git like him. But maybe he fancied her,' Sirius said. 'Just something Lucius Malfoy said and ... I don't know ... he seemed pretty upset about things ...' He trailed off, giving the werewolf a suspicious look. 'What don't I know, Remus? Are you telling me Lily was having an affair with Snape?'

'I don't suppose it matters now.' It was Lupin's turn to shake his head; he turned away for only a moment before facing Sirius again. 'Lily wasn't having an affair with anyone that I know of ... but James was.'

'James? Severus and James?' Sirius blinked in disbelief. 'Don't be ridiculous; he would have told me. Snape's not good enough for James, not by a million miles.'

'That's not what James thought.'

'I don't believe you. He would have told me,' Sirius repeated. 'I would have known.'

'Not that it matters anymore,' Lupin said quietly, 'but it was true.'

'Why didn't he tell me?' Sirius said. 'I don't believe you. Not Snape, not him of all people.'

'Perhaps that's why he didn't tell you. Maybe he knew just what your reaction would be.'

Sirius mouthed soundlessly for a moment. 'I wouldn't have minded,' he lied. 'It was his business.'

'How noble of you,' Lupin said dryly as Sirius gave him a hard look. 'Anyway, it doesn't matter now; none of it matters now.'

'How long had it been going on for?'

'A long time.'

'How long, Moony?'

Lupin gave him a long look, as though he were gauging whether he should be any more indiscreet. 'Since just after they left school.'

'Why didn't you tell me?' Sirius asked, finding a focus for his confusion in the werewolf. 'You could have told me.'

'Now you're being ridiculous. It wasn't any of my business either. Let it drop, Sirius,' Lupin replied. 'I wish I'd never told you.'

'I don't believe you,' Sirius repeated, but he did now. Even after the events of the day he felt a little twist of envy; he'd always fancied a slice of dark Slytherin for himself as a change from the blond one that had presented itself to him at every tortuous family gathering, and then slithered back out of his reach before he could catch him ... but he'd never known how to go about it. He looked over at the door as Regulus came in, nodding grudgingly to Lupin and moving to the sink to fill the kettle.

All three of them frowned as someone began to hammer on the front door, sending Mrs Black's portrait into raptures of abuse at whomsoever had disturbed her slumber. Sirius kept meaning to mention to her that she was dead and didn't really need to sleep, but he hadn't quite plucked up the courage yet.

'Shall I get that?' Regulus asked moodily, as he slammed the inoffensive kettle onto the hob.

Sirius didn't think Regulus really wanted to be there, a feeling that was becoming mutual; whatever rush of brotherly affection had afflicted him in the Three Broomsticks had fled with the realisation that Regulus was still the same spoilt prejudiced brat he'd been when he left home. Sirius didn't like the cool look he'd given Lupin, as though he were some kind of subspecies come to despoil the Ancient and Most Bigoted House of Black. 'Obviously Kreacher beat you to it,' he replied as the front door slammed behind whoever had come in.

*****

'Where is Pettigrew?' Snape snarled as he shoved Kreacher out of way and barged into the kitchen, ignoring Regulus and Lupin and focussing his intensity on Sirius. 'I know you know where he is, and if I find out you're harbouring him I shall kill you too.'

'If I knew where he was I'd have beaten you to it,' Sirius snapped as he stood up. 'Why didn't you tell the Order he was a Death Eater?'

'I didn't know until Lucius told me ten minutes ago. Why didn't you know? He was your friend.' Snape gave Regulus a hard look at last. 'Talking of Death Eaters, you don't seem to mind hanging about with them; makes me wonder just who is on what side nowadays.'

'What's that supposed to mean?' Sirius asked.

'Calm down, Sirius,' Lupin said mildly. 'You too, Snape. There is no point in losing your temper. Sirius and I are going to track him down.'

'Not before I do.' Snape snorted his derision. 'If I have to search every sewer in this country I shall find the little rat ... and believe me when I do he will wish he had never been born.'

Sirius thought there was something dangerous about Snape, something not quite sane in its fury. He noticed Regulus had taken the opportunity to slip out of the kitchen and didn't think to wonder why, until he heard the renewed clamour as Mrs Black's portrait serenaded yet another visitor. His acute hearing picked up the conversation in the hall, the anxious unctuous wheezing voice Sirius despised. The rat had come to offer his condolences, covering his tracks with his lies; Sirius felt the hate rise in an attempt to choke him.

'I know. Terrible business, he's really upset, Peter,' Regulus's voice issued from the hall, loudly enough to alert the others if they weren't already aware of the identity of the visitor, as the three men still in the kitchen shared a murderous look with one another. 'Go through and see him yourself.'

Sirius watched Snape slip to stand at the wall behind the door. He gave the dark Slytherin one brief nod of approval; he let him have him, he didn't grudge anyone a couple of hexes if Pettigrew was the target, even Severus. Snape had the same power of arrest as the rest of the members of the Order of the Phoenix; it didn't really matter who took Wormtail in, as long as one of them did. He took the time to notice something he mistook for gratitude cross the harsh features.

*****

Dumbledore shook his head in a mixture of confusion and sorrow. 'Couldn't you tell what he was going to do?'

Sirius shrugged. 'I don't know; maybe he just did what I wanted to do anyway,' he replied. 'What does it matter? Pettigrew would have gone to trial and spent the last of his days in Azkaban before he was executed. If we look at it that way, it was a kindness.'

'Setting fire to someone is not a kindness, Sirius,' Dumbledore replied. 'And now it could well be Severus who spends the last of his days in Azkaban instead.'

'It was self-defence, wasn't it, Remus?' Sirius remarked blandly and nodded to Lupin for confirmation. 'The worm had his wand raised against an unarmed man. He should have chosen a softer target though; Snape doesn't need a wand for much.'

Lupin nodded. 'It's true, Albus,' he lied every bit as smoothly as Sirius. 'He was about to Curse Snape ... and as he'd already been instrumental in James's and Lily's deaths, Severus would have had good reason to suspect he was next.'

'If you think that story will fool a jury any more than it has fooled me, think again,' Dumbledore replied. 'You'll have to do a lot better than that.'

'There are extenuating circumstances, Dumbledore,' Sirius said. 'You know that. You can't have him tried for murder ... and he didn't use an Unforgivable Curse.'

'No ... that's true,' the Headmaster replied dryly. 'He set him on fire instead. It was just as effective.'

'But not unforgivable?' Sirius reasoned, daring a half measure of his grin. He wasn't quite sure why he was defending Snape, and he was having a devil of a job getting rid of the stench of scorched flesh from the kitchen. It seemed like the right thing to do though, especially as his little shit of a brother had been the one to shop him in the first place; Sirius hadn't quite worked that one out either.

'That is a moot point.' The steely blue gaze didn't waver. 'Find him, Sirius, before the search is official; if it becomes so there will be very little I can do.'

'Where?' Sirius objected. 'How am I supposed to know where he is?'

Dumbledore gave him a long look.

*****


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