Disclaimer: still not mine.

Chapter 14: The rest of summer

The days after his 'L-talk' with Sirius were both tense and uplifting for Harry. He was constantly worried that Sirius would see his mistake and take back everything he'd said. Intellectually, he knew his godfather wouldn't do that, but his emotions didn't seem to listen to the rest of his brain, an issue he spent a good half hour thinking about late one night until he got so frustrated he needed a strong calming tea to get to sleep.

Sirius made it easier on him though. He seemed to understand that Harry didn't want anymore serious discussions for a while, but he let Harry know he was there for him when he needed. He did small things, such as tucking Harry in at night and telling him he loved him. He felt like a small child when that happened, but he didn't complain; it was all he'd ever hoped for when he was younger. Harry knew it would take a long time to get used to hearing those words, but it was getting easier to hear every time.

Getting three full night's rest in a row did wonders for his attitude also. He became a little more active in the discussions between his friends, he was eating better, and he just felt better in general. He had no idea how much the dreams were really getting to him until they stopped. So far, Voldemort hadn't found another way in, yet, either. Although, Harry had been taking small doses of dreamless sleep potion, because some scenes from the past still threatened his sleep.

Perhaps the most positive part of the past few days was that Harry hadn't felt the overwhelming need to cut since the night before his and Sirius's joint dream. He would think of something painful and the urge would be there, but he was able to push it away eventually. This was one of the reasons he spent almost no time alone. If someone had told him at the beginning of the summer that he would be with another person constantly, he probably would have hexed them. However, it being his own choice, he was glad to have the company. He wasn't naïve enough to think that just because he hadn't cut recently meant that he wouldn't cut if the desire and opportunity became too great.

He hadn't told Sirius about the incident before the joint dream, because he didn't want to get into another deep conversation. He wanted to be a normal teen and enjoy his summer holiday. However, he felt guilty about keeping such a secret from his godfather after all of his support. He promised himself that he would tell Sirius about it before they left for Hogwarts in a little over a week.

Currently, Harry was in the Drawing room with Ron working on the last of their homework. While Hermione was astonished that they would even think of leaving it so late in the summer, Ron commented that this was before he usually started any of his summer work. As predicted, this sent Hermione off on an hour long tirade about the importance of putting more effort into their studies. Ron and Harry just exchanged amused glances when she wasn't looking. When she finally finished, they politely informed her that she had spent an hour talking instead of working. Flustered, she moved her things across the room and started editing an essay for the fourth time.

Harry and Ron had waited for their O.W.L. results to come before starting any summer work. Hermione, who everyone knew passed every subject, had done all of the assignments earlier in the summer. Personally, Harry didn't see any reason to do assignments for classes he may not take the next year, but Hermione insisted that it was a good learning experience anyway. He nodded, but didn't say anymore on the subject.

Harry was finishing off his potions essay, on which he had worked surprisingly hard. He'd been amazed that he received a high grade so that he could continue the class, but he didn't really look forward to the daily torments for another two years. He was glad he made it, though, because his option for becoming an auror was still viable. He wasn't decided on his future career yet (he was only sixteen for Merlin's sake!), but it felt good not to be blocked from a path in which he was at least somewhat interested.

He had done very well in the subjects he needed and actually liked, except for Astronomy. He liked the class well enough, but during the astronomy exam, Umbridge had tried to take Hagrid away, and McGonagall was hurt in the chase when she tried to protect him. He'd managed an 'A' only because he did reasonably well on the theory portion.

He was grateful that he achieved a 'P' in Divination so he wouldn't have to sit in that stifling tower listening to death predictions for two more years. He was very pleased with his 'O' in Defense Against the Dark Arts and Charms and his 'E' in Transfiguration.

He was amazed that he could do so well on schoolwork. He'd never really put as much effort into his classes as he could, and he wondered if his marks would improve much if he did. He wasn't a bad student, just not focused; he usually had more important things to worry about.

The fact that he'd never had anyone care about his marks before also played a factor. Hermione, of course, wanted him to do well, but he just saw that as her own perfectionism spilling into her concern for her friends. The Dursleys certainly never cared about how he did in school. In fact, if he came home with better results than Dudley, he was usually punished for cheating or 'showing up his poor misunderstood cousin.' Harry once pointed out that if Dudley did his own homework, instead of bullying Harry to do it, the boy might have made better marks. He learned quickly not to mention that again.

Harry put down his quill and rubbed his eyes. His hand hurt from writing so much, and his mind was mush from a day of homework. He stretched accompanied by a wide yawn.

"Let's do something," he said.

Ron snorted, "Like what?"

"Not homework," Harry said flatly.

"Sounds good." Ron took the opportunity to stretch his cramped muscles also and stood up. Hermione agreed to stop for now since she was almost done with her revisions.

They left the Drawing Room and went to the kitchen. It was the most likely place that people would be, and they figured they deserved a bit of a snack after all their hard work.

Sirius and Remus were gathered around a tray of what looked like chocolate chip cookies. Harry thought they smelled like the best thing in the world at that moment.

"Did you make those, Moony?" he asked as they approached.

Sirius looked offended. "Now, why do you automatically ask him?" he jabbed a finger at Remus.

"Er, because you seem more like a bread man?" Harry tried to say by way of an excuse. He failed miserably when Remus snorted and Ron didn't even try to cover his laugh. He could see the laughter in his godfather's eyes as well, and it made him happy to know he was regaining some of what he had lost in Azkaban.

Sirius nodded, and with a straight face said, "That's right, and it's so good I'll be providing the rolls for the Welcoming Feast this year. I've heard some of the house elves are extremely jealous."

Harry sighed dramatically. "You just can't please everyone, can you?"

"No, no you can't," Sirius finished sadly. He gave Harry, Hermione and Ron access to the tray, and asked, "So, what are you three up to anyway? Given up on homework?"

"Yes," grunted Harry as he sat at the table. Hermione gave him a cross look, but said nothing. "Can we go out?" he asked after the other had settled.

Sirius looked thoughtful, and Remus shook his head. "It isn't safe. We'd need guards and Dumbledore's permission. Not to mention emergency portkeys, lookouts, and check points need to be set up."

Harry groaned. "If only we were muggles," he said as he flopped his head onto his crossed forearms on the table.

"No way! Not to be able to do magic? I can't imagine," protested Ron.

"It isn't that difficult, Ron. It's just different to what you are used to," said Hermione matter-of-factly.

"I can imagine it now," said Harry looking up into some imagined sky. "We don't have wands, but look, we can go outside without being attacked. Oh, what was that? Right, we can't travel in an instant, but at least we can go somewhere…"

"Prat," grumbled Ron. "I know what you're saying. I just wouldn't want to give up magic for a few hours of wandering around outside. We'll be at Hogwarts in a week; we can walk the grounds all you want after that."

"You're right, I know. I just can't stand being locked in again," Harry said with a shudder. Memories of being locked in his cupboard or room at the Dursleys mixed with the results of Sirius being kept here last year. The older he got, the more he grew to abhor the restrictions placed on him by others. He knew they were for his own protection, but it didn't make him any happier about it.

"I have an idea," said Sirius with a small smile. He got up and motioned for them to follow. They left the kitchen through a door Harry had never noticed before. He found that odd since he'd been in the kitchen plenty of times, and he thought he knew everything that was in there by now. Sirius turned to face them, "It's charmed. You can't see it unless you know it's there and you know where you want it to lead." This only made Harry more confused.

He followed down a short hallway at stopped in front of another door. Sirius opened the door and pushed the rest of them through. Harry's jaw dropped at what he saw.

In front of him was a small sandy beach with a large body of water beyond. There were palm trees scattered about, and the sky was blue with a few fluffy, white clouds. He saw a bird fly out of the corner of his eye, and recognized it as one that Sirius had used to deliver letters before Harry's fourth year. To say Harry was surprised would have been an understatement. He was completely and utterly speechless. He could actually feel the sun beating down on him. He grinned and tackled his godfather with a huge hug.

Sirius laughed happily and ruffled the hair on Harry's head. "Do you like it?" he asked with a grin.

"It's, it's," Harry stuttered as he fished for words.

"Brilliant," said Ron and Hermione together.

Harry noticed that Remus had a faintly surprised look as well. "When, how – who did this?" asked Harry, finally getting a partially coherent thought out.

"Well, my mother and father built this part of the house with enchantments similar to the Room of Requirement. They used it for… less pleasant things. I had Albus help me fix it up, and here we are," he said stretching his arms wide.

"What did you need to fix?" asked Hermione, ever curious.

Sirius grimaced, "I tried to use it a few times, and well, let's just say the results weren't pretty. It was infused with dark magic that warped and distorted anything I tried. Finally, I sealed it up and hid the door so no one could be hurt. Albus and I just finished undoing and recasting the spells this morning."

"I never knew this was here," said Remus to Sirius with a slightly questioning look.

"Yes, well, it wasn't a place I liked to visit when I was a child. Mother could create some fantastic nightmares in here," he said as a shadow seemed to pass over his face. Everyone was silent, not wanting to think of the implications of that statement. Sirius cleared his throat and smiled again. "It's great, now, though. There is swimming gear in that hut, complete with changing rooms. The water is perfect. I had to test it this morning," he grinned.

Harry looked over to a small grass hut he hadn't noticed before. He couldn't wait to go swimming with his friends. The only time he'd really tried swimming was during the second task of the Triwizard tournament. Pushing those memories out of the way brought a different variety of unwelcome thoughts.

As Ron and Hermione walked to the hut, Harry pulled Sirius to the side.

"What is it, Harry?" Sirius asked. "You don't want to swim?"

"No, it's not that… it's just, er, could you maybe cast a concealment charm on my arms?" he asked quietly as he studied the sand beneath his feet. The gloomy house of number twelve Grimmauld Place had a persistent chill, which called for wearing long sleeves, so he hadn't had to deal with the possibility of his friends seeing the scars on his forearms. He knew he wouldn't get away with swimming in long sleeves, though. It would just cause them to ask questions, and he wanted to avoid that.

Sirius looked at him contemplatively. "Are you going to tell them?"

"What? No!" Harry was startled by the question. Of course he wasn't going to tell his friends about his cuts. It was too personal, too private. It was bad enough that Sirius and Remus knew. He didn't exactly want to announce it to the world in the Daily Prophet or something.

Sirius sighed. "They're your friends. I'm sure they'd like to know what's been going on with you this summer. I get the feeling you haven't talked much with them. Am I right?"

Harry nodded reluctantly. "I guess that's true; I haven't talked to them much. But I don't want to tell them this. Please, it'll only make it harder. They already worry so much, I just don't want to add to that. I-I honestly feel like I'm working through this," he waved in general at his arms. "What if I promise to t-talk to you about it later… will you just put the charms on for now? I really want to go swimming with everyone," Harry pleaded.

He didn't want to talk about this at all, but it was the best option at the moment. He didn't want his friends to see the marks on his arms, faint as they were, because he didn't want them to know about what he did. He couldn't swim with a long sleeved shirt, because of the questions it would raise. And he couldn't simply leave, because that would cause more questions (plus he really did want to swim).

Sirius looked at him for a minute or so and finally sighed. "Alright. I'll do it, but you are going to talk to me after, right?" Harry nodded glumly. "I don't mean to push you into it, Harry. We'll go chat after this, and if you really don't want to talk about things then, you don't have to. I get the feeling at least part of you wants to though, or you wouldn't have offered that as a trade."

Harry thought about that as Sirius placed the charms on his arms. It was true that he had been wanting to tell him about the last few urges he'd had, but did that mean he really wanted to talk? Harry wasn't sure, but he was relieved that Sirius said he could wait if he needed. He also wanted to talk to Remus, or, more accurately, he wanted Remus to talk to him. Harry wanted to find out more about his story. Why did such a seemingly together and under control man ever need to find comfort in a knife?

He would never know if he didn't ask, so Harry resolved to talk to Sirius, and ask questions of Remus if he was willing.

Harry went to the changing hut and found everything he needed for swimming inside. He eagerly met his two best friends out on the 'beach' where they laughed in delight at what they were getting to do. This new room was definitely going to make being cooped up more enjoyable. It was a pity they only had a little more than a week to enjoy it before going back to Hogwarts. Of course, there was always Christmas and next summer.

Harry grinned at his friends and started counting, "One, two, three!" They all ran at the same time out into the water and clumsily dove under. Neither Ron or Harry had much experience swimming, but Hermione had apparently taken lessons in the muggle world before starting Hogwarts. She knew most of the basic strokes and was trying to teach them to Ron and Harry, who rolled their eyes and alternately splashed her.

Remus joined them, and after about twenty minutes Sirius came back with Ginny. Harry hadn't even seen him leave in all the splashing. Soon, the youngest Weasley and his godfather were a part of the water war too.

Harry couldn't help noticing how… different Hermione and Ginny looked in their bathing suits. He saw Ron's face go red anytime he accidentally touched Hermione and just laughed at his friend. There was no way he would forget she was a girl wearing that. Harry was forced to admit that Ginny wasn't just Ron's kid sister anymore either. She seemed to be growing into a shapely body, and Harry had no doubt she would be gorgeous when she finished Hogwarts.

It was Harry's turn to blush when his thoughts strayed to Cho Chang. He wondered what she would look like in the water wearing only a tight suit. Harry dunked himself and cleared his head. Definitely not a good idea to think about that in mixed company. He only hoped no one noticed his blush. He didn't think it was likely with all the activity going on.

Sirius conjured a large floating raft with a ladder, so they could jump off and do some stunts. Four currant and two former Gryffindors made for tough competition. Surprisingly, it was Ginny who one the biggest splash contest, and she was the smallest one of them! Sirius seemed to take personal offence to this and started jumping over and over again in all different styles to try and match her, but he never did manage it. Finally, he assured them that it was due to his 'natural grace' that he couldn't make a large splash. The others revoked this theory when he also lost the smallest splash competition. Remus one that with his slight body. Harry came in a close second.

They hardly noticed the time slipping by until Mrs. Weasley came in and called to them from the sandy beach. They had been swimming for three hours. Harry was starving after he got dressed. He eagerly ate up the snacks Mrs. Weasley put out for them. She kept glancing at him with relief in her eyes. He knew she must have been worried for him lately. He was glad she was releasing some of that now.

Harry hadn't even thought about Voldemort, the Creevey brothers, or his self-injuring behavior the entire time they were in the water. He felt so much better after that break from life. Although, he did feel guilty that he had been having fun at a time of war like this. He really should have been looking for ways to destroy Voldemort, instead of spending the afternoon in mindless fun. He'd managed to douse his good mood in just a few minutes, but he kept a smile on his face for the others' sakes.

After a half hour of food and senseless chatter, Harry excused himself with Sirius. His friends didn't even ask questions when this happened anymore. He wasn't sure if that was a sign that they trusted him to tell them if something was important, or if they were simply growing apart and didn't care anymore. Don't think like that, Harry. You know it's not true. They just know you need time with Sirius, and they're being very understanding. You wouldn't want to answer their questions anyway, so be thankful they aren't asking.

They were in their usual positions in the room; Harry on the bed and Sirius on a chair next to him. Harry hadn't moved back into the room he shared with Ron after he was recovered. They both decided they'd like their own rooms for a little while longer before school term started and they had to share their five person dorm again. Harry appreciated the privacy, because the last few nights Sirius had sat with him until he fell asleep. Harry would have been too embarrassed to let him if he was sharing a room, but he was happy to soak in the comfort his godfather provided at night.

However, comfort was not what Harry was feeling at the moment. He was nervous to the point of queasiness, and he couldn't make himself relax. His hands were shaking and his breathing erratic. What did I agree to? Why did I make that deal? I should have just said I was sick and not gone swimming. It was fun, but why should I have fun? There's a war going on outside this house, and I'm just sitting in here with my friends. I can't believe I let myself be happy for a few hours when there are people dying… Colin and Dennis. They never did anything, but they died. I can't do this. I don't need or deserve whatever kind of 'therapy' Sirius wants to give me. It isn't his duty to make sense of his freak of a godson. I've been a mess for so long, but I can keep it together until I fight Voldemort. Merlin, what happened to the good feeling of the last few days? Is a talk with Sirius really that scary?

"Harry?" Sirius asked, sounding like it was probably the last in many attempts to get his attention.

Harry looked up a little surprised and asked, "Yes, Sirius?"

"I was just wondering if you wanted to have that talk now. I know you're probably 'talked-out' by now, but it seemed important. Do you still want to talk to me?"

Harry fidgeted with the blankets on his bed and shrugged, not meeting Sirius' eyes.

Sirius went on from Harry's silence. "I know it makes you nervous to talk about things you haven't told anyone before. But I think you want to talk." Harry finally looked up at his godfather with a puzzled face. "Well, like I said before, you offered to talk to me. Granted, it was part of a deal, but you could have made some other offer. Do you trust me, Harry?" he asked seriously.

"Yes, of course!" said Harry incredulously. "How could you think I don't?"

"Calm down, Harry. I know you trust me quite a bit. Your dreams the other night showed that. I just wondered if you trust me enough to talk about your problems. I don't mean Voldemort problems or anything like that. I'm talking about your personal feelings about anything. I realize this is extremely difficult, Harry. I've never been there for you when you needed me."

"That's not true," Harry interjected. He wasn't going to let Sirius blame himself for Harry's problems. "You're always there for me. You're a great godfather, Sirius."

Sirius smiled, though a bit sadly. "Thank you, Harry. That means a lot to me, but you know it's not true. I wasn't there for you for almost thirteen years. After that it's been sporadic support at best. Hell, we barely had contact last year with Umbridge monitoring all the communications. A large part of our relationship has been based on working against Voldemort together, but that's not how it should be. It's ok for you to be upset that I haven't been there for you. Tell me about it. Tell me about the nights you spent awake with no one to talk to, because I wasn't there. Tell me how you wanted to break down from all the pressure, but you couldn't because you knew there was no one to put you back together again. About how you weren't allowed to be happy, sad, or angry when you were younger, because your relatives wouldn't allow it. Please, just tell me about all of it. I wasn't there then, but I'm here now." Sirius had tears in his eyes, but didn't break eye contact with Harry.

Harry felt awful for making Sirius so sad and worried all the time. He hated what Sirius had just said. How could Harry ever feel angry with his godfather, just because he wasn't able to be with him all the time, and it wasn't his fault? He hated himself, because it was true. As much as he loved and trusted Sirius, he hadn't been there when it mattered. What was he supposed to say now? If he agreed, did that mean Sirius wouldn't want him anymore? It was a completely irrational thought, but nothing in this conversation (or any conversation since Sirius came back) was entirely rational. He knew Sirius wasn't going to let this go, so he decided it was better to get it over with now rather than worry about it any longer.

"Sirius, I don't want you to go anywhere. I'm grateful for everything you've done for me already, and I wouldn't trade that for the world. But I guess… you're right. You haven't been around for much…" Harry didn't know what else to say.

He didn't want to get his guardian angry at him. He'd already spent a lifetime with people who hated him; he didn't want to turn Sirius into a second 'Uncle Vernon'. He knew that wasn't likely to happen, but his insecurities weighed heavily on his mind. Sirius grabbed his hand and held it loosely. He gestured for Harry to go on. Against the insecure voice in his head, he did. He closed his eyes, so he wouldn't have to see the hurt or anger in Sirius's face. Then he let the words come tumbling out without thinking about them.

"You came and offered me a new life, one you couldn't give me. It's not your fault. I know that. It's Pettigrew's fault. But you still left. You were going to take me away, but you left and I had to go back. Then you-you talked to me about my scar and Voldemort, and I know you were worried about me, but I didn't get to see you or talk to you when I wanted. I needed – but I couldn't, and it's not your fault, but you weren't there. Voldemort came back… Cedric died. You left. Dumbledore made you. I understood, but I hated Voldemort and the Order for making you leave. I didn't even know what the Order was then, but I hated whatever it was you had to do. I knew why you had to leave, but I needed you. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have thought you'd want to stay with me, but I just…" He paused and took a long shuddering breath.

Keeping his eyes closed and his mind off, he continued. "Then the dementors attacked me and my cousin. I fought them off, and all I got was reprimands from everyone, but no one would tell me what was going on. I expected it from Dumbledore, and even Mr. Weasley, but I thought you might have been proud of me… I didn't know why I had to stay with them. They hate me; they always have. I was supposed to be safe, then the dementors… I didn't know why I had to stay when I was attacked there. Couldn't I have been just as safe here or at Hogwarts?"

Harry looked pleadingly up at Sirius and saw silent tears falling down his godfather's face. He had to look away. It was easier if he kept his eyes closed. "Then that toad, Umbridge, and all her rules. I couldn't even talk to you or write to you. And the dreams… no one told me what was going on. I had to figure it out. I didn't trust Dumbledore or the rest of you to have everything under control. I didn't think I could ask anyone about my dreams either. Dumbledore was ignoring me, and everyone else thought I was too young to know anything. Why couldn't anyone just tell me he might try to get in my head? Bloody hell, I'd already seen the worst things I could imagine. Nobody realized that I'm not a child, and I haven't been for a very long time… After Mr. Weasley was attacked, you were there. It was so good to have someone there." Harry smiled briefly at Sirius. It was a horrible experience, but Sirius had been there for him.

"But when I needed you the most… it doesn't make sense. You were dead, of course you couldn't be there with me, but still – you left me. You died, and I was all alone. I needed you to help me get through that, but you were dead. I know it's stupid, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't make alone. I was… drifting. I don't know how to explain it. I just couldn't do it. Then there were all kinds of other dreams-visions. The prophecy I had to hear without you there… I couldn't handle it. You weren't there. I thought, if I could just talk to you, maybe you could help with the visions and the pain. But no matter how many times I thought I saw you in the house, on the street, whatever, you weren't really there. You just disappeared. I don't know how I figured out that pain helped. It was just something that had always been a part of my life, but it was gone too. The physical pain I mean. I don't know how to-to describe it. But when I gave myself that pain again… it helped. It was a friend that would always be there when I needed it and listened to everything I had to say without complaint. I could call it back when I needed to, and it helped me." Harry stopped talking and noticed that the hand Sirius wasn't holding was clenched into a tight fist.

Sirius looked like he wanted to say a hundred different things, leave the room, and stay forever. He finally settled on a question. "When was the last time you cut?"

Harry thought about it. He didn't want Sirius to know that he had hurt himself at Remus's, but he wasn't going to lie either. He'd already said enough to ruin their relationship, if that was going to happen. "That night at Remus's… after I had the dream where he kicked me out. It was a tiny, little cut. I really wanted to since then though… Right before we did the dream spell in the bathroom. Everything finally caught up, Colin and Dennis and everything, I just couldn't take it. I had a blade and I wanted to so much. But I didn't. I thought you'd be mad. I didn't want you to be disappointed in me. I finally got under control, well mostly."

Harry looked up at Sirius to see him wiping at tears on his face, while others streamed out to take their place. Harry touched his own face and wasn't surprised to find that it too was wet. He wiped the moisture off on a sheet, and looked up calmly at Sirius. He didn't know why he was calm now, but he was. He'd said so much more in the past hour than he'd ever even admitted to himself, and somehow, he didn't really care what Sirius's response would be. Well, that was not entirely true, but he didn't think it would be negative. Somehow, he just knew that Sirius would still accept him. He wouldn't disown Harry for what he'd just said. Harry wondered from where that piece of security came. A few weeks ago, he would have been scared to death of the reaction. Although, a few weeks ago, he never would have admitted so much of himself. So, he waited patiently for Sirius to get himself put back together.

The first thing Sirius did was hug him fiercely. It was tight to the point of painful, but it felt so good. Harry hugged back just as strongly, and they sat like that for Merlin only knows how long.

"I love you," came Sirius's muffled voice from somewhere around Harry's shoulder. The man leaned up then and looked at his godson with unguarded love and regret in his eyes. "I can never apologize for not being there all those times. You already know I'm sorry and wish I could have been there. All I can offer is to be with you now. I've bought a house in Hogsmeade. It's not much, but it's better than this dark place. I've already talked to Albus, and he agreed to let you visit on Hogsmeade weekends. Plus, I can visit Hogwarts whenever I want."

Harry smiled a large, true smile that Sirius probably hadn't seen since he'd invited him to live with him in third year. "Really? He'll let you come to the castle whenever?" Sirius nodded with a smile. "Even if I want to see you everyday and bug you to keep visiting?" Sirius's grin grew as he nodded. Harry didn't stop smiling, but he asked, "But, isn't that kind of a blatant show of favoritism by Dumbledore?"

Sirius shook his head. "No, actually. Any parent or guardian can visit their child as long as they give advance notice to the Headmaster or Deputy. It just happens that most parents are too busy to make the trip, and most students are too busy to take time out to visit. The only restrictions are the week before and during exam times, so I probably won't see you then unless you really want me to. You do need to think of your studies, after all," said Sirius with an air of all-knowing-parent.

"This from the man that didn't study for his O.W.L.s," quipped Harry.

"Hey, I did alright. Besides, someone had to make up the fun Moony was missing out on. Always with his nose in a book, that one," Sirius said sadly shaking his head.

"Is someone in here talking about my nose without permission?" asked Remus from the door. Harry grinned as Sirius firmly shook his head 'no.'

"That's what I thought," said Remus with a scolding look. Sirius hung his head in shame and held out his hands. Remus slapped his wrist lightly and grinned. Harry just laughed at the overgrown children.

"Hi, Moony," greeted Harry after the laughter died down. "What are you up to?"

"I was just checking in. Padfoot said you might want to talk?" he said, leaving an opening.

"Oh, yeah, I guess. I just wanted to ask you some questions actually. You might not want to answer them though, and that's ok. I don't want to make you… uncomfortable."

Remus sat and looked at him carefully. Finally, he gave Harry a small smile and nodded slightly. "You want to know my reasons." It wasn't a question, but Harry nodded anyway, knowing exactly to what Remus was referring. "Ok." He poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher on the table and took a long drink. Harry knew this was difficult for him, even after so many years, so he just waited patiently.

"I was six years old. My parents and I were out on a picnic on the edge of the village where we lived. There was a very nice grassy area before the forest where the children always played during the day. Actually, it was basically our backyard. I was watching this tiny rabbit on the edge of the woods as my parents chatted. I had even named it Rupert. Anyway, just as it was getting to be afternoon, my parents called me in and the picnic was over. I didn't want to stop watching Rupert, but I knew I could see him the next day. As a six year old, I didn't really grasp the idea that he wouldn't stay in the same spot.

"Later that night, my father let Mr. Swift out; he was our owl. Don't ask about the name, my parents were weird," he said with a somewhat forced grin.

"I asked my father what owls hunted. He told me mice, rats, and maybe even smaller rabbits, along with other small mammals. I was scared for Rupert. He was a very small rabbit, so I ran out of the house, after my father left the room, and into the picnic area. My mother must have seen me, because she caught up to me when I was at the woods edge.

"I was looking all over the spot for Rupert. I didn't even hear a growl or bushes rustling. I just remember being barreled over from the side and my mother's scream. I remember pain too, but that wasn't as bad as my mother screaming at the wolf to get off me. She threw rocks and beat it with a stick.

"Finally, the wolf turned on her and went straight for her neck. I sat, watching in horror as this wolf ripped out half my mother's throat in one swift swipe. I tried getting its attention back on me, throwing rocks and sticks like my mum, but it didn't turn. It had bigger prey; there was no reason to mess with me anymore. I was no threat to it." Remus took a deep breath as he recalled his history.

"I heard a loud bang, and the wolf ran off into the woods. My father was raised muggle, so he always had some muggle things around the house, like a rifle. He didn't hit the wolf, but successfully scared it off. I tried to crawl over to my mother, but I had lost a lot of blood already and must have passed out.

"I remember waking up… my father was there waiting. He pulled me off the bed in the small clinic and took me to a room to see my mother's body. He told me she was dead. I already knew but was still hoping.

"My father and I never really got along after that. We were close before it happened, but a part of him died with her. He always took care of me, made sure I had clothes and food and school supplies, but he rarely talked to me. He didn't want to have to be near me if he didn't have to. He blamed me for her death, as did I. If I hadn't run out of the house that night, it wouldn't have happened. I was a foolish child, completely oblivious to the dangers of the world." He stopped and took another drink of water.

"When I was eight, I didn't think I could take anymore of it. The pain of the transformations was almost nothing compared to my father's coldness towards me. By the time I was nine, I had seriously contemplated suicide. Nine years old… I was still young and foolish. I guess in a way, I'm lucky I found release through hurting myself. I don't know if I would have made it otherwise, but it is not something I'm proud of. I wished, later, that I had never done it, but I did. There's no way to change that, now.

"Anyway, by the time I got to Hogwarts, I had already been doing it for some time. It took Sirius and James longer to figure out that secret than my being a werewolf. In a way, that made it easier to hide. I could always say the cuts came from my transformation. Eventually, they helped me through it along with Lily."

He stopped talking and watched Harry. Harry just sat for a few minutes, taking in the story. He realized, again, that Remus probably did understand him. At least more than most people. It sounded like Remus had been injuring himself for the better part of a decade before he stopped. Harry had only been for roughly a month. He found reassurance that Remus actually did move on from his old problems. Even if Harry didn't necessarily want to stop now, he knew he should for his godfather's sake. He knew that wasn't enough of a reason. He had to want to for himself, but it was a start.

"After you, er, got through it, did you ever do it again?" Harry asked curiously.

Remus looked down for the first time since starting his story. "Yes, actually. There was a period after your parents died and Sirius… well, things were not going well. I lost everyone important to me in one night. I tried going to my father, which was a mistake. He only made things worse and brought back the old feelings again. I left and just wandered the country for a time. I didn't even think of the fact that I was still in the Order and they might have needed me. I simply left and didn't tell communicate with anyone for almost six months. They tracked me down eventually, I never found out how, and I went to stay with Poppy Pomfrey. I never told her about my injuries, and she didn't ask. She just put me to work cleaning up the infirmary and restocking her healing potions. She taught me a few more advanced healing spells, which I've all but forgotten by now. I managed to grieve properly, and after a while I left. I kept traveling, but stayed in contact with Poppy and Dumbledore until I was hired in your third year."

Harry thought, again, after hearing this information. He assumed Sirius already knew all of this, because he wasn't saying anything.

"Why didn't you ever –" Harry clapped his hand over his mouth to stop the question he started. It wasn't his place to ask. Remus had been through enough, and told Harry enough tonight hat he should just thank him for sharing.

"You're wondering why I didn't come and get you, or at least see you," said Remus. Harry nodded shakily. He didn't want to hear that he just wasn't wanted by his parents best friend. Harry was trying to think of a way to derail the conversation, quickly. He wasn't fast enough; Remus continued speaking.

"I tried right away, that first day. I got as far as the doors to the Department of Magical Homes and Families where I was met by four aurors. They held me for questioning all day. They were preparing to have a hearing with the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. This was at the time when people were being thrown into Azkaban without trials, like Sirius. I was fortunate enough not to have been executed on the spot if you think of it that way. Anyway, Albus came, and they released me. Although, I was legally and magically banned from coming near you. If I had approached within five kilometers of you, their orders were to 'shoot first, ask later' as the muggles put it. Obviously, that regulation is no longer in effect. They had to remove it before I could start teaching. So, I hope I've brightened your day," he said sarcastically.

Harry nodded. "Yeah, you've shone a light on another reason for me to dislike the Ministry. Urgh, maybe I should get into politics and try to reason with the incompetent fools."

Sirius spoke up with a small smile, "Never argue with an idiot. They bring you down to their level then beat you with experience."

"Very wise, Padfoot," commented Remus.

Sirius grinned. "Thank you. Best advice I ever got off a bathroom wall."

Harry just stared at him, not sure whether to laugh or knock him over the head. Remus solved his problem and did both. Then Harry laughed.

"So, are we all good here?" asked Sirius vaguely after a few minutes of silence.

Harry rolled his eyes and gave his guardian a small smile. "Yeah, we're good."

Remus laughed at Harry's attitude and agreed.

"Good. Let's go get a snack. These big talks take a lot of energy." Harry had to agree. He was happy at the thought that they wouldn't need too many more of these talks. He loved spending the time with Sirius and Remus, but he would much rather be doing something fun, or at least not depressing.

In the next week before returning to school, Harry spent his time split between his friends and his two godfathers (it was too hard to try and find a title for Remus, so he just referred to them both as godfathers in his head). They all took pleasure in the ocean-like room everyday. Fred and George joined them often. They managed to produce a 'Floating Fudge'. The eater's head would blow up to the size of a small raft and float. It worked out of the water as well, because it could easily refer to the Minister's overly-enlarged ego. Of course, they kept most of those comments to themselves. Harry wasn't too fussed about badmouthing the Minister. After all, the man had been doing it to him for well over a year now, and the public was finally seeing through his mask.

Harry was excited to return to Hogwarts. With his godfather free and nearby, he knew it would be a better year than the last. He found out that Remus was also staying in Hogsmeade with Sirius. They had been invited by Professors McGonagall and Flitwick to help with classes occasionally, so Harry knew he would be seeing them from time to time.

They stood on the platform in front of the Hogwarts Express saying goodbye to the various Order members. Harry hugged Mrs. Weasley and Tonks before making his way to his godfathers.

He hugged Remus and the man spoke in his ear, "Behave, we'll be close." He smiled and Harry gave him a very forced innocent look.

"I always behave," he declared. Remus laughed and pushed him into Sirius.

"I've been thinking of investing," said Sirius off-handedly.

"Really? In what?" asked Harry, curious as he didn't know what his godfather would be doing now. Financially, the man would never have to work, but he was not one to sit idle and watch life pass by. He'd had too much imprisonment to do that.

"It seems Weasley's Wizard Wheezes wants investors to open a second store located in Hogsmeade."

"You're joking!" exclaimed Harry with a grin.

"I never joke about pranks," said Sirius with his hand solemnly over his heart.

As the train sped away from the station, Harry could just make out a large black dog running and barking with a grin on it's face. Harry smiled to himself and joined the conversations around him, catching up with friends he hadn't seen over the summer and laughing with those he had. Yes, this was definitely going to be an interesting year.

The end.

A/N: That's all for A Birthday Wish. I wish there was another chapter, because I don't like even numbers, but this is the end. I'll have to find some other way to deal with my neurotic number behavior. : ) Thanks for reading and reviewing. If you have any questions, just review or email me. I had some responses, but I've forgotten them all by now. That reminds me, sorry for the lateness of this last chapter. Finals are evil. Happy Harry reading to you all!