"Sirius! My boy, I'm afraid I must ask something of you. It's very important."
"I'm ready. What do you need me to do? Is it this thing that you sent Mad-eye and my little cousin off on last week?"
A pause. "No." A long silence.
Sirius narrowed his eyes. It looked like Dumbledore was trying to find a way to phrase something special. Which could only mean one thing. He wouldn't like it.
"There was an unfortunate accident today."
"Uh-huh. And?" He waited. Sighed and shifted slightly onto the other knee. Honestly - getting information out of Dumbledore could be like trying to get water from a stone. Suddenly he was gripped with panic. "It's not Harry is it Albus? Can I come through? Where is he - the hospital wing?"
This, at least had the effect of loosening the older man's tongue. "No! No Sirius, do not concern yourself - I am sorry to have caused you worry in that regard. No, Harry is fine - winning a quidditch trial match as we speak I believe." Sirius exhaled, and leaned back from the fire once more, waiting for his heart to stop trying to beat its way out of his chest. Really - sometimes he felt the marauders should re-surface at the Order Headquarters one evening when Dumbledore was holding a meeting. Of course, his mature - he smirked - reasoning now would not allow such a trifling disruption of such serious matters. Though, he reflected - watching as, *once again* Dumbledore seemed to hesitate - there was nothing against teaching those delicate minds of the next generation how to better themselves...
"So, what is it Dumbledore? You obviously think I won't like it."
"Ah, well, my dear boy - it is not a difficult task. Something very important. But not unpleasant. I know you thoroughly enjoyed the experience last time."
Now Sirius was getting slightly edgy again - what experience had he thoroughly enjoyed last time the war was raging? He racked his brain. Unfortunately the only things he could remember generally involved James. Or Remus. And they probably weren't what Dumbledore would call important to the order. Or the war. Though the exploding glitter superglue balls had been useful when they'd been in that alley with Lucius and Bella that one time.
"-and I want you to look after him." Dumbledore finished. And waited, peering expectantly at Sirius through the flames. He looked slightly apprehensive.
Taking care of a guest? Sirius didn't see the problem. There were more than enough rooms. And Molly came round to cook every time there was an order meeting anyway. He was sure any guest Dumbledore thought necessary for the Order could take care of themselves in the meantime if they were boring and, if not, well, it would certainly be fun to have someone else around to talk to besides Buckbeak - who was growing quite fat and crabby, and Mrs. Black - whom he avoided like the plague. Oh, and Kreacher.
"Sure, no problem. Just send him through." Sirius shrugged nonchalantly, "I'll go look out a room for him." He certainly wasn't going to bother explaining to Dumbledore that he'd just drifted off and had missed most of what he'd said. And if Dumbledore thought he had a problem with people sharing Grimmauld Place, then, at least he could hope to be able to stave off future inhabitants being forced upon him if he hated their guts. Or their hair. He reflected. He felt a slight twinge of unease as he saw the immense surprise and relief on the elder man's face. But then Dumbledore had thanked him profusely, turned to speak to someone else in the room and then said that he would bring him round in half an hour before vanishing back into his office.
Sirius shrugged off the feeling and rose, his joints clicking back into place after being subject to the cold of the stone floor and went upstairs to make sure a room was ready.
He was almost finished when he heard the sounds of someone arriving in the kitchen below. He unhurriedly finished making the bed before turning to go downstairs to greet Dumbledore and his new guest. The sounds emanating from behind the closed door however sounded more like fussing and less like Dumbledore than he wanted to hear. Wondering just what state his guest was in he opened the door to be greeted by the sight of - not Dumbledore - but Madame Pomphrey! She was taking items out of a bag and enlarging them before putting them on the table. Piles of clothes, towels, more towels, thin towels, soap, several potion bottles. He stood amazed.
"Poppy! What's wrong with this man? Wouldn't he be better off in St. Mungo's or with you if he's injured?"
"Man? Didn't Dumbledore tell you?" At this Madame Pomphrey threw up her hands and harrumphed loudly. "Really! That man! He told me you were happy with the arrangement. I told him I wouldn't let you take him if you weren't. Honestly - what nonsense! This really is no place for a baby. I told him that, but he assured me you would be fine. He really ought to realise that looking after Harry with Lily to help just doesn't compare to this."
"Doesn't compare to what Poppy?" Sirius asked nervously, stepping towards the matron holding his hands out beseechingly. "My guest's a baby?"
"Don't look at me like that Poppy. I drifted off while Dumbledore was talking to me. I'll be happy to take care of it, just let me know what I'm dealing with here. And Dumbledore's right - I'm fine with babies - Harry was no problem."
The matron sighed, her hands on her hips. "Fine. Sirius, he's currently asleep - a potion," she stalled him by holding up a hand, "and I don't want him woken up unnecessarily! Understood? So no shouting."
"I wouldn't shout." Sirius protested. "Ok, ok." He conceded hastily at the look which passed across her face. He gestured for her to continue.
"Earlier today there was an accident with a mixed polyjuice potion one of the seventh years had made and a charm her friend was trying out. Somehow the two silly girls managed to spill the entire contents of the flask over themselves."
"So it's a girl? Where's the other one?"
"No Sirius." she snapped, "It's not a girl. They were sent to their parents' homes for a few days until they recover. But Severus was right next to them when it happened," the colour drained from Sirius' face, "we think he must have been attempting to stop them. Anyway, he's been deaged too." Sirius' face was now flushing red. "Dumbledore wants you to look after him here for the next few days until the polyjuice wears off. It's not safe to keep him at school - Malfoy's already tried to kidnap him from the infirmary once, and none of us have the time to spare which a baby infant requires." She watched shrewdly as the man she'd once known as a boy, tried to regain control of his temper. If he did, she would leave Severus with him she decided. If not, well, Dumbledore would just have to come up with another plan.
Sirius swallowed. Clenched and unclenched his fists then turned abruptly and left. A loud crash sounded from the corridor. Madame Pomphrey smiled slightly, deciding that it would be unfair to point out that if he'd only paid attention he wouldn't be stuck like this. She also quickly made her own escape.
A few moments later the door to the silent kitchen swung inwards with only a slight moan. It looked as it had before, minus one matron. Piles of baby clothes, Sirius could see that now, and other paraphernalia littered the table, the chairs and even the floor where a small cot was standing. And inside it... He crossed slowly over, almost tiptoeing and peered carefully over the top. A tiny baby was lying on its back, its hands curled into fists, the arms stretched above its head. It slept peacefully, a small amount of silky black hair adorning its head.
Sirius looked doubtfully around at the rest of the kitchen. Impulsively he drew his wand and vanished everything baby-related upstairs to the room he'd prepared. The only thing left was the cot. With Snape. He growled and stalked over to the counters where he angrily began making dinner. Blast Dumbledore!