"I can't believe you're still taking his side!"
"It is not about taking sides. Just be reasonable for once in your life!"
"So, you're saying that I'm not reasonable?"
"Absolutely not. Sirius, you are my friend, but you can also be the most preposterous person I have ever known," Remus had stated.
"I'm preposterous?" Sirius had sputtered back at him. "I'm preposterous?! You're the one who keeps trying to make me believe that Harry is Snape's son!"
"Because he is, Sirius."
"No. No – Harry is James' son!" Sirius insisted.
"Yes. And biologically, he is also Severus'!" snapped his friend.
He'd shaken his head stubbornly. "Then, how do you explain his appearance, then?" he'd challenged. "His glasses? He inherited his poor eyesight from James! He looks just like-"
"Lily. Harry looks like his mother. Furthermore, he could have inherited his bad vision from anyone in his family. Take away his glasses and his seeming resemblance to James vanishes."
"Sirius," Remus had cut in. "Do you want to be part of your godson's life?"
"Of course, I do!" Sirius exclaimed.
"Then accept that James is not his only father. Accept that our friend chose to be a father to a child that was not biologically his own. And for the love of Merlin, Sirius, when you do officially meet him, actually look at him. Stop seeing James," the werewolf had implored. "If you want a place in his life, you have got to see him as Harry."
Remus' words were on instant replay in his head, just then. If he were honest, Sirius would have admitted that he had thought about what his friend had said to him a lot over the last few days. He wasn't quite ready to admit to that, just yet.
It was so easy, so very easy to stand there and see bits of James in the boy. He wanted to see James in the boy – to see some piece of his dead friend in the child he had died to protect. But, again with the blasted honesty, he would have to confess that those traits that he was certain had been James' could just as easily have come from Lily, or even… well.
Still, what did that change? Wasn't this boy still Harry? Wasn't he still the same small child that James had placed in his arms and said, "Sirius, meet Harry; your godson."
The answer, of course, was yes. Yes, this was still Harry, the boy that his best friend had adored, of whom he himself had become instantly fond; Harry, who at that very moment was calling him godfather, of all absurdly formal and pureblooded things to do.
Sirius laughed, the sound seeming to rise from his belly. "You sound so formal!" he explained at the boy's baffled expression. "That won't do, at all. It's Sirius – or Snuffles, if you prefer." He gave him a conspiratorial wink.
He could tell that Remus was giving him an approving look, which was wholly unnecessary. He was still right, after all. Harry was James' boy, just maybe not in the way he'd always believed. But he would come to terms with that, if only to be able to evoke that amused little grin out of the kid again. Remus certainly did not need to act like he had finally matured or something. For one thing, that just sounded dull.
"I still can't believe you and Snuffles were the same," Harry said. "I had no idea!"
"Well, that was kinda the point, you know," Sirius replied dryly.
"I know, but I still thought you were really a dog."
"I have always had a sweet disposition as a dog. James used to suggest that I make the change permanent."
Harry grinned at this, his initial nervousness now completely gone. He stepped closer to the man, eager to talk with him. "Professor Lupin – erm, Remus said you were really good friends with my parents!"
"Of course I was!" exclaimed Sirius. "How else do you think I became your godfather? Let me tell you, this one time…."
Harry paused to turn and wave before disappearing into the Great Hall and Remus watched with a small smile as Sirius waved back until after the boy was already gone.
"I'm proud of you," he told his friend.
"What for?" Sirius asked with a raised brow.
"You made it through that entire visit without making a single negative comment about Severus," the werewolf pointed out.
Sirius grimaced. He didn't really care for the fact that Remus felt that was something he needed to be commended for. It made him feel like a child. He liked even less that his friend spoke the man's name so easily.
He sighed. "Harry's fond of the man. I learned that much while I was a dog. And after the way he hinted his relatives treated him…" Sirius turned to look his old friend in the eyes imploringly. "He treats him right, doesn't he? That greas – S-Snape treats Harry the way he should. It's not just Harry seeing the best in him, right? If he's been mistreated his entire life, he might not be the best judge of whether-"
"Sirius," Remus broke in gently. "Severus is learning to be a better father to Harry all the time. He cares for the boy. He loves him. And he worried whether he's doing enough for him. He's not the Severus Snape we knew from school, anymore – he's not even the Severus Snape I knew at the start of this school year. He's doing right by Harry, and he's becoming better at that every day."
Sirius closed his eyes, allowing himself a small half-relieved sigh. "The moment he isn't…"
"You won't be the first to give him a piece of your mind," Remus declared, a note of steel in his usually gentle tone. The animagus opened his eyes again to take in his friend's resolute expression. Where had his mind been? Of course, Remus would look out for Harry, the same as he would. He was their friends' child.
Catching a glimpse of someone coming up the staircase at the far side of the Entrance Hall, Sirius leaned to one side to look around his friend. He deliberated his next action for all of half a minute before executing it.
"Draco!" he called out. The boy in question looked up at the sound of his name and immediately froze upon identifying the person calling him. Sirius beckoned the teen over to him and after a brief hesitation Draco said something to the two boys accompanying him and started over. Greg and Vince shared a look between them before promptly ignoring what was undoubtedly a directive to go on without the other boy.
"Sirius," Remus began, watching the three students make their way towards them.
"Merlin's saggy balls, Remus!" Sirius exclaimed. "I'm not going to do anything to them! Just shoo, will ya? I already let you chaperone my visit with Harry because Sniv-Snape probably asked you to. Can't I talk to anyone without your supervision? Don't you have some sort of staff responsibilities or something? It's dinner – go sit at the Head Table and look professory."
Remus gave the man a reproving look, batting away his hands as he tried to shepherd him towards the Great Hall. Some things really never changed. "Fine," he relented, casting a brief glance at the Slytherins. "I'm going. Just… behave yourself."
Draco felt his heart sink a bit when Professor Lupin walked away from Sirius Black. The teen hadn't even seen the man since he was discovered to be an animagus. He had told him so many things when he believed he was a dog. In fact, knowing that "Nimbus" had actually been Sirius Black had given him a whole new perspective on the day the dog had seemed to randomly attack him. The blond wiped his palms surreptitiously on his robes just as he reached the man.
"Hello, sir," he greeted politely, tone cautious. Merlin, the man was tall – a lot taller than he was. Someone came up beside him and Draco looked over to see that Vince and Greg had followed him instead of going into the Great Hall. He was bit relieved that the other two didn't really listen to him anymore. (At least, he was for the moment.)
Sirius gazed down at the boy. Draco did in truth bear a striking resemblance to his father: he had the same white-blond hair, the same sharp features and pale gray eyes. The man had despised Lucius Malfoy when they were in school. But this wasn't Lucius; this was Draco, and Sirius was quite certain that the bulk of the boy's personality had actually been passed down from his mother, Narcissa.
Had he never been a dog, he might not have ever taken the chance to know this.
"Hello, again," Sirius returned, giving them all a smile. They had all been kind to him in his animagus form, after all, and he'd always felt that the way someone treated animals said something about them. "You three look a bit different from this perspective. Did you all shrink a bit?"
The Crabbe boy made a face at him. "You're calling us short?" he drawled skeptically, his expression suggesting that he thought the attempted joke was lame. Goyle was smiling a bit, though, and Draco seemed to have relaxed.
"I just call it like I see it," the man stated airily.
"You do realize that you're old," Draco said after a slight hesitation, "and we're not done growing."
Sirius clasped a hand over his heart as though it suddenly pained him. "Old? That's harsh," he declared. The teens gave tentative smiles, although they were obviously still a bit discomfited. Sirius himself wasn't entirely certain how to interact with the kids now that he was on two feet.
"I wanted to make sure I thanked you," the man finally said. "All three of you. For feeding me when you thought I was just a mangy stray. That was kind of you. So, thanks."
"Not sure I would've if I'd known you were some bloke looking for handouts," Vince muttered.
"Vince!" Greg hissed at him, but Sirius laughed, amused by the boy's bluntness. Pleased with this response, Vince gave his friend a smug look.
"All the same, I'm glad I had you to help take care of me."
"Are you a bit better, now?" Greg asked, elaborating at the man's confused expression, "As a dog, you seemed a bit sickly. You were too thin and your coat was dull. That was a few weeks ago, now, and you look like you might be a bit better than you were then."
Sirius eyed the Goyle boy appraisingly. It seemed that he knew his way around animals, and not just simply being able to interact with them. The truth of the matter was that he had been undernourished during his time as a dog; he was still working on recovering from that, really.
"I am, actually, thank you," he confirmed. "A few more weeks and I should be right as rain."
"Are you here to visit Harry?" Draco asked. His companions shot one another puzzled looks, apparently surprised by his use of the Gryffindor's given name.
"I just finished visiting with him a little bit ago," Sirius said.
"You're not staying to eat with him?" questioned Vince. "When other students get visitors, they usually stay." Greg nodded in agreement.
The man rubbed at his chin. "Well… not tonight. Your, ah, Head of House and I don't really get along," he responded dryly. They seemed to take in this information solemnly. "You three go ahead, though." Sirius continued. "I don't want to keep you from your meal; I just wanted to thank you."
Greg and Vince didn't hesitate to bid the man goodbye, less reluctant to leave their housemate now that they were certain it was safe to do so. Draco hung back, looking as though he wanted to say something before thinking better of it and starting after the other two.
"Draco," Sirius called the boy again.
"Yes?" the young blond turned back to the man.
"About the things you told me when you thought I was a dog – I'm not going to repeat them. You spoke to me in confidence and I'm going to keep that," he told him.
Draco heaved a sigh of relief, offering the man a smile. "Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome. And Draco" – Sirius paused as he considered how to articulate what he wanted to say – "I don't think you need to worry about being that sort of person. Not if you keep being honest with yourself. The, uh, the difference between a good and a bad person is that a good person doesn't try to make excuses when they know they've done wrong."
The boy gazed up at the man for a long moment, studying his expression. He knew what the man was referring to, of course. It had been the second time that he had spoken to the unfamiliar stray that he'd confessed what he had done to Harry. 'I don't want to be that sort of person,' he had said. 'I don't!' And he had meant it. He still meant it.
"Which sort are you, sir?" Draco asked softly, curious what had driven the man to say that to him.
"The sort that needs to do better," Sirius answered candidly, not only to the boy, but himself, "and stop making excuses."
The blond internalized this and gave a short nod. "Will I see you again?" he queried.
Sirius gave a crooked grin. "You must not know that we're cousins," he replied. Well, second cousins, but it was close enough.
"I know," said Draco. "Mother told me once."
"I'll see you around, sometime, Draco. You be good."
The boy smiled briefly. "Yes, sir," he responded. "Thanks, Nimbus." Turning about, the boy followed after his housemates into the Great Hall.
As the door shut behind him, Sirius reflected that he should, perhaps, become reacquainted with the sane among the Black sisters. He and Andromeda had gotten along famously, and even Narcissa – he knew – had had a soft spot for him, despite thinking he was far from the most dignified among her relatives. There was the added benefit that Lucius despised him, but could hardly prohibit his wife from visiting with her relative.
Yes, Sirius thought, pondering how young Draco reminded him a bit of his mother when they were young. It would be a good time to reconnect with his cousins.