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A Troublesome Afternoon

Two days later:

As predicted, Jamie and Teddy also came down with the ear-throat infection. Teddy seemed to have it worse than the other two, requiring stronger potions and more rest. By then Remus was helping Dora brew and administer the potions to the youngsters. Jamie was the most difficult, he hated being sick and made to stay in bed, and he hated drinking potions. Remus contacted Harry, knowing that he had the same problem with Alby, and Harry shared Severus' secret with him. Remus was so happy that he got Jamie to take potions without a fight that he sent over two bars of Honeydukes Best Chocolate.

But by the second day of Jamie's illness, he was fussing something awful about staying in bed the whole day. Teddy was too sick to mind, and also too sick to really keep an eye on his two younger brothers. Sirius was nearly well, and he too resented the fact that Dora and Moony refused to let them go and do anything except come down for breakfast. They were not allowed outside yet, the weather had suddenly turned nippy, and Dora refused to let them stay in the yard when they were still getting rid of their infections. So they were stuck indoors, and Sirius and Jamie hated that.

They tried to keep themselves amused, but after endless games of Exploding Snap, Gobstones, chess, and checkers, both boys were ready to climb the walls. Sirius tried to teach Jamie poker, but the game didn't hold his interest, and Jamie sulked and pouted because what he really wanted was to go and do something outside.

"I don't see why we can't go out for a bit," he grumped to Sirius for the hundredth time. "It's not like it's snowing or anything. And I feel fine." He stuck out his lower lip. He had a small fever, but to Jamie that wasn't anything to keep him from playing.

"I know. I know," Sirius growled. "Me too. But you know what Dora and Moony would say if we asked."

"So why don't we stop asking?" Jamie declared.

Sirius eyed his younger brother thoughtfully. "What are you thinking of, Jamie?" It was at times like this that he recalled Jamie Lupin had the soul of James Potter within him. And James was and always had been a rebellious mischievous child. Much like Sirius himself.

"I'm saying we oughta bypass Mum and Dad and just go out for a few minutes. I can't stand it anymore, Siri. I feel like I'm trapped in a cage with nothing to do. I'm so bored I could just up and croak."

Sirius grinned. "Okay, so what can we do about it?"

"We could sneak out through the attic up on the roof." Jamie whispered behind his hand. "They'd never find us there. The only time Dad ever goes on the roof is to fix it."

Sirius' eyes gleamed. "Sounds good to me." He looked over at Teddy, who was sleeping. "Think we should wake up Teddy?"

"No. He's too sick to do anything but sleep and drink potions," Jamie scowled. "'Sides, he'd only tell me to quit being stupid and just wait till Mum and Dad say we can go outside. Well, I don't need him to tell me what to do! You in, Siri?"

"Sure I am. But first, let's make pillow people so they think we're all asleep."

Jamie and Sirius grabbed extra blankets and pillows and stuffed them into their beds and pulled the covers up tight, making it look like they were sleeping in bed. Dora wa so tired from tending her sons that she had forgotten to reset the Monitoring Charm over the two youngest, as they were nearly better. The two boys crept up to the attic, and out the raised trapdoor to the roof.

The air was cool here, not stuffy and hot like it was back in their bedroom. The wind blew softly through the trees and over the flat shingles. Sirius went and sat down on the roof, looking out over all the other houses and sighed happily. "This is great! I can sit here all day!" He breathed deeply of the fresh air.

"Me too," Jamie said, and joined him. As they sat there, Jamie examined the way the roof was pitched, it sort of reminded him of a hill. Only this was a hill in the clouds. "Hey, what if we sledded down this?"

"You barmy, kid? We'd break our necks," objected Sirius.

"No we wouldn't. Not if you put a bunch of pillows and mattresses on the bottom where we landed."

Sirius thought about it. It could work . . . as long as they had plenty of mattresses. "Where are we gonna get some mattresses?"

Jamie muttered, "There's a storage room here, and we can borrow the mattresses. Sometimes we go camping so we have plenty."

"Long as we keep it secret." They made their way down to the storage room, which was in the garage. There they found three plump mattresses.

But they were too heavy for either boy to move. Jamie groaned dramatically.

"Wait . . . lemme think," Sirius ordered. "I can still remember this spell . . ." he cast a wandless levitation charm.

The mattresses floated out of the room and just before the garage. The attic was beneath the garage. "There! Now all we need is the sled." Sirius said.

Jamie grinned, "Wow, Siri! You can do magic even better than Teddy." Hs eyes were full of hero worship.

Sirius basked in the adoration. In his past life, James had always been the leader and Sirius the follower. This time though Sirius rather liked being the older and smarter brother that Jamie looked up to. "Aww, it was nothin'. You go get the sled . . . and hurry, 'cause there's no telling when Dora or Remus will come in and check on us."

"The pillow people will fool 'em," Jamie said confidently. But he ran and got the sled.

It was then that Sirius realized there was another complication. "I sure wish we had an Invisibility Cloak," he sighed. "Then we could go up and down without worrying about being seen."

"You mean, like Uncle Harry does?"

"Yeah." Sirius thought for a moment more. "Hmm . . . maybe if I get some rope and tie it to the drain pipe, we can lower and raise the sled, so nobody will see it."

Jamie couldn't believe how smart his new brother was. "I never would have thought of that!"

"I'm older, I know more," Sirius told him, a bit arrogantly. He went back and found a long coil of rope in the storage room. Then he tied one end to the sled and shinnied up the drain pipe like a monkey. Once at the top, he tied the other end to the drain pipe. Then he climbed down and the two raced up to the attic, being extra quiet. Once out on the roof, Sirius hauled up the sled, untied it, and whispered, "We'll have to take turns. You can start and I'll give you a push, okay?"

Jamie nodded eagerly. He sat with his feet facing forward, and gripping tight to the rope in front. "I'm ready, Siri."

"Wait. Lay down, it might be easier for you to hold on." Sirius suggested.

"Okay!" Jamie sighed angrily and did as he was told.

Before he pushed off, Sirius made sure the mattresses were stacked one on top the other. "Here you go, Jamie!" He dragged the sled and boy back to the top of the peak and then shoved hard.

The sled skidded down the roof and shot off the edge. It hovered for a moment and then fell. It landed on the mattresses and bounced once.

Sirius glanced over the roof. "Jamie? You all right?"

His little brother popped his head up and called, "Never better! It's loads of fun, Siri! You gotta try it!"

"Hurry up and tie up the sled!" Sirius whispered.

He began hauling it up as Jamie crept back up into the attic. Once he'd untied the rope, and positioned himself on the sled, Jamie grabbed the back and gave it as hard a shove as he could. The sled flew over the peak, down the edge and then dropped onto the mattresses.

Sirius had to clamp his teeth to keep from shouting from sheer excitement. The drop wasn't that high, only about fifteen feet, less with the mattresses to break their fall.

The two boys were delighted with this new game. On the second run, Sirius found a ladder in the garage and put it up against the side, so they could climb up and down it instead of going through the attic. They sledded down the roof three, four, five, six times apiece. They were having so much fun they didn't think to keep a look out, figuring Dora and Remus would never come into the room to check on them if they looked like they were sleeping.

But they hadn't reckoned with Dora deciding to give them all potions at the same time. After dosing Teddy she went over to Sirius' bed and found it empty except for the pillows. "Oh, great galloping Merlin! Sirius, you little brat!"

When she checked Jamie's bed and found it empty as well, she swore and her hair turned a vibrant red in her angry distress. "Just wait till I get hold of you children!" she growled. "I'm going to Stick you to the bed, with a sore bum."

Remus came up upon hearing her scolding. "What's wrong, Dora? They giving you a hard time?"

"Yes, because they aren't here, Remus!" she gestured to the pillow-stuffed beds.

"They're probably outside," the werewolf said reasonably.

"No doubt," Dora snorted. She went to peer out the window to see if she could spot them, just as Sirius and Jamie shot off the roof, together on the sled. "Oh my God!" she screamed. "Remus! They're . . . sledding off the garage roof!"

"Say what?" Remus sputtered, also going to the window. He peered down and saw the sled atop a pile of . . . mattresses. "Why those little devils!"

"Remus, go and bring them here!" Dora shouted. "They could have broken their necks! What were they thinking?"

"About having fun, if I know Sirius," Remus chuckled softly.

"Remus John Lupin, this is not funny!" she snapped.

"I know it's not . . . it's just . . . well it reminds me of all the times James and Sirius did crazy things at school." Remus shook his head. He reminded himself that these weren't his best friends, but his son and ward and they were six and seven, not sixteen. "Stay here. I'll go and grab them." He marched out of the bedroom and down the stairs.

By the time he got down there, Sirius and Jamie had managed to sled down the roof a seventh time. The two imps were giggling delightedly as they landed on the mattresses.

"That was the best one yet!" Sirius cheered.

"Let's do it again!" Jamie said, until he caught sight of his father standing there, glaring at them. "Uh oh," he gasped. "Umm . . . hi, Dad! Sirius and I were . . . uh . . . playing a new game!"

"Yeah, Moony!" Sirius chimed in, trying to act nonchalant.

"A game? A game!" Remus thundered. "Sledding off the roof is insane! Are you both crazy? You could have broken your legs! Or your necks!" His eyes turned a feral yellow. "Both of you, get off that sled and upstairs immediately."

Jamie started sniveling, knowing they were both in big trouble. He obeyed as quickly as he could.

Sirius lingered, stopping to argue. "Moony, nobody got hurt. We were bored and wanted to have a little fun, that's all."

"No excuses, Sirius Orion Black. Get inside now!"

Sirius flinched and scurried inside.

Remus looked about at the mattresses, the sled, the rope and ladder. He put his face in his hands. "Dear sweet Merlin's arse! Why me? Why me?"


The Forbidden Forest

That same afternoon:

As he had promised, Harry took Alby and Severus to Hogwarts and into the Forbidden Forest to seek out a snake to speak to. Harry had brought along a sketch pad and some colored pencils to draw and document any snakes or new species they happened to come across. So it was both a fun nature walk and a kind of learning experience at the same time. The boys were wearing casual clothing, jeans, hiking boots, and long sleeved shirts. Severus had on a blue one and Alby a green one. Harry was dressed similarly, only his shirt was striped white and gold. He was also wearing his Invisibility Cloak, just in case they encountered a dangerous creature and he needed to hide his charges.

Harry preferred to not have to kill any creature, because most of them were merely defending their territory from what they perceived as a human threat. Especially not in front of his impressionable animal-loving son. So he decided that hiding was the best option, if necessary. So far they were following a game trail Hagrid had suggested, but hadn't seen any reptiles yet. They had seen several species of birds, a toad sunning itself, and a black squirrel. Severus had tried to draw the squirrel and Alby the toad.

Severus had also shown his small brother some common plants used in potions. Harry had forgotten that his former professor would still remember all the flora he'd studied as a Potions Master. Harry knew that Severus would ace his classes when he was old enough to attend school again. He wondered if the Hat would still Sort Severus into Slytherin. Or would it put him somewhere else this time around?

"Daddy! Lookit! I caught a ladybug!" Alby shrilled, cupping the small insect in his hand.

Harry peered at it. "That's a nice one, Alby. But be careful. She's very delicate. You should let her go now."

Alby looked sad. "Can't I keep her, Dad?"

"No, she needs to be free to take care of her children, son. She'll die if you try and keep her from her family."

"Oh. Would Mummy die if someone kept me and Sevvy from her?" asked the green-eyed child anxiously.

"Well . . . not die, but she'd be very upset," Harry said. They continued walking up the path.

Suddenly, Severus halted. "Shh! Look there!" He pointed.

There on a rock, sunning itself in the afternoon heat, was a big black adder.

Alby put a hand over his mouth and whispered, "Say something, Daddy!"

Harry approached cautiously. The common adder wasn't as venomous as its American cousins or as aggressive. Still, it was always good to be cautious, he did not want to frighten or rile the snake.

"Greetings, friend adder," Harry said in Parseltongue, the snake langage rolling easily off his tongue despite the fact that he hadn't used it in years. It seemed one never did forget.

The snake reared up half its length and coiled. Its yellow eyes with the slit pupil looked right at the tall human and hissed, "Sss . . . what brings you here, Ssspeaker?"

"I just wished to have a friendly chat with you, and show my offspring how I can converse with you, if you'd be so kind." Harry replied, lowering himself to squat on the ground and so seem less threatening to the snake. "Of what clan are you?"

Severus and Alby stood a few paces behind Harry, staring in awe at the way Harry was hissing back at the snake.

"I am of the Clan Perssidae, my mother called me Black Ssstreak," answered the adder. He yawned, displaying his fangs and pinkish throat.

"That's a fine name, and you are a credit to her," Harry said politely. "My name is Harry Potter."

He then turned and translated what the snake and he had said for his boys.

Black Streak hissed in pleasure. "Ahh! The Great Sspeaker! Well met!"

Harry blushed. He still didn't know why most snakes called him that, it was something they refused to explain. But it was an honorific, so maybe they were grateful for him saving the forest from Voldemort. "And these are my son, Albus, and my ward, Severus."

"You have fine ssnakelingss," Black Streak said.

"Thank you," Harry said. He turned to the boys. "Is there anything you'd like to ask Black Streak?"

Immediately Alby had a dozen questions. "Ask him what his favorite food is, Dad. And does he have a girl snake to keep him company? Ask him if he's seen any bigger snakes around and what they were?"

"How old is he?" Severus wanted to know. "Does he hibernate during the winter? And are there any other animals that are natural enemies besides hawks and cats?"

"Slow down!" Harry held up a hand. "Give me a chance to catch my breath. One at a time, please!"

They learned that the snake was about three years old, mature for a snake, and he did not have a mate yet. He loved to eat small voles and frogs. Yes, he did hibernate for most of the winter, especially in the deep cold, either in a bed of mud close by a pond or beneath a rock.

"There are ssome larger sserpentss here, one that iss gray as assh and another with three heads. But they do not come close to the edge often. Only a few birds and sometimes a wildcat sstalk me, most leave me be. My greatest enemy are you wizard kind, who try and catch me and kill me for my sskin or fangs."

"That's awful!" Alby said, he was tenderhearted to a fault. "I'd never hurt you, Black Streak. My dad would spank me good if I killed a snake."

Severus, who knew of course that snake skin and fangs were used in potions, said nothing. He knew that Harry would never condone killing an animal unless it had attacked someone or was needed for something.

Harry patted Alby on the shoulder. Then he turned back to the adder and asked if the snake would mind if they drew a picture of him. "I'm trying to keep a kind of naturalist notebook, and record all the animals I see on these walks with my boys." As he got out the sketchpad and pencils, beginning to sketch the area around the snake as well as the snake itself, Alby's attention wandered.

The youngest Potter did have an excellent attention span for his age, but watching a snake pose while his dad sketched it wasn't high on the list of things to do. He liked the adder, but wished he could see a magical snake too. Severus was watching Harry draw and Alby decided to see if there were any magical snakes just down the trail.

So he walked down it and thought he spied a glimpse of an ashwinder. Excitedly, he began to run.

Severus lifted his head just in time to see Alby disappear down the trail . Frowning, he hurried after his brother, wondering what had caught his eye so much that he had to wander off. Severus was afraid that Alby would get turned around and so ran hard to catch up. He forgot to tell Harry where he was going, so anxious was he to catch Alby.

When Harry looked up from his sketch, he found both boys were no longer there. Tucking the sketch back into the pad, he stood and called loudly, "Sev! Alby! Where are you?"

There was no answer. He called again. By now he was starting to get frantic. He couldn't believe the boys had vanished without a trace!

"Did you happen to see where the children went?" he asked the adder.

The snake hissed a negative. It had been basking and not paying attention.

He began walking down the trail, calling every few minutes. How far could they have gotten? They couldn't have walked too far ahead. He was starting to grow angry as well as worried. Both Alby and Severus knew not to wander off! Harry called and called to no avail. But there was one good thing. Ginny didn't know about this, or else she would kill him. He continued searching and calling, but the only thing he heard was the mournful whisper of the wind. The two youngsters seemed to have disappeared. Harry slipped his wand from its sheath. Surely a Four Points spell would do the trick.

A/N: For some reason this chapter practically wrote itself. Now what do you think will happen to both sets of boys? Are Sev and Alby in danger?

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