Disclaimer: Sirius and James belong to J.K. Rowling. I gave James’s parents names, but other than that, they belong to her too.
Originally Posted: February 2004 at the SBRL Group under the title 'A Second Son'
“I’m home,” Henry Potter called in the direction of the kitchen a moment after he apparated into the entrance hall of his home. He performed a drying spell on his soggy cloak before opening the closet door to put it away. He planned to go into the kitchen in search of his wife or his teenage son—and perhaps to steal a snack before dinner—but Mary was already hurrying into the hallway to meet him.
“I’m glad you’re home early,” she said as she pulled him by the hand into the library just off the front hall. “Sirius showed up about a half an hour ago and seems to be in even worse shape than last time.”
“Last time” had been when James’s friend Sirius had unexpectedly shown up two days after Christmas. He had claimed that he was “bored” at home and just wanted to visit with James. His fading black eye he explained away by saying, “I got in a fight with my little brother, and he got in a lucky punch.” However, James had later confided to his parents that Sirius had other bruises under his clothes, and that it wasn’t the first time.
The realization that Sirius had been beaten was all the worse because Henry and Mary realized that they should have seen the signs earlier. They’d seen his bruises and injuries before, but given that James was always injuring himself playing Quidditch or attempting pranks that later went awry, they had assumed that Sirius was injuring himself in similar ways. But on that day in December, they realized that although they frequently saw Sirius with injuries when he was on his way to school, they’d never seen him with any when he was on his way home from school.
The Potters had tried to get Sirius to tell the truth about his injuries and promised him that they would protect him if he didn’t wish to go back to his parents. Sirius had staunchly refused to admit that their suspicions were correct. The closest he’d come to admitting it had been when he had begged them not to say anything to his parents because “You’ll only make things worse for me.”
The Blacks had grudgingly permitted Sirius to spend the remainder of that holiday with the Potters, and Sirius had stayed at Hogwarts for the Easter holiday. The Potters had, of course, invited Sirius for the summer holiday as well, but the Blacks had made it clear that they expected their son to come home. Now they were three weeks into July, and Henry was only surprised that it had taken so long for Sirius to flee to them.
“How bad is it?” he asked.
“Not much that I could see,” she explained. “One cheek was extremely red and scratched, but he—he just looked like he wanted to fall apart and was trying not to cry. James took him upstairs, and I haven’t heard a word from either one since. I was hoping him might open up if it’s just James. I was just about to go check on them when you came home.”
Henry nodded and hugged his wife tightly to his chest, trying to give them both the strength to support the abused child who had fallen into their care. They made their way silently up the stairs, hand in hand, and Henry rapped his knuckles on James’s bedroom door.
A pause, and then, “Just a minute,” James called out. They waited a few moments longer until James unlocked and opened the door.
Sirius sat in the center of James’s bed with a pillow clutched to his chest. James retook his own place on the bed just beside his friend.
“Do you want to tell us what happened?” Henry asked as he turned James’s desk chair to face the bed and took a seat. Mary sat on the edge of the bed and laid a comforting hand on Sirius’s shoulder. He tensed at the touch and shook his head.
Although Sirius was dry-eyed, Henry could see what his wife meant about Sirius’s demeanor. His tense posture, his refusal to make eye contact, and his reluctance to speak all proclaimed that he was trying desperately hard to keep something inside.
“We want to help you, Sweetheart,” Mary said, addressing Sirius by the endearment usually saved for her own son, “but we need you to tell us what happened.” Again he shook his head.
“He can stay here for the rest of the summer, can’t he?” James asked.
“Of course,” Mary and Henry said together. Henry wondered if they would need to go to court to fight to keep Sirius away from his parents, but it was a battle he was willing to wage and determined to win.
“No, you won’t want me to stay that long,” Sirius said with a shake of his head. He looked up at Henry with intense eyes and a worried brow. “Can I just stay until I get in touch with my Uncle Alphard? Maybe he’ll let me live with him.”
“You can stay as long as you want,” Mary said.
James simultaneously exclaimed, “But he’s in Hong Kong! You don’t want to go that far away, do you?”
“No, but I can’t stay here that long.”
“Of course you can stay. We’ve plenty of room, and we’re glad to have you, but getting in touch with your uncle is probably a good idea,” Henry pointed out. “If we have to fight with your parents for custody of you, a relative might stand a better chance against them than we would.”
“They don’t want me back,” Sirius stated as he stared at the floor again. “Not this time. Not anymore.”
Henry was tempted to say, “Good,” but the heartache was clear in the teenager’s voice. As horrible as his parents were, they were still his parents. Their rejection of him had to be painful.
“What happened?” Mary asked again, and again Sirius shook his head.
“It’s O.K.,” James urged. “You can tell them.”
Sirius shook his head more emphatically and gave James a warning glance that clearly said, “Don’t tell.”
James sighed and ruffled his friend’s hair. “It’s up to you.”
“Dinner’s in an hour, boys,” Mary said as she stood to leave. She kissed the crown of Sirius’s head before walking away from the bed. “We’re glad you’re here, Sirius.”
Henry followed his wife to the door, but paused and looked back at his son and his friend. James had just put an arm around Sirius’s shoulders, and as Henry watched, Sirius released a deep sigh and settled his head onto James’s shoulder.
* * * * *
As curious as they were about the reason the Blacks had apparently washed their hands of their son, Henry and Mary did not pry. They hoped that Sirius would become comfortable enough to tell them himself. Instead, they crossed their fingers that Sirius was right and that a custody battle did not loom in their future. They didn’t know if Sirius would be willing or able to tell the truth about his home life.
So it was with great trepidation that Henry answered the house elf who suddenly appeared in their home two days later and asked, “Is Master Sirius here?”
“He is,” Henry answered, “and we’d like him to stay here.” Behind the elf, Mary appeared in the library doorway, drawn by the sound of the elf’s apparition.
The house elf snapped his long fingers, and a three-lock trunk appeared beside him. “Kreacher has packed Master Sirius’s belongings into his trunk. Kreacher has to give Master Sirius a message from my mistress.”
Sirius and James were upstairs, but Henry wondered if he should subject Sirius to the possibly hurtful message sent by his mother. He glanced at his wife again; she shook her head slightly.
“You can tell me the message. I’ll tell Sirius.” The house elf hesitated, torn between carrying out his orders exactly as given, and his natural inclination to obey wizards. “The sooner you give me the message,” Henry said, “the sooner you can return home to your other duties.”
Kreacher wrung one of his long ears nervously. “My mistress says that Master Sirius is a filthy and disgusting creature, and that if she had known what an abomination he would become, she would have strangled him at birth rather than allow him to sully the proud history of the family.” Henry heard his wife’s shocked gasp, but he continued to focus on the nervous house elf. “My mistress says that Master Sirius is not welcome in the house. She does not want his unnatural perversions to reflect upon the family or to corrupt Master Regulus. My mistress says that the parents of Master Sirius’s friends would be wise to keep her sodomite of a son from away from their own sons.” Kreacher nodded once and disapparated with a crack of air.
“What a horrible, horrible woman,” Mary said as she came into the room and took a seat near the desk where Henry sat. He merely sat back in stunned silence.
“Sodomite? Unnatural perversions?” he thought. He wanted to dismiss the words as mere insults thrown by a bitter and vengeful woman, or to believe that there had been a misunderstanding that caused the Blacks to form an incorrect assumption about their son. However, Henry suspected it was true that young Sirius was homosexual. It would explain his reluctance to explain why his parents had thrown him out. The image of James with his arm around Sirius and Sirius with his head on James’s shoulder swam before him. It explained that too.
Henry looked up at the thunderous sound of two teenagers running down the stairs. James leaned in the library doorway, one hand braced against each side of the doorframe. “Who’s here?” he asked, looking at each of his parents in turn. Sirius stood close behind James, trying to look over his shoulder into the library. Henry felt an impulse to jump out of his chair and push the two boys apart. He needed time to sort out how he felt about the relationship that might exist between his son and this other boy, and how he wanted to react to it. But he knew what his gut reaction was—he didn’t like it at all.
“—brought Sirius’s trunk and left again,” Mary was explaining as she got out of her chair and went closer to the two boys. “He also said,” she hesitated a moment, “that Sirius isn’t welcome at home anymore. I’m sorry, Sirius.”
James turned to look back at his friend, and Sirius nodded, forcing a smile. “Told you, didn’t I? Best thing that ever happened to me—getting out of that nut house.”
“Right,” James agreed. He reached for Sirius’s truck. “Let’s get this upstairs to your room.”
“No!” Sirius exclaimed as he lunged to grab James’s hand. “Are you a nutter, Potter? Touch it, and it’ll probably burn your hand off or portkey you to the middle of Antarctica.”
James laughed. “True. Give me a few weeks of summer holiday, and I forget to be wary of snakes.” James pulled out his wand and looked at his father with a smile. “Will you cover for us if we do some revelation charms to check for hexes and such?”
“Alright, if I supervise.” Henry didn’t know whether to be more surprised that Sirius thought his family would booby trap his trunk, or that James took it in stride that the Blacks might do so.
“You shouldn’t encourage them to break the rules,” Mary scolded, but she sounded amused.
Henry shrugged. If this was the world in which Sirius and his son lived in, one in which they had to fear malicious magic around every turn, he’d rather that they were well prepared to deal with it. And as the two teenagers began running through their extensive repertoire of revelation charms, he was pleased to note that they were well prepared for this possibility at least.
“Anything else you can think of?” James asked Sirius. Sirius frowned and shook his head. “Dad?”
“No, I think you covered it pretty well.”
Sirius suddenly put his hand first on the top of the trunk and then on the locks. “Had to do it before you tried it, prat,” he said with a grin to James.
“Alohomora,” James said as he tapped one of the locks with his wand.
“You know that doesn’t work on my trunk,” Sirius said.
“Yes, but if I were going to hex a trunk, I’d have the hex triggered by someone trying to open it.”
“Hold that thought,” Sirius said as he ran out of the room and back up the stairs.
“He’s getting the keys,” James said as he fell back into the chair his mother sat in earlier.
With Sirius due back at any moment, Henry didn’t want to get into a conversation about what was foremost in his mind. “You two did a good job with those charms,” he offered instead.
“Between living in a dorm full of practical jokers and being at war with the Slytherins, we had to learn all that in self-defense. We’ll have to check the stuff inside too,” James replied. He kicked the trunk. “It’s not fair that he has to worry about his own family trying to hurt him though. His aunt actually sent him wartcap powder when he got sorted into Gryffindor.”
“He mentioned it once. We weren’t friends yet when it happened.” James sighed and peered around the edge of the chair toward the doorway. “Stupid cow, getting angry with him for something he couldn’t control. It’s not like anyone chooses their house. It’s just who they are.”
Sirius ran back down the stairs and brandished the keys triumphantly as he reentered the room. “I knew I grabbed them before I left. I just had trouble finding the robe I was wearing that day. Buried under a pile of James’s clothes.”
“You left it in my room when you changed into Muggle clothes.”
Henry refrained from scowling as he thought about Sirius changing his clothes in James’s room instead of his own room across the hallway from James, but scowling was what he wanted do so.
“Most indebted for the loan of the clothes, by the way,” Sirius said as he unlocked each of the locks in order and peered in with touching anything. “Oh—damn.”
“What’s wrong?” Henry asked as he peered into the third and final compartment. It was spacious, the width of the physical trunk itself, but twice as long. It was also quite empty.
“My broomstick. They kept it.”
* * * * *
After moving the trunk upstairs to Sirius’s room and taking a break for tea, Henry and the two teenagers spent several hours going through Sirius’s belongings carefully. The clothing was checked for Medean Powder, and the books and other belongings were checked for hexes.
For most of the afternoon, Henry found himself relaxing and enjoying the opportunity to spend time with his son and his son’s friend. His son was fifteen, growing up too quickly, and away so much of the year. Then Sirius would touch James on the shoulder, or James would jab Sirius in the ribs where he knew his friend was ticklish, and Henry wanted to pull them apart and demand to know the nature of their relationship. But he bit his lip and refrained. He wanted to speak to James alone first.
Sirius would occasionally comment on the absence of one belonging or another. “My Gryffindor banner isn’t here. I bet Regulus is using it for target practice.” Other than his broomstick, he didn’t sound particularly bothered by the absence of anything, until— “My photos. None of the photos I kept in my room are here. Remember that one of the four of us all piled on one chair in the common room?”
“We’ll replace them,” James said as he put his arm around Sirius’s shoulders. “I think either Remus or Peter has a copy of that one. Between the three of us, we should have copies of whatever you want.” Sirius nodded, but he still seemed slightly distraught. “What?”
“It’s silly. I mean, I hate the little berk and all, right?”
“A photo of your brother?” Henry asked, trying hard to ignore the way his son had his arm around the other boy.
Sirius nodded. “We must have been about eight and six and still liked each other. It doesn’t matter.”
James looked up at his father, his eyes asking what he should say to his friend, but Henry did not have an answer.
“Dinner!” Mary called up the stairs.
* * * * *
The boys wolfed down their dinner, the way teenage boys do, and all too soon were stepping into the fireplace in order to floo to the Pettigrew’s house where they were meeting Peter and Remus and then going to a Muggle movie.
“Well—” Henry said as he sat back and looked first at the empty fireplace and then at his wife. “Do you think they are—” He floundered for the right word. “Dating? Involved? Shagging—please, God, no.”
“A couple?” she offered. “I thought you might be wondering that after our visitor this afternoon.”
“And you aren’t?”
She smiled enigmatically. “I’m wondering, but the possibility doesn’t bother me. I suspect it bothers you.”
“It doesn’t bother you in the slightest that our son might be gay?”
“Only the slightest bit.” She circled around the table to sit on his knee and hold his hand. “I have to admit that I’m rather looking forward to being a grandmother—someday in the distant future—and I’ll probably be disappointed if that doesn’t happen, but it might not happen even if he isn’t gay. Or it might happen even if he is. But the only part that truly bothers me is that society doesn’t approve. If he is gay, life will be more difficult for him. I’m James’s mother. I don’t want life to be difficult for him.”
“The Blacks certainly aren’t trying to make Sirius’s life less difficult, are they?” he asked.
“No, but we aren’t like them, are we?” she answered in clipped tones.
“Mary,” Henry closed his eyes and let his head fall against her breast, “I don’t want to be like that, but—it just bothers me. When I was upstairs with the boys, I flinched every time they touched each other—simple, innocent touches. I don’t think I could handle seeing James kiss him.”
She silently ran her fingers through his spiky, messy hair. “First of all,” she said at last, “we don’t know if James is gay. Just because we believe his best friend is gay doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a couple.”
“But if they are, tell James what you told me. Tell James that you love him, and that you like Sirius—because I know you do—and that you want to be supportive of their relationship; however, you are uncomfortable seeing displays of affection between them. I’m sure they’ll understand.”
“Very uncomfortable.” He looked up at her again, into the fascinating hazel eyes she shared with their son. “You do realize they might be snogging in a dark cinema right now, don’t you?”
She laughed. “With Peter and Remus there? I doubt it.”
“They said that Peter and Remus were going with them.”
“I’m sure they are. It’s not like they have to sneak out of the house to be alone together, just across the hall.”
Henry groaned and dropped his head against his wife again. “I’d lock their bedroom doors, but I don’t think I know any locking charms that they couldn’t undo.”
* * * * *
Henry didn’t get to speak with James the next day either. He was summoned into the Ministry to help deal with the aftermath of a magical attack upon a small village with a primarily Muggle populace. By the time he was able to return home, he thought there might be a small chance that his wife and the boys might still be eating dinner, so he apparated directly into the kitchen. He seemed to be too late, for only Mary was in the kitchen, and she was standing near the window and biting her nails.
“Hi,” she said as she wrapped her arms around him. “How awful was it?”
“Awful. How can anyone kill children? But right now I just want to forget about it for awhile. Is there any dinner left?”
“We haven’t eaten yet. I called them twice, but they never came downstairs. I decided to wait until you came home or they realized they were hungry. Why don’t you go up and get them, and I’ll put dinner on the table.”
Henry headed upstairs, pausing to put his cloak away in the closet near the front door on the way. Sirius’s door was open, and his room was empty. James’s door was closed, and Henry didn’t like it. The temptation to open the door without knocking existed, but Henry really didn’t want to walk in on whatever he might walk in on. He knocked and waited. Nothing. He didn’t even hear whispers or a wordless scramble for clothes.
“James! Sirius! Dinner’s ready.” Still silence. “Did you hear me?” The silence was too complete. Either they weren’t in the room, or they had put a silencing charm on the door. Although James wasn’t supposed to leave the house without telling one of his parents first, right now Henry hoped that the silence meant that they weren’t in the room. He tried the doorknob, but it was locked. They were in there, and they did have a silencing charm on the door. Henry steeled himself for whatever he might hear and disenchanted the door.
“Just calm down and try again,” James was saying.
“I’ve been trying for the last two hours! I can’t believe this.”
“It could be worse.”
“Antlers.” And they both began to laugh.
Henry knocked again, knowing that they’d hear him this time. “Dinner’s ready.”
“Just a minute, Dad,” James said, suddenly sounding tense.
“I can’t go downstairs looking like this!” Sirius whispered, but not quietly enough.
“Hide it. Put a robe on over your clothes. Here, wear this one.”
Henry hated to think what Sirius had to hide by wearing a loose robe.
“Moony will kill us if he finds out we practiced at home,” Sirius said just before he opened the door. He smiled sheepishly at Henry and ran down the stairs.
“Hi, Dad,” James said. He, unlike Sirius, did not look the slightest bit embarrassed.
“I think we need to talk, boys,” Henry said as he and James entered the kitchen. Sirius was already seated at the table, blushing as he stared down at his plate. Mary raised her eyebrows questioningly. Henry shook his head slightly and then looked at James. “This is my fault for letting you do those charms yesterday, but you can’t keep doing magic all summer.”
Sirius looked up sharply, glancing between James and Henry.
“What did they do?” Mary asked.
“A silencing charm on the door for one.”
“Sorry, Dad. Force of habit. We won’t do it anymore.”
“You know we want you to keep your wands with you, just in case,” Mary said, “but you’re playing with fire if you use them. If the Ministry figures out that a spell wasn’t cast by your father and I, but rather by one of you, you could be expelled.”
Henry asked the question before he could lose the courage. “So, why did you put a silencing charm on the door?”
James smirked and looked at Sirius. Sirius was squirming uncomfortably in his seat. “We were practicing Transfiguration,” James said.
“James!” Sirius was aghast at James’s admission.
“Go ahead and show them. If you can’t get rid of it, they’ll have to take you to St. Mungo’s.” Sirius stood up, turned his back to them all, and took off his robe. A long furry tail stuck out the back of Sirius’s jeans. “He can wag it too,” James added. Sirius did so, and one by one they all began to laugh.
* * * * *
Sirius’s tail began to shrink during dinner and was gone by bedtime. Henry allowed the evening to slip away without making an opportunity to speak with his son about his concerns. Two more days passed and either he was too busy, or the boys were too busy, or no one was busy, but an excuse to speak to James alone was not forthcoming. Mary was content not to pry, but Henry found the suspense only slightly more tolerable than forcing himself to speak with James about it. Then on Thursday evening, James broke the stalemate.
“Dad, could I talk to you about something?” James asked just after Sirius wandered into the kitchen to help Mary make dinner.
Henry nodded, and James got up from the living room floor and led the way into the library. James closed the door behind them. Henry took a deep breath, took a seat, and began mentally running through what Mary had told him to say.
“Sirius’s birthday is in a little over a week,” James said as he sat down, “and I know I’m supposed to buy my friends’ presents out of my allowance, but what he really needs is a broomstick. He can’t play Quidditch without a good broom, and we really need him on the team. I’ll pay you back, I promise.”
“Helping him buy an expensive present for his possible boyfriend—well, I wanted to show him that I was supportive,” Henry thought. He asked, “How much would you usually spend on a present for one of your friends?”
“A couple of galleons, but—”
“You and I will go pick one out together, you pay two galleons out of your allowance, and your mum and I will pay the rest. After all, we need to give him a present too, don’t we?”
“Really?” James grinned happily. “Thanks, Dad.”
“And the subject of allowance reminds me, if Sirius is living here from now on, we need to start giving him one too.”
“He needs it,” James admitted, “but he won’t feel comfortable taking it.”
“If you two want to keep doing things like going to the movies with your friends, either he’ll have to accept money from me, or I’ll have to double your allowance so you can treat him. It works out the same for me either way.” Henry couldn’t help but wonder if they were accustomed to treating each other when they were out, and if they were, who usually paid for whom. He’d taught James that a gentleman pays when out a date, but he’d expected that the date would be a girl. “Which one pays when two boys date?” he wondered.
“I’ll talk to him,” James said as he stood to leave.
“Wait, there’s something else I’ve been wanting to speak with you about,” Henry said. James collapsed back in his seat with the graceless long-limbed ease of a teenager. “When the Blacks’ house elf was here last week, he mentioned why Sirius was thrown out.” James suddenly sat upright; his attitude of sprawled ease gone. “Is it true? Is Sirius gay?”
James nodded. “It’s not the only reason he left, but it’s the reason they don’t want him back.” He watched his father nervously. “He can still stay here, can’t he?”
“Of course he can stay; we promised him he could,” Henry replied. James visibly relaxed. “But your mother and I have been wondering—couldn’t help but wonder—”
“About Sirius and me?”
James took off his glasses and began to polish them, a delay tactic he’d learned from his father. “Hypothetically, what if I were to say that I’m gay? What would you say?”
Henry recited what Mary had suggested, word for word, and James broke into a wide grin.
“Well rehearsed, but sincere,” James said approvingly. He put his glasses back on. “Relax; I’m not. I will admit—and don’t you dare tell anyone but Mum this—I did kiss Sirius once. It was a few months ago. Sirius was trying to figure himself out, and I was curious, and it just sort of—happened.”
“And what did you think?” Henry asked curiously.
James shrugged. “It wasn’t bad. Kissing is kissing, isn’t it? But—” He shrugged again. “I definitely didn’t want to do any more than that, and I wasn’t tempted in the slightest to try it again. That’s what Sirius says kissing girls is like for him.”
“And was Sirius disappointed that you didn’t want to try it again?”
“He didn’t say so, but I thought about what it would be like if the situation were the other way around. If I went for blokes, I’d definitely go for Sirius because he’s my best friend. But being friends would come first and foremost. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a little disappointed that I didn’t feel the same way. But he’s never said, and we’re still best friends.”
“I’m proud of you, Son,” Henry said as he leaned forward to muss his son’s wayward hair. “You’re very mature about this.”
“I’m proud of you too,” James said as he mussed his father’s hair in retaliation.
* * * * *
A large eagle owl arrived the next morning at breakfast, bearing a letter to Sirius from his Uncle Alphard. Sirius seemed nervous as he opened it, but began to smile almost immediately as his eyes flew across the lines.
“Are you going to tell me what it says, or do I have to steal it from you?” James asked when Sirius got halfway through the long letter.
“He congratulates me on my ‘escape’ and for being the youngest so far to turn my back on the whole twisted lot of them. He’s established an account at Gringott’s for me and put in enough money to cover my school expenses and for pocket money. Maybe I can afford a new broomstick if I’m careful with my other spending. I do need longer school robes; I’ll have Remus take me to that shop where he buys second-hand ones. ”
James glanced up at his father with a slight smile and then dove back into eating his breakfast.
“And he said that I can come stay with him whenever I want, for as long as I want.”
“You’re staying here,” James said.
“He gave me the name of a friend of his at the Ministry who can help me get permission for an international portkey,” Sirius continued, ignoring James’s interruption.
“Would you like to visit your uncle, Sirius?” Mary asked.
Sirius looked apologetically at James. “Yeah, I think I would. I haven’t seen him in years; my parents wouldn’t allow me to visit him.”
“Then let’s go see your uncle’s friend and arrange a portkey for just after your birthday,” Henry suggested. “You can visit your uncle for a few weeks and still be back before school starts.”
“My birth—I don’t have to stay here that long.” He looked down at his lap nervously. “James told me that you know about me. Now that I have somewhere to go, I can leave sooner if you’d like.”
“As I told James last night, you’re welcome here for as long as you want to stay here,” Henry reassured him, “and I’m getting tired of repeating myself.”
“So, who should we invite for your birthday, besides Remus and Peter, of course?” Mary asked.
* * * * *
Sirius had tried to limit the party guests to just Remus and Peter, saying that he didn’t want to put the Potters to any trouble, but James had insisted on more guests. As James pointed out, this was the first birthday that Sirius was permitted to invite his school friends, and it would be a shame not to take full advantage of it. In the end they’d chosen to invite the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team and all of their Gryffindor yearmates. Most of the Muggle-born students were unable to attend, as they had no convenient way to reach the Potters’ out-of-the-way home, and one student was out of the country, but the majority attended the party.
Sirius cautioned James’s parents that none of the party guests, not even Peter and Remus, knew his secret, and they quickly assured him that it was his secret to keep or to share.
Henry stood near the backdoor and looked out at the garden. He watched with amusement as two of the girls at the party, one with long blonde hair and one with even longer brown hair, made repeated attempts to flirt with Sirius. He was either oblivious to their attentions or trying to ignore them.
“Can’t blame them really,” Mary said quietly to her husband. “He is a good-looking boy.”
Henry turned and whispered back, “I’d still prefer that James end up with a good-looking girl than a good-looking boy.”
Mary, still watching the teenagers, suddenly grinned. “Look.” Henry turned back and followed her gaze. The blonde, tired of being ignored, was now sitting in James’s lap and giving him her full attention.
“I guess Sirius being gay does have some advantages for his friends,” Henry said behind his hand.
* * * * *
A few days after Sirius left for Hong Kong, Henry found himself wandering around in Flourish and Blotts bookstore, trying to find books about sex, and hoping he could find them without asking for assistance.
The entire incident of wondering whether or not Sirius and James were involved with each other, and if they were, how involved with each they were—and then learning that James had been curious enough to give kissing Sirius a try—had pressed home the point that discussing sex with a fifteen year old was an entirely different matter than discussing it with a ten year old. And since James had been ten years old the last time Henry had broached the subject, they were way overdue for another talk. At ten, sex had still been sometime in the distant future, and they’d made it through by discussing the bare minimum James needed to know. At fifteen, sex was no longer all that far in the future—if indeed it was still in the future and not the present—and James would readily understand the way temptation could push someone further than perhaps they should really go. Henry wanted to discuss it all—but first he wanted to find a book of contraception charms and potions to give James. Henry didn’t trust his own memory on those. He and Mary had stopped using those years ago when they were ready for a second child. Unfortunately, their second child had never arrived.
Or, perhaps he had. Just a few years later than they’d expected him.
Which was the second reason he was searching for books on sex. If he was going to have this discussion with James, he should have a similar one with Sirius. Sirius didn’t need to learn the contraceptive charms—although it probably wasn’t a bad idea for him to do so, just in case he ever got “curious”—but the rest of the discussion would apply: temptation, emotions, responsibility. But if he was going to have a discussion about sex with Sirius, he needed more than just a vague idea of what two men did together in bed.
“May I help you find something?” a clerk asked.
Henry gave in; he’d never find the books this way. “I’m looking for books about sex and about contraceptive charms.”
“They’re back in this section,” the clerk said as he led the way. “Are you looking for yourself or to discuss with one of your children?”
“To discuss with my fifteen year old son.”
“Ah—then I’d recommend one of these,” he said as he pulled two books off the shelf. “This one,” he gestured with the larger book, “is more all-inclusive. It’ll answer almost every question he might have and has an extensive section on contraception, both magical and Muggle. The other is limited to just contraceptive charms and potions. Some parents prefer it. Why don’t you look at both before deciding.”
“Thank you.” Henry almost let the clerk walk away but decided to risk embarrassment rather than lose the helpful clerk. “There is one more thing I need. I need a book about homosexual sex.” He said the last two words in a whisper, highly aware of the families shopping for schoolbooks throughout the store.
“Oh,” the clerk looked surprised, but—thankfully—not shocked. “I guess you don’t need the book on contraceptive charms then.”
“No, I do, for my other son.”
“Well, the owners won’t keep anything like that on the shelf—too many complaints—but I can either recommend a shop in Knockturn Alley that specializes in unusual sexual tastes, or a Muggle bookshop not far from here”
“I think I’ll try the Muggle bookshop first.”
* * * * *
“It took me three different bookstores to find this book,” Henry said as he tossed the bag from a Muggle bookshop on the bed beside his wife’s feet. “And judging by how embarrassed I was shopping for it, discussing it with Sirius is going to be the single most embarrassing experience of my life.”
Mary looked at him curiously and then pulled the book from the bag. She raised her eyebrows and began to flip through the pages. “You’re going to discuss sex with Sirius?”
Henry pulled off his boots and lay back on the bed beside his wife with a sigh. “We told him this was his new home, didn’t we? Well, that’s part of what parents do.” He looked at the illustration she’d paused on. “At least the illustrations don’t move.”
—Written February 2004