The Sugar Quill
Author: Briteyes (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Midnight Ride  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A Midnight Ride

Author's Note: The world of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, and to the publishing houses of Bloomsbury and Scholastic. I do not have, or pretend to have, any rights to her characters.

Lyrics to ‘Ilkley Moor Baht’At’ courtesy of Johnathon Sanderson.

Cheers to two of my ever-wonderful beta-readers, Dr. C and soupytwist, for laughs, support, and (in soupy’s case) defense of Marmite. Cheers again to Mistral, for helping me to tear everything apart and put it back together.

A Midnight Ride

"I had a dream about a motorbike," said Harry, remembering suddenly. "It was flying."
-Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

        With a resounding crash, Sirius brought his motorbike down by the Potter’s garden wall, missing Lily’s prized rosebushes by mere inches. As he skidded to a halt, the back tyre kicked up a shower of leaves and dirt. In one fluid movement, he switched off the ignition and swung his leg over the bike, then bounded up the back steps, where he caught sight in the window of a copper-haired woman searching frantically through a kitchen cupboard.
       Sirius flung open the door, and was greeted by a small scream as Lily jumped in fright, sending a glass jar flying into the air. Sirius dove forward, catching it just before it hit the floor.
       "Oof!"
       "Well, it serves you right, barging in here like that." Lily stepped over him to snatch the jar out of his hands. "When will you learn to knock, like normal people?"
       "Where’s the fun in that?" he said, wheezing as he rolled onto his back and pulled himself to his feet.
       Lily slammed the cupboard shut and began to rummage through the next one. "So you think it’s fun, scaring me half to death? I’ll have to remember that."
       Sirius longed to tell her that he’d always thought so, but something in her demeanor made him tactfully decide against it. "Er, sorry, Lils," he began. "I figured you’d heard me land out there. You’re always telling me what a racket the bike makes. In fact, I believe your exact phrasing had something to do with Erumpents and a china shop."
       She didn’t smile.
       "I’m sure you made plenty of noise," she said irritably. "Only the kitchen’s sound-proofed—ah, there it is!" With a sigh of relief, she pulled a bottle of dark amber liquid from the depths of the cupboard. She uncorked it, took a healthy swig, and promptly choked. After coughing violently for a moment, she set down the bottle and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Finally, with a deep, ragged breath, she sank against the counter and turned to face Sirius. For the first time, he could see how haggard and drained Lily appeared. Her skin was pasty, and large black circles bulged under her eyes.
       "Sound-proofed?" he repeated. "For Merlin’s sake, Lily, what’s going on here?"
       For a moment, she studied him through slitted eyes, then grabbed her wand from the counter and flicked it once. Immediately, a dreadful keening noise filled the kitchen. Sirius winced and clamped his hands over his ears. He waited to uncover them until Lily had replaced the silencing charm. She tossed her wand aside and reached for the bottle again.
       Sirius swallowed hard. "Please tell me that was some new breed of non-fatal Mandrake you’re trying to grow."
       "That was my son." Seeing his face grow pale, she handed him the bottle. Sirius took a long sip, grimaced, and handed it back to her.
       "What is this stuff? Firewhiskey?"
       "Not quite. Same immediate effects, though. It’s a restorative draught. James’s mother’s recipe."
       "It would have to be. That woman had a potion for everything, bless her soul, and none of them tasted good." He jerked his thumb towards the hallway. "How long’s he been doing this?"
       "Long enough. I haven’t properly slept in days."
       "Days?" Sirius’ jaw dropped. "I’d have put a Pacifying Charm on him after the first hour."
       Lily looked scandalised. "You can’t put a spell like that on a baby!"
       "Why not? My mother always did."
       "And look how you turned out!"
       Sirius raised his eyebrows at this, but Lily went on. "My son is not a fussy baby. Harry wouldn’t carry on like this unless there was a good reason for it."
       He looked at her skeptically. "Great theory. Why’s he crying?"
       Lily threw her hands in the air. "That’s the kicker. I haven’t the faintest idea."
       "Is he hungry?"
       "Doesn’t seem to be."
       "Have you changed his nappy?"
       "Of course!"
       "Is he teething?"
       "Bit early for that, don’t you think? No, he’s a healthy, dry, well-fed baby who’s been howling his head off for three days—and no amount of cajoling or cuddling seems to be changing his mind."
       "It’s probably just a bit of colic."
       "‘Bit of colic, my foot,’ as my mother used to say. There must be a better explanation."
       "Hmm." Sirius rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Is it supposed to rain?"
       "It might, why?"
       "Congratulations. Your son is half-Augurey."
       "Sirius!" Lily threw a tea towel at him.
       "Relax, Lily! He probably just feels like screaming."
       Lily banged the bottle on the counter. "Right. And you can go and help James change his mind." She shoved him towards the door.
       "Are you sure, Lily? I could—"
       "Go!"
       With a deep breath, Sirius squared his shoulders and ventured into the hall. The moment he crossed the threshold, he was able to hear the extent of young Harry’s cries. He winced at the sheer volume of it. How can one child possibly make so much noise? he wondered. With a pained look, he poked his head into the living room, where he could see James seated in the old leather armchair, bouncing his unrelenting son on his knees.
       "…Wheear ‘as tha been since ah saw thee? On Ilkley Moor baht’at. " James was singing, his voice barely audible above the din.
       "What’re you doing, sticking him with pins?" called Sirius.
       James squinted across the room at Sirius, who was leaning casually against the doorframe with his arms folded across his chest. "Huh?"
       "I said, ‘STOP SINGING, YOU’RE SCARING THE KID’!" Sirius bellowed over the noise, crossing to the sofa opposite his friend and the squalling child.
       James stopped Harry mid-bounce. "Ha ha, Black. Very funny," he said, wearily rubbing the bridge of his nose, beneath his glasses. Suddenly he gave a start, looking up at Sirius as though he’d just noticed him. "Hang on, when did you get here?" He cocked his head. "It is still Friday, isn’t it?"
       "Last I checked."
       "Then wh—"
       "You didn’t answer the fire."
       James laughed mirthlessly. "You could have set off Filibuster Fireworks in the grate, and I still wouldn’t have heard. Lily send you in here?"
       "Yup. She’s holed up in the kitchen with a Silencing Charm and a bottle of Mrs. Potter’s Liquid Cure-All."
       "Uh-oh. I topped it up with Ogden’s six months ago. Come to think of it, that’s probably not such a bad idea, either… Anyhow! What’d you want?"
       Sirius’s mouth twitched in annoyance. "I wanted to talk to you."
       "Talk." James snorted. "Fat chance of that happening tonight."
       "I see that now." He leaned down to Harry. "Look, kid, could you shut up for a minute? That’s getting really irritating."
       "If only it were that easy. What do you think I’ve been trying to do all this time?"
       "Dunno, but it’s obviously not working. Give him to me." Sirius held out his arms. "C’mon, he behaves for his Uncle Sirius."
       "Don’t you dare, James," came a voice from behind him. The men looked up to see Lily leaning against the back of the sofa. "This man can’t even be trusted to shut a door behind him." She pointed an accusing finger at Sirius. "You’ve filled my kitchen with moths!"
       "Whoops," said Sirius. He looked imploringly at James, who was fighting laughter.
       Still chuckling, James turned to look up at his wife. "I’ve an idea. Why don’t you take a turn with Harry, and I’ll just nip into the kitchen…"
       "Not so fast, dear," Lily said, coming around to perch on the arm of the chair.
       "I think what she’s saying," said Sirius, chuckling, "is that she’d rather have a room full of bugs than spend five minutes with a screaming baby."
       "No, what I’m saying is that you let the damn things in, so you’re going to be the one responsible for their removal."
       "This child is obviously suffering, and you want to bicker about who kills moths?" Sirius shook his head in mock disbelief. "You call yourself a mother."
       Lily rounded on him, horrified. "And what’s that supposed to mean?"
       Taken aback by her outburst, Sirius put up his hands. "I’m just saying, Lily, if I didn’t know you better, I’d say you needed to get your priorities straight."
       "Oh, I’ve got my priorities, all right," she said, ticking them off on her fingers. "Peace. And quiet."
       "You know, all it takes is one Pacifying Charm—"
       "Yeah, Mother of the Year, that’d make me." She rolled her eyes and exchanged a bemused look with her husband, who smirked back at her. "This from the man who thought ‘watching the baby’ meant swinging him around the room."
       Sirius felt his face flush as the couple screamed with laughter. "He loved it!" he protested.
       "He was sick all over Peter."
       Their guffaws ringing in his ears, Sirius stood up, plucked Harry out of his father’s hands and cradled him in his arms. He cooed softly to his godson, who wrapped his fist around the end of Sirius’ finger. With a hiccup, Harry fell silent.
       The laughter broke off as James and Lily’s heads snapped up. "How did you do that?" James hissed, incredulous. Beside him, Lily gasped and clapped her hands to her mouth.
       Slightly astonished himself, Sirius beamed at them, then smiled down at the small child, gently patting his back. A pair of bright eyes blinked back at him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lily grab her husband’s hand and give it a squeeze.
       Harry took a deep breath…
       …and promptly began to wail again.
       The three adults slumped, crestfallen. "Well, it was worth a try anyway," sighed Lily, as James groaned and reached for their son. Sirius, though, twisted away. "No, you’ve been dealing with this long enough. I’m taking him off your hands, just for a little while." Carefully, he turned to leave.
       "Where do you think you’re taking him?" Lily leapt to her feet.
       "For a ride. I think it’ll calm him."
       "Are you sure that’s a good idea?" James asked, coming up behind his wife and putting his hands on her shoulders.
       "Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he doesn’t hit the ground right away."
       Lily’s eyes grew very wide, her throat making involuntary strangling noises.
       "That’s not what I meant," said James. "Is it… safe? I mean, for him to be—"
       "He’ll be fine, James. Take Lily, get some sleep." Sirius shifted Harry and headed out of the room. "Don’t wait up!" he called over his shoulder.
       "Thank you," James’s face relaxed somewhat. "Come, dear, we can kip on the couch for an hour or so."
       "I’m not so sure I can sleep now." Lily’s hands twisted nervously.
       "Who are you kidding? You’ll be snoring the second you lie down." He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. "Don’t worry yourself, he’s in good hands."
       "I know, but still…" her voice trailed off as she watched the doorway Sirius and Harry had vanished through.
       "Lily, dear, do I need to give you more of Mum’s potions?"
       She laughed and swatted James playfully across the chest.


       Sirius brought the bike down with a gentle bump. Immediately, his eyes went to the child in the crook of his arm, but Harry remained sound asleep. He took great care not to jostle him as he turned off the ignition and climbed down from the bike.
       In the living room, he found James on the sofa, asleep but upright, with his mouth lolling open. Fast asleep beside him, with her head resting in his lap, was Lily.
       Sirius took a seat in the overstuffed chair, his godson settled on his knee. He stayed like that for a long time, watching the Potters’ chests rise and fall. Absently, he stroked Harry’s fine black hair.
       "Tha’s how we get our oahn back, on Ilkley Moor baht’at…" he sang softly.


*****
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