Disclaimer – I do not own nor would I presume to lay claim to anything in any way associated with the wonderful world of Harry Potter. It's all Jo's. (I do presume however to refer to her as Jo.)
A/N – As the title suggests, this chapter contains some age appropriate sex talk of the couple and solo variety.
The late morning sunlight filtered in through the window Harry had left open for Hedwig. It spilled over his pillow and directly onto his face, stirring him from the first solid night's sleep he'd had in ages. Letting consciousness take over slowly he let his mind float through the events of the day before. Something felt different. What was it? Finally it came to him – Ginny. He was outrageously proud of the flirty notes they'd sent back and forth last night with the help of Hedwig who'd somehow managed to learn to Apparate. But nothing compared to the realization he'd come to when they'd said good night. She fancied him too. She hadn't said it in so many words but he was sure of it. He felt like he could fly. Without his broom. Like if he wasn't careful, if he took one hard step or jumped even slightly he'd bounce up and out into space.
He got up out of bed and decided to use these feelings of elation to write Ginny a longer note than the ones they had passed back and forth the night before. The resulting letter, unbeknownst to Harry, ended up being sweetly honest, somewhat goofy and so thoroughly endearing that Ginny would not only save it forever, she would pull it out to read whenever she felt blue for many years to come.
He also wrote a short note to Hermione asking her about Post Owls and Apparation, knowing his studious friend would be thrilled with a research project. He told Hedwig to go to Hermione's the traditional way so as not to startle her and also instructed her to go to Ginny's by the method of her choosing and wait for a response. There was no hurry. Ginny fancied him!
That task completed, he set about getting ready for the day. Remembering his oath to hygiene of the day before, he started with a shower. After the requisite futile effort to make his hair lay flat, he pulled on another worn out set of hand-me-downs. Ginny popped into his thoughts again. He marveled at the difference the simple knowledge that she fancied him too had created in him.
He finished getting ready for the day then surveyed his appearance in the mirror. Generally, he did not give his reflection more than a passing glance but today he studied himself with a critical eye. He still seemed too skinny but his shoulders fit into Dudley's enormous shirts much better than they used to. Being Ron's mate meant that he often felt quite short but looking now he felt pretty sure he was taller than he'd been last summer. His bright green eyes looked out through long dark eyelashes and were framed by two distinct eyebrows, always a good thing that. The famous scar peaked out from beneath the fringe of his untamable hair. If he detached himself enough from the emotions connected to it, he admitted he could see why it was intriguing to some people. His glasses gave him somewhat of a bookish look and he noticed – on closer inspection – dark hairs gathering above his upper lip, on his chin and along his jaw. Not even the most generous soul would call them moustache or beard but they made him feel sort of manly anyway.
Growing up was strange. Although Harry had more than his fair share of horrendous distractions even he was not immune to the whims of adolescent hormones. His body seemed to have its own agenda and sometimes it demanded attention at the most inappropriate times, which made him eternally grateful for school robes. His body and mind seemed to take it in turns to make him uncomfortable. His mind would flash seemingly harmless images, lips, legs, the curve of a lovely neck and his body would react instantly, without regard to where he was or what he was doing at the time.
The worst, though, were the images his mind conjured, the images of pure speculation that involved lovely soft curves more often than not, in a state of undress. His body responded to those by trying to sweetly cajole him into doing … that. Not a complete stranger to … that, he understood the benefits but at the same time, found it sort of embarrassing and messy, especially here where he didn't have the benefit of an Imperturbable Charm and a well-placed Scourgify or even, on a normal day, a shower long enough and hot enough. And no girl was safe from his imaginings. He tried his best to maintain Anonymous Girl because he never had to look Anonymous Girl in the face, but Real Girls were so very right there, making him wonder what was going on under those robes. So no girl, real or imagined, was safe from his depraved mind.
It somehow felt especially wrong to employ Ginny's image for that purpose. That didn't stop him of course. The first time had been after that fateful day at the library, during his four days of turmoil. He couldn't look her in the eye for a week afterward. He was pretty sure the whole business made him a pervert.
He snickered when he realized the stupidity of referring to wanking as "that" in his own head, then entertained himself by thinking of all the terms he'd ever heard for that particular act. He created quite a list that started with the common – wanking – and ended with the irreverent – bashing the bishop. Yep, definitely a perv.
Looking at his meager and ridiculously ill fitting wardrobe again, he didn't know why it never occurred to him before to get some clothes of his own. He could use some new trainers too. He had the available funds, if he could manage to get some of his Wizarding money converted to Muggle pounds and pence. Dudley's hand-me-downs had always made him feel self-conscious; he suddenly wanted to do something about it. He wondered if he could have Remus or somebody purchase some new Muggle things for him to wear. Fairly certain that he wouldn't be allowed a shopping trip, he made a mental note to ask Moony today.
Satisfied he'd done his bit to be presentable, he made his way downstairs and discovered, much to his delight, that the house was currently Dursely free. He took advantage of the unexpected freedom by putting together some lunch to share with Remus. It occurred to him that he hadn't seen nor heard from Dudley in a few days but that mystery was solved when he noticed an entry on the wall calendar: 14 July - Dudley returns from Blackpool. Dudders was on a vacation by the sea so Harry had a tacky t-shirt hand-me-down to look forward to. Good news was he still had over a week left of his own vacation from Dudley. He supposed he would have noticed sooner had he been taking meals with them but still found it enormously funny that he hadn't noticed Dudley's absence for so many days.
He covered the food he'd prepared and carried it out to the table in the back garden. Then he set about returning the kitchen to its former ruthless shine. Wishing for butterbeer, he instead settled for lemonade then went back out to the garden to wait for Remus. He steeled himself for what he suspected was the topic of the day – Sirius. Even those dark thoughts did not diminish the warm glow that Ginny had created around his heart.
Remus and Harry spent a pleasant lunchtime discussing Hedwig's astounding new talent. At first skeptical, Remus was easily pulled into a debate about whether or not they'd be able to teach other Post Owls to do this and the potential benefits for the Order.
Once lunch was done and subject of Post Owls had run dry, Moony leaned forward in his chair placing his elbows on his knees then scrubbed a hand over his tired face.
Finally ready to face the matter he'd avoided yesterday he said, "I have some business to discuss with you- but I need to give you a little background information. You are aware of the anti-werewolf legislation that prevents me from gainful employment? Dolores Umbridge and her lot outdid themselves on that material. I believe that her blinding prejudice allowed for some rather gaping loopholes in the laws. I'm certain she never considered it a possibility that someone would choose a werewolf for these things so it never occurred to her to prevent it."
Harry nodded hesitantly, not at all certain where this was going.
Remus went on. "I won't bore you with all the details. There are only two loopholes that concern us. One of them allows me, or – rather – does not specifically prohibit me from being named as a beneficiary or collecting an inheritance. The other one we're concerned with does not specifically prohibit me from being named as guardian to a minor child."
Harry took a minute to catch on. When it finally clicked he jumped up from his seat and exclaimed, "You're gonna be my guardian!"
Remus straightened his posture. "If you'll have me."
Harry didn't know what came over him but he suddenly found himself hugging Remus who responded with a surprised "oh" and an awkward pat on the back. Though this unexpected and uncharacteristic display of affection was unfamiliar to both involved, they managed to break apart with little embarrassment.
Remus smiled and said, "I'll take that as a yes then? Don't get too excited about it yet. It's mostly honorary. As far as England is concerned your legal guardians are still the Dursleys and you still have to be able to call this place home for the blood protection. What I can do though is represent you in matters of the wizard variety, look out for your best interests, maybe lend an ear or dispense sage advice when required. I'll warn you though that I have no experience with this sort of thing. I've spent the better part of my years avoiding extended human contact. I may very well be complete rubbish at it but Sirius apparently thought I could do it."
Harry grinned. "Don't worry, there's no way you could be worse at it than the Dursleys."
"Right. Well then, the other gaping loophole. It's not uncommon for Order members to, shall we say, prepare for the worst. Most of us have wills or at least letters of instruction or even letters of good-bye. Sirius was no different. Apparently he had been in contact with a trusted solicitor who contacted me the day before yesterday. It seems that Sirius had considerable holdings that this gentleman, or gentle-goblin as the case may be, has been working to protect for fifteen years. Sirius had a new will drawn up last year and you and I have been named his beneficiaries."
Harry sat down hard and sobered immediately at the reminder. Sirius has beneficiaries because Sirius is dead. Sirius is dead. Sirius is dead because you were stupid! Remus continued but kept a close eye on him.
"The Black family estate is in a tangle of course. Narcissa Malfoy has been contesting it since Sirius' mother died. Although she's not managed to get her hands on it she has managed to keep it tied up for several years, chiefly because of Sirius' convict then fugitive status and the strained relationship between he and his mother. He did, however, have a personal vault that we are to divide evenly between us. Normally, as you are not yet of age, this amount would be put into a trust for you but Sirius was adamant that you receive it in full regardless of your age. There was some concern about the lack of a, uh- a body, but the statements of the Aurors present established that he did indeed fall through the veil and that is an acknowledged cause of death with the Ministry. There is another bit of controversy because all the statements, each and every one, also established the fact that he was fighting against and not with the Death Eaters…"
Harry felt like he'd taken a blow to the stomach. Though he could still hear Remus he sounded as though he was a great distance away. The guilt he thought he'd dealt with last night surfaced, reminding him quietly in a menacing mantra – he's dead, you killed him, he's dead, you killed him. Harry fought it and suddenly a new, much louder one – Why didn't he stay at home, Why didn't he listen to me, Why did he leave me? – overpowered it.
Remus cast a worried look at Harry who'd gone startlingly pale. "Harry talk to me, please."
Harry blurted out the first thing that came to mind, "I don't want his money! I don't need it."
"I know Harry. I feel the same but I'm afraid it's not as easy as that."
"No. No, I don't want it!" Harry was pleading. "How can I take it? How? He'd be alive if it weren't for me. Moony why did he do it? Why did he go? Why did he leave me?" Quiet angry tears were rolling down his face. "Why?"
He swiped at the offensive tears; when had he become such a crybaby? Losing his once iron-tight grip on his emotions was pissing him off. "I thought I was good. I thought I'd dealt with this! I begged him to stay put, to not do anything to get himself caught. Why didn't he listen to me! I hate him!"
Harry's emotions were all over the place but anger was quickly winning the struggle. He wanted to hit something or throw something.
Remus did the only thing he could think of; he went to Harry to pat his back and try to calm him down, all the while cursing his awkward incompetence. "You don't hate him. It's okay to be angry with him. It's okay."
"It's not okay!" Harry stood suddenly which sent his chair toppling backwards. Finding that slightly satisfying, he looked wildly around the garden for something, anything, to relieve the pressure that was building in his chest. He zeroed in on the largest tree and raced toward it, pushing Remus away as he went.
Remus, comprehending Harry's intentions pulled out his wand and quickly transfigured the center portion of the tree's bark into thick padding. He was rubbish at comfort but this he understood. This he could deal with.
Harry, single minded in his intent, was not deterred in the least by the changing appearance of the tree. He threw one punch, then another and another. Solid, clean, satisfying punches. This was it! This was good! He continued this way, punctuating each angry thought about his godfather, about Voldemort, about his parents, about Dumbledore, about that bloody prophecy with a pounding fist, until he could barely lift his arms. He turned around leaning back against the tree, panting and sweating he slid to the ground. He took his glasses off and covered his face with his hands.
Remus noticed that Harry's knuckles were red, raw and rapidly swelling but stood by patiently; he knew from personal experience that the pain was part of the process and Harry would need to feel it a bit longer. Harry finally exhaled loudly and Remus took this as his signal. He lowered himself to the ground next to Harry and put a companionable arm around his shoulders.
"Feel better?" Harry looked sheepish but nodded and Remus asked him if he was ready to have his hands healed.
When Harry nodded again Remus took out his wand and muttered a healing spell over each hand then he said, "You should have seen the damage I did. The portrait of Mrs. Black will never be the same."
Harry grunted, took a deep breath and said, "Thanks".
"Anytime," Remus said kindly, and then stood up, lowering his hand to Harry, who put his glasses back on then accepted it appreciatively.
Once Remus had hoisted Harry up he pulled him into the same brotherly hug that he'd given Sirius in the Shrieking Shack a few years ago. Harry sank into it gratefully and whispered, "I miss him."
"Me too Harry. Me too."
They walked back toward the table and Harry righted the toppled chair before slumping down into it. He was quite put out by his own behavior. "I'm sorry Moony."
Remus answered blandly "You've nothing to be sorry for."
"Are you kidding? I pushed you and then I beat the crud out of a tree. I don't even know what that was. I was feeling pretty good this morning."
"That, my friend, was one of the five stages of grief," Remus said matter-of-factly. "Anger. There's Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, and not necessarily in that order. And you exaggerate; you may have knocked it around a bit but I hardly think you hurt the tree all that badly. I'm sure it could have taken you if you'd let it go on much longer." Remus' innocent face belied the joke he'd delivered.
Harry snorted, enjoying this side of Moony. Then he sobered. "I feel like I shouldn't laugh. Like if I feel too good it means I didn't care about him." He paused then added, "Is it normal to hit the anger stage more than once? I trashed Dumbledore's office in a fairly decent imitation of it if it's not."
"Grieving is different for everybody Harry. There's no right or wrong way to do it except that the Acceptance stage is always best done last. And Sirius would have hated for you to not allow yourself good feelings Harry. I know he would want you to laugh and to live. The hard truth is that life goes on which is exactly how it should be."
"I hardly had any time to get to know him. It's not fair. It was just--" Harry faltered, struggling to convey his thoughts. "It felt good to know he was there, you know, for me." Remus nodded in understanding as Harry continued, "It sort of didn't feel real. That he was gone I mean. I spent so much time trying not to think about him, about it and since I only saw him…" He paused, struggling with the words.
"Since you only saw him infrequently you could almost pretend he wasn't gone." Remus finished for him. Harry nodded as Remus added, "that actually falls into the Denial category. I don't suppose the way he died helped."
"Yeah, I mean, he was there one minute and then he was just…gone. He fell. He just fell. Not even far. So when you were talking about beneficiaries, I guess I kinda lost it because all of a sudden, it was... real. Does that make sense?"
"Perfect sense. Harry, Sirius wanted to spend more time with you as well. I wish you could have known him as he was before Azkaban. It was hard on him and he wasn't ever quite… right… again. He wanted very much to take care of you Harry, but the truth is he couldn't really take care of himself. Being forced to stay in that house only made it worse. I'm not saying he's better off now but it helps me to think of him as finally being truly free."
"I know he was miserable there," Harry said. "I just wanted him to be safe though. It was selfish but I wanted him to be safe, for me. I can't believe how stupid I was, going to the Ministry. I know you said it was a good decision based on bad information but what in the world did I think I was going to do? I mean you should have seen them, Moony. You should have seen Dumbledore and Voldemort. The stuff they were doing…" Harry quashed the feeling of panic that started in the pit of his stomach. He didn't know if Remus knew about the prophecy but he couldn't think about it now on top of everything else.
"Harry, I know it's hard to find any good to come from this but there is. Not the least of which is that Fudge would still be denying Voldemort's return if he hadn't been forced to admit it once all of those other Ministry officials had seen him with their own eyes."
Harry didn't want to think about Voldemort or Fudge. "Moony, tell me about him, about Sirius and my dad, the Marauders."
Remus was more than happy to do so. They spent the rest of the afternoon that way, the older man reliving some of his most beloved memories, taking the younger man with him. To Remus it was somewhat healing and sincerely bittersweet. This young man should not be hearing these stories from him. Yet he was all that was left and Harry seemingly could not get enough. Remus had to admit that Harry's laughter and appreciation were hard to resist. Knowing how much the boy had lost made it that much harder.
"I think that's enough for now Harry. I don't want to give all my secrets away in one day." Harry looked disappointed but agreed with a smile on his face.
"There is just one more order of business and it may be quite painful for both of us."
Remus said it with a smile but it made Harry nervous. "What is it?"
"Last summer Sirius and I promised each other that we would…ah…hmmm…fill you in on the…uh…facts of life, so to speak." Harry was astonished not only by the statement but by the blush that was slowly creeping up Moony's face. "I thought now would be a good time since talking about Sirius and your dad has made it feel like they're here with us. It's important as well, what with you starting up with Ginny."
Now it was Harry's turn to blush. "I haven't started anything up. Anyway Ginny isn't even fifteen and I won't even be sixteen for a few more weeks and unless there's something that can be done by post, we're safe. There's no rush."
There was a pleading and yet horrified quality in Harry's voice but Remus would not be dissuaded. "No, there are things you need to know and I promised. Now, when a man and woman, or really sometimes it's a man and man or a woman and woman, well in this case it's a man and woman so …" Remus exhaled loudly. "Already buggering it up," he muttered to himself, "Scar him for life."
While Remus tried to collect himself Harry looked for an easy escape route. He was giving serious consideration to tunneling under the hedgerow when Remus continued.
"Okay, I can do this Harry." Then he laughed. Harry wondered if he'd gone round the twist. The hedgerow was looking better and better.
Seeing the way Harry was looking at him Remus said, "Sirius is the one who gave me this talk."
"Aren't you the same age?" Harry sat there in horrified confusion while Remus erupted in laughter.
The older man pulled himself together and answered, "I think I might be a tad older actually. But Sirius was one of those people that are just born knowing. Knowing the right things to say, the right things to do. He already had considerable experience by the age of fifteen. That's about when he explained it all to me. He really was something else. He never had one special girl but he never lacked for company. And none of the very long list of ladies ever had a bad word to say about him. It took me many years but I finally figured out his secret. He always treated each one with respect. He made them feel that they were special and to him, in some way, they were. He never lied to them. They always knew exactly where they stood with him. And he always took care of their…uh…needs first. I'm sure his pretty face didn't hurt either."
Remus was feeling more comfortable with this topic now. Apparently Harry felt the same; Remus had noticed Harry's furtive glances at the hedgerow and had figured the boy was probably trying to find a quick escape route and was pleased to see his young charge settling back into his seat. "Look Harry, I know this isn't a comfortable subject. For either of us, believe me. But neither do I want to remain on the list of people who have let you down. I want you to know that I'm here for you and this is a part of that. It really is important to have the information. I'm not about to give you lessons in technique – you'll have to figure that out on your own and please, not any time soon. But as you've learned the hard way, a lack of information can get you into a world of trouble."
Harry still felt slightly embarrassed but he nodded. Moony said, "Good. We can get though this. I promise."
Late into the night, Harry's head was still swimming with the information that Remus had bestowed upon him that day. All in all the talk had not gone as badly as it had started. The most uncomfortable part was when he'd talked about the normalcy of wanking and the oh-so-embarrassing dreams, the very much different-than-nightmare dreams that Harry had never told anyone about as he'd been certain that, being a pervert and all, they were only happening to him. It turned out that he was not a pervert, but was – in fact – perfectly normal. Well done there. Amidst the information about contraceptive spells and potions, he'd been fascinated to find out (while Remus was defining his statement "took care of their needs first") that girls have a super sensitive part too; it just wasn't as obvious. He wasn't at all certain what to make of Remus' likening it to a flower or the look of reverence that crossed his face as he'd discussed it but figured he'd worry about that when the time came. He was now armed with an arsenal of information, most of which he wouldn't be using any time soon. At this point his lofty goal was a kiss that didn't involve crying.
He and Ginny had exchanged notes again. They weren't as flirty but Harry was not disappointed. He could feel something growing between them. He told her about most of his time spent today with Moony. She offered her opinion about things. It was so easy with her. Like they'd been friends all along. With Cho he'd felt the fluttering stomach but he'd often forgotten how to speak in her presence and when he could speak he didn't know what to say. They'd never been friends. Ginny was his friend and he was very lucky for it.
He'd written in his earlier letter:
"I wish I could see you, just for a minute. Writing like this seems weird and sort of unreal. I've got a pretty decent imagination- I'm not making this up am I?"
He'd felt sort of goofy writing the words but it was how he felt. Remus had inadvertently supported his theory that he needed to be honest with Ginny. He was glad he did it too when he got her last note of the night.
If this isn't real, then we're both having the same lovely daydream.
Goodnight Harry, Sleep well
That night he dreamt of Sirius. He was on a white sandy beach with impossibly blue water, first as Padfoot then as a man bounding toward Harry. He looked young and healthy and happy and greeted Harry, as if he'd been waiting for him, with a warm and enveloping hug.
"Harry! I'm so glad you're here!"
Harry felt elated but confused. Was this a dream?
Sirius continued, "I'm sorry I had to leave you like that, kid. I can't believe that Old Bella got the better of me. It's my own fault really- I should have just finished her off instead of messing around, taunting her. It just felt so good to be in the thick of it again."
Harry shook his head and said, "No I'm sorry that I was stupid. I fell for Voldemort's trick. I let him feed me that dream for a year."
"Harry please. I know Moony already talked to you about this. The larger failings were not yours. I need for you to understand that. In fact, the whole world needs for you to understand that. You have a tremendous task in your future. One I know that you can pull off, but it can't be accomplished if you are weighted down by blame that is not rightly yours. Taking responsibility for your own actions is a good and mature thing to do so I'm not saying you should always point fingers elsewhere. You just need to recognize the difference between what is yours to bear and what is not."
Harry couldn't speak around the lump in his throat so he merely nodded.
"You'll never get anywhere by taking on the weight of the world. You have heavy enough burdens of your own." Sirius continued. "You made some good headway today. Moony was right, it is okay to be angry with me. I saw you beating that tree. Nice form by the way."
Harry snorted then responded, "Yeah, well I've been on the receiving end often enough to know how to throw a proper one."
"I also heard you say to Moony that you'd thought you'd dealt with this. You should know that it cannot be done in a day or two. You've just started confronting this and it's going to take some time. You'll have to forgive me, forgive Dumbledore and most importantly forgive yourself. I promise each day will get a little better.
"You've got some wonderful people around you who care about you and want to help you with this. It's true that you can't pick whom you're related to, but you can choose your family. You've chosen wisely and they've all chosen you as well. Don't push them away or shut them out. Ron and Hermione put up with a lot from you this past year and still stuck by your side. And the Weasleys are wonderful people. Even if Molly and I disagreed on things, she loves you as fiercely as one of her own. You need them as much as they need you, now and in the future. That includes Remus.
"He's been running from himself, running from the past for so long but he cares about you and he's learning how to have someone else counting on him. I think my lovely little cousin Nymphadora will have some influence there."
Sirius delivered that with a wink. It took Harry only a moment to work out that he meant Tonks and a moment more for him to drop his jaw in astonishment. "Tonks and Moony? But she's so… and he's so…"
Sirius threw his head back and laughed his familiar bark-like laugh. "Don't look so appalled, Harry. He only looks that old because of the werewolf business. He's only in his thirties and he needs someone just that vibrant to help restore his soul. You can tell him about our conversation if you wish. He'll be visiting me as well but he won't believe it as readily as you will. You should talk to him about the prophecy as well."
"You know about the prophecy then? Does Moony? I've been trying not to think about it actually. The prophecy, I mean."
"Your parents told me about it though I don't know the exact wording of it. Remus only just found out. He may not even have any answers for you but you can't carry this alone. You don't have to. When you're ready, you'll share it with Ron, Hermione and your Ginny as well."
"You know about Ginny too?" Harry couldn't believe that even in his dream he was blushing. "She's not really mine or anything yet. We're just friends."
"Harry, I knew about Ginny before I left. I knew you'd figure it out sooner or later and being friends is a good place to start. You're just ready for her now."
"Yeah, I think I am." Harry grinned somewhat foolishly.
Sirius returned the grin and then looked reflective for a moment. "Harry, take it slow with her. I know your first instinct will be to jump right into it, but a flame that burns hot and fast also goes out quickly. Believe me. You're young and so is she. Trust me; you don't want to lose her. You need someone special to make it all worth while."
Harry looked at him, confused. This certainly didn't sound like the type of advice he would have expected to receive from someone reputed to be quite rakish. "Sirius, Remus told me that you had all sorts of experience by the time you were my age and that you never settled on anyone special."
Sirius looked almost sad when replied, "Just because I didn't have anyone special, doesn't mean that I didn't want it. I did indeed have a great deal of experience when I was your age and I am passing along the wisdom of that experience to you. So you don't have to make the same mistakes I made, yeah?"
Sirius' regret was palpable. It made Harry sad for Sirius and for all the things that might have been. He nodded, "Yeah."
Harry took a moment to look around at his surroundings. The sand under his feet was soft and white; the water was a beautiful azure and felt warm as the tide lapped at his ankles. There was a soft warm breeze stirring the fronds on the palm trees. It was really quite tranquil. "Sirius how come I couldn't see you sooner? Why am I here now? Will I be able to come see you again?"
Sirius responded solemnly, "You weren't ready before. You didn't want to think of me much less listen to me. This is a one-time visit. It's for the best. If I keep hanging around then you won't move forward. I do miss you Harry, and will continue to miss you until we meet again, hopefully in the very distant future. I just wanted to make sure that you knew I was okay. I didn't want you blaming yourself. Got it?"
Harry nodded and a strong emotion he couldn't identify swelled within him. He wasn't sure what to do with it so he went with his instincts and hugged Sirius who very happily hugged him back. Harry said dryly, "Well, that's the second time I've done that today. It's a record for me, I can't remember ever being the one to start a hug before and now I've done twice. So when exactly did you get to be so wise?"
"Ah, well I've always been wise but people were always too distracted by my pretty face to notice. It helps that I left all my baggage behind. Means I can concentrate completely on you. And speaking of wisdom, Remus nearly buggered up that sex talk this afternoon." Sirius put his arm around Harry's shoulders and walked with him on the beach. "Let me straighten you out on a few things and fill you in on some others that he was entirely too embarrassed to explain."
Harry woke with a start after watching Sirius walk away from him, a buxom woman barely clad in a bikini on each arm. The alarm clock told him that it was still the middle of the night. He smiled remembering - whatever that was. He thought it was a dream and it certainly wasn't the first time women in bikinis had appeared in one of his, but he was certain the knowledge that Sirius had imparted had not been in his head prior to that conversation. Before today, he'd only ever been exposed to the subject during late night dormitory conversations and information gleaned from comments by the Weasley twins. Neither of those sources nor Remus had been that specific; although the twins had exposed him to his first, and as yet only, glimpse of a naked witch by way of a magazine. Even then Harry couldn't bring himself to actually study the photo. He'd looked away the minute she started moving. That's not to say he wouldn't have devoured the magazine greedily had he been alone. He'd just been suspicious of the situation and assumed, correctly, that the twins had set him up. He'd remained cool on the outside but inside he was dying of embarrassment. He was just as thoroughly embarrassed by what he had learned this evening and also eternally grateful. Not only for the information but also that Remus had been too embarrassed to attempt an explanation. Neither one of them would have survived that talk.
Sirius had told him it would get better every day. Certainly he had things to look forward to. He couldn't help but grin as he fell back into a sound sleep.
Re: hormones - I am not now nor have I ever been a teenaged boy. I'm hoping that my supposition about what that experience would entail might hit a true note. Admittedly my actual theory about boys has them much more randy than I've used here. I backed it off a bit because it didn't feel like Harry to me. I thought he'd be more reserved, even in his own mind.
Re: The dream of Sirius – I wanted Sirius to be able to talk to Harry as he never did or couldn't in life. For the purpose of this story, Sirius used Harry's sleeping state to contact him so, on some level Harry did actually interact with him. I considered creating an explanation for this however; I thought that Harry would never know the how of it but would still be confident it happened because of what he brought away with him from the experience. I figured what's good enough for him, is good enough for us.
As always, I must thank Casey, whose insights and opinions sometimes found a voice in this story.
Thank you to Musings whom, as an excellent beta, really went to bat for me regarding some of the more sensational passages in this chapter. On that note Chele, I apologize in advance for chapter 4...
Beta Note: *grinning like an idiot* No worries, dear! We'll get through it together! ; )