Little Harry wanted his mummy. Where was his mummy? She'd been standing right there a moment ago, kissing his forehead—and now she was gone.
He wailed louder, ignoring the gentle shushing sound coming from across the room. It wasn't Mummy. Why wasn't she coming back? Had she been eaten up by the green light?
He cried louder still, tears streaming down his face, in torrents. She always came back when he cried extra loud—almost always. Sometimes she sent daddy. Where was Daddy? Maybe Daddy would come.
He cried, batting his tiny fist ineffectually at the big arms that were trying to pick him up. He didn't want the daddy goofy friend that sometimes turned into a dog. He wanted Daddy. But, like Mummy, Daddy wasn't coming.
Sirius sank down beside the distraught toddler, temporarily giving up on trying to calm him. Maybe if he let him cry long enough, he'd stop on his own? He was trying to be helpful, volunteering to babysit so that James and Lily could go out and attempt to celebrate their anniversary, instead of being cooped up in hiding like they had already been for months on end. And, really, how hard could it be to take care of a toddler?
How naďve he'd been. A few hours spent entertaining his godson, in the presence of at least one of his parents and while he was already playing peacefully, was poor preparation for calming him down the moment he realized that neither of his parents were around. The little banshee had been crying since about ten seconds after James and Lily had stepped into the Floo, and he just wouldn't stop.….
Listening as the screaming toddler continued his tantrum, Sirius groaned in frustration, at a loss for what to do. "Come on, Harry, calm down, please," he implored, desperation starting to seep into his voice, "Your parents just went out to dinner. They'll be back before—whoa!"
He was forced to duck as a Muggle toy came flying at him, with way more momentum than he would have expected from a fifteen-month-old. Could the little monster be using magic? Surely he wasn't that upset.
Or maybe he was, Sirius was forced to concede as he threw himself in the opposite direction, narrowly avoiding being hit by an animated plastic dragon which followed, with just as much force, in the wake of the Muggle contraption.
Well, that was that. If the little squirt was going to use magic on him, accidental or not, then surely he was justified in using magic to defuse the situation before it escalated any further.
A little voice at the back of his mind, whispered that Lily was going to kill him if she found out that he'd used magic on her son—never mind that it was in self-defence—but he was running out of ideas and the objects flying in a magical whirlwind around the toddler were getting more numerous and bigger.
Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed the sofa beginning to rise. Desperation won out.
The sudden silence as the young child stopped wailing and seized up, stiff as a board, before toppling over, lasted just long enough for Sirius to reflect that Petrificus hadn't been the brightest choice of spells, but not long enough for him to cast a cushioning charm before the toddler's head hit the floor, and the levitating objects began to drop with a series of resounding bangs, forming a near perfect circle around the child.
Sirius took a moment to survey the disaster around him—Lily was totally going to kill him. The furniture was in disarray and the usually full toy trunk was empty, its contents scattered across the room. At the eye of the storm, her son lay motionless, and though no longer screaming, his eyes revealed his continued distress.
Allowing himself one final sigh, Sirius rushed to his godson's side and bundled his unyielding, but no longer resisting, form into his arms. Rocking gently, he whispered words of comfort, trying to reassure his captive audience that he was sorry about making him hit his head, that his mummy and daddy were coming back later and, most importantly, that he was safe.
How much of what he was saying got through, he had no way of knowing, but he couldn't leave the toddler frozen forever, and each minute that passed made it more likely that Lily would walk in on them, and overreact. So eventually, he found himself asking, though the toddler had no way of answering, "Promise not to start screaming again if I unfreeze you?"
As movement returned to his limbs and face, Harry looked up at the grown-up, with his best pouty face, the one that always made Mummy forgive him after he'd made a mess, "Sowwy." Harry's eyes searched Sirius' expression. "Pway with me?"
Unprepared for the rush of emotions evoked by that statement, the foremost being relief, and lacking any resistance to the toddler's manipulation, Sirius neglected to chasten him for throwing an epic tantrum. Instead, he loosened his grip, allowing a smile to creep onto his face and a small laugh to escape his mouth, "Of course we can play. What do you want to play?"
The little boy didn't answer, instead squirming to be released completely and wandering back over to the pile of blocks that he'd abandoned when he'd noticed his mum's departure, the reason for his tantrum seemingly forgotten.
Sirius let him go, content to watch, and allowing himself a moment to relax after the stress of calming the child down. But Harry, wasn't having it. He shook his head, still pouting. "Pway!" he repeated pointing at the older wizard.
Sirius shook his head, reluctantly. Much as he would like to sit down and play with his godson, soaking in the innocence and childish mirth, someone had to clean up the mess the toddler's tantrum had caused, if he wanted Lily to keep trusting him.
That she'd agreed to leave him alone with Harry after the last time he'd babysat, and she'd walked in on him standing by the kitchen sink, thoroughly drenched, covered in suds, and holding a screeching baby at arm's length during his first attempt at diaper nappy, was proof of her desperation for a night out.
Thankfully, the child didn't insist. As long as Sirius stayed within sight, he was content to play peacefully by himself, alternating building and destroying a wall of multicoloured interconnecting blocks.
If only it could have lasted….
Half an hour later, just as Sirius was placing the last of his charge's errant toys back in his toy trunk, the toddler abruptly threw down one of his blocks, turned to the older wizard and enunciated, "Fu!" rather emphatically.
Sirius stood up in surprise, "Fu?"
"Fu!" the boy repeated, nodding to reinforce the point. When that didn't garner the desired response, he started jumping up and down, "Fu! Fu! Fu!"
Sirius stared at him blankly—his expression barely masking the tremulous thoughts beginning to rumble in mind at the thought of another tantrum, "Okay, calm down a minute, I'm trying to understand. What's 'fuh'?" he asked.
"Fu! Fu! Fu!" was the only response, the boy still jumping up and down.
Sirius rubbed at his temple; pushing back his rising panic, he extended his hand towards the toddler, "Okay how about this? You can show me what 'fuh' is?"
A blessed moment of silence followed his question, while the younger wizard decided what to do. Finally he nodded and accepted the offered hand, dragging Sirius behind him in the direction of the kitchen.
He came to a halt—so abruptly that the older wizard narrowly avoided running to him—in front of the charmed cold cupboard, and pointed, "Fu!"
Sirius nodded, understanding dawning. "Food, you want food?" he asked, "You're hungry?"
"Unh-huh!" answered the younger boy, grinning enthusiastically, "Fu!"
"Okay," replied the Sirius, smiling as his panic starting to recede. Food, he could handle food. Confidence returning to him, he kneeled down to pick the child up, "let's get you into your high chair then, and then I'll see what I can find for you to eat."
He met with no resistance, and the boy safely deposited in his seat, he turned his attention to the cold cupboard, in search of something to feed the boy. There was no obvious solution; no glass jars clearly marked 'Baby Food' or failing that 'Harry's Food,' like the older wizard had been hoping for. Of course, the child had long progressed to solids so Sirius shouldn't have been surprised.
He racked his brain, trying to figure out what to feed the toddler—overconfident in his child-minding skills, he hadn't really been paying attention to Lily's long list of instructions before she left. What was he supposed to feed a fifteen-month-old? Finally a half remembered conversation surfaced—fruit, Lily had commented that Harry liked fruit.
Which fruit was another question.... Not coming up with a ready answer, he decided to let the child decide. Searching through the fruit drawer, he came up with several options, all fruits he himself liked: apples, pears, plums, oranges, peaches….
He took out one of each and lay them on the tray of the high chair, "Which one do you want?"
When the boy grabbed at the plum—whether by choice or chance—Sirius pulled it out of reach.
"Wait, I have to wash it first," he explained., hurriedly carrying the selected fruit over to the sink, rinsing it thoroughly, and plopping it back down in front of the toddler, just in time to pre-emptively cut off the child's wail of protest.
Another disaster averted, he turned away to return the other fruits to the cupboard, and selected a second plum for himself. His own plum washed, he sat down at the table, beside his godson and checked on his progress.
There hadn't been any. The plum was just as whole as when he'd handed it to the boy, who was entertaining himself by rolling it back and forth on his tray. "I thought you were hungry," he commented, "Why aren't you eating? Here, like this." He demonstrated, taking a bite out of his own plum.
The young wizard brought his own plum to his mouth but didn't take a bite, sucking at it instead.
"No, not like that, like this," Sirius took another bite of his plum.
The toddler continued to suck on his own.
It was only after about a minute of staring at his godson sucking on the plum that Sirius' mind finally made the intuitive leap that although the young boy did have a few teeth he might not actually be able to bite into the plum. That conclusion reached, his mind began to fill in the reasons why. His mouth was too small, his baby teeth not strong enough…. Whatever the reason, the solution was pretty simple, smaller pieces.
He reached towards the high chair to take the plum back for cutting but the younger boy refused to surrender it a second time, taking it out of his mouth only long enough to claim it as his own, "Mine!"
"I just want to cut it up so you can eat it," the Sirius explained.
The toddler shook his head, "Mine!"
The standstill lasted a good thirty seconds, before the Sirius gave up, unwilling to risk another tantrum. He'd just have to use another plum.
Within seconds of an unbreakable bowl filled with freshly cut bite-sized pieces of plum being placed on his high chair's tray, the little imp cheerfully relinquished the plum he'd been sucking on, grabbing for the bowl instead. Before long, he was popping pieces into his mouth.
For a while Sirius stood and watched him eat, smiling, his own half-eaten plum long forgotten. But eventually, he turned back to the counter and the task of tidying up. Though he hadn't created much of a mess—especially compared to the earlier state of the living room—he knew how particular Lily was about the state of her kitchen.
As he half-turned to close the knife drawer, he caught a glimpse of little Harry in his peripheral vision.
He jumped back, startled. Surely he'd imagined it….
Turning around fully to face his charge, he took in the full scene before him. Harry hadn't moved from his highchair at the centre of the room but, sure enough, the toddler was running his hands—his plum-juice-covered hands—through his raven hair, smearing it with a sticky mix of solid and liquid.
"Harry, no!" he exclaimed, pulling the bowl away, but it was too little too late. There was far more mashed plum on the tray than what was left on the plate. In the time his babysitter had had his back turned, the boy had managed to smear his entire tray with mashed up plum and mix a liberal amount into his hair.
As the boy reached down to transfer another handful of plum from the tray to his hair, Sirius intercepted him, pulling him out of his chair in a single move and depositing him firmly on the kitchen counter.
"Oh no, you don't," he chastised. "Now why did you have to go and do that?" he asked.
The little troublemaker didn't deign to answer. Instead he smiled up at his babysitter, a look of complete innocence plastered on his face.
Sirius wasn't buying it, convinced that at even at his current age the little monster knew perfectly well that plum—or any food for that matter—didn't belong in his hair.
He tried fruitlessly to pick the pieces of plum out of the little boy's hair, but it was a wasted effort. The problem wasn't just the chunks of plum, the entire head of black hair was plastered in plum juice—just one sticky mess….
He briefly considered casting a cleaning charm, but that, and drying charms, had always had disastrous results when applied to James' mop of hair; Harry's was unlikely to be any different…. Maybe he could stick the kid's head in the sink, but no, he wasn't likely to cooperate, and it was a little too close to his babysitting experience for comfort….
So that only left… a bath.
Considering the trouble he'd had so far with tasks that should have been simple, the idea of giving little Harry a bath didn't particularly fill him with confidence.
Sighing, he picked the boy up again, "Okay let's get you washed up, you little monster."
The responding giggle did nothing to help his apprehension.
He needn't have worried—much.
Harry loved bath-time. He co-operated fully as the older wizard stripped him out of his dirty clothes and nappy0. He sat quietly on the bathroom floor while his babysitter ran the bathwater, and checked its temperature. He didn't even object to being plopped unceremoniously into the tub.
No, the problem wasn't getting him into the tub. Harry really loved taking a bath, so much so that by the time Sirius had finished washing the little boy's hair, he was just as drenched as his charge.
The first sign of trouble occurred just as the Sirius was starting to feel relieved at how painless the process had been. As he announced the end of bath-time and reached down to pick the small boy up, the toddler's smile instantly transformed into a pout.
"No!" he intoned, dropping his rubber duck and crossing his arms for emphasis.
The response was so abrupt that Sirius sat back in surprise. Then bracing himself for the inevitable battle, he tried again.
Soaking wet and thoroughly slippery, Harry objected vehemently to the end of bath-time. Squirming so much that his godfather almost dropped him more than once, he screamed his objection at the top of his little lungs.
By the time he'd finally finished towelling the boy off and dressing him in a clean set of clothes, Sirius was considering the possible pros and cons of a Silencing Charm as, completely exhausted, he fought through a splitting headache.
Still the little tyke continued to whimper and struggle, even as Sirius carried him out of the bathroom and into the living room. The Silencing Charm was becoming more and more tempting.
Sirius briefly considered trying to distract his charge with one of the many colourful games contained in his toy trunk, but echoes of Lily's pre-departure speech crept back into conscious thought, something about crankiness relating to bedtime….
So, instead of depositing the child in front of his pile of toys, he collapsed bonelessly into his mother's rocking chair, the toddler still ensconced in his arms, hoping desperately that he'd guessed right. The fact that the boy was likely running on adrenaline by then, added to the absence of his mother—an integral part of his bedtime routine—made the task of getting him to sleep seem pretty close to impossible.
But slowly, his gentle rocking, and tuneless singing bore fruit. The child's whimpering and struggles slowly waned, then stopped. Finally overcome by exhaustion, little Harry's eyes slid shut. Less than a minute later his babysitter followed him into the land of nod.
That was how Lily found them, her son and his godfather fast asleep in her rocking chair, an hour later, when she and James came through the Floo.
They looked so peaceful that she was reluctant to wake them, or even move them—though she'd been trying to wean Harry off falling asleep in the rocking chair for a couple of months now. Just this once she decided, casting a localised one-way Silencing Charm around the chair so that they wouldn't be disturbed….