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Chapter 4

Sirius was far from finished. Only one shelf had actually made it onto the wall, and judging by the pieces of splintered wood strewn haphazardly over the sofa, it looked as if he'd managed to break one of the others into three pieces. He was currently holding up a bracketed shelf with one hand, and trying to drill through the bracket, into the wall. The cheery whistling had been replaced by a slightly fraught, tuneless humming.

Harry took a nervous step closer to Remus, who was watching the proceedings silently with his arms folded. He bit his lip to prevent any helpful comments escaping. He had a feeling they wouldn't be well received.

However, if they were ever to get to the toyshop that day, it would be necessary to speak sometime soon. He cleared his throat nervously. Harry tried to do the same, but the effect was ruined because he inhaled some plaster dust and sneezed explosively. Fortunately, Sirius found the sound of a toddler sneezing rather cute, and he paused to smile and wink at Harry. Remus seized his opportunity.

'You know, if Harry's going to get to play in his new paddling pool today, we'd better go and buy it soon.'

Sirius looked at the clock in exasperation. His shoulders drooped dejectedly. 'Well, you two had better go without me. This is taking longer than I thought, and I want to finish it today.'

'Are you sure?' asked Remus. 'We could always go tomorrow instead.'

'No!' frowned Sirius. 'I want to go to the beach tomorrow.'

'BEACH!' shrieked Harry. Remus winced and gave a now-you've-done-it look to Sirius. Sirius grimaced apologetically.

Harry scuttled off to the cupboard under the stairs, where he set to work extracting a toy boat and a plastic bucket-and-spade. He handed them to Remus, and then dashed back to dig out a deflated beach ball and his water wings.

Remus gave Sirius one last scowl, and tentatively approached the excited toddler.

'Not now, Harry. We'll go to the beach tomorrow. Not now.'

Harry gave him a look of utter betrayal. He whimpered and his face began to crumple. Remus picked him up and tickled him before he could start to cry. 'We're going to the toyshop now, Harry. Don't you want to get a paddling pool?'

This tactic didn't work, because Harry didn't yet know what a paddling pool was. He looked at Remus uncertainly, still frowning.

'We're going on the bus,' tried Remus.

That worked.

'Bus! Brmm!'

Sirius put down the drill and propped the shelf against the wall. With a defeated sigh he gave his forehead a wipe with his sleeve.

'What the hell. I can finish this later. I want to go to Toys 'R' Us.'

Harry seized his hand and pulled him towards the front door. Remus grinned and picked up his keys.


It was a ten-minute bus trip to the shopping centre, and a three-minute ordeal to get Harry off the bus. Apparently he wanted to drive. He kept pointing at the driver and shouting, 'Me do!'

He abruptly lost interest though, when he caught sight of the multicoloured shop sign with a familiar smiling giraffe mascot.


Sirius swung him onto his shoulders and they made their way through the crowd of Saturday afternoon shoppers. As soon as they were inside, Harry whooped excitedly at the wonders on display. Sirius lowered him to the ground in front of a huge pyramid of cuddly toy animals, but Harry ignored them and galloped towards a massive ride-on toy fire engine.

The three spent a happy hour and a half playing with everything from radio-controlled cars to battery-operated light-sabers. They laughed as Remus tried and failed to solve a Rubik's Cube, and then they built a tower out of Lego. Eventually Remus decided it was time to stop messing about and to look for a paddling pool. Sirius wrote a rude word on a magnetic doodle-board to indicate what he thought of that suggestion.

'Fine,' said Remus. 'You stay here and play with Harry. I'll get the paddling pool. But you are carrying it home.'

Some time later Remus staggered along the aisles carrying a huge box. It was amazing that a sheet of blue vinyl and a few tubular steel supports could be so heavy. He sighed and glanced left and right, wondering what Sirius was getting up to now.

Shortly he heard the pained tones of a female sales assistant.

'Sir, please! The ball pool is for children only.'

Ah! Found him.

Remus rounded the corner and put down his burden, sighing with relief. Then he stood and sighed again, this time with exasperation.

In the short time that they had been separated, Sirius had managed to find some free samples of face-paint. Harry was now a very small, very bouncy tiger. He also had orange and black smears all over his clothes.

Sirius grinned as he climbed out of the ball pool. He lifted Harry out and gave him a gentle push towards Remus.

Tiger-Harry made pretend claws at him.

'Grrr,' he said.

'Same to you,' replied Remus dryly, but then his face broke into a helpless smile. 'Ah well, I suppose you'll get clean again, splashing about in this.' He indicated the paddling pool, which Sirius was examining with approval.

Harry frowned at the large box. Apparently he still didn't understand what was in it.