“Where have you been?” Prewett whispered as Tonks sidled into the room, late. Scrimgeour glanced at her, and then his yellow eyes flicked over to where Mad-Eye was standing, looking like he’d been there the whole time. Tonks waited until Scrimgeour was distracted by a question from the Brown boy.
“Let’s just say I know where the ‘Mad’ in ‘Mad-Eye’ comes from,” she muttered. Marlene turned away, hiding a smile; James had said something very similar after he and - Marlene forced herself to think the name - Sirius’ first proper lesson with the Auror.
“He stopped to interrogate the wizard who checks wands in the atrium, and then he took us down to Broom Regulation and Control to throw off anyone who might want to follow us - for Merlin knows what reason! - to ask whether there were any laws about putting enchantments on your own broomstick.”
“Of course there are,” Marlene told her. Wellington and Clarke, who were on Prewett’s other side, looked stunned to hear her speak. “Quidditch players have been sacked for doing that!”
“Oh, that’s right!” Clarke exclaimed. “Dmitri-”
“Who?” Prewett asked blankly.
“He used to play Seeker for the Montrose Magpies,” Clarke said impatiently. Marlene’s eyebrows rose. Melvin Clarke was one of the most painfully shy people she’d ever met, yet he was talking passionately about Quidditch of all things. They might get on better than she’d thought. “He was sacked because he put a charm on his Cleansweep to make it repel anything that weighed more than a Snitch. Bagman - he used to play for the Wimbourne Wasps - got his nose broken because it repelled him into one of the goalposts.”
“That’s exactly what the bloke at the desk said,” Tonks replied, sighing. “And then Moody said, ‘Do I look like a Quidditch Player to you?!’-” She managed to mimic his voice uncannily well. “-and things sort of went downhill from there.”
“But you missed this morning’s session too,” Prewett pressed.
“So did you,” Clarke pointed, suddenly shy again.
“I missed the first half an hour,” Prewett snapped. Clarke looked like he wanted to sink into the floor. “And I already told you: I slept in.” Wellington sniggered.
Tonks made a face. “If you must know,” she said a little irritably, “Moody had me unpacking boxes.”
“Boxes?” Wellington asked doubtfully.
“He’s just moved house,” Tonks sighed. “And of course, he doesn’t want them all unpacked in case he needs to leave again in a hurry, but he didn’t tell me that until I’d unpacked and resized all of his books and he only wanted certain ones out.” The other three made faces and didn’t notice when Tonks caught Mad-Eye’s eye and winked. Marlene did.
“Maybe you could ask to swap mentor?” Prewett suggested.
Tonks shook her head. “Nah, I’ll manage. So, what were you lot doing while I was playing removalist?”
“Catching up with family,” Prewett said grimly.
“Apparently Sirius Black might come after her cousin,” Clarke told them.
“That’d be exciting,” Wellington said.
Marlene held her tongue. Just. Idiot. None of you would stand a chance against Sirius. Marlene knew that for a fact because they’d duelled this morning; each Friday training session was going to begin with an hour of duelling. Wellington was slow, and took too long to decide what to use, though the spells he did use were very powerful.
Prewett had looked like she might have been a decent duellist - still nowhere near as good as Marlene remembered Sirius being - but she’d seemed a little out of things. Clarke had the potential to be very, very good, if he could get over his apparent aversion to hurting people; he’d hit Marlene with a Body-Bind and then cast a Cushioning Charm almost immediately so she wouldn’t be uncomfortable when she hit the floor. It was a nice sentiment, but a waste of time, and during the War, it probably would have cost him his life.
“It would be terrifying, actually,” Prewett said icily. “And I think they’ve got enough to deal with without this hanging over them.” Clarke looked sad.
“I agree,” Marlene said quietly.
“You know Aunt Alice?” Prewett asked carefully.
“We shared a dormitory.” That was as much as she was willing to share, but thankfully, Prewett didn’t ask any more.
“Did you ever meet Mrs Longbottom?” Clarke asked. Marlene nodded. Clarke chewed his lip for a moment, as if debating whether to say something or not. “Is she always so...?”
“Cranky?” Marlene supplied. Prewett rolled her eyes. “Yes. You get used to it, though.”
Marlene shrugged. “Time. She rarely takes to anyone straight away.” Except for Alice. Alice could have said or done anything and got away with it... That’s just Alice, though. Or was. Now she doesn’t say or do much at all.
“Well aren’t you two cheerful?” Tonks said, grinning. Wellington sniggered. “Melvin, Mrs Longbottom might be a bit... difficult, but there are worse people to work for. Believe me,” she muttered. Marlene looked up despite herself, wondering what it was the Mad-Eye had the girl doing; she hadn’t bought the boxes story, although she did believe the Broom Regulation and Control one. “And, McKinnon, you look like someone’s died! Sirius won’t get to them if they’ve got Aurors with them.”
The Tonks girl clearly meant this to be comforting. Marlene found it distressing, however; Alice and Frank had been Aurors. They’d started training in their seventh year and qualified a year later. They’d been two of the best, and that hadn’t saved them when Bellatrix Lestrange came knocking. The look on Prewett’s face told Marlene that they were thinking along the same lines.
“Right,” Marlene said flatly and stalked off to find someone else to stand with. She discounted the rest of the trainees almost immediately, and - since her own mentor wasn’t around - went to stand by Mad-Eye.
“McKinnon,” he said, glancing at her with his real eye. His magical one was watching Tonks.
“Mad-Eye,” she replied. Her voice cracked a little. The other eye swivelled and fixed itself on her face.
“Everything all right?” he asked gruffly.
“No... yes. I- just wanted a quieter place to stand.”
“Hmm.” She didn’t bother asking if he minded; if he did, he’d have said something already. “What do you think of Robards?”
“I like him,” she said, grateful for a topic that didn’t make her want to cry.
“Thought you might,” Moody said, looking pleased.
“What do you think of the Tonks girl?”
“She’ll do,” he said.
Marlene raised an eyebrow. “You like her that much?”
Mad-Eye glanced at Tonks again and shrugged.
* * *
“So what did we miss this morning?” Tonks asked, glancing over to where McKinnon was standing with Moody. She looked more relaxed with him than she had with them, so Tonks supposed she was all right, though she did wish she knew what they’d done wrong. Perhaps she’d ask Moody about it later.
“Well, we duelled,” Ben said. “That was fun. The rest was boring.”
“I thought it was important,” Melvin said shyly, glancing at Tonks and then at Florence. “Auror Scrimgeour and Madam Bones talked to us about our responsibilities as Aurors and things we can and can’t do.”
“Like what?” Florence asked, pushing her dark hair out of her face.
“Well, we can’t make an arrest without another Auror there until we’re second years,” Melvin said, squinting as he tried to remember. “There’s a list of spells and curses that we’ll be expelled from the Program for using without special permission. If we break the law we’ll be punished more severely than any other witch or wizard and... er... I’ve forgotten something...” He trailed off, frowning.
“We can’t break wands,” Ben supplied.
“That’s right!” Melvin said, snapping his fingers. Tonks and Florence exchanged bewildered looks. “If it’s life or death they’ll make an exception, of course - they do with most things - but otherwise you have to hold a trial and everything.”
“So snapping wands is just a threat?” Florence asked, looking amazed.
“Pretty effective one,” Tonks muttered. “I-”
“Quiet down!” Scrimgeour called from the front of the room. “This afternoon, you will learn how to set up and use one of the most useful objects you will ever encounter in your career as an Auror.” Tonks straightened immediately, curious to see what the object was.
She couldn’t see past Ben’s shoulder and so made her legs grow a few inches. Florence was short - even when compared to Tonks’ normal height - and scowled as she went shooting up. Melvin was short too - probably fairly close to Tonks in height - and just looked at her wonderingly.
Scrimgeour passed a cloth bag to one of the Aurors. It clinked quietly, as if there were galleons inside. Florence seemed to hear it too and caught Tonks’ eye. “What is it?”
“Dunno; it’s in a bag,” she muttered back.
The Auror walked through the crowd, offering the bag to each of the trainees in turn. “Take one,” he said when he reached Tonks. She reached in and fished out a round, shiny object. For a moment she thought it might actually be a galleon, but it was too heavy, much too thick, and the last galleon Tonks had seen, certainly hadn’t had a chain connected to it.
She turned it over in her hands. It was gold, like a galleon, but it also had a large black ‘M’ inlaid in its face, the legs of which were balanced on a pair of scales. A wand ran through the middle, and sparks from its tip - coloured silver and bronze - littered the rest of the gold surface. Around the edge were the words FORTITUDE, VIRTUS, DETERMINATIO ET INTELLIGENTIA.
“Does anyone know Latin?” Tonks whispered.
Ben, who had his - whatever it was - clenched in his hand and was rattling it by his ear, shook his head. Florence was holding hers up to her eye and squinting at it and didn’t appear to hear Tonks. Melvin, who was cradling his close to his chest, as if he was afraid someone might take it, or that he might drop it, shook his head.
“Has anyone missed out?” Scrimgeour asked. There was silence. He cleared his throat importantly. “Courage, virtue, determination and intelligence,” he said in a loud, clear voice. “That is the Auror’s code. Forget it, and you will not last long in this field of work. So that you do not forget it, you will be required to say these words each time you wish to use the object in your hand.” Scrimgeour looked around at them all. “Well, go ahead.”
Tonks had a look around and met the puzzled eyes of several other trainees. She muttered the words and watched in amazement as two hinges grew out of one edge and a line split the seamless side. It opened with a click and she took a brief glance at it before her attention was called elsewhere.
“Courage, virtue, determination and intelligence,” Florence murmured, though hers was already open. “Like the four Houses. Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and Ravenclaw.”
“Slytherins are determined?” Ben asked derisively. “More like sneaky and self-important.”
“That isn’t true,” Melvin said softly.
“They’re rotten, all of them,” Ben said.
“Hardly,” Tonks scoffed. “My Mum’s a Slytherin and so’s one of my best friends!”
Ben looked scandalised. “You’re kidding!”
“No,” Tonks said, frowning.
“You do know they’re evil, don’t you?” Ben asked. “Every witch or wizard who went dark has been in Slytherin.”
“That’s not true!” Florence snapped. “People can be dark if they weren’t a Slytherin first!”
“Name one,” Ben said, glowering at her. Florence opened her mouth to say something but didn’t seem able to say it. Ben towered over her with a smug smile. Tonks stuffed her object into her pocket so she wouldn’t break it. Melvin took a step forward, as if to protect Florence, but Tonks beat him to it, hitting Ben’s shoulder. Hard. He looked down at her, a little surprised.
“Sirius Black, that’s who,” she barked. “He was in Gryffindor and he’s probably the worst of them all, if you don’t include You-Know-Who!” Or Lucius Malfoy. “So don’t you tell me it’s only Slytherins who’ve-”
“So now you’re saying Gryffindors are evil?” Ben had his wand out now, and was pointing it at Tonks.
She whipped out her own. “Don’t be thick,” she growled. “I only said-”
“And Sirius Black wasn’t even in Gryffindor! He was a Slytherin! Everyone knows that!”
“Sirius was not a Slytherin!” Tonks bellowed, vaguely aware that they were drawing attention from other trainees and the Aurors now. She didn’t particularly care. “Everyone assumes he was because they, like you, are too bigoted to look past prejudices!”
“So Gryffindors are bigots now?!” Ben roared.
“No!” Tonks shouted. “You’re a bigot!”
“How dare yo-”
“ENOUGH!” Tonks jumped. Moody, Scrimgeour and Ben’s mentor Shacklebolt were standing beside them. Moody grabbed the back of Tonks’ robes and hauled her - rather roughly - to the back of the room. She tripped once, and lost her footing but Moody kept moving. A quick glance back showed her that Ben was trailing behind Shacklebolt, also headed over. Scrimgeour was addressing the other trainees. Florence, Melvin and even McKinnon were all watching her with worried expressions.
“Bow to your opponent,” Moody told her.
“Bo- What?” Tonks asked, turning to look at him. Moody pushed her head down and she bowed, but managed to glance up and see Ben was doing the same. Moody released her and stepped back. There was no one immediately around Ben either.
“When you’re ready,” Scrimgeour said.
“When we’re ready what- Oi!” Tonks said, dodging a jet of yellow light.
“Duel!” Moody barked at her.
“Expelliarmus!” Ben shouted.
Tonks’ wand few out of her hand but she reached for it and caught it (though her arm had grown several inches to make that possible). “Parva Digitum!” she said firmly.
There were no visible changes to Ben’s appearance, of course, but the spell didn’t take long to make its effects obvious; a peculiar expression crossed Ben’s face – Tonks imagined having a body part shrink suddenly was rather disconcerting if one wasn’t used to it – and he swayed where he was standing. He took a step, perhaps trying to steady himself, and then tumbled to the ground. It was, after all, rather difficult to balance without one’s big toes.
He glowered at her from the ground while everyone was still trying to work out exactly what she’d done, though she thought Moody knew, because of his eye. “Incarcerous.”
Ben seemed to snap out of his daze. “Protego Ignis!” A fiery shield sprang up in front of him and burned the ropes before they could touch him. He didn’t try to stand. That was clever of him, and stupid at the same time. Dad had told Tonks once that – whether it be in a duel, a wrestle or in an argument – she should never fight from the ground. “Trying to hit me while I’m down?” Ben panted. “You’re just as slimy as your Slytherin pals. Limus Velo!”
Tonks couldn’t help shrieking as she was doused from head to toe in a thick layer of green slime. It didn’t taste like anything in particular, but she didn’t like it in her mouth, and while it didn’t actually sting her eyes, she didn’t want it in them either. She spat some out of her mouth and said, “Aguamenti!” Ben already had a Shield Charm up but she wasn’t aiming for him. She was focused on rinsing herself because she’d much rather be wet than slimy. “Tussio!”
Ben doubled over, coughing uncontrollably for a few moments, but he flicked his wand once, obviously doing a non-verbal counter charm and then flicked his wand again. Tonks stepped out of the way and tripped on her own feet. Ben hesitated, apparently considering his options, and then said, “Suffocio!”
At almost the same time, Tonks leapt to her feet and said, “Expelliarmus!” No sooner than she’d got the words out, an invisible hand clasped around her throat and began to squeeze. She tried to pry it off, but nothing was there. Horrified, she looked at Ben, who’d been knocked onto his back, Disarmed, and around at the other Aurors, who were talking amongst themselves; well, shouting, actually, in Moody’s case, but she couldn’t hear what about, only see him throwing his hands in the air.
Finite Incantatem, she thought shakily, pointing her wand at herself. It did nothing. Desperate, she thought of the hardest type of skin she could grow, and concentrated on giving herself dragon scales that might be more resistant to the squeezing. That worked a little better. If it hadn’t, she might have had to give herself gills and conjure a bucket of water. She was able to take a tentative breath. “Finite Incantatem,” she tried again, verbally this time. The pressure eased entirely and she gasped in a lungful of air.
When she was certain the effects of the spell were gone, she changed her neck back to skin and reversed the spell on Ben’s toes. Moody limped over.
“Well done,” he said quietly.
“Trainee Tonks, if you’d join us over here, please.” She and Moody joined Scrimgeour, Shacklebolt and Ben, who was looking sulky, but standing at least. “Now,” Scrimgeour said in clipped tones, “that you’ve exercised some of your volatility, perhaps you will be able to calmly explain the problem. Trainee Tonks, as the winner, you’ve won the right to speak first.”
Tonks opened her mouth and abruptly changed her mind. She wasn’t a first year who went running to her Head of House the moment she had a problem. Hufflepuffs – and she was a Hufflepuff, and proud of it – didn’t tell on people unless it was absolutely necessary. This wasn’t. She could shout some sense into Ben later, without humiliating him more than losing the duel had done.
“Ben can go first,” she said. The Aurors raised their eyebrows, almost in unison, and Ben ploughed right into the silence.
“She,” he said, in a deeply accusing tone, “called Gryffindors evil, lied about Sirius Black and then called me a bigot!”
Tonks folded her arms and gave him the withering look that she’d seen McGonagall use. Ben flinched and Tonks thought that was probably because she’d adopted McGonagall’s nose, lips and eyes when making that face.
“You did these things?” Scrimgeour asked, turning his yellow eyes on her. She met them curiously, wondering if she would be able to make her own look that way, and then realised they were waiting for an answer.
“I did call him a bigot,” she said, shrugging.
“Not the others?”
“Nope,” she said, popping the ‘p’. “I told him that Slytherins weren’t evil-”
“Are so,” Ben muttered.
“-not all of them, anyway,” she continued, as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “And I also told him that Sirius Black was in Gryffindor when he was at school, to prove my point that not all Gryffindors are good.”
“Sirius Black was not-” Ben started.
“Sirius Black was a Gryffindor, lad,” Moody said, sounding very tired all of a sudden.
“Are you sure?” Ben asked, looking doubtful.
“I trained him,” Moody grunted. “Him and James Potter. Gryffindors, the both of them.”
Ben looked stricken. “But-but Slytherin-”
“You have a problem with Slytherin?” Scrimgeour asked, in a very quiet voice. Tonks would have bet her place in the Program that he had been one himself and had to choke back a laugh.
“Yes, I do,” Ben said, his eyes challenging.
“Come with me,” Scrimgeour said coolly. He limped away. “Shacklebolt!” Shacklebolt gestured for Ben to follow and strode after the Head Auror.
“How’s the throat?” Moody asked.
“You knew?” Tonks demanded. “I could have died!”
“Fainted. The spell wears off when the target passes out, or when a verbal counter charm is spoken.” That, Tonks had to admit, was clever; how was someone supposed to speak a counter charm when the spell robbed them of air? “Scrimgeour wanted to see what you’d do.”
“Because when a trainee’s under pressure, you get a very good idea of their character. Do they panic? Do they give up? Do they fight it? Scrimgeour likes to know these things.”
Tonks sighed. “Did I pass?”
“No,” Moody said. Tonks opened her mouth to say something but he beat her to it. “You didn’t fail either.” He winked and limped away, leaving her standing there, trying to work out what the hell he’d just said. Florence and Melvin descended on her a moment later and several of the other trainees approached to congratulate her.
“Thanks,” she muttered, hoping they’d leave her alone. And they did, eventually, when Auror Blackburn called everyone’s attention back to the little objects.
Tonks pulled hers out of her pocket. It was still open and she had a chance to have a proper look this time. A thin, round panel stood vertically out of the middle. On each side was a normal clock face. Inside that, however, were two semi-circles. One ran along the top inside half, and had numbers from zero to one-hundred and eighty, and the other ran along the bottom inside half and had the numbers zero to sixty.
There were fourteen hands in total, on each side; two were a bright coppery colour and seemed to be for the watch part. Eight of the other hands were split into four different colours, with there being two of each of bronze, black, silver and gold. The remaining four hands were these colours, but significantly smaller than the others.
The inside of the two halves of the object rested perpendicularly to the clock-thing and were just polished gold with an indent that would enclose the clock faces when the object closed.
“What is it?” Tonks asked Florence, who shrugged and shook hers.
“Firstly,” Blackburn called, “this is a Secure Communication and Identification Device with Coordinate Clock, otherwise known as the S.C.I.D.C.C., or, the Sidekick. Your mentor will teach you how to add details to the outside of the Sidekick. Should a witch or wizard ask you for identification, that is what you will show them.
“This,” he said, lifting his own open Sidekick and pointing to the clock faces, “is the Coordinate Clock. One side of it will show the time at your current location, as well as your geographical position. Bronze is East, black is West, silver is North and gold is South. They show you your position in degrees with the top set of numbers, and in minutes on the bottom set of numbers. Seconds are shown by the smaller hand of that colour, also on the bottom set of numbers.”
Auror Finch stepped up. “The other side of the Coordinate Clock is for your partner, or, in your case, your mentor. Most of the time, it will show where your mentor is - don’t bother looking now; they haven’t been set up yet-” Dale blushed, her cheeks turning the same colour as the pink robes she wore. “- but it can also be used to arrange meetings. If they need you at a certain place, at a certain time, the clock hands will point at the meeting time and the other hands will show the place. You can also move yours to call them somewhere.”
Another Auror – Proudfoot, Tonks thought it was – replaced Finch. “The inside of the device – not the Coordinate Clock – are not decorated yet. We will teach you a spell in a moment that will enable you to leave your own symbol on another Sidekick. When the owner of the other Sidekick states the password – chosen by you – they will be able to talk to you through the device.”
I wonder if these are based on telephones... Tonks mused. Several others seemed to be thinking the same thing; she caught the word several times and then a hand shot into the air. Tonks thought it was Brown. “These aren’t based on muggle telephones, are they?”
“Every time,” Finch muttered and passed another witch a galleon.
“They act similarly, but were not designed with telephones in mind,” Proudfoot said. Everyone waited. He sighed. “They are based on a pair of mirrors that two former Aurors used to communicate during the war.” Proudfoot’s eyes flicked to Moody, who nodded sharply. Tonks wondered what that was about. “Each Sidekick is also able to act as a Portkey. It will take you to a specific location – we’ll also help you set this up – when you say the password.”
“Now, if you’ll lift your wand like this,” an Auror with an eyepatch – Tonks thought her name might have been McDuff – said, stepping forward, “and say Imprima...”
* * *
“No, James, I didn’t- Reg- Lily, please-”
“Wake up,” Harry muttered, shaking Padfoot. “Padfoot, please wake up.”
“James, no... It wasn’t me, I couldn’t-”
Thank Merlin! Harry ran out onto the landing and stuck his head over the banister. “Up here!” he called. He caught a glimpse of Moony’s pale face and then there were footsteps on the stairs. A few seconds later, Moony appeared, looking worried and out of breath.
“Where is he?” he asked, placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“In here.” Moony followed him into the bedroom and then hurried over to the bed.
“Remus,” Padfoot said restlessly. Harry and Moony both started. “Remus, it wasn’t me, it was Peter... Moony, no, no! Please! James! James, I’m sorry-”
Moony shook himself, pulled out his wand and said, quite firmly, “Rennervate.”
Padfoot gasped and his eyes flew open. Harry and Moony immediately set about calming him down; yes, he was in Harry’s room, no, he was not allowed to get up and Moony would hex him if he tried, yes, he did have to eat the Chocolate Frog Harry had retrieved from his bedside table, even if he didn’t want to. The card was Dumbledore, which made Padfoot scowl and start muttering about Snape again.
“Snape?” Moony asked, puzzled. “What’s he got to do with anything?”
“Snape was here,” Harry said.
“Git,” Padfoot muttered, sinking back into Harry’s pillows.
“He- Snape was here?!” Moony repeated, tossing another Chocolate Frog at Padfoot. “Eat that.” Padfoot scowled but that was the only resistance he offered. “Why the hell was Snape here?”
Harry sighed and began to explain the night’s events as best he could. He left out everything that had happened when he and Snape were at Hogwarts. He wasn’t sure how much of that was real, and how much of it he’d dreamed; he was fairly confident that Padfoot hadn’t tried to kill Snape, but that was a strange thing to make up. Harry had decided not to think about it.
Padfoot added comments when Harry forgot something, but mostly he stayed quiet and ate his chocolate. By the time Harry had finished talking, Padfoot had fallen asleep again, but seemed rather more peaceful than he had been before.
“I wish I could have seen Snape’s face,” Moony whispered, gesturing for Harry to follow.
“It was funny,” Harry admitted. He glanced at Padfoot. “Will he-”
“He’ll be perfectly fine. He just needs to rest.” Harry trailed out of the room after Moony. “Do you have any Pepper-Up Potions on hand?”
“For me. I’ve got a terrible headache.” Moony paused. “Pepper-Up Potion probably isn’t a bad idea for Sirius either, though, if we can find some. Where does Sirius keep the medical potions?”
Moony looked mildly amused. “Very helpful, Harry, thank you.” Harry flushed. “Where does he keep Potions ingredients, then? It’s probably quicker to brew some than waste time looking for it.”
“In the training room,” Harry said. “There’s a cauldron there too.”
“After you,” Moony said, gesturing to the stairs.
* * *
By seven o’clock that evening, Kreacher was up and about again, though he still complained about a headache. He could be heard skulking around, cursing Snape under his breath with a loathing formerly reserved for Padfoot.
Padfoot - who’d also woken - encouraged this behaviour the moment he became aware of it. He was rather weak - Moony said it was a Dementor’s Draught relapse brought about by a lack of sleep and the stress of Snape’s visit - but in reasonably good spirits.
“You aren’t pale, at least,” Moony commented. Padfoot - who was red-faced from a Pepper-Up Potion - gave him a flat look. The effect was somewhat ruined by the steam billowing out of his ears.
“Celery for Master Sirius?” Kreacher asked.
“No, thank you, Kreacher,” Padfoot said, picking at his bread roll.
“Celery for Master Harry?”
“No-” Both Moony and Padfoot gave Harry warning looks. “Er... I mean, yes, thanks.”
“None for me, thank you, Kreacher,” Moony said before Kreacher could ask. “Although, if you’ve got more of that shepherd’s pie...” Kreacher bowed and scurried back to the bench.
“Shameless,” Padfoot said, shaking his head.
“You’re going to tell me off for having a third helping when you and Harry have both already had one?”
Padfoot pretended not to hear and Moony seemed to decide arguing would involve more effort than it was worth. The kitchen was quiet except for the sounds of Kreacher loading another plate for Moony, and the occasional crunch of Harry’s celery; at some point in the near future, he was going to need to learn the spell Padfoot used to make things disappear; vegetables like carrot, potato, peas and pumpkin he quite liked, but celery, broccoli and Brussels sprouts were things he’d rather not eat if given the option.
He’d never had a problem with vegetables at the Dursleys, but that was because they hadn’t eaten vegetables very often - Uncle Vernon didn’t like ‘rabbit food’ - and because Harry had been so hungry that he hadn’t cared what he was eating. Things were different now.
“Oi,” Padfoot said hoarsely, pointing a finger at Harry. Harry felt his cheeks heat up and stopped trying to hide his celery under his potato skins.
Moony chuckled. “At least he’s creative.”
“What do you mean?” Padfoot asked.
Moony was very obviously fighting a smile. “Olives,” he said simply.
Padfoot grimaced. “Ah.”
“Olives?” Harry asked.
“You’ve never had the dubious pleasure of attending a pureblood function,” Padfoot sighed. “Birthdays are usually all right - as far as food goes, anyway; the company’s still horrible - but the dinner parties, which people have for no reason other than to show off and gossip about the families that couldn’t make it, always serve the worst food."
"It’s all expensive, exotic stuff.” Padfoot wrinkled his nose. “Changes each time, usually, but there were always - at least when I was growing up – olives. “ He shuddered.
“Olives stuffed with fairy eggs. They were foul. Doesn’t matter how talented the house elves were, they always tasted terrible. And they weren’t even finger foods; they were always put down in front of you, and you were expected to eat them. Most house elves wouldn’t serve you dinner until your plate was empty.”
“And how did you avoid eating them?” Moony pressed, wearing a smile that Harry presumed meant he already knew.
“Threw them at whoever was bothering me most at the time,” Padfoot said, winking at Harry. “Then, in third year - because I knew a bit more magic - I learnt how to make them explode... They taste foul, but they look good splattered on Slytherins.” He grinned.
“And, what’s even better is that Mum usually caught me and sent me to bed early for bad behaviour.” He looked oddly reminiscent. “Reg used to sneak me food afterwards, so I didn’t go hungry, and that of course, provided an incentive to do the same thing next time.” He turned to Harry, grinning again. “Now, eat your vegetables.”
Harry hesitated, though only for a second, and threw a piece at him. It bounced off Padfoot’s nose and landed on the table in front of him. Padfoot stared at it in disbelief - as if unable to believe what Harry had just done - and then burst out laughing.
Harry grinned at Moony, who sighed and accepted his pie from Kreacher. Padfoot settled shortly after and said nothing more about the celery, which remained mostly untouched on Harry’s plate.
Harry helped Kreacher with the dishes while Moony made Padfoot drink more Pepper-Up Potion and several mugs of hot chocolate and then put him to bed.
“Dishes are not for the Master to be doing,” Kreacher said afterward, as he and Harry trooped upstairs for bed. “Mistress never made Kreacher’s Masters do the housework-”
Harry shrugged. “How are you feeling? And I want you to tell the truth.”
Kreacher pressed a trembling hand to his head. “Kreacher feels well enough to fulfil his duties to the House of Black.”
“I asked how you feel, not what you think you can do.Are you sore? Tired?”
Kreacher looked both thoughtful and unnerved. Harry wondered if that was the first time he’d ever been asked that. “Both,” he said finally, in his bullfrog’s voice. “But Kreacher is-”
“Why don’t you go to bed?” Harry suggested.
Gratitude flashed in Kreacher’s large eyes but it was quickly smothered. “Kreacher mustn’t,” he said reluctantly. “Such an act would be worthy of clothes, oh yes. What would Mistress say if she knew Kreacher had gone to bed before Kreacher’s Masters-”
“Kreacher,” Harry said firmly. “Go to bed.” Kreacher visibly struggled with the order. It was the first one he’d tried to resist for quite a while. “Padfoot’s already in bed,” Harry continued, trying to be persuasive. “And I’m heading there now.”
“The Masters’ guest is still about,” Kreacher said, glancing at the library door as they passed it, as if Moony might suddenly appear.
“That’s fine,” Harry said, shrugging again. “Moony can do what he wants.” Kreacher wrung his hands in his tea-towel. They continued up the last two staircases in silence. “Go on, Kreacher,” Harry said, nodding at the cupboard.
Before Kreacher could answer, Moony emerged from Padfoot’s room. He glanced at the pair of them, his eyes lingering on Kreacher before they flicked back to Harry.
“Do you mind if I sleep on the couch?”
“Er... no, that’s fine,” Harry said. “You’re staying?”
“Kreacher’s clearly not back to his usual self yet,” Moony said, giving the elf a kind smile. “He’s not in any condition to be up in the middle of the night if something goes wrong.”
Kreacher began to protest, but Harry cut him off. “Like what? Are you expecting something to happen?”
“I bloody hope not,” Padfoot called from the next room.
“Not at all,” Moony said easily. “But none of us expected anything to go wrong today, did we?”
“You said Kreacher’s not up to it,” Harry said slowly. Kreacher made an indignant noise next to him. “Are you? You didn’t get any sleep last night and you had your transformation-”
“I got three hours of sleep,” Moony replied with another smile. “And I’m well used to transforming by now. I’ve had twenty-five years of practice.”
“Kreacher will make Mister- Mister- Mister’s-” Kreacher faltered, obviously unsure what to address Moony by.
“Remus is fine, Kreacher.”
“Mister Remus. Kreacher will make Mister Remus’ bed, and fetch towels-”
“That won’t be necessary, thank you, Kreacher,” Moony said gently, but firmly. “Harry can show me where everything is.” Kreacher gave them one last, pitiful look and then slouched into his cupboard, muttering about Snape affecting his ability to serve.
“You can have one of the spare bedrooms,” Harry said, leading the way back down the stairs. “That one,” he said, pointing at the one furthest from the stairs, “needs new bedding, but you can have either of these.”
Moony refused to sleep in Padfoot’s parents’ old room and unwillingly (“You don’t have to do this, Harry, the couch would be fine...”) selected the third bedroom. He pulled his shoes off and sat down at the end of the bed. Harry waited in the doorway, wondering if he’d protest any more.
Instead, Moony said, “If you need anything, I’m right here.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, and although he was touched by the offer, he was very much hoping he wouldn’t have to take Moony up on it.
“Good night,” Moony said, flopping back onto the mattress.
Harry wished him a good night and headed back up to his own room.