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“Remus!” Matt exclaimed, looking worried and relieved all at once. “What’s going on? Where-”

“Sirius,” Remus said, sinking into the nearest chair.

“You found him?” Dirk asked, taking a look at Remus’ face.

“I found him,” Remus confirmed.

“Where’s Theodora?” Arabella asked. “She wasn’t hurt, was she? Not on her first day?”

“She wasn’t feeling well, so I sent her home.” Remus’ eyes flicked to Matt as he said it; Matt had been a werewolf long enough to know how to detect a lie, but thankfully, he either didn’t notice, or was going to bring it up when they were alone. “I was over near Kings Cross – thought I might find you, Dirk, and we’d come back together.” Another lie, but Matt didn’t react to that either. “Then, in the station, a boy who looked a lot like Harry and a man that looked a lot like Sirius showed up.”

“Did you alert the Ministry?”

“They were already there,” Remus said. “But given what happened last time, I wasn’t particularly keen on working with them.” Everyone knew about the Scrimgeour episode and Matt even chuckled.

“So did you catch them?” Matt asked curiously.

“With all the muggles around?” Remus asked with a bitter laugh. “No. I followed them, though. They were buying train tickets when Harry said something about the bathroom. They went in and I waited outside – one man came out, but that was it. I waited for a few minutes, and then decided to have a look, but when I checked, it was empty.” Arabella’s face fell. Matt, however, looked shrewd.

“And then you came back here?” Remus nodded and sighed.

“So Theodora said she was sick and left, minutes before you ran into Sirius Black?” Dirk asked.

Arabella gasped. “You don’t think she’s helping him-?”

“No,” Remus said flatly.

“It’s a bit suspicious, though, don’t you think?” Dirk pressed. Arabella nodded.

“She seems like a lovely young lady, and it might just be a coincidence, but it is worth looking into, don’t you think, Remus?”

“If Remus thinks she’s trustworthy, she probably is,” Matt said.

“Oh, but-” Arabella began.

“I’ll talk to her about it,” Remus said after a moment.

“Mind you’re careful,” Arabella said. “If she is with Sirius Black, she could turn nasty.”

Remus struggled to keep a serious expression – the idea of a nasty Nymphadora made him want to laugh – and nodded. Arabella and Dirk seemed appeased.

“What should we do for the rest of the day, then?”

“Sirius could be anywhere right now-” That wasn’t a lie, either; he was probably taking a roundabout route to Remus’. “-and the Ministry have hopefully caught on and are doing what they can.” Arabella snorted to show what she thought of that. “They won’t want us underfoot, and if we start interfering in the wizarding search Malfoy will... well, Malfoy will have something to say about it, I’m sure.”

“There’s an understatement,” Matt muttered. Dirk chuckled.

“So what should we do?” Dirk asked. Remus checked his watch.

“Go back to wherever you were this morning and patrol until three. If you don’t hear anything, go home.”

“And tomorrow?”

“Meet here as usual.”

“Are you all right, Remus?” Arabella asked.

“Er... Shaken,” Remus said.

“You look like you could use a drink,” Matt said, clapping him on the shoulder.

“That’s a good idea,” Arabella said. “Nothing too strong, though. He needs to relax, not fall asleep.” Matt grinned at her and fished around in his pocket for coins.

“You two staying?”

“No,” Dirk said. “If he was at Kings Cross, he might come back.” He waved and left.

Arabella shook her head and departed with a, “You look after him, Matthew.”

Matt grinned and wandered over to the bar, leaving Remus sitting alone, cautiously hopeful that everyone had believed him, and that Sirius and Harry were both safe.

“Butterbeer?” Remus asked, grinning.

“Yeah,” Matt said. “It’s not my fault Arabella assumed I meant firewhiskey when I said ‘drink’. Tom’s coming by with sandwiches, but I put those on your account.”

“Thank you,” Remus said, not minding in the least; he was bloody starving.

“So you found Sirius?” Remus sighed and nodded, taking a sip of is drink. “Were you afraid?”

“Terrified,” Remus murmured. For him. Matt cocked his head thoughtfully.

“I doesn’t make sense,” he said finally, tracing the wet sides of his mug.

“What doesn’t?”

“You were terrified,” Matt said, frowning. “That’s true. But-”

“But what?” Remus asked carefully. Matt wrinkled his nose.

“You smell like a forest. Like mud, and sap. And a person who’s not Theodora. According to your story, though, you never left Kings Cross, never talked to any of the Aurors – any other people for that matter.” Remus sighed and had another mouthful of butterbeer. “I don’t understand why you lied.”

“I didn’t lie,” Remus said.

“By omission.” Remus, unable to argue with that, inclined his head.

“Are you angry?” he asked. Matt’s expression was closed – which was unusual for him – and his scent was muted.

“No. I just don’t understand.” Remus thought quickly, constructing a lie in his mind.

“The person you can smell is-”

“Black,” Matt whispered, leaning toward him. Remus baulked.

“What? No-” Matt frowned and held up a hand. “I-”

“Please just let me talk.” Remus took a deep breath, unable to believe what was happening.

“All right,” he said cautiously.

“I know what Potter - Harry – smells like, from when I dropped a change of robes at St Mungo’s for you.” Remus didn’t say anything. “And then, he escaped. Black spirited him away with his evil powers, or whatever it was the Prophet said. Also according to the Prophet, neither of them have been spotted since.”

“Sirius has always been cunning,” Remus mumbled.

“Not cunning enough, apparently,” Matt said quietly, “because ever since St Mungo’s, you’ve smelled like Harry and someone else, who I’d bet my magic is Sirius Black.” Remus didn’t know what to say. He opened his mouth and closed it several times.

“I-” he tried, but just then, Tom appeared and placed a plate of sandwiches down between them. Then, he gave them a gappy smile and went back to the bar, but Remus’ words were gone. A glance at the plate told him his appetite was too.

“It’s all right,” Matt said, smiling. Remus blinked, stunned to see what appeared to be a genuine smile on his face. He smelled genuine too. “I know better than anyone that things are complicated sometimes. I figure if I’d needed to know, you would have told me by now.”

“When- when did you... grow up?” Remus asked. The Matt he’d watched grow up had always been easy-going, but had also hated to be excluded from even the most trivial things. “Why aren’t you... well, demanding an explanation?”

“Do you want me to?” Matt asked, grinning.

“Not particularly, no,” Remus admitted, still stunned.

“I thought as much.” Matt laughed at the look on Remus’ face. “Look, you hated Black. I smelled it, every time his name was mentioned. It was like the air was set on fire. It burned, Remus. I didn’t even have to try to smell – you know what a pain that is – because it was so overwhelming. I know you’re a reasonable liar but even you couldn’t have faked that.”

“And?” Remus asked tiredly.

“It’s gone. I talk about Black and if I’m not looking for a scent, I don’t find anything. If I am, you smell... content. I don’t know what he told you - and I’m not asking to - but obviously things aren’t the way they appear to be. If you believe him... well... I believe you. I mean, you’re alive, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed,” Remus said, chuckling.

“Good thing too,” Matt added. “I’ve grown rather fond of you over the years. You’re like the uncle I never had – not that I’d have wanted the uncle I could have had-” he added hastily. Remus, who’d known Evan Rosier, had to agree. “-you’re much better.” Remus smiled and reached for a sandwich.

“Thank you,” he said. Matt grinned and picked one off the plate as well.

“So what are you doing here?” Remus blinked at the odd question.

“I’m having a lunch of sorts with a disturbingly perceptive friend of mine.”

“That isn’t what I meant. I meant, why are you still bothering with Malfoy? If I were you, I’d have buggered off as soon as I could. I mean, why waste your time searching for someone you know how to find?”

“And give myself away?” Remus asked wryly. “If I’d stopped searching for Harry after he makes a suspicious escape from St Mungo’s, Malfoy would have suspected I was involved.”

“He wouldn’t be wrong though, would he?” Matt asked with a wicked grin.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Remus said, with dignity. He couldn’t help winking, however. Matt laughed, and Remus felt his heart lighten; Dumbledore and Matt were the two it had been hardest – morally and literally – for him to lie to about this whole thing. Having one know the truth – or some of it – and not condemn him for it, was, well, wonderful. “But you see why I can’t just quit.” Matt nodded thoughtfully.

“So you’ll just play along?”

“Not quite,” Remus said with a small smile. “He’s planning to replace me.”


“That’s what Theodora’s here for.” Matt choked on his mouthful of butterbeer and gestured for Remus to continue. “Malfoy’s set her up to take my place – after I teach her enough to do so, of course.”

“And he told you all of this?” Matt asked doubtfully.

“No. She did.”


“She’s a good sort,” Remus said, shrugging. Matt shook his head.

“Apparently. Bloody hell, when did things get so complicated?”

“We can thank our mutual friend for that,” Remus said sarcastically, lifting his drink. Matt’s mug clinked against his.

“May the horrible sod rot in hell.” They both drank.

“Speaking of Greyback,” Remus said, swallowing a bite of his lunch. “I’m leaving after Christmas.”

“Same. Until February again?”

“Do you think you can handle two months?” Remus asked, watching Matt for his reaction.

“Yeah, I reckon. Do you think it’s worth asking Debbie?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing.” They both sighed.

“I’m not looking forward to that conversation,” Matt said ruefully.

“I’m not looking forward to explaining to Malfoy where half of his search team’s gone.”

“If you get Tock up to scratch, we can pretend it’s a side-effect of you being laid off.” Remus tucked that thought away for consideration. Matt downed the last of his butterbeer and stood. “Well, I’m off to patrol. Where should I look?”

Remus smiled. “Wherever you like.”

*                    *                    *

“So you enjoyed Paris, then?” Tonks gritted her teeth.

“Paris,” she said flatly. “Yes.”

“What was it your mentor had you doing? He didn’t say.” Keith smiled at her from behind his menu and she returned it, though it felt a little forced.

“Yes,” she said darkly, “he’s a bit obsessed with secrecy.” She’d told Moody as much too, when they spoke earlier. Shouted might be a more accurate word, actually; he’d been rather unhappy with her about ending the charm on her Sidekick before he was done talking and her temper had responded in kind. “And... erm... he had me investigating a Veela.”

“A Veela? Shouldn’t that be left to the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures?”

“Well, sort of, I suppose. There was a bloke from Veela Relations with me, and a woman from the French Ministry-”

“It’s probably a good thing you were in Paris.”


The Evening Prophet said Black was spotted in London around lunchtime.”

“I know,” she growled. She was still furious about that. “What’s your point?”

“You were far away from Black.”

“I know,” she said again. The fringe she was wearing tonight turned red. “How’s that a good thing?”

“Well,” Keith said, giving her hair a wary glance, “it means you were safe.”

“It also means I missed out on a chance to catch him,” she said, her irritation at Moody returning.

“I’m glad you did,” Keith said softly. “I don’t want you in any danger.”

“That’s sweet,” Tonks said, offering him a proper smile this time, “but unrealistic. I’m an Auror. I’m bound to do something dangerous sooner or later.”

“But you’ll have other people with you, right? People that’ll look after you?”

“I’ll have people around to help me,” she said. “But I don’t need babysitters. I can take care of myself.”

“You’re new to being an Auror,” Keith said slowly. “You hardly know anything compared to the rest of them.”

“So, by that logic, you hardly know anything about Beating because you aren’t a professional Quidditch player,” she snapped. Keith bristled.

“I’ve had experience! I-”

“And I haven’t? I got into plenty of duels through school, remember?” Keith leaned back in his chair, looking stunned. “What?” she asked irritably.

“This is our first fight,” he said softly.

No, it’s not... Oh. Maybe he means... as a couple? That was a strange thought. Tonks sighed.

“It’s not a fight,” she said. “It’s me being grumpy because I’ve had a long day.” Keith reached across to take her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Sorry,” she said in a small voice.

“That’s okay,” he said, and then looked worried. “But- you aren’t grumpy at me, are you?”

“No,” she said. “We’re fine.”

“Good,” Keith said, looking relieved. He kept hold of her hand and reached for his menu with the other. “What do you want to eat?”

“Dunno.” She reached for her own menu, scanned it briefly and then set it down. “Just a burger, I think.”

Keith waved someone over to take their orders – he had fish and chips and they both asked for butterbeers – and then the waiter was gone, leaving Tonks thinking how much simpler – and in her opinion, nicer – this place was than Madam Puddifoot’s, where they’d been four times in total now; there was not a trace of sickly pink wallpaper, or lacy pillows on the seats. There wasn’t a heart in sight, and the best thing about it, was the lack of those stupid cherubs and their confetti.

“Nymphadora?” Keith called. “Nymph-”

“You know I prefer Tonks,” she said, snapping out of her thoughts.

“Why is that?” he asked. “I don’t think you’ve ever said.”

“Because Nymphadora’s a stupid name.”

“I think it’s nice.”

Tonks sighed. “You and Mum are going to get along wonderfully.”

“Do you think so?” Keith asked, looking nervous all of a sudden. “What about your dad?”

“Dad gets along with everyone.”

“What’s his job? He’s not an Auror too, is he?” He looked positively terrified at the thought.

“Muggle Relations at the Ministry,” Tonks said, hiding a grin. “And he also works at a muggle television station.”

“So he likes muggles, then?”

“He’s muggleborn,” Tonks said shrugging. “His whole family – aside from me and Mum – are muggles, so yeah, he does like them.”

“So all your relatives-”

“Are muggles. At least on Dad’s side. Mum’s side are... er... purebloods. We don’t see them much.”

“Why not? Don’t you get along?”

“No,” Tonks said bluntly. Keith squeezed her hand. “What about your family?” If Keith realised she was drawing the conversation away from her mother’s relatives, he didn’t say anything.

“They’re nothing special,” he said. “Mum used to be a Healer but she stopped working when I was born. Dad’s with Cleansweep – he makes brooms. Both of them were only-children so I don’t have any cousins but I see my grandparents a lot; they’re all magical.”

Conversation lapsed after that, but it wasn’t too bad, because their food and drinks arrived. Keith showed every indication of wanting to keep holding hands but had to give up when it got too hard to eat. They both laughed about that and then got to talking about dating history; Tonks had fancied a boy from her muggle primary school and they’d sat together at lunch everyday for a week before he decided to eat with Ashley White instead. Keith, as Tonks knew, had dated Dawn Carter for three months in fifth year before deciding to stay friends.

Keith laughed at the idea of Tonks in a muggle primary school and stories of that entertained them all through dessert.

“I never went to one of those primate schools,” he said once she’d finished telling him a story about the time she tripped and knocked over three other people at her primary school graduation ceremony.

“Primary,” Tonks corrected, grinning.

“Yes, those. Mum taught me from home and then when Alfred moved next door I had lessons with him. My mum and his mum shared the teaching.”

“No wonder the two of you were so close,” Tonks said. Keith shrugged. “How is Alfred, by the way?”

“Busy. He got into his Department for Magical Children or whatever it is, so he’s been learning his way around. I’m surprised you haven’t seen him anywhere, actually, since you’re both at the Ministry.”

“The Ministry’s a big place,” Tonks said. “And I’m generally having lessons in the Auror Department, or I’m not there at all.”

“True.” Keith leaned out of the way as their plates were Summoned from the kitchen. “Have you heard from anyone else since school?”

“Well, you of course,” Tonks said, making Keith grin. “And I’ve seen Charlie and Tom, but not since we had lunch before my Auror tests. I think I’m having dinner with them tomorrow night.”

“I wanted to see you tomorrow,” Keith said, looking upset.

“We’ll do something another night,” she assured him.

“Are they still going away?”

“I haven’t heard – the pair of them are hopeless when it comes to keeping in touch.”

“You’re not the best either,” he said, lifting an eyebrow. “I’m still waiting for you to send Helga back.” Helga was Keith’s owl, who made – if Tonks had to guess – at least four trips to her house each day.

“I was already in bed by the time she came,” Tonks sighed.

“Surely you saw her this morning, though?”

“Yeah, but I had to leave early. I was planning to write back tonight.”

“I thought something might have happened.” Tonks didn’t say anything. Keith checked his watch. “Are you ready to go? I thought we could go back to yours?”

“My house?”

“Yeah. I’d like to meet your mum and dad.” Tonks was a little surprised. “If that’s all right, of course-”

“That should be all right,” she said, blinking. “Yeah. Er... we’ll just pay and go, then?”

“I’ll pay,” he corrected.


“I’m being polite,” he insisted. “Just say thank you.”

“Thank you,” she said. “But I’m making lots as a trainee. Next time I want to pay. For both of us.”

“You know I won’t let you.”

“Next time,” she promised, getting to her feet. Unfortunately, she tripped on her robes and plonked right back down.

“Are you all right?”

“Fine,” she said, getting up again. “Completely fine, just clumsy.” It was a small price to pay, really, for her ability to change height and weight at a moment’s notice. She actually thought she did pretty well staying upright for a girl who had different length legs every day.

“I like your fringe, by the way,” he said. “It looks nice.” Tonks stared, thrown by the sudden change in topic.

“Thanks,” she said uncertainly. “So, shall we go?”

“Yeah.” Keith left a handful of coins on their table – Tonks scowled – and they slipped out into the cold street.

Tonks had always thought Diagon Alley was creepy at night and tonight was no different; it was dark, with only a few lamps burning, quiet, since all of the shoppers had gone home, and the large signs – which were usually so colourful during the day – left long, spiky shadows on the cobbled ground.

“It’s weird, isn’t it? Eerie,” she said, pulling her gloves out of her pocket. Keith paused, midway through putting on his scarf, and grinned.

“I’ll protect you,” he said. Tonks rolled her eyes, not bothering to say anything. “You aren’t actually scared, are you?” he asked hopefully.

“No,” she said, amused. “Why?”

“I just thought it might be a good excuse to hold your hand,” he mumbled, flushing.

“Why do you need an excuse?” Tonks asked, reaching out to grab his gloved hand. He smiled. Tonks hesitated and then ploughed right forward with her next sentence, figuring that, no matter what he said back, she’d know where they stood. “I mean, we are dating, aren’t we?”

“Yeah,” Keith said nodding.

There’s no chance that this will ruin our friendship, then, she thought; that was the only reason she’d held off saying it for so long, otherwise she’d have said it weeks ago.

“I quite like you, you know,” she continued. Odd, that her hair stayed blond now, when she’d just said something like that, yet it went a brilliant pink if she tripped or shouted at Moody.

“I really like you, too,” he said. They stared at each other for a while and then Keith cleared his throat and looked away. “So... er... should we go?”

“Yeah,” Tonks said, staring at the ground to hide her smile. “Do you want to Side-Along-?”

“Nah, it makes me sick,” he admitted. “I know where it is. I- do you... er... just want to meet there?”

“If that’s best for you, sure,” she said. Keith nodded. Tonks, on impulse, leaned across and kissed him. He started and looked up, surprised. “See you in a minute,” she said, grinning and then, before he could do more than stare at her, she twisted on the spot.

She Apparated into her front garden – Mum would be so pleased she hadn’t come straight into the house – cheeks pink and hair probably a similar colour. She clambered out of Mum’s flowerbed – that, Mum would not be so happy about – and made her way to the front door. She’d just knocked when a flustered Keith showed up.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” she said back, grinning.

The door opened and Dad appeared, looking confused. It was probably her use of the front door that was doing it.

“Dora?” His eyes flicked to Keith and he smiled politely.

“Hi, Dad,” she said. “This is Keith.”

“Hi,” Keith said, looking nervous. “It’s nice to meet you.” Dad offered his hand and Keith shook it.

“You too. Hufflepuff, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“None of that. Ted’s fine. I was in Hufflepuff too.”

“Who is it?” That was Mum, peering out of the living room. She spotted Keith before Tonks and came out to introduce herself. “Andromeda Tonks,” she said, holding out her hand. Keith shook it and Mum turned to Tonks, smiling; despite having been out of pureblood circles for many years now, Mum had retained some of their niceties and had probably expected Keith to kiss her hand – she’d told Tonks once, years ago, that that was the traditional greeting for a witch and wizard who’d never met.

“Nice to meet you, Mrs Tonks.” Unlike Dad, Mum didn’t ask him to call her by her first name.

“And you. I must say, it’s about time; I’ve been asking Nymphadora to bring you around for weeks.”

“Really?” Keith asked, giving Nymphadora a sideways look. She flashed him a small smile. “Well, I’m glad to finally be here.”

“Are we really going to just stand here in the doorway?” Tonks asked. “Let’s go inside, eh?”

“Of course,” Mum said, stepping back to let them in. “How was training, dear?”

“Interesting,” Tonks said. “I... er... went to Paris.”

“Paris?” Dad echoed. “What in Merlin’s name were you doing there?”

“A mess with a Veela,” Tonks sighed. “Meanwhile Sirius was spotted in London and every Auror was called out of the office to look for him.”

“Where were you in Paris?” Mum asked curiously.


Mum clicked her tongue. “It doesn’t matter what eyes you use, you don’t see a thing, do you?”

“I use my eyes!” she said defensively. “Constant vigilance and all that. You know what I did see?”

“What?” Dad and Keith asked together.

“A pink dog,” Tonks said. “It was brilliant. Like my animal soul mate-”

“Tea, anyone?” Mum asked, sounding tired all of a sudden.

“Yes, if you’re making it,” Keith said.

“I’ll have one, Dromeda,” Dad said.

“No thanks,” Tonks said brightly. She grabbed Keith’s arm. “While Mum’s getting that ready, I’ll show you the house.”

She led him down the hall, pointing at doors on the way. “That’s the living room... the bathroom... the kitchen’s just through there... that’s Mum’s study... the second bathroom... Mum and Dad’s room... my room... the spare room... and that door goes out to Dad’s garden.”

A loud yowl followed her last words.

“Is that your cat?” asked Keith, who’d known Canis at school. Tonks tapped the door with her wand to unlock it and pulled it open. Canis trotted forward, tail in the air and then paused. His eyes darkened and his ears folded back as he and Tonks stared at each other. He hissed – unsurprisingly – and slunk forward, hardly sparing Keith a glance as he passed them.

“He’s been grumpier than usual, lately,” Tonks said, glaring after him; Canis had reached the kitchen and Mum’s coos were echoing out.

“Do you think he misses school?”

“Dunno. He probably misses being able to wander wherever he wants. I think he misses Charlie though. And probably Hagrid and Filch.”

“Filch?” Keith asked in disbelief.

Tonks shrugged. “The man likes unpleasant cats and unpleasant cats like him.”

“Nymphadora! Bring Keith down for tea!”

“If she calls me that one more time,” Tonks muttered under her breath, “I swear to Merlin that-”

“Hmm?” Keith said.

“Nothing,” she sighed. “This way.”

*                    *                    *

Lights are on. That’s a good sign, right?

Padfoot prowled forward, listening carefully. He heard Remus’ tense laugh, followed by a small noise of amusement from Harry. There were no other scents around and no other voices, so Padfoot thought it was safe to go inside.

He barked once, knowing Remus would hear it, and then bounded forward to scratch at the front door. There were footsteps inside and then the door opened slowly. Brown eyes peered out. Padfoot wedged his head through the gap and stood up on two legs, like Sirius might, and woofed a greeting.

“About time,” Remus muttered, but he was grinning and relief was coming off him in waves. He stepped aside and Padfoot dropped back to the ground and walked in. Footsteps were the only warning he had, before two arms caught him around the neck and a Harry-shaped-mass collided with him at full force.

“I’m sorry! I never thought- I just- It’s my fault! It’s all my-”

His fault? How in Merlin’s name did he work that one out? Padfoot shook his head, whined totshow he disagreed and licked his godson’s face. He even lifted a paw to pat awkwardly at Harry’s back – hugs weren’t exactly easy to return as a dog.

Eventually Harry let go and Padfoot changed back into Sirius. A shadow bloomed in his mind – it was the Dementor’s Draught – but he shoved it away. Harry stared at him, eyes enormous and bolted toward the fire, startling Hedwig, who’d been perched on the mantel. She want to sit on the back of one of the kitchen chairs instead and gave them a disapproving look.

He’s afraid of me, a voice that sounded a bit like his whispered.

Shut up, Sirius snapped, knowing it was the potion that had made him think that. He’s probably goot a perfectly good reason. “Harry?” Sirius asked.

“Magic,” Harry said, backing toward the mantel. His eyes landed on the little bowl of Floo powder Remus kept there. “You just- the Trace!”

Told you, Sirius told the voice. “Relax, kiddo. It won’t set it off.”

“Are you sure?” Harry asked. He glanced at the front door as if he expected Aurors to come charging in at any moment.

“Positive,” Sirius promised. “It’s undetectable magic, which is why you’re supposed to register.”

“Otherwise Animagi might do stupid, dangerous things, like run around with werewolves,” Remus said sombrely. Sirius pulled a face and sat down on the couch, pretending not to see the wink that Remus gave Harry.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, staring at the floor.

“For what?” Sirius asked, swapping a confused look with Remus.

“I told you to go early. If I hadn’t-”

“I would have gone anyway,” Sirius told him. Remus’ lips thinned but he appeared to be fighting a smile.

Yes, the voice agreed. Because you’re stupid, selfish-

“Shut up.” Harry gave him an odd look. “Sorry. You didn’t force me to go anywhere, kiddo. I did that all on my own.” Harry opened his mouth to argue but Sirius held up a hand. “I don’t want to hear any more about it. It’s not your fault and we’re all safe. All right?”

“All right,” Harry agreed, without much conviction. He gave Sirius one more wary look and then came to sit beside him.

“Well done for making it here, by the way,” Remus added. Harry offered him a small smile.

“How did things go after we separated?” Sirius asked Remus. “Did they believe you?” Remus sombre expression wasn’t faked this time.

“Nymphadora and Debbie weren’t there and Dirk and Arabella fell for it, but Matt knows.”

“Explain,” Sirius growled, fear prickling in his chest. He’s betrayed you, the voice murmured. “Now.”

“He could smell it,” Remus sighed, sitting down on the couch opposite the one Sirius and Harry were on. “He doesn’t know specifics,” he added hastily. “Just that we’re in contact and that you obviously aren’t an evil Death Eater that’s training Harry up to replace Voldemort.” Sirius wrinkled his nose. “He’s not one to go running to the Prophet or anything.”

“Who is he?”

“Matthew Rosier.” Sirius stiffened.

“Any relation to Evan?”

“Nephew,” Remus replied evenly. He stood and retrieved a photograph of himself and a younger boy who looked remarkably like Evan Rosier, though Sirius didn’t think Rosier had ever smiled so sincerely. There were other, smaller differences he noticed, like the boy’s nose and jaw, and the fact that he was wearing muggle clothing. Sirius supposed it was a bit like comparing Andy and Bella. “They never met, though,” Remus continued. “Matt’s father was a blood-traitor and Matt was bitten by Greyback as punishment.”

“Hang on,” Sirius said, recognising the face; it had been younger when he’d last seen it. “Is he the werewolf kid you teach? The one that didn’t go to Hogwarts?” Remus inclined his head. Sirius paused to think. Logically, he knew the boy probably wasn’t a boy anymore – just as Nymphadora and Harry had not stayed the children they’d been before Azkaban – but he still felt he had to ask. “How old is he now?”


Sirius set the photograph down and tried not to show how much that answer rattled him; sometimes, he thought he’d done well recovering from Azkaban’s effects. He was still thin, but he was healthy at least, his face wasn’t waxy or yellow anymore, and Harry – simply by being there – was able to provide companionship and a distraction on Sirius’ bad days – those were getting further and further apart. Other times, like now, he was reminded rather abruptly that – while his world had stopped while he was in prison – the world outside had continued at its usual pace.

“Who’s Greyback?” Harry asked. Sirius wondered if he’d asked it to distract Sirius, or if he was genuinely curious. He thought it might be both. “You mentioned him to Snape,” he said, looking at Padfoot, “and you were talking about him in the kitchen the other day.”

“Greyback is a werewolf, Harry,” Remus said. “Quite possibly the most savage one alive today. He was the one who attacked me when I was young. At first I thought it was an accident, that he’d just lost control. Later, I learned he’d done it to punish my father. My father was very high up in the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, you see, and Greyback wanted him to pass a law-”

“What law?” Harry asked. And there’s Lily’s patience, Sirius thought fondly.

“I was getting to that,” Remus said, smiling; Sirius thought he might be thinking the same thing. Harry flushed. “A law that gave him instant guardianship over underage werewolves. My father refused, for all the good it did; Greyback bites children anyway and when their parents can’t handle the lycanthropy, Greyback takes them away and raises them in his camps, to hate and fear wizards.”


“Because with enough werewolves following him, he could overthrow the wizarding population, or so he believes.”

“Overthrow- He- Why?” Harry seemed to be struggling to understand.

“You haven’t been in the wizarding world long enough to appreciate how deeply some of the prejudices run,” Remus told Harry gently. “My kind – werewolves – are hated and feared. Some of that can be blamed on Greyback and his followers, but much of it was around long before his time.” Harry, Sirius noticed, still looked blank. Remus glanced at Sirius, who gestured for him to continue, and sighed.

“Greyback thought werewolves were treated unfairly and that something should be done about it. Oddly enough, he started out with the right idea, although that’s about as right as he ever got; he thought, if he infected a handful of people, that he could force the wizarding world to see that our two species aren’t so different.

“We have –  as you said just the other day, Harry – ‘a bit of a problem’ every month, but we’re human the rest of the time. He thought if he created new werewolves, that they could attest to that. Some of them did. Others of them hated him for what he’d done to them.

“He went about it the wrong way from the very beginning, of course, but when he attempted to bite the Minister of the time - a man named Nobby Leach - any of the progress he might have made was undone. He spent a month in Azkaban – he never actually hurt the Minister, after all – and when he was released, he’d changed. It wasn’t a lack of understanding that was the problem, it was people themselves.”

“Where in Merlin’s name did you hear that?” Sirius demanded.

“The camp,” Remus sighed. “One of the men there is Greyback’s first victim. He’s an absolute nutter, always going on about how his poor ‘father’ was forced to spend a month in Azkaban.”

“A month,” Sirius said, rather bitterly. “Yes, poor fucking Greyback.” Remus smiled without humour and Harry was pale.

“What happened next?” Harry whispered, edging ever so slightly closer to Sirius as he asked. Sirius reached out and put an arm around him and the soft warmth of Harry’s jumper helped to chase away some of his irritation. He wasn’t even sure who he was irritated with, though he suspected it might be an effect of the Dementor’s Draught.

“Greyback started building his army,” Remus said. “When Voldemort came along, he offered Greyback victims in return for service-”


“To keep his followers and his enemies in line. People were afraid of Greyback and fear, unfortunately, is a great motivator. Few people were prepared to challenge Voldemort because they were afraid he’d set Greyback on their families. His followers were extremely loyal because those who weren’t, were at risk of the same thing.”

“How come Greyback liked Voldemort?”

“Protection, partially, but-”

“Free food,” Sirius muttered, wrinkling his nose.

Remus twisted his mouth. “Indeed. The other reason is that their goals were aligned. Thank Merlin it never got to this stage, but if Voldemort had won, I’d have been morbidly interested to see how long the ‘peace’ would have lasted; Greyback would have turned on Voldemort the moment his... support... stopped being useful, and Voldemort would have turned on Greyback at the first sign of betrayal.” Harry shivered against Sirius’ side.

“Did-” Harry bit his lip, hesitating and then ploughed forward. “The camp you talked about... Did you... When you weren’t at Hogwarts, were you...?”

“I stayed with my parents – in this very cottage, actually.” Harry twitched, apparently surprised, and glanced around again. “They were... about as understanding as anyone could be. My mother was a Healer and she took care of me, and my father, as I mentioned, worked in the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and so had access to a lot of information concerning werewolves. He was in contact with a number of witches and wizards who were developing cures.” Remus chuckled. “The number of things he had me try over the years...”

Sirius scratched the scar on his neck. Remus caught the movement and grimaced.

“Did any of them work?”

“None of the cures. There is, however, a potion, called the Wolfsbane-”

“I know about that one,’ Harry said. Sirius stared at him. He didn’t even know about that one, but he knew a man named Belby had been working on a potion with that name. “A guy made it for his wife so that she could keep her mind on full moons.” Sirius and Remus shared a surprised but impressed look.

“How-?” Sirius asked.

“I knew Moony wasn’t an Animagus so I was looking for other things that could turn him into a wolf,” Harry said, shrugging. “Potions seemed like a fair guess. I mean, you can make someone’s hair change colour, so why not the rest of them? It was the only potion under ‘wolf’.”

“So Belby finally worked it out, did he?” Sirius asked; he’d been present for a few of the not so successful trials.

“He did,” Remus confirmed. “It’s ridiculously expensive and it’s complicated, but it does work. I imagine it’s similar to being an Animagus, but as I’m not an Animagus, I can’t be certain.”

“I’ve got the money,” Sirius said immediately.

So you have to buy your friends, do you?


I’m not listening to you.

“Moony, you wouldn’t be protesting if you’d seen how much I have.”

“You wouldn’t,” Harry agreed.

“Having you around has much the same effect anyway,” Remus said. “Although, it could be different this time if I’m angry about James instead of upset.”

“Well, the offer’s standing,” Sirius said. Remus smiled.

“So, the camps?” Harry prompted.

“Sorry, Harry. No, to answer your question. I didn’t spend any time in the camps until I joined the Order.” He smiled. “I was very lucky that my parents could handle my condition, and that they were willing to. Your parents, Harry, would no doubt have taken it in their stride, and your grandparents – on either side, actually, even though Lily’s parents were muggles, would have learned to cope, I think – but not many other families would have.”

“Mine wouldn’t have,” Sirius said.

No, and why should they? You’re useless, a waste of space-

James didn’t think so, Sirius thought, firmly. What he considered his real family - the Potters - would have, as Remus had said, accomdated him. The Blacks – minus Regulus – were a different story.

“They’d have been glad to see me go. In fact, they’d probably have-”

“Sirius, Harry doesn’t need to hear about unpleasant-”

“He knows most of it,” Sirius said, flapping a hand. “He’s met the portrait of my mother. And Kreacher’s come a long way since we moved in.”

“Even so,” Remus said, pursing his lips, “it’s probably better that he doesn’t hear-”

“I’m not a baby,” Harry said quietly, looking at Remus.

If Sirius hadn’t had his arm around Harry, hadn’t had physical proof that Harry was there, he’d have sworn – on his life - the speaker was James. Remus, too, looked rattled, but composed himself quickly.

“Harry, if I believed that, I wouldn’t have told you about Greyback,” he said. “I’m just suggesting that Sirius shouldn’t tell you everything - about that, at least.”

“Why not?” Harry asked.

“Because, as your godfather, it’s his job to shelter you from stories like that.”

“So you think I shouldn’t hear about kids being sent to bed hungry because their relatives don’t like them, or told not to ask questions-” The worst part wasn’t what Harry was saying. It was the way he said it; not angrily, or bitterly, but calmly – with a hint of exasperation that made Sirius think he cared more about the impact the words would have on Remus, than about the things that had happened. It made Sirius want to break something. “-or locked in a cupboard for a week-”

Remus’ head snapped around. “I never knew that,” he said, staring at Sirius. “Why- why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“He’s not talking about me,” Sirius said through clenched teeth.

You left him there, you let that happen...

“And he left off that he was told that James and Lily died in a car crash, and that he hadn’t been told that he was magical,” Sirius said, doing his best to ignore the potion. Everything seemed to go silent. It hadn’t been overly loud before – it had just been them talking – but somehow the lack of noise seemed more pronounced.

“No...” Remus said, turning to look at Harry, who shrugged, but held his gaze. Remus swallowed noisily, not seeming sure what to say. His eyes were very bright.

“If the way the Dursleys gave me to Padfoot was any indication,” Harry murmured, “then I think they’d have given me to Greyback even if I wasn’t a werewolf.” Remus sank into the back of his couch.

“I’m so, so very sorry. I didn’t know,” he whispered, shaking his head. Harry shrugged. “I knew they were unpleasant but... Harry, I swear, if I’d had any idea, I would have done... well, something. Probably kidnapped you myself, before this prat could.”

He flashed a smile at Sirius to show there was no sting behind the words, but it didn’t reach his eyes; he was obviously still quite shaken. Sirius couldn’t blame him. He had been too.

Harry shrugged. “It doesn’t matter now. Not really.” He gave Sirius a brilliant smile and Sirius squeezed his shoulder.

“But-” Remus began, but Sirius caught his eye and shook his head; Harry had shrugged several times in the last few minutes and Sirius knew him well enough to recognise it as a warning sign. Remus swallowed again. “Have you told him about the night you ran away?” he croaked finally, looking at Sirius. Sirius inclined his head.

“But not specifics.” If he ever told Harry about that night, it wouldn’t be until he was much, much older. Remus nodded and looked relieved.

The three of them were silent. Remus was staring at nothing in particular and opened his mouth to say something several times before thinking better of it. Harry was watching the photographs on Remus’ mantel with an unreadable expression. Sirius was thinking, rather morbidly, about what a messed up pair he and his godson were- all three of them, actually.

But we’re healing. Slowly, but we’re getting there. And Harry’s young. Young enough that the years of his life that he remembers the best will be good ones. Sirius silently promised to make sure of that.

Remus cleared his throat and looked at Harry. Harry watched him curiously.

“You know,” he said, “I had a horrible aunt too.” Harry cocked his head and Remus smiled ruefully. “Aunt Catherine. I think she ‘died’ some twenty times during my years at Hogwarts to excuse my monthly absences. It was petty, but it made up, somewhat, for the way she treated me. She didn’t approve of my being a werewolf, you see.”

Harry was smiling slightly and seemed to realise that Remus was trying to make amends for suggesting Harry was too young to hear certain stories. Sirius also supposed, that Harry - whose relatives hadn’t approved of him being a wizard - could relate.

“Now who’s sharing childhood traumas?” Sirius muttered.

“I always was a hypocrite,” Remus said wryly.

“She deserved every ‘death’ Remus gave her,” Sirius told Harry; he’d met Remus’ Aunt Catherine over the Easter holidays in his third year. He and Remus had cast a trickly little charm on her chocolate eggs which made them impossible to bite into; they’d enjoyed several minutes of watching the egg contort out of the way of her mouth – to her great irritation – and then made it explode, coating her in sticky, strawberry scented goo. “Horrible cow.”

Harry muttered something that sounded like, “Aunt Marge.”

“Hmm?” Sirius asked.

Harry shrugged. “Nothing.”

Nothing my arse. I’ll ask later, when you think I’ve forgotten. Sirius hid a grin. Just you wait.

“Catherine moved to France a few years ago,” Remus said, rather cheerfully. “Haven’t seen her since.”

“How are your parents?” Sirius asked. As he said it, he realised that Remus lived alone here, and that his parents hadn’t been wealthy enough to buy another house without selling the one they owned. Remus wasn’t well enough off to buy it from them, either.  Sirius winced. “I’m sorry, Moony-” he began.

See, you can’t even open your mouth without being insensitive.

Shut up!

“It’s all right – you didn’t know.” Remus took a deep breath. “My mother actually was sick, in the end.” He laughed bitterly. “Cancer. It’s a muggle disease but she was muggleborn, so...” He cleared his throat. “She died three years ago. My father wasn’t ever the same. Matt – the same Matt that knows now, Sirius-” he added, “- helped me look after him until...”

“I’m sorry,” Sirius said, feeling like a complete prat.

“It’s all right,” Remus assured him.

It was silent again. This time, Sirius plotted ways that he could coax a story about Aunt Marge out of his godson; when he’d got the truth about Lily’s sister’s family out of him, Harry had been rather emotional and thus more willing to speak. That and Sirius had promised him a story or favour in return – which Harry had not yet asked for, Sirius realised – but he didn’t think that would work this time.

He glanced sideways; Harry was frowning at his trainers and smelled thoughtful. Sirius couldn’t identify any scents stronger than that, but that wasn’t surprising; sometimes – but certainly not always - when a person was deep in thought, the emotions they were feeling didn’t always become physical, because the person was so focused, mentally.

What did interest Sirius was that Harry had quite willingly shared some of the worse details about the Dursleys with Remus. He didn’t think Harry was suddenly opening up – he was still a reasonably private person. Perhaps Harry was feeling emotional now? He’d had a big day, after all. Or perhaps he was just starting to trust Remus. Remus was easy to trust and he’d known Harry for a few weeks now. Or perhaps-

“The cupboard,” Remus said quietly, breaking the silence.

“What?” Harry and Sirius asked together.

“You said he’d be in a cupboard,” Remus murmured, looking at Sirius. “That was why, wasn’t it?”

“Oh,” Sirius said, understanding now. “Er, yeah.”

“You were right, you know,” Remus added. “He was in the spare room.”

Sirius smiled and turned to look at Harry, who’d suddenly gone very still; no doubt he was embarrassed. He blinked and the smile slipped off. Harry’s face was not red, but the colour of parchment.

“What is it?” Sirius asked, twisting to get a better look at his face. Harry swallowed and his eyes darted from Sirius to Remus.

“I- er...” He swallowed again and ran a hand through his hair, in an agitated sort of manner, rather than in the habitual manner James had had. Harry cleared his throat and stood. “There’s... er... something I think you should see.”

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