‘Rah!’ Sirius shouted out, jumping behind a couch only to have Tucker scream and scatter from his hiding place, ‘you cannot escape me!’ Sirius laughed running behind the tiny child as Tucker’s infectious laughter echoed around the house.

‘Guys, please be careful.’ Ali asked watching the two of them tear up a path from the sitting room, down the hall passed where she was standing in the doorway of the kitchen and off towards the stairs.

Ali quickly reached out and grabbed a hold of the picture frame on the hall table, containing a picture of Kanika and Tucker laughing together and stabilized it. Instead of yelling at them, she just smiled down at the frame. The pictures of Kanika around the house were slowly transitioning into nice reminders of her mother, instead of a source of pain. She touched the part her mother was taking up and watched as she tickled Tucker and laughed along with her tiny son, who was no older than three when it was taken.

‘I made sandwiches!’ She called out putting the picture back down. She heard Tucker’s high-pitched giggling and Sirius’s triumphant laughter signalling Sirius had caught the renegade little hide-ee.

‘Coming!’ The two of them called down the stairs to her.

‘It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot!’ Tucker sang jumping down each of the stairs and proceeding to slide down the last three to the bottom, ‘it’s hot lets go to the beach!’

‘We don’t have beaches around here, Tuck.’ Ali replied, ushering him into the kitchen where she had sandwiches made on the dining table, ‘and it’s getting late. You remember what happens when you swim at dusk back home?’

‘You get eaten by sharks!’ Tucker yelped and grabbed a hold of Sirius’s jeans where he stood beside the taller boy.

‘What are you filling his head with?’ Sirius stared incredulously at Ali, reaching down and lifting Tucker up into his arms.

‘It’s true.’ Ali shrugged, trying to keep her smirk to herself as she took a seat at the table.

‘Don’t listen to her. Sharks can’t hurt wizards. We’re the superior species.’ Sirius whispered to Tucker, lowering him into a seat, ‘your sister is just pulling your leg.’

‘Lee-yah’s a big nerd though. She knows stuff.’ Tucker looked at Sirius, nodding as Sirius took a seat. Sirius looked at Aaliyah. She was smiling down at the small novel she had open in her hand. She took a bite of her sandwich, pretending she wasn’t listening.

‘Is that what she tells you?’ Sirius continued to stare at his girlfriend’s mischievous grin as she ignored them.

Sirius leant in to the tiny child to whisper, ‘believe me, Tucker. You’re a lot more switched on than your dear old sis.’ Tucker grinned back at him, enjoying the flattery.

Over the last two weeks Sirius had spent most days lounging around with Ali and her baby brother. Tucker was an amazing kid. He was starting to understand why Ali went on tangents about how special he was. He was the wittiest, most adorable child he’d ever had continuous contact with.

Just as Ali looked ready to argue with him, placing her book face-down on the table to hold her place, there was a tap at the window. All occupants of the kitchen turned around to see a barn owl waiting there. Aaliyah jumped up and scrambled to the window to let it in.

Sirius felt a small pang over that. Ever since she had missed getting her mother’s letter on time, she never allowed an owl to wait outside. She was clearly still battling a few things. But Sirius had noted she was holding herself together better lately. He wished he was able to stay the nights with her, to make sure she wasn’t falling asleep with tears in her eyes. But Christian wasn’t really his biggest fan. And Sirius was pretty sure he had no idea about the two of them sharing a bed for the better part of a month at the end of the term.

‘It’s a letter from Dumbledore!’ Ali looked up smiling, ‘he wants us all here tonight. He’s going to have a meeting with my dad and a few other members and he thought it would be as good a time as any.’

‘That’s great!’ Sirius exclaimed, watching Snowball stalk in through the ajar back door, catching sight of the barn owl on the counter where Ali had put down a little cup of water for him. Snowball stared up at the owl as his fluffy tail flicked lazily from one side to the other.

‘That means you can’t run away tonight.’ Ali waved the letter in his direction as she fell back against the counter. Tucker giggled beside him and Sirius turned to the child to see smears of peanut butter to either side of his mouth.

Sirius reached forward and wiped the rogue spread from his face, smiling, ‘I don’t run away. I just have things to, you know, do. At night. Important things.’

‘You’re scared of Dad.’ Tucker smiled at him as Sirius finished cleaning his face.

‘I am not.’ He defied the five year old. He could hear Ali laughing in the background.

‘You shouldn’t be scared of Dad. He’s not scary. Mum was scary!’ Tucker nodded and Sirius stiffened, ‘Mum was the scariest person I ever met. I feel sorry for the baddy that she saved those kids from. He must have been terrified when she was done with him.’ Tucker nodded with a smile.

Sirius instantly turned around to look at Ali before answering Tucker. She wasn’t smiling, but instead just watching Snowball where he sat on the floor. He was in a standing position now, leaning back, ready to jump onto the counter. He launched himself up and the poor owl took flight out of the window in almost the same moment.

Sirius looked back at Ali, and she was still focused on the floor.

‘Hey, Tuck? You wanna go draw me some stuff? Some cool new robe designs?’ Sirius nodded, looking at Tucker. Tucker became instantaneously excited and got down from his chair. ‘Make sure it had heaps of glitter!’ He shouted as Tucker ran from the room off to the sitting room where his extensive range of quills were waiting for him.

‘You alright?’ Sirius got up, going over to Ali. He turned to rest up against the counter with her, taking the letter from her hand and putting it on the bench. He looked at Ali and she raised her head and smiled.

‘Fine.’ She sounded sincere enough but her expression was somewhat empty.

Sirius watched her for a moment, then leant forward and kissed her. As he drew back, he traced every inch of her face with his eyes and smiled at her.

‘You’re okay. I’ve got you.’ He reached out brushing a few stray hairs from her face.

A real smile replaced the emptiness on her face as she turned to Sirius properly. She reached a hand up and pulled it back through his hair, watching it go. Then she kissed him, pressing her body up against him, trapping him against the counter.

Sirius had a minor back-thought that it was getting late and that Christian would be home soon. But it disappeared about as fast as it came. Ali reached her arms up and rested them on his shoulders, going back again and again for more kisses. Sirius melted into the contact, placing his hands on the back of her hips. When Ali pulled back he couldn’t help but frown from the loss of warmth even in the summer heat.

‘I’m going to run up and have a shower. I expect Dumbledore wrote to everyone, so they’ll be over shortly.’ She explained, coming back for one more kiss, ‘can you keep an eye on Tucker?’

Sirius nodded blearily, smiling at her. She kissed him on the cheek and leant forward grabbing Snowball off the bench where he had taken refuge, then left the room. Sirius savoured the contact for a moment, before standing properly and leaving the kitchen also, grabbing the remains of his sandwich and eating it as he walked.

When he was out in the hall, walking towards the sitting room, he noticed the one picture that had moved on the hall table. He looked down at it. Kanika and little Tucker were laughing away like nothing in their lives could go wrong. Sirius sighed.

He knelt down before the picture and looked around at the sea of little Kanika’s and the rest of the Adams’. One particular photo was quite an old photo. One of just Kanika and Christian, probably before Ali was even born. They looked baby faced and couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.

The way Christian was looking at Kanika… Sirius knew that look. It was the one he had just given Ali in the kitchen. A sudden irrational fear entered his mind of Ali throwing herself in front of a killing curse meant for a muggle child. An image of his lifeless girlfriend flashed before him and he had to take a hold of the hall table to steady himself. That wasn’t something Sirius could allow.

He heard the shower turning on upstairs and steadied his breathing, getting back onto his feet. He entered the sitting room but Tucker wasn’t in there. Sirius looked around for him, trying not to freak out.

‘Tucker?’ He said quietly enough that it wouldn’t reach up the stairs, ‘Tuck?’

As he turned to leave the room a tiny force smashed into his legs and cried out before it started laughing. Sirius looked down to find Tucker quite beside himself. It caused an echo effect, making Sirius laugh also. After they calmed down, Tucker grabbed a hold of Sirius and dragged him further into the room, sitting him down at the coffee table where he took a seat in Sirius’s lap to continue on drawing.

Some time passed them by before Ali came down the stairs to join them with her hair wet and smelling of floral soaps. Sirius had his chin rested on the top of Tucker’s head as he drew and Ali came to sit by them. When Sirius turned to look at her, the thought of her perishing in battle came back to him and he reached out and pulled her into his body. Ali chuckled a little from the forced contact but hugged him back and pulled a hand over Tucker’s curly brown hair as her head fell against Sirius’s shoulder.

‘You’re not going to apparate away as soon as Dad gets home, are you?’ Ali asked, her head still rested against him.

‘Can’t actually.’ Sirius admitted, still holding on perhaps a little too tight, ‘I actually flew here today.’

‘Flew? What, on a broom?’ Ali sat up to look at him.

‘No, not quite.’ Sirius couldn’t help his growing grin. Ali stared at him waiting for a reply. Tucker stopped his scribbling and looked up at him from his lap.

‘Well? On what?’ Ali asked as Snowball stalked into the room and brushed himself up against the leg of the coffee table.

‘Snow!’ Tucker cried out, diving for the cat. Snowball tried to make an escape off towards one of the armchairs and Tucker pursued him, crawling along the ground.

‘How about I show you?’ Sirius got to his feet and offered a hand down to Ali, whose wet hair looked significantly darker than it did dry, bringing out the brightness of her eyes.

Ali didn’t really protest. She only looked back once to make sure Tucker was okay, as Sirius dragged her from the room, down the short hall and out through the front door. Once they were outside, he took her around the side of the house where he had parked his bike and Ali’s jaw dropped.

Sirius had spent his boring nights alone, tinkering with the bike. Peter and Remus had joined him now and then, all trying different sorts of enchantments, trying to get the thing into the air. Sirius was almost completely confident riding it and just last night the boys had managed to make it fly.

‘What’s this? Is that a muggle thing?’ Ali looked up at him as they stopped before it, ‘you flew this?’

‘Yeah, baby.’ Sirius waggled his eyebrows at her in what was supposed to be a seductive way but Ali just laughed at him, pushing his face away with her hand so to get a better view of the strange looking, shiny bike.

‘Is it dangerous?’ She inquired, reaching a hand out to touch the polished metal.

‘Nah, not if you know how to ride it. Wormtail actually coached me. Would you believe that? Pudgy-Pete and his hidden talents.’ Sirius shook his head in wonderment.

‘Don’t call him pudgy.’ Ali threw back immediately before giving him a stern look. But it faded away soon after as she looked back at the motorbike.

‘Yes, ma’am.’ He returned with a smile, ‘I can take you for a ride on it?’ He leant in to whisper, coming up behind her and kissing her neck. It was damp and cool from her shower still.

‘Ugh,’ Ali complained, turning around to look at him, ‘what have you done to me?’ She glared at him.

‘What?’ Sirius raised a confused brow.

‘Now I find crazy muggle contraptions appealing? Since when? Who even am I?’ Ali seemed to be rather disturbed by her own feelings. Sirius just laughed at that and leant in to kiss her against the bike.

‘You’re my girl, you have to find crazy muggle contraptions appealing. It’s half of my charm.’ Sirius explained, going in for another kiss.

‘You don’t have charm,’ Ali argued as he pulled back, ‘you’re a giant, great git that’s more trouble than my five year old brother and you’re going to give me grey hairs.’

‘Mm,’ Sirius hummed, going in for another kiss, which Ali was certainly not objecting to, ‘that’s the other half of my charm.’ He admitted and Ali laughed. There was next to nothing that filled him with more joy than hearing her laughter.

Sirius lifted Ali up under her arms and perched her on the bike only to continue kissing her as he slipped in between her legs. She rested her arms on his shoulders as he used his hands to keep her safely on the seat, sweeping them up and down the sides of her waist. It was when they were particularly invested in a lengthy kiss and Ali had secured a fistful of his hair, that someone cleared their throat beyond them.

The two of them became so startled from the noise that Ali nearly fell off the bike. Sirius only just managed to catch her in time and pull her to safety. When they turned to see Christian standing with his arms folded over his chest, Sirius jumped three feet away from Ali in one fluid movement.

‘Hi, Daddy.’ Ali said trying to hold back a laugh by covering it up with a cough. Sirius wasn’t the slightest bit amused.

‘Hello, Mr Adams.’ He felt his gut wrench. This was all he needed. The man already seemed to hate him and now he caught him snogging his baby girl on a muggle death contraption! All was lost. There was no coming back from this.

‘Inside. Both of you.’ Christian watched them with a bland expression. It was the same look Ali used to give him when he would throw sly little innuendo’s her way or she would catch him in sticky pranking situations. Ali definitely took after her father in the looks department. No doubt about that.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sirius nodded. He wasn’t quite sure why he called him sir. But it was most likely just a remnant from the way he used to speak to his own father. There was never a “daddy” exchanged in those conversations, as far and between as they had been.

Ali hopped down off the bike a little clumsier than she was probably hoping to and Sirius instantly reached out to steady her. His hands were off her in nano seconds after she was standing and he was looking back at Christian. But the tall, blonde man didn’t seem fazed. He just watched them with a calculating stare.

‘Come on,’ Sirius heard Ali whisper as she took one of his hands and lead him off towards the front door and back inside the four walls of the house. Once they were inside, Tucker popped his head around the kitchen door and came out with a defeated looking Snowball in his arms.

The door shut behind them and both Ali and Sirius jumped from the noise, wheeling around to see Christian with the same calculating stare fixed on them.

‘So,’ Christian started but then Snowball whined and suddenly he was running by Ali and Sirius’s feet and off towards the stairs.

‘Snowy! Come back!’ Tucker cried crawling through Sirius’s legs and unbalancing him. Tucker darted straight by his father in pursuit of the fluffy white cat. Once he had taken the stairs on all fours and was out of sight, Christian turned back to the two teenagers before him.

As if on a timer, suddenly there was a loud crack and James and Lily appeared in the entrance hall, ‘see! I told you, Lily! Perfect aim! Oh, sorry there, Mr Adams.’

James flicked around realising they weren’t alone and held a hand out for Christian to take. There was only a tense silence for less than five seconds before Christian reached out and took his hand, shaking it.

‘Evening, Potter. Good to see you again.’ Christian replied, and suddenly Sirius felt his eye twitch.

‘Hello, Mr Adams. I expected you might have been home a bit later. It’s good to see you though.’ Lily stepped forward to greet him and was welcomed just as strongly as James was by the head of the Adams house. Sirius’s frown deepened. He heard Ali stifle a laugh to his side and turned to her.

‘Why are you laughing? Nothing about this is funny.’ Sirius hissed but it only made Ali snort and cover her mouth with her hand. Another crack signalled more arrivals upstairs, and Tucker’s high pitched squeal made Christian dart into action. He took the stairs three at a time and Ali pushed by Sirius to call out to him.

‘Is he okay?’ But she barely needed to ask because a few moments later Tucker was laughing and Christian could be heard sighing.

‘Bloody hell, Fletcher! Diggle! We have a front door!’ Christian’s voice echoed down the stairs. But as the words faded there was a knock at the door before Lily and James even had a chance to greet Sirius and Ali.

‘I’ll get it!’ Ali called up the stairs and moved by James and Lily to flick up the safety latch and open the front door, ‘Hello, Professor!’ Ali stepped aside and Dumbledore gave the occupants of the entrance hall all a warm smile.

‘Good evening everyone. You all seem to be on time. I found this one a bit lost out on the street.’ Dumbledore affirmed stepping inside. Behind him stood Remus, looking shabby and a little embarrassed. James cracked into a fit of laughter, launching forward to hug his friend. Once they were both inside, Ali shut the door behind them. The small hall only became more cramped as Christian came down the stairs, Tucker in his arms and two young men in tow.

‘This was a lot easier when we had that big old house in Newcastle, this one’s a little on the smaller side.’ Christian chuckled, manoeuvring by the younger ones of the growing crowd and motioned everyone to follow him. Dumbledore was first in line, breaking into instant conversation with Christian.

‘Oy, watch it there mate.’ The first man said, slinking by them all. Sirius got a distinct whiff of alcohol and tobacco as he went and from the look of the younger man, he wasn’t among the most hygienic of people. Grubby was the best descriptive word that came to mind.

‘Sorry, excuse me.’ The second man apologised as he went, he was quite tiny and had a slight spring in his step. He was dressed head to toe in the brightest purple dress robes any of them had ever seen. He turned back to give them all a dazzling, toothy smile before he disappeared into the sitting room along with the rest of them.

‘Well, hello!’ James cried, swooping Ali into a hug as she protested. Sirius tried not to laugh and moved forward to give Lily a hug.

‘I hope you’ve been behaving.’ He gave her a look but Lily just shoved him.

‘Knock next time.’ She frowned at him, but it wasn’t long before she was smiling. Ali was greeting Remus when Sirius heard him ask to group as a whole-

‘Uh, is… would Marlene be attending?’ He seemed a little more bashful than he usually would and Sirius furrowed his brow in concern.

‘Oh, she’s on a trip with her parents. Celebrating her graduation.’ Lily explained. Remus nodded away in understanding. He looked a little pained about it but didn’t press the matter.

‘Where’s Pettigrew?’ Ali asked, looking around.

‘He said he had to go home and see his Mum, but he’d be along.’ James explained, ‘he was over at mine earlier on today when we all got the letters.’ He finished, but suddenly there was another knock at the door and Ali stopped her greeting of Lily to answer it.

‘Oh, hello Mr Bones.’ Ali stepped aside, allowing a tall man with wild brown hair and a thick moustache into the room.

‘Hey, kiddo. You get bigger every time I see you.’ He rubbed the top of her head before taking off his coat and looking around, ‘haven’t met any of you before. Are we recruiting teenagers now?’

‘This is Sirius, James, Lily and Remus, Mr Bones. They’re all friends of mine at school. They’ve just graduated.’ Ali explained and Sirius felt the slightest twinge at being referred to as a “friend”.

‘Oh, hey Edgar!’ Christian interrupted coming out through the door. He had Tucker with him and placed him down as he continued, ‘the rest are inside, go on ahead.’

‘Good to see you, Chris.’ Edgar shook his friends hand vigorously as he left the rest of them and approached the sitting room entrance. Tucker waddled over towards Sirius and the others and yawned, grabbing a hold of Sirius’s jeans.

‘You tired little man?’ Sirius asked looking down at him. Tucker instantly shook his head, giving Sirius the sourest look. It was as if he had been personally dishonoured.

‘I am almost six. I don’t get tired.’ But the minute he finished, he broke into another yawn.

‘Albus wants you kids in there as well, I was just going to put him down.’ Christian indicated but Sirius intervened, reaching down and pulling Tucker up into his arms.

‘It’s okay. You guys go on in. I’ve got him.’ Sirius announced, pulling Tucker’s head in against his chest. There wasn’t much of a fight, as most of the day had been spent running around chasing each other. It was a wonder the little boy had lasted this long.

‘Hey, next time we’ll have to come over in the day and get better acquainted.’ James stepped forward, running a hand softly over Tucker’s mess of dark curls. Tucker looked up at James, bleary eyed and blinked.

‘I dunno. I already have one nerd in my entourage. I’ll have to see if I have any openings.’ Tucker choked out, reaching up to tap one of the lenses of James’ glasses. Lily broke into laughter first, but she was soon followed by Sirius and James while Ali and Remus held themselves together in the immediate distance.

‘Goodnight, Tucker.’ Ali moved forward, kissing him on the head.

‘Not goodnight. I’m not tired. I want to-’ before he could finish, his tiny mouth opened wide letting out yet another yawn.

‘Come on.’ Sirius smiled, moving for the stairs. He heard the rest of the company all head for the meeting, but was happy to be of some use. He never really considered himself a kid person. But Tucker made him laugh. And he wasn’t the kind of child that cried when they didn’t get their way. He was so mature it was almost like he was at least double his age.

But as Sirius got to the top of their stairs and Tucker’s mumbling argument slowly died off, he showed his age in the way that his eyes began to shut of their own accord the minute Sirius lowered him down onto his bed. His room was filled with colour. He had materials littering the floor and bright coloured stuffed animals, among cauldron sets, an assortment of tiny moving figurines and more coloured quills and bits of scribbled on parchment than Sirius cared to count.

Sirius was tucking him under his covers when Snowball jumped up onto the bed and sniffed around. Sirius watched him, but he seemed to be merely sussing out the interaction. After a moment, he came closer, pawed at the blankets and curled up next to where Tucker was breathing heavily with sleep. Sirius smiled at the two of them and left the room, turning down the gas lamp on his way out.

After spending so much time with her little brother and Ali over the past two weeks, Sirius felt he was becoming even more attached to not only Ali, but her family as a whole. He was starting to realise that most of the reason Christian scared him so much, was because he was almost desperate for the man to like him. It wasn’t something he was used to. Having to try so hard to impress someone.

Mostly he wasn’t overly fussed about people’s feelings towards him. His parents had both hated him. His brother had practically disowned him. Mr Potter was gone now, which hurt Sirius more than he cared to admit. Mrs Potter was so easy to please, she was all he really had in the way of parental figures. He smiled at the thought of her as he silently crept down the stairs. He really couldn’t lose her.

As the thought entered his mind, he stopped by the hall table again, looking down at Kanika. She might have been a little full-on, but she had been kind to Sirius. Even though he’d only had one brief encounter with the woman. Thinking of her final moments made him frown. Now her daughter and son would have to grow up without a mother. And her husband was left alone. That was terrifying. War was terrifying.

‘You coming in?’ Sirius was startled out of his thoughts, looking up too see Christian waiting by the entrance to the sitting room.

‘Uh, yes. Sure. Sir!’ Sirius instantly wanted to smack himself in the forehead.

Christian caught him off guard though and moved over to look down at the photos with him. They both stood in silence for a moment, before Sirius looked away from the older man, down to his late wife’s pictures.

‘You- you miss her?’ As soon as he said the words, he regretted it. He frowned in annoyance with himself. Of course Christian missed his wife. How stupid a question could he ask?

Christian was looking at him when he stopped chastising himself. The older, weary looking man took in a sharp breath before looking back at the photos.

‘Every second, of every hour-’ Christian’s voice held steady enough, but he caught himself and had to swallow before continuing, ‘-of every day.’ He finished, touching the old photo containing his younger self and Kanika.

‘I-’ Sirius started, but stopped himself wondering if it was okay to admit this. Looking down at the photo again, he couldn’t stop himself, ‘I don’t know if I want her joining. I mean, I know she’s determine. She wants to help. But- but what if she gets herself hurt? What if she- what if she-’ he couldn’t bring himself to say the words.

Sirius swallowed and slowly looked back to Christian, not knowing what to expect from him. Christian stood in the same place he was before. He was giving Sirius the same calculating stare he had when he had caught the two outside by the bike. He was weighing him up. Judging him. Usually Sirius would have turned on the polite, circumventing charm. Or perhaps ignored him altogether and negated any kind of talking. But he really wanted some kind of approval from this man.

‘You really care for her, don’t you?’ Christian finally spoke. Sirius locked his eyes onto Christian’s blue ones and nodded. Christian snorted out a short laugh and broke into a smile.

‘You’re going to have a tough time if you think you have any control over a girl- uh,’ Christian sighed, ‘a woman like Ali.’ He corrected, ‘she takes after her mother more than she takes after me. Even if she doesn’t look it. Everything is going to be done her way. She knows more than you. She’ll fight if she wants to fight. And so help you if you try to baby her.’ Christian looked as if he knew firsthand what happened to you if you patronized an Adams woman.

‘So… so we just let her? Run out and fight death eaters?’ Sirius sounded more concerned than he wanted to let on.

‘Merlin, no.’ Christian looked at him as if he were mad, ‘you don’t think I’d allow my daughter to go the same way I lost my wife? I’ve spoken to Albus. He’s letting her join on my word only. She’s not to do anything extensive while she’s still at school. And even then, I don’t want her in the front lines. She’s hurting too much to think clearly at the moment.’

‘This might sound selfish… but I’m glad.’ Sirius looked down at the floor, not knowing whether it was okay to feel comforted knowing Ali was being held back from what she really wanted.

‘Just don’t tell her you said that.’ Christian gave him a small, lopsided smirk before straightening himself back up, ‘she’s happier. When you’re around, she’s happier. She’s less- strung out. She relaxes and laughs more.’ Christian admitted looking up towards the ceiling and shoving his hands in his pockets.

Suddenly his eyes flashed back to Sirius though, and it made Sirius jump, ‘but you are forbidden from taking her out on that muggle-bike.’

‘Yes, sir!’ Sirius replied instantly.

Christian’s face softened and he allowed himself another smile, ‘Just Chris. And you better get in there if you want to hear any of it.’ Christian motioned his head towards the door.

‘Yes, uh, Chris.’ Sirius felt overly awkward saying his name so casually. But he didn’t delay them further and entered the sitting room with Christian close behind him.

Dumbledore was speaking to everyone in the room. He paused momentarily as the two entered and gave them both a soft smile before continuing, ‘as I was saying. Our most important objective right now is to protect the innocents. We can’t have any more large scale attacks like London. We’re all keeping our eyes and ears open, but I want to set up precautionary perimeters around highly populated areas. And I want lookouts around the largest wizarding communities. That’s where you all come in.

                ‘I want to break you into groups of two. We’ll set up another, more formal meeting where you can meet everyone. Alastor Moody will be making up a roster for shifts to be taken. And those not on shift work, I will have specified missions for you to complete. Times are growing darker, but together I believe we have a chance at fighting back. Uh, Aaliyah… I have a separate mission for you.’

Sirius had taken to standing behind the part of the couch Ali had settled into, and he stiffened at the mention of exclusion-specifics. His attention flickered over to where Christian was standing beside the door and the tall man’s eyes were wandering up towards the ceiling while he rocked back on his heels.

‘Really, Professor?’ Ali sounded engaged. Not like she was being made a fool of.

‘Yes, I’ll talk to you outside afterwards.’ Dumbledore nodded to her with an expression of the utmost importance, ‘Mundungus and Dedalus, I need to have a private word with you two, Edgar, and Christian though.’ And with those words, the younger generation knew they shouldn’t push their luck and got to their feet and moved towards the door.

As Ali passed her father, he kissed her quickly on the forehead before she ducked outside of the room. When Sirius stepped by him, he supplied him with knowing grin before he made his way off towards where Dumbledore stood with the others.

Once they were out in the hall, there was a knock at the door and they all flicked around as Ali went to answer it. As she opened the door, she started laughing almost instantly. James, Lily and Remus, along with Sirius, all peered around the door as Ali clung to it to hold herself up.

‘I apparated into a pond.’ Peter stood in the doorway, looking less than impressed. He was soaking wet and had a few twigs and stray bits of algae smeared on his clothes. The chorus of laughter after he spoke was so loud, Tucker appeared, rubbing his eyes at the top of the stairs in a few minutes time.

Ali darted up to grab her little brother, as Lily and Remus helped Peter dry his clothes and clean himself up with their wands. By the time everyone had calmed down, Ali was leading them into the kitchen where everyone took seats and Tucker began falling asleep in her arms. They chatted about their holidays and filled Peter in about what he missed.

‘Well patrols can’t be so bad. Especially if we’re in two’s.’ Peter seemed a little more at ease with their assignments, ‘I can’t tell Mum though. She’ll strangle me.’ He finished looking off into the distance, fear etched on his face. There was a shared chuckle around the room as Christian entered.

‘We should probably all head off,’ Lily proposed politely.

‘You’re more than welcome to hang around.’ Christian spoke, moving towards Ali. He reached down and lifted Tucker up into his arms, ‘I’ve got some stuff to do for work anyway and I’m sure Ali would like the company.’ Tucker barely seemed to notice the shift from his sister’s lap to his father’s arms, he was so worn out.

‘Albus is waiting for you out in the hall though Ali-bear.’ Christian explained and Ali jumped onto her feet.

The rest of the group started talking again as Christian left behind Ali, but Sirius made his way over to the door to listen in.

‘I hoped you might help me keep an eye on things at the school, Aaliyah.’ Dumbledore spoke as Sirius watched them through the crack.

‘Of course, Professor. What do you need me to do?’

‘Well, it’s not overly conventional of me to tell you this before the letters have been sent out. But I do expect you know I have had you in mind for Head Girl.’ Ali seemed to stand up straighter from what Sirius could see of her, ‘As for your counterpart… I have a purpose for selecting him. I feel there are a few at Hogwarts that are in dire need of extra care. A helping hand to lead them in the right direction, so to say.’

‘Yes, sir?’

‘So I will be making your counterpart Head Boy, Regulus Black. And I need you to keep a close eye on him and his group of friends.’ As Dumbledore finished, Ali made a point of agreeing. They spoke for a few moments longer, but Sirius had tuned out. Sirius quickly stepped away from the door before Ali re-entered, looking happier than she had in months.

She threw her arms around Sirius before he could ask about the conversation and pretend he hadn’t been listening in. The night continued on and Ali was in high spirits. The group of friends chatted together in the kitchen, laughing away about nothing in particular. They located an old deck to play exploding snap with and Ali and James became rather competitive. Sirius, on the other hand, lingered away from them all, lost in thought.

Christian joined them in the kitchen well after Dumbledore had left and provided them with an unconventional dinner of breakfast foods. Apparently he hadn’t learnt how to cook much else. Sirius felt the ridged attitude once held towards him by Ali’s father, dwindling. It would have made him a lot happier if he hadn’t been overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions of his girlfriend having to keep an eye on his baby brother.

Was Dumbledore really that concerned about Regulus? What was he getting himself into? He did hang out with a bad crowd, but he always believed his brother to be a little above their standards. Was Dumbledore worried that he was veering towards the dark arts? It wouldn’t be overly surprising. But if he was, if he was going that way, Sirius wasn’t sure he wanted Ali getting involved in it.

By the time everyone was heading home, Sirius was still off with the fairies.

‘Are you there, or are you day dreaming about that bike of yours?’ Ali whispered in his ear. When he looked around he realised it was just the two of them left in the kitchen.

‘Huh? Oh… no. I mean, maybe? If you were interested we could go and have another look at it.’ Sirius chimed in, grinning at his innuendo.

‘Are you sure? I mean, my Dad’s home. You don’t want to run away yet?’ She asked, pulling his chair back and lifting a leg over his lap to sit down on him, their faces inches apart.

‘I-’ As if by magic, every thought invading Sirius’s mind was washed away and replaced with the girl before him, ‘I’m not running anywhere.’

‘Oh. That’s good.’ She kissed him on the cheek.

‘What were you talking about with Dumbledore?’ Sirius inquired innocently as Ali kissed him again.

‘It’s a secret.’ Ali replied with another kiss. Sirius expected this kind of answer. This was Aaliyah Adams he was dealing with.

‘Oh yeah, I forgot. I’m just a friend after all.’ Sirius pulled her back gently giving her an unimpressed look.

‘What?’ Ali looked confused, but also a little entertained.

‘Oh you know, I’m just your friend. Your friend that graduated recently. Just a mate, really.’ Sirius stood up, stepping away from her. Ali started laughing in the background at his obvious ridiculousness.

‘You’re sulking. Of course you’re sulking.’ Ali confirmed aloud, taking Sirius’s hand as he headed for the kitchen door and made it out into the hall.

‘Where’s your father?’ Sirius queried, looking around.

‘In the study, working on some ministry case.’ Ali muttered cracking her neck and yawning.

‘Walk me outside then?’ Sirius smiled at her.

‘Hm,’ Ali thought about it as they got to the front door, ‘no, I don’t think so. I don’t concern myself with prolonged goodbyes with acquaintances.’ She cackled evilly as she pushed him outside and shut the door in his face.

Sirius stood on their front steps, jaw dropped, trying not to laugh. He didn’t know what it was, but the ruder Ali was to him, the more he desired her. He knew he’d be back over in the morning anyway and so he walked down to his bike with a smile on his face. He climbed on, kicked up the kickstand, started the engine and rode off into the darkness. He stayed grounded just until he was sure no one would be able to see him taking off into the night sky.

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