My Sun Sets to Rise Again – 2/3 – enigmaticblue

Title: My Sun Sets to Rise Again
Author: enigmaticblue
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Time Travel, Drama
Relationship(s): Sirius Black/Remus Lupin
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Torture, Violence – Canon Level, Major Character Death (canonical and temporary)
Author Notes: Many, many thanks to our mods, Keira Marcos and Jilly James, for running such a great challenge, and thanks to my artist, Starkindler, and my beta, shallanelprin. You guys are the best.
Beta: shallanelprin
Word Count: 67,700
Summary: Going through the Veil opens up doors for Sirius. Pretty much literally.
Artist: Starkindler



Sirius glances around and knows exactly when and where he is. Hogwarts, just before the full moon, and just before the prank they played on Snape. He isn’t particularly sorry for nearly getting Snivelus killed, but he issorry for the position they’d put Remus in.

Remus hadn’t spoken to them for months afterward, which had been painful. Remembering it now makes his stomach twist uncomfortably.

“I know you’re hiding something.”

Snape’s voice grates, and Sirius remembers how it happened the last time. Snape managed to catch him alone, pushing until Sirius told him how to access the secret passage under the Whomping Willow.

It had barely been a plan, more of a whim. Sirius hadn’t even been sure that Snape would try during a full moon, but he knew there was a chance that Snape would be dumb enough to try catching Remus in the act, so to speak. Snape was so intent on proving Remus was a werewolf, Sirius doubts that he thought through the consequences.

For a moment, Sirius is tempted all over again, but this time he’ll prevent James from riding to the rescue. A world without Snape doesn’t seem like a bad prospect.

But that would still turn Remus into a murder weapon, and could get him banned from Hogwarts. Sirius won’t take that chance.

Instead, he says, “Bugger off, Snivelus.”

“I’m going to find out what it is!” Snape threatens. “I’ll get you lot expelled.”

Sirius rounds on him. They’re in a deserted hallway, but probably not for long. Sirius is planning on meeting Linda Belmont—a Muggle-born student—in a broom closet, and he feels an echo of the irritation he originally experienced at the delay. “Do whatever the hell you want, but stay away from us, or you won’t like what happens.”

Snape gets right up into his face. “You don’t scare me.”

“No, well, someone should,” Sirius snaps. “Fuck off.”

“I know you all go somewhere!” Snape calls after him.

Sirius gives him the two-fingered salute over his shoulder. Linda’s probably still waiting for him, unless she got bored.

He groans, realizing that Linda is also sixteen, and while he might look like a teenager, he isn’t one.

This was one of the reasons he hadn’t wanted to go back this far; it’s just too awkward.

Still, he’s going to have to tell Linda something, and he can make out with her a bit and then find a reason to escape. Granted, he has no idea what to tell her since he’s been trying to get her in a broom closet for weeksnow, but he’ll think of something.

He always does.

“I thought you were never going to get here,” Linda says as Sirius ducks inside. “Where were you?”

“I got waylaid by Snape, threatening to get me expelled,” Sirius replies. “He’s a git.”

“Come here,” Linda orders, a predatory look in her green eyes. “Forget about Snape.”

“Easy to do with you here,” Sirius replies, with the sort of charm that always seemed to ease the way.

Her lips are warm, and she smells good and is nicely shaped, but her blonde hair keeps getting in his mouth, and Sirius is very much aware that she’s young enough to be his kid, and that’s just weird. He’s not at all turned on, although he remembers how horny he’d been the first time; all he wants right now is to find a reason to leave.

He’s desperately running through a list of excuses when the door flies open. Sirius hates leaving his back exposed, so he’d turned them sideways to keep an eye on the door. He immediately reaches for his wand, but Linda is quick as a snake, for all that she’s a Hufflepuff. She hits Snape with a jelly-legs hex, and then a silencio.

“You git,” she snaps. “We were just getting somewhere!”

Sirius never thought he’d be grateful to Snape, but he’s an effective mood-killer. “We’re getting close to curfew,” he says. “We should get back to our dorms.”

She sighs. “Fine. You have a point.”

“Should we cancel the hex?” Sirius asks.

Linda smirks. “He was the one who interrupted us. And, as you said, curfew is close.”

There’s a part of Sirius that thinks better of it, but he hadn’t been the one to cast the spells, and he’s not inclined to help Snape out.

“Are you available tomorrow?” Linda asks, and she licks her lips.

“No, I have a thing with Lupin and Potter,” Sirius replies, deeply uncomfortable and trying very hard not to show it.

“Where do you go?” Linda asks. “You always disappear.”

He grins. “Just guy stuff. Nothing that would interest you.”

Linda rolls her eyes at that and flounces off, and Sirius hopes that he’s insulted her enough to turn her off him.

Sirius realizes that he’s going to have to see Peter. Not only that, he’s going to have to sleep in the same room, and not let on that he’d like to see him dead.

He wishes that he could somehow turn Peter away from joining Voldemort, but he’s not sure how. At some point, Peter had believed that the Order would lose, and Voldemort would win, and he joined what he thought would be the winning team.

Sirius can’t cure that sort of cowardice. He’s not sure he even wants to try.

He gives the Fat Lady the password—fortitudo—and slips inside. “How was Linda?” James asks, from his indolent sprawl in the common room.

The sight of him nearly takes Sirius’ breath away. He’s young and cocky and brash. He’s as much Sirius’ brother as Regulus, and Sirius has missed him more than words could express.

He swallows that emotion, remembering how he tried to explain things to Remus the last go-round. It’s unfortunate, because he thinks Remus might have gone along with his plan if he’d been fully informed, if Sirius could have explained all the things he knew were coming.

“She was lovely, as expected,” Sirius replies. “Snape interrupted us.”

“That snake,” James snorts. “Did you hex him into next week?”

“Linda did,” Sirius replies. “She’s quick with a wand.”

James puts a hand on his heart. “You know—”

“Don’t say it,” Sirius warns him. “She’s lovely, and brilliant, but she’s no Lily.”

It had been a running joke between them, that Sirius would have pursued Lily if James hadn’t been immediately infatuated, but it had only been a joke. Lily wouldn’t give James the time of day until—well, until next year sometime, after an irreparable breach opened up between her and Snape. Lily had never told anyone what happened, but she’d stopped speaking to Snape at some point during fifth year.

This year. Lily would stop speaking to Snape this year, and take up with James later. Whatever happened between them could have been precipitated, at least in part, by Sirius’ prank.

At some point, Sirius knows, Snape will call Lily a mudblood, and will begin running around with proto-Death Eaters. Lily will stop trying to defend him, and will instead treat him with a chilly silence.

James can’t help but act like an idiot around Lily, but maybe Sirius can rein him in. He can at least give his friend the benefit of a maturity he decidedly does notpossess at the moment.

“No one is Lily,” James says. “Do you think she’ll ever give me the time of day?”

Sirius sighs. “I think if you lay off hexing people and focus on your studies, you might win her favor. Lily likes smart people.”

“That’s your advice,” James says flatly.

Sirius gives him a look. “You asked, and that’s my answer. Clearly, what you’re doing isn’t working, so maybe try something new.”

If he wants Harry to exist, he’s going to have to make sure Lily changes her tune.

Then again, he remembers the lines had already been drawn, with students choosing their sides in the war to come, or pointedly notchoosing, hoping that neutrality would be honored.

It rarely was, and Sirius isn’t looking forward to the years ahead. That dread is why this door wasn’t his first choice.

“How’s the project coming?” James asks.

“Oh, I managed a full transformation,” Sirius says casually, and then thinks better of it. Too late, though; the words are out, and James straightens.

“What?”

“I figured it out,” Sirius replies. “Once you get the full transformation the first time, it’s pretty easy.”

In reality, Sirius hadn’t managed until the end of fifth year, after the disastrous prank on Snape, and the months where Remus hadn’t spoken to him. Sirius made the last big push in a desperate attempt to win his affection back.

Then again, transforming into his animagus form is so instinctual at this point, Sirius doesn’t trust himself not to do so. It’s better to come clean now.

“And you didn’t say anything?” James demands.

Sirius grimaces. “Well, since I justfigured it out, and I didn’t want to make Peter feel bad, no. You know he thinks he’s never going to manage it.”

He’s rather hoping there’s something he can do to prevent Peter from finding his form. It might prevent a whole host of problems.

“Well, let’s see it, then,” James replies.

Sirius glances around. The common room is deserted except for the two of them. He has no intention of anyone other than the Marauders knowing about Padfoot, but it’s late enough that they’re alone.

“Quickly, then,” Sirius says. “Because I don’t plan on getting caught.”

James leans forward, hazel eyes gleaming. “Put your money where your mouth is.”

Sirius glances around once again, and feels the transformation. His apparent age doesn’t mean much. The memory is there, ingrained in whatever part of the brain that controls that sort of thing.

In a moment, he’s Padfoot again. He hadn’t really counted on the simplicity of emotion as a dog, because his front feet are on James’ shoulders and he’s licking James’ face before he can think better of it.

“Hey!” James protests, but he’s laughing in a familiar way, the way most do when confronted with his doggy self.

Unless they think he’s a Grim, in which case they’re usually frightened.

James leans back. “Jesus, Sirius. You realize you look like a Grim, right?”

Sirius transforms back. “I’ll strike fear into the hearts of everybody who doesn’t know better.”

“How the hell did you manage that?” James asks.

Once again, Sirius wants to tell him the truth, but the words get stuck in his throat. “Just had an epiphany, that’s all. I don’t know. Maybe you should meditate more.”

James groans. “I keep seeing a stag. What’s up with that? It’s not nearly as useful as your form.”

Sirius shrugs. “Everything we’ve read says we don’t choose our form, our form chooses us. So, you were apparently meant to be a stag.”

James snorts. “Yeah, well, it’s not the most useful.”

“But no one will look twice at you in the woods,” Sirius points out.

James gets to his feet. “I’m going to bed. You coming?”

“Right behind you,” Sirius replies.

He stays in the common room for a long time, though, soaking in the atmosphere. In many ways, his years at Hogwarts had been the best of his life. Away from his family, among his friends, he’d been popular and well regarded—at least by everyone other than the teachers.

He’s not sure how he’s going to deal with Peter. If he thought Peter could be saved, it would be one thing, but Sirius thinks it’s a deeply ingrained character flaw that caused him to take the Mark. If Peter had gone through seven years of school with them, benefitted from James’ protection and camaraderie…

Sirius doesn’t think there’s anything he can do to save him. And he really doesn’t want to try.

Maybe that’s a character flaw of his own, but he’s fine with it.

* * *

Sirius is grateful for both his younger body and advanced knowledge the next day. The lack of sleep doesn’t affect him as much as it would have before, and he can do fifth-year spells in his sleep.

Thankfully, he manages to avoid Peter for most of the day, other than for meals.

Sirius pulls Remus aside after dinner. “That thing we talked about, I can do it. I’ll join you during the next full moon.”

“Which is the day after tomorrow,” Remus replies tartly. “Also, I don’t know that I believe you.”

“You’ll believe me when I show up in my animagus form,” Sirius counters. “You’re not going to spend another full moon alone.”

It’s a reckless promise, and Sirius thinks better of it a moment later because there’s no way he can keep it, much like when he’d promised Harry he could live with Sirius.

Still, he means it, and Remus’ expression softens. “I thought you were still working on it.”

“James and Peter are,” Sirius admits. “I figured it out.”

Remus’ expression is reluctantly impressed. “Have you told the others yet?”

“James, yes, Peter, no,” Sirius replies.

Remus gives him a sharp look. “You’ve been avoiding Peter.”

Sirius winces. “Not on purpose.”

That’s a lie, but it’s not as though he can tell anyone the truth.

Remus nods. “You’re going to sneak out?”

“We know how to get past the Whomping Willow,” Sirius replies. “If I go as a dog, no one will notice.”

Remus smiles. “Somehow, I’m not surprised at your form.”

Sirius gives him a half-hearted glare. “Make all the jokes you want. Wait until you see it.”

“Thank you, Sirius,” Remus says quietly. “It means a lot that you’d even try.”

Becoming animagi was James’ idea, and he’d been the first to manage it last time. Sirius’ form had come easily once he nailed it, though, and it had only taken him another month or so after James mastered the transformation.

Granted, Sirius hadn’t really grown close to Remus until seventh year, when James and Lily began dating, and James had less time for his friends. So, it makes sense that Remus would be surprised, both that Sirius had been first to manage it, and that he would risk so much to be with Remus during the full moon.

Sirius has to remember how much had changed between fifth year and the end of the war, or his friends might get suspicious.

“Of course,” Sirius replies, and turns away.

“Where are you going?” Remus asks.

“The library,” Sirius replies with a wave. “I have some studying to do.”

It’s not completely out of character for him to study, of course. Sirius is near the top of his class, and while he’s intelligent, he has to put some work in. James is slightly less diligent, but still dedicated to doing well, even if they try to look good while doing it.

Remus, of course, is the swot. Peter is the middling one.

At least, that’s what Sirius assumed in the past; he won’t make that mistake again. He won’t underestimate Peter.

But he has another task in mind. Someone created Wolfsbane in the future. Sirius doesn’t remember who, though, if he ever knew. He wishes he’d paid a little more attention now, since he might have been able to contact them and see if he could get something to help Remus earlier.

If Sirius can’t find the person who made Wolfsbane, maybe he can come up with something just as good.

Or at least a substitute until whoever created Wolfsbane comes up with it again.

If they do. Sirius kind of hates time travel right now.

The problem is that while Sirius is decent at potions, or at least not utter pants, he hadn’t expanded his knowledge of potions theory since leaving Hogwarts after seventh year. Snape might be the only one in their year with the knowledge to help, but there’s no way in hell that Sirius is going to ask for it.

Well, Lily might be able to help. She’s best with Charms, but she knows her way around a cauldron. They would have to tell her the truth, though. Sirius doesn’t think they told Lily about Remus’ condition until after leaving school.

He has too many options right now, too many choices before him, without any idea what will make the most difference. Obviously, when the time comes, he’ll be the Secret Keeper, as he was meant to be the first time around.

But he has no idea whether he should even try to save Regulus or Peter, no idea what choices will save Lily and James, and best serve Remus. What he does know is that the Wolfsbane potion will only help. Even if he can’t figure it out, he has to try.

Sirius hasn’t made much progress by curfew, and he heads back to Gryffindor Tower. James, Peter, and Remus are sprawled out in the common room, a tight grouping that doesn’t admit interlopers.

Sirius has missed these days, but his knowledge of what’s to come taints the enjoyment he might have otherwise experienced in being back with his friends again.

Still, he pastes on a smile and throws himself onto the lounge next to James.

“You were in the library for hours,” James complains. “I thought we were going to play Exploding Snap.”

“Sorry,” Sirius says quickly. “I was working on a problem for Potions.”

James raises his eyebrows. “Are you gunning for a spot in Slug Club?”

“Not even if you paid me,” Sirius replies with a grimace. “Besides, Slughorn wouldn’t ask a disgraced Black to join his precious club, no matter how good I am. Regulus will be the one he invites.”

“Do you think he’d ask me?” Peter asks, a little wistfully.

Sirius turns his snort of disdain into a cough at the last moment, and James says kindly, “I think you have as much chance as the rest of us, Peter.”

That kindness is very much like James, at least among friends.

“Which is to say, likely none at all,” Remus adds dourly.

“Oh, don’t be such a wet blanket,” James replies. “I meant that we all have a chance of getting in. Except for Sirius. I think he’s right about that.”

Sirius offers a lazy salute. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the only good Black is a disgraced Black, even if it does keep me out of the Slug Club.”

“They say being invited can set you up for life,” Peter protests. “Some of us don’t have the backing of an Ancient and Noble house.”

Sirius rolls his eyes. “Right. Some backing.”

Although Peter isn’t wrong about one aspect, at least. Sirius did wind up with money from Uncle Alphard, which is more than Peter will have.

That’s still no excuse for what Peter did—or will do. Going back in time really is hell on verb tenses.

Peter’s expression is discontent, and he looks as though he’d like to argue and can’t. All of his friends know about Sirius’ rotten home life, and Peter, at least, has good, decent parents, even if they’re not wealthy or otherwise remarkable.

He and James would have shared if Peter had needed it; they’d taken care of Remus, after all.

“I’m for bed,” Remus announces. “Anybody else?”

“Me, too,” Peter replies. “James?”

“I’ll be along shortly,” James replies. “Me and Sirius.”

They leave, and he and James are alone in the common room.

“I know you like to take the piss out of Peter, but tonight was not on,” James says severely. “You know he’s insecure.”

Sirius bites back his first response for something more conciliatory. “I do. It was a knee jerk response.”

He can’t tell James the truth, but he doesn’t want to alienate him either. It’s a delicate line he walks right now.

“Look, I know that you and Peter haven’t always been close, but he’s still our friend,” James argues.

Sirius bites his tongue, quite literally. “I know. I’ll keep my opinions to myself in the future.”

James frowns at him. “What happened?”

Sirius takes a deep breath. “A premonition, nothing more.”

“You never talked about that sort of thing before,” James replies.

Sirius shrugs. “Maybe that was before I learned my form was a Grim.”

“And what is your premonition?” James asks, in a deceptively light tone.

“That jealousy is a very dangerous emotion,” Sirius replies. “And that we probably shouldn’t trust anyone who’s suffering from it.”

James frowns, clearly skeptical. “Is that what’s making you act so strangely around Peter? Your animagus form?”

Sirius shrugs. “Maybe that’s it.” He almost says something about dogs and rats not getting along, but no one knows what Peter’s animagus form will be yet.

James shakes his head. “You know what they say about prophecy, Sirius. Be careful that you don’t fulfill it by your own action or inaction.”

Like Sirius, James grew up pureblood, and he knows the power of true prophecy. Lily had been slightly more skeptical, but she also knew they’d be targets for Voldemort solely based on their work for the Order and James’ status as a blood traitor. She’d gone into hiding for Harry’s sake.

James makes a good point, though. Sirius doesneed to be careful that he doesn’t alienate Peter so much that he ends up being the root cause for his defection.

“I will,” he says.

James gives him another look. “I don’t think you’re telling me everything.”

Sirius offers an elegant shrug. “I would if I could.”

James doesn’t look terribly happy, but he rises gracefully. “Get some rest tonight,” James advises. “You’ll be up all night with Remus night after next.”

He sounds wistful, and Sirius feels regret, knowing that James had been the first to accomplish the transformation the last time, and that he’d been working hard on it. “It’s not anything to do with you,” Sirius says, wanting to offer some reassurance. “As I said, I had a bit of a premonition, and I figured out how to bridge the gap. You’ll get there.”

James smiles. “Well, I’m glad one of us will be with Remus anyway. Are you coming?”

“I think I’ll stay up a little longer,” Sirius says.

“You do need sleep,” James reminds him.

Sirius shrugs. “Sure, but I’m not tired right now.”

That’s a lie, because he’s fucking exhausted, but it’s a small lie. He doesn’t think he’ll be able to sleep, and he wants to sit for a bit, alone with his own thoughts.

James gives him a look, like he knows Sirius is lying, but he just shrugs. “Sleep well, when you get there.”

And Sirius stares into the flames, thinking through all the possibilities.

* * *

He sleepwalks through his classes, still having a hard time getting any kind of rest. In the darkness of his curtained four-poster, he hears Peter snuffling, or James shifting, or Remus tossing restlessly.

Sirius wants to murder Peter, wants to wrap James and Remus up in cotton-wool, but he can’t do any of that.

He gets through the next couple of days only because he has enough experience and knowledge to do it in his sleep.

Which he’s doing. Almost literally.

He’s afraid that he’ll be too tired when he meets Remus the night of the full moon, but as soon as he transforms, he feels more alert, although he does yawn. He stayed outside the castle, near the lake once he’d eaten dinner, then transformed once dusk fell. He trots across the lawn and manages to dodge the lashing branches of the Whomping Willow and presses the knot that opens the secret passage.

Once inside, Sirius pauses long enough to ensure the door closes behind him, and heads down the tunnel towards the Shrieking Shack.

Remus has already transformed by the time Sirius emerges, and he moves cautiously knowing that the werewolf will view Sirius as encroaching on his territory.

He hears the growls first, and Sirius slinks along the floor, maintaining a submissive posture.

Remus appears, growling at him, and Sirius rolls over.

The werewolf glares and snorts, but then curiosity gets the better of him, and he sniffs at Sirius. After a moment, he whuffs and noses Sirius’ side.

Sirius scrambles to his feet and licks Remis’ muzzle, whining softly.

Remus sneezes and shoves Sirius with his head, and that’s the end of that. Sirius thinks that Remus recognizes him, and their other friends, as pack, as family, and so Sirius’ smell is familiar to him, and therefore not alarming.

Sirius, at least, is used to the dynamics, and he initiates a play session, nipping at Remus’ heels and darting away. It takes the werewolf some time to get with the program, but then Remus snaps and begins chasing Sirius.

They race around the shack for a couple of hours, and then Remus collapses onto his side, panting, with a wide, doggy grin. Sirius drops down next to him, resting his head on Remus’ flank. Remus licks his ears.

Sirius sleeps deeply and contentedly, and only wakes when Remus begins to whimper, the transformation reversing itself. Sirius watches, maintaining his form, and then licks Remus’ face.

Remus groans. “What—” He blinks. “Sirius?”

Sirius offers a doggy grin, then transforms back. “What do you think?”

“I think I need to get dressed.” Remus glances at the window and the weak pre-dawn light. “We need to get back to the castle.”

“That’s all you have to say?” Sirius asks, disappointed at his non-reaction.

A sly smile tilts Remus’ mouth. “You’re too easy, you know that?”

“Was it better?” Sirius asks, already knowing the answer.

Remus sighs. “It was. Thank you.”

Sirius transforms back and sits by entrance to the tunnel, waiting for Remus, and then leads the way back to the castle. He peeks out, making sure the coast is clear, sniffing the air, growling when he scents Snape near the tree.

Remus keeps his silence next to him, and Sirius considers his options. He doesn’t want to reveal his form, although the temptation to appear and possibly scare the hell out of Snape is tempting.

“Severus, what are you doing out here so early?”

That’s Dumbledore’s voice, and Sirius lets out a whuff.

“I was just—”

“Come along,” Dumbledore says inexorably. “They’ll be serving breakfast soon. There’s no reason for you to be loitering outside.”

Sirius transforms back and glances at Remus, who offers a brief, relieved grin, and then they quickly head back to the Gryffindor Tower.

The Fat Lady peers at them. “You were out late.”

Remus ignores the comment, as he always does. “Fortitudo.”

Sirius stretches as they make their way through the common room. “I need a shower.”

“As do I,” Remus agrees. “Sirius—thank you.”

Sirius shrugs off the gratitude. “Of course. It was James’ idea anyway. I was just lucky enough to figure out how to transform first.”

Remus gives him a sharp look, but nods. “Still.”

“Still,” Sirius echoes, and he doesn’t think he’s mistaking the emotion they share.

* * *

Linda accosts him after breakfast. “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been working on a project,” Sirius replies, knowing that answer won’t satisfy her. Granted, he thinks their relationship lasted about two weeks the first time around.

Linda glares at him. “Is that all you have to say?”

Sirius shrugs. “You deserve better than me right now.”

Linda rolls her eyes. “Well, you’ll get no argument from me on that front.”

She stalks off, and Sirius breathes out a sigh of relief. At least she didn’t slap him.

James smirks at him. “I take it that didn’t go well.”

“Better than I thought, actually,” Sirius admits. “It was never going to work.”

James shakes his head. “I thought it would last a couple of weeks anyway.”

“It might have, if I hadn’t blown her off,” Sirius says candidly. “I told her she deserved better, and she agreed with me.”

James grabs a sausage. “Iagree with you.”

Sirius rolls his eyes, but doesn’t argue. He might have to feign interest, to avoid suspicion at the sudden personality change. He digs into his own breakfast, famished after the activities of the night.

“How did Remus fare last night?” James asks in a low voice.

“Well enough,” Sirius replies. “It’s a difficult thing to see up close. I hate that it causes him so much pain.”

James grimaces. “Is he still showering?”

“You know hot water seems to help,” Sirius replies. “I’m trying to find something else that will help, too.”

“Like what?” James asks. “There’s no cure for what he has.”

“A potion might ease the transformation,” Sirius replies.

James frowns. “You’d think someone would have found it by now.”

“Who cares enough to try?” Sirius counters. “Except for us?”

James stares at him. “I don’t disagree, but what’s gotten into you, mate?”

“I’ve just realized where my priorities need to be,” Sirius replies. “That’s all.”

Remus slides into the seat next to Sirius, snatching a piece of toast, which is about the only thing he can stomach the morning after. “What are we talking about?”

“About how we’re going win our Quidditch match next weekend,” James says smoothly.

Sirius is grateful for the lie, because he doesn’t want to get Remus’ hopes up. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to replicate the potion, considering that he hadn’t been paying nearly enough attention.

“Up against Slytherin,” Peter comments, sitting down next James. “It’s going to be tough.”

Regulus is playing his first year as the Slytherin Seeker, and he’s good, but not as good as James. Gryffindor will win, if history repeats itself.

Then again, Gryffindor doesn’t lose many games during James’ tenure as Seeker.

He’s looking forward to playing Quidditch again. He hadn’t minded being banned from the field after the trick he played on Snape, not at the time, but he’s grateful not to face the same consequences again.

Mostly, he’s glad that Remus isn’t freezing him out with the silent treatment.

“We have practice tonight,” James says. “You won’t be able to hole up in the library.”

Sirius shrugs. “The library will still be there.”

Classes are fine that day. Sirius is exhausted—again, or still, he’s not really sure—but he participates where he’s able. After classes are done, but before Quidditch practice and dinner, they’re walking back to the castle from the greenhouses.

It’s a beautiful fall day, and there are a lot of students outside enjoying the sunshine. Sirius isn’t paying much attention, so he doesn’t see Snape, but James does. Sirius doessee the ugly expression cross James’ face, the unholy glee at the chance to wind him up.

Sirius would have worn the same expression once upon a time, and he would have been willing to have a go at Snape as well, but he’s seen himself through Harry’s eyes. He remembers how stung he’d been by Harry’s disappointment.

If James survives, if Harry’s ever in a position to know about their schoolboy hijinks, he doesn’t want James to feel that same hurt.

Sirius grabs James’ arm. “Let it go.”

James gives him an incredulous look. “Are you serious?”

Remus’ expression is inscrutable, whereas Peter just seems confused.

“He’s Lily’s friend,” Sirius replies in a low, urgent voice. “He’s a greasy git up to his eyeballs in dark magic, yes, but he’s still her friend. If you want to impress her, this isn’t the way.”

James glances at Snape, who’s looked up and spotted them by now, his eyes wary. “What’s gotten into you?”

“I’ve caught a glimpse of the future, and I’d rather you not shoot yourself in the foot,” Sirius replies. “Lily will see him for what he is eventually. He’ll call her a nasty name, or one of his cronies will. She’ll see what they are, and she’ll ask him to choose, and he’ll choose wrongly. But you don’t have to hurt him for her to learn that lesson.”

James blinks. “Okay, if you say so.”

Remus is still watching him, his expression turning speculative, before he nods once, and Sirius thinks it’s in approval. Peter just looks disappointed. “What are we doing, then?”

“We’re getting ready for Quidditch practice,” James says, turning away from Snape. “We should get changed.”

Maybe it won’t make any difference at all, Sirius thinks. Maybe it’s too late.

But maybe it isn’t, or maybe at the very least James will be able to be honest with Harry about his time at Hogwarts and not feel ashamed.

* * *

As time goes on, Sirius tends to forget where he’s come from, although the knowledge lingers in the back of his mind. He goes to classes, and plays Quidditch, and researches Potions.

The bad news is that he’s no closer to a version of Wolfsbane than he was before; the good news is that he’s improving his Potions grade to such an extent that Snape starts giving him dirty looks that have nothing to do with how they’ve treated him, and Slughorn looks at him speculatively.

That doesn’t matter to Sirius; he wants to help Remus first and foremost.

He catches Regulus alone towards the end of the year. He’s been trying to talk to him privately for the last couple of months, without any luck. Regulus is always with friends, pure-bloods from Slytherin, and Sirius wants to talk to him alone.

He wants to at least tell Regulus that he’s planning to spend the summer with James, rather than going home.

“What do you want?” Regulus demands suspiciously.

“I wanted to let you know I’m not coming home this summer,” Sirius replies. “I thought I owed you that much, at least.”

Regulus snorts. “Like I didn’t already know, you blood traitor?”

“Just because I’m Gryffindor—”

“You were a blood traitor long before that,” Regulus snaps, and Sirius hears the echo of their mother’s words. “You were always a traitor, right from the womb.”

“I’m sorry you believe that,” Sirius replies. “If you change your mind, if you realize that the life you’ve chosen isn’t the one you want, come and find me.”

Regulus sniffs and stalks off, his spine straight, and Sirius curses silently, but he always knew he’d never be able to convince Regulus to stop being such a Black, not at this late date.

The pure-bloods have him. Voldemortwill have him.

Maybe Sirius should try harder to save him, but he lost Regulus a long time ago, and some people don’t want to be saved.

That’s the hard truth he’s learned over the years.

That’s the truth he learned as a child. He lost his brother the day he left for Hogwarts.

Sirius scrubs his hands over his face, and then he takes a deep breath. School ends in a few days, and he’ll take his OWLS. He’s not worried about doing well. In fact, quite the opposite, given how hard he’s been studying Potions, which had been his weakest subject in the past.

He goes back to the common room, finding the others waiting for him. “Did you find him?” James asks.

Sirius should have known that James would know what he intended. “I did. He called me a blood traitor, but I don’t know why I expected anything else.”

“Hope springs eternal,” Remus replies quietly.

“That it does,” James agrees. “You’ll always have a place with us, Sirius. I hope you know that.”

“Of course,” Sirius replies with a smile he hopes is careless.

He hadn’t felt much regret for breaking with his family entirely the first time around, and he’s not sure he does now. At sixteen, he hadn’t been able to stomach another night under his parents’ roof. Right now, he’s not sure he could refrain from hexing them into next week, and he’s got the skill and experience to do so at this point.

He might just react without thinking.

“Are you ready for OWLS?” Peter asks.

The urge to kill him isn’t as great as it was at first, but that’s mostly because Sirius has resolved that Peter will never be in a position to harm James. He can’t do much more than that right now.

“I’ll be fine,” Sirius replies. “We all will be.”

Peter will do middling well, and Remus and James will each take home enough O’s to have their pick of jobs in the future—or Remus would if he weren’t a werewolf.

OWLS are certainly less stressful the second time around, and Sirius skates through easily, particularly with Potions and DADA.

And at the end of it, Sirius can look forward to a summer with James.

He’s leaving the examination room when he spots Lily and Snape. She hasn’t warmed to James much this year, but Sirius isn’t worried. There’s still time for that to change.

Sirius is curious, though, and he glances around quickly, knowing he’s taking a risk, but unable to help himself. He quickly casts a “notice-me-not” charm and sidles closer.

“How can you spend time with them?” Lily is demanding. “You know what they are.”

“They’re my classmates,” Snape argues.

“Mulciber tormented that poor girl, while you stood by and laughed with the rest of them,” Lily snaps. “And you’ve been following James and the others around all year—”

“Lupin disappears every month around the full moon,” he begins.

“I know what your theory is,” she says, her tone cool. “And even if you’re right, they’ve said he’s ill, and he is. I don’t know what your excuse is for hanging about with want-to-be Death Eaters.”

“I told you, they’re my friends,” Snape says hotly.

“They hate me because of who my parents are, and that’s who you are aligning yourself with,” Lily snaps. “We’re not friends. We’ll never be friends. You chose your side, and it’s not mine.”

She stalks off, and Sirius holds his breath, not wanting to be noticed. Snape’s expression, when he stares after her, is a mixture of anger and devastation.

Sirius realizes that Snape is in love with her, and he could almost feel sorry for him.

Almost, because he remembers how Snape treated Harry, and his inability to transfer any of his regard for Lily to her son tells Sirius that it’s not true love, not really.

If Snape truly loved her, he would have treated Harry like his own. He would have at least been kindto him.

Snape stalks off, but doesn’t appear to see Sirius, and he breathes a sigh of relief. He’s pretty sure Snape would have hated him even more if he’d known Sirius witnessed his argument with Lily.

“That was the worst,” James groans when he joins Sirius in the common room. “How do you think you did?”

“Well enough to have my pick of subjects next year,” Sirius replies. “You?”

James shrugs. “Fine, I think, but I guess we’ll see.”

“I have faith in you,” Sirius replies easily.

“I hope you had faith in me before I took my OWLS, because it’s a little late now,” James comments.

“I will always have faith in you,” Sirius says sincerely.

James’ quick grin is recompense enough. “Thanks, Padfoot.”

James managed his first transformation a few weeks after Halloween, and Sirius wonders if it’s not at least partially because James hadn’t liked Sirius going somewhere he couldn’t. His nickname had come quickly, as had James’ and Remus’. If the timing holds true, they’ll create the Marauders’ Map early next year, mostly to protect themselves from Snape, who hasn’t stopped trying to reveal Remus’ secret.

“I’m glad you’re coming home with me,” James says suddenly. “I won’t have to worry about you this summer.”

“You worry about me?”

“Uh, yeah, with your parents?” James comments. “Of course, I worried about you, mate. I always worry about you when you go home. Just as well you don’t have to go back.”

“Just as well,” Sirius echoes.

“You having second thoughts?”

Sirius sighs. “I worry about Regulus.”

James is quiet for a long moment. “I think you’re right to worry about him, but there’s nothing more you could have done for him, Pads.”

“Do you say that because he was sorted into Slytherin and the Snakes are hopeless, or do you really mean that?” Sirius asks.

“I really mean that,” James replies. “Regulus has made his own choices, and it’s not your fault that he fell into line with your mother’s thinking.”

Sirius wonders if James would feel the same way if he knew what Sirius knows about the future, but then again, Sirius has always defined his family by choice, not by blood. It’s an attitude that drove his mother crazy, although his Uncle Alphard understood.

Remus joins them next, collapsing next to Sirius on the couch. “How did you two make out?”

“According to Sirius, we did just fine,” James jokes.

Remus gives him a sideways look. “And you have some idea how we did?”

“Very well,” Sirius replies, “because of course we did.”

He’s always been cocky, and he uses that to his advantage now. Remus clearly senses that something is off, because he’s been asking questions. What he’s thinking, what he senses, Sirius isn’t sure, but he’s unwilling to open the door, so he pretends not to notice Remus’ interest.

Remus gives him a look, but doesn’t say anything else.

Peter is the last to arrive, looking absolutely exhausted. “That was horrible.”

“Sirius thinks he did well,” James says.

“Well enough to be useful to the Order, anyway,” Sirius replies. “Or maybe I’m being optimistic.”

“Nothing wrong with optimism,” Peter says glumly. “I have none.”

Sirius doesn’t try to make him feel better. “I’m sure you did just as well as the rest of us,” Remus says kindly.

Sirius knows better, but he figures that Peter can learn the truth when OWL letters are sent out later in the summer. Thankfully, if history repeats itself, he’s going to have a summer with James, punctuated with a couple of visits from Remus during the new moon, but they won’t see Peter until school starts again.

He’s looking forward to the break.

* * *

Summer at the Potters’ country estate is as relaxed as Grimmauld Place isn’t. As the sole heir, a late-born son to parents desperate for a child, James is probably a little spoiled, but Sirius doesn’t see it like that.

Besides, the Potters open their home to Sirius without question. Mrs. Potter gives him a hug as soon as he gets off the train. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re staying with us this summer,” she exclaims. “I know James worries about you terribly over the holidays.”

Mr. Potter claps him on the shoulder. “It’s good to have you with us, my boy. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like, of course, and I hope you’ll consider spending all future holidays with us.”

“I would appreciate that,” Sirius admits. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Nonsense,” Mrs. Potter replies. “You’re as much our son as James’ brother, and you are very welcome.”

“We’re going to have a great summer,” James says, clapping Sirius on the back.

And it isa great summer, just as good as the first time around, if a little bittersweet. Sirius can sometimes forget that James is dead in some version of the future, and just enjoy being with his friend—and then he’ll remember, and he’ll want to savor every second.

When he gets those moments of melancholy, James will give him a sharp look, like he can sense Sirius’ mood. After the first time he probes, and Sirius tells him that someone must have walked over his grave, he doesn’t ask again.

Sirius can’t talk about it, but he wishes he could, and is also glad he can’t. He’s not sure what he’d say.

How would he tell James what’s to come? He can’t blight the upcoming years like that, or risk stealing any of James’ joy at being married, or having Harry.

When Remus visits, they spend time by the pond, ambling around the countryside, and generally being idle teenagers. Next summer, they’ll start training for war.

This summer, though, they’re still kids.

The magic of Hogwarts means that his OWL results come to the Potters’ residence, addressed to Sirius, and he does even better than anticipated. He gets an O in Potions, DADA, Charms, and Ancient Runes. He gets an E in his other courses, except for his A in History of Magic. James does almost as well, with Os and Es in most everything but History of Magic, in which he also gets an A.

That’s not surprising, given how Binns tends to drone on. Sirius thinks the only people who do well in that class are those who have an interest in history and study on their own.

Sirius has other things on his mind, and History of Magic isn’t going to help him with his future plans.

Peter writes to them over the summer to let them know he’s found his animagus form, and Sirius and James start working on the map. Remus is a willing assistant during his visits, since they’re all a little tired of Snape sneaking around and attempting to reveal Remus’ secret.

He and James have the map finished by the time they get back to Hogwarts, and just like last time, Peter is disappointed to be left out and irritated at the nickname.

And maybe that’s where things started going wrong, but Sirius has a hard time caring about Peter’s feelings, not after what he did.

Sixth year passes in a blur of classes and Quidditch and pranks. They mostly manage to avoid Snape because of the map, and James seems to buckle down and focus on proving to Lily that he’s not the arrogant toerag she thinks he is.

Sirius remembered sixth year as one of the best years, and the same is true this time as well. They don’t have to worry about OWLs or NEWTs, or what they’re going to do next, and if there’s the understanding that they’ll soon need to take sides in the war, they’re not there yet.

And at the end of sixth year, James walks into the common room with a goofy grin on his face. “She kissed me,” he says, collapsing next to Sirius.

“Did she now?” Sirius asks. “Good job, mate.”

“You don’t seem surprised,” James says.

Remus doesn’t look up from his book, but Sirius knows he’s paying attention; if he weren’t, he’d have turned the page by now.

“I knew she’d come to her senses eventually,” Sirius jokes. “Besides, she’s certain to be chosen to be Head Girl, and if you’re Head Boy, there’s a certain poetry in that.”

James snorts. “I’m not a prefect.”

“There’s no rule that says you have to be a prefect in order to be Head Boy,” Sirius replies.

James gives him a strange look. “You sound so sure of yourself.”

Sirius shrugs. “That’s my thing: supreme confidence.”

James’ eyes narrow. “True, but that was an oddly specific thing to have supreme confidence in.”

Sirius shrugs. “I have a feeling.”

Remus isn’t even pretending to read anymore, watching them with sharp, wary eyes.

“You’ve had a lot of feelings,” James observes. “Remus and I both have noticed. You’re different.”

Sirius shrugs. “I’ve had to grow up. I knew that as soon as I left home I would.”

“That’s not it,” James argues. “You found your form faster than the rest of us, and it was my idea. I thought I’d be the first.”

“I didn’t think you minded that I figured it out,” Sirius objects.

“I don’t mind,” James protests. “It’s just one more thing I noticed.”

Sirius sighs. “I don’t know what to tell you, Prongs. It just kind of happened.”

“There’s something you’re not telling us,” James replies.

Remus clears his throat. “We’re worried.”

Sirius takes a deep breath, feeling the words get stuck in his throat. “I’d tell you if I could.”

James frowns, clearly hurt. “You can tell us anything.”

But Remus sits up, understanding dawning. “You really can’t.”

Sirius nods tightly. “I just—know things.”

“You’veseenthings,” Remus corrects.

Sirius shrugs, unable to force words out around the lump in his throat.

James’ hurt turns to worry. “Are you all right?”

“I hope I will be,” Sirius replies. “I hope we all will be.”

“We have each other, Pads,” James says easily. “Of course, we will be.”

But Remus doesn’t appear reassured, and Sirius thinks that’s probably because Remus is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. He always expects the worst, and he’s not wrong.

Later, James goes to bed, as does Peter, but Remus stays put, watching Sirius as he stares into the flames of the fireplace. “Ask whatever you like,” Sirius says quietly without looking at him.

“Is there anything I can ask?” Remus counters.

Sirius sighs deeply. “I don’t know. I haven’t really tested the bounds.”

“Is it a curse?”

“Some might call it that, but no,” Sirius replies.

“A vision of the future?”

Sirius manages to force a “yes” through his lips.

Remus leans in and asks, “Have you lived the future?”

And Sirius closes his eyes tightly, hardly able to breathe. He can’t even nod, the magic of the Veil preventing even that much, but Remus puts an arm over his shoulders and pulls him in close.

“You seemed older to me,” Remus murmurs. They’re alone in the common room, and Sirius curls into Remus, feeling the warmth from his body. “I think I knew from that first night in the Shack, but I wasn’t sure. It was crazy, but I knew you were different, especially when you stopped James from going after Snape.”

“That slimy git,” Sirius manages to say. “Still, he wasLily’s friend.”

“I noticed they weren’t really talking,” Remus says lightly, apparently accepting the change in subject. “Do you know what happened?”

“She called him out on his choice of friends and said he’d already picked his side,” Sirius replies. “She doesn’t know I saw.”

“Probably better she doesn’t,” Remus says. “I know you can’t talk about it, but is there anything I can do?”

Sirius takes a deep breath. “No, other than what you’re already doing.”

“Well, tomorrow is Saturday, so there are no classes,” Remus says. “We can just stay here for a bit if you’d like.”

And Sirius wouldlike. The girls at Hogwarts are all too young for him, but Moony is always Moony. “Thanks.”

“I know what it’s like to have a secret you can’t tell,” Remus murmurs. “Don’t worry about it, Pads.”

It’s exactly what Sirius needs to hear.

* * *

The summer between sixth and seventh years passes quickly, and it’s less carefree than the previous one. Mr. Potter gives them both Apparition lessons, since they’ll be turning 17 that year, and will be eligible to take the test. They also get serious about learning defensive and offensive magic, and James joins him in his quest to find a potion that will help Remus.

“Is there a reason you haven’t told me about this until now?” James asks after Sirius tells him about the project.

Sirius sighs. “I was hoping I could figure it out, and I don’t want to get Moony’s hopes up.”

“Is this part of the thing that you can’t tell us?” James asks. “Because you’re not a Potions Master.”

“If I were a better friend, I’d have it sorted by now,” Sirius admits.

“That’s not true,” James replies, indignant. “You’re the best friend anybody could ask for.”

Sirius shakes his head. “I try to be, but I have fucked a few things up.”

James pulls him in for a hug. “Then don’t fuck things up again.”

“That easy, huh?” Sirius asks. “Chances are good that there will be something else I do, some other way I fail.”

“And I won’t?” James counters. “We’re going to make mistakes. That’s called life.”

“I just want to make up for it somehow,” Sirius replies. “You know Remus is going to have a harder time of it. Sure, Dumbledore let him go to Hogwarts, but an education isn’t going to make much of a difference to how most people will look at him if and when they find out.”

James snorts. “Well, it’s lucky for him that he has us, then, isn’t it? I’ve got enough money to support him, and with your inheritance from Uncle Alphard, so can you.”

That, of course, assumes that one or both of them is around. When Sirius went after Peter, blinded by grief and a thirst for revenge, he also deprived Remus of his sole remaining friend and source of support.

He had deprived Harry of his godfather, and his Uncle Moony, too.

Sirius isn’t going to let that happen again.

“We’ll look out for him,” Sirius agrees. “Always.”

Sirius has a plan, and it’s just as well that he can’t tell anybody about it, because he knows James and Remus will absolutely hate it.

But there’s one way to make sure that James and Lily are around to raise Harry, and look after Remus. The personal cost doesn’t matter.

When James’ letter comes at the end of the summer, enclosing his Head Boy badge, James goes a little pale, looking at Sirius, who just tilts his head.

Mrs. Potter exclaims over the letter, and the badge, and Sirius knows they’d been a little disappointed that James hadn’t been made prefect.

“Well done, my boy,” Mr. Potter says, clapping James on the shoulder. “Very well done, indeed. Captain of the Quidditch team andHead Boy? We’re proud of you.”

A little color comes back into James’ face, and he grins, obviously pleased. “Thank you. It’s a bit of a surprise, to be sure.”

“Not that we aren’t proud of you as well, son,” Mr. Potter adds, patting Sirius on the shoulder.

If it had been anybody else saying that, Sirius would have bristled, but instead he feels a warm glow. “You know they’d never put me in charge of anything,” he comments cheerfully.

“Oh, I think you might end up surprised, Sirius,” Mrs. Potter comments. “I think you might wind up in charge of quite a bit eventually.”

Sirius rather hopes things never get that desperate. If he has to take over the Black family, things will have gone very wrong indeed.

Later, though, when they’re alone, James asks, “Did you know for certain?”

“Not for certain,” Sirius replies. “But—I was fairly sure, since you hadn’t cocked things up worse than—”

The words get stuck in his throat, and Sirius chokes on them, James pounding him obligingly on the back.

“That was weird,” James mutters. “Is that what you meant?”

Sirius nods, not trusting his voice.

“Well, don’t try it again,” James orders. “You looked like you were choking.”

“I was,” he replies hoarsely. “I was honest when I said I couldn’t talk about it.”

“Clearly,” James replies. “Okay, well, then, I’ll be Head Boy, and youwon’t make my life any harder than it has to be.”

Sirius smiles. James had said something similar the first time around. “Deal.”

“You don’t mind that I’ll be dating Lily next year, do you?” James asks anxiously.

“I’ll spend more time with Moony,” Sirius assures him. “It’s fine.”

“But not Peter?” James asks sharply. “You haven’t been the same around him since—” He stops. “Ah.”

“Yes, ah.”

James takes a deep breath. “But it might not happen, right?”

“I don’t know,” Sirius replies. “I suppose it might not. If I knew why to begin with, I might be able to stop it, but I don’t.”

Apparently, he can talk around the issue just fine.

“I’ll keep an eye out,” James replies. “And maybe we can steer him in the right direction.”

Privately, Sirius thinks that James will likely be too caught up in Lily and then seventh year and their work for the Order, but James is fiercely loyal. Sirius is the one holding the grudge, but then he’d lived an entire life after James.

* * *

Sirius knows that Lily doesn’t like him, or at least, it took her until the end of seventh year to warm up to him. The thaw seems to happen a little faster this time. Sirius still isn’t really dating, and when he’s not with the other Marauders, he’s working on defense and potions, and the things he knowshe’ll need in order to fight a war.

He has no intention of going for Auror training, but he wants to be as fierce as a Hit Wizard, and just as deadly.

To his surprise, a month into the school year, Lily plops down across from him at a table in the library. “James says you’re working on something for Remus.”

Sirius frowns. “Not here,” he hisses.

“Then where?” She glances around pointedly, and they’re alone. This early in the year, only the real swots would be spending a beautiful Sunday morning in the library.

And no one has ever been able to accuse Sirius of being one of those, not to his face, anyway.

“Just—not here,” he replies, and begins to gather up his things.

Sirius is fairly certain that the only people who know Hogwarts better than the Marauders are the house elves, and maybe the ghosts. There’s a room they found last year, trying to hide from Filch after one of their more harmless pranks.

Not that Filch thought that conjuring up a toy mouse for Mrs. Norris and driving her to distraction was harmless, but really, they’d done far worse things, and it was a very successful means of distracting her.

Sirius leads her to the seventh-floor corridor in front of the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, and wishes very hard for a private place to have a conversation and perhaps some potions books.

“What is this place?” Lily asks when they enter to find a very cozy study space and a pretty decent potions lab.

“I’m not sure what it is,” Sirius admits. “It doesn’t really show up on the map as anything at all.”

“The map?”

Sirius sighs. “Ask James to show you sometime.”

Lily stares at him, her hands on her hips, and she finally says, “You’re not the same person you used to be. James tried to tell me you’d changed last year, but I didn’t believe him.”

“And now you do?” Sirius asks. He’s finding it difficult to maintain his mask in front of her.

This is Lily. This is the woman who became like a sister to him, James’ beloved, Harry’s mother. She’d always liked Remus best of the Marauders, and she’d grumbled at the toy broom Sirius gave Harry for his first birthday, but she’d been the one to ask him to stand as godfather when James stumbled over his words.

Of course, James had been so chuffed to be a father, after losing both of his parents so recently.

And Lily had always been able to see below the surface.

“No, now I believe that you’re an entirely different person, and I’m not sure how that could be,” Lily counters.

Sirius isn’t sure what to tell her. “I would love to tell you everything, but I can’t. I physically can’t do so, and I choke when I try, and James told me not to do it again.”

“Then it’s true, you do know things,” Lily replies shrewdly. “James said you knew he’d be Head Boy.”

“I had a very strong suspicion,” is all Sirius can say.

Andhe says you were the one with the idea for the potion for Remus, to help him with the change,” Lily presses.

Sirius shrugs. “I’d have been a better friend if I actually knew what I was doing.”

“Potions was never your strongest subject,” she points out. “Did you ever make it yourself?”

Sirius shakes his head. “And I wasn’t in the position to do more than hear about it vaguely. It was—a very difficult time.”

Lily nods briskly. “Very well, I’ll help.” She falters slightly. “Unless you don’t want my help.”

“No, that’d be brilliant,” Sirius admits. “I’d have asked Moony, since he’s decent at Potions, but I can’t get his hopes up.”

“No, I can see why you wouldn’t,” Lily says, giving him a considering look. “James showed me what his form was, by the way. Could I see yours?”

She’d asked him that before, but much later in the year, and Sirius tries not to read too much into it. “Sure.”

Being Padfoot is still easier than being human much of the time. His emotions are simpler, and easier to manage and express. A wag of the tail, a gentle nuzzle, belly low—those gestures said more than a thousand words, and managed to clarify his own mind, too.

“Well,” Lily says on a laugh. “It’s a good thing I’m not superstitious. You look just like a Grim.”

Sirius whines low in his throat.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she says. “Of course, you’re not a harbinger of death. You’re a massive black dog—although you look a bit like a wolf, too, in a way.”

Sirius whines again.

“Come over here,” she says, and scratches behind his ears. “You know, Grims are sometimes considered benevolent, not that you are one.”

He shakes himself all over and is on two feet again.

Lily is watching him closely, and she says, “You’re not at all what I thought.”

“Sure, I am,” Sirius replies. “I’m exactly what you thought—or I was.”

Lily sighs. “I hope that you can someday tell me what exactly happened. But in the meantime, let’s see what you’ve got. I’m surprised you’re not playing Quidditch this year, you know.”

“James can field far better Chasers than me,” Sirius replies. “It’s his year to shine, and I won’t hold him back.”

There’s a new respect in Lily’s eyes, and Sirius can tell that maybe the thaw is going to come early.

* * *

Sirius isn’t at all surprised by the owls going back and forth between Hogwarts and Potter Manor, and he knows the contents only because James is sticking strictly to schedule. The parcel that arrives two days before the Halloween feast is smaller than his fist, and he knows what it contains.

James, after swearing them all to secrecy that night, shows them the engagement ring his parents sent. “It’s not much, not right now,” James explains. “More of a promise that there’s another in her future that’s a bit more substantial.”

The ring is pretty—a gold setting with a respectable sized emerald and diamonds on either side. Enough to show he’s serious, but not so obtrusive as to draw unwanted attention.

“It’s lovely,” Remus comments wistfully.

“Perfectly lovely,” Peter echoes dutifully.

James looks at Sirius, who is feeling a sense of déjà vu so profound he can hardly catch his breath. “Green for her eyes, huh? You’re such a sap, mate.”

James rolls his eyes, but he’s grinning. “You berk. You only wish.”

“Not my type, as she’s yours,” Sirius replies. “But you’re lucky to have each other.”

And he means that with all his heart.

“She hasn’t said yes yet,” James objects. “I’m hoping she’ll be willing to come home for Christmas with us, and I can go meet her family as well. It seems a bit grim to be stuck here.”

Sirius has spent more than one holiday at Hogwarts, and while it can be quiet, it’s definitely not grim. “It’s not so bad, but I’ll bet your parents will be happy to have her.”

“And you,” James says with a frown. “That’s not meant to leave you out, Pads.”

“Never thought you were trying to,” Sirius replies breezily. “Besides, your parents love me for some unfathomable reason.”

Remus clears his throat. “Not thatunfathomable.”

Sirius feels heat creep up his face. He’s heard Remus make a few comments like that—unremarkable, really, except for how they make him feel. It’s probably not even flirting. Remus has always held himself aloof for good reason.

“I’ll be going home, as always,” Peter announces.

Sirius is never certain whether he’s angling for an invitation, or if he’s reminding the others that he has very normal parents. Not that James doesn’t have normal parents, but they had him late in life, and sometimes seem more like grandparents as a result.

There’s every possibility that he’s trying to rub Sirius’ nose in it, though.

“Well, I think it’s just Lily and her sister,” James says, breaking the awkward silence. “We might go visit her and her fiancé then.”

“Full moon over Christmas,” Remus says shortly. “It’s probably for the best.”

“I can come keep you company, Moony,” Sirius offers. “I’m happy to.”

Remus shakes his head. “I’m grateful for the offer, but while I understand that someone in animagus form can’t be harmed, or at least turned, my parents are understandably wary. They won’t stand for it.”

From his expression, it’s clear that he’s worried about post-graduation, when there’s no Whomping Willow, no Shrieking Shack, no way to protect others from himself.

“Potter Manor’s grounds are extensive,” James says quietly. “It’s a bit of a train ride away from London, but certainly can be done once a month.”

“I might take you up on that,” Remus replies, and Sirius feels the heavy weight of reality—that the end of Hogwarts is upon them, and then there will be the war, and then Sirius will die if he has to.

Lily and James walk into the Halloween feast hand in hand, and those sharp-eyed in the room can immediately see the ring.

Sirius isn’t watching them; he’s watching Peter, who wears an expression of raw envy. Sirius doesn’t think he’s in love with Lily—he wouldn’t have sold her out if he were, assuming he’s even capable of love. No, he wants the trappings of what James has—Head Boy, Quidditch Captain, beautiful girlfriend, and rich, doting parents.

Snape, though—Sirius catches the expression on Snape’s face before he quickly turns it into his customary sneer. Sirius has never seen a clearer picture of naked jealousy, and he’s fairly certain that if Snape could have challenged James to a duel to win Lily’s hand, he would have done so right there.

Granted, Lily would have hexed him so hard his grandparents would feel it, but emotions aren’t entirely logical, as Sirius knows all too well.

But Snape could do some damage to one or both of them, and Sirius resolves to make it impossible for Snape to touch them, for anybody to touch them.

If he has to be a one-man army, so be it.

* * *

Christmas is a rather jolly affair. Lily is a bit shy with the Potters at first, but they welcome her as effusively as they welcomed Sirius, exclaiming over her ring as though Mrs. Potter hadn’t removed it from the family vault herself.

“You’ll probably want to start planning your wedding immediately,” she gushes. “For after you leave school, of course. Do you have family that will help you, darling?”

Lily’s smile is a little forced. “Just my older sister, and she’s also engaged, but she’s a Muggle. I have no idea how to plan for a magical wedding.”

Mrs. Potter—who insists on Lily calling her mum—pats her hand. “Wizard weddings aren’t that much different, I daresay, although I haven’t been to a Muggle one since the end of the last war, to be quite honest with you. Well, we’ll find a nice blend of traditions. Do you think your sister will attend?”

Lily takes a deep breath. “I’m not sure. She wasn’t terribly happy when I received my Hogwarts letter, you know, but we’re going to visit over the holiday, and I guess we’ll see what happens after that.”

What happens is that James returns looking like a thundercloud and announcing that he’s going for a ride on his broom. He doesn’t ask for Sirius’ company, so Sirius stays behind with Lily, because her expression suggests that her world is ending.

Her eyes are red, and she’s obviously been crying, but she tries to keep a stiff upper lip around Sirius.

“I take it things didn’t go well,” Sirius says gently, sitting down next to her on the settee. They’ve been getting to know each other over the last few months, working on Remus’ potion together, sometimes with James, sometimes not.

Sirius is grateful for the opportunity. He doesn’t anticipate anything happening to James or Lily, but he knows all too well that things happen in war, and he might not be able to save them.

And if the worst happens, he wants to be able to tell Harry about his mum, just as much as his dad. And if Sirius dies for them, as he fully intends to do, Lily and James will both be able to tell Harry about him.

“Her fiancé is a complete boor,” Lily says. “He hated James on sight, I think. He kept trying to impress James with how much money he had, and how much he’ll make, and that just got James going, of course.”

Sirius winces. “I could see how that would lead to an upset.”

“They stormed out of the restaurant,” Lily says, sniffing. “Petunia and I haven’t been close, not since I left for school, but I didn’t think it would be thatmuch of a disaster.”

“Family can be tricky,” Sirius replies diplomatically.

She lets out a watery laugh. “Well, I suppose you’d know. Have you been home at all?”

“Not since the summer before sixth year,” Sirius admits. “I stayed at Hogwarts that Christmas, and broke entirely with the whole blasted clan. I’d be penniless if it weren’t for Uncle Alphard.”

“You’ve been disowned?” Lily asks.

Sirius snorts. “No, my grandfather wants the Black family line to continue too badly to risk it. But they can cut me off from the family resources, in the hopes that I’ll come crawling back with my tail between my legs.”

“Literally, in your case,” Lily teases, and Sirius is relieved to see a smile break out on her face.

“Quite literally,” Sirius agrees. “Sometimes, family is the one you choose, Lils.”

She tucks her arm through his and leans her head against his shoulder. “Sometimes, it is. I just wish being a witch didn’t mean I also lose my sister.”

“What will you do after school?” Sirius asks.

“Marry James, and work for the Order,” Lily replies. “It seems silly to plan for much more than that until You-Know-Who is dead and gone. Once we know we have a future, then we can think about jobs and the rest of it.”

“Not that you’ll have to worry about money as James’ wife,” Sirius points out.

Lily gives him an exasperated look. “I don’t want to just be someone’s wife, or someone’s mother, Sirius.”

“No, of course not,” Sirius replies. “I’m just saying that the whole world is your oyster.”

“I think I’d like a mastery, probably in charms,” Lily admits. “I’d like to do something meaningful, like what we’re doing for Remus.”

Sirius hesitates before broaching what’s probably another painful subject, but his curiosity gets the better of him. “You never mentioned asking for Snape’s help.”

Lily is quiet. “We can’t risk it. If he’s not already marked as a Death Eater, he will be, given the company he’s been keeping. Besides, Severus has been trying to prove that Remus is a werewolf for ages now, and I’d hate to give him the satisfaction.”

“I’m sorry for any part I might have had in that,” Sirius says quietly.

“You could tell him that, not that he’d listen to you, anyway,” Lily says. “But no. He made his choice. I’m sorry for it, because he was my first magical friend, and he taught me a lot that made it easier to come to Hogwarts as a Muggle-born. But he’s not the boy I knew.”

“Or maybe he is,” Sirius counters. “I could say the same thing about Regulus.”

“Do you think he’ll take the mark?” Lily asks.

Sirius sighs deeply. “I’m certain of it, and I haven’t done enough to dissuade him.”

“Maybe there was nothing you could do,” Lily replies. “You know Slytherin’s reputation.”

“I do, which is why I begged the Sorting Hat to make me a Gryffindor,” Sirius says dryly. “Do you want me to go drag James inside?”

Lily shakes her head. “No, please don’t. He needs to cool off, and Petunia and that lout really were awful to him. Let’s just sit here for a bit.”

And that’s what they do—sit on the settee and stare into the flames, two quasi-orphans who at least have the family they chose.

* * *

The war heats up during their seventh year, as Sirius knew it would, and all the Marauders have been inducted into the Order by the time they graduate. There are a few months between graduation and the wedding, and so Sirius and James go in together on a flat. Peter has his own place, near the Ministry for his new job.

Unlike James and Sirius, who have plenty of money to live off of and can devote themselves to the Order full time, Peter has to work for a living.

James tries to make up for it by inviting Peter around as often as possible, and Lily is often there as well. Remus turns up on a regular basis, sometimes crashing on the couch, and other times insisting that he has another place to stay.

A month before the wedding, it’s a rare night that James and Sirius don’t have an Order meeting or a mission, and Lily and Remus can be there as well. They get takeaway and crack open the Fire Whiskey.

“How is life after Hogwarts, Remus?” James asks. “We barely see you anymore.”

Remus shrugs, his eyes a little glassy from the alcohol. “Dumbledore has me going out on missions for the Order.”

“Just stay away from Grayback,” Sirius advises. “He’s a monster.”

Remus snorts. “Yes, I’m well aware. That’s the point, to pull support away from Grayback and at least convince the packs to stay neutral.”

Sirius and James have never hidden their Order work from each other, nor has Dumbledore ever asked them to. Once Remus realized that Sirius already knew what he was doing, he’d stopped trying to hide anything but the most minor of details.

“Do you think you’ll have any luck?” Lily asks, leaning in to pour another drink.

Remus shrugs. “Neutrality might be an option. Joining the fight against Voldemort is highly unlikely. Why should they want to get involved given how ordinary wizards treat them?”

“And Voldemort is making promises he’s unlikely to keep,” James says glumly. “Using the likes of Grayback to terrify Muggles and wizards alike, but promising a brave new world where werewolves have more rights than the Muggles do, at least.”

“Something like that,” Remus says on a sigh. “A number of packs prefer to hide and watch from the shadows, waiting to see who the prevailing party is before they make up their minds. I’ve been trying to convince them that if they throw in with the Order, we might be able to get some of the restrictions lifted, but no one is buying that argument.”

Lily snorts. “And how many times has there been one nasty incident that sets werewolf rights back by a decade or more?” When they all turn to look at her, she raises her hands. “I’m not saying it’s right! I’m saying they’re right to be dubious of any lasting change.”

“And werewolves like Greyback might agree to act in concert with Voldemort,” Remus agrees. “It’s a delicate balancing act, and even if I am successful, there’s no telling whether I’ll make things worse in the long run.”

Sirius gives James a significant look, and James shrugs. “Now’s as good a time as any.”

“We think we might have come up with something to help you, a potion to make the transformation easier and give you more control during the full moon,” Sirius says. “And by ‘we,’ I mean that Lily made the breakthrough.”

Lily rolls her eyes, definitely a little tipsy. “You were the one who had the idea, Sirius, and you and James had a lot of the theory worked out. Which surprised me, given how you never really put your mind to Potions in school.”

“I never appearedto put my mind to it,” Sirius counters. “My marks were always good.”

“Much to the irritation of everyone else who worked their arses off to do half as well,” Lily agrees. “Just you watch, Black. You’ll end up being forced to be mature and responsible someday.”

“Someday, I am certain I will,” Sirius agrees. “Thankfully, I have a bit of time yet. Once the war is over, I can figure out what’s next.”

James clears his throat loudly. “That being said, we won’t know until we test it, I’m afraid, so it’s a bit of a risk.”

Remus shrugs, but he can’t hide the wary hope kindling in his eyes. “It’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

“You’ll need to take it several days before the full moon, as well as the day of, but if it works as we expect, it will render you nearly harmless,” Lily says pertly, or as pertly as she can when she’s this tipsy.

Remus’ eyes widen. “Are you serious?”

Sirius grins. “I’m always Sirius.”

James rolls his eyes. “You walked right into that one, Moony.”

“It should make it so you’re of your right mind,” Sirius adds. “We can’t cure you, and we can’t prevent the transformation, but we can keep you and others safe. We think.”

“If there’s even the chance…” Remus breathes out a sigh. “Yes, of course, I’ll try.”

“And if it doesn’t work this time, we’ll adjust it until it does,” Lily insists.

Sirius might mind the way that Remus’ gaze is just a bit adoring, except he’s pretty sure his is, too. Once Lily decided and they weren’t all bad, they’d grown quite close, especially after that disastrous trip to visit her family on the Christmas break.

Sirius has vague notions of what he might do should he survive the war. His grandfather, the Black patriarch, hasn’t (and won’t) formally disown him, not when he and Regulus are the only ones who can carry on the family name.

After his mother dies, Sirius could take the reins, and when he does that, he can start amassing favor for his own political agenda, one that serves his friends a little better. He can root out corruption, work to make things a little fairer for people like Remus, ensure that the law doesn’t disproportionately favor purebloods…

And he can insist that everyone sent to Azkaban get a trial, a real one, with honesty hexes and veritaserum, and accuratereconstructions of the crimes.

Sirius isn’t entirely sure what that will look like, but the Blacks have a hereditary seat on the Wizengamot, and that will certainly be a place to start.

“We’ll make it,” James insists. “We’re not letting that old wanker win.”

“Here, here!” Remus says, sounding just a bit drunk.

Lily smiles and leans against James. “It’s too bad Peter couldn’t be here tonight.”

Sirius doesn’t miss him a bit, although he bites his tongue.

“Working late at the Ministry, I expect,” James says lightly, although there’s a bit of worry in his eyes.

“Speaking of, I have a job to get to first thing tomorrow,” Remus says, getting unsteadily to his feet. “However awful it might be, and however soon they’re likely to fire me.”

“Stay here tonight,” Sirius urges him. “You can apparate from here just as easily as your place.”

Remus looks a little shifty. “I couldn’t possibly—”

“Of course, you can!” James says. “The sofa is yours, mate.”

James and Lily retreat to his bedroom while Sirius gets out sheets and blankets for Remus. “’fess up,” Sirius murmurs. “You don’t have a place to sleep right now.”

“I’ve been looking, but everything in London is expensive, and Dumbledore wants me here to contact a few of the werewolves he knows of without packs,” Remus replies softly. “I have other friends, though, and I haven’t been sleeping rough, I promise you that.”

Sirius reaches out and grabs the back of Remus’ neck. “You’d better not. You know James and I don’t mind having you here, and we’d rather you here and safe than on some bench somewhere, nicked for vagrancy.”

Remus snorts. “I can use a Disillusionment charm just as well as you.” He pauses. “You really think you might have something that helps.”

Sirius hesitates. “If we got the formula right, then yes. And it’s Lily, so you’ve a better chance than if James and I hadn’t enlisted her assistance.”

“You know, this could turn the tide with some of the packs,” Remus says hesitantly. “If we could offer it for free, after we prove that it works, they would at least promise neutrality, I think, and maybe throw in with our side.”

Sirius nods. “And it might prove that our side is the better one, that we’re actually offering something that helps.”

“Better than most,” Remus says bitterly.

“You know you have James and me,” Sirius says quietly. “It’s not charity, Moony. It never has been.”

“I know, but I can’t help how it feels,” Remus replies.

Sirius nods. “Sleep well. If you’re gone before we get up, we’ll understand.”

“I am grateful,” Remus insists.

“Your gratitude is noted and unnecessary,” Sirius replies. “We both know you’d do the same for us if our positions were reversed. That’s what family does.”

Remus smiles gently. “I know. That’s what makes it both easier and harder.”

Sirius hesitates, remembering how he’d broached the subject the first time, and it hadn’t when they were both a little tipsy and still a month out from the wedding. It had been just a few days before, and they’d both been roaring drunk. Maybe now is a better time to ask.

“Look, Peter’s busy with his job at the Ministry, and James and Lily are going on their honeymoon,” Sirius begins. “As soon as they’re back, we’re going to be diving full time into Order work. We don’t have much time before we’re past the point that we can have any R&R.”

Remus frowns. “What are you suggesting?”

“Let’s get away, just the two of us,” Sirius suggests. “There’s a place in the Lake District I know of.”

Remus gives him a long look. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

Apparently, Sirius hadn’t been mistaken about the growing attraction between them. “The war is going to be hard. Let’s enjoy what we can while we can.”

Remus takes a deep breath. “Okay. It’s a deal.”

“I’ll make the arrangements,” Sirius says, knowing that it might be the only time they ever get, especially if Sirius’ plan is carried out as he expects.

Maybe Sirius is being selfish, but he wants the time with Remus. He remembers that time in the Lake District with a sort of wistful fondness. This time he knows the score, and he knows that Peter is the spy. He’ll take what he can get, knowing that he’s unlikely to survive.

A week later, Remus is back for his first dose of wolfsbane potion. Even Peter is there, although Sirius has mixed feelings about him knowing about the potion.

Remus takes a cautious sip, and when he doesn’t start choking, or turn blue, or otherwise show any ill-effects, he swallows the rest of it down. “Seems fine so far,” he says.

“Well, at least it didn’t kill you,” Lily says brightly. “The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work.”

“True,” Remus says. “In which case, I’ll be no worse off than I already am.”

“We’ll stay with you,” Sirius promises. “We’ll know if it works.”

Remus nods. “That sounds good.”

He takes the potion every day for the week leading up to the full moon, and they apparate to Hogsmeade, to the Shrieking Shack, just like when they were in school.

Well, not just like, since they took the tunnel under the Whomping Willow, and Peter can’t get away from his Ministry job, but James, Sirius, and Remus are there.

The Shack isn’t great for James, who prefers more room when he’s in his stag form, but Sirius doesn’t mind. He changes and sits back on his haunches, waiting to see what happens.

Sirius can tell that Remus fights the change, fights the wolf, but in the end, Remus whines and sneezes, and then licks Sirius’ muzzle.

He returns the favor, nuzzling Remus’ neck, and Remus whines low in his throat.

James stamps his hoof impatiently, and Sirius snaps at him, although not seriously. James whinnies, just to show how not worried he is, and Remus dips his head.

Remus curls up in a ball, and Sirius curls around him, and James lays across the threshold as a sentry.

And for the first time, they all sleep through the night.

Remus returns to his usual form, and they sit on the floor. “How was it?” James asks.

“I had to fight for control, but I got it,” Remus replies.

“I’ll tell Lily,” James replies. “She might have some alterations to make.”

“Tell her thank you from me,” Remus says, “since you’ll see her before I will.”

“It was Sirius’ idea,” James says.

Remus gives Sirius a look that might be heated if he weren’t so exhausted from the transformation. “Thank you.”

“It’s the least I could do.”

Sirius might feel a little bad about stealing the idea from the original potions master, but Remus needs the Wolfsbane now.

“Lily will want to quiz you,” James warns. “So she knows what to add.”

“Of course,” Remus agrees. “I’ll be by in a couple of days.”

James nods. “I’ll see you then. Was it easier at least?”

“Couldn’t you tell?” Remus asks. “I was myself. I felt at peace with the wolf for the first time.”

Sirius feels like that’s a job well done.

* * *

James and Lily’s wedding is beautiful this time around, too. Sirius stands as best man, and Alice Longbottom is the matron of honor. Lily is resplendent in a cream-colored gown, and Mr. Potter walks her down the aisle with Mrs. Potter dabbing tears from her eyes. James beams proudly, and Remus and Peter sit in the front row next to Mrs. Potter.

The officiant is a wizard who’s a cousin of Mr. Potter’s, and he talks about the enduring nature of love, and how love builds a foundation on which to build a life.

“We can face anything if we have love,” Merton Potter says. “Love endures all things, and bears all things. Children born of love flourish, even in trying circumstances. James and Lily know each other, and they love each other. They’re ready to bear whatever trials life brings together.”

Sirius thinks of James and Lily, united in death together, and he has to blink back tears, even as he reminds himself that it’s not going to happen that way again.

The wedding brunch is tasteful and Sirius gives the toast as best man. “James is as true and loyal a friend as anyone could ask for, and he’s got the best parents in the world. Lily is lucky to have him, and he’s been head over heels for her since our first year at Hogwarts.

“But James became the luckiest man in the world when Lily agreed to marry him. I’ve gotten to know her over the last year, and she is bright and beautiful, and so very kind. She is generous with her time and her intellect, always willing to help those less fortunate. Obviously, Lily is the brightest witch of our generation, which explains why she agreed to marry James. And Lily represents the best of us, as does James, and they deserve each other,” Sirius says. “To Lily and James.”

The guests echo him, and Sirius sits down, giving way to Mr. Potter, who also offers a toast, and to Alice Longbottom, who tells an amusing story of their days at Hogwarts, when she’d served as a mentor to Lily, and Lily had been completely terrified of the moving stairs.

In the end, James and Lily run off to go on their honeymoon in France, and Sirius grabs Remus, and they take the train to the Lake District.

The bed and breakfast is an easy walk from the station, which is one of the reasons Sirius had chosen it in the first place. Mary is standing in front when they stroll up with their bags over their shoulders, still dressed in their wedding finery.

“Well, don’t you boys look nice,” Mary says cheerfully, the same words she first spoke to them. “Did you come from a wedding?”

“Our best mate, James, got married to the love of his life today,” Sirius replies.

“And was it a good ceremony?” Mary asks. “I’m Mary, by the way.”

“Sirius,” he says. “And Remus. And yes, the wedding was lovely.”

“As all weddings should be,” Mary replies. “Come on in, and I’ll show you to your room. It is just the one room, right?”

Sirius glances at Remus, who shrugs. “Just the one.”

“I’m not one to judge,” Mary declares. “I’m just happy you boys decided to stay with us for the week. Breakfast is served from 6 to 10, and you’re welcome to eat with us for dinner if you like, but it’s a bit extra. Just let me know at breakfast if you’ll be around, so I can make adjustments if necessary.”

She opens a door at the top of the stairs on the first storey. “Well, here you are!”

Sirius feels a blinding sense of déjà vu, having been here—or imagined being here—not that long before, only with a baby in his arms.

“It’s perfect,” Remus says warmly as the silence stretches on, with Mary clearly waiting on them to say something about the accommodations.

“Lovely,” Sirius manages to echo. “Just lovely.”

“I’ll let you get settled,” she replies with apparent satisfaction, and Remus nudges him through the door, closing it gently behind him.

Remus clears his throat. “Have you been here before?”

“A couple of times,” Sirius admits. “I thought—well, I don’t know what I thought exactly.”

Remus puts his hands on Sirius’ shoulders. “Good memories, or bad?”

“Mostly good,” Sirius replies. “I’d hoped to recreate a little of the magic of the first time I was here.”

He’s getting good at talking around things.

“We can do whatever you like,” Remus replies. “We can do nothing at all.”

“Now why would I want to do that?” Sirius asks, shaking off the memories.

Remus shrugs. “You’re the one who’s been living like a monk these last few years.”

“There’s a reason for that,” Sirius replies.

“I thought as much,” Remus says. “Anything to do with me?”

“Let’s just say that you don’t fall into the category of people that makes me pause,” Sirius replies. “You’re my friend, as you’ve always been.”

“As I’ll always be,” Remus counters.

Sirius wants the human contact, the reassurance, and he turns to Remus. Remus’ kiss is a little desperate, a little needy, probably wanting the same things Sirius does, just for slightly different reasons.

And it’s Remus—kind, clever Remus—and it’s just as good as it was the first time, but a little bit bittersweet, because unlike that first time, Sirius knows how it’s going to end.

That doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy it, though. He’s in his younger body, and he hasn’t even wanted sex in so long, or at least he hasn’t been with someone he’s wanted in that way.

Remus pulls back. “Are you sure? If people ever find out—”

“They can go fuck themselves,” Sirius replies. “Really and truly.”

They kiss again, and it quickly turns heated. Sirius loses his jacket and pushes Remus’ off his shoulders. They’ve long since undone their ties, which are in their pockets, and their shirts are next, then shoes and pants.

And then it’s all bare skin against bare skin, and since they’re both eighteen, it’s all over very quickly.

Remus laughs against Sirius shoulder. “I’m not sure if that went better or worse than I anticipated.”

“We both got off,” Sirius points out. “I’d say that was pretty successful.”

“That’s one way of looking at it,” Remus admits. “That was my first time.”

“Well done, you,” Sirius replies.

Remus frowns. “Pads.”

“That wasn’t mocking!” he protests. “That was a legitimate congratulations for losing your virginity so successfully. And also, trusting me with it.”

He hadn’t been quite so kind the first time around, which had probably caused problems in retrospect.

God, Sirius really had been an utter wanker.

Remus smiles. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Sirius replies. “I just want this week to be good for you.”

“I think we’re there already,” Remus replies. “I really thought, once we left school, things would change.”

That explains so much, and Sirius says, “No, never. Of course not. You’re our friend.”

“You haven’t been the same around Peter,” Remus counters.

Sirius sighs. “Didn’t James talk to you about that?”

“He did,” Remus replies.

“Then you know why.”

“But it’s Peter,” Remus protests.

Sirius shrugs. “I would love to be wrong about this, for the record.”

“Okay,” Remus says. “Then we’ll hope you’re wrong, but I’ll keep an eye out.”

Since that’s pretty much what James said, he can live with that.

For a week, the war doesn’t exist. He and Remus go on long, rambling walks, and sleep late, and make love, and eat breakfast, and usually eat dinner with Mary, Jim, and their two sons. Neither of the boys went to Hogwarts, although Sirius knows they aren’t squibs or Muggles. Sirius assumes they opted to homeschool them, as some parents prefer not to send their kids away.

Sirius doesn’t blame them. Here in the Lake District, it feels very far removed from Voldemort and his ilk. It’s safe and pleasant, and Mary and Jim’s warmth fills the home to the brim.

Sirius wouldn’t want to leave either. As a matter of fact, he doesn’twant to leave at the end of the week, doesn’t want to separate from Remus, doesn’t want to go back to the war, although he knows he must.

As they’re packing, Remus keeps glancing at him. “Are you okay?”

“I didn’t realize it would be so hard to leave,” Sirius admits.

“Neither did I,” Remus says. “You understand, though.”

“The war beckons,” Sirius replies. “I understand better than you think.”

Remus nods. “I expect you do.”

When he kisses Sirius, it feels like a goodbye.

* * *

The Order meeting is at a safe house in London, crowded with those Dumbledore has asked to be present. Remus sits across the room from him and James, his arms crossed tightly over his chest, looking pale.

The full moon was two days prior, and even though the wolfsbane potion makes the change easier to bear, he still looks a bit peaked after.

“Remus, you have your instructions,” Dumbledore says.

Remus nods. “Of course.”

“James, Sirius, we have news of a group of Death Eaters planning to attack a family in Surrey,” Dumbledore says. “Frank and Alice are providing protection, but they could use your assistance.”

James nods. “We’ll be there.”

They discuss the recent attacks against Muggles and what the Death Eaters call blood traitors, as well as who has taken the mark that they know of. Voldemort and his followers are terrorists, pure and simple, and they’re remarkably effective.

Sirius wishes he remembered more, that he could offer more, but the specifics of those days are lost to time and memory and 12 years being preyed upon by Dementors, and the need to block out the worst of it. When he remembers anything, it’s usually in the heat of the moment, his senses firing.

But maybe it’s for the best. He’d have no way to explain why he knows what he does.

Dumbledore calls an end to the meeting, and Sirius walks out with James and Lily. “You know he sent a messenger to recruit us, don’t you?” James says in a low voice.

“Who? Voldemort?” Sirius asks.

“On our honeymoon, no less, that wanker,” Lily comments. “We said no, obviously, but I was rather put out.”

“Who did he send?” Sirius asks.

James shrugs. “Wilkes, although Merlin knows why. Just because he was several years ahead of us, and popular, doesn’t make us any more likely to agree to join.”

“Wilkes isn’t a pureblood, that’s why,” Lily points out. “His grandmother was Muggle-born. Voldemort sent him because he thought Wilkes could persuade me that his policies aren’t completely odious.”

“Did you hex him into next week?” Sirius asks.

“What do you think?” Lily asks. “Of course, I did. I wasn’t going to leave him hoping that we’d be persuaded to join his side.”

Sirius knows that’s the first time they’ve defied the Dark Lord, and he carefully hides his wince. He supposes there’s at least a chance that they won’t defy him three times, and therefore escape the prophecy, but with them being in the Order, it’s not likely.

They’ll have plenty of opportunities to oppose Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

“Funny how Voldemort will surround himself with blood purists, but would accept a Muggle-born into his ranks if it helps him,” James says.

“Blood purists are hypocrites,” Sirius replies. “As we all know.”

“And you would know better than most,” James agrees.

They apparate to the predetermined location, finding Frank and Alice waiting for them in their Auror uniforms. “We appreciate you being here. The Ministry keeps losing Aurors faster than they can be trained,” Frank says.

“We could use you in our ranks,” Alice adds.

“You know how bad I am at following orders,” Sirius replies lightly. “And I have a real problem with authority.”

Frank chuckles. “I heard that about you, although you seem to follow Dumbledore’s willingly enough.”

“We’re Dumbledore’s men through and through,” James says.

“And woman!” Lily protests.

“And woman, my love,” James replies.

Alice and Lily share a look. “We’ll talk to the family,” Alice says. “If you’ll set up a perimeter.”

As far as Sirius can remember, they can expect four Death Eaters, which would have meant certain death for the family, whose oldest son is a member of the Order. They’re no match for a couple of Aurors and the three of them.

In the thin light of a waning moon, the streetlamps take on a fuzzy quality, not giving nearly enough light.

Sirius hears the rustle of cloth, the sound of silent, skillful apparating, and feels the surge of adrenalin. In a moment, a Death Eater will fire a curse at him, and Sirius will dodge, and they will fight a duel that leaves the Death Eater stunned unconscious, but that is in a moment.

Sirius feels the anticipation build, and the sense of having been here before is so strong and so strange that he can hardly catch his breath.

And then James yells out a warning, and Sirius dodges, and the Death Eater strides towards him out of the darkness, the black robe melding in with the night, the metal mask covering his face.

“Too much of a coward to show your face?” he taunts.

The Death Eater doesn’t reply, just sends another curse towards Sirius, who dodges it easily and fires off one of his own.

It’s not really much of a battle. Lily is quick with her wand and plenty powerful, and James and Sirius have been practicing since the summer before sixth year, when they’d known what waited for them after Hogwarts.

There had never been any question that they would join the Order and take up arms against Voldemort full-time. Unlike some, they had money to spare, and could devote themselves to the war.

Sirius sends a reductoat his opponent, putting as much strength behind the hex as he can, and nearly takes off his wand arm. The Death Eater lets out a wordless cry and apparates away.

James and Lily subdue their opponent, and Alice makes quick work of hers as well.

“Looks like our intelligence was correct,” Frank comments. “I’d love to know Dumbledore’s source.”

Sirius shakes his head. “It wouldn’t be safe for them or us.”

“Too true,” Alice replies. “I know we’ve got spies in the Ministry. We must have, given how the Death Eaters seem to know where we’ll be before we do sometimes.”

Sirius doesn’t know the names of the most dangerous moles, because they were never caught or put on trial. Plenty of the Death Eaters claimed to be under the Imperius after Voldemort was defeated, and there was never any evidence given that they weren’t.

But then, some of those families wouldn’t hesitate to Imperius their child to get them to swear allegiance to Voldemort.

“Are we staying here tonight?” Sirius asks.

Frank shakes his head. “No need. Alice and I will be here until our relief arrives at dawn, but I doubt they’ll try again tonight, not after you nearly took his arm off.”

“I guess we ought to see who decides not to go out in polite society for a bit,” James says. “They won’t be able to go to St. Mungo’s, not with that wound, so it will take longer to heal.”

“It would be nice to learn their identities,” Lily says pertly. “Cowards, the lot of them, hiding behind those masks.”

“One of these days we’ll come up with a way to detect the dark wizards,” James promises. “Until then, we’ll see you lot later. Sirius, you heading home?”

“That’s the plan,” Sirius replies. “I’ll see you day after tomorrow, though. We’re due to meet with Dumbledore.”

“That we are,” James replies. “Good night, all.”

He and Lily apparate away, and Sirius goes back to the apparition point nearest his flat. It’s dark and quiet, and he puts the kettle on. He wants to ready himself for their meeting with Dumbledore tomorrow. So far as he knows, Dumbledore has no idea that Sirius isn’t precisely who he seems to be, but then they haven’t had nearly as many interactions this time around.

Sirius had been in the headmaster’s office on a semi-regular basis up until he came back. He’d deliberately stayed out of trouble, not wanting to risk Dumbledore finding out what he knew.

He trusts Dumbledore, for the most part, but some instinct tells him that he can’t allow Dumbledore to know what he knows. He’d probably insist that events play out just as they had before, and Sirius can’t allow that.

No, he’ll keep his own counsel in the days to come, he has to.

* * *

“I haven’t seen much of you boys lately,” Dumbledore says. “I appreciate you agreeing to meet with me.”

“Of course, sir,” James says readily. “How can we be of assistance?”

Dumbledore looks over the rim of his teacup. “We find ourselves in a bit of a precarious situation, where Voldemort and his ilk seem to know precisely who’s in the Order, and we know very little of them.”

“They wear masks, and we don’t,” Sirius points out. “Which makes them the cowards.”

“Perhaps, but just because one is a coward, doesn’t mean one isn’t also quite clever,” Dumbledore replies. “We lost two more Order members last night—Fabian and Gideon Prewett.”

James closes his eyes. “That’s a blow. Do we know who did it?”

“Dolohov was caught and is in custody,” Dumbledore replies. “We doubt he’ll talk or give up any of his compatriots, but Moody will question him. There’s a slim chance we’ll get some intelligence from him.”

“What do you need from us, sir?” James asks.

“From you and Lily, the same as you’ve been doing, guarding those regarded as blood traitors, and providing additional support to the Aurors where necessary,” Dumbledore replies.

“And from me?” Sirius asks, and this is a new development.

Dumbledore hesitates. “It’s quite dangerous.”

“These are dangerous times,” Sirius counters. “Just tell me what you need me to do.”

Dumbledore sighs. “I believe you have some experience in France?”

“The Blacks are closely allied with the Lestranges and the Malfoys,” Sirius replies, knowing that this isn’t news to Dumbledore.

“We believe that Voldemort’s followers are attempting to collect a number of dark artifacts that we cannot allow them to have,” Dumbledore replies. “A young man such as yourself, who can speak fluent French, can infiltrate some of those circles that older Order members could not.”

What Dumbledore means, Sirius thinks, is that Sirius is young and unattached, without any family that will claim him other than James and his parents. He’s expendable.

“There’s dangerous, and then there’s what you’re proposing!” James protests. “You’re sending him alone, without any kind of back up?”

Dumbledore shakes his head. “It can’t be helped, I’m afraid, although I believe Remus will be there at the same time. You might try to coordinate with him.”

“You sent him to the packs again,” Sirius says grimly.

“The Wolfsbane potion is a powerful bargaining chip, and it’s something that Voldemort cannot offer them,” Dumbledore says. “I still find it quite curious that the two of you—”

“And Lily,” James says loyally.

“And Lily, came up with the idea on your own,” Dumbledore finishes. “Not that loyalty to your friends was ever in question with you.”

Sirius swallows the first retort and says only, “As you say, our loyalty was never in question, and Remus suffers with every transformation. We only wanted to make it easier on him.”

“And so you’ve done,” Dumbledore says cheerfully, although he’s still eyeing Sirius with speculation. “Will you go?”

“Of course,” Sirius replies. “I’ll leave tonight, in fact. I just need the details.”

Dumbledore nods gravely. “My thanks, Sirius. And, of course, if you do need assistance, contact one of the members of the Order.”

“I don’t like this,” James says as they leave the safe house. “Based on what Dumbledore said, this could very well be a suicide mission, Pads.”

“But it’s not, because I have no plans on dying,” Sirius replies. “I’ll be fine.”

“He shouldn’t be sending you alone,” James gripes. “Why wouldn’t he send both of us?”

“Because you’re newly married, and I’m a bachelor with no troublesome relatives to protest my actions,” Sirius replies easily. “Obviously.”

James grips his shoulder. “You have the communication mirror, right? You’ll contact me if you need help? Lily and I will come running.”

“I know you will,” Sirius replies. “Don’t worry about it, Prongs. I’ll be fine.”

Those are famous last words.

* * *

Sirius is familiar with Paris, with its streets and bridges, having spent a fair amount of time here as a young man, and then on Order business before the Potters’ deaths, and even some time while on the run after escaping from Azkaban. He slips into a wizarding bar he knows that caters to a more dubious sort of clientele.

Having been here before helps Sirius to know where to start, in spite of the lack of detail Dumbledore provided.

This mission didn’t happen the last time around, and Sirius wonders what Dumbledore knows. He’s been avoiding the man, and for good reason. Dumbledore is an experienced Legilimens, and might easily pluck the truth of things out of his head if he’s not careful. Assuming, of course, that the magic of the Veil doesn’t prevent that.

James’ words linger in the back of Sirius’ mind, about this being a suicide mission, but he banishes that concern. He’s made some changes to the timeline, and that’s necessary, and to be expected. There will be ripple effects, of course, and that might mean he goes on a few missions that are unfamiliar to him.

He just has to survive long enough to be the Potters’ Secret Keeper, and then he has to keep his mouth shut, even if it means dying.

It should be a piece of cake.

He lingers in the bar, drinking wine and wearing a disguise that obscures his identity. The glamor has turned his hair blond and his eyes blue, although he’s taken pains to make his features so ordinary as to be unremarkable.

By the end of the third day, Sirius has heard the whispers that the Death Eaters are active and looking to retrieve objects used in the last war. He doesn’t know what those objects are, but there are plenty of cursed items and other dangerous things that the Death Eaters have at their fingertips.

The truth is, they don’t know who Voldemort has marked, and who is merely sympathetic to his cause and willing to provide supplies, among other things.

Really, if Sirius can get names and identities, he’ll be helping the Order considerably, particularly later, when they can reveal the names of Death Eaters and their sympathizers.

Maybe Sirius isn’t playing the long game, but he can feed information to James and Remus so that they can.

If Sirius does survive, he may be able to take his family’s seat on the Wizengamot, and he can convince James to try for one of the open seats as well. If they’re careful and smart, they could create an entire voting bloc.

There are times when Sirius allows himself to think about what he might do after the war. He never expected to take on the Black title, but he’s beginning to think it would be best if he did. He could do some real good that way.

But first he has to get through this mission.

On the fourth day, he goes to the local owlery and pays for an owl to take a message to Remus. He cautions Remus against joining him, wishes him well, and keeps it simple.

Two days later, Sirius gets his first opportunity to infiltrate the group. He purchases a necklace and puts a fake curse on it. The necklace will appear cursed to anyone who gives it a cursory review, but won’t actually do anybody harm.

Sirius creates a few more items, things that look dark but are harmless, and then slowly begins to noise it about that he has items to sell to the right buyer.

His persona is that of a penniless third son, trying to make a galleon and his way in the world, without much luck.

As Marius Therriot, he has kept his identity as a poor relation secure, selling off familial artifacts that he’s stolen.

Sirius always had a flare for this work. In the past, before James and Lily were killed, he toyed with the idea of becoming a Hit Wizard for the ICW after the war. He could gild the lily, so to speak, if he builds up his reputation abroad.

He meets with a couple of men who express interest in buying what he has to sell, and they lead him to the back room of a bar where he’d first started his mission. He doesn’t think too much of it, until a third person drags a struggling young woman into the room.

Sirius’ heart sinks. He knows they have her here as a test subject, and the test is going to fail. And when that happens, his cover is blown, and he’ll have no choice but to fight his way out of here, without much in the way of intelligence.

“What is this?” Sirius asks, forcing his voice to go high.

“We need to know that it works,” Morton Lodge protests.

“And I don’t have to be here for this,” Sirius replies. “Look, I’ll knock a few galleons off the price. I don’t want to see what they do.”

“You’re a coward,” the third man accuses.

“Yeah, tell me something I don’t know!” Sirius says belligerently. “I just want money to live on, enough to attract a pretty witch and settle down.”

The third guy snorts. “Fine, whatever. Get out of here, then. Give the man his payment. We don’t need him getting cold feet.”

Sirius is well aware that if he doesn’t get out of there, and doesn’t do it soon, he’s going to be hunted.

And that poor girl is good as dead.

Sirius strides out and stops right outside the door. He can’t leave the girl to her fate, but he also has no back up, and he could easily get hurt or killed. He has no idea what to do; he doesn’t know how this will play out.

Sirius takes a deep breath, and then summons a Patronus, which takes on the same form as his animagus—although it looks even more like a Grim. “Find Remus. Tell him where I am, and that I’m about to do something really stupid, and I’ll probably need help. If he can’t get to me, he should notify James.”

His Patronus runs off, and Sirius bursts back into the room, sending out the kind of stunner that will subdue a room. He hadn’t learned that spell until much later in the original timeline, and he’s not upset that the girl also falls unconscious.

Sirius tosses her over his shoulder and leaves out the back door that he’d identified long before this deal takes place. He takes her to a place he’d created as a safe house before he hits her with a renervate.

“What? Oh, god, what?” she asks in French.

“Easy,” Sirius replies in the same language. “My name is Sirius. What’s yours?”

“Marie,” she replies. “They were horrible.”

“They were,” Sirius agrees. “I’m sorry you were in that position. Can I take you to a safe place? Is there anyone I can call?”

She shakes her head. “No, he was—he was my fiancé. My parents gave me to him in a marriage contract, and he was displeased by me.”

“Oh, fuck,” Sirius says. “Okay, look, I have some friends—married friends—and they can help you. Maybe we can fake your death.”

She begins to cry on his shoulder. “Oh, yes, please, please. I just want a life.”

“We’ll make sure that happens.” Sirius pats her shoulder. “I will protect you.”

Sirius manages to get her to a portkey office, and he sends her to James and Lily with a note.

“She’s engaged to a Death Eater against her will, and wants to fake her own death,” Sirius writes. “Take care of her.

He hands over the money for the portkey, out of his own vault, and he says, “My friends will take care of you. Don’t worry about a thing.”

“What about you?” she asks. “They will hunt you.”

“I’m hard to find when I want to be,” Sirius replies. “Don’t concern yourself.”

He sends her off, and then immediately goes to the alley behind the office and transforms. The Death Eaters will know that he didn’t leave, and so will be hunting him, rather than Marie. If he can give her a couple of days’ head start, James and Lily should have plenty of time to make certain she disappears.

Besides, the Death Eaters don’t know about his animagus form, and he can hide as Padfoot indefinitely. He’s done it before. He’s an expert at it.

He soon finds out that he was in the nick of time to get Marie out of the country. A few hours later, the portkey office, the apparition points, even the Muggle train stations and airports are being watched by Death Eaters.

Sirius whines when he spots a Death Eater outside the Paris branch of Gringotts, because they’ve apparently covered all bases. They’ve probably figured out that Marius Therriot has been selling fakes.

Much like Diagon Alley in wizarding London, there aren’t that many places in Paris for wizards to act openly. The wizarding area in Paris, with its owl post and portkey office and shops and its apparition point, are all surrounded by Death Eaters every time Sirius considers making a break for it.

He can’t risk apparating across the Channel; it’s right on the edge of the acceptable range, and Sirius knows of more than a few wizards and witches who had splinched trying to cross that kind of distance.

He doesn’t have Muggle money, so he can’t go by Muggle means, and he’s starting to feel hemmed in.

After a week, he decides to take a chance. He heads to the portkey office, finding a back alley to transform back from his animagus form. If he can just get into the office and get a portkey, he can get back to where he might have some backup, since he can’t seem to reach Remus.

He’s reaching for the door when the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, and he dives to the side, dodging the slashing curse aimed at his back.

Suddenly, there’s a barrage of spells aimed his direction, and Sirius scrambles down the alley, with every intention to dive behind the shelter of a couple of bins and transform. Instead, he catches a stunner and is down for the count.

When he comes to, he’s tied up in a chair in a room he doesn’t recognize, and his wand is definitely gone.

Things are not looking good. He might end up being one of those wizards that just up and disappears, and he can’t have that, not before he can protect James and Lily.

“Well, Mr. Black, it seems that you’ve stumbled on our little operation,” the wizard who strolls into the room says. Sirius isn’t certain of his name, but he knows him as a distant relative of the Lestranges.

Sirius grins brightly. “I really have no idea what you’re talking about. I was on vacation.”

“I highly doubt that,” he replies. “You’re Dumbledore’s man.”

“I do some side work,” Sirius replies. “I’m a bored scion of an Ancient and Noble House, don’t you know? I vacation in France, I poke my nose in where it doesn’t belong, I don’t need a reason for that.”

“You deprived me of my fiancée,” he counters.

Sirius frowns. “Are you talking about the girl? My understanding was that they’d be testing a cursed object on her.”

“An accident,” the man replies. “A tragic event, which would still have entitled me to her dowry.”

Sirius feels pretty damn good about rescuing the woman. He would have been pleased anyway, but this arsehole he’s happy to thwart. “Well, now I feel just terrible about helping her escape.”

He expects the punch to the face, and he spits blood onto the floor. “That stung a bit, I’ll admit, but my best mate’s wife punches harder than that.”

He doesn’t want them asking questions. If he can piss the man off enough, they’ll probably beat him to a pulp and then come back later, giving Sirius precious time to escape, or for help to arrive.

He just hopes he can find a way to get out of the country if he does manage it.

Sure enough, the punches keep raining down, and they leave Sirius half-conscious and bleeding. He’ll probably need a lot of pain potions and some Skelegro to replace the teeth he’s lost, or whatever potion the healers use for that sort of thing. When he’s left alone, Sirius works on breathing shallowly, his swollen nose dripping blood.

What his captors don’t know is that Sirius has some skill with wandless, wordless magic, lessons hard-won during the first war, and just a bit later than this.

The throbbing pain in his face distracts him, but Sirius is used to pushing past pain and despair and other negative emotions, and he gradually is able to focus on the knots of rope around his wrists enough to feel the shape of them.

Sirius focuses his magic and feels the knots unravel. It’s a start, but he’s not going to be able to do much more without a wand. Still, they won’t expect him to be free when they come back, and Sirius has a chance to get the drop on them.

He tries the door and finds it locked, so he uses his shirt to mop some of the blood off his face and takes a position on one side of the door, the side that will keep him hidden from anyone who enters.

Sirius sees the knob turn, and he braces himself to throw a punch. He’s found that wizards rarely expect a physical attack, so he’s hopeful that he’ll catch them off guard.

His fist stops just short of Remus’ nose.

“You look like hell,” Remus comments as Sirius sags, and he quickly takes Sirius’ weight. “Are you okay?”

“Nothing that a pain potion and Skelegro can’t fix,” Sirius tries to joke. “Did you see anybody on the way in?”

“A couple of men, and I stunned them,” Remus replies. “There are Death Eaters all over Paris, Padfoot.”

Sirius hisses in pain. “Tell me something I don’t know. I’ve been trying to get out of the city for days now.”

“I have friends here,” Remus says. “We’ll stay with the pack until the heat is off. They won’t expect that.”

Sirius laughs wetly. “No, they won’t. I need my wand.”

“We’ll look for it on the way out,” Remus promises. “One of the guards probably has it.”

They find his wand on the second guard, and then rendezvoused with a man and a woman guarding the entrance.

“Remus,” the man says. “Is this him?”

“It’s him,” Remus replies. “We should get out of here quickly.”

“The car is just around the corner,” the woman replies. “They won’t expect that.”

“Blood purists never expect Muggle transport,” Sirius agrees.

The woman smirks at him. “That’s the idea.”

Remus doesn’t introduce them, just hustles Sirius into the backseat of a very small car. Sirius can understand that they wouldn’t want their identities known. “Better hunker down,” Remus advises him. “We can’t risk you being seen, and they don’t want you knowing where the pack is.”

Sirius obligingly slumps down, closing his eyes, exhaustion overtaking him. He knows he’s safe with Moony. “Yeah, think I’ll just rest my eyes for a bit.”

“Sleep then,” Remus says fondly, running a hand through Sirius’ hair. “You’re safe now, Pads.”

Sirius believes him, and he sleeps until Remus shakes him. “We’re here. You can stay in the room I’ve been using. I’ve asked them to bring the potions we need. The full moon is tomorrow night, but you should be healed enough to transform by then. That’s what I’ve told them.”

“Me being here doesn’t put your mission in jeopardy, does it?” Sirius asks.

The others must have already left the vehicle, and they’re parked in front of a large farmhouse.

“It wouldn’t matter if it did,” Remus asserts. “But no, the deal has been made. They’re going to stay neutral and provide shelter for those who want to get out of Grayback’s clutches in exchange for Wolfsbane.”

“They don’t mind me being here?” Sirius asks.

“Well, they’re not happy about it exactly, but they agreed to provide you sanctuary,” Remus replies. “I agreed that you’d stay in our room, and that the night of the full moon, you’d stay as Padfoot.”

“Do you have enough Wolfsbane?” Sirius asks.

Remus shakes his head. “I have enough for myself, but not anybody else. I told them you’d be fine with it.”

“I am fine with it,” Sirius replies and allows Remus to help him into the house, down a hall and into bed.

“Let’s get you out of these clothes,” Remus says. “I’ve got spares you can borrow.”

He’s gentle, but Sirius is bruised all over, and he can’t help the groans that escape him. “The pain relief potion is coming,” Remus promises. “That should knock you out and help with the Skelegro.”

“I hate that stuff,” Sirius mutters.

“I know,” Remus replies. “But that should take care of the missing teeth, and any fractures you might have.”

Sirius knows that, but he still hates the stuff, even if it has its uses.

There’s a knock on the door once Sirius is under the covers, and Remus answers the door, taking the tray that’s offered with its vials of potions. “Thank you,” he says, still not using any names. “I appreciate it.”

“Skelegro first, then the pain reliever, then the draught for dreamless sleep,” Remus orders.

Sirius doesn’t argue with him, taking the potions in the order Remus dictates, and he feels the Skelegro just beginning to work when he knocks back the vial of Dreamless Sleep.

“Sleep well,” Remus says. “I’ll stay here with you and keep watch. You don’t need to worry.”

And Sirius believes him.

* * *

When he wakes again, he feels about 100 percent better, and Remus is still sitting by his bed, his feet propped up on the mattress.

“You look better,” Remus comments.

“I feel better,” Sirius admits. “Thanks, in case I haven’t said it yet.”

“That goes without saying,” Remus replies. “I only wish I could have been there sooner. Did Dumbledore send you alone?”

“I’m unattached, and I don’t have a family who will wonder about me,” Sirius replies. “So, yes.”

Remus frowns. “Dumbledore actually said that?”

“I can read between the lines,” Sirius replies. “He knew that I could get in, and I did.”

“And you were also nearly killed,” Remus points out.

Sirius shrugs. “I wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t saved the woman. Did you send a message to James?”

“Of course, I did,” Remus replies. “Right after you passed out.”

“Good, because I sent said person I saved to them, so James definitely knows I ran into trouble by now,” Sirius admits.

Remus rolls his eyes affectionately. “It’s a day ending in ‘y,’ Padfoot. I’m pretty sure that you getting into trouble was a foregone conclusion.”

“That’s rude,” Sirius replies. “True, but rude.”

Remus smirks, but his expression holds more than a little relief. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

“I’m glad you came so quickly,” Sirius replies. “How did you know where to find me?”

“There are members of the pack that frequent those locales,” Remus replies. “They heard rumors about you selling cursed objects, and it was fairly easy to track you from there.”

“Lucky me,” Sirius replies.

Remus shrugs. “Lucky for the woman you saved that you were involved. You broke your cover.”

“Yeah, well, if I hadn’t, they’d have found some other way to kill her,” Sirius replies. “Her so-called fiancée said that if she died by accident, he could still collect the dowry.”

Remus’ eyes burn. “That fucking arsehole.”

“That’s what I said,” Sirius replies. “Or thought, anyway, right before I pissed him off enough to stop asking questions.”

Remus shakes his head. “Only you. The pack has asked you to stick to this wing while you stay here.”

“I’m obliged for their shelter,” Sirius replies. “I understand.”

Remus smiles. “I knew you would. I gave them assurances.”

“They helped you save my life,” Sirius says. “And they don’t know me, and they don’t have any reason to trust me.”

“I told them that you helped come up with the Wolfsbane potion, so they do, at least a little bit,” Remus replies. “You wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.”

“Well, that’s something,” Sirius replies. “Anything else I should know?”

“Nothing, really,” Remus replies, and he reaches out to clasp Sirius’ hand. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

And Sirius is relieved by the fact that things are already different. His friendship with Remus is solid, and not fractured. He had gone on and survived a mission from the Order that didn’t take place previously.

It gives him hope that he can still save James and Lily.

Sirius spends the full moon with a pack of werewolves, and then heads back to England in Remus’ company. One of the werewolves—and Sirius doesn’t ask for a name—arranges for a boat to take them across the Channel. James and Lily meet them wearing Muggle clothing, and Lily flings herself at Sirius.

“I’m so glad you’re in one piece,” she says. “We were worried.”

“Remus’ timing is impeccable,” Sirius murmurs into her hair.

“Thank Merlin,” James says. “Moony, Pads, you’re both coming home with us. We insist.”

“I will let you insist,” Sirius replies. “Because I have eaten Lily’s cooking, and it’s certainly better than mine. Or Remus’.”

“Now who’s being rude?” Remus asks, although he mostly seems amused.

Sirius shrugs. “It’s the truth.”

“Fair enough,” Remus replies.

James gives them both a sharp look, as does Lily, but they don’t say anything. Sirius isn’t sure how much they know about their relationship, and how far it’s gone.

Not that it really matters. He and Remus are just friends these days, whatever the lingering tension might indicate.

Remus has his mission to convert the packs, and Sirius has to save James and Lily.

“Well, insults aside, we’re glad to have you both back,” Lily says. “Peter said he might be able to come, too, if he’s not too busy with his Ministry job.”

Sirius shoots James a look, and he shrugs. Clearly, James doesn’t know for sure what’s going on with Peter, but there’s some concern.

He’s not going to think about Peter right now. He’s just going to enjoy the time spent with his friends.

* * *

“I really appreciate you letting me stay here,” Remus says, setting his bag down just inside the door. “I know it’s an imposition.”

“It really isn’t,” Sirius replies easily.

And it’s not an imposition. He has the second bedroom, and he misses having company a lot of the time. Remus has been away a lot on business for Dumbledore, and he doesn’t see that changing. He can use that as an excuse for Remus not paying rent. He can call it part of his war efforts.

“I don’t see why you aren’t dating someone,” Remus admits. “I feel like I’ll be crimping your style.”

“I’d have to be dating someone for that to be true, and I’m not,” Sirius replies.

Remus looks at him. “Sirius—I can’t help but think there’s a reason for that.”

“James has Lily, and he’s been in love with her from day one,” Sirius replies. “When the war is over, and I know I won’t leave someone a widow—or widower—I’ll start thinking about dating again.”

“And it’s not because you don’t think you’ll survive?” Remus asks.

Sirius refuses to lie to him. “We’re in a war, Moony. None of us are guaranteed to get out alive.”

“That’s not reassuring,” Remus says.

“I don’t want to lie to you.”

“That’sreallynot reassuring.”

Sirius shrugs. “Well, you’re going on missions to the packs, and I’m going on missions for the Order. The outcome isn’t guaranteed for either of us.”

“There’s a difference between not planning to get out of this alive, and understanding the risks we take,” Remus points out quietly. “I’m worried about you.”

Sirius sighs. “What if you knew that something bad was going to happen, and there was something you could do to stop it? Wouldn’t you do whatever it took to prevent it?”

“And you can’t ask for help?” Remus asks.

“It’s something only you can do,” Sirius counters. “And you have to do it alone. Kind of like your missions to the packs.”

Remus sighs deeply. “You make a fair point.”

“Do you want a butterbeer?” Sirius asks.

“I’d take one,” Remus replies. “Thanks.”

“When do you have to head out next?” Sirius asks.

Remus smiles crookedly. “Next week. Dumbledore was very kind to give me a week off.”

Sirius hands him a bottle and flings himself down on his overstuffed couch. “Good. I don’t have another mission right away either. You want to get takeaway tonight?”

Remus’ smile grows. “Yes, I would.”

It’s almost like the old days, almost like when they stayed with Mary and her family in the Lake District. They don’t have sex, and Sirius doesn’t even flirt, at least not more than he usually does with everybody.

Sirius knows he doesn’t have much time. James and Lily are going to announce their pregnancy any day, and Sirius anticipates getting called up on a mission. With James and Lily expecting, they’ll be more cautious, and Dumbledore will start using Sirius more and more.

He doesn’t blame Dumbledore for that. Sirius has no family to question Dumbledore, no dependents to leave behind, and he’s known as something of a reckless thrill-seeker. Remus is uniquely suited to be emissary to the packs, and Sirius is suited to going on dangerous missions.

Sirius doesn’t have to think very hard to remember the names of the fallen, those in a similar position as him who have been murdered.

But Voldemort and his Death Eaters have murdered plenty of people, most of them innocent, and they didn’t deserve it either. If Sirius can save any of them, he will.

Unfortunately, Sirius hasn’t been able to prevent James and Lily from fulfilling that part of the prophecy about them defying Voldemort three times, not that he expected that he would.

Sirius doesn’t pretend to know how prophecies work, but he doesn’t think anything he can do will prevent it being made.

The night before Remus leaves to go back to the packs, James and Lily invite them over for dinner, along with Peter, who’s actually able to make it this time. Sirius is fairly certain that he’s already been marked, but he doesn’t say anything about it.

It’s January and cold, and so it’s no wonder that Peter keeps his sleeves rolled down. Even though the Order asks everybody to roll up their sleeves before meetings, Peter stops coming at some point, pleading his Ministry job.

But then, it’s Peter, and no one really expects him to take on the dangerous missions. He might be a member of the Order, but he was never much of a dueler.

James claps Remus on the back when they arrive, and gives Sirius a hug. “Good to see you, mate. How are you?”

“I’m well,” Sirius replies. “What about the two of you? I feel like it’s been too long.”

“Weeks, anyway,” James says. “Too long, for sure. I’m sorry I haven’t been available for missions. I know that’s left you in the lurch.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sirius insists. “I know you have other responsibilities. How are you, Lily?”

“I’m good,” she replies, and her hand strays to her abdomen.

Sirius missed it the last time, but this time, he raises his eyebrows. “Is there something you want to tell us?”

She frowns. “I was hoping to keep it a surprise. Peter isn’t here yet.”

Sirius shrugs. “I can’t help it that I’m brilliant.”

Remus rolls his eyes and James snorts. “Well, you can keep it quiet for now.”

“I promise to act very surprised,” Sirius replies.

Dinner that night is convivial, and Sirius can almost forget once again, he can consider that other life one long, terrible dream—except he can’t.

James clears his throat when they’re through with dinner, and he stands. “We have an announcement to make. Lily is pregnant. It’s unexpected, but ultimately, we’re very excited.”

“As you should be,” Sirius says grandly. “You two have just started the next generation of Marauders.”

“Well, I’d hope that our children would be slightly less trouble than the four of you,” Lily says with a smile.

James laughs. “I doubt we’ll get that lucky, not with—what I mean to say is—”

He stumbles over his words, and Lily says smoothly, “With you as godfather, I’m sure that he or she will learn all kinds of pranks.”

Sirius is warmed by the offer, as he’d been warmed before. “I’m honored.”

“Then you’ll be his godfather?” James asks.

“Of course,” Sirius replies. “Although I’m not sure I’m the role model sort.”

“No, but your loyalty is unquestionable,” James replies. “Alice Longbottom will be his or her godmother, and we’ve already spoken to her.”

Lily adds, “She’s pregnant as well, and we’ve agreed that should something happen to us, they’ll raise our child. We’ll do the same for them.”

“Is that really necessary?” Peter objects.

“We’re in the middle of a war, Wormtail,” James replies. “We’d be irresponsible if we didn’tmake these sorts of arrangements.”

“James is right,” Remus says. “We could look after the child, but what do we know about babies?”

“Less than nothing,” Sirius admits easily. “But we can learn.”

Peter shifts uncomfortably. “Babies need a lot of things.”

“And we’ll figure that out, too,” Remus replies.

Peter doesn’t appear convinced, and Sirius wonders if that’s part of it. Sirius fell in love with Harry on sight, and he thinks that Remus might have felt the same, but kept his distance because of his furry little problem.

He doesn’t think Peter was ever especially fond of Harry, which may have made it easier for him to betray James and Lily.

How anyone could betray a baby, though, let alone their friends, Sirius will never understand.

“Pronglet will have no shortage of protectors,” Sirius says.

“We’re not calling the baby Pronglet,” Lily objects.

“I don’t see why not,” Sirius teases. “At least until we know whether it’s a boy or girl.”

“Fair point,” James replies. “Pronglet will do for now. Not many people will know what we’re referring to, and Lily is going to lie low. I’m sure they’ll find out that she’s expecting, but we’d like to keep it as quiet as possible.”

Lily sighs. “I suppose it’s the prerogative of the godfather to settle on a nickname.”

Sirius laughs and raises a cup. “To the two of you, and to the new addition. May you have many happy years to come.”

He’s going to make sure of it.

* * *

Sirius races through the alley, dodging the curse hurled at his back, and he swears as he decides to do something rash. He apparates to a spot behind his pursuers and sends a couple of stunners. He gets one of them, but the other apparates away, probably because he’s not going to risk getting captured.

Sirius removes the Death Eater’s mask and sneers at the still form of Augustus Rookwood. They had suspected him of passing Ministry information to the other Death Eaters, and now Sirius has captured him.

“One down, who knows how many to go?” Sirius mutters, and send a message via Patronus to Alastor Moody.

It’s 30 July, and Sirius is anxious to get this mission finished so he can be available to attend Harry’s birth. Remus is back in town, too, probably at their shared flat. When the news comes, Remus will go over to the Potters’ cottage because St. Mungo’s won’t allow a werewolf to be around new mothers and infants.

Moody comes running up a few minutes later, and he lets out a low whistle when he spots Rookwood. “Good catch, Black. With Rookwood out of the picture, we might manage to stem the flow of information out of the Ministry.”

“They’ll be looking for another source,” Sirius says, even as the realization dawns. The Aurors nicked Rookwood around this time the first time around, and that means they’ll be looking for a new source of information inside the Ministry.

If Peter hasn’t been marked already—and Sirius isn’t certain one way or the other—they might go after him for this. Peter could provide the inside source the Death Eaters need.

“They’ll need one,” Moody replies.

Sirius takes a deep breath. “Right, well, I’m for home unless you need me.”

“Get out of here. Enjoy the rest of your night, what remains of it,” Moody orders.

Sirius apparates home, and finds Remus waiting for him, forearms resting on his legs. “I heard from James. Lily’s gone into labor.”

“Is she at St. Mungo’s?” Sirius asks.

Remus nods. “They’ve admitted her. James wants you there.”

“He wants both of us there,” Sirius counters. “Maybe you should go over to their house, make something for when they’re released. Lily won’t be up for cooking for a few days, and you’re the one with the most talent in that area.”

“Fair enough,” Remus replies, clearly grateful for something to do. “Give them my love.”

“Of course,” Sirius says, and he forgets for a minute, forgets that they’re not together, and that it’s for very good reasons, and he drops a kiss on Remus’ forehead.

Remus glances at him, startled, and Sirius coughs nervously. “Sorry. Sorry. Just—forgot for a minute.”

“No, it’s—thank you,” Remus replies.

He doesn’t say what he’s thankful for, but Sirius knows. Remus is touch-starved at the best of times, and all Sirius wants is to wrap him up and keep him safe.

Since that’s not possible, Sirius will take what he can get.

“I’ll see you later,” Sirius promises.

Lily’s in a private room at St. Mungo’s, and James is by her side when Sirius pokes his head in. “You all right?”

“We’re doing about as well as can be expected,” Lily manages, her red hair damp with sweat. “How is Remus? Did you see him?”

“He’s going to put some food together at your house,” Sirius deflects, knowing that just as Remus is disappointed not to be present, James and Lily are disappointed as well. There’s no changing it, though, so it’s best to focus on the positive.

James smiles. “Thank you, Padfoot.”

“Other than Lily, he’s the best cook,” Sirius says. “You wouldn’t want me to put a meal together.”

“Very true,” Lily agrees with a weary smile.

“Where’s the littlest Marauder?” Sirius asks, remembering not to call Harry by name, since he shouldn’t have that information yet.

“The Healer took him to clean him up,” James replies. “They should be back shortly.”

“And here he is,” the Healer says, bustling into the room, an infant in her arms.

Sirius opens his arms. “May I?”

“Sirius is the godfather,” James explains.

Sirius takes Harry in his arms, remembering how he fumbled it the first time around, but he knows how to hold him, how to support his head and cradle him close. “Hello, Pronglet,” he murmurs.

“His name is Harry James,” Lily informs him.

Sirius smirks at her. “That’s what I said.”

“Only you, Padfoot,” James murmurs. “How does it feel?”

Sirius sighs. “It feels as though I’ve been handed the whole world.”

“That it does,” James agrees.

Reluctantly, Sirius hands him over to Lily to be fed, and James leads him out of the room. “Have you seen Peter?”

“No, not yet,” Sirius replies. “But I’m going to have to talk to him. We captured Rookwood, and we know he’s been feeding Ministry secrets to the Death Eaters. They’ll be needing a new source.”

“And you think that might be Peter?” James asks. “He’ll be insulted if you tell him that you expect him to betray us.”

Sirius knows that. “He’ll have to be handled carefully, I agree.”

“I don’t think you should say anything to him,” James objects. “I know you think he’s weak. Merlin’s pants, I’m certain that Peterknows you think him weak. You could end up doing more harm than good.”

Sirius runs a hand through his hair. “You really think so?”

“I think it would be safer, unless you’re going to be able to convince Peter that you actually care about him, and you trust him to do the right thing,” James says. “Withoutinsinuating that there’s any doubt about his loyalty.”

Sirius sighs. “You’re right. There’s no way to have that conversation without casting aspersions on his character.”

“I know that you have knowledge that I don’t, but this isPeter we’re talking about,” James protests. “He’s not a fighter, and you and I both know what people do to be Marked.”

“I know that he’s always been interested in his own skin,” Sirius mutters. “And the war is going badly, with no end in sight.”

James heaves a sigh of his own. “It’s not so bad as that.”

“It is precisely that bad,” Sirius counters. “The Ministry is in shambles, we can’t identify all the Death Eaters, Voldemort continues unchecked, and no one really knows who to trust.”

“I trust you and Remus,” James replies.

“Just as I trust the two of you,” Sirius replies. “That’s not in question. But the bonds between us are different.”

“You’re excluding Peter from that equation,” James says.

“He excluded himself,” Sirius replies hotly.

James frowns. “You don’t know that he has.”

“No, I don’t,” Sirius replies. “But I know what he’s capable of.”

James shakes his head. “I know you have your reasons to doubt him. I just don’t think we should do anything that will push Peter in a direction that we don’t want him to go.”

Sirius nods. “I’ll let Peter be then, because I will accept that I am not the most objective person where he’s concerned.”

“Maybe go and make sure Remus is all right?” James asks. “I hate that he’s not able to be here, but—”

“Some rules aren’t worth breaking,” Sirius agrees. “And there would be those that would kill him for setting foot onto this floor. Moony knows that.”

“I don’t like the thought of him being alone,” James replies.

Sirius nods. “I’ll see to him. When do you think they’ll release Lily?”

“They said tomorrow, if everything looks good,” James replies. “She came through like a true warrior.”

“No surprise there,” Sirius replies.

James smiles. “No, it’s not. See you tomorrow?”

“We’ll keep the home fires burning,” Sirius promises.

Remus has made himself at home in the small cottage in Godric’s Hollow, and Sirius looks around with a sense of nostalgia, smelling soup and toasted bread. “How are they?”

“Lily came through just fine, and Harry is healthy,” Sirius replies.

“They named him Harry?” Remus asks.

“Harry James Potter,” Sirius replies. “And if I’m right, he’s going to be the spitting image of his father.”

“That’s too bad,” Remus jokes. “Harry would be better off if he took after Lily.”

Sirius thinks of the Harry he’d known. “I’m sure he’ll have her heart. Are you all right?”

“Fine,” Remus says lightly. “I made soup. When will they release her?”

“Tomorrow, James says,” Sirius replies. “I think we can make sure the house is ready for them when they arrive.”

“I think we can manage that much,” Remus replies. “Thank you.”

Sirius claps him on the shoulder. “Of course.”

They’re both at the house the next day when James and Lily turn up mid-afternoon, having hired a muggle car to drive them. Lily, Sirius remembers, hadn’t wanted to risk splinching Harry, or having him respond poorly to apparition, and she’d insisted.

But then, Lily will do anything for her son, and James will do anything for his wife and child, so they take the train from London to the station nearest Godric’s Hollow, and hire a car to take them the rest of the way.

Remus makes a roast that’s only slightly dry, and that’s not even noticeable with the gravy, and the mash and roast veg is great. Peter shows up around dinnertime, and Sirius wonders if he’s imagining Peter’s discomfort as he holds Harry.

Does he already know that he’ll betray the Potters, or is he just uncomfortable around an infant? Remus is hesitant, too, and Sirius knows he had been the first time as well, but he isn’t anymore.

He claims Harry as often as possible, and James jokes, “I really thought that babies might be the one thing that would terrify you, Pads.”

“Please, I’m his godfather,” Sirius replies, bouncing Harry in his arms. “It’s my sworn duty not to be terrified of him.”

He wrinkles his nose as the smell hits him. “Diapers, on the other hand…”

He hands Harry off to Lily, who rolls her eyes. “Eventually, you aregoing to change a diaper, Sirius.”

“Of course,” Sirius replies, and doesn’t mean a word.

James watches as Lily takes Harry upstairs. “I wish Mom and Dad were here to see this.”

“They’d be besotted,” Sirius says, a little choked up. “I know how much they loved Lily, and they’d have adored Harry.”

James shakes his head. “Harry doesn’t have anybody, not outside those here, anyway.”

“There’s Lily’s sister,” Sirius points out.

James shakes his head. “No, and we’ve agreed that Petunia is our last choice for a guardian. We’d rather see Harry fostered by a wizarding family than go to her.”

“Lily was fairly upset the last time she saw her,” Sirius agrees.

Peter and Remus are listening, but not contributing.

“It might not have been so bad without that husband of hers,” James replies. “He’s the worst sort of Muggle.”

“Well, it’s not as though there aren’t more than a few arseholes in our own world,” Sirius points out, as someone who has always really liked Muggles. “I mean, look at my own family.”

James smiles. “Point.”

“We all know the plan,” Remus says quietly. “We’ll make sure your wishes are carried out, although we all hope that it’s not necessary.”

Sirius hopes that it really never comes to pass. No one is going to listen to Remus at the end of the day, not with the prejudice against werewolves. Alice and Frank have a better shot, assuming nothing happens to them.

He just hopes that someone has a copy of the Potters’ will other than Dumbledore, who will undoubtedly try to arrange things to his own liking.

For perfectly understandable reasons, of course, but it’s not going to serve Harry well in the long run.

“We have plenty of contingency plans,” James says. “But we’ll be fine. We aren’t going anywhere, not if we can help it.”

* * *

Sirius is almost too busy to sleep the next six months. Remus is aggressively recruiting the packs, at least to stay neutral, with the promise of free Wolfsbane for anybody who wants it. Quite a few do, and Sirius hears from James that he and Lily made their own visits with Harry in tow.

The Potters’ willingness to visit, even to contemplate Harry meeting additional werewolves—on neutral territory, of course—is creating more goodwill than has existed in a very long time.

“We’re making real progress,” Remus says over their communication mirrors one night. “Harry charms the pants off everybody he meets.”

“Pretty hard to say no to that face,” Sirius admits, stifling a yawn.

“What about you?” Remus asks. “You look exhausted, and also bruised.”

Sirius touches his swollen lip. “Got into a bit of a scuffle with a Death Eater who wanted a piece of me. No big deal.”

“You’ve been gone for weeks now,” Remus says. “I can’t believe that I’m seeing James, Lily, and Pronglet more often than you are.”

“Death Eaters are arseholes, and the more of them we can identify, the better off we’ll be,” Sirius replies. “I want every single one of them bunged up in Azkaban.”

Remus sighs. “I know that. I just worry about you.”

“Likewise,” Sirius replies. “But I’m glad to hear that your mission is going so well.”

Better than it had the first time around, that’s for sure. Introducing the Wolfsbane potion has been a game changer, and Sirius thinks it’s going to do a lot of long term good.

But Sirius has to take out as many Death Eaters as he can because it will only help the Potters and Harry down the road.

Obviously, Voldemort is going to be short quite a few supporters if they’re all dead. And maybe Sirius is picking fights to lure them out in the hopes of getting into a duel to the death, but it’s a strategy.

Maybe it’s a terrible strategy, but it’s what Sirius has right now, because it won’t be long now before he’s called back to take the vow of a Secret Keeper to hide the Potters. And once he does that, it will be on him to remain out of the Death Eaters’ hands, but to also make it clear that they’ll have to capture him to discover where the Potters are located.

And if he riles them up enough, they’ll chase him without ceasing. He’ll just have to stay out of their hands.

“Be careful,” Remus advises. “I know that’s not your usual plan, but we need you in one piece.”

Sirius smiles. “I knew you loved me.”

“Don’t push your luck,” Remus advises, but he wears a smile as he says it. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Of course,” Sirius promises. “Give the others my love.”

“Even Peter?” Remus asks.

“Are you going to see Peter?” Sirius counters.

Remus sighs. “No, probably not. He’s been avoiding us. He hasn’t really responded to any of Lily’s invitations when we’ve been in town.”

Sirius sighs. “Does he have a good reason?”

“Busy with work,” Remus replies. “The same excuses as usual. Do you think it’s something we need to worry about?”

“Hard to say,” Sirius replies. “Maybe I’m just paranoid.”

Remus makes a face. “Better safe than sorry. Stay in touch.”

“You, too,” Sirius replies.

He’s heading to Munich next, where some of Voldemort’s followers have dug in, spreading their pure-blood agenda across the continent. Sirius has received reports that there have been incidents of Muggle-baiting, as well as reprisals against half-bloods and those regarded as blood-traitors.

Dumbledore advised Sirius to meet a friend who is well-connected in Germany and know the additional potential targets, or who might know.

Sirius slips into the beerhall where he’s meeting Dumbledore’s friend, wearing Muggle clothing as instructed. No one gives him a second look, and he understands why so many people opposing Voldemort end up choosing Muggle spaces to meet. The Death Eaters, with their pure blood politics and prejudices, are that much more easily spotted.

A woman slides into the seat across from Sirius after he’s ordered his lager. “Guten Abend,” she murmurs.

Sirius returns the favor. “I’ve been craving the open skies of Austria,” he says in German.

She snorts. “And I have been looking forward to the sunny skies of England,” she replies in English.

“They’re sunny sometimes,” Sirius replies. “Although not often enough to make that a poor signal. Sirius.”

“Marta,” she replies, and he’s fairly certain that’s not her actual name. “Welcome to Munich, Sirius. You’re a long way from home.”

“I need to find out how bad the situation is here,” Sirius replies.

Marta shrugs. “What situation isn’t bad? Our country is divided, and we have violent skinheads roaming the streets. One more fanatic pushing some ideal of blood purity—whatever that means—will be right at home.”

Sirius hasn’t really kept up on the issue of international politics—he’s been too busy with the war at home—but maybe he should have. “I’m sorry I don’t know more.”

Marta shrugs. “You have enough to worry about. I do have a list of targets, as requested, though.” She hands him a folded piece of parchment. “Mostly what these lunatics would call blood traitors, but there are a few non-magic-born on there, too.”

“We call them Muggle-born,” Sirius says.

Marta smirks at him. “We just call them wizards and witches.”

“How very forward-thinking of you,” Sirius replies.

Marta’s expression softens. “Well, the other terms aren’t fit for polite company. Germany has its share of bigots as well. Good luck to you.”

“Thanks,” Sirius replies. “I appreciate the information.”

“Dumbledore knows how to get in touch with me should he need additional information,” Marta says, and then gets up and melts away into the pedestrians moving down the busy street.

Sirius has his list, which means the next step is to meet with the others assigned to protect the targets. He heads to the safe house to hand out assignments to those from England and other places in Europe who have volunteered to help.

The problem is that there are half a dozen targets on the list and only four volunteers, including Sirius.

“There aren’t enough of us,” Mueller objects.

“Then we’ll gather them up,” Sirius replies. “I’m sure once they know why we need them to gather, they’ll be cooperative.”

“They don’t even know us,” Ironback protests. “Why would they listen to us?”

“That’s why you’ll be very persuasive,” Sirius says.

They all frown at him, and Sirius rolls his eyes. “They’re prospective victims. Either they accept our help, or they don’t, but we have a duty to warn them anyway.”

There are grumblings, but Sirius ignores them. It’s a tough mission, maybe impossible, and people always grumble about that. They don’t always have all the time in the world, or the people that they need, but they have to do the best they can.

Still, Ironback is definitely not a charmer, although Mueller has potential and Kim just smiles in a way that tells Sirius she’s probably ten kilometers ahead of them.

Sirius looks through the list, and realizes that Marta left notes. Some of the intended victims are families with small children, and Sirius decides they have to be a priority. They’ll also be easier to convince. Mueller and Kim speak fluent German, and there are four families on the list. If they can gather them into one location, they’ll have cut down on the number of locations they have to defend.

“Four families, Mueller and Kim will take two each,” Sirius decides. “You can each take the first one and try to convince them to come with you. You can bring them back here, since it’s defensible.”

“What are you going to do?” Mueller asks, in a clear challenge.

Sirius gives him a cool look. “I’m going to work on what’s likely our most stubborn target, and Ironback, who has no charm, is going to talk to the couple who is likely going to be the easiest to convince.”

There are snickers from the others, and even Ironback cracks a smile. “Thanks so much for that, Black.”

“You were the one who needed an instruction manual,” Sirius counters.

“Do we bring everybody back here?” Ironback asks.

Sirius hesitates. The safe house really isn’t big enough for all those people, but there aren’t a lot of options.

“Let’s reconnoiter here, and if we can, let’s leverage one of their homes,” Sirius replies. “If there’s one that’s big enough for everybody and defensible with good wards, and there’s agreement, we’ll all go there.”

* * *

“So, that’s what we did,” Sirius tells James and Mary. “Kim and Mueller were great, and Ironback was basically useless, but he did manage to get his single target to the safe house.”

James snorts. “He was always short on charm.”

“Clearly,” Sirius replies. “But everybody was safe, and the Death Eaters were left empty-handed, so it was a good mission.”

James glances at Lily and clears his throat. “We asked you here for a reason.”

“I figured as much,” Sirius replies. “What’s up?”

He knows what’s up. He knows that they’re going to tell him that they’ve heard a prophecy about Harry, and they need to go into hiding. They’re going to ask if he’ll be their Secret Keeper, and he’s going to agree this time.

“Dumbledore told us about a prophecy, and it might be about Harry,” James says. “He thinks we should go into hiding, and we should put a Fidelius on the cottage.”

Sirius nods. “I’ll be your Secret Keeper, and if it’s not me, it should probably be Moony.”

“You,” James says quickly. “I trust Moony. I’m sure he’d keep our secrets, but his position with the packs means he might end up compromised.”

Sirius inclines his head. “Then you don’t even need to ask.”

James lets out a breath. “We’ll have to talk to Peter and Remus, let them know what’s going on, and we should do that soon.”

“I don’t think we should wait,” Sirius replies. He knows they have time, but he can’t predict everything. “Let me talk to them.”

James’ eyes narrow. “Are you going to be civil with Peter?”

“Yes, of course,” Sirius says easily.

Lily raises her eyebrows. “Padfoot, please, we know you.”

“I will be civil,” Sirius says. “I’ll swear it on my magic if you like.”

“That’s not necessary,” James says. “I trust you, Pads.”

Which means that Sirius will have to keep his end of the bargain. He can’t risk disappointing James.

“Then we’ll do the oath tonight,” James replies. “But Sirius, Dumbledore thinks that it’s too much of a risk for our Secret Keeper to visit regularly.”

That’s another reason that Sirius had advocated for Peter being the Secret Keeper the first time around: he hadn’t wanted to give up seeing James, Lily, and Harry. He had tactical reasons for the decision as well, reasons that made a lot of sense

And now he has to give that up.

“Yeah, I know that,” Sirius sighs.

“We don’t like it either,” Lily says softly. “And I’m certain that Harry will be inconsolable. You’re his godfather, and he loves you.”

“Bugger that,” James snaps. “No one knows about Sirius’ animagus form other than the Marauders, and none of themwill know the secret, other than Sirius. You can still visit if you’re careful.”

Lily’s expression lightens. “That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought of that.”

“And Dumbledore doesn’t know, which is probably for the best,” James says. “No one needs to know.”

Sirius nods. “Shall we, then?”

“We’d better, for Harry’s sake,” James replies.

Lily nods. “I’m glad you won’t be a stranger, Padfoot.”

“You couldn’t keep me away,” Sirius replies. “I have to teach my godson the Marauder’s way.”

“What? You don’t trust me?” James jokes.

Sirius shrugs. “Lily has been a very civilizing influence on you.”

“Thank you,” Lily says primly. “I like to think so.”

Sirius takes the oath to become the Secret Keeper, and the he hugs them both, and cuddles Harry, who has just woken from his nap. “Pa’s,” Harry says, patting his cheek.

“Hello, little love,” Sirius murmurs. “I’ll see you soon.”

And he will. That’s a promise.

* * *

Sirius meets with Peter the following day, and he doesn’t think he’s imagining things when Peter seems twitchier than usual.

“It’s been a while,” Sirius says easily, keeping an air of insouciance.

Peter shrugs. “It’s not like it was when we were in school, seeing each other every day.” He won’t quite look Sirius in the eye. “And I’ve been busy at work.”

“Department of transportation, right?” Sirius asks.

“It’s a foot in the door,” Peter says defensively.

What it is, is a very junior position procured for Peter by a family friend, which is how just about everybody winds up at the Ministry. Very few gain positions solely on the basis of their own merit, and most don’t rise through the ranks without political connections, or ties to someone in the Wizengamot.

Sirius doesn’t hold any of that against Peter. What he does blame Peter for is caving to the Death Eaters and taking the Mark.

“I’m glad you found a position,” Sirius replies as sincerely as he can. “I really am. I just wanted to let you know that James and Lily have gone into hiding with Harry.”

“Really?” Peter asks, and twitches again. “I didn’t think James would ever back down.”

“He did it for Harry,” Sirius replies. “There was a prophecy. I don’t know all the details, but they think Harry might end up being a target.”

Sirius hadn’t told James about this part of the plan, the part where he deliberately baits the trap with himself.

“I suppose you’re the Secret Keeper,” Peter says.

Sirius nods. “I’ve been careful. No one is going to get that information out of me, not while Harry remains in danger.”

“Be careful, Padfoot,” Peter says. “Things are pretty bad right now.”

“I’m well aware, Wormtail,” Sirius says dryly. “I’ve been fighting Death Eaters for the last few years.”

Peter finally meets his eyes. “You don’t have to rub it in my face.”

“Was I?” Sirius asks mildly. “It was a statement of fact.”

Peter scowls. “Just because I don’t have time to devote to the Order—”

“I wasn’t trying to shame you, Peter,” Sirius says, interrupting him. “We all do our part, in our own way, and in our own time. If you’re feeling as though you’re not contributing enough, you can always talk to Dumbledore, see if there’s something else you could do.”

Sirius can think of half a dozen things Peter might be able to do, particularly if he told Dumbledore about his animagus form. A rat could go just about anywhere in the Ministry, could bring back valuable intel. But to do that, Peter would have to reveal his form.

Sirius is no oath-breaker; he won’t reveal Peter’s secret without his permission, not until he’s certain that Peter has done something in to deserve it—this time.

“It’s always been easier for you and James,” Peter says, and there’s a faint whine in his voice that gets on Sirius’ last nerve, even though he tries not to show it.

“Maybe it has been,” Sirius admits. “As I said, we all have our parts to play. And I still have another person to see before my day is over.”

“Of course, it was good to see you, Sirius,” Peter says, and he’s back to avoiding Sirius’ eyes again.

“And you,” Sirius replies. “I’ll let you know if there’s any news from James and Lily.”

Peter nods. “Thank you, Padfoot.”

From there, Sirius heads back to his flat, where he’s arranged to meet Remus, who is back from his latest mission to the packs. He could have spoken to Remus and Peter together, of course, but he wants to pass along a warning to Moony not to trust him.

And he wants an evening alone with Remus, because he’s certain that things are going to come to a head soon, and he’s not sure whether he’ll see him again.

The flat is cold and dark when he enters, and Sirius lights a fire and the lamps. He isn’t much good in the kitchen, but there’s bread and cheese and tins of soup. He has the soup warming, and the bread and cheese ready to go under the grill.

He hears Remus’ key in the lock, and he slips inside, his manner diffident as always.

“Did you already see Peter?” Remus asks.

Sirius nods, putting the bread in under the grill. “I did. He wouldn’t look me in the eye most of the time, and then took offense when I told him I’d been fighting the Death Eaters for years. He seemed to think that a mere statement of fact meant that I was calling him a coward.”

“Well, in fairness, he was always a bit of one,” Remus says reasonably. “Not that we ever held it against him.”

Sirius shakes his head. “No, we protected him. I just hope he makes the honorable choice and returns the favor.”

“Do you really think he’ll betray James and Lily?” Remus asks.

“He knows they’ve gone into hiding because of the prophecy, and he knows I’m the Secret Keeper,” Sirius replies. “He has the information he needs to do so, or not to do so.”

Remus sighs. “Why am I not surprised that you’re using yourself as bait?”

“It was always going to be that way,” Sirius replies. “If there was anyone I trusted to be the Secret Keeper, I’d have them do it, and I’d still noise it about that I was, for that added layer of protection.”

“You mean you’d still be bait,” Remus replies grimly. “Even the strongest minds can break under torture, Sirius.”

Sirius hitches a shoulder. “No doubt, but I think I like my odds.”

“I know that,” Remus replies. “But maybe you should go into hiding, just to be on the safe side.”

“I promise to be careful,” Sirius replies. “And I won’t go out of my way to meet up with Death Eaters, or invite capture.”

Remus shakes his head. “You know, I believe you. I wouldn’t have, once upon a time, but you’ve grown up.”

“That’s the idea,” Sirius replies. “But Remus, if anything happens to me, will you look after Harry?”

Remus frowns. “Pads—”

“Forget your condition,” Sirius says, his voice hot. “You have the Wolfsbane potion for a reason, and I think we both know that if the worst happens, it won’t matter. He’ll need someone like me, or like you.”

“He’ll have his parents,” Remus argues.

“I said the worst,” Sirius replies. “And it could get a lot worse.”

Remus glances at the oven. “I think your bread might be burning.”

“Dammit,” Sirius swears and pulls it out. It’s black around the edges and well-browned on top, but still edible. “Could be worse.”

“I’veeatenworse,” Remus counters. “It’s fine. Also, I wish you were still just predicting James making Head Boy.”

“So do I,” Sirius replies.

He doesn’t say that they’re at war, because Remus knows that just as well as he does. He doesn’t have happy predictions at this point.

Sirius doesn’t really know anything, anyway. It’s different now.

“I know that James is your brother in all but blood,” Remus says quietly. “And I know that we can’t be more than friends, not—not right now.”

Sirius feels his heart leap. “Not right now?”

“You have to survive in order to make good on that,” Remus points out. “If you die, there will never be anything more than friendship—but you will always have that.”

This is a far cry from where they’d been the first time around, bitter recriminations hanging between them, poisoning whatever love had sparked between them once upon a time.

“I feel the same way,” Sirius replies. “And that’s a hell of an incentive.”

“And if you get into trouble, I will do whatever I can to get you out of it again,” Remus promises.

“We have the communication mirrors,” Sirius says. “And there’s—there’s something else we could do.”

Remus frowns. “What’s that?”

“I’ve been thinking of the Marauder’s map, and how we might use the same thing to communicate over distances,” Sirius admits. “If someone is searching a prisoner, they’ll take a mirror, but they might overlook a scrap of parchment and a pencil stub.”

Remus considers, his expression thoughtful. “Well, we have the night. I believe we can figure it out.”

“Thank you,” Sirius says.

“I don’t like that you were ready to sacrifice yourself, but I understand it,” Remus says. “Just as I understand why. I need you to know that you have something to live for as well.”

“I have many things to live for,” Sirius replies. “You, and James, and Lily, and Pronglet. I just want you all to be safe.”

“At the expense of your own life?”

“If need be,” Sirius admits.

“Then maybe think about the people who would count their lives worse with you gone,” Remus replies. “And let’s work on that parchment.”

* * *

Sirius tries to stop in to see the Potters at least once a week, although it’s probably more like every other. He always approaches as Padfoot, and he tends to keep the form at least for a bit, mostly because it absolutely delights Harry. Harry will toddle over to him, drape himself over Sirius’ back, pull on his fur, and ride him like a pony.

Not that he minds. He knows that Harry won’t always be so small, and Sirius won’t always be around.

Every moment that Sirius has with them, he treasures. He can feel the tension build as the war intensifies. More and more Muggle-borns and so-called blood traitors are disappearing or are dying, the Dark Mark floating in the sky, lest anyone be confused as to the culprits.

He sees Remus when he can, too, and even visits with Peter a couple of times, to pass along greetings from James and Lily and Harry. Sirius tries to be careful, varying his route home, setting up wards, doing whatever he can to stay safe and out of the hands of Death Eaters.

The Death Eaters will have to come through him to get to Harry; they have no choice.

Sirius has just reached the outer door of his building, outside the protection of the wards, when he feels the air shift. He throws up a wandless, wordless shield, and a widespread stunner, meant to take out several assailants at once, although it’s not as effective as a single shot stunner.

The others also have shield spells, though, and they’re all wearing masks. There are six of them, and they send a series of vicious hexes at him, so it’s all Sirius can do to dodge them and try not to get hit.

He sends off a few blasting hexes, and dodges one of theirs.

“We need him alive, you idiot!” one of them snaps. “The Dark Lord will have your head if he’s killed before we get the information out of him.”

Sirius attempts to apparate, but is blocked, which means they’ve got an anti-apparation ward up. That keeps them in place as well, but it means that Sirius can’t easily get away.

Crucio!”

Sirius feels the curse hit him, pain singing along his nerves, and he falls to one knee, able to keep his feet under the unrelenting agony.

And then everything goes black.

* * *

When he wakes, he’s in what appears to be a basement cell, probably in someone’s manor house. They’ve stripped him of his robes, his shirt, and his shoes, leaving only his trousers. Sirius checks his pockets and finds the scrap of parchment and stub of pencil.

Just as he and Remus hoped.

The only light is from a torch flickering in the hall, coming through a small, barred window set at head-height in the thick, wooden door. It’s just enough to see by, to scribble out a short, cramped message to Remus.

They took me. I don’t know where.

The words disappear as soon as he writes them, and he hears footsteps. He hastily shoves both parchment and pencil into his pocket and scrambles to his feet, prepared to fight.

Two masked men enter, and the door swings shut behind them. Without his wand, he doesn’t have much chance against them, and he knows it. His best bet is to hold out as long as he can, long enough for Remus to stage a rescue.

He’s not surprised when they hit him with another Cruciatus. The pain brings him to his knees, but he grits his teeth against it. “Where are the Potters?” one of them asks.

Sirius spits onto the floor. “Sod off.”

Another Cruciatus, and Sirius bites the side of his cheek to keep from crying out, and he draws blood.

“Where are the Potters?”

He spits blood onto the floor and doesn’t respond.

Sirius isn’t sure how long it goes on. He’s not sure he wants to know, considering that he doesn’t know when it will end.

When they finally leave his cell, he feels the remnants of the curse deep in his bones, a pain that is like no other. Sirius knows people who have gone mad from the pain, but he thinks he can withstand it.

He survived twelve years in Azkaban, after all. Twelve years of exposure to the Dementors had put cracks in his sanity, but hadn’t broken him.

Someone delivers bread and water, and Sirius drinks and eats. They might try giving him Veritaserum, or poison, but the Secret Keeper must willingly tell the secret. The secret can be tortured out of him, or tricked, or he can offer it up, but they aren’t going to get it via potion.

Sirius surreptitiously glances at the scrap of parchment and sees Remus’ handwriting. Working on it.

He has nothing else to offer Remus, no way to tell him where he is. His captors have given nothing away so far—no names, no faces, and no identifying features. He has no idea how Remus will manage to find him.

There are more rounds of torture, not all of them using crucio. There are a lot of things that can be done to the human body, spells that can keep him from bleeding out or dying, while continuing the pain. Sirius loses himself in the pain, but says nothing.

They can break him, and he won’t tell them anything.

Not ever.

The two Death Eaters leave the cell again after another round of torture—crucioagain, and Sirius thinks that he might be able to distinguish between the Death Eaters based on their preferred torture methods. If he ever faces them in battle, he’ll know them, and he’ll remove their masks and see them all consigned to Azkaban as fodder for the Dementors.

He just has to survive.

Sirius pulls out the scrap of parchment, but there aren’t any new words. He feels as though Remus would give him some word, some sign if rescue were imminent. He’d thought he might get some words of encouragement at least.

But there’s nothing.

More time passes, more torture. Sirius sees his grandfather standing in a corner of his cell, and he says, “Well, this is a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, boy.”

He’s delirious. He’s aware enough to know that, and also aware enough to know that his condition is only going to get worse, until he doesn’t know fact from delusion.

Sirius pictures James and Lily and Harry. They’re the ones he’s protecting; they’re the ones he’s doing this for.

And then the door opens again. Sirius pushes himself into a sitting position—he’d been curled up in a ball on the floor, trying to ride out the waves of pain. He expects more torture, but instead he sees Remus’ familiar face.

“There you are,” Remus says with clear relief. “You look terrible.”

Sirius is certain that this is another delusion. “You’re not real.”

“Of course, I am,” Remus replies. “Did you think I wouldn’t come for you?”

“How did you find me?” Sirius asks, not quite willing to believe that Remus is actually here.

Remus shrugs. “Peter told me. He feels terrible about betraying you, and he came to tell me where you were.”

That—that seems right. If Peter betrayed them, Remus is the one he’d approach.

It doesn’t enter Sirius’ mind that Remus is the only one he couldapproach, with James and Lily behind the Fidelius and Sirius captured. But then, he is about half-dead, and it’s probably a miracle that he’s capable of coherent thought at all.

But Remus is the most forgiving of them, the most level-headed. Peter wouldgo to Remus. Remus knows that Sirius has been captured, and would be looking for him. Of course, once Peter went to Remus, Remus would come for Sirius.

He promised, and he’d done it once before.

“Come on,” Remus says, “we have to get you out of here. We need to move quickly.”

“Where are we going?”

“We have to go to James and Lily,” Remus says. “You’ll be safe behind the Fidelius.”

Sirius shakes his head. “No, we can’t. We can’t.”

“We have to,” Remus counters. “They’ll be looking for both of us, Pads. We’ll be careful, we’ll stay with them—you need time to recover anyway.”

“I can’t,” Sirius says, agonized. “I swore an oath.”

“Don’t you trust me?” Remus demands.

Sirius quickly says, “Yes, of course I do. I trust you more than just about anybody, Moony. I love you.”

The words fall from his mouth without his bidding, and he’s expecting the disconcerted expression on Moony’s face.

“Then trust me with this,” Remus says. “Trust that I’ll keep the secret, too.”

He wrestles with the request. There’s a part of him that knows it’s a terrible idea, but he’s exhausted and hurting and half out of his mind with hunger and pain and the knowledge of his own death.

“The location is Potter Cottage in Godric’s Hollow,” Sirius finally says.

Remus releases him, and Sirius collapses onto the floor in a heap. “That was easier than I thought it would be.”

Too late, Sirius realizes that it’s not Remus at all. “What—who are you?”

“Moony was quite despondent at your capture,” the stranger wearing Remus’ face says. “I went over to comfort him, and he left a few hairs on my robe. We’ve been planning this for months, you know. I thought you’d be harder to break, the great Sirius Black.”

“Peter,” he spits out.

“Then you already suspected me,” and Remus’ expression is cold, colder than Sirius ever remembers it being. “I should have known, and you should have acted sooner.”

“Fuck you,” Sirius says, because he can’t think of anything else to say. “Where’s Remus?”

“Sleeping off the potion I gave him,” Peter replies. “You know, I always liked Remus, and the Dark Lord still thinks he might be of some use.”

Sirius tries to spring forward, but pain and exhaustion mean he’s uncoordinated and slow. “I’m going to kill you,” he promises.

“No, you won’t,” Peter says shortly. “You’ll be dead in a minute, and the Potters will be dead within the hour.”

“Why?” Sirius asks.

Peter’s expressions softens slightly. “It’s about who’s winning, Padfoot. And you’re not. You can’t.”

And then he points his wand at Sirius and says, “Avada—”


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enigmaticblue

I'm an attorney by day, fanfic writer by night. I have a husband, three spoiled cats, and a penchant for really good stories. If I'm not working, writing, or reading, I'm probably in the kitchen, whipping up a new recipe and drinking wine.

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