Stronger At the Broken Places- 6/6 – enigmaticblue

Title: Stronger At the Broken Places
Series: The Many Lives of Sirius Black
Author: enigmaticblue
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Established Relationship, Family, Romance, Time Travel
Relationship(s): Sirius Black/Remus Lupin
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Brief mention of consensual sexual contact between minors, but nothing graphic.
Author Notes: I will admit that I’m playing a bit fast and loose with the timeline, as well as using fanon that doesn’t exist in the books. Just roll with it, okay? Especially since JKR never took the time to explain how the government worked. If you haven’t read My Sun Sets to Rise, I hope the prologue gets you caught up.
Word Count: 175,920
Summary: It’s 1994, and Sirius has Remus and Harry. Sirius has cleared his name, and taken back his place in the wizarding world. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t all a little bit broken, and it doesn’t mean the world won’t try to break them anew.
Artist: germankitty



Part the Eleventh: In Which Sirius Faces His Foe

The next day, he and Remus floo to Grimmauld Place, and then they start putting together a plan. Sirius knows that he’ll have to do a certain amount of entertaining as the Minister for Magic, and he’ll have to put together a reception of some sort, probably sooner, rather than later.

“I think we should hire someone,” Remus says. “I don’t think either of us really want to plan these sorts of events.”

Sirius realizes that he has the perfect answer. “I’ll owl Narcissa. She’s partially responsible for this whole mess.”

“We should reach out to Augusta, too,” Remus replies. “Narcissa might need some help.”

Sirius nods. “I’ll owl her today. We should probably have a reception prior to the next session. It will give everyone an opportunity to tell me precisely why they disagree with the various parts of my bill.”

Remus laughs. “True. What else do we need to worry about?”

“We’ll need to set up an office at the Ministry,” Sirius says. “And figure out our schedule for the next month. My suspicion is that I’m going to be in a lot of meetings and fielding quite a few invitations.”

“I can take care of the estates,” Remus says. “I can take that off your plate.”

Sirius frowns. “You can, and I appreciate that, but don’t think I’m going to hide you away like some dirty secret. Even if I wanted to, which I don’t, I think that ship has already sailed, Moony.”

“Yes, and there are going to be plenty of invitations that will be for you, and not the both of us,” Remus replies. “And I’m fine with that, Padfoot.”

Sirius doesn’t really want to argue about it. “Fair point.”

He knows it’s going to be an adjustment. He’s never had an actual job before. The closest thing was his role in the Order during the previous war, but neither he nor James had never needed to work.

Granted, Sirius has the Black estates and business interests that have made the Blacks rich over the years. A lot of those interests could run just fine on their own, without much work from him. But some had languished before he and Remus started reviewing them.

Harry might have a sizable trust from the Potters, but Sirius wants to make sure that Harry inherits an estate that isn’t a burden.

He and Remus manage to divide the labor for at least the next two months, distinguishing between things that Remus can easily take care of, and those tasks that only Sirius can do as the head of the House of Black.

They also have a tentative schedule for the next month put together, and plans for setting up an office at the Ministry, all before Percy arrives.

As Remus predicted, Percy is noticeably anxious when Kreacher shows him into the parlor. “Lord Black,” he says, his voice breaking slightly. “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

Sirius can’t really say the same. The one and only time they’ve met in person was when he’d offered Percy a job, and he finds the young man rather irritating. He is, however, very detail-oriented and efficient, and he’d been instrumental in doing some of the research that supported Sirius’ new bill. But all other correspondence has been done via owl, so Sirius just hopes they can work well together.

“Have a seat,” Sirius invites. “I’m sure you heard the news yesterday.”

Percy clears his throat, sitting down on the very edge of the leather-covered chair. “I did, yes. I was—I wasn’t sure I would be hearing from you.”

Sirius drums his fingers on the arm of his own chair. “Yes, well, I’ve taken on a rather large job, and while Remus is very capable at taking care of my estates and the financial side of the House of Black, I’m going to need a secretary in my role as Minister.”

Percy’s eyes go wide. “Are you—are you asking me?”

“You’ve proven that you’re efficient, and you understand how the Ministry runs,” Sirius replies. “And I’m sure you can provide a buffer between me and the rest of the world when necessary.”

Percy’s head is already bobbing up and down. “Yes, of course, I’m honored, Minister Black. Just honored. You won’t regret it.”

Sirius already regrets it a bit, but he likes the Weasleys, and he knows providing a position like this for Percy will open other doors for the younger ones.

“See that I don’t,” Sirius replies. “I’ll need to set up my office at the Ministry, and provide a schedule to Auror Shacklebolt. He’ll be providing my security.”

Percy nods and produces a piece of parchment and a self-inking quill from his robes. “I’ll get started on that right away, Lord Black. I assume that you’ll want the office inspected for any sort of listening devices or hexes.”

Sirius is beginning to regret his choice a little less. “I do.”

“May I suggest using my brother’s services?” Percy asks. “I believe that Bill has done some work for you in the past. He’s not with the Ministry, and wouldn’t have any ulterior motives.”

“That is a very helpful suggestion,” Sirius replies. “If you would contact him, and let him know that we will be happy to pay the standard rate.”

Percy makes a note. “I’ll do that. It’s not unusual for a new Minister to take a couple of days to set up an office, so there’s really no rush.”

Sirius nods. “Will you get in touch with Director Bones and the other directors? I want to know what Fudge’s regular schedule looked like.”

Percy makes a note of that, too. “I know who his secretary was. She would probably know better than anyone.”

Sirius nods. “Is there any problem with asking her for that information?”

“I don’t think so, as long as I’m not asking any personal details,” Percy replies. “And you may not want to keep the same schedule as Fudge.”

“I probably won’t, but since this is the first time I’ll be doing the job, I’d at least like to have some idea of what people might expect,” Sirius replies.

Percy jots down another note. “I’ll do that, and create a proposed schedule for your approval.”

Sirius hands him the schedule that he and Remus had already written out. “You can use that for a starting point.”

Percy folds everything away. “I will have something for you by the end of the day, and should be able to tell you when your office will be ready.”

Percy might be an officious little swot, but his efficiency can’t be called into question, and Sirius knows that his assistance will be invaluable.

“Thank you,” Sirius says. “I very much appreciate your help.”

Percy preens a bit. “I won’t let you down, Minister Black. I know how important this opportunity is for me, and what it will do for my family.”

“Just do your best,” Sirius replies. “And let me know immediately if you run into any trouble.”

Percy bobs his head and then takes his leave.

“I think you made the right choice,” Remus comments. “He’s certainly efficient.”

Sirius nods a little ruefully. “If I let him manage me too much, let me know.”

“Who are you going to appoint as the Undersecretary to replace Umbridge?” Remus asks.

Sirius groans. “Bloody hell. I’m going to have to make appointments. I’m going to owl Augusta right now. Hopefully, she’ll have some ideas.”

“You could interview for the positions,” Remus points out. “Instead of giving them to the usual sorts.”

“You mean, not using nepotism and cronyism to fill the spots with pureblood candidates?” Sirius asks, amused. “You’re right, and I will. In fact, if I make an effort to appoint Muggle-borns, that should set someone’s hair on fire.”

Remus grins. “It would be a grand prank. Normally, you would be expected to appoint those who helped you get the position.”

“With no thought for well they’ll fit the role,” Sirius comments. “I’m aware. That’s not going to happen with me.”

“I wouldn’t have expected anything else,” Remus replies. “But that will shake things up.”

“I warned them what kind of Minister I’d be,” Sirius says implacably. “They can get upset, but they can’t say I didn’t warn them.”

Remus smirks. “I have a feeling that you’ll be saying that a lot.”

“As often as I need to say it,” Sirius replies.

~~~~~

Sirius gets a letter from Augusta the following day, suggesting they meet soon, and providing the names of people who might be able to help plan events. Narcissa immediately agrees to help, and says she has her own event planner that she’ll bring along to the meeting.

He knows why Narcissa likes this woman immediately when they enter the parlor. Both are dressed impeccably in fashionable robes, not a hair out of place, although the event planner is bubbly and probably in her early 20’s. Melody Flint greets each of them enthusiastically and by name. “Lord Black, Mr. Lupin, it’s very nice to meet you. When Mrs. Malfoy contacted me about your needs, I couldn’t have been more honored.”

“Thank you for agreeing to help us,” Sirius replies. “Obviously, we know we need to throw a party—“

“Have an event,” Narcissa corrects him. “This is more important than just a party, Siri.”

Sirius rolls his eyes. “Fine, an event.”

“You avoided this when you first took your title,” Narcissa reminds him.

“I went to the Quidditch World Cup, and I went to the reception to announce my heir, and I caught a Death Eater,” Sirius counters. “I feel like that was an event in and of itself.”

Narcissa sighs. “It certainly set the stage for the things that were to come.” She hesitates. “After this meeting, I’d like to speak to you about a private matter, cousin.”

Sirius nods. “Of course. Whatever you need.”

Melody takes out her parchment and quill, and she begins to take notes. “What sort of tone would you like to strike, Lord Black?”

Sirius glances at Narcissa. “What do you think?”

“Elegant, and classic,” Narcissa says firmly. “You ought to remind people that you’re the head of an ancient and noble house.”

“Right before I shake things up?” Sirius asks, amused.

“They voted for you because they believed you would strike a balance,” Narcissa replies crisply. “Between the old and the new, and they didn’t want to be on your bad side.”

Sirius smirks. “I suppose having a reputation as a dangerous man works in my favor.”

“It certainly didn’t hurt,” Narcissa says.

“We can nod to that reputation with the decorations,” Melody comments. “Where are you going to hold this reception?”

Sirius hesitates. “This place doesn’t have the room, and I’m not comfortable opening Black Manor to the public.”

“We can hold it at Malfoy Manor,” Narcissa offers. “To show that we’ve buried the hatchet.”

Sirius shakes his head. “While I appreciate the offer, if I’m going to strike a balance, holding the reception at Malfoy Manor would not set the right tone.”

“What about the atrium of the Ministry?” Melody suggests. “It’s neutral ground, and doesn’t open your home to the general public. We could easily provide food and entertainment, and holding it in the evening would allow a number of people to attend.”

Sirius nods. “I like that idea.”

Melody smiles brightly. “Excellent. I’ve put together a few receptions at the Ministry in the last few years.”

Narcissa looks a bit displeased, probably because it would have been quite a coup to hold the reception for the new minister. Sirius isn’t going to change his mind, though; he doesn’t think holding the reception at Malfoy Manor will send the right message. Perhaps, if he and Remus had found a different place, but there isn’t enough time now.

Having determined the location, Melody quickly comes up with a plan. She asks about favorite foods and beverages, suggests decorations and color schemes—black and silver—and comes up with a plan.

“Do you have a guest list?” Melody asks.

Sirius shrugs. “All the Wizengamot members, but beyond that, no.”

“I can provide the guest list,” Narcissa says. “And I promise that I won’t limit it to purebloods.”

Sirius knows that Narcissa is in the best position to create a guest list. She knows all the right people, and she’ll know who ought to attend, or at least be invited. “Thank you for your help.”

“Of course,” Narcissa says. “Someone has to make sure that this event is one to remember.”

“Hopefully for good reasons,” Remus mutters under his breath.

Narcissa ignores the comment. “When are you going to set up your office?”

“Percy Weasley assures me that it will be ready tomorrow,” Sirius replies easily. “I wanted to be sure that there aren’t any surprises waiting for me.”

Narcissa nods. “That’s smart. Who are you going to appoint?”

“I thought I might interview people,” Sirius replies with a smile. “Change things up.”

Narcissa’s sigh is audible. “That will certainly keep things interesting.”

Melody smiles brightly. “Well, I think I have everything I need. I’ll finalize the details and send it to you for your approval, Lord Black.”

Sirius rises and shakes her hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” she replies.

Remus also rises. “I’ll show you out, and then I have some errands to run.”

Sirius appreciates his discretion, and Narcissa says, “Thank you, Mr. Lupin.”

Remus nods, and then leaves Sirius and Narcissa alone. “What did you want to speak with me about?” Sirius asks curiously.

Narcissa takes a deep breath. “I was wondering if you would be willing to host Draco this summer.”

Sirius blinks. “For how long?”

“That would depend on how long you’re willing to have him,” Narcissa says. “I’m assuming that you’ll spend at least part of the summer in France.”

Sirius isn’t surprised that she knows about the farmhouse. Narcissa would have visited at least a few times before their grandmother died. “That’s the plan, yes. Harry made a friend there this past summer, and he’s excited to see him again.”

“So I’ve heard,” Narcissa replies quietly. “Harry mentioned Lionel when speaking about the Yule Ball and his date.”

Sirius leans back in his seat and regards Narcissa for a long moment. “I can’t make this decision alone, you know. I’ll need to speak with Remus and Harry about it.”

“I realize that.” Narcissa takes a sip of tea. “I suppose you want to know why.”

Sirius already knows why. “You want to present a different path to success, other than following in his father’s footsteps. The fact that I’ve gone from a murderer to Minister of Magic in such a short period of time makes my position more palatable than it might have been otherwise.”

“My husband still believes that the Dark Lord will return,” Narcissa replies, “but I do not. I’ve seen enough to know that you would not allow that to happen.”

“I’m taking steps to ensure that he can’t come back,” Sirius confirms. “What makes you think that Draco would even enjoy spending time with us this summer?”

“I didn’t say he would enjoy it,” Narcissa says with dark humor. “In fact, I suspect that he will whine about it, and will make a thorough pain of himself. I’m doing it for his own good.”

Sirius is fairly certain that Harry will agree to it, as will Remus. “Have you spoken to Harry already?” he asks.

“I may have asked Harry if he would mind if Draco spent some time with you this summer, to give him an alternative role model,” Narcissa admits. “Harry said that he would be open to the idea, providing that Draco behaved himself.”

Sirius can’t argue with a mother’s desire to save her child, and he knows that’s what Harry is responding to as well. Harry might not like Draco on a personal level, but he’s kind, and Sirius suspects that he’d prefer that no one ever be marked again.

“I’ll talk to him over the next Hogsmeade weekend,” Sirius promises.

“I think Harry and Draco could learn quite a bit from each other,” Narcissa comments. “Thank you for considering it, Sirius.”

Sirius smiles. “And what will you do if Draco does spend the summer with us, cousin?”

Narcissa hesitates. “I plan on spending some time traveling. Staying in England would be…difficult.”

Sirius can only imagine what it’s like to be the wife of a marked Death Eater, accused of an assault against the new Minister of Magic.

Plus, to know that your husband will be in Azkaban for the next five years, with little ability to visit him, would probably be fairly difficult as well.

“I understand,” Sirius replies. “I’ll do what I can for Draco. He is family, after all.”

Narcissa stands. “Thank you for your consideration, Siri.”

“Of course.” Sirius walks her to the door. “I appreciate your assistance today, Cissy.”

“You needed the help,” Narcissa replies, gently teasing, and busses him on the cheek. “I’ll see you soon.”

Sirius is indulging in a glass of wine when Remus returns from his errand, whatever those happen to be. “Do you want a glass?”

“I hate to let you drink alone,” Remus replies, and accepts the glass that Sirius pours for him. “What did your cousin want, or is it confidential?”

“She wanted to ask if Draco could spend part or perhaps all of the summer with us,” Sirius replies, “so it’s hardly confidential. I told her I’d have to ask you about it anyway.”

Remus takes a sip of wine, looking at the dark red color. “This is a good vintage.”

“It was from the cellar,” Sirius replies. “I can fault my parents for many things, but not their taste in wines.”

“To answer the question you didn’t ask, I wouldn’t mind having Draco stay with us, but I’m not sure Harry or Draco would say the same,” Remus comments.

“I told her that I’d have to ask Harry before I could agree, and I don’t think Narcissa cares about what Draco wants,” Sirius replies, amused. “She warned me that he’d likely be a giant pain in the arse.”

Remus chuckles. “I think that’s a given.”

Sirius sighs. “Things are about to get very busy for us, Moony.”

Remus just gives him a soft smile. “Maybe, but we’re talking about changing the world.”

“Or at least our corner of it,” Sirius says.

~~~~~

The next Hogsmeade weekend comes up before the event, and he and Remus follow their usual schedule of arriving at the Three Broomsticks in time for lunch. Sirius has cleared his schedule for the day, so he can spend as much time as he likes with Harry, but this particular visit also includes the accompaniment of three Aurors for protection.

Sirius had protested mightily, but Shacklebolt insisted, and Remus backed him up. Sirius has realized that he’s going to have to accept protection whether he likes it or not.

And while he definitely doesn’t like it, it seems he’s stuck with it for the meantime.

Sirius asks Rosmerta for a private room, and Shacklebolt says, “Is there anyone other than your son that you’re expecting?”

“He might bring some friends,” Sirius replies, “although he didn’t mention any. Anyone who’s with Harry should be considered a friend, though.”

Shacklebolt nods. “We’ll let him in when he arrives, then.”

“Thank you, Kingsley,” Sirius replies. “I hope you’ll get something to eat while you’re here as well.”

“We’ll see,” Kingsley replies enigmatically.

The small room has a decent sized wooden table with six chairs, lit by candles in sconces all along the walls. The wooden floors have been recently polished, so they reflect the glow of light, and the whole room has a welcoming feel.

Sirius is glad of it, because he doesn’t think this conversation is going to be terribly comfortable. At least the room will be cozy.

They order butterbeers and wait for Harry to arrive.

The last two weeks have been busy. Sirius has a steep learning curve when it comes to learning the ins and outs of the job, and there had been a lot of meetings. He’s not particularly glad to have been handed the position, but he can see the potential of what he can do.

Sirius hasn’t started shaking things up yet, but he has plans.

Harry arrives alone, and he looks relaxed for the most part. “Hey, Dad, Uncle Moony,” Harry says, hugging each of them in turn. “How’s the job going?”

 

“I’d say that I don’t love working for a living, but that would be a lie,” Sirius replies. “I kind of enjoy being in charge.”

Harry smirks. “Good. I like that you are in charge.”

“There was actually something that I wanted to talk to you about,” Sirius begins.

“Is this about Cousin Narcissa’s request that Draco—I mean, Malfoy—stays with us this summer?” Harry asks as Sirius passes him a butter beer.

“It is,” Sirius replies. “She did mention talking to you about it first.”

Harry flushes. “Yeah, she said something about it.”

Remus frowns. “Are you okay with it, Harry?”

“Yeah, sure,” Harry says quickly. “I mean, it’s supposed to help him, right?”

There’s something more to Harry’s quick acceptance, and Sirius wants to get to the bottom of it. “Harry, we aren’t going to allow him to stay unless you’re okay with it.”

“As long as he isn’t a total prat to your or Uncle Moony, it’s fine,” Harry says.

Sirius can’t quite put his finger on Harry’s emotional state. “Pup, I’m going to need you to be really honest with me. I’m not going to agree to have Draco stay with us if you’re not okay with it.”

“I’m not not okay with it,” Harry hedges, flushing a bit.

Sirius thinks he knows what’s going on, but he wants to hear it from Harry’s mouth. “I need you to use your words.”

Harry shifts in his seat. “I—Draco’s not so bad.”

Remus cuts straight to the chase. “You mean that you have a crush on him, but you’re not sure he’s a good person, and you have no idea why you’re physically attracted to him.”

Harry glares at him. “How did you know?”

“I’ve been there,” Remus says.

Sirius looks at him, feeling a bit betrayed. “Really?”

Remus snorts. “Don’t be so egocentric, Pads. I wasn’t talking about you. I had a life when you were in Azkaban, you know.”

“I did know, but I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Sirius replies, knowing that he sounds huffy. He’s feeling a little huffy.

Remus rolls his eyes. “There was another werewolf. We had slightly different views about what being a werewolf was all about.”

“He was in a pack,” Sirius guesses.

“And he wanted to increase the numbers of the pack,” Remus confirms. “When he bit someone without their permission, I broke things off. That didn’t change my feelings for him, though, or the fact that I thought he was attractive.”

Harry’s expression is one of relief. “So, how did you get over it?”

“Oh, I didn’t, not really,” Remus replies candidly. “I slept with him a couple of times when our paths crossed after we broke up. And then I had Sirius back, so I’ve made my choice.”

Harry wears a confused expression. “What do I do about it?”

“What do you want to do about it?” Sirius counters. “You can avoid him, to see if your feelings go away. In that case, I’ll tell Narcissa that it won’t work this summer.”

Harry shakes his head decisively. “No, I think that it would do Draco good to get out of England. Other than Blaise, I don’t think the other Slytherins have been very nice to him.”

Sirius notices that Harry isn’t even pretending to call Draco by anything other than his first name. “So, we’re going to invite Draco to stay with us. How do you want to handle it? Do you know if Draco feels the same way?”

Harry shakes his head. “I have no idea. I mean, we don’t actually talk much.”

Sirius raises his eyebrows.

“We aren’t doing any of that, either,” Harry says, exasperated.

“Then we’ll invite Draco to stay with us, and you can figure out how you feel,” Sirius replies easily. “I’ve found that living with someone tends to clarify matters in a hurry.”

“But you don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a crush on Draco?” Harry asks anxiously. “I mean, he’s not Lionel.”

“Do you still have feelings for Lionel?” Remus asks gently.

Harry shrugs. “I don’t know. Is that bad?”

“You can have feelings for multiple people at once,” Sirius says quietly. “And those feelings can be strong, sometimes equally strong. The important thing is to be very clear and honest with your partners and make sure everybody is on the same page.”

Harry squirms uncomfortably. “Partners?”

“Some people are happy with a single person, and others aren’t,” Sirius says simply. “You’ll figure it out as you go along. There’s no right answer, as long as you’re being honest.”

Harry stares down at the table. “But my parents just had each other.”

“True,” Sirius replies. “But you aren’t James, and you aren’t Lily. You don’t have to make the same choices they did, and there’s nothing wrong with that. James was as straight as they come, but he never held our preferences against us.”

Harry drags his fingers through the condensation the bottle of butter beer has left on the table. “So, this is normal?”

“Having crushes on people that you’re not sure you even like?” Remus asks, amused. “Yes, Harry. Attraction isn’t something we can always control. You might end up having a lot of crushes over the years. Or maybe you find the one, and you’ll stick with them. You don’t have to get married straight out of Hogwarts—or ever, for that matter.”

Sirius clears his throat. “Excuse you. Harry is going to need an heir—at least one, if not two.”

“Are you opposed to adoption?” Harry asks, amused.

“Not even a little bit,” Sirius replies easily. “Just keep that requirement in mind.”

Harry laughs. “Yeah, okay, Dad.”

“Don’t laugh,” Sirius orders. “I’m serious.”

“You’re always Sirius,” Harry shoots back immediately.

Sirius grins at him. “The point still stands.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Fine. I’m on the hook for at least two kids, one each for the Blacks and the Potters.”

“Good,” Sirius replies. “I’ll let Narcissa know that Draco is welcome to spend the summer with us.”

“As long as he’s not a prat to you or Uncle Moony, or Lionel,” Harry says.

“And if he’s a prat, you can call him out and tell him to knock it off,” Remus replies. “I suspect that some of it is reflex on his part.”

“Probably, having met his dad, unfortunately,” Harry mutters.

Sirius smiles. “I think Narcissa will probably give him an earful before he shows up.”

“I guess we’ll see,” Harry mutters.

“Was that what you wanted to talk to me about?” Sirius asks.

Harry nods. “Yeah, that was pretty much it. How did Grandfather react to the news that you were Minister?”

“He was pleased,” Sirius admits. “You were right about that.”

Harry grins at him. “I always like hearing that. Hermione never lets me be right.”

“Oh, I’m sure that you’re often right, it’s just that Hermione lands on the right answer faster,” Remus assures him. “How have classes been so far?”

Harry launches into a story about his Ancient Runes class, and Sirius leans in, wanting to catch every word.

When they’ve finished lunch, and Harry says, “I should probably get going. Thanks for coming.”

Sirius hugs him tightly. “I was glad to see you today, Harry.”

“I was glad to see you, too,” Harry says. “You, too, Uncle Moony.”

Remus hugs him just as tightly. “Remember, Harry, your choices are your own, and there’s nothing wrong with being attracted to someone. If you don’t like their actions, you can break it off. You can’t control anyone else, just yourself, and your own choices.”

Harry nods. “Thanks. This was—really helpful.”

Remus kisses the top of his head. “I’m glad.”

Harry gives Sirius a final hug, and then he’s out the door.

Remus looks at Sirius. “So, are you mad?”

Sirius shakes his head. “Why would I be mad? You had a life, and I’m glad you had a life. That you could use that to help Harry is just icing on the cake.”

“I love you,” Remus says quietly. “I hope you know that.”

“I do know that,” Sirius replies, “and I couldn’t do this without you.”

Remus pulls him in for a hug. “I know.”

Sirius just has to laugh at that.

~~~~~

“How have you been settling in, Sirius?” Augusta asks, taking a seat across from his desk.

Sirius waves at the room. “As you can see, I have my office set up. I suppose you’re partially to blame for this.”

Augusta smiles serenely. “I knew you didn’t want the position.”

Sirius frowns. “So, you decide to go ahead and campaign for me anyway?”

“Yes, because you didn’t want the position,” Augusta reiterates. “Other Ministers, they’ve been interested in power, in maintaining their position. You aren’t.”

“No, because I never wanted it in the first place!” Sirius protests.

“Yes,” Augusta says impatiently. “Which means you’ll do what you think is best without worrying about keeping the position. That’s why people voted for you, Sirius. You spoke passionately about making the world better for your son, about allowing others the freedom to pursue their own traditions.”

Sirius sighs. “Yes, well, I wasn’t expecting you and Narcissa to gang up on me.”

“We both had the same goal—to make sure there was a minister we trusted,” Augusta replies. “How is Harry doing with the changes?”

Sirius shrugs. “Fine. He said he felt safer.”

“As he should,” Augusta replies. “I hear you’re planning to attend the third task.”

“Amos Diggory asked me to come, and I’d never pass up a chance to see Harry,” Sirius admits.

Augusta smiles. “How hard was it for you to let Harry go back to Hogwarts?”

“Harder than I’d like to admit,” Sirius admits. “I think my grandfather was judging me on going to Hogsmeade weekends.”

“He doesn’t get to judge,” Augusta says with some asperity. “I remember seeing you with Harry at his first birthday. You were as besotted with that boy as his parents were.”

“He’s my kid in every way but blood,” Sirius replies.

“With the magical adoption, he’s as much yours as he was Lily and James’,” Augusta reminds him. “Now, what are your plans?”

“Do you know what a mess the Ministry is in financially?” Sirius asks. “What I found out before I took office was just the tip of the iceberg. It’s much worse than I thought. It’s no wonder that I had to fund the DMLE.”

“Where is the money going?” Augusta asks.

Sirius shakes his head. “No idea yet, but we’re working on tracking it down. My best guess is that someone was embezzling.”

“Fudge?” Augusta asks.

Sirius shrugs. “Or maybe other Ministry employees. I’ve instituted an audit, and deep dives into all Ministry employees’ financials. Plus, I’m pretty sure there are other Death Eaters here, and I want to root them out as well. I don’t want to put them in Azkaban necessarily, but I don’t want them in the Ministry either.”

“Fair enough,” Augusta replies. “I do think we need to talk about Harry’s birthday.”

“That’s not until July,” Sirius protests.

“And Neville would like to have a joint birthday party,” Augusta counters. “Which means you’ll need to decide now whether that’s something you want to deal with.”

Sirius frowns. “Why wouldn’t I? Neville is Harry’s godbrother.”

“You didn’t take Narcissa up on her offer to use Malfoy Manor for the reception,” Augusta points out.

Sirius shrugs. “Because that was about my position as Minister of Magic. This is about my kid. And if he and Neville want to have a joint birthday party, I’m all for it. It would be good for Harry, and I know Neville has been supportive of him this year.”

“I hear from Neville that Harry and Draco Malfoy are becoming friendlier,” Augusta comments.

Sirius will neither confirm nor deny. “They are technically related at this point.”

“They were related before,” Augusta says placidly. “But something has changed.”

“Draco joined Harry’s study group,” Sirius admits. “He’s been tutoring other students in Potions, and apparently doing a really good job.”

Augusta hums thoughtfully. “I see.”

Sirius shrugs. “Harry is young yet, and we all have crushes when we’re young, appropriate or not.”

Augusta laughs. “That’s true enough. Very well, I suspect that this is going to be an event, due to your position. We’ll have to decide how we want to deal with that.”

Sirius shakes his head. “No, no way. I’m not using Harry as a political tool, or making his birthday party a political event. I want him to have a normal birthday party with his friends.”

Augusta smiles. “I was hoping you’d say that. Well, then, we’ll invite their friends but won’t treat it any differently than a normal birthday party.”

“Harry has barely had a birthday party,” Sirius says. “I had to convince him to have what little celebration he did last year.”

Augusta reaches out and puts a hand on his arm. “Sirius, you can’t blame yourself. If they’d followed procedures, you wouldn’t have been separated from him.”

“If I hadn’t gone after Peter—“

“Put that thought out of your mind,” Augusta advises. “Pettigrew might have decided to come after Harry. Had you thought of that?”

Sirius nods. “I think about that every day. I think about what might happen if he decides to come after Harry for whatever reason, and I wish he really had died in that explosion. At least then my time in Azkaban might have been worth something.”

Augusta gives him a sharp look. “Your time in Azkaban helped make you the man that you are today, and that man is a good father, and the Minister of Magic.”

He can’t quite imagine the man he might have been had he not gone to Azkaban. There had been that other life, the one where he’d taken Harry and escaped, and he still has those memories.

Even if it has made him into the man he is today, Sirius still resents losing that time more than words can even express. He lost too much not to resent it.

Then again, he has a position where he wields actual power, and he can use that to take care of Harry. Sirius never would have sought this position if he didn’t need to protect Harry and Remus.

“I don’t love the inside of my own head most days, I’ll be honest,” Sirius replies.

“We all have our demons, Minister Black,” Augusta replies.

Sirius sighs. “Why didn’t you put your own name in for minister? You would be formidable, and would probably do a better job than I will.”

Augusta raises her eyebrows. “You forget that I have a formidable reputation as someone who has gone up against the pureblood contingent. Your grandfather was known as a stalwart supporter of pureblood politics, even if he never followed Voldemort.”

Sirius rubs his eyes. “I’m not Arcturus.”

“And that’s a good thing,” Augusta replies. “I liked your grandfather, but we didn’t agree on much. Look, Sirius, you might not realize it, but you gave people a compelling vision of the future, one without Voldemort, where pureblood families can co-exist peaceably with others. You spoke about a future that nearly everyone can believe in, unless they’re a Death Eater, and most of them are in Azkaban now.”

Sirius clears his throat. “I want to get rid of the Dementors.”

“I don’t blame you,” Augusta replies. “But the Dementors have always been effective at guarding Azkaban in the past.”

Sirius shakes his head. “I know that, but they’re dark creatures. And the people who go into Azkaban don’t come out any better than they were when they went in. They might end up worse.”

Augusta slumps. “I don’t disagree.”

“That’s for later, though,” Sirius says. “Right now, we should probably talk about our next steps in the Wizengamot.”

“We should,” Augusta agrees. “I think we should probably start with the provisions regarding the education at Hogwarts.”

“That’s going to be the easiest sell,” Sirius agrees. “Also, I’m probably going to appoint you to a position in retaliation.”

Augusta raises her eyebrows. “And what position would that be?”

“What position do you want? Undersecretary?”

She snorts. “No, thank you. You should appoint a Muggle-born, or at least a half-blood to the position.”

“I plan on interviewing candidates,” Sirius admits. “But I’m giving an edge to Muggle-borns and half-bloods.”

Augusta nods. “The important thing is that you appear to give consideration to all candidates.”

“And I will,” Sirius replies. “If a pureblood candidate is the best one for the job, then I’ll hire them, but all things being equal, they won’t get any extra consideration from me.”

“I still think you should appoint someone other than a pureblood as the Undersecretary,” Augusta says.

“Can I appoint Remus?” Sirius jokes.

She snorts. “No, but I have a couple of people in mind.”

“I’m all ears,” Sirius replies.

Augusta pulls out a piece of parchment. “I’ve written down their names, and I’ve encouraged them to contact you for an interview.”

Sirius glances at the five names, none of them familiar, but four out of the five are women. “You’ve been mentoring them.”

“Or those I’ve mentored have,” Augusta admits.

“I’ll interview them, but I won’t interview just them,” Sirius says. “I’m not engaging of favoritism of any sort.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything else,” Augusta replies. “But Sirius, you’re the Minister now, and you can make real changes. Don’t let regret hold you back.”

“I won’t,” Sirius promises.

“Good,” Augusta replies. “I’ll be here to help you.”

Sirius gives her a look. “You just wanted to be the power behind the throne.”

“Don’t start thinking about it like a throne,” Augusta orders. “Because it isn’t.”

“A metaphor only,” Sirius assures her.

“Then let’s talk about the rest of the bill,” Augusta replies.

~~~~~

Sirius feels as though his eyes are going to start bleeding if he has to keep reading the reports Percy has put together. They might be invaluable, but Sirius is missing his days of freedom.

“What are you doing?” Remus asks, poking his head into the office. “You should be getting changed. The reception is about to start.”

“What reception?” Sirius asks, bewildered.

Remus rolls his eyes and steps inside, shutting the door behind him, and then locking it. “Sirius, the reception for you. As Minister of Magic?”

Sirius glances at the calendar. “Is that today?”

“It’s a good thing that I took it upon myself to make sure you had clothing here for the occasion,” Remus replies, sounding mildly exasperated.

Sirius smiles at him. “What would I do without you?”

“I don’t want to know,” Remus teases. “But you still need to get changed.”

Sirius gets dressed quickly, but he says, “You know, I have this fantasy about you and my desk—“

“Some other time,” Remus says firmly. “Since it’s your reception, your absence will be noticed.”

“We could be fashionably late,” Sirius argues.

“Stop procrastinating,” Remus orders. “We can take this up again once we’re home, behind the wards, and with no danger of your secretary knocking on the door.”

Sirius has to admit that Remus has a point. “Fine. But you’re going down with me.”

“I thought we agreed—“

“We agreed that we didn’t want to make a public statement,” Sirius says, cutting him off. “But you’re my friend and the chamberlain to the House of Black. Let everyone think you’re keeping me in check. I don’t care.”

Remus gives him a long, searching look. “You know people are going to notice, and probably draw the correct conclusions.”

“And I’m not sure I care,”  Sirius admits. “I got to this position without dangling the possibility of marriage in front of anyone. Harry is my adopted son. I think I get to decide who I’m going to be spending time with, and I’m also very sure that I don’t care how anyone else feels about that.”

Remus nods, pressing a kiss to Sirius’ lips. “All right. But let’s save the displays of affection for private.”

“I didn’t say that I was going to engage in a relationship in public, Moony,” Sirius says. “Just that I wasn’t going to pretend that you meant nothing to me.”

Melody has done an excellent job with the reception, Sirius can see as soon as the elevator doors open. There are tables of food, as well as floating trays of drinks making their way through the crowd. The whole atrium is lit with candles and lanterns, lending an intimate feel to the proceedings.

Sirius abruptly realizes that he hasn’t eaten much. “I’m starving,” he says, just as he sees three Wizengamot members making a beeline for him.

“I’ll get us each a plate,” Remus murmurs and melts away.

Greengrass is the first to reach him. “I heard that you were only calling for a debate on one section of your bill.”

Sirius shrugs. “Well, it’s a lengthy bill, and it seemed prudent to take it in smaller chunks.”

“A schooling provision,” Greengrass presses. “Nothing about werewolves.” He shoots a look Remus’ ways and Sirius looks. Remus is still filling a couple of plates with remarkable dexterity.

“I already made a statement about werewolves by offering Wolfsbane through my charitable foundation,” Sirius counters. “I fail to see your point.”

Greengrass frowns. “I thought you’d be a crusader.”

“Disappointed?” Sirius asks. “Did you think I’d push things so hard that you’d be able to get rid of me and replace me with a candidate of your choice?”

Greengrass shifts uncomfortably, as do his two companions, and while Sirius should really remember their names, he doesn’t. He’s hungry and out of sorts, and he just wants to go home. “And if I say yes?”

“Then I will wish you luck,” Sirius says cheerfully. “Whether I’m Minister of Magic or not, I’ll still keep pushing for my agenda, but in my own time. They say slow and steady wins the race.”

Remus reappears with a couple of plates. “Director Bones wants a word.”

“If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen,” Sirius says, and follows Remus. “Does Amelia really want to see me?”

“I think she could see that you needed a rescue,” Remus admits, leading the way through the glittering crowd as Sirius murmurs his own greetings. He knows how to work a crowd, but he’s no longer practiced at it. “You seemed to be holding your own, though.”

“I think some of the people who voted for me thought I’d try to ram my reforms down their throat, and then they could use that as an excuse to get rid of me.” Sirius smirks. “I told them I was taking my time.”

“Which will just keep them off balance and guessing,” Remus observes.

“That’s the plan,” Sirius replies. “Director Bones, thank you for coming.”

Amelia presses his hand in both of hers. “It’s my pleasure, Minister. Congratulations, again.”

“I look forward to supporting the DMLE in however many years to come where I’m Minister,” Sirius says, and takes a bite of some tiny pastry. He hums in pleasure. “This is quite good.”

“Melody outdid herself,” Remus agrees, and then adds for Amelia’s benefit, “Our event planner.”

“I’ll need her name and contact information,” Amelia replies. “I was planning on throwing a birthday party for my partner, and something like this would be ideal.”

Sirius raises his eyebrows. “I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.”

Amelia shakes her head. “No, she’s a researcher with a private potions lab, and she detests Ministry events.”

“Well, I hope to meet her at some point,” Sirius says politely.

“You’ll be receiving an invitation to the party,” Amelia replies, sounding amused. “I know that you’ll actually be an entertaining guest.” She glances at Remus. “You, too. I know you get left off invitations a lot.”

Remus glances down at the floor. “Ah, well. I don’t mind. Much like your partner, I’m not one for events like this one.”

“I hope you’ll consider coming to our party,” Amelia replies.

“It’s a party being thrown by a friend, isn’t it?” Remus asks. “That’s a completely different matter.”

Amelia’s smile is warm. “Exactly so.”

Sirius continues to eat during the conversation because he’s starving, and if he doesn’t eat something, he’s not going to be good for much this evening.

“Go find a quiet corner and finish your meal,” Remus says in an undertone.

Sirius shakes his head. “They’ll just find me there. If you two could look like we’re having a very serious conversation, they might leave us alone long enough for me to get something substantial.”

“Did you eat anything today?” Remus asks.

“A pastry for breakfast, but I don’t think I remembered lunch,” Sirius admits between bites.

Remus gives him a fondly exasperated look. “Padfoot, do I have to tell Percy to remind you to eat?”

“I was in meetings all day, Moony,” Sirius protests. “One missed meal isn’t going to kill me.”

Remus frowns at him, and while he doesn’t say anything right now, Sirius knows he’s going to hear about it later.

“You should keep snacks in your office, or even a few sandwiches under a stasis charm,” Amelia advises. “If you have food close to hand, it’s easier to take a few minutes to grab something.”

Remus smiles. “I’ll stick Cordy on it.”

Sirius groans. “Moony, she’s going to hover.”

“Good, you apparently need it,” Remus replies as Sirius clears his plate. “Do you want more?”

“I do, but I’ll grab it,” Sirius says easily. “Can I get you anything?”

Remus shakes his head. “No, I’m good. Thanks.”

As Sirius walks away, he overhears Amelia say in a low voice, “He’s a good man.”

“He is,” Remus agrees. “I’m very lucky.”

Sirius thinks he’s the lucky one. He fills his plate up again, and sees Tiberius Ogden making a beeline for him.

He sighs. Once more into the breach.

“I’ll apologize for eating in front of you,” Sirius says, “but I won’t be fit company without some food.”

Ogden waves off his apology. “It’s your reception, and I know that there are days when you don’t have time to eat. I wanted to talk to you about your bill.”

“We’re taking things slowly,” Sirius replies. “We’re debating the educational provision at the next session.”

Ogden snorts. “You’re not taking things slowly. You’re revolutionizing things before anyone can tell what you’re doing.”

Sirius takes a bite of a tea sandwich in lieu of reply.

Ogden gives him a knowing look. “If the others are too blind to see it, I won’t be the one enlightening them. What you’re doing is making incremental changes, but fundamental ones.”

“I’m giving people a chance,” Sirius replies. “What they make of that chance is up to them.”

“Well said,” Ogden replies. “You’re easing them into it.”

Sirius smirks. “That’s the idea.” He pops another savory tartlet in his mouth. He thinks it might be salmon and leek.

Ogden tilts his head. “I look forward to seeing what you do, Minister Black. If nothing else, it should be entertaining.”

Ogden might be a troll, but Sirius kind of likes him. “Harry did point out that I can prank the entire country as Minister.”

The other man laughs. “I think I’d like your son.”

“I’m pretty fond of him myself,” Sirius replies.

“Good luck, Minister,” Ogden says.

Sirius grabs one more tartlet on his way back to Remus, who’s now speaking with Narcissa and someone he vaguely recognizes from the Department of Mysteries.

“Ah, Sirius,” Narcissa says cheerfully. “Do you know Broderick Bode? He’s an Unspeakable.”

“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure yet,” Sirius replies cheerfully, holding out a hand for Bode to shake. The man is sallow-faced and looks a bit dour.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Minister Black. I was present during your first briefing, and I appreciated your remarks on the importance of our research,” Bode replies.

“I believe what I said,” Sirius replies. “That true breakthroughs could happen through the research you do, including breakthroughs in curing spell damage.”

Bode perks up at that. “Is that an interest of yours, Lord Black?”

“My son’s godmother and her husband are currently in St. Mungo’s long-term spell damage ward,” Sirius replies. “Neville has been deprived of his parents, and Harry was deprived of an appropriate guardian while I was—indisposed.”

Bode nods. “There aren’t many who are interested in that sort of research.”

“My son is,” Sirius replies. “But it’s going to be a few years before he’s ready to start working.”

Bode smiles. “I look forward to seeing what he can do.”

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur. He meets a number of people, and tries to make a mental note of their names, using various mnemonic tricks that his grandfather had taught him. Names paired up with occupations or something memorable about them.

By the time the reception winds down, Sirius is absolutely exhausted, and more than ready to go home. He floos to Grimmauld Place, and then to Black Manor, with Remus following behind him.

“Tiberius Ogden is a troll,” Sirius comments, throwing himself into a chair in the library. He wants a little time to unwind, and he has a glass of fire whiskey to help him do just that.

Remus sits in the chair across from him, his own glass in hand. “Oh?”

“He knows exactly what I’m doing, and he’s watching for the entertainment value,” Sirius replies.

“That just proves he has two brain cells to rub together,” Remus replies dryly. “Only an idiot would not realize what you’re doing.”

“They think I’m going to go after my agenda full speed ahead,” Sirius says with a grin. “And because they’re expecting me to go full reformer, they’re too busy looking for my hidden agenda to notice my actual agenda.”

“Besides, you’re just creating opportunities,” Remus comments. “I thought the reception went well.”

Sirius smiles. “I thought it did, too. That’s one more thing out of the way.”

“How are you doing?” Remus asks.

Sirius shrugs. “I’m tired, and I know how much I have to do, and I need to get a handle on my schedule. Otherwise, I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine,” Remus replies. “But you will be. I’ll make sure of it.”

“I couldn’t do this without you,” Sirius says. “Thank you for being there tonight.”

“I’m with you in this, Pads,” Remus promises. “You’re going to be a great Minister.”

Sirius smirks at him. “It’s a low bar, Moony.”

“I’m not comparing you to anyone else,” Remus says severely. “I’m telling you that you’re going to be a good Minister. Also, I’m definitely putting Cordy on you.”

Sirius sighs. “Missing one meal—“

“You were malnourished after Azkaban, and I’m not going to let you put the gains you’ve made in jeopardy,” Remus interrupts, sounding stern.

“Moony—“

“You get cranky when you’re hungry,” Remus reminds him. “And you can’t afford to be cranky.”

Sirius knows when to bow to the inevitable. “Fine. Send Cordy with my lunch.”

“And you’re eating breakfast, too,” Remus says severely.

“And you can make sure I eat dinner, as long as you’re not out,” Sirius replies.

Remus smirks. “I have Cordy for that, too.”

“I’m going to wind up being known as the Minister henpecked by his partner and his house elves,” Sirius complains.

“Problem with that?” Remus asks archly.

Sirius grins at him. “No, not at all.”

~~~~~

Sirius is still getting used to the new schedule a month later. He has meetings, and there are reports to review and he no longer has the time he used to have. There are constant invitations, and constant scrutiny.

He hadn’t really viewed Black Manor as a refuge before, but it is now.

When the next Wizengamot session comes around, Sirius has a pretty good idea of how it’s going to go. They’re only debating a portion of the bill, the part that has to do with the educational offerings at Hogwarts. That section has to do with providing education on things that pureblood families usually educate their kids on, but it’s an elective course. Those half-bloods and Muggle-borns who want to take the course will be much better off. Hidden in that provision is career counseling support for non-pureblood kids starting earlier than normal.

Sirius knows his audience. It’s best to hide the real change-makers inside provisions that no one will object to.

He’s been through a dozen interviews for Undersecretary, and he’s consulted with Remus, and he thinks he has a decision.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Maximus Andros says, bewildered. “Won’t this seem like nepotism?”

“Because you’re the boyfriend of my ally’s oldest daughter?” Sirius counters. “Perhaps, but I also know that you’re not opposed to werewolves. You’re a Muggle-born, so I assume you’re not going to propose pureblood policies. You’ve done quite well in the Department of Mysteries, so you can handle yourself. Why wouldn’t you be a good fit?”

“When you put it that way, sir, I can’t disagree,” he admits. “It’s just—I’ve had a hard time convincing Hippolyta that we should even get married. She thought it would hinder my career if the word ever got out.”

“No one will ever hear about it from me,” Sirius promises. “You were the best qualified candidate, and the one I trust most to carry out my vision. So, if you accept, go let your girlfriend know that you can get married.”

“Thank you,” Max says. “Seriously, thank you. I never thought—“ He trails off. “I never thought.”

In Max, Sirius sees an idealism undimmed by politics. He sees someone who went into the Ministry knowing that he would be hampered by his blood status  but willing to try anyway.

He’s a good kid, the kind of man that Sirius hope Harry will be able to grow into—idealistic, and ready to change the world

“You’re the kind of person my son can look up to,” Sirius replies. “I believe in you.”

Max bobs his head. “Right, yeah. I should—“

“Tell your girlfriend the good news and maybe start shopping for rings?” Sirius asks. “Absolutely.”

Max hesitates. “You should really talk to Hippolyta. She might have been mostly home schooled, but she’s brilliant, and she’s been working on a cure for spell damage like the Cruciatus. Since she is who she is, no one wants to take her seriously.”

Sirius casts a wandless spell to open his door and calls for Percy. “Set up a time for me to talk with Hippolyta Mayweather. It doesn’t have to be in person if she’s not comfortable with that, and if her father wants to be there, that’s fine, too. Just find something that works.”

“Of course,” Percy says, sounding a little resentful.

“Easy, Percy,” Sirius says. “You’ll get your turn. Just focus on learning everything you can right now.”

Percy nods. “Thank you, Lord Black.”

Sirius is keeping a careful eye on Percy. He senses something there that’s not unlike what he saw in Peter, but he hopes that isn’t the case.

“Don’t thank me,” Sirius orders. “You’re going to earn that salary and then some.”

Percy is able to produce a smile. “I understand.”

“Good,” Sirius replies. “You keep doing a good job, and you’ll go far.”

He has other things on his mind, though, so he floos to Grimauld Place from the Ministry, and then from there to Black Manor. He toes off his shoes and then takes off his robe, hanging it on a hook in the hall, knowing that the house elves will make sure it’s cleaned and pressed and hanging back up in his closet when he wants it.

Sirius goes to his favorite library, and Cordy pops in. “Can I get Master Black anything?” she squeaks.

“A glass of wine, please, Cordy,” Sirius replies. “Do you know where Remus is?”

“Master Lupin is running an errand,” Cordy says. “I get your wine, but you should eat something.”

Sirius smiles. “I’ll take a sandwich, please.”

“What kind?” Cordy asks.

“It doesn’t matter, Cordy. All of your sandwiches are good.”

Cordy sighs. “You be real trial.”

“Sorry,” Sirius apologizes genuinely. “I don’t have a preference tonight. I have a lot on my mind.”

“Lord Black be very busy and important man,” Cordy comments and pops away. A glass of wine appears at his elbow a few seconds later.

Sirius runs a hand through his hair and tries to focus on the latest reports that Percy sent him. Remus has had a few personal errands recently that he’s been cagey about, and Sirius is a little worried. He trusts Remus, but he also knows that Remus hadn’t exactly signed up for this, for Sirius being Minister of Magic.

A thick ham sandwich appears in front of him, and Sirius says, “Thank you, Cordy.”

Sirius is finding it difficult to concentrate on the reports. He’s worried about Percy, and some of the signs he’s seeing there, and he’s worried about Remus.

He eats his sandwich and reads half-heartedly, and wonders how he’s going to clean up the Ministry. The financial reports alone tell him that something is seriously wrong.

“Hey.”

Sirius looks up. “Moony, hey.”

Remus has a gentle expression on his face, and he leans in for a kiss, his hands resting on the arms of Sirius’ desk chair. “What put that expression on your face?”

“Just work,” Sirius says. “And maybe a little concern about Percy. I think he was jealous that I offered the job of Undersecretary to Max Andros, rather than him.”

Remus shakes his head. “He’ll get over it. He’s very young, and there’s no way he’d be ready for that position now.”

“Jealousy isn’t necessarily rational,” Sirius counters, knowing full well that he’s feeling some of that himself.

“No, it isn’t,” Remus agrees and leans back. “What else is going on in that head of yours?”

“You’ve had a number of personal errands lately,” Sirius blurts out. “You’d tell me if you were unhappy, wouldn’t you?”

Remus frowns at him, and then his expression clears. “Of course, I would. I think we’ve learned the hard way how important honesty is between us. And I’m working on a surprise for you.”

“A good surprise, I hope,” Sirius says.

Remus kisses him again, deeply, passionately. “Take a deep breath, and tell me what’s really bothering you, love.”

“I’m worried,” Sirius admits. “But I don’t know about what. I feel like the other shoe is about to drop, and I can’t put my finger on why, Moony.”

“You have a lot on your plate,” Remus says. “You have more on your plate than you ever asked for, and you haven’t been sleeping well.”

Sirius sighs. “I haven’t been, no.”

Remus’ thumb caresses his cheek. “I promise that my personal errands have nothing to do with you, or my changing feelings for you, because my feelings haven’t changed.”

“Thank you for indulging me,” Sirius says.

“What indulgence?” Remus asks. “If you need reassurance, it’s something I’m happy to provide. Padfoot, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders right now, and I know that.”

Remus pulls him close, and Sirius rests his head on Remus’ stomach. “We’ve gone as far as we can with the horcruxes,” he murmurs. “I wish we could go further, but…”

“You are cutting off other avenues,” Remus assures him. “Even if he does return, most of his followers are in Azkaban—“

“If he recruited the Dementors—“

“You’re borrowing trouble,” Remus insists. “Take a deep breath. It’s going to be fine. It’s all going to be fine. How did Mr. Andros take the news?”

Sirius takes a deep breath, and then he takes another. “He was excited. He told me his girlfriend wasn’t sure she wanted to get married because it might hurt his career, and he said she was looking into solutions for spell damage. I asked Percy to set up a meeting.”

“There, you see?” Remus asks. “I doubt Fudge would have ever even known about her if he’d stayed Minister.”

“No, he wouldn’t have, because he wouldn’t have given a kid like Andros the time of day,” Sirius agrees. “He’s Muggle-born, even if he has distinguished himself in the Department of Mysteries.”

“He would have stayed there as long as he worked for the Ministry,” Remus reminds him. “He would have gone just so far and no further.”

Sirius takes a deep breath. “I know.”

Remus looks at the empty plate. “You’ve eaten.”

“Yeah, Cordy said I should eat something since I was having a glass of wine,” Sirius admits.

“Then you can come to bed,” Remus replies. “And I can reassure you in another way.”

And Sirius can’t find it in him to say no.

~~~~~

Sirius isn’t surprised to see Mayweather accompanying his daughter, knowing how protective he is of his kids. He’d feel the same way in his shoes.

“Hippolyta, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Sirius says, holding out a hand. “Your dad and your boyfriend have spoken very highly of you. I hear that you’re brilliant, and your focus is on spell damage.”

She blushes prettily. She has a peaches and cream complexion with dark hair and dark eyes, and there are faint scars on her face that Sirius knows to be from a werewolf transformation. He’d know those scars anywhere, because he’s known Remus so well for so long.

“Thank you, Minister Black, but I wouldn’t want to be an imposition. Max said he’d mentioned me, but—“

“Stop right there,” Sirius tells her. “I want to know about what you’re doing. Think of this as a conversation, not an interview.”

Hippolyta smiles tremulously. “Of course, Lord Black.”

“For the purposes of this conversation call me Sirius,” he says. “Just talk to me.”

Hippolyta stammers a bit as she says, “I know that there are a number of people in the spell damage ward at St. Mungo’s who are there because of the Cruciatus curse. And I began to think that there might be some mind healing techniques, along with some potions that could help reverse that damage.”

As she speaks, she’s clearly warming to her subject, growing more animated, and her dad is looking on with raw pride on his face.

“And why aren’t you employed by the Department of Mysteries?” Sirius asks when she winds down.

Hippolyta blinks. “Oh, well, I would have to disclose… Dad said you knew…”

“I do know, and not anymore,” Sirius replies easily.

“I did tell you, sweetheart,” Mayweather murmurs. “During the last session, werewolves were placed under the direction of the Department of Health, not the Department of Magical Creatures. Your status is protected health information that only your healer would be privy to.”

Tears spring into Hippolyta’s eyes. “I don’t—I don’t know, Lord Black—“

“Sirius,” he reminds her. “But if you’re not interested in becoming an Unspeakable, then perhaps you’d be interested in working for my foundation. I had been thinking about hiring some researchers to help improve Wolfsbane, but we could branch out.”

Fat tears begin to run down her cheeks. “Really?”

“Really,” Sirius replies. “And you know I’m not going to hold your health condition against you.”

Hippolyta nods, gulping audibly. “This is—I never thought I’d have an opportunity like this one.”

“Say you’ll accept,” Sirius says. “And I’ll send you an employment contract in the next couple of days.”

Hippolyta smiles tremulously. “Thank you for this opportunity.”

Honestly, Sirius mostly hates the fact that she thought her life was over before it had barely begun, but he gets that, too. Remus at least had the opportunity that Hogwarts provided, even if it had turned out to be an empty promise for the most part.

“You’re going to do well,” Sirius replies. “I have no doubt.”

Hippolyta is clearly trying to pull herself together. “I—I won’t repeat myself. I normally don’t. I’m sorry for being so overwhelmed.”

Sirius smiles at her. “My best friend has the same medical conditions. I can understand what a relief finding a sympathetic employer might be.”

“It really is,” she assures him.

“Thank you for the interview,” Mayweather says.

Sirius shrugs. “I’m just glad that the representative from the Department of Mysteries was too busy to attend. I’ll be able to tell him that I poached her for my own foundation. He’ll be most disappointed.”

Hippolyta looks stricken. “I wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone.”

“The only disappointment is that you’ll be working for my foundation, rather than him snapping you up,” Sirius replies. “He’s free to poach you at any point, and if you like his offer better, there will be no hard feelings.”

“That’s good to hear, Sirius,” Hippolyta replies.

He’s glad that she’s regained her composure enough not to fall all over herself thanking him when Sirius is going to pay her a handsome salary to do something she’d already been doing.

Even better, it’s for his foundation. Even if he’s ousted as Minister of Magic, Hippolyta will still be working for him, and she’ll be protected. She wouldn’t be in the Department of Mysteries should he leave.

“I’m going to make you proud,” Hippolyta says.

“I know that,” Sirius says. “You’ve already made your father proud, so I have no doubt.”

Mayweather says, “You go on, sweetheart. I know you were meeting Max. We’ll catch up later.”

She smiles and nods. “Has he proposed yet?” Sirius asks.

Hippolyta dimples sweetly. “We’re going to pick out rings together.”

“Congratulations,” Sirius replies. “I hope you find exactly what you seek.”

She shakes his hand warmly. “I will look forward to receiving your contract.”

“Have someone else double check it for you,” Sirius says. “My intention is that it’s fair, of course, but it’s always best to have another set of eyes on it.”

“I will,” Hippolyta promises. “Thank you for the good advice.”

“It’s no less than I would do for my own kid,” Sirius replies.

When she’s gone, Sirius says, “I hope you don’t mind me recruiting her.”

“Not at all,” Mayweather replies, accepting the glass of fire whiskey Sirius offers. “I feel better about it, actually. Her employment isn’t dependent on the Minister of Magic overlooking her condition. Even if she doesn’t have to disclose her condition, she’ll never have to worry about that with your foundation.”

Sirius smiles. “True. No one will care that she’s indisposed around the full moon. We haven’t hired many yet, but all of them are either werewolves or have family members who are.”

“You wanted her at the foundation,” Mayweather comments.

“I had some hope,” Sirius admits. “We can take care of her there, ease her into things, and no one will be upset that she has to take time off around the full moon, if she does.”

Mayweather nods. “Well, I know she’ll be in good hands. It’s something of a relief. I know she’s wanted to assert her independence for a while, but her condition made that difficult.”

“I know Remus struggled,” Sirius replies. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to change things, so others wouldn’t have to struggle in the same way.”

“You’ve certainly made a good start,” Mayweather comments. “More progress than I anticipated when Augusta first asked me to ally myself with you.”

Sirius laughs. “I share that sentiment with you.”

Mayweather leaves shortly after that, and Sirius heads to a meeting with his department heads. He hasn’t changed things up much yet, other than making certain appointments. He’d needed to select an Undersecretary, of course, but he hasn’t made any changes to the heads of departments, not yet.

“I’m not sending my people to clean up your messes,” Amelia snaps at Croaker. “Not again.”

“It’s not my mess,” Bode protests. “This was a problem for the Department of Magical Creatures.”

Sirius clears his throat. “Perhaps someone can walk me through exactly what happened.”

Bode sighs. “One of my people does potions research that often requires slightly—exotic ingredients.”

“He had a bloody acromantula in his home!” Amelia interrupts. “In an area of Muggle London.”

Sirius frowns at Bode. “Please tell me that isn’t true.”

Bode winces. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Minister.”

Sirius pinches the bridge of his nose. “Don’t tell me. It got out.”

“It got out,” Amelia confirms. “Thankfully, it was only the size of a dinner plate, but we had to obliviate six Muggles.”

Sirius looks at Bode. “I have to agree with Amelia on this one, Bode. Necessary ingredients or not, it was a bloody acromantula.”

Bode sighs. “I’m well aware. He’s been disciplined and placed on leave without pay for a month. I will make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“See that you do,” Sirius replies dryly. “Although I’m still curious as to what the nature of the disagreement was.”

“The Aurors were called, rather than the Department of Magical Creatures,” Bode replies. “It shouldn’t have been Amelia’s problem.”

The head of that department, Kieran O’Connell, protests, “We’re not the ones called in to obliviate Muggles!”

Sirius holds up a hand. “Oblivation has to be done by an expert if there aren’t to be negative long-term side effects. The Aurors needed to be called to deal with the situation, as they’re the ones trained in dealing with potential violations of the Statute of Secrecy. You’re just upset because Amelia had no problem calling you out.”

Bode grumbles inarticulately.

Sirius decides to redirect the conversation. “Let’s move on. I need quarterly budget reports.”

He’s tightened things up considerably. Fudge had required annual reports, but Sirius is fairly sure that there are still unmarked Death Eaters in the Ministry, and there’s a good chance they’re diverting funds, although he hasn’t been able to track down where the money has gone yet.

Once quarterly budget reports are done, they’ve finished the business of the day, and Sirius has another meeting with Amelia on the efforts of the DMLE. Sirius is still training with the Aurors, knowing that as long as Voldemort has a chance of returning, he needs to stay sharp for Harry.

At the end of their session, Amelia comments, “You seem to be settling into the job fairly well.”

Sirius shrugs. “It’s been going better than I thought it would, to be honest. I still can’t quite believe it most days.”

“You’re more hands-on than Fudge was,” she replies. “He rarely came to the department meetings. I think he preferred the trappings of power to the actual work.”

“That didn’t turn out so well for him, did it?” Sirius asks with a smirk. “I plan on leaving the Ministry better than I found it.”

“Is that the reason for the quarterly budget reports?” Amelia asks.

Sirius hesitates. “I think there’s money that’s gone missing. I don’t know where it went, or who’s responsible, but I’m doing what I can to plug the leaks.”

“I suspect that those Death Eaters in Azkaban might have something to say about it,” Amelia comments.

Sirius glances around the training room. “They might, but I doubt we’ll ever know for sure if so.”

“Let me know if there’s anything you need from me,” Amelia replies. “If I can help, I will, and I can keep it quiet.”

Sirius nods. “I will, thanks.”

He’s reluctant to involve anyone else in the investigation at this point, because there’s no evidence, just something wrong with the Ministry’s financials.

“It was a pleasure, as always, Minister,” Amelia says.

Sirius still has a few things to do, so he goes back to his office and starts reviewing the quarterly budget reports that most of the departments have sent in.

He’s deep into it when there’s a knock on his office door, and Sirius glances up, his wand immediately in hand. He’s not letting his guard down now. “Come in.”

Remus sticks his head in. “I brought food.”

Sirius glances at the clock and winces. “I’m sorry, Moony. I completely lost track of time.”

“We didn’t have any specific plans,” Remus replies with a smile. “I could have fire-called you if I’d just wanted you to come home.”

He starts to put out the food, and Sirius realizes that Remus has brought Thai, with spring rolls Pad Kana Moo Krob, curry, and a green papaya salad. “This looks great,” Sirius says.

“I thought it might hit the spot tonight,” Remus replies.

Sirius digs in. “It really does. Thank you.”

“You know all those personal errands I’ve been running?” Remus asks.

Sirius nods, his mouth full of spring roll.

“It’s because I’ve been working on this,” Remus says, and he places a wrapped box on the table.

Sirius swallows. “You didn’t have to do this.”

“I didn’t have a chance to prepare for you becoming Minister of Magic,” Remus says. “And I wanted to show you how much I admire you, and appreciate the work that you’re doing.”

Sirius shakes his head. “Moony, you didn’t—“

“I know I didn’t have to, but I wanted to,” Remus says firmly.

Sirius tears open the wrapping paper, and then opens the small box. He blinks as he sees the heavy gold ring. “Oh.”

“I wanted you to have something that reflected the man you’ve become,” Remus says, “as well as who you were.”

The ring is stamped on top with the crest of the House of Black, and then on one side there’s the outline of stag horns, and on the other the outline of a wolf’s head. “This is gorgeous, Moony.” He slides it onto the pinky finger of his left hand. It’s heavy and cold, but it quickly warms with his body heat.

It’s a reminder of Remus’ care and support, and Sirius absolutely loves it. “This is perfect, and I love it.”

“I’m glad,” Remus replies. “You’ve come so far, Padfoot.”

“So I have,” Sirius says lightly. “And I wouldn’t have made it this far without you.”

Remus laughs. “Maybe, but I wouldn’t have bet against you.”

“I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without you,” Sirius says.

Remus grins at him sweetly. “And I’m very glad that I could be here with you.”

They finish up their food, and Sirius puts the leftovers under a stasis charm. He can always hit them with a warming charm tomorrow for lunch.

“Let’s go home, Moony,” Sirius says. “Because it’s back to work tomorrow.”

Remus pulls him in for a kiss. “You’re doing great, Padfoot. You just have to keep it up.”

“No small feat,” Sirius replies. And it’s late enough that no one is around, so they hold hands all the way to the floo.

~~~~~

The next few weeks fly by, and Sirius oversees another Wizengamot session, where they debate another section of his bill. This one is on improvements to the DMLE, including additional funding for Auror training and additional equipment. The debate in the chamber is lively, more lively than in the last two sessions.

Sirius doesn’t take part in the debate, as Minister of Magic, and the author of the bill. Instead, he watches, because he wants to see who might be friendly to his reforms and general agenda.

Ogden mostly stays quiet, he notices, but he votes in favor of the provision, as does Augusta. Narcissa votes against it, but that doesn’t surprise Sirius at all. His omnibus bill was intended to be debated in stages, and he’d known that some parts would be an easier sell than others.

The motion carries, but just, with barely a majority. The two provisions that Sirius had been most invested in are those that have already passed, so he’s content to sit back and watch.

“Minister Black,” Dumbledore calls out. “A word, if you please.”

“Of course,” Sirius replies. “It’s always a pleasure to speak with you.”

“I was surprised at your elevation to Minister,” Dumbledore says pleasantly.

“As was I,” Sirius says. “Especially since I didn’t ask for it.”

Dumbledore seems a little surprised by that. “Harry is doing well.”

“He seems to be,” Sirius agrees.

Dumbledore is clearly casting about for some argument to have, and Sirius isn’t going to help him out.

“How have you been dealing with the transition?” Dumbledore asks.

“Quite well, thanks,” Sirius replies.

He doesn’t add anything else, waiting for Dumbledore’s next gambit.

Dumbledore asks, “Are you still with Remus?”

Sirius can’t help but glance down at his ring. “I am. We’re doing quite well, thanks for asking.”

Dumbledore looks at the ring. “I don’t think I’ve seen you wearing that before.”

“It was a gift,” Sirius replies. “I’m quite pleased with it.”

“Remus always did have an eye,” Dumbledore comments.

Sirius refuses to give that comment credence. “It was a lovely gift. And a great remembrance.”

“I know you’ve gone through the adoption ceremony with Harry, but—“

Sirius cuts him off. “I’m not interested.”

Dumbledore sighs. “Harry needs to be prepared to meet Voldemort.”

“He is,” Sirius says simply. “I’m preparing Harry to do exactly what he needs to do. As his father, that’s my obligation and my responsibility.”

“He isn’t a pureblood,” Dumbledore says severely. “I hope you’re not putting those ideas into his head.”

“Harry is going to have to straddle both worlds,” Sirius replies. “He’ll be able to navigate the Muggle world, and the magical world, and he’ll know how to act around both pureblood and blue bloods and Muggles alike, as well as everything in between.”

Sirius really has no idea what Dumbledore is expecting, although he suspects that Dumbledore had planned on Harry being a willing sacrifice, based on the prophecy.

Dumbledore frowns at him. “I had thought you’d dispensed with pureblood politics.”

“Who says I haven’t?” Sirius asks, amused. “If you think that, you haven’t been paying attention. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting to attend.”

Sirius actually does have a meeting with Narcissa, Greengrass, and Nott. He’s not quite sure what the purpose is, but he suspects he’s going to leave with a headache.

“Sorry to keep you all waiting,” Sirius says as he enters the conference room attached to his office. “The Chief Warlock wanted to have a word with me.”

“Did he want you to send Harry back to those awful Muggles?” Narcissa asks archly.

Sirius shrugs. “I don’t know. I didn’t let him get that far.”

There’s no point in bringing up Dumbledore’s concerns that Sirius is passing along some of the pureblood traditions.

“What can I do for you today?” Sirius asks, leaning back in his chair.

“We have a bill that we want to introduce regarding penalties for certain crimes,” Greengrass begins.

Sirius’ eyes narrow. “Crimes like Muggle-baiting?”

“Not at all,” Nott says smoothly. “But there are certain artifacts that many pureblood families have that are considered illegal to possess.”

Sirius has cleared a few of those items out of Grimmauld Place, so he knows exactly what they’re talking about. “I see. I can’t say that I necessarily disagree.”

“And there are some pureblood rituals that have been outlawed as well,” Greengrass says. “Rituals that are considered ‘dark,’ and shouldn’t be.”

“Blood magic, you mean,” Sirius replies. “I hope you’re not talking about rituals with unwilling subjects.”

Narcissa frowns at him. “You know me better than that.”

Sirius shrugs. “I know you, Narcissa, but I’m not sure what exactly you want out of this meeting.”

“We were hoping that you’d be favorably inclined towards things that non-purebloods simply don’t understand,” Greengrass replies.

Sirius knows that he’s probably going to have to give up some ground. There are battles that he doesn’t want to have. “I can promise to look it over, and carefully consider it. I’ll even throw my weight behind it if it’s something I feel I can support.”

“That’s all we’re asking,” Narcissa says, passing him a rolled-up parchment. Sirius knows all about hiding things in the language of the bill. “We appreciate you hearing us out.”

“Anything else I can help you with?” Sirius asks cordially.

“No, that’s it,” Narcissa replies. “But I did want to ask whether you were planning on attending the third task?”

“That’s the current plan,” Sirius says. “What about you?”

Narcissa smiles. “I do plan on going. It’s going to be quite the event.”

Sirius knows what that means. He’s going to be there both as the father of a Hogwarts student, and as the Minister of Magic.

“Let me know if you require any assistance,” Narcissa adds. “Although you always do cut an elegant figure when you put your mind to it.”

That was a backhanded compliment if Sirius has ever heard one, but Sirius expects her to tweak him when she has the opportunity.

“I think I’ve got it,” Sirius replies, amused. “And I do know how to make an effort, cousin.”

Narcissa smiles warmly. “Well, we know you’re busy, so we’ll get out of your hair.”

Sirius sees them out. “I have some reading to do.”

When he goes back to his office, Remus is waiting for him. “I have to admit, I’m wildly curious,” Remus says. “Both as to what Dumbledore wanted, and what Narcissa and her allies wanted.”

“Dumbledore’s mad that Harry’s getting exposed to some pureblood traditions,” Sirius replies. “And Narcissa and her allies have a bill they want me to support, loosening some restrictions.” He hands Remus the parchment.

Remus scans it, and then he snorts, amused. “I remember removing some of these items from Grimmauld Place. I can’t think of anything to use these items for that isn’t dark.”

Sirius shrugs. “Maybe, but a lot of families regard them as priceless heirlooms. And if their use is still prohibited, I’m wondering whether we really want to fight over whether someone actually owns one. My understanding is that the ownership of these objects is used to enhance charges that were going to be brought anyway.”

Remus nods. “True. Some of these rituals listed involve blood magic.”

“And as long as all parties are participating voluntarily…” Sirius trails off. “Supporting this bill would give me some support from people who might otherwise oppose my agenda.”

Remus makes a noise that can only be called disbelieving. “There are parts of your agenda that they’ll never support. Don’t betray your principles for the hope of future votes that you might not get.”

Sirius feels a bit stung at that. “I haven’t made up my mind, Remus,” he says sharply. “I told Narcissa that I’d consider it, and that’s precisely what I’m going to do. And if I come out in opposition to all or part of the bill, I’m going to have a measured, thoughtful reason why, and not just a knee-jerk response that it’s dark, and therefore unlawful.”

Remus holds up his hands in surrender. “You’re right. I’m sorry, I was jumping to conclusions.”

“Whatever my personal feelings, I need to at least be viewed as approachable, even by those I disagree with ordinarily,” Sirius replies wearily. “It’s their government, too.”

Remus winces. “I get that. It’s just—I’m afraid that they’re asking for more than what you’re willing to give, at least at first glance.”

Sirius smirks. “Which is why I said I’d think about it, and I’m going to research the hell out of it. Percy!”

Percy appears so quickly that Sirius would’ve said he apparated if he didn’t know better. “Yes, Minister?”

“I have an incredibly important task for you,” Sirius says. “I’ve been presented with a bill from Narcissa Black, and I think there might be some pitfalls. I need you to review the bill, and give me a report on what you think might be problematic.”

Percy straightens, pulling his shoulders back. “I won’t let you down, sir.”

“I’ll be reviewing it myself, of course,” Sirius says. “But I’m going to rely on you catching anything I might have missed. Do this well, and you’re looking at political appointments in the future, all right?”

Percy gulps audibly. “I understand.”

“Good,” Sirius replies, creating a copy of the bill with a wave of his wand and handing the copy to Percy.

He scurries off, and Sirius glances at Remus. “Satisfied?”

“I’ll be looking it over myself,” Remus says. “But I think you’re giving him an important, achievable goal.”

“I know he was jealous of Max,” Sirius says. “I figured that this might help keep him on track.”

“I think you have the right idea,” Remus replies. “Do you have anything else going on this afternoon?”

Sirius shakes his head. “Nothing pressing, why?”

“Let’s get out of here,” Remus suggests. “We haven’t gone out on a date in far too long.”

“You did bring me Thai,” Sirius counters.

Remus just gives him a look.

“Let’s get out of here,” Sirius says, knowing when he’s beat. Not that he minds playing hooky for the rest of the afternoon.

“Good decision,” Remus replies.

~~~~~

Sirius isn’t leaving anything up to chance. He sends the bill to Augusta, too. “I need to know what I’m missing. Remus and Percy are both looking at it,” he says during a fire call. “But you’re a pureblood, and I grew up in a dark family. I might have some blind spots.”

Augusta nods. “Of course. I’m happy to take a look. How are you?”

Sirius shrugs. “I’m doing fine. Settling in, you know?”

“You’re doing really well,” Augusta tells him. “I knew you would.”

Sirius glares at her. “You didn’t ask me first.”

“I knew you’d say no,” Augusta says with a smug smile.

Sirius rolls his eyes. “Goodbye, Augusta.”

Narcissa isn’t bringing her bill until after the third task, so Sirius has a little time to figure this out. He has more than enough time, actually.

The following day, he and Remus have an appointment with the tailor. Remus protested, but Sirius knows his business, and they need to present a certain image. Maybe they’re not officially out, but he’s pretty sure that everybody knows that Remus is more than just his chamberlain by now.

“We’ll need room for armor,” Sirius tells the tailor. “For both of us.”

Herbert Shepherd says, “Of course, Lord Black. I can adjust the cut of the clothing to allow for the armor. Are you wearing it now?”

“I am,” Sirius says. “I never leave home without it.”

“Neither do I,” Remus adds.

“Then we’ll get started,” Herbert says.

The measuring tape unrolls around them, taking their measurements without Herbert doing anything at all.

“Good, I have what I need,” Herbert says. “And I’ll have your outfits ready at least a couple of weeks early for final fittings, gentlemen.”

“Thank you,” Sirius replies. “I appreciate that.”

Herbert nods. “I’ll see both of you soon.”

“Why are we doing this again?” Remus grumbles as they leave the shop and head for The Leaky Cauldron.

“Because I’m the Minister of Magic, and I have to make an appearance, and I want you there with me,” Sirius replies. “Come on, Moony. It’ll be fun.”

“You’re dreading it,” Remus points out.

“I will probably dread every official event until I’m no longer Minister,” Sirius says cheerfully. “Since I was press-ganged into this, I reserve the right to complain at every opportunity.”

Remus gives him a mild glare. “Just not to me. I didn’t set you up for this, remember?”

Sirius sighs. “A little bit?”

“I’ll reserve the right to tell you to knock it off if it gets too much for me,” Remus counters.

“Fair enough,” Sirius agrees. “We’re going to be very elegant, and we’re going to try and have a good time.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Remus replies. “And we both know how well our plans usually hold up.”

“Hey, we’ve been doing all right,” Sirius protests.

Remus nods reluctantly. “We are. But not completely due to planning on our parts.”

“Plans rarely survive the first engagement,” Sirius admits. “But think about where we were this time last year!”

“Night and day difference,” Remus agrees with a smile. “Did you ever think we’d be here?”

“Not even in a daydream,” Sirius replies, and wishes he could reach out and pull Remus close, but they’re out in public. They’ve agreed to be discreet, and Sirius agrees with the reasons why.

Sirius knows they have Aurors tailing them, too, and he doesn’t want to blow up Remus’ life any more than he already has.

They order lunch, and Sirius wishes that they had a little more time together these days. It’s one of the things he doesn’t care for about the job.

“What have you got on the schedule for the rest of the day?” Remus asks.

Sirius shrugs. “More meetings, I think. What about you?”

“I’m meeting with your estate manager, and Harry’s today,” Remus replies. “I have some ideas for improving the yield on your investments. Really, your accounts could be earning more money, as could Harry’s, and since I know you’re going to use the money for good things, I’m rather interested in growing your accounts.”

“Something that I appreciate,” Sirius admits. “I know it’s important, but it’s one of the things I don’t have much of a head for.”

Remus smirks. “You mean that there are about a hundred other things you’d rather be doing.”

“That, too,” Sirius admits freely. “I’m hoping you’ll continue Harry’s lessons in estate management this summer.”

“Of course,” Remus agrees readily. “Harry is an excellent student, and I doubt that he’s going to run across someone who’s willing to manage his estate for him.”

“Unless Draco is,” Sirius counters with a grin.

Remus laughs. “I don’t think Harry should count on that.”

“That’s a given,” Sirius says. “I’m just glad that I can count on you.”

Remus shakes his head. “You sap.”

“You’re the one who gave me the ring,” Sirius counters.

Remus’ expression is fond. “So I did.”

“See you at home tonight?” Sirius asks as they finish up their meals.

Remus shrugs. “Of course. See you tonight.”

Sirius heads back to the Ministry and girds his loins for the rest of his day.

~~~~~

The entire Ministry is abuzz with excitement as the third task approaches, and having spoken to Harry, Sirius knows that Hogwarts is much the same. He and Remus had gone to a Hogsmeade weekend every month, so they’ve been kept up to date on everything going on with Harry.

Harry isn’t doing anything about his crush on Draco Malfoy, and Sirius isn’t going to press the matter. Right now, Harry is doing well in school, and he’s enjoying life, plus Draco will be staying with them over the summer. If Harry makes a move and it doesn’t turn out well, the summer could be a lot more awkward.

The day of the third task dawns bright and hot, and Sirius dresses carefully. His new suit and robes have cooling charms on them, as does his armor, so he’ll be comfortable, in spite of the warm weather. Next to him, Remus is also getting dressed in his own new suit, and he grimaces as he straightens his tie. “I much prefer not having to wear one of these.”

“So do I,” Sirius replies. “Alas, we have an image to maintain.”

You do,” Remus points out. “I’m a nobody.”

“And yet today you’re with me, so you’re definitely a somebody,” Sirius says cheerfully.

Remus pulls on his robes, and asks, “Do you have the portkey?”

“Kingsley insisted on escorting us, so we’re meeting him at the Ministry and leaving from there,” Sirius replies. “Are you ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Remus mutters.

Sirius feels about the same. Harry isn’t competing in the tournament, so he’s not really worried that someone will be able to get to him. Still, Sirius can’t help but remember what had happened during the third task the last time, and he knows better than to assume all will go well.

After all, even if they’ve managed to destroy a number of Voldemort’s horcruxes, there’s always the possibility that he or his followers would find a new way to attack Harry.

When he and Remus reach the Ministry, they find Shacklebolt waiting for them. “Minister, Mr. Lupin,” he says, perfectly correct as always. “Are you ready to go?”

“We’re ready,” Sirius confirms. “Do you know how many people are supposed to be in attendance?”

“Quite a few,” Shacklebolt admits. “Security has been something of a nightmare to figure out.”

Sirius nods. “My son will be there, so if you’d allow him to pass, that would be appreciated. Otherwise, be as stern as you’d like.”

The Auror doesn’t so much as crack a smile. “Of course, Minister.”

Sirius glances at Remus, who shrugs slightly.

“I have the portkey here,” Shacklebolt says, holding out an old tie.

“Once more into the breach,” Remus murmurs, and then they’re stumbling into the staging area just outside Hogwarts’ gates.

Sirius straightens quickly, glancing at Remus to ensure that he’s made a similarly speedy recovery. Remus nods at him.

“Let’s go,” Sirius says.

There’s a good-sized crowd for the third task, including Ministry officials and some members of the general public. Amos Diggory and his wife are there to support their son, and Sirius sees the Deschamps as well, and he makes it a point to greet all of them.

“We’re rooting for Cedric,” Sirius tells Amos. “I can’t wait to congratulate him at the end of this.”

Amos beams. “That’s very kind of you to say, Minister. We’re very proud of him, of course, but I know that Viktor Krum still stands a chance.”

“Against one of Hogwarts’ finest?” Sirius asks. “I doubt it.”

The crowd parts slightly, and Harry emerges, a wide grin on his face. “Dad!”

“There you are, pup,” Sirius replies. “I thought I’d have to come find you.”

“Not a chance,” Harry says. “I think Ron and Hermione are a little disappointed that I’m not sitting with them, but you said the Minister had the best seat in the house and a place for me.”

Sirius puts an arm around his shoulders. “Good. Harry, this is Amos Diggory.”

Harry grins. “Cedric’s dad? We’re all cheering for him!”

Amos smiles at Harry indulgently. “So your dad has said. I appreciate your support, Harry, and I’m sure Ced does, too.”

“If you’ll excuse us, Amos, I see some friends from across the pond,” Sirius says.

Harry follows his focus, and he lights up. “Lionel!”

Somehow, even through the crowd, Lionel hears Harry. “Harry!”

They meet halfway, and they pound each other on the back, as happy as a pair of puppies.

Sirius greets Diana in the typical European fashion, with a kiss on each cheek, and she does the same to Remus while Denis shakes Sirius’ hand. “You seem to be doing well.”

Sirius shrugs. “Depends on the day, to be honest. There are some days when I would much rather be a man of leisure again.”

“And yet you’ve been doing so much good,” Diana replies. “We’ve been keeping an eye out.”

Sirius smiles. “That’s good to hear. We’ll have to have you all over for dinner once the school year is over.”

“That would be delightful,” Denis replies. “I know Louise has been looking forward to having company again.”

“I’m glad to oblige her,” Sirius says.

Dumbledore approaches them. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Minister, but the third task is waiting for you to begin.”

Sirius nods at the Deschamps. “If you’ll excuse me.”

They agree, and Sirius leads Harry and Remus to the Minister’s box. There are other Ministry officials already present, but no one that Sirius has had any particular dealings with. “Gentlemen, ladies. Ludo, go ahead and get us started.”

As the head of the Ministry of Sport, Ludo is technically in charge of this event, and Sirius is content to let him kick things off. Ludo casts a sonorous spell on his voice, and calls out, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third task of the Triwizard Tournament!”

Ludo explains the rules. As the champion with the highest score, Cedric Diggory enters the maze first, followed by Viktor Krum, and then Fleur Delacour. From the Minister’s box, they have a clear view of the maze, and Sirius splits his attention between the champions and Harry, seeing his kid’s absolute delight in being a spectator.

Harry is sitting between Sirius and Remus, and he keeps glancing between them during particularly exciting moments, elbowing Sirius when Cedric manages to get past the sphinx. “Did you see that? I think Cedric is going to win!”

“He’s doing really well,” Sirius agrees.

Fleur sends up sparks from her wand, indicating that she needs help and has forfeited the task. Krum hits a dead end and has to backtrack, putting Cedric that much farther into the lead. It does look like Cedric is going to be the winner hands down. Cedric manages to dodge the blast-ended skrewt, and he emerges into the center of the maze, heading right for the cup.

Cedric lifts the cup above his head in a clear expression of victory, and Harry goes absolutely wild next to him. Sirius stands and applauds, as does everyone else in the Minister’s box, and he watches as lights appear above the maze to guide Cedric and Krum out.

Everyone in the stands streams down to the entrance of the maze, ready to congratulate the winner and commiserate with the losers. Sirius follows at a more sedate pace, knowing that he needs to greet everyone, but also having the situational awareness to know that crowds aren’t the safest venue.

Amelia has been on his case about situational awareness often enough that Sirius is not going to take unnecessary risks with his life, not when Harry is right there next to him.

Sirius keeps a hand on Harry’s shoulder, wanting to keep track of him in the crowd, and he greets people along the way, introducing Harry as his son.

“This is kind of weird,” Harry whispers.

“What is?” Sirius asks, just as quietly.

“Being the Minister’s son,” he replies.

Sirius tightens his grip. “I hope you’re not regretting anything.”

“Are you kidding?” Harry asks incredulously.

“I am definitely kidding,” Sirius says. “You’re stuck with me, pup, no matter what job I have.”

They’re not far from Cedric and Krum, each surrounded by their own knots of well-wishers, with Remus just a few feet behind them, when someone shouts, “Minister!”

Sirius feels something hit his chest, and he clutches at it out of sheer reflex. Almost immediately, he feels the tug at his bellybutton, the unmistakable feel of a portkey, and he tries to release Harry, knowing that this is leading into a dangerous situation.

It’s already too late, though. He can feel Harry coming through with him, but when he hits the ground, he’s lost track of him.

Before he can get his bearings, something hits him upside the head, and he’s out.

When Sirius starts begins to regain consciousness, he keeps his eyes closed, only cracking his eyelids. Night has fallen, and he feels something cold and hard at his back, and he’s bound to whatever it is.

No, Sirius knows what it is, where he is, and what’s going on. He’d heard Harry’s account more than once, and he knows what has happened.

He’s been captured, bound to a headstone in the Little Hangleton cemetery, and Sirius is fairly certain that Voldemort is going to use his blood for the resurrection spell.

In a way, Sirius is happy about that. It means that he’s done his job, making himself a bigger and more accessible target than Harry.

On the other hand, he’s tied to a bloody headstone in a cemetery with no way to get to his wand or a beacon.

“I know you’re awake,” Wormtail hisses, poking Sirius in the cheek with his wand.

Sirius opens his eyes to glare at him. “Do you really think you’ll get away with kidnapping the Minister of Magic?”

Wormtail sneers at him. “Oh, you think you’re so high and mighty, don’t you? You’re Minister of Magic now.”

“I am,” Sirius replies, smiling thinly. “My peers thought I could do the job. Too bad you could never say the same.”

Wormtail slaps him across the face. “We’ll see how special you are when you’re dead, Padfoot. We’ll be going after Harry next.”

Sirius tastes blood, and then his heart is in his throat when he catches sight of Harry hiding behind an old mausoleum. With only his eyes, he urges Harry to run, to use his emergency portkey, but Harry stays where he is, crouched low to the ground, wand in hand.

“Good luck,” Sirius says, wanting to keep Wormtail’s attention on him. “You might find him a harder target than you think.”

“Without you there to protect him?” Wormtail asks. “He’s a child. And it will be easy to lure him out if he thinks we’re holding you.”

Sirius knows how true that is, but Harry’s here now, and he’s listening to Wormtail’s plans. Hopefully, he won’t be fooled.

“Enough, Wormtail,” comes a high, thin voice near the cauldron that’s sitting over a fire several feet away. “We’ll continue the ritual.”

Pettigrew goes over to the fire and begins to feed it, sending the flames higher. Harry darts across the cemetery, moving from headstone to headstone, wand still in hand, until he’s hiding behind the stone to which Sirius is bound.

“Use your emergency portkey, and get out of here,” Sirius hisses, trying not to make much noise. “You can bring help.”

“I don’t know where we are,” Harry whispers back. “And I’m not losing another parent to that monster.”

Sirius winces, hearing the certainty in Harry’s voice. “There’s an emergency beacon in my pocket. It looks fairly innocuous, so hopefully they left it.” Pettigrew hadn’t done a very good job searching him. Sirius can still feel the armor next to his skin, so he’d missed that. “Are you wearing your armor?”

“Of course,” Harry replies, sounding offended. “Constant vigilance, remember?” He rummages in Sirius’ left hand pocket, and Sirius can feel when Harry comes up empty. “It’s not here.”

Sirius tries to look around, but he can’t see it from his vantage point, and then his heart sinks as Harry says, “I see it.”

“Pup, no, it’s too dangerous,” Sirius says.

“It won’t be if you’re loose and in your fur, distracting them,” Harry says determinedly. He whispers the cutting curse, and the ropes holding Sirius to the headstone loosen and fall away. “You provide the distraction, I’ll activate the beacon. We have to stop him from coming back, right?”

“We do,” Sirius replies. “We absolutely do.”

He still wishes that Harry would just activate his emergency portkey, but he hears Voldemort say, “Now, the blood of my enemy,” and Sirius knows there’s no time to argue.

Sirius transforms into Padfoot with a snarl as Wormtail approaches with a knife. Sirius springs forward, not wanting to give him a chance to transform, and his powerful jaws close around his wand arm, snapping the bones with a crack.

Wormtail lets out a scream, and Voldemort shouts, “Nagini! To me!”

The wrapped form is soon surrounded by a huge snake, and Sirius realizes that Harry isn’t going to be able to get to the beacon, not when it’s guarded by a huge, magical snake.

Voldemort lets out a hissing sound, and Harry freezes in his path to the beacon. He turns and lets out hissing noises of his own.

The giant snake—Nagini—freezes, and so does Sirius.

Suddenly, Harry’s eyes widen, “Dad! Behind you!”

Sirius whirls, just in time to see Wormtail bearing down on him, a knife in his good hand. Sirius wants to leave him alive, knowing that it’s important, but also because he wants payback.

He wants Wormtail to spend just as much time in Azkaban as he had.

Sirius dodges the knife, twisting around quickly to sink his teeth into Wormtail’s hamstring on the left side. And then he sinks his teeth into the right side as well, completely crippling him. Pettigrew only has one good limb now, as a rat or as a man.

He hears Harry hissing again, and then Harry shouts, “Reducto!”

The spell has a tremendous amount of power behind it, and it blasts a hole through the middle of the snake.

Voldemort screams, a high, thin scream, and Sirius takes the opportunity, not willing to leave the creature alive, and risk him coming back.

In this form, Voldemort is powerless.

“No, wait!” Harry calls.

Sirius transforms and grabs his wand and beacon. “He’s dangerous, Harry. We cannot allow him to live.”

“I know,” Harry replies, pointing his wand at Voldemort.

Sirius puts a hand on Harry’s wrist. “It’s not for you, lad. I know what the prophecy says, but this shouldn’t be on you.”

Harry’s lip trembles. “But—it’s my job.”

“And it’s my job to protect you,” Sirius counters. “I’ve killed my share of Death Eaters, Harry. I already have blood on my hands, and I sleep just fine at night.” That’s a lie, but Sirius doesn’t lose any sleep over killing Death Eaters.” Let me do this for you, as your dad.”

Harry levels a look at Voldemort’s puling form. “Maybe that’s the power he knew not. He never had a dad.”

“Maybe that’s it,” Sirius replies. “I’m not sure I care, though.”

He sends a piercing hex right through Voldemort’s head without a second thought. He did it for James and Lily, as much as he did it for Harry.

And then it’s done.

“Is it over?” Harry asks, sounding a little shocked.

“It’s over,” Sirius says, and he activates the beacon. “Looks like we’re both going to have a reputation after this, love.”

Harry starts laughing, sounding a little hysterical as the Aurors start apparating in. “No one is going to mess with me in the hallway again.”

“I would say so,” Amelia replies. “Minister Black, you gave us quite the scare.”

Sirius shrugs. “Thank Harry for me being in one piece. He was absolutely brilliant.”

Harry blushes bright red. “I wasn’t.”

“You were,” Sirius insists. “You fought off a giant snake. I think that makes you Order of Merlin material.”

Harry starts to glare at him. “Don’t you dare. Feel free to spoil me with extravagant presents, but I absolutely will not accept an award.”

Sirius laughs freely. “All right, pup. Promise.”

Amelia is staring at Voldemort’s shriveled form. “Is that—“

“That is,” Sirius confirms. He jerks his head towards Wormtail’s whimpering form. “And that’s Peter Pettigrew.”

Harry glances around. “Did you guys bring Remus? Is he okay?”

“Worried sick about the two of you, but fine,” Amelia assures him. “Minister, you don’t have to accept an escort home, but I would feel better about it. I’d be happy to ensure that Mr. Lupin is also escorted.”

Harry shakes his head. “No, no way. We have to congratulate Cedric, right? And what about Lionel? And I think that Cousin Narcissa was there.”

“It’s an unsecured situation, Harry,” Amelia says sympathetically. “We caught the Death Eater who threw the portkey at your father, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others in the crowd.”

Harry casts a beseeching look at Sirius, and Sirius isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to resist those eyes. “How about we invite the Diggorys over to Grimmauld Place in a day or so?” he suggests. “I’ll send a patronus to Remus to let him know we’re safe, and ask him to make our excuses. We got kidnapped, Harry. No one is going to hold that against us.”

Harry nods slowly. “I guess that would be all right.”

Sirius knows it’s the adrenalin talking, because Harry is going to drop pretty soon. Even if it hasn’t quite sunk in, they’ve defeated Voldemort. Sirius is fairly certain that Nagini had been the last horcrux, and Harry had killed her.

Sirius is pretty sure that’s going to sink in eventually, too. Nagini might have been a snake, but she was a living creature, and Harry has a soft heart. Eventually, it’s going to hit him.

“Minister,” Amelia says insistently.

“Harry, we have to go,” Sirius says gently.

Harry nods, grimacing. Sirius casts a patronus and says, “Tell Remus we’ll meet him at home, and to make our excuses. We’re both unharmed.”

HIs Grim runs off, and Amelia shudders. “You do realize that your patronus is a Grim, don’t you?”

Sirius shrugs. “Or it’s a big, black dog. Same difference right?”

Amelia shakes her head. “No, it’s not, because I’ve seen both.”

“You’ve seen a Grim?” Harry demands. “What does that mean?”

“It means I’ve been near death,” Amelia replies patiently.

Harry gulps. “I’ve never seen a Grim.”

“Nothing wrong with that, Harry,” Amelia replies. “Now, we should really get the two of you out of here and somewhere safe.”

“We’ll go to Grimmauld Place,” Sirius says. “And then we’ll retreat behind the wards at Black Manor. We’ll have privacy there, and we’ll be safe.”

Amelia nods. “I’ll let Dumbledore know that Harry will be spending the night with you. I’m sure the Headmaster will understand.”

“Even if he doesn’t, he’ll have to deal with it,” Sirius replies. “I want Harry with me.”

He remembers what happened the last time, with Barty Crouch, Jr. managing to get Harry alone after he’d brought Cedric’s body back. Sirius isn’t going to let anyone get at Harry now, not when there’s still some question as to whether there are other Death Eaters around.

“Kingsley will escort you back to Grimmauld Place,” Amelia says, looking at Harry. “If you decide you want to join the Aurors, let me know. You did yourself proud tonight.”

“Thank you, Director,” Harry says politely. “But I think my interests might lie in other directions, maybe healing.”

“Then I’m sure you’ll do quite well at that, as well, Mr. Potter,” Amelia says.

Harry hesitates. “Technically, it’s Potter-Black. I’m not noising it about, but I hyphenated.”

Amelia smiles. “Good for you. Wear that name like the badge of honor it is.”

“I will,” Harry promises.

Kingsley apparates with them to the front door of Grimmauld Place, and he stands guard while they enter.

“We’re flooing directly to Black Manor,” Sirius says. “Straight to the fireplace.”

Harry makes a beeline in that direction, and Sirius calls out, “Kreacher, Winky, we’re going to Black Manor. I would prefer it if you came with us. I can’t be certain that we got all of the Death Eaters, and we just destroyed Voldemort.”

“Kreacher cannot leave,” he says.

Winky looks torn. “Master Black.”

“Kreacher, promise you’ll hide if anyone other than Remus comes through the front door,” Sirius says.

Kreacher nods. “Promise.”

“Winky, I know you’re loyal, but I want you safe. Please, come with us,” Sirius says quietly.

Winky sniffs and nods. “Yes, Master Black.”

Once she’s popped away, Sirius joins Harry by the fireplace. “You okay using the floo?”

Harry nods. “I’ve got it, Dad. I’m good.”

“You killed a giant snake tonight, so I know you’re good,” Sirius teases.

Harry laughs, and then throws a handful of floo powder into the fire. “Black Manor!”

Sirius is relieved that he spoke clearly and with purpose, and Sirius follows suit. A minute later, he’s standing in the library of Black Manor, and he sees Cordy flitting about Harry. “You are hurt!”

“I’m not,” Harry protests.

“You’re bleeding,” Cordy says severely.

Sirius frowns. “Where are you bleeding, Harry? I didn’t think you’d been injured.”

“I was wearing armor!” Harry protests.

“That doesn’t mean you weren’t injured,” Sirius replies. “Where are you hurt? Robes and shirt off, pup.”

Harry sighs, and begins taking off his clothes as ordered, and when the shirt comes off, Sirius sees the long gash along his upper arm. “When did this happen?”

“I have no idea,” Harry replies, mystified.

“Adrenalin,” Sirius says. “When you’re in the middle of a firefight, you don’t always feel it.”

Harry frowns at the gash on his arm. “Maybe it happened when I portkeyed? I landed pretty hard, behind one of the mausoleums, but I was focused on what was happening to you.”

“You did an excellent job tonight, Harry,” Sirius says sincerely. “You saved my life, again, and I’m supposed to be the one taking care of you.”

Harry grins brightly. “Hey, it was terrifying in moments, but we defeated Voldemort, and I didn’t have to die! I’m calling it a win.”

“Cordy, get the dittany,” Sirius says. “And yes, it was definitely a win tonight, there’s no doubt about that.”

Cordy is back with the dittany in a flash, and Sirius uses a few drops on the gash, which seals up the cut very quickly.

“Just like magic,” Harry murmurs. “Sometimes magic is pretty cool.”

“Sometimes, it is,” Sirius agrees. “Any other injuries now that the adrenalin is wearing off?”

Harry shakes his head. “No, I don’t think so. Nothing other than some bruises, maybe.”

“Arnica salve,” Sirius advises. “That’s best for bruises. In fact, why don’t you go take a hot shower and put that on? Let me know if you need help.”

Dobby pops in. “I can help!”

“Thanks, Dobby,” Harry says. “I think I’ll be okay, but I’ll let you know.”

“What about you, Master Black?” Cordy asks. “Are you hurt?”

“I don’t think so,” Sirius replies. “But I think I’ll take my own advice. Let Remus know when he gets here, okay?”

Cordy nods. “I will, and I make sandwiches.”

“I’m sure we’ll all be hungry once we get a chance to get cleaned up,” Sirius assures her.

He’s grateful to strip off his clothing and his armor, leaving all of it in a pile on the floor, figuring he’ll clean it up later, or the house elves will, more likely. The hot water from the shower cascades down on sore muscles, and Sirius allows himself to relax. At some point, he feels the tears come—tears of relief and of joy. He and Harry won’t come out of this completely unscathed, but they’re both alive and relatively okay.

Sirius has reached his goal. He destroyed Voldemort. Most of his followers are either gone or in Azkaban.

He might have to deal with a few snakes in the Wizengamot, but that’s a far different proposition.

“Pads?” Remus calls softly. “Are you okay?”

Sirius turns to look at him. “He’s dead, Moony. He’s dead and Pettigrew’s in custody, and it’s over. And I don’t know how I feel about that.”

He’s too overwhelmed to feel relief, as though a giant weight has been lifted off him, leaving him feeling weightless and unmoored.

Remus makes quick work of his clothing, climbing into the rather palatial shower behind Sirius, and he pulls him in close, his front to Sirius’ back.

Sirius turns, and he allows Remus to pull him in close, pressing a kiss to his mouth. “I was so bloody scared,” Remus murmurs. “I watched you and Harry disappear, and I thought I’d lost you both. I thought my whole world ended.”

“Harry was absolutely brilliant,” Sirius admits. “I had no idea how I was going to get out of that mess, and there he was, and that absolutely galls me.”

Remus puts his hands on either side of Sirius’ face. “No. Do you remember the training you gave him? The armor you gave him? You gave him the tools he needed to survive, and ultimately to help you survive, too. You gave that to him. Don’t sell yourself short, Sirius.”

Sirius allows himself to just relax into Remus, and he shudders through the maelstrom of emotions.

He’s glad for the unlimited hot water, and he allows Remus to help him wash his hair, which is often a pain, given its length—not that he plans on cutting it.

Once they’re both clean, they dry off and get dressed in pajamas and robes and slippers, and they then join Harry in the kitchen. Harry has already tucked into the sandwiches that Cordy has made. Harry is also wearing pajamas and slippers, and there’s a butter beer sitting next to his plate.

“Do you want something to drink?” Cordy asks.

“Champagne, please,” Sirius says. “The best bottle in the cellar. Tonight is a night for celebrating.”

Harry perks up. “Can I have some?”

Sirius holds up his hand with a thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. “You can have that much.”

Remus gives him a look.

“He’s fourteen, there are going to be state dinners with wine, and he can decide whether he likes it or not now,” Sirius says. “I was getting a sip of wine at eleven.”

Remus shrugs. “Fair enough.”

“I wouldn’t drink it anywhere else,” Harry says quickly.

“I’m not worried about you, pup,” Sirius replies.

Cordy brings the bottle and three glasses, and Sirius pops the cork and pours three glasses, although Harry’s only has a couple of swallows in it.

Sirius holds up his own glass. “To the end of Voldemort.”

Harry and Remus lift their glasses and echo the toast. “To the end of Voldemort.”

Harry coughs at the first swallow, although he finishes his glass. “This was okay,” he says dubiously.

Sirius laughs. “All you need to do is to sip and smile.”

“I think I can handle that,” Harry replies. “But I still prefer butter beer.”

Sirius smiles. “As you should.”

They clear out the sandwiches, and Harry gives a jaw-cracking yawn. “I’m going to bed,” he announces. “Do I have to go back to Hogwarts tomorrow?”

“I think we’ll be giving our statements to the Aurors tomorrow,” Sirius replies. “I’ll take you back to Hogwarts Monday morning if that works.”

Harry looks relieved. “Yeah, I don’t really want the scrutiny. Besides, Cedric should get to hog the limelight for a while. Or maybe forever. That would be fine with me.”

Sirius chuckles. “I’ll send an owl to Amos asking him over for tea so we can congratulate them properly.”

Harry smiles. “Thanks, Dad.”

“Come here,” Sirius orders roughly, and he pulls Harry into a tight hug. “I’m so proud of you that I could burst.”

“I wasn’t going to let them have another parent,” Harry repeats. “I just got you, and I’m not giving you up.”

Sirius thinks about the cloak and the Resurrection Stone, and the intimation that Harry might grow up to be the Master of Death. He wonders if perhaps there wasn’t something else at work.

“I’m not giving you up either,” Sirius replies.

Harry pulls back and gives him a stern look. “No, that means you don’t get to die.”

“I don’t think I can make a promise like that,” Sirius says regretfully.

Harry’s chin takes on a determined tilt. “Then I guess I’ll just have to make sure you don’t.”

When he goes up to bed, Sirius asks, “Do you think he might actually be the Master of Death?”

“If he has the Elder Wand, he might,” Remus replies. “We should probably figure out where that is.”

Sirius sighs. “Let’s bask in our victory for a bit, shall we?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Remus replies. “We have quite enough to do.”

Sirius knows that to be the case. “Let’s go to bed, Moony.”

“I really thought you’d never ask,” Remus replies.

That night, Sirius plays little spoon to Remus’ big spoon, and he’s relieved to feel Remus’ breath on the back of his neck. He somehow manages to fall asleep, and he doesn’t dream.

At least, not that night. Maybe his relief is too great for nightmares.

~~~~~

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, Sirius sends an invitation to the Diggorys for tea that afternoon, with profuse apologies that they weren’t able to congratulate Cedric personally on the night of the task. Remus has opted out of lunch, and Sirius understands. There’s no real reason for Remus to be there if he doesn’t want to be.

He receives an owl back quickly with thanks for the invitation, and an expression of willingness to come to tea.

“There we go,” Sirius says. “We’ll meet with the Diggorys this afternoon. How do you want to handle Narcissa?”

“I think we’d better invite them for dinner, and probably invite them here,” Harry replies. “Otherwise, Draco is going to be absolutely insufferable over the summer.”

“Why don’t you invite your friends, too?” Sirius says.

Harry grimaces. “No, just Draco and cousin Narcissa, but I would like to have my school friends over at some point.”

“Maybe a family dinner at Grimmauld Place,” Sirius suggests. “After the school year is over. Everybody can come.”

Harry grins. “You could even invite Mr. Mayweather, and Madame Longbottom and Neville. I think that would be great.”

Sirius would give Harry just about anything, and he says, “Absolutely.”

“Yeah,” Harry agrees.

Fawkes arrives during breakfast, and he hops over to Harry and chirps at him insistently.

“I’m okay, Fawkes,” Harry assures him, stroking his bright plumage. “Better now than I have been.” Fawkes nuzzles his cheek in response.

Sirius opens the note from Dumbledore, and he reads it quickly. “You’re excused through Monday, Harry. And while I did promise not to nominate you for any awards, I also will not block any awards for which you might be nominated.”

Harry groans. “Dumbledore?”

“He’s hinting at it,” Sirius admits. “Also, he has a couple of other hints in here. He wants to meet with us. Are you good with that?”

“What is he going to do to me?” Harry asks. “I’m going back to Hogwarts, and there’s no need for me to ever return to the Dursleys now that Voldemort is gone.”

Sirius has a stirring feeling, as though Harry might need to know about the Resurrection Stone before they meet with Dumbledore.

“You’re absolutely right,” Sirius replies. “We’ll meet with him later, maybe after the school year is done. I would like you to read something when you have the opportunity.”

Harry nods. “Sure, okay. What do you want me to read?”

Sirius grabs the slim volume from the shelf, and hands it to Harry.

“Fairy stories?” Harry asks dubiously. “I mean, I will, but you wouldn’t ask me to read this if you didn’t think it meant something.”

“One of them does,” Sirius replies. “The story of the three brothers, to be precise.”

Harry flips through the book and finds the story. He skims the first couple of pages, and Sirius can tell when the import strikes him. “Do you think my dad’s cloak has something to do with this story?”

Sirius nods. “And the Resurrection Stone is real, too.”

Harry’s head comes up, a hunger in his eyes. “You have it?”

“It’s in a safe place,” Sirius replies. “And I’m going to ask that you not look for it, Harry. When the right time comes, I’ll give you the Stone, I promise.”

Harry opens his mouth, and Sirius thinks he’s going to argue, but then Harry stops, clearly rethinking his initial response. “It would be too hard,” Harry says with a sigh. “I would want to keep them with me all the time, and that wouldn’t be fair to them.”

Sirius nods. “Trust me, pup. The temptation is there for me as well. I try not to even think about it.”

Harry agrees. “I get it. I won’t look for it, and I won’t push.”

“Thank you,” Sirius replies.

“But if I have the cloak, and you have the stone, then where is the wand?” Harry asks.

Sirius shrugs. “I don’t know. But I suspect that Dumbledore does.”

Harry rubs a finger on the page of the book. “And if the three are reunited?”

“Then that person will be the Master of Death, or so the story goes,” Sirius replies. “And with the hints that Dumbledore is making in his letter, my guess is that he might have some thoughts on that.”

“He was the one who gave me Dad’s old cloak,” Harry muses.

“And if you were to ever obtain the Elder Wand, you may have a power that no one else has, or it might mean nothing at all,” Sirius admits. “Or it could mean whatever you want it to mean.”

“I don’t think I want to be Master of Death,” Harry admits. “And if it’s true that everyone who handles the Elder Wand ends up dead because other people want it, I’m not interested in it. Maybe it would be better if it disappeared into history.”

“It’s supposed to make a person invincible,” Sirius points out.

Harry snorts. “So what? Voldemort is dead. I guess it might come in handy if I ever need to defeat another dark wizard, but I’d prefer to use my holly wand. I like this one.”

Sirius grins. “I can’t fault you for that. I think most wizards and witches have a fondness for the wand that chose them. Nevertheless, I wanted you to know about the stone and the implications so that Dumbledore can’t ambush you with it, if that’s what’s going on.”

Harry’s expression turns thoughtful. “We can still train this summer, right? Just because Voldemort is gone, doesn’t mean that there aren’t more threats, especially if someone tries to use me to get to you.”

“Our enemies only dwindle when we make allies of them, send them to Azkaban, or kill them,” Sirius agrees. “The first is preferred, the second sometimes doable only through trickery, and the third is to be avoided if possible.”

“And we still have plenty of enemies,” Harry agrees. He finishes off the dregs of his tea. “I think I’m going to get dressed and ready for the Diggorys.”

“I should probably do the same,” Sirius admits.

He’s asked Kreacher to prepare a nice tea for the Diggorys, and it’s all set out before they’re due to arrive—a platter of tea sandwiches, cakes, and crudités. When there’s a knock on the door, Sirius goes to answer it himself, rather than allowing Kreacher to show them in.

“Amos, good to see you again,” Sirius says.

“I’m just glad to see that you’re in one piece, Minister Black,” Amos says sincerely. “I was very worried when you disappeared.”

“I was a bit worried myself,” Sirius admits, working quickly to change the subject. He’s going to have to talk to the Aurors yet, but he doesn’t want to go over it more than once, and he’s not sure how much of what happened he wants out there for public consumption. “But we’re here to celebrate Cedric. And I don’t think I’ve been introduced to your lovely wife.”

Amos accepts the subject change gracefully. “Of course. Lord Black, my wife, Violet.”

“Please, call me Vi,” she says, her smile showing off her dimples.

“Vi, a pleasure,” Sirius replies, kissing the back of her hand. “And Cedric, I was impressed by your performance last night. You’ve been strong through the entire tournament, so I wasn’t surprised in the least, but I suspect you’ll have your pick of jobs after Hogwarts.”

He leads them back to the parlor where the food has been laid out. “Please, help yourselves. If you want coffee, tea, or something else, my house elves will  bring it.”

“Oh, tea would be wonderful,” Vi says. “Ced?”

“I’m afraid I prefer coffee,” Cedric admits.

“We have both,” Sirius replies. “I tend to prefer coffee, even though my chamberlain likes tea better.”

Harry is there, presentable in a tailored shirt and slacks, and he approaches Cedric with an outstretched hand. “Your performance in the last task was brilliant!”

Cedric smiles down at Harry. “If you had been old enough, I suspect you would have been the champion.”

Harry shakes his head. “No, honestly, I don’t think I would have put my name in if I had been old enough. I liked having a quiet year. Besides, you were the best champion Hogwarts could have asked for. The ‘puffs deserve some recognition.”

Cedric laughs. “The ‘puffs never get the recognition we deserve.”

“Well, now you will,” Harry replies. “Which I think is great, especially since I won’t have to face you in Quidditch next year.”

All of the DIggorys laugh at that, and Amos claps Harry on the shoulder. “Better luck next time, right, son?”

Cedric winces, and Harry forces a smile. “I wouldn’t want to go up against Cedric in Quidditch again. I’m just glad he’s graduating this year.”

Cedric opens his mouth, and Harry elbows him.

“I’m sure you’re relieved,” Amos says jovially, and Cedric and Vi both roll their eyes.

“I really am,” Harry says easily. “Cedric was always a worthy opponent, and I haven’t seen anyone else in Hufflepuff who can replace him.”

Cedric grimaces. “Harry isn’t wrong about that. I don’t think Hufflepuff will stand much of a chance when I’m gone.”

“Hey, let’s eat,” Harry says cheerfully. “I’m not sure about you guys, but I’m starving, and I’m a growing boy.”

He and Cedric devolve into good-natured teasing about appetites and food preferences, and Sirius swallows his own irritation at Amos to say, “You must be so proud.”

“Oh, I am,” Amos replies. “I think Ced could be Minister one day.”

“If he decides the Ministry is what  he wants, let me know,” Sirius replies. “I’ll do whatever I can to smooth his way.”

Amos beams at him. “That’s appreciated.”

Sirius might think Amos is a bit of an arse, but Cedric seems to be a good kid.

The rest of the lunch goes well enough. Harry and Cedric talk Quidditch and future plans, and it turns out that Cedric has been scouted by some professional teams, and thinks he might play for a few years before joining the Ministry.

By the end of it, Sirius knows that he’s smoothed over any ruffled feathers from their inability to congratulate Cedric at the end of the third task.

Not that they’d been at fault, but Sirius knows that emotions aren’t always rational, and he never wants to make an enemy when he can make a friend.

After the Diggorys leave, he and Harry have an appointment at the Ministry to give their statements. Shacklebolt accompanies them to the Ministry from Grimmauld Place, and Sirius knows that this most recent attempt on his life is only going to make the Aurors that much more paranoid about his safety, even with Voldemort finally dead.

Amelia greets them personally in the lobby. “Minister, I’m going to formally request that we take your son’s statement first. You can observe, but I’d like to interview him separately.”

Sirius glances at Harry. “Are you all right with that, Harry?”

Harry nods. “I don’t mind. I’ll be fine, Dad.”

“I know you will be,” Sirius replies. “That’s fine, Amelia, but I’d count it as a favor to me if you’d handle it personally.”

Amelia smiles. “Of course.”

She takes Harry to one of the interview rooms, and Sirius follows Shacklebolt to the observation room.

“Now, Harry, I’d like your statement just to get your impressions on what happened, but then I’m going to ask if you’d be comfortable giving me a copy for the pensieve,” Amelia begins.

Harry nods. “That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that.”

“Good,” Amelia replies. “Then please start from the beginning. What do you remember?”

“We were going to congratulate Cedric on winning the Tournament, and we were waiting for the crowd to thin out a little,” Harry begins. “Dad had his arm around me, and someone yelled ‘minister,’ and threw I think a rope or something. Dad grabbed it with his free hand, and I kind of got pulled along.”

Sirius winces. “He’s lucky he didn’t get splinched.”

“Very lucky,” Shacklebolt agrees.

Portkeys are safe—if you have physical contact with the object—but things are a lot dicier when you’re just pulled along in its wake.

“What happened then?” Amelia is asking.

Harry frowns. “We kind of got thrown apart, and I rolled behind a gravestone. I wasn’t sure where the threat was, and I wanted to be able to help my dad if I could. I saw Peter Pettigrew and something else on the ground. It was the size of a small child, but misshapen.”

“And this was Voldemort’s form?” Amelia asks.

“That’s what I eventually figured out,” Harry admits. “I watched as Pettigrew tied my dad to a gravestone, and emptied his pockets, and I knew that meant he probably wouldn’t have his beacon on him.”

“I think your dad told me that you have an emergency portkey,” Amelia says. “Why didn’t you use it to get help?”

“I didn’t know where we were,” Harry protests. “How could I get help and get them back to where we were if I didn’t know where to direct the Aurors?”

Amelia frowns. “We could have activated the beacon remotely.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Harry admits. “But I wasn’t going to let Voldemort take another parent from me.”

Harry then describes how he’d waited for Pettigrew to be distracted to sneak through the cemetery, darting from gravestone to gravestone, to reach Sirius’ side. He explains how Sirius had urged him to use his emergency portkey, and Harry refused. How he’d freed Sirius so that Sirius could transform into Padfoot. How Voldemort had called for his snake when Sirius went after Pettigrew.

“Voldemort told Nagini to kill my dad, and I tried to get her to listen to me instead,” Harry says.

Sirius winces. He’s not sure he wants Harry’s parseltongue abilities to be widely known, but he doesn’t have the ability to prevent it at, the moment.

“How did you do that?” Amelia asks gently.

“I’m a parseltongue,” Harry admits. “I found out second year when I heard the basilisk in the walls.”

Amelia just nods and doesn’t outwardly respond. “And how did the snake respond?”

“She paused, and she said she was bound to her lord,” Harry says. “And that she could already taste the blood, so I hit her with a reducto.” Harry pauses. “I really hated to do it, but she would have killed us both if given the chance.”

Amelia nods. “She was a magical creature, Harry, and you were acting in self-defense, and in defense of your dad. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Harry gulps.

“Do you want some water?” Amelia asks.

Harry nods gratefully. “Yes, please.”

“What happened with Pettigrew?” Amelia questions gently, handing him a glass.

Harry hesitates. “Dad was in his animagus form when he broke Pettigrew’s wand arm and bit the back of his legs to keep him from running.”

Sirius knows he’s going to be getting questioned about that later. It was an act of savagery, but Sirius doesn’t have any regrets.

Amelia makes a note. “And what happened with Voldemort?”

Harry stares down at the table. “He was killed with a piercing hex.”

“You know I’m going to see the memory, Harry,” Amelia says gently.

Harry blows out a breath. “I know, but he needed to die.”

“You’ll get no argument from me, and your dad isn’t in trouble,” Amelia is quick to reassure him. “Voldemort has had a kill order on him since the 1970s, and it was never rescinded.”

“Dad said it shouldn’t be something that I should have to do,” Harry finally admits. “He was the one to use the piercing hex.”

Shacklebolt glances at him. “Did you know about the kill order?”

“I was one of those hunting Death Eaters during the last war,” Sirius reminds him. “I knew the status of every single kill order, and I made sure I still knew the status.”

Shacklebolt raises his eyebrows. “You were going to kill him.”

“As long as he lived, he was a danger to my son, and I think I’ve made my feelings on that matter very clear,” Sirius replies simply.

That wraps up Harry’s statement, and then it’s Sirius’ turn. He leaves Harry with Shacklebolt, and he sits down across from Amelia.

Amelia nods at him. “In your own time, Minister.”

Sirius gives his own perspective, and Amelia says, “I really only have two questions for you. The piercing hex?”

“I wasn’t going to leave a threat to Harry on the board,” Sirius says simply. “But you don’t need the killing curse to end someone’s life.”

Amelia snorts. “True. Not many people understand that.”

“Not many people were hunting Death Eaters in the last war,” Sirius counters.

“And Peter Pettigrew,” Amelia says.

“The last time I had a chance to capture him, he escaped,” Sirius says quietly. “I wasn’t going to give him another chance.”

Amelia sighs. “Well, I’m not sure I can fault you for that, Minister, but that was a bit savage.”

“And I won’t apologize for that,” Sirius says bluntly. “He was trying to restore Voldemort to his former glory. He’s lucky he isn’t dead.”

“I think that’s all the questions I have for you, Minister. I am glad to see you in one piece,” she says.

Sirius smiles. “To be honest, I’m just glad it’s over.”

“Indeed,” Amelia replies. “I’m sure you are.”

Sirius stands and shakes her hand, and he meets Harry in the hallway, putting an arm around Harry’s shoulders. “You hungry, pup?”

Harry nods. “Starving, actually.”

“Let’s go home,” Sirius says, and looks at Shacklebolt. “We’re going straight to Black Manor, and won’t be leaving until it’s time to take Harry back to Hogwarts.”

Shacklebolt nods. “Of course, Minister. I’ll be happy to accompany you on Monday.”

“Thank you,” Sirius replies.

When they arrive back at Black Manor, Remus is waiting for them. “How did things go?”

“Fine,” Sirius says. “We gave our statements and copies of our memories. Amelia wasn’t too thrilled at my rough treatment of Wormtail, but I’m not going to apologize.”

“Nor should you,” Remus says. “He deserved it for what he did to James and Lily.”

“He really did,” Harry insists.

Remus hands Sirius a letter. “Narcissa sent an owl, by the way. The owl is still waiting for a reply.”

Sirius opens the letter and smiles. “She’s invited herself for dinner tomorrow, her and Draco. Apparently, having the Minister of Magic kidnapped during a major international event on the Hogwarts grounds has caused a crisis of faith in the school’s security. A lot of parents have insisted on bringing their kids home early.”

“Are they ending school early?” Harry asks. “I mean, we’re still supposed to sit for exams.”

“They’re allowing parents to take their kids home, and then bring them back for exams,” Sirius replies. “So, it’s up to you, Harry.”

Harry shrugs. “I’ll go back to school. The threat is gone, right?”

“It is,” Sirius agrees.

“Besides, I promised to study with Hermione,” Harry says. “She has a color-coded schedule and everything.”

Sirius chuckles. “Good enough. You up for lunch with Narcissa and Draco tomorrow?”

Harry nods cheerfully. “Sure, why not? I’m going to get changed.”

“Dinner should be ready in about fifteen minutes,” Remus tells him. “Judging from the smells coming from the kitchen, Cordy has outdone herself.”

“Sounds great,” Harry says cheerfully.

When he thunders upstairs from the library, Remus glances at him. “He doesn’t seem traumatized.”

Sirius remembers just how devastated Harry had been originally at Cedric’s death. “I don’t think he is.”

“Probably because you were there with him the whole time, and you weren’t harmed,” Remus comments.

Sirius nods. “I hope that’s the case, and it doesn’t come to haunt him later.”

“And you?” Remus asks. “Is it going to haunt you?”

Sirius shrugs. “Oh, I’ve had a lot more traumatizing experiences in my life, Moony. I think I’ll be just fine in the long run.”

~~~~~

The next day, Narcissa and Draco come over for a traditional Sunday dinner. It’s not a typical experience for any of them, but Sirius hopes that it becomes more common place.

Sirius warned Harry to dress sharply, knowing what Narcissa expects, and he and Remus also dress in sharp trousers and collared shirts. For the first time in a long time, Sirius dispenses with his armor.

He won’t need it around Narcissa and Draco, not when they’re safe in Black Manor.

Sirius feels lighter without it, but also strangely naked.

“Are you going to continue wearing the armor after this?” Remus asks.

Sirius adjusts his cufflinks. “Better safe than sorry, and it’s not like I have a shortage of enemies, even if most of them have been taken off the board. I plan on living for a very long time to come.”

Remus kisses him gently. “Good. I’m glad you’re being sensible about it. I don’t want you hurt either. My heart was in my throat the entire time you and Harry were missing.”

“You and Harry are my entire world, so I can sympathize,” Sirius replies. “Come on, Narcissa should be here shortly.”

Harry joins them in the formal parlor, looking very smart and very grown up in his dark slacks and crisp, green dress shirt. “Very sharp,” Sirius says.

Harry grins. “Well, Cousin Narcissa did tell me that a gentleman should always appear well-dressed and well put together any time he has company.”

“Good thing we don’t have company too often, then,” Sirius replies cheerfully.

Cordy shows Narcissa and Draco into the parlor very soon after that, and Sirius busses Narcissa on each cheek. “You’re looking well, cousin.”

“So are you,” she replies coolly. “And I hear you’re to be congratulated. Not only have you ended the threat of Voldemort, but you also captured the murderer Pettigrew.”

Sirius smiles. “You’re well informed. And I couldn’t have done it without Harry.”

Harry is hovering just behind Sirius, whereas Draco is half-hiding behind Narcissa. Sirius puts a hand on Harry’s shoulder and nudges him forward.

“Oh, Harry,” Narcissa sighs and kisses him on the forehead. “I do wish you wouldn’t throw yourself headlong into danger.”

“I didn’t!” Harry protests vehemently. “I got sucked into it by a portkey.”

Narcissa gives him a cool look. “And did you use your emergency portkey?”

Harry winces. “No?”

Draco rolls his eyes. “Such a Gryffindor.”

Narcissa turns that same look on her son. “Draco, we discussed this.”

Draco looks supremely uncomfortable when he thrusts a hand out. “I’m very glad you weren’t injured, Potter.”

Harry’s expression turns amused. “Thank you, Malfoy.”

Sirius is impressed by Narcissa’s control over her son. “Well, come on through to the dining room. I hope you’re hungry. I’m fairly certain that Cordy has made enough food to feed an entire Quidditch team.”

There’s a roast leg of lamb, potatoes, vegetables, and Yorkshire puddings and gravy. Draco is clearly on his best behavior, and Sirius catches him glancing at Harry on more than one occasion when he doesn’t think anyone is watching. Harry does the same.

“I hope that if you’re roped into danger in the future, you’ll have a little more care for your own skin,” Narcissa says once dinner has been served.

“As long as Dad isn’t in danger,” Harry replies.

Narcissa shakes her head. “Sirius can take care of himself.”

Harry hesitates, and then he says, “I promise I’ll be careful.”

“Good,” Narcissa says firmly. “Then that’s settled. I do appreciate the fact that your quick thinking and your actions kept Sirius safe.”

Harry blushes. “Thank you, cousin.”

“Are you ready for your exams, Draco?” Remus asks politely, changing the subject.

Draco hesitates. “I’m sure I will be. I have more studying to do before I’ll be ready for them.”

“What about you, Harry?” Narcissa asks. “Are you going back to Hogwarts?”

“That’s the plan,” Harry replies. “I’m not worried about the danger at this point, with Voldemort dead, and I’d like to finish up the school year there. As for my exams, I think I’m ready. We’ve been running a study group all year, so I feel very well prepared.”

“Is that the group you’ve been helping with, Draco?” Narcissa asks.

“With potions,” Draco confirms. “Since Potter is useless at them.”

Narcissa’s glare could cut glass. “Is that right?”

“He was the one who said it first, not me,” Draco mutters. “Sorry, Potter.”

“Potions really isn’t my favorite subject,” Harry says cheerfully. “Although I think History of Magic might be the worst. I keep getting the various goblin rebellions confused.”

“Why they’ve kept Professor Binns on so long, I’ll never know,” Narcissa comments.

“He puts everyone to sleep,” Sirius agrees. “And really, the goblin rebellions are fairly interesting if properly taught.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Harry mutters.

Remus smiles. “Remind me to put that on the list of subjects this summer, Harry. I have a book you might like.”

Harry frowns dubiously. “Really?”

“It’s told from a goblin’s point of view,” Remus adds.

Harry perks up at that. “Oh, that would be different.”

“Why would you need a goblin’s point of view?” Draco asks, sounding almost disgusted.

“For the same reason it’s important to know the views of your political opponents, Draco,” Sirius comments. “And if you know how not to offend a goblin, your accounts stand a much better chance of prospering.”

“But I know how not to offend a goblin,” Draco protests.

Narcissa raises her eyebrows. “But do you know the theory behind it?”

Draco hesitates. “No,” he admits reluctantly.

“And that is why it’s so important that you spend time with Cousin Sirius this summer,” Narcissa says severely. “You need to broaden your horizons.”

Draco doesn’t seem entirely convinced, but Harry comments, “Plus, there’s Quidditch pretty much every day.”

“I can play Qudditch all I want at Malfoy Manor,” Draco mutters.

“And Cousin Sirius is being very generous in allowing you to stay with them while I’m traveling,” Narcissa says in a tone that doesn’t brook an argument.

Draco looks slightly mutinous, but he says, “Thank you, cousin.”

“Of course,” Sirius replies, and wonders just how difficult Draco is likely to be. Still, he can tell that Narcissa is trying to civilize Draco. He might always hold his pureblood prejudices, but he’ll at least know how to pretend in front of people who he might need to persuade.

“I’m looking forward to going back to the house in France,” Harry admits. “I like getting away from England.”

“It will give you a chance to practice your French, Draco,” Narcissa adds. “It wouldn’t do to get too rusty.”

Draco sighs. “Yes, Mother.”

With Narcissa riding herd on Draco, and Harry seeming cheerful even in the presence of his frenemy, dinner goes really well.

“We’ll have to do this again soon,” Narcissa says as she’s leaving. “I appreciate you hosting us.”

“It was good to see you again, Cousin,” Sirius replies, meaning it.

Narcissa smiles and shakes her head. “Try not to get yourself in any more trouble.”

“I have no plans for that,” Sirius replies, keeping an eye on Harry and Draco, who are stiffly shaking hands and saying goodbye.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Harry says. “Are you going to be at the study group on Tuesday?”

“I will be,” Draco admits. “I would hate to see all my hard work go to waste.”

Harry laughs. “Your hard work? Who was the one who put the group together in the first place? And found the Room of Requirement?”

Draco rolls his eyes. “Fine. Still, who is making sure everyone in that group gets a passing grade in Potions?”

“You and Zabini,” Harry says easily.

Draco seems taken aback by Harry’s cheerful admission, and there’s a faint hint of a smile on his face.

Sirius is beginning to think that this summer might be rather entertaining after all.

Narcissa presses a kiss to Harry’s forehead. “Try to stay out of trouble, Harry.”

“I will, Cousin,” Harry says.

Once they’re gone, he and Remus both turn to Harry. “Now, what is that all about?” Sirius asks.

Harry shrugs. “Sometimes Malfoy forgets to be a prat for a few minutes. I’m kind of hoping that if we keep working on him, he’ll forget for whole hours at a time, maybe days.”

“And you find him attractive,” Remus comments dryly.

Harry shrugs, looking a little bit embarrassed. “Yeah. I probably wouldn’t admit it to anybody but the two of you, but… Well. You guys showed me it was okay.”

“All I want is for you to have someone who’s worthy of you,” Sirius replies.

Harry smiles. “I just want what you have with Uncle Moony, like what my parents had.”

“I want that for you, too, love,” Sirius replies.

“I think I’m going to go read for a bit,” Harry says. “It was a good dinner, wasn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever had a family dinner like that before.”

“Probably not,” Sirius says, amused. “It was certainly something.”

Remus starts laughing when Harry is gone. “Well, the rest of his teenage years are going to be interesting.”

Sirius laughs as well. “Interesting, I can do. I just hope that he can be happy.”

~~~~~

Remus sees them off the next morning when Sirius takes Harry back to Hogwarts. “Are you sure you don’t want to come?” Sirius asks.

Remus shakes his head. “To be honest, I’m still not quite over how things ended there.”

Sirius frowns. “Moony—“

“Don’t apologize,” Remus orders. “I’m more than happy with my life right now, and you gave me that. But that doesn’t mean I want to go back.”

“You just don’t want to risk running into Snape,” Sirius accuses him.

Remus shrugs. “Can you blame me?”

“I can’t,” Sirius replies. “I’ll see you in a little while, then.”

“I’ll be here,” Remus promises.

Sirius floos with Harry to Grimmauld Place, where they meet Shacklebolt, and he apparates with them just outside the front gates of Hogwarts.

They’re met by Professor McGonagall. “It’s good to see you in one piece, Mr. Potter, Minister.”

Sirius has no idea how she does it, but she always makes him feel like a guilty schoolboy. “Thank you, Professor. How are you?”

“I’m quite well,” she replies. “The headmaster has asked to see the two of you upon your arrival. I’ll escort you to his office.”

“I’m accompanying him, at least as far as the headmaster’s office,” Shacklebolt insists.

McGonagall sighs. “Very well. I suppose after this weekend you feel the need to be doubly cautious.”

“Something like that,” Shacklebolt agrees.

McGonagall leads them up to the doors, inside, and to the gargoyle that guards the entrance to the headmaster’s office. McGonagall says, “Lemon sherbet.”

The gargoyle moves aside to reveal the spiral staircase, and McGonagall says, “Go on up, gentlemen. Auror Shacklebolt, you can stay here.”

He nods. “I’ll be waiting for you, Minister.”

“Thank you,” Sirius replies.

He allows Harry to go first, and Sirius follows him up the stairs. The headmaster’s office is familiar territory for Sirius, who had been there more than a few times while a student, usually with the other Marauders.

“Come in, come in,” Dumbledore says jovially. “I’m so glad to see the two of you are in good shape.”

“Great shape,” Sirius replies, wondering why Dumbledore wanted to see them. “Voldemort is gone for good.”

Dumbledore hesitates. “And the horcruxes?”

“Also gone,” Sirius replies. “Harry destroyed Nagini after she insisted she wanted to kill us both.”

Dumbledore’s expression is grave. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I was sorry to have to kill her,” Harry admits. “I tried to convince her not to kill us, but I think she was already too far gone.”

“I believe that Nagini was likely lost a long time ago, Harry,” Dumbledore says gravely. “You acted in defense of yourself and Sirius.”

Harry smiles. “Thank you, Headmaster.”

“I also owe you an apology, Sirius,” Dumbledore says. “I truly believed that Harry would be best served by the protection he received at his relatives’ house, but that’s clearly not the case.”

Harry shifts and frowns.

Dumbledore sees that, and hones in on it. “Did you have something you wanted to say, Harry?”

“Why?” Harry bursts out. “Why did you think I’d be better off with people who hated me? Why didn’t you want me to be with someone who cared about me and my success? Did you know about the horcruxes?”

Dumbledore hesitates. “I’ve had my suspicions for a while.”

“Why would you bait Voldemort into coming here my first year?” Harry demands. “Why wouldn’t you try to get Sirius a trial when you knew he was innocent?”

Dumbledore appears completely taken aback. “Harry…”

“And you just kept pushing for me to go back there!” Harry says. “Why?”

“I wanted you to be prepared to face your destiny,” Dumbledore says quietly.

Harry frowns. “No, you didn’t. You wanted me to be prepared to face my death.”

That’s a thought that’s been in the back of Sirius’ brain, but he’s never quite given it voice, and he’s never hinted at it to Harry.

Dumbledore appears stricken. “That’s not fair, my boy.”

“Isn’t it?” Harry asks. “How long have you suspected that I might be the heir of Ignotus Peverell?”

Sirius sits back in his chair, content to watch Harry confront Dumbledore. He just needs to be a supportive presence.

“I’ve known since your birth,” Dumbledore says. “I knew the minute I saw the invisibility cloak.”

Harry nods slowly. “I have the cloak, Sirius has the stone, and I’m guessing that you have the Elder Wand.”

“I do,” Dumbledore admits after a moment. “And when the time comes, I’m going to ask you to take it from me, Harry.”

Harry shrugs. “Okay, but I’m just going to break it in half. No one needs that kind of power.”

“You’d have the capacity to do great things,” Dumbledore says.

Harry smirks. “I already have the capacity to do great things. My dad taught me that, Headmaster.”

Dumbledore looks down at his desk for a long, pregnant moment. “You’re very right. Forgive me.”

Harry stands. “I’m already late for classes. I’ll see you soon, Dad.”

Sirius rises and pulls him into a hug. “Yes, you will. Good luck on your exams. I love you.”

“Love you, too,” Harry replies, and is off like a shot.

Sirius sits down again and gives Dumbledore a long look. “I trust Harry made his point. I have a policy of honesty with my kid. Don’t try to manipulate him again.”

Dumbledore lets out a long sigh. “Would you believe that I had his best interests in mind?”

“I would, actually,” Sirius replies. “But we all know what good intentions buy. I am going to prepare Harry to be the man he needs to be in order to change the world in the way I know he can. He’s a good man, and he’s going to do good things, and I need you to stay out of my way.”

Dumbledore’s twinkle dims slightly. “And Mr. Malfoy?”

“My cousin has asked for my help,” Sirius replies. “And I’m going to do the best I can with the time that I have.”

Dumbledore’s twinkle returns. “I’m proud of you, Sirius. I have been impressed with your performance as Minister. You’re better than Cornelius Fudge was.”

“That is a very low bar, Headmaster,” Sirius says dryly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an Auror waiting on me, and I have a Ministry that I’m supposed to run.”

Dumbledore stands up. “Thank you, Sirius. And congratulations on how well you’ve done with Harry. He has a confidence that I haven’t seen before.”

“I’m proud of him, and I count myself lucky every day to have him as a kid,” Sirius says honestly.

He rejoins Shacklebolt at the bottom of the stairs and finds him chatting with McGonagall. “Are you ready to go, Minister?” Shacklebolt asks as soon as Sirius appears.

Sirius nods. “I’m ready, thank you, Auror Shacklebolt.”

“Sirius,” McGonagall says. “I read through your bill. I always knew you had potential, but you’ve exceeded even my wildest expectations.”

Sirius is touched by that. “Thank you, Professor. That means a lot.”

“James would be so proud of you,” McGonagall says.

“I know he is,” Sirius replies. “But thanks.”

He and Shacklebolt apparate to the Ministry from Hogwarts, and Sirius heads for his office, knowing that after his weekend, he’s going to have plenty to do.

Percy meets him at the door. “Sir, you’ve had a number of messages asking after your well being.”

“Write a general response, thanking them for their interest, and letting them know I’m unharmed, and I’ll sign them,” Sirius replies.

“Yes, sir,” Percy says readily. “You also had urgent messages from Madame Longbottom and Mr. Mayweather.”

“I’ll take those personally,” Sirius replies. “I’m going to take the rest of the morning for correspondence, and then I’ll take whatever meetings are necessary.”

Percy nods. “Yes, sir.”

“Thank you, Percy,” Sirius says sincerely. “I appreciate you holding down the fort.”

Percy blushes. “Thank you, Minister. That means a lot to hear.”

“You’re a good man, and you’re going to do great things,” Sirius replies, knowing how much positive reinforcement can mean.

He works steadily through the morning, signing the letters that Percy writes, and responding to inquiries from people he wants to touch personally. He has every intention of working straight through lunch, there’s that much to do, when he hears a knock on the door.

Thinking it’s Percy again, he calls, “Come in!”

Remus pokes his head in. “Percy says you haven’t eaten yet.”

Sirius smiles. “No, and I have a meeting in half an hour. I didn’t think you were leaving the Manor today.”

“Someone needs to make sure you eat,” Remus says. “It appears you need a keeper.”

“If the keeper is you, sure,” Sirius replies with a smile.

“Plus, I wanted to see how things went with Dumbledore,” Remus admits, putting a brown bag in front of Sirius.

Sirius opens it and finds a thick bacon sandwich. “This looks amazing.”

“Stop stalling,” Remus orders. “How did it go?”

“Harry told Dumbledore off,” Sirius replies with a broad grin. “I sat there and watched Harry ask Dumbledore why he didn’t think he should be with people who loved him. He asked why he’d baited Voldemort into coming to a school, too. He basically told him that he’d hidden things, and outright asked if Dumbledore has the Elder Wand.”

Remus chuckles, delighted. “And what did he say?”

“He said that he did, and he’d ask Harry to take it from him someday, and Harry said he’d snap it in half because no one needed that power,” Sirius replies.

Remus smiles. “I love that kid. That was all Lily right there.”

“He really is brilliant,” Sirius replies. “It was a joy to watch.”

“I wish I could have been there. Are you going to be late for dinner tonight?” Remus asks.

“Most likely,” Sirius admits. “So, thank you for bringing me lunch.”

Remus shakes his head. “I would do a lot more than that for you. I hope you know that.”

“I do know that,” Sirius replies with a soft smile. “And I appreciate it more than you know. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Remus replies. “But I’m really glad I’m doing this with you.”

And Sirius thinks they might wind up being stronger at the broken places.

 

 


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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.

36 Comments:

  1. Holy Moly… this… this… was such a WOW! Such an amazing story! I can’t find sufficient words to express just how much I loved it! Kudos!

  2. I truly enjoyed this! Thank you so much for coming back to this series and giving us such an indulgent romp through this world. 🙂

  3. Whew! That was amazing! I really enjoyed the story and know I will be reading it again. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  4. This is a proper tour de force. Magnificent!
    I wasn’t sure if you would take the story as far as finishing Voldemort off, or if you had plans for more parts. Obviously either would’ve been fine, but I confess to being very happy to see him gone & Sirius, Remus & Harry settled into a much safer & happier future.
    Wondering if Sirius had done enough to keep Harry out of the Triwizard was nail biting for me as well as for him!

    I loved everything about this story. It’s a fine continuation of the previous one & an enormously satisfying alternative to the ridiculous mess of canon.

    Thank you!

    PS: in the Harry’s lovelife stakes, I love a good Drarry, but honestly? I’m rooting for Lionel. Or a threesome. 😉

  5. This has been an absolute joy to read. I loved everything about it – the original characters and the characterisation of everyone else, the plot and plotting (I mean, who knew Sirius had such a devious political mind), pacing and storytelling, the whole package.

    Congratulations on your achievement, and many thanks for sharing the result of so much imagination, work and effort with us.

  6. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you, that was a pleasure to read.
    I enjoyed every single thing about this writing. 🙂

  8. This is awesome! Thank you! 💓💞

  9. Absolutely Awesome !!

  10. I was truly sorry to come to the end of the story. What a great piece! Loved it all.

  11. Awesome!

  12. Thank you so much for all these lovely words. I very much agree with the others who have already posted. Wonderfully indulgent, political intrigue, young love, partnership, and the intelligent defeat of Voldie. Woohoo
    Thank you

  13. Firewhiskey Reader

    That was such a delight to read! Thank you for all your words.

  14. Brilliant and awesome! Loved it and I loved the OCs – especially Lionel and Harry’s budding friendship and hopefully more…. (not that I’m against Draco and Harry – I love them as a ship’ but Harry and Lionel is something different and refreshing! 🙂 )

    Thank you for sharing such a great story!

  15. One long and lovely ride. Thanks for sharing.

    I really liked that you brought up the OTHER werewolves Greyback turned. Hardly anyone seem to remember them. Also, you demonstrated great use of OCs, making them very real characters where you needed an outsider, but not overpopulating the story with OCs when you could use and undeveloped named character. Further, I liked that Harry’s first crush/relationship ended naturally. I think children learn a lot about what they actually want from those relationships that do not work.

  16. This was epic. I can’t tell you how much joy this brought to me over the last couple of days. I love fix-it fics where the hero just goes about being aggressively competent and Fixing All the Shit. Well done, you!

  17. Wow!!!!!! That was absolutely mind blowingly amazing!!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t even put into words how much I enjoyed it!

  18. Great story! The plot moved along really well, and I enjoyed the read, especially the second half. I too hope for a Harry/Draco/Leo romance in the future that they can all now enjoy. Thanks!

  19. I had this totally gushing, borderline stalky reply written, and then accidentally hit the back button. Goddamn it. Suffice it to say that I freaking love this ‘verse, all the original characters in it, badass!Sirius long suffering Remus, and a happy Harry with a taste for very pretty boys. You knocked this out of the park, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing. I hope to see more in the Veil!verse someday. Again, thank you!!

  20. What an excellent story. I loved seeing shit get done. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  21. Great story. I love the more adult Sirius. Thank you.

  22. What an awesome story! So engaging and so much fun to read. Thank you!

  23. Utterly fabulous, loved every chapter, thank you

  24. I really loved this! Seeing Sirius and Harry’s relationship deepen over the year was just lovely – especially getting to see a cheerful and confident Harry at the end of fourth year. Seeing Sirius let loose in the Ministry – pranking the Wizarding World! – and making such positive changes was a ton of fun. I loved the relationship between Remus and Sirius as well – so grounded, honest, and caring. Thank you so much for sharing 😀

  25. A brilliant story.
    That is such a better life for Harry, cared for and protected, but also given the chance to train and prepare for possible conflict. I loved the scene with Dumbledore at the end.

  26. Absolutely amazing.
    Really lovely and so well wrapped up.
    Loved Lionel and his family.
    A classic HP fic. Well done.

  27. This was amazing! I really enjoyed the first in the series but it was heartbreaking in places. This fic was so hopeful! It was a great story with adults actually adulting which is brilliant!
    Thanks so much for sharing this epic story with us!

  28. Amazingly good long fic! Thank you for sharing it with us. It’s a rare fic where Sirius actually lives up to his potential. Loved it!

  29. greywolfthewanderer

    this whole story was brilliant!! I love the family Sirius, Remus and Harry made for themselves, and I adored the bit where Harry chewed Dumbledore a new one, yee-HAW!

    to for a most excellent read!! *doffs his hat*

  30. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. 🙂 I love how the details of the story show the growth of Sirius, Harry and even Dumbledore and Draco. There seems to be a good balance in the powers and depth of personality.

  31. Very good story, i loved reading it. Thanks so much for sharing it with us

  32. This was such a great read. I resented the fact that I had to pause for sleep and meals as I wanted to just keep reading. Loved the OCs, loved the development of Sirius as a character and his relationship with Remus, and really, just loved all of it. Thanks for writing and sharing it with us. S

  33. Just read this again, both parts of this great epic tale, and love it even more, definitely an F.F.F. story( favourites file forever).
    Thank you

  34. This was so lovely. I could just sit down and read it again. I love stories where Harry and Sirius’ love for each other is so palpable. Great, great stuff!

  35. This was a lovely ride! I enjoyed every minute, especially the Sirius and Harry bonding parts, they made my heart swell. Well done you! Definitely an all time favourite 🙂

  36. This truly amazing. Wonderful blend of everything and also Sirus learning from his mistakes. As I said in the first part of this story, thanks.

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