Prologue

Veritas 1 - 4

Major 'Thank You!" to Tessie - who saved all of these. Or at least, was the first one to email them to me. So here we are, Veritas is back up in its entirety. This is a sequel to "This Was Falling" and "On Flying". I will have those back up on Friday. Those focused on Remus Lupin - this focuses on Sirius Black & is a bit more action oriented than the other piece. Still, it ain't Shakespear, but hopefully you find it entertaining. If not, go read something else for goodness sake.

This first monster document is parts 1 - 4. Parts 5 - 7 will be up in their own repost.

Prologue

***

Malcolm did try, very hard, to look even vaguely interested in the baby.

"What'd you name him?"

"What did you name him, Malcolm," stressed him father, softly with an amused expression.

Malcolm rolled his eyes at his father and looked back at Sirius. "What DID you name him, Sirius?"

Sirius laughed. I love this boy.

"Griffin. What do you think?" He ignored Remus' expression of delight and amusement.

"That's a good name, at least…." Remus and Sirius grinned at each other, and Remus shook his head. Sirius handed the baby to Remus, then picked up Malcolm and held him closely.

"We'd thought you might choose 'James', you know," said Remus, looking at Griffin.

"No. Same reason as you not choosing it. James is Harry's name to use, if and when he ever bothers to get married and have a few kids."

Remus laughed. "He's 22 Padfoot; he's got a little time. Malcolm wasn't born until I was 37. And here you are at…."

"Yes, yes. Let's not say it out loud, shall we, Moony?" Sirius turned his attention to Malcolm. "I'm glad you like the name. It's very important to me that you think that. You need to help me with him, you know. Make sure he grows up as wonderful as you."

Malcolm suddenly looked very sad. "Then…then you should bring him back home. So we can all be together…." He started to cry softly and buried his head on Sirius' shoulder. Don't, please Malcolm. It broke my heart to leave that house. You didn't understand that I wasn't leaving you.

"Malcolm, please. I love you so much and I hate to see you cry," Sirius told him quietly, patting the boy on the back. He looked at Remus, who looked concerned, but Remus quickly turned his attention to Griffin, who was now waking up.

Malcolm had been miserable after Sirius had moved out of the Lupin's home a year ago. He said little, but would climb onto his father's lap and cry quietly almost everyday for a week. Remus and Katie had tried to cheer him up, but Malcolm was far too young to understand everything that had happened, and that Sirius' departure was a good thing.

Sirius had also been somewhat miserable himself, knowing how hard Malcolm was taking the turn of events. He was just the most wonderful thing in my life for so long. Katie said I was spoiling him, but Malcolm's far too much like Remus to ever be spoiled. Cares too much about everyone else to be so selfish.

"Malcolm?"

Malcolm stopped crying and looked at Sirius. The brave face. This will become the defiant face pretty soon, I guarantee it. That thought made Sirius grin. "Listen you, I'm still here when you need me; you know that. Always."

Malcolm nodded, and looked at Remus, who smiled at him. Malcolm smiled back at his father, and then looked back at Sirius, and sighed. "I know. Sorry to blub." Sirius and Remus both laughed at this.

"Blub away, boy. Lord knows we blubed enough over you."

Malcolm patted Sirius on the cheek, as he was want to do with the people he loved the most, and Sirius turned him so he sat on his knee, facing Remus and the baby. "Now, I know Griffin there is not much fun at the moment, but I promise he'll improve with age. Honestly."

Malcolm looked at the baby thoughtfully for a few moments. Then he smiled up at his father again.

"Was I that small?"

"Indeed."

"Can he do magic yet?" Sirius smiled at Remus, who grinned back at him, obviously thinking the same thought.

"Not for a while, Malcolm. You only just started yourself, you know. And you're almost six; Griffin's only four days old, so I guess there's not much to be expected of him." Sirius gave Malcolm a wink. "You know what? I think I'll have to agree with you about babies. They are a bit useless, aren't they?"

Malcolm raised his eyebrows and glanced at Remus with a very surprised expression on his face.

"Sirius Black," said Remus, pretending to sound stern and formal, "we are not to say such things. Even if we do think them. Right, son?"

But Malcolm was now wearing a rather wicked looking grin that bode no good. "Well, I didn't say it."

"But you did think it, my little terror, didn't you?" said his mother, walking up and picking him up off of Sirius. She raised an eyebrow at Sirius, but he just gave Katie an equally dangerous smile. "Thanks for setting our parenting skills back another two months. Careful with all this Liz," she said over her shoulder, as Liz appeared behind her. "Never turn your back on him. Or the other one, for that matter." She smiled Remus, who was still pretending to look stern. Malcolm wasn't buying it though, and wriggled free of his mother to go stand next to Remus and give the baby a closer look. He leaned into his father's shoulder and looked at Griffin, now fussing quietly in Remus' arms.

The adults watched without speaking, all looking a little amused, and finally Malcolm looked up again and spoke.

"I guess he is special, isn't he?"

Sirius felt tears come into his eyes at that, and his smile shook at bit. "Oh, very special, Malcolm. Just like you." You were the first miracle we'd had in a long, long time. And you made us all so happy, despite everything that was going on. He caught Liz' eye, and gave his wife a wink. Well, it wasn't all that terrible, I guess.

* 1 *

Sirius Black was seriously put out. Once again, Harry had been forced to spend his holidays with the wretched Dursleys. Harry had insisted that since they had practically stopped speaking to him altogether, it wasn't quite as bad as it used to be, but Sirius wasn't having any of it. He knew that there was a very good reason for it, and that the Dursleys house really was the safest place Harry could be outside of Hogwarts itself, but he was still frustrated. Over everything, really. He was still in hiding, Voldemort still wasn't being taken seriously, Harry was still stuck in that miserable house, and most of the world still believed he was a murderer and the worst possible kind of traitor there was. He let out a deep sigh and laid his head on the corner of Remus' desk. And one more meeting I have to sit through listening to everyone talk about how we're getting nowhere….

Mundungus Fletcher cleared his throat loudly. Sirius' head shot back up and he gave Fletcher an apologetic look.

"Sorry, Fletcher. It wasn't you, really. Just me wallowing a bit."

"We're all frustrated, Black. I can't believe my own nephews won't take me seriously on this issue. But, I suspect they are like a lot of people who remember the last time this happened. They don't want to believe it could be happening again. They want to think that Harry well and truly destroyed Voldemort on that terrible night all those years ago."

We all wanted to believe that. The price for that belief was just so high.

"We'll need to make certain that Arthur Weasley and Dexter Tanner aren't being undermined from the inside. Fudge was extremely displeased, I hear, that Weasley missed a few days work last month because he was off 'doing something for Dumbledore'. He's looking for an excuse to sack them both, and any of Voldemort's supporters with ties to the ministry would be delighted to see that happen. Particularly Malfoy, for some reason."

Remus nodded grimly. "Malfoy dislikes Weasley because Arthur likes muggles and all that; you know that. And he can't be particularly pleased over Ron's open hostilities with Draco. Harry Potter's best friend and all that."

Dumbledore looked thoughtful at this. "Actually, Lucius may be having some troubles of his own with Draco, you know. That boy puts up a great show, no doubt primarily for the benefit of Lucius himself, but I suspect there may be more there than meets the eye." You must be joking. That boy is as rotten to the core as any other member of that family has been, is, or ever will be. But Remus, to his surprise, was nodding.

"I remember Draco, of course. I'll admit I kept a close eye on him while I was at Hogwarts. Quite rude and brash in front of others, but rather quiet and focused when on his own, I discovered. I thought that was interesting." Remus turned to see Sirius glaring at him, and laughed. "Don't give me that look, Sirius. I know he and Harry are openly hostile to one another. But remember what we were like with Snape, our own version of Draco, right? And look how that turned out."

Think what you like. I refuse to believe it. And Harry would have a fit over this conversation. So would Ron, actually.

"I think, gentlemen, that we have ended our discussion for today. I will give some consideration about the issue of Arthur and Dexter. It would be very unfortunate for anything to remove them from the Ministry." And very hard on the Weasleys too. He saw Dumbledore catch his eye.

"Sirius and Remus; may I stay and have a word with you for a few minutes?"

The others left, after giving their goodbyes, and Dumbledore sat back down in a large chair next to the open window. He looked out at the garden for a few moments, smiling.

"Remus, this is truly a lovely spot. And your garden is excessively beautiful. It must be a very comforting place to sit and relax. Pity none of these flowers would do well up at Hogwarts. Too cold for the poor things." He turned back, and looked at them with his customary twinkle.

"Now, I have two things to discuss with you both. Firstly, there is a rather talented young witch who has been working with us for some time. Very good at the Dark Arts, and an excellent charmer. And just as good at breaking charms. Almost, I would suggest, as good as you two."

Sirius smiled and gave Remus a wink.

"So I thought with the current problem you are working on, that she might be a very good asset to you."

Sirius groaned. Whenever they worked on a project with others, he naturally had to spend most of his time in his animagus form. It was difficult, because not only did it make it impossible for him to communicate anything in a timely manner, but he had discovered, much to his dismay, that when he spent too much time as a dog, his memories of Azkaban would intensify, and he would start having both nightmares and daymares. I spent so much time transformed while I was there, just trying to keep sane in any small way; the memories of that wretched place intensify when I feel things in that shape for too long. Blast it; this witch better be worth this.

He knew he had gone a little pale, and he could feel the scowl on his face. Dumbledore looked at him with concern.

"Sirius, I know that it is particularly difficult for you to remain transformed for long periods of time, such as this project would require," What? Remus…Sirius glared at Remus, who pointedly kept his own gaze on Dumbledore.

"And," continued Dumbledore, "it is difficult to work as effectively as possible in that situation, because you cannot communicate anything until you are alone with Remus. Am I correct?"

As always. "Yes."

"As this is the case, and time is of the essence, I have taken the liberty of explaining the situation to Mrs. Godine. Both of your situations, actually. I trust her as completely as I trust the two of you, and she is satisfied with everything, and has no issues with either of you. She was a few years after you at Hogwarts, you know. Ravenclaw. Yes, I think she came in your fifth year. You probably won't remember her, but she does remember you two."

Sirius drummed his fingers on the desk, as it always made him nervous whenever someone else was told about him. Particularly someone he didn't know. But he also trusted Dumbledore, and would just have to relax and get used to the situation.

Remus nodded. "Excellent. In that case, she should come and stay here with us while we work on this. Do you think she'd mind?" Sirius had to smile. Remus was becoming more and more reluctant to spend even one minute more than was absolutely necessary away from Katie. The baby wasn't due for another two months or so, but Remus was, quietly, starting to fret. Katie had made some very good headway in breaking him of some of his overprotective tendencies towards her, but she's not going to get anywhere with this. Good thing she knows it.

Dumbledore gave Sirius a knowing wink. "Actually, I have already asked her if that would be acceptable, and she has agreed. I'll bring her here tomorrow. And the second thing, Sirius, is that I think it would be acceptable for Harry to come here as well, until it's time to return to school. I had been reluctant, I'll admit, to allow this after the incident with Pettigrew last spring. But, I think that this will be quite all right now. And pleasant for everyone, yes?

Both Sirius and Remus smiled and said, "Yes, Headmaster."

***

The next day, Sirius and Katie went to the Dursley's first thing to collect Harry. The Dursleys did not say a single word to any of them while Harry and Sirius collected Harry's belongings. They did stare at Katie, though, who waited quietly in the entry hall for Sirius and Harry. When they finally got everything in the boot, and had Hedwig's cage secured with a seatbelt in the back next to Harry, Katie began to giggle as she started the car.

"Sorry, Harry; I think they were absolutely horrified to see that the wizard population will not be dying out anytime soon." She patted her stomach and gave him a wink.

Harry laughed and gave a final glance at the house. "I think you're right about that. You look terrific, Katie. How's it all going? Feeling good?"

"Feeling wonderful, thank you. The first few months were exhausting, as you know, but I've now moved into the 'glowing expectant mother' phase of the pregnancy, so that's a welcome change." Oh my do you glow. You practically float around the house. I'll do best not to mention the happy grin you usually have, too.

Sirius laughed and turned so he could face Harry. "And Remus has progressed nicely into the "Oh my God this is really happening now what?" phase of expectant fatherhood. Don't tease him about it, though, as one of the side effects seems to be a grumpy temper. Well, don't tease him too much. Your dad was the same, you know. All sunshine and light until one day he looked at your mum, looked at her lovely but large belly, and went white as a sheet. "Lily, we're going to have a baby in two months", he said, rather stupidly I'm sorry to say. Your mum just rolled her eyes and went on with what she was doing. Remus and I teased him mercilessly about it for at least a week. I think Remus is regretting that, now that he knows more how James felt."

Harry grinned. "Wait until we get a go at you." At me? I'm the most wanted criminal in the wizard world. Glad to see he's so optimistic for my future. But he smiled, and turned back to watch the world outside the window roll silently by, oblivious to the fact he was there.

***

They arrived back at the Lupin's shortly before lunch. While Sirius and Harry unpacked the car, Katie took Hedwig and walked into the house. Out of the corner of his eye Sirius saw Remus walk out and give her a kiss, then he seemed to be speaking to someone next to him Sirius couldn't see. Must be our new partner. Wonder if I'll recognise her?

Sirius turned and set down Harry's trunk as Remus and the woman he assumed was Mrs. Godine walked over. Harry gave Remus a hug.

"Hi Remus. Thanks so much for letting me come."

"You are always welcome here. I'm sorry we couldn't have you here for the summer, but, as you know, Dumbledore wouldn't allow it. Not that some of us didn't try very hard to convince him otherwise." Sirius laughed and put an arm around Harry's shoulders.

Remus turned to the woman next to him. "Elizabeth Godine? I'd like you to meet Harry Potter," the woman shook Harry's hand, "and Sirius Black."

Sirius stepped forward and had his first really good look at her. I don't remember her, but she was five years behind us. She was a few inches taller than Katie, and rather stocky looking. She kept her straight dark blonde hair pulled in a ponytail, and wore very plain grey robes. But her hazel eyes were very bright, and she had a very calm and collected manner that Sirius liked instantly. Seems very trustworthy, if not a little severe. Rather like McGonagal, actually. He shook her hand.

"Nice to meet you Mrs. Godine. I'm afraid I don't remember you from Hogwarts, though Dumbledore said you were there around the same time we were. Must not have served any detentions together."

She gave a wonderful deep laugh, and shook his hand. "No. Actually, I never served any detentions while I was there, I'm afraid. Ravenclaws aren't known as quiet bookworms for nothing."

"Now I remember one or two Ravenclaws serving a few detentions with me. With us, actually," he said grinning at Remus.

"Well, I do remember you both, detentions not withstanding. Actually, what I really remember is your exit at graduation. Don't think anyone has ever managed to top that one."

"Thank you, Mrs. Godine. A lot of planning went into that. Glad to see our efforts didn't go to waste." He looked at Harry, who obviously was dying to hear what this was about, and just mouthed 'later'.

"Please, call me Liz. I'm not one for much fuss and formality."

Remus smiled. "Then you'll do just fine here. I can't thank you enough for agreeing to come here to work. Your husband is very understanding to allow this."

"Actually, Mr. Lupin, I'm a widow, so this is no bother at all." She smiled, but Remus looked instantly apologetic. His least favourite word in the universe. Good thing we get to stay here and work on this for a while yet.

"Please accept my apologies, I had no idea."

"Really, Mr. Lupin, thank you but it's quite alright. It happened a while ago and I guess I just didn't feel like giving up the name." She smiled warmly at them.

"Please, call me Remus. Well, shall we get some lunch? Afterwards, Sirius and I will start explaining to you what we've been up to in greater detail. Harry, let me help you with your trunk here." Remus and Harry hoisted his trunk between them and started in to the house. Sirius and Liz followed.

"I am pleased, Mr. Black, to have…."

"Sirius." He smiled at her.

"Sirius, of course. I am pleased to be helping with this. Dumbledore only explained a few details, but this is quite interesting. How did you and Remus come across this anyway?"

"A long story that infuriates Katie, unfortunately. We'll fill you in out of earshot. But hopefully we're right about what we think it is. Something is hidden there, we just can't figure out how to get past the charms and spells hiding it. Right now we're deep in the exciting world, although Remus' happy world, of researching and learning every revealing, breaking, and transparency charm ever written."

Liz smiled at this. "Dumbledore did say that Remus preferred being at his house these days. When is the baby due? I assume it's their first."

Sirius grinned. "Our new Marauder is due at the start of November. Yes, it is the first, but trust me, he'll be just as fidgety with any others who may come along."

She laughed. "Well, that's as it should be, I suspect. We never got round to having any children ourselves."

Sirius looked at her evenly. "You can join me and live vicariously through this one."

As they walked into the dining room, she looked back at him and asked "Why 'our new marauder?"

Katie groaned and Harry and Remus laughed.

"Liz, you will learn more details than you care to of their rather sordid career at Hogwarts if you stay here for any length of time. They called themselves the 'Marauders' then. They regard this child as an opportunity to wreck havoc, even from afar, yet again"

Remus and Sirius gave her very innocent looks.

"Sordid? Katie, love, that's not entirely appropriate."

Liz grinned. "Yes, I may not have met you at Hogwarts, but I admit I did love getting details of what you all had been up to. I'm sorry to say that they were quite the heroes with our year, Katie. Especially after that run-in with Mr. Filch the night after Griffyndor won the Quiddich cup my third year."

Harry again gave Sirius a rather pleading look. This was a new one. I'll die before I tell this story in front of Katie. Remus can take his own chances. All he said to Harry was "That's the night we lost the Map. And that's all you get."

Remus flushed and didn't meet his wife's eye, even though she was grinning. Katie turned to Liz. "You don't have any details on that, do you?"

Sirius caught Liz' eye. Please, I realise I hardly know you, but I'm begging you not to…

"No, actually," she said calmly after catching Sirius' eye briefly. Bless you. "Well, not about what happened, at least. But anything that put Mr. Filch out, well, was regarded as a happy event even by the Slytherins."

Harry laughed, but controlled himself when he saw Katie giving him a look.

"Yes, I've met poor Mr. Filch," she said, starting on her lunch. "I made him very nervous for some reason."

Sirius laughed. "I'd told him the good news by then, and I'm sure he was probably already counting the days before our new Marauder hit the school grounds." He winked at Liz. "He'll need eleven years to prepare himself, I should think." Liz laughed and winked back. I like this one. She'll be just fine.

**2 **

Liz quietly got up and went downstairs to see if she could make some tea. It was early yet, and she didn't hear anyone else about, until she came to the open kitchen door. Then she heard two people speaking softly. She thought maybe she should go to back to bed. It's a little awkward being in someone else's house. Perhaps they wouldn't like the intrusion…but I was told on no uncertain terms to make myself at home, and if I don't get some tea, or coffee…oh lovely coffee… I'll never wake up.

She stepped into the kitchen, and saw Sirius Black sitting at the table speaking in quiet tones with Harry Potter. They both looked up. She was relieved to see that when they saw her they smiled, and did not seem at all put out by her entrance.

"Good morning!" said Sirius, "another light sleeper. Excellent. Join our early morning chat group, won't you?"

"Want some tea?" Harry asked, getting up and going over to the stovetop. Well so far everyone is very nice….

"Yes please. Afraid I'm not too much good without a strong cup to get me going. Not a chance of coffee is there?"

Harry smiled as he handed her the cup. "Sorry, no. Katie's not allowed to drink it right now, and she's a bit of a coffee addict. So all coffee has been removed from the house because even the smell of it tends to give her cravings."

Sirius smiled and nodded in agreement. "A sad Katie-girl equals a sad and grumpy Remus, so we thought it best to just avoid the whole um, 'caffeine' mess and ban the coffee."

"But isn't tea just as strong in caffeine?"

Sirius laughed at this one.

"You are a Ravenclaw aren't you? I had no idea what 'caffeine' was until Katie filled me in on the subject." She grinned at him as she sat down at the end of the table opposite them.

"Actually," continued Sirius, "Katie's the healer so she can give you the details of that, but the basic fact is Katie doesn't care for tea all that much. She keeps to some harmless little concoction she's given her other expectant mother patients over the years to drink."

She nodded as she looked at them over the rim of her mug. This is actually all quite fascinating. Harry Potter. Never thought I'd actually see the boy. Well, young man now, isn't he? And everything Dumbledore told me about what happened to Sirius there. I can't even begin to imagine what he must have gone through in that place for all those years. Seems well enough though. Interesting; I was always told that most people are driven mad by the Dementors within a few years at most. And he lasted in that hell for…12 was it? This is a rather extraordinary man.

"So what is the subject of the early morning chat," she asked, when she realised that they were watching her quietly and saying nothing. I have intruded. Isn't Black his Godfather?

"I was telling Harry, completely off the record, some of the details of what Moony and I are working on. Which, of course, I will deny vehemently and with great indignation if anyone accuses me of doing it. I think this could be important for him to know, otherwise he'd just have to settle for trusting Moony and I to know what's best for him."

Harry said nothing, but reached over and gave Sirius a light slap on the back of the head.

Liz smiled at Sirius, who grinned and made a face at Harry. "I'm sorry, 'Moony'? Is this someone else working on the project with us?"

"No, that's me."

Liz turned to see Remus walk in, looking very tired and a little pale, but smiling.

"Nickname from school. He's Padfoot," he added with a yawn.

"Why Padfoot?" Moony seems obvious. After what Dumbledore said, at least.

Sirius just gave her a wicked smile that, she was surprised to find, made her catch her breath a bit.

"Just boys being boys and all that. No good reason."

She looked back at Remus to ask him something, and saw that he was looking at her with a quiet, sad smile on his face. He turned his attention back to his tea as soon as she caught his eye though. He noticed I didn't ask about Moony, and probably got that I figured that one out. Dumbledore said that he was exceptionally bright, but rather sensitive on this subject; I'd best not mention anything. I'd be pretty sensitive too.

"Sirius was…." She stopped. Oops. Didn't he say he wasn't supposed to be talking to Harry about all this? What if Remus gets cross with him?

But Remus just smiled again and sat down next to her.

"Telling Harry all about it; yes, we agreed last night that this was probably best. He'll be safe in Hogwarts long before we get anywhere near getting inside those wards, as it happens, so that's alright. So long," he added, looking at Harry with a smirk, "as Dumbledore doesn't hear about it. He'll know we told you, but the unwritten law is that he doesn't know we told you, as ever."

"Don't worry, Remus. I swear on the grave of Godric Griffyndor that…I learned my lesson last time I let something slip." Harry grinned and Sirius gave a dramatic sigh.

"Yes, that was rather unpleasant. Actually making Dumbledore angry is about as difficult as getting Moony worked into a fit. But you managed it."

Liz smiled as she sat watching this exchange. It had been a long time since she'd been part of a group just sitting and talking over tea in such a casual, friendly fashion. Before her husband had died, their house had been the unofficial meeting place for all their friends. All those lovely, silly muggles. What a bunch of clowns we were. Terribly clever, hyper and invincible. Almost. She looked back at Sirius. He's not really as I remember him, but it's been a while. Such a handsome boy he was. Helen and Tobbette always looked like they were going to faint whenever he chanced to walk by us in the halls or on his way out from the Great Hall at meals. I thought they were just so silly, but maybe they had a point and I just wasn't paying attention then. Boys were not high on my agenda then, as I recall.

"Well, Sirius, how far did you get?" she heard Remus say. Now he does look exactly the same, just a little older what with the greying hair and the lines around his eyes. But I was always struck by how calm and controlled he seemed, in contrast to Black and Potter. Now I know why, I guess.

"Up to our fourth day in the tree, and you asking me for the fifth time that afternoon if I thought Katie was feeling better." He winked at Remus who laughed, but said nothing. Sirius continued.

"Remus could see where the wards started, of course. But they were unlike anything we'd ever come across. And they covered a very large area, so we assumed that there must be a large building or house of some sort hidden behind them. Concealing wards are, as you both know," he glanced at Harry and Liz, "about as complicated as it gets. This wasn't a question of someone using a secret keeper" Liz noticed Harry grimace and Sirius' voice had shook a bit at that, "because that charm just hides people, not places. Simple protection wards weren't going to do the job either. They don't want to keep people out; they don't want people to know it's even there."

"But it had occurred to us that maybe the people going in and out of the place did have secret keepers, and that was why we could never see anyone coming or going. Finally, though, we noticed a small group coming through the forest to the corner we had decided to watch. It was the smallest point in the whole area, and we hoped it was where the entrance would be. The wards we'd put up on the tree were far enough away from any logical path to that point, so we felt safe in assuming nobody would run across them. Sure enough, the group kept to what seemed the easiest path to the corner. Good thing too. There were five of them. Remus and I are brilliant, of course," he winked at Liz who smiled in return, "but five seemed a bit much. We are getting a bit long in the tooth, you know."

"Speak for yourself Padfoot. I was just worried you might hurt yourself falling out of that tree while I dealt with them myself." Liz let out a small laugh and Remus smiled at her out of the corner of his eye.

"In any event, our decrepit selves stayed up in the tree to see how they were going to get in. We assumed they'd have to use an incantation to open the ward. But suddenly, they just walked right up to the edge we'd found and vanished. Without a sound, without a wand in sight. Just walked into thin air. Or rather, just walked right into the ward. I've never heard of such a strong ward that can do that. Have you, Liz?"

She looked up at him. No. This is rather frightening. Only dark magic can conceal like that. She shook her head.

"No. This is very troubling, though. I can see why Dumbledore needs this solved quickly. Concealment wards are based in dark magic, of course, you know that. What revealing charms did you use to see if you could follow them?"

Remus shook his head. "There wasn't time or opportunity. We'd thought we would be able to manage that while they stopped to do an incantation. But they were just gone all of a sudden."

"What did you do next?"

Sirius looked, nervously, at the door to the kitchen, and Liz heard Remus chuckle. "She's still asleep. Tossed and turned most of the night, poor thing. So you're safe yet."

Sirius grinned rather apologetically, and turned to Liz. "This is the bit that infuriates Katie. At my urging, we decided to do something, well, rash."

"Rash?"

"Yes. We climbed down decided to give a transparency charm a go. Just on the corner…." He trailed off at the expression on Liz's face, and sighed. "Yes, that was Katie's reaction too."

"But that's so dangerous! And difficult! What would you have done if it had worked and you found that whatever was back there was a lot more than the five who had just entered? They'd have seen you, too! Or a least you can assume that anyone who put so much trouble into those spells would also have spells that alerted them if anyone was trying to break them!" What an idiotic thing to do. I thought Dumbledore said they were some of the brightest wizards he'd ever taught. Of course, look at their behaviour when they were younger….

"Look, I said it was my fault. I talked Remus into it; Remus was as always the sane voice of reason." Liz looked at Remus, who shrugged.

"Just because I'm the sane voice of reason doesn't mean I'm listened to."

"But," she said, still hearing herself speak in a rather angry tone, "you went along with it." Remus just frowned and nodded. She felt instantly apologetic. Listen to me, snapping at the man in his own home. "Sorry, that was rude of me. I'm just surprised…."

Remus looked back at her with his quiet smile and kind expression. "Don't be. As Sirius has mentioned, you aren't the only one who's outraged at our being so foolish. I think we were just caught in the moment, as it were. I did let him talk me into doing it."

Liz gave him a faint smile and turned back to Sirius. "So, what did happen?"

Harry, she noticed, frowned at this and gave Sirius a hard look. He smiled at his godson and focused his gaze on the table.

"Exactly what you would expect. The spell bounced right off the wards and hit us both full force, knocking us into a few trees and throwing us on the rather hard ground. When I came to, it was pitch black. I got Remus to wake up, finally, after giving me a very good scare, and we apparated back at the house. Showing up back here in the middle of the night, after four days of being off somewhere, and not telling anyone where, covered in cuts and bruises and quite ill from the effects of the spell bouncing back on us, was very badly received. I can honestly say I've never seen Katie so utterly, completely furious. Actually, I don't think I've ever seen anyone that angry."

"I wasn't very happy myself," added Harry. He looked at Liz. "Katie sent me a note explaining what they'd done."

Sirius groaned. "She was seeking revenge. She sent one off to Dumbledore that same day. Not a pretty lecture, that. Keep this in mind, Liz; that is not a woman to be trifled with. We've spent the last two weeks on the best behaviour of our lives. She's only just really started speaking to me again."

Of course she was upset. Taking foolish risks only leads to…leads to… She felt herself getting very upset, thinking back on that. Stop it. That was so long ago now. Just get on with what you came here to do. She took a deep breath and looked back up at Sirius, who, she noticed, was looking at her with some concern.

"You're very, very lucky no one found you, or came looking to see what had happened," she told him.

"We know that, too. Very lucky. Rest assured that this won't be happening again without some very careful planning."

Liz nodded. "That's why I'm here, then. To help plan this"

"Probably to do a little babysitting, too," said Harry, still scowling at Sirius. Then he turned to Remus. "Can I help with this? I know I can't do any spells…."

"NO!" cried Sirius. "Absolutely not! This is too dangerous and too advanced. You will not be coming anywhere near any of this. Finish your homework, help Katie, and don't even think I'm going to give in on this." He stood up very suddenly and stormed out of the room. Liz was taken aback. That came out of nowhere….

"Sirius!" Harry called after him, trying to follow. But Remus put out an arm, stopping Harry, and steered him to sit back at the table next to Remus.

"Harry," he said quietly. "Don't. Let him walk it out. He'll just yell at you again, and that will make him more miserable. You know he can't bear the idea of anything hurting you. Neither can I, actually." Liz saw Remus smile at Harry, and Harry, after a moment, gave a weak smile back.

"I shouldn't have asked…."

Remus shook his head, and stood. He gave Harry a pat on the back as he went to start making breakfast. "I knew you would. But it'll be fine. You know he can't bear your being upset with him, so it's safe to say he'll be back and apologising soon. Now, eggs sound alright with everyone for breakfast?"

Harry jumped up and went over to Remus. "I'll make breakfast. You sit down. You look a little tired." Liz noticed that Harry gave a quick glance in her direction, but turned his attention quickly back to Remus, who smiled the same sad smile she had seen earlier.

"Yes. Thanks, Harry. I appreciate it."

"Always."

***

They spent the morning in Remus' study reviewing what spells and charms Remus and Sirius had already tracked down. They were sorted by "We know this", "We don't know this" and "We're not sure we want to know this". She chuckled at the unorthodox but oddly efficient filing system. She ran through the "We know this" list, and was happy to see that she also knew all these spells and incantations. She also found a few on the "We don't know this" list she was familiar with, and moved them. Liz, however, wasn't familiar at all with any of the "We don't think we want to know this" group. As she sat on Remus' large couch reading an explanation of one of the spells, she had to agree with their category titles. This is a very nasty spell indeed. I wonder if three wizards are enough to hold it.

Sirius had not come back for breakfast. Katie mentioned that she had seen him out in the meadow when she came down herself, but Liz noted that nobody moved or said anything, and Katie just nodded when she got no reaction to her news. Must be a standard event. He did reappear a few hours later, and joined Remus and Liz working in the study without a word. Liz noted that Sirius and Remus seemed to communicate a great deal to each other without ever actually speaking. A nod, a wave, an eyebrow; they had their own system down. I used to be like that. It gets that way with people you know so well, doesn't I? Still, I'll need them to actually talk to me.

They did, happily, answer any questions she had, listened with interest to her descriptions of spell casting techniques, and made certain she knew where everything was that she might need to test things. She found that she was actually very relaxed being here, and she hadn't thought that would be the case. She had felt odd, going to live in a stranger's house; but when Dumbledore had explained why being there was so important to Remus, she couldn't have ever said no to the idea.

She found Remus rather curious. The idea that the man was a werewolf seemed so utterly inappropriate to what she'd seen of him so far. Not that you've exactly had much experience with them, have you? Actually, maybe you have. Maybe you've known some your whole life, but because you have some strange notion in your head over what they should act like, you never noticed them. Remus seems to be one of the most calm, pleasant people I've met in a while. Hardly seems like he could ever change into some beast.

And she found Sirius fascinating. He was very intense, but very focused. In her life, most of the intense people she knew had an attention span of five minutes; they were always looking for something else to be doing with themselves. She also noted that, as the day progressed and Remus began to look more tired and somewhat strained, Sirius' mood shifted and he became very calm and very attentive to Remus. By the end of the afternoon, Remus wasn't even allowed to open a book on his own, Sirius did everything. Finally, around four in the afternoon, Sirius had announced that they were done for the day.

Remus had looked at him with a faint smile. "You and Liz should keep…."

"No." Liz noticed the very strong, no nonsense tone Sirius used, even if he wasn't actually looking at Remus. Remus smiled at her, and stood up from behind his desk.

"Shall we have something to eat, then? Liz, are you hungry?"

They hadn't actually stopped for lunch. Harry had brought something in to them in the early afternoon, without a word and never once catching Sirius' eye as he quickly set down the plates and left, with a smile at Liz. Sirius was unhappy he was even in this room. Good thing for Harry he seemed to choose to focus on Remus instead. What's wrong with him, anyway…. Suddenly, she remembered that two nights ago, when she was packing to come here, she had stopped to rest, and sat in her window, star gazing. Only it was difficult to see anything, because the moon was so bright. Nearly full. It must be tonight then. She suddenly felt a little odd, but chided herself immediately for that.

Stop it. This is a wonderful man. He lives here with his wife, they're about to have a baby, his best friend lives with them, and Dumbledore would never allow Harry Potter to be here if it wasn't totally, completely, safe. Stop being such a fool. You know he takes something to keep him under control. You should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking….

She smiled at Remus. "I'm starving, actually. Food sounds perfect."

Sirius looked up at her and smiled. "Oh, you're going to eat well in this house. I'm a disaster, sadly, in the kitchen, but both Remus and Katie are wonderful cooks. You can show your appreciation by helping me clean up afterwards. And I will be very happy for the lovely company, too."

She felt herself go slightly pink. "Sounds fun."

Remus laughed as he walked out of the room. "Practically everything with Sirius is fun, Liz. That's why he's so dangerous."

Sirius winked at her, and then stopped her before she walked out after Remus. What?

"Liz, I know that you've noticed that Remus isn't feeling well. Dumbledore said that he explained to you about both of our situations, correct?" Liz just nodded. I've upset him. He saw me realise what's happening, or something. Drat. Then Remus must have seen something on my face too. Wonderful first impression. Let them know you're just as silly as everyone else, even when you know….

But Sirius was still smiling at her. "Tonight is the full moon. He'll have a little light supper with us now, then he'll come in here for the night. You know he's perfectly harmless, right?"

"Yes of course."

"I realise that this may still seem strange and probably a little frightening. I remember years ago when I found out. I thought it was terribly exciting and utterly terrifying all at once. And this was long before any wolfsbane potion. But as I'm sure you've noticed, Remus is one of the kindest and quietest men on the earth. He has never, ever, let the wolf hurt another human being. He's gone to extraordinary lengths his entire life to prevent that happening. You are perfectly safe, I promise."

Liz looked at him quietly. He didn't need to go out of his way to make certain some stranger was feeling alright. That's very kind. Of course, he'd probably be furious with me if I said anything bad about Remus, or expressed any concerns anyway. Lucky I have none.

"Really, thank you. But I have no issues with any of this. I have noticed Remus is very nice, and I can't imagine him as …" She trailed off, not knowing how to finish that sentence. But Sirius understood and nodded.

"Let's just get some dinner then. We don't talk about it. This is just something that happens here, and then it's gone. No fuss, no drama. Katie and I made a deal never to let the wolf have him back, and it's not going to, trust me. Now, may I have the honour?" he asked, the laughter she had heard in his voice yesterday and that morning finally coming back, as he held his arm out for her.

She grinned, dropped a curtsey, and took his arm. He was delighted with her response and laughed as he walked her to the kitchen. This is a very interesting man indeed.

*** 3 ***

Over the past two weeks, Sirius had grown used to having Liz working with Remus and himself, and was pleased to find that she was rather a pleasant companion. She was quiet and reserved, but showed a good sense of humour and brilliance at charms. Good as Lily was. She was also, as he had suspected, a very thorough and focused researcher. Once she had a problem to work out, that's all she thought about until she'd found a solution.

Liz and Katie also seemed to take an instant liking to one another, and had become very chummy. Sirius found that he enjoyed watching them interact, like when making dinner or something, and comparing the two. Katie was definitely more outgoing and had a wicked sense of dry humour that Sirius loved, but Liz had a calm, very easy going manner that he found…soothing seemed to be the best word. Not like Remus was, but Remus was soothing to Sirius probably more from their long friendship and affection for each other than from actually being calm. Remus seemed calm most of the time, but Sirius knew him too well. Remus is not calm. He's controlled. There's a difference. He can easily get worked up over something, but I have a hard time imagining Liz getting in a ruff over anything.

They were settling down to have dinner, and make plans for their visit out to the site the next day. Katie was putting on a brave face of not being overly concerned, but Sirius noticed she sat closer to Remus than usual and held his hand quietly through most of the meal. I won't let anything happen to him, Katie, I promise. But he knew he was also getting nervous and worked up. He'd been having terrible nightmares the past two days, and today he'd stared feeling cold again. And now, the voices were back, very softly, in the back of his mind. He forced himself to relax and ignore them, but he could tell from Remus' worried glances at him that he must be showing the strain on his face. He focused on Liz instead.

"So explain once more how we're going to test these incantations, and keep them confined to a small area."

She looked at him thoughtfully. "With one of us doing the actual spell, and the other two forcing the spell to stay contained, we should be able to test which of the solutions we think it might be without crashing everything at once. If we're right, then we can either see inside and get an idea of what's up, or perhaps even get behind the wards. I'm not sure we'll want to do that just yet, though, as we've no idea if we'll be able to get out of them. They could be set on both sides, and if I were doing that, I would never use the same spell to go back. Not prudent."

Sirius grinned at her. "So it's inside we go then." Liz did laugh at this.

"Not a chance, sorry. I'm far too dull and quiet to be tempted by you, thank you."

Oh, is that so? "That sounds like a challenge, Liz. I like challenges, you know." He grinned at Katie, who did manage to smile back, but she turned her gaze back to Remus quickly.

"Remus, don't you dare…."

"Katie, love, not a chance. Not even for old Padfoot. We're just going out for a few hours to do some testing, then coming right home. You know that. I promise." He raised her hand and gave it a kiss.

Sirius smiled at Liz, who smiled back at him. She seems to enjoy just seeing how much in love they are, too. If you've got to be in hiding, this is the place for it. I wonder what her husband was like? Sirius blinked at that, not sure where the thought had come from. But he recovered and gave her a wink

"Alright, Liz, just a few tests, and no stupid moves. I got it."

"Do you indeed, Sirius? We'll just have to see, won't we?" Even Katie managed a giggle at that.

***

The next day they packed what they needed and ate before setting out. Sirius had been surprised to see Liz show up at breakfast dressed in muggle hiking clothes. He'd become used to seeing her in plain grey robes, but now she wore a loose long sleeved dark green shirt and back trousers. Katie, who tended to prefer muggle clothing herself, was pleased.

"Liz! Very nice and certainly more practical. And I love the colour of that shirt; it really sets off your hair and eyes nicely."

Sirius noticed that Katie was quite right. It was a very attractive colour on Liz. Why am I thinking these things? Looking for any excuse to take your mind off worrying once more that you might take Remus out and not bring him back in one piece is it? Sirius lived with a constant nagging fear that something might happen to Remus while they were off doing things like this. I could care less if anything happened to himself, but Remus is another matter. Sirius knew that the constant fret and worry he felt was a lingering effect of all those years he had sat in his cell, thinking about nothing other than how he had lost his friends and destroyed so much. The memories of those feelings came back to haunt him whenever someone he loved was threatened. He'd been reduced to tears by this effect a number of times, like when Harry had nearly been killed by Voldemort after the Tri-wizard Cup fiasco, and when Remus had been forced to spend that horrible night alone with the wolf last spring. As a youth, before all of this, he was so convinced of his own immortality and that of his friends, he had never thought like this. But we aren't immortal, are we? Now snap out of it. You need to be focused. He smiled at Liz as she sat next to him and reached for the toast.

"You do look more comfortable."

"Mmmm. My husband and I were great campers in our day. This is actually what I tend to wear most of the time. I just didn't know what it might be like here. Some wizards think it very odd to see someone parading about like this."

"Not here. Katie's parents are muggles, and Remus got used to wearing muggle clothing himself years ago when he spent more time among them. He'll probably come down here looking like you. Come to think of it, maybe I should borrow something from him."

"Help yourself." Remus had just walked in, and Sirius was right. He was wearing tan trousers and a dark grey shirt with the sleeves rolled up. That surprised Sirius, as it revealed a number of scars on his arms. Usually, Remus kept his scars covered, even among his family and intimate friends. He must be getting used to Liz here, too. I knew she was relaxing

"It'll be more practical," Remus continued after kissing Katie and taking a cup of tea from her. "In case we come across any muggles. The robes tend to make them nervous, you know." He grinned. "Or just think we're nutters. Either way, it attracts attention."

Sirius grinned at him and walked out of the kitchen to go upstairs mugging an insane expression. Katie laughed and slapped him lightly on the arm as he passed. "No amount of clothing can hide the sad fact that our beloved Sirius is a bit daft, I'm afraid."

After he came back dressed in a black shirt and black trousers, they took their packs and apparated into the woods a ways off from where Remus and Sirius had found the wards. They stared walking.

"Very sombre selection, Mr. Black." Liz said with a quiet smile.

"This isn't my wardrobe, remember. Take it up with Remus."

They heard Remus laugh ahead of them. "I didn't tell you to match up that pair. You could have taken something else, you know."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Hardly much colour in there, is there? We need to get you some red trousers or a nice shocking pink shirt, the colour of that little sundress Katie loves. You can match."

Remus laughed harder. "Don't mention that sundress. Katie looks at it longingly then rubs her belly and sighs. Bit of a sore point right now."

"She'll be dazzling us again next summer. You be sure to hold the baby, as it will take away from the effect."

Liz was very amused at this exchange and raised an eyebrow at Sirius. "Red trousers and a pink shirt? Not a highly recommended combination."

"He'd needn't wear them at the same time, my dear."

They continued in a pleasant silence for the next half an hour. Sirius actually enjoyed walking through the woods, listening to the various birds, bugs and whatnot. And he always loved being out of doors like this, no matter what the circumstances. Totally free. But as they came nearer to the spot, he felt himself tense up again, and felt cold. Think about what fun it's going to be to have a baby in the house. That should help.

Finally, Remus stopped and put down his pack. Sirius and Liz came up and stood next to him.

"Is this it?" asked Liz, looking forward thoughtfully. Remus nodded.

"Concentrate. You'll just be able to make it out." But Liz shook her head.

"It's alright. I can't see them either," said Sirius. "Remus is the DADA whiz for a reason, you know."

But Remus just busied himself with taking out the things they'd need. For two hours they tested a number of spells and charms, but nothing happened. They all kept a careful eye out to see if anyone was approaching, or if it seemed that they had alerted anyone to their presence. But the wards stayed as firm as ever, and nobody happened along. Sirius started to get frustrated, but noticed that Liz just seemed to take this in stride. Focused on just solving one more problem, it would seem. Remus seems to be pretty calm too. He won't get upset until we start getting near our "I promise to be home by" deadline, of course.

Finally he heard Liz exhale loudly as she sat on the ground and stared at the air in front of her.

"These are very interesting. Not a peep from anything we've tried so far. I wonder if it has anything to do with the place. Is this a convergence point?" She looked at Sirius.

"Not exactly. A lay line does pass right under us, but the nearest convergence point is miles away in Cornwall."

"Are there any bodies of water nearby? There has got to be something feeding this, to make it so strong. A large lake or a strong river would be key, I should think."

Sirius looked at Remus. "Are there? I didn't think to look."

"There is a large lake a few miles away, but I didn't think it would be close enough, not after we found the edges of the thing. Unless of course…."

"There's an underground well stream," finished Liz. "We can use that. The wards can't reach underground, and the water can't be restricted. So we can follow the water inside and come out where it hits the surface to feed the wards. Perfect. How will we figure that out? Could we follow the lay line? That should give us a good indication of at least where to try looking."

Remus started packing things away. "Okay, we'll go 'round to the other side that faces the lake, and find where the line is. We'll have a look to see if we can find a well spring underneath, but we will not," he said firmly, looking at Sirius, "be going down any caves today. We're not prepared for that. We'll come back if we're right and do it then. Agreed?" Like I'm going to argue with that tone of voice.

Sirius nodded and stood up. He reached to give Liz a hand and pulled her up next to him. He found himself gazing into her face. That shirt really does set off those eyes.

He saw her flush a bit, then break his gaze. "Thanks. Shall we?"

They set off after Remus. As he could see the edges of the wards, he made good time in getting them around it and to the other side. Then they took out their wands and started slowly moving forward in the direction of the lake, spaced out a bit, to see if they could sense any moving water. Suddenly Liz stopped and signalled them.

She was standing on some boulders that made up an island of rock in the ground. The woods on this side seemed to have any number of them. She had a look of triumph on her face Sirius recognised as the look she got whenever she'd solved something particularly knotty.

"Right here. Feel it?" They nodded and smiled.

"Right," Liz continued. "Now we've got it, let's follow it until we find an opening and can get down there." Whoa, Liz. Wrong thing to say; weren't you listening to Remus' tone earlier?

Remus fixed Liz with a rather stony gaze, but she held up a hand to stop him saying anything. "I meant just find the entrance, not go down. Not today." Remus relaxed, and Sirius had to chuckle at her.

"I can promise that would not have been very pretty," he said quietly in her ear as they set off again. "See the set in his shoulders right now? Memorise that look. That means think very, very carefully about how you say things. Trust me."

She smiled at him. "Point taken. That didn't come out right just then."

"You'll get used to it," he murmured.

Two hours later, they found a cave entrance near the well spring. Sirius set a marking charm so they could find their way back to the exact spot. As he gazed into the cave, however, he suddenly felt a fresh wave of bitter cold pass over him, and could feel himself start to shake. Dementors live in caves. What if someone thought to put a few in there? I don't think I can fend them off anymore… Suddenly he felt Remus put an arm around his shoulders and pull him back.

"This," he said very softly, "is why I insisted no caves today. I know what you're thinking, and the same thought had occurred to me. I'd certainly make very sure that it wouldn't be easy to get down there. We need to go home, relax, and really concentrate on how we're going to get into the well spring, no matter what they may have done. Alright?" Sirius nodded, then gave him a hug.

"Alright, Remus. No arguments," he responded in a weak sounding voice. He caught Liz's eye over Remus' shoulder. Must think I'm a bit of a prat…. But he saw that she wasn't giving him a reproving look at all. She had a thoughtful, even understanding look on her face, and she smiled at him.

Sirius turned from Remus and they all apparated back at the Lupin home. Katie came out to meet them, grinning. "Goodness, five minutes before I get to officially start to fret. Very thoughtful."

Sirius bowed to her as he went into the house, but made no comment. He was feeling ill now, and the voices had started their quiet, screeching, incessant chorus again. He walked up the stairs rather unsteadily, and went to lie down for a few moments. He stared at the ceiling of his room, trying to think about happy things. He could feel the tears slowly crawling down his face and disappearing into his hair. Happy thoughts. James and Lily's wedding; Remus and Katie's wedding. Harry's first birthday; that was so much fun. Lily couldn't believe I'd give a one-year-old dungbombs as a gift. 'Not even you, Sirius!' She should have known better….But thinking of Lily just made him more upset. He never, ever wanted to loose the memory of her beautiful face, but right now it was too much. He tried instead to think about the expression on Remus' face when Sirius gave his first-born dungbombs as a birthday present. I can't wait for this baby. Less than two months now. He finally felt strong enough to stand up and go take a shower. But as he walked into the bathroom, he was struck that all his happy thoughts were of people in love, and he was alone. Great. You're going to be wonderful in those caves, aren't you?

***

He came downstairs to find Katie and Liz sitting at the kitchen table laughing about something. They both gave him rather dangerous looking smiles. Those expressions usually mean girl talk. Frightening. But he was feeling better now, though he had seen in the mirror that his expression was still a little pale and his eyes were very dark. He grinned back.

"And what's tonight's topic of conversation? Or is this one of those things I will have no idea about?"

"The baby's been very active today," said Katie in an innocent tone. Diversionary topic. Fine. Also my favourite topic, so we'll let it go.

"Feeling alright?" he asked, looking at the paper spread out on the table. Sirius looked up as Katie let out a small yelp. "What?"

She just smiled. "Just a good swift kick in the belly. I think the little marauder has a foot up under my rib cage. Definitely vigorous movement from the baby, that's good."

Sirius came over and knelt next to her. "Still the clinical one with this miracle, aren't you. Can I feel?"

She smiled, and took his hand to put it where the baby was moving about. I love this more than anything. Absolutely incredible. I remember almost passing out the first time I felt Harry move. It was the most extraordinary thing in the world. And this one's definitely active now. Soon. He smiled at Katie, who was grinning at him.

"Must be rehearsing running from Filch."

"Please leave that poor man alone. I'll be too embarrassed to send the child to Hogwarts knowing what wicked ideas you've given it regarding him!" But Sirius wasn't really listening. The sounds in his head from earlier were dying away completely, and he felt warm again, despite the chill in the early fall air. He stood up, gave Katie a kiss on the forehead, and sat back down at the table next to Liz. Katie stood herself.

"I'm just going to go see Remus. He loves this. Ouch!"

Sirius smiled after her, and then turned to Liz. He thought again what a striking a profile the woman had. Very strong. And pretty. Oh, stop it, Black! Keep your thoughts focused. The woman has far better things to do with her life than have some affair with a criminal, after all; innocent or not, you aren't free. He managed a grin and raised an eyebrow at her.

"She's been sitting here telling you horrible stories about me, hasn't she? I deny at least half of it."

Liz laughed and, for the second time that day, flushed a bit. "Katie has nothing but wonderful things to say about you Sirius. Actually, we were talking about various odd husband behaviours. How we can't imagine they lived without us, and the like."

"Oh? Care to share with me?"

She laughed again and shook her head. "No. Sorry. Wife's privilege. Part of our carefully constructed mystique and all that."

Sirius smiled at that. Then he asked softly, "Can I ask what your husband was like? Or is that too forward of me?"

"No, not at all. Brian was a muggle, and a bit of a 'wild child', actually. You would have liked him, I think. He was always laughing, and he loved life. Believed in living every single moment to the farthest extreme he could push it. Everything fascinated him. He absolutely loved the magical community, too. Thought it was all 'brilliant'." She stopped and looked at him with a shy smile. "He just took my breath away every minute of every day."

Sirius looked at her evenly. "You must miss him terribly."

Liz kept his gaze. "Yes, but it was a while back that I lost him. I've gotten over the shock, the anger, and the sadness of loosing someone you love so much. I'm happily living in the 'always remember the good things and move on' part of it now. So there you are."

I know what this feels like. I'm just struggling with finally getting into that last bit. He reached over and took her hand. "That sounds like what he would have wanted."

She finally broke his gaze and gave his hand a squeeze, but she didn't say anything. Then she stood up.

"Shall we do dinner then? Who knows when the baby will settle and Katie will finish all this. Besides, I feel like she's stuck waiting on me. I hate that."

"Alright, good plan."

They finished making the dinner in silence. That night, Sirius slept well, with no nightmares.

**** 4 ****

"How's your Patronus charm, Liz?"

Sirius tried not to shiver as he listened to Remus and Liz speaking quietly by the fire. They had spent the last day and a half planning how to get down into the cave that led to the wellspring, and trying to prepare for whatever measures might have been taken to prevent their doing just that. Remus is pretty convinced they've put some Dementors down in there. I'm going to have to agree with that. Very nasty and very effective. Bugger.

Sirius stood up as calmly as he could and left the study in search of Katie. He couldn't stand to be in the same room for that little discussion. Katie was in one of the greenhouses, working on some boxes, and singing along with some music that was coming from somewhere, quietly. This is why I came out here. A very happy, peaceful spot. But he still felt ill and shifted from one foot to the other nervously fidgeting as he stopped near Katie and leaned a shoulder against one of the struts in the frame. She smiled at him, but went on with her work. I'm not Remus, Katie. I won't stand here in silence just watching you for hours on end, he thought with a laugh.

"Good old 'country western', is it?"

Katie laughed.

"You've been listening to this for years now. Stop pretending you have no idea what it is. I'm in here by myself, so I can listen to whatever I want to. Or, I was," she said, giving him a smile and reaching to turn off the player. Sirius stopped her.

"No, no Katie-girl. I was just having a little tease. Please, it's nice. Really."

Katie looked at him quietly.

"You've been very quiet the last few days. How are you feeling?" She not teasing me. No 'that's always dangerous' comments. I must look as bad as I feel.

Sirius shook his head, and looked at some vines growing up a support beam in front of him, listening to the quiet music. Katie stood there for a few moments, then turned and started working on the box again. She knows I'll come out with it when I'm good and ready. After a while, Sirius moved and sat down on a bench facing her. She didn't even look up. Finally, he felt he needed to just say anything. She'll wait me out for the rest of my life if she needs to.

"I feel pretty awful, actually. It comes and goes, you know. Two nights ago I was fine, and I slept wonderfully. Last night…."

"I heard you getting up in the middle of the night, you know. So did Remus. He was concerned, but I told him to leave you alone and go back to sleep."

"Was I that noisy?"

She smiled. "No. The little marauder was keeping me awake so we were sitting up talking. Remus feels guilty if he sleeps and I don't, so he sits up with me. Silly isn't he?"

Not one bit. I know exactly what he's doing.

Sirius looked up at her. "He just loves you so much, Katie. It bothers him anytime you're upset or put out in anyway. This is his way of making it all right for you. Let you know he's right there when you need him. That nothing's ever going to hurt you as long as he can do anything to stop that happening."

Katie gave him an odd look and a sad smile. Then she nodded, and went on. "I finally managed to get to sleep, but I never heard you come back. Did you get any sleep?"

Sirius shook his head and held his face in his hands. He leaned forward and stared at the dirt floor of the greenhouse, resting his elbows on his knees. I look like hell, too; I saw this morning in the mirror. Couldn't even stand to look at that, so I never bothered to shave. Now I'm a scruffy looking sullen thing. Katie's onto it. It's not just the lack of sleep, it's the fact I didn't shave. She knows I'm obsessive about keeping neat and clean, after spending years covered in filth.

He shuddered a bit at the memory. The filth was the one thing that truly bothered him, that seemed to completely take away any sense of humanity he had had left. He felt foul, and diseased. He would sometimes look at his own hands and think that the filth was slowly taking over; that he was wasting away and the dirt and grime and mould were slowly replacing his skin completely. He was shaking now, staring at the dirt of the greenhouse floor. We're going to get filthy in those caves.

He knew he was crying softly now, but didn't look up at Katie. She stayed where she was across from him and didn't say anything for a while. Finally,

"Do you ever talk to Remus about these things, Sirius?"

"You'd know if I had, Katie."

"Not necessarily. Your relationship with Remus is your business. What Remus and I share is nothing like what you and Remus share. You know that. I remember very well when you first came here. Remus brightened up so much when Dumbledore said you were on your way to stay with him, despite what was happening. He was as happy as I had ever seen him. We talked of nothing else for two days, and I knew that whoever you were, you were going to be someone pretty special. When I saw that you obviously cared as much for him, I was thrilled. Remus needed that so much."

"Remus keeps you in a special place in his heart, and I know that there are things he hasn't told me, or wouldn't tell me. I don't mind a bit. I do mind, though, if you are keeping things in that you shouldn't. It'll never get better if you do. Trust me," she said giving him a guilty smile, "I know. Wouldn't you agree?"

Sirius had to give a soft laugh at this and look up at her, but he was still wiping tears away. "Might this have something to do with you and Remus spending four years denying your feelings for each other?"

"Indeed. But as you so rightly pointed out to me, that accomplished nothing, did it? Other than to make us both utterly miserable, of course." She stopped, and absently ran her hands over her stomach while she thought about something.

"Maybe you've talked to Harry about this? I know you and he.…"

"Certainly not! Harry's much to young; and he has enough to live with without listening to me…go on…" But Sirius had to stop. He felt like someone had put a crushing curse on his chest, and could barely breathe. Fresh tears started to form in his eyes, and the horrible cold came back. I can't think about these things. I need to be strong. Too much is at stake. Too many lives…. Suddenly, he felt Katie sit next to him and wrap her arms around him. At that, he dissolved into tears, and they sat there for a long while. Katie just held him as he wept and said nothing. Eventually, Sirius regained his composure and slowly pulled back. Katie smiled at him, but he saw that she had been crying too. He wiped a tear from her cheek and stood up.

"I'm going to go shave, Katie."

"Good idea. And Sirius? You know that Remus will never let anything hurt you, either, as long as he can stop it. Same goes for me." She gave him her customary sly grin. "I've grown very fond of you myself, despite my better judgement."

Sirius managed to laugh. "I'm not taking that from you, I know you have questionable taste. You did marry a marauder yourself, Mrs. Lupin."

Katie just laughed and took his hand so he could help her get up and they walked back to the house together.

***

The next day, they focused on finalising how they were going to get into the wellspring. Sirius and Remus had , from their own interesting youths, several experiences exploring caves. But Liz was another matter. Sirius was surprised to hear she knew exactly what she was doing.

"How are you with caves?", asked Sirius as they sat in Remus' study finalising a strategy.

"Bit of a whiz-bang, actually, " Liz replied without looking up from the parchment she was writing on.

"Whiz-bang?" asked Remus. Thank you, Moony; I was just getting to that.

Liz looked up at them. "My husband was an adventurer. That included climbing, both up mountains and through caves. Mountains I did not like, caves I did."

Sirius made a face. "Why would anyone want to climb up the side of a mountain for no good reason?

Her smile faded and she looked back at the book she was holding. "Because it's there, Sirius; just because it's there."

What did I say? Do I apologise? He looked at Remus which a quizzical expression, but Remus just shook his head.

***

Three days later they were ready to go. They had sent Dumbledore an account of everything so far, and told him of their plans to explore the wellspring. He had accepted this, but made it very clear that they were not to get lost or captured in the caves. After finding out what they could see, they were to come directly back and Dumbledore would come discuss what to do next with them. Katie re-read his letter to them three times while they finished packing to leave. Got it, Katie; got it.

Katie was looking particularly strained that morning. She finally started to cry softly as Remus kissed her goodbye. "Please, I know you're always careful, but I feel particularly dreadful over all this. Don't do anything, anything, rash. I've been having terrible dreams and…" She stopped speaking as Remus quietly shushed her.

Sirius looked at Liz, and then spoke to Katie. "Katie-girl. I promised I'd always bring him back. No matter what. I'm not about to stop doing that."

"You had better all come back, Sirius. With a minimum of damage. It's very bad form to upset pregnant women, you know." She gave him a watery smile. "Now that my dramatics are over, off with you."

They went into the garden to leave. Sirius felt wretched for scaring Katie like this, even though he knew she understood why they were doing it. He saw Liz give her a hug, and whisper something in her ear. Katie laughed and stepped away from them. That's what we needed to hear. At least Remus seems to be holding up. It drives him wild when Katie's upset like this.

They apparated in front of the cave, and Sirius stepped up next to Liz.

"What did you say to her? Or is this more 'wife's mystique" stuff I have no business knowing?"

Liz laid a hand on his arm and gave it a squeeze, but just smiled mysteriously and said nothing as the moved past him towards the mouth of the cave. Sirius looked at Remus, who just shook his head. "Don't ask me, Padfoot; I've no business knowing it either," he smiled and followed Liz.

They checked to see that nobody was about, then raised their wands for light and entered the cave. It was about seven feet high, and long in length. They walked towards the back, and saw that it turned slightly to the left and seemed to open into a larger chamber. The walls were dry, but they were high up yet. The floor sloped downwards at a low angle, and was covered in leaves that had not been disturbed in a while, Sirius was happy to note. Remus walked in front, carefully watching for any spells on the floor. Liz and Sirius kept an eye on the walls and ceiling, but saw nothing. Finally they rounded the corner and entered the larger chamber.

It was quite a sight. The walls had all sorts of markers, symbols and upside down pentagrams painted on them with what looked suspiciously like dried blood. That had better be animal blood. A huge spell circle had been cast at the far end in front of what was obviously a shaft leading down into the caves. A human skull sat dead centre, circled by three dead foxes? I think that's what they used to be. Disgusting. There was a musty wet earth odour in the place, which reminded Sirius of his cell at Azkaban. He caught himself. Don't start thinking about it. Remus is practically always right about these things; there will be Dementors in here, and you can't let Remus and Liz down. Plus everyone else who's depending on this. He was brought out of this by hearing Remus and Liz chuckle.

"What's so amusing?"

"Sirius, look at all this. Recognise anything?"

"No, but remember I've been out of practice for a while." Remus shook his head and pointed at the largest pentagram over the entrance to the shaft. Nice goat.

"You don't recognise anything for a reason; it's nonsense. These are just for show. To scare muggles, I suspect. Not a bad idea, actually. They should deter both muggles and wizards. Muggles would think some lunatic put all this rubbish here and wizards would just think it was muggles just silly." Well, it is rather nasty looking. The dead foxes add an interesting touch. But no Wizard would use a fox as a protection charm; not strong enough.

"So we just walk right through all these?"

Liz nodded as she lit her wand softly to peer at the ground just inside the entrance to the shaft. "Yes. And there doesn't seem to be anything just here, either. I suspect that the real spells are farther in, just in case a group of muggles feels brave and does come to have a look. One of them bursting into flames would most likely cause the others to get the police, and then the ministry would have wind of this." Wonderful image.

"Remus, what if it was just lunatic muggles?"

"I doubt that very much, don't you? So what if it is then, anyway? Could be entertaining to run into them," he added with a rather wicked grin. "Let them have a go at thinking their little ceremonies worked."

Sirius had to laugh. "Liz, take note of this. Always remember Mr. So-nice-it-hurts right here has a devilish streak in him. I wasn't responsible for all the detentions, and I want that fact recognised."

"I think Katie already does, but I'll voice my support, too, if it helps."

***

It was slow going down the shaft, as the space became more cramped and the rock walls slicker with ground water. Sirius couldn't help but feel frozen to the bone, and a buzzing had started in his ears he didn't like at all. He tried to just focus on Liz, working her way down in front of him. She was right, she did know how to get about in caves and the small space didn't seem to bother her a bit. Remus started finding spells after about 30 minutes. That slowed them further, as they had to wait for him to break them before going ahead. Sirius was furious with him when he got too close to one and singed his hair when it imploded. But Remus ignored him and still insisted he lead. Well he has to, doesn't he? Damn it!

Finally, they reached the end of the shaft, and dropped down into a larger open space. Sirius heard water running in the distance, and looked at Liz with admiration. Very clever girl. She was right. Remus made everyone douse their wands for a moment, while he listened for any other movement and checked for any light coming from anywhere. It was totally, completely pitch black. Sirius clamped down on his teeth to stop them chattering, and he shut his eyes to try and make the darkness seem less foreboding. He nearly jumped out of his skin, though, when he felt someone touch his arm.

"Sorry, Sirius," whispered Liz, very quietly. "Just me." Sirius reached out and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Finally, they heard Remus speaking to them a ways off.

"It's fine, for the moment. Let's get a look at this place," he said quietly and lit his wand. Sirius reluctantly let go of Liz and they illuminated their own wands. He looked at her face in the pale light for a moment. She met his gaze and smiled softly, then moved forward after patting him on the shoulder. Despite everything that was going on at that moment, Sirius smiled to himself and felt more relaxed than he had all day. You're going down hard, Black.

Suddenly, though, he felt a wave of freezing cold rush though him and his head nearly exploded with noise. Screams, shouts; then he heard Peter, crying out to him in the street that day. Lily and James, Sirius! How could you? He tried to stay standing, to bring his thoughts back into focus, but he couldn't manage it. He caught a vague glimpse of Liz running forward, but then, mercifully, passed out.

He came to feeling himself being held off the cold floor. He opened his eyes and saw that Remus was holding him and muttering some sort of incantation. As soon as he saw Sirius was awake, he handed him a large piece of chocolate, but said nothing. Sirius turned to see Liz kneeling on his other side. He managed a very weak smile.

"Moony is right, yet again, it would seem."

Remus grimaced. "Shut up, Sirius. Just try to stay calm for a bit." Liz said nothing.

"How many were there?"

Remus sighed, then helped Sirius to his feet. "Not going to just take some good advice are you? There were four. They've gone off in that direction," he said, pointing at the far end of the cavern. "So it's probably safe to assume that's where we need to head to as well."

Remus looked very pale and strained, but said nothing else.

Sirius dutifully finished the chocolate, but still felt ill and cold. He didn't say anything but he could tell from the looks on both Remus and Liz's faces that he looked awful too. He just took his wand back from Liz, lit it, and started walking off. He heard Remus and Liz follow him, speaking in low tones.

"Your Patronus is a wolf?"

"Not a chance. That was a dog, actually."

Sirius stopped and turned to look at Remus, who just smiled vaguely at him and kept walking.

After a few minutes, they noticed a faint glow at the end of the tunnel and immediately stopped and doused their wands. Sirius could hear very faint voices over the ever-strengthening sound of running water. Moving very slowly, so that Remus had time to check very carefully in the near darkness for spells, they continued forward. Finally they came around a slight bend, and saw the entrance to the tunnel. There was a wizard standing there with his back to them. Beyond that, the could see a much larger cavern than the one they had just been in, and a number of people seemed to be moving about. In the middle of the floor, halfway between where they stood and the entrance, was a huge spell circle that covered the entire floor.

That is not the work of any deluded muggle, Sirius thought miserably. That looks very powerful and very nasty indeed.

They walked without a sound to the edge of the circle. Remus knelt down to study it in more detail while Liz and Sirius kept an eye on the man ahead of them.

"Damn it!" she whispered very quietly but rather harshly. "We're right here! I want to see what they're doing." Sirius looked at Liz with some surprise. This was the first time he'd ever heard her voice with even a hint of frustration. Well, it's been a long day. He said nothing but nodded at her.

"We could use the Imperious Curse and bring that man over here. Remus and yourself together should be…."

"No!" hissed Sirius

"But he can tell us…."

"If one of the people guarding this spot goes missing, they'll know we were here, Liz. And it was difficult enough to get this far. Imagine what it would be like if they were really looking for us." And if this backfires, and we get captured….Not going to happen. Don't let your mind drift, Black. You're in bad enough shape as it is. He was starting to tremble slightly from the cold and exhaustion he felt. His jaw ached from him clenching his teeth so they wouldn't chatter. The voices never quite died down from the encounter with the Dementors. He was glad it was so dark he couldn't see how much they were covered in mud and grime. That would make it worse.

He glanced at Remus studying the spell on the floor. Sirius recognised some of the symbols, but couldn't make out the full markings. Liz knelt down next to Remus and they both studied the spell in silence, while Sirius kept and eye on both the wizard at the end of the corridor, and the Death Eaters in the distance. Luckily the man at the entrance to the tunnel seemed far more absorbed in watching the action in the cavern than paying much attention to anything that might be behind him. Finally Sirius felt Remus stand up next to him. He looks thoroughly frustrated. I guess that this is it for now.

"Sirius, we can't cross this. Let's get out of here now. We haven't been here that long, so I suspect the Dementors aren't back yet, so we won't have to deal with them again." Sirius just took a deep breath as Remus knelt back down and seemed to be muttering something to Liz. She waved her wand over the circle, then they stood up to leave. With a final glare at the man at the entrance, Liz turned to go. Sirius reached out and just took her hand, and they walked on together in silence.

When they finally got out of the caves, it was pitch black outside. Sirius looked at Remus who gave him a worried glance and apparated so fast Liz jumped. Sirius chuckled at her.

"Liz, it's the middle of the night. Katie, though always the brave and understanding trooper, is going to be in a state. Well, a state for her. Most people would register it simply as annoyance."

Liz smiled at him. "Of course; I should have realised. They're really a wonderful pair. Not too many couples truly love each other that deeply, you know."

He nodded. He suddenly felt like asking her if she and her husband were like that. The way she talks about him, it would seem so. How terrible for her to have lost that. But he stopped himself thinking that this would be a very inappropriate thing to say. Instead, he just said that they should leave themselves, and they apparated back at the Lupin's home without another word. He was exhausted and still felt ill, but realised that he wasn't as bad off as he thought he might be. He looked at Liz, disappearing into her room at the end of the hall. She looked back and caught his eye.

"Good night, Sirius. Try and sleep well."

"I will. Good night." I think I might do just that.

***

The next day Dumbledore arrived after breakfast and, much to Sirius' astonishment, brought Snape with him. Sirius wasn't as openly hostile with Snape any longer, after what he'd done following the time Peter had broken into Remus' house and nearly frightened Katie to death last spring. He was also aware that Snape was trying to actually find out where Peter was now, but Peter was proving very illusive. Just putting off the inevitable. He's not going to get away with what he did.

Liz was startled to see Snape, but she greeted him rather warmly.

"Professor! How have you been?"

"Well, thank you, Mrs. Godine. And yourself?"

Liz smiled. "Yesterday was a rather long day, but other than that, quite well." She saw Sirius looking at her. "I was a seventh year the first year Professor Snape taught potions at Hogwarts. I think he despaired for most of us."

Snape smiled thinly. "You did mange to pass with reasonable marks, as I recall."

"No thanks to Tobette, bless her."

"Yes. Miss Houghton had no talent for potions whatsoever."

They all went into Remus' study and recounted what they had done and seen. When they got to the description of the spell circle at the end of the tunnel, however, Liz took a large piece of parchment and waved her wand across it, muttering under her breath. Suddenly, the details of the circle burned into the paper. Sirius raised his eyebrows at this and looked at her. She smiled.

"What do you think?" she said under her breath as the others leaned over the parchment to study it.

"I'm very impressed. How'd you do that?"

"Bit of dark magic, I'm afraid. Like taking a soul print, you know."

"Naughty but for a good purpose. I can relate to that," he smiled, winking at her. She just grinned and turned back to the others. Remus was explaining what he made of the markings to Dumbledore and Snape.

"This is a personalised spell. There's no way to safely break it or get across it without knowing exactly what's mixed in with the ashes. And of course we couldn't touch it to get a sample, and I'm afraid the shadow spell Liz used to at least get this can't tell us what it's made of."

Dumbledore nodded, and smiled at Remus. "Right again, as per usual Mr. Lupin."

Remus grinned. "Thank you, Headmaster. I did pay some attention in class, you know."

Snape gave him a dry look, but turned to Liz.

"When you cast the shadow spell did you sense anything?"

"All I can say is that it is very strong and very dark. It was no ordinary Death Eater who cast this. And there is blood in there." Sirius didn't even want to know how she knew this.

Dumbledore looked at Snape. "The question is, Severus, how are we going to find out who cast this. And how might we possibly decipher what ingredients they used? We will have to have the original materials to counter-act the effects. There is fire, here, and earth. Interesting. No water, however. Very interesting."

Snape looked at the circle again. "Mrs. Godine is correct. There are only a small number of wizards who could handle this type of incantation. It's very dangerous indeed. It will take me some time, however, to determine exactly who did this and how. I have heard nothing of this place Lupin and Black found, so I suspect that it is a well-hidden secret even among the Death Eaters themselves. It may be," he looked at Remus now, "that they are trying to prepare a place for Voldemort to come back to. He is, without a doubt, still abroad. Still lying very low trying to discredit all the rumours about himself. He will need a place like this to return to, now that he's corporeal again. He can't hide that sense of presence like he could as a shadow, or whatever was left of him."

Dumbledore sighed, and sat down at the desk. Sirius thought he looked very sad and very old all of a sudden.

"I believe you are right, Severus. Please be very, very careful in this. We are fortunate so far that nobody seems to have discovered that there were people down there. Remus, Sirius and Liz were not followed back here, we know. But, I think that no one should go back to that place until we know more about this. Stay clear of it, and wait until Severus returns with news for us. Agreed?"

Sirius had to agree that this was best, even though it now meant that they would have to sit there doing nothing, knowing that all this was happening. He nodded grimly.

"Good. Now, Remus, might I have a word with Katie? I haven't had an opportunity to see her in a while, you know."

***

Several weeks crawled by. Between waiting for the imminent arrival of the baby and waiting for word from Snape, Sirius and Remus worked up more nervous energy between them than they thought possible. Katie commented that it could have powered the Eastern Seaboard for a week, but Sirius had no idea what that meant. They occupied themselves with further research on ward breaking spells and busywork for the League. Liz focused on perfecting her Patronus charm and memorising any number of obscure and complex incantations relating to protection charms. She had commented that maybe she should go home for a bit, while nothing was happening, but Sirius found himself protesting this vehemently.

"Nonsense. We need you here. We're not finished, and who knows when Snape will turn back up! I won't allow it. You stay right here where you belong."

Sirius noticed Remus looking at him with a rather amused expression, but he only glanced at Katie and went back to what he was doing. What? But Liz had stayed.

One night when they were all in the front room their conversation turned to reminiscing about Hogwarts. Sirius and Remus were very fidgety that evening because Katie had started having what she called 'pangs' the day before, but she insisted that these 'pangs' were going to go on for a while or they were just a false alarm. So she's carefully distracted us from fussing with a favourite topic. I hope Remus has realised that we're both completely under her control now. Katie loved hearing about what Remus and Sirius had been up to from an impartial third party, and shushed them repeatedly when they tried to interrupt.

"Hush. I find it more interesting to see how you two clots were received than to hear how you thought you were perceived." She gave Remus a good-natured dig in the ribs, and turned back to Liz.

"Harry asked me in his last letter if I ever found out about what happened when 'the Marauders' graduated. Seems he, Ron and Hermione are on tender hooks waiting for details. He threatened to ask Dumbledore." Remus chuckled at that and looked at Sirius.

"Well?"

"No, no, not you two. I want to hear what Liz has to say. I don't need some overly dramatic account of how you defied death to bung up the lavs again."

"We never touched the toilets, Katie-girl. We were much to sophisticated for that."

"I'll tell Liz the story about the spider and the Divinations final if you don't shut up, Padfoot," she said evenly.

"Ouch; Moony, do try and control your wife, won't you?"

"You're the one who gave the details of that incident, Padfoot."

Sirius sighed dramatically. "I told that story to Harry. That was my first great lesson in what Harry knows, so shall Ron and Hermione know, and that means Katie gets wind of it. The boy has been warned."

"Don't you dare speak ill of Hermione, or I shall waddle over there and smack you," giggled Katie.

Remus grinned. "Just tell Ron that Sirius has been taking her name in vain. That could be interesting."

Katie laughed. "Only once Ron actually faces up to the fact that he's madly in love with her. Weren't teenage hormones fabulous, Liz?"

"Yes. Lovely things. Quite a few Ravenclaw ones were focused on Sirius, actually. Remus attracted a fair number too, as I recall." She laughed as both men flushed. Sirius found himself thinking about what a wonderful laugh it was. There's some hormones now.

"Details, woman, details. Graduation, let's hear it." encouraged Katie.

Liz looked at Sirius with an amused expression, but he just winked at her. Go on. It was rather grand.

"James Potter gave the graduation address, as I'm sure you probably know, since he was Head Boy. Everything was very dignified. Dumbledore speaking of great futures, asking us to all stand tall against everything that was happening," Sirius felt himself wince a bit, but he smiled at Liz when she caught his eye. She smiled back and went on.

"Anyway, it seemed to go on and on. I missed most of it, due to a terminal lack of attention. I did notice," she said, looking slyly at Sirius, "my two best friends, Helen and Tobette, sigh rather loudly when Sirius was called to get his diploma." Sirius just winked.

"So, finally, we were getting ready to end it. All that remained was James Potter's address, then we were, blissfully, free. At first, none of us noticed what was happening. Then I noticed that the walls seemed to be, well, moving. Startled, I looked over more closely. Sure enough, it seemed that vines were growing up the walls in the great hall. Every inch of the hall. James just kept speaking in an even tone," His "I'm up to no good but I dare you to prove it" tone. Sirius grinned at Remus, who looked like he had the same thought.

"All of a sudden, everyone seemed to notice that the walls were alive. We all turned to stare, and then…" she smiled at Sirius and Remus. "The vines burst into bloom. The great hall became a sea of flowers. Beautiful, perfect lilies. It remains to this day the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Was that his proposal?" she asked, looking at Sirius. He shook his head.

"Not exactly. But it was his declaration of intent, as it were. The proposal itself was far more traditional and small scale." He saw Katie lean up to kiss Remus out of the corner of his eye as he said this. Remus did go all out, however. Katie turned to Sirius.

"I apologise for thinking that this was going to be another story that would keep me up at nights. That was wonderful…"

Katie stopped talking in mid sentence, with an odd look on her face. She seemed to be in pain. Remus immediately tightened his embrace.

"Katie, love, what is it?"

She let out a deep breath. Then she beamed at him.

"Please, go get Mrs. Noyes. Right now."

Sirius leapt to his feet with a whoop. "I'll do it! I'll get her! It's time, isn't it?"

"Definitely." Katie smiled at Remus, who grinned back at her, but Sirius could see that tears were forming in his eyes. This is going to be a long, long night, I think. He might just finally explode from all of this.

Liz went over to Katie and Remus to help Katie get up. Katie stopped for a second as she caught her breath again. Remus was obviously frightened and ecstatic at the same time.

"Not just pangs? This is it? Isn't this early? I mean…."

Liz cut him off. "Babies rarely make their entrance on the exact day we think they might, Remus. My nephew was born spot on the day he was predicted and everyone practically died from the shock. Except Brian. He'd put his money on that day, and everyone thought he was bonkers at the time…." They walked out and Sirius went to the fire and into Mrs. Noyes' shop. She better be in.

Mrs. Noyes was there, speaking to three people standing near the door. She looked absolutely stunned when Sirius came out of the back room. Oops. Hadn't thought of this. Better get out quickly. He just leaned towards her, bowed, wiggled his eyebrows, and left again immediately. That'll be fun to see how that's explained. God, I hope those weren't muggles. He ran to Katie and Remus' room on the third floor. Remus seemed very surprised at his speedy reappearance.

"Haven't you gone yet? What's wrong with you? We…."

"Stop right there. The message has been delivered. She'll be here very soon, I promise. Katie-girl, what do we need to do for you?"

"Go downstairs and wait, thank you. Really Sirius, that's it. Thank you Liz…." She said as Liz propped her up on another pillow. Another wave of pain showed on her face. "Mrs. Noyes better get here soon," she said, through clenched teeth. "Seems the little marauder is suddenly rather eager to start on its Filch-pestering lessons." Well at least she's still joking.

Sirius went to Remus and gave him a tight hug, then kissed Katie on her forehead. "Okay, we're off," he said, taking Liz's hand. "I'll send Mrs. Noyes up…."

But Mrs. Noyes had just walked in.

"Sirius Black! I can't believe you just did that, honestly!"

Sirius grinned and edged to the door, leading Liz with him. "Sorry. Muggles were they?"

Remus shot him a dangerous look.

"Yes. Now they think I have some lunatic in the back room. Get out; I'll deal with you later."

Sirius winked at Liz, and shut the door behind them. He kept hold of her hand as they walked back down to the entry hall. Sirius led her down to his study to wait. He started a fire, then finally let go of her hand as he sat her in one of the large chairs. I'm going to start climbing the walls soon. Waiting for Harry was one of the longest days of my life. At least this time I don't have to work, too.

Liz hadn't said anything, but was smiling at him. He grinned and pulled the second chair close to her by the fire.

"It's a little cold yet, but I just wanted to be in here. Not that you have to stay…." He was suddenly struck that he'd just sort of assumed Liz would stay with him. But he was pleased to see that she smiled, and then quietly thrilled when she reached over to take his hand again.

"I'm fine. Of course you want to be here." She looked up at a picture of Sirius and Harry on the mantle, sitting next to a picture of James, Sirius and Remus from their last year at Hogwarts. She's getting to know me as well as Katie….

Liz looked at him again. Goodness but she's beautiful. I can't pretend not to notice anymore.

"What was it like waiting for Harry?" she asked in a soft voice.

"Horrifying, actually. James left our office in a cold panic when he got the owl, and Remus and I had to sit there, all day, trying desperately to focus. Some of our worst work ever. It's easy to distract me, but it's quite an accomplishment to distract Remus. Our boss was so surprised to see him make such a mess of things she let it go, and figured we needed a rest. At least when she excused us we could stop pretending we were calm, and raced over to James and Lily's house. We got there a few minutes after he was born. Lily absolutely glowed, despite everything she'd just been through. But James showed Harry to us and I'm afraid the three of us just burst into tears. At least we kept Lily entertained. Now at least I'm just thrilled, not scared to death. I don't make any promises that I won't blub though. It's probably a safe bet that I will." Actually, I feel like crying now.

Liz laughed quietly. "I'll do my fair share, too, I suspect. Babies make me rather sentimental."

"Isn't that how it's supposed to be?"

She just nodded, then focused on the fire. They sat there in silence, holding hands and just lost in their own thoughts. I think I finally understand why one of Remus' favourite pastimes is just sitting there with Katie. Maybe James and Lily were like this too, I can't remember. He thought of Remus and Katie now. All the best. Hope it doesn't hurt either of you too much. Remus; this is so beyond wonderful for you. Everyone who ever loved you dreamed of this for you. If your mum and dad…. He had to stop himself there. But Liz sensed him tensing suddenly and leaned over towards him, squeezing his hand.

"What is it? Katie's going to be fine, I have no doubts."

Sirius shook his head. Then he slowly raised her hand and kissed the back of it. "I was just wishing," he said in a whisper, "that the Lupins could be here. Remus' parents. They loved him more than anything on this earth, and wanted only the best for him. It was so hard. Remus has been through so much, seen so much hatred and been treated so horribly…." But she reached out and placed a finger to his lips to stop him. It felt like an electric shock going through him, and he looked at her with surprise.

"I think," she responded in a whisper herself, "that there is enough joy in this house right now that they feel it, no matter where they are, don't you?"

Sirius stared at her. Then he stood up, pulling her with him, and wrapped his arms around her. They stood there for a long time, until finally Sirius pulled back, and, taking her hand again, led her to the couch. He just lay down, and she curled up next to him. They stared at the fire for a long time, until they both drifted off to sleep.

They were woken up by the sound of someone running down the stairs, and calling out Sirius' name. They sat up just as Remus threw open the door of the study. He was smiling more happily than Sirius had ever seen him, though he looked exhausted.

"A son, Sirius. Come and see."

Sirius grabbed Liz's hand again and the three of them raced up the stairs. Remus stopped them just before they opened the door of the bedroom, though, and put a finger to his lips. Then he opened the door. Katie was fast asleep, but looked happy anyway. Mrs. Noyes was standing by the windows, holding the baby. Quietly they went over, and Remus took the baby from her, and turned to Sirius.

"Malcolm. Malcolm Edmund Lupin."

He was pink, and perfect, and Sirius dissolved into tears. He took Malcolm in his arms and looked at Liz.

"Told you I was going to blub." But she just smiled through her own tears at him.