Sirius managed to get one eye open

Veritas 20

All good things…. Come to a reasonably sappy little ending

Disclaimer: Still not mine.

***

Sirius managed to get one eye open. He felt like he had been sleeping one off, but to the best of his recollection, he had not had a chance to have that much fun last time he was conscious. He suddenly realized he was in the hospital wing at Hogwarts. Wow. Must have been bad, if they risked keeping me here and not taking me back to Remus'

"Hi."

Sirius sat up slightly and managed to focus enough to see Harry was sitting next to him on the end of the bed. He was smiling, but it was a decidedly tense smile. Okay, it was bad.

"Hi." Sirius didn't recognize his own voice.

"I didn't expect to see you at all until the summer, so I guess there's some advantage to you practically getting yourself killed…." Harry suddenly stopped. He was scowling now, unable to try and hold a smile. "Remus told me everything. It wasn't worth it, Sirius; if you had died, it wouldn't have been worth it. I need you, Sirius. I need you alive, and in my life, and being my godfather and my friend."

"Harry…."

"No, listen to me. Sirius, there's something you and I never talk about, but I need to tell you. And you need to listen. I don't blame you. I don't blame you for what happened, because it wasn't your fault. You loved them, and you were trying to do what you thought was best for them. And for me. None of us are perfect. But, if you get yourself killed doing stupid things, and you really do leave me all alone, I will blame you for that."

Sirius said nothing; just lay there staring at Harry. Harry looked both intensely angry and scared at the same time, but he said nothing else.

"I'm sorry," Sirius finally said. "Harry, I did love James and Lily, more than I can ever really say properly. They were two of the most wonderful people I have ever known, and they deserved to live. And you deserved to know them. No amount of stories I tell you or Remus tells you will ever make up for you not knowing them. That's what hurts; not that they're dead so much, not that I'll never see them again, but that you will never know them."

Harry nodded slowly, but said nothing.

"I learned something the other day," continued Sirius, turning to look at the ceiling, unwilling to look at Harry any more. "I never knew my parents either. And that's worse, because they were right there. I just never looked beyond myself at them. I've been remembering bits, here and there, and I was just…. wrong. And all of a sudden I wanted so desperately to know them for who they really were, not who I thought they were. And that's when I realized why I was still so sad about what you have to live with, because…. because of what happened. You never had the chance to know them. And I will always be profoundly sorry for that."

Sirius could feel tears slowly running down his face, but his voice stayed strong and he sighed, quickly wiping the tears away. He looked back over at Harry, who was smiling quietly.

"It's okay to be sorry about it Sirius, but it's not okay to blame yourself."

"I don't. Not anymore, although you're right, I did for a very long time. Sitting in Azkaban that was almost the only thing I could think of. That it was all my fault. I would think what people must be saying about me, and figured I deserved it, because they were after all dead because of me, and that I had betrayed their trust by being so stupid."

"Sirius, please…." Sirius reached over and grabbed Harry's arm, although he still didn't look at him.

"Let me finish. I can't explain what Azkaban does to you, does to your thoughts. I couldn't help but think like that. It intensified that horrible feeling of shame and despair over telling them to choose Peter. It's must worst memory, so to the dementors, that was what I had to live with. Now, having been away for a while, and having been with Remus and Katie; it's getting better. My thoughts are more my own, when they haven't been for so long. But I still feel I let your parents down."

"I don't think my mum or my dad would want you to feel like that!"

Sirius had to smile at that. "You're quite right. Lily would probably box me in the ears for being so pigheaded about it. But they would also understand that because of what happened to me in Azkaban, that sometimes I just can't help thinking like that. But I'm getting better, Harry. I intend to survive; body, mind and soul. What happened, happened. I'd give almost anything to change it, but I don't blame myself for it anymore. Okay?"

Harry nodded. "How are you feeling?

"Awful, actually. What happened? Or don't you want to talk about it…"

Harry's smile faded a bit, but he stood up and moved to sit in the chair next to the head of the bed and looked at Sirius.

"Your house is gone. Burned to the ground. The bodies of two wizards were found inside near the centre of the house, and a third a few feet away from them. Your cousin and two other Death Eaters. Remus won't give me too many details, but Mr. Malfoy seems to be missing, and Draco is very quiet. Remus says to leave him alone for a while, but to remember that Draco was instrumental in your getting out of the house alive. Dexter Tanner was very badly hurt, but he's expected to make a full recovery, although he's lost the use of one arm."

"Where's Liz?"

Harry smiled at that.

"She's here. Remus has gone somewhere for a few days, but he'll be back soon, and left you a birthday gift in case he's not here on your birthday." Harry pointed at a box sitting on the stand next to the bed, wrapped neatly in bright purple paper.

"Remus says that's the last time. You must be more careful in the future, as he's starting to get suspicious looks from Mr. Olivander."

Sirius grinned. "I need to get my own, anyway. Wands that pick Remus work all right but they tend to make my arm hurt. What's in that one, do you know?"

Harry shook his head. "Ask him when you see him."

"Why am I here, anyway? Shouldn't I be at Remus'?"

Harry shook his head.

"Nobody's at that house right now. Remus wants to let it lay empty while he tries to figure out where Malfoy is."

"You said Draco was alright?"

"Yes, he's fine. Malfoy brought him back to school last night, although officially Draco never left. We spoke very briefly this morning. His father suspects nothing, and is just relieved that you and Remus fled before you had a chance to kill Draco. He doesn't suspect Liz either, and Draco commented that it was a damn good thing his father can't seem to recall exactly what happened. Malfoy's gone to ground for a while. It may have something to do with an anonymous note being sent to Fudge that Malfoy was last seen in the company of Pembroke Black before he was killed."

Sirius put a hand over his eyes and just let it all sink in for a minute. Then he slowly sat up. Harry reached out to help him.

"Careful. You were badly hurt when a burning beam fell off the ceiling onto your back. And it seems that they discovered another very interesting quality to the sleeping curse." Sirius quickly looked up at Harry, who kept his gaze evenly. "Yes, I know all about that. Anyway, its effects are intensified if the victim is cursed or hexed again. Katie thinks it's some sort of 'guarantee' built in, so in case the victim puts up a fight after they've been affected they will be brought down more quickly."

"It scares me how clinical Katie can get about things like this."

At that moment, Liz walked in with a goblet. She seemed very surprised, but pleased, that Sirius was sitting up.

"You woke up on your own! That's excellent, Mr. Black."

Sirius gave her the best smile he could muster under the present conditions. "Thank you, Miss Harker."

"Hi Harry. Has he been up for a while?"

Harry nodded. "We've been talking about things. I was just going to get you."

Liz handed the goblet to Sirius, who dutifully drank it. Oh gods, this is worse than before….

Liz smiled. "It's a little stronger than before, just in case."

"I told him what Katie discovered," said Harry grinning at Sirius, who had a very sour expression on his face. "He didn't seem very impressed."

Liz laughed and took the goblet. "Well, you also need to get up. Take it very slowly, because even though we've tended to that burn on your back, it's going to be very tender for a while. Now, I know that it's not very exciting to be here, so if you feel up to it, I've got a little surprise, but it involves a portkey. Be honest, Sirius, can you take that right now?"

Sirius stood up, wincing a bit at the dull ache in every muscle he seemed to have, but feeling better by the second as the potion took effect. He smiled at Liz.

"I think for you I can brave a few aches and pains."

Harry grinned at this comment and left with a cheery "See you both later", closing the door behind him.

Sirius glanced at the door, and then looked back a Liz. She was watching him with a smile, but her expression seemed at little closed.

"Get dressed. Remus has brought you a few things from the house…."

Sirius went over and pulled open the drawer of the nightstand slightly. There were some clean clothes, and on top of a white shirt sat Sirius' mother's ring. It had been cleaned of all the tarnish and grime that had built up, and Sirius could now see that in addition to the traditional words, the ring was decorated in some of the most beautiful and delicate carving he had ever seen. Stunning. My father certainly had amazing taste. This is a ring worthy of the beautiful girl she was… Sirius blinked at it, then quickly closed the drawer so Liz wouldn't see. Oh, Remus, thank you. Still smarter than the rest of us, and still miles ahead. He must have found it in my robes.

Sirius smiled up at her. "I'll just get dressed now, thanks."

Liz turned to leave. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

Sirius quickly got dressed, putting the ring carefully in his trouser pocket, grateful that Remus had brought him old and comfortable muggle clothes because robes' pockets got a bit mysterious. Liz knocked and he opened the door to let her in

"So, where's this portkey?"

She took a small book out of her pocket and placed it on the bed. Then she took out her wand and said a simple travelling spell.

"Ready?"

They reached forward and held the portkey. After a few seconds the spell took effect, and Sirius felt himself yanked out of the hospital wing to be deposited in Liz's flat. She had laid a large meal out on her dining room table. Candles covered the room, and a fire blazed quietly in the fireplace, its warm glow in strong contrast to the storm that seemed to be blowing outside.

He looked at Liz and smiled. She gave a shy grin and threw the portkey down on one of the chairs. "I wanted to do something nice to apologize for giving you such a fright in the house last night."

Sirius's smile shook a bit. "Yes. That was…unexpected. Why didn't you say you knew Malfoy? Or more importantly, that he knew you?"

Liz handed him a glass of wine. "You're only allowed one, so keep that in mind." Then she sat down on the couch, putting her own glass on the table. Sirius stayed standing, looking at her with an expectant expression.

Liz looked back up and sighed. "I told you my grandfather was a Death Eater. I didn't mention that he was a personal friend of Malfoy's. My grandfather kept an extremely low profile, even during those last days when Voldemort had come so close…. My father was killed, and my mother wanted nothing more than to get me away from my grandfather and his cohorts. But she was too scared to just leave, so instead she sent me away from the house. After I left for Hogwarts, I never went home for the holidays. I stayed at school at Christmas, and for summer break my mother took me travelling with her all over the world. But that didn't last. My grandfather demanded to see me, and was trying, just as my mother feared, to make me a Death Eater. I managed to avoid ever being outright 'initiated' as it were, and then Voldemort fell, and I left to hide in the muggle world. But I still had my family, and I did not run from them completely. I have seen Malfoy off and on over the years, even after my grandfather passed. I would bump into him in odd places. I always felt like he was keeping tabs on me, to see if maybe I had in fact stayed 'true' to my grandfather's loyalties. I always encouraged his suspicions that I had, because it seemed a way to keep him at a safe distance. If he suspected that I in fact was not sympathetic, especially now…."

"So, you were just keeping your own cover? Can you go to them…."?

Liz shook her head, as Sirius finally sat down next to her at a respectful distance.

"No, it's nothing like that. First of all, I'm no good as a mole because I'm not sympathetic to them. They see me as apathetic at best. And that's fine. But the real reason I did that was because I saw Draco with him."

Sirius nodded and took a small sip of the wine.

Liz continued. "I didn't want Draco to get hurt. It seemed the only option. And, in all honesty, I was stunned to see Draco and wanted to make sure he was what he claimed to be." She gave him an apologetic look but he just smiled and nodded.

"Liz, how did we all get out?"

"You probably missed catching Draco bind the two Death Eaters who were in the room with us," she started.

"I thought that's what happened. I could see some of it out of the corner of my eye."

"Once he did that, Remus came in. I grabbed Draco to get him out of that room, and met with Dexter outside. Draco told us there were two more Death Eaters, then ran back around the dining room to get in through the door Remus had entered from. At that point the other two Death Eaters appeared. We managed to subdue them, but Dexter was very badly hurt. We got all of us out of the house, and suddenly Remus ran round from the back just, as I was about to go back inside. The first floor of the house was now burning out of control. He said he had you, and we needed to get out of here, now. He collected you while I turned come stones from the drive into portkeys to take you and Dexter back to Hogwarts, because we needed to get you seen to and I couldn't do anything stronger to go any further because you were both so badly hurt."

Sirius sat there looking at her as she explained all this. What a night.

"Malfoy got out?"

"Remus convinced Draco to make certain Malfoy got out."

Sirius gave a small grunt and leaned his head on his hand. "Well, that's Remus for you. Could have solved the problem with Malfoy but…."

Liz looked into his eyes. "But Remus would never allow Draco to live with the knowledge that he allowed his own father to burn to death, no matter what the circumstances."

Sirius stared at her for a few seconds, then smiled and reached out to take her hand. "Okay, that's enough of that. In the end, we've managed to do some good work, I think, and that's what matters, right?" He winked at her and she smiled.

"Let's see what you've got for dinner, shall we?"

They moved to the table and sat closely together, talking about nothing in particular and laughing a lot while they ate. Sirius could finally feel the numbing cold slowly creeping out of his body, and he felt more relaxed and at ease than he had in a while. This is so perfect. I want to do this every night for the rest of my life. No Death Eaters, no Voldemort, no escaped convict woes…just us. He couldn't help thinking for a moment about what Malfoy had said about Peter. He won't live much longer…I've got to find him before they finish him off.

Liz reached out to touch his cheek quietly. Startled, he turned to look at her. She had a sad smile on her face and raised an eyebrow.

"Where did you go just then? I thought we were having a nice happy little dinner, and suddenly you looked so sad."

Sirius smiled at her, then took her hand and stood up. He led them back over to the couch, where he sat down heavily and drew her down to curl up next to him.

"That was a wonderful dinner. Thank you. And I'm very happy. I just couldn't help thinking for a moment that it would be so nice to spend every night of the rest of our lives like this, and how that is still…not really an option. Not free yet."

Liz didn't say anything for a long time, but gazed at him with an expression he couldn't seem to fathom. Then she smiled very slightly and went a little pink. What's this now?

"Sirius, I have something to ask you."

He nodded, but didn't say anything.

"I don't like asking for promises."

Sirius smiled at her and gave her a small kiss on the cheek. "I told you before, I will never make a promise to you I can't keep, or I won't keep. I won't do that to either of us. But if I can make the promise, I will."

"Promise me this, Sirius. Promise me we'll try to spend every night for the rest of our lives like this. Will you marry me?"

Sirius stared at her. Did she…? He felt an insanely happy smile creep across his face as he laughed quietly and pulled her closer so he could kiss her. Then he pulled back and wrapped his arms around her tightly.

"Oh, God, Liz; yes. As soon…"

"Don't say it. I know. I know that there's nothing to be done until…until you are cleared. But promise me, when that happens…"

"When that happens, Miss Harker, we'll get married the next day. Or that afternoon, if we can manage it, I don't care either way. I have something for you, something I found in the house. Seems we are of a like mind."

It was his turn to smile shyly and blush a bit as he reached in his pocked and then held up the ring to show her. She looked very surprised.

"It was my mothers. It's a poesy ring, I know that. My father must have given it to her, because they were together since they were 12 or thereabouts, I do know that. I know they were happy in their own way. I'm trying to…to go back and think about things. We always seemed to be fighting, Liz. But I know that can't be true. I used to think they just sort of were always disappointed in me. But – we were so different. They were exactly alike, but me? I was an opposite and we never seemed to figure out how that all worked. I know they loved me, but they didn't know how to talk to me. And I never tried, really, to talk to them. I was just so busy being right and being angry that I never really listened. The sad thing now is, I am listening. And I hear it all now; I hear how much they cared, that they wanted…."

Sirius stopped and shook his head, reaching to take her hand and quietly slipping the ring on her finger. He gazed at it for a few moments before looking back up at her. "Liz, I've paid a terrible price to get here. I can't go back and tell them. I can't get James and Lily back, I can't get all those years I lost back. But I want to do everything I can, now, to just do it right. That seems to be the best way to thank the people I lost for everything they ever gave me. So that's my promise."

Liz looked back down at the ring and smiled.

"It's very beautiful. Your father must have loved her very much. I'm honoured to have this."

Sirius said nothing, but sat back, holding her closely, and smiled out the window at the storm outside. After a while, Liz spoke up again.

"Sirius, there's one other thing with all of this we need to think about. Soon, I'm afraid."

"I need to leave for a while. I already thought of that. Even Remus won't complain this time, I think. But…."

Liz put a finger on his lips and smiled.

"Where shall we go then?"

"We?"

"I think I'd better keep a low profile, too. What happened may or may not be partially blamed on me. The good news is that if isn't going to be blamed on Draco. But I think I'll just disappear again myself for a bit, in case Malfoy comes calling."

Sirius sat them up and turned to face her. "Liz, we need everyone here we…"

"I'm not suggesting we drop off the face of the earth, Sirius. We'll be back soon. A month maybe; and if anything happens before then, we'll be back. Deal?"

Sirius stared at her, trying to think of a good argument to keep her here, but thinking more about the wonderful possibilities of having her all to himself for a while. He finally gave her a guilty smile and raised an eyebrow.

"So where are we going?"

"I asked you first."

Sirius grinned. "Well, I wouldn't mind going wherever it was you were in that picture of you with the lovely shorts."

Liz chuckled. "That happens to be one of the most beautiful spots on the earth, you know, and a personal favourite of mine."

"Where is it, then?"

"It's called Death Valley"

Sirius burst out laughing.

"Oh, that's just perfect isn't it? Yes, Miss Harker, Let's go to Death Valley to lay low from the Death Eaters, shall we?"

***

Sirius placed the last of his things in a pack. He couldn't look at Remus and Malcolm though, and felt tears in his eyes. Remus stepped over next to him, though he still said nothing. Sirius closed his pack, and then turned to face Remus, smiling weakly at Malcolm, who gazed at him with his quiet brown eyes and smiled in return.

"This is awful Remus. I want to go and I can't stand to leave here."

"You'll be back."

Sirius did start to cry softly now, and reached over to take Malcolm from Remus.

Remus watched Sirius hug Malcolm and give him a finger to tug at. "I noticed that Liz was wearing a new ring," he said softly.

"Yes. Thank you for cleaning it for me. It was my mother's; I found it in her old dressing table in their bedroom at that house. It's all I have of them. In all honesty, I think it's all I want. And I think…they're happy to let us have it."

Remus just nodded.

"She asked me to marry her, Remus."

Remus smiled at that. "She asked you? I can't think of anything more perfect for the two of you. When will you get married, then?"

"Not yet. Not until I have a name to give her. But then, as soon as I can." He wiped the tears from his cheeks and finally smiled openly at Malcolm, who reached up and patted him on the cheek. Sirius laughed quietly.

"He learned that from you, Padfoot. We expect you home soon, as I'm sure there's lots else you have to teach him."

"You teach him, Moony. He's your boy, and he's splendid."

Remus took Malcolm back as Sirius passed him over.

"Sirius…."

"Don't say it. I know. We'll be back in a month, I think. You won't hear from us while we're gone. But if anything comes up, let me know immediately."

Remus nodded.

"See you soon, Padfoot," he said, very quietly.

"You will. Enjoy the peace and quiet while you can. Malcolm, be good. What am I saying? Malcolm, make an effort to try and be a little fussy, as it's quite unimaginable that you are as trouble free as you seem."

Sirius winked at Remus and left, happy to hear Remus laughing.

He met Liz in the front hall, where she was standing with Katie, who, Sirius was stunned to see, was crying.

"Katie-girl, what on earth is wrong?"

Katie just shook her head and gave him a hug. "Please be careful and please be back soon. I can't stand to think of you wandering loose where I can't keep an eye on you."

Sirius laughed. "We'll be fine, Katie."

"Of course you will, I know that. Off with both of you. We'll see you soon."

Sirius and Liz walked out and crossed the garden to the road, where they stopped and looked at each other.

"So, off we go."

Sirius winked at her.

"I have to say, this is the first time going underground has been so much fun."

"Yes, well, let's just get on with it. The sooner we leave, the sooner we get back. And then the sooner we get on with our life, Mr. Black."

"We'll make it, Miss Harker. I have no doubts. Pembroke said my mother saw great tragedy and great triumph for me. I think I'm done with the tragedy bit now. Let's go full steam ahead to the triumph bit. I'm thinking it's a little overdue."

"So much for your distain for astrology."

"With a name like Sirius, how can I possibly hold out?"

*******

EPILOGUE

Sirius wouldn't sit down at the table, choosing instead to stand impatiently by the window. Liz finally gave up asking him to just sit down and eat his lunch.

"Sirius, staring at the sky will not make the owl appear any faster."

Griffin was dutifully staying put as his mother had told him to, but he had finished and was lightly kicking the legs of his chair, impatient to be allowed up. Liz caught his eye and was rewarded with an apologetic grin and a cessation in the kicking.

"Thank you, young Mr. Black."

"May I please be excused?"

"No!" Sirius finally turned from the window and smiled at his son. He picked him up, and Sat down finally with Griffin on his lap. "You stay here with me. I'm a nervous wreck, and I need some distractions."

"Such as?"

"Well, let's have a chat. Are you looking forward to school starting again next week?"

Griffin shrugged. "I guess. Yeah, but…."

"But what?"

"I wish I was starting Hogwarts."

Sirius laughed. "In a few years. Please don't be in such a rush to leave your mother and I, as we're rather fond of you."

"If a little fearful of your destructive tendencies," added Liz, giving her son a wink. Griffin just laughed. Sirius grinned at his wife, who shook her head at him, smiling.

"Never a dull moment around here."

At that moment Griffin jumped up and opened the window, letting in a large grey owl. Sirius gave the bird a fright when he jumped up himself with a rather loud cheer and reached for it. Liz took the owl up on her arm and walked it away from the table, laughing as it glared at Sirius.

"I don't think Malcolm will be at all pleased if you scare his beautiful new pet to death the first time he uses her to deliver you a message. Alright, Boinn, sit here. Thank you, I'll just get you something to eat." Liz handed the note the owl gave her to Sirius as she went to fetch some water and owl treats. Sirius gave the owl an apologetic look.

"Sorry, Boinn. Gods, I wish I could make you talk!"

"Why would you do that, daddy?"

"Well she could tell us all about the ride up to Hogwarts, couldn't she?"

Griffin looked at his father like he was completely insane. Sirius grinned at him and opened the letter.

"What's Malcolm say?"

"This is addressed to all of us, so I'll read it out loud."

Dear Liz, Griffin & Sirius-

First of all, Sirius, the sorting hat does not hurt, and the sorting wasn't in the least bit frightening. So Griffin, if he tries to tell you that when you get up here, don't believe a word of it.

"Is that true, daddy?" asked Griffin, raising an eyebrow and giving his father a rather stern stare with his dark eyes.

Sirius shook his head and looked grave. "He's just being brave, Griffin; you know what Malcolm's like."

"Sirius!"

I'll write more later; there's just so much to do right now. And I just know I'm going to keep getting lost. It took us ages to get to the Great Hall for breakfast, until we found some third years to follow. Tarquin says we may starve to death before we get it all worked out.

But I know what you really want to hear, Sirius, is that I was sorted into Gryffindor, just like you and Dad said I would be. It was really neat, to walk into the common room and picture you and Dad there, and Hermione & Ron, and Harry. It looks just like you described it. I'm sitting in one of the big chairs now, and it is very comfortable. I remember you saying that Dad used to curl up in them and sleep when he needed his rest after the full moon. I think what I like best about being in Gryffindor is that I don't really feel all that homesick, thinking about you being here. Tarquin's in Gryffindor, too. There are three other boys with us. I'll tell you about them next letter.

I miss you, and I'll see you all when I come home for Christmas.

Love,

Malcolm

Sirius was smiling as he continued to stare at the letter, but he could feel tears in his eyes as well. Wow. Malcolm's at Hogwarts. Amazing; and it happened so fast. He was just born, wasn't he? Gods, Harry's already been through, and has a daughter of his own, and in nine short years, she'll be there too. And Griffin's just gone six, so in five years…. Didn't Remus, James, Lily and I just leave there?

Sirius looked up as Griffin climbed onto the chair next to him and put an arm around his shoulders.

"Why are you sad? Malcolm got into Gryffindor!"

Sirius smiled at his son and leaned forward so their foreheads were touching. "I'm very excited for Malcolm and very proud of him. I was just remembering when I was 11, and I got to go to Hogwarts and I met Remus and Harry's dad. It was a long time ago; and that made me feel a little sad."

Griffin shook his head, his bangs tickling Sirius as he did that. "Let's go see Remus and Katie then."

"Why?"

"Because that always makes you happy when you get sad like this."

"You make me very, very happy yourself, young Mr. Black."

Griffin grinned the grin that scared his mother and hopped down off the chair. "Yeah, I know. Can we go?"

"Well, we'll have to ask Remus if that's okay. The Lupins might be busy, you know."

Griffin made for the door. "I'll just go ask him."

Liz walked over and took the seat Griffin had just left. Sirius smiled at her and leaned closer so he could wrap his arms around her.

"Sirius, I can't believe even you taught a six year old how to use floo powder."

Sirius chuckled. "He can only go to Remus', you know that. I love the boy but I certainly don't trust him loose in the floo network. Besides, it was the safest thing to do. I had a feeling that he was going to try and figure it out on his own, and that would have been…."

Liz put a finger to his lips and shook her head. "We have enough to deal with without imagining what ifs."

Sirius nodded, and said nothing else. They sat there in happy silence for a few minutes before they heard someone coming into the kitchen.

"Why, that's a familiar looking bird."

Sirius and Liz smiled at Remus, who walked in holding Griffin's hand. Sirius stood up and gave Remus a hug.

"A Gryffindor! Like there was any doubt!"

Remus laughed and pulled back to look at Sirius. "Yes. Although, I thought maybe Ravenclaw for him."

Liz shook her head. "Malcolm was a Gryffindor shoo-in. He may be very bright and have a very even temperament, but he's also fearless, and he's got a carefully hidden streak of highly creative mischief in him. Sound familiar?"

Sirius chuckled. "Malcolm looks like Katie, but boy does he act like you."

Liz looked down at her own son and gave his hair an affectionate toss. "As opposed to this one, who both looks like and acts like Sirius. It's a good thing I love them both very much, right Griffin?"

"Right. Look, can we go? Katie says she'll start Annie and I on jumping today. I'll just get my things."

Remus laughed as Griffin, always moving anyway, took off for his room. "Well, not completely like Sirius. Loves horses, hates, and I mean hates, brooms. I thought I didn't like flying when I was that age."

Sirius smiled. "What can I do? I'm not going to force him to learn, although he's going to have to eventually, which I pointed out to him. But he's not overly keen on doing anything he doesn't want to. Finds it much more entertaining to fall off horses than brooms, it would seem."

Liz raised an eyebrow. "Mr. Black, he has never fallen off the pony. Not once. Which is amazing, considering everything else he's fallen off in six short years."

"Mrs. Black, it's a matter of time. At least his teacher's a healer."

Liz just gave him an amused look, then walked out after Griffin, patting Remus on the arm as she passed. Sirius and Remus stood in the kitchen looking at each other for a few moments. Sirius grinned merrily at him, and Remus returned the look with one equally wide and pleased.

"Malcolm's at Hogwarts. Oh, Remus; I have dreamed of this day."

"Katie says that if she gets one owl she can trace back to anything we did or said, we are going to regret it."

"I asked my older godson what had become of the Marauder's Map, since he was the last one who had it. He got very, very evasive in his answers."

"I made him promise not to give Malcolm the invisibility cloak. I didn't actually mention the map."

"Well, that's fair. That was James' cloak, but it's all of ours map."

"Have you told Griffin about it?"

Sirius laughed. "Are you mad? Honestly, I'm waiting to see if maybe he doesn't come up with something like that on his own. I wouldn't put it past him."

Remus nodded, still grinning. "Yes. Griffin is definitely one to watch. Like Roarke."

Sirius laughed again. "That girl is a terror. I adore her. Now, when she gets to Hogwarts …."

"She's going to be in the same class as George Weasley's oldest. That should prove interesting."

They turned as they heard Liz calling out that she was taking Griffin and heading over to the Lupins. Remus walked over to where Boinn sat, reaching out to gently stroke her head, before offering her his arm.

"Wait! Don't send her back yet, I need to send Malcolm a note."

Remus stood quietly with the owl, staring out the window while he waited for Sirius. Sirius grabbed a small piece of parchment and wrote quickly.

Malcolm-

I am so very proud of you and happy for you. As much comfort as it gives you to picture your father and I there in the tower, just think how comforting we also find it to picture you sitting there. That makes you closer to us as well. Work hard –I know you'll do very well, just like always. These are wonderful days for you, Malcolm. We promised you when you were brand new all those years ago that we would do whatever we could to make everything right for you. Your parents, me & Liz; everything that happened was worth it, and every time I look at you, your sisters, Griffin, I feel that same way.

I love you very much, and I miss you already. Write when you can. If you need anything, let me know. And, My Little Marauder, have fun. Lots of fun.

Love,

Sirius

P.S.: One more note on that fun bit – Harry seems to have suddenly forgotten where he put the map. I told him that it was an heirloom, as well as being dead useful, and that it needs to be taken care of properly. Understood?

Sirius folded the note and addressed it to Malcolm, then gave it to Boinn. "Alright, you. Take that directly to Malcolm, please. We'll see you later."

Remus opened the window and let the owl go. He stood there, watching the bird disappear, not moving for a long time. Sirius understood. As painful as it had been for him to watch Malcolm leave yesterday on the Hogwarts Express, it was worse for Remus. Remus had kept up his happy façade until the last minute though, when Malcolm had hugged him and said that he didn't need to pretend anymore. Both of them were trying very hard not to cry at that point, and Sirius had to resist the urge to just grab Malcolm and tell him he couldn't go and that was that. Finally, the train left. Remus looked ill as they left the station. Liz and Sirius went back with Remus and Katie to the Lupins, where Remus finally dissolved into tears and locked himself in his study so he wouldn't upset the girls.

"Moony?"

Remus looked at him. Sirius smiled, looking at Remus' now completely grey hair and the lines on Remus' face; thinking about how young they had been when they first met, all those years ago on the train to Hogwarts. I'm a little grey and lined myself, now.

"I'm alright, Padfoot. It's just going to be hard getting used to not having him here with us."

"Moony, I know how close you and Malcolm are. I know how hard it is for you, and Katie, to have him so far away. To be honest, all I've been thinking about since yesterday is how short a time it will be until Liz and I put Griffin on that train. And it hurts."

Remus nodded. "We've suffered worse, right?"

Sirius laughed. "Oh yes. Remember when Malfoy tried to burn us alive? That wasn't very pleasant."

Remus smiled at that. "That's a memory I could have done without stirring up. Did you ever tell your lovely wife that you suspected her of being a Death Eater for 20 seconds?"

Sirius grinned. "Of course. She was pleased, actually. Said that the point was to have people think she was a Death Eater."

Remus shook his head. "One of many interesting little adventures. Never a dull moment, was there? I've started telling Malcolm about some of it, now that he's old enough. I think he was rather amused by some of it; other parts upset him and he told me he's heard enough for a while."

Sirius nodded, then started towards the other room so they could take the floo network to Remus' house. "Well, it was all worth it. I just told your boy that in that note. It was worth everything we went through to get here."

"Very true."

*****

A/N: Oh, this has been fun, if exhausting. I want to thank all of you who were so kind and sent such lovely reviews and enjoyed this. I had a blast writing it, but now I need a break. Although I can't help thinking about what Malcolm might get up to at Hogwarts. And God protect us all when Griffin gets loose. He'll be up there with Roarke, you know.