A/N: I love you all so much for being so invested in this story! I meant to have this chapter up sooner, but I was a little waylaid. Here it is! Are you excited? I'm excited. Much love!



By Kittenshift17

Chapter Eight

"What do you bloody mean, 'you can't get into the house'?" James Potter exclaimed, eyeing his father like he'd gone mad. "I didn't sell the bloody thing or put it into permanent lockdown. All I did was seal it up when Lils and I went into hiding while she was pregnant."

"What wards did you use to seal it?" Charlus Potter asked of his son, frowning as they all stood outside the gates of an impressive, but overgrown estate on the farthest outskirts of the magical village of Fairystone in Somerset.

"All the usual wards to protect a magical dwelling," James shrugged defensively. "Wards to keep anything and everything from getting in while we were gone."

"Did you… tie that ward to our bloodline?" Charlus asked slowly and Remus shook his head when James furrowed his brow at his father.

"I'm not a complete idiot, Dad," James said. "If I'd made it so that we couldn't get back in, it'd be bloody stupid."

"Well, why don't you try opening it, since your mother and I have both failed?" Charlus argued hotly.

Remus watched as James narrowed his eyes before looking toward the gate into the estate and determinedly twisting his wand.

"Finite," he declared clearly, and Remus's nose twitched when a strong scent clogged the air as the spell did something.

"Nothing," Charlus said, looking vindicated.

"No, it did something," Remus said quietly, his nose twitching.

"Can you see the wards, Moony?" Sirius asked, glancing over at him.

"Not with these eyes," he shook his head. "But I can smell that your spell did something."

"Can you use your other eyes?" James asked, knowing Remus didn't like to let the wolf to the surface when he didn't have to.

So close to the full moon, Remus didn't even have to try before blinking the wolf into his eyes and letting the whole world shift. His brow furrowed at what he saw.

"The wards are…" Remus shook his head, tracing his eyes over the magic protecting the estate and preventing their entry. "They should've technically failed when you died, Prongs. But they're glowing iridescent purple and crackling with energy. Your Finite left a scorch mark here over the part protecting the gate."

Remus hissed when he reached for it, touching the magic and scorching his hand in the process.

"They should've been linked to my bloodline," James frowned when Remus blinked the wolf from his eyes. "I…. oh shit."

"What?" Charlus asked warily.

"I made myself Secret-Keeper," James explained. "And the only other person who was living who I gave the address too, in case I died, was Lily."

"And she died the same night," Sirius said. "Meaning that even though we all know the house is there, we can't get it because no one was Secret Keeper."

"I can get in," Harry answered softly and Remus, James, Sirius and Charlus all looked in Harry's direction to find that he'd crossed right over the wards and through the main gate. He was fighting with an overgrown blackberry bush that had partially blocked the entryway, but he was inside the wards.

"Then why can't we get in?" James frowned. "Maybe because we died. Pads, you try."

Sirius carefully walked forward, his hand outstretched. As had occurred when Remus has tried, Sirius scorched his hand on the wards guarding the building.

"Does that mean Harry is Secret Keeper?" Charlus frowned. "Harry, my boy, taking this and write down the address, could you. It's stamped over the archway on the inside."

Harry took the parchment and quill from his grandfather, scratching out the address as it was carved into the stone, before handing it back to them. James took it, read it, and tried to cross the wards, only to hiss and examine his hand in annoyance when he burned himself, too.

"It's not a Secret Keeper ward," Remus said, moving carefully around the ward, examining it with his werewolf eyes. "And it's not your colour, Prongs. It's not Harry's colour, either."

"My colour?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrows.

"Magic has a colour, as you know, Harry," Remus explained as he strolled about, seeking weakness in the wards. "You see it in the colour of every spell used in the magical word."

"But each spell is a different colour," Harry argued. "Stupefy is red, but the Killing Curse is green."

"They're stamped the colour of the wizard who invented them when we perform them, having learned them from a book or a tutor," Remus nodded. "But underneath that colour you see every day are the shades of the caster's own magic. Traces of ownership. The same way a person leaves a fingerprint when they touch something, it's like a magical signature. Everyone has a slightly different shade to their magic. The wards protecting the property aren't those shades of any of us, here."

"What shade is my magical signature?" Harry wanted to know.

"A few shades darker than James's," Remus smiled. "Burnished gold would be the closest description that your eyes would recognise."

"You see more colours than that, though?" Harry asked.

Remus nodded.

"This colour is…. Oh," Remus frowned, blinking the wolf from is eyes before his lips twisted into a self-deprecating smile.

"What?" Sirius asked, knowing the look well, by now.

"Hermione," Remus said simply.

"Her Runes reactivated the wards on this place?" James frowned. "But… that was my magic."

"Yes, but whatever those Runes were that she drew, she drew them in Harry's blood, which is probably why he can cross them, and you can't. She reversed the effects of death and time, Prongs," Remus pointed to his own face – almost completely wrinkle free and more handsome that he could recall being since his twentieth birthday.

"No wonder she's still unconscious," Sirius shook his head. "We need to figure out exactly what Runes she used, and we need to find a way to counteract them. If her magic is being funnelled to undo all the effects of your death, including reinstating the wards and charms you'd left in place, she'll never recover."

"Blimey," James shook his head, eyeing the wards and the house with trepidation. "But then… how are we going to get in?"

"We're not," Charlus said. "Not without her. Until she wakes up and deactivates the wards, we won't be able to get in."

"What did you need from inside?" Harry asked. "I'll grab it."

"No!" all four adults shouted in unison, reaching subconsciously toward the boy.

Harry blinked.

"What?" he asked.

"Come out of there, mate," James beckoned, reaching toward his son when Harry frowned at them all. "If these wards have been reactivated by Hermione's magic, that means they've been down for almost fifteen years. And that means that this place is going to be in even worse condition than Grimmauld was when you went back there, Pads."

"But… I can just grab the stuff you need. I think I can fight off a few doxies by myself, Dad," Harry protested.

"Come out of there, Harry," Remus said quietly, his eyes shifting as his nose twitched, sensing something stirring behind Harry. "Come here. Now."

Harry glanced at Remus warily before hurrying back across the wards and letting James tuck him under his arm.

"No one goes back in there until the wards are deactivated," Remus said, his eyes tracing over the wards again before he crossed to a fallen down log that leaned precariously against the fence.

He climbed it quickly, as high as he could go before encountering the wards. It was just high enough that he could see over the stone wall that encircled the property.

"What is it, Moony?" James asked, eyeing him when Remus frowned.

"I can smell something," he said, his eyes scanning the area for any sign of movement.

"What kind of something?" Sirius asked, sniffing loudly and climbing the log behind him. "It's not wolf, is it? I can smell you; and I'm getting the faintest hint of Hermione, because it's her magical signature on the wards…"

"No, it's not wolf," Reus said grimly. "It's a demiguise…. And," he paused, spying a creature that suddenly appeared atop what had once been the stables that had housed Charlus's collection of Aethonans. "Oh, bloody hell. You have a Nundu."

"Oh, bugger," Charlus said. "I didn't think that thing would still be alive."

"You knew about this?" James asked turning to his father in horror.

"He's a pet," Charlus shrugged. "Though I bet the giant bugger ate all my Aethonans! Blast it all, I forgot about him, if I'm being honest."

"You forgot?" James demanded. "You just forgot about a giant cat with toxic breath that might be roaming around the estate? How did I never know you had a Nundu for a pet?"

"You did know," Charlus said. "You played with him when you were a baby. Your mother insisted that I set him loose in the forest on the back of the property, rather than keeping him in the house, after she found him in your bed one day when you were four. He wasn't hurting you, but the way he was curled around you, he could easily have sneezed on you and killed you by accident. I wasn't keen on letting him loose, mind, but I knew it was best. I still used to feed him pretty often, but the longer he was out there, the less I saw of him. By the time you'd reached Hogwarts age, I hadn't seen him in more than a year. I figured he'd wandered off, or that he'd been killed by some of the other beasts inhabiting that forest. You never encountered him when you lot were in school and running loose back there every full moon?"

"I think I did, once," Remus shook his head, watching the big cat eyeing him over the fence. "It… didn't go well."

"That time you were even more scratched up than normal after Prongs got his antlers tangled in the Devil's Snare and we lost track of you to get him loose?" Sirius guessed.

"Yeah. Pretty sure he wasn't too keen when I wandered onto his turf. He's going to be a problem when we go inside."

"Not if I go in first," Charlus said. "Hand-reared the little devil. He won't want to go biting the hand that fed him."

"You haven't fed him in more than thirty years, Dad," James rolled his eyes. "We might need reinforcements to go back inside."

"Did you say there was a demiguise in there?" Charlus asked curiously.

"You're not keeping him, Dad," James warned.

"We'll see," said Charlus.

Remus shook his head, knowing the eldest Potter's proclivity for magical creatures.

"I think so," Remus nodded. "Smells like it. Harry, you just stay out of there until we can all go in and you won't have to take on the remnants of your grandfather's menagerie all by yourself."

"You had a menagerie, Grandad?" Harry asked.

"Sure did, mate," Charlus said.

"You and Hagrid were good friends once, weren't you?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"You know it," Charlus winked at him and Harry shook his head, glancing at his father.

"Don't look at me, mate," James said. "My obsessions were your mother, and Quidditch."

"Mine were your mother, and my creatures," Charlus grinned, clapping James on the shoulder and winking at Harry.

"What are yours, Harry?" Sirius asked, and Remus smirked.

"Ginny and Quidditch?" Remus guessed.

Harry blushed.

"Uh…" he said.

"Only, if there's not a bird you're obsessed with, you might be doing something wrong," James chuckled.

"I dunno," Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "I fancied Cho, for a bit, but after that snog at Christmas…"

He wrinkled his nose, trailing off, and all four of them laughed.

"Kissing crying witches always sucks, mate," Sirius ruffed Harry's hair. "Haven't snogged Ginny, have you?"

"No," Harry said, blushing.

"You want to?" James grinned at him son.

"Uh… I did…" Harry said, frowning. "But lately… well… I can't help noticing how much she looks like Mum."

Remus's eyes widened even as Sirius began to laugh.

"Oh, bloody hell," Sirius chortled with glee. "I hadn't even thought of that!"

"I mean, the eyes are different, and her hair's a different shade of red, and Ginny's sportier – you know, with the Quidditch obsession and being a tom-boy – but I mean, I can't unsee it."

James began to chuckle.

"Are there any other witches who've caught your eye?" Charlus asked, trying to hide his smile when Harry's blush darkened.

"I haven't really looked," Harry admitted, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. "I fancied Cho because she's into Quidditch, and I started noticing Ginny because she's into Quidditch…"

"In other words, your one true love is Quidditch?" Remus chuckled.

"A good game of Quidditch has never confused me like girls do," Harry admitted sheepishly, and everyone began to laugh.

"What about the girls in your year, Harry?" James asked. "There's a few pretty ones there."

Harry shook his head. "I don't think I could fancy one from our year without incurring Hermione's wrath," he admitted. "She's… well, you've all met her. When you share a classroom with the likes of Hermione, all the other witches seem dense."

"And you want a bird with brains," Charlus chuckled. "Good for you, Harry. Any girl you bring home will need a good mind on her to escape unscathed when your mother and your grandmother get their claws out."

Harry paled.

"Yeah, don't bring home a stupid one, Harry," Sirius chuckled. "Mum shreds the stupid ones."

"Admittedly, Dorcas was a bit thick, Padfoot," James allowed.

Sirius chuckled. "She was bloody barmy, is what she was. A few mooncalves short of a flock, that one, but she was a bloody devil with that tongue."

Harry's cheeks went crimson all over again and Charlus shook his head.

"Marlene didn't fair much better when your mother got hold of her, as I recall?" Charlus said, recalling more of Sirius's past girlfriends.

"Oh, she was smart enough," Sirius shook his head. "Nah, Mum didn't shred Marlene because she was dim. Mum just knew I'd never do well with someone so possessive and annihilated the poor chit with mention of all my dalliances who weren't her."

"Why does everything come back to you being a tart, Sirius?" James taunted.

"I'm a giving soul, Prongs," Sirius said, smirking. "I give myself to whoever takes my fancy."

"Well, just don't take a fancy to Ginny until I figure out if I'm interested, yeah?" Harry piped up and Remus wasn't the only one to turn and look at the boy with wide eyes.

"She's… what? Fifteen? Fourteen?" James guessed, looking concerned. "Bloody hell, mate. Pads is a tart, but he's not a bloody criminal who chases after children."

"She's my cousin!" Sirius declared, looking a little green like he might be ill.

"Yeah, but so am I, Pads," James reminded him. "And you've snogged me plenty of times."

"Wait…" Harry held up both hands. "If you're his cousin, and he's her cousin, doesn't that mean that, technically, we're related to Ginny, too?"

James tipped his head to one side.

"Well, technically," James nodded. "Distantly, though…. Or, well… See, Sirius is Mum's great-nephew because Walburga is her niece. Lucretia Black – Molly's mother and Ginny's grandmother was Mum's first cousin, once removed. Which makes Ginny her first cousin, thrice removed. So technically you were second cousins with Lucretia, which makes you second cousins twice removed with Ginny, Ron, and the rest of the Weasleys.

"Anything as close as second cousins is considered legal in Britain," Sirius said, as though that might make things better. "And for all that inbreeding supposedly renders everyone with extra toes, I'll have you know I have a perfect ten toes, and obviously a perfect everything else, as well."

"You're…inbred?" Harry asked, his eyebrows rising to his hairline.

"My mother was born Walburga Black. My father was born Orion Black. They were second cousins when they married. Technically, when my brother was alive, Regulus was both my brother, and my third cousin."

"That's… twisted," Harry shook his head slowly. "So… if Ginny and I had children they would be…"

"Second cousins, thrice removed," Charlus supplied. "Completely legal, and with enough influx of other bloodlines via those removals that the likelihood of mutation would be very low."

"I don't think I want to discuss a likelihood of mutation on any level when considering kids of my own, some day," Harry frowned.

"Then you better marry a muggleborn like I did, mate," James clapped him on the shoulder. "Because the rest of us a pretty much all related on some level."

"I don't suppose it helps at all to point out that Cedrella Black – Arthur's mother – was also related to Lucretia. Ginny's grandmothers on both sides are related. So technically, you, James, are Arthur's second cousin, which makes Harry and Ginny third cousins on the Weasley side, as well."

"Oh, bloody hell," Harry sighed.

"Probably for the best I never had a kid, you know," Sirius piped up when Harry looked saddened that Ginny was technically a relative – which seemed to cross her off the list of prospective girlfriends in Harry's mind. "It'd have been my luck to have had a daughter you'd be skirt-chasing, mate."

"Wouldn't we have been even more closely related?" Harry frowned.

"Well, I'm first cousins with Walburga," James said, "So I'm first cousins, once removed with Pads. Which makes you and Pads second cousins. So, you'd be second cousins, once removed with any of Padfoot's kids."

"So, one removal less than Ginny on the Prewett side, and an entire generation less on the Weasley side."

"Guess it's a good thing you don't have kids then, Padfoot," Harry shook his head.

"Yeah," Sirius nodded, blowing his cheeks out for a moment before he said, "Bet if I had a daughter, she'd be a looker, though."

"Not if she inherited that mop you call hair, she wouldn't," James taunted, and Remus shook his head as he watched his two best friends chase each other across the grass when James ran for it with Sirius on his heels, ready to whale on him.


Hermione blinked her eyes open suddenly when an infusion of energy and adrenaline jerked her awake in her bed.

"Hermione?" Harry asked, sounding surprised when she lurched into a sitting position ad threw back the bed covers.

"Harry?" Hermione asked, blinking blearily, spying both Harry and Ron sprawled across the bed opposite hers, both in their pyjamas despite the faint glow of light that still peeked through the window.

"You're awake," Harry said. "And… bloody hell, Hermione, you can't get out of bed."

But she was. Hermione swung her legs out of bed and rose to her feet, adrenaline and energy racing through her, forcing her to move.

"You're going to collapse. Blimey, Ron, get off, could you? Hermione, no, don't go out there. You'll fall down the stairs", Harry called after her when Hermione stumbled to the door, her legs like lead under her, but her body pushing her to move. She recognised almost instantly from the strange rushing feeling inside her head that this had something to do with her wolf.

"Harry, is it a full moon?" Hermione asked, even as she left the bedroom where the boy was trying to disentangle himself from Ron, both of them curled under the covers.

"Shit," Harry cursed, following her out the door and down the stairs when she made a beeline for the bathroom without falling. "Snape said this wouldn't happen and when you didn't wake up all day, Remus said that you might sleep right through the full moon because you were so depleted. You're not supposed to be up, Hermione."

"Hey," Hermione said, putting her hand on Harry's chest when he hurried after her and made to join her in the bathroom. "Let me pee in privacy, please."

Harry blinked at her, his cheeks darkening.

"Right. Shit," Harry cursed again. "Mum! Dad! Someone? Blood hell, Hermione. You're really not supposed to be up right now."

Hermione ignored him, closing the door in his face and feeling like she had fire-ants crawling all over her skin as she crossed to the loo and did her business. She was quick about it, washing her hands when she was done, driven to move and to keep moving.

"Where's Remus?" Hermione asked when she opened the door to be greeted by five worried Potters and a frowning Severus Snape.

"Not here," James said. "He transforms at the cottage he inherited from his Dad and runs wild in the woods at full moons. I was on my way over there when I heard Harry calling."

"Can you take me there?" Hermione asked. "How high is the moon? Will he be transformed yet?"

James shook his head. "It's only mid-afternoon. The sun hasn't set yet. He won't transform for an hour, at least."

"I need to see him," Hermione said. "Now."

"Miss Granger, you are in no fit state to apparate or Floo," Professor Snape insisted. "Nor are you dressed for a frolic in the woods."

He nodded at the fact that she still wore only Remus's bathrobe – which currently hung open far enough to reveal the swell of her breasts and the top of her stomach. Hermione glanced down, knowing on some level that she was supposed to be modest and cover herself, but too itchy and jittery to do so.

"I really need to see him," she said. "I… I don't think you'll all be safe with me here tonight."

"You weren't fully infected. You weren't bitten," Snape argued. "You will not transform."

"Maybe not," Hermione said. "But I'm going to do something. I feel like my skin is covered in fire-ants."

Hermione blinked when Lily dodged around Professor Snape and laid a cool hand on her forehead. She smelled like chamomile tea, sweet biscuits, and James. Hermione drew her scent in through her nose in a long, deep inhale, her skin itching worse under the other woman's touch.

"You're a bit warm to touch, Hermione," Lily said. "Hold still, darling, and I'll check your vitals."

Hermione opened her eyes after her indrawn breath and she saw the way Harry flinched ever so slightly.

"Mum… her eyes…" Harry said quietly.

"Oh, dear," Lily frowned, pulling out her wand and casting a charm over Hermione.

Hermione watched impatiently, reading the results. Elevated heart-rate, adrenaline peaking, breath shallow.

"Let's…. get you to Remus," James suggested. "I can Side-Along apparate you. Lils, is she still completely depleted?"

"Uh…" Lily flicked her wand again. "Oh my… Merlin!"

Hermione watched the way the spell generated results, watching the magic inside of her flaring and fizzing out of control.

"Well, that's good, right?" Harry asked. "She's getting her magic back."

"Only for the moon," Snape said. "That is not magic generated and stored naturally within the body."

"But she's not fully infected," Lily frowned at Snape.

"No, but she's got a wolf, and Lupin fed an excess of his magic and his energy into her. That is all lycanthropic magic. It will wear off after the moon, I imagine."

"Right," James said. "Well, Hermione, do you have your wand?"

Hermione nodded.

"James, no," Lily said. "You can't ask her to perform magic right now."

"We don't have a choice, Lils. Who knows when she'll wake up next, and we need to be able to get into the estate and begin the clean-up, so we can move her there for the remainder of her recovery. And if she isn't funnelling magic into maintaining those wards, she'll heal faster."

Lily looked torn.

"What wards?" Hermione asked.

"Your runes revived the wards I placed over the family estate before going into hiding," James told her seriously. "That magic literally undid everything that our deaths caused. It's why you've been out for so long."

Hermione nodded. "I can undo them," she said. "The wards, not the runes."

"You will be in danger of depleting yourself further," Snape argued quietly.

"I'll be fine," she said, dodging when the potions master leaned toward her with a needle clutched in his hand and ready to be plunged into her skin.

Hermione caught his wrist, watching the way his eyes widened in shock at her reflexes.

"It's an invigoration draught," he said sternly.

Hermione narrowed her eyes, drawing another deep breath in through her nose.

"It's a sedative," she corrected him, noting that he smelled like peppermint, bergamot and the dungeons at Hogwarts. "And you'll just be wasting it if you give it to me now, sir."

Snape narrowed his eyes on her, obviously not liking the grip she had on his wrist.

"You will be unsafe in Lupin's presence this evening, Miss Granger," he warned her.

"Remus would never hurt her," James argued.

"I'm not worried about him hurting her," Snape said, snatching his arm out of her grip and eyeing her dangerously.

"He…" James drew a breath in through his nose suddenly, leaning toward Snape, and then Hermione. "Well… shit."

"Just, take me to see him, please," Hermione said quietly. "Or I'll take myself. I know the way."

"I'll bring her back afterward," James said, leaning toward Lily and capturing her lips with his for a long, loving kiss. Hermione tipped her head to one side, watching them kiss before James drew his wife into his embrace and stuck his nose into her hair, drawing in her scent like he couldn't get enough of it.

She suspected that both he and Snape had realised that she was putting out enough pheromones that it might make Remus lose control. It was a symptom of lycanthropy to excrete pheromones like perfume to lure unsuspecting victims, and Hermione knew it would probably be dangerous to be in Remus's presence until he transformed, but she needed to see him. She didn't know why. There was little he could tell her about her symptoms, since he was fully infected, while she was only partially infected, but her wolf was pacing and snarling, wanting to see him

"Come on," James said, offering her his hand.

Hermione took it carefully, letting him help her down the stairs and out the door.

"Do you want me to come with you, Hermione?" Harry asked, following them.

"No," James shook his head before Hermione could answer. "I can't guarantee to have her back before dawn, Harry. She shouldn't be fully infected with the curse, but she's more affected than she currently should be. I may have to leave her with Remus tonight, while me and Padfoot keep him company. You can't come, mate."

"But she's my sister," Harry protested.

James smiled, ruffling Harry's hair. "I know, mate. And I know you want to protect her. But you're not an Animagus. You can't transform on a dime into an animal to be safe should one, or both of them, wolf-out. I'll protect her, I promise."

Harry looked like he didn't like the idea of James protecting her. Hermione could tell it was because he didn't want to risk losing his father so soon.

"I'll be fine, Harry," James said, seeming to read his son's mind. "Back in no time. Things should be fine. I should have her back just after moonrise, if she doesn't shift. If she does, or if I can't get her away, then we'll all be back tomorrow morning."

"Can't I… just… I could stay in the house," Harry bargained

James shook his head. "Moony would rip the bricks out one at a time to get to you if he could smell an unafflicted human in his territory on a moon night. Until you learn animagi, or you get infected with lycanthropy yourself, you're bound to the indoors where it's safe on moon nights, my boy."

Harry looked like he might pout, but James darted and glance at Hermione – who was scratching at her skin compulsively – before twisting away and Disapparating them both with a crack. Hermione clung to the wizard who looked so like her best friend when they landed somewhere that the grass tickled her feet.

"Where are we?" Hermione asked, releasing James quickly when she regained her balance.

"The Potter estate," James said. "I just need you to hold up your wand and cast a Finite, love. Got to get these wards back under my control and then I'll take you to Moony."

"A Finite won't be enough to undo all these, James," Hermione said, her eyes tracing over the iridescent purple wards guarding the property.

"Why not?" James frowned.

"They're multilayered," she said. "I can undo them. It'll just take a few minutes. Um… if I look like I'm going to fall, please don't let me flash you, yeah?"

James chuckled.

"Don't deplete yourself, Hermione. You're hopped on adrenaline from your wolf, right now, but Snape's right. You could easily overdo it and put yourself back in a coma."

"You need to get in here, you said," she pointed out. "I'll be fine."

Slashing her wand viciously through the air, Hermione began peeling back the layers and layer of warding that protected the property.

"Mother of Merlin," she heard James mutter from behind her when the smell of magic filled the air.

"How many wards did you cast here before you left?" she asked, frowning as she worked.

"Maybe ten?" James guessed. "Standard protection charms to keep out critters and invaders, and to keep anyone from finding it."

"Some of these are blood wards," Hermione said. "Try crossing before I disable them, could you? I don't think they were my doing. They're not my shade."

James reached out a hand toward the gate, surprised when he could actually touch it.

"So, the Rune only re-did my wards, not all the wards on the property that have been in place since we Potters bought the place. That's… interesting," James muttered. "Can you cross them?"

Hermione stepped through the gate, eyeing the blackberry bush by the opening with narrowed eyes, her nose twitching with the scent of many creatures inside the property.

"There are beasts loose on the grounds, James," Hermione told him. "A lot of them."

"You can smell them?" James asked. "Remus picked up on a Nundu my father kept as a pet, and a demiguise when we were here this afternoon."

"Could he cross the wards?"

James shook his head.

"I think you might have Doxies. And Puffeskins," she said, tipping her head and listening hard. "And there's a nest of owls up there."

She pointed through the gate toward a high window of the enormous mansion within.

"That's fine. We can deal with those. There are a lot of creatures on the grounds. The forest out back is as wild as the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts. We'll get them all cleaned out now that we can get in. We'd intended to move you here today, and to have Remus transform here, in the forest like he used to, where you'd be close by, but we couldn't cross the wards – except Harry."

"Harry could, but you couldn't?" Hermione frowned.

"Dad reckons it's because we died and were revived. Harry, as a still-living member of the bloodline could get in, but because we'd died and technically been reborn, we couldn't cross."

"Could Remus and Sirius?" Hermione asked.

James shook his head.

"They could before?" she confirmed.

James nodded.

"Maybe because it was my magic that reformed your wards?" Hermione suggested.

James shrugged. "Let me get some wards up, and cast a few neat spells to drive some of the critters back to the woods before we can return to start cleaning up, and then we'll go."

Hermione nodded, pacing back and forth across the entryway, passing the blackberry bush several times. James worked fast, twirling his wand with precision, and Hermione watched golden wards replace the purple ones she's erected. On the fifth pass of the blackberry bush, something burst free from inside it and Hermione pounced at it, snatching hold of a tiny Crup puppy and lifting it by the scruff of its neck.

"Hermione?" James asked, turning to investigate the noise when the puppy began to cry.

A rumbling growl from deeper inside the estate suggested that the puppy was fearful of being eaten – probably by the Nundu.

"Where did you get him?" James asked, laughing.

"The bushes," Hermione shrugged. "There's something heavy coming toward us. Unless you want to face off against it, I suggest we get going."

"Right," James muttered. "Um… We should take this little guy to Grimmauld Place. Don't want to risk Moony snacking on him."

Hermione wrinkled her nose, handing over the tiny puppy, noting that his forked tail and tiny size suggested he was very young, and probably feral.

"Dad used to breed these guys," James said, smiling as he tucked the pup under his arm. "I think he'll be pleased to see this one."

Hermione took James's hand, closing her eyes and letting him Apparate him back to Grimmauld Place.

"Dad?" James hollered as soon as the poked their heads inside the door.

Charlus came hurrying in from the kitchen with Dorea, Lily, Harry, Ron, and Snape on his heels.

"What is it, James?" Charlus asked.

"Found this guy at home," James said, handing over the softly crying Crup puppy.

Charlus held his hands out, accepting the tiny dog with an enormous grin.

"Hello, little one," he greeted the creature. "And aren't you beautiful? I'm very pleased to make your acquaintance. Yes, I am."

Harry was smiling like a fool and Hermione grinned at him before tugging on James's sleeve, the fire-ant feeling on her skin getting worse.

"Alright, let's go face the big, bad wolf, eh?" James chuckled, tucking her under his arm and disapparating them one more time.