10. Consequences


"I feel fine, Severus, really," Remus was protesting as Sirius shut the door behind him.

"Nonetheless," Snape responded smoothly, "sleep would be of the most benefit to you now."

"You're starting to sound like Poppy," Remus muttered. Madame Pomfrey, who was checking Remus over from the other side, glared at him sternly for the comment. Sirius caught a glimpse of Harry's grin and Remus's conspiratorial wink, and moved further into the room to attract their attention.

Remus looked over at him hopefully. "Did you find any?"

Sirius placed the small tin of tea-leaves on the bedside table. "It would've been easier just to ask the house-elves to brew some."

"It doesn't taste the same," Remus complained wistfully.

Snape snorted gracelessly and turned away from the bed, while Remus busied himself with the small kettle and teapot they'd found for him. Sirius glared briefly at Snape - who didn't deign to notice - and pulled up a chair next to Harry.

"Sure you don't want to go to bed?" he asked, knowing full well what Harry's answer would be. Still, he felt that it was the godfatherly thing to do.

"No way," Harry answered promptly.

Sirius shrugged, caught Remus's eye, and grinned at the two people who mattered most to him in the world.

The door opened again, admitting a beaming Albus Dumbledore.

"Remus," he said cheerfully, "how good to see you awake. No problems, Poppy?"

Madame Pomfrey huffed irritably - reluctant as ever to see her patients 'over-excited' - and gave Remus one last cursory sweep with her sharp eyes. "He'll be alright, at least physically."

She shot a look at Snape, whose mouth twitched.

"I can find no mental instability."

"And I feel fine, incidentally," Remus put in mildly as he lifted the lid of the teapot to check it had steeped. "Tea, anyone?"

"That would be delightful," Dumbledore replied. He took out his wand and conjured himself a squashy, luridly purple chair to sit on; another flick brought milk, sugar and a set of china teacups to Remus's bedside table.

"Ah. Thank you." Remus began to pour tea into the cups with the ease of long practice.

Sirius watched the exchange in some bemusement - Remus and Dumbledore might as well have been enjoying a summer tea party for all the indication they gave that anything was out of the ordinary - and nodded when Remus glanced at him questioningly. He'd never been a big fan of tea, it was true, but sometime during their schooldays he'd gotten into the habit of drinking whatever Remus was offering, out of some half-acknowledged scheme to attract his attention.

Sirius glanced around - at Harry, who was regarding his cup of tea as if it held the answers to life, the universe and everything - at Dumbledore, who was watching Remus rather more carefully than his words had suggested - and at Remus himself, who was stirring sugar into his tea with an endearing concentration. He reflected that not more than two weeks ago this calm scene, lit by the clean, clear light of a summer morning, had seemed utterly out of reach. The Ministry had been denying Voldemort's existence, Dumbledore had been ousted from Hogwarts, and Sirius himself had been trapped in the hellhole that liked to pretend it was their headquarters.

Perhaps it had been worth falling through the veil to gain this, Sirius thought. Then he remembered the look on Remus's face and the darkness in Harry's eyes when he'd watched them from the space between. Or perhaps not, he amended, and wondered what he'd ever done to deserve the love of these two people.

Sirius sipped his tea. It was too hot, but he relished the sensation of the scalding liquid that burned the back of his throat. He'd been too long without touch.

"Severus?" Remus queried, holding up the teapot.

Snape, who was lurking a little way back from the bed, gave him a scathing look. Remus hesitated - Sirius had a feeling he wanted to apologise (yet again) for tying him up - then turned to Madame Pomfrey instead.

"Not at the moment, dear." She had been consulting some sort of chart, which she now tucked under her arm. "I'll be back in half an hour," she added warningly, looking at both Dumbledore and Sirius. "He's not to over-exert himself."

She bustled off, leaving Remus with a slightly chagrined expression.

"I might as well be fourteen again," he muttered, and Sirius had to swallow his tea hastily so that he could laugh at the affronted tone of voice.

"This is most excellent tea, Remus." Dumbledore returned his cup to its saucer and placed it carefully on thin air, where it remained. "Now. Do you have any idea what caused your collapse?"

Remus shook his head slowly. "I don't know. I just remember seeing - something..." He trailed off.

"What did you see?" asked Dumbledore quietly.

"People - figures in robes. Just for a second, before I fell."

The Headmaster nodded as if he had expected this, but Sirius felt a sudden dread fall on him. Dumbledore leaned forward, examining Remus intently.

"Did you dream?"

Remus's hands clenched on the covers. Sirius made to stand up and go to his side, only remembering his cup of tea at the last minute.

"Yes," Remus answered, so softly Sirius almost couldn't catch it.

Dumbledore nodded again. Sirius glanced uneasily at Harry - who looked equally confused - and happened to catch Snape's expression as he did so. The hook-nosed man had a grim but self-satisfied look on his face. Judging by the glance he exchanged with the Headmaster, this was something he'd predicted.

"What sort of dreams?" Sirius asked, loud in the silence, worried now. What was it they weren't being told?

"I'd rather not talk about it," Remus said, avoiding his eyes. "Some of them were... less than pleasant."

"I would suggest," Dumbledore said over the top of Sirius's half-formed protest, "that you keep a record of your dreams from now on, Remus." The Headmaster looked grave, but not unduly so, and Sirius forced himself to keep quiet. "If perchance they should enter by the Gate of Horn..."

He left the sentence hanging.

Sirius stood up quickly, shoved his teacup onto a table, and moved to the side of the bed so that Remus was forced to look at him.

"What does that mean?"

"I believe," Dumbledore answered, while Remus caught Sirius's eye and gave him the look that meant, 'we'll talk about this later', "that Remus's passage through the mirrorworld has given him a certain... connection to it. Just after he passed back through the veil, he was vulnerable to projections from the space between - memories, perhaps, or dreams, or something... else. Now that he has recovered his strength, the only way they can reach him will be in dreams - and that, too, may pass with time."

Sirius kept his eyes on Remus, who looked remarkably calm about the idea that something or someone from the mirrorworld might be permeating his thoughts.

"What about the horned gate thing?"

"The Gate of Horn," Remus corrected gently, smiling a bit in an attempt at reassurance. "According to legend, dreams pass through one of two gates, of horn or ivory. Dreams that pass the Gate of Horn are true dreams."

It took a moment to sink in - in fact, Harry got it first. Sirius heard his intake of breath.

"You mean prophecies?"

"Possibly." Remus had that 'teacher' look in his eyes again. "Or glimpses of the past, or the present. It... could be useful."

"Or drive you mad," Sirius said in a low tone, meant only for Remus's ears. He knew well enough the stories about true Seers, not to mention everything Remus had told them about the veil.

Remus caught his hand and fixed him with a stern look. "Sirius. It's done. Don't start blaming yourself."

He knows me too well, Sirius thought vaguely, too troubled to do more than nod in response.

Although he couldn't have heard their words, Dumbledore seemed to get the gist of the conversation.

"It would probably be best, Remus, if you were to remain here at Hogwarts. Thus Severus will be able to provide you with both the Wolfsbane Potion and the benefit of his skills in monitoring your mental state."

Remus raised an eyebrow, Harry muttered something that Sirius didn't catch, and Snape himself appeared positively livid, while Sirius made a mental note that the Potions Master didn't have anywhere else to go but Hogwarts. Interesting.

"He's not staying here alone," Sirius said before anyone else could speak.

He thought Dumbledore hid a smile before answering. "But of course not. I had hoped that you would remain here also, Sirius."

That had been the last thing Sirius had expected. Ever since Remus had awakened, he'd been bracing himself to fight Dumbledore over returning to Grimmauld Place.

"What about the Ministry?" he asked, confused.

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair with the air of someone thoroughly enjoying the news he was about to impart. "The Ministry is no longer so interested in Hogwarts as they have been over the past year. And even if they were, they have no reason to apprehend you."

The words hung in the air. Sirius found himself staring at the Headmaster. Did he mean...?

"One of the many considerations occupying my attention over the last week," Dumbledore continued, "has been convincing the Ministry of Magic that you never supported Voldemort and went to your death opposing him. As I seem to have a certain amount of influence there currently," and there was a small flash of amusement in his eyes and voice, "they have, as of three days ago, cleared you posthumously of all charges, Sirius."

Sirius's legs suddenly seemed unwilling to support him. He sat down rather abruptly on the edge of the bed, barely noticing that Remus moved over to make room for him.

"But, Wormtail--" Harry began, sounding as stunned as Sirius felt.

Dumbledore smiled faintly. "They were prepared to accept my testimony on the true course of events. I volunteered to swallow Veritaserum but, strangely, they seemed to feel no need to accept my offer. I also procured certain evidence that no-one had thought to examine before."

"What evidence?" asked Remus sharply. His hand, still on Sirius's, tightened in unspoken support.

Dumbledore reached into a pocket of his robes and pulled out a long, slim case that was heart-wrenchingly familiar to Sirius. He stared at it, disbelieving. Remus, after a glance in his direction for permission, leaned forward, took the case from Dumbledore and opened it. A wand lay within.

"Priori incantatem," Dumbledore said calmly, "is still effective even after years of disuse. Especially when performed by a wand's brother, as Harry discovered during his duel with Lord Voldemort last year. No-one ever troubled to perform it upon Sirius's wand after he was captured."

"But..." Harry interrupted, confused, "Sirius lost his wand when he fell through the veil - I saw it vanish with him."

Sirius let go of Remus's hand, reached out hesitantly and picked up the wand. A half-forgotten warmth spread through his fingertips.

"That was a new one," he said roughly. "Never worked as well as it should have - I couldn't go out and buy it myself, of course - that was what threw me off when I was duelling Bella... But this... is the one I had in school... the one I was using when Peter..." He broke off, unable to speak past a sudden constriction of his throat.

"Kept in the Ministry vaults for years," Dumbledore supplied gently. "There is a regulation stating that trial evidence - despite the lack of a trial in your case - must be kept for ten years after conviction, and they are somewhat... lax when it comes to clearing out their storage space."

Remus was looking from the wand to Dumbledore.

"'A wand's brother'?" he repeated. "I had thought that situation was unique to Harry and Voldemort."

Dumbledore smiled again, and again Sirius caught a flash of amusement. He had a sudden, sinking feeling.

"Most wands, it is true, do not share such a link," Dumbledore mused absently. "Even when two cores are taken from the same creature, it is usually many years apart. Thus, Mr. Ollivander keeps a close track of those wands which have a partner bearing a core taken from the same place at the same time. Harry's and Lord Voldemort's are merely two exceptionally interconnected wands. There are many others, most of whom never meet."

"Who?" asked Sirius blankly.

Dumbledore's eyes flickered sideways. Sirius's sinking feeling got worse. He glanced at Snape, who looked positively murderous.

"That can't be right," Remus said, sounding like he was caught between laughter and disbelief. "I've seen them duel - when we were at school - their wands always worked perfectly against each other."

Snape's lip curled.

"I was forced," he ground out through clenched teeth, "to replace my wand shortly prior to my employment at Hogwarts. Believe me, I had no idea until the Headmaster called upon me a few days ago."

Sirius glared. Snape returned the favour. There was a moment of silence.

Harry, who had suddenly caught on, abruptly looked over at Remus. Sirius saw their eyes meet. Unexpectedly, they both laughed.

"I see nothing amusing in the situation," Snape bit out acidly.

Sirius opened his mouth to ask Remus what was so funny, when a recent memory stirred itself.

It was always... ironic... how similar you were.

He shut his mouth, defying either Remus or Harry to say anything. He busied himself with inspecting his old wand for the slightest imperfection. The wand was as dark and smooth as ever, rigid against his fingertips and promising to cast a hundred spells if he would only speak the words to give them form. He remembered duelling with this wand, passing his NEWTs with it; fighting for his life and healing Remus's wounds after a full moon.

"Thank you," he said, knowing Dumbledore would understand what he meant. Certainly the wand did not define the wizard - but having it in his hand again after all this time meant more than he could express.

Sirius looked up then. He caught Harry's eye; his godson looked tired, but happier than Sirius had seen him for a long time. Sirius flicked his wand at Harry, who flinched back automatically, then started laughing when he found himself showered by red and gold glitter.

Sirius turned to Remus, grinning, but Remus just smiled and caught his wand-hand before he could do anything.

"Later."

"Spoilsport." Sirius reluctantly slipped his wand into his pocket, along with its case. "So the Ministry isn't a problem?"

"No; of far more concern is what Voldemort may or may not know." Dumbledore glanced at Snape as he spoke. "In this, we have the not-inconsiderable advantage that his agents believe you to be dead. The longer we can maintain that illusion, the better."

Sirius nodded, although he felt something tighten in his stomach at the notion of leaving people in the dark about his return. Still, he thought with a touch of bitterness, it wasn't as though there were many who would even have mourned him.

"Our most important concern," continued Dumbledore, leaning forward intently, "is to find out how much Voldemort knows about the space between. If he should discover a way to use it, even to traverse it..."

He didn't need to finish the sentence; Sirius imagined what the self-styled Dark Lord would be able to do if he could go anywhere he wished without being seen, or if he were to condemn his victims to limbo, and a shudder ran through him. It would be worse than Azkaban.

"Did somebody pick up the book - the oneiromancers' diary?" Remus asked suddenly. "There is a lot in there that would help--"

"I have it," Snape put in curtly.

Dumbledore looked first at Remus, then Sirius. "I must ask for your assistance in this matter. Sirius, you are the only person, as far as we know, ever to return from beyond the veil; Remus, you are the only person to traverse the mirrorworld and emerge from it unscathed - we hope."

Sirius didn't much like that little addition, but he had to acknowledge its truth. They had no idea what the consequences of this could be for Remus.

"What about me?" Harry asked quietly.

Sirius felt a rush of guilt - he hadn't stopped to consider what would happen to Harry for the rest of the summer.

"You're staying with us," Remus said, before either Sirius or Dumbledore could answer. Harry blinked, a hesitant smile lighting his face, which Remus returned. "If you want to, that is."

"Of course!"

Remus nodded and addressed himself to the Headmaster. "He'll be as safe here as with his relatives, with the wards on the school and Sirius, Severus and I to guard him," he said. His tone was mild, but there was unmistakeable steel beneath the words.

Moony should've been godfather, Sirius thought with a mixture of pride and self-disgust. He remembers to think about things like this.

"The contract of blood requires that Harry return there at least once a year," Dumbledore pointed out.

"I was there almost a week," Harry countered. He was sitting up very straight now, clutching at the arms of his chair.

"He's as safe here as he is anywhere," Remus added softly.

Dumbledore was silent. Then he looked at Sirius.

"You are Harry's godfather, Sirius," the Headmaster said gravely. "What is your opinion?"

Sirius bit back the sarcastic voice in his mind that said, 'Oh, so now I'm allowed to exert some influence over his life?'. He also suppressed his instant response that Harry would never go back to those damned Muggles if he had any say in it. For once, for once in his life, he was going to think about this carefully and make the decision that was best for his godson.

Sirius looked at Remus, who was watching his deliberation approvingly. Encouraged, Sirius glanced at Harry and made up his mind.

"Look, I can think of half a dozen ways Voldemort could get Harry out of there if he really wanted to, blood magic or not. He can't just walk in there and kill him, but we all know that trickery is his usual line of attack. If he's with me and Remus--" he deliberately didn't mention Snape, "--and he's here, it'd take Voldemort himself to get to us, and by the time he got past the Hogwarts wards we'd have the entire Order here."

Harry was watching him with bated breath. Sirius flashed him a smile.

Dumbledore didn't look entirely happy, but somewhat to Sirius's surprise, he nodded.

"Very well," the Headmaster said. The sound of Madame Pomfrey's office door opening caused him to glance around. "And it seems that we have exceeded our half an hour by a considerable number of minutes."

He stood up. Sirius noticed that the twinkle had returned to his blue eyes.

"Now, if you will excuse me, gentlemen, I believe I have an appointment with Cornelius Fudge concerning the revocation of certain Educational Decrees..."




"Moony."

"Hmm?"

"Moony, you're reading again."

Remus lowered the book and regarded Sirius with some amusement. "Well, yes. Does this offend you?"

Sirius muttered something unintelligible and wandered across the room, drying his hair as he went. Remus took a moment to appreciate the sight of a damp, towel-clad Sirius, before returning his attention to the book in front of him.

"What else do you expect me to do, if I'm not allowed out of bed?"

"I had an idea or two."

Remus refused to look up, although the text he was staring at no longer seemed coherent to his eyes. He felt the mattress sag beneath Sirius's weight.

"I thought I was supposed to be resting?"

Sirius laughed; a second later, Remus felt a gentle kiss on the side of his jaw.

"I can be restful," Sirius murmured into his ear.

Remus turned his head with deliberate slowness. He made a show of raising one hand and flicking away a strand of long, dripping black hair that had ended up plastered to his own cheek.

"You," he said, "are wet. Come back dry and we'll talk."

Sirius chuckled, leaned in swiftly to brush their lips together, then was off the bed with a single bound. Remus watched him for a moment, smiling to himself, before trying to find his place on the page.

"What're you so absorbed in, anyway?"

"I'm reading about Dementors," Remus replied absently.

There was a deafening silence.

"Moony. Love. You're sitting there, in our bed, flirting with me and reading about Dementors?"

Remus raised an eyebrow without looking up. "Flirting with you? Who said I was flirting with you?"

There was a pause.

"No, seriously - why are you reading that now?"

Remus sighed and laid aside the book, guessing that he wasn't going to get any further with it tonight. "I'm trying to understand the link between the beings of the space between and the Dementors we know," he explained.

Sirius was halfway through buttoning a pyjama shirt, frowning at him. "You've only been out of the hospital wing for a few hours. Surely it can wait until tomorrow?"

Remus sighed.

"It probably can. But I need to know, Sirius. And I want to help."

He didn't add that he felt responsible for adding to the risk that Voldemort would discover the space between, but Sirius seemed to know anyway. The dark-haired man crossed the room, his shirt still only half-buttoned, and sat down on the edge of the bed again.

"Now who's blaming himself?"

Remus smiled tiredly. "You have to admit that I have reason."

Sirius looked stubbornly like he didn't want to admit any such thing, but he forbore to answer. Instead he wriggled his way under the covers and edged over next to Remus. An arm slid around his waist and Sirius's chin came to rest on his shoulder.

"Your hair's still wet," Remus protested, quickly pushing the book out of the way of any errant drops.

Sirius fixed him with an unimpressed stare. He pulled away long enough to grab his wand from the bedside table and cast a drying charm on his hair. Then he was back in place, this time snaking both arms around Remus and burrowing his face into his neck.

Remus gave the book one last regretful look and let it slide to the floor. He'd noticed that Sirius craved contact almost constantly since his return. He could only imagine what it had been like to be unable to touch anything for so long. Absently, his hand drifted to the other man's longer hair, stroking through it. Sirius had always had shorter hair when they'd been in school, but Remus found that he liked it how it was now, long enough to run his fingers down to the ends and then carry on, down Sirius's back.

"I was thinking," he said after a while.

"Heaven forbid," Sirius mumbled into his shoulder. He tugged gently and soon succeeded in pulling Remus down into a warm nest of blankets, pillows and each other. "What were you thinking about?"

Remus settled his head against Sirius's arm and regarded him from a short distance away. He could spend eternities watching that star-spark flare and fade in Sirius's eyes. It took a moment for him to register the question.

"I think we should teach Harry some things over the summer," he murmured.

Sirius's hand stopped trailing over his jaw and neck. "What sort of things?"

Remus closed his eyes, moving closer so that he could run his own hands lazily over Sirius's back.

"Defence spells," he elaborated. "Maybe some wandless magic. When I mentioned it yesterday, he told me he used 'Lumos' without his wand, last summer, when the Dementors attacked him and his cousin. I think he'd be able to learn it."

"Hmm." Sirius leaned over to lay a kiss at the corner of his mouth. "There's a world of difference between 'Lumos' and, say, 'Accio'."

Remus smiled, opening his eyes. Sirius was regarding him with that mixture of affection and pride that had always filled his heart with a strange ache.

"I wasn't sure that would work, you know. It's been a long time since I had to do something like that."

"You were amazing. As always."

Sirius punctuated the comment with another kiss, this one full on the mouth and lingering.

"I don't deserve you," Sirius murmured against his jaw. "But I'm going to try harder."

Remus drew him close and silenced him with a longer, deeper kiss. "I'd say we pretty much deserve each other," he said when they finally broke for air.

Sirius laughed quietly. He propped himself up on one elbow, his eyes darkened to unexpected seriousness.

"Moony..." A thumb brushed across his cheek. "Did you dream again last night?"

Remus shivered. He felt Sirius's arms tighten around him. "I don't know. I don't think so, but I slept very deeply, so I can't be sure. I might have forgotten."

"Even if they were true dreams?"

"Yes, unfortunately. Even so."

Sirius made a discontented noise. Remus debated or not to say what was on his mind. He didn't want to alarm Sirius... but the thought wouldn't stop niggling at him.

"I'm more worried about the book I used to bring you back," Remus said at last.

Sirius blinked at him. "What do you mean?"

Remus rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling, dim in the light of the candles Sirius had lit earlier.

"I asked Severus where he acquired it," he continued after a heartbeat. "He was reluctant to tell me, but eventually he confessed that it had been one of a number of books retrieved from a Death Eater's library after they had been sent to Azkaban."

He could feel Sirius watching him.

"It previously belonged to Bellatrix Lestrange," Remus finished, very quietly. "I don't believe she can ever have opened it, or known about its contents - but it's highly likely she came by it through her own family."

"From my family, you mean."

Sirius's voice was hard, as it always was when talking about the noble house of Black, but Remus could hear the unease behind the words.

"Yes." Remus turned his head to meet Sirius's eyes. "Sirius, Snape only brought it along as a particularly mean-spirited test of my and Harry's tolerance for dicaptromancy. What are the chances of it just so happening to be the key to bringing you back?"

Sirius looked openly troubled now.

"Slim," he responded in a low voice. "More like impossible."

Remus nodded. "That's what I thought."

Sirius shifted position, drew Remus against him so that their heads rested together.

"You think it was a set-up?"

"Not exactly." Remus closed his eyes. "Not from Voldemort, at least, or his followers."

"Who does that leave?"

"I don't know. Someone who wanted me to pass into the space between, or somebody who wanted you back from it."

Sirius found his hand under the blankets and laced their fingers together. It was oddly reassuring.

"I don't like the sound of that," he said after a while.

"Neither do I." Remus opened his eyes again and smiled, tiredly but with all the love that he felt for Sirius lifting his heart. "But the die is cast, Padfoot, and all we can do now is sit back and accept the consequences."

Sirius huffed softly into his hair.

"Maybe. But we'll do it together." Remus felt more than saw the smile. "Harry too. Just like old times, eh?"

"He isn't James," Remus said gently.

"I know. It's better that way."

"Oh?" Remus tried to see Sirius's face, knowing he'd find that mischievous smile twitching the corner of his mouth when he did so. "How so?"

"Just think of all the fun we can have teaching him our old tricks."

Remus laughed.

"I love you."

And then Sirius reached for his wand to extinguish the lights, and there was only darkness, and warmth, and no more talking.


- end -
FINAL NOTE:

I originally wrote this in June/July 2003; this is a revised version of the story, with some different chapter breaks, because they started off so short and got stupidly long! Thank you, everyone who's reviewed. I never thought this story would prove this popular, and I really don't think I'd have finished it without your encouragement. So thank you, so much. :)

I should probably note at this point that my two sisters were invaluable while I was writing, putting up with me wandering into the room occasionally and picking up a thought-train halfway through. Especially Adrienne, who is single-handedly responsible for Sirius' game of charades and for yelling at me until I stopped whining about chapter 8. ^_~