A/N: Jeez, I wrote this months ago for the Sirius/Remus FQF, and I've only just realised that I never got around to uploading it outside of my own website...

Scenes From Another Life

"Anyone sitting there?"

Harry glanced up. In the doorway was a gangly, red-haired boy whom he vaguely recalled seeing on the station platform. He looked nervous.

"Everywhere else is full," the red-haired boy continued, slightly too quickly, as though trying to justify his question.

Harry hesitated for a moment. He was wary of strangers, especially those who made unsolicited overtures of friendship. It was a sad sort of cynicism for a boy his age, but his life had demanded it. However, he couldn't help liking the look of the boy in the doorway - and he'd already read most of his Quidditch Weekly when he'd been unable to sleep last night.

"There's no-one else here," Harry said.

The boy hauled his trunk into the compartment and dumped it on the floor. He sat down, looked out of the window, glanced at Harry, looked away, and became very interested in his shoes.

Harry decided it was probably up to him to start a conversation. He wracked his brains for something to say, and eventually came up with, "Hi. I'm Harry."

"I'm Ron. Ron Weasley." There was pause. Then Ron blurted out, "Are you Harry, y'know, Potter?"

Harry sighed inwardly. Yes, it had been like this as long as he could remember. Yes, he was used to it. Yes, it still bothered him.

"Yeah, that's me."

"Oh." Ron looked taken-aback by Harry's matter-of-fact tone. "I thought my brothers might be having me on, they said you were in here..."

Harry thought for a moment. "Are your brothers Fred and George Weasley, by any chance?"

"Yeah. You know them?"

Harry grinned. "I know someone who does. My godfather'll be disappointed, he wanted to shake their hands."

Now Ron looked intrigued. "Isn't your godfather Sirius Black?"

"That's right."

"I heard he's been an Animagus since he was fifteen."

"Yep. He was my dad's best friend." Harry slouched down comfortably in the seat, encouraged by Ron's curious expression. "I've lived with him almost as long as I can remember..."

*


The house had been torn apart like the rind on a piece of fruit. Sirius could see the bedroom furniture on the upper storey, the floor of which was now on a crazy slant into the rubble, and thought with the blank irrelevance of shock that Lily wouldn't appreciate the way the bed sheets were torn and trailing.

The scene was lit by eerie green light. Even if the house hadn't been wrecked - even if he hadn't known since he'd found Peter missing - the grinning, mocking skull with its snake-tongue and glittering eyes would have told him what he was going to find.

He'd felt it - probably everyone in the world had felt it - the shockwave of Voldemort's death. He had hoped against hope that he'd find them alive, triumphant, somehow the victors.

No. The Mark was there. He knew what he'd find. Whatever had happened, had happened after Voldemort had killed at least one of them.

He found James first.

The young man - and he was barely more than a boy - looked unnervingly peaceful. Sirius acknowledged, dully, as he knelt by his friend and checked mechanically for a pulse, that at least Avada Kedavra left no mark on its victims. James's skin was cool, his eyes open but apparently staring calmly at the sky. Sirius made to brush his eternally messy hair out of his face, but checked the movement when he realised how pointless it was.

That was when he started to cry. When it occurred to him that James was never going to have to push the wayward strands out of the way again, that no-one was ever going to be able to tease him about it.

Sirius stood up with difficulty. He was shaking so hard, now, that he could barely make his leaden legs move. He'd done this, he thought. He told them not to use him. He told them to use Peter instead.

Lily was further into the wreckage, by where the door to Harry's room had been. Her face, which had been so tired and worried in the last few weeks, was smoothed by death. The tracks of tears still marked her skin, but her eyes were closed. Her body was sprawled on the rubble, as though she'd been casually thrown aside. She'd been in the way.

Voldemort had wanted Harry, of course. They all knew that, and they all knew why. James and Lily had been his enemies, but he had a hundred enemies. It was the boy - his godson - who merited such personal attention from the self-styled Dark Lord. All because of a half-heard prophecy.

Sirius didn't want to look. Little dark-haired Harry had been so full of life. It would almost be worse to see him dead than it was to find James and Lily. Instead, he sat down on a piece of broken stone, keeping vigil with his friends in the cruel green light of the deathsign above.

He'd done this. No. Anger began to stir, began to fight the numb, icy shock that made everything move so slowly. No, Peter had done this. Little Peter. Their friend, affectionately teased, always protected, trusted and loved.

Anger flared higher. Not Remus. Of course it wasn't Remus; Sirius cursed himself for ever thinking it. No, it had been Peter - Peter the traitor, Peter who had brought them this...

He was on his feet without knowing how he'd got there. Peter, Peter, Peter whom he'd insisted James use as the secret keeper, as he'd insisted that they keep it quiet between the four of them, for fear that Remus (the spy as he'd thought) should give them away...

Sirius suddenly felt as though a bucket of cold water had been poured through his limbs. They hadn't told anyone. The only other people who'd known were lying dead beside him. As far as everyone close to them knew, only Sirius himself could have betrayed their friends.

Which meant that if he was going to find Peter, he'd have to do it before anyone found him.

Hard on the heels of the thought, he heard sounds of approach. He whipped around, pulling out his wand in half-hearted defiance, only to lower it a few seconds later when he recognised the enormous man staring in horror at the ruins.

"Hagrid..."

Hagrid spotted him and crossed the distance with a few massive strides.

"Knew yeh'd come," Hagrid muttered in a choked sort of voice. "Thought the others'd be here too. He- he didn't get them firs', did he?"

"I don't... I don't know." Sirius found it difficult to speak. Blind panic tried to grip him at the thought that Remus too might be dead, but he fought it back. "I..." Suddenly he found that he was crying, angry, painful tears. "They're dead, Hagrid, Lily and James..."

He was almost smothered in one of Hagrid's bear-like hugs. They'd all known Hagrid as long as they'd been at Hogwarts. He'd given them tea and inedible cakes, provided bandages for scrapes too minor to take to Madame Pomfrey, chased them out of the Forbidden Forest, and listened to each of them argue their case in turn when they fell out. Hagrid grieved with him.

Shortly, however, the giant-like man stepped away and began to search the rubble for something. Sirius watched blankly as Hagrid picked up a small bundle from the wreckage with a triumphant shout.

"Here he is! Poor thing, fast asleep even with his mum an' dad dead..."

Sirius stared, disbelieving. "H-Harry? Harry's alive?"

"Dumbledore said he would be. Sent me ter find him."

Sirius was by his side in a flash. The baby, sure enough, was fast asleep. There was an unpleasant cut on his otherwise unmarked forehead. It would probably leave a scar. Sirius found more tears threatening. His godson, James's son, was alive.

"Give him to me," he begged, holding out his hands. "I'm his godfather, Hagrid, I should take care of him..."

Hagrid shook his head regretfully. "Can't. Got me orders from Dumbledore himself. Gotta take him someplace safe, then on ter his aunt an' uncle tomorrow."

"I promised James."

Hagrid looked at him with sympathy. "Yer in no state ter look after him now, Sirius."

"I promised," Sirius muttered, but he knew he'd have to give in. He dared not go against Dumbledore, not now, he'd have to ask the Headmaster later...

Dumbledore thought he was the Secret Keeper too.

"Take the bike," he managed to say through the sudden chill. "I won't need it anymore."

He didn't have long. He had to find Wormtail before the wretched traitor could go into hiding. The authorities didn't know Peter was an Animagus; they'd lose him if Sirius didn't track him down at once.

"Yer bike? I can' take that! What're yeh gonna to do without it?"

Run as Padfoot, Sirius thought, but didn't reply. He didn't have long, he'd better get going. He started to walk away - away from the wreckage and the still bodies - should he stop to bury them? No time - no time, and there were others to take care of it...

"Oi, Sirius!" Hagrid was beside him, grabbing his arm with one hand while the other supported the sleeping Harry. "Come with us an' ask Dumbledore yerself. Dunno if that bike o' yours likes me much anyhow."

"I can't," Sirius bit out around the dull, ferric taste of vengeance. "I have to find..."

He stopped. What if he went to Dumbledore and told him about Peter? Would Dumbledore believe him? If he didn't, would he kill him? Sirius had only seen Albus Dumbledore truly enraged twice, and both times had frightened him to the depths of his soul. And did he have time, anyway, before Peter went to ground? What if Dumbledore Stunned him on sight before he could explain?

It was too great a risk. He had to go after Peter right away. And yet... He glanced at his sleeping godson. He thought of Remus. He wasn't sure if Peter could kill him, but if he did, they'd both think that he had betrayed Lily and James, for the rest of their lives. And Peter would be free to do as he pleased, free to complete his betrayal by murdering the child who had somehow, miraculously, escaped Voldemort himself.

But he could take Peter, surely. The spineless rat had never been any good at duelling. Then he could tell Remus the truth. Even if no-one else believed him, even if he had to go into hiding himself and be a hunted man the rest of his life, at least Remus would know. And Remus would tell Harry, when he was old enough. Rage and grief roared deafeningly in his ears. He wanted blood. He wanted the rat's blood, right now, he wanted to drag that murdering bastard to hell with his own two hands and laugh as he went...

He could take Peter. Easily. Could he trust Dumbledore, if he gave up on the pursuit now? The indecision was agonising. He wanted nothing so much as to transform right now and bound away on the hunt for revenge. Still he hesitated. All his life he'd acted on impulse. But it had been a spur-of-the-moment decision to persuade his friends to use Peter instead of him. Suddenly he wasn't quite sure he trusted his own judgement.

Sirius looked at Harry again, aware that Hagrid was watching him curiously, waiting for him to finish the reply that had trailed off mid-sentence. The kid was waking up. Every second was another step ahead for Peter. His blood screamed for revenge. In his mind he saw Lily's eyes.

"I don't know if we'll both fit on the bike," he found himself saying. His head suddenly felt clearer; he'd made the decision somehow, although he couldn't remember the exact moment it had happened. "We might have to enchant it a bit more." He was moving briskly now, purposefully, mind leaping ahead to future problems. "You'll have to hang on to me and Harry, if that's okay."

"'Course it is," said Hagrid a bit gruffly. He put a hand on Sirius's shoulder and gripped briefly, recognising the effort he was making to stay in control. "How fast can yeh go? We need ter get Harry ter this place I know before mornin'."

"I can get you anywhere in the country before morning."

He threw a couple of enchantments into the saddle to make it bigger without actually increasing its size. There were things to be done, and not much time. He'd cry later. He'd mourn later. He'd have his vengeance later.

Hagrid climbed awkwardly aboard behind him, now murmuring nonsense to the faintly gurgling baby in his arms. Sirius paused, his wand still in his hand, and looked up at the emerald skull still mocking them from the sky.

"Finite Incantatem," he hissed viciously, throwing all his soul into the spell. Breaking an enchantment laid down by the Dark Lord himself to mark his work should have been impossible for one wizard alone, but either Sirius was leant power by his anger, or Voldemort's magic was truly fading. The skull dissolved into a cloud of smoke, which quickly dispersed into the clear air.

As he kicked the bike into life, Sirius tossed one last spell at the ruins of his best friend's house. It wasn't a difficult one; it would simply preserve from corruption, so that their bodies would remain untouched by weather or beast until they could be laid to rest.

Then the motorbike and its three passengers roared into the sky.

*


"He has a flying motorbike?" Ron demanded incredulously.

Harry grinned at the frank admiration on his new friend's face. "Yeah. Don't tell anyone, though. It's not exactly legal."

"Nah, don't worry. My dad's head of Misuse of Muggle Artefacts, and he's got a flying car."

"Wicked. Does he let you drive it?"

"Nah. Mum'd go spare. You?"

"No. I've been on it a couple of times with Sirius, but Remus says I can't ride it on my own until I'm old enough to Apparate myself out of trouble. I reckon Sirius'll let me have a go when I'm a bit older, though."

Ron gave him a quizzical look. "Who's Remus?"

"Well..." Harry drew out the word, thinking for a moment . "If my dad and Sirius hadn't been practically brothers, Remus would've been my godfather. He lives with me and Sirius in the holidays..."

*


The grey light of a November dawn was seeping through the curtains when Remus stumbled into his kitchen. He thought he'd slept, at some point, but he couldn't be quite sure. The nightmarish quality of the day before had permeated his sleeping mind, and dreams of green light and laughter had mingled with his waking grief.

He followed his morning routine mechanically. Tea leaves in pot. Set kettle boiling. Pour water. Find mug. Wait for it to steep. Glance out of window. Must be nearly seven o'clock.

He wondered if they'd caught Sirius yet. His hand shook when he poured the tea and added milk and sugar. Maybe they'd found Peter - hiding, no doubt, terrified and grief-stricken - or maybe he was dead too. Maybe Sirius had arranged for that. Or maybe Sirius was dead. Maybe he had died, but failed to take the Secret to the grave. Maybe he wasn't a traitor. And maybe, if Remus closed his eyes, he'd open them and find that none of this was real.

The kitchen fire - he must have lit it automatically, but he didn't remember - suddenly flared bright green. Remus turned, the mug of hot tea comforting in his hand, to see Albus Dumbledore's head regarding him from the hearth.

"Remus," said the Headmaster softly, and Remus wished he'd been paying a bit more attention and hadn't stoked up the fire. He couldn't bear sympathy, not yet. Dumbledore's expression was grave, but his eyes were as bright and sharp as ever.

"I'm sorry for leaving so suddenly yesterday," Remus began, before Dumbledore could say anything that would make him angry - or worse, reduce him to tears. He wasn't honestly sure, himself, if he could even cry, but he didn't want to find out here and now. "But I didn't seem to be needed..."

He stopped. It wasn't true; the Order had needed everyone they could get. But he couldn't help them hunt down Sirius. He couldn't.

"I quite understand," Dumbledore responded gently. "And no-one will blame you for it. However, there is a matter in which I now require your assistance. I am currently standing in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

Remus's body went cold. He took a sip from his mug to warm himself, but the sweet drink tasted sickening, and his stomach flipped unpleasantly. He forced his voice to remain steady.

"They've caught him, then."

Dumbledore hesitated. "I think, perhaps, you might wish to sit down..."

"Just tell me," Remus whispered.

"Sirius was not the Secret Keeper of the Potters' Fidelius Charm. Peter Pettigrew was."

The mug shattered on the stone floor. Remus barely registered the noise, much less cared about the tea that splashed the hem of his robes.

"What?! How? Are you sure? What happened?"

Dumbledore smiled, an edge in his blue eyes that people rarely saw. "I am sure, Remus, although as of yet we have only Sirius's word for what happened..."

"You've found him?" Remus interrupted urgently. "He's there?" His mind was spinning. "And Peter..." The pieces slowly began to fit together. "Oh, God. Peter is the spy. We told him everything."

"Peter no longer has anyone for whom to spy," Dumbledore corrected. "In fact, I doubt he will dare to show his face anywhere that he might be recognised - in either form."

It took Remus a second to realise what he'd said.

"Sirius told me that he, James and Peter became Animagi at school," Dumbledore confirmed as Remus stared at him in shock. "That is why I need you here, Remus. There are parts of his story that you can confirm--"

"I'll Apparate at once," Remus interrupted, grabbing his wand.

Dumbledore nodded. "Then I shall see you in a few moments." He chuckled softly. "I will warn you, Remus, that the Ministry is currently in a state of disorder rivalled only by the Hogwarts common rooms last night. I doubt you will have any difficulty entering." With a soft pop, the fire was once more unoccupied.

Some minutes later, Remus pelted through the door of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, barely even remembering how he'd arrived there. The first thing he saw was Sirius, submitting not-so-patiently to a scan by a pair of wizards whom Remus guessed were Charms experts - the sigils on their robes suggested as much, anyway. The room was full of people - Aurors, desk workers, a Mediwizard or two, even Arthur Weasley from Misuse of Muggle Artefacts. Remus looked around nervously for Dumbledore. He had raced here to find Sirius, but now he had no idea what to say. How exactly did one go about apologising for suspecting one's ex-lover of plotting his best friend's death, when that death had just occurred at the hands of another?

Sirius glanced towards him and their eyes met. He looked white, and tired, and yet his eyes burned with that unnerving fire that had always been Sirius's strength. He seemed to have been arguing with one of the wizards, but his sentence trailed off mid-word as they looked at each other.

Then Sirius pulled away from his examiners and began to walk towards Remus. They met half-way, both with the same mute appeal for forgiveness in their wearied faces. Sirius hesitated, opened his mouth as if to speak, licked his dry lips, and finally just said, brokenly, "James."

Remus threw his arms around him. He had to clench his jaw until it ached to keep from howling his own grief aloud, and he could feel Sirius's shuddering breaths against his ear. It seemed a long time that they stood there - others in the room shooting them curious or sympathetic looks - but neither made any move to try and regain their composure.

"I thought it was you," Sirius mumbled into his shoulder, and suddenly the last six months made sense to Remus. He closed his eyes against the bite of bitter tears.

"I thought it was you," Remus echoed back, hearing his own voice shake.

Sirius gave one sharp, mirthless laugh. "And James knew better than both of us."

Remus tightened his arms around his friend. For that moment, it didn't matter what had or hadn't passed between them. They simply clung to each other like children waiting for a nightmare to fade.

*


"I've heard of Pettigrew," Ron interrupted. "It was on the wireless all the time when I was nine, Mum got really scared and wouldn't let us leave the house. Isn't he the one who brought back," his voice dropped, "You Know Who?"

"Yeah." Harry also kept his voice low. He'd been raised to speak Voldemort's name without fear, but he'd also been taught not to draw attention to himself. "By the time Sirius convinced the Ministry that Pettigrew was a rogue Animagus, he'd gone to ground and no-one could find him."

He couldn't keep the disgust out of his voice, remembering too late that Ron's father worked for the Ministry of Magic. But Ron's face echoed his sentiment.

"Dad says Crouch was the worst thing that ever happened to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

Harry nodded his agreement, thinking that he could get to like both Ron and Ron's dad. They grinned at each other, then Ron frowned.

"Wait, your godfather's still a wizard, right?"

"Yeah, and Remus."

"So how come I heard you went to live with Muggles?"

Harry felt himself grimace. "I did, to start with..."

*


The mug smashed against the wall with a satisfying crash.

"Shall I even bother asking how it went?" Remus inquired from somewhere behind him. Sirius ignored his friend for the moment, too intent on casting about for something else to break. He spotted a china tea caddy and grabbed it.

An arm reached over his shoulder and took it firmly out of his hands.

"Lily gave me that," said Remus reproachfully.

Sirius turned around, fully intending to snap at him, but the look in Remus's eyes choked off the words before they could escape. For all his calm expression, as he stood there cradling the tea caddy in both hands, Sirius could tell that Remus was as frustrated as he was.

"It's been a year, Moony," he settled for instead. "A whole damned year, and the Ministry still say they're 'unsure of my suitability', and Dumbledore still says Harry's safer with those bloody Muggles, and I feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall, here, Moony!"

Remus carefully placed the china box on the counter, then reached out to rest a hand on Sirius's arm. "I know."

Sirius sighed and closed his eyes. They stood in silence for a minute or so.

"Sorry about the mug," Sirius said finally, opening his eyes and smiling ruefully. "I'll fix it."

Remus nodded. For half a second, Sirius thought that he was going to take the one step forward that would have placed him in Sirius's arms. Instead, however, he moved away and busied himself with the kettle.

Yet another source of frustration, Sirius thought unhappily. The last year had been difficult. He didn't know how he would have made it through without Remus there, and he hoped that he'd been as good a friend in return. That, however, despite their shared accommodation, was as far as it went: friendship. Somehow, they could never quite cross the line back to how they'd been before. Sirius hadn't even been sure, to start with, that he'd wanted to. Now - now that grief and guilt had settled somewhat, become dulled by the necessity of living - he found himself watching Remus as he had when they'd still been at school: out of the corner of his eye and when the other wasn't looking. He caught himself reaching for Remus's hand, or sitting just a touch too close on the sofa.

He wanted to try again, but he wasn't sure if he even deserved the chance, or if Remus would take the risk.

"Tea?" Remus offered, interrupting Sirius's thoughts.

"Yeah, okay." Sirius aimed his wand at the fragments on the floor and muttered, "Reparo." He retrieved the mug, rinsed it under the tap, and handed it to Remus to fill.

"I didn't expect much from the Ministry," Remus was saying, "but what did Dumbledore have to say this time?"

Sirius groaned. He let himself sink into one of the kitchen chairs and stared moodily into his mug of tea.

"The same as before. As long as he's living with Lily's sister, Harry's protected by the blood pact."

Sirius stopped, remembering yet again just why that protection held so much power: Lily, fiery, sharp-tongued Lily, his best-friend's wife, who had died rather than stand aside from her son. It broke open that place where he'd buried the sharpness of his grief, and for a long moment he could say nothing.

Remus touched his hand gently across the table. "He didn't say when it might be safe to remove him from it?"

"No." Sirius fought back a growl of sheer hatred. "If I'd just gone after Peter that night - if we'd caught him - this wouldn't be happening!"

"You don't know that," Remus corrected sharply. "You could have been killed, and then what would have happened to Harry? There's no way I would have been permitted to take him." His voice softened. "And I don't think this has as much to do with Peter as you do. I know he's out there, somewhere, but I don't think he'd dare risk trying to hurt Harry, not without the support of his..." Remus's expression twisted in disgust, "...master."

"Then why?" Sirius turned his hand palm-upwards, grabbing Remus's forcefully to convey his frustration. "Why can't we take him?"

"There are still Death Eaters at large..."

"We could hide."

"... and I'm guessing," Remus continued as if he had not been interrupted, "that Dumbledore also believes Voldemort isn't dead."

Sirius snorted. He found it hard to have patience for what he thought of as paranoia - even in Remus, whose judgement he secretly respected above his own.

He realised that their hands were still joined across the table. Remus had made no move to extract his fingers from Sirius's grip, so Sirius didn't let go.

"I promised James I'd look after him," he whispered, the anger draining away to leave a bleak emptiness that crept up on him far too often these days.

He felt Remus's hand curl around his.

"We will," he heard his friend say simply. "It's just taking a little time."

Sirius looked up. Remus was watching him, and the intensity in his eyes was familiar. Slowly, Sirius raised their joined hands and kissed the back of Remus's fingers. Remus didn't look away.

"And... what about...?" Sirius began, but the question trailed off unspoken. He didn't need to say the words. Remus knew what he meant.

"Most things just take a little time," Remus said softly, and smiled.

*


"How long did it take?"

"Two or three years, I think." Harry frowned thoughtfully. "I don't really remember--"

The door slid open, revealing an elderly witch pushing a trolley of sweets. Harry - who had already worked out that Ron's family didn't have much money - quickly bought enough of everything to amply supply the two of them, and shut the door again.

"Hey - you don't have to do that," protested Ron when Harry dropped a chocolate frog in his lap and dumped the rest on the seat between them.

"Who says?" Harry unwrapped a chocolate frog, examined the card and pulled a face. "Perseus again. You want him?"

Ron hesitated, then took the card. "Thanks. I've been after him for ages. I've got a few spare, do you need Morgana or Merlin?"

Harry grinned. "Come on. Does anyone need Morgana or Merlin?"

They laughed. There was a brief silence, punctuated by contented munching. Finally, Ron swallowed a mouthful of pumpkin pasty and said, "So, what were the Muggles like?"

"Hmm?" Harry blinked, trying to remember what they'd been talking about. "Oh. Them. They were pretty awful. Not all Muggles are," he added hastily, "but my aunt and uncle were dreadful. I was too young to know, though. The thing I really remember is the day Sirius came to take me away..."

*


Remus had spent several hours the previous night impressing upon Sirius the need to behave himself. It was not, he'd said, Lily's sister's fault that Dumbledore had held out for almost three years against giving Harry into the care of his godfather. Sirius was to hold in his temper while Remus explained the situation, and then they would go. Assuming, as Remus had taken care to warn Sirius, that Harry wanted to. The boy might kick up a fuss, in which case they had no right to force him, James's son or not.

It had all flown out of the window when Remus saw Harry for the first time in three years.

They'd arrived early in the morning, and their welcome had been less than enthusiastic. Petunia had professed not to know them - though Remus quite distinctly remembered her opinions on Sirius at James's wedding, and doubted she'd really forgotten him so quickly - and insisted that she didn't even have a nephew. Remus, in between trying subtly to calm Sirius, had happened to glance into the hall behind. He'd seen two things; a very fat, very spiteful-looking child sitting at the top of the stairs, and a small, black-haired head peering out of the cupboard under them.

For a second, Remus had assumed that Harry was playing a game of some kind. Then Petunia's voice had risen in a shrieking response to something Sirius had said - and Harry had flinched back, pulling the door almost shut, in a reaction that could be nothing short of fear. And Remus suddenly had a very good idea of the life that their best friend's son had lived with his aunt.

"Alohomora."

Both Sirius and Petunia turned to stare at Remus and his raised wand, but he ignored them. The cupboard door swung wide, and a pyjama-clad, miniature James fell out into the hall.

"So, right, you don't have a nephew," Sirius said sarcastically after a second's shocked pause. Remus didn't think Sirius had made the same connection he had, and hoped that they could get away before he did - but then the dark-haired man was pushing past Petunia and quickly crossing the hall to where Harry was picking himself up.

"Hey." Sirius dropped to the ground with the careless ease that had always come naturally to him. "Harry?"

The boy nodded. Remus - who had always been able to read people better than Sirius - could see the wariness that had nothing to do with fear of a stranger, but Sirius seemed oblivious to it.

"I'm Sirius." Harry looked blank. "Your godfather."

Harry still looked confused.

"You didn't tell him, did you," Remus stated very quietly. Petunia looked nervously between him and Sirius.

Sirius had, by now, realised that something was wrong. He frowned at Harry, then looked into the cupboard from which the boy had emerged. Remus saw his shoulders stiffen.

"Moony. Come here a minute."

Sirius's voice was deceptively controlled. Remus crossed the hall, ignoring Petunia, who shrank back from him as he passed. She certainly seemed to remember what he was, Remus thought acidly, despite her claims of forgetfulness. He drew level with Sirius and glanced into the pokey, dusty cupboard. The small bed shoved into it was one of the saddest things he'd ever seen.

Then Sirius was on his feet, striding back to where Lily's sister stood by the open front door, and Remus didn't even try to stop him. In fact, he had a good mind to join in.

"What the hell is going on here?" demanded Sirius, voice rising with his temper. "You didn't tell my godson about me? He sleeps in a cupboard?"

"It's not like we asked to be stuck with him!" shrieked Petunia in response.

A tug on Remus's sleeve dragged his attention away from the rapidly unfolding row. Harry was looking up at him with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. His eyes, which had been startling when he was a baby, were even more so now - Lily's bright, clear green - but aside from that he could have been James's twin. No glasses, though, Remus noted.

"What's going on?"

Remus spared a glance at Sirius, who was in full flow ("And I suppose you told him magic was evil and wrong, did you?" "Don't you dare say that word in my house!") and unlikely to stop for some time. He didn't seem to need any help. Remus smiled tentatively at Harry and offered a hand.

"I'm Remus," he said, feeling odd introducing himself to the boy he'd babysat countless times in his first year of life. "I don't suppose you remember us, but Sirius and I were your dad's friends."

His hand was seized eagerly - not shaken, as he'd been half expecting, but just held - and green eyes were full of a pleading hope. "You're going to take me away?"

Remus had never been a violent man, but he found himself suppressing a wish to throw Petunia Dursley off her own roof. More awkwardly than Sirius had done, he knelt on the floor to be closer to Harry's height.

"Yes, we're going to take you to live with us, if you want to go."

Harry nodded frantically. "Now?"

Remus glanced at the cupboard again. He and Sirius had allowed a couple of hours to collect together Harry's possessions, but it didn't appear that he really had any.

"Yes, now," he said firmly. "Is there anything you want to bring with you?"

Harry shook his head, and Remus didn't know whether he was glad that it was so simple or cut to the quick that a five-year-old boy should have nothing to call his own.

In the background, Sirius appeared to be rising to some sort of crescendo:

"... your own sister's son! Bloody hell, Petunia!"

Remus winced. He smiled reassuringly at Harry, who was watching wide-eyed over his shoulder. Then the boy's mouth dropped open, and Remus whipped around just in time to see Sirius level his wand at Petunia.

"Sirius, no!"

Sirius's mouth twitched once. "Tarantallegra!"

Petunia shrieked as her legs took on a will of their own, and Remus remembered to breathe. Just for a second - just for a second he'd thought Sirius was about to do something Unforgivable. Sirius's anger had always been dangerous - but Remus should have known he'd never go that far. He sighed inwardly at the remnant of mistrust that lurked in his heart, a painful relic of the last year of the war. He should know by now that Sirius had learned the hard way to take responsibility for his actions. After James's death he'd lost the recklessness that had brought him to the brink of ruin too many times.

And Harry was giggling quietly; Remus found himself fighting a smile. Petunia did look highly amusing, shrieking blue murder as she tap-danced around the hall...

"Mummy!"

The fat child that Remus had noticed and forgotten came thundering down the stairs, wailing in panic as he tried to grab hold of his mother's apron.

"Enough, Sirius." Remus stood up and drew his own wand. "Finite!"

Petunia collapsed in a panting heap on the hall floor, gathering her son against her. She glared at them both.

"Get out of my house - I never want to see any of you again!"

"Willingly." Sirius hesitated. "Er, that is, Harry--"

Remus, realising that Harry was still clutching his left hand, led the boy forward. He was peering up at Sirius with all the evidence of nascent hero-worship.

"Harry's ready to come now," Remus said calmly. He met Sirius's eyes and held them. I know, and I'm angry too, but it's better just to leave.

Sirius looked like he was about to argue, but he drew a deep breath instead and turned away from Petunia. He grinned at Harry, that infectious grin that people felt compelled to return. Harry was no exception; he positively beamed back at his godfather.

"So, Harry, have you ever ridden a motorbike before?"

"Goodbye, Petunia," Remus called pleasantly as they stepped out of the front door. With any luck, Petunia's desire never to see them again would prove prophetic.

*


"Wicked!" Ron was grinning from ear to ear. "I can just see her face--"

At that point the door to their compartment slid open, revealing a bushy-haired girl with rather large teeth.

"Has anyone seen Neville's toad?" she asked loudly.

"No," said Ron and Harry together. The girl peered around the compartment and turned to leave, but she caught sight of Harry's scar as she did so.

"Goodness, are you Harry Potter?"

"Yeah, that's me," Harry replied wearily. He spotted an unhappy-looking, round-faced boy hovering behind her in the doorway, no doubt the hapless owner of the toad.

"Really? I know all about you - you're in Modern Magical History--"

"-- and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century, yes, I know, thanks." Harry hoped he wasn't blushing; it had been bad enough when he was younger and Sirius, highly amused, had read him extracts from the books. The last thing he needed was this chatterbox girl to start quoting bits at him.

The girl looked highly affronted. "Well, alright, there's no need to take that sort of tone with me, I was only going to ask if it's true, I mean, no-one in my family's magic at all so I'd never even heard of you until I'd read all the set books, and it all struck me as just a bit exaggerated, if you know what I mean."

"It's not exaggerated," Ron put in, defensive on Harry's behalf. "He was just telling me. Before you came in," he added pointedly.

The girl sniffed and turned to go. "Oh, fine, I can see where I'm not wanted. Come on, Neville, I'm sure we'll find Trevor a bit further on."

Harry watched the door swing shut and breathed a sigh of relief. "Did we even get her name?"

Ron shook his head. "Like we'd want it." He leaned forward. "Hey, any of those chocolate frogs left?"

Harry chucked one over, reminding himself to write to Sirius and thank him for the excessive amount of sweets money he'd found in the pocket of his robes, and grabbed a sugar quill for himself. He hadn't bought that from the trolley: a paper bag of them had somehow ended up tucked inside Hedwig's cage, doubtless courtesy of a certain sweet-toothed werewolf. Harry grinned to himself. It was a running joke between him and Sirius that Remus would panic if he ever found the house totally devoid of sugar.

"Must be cool," Ron broke into his thoughts. "I mean, my mum's great, but it must be brilliant with just the three of you. I bet you have loads of fun."

Harry grinned. "Well, yeah," he said, "but they're pretty much like my parents, you know..."

*


"Harry, get in this kitchen right now!"

Harry, when he appeared in the doorway, looked defiant, but sheepish at the same time. Sirius saw him glance over at Remus for help, but the other man shook his head fractionally. Harry sighed and his expression turned mutinous.

Sirius regarded his nine-year-old godson for a second - soaked from head to foot, his glasses bent out of shape, his dripping broomstick in one hand - and was forcefully reminded of his own childhood, defying his parents in any way possible. Still, he didn't feel that he and Remus had given Harry any reason to feel like that - and the boy's latest hobby terrified him half out his wits.

"I suppose you thought we weren't going to notice if you sneaked upstairs and changed quickly enough?"

Harry shrugged. "I just didn't want to drip on the carpet..."

Sirius was sure Remus smothered a smile behind his hand, but he didn't feel much like laughing.

"And I suppose you got that wet by falling in a rockpool, did you?"

Harry lifted his chin and glared right back at his godfather. "No, of course not. I was wave-skimming."

At least, Sirius admitted reluctantly, they'd brought the boy up to tell the truth. Even when the truth in question was something he'd been expressly forbidden to do. He didn't say anything for a moment, which Harry apparently took as a challenge.

"Remus used to do it!"

Remus interjected, quietly, "I was older than you."

"And I used to yell at him, too!" Sirius ran a hand distractedly through his hair. "Merlin, Harry, have you ever thought what would happen if you fell off and got dragged under? You're too young to Apparate, you haven't even got a wand, and there's no-one magical on those Muggle beaches to help you--"

"I won't fall off," Harry interrupted, with all the assurance of youth, "I've never fallen off. Not once."

"There's a first time for everything!"

They glared at each other. Sirius caught Remus's eye for a second, and took a deep breath to calm himself.

"Just... just go and get changed," he said in the end. He couldn't help the disappointment showing in his voice, and that, more than anything, caused Harry's rebellious expression to falter. The boy left without a word, leaving a puddle of sea water on the stone floor.

Sirius sat down moodily at the table, not looking at Remus. He'd never understood the thrill of flying one's broom through a breaking wave. It had been something Remus had done as a teenager, and shown his friends - James had loved it, even Peter had tried it, but Sirius had always feared the sea and he'd refused point blank. Later - when there was more between them than friendship - he'd begged Remus to stop that particular game, and Remus had complied without more than a regretful glance at the waves once in a while.

"He'll get bored of it," Remus said quietly.

"You never did."

Sirius heard more than saw the smile. "That's because I loved the sea. Harry just loves being on a broom. He'll find something else soon enough."

"Yeah. I just wish he'd think once in a while," Sirius said in a pained voice.

Remus laughed, and Sirius looked up irritably. "What?"

"I never thought I'd see the day when those words would escape your mouth," Remus teased gently.

Sirius scowled at him - then found himself grinning back. It was all too true. He'd done far worse things in his time. Remus leaned over, caught his face in one hand, and kissed him tenderly.

"You're still doing fine," he said simply, and Sirius sighed and rested his forehead against Remus's shoulder. There was no-one else in the world in whom he'd confide his fear that he wasn't a good enough godfather.

"We're doing fine," Sirius corrected. Remus hugged him briefly, then stood up and moved over to the counter.

Sirius watched him go through the ritual he'd performed a hundred hundred times before - he sometimes thought that making a pot of tea was Remus's equivalent of James pushing his glasses up his nose - and glanced out of the window at the summer sunlight falling on the garden.

"What news from the wizarding world?" he asked after a moment.

"Hmm? Oh, there's a Prophet on the table somewhere." Remus gestured vaguely with one hand. "Not a lot's been happening - Frank Longbottom got an award of some kind for the work he's been doing at Azkaban, Fudge has a new policy on magic carpets... I don't think we're missing much." He turned around, teapot in his hands, smiling wistfully. "Except our friends."

The decision to isolate themselves from the wizarding world had been difficult, but Sirius had never doubted it was the right one. Harry would otherwise have grown up surrounded by whispers and pointing fingers and questions. He and Remus had never tried to hide Harry's fame from him, but they'd treated it as something rather to be suffered than enjoyed, and he'd taken his cue from them. Harry knew that, one day, he would re-enter the wizarding world and have to face it, but in the meanwhile he attended a Muggle primary school where no-one looked twice at his scar.

Dumbledore kept in regular contact, of course. Sirius knew that the Headmaster still believed Voldemort could return, and although Remus kept quiet, Sirius suspected he had never let go of it, either. And he had to admit, there were rumours that troubled him. Peter had never been caught. Sirius's cousin, Bellatrix, had gathered a group of Death Eaters - including, scandalously, Barty Crouch's own son - dedicated to tracking down Pettigrew and punishing him for his perceived betrayal. They had disappeared and remained unseen since. Sirius doubted that Peter could have defeated the four of them himself, and the mystery niggled at him. Worried at him. Made him sharper with Harry than perhaps he ought to be, for a childish lack of responsibility.

Footsteps on the stairs interrupted his thoughts; a moment later Harry was in the doorway, wearing a rumbled t-shirt and jeans. Muggle clothes, but Sirius quite liked them.

"I'm sorry," Harry said awkwardly, before Sirius could speak. He was staring at the floor. "I won't do it again, okay?"

"Okay." Sirius stood up and spontaneously hugged his godson, who squirmed uncomfortably. After the token resistance, however, he hugged back, grinned up at Sirius - his glasses were still crooked - and wriggled away to peer hopefully in Remus's direction. "Hot chocolate?"

Remus pointed at the big mug he had just placed on the table next to the teapot. Sirius watched fondly as Harry did his usual thing of trying to gulp it, gagging on the boiling liquid, and being forced to sit and wait for it to cool.

"How about Quidditch, after?" Sirius suggested, his anger forgotten. Harry's face immediately lit up. He was good kid, really, Sirius thought. He just had his father's independence and Sirius's impulsiveness - and, thank Merlin, he'd learned a lesson or two from Remus along the way. James would never have apologised like that, Sirius remembered with a mixture of sadness and amusement.

"Dibs on Chaser!"

Remus groaned. Sirius grinned wickedly at him. The last time Harry had played Chaser, Remus had ended up hanging off his broom after a close encounter with a Quaffle.

"In that case, Sirius can be Keeper this time."

Sirius shrugged off-handedly. "Whatever. I can take you both on single-handed, any time, anywhere." He grinned. "Just give me a minute to finish my tea."

*


"Not a chance - Cannons all the way!"

Harry shook his head vehemently "Holyhead Harpies, come on!"

"But they're all women!" Ron protested in some disgust. "No blokes at all - and the Cannons are local, the Harpies play miles away!" He stopped. "Well, from me, anyway. Where do you live?"

Harry hesitated. "I... can't tell you," he said finally. Ron looked confused and a bit hurt. Harry quickly explained, "No, I can't tell anyone. Because of, you know." He paused, weighing options. "Voldemort," he said finally.

Ron sucked in his breath. "You said his name!"

Harry shrugged, trying not to look like it was bravado. "It's only a name," he said. "He can't hear you say it."

Ron glanced darkly at the door to the compartment. "Don't be so sure of that."

The door slid open. A pale boy with a pointed face and white-blond hair stepped inside, flanked by two much larger first-years. Harry recognised him at once, and scowled.

"Is it true? They're saying all down the train that Harry Potter's in this compartment. So it's you, is it?"

"Yeah, that's right." Harry stood up, his hand closing around his wand inside his pocket. "You must be Draco Malfoy."

The boy smirked. "You've heard of me, have you?"

"I've heard of your father," Harry said coldly.

Malfoy stilled. They locked eyes for a long moment, in which Harry was aware of Ron getting to his feet behind him.

"Ah, I remember now," Malfoy said softly, "you were in Diagon Alley last week. Those two you were with must have been your... guardians." The large boys to either side of him sniggered on cue, although Harry doubted they actually understood the insult. "Tell me, what's it like living with a blood traitor and a were--"

"Strato!"

The hex hit Malfoy square in the chest and knocked him to the ground before his two 'bodyguards' could react. Harry levelled his wand at them grimly, hoping they weren't going to press the issue, but ready for them if they did. Malfoy struggled to his feet, his robes dusty and his hair in disarray. His hand went for his own wand, but Harry's twitched warningly, and the boy settled for glaring furiously.

"You want to be careful, Potter," Malfoy spat. "You'll go the same way as your parents if you don't." His gaze flickered to Ron. "Or your godfather."

"Get out," Harry ordered loudly.

Malfoy backed out of the compartment, sneering as he left, and Harry slammed the door shut harder than was really necessary. When he turned back, he found Ron staring at him in frank admiration.

"I don't know any magic like that," the red-haired boy confessed, eyeing Harry's wand enviously. "How come you do?"

Harry sighed. He slipped his wand back into his pocket - phoenix feather and holly, brand new, he'd only tried it out a bit at home - and sat down.

"Sirius and Remus taught me some," he said quietly. "Ever since last year, when Voldemort--" Ron hissed unhappily. "--came back. I'm not supposed to use it except in self-defence." Harry stared moodily out of the dark window. "I shouldn't have done that. Malfoy would've backed off, his kind always does. Remus'll kill me if he finds out."

Ron was looking at him seriously now. "Are you really in danger?"

"Yeah." Harry glanced at the door again. "Vol--" He took pity on Ron's alarmed expression. "-- You Know Who wants to get at me. I don't know why. They say they'll tell me when I'm older." He scowled. "It sounds cool, doesn't it? I'm so important that the Dark Lord himself wants to find me... But it isn't..."

*


They didn't talk. It went beyond speech, this waiting. This vigil.

Remus had tried to read, but the words blurred before his eyes and he couldn't follow the thread of the paragraph. Harry had a Quidditch handbook open on his lap, but Remus hadn't seen him turn a page for over an hour.

Finally, Harry broke the silence. His voice shook. "What time is it?"

Remus didn't need to look - he'd looked just a second ago - but he did it again out of habit. "Three o'clock," he said quietly. The world outside was dark and still. Every instinct screamed that he should be out in it, searching, but Dumbledore's ice-blue eyes had brooked no opposition. So they waited.

Harry took a deep breath. "He's... something's happened... hasn't it."

Of course something had happened. He'd known it when Harry had contacted him and told him that Sirius hadn't come home. Even after he'd Flooed back to the house, even as he was speaking evenly to Harry and suggesting that perhaps Sirius had been delayed, even as he'd made them something to eat... they'd both known.

The food had been thrown away largely uneaten. Remus had contacted Dumbledore, who had confessed that he had asked Sirius to look into something for him earlier that day. Remus had accepted the empty assurances that Sirius would no doubt return soon. He had known, though, long before Dumbledore called back to order him to stay with Harry and raise the wards. And Harry had known, too. They could both feel it, the lurking menace in the darkness outside.

It was only fitting that it was Halloween night.

"I don't know," Remus whispered, and they both knew he was lying. He let the book slide to the floor, crossed the room and knelt by the sofa, pulling Harry into a hug. Harry, who usually pretended disgust for such affection, clung to him with a fierce desperation.

Remus could feel wetness on his shoulder, but he said nothing, knowing his own tears would fall the second he no longer had to be strong for Harry. This waiting was the worst thing. The last year had been full of rumour - dark rumour - dark whispers of a growing power - sightings of criminals all but forgotten: Lestrange, Crouch, Pettigrew...

They both knew something had happened, and they waited nonetheless, for confirmation or denial or something, somehow, in between...

Maybe it was a few minutes later, or an hour - neither had moved, regardless - when Remus had the sensation of someone shouting his name. Quickly, he drew back from Harry and fumbled in his pocket, pulling out the square mirror he always carried. Dumbledore's face looked out at him.

"Remus, bring Harry to Hogwarts at once," the Headmaster said without preamble. His face was very grave. "Sirius is here."

A blur of activity - lowering the wards, Floo powder, sending Harry through first - and Remus was stepping out into Dumbledore's office.

Sirius was slumped on a conjured sofa; battered, bloodied and broken, but with his arms tight round his godson nonetheless. Remus didn't waste time on words, but flung himself at his mismatched little family with something close to a sob. Sirius freed an arm - with a hiss of pain - to clutch tightly around him, and Harry shifted over a little to make room, and for while there was only the sound of shaky breathing.

"What happened?" Remus asked finally, dashing the back of his hand across his eyes, sitting back a way and looking at Sirius. "Are you-- what happened, Sirius?"

"He's back," was all Sirius said, and in his eyes was the dullness of the torture curse. Then his words hit Remus.

"Voldemort...?"

"Indeed," said Dumbledore quietly as he re-entered the room - Remus hadn't even noticed him leave - and held out a goblet to Sirius. "Here, drink this. It will help."

Somewhere far below, the school was sleeping off its Halloween feast, Remus thought, and Snape had filled his cauldron to brew whatever Dumbledore was handing Sirius. His thoughts were oddly disjointed from shock.

"He took my blood, and Wormtail brought him back," Sirius continued in the same even, bleak voice. "Bella was there, and that husband of hers, and Crouch's kid."

Remus drew in his breath sharply and grabbed Sirius's arm, taking in for the first time the significance of the deep slash down its length. "How--?"

"Blood of the enemy," Dumbledore's voice recalled half-forgotten nights spent researching the old rituals for anything that could find them a weak point against Voldemort. "Forcibly taken. It is ancient magic."

Remus nodded, ice flooding his veins. Absently, he let his hand come to rest on Harry's shoulder; the boy was listening silently, eyes wide and his arms still around his godfather.

"He wanted Harry," Sirius put in. The potion had brought some colour back into his face, life back to his eyes. His mouth twisted in a grim smile. "I wouldn't tell him, though, and in the end he decided I hated him almost as much. So he used me."

Remus shuddered, tightening his grip on Harry at the thought. A hand touched his reassuringly; Harry was looking at him with unvoiced plea that he be calm, that he somehow lessen the nightmare feel of this night. Remus tried to smile, but he didn't think he succeeded very well.

"How did you get away?" he asked, turning his eyes back to his lover's, searching the beloved face for some breath of hope.

"I transformed." Sirius laughed humourlessly. "Oh, they warned him about me, but he had me brought up to him all the same, said a puppy couldn't hurt him..." Sirius's eyes had darkened almost to black. "I doubt he was so sure of that after I'd left teeth marks in his wand arm, but I didn't stick about to find out. I ran into the Order's searchers before they could catch me."

"You bit Voldemort?" said Harry incredulously.

Sirius managed a tired, half-grin. "Yeah. How many people can say that, hmm?" He grimaced. "Tasted foul."

Dumbledore sighed. "So. It begins." The Headmaster glanced towards the window, where the sky was beginning to lighten. "I must contact the Ministry and attempt to convince Fudge of something he doubtless will not wish to believe."

"What about Harry?" Remus asked quietly, steeling himself against the answer. He was almost sure of what Dumbledore would say.

The Headmaster surprised him. "Fidelius," he said simply. Sirius jerked convulsively, and Dumbledore turned his implacable gaze upon him. "I know how much cause you have to doubt the Charm, Sirius, but it is the only way. I myself will be your secret keeper. Harry must not return to that Muggle school - you will have to teach him for the remainder of the year yourself."

Remus opened his mouth to say that he would return home at once, but Sirius stopped him with a quick head-shake. "No. If you leave, people'll start asking questions." He grinned lop-sidedly.

"Besides, your lessons will be even more important now."

*


"Creepy," said Ron happily as the fleet of small boats drew up to Hogwarts. Harry smiled. Ron had listened with appropriate gravity to his insistence that being The Boy Who Lived wasn't as great as it was cracked up to be, but he suspected that his new friend was still envious.

"So," Ron continued as they climbed the stairs behind the enormous man who'd met them at the station - Hagrid, Harry remembered, and thought he recalled the giant attending at least one of his early birthday parties, "I bet you'll be top in Defence Against the Dark Arts, then. You looking forward to it?"

"Yeah," Harry said absently as they emerged into the main hall of the school. Most of his concentration was taken up with the excitement of finally being here, in this place of which he'd heard stories all through his childhood. He listened impatiently to the words of the stern witch - this had to be McGonagall, he thought, and suppressed a grin when he remembered some of the pranks Sirius had pulled on her - all the while looking around in curiosity. This was where his parents had learned it all. This was where his dad and his godfather had played merry hell with the rules and the Slytherins. This was where Remus had found friends willing to stick by him through thick and thin. Harry could hardly wait to see what the halls of Hogwarts held for him.

When McGonagall disappeared into the Main Hall, he grinned at Ron, who was looking nervous. He suddenly remembered the earlier question, and commented, "The Dark Arts teacher's great. You'll like him."

Ron frowned. "How do you know? I heard that he's--"

But Harry's attention had been caught by a familiar, shaggy brown head just emerging from a door.

"Remus!"

Remus glanced over and smiled. He crossed the hall to the gaggle of first years - all of whom seemed torn between staring at him or Harry - a pile of books balanced expertly in his arms.

"Hello, Harry," Remus said softly when he reached them. "How was the journey?"

"Fine," said Harry nonchalantly, carefully not looking in Malfoy's direction. "Thanks for the sugar quills."

Remus nodded, smiling, and looked at Ron. "You must be a Weasley."

"Ron," said Ron, hands thrust nervously in his pockets.

"Your brothers are the terror of my lessons," Remus said dryly. "I'm Professor Lupin; I teach Defence Against the Dark Arts."

"Pleased to meet you," Ron managed, still looking strangely anxious.

"Do I have to call you Professor here?" Harry asked curiously.

"Only in lessons." Remus turned his head towards the double doors. "I'd better go, Minerva will want to be leading you in shortly." He tilted his head, a slight hint of amusement in his eyes. "I'm planning to leave you to your own devices, Harry, but if you need anything, just ask someone where my office is."

"Okay." Harry grinned and received another smile in return. It'd been a few days since he'd seen Remus; he already had that distracted, enthusiastic look in his eyes that he only got while teaching. Harry watched him quickly and soundlessly cross the hall to the main doors.

"He's your guardian?" Ron asked incredulously.

Harry frowned. "Yeah. Remus Lupin. I thought I told you."

"You never said he taught here." Ron glanced nervously at where Remus had levitated his pile of books and was just opening a door. "Is he... I mean, I've heard... They say the Dark Arts teacher's a werewolf!"

Harry glanced quickly at the other students. No-one seemed to have heard. It wasn't exactly a secret - it couldn't be, not any more - but he'd been told not to talk about it unless he had to.

"And if he is?" he asked, a note of challenge in his voice.

Ron regarded him for a moment. Then the beginnings of a mischievous smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

"Then you really do have the coolest family in the world, Harry."

- end -