'Oh. Hello Sirius.' Harry sat up, blinking.

'What are you doing here in the dark?'

I didn't want to break up the party, and I was feeling tired, so I thought I'd just lie down in the library for a while. Must have fallen asleep.' Harry began to fold up the blanket that someone had placed over him. 'What time is it?'

'Four o'clock in the morning. Near enough. The Wizengamot have indicted Fudge for Conspiracy to Murder and Perverting the Course of Justice. There'll be trial, but it's just a formality. I've been cleared,' Sirius sat down beside Harry, 'and you can come and live with me whenever you want.'

'Oh.' Harry was surprised to discover that he was disappointed. 'What did Snape say?'

'Doesn't really matter what he says,' replied Sirius cheerfully. 'I've got the Black fortune behind me and he can't afford to oppose us. And that thing on his left arm won't help him. He won't dare say anything.'

'Sirius,' said Harry, 'he saved your life.'

'Only so he could gloat.'

'To please Tonks,' said Harry.

Sirius face darkened. 'She'll see sense. I don't know what that bastard did but . . .'

'She seduced him,' said Harry.

'Yeah, right,' sneered Sirius. 'I don't think so.'

Remus Lupin came into the room. 'So what does he say?' he asked.

'Tonks seduced Snape,' said Harry. 'I'd gone downstairs for a cup of tea and I heard Snape coming towards the kitchen and so I . . . I hid in the cupboard. Jane had said that if I stayed out of his way he's probably stay out of mine. He believed that when it was all over, he'd end up in Azkaban again. Last time they tortured him. He couldn't make a full disclosure because of Jane. He asked Tonks if she'd really give up her career and her life to protect him and she said yes; told him to use Legilimency. And then they . . .'

'What?' demanded Sirius belligerently.

'And then they made love,' said Harry. Both Sirius and Lupin stared aghast. 'And then Snape opened the door and found me in the cupboard,' Harry continued wretchedly. 'He just took the tea out of my hands, shut the door and acted as if I wasn't there.'

'He used to do that when we were at school sometimes,' murmured Lupin. 'Just pretend it wasn't happening.' He turned away. 'Bloody hell!'

'Sirius, don't get me wrong,' said Harry, his throat tightening, 'I love you, but I'll do nothing to hurt him.

'What's he done to you Harry?' demanded Sirius.

This is all wrong thought Harry, desperation tightening his chest. 'He's been good to me, Sirius. Please don't fight with him.'

Cursing, Sirius stood up and started angrily toward the door. He was prevented from leaving by Lupin. 'Sirius, the Ministry had Harry sealed in a coffin. There is no way we'd have got him out without Snape. He was the one who asked the house elves to help.'

'The runes forced him to help, just as they force you to obey him, Harry,' snarled Sirius. 'The sooner they're destroyed the better.'

'No,' said Harry, alarmed. Apart from anything else, the runes protected Jane. Sirius turned in disbelief and then stormed out.

'I'll speak to him,' said Lupin, following.

Harry curled up on the chaise longue, wondering how it had all managed to go wrong so quickly. He could hear shouting in the hallway and then the door was thrown open as Lupin forced Sirius backwards into the library.

'I really think you should apologise,' said Lupin.

'To Snivellus? You must be out of your mind!'

'Harry,' said Lupin. If we could have a moment?'

Harry went out of the library and shut the door behind him. In the hallway, Snape was standing with an arm around Jane, who seemed upset. Tonks appeared to be blocking the front door.

'I'm sorry,' said Harry.

Snape turned. 'I really don't think it's for you to apologise, Harry,' he said. 'As I understand it, you chose to defend me. Perhaps I was unwise . . .' Snape considered the floor. 'Azkaban leaves its mark.' Letting go of Jane, he came to stand before Harry. 'Harry, you know why I chose to adopt you. You should also know that I do not regret the necessity.' Snape's hands came up to rest on his shoulders. 'Leave, or stay here, as you wish. If you call, we will come for you.'

Harry had thought Snape's black eyes like tunnels. Now they made him think of dark water. He had no idea what lay beneath the surface. I'm a Gryffindor thought Harry, and then he pushed forward and put his arms around the man who had both challenged and protected him for years. Your choice, thought Harry bending his head onto Snape's shoulder, breathing the warm masculine scent. Snape had stopped breathing. Harry could hear the man's heart and felt fingers tightening on his shoulders. If Snape pushed him away, he would accept that.

Snape took a deep breath and his hands left Harry's shoulders. A decision had been reached.

Then Harry felt a gentle pressure between his shoulder blades. Eyes closed, he enjoyed the sudden and completely new experience of feeling utterly safe. Snape's other hand was now resting against the back of his neck, Jane's arm was around his waist and the knowledge of acceptance and protection sang through his blood. That runes and Blood Magic were a part of this made it no less real and no less wanted.

'Sirius,' said Tonks, after a while, 'the house is mine, right?'

'You can have it,' said Sirius, with feeling. Harry let go of his guardian, only faintly embarrassed.

As Snape moved away from Harry, Tonks tangled her fingers in his clothing. 'Severus, stay. Please. Just for a few days.' She met his eyes and Snape froze.

Tonks' hands slipped upwards, over Snape's black clad torso, to his shoulders and then her fingers travelled up to rest beside his eyes. Unresisting, Snape allowed her to tilt his head down and kiss him. Harry could hear a ticking and plinking as what had been a mosaic acquired three dimensions and rose from the floor. Sirius stared at the snake in horrified fascination. 'That iss ssatissfactory, hissed Nero. Neither Tonks nor Snape appeared to notice the enormous reptile towering over them.

'Er, Tonks,' said Harry.

'Umm?' She seemed dazed.

'Nero said that that is satisfactory.'

Tonks glanced up the snake and smiled. Snape turned to Sirius.

'Her house,' said Sirius bleakly.

'Jane?' asked Snape. She shrugged.


Harry didn't have to say anything. The grin was hurting his face. 'Very well,' sighed Snape. 'I will need to fetch some things.' He gave Nero a calculating look and then swept out. Tonks closed the door behind him gently.

When the Guardian of the House of Black had sunk back into the floor, Sirius turned to consider Jane.

She stood stiffly, arms folded, soft strands of dark hair drifting across her face. Despite clean hair and her biking gear, she reminded Harry of Snape as he had been in the penseive. Not surprising she's angry thought Harry. Some of the things that he had heard from the hallway had not been nice.

The sound of the clock's ticking was joined by that of Tonks' footsteps as she crossed the hall to stand beside Jane and Harry realised that Jane's stance reflected less anger than wariness. 'Harry hunting for bigger kids,' had been her description of the reason why she had fled her muggle school and Sirius' expression was daunting.

'Oh yes, you're in Hufflepuff,' he breathed. 'How does your father feel about that?'

Jane's chin came up. 'That one Gryffindor is enough?'

For a moment Sirius seemed disconcerted and then he grinned. 'Badgers,' he commented, as though to himself, 'not much for heroics, but for loyalty, stubbornness and sheer bloody-mindedness . . . 'I'm sorry. It's just hard to get used to the idea of him being one of the good guys.'

'Try,' said Jane.

Sirius tried again. 'I don't suppose that you have the least difficulty in seeing me as one of the bad guys?'

'I've seen people I care about crying for you,' said Jane eventually.

Sirius smiled. 'I am very pleased to make you acquaintance, Miss Norton.' He held out one thin hand and, after a few moments, she took it.

Snape was back, within the hour, with a small bag and a bottle.


In the kitchen, the Defence Against the Dark Arts Master stood before the fire. 'I would like to propose a toast,' he said.

Jane looked hopeful.

A brief, twisted smile from her father granted permission and Jane and Harry sat down at the table and Tonks got out the glasses. 'So what is that?' asked Lupin as Snape delicately opened the bottle.

'Twenty odd years ago,' said Snape, 'it was old firewhisky. Since then, things have happened to it.' Sirius, Tonks and Lupin were now all paying very careful attention. 'I had intended it to celebrate victory.' The velvet was back in Snape's voice as he poured warm, amber coloured liquid into six glasses.

Harry tilted his glass, releasing an intricacy of scents that made him think of bird and sun filled woods and then Sirius wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

Snape's odd smile re-surfaced. 'Confusion to our enemies,' he said.