Disclaimer: I would never make Sirius hide behind a veil for a whole book.

Warnings: Blackmail, cross-dressing, daisies.

A/N: Has it really been two months? Oh.

This chapter is dedicated to Sprinklespring and Kai (figured I should call you by your virtual-world name here..). Thank you for your support, girls.

Kathryn- you're wonderful.

Trying to follow the time-line? Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts

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About Beards and Dresses

It was meant to be another peaceful Wednesday afternoon. Nothing special ever happened on Wednesday afternoons, and Remus preferred it that way. He could sit with a book or a paper, drink lemon tea (too sweet, if Sirius had been the one to make it) and look up occasionally to see the long figure leaning over the motorcycle in the yard, as Wednesday was also the Holy Day of Motorcycle Cleaning. In these times even the Killing Machine seemed almost harmless. Almost.

This particular Wednesday afternoon, though, Remus looked up from his book (some cheesy, soft-cover novel he would later hide in the laundry-soap drawer, safe from Sirius' mocking remarks or, worse, genuine interest) to see an approaching battleship, aiming, no doubt, to scare away all peace and quiet.

It wasn't a literal battleship, of course, but their elderly neighbour; though with her waving gown and determined marching, the random passer-by might feel in need of a white flag. Not Remus Lupin, though. He knew the old witch (in her case it was merely a fact, not an insult) too well to consider surrendering. He would not cave in to whatever Mrs Lorakra was coming to ask him for. He had had more than half a decade long experience in avoiding Singing Pumpkins Competitions, Pixies-Dance Gatherings and other overly creative Community Activities solely arranged by this witch.

By the time Mrs Lorakra reached the door (unnoticed by Sirius, humming to himself over the Machine), Remus had gathered all his will-power, together with a second cup of tea.

When greetings were over and tea drunk, Remus braced himself for impact.

"You can probably guess that I have come with a purpose, Mr Lupin," said the witch.

'To see Sirius' behind, of course!' would pass with some of the other female neighbours, maybe, but not with Mrs Lorakra. "Is it time for the annual Decorated-Brooms Parade already?" He tried to earn some time.

"Not nearly. And I wouldn't have bothered coming to invite you to that one when you have already told me about Mr Black's unfortunate Broom Allergy."

"And rightly so; the sight of Sirius all blown-up and spotted can be very unsettling. We wouldn't want to scare the children."

"Indeed. And since you have mentioned the children, my request to you - "

Remus didn't know anyone who could make the word 'request' sound like a command better than Mrs Lorakra - "it is Merlin's Beard Day next Saturday, and I would like you and Mr Black to play the parts of Merlin and Fair Merlina."

"Fair Merlina?"

"Merlin's female helper."

"I never knew he had one."

"He didn't, of course, but we want to raise our children with gender-equality awareness. Merlin's Beard Day is all about passing the traditions and values of the wizarding community on to the next generation."

"I thought it was about cotton-candy beards and chocolate wands."

"Good, so this year you will have the opportunity to deepen your knowledge of the holiday."

"I'm afraid that would be impossible, Mrs Lorakra. Unfortunately enough Sirius is also very much allergic to children."

"How horrible, raising little Harry must have been very difficult for him."

"Oh, very much so. He had to wear a face-mask all hours of the day, and he would only take it off at night. Even then we had our fair share of unfortunate accidents, when Harry would wake from a nightmare and come to our room causing poor Sirius to be red and itchy for hours long."

"How very unpleasant."

"Very. Luckily, when the child reaches ten or eleven, Sirius' symptoms reduce dramatically. Now that Harry's fifteen he only causes a light itch every now and then and no more than that."

"Such horrible luck it is that the audience for Merlin's Beard Day is of the very age group that risks Mr Black so."

"Horrible," Remus sighed silently in relief. Much too soon, he quickly learned.

"Though I've noticed that he is fairly keen on risks, Mr. Black is."

"Oh?"

"I saw him flying on that horrible motorbike of his last week. A dangerous machine."

"Monstrous; but Sirius likes it." Am I really agreeing with Mrs Lorakra on something? thought Remus in disbelief.

"He can like it very well on the ground, Mr. Lupin, but when he flies recklessly around on it, it risks our entire community. I have kept my mouth shut, up until now, but I begin to fear that I would be neglecting my duty if I didn't report this to Mr Weasley at Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office. I wonder what he would have to say about a flying motorbike."

He would probably ask Sirius for a ride, Remus thought, but Arthur had superiors, and Sirius' motorcycle was hardly legal.

Mrs Lorakra read her victory in his face. "Of course, our community is widely accepting and we can let the dangerous machine be, if it is important to dear Mr Black, because we know that you will both give back to the community in your turn."

Remus waved his metaphorical white flag, or rather looked at her sadly in surrender. "What will we have to do?" he asked.

"How kind of you to ask, Mr Lupin," she said cheerfully, and took out two alarmingly colorful sets of clothes from a big basket. "All you have to do is walk around and entertain the children. One of you will wear Merlin's hat and cape, and the other will wear Fair Merlina's lovely purple dress."

"Of course," Remus said, looking at the dress limply.

"You should decide which costume will go better with Sirius' face-mask," she said viciously and left the house commenting on their beautiful living-roomcurtains.

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"It's blackmail!" Sirius said angrily.

"And is entirely your fault," Remus replied, looking unhappily at the costumes lying on the sofa. Merlina's purple dress was especially hideous.

"It is not! The evil witch would never have seen me on the bike if it wasn't for the ridiculous orange helmet you made me wear!"

"How foolish of me to think that your head is a vital part of your body. But it doesn't matter now. We are going to be Merlin and Fair Merlina and nothing can be done about it."

"I am not wearing a purple dress."

"It was your ugly machine that got us into this mess."

"No, it was your helmet that did!"

As always, when they needed a mature judge for their argument, they turned to Harry. A letter was sent to Hogwarts that evening, explaining the situation.

A reply arrived the next morning:

Dearest Moony and Padfoot,

Which one of you is more womanly? That's a weird question. I thought the whole point of dancing with the daisies was not having a woman in the relationship at all. But since I'm getting a say in this, I think Padfoot should wear the dress; Ron has been reciting the first lines of that stupid poem ever since his visit last summer and it's driving me nuts. It is your doing, Padfoot! I think some hours in a purple dress might be punishment enough.

Anyway, next time when Mrs. Battleship pays a visit, call Mitrad to meet her, you know how the lady hates cats.

Have a happy Merlin's Beard Day! (Ha ha),

Harry.

P.S. Moony, I beg you to take pictures of our Fair Merlina. I should enjoy my payback.

"This does not make me more feminine than you," said Sirius when they finished reading.

"Of course not. Padfoot, dear, why is Harry using your ridiculous daisies metaphor?"

"I tested it on him. I needed some reassurance after you crashed my self- confidence."

"You tested it on him?"

"Oh, don't worry Moony, I didn't talk about Ron and him, I used the metaphor hypothetically. And he obviously thinks it is a useable metaphor, wise child that he is!"

"Wise indeed. And we should do what our wise child says. Let's see how the purple dress fits you."

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The Saturday of Merlin's Beard Day passed as peacefully as anyone could have hoped for, aside from one risky conversation between Sirius and a little girl ("You're wearing a dress," said she. "So are you," said Sirius, and, luckily, it settled the matter) and many cotton-candy sticky hands on Remus' face as the children needed to check why his beard wasn't the same color as his hair.

In fact, both men found themselves enjoying their time being surrounded by the little people, loud and unexpected and wicked in their innocent, lovable way.

"Don't you miss having a tiny happy thing running around the house?" Remus asked when they arrived home, exhausted but fairly satisfied.

"I know the dress is a bit deceiving, Moony, but I haven't grown a womb down there," Sirius said, laughingly. "But I know what you mean. Harry has grown too fast." He started taking off the now wrinkled dress.

"No, Padfoot!" Remus pulled at his sleeve. "I think you look very handsome in the dress."

"In that case, I might be willing to wear it a little longer," Sirius said, sitting down beside Remus, "if you let me explain the logic of my daisies metaphor to you once more."

And all beards and dresses aside, Remus and Sirius had a lovely evening.