The nasty feeling of being squeezed through a tube announced to Harry that they had successfully apparated. If there was any doubt, it was answered a moment later by the sudden twinge in his gut as he dropped two feet through the air and landed on his backside. To make matters worse, his fall was followed closely by his grizzled godfather landing on top of him.

"Oof!" Harry exhaled, laboring to draw breath from beneath the larger man. With some effort he managed to free his head and looked up to see a blank eyed Sirius looking at him with bits of straw sticking in his hair.

"Sirius?" Harry asked, growing slightly worried that the man had splinched himself of some necessary bits. When Sirius failed to respond, Harry pinched him on the arm, hard.

"Oww! What was that for?!" Sirius whined.

"I know you've been locked up for a long time Sirius, but I have to ask you a question."

"Huh? Oh yeah. What is it?" Sirius said, blinking his eyes in confusion.

"Is that a mouse in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" Harry asked with a look of wide eyed innocence.

"What?! Oh! Very funny, kid. You're a riot. Geez, what are they teaching kids today?" Sirius grumbled."



"Seriously. You're smashing my bits here. Could you get off me? I know I'm adorable and all, but seriously. You stink. A lot!"

"Oh, right! Sorry kid. Give me a second. That really took a lot out of me. There we go." Sirius said, rolling off Harry and stumbling to his feet. After teetering for a few seconds, he bent over and gave Harry a hand up.

As Harry stood, he looked around at his surroundings. He immediately recognized the location.
They were in the barn at Potter manor. He knew that the manor wards prevented unwanted apparation, but soon realized that as his godfather and a friend of his father, Sirius must have been keyed into the wards. It was only then that it hit him what the man before him meant to his life. Here was a real life, flesh and blood member of his family. Or almost, anyway. Here was a man who had volunteered to look after Harry and take care of him if anything ever happened to his parents.

The thought was overwhelming. Harry remembered his mum and the sacrifice that she had made to protect him. Suddenly, Harry's eyes filled with tears and he looked away, scrubbing at them with the sleeve of his overlong robes. When he had calmed himself, he looked up to see Sirius looking at him with a puzzled expression.

"What is it?" Harry sniffed.

Sirius looked down and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. After a moment's silence, he looked Harry in the eye.

"Look kiddo, don't think I'm not grateful. I am. I can't tell you how much it means to be out of that hellhole. But, who are you? I feel like I should know you, but I just can't imagine anyone I know letting their kid just run off and break me out of Azkaban."

"They didn't. I mean, I wasn't supposed to be there at all. But when Remus got caught, I didn't know what else to do. Someone had to get you out of there, so it was me or nobody."

Sirius seemed to puzzle over that for a second, before a look of delight and wonder crossed his face. "I can't believe it. So, your Remus' kid? Wow! That old dog! I can't believe he had a sprog! Hard to picture it, really."

It was Harry's turn to look uncomfortable. This was really turning out a lot more difficult than he had imagined it to be. "Umm. No. Remus isn't my da'. Just met him a few weeks ago, actually."

"So who then? I'm damn sure you're not Cissy's kid. I can't imagine that she'd let you go off to save your blood traitor of a cousin. Are you one of Andromeda's? She had a young daughter when I was sent away, but she had plenty of time to have another. What are you five? Six?" Sirius asked.

"I turned seven on July 31st!" Harry bristled, well aware that he was small for his size.

"Merlin! I've couldn't have been locked up that long! I mean, sure, every once in a while they'd let me read the paper. So I knew, but it seems so much more real now. Cripes! That makes me what? Almost thirty! I'm…I'm..."

"Creepy? Skeletal? Deranged?" Harry smirked.

"Old!" Sirius exclaimed with a look of such revulsion on his face that Harry couldn't help but laugh. Sirius gave him a dirty look. "Laugh it up kid! It'll happen to you some day too!" Sirius pouted.

Harry just laughed louder. The thought that a man that had been locked away in the worst prison imaginable, without family or friends or any material comfort for the better part of a decade, was worried about being old, was just too funny.

Sirius continued to pout as he studied the cheeky brat in front of him. The kid had wild, unruly hair and bright green eyes. Something tickled the back of his mind, but he just couldn't place it. The kid could be Andromeda's, but as he looked at him, he wasn't sure.

"When did you say your birthday was again?" He asked.

After a few seconds, Harry managed to draw in enough breath to answer, "July 31st" he said.

"July 31st…" Sirius asked, his face scrunched up in thought. Finally, his face slackened and then his eyes opened wide as he made the connection. "That means you're….but it can't be…you're not…"

Harry took in the man's startled expression and graced his godfather with a bright smile. Reaching out his hand, Harry approached Sirius. "Nice to finally meet you Sirius. I'm Harry Potter."

Harry stood there for what seemed like forever, as the look on Sirius' face cycled through confusion, surprise and then shock. Through it all, he just stood there with his hand outstretched and a grin on his face. After a minute, Harry began to grow worried that Sirius wasn't going to accept his hand. He wondered if Sirius blamed him for his captivity. After all, Sirius had been wrongly imprisoned for his parent's murder. Harry wouldn't blame him if he was resentful. Just as Harry looked up in Sirius' shocked face, the man's eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed to the ground in a dead faint.

Harry looked down at Sirius laying prostrate in the straw.


After Sirius awoke, he and Harry had a tearful reunion. Harry couldn't remember him, but Sirius was filled with stories of playing with him as a baby. Many of them Harry had heard before from either Tippy or Charlus, but it was somehow even more moving to hear them from Sirius, especially since he could tell that those happy memories meant so much to the escaped convict.

Harry soon realized that Sirius was dead on his feet. Against the man's protests, Harry guided him to the couch in the basement and it took about four minutes for him to fall blissfully asleep.

Though Harry was tired too, he was kept awake by worry for Remus and wondering what he was going through. As concerned as he was, Charlus was even more so. When he had found out what Harry had done, he was livid. He had sworn up such a string of invective that even Harry had to blush. He was not impressed with Harry's reasoning and wasted no opportunity to tell him, quite explicitly, that he was absolutely not allowed to do any more thinking in the foreseeable future.

After he calmed down, they began to speculate on what the Headmaster's motivations were. Charlus reasoned that Remus had somehow tipped his hand that he was not who he appeared to be and that Dumbledore, through legilimency or just plain observation, had cottoned on that he was an imposter.

Charlus believed, but was less than certain, that Dumbledore would not coerce the secrets from Remus, but was unsure, given the werewolf's respect for the aged wizard, what he would willingly reveal.

They also didn't know what, if anything, the Headmaster would do with the information. As head of the Wizengamot, the Headmaster was sure to be made aware of the breakout and might feel compelled to investigate the matter. If that was so, a team of aurors and hitwizards could descend on them at any minute. Both Harry and Charlus were agreed that Remus would not want to risk Sirius' recapture.

The one comforting thought was that due to Harry's actions, Remus had not directly been involved in the breakout. His captivity at the hands of the Headmaster would be an iron-tight alibi. Still, it would be immediately obvious that he was, at least, a conspirator. They could only guess (and worry) what the Headmasters reaction would be.

Though Charlus was worried for Remus, he was more concerned that Harry's name be kept out of it. With the fidelius expired, they were vulnerable and might have to seek other accommodations if it got out that Remus was staying at the manor.

Despite their reservations, they both agreed there was little, if anything they could do about it at the moment. With Sirius freed, they had another wand at their back and more resources at their disposal. If they could access either the Potter or Black vaults, they could easily acquire some muggle accommodations. If worse came to worse, they could flee to the Continent or somewhere beyond the reach of the Ministry of Magic.

As Harry laid down to sleep that night, his dreams were filled with thoughts of exotic and windswept locales. He dreamt that he was a heroic and armored knight, supping at feasts held in his honor and rescuing fair damsels from the teeth of angry dragons.

It was rather a letdown to Harry that he found Remus quietly sipping tea the next morning when he awoke. Just like the werewolf, Harry figured, to spoil his grand rescue. With the success of the Azkaban trip, Harry was really feeling his oats. He felt like nothing was beyond him.

-----------scene break-------

Magic, for all its rich history and spectacular effects, is a lot more complex than is commonly understood. It exists in the simplest of things. A child's laughter, full of hope and promise and ignorant of limits is a prime example. Yes, it can shape history and move mountains and raise an army of the dead from their crypts, but it is a mistake to think that this is the limit. Love, loyalty, friendship and sacrifice are every bit as powerful and far more ancient in their magic than even the most arcane incantations.

The woods outside Godric's Hollow, though impressive, were not extraordinarily magical. Through the long months of their quiet slumber, it was not unusual to hear from them the sound of the woodchopper's axe and even the occasional chainsaw. You could also hear the occasional chatter of squirrels as they harried about on their daily rounds or for the more discerning ear, the dryad's serenade for their hopeful mate.

On this particular morning the quiet country lane that bisected the woods made its winding path through the ancient boughs, nearly obscuring the seldom travelled path. Eventually it passed into a clearing, revealing an aging manor house that was surrounded by ill-kept grass and shrubs left long untended. Yet, for all that it appeared rundown, there was magic in the air. It was the ancient and powerful magic that revealed itself in the unrestrained bellow of laughter and the heavy crashes of breaking things.

"Damnit, Harry! Get back here!" Sirius yelled, bursting through the door scanning the room with wild eyes. His hair, no longer the matted tangle that it had become during his years of incarceration, was still a disgusting mess. Both it and his clothes were covered with viscous, sticky syrup that dripped from him in great globs onto the wood floor. Not only was he a mess, but his clothes were literally covered with spoons and other cutlery and his left leg was stuck in what appeared to be a mop bucket, the contents of which occasionally splashed over the side.

Mindless of the mess he was tracking into the parlor, Sirius stomped further into the room searching for his elusive charge. With every step his progress was marked with the clunk, slosh, clunk of the mop bucket and his own inchoate cursing.

The object of his ire, Harry Potter chuckled from behind the sofa. "I told you were all wet!"

Sirius whirled as best he could and brought his wand to bear on the couch, summoning it to himself and revealing a startled Harry Potter crouching where it used to be.

"Not fair! We said no magic!" Harry yelled, darting for the nearest door.

"Well that was before I got my damn leg stuck in a bucket, wasn't it!" Sirius yelled back, aiming his wand at Harry's retreating back, trying to summon or at least slow the boy down before he got away.

With uncanny dexterity for a boy his size, Harry slid under the curse and scrambled through the doorway and out of sight.

As Harry dove through the doorway, Sirius hobbled after him, a sinister smirk on his face.

Sirius stopped at the threshold of the doorway and peered around the corner, obviously wary of further attacks. A quick look revealed only the empty hallway and the sound of Harry's giggles as they rapidly retreated.

Emboldened, Sirius managed to pull his foot from the bucket, and dashed down the hall.

Unfortunately, his mind was too focused on retaliation to be mindful of his surroundings. This fact became painfully obvious to the erstwhile prankster when he rounded the corner and stepped right in the middle of a portal that Harry had spread across the floor during his escape.

Even more unfortunately (for Sirius), his fall was not a quick one. His leading foot fell through the floor, but his forward momentum continued. In the blink of an eye, Sirius fell forward and down, meeting the edge of the portal with his groin and the floor with his chin. His vision blackened at the impact and he was blessedly too shocked to notice the incredible, gut wrenching pain of his extremities or his gradual slide as the weight of his legs dragged him down through the portal.

His landing however, was much softer than he had any right to expect. Someone, it seems, had graciously placed a massive pile of feathers on the ground where he landed. When his vision cleared and the pain registered, Sirius could only lay there and moan piteously. He was brought back to the present by an unmistakable snickering. Gathering his courage, he managed to roll over and brace himself on his hands and knees. Looking up, he saw Harry and Remus (that traitor!) barely standing under the weight of their undisguised mirth. Before he could think of a suitably caustic reply, Remus raised a camera in his hand and a bright flash left him blinking stupidly.

When his eyes cleared, he saw that Harry stood over him with his hand extended. Sirius allowed Harry to pull him to his feet as he took stock of the situation. It wasn't pretty. The feathers, it turned out, were not just to break his fall. From head to toe he was covered in the things, which clung stubbornly to the syrup. It was only then that he realized the degree to which he was set up. The planning and execution would have impressed him more, if not for the ache in his groin and the fact that he had been so thoroughly bested by a kid. The shit eating grin on Harry's face, however, was well earned and Sirius couldn't stop his own from appearing.

"Good one, kid." He said.

"So," Harry replied, looking him over, "who's the chicken, now?"

"Yeah, yeah. Don't rub it in." Sirius answered.

"A true marauder, this one." Remus said as he joined them.

"Yeah. Harry's a natural." Sirius replied, looking over at Harry and Remus with a suspicious twinkle in his eye. "You know what this calls for, don't you?"

Harry watched Sirius' warily as he raised his sticky, feather coated arms. "Umm. What's that?" Harry asked.

"Group hug!" Sirius exclaimed, lunging forward.

"Ack!" was the only reply.
-----------------------------------------------scene break-------------------------------------------------------

Some days later, Harry, Remus and Sirius were standing around in the Parlor attempting to practice spellwork. Harry had just that morning had a breakthrough with his magic, managing to recreate, after extensive meditation, his Patronus shield trick that he had used on the dementors. It was exhaustive work. Harry had been forced to recreate the emotional turmoil that had led to his first use of the charm. Needless to say, reliving your mother's final moments was not altogether pleasing, even if it was a bitter sweet memory.

When he succeeded, Remus and Sirius were astounded at the results. Once again, Harry found himself surrounded with the silvery mist. Though draining, Harry was thrilled to see that he could accomplish magic without the threat of soul sucking monsters looming nearby.

"Remarkable!" Remus exclaimed as he walked around Harry, poking and prodding at the shield with his wand. "Is this what happened at Azkaban?"

"Yeah. Pretty much." Harry said, waving his arms around slowly, watching the ghostly, silver contrails that followed in their wake. "Course, I wasn't altogether with it at the time, ya' know?"

"Of course, of course…"Remus said, rubbing his jaw in thought. "How does it feel?"

Harry briefly toyed with the idea of telling him that it felt like chocolate pudding, but was just too exhausted to make the attempt. "It pretty much feels normal. Tiring, but I think that was mostly from before. Now, it just…."

"What?" Remus asked.

"I don't know. It kinda…sings, I guess. Not out loud or anything. It's not like some blooming orchestra. It's more like it sings in my blood, if that makes any sense."

"Hmmm. Well, who can say? As far as I know, it's not something anyone else can do. Due to your…accident, it might very well be that you have a more personal connection to these kinds of magics. Patroni are very personal manifestations, after all. If your magic is emotionally triggered, then it would make sense that you have a closer connection to this charm."

"If you say so." Harry said, finally letting the charm extinguish. With a gusty sigh, he slumped down on the settee.

Both Sirius and Remus were looking at him and their scrutiny was making him a little uncomfortable. Casting his eyes around the room for a distraction, they landed on the mantle where a very lifelike statue of a mouse was perched.

Waving his hand lazily in its direction, he asked, "So what are we going to do with her?"
As the two grown men's attention was drawn to the statue, Sirius' eyes took on a steely gleam.

"Well you both know what I think!" Sirius exclaimed.

"Not this again, Sirius! You know very well we can't feed her to a crup." Remus sighed.

"I don't see why not. She was little better than a piece of dogshite when I knew her. Wouldn't be so much of a change, as far as I can see!"

"Maybe not, but even if we had a crup, which we don't, she's still a human being. Just because she's a homicidal maniac, doesn't mean we should lower ourselves to her level." Remus replied.

"Whatever!" Sirius huffed. "Probably kill the poor crup, anyway, nasty shrew. "

"So what are we going to do?" Harry asked. "We can't just leave her like that, can we?"

"Unfortunately, no." Remus replied. "That spell has to be recast every day or she'll revert to form. We can't take the chance that she'll come out of it and kill us all in our sleep one night."

"Can't we just owl her to the Ministry?" Harry asked.

"We could. That may be our best option. They could handle her quick enough. As notorious as she is, she'd be back in Azkaban before breakfast, I'd wager." Remus replied.

Harry couldn't help but notice the shiver that ran through Sirius at the thought.

Remus must have noticed it too. "What is it, Sirius?"

Sirius gave a defeated sigh as he joined Harry on the setee. For a few seconds he seemed to wrestle with his thoughts before he spoke in a somber voice more suitable for a wake than the sunny parlor of a manor house. "I know she deserves it, but I can't abide the thought of sending anyone back to…that place. Not even Bella. Death would be a kindness, compared to that."

"So what should we do?" Harry asked.

"I don't know. We can't let her go. That much is certain. She's just too dangerous. I was thinking…..maybe…."

Remus studied his struggling friend, not particularly liking where the conversation was headed.

"Sirius. Please tell me you're not thinking what I think you're thinking."

"It could work! Used to be done all the time. Hell's bells! They did it to my uncle Alphard, and he was the best of the lot!" Sirius exclaimed.

"By the Black family! Since when do you hold them up as proper standards?" Remus exclaimed.

"Not just them," Sirius shot back. "All of the old families used to do it, before Azkaban!"

"What are you…" Harry asked before being interrupted by Remus.

"There are a million reasons why that is a bad idea. First off, it's illegal. Second, it's dark." Remus huffed.

Sirius snorted. "Dark, he says! According to the Ministry of Magic? What are dementors then, whimsical, fairytale creatures? Hell, according to them, you're a dark creature!"

Harry was following the conversation, such as it was, with keen interest and quite a bit of frustration.

"What exactly are you…"

"That's beside the point entirely!" Remus interrupted again, his agitation clear in his raised voice. "It's a case of slavery, plain and simple! Any rational person can see that! The very idea is disgusting!"

At this point, Sirius jumped to his feet, his face reddening in anger. "So I'm irrational, am I? If I am, it's because the Ministry, in it's wisdom, made me so. How dare you try and put…"

Whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the loud crash of a three centuries old vase smashing into a million pieces on the floor at their feet. Both Sirius and Remus looked up, startled by the violent interruption, to see Harry standing calmly in their midst.

Before they could open their mouths, Harry jumped in. "What the bloody fuck are you talking about and why the bloody fuck are you two shouting at each other?"

Remus and Sirius both looked chagrined at Harry's words and the calm manner of their delivery. Remus started to answer him, but Sirius overrode him.

"It's called a Binding," he explained. "Basically, a witch or wizard is bound by oaths not to act in certain ways. It used to be done all the time, back before Azkaban was put into use. Back then the oaths were bound under the Ministry's oversight, using the Goblet of Fire as an arbiter to guarantee the oaths were true and just. Obviously, we don't have access to the Goblet, but if we had Bella swear unbreakable vows, she would be physically unable to break them."

Harry turned to Remus. "Why would that be so bad?" He asked.

"Because Harry, that denies a person their free will. The Wizengamot declared that any magical binding that a person is coerced into, was a dark art. You remember how we talked about the Imperius curse? It's somewhat like that. It's not unforgiveable, but illegal, nonetheless."

Harry considered Remus' words. "I don't get it. I can see that it's bad to take away someone's free will, but that's not what we're talking about. It's not like she has a choice between freedom and Binding. If she doesn't take the vow then she's off to Azkaban. As far as I saw, there wasn't a whole lot of free will being used up at the prison."

Harry's words left Sirius smirking and Remus with a scrunched up, pensive look on his face. "That's exactly the problem with it, Harry. We would be using the threat of Azkaban to force her into the oaths." Remus said.

Sirius opened his mouth to retort, but halted at Harry's upheld hand. "But, she does have a choice, right? It's a lousy one, but it's still better than what she had, if she were stuck in Azkaban, right? At the very least, she's better off that she was before."

All that night, Remus considered Harry's words. He had to admit, the boy made sense. He didn't like it, but he had to admit that much, at least. He also couldn't help but be impressed with Harry, himself. The lad was both sharp minded and sharp tongued. As he lay in bed, Remus chuckled at the colorful vocabulary that came from such an innocent and sweet looking child. And the truly amazing thing was that for all his profanity and sarcasm, Harry was a truly kind and wonderful kid. He was graced with an open and loving nature that couldn't be hidden by caustic words. As he lay on the cusp of sleep, Remus wondered what effect meeting Bellatrix Lestrange would have on the kind soul.

The next day, Remus, Harry and Sirius were busy preparing to revive Bellatrix. Harry was a little dubious about the caution that the two were showing in their preparations. Harry knew that the witch was dangerous, but what was the use in removing all the pillows in the room?

Their many preparations involved placing a series of wards across the doors and windows and removing anything that could be used as a weapon. When Harry questioned why such elaborate measures were necessary for a single witch, Sirius just chuckled and said "You'll see," and continued about his business.

When they finished, the room was left bare except for one cushy chair, a glass of water and three apprehensive wizards. In one of a series of seemingly random acts, Sirius had Remus conjure for him a fake wand and gave his real one to Remus for safekeeping. Both of them had grim faces as Remus raised his wand to lift the petrification curse.

"Finite incantatum," Remus intoned, waving his wand at the statuette.

The little petrified mouse was instantly awash in a golden nimbus of light as it slowly started to grow and morph into an obviously groggy and disheveled witch. Less than a minute later, Bellatrix awoke curled in a fetal ball before the dormant fireplace. Slowly, she blinked her eyes as they tried to adjust to the light.

From her position on the floor, Belllatrix seemed to remember herself as she scrambled to a crouch and looked up at the three wizards. Blinking owlishly, she focused her gaze on Sirius.

"Sirius? Is that you?" She asked.

Sirius nodded at her, offering her a hand up. Grasping her skeletal hand he drug her to her feet, where she wobbled for a second before straightening up with a crack of the spine.

Looking about the room, Bellatrix studied Remus intently, who was standing a stride away with his wand drawn and pointed in her direction. Harry also bore her gaze, feeling a little unnerved by her gaunt and hollow eyed stare. Eventually, she returned to Sirius.

"So. Not Azkaban then. Where are we?" She croaked.

"No, not Azkaban. We're someplace safe. You'll understand that I can't be more specific until we come to an…understanding."

Slowly, Bellatrix nodded at him. Looking around, she noticed the glass of water sitting on the floor near her feet and gestured to Remus and then at the glass. "Do you mind?"

At Remus' nod, she carefully retrieved the glass and held it up to the light and then brought it under her nose and sniffed at it. Convinced that it was what it seemed to be, she tilted back her head and downed it in one long draft.

Satisfied, Bellatrix stood silently studying the glass in her hand. The three wizards were content to allow her time to gather herself. She looked as if she were on her last legs. Azkaban was not kind to its tenants and all of them remembered the awful shape Sirius was in when he had escaped. If anything, Bella was even more gaunt and had about her a wildness that is difficult to put into words. Her ratty robes were a kind of indistinguishable color that was somewhere between pond scum and excrement and smelled about the same.

"That wasn't Cissy, was it?" She asked.

"No." Sirius answered.



"Him?" She asked, gesturing at Remus.

Sirius shrugged his shoulder in answer.

Bellatrix seemed to consider that for a moment. "What next?"

"That depends on you." Sirius answered.

At that, her gaze sharpened. "How do you mean?"

"Simply this," Sirius answered, "we do not wish to return you to Azkaban. However, we do not trust you with our lives or with our circumstances. If you prefer, we will stun you and hand you over to the aurors. But if you want to remain…free, then we will want certain assurances."

"What kind of assurances?" She asked.

"The unbreakable kind." Sirius answered.

Bellatrix tilted her head and studied Sirius before shrugging her shoulders. "What would you require?"

"Not to divulge our secrets, not to betray us, to protect, defend and obey us to the best of your ability." At the final words, Bellatrix visibly flinched, but before she could offer protest, Sirius continued. "Needless to say, these are non-negotiable." Sirius finished sternly.

"And if I do, then I won't be returned to Azkaban? I'll have your protection?" She asked.

"You'll have it. You'll be a ward of the family and protected by the ancient custom." Sirius said.

"Oh, Sirius!" The witch exclaimed, darting forward and grabbing a surprised Sirius in a fierce hug. As best she could with her diminished strength she whirled Sirius around, laughing gleefully and a trifle madly as she stumbled around in his embrace. When she finished her circuit, she pivoted with Sirius' arm clasped in one hand, jerking hard on his arm and pulling him to herself. In her other hand she clasped Sirius wand which she wasted no time putting to his temple as she snaked an arm around his neck from behind.

"Drop the wand, werewolf!" She barked at Remus.

Bellatrix, who was mad as a hatter, couldn't hide the shock on her face as Sirius started laughing.

"That's ten galleons you owe me, Moony!" Sirius chuckled.

"Yeah, yeah. You could have put up more of a fight, though. Might as well have stunned yourself and have done with it. Practically handed your wand to her, you did." Remus said.

"Oi! Don't be a sore loser, you ponce! She caught me by surprise, is all. Nothing nefarious about it!"

Bellatrix watched their exchange with a look of such bewilderment that she seemed to have forgotten that there were wands drawn. By the end of it, she was unsure whether to curse first or demand an explanation. She decided on a bit of both.

"What the blazes are you idiots jabbering about? Never mind! Lupin, you have until the count of three before I leave little bits of bone and brains lying about your floor!" She shrieked.

Remus just waved his wand nonchalantly in her direction. "Go on then. Curse away, by all means."
Confused and apprehensive, Bellatrix dug her wand deeper into Sirius' skull, eliciting a wince from him and a growl from the witch.

Trying to save the shreds of his dignity and the skin of his scalp, Sirius cajoled her with a friendly tone. "Now Bella, don't be hasty. This isn't going to end as you hoped it would. Best just to set down your wand and talk this through."

"Talk, talk, talk! That's all you lot do! You and your blessed Order and their cursed laws. Don't curse the muggles, Bella. Don't use the dark arts, Bella. Potions aren't for recreational use, Bella. Talk, talk, talk! If you think I'm signing away my rights for you and your ilk, you're mad! Reducto, stupefy, crucio!" She bellowed, spinning in a tight circle and brandishing her wand in a set of highly controlled flourishes. It wasn't until she landed in a partial crouch with her wand extended that she realized that none of the spells she had cast had the slightest effect.

Looking bewilderingly between the hale and hearty wizards, Bellatrix turned her attention to the dead wand in her hand. With a look of disgust on her face, she tossed the useless wand at Sirius' feet and crossed her arms in a huff of indignation.

Remus, Sirius and Harry had a long laugh at the childish, petulant look on the witch's face. When it finally died down, Sirius was the first to speak.

"So, ready to take your vows, Bella?"

Bellatrix gave him such a look of loathing that it was all Sirius could do not to start laughing again.

"First tell me who will be included in these vows. You and the werewolf I know. Who's the little rat?" She said, gesturing at Harry.

Harry had been silent (mostly) through the entire episode, content to let Sirius and Remus handle the negotiations. But, his patience came to an end when insults were being thrown his way.

"Listen here, you old hag! Stuff a little rat up your shiveled, old cunny, you diseased, two-knut hussy!" Harry spat.

Bellatrix blinked at his vehemence, before opening her mouth then letting it close again. After a moment, she turned back to Sirius. "Quite the mouth on this one. Be sure to tell him if he spews that shite out of his mouth at me again, I'll stitch his mouth to his arsehole. Permanently."

"Easy now, Bella. I'm quite sure that would violate several of the oaths that we require you to take. If you're interested, that is." Sirius chuckled.

"Fine. Just tell me who it is that I would have to swear to." Bellatrix huffed.

"Sure." Sirius answered. "Just be aware that if you choose not to take the oath, we'll have to obliviate you before sending you back to prison, allright?"

At her nod, Sirius beckoned Harry over. "Bellatrix Lestrange, nee Black, allow me to introduce you to my foul mouthed, incorrigible godson, Harry Potter. Harry, this is my deranged cousin, Bellatrix." Sirius said with a smirk.

Harry politely offered the witch his hand, but Bellatrix' hands stayed firmly at her side.

"Harry Potter?" She asked with a surprised look on her face. Silently she stood there, studying Harry with an intensity that made Harry extremely uncomfortable. At length, her gaze met his eyes and then travelled up to the lightning bolt scar on his forehead.

"Oh ho! What's this? She said, reaching up and brushing the hair away from the scar and running her fingers over it's jagged edges. Harry brushed her hand away with irritation. He didn't mind the scar; Hardly ever thought of it, in fact. But he'd be damned if he wanted this woman's filthy paws all over it. With a shudder, he looked up, only to meet Bellatrix eyes which were staring relentlessly into his own. After a second that seemed far longer, Bellatrix' entire countenance lit up with something approaching glee.

"Beautiful…." Bellatrix muttered reverently. Before Harry could respond with something acidic, she spun towards Sirius and extended her hand toward him.

"I'll take your vows," she said, as she clasped hands with her cousin.

Harry thought it was really rather a letdown. She had agreed to the vows much quicker than either Remus or Sirius thought. Nevertheless, the three of them had spent the better part of the morning arguing over this word or that phrase, until Harry thought he would be sick.

For all that the woman was crazy and creepy and filthy, she could haggle like a blind lawyer at a beauty contest. Harry was soon dozing off in the corner. When they were done, they woke him to witness the oaths.

With hands clasped, Bellatrix and Sirius took the vows. Basically, Bellatrix promised to protect the persons, property and secrets of Sirius, Harry and Remus from all threats and to the best of her ability. She further agreed to obey them in all ways that concerned the same. It all went off without a hitch until she came to Harry's name, where she added language that went beyond what they had agreed to in their negotiations. After a hurried conference between Sirius and Remus, they couldn't see how it would adversely affect the vow, so they continued.

On his turn, Sirius agreed to protect her and give her shelter and aid in accordance with the traditions of an ancient pureblood house. When they finished, the golden glow of magic sealed the vow and they released hands.

As soon as the vows were completed, Sirius started giving Bellatrix instructions that she was not to leave the premises or make contact with anyone without Sirius' permission.

All in all, Harry was a little disappointed. Sure, there was that bit where Bellatrix had tried to take Sirius hostage, and the later when she had adlibbed the vow, but otherwise it was mostly a tedious bore. Harry, however was not ignorant of such bindings. Tippy had explained the importance and power of binding magic when she had explained to him the bond that house-elves formed with their masters. He was also aware of exactly what Bellatrix was giving up, even if he thought she was getting a better deal than she deserved.

As the four of them started moving the furniture back into the room, Harry wondered what she had meant in her vow when she had promised to "protect, honor and obey Harry Potter and all that he is, from all enemies, upon risk of her magic and immortal soul." The whole thing seemed kind of silly and redundant to Harry. What did she mean, "all that he is?" What else would he be, other than Harry Potter? Silly bint, Harry thought as he dragged the end table into its proper place.