Title: He Said It That Knew it Best

Author: Lexin

Archive: here, Azkaban's Lair and www.redrosepress.co.uk

Summary: Harry visits his godfather during the summer, and makes some interesting discoveries.

Spoilers: GoF

Rating: PG

Originally posted: Feb 2002 to the SBRL list

Disclaimer: I don't own anything and no money is being made. Anyone who sues me is going to just end up poorer, because when I say I don't own anything, I mean it.

Notes: Harry's point of view.

Warnings: Er...I don't think so. Maybe if you've an overactive imagination.

Feedback: Comments of all kinds welcome. Send to pmrommel@hotmail.com

My thanks to my beta readers, Alison, Miracle and Becca. As you all said different things, I hope the result won't disappoint.

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He Said it That Knew it Best

by Lexin

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Hedwig a made noise. It wasn't a very loud noise, just a hoot or two when she came in from hunting, a slight thump, but it was enough to make Uncle Vernon storm into Harry Potter's room at the end of his second week back at the Dursleys' yelling, "That owl's got to go!"
"No!" Harry sat up. That didn't take long, he thought, helplessly. He really hates having me here.
"I mean it, boy!" shouted Uncle Vernon. His face was purple with rage.
"I...you can't!"
"I'll take it down to the vet's and have it put down! It's a bloody menace; a man can't get a wink of sleep in his own house! I'm not having it I tell you -" He stopped, probably because that was when a book hit him on the nose. Things like that happened when Harry lost his temper. It seemed to make Vernon Dursley even more angry, "Why you ungrateful little--"
Uncle Vernon hadn't actually resorted to physical violence since Harry turned 11, though threats, bullying and intimidation were quite usual. That didn't stop him this time; he grabbed Harry by the neck, turned him and held him face down on the bed. A beating then, Harry thought. Oh, God.
Uncle Vernon used his belt. At least, that's what Harry thought it was, it was heavy enough. Not the buckle end, though he'd done that a few times when Harry was younger, but every blow hurt just the same. Harry didn't cry. He hadn't cried at a beating since he was seven.
When Uncle Vernon had finished, he stood over the boy and breathed heavily for a few seconds. Then he said, "And there's no way you're coming to Majorca with us."
"Good!" Harry said, and swallowed. He felt a bit sick. "I never wanted to come anyway!"
Harry spent most of the rest of that day in his room - and went hungry. One of the Dursleys many rules was that unless locked in his room - which happened from time to time - if he wanted to eat he must arrive in the dining room clean and on time. No appearance, no meal. That suited him just fine.
Harry was a bit surprised, then, when just after the tea he didn't have, the door of his room opened. For a horrible moment he wondered if it was Uncle Vernon back for a second go with the belt, but his huge cousin Dudley waddled in. "Get out," Dudley said. "This is my room." An interesting opening gambit.
Harry replied, "Not any more."
"I've got something I want to keep in here," Dudley went on as if he hadn't heard. Harry thought he probably wasn't listening. "Like what?" Harry asked. He supposed Dudley must mean more broken toys - that was what had been in the room when Harry took it over. Most of those were in the bottom of a cupboard out of Harry's way; Harry didn't dare throw anything of Dudley's out, but he didn't want that junk cluttering up his life.
"These," Dudley produced several magazines, and for a puzzled moment Harry wondered if Dudley had finally taken up some academic pursuit. It didn't seem likely. Then he saw that he hadn't, he'd had obviously found some wank mags. Harry spared a thought to wonder where they had come from. No wonder he didn't want them in his own room, Aunt Petunia had a very long nose for secrets. She would find them immediately.
"I don't think so, thanks," said Harry. All it would mean if he did agree to take them was that he would get into a row instead of Dudley. He didn't know what Aunt Petunia would do to Dudley, but if Harry were caught with them the results would be catastrophic. He didn't think she would be too bothered about his morals, he didn't think she cared about him that much, but she was sure to make him suffer and his having a supply of wank mags in his room would be a wonderful opportunity for her. Uncle Vernon's blustering, even his violence, Harry could take. Aunt Petunia could make him wish he were dead without ever laying a finger on him.
"Do it!" Dudley looked threatening.
Harry wasn't impressed. "No," he said, very firmly.
To Harry's silent astonishment, Dudley went out again. He took his magazines with him and Harry was a little bit disappointed. He had never seen wank mags, not even in the hands of Fred and George Weasley, and he was curious. He wasn't even sure if there were such things in the wizard world, but he supposed there must be. Anyway, he'd never seen one at Hogwarts.
Harry went down to dinner. He seriously considered staying in his room until the next day - he hurt all over and he didn't want to spend a couple of hours on the Dursleys' hard dining chairs - but he was too hungry.

It was very clear from the start of the meal that Uncle Vernon hadn't changed his mind about not taking Harry with them to Majorca, which suited Harry just fine. The Dursleys had never taken him on holiday, and he had no desire for them to start now. It wasn't that he objected to Majorca, he just objected on principle to being anywhere with them. A situation in which they would no doubt regard him as being in their debt appealed even less, particularly as it was a debt which they would no doubt hold over him forever more. He already felt they begrudged him every mouthful of food he ate and every stitch of clothing he wore. Something was clearly worrying Uncle Vernon, though. He was chewing his moustache as well as his dinner in a way which made Harry wish he could see a good deal less of it. Harry had an idea it might be about him, but was content to let Uncle Vernon worry about it in his own time.
After the meal, his Uncle indicated that Harry should go into the sitting room. "Your friends..." he began.
Stranger and stranger, thought Harry. Uncle Vernon rarely acknowledged that Harry had any friends. "What about them?" he asked.
"You'll have to ask them if they can have you to stay."
Harry thought quickly. He said, "I'll need to write to them...ring...make arrangements."
Uncle Vernon produced, very unwillingly, a £10 note from his pocket. "Buy some stamps."
Harry took the money as if it was saturated in contact poison. He realised that his Uncle must be desperate; he'd never given Harry so much as a penny piece before. "And I'll need to send a couple by our method...by owl post. As well."
Uncle Vernon looked as if Harry had suggested he allow him to spread untreated sewage over his new car, but he choked out, "Very well, if you must."
"Thank you." Harry went out, and punched the air in silent joy.
Now...who... He was already going to stay with the family of his best friend Ron later in the holidays. The dates had been set up and Harry didn't think that he could inflict himself on them twice in one summer, tempting though that was. He'd have to contact Hermione.
It was so long since he'd used a Muggle telephone - over four years, ever since he went to Hogwarts - that he struggled for a few moments before working out how to fit the phone card he'd bought into the little slot. They seemed to have changed design since he'd last used one, and he cursed silently.
Hermione seemed pleased - and astounded - to hear from him. But he couldn't stay with her, she and her family just about to leave for their annual trip to the farm her parents owned in France. He remembered they were dentists, and quite well off.
That left one possibility, and a slim one at that. Harry went back to Privet Drive, rather downcast, planning what to say in the letter. He knelt beside his bed and put his hand into the space underneath it to raise the loose floorboard. As he did so, he touched a box. He pulled out the parchment and quill that he needed, and then felt about for the box. Harry wouldn't put a box there; Aunt Petunia would be sure to find it. He had a terrible feeling about this.
He pulled it out. "Bloody Dudley," he said, aloud. The box contained Dudley's magazines, as Harry had thought it might.
He decided that his current situation was more important than Dudley's stupid magazines. He put them on one side and wrote the letter, then woke Hedwig to take it. Better get her out of Uncle Vernon's way, he thought, and though he'd miss her he told her to wait for a reply. He took a quick look up and down Privet Drive before opening the window and letting her go, and when she was gone he closed it again.

**

Harry Potter was a perfectly normal boy, no better or worse than any other healthy fourteen-year-old. He therefore started his analysis of the problem of Dudley's magazines by reading them with a conscientiousness even he realised he'd never shown for his studies. He read them from the title on the front - 'Knave' (two issues), 'Fiesta' (one issue) and 'Penthouse' (two issues) to the publisher's information on the back - 'Penthouse Group of Companies' on two, Penthouse predictably enough, and 'Paul Raymond Organisation' on the other three. Then he went back and read the best bits again. And again, just in case he hadn't grasped the full import the first two times. Harry had once heard George Weasley use the phrase 'to have one off the wrist'. It hadn't made much sense at the time, but now he understood what George had meant.
Having done that - and feeling much better for it - Harry realised there was no way these things could stay in his room for Aunt Petunia to find. Just none. Now he knew what was in them he raised the results of her finding them from catastrophic to cataclysmic. He had no idea what she'd do if she found them, but he would probably feel it for the rest of his life. They were very informative, though. He had to admit that.
If only Dudley had the backbone to keep them himself, thought Harry, resentfully. He was faced with the choice of keeping them and facing consequences he shuddered to contemplate, or getting beaten up by Dudley if he got rid of them. He hesitated for about a nanosecond. Despite the pain - his back made its presence felt - he'd take the beating any day of the week.
It took a couple of days for him to smuggle the magazines out of 4 Privet Drive to a place safe enough for him to set light to them, and for him to obtain some matches from the local newsagent using some of Uncle Vernon's £10. Harry was quite capable of starting a fire with his wand but, as he was an underage wizard, if he did that he would have to explain what he was doing to the Ministry of Magic. "I was just burning my cousin's wank mags." He could just imagine the Minister for Magic's face. No, that didn't appeal in the slightest.
Harry sometimes wished he had Muggle friends like Dean Thomas had when he went home. It would make days like this so much easier to cope with. Harry looked around carefully before striking his first match. It would be just his luck, he thought, to be caught and end up at St Brutus' Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys for real for committing arson. Though Harry occasionally wondered what it was like there, he didn't want to actually find out.

**

He looked for Hedwig every day. The Dursleys were due to leave on the 25th of July, and that was fast approaching. At last, an answer came, and Harry opened the letter from his godfather with a trepidation that turned to incredulous joy.
Dear Harry, he read.

What a situation! I think, however, that I have a solution. You will find enclosed a letter from Remus Lupin to your Uncle and Aunt, inviting you to stay with him while they are away. I hope you can persuade them. We're both looking forward to seeing you very much. Best of luck.
Sirius.
Harry remembered that Professor Dumbledore had told Sirius to stay with Lupin, and obviously that's what he was doing. What a relief. Now all that remained was to convince Uncle Vernon.

**

Harry reached the bottom of the stairs. He knew that he would have an uphill struggle ahead of him even in spite of Uncle Vernon's desire that Harry stay well away from the Dursley family. Probably his Uncle had started to read his paper; Harry could already hear that grumbling voice. He didn't know why Uncle Vernon bought it if it upset him so much.
"There you are," said Aunt Petunia, the moment he showed his face. "Finish the breakfast."
With practised ease - he did this most mornings he was with the Dursleys, and had done since he was quite small - Harry finished the cooking and dished up the bacon and eggs. As usual, there was an extra egg for Dudley, who looked pleased. His diet of last year hadn't made him any thinner, and Aunt Petunia firmly refused to try it again. She said he thought her 'poor little boy' shouldn't have to go through that. Harry had a feeling she just couldn't stand another summer like the last one. Much as he loathed his Aunt, he couldn't blame her.
Harry knew he wouldn't have much time between his Uncle finishing his breakfast and leaving for work. As soon as he saw him finish and stand, he stood himself and followed him out. "Uncle Vernon? Can I have a word?" Harry tried to be as polite as possible. Best start out on the right foot.
Uncle Vernon was struggling into his navy blue work jacket, but he made a wordless noise which might have expressed willingness to listen.
"In private?"
Uncle Vernon indicated the sitting room. "Make it quick."
"I've received this. It's for you." Harry gave him Professor Lupin's letter. He'd been very tempted to steam it open to find out what it said. "It's an invitation to go and stay with one of my old teachers from Hogwa...school. I mean, while you're in Majorca. I wrote and told him about your...our...problem."
"What sort of bloke is he?"
"Nobody played up in his classes," said Harry. They had been too interesting, but Harry let his Uncle draw his own conclusions.
Uncle Vernon made a noncommittal noise as he ripped open the letter. Then he said, "Probably one of those nancy boys who prey on young lads."
Trust Uncle Vernon to jump to that kind of conclusion, thought Harry. What a bastard.
"Lives near Cambridge." Uncle Vernon was now reading the letter.
Harry tried to look as if this wasn't news to him. In truth he had no idea where Professor Lupin lived; he only knew that it wasn't anywhere the Dursleys were, which was all that interested him.
"He says he'll send you money for your ticket as soon as he has confirmation from me that you can go." Uncle Vernon's brow furrowed. Harry could tell that just as he had been last summer over letting him go to the Quidditch World Cup, Uncle Vernon was torn between wanting Harry off his hands and not wanting him to have something he might enjoy. "Very well. If he sounds a reasonable sort of bloke, and as long as you promise to behave yourself between now and then, you can go."
Harry was halfway up the stairs before the implication of that remark struck him...Uncle Vernon was going to contact one of his Hogwarts teachers, albeit ex. What a thought. He wondered what on earth they would have to say to each other.

**

For once in Harry's life, though, everything went well. Muggle money for his tickets arrived safely, and nobody did anything to change Uncle Vernon's mind - not Professor Lupin, Sirius, Hedwig or even Harry himself. Dudley didn't even have time to find out that the magazines had gone, though Harry's bowels crawled whenever he thought about them. He packed a rucksack - borrowed from Dudley, who didn't want him to have it but was persuaded by the promise of treats in Majorca - picked up Hedwig in her cage, and headed for the station.
Travelling by Muggle train was interesting for the first few minutes, but he quickly became bored, and he had to admit that he was a bit nervous. He really didn't know Sirius Black all that well, and Professor Lupin had been a teacher with all that implied. Whatever he might think of them when he got there he was stuck with them for two weeks, and they were stuck with him.
Still, he reasoned, if he could survive living with the Dursleys he could manage just about anyone. He was excited, too. For a short time in that walk from the Shrieking Shack back the Whomping Willow he'd believed he would be able to leave the Dursleys' forever and live with his godfather. Now he would have a glimpse of what it might have been like.

**

Professor Lupin was there to meet him as he got off the train in Cambridge; Harry didn't recognise him immediately in his Muggle clothes and looked in several wrong directions before he saw the familiar smile. His gaze took in the well-worn jeans and a shirt which might have started out green or brown a very long time ago, but which had now faded to mud- coloured. They shook hands, rather formally, and Professor Lupin led the way out of the station.
Somehow Harry wouldn't have imagined that Professor Lupin could drive, it didn't seem like his kind of thing at all. But the Professor led Harry to a brown Reliant Robin three-wheeled van, and opened the door.
"It's all right," said the Professor. "You can laugh. Sirius does."
"No, honestly, Professor. It suits you." And it did. He would just never tell Uncle Vernon, who judged people by what sort of car they had. Professor Lupin's car screamed 'poor'.
Harry put his rucksack and Hedwig in the back. The Professor's car smelled very slightly of dog, and quite strongly of the musty smell of old books. Harry didn't often travel in cars, and when he had to he hated the way Uncle Vernon yelled at everyone who got in his way and quite a few who didn't and the way he'd slam on the brakes at the slightest thing. Professor Lupin did none of those things, and Harry relaxed. He seemed to Harry to be a much better driver than Uncle Vernon.
They pulled up at last outside a gate, and, once they were through, the Professor drove down an unpaved track to a small cottage, Harry could just see it in the trees, standing on its own in a little dip. The notice on the gate had read 'Hill Cottage'.
"The nearest village is the one we just passed through, Gloria Ducis," said the Professor.
"Oh," said Harry. Feeling he ought to dredge up some further response, he added, "It was very pretty."
"I just tell you in case you want to buy stamps or something like that."
"Thanks, Professor."

**

Harry had been well trained by his wizarding friends, the Weasley family, that in wizard houses it was usually best to go in through the back. The front was often locked and if the Weasley family were anything to go by the Professor would have trouble finding the key. So, leaving the Professor to park the car, Harry shouldered his backpack, made his way across the small yard and pushed open the back door.
Harry saw his godfather immediately and didn't notice much else. Sirius looked much better than he had done when Harry had last seen him a few weeks before, and he was in the middle of making tea. He had to put the kettle down, but then he came forward and enveloped Harry in an enormous hug. Once released, Harry looked around. There was a small scullery, where they now were and beyond that a kitchen, not much bigger but very tidy and clean with pots and pans hanging overhead.
"You are here, then?" Sirius said. "I always worry about that horrible car Remus drives."
"There's nothing wrong with my car," came Professor Lupin's voice from behind. "Do I smell tea?"

**

Professor Lupin's house was smaller and even shabbier than The Burrow, where the Weasley family lived. Theirs was the only wizard family home Harry knew, and he was fascinated by the differences between that and the Professor's house. Hill Cottage was a mixture of the Muggle and the wizard world - a wizard wireless sat next to a Muggle radio in his small study. The penholder on his desk held quills, but also ball point pens. He had supplies of both parchment and paper, and on his desk stood a typewriter that looked as if it might be more at home in a museum. On the back of the desk was a telephone, something which Harry had never heard of a wizard using, but that too looked to be an old bakelite version, one Harry was sure he had seen in Muggle history books. He wondered where the Professor had got it, or if it came with the house. That must be how Uncle Vernon had contacted him, something Harry hadn't thought about before.
There was a proper bathroom, but the Weasleys had one of those so that was no surprise except that the Professor's was much older, with a claw footed tub and one of those toilets with the cistern very high up. The chain was a long one that ended in a black bakelite handle.
Everything was very clean and neat, and Harry wondered, as he put his pack on the bed in his room, if that was for his benefit. He let Hedwig out of her cage, and she hopped onto the chest of drawers and stretched her wings, and then flapped to the top of the mismatched wardrobe and sat there, clicking her beak at him. She didn't much like travelling in the cage. Thinking she might like to stretch her wings further, he opened the window, surprised to find it opened smoothly. The yard he could see outside was tidy, nothing had been left about and all the tools he could see were clean. Harry knew, because he'd often had to help, that Aunt Petunia cleaned and scrubbed the house from top to bottom before visitors came, even visitors she knew well like Aunt Marge. He remembered, though, that when he'd taught at Hogwarts, the Professor's office had always been tidy and clean. Probably he was just like that.
That first evening everyone was a little tongue-tied. Harry was glad no one raised the issue of the Triwizard Tournament, he wouldn't have known what to say if they had. Cedric's death, Voldemort's return, the memories all hurt too much. He told himself that Sirius had been there and had presumably told Professor Lupin all about it and that was why the Professor didn't ask any questions.
When they were sitting down before dinner Harry asked, "Did you find all those people Professor Dumbledore wanted you to?"
"Yes...sort of..." said Sirius. Then he started to smile.
At that moment, Professor Lupin brought the food in. "What are you grinning at?" He asked, obviously catching sight of Sirius' face.
"I was going to tell Harry all about Mundungus Fletcher."
"Oh, please! That man will get himself into so much trouble with the Ministry..."
"What happened?" asked Harry.
"It seems that over the last year or so Mundungus has become obsessed with finding buried treasure. He thought there might be some under his house, though why defeats me. Of course it has to be when I arrive that the niffler holes and all the tunnels he's dug give way, and the place collapses."
"Was he hurt?" Harry took a spoonful of beef stew.
"No," said Sirius. "Take more than his house collapsing to hurt Mundungus. This smells good, Remus."
"Thanks. Sirius, don't add salt until you've tasted it. Too late. Oh, well. If you can live with salty food, I can."
"How did they explain it to the Muggles?" Harry decided to take the hint and tasted his stew. It didn't need salt. "And the Ministry?"
"I didn't stick around to find out, so I've no idea," said Sirius. "I've left a message for Mundungus with Arthur Weasley, he's bound to ask Arthur for help sorting the mess out."

**

The next day Sirius suggested they go on a picnic - Harry was thrilled, he'd never really done that kind of thing with the Dursleys. Partly this was because they felt it beneath them, but even if they had gone on picnics he didn't think they would have included him. His days there were normally taken up with the chores he reckoned Aunt Petunia saved up especially for him.
"Enjoy yourselves," Professor Lupin said.
"You're not coming with us?" Harry asked. He had somehow assumed that he would.
"Not this time, I have work to do. Don't get lost." This last was addressed to Sirius.
"'Don't get lost', he says. This is Cambridgeshire, not the Dark Continent." Sirius sounded somewhat put out.
"And be careful who sees you. You're still wanted."
"Yes, mother." Sirius grinned, and turned away, leading Harry up the slight incline and through the gate.
"He does worry about us, doesn't he?" Harry commented.
"Remus? Oh, yes. He's always been a bit like that. Of all the Marauders he was the one who wanted safety precautions, just in case something went wrong."
That day was one of the happiest of Harry's life, certainly the one of the happiest he'd ever spent outside Hogwarts. Somehow he'd always thought of adults as being either boring and vindictive, like Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, or so different from him as to belong on another plane, like Professor Dumbledore. Sirius was different. Sirius climbed trees, something Harry thought people grew out of when they were about 16, or even before. He also had a repertoire of some of the worst - and best - jokes that Harry had ever heard, and before long he had a stitch in his side from laughing and had to sit down until it got better. Which it didn't for a long time, because as soon as he felt a bit better Sirius would tell him another stupid 'knock knock' joke and he'd curl up with laughter again.
Their walk took them towards a hill with an obelisk on top. "Man made," said Sirius when they reached it.
Harry supposed he meant the hill. A naturally occurring obelisk defied the imagination. "How do you know?" Harry asked.
"Cambridgeshire is as flat as the proverbial pancake, so it has to be."
Harry thought Sirius was the perfect adult. He could tell you things and it didn't sound like he was teaching you anything. "We're not going to climb it?"
"Why not? I'm game if you are." With that, Sirius transformed into a dog and bounded up the hill.
"Hey! That's not fair!" Harry scrambled up after him.
As soon as he was at the top, which was a lot sooner than Harry, Sirius transformed back and sat on the base of the obelisk waiting for him. "What took you so long?" he asked, lazily.
"I've only got the two legs! You had four!" Harry sat down beside him with a thump - and a wince as he jarred his slowly healing bruises - and they looked.
"Quite a view. I said Cambridgeshire was flat." Sirius was right; they could see a long way for all that the mound was not all that high. Harry could easily see Professor Lupin's cottage, surrounded by trees, with a line of smoke from the chimney rising straight up in the still air.
"What's that castle?" It stood a couple of miles - if Harry was any guesser of distance - beyond the cottage, an incredible confection of battlements and towers. A bit like Hogwarts but smaller, Harry thought. "And who would paint a castle white and pink?"
"Not a clue. Could be anything. Could it be...you know, one of those castles Muggles have that aren't real?"
"I suppose so." Harry stood up and investigated the obelisk. "What does it mean?"
Sirius followed him, "Oh, er...it's in Latin. You should be able to manage that."
Harry furrowed his brow. They had done quite a lot of Latin one way or another, and though they didn't have actual lessons in it he could manage simple inscriptions or easy spells. "It says, 'Erected by the...grateful'?"
"Yes."
"'Tenants...of Tobias Red, Earl of Gloria. September 1857. In Memory.' That means they put it up after he died, right?" Harry turned to Sirius.
"Right. Well done."
"You sound like Professor Lupin," Harry grinned.
"Professoring's probably catching. I'll have to watch myself."
Harry strolled on round. "This side's different. 'The sky, the sea, the sea, the sky...' is this complete rubbish? 'where these meet, there is she'."
"I think it probably is rubbish. This one's different, too."
Harry came round to the side where Sirius was standing and investigated. "Oh, it's longer."
"We really need Remus for this kind of thing," said Sirius. "He's better with old languages and stuff than me, I was never good at brainwork before lunch."
"It's in English," said Harry. "It says,
'There come now no Kings or Caesars,
Nor gold giving Lords who are gone.
Howe'er in Earth most magnified,
Where'er lived in life most lordliest,
Drear all this excellence, delights unendurable.
Waneth the watch, but the world holdeth.
Tomb hideth trouble. The blade is layed low.
Earthly glory ageth and seareth.' "That doesn't make sense either. And this side's blank." Harry looked at it, puzzled. "Why put writing on three and not four?"
"Maybe they ran out of money? It must cost Muggles a pretty penny to get that kind of thing written onto stone."
"No, Sirius. This is magic. Can't you feel it?"
"Ah. Now that you mention it..."
Harry looked at his godfather in puzzlement. If he could feel it, how could Sirius not? Oh. He didn't want to draw Harry's attention to it. In that case... "Perhaps we better go."
"Perhaps we had."
As they walked back, Harry asked, "Where's Buckbeak?"
"Hiding in the trees."
"Near the house?" Harry would have liked to see the hippogriff again.
"Not far, but he's a bit scared of Remus. Most magical creatures are wary of werewolves, even though they've nothing to fear."

**

Next day Sirius took Harry in the opposite direction. There was a river; it was not very wide and not very deep, but it had fish in it and they were supposed to be fishing. Sirius had brought a rod and net - the Professor had watched them take the rod with misgiving writ large on his face - and some bread they could use as bait. The fish didn't seem interested in bread, and it didn't take the two of them long to get bored with waiting for fish who weren't interested. They explored along the bank, and eventually Sirius took his shoes and socks off and paddled in the water. "It's cold," he said.
"It looks it," said Harry.
"Come on! I don't want to be cold on my own."
Harry sat down. The bank was damp, but it didn't take him very long to take off his shoes and socks and climb down. Sirius was right, the water was cold. The bottom of the river was unexpectedly slippery, and Harry moved with great care, waiting for the fish to get used to him enough to nibble his toes. They never got a chance; he slid sideways suddenly and looked up at Sirius, who collapsed laughing.
Harry laughed, he couldn't help it, though he said, "It's not funny!"
"It is!" Sirius was convulsed.
"You wouldn't think that if you were down here," said Harry, getting up with some difficulty. He considered taking his soaked shirt off, and remembered the bruises just in time. He didn't want to talk about that, not even to Sirius. He looked around, considering revenge, and moved over to Sirius who was looking down at the fish again. Harry slid - accidentally on purpose - on a rock and as he went down he grabbed Sirius' shirt. That was enough to topple Sirius over. Harry laughed, helplessly. Sirius was muddy as well as wet, and it was the funniest thing Harry had seen for a long time.
Sirius laughed up at him, "Revenge, eh?"
"Something like that."
Sirius reached out and grabbed Harry's leg, making him fall over backwards with a wild splash. "Two can play at that game."

**

Professor Lupin looked horrified when he saw them both crossing the yard. "Harry!" he said. "Bath immediately, please. And dry clothes. You can wait," he added, looking at Sirius.
As he was going up the stairs Harry heard Professor Lupin say something, then Sirius' laugh. Then Sirius said, "How come I can wait?" Harry stopped and listened.
"You spent part of last year living in a cave, mostly as a dog," Professor Lupin replied. "I doubt a ducking is going to kill you. But you're not going to allow James' son to die of pneumonia. You idiot. Oh, and by the way, it's your turn to cook the dinner."
Harry smiled. Sirius and Professor Lupin sometimes reminded him of Ron's parents.

**

Next day it was raining. Harry was a little disappointed, but after some thought he brought his schoolwork downstairs. He saw Sirius and Professor Lupin share a glance, but didn't bother trying to interpret it. He'd brought his schoolwork with him because he knew it would be practically impossible to get all of it done under the bedsheets at night at Privet Drive, and here he had the help of two fully fledged wizards. Better take the opportunity while I've got it, he reasoned. I'll have help if I get to any really sticky bits. "Where can I study?" he asked the Professor.
"Living room?" The Professor removed a copy of the Daily Prophet, a large book called 'Memorials of the Dead' and a cup from the table. The cup bit the Professor's finger and Harry couldn't help grinning at Sirius. "I'd lend you my study, but..." He gasped as the cup bit down harder.
"Thanks," said Harry after a moment of watching Professor Lupin's struggles, and put his books down. He wasn't sure if he should offer to help.
The Professor was still trying to get the cup to let go of his finger, and he looked at Sirius. "Why?" he asked. "Oh, never mind, I should be used to you by now. You could chop some wood as some recompense."
"It's raining!" Sirius sounded affronted.
"You won't melt. And there is a barn, you could do it undercover. Ah!" At long last the Professor freed himself, and, carrying it very carefully, he took the biting cup into the kitchen to dispose of it.

**

About halfway through the morning the telephone rang. It was very loud and such an unexpected noise in a wizard house that it made Harry jump. He looked down at the mess he'd made of his diagrammatic representation of a spell to transfigure a picture into a mirror. He would have closed the study door if he could have done so without drawing attention to himself, but he was more interested in the special problems posed by transfiguring mirrors. Anyway, he told himself, the call sounded like business.
"Yes...yes... I know. That one's in the post. Yes...yes... No." A long pause while the Professor listened and Harry listened to him listening. "How long will I have for that?" Another longish pause. "Until the end of September? Well, I suppose I can. It would take some research. Very well, I'll try. Before you go...could you chase up those payments for me? People's Friend and that other one. Bella. But Bob, if I don't get paid neither do you. Thank you." The phone was put down and Harry heard Professor Lupin sigh.
A moment later the Professor came out of his study. "Would you like a drink Harry? I know studying's thirsty work."
"Please, Professor."
The Professor came back very shortly with two steaming mugs of tea. Before he could go back into his study Harry asked, "Professor?"
"Yes? Are you stuck? I hope it's not potions, remember I said I wasn't all that good."
Harry smiled, "Haven't got to that yet. I will do, soon. I just wanted to ask you a question."
"Go on."
"But I think you might think I'm being rude."
Professor Lupin gave his curiously quirky smile. "You can only ask. If it's too personal, I'll say so and that'll be the end of that."
"What do you do?"
"Do?" From the expression on the Professor's face it didn't look as if that was the question he had been expecting.
"For a living. You told us you'd never had paid work."
"I write. Stories and articles for the wizard and Muggle magazines."
"On the Dark Arts?"
"Sometimes, for the wizard magazines and specialist periodicals. That's what I like to do best. But mostly I write...stuff...for Muggle magazines."
Harry was puzzled, "What sort of stuff?"
"Anything that pays. Trashy romances for women's magazines mostly."
"Advice to the lovelorn?" Harry's Aunt Petunia took some of those magazines.
"Oh, no. That's a specialist area. No, really," he insisted. Harry's disbelief must have shown. "It may be absolute rubbish, lots of it is, I get those magazines when they publish my stories, but it has to be written by journalists. Which I'm not."
Harry thought for a minute, "Can't be easy."
"No." Professor Lupin sat down. "Especially when they're slow paying you. The phone call was from my agent. He's why I have the dratted thing, but he forgets I have to pay for it."
"Professor...?"
"Harry...you can stop calling me that. Please just call me Remus...or Lupin. I answer to either."
"Thank you...Remus." It sounded funny, but Harry thought he should try. "Is there any chance you'll come back to Hogwarts?"
"None. I don't think the parents would stand for it, and I know the governors and the Ministry wouldn't. And besides...I spent the whole year worrying in case I hurt someone."
"Pity. You were the best. Well, Professor Moody was pretty good, but of course it wasn't really him."
"Thank you. I think." Harry could see that Professor Lupin had gone rather pink. It was nice. Gave him some colour.
Professor Lupin must have been listening for Sirius to come in, because as soon as he heard him he went out into the kitchen and shut the door. Harry listened - he was no saint - but he heard only a few words, "Didn't know what he was going to ask me..." Sirius laughed, that loud guffaw he had, then "Not funny. Sirius..." It was nearly lunchtime, so Harry went upstairs to wash his hands. Whatever conversation they had been having, it was over by the time he came back down.

**

"Sleep well?" Sirius asked him at breakfast the next day.
"Yes, thanks." It was true; he'd never had any trouble sleeping at Professor Lupin's house. "What are we doing today?"
"I'd like to take you swimming or something like that," Sirius sighed. "But obviously I can't."
"That's OK." Harry didn't expect it. It was one of the problems of having a godfather who was wanted for murder, even if he hadn't done it. The horrified look on Professor Lupin's face cleared as well. "Another picnic?" asked Sirius. "We could go off in the direction of the castle."
"That would be great." Harry turned to the Professor. "Remus..." he was still a bit uncomfortable at using his first name, but he forged on, "Would you like to come?"
"It's very kind of you to ask, but I have a potion that I must start today."

**

As soon as they left the house, or rather as soon as they were far enough away not to be heard Harry asked, "The potion Remus is making..." It was odd to refer to him by his first name as well, but Harry reckoned he had to get used to it. "It's the Wolfsbane one, isn't it?"
"Yes," Sirius stopped. "Don't worry, Harry. You'll be perfectly safe."
"I know. I just wondered." He walked on some more. "How soon before he..."
"A week. Full moon is due Thursday, today week."
He walked on some more. "It must be tough for him."
Sirius sighed. "It is. I don't think anyone realises how tough. I...well, it was a long time before I realised it properly."
"When did you?"
"The incident with Snape. When I set Remus on him back when I was at school. I honestly didn't grasp that Remus would kill Snape if he got a scent of him." They reached a gate and climbed over it into a field with three horses in. "I've done some stupid things, Harry, before and since, but that was the most stupid. I'm lucky Remus ever forgave me, and as you saw Snape has never forgiven either of us."
"He never forgave my father, either, did he?"
"That was slightly different. Him he never forgave for saving his life. I think that was worse in a way. And of course your father died, which is something else Snape holds against him. As if he needed any more things. Come on...race you!"

**

When they got back to the cottage there was a covered cauldron on the kitchen range, and a pot of stew on the gas stove. Harry had noticed before that Remus - he was still trying very hard to think of him by his first name - seemed to live on stew. The smell of the cauldron was foul and completely covered that of the stew, but four years of studying magic had inured Harry to most foul smells, and he ignored it. At least, he thought, he didn't have to drink it.
Harry sat down at the kitchen table and found himself faced with the recipe for the potion, written in what he recognised to be Professor Snape's hand, and which he read. He couldn't help himself; it was interesting. "This is worse than the Polyjuice Potion," he said, unintentionally aloud. Oops, he thought, as Sirius and Remus turned to him. That was very stupid. Remus and Sirius exchanged a glance, one which looked to Harry to be fraught with meaning. "How do you know about that? Surely Snape can't have got that far yet?" Sirius asked.
"Er..." Harry thought frantically for a convincing lie. "Hermione looked it up once for background reading."
"Balls," said Sirius. Remus choked and went out. Harry heard him go upstairs, it sounded rather as if he was having an attack of coughing. Sirius went on, "Harry? What were you doing to need Polyjuice Potion?"
"Impersonating Crabbe and Goyle."
"Who are?"
"Friends of Draco Malfoy's. They're in Slytherin."
"In which case, rather you than me." Sirius looked down at him, brow creased. "Look," he said after a moment, "I don't want to come the heavy parent. I mean, I know I'm the nearest you've got, but with my past I've hardly the right to be lecturing anyone on their behaviour. Oh, help, this isn't coming out at all well. For the sake of your parents if not yourself, be careful. Think." Sirius paced. "I know there's not much point in expecting a boy your age to be careful. I mean, I used to be one myself, so I know what it's like. But do your best? Please?"
"I'll try." Harry meant it as a promise.
Sirius face cleared. It looked as if he was going to take it in the spirit in which Harry intended it. "Thanks. We'd hate to lose you. Now, go and wash your hands, I think we're due for a meal."
Remus came back, slightly pinker than when he went out, and Harry saw Sirius give him a rather irritated look. Remus replied with a slight shrug. As he went out he heard Sirius hiss, "You weren't much help!" in Remus' direction.

**

Harry woke up on the morning of 31st July and turned over in bed to reach for his glasses. Then he sat up, rather suddenly. There were presents... In the excitement of being away from the Dursleys and Privet Drive he'd completely forgotten that it was his birthday.
Instead of opening them in his room as he normally would he carried them down the narrow stairs and put them by his place at the living room table. He was very quiet coming down the stairs, not knowing if Sirius and Remus were up yet.
He stood by the table, wondering if Remus would mind him making himself a drink, when a movement in the mirror facing him caught his eye. He looked round but could see nothing, and then looked back into the mirror. He could see into the kitchen - the living room mirror was in just the right position to reflect the image in the one in the kitchen. Sirius and Remus were about, but just as Harry was about to speak he saw Sirius come up behind Remus and put an arm round his waist. Sirius turned Remus around in his arms and, very gently, kissed him on the mouth. Remus seemed to have been expecting it - he certainly didn't object, Harry saw him kiss back - and when they pulled apart, Remus looked up at Sirius with a smile.
Harry slipped back up the stairs and came back down, making sure that this time he made a noise. He was quite certain they didn't want him to know. If they had wanted him to know they would have told him.
"Opened your presents yet, Harry?" Sirius asked, "Here's some tea."
"Thanks!" Harry took the proffered mug, hoping that his scarlet face would be put down to pleasure rather than embarrassment. "I haven't yet, I wanted to have company. Where's Remus?"
"Here. Go on."
The presents from his friends were excellent. From Remus he had a self-filling quill, a real Professor's present, he thought. From Sirius he had a new set of Quidditch robes in the Gryffindor colours and from Hermione a big book called, 'Quidditch Facts and Fables'. Ron had sent him what looked like half of Honeydukes sweet shop, and Ron's parents sent him a summer weight pullover and a box of home made toffee. Hagrid sent him a perfect model of a dragon, and he watched it walk up and down the table and blow fire and smoke, thrilled.
He was surprised to get a present from the Dursleys; he hadn't received anything from them for his birthday for a couple of years. He was less surprised when it turned out to be a plastic spoon. He looked up and saw Sirius' expression, and Remus'. "It's better than usual," Harry assured them, cheerfully. "They sent me a single tissue for Christmas once."
If anything, their stares grew even more horrified, and Harry heard Remus murmur, "I know what Molly Weasley said, but I never thought..."
They couldn't practise Quidditch, neither Sirius nor Remus had a broomstick, and in any case there wasn't anywhere safe. But Remus had a Muggle football in the barn, so Harry tried to teach Sirius to play - not that he knew much about it. At first Remus watched them from the kitchen door, but after he kicked the ball back into play a couple of times Harry started trying to include him in the game. Sirius caught on almost immediately, and before long Remus joined in whether he wanted to or not. When football palled, Sirius suggested tag - not a game Harry had much experience of either, Dudley had never let him play - but he knew the rules well enough. He started as 'it' and found it almost ridiculously easy to catch Sirius. It proved far harder to catch Remus, who could move astonishingly fast for someone Harry had never seen run. Exhilarated, they slid through the straw in the barn and chased each other round the yard until they were dizzy. Harry watched the way that Remus stalked Sirius - who spent most of the game as 'it' he was so outclassed by the other two players - and as he did so Harry could suddenly see that Remus really had been a Marauder along with Sirius and his father. He must have been as wild as the others, thought Harry. He's always seems so dignified, but he's not. And though Professor Dumbledore had said that his father and Sirius were the cleverest students in their year, he could see that Remus must have been every inch their equal in that, too. As Harry leaned against the wall to catch his breath, he saw Remus pin Sirius against the barn and for a moment he thought they might kiss again. They didn't. He was curiously disappointed.
As the sun started to fall in the sky Harry and Sirius crossed the fields to check on Buckbeak, and Remus returned to the cottage.
The meal that night was very good. As good in fact as any he'd had at Hogwarts, and the food there was always excellent. They had roast chicken - Harry's favourite - new potatoes and peas, with trifle to follow, and a large chocolate birthday cake. They even made him blow out candles, which was something he'd never done before.
All in all, it was the nicest birthday Harry Potter had ever had.

**

Going to bed that night Harry stopped on the narrow landing with its worn carpet and counted the doors. Three doors total. One bathroom, two bedrooms. So, since Sirius very clearly wasn't sleeping downstairs - it was a small house, impossible to hide that kind of thing - he must be sleeping... In Remus' room. Well, that made sense.
He lay in bed, looking up at the way the shadows played across the ceiling. Remus must still have the light on in the kitchen, he thought. Harry had never known a gay couple before, but now he thought about it he wondered how he could have been blind for so long. Not just about the bedroom thing, but how they were with each other. Sirius treated Remus like Arthur Weasley treated Molly, only more so.
One thought haunted him, though. If they'd wanted him to know about them, they would have told him. Wouldn't they? So, did that mean that there was something about being gay in the wizard world that he ought to know but didn't?
When he'd first gone to Hogwarts there'd been a lot of that kind of thing, but as he got older there were fewer and fewer. Suddenly, and surprisingly for the first time during the holiday, he really wanted to talk to Ron. Not write to him. Harry's eyes darted to Hedwig, perched like a ghost on the edge of his chest of drawers, talk to him. Ron would laugh, Harry was sure. But he would tell him.

**

"I have to go into town today," Remus said, a little hesitantly. "I wondered if you'd like to come with me."
"What will Sirius do?"
"I'll come as well."
Remus looked up at him, "Are you sure that's wise?"
"As Padfoot."
"That's what I meant. After what happened last time."
"It'll be fine," said Sirius. "After all, we know about their silly rules now."
"Oh, very well," Remus sighed.
"That wasn't much of a fight," Sirius sounded as if he'd been deprived of something.
"I'm not so much a werewolf as a were-jelly," said Remus. Harry couldn't tell if he was joking or not. "I think that's caused me more problems than anything else. Even being a werewolf."
"Have we all finished breakfast?" Sirius asked after a moment. His brightness for once sounded quite false.
"I have to take my potion," Remus went and fetched it from the kitchen. As before, it was smoking gently, the smoke sliding down the sides of the goblet in a distinctly creepy way. Remus made a face, then picked up the goblet and swallowed the lot in one go. He put the goblet down again, and swallowed again very firmly as if preventing it from coming back. "Snape must lie awake nights, laughing," he said.
"Can I taste?" Harry asked.
"No!" they both said in unison. Then Remus went on, "It's poisonous to humans. You read the recipe, you should know that."
"How did Snape discover it?" Sirius asked.
"He didn't, he merely refined it." Seeing that both Harry and Sirius were staring at him, Remus went on, "You remember the old medieval test for witches? You try to drown them and if the suspected witch doesn't drown, then they must be a witch?" Harry and Sirius both nodded, but didn't interrupt. "Well, in the 17th Century in Bulgaria they had a something similar for werewolves, a potion the suspected werewolf was supposed to drink. If they survived, they were a werewolf. The slight variation was that the potion was supposed to calm the werewolf enough to give the huntsmen time to fetch the silver bullets." Remus gave a shudder. "Snape heard about this legend, I don't know where from."
"He was very matey with Karkaroff last year," put in Harry. "They'd obviously known each other a long time. Back when they were both death eaters."
"I didn't know that," said Remus. "Probably he heard about it from him, then. So he experimented, refined it, tested it..."
"How?" said Sirius. "I mean, how did he test it? Werewolves are pretty rare, and werewolves prepared to go along with that kind of experiment even rarer."
"Guess," said Remus.
"You?"
"Yes. The experiments were...not fun." There was a pause while Remus and Sirius stared at each other. "Be reasonable, Sirius, how else was he going to test it? As you said, werewolves are rare, thank goodness, and most of them hate the world as much as the world hates them."
"He could have killed you. The..." Sirius reached out and took Remus' hand. Then he looked up, saw Harry, and let go again.
Remus went on as if Sirius hadn't spoken, "Eventually we...he...had a version that worked properly."
"A recipe you had to beg him to give you," Sirius said, voice dripping with loathing.
"I'm...not the potion brewer he is. He was justifiably wary."
"Just an excuse to keep you dependent on him," muttered Sirius.
Harry watched curiously as they carried out what appeared to be a wordless battle of wills. Sirius looked away first. "Have it your own way," he said, "but you manage now."
"My version isn't as good as his - probably because I know I'm going to have to drink it." Remus stood. "Come on if you're coming. Time is getting on."

**

Remus parked the Reliant Robin in the only spare place in the car park. He searched in a pocket for the right change. "You know how those things work, Harry?"
"Yes." Harry looked surprised.
"Of course you do, I keep forgetting you live with Muggles."
They both got out, Harry to go to the pay and display ticket machine, Remus to let Sirius out of the back of the car. When Harry got back, Remus had just finished fastening Padfoot's collar and was attaching a leash. Harry looked at him questioningly, and Remus indicated a sign with a motion of his head. The sign read, 'Byelaw. Dogs must be on a lead.'
"Does he mind?" Harry asked.
"Hates it," Remus whispered conspiratorially to Harry. "Or at least, he says he does."
Padfoot shook his coat out, and pawed at Remus to go.
They walked up the Muggle street; Padfoot walked on one side of Remus, and Harry on the other. Harry thought Padfoot looked rather...cute. If such a big dog could be said to be cute.
"Heel!" said Remus, as Padfoot pulled ahead. "Not that it'll make any difference," he added.
The supermarket they went to was one that Harry's Aunt Petunia wouldn't have been seen dead in. In fact, Harry remembered one poor girl at his junior school, being reduced to tears regularly by the constant jeers thrown at her by Dudley's gang, "Your Mum shops in Nettos! Your Mum shops in Nettos!" He shivered with the memory. He'd felt sorry for her, but had known if he got involved it would only make things worse.
"Sit! Stay!" Remus addressed Padfoot, who sat down. Remus tied him up. It felt very peculiar to Harry tying up his godfather, even when he was dog shaped.
"Aaah! What a lovely doggie!" An elderly woman had come up behind them, and was watching. Padfoot instantly stood up.
"Sit!" said Remus, sternly. Padfoot did, but Harry was sure he was laughing behind all that hair.
"Can I pat him?" said the woman. "He looks such a nice dog!"
"Er...I suppose so," said Remus. Harry realised he couldn't refuse without being considered rude. "Is he yours?" she asked Harry, adding, "Good boy! Lovely doggie," to Padfoot.
"No," said Harry, weakly. "He's my...Uncle's." Belatedly he realised that not only was that weak, it was hardly polite.
"Such a nice dog..." she went on stroking him. Padfoot positively preened.
"Show-off," murmured Remus as they went into the supermarket.

**

Harry noticed that unlike most wizards, Remus seemed to have no trouble whatever with Muggle money. He even had a bank account and a card. Remus saw him looking and shrugged, "Mostly I'm paid in Muggle money. Cheques. It doesn't make sense to change it. Just puts money in the hands of the goblins."
Having done the food shopping they carried it to the car and left it in the back. Harry was astonished at how little Remus bought for the three of them. Aunt Petunia would have bought four times as much - but then, as Harry told himself, she had Dudley to feed.
"Where now?" asked Harry, as it was clear they weren't going straight home.
"Your godfather," Remus eyes flickered towards Padfoot, currently scratching himself vigorously, "asked me if I'd help you get a few things..."
"He's done more than enough for me already," Harry protested.
Padfoot barked, once.
"It seems he doesn't agree. And besides, it can't be fun wearing clothes big enough to fit both you and me," Remus smiled.
"No..." agreed Harry. All Harry's Muggle clothes had started out as Dudley's and Dudley was huge.
"Well, then," said Remus, then stopped. "Not over my car!" He was just in time to stop Padfoot lifting his leg on the front wheel of the Robin. Harry fell about laughing. Remus looked put out, and he frowned down at Padfoot. "Behave! Or I won't bring you again."
A man nearby laughed, "For all the world as if the dog could understand you." He got into a Honda.
"He can," said Remus. The man laughed again and drove off. Padfoot lifted his leg on a powder blue Range Rover. Harry tried not to look, but he carried on laughing.
"I hope you weren't expecting...what do they call it? Designer?" Remus led the way into Matalan. "I wouldn't know where to go, and actually I'm not sure I know what 'designer' means."
"Writing on the outside," said Harry. He'd heard Dudley and his mother arguing about it often enough. Aunt Petunia didn't like writing on the outside of clothes, she said it wasn't real class. Dudley disagreed. Harry couldn't care less either way.
"Oh," said Remus. Harry had a feeling it hadn't gone in.
Choosing clothes was fun, Harry decided, as long as it didn't go on too long. He was just beginning to get bored when he found a stand of black trousers, soft as butter.
"Are you sure?" Remus asked, "You wear so much black."
"I wasn't thinking of them for me."
"I don't remember what size Sirius is...I should know but -"
"Or for him."
"Oh. Well, I can't afford them."
Remus sounded quite brisk, not at all as if he minded. Harry supposed he must get used to not being able to afford things. But some devil made Harry say, "Maybe Sirius will buy them for you."
"Ah...no."
"You'd look really good in them. Especially with that red shirt."
Bark. Both of them looked down to find Padfoot. He barked twice then went over to a display of green shirts and pawed at them insistently.
"Or the green ones," amended Harry.
"This is so embarrassing," said Remus. "Take Padfoot out, before we're thrown out. How did he get in, anyway? I left him securely tied. Take him out, Harry, while I pay for this lot."
Harry noticed, however, that he took the trousers and the moss green shirt.
As soon as they reached the car, Padfoot started to paw at his collar. "Shall I take it off him?" Harry asked.
"No," replied Remus. Harry and Padfoot looked at him, Harry a bit curiously. Remus went on, "He can stay like that until we get home."
"Can't he just..."
"Not with that collar on, he can't. With that on he's stuck like that until someone removes it."
"Isn't that a bit cruel?" Harry asked, as he got in.
"Just a bit," Remus opened the back of the car and Padfoot jumped in. He sounded to Harry as if he was smiling.
As a godson, Harry was mildy horrified. As a wizard, he was curious. He asked, "How does it work?"
"It's charmed. The spell's called, 'Hold Animagus'. Very difficult, very rare. The collar was a present to me from your mother."
"Does it work the other way? If he was wearing it as a man he wouldn't be able to change."
"Yes, it would."
"Pity we couldn't have put it on Wormtail." Harry paused, "Why did my mother give you..." Harry got that far, then realised that Remus was pinker than he'd ever seen him before. "Ah...none of my business. Sorry." In the back of the car, Padfoot made a noise which sounded like a cross between a choke and a sneeze. Harry looked out of the window until he was sure Remus had returned to his normal colour.

**

Lunch was very quiet. Harry was practically bursting with questions he didn't dare ask, and Remus went pink whenever he looked at either Harry or Sirius. True to his word, he'd removed the collar as soon as they got home. Sirius looked thoughtful, which wasn't like him at all.
The meal disposed of, Remus disappeared into his study with hardly a word.
"What would you like to do?" Sirius asked.
"How about a walk? I think Remus would like to be alone."
Standing on the gate looking into the field with the three horses, Harry thought they'd come far enough away from the house. Trouble was, he couldn't put his questions into words, and he was sure that most of them were too personal for a fifteen-year-old boy to ask his grown-up godfather. He looked down into the field, concentrating hard on a dandelion. Sirius leaned on the gates, still looking thoughtful.
Harry had to start some time. "Is there something wrong between you and Remus?"
"No," Sirius smiled, a little grimly. "At least, nothing a good deal of grovelling on my part won't put right."
Now for it. "He's your...." And then Harry ran into a problem. He couldn't think of a word to describe it. "Your...um..."
Sirius waited, deadpan. Then he seemed to take pity on Harry, "Yes, he's my...um..."
Harry chose and discarded several words. He didn't want there to be any misunderstanding over this. "Your lover," he said at last.
"Yes." Sirius climbed up on the gate to sit beside Harry. "Are you shocked?"
"A bit. Not in a nasty way," he added hurriedly. "I've just never met any before, and Uncle Vernon hates queers. Gays, that is."
Sirius snorted, very similar to the noise Padfoot had made in the car.
"Maybe you can tell me?"
"What?" asked Sirius, rather warily.
"Why did my mother give Remus a Hold Animagus collar?"
"Ah... Maybe I'd better save that one for when you're older."
"But... My mother?" Harry had heard quite a bit about his father, but not very much at all about his mother. "And he never got rid of the collar?"
"No."
Harry looked round at Sirius and was very surprised to see him smiling to himself. He caught Harry looking at him and looked away quickly. Harry decided he wasn't going to go there. Ever. With either of them. Face it, Harry, he told himself. There are things that you really don't want to know about your godfather and his...um...lover.
"What...what was my Mum like?" asked Harry after a few moments.
"Extraordinary," replied Sirius, after a moment. "More so than James in some ways. She was an amazingly talented witch, particularly with charms. She was tipped as a future Professor of Charms."
"What did you think of her?"
"Is that a fair question? If I say I worshipped her, you won't believe me, and if I say anything else you'll despise me."
"Probably not fair. Sorry."
"No, I wasn't being fair, either. We...got on OK. I resented her a bit because I was your Dad's best friend and she came between us. But then, I think he resented Remus a bit for the same reason. Peter, of course, resented me, Remus and Lily in about equal proportions. He wanted to be James' special friend and all of us were more special in our different ways than he would ever be."
Harry jumped down off the gate. "You think it twisted him."
"Yes. I had twelve years to come to some conclusions, and I do." Sirius looked sad. "It was your Dad's nature, Harry, to try to help people. Even when they didn't want it. Sometimes it was worth it, that's how we got involved with Remus. But that's also what caused the trouble originally between your Dad and Snape. Snape took your Dad's attempts to help him as patronising. He would, of course."
"And Mum?"
"She thought Snape was a creep. And Pettigrew. Mind you, at their wedding she called me 'that arse', so you can't go by that alone."
Harry laughed, startling one of the horses which was waiting nearby to see if they had any sugar.
"Ready to go back?" Sirius asked.
"Will he have had long enough?"
"To get over his monumental sulk? I should think so, but remember I've only been living here five weeks. I could be wrong."
"Didn't you live here before?"
"Yes and no. We were fighting Voldemort, and we didn't have much time for ourselves. But yes, I stayed here."
"I'm sorry if I've made things awkward for you." Harry looked up at Sirius, wondering if he'd said the right thing.
"Oh, don't worry about it, Harry. He's always a bit more touchy in the run up to the full moon."
"Thursday."
"Yes."
"What will happen?" Harry had been wondering about that.
"There's a cellar under the cottage. It's one of the reasons why Remus lives here. It's also far enough away from people that they won't be an immediate temptation for him if the worst should ever happen." Sirius caught up. "Before the moon rises I'll lock him in the cellar. I get him out after dawn."
"Do you stay with him?"
"I would if you weren't here. I did last month. Harry, he'll be fine. Really."
Harry looked at the cottage, what could be seen of it, the smoke rising above the trees. "He's lucky to own the cottage, I suppose."
"He doesn't."
"Doesn't what?"
"Own it. It's rented." Sirius pulled his robes straight.
"So...who does?"
"No idea, he's never said. I think it must be very cheap, I mean, nothing's ever been done to it. I was surprised when I came to see him first last year and it was exactly the same as it was twelve years ago. Only a bit scruffier. And he had the same car."
"I thought his parents must have left it to him."
"No. They didn't leave him anything except debts. His father died while he was at school, his mother just after he left."
"Were they wizards?" Harry was curious about other wizard's families. He supposed it came from having none of his own.
Sirius laughed. "No, Muggles. His Dad was...ah...I think he was one of those men Muggles have who sweep the streets, and his Mum worked in a school. Not a teacher, she cooked meals."
"Ah," said Harry. "School canteen."
"That's it. I remember Lucius Malfoy finding out. He said it was the kind of work that house elves do in the wizard world, and they were little better than slaves. He was a few years ahead of us, bigger and very nasty. Even so, we had a job to stop Remus from attacking him."
They came round the corner to the cottage, and Sirius caught sight of Remus' car. "Bloody thing," he muttered. "I offered to enchant it for him once, but he said he didn't think it would stand up to the strain."
"Due for its road tax next month," observed Harry, looking at the windscreen.
"Don't remind me," said Remus from the door. "And it's due for its MOT." In that moment, Harry thought, he sounded not unlike Uncle Vernon.
"You're the only wizard I know who pays that kind of thing," said Sirius, sounding half exasperated, half indulgent. "What is an MOT anyway?" Without waiting for an answer, he went on, "Income tax, National Insurance...and what's that other thing?"
"Council tax."
"That. And you're registered to vote. And you actually do."
"When I can. What's the problem with that?"
"Even Dumbledore and Arthur Weasley stop short at voting."
Remus eyes narrowed somewhat. "You're beginning to sound like Malfoy or Fudge. You'll be telling me next that I lack proper wizarding pride." He sighed. "I don't want to argue with you Sirius. If you're bored, you can wash my car for me."
"I'll do it," offered Harry. He hated to see them fight, it worried him in a way he couldn't explain.
"No, I think you've washed enough cars in your life. If you're bored, Harry, you can carry on with your homework."
As he sat down at the living room table, books in front of him, Harry

turned to Remus. After a moment's hesitation he asked, "Are you really angry with Sirius?"
"Not really. Well, a bit." Remus looked at Harry, and smiled, reassuringly. "I'll get over it, I promise."
"Why do you pay bills if other wizards don't?"
"Most other wizards don't have them. But I do live at least partly in the Muggle world and I wouldn't like to seem dishonest. Harry, some wizards don't see cheating Muggles as real cheating. But it is. Just like they don't see werewolves as real people, but we are. And whoever I was cheating I'd feel bad about it because I'd hate it to be done to me. Do you see?"
"Sort of. Is it..." Harry thought about it for a moment, "To make up for being a werewolf?"
"Nothing can make up for that. But I suppose that's part of it."

**

Harry was feeling immensely pleased with himself, he'd all but finished his homework, even potions, which he'd left until last. Suddenly there was a loud pop! and Harry was looking up at Arthur Weasley, red hair and all. Mr Weasley looked around as if he didn't know where he was. Harry reflected that though Mr Weasley's robes were shabby, Remus' were worse. He'd have to find out when Remus' birthday was.
"Ah, Harry." Mr Weasley looked even more confused, "Is this Professor Lupin's house?"
"Yes, do you want him? I think he's -"
But it seemed that Remus had heard someone arrive, he was standing at the door of the study. "Mr Weasley? Pleased to meet you."
Mr Weasley looked a bit wary, but he said, "You have electricity?"
"Yes," said Remus. He looked surprised. "But I don't use it much, it's expensive."
Oh, thought Harry. That's why he never puts the electric lights on.
"You must explain it to me, some time," said Mr Weasley. "I could show you my collection of plugs."
"Er...yes. If you like. That...would be very interesting." Remus' expression was rather like Aunt Petunia's when someone tried to sell her brushes at the door.
After another look round, Mr Weasley said, "I was told Sirius Black would be here."
"I'll find him for you. You know Harry of course."
"Yes, a guest of ours many times. How are you, Harry?"
"Very well, thank you."
Remus went out, and Mr Weasley seemed to relax a bit. "You're quite...happy here, are you, Harry? Molly and I would have liked to have you to stay sooner, you know. Molly's really looking forward -"
"I'm fine. You know Sirius is my godfather?"
"Molly told me...but are you sure you want to...I mean...Professor Lupin..."
"I'm quite sure," said Harry. "Thank you for worrying about me, though."
"I mean if..."
Harry was a little tired of this, but he made sure he was smiling. "If Professor Lupin eats me I'll be sure not to blame it on you."
"That's not a very funny joke." Remus came back in, Sirius behind him.
Harry felt as if he wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. "I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"Don't worry about it, Harry. I know you didn't mean it. Would you like some tea, Mr Weasley? You would?" Remus waved his wand almost negligently and a laden tea tray appeared, with four cups. He caught this while it was still turning in the air and put it down carefully.
Sirius sat down, followed by Remus and Mr Weasley, who sat rather uncertainly. Sirius said, "I take it you've heard from Mundungus Fletcher?"
"Yes, we've sorted out the problem with his house..."
Though Harry was included in the tea, he wasn't in the conversation, but he listened anyway. Most of it concerned people he had never heard of and places he didn't know - there was no news of Voldemort, which he supposed was a good thing. But he had been hoping to hear something, mostly that it had all been a mistake and Voldemort had not risen again. He knew that was hopeless, he'd seen it for himself, been instrumental in it - but that didn't stop him wanting it.
At length Mr Weasley stood up to go. "Very pleased to have met you, Professor Lupin." They shook hands. "And you, Mr Black." He shook hands with Sirius rather more warily.
"Thank you for coming," said Remus.
Mr Weasley took a pinch of floo powder from the jar on Remus' mantelpiece, and threw it into the fire. He stepped in, said the words, "The Burrow", and disappeared.
"That was...interesting," said Sirius.
"Yes," Remus seemed distracted, he was staring into the fire. "What time is it?"
"Only half past five. You've got two hours yet until moonrise."
"Oh. Right."
Harry thought Remus looked a little nervous. He remembered in his third year class on boggarts, Remus' greatest fear had been revealed to be the moon. This Harry could understand. His own boggart, when he'd had to tackle one, turned into a Dementor. That had been intentional but if Remus was half as scared of the moon as he was of the Dementor, Harry felt extremely sorry for him. If he knew he was going to have to face his worst nightmare every month for the rest of his life Harry would have been more than a little nervous. Terrified would be nearer the mark.
"How do you live with it?" Harry asked the pacing Remus. He knew it was rude, but he couldn't help it.
"I don't have a choice." Remus looked as if he was thinking. "Werewolves can't commit suicide."
"I see," said Harry, feeling a bit stupid. He'd done that essay Professor Snape had set them, after all, or at least started it, and should have remembered.
"You'll be fine," said Sirius. It seemed to Harry that he was doing his best to console, but wasn't naturally good at it. "You've been taking your potion."
"Yes," agreed Remus. He pulled a face as if that wasn't a pleasant memory, either.
As the time approached, Harry became nervous though of what he couldn't have said. He really was not afraid that Remus would hurt him.
"Right," said Sirius, all practicality. "Harry, go into the kitchen and stay there until I tell you to come out."
Harry obeyed; he had an idea that he had better. He started the washing up, just for something to do, but he could still hear them. Or rather he heard something being moved aside, a sound like a door being opened, and then Sirius saying, "Are you sure you want to take your robes off?"
"I'd better. I don't want to ruin them, I don't have all that many."
"Oh. All right. We'll have to see about that."
"Some other time. Ready?" Remus' voice.
"Yes. Off you go."
"You'll lock it? Properly?" He sounded quite brisk, but at the same time rather like Aunt Petunia had that time she'd had to go to the dentist to have root canal work.
"I promise." The door sound came again, then the sound of a bolt being shot, and then the furniture moving back. "You can come back now, Harry," Sirius said.
Harry went in. "Where is he?"
Sirius pointed to a trapdoor, just in front of the fireplace and to the left. Harry had never even realised it was there; one of the shabby chairs covered it most of the time. "Clever," Harry said. "Bit hard on him, though."
"Harder still to be allowed out and...well, you can imagine."
"He's never killed, has he?"
"Not that I know of. I don't think the Ministry would let him live here if he had, they have...places...for really dangerous and unprincipled werewolves."
Another thing Harry didn't really want to ask about. "Oh. When's sunrise?"
"Six twenty seven. Well, that's when the moon sets. You know the moon and the sun can be in the sky together?"
"Yes." Harry paused. "Sirius? What does he do when he's alone?"
"The trapdoor has a special lock which can be locked from the inside in a way that paws can't open, even werewolf paws. Very clever. The Werewolf Support Office of the Ministry of Magic provides it. He shuts himself in and waits until he's changed back and is able to get himself out. It can take days if he's very weak."

**

Harry went to bed but couldn't sleep. He lay awake all night, though what he was listening for he couldn't have said. Some sound of the werewolf, he supposed. But all was silent. He couldn't hear Sirius, but he hadn't come to bed; Harry would have heard that.
The hours passed, slowly. Harry sat up. There were footfalls on the stairs. He opened his bedroom door a crack and looked out, to see Sirius coming up the stairs carrying Remus, who was stark naked and white as a sheet.
"Go back to bed, Harry," whispered Sirius.
"Is he all right?"
"He'll be fine. Go back to bed."
A few minutes later, there was a knock on his door, just one. He opened it to find Sirius carrying two steaming mugs of tea.
"He's asleep," said Sirius. "I thought you might like this as you're wide awake."
"Did he...did he have a rough night?"
"I've known worse. He's just exhausted, that's all. The transformations take it out of him." Sirius sat on the end of Harry's bed, and sipped his tea.
"Why doesn't turning into Padfoot do the same to you?"
"Because it's voluntary. I want to turn into Padfoot. It's the skill of the Animagus to make the transformation voluntary and reversible. With a werewolf transformation the two forms are fighting each other for dominance. They do it all the time, but the only time the wolf is strong enough is on the night of the full moon."
"Do you like being Padfoot?"
"Yes, mostly. Leaving me to be petted by old ladies who smell of mothballs is a bit much, but I blame you and Remus for that." "It's dangerous isn't it?" "Yes, of course. For a start, there is a risk you'll stick like it, a sort of involuntary Hold Animagus. That's one of the reasons Animagi are supposed to register with the Ministry, so they can be brought back if necessary. There are other things which can go wrong with it, but most of those are fatal."
"I see. Well, I don't, but I think I will eventually."
Later that morning, Harry went to in to see Remus. He'd never been in Remus' bedroom before, but from what Harry could see it was as clean and the furniture as old as the rest of the house. Remus was sitting up in bed wearing a frayed nightshirt and reading a book. As Harry had suspected, there was only one bed. Remus had dark circles under his eyes, his skin was pale grey and the lines on his young face deeper than Harry had ever seen them, but he smiled. "Sirius tells me you were worried about me," he pulled himself up straighter.
"Yes, I was rather."
"I'm fine, honestly. The potion was really quite successful. Professor Snape should be pleased."
"Sirius asked me to bring you a drink." Harry put the tea tray on the beside table with a little difficulty. He poured out.
"Thanks." Remus reached out for his cup and his sleeve fell back.
"What's that?" Harry could see numbers on Remus' arm.
"Oh, that. It's my registration number with the Ministry."
"They tattooed you?" Harry's Muggle history was a bit hazy, but he was sure he'd heard about people who tattooed other people with numbers.
"It's more than a tattoo. It's etched in permanently, can never be removed, and it can be seen even when I'm transformed," Remus gave a small smile, a ghost of gallows humour. "Assuming anyone can get close enough, that is."
"Horrible."
"Necessary. Ministry rules."
Harry was halfway down the stairs when he realised the thing he'd moved aside in order to put the tray down was the collar and leash. Harry decided once again that he really, really didn't want to know. Adults were peculiar, this pair more than most.

**

"I wish I could stay here all the time," Harry said, as he washed up the breakfast things. His turn, but at least there were turns.
"And not go to school?" Sirius grinned at him.
"In the holidays, I mean."
"That's what I thought you meant, I was just fooling. I wish you could, too. But..."
"No I know, Dumbledore wants me to go to the Dursleys, though he's never said why, and it would cause problems with the Ministry. Nasty questions would be asked if Professor Lupin kept on playing host to Harry Potter." Harry put a cup down with unnecessary violence, and saw Remus wince.
"Yes, well, I hope it won't be forever," said Sirius.
"I hope so, too."
"And Sirius being free does have the advantage of showing Cornelius Fudge up for the fool that he is." Remus held up the Daily Prophet and Sirius took it out of his hand. "Do you want me to finish the washing up, Harry?"
"No thanks, I can manage. Besides, I've had a lot of practice."
"With those people?" Like Molly Weasley, Remus never mentioned the Dursleys by name if he could help it.
"Yes. When I was young," Harry said, meditatively, "I used to have to stand on a box."
"Me, too. My Mum taught me to wash up when I was about six." Remus opened his Muggle newspaper, 'The Guardian'. It was one Uncle Vernon wouldn't have in the house. Silence reigned.
There was a rattle at the letterbox, and as neither of the men seemed to have heard it Harry dried his hands and went to the front door. Remus was the only wizard Harry had ever heard of who actually had Muggle post, even though it was mostly bills.
Not this time, though. As he'd always done with Uncle Vernon - he was curious - Harry had a quick look through. One circular from Readers' Digest - Harry was prepared to bet that 'Mr R J Lupin' was the only wizard on their list. He wondered for a moment how many owls it would take to deliver Readers' Digest circulars as Uncle Vernon seemed to get one a week, and he smiled to himself at the vision this conjured up. A letter from Robert Tweedale, whom Harry knew to be Remus' agent in London, the one who sold the articles and stories he wrote to Muggle magazines on his behalf. One letter with a crest on the back. And the final letter. Harry turned it over. From the Paul Raymond Organisation. He wondered what they were. The name rang a bell but a very distant one. And a crest? That was the letter Harry put on top.
"Thanks, Harry." A pause for ripping noises. "Oh, good. Bob's got some of those people to pay me at last. Good month, too. I can afford my road tax."
"Who's that from?"
Harry was glad it was Sirius asking, he wouldn't have dared.
"My landlord. Receipt for my rent."
"Your landlord has a crest? Who is it, the Queen?"
"Don't be ridiculous. It's the Dorian Red, the Earl of Gloria. The chap who lives in the castle over yonder." Remus waved an arm in a vague sort of way and the kettle on the range shot across the kitchen and emptied more hot water onto the washing up. Harry moved his hands out of the way rather quickly.
"Harry and I wondered who lived in the pink sugar confection. Now the mystery is solved. What's he like?"
"I've no idea, we've never met."
"Blond and a bit batty," supplied Harry after a moment's thought. He had known the name was vaguely familiar when he'd heard it the first time.
"How do you know?" Remus looked up with a rather puzzled expression.
"You read the wrong Muggle newspapers. He's in the Sun and the Daily Mail all the time, the 'playboy Earl of Gloria' they call him. Aunt Petunia gets the Mail, she says for the crossword. But she gets Hello! magazine as well, and he's in that sometimes, too." Harry looked at them, they both looked equally nonplussed. "It's a celebrity magazine, pictures and gossip about famous people. A bit like 'Witch Weekly' only worse. Uncle Vernon always calls the Earl of Gloria, 'that poof'. Doesn't like him much."
"What does he mean by that?" Sirius was still looking a bit confused and Harry remembered that Sirius came from wizard stock. Remus had clearly understood. He'd gone white.
"He's gay. Homosexual. Sleeps with men." Harry couldn't quite believe that he was telling a grown man this. "He's really very obviously gay and makes sure everyone knows. Uncle Vernon says all gays should be shot, starting with the Earl of Gloria. I reckon Uncle Vernon's full of shit. From everything I've read about Lord Gloria he seems a pretty decent bloke, and I reckon they should shoot Uncle Vernon before they bother with him, because if Uncle Vernon's normal I don't want any part of it." Harry stopped suddenly, breathing hard. Generally, he controlled his loathing of the Dursleys in front of adults. And he'd just used the word shit in front of his godfather, whose attitude towards Harry swearing was as yet undetermined, and in front of Remus, an ex-teacher who was almost bound not to approve.
There was a long silence, or at least it felt long to Harry.
"You really hate them, don't you?" Sirius voice was very quiet.
"More than you can imagine." To his embarrassment, he was fifteen after all and not five, he could feel tears pricking behind his eyes. He turned away, not wanting Sirius or Remus to see.
Suddenly he felt an arm around his shoulder. Sirius, he could tell by the height. "I'm sorry," Sirius sounded a bit awkward.
"It's all right, I'll live." Harry's voice was a bit muffled from being pressed against Sirius' chest.
"I really wish there was something we could do."
"I know. There isn't." Still muffled.
"I'm on the run and the wizarding world - let alone the Ministry - hardly view Remus as a person at all."
"I know. I just hate living there so much. I'll get over it. And besides, I'll be back at school soon."
"Well done." To Harry's surprise he felt his godfather kiss his forehead, very quickly, just once. How embarrassing, he thought. "I'll finish the washing up," he said.
Sirius stepped away, giving Harry a final squeeze of the shoulders. Harry looked up and saw Remus give him a smile, he thought of encouragement. There was a slightly uncomfortable silence. Remus asked, "Would you like to go to the Post Office in the village for me? With Sirius, I mean. I have some packages I need to send."
"Oh, OK. Why can't I go on my own? It's not that far."
"Voldemort," said Remus. "He's still after you, Harry. Don't forget that, because he never will."
"No. Sorry."

**

"Why does Remus never come with us?" Harry asked, as they tramped down the lane.
"Never has the time," Sirius said. "I've never known anyone work so hard, except possibly Dumbledore, and even he takes a day off now and again. Besides, he thinks you and I should get to know each other."
"He could really do with a computer," said Harry, as he moved the heavy bag of packages to his other hand. "He could email most of this."
"That's some Muggle thing, isn't it? What would it do?"
Harry's explanation lasted until they reached the edge of the village. He had more than enough to go on - Dudley's conversation about his new computer had taken up several dinner times at the Dursleys' - so much so that Harry thought he could recite the specifications in his sleep. He didn't bother Sirius with them, though; he stuck to how much he thought it would help Remus.
Just before they came into view of the nearest houses, Sirius slipped behind a hedge and turned into Padfoot. Harry put his collar and leash on, wondering if it was the Hold Animagus collar or the ordinary Muggle one he knew Remus also had. He didn't like the idea of forcing his godfather to remain dog shaped for any length of time. It gave him a slightly creepy feeling.
He tied Padfoot up outside the Post Office - something else he wasn't especially happy with - and went inside. As in many small villages, the Post Office in Gloria Ducis was combined with a shop, the Post Office proper at the back. "I need to send some packages," said Harry.
The postmaster looked up. He looked a bit like Professor Snape, which gave Harry a momentary shock. "Pop them on the scale, son," he said. Didn't sound like him, though.
Harry couldn't help but read the addresses as the packages were weighed out. The first was to Germany, to a University in Stuttgart and the second, significantly heavier, was to Remus' agent in London. The third, the heaviest yet, was to another University, Aberdeen. The final one, about the same weight as the first, was to the Paul Raymond Organisation at an address in London.
"Is Mr Lupin not well?" asked the postmaster, recalling Harry from a vacant contemplation of the London address.
"What?"
"It's just that I recognise his handwriting," the man sounded apologetic, but Harry realised it was he who had been a bit rude. "Mr Lupin's a nice young man, I wondered if he was all right. I know he's ill sometimes."
"He's fine. Really. Just a bit busy."
"Oh good, tell him Peter at the Post Office was asking after him."
"I will. Thank you." Outside, Harry heard Padfoot sneeze.
"Recognised the dog, too. He's not had it long, has he? Was it a stray?"
"I don't think so, he didn't say." Harry was a bit surprised, but of course Sirius couldn't come into the village in his normal shape.
"Are you staying long?"
Harry was becoming a bit irritated, was this a postmaster or an Inquisitor? "Not much longer, no."
"Are you a relative?"
"An old student." At least that was true enough.
On his way out, Harry stopped at the rack of magazines, wondering if he could find a computer magazine that might be simple enough for him to explain the benefits of email to Sirius. There wouldn't be any point in explaining them to Remus, but Harry knew Sirius had money somewhere. His eye strayed to the top shelf, and immediately he thought of Dudley. His disposal of Dudley's magazines would have been discovered by now and he could expect an uncomfortable couple of weeks back in Privet Drive before he went to stay with the Weasleys. The prospect did not appeal.
Then it clicked. Where he'd seen that name and address before. It wasn't romances Remus wrote, or not all the time. Harry felt sure he must be scarlet with embarrassment. Remus earned his living writing...that stuff...for those magazines. Or at least part of his living, Harry amended. Professor Lupin writes dirty stories, he thought. And sells them. Cor! That is just so cool! Wait till I tell Ron!

**

"What's this?" Sirius asked.
"Muggle chocolate." Harry had had to buy something to explain his long absence in the shop.
There was silence while Sirius chewed. "Actually, it's not bad."
"Not as good as wizard chocolate?"
"I suppose...." Sirius stopped and thought about it. "I suppose it's what you're used to. Did you bring some for Remus?"
"Yes."
"Good, because I know he's fond of it. Actually, he'll eat any kind of chocolate, wizard or Muggle."
"Do you want me to come and wait with you?" Remus asked.
"I'll be fine, honestly." Harry chose his next words carefully, "You'll look after Sirius, won't you?"
"Of course."
Harry had already hugged Sirius goodbye and asked him to look after Remus. "Thanks," he said. "I've had a really good time, it's been great."
"I'm glad."
Harry didn't know what else he could say. He got out of the car and rescued his backpack and Hedwig in her cage. Remus was standing next to the car, and he held out his hand, "Well, goodbye, Harry. We'll see you again, no doubt, very soon."
Harry took the hand. Initially he meant to do nothing more than shake hands, but without fully intending to, he kissed Remus on the cheek. "I'm pleased he's got you," he said. "He needs someone." As soon as the words left his lips he was sure they had been a mistake. How wet could he get?
Remus smiled, "I'm glad we've got each other." It seemed Remus didn't think he was wet at all.
Harry took courage, "I'm not shocked," he said. "About anything." And he headed for the station, where the train was just coming in.

**

Finis.

**

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