Rating: FRM/NC-17
Pairing(s): Sirius/Remus, with side Bill/Tonks, and Snape/OMC. Any other pairings are canon.
Prompt Number: #19, at LJ's RS Career Fest.
Beta-reader: Pionie

Summary: Detective Remus Lupin had a dark past that had made him the man, and officer, he was. When he was forced to face that same past, solace came in the form of a mysterious and handsome man, who happened to be more than he seemed. Lupin wasn't supposed to get involved in the matter, but all the important information kept falling into his lap.

Warnings: Strong language; explicit sexual content between two males – slash; AU – non-magical.
Word Count: ~12,500

Author's Notes: I didn't quite place the story in Chicago; the way I see it, the prompter's idea was to hint at the environment, not actually demand the story was set in Chicago. Either way, because I can be wrong, I left the location dubious enough for you to place it wherever you want . . . Also, one's work gets so much easier with a good editor; thank you very much, Pionie . . . Okay, ready?—Enjoy! ^.^

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended – Standard disclaimer.


WHO FRAMED SIRIUS BLACK?

By Dani-ko


Remus Lupin entered the Phoenix's Flight and headed towards the bar. "Hello there, Lupin," the bartender greeted him roguishly, "The usual?"

Remus nodded, and accepted the pint the man handed him while looking around the bar to see if anything – or anyone – caught his attention. Unfortunately, it was hard to tell what he liked these days. The only thing he knew for sure was that it was of the male variety, or he wouldn't be sitting there, at the counter of the most famous Bohemian rendez-vous in the city. "What happened to your clientele, Aberforth?" Remus asked with a small smile.

"It's probably you who's harder to please, Lupin." Aberforth shrugged sympathetically, and Remus waved him off to dispense with the sentiment. "If you're this weary, then quit the force," Aberforth suggested, fully aware how ridiculous his proposal was.

Everybody worth knowing in the neighbourhood of Hog's Lane knew who Remus Lupin was and was familiar with his unhealthy views of duty. His reputation was famous, since Remus was hardly bothered by social conventions and didn't hold back no matter who he was questioning. Some might say that Remus had nothing to lose, and they would surely be right. An early tragedy had made him the driven man he was, but nobody was allowed to speak about it.

In the Police Department, such attitude ensured that every sensitive case was left for Remus, because he would always get his man – or woman, as happened on occasion. His natural politeness and mild look would put people at ease, and then the wolf would strike with such ferociousness that nobody saw it coming.

Remus chuckled. "Oh, I couldn't possibly," he said, with a lopsided grin, "lest your brother look at me above his spectacles, with that knowing look that would guilt me into doing his bidding once again."

Aberforth snorted. "Dear old Albus." He shook his head. "He needs someone to tell him 'no' once in a while. He's getting spoiled." They laughed together. Remus lifted his drink in salute and downed it in one swig.

"Hi there, gorgeous," came a greeting from a raven-haired man standing behind his seat, with dashing dark blue eyes and wearing a predatory grin; positively stunning. Remus had seen him on occasion in the pub, smoking, drinking and flirting with anything that had two legs and a prick. Except for Remus—until today, that was. "Don't tell me—you're a cop." Remus felt the known thrill of arousal course through him at the appraising look the man was lavishing on him.

"Well, obviously," Remus thought, "my badge is attached to my belt, moron." Aloud, he said, "You guessed right. Can I offer you a drink?"

The beautiful man frowned. "That's it?" he asked, confused. It was Remus' turn to frown. "Don't misunderstand me, but I've seen you push some really fit blokes away without so much as a glance, and leaving the whole bar laughing at the poor sod's misfortune. I come on to you with a cheesy line like that and you go for it? Am I really that pretty?"

Remus lifted his eyebrows and shifted his attention towards the man. "You came to me. If you've changed your mind, I suggest you move along and don't block the view, if you please." He really hoped the gorgeous hunk hadn't changed his mind, because it had been a while since Remus felt such connection with someone he'd just met.

The man looked slightly upset by those words, but then he grinned. "Well, lucky me, then." He extended a hand with polished nails and an expensive-looking ring on his middle finger. "I'm Sirius."

Remus nodded in recognition. "I'm Remus." He shrugged, embarrassed by his early assertiveness. "Even if you'd really been as thick as you sounded, it wouldn't have mattered. It still doesn't, by the way."

Sirius seemed bothered by being underestimated and unappreciated, but at least refrained from taking offense. Good thing, really, because Remus' frank honesty was his personal favourite shell. Only the tough-skinned passed through. Sirius took a drag of his cigarette, and a swig of his whiskey. "Tough day on the job, I imagine."

"Yes, you could say that." Remus spared him a sideways glance. "You're sounding too smart to let yourself be taken advantage of."

Sirius smirked seductively, pleasantly. "I think I rather enjoy the idea of being taken advantage of if it's by you." Remus couldn't bring himself to resist Sirius' contagious good mood and, shutting up his cautious conscience, he returned the smile.

"You're rather fetching, and I'm selfish enough not to care about your reasons," Sirius continued.

Remus raised an eyebrow, feeling a bit relieved of his weariness, thanks to Sirius' liveliness that showed in his every move. "Is that why you're trying to cheer me up? Because you're selfish?"

Sirius' smile became broader and more sincere at that. "I'm glad to see it working. I thought I'd never have the chance to lure you into my—" He stopped abruptly, suddenly aware of his tackiness.

Remus chuckled, shifting to his side. "You only had to try, Sirius." They shared a smile. "It couldn't be worse than some of the things I've heard over the years in this same bar. There was this one fellow named Brian who thought it appropriate to tell me I was as pretty as a woman—"

"Oh, I was here!" Sirius exclaimed animatedly. "If I remember correctly, you said, "If you get off on women, there's a nice bar next door. And I suggest you don't tell them that you rather like men's bits." It was priceless."

Remus shifted uncomfortably, colouring lightly. "I feel a bit bad about that, actually. I was in a bad mood and I was cruel to him."

Sirius snorted, putting his cigarette out on the ashtray, and taking another one from his pack. "Of course you feel bad. At least you remember his name. It's more than I can say for myself. And don't feel like that." Sirius' grin was flirty. "Anyone who can smile this way has to be a good person," he added seductively, leaning forward and accepting Remus' help to light his second cigarette, all the while giving the other a sultry look. Remus gave him a dry glance, but relaxed after a moment, appreciating the ease with which Sirius was speaking to him and acting around him. "So, how about that drink you owe me?"

From there to Remus' loft apartment wasn't long.

"Ugh!" Remus protested as Sirius pushed him against the entrance door, lips firmly attached to his and tongue curling around Remus', prompting it to action, while unbuttoning Remus' cardigan and toeing off his own shoes. His hot hands roamed freely, diving under Remus' shirt to arousingly grope his chest, and down his navel, towards his crotch.

"Yum—you taste good all over," Sirius muttered against his neck, before sucking heavily on the exposed skin, pressing one of his hands against the bulge confined by Remus' trousers. Sirius' mouth took a downwards path shortly after, following his hands as they unbuttoned Remus' shirt, and he slowly kneeled down.

Remus groaned, and frantically pulled Sirius up and pushed him into the living room. Sirius slid the other's shirt off his shoulders, hands trailing the strong, wiry muscles, and motioned to remove his own. Taking advantage of their position, Remus fell onto his knees, began un-fastening Sirius' trousers and pulled them off, shoving a hand inside the red underwear. Remus leaned forward when it looked like Sirius had lost himself for a moment, and stroked Sirius until he was swollen and panting while his lips were firmly closed around his lover's hard nipples. "Fuck!" Sirius gritted out. He shoved Remus off himself, onto the floor, straddling his waist.

Remus gladly let himself be undressed, groped and fondled until they were both naked and frotting against each other leisurely, just to ease the tension while Sirius explored him with his hands, mouth and hungry eyes. "We're still—ha—on the floor of my living room."

Sirius smirked seductively, twisting Remus' nipples between the fingers of his right hand, while massaging Remus' heavy testicles with the other. Then, he leaned forward to take Remus' mouth again. "So, you only fuck in a bed?"

Remus moaned as his nipples were manically abused, but answered nonetheless. "Sure—if I'm on the bottom. Carpet burns are not the nicest thing when you have to spend your day in a suit." Sirius stopped obligingly and helped him up. Taking advantage, Remus prompted him onto the couch, sat next to him and, with a mischievous grin on his lips, leaned down, taking Sirius' erection into his mouth.

Sirius' toes curled. "My god, yes!" Remus eased his grip a bit and let Sirius thrust into his mouth, tightening his lips around the other's cock, sucking gently when he could, shoving himself backwards as far as he could when he felt Sirius stroking his arse.

Sirius moaned aloud. "Don't—don't finish me off." Remus enjoyed himself for a while longer, before complying, getting up and pulling Sirius towards the study bedroom. He pushed Sirius onto the bed and covered his pale, hot body with his own; then, he kissed Sirius again, more a battle of tongues than a touch of lips.

Sirius rolled them over, spreading Remus' legs apart to settle himself in between. "Lube?" Remus handed him a tube from the bedside drawer. Sirius took some of the liquid in his hand and prepared his lover slowly, tortuously, seeming to enjoy the sight of Remus' body tensing to stop writhing unbecomingly, biting his lip not to cry out loud. Remus panted and demanded more in whispered words, rubbing himself against Sirius' thigh. "Ready?"

Remus nodded. "It's best if we do it this way," he said, propping himself on his arms and knees. It had been some time for him. Sirius nodded and rested his face against Remus', as he slid home with one swift thrust. "Move now," Remus breathed, and Sirius complied, rolling his hips teasingly, before plunging inside long and hard.

They cried out together and moved together, meeting each other halfway, before the tension reached its peak. Sirius' thrusts became shallow and his rhythm erratic, until Remus' shoved himself backwards, prompting him to move faster, gripping his fists tightly in the bedding. Sirius curled their fingers together, panting against Remus' neck, pushing the other onto the bed with his thrusts. Remus growled lowly, seeking friction against the sheets.

Soon, it was too good, too much, and with one swift thrust aimed exactly right, they climaxed with each other's name on their lips. Afterwards, Sirius slumped against Remus tiredly, before rolling off him with a sigh. "Fuck, that was good."

Remus moaned as his tingling skin met the cold sheets, still blissfully numb and incredibly satisfied. "Yes, it was," he agreed. They shared a languid smile. Sirius stretched and, with a parting kiss to Remus' shoulder, got up and began searching his clothes for his pack of cigarettes, and then, in vain, for his lighter. With a chuckle at Sirius' frustration, Remus pointed at his suit jacket. "I have my lighter in there."

Sirius retrieved the aforementioned object, and Remus' hat on the way. He put it on, sending his seductive, lopsided smile in his lover's direction. Remus chuckled, but he felt his eyes burning with sudden need and possessiveness. "Quite sexy. Again?" Sirius gave him a smouldering look, which quite counted as agreement. "And keep the fedora on."

Sirius stretched next to Remus, cigarettes forgotten, propping himself on two pillows, and beckoned Remus forward. Sirius ran his hands over his own body, stroking himself into hardness again, as Remus motioned to straddle him, and began exploring him with his mouth. "You'll have to ride me, honey," Sirius suggested lightly. "I'm quite tired, you see."

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

The phone rang. An elegant hand picked up the receiver. "Finally! I've been . . . what? What do you mean the agreement is off? . . . I paid you—yes, I'm aware, you idiot, but I—." The hand gripping the phone started to shake in fury, fear and anticipation. "Listen to me, you sodding piece of shit, you better think twice before you lie to me—Oh, don't think I'm threatening you in vain—don't interrupt me! Think again about this, Greyback, or I assure that eating your daily eggs and bacon will be the last thing that you do!" The line went dead.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

Several weeks after that first scorching encounter with Sirius, Remus entered the police station, heading towards the locker-rooms. He was tired, sore, and incredibly satisfied. He had been meeting Sirius almost every night for the past two months. They had never exchanged last names, or telephone numbers, and the only place where they were together was at Remus' loft, but this tryst was quickly becoming something indispensable for Remus.

"Remus," called Albus Dumbledore, as soon as Remus entered the station, while poking his head into the main room. "In my office as soon as you can, please." Moments later, Remus took his seat in one of the armchairs in Dumbledore's office, shoving a chocolate snack bought from the tea lady into his pocket.

Dumbledore waited until he was settled. "Fenrir Greyback was found dead this morning, at the Hog's Park, with three bullet-holes in his head and three more in his heart," he said bluntly. Remus froze. Dumbledore looked only slightly dismayed at the prospect of murder, as always. For him, it was a messy affair. Then he leaned his chin on his steepled fingers, and looked at Remus with a knowing glint in his eyes.

But Remus was already lost in his own thoughts . . . His parents had died when he was a child – at the hands of a monster, but Remus had been so young and he hadn't realised and gladly accepted a murderer's guidance, a man who thought Remus was his godsent disciple.

"So few people have what it takes to understand the true nature of humanity. The harsh truth that we are all predators born to hunt and prevail. Natural selection, isn't that what they are calling it? Lucky you, little Remus; I chose to teach you the truth."

Remus forcefully brought himself back to the present, and gazed into Dumbledore's assessing eyes once again.

"I take it that you're not going to assign this case to me, Albus," he deadpanned, just to ease the weight of the silence.

"I'm afraid not. Obvious conflict of interest on your part," Dumbledore replied mildly. "I assigned the case to Potter and Longbottom, but I expect you and Weasley to assist them. You're just not going to be in charge." Dumbledore paused and Remus waited for the predictable outcome. "I'm concerned about you, though, Remus."

Only because of the respect he had for the man did Remus refrain from telling the Superintendent where to shove it. He owed a lot to Dumbledore, not only because of his position in the force, but especially because of the man's help after his parents' deaths; not a lot of people would agree to have a potential time-bomb on board. "You have nothing to worry about, Albus."

"Remus," Dumbledore admonished, "It's time you stopped feeling guilty about what happened to you. You are a respected detective and a precious and loyal friend. Don't diminish those wonderful traits because of past events. I want you to give me your word that you won't seek revenge."

Remus straightened his brownish suit jacket and waistcoat purposefully, conveniently avoiding Dumbledore's gaze. "The man who killed my parents is dead. If anything, I should send a thank-you note to his killer."

Dumbledore gave him a knowing look. "Or get obsessed with your lost closure." Remus' breath hitched, and his thoughts turned inwards again. Dumbledore couldn't know, right? He couldn't – nobody could – because Remus' thoughts never left his head. He knew he hated Greyback and wanted him dead, but the rest only plagued him at night when he wasn't fully conscious. Remus wanted to be the one to finish him off, to destroy him for all the things he had done to him and to dozens of others.

"I know I can trust your humanity, my boy. Nothing to worry about." Dumbledore began fishing for sweets in his drawers, hastily interrupting Remus' thoughts. "Oh, I wish Severus would stop hiding my lemon drops. They certainly aren't going to kill me."

Remus refrained from saying that, unlike Severus Snape, Dumbledore didn't have a medical degree and, if Severus said that too many sweets was unhealthy, he should probably listen. "I don't know, Albus, he is a forensic pathologist. He probably knows better than you what people die of." So saying, he got up and left the Superintendent's office.

"Remus!" Said man turned around to see James Potter moving towards him purposefully. He sighed, for once damning his position on the force: everybody knew everything about the most gruesome cases. "How are you, mate?" James asked, sympathetically.

Remus shrugged, "Fine."

James didn't look like he believed it, but wouldn't push Remus to confide in him as, unlike Dumbledore, he trusted Remus implicitly. "Okay."

James was indecisive for a moment, but made up his mind quickly. "I'm just saying this once and then I'll let it go." Remus nodded once, warily. "He was your guardian, Remus; that has to mean something. I know you are relieved that he's gone—I mean, who cares what happens to him?"

James rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. "He still means something to you, no matter what you tell yourself, and I know you wanted to be the one to finish him off, but it's better this way. You're too kind to be a murderer." His words hit Remus like a bucket of cold water. James seemed to understand what he was thinking, because he patted Remus on the back for support. "You know you are."

Remus' young partner, Bill Weasley, approached them and saluted him with two fingers. "'Morning, sir," he greeted. Remus nodded, still half-thrown off balance by James' candid trust. "We were assigned some minor cases today – some homeless men have turned up dead. I think it's probably the cold, but we should check it out. The gods only know that in this neighbourhood it can't be taken for granted."

"You can update me on our way to the morgue, Bill. Severus must be swamped."

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

That night, Remus returned to his cold loft, after dinner with James, Lily and their son, Harry. He showered and took a light nap before it was time to go out like he did every night. His dreams were plagued by memories of his youth, when Fenrir Greyback had come for him on the night of full moon. Memories of painful, lonely nights, and days full of fear gave way to numbness and resignation about his role in the world: he had been born to kill for something bigger than himself.

It was only after many years that Remus realised the truth about his mentor. The things he saw, the things he was forced to do never left him again. He barely remembered them after many sessions of psychotherapy, during which everything seemed to be torn apart until it stopped making sense, and Remus began to see his childhood as if it had happened to someone else. Now, those memories only plagued his dreams.

Remus woke up with a start with ten years of suppressed torture clear in his mind, culminating in his attempt to kill his captors. Inexperienced as he had been with weapons, he had killed innocent associates of his mentor – or as innocent as the associates of a hitman could be. Fenrir had escaped, obviously, but the fact remained that Remus had killed the only family he could remember.

He decided he didn't want to be alone that night. He immediately dismissed the thought of calling Severus. The poor man hated pubs and only bore with them for Remus' sake. Besides, he didn't want just friendship tonight.

What he needed, he would only find at the Phoenix's Flight and in the arms of the mysterious Sirius. Remus wasn't disappointed when the handsome man welcomed him with an intense snog in the alley behind the Phoenix's Flight, and a smile that spoke of undying pleasure and love.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

"The police have not yet processed the building, Orion," said one of the men, with fair blonde hair and icy grey eyes, leaning back in the high chair he occupied. "We managed to get in and take his research. We've left the apartment in disarray, but we believe it won't matter. It might throw them in a different direction."

"Thank you, Lucius," said the man behind the desk, leaning forward on his steepled fingers. "Riddle wouldn't find it funny if we were implicated in the death of his Greyback. That creature was his best recruiter. I'd hate to annoy the boss."

"Don't thank them right now, Uncle," a raven-haired woman commented dryly, gesturing to the man named Lucius and the one sitting next to her. "Wait until you see what Greyback got. I believe that you won't be pleased, and I rather want you to tell me what we are supposed to do about this one." She paused, playing with her hair while Lucius handed a manila folder to Orion.

"He shouldn't have hired Greyback for the job. Regardless, killing them—," he pointed at the folder, "—now, would be lovely, but troublesome . . ." Lucius tried, but stopped abruptly when he saw Orion's veins start to pop out on his forehead. The three underlings quietly exited the study, leaving the head of their family to his wrath for the time being.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

James and Frank Longbottom had decided, after a thorough search into Greyback's background, that they needed to pay a visit to Orion Black, officially an entrepreneur owner of several establishments, but also the leader of the city's organised crime ring, with headquarters at Hog's Lane. Every criminal owed something to the Black big-shot, and his family members were as close and loyal as any faithful follower. Luckily, neither James or Frank were easily intimidated.

The butler opened the main door to the Black Manor on the outskirts of their neighbourhood, in Grimmauld Place, number 12. "Who should I announce, sirs?" the short, ugly man asked. "Although I'm afraid sirs must wait since the family is having lunch."

Of course they knew that. That was precisely the reason they had come, so that they could assess the suspects in one go. "It's fine. We didn't notice it was lunch time," Frank lied easily.

At that moment, a blond boy ran from the dining room and bumped against James. "Ugh! Sorry sir." Two grey orbs lifted towards him. "I didn't see you—Mister Potter?"

James smiled cheerfully at the boy who was as cute as a button, Lily's words, and could hardly help the family he had. "Hi, Draco, how are you?"

"Fine, Mister Potter! How's Harry?" Draco Malfoy asked excitedly. Before James could answer, a tall blonde woman appeared in the doorway. "Draco, darling, behave," Narcissa admonished, turning a blinding smile towards James and Frank. "Mister Potter, always a pleasure. I trust both your wife and son are well?" James confirmed quietly, feeling as compassionate for the woman as he did for the son. "I'm glad. I had the most enjoyable evening with both my sisters two nights ago when my dear son was annoying your household."

James laughed politely, but both he and Frank jumped at the opportunity to start collecting alibis, having realised that the crime had been both personal and passionate, if the multiple gun-shots were of any indication. Unfortunately, Frank had only managed to make said conclusion after a particular vexing argument between James and Severus. That combined with recent finds regarding Greyback's finances had made it necessary to investigate the Blacks. "So, you and your sisters were—?"

"Playing whist until quite late, actually. My husband and my brother-in-law joined us at some point. Why, may I ask? I assume this is a police matter," Narcissa replied, after sending Draco to wash his hands and refresh himself before they went out.

"Of course," Frank agreed absently. "We were hoping we could speak with Mister Orion Black about it. The Black family has been so helpful in past investigations. We were hoping that we could count on your collaboration once more."

Narcissa's jaw tightened, as she retorted coolly, "Certainly, Mister Longbottom. I shall send my sister Bellatrix to escort you both to Uncle Orion's study." Frank looked ready to lash out, but refrained from doing so. James sighed. There were many old grudges between Bellatrix Lestrange and the Longbottoms. And Narcissa, no matter how nice and loving towards her son, was quite a harpy when she felt threatened.

"Cissy, dear, no need to get defensive," said a raven-haired woman, coming out of the dining room as well. Her extraordinary similarity to Bellatrix Lestrange told them that this could no other than the eldest sister of Narcissa and Bellatrix, Andromeda Tonks. Her eyes were cool, yes, but confident and had a trace of warmth in them that Bellatrix didn't possess. Narcissa did. It was the mark of a good woman.

Both detectives nodded at the lady politely, and she gave them a levelled look. "You are here on official business, isn't that right?" James confirmed. Andromeda's eyes glinted with something. "Then, I wish you luck, gentlemen." And she left.

When Mrs Lestrange showed up, her husband following closely, she threw the most unnerving smirk in Frank's direction. "Follow me, gentlemen." The two detectives followed the Mrs Lestrange through the hallways. "Do tell, Frank," she called over her shoulder as she walked, "How's Alice and little Neville? It's been such a long time since I last saw them—when was it? Fudge's ceremony in the City Hall eight years ago, correct?"

It was more like at the massacre afterwards, you crazy bitch, James thought. Aloud, he said, "I'm sure Frank remembers, Madam." He paused. "I wonder if your cousin Sirius is anywhere around, though? We'd like a word with him as well."

"Oh, I'm afraid Sirius is grounded," Rudolphus Lestrange answered for his wife, his voice tight. "We all know how rebellious he's becoming." James didn't appreciate having one of his closest friends spoken of like that, especially if it meant, and he suspected so, that the Orion Black suspected Sirius of giving information to the police.

Not that he was, but their friendship, born in past times at college, should remain a secret nonetheless lest the big-shot of all people find out. They hadn't see each other in a long time, since Orion had begun insisting on Sirius having a more important role in the Family; very few people knew about their friendship, but neither Remus, or Frank knew about it.

At that moment, they reached Orion Black's study and the door opened to reveal a dark-haired man; tall, bulky, scarred and terrifying in every way with his calculating eyes, which gleamed sadistically. Nothing like his son; maybe in their ruthlessness they were alike, but Sirius wasn't a bad person. "Good evening, gentlemen. What can I do for you this time?" he asked, gesturing towards the seats in front of his desk.

James and Frank sat down easily. "You must have heard about Fenrir Greyback's murder, Mister Black?" James began.

The man shook his head as if sad, smirking at something neither Frank nor James were privy to. "Yes, I'm afraid I read about it in the newspaper. The killer left him at the Hog's Park, isn't that right?" Orion's eyes grew colder as he looked both men over. "My people would never be that exhibitionist, so let's cut to the chase and have you fellows stop harassing my men right now."

"You see, Mister Black," Frank intervened, leaning forward. "We believe you. Your style is more like chopping the victims up and leave them to the ducks. Our problem lies in the fact that we have evidence Greyback was working for you. His payment has been being deducted from your accounts and—"

"Account," Orion corrected, narrowing his eyes at the two detectives. "Fenrir was an associate of mine. He worked at my stores, doing odd jobs here and there." The detectives all but snorted at the understatement. "But the payment is made by transfer from only one account."

James and Frank refused to let their confusion show, just as Orion unsuccessfully tried to suppress his realisation that someone from his own household was double-crossing him. "Well, gentlemen, I'm a business man. I'm afraid I have matters to attend. If you would," he said, gesturing towards the door.

"Of course, Mister Black," James agreed. As if he could do anything else without legal support. "We thank you for your cooperation and we assure you that we will find who is hacking into your accounts."

Orion's smirk wasn't a pretty sight. "Oh, don't bother—I'll deal with it. Someone is going to get grounded. Again." James, suppressing a shudder, and Frank left after that, politely greeting Mrs Walburga Black on their way out. The vampiric woman ignored them and entered her husband's study already discussing the latest developments in the matter. The Blacks were a lot of things, but they mated in the true sense of the word, and they did so for life.

"Do you reckon Greyback's landlord has returned?" James asked, as they left the manor.

Frank shrugged. "They said he would be in after lunch." With that, both men got in the car and drove away.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

"Do you really think he is the one who has been paying Greyback, Orion?" Walburga asked, sitting behind the desk, watching her husband pace back and forth in front of the fireplace, occasionally smashing bibelots amidst his angry grumbling.

"What else am I supposed to think, seeing that?" he threw with disgust, pointing at the photos inside the manila folder. "My own son!" Orion threw his hands in the air and Walburga sighed, torn between hoping her eldest wouldn't come home anytime soon and wanting to see her family secure again. "I want Lucius and Rudolphus following that copper. Tell my sister to warn her daughters."

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

Remus sat in the Phoenix's Flight as usual, lost in his thoughts while smoking a cigarette and having a pint.

"Wotcher, Remus!" Remus looked up at the cheerful greeting, and smiled when he saw the pink-haired young woman approaching his seat. "Hello, Tonks," he replied, smiling, "it took you long enough. I was ready to go home." Nymphadora Tonks only smiled brightly, recognising the teasing, and threw herself onto the seat next to his.

She tripped on the rubbish bin and almost fell down, but Remus took hold of her arm and pulled her upright with practised ease. Tonks giggled, "Oh, clumsy me. Sorry." Remus rolled his eyes, while she straightened her red dress and put on the green shoe she had lost during the stunt. Tonks sat down as gracefully as she could, as if trying to save herself from further embarrassment. She almost managed it, but, "Oh, bugger! Bloody stockings and bloody mother for making me wear them!"

Remus smiled, and shook his head exasperatingly. "What did you want to meet me for anyway, girl?" he asked. Tonks turned sideways to stare straight at him. It surprised Remus to see her acting so determined; he had to do a double take at her seriousness, which in his book usually meant something ominous. "What do you want?"

"I want to be a detective," she blurted, gravely. Remus looked at her sharply, his jaw tight. "Uncle Orion won't let me and Mum refuses to go against him since Dad died. I need you to help me enter the Police Academy and then they can't stop me." Tonks had said all of that in one breath and by the end of it, Remus had readied himself to deny her foolhardy request, but she grabbed his hand and looked at him pleadingly. "Come on, Remus. Help me out on this."

Careful not saying anything that might pass for agreement, Remus said, "I think I need another drink before we speak about this." He signalled Aberforth. Tonks nodded obediently, obviously seeing the advantage in behaving, but Remus was well aware that she would be as stubborn as usual despite her act. "Why?" he asked, at last.

Tonks looked away. "I want to leave the Family."

Remus nodded, hardly surprised, but still wishing to knock some sense into her. "You know what happened to the last one who tried," he pointed out gently.

Tonks nodded sadly. "Mum had no way of knowing that Uncle Orion would send someone to kill Dad. Not that there was any evidence," she snorted. "Believe me, I looked."

"I was so close to catching them," Remus said absently. They fell into a contemplative silence.

One of Remus' first cases as a homicide detective had been the brutal murder of a local government employee, Ted Tonks. The man had been fairly young and had led a peaceful life, just like his family. It had been a confusing case until Remus realised that his wife and daughter were the nieces of Orion Black. The case had been impossible to crack because all leads led to dead-ends – and to dead people.

Tonks sighed. "I want to break free from all that. No matter how much I love Mum, Uncle Orion and the rest of the family, I can't accept who they are. It's wrong and Mum used to think so, too. I don't want to end up like Narcissa, or Regulus." After a moment of silence, out of respect for the dead or the weight of that knowledge, she grinned, trying to lighten the mood. "So, I decided I want to be a copper like you. I'm eighteen. It's the right age to enter the—"

"Tonks, think carefully about this," Remus interrupted sombrely.

"I have. And I'm willing to trade information for this opportunity," she replied, playing with her own glass. Remus froze, guessing what was coming. "Greyback was working for Uncle Orion. Some P.I. work – I don't know the details, but someone in the family was under surveillance." While Remus was aware of the first part due to James and Frank's investigation, the nature of Greyback's work had been a mystery.

"How do you know this?" he demanded, taking hold of her arm, and leaning forward to speak lower. "I thought Fenrir worked for Riddle and his Death Eaters," Remus mused. The Death Eaters were a terrorist group that had been forced into hiding thanks to the detectives of the Hog's Lane Police Unit; their informant in the group had assured them that their plans for the foreseeable future were to regroup and recruit new members.

"I hid in Uncle's office while he was having a meeting with Lucius and Rudolphus," Tonks explained, shrugging.

"You mean Malfoy and Lestrange?" Remus asked, frowning. Those two had been following him since earlier that night. In fact, he was relatively sure that they were right outside, still watching. "I think they're watching this place right now," he said.

Tonks nodded. "They didn't recognise me, don't worry. They wouldn't. This morning, I was a redhead. And tomorrow morning, I'll be one again."

Remus spared her a dubious glance. "You sure?"

"Yeah," she confirmed, "I know they're supposed to be watching you, mate. I don't know why. I don't even know why Sirius wasn't summoned either. Lately, Uncle Orion has been trying to initiate Sirius no matter the cost. He's failing by the way. The bloody ponce doesn't care about anything other than himself."

Remus was absorbed in thoughts of intrigues and possible motives. "Back up a second there, girl," he demanded, turning to face her, "Fenrir worked for the Death Eaters. He was responsible for those attacks eleven years ago."

Tonks gave him a wry look; one that stated clearly that she thought he was being rather thick. "Everybody knows that Uncle Orion has contacts in the Death Eaters. He was loaned Greyback for something he needed to get done." She hesitated, shifting uncomfortably. "He was supposed to get rid of you and the people of Hog's Lane Police Unit."

"Why?"

Tonks shrugged again, taking a sip of her cocktail. "That they didn't say, but I can guess—I mean, you lads have been getting in the way of Uncle's plans more often than not, usually. Especially you, Remus. I guess he was tired of that, and it happened that Riddle wanted the same thing."

"But that surveillance job doesn't have anything to do with us, right?" he demanded urgently. If Fenrir had been watching him, the big-shot probably knew about Sirius, which would mean that his handsome lover could be in trouble. That was when something in his brain flared up and Tonks' earlier words sunk in. "You mentioned a Sirius?"

"Yeah, my cousin . . ." she interrupted herself. "Remus, what about the surveillance job? I don't think the person Greyback was watching had anything to do with you lads, but I can't know for sure. You don't reckon you're in danger, right? I mean—"

"Hello there, darling." At the familiar greeting, Remus looked up to see his Sirius, generous lover and breathtaking hunk, standing behind Tonks, flashing him with his dashing smile. Remus sat there, mesmerized for a moment. Then, he cleared his throat forcefully to get a hold of himself.

However, Tonks decided that their conversation was more important than his lover, because she threw her head back and spat, "Sod off, pansy!"

Remus saw the man blink in astonishment. "Dora?" Remus felt like he had been hit with something heavy. He should've known; Sirius wasn't such a common name, was it? And the Blacks were famous for naming their children after stars. While Remus argued with himself, Tonks turned around to face Sirius and blanched. "What are you doing here?" Sirius asked. Then he seemed to remember Remus' presence, and his frown deepened. "You're with Remus?"

Tonks wrung her hands nervously. "Sirius," she breathed. Remus felt as taken aback as she appeared to be, but he touched her arm giving her support, and she visibly relaxed. Sirius seemed even more confused. "Remus is just a friend," she added.

"I thought this was a men's bar," Sirius commented with feigned lightness, while taking a seat next to hers. Upon seeing that Sirius didn't seem to have heard their conversation, or care about the supposedly interrupted rendez-vous, Tonks relaxed and returned to her usual cheerful self. She ordered a drink for Sirius, who returned her grin. "Could it be that you're here to hide from my father? Who's the lucky guy?"

Tonks blushed lightly, but didn't let her embarrassment show otherwise. "Not at all," she replied airily. "Remus here is as bent as you!"

"She's dating my partner," Remus intervened, willing Tonks to play along. "I'm here playing matchmaker. As he's an officer and Tonks here is—" Remus stopped abruptly. Sirius also belonged to the Family, and no matter how intimate they had got during the past few weeks, Sirius had lied, even if only by omission. Maybe it was just something that Sirius didn't like to advertise.

"That's okay, Dora. You know I won't say a thing," Sirius said, giving Tonks a reassuring smile. Tonks' face stated well enough that she didn't believe that, but apparently she was willing to give him a chance. "Now, you've been rude, but I tell you that you don't need to introduce us, baby cousin. We've become acquainted recently."

The young woman sighed dejectedly. "Of course," she said and turned to Remus with an apologetic grimace, "it would be expecting too much that one gay man in this town hadn't been in your bed."

"Actually, it was his bed," Sirius corrected shamelessly.

Tonks seemed surprised; she turned towards Remus. "You took him home?" Remus nodded. "Have you told him who you are?" Remus shrugged. Tonks rolled her eyes. "No, of course not. Well, dear cousin, this is Remus Lupin. He's a detective for the Police Unit—"

"I know who he is," Sirius interrupted abruptly, leaning over Tonks to have a better look at Remus, "I suppose this is when I tell you that my name is Sirius Black." Remus' felt a flash of understanding; Sirius Black was Orion Black's eldest son, and therefore his heir. Sirius seemed to notice this, because he became suddenly subdued. "Yeah, that's me," he confirmed as if he had read Remus' thoughts, rubbing the back of his neck with embarrassment. "And I suppose that this is where you tell me to bugger off."

Remus stared hard at Sirius. He should have remembered that the Phoenix's Flight was placed in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the city. It was for that reason that Remus had been assigned to the Hog's Lane police station.

"You could of course believe me when I tell you that I'm nothing like my family," Sirius was saying, "I'd hoped that my overwhelming charms could convince you to look past certain appearances."

Tonks rolled her eyes. "Okay, lads, that's my cue to go home," she said, and slid off her seat, bumping on the counter and sending both of the men's drinks flying. Aberforth glared at her and began cleaning the spilled drinks begrudgingly.

Not wanting to deal with Sirius at the moment, Remus looked up at her. "Do you want me to take you home?"

Sirius and Tonks exchanged glances. "She can walk home from here and nobody would dare to touch even a hair on her head," Sirius explained matter-of-factly. Both Sirius and Tonks seemed embarrassed, and Remus decided to drop the subject.

"Yeah, don't worry about it," Tonks said. "I'll be damned if I'm going to walk three blocks, though. I'll ask Aberforth to call me a taxi." The bartender seemed torn between telling the young woman to bugger off and wanting her clumsiness out of his pub. In the end, self-preservation won and he picked up the telephone. "Remus?" Her voice carried a warning and a plea, as her eyes shifted towards Sirius. "Let's talk in a few days, 'k?" Remus nodded, and she left, looking unhappy about leaving her friend with her dangerous cousin.

As soon as his cousin was out of earshot, Sirius cleared his throat, looking sideways at Remus. "It's not something I go announcing at the top of my lungs," he began reluctantly. "That I'm the son of the big-shot, that is," he added at Remus' questioning glance. "Since I'm a disappointment for him in every way, there's not a person in this town that enjoys the sight of me."

"You still belong to the family," Remus pointed out, playing with the ashtray and his cigarette.

"It's not as if I could leave them." Sirius shrugged. "Why should I try, anyway?"

Remus tensed. "You're an accomplice to every crime the Blacks have committed. You hide their cruelty when you have access to proof we could use." Sirius looked down. "They keep hurting people and you protect them because you're comfortable. That's rather cowardly of you." With that, Remus got up and walked out. He hadn't even raised his voice, but he guessed his words had affected Sirius more than he expected, seeing as his lover had followed him out, without even giving him the chance to leave the pub.

Sirius caught up with him in the foyer and, fearing Malfoy and Lestrange's watch, Remus pushed him into the men's bathroom. Getting a hold of Remus' shoulders, Sirius said urgently, "I'll leave the family, if that's what it takes." Remus stared for a while longer than necessary. It seemed that despite being spoilt and sometimes selfish, Sirius still had the courage to stand by his loved ones and by the things he wanted. "I'll find a way to—."

Sirius' stopped suddenly, as realisation dawned on his face. "Is that what Dora wants? To leave?" he asked. They stared at each other for a moment but, before Remus could say anything, Sirius stole his breath with a passionate, desperate kiss and left, decidedly, without looking back. After a moment, Remus followed him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two men following him home.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

The following night, Remus went to the Phoenix's Flight with Severus, hoping to meet Sirius there, but the man didn't show up. "Is this when you tell me why you have dragged me to this drafty establishment on a weeknight, Lupin?" Severus asked eventually, cleaning the rim of his glass with his handkerchief, before downing his drink, all the while with Aberforth giving him the evil eye.

Remus didn't answer at first. "I wanted to meet someone." He knew that Severus wouldn't breathe a word if he didn't want to.

"Let's just hope it's not Mister Sirius Black?" Remus froze. "Your friendship with the Black heir is a widely known fact among the Death Eaters, my friend. Fenrir was to keep an eye on Sirius Black these last few weeks, since the death of Pettigrew. It seems that Mister Black is getting rather frisky for the big-shot." Severus downed his second shot.

"Have you told Dumbledore?" Remus demanded, getting a hold of Severus' arm.

"No." He paused. "But I have to soon enough. It's better if you tell him about it first." Remus didn't know how to thank him. "You're welcome, Lupin. I rarely forget what I owe, and I owe you my life." Severus had been another of the children Fenrir was raising to work for the Death Eaters.

They had hardly been friends when they were young, but adversity tended to bring people together. People like Severus needed to have something more substantial than mere friendship on which to base a relationship, so Remus accepted his views about debts and repayment, knowing that it meant a lot for both of them that they weren't alone in their despair and disbelief in themselves.

Suddenly, something occurred to Remus, and it left him feeling dreadfully cold. "The big-shot knows about Sirius and I, doesn't he?" Remus asked, but he really didn't need an answer. "My god, that's why he was so determined to attack the station; he wants me dead."

"No, no, no, Lupin," Severus corrected, looking positively exasperated. "Have you not been listening? He wanted you dead long before you deflowered his son. Although how he thinks you're the one that corrupted Black Number Two is beyond me . . . But I doubt he's happy about the whole situation, either way. Of course, Riddle is thriving on his humiliation and has been practically enticing him to finish all of us off. The only issue they have is that they lost their hitman. Good riddance, I'd say."

If that was supposed to set Remus at ease, it failed squarely. Surely the P.I work Tonks had mentioned was the one Severus had just talked about – following Sirius. Remus froze, his drink lifted halfway towards his lips. It couldn't be—? Sirius had a motive, though. And Remus had thought often enough about how Sirius would do anything to protect his loved ones – maybe he counted Remus among those? He took a shuddering breath.

Severus left later with some boy, leaving Remus feeling unsettled, unable to do anything about it and without supervision to prevent him from doing stupid things – like marching to the big-shot's house, searching for Sirius.

Remus was getting seriously upset with the whole situation. He was rash and impulsive, he knew as much, and he had never had issues defying Orion Black. After so many cases that led Remus back to the man, they were almost old acquaintances. Since meeting Sirius, though, things had changed. He had something to lose now, and he'd be damned if he let that happen.

Without much choice, Remus went home early that day.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

But by the following day, Remus was extremely pissed off and had already conjured several scenarios as to why Sirius had left like that two days before – and had made him worry too, no matter what he told himself. He was lost in his thoughts, taking annoyed drags at his cigarette, when James and Frank entered the locker-room, complaining about Remus' smoking habits.

"I have information to share," Remus interrupted them, shedding his trench-coat and hat and hanging them in his locker. He closed it without looking at himself in the inside mirror. "About Greyback's case."

Frank stopped. "You haven't done anything stupid, have you?"

James elbowed him harshly. "Of course not, moron!" He turned to Remus. "We have some things to share, too. What have you found out?"

Remus bit the inside of his cheek hesitantly. Then he decided to be honest. "I have inside information. Orion's niece came to me . . ." he began. James sighed resignedly, seeing the whole lot of trouble he was about to be implicated in. "She's a good girl, and she wants out. I'm going to help her. Against my better judgement," he added as an afterthought.

"It complicates matters if someone's turning on them," Frank mused. "We'd better talk to Dumbledore about this, Remus." Remus nodded. "I think he's in his office."

"He's always in his office," James commented, as the three of them made their way through the halls. He knocked on Dumbledore's door. "Lily says he lives here." Frank laughed and Remus chuckled, but just he was about to reply, Dumbledore invited them in. "Hello, Albus. We need to speak to you about something," he told the Superintendent, holding the door for the other two.

As soon as Dumbledore saw who it was, he lost his jolly demeanour and asked in all seriousness, "Has something happened?"

James rolled his eyes. "Yes, Albus, but I promise it wasn't Remus going feral and killing everyone in the station." Dumbledore gave him a reproachful stare, but visibly relaxed. "Remus has a tip on Greyback's case. A Black girl—" He interrupted himself, turning to Remus. "It's best if you take it from here, right, mate?" They shared a smile.

Remus looked at Dumbledore. "Andromeda Tonks' daughter told me last night that Fenrir was working for the big-shot, with orders from Riddle. Some stakeout, she said." Against his better judgement, he decided not to mention his newest conclusions; he wouldn't betray Sirius' trust before talking with him. "If he messed up, neither Orion nor Riddle would be forgiving."

Dumbledore nodded, but addressed the most important thing before they got overly immersed in the discussion. "Is it necessary to protect the girl?"

"I don't think so. Nobody knows that we're friends . . ." Remus hesitated. Sirius certainly suspected it, which could be dangerous if he was the—'no,' Remus told himself; he wouldn't think like that. He didn't think Sirius would betray them, but making those kind of assumptions could get you killed in a neighbourhood like theirs.

"Remus?" Dumbledore prompted knowingly.

"It's nothing important, Albus." He turned towards the other two. "What do you have so far?" As usual, Dumbledore didn't try to stop him from interfering with somebody else's case. It was sort of Remus' prerogative; if he could help in any way, he most certainly would, whether it was his assignment or not. This time, however, he knew he was more desperate, because for him this case was personal.

"Well, Greyback had no family, so nobody could help us on that front," Frank began, "but Alice spoke with his bank manager regarding his personal account. It seems he received an inordinate amount of money recently from two separate accounts. They're anonymous and untraceable."

James proceeded, "They were created using a system that is very characteristic. She says it's safe to assume both accounts were created by, or for, the same person. The bank manager refused to betray his customer's confidentiality, but thanks to Remus' friend, we already know that one of them belongs to Orion Black."

"I think that whatever got Greyback killed had something to do with his mission. I mean, law abiding citizens don't tend to turn up dead for no reason," Frank continued. "The other person must be someone from his household; Orion Black practically confirmed this for us. The problem is that he doesn't know who is double-crossing him. If he finds out before we do, we'll never close the case."

Remus hoped his face wasn't showing his inner turmoil. Sirius' bank account had certainly been opened by his father at some point, making him an even more suitable suspect due to the circumstantial evidence.

"Lucky for us, the surveillance team we planted outside Greyback's house told us that someone tried to break in two nights ago. The neighbours' testimony happens to be consistent with the things we know about the man's—"

"What?" Remus interrupted harshly. "What testimonies?"

"When we questioned his neighbours after the break-in, an old man told us that he saw Sirius Black in the vicinity," James explained. Remus blanched, unsure. "The lad was obviously pissed, so we thought he was leading us on. He might have been telling the truth."

"It's time to bring Mr. Black in for questioning," Dumbledore told them. "Have the uniforms bring him in. I want regular updates on this case, if you please—Remus?" Dumbledore asked when Remus opened his mouth, and then closed it as an afterthought.

"I've been seeing Sirius Black," Remus told them quietly. "I don't think he's guilty." No matter what, he couldn't bring himself to give them all the proof he had against Sirius. Unexpectedly, the last thing in Remus' mind was giving the benefit of the doubt, or even some ruse to catch Sirius off guard; plainly speaking, Remus just didn't want Sirius to be hanged for murder. It wasn't an objective thought, or morally acceptable – especially for himself – but such things didn't matter when you were in love.

The Superintendent's eyes steeled. "You're hardly objective in this matter," Dumbledore informed him firmly, taking the new information in his stride. "I want you off the case. Go home, go and see the Chudley Canons game, it doesn't matter. But be careful. I know Severus told you that you may be in danger, but I'm sure you know that better than any of us." Remus' breath hitched at the innuendo, and he hoped Dumbledore didn't suspect anything else. The Superintendent turned towards James. "Make sure he goes home at the end of the day. And have Kingsley and Vance guarding him."

Remus opened his mouth to protest, but Dumbledore just held up his hand. They all recognised the dismissal, and left the office. Remus sat at his desk, taking a bite of his morning snack, while lighting up a cigarette. He couldn't help the pall of doubt that had settled on his mind. Even considering the little he knew about Sirius, it was obvious that the man was impulsive enough to do something stupid if he thought he was protecting Remus.

Remus spent the day solving minor crimes of self-defence and accidents, just as important as the others, sure, but easier to close. Just before lunch, things took a turn for the worse. All of sudden, several uniformed officers started to move hurriedly and swiftly, checked their guns and left the station, for what was obviously going to be a bloody arrest.

Then, a few hours later, they all returned dismayed, most of them tired and some upset. Remus noticed Frank among them. His heart skipped a beat. "James! What happened?" he whispered, dragging his friend to the side.

James sighed defeatedly. "Sirius Black escaped from our questioning rooms. I have no idea how he did it." He rolled his shoulders to ease the tension. "We got into his house and found some of Greyback's surveillance files. It was about Sirius. Apparently, the big-shot is upset that his son is a shirt-lifter—no offense, mate. Sirius was probably paying Greyback to keep quiet."

For a moment, Remus wondered why James was calling Sirius by his given name, but Frank joined them, then. "We don't know if it was the son that felt threatened, or if the father found out about the scheme," Frank put in. "Nobody in that friggin' house knows anything by the looks of it—we met your bonny lass, by the way. Very cute, but kind of a tomboy, isn't she? And here I thought you were a pansy, lad."

Remus gave him a dry look. "I am," he assured the other. "She's the daughter of the victim in one of my first cases. A child at the time. We kept in touch." Frank didn't seem to believe him, but didn't push the matter. "I'm going to call her." He paused, thoughtfully. "From the payphone down the street," he added.

James nodded. "We'll go with you and then we can grab some lunch. I'm starving."

Remus cleared up his desk. "Sure. Let me just get my things and warn Severus."

James grimaced. "Is he coming? Why?" he asked as he followed Remus into the locker-room.

Frank and Remus rolled their eyes. "Because I had plans with him, first," Remus replied tersely.

That was when James stopped in his tracks. "You're not seeing him, are you, Moony? Not Snivellus. Any bloke but him, please."

After a while, they exited the station with Severus' promise to meet then at the Chinese restaurant. Frank pushed the outer door open. "I suppose you'd rather have me dating a dangerous criminal," said Remus, continuing their earlier conversation. Remus was the first to cross the threshold. "It's time you let go of that stupid schoolboy grud—ugh!"

The Ma Deuce sounded loud in the street, and suddenly Remus felt cold spread through his chest. Looking down, he saw several holes in his abdomen bleeding profusely. James and Frank drew their weapons and aimed them in the direction of the shots, but as fast as they were, the shooter had already made his getaway. Someone was shouting someone was touching him; he stopped caring, stopped feeling and the world faded into blackness.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

Remus limped out of the cargo elevator, into his loft. James had wanted to come in, but Remus had insisted on being alone. Everything hurt, and reinforced his opinion that being shot was his least favourite thing in the world. Right next to the Chudley Canons rugby team. He was also very sure that he shouldn't have had so many analgesics, because he knew that Sirius Black wasn't supposed to be pacing back and forth in his living room.

Sirius stared at him for a moment, before crossing the room in large strides. "Thank God you're okay. Here—better sit down." He guided Remus towards the sofa. "Can I do anything for you?"

"You could get out of my house," Remus gritted out, but accepted the help to sit down. "Or kill me for once, if that's what you're here for."

Sirius froze; then he drew back. "It wasn't me," he said. "I didn't do anything. I wasn't supposed to be implicated, I'm sure." Remus snorted. "But suddenly the police were after me and then Greyback's pack was after me, too. I fled." Sirius searched Remus' eyes. "Listen, I returned to Grimmauld Place the night before last." Sirius hesitated. "I broke into my father's office; I was so sure I knew what had happened."

"Explain, then," Remus suggested. Sirius looked away and shook his head. "Why are you here, then?"

"I know who did it," Sirius said regretfully. At Remus inquisitive look, he continued, "You know Peter Pettigrew?" Remus nodded. Everyone knew Peter Pettigrew; he was the dirtiest copper on the force, who had been forced to quit and seek the big-shot's protection when the evidence against him started to accumulate.

"He almost got my godson killed, so I delivered the evidence against him. My father began to suspect." Sirius looked at Remus again. "The Secret Service found out, and they have been asking me to spy for them for a while now. My father has been known to associate with Death Eaters." Remus waited for him to continue. "My father got suspicious. Dora didn't know this when she started to snoop around; she started hearing things and my father decided that she was a threat as well. Greyback was supposed to eliminate both of us."

A smirk lightened his lips. "I think you were a target way before either of us, by the way. Funny thing you only got caught when I entered the picture." He sobered. "Greyback was allowed to help my father out, while they worked together to eliminate you and your friends. But, he found out I was seeing you, and things got a bit complicated. They didn't know what I had told you, so they had to watch us for a while."

"Yeah, I kind of knew that already," Remus mused. "A great friend of mine works undercover with the Death Eaters."

Sirius smiled at the implicit trust in that revelation, and encircled Remus' shoulders with his arm, pulling closer. He hesitated. "That night, I realised something. Why only my files were to be delivered to my father? Why did Lucius and Rudolphus only begin following you recently, when you and Tonks have been friends since she was eight? Then, I heard my father talking about how someone had been paying Greyback to keep silent. He thought it was me. But—well—I know it wasn't me."

Remus' jaw tightened. "Andromeda Tonks?" Sirius nodded grimly.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

The following morning, the telephone rang and woke up the two occupants of the bed, who were lying entwined in each other's arms. "It was my m-mother," Tonks cried on the phone, as soon as Remus picked up the phone. "She—she did it to protect me from Uncle."

Remus didn't need to hear anymore. "I know, Tonks," he soothed gently. "Come to my house. Sirius is here, too."

"I c-can't," Tonks sobbed. "Mum ran away. Uncle is coming after me, now. Sirius, too."

"Listen to me, Tonks," Remus demanded firmly. "He won't. I promise you that. Both to you and your cousin." He paused to see if she was listening. There was silence on the other end, so he assumed that she was. "Where are you? I'll send Sirius pick you up."

"In my dad's flat," she replied, seemingly more controlled. "I was packing. I'll wait for him. Tell Sirius to say 'Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow' at the door when he comes get me."

Remus rolled his eyes, turning to let Sirius see his expression. "Of course. How else would you know that it was him?" Tonks didn't get the sarcasm. Hanging up the telephone with a jingle, Remus looked up to see Sirius starting to get dressed and, as soon as he was ready, he left the loft with a parting kiss and Remus' gun.

Remus decided to return to bed, especially because he was starting to get lightheaded with the painkillers he was taking. He had fallen into a light sleep, waiting for Sirius to return with Tonks, when the distinct sound of the lock being picked snapped him awake. Immediately, he shot from the bed, as painlessly as he could, and searched for his small revolver in the bedside drawer.

A tall, willowy woman appeared in front of him, before he had even time to draw his weapon. Her eyes seemed to be plagued by immense suffering. "Hello, Mister Lupin," Andromeda Tonks began, and Remus saw she was holding a handgun. She noticed what had got his attention. "Oh don't worry about it, please," Andromeda said, mildly. "I have no intention of hurting you. I'd just rather you didn't attack me, you see?"

"Why are you here, Mrs Tonks?" Remus bit out, sitting down on the bed, unable to keep standing. Andromeda was at his side in a second, helping him out. Even threatened, he had to appreciate her help. Besides, he hardly thought he was in any danger – or even if he was – he forced himself to lie back as nonchalantly as he could.

She straightened up. "I know it's rather cowardly of me to accost an injured man, but I need a word with you." Remus lifted his eyebrows in enquiry. Andromeda cleared her throat. "I have several documents that could make a case against the big-shot. I stole them."

"Do you want to cooperate with the police?" he asked. "In exchange for immunity on Fenrir's murder?" His tone was mild, but that last bit was all but sneered; he felt contempt well up inside him, thinking she was trying to evade her punishment.

Andromeda gave him a haughty look. "Of course not, Mister Lupin. Who do you take me for? I stand by my actions," she threw at him. Then she sobered and sent him a compassionate glance. "I know you plan on going against my uncle for the sake of my daughter and my cousin. You seem to care a lot about them."

"I do care about them, but I wouldn't go against my own ideals for them," Remus replied, although he was not sure anymore; after all, he hadn't called the police about Sirius Black yet, and the man had slept in his bed, trusting and vulnerable.

Andromeda's smile was bittersweet and full of compassion. "What you mean is that you wouldn't break the law for them, my dear. I wonder why you have made society's restrictions your own ideals. I suppose you fear your own justice." He narrowed his eyes at the cheap shot. "You know, the one that enabled you to kill half of Fenrir's pack when you were only a child . . ." Remus breathed in deeply. "There are exceptions for every rule, my dear, thus why we have a justice system that isn't dependent on any one individual—"

"Is there a point?" Remus interrupted, not enjoying the mockery of a lecture from someone with such a lack of moral objectivity.

"Yes, of course, darling," Andromeda said. "I'm here to give you the documents I stole and exchange them for Sirius and Dora's safety. Do you think you love them enough to help the man in you win over the self-righteous creature Fenrir's actions made of you?"

Remus didn't reply, and Andromeda sighed. "You are like me, darling: like the Blacks used to be before Orion and Lucretia. We are dark creatures, who follow instinct and have a rather monochrome set of morals. You should accept yourself and follow your ideals. Word is that when you are cornered, that's what you do. Else, you wouldn't be able to stand against my uncle and my mother."

Remus refused to answer, but stored the information for later analysis. Maybe with Severus, who would certainly understand. "What about you?" he asked Andromeda.

Andromeda shrugged elegantly. "My daughter and Sirius are trapped in Grimmauld Place. Orion is trying to gather information from them. They aren't in imminent danger. Maybe in pain, but—" She shrugged again. "I'll have a copy of these delivered to the station if the three of you don't return by this evening."

Remus didn't need to be told twice. As soon as he heard the status of Sirius and Tonks, he dressed himself as neatly as he could considering his injuries and left the loft, heading towards Grimmauld Place, number 12. The butler opened the door. "I demand to see Mister Orion Black," Remus insisted. "He'll want to see me, I assure you. Tell him it's Remus Lupin with important information."

The butler left to do as he was told, and returned moments later to escort Remus towards Orion's study. "Master Black insists on seeing you immediately, sir. This way, please."

"Mister Lupin, what can I do for you?" Orion asked, his pleasant words at odds with the tone in which he delivered them. "Could it be that this is about my ridiculously disappointing son and my wayward niece?"

Remus threw the files Andromeda had given him onto the table. Orion browsed through them, finally signalling the two men Remus recognised as Lucius Malfoy and Rudolphus Lestrange and as his stalkers. They moved behind Remus and Lestrange pointed a gun at his back. "What's this, Mister Lupin? Do you think you can blackmail the big-shot?" Orion spat, rising up to his full height.

Remus wasn't shaken. "I do, Mister Black," he replied mildly. "And you must think me really stupid if you think I have come here with that," he pointed at the files, "being the only copy of the evidence I have against you. Which it isn't, by the way."

Orion's grimace could have sent a lesser man into a fit of panic, but Remus, now the Wolf, wasn't easily frightened. "What do you want?" the big-shot bit out.

Remus gave him a levelled look. "The safety of Sirius and Tonks."

Orion seemed to be considering it. "And Andy?" Remus just shook his head. Orion understood. "Very well. She must have her own plans, either way. She won't be easy to catch." His attention turned towards Remus again. "I give you my word that my men and I won't harm Sirius Black and Nymphadora Tonks in any way." Remus nodded. "The copy?"

Remus smiled his ruthless smile. "I'll consider it my guarantee, Mister Black. And I'll give you my word that it won't come to light unless something happens."

Orion nodded. "I accept those terms. I'll have Rabastan and Regulus take Sirius and Dora to your house." He nodded at Rudolphus. "I expect they should be there when you arrive. Now, let's have a drink. I promise it isn't poisoned." Remus took the tumbler of scotch, as Orion grinned at him. "You know that any Black's spouse is welcome in the Organisation. Perhaps you would consider—"

"No," Remus replied firmly.

Orion sighed. "It's a pity. My son is such a nuisance that I at least hoped he would bring a decent man into our household. Apparently, he's not even worth that."

Remus' smile vanished. "Sirius knows how to pick them," he replied.

Orion gave him an assessing look and nodded. "I'll look forward to meeting you again, Mister Lupin. Maybe we'll settle the score, then." Remus doubted it, but didn't reply, as he got up and left number 12.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

Remus and Sirius met the Potters and Severus a week later at the Phoenix's Flight for a mock celebration of the end of the case, which, unofficial though it was, was closed. Tonks was at the cinema with Bill, rather enjoying their outing after the numerous minutes Sirius questioned the young redheaded detective about his intentions regarding his cousin; knowing the Weasleys, it was probably marriage and breeding.

"I can't believe you've been dating my son's godfather, and didn't say a word," James protested to Remus, as he took his seat at one of the more private tables of the pub. He sat as far away as he could from Severus, beside Sirius, nudging him with his elbow, as Lily rolled her eyes at her husband's childishness. Lily turned towards Severus to continue their conversation, waggling her eyebrows as she told him something Remus couldn't quite hear.

Severus' voice was tight as he answered her clearly, throwing her an unreadable look. "That suggestive tone is unbecoming of you, my dear. And my liaisons are none of your business."

Lily shrugged carelessly. "As you will," she conceded, "but we will be talking about this François Delacour soon, I tell you." She turned towards Remus, who concealed his smirk quickly. He happened to know who François was: Severus' pretty boyfriend. "I'm told that Hog's Lane has been pretty quiet lately. The Prophet is going crazy and my editor has decided that I'm his godsent reporter on the case. Anything to share, honey?"

"Lily," James admonished, causing everyone at the table to raise their eyebrows in surprise. All except Severus, who just snorted.

"I won't report Andromeda's story, of course, darling, but . . ." She hesitated. "This feels like the calm before the storm. And now, with Riddle near-by . . . I don't like it." She turned to Sirius. "Narcissa Malfoy came to see me last week, just after everything went pear-shaped. She wants us," she gestured between James and herself, "to take custody of Draco if anything happens. I don't like the way things seem to be heading."

Remus patted her hand on the table. "Don't worry, Lily. Hog's Lane Police Department has stopped Riddle every time he works something up. One of these days, we'll catch him."

They exchanged sympathetic glances among themselves. "Let's just hope nobody gets hurt in the process," Lily said anxiously. The men nodded, sure that they would do everything to make sure Lily's fears didn't become true.

~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~SB*RL~~

"Sirius!" Remus shouted, coming thickly on their chests, closing his thighs around Sirius' hips and curling his arms around Sirius' shoulders, pulling him against him more firmly. They stayed like that, embracing each other for a moment, as they rode the last waves of pleasure.

Finally, Sirius pushed himself off Remus with a groan. "Gods, man! Three weeks without any and you turn into a leech." Tiredly, he rolled onto his back, and reached for his cigarettes on the bedside table. He lit one, took a drag and handed it over to Remus, as had become their habit. "You okay?" Sirius asked when Remus winced while sitting up.

Remus spared him a blissfully content smile. "Oh, yes!" He took a drag, and exhaled towards the side. "When you put your back into it, you are wonderful."

Sirius took the bait and, taking the cigarette from Remus' hands, he rolled them until he was hovering over Remus. "Only when I put my back into it, darling, is it?"

He leaned forward, sucking leisurely on Remus' neck, eliciting a groan from his lover. He proceeded with his oral exploration and the still-sensitive Remus could do no more than lay back and let himself be thoroughly ravished. When Sirius pushed into him again, Remus cried out. They moved together, this time much more slowly and gently, sharing soft groans and kind nuzzling.

"Okay, you're pretty much wonderful the rest of the time, as well," Remus said, breathlessly, holding onto Sirius tightly, moving with him.

Sirius spoke quietly, "Does that mean you'll let me move in?" Remus groaned in exasperation – and pleasure – and Sirius chuckled roughly. "Come on, darling. I already sleep here every night. Dora and that redheaded boyfriend of hers need their space."

Remus gave him a wry look, willing him to drop the selfless act. Then he lied. "You have to find a job first."


THE END