Title: In the face of duty (The Good Morrow to Our Waking Souls Remix)
Summary: Regency magical AU. Wizard Sirius Black has a proposition for Remus Lupin.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 5,500~
Contains: Implied sexual encounters, frilly shirts, Malfoy peacock, mentions of Tonks/Vance, anachronisms galore!
Title, Creator and URL of original work: Good Morrow to Our Waking Souls by toujours_nigel, .
Author's Notes: Remus mentions an improvement of relations between wizards and Muggles during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In the real world, witchcraft was declared a felony during King Henry VIII's reign, with the Witchcraft Act of 1541 defining witchcraft a crime punishable by death. The Witchcraft Act of 1562, passed in Queen Elizabeth I's reign, demanded death penalty only if the witchcraft performed was evil and harmful in nature. Lesser forms of witchcraft were punishable by imprisonment. Jane Rebecca Yorke is the last person to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act in 1944.

I hope I haven't pissed all over toujours_nigel 's fic in writing this. 888worried888

888

Remus was eating his third triangle of toast when the summons arrived. Of course, it was the same as the rest of the invitations sent out to other guests one week before, the same envelope bearing the Black family crest and the same heavy parchment with the familiar watermark: Toujours Pur. Remus fought to keep his neutral expression as he scanned the contents of the missive, 'The Wizard Sirius Orion Black requests your presence...' Obviously written by his secretary, Remus decided, before putting it aside.

'You could have sent it one week ago, with the rest of the invitations,' he said to no one in particular. But there was another note tucked in the envelope, written on cheaper parchment in a copperplate hand that still managed to look frivolous with its extravagant loops and sharp angles, 'And give you enough time to arrange another engagement for tonight? Don't be daft, Lupin. The chaise will fetch you a half hour before the appointed time. Until then I remain yours, S Black.'

The additional note and the promised chaise belied the formal words of the invitation and suggested the summons that it was. Remus finally allowed the corners of his lips to lower in a slight grimace.

'He's not taking any chances, is he?' he said.

'Begging your pardon, sir,' Black's footman sketched a slight bow, deep enough to give respect but still managing to remind Remus that the respect was given under sufferance. This amused Remus and he took note of it to tell Black later. It seemed that the Wizard's servants were as proud as the man himself. 'The Wizard gave orders to assist you bodily out of premises should you prove reluctant to attend tonight's party.'

'I don't see how my presence will help the festivities any,' said Remus.

'I reckon he'd disagree, sir,' said the footman.

Remus was vaguely aware that some liberties have been taken with that remark, but let it pass. He was used to being treated with baffled tolerance by the servants of his patrons; an unknown entity. He styled himself as a gentleman because that was what his profession required of him. Members of the gentry and even some of the other wizards themselves would hardly leave the education of their children in the hands of anyone less than a gentleman. Dumbledore's patronage likewise served to ensure that Remus had his pick of the brightest young minds of the gentry to instruct with regards to wizardry if such knowledge was desired.

The war against the French certainly flamed much interest in the arts of the wizards, the Regent himself was known to say that the war would have been lost already if not for the cunning and skills of the Order of the Phoenix. The members of said Order were known to be the best from Hogwarts, trained by Albus Dumbledore himself, and once Remus himself belonged to their ranks. A careless remark and a secret whispered to the wrong ears had cut his career as a wizard short, but at least he had this job, which was lucrative if unremarkable. He knew he should be grateful for any and every blessing, considering his shaky standing with the gentry and the wizards.

'Sir?'

Remus realised that he had been silent for too long, following his own train of thought while Black's footman remained standing close to his chair, waiting for his response.

'Tell him there's no need for "bodily assistance",' he said, with a small smile. 'But the chaise will certainly be welcome.'

'Very good, sir.' Another slight bow and the servant showed himself off. Remus waited until he heard the front door close behind the footman before looking at Black's note again.

Ruined career or not, he knew he should be glad he wasn't keeping dementors company in Azkaban at present. And he was well aware that he owed his freedom as much to Black's influence in the Ministry as Dumbledore's support. It would hardly be polite to refuse Black's invitation now, although Remus hasn't seen his childhood friend since the Wizengamot voted in Remus's favour so many years past, allowing him to keep his life and his freedom in exchange with his status as a wizard. Remus had spent a couple of years in Scotland until the scandal died down, going back to London with little hope for any sort of occupation until Dumbledore came up with the idea of teaching children from well-off families about a discipline Remus can hardly expect them to understand, let alone fully appreciate.

It was hardly the life he had expected to live, as a youth and one of Dumbledore's most promising, but it was certainly more than he could hope for, considering his circumstances. Considering what I am, Remus amended. 'But what future was it that you were looking forward to, Remus?' he asked himself softly, pouring himself some chocolate. 'You who only feel most comfortable with your books and mouldy old scrolls. Best leave heroic deeds to blokes like Sirius and swoon appreciatively with the rest of the ladies. He'd like that.'

888

Black's chaise arrived on time; a promptness that Remus unfortunately can't remember its owner sharing. Remus fought back a grin as the footman bowed him into the carriage, making sure instead that no crease or fleck of dust marred his attire for the occasion. His clothes were hardly the height of fashion, but they were simple and serviceable as befits Remus's position as a tutor. He could certainly afford a more stylish wardrobe, but Remus hardly thought it wise to appear like he was trying too hard to appear a gentleman of means. On the other hand, it would never do to mingle with the gentry and the wizards in shabby attire. Because of which Remus mastered the art of compromise: he learned early to look opulent enough not to stand out but simple enough to be easily overlooked.

Black put it eloquently in one word as he personally welcomed Remus into his home, 'Safe,' he said, eyeing the economic ruffles on Remus's shirt.

'I reckoned it would hardly do to outshine my host,' said Remus, smiling as his old friend commandeered him across the room to a currently unoccupied alcove.

'You don't give yourself justice, Moony.' The use of his school nickname surprised Remus, not only because of the easy intimacy of Black's manner but also because of the butterflies of pleasure it caused in the regions of his stomach. 'Although I can't say black is really your colour. You should wear green more. You should always wear green.'

'I don't think you invited me here merely to impart sartorial advice, Sirius,' said Remus.

'No, no,' Black agreed. His eyes met Remus's briefly before he focused his attention on the other guests milling about the drawing-room, all of them for the moment unaware that their host had vanished from their midst to have a private talk with his friend of unsure social standing. 'We will talk more privately later,' he smiled at Remus's raised eyebrow, 'in my study, where we will not be interrupted. As soon as my obligations let me, that is.'

'This is a serious matter we are going to discuss,' said Remus, allowing the faintest note of worry in his voice to suggest that it was an inquiry rather than a statement.

'Later,' said Black, whose attention had shifted towards the door at the arrival of a tall, black-clad woman. 'Merlin, I never thought that she would come, not after Regulus-!' Black's voice trailed off and he made a weak fluttering motion with one hand.

'Is that Emmeline Vance?' asked Remus. He remembered her vaguely from his days at Hogwarts, although she was several years below his form.

'Lady Denville, now that she's married the lord,' Black corrected him. 'Not the best match made this year, although from their decidedly vocal censures it's hard to know which side is more outraged: the ton or the wizards.'

'Is there some reason why her presence is so unexpected?' said Remus, curiously. It was only in Grimmauld Place, the ancestral home of the Black family, that members of the ton and wizards alike mingle with any kind of civility and pleasure. While they were not exactly of the royal line, the family was old, moneyed, and most importantly, powerful enough to warrant respect not only from other wizards but also the peerage, who knew where to curry favour when it was needed.

Black smiled. 'Emmeline had been enjoying a liaison with one of the cousins, you see, and Regulus had been incensed enough on their behalf to express his disapproval of the match in Denville's hearing. The lord was all for challenging Regulus to a duel, had his friends not convinced him it would not do to leave his new wife a widow so early in the game.'

'Oh,' said Remus, who did not really know what to say under the circumstances. He almost felt sorry for Black, whom he knew to be more adept at tackling Arithmancy problems than those of tact and hospitality.

'Denville's always been something of a hot-blooded coxcomb,' said Black, dismissively. 'Still, I can hardly fault him for the bloody mess. I'm just glad Regulus is still in Vienna. I have to go, Moony. Don't let Walburga bully you too much.'

Remus didn't bother to answer and, given that Black was already halfway across the drawing-room to meet Lady Denville, it was doubtful his friend would have heard any false assurance Remus can give him. Instead, Remus accepted wine from a passing servant and wondered what he was going to do with himself until their appointed meeting.

888

'Mr Lupin.'

Remus looked up from the copy of John Cleland's Fanny Hill he had found tucked in between volumes on the various theories of Magic. Wandering around the drawing-room with his second glass of wine, he found himself-as with all bookish souls who know instinctively where to go, as though their subconscious naturally seeks out its objects of desire and comfort-standing near a bookcase by one of the tall windows. A desultory perusal of the shelves revealed a book with an unmarked spine that aroused his curiosity, and Remus allowed himself a small smile of amusement as he read the title page, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. He could imagine Black slipping the volume on the shelf with the rest, the familiar mischievous glint in his grey eyes that usually spelled trouble back in their days at Hogwarts.

Remus rose from his chair, not only out of politeness but also because he did not intend for the approaching lady to look down at him from her rather impressive height. 'Wizard.'

'Walburga,' she corrected him with a smile. Black took his looks from his father, but the coldly amused and calculating manner was his mother's own; the expression that looked disconcerting on a man rested easily on the Wizard Walburga Black's face, marking her perfect features with the all too human cast of arrogance. 'It's been too long since I've been in the field, I must say I deserve the title no longer.'

'A blessing for Bonaparte and his men, I must say,' said Remus, 'And England's misfortune.'

'Still the glib tongue,' said Walburga. She made no secret of her feelings for Remus, however complex they were and coloured by consideration for Black's own, and it was that frankness that drew Remus to her despite her bad reputation amongst Black's other friends.

'It's from spending too much time with your son.' Remus smiled, gesturing towards the chair that he had just vacated. 'Will you sit, Walburga?'

'Please don't bother yourself on my account. I was just on my way to speak with Narcissa,' Walburga said, 'When I saw you. He was afraid you wouldn't come.'

'Saying no to Sirius has never been my strong point,' Remus admitted.

'So it would seem,' said Walburga. 'I always maintained his friends spoil him, but you most of all. What has he done to merit such loyalty, Lupin?'

'He has done much,' said Remus, 'And nothing at all. All he needs to do is be himself, Walburga.'

'You should be careful, Lupin.' Walburga laughed, turning away from him and looking at her companion, whom Remus had not noticed before. 'You sound as if you love him.'

'I do,' said Remus, gently. 'I wouldn't be here without him. I owe him my life, Walburga.'

'Are those your only reasons?' said Walburga, raising one eyebrow. 'Pray, don't answer, Lupin, your expression betrays you enough. But I have left Narcissa waiting too long. Perhaps you would like to converse with Wizard Tonks, she certainly knows about love.'

Remus watched Walburga leave before looking at her quiet companion, readying a sympathetic expression for her sake. Walburga's parting remark was obscure, but pointed. Remus reckoned that it was meant to irk Wizard Tonks in some way, but he was not expecting the intensity of the young wizard's reaction to Walburga's words. Tonks's face remained impassive, and while her looks were unremarkable, the sparks of outraged pride in her grey eyes suggested some blood-tie with the Blacks. Certainly, he has seen the same look on Black's face many times, the same stiffness of posture that hinted at anger barely held in check. Remus felt a disconcerting sense of familiarity.

'Wizard-' he began.

'Please do not bother yourself in my behalf,' she said. Her voice was low, coupled with an easy arrogance that was almost masculine.

Remus found himself stifling a smile. 'Au contraire, I was merely going to observe that one would be a sad person indeed, to know nothing of love.'

'Sometimes,' said Tonks, 'I wish I did not.'

'Come now, would you rather be like Walburga?' said Black, from behind Remus. Remus tried not to show his surprise at his friend's sudden appearance, exhibiting the unnatural ability to move so quietly that made Black infamous at Hogwarts and earned him a nickname that was spoken both in a fond and an exasperated manner by his friends. 'Sometimes she makes me think she lives on spite and proper etiquette in the stead of food and drink.'

A shadow of a smile touched the corners of Tonks's mouth. 'Your mother has been very kind,' she said.

Black laughed. 'Really, Nymphadora! Soon you'd be lecturing me about propriety and discretion. Walburga would be so proud, if she didn't know that Lady Denville has been looking for you and even now awaits your presence in the library.'

'Is she?' said Tonks, obviously fighting to keep her expression under control. 'Unfortunately, I have nothing more to say to Lady Denville.'

'It seems as if she has a lot to tell you, however. We'll leave you to ponder on it, Nymphadora,' said Black. 'I need to speak with Remus privately.'

Tonks shrugged, but when she spoke, her tone was fond, 'You mean the dancing has begun and you are desperate for an excuse to be elsewhere.'

'You wound me,' Black said, grinning. 'I'll have you know that Walburga has banned me eternally from all dancing after that incident with Wizard Umbridge.'

'You would have us believe that you're such a well-behaved boy,' said Remus. 'I happen to know that Wizard Umbridge almost drowned in a bowl of punch while dancing with you, Padfoot.'

'It was an accident,' said Black.

Tonks laughed. Humour suited her, Remus thought, her plain face lit by the slightly crooked smile she gave Black before sketching a bow. 'If you'll excuse me, cousin.'

888

'I gather Tonks was the spurned lover whose side Regulus had taken,' said Remus, 'When he insulted Lord Denville?'

Black grinned, taking Remus's arm and directing him across the sitting-room to a small door at the far side. This opened to a series of dimly lit hallways designed especially by Phineas Nigellus, Black's ancestor, to resemble a labyrinth. Remus has been through this maze a few times before, but never without Black's company. 'Did Walburga give you a hard time?'

'No more than usual,' said Remus.

'She always liked you best, amongst my friends,' said Black, his grip on Remus's arm tightening when Remus made a soft sound of disbelief. 'It is true. She hates you the most for it, because she cannot believe she's so taken with someone of such base origins.' Black made a face as he said the last words and it was Remus's turn to give his arm a re-assuring squeeze. 'She thinks you are the perfect companion for me, and at the same time the least suitable. It drives her crazy with loathing.'

'I'm sorry to be the cause of such a dilemma,' said Remus, unable to keep a straight face.

'Hmm,' said Black. 'She'll have to get used to it.'

Remus turned to look at Black's face, taking note of the familiar easy smile, lashes half lowered to conceal whatever emotion was reflected in Black's eyes. 'What do you mean, Sirius?'

'Later,' said Black. They had stopped in front of one of the plain wooden doors that lined the narrow hallway. There was nothing to distinguish this door from the rest, but while it had been years since Remus had the occasion to visit Black in his home, Remus could remember the distance to be greater than the one they had already covered. They could not have reached Black's study yet, he decided. This was a reprieve, then.

'I want you to meet my ward first,' Black said, confirming Remus's suspicions.

'James's son,' said Remus. James Potter, the most brilliant student in Hogwarts during Remus's time and the same person who had introduced Black to Remus; the circles they moved in too different for them to have met by chance, but 'He talks too much,' Potter had told Remus, 'While you don't talk at all. You would be perfect together'. Potter and his wife had died in the war; whispers of betrayal in the ranks of the wizards and some unpleasant business with Lord Voldemort. Remus had not followed the news in detail, sometimes pretended that Potter was still in Constantinople, where he had first been assigned after they got out of Hogwarts. 'It is deadly dull here,' he had written to Remus, 'But the weather has been quite lovely so far.'

'Harry James Potter,' said Black, opening the door. Remus took note of the tastefully furnished room, the pointed lack of tapestries and the rich but calculated confusion of knick-knacks that gave the sitting-room an understated quality of opulence. Black's doing, he thought, absently. 'I dislike all of that nonsense,' Black had told him, when they were younger. 'Frills and furbelows. What purpose do they serve, but to weigh you down?' He then proceeded to take off his clothes, starting with the badges of honour he had been given in the first few years of service as a wizard to the king. Remus remembered helping Black with his coat, brown with silver trimmings for the wizards, and his fingers trembling as he undid each brass button until Black reached out to take his hands, pressed his lips on the centre of each palm.

'Sir.' Remus looked up as one of the boys addressed him. This was the boy who stood up awkwardly as Black introduced them. Harry James Potter. A shy-looking boy with a pinched face and too-large eyes looking at the world fearfully from behind thick eyeglasses. The other one, rising belatedly as Remus approached the table, he recognised as Draco Malfoy. One of Remus's students and a brilliant mind, if rather lacking in chivalry. His mother, Narcissa Malfoy née Black, was a favourite of Walburga's.

'Sir!' said Draco, looking uneasily at the middle of the table, where a card lay facedown and abandoned. Harry tried to correct this neglect, one hand surreptitiously inching from the edge of the table to the card, but Remus, unencumbered by stealth, picked the card up for examination before Harry could reach for it.

'Sirius, I believe this is one of your pornographic cards?' he said. 'Don't you think thirteen is rather young to be so acquainted with the female form?'

'And leave them to be intimidated the first chance they see such in the flesh?' said Black, with a laugh. 'Surely, I intend to be a better guardian than that!'

'I don't remember you having such difficulties,' said Remus. 'Likewise, while you are indeed Mr Harry's guardian-and more's the pity-I do not think you bear the same responsibilities for Mr Draco here.'

'I'm merely acting out as Mr Draco's concerned relative,' Black said, copying Remus's tone. He was enjoying himself. 'But I am glad to hear you express such concern for the well-being of both boys, Remus, as I was intending to engage your services with regards to their tuition as soon as possible.'

'Harry's, as it were, are sadly neglected,' said Draco, with an outraged look in Harry's direction. 'His relations make him sleep in the cupboard and forbid him any material that has to do with magic!'

Harry blushed. 'They meant well, really. I think-that is, I assumed, it was because they are afraid of magic. It was magic that killed my parents, after all. My aunt, she probably doesn't want to be reminded of that.'

Draco made a tutting sound. 'And what does that have to do with locking you in a cupboard, pray? You are being too kind. You belong to a powerful family now, you don't have to be kind unless it suits your purposes.'

'I appreciate your concern for Harry, Draco, but you are confusing him with such talk,' said Black. Remus was not surprised to see that Black was wearing the familiar La Giaconda smile that his mother wore so well. Pride in the family is a very important thing for the Blacks, and while Black was not as militant with regards to the pureness of one's blood as the rest of his relations, he maintained that same fierce protectiveness around the people he loved, giving them a feeling of being somehow untouchable: You and I are special. The rest of the world be damned.

'Whatever the treatment you received from your relations,' Remus told Harry, 'Mr Draco is right in implying that it is over. You need not worry about it anymore.'

'You might want to start worrying about how you're going to keep up with your studies, however, because I heard Mr Lupin here is quite a proper terror in the school room,' said Black.

Remus gave Black an amused look, 'Mr Draco has been telling tales, I assume?'

'I wasn't!' said Draco, whose turn it was to blush. Cursed with the Blacks' pale complexion, he turned a faint but obvious pink when he blushed. Remus had always teased Black for being similar.

'Given the amount of ground Harry has to cover with his studies,' said Black, saving Draco from further embarrassment, 'I reckon he needs daily tutoring in order for him to be ready to attend Hogwarts at the same time as Draco here, would you agree?'

Remus had an idea where Black was going with this conversation and he took his time giving an answer. 'I'm afraid Mr Draco has Mr Harry at a disadvantage. Mr Draco has been taught magic since he was very young.'

'All the more reason Harry needs a private tutor, someone who can explain the theories and practical application of magic not only in the school room, but also as he experiences such in his daily life. A private tutor,' Black said, 'Who would live here at Grimmauld Place and likewise keep Harry constant company.'

'Does this mean Mr Lupin won't be teaching me anymore?' said Draco, catching on to what his cousin was saying.

'If your father wishes to retain Mr Lupin's services, I see no reason why you should not visit Grimmauld Place regularly to learn with Harry,' said Black. 'Or perhaps they could go to the Malfoy Manor together. You have never been there, I gather, Moony?'

'We have peacocks,' added Draco.

'That's lovely, I'm sure,' said Remus, fighting back a smile. 'But I have not agreed to your terms yet, Sirius.'

'I haven't told you my terms yet, Moony,' said Black.

888

They left the boys trying to figure out the basic rules in a game of whist, Black's hand leaving Remus's arm and settling on the small of Remus's back as Black guided him down hallways that became increasingly narrow the closer they got to Black's study.

Black whispered the words necessary to de-activate the wards that he had placed on the threshold of his private rooms before opening the doors. 'Would you like something to drink?'

'Firewhisky would be nice,' said Remus. Black indicated that he should sit and Remus did, following Black with his eyes as Black crossed the room towards a row of book shelves. Deft fingers found a secret latch and the shelves opened to reveal several bottles of alcoholic drink. Black summoned a couple of glasses from his desk and began to pour.

'Ogden's,' Black said, handing Remus one of the glasses. 'As good as it gets.'

Remus laughed. 'I'll trust your judgement on that.'

'In other matters as well?' said Black. He did not meet Remus's eyes.

'You mentioned terms earlier,' said Remus, leaning back on his seat and crossing his ankles. 'I'm listening.'

Black did not say anything for a while, although this time he looked up to meet Remus's inquiring looks with an odd sort of grimace. 'If there is another way of doing this without your involvement, believe me, Moony, I would choose otherwise.'

'You want me to kill someone,' said Remus.

'No. Nothing as simple as that.' Black sighed and drank deeply from his glass. 'You are perhaps familiar with the details regarding James's death?'

'He was murdered,' said Remus. Potter had not been killed in the battlefield but in his residence at Godric's Hollow.

'By his own countrymen, yes,' said Black. 'We have further reasons to believe that he has been killed by a group of wizards from the Order.'

'The Death Eaters?' said Remus. The Death Eaters was an elite group of wizards handpicked by Lord Voldemort himself. They were tasked to take care of more sensitive political matters, peculiar crimes that might otherwise lead to scandal if made public. In the barest of terms, they were assassins, and they were good at their jobs.

'The appellation is obscene,' said Black. 'As if death is something to be devoured. We don't have sufficient evidence to connect James's murder with them, but you know James had been vocal in his support of the king.'

'And the Death Eaters resent how the Regent curtails the wizards' influence, both political and societal.' No wizard has ever been allowed to sit in the House of Lords, not even those from the most powerful families like the Blacks.

Black nodded. 'The lowliest baron stands higher than the wizards at court, and yet it cannot be denied that it is mainly through our efforts that England has not succumbed to Bonaparte's troops yet. There is indeed sense in what the Death Eaters are saying, but there is much to be desired with regards to the methods with which they mean to achieve equality with the peerage.'

'They mean to kill the King?' said Remus, surprised.

'They mean to do away with the nobility entirely.' Black smiled, inviting Remus to see the irony of it.

'How is that different from the French?'

'I-we were hoping you'd find out for us,' said Black.

'You want me to spy for you?'

'I'm sorry, Remus.'

'Don't be.' It made perfect sense, Remus had to admit. The Death Eaters included in their ranks halfbreeds, goblins and even giants: various misfits who have fallen down the cracks and shadows of society by virtue of being too different, inhuman. Lord Voldemort's cause to them signified freedom, a paradigm shift that would accept them if not as exalted members of society, then as citizens with actual rights. After the long history of witch burnings and discrimination that had been laid to uneasy rest by a truce with Queen Elizabeth I, Remus could see why the idea would appeal to wizards and magical creatures alike. 'But would the Order trust someone who has been stripped of his rank with such a delicate task?'

'I trust you,' said Black. He never minces his words, Remus remembered, a trait that would have earned him many enemies had it not been backed by the irresistible combination of Black charm and money. 'Dumbledore trusts you, as well. In fact, it was he who had thought of enlisting your services in the first place. I confess I wasn't very pleased with the idea from the beginning; it's rather unfair for you to risk your life for the Order after all that trouble with the Wizengamot. We have other spies, of course. Unfortunately, this particular problem has complications that only you can work around at the moment.'

'It has to do with werewolves,' Remus guessed. 'There have been a number of disappearances in London recently; perhaps that is connected as well?'

'The majority of the disappearances involve children,' said Black, with a nod. 'We have reasons to suspect that a pack of werewolves are deliberately infecting these children in order to increase the ranks of Death Eater supporters: a small army, if you will.'

'But what of your offer earlier about the post as Harry's tutor?'

'The offer still stands. You can refuse if you like, but I must add that the Death Eaters would be hard pressed not to admit someone with access to the Black family into their ranks. I reckon they will welcome you sooner, with such credentials to back your membership up.'

Remus laughed. 'You want me to be a double agent? Will they even believe that I'll betray you and the Order so easily?'

'There can be no love lost between you and the Order, especially after they took away your rank and the rights that goes along with it,' Black said. 'Myself, on the other hand-' his voice trailed off as he waved a helpless hand at Lupin, 'You can tell them whatever lie you have to. Perhaps we fought over the same lady?'

'Sirius,' said Remus, 'we can't pretend at a public disagreement when I go to your house daily to teach your ward.'

'You have always hated me,' said Black, directing a prodigious frown at Remus. 'Although I remain unaware of your real feelings for me. You agreed to teach my ward in order to keep an eye on me, hoping to get your chance.'

'Chance at what?' said Remus, who was having problems keeping the corners of his lips still.

Black grinned, one hand rising to undo the buttons of his coat. 'Why don't you tell me, Remus?'

888

'We have been away from the party too long,' said Remus, some time later. He was lying on his back on top of Black's desk, the scattered items on the bare floors bearing accusatory witness to the haste with which the desk had been cleared. Black shifted his position slightly, leaving one arm draped across Remus's chest. 'What will Walburga say?'

'I'm willing to bet that we're not the only people who have been away from the party too long,' said Black. 'Don't worry your pretty head too much about it. Walburga will make the proper excuses. She loves playing the perfect hostess.'

'She knows about us, doesn't she?' said Remus. Something was digging into his back. He moved his arm, the one Black wasn't lying on, and felt with his free hand until his fingers came in contact with something warm. He pulled it out and saw that it was one of Black's badges. 'I think I've flattened it.'

'Sod it,' said Black. 'What makes you say that about Walburga?'

'Just something she said,' said Remus. 'Your expression betrays you enough.'

'Well, I don't see what she can do about it,' said Black, rubbing his cheek against the side of Remus's neck. Remus smiled at the ceiling, reaching out with one hand to play with Black's hair. 'I'm the head of the family now. They can't order me around anymore.'

'Yes they can,' said Remus.

'We can always go somewhere else,' said Black, brightening. 'We can go to India. No-one would care about what we do there.'

'There's still a war to be fought,' Remus reminded him.

'We have all the time in the world,' said Black, 'after that.'

Remus smiled. 'Yes.'