A/N: Almost a year since my last update. Oy. Well, the bad news is, I can't guarantee it won't be just as long until the next one. I hate abandoning things and don't intend to, but life sometimes gets in the way! I think about this story and still have a few chapters I could probably upload with some editing, but I have a lot to work out with this story and little time with which to do it. With any luck, it won't be another year!

James was in hell. He thought he had escaped it, thought it was all over. He thought Peter Pettigrew was a nuisance, and perhaps a worrying one but nothing too terribly sinister, nothing to rock his world off its axis once more. He had entertained a few moments of terror involving Voldemort and Death Eaters and war, but he hadn't let himself truly believe it could possibly come to that. He had thought a small faction of old Death Eaters might be the cause of it, and it would all be sorted out and they would all be safe again soon.

"What do you mean," he choked out, "by being hosted by one of your professors? And how are we just now hearing of this if it happened two years ago?"

"Professor Quirrell apparently encountered what was left of Voldemort. From what I gathered, it was somewhere in Albania. It is difficult to explain, but because Voldemort no longer has his own body, he used the Professor's. He appeared on the back of the man's head."

"I'm sorry, what?" James screeched rather ridiculously. "You had…Voldemort. On the back of a professor's head. And the man was teaching students? My daughter goes to that school!"

"The situation was dealt with, James," Dumbledore answered in that same even tone he used for everything. It used to drive James mad back in the days of the Order, and he found it did so even more now. If he thought he had a lot to lose then…

"Dealt with?" he repeated incredulously. "And you didn't think it wise to inform the Order?"

"I have said for many years that I did not believe Voldemort was truly gone forever, no matter how much we all wished it to be true."

"But you had evidence," Lily whispered. "You knew. You knew, and you didn't tell any of us?"

"There was nothing to be done, Lily. With Severus's help, Voldemort was not able to achieve his goals and was driven out. Professor Quirrell was sent on his way and there was no need to alarm anyone."

"Then why are you telling us now?" James questioned, not sure he wanted to know the answer. Because he knew it involved Harry. He knew his son was at the centre of this, had always been at the centre of this, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Voldemort chose him, marked him, sentenced him to this, and James was powerless as a father and as a wizard to put an end to his son's suffering. He could feel the terror creeping in, tugging at his spirit, urging him into panic.

"It has come to my attention that I am not the only one who believes he is still out there."

"Death Eaters," James deduced easily. "They know. How do they know, if you kept it quiet? I have told you that keeping Snape in that-"

"I trust Severus Snape with my life, James, as well as the lives of every child who attends my school," Dumbeldore responded with an unwonted air of finality, suggesting that this was not a point to be argued. Well, James begged to differ. Severus Snape may have fooled Dumbledore, and that was no small feat, but he could not fool the man who had his son taken from him. Dumbledore had not faced the loss James had, and so it was easier for him to be deceived.

But that was an argument for another day. "Fine," he grinded out. "But how do they know?"

"What remains of Voldemort was driven out of the castle, James. I'm afraid I don't know what happened next. But it does appear that former Death Eaters have become aware of the incident at Hogwarts, or, at the very least, of Voldemort's continued existence. As you know, there have been some who have never truly renounced their ways, some who would return, if they were called."

"I don't understand something," Lily interjected. "The night of the attack, there was nothing left living in the house. That's why we believed Harry was dead. What happened to Voldemort if he didn't die? And why didn't he? We saw what was left of his body…Harry killed him. How did anything else survive?"

"I have theories, Lily, but they are too grim to be discussed."

"No," she shook her head. "No, I don't buy that. This is our son's life on the line. If Voldemort is still alive, then the Prophecy hasn't been fulfilled. And that means he will never be left alone."

"I'm afraid I don't have any answers for you, Lily. I cannot make any guarantees about a confrontation between Voldemort and Harry."

"But we have a better chance, don't we," James spoke up, "if he's only a spirit? We could kill him, before it comes to that. What would we have to do? It couldn't be so hard. Can he even call the Death Eaters without a…body?" he questioned. Lily clung tighter to his hand, almost tight enough to cause pain, but he let her do it; drew comfort from her touch as much as she drew from his.

Albus Dumbledore was a man who gave little away, but James had known him long enough to see it in his eyes, to know that there was a deeper secret and a reluctance to share the knowledge with them now. He knew something, something about Harry, or he wouldn't be here, but he was still debating with himself the wisdom of sharing all he held in that brilliant but indecipherable mind of his.

"Tell us," James growled, remarkably enraged that the man might dare to hide this from them after all they already endured. Their son had given enough for the fight, and James had no doubt Harry would be called upon again. Well, there was only so much he could do to stop the hands of fate, but he'd be damned if anyone kept him in the dark. "This is our son. Tell us."

"Please," Lily added. "Please, Professor. You don't know…"

"I do understand, my dear. I only wish to ease your burdens, but I see that you will worry more if you don't know."

"We will," she agreed. "We just want to know what we're dealing with. Harry needs us to be with him, whatever lies ahead of us."

"Very well. My source has gathered information on Pettigrew's escape. It was as we feared, James."

"Someone helped him," James sighed and massaged his temples, fighting the headache that was sure to come. "All right. I expected that. So Pettigrew isn't the only one who wants Harry. What else do you know? Do you know why?"

Dumbledore was quiet for another moment before speaking. "It is imperative that Harry remains safe," he said finally.

James recoiled, and Lily looked furious. "Of course it is!" she cried.

"Forgive me, my dear, I do not merely mean because he is your son. It is vital to

all that we believe in that he is kept safe."

"Why?" James demanded. "Please, no more riddles. Not over this. Not when it's him."

The old man nodded and truly looked his age in that moment. "There is Dark Magic," he began slowly, "that could restore a body to Voldemort. It would require Harry's blood. I believe Pettigrew was released in order to capture Harry. They will try again, of that we can be certain."

James felt sick, and one glance at his wife told him she was faring no better. Her face had lost its colour, and tears had formed in the corners of her eyes. "We'll do the Fidelius again. With someone trustworthy this time. Sirius or you," he decided abruptly. "He'll be safe here."

"I agree we must use the Fidelius as long as Harry remains in this house," Dumbledore nodded, and it was James this time who tightened his grasp on Lily's hand.

"What do you mean," he began sharply, "as long as Harry remains in this house?"

"You both know what the Prophecy entails. Harry must be trained. He has already lost two years of magical education. It would be unwise to delay him further."

"We'll teach him here," Lily insisted fiercely. "James is an Auror. He's every bit as qualified as any Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, and Remus could help him. Sirius has already taught him a great deal. I could teach him Charms and Potions. He'll learn what he needs to learn right here."

James wasn't quite so committed to the idea of permanently educating Harry at home; some of his best memories had been made at Hogwarts, and he wanted Harry to have the experiences of a normal child, especially if he would someday be forced to confront Voldemort. Still, his son wasn't anywhere near ready for that yet, and he refused to be parted from his boy so soon. "Harry isn't prepared for school, Albus," he reasoned. "He needs time to catch up and adjust to everything. There's no way we'll send him off now."

"Hogwarts is the safest place for him," Dumbledore countered. "There are ancient protections far stronger than anything that could be placed here on your home."

"You told us not ten minutes ago you had a teacher with Voldemort on the back of his skull!" Lily cried. "No! No, you will not take Harry away from us in the name of his safety!"

"I think perhaps we should discuss this another time," James suggested diplomatically. He felt anything but and would normally be shouting right along with Lily, but someone had to be calm, if only to convince Harry nothing was amiss. Poor kid was having rough time enough without his parents falling to pieces, too.

"I'm sorry to distress you, but I'm afraid there's been a misunderstanding. I have no desire to take Harry from you. I have an idea – a rather unconventional idea, but one that perhaps will work for everyone, including and most especially Harry. As you both know, we find ourselves in need of a Defense professor once a month, often for several days while Remus recuperates."

"What are you saying?" James frowned, rubbing soothing circles on the back of his wife's hand to keep her calm.

"I would like to offer you a position as an assistant professor, James. And you, Lily, could assist in brewing potions for the Hospital Wing. Severus often finds himself overly taxed, and Hogwarts could use a skilled brewer. As professors, you would have accommodations in the castle."

"And Harry?" Lily questioned immediately. "He's not well, Professor. He can't just go from living here with us to sharing a dorm with strangers. I don't want him kept apart from us."

"And I have no desire to take him from you, Lily," the Headmaster assured her. "As I said, it is an unconventional arrangement, but Harry could be sorted and given a bed in his dormitory, but maintain a residence with you and James as well. I do believe it would benefit Harry to attend classes with his peers, but only as you both deem fit. You could continue his tutoring and even have assistance from the rest of the professors."

Lily looked to him, pleading, but James only shook his head. "We'll have to discuss this. Between ourselves and with Harry. We're not about to make decisions without considering this and talking it over with him."

"I understand," Dumbledore nodded. "And I am sorry to intrude on your New Year's Eve, but I did believe it imperative to speak with you as soon as possible."

"It's all right," Lily promised weakly. "We'll be in touch."

The polite goodbyes were murmured, and Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts through the Floo, leaving James and Lily on their own.

Lily spoke first. "What are we going to do?" she asked, her voice wavering slightly with tears. "If he's right, then Harry really might not be safe here."

"It's not a risk I'm even willing to take," he agreed reluctantly. The last thing he wanted to do was send his son off to school early, even if they were accompanying him. Harry had done remarkably adjusting to life here, but Hogwarts was another matter entirely. His recent nightmares spoke to the deeper emotional problems they had yet to address, and it seemed cruel to heap so much more on top of him, to burden him with the weight of his destiny when he was still so far from healing.

But his safety had to come first, even above concerns for his emotional well-being. The attack from Pettigrew could have set Harry back to the very beginning, and another would certainly undermine any progress they had made. He wanted his son to feel completely safe and never fear that someone would come along to hurt him; there had been far too much of that already.

"We'll talk to him tomorrow," he decided. "He's thirteen, and he's old enough to have input."

"Do we tell him about Voldemort?" Lily wondered. "I think that's too much, James. I don't want to keep secrets from him, but I don't want him to live in constant fear."

"Sirius told him about the Prophecy. He knows who Voldemort is. I think the best we can do is tell him it's no longer safe here. Eventually he'll have to know the full weight of this, but not yet."

"James," his wife very nearly whimpered. He opened his arms to her and wrapped her up, burying his face in her hair and breathing in deeply to steady himself.

"We know what we're up against. We're older, we're wiser, and Voldemort is weaker. Nothing is going to happen to Harry," he promised. "We won't lose him again."


Claire Connors had questions.

Claire was, objectively, an intelligent person. She had always done well in school, always known what she wanted to do, and pursuing her degrees had been rigorous, challenging, but ultimately enjoyable work. She was certainly no fool, and as a trained psychologist, she knew when to trust what her brain was telling her.

There was something very, very off about Sirius Black. She had noticed it from the start – his clothes were slightly odd, his manner of speaking was posh and privileged, but also strangely old-fashioned, and there were times he seemed almost confused about the simplest of things. She usually prided herself on her ability to profile people, to understand them and how their minds worked relatively early in conversation, but Sirius was an enigma to her. There was the family tragedy, of course, which could render one's psyche a bit bruised, but it went beyond that, and Claire didn't understand. He was usually cheerful, charming, and utterly hilarious, but she sensed a danger about him. It never made her feel unsafe around him, but the mystery of him…it was powerful, and it was altogether alluring.

Curiosity had gotten the better of her once. Despite her vow to maintain professional ethics at all times, she couldn't help herself after hearing Harry's strange, sad tale. It seemed so incredible, so tragic and yet simultaneously miraculous, and she craved more.

So she went to the library. She would never admit it aloud, but she spent an entire Saturday reading through old newspapers, trying to find even the tiniest of details about the terrible fire, the kidnapping, the night that changed a family forever and left a little boy irreversibly scarred. In the end, what she found sent chills down her spine. Through a process of elimination, she could find only one story about a fire that could possibly refer to the night Harry Potter went missing. It happened somewhere up north, in a small village called Godric's Hollow. That felt oddly appropriate for her young patient, and she knew she was onto something.

But the story left her with more questions than answers. The story wasn't really a story at all. Merely a report of a fire that had been called in, the night of October 31st. When local authorities arrived at the scene, there was neither a fire nor a house that could have even been on fire. The old woman who called in the report recanted, saying she must have been seeing things – All Hallow's firecrackers, perhaps, a trick of the light. The story reported other strange happenings in the town that night, but the reporter characterised the story as a bit of humour, Halloween tricks being played in Godric's Hollow.

She left the library that day feeling sick to her stomach, both with guilt at what she had done and the uneasiness the story left her with, the nagging sense that something wasn't right. She intended to tell Sirius she couldn't treat Harry, but when they arrived for their next session, something told her not to give up on either of them. Harry was such a sweet child, so earnest and so frightened, and someone had to help him. Slowly her paranoia melted away, replaced by affection for her young patient and a burgeoning interest in his guardian. Instead of repelling her, the mystery drew her in.

And now it was too late. Much too late, if the fluttering of her heart was any indication. She was falling in love with Sirius Black. She was falling in love with him, God help her, and she couldn't back away, no matter how much the logical, rational part of her brain told her she must.

"What's wrong with you, Little Sister?" Penny teased her over their champagne toast. Claire knew her smile didn't quite reach her eyes tonight, and of course her ever-perceptive sister would have picked up on it. "Is it about the new man?"

"Yes. No. I don't know," she admitted.

"That doesn't sound like my Claire," Penny raised an eyebrow.

"He's a confusing man, Penny. Sometimes I feel odd around him. I can't explain what it is."

"Oh dear," her sister teased. "If you don't know what that feeling is, perhaps we need to-"

"Oh har har," Claire rolled her eyes. "So funny, Penny."

"And I'm here all night."

"Joy."

"Now spill," Penny ordered. "What is it about this bloke of yours that makes you feel odd? Good odd? Bad odd?"

"Neither, I suppose. I don't know if I can explain it, honestly. He's kind, he's attentive, he's loads of fun…but he's a bit damaged, I'd say."

"Just as you like them," her sister noted.

Claire glared, but she couldn't exactly argue. Perhaps it was professional curiosity, or perhaps something a bit more sinister about herself, but she was always attracted to a man with a bit of darkness. It just so happened that Sirius Black actually seemed the sort that pulled himself together and became a decent man in spite of it, and she'd never before found a man who both satisfied her curiosity and seemed a sane choice of a partner.

She went home that night and vowed to set her worries aside and enjoy getting to know Sirius Black. The mysteries would resolve in time, and those that didn't might not be that important anymore. He was moving on with his life, had made a new family for himself, had provided a loving and stable influence for a boy who desperately needed it. He was hardly the dangerous sort, just a bit darker than some. She could live with that.

When he greeted her the next day, she kissed him happily on the cheek and smiled brilliantly, honesty happy to see him. "Good New Year, then?" she asked.

"Very nice. And you?"

"Perfect. Happy New Year," she grinned.

"You as well."

"Are you ready? What are we doing today?" she questioned.

"Actually, I was hoping we could talk. Can we sit?"

Claire felt her smile drop a bit, but she nodded and stepped aside to let him fully inside.

"I have something to tell you, Claire," he confessed heavily as they settled in on the sofa. "I haven't been entirely honest with you. I couldn't be, but it's not going to excuse anything, I'm afraid."

"What are you saying?" she asked warily. "Is it….please tell me you aren't married."

"No," he barked out a laugh. No, I am not married."

"Then it couldn't be so bad, could it?" she asked hopefully. "You're not…I mean, are you breaking up with me?"

"No, that's not it either, but I think I should try to explain first. You certainly aren't going to guess," he said wryly.

She frowned now, utterly confused. "Go ahead," she whispered.

"You're going to think I'm crazy, but everything I'm going to tell you is true. And I want you to think about this, Claire. Think about all the things I told you when we met, all the things I've told you since. If you really think about it, you'll have questions. There are things that don't add up, that don't make sense. You've probably tried not to think on it, but there are things that seemed odd, aren't there?"

Claire's heart made a funny turn in her chest as she chewed slightly on her bottom lip. She wasn't sure she had honestly given her strange feelings any weight, trying to chalk them up to the normal misgivings in a new relationship. But if Sirius was acknowledging it, perhaps it was more real than she cared to believe. "I…yes," she admitted. "But nothing…I thought it was nothing."

"It isn't nothing, Claire. I wish it was."

"Tell me," she pleaded. "I…I looked up the fire once. I knew it was the wrong

thing to do, but I couldn't even find anything, and it seemed so odd…"

"You wouldn't have heard about it. Wouldn't have been able to find a record, except perhaps of a strange occurrence no one could quite explain."

"Halloween," she whispered. "1981."

"How do you know that?"

"I told you…I looked it up. But what does it mean, Sirius? I don't understand."

"Harry Potter doesn't exist, Claire. Not for you. Not in your world."

"What do you mean? In my world?" she repeated sceptically. "What world might that be?"

"I'm not a detective, Claire. Not the way you believe, anyway. And if you did a search for Sirius Black, you would find nothing."

Her eyebrows shot halfway up her forehead. "You lied about who you are?" she asked incredulously, automatically moving away from him. "My God…who are you? And Harry? Is he…oh my God…"

"Stop," he tried to calm her, holding up a hand to stop her. "It isn't what you think. My name is Sirius Black, and Harry Potter is my godson. But I'm a wizard, and so is he. My family was magical, and Harry's family is as well. I went to a boarding school in Scotland for other magical children, and that's where I met James and Lily. Harry's younger sister attends, and Harry will eventually."

Claire blinked several times in rapid succession.

"I know you probably think this is insane, that I've made it up or that I'm completely nutters."

"Sirius," she whispered, starting to feel the first thrill of fear. Something was wrong here. Something was truly not right. Perhaps she had misjudged this, badly. She had thought he seemed normal, but sometimes they did, and she had just missed all the signs. What if he was really ill? Schizophrenia, perhaps, or some other disorder causing delusions. "There's no such thing," she said quietly. "Should I…maybe I should call someone, take you to a hospital and-"

"No," he shook his head. "No, Claire, I'm not crazy. I can prove it to you, but I didn't want to overwhelm you. I'm telling you the truth. There's a world of wizards and witches you have no clue exists. We have a government with a Ministry right here in London. If I took you to my house, you wouldn't see it, not at first, but it's on Grimmauld Place in London. It's all been here, all this time, but we've kept it from people like you. You're what we call a Muggle…someone without magic. And Muggles have no idea we're here."

"No," she whispered. "No, that doesn't make sense. That's impossible, Sirius. Magic is an illusion, it's not real."

Sirius pulled a long stick from his pocket, and the next thing she knew, the teapost was beside them. He waved the stick again, and somehow the teapot lifted and poured out the tea into two perfect cups. "Magic, Claire."

No. No, no. Impossible. She had seen something that couldn't be true, and there had to be a rational explanation. "That's just a trick. You…I don't know how you did it, but…"

"Please just…stay calm," he told her. He waved the stick again towards her armchair, suddenly appearing to turn it into a plush animal. She felt her eyes nearly bulge out of her head, and she glanced frantically around the flat, trying to figure out how he might have done it.

"That's…impossible!" she cried.

"It's magic, Claire," he repeated once more. "The reason you couldn't find anything about the fire is because Harry is a wizard. We had to keep it quiet. There was a fire that night, but it was…it's all a bit hard to explain, but Muggles couldn't know about it. So we covered it up. I am a sort of police officer, but for the magical world. I help catch Dark Wizards. James is my partner."

Claire took a few deep breaths and kept staring at what used to be her armchair. "There's some other explanation," she managed reasonably after a moment. "Why are you doing this?"

"There is no other explanation," he stated plainly. "I was going to tell you, when I felt the time was right. But Harry is struggling, and he may have to go to school sooner than we'd hoped, and I think you could help him. That's why I'm telling you now. I know very well you may not want to see me again, but I do hope that you'll-"

"I wouldn't abandon him if he needed help," she interjected quickly, horrified by the thought. Harry was a dear, sweet child, and however he was mixed up in this, he deserved her help. "He's a wonderful child, Sirius, but this is all….I don't understand, and I don't know why you're doing this. I thought we had something special, and-"

"It's who I am, Claire. I can't change it. I like you, very much, and I want nothing more than to see this through with you, but I am a wizard. I can't change that."

She felt as though her heart was breaking as she shook her head. "It's impossible," she insisted once more. "Things like this don't exist. And it does look as though-"

"Do you trust me?" he interrupted.

"I want to, but-"

"Let me clarify," he cut her off once more. "Do you trust me not to harm you?"

"I…yes," she managed, reasonably certain that he wasn't dangerous, even if he

was a bit…not well.

"I can prove it, Claire, but it may come as a shock. Give me your hand," he instructed, reaching his hand out to her.

She hesitated only an instant before accepting the proffered hand. Suddenly she felt herself squeezed so tightly she couldn't breathe for an instant, and her ears were roaring and everything was dark. She absurdly found herself thinking of the Chunnel, the pressure she felt as she traveled through the underwater tunnel. This felt a bit like that, only magnified about a thousand times.

It was over quickly. When she opened her eyes, she was standing high on a cliff overlooking the sea. The breeze blew through her hair, she felt the crisp spray of the mist rising off the water, she heard the waves crashing on the rocks. It was real. It was all real, and the proof was right in front of her eyes, but she couldn't understand it, couldn't begin to explain with any sort of rational thought how she had been standing in her own flat and seconds later appeared here.

Her breaths came faster as panic rose. What was happening? Was it possible he was telling the truth? He couldn't be, and yet…

"It's all right," Sirius told her quietly. "You're safe. Look and see," he insisted gently.

"What did you do?" she cried. "What was that. Where are we?"

"Tintagel Castle," he answered. "In Cornwall."

"No," she breathed. "No, we're in London. We were just…"

"We were in London," he responded calmly. "And now we're in Cornwall. Just over there is Merlin's Cave," he explained, pointing towards an opening in the rock. "An important spot for wizards."

"It's true," she breathed. "You really are…?"

"I really am," he nodded.

"Oh my God, I need to-"

He pulled her back a little ways from the edge of the cliff and helped her sit. "I'm sorry for such a dramatic show, but it seemed the best way to convince you."

"Yeah," she half-laughed incredulously. "A bit hard to keep arguing now."

"Harry's mum is Muggleborn. That means her parents didn't have magic, but she

does. She told me the whole world shifted the day she learned about magic."

"I'll say. This is insane, Sirius. You and Harry both…all this time…and you mean to tell me there are others? You have a government? A school?"

"A few schools, actually. One in France, another in Bulgaria, one in America…magic is everywhere."

"And you've…always been able to do this?" she asked.

"Not this part, no. You can't Apparate until you're seventeen. Not that I've ever been one to follow the rules, mind you. I may have Apparated a few times before I got

my license."

"License," she repeated in disbelief. "You have a license to do…whatever you just did."

He nodded and reached over to tuck her hair behind her ear for her.

"I have a lot more to tell you, Claire. About James and Harry and the war."

"War?" she echoed, feeling faint all over again.

"Twelve years ago there was a war. It started when I was still in school. James and Lily and I all fought in it. So did my brother…but he was on the other side. The bad side. He was killed when he tried to defect. There's so much I need to tell you, but Harry…he's important, you see, and-"

"I know he's important," she cut him off. "I'll help him, Sirius. Of course I'll help him."

"I'm relieved, but I did mean more than just important to me," he smiled gently. "All of this mess with him started because of the war. If you'll come with me to James and Lily, we can all explain it to you together."

"You want me to meet them?"

He laughed heartily, then leaned over and kissed her. "I just whisked you clear across the country, and you're surprised that I want you to meet my best mate?"

A flush rose to her freckled cheeks, and she swatted at him playfully. "Shut it, you," she ordered. "Men are odd about introducing you to friends."

"I did have to receive dispensation to do magic in front of you. If you're worried I'll change my mind about being with you, you shouldn't be."

"I bet you use that on all the girls."

"You've figured me out."

"I'm a shrink," she shrugged.

Sirius wrapped an arm around her as the breeze blew through her hair. She rested her head on his shoulder, and they spent a few quiet moments gazing out over the beautiful scenery together. For a moment she felt dizzy again, her world so rapidly destroyed and then pieced back together in the oddest way. It didn't make sense, and yet somehow it did. The part of her that had screamed for attention, screamed that something was off began to quiet now. Yes, something was very odd about Sirius Black, but it wasn't something dangerous or frightening. It was mad, completely and utterly mad, but it was also so strangely beautiful.

Her faith in him felt validated. He was a good man, a caring man. And he had trusted her with this incredible secret, let her into a world she was never meant to be a part of. It was all at once terrifying and brilliant. Everything had changed in one brief afternoon, and she was seeing the world as it truly was, not as she had always believed it to be.

"All right?" Sirius asked her.

"I think so," she nodded. "Is that odd? Should I be more…?"

"Lily said she always knew, even though she didn't. Maybe it's a bit the same," he shrugged.

She thought about that for a moment, then realised she liked it. It made sense. As though all of it had been waiting for her, and once the initial shock had faded, she found the reality pleasing, welcoming. "You're a wizard," she whispered. "That's completely, brilliantly mad."

"You are incredible, Claire. I thought you'd be done with me."

"Maybe I should be," she admitted. "But I don't think I can."

He kissed her again, and she leaned against him once more.

"Sirius?" she asked.

"Yes?"

"So this Apparating thing…"

"Yes?"

"Could you take us to Paris?"