A/N: I want to thank the magnificent Emily and her prose perfecting talents that I owe so very much – sanity mostly – but also, a much better story than I could have written without her, Thank You!

And with that, the final chapter….


14th May 1982

Hermione sighed and crossed out half her last sentence for the third time, then glared at the page and went back to circle a few words that may have been worth keeping. She was having real trouble getting the wording right on this week's piece of legislation; it was frustrating, but realistically, it was only ten in the morning and Hermione was well ahead of schedule. She put down her quill and stretched her arms above her head, with a faintly concerned frown at the popping noise that echoed from her right shoulder.

She leaned back in her chair to see out the open door into the office across the narrow hall. 'Remus,' she hissed across the silence of the corridor. 'Remus!' There was a creaking of another chair tilting back and the werewolf's face appeared in the doorway.

'What?' he whispered back. Hermione tapped her watch and then gave the mug on her desk a significant look, and Remus grinned. 'Your work ethic is shocking - we've only been here for an hour.'

'I know, but this is killing me,' she wheedled. 'Come for a walk?'

'Only if you distract next door so she doesn't see me. She's driving me up the wall with her rubbish on Umgubular Slashkilters - I don't even know what they are,' he said, his eyes wide at the madness of their colleague. 'And she keeps asking me out,' he added in a slightly disconcerted tone.

Hermione snorted. She'd prefer to avoid their neighbour also - she'd been after Hermione to write a twenty page summary on the creatures to help her convince Gamp to begin a public awareness project, a task she'd ducked so far – but Remus had worse reasons for avoiding Lyscanda. 'No one knows what they are. I keep telling her that it's best that way, because wizards can't be trusted to treat animals with respect, but frankly I'm not helping her with public awareness of something that doesn't exist.'

She could hear Remus snickering to himself as he collected some form of distraction for Lyscanda, but when he popped up in the doorway again, his face was all business. He looked up and down the hallway with the air of a man on a top secret mission and, with exaggerated movements, snuck into Hermione's little office and pulled a file from under his robe. 'Give her this,' he said, 'it will keep her busy while I sneak past. Honestly she's nice enough but if she asks me out one more time I will actually say something mean.'

'Now, I don't know about that,' Hermione said, 'didn't you tell her last time that her interest in rare magical creatures made you wonder about her true intentions?'

'Yes, but she thought I was joking! It's so frustrating – couldn't get a girl for years and now I've got a steady supply of absolute nutters. I wish you'd just tell me who I married the first time, and then I could find her.'

Hermione scrunched up her face. She was quite uncomfortable with the idea of her friend knowing that Sirius's nine-year-old cousin was once Remus's future bride. Hermione was genuinely unsure about the best course of action when it came to Remus and his confusing love life; things had changed. With everyone knowing about his furry little problem now, he didn't have that as an excuse to break off his relationships; now his issue was that women seemed to want him out of fascination, the risk of being with a "dangerous" man – a phrase that made Hermione giggle every time she heard it. Remus was basically the most un-dangerous person she had ever met, although, if you wanted to identify sources of risk, he obviously had quite the fear of commitment.

'And I keep telling you, you do not want to know,' Hermione said firmly. 'Just trust me – or I'll tell Lyscanda that you're just playing hard to get.' She checked her refection in the mirror that hung on the back of the door, with only a slight blink. She had returned from Switzerland with short blonde hair, after being manhandled by Frederica's stylist to make her less obvious to the muggles as the dead spy with the long dark bushy hair; that was months ago now, and it almost felt normal. For the first month without her curly tresses her head had felt too light on her shoulders and there were moments in the odd state between sleeping and waking that she would forget and have a minor panic attack that she had gone bald in the night. Sirius seemed to approve, though it was mainly because of the reduction in nocturnal hair related asphyxiation. Hermione didn't mind the change so much anymore – it made her feel a bit more grown-up to have a stylish short haircut rather than the previous schoolgirl-esque mop.

'Come on then,' Remus said, smiling at her in the reflection and waving his tea mug temptingly - but he was interrupted by a purple aeroplane that came zooming into the room,

'Hang on,' Hermione said as she snatched it from the air. She was quite sure she knew who it was from, but you never knew- it could actually be important.

Mrs Ogden,

Auriga?

Mr Ogden.

P.S. Moody's on his way down.

As it turned out it wasn't. Hermione shook her head and pulled a new piece of memo paper from her desk drawer and scrawled quickly,

Absolutely not - sounds like cheap wine! And we're going for a cuppa so he's out of luck. x

Remus was laughing quietly as he read the note. 'You know it's going to get worse not better right?'

'I figured,' Hermione said with a dramatic sigh, but laughed and added, 'but it wasn't like I didn't already know that.' She picked up the distraction file, shoved her tea cup into Remus's hands and marched out into the hallway and along to the little office three doors down.

'Hermione!' the woman said as soon as she approached the doorway. She was older than Hermione by a few years, and had been working in the department since leaving Hogwarts so she was significantly more senior than both Hermione and Remus. She worked in the classification office, and was therefore someone Hermione wanted to keep onside; and the idea of house-elves having holidays made her smile rather than give Hermione the blank look of incomprehension she was used to, so that was a plus. She was also partly insane - but willing to believe almost anything if you told her about it with well thought out reasoning, so once again useful. 'I've been meaning to ask you,' Lyscanda started excitedly, her protuberant eyes bright with enthusiasm as always.

'Actually Lyscanda,' Hermione cut in swiftly, 'Remus asked me to give you this, he would like you to fact-check it for him if you have the time? I'm sure he would value a few notes on possible improvements, too.'

'Oh, of course,' the woman replied eagerly. Hermione felt a little guilty for giving her work that didn't need to be done – it was Remus, there was no way it would need to be fact checked - but as Remus snuck past while Lyscanda was distracted with the folder, Hermione felt no remorse. There was a peaceful cup of tea at stake, and for the last two weeks their morning tea break had been filled with ridiculous stories and flagrant flirting. It seemed to be something of a moral calamity for Remus to discover that tea couldn't fix everything after all.

'Thank you so much, Lyscanda,' Hermione said fervently as she made a hasty exit in the direction of the dining hall.

She caught up with Remus at the lifts and chuckled at the guilty expression on his face. 'You look how I feel,' Hermione said as she pummelled the down button and the grill clanged shut.

'I know it's stupid,' Remus said, 'but I know what it's liked to be looked down on, and I just can't bring myself to disappoint her - it seems mean, and a bit big-headed to be honest, it's not like I'm beating the ladies off with a stick.'

Hermione just shook her head. 'I've told you – she's the aunt of one of my friends, and Luna was similar. She seemed fragile but I would say she was tougher than me in many ways, something that must have come from her mother's side of the family because her father was not so brave.'

Remus grinned. 'Still feel like a total prat every time I make some excuse and turn her down.'

Then maybe you should stop,' Hermione said, and Remus looked at her as though she had just said the Umgubular Slashkilters were real after all. 'Come on, she's very nice –,'

'Mental,' Remus muttered.

'- and decent looking -'

'Still mental.'

'Fine,' Hermione said airily as the grill jerked open, 'I just didn't think that you were actually afraid of dating.'

'Afraid?' Remus said indignantly, 'Hardly! I'm just –'

'Chicken,' Hermione muttered.

Remus grumbled under his breath as they made their way to the serving window where a portly tea lady stood, large silver teapot in hand. 'You're buying,' he grouched. 'Make me sneak away from my work and then insult me the whole way,' he continued to mumble as he put their tea mugs on the counter.

Hermione just smirked as she fished a couple of sickles from her pocket and handed them to the large woman. 'Tea please,' Hermione said politely as the woman took the silver coins.

With full cups, Hermione and Remus took a seat at the end of one of the long dining tables in the open quiet room. It wouldn't be long before the masses descended all determined to enjoy their fifteen minutes of leisure time in a queue for tea and then squishing up cosily next to their fellow employees at the long tables, gulping back their tea with one eye on their watch and the other on their Daily Prophet, magazine, or similar, in a frantic effort to relax before they had to go back to their offices.

'So I maybe I'm a bit hesitant…' Remus admitted after a fortifying sip of English breakfast, then went on the attack. 'At least my intended isn't after her job,' he pointed with his thumb back over his shoulder at the beverage lady.

Hermione snorted. 'er … I'm not sure if you know, but I live with Sirius.'

Remus chuckled, 'Oh, hasn't he shared that dream of his with you? Sirius Black – tea lady extraordinaire.'

Giggling Hermione said, 'He does make a good cuppa…'

'And he'd look quite fetching in that hairnet,' Remus added, causing Hermione to inhale half her drink up her nose and splutter in a very undignified fashion as she laughed. Remus reached down the table to grab a napkin from one of the piles placed thoughtfully along the centre. Handing it to her, he said, 'To be honest I think he was only joking.'

Hermione blotted the tea from her grin and said, 'Possibly, but you can never be too sure with him.'

When Hermione and Remus returned to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Hermione found that several interdepartmental memos had arrived in her absence, and there was a note in Moody's handwriting propped up against her inkwell.

Granger,

Anyone would think you were avoiding me. Crouch would like your input on some language for disciplinary action against the goblins after the ruckus at the mine in Somerset. I will pop in later.

-A. Moody

Hermione winced slightly; he had been coming to talk about work. Sirius really needed to be clearer with his warnings. Hermione had just assumed Moody was on his way down to ask her to join the Auror department again, which was frankly ridiculous. He was trying to bargain with her as if the three years of training and poor pay were the problem, and seemed to overlook that the end result would be a job she didn't even want. After six months of her rejecting his offers she still had to turn the head of the Auror department down at least once a week. Sirius and James seemed to find no end of amusement in her predicament and she had begun to wonder if Moody didn't realise this because they always seemed to know he was on his way to talk to her.

She picked up the other memos - two purple planes which bore a large similarity to the one that she had received before she left.

Mrs Ogden,

Norma?

Mr Ogden

Hermione winced, and unfolded the second.

Mrs Ogden,

Urgh, no. Scratch that last, sounds like a scary overweight dinner lady.

Prongs suggests Tegmen, because it's unisex. I think he was cooped up for too long and his mind has gone a bit funny because that's not a name at all. How about Lyra though? That's a real name.

Mr Ogden

Hermione sighed and plonked heavily into her chair. She rested a hand on her protruding stomach and said in its direction with a little disbelieving shake of her head, 'Despite the evidence, I promise he's not a total twat. Lyra, I ask you?' There was no reply, but that wasn't altogether unexpected.

Hermione had to admit she was not one-hundred-percent pleased with her current situation. Yes, she had a job arranging the language used in the legislation of magical creature restrictions just like she had wanted, and she and Sirius were still together, and happy, and had had no major flare-ups in their relationship. She looked back down at the bump - it was surprising that they were going as well as they were, honestly, but Sirius seemed genuinely pleased about the situation now, though he'd been pale-faced and speechless on first receiving the news. Hermione had sympathised with his shock, given that she had barely been able to say the frightening sentence aloud. Thankfully when she had told Frederica through the coal range in Sirius's flat that same evening her adoptive mother had been so delighted and cheerful about the news it made Hermione's fluttering panic recede slightly.

The Blacks were another story. Although Pollux and Walburga had both beamed when Sirius had told them the news at dinner two months ago, Walburga had immediately followed up by asking how soon they planned on getting married – because of course it would not do for Hermione to be showing too much in the photographs – which was a slight problem.

'What do you mean you're not?' Walburga hissed across the dining room table, her fine eye brows converging on each other to form one straight angry line.

Sirius glanced at Hermione, and she very nearly laughed at the look on his face - clearly etched there was a message, I told you so, you owe me twenty galleons. Before they had left the flat for Grimmauld Place that evening, Hermione had been quite sure that Walburga would be at least somewhat accepting, because of Hermione's supposed upbringing, as Frederica had never married; but Sirius – who as it turned out was completely correct – had insisted that his mother would be very put out that the heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black was going to be a bastard.

'Mother listen,' Sirius said calmly, 'it's not like we won't ever get married, we… er… just don't want to rush it because of this. You wouldn't want a pregnant daughter-in-law marring the family wedding portraits in the hall would you?'

'Well, no,' Walburga allowed, 'but we could get it organised quickly.' She looked toward Hermione appraisingly, 'The fashion in wedding gowns is quite forgiving this season, and I'm sure –'

'Mrs Black,' Hermione interrupted, knowing that once Walburga got started there was little chance of stopping her, 'My mother and uncle would not be satisfied with such an event. They insist that when we do decide to get married, that the wedding is of course at the family home in Zurich; the guest list alone would take months to prepare, then there will be all the legal requirements, prenuptial negotiations to be settled - we would be looking at a year at the very least. So I'm afraid it just isn't an option.' She smiled consolingly, hoping to give the impression that she, too, was disappointed that she could not be forced into a shotgun wedding.

'I would like to speak to Lady Fehr about this,' Walburga said, obviously realising that Hermione was right, that with the status of their two families a rushed wedding really wasn't really possible without it being completely obvious what they were about.

'She would love to hear from you,' Hermione said brightly, adding a little cheekily, 'Just last week she asked me if you would prefer to be Granny or Nana, as she is content with either.'

Sirius suddenly began to cough and excused himself from the table, only to be followed almost immediately by Pollux, who seemed to have developed the same respiratory issue. Walburga's eyes watched them suspiciously from the room but she turned her attention back to Hermione as soon as the men were gone and said sternly, 'I don't see that I should be called anything until the child is a Black.' Hermione blinked uncertainly, and fortunately Walburga continued without requiring a response. 'Do you know yet if it is a boy or a girl?'

'No, I'm only ten weeks along; the healers will be able to tell in another two months. I'm surprised you are so upset Mrs Black,' Hermione said, 'I thought you would be happy that there was going to be another pureblood child in the world, and one fathered by a Black at that.'

Walburga made a resigned sound, 'I am. I'm just a little shocked that you would be so careless - what of your career? You said it meant so much to you and now…'

Hermione couldn't really recall what she'd said to that, as she couldn't help but agree with Walburga on that point, It grated on her that she would have to be away from work for a while, when that was the whole reason everyone had gone to so much effort for her in the first place - if she had known she was just going to go and get herself knocked up she could have just stayed hidden for another few years and saved everyone the bother.

Hermione and Sirius had been living together ever since her return to London at the beginning of January, and despite the interfering foetus's obvious provocation for disagreement, those five months had been very good. Still, she was determined not to get married just because of a little too much wine and some sloppy spell-casting; it was hardly a good impression to set for the child, 'do as society tells you', although when she took into consideration its father's attitude to the world a healthy dose of respect for authority and tradition would perhaps not be entirely out of place.

That's what the rational side of her brain told her anyway. The other side - pink and frilly, and decidedly evil, - told her they should run down to the Births Deaths and Marriages department at lunchtime and tie the knot, and it would be nothing short of perfect; she could stay home and be a mother in an apron and house dress, while cooking and cleaning for her husband, because that's all she needed in life. Hermione felt quite ill every time one of these dastardly thoughts crossed her mind; the healer had told her it was quite normal, driven by the villainous baby hormones, but it made her feel like a simpering imbecile..

The whole situation was irritating, especially as the months passed and she began to show. It seemed that every woman in the Ministry of Magic felt the urge to reach out and touch her growing belly – as if it were normal socially acceptable behaviour – only to cringe slightly at the sight of her bare ring finger and give her a consoling, brace up there dearie, it's not the end of the world look that made Hermione want to jinx them for making her feel a bit trampy. Honestly, though, she couldn't fight the fact that she had always wanted to have children, and while it was a little sooner than she had planned, Hermione wasn't upset about being a mother. Nor was she upset about being tied to Sirius for the rest of her life, because they just seemed to work. What it came down to in the end was that if they got married now, it would always seem like it was because they had to for tradition's sake, not because they wanted to. So Walburga could just shove it.

Even with being nearly five months pregnant and working full time, Hermione had more of a social life than she'd ever had before. Working in the same building as her friends, sharing tea breaks and lunch breaks and flying memos, reminded her vaguely of her school days, but without the stress of impending war. Dinner after work, or pub snacks on the way home - sometimes with only Sirius, but usually James or Remus or both joined them - dinner at the Potters' on the weekends, and lunch with Lily when she was in London, outings that had started out as weekly but ramped up as Lily had discovered a new hobby.

Sirius, James and Remus were inseparable most weekends and they normally spent their time at the Potters; Hermione did not always join them but would usually turn up for dinner. She was still a little amazed that the three of them could spend from lunchtime till late in the evening sitting about in the backyard talking. Occasionally they would take Harry off on adventuring missions through the woods at the back of the property, but they just seemed to have an endless amount to discuss. So when she did choose to spend her weekend afternoons in Godric's Hollow, she and Lily would often find themselves pretending to be involved with something, as the three men had entire conversations with little more than eyebrow-raising and hand gestures. Although Hermione always felt slightly left out in such situations, she couldn't help the bubbling pride inside her that without her insane plan none of it would be possible.

Her friendship with Lily was not the easy and immediate one she had with Remus, but slowly they were growing to appreciate one another as more than just friends of convenience. Lily found Hermione's work quite interesting, having never really thought about the world of magical creatures past how it affected Remus, and being a muggleborn she drew the same conclusions as Hermione tended to about the ingrained prejudiced views in wizarding society. Lily was an easy person to spend time with, and they were content to lounge about in each other's sitting rooms eating too much of Lily's baking and having very pleasant conversations about books and houses and babies and nonsense.

Despite having a toddler to bring along, Lily seemed determined to accept any excuse at all to leave her house and enjoy her freedom these days, and every time she and Harry came to visit Hermione at the upstairs flat, Hermione noticed how unsuitable it would be for raising a child in. Watching Lily levitating Harry in his stroller up the stairs had been the clincher, but there was also the aggressive mildew in the bathroom, and the cupboard-sized kitchen would be difficult to work in when you had – according to Lily – mountains of smelly laundry to get through and all the bench tops covered in feeding bottles. These horrifying images led to the decision that Hermione and Sirius and proto-baby would be moving somewhere with a little more space. Lily had offered to help them look for somewhere new, and not only had it become a bit of a mania for Lily, it had made Hermione realise how much she had in common with the red head. Lily was not quite as methodical in her research as Hermione would have been, but she still had lists of suitable areas, house sizes and prices, as well as checklists from both Sirius and Hermione about what they wanted and didn't want. Hermione was surprised to find how much she enjoyed to process and wondered if Lily should look into real estate as a career because she certainly seemed to have a knack for it. It was very nice for Hermione to have the project in common with Lily, as something for them to build a friendship on; having never had very close girlfriends before, Hermione sometimes found herself ill at ease, but this gave them something to talk about when nothing else popped to mind.

Hermione shook her head. Pregnancy-brain was not ideal for the workplace, but if someone as distractible as Sirius could manage to keep a Ministry job, surely she'd be fine. She collected her notes on the goblin situation as quickly as she could; it would not do to keep Crouch waiting. The man might not be possessed of the same manic determination for conviction he had shown in her original time, but he was still a prim and impatient man, not to mention important; Hermione would be foolish to annoy such a good potential ally. She set off briskly for the Law Enforcement department with the hope that she could impress Crouch with her knowledge of silver mining protocol and the restrictions it was placing on the goblins, and why this had led to the rather nasty brawl between the wizard landowners and the mining creatures.


A squeaking sound from Frank Longbottom's desk broke in to Sirius's thoughts as he scribbled out a note to Hermione. He was quite enjoying that she had said he could choose the name for their child; as absolutely horrifically frightening as it was that such a decision was required of him at all, he told himself that if James could raise a kid Sirius couldn't really back out. Besides it being a despicable thing to consider, he couldn't let James beat him at something - that would be insane. He shook his head and added James's opinion on unisex names to his note, trying to finish before Frank interrupted.

'Black, what's happening with the last of those forms on The Legion raid?'

'I gave them to you this morning,' Sirius said distractedly as he folded the note and sent it on its way, before looking up to see his neighbour's head poking over the dividing wall as usual.

'No, not the capture ones, the casualty ones,' Frank said impatiently.

'Er … right, they would be … not started yet.' Sirius admitted.

'You know, just because you're not bottom of the heap anymore doesn't mean you can slack off,' Frank said in his best boss-man voice, that never failed to make Sirius laugh.

'Pfft,' Sirius flicked his hand in Frank's direction, 'I work way harder now than I did all last year; and there might be five guys lower down, but it still feels pretty much like bottom if you ask me.' Then he grinned, 'Though given one of the five is James, it's not all bad.'

Frank chuckled. 'Yeah, he was whining to Moody the other day about you telling him what to do, even though the two of you trained together – reckons it's not fair that his rank is still "newly qualified".'

Sirius felt a bit guilty hearing this, but only a tinybit. James had bossed him around most of his life and Sirius had never complained, and now he was getting his own back. 'What did Moody say?'

'That Potter shouldn't have taken such a long holiday then,' Frank said with an amused smirk.

Sirius snorted. It was bloody wonderful not being Moody's favourite whipping boy anymore. He suspected it was at least in part because his boss was trying to get to Hermione through him - something else that made Sirius laugh, because no matter how many times the Head of Department asked, Hermione would never join the Aurors, never.

In the nearly six months since Voldemort had bled to an embarrassingly muggle death on the Potters' front lawn, the Auror department had experienced the most organised period in Sirius's employment – surprising considering that the rest of the Ministry was a bit of a shambles. Minister Bagnold held them all together, but as more and more high ranking officials were accused of Death Eating or sympathetic tendencies towards the Death Eaters, the more important departments were shaky. Accidents and Catastrophes, International Magical Co-Operation and the Transportation Departments, and even the Minister's own office had lost several key members, but thanks to the ever vigilant Crouch, Law Enforcement and its subsidiaries, including the Auror office, were ticking along with no major upsets. Crouch was working insanely hard to keep order -many thought he was after the post of Minister one day, but Sirius knew it was because he was trying to make up for his failings in his family life.

Sirius had been one of the arresting Aurors at Crouch's home that evening. They had brought the boy in quietly, and he was given – as all suspects were – a dose of Veritaserum, and asked the questions that all suspects were asked: Did you support Voldemort and his aims at any time? Did you hurt people, muggle or wizard, on his orders? Do you wish he was still alive? These three questions gathered enough information for the Auror to decide if the suspect was required to move on to further questioning and sentencing. Some, like Bellatrix and her husband, who were apprehended with Rowle and Judson, were not even given a trial due to their boastful Veritaserum confessions, but were efficiently awarded a life term in Azkaban. Sirius understood that it was better not to make a public spectacle of these people, that to send them away quietly was better for wizarding morale, and it was also more cost effective and reduced escape attempts, but he still felt uneasy. That was how he had ended up in Azkaban - locked up without a trial - and although he was very sure that all Death Eaters that had been incarcerated were as guilty and proud of it as it was possible to be, Sirius hated the idea of making a mistake with one of them.

One of Sirius's most unsettling memories of "The Purge" - as The Prophet dubbed the months after Riddle's death when the Death Eaters were being sniffed out and rounded up - was when he'd had to give evidence in favour of Snape's innocence, well, his turncoatery, to the Wizengamot. Hermione had insisted on this, and while it had earned Sirius very serious "Up yours Snivelly, I'm the bigger man" points, he still wished he hadn't had to say the phrase "Severus Snape is a trustworthy and brave member of our community", because really the man was a sneaking slimy snake.

Pollux's prediction of the Auror department ranks being thinned after the war hadn't come true, although they were confident that the true Death Eaters had been rounded up now. Thanks to Moody and his sixth sense for knowing where they would be hiding, and to the case files Remus and Dumbledore had spent the early part of the previous year building up, none had walked free. Even without the Death-Eater presence, however, an unexpected situation was keeping the Aurors busily employed. An odd fraction had sprung up, insisting that since ignorance had led to the death of the old hero Dumbledore, to prevent such a tragedy again, the Statue of Secrecy should be scrapped.

At first, the Legion of Truth had hardly been Auror business at all, with peaceful rallies preaching understanding, and talk of closing the gulf between magic and muggle; it was a powerfully persuasive message to the optimistic ears of the war survivors. Muggles with magic children would speak to the crowds of people telling them that wizards were only hurting themselves by keeping magic a secret, that muggles would accept them now, the old fear of magic was gone that all humans should live as one. As with every group that tried to change the status quo, they were met with hard resistance from the sectors of society who would be affected most by the proposed change, and in a drive to gain more support their policies became more extreme.

Moody was the first to recognise the ominous direction they were heading, as the leaders began to suggest that the magical population should return to the way they lived before the Statute of Secrecy bound them, oppressed them, robbed them of their identity. Magical people should take it upon themselves to spread the word of their existence, because the muggles needed to know what a terrible crime they had committed by killing Albus Dumbledore, how their ignorance had removed a great and powerful man from this world.

It wouldn't be long before it became a case of muggle-hatred all over again - it was their fault Dumbledore was gone, and they deserved to suffer for it, and so on. It was the Aurors' job to prevent it going that far, but the rallies and meetings were no longer the peaceful events they once were, with crowds of supporters whipped into a frenzy against the Ministry for oppressing the magical people when the world should know. To everyone outside the movement, it was obvious that The Legion of Truth was dangerous, that the Statute of Secrecy was there to protect wizards, that magical knowledge could not be shared without serious loss. It would be too tempting for the muggles - the Legion was probably right that they wouldn't fear magic like they had in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but seemed not to consider that they might covert it. It would become another weapon, and muggles seemed to be at war constantly; handing them more dangerous weapons would be a very foolish thing.

It wasn't a perfect political environment, but it was such an improvement over the war, that Sirius frankly wasn't worried. November the first nineteen eighty-one had been an amazing day - he didn't think he would ever forget the atmosphere, the sheer joy that filled the streets as there were magical people everywhere, trying very hard to appear inconspicuous but failing miserably. He often wondered if the muggles of Britain, and London especially, could remember the day at all, given that the Obliviators from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes had been so overworked. But even more than the expressions of disbelieving freedom and relief on the face of every wizard Sirius had seen that day, the thing that he was sure would cheer him up for the rest of his life was the look on his grandfather's face, when Sirius had dropped that morning's edition of the Daily Prophet onto his desk in the library with a cheerful (and possibly slightly childish) "I told you so"

He and Hermione had gone to Grimmauld Place before noon that day. It was a struggle to keep their focus on the serious matter of informing Pollux of their mission, when all Sirius wanted to do was dance about obnoxiously singing 'Screw you Death Eaters!' and kiss random strangers – or maybe just Hermione. They had reined in their joy at the dour House of Black – a place that was awfully good for squishing out cheerful emotions – and sat opposite Pollux in the library. Rather than launching into the story all over again, Sirius had let his grandfather ask the questions, and Hermione and Sirius found themselves giving detailed descriptions of the Gaunt shack burning and re-hashing Remus's account of the fight with Riddle.

Hermione told Pollux about Riddle being a halfblood; it shocked the Black patriarch at first for obvious reasons, but by the end of their conversation he was saying that the man had never behaved with the dignity one would expect of a true pureblood and that they should have known all along, which had Sirius rolling his eyes in exasperated amusement. The thing that found Sirius hard-pressed not to laugh was when his grandfather had pulled a small leather bound book from his desk drawer and then with a resigned sigh began to copy names and addresses from it onto a piece of parchment with his wand. He then thrust this list across the desk and said, 'These are people I know supported the Dark Lord with more than just gold, I would suggest you speak with them before they disappear, and please remember that I have helped your side, I'm not quite ready to give up my position just yet.'

Sirius chuckled as he pocketed the note; he appreciated Pollux's support, but the actual information was undoubtedly redundant. 'Do you think I'm here to arrest you, Granddad?'

'To be quite frank Sirius, I wouldn't blame you. You told me the reason you were involved in this in the first place was because our family held three of five Horcruxes, Andromeda and yourself are the only living members of this family who are not on first-name terms with at least half of the Dark Lord's followers, and if the Ministry were to gain access to our financial records they would see that this house supported the cause very generously until the beginning of October. I'm sure they will want a few words with me – as it is my signature next to every donation.

'Grandfather, no, they –' Sirius stuttered, a little surprised that Pollux had stopped donating to the cause - surprised but quite proud.

'I'm not designed for prison, my boy,' Pollux spoke over him, 'I hear the whiskey is dreadful. Please do all you can to make sure I don't go down that path.'

'Really Mr Black,' Hermione said placatingly, 'they won't come after you. Mr Moody is in charge of the investigation, and he will make sure your contributions to our side are well publicised.'

Pollux took a sip from his glass and said in a sceptical tone, 'I've not done – '

'Ah yes,' Sirius cut him off grinning, 'like how you met with Dumbledore to help protect some children who were under threat from the Death Eaters. I'm sure the Lestrange children would make very good character witnesses of your kindness, especially with what happened to Rab as proof of their anti-Voldemort status.'

Pollux smiled reluctantly. 'I suppose when you word it like it does sound much more honourable than it was intended to be. At the time I was very annoyed with the man - he may have been a powerful and skilled wizard, but my word, he was irritatingly pleased to be invited into our home.' He shook his head at the apparent madness of Albus Dumbledore. 'He asked me all sorts of ridiculous questions after you two left.'

'And don't forget your selfless rescue of a kidnapped dog,' Sirius sniggered. 'Who knows what Sausage-Fingers and his skinny mate would have done to me if you hadn't turned up.'

'I hardly think that's a story for the Wizengamot,' Pollux said, but he looked much more cheerful. He tapped the front page of the Prophet Sirius had flung on his desk. 'So this is true, what it says here? Remus Lupin - werewolf - destroyed Voldemort in single combat?"

'Yup,' Sirius said proudly, knowing that Pollux was well aware that it referred to Sirius's friend Remus, 'killing curse straight to the chest – hardly the actions of a savage beast, right Granddad?'

'Well, it was certainly brave of him,' Pollux agreed, eyes scanning the article. The image accompanying the article was one of very few pictures of Riddle, an old stock photo from the early seventies, taken by a brave journalist in the days when Voldemort had still attended the attacks he organised. Riddle looked much more human than Sirius had ever seen him in life, and he was glad of that – it made Voldemort seem more banal, just your regular evil psychopath rather than the immortal godlike villain he had become. Pollux ran his finger across the banner headline again, and asked in a puzzled voice, 'How was he able to duel the Dark Lord?'

'Grandfather,' Sirius sighed impatiently, realising Pollux wasn't asking about strategy, but suggesting that complicated magic would be far beyond the understanding of an animal, 'Remus went to school with me, surely you've put that together – he's just a normal, albeit clever - and now Voldemort-killing - bloke. Not all werewolves are like him, but they could be if they had the chance –'

'My boy,' Pollux said in a weary voice, holding his hand up in front of his face, 'I have quite enough to get my head around today without you preaching werewolf rights. Perhaps when this has all died down, I could meet with him and decide for myself.'

Sirius just stared for a moment before he said incredulously, 'But Grandfather, you know he is a halfblood – surely you would not agree to that, much less suggest it yourself!'

Pollux shook his head in disbelief. 'Is a halfblood worse than a half breed?' He asked weakly, seeming to be confused by Sirius's horror at the idea.

But Sirius just burst into laughter. 'I'm not sure, but he's rather poor as well, so Mother probably wouldn't let him in the house anyway.'

'Probably not,' Pollux agreed dazedly, reaching for his whiskey decanter in the obvious hope of washing away the whole confusing conversation.

Sirius grinned to himself at his desk as he rummaged around for the blank forms Frank wanted him to fill in. Pollux had not met Remus yet, but last time they had played chess his grandfather had asked about 'that Lupin's work', which was a satisfying start. Remus's project at the Ministry was an education programme for werewolves, many of whom could not read or write. Remus had been laughing at the pub about the irony of it all, that his chosen career was so similar to the werewolf training task he had hidden from for the last three years; Gamp might have a vicious bellow and strict rules around break times, but definitely less death threats and torturing than Voldemort. And although Pollux had grumbled about his taxes paying for a questionable programme, he still asked and listened as Sirius told him of Remus's progress, so there was a small light at the end of the bigoted tunnel.

Visiting Grimmauld Place these days was a much more pleasant experience, in part because Hermione often joined Sirius on his family visits now, which itself was because of the new residents. With her husband, sister and brother-in-law in prison, Narcissa had moved into to the London townhouse with her small son, and although she missed Lucius terribly, Sirius had the feeling that his cousin was relieved that Voldemort was gone and her son was safe. Narcissa agreed with Hermione's decision not to get married in a hurry; as she had said in a scandalised voice when Walburga had one of her little outbursts of irritation at the pair of them, 'But Aunty, Hermione's mother will get her a dress from Milan, altering it would be criminal!' It didn't seem to matter to Hermione that Narcissa's motivation for defending their decision was purely prevention of gown vandalism; she said it was just good to have someone on her side in the drawing room when all the other ladies made their thinly veiled insults about their day and having self-control and decorum.

Sirius enjoyed his cousin's company, too - she was quick and funny and had a much dirtier sense of humour than Sirius had ever known about, which he thought was quite brilliant. There was also young Draco, who at nearly two was almost old enough for conversation, and conversation in Sirius's mind meant old enough to convince to play jokes on "Auntie Wally" - as Sirius already had the toddler calling the lady of the house, much to Walburga's horror. Both Pollux and Narcissa found it endearing and chuckled whenever the blonde boy would use the name, which only encouraged him further. Sirius hoped his own child would be as useful for entertainment.

Narcissa was a type of flower, not a star, Sirius thought vaguely as he pulled open drawers in his search for the elusive forms - why was she the only one of the cousins without an astronomic name? His mother had been quite firm on the fact that if he and Hermione were determined to have this bastard child the least they could do was name it according to tradition. He had been doing his best to find a name to fit Walburga's demands, that wasn't something the poor kid would get too picked on for, or more importantly wasn't naming them after a prejudiced and deranged wanker – these two stipulations meant that the pickings were very slim indeed.

'Here you go, slavedriver!' There was a sudden thump of parchment falling on Sirius's desk and he looked over his shoulder to see James standing over him. 'You make me do all those forms and you're sitting here writing love letters?' James accused, peering at the purple memo paper Sirius had been scribbling on before he began his hunt for Frank's papers.

'Did I ask you to do these?' Sirius said, puzzled, as he recognised the forms as the blank ones he had spent the last half hour looking for, only now they were filled with James's handwriting.

'Yes, this pulling rank thing has got to stop.' James sounded serious but he grinned and added, 'Otherwise I won't tell you a brilliant bit of news from Lily's house hunting.'

Sirius snorted, 'Tell Hermione not me, I don't care where we live. Besides, I'm not pulling rank, Moody tells me what to do and what he wants you to do and makes me tell you - you know what the old coot is like, he's still trying to get back at us for beating him and Robards –'

'Is that so, Black?'

Four years, Sirius thought, four bloody years of working for the crotchety bastard and he still hadn't learned that every time he said something disparaging, Moody would turn up like a violent spirit, popping out of the carpet with his cane at the ready. Sirius drew a deep breath in through his nose and turned to face Moody. 'Yes, that's why you pick on us, because we beat you and it pisses you off.'

'Very nearly true, Black,' Moody said slowly, casting his one good eye appraisingly over them, 'but not quite. You see, everything about you two tends to piss me off – so I guess you could include that fluke of a victory - but mostly,' he jabbed Sirius in the knee, not as hard as he once would have, but still not a pleasant sensation, 'it's that you continue,' he looked over Sirius's shoulder to see his desk scattered in little purple memos, 'to muck about when you're supposed to be working.' His words might have been cutting but when they weren't presented in the usual growl Sirius found it harder to be threatened by the man. Moody glared at the pair of them for a moment and Sirius thought that perhaps he was still a little threatening after all, until he said in a voice that could almost be described as cheerful, 'Well I'm going to pop down and see your lass again Black, maybe she'll have stopped avoiding me now.'

Sirius didn't look at James, knowing that if he did his tenuous hold on his straight face would break. Moody's endless drive to get Hermione up to the law enforcement department was something they both found very funny – once a week or so Moody would optimistically tell them he was off to have another try, and then he would return surly with his walking stick on the alert for slackers, because of course Hermione already had the job she wanted, and had turned him down yet again. Moody rapped his stick against the cubicle wall sharply and said, 'Wish me luck, lads,' before he turned and stumped off towards the lifts, leaving Sirius shaking his head and James chuckling to himself.

'So anyway,' James said as though there had been no interruption, 'Lily said there's a house for sale on the other side of Godric's Hollow – I think she wants Hermione to come and look at it after work. You should tag along, keep me sane while they talk about scotias and skirting boards and north facing light or whatever the hell it is all night long.'

Sirius grinned at him. 'Neighbours you reckon?' he asked, feeling interested in this house-hunting rubbish for the first time since it began three months ago. While he understood that raising a child in a small damp upstairs flat in central London wasn't really ideal if you had the option not to, the idea of moving was not a pleasant one. He couldn't help but imagine some kind of suburban horror with pushchair-walking clubs, gossip at every turn, and his manhood being threatened if his lawn was patchy - though he supposed muggle standards wouldn't be too difficult, as lawn care was much easier when you had a wand. But Lily and Prongs didn't seem to have any issues with pushy pram mothers or competing horticulturists as far as he knew, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

He looked back at the forms, 'Well, you've just cleared my afternoon – what are you doing now? Shall we see if Moony can sneak away from Gamp and meet us at the Leaky for lunch?'

James grimaced. 'Can't, I'm on escort duty actually - and you won't believe who's on the list today.'

'Who?' Sirius asked, thinking it was bound to be someone he was related to.

'Mrs Pettigrew.'

Sirius felt his stomach drop at the mention of the name. 'Are you all right with taking her?' Sirius asked; surely Moody wouldn't insist that James had to take the mother of his own near-murderer out to Azkaban to visit the traitor.

Sirius's wistful imaginings of merrily bashing Peter's face in had unfortunately not come to pass. He had not been able to track Peter down the day after Hallowe'en – being hampered somewhat by not really wanting to spoil his spectacular mood and having to go and prove his case to his grandfather. Hermione had said it was highly unlikely that Sirius would be able to find the traitor anyway, since too much had changed; even dim Peter would be smart enough to keep his head down since James and Lily were still alive to tell everyone the truth about who their secret keeper was, so it wasn't like he could blame Sirius this time round.

As it turned out, Pettigrew was in a bit of trouble on both sides of the fence. In answer to reporters' endless questions about how Voldemort was able to find such a magically protected house, Moody, the sly dog that he was, had said that a traitor to the Order had sold them out, that he had been passing information to the Death Eaters and used a clever disguise to hide – his animagus form, a rat. Why Moody had not given away Pettigrew's identity explicitly, Sirius still didn't know, but the result of that little conversation led to the facts being printed in the Prophet the following day. The Death Eaters Peter was sheltering with were none too pleased, convinced he'd been playing both sides, and had intentionally sent Voldemort on a doomed errand, and now they knew to watch for rats.

Dolohov had very nearly killed Peter a week later when they and two others were cornered on a pier in Pettycur just north of Edinburgh, but James, in an act so ironic that Sirius still teased him about it, had stunned Antonin before he could act. To Sirius's great surprise, Peter had not tried to convince James of his innocence; he had begged for mercy, yes, but he never denied what he had done. So even though both James and Sirius had been right there on the Auror squad that helped capture their old friend, with the presence of Robards, Dawlish and Scrimgeour they both decided violent muggle tactics weren't in their best interests – merely because of the paperwork involved afterward, they had assured each other.

Peter had only been sentenced to ten years, much to Sirius's annoyance; as he had not directly harmed anyone, and had said under Veritaserum that he was cornered and he never sought out Voldemort, and did not believe in the cause, he was given a lenient sentence. Moody had seen to the rat-proofing of the traitors cell, but James, Sirius and Remus all felt it wasn't really enough, that Peter had a hand in the deaths of so many Order members with the information he had leaked, but the Wizengamot had not agreed. When Peter's story was compared to the boastful confessions of the Death Eaters he was brought, in with Sirius could almost understand why. Almost.

'Yeah, I guess so,' James said, 'not like she did anything, and I don't have to see Worm- him - it's only a drop-off at the office. The guards take them from there.'

Sirius nodded. He knew this already, having had to be an escort once himself, one of the more unpleasant tasks that came with being an Auror these days. Each prisoner was only allowed a visitor once a year, and that was for the medium security prisoners and below; the high-risk captives did not see anybody accept dementors for their entire internment, which in most cases was life. Sirius wondered how wise it was to make the most dangerous cellmates more insane and less human by continued contact with the dementors, but that, like the presence of dementors at all, was something that was quite far down the list of things that needed fixing in the world so it would just have to wait for now. 'Well then mate, I'll definitely come for dinner – you'll need some proper cheering up after that.'

James grinned. 'Brilliant, could you let Lily know? I have to get going –'

'Sure, I'm still going to see if Moony can get away - shall I ask him to come tonight?'

James nodded distractedly as two of the senior Aurors approached. 'Yeah good idea – tell Lily if he can, she'll want to make me peel extra potatoes.'

'Cooking now, is it? Did I make you jealous?' Sirius asked, sniggering to himself as he whipped a piece of memo paper from his pile and started his note to Remus.

'More like, Lils said that if the hopeless Sirius Black can cook bangers in bread, surely a man of my boundless skill and intelligence can handle peeling the spuds.' James looked thoughtful for a moment before he said, 'Personally I think it's a laugh at my expense, but I'll get it eventually.'

'Get what eventually Potter?' asked Hectors as the pair of senior Aurors reached Sirius's workspace. Hectors was a no-nonsense fellow in his fifties, barrel-chested and not overly tall, with a uniform stubble of grey hair covering chin, cheeks, and across his head. His partner Smethley was slightly taller and compensated for his pale thinning hair by growing what remained long – even longer than Sirius's – and wore it tied back. Smethley looked a question at James, too, waiting for an answer on what the younger Auror was going to get eventually.

James's eyes widened in alarm behind his glasses at the idea of discussing his unmanly domestic habits with these two hardened veterans; he glanced around and said quickly, 'The charm concealing all those notes lifted from Forte de Sang – we're nearly there, right Sirius?'

'Er, right,' Sirius confirmed, impressed with his friend's quick thinking. It was kind of true, they had tried so many different combinations on the ledgers found in the vault at his cousin's house that if only by process of elimination they must be approaching the right one – there was nearly nothing left to try. 'Slowly but surely is the only way to peel off the enchantments, ay mate?'

James snorted and rolled his eyes, 'Indeed. Come on then,' he said looking at Hectors, 'I'm in the mood for some sea air and soul-sucking depression, what do you say chaps?'

The older Aurors looked at each other with apparent resignation, whether at the afternoon's prospects or the jaunty attitude of their colleague, Sirius couldn't tell.

'I say we get it over with,' Smethley said looking at his watch, 'hop to it, we're due at the dock in twenty minutes.'

Sirius chuckled at James's cheery wave as he left, looking for all the world like he was being taken to meet some famous Quidditch star and not spend the next two hours in a boat with the sinister families of convicted Death Eaters and other violent criminals. Prongs was a right silly idiot at times, Sirius thought to himself.

Once James was gone, Sirius finished scribbling out a note to Remus - reminding him of the importance of male companionship and how it should be accompanied with a pint and chips - and sent it on its way. The poor bloke spent his life surrounded by women down in the magical creatures department, and from both his and Hermione's stories they all seemed to be the tree-hugging vacant-brained type. Most of the employees with old family connections – and opinions – had either been arrested or had resigned when Gamp had grudgingly agreed to give Remus a position, but the department was slowly building up again, even if many of the new employees were a bit daft.

Sirius tried very hard to be interested in his girlfriend's work, but it really seemed like the most boring load of waffle he'd ever come across, worse possibly than magical immigration. Remus assured him, however, that Hermione's sneaky way of rearranging language in the laws that were being sent up to the Minister's office for approval was making all the difference. Sirius had expected something far more dramatic from her – an impassioned demand to rewrite the classifications on magical creatures and to give every being equal rights, a bit of soap-box-standing and pamphlet-passing – that was what he assumed she had done last time. But no, it turned out that she had just stuck her clever little pointy quill into the wording of everything she could touch, and over time, without anyone really even noticing, the situation for the downtrodden improved.

Already, registered werewolves couldn't legally be fired from a job for the sole crime of being a werewolf. Employers still managed to find ways around that one, but Hermione insisted it was a start. Centaurs' lands had always been a confusing topic but now there was one little sentence in the entitlement treaty amendments that said if they had to be moved for security reasons (muggles deciding to build a new motorway through a forest they lived in, for example) they had to be provided with an area of similar size and geographical advantages. In instances of criminal allegations all creatures were now allowed legal representation, a victory achieved with one word added to the procedural documents; instead of The creature will present its case, the clause read The creature's counsel will present its case. So all of these tiny little tweakings were Hermione's achievements over the last four months, something Sirius was impressed by even if her talking about it was guaranteed to have him snoring in five minutes flat. She said that once she had established herself as a sane and sensible employee with a competent track record, she would become a bit more vocal, but for now Sirius thought that she quite enjoyed the deviousness of the whole thing, pulling one over on the Ministry and all that; occasionally he wondered if she was lying about being in Gryffindor at school, as she just seemed to have Slytherin written all over her sometimes. Also there was the fact that she was never offended enough when he suggested it – any true Gryffindor would depute such offensive accusations with their dying breath.

The dividing wall creaked and Sirius looked up in time to see Frank grinning at him. 'Those would be the forms then?' he asked with a nod in the direction of the stack of parchment James had delivered.

'Yup,' Sirius said, 'I was quick, right?'

'Ha, nice try,' Frank said shrewdly. 'I heard Potter drop them off. Just because you can't see me doesn't mean I'm not listening.'

'Creepy, Longbottom,' Sirius said, passing the papers over the wall. 'I suppose you also want an invite to lunch then?' he asked as he stood to pull off his uniform robes in preparation to escape.

'No thanks,' said Frank, 'Alice has been making my lunch every day, says with another kid on the way I need to look after myself, and that means no more ale or chips for lunch. Isn't Hermione on your case about that sort of stuff?'

Sirius shook his head, 'Not yet, the girl won't even marry me – do you think she'd try and tell me what to eat?' Then he grinned, and added. 'Besides, it's not like I tell her what I have for lunch every day, for all she knows it's salad and herbal tea all the way.'

Frank snorted. 'Good luck trying to sell her that one. Just you wait, when she's as far along as Alice the nagging will start; it's like they think we'll die and leave them all alone to raise the baby because we ate one more Yorkshire pudding.'

'When you're as old as you perhaps,' Sirius laughed.

Frank threw the quill he was holding at Sirius and said, 'It's only three years mate, you just wait.'

'Yeah but by then you'll be nearly thirty, so I still won't be that worried.'

Frank huffed and sank back behind the wall just as a purple paper plane zoomed in from the open area; Sirius snatched it from the air and unfolded it to read Remus's handwriting.

Pads,

You have greatly offended Amos - he does not appreciate being referred to as one of the "dopey birds down here" and would like to remind you that he works in dangerous beast handling and is quite capable of dealing with jumped up little Aurors if they are going to call him names.

Hermione is also unimpressed to be lumped with the less ambitious of her gender – so yes, lunch away from here would be great.

Gamp's on the warpath, someone was meant to oversee the release of several captured dragons into the wild but they got loose early and tried to barbeque everything in sight, so the poor blokes not only smell like pork chops but have been having strips torn off them for the last half hour. Good for me though, I'm leaving now. Meet you downstairs.

Moony

Sirius sighed, half-amused and half-annoyed - did the bloody wolf read his mail aloud? Now he would have to avoid the burly Diggory for a couple of days, not difficult but an inconvenience. It wasn't like Sirius was afraid or anything, just… prudent. He penned a quick note to Hermione and sent it on its way before leaving to meet his gossipy canine friend.


Hermione was making much better progress on the document in front of her as she munched on a banana at her desk; it was lovely and peaceful in the department, mainly because almost everyone was at lunch. They had all been enduring the agitated raised voice of Mr Gamp in the run up to midday; he was still in his office at the end of the corridor taking lunch as he always did, but with the absence of anyone in the room to shout at, the floor was blissfully quiet. With no other disturbances, Hermione could hear the crinkling flutter of a memo pelting down the hall, and when she threw her banana skin into the wastepaper basket it seemed to clang and echo like a bass drum in the silence.

The memo, it turned out, was for her; she often wondered what Gamp would say if he knew how many of the little planes that flew into Hermione's office each day were absolutely nothing to do with work, but foolish errant thoughts from her easily- and eagerly- distracted boyfriend. This one was no different.

Mrs Ogden,

Moony tells me I have managed to insult you – obviously you were not included under the heading "Dopey birds down there" since I do not have a death wish.

Prongs says Lily has another house for us to look at and as it's not far from them would like us to come to dinner tonight, sound good?

Mr Ogden

P.S. My best name yet: Flora? It's not too starry – an asteroid actually, but that's enough to keep Mother happy - and it hasn't be used before so our daughter won't grow up to find out her namesake tried to publish a book on the ten best ways to cook muggles or something.

Hermione smiled in disbelief and gave a little nervous laugh. She had wondered ever since she had realised she was pregnant if the "young Flora" Frederica had mentioned was her daughter rather than a young Potter, but she hadn't said anything to Sirius. She hadn't really liked the idea that her daughter would grow up to be Ron's girlfriend; somehow it seemed a little incestual even though she knew that was ridiculous backwards logic. But Ron was a good man - well, the one she had known was, so hopefully this one would be too. The other reason she had hoped that her conclusion was wrong was that she had really wanted Harry to have a little sister, but of course any daughter of Sirius's would be like a sister to Harry anyway, just as Sirius had found a brother in James and Harry had found a whole family in the Weasleys.

It wasn't about blood at all in the end, as she supposed she had always known. It was about choice, like everything - choose the right side to fight for, choose the people who are important to you, and choose the things you need in life to be happy, Hermione thought. It sounded so ridiculously easy when put like that, but then for her, someone who had agonised over nearly every decision in her life, it was easy. Their lives weren't perfect of course, but compared to decisions she had made in the past, the ones she was faced with now were a cinch. It wasn't like she had forgotten that people had died or that she had left her friends behind forever, but she couldn't change it. She had Dumbledore's notes on her timeturner, so there was a small flame of hope in the back of her mind that one day she might be able to put everything to rights, but for the moment she was focused on the mundane problems of a normal life – she had a strict boss who docked her pay if she was a minute and a half late back from her tea break, her boyfriend's mother could be a right bitch at times, and she had to use an unnaturally large amount of Sleekeazy's every morning to turn her short hair from a blonde clown wig into an actual style - so really when she weighed it all up, Hermione wasn't all that surprised to find she was content and grateful for the life she had chosen.

The End


A/N: I think the thing I'll miss most now that this is over is checking my email and seeing kind words from strangers, it is a little insane how much each of your lovely comments makes me smile.

Mrs J xx

Farewell fabulous fanficcers …. forever ….? False! – for fortunately ficcing feeds fun.

1/12/13: I'm currently working on a mini-sequel to this story set in 1993, I hope to begin posting it in the new year. Follow me for updates xx