Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters are the property of J.K. Rowling. Anyone whose name you don't recognize from the books is one of mine. I make no money from any of these stories. Will be rated 'T' for now. Much later chapters will likely be rated 'M.'

A/N: talking with single quotes denotes mental thoughts.

Hey, everyone. Sorry for the long delay in posting. I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU!

Chapter 16: Letters

MSML, November 23, 1992, Morning

The babble in the cafeteria was loud as Jamie and his friends entered and the air of excitement was nearly palpable. This year, seven quidditch players would be chosen to compete on a national level against teams from the other North American schools, including the schools from Canada and Mexico. The school whose team won the North American Championships would receive a 50,000 galleon scholarship for improvements at their school, and their team would go on to compete the following year against the rest of the international schools, representing North America. Jamie could hardly wait. He hoped he would be one of the ones chosen. Of the seekers in the school, there were only two who could challenge his seemingly inherent seeking abilities: Gwen Foxx and Korel Duke. Gwen was the cadet level seeker for Purple Penguins. There were six teams, one for each of the dorms.

Purple dorm, of course had the Purple Penguins. Korel Duke was seeker for the Yellow Jackets, yellow dorm's team. Brown team fronted the Bulldogs, Blue the Barracudas, and Green had the Gremlins – a name he found amusing after having seen Gremlins for the first time last year. He had earned the position of seeker for Duncan's Rockets in his second year. His team in red dorm had voted unanimously to change the name just last year from the Duncan Divebombers to Duncan's Rockets. Alliteration was seriously overrated.

He slid to the left as Jean-Luc slid onto the bench beside him. "Did ya hear? We've got a shot at playin' nationals this year." His friend burst out, nearly vibrating with excitement. Jean-Luc was on the boys' soccer team. Unlike quidditch, which was still the most popular wizarding sport, the muggle sport of soccer only had two teams, a boys' team and a girls' team. Jean-Luc's team had already played three shut-out games. If their next game, against BCAM (the British Columbia Academy of Magic), was like the last ones, the MSML Magicians, as their team was called, would begin playing against the best muggle middle-school teams in the nation.

Jamie tapped his plate twice with his fork and a bowl of Fruit Loops appeared in place of the plate. Beside it appeared a tall glass of apple juice and 3 slices of extra crispy bacon. He picked up a piece of the bacon and bit into it with a satisfying crunch and offered a second piece to Raiden who was perched on the edge of the table to his left. The thunderbird crunched down the bacon in two bites and sent a longing look at last piece. Jamie could feel him speculating whether or not he could beat Jamie to it. Laughing he broke it in half and split it with his familiar.

A house elf, wearing a crisp, clean MSML uniform popped into existence beside the table, placed several pieces of mail beside each of their plates and popped back out. Jamie scooped up a heaping spoonful of Fruit Loops and shoveled them into his mouth before reaching for the top letter on the stack.

-o-

Dearest Jamie,

How do you feel about visiting Mexico for Christmas? I am getting heartily sick of snow and long for a warmer climate. Can you imagine the fun we could have in Rio? It would also give you an opportunity to work on your Spanish by speaking with the natives. Write me and let me know what you think? I have invited Emily and her family to join us, but they are not yet sure if they will be able to make it. Their daughter, Hermione is just a little older than you. She goes to a boarding school in Scotland. I am hoping the two of you will become good friends.

feel about it first. Drop me a letter and let me know what you want to do about both.

Love,

Mum

-o-

Jamie sighed. She always wanted to go somewhere warmer for winter. Why couldn't she get over the fact that it snowed in winter? He loved snow. Snowball fights, sled races, skiing, and the crisp smell of fresh, clean snow were what winter was all about. Perhaps he could persuade her to only go for the first week and then come back a day or so before Christmas and spend the holiday at home. Idaho in the winter was, to him, the best place in the world. He wasn't sure about the Sirius Black thing. He supposed it couldn't hurt to meet the man. It wasn't like he could take him away from his mother. He was legally adopted and American Wizarding laws supported muggle parents as equal to wizard parents. Perhaps he would ask Professor Lupin for advice. The man had been more than happy to tell him stories of his real parents when Jamie's curiosity had gotten the better of him.

)-oOo-(

"There, that's the last dose." Abigail Addams handed the sandy-haired professor a smoking goblet of potion. "Take that now and I'll see you Monday morning to run some more blood work. Tomorrow night will make a year without transformations, after that, if the potion has worked the way it should, you should be lycanthropy free." She smiled at Remus Lupin who was sitting on her steel countertop, wearing a gray tweed suit.

"Thank you," he whispered hoarsely after gulping down the revolting concoction. The Americans had discovered that adding Stevia to the original Wolfsbane potion sweetened it without lessening its effects, but rendered the Wolf-Cure potion completely inert if added to it. Abigail said it had something to do with molecular bonds. It sounded completely Greek to him, but he would drink Wolf-Cure no matter how foul it tasted if it worked the way the healers claimed. It had a 95 percent success rate for completely curing a person of lycanthropy, but could only be administered by a certified potioneer. He turned to Nurse Abel. "Do you have the secure room prepared?" He was taking no chances. He never did.

The tall Jamaican man nodded. He looked uncomfortable surrounded by bubbling cauldrons and glowing test-tubes. It was a well-known fact that Padrigh Abel hated potions and had ever since he'd exploded one all over himself in his third year of school causing his face to be seared with permanent burn scars that no amount of magical or muggle healing could fully erase.

"Thank you again, Mistress Abigail, if this really does work, I shall be forever in your debt." He hopped off the table and followed the towering nurse out the door.

)-oOo-(

St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies, London, England, 6 weeks later:

"More mail for you, Mr. Black," the nurse sashayed into the room, her green robes three shades lighter than those worn by the healers.

Sirius sat up in bed, his wand gripped tightly in his hand beneath the blankets, and flashed his most charming smile at Nurse Heppel. Petite, blonde, and voluptuous, just the way he'd always liked his women. It was too bad she was happily married and uninterested in a fling. He knew, because he'd propositioned her the first day. Was her hair lighter than he remembered? He couldn't tell. The sunlight shining into the room made everything look lighter than it was.

"Thank you. What's for breakfast, do you know?" He asked, wondering what she was really doing here this early.

"Haggis & Mash or Gruel," she stated matter-of-factly, a small smirk on her face as she walked around the side of the bed.

Sirius shuddered, shifting slightly so his wand was still pointed at her. "Well given those for my options, I'll take the gruel with lots of cinnamon and sugar."

She picked up his chart and looked at it. "Sorry, but no Cinnamon, it will interact badly with the potions you are being given."

Sirius looked like someone had kicked him. "I think I'll pass then," He shuddered at the thought of eating gruel at all. The thought of eating it without heavy flavoring was too horrifying to contemplate.

"Suit yourself, but you know Doctor Thorne will require you to take a nutrient potion if you don't eat."

"I'd rather have the potion," Sirius decided, silently adding that he wouldn't drink that either, just like he hadn't drank anything else they'd given him.

The nurse just smirked at him, placed a folded envelope on the table beside his bed and left the room.

He had just started to reach for the unfamiliar letter when the door swung open and one of the male staff came walking into the room, carrying his breakfast tray.

"Top o' the Mornin' to ya Lord Black," He exclaimed cheerfully, approaching the bed with the tray.

"I just told Nurse Heppel I'd rather have the nutrient potion," Sirius started to explain.

"We-el then, Ah hope ya don't mind if Ah eat yer bacon then?" The man asked, then laughed at the expression on Sirius' face.

"Bacon?" Sirius' voice was both hopeful and skeptical. He wondered what was going on here. This was the 2nd unfamiliar face he'd seen this morning. He gripped his wand tighter, hoping he wouldn't have to fight his way out of the hospital.

"Blimey, don't tell me she got another one! Ah guess Ah owe Donovan ten galleons," The orderly exclaimed, sliding the tray onto Sirius' lap and then taking a step back.

Sirius eyed the man with suspicion, "What are you going on about? Who are you anyway?"

"Ah'm Wilbur, Ah'm the orderly for the ward this week. Yer the fourth person she's gulled this mornin' with that tale." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a small silver flask and took a sip. "Ah boy, that hits the spot it does."

Sirius stared hard at the man, and then, barely disturbing the tray, he slid off the opposite side of the bed, wand pointed at the strange orderly.

The orderly gave a barking laugh and sat down in a chair with his back to the corner. "Well boy, I'm glad to see you haven't lost all of your instincts in that hell-hole. I never did believe you betrayed the Potters, but what do I know? I'm just a Mad old ex-auror everyone wishes would disappear," The crude accent gone, the strange wizard tapped himself with a wand that seemed to appear out of nowhere. His body began to shrink and twist taking on the form of ex-auror and hit wizard Alastor Moody. He chuckled again. "Sit and eat boy. I promise I didn't poison it. I brought it straight from Molly Weasley's table. She intends to fatten you up."

Still slightly in shock, his wand not wavering from the form before him, Sirius lifted the cover from the tray. A heaping plate of food lay on the tray. Eggs Benedict, bacon, toast with jam, and a tall glass of orange juice. His stomach rumbled loudly, but he didn't touch the food, he just continued to stare at Moody.

After another moment or two, Moody laughed again. "By Saint Simon's feathers, eat boy!" He exclaimed.

Sirius relaxed on hearing the code-word and put his wand away, sitting back down on the bed to eat. Halfway through the meal, his head tilted back, his eyes slid shut, and the fork fell from his hand and clattered on the silver tray.

)-oOo-(

Early the next morning, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Scotland

Ginny stared down at the prone form of Luna Lovegood lying in the hospital bed. She'd had another black-out again. One that was followed by odd, disjointed memories of a giant snake, a strange language, and Luna's petrified body lying on the floor of the 3rd floor hallway just outside the girl's bathroom.

Lined up in the beds nearest Luna were Dean Thomas, Colin Creevy, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hermione Granger, and her older brother, Percy. Across the room, under a black drape was another bed containing the body of Penelope Clearwater. As she gazed around the room, she could feel Tom beginning to stir within the book. He was the cause of all of this, she was sure of it. Struggling against the compulsion to take the book from her book bag, she stumbled out the door of the hospital wing. She had to get to Professor Dumbledore.

Tom's rage blasted through her mind the moment he realized what she intended to do. She struggled blindly down the hall, her entire being focused on one thing, keeping control of her body long enough to get to Dumbledore. Unaware of where she was going, she crashed into a solid form.

"Are you drunk Miss Weasley?" Severus asked, surprised when his strict tones failed to have any effect. She continued her attempts to walk forward as though he wasn't even there. Something was really wrong with the child. He looked down into her eyes and watched in horror as they shifted back and forth between brandy and red. From the way her body was moving and twitching, he could tell she was fighting against whatever was controlling her. Given the red eyes, he assumed that whatever to be Voldemort. Pointing his wand in the direction of the staircase, he silently sent his doe patronus to summon the headmaster.

He pointed his wand at her "Inimicus Revealo." A red glow emanated from her bag.

"Petrificus Totalus," he shot the spell at her, followed quickly by a cushioning charm so the child would not be hurt as she hit the floor. He jerked the bag from her stiff shoulder and dug through it until he discovered the object that was emitting the red glow. The moment he touched the bag a searing pain tore through his dark mark and he had to bite his lip to keep from screaming. He dropped the book, staring at it in horror. He hadn't belived Reg when his friend had first told him what Voldemort had done, but now incontrovertible proof lay in the small, black muggle-bound book at his feet.

Horcrux. It couldn't be anything else. He and Regulus had studied many of the black family tomes in their time as friends, and once or twice they had run across the term, but even they, during their angriest moments had never once considered creating one. He watched the girl struggle silently, unable to move. He had to wait until a moment when her eyes were their normal color. There. He pointed his wand at the book. "Avada Kedavra." He unleashed all of the pent up anguish, rage and hatred he felt at the book. Just as feet thundered up behind him in the hall, the book emitted a high-pitched scream and a black, oily smoke rose from the book and then dissipated into nothingness.

"What in Merlin's name was that?" Minerva McGonagall asked, her tartan dressing robe clutched closed with one fist.

Severus, relieved to see Miss Weasley's eyes remained their normal whiskey-brown, turned to the crowd of teachers behind him.

"That, madam, was a horcrux - an object of immense evil that was attempting to possess Miss Weasley."

"Are you certain, Severus?" Dumbledore asked, peering down at the book which had a perfectly circular hole blasted through it, a strange look on his face.

"Very certain, but should we not take this discussion to a more secure location?" he asked. "And Miss Weasley could use the hospital wing, I think."

A/N: Well, that's another chapter done. I hope it was interesting and informative. I know things happened faster and differently than they did in Canon, but hey, if it was Canon, J.K. Rowling would have written it herself.