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Bowman's easygoing, incessant speech about the history of the cottage and of James and Lily Potter seemed to ease Harry's tension in an odd fashion. It was easier to enter the cottage as a stranger being given a tour, easier to pass through the small kitchen (still stocked with dishes in glass-fronted cupboards) as Harold, Samuel Padfoot's traveling companion.

The back door -- the entry from the garden -- led them into a sunny and spotless kitchen with a smallish but by no means tiny room attached to it, which Bowman referred to as t'storeroom. Beyond the kitchen was a small living room with an enormous fireplace and dusty but well-kept furniture; the windows looked out onto the alley. On their right was a stairway leading up, and on their left was a door covered in wide strips of red tape. The tape had been slit along the seam where door fit frame. Bowman led them upstairs, though Harry kept glancing back at the door.

The entire second floor was composed of a large, spacious bedroom, an equally enormous bathroom, and a small windowed gable with bookshelves and a writing-desk in it. There was another stairway as well, this one going down on the opposite side from the stairs they'd come up. Bowman led them there but Harry lingered, taking in the faded quilt on the bed, the books, the pleasant curtains. All in such order; it was hard to believe two people had been brutally murdered here.

"Are these their books?" he asked.

"Some of 'em," Bowman replied. "There was a young man as handled t'estate, he took one or two -- keepsakes, he said. Name of Lupin, think it was."

"You've looked after the place," Sirius observed, in the hushed voice people use in empty, unlived-in houses.

"Aye, so we have," Bowman said impertubably. "Was in a shambles when we arrived, but looked worse than it was; nothing much broken cept for windows and mirrors. Furniture thrown about, that sort of thing. Fixed up all t'plaster and wainscoting, mostly, except one or two areas. Replaced the windows, mended the curtains. Paint it every two years. Keepin' it up for young Harry when he should come back."

"What if he never does?" Harry asked abruptly. "If no one ever told him this was here..."

"Didn't want to go pushing myself on him, did I?" Bowman said. "He's enough problems without strange old men writing to him as regards his parents' house. He'll come in time; I knows he will."

He vanished downstairs, followed by Sirius and Harry, both realising at once that they were descending into the room that had been closed off from the living room. In here things were less orderly; the wood floor was spotlessly clean, but holes pocked the plaster walls and there seemed to be...things missing.

"Tis where it happened," Bowman said sadly. "Ye can still see t'tape on t'door. Wasn't allowed to repair anything in here; Aurors said I oughtn't."

"This is where they died?" Sirius asked.

"Aye. Young Lily lying there..." Bowman indicated a crushed portion of wall under the front window. "Young James just inside the door. Came through my garden, t'villain did; monstrous. Killed all my rose bushes. They found young Harry here..."

He gestured to a bare portion of floor, entirely unremarkable.

"Used to be a lovely little nursery," Bowman continued. "Lily put a desk under t'window and did her work here. Wrote essays for magazines and that; smarter woman I never met. Crib was wrecked, 'course, and t'desk. Took my missus that long to scrub t'blood out, when t'Aurors were done."

Harry was still on the bottom step of the stairs, not yet having properly stepped into the room. Sirius turned to look at him.

"This is where they died," Harry said. It was not a question.


Harry stepped down into the room, hands buried in his pockets, head bowed. Sirius wasn't sure what to do; Harry looked...fragile, as though if one touched him he might fall to dust.

He ran a hand quickly through his hair and the blond colouring faded into black; he touched the sunglasses he still wore and they turned into his regular everyday glasses. Bowman narrowed his eyes suspiciously but Harry was moving past him to stand in the spot where, sixteen years before, he'd somehow survived the greatest dark wizard of his parents' -- and his own -- generation.

"Thank you, Mr. Jenkins," he said, crouching to touch the floor. "I'd like to take my home back now."

The old man's jaw dropped and he looked from Sirius to Harry. "Little Harry?" he said softly.

"Give or take a few years," Harry said with a small smile. He straightened, dusting his hands unnecessarily. "Thank you for taking care of it for me."

Bowman's face split in a huge grin. "Didn't I say young Harry'd come back some day?" he asked, cheerfully. "Welcome ye are to yer cottage, Mr. Potter, and may ye get good use out of it."

"Thank you. I think I shall," Harry agreed. "Eight and a half years, you said? Is there anything owing?"

"Not a copper knut, bless ye," Bowman answered. "Yer father paid ten years in advance, said he wanted to be sure he was settled somewhere."

"That's good," Harry said.

"And this young man is a friend of yers?" Bowman asked.

"Yes; he'll be living with me until school starts," Harry said. Sirius gave him a startled look, but didn't object. "I'll need a spare key for him. And if you could have four or five more made, that would be excellent. I'll make everything right with the Aurors; in fact, I may send a few to install some new wards. I'll tell them not to disturb you."

"Disturb me?" Bowman laughed. "My missus'll fix 'em tea and we'll be glad for it. Ye'll come soon, then?"

"Oh yes; a week or two at the outside. I expect to have visitors; is the fireplace connected to the floo?"

"Not as such, no," Bowman allowed. "Expensive to keep up."

"That's fine. I'll arrange it." Harry offered Bowman his hand, and the man shook it cheerfully. "We have other errands to run today, Mr. Jenkins, but thank you for everything. I'm afraid you'll have to give up the tours, though," he added.

"Oh -- I was getting too old for them anyway," Bowman said. "I'll take down t'box this afternoon and lock t'gate."

Harry nodded and they left the little room through the red-taped door, walking back out into Bowman's glorious garden. The old man offered to load them down with some of Mrs. Jenkins' preserves and zucchini, but Harry managed to get them away before he could. They were back on Henry Street again before Sirius spoke.

"Are you really going to move there?" he asked, excitedly.

"Yes -- it's nicer than Grimmauld Place, and I...I think I need to," Harry said. "We'd better walk fast, it's almost quarter-till-one."

"And you want me to come too?"

"Of course. I'm not leaving you shut up in that mausoleum."

"What about Moony?"

Harry grinned. "Well, I saw another bedroom, didn't you? We'll partition off the upstairs and you can stay up there with me, and he'll have t'storeroom to himself. It's much more practical. Once we have the floo installed there'll be no difference, really."

"And you won't know, weird?" Sirius asked. They were passing Mr. and Mrs. Potter's old house, but Harry hardly gave it a look; he seemed as though he was trying to decide between elation and grim determination. "Living there? Where your parents died?"

"Your parents probably died in Grimmauld Place," Harry said. "Besides, I was born at Fourteen Back. It's mine by birth as much as anyone else's by death."

They moved so quickly through the pub that the witch tending bar didn't even have time to call out in surprise; the Grimmauld Place floo recognised them both without issue and let them through.

Sirius was brushing some ash from his shirt, unconcerned, when Harry suddenly staggered and stumbled into him.

"Whoa there, mate," he said, catching him around the waist and helping him back upright. "Step wrong?"

Harry was white as a sheet, breathing heavily; Sirius recognised nerves when he saw it and walked him into the kitchen, dropping him into one of the seats at the table. Harry gripped the edge of it tightly, hands shaking.

A distant part of his mind told him that this, too, reminded him of Moony; push and push and push until there was time for collapse, and then a prompt and complete one. Moony had done it a few times at school -- seemed perfectly normal all through OWLs, even cheerful, and then the day he went home, his mum owled to say he'd been throwing up for three hours and what had Sirius given him on the train? Sirius hadn't given him anything, of course. Moony had simply finally let himself break down.

"All right?" Sirius asked, resting a hand on the back of Harry's neck.

"Yeah..." Harry said, but his eyes were glassy. He rested his face in his hands. "Oh god..."

"Stay here," he commanded, running to the pantry. He was willing to bet that nobody had found his father's stash...

He hooked his hands on the top shelf and hauled himself up, using the lower ones as footholds. The seemingly solid stone ceiling gave way when he pushed, and he reached into the stone, groping around the little hidey-hole. His hand settled on a heavy glass bottle, and he came away with his father's "medicinal" brandy.

He hopped down, bottle in hand, and found a clean glass, pouring out a generous helping and offering it to Harry. It did seem to help; Harry began to breathe slower, though he gagged a little at the taste. His face coloured up, and his hands steadied.

"Thanks," he said. "Sorry, I just...I didn't expect to see it."

Sirius grinned. "You remember telling old Jenkins you're going to move in?"

Harry buried his face in his hands again.

"You seemed to have it all planned out, I'll give you that much," Sirius said, comfortingly.

Just then there was the unmistakeable sound of the floo flaring up, and they heard Remus' voice. "Harry! Sirius! We're back..."

"In here," Sirius called, before he thought about it. Remus appeared empty-handed and Ron followed behind with a number of bundles in his arms and Remus' satchel still slung over his shoulder.

"We've had lunch, I hope you didn't -- " Remus stopped. Sirius realised he still held the brandy bottle in his hand. Remus smiled. "A little early in the day for this, isn't it?" he asked.

"Harry..." Sirius gestured at Harry, who was looking guilty and trying to pretend there wasn't a glass half-full of alcohol in his hands.

"Are you all right?" Remus asked, dropping into the chair next to Harry and tilting his chin up to examine his eyes. "What happened? Why is it every time I come back here I have to ask that?" he said to Sirius, abruptly. Sirius grinned.

"I'm all right," Harry said, politely removing Remus' hand from his chin. "I just had a bad moment, that's all."

"Your scar?" Ron asked, abandoning the bundles.

"No...just...I tripped," Harry said, "and almost fell down the stairs. It startled me."

Remus glanced skeptically at Sirius, who shrugged. "I thought a nip would do him good. It's medicinal."

"Have you eaten?" Remus asked. Harry shook his head. "Small wonder. Well, you'd better get something into your stomach before you have any more brandy -- "

"I'm okay," Harry insisted, and Remus paused in reaching for the glass to take it away from him. The expectant silence unwound slowly.

"All right," Remus said finally, withdrawing his hand. "Of course you are, Harry. I'm sorry; you're your own best judge."

In almost any other person, it would have sounded insincere and sarcastic, but Remus managed to make it seem as though he meant it. It was very likely he did.

"How was Hogsmeade?" Harry asked, shifting the subject quickly and pushing the glass away from himself. Sirius set the bottle down and went to inspect the packages, carefully unwrapping each one and storing it either in the pantry or the charmed-cold cupboard.

"Brilliant," Ron said. "I've never used floo express before. They take your letter, right, and they wrap it up in a little steel case -- "

" -- which is why it's so expensive, you have to buy the case." Remus put in. "Highway bloody robbery if you ask me."

" -- and each desk has a little tiny fire, and they toss your letter in." Ron grinned.

"I've asked them to express me back care of the Hogsmeade office, so I'll have to check in or send someone else," Remus continued. "We've bought a roast for tonight -- Sirius?"

"Got it," Sirius said, holding up an enormous hunk of meat wrapped in paper. "What should I do with it?"

"Cold cupboard -- as soon as I've had a bit of a rest, we'll chop some vegetables and start the oven," Remus answered. Sirius uncovered an enormous bag of vegetables and put them aside to be washed and chopped up.

"Do you expect to hear back soon?" Harry asked Remus.

"Well, yes and no. My Russian friends, who shall for the moment remain nameless, are not the most prompt of letter-writers and..." Remus made a face. "Tomorrow night is the full moon, which will affect them as well."

"Ah. Those kinds of friends," Harry said.

"Yes. So I don't expect an answer before Monday. I'm sorry, Harry; these things move slowly sometimes."

"I know it," Harry answered with a sigh. "That's all right; I have plans for the next few days."


"Yes. I saw some history books on those shelves you stocked for me. The sixth horcrux is probably something that Godric Gryffindor or Rowena Ravenclaw owned; I'm going to try to find out if there's any historical record. Keep me busy while the rest of you are owling Russia and wandering Gringotts and such," Harry smiled. Sirius unpacked a bag of Flavourite Crisps (Vinegar or Cheddar, Flavourite Always Tastes Like What You Want! A Subsidiary of Bertie Bott Inc.) and dumped the whole thing into a bowl, carrying it to the table.

"Nutritious," Remus remarked.

"First course," Sirius replied. He shoved the bowl across to Harry, who obediently began to eat.

"If I may make a respectful recommendation," Remus said, "I think you ought to rest this afternoon, Harry. Sleep if you can. It's likely to be a long meeting tonight, and you don't look your best right now."

Harry nodded, which just proved how tired he had to be. Sirius and Ron exchanged an anxious look across his slumped shoulders. Ron rose and went back to the remains of their shopping, locating some cheese and bread and uncapping a bottle of butterbeer. He glanced at Remus, who nodded almost imperceptibly.

Harry accepted it all with a weary grin."Ta, Ron," he said. "I'll be all right. It wasn't much."

"Which reminds me..." Remus rose and poured himself a glass of water before taking a blue-glass vial out of his pocket and twisting off the wax-sealed topper. "Pye gave me enough to see me through the full moon, and I'm sure I'll need it."

"No you won't," Sirius said, as Remus swallowed the potion in a single gulp. "I'll be there."

"Very true," Remus said, drinking the water quickly. "Harry, finish that and go to bed. Ron and Sirius can help me fix the roast."

Harry was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow. Ron, who had gone up to make sure he got into bed all right, came back into the kitchen with a satisfied look.

"What exactly did I put in his drink?" he asked Remus, who was washing potatoes with his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows.

"Just a few drops of a simple sleeping potion; he'll be up and about by four or so. Normally I wouldn't presume, but he doesn't know his own limits yet. This...helps him learn," Remus said. Sirius accepted the potato from him and covertly peeled it with a quick spell. Ron stared at Sirius, who made a shushing gesture. "What really happened, Sirius?" Remus asked, scrubbing a potato vigorously.

Sirius gave him an innocent look. "What Harry said."

"Harry's seen far too much to be that shaken up after tripping on the stairs," Remus answered calmly. "Did someone try to get into Grimmauld Place?"

"No," Sirius said truthfully.

"And it wasn't his scar?"

"Not that I saw."

"He didn't pass out?"


"You weren't in danger?"

"Not that I saw. We were safe."

"Well, whatever the two of you got up to, try not to do it again," Remus sighed.

Sirius grinned. "Does it count as 'not doing it' if you don't find out?"

Remus laughed a little and moved on to washing to carrots. "You never change, Padfoot."


The meeting was, as Remus had predicted, very long and in addition very contentious. People did not like being asked to do things without being told why, and a promise made to a dead man did not hold much weight, particularly with the younger members of the Order. Hermione and Ron helped Harry present a united front, and Tonks managed to reassure the Aurors that whatever Harry was up to was worth doing, but there were still grumblings when the meeting finally ended and the food was passed around for those that were staying.

Throughout the meeting, the twins had thrown in their lot with Sirius; it was clear that whatever he said they were willing to back it, which had helped a great deal. During dinner they sat on either side of him and pelted him mercilessly with questions about things that Harry only vaguely understood. Some of it clearly concerned the making of the Marauder's Map, but the rest was almost incomprehensible.

Back when it had first been revealed to the pair that Remus was Moony of Marauder's Map fame, the twins had presented themselves to him as willing disciples, but Remus had deferred to his better judgement and fear of Molly's wrath and given them no information. Sirius was more forthcoming, and of course by now the Weasley parents had quite given up trying to rein in Fred and George. Sirius seemed to like the attention.

Ginny sat with Harry, eating quietly and neatly. If she was still upset about his decision, she made no sign; she seemed cheerful enough, but she was careful not to smile too warmly at him.

That night Harry and Sirius sat up reading until very late; Sirius managed three chapters of Founders: What You Think You Know About The Four before he gave up and went back to Shop Gods.

"It's all gossip anyway," he told Harry, who was nodding off over Mystical Artefacts Of Great Britain. "Says that Godric Gryffindor chased all the older girls at the school and incidentally, so did Helga Hufflepuff."

"Chase all the girls?" Harry asked.

"Yup. I think it's crap, a bit."

"Well, you never know. No reason she couldn't have," Harry said. Sirius blinked. That kind of fact wouldn't even have been found in books twenty years ago, and the mere idea would have been enough to touch off hours of debate in the dormitories.

He had been leaning up against the footboard, facing Harry; now he crawled forward and stretched out on his stomach, propping himself on his elbows over Shop Gods. Harry, absently, reached out and stroked his head. Sirius jerked it up in surprise, and Harry glanced at him.

"Oh! I thought you were Padfoot," he said, flushing a little. "Sorry. I didn't look first."

Sirius laughed. "I shed considerably less this way."

Harry grinned too and went back to reading, and Sirius pretended to. Now he rather wanted to be Padfoot; it would mean more pets from Harry, because as Sirius well knew, Padfoot's silky coat was irresistable. Better people than Harry had failed to resist Padfoot's slobbery charms. But that would rather give the game away, so he would have to wait until it was time to sleep.

From below, he heard a low laugh and a door close firmly.

"Sounds like Tonks is staying the night," Harry said, turning the page.

"Lucky Moony," Sirius murmured.


The next few days were spent in a frustrating pattern of research and talking and more research, with intermittent breaks for meals and the occasional trip out. Remus brought back tutor's robes and a selection of books, prepared by McGonagall ahead of time, for Sirius; with it came confirmation that the school would reopen on schedule, despite a sharp drop in enrollment.

"Any news on the new Defence professor?" Harry asked. Remus shook his head.

"I doubt anyone would take the job. You'd have to be a fool," he said. "Whether or not it's a hex on the job, it's been getting steadily worse lately. I got off lightly, it would seem."

"I wouldn't call it light," Harry answered. Remus, arranging books and writing implements so that he would be able to work from bed the following day, after the moon, folded a pair of trousers and draped it over the end of his bed.

"Well, I could have died," he said. "Or been locked in the safe ward at St. Mungo's. Or I could be an imposter -- or a Ministry drone -- or a murderer." His eyes hardened, and he clenched the inkbottle between his fingers so tightly that Harry thought he might break it. Finally he set it down with a sigh. "At least Hogwarts will reopen. That's important."

"Is it?" Harry asked, indifferently.

"Yes, Harry, of course it is," Remus said, looking surprised. "It's vital. Surely you've learned that by now. If we forget our children, if we teach them fear instead of curiousity, then we lose. Irrevocably."

"But it's only a school."

"It is fifty years of Albus Dumbledore's life; nearly forty of Minerva McGonagall's. Eight of mine. Six of yours. It is the single most long-standing institution in the entirety of wizarding Britain, Harry. Hogwarts has withstood wars both Muggle and Magical -- rebellions, revolutions..."

"You sound like Hermione."

Remus smiled. "Thank you. But it's true, Harry. Hogwarts represents the world you and I are fighting for -- children educated as equals regardless of their bloodline or background. The idea of a fair society where learning is valued above power."

"It never seemed very fair to me. Our world isn't fair to you either."

"We often fall short of our ideals, Harry. That doesn't mean they aren't worth trying for," Remus said. "If we did not try, then Sirius would be a Slytherin today, Tonks would be in a laboratory somewhere, and you -- whose mother was Muggle-born -- would not have attended at all. And you would always know that there was a part of you that was irrevocably lost, forever."

He put the last book in place on the bedside table, and Harry realised that what he had just described had almost been Remus Lupin's reality.

"How close was it?" he asked. "How close did you come to not attending?"

"I got my official admission on August twenty-eighth," Remus said. "So you see, if I overvalue Hogwarts, I do perhaps have reason to do so."

"Moonrise in thirty minutes!" Sirius sang out from the hallway. "All hands report to the cellar for the most boring full moon I've ever spent!"

Remus gestured at the doorway. "I am summoned," he intoned, grinning. "You'll be all right, Harry?"

"I have been before," Harry said.

"Well, yes, but don't think I haven't noticed Padfoot sleeping with you. Tonks will be downstairs if you have a problem, and I'm sure Ron would be happy to stay."

"I'll be fine," Harry reassured him.

"The barrier charms will fall into place when I close the door and dissolve at dawn. You don't need to get up -- Sirius will be there, and Tonks. It shouldn't be a hard moon."

"All right."

"I'll see you tomorrow, Harry. Whatever you do -- "

"Don't open the door, I know."


Sirius was used to the transformations, both into and back from the wolf, but it hurt him every time.

Padfoot was woken from a happy, furry nap by the shuddering of human muscle under wolf-skin. He backed into a corner, whining unhappily as Remus curled into a foetal ball and gasped with pain. As soon as it was done he ventured closer again, snuffling the bare skin that was pocked with scars and still twitching a little.

He changed back when Remus' body stilled, the spasms ending. He quickly retrieved the blanket from the steps, wrapping the older man in it and helping him upright. He weighed not an ounce more than he had when he was sixteen, and it wasn't hard for Sirius to get him up the stairs and through the door where Tonks had been told to wait.

Together they helped him into his room and bed, piling up the blankets when he began to shake from the cold.

"Should I stay with him?" she asked Sirius, and Sirius looked at her confusedly. He was used to being the one who healed Moony's various cuts and scrapes, but to have a woman ten years older than him ask his advice was bewildering.

"He's all right. No scrapes -- it was a pretty good moon," Sirius said. "I wouldn't get too close to him. Body heat's all right, but sometimes he tries to bite."


"He doesn't mean to. He'll be all right after a sleep. He gets confused. Used to, anyway. Maybe not anymore," Sirius said. "But I wouldn't go cuddling up to him just yet."


"Yeah," Sirius said. "I know."

He stood looking at Remus -- grey-haired, scarred-up Remus, so different from his own impulsive, inquisitive Moony. Suddenly he didn't want to be in the room for another minute; he wanted to be home, at Hogwarts, where he could sit with James and Peter and share around hot pumpkin juice while they waited helplessly for Remus to fall asleep, for what little comfort sleep could offer. He wanted to share a blanket with James and nap on his shoulder and skip classes that day and be allowed to curl up with Moony as Padfoot and warm him.

"I'm going upstairs," he said. Tonks nodded, already preoccupied with settling the blankets properly around Moony's shoulders. Sirius all but ran from the room.

Harry woke when Padfoot leapt up onto the bed, but it was the half-waking of a very tired man who knows that whatever it is can wait.

"M'mus kay?" he mumbled. Padfoot insinuated himself up against Harry's chest and licked his cheek. "Good."

Harry smelled reassuring and real, like soap and unwashed socks, and Harry's fingers were even now scratching behind his ears. Padfoot leaned into the caress, comforted by it. Harry laughed sleepily and pressed his face against Padfoot's forehead, eyes closing again.

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