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Time marched onwards for the Grimmauld Place residents into full August's dog-day heat, and slowly Hermione's notebooks began to fill. Karkaroff and Dolohov had both attended the Moscow Institute, one of the few Magical universities in the world, and they had attended at the same time. Rodolphus Lestrange had also attended during that time, and while Tom Riddle had not, all three of the others had been members of the same literary club -- or at least what they claimed was a literary club. There had been two murders within the club before the school forcibly dissolved it. The Russian friends Remus had written to were afraid to inquire further.

An Englishman matching Tom Riddle's description had taught English Grammar at several schools in Russia between 1945 and 55; most of the superintendents were either dead or reluctant to discuss why he had, each time, been dismissed. His last known post was just outside of Moscow, and Harry became more and more convinced that there were answers to be had at the Moscow Institute. Riddle had gone to Russia in search of Rasputin; perhaps he had found what he was looking for, in one way or another.

Charlie owled back to Harry that few things other than a Patronus could drive back a Dementor, but if he had the help of at least one of the twins he could probably devise something. Fred volunteered to go and George moped for days, often coming to Grimmauld Place for dinner and talking pranks and potions with Sirius.

The small green notebook headed Fenrir Greyback on the first page also began to fill with information, most of it sketchy at best, some wheedled out of Remus in unguarded moments and the rest made up of speculation and old newspaper clippings. When Hermione wasn't using it, Harry kept it on his bedside table under his own research books and, usually, Sirius' copy of Animagus Winter. He was devouring it at the rate of a chapter a night, as though he was eager to read it but wanted to make Ellis Graveworthy's last book draw out as long as possible.

The page in the big notebook for the sixth horcrux remained blank, except for a short passage about Rowena Ravenclaw's experimentations with wands -- apparently she had been attempting to create one from glass. Harry was adamant that Godric Gryffindor's sword could not be a horcrux, and Remus, having examined it, agreed with him.

When Harry announced his intentions to move into Fourteen Back he expected Remus to object, but he merely insisted that he come along, that a Fidelius be performed, and that he inspect the wards himself before Harry be allowed to set up residence there. He did point out that he didn't see much difference between Fourteen Back and Grimmauld Place, but Harry knew that when he saw it, when he remembered it as it must have been when James and Lily lived there, Remus would understand.

What Harry had not expected was the hurt and unhappiness the decision caused Ron. He didn't really understand it; Ron was perfectly content that Harry should live at Twelve Grimmauld Place with Remus and Sirius while he and Hermione both stayed at the Burrow. He was happy to floo over every morning and home every night, though he was of age and could have left home if he really had a mind to. He knew the Grangers would never stand for their daughter living in a strange house with only one chaperone and three boys.

And yet, when Harry indicated that he would be shifting their strange little family from Grimmauld Place to Fourteen Back, Ron was furious and hurt. Why, he asked, hadn't Harry invited him, or even Hermione, to move with him? Why was Harry taking only a middle-aged werewolf and a teenaged troublemaker with him? Ron was Harry's best friend, he ought to at least have had the offer.

When Harry pointed out to Ron that there was very little room and it wasn't any different, really, Ron told him off again and refused point-blank to listen to reason.

"What's wrong with him?" Harry asked Hermione. Ron had just floo'd home in high dudgeon, and Hermione seemed to be the only one who really understood him these days anyway.

"Oh, Harry," Hermione sighed. "Isn't it obvious?"

"It bloody well is not," Harry replied. "If it were do you think I'd be asking?"

Hermione drew a letter out of her pocket and handed it to him.

"What's this?"

"Your Hogwarts letter."

Harry stared at her. "I told you -- I told McGonagall -- that I'm not going back."

"I know, but I asked her to register you anyway, just in case. Ron's came too, and mine. And we might be going back, mightn't we? We don't know that you'll need us yet. Ron doesn't know what you want from him, but he's scared he might not go back -- he's scared he won't have a place anywhere. Hogwarts is all we've known for six years, Harry. It's frightening to think about leaving it."

"What, he doesn't think I'm scared of leaving it?"

"If you are, you don't show it much," Hermione replied. "And he's your best friend, but instead of asking him to come room with you, you've asked Sirius."

"But Sirius hasn't anywhere to stay!"

"That doesn't matter, Harry. The point is, you asked him and not Ron. How do you suppose that makes Ron feel? You might be sending him away, you might not, you might be going out with Ginny, you might not, you might be his best friend or Sirius might have taken his place."

Harry gaped at her. The idea had never occurred to him. After all, he and Ron had faced death together. Death and giant spiders and flying cars and Divinations professors. Of course Ron was his best mate; and anyway hadn't Ron abandoned him for Hermione? Who, granted, was also his best mate, but he felt that it was a little unfair that he didn't get kissing privileges with someone.

But Ron had also done everything Harry asked and was willing to defy his parents and good sense and follow Harry away from Hogwarts. He had stood behind Harry without a single complaint until now, and even now it was not a complaint about their work. Perhaps there was some justification to it.

"I'll talk to him," he told Hermione.

By now it was nearly mid-August and students who were returning to Hogwarts were preparing to do so, most of them armed by their parents with extra hexes and amulets against this or that. Others were plotting their escapes -- if their parents wouldn't let them go back, they would go without their parents' consent. Harry had heard, through Ron and Hermione, of at least six or seven who were going to have to apply for scholarships of one form or another. Hermione had been shamelessly facilitating it all by arranging for Bill to pick up their books and robes for them.

"Harry," she asked, hesitantly.


"Are we going back to Hogwarts?" She bit her lip. "It's just...I want to stay and help you, but I want to take my NEWTs, too, and if I'm seventeen I don't need permission to leave school grounds. So I could keep doing whatever research you needed and still take classes..."

Harry thought about what Remus had said, about fear and education.

"Plan to go back," he said, and Hermione beamed at him. "Besides, you're going to have to help the runaways get onto the train."


By the time the new wards were put up at Fourteen Back and George had found a way to hook the fireplace into the floo network without anyone catching on, Harry had packaged up all the books he wanted to take and packed his school trunk. Remus, likewise, had fitted everything he owned into a significantly more battered school trunk and a suitcase. Sirius' trunk, shiningly new and filled with his tutor's robes and schoolbooks, seemed to scorn the other two where it sat next to them.

"You could have bought mine used," Sirius said, standing in the front hall of Grimmauld Place.

"Why bother? The money is there for it, and it's yours," Remus replied. In the background, they could hear Harry giving Kreacher instructions on keeping the house clean and fit for habitation with as few loopholes as possible. "I was too tired to go poking around second-hand shops to salve your pride."

"You're a fine one to talk about pride," Sirius retorted, as Harry walked up.

"All right?" Harry said brightly. "Come on then, through the floo we go."

Tonks, who had all but taken up residence with Remus, had a small valise of her own belongings; she picked up Remus' trunk, ignoring his attempts to take it from her, and led the way into the fire, drawing the trunk up agaist her and saying clearly, "Fourteen Back, Godric's Hollow, password Deporto."

One by one they stepped through the fireplace, Remus going last. On the other end, in Fourteen Back, Bowman Jenkins and his wife were waiting to welcome them with tea and several jars of pickled and preserved foodstuffs. Tea was had in the sunny little cottage kitchen looking out on Bowman's garden; afterwards, Bowman went to the pantry and returned with a wooden chest about the size of a hatbox.

"Now, Mr. Lupin will maybe remember this," Bowman said, nodding to Remus, "As he did tell me if I found anything valuable to hold it in safekeeping."

"I planned to come back for it...circumstances intervened," Remus said to Harry, in a low voice.

"But bits and bobs did turn up, and t'best thing, I thought, was to put them all together somewhere," Bowman continued, setting the chest in front of Harry. "Got some of it back from t'Auror blokes when they were done investigating. Open it up, there's a lad."

Harry opened the chest hesitantly, well aware of the sorts of things that could pop out of wizarding chests. Inside, however, was nothing more dangerous than a few flip-out racks containing what looked like costume jewelery. On the other hand, given Remus' sudden flinch, at least some of it was probably real silver.

"Yer parents'," Bowman said. "Lily, mostly. And yer father's cufflinks and pocket-watchdog and all."

Harry drew out a small silver object about the size of a pocket-watch, shaped like a sitting English bulldog. There were round caps set in either side of the dog's torso like clock-face covers.

"Pocket-watchdog?" he asked, amused. Bowman grinned. Harry put it carefully in his own pocket and lifted out a gold ring.

"They were buried with their wedding rings," Remus said quietly. "The graveyard isn't far from here. Bowman can show you where. They...used to fight over that one," he added, indicating the one Harry held in his hand. "Lily's boyfriend gave it to her a year before she started seeing James. He didn't like that she kept it, but they eventually came to a truce..."

He cleared his throat, embarrassed. "Sorry. Memory's a funny thing."

Tonks, sitting next to him, took his hand reassuringly. He smiled sidelong at her and squeezed it before letting go again.

Harry put the ring back and selected, instead, a pair of pearl earrings. "Dad's, right?" he asked, holding them up to his earlobes. Bowman laughed.

The rest of it was mostly earrings and bracelets that clearly had belonged to Lily, some of it more antique than others. From James there were only a few pairs of cuff-links and one or two tie-pins.

"Whose was this?" Harry asked finally, drawing a long, thin rod out of the bottom of the box. It had to be the silver that was making Remus wince; Harry glanced at Remus, who narrowed his eyes.

"Must have been an award of some sort," Tonks suggested. "Is it all silver?"

"Feels like it," Remus said. "I don't remember it, but then Lily was always winning awards for things. Probably some kind of honorarium for scholarship."

Harry put it back and closed the lid, resting his palms on the top.

"I think we should probably get on with the Fidelius," Tonks suggested quietly. "If we're going to be ready for Ron and Hermione to come for dinner."

Harry nodded. There was a lot to do; they had to complete the Fidelius that Kingsley and Tonks had been installing in their spare time, appoint Remus as Secret-Keeper for this home as well (he'd protested, but it hadn't done any good, and since Sirius' arrival Remus hadn't had the energy to do much arguing), and fetch Ron and Hermione. Bowman and his wife left, with an invitation to "Come up to t'house tomorrow for lunch", and the rest of them got down to work.

By the time they had finished the wards, fetched the others, eaten dinner, drank to Harry's new home in the small but cosy sitting room, and unpacked enough for it to actually feel like a new home, most of the residents of Fourteen Back were exhausted. Sirius, draped sideways over a wingchair, was watching the fire with sleepy eyes; Remus sat on the rug, back propped on the sofa, idly stroking Tonks' hair where her head rested on his lap. Harry sat on the sofa itself, studying the silver bulldog, flicking one of the little round caps up and down again. It covered what seemed to be a normal watch face which, against all odds, was still giving the correct time.

"Magically powered," Remus said, tilting his head back to indicate the watchdog. "Never runs down."

"Expensive," Sirius remarked, without moving.

"James had the money; if he bought something, he bought the most useful and durable kind available," Remus said. "And of course the most stylish."

"I think it's sort of funny-looking," Tonks said. "What's the other lid on the other side for?"

"To get into the gears, probably," Harry said. "That one sticks."

"Oh -- no, that's not it at all." Remus held his hand out for it. Harry hesitated.

"It's silver," Harry said.

"No -- it's nickel," Remus answered with a smile. "James and Sirius never owned silver after they found out about me."

"Disloyal," Sirius murmured. Harry placed the little dog in Remus' hand, and Remus dug a fingernail under the catch of the second cap.

"That's why it's called a pocket watchdog," he explained, fiddling with it. "There's a watch on one side and a little...divinatory...device..." he finally got the cap to lift up, and showed it to Harry, "...called a Rector on the other. So that if you're pressed for time and you need to make a decision, you can consult your handy watchdog and it will never steer you wrong. Or so the adverts said. The company went bankrupt sometime in the eighties, so you can judge for yourself how useful it might or might not be."

He studied the little glass face under the cap and blushed suddenly, handing it quickly to Harry. Tonks, amused, sat up and leaned her chin on his shoulder.

"Say anything interesting?" she asked.

"It would bore you," he answered, but he did kiss her. Sirius made a vague gagging noise.

"What does it say when you hold it, Harry?" Tonks asked, turning to look at him queryingly.

Harry looked down at the watchdog, curiously. The Rector, like the watch, had a slightly convex glass lens covering it. There were no gears, however, nor was there a face; just a deep black background on which words were appearing like smoke.

"You will find what you seek," he read slowly, as the words appeared, "not in battle but in books."

"Well," Remus said. "That's rather fortune-cookie. Usually it's a little more direct."

Tonks held out her hand, impulsively, and Harry placed it on her palm.

"Suggest the -- ooooh," Tonks said. Remus, looking over her shoulder, blushed again. She flipped the cap down and passed it to Harry, who offered it to Sirius.

"I don't think I want to know," Sirius said, nearly interrupted by a yawn. "Mmmh. Am I a wanker if I go to bed at this hour?"

Harry flipped the watch open. "No, I don't think so. I might too."

Remus leaned his head against the sofa. "We haven't put up the partition upstairs yet," he groaned.

Sirius shrugged, an interesting move while lying sideways on a chair. "Do we really need one? Padfoot sleeps on Harry's bed anyway."

"Up to you two," Remus said, hauling himself to his feet with the aid of the sofa. It was awkward to watch, and all three of them started forward when he stumbled a little, catching his balance on the sofa's arm. "Too much wine," he murmured.

"One glass," Tonks reminded him. "Come on. It's been a long day; we're all tired."

Harry climbed the stairs to the upper bedroom, Sirius following behind; no-one had yet even gone into the former nursery, and they had deliberately piled their trunks in front of the stairway leading from the second-floor bedroom down to it.

Harry stripped off his shirt, dropping it near the bathroom, while Sirius wandered over to the little windowed gable. From here one could see just a corner of the garden; most of the view was of the neighbouring garden next door. While splendid in the daylight, it had nothing on the tropical lushness of Bowman's and was clearly not owned by anyone of the wizarding persuasion. Sirius could see why James had wanted to live here; they had a lot of memories built up in this garden from last summer, when they stole mangoes and used the walnut trees as a quiet place to have a smoke behind.

Even here in Godric's Hollow, even with Harry as a constant reminder, Sirius found his thoughts focusing less on the past and more on the future -- less on the world he'd left behind and more on what was to come. He was going to be a tutor, an exalted position at Hogwarts. He was going to be allowed to help the good fight, when he thought before it might have been years until he was deemed ready.

He found himself trying to extend friendship to Ron and Hermione, although Ron still visibly staked claims on Harry whenever he could and Hermione could be intolerably bossy. He tried to keep Harry's spirits up and help George devise new pranks, though without Fred they weren't always quite up to snuff. He watched Moony tirelessly, making sure that he never had to overexert himself, entering into a conspiracy with Tonks to prevent him from doing the same amount of lifting and carrying the others did.

He liked Tonks, had liked her as a kid. She was a lot like Andromeda, who had always favoured Sirius above all his other cousins. They got on well because they rarely spoke a word of good sense between them and because they were united in the common cause of loving Moony with a fierceness that, had he been actually aware of it, would have embarrassed him severely. But Sirius was aware that however much he loved Moony and had harboured...well, inappropriate thoughts about Moony's twenty-years-ago counterpart, this man was not that boy.

And then there was Harry.

Harry who was brushing his teeth in the bathroom, shirtless, his trousers slung low on his hips. Harry, who gave Padfoot extremely good pets and whose smile of approval was something Sirius had begun to angle for. Harry, who looked so much like James and yet was so different. Harry.

Sirius picked up the little nickel-plated bulldog Harry had set on the bedside table, flicking open the Rector. He didn't expect anything to appear; he'd learned his lesson from the single aborted game of Emperors. Still, it never hurt to try.

Ask him about his hand.

Sirius blinked down at the white lettering which rose in little smoky wisps before his eyes. He glanced back at Harry. Hand? What the hell kind of advice was that?

He flicked the cap shut and set the dog back down again, picking up his book. Two days ago, Ron and Harry had swapped out the Grimmauld Place bed for the one that had been here; Sirius could understand Harry wouldn't want to sleep in his parents' bed, and the big old four-poster was nicer anyway. The whole thing was a bit morbid, if you asked Sirius, but then at least Harry wasn't sleeping downstairs in the former nursery.

He curled up against the footboard in his usual place, propping the book on his knees.

"This is better," Harry said, wandering in from the bathroom and pulling a pyjama shirt over his head. "Better than Grimmauld Place."

"Certainly smaller," Sirius answered. Harry grinned and flopped onto the bed, picking up Shop Gods.

"I like it smaller. I'm not used to having too much space," he said. "When I lived with the Dursleys I only had -- "

He shut his mouth abruptly.

"This feels more like it ought to, anyhow," he said. "This is what people our age do; double up in little tiny cottages and share the kitchen and fight each other about the shower."

Sirius watched Harry's hands; he wore sleeves that fell across the flat of his palm, and Sirius realised he always had. He hadn't noticed Harry's hands before. Now, watching the deft fingers open the book on his thigh, he could see why Harry had been a Seeker.

Harry absently scratched his left arm with his right hand, and then Sirius did see it; in fact he wasn't sure how he'd missed it before. The pale scars weren't vivid on the skin, but they were certainly visible. They looked almost like words.

And he had such fine, narrow knuckles, the skin stretched across them, the pads of the fingertips delightfully lickable if one could only --

Harry caught him staring, and Sirius flushed crimson. Wordlessly, Harry slid forward and held out his right hand, drawing the sleeve back.

"I was wondering when you'd notice," he said quietly.

I must not tell lies.

Sirius stared.

"Did that...?" he asked, hesitantly.

"Not voluntarily," Harry said.


"An odious woman once thought she could teach me a lesson in endurance when I was fifteen," Harry said distantly. "She set me to write lines. The quill she gave me made a cut for every line I made with the ink."

Sirius stared at him, horrified.

"I think the centaurs should have killed her," Harry continued. "But it's as good a reminder as anything. I've learned that lies get me nowhere; and who am I accountable to for any pain the truth causes? Only a handful of people matter to me, and some of those are only because I hate them. The ones I love would never turn on me for the truth, and I in turn will never do anything to them worth the lying over. That's the treaty I made with myself."

Sirius reached out hesitantly and touched the scars, feeling the slight variation in the texture of Harry's skin. Harry allowed him to unfold his curled fingers carefully, spreading the fingertips wide with one hand. Almost dizzily, Sirius raised Harry's hand, pressing the scars against his lips. Not a kiss; nothing so ridiculous. Just feeling the ridges and valleys of the knuckles, letting Harry feel his breath across his skin. Harry watched him with hard, wary eyes for a fraction of a second. Then they closed and his head dropped forward, chest giving a dangerous heave.

Sirius released him and leaned forward, worried he'd crossed some sort of line, but Harry merely covered his face with his hand. Now the scar stood out lividly, like the matching mark on his forehead.

"Harry..." he said helplessly. "You're...just tired, and...and it's only natural, you know -- "

Harry's chest heaved again and Sirius began to get really concerned. Boys their age Did Not Cry, especially in front of other boys. Even when Peter broke his leg last year falling down a flight of stairs, Peter hadn't cried.

But still Sirius instinctively gathered him close, pulling Harry's head against his chest awkwardly and smoothing down his messy hair.

"Christ, Sirius," Harry gasped, shaking. The boy was an absolute wreck, Sirius thought. This is the great soldier who's supposed to defeat the Dark Lord? "I keep trying, I keep trying to know what I'm doing, but I don't know -- "

"Nonsense," Sirius said reassuringly. "If you were doing it wrong, Moony would stop you. Or Ron or someone would."

"They don't know any more than I do."

"Who's going to blame you if you do it wrong, then?" Sirius asked. "If nobody knows any more than you, they should bloody well bless their stars you're willing to at least make a decision."

Harry laughed a little at that, which was the desired response. Sirius released him when Harry pulled away.

"You're right, I'm tired," Harry said, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. His eyes were still dry, which was something. "Sorry."

Sirius made a vague gesture in the air. "S'okay."

"If you want to sleep downstairs -- "

"No," Sirius said, as Harry turned back the blankets and pulled them up around his chest, rolling over onto his side. Hesitantly, Sirius crept up to the head of the bed, propping his back against the headboard. Harry took off his glasses and set them on the bedside table. It seemed like every movement of his right hand was now somehow significant to Sirius, but to Harry the scar was just a part of him -- it could be used to wipe noses or wash dishes or turn book pages with.

Hesitantly, Sirius reached out with his left hand and continued to stroke Harry's hair, twisting it into little kinks and curls where it ran crossgrain to itself. James had always wanted his own hair to look windblown and touseled; apparently his son had inherited the urge subconsciously.

Harry's breathing slowed. Sirius tried slicking down a cowlick one way, then smoothed it over across the crown of his head instead.

"When I was little," Harry said, sleepily, "My aunt cut all my hair off because it wouldn't grow properly."

"Looks fine to me," Sirius said.

"It grew back when I went to bed that night. I was glad because I didn't want to go to school with no hair."

"One time I set fire to a potion in class for a lark and blew bits of my eyebrows off," Sirius offered. Harry laughed.

"She used to brush it down all the time, tried to get it to lie flat," Harry continued, as Sirius encountered a particularly stubborn curl. "She never once touched me except to try to cut off my hair or fit me into Dudley's clothing. Never touched me except to make me be someone I'm not. Nobody ever does. She wanted me to be normal; Dumbledore wanted me to be special. Ginny wants me to be in love with her. Remus wants me to be suddenly grown-up and wise. Sirius -- "

"I don't want anything," Sirius said quickly.

" Sirius, my godfather...wanted me to be more like my dad."

"But I don't," Sirius said. There was silence from the other boy.

"We should sleep," Harry said after a while. Sirius sighed and took his hand away, sitting up to Change. Padfoot flopped down as usual in the curve of Harry's legs, and Harry flicked one of the blankets backwards, the edge just covering Padfoot from tail to nose

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