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Sirius was quiet after his meeting with McGonagall, so unusually quiet that Remus remarked on it at dinner -- Tonks was in London on Auror business and Harry had said he was just going to do a fry-up, so Remus decided to stay at Hogwarts for the evening meal.

"Are you all right, Padfoot?" he asked, spooning potatoes onto his plate. Sirius shrugged, then looked at him thoughtfully.

"Had my career session with McGonagall today," he said.

"Oh yes? Picked your NEWTs, have you? Hope you're taking Transfiguration -- be a shame if you didn't," Remus said with a smile.

"Dunno...I asked for a few days to think it over."

"I'm not surprised."

"She wouldn't tell me what I took last time. She said she didn't even know what I did after Hogwarts."

Remus carefully separated his potatoes from his roast beef, fussily. "I'd venture to guess she told you that you didn't do much of anything."

"That's it exactly!"

"Yes, well, you didn't appear to," Remus allowed. "You did quite a lot, though, to be honest. It's just that none of it was really...well, it was not what you would call employment."

"What would I call it then? Charity?"

Remus grinned over his food. "Well, if I recall you were going to be an Auror, but your training was rather spotty. You worked in some shops in Diagon for a while, but you never really needed the money, so when you got annoyed you generally quit. You did lots of other things, though."

"Like what?"

"Well, you worked for the Order -- you were really quite indispensable whenever someone wanted anything dangerous done. There were the full moons of course, you...looked after me after the moons, which is quite a full time job, you know."

Sirius winced.

"After Harry came along, you were babysitter number one -- wouldn't let anyone else do it. You were working on your motorbike a lot. And you were Ellis' muse which, trust me, was another full-time job," Remus smiled nostalgically.

"It doesn't sound very well-planned," Sirius said finally.

"Yes, well, the only thing you ever put any real planning into were pranks, if you recall," Remus chided gently. "I think it was rather hard for you. You had no real reason to have to do anything, so you simply did what came along. One did get the sense that you were...waiting, perhaps. For the war to end. It did seem like there were things you wanted, but...well, you never said what they were, if you even knew."

"And then came Azkaban -- "

"Yes," Remus bit the word out sharply, cutting him off. Sirius fell silent, sopping up some gravy with a bit of potato. Finally, Remus continued.

"So, Padfoot," he said, without looking at him, "If you have a heart's desire, you certainly never told me. But I would advise you to follow it; ignoring it didn't seem to work very well last time."

"All right, Moony," Sirius answered. "Maybe I will."


On Thursday afternoon, Augustus Pye appeared on the rather unseasonably drizzly main street of Hogsmeade, making for the warmth and pleasant yellow light of the Three Broomsticks. As he picked his way across the shallow mud, a large black dog trotted out of the alley and sidled up to him like a second shadow.

"Hullo, stray," he said, stopping on the threshold. "Come in for a drink first?"

Padfoot licked his lips and let his tongue loll out. The young Healer smiled and led the way inside, ordering a butterbeer and democratically pouring half into a saucer for the dog, who lapped it up lazily. When he was finished, Augustus tipped his hat to the barmaid and left a handful of sickles on the table, venturing back outside into the post-drizzle dampness.

They walked together, Padfoot leading the way up the branch of road which split off from the path to Hogwarts. They skirted around the side of the Forbidden Forest until they reached an open, grassy plain down the hill from the town. Once they were in amongst the high grass, Sirius changed back without breaking stride and they continued in silence for a while.

"Have you ever been here before?" Pye asked, finally.

"Around -- we never went down to the site, but I know where it is. Harry gave me maps," Sirius added. "It's another ten minutes' walk that way. Thanks for coming along."

"It's my pleasure. I rarely get to leave St. Mungo's -- patching up hexes and curing comatose werewolves aside, I don't really do much for the Order," Pye admitted. "This is an adventure, for me."

"Pretty poor adventuring," Sirius said, shoving his hands in the pockets of his scarlet robes. His boots, caked with mud, crunched on the harder soil in the field.

"Well, it'll be interesting to see the gravesite. Do you expect to find anything specific there?"

"I don't know. I mean I sort of know. I'll know it when I see it, anyway," Sirius said. "I might have to do a few charms."

"I hope I can be of help." Pye cleared his throat. "On that count, you did say in your letter..."

"Personal business," Sirius grunted.

"If it's some sort of magical malady, I am sworn to confidentiality -- "

"No! No, it's not that," Sirius said, as a flock of birds rose from nearby and fluttered up into the air. "It's...well, I'd still appreciate that confidentiality."

"Have you got a girl in trouble?" Pye asked.

"Of course not!"

"Only asking. Better men than you have, and you've got the look about you."

"What look is that?" Sirius demanded.

"Nothing! Nothing. Rakish, that's what it is. You look like it wouldn't be hard for you to get...into the sort of position that results in getting girls in trouble. Sorry, that's terrible, isn't it? I'm told I haven't got the greatest bedside manner sometimes," Pye said.

"Well, it isn't a girl, either. I just...had some questions. Hypothetical."

"Aha," Pye said, kicking a stone out of his way. "Hypothetical. Right."

"How many NEWTs did you take?"

Pye blinked at him, then laughed. "Well, not that I can see why it matters, but I sat nine and got seven with Exceeds or higher. I shouldn't even have registered to sit History, looking back, but I thought it might be a feather in my cap."

"What did you sit?"

"Oh...History, of course, and Care of Magical Creatures, those are the two I didn't pass. Ignominious, I know, but we had a particularly rigorous examiner and I wasn't as interested in animals as I was in humans. Herbology and Potions of course, those are core, Charms, Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts -- that one surprised me -- Arithmancy and Ancient Runes."

"Defence? Really?"

"Well, yes. I mean you have to know all sorts of countercharms and antidotes to various hexes, if you want to be a really top-notch Healer. You can't get into an apprentice Healer program without five Exceeds Expectations NEWTs, and the three you have to get are Herbology, Potions, and Defence."

"Popular job? I mean, people are a bit impressed, right? It's not like working in a shop somewhere."

"Well, I'm not exactly the life of the party, but there's a certain cachet in -- why, you aren't thinking of being a Healer, are you?"

"Why shouldn't I?" Sirius asked defensively.

"I'm sorry..." Pye hesitated. "It's just, I met the other Sirius, once or twice."

"Was he really such a bastard?"

"I don't think he was naturally an angry man, but he wasn't precisely the sort I'd peg as Healer material. He was more of the insane vengeful Auror sort. Tell me, do you ever read Muggle comic, uh, Batman?"

Sirius looked at him blankly. "Is it about an animagus?"

Pye sighed. "Not exactly. Anyway, is that what you wanted to ask me about? Being a Healer?"

"I was just thinking about it," Sirius said with a shrug. "I'm pretty good at healing charms, I have a lot of practice."

"How are you at Potions? That's about half of what we do."

"Decent. Could be better if I applied myself," Sirius said, slipping into a high-voiced Scots accent reminiscent of McGonagall. Pye snorted. "Reckon I'd have a chance?"

"I don't know anything about you, really," Pye said. "I couldn't say in the least. I can bring you some pamphlets, though, if you like. Confidentially."

"Ta," Sirius said. "I'd appreciate that. Look -- there they are," he added, pointing to two large, slightly oblong stones rising up out of the landscape.

"Godric's Stones," Pye said with a snicker. As they drew closer, the long, narrow mound which covered Godric Gryffindor's final resting place became visible, jutting out from between the two stones. It really did look as though some final dirty joke old Gryffindor had played on the landscape. Sirius knocked his knuckles against one of the stones, noticing the weathered creases here and there. Finally he turned to Pye.

"Dare you to climb it," he said.

"That's Godric Gryffindor's gravemarker!" Pye said, shocked.

"Fine, I will," Sirius said, getting a foothold and a decent handhold. "Bet I could beat you up anyway."

Augustus Pye was a Healer, but he was after all a very young Healer. "Could not!"

"Prove it!"

The stones weren't too terribly large and they both reached the top without trouble; from this vantage point they could see the field sloping down to the Forest, and Hogwarts rising out again from behind it. Sirius leaned back on the slightly clammy surface of the stone and breathed deeply.

"Smell that?" he said. "That's autumn. No wonder Gryffindor wanted to be buried here. I would too."


Sirius didn't bother owling Harry with his findings before Friday; he hadn't uncovered anything that couldn't wait the few hours between when an owl would have reached him and when he would arrive to visit. Sirius took the last two afternoon classes off and, as promised, nicked sandwiches and other foodstuffs from the kitchen.

Harry arrived through the floo in Remus' office, sneaking out while Remus was engaged in teaching. Sirius met him in the hallway nearby, just a short walk from his rooms. On the way there he told him about finding and exploring the gravesite, including what he thought was a very concise and professional summation of all the charms he'd tried.

"So you didn't find anything?" Harry asked, as Sirius let him into his rooms. Room, really; he had a private bath as well as the password to the Prefects' bathroom, but other than that the Tutor's quarters were really just a large open room with a bed at one end and a little grouping of sitting-room furniture around a rug at the other.

"Not a thing. I even did some pretty tricky charms to see if I could detect metal down in the grave, but I came up pretty empty-handed."

Harry sighed. "Hermione didn't turn up anything at the Grindelwald site, either, and Tonks said Hufflepuff's tomb was a big waste of time, especially since Fleur kept complaining about mud on her shoes."

"I can imagine," Sirius said with a laugh. "Here, there's food and tea, and..."

He reached into a cupboard and pulled out the prize loot from his kitchen trip, a bottle of Ogden's Old Peculiar.

"Sirius, it's half-three in the afternoon!"

"Well, I'm not doing any more teaching today, are you? I hung a sign on my office door and everything saying I was out sick. I didn't get my proper afternoon off yesterday, you know."

"So you're going to make up for it by drinking today?"

Sirius spread his hands. Harry dropped into one of the chairs at the little table in one corner, shaking his head in amusement while Sirius set out food and poured two cups of tea, spiking it with the whiskey.

"I have heard stories about your teetotal ways," he said. "It must be remedied, young Harry."

"I'm older than you are," Harry protested.

"Not when I am Nigel Padfoot!" Sirius answered cheerfully. "Drink your tea and eat your sandwich and tell me about the doings of the Order's inner circle."

"Well, I'm going off to the Gaunt family crypt this week-end, since Hagrid's had classes all week. Same with Remus -- I think he and Moody are going on Sunday. Apparently Hermione had a lot of fun at the Grindelwald site, she brought a guidebook along."

"Bill must have been bored out of his redheaded skull," Sirius observed.

"Probably so. Ron and George are having a hard time finding out when they can go because George doesn't trust anyone else to mind the shop, but I think maybe they'll go on Sunday too, and I'll mind it for them."

"Great! Can I come help?"

"Depends. George might get Ginny to do it, if he can sneak her out of the castle. As for Tonks and Fleur...well, neither of them said much, just that they didn't find anything. I don't think they get on well."

"Does anyone get on well with Fleur?"

Harry shrugged. "She's part veela. When she wants people to get on with her...they do."

"Reckon Ron and George will find something?"

Harry sipped his tea, apparently forgetting the whiskey in it. "I don't know," he said, turning the cup around and around on the table. "I was so sure it had something to do with death. I mean I have a gut feeling about it."

"But there are a thousand million graveyards in Britain alone?"

"Something like that."

Sirius topped off Harry's tea with the whiskey. "Got any other ideas yet?"

"Not yet. And there's still a few places, so I haven't given up."

"What have you been doing in the meantime?"

Harry shrugged. "Reading. Going down to the pub when I get bored. Helping Bowman in the garden a bit."

"Really? Pumpkins coming along?"

"Yeah, they'll be huge by Hallowe'en. Anyway...that takes up some time, and Tonks has me studying a bit for the Aurors' entry exam even without my NEWTs -- she says it's good practice. Keeps me busy."

Sirius studied Harry, who was slumped slightly and staring at the mug on the table, still turning it around in place, making little wet circles where it sloshed slightly. He looked lonely and tired, Sirius realised. Like a seventeen-year-old boy who spent all his time preparing for a war he wasn't sure how to fight.

Well, there was only one solution for that, which Sirius had learned in the Care And Handling of Moony Lupin course he'd assigned himself and James in their fourth year. There was a cure for depressive ennui, and Sirius Black knew precisely what it was.

"Drink your tea," he said, and led the conversation on into other topics, including but not limited to Firenze and his cryptic remarks, the impending first Quidditch match at Hogwarts, and the relative merits of chocolate frogs versus Honeydukes bars.

"I have an idea," Sirius said, when he and Harry had managed to consume about a third of the bottle between them. Harry looked significantly less worried and slightly red-cheeked. "It's a grand idea."

"It's going to get us into trouble, isn't it?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"Nonsense, you're not even a student anymore and they can't sack me," Sirius replied. "Besides, we have the Map, and with the Map we are invincible."

"No, that's the cloak," Harry corrected.

"Invincible, not invisible."

"Right, invisible. Got that in my pocket."

"You brought the cloak?"

"Yeah -- I bring it everywhere. It folds up really small," Harry said, removing a rather tightly-folded wad of fabric from the inner pocket of the jacket hanging on the back of his chair. Sirius' eyes gleamed.

"This is perfect," he said.

"What're we going to do?" Harry asked, leaning forward.

"Dinner's going to be over in a few minutes," Sirius said, glancing at the clock. "At which point a....a gaggle of girls will congregate in my hallway and get in the way of everyone who actually wants to come to tutoring. I think it's time I exacted my revenge."


Harry had forgotten, in the months since he'd left school, how small the Invisibility Cloak was growing. It wasn't actually shrinking, of course, but it had only ever been intended for one fully grown person to wear. That wasn't a problem when you were thirteen and somewhat underfed for your age; at that point, three people fit just fine.

Now, however, Harry had grown quite a bit, and Sirius wasn't tiny himself, which made it difficult to fit both of them under the cloak. Walking side-by-side was impossible; instead, Harry followed Sirius closely, hands on his shoulders, trying to move his feet in sync with Sirius' strides. Sirius held the map in one hand and carefully avoided Filch, a wandering Trelawney, and a couple of fifth-year Prefects as he guided them along.

"Here," Sirius whispered, drawing them up to a halt next to a statue that stood opposite his office door and provided the perfect cover. Sirius crouched slightly and peered around the pedestal; Harry leaned in and over his shoulder, looking also. He heard Sirius folding the map and tucking it away somewhere even as there was a clatter of feet on the stairs.

"You follow my lead," Sirius whispered, tense with excitement. Harry, still trying to get a decent view, leaned forward more. Sirius had slipped just the tip of his wand under a corner of the cloak and Harry gave up and knelt behind him, sliding his wand-arm around Sirius' hip and under the cloak as well. The other boy's breath hitched slightly, probably from excitement.

Harry became aware, as they lay in wait for their victims, that he was closer to Sirius physically than he'd ever been while they were both human. Sirius smelled differently as a human than he did as a dog; it made sense, anyway, since dogs didn't wear aftershave. They didn't shave.

Harry drew a giddy breath and blamed the whiskey. He didn't care if it was Sirius or Padfoot; it was a relief to touch someone, such a relief that he told himself he wouldn't have cared if Sirius were some random person in a shop somewhere. Sirius shifted his weight slightly and Harry rested his chin on Sirius' shoulder to get the best view. For a moment, however, he forgot their prey or the reason they were even here in the skin-prickling sensation of closeness, the feel-smell-heat of Sirius' body.

"Ready?" Sirius asked in a hoarse whisper.

"Ready," Harry answered, pulling himself together. This was Sirius, for god's sake, not Ginny or some other girl he fancied, and he should definitely not be thinking that Sirius smelled better than them anyway.

He was so wrapped up in chastising himself that he almost didn't notice Sirius flick his wand and mutter a charm; the girls, who were clustered around the door reading the notice, definitely didn't notice.

At least until one of them squeaked and clutched her bum, turning around to see who was there.

"Bum-pinching hex," Sirius said to Harry, turning his head slightly. "Pugachellus. Popular with the Italians. Try it."

Harry took aim at the girl next to Sirius' victim and whispered, "Pugachellus!"

This girl shrieked, causing all the others to shriek also. Both offended parties grabbed their bottoms. Harry fought down a snicker. Sirius cast another two and Harry one more before Sirius shushed him again and prepared the killing blow, now that the girls were all in a state of chaotic confusion, casting anti-ghost charms left and right.

"Adlevoga Aeolus!"

Most of the girls weren't wearing robes, just their under-uniforms with skirts that were hiked rather higher than McGonagall would have approved of. When Sirius cast the hex, every skirt in the hallway blew up around the girls' shoulders, giving Sirius and Harry a quick but efficient survey of who'd had their laundry done recently and who preferred to go au naturel. Harry gaped in amazement as they fled, pulling their skirts down so fast that some of them had to pull the waistbands back up again. The few boys who'd accompanied them had to stagger out clutching their waistbands after their belt-buckles failed.

Sirius cracked up laughing as their victims disappeared around a corner. Harry pressed his face between Sirius' shoulderblades as he laughed and laughed until he was exhausted.

"Let's go back," he said, and they fled back to Sirius' rooms without bothering to fully conceal themselves, collapsing into fits of laughter again after they had shut the door.

"Merlin," Sirius said, wiping tears of laughter from the corners of his eyes. "Oh, Merlin, that was perfect."

"It was great," Harry agreed, dropping onto the sofa next to Sirius and leaning back. "I can't remember when I've had that much fun."

"Yeah, I know," Sirius answered. "Oh, the looks on their faces..."

"Did you see the girl in the red -- you know?"

"UP GRYFFINDOR!" Sirius cried, and Harry collapsed into laughter again. Sirius flopped backwards, turning to grin at Harry.

"You need to have more fun, Harry Potter," he said, as Harry continued to make a noise that was suspiciously close to a giggle. Harry turned his head too, and suddenly found himself nose-to-nose with Sirius, who still smelled really good.

"Well, that's why I have you," he heard himself say. For just a moment the world froze; Sirius darted his tongue along his lower lip, smooth and pink, as if he were about to speak. Harry became very aware of the fact that if Sirius inclined his head about an inch, he could dart his tongue along Harry's lower lip.

"Yep," Sirius said instead, straightening quickly and leaping to his feet. "You'd better go, though -- Remus said he was going to come get you after dinner."

Harry frowned, confused. "Are you going to come back with us? It's Friday, you don't have to be around again until Monday."

"No -- you have work to do," Sirius said. "I mean I'd like to, but I don't want to be in the way."

Harry, secretly slightly relieved, nodded. "Right. But I'll come next week? On Thursday next time?"

"Sure -- and I'll see you on Tuesday probably, that's the full moon."

"Sure. Right then," Harry said.

"Right. Oh -- have a Predica Mint," Sirius said, offering Harry a small tin. "Makes you act -- and uh, smell -- sober for half an hour. So that Remus doesn't shout at me," he added with a wink.

Harry took the mint and chewed it up, feeling immediately more sober and slightly shocked at what he'd been thinking.

"See you," he said, gathering up his cloak and going to the door. "I'll send a note with Remus on Monday, let you know what we find."

He probably imagined Sirius' sigh of relief as he closed the door.


Harry did send a note on Monday, which was delivered at lunch by the somewhat gaunt-faced Remus, but it was fairly brief and Sirius wondered if he'd accidentally pushed matters too far.


Can't come before the full moon -- Hermione needs me & Ron for a project, wish she didn't. Remus is not well, know you'll look after him. DO NOT LISTEN TO HIM he is not well, Tonks says so and if anyone would know she would.

No news from the Slytherin or Ravenclaw sites. Didn't get to Gaunt yet. Hermione again. More after the moon. Would tell you but -- can't.


Sirius, disappointed, folded the note and put it in his pocket.

"Want to write back?" Remus asked. Sirius examined him; his skin was dull and pale, eyes glassy, and the bones of his knuckles looked like they were pressing against his skin. Sirius knew the signs of a bad moon impending.

"Yeah -- I'll bring you a reply at dinner?" Sirius said. Remus nodded and returned to picking at his lunch unenthusiastically. Sirius bit his lip. It wasn't his place to say anything, not really, not anymore, and what would he say? Everything you could possibly say to Moony about his disease was either pointless or had already been said.

After lunch he stopped McGonagall in the hallway.

"I'll have my NEWTs choices for you this evening," he said. "I don't think you'll disapprove."

"How many?" she asked.

"Eight. Maybe nine. Seven at the least," he answered. "If you don't mind, I'd rather not say why just yet."

She gave him a skeptical look. "You seem very certain, all of a sudden."

"I am," Sirius answered. He left her there in the hallway, staring after him, until she had to hurry so as not to be late to one of her own classes.

That evening he gave Remus a note for Harry, written in an afternoon class, which said that he understood and wondered if Harry wanted to come to tea on Thursday this week. He also passed a list of classes to McGonagall, who promptly began making notes about appropriate compositions to set him and books to make him read.


Defence Against the Dark Arts
Ancient Runes

"What is that boy up to?" she asked herself, glancing down the table to where Sirius was badgering Professor Lupin into finishing his carrots. Then she had to remind herself that sometimes curiousity was lethal to cats, and she tucked the list away until she could fill out the proper paperwork. Some things in life, she had found, were better left as mysteries.

Author's Note:   I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Sirius Black Vocational Counselling poll, particularly Yahtzee63 who came up with the whole BATMAN! idea in the first place.

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