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Author Notes:

Warning: This chapter includes non-explicit slash sexplay.

"I didn't like this plan when you proposed it to me three days ago, Remus, and I don't like it now," Minerva McGonagall said. "I don't like endangering the students. Putting trained Aurors at risk is one thing, but this is quite another."

Remus, who had to admit that he was having trouble keeping up with her rather than the other way around, pulled his cloak closer around his throat. Their breath froze in the air, boots crunching the frost of the Hogsmeade road underfoot.

"Would you like the clever answer or the honest answer?" Remus asked. She sighed and gave him a tolerant look.

"Clever answer first, then," she said.

"It's not that it's untrue," he continued, looking ahead to where the end of the Forest heralded the outskirts of Hogsmeade. "Sooner or later the Dark Lord would have come for Hogwarts. We both know it. He loves it, and he wants to possess it. Better to fight him on our own terms than wait for him to move first." He sighed. "And the honest answer is that the Forest is the only trap I could think of to lay, aside from the Aurors and they won't send a dementor after someone like Tonks."

"I see."

"I don't like who I'm turning into, Headmistress. These are the sorts of games Dumbledore played, and I never liked them. But now I begin to understand them."

"Albus Dumbledore was a good man. You could do worse."

"He was still a man."

"Take him in his all, I shall not look upon his like again," she finished, and he smiled.

"Sometimes I feel closer to Now could I drink hot blood and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on," he answered. "Although I hope to come to a rather better end than young Hamlet."

"He left you alone, didn't he?" she asked, suddenly. "In the ways it mattered, I mean. Nearly no guidance, no information..."

"Yes," he said softly. "How did you notice?"

"What do you think he did to me?"

They continued on to the end of the forest in silence, and then Remus put his hand on her arm to stop her.

"It would be better if, from here, you Tabby," he said quietly. She nodded and he looked politely away while she changed. She leapt easily into his arms and crawled up until she perched on his shoulder, tail wrapping firmly around his neck.

He slipped and skidded his way down the incline that the raised road was on, ending in a small gully which, under the ivy and moss and years of leafmould, was paved with old cobblestones and even ancient cement. Some of the cement blocks had the seals of a Roman emperor pressed into their surface.

Fred and George knew more about the dark magic of the forest than was proper for two men not yet in their twenties, and Remus had mapped it out with the others when he was sixteen. Between the three of them, they understood the outer edges of the forest as if it were in fact a Roman wall -- which it had once been, if the cobblestones were any indication. They knew where the weaknesses were and where it was safe for men to go. With four or five well-placed bombs, they could defend the entire forest from Dementor attack. Particularly since Fred and George had brought with them the secret weapon to draw the Dementors in.

There was a squeak and an inquisitive bark from nearby. Remus stopped.

"You'd better change back now," he said. McGonagall leapt off his shoulder and spiraled up from the ground quickly. Remus led her forward to the small encampment.

"It's Lupin," he called quietly. "It's all right."

George Weasley, who had been standing with his wand out and his other hand on the switch of a strange orange box, dropped his wand arm.

"How goes it?" Remus asked.

"All right -- Fred's gone off to #2, and Tonks showed up for her shift on #3. We're staggering shifts so nobody changes over all at once."

"Regular military operation you've got here," Remus said. George grinned. "And I see Secret Weapon is getting along fine," he added, as a small white puppy took firm hold of his trouser leg and began to tug.

"That's your secret weapon?" McGonagall asked. "A Jack Russel?"

"Well, they're very good-spirited little things and they do attract Dementors like anything," George answered. "Fred tested several breeds. Golden Retrievers and Jack Russels worked the best, but Retrievers are a bit hard to handle. Puppies work best."

"For attracting Dementors."

"Yeah! Because they' know. Cheerful and stuff."

"The headmistress wanted to see a little of the operation itself," Remus said, while McGonagall stared in disbelief at the little dog. "I doubt we'll see any action tonight."

"Oh, that's fine; Fred and I're used to waiting days for a prank to go off," George said. "We'll start trading off shifts after tonight so that the other can mind the shop. During the day we can set up the wards so that a Dementor anywhere along the line trips an alarm. Two men, a hundred acres..." he spread his arms, cheerfully. "Boom."

They both looked at McGonagall, Remus lifting up Secret Weapon to pat him.

"I think, some day, you two will end either in prison or with a magical engineering college named after you," she said, with a small smile. "I'll send some seventh-years to assist you. Any requests?"

"Ron and Hermione," George said immediately. After some consideration, "Not together, though. And a couple of Hufflepuffs as backup. And if you can send the good tutor down...and Harry would be a help."

"I wanted this in place first...I'm hesitant to put Harry out there alone," Remus said.

"His patronus -- "

" -- isn't what I'm worried about," Remus said. "I'll put him out with a partner. If I survive telling him and Padfoot."

George nodded. "If it's any consolation, this is the best prank ever."

"I'm beginning to think war is just a series of very vicious pranks," Remus agreed. "The only difference is, now they're fatal."


The Dementors didn't come that evening, but then he hadn't expected they would. They didn't come the next evening either, or the evening after. Fortunately, Fred and George were as faithful and patient as George had bragged they would be. They seemed to want nothing more than to spend twelve hours at a time sitting at the edge of the forest with the Secret Weapons, watching and waiting.

Harry, surprisingly, didn't even shout when he was told. He sat quietly, thoughtfully, and then turned to Remus.

"Good work," he said. "Do they have enough ammunition?"

Remus, taken aback, nodded. "I think so. They'd like you to take a shift if you can."

"Yeah, I can do that."

"But I don't want you going out alone. You'll serve your shifts with Hermione or Ron, or Bill."

Harry considered this. "I don't need a babysitter."

"You're too valuable, Harry."

"Which is why Dumbledore let me go up against Quirrell and Voldemort alone when I was eleven?" Harry asked.

"I'm not Dumbledore," Remus said. Yet, his mind added. As the days passed, he began to feel more and more as if it were true, and not in a good way. If Snape truly was faithful to the cause...

The weekend brought Sirius to Fourteen Back and took Harry from it for some amount of time, but they were both pulling shifts in the forest and neither of them seemed to begrudge the lack of time together. Then again, perhaps Remus wasn't seeing all of it; Sirius knew how to keep secrets.

If Remus could have seen them on Sunday afternoon, while he and Tonks were both on shift in the forest, he might have re-evaluated his opinion of both of them.

The fire was burning merrily in the hearth and both boys were seated on the floor, backs against the old sofa, curled up next to each other; Harry was copying a passage about Rowena Ravenclaw into Hermione's book, and Sirius was seated with his hip up against Harry's, pretending to read. In actuality, he was slowly inching closer to Harry's neck. Just a little closer...

"Mmh," Harry said, when Sirius brushed his lips against the skin just below his jaw. His quill stopped moving.

Sirius closed his book and slid his right hand across Harry's bent leg, bringing it to rest in a decent but tantalising place just above his thigh. Harry's fingers gripped the notebook tightly.

"Give it up, Potter," Sirius said, wickedly. Harry swallowed. Sirius went back to kissing his throat, biting occasionally. He turned for better leverage and his hand slid down an inch or two.

"That tickles," Harry said, caught between a moan and a laugh. Sirius bit his earlobe.

"Oh, you want to see tickling?" he asked. He turned fully to face Harry and ran his hand up Harry's ribcage instead. Harry burst out laughing and batted his hands away, but Sirius was relentless. The battle turned into a tussle that sent the notebook sliding away and the two men rolling on the carpet.

"Give up!" Sirius crowed, grabbing Harry's wrists. Harry struggled to get free and oh -- that felt good.

"Never!" Harry cried, taking advantage of Sirius' stunned jolt of pleasure to flip him over onto his back. There was a brief scuffle for dominance which threatened to steal Sirius' breath entirely before Harry straddled him and pinned his hands to the floor, leaning over him. Sirius, in a last-bid attempt for freedom, jerked his head up off the floor and kissed Harry soundly.

Harry's thighs tightened around his hips, which was counter to what Sirius had been aiming for but was, in many ways, much better. He let his head drop back to the floor and Harry followed, taking the invitation very much to heart when Sirius opened his mouth.

Harry's hips jerked against his, their positioning not quite right but still very good indeed, and Sirius moaned, trying to buck up against him. Harry's eyes flew open and he gasped. "Ah -- hah -- "

But instead of sliding down just six inches and a little to the right, as Sirius would have liked very much for him to do, Harry leaned back and rolled off him, collapsing on his back next to Sirius, who wasn't sure he could muster the energy to do anything more than turn his head.

"All right?" Sirius asked.

"Yeah..." Harry closed his eyes and swallowed. "That just...went a little fast for me."

Sirius raised an eyebrow. "You didn't..."

"No, uh, no," Harry said. His eyes were still closed. "I'm thinking of Professor Trelawney naked."


"Sorry, I just..." Harry pushed himself up to a sitting position, trying to catch his breath. "Umm, sorry."

Sirius frowned. "Didn't it...feel all right?"

"Oh! Yes, um." Harry pushed his glasses up on his nose. "I just wasn''s all a little weird, you know? I mean...that was...not something I thought I was going to ever...with another..."

"Ah," Sirius said. "Right."

"Sirius, don't look like that," Harry said, and Sirius schooled his features into something a little less scowly. He hoped. "How long have you known you fancied men?"

"Three years, I guess. Why?"

"I've known for three weeks. Not even."

Sirius pushed himself up on his elbows. Certain parts of his body were throbbing and demanding attention rather urgently, despite all mention of Trelawney.

He tried to even remember a point at which he'd only known for three weeks. It wasn't like that for him. It had just been a gradual sensation, a growing knowledge that he was foreign somehow. The other boys were looking at girls and whispering about things, and it wasn't that he didn't think about...things, but when he did, he looked at other boys. But he'd always looked at other boys, because most girls were boring or annoying. So it had taken a while for it to sink in that he wasn't maturing late, just...differently.

And after that, frankly, he'd take what he could get and be happy for it, because a bloke got awfully tired of a Quidditch All Stars calendar and his own hand.

But on the other, ahahaha, hand, that was all he'd had for a good year, so it wasn't unreasonable to expect that Harry might be a little less enthusiastic about it.

Actually, Harry appeared to still be quite enthusiastic about it, in some ways, but Sirius understood the sentiment.

"Sirius, please say something," Harry said, looking down at him. Sirius sat up, slowly, and turned his head to catch Harry's lips with a quick kiss.

"This is what it is, remember? Doesn't have to be anything more," he said. "Besides, anyone who floo'd in would have had a rude surprise."

Harry laughed. Sirius subtly tried to shift so that his trousers were a little less...constricting.

"I don't want to be miserable later, though," he said, leaning close to Harry. "So I'm going to go lock myself in the toilet for a few minutes. You might want to take that time to go upstairs. Doesn't look like Trelawney worked as much as it should have," he said. Harry blushed crimson.

Sirius leaned forward and bent his mouth to Harry's ear. "Enjoy yourself," he said. He stood before Harry could reply and crossed the living room, tossing Harry a grin over his shoulder as he shut the door.


The days dragged on, and there was still no response from the Death Eaters. A week passed; Moody did not relax an inch and neither did Kingsley, but Tonks began to chafe a little at not being able to return to her booby-trapped flat. The outposts in the forest got a little sloppy and the twins were forced to play a few surprise pranks in order to keep people on their toes. Remus lived on nerves, expectant, and looked to Saturday as the deadline -- if they weren't attacked by then, they would pack in the majority of their defences and leave only two bombs in the forest with automatic tripcharms on them.



There was no better time, really, and it wasn't as though Voldemort hadn't made Hallowe'en a special kind of excruciating holiday for all concerned in the past. Harry had lost his parents, Remus his friends, Sirius his freedom, James and Lily their lives. Harry didn't seem to connect the two events, but then Harry had grown up without his parents from nearly the start. In Remus Lupin's personal lexicon, Hallowe'en was the day his world ended and he still went on living.

Well. One builds new worlds, and time moves onward.

Others than himself must have caught onto the significance of the date; Fred and George couldn't be there, as they were hosting the first ever Weasley's Wizard Wheezes Halloween Smash For Charity, but most of the rest of the Order had volunteered for evening duty. Remus and Harry were at station one, Sirius and Tonks at station two, Pye at three and Moody at four with a portkey to five. Arthur Weasley was coming to relieve Pye at midnight and Ron and Hermione would replace Moody after the Hallowe'en feast. Bill and Fleur were on undercover point patrol in Hogsmeade and Molly Weasley was, rather ridiculously to her own mind, watching for the signal fire on the roof of the Hog's Head.

"If you want to sleep, I'll take first shift," Remus said to Harry. "Or you can."

"I'll take first watch," Harry said. "You can't be ready to sleep already. It's not even dark out."

"Not just yet," Remus agreed. They had a small, green-flame smokeless fire going to keep them warm while they sat on the ground, Remus propped against a large tree, Harry with his arms around his knees. Remus stretched out his feet to get them closer to the fire.

"Harry, not to pry...but I was wondering," he said slowly. "About you and Sirius."

Harry looked at him suspiciously. "What about us?"

" that is," Remus said weakly. "Are you two getting along all right?"

Harry's tension eased slightly. "Reckon so."

"He's not, er." Remus looked uncomfortable. "Well, it's just, I know Sirius, Harry, and he can be somewhat overwhelming at times -- he was always convincing me to do things I knew better than to do...not, not those sorts of things," he added hastily. "Not that they're bad, just...all right. I'm sorry. I'm pants at this kind of talk."

Harry grinned at him. "We're all right, Remus. Really."


"You might want to have a word with Ron, though. Hermione knows plenty of protective spells but he is a Weasley," Harry continued. Remus put his face in his hands.

"There are some days I'm thankful I'll never be a father," he said through his fingers.

"You don't know that," Harry answered slyly. Remus removed his hands and gave Harry an odd half-smile, then pulled his legs under him and stood, stretching. They lapsed into silence, listening to the hoots and occasional howls in the forest behind them. Remus felt the solid weight of the Patronus dagger in his pocket, heavy and secure.

When the light had finally faded enough that they were forced to shield their fire in case someone saw the light, Remus bid Harry good-night and curled up in his coat and a blanket to try and get a little sleep before midnight, when Harry would wake him. He almost thought he could hear the sounds of the Hallowe'en feast up at Hogwarts, though it was certainly too far away for that.

In another few hours it would be morning; James and Lily had been dead sixteen years, and here he was with their grown son, waiting for the Dementors to come. Harry would be a credit to them both, he thought, as he drifted off to sleep.


Harry did not attach the same significance to Hallowe'en that Remus did, but nevertheless he was thinking of his parents even as Remus fell asleep; specifically of his father.

He watched the grassy verge that separated the forest from Hogsmeade, idly, but he felt sure that he would know ahead of time if the Dementors were coming. He could keep watch and bury himself in his own thoughts at the same time.

The little pocket-watchdog that was his inheritance from James rested faithfully on one knee, its metallic eyes gazing up at him soulfully. The clock face said nearly-ten; the divinatory face had been stuck on "bring sweets" for a week and Harry was beginning to suspect it might be broken. He'd been carrying a package of chocolate-covered Muggle toffees with him all week, but he hadn't exactly understood why.

Remus was asleep nearby, and Secret Weapon was gnawing halfheartedly on the toe of his shoe. The shielded fire crackled and gave off heat, and the darkness fell slowly. Harry wondered if his father had ever sat sentry like this. Hadn't Mad-Eye Moody told them stories about guarding people who had annoyed Voldemort? The Aurors wouldn't do it without evidence so the Order used to camp out on their doorsteps...

With the werewolves in disarray and the Dementors destroyed, they would have a fighting chance. Only the giants and the Death Eaters would be left, and Giants were useless except for wholesale destruction. Harry didn't intend to enter into a battle with Voldemort after tonight; he intended to destroy what he could of the horcruxes and lure Voldemort out some other way.

Ten-thirty. Eleven. Eleven thirty.

There was a crackle in the distance and Harry leapt up, wand out; Ron appeared from the trees, holding up his hands.

"Moody's gone home," Ron said quietly, joining Harry by the fire. "Dad's just come to replace Augustus Pye, they're having a bit of a brew-up. Thought I'd let you know."

"Thanks," Harry said, relieved. "Have you talked to Tonks and Sirius?"

"Yeah -- she's just put him on-shift."

"Good. I was about to wake Remus up."

Ron nodded agreeably.

"How was the feast?" Harry asked, a little wistfully. Ron shrugged.

"It was all right, I guess. Things...change," Ron said quietly. "Did you know Hermione's not talking to her parents?"


"They had a row. They don't want her to..." he blushed a little. "They like me, you know, it's just...well, Mum wouldn't like it if I decided to go off and be a Muggle, would she? They think I'm stealing her."

"You don't think that, do you?"

"Hermione'd have my guts for garters if I did. But there's that, and she feels guilty about being a witch, I guess. And we knew we were coming out here, and all the older students go around looking scared most of the time."

"What about the kids?"

"The Muggleborns haven't a clue. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it gets 'em in trouble. They don't know who not to pick fights with. But...Harry," Ron said, lowering his voice a little more. "Does it occur to you that it's not natural, what we've been doing? I mean, we made out all right for ourselves, but when you're eleven you're supposed to be going to classes and playing Exploding Snap, not fighting evil wizards."

"It's not like we were offered a choice, Ron."

"Well, that's just it. Hermione and I...we sort of were."

Harry glanced at Ron, who was staring off at the edge of Hogsmeade in the distance.

"I dunno, Harry. I dunno what's going to happen. Do you know?"

"Not really."

"I don't want to die yet. I'm doing really well in classes, I really could be an Auror."

Harry didn't know what to say; he opened his mouth to try and find some kind of reassurance that nobody was going to die (which was a ridiculous lie, but a comforting one) when Secret Weapon lifted his fuzzy head and whined suddenly.

"Ron," Harry said, turning around slowly, "Where's the moon going?"

They both looked up at where the moon had been, a few minutes before; now there was only a growing shadow that was slowly eclipsing it, ragged and uneven around the edges.

"Oh blimey, it's them," Ron said.

"Go -- tell everyone," Harry ordered, bending over to shake Remus awake. "Remus -- they're coming."

Mist crept out from around the edges of Hogsmeade even as Harry realised the enormity, the magnitude of the army they were now facing. Dementors, thousands of them, blotting out the sky, soaring over the rooftops and slowly dipping lower and lower, heading for the forest.

"Oh my god," Remus said, staring where Harry pointed. Two shadowy figures came running hell-bent out of the village; Fleur's pale hair gleamed in what little moonlight was left.

"GET READY!" Bill bellowed. Remus fumbled for the ripcord on the bomb and shoved Harry back into the trees, following shortly after.

"I'll take the cord -- go tell the others," Harry said, and Remus Disapparated with a bang.


They had never planned on so many; they'd known the Dementors were breeding but it was impossible to have foreseen that they had bred so quickly and so energetically.

Remus flicked through the forest almost without stopping; from two to three to four, warning the watchers to be ready to rip the bombs when the Dementors were within distance. The explosives were set to send rockets into the air, spreading the dust over the entire forest, but Remus had one more station to get to, just in case, and it looked now as if they would need it.

The Dementors began pouring over the forest even as Remus took the broomstick from its hiding place outside the fifth station and got aloft; looking down it was as if a shadow had been cast for miles around. A solid mass of them, moving like a school of fish or a flock of birds, heading for the Forest and after the Forest for Hogwarts.

Severus, I should have eaten you twenty years ago when I had the chance.

Only the Weasley twins and McGonagall knew about the sixth station in the middle of the forest, the one with the rockets that were aimed outwards instead of upwards, designed to catch every last inch of the oncoming front. He flew low over the treetops, trying to find his way in the dark, and eventually nipped upwards for better light. He turned to check their progress, and was just in time to catch the fireworks.

Two of the stations went off simultaneously -- Harry and Hermione, he thought. The rockets whistled shrilly as they went, bursting just above the treeline. An enormous cloud of silver seemed to envelope the shadow, swirling through and around it, almost beautiful in the patterns it created. High-pitched, almost supersonic screams filled the air.

The second wave, seeing what had happened to the first, kept on at a higher altitude, and the other three bombs exploded right on cue. Again the silver swirled against the darkness, and again Remus found himself simply watching, stunned as scores of Dementors screamed and fell, as even the smallest wisps of silver were enough to knock them out of the sky.

There were still more coming, however, and the thought was enough to send him onward, towards the very heart of the forest and the bright white flag that had been tied there --

Only to find someone else had beaten him to it.

His hand found the Patronus blade almost instinctively and he flicked it out as he descended. He was going to see that bastard's eyes when he slit his throat.

"SNAPE!" he shouted, and the dark-haired man kneeling on the tree-platform looked up. Two more seconds and he would be in range --

Snape threw himself sideways, almost off the little platform, and Remus skewed the broom around, leaping off it.

"There's no time for this, Lupin," Snape growled, even as Remus slashed at him with the glowing white knife. "Stop that, you idiot! McGonagall sent me!"

"No more games!" Remus shouted back. "This ends now!"

"What an idiot Gryffindor you are, you're telegraphing everything you're about to do," Snape snarled, catching his wrist with one thin, sallow hand. "Help me set the bomb off."

This actually registered in time for Remus to prevent himself from punching Snape in the stomach with his other hand. He froze.


"Merlin preserve me from morons," Snape shouted. "Set off the bloody bomb!"

Remus whirled to check on the progress of the Dementors, which could have been a fatal move, but Snape didn't even shift his weight; they were still too far off.

"Not yet," he said through gritted teeth. "What in the bloody hell are you doing here?"

"What do you think? The Headmistress is down in your precious forest, and she sent me to make sure the sixth bomb went off."

"You sold us to Voldemort!"

"Do you think, you ignorant fool, that I couldn't see through your stupid little trap? Do you really underestimate me so badly?" Snape answered. Remus realised that Snape's face was bleeding, though he didn't think it was his doing. "They sent me away on a mission. I've only just returned."

"Draco," Remus said, realisation hitting him like a sledgehammer.

"I murdered a man to save his soul and he sold it for a handful of knuts," Snape muttered, hard fire burning deep in his eyes. "He sold Hogwarts for Lucius Malfoy's freedom."

"He heard everything..."

"There wasn't time to warn you. I barely made it to the school. I thought you might have given up by now. They're coming, Lupin -- when do we set this infernal device to go?"

Remus watched the thinning shadow move over the forest. "Now."

Snape handed him the ripcord and he stepped aside as he pulled. There was an earshattering roar and the last of their weapons against the Dementors exploded in a blinding flash of rockets.

The result, a solid wall of silver decimating all remaining Dementors the eye could see, was stunning enough that even Severus Snape could not contain himself.

"Merlin," he breathed. Remus turned to glance at him.

"You're bleeding," he said.

"There isn't time. I must return -- they don't yet know. There's always another game, Lupin -- now we start to play in earnest."

He vanished, leaving Remus alone on the platform. Remus turned back to the edge of the forest and strained to see any remaining Dementors; there were lumos charms going up all along the front line, where the rest of the bombs had been detonated. In the flashes of light, he thought he saw a movement -- yes.

A handful of survivors were circling a point far off to his left -- the first station, where he had left Harry alone.

He forgot the broomstick, his responsibility to the Order, Snape, and the bombs; he Apparated straight to the first station because James' boy was in trouble.

He found himself in the middle of a swirling mass of shadows and light -- Dementors, closing in even as a silver stag charged at them. Harry was shouting himself hoarse, curses and calls for help.

"I'm here, Harry!" he shouted back, turning even as he felt a cold chill creep into his bones. He slashed wildly, the knife still in his hand, and there was a horrifying thunk as an actual Dementor's actual head actually rolled to the ground.

Thank god Fred and George were on their side.

Padfoot came charging out of the trees in full bay, Tonks not a step behind him; the remaining Dementors, who were not exactly tacticians, were all converging on one spot.

Cut them down, he thought, turning to stab one even as the stag passed through him to drive another back. A screaming, hissing banshee flew out of the trees, fur on end, and promptly changed into Minerva McGonagall.

"Come to me!" Harry shouted, and Remus bolted after the Stag to where Harry was standing. Padfoot, howling fit to deafen, was snapping and snarling at the Dementors that dared come near Harry; Tonks had her wand out and was bellowing orders at --

So that's what I look like, Remus thought dazedly. It was thinner than he'd imagined, somehow, but there could be no doubt that the snarling silver beast which rushed past him was a werewolf. A screaming bloody great falcon was ripping its claws into the Dementors from above -- that'd be Minerva, he thought with great satisfaction, even as he turned to slice open a Dementor heading for Harry from behind.

Harry's stag was fading, however, and the Dementors were still coming; Padfoot was abruptly silenced as Sirius appeared, catching Harry when he almost fell backwards avoiding a Dementor that came too close. Remus saw Sirius grip the other man around the chest and whisper something in his ear even as the stag vanished entirely, so suddenly that Remus had to leap sideways to thrust the knife upwards and protect the suddenly-defenceless McGonagall, whose falcon was on the other side of the fight.

"Where the hell did you get that?" the Headmistress asked.

"Weasleys!" he shouted back. He turned to see if Harry was all right, just in time to witness Harry raise his wand, Sirius' fingers wrapped around his wrist. There was a pulse so deep Remus felt it in his spine, and suddenly the entire world was black-and-white, the stark black trees throwing shadows against each other. Tonks was knocked into him and they both sprawled on the ground; McGonagall staggered against a tree a few feet away. The falcon and wolf abruptly vanished in the wash of white that burned even through his eyelids when he closed them.

When it was over he saw flashes of colour in the darkness, and the first thing he heard was Sirius' voice, sounding very young and frightened.

"That wasn't my fault!"

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