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The Wednesday night that Charlie Weasley nearly died started out on such a positive note.

Remus was up and about again, looking nearly as healthy as he ever looked and back from his first full day of teaching since Thursday. He'd tried to teach the whole day on Tuesday, but at lunch he'd had to admit defeat and let Sirius handle his afternoon classes. McGonagall dropped by and said that Sirius had a knack for teaching, suggesting in her own subtle way that perhaps after NEWTs he'd like to stay on as tutor and work his way up to professor when one of the faculty eventually retired, lost one too many limbs, or turned out to be evil. All three were about equally common at Hogwarts.

At any rate, Remus was feeling accomplished and having fun playing fetch with Padfoot in the garden, throwing the various sticks, rocks, and unripe fruit that Padfoot laid worshipfully at his feet. Tonks and Harry were up a tree with Bowman, helping to prune it. It was warm in the little walled garden, however the wind might howl outside, and the sun was low enough in the sky to turn the light a peculiar colour somewhere between dusk and true night.

Harry dropped down from the tree with leaves in his hair and a big smudge of dirt across his cheek just as Padfoot grew tired of fetch and threw himself down in front of the kitchen door, sides heaving. Remus bent to scratch his ears and then stepped over him, passing inside just as Tonks fell out of the tree with a whump.

"I'm fine," she called, as Harry and Padfoot both looked up. "Didn't fall far! Nothing to worry about!"

Bowman eased his way down the ladder he'd used to get into the tree with in the first place. "Well, that's the quickest route between A and B," he chuckled. "Want some salve? My Missus makes a good bruise salve."

"No, thank you Bowman, I'm all right," Tonks assured him. Harry sat on the grass near Padfoot, pulling the debris of the tree-trimming out of his hair. "Where's Remus gone?"

"Right here," Remus said, emerging from the cottage. He held a book in one hand and a bowl of ice cream in the other. The book was offered to Harry; the ice cream was held well out of reach of Tonks. "I thought you might be interested in this, Harry; I seem to recall talking nonsense to you on Saturday, and I wasn't sure if you knew where it came from."

"This is just your copy of Two Kneazles," Harry said, examining the book.

"I'm pretty sure what I was looking for is in there -- flip through the pages a bit," Remus said around a bite of ice cream. "You're looking for a loose piece of paper."

Harry gave him a sardonic look. At least five pieces of paper stuck out of the book at odd angles, makeshift bookmarks.

"The one you want is in green ink and it's somewhere near the back," Remus specified. Harry pulled out what looked, for all the world, like a restaurant napkin that had been mauled by a small child. "That's the one."

"What is it?" Harry asked, mystified.

"Well, it's a bit of a story, actually. I think what I was saying to you were lines from an old poem called The Second Coming, which should be on one side of that poor napkin," Remus said. Harry flipped it over and nodded. "Recognise any of it?"

"Oh -- yeah, here it is," Harry said. "The best lack all convention -- "

" -- conviction -- "

"While the worst are full of passionate intensity."

"Yeats," Remus said, as Harry read the rest. "It was...oh, it must have been seventy-nine, because Ellis was there but Lily wasn't pregnant yet...we were having a drink at a pub in Edinburgh and it was rather...rather dismal, really. The war wasn't going well and everyone was speaking rather gloomily of our prospects. I quoted Yeats -- I've always liked Irish poets -- and Ellis got rather angry with me."

He grinned as he spoke, the ice cream bowl balancing forgotten on one knee while Padfoot nosed at it delightedly.

"He said that people had been talking about the end of the world nearly since it began and he was more interested in what people would be doing when the world ended rather than how they were preparing for it. He sat down right there and wrote a reply to Yeats. I was -- still am -- excessively proud of it, because he wrote it for me."

Harry turned the page over, examining the spiky handwriting on the other side.

And why should some poor tethered bird
Once-hooded, hear his master's call
When now he has again been sent to wing?
Things fall apart; thus ever is the way
That we move upwards. Anarchy
Does this at least: new things arise.
I see no tides but that the moon pulls in
A necessary ceremony, and most innocent.
The best lack no conviction, but are young
And we deride their passionate beliefs.

"Did he know about you?" Harry asked.

"Yes. Ellis had a way of drawing secrets out of people -- I don't think he even intended it, but something about him made you want to tell him things. Sirius!" he said suddenly. Padfoot looked up at him, muzzle covered in ice cream. Remus sighed and set the bowl on the ground. "Cur."

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Perhaps your second coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Vanity makes
You certain of your own great destiny
That some most fearsome god selected you
To be our final prophet of the end.
A shape with lion body and the head of an ass
A gaze blank and hopeless without light
You move your slow lips while all about
Reel your disciples, shadows ignorant.

"Tough competition," Harry muttered. Remus looked amused.

"Apples and oranges, Harry. You and Ellis could not be more different. Besides, he was a Slytherin."

"He was?" Harry asked, surprised.

"Yes. Very ambitious in his own way, and it paid off -- by the time he was thirty he was a best-selling author. Not that a Gryffindor couldn't do it, but I imagine a Gryffindor would write adventure novels," Remus said.

The darkness drops again; but I have seen
Twenty centuries of human life
Are vexed the more by Prophets such as you.
That rough beast slouching towards the eastern sky
Is dawn, and nothing more, reborn each day.

Harry went to close the book, carefully replacing the napkin, but another sheet of paper fell out; he bent to pick it up, studying the typewritten words.

There are two classifications of werewolf in wizarding society, the feral werewolf and the nonferal werewolf. It is in itself an objectionable pair of terms; one implying barbarism, the other implying not any form of civilised decision but merely a lack. A man cannot be identified by what he is not, but yearns to be known for who he is.

The feral werewolf is no less a human being than any other, but has chosen or been driven to a life outside of civlised society, on the verge of conditions which would disgust any right-thinking person. Some are illiterate, many are undernourished, and all are unemployed; temporary work of the most menial sort is all they may expect, and many must steal to survive. They are unable to even to beg, thanks to the restrictive new laws which triple the allotted punishment for any given crime if the perpetrator is known to be or proven to be a werewolf.

If a werewolf is arrested for vagrancy, he may be punished by up to six months in Azkaban and fines which he is ill-equipped to pay. If he is not known to be a werewolf and a blood test is performed illegally to determine such, the ends justify the means. Werewolves have no medical rights; their medical status -- for it is a disease -- is not protected under Healer confidentiality. The blood test becomes legal if it is positive. This is a monstrous miscarriage of justice...

"Did Ellis Graveworthy write this too?" Harry asked, offering the paper to Remus, who frowned.

"No," he said briefly.

"Is it a quote from somewhere? It's very good..."

Remus shook his head. "Schoolboy scribblings. I wrote it -- dreams of being a political journalist or a novelist like Ellis," he said sheepishly. "Nothing ever came of it."

"Oh," Harry said, offering him the book back. He took it almost possessively, carefully placing the typewritten page between the cover and the frontispiece. "I'd think that'd be a great book, though. I mean. Sensational, novels by a werewolf."

"Yes -- selling my novelty was the reason I never bothered," Remus sighed.

At that point, George Weasley burst through the back door, fell over Padfoot, sent the ice-cream bowl flying and skidded through the dirt, rolling to a stop at Harry's feet. It happened so fast that nobody but Tonks had moved; she had her wand pressed to the back of George's neck before anyone could think.

"It's me, Tonks!" he cried, facedown in the grass. "Lemme up!"

"George?" Remus asked, while Padfoot madly licked all the melted ice cream off his fur. "What's happened? Tonks, let him go before you blast his head off."

Tonks leaned back and turned him over, offering him a hand up. "Sorry."

"Charlie's come home, and he's in a bad way," George said. "You've got to come, he's demanding you and it's -- " he looked pale and worried, a frightening emotion on his usually genial face. "He might -- they say -- please, come quick."

"Of course," Remus said, even as Fred's voice was heard over the wall shouting "OI! LET ME IN!"

"We couldn't apparate in," George said.

"We've put up wards. FRED!" Remus shouted. "GO BACK TO ST MUNGO'S. WE'LL MEET YOU THERE."

"RIGHT YOU ARE!" Fred shouted back.

"I'd better go too," Tonks said.

"No -- stay with Harry and Sirius."

"I'm not staying here!" Harry protested.

"If it's some sort of trap, you're safer here," Remus said. "We can fight about it later. Send Glastonbury to find me, and when everything's cleared I'll send him back to fetch you."

Sirius, who had changed back when Fred started shouting, whistled shrilly and Glastonbury's head poked out the window even as Remus and George ran back inside.

"Glas, find Remus and stay with him until he sends you back," Sirius said, as Glastonbury tilted his orange head and regarded Sirius with one beady black eye. "Go to Remus, all right?"

Glastonbury puffed himself up, smoked a little, and vanished. Sirius turned to Harry.

"You'd better have a quick wash, you've got ice cream in your hair," Harry said.


At St. Mungo's, George led Remus quickly past the admitting mediwitch and through the hospital maze until they arrived at a private room, not unlike the one Sirius had recently been treated in after his encounter with the Crypt King. Arthur and Molly were standing outside, clutching each other tightly.

"Bill's gone in to look," Arthur said, when he saw George and Remus approaching. Fred came from another direction, having Apparated back to a different part of the hospital. "We didn''s very..."

"It's all right, dad," Fred said. "Remus, you'd better go in."

"Am I allowed?" Remus asked, looking through the slightly-open door. Healers were clustered around a bed, talking in low, urgent tones.

"You'd better," Arthur repeated his son's suggestion, and Remus slipped into the room. One of the Healers looked up.

"Family only," he said.

"Please, I was told I should come -- I was told he's asking for me," Remus said.

"Right -- you're Lupin?" another one asked.

"Remus, thank god," a third one said at the same time, and Augustus Pye's head poked up out of the huddle. "He's been near on to screaming for you. Can't think why, but he says he has to speak with you."

He beckoned Remus closer, sliding over to make room. Charlie did look awful; he was bloody from head to toe with huge gashes on his chest and arms and a nasty-looking puncture wound near his jugular. His eyes were open, though, and fever-bright. His arm, being tended to by a pair of Healers, looked...wrong, and Remus realised what he thought was a bandage was actually a shard of bone sticking out.

"Is he here?" Charlie asked. When he spoke there was an ominous sucking noise.

"It's me, Charlie," Remus answered. "Don't speak too much, all right? Tell me only what you have to."

"My trousers..."

Remus glanced at Pye.

"We cut them off; they're in the corner," he said, indicating a heap of filthy rags in a bin.

"Left back pocket," Charlie rasped. "Cigarette case."

Remus went to the pile and dug through it, eventually coming up with what looked like a gold cigarette case.

"Transfigured," Charlie continued. "Your friends in Russia....found something."

"All right, Charlie, it's fine," Remus said. "I've got it. Don't tell me how -- I'll have Fred and George look at it."

"Very note..."

"Be quiet and let them help you, now," Remus said. "I've got it; it's safe."

Charlie nodded, swallowing painfully. Pye broke away from the others and pulled Remus to a far corner of the room.

"Some of his wounds are two days old, at least," he said. "Some are fresh. Do you know where he's been?"

"Traveling from Romania, as far as I know. He said he was coming to see us. He didn't say why, not outright."

"I think he must have met a few enemies on the way -- so whatever that is, you'd better keep close watch on it," Pye said soberly.

"Is he going to be all right?" Remus asked. "He looks bad, but not....fatal."

"The damage is pretty extensive and there's a nasty curse on him. I can't honestly tell the family he'll survive, not yet -- but he's young and I've found that Weasleys in particular are durable," Augustus said quietly. "I think he'll pull through if they can get the curse off him."

"Best Healers in the hospital?" Remus asked, tucking the cigarette case into his pocket.

"Of course," Pye replied. "And as soon as we leave we'll have a guard put on the door."

"You're a master, Pye. Thanks," Remus said. "Let us know as soon as you can."

In the hallway, the Weasley clan en masse hadn't moved except for George, who had disappeared.

"He's gone to get Ron and Ginny," Arthur said. "And...and probably try to fetch Percy. Is he...?"

"He doesn't look as bad as I thought he would," Remus said. "Pye's optimistic."

"Thank Merlin. Why did he call you?"

"I..." Remus frowned. "I'm not sure -- he had a message for me but he could have given it to you. He's not well, likely not thinking straight." He moved aside as a handful of doctors left the room without looking at the people waiting in the hall. Pye and two others remained inside. "It may be vital information -- he hand-carried it from Romania, and if I'm right, he had it from some friends of mine from Moscow. Too dangerous to trust to regular post or even floo express, and transfigured to disguise it."

"That's two, now," Arthur said dangerously. "Two sons attacked, one risking his life every other day and one who won't speak to us -- how many sons does the Order expect me to give up, Remus?"

"Arthur, I didn't -- "

"Who next? Fred and George? Ginny?" Arthur demanded. "You can talk all you like about whose choice it is and the good of the country, Remus, but these are my children."

"What do you expect me to do?" Remus replied. "I didn't ask Charlie to do it, I didn't even know he had done until it was too late to stop him."

Arthur opened his mouth for an angry answer that he probably would have regretted later, except that Ron and Ginny appeared around a corner and began shouting questions at him. Remus moved unobtrusively aside and gestured for Fred and George to follow.

"Lads, Charlie brought this to us and it's extremely important," he whispered, showing them the cigarette case. "He said it was transfigured to hide its original appearance, but he wasn't in any kind of shape to tell me how. He might not even know. I need you to work out what it was and change it back. I'm sorry -- I know it's not a good time, but Charlie risked his life for this."

He glanced up and was stunned to see Percy Weasley standing against the opposite wall, ignoring them completely and staring at his parents.

"I thought he wouldn't come," Fred said to George.

"I dunno, I banged on his front door and shouted through it and didn't get any answer," the other brother replied.

"We do that a bit," Fred explained. "Bang on his door and all. He's talked to Mum and Dad once or twice -- they have great loud rows about the Order, but it sounds almost like Dad's coming round to Percy's way of thinking."

"Which is?" Remus asked.

"Better to stand back and let the Ministry handle it," George said disgustedly. "Or at any rate better not to take the dangerous jobs. Load of bollocks, I think, but it's brave talk when I'm not the one with the sucking chest wound."

Pye emerged from the room just then and went to Arthur and Molly, speaking quietly; from the relieved look on Molly's face, Remus deduced that they'd been able to fix the curse. Fred and George went to speak to their parents while Remus and Percy waited like ghosts in the hallway; eventually they returned.

"We're going to the canteen," Fred said.

"Come along," George added. "We'll work on things there."

Remus nodded and followed them up the stairs to the canteen level, the cigarette case heavy in his pocket. While they bought food he sat at a table and turned it over in his hands, considering it carefully. It didn't have anything inside it; it did, on the other hand, seem to have that look about it -- like a mediocre stage prop, it didn't seem quite real. It lacked detail. For one thing, it was so shiny.

With the cigarette case, two bags of crisps, an enormous soda and a small pile of chocolate bars sitting on the table before them, the twins bent their heads in earnest discussion. The case twisted and stretched, shrunk and grew as the boys experimented with it; at one point it vanished for a few seconds, only to reappear a little ways away. Remus, meanwhile, sent Glastonbury back with a note for the others with a little information, and then had what he considered was a rather well-deserved cup of tea.

"I think we've got it," Fred said finally, clearing away the junk-food wrappers and setting the cigarette case in the empty space. He and George touched the tips of their wands to it and concentrated.

With a soft pop, the case vanished. In its place was a large, flat square object.

Remus stared at it. "You're having me on."

"Normally we would be," George assured him, "but this is the real thing."

"It can't be."

"It is," Fred said. He tilted his head for a better look. "Mint condition, looks like. Dad's got loads of these -- it's called a Voy Nell, isn't it?"

"Vinyl," Remus muttered, picking up the LP delicately. It was in the original paper sleeve, which had very simple red print on it.

"Igor Stravinsky -- The Fire Bird," Fred read. "Nineteen-ten complete ballet score."

Remus shook it out of its sleeve and peered inside, hoping for a note, a map, something other than a dusty old vinyl record.

"Could it be double-transfigured?" he asked.

"We'd have found it," George said. "Whatever your contacts wanted to tell you, it's all there."

"The record might have something informative on it," Remus muttered. "Can you change it back, for now?"

"Sure," Fred answered, tapping it with his wand. It shrank down and fattened out into the gold cigarette case once more. Remus gathered it up into his pocket and stood, pausing to think before speaking again.

"Harry and S -- and Nigel and Tonks will probably be with the Weasleys by now," he said. "We can go down to see them; then I think I'd better take Ron and Ginny back to Hogwarts. I'll have business there this evening."

"If you think you're leaving us behind, you're mad," Fred said.

"You want your Vy Nell player, don't you?" George asked.

"We can get it for you."

"Stop doing that," Remus said, annoyed. "I know you practice it."

"What?" they asked in unison. Remus rubbed his eyes. Finally, he took his office key out of his pocket and offered it to them.

"And I shall know if you make any duplications of it," he said. "Bring the record-player -- you recall what it looks like?"

"Small wooden box, big horn-looking thingy," Fred confirmed, and they both vanished.


Everyone had gathered in Charlie's room by the time the twins returned; Tonks was speaking outside with Pye about security arrangements, the Weasley siblings (except for Percy) were sitting in a tight knot near Charlie's head on one side and Arthur and Molly sat on the other.

Harry and Sirius lingered near Remus at the doorway, looking rather like they weren't sure what to do. Percy stood next to them, hands in his pockets, head down, eyes occasionally darting up to examine Charlie's sleeping face.

"What is it he brought you, then?" Arthur finally asked, looking at Remus. Remus took the cigarette case out of his pocket.

"It's transfigured; Fred and George solved it," he said. "It's a record -- vinyl," he added, recalling that the twins had said Arthur had a few. "They're bringing me the phonograph so I can play it."

"What does it say?" Molly asked.

" says it's the Fire Bird suite, by Stravinsky," Remus said uncomfortably. "He was a squib composer in Russia, he wrote for ballet. I don't know if that's actually what it is; if so it might tie in somehow to the phoenix egg we discovered."

Sirius reached up and stroked Glastonbury, who was sitting on his shoulder and giving his ear a sunburn.

"What could it possibly tell you?" Bill asked. "Why would they send Charlie all the way here just to bring you a record?"

"Perhaps it's something in the story," Remus shrugged. "I don't recall it, fully, but it had to do with a phoenix somehow."

"Remus," Tonks said, leaning through the doorway, "Fred and George are here..."

Remus looked at Arthur and Molly. "You have a right to listen, but you can send us out if you like."

"It's only music," Bill said to his father. "It might help him. Charlie deserves it."

Arthur frowned disapprovingly, but gestured for Remus to bring them in. The twins appeared carrying the phonograph between them and set it down in a chair that Ron vacated. Remus offered them the cigarette case and they re-transfigured it, then looked at him hesitantly.

"I'll do it; it's a little tricky," he said, placing the record on the turntable and setting the sheath aside. Arthur looked interested despite himself as he switched it on, started the wheel turning, and put the needle on the edge of the record.

The quality was, as usual with old vinyl, somewhat scratchy. Still, with the volume turned up a little, the sound was perfectly clear: the vaguely familiar strains of the ballet suite which made Stravinsky famous. Fred consulted the paper sleeve.

"Introduction and first Tableau," he said. "I guess it really is what it says it is."

Everyone jumped, however, when a voice suddenly spoke over the music; after a few seconds they relaxed, but Remus listened intently to the words being spoken.

Although later Stravinsky would be critical of his early work, The Firebird remains a pivotal piece in an understanding of his later work and of Rimsky-Korsakov's influence on the young composer.

The Firebird concerns the journey of its hero, Prince Ivan, who enters the magical realm of Kaschei the Immortal, known also as Koschei the Deathless. In Russian mythology, Koschei is a monstrous man who is seemingly invincible. In Stravinsky's suite, he is also the master of a world in which magical objects and creatures are commonplace, represented by a chromatic descending motif, usually in the strings.

Remus glanced at Sirius who was also listening intently, looking like nothing so much as a hound on scent.

Ivan, the hero, enters Koschei's dominion and chases a fire bird, or phoenix, which when captured begs for its life and agrees to assist Ivan in exchange for its freedom. Ivan is distracted, however, by thirteen princesses whom he sees and immediately falls in love with. Ivan confronts Koschei and asks to marry one of the princesses; the two eventually quarrel. Koschei sends his magical creatures to kill Ivan, but the Firebird bewitches them in the famous Infernal Dance, which eventually puts them and Koschei to sleep.

Harry and Sirius were both staring at Glastonbury now, who looked unsettled by their attention.

"Regulus," Sirius muttered. "You bastard."

In the mythology regarding Koschei, it is said that he cannot die because he has placed his soul in an object: a needle inside an egg, hidden inside a series of animals who are themselves locked in an iron chest buried under an oak tree on the island of Buyan.

Harry sucked in a sharp breath.

Koschei may only be destroyed, according to folk legend, by the destruction of the needle in which he has placed his soul. However, in Stravinsky's work, it is the Firebird who kills Koschei, awakening all the magical beings, including the princesses, who then celebrate their victory. Please enjoy this recording of the 1910 Firebird Suite, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under conductor --

Remus lifted the needle carefully and set it aside. He turned to look at Harry, whose breathing was quick and shallow.

"We've heard what we need," he said to the Weasleys, who were looking confused -- all but Ron, who was also staring at Harry.

"Was it worth it?" Molly asked softly.

"It may mean the difference between winning and losing this war," Remus answered. In the silence, Glastonbury warbled musically. "I think I'd better find someone to cover my classes tomorrow."

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