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That Thursday, the first Thursday after Firenze abruptly ended Sirius' stargazing lessons, Remus and Tonks were sharing a late dinner at the cottage when Harry and Sirius finally stumbled in from the floo, laughing themselves sick.

Actually, the plan had been that, since Harry and Sirius would be gone, the older residents of Fourteen Back would share an early dinner and enjoy the time alone, since they hadn't had much of late. However, dinner was delayed while they made up for the lack of time together -- twice -- well, Tonks three times, actually...

The point was that dinner was only barely begun when Harry and Sirius reeled into the room, Harry going for the sink to get a glass of water, Sirius leaning in the doorway and covering his eyes with one hand.

"Good dinner?" Remus asked mildly, looking up from his carton of spicy pork and rice. The makings of a splendid salad and roast were still in the chilled cupboard; if they'd still tried to make real dinner, they'd still be ravenous.

"Oh, sweet Loki in a hoopskirt," Sirius groaned, still laughing. "Harry, you tell them."

"I'm not repeating what Hermione said," Harry answered, drinking deeply. Sirius went off into another gale of laughter.

"Let's leave them to their hysteria," Tonks said, making as if to pick up her meal and move elsewhere.

"No, no, we'll explain it," Harry said. "It's too good not to share. Do you want to start from Hermione, or....?"

"What a mess," Sirius moaned, sliding down the doorframe until he sat, back propped against one side and knees pressed against the other. "The whole bloody night was the most excruciating thing I think I've ever encountered."

"Surely it wasn't that bad," Remus said. He offered a carton of vegetables to Harry, who took it and began eating with the aplomb of a never-quite-fully-fed seventeen-year-old.

"That's the problem, really," Sirius said. "Ron was spending so much time pretending not to pay any attention to us, and we weren't even doing anything..."

"You felt me up under the table!" Harry accused. Sirius gave him a scandalized look, then glanced at Tonks warningly. "Oh, who cares if there's a woman in the room, there were several women in the room when you did it!"

"You didn't announce it to them!"

"Anyway," Harry continued, "Ron was a bit...well, he knocked his drink over a few times, and he didn't eat much, but he did try."

"You should have seen him when I brought up fairies," Sirius said wickedly.

"We are studying them in seventh-year Dark Arts," Remus explained to Tonks. "Everyone smirks horribly."

"I reckon he'll get over it," Harry said confidently. "He did try, Sirius. You didn't help him any."

"I didn't like the way he kept glaring at me, as if I'd corrupted the great pure Boy Who Shagged Girls Until I Came Along," Sirius muttered.

"He did stare a bit. I suppose he was trying to get used to the idea."

"Yes, well, Hermione didn't seem to have any trouble getting used to the idea," Sirius said, grinning again. "What was it she said, not after dinner -- right when you took that huge bite of beef."

"Oh -- Merlin..." Harry shook his head.

"I don't think she said anything, I think it's a conspiracy to make us feel inadequate," Remus remarked to Tonks.

"Knowing Hermione, she definitely said something," Tonks replied.

"She asked Harry if he had all the books he needed, about blokes having sex," Sirius sniggered. "And then she turned to me and said -- "

"I assume from his reputation that Sirius doesn't need any books, but you'll have to keep up with him somehow," Harry said, in a passable imitation of Hermione's voice. Remus choked on the bite of rice he'd taken.

"That's exactly what Harry did," Sirius said, pointing, as Tonks thwacked Remus on the back. "While I asked if Hermione really thought Harry hadn't any experience himself. That DID set Ron off for a while."

"Well, it's over now, anyway," Harry said. "But I will never forget your we were ready to go back, right, and Hermione and Ron were already out the door of the restaurant, when Hermione came running back in and grabbed Sirius by the arm and looked at me very gravely."

"I thought she was going to tell us good luck or something," Sirius put in.

"And after this long, soul-searching look in my eyes, she says to me, Harry, if the two of you ever did fancy having a girl along, just to see what it was like -- "

"To see what it was like!" Sirius hooted.

" -- then I promise I'd never tell Ron," Harry finished.

Remus stared at him in shock. "Little Hermione Granger -- the Head Girl of Hogwarts -- "

"HEAD GIRL!" Sirius roared with laughter.

"Hermione Granger who had a terrific crush on me once upon a simpler time, Hermione offered to be the trois in your ménage à trois?" Remus asked, horrified.

"Good for her!" Tonks cried. "Well done Hermione."

"We're not going to do it, you know!" Sirius said, looking momentarily nervous. "We haven't even -- "

Both he and Harry blushed at the same moment, and Remus and Tonks became suddenly absorbed in their chinese food cartons. There was a long moment of silence. Finally, Tonks let out a giggle.

"Saving up for a special occasion, are you?" she asked. Remus snorted with the effort of not laughing, then gave in and howled until Harry and Sirius, with exaggerated dignity, stalked out of the room and up to bed.


Ten days after the horrifying double-date, Glastonbury exploded in an enormous ball of flame.

Remus, on a trip to Diagon to acquire a redcap to show to one of his classes, had also bought a shallow, wide-bottomed copper bowl and brought it to Glastonbury that Monday. The phoenix, who by that time was heavily moulting and occasionally scorching peoples' clothing, took to it with great delight and spent a lot of time sleeping in it, head tucked under one straggly, ugly-looking wing.

Sirius had brought him home when he came to Fourteen Back for the weekend, the bowl tucked carefully under one arm, and Hedwig spent much of Saturday perched on the rim of the bowl, clicking her beak threateningly if anyone came near.

"What do we do when he finally goes up?" Sirius asked, over Saturday lunch. Tonks was, rather inappropriately he felt, toasting a sausage over Glastonbury's copper bowl. "As regards the locket and the goblet, I mean."

"Well, according to what I've managed to find about purification in general, they ought to be right in the flame," Remus said, feeling the side of the bowl with the back of his hand. "I think after dinner we'd better start keeping watch in shifts with the horcruxes nearby. I don't like to have them out, but it's unavoidable. We won't have any reliable way to tell when it's about to happen. The egg from which isn't really laid, he sort of burns around it."

"You seem like you have experience handling phoenixes," Tonks said.

"A little...Dumbledore used to let me care for Fawkes after I left school," Remus said. "They're such comforting creatures. Very intelligent. When he went off on business or was gone over some holiday or other, he'd bring Fawkes around and pay me a little to look after him. You've done very well with Glastonbury, Sirius."

"Doesn't take much," Sirius said, but he was bursting with pride at the praise. "He looks after himself, mostly."

"He's likely to be a little agitated right before he goes," Remus said. "It's his first time, after all. I would be."

"He'll still be Glastonbury when he hatches, won't he?" Sirius asked, a trifle worried.

"Oh, yes," Remus said, leaning over to smooth down some straggling tailfeathers. Glastonbury hooted at Hedwig, who hooted back soothingly. "There's a good bird," Remus murmured absently.

"Shifts, then," Tonks said. "Remus can take first shift from eight to eleven so that he gets a full night's sleep; Sirius doesn't mind staying up late so he can have the next one from eleven to two. I'm used to being woken up, so I'll take third shift from two to five, and Harry can get up early and take the five to eight shift. We'll just cycle that way until he combusts."

"She's an auror," Remus stage-whispered to Harry, sitting on his right. "Big on schedules. Very bossy."

"If you'd care to take four hour shifts without me..." she said, mock-threateningly.

"I never said it was a bad thing," Remus answered politely. "Now, listen. There are a few things that go without saying, but I'm going to say them anyway. When he starts to go up, put the cup and the locket into the bowl with him. Get him to perch on the cup if you can -- it's going to be hard to keep the heat steady on a large object like that."

"Do you think they'll actually melt?" Sirius asked.

"I've no clue. They're both alloys, I think, but they're very old and very powerful artefacts in their own right. It's a shame to destroy them..." Remus glanced reluctantly at the cupboard they were kept in, then sighed and went on. "At any rate, it should be obvious that you should certainly not touch either of them any more than necessary while you're keeping watch. Do not under any circumstances hang the locket around your neck or try to open it, even in fun. Don't put anything in the goblet -- not just liquid, I mean anything -- or try to drink from it. Don't even put it up to your lips if it's empty. Don't talk to them."

"Why would we talk to them?" Harry asked, scornful.

"You'd be surprised how many old wizarding stories involve someone becoming trapped by an object because they talked to it," Remus answered. "Best not to risk it. That's why we've kept them locked up."

"Basically," Tonks put in, "don't treat them as toys. They're parts of Voldemort -- treat them like it."

Harry and Sirius nodded solemnly. Glastonbury, in his bowl, huffed uncomfortably and continued to smolder.

After dinner, Remus dutifully took a book and settled down in the kitchen, uncharacteristically propping his feet on the table so that they could be warmed by the significant amount of heat Glastonbury was now putting out. The cup and locket, sitting on the table next to his crossed knees, looked more like props in a school play than two Dark objects of significant power. Tonks sat in the living room and heckled Sirius and Harry as they played an extremely inept game of chess.

"What do you want to do for your birthday, anyway?" she asked, as Sirius began systematically destroying Harry's pawns. "It's only five days away."

"I dunno," he shrugged. "It's not a big deal."

"You're going to be seventeen. That's a big deal!"

"Well, technically not, really. I mean, I'm sure the maths aren't right there," Sirius said. "It's just a day."

"But it's a day that's supposed to be all about you!" Tonks said. "Everybody gets one day that's just about them. That's the point of a birthday, really. We could have a big dinner somewhere. You've got lots of cash for it."

"Nah," Sirius said. Harry took one of his knights, and he scowled.

"Well, we have to do something," Tonks insisted.

"We don't," Sirius replied. "Who cares about stupid birthdays, anyway."

"What's got into you?" Harry asked. "Everyone cares about birthdays."

"I don't! I'd rather not even have one," Sirius answered. "Besides, it's always right in the middle of exams and packing for hols and I don't see what's so special about being born."

Harry fell silent; Tonks studied Sirius for a moment before speaking.

"This is about being a Black, isn't it?" she asked. "Mum doesn't like celebrating her birthday either. She says the family always used to make a big deal out of it and it was all rather horrible."

"It's not about being older," Sirius muttered. "It's about how grand it is to be born a Black and a pureblood. When I left I said I might as well celebrate that day as another. My re-birthday," he added, with a hint of a smile. "Only I didn't, did I, because of coming here. It was in August and I forgot it completely."

"Well, that'd be letting them win, anyway," Tonks said.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Sirius demanded.

"They still get to keep your birthday, if you do that. If we celebrate it, it doesn't belong to them anymore," she said. "Besides, it's only mad aunt Bellatrix now -- "

"If I see her again I'll cut her eyeballs out and feed them to Glastonbury," Sirius declared.

"Well, that'd be a decent birthday present, but the point is that you might as well take your birthday back and enjoy it to spite them," Tonks said, looking amused. "Come on, Sirius. We'll go out somewhere and get you drunk and make a fuss over you. It's a Friday night, it'll be splendid."

"Got to do it on Saturday," Sirius said, reluctantly admitting defeat. "Friday's the full moon."

"Ah, bollocks!" Tonks said, slapping her forehead with one hand. "That's right. And that means Remus'll be miserable for your birthday. Utterly lame, Sirius."

"It's not his fault," Sirius said sharply.

"No, of course not. I didn't mean it like that," she said. "Well, we'll have to tuck him up in bed on Saturday night and go out, that's all there is to it."

"Nothing fancy," Sirius warned. "The Three Broomsticks is good enough for me."

"We'll see," Tonks said ominously, as Remus appeared in the doorway.

"I'm going to bed," he said. "Sirius, you're up."

"Come keep me company," Sirius said to Harry.

"Bollocks to that, if I have to get up at five a.m., I'm going up to sleep," Harry replied.

"Just as well," Remus called from the other room. "I don't want to come out to get a drink of water in the middle of the night and have to turn the hose on the two of you."

"He thinks you're cute," Tonks said, ruffling Sirius' hair as she followed him into the kitchen. "Wake me up at two."

By breakfast-time the next morning, however, Glastonbury was still fretful and scraggly, putting out enough heat to make the kitchen as a whole uncomfortably warm. Remus sat the first watch after breakfast with a pile of papers he was marking, and a sort of Sunday-morning peace settled over the little cottage.

The tranquility was broken at about half-past eleven by Hedwig, who began to screetch and flap around Glastonbury's bowl, blowing Remus' papers around with her wings. The others, in various parts of the house, were summoned with a yell; they arrived to find Remus gathering up his papers while Tonks tried to coax a frantic Hedwig away from the table with one hand and grab the goblet with the other. Harry took Hedwig firmly in both hands and shoved her outside in a flurry of feathers, slamming the door behind her. When he turned around, Sirius was hovering anxiously over the bowl while Tonks dropped the locket into it and Remus tried to find a way to wedge the goblet in next to Glastonbury.

"Any minute now," Remus said, above the enraged cries of Hedwig, who was rattling the windowpanes with her wings. Glastonbury, breathing heavily, reared back and spread his wings, feet scrabbling against the bottom of the bowl. Remus tucked the goblet under the bird's breast and pulled back just in time; with a surprised squawk, the phoenix burst into flames.

The cup seemed to catch fire as if it had been filled with alcohol; green flame licked along every surface, turning the gold to a vivid yellow and making an odd hissing noise. The locket rattled and jumped around the bottom of the bowl as if it were a living thing.

"It's not very elegant, is it?" Remus observed, even as the bird's shape became indistinguishable and seemed to collapse in on itself, forming a little heap of white-hot embers in the bottom of the bowl. The locket was somewhere underneath; Hufflepuff's cup, looking oddly soft around the edges, began to make soft little pinging noises as it cooled. Outside, Hedwig was hooting in rage.

"Is that all?" Harry asked, glancing at Remus and Tonks.

"We'll know soon, I suspect," Remus replied. He held his hand over the cup, then drew it back quickly. "It's hot still."

Something rattled and they all took an involuntary step backwards. The embers, near the top of the heap, were turning to white ash, and as they watched the ash began to bump and move. With a crack it slid aside in a mini-avalanche and a bit of eggshell appeared. There was another loud crack, and a beak became visible, followed closely by a head and one wing.

"Don't touch him," Tonks said, stopping Sirius who had reached forward to help the little phoenix free itself. "Look, the egg's steaming."

The little fledgeling hopped out of the egg after another few struggling efforts and slid down the pile of ashes, squeaking in pain when it bumped its head on the side of the bowl. Sirius, heedless, reached in and scooped him up into his hands. The little bird promptly bit him.

"That's Glastonbury," Sirius said, laughing with relief and dropping weakly into a chair. Harry went to the window and let Hedwig back in; she whacked him angrily with her wing as she flapped across the room to perch on the chair behind Sirius, peering down at the hatchling.

Remus carefully sifted the ash aside and used a bit of eggshell to spread the remaining embers evenly around the bottom of the bowl to cool. He plucked the rest of the shell fragments out and put them into a small tray nearby. Tonks was examining the cup as well as she could without touching it, peering into the bottom and studying the outside edges.

"It survived pretty well," she said finally. "It's cooling fast..."

She carefully lifted it out, setting it down quickly and shaking her fingers where they burned a little. She used a nearby fork to lift the locket's chain and pull the whole thing out, holding it up at eye level.

Harry leaned forward to study it; it didn't look any different, really, and he was opening his mouth to ask if she thought it had worked when the locket burst open of its own accord.

Remus swore and pulled Harry back by the shoulders just in time; Harry had a brief vision of a small painting inside the locket before green light exploded out of it with a scream and shot straight up like a roman candle, bursting into a thousand glittering iotas that eventually dissipated into the air.

Harry glanced at Tonks, whose eyes were wide.

"Well," she began, "I think that -- "

There was another scream, at that point, and something began to froth and bubble up out of the cup, sitting on the table.

"Blood," Sirius said, awed. The red liquid boiled over the edge of the cup, sliding down the sides and spreading across the table. It left deep grooves in the wooden table where it ran, filling the air in the kitchen with an acrid stench as it evaporated away. It reminded Harry of the ink bleeding out of the diary when he'd stabbed it; he turned away, pressing his face into the familiar, slightly dusty-smelling fabric of Remus' jumper. He felt the older man's hand on the back of his head, anchoring him there.

"I think it worked," Tonks said shakily. Glastonbury peeped, hungrily.

"I wonder if he felt it," Remus said. Harry leaned back, turning around again to stare at the deep, blackened stain on the table. Sirius held out his hand and Tonks slowly let the chain slide off the fork she'd been holding it with until it pooled around the locket in Sirius' palm. A tiny, charred fragment of wood tumbled out and Glastonbury snatched it up in his beak, swallowing it happily.

"It was a portrait of Tom Riddle," Harry said, pointing at the now-empty locket. "He put a little portrait in it..."

"Makes sense," Remus added. Their words seemed to echo in the unnatural silence of the kitchen. "That's four gone."

"No bad day's work," Tonks murmured.


Although they all felt that the destruction of the horcruxes called for celebration, no one actually felt like celebrating; for the rest of the day they were all very quiet, busying themselves with simple chores like washing dishes or, in Sirius' case, feeding and comforting his hungry hatchling. Remus asked them all to write down what they saw, for the sake of research; Sirius tried to tease him about being too much like Hermione, but the joke fell flat. Eventually, when they were finished, Harry picked up a book and began idly paging through it; Remus went back to marking papers and Tonks sat next to him, breaking Glastonbury's eggshell into tiny pieces in the tray Remus had provided for it.

"It's very useful, phoenix-shell," she said quietly to Sirius. "You could sell it in Diagon to a licenced potions supplier, or save it and use it yourself."

"Slughorn might be interested in it," Remus added, equally subdued. "He'd give you fair market value for it."

"I'll have to see," Sirius answered, and the room was silent again. Nobody even remembered to eat until about four o'clock, when Remus finally looked up from his papers. Without a word he went to the cupboard and took down a loaf of bread, slicing it by hand with a bread knife. Silently, Sirius went to the cold-cupboard and took out butter and jam. They had tea in a sort of stunned daze, and eventually went to bed without ever having eaten dinner.

Over the next few days, the unnatural calm that had settled on the cottage with the destruction of the horcruxes slowly began to dissipate. Sirius recovered more quickly than the others, since he lived at the school and was routinely taken out of himself by students and the professors. Likewise, Remus began to recover; he had to, in order to properly teach his classes, and though his health began to flag with the waxing moon, he still smiled and laughed more readily than Harry, who spent what Tonks thought was an unhealthy amount of time at home. She herself was more used to violent magical outbursts, and by the time Thursday rolled around, she was the one who began pestering Sirius once more about his birthday.

"Listen, it's not as though I have tomorrow off as well as tonight," Sirius said, drinking from the mug of soup Harry had brought him from the kitchen. "I'm teaching."

They were seated on Remus' bed, all four of them; Harry and Sirius with their shoulders pressed together, leaning on the footboard, while Remus sat huddled under an enormous pile of blankets and most of Tonks. Remus had yet to touch his food.

"Sorry about that," Remus muttered. "Can't stay warm."

"Shut up, you," Sirius said, pointing the mug at him. "I've told you thousands of times not to apologise."


Sirius rolled his eyes heavenward and downed the rest of his soup. "So we'll just move my birthday to Saturday when you're going to be unconscious anyway, and promise to raise a drink to you when we go out on Saturday night."

"We'll bring you back some curry, you'll like that," Tonks added. "And I'll make sure you have plenty of books, because if you think you're bored now, you'll redefine boredom while you're in bed all day tomorrow."

"I like boredom," Remus said, his voice muffled slightly by the blankets. "It's the brief and torturous excitement of tomorrow night's full moon that I could live without. Before I forget..."

The blankets moved and Tonks was momentarily dislodged as Remus leaned over and pulled open the second drawer of his bedside table. A white-wrapped package was produced and thrown on the bed before Remus dove back under the blankets. Sirius picked it up, raising his eyebrows.

"You didn't have to get me anything," he said.

"I can finally afford to. It's fun. Really," Remus insisted.

"It's a book," Harry said, as Sirius poked and prodded it. "I can tell. Open it up, then!"

"Keep your robes on, Potter," Sirius replied, pulling off the scarlet ribbon and unsticking the ends of the paper. On unwrapping, it did indeed appear to be a book.

"Merwyddin's Contemporary Magical History, 1950 through 1990," Sirius read. "Sounds a bit dry..."

"Open it, twit," Remus groaned. Sirius lifted the lid and found an envelope in the inside cover. He slit it expertly and unfolded the parchment document within.

"This document hereby grants the bearer and possessor with special permit and licence to own, operate, and maintain the vehicles specified below and to modify said vehicles magically to perform functions, also identified below, by permission of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office and the Bureau for the Advancement of Magical Studies," Sirius read aloud, eyes scanning the official-looking form. "Provident upon the bearer's possession of official documentation entitling legal operation under Muggle law. What...?"

"Keep reading," Tonks said, a huge grin on her face.

"Any single motorised bicycle, motorcycle, or otherwise engine-driven two-wheeled vehicle; functions may include transfiguration, invisibility, magically-oriented tracking charms, and voluntary levitation and/or locomotion," Sirius read.

"It's not a motorbike itself," Remus said. "That was confiscated by the Ministry years ago and it's still a bit beyond my means at any rate. But when you do get one, that's your legal permit to operate it."

"Brilliant!" Sirius said, clutching the paper in both hands.

"You've got to have a driver's licence -- well, and a motorbike," Remus continued, "But once you have that, you can basically do whatever you like to it."

"And you never know what else you might get for your birthday," Tonks said cheerfully. "Although I can tell you right now that my gift to you is going to be footing the bill at the Three Broomsticks on Saturday night."

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