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It probably would have been cheaper in the end for Tonks to buy Sirius a motorbike rather than paying the substantial pub tab, but to be fair she did her share of the celebrating that Saturday.

The moon had, for once, been mercifully easy, and Remus was even well enough to sit up and read a little by Saturday afternoon. He was fractious and bored, as Tonks had predicted he would be, but he made no trouble about them going out for the evening. He seemed content to stay at the Shrieking Shack with a reading light and a warming charm, and Kingsley Shacklebolt taking time off from his busy secretarial job with the Prime Minister to stand guard as a favour to Tonks.

Nobody went alone anymore, anywhere. Especially not werewolves weakened by the full moon.

Sirius had been mildly sullen about his birthday all day, but the Three Broomsticks was cheerful enough and after a mug of buttered rum he had loosened up a bit. The twins had come along, as well as Ron and Hermione, both of whom were trying extra-hard not to be awkward. Augustus Pye showed up during the second round of drinks and tendered his congratulations as well; apparently Tonks had invited him.

And there were gifts, of course, which appealed to the materialist soul that ten generations of noble breeding had, despite his best intentions, planted in Sirius' breast. A bucket of Weasley Wizard Wheezes jokes from the twins, an appropriately neutral gift of a new hat and muffler from Ron and Hermione, an "I Spleen St. Mungo's" shirt slipped to him with a book on first-year Healer-apprenticeship charms by Augustus on the sly, and from Harry...

Well, Harry's official gift was a black corduroy book bag, durable and of a style that would make the rest of Hogwarts envious and acquisitive when they saw it. The inside was lined with red to match his robes and the buckles were all black steel, forming the shapes of lion mouths and heads.

When Sirius opened it, however, he saw a hidden pocket at the back gap open, and a quick glimpse was all he needed to confirm that there was a book with a cover that screamed "plain brown wrapper" and something made of leather hidden away there. He glanced at Harry and wondered, momentarily, how he had managed to lay his hands on such things, between his famous face and his incredibly innocent look. Then he glanced at Tonks, who was also grinning and watching Harry, and he realised that his cousin was really a very helpful woman indeed.

They stumbled out of the Three Broomsticks well past midnight, Sirius carrying his book-bag full of gifts and using their more-or-less continuous drinking as an excuse to keep his arm around Harry's shoulders. Ron and Hermione, slightly more sober, were escorted back to Hogwarts by Augustus, who had declined drinks, and Tonks had sent Harry and Sirius ahead to the Shack while she made sure the twins got home all right in the floo.

"This," Sirius said to Harry, sliding his arm down from shoulder to waist now that they were out of view of the pub, "was a brilliant birthday, Harry."

"Brilliant," Harry agreed. "More fun than any birthday I ever had."

"Me too. Me too. Because," Sirius said, forming his thoughts slowly, "Because it wasn't about being me. It was about being old."

"Not old," Harry murmured, shifting his weight so that they stumbled to one side, up against the darkened storefront of a shop a few doors down from the pub. He pinned Sirius to the wall with his hips, tasting of whiskey and salt when he kissed him. "I thought," he said, around kisses, "that tonight maybe when we got back -- "

"Yeah," Sirius agreed fervently, shifting a little so that his new book bag wasn't digging into his side.

"You don't even know what I -- "

"Yeah I do," Sirius said, arching his hips up into Harry's just a little. Harry gasped.

"Only if you -- "

"Oi! Faggots!"

Harry turned in shock at the shout, trying to see where it had come from in the darkened street. Sirius caught his breath and reached for his wand, heart racing. He saw Harry doing the same, as far as he could judge in the dim shadows.

"Fuck off!" Harry shouted. Something hard and heavy hit the wall near Sirius' head; a thrown rock.

"Fuck off yourself, pervert!" the voice answered, and there it was -- the chorus of nervous giggles that meant someone was showing off for a crowd of admirers.

"Tonks'll be here soon," Harry whispered. "Sounds like at least four of them. I don't think they can see clearly."

"If we keep quiet she won't even know we're here," Sirius answered.

"Hey, perverts, I was talking to you," the voice called. Another rock was thrown; it skittered across the ground and hit Sirius' shoe harmlessly.

"Oh, sod this," Sirius said, starting forward.

"Don't lose your head," Harry answered, throwing an arm out in front of him. "There's too many to fight. Besides, they don't even know who we -- "

He cut off with a sudden yelp; there had been a soft thud, as of rock hitting flesh, and Sirius felt Harry bend slightly to rub his leg.

It wasn't as though Sirius had been keeping a tight lid on his temper all these years; he'd gotten into fights like any student and he'd sometimes shouted at people or sulked or thrown things -- that was all in the course of growing up, especially growing up in the Black family. But this was different; this was a direct confrontation with his secret, and his secret had been a secret for so long and had made him so angry, never mind having had to keep it a secret in the first place, that there had been a little tight coil of bloodletting fury deep inside him which he wasn't even aware existed.

Five years of resentment at a world that was never, ever fair to him boiled over when these arseholes hit Harry, his Harry, and before he knew what he was doing he'd cast a lumos that lit the night sky like a floodlamp. Targets acquired, he'd thrown himself forward and knocked two teeth out of the lead bastard's mouth even as Harry was shouting Sirius, stop.

The lead bastard turned out to be a youngish man in wrinkled robes, not much older than Sirius himself and a terrific coward; he turned and tried to run even as his little gang surged forward to try their luck against Sirius. Harry got two of them with a well-placed hex and, from the sound of it, kicked the third in the kneecap.

"Pervert, am I?" Sirius roared, grabbing the lead bastard by the throat and throwing him one-handed against the shop wall. "Do I throw rocks at strangers in the street?" he asked, as the other man turned around and blindly swung with his fists. Sirius broke his nose. Behind him, he could hear Harry casting another hex and hoped he could hold his own, because no force of nature was going to stop him from turning this one into a sack of broken bones. "Do I go looking for people to spy on?"

He was still struggling. Sirius punched him flat in the chest and heard the breath wheeze out of him.

"Now you listen to me, you worthless piece of dragon-shit impersonating a human being," he said in the man's ear, propping him up against the wall by the simple expedient of holding his throat tightly in one hand. "You have just fucked with Sirius Black, and so help me Merlin if I ever learn your name I will make sure that every single member of my family spits on your shadow and murders your relatives if they are unfortunate enough to meet them. You do not want to be throwing rocks at Harry Potter, because he is mine, and -- "

"Sirius, you're going to kill him," someone shouted, and two pairs of hands were pulling him away. The man sagged to the ground, grasping his throat and coughing. Sirius glanced up to see Tonks holding one arm while Harry pulled him away with the other. The enormity of what he'd done hit him like a gut-punch and he surged back again, trying to break free.

"If you breathe a word of this to anyone you'll wish you'd never been born," he shouted. "I can pull your stomach out through your mouth with a word and make your cock fall off with a thought."

"That's Rosmerta and reinforcements -- we'd better get him out of here," he heard Tonks say, and that was the last he heard before the stunning spell hit him.


"Well, I've convinced him not to press criminal charges, not that he needed much convincing, and they all signed a binding charm not to tell the newspapers," Tonks said, flopping down on Harry's bed and groaning. "Thank Merlin for magic. How do Muggles manage? I suppose they must just kill people who know their secrets."

Harry, holding a bag of ice against his thigh, leaned back disconsolately. "Thanks, Tonks."

"Not that I think they really deserve to live," she continued, "but it's bad form to commit murder as a member of law enforcement, unless they were trying to kill you first."

Harry smiled at her. "You should sleep."

"Adrenaline. I'll probably crash in an hour or so," she said, staring at the ceiling. Sirius, still sleeping off the stunning spell, snorted and twitched in his sleep. "Bit scary, wasn't it?"

"Dunno," Harry said. "It's not like I didn't know Sirius things like that. He was just defending me," he added. "I told him I didn't need it, I mean I tried to, but I think after that first punch it wasn't really about me anyway."

"They were odious little cretins," Tonks said.

"Thanks for taking us home first. Were they still there when you went back?"

"Yeah, getting seen to in the Three Broomsticks. Wasn't hard to convince people I was doing my official duty." She regarded the sleeping man curiously. "He must have been really angry. That one he was fighting with had a broken nose, a hairline fracture in his jaw, and two cracked ribs."

"You didn't obliviate them?"

Tonks sighed. "I considered it, but...I am an Auror, Harry. That would be a cover-up. If it ever got out somehow I could lose my job -- they could send me to Azkaban. Getting them to sign nondisclosure charms was within my bounds; obliviation wasn't, not in this case. Even then, I could only get them to do that for the newspapers. Though I don't think they're going to go around boasting that two drunk teenagers beat the holy hell out of them. Besides, as far as I know, they didn't get your names."

"I may have shouted Sirius at some point," Harry said. "But I don't think they were paying attention, and how would they know, anyway?"

"True." Tonks sighed. "It's an awful end to a nice birthday. At least he's got Sunday to recover in. The charm I used on him might be a good thing, actually -- should get rid of any hangover he might've had. Anyway, I'd better go downstairs and crawl into bed. I've got to be up at an ungodly hour to go fetch Remus from the Shack. I'll let you sleep."

"Thanks again," Harry said. "Sorry about all this."

"Don't worry too much about it. Just try not to get into any more stupid fights, all right?"

"Only the really relevant and well-timed ones," Harry promised. Tonks grinned at him and vanished downstairs while he slipped under the blankets and curled up against Sirius, feeling oddly triumphant.


Remus was up and moving around again by Sunday afternoon, and while he didn't precisely shout at them as Harry had feared, he did have a lot of questions to ask. Most of them weren't completely answerable, in fact, since the whole thing had happened so fast.

"It was all a bit of a blur, to be honest," Sirius said, when Remus finally began to ask questions about the fight itself, and not the lead-up. "I remember swearing."

"You said you could make his cock fall off with a thought when we pulled you off him," Tonks reminded him. "That's all I heard, though, other than Harry shouting for help."

"So Harry stunned two of them and was fighting with the third in the street, and you had one of them pinned up against a shopfront?" Remus asked.

"That's right," Sirius said. "Wasn't much of a fighter."

"Mmh. Do you think they got a good look at either one of you?"

"What does it matter?" Harry asked.

"Well, as I understand it, they can't talk to the newspapers or anyone who would reasonably be expected to, according to the agreement they signed," Remus said, glancing at Tonks. She nodded. "On the other hand, I wonder how little or much you care about the idea circulating that the Chosen One is having an affair with the male tutor at Hogwarts. That's the kind of thing that could cause trouble for Sirius, too. You haven't got a job to lose; he has, and if he's not at Hogwarts I don't see how we're going to weasel him into his NEWTs."

"People won't believe it," Sirius said. "They won't, will they?"

"They'd believe any old thing about me," Harry replied glumly. "They have before."

"Well, we'll hope it doesn't come to that. It's not as though we can do anything about it," Remus said.

"It's stupid anyway. It shouldn't matter," Sirius mumbled angrily.

"Of course not, but to pretend it actually doesn't is just as stupid," Remus said, though his voice was kind. "I'm sorry that happened to you boys. It would have to happen at some point -- you know as well as I that the world is unkind to those who don't fit in it -- but I had hoped it wouldn't be something so primitive. Rock throwing, for heaven's sake."

"I'm not sorry I broke his nose," Sirius said.

"It'll certainly make him think twice before trying it again," Remus agreed. "Now, I think I'll be all right to lecture tomorrow, so I have some notes to go over..."

"I'm going to go look through the history books again," Harry said, rubbing his forehead. "There must be something in them about a sixth horcrux. Something of Ravenclaw's."

"Just her experiments with wands," Remus answered. "And we're not even certain any of them survived. Hoaxes have surfaced from time to time, but nothing's ever been proven conclusively."

"Why not, I wonder?" Sirius asked.

"She worked with glass, mostly. Magically speaking, it's a difficult material. It responds in unexpected ways," Remus said. "It's hard to cast spells on glass objects to begin with, so trying to reverse-engineer from anything to find out who made it..."

"Did she put cores in them?" Sirius asked.

"I don't think it says," Harry sighed. "In the books, I mean. Do you suppose there's a book specifically about glass wand-making somewhere? Not related to Ravenclaw, I mean."

"I wish Ollivander hadn't done a bunk," Tonks said. "He'd have known."

"Well, off I go, anyway," Harry said, standing up and taking a few books from the kitchen counter. "I'll be upstairs."

"I'll come along and help you look," Sirius said, following him.

"They won't get much research done that way," Tonks said with a grin, once they'd disappeared up the stairs in the living room.

"That's all right," Remus answered, without looking up from his lecture notes. "I don't think they're on the right track, anyway."

"No? You ought to tell them so."

He set his notes down and looked up at her, biting his lip. "I'd rather they keep chasing their tails, actually."

She stared at him. "You know, I really do think you don't want to find six at all."

"That's the problem, really. it a feeling," he said. "I don't think we'll much like six when we do find it."

"Why? Do you know something about it?" she asked, studying his face. He glanced away.

"It's just that we're in a good position, and I don't want to lose it through haste."

"Why would we...? Remus, you're being awfully cryptic."

"I know," he said, regretfully. " me, Tonks?"

"Of course," she answered immediately. "You know that. But I don't take well to having it abused, Remus."

"I promise," he said gravely.


It was two days before Harry found what he was looking for, and another two before the significance of it was made clear. By then, though no-one would have thought anything would be more important than finding the sixth horcrux, they arguably had bigger things to worry about.

Harry had spoken to Hermione, who floo'd Flourish and Blotts and spoken to someone there who enjoyed research; they'd bundled up a package, put it on Harry's account, and sent it post-haste to Remus at Hogwarts, who'd brought it home Tuesday evening.

"It's good to see you taking so much pleasure in books," Remus said, as Harry ripped into the parcel and settled down next to the fire with the top volume on the stack. "Reminds me of your mother."

"Not dad?"

"Your father never had much need for books. He was a fast reader, but he only used them when he had to. Great one for improvising, was James."

"Mmh," Harry said. "Well, if I manage to improvise up a sixth horcrux, I'll let you know."

He glanced up to find Remus studying him intently, a sad look in his brown eyes. The older man glanced away quickly, and Harry put it down to what must be painful for Remus -- the memory of Harry's parents.

That Wednesday, while Harry was poring over the books on wand-making with titles like "Waving It Proudly" and "Wandcraft Through The Ages" (several of which had been written by, if not the Ollivander, then an Ollivander), Sirius was spending his morning in sixth-year Transfiguration. McGonagall had asked him to come by and be an extra pair of hands; they were turning croquet mallets into flamingos -- much easier than the reverse -- and generally someone had to be around to help corral rogue mallets and prevent any of them from escaping.

By lunchtime he was glad enough to flee Transfigurations for the peace and quiet of his rooms for a few minutes; he could ask a House Elf to bring him up some food, then go straight to his afternoon Potions intensive with Slughorn and the seventh-years.

He had let himself into his rooms and thrown down his bag, easing the red Tutor's robes off his shoulders and loosening the collar of his Hogwarts shirt, before he realised there was someone else in the room.

The sallow man sat as still as a panther, an inky shadow taking up one of the wing-chairs facing the door. He looked eerily at ease -- one leg crossed over the other, hands resting lightly on the ends of the chair-arms, head tilted a little to the left. The tip of his black boot twitched, slightly. The expression on his face was a mixture of anger and hatred, tinged with disgust. Sirius dropped his hands, inching his left one towards the pocket of his robes, where his wand rested.

"No wards on your windows, the barest and most obvious on the door," Severus Snape drawled, eyes narrowing slightly. "I'm surprised no little brat has slit your throat as you slept. Don't -- even -- think about it," he added, as Sirius reached more openly for his wand. "Typical Black arrogance."

Sirius knew that Remus hadn't told Snape who he was, and Snape had seen only the barest glimpse of him before. Still, it was possible Snape was bluffing --

"I am not bluffing, you loathesome little twit," Snape said, rising out of the chair in a fluid motion. "You have ten minutes to pack whatever pathetic belongings you deem necessary."

"Or what?" Sirius challenged.

"You try my patience, whelp," Snape snarled. "You're going wherever the Potter brat is hiding. You've allowed yourself to be found out."

"I don't believe you," Sirius answered.

"You are not required to believe me, you are only required to obey me. We will speak with Lupin when you are prepared."

"What's this all about?"

"Nine minutes."

Sirius had barely tolerated Snivellus while they were at school and he was not about to take shit from him now, even if he was two decades older. He was still Snivellus, failing to grasp the obvious and playing stupid, annoying little games. He held out his hand and the wand, halfway out of his pocket, slapped into it; he spun it across his palm and flicked it at the trunk in the corner, which popped open. Several articles of clothing vanished and reappeared in the trunk, neatly folded. An advanced Potions text flung itself across the room as well, barely missing hitting Snape in the head. Within seconds, the packing was complete and the trunk had slammed shut. Sirius flicked his wand again as he shrugged into his Tutor's robes, and the trunk shrunk drastically. He picked it up and tossed it at Snape.

"Carry this for me, would you?" he asked, and had the pleasure of seeing Snape glower. He had already automatically caught the trunk, however, and would never stoop to simply dropping it. As they left, Snape sipped from a flask he produced from his pocket, and soon Sirius was walking down the hallway with a tall, fair-haired stranger at his side.

"Nice disguise. You should make it permanent," he said, out of the corner of his mouth. "You could change back to yourself for Hallowe'en -- "

"You never could shut up," Snape growled. "When we arrive at the Dark Arts classroom you will politely request that Lupin join us in the hallway."

"Do it yourself."

"I cannot do it myself, idiot, because he will not recognise me," Snape answered. He opened the door to the Dark Arts classroom and shoved Sirius through. Remus, who was lecturing while the chalk drew an intricate diagram on the board, looked up at him in surprise.

"Mr. Padfoot," he said in measured tones. "Are you planning to sit in on class this afternoon? I was under the impression that Professor Slughorn had requested your presence."

"Professor, I was wondering if I could speak to you outside for a moment," Sirius said. Ron and Hermione had turned around in their seats to stare at him, concerned. To his relief, Remus didn't ask if it could wait or whether it was urgent; he simply caught the chalk out of the air, tossed it to Hermione, and walked down the aisle.

"Granger, you can finish the diagram from my notes -- everyone, start copying it down," he said. "Backtalk will not be tolerated and obedience is encouraged, because school is not a democracy but a benevolent police," he said, as the door closed behind him, "What's going -- hello..."

"Lupin," Snape said darkly. Remus recognised the tone at once.

"How nice of you to join us for the afternoon. Why in Merlin's name are you here?"

"Your protege has been indiscreet," Snape said. "I don't know where you're keeping the so-called Chosen One and I don't wish to know, but he will have an unfortunate house-guest for the indefinite future."

He shoved the trunk at Sirius, who clutched it to his chest.

"Send him there. The Dark Lord has discovered his true identity. Better you kept it from me before now; I would have had him put down," he added bitterly.

Remus looked from Snape to Sirius, eyes widening.

"How?" he asked.

"Do we have time for this?" Snape demanded.

"Sorry, of course not -- Padfoot, you'd better do as he says. Go home and wait for me there. I'll make your excuses to McGonagall." He turned to Snape. "Clearly, we need to speak in private."

Snape looked pointedly at Sirius.

"Can I floo from your office?" Sirius asked, rolling his eyes. Remus waved him on; he stepped inside the office and then paused at the door, listening.

"Two doors down from the same place as last time," Snape said. "No earlier than eight or later than ten. If I don't arrive by ten, don't come back."

"I see. Bring Arcadia if you can; I need to speak with her."

"I'm not your courier, Lupin."

"I have a class to teach," Remus replied. "Can you leave as you came, without being seen?"

"Tell McGonagall to brush up the perimeter wards in the northeastern corner," Snape said, and Sirius heard a door slam, followed by receding footsteps. Quickly, he ran to the floo and within seconds he was bursting out of the fireplace at Fourteen Back. Harry was -- or rather had been -- sitting on the sofa, a half-fledgeling Glastonbury curled up and sleeping on his chest, beak under wing; when he emerged, Harry leapt up and Glastonbury was forced to take flight mid-fall, chirruping angrily as he circled to settle on Sirius' shoulder.

"What's happened?" Harry asked. Sirius spread his hands.

"The Dark Lord knows," he said. "I don't know how. Snape was in my rooms and he sent me home -- "

"Wait, what?" Harry asked.

"That slimy bastard was in my rooms -- told me that the Dark Lord knows who I am."

Harry swore. "It must have been those idiots in Hogsmeade. I knew it was too good to be true that they'd keep quiet. He sent you here? Are you sure it wasn't a trap?"

"Hells, no, I'm not sure!" Sirius said. "We should floo Tonks, where is she today?"

"Field work. We could send Glastonbury, if he can travel."

Glastonbury, hearing his own name, flapped his wings indignantly.

"I think we'd better make sure someone keeps tabs on Remus," Sirius said, as Harry tore a sheet of paper out of the notebook he was working in and began to scribble a note. "Tell her I've been sent into hiding and Remus needs a discreet guard. Don't use names."

"Course not," Harry answered, folding the paper in half and offering it to Glastonbury, who clenched it in one foot, hopping up and down eagerly with the other. "Tonks, Glas," he said. "Take it to Tonks, then come straight back, all right?"

The phoenix took off from Sirius' shoulder, vanishing mid-flight. The pair of them paused to take a mutual breath, Sirius rubbing his forehead anxiously, Harry watching him.

"He's meeting Remus tonight," Sirius said finally, pacing back and forth. "I didn't get much information."

"Do you reckon word'll spread?" Harry asked.

"Don't know. Don't think anyone'll believe them, really. Then again, someone obviously did..." Sirius pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't mind people knowing who I am -- make me a bit famous, won't it? -- It's just him, treating me like some kind of child -- and if they know my name, then they know about, about you and me..."

Harry grasped his arm gently, stopping him in mid-pace.

"Would that really be so terrible?" he asked.

"For the war? It'd be disastrous -- "

"After the war." Harry made a gesture, turning his free hand from palm down to palm up, as if to indicate time passing. "For the first time I think I really might live to see eighteen, Sirius. For the first time -- this year it feels like we're winning, despite everything. After everything, I might still be standing. You might, too. I don't know what this is, but I don't think I need to tell you it's not just fucking."

Sirius glanced away. "You can't know that."

"Yes, I can. Because when the dust settles I want to be proud of this," Harry said fiercely. "I deserve a real life, Sirius, and I deserve that life to be just exactly the way I want it to be, because it never has been. And that means not hiding people and things that I'm proud of. Like this house, like you. When the war is over -- you can hide, but I won't."

Glastonbury reappeared then, dropping a return letter from Tonks into Harry's hair and flapping into the kitchen to be fussed over by Hedwig.

Sent Moody to Hogwarts. I'll be there myself by dinnertime. If in trouble, send for the twins. N.T.

Sirius threw himself down onto the sofa, scrubbing his face with his hands.

"It's too much right now," Harry said. "Right. Problem at hand -- what do we do now?"

"Wait, I suppose," Sirius answered, secretly relieved that Harry had let the subject drop. "Wait and see what Remus says after tonight. Wait to see if rumours show up in the Prophet tomorrow."

"Wait to see if Voldemort comes after you next," Harry said thoughtfully. Sirius looked up at him. Harry's eyes were distant. "Whenever we wait for him, he wins..."

Realisation dawned on Sirius. "So we won't wait too long, will we?" he asked.

"No," Harry agreed. "Not long at all."

He seemed to snap out of his thoughtful mood then, dropping down on the sofa next to Sirius. "In the meantime, at least you'll be here for a while. That'll be good, don't you think?"

Sirius gave him a doubtful look, but then he remembered one of the items that had been packed in his trunk before he left.

"Well, I have been reading that book you gave me," he said. Despite the tension, Harry grinned.

"Plenty of time for that in the next few days...."

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