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The greasy little Muggle eatery that they'd met at last time was two doors up from a slightly more elegant coffeehouse, the sort with tinted windows and deep seats in the back for those who didn't want to sit at tables. Remus bought a cup of tea and sat down in a chair that was visible without being obvious; he'd have gone for one with a clear view of the till, but Snape would undoubtedly be in disguise, and would have to find him rather than the reverse.

But Snape never came; instead Arcadia, looking a little cleaner and more well-fed, appeared in the cafe. Remus watched as she bought a small cup of coffee with great hesitancy, handling the money as if it were made of delicate china; when she had accepted the change and turned to study the room, he lifted his face so that she would see it clearly, without meeting her eyes. She sat on the edge of the chair next to him, cradling the coffee in both hands.

"He sends his regrets," she said. Remus smiled a little. He did not show his teeth.

"I doubt that," he replied. "But it's good to hear you going through the motions."

"He has taught me a little, even about manners," she answered, also smiling. "He sees me often. He gave me money for this," she added, holding up the coffee. "I don't like the taste, but when I go in a shop to eat I must buy something or I cannot stay."

She recited it as if by rote, then glanced at him for approval. He nodded.

"I need to know how the Dark Lord found out about Black," he said. "I assume he's given you the information."

She offered a small sealed bottle, filled with silvery liquid -- a pensieve memory. He held out his hand for it, tucking it away in his pocket when she relinquished it.

"He says to tell you that he....made a connection which the Dark Lord did not," she said. "The Dark Lord assumes that this is some offspring of Sirius Black, a bastard child..."

"Of course," Remus murmured. "But Snape -- "

"He believes you have resurrected him, perhaps with a..." she took out a slip of paper and read from it. "Time-turner."

"You're reading now," Remus observed.

"Severus teaches me. In secret."

Remus raised his eyebrows. She studied her hands. "He is not a very nice man, but he is a good man. He says he seems to find students everywhere because the world is filled with idiots."

He grinned. "Severus never did tolerate ignorance well. So the Dark Lord thinks Sirius is his own bastard son, and Severus knows better. Tell him from me that I'll explain what happened when all this is over, but in essence he's correct -- this is a resurrected Sirius."

Arcadia watched him keenly, her intelligent eyes showing she was remembering everything said.

"There is more," she said. "In the jar. He says you should study it at once."

"Tell him I'll do so before the night is over. I'll need to speak to both of you again soon -- not later than Friday."

"He is much taken up with serving the Dark Lord. He will send to you when he can come."

Remus nodded. "Thank you, Arcadia."

She broke into an enormous grin. "It is my pleasure," she said politely.


Remus arrived home earlier than expected but later than hoped, that evening; with him he carried a large wooden case, bound with leather straps and brass buckles. He wrestled it onto the low table in the living room and sighed with relief as he set it down. Harry and Sirius regarded it with interest.

"Pensieve," he grunted, throwing himself into a chair. Tonks began unbuckling the straps.

"What did Snape have to say?" she asked.

"He couldn't come. He sent Arcadia instead."

"Oh," Tonks said, in a tone of voice which made it very clear what her opinions on young, pretty female werewolves having drinks with her boyfriend were. Remus allowed himself a few seconds to bask in her protectiveness before moving onward.

"He also provided this," he said, taking the bottle out of his inside coat pocket.

"Pensieve memories," Harry said. "What of?"

"I'm not quite sure. Apparently they have more information than I was given, which wasn't much. The Dark Lord knows who you are, but he thinks you're Sirius Black's bastard son -- most people wouldn't be surprised," Remus added, as Sirius blinked at this information. "You did see a different girl each week."

"Didn't have to snog any of them, that way," Sirius muttered. Tonks grinned at him.

"I've arranged to meet with them again, soon, to discuss our options," Remus continued, lifting the pensieve out of its case. Tonks moved the case aside and he set it down in the middle of the table. Harry touched it cautiously.

"Is it Dumbledore's?" he asked quietly.

"It was," Remus said, studying the younger man. "It was left to the Hogwarts Headmaster -- or Mistress -- in perpetuity, so it's in Minerva McGonagall's possession now. She didn't let it go easily, either."

McGonagall was apparently not one to use pensieves much, or perhaps the fact that it was Dumbledore's had prevented her; the inside of the bowl was dusty, and Remus knelt to clean it gently with a handkerchief before sitting back on his heels and looking up at Harry and Sirius across from him and Tonks nearby.

"Out of caution," he said, "And because memories can be used to trap people, I want Sirius with me. Tonks, you'll supervise here with Harry, all right?"

She nodded. "There's procedure for dealing with pensieves. If you get stuck, we'll get you out."

"All right."

Remus tipped the silvery contents of the jar into the bowl, where they lay in a shimmering pool. He and Sirius together leaned over the broad bowl, until the falling sensation began...


They landed in a dim room, lit only by weak torches burning in brackets along the walls. People in dark robes stood in little clumps here and there, hoods over their heads, speaking quietly. Remus turned to see Severus standing next to him, and he thought he caught a glimpse of Arcadia's pale face nearby.

"Some kind of meeting room," Sirius said, his voice unnaturally loud.

"The inner circle, I would imagine," Remus answered. "His most trusted people. Look, there's Draco -- and -- "

Two men had just entered the room from a door at the rear of the chamber; Draco was pale and composed, his face utterly and unnaturally blank, while the man next to him...

He did look like a man, but his features were blurred and distorted; his nose seemed ill-defined and his eyes glowed red within dark pupils. What hair was visible under the hood was short, brownish, wispy like an old man's. His skin was white, papery, and his lips were merely dun-coloured smudges around his mouth. He didn't look like the slit-eyed, snake-nostriled monster that Harry had described, but then Harry had only encountered him in moments of violence and terror.

Or perhaps the horcruxes were driving him mortal again; only two were left now...

"Gather around," Voldemort said in a shrill voice, gesturing to the others to join him. Draco took up a position on his left, Snape on his right; Pettigrew (his silver hand glowing) next to Snape and the rest ranged beyond. Remus saw Narcissa next to Draco and Bellatrix next to her, but he didn't point her out to Sirius. He could be a little irrational about the woman who'd killed him. To be fair, Remus would have been, too. "My son has news to share."

Remus glanced at Sirius, who looked bewildered.

"I thought you said he never had children," Sirius said, edging closer for a better view.

"As far as I know, he doesn't," Remus answered. Then Voldemort put his hand on Draco's shoulder. "Ah."

"That's creepy as fuck," Sirius said. Narcissa was beaming proudly. "You don't suppose he really is...?"

"Two youths have come to us with interesting news, so he tells me," Voldemort continued.

"I mean, I know Death Eaters can get up to some pretty kinky stuff with all those masks and stuff...."

"He looks just like his father," Remus answered, as Malfoy snapped his fingers and gestured for a handful people outside the circle to come forward. There were two pairs of burly men in dark robes, each of whom held a third tightly between them. Inside the circle of watchers, they deposited their prisoners and moved out again, respectfully.

"Bow," Voldemort said. "You are in the presence of an immortal."

The two men, looking terrified, dropped to their knees and pressed their foreheads against the grimy floor.

"Here -- I know him!" Sirius said suddenly. "That's the bastard that hit Harry!"

"You have information for us, I think," Voldemort continued with a terrible grin.

"Yes, sir," one of them quavered.

"Yes, my lord," Voldemort corrected.

"Yes, my lord," they both said hurriedly.

"You may sit up. Do not stand."

They sat up, kneeling uncomfortably. The one Sirius recognised spoke first.

"We....we saw Harry Potter in Hogsmeade. My lord," he added quickly.

"People have seen that abomination in many places. Of what interest is this to me?" Voldemort asked Draco, who gestured that the men should continue.

"We saw him with a young man who claimed to be Sirius Black, my lord," the other one said, a little faster on the uptake than his terrified pal.

"Sirius Black is dead!" Bellatrix said sharply. Voldemort held up a hand to silence her.

"Many of us saw him put down before our eyes," he said.

"Well, he..." the man swallowed. "He didn't look like the, the posters and things...younger, a lot younger. We seen him before, saying his name was Nigel Padfoot. He's a tutor at the school."

Voldemort looked at Draco, who shrugged. He turned back to the men.

"How old?" he demanded.

"Not older than myself, my lord," the man said.

"My lord," Snape said, startling both Remus and Sirius, "If I may suggest..."

Voldemort glanced at him.

"It is possible that Sirius Black, being who he was, may have fathered a child unwittingly," Snape said.

"Clever, clever," Remus murmured. "Well done, Severus."

"Ah, yes," Voldemort agreed. "Perhaps. Is that all?" he asked the two cowering men in the middle of the circle.

"There...was one other thing, my lord," one of them said. He glanced at the circle of watchers and cleared his throat. "I told Mr. Malfoy..."

Draco leaned close to Voldemort and spoke softly; Remus could see the others straining to hear. Snape must have been close enough to hear, because the words sounded in the chamber like a megaphone:

"They were having indecent relations with each other."

"I'll kill that little -- " Sirius said, starting forward, but Remus grabbed his arm.

"It's a memory, you can't touch him," he said. Voldemort's eyes had lit with unholy glee as he turned back to the men in the circle. He held up his wand and waved it casually; both men screamed in pain for a a moment before falling back to the ground, breathing heavily.

"That is a taste," he said, "of what you may expect if you speak word of this again outside of the circle. You will be tortured to death over several days. However," he continued, as the guard from before picked up the struggling men and held them fast, "your service will be rewarded in due time. When Black stands before me, rest assured, all that you wish for will be yours."

The room faded at that point and the floor underneath them began to swirl and change; Sirius yelped in a startled manner and Remus closed his eyes against the dizzying sensation of falling.

"It's a second memory," he called. "Just be patient, it'll end soon."

When he opened his eyes again they were still standing in what appeared to be the same chamber, now empty of people except for a tight knot in the centre. Voldemort; Draco, Severus, and Bellatrix, with Peter cowering nearby.

"He is of value to Potter. Once before the boy lost his head and went to help his dear godfather; who is to say the son will not elicit even more irrational results?" Voldemort was saying, his pale, spidery hands steepled together.

"Perverts," Malfoy said contemptuously.

"But a useful perversion nonetheless," Voldemort replied. "He is at the school, virtually unprotected; he has been seen in Hogsmeade. We must have him followed. If he leads us to the Potter boy, so much the better. If he does not, we shall make the boy come to us. Draco, my son," he said, turning a little to face the young man. "I leave you to your preparations; I will not distract you from Azkaban with this."

"He must have been put in charge of getting his father out," Remus said. "Merlin pray he botch the job like he did most of his homework."

Sirius snorted as Voldemort continued.

"Bellatrix, my dear, he may well be your blood kin. Follow him when he leaves the school. Learn his secrets, discover where he goes. If the opportunity presents itself, bring him to me. Cleanly, Bella," he added in a warning voice. He must have seen the mad glint in her eye that Remus knew all too well; indeed, it was the same look as the one she'd had when she killed Sirius, and that was forever burned into his memory. "I do not want him dead before we have spoken. The trap must have living bait."

They came back to themselves in the warm, cosy living room of Fourteen Back, but there were chills over Remus' skin as he carefully tipped the memories back into the bottle and sealed it tightly.

"What did you see?" Tonks asked. Sirius knotted his hands in front of him, hunching forward and looking frightened. Remus glanced at Harry.

"Trouble," he said.


One of the most pleasant things about having Sirius back as a young man was that he was incredibly predictable.

There was the usual posturing and several declarations of courage, but once Remus got him to shut up and listen for the space of five minutes, he saw enough sense to stop him from running off to Hogsmeade and finding Bellatrix himself. It saddened Remus, in a way; if he had reached Sirius before he went haring off after Peter, all those years ago, he could have made him see sense. The unspoken observation hung over their heads as they discussed their options.

"He'll have to go back to school," Harry said. Sirius glanced at him. "Otherwise they'll know we're onto the plan. Besides, that would be like admitting we're afraid."

"I am afraid," Remus said. "Bellatrix Lestrange is a madwoman with no moral compass and a sadistic streak that makes the rest of her family look tame by comparison."

"She used to pull the wings off pixies," Sirius murmured.

"Yeah, but she can't get into the school, can she?"

"Snape and Arcadia did," Sirius pointed out. "But -- well, she's insane, not stupid. He's told her not to kill me, and she wouldn't come for me unless she had a reasonable chance of actually taking me in. So as long as I'm never alone, I'm all right. And...well, Harry and I thought of something."

Remus glanced from one boy to the other. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"

"Probably not," Harry said.

"All right. Tell me."

"Sirius goes back tomorrow," Harry said. "This weekend he goes into Hogsmeade and lets her take him. If he doesn't fight, it's a lot more likely he'll survive the abduction."

"I was right. I really don't like that at all," Remus said.

"Sooner or later she'll get past us anyway," Harry said. "We might as well be the ones who control when."

"That doesn't stop them slaughtering Sirius when they have him," Tonks said quietly.

"No, but we still can," Harry answered quickly. "If we know when they take him, it's not hard to find where -- "

" -- and call in reinforcements," Remus said, catching on. "A locator charm -- no, it would have to be something that wasn't dependent on charms -- that doesn't matter..."

"The end," Harry said. "They're not very good fighters, and if we get the jump on them for once instead of the other way around, we could finish it."

"We still haven't found the sixth horcrux," Tonks said.

"But at least he'll be even weaker, and it buys us time," Remus said thoughtfully. He studied Sirius, looking grave. "I hardly need to tell you that baited traps almost never spring as they're supposed to, Sirius. If for some reason we can't find you -- "

"I can take out five or six before they touch me, and you know it's the truth," Sirius said, with no trace of humour. "More if I'm booby-trapped. I have pretty good odds of getting out."

"Not good enough," Tonks answered.

Sirius bit his lip. "Listen...Harry told me I once said I would have died for James, and I would have -- but I never got the opportunity."

"Oh, Sirius, no," Remus said.

"I've already had a second chance; that's more than most people get. And I will not be pent up inside again while others fight," he said.

There was a silent pause.

"Besides, I probably won't die anyway," he said.

"The other option is..." Harry bit his lip and glanced at Tonks. She shook her head.

"I can't hold his shape for long enough to be convincing."

"I can't really see a better plan," Harry said.

"Perhaps if we had more time -- " Remus began.

"No. The more time we give them, the more they'll know -- the more Sirius is in danger," Harry said.

"I agree that we have to send him back tomorrow, or tonight," Tonks said. "They'll know we're onto them, otherwise."

Remus steepled his fingers, rubbing the pads of his thumbs against his lips.

"Not alone," he said finally. "I want someone to stay with you in your rooms, in case they move faster than we can. And not you, Harry," he added without looking at Harry, who had opened his mouth to volunteer. "I'll go myself. We can sleep on this plan Harry has and decide tomorrow evening after I've spoken with Snape again. In the meantime, I'd better pack a bag -- can't show up to class looking less than tidy, can I?"


They transfigured the sofa into a bed for Remus; transfigured furniture never felt quite right, but he'd slept on much worse and it at least felt better as a bed than as a sofa. Sirius sat up reading while Remus piled blankets onto the bed and changed, discreetly, into a pair of dark green pyjamas.

"I'll put out the light, if you want," Sirius offered.

"That's all right; I never can sleep unless I've -- "

" -- read a little first. I remember, Peter used to get narked at you about your reading light."

"And James threatened to buy me a Hand of Glory," Remus said with a smile. "That's right, of course you remember."

"Did I? The other me?"

Remus took a book out of the small bag he'd brought, setting it on the bed. "After Azkaban, you mean?"


"I never asked. The truth was that he -- " Remus hesitated, then continued in the third person, " -- seemed to remember the past much more clearly than he saw the present. I imagine he did. You don't ask much about him anymore."

Sirius grinned. "The novelty passed."

"On to new novelties?"

"I have grown up, and put away childish things," Sirius said, mock-solemn. Remus sat on the edge of the bed and rested his elbows on his thighs, hands holding the book between his knees. He bent his head to study the page, shoulders slumped forward, mouth set in a pleased, studious line. He looked, for just a moment, as though he were sixteen again; until he shifted, slightly, and the light caught the premature lines in his face, picking out the silver in his hair.

"What are you reading?" Sirius asked, lest he ask something far more personal, about what time had done to his Moony. Death has quite undone his hair, quite has kissed his lips away...

"Graveworthy again; the poem I showed Harry made me think I ought to go looking for the poetry book he published," Remus said, holding it up so that the cover was more visible. "He was a very comforting man, and I find comfort in his poems. They're decent enough; not exactly Shelley or Chaucer, but they mean more to people who knew him."

Sirius nodded.

"What are you studying?" Remus asked.

"Order homework," Sirius said, making a face. "Harry's given me a biography of Ravenclaw to read and make notes on."

"If nothing else comes out of this war, it has made Harry Potter a scholar," Remus observed. "I remember when he used to completely make up his Divination homework. Not that I blame him."

"Trelawney's a fright," Sirius laughed. Remus smiled, and Sirius eventually fell silent. "Amazing how you laugh when the world might end in a day, isn't it?"

"You needn't do it if you're frightened, Sirius. No one would think the worse of you."

"Shouldn't be. I've already died once."

"That wasn't you. Not you, any more than you're a fugitive from prison. You have no less right to live simply because your method of survival was a little..."



Sirius propped himself on one elbow and set his book aside. "I think we have to, Moony. If it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come..."

"The readiness is all," Remus finished for him. "Try quoting comedies, Sirius; they're not so grim. We'll decide tomorrow. In the meantime, sleep."

Sirius turned over, face to the wall, and closed his eyes obediently; he heard Remus turn out the light and crawl into the other bed.

At that moment, he would have given anything to be Padfoot, curled up on Harry's bed in Fourteen Back.


The next morning, Harry was awoken by a crash and a string of curses that could only be Sirius; he'd have speculated Tonks, but if she swore every time she broke something she'd never stop.

He came down the stairs to find Sirius rummaging through the china case at the back of the living room, now used for keeping mostly books and the odd knick-nack in.

"What's going on?" he asked sleepily. Sirius turned to grin up at him.

"I think I've solved it," he said.

"Solved what?" Harry asked. "Where's Remus? Aren't you supposed to be at school?"

"He ran off to have a wash and I nipped back here. I've had an epiphany," Sirius announced. Tonks, similarly disheveled from sleep, appeared in the doorway as Sirius wrestled the jewelery box open.

"Whass alla this?" she mumbled, yawning. Sirius, with a triumphant yelp, pulled his hand out of the jewelery box, sending bracelets and earrings flying.

"Hey! Watch it!" Harry said. "Those were my mum's!"

"This wasn't," Sirius said, holding up a thin silver rod.

"Didn't Remus say he thought it was some kind of award?" Harry asked. "What are you on about, Sirius?"

Sirius stood and held the rod across his palms, offering it to Harry. "What does this look like to you?"

"I dunno," Harry said suspiciously. "A wand, I guess."

"Yes. A wand," Sirius said. "And what wand have we been looking for?"

"Ravenclaw's, but that one is glass -- "

" -- with a silver core. You can't make a wand out of any one thing; it's got to have a core. The biography I read said that she knew metalsmithing. She spent half her life dressed up like a man, doing craftsman apprenticeships..."

"Glassblowing, fine metalwork, and alchemy," Harry said quietly. "Of course." He picked it up, weighing it in his palm. "You think this is a core from one of Ravenclaw's wands?"

"Hear me out," Sirius said, dropping down onto the sofa. Tonks came forward and slipped quietly into a chair; Harry stayed standing in front of the sofa, still holding the wand-core in his hands.

"He's got five ready-made and only one more to go. Gryffindor's too tough to pin down, so he finds one of Ravenclaw's wands -- Merlin knows how, but he must have had a ton of connections. He brings the wand here and decides that he's going to use your death to make the last horcrux," Sirius said, eyes never leaving Harry's. "He -- well -- you know, and when he finally gets to you, the house is pretty near destroyed already, so when it doesn't work the glass wand breaks because glass is unstable in magical use. The core falls to the ground and gets picked up when Bowman Jenkins refurbishes it. The glass is swept into the dustbin..."

"...and the core is a horcrux?" Harry asked.

"Or not," Tonks said suddenly. They both looked at her. "He didn't actually kill Harry. If he tried and didn't succeed -- that means there isn't a sixth."

There was a moment of silence. Finally, Harry's fingers closed around the core, and he offered it back to Sirius.

"Take it to Remus -- oh. Put it in something first. Tell him what you've told us. Tell him we'll set the trap soon."

Sirius nodded and accepted the wand-core. He stood and rested his head against Harry's for a moment, eyes closed, ignoring the fact that Tonks was nearby.

"By the new year it'll be over," Harry said.

"One way or another," Sirius agreed.

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