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Dinner that night was subdued, with nearly everyone lost in their own thoughts. Afterwards Ron and Hermione were sent back to the Burrow and tension eased somewhat, but Sirius kept close to the others in the big downstairs living room. He didn't care to roam much, as though his mother or father or one of his horrific cousins might be lurking around a corner, ready to pounce if he strayed into the more distant corners of the house.

Remus had picked up the Graveworthy book Tonks had been reading and was now engrossed in it, though Sirius secretly wished he would set it down so Sirius could pick it up. Tonks herself was idly shuffling a tarot deck she'd found in the kitchen, an old grimy pack that Sirius vaguely recalled their cook using while she waited for bread to bake. House-elves couldn't be trusted with cooking, at least that was the theory; Sirius had privately always thought that his parents were afraid the house-elves would poison them.

"Fancy a game, Harry?" she asked, holding up the cards. Harry settled on the floor on the other side of the coffee table. "Remus, Sirius?"

"Mmh?" Remus asked, looking up from the book. Sirius didn't like the way his eyes were sunken in or the pallor on his skin, but the gesture was so very Moony that he smiled in spite of himself. "Oh, all right."

"Game of what?" Sirius asked.

"Emperors," she answered. Sirius blinked.

"How do you know about Emperors?" he asked curiously.

"You taught me to play," she answered.

"I did?"

"Well, you would have. You came to stay with us -- would have..." she sighed. "After your seventh year you came to stay with us for a while before uncle Alphard left you his place, and you and James taught me to play. I won eight sickles off you," she added with relish.

"She's never let anyone forget it, either," Remus added. "I'm in, but we'll have to play with small change."

Harry gave him an uncomfortable look and then glanced at Sirius, while Tonks looked sidelong at Harry and Remus looked at nobody at all. It was a complicated telegraph of emotions and conflict that Sirius couldn't unravel, but he made a mental note of it.

"I'll play," Sirius agreed, scooting forward to sit between Remus and Harry. He eyed Shop Gods covetously as Tonks shuffled and Harry cut. She dealt one card up to each, then two cards down, as was proper, and set the deck aside. Harry reached under the table and produced a jar of small, coppery discs that looked a little bit like knuts.

"Is that Muggle money?" Sirius asked interestedly. Harry dumped out a pile in front of him.

"Yep," Harry said. "Arthur Weasley let us have it. He's got jars full of coins he finds on the sidewalk and such -- mostly penny pieces. Not worth much -- hardly worth the percentage they'd take to have it changed to sickles and galleons."

Sirius studied one of the coins, curiously. "Who's on the front?"

"That's the queen."

"Queen of what?"


"Rubbish! There isn't any wizarding royalty anymore."

"Muggle England," Harry said. Sirius picked up another coin.

"What's this one?" he asked. There was a lion on the coin, and the number ten. "It's got the Gryffindor seal on it."

"That's ten pence. Bit like a sickle," Harry explained. Sirius spun it on the table deftly, one-handed. Remus had gathered his coins into tidy piles, and Tonks had made a large heap out of hers. Remus picked up a single coin and put it in the middle of the cards for an ante, raising his hand to run his thumb over his lips in a familiar gesture of thought. Sirius flicked one of the coppery coins into the middle for an ante, and Harry and Tonks put theirs in as well.

Sirius studied the cards while Remus picked up a second coin and decided where to place it. Emperors was not a game of particular skill and bluffing didn't really work; if any of its inventors had been inclined naturally towards divination, they probably would have won continually.

Fortunately, two of its inventors were sitting in this room.

Unfortunately, a small voice reminded Sirius, the other two are dead. Or as good as, anyway.

He and James had by rights actually invented the game, but Remus (whose Muggleborn mother had taught him to play poker as a child) had refined it considerably. Peter had made a steady fourth for their experimentations. They'd played often enough that the betting was usually even, except for times when the three of them orchestrated a careful losing streak to Remus so that he'd have pocket money for Hogsmeade weekends.

Everyone knew that tarot wasn't really useful for divination, not unless you yourself had some kind of talent. The cards didn't know anything; they were just cheap bits of pasteboard, although James had once owned a ripping set with naughty pictures on. It was all in how you read them and shuffled them and things, and of course if you hadn't any real gift -- well, you could always trust in your subconscious, but for real, true Divs, what was the point? You might as well play games with them.

Emperors was pretty simple, as card games went. One card up and two down; bet on who looked like they were going to have the best fortune. Bets were made every time the cards were turned over, and if you'd bet on the "Emperor" in the end, you took the pot or divvied it up with the other winners. If nobody bet on the Emperor, the Emperor himself took the pot.

Harry won in the first round, Remus being the Emperor with The Hanged Man, the Seven of Swords, and the Magician, an odd combination but nevertheless positive by general acclaim. On Remus' deal, Harry won again with Tonks as Emperor but had to split with Sirius; Remus and Tonks had both bet on Harry (and with a strong opening like The Hermit, who wouldn't?).

Harry sorted out his coins while Sirius gathered up the cards to deal next, shuffling them and offering them to Remus to cut. Tonks rested her chin on her hands and sighed when he dealt out the cards.

"All trumps," she said. "It's so hard to choose when that happens."

Harry deliberated, twiddling a coin between his fingers before finally laying it down on Sirius, who'd been dealt the Wheel of Fortune. Tonks and Remus both bet on Harry (the Magician) and Sirius bet on Remus, the Chariot.

They turned over the second set of cards, and Remus frowned.

"I'm sequential," he said.

"Does it hurt?" Tonks asked flippantly.

"No, look....Chariot and Strength," he insisted. "That's seven and eight of the Major Arcana, in order. So are you," he added. "Emperor and Hierophant."

"I've got...Magician and Papess," Harry announced. They all looked at Sirius.

"I didn't do it," Sirius said, staring at the cards. His own were the Wheel of Fortune and Justice. Sequential.

"It must have been a bad shuffle," Tonks decided.

"But if they'd been in order to start with, surely it ought to skip," Remus said. "If I have four you ought to have three."

Without bothering to bet, they all turned over their final card. Harry had one, two three; Tonks four, five, six; Remus seven, eight, and nine. Sirius had ten, eleven, and twelve.

"Now...I know I wasn't raised magical," Harry said slowly, "But this isn't normal, yeah?"

Remus held out his hand for the deck, and Sirius passed it to him. He began turning over cards from the top and laying them across the table, face-up.

"Ace Coins....Nine Cups.....Two Cups...the Moon....Four Staves..." Tonks said, as he turned up the cards. "It must have been a fluke."

"I think if it were less random I would be less worried, actually," Remus said. He set the deck down and rested his left palm over it, thoughtfully. Then he quickly gathered up the cards, including the ones Sirius had dealt, and shuffled them back into the deck. He studied it, held between his two hands, and finally offered it to Sirius.

"I can't feel any charms on it," he said. "It's hard to charm playing cards. They're old magic, like...well, like coins. Deal them again, Sirius."

Sirius moved closer to Harry, instinctively, and began to deal them out again. Two of Swords. Five of Swords. Eight of Swords. Page of Swords.

"Bugger," Tonks said, under her breath.

Second set; Three of Swords, Six of Swords, Nine of Swords, Knight of Swords. And the third -- Four, Seven, Ten, Queen.

"That's not good," Tonks said. "Swords, I mean..."

Remus took the deck back and laid four more cards. Harry took the Fool; Tonks got the Queen of Cups; he dealt himself the Seven of Coins, and Sirius the Sun.

They all stared at the cards in silence for a while.

"I didn't do anything," Sirius repeated.

"I think you did," Remus answered. "Not intentionally, but somehow. Even a magical idiot can learn a little from the cards. But you're...displacing them. It's like...your shuffling somehow doesn't count.

He handed the deck back to Sirius. "Turn over four more."

Sirius laid out four in a line in front of him. King of Swords. Ace of Swords. Magician. Papess. He dropped the rest of the deck on the table as if it had burned him.

"Starting over again," Tonks said. There was a deep, dangerous silence in the room.

"I think perhaps Sirius had better not deal," Remus said quietly. "Harry take up the cards and deal, please?"

"I don't think I want to play anymore," Sirius said, before Harry could take the deck. Remus nodded.

"Perhaps we had best go to bed. Harry will have a lot to do tomorrow, and I am tired," he said. "Tonks?"

"I'd better go home," she agreed. "I'm on duty tomorrow."

Harry cleared up the cards and scooped the coins back into the jar while Remus rose and walked with Tonks to the floo on the far side of the room. Sirius watched, not wanting to look too closely at the cards. Moony leaned on little Dora more than he should, but Sirius didn't think it was weakness, now. Particularly not when she said something in his ear, and he smiled and said something quiet in reply. She kissed him goodbye without any particular show and went on her way, vanishing into the green flame the floo powder created. Moony turned around after securing the floo again and caught Sirius' eye. An almost guilty look crossed his face.

"I'll be all right in my own bed tonight," he said, clearing his throat. Harry nodded. "Do you need anything? Sirius?"

Sirius shook his head and shrugged. Harry put the cards and the jar of coins away in a little drawer in the coffee table. Remus hesitated, then turned to the hallway and made his way slowly out of the room. When they heard his door close, both of them relaxed slightly.

"It's probably some charm or other," Harry said, standing up and shaking the wrinkles out of his trousers.


"I mean Remus couldn't possibly have checked really thoroughly."

Sirius shrugged. His eyes fell on the book that Remus had left, and he picked it up as he stood too.

"Might as well go up," Harry said. "Remus was right. There's a lot to do tomorrow. Hermione and Ron'll be here early, and -- we're going to have a lot to talk about. A lot to do."

"Going to tell me, too? Or should I sit in the corner and study my lessons?" Sirius asked, more sharply than he meant to. Harry bit his lip.

"The more people know, the more dangerous it is," he said. "This isn't school gossip."

"And you think I can't keep my mouth shut?"

Harry studied his hands, fingers crooked in against the palms. "You hadn't finished your sixth year, had you?"

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"You told. About Remus."

Sirius stared at him. "I never would," he replied. "Never, ever would I."

"But you did. You told Snape," Harry said, spitting the name of the traitor who had killed Headmaster Dumbledore.

"Whoever told you that is a dirty liar," Sirius insisted. "That lying, snooping bastard -- "

"You told him, Sirius," Harry snapped. "You told him if he wanted to know where you went on the full moons he should follow you, and he did. You and my dad both told him. And you would have let Remus kill him, except my dad got cold feet and saved his life. Much worth it is now."

Sirius met his glare without flinching, but it took every ounce of Black arrogance he had, to do it.

"I would never make Moony a murderer," he said clearly. "Ever."

"But you did. You tried to, anyway. So how do you know what you're capable of?"

"I know I can keep a stupid secret. And I know I can find out secrets others want kept. I know that if we did tell Snivellus, he was asking for it."

"And what happens when someone taunts you into telling my secrets, then?" Harry demanded. Sirius fell silent.

"You won't know unless you give me the chance, will you?" he asked finally. "Besides, I might not even exist," he added bitterly.

"I don't believe that," Harry said fiercely. "We can't have got you back only for you to disappear again."

"Yes, but I'm not your Sirius, am I?" he asked. "Not much use to you as I am. Can't even buy you a drink."

"You're still Sirius."

"You'd trust Sirius."

Harry ran his hand through his hair in a gesture that made him look so much like James, for just a brief second, that Sirius felt this new world fold in on itself, and beyond it he could see his home, could see his Hogwarts, his James.

"I have to talk to Ron and Hermione, and Remus. It's not up to just me," Harry said. "I have other people to think about."

"But do you think I ought to know?" Sirius asked, gripping the book tightly in one hand. Harry shrugged and nodded.

"I think you should know."

Sirius nodded. They watched each other warily across a gap of twenty years, until finally Harry shrugged a second time.

"Coming up?" he asked, turning to the staircase.

"Just going to fetch some candles from the kitchen," Sirius said. He heard Harry's footsteps on the stairs while he found the stock of taper candles in the pantry and shoved a few in his back pocket, careful not to snap them. Whatever had just happened and might happen tomorrow, tonight he had sole proprietorship of Shop Gods by Ellis Graveworthy, and he intended to make the most of the opportunity. A little thing like potential discorporation was not going to stop Sirius Black from his pleasure reading.

The room he had been given had once been the bedchamber of his mother's maid, which was fine with him; he would rather a servant's room than his own. He set the candles in the bracket above the bed and tugged on the wicks to activate their self-lighting magic, careful not to singe his fingers.

The frontispiece was, like Tonks had said, inscribed by Graveworthy himself: For Remus Lupin, friend and comrade in arms to whom I am most indebted. Yours humbly ever, Graveworthy.

Sirius wondered idly what Remus had done to indebt the novelist to him, but he knew he shouldn't ask. It seemed the list of things he didn't want to discover about this new incarnation of his friend was growing by the hour.

He turned through the pages, looking for the place Tonks had stopped reading, and curled up against the headboard, knees bent, book propped on his thighs.

When Charles spoke again, it was with more courtesy than he had previously shown. "What is this?" he asked, and Wren saw that he was indeed a well-bred young man, merely rude out of habit. When the scholarly urge overtook the boy, he reverted to an innate politeness which did some nurse, far in his history, a great credit --

A draft blowing across the bed put one of the candles out, and he turned and knelt to get enough height to re-light it from the others, then slid off the bed entirely to investigate the rogue wind.

One of the narrow windows set deep in the wall was cracked, and air crept through whenever wind blew past the eaves. He knew, because Harry had told him, that the house was unplottable, but that didn't mean he felt any better about it. Down below he could see scraps of paper and rubbish caught up in little eddies of wind, and it was that time between dusk and full night when one feels peculiarly as though one must be in the wrong place.

He took the book and the blanket off the bed, put one of the candles carefully in an old silver candleholder decorated with twined serpents, and left.

Harry was writing when he knocked on the door to the sitting-room of the guest-suite, and didn't look too surprised to see him. He gestured with the end of his quill to the sofa, and Sirius lit the candles in the stands near it, settling down with his book and his blanket once more. This was better; the candles threw pools of warm light across the wood floor, still dappled with blue ink, and the scratch of Harry's quill filled the silence nicely.

"That is a pistol," Wren answered, leaving the till and circling to open the glass case that hung on the wall. He took down the heavy contraption, cradling it in his fingers carefully.

"What does it do?"

"It kills people. That is its sole purpose; it is created to do nothing but destroy."

Charles regarded it skeptically, and it was perhaps easy to see why. When Wren had first encountered the pistol, he had been fascinated by its sleek steel surfaces, by the intricate combination of levers and cylinders which moved with such grace...

"Do you even have any pyjamas?" Harry asked, after a time. Sirius looked up from the book, surprised.

"No," he said, thoughtfully. "But I've been Padfoot, so it hasn't mattered much."

"Would you like some? You can have some of mine, but they won't fit properly. They aren't really mine, just second-hand from my cousin," Harry offered.

"But you have all sorts of money."

"And no time I could have used it. I can now. I should. But..." Harry shook his head. "There are more important things right now."

He stood and crossed into the bedroom, Sirius following after a moment. At the foot of the bed was the school trunk he'd taken his photo-book from, the day before. Harry bent and rummaged in it, finally producing what looked like a red-striped tent-and-hammock set. Sirius shrugged out of his Hogwarts uniform shirt and ignored the pyjama top, holding up the trousers for inspection.

"Bit baggy," Harry said apologetically, pulling his own shirt over his head. "I could shrink them if you want. Should do that to all of them, really."

"You could buy all new clothes at Diagon, couldn't you?" Sirius asked, folding the trousers carefully. "Because these would make a pretty ripping sail for a pirate ship."

"Well, I guess I could."

"You have all kinds of money," Sirius said, and a thought occurred to him. "Er...and all of mine."

"That's all right, though; you'll have money when you start Hogwarts again, and if you want the money from the inheritance back, I'll give it to you. I don't need it; mum and dad left me enough to live all right."

"I wish I'd left you some pyjamas that fit," Sirius sighed.


A thought occurred to Sirius as Harry stood behind a door to decently change into his own pyjamas. "Or..."

"What?" Harry asked, leaning around the door.

"Would you...I mean, you can say no, if you like, but...well, we're both used to the dormitory, aren't we?" Sirius asked. "I mean, it wouldn't bother you if I slept in here, would it?"

Harry scratched the hollow of his collarbone, thoughtfully. "Not really, but there's just the one bed," he said.

"Oh -- I could be Padfoot. That'd be all right, wouldn't it? That way I wouldn't have to worry about the pyjamas at all."

Harry grinned. "Sure. Padfoot doesn't kick or snore."

Sirius fetched his book from the other room and blew out the candles, carrying the last one into the bedroom with him. Harry had crawled into bed and was sitting crosslegged with the blankets over his lap, reading a book that looked considerably less interesting than Sirius'.

"What's that?" Sirius asked, settling himself facing Harry, leaning against one of the footposts.

"Remus left it on the bookshelf for me. It's about Grindelwald. He thought it might help, I think, though a history of the Founders would be more favourite right now. Still, it could be useful," Harry allowed. "Did you know he split his soul in half?"

"Oh yeah -- put it in a horcrux, didn't he?" Sirius asked absently, opening Shop Gods on one knee. It took him a moment to realise how tense the silence had grown. He glanced up.

"What do you know about Horcruxes?" Harry asked.

"Oh, what anyone knows, I imagine," Sirius said. "Well, maybe not. Mum wanted one, but she gave up when she realised there wasn't any way 'round the kill-them-yourself clause. Mum doesn't -- didn't," he amended, "...didn't do her own dirty work. Why? It's really Dark stuff, you know. And tedious. Nothing worse than being evil and boring," he said, bending to his book again.

"Sirius, what do you know about them?" Harry asked.

Sirius looked up, irritated now. "Listen, it's not like I'd ever try my hand at one myself. I'm a genius, but I'm not a stupid one."

He saw Harry pause to parse this, lips moving slightly.

"But you know how to make one?" Harry finally asked.

"Not really. I mean it's not the sort of thing you get out of books, is it? I know you use a deliberate act of murder to separate out a piece of your soul, which goes into a...thingy. A necklace or something. Anything really, like whatshisname." Sirius gestured in the air, something he did when he was trying to bring something to mind -- a habit that had annoyed a lot of his fellow OWL-takers during the exams. "Meleager."

Harry had closed his book now, and was listening with rather flattering attention. "Who's Meleager?"

"Greek wizard, one of the old ones, you know. Killed a slavegirl and made a horcrux from a bit of old wood; reckon he thought nobody'd know to destroy it," Sirius said. "Told his mum, though. That was a bit of a mis-step."


"Destroyed it, didn't she? He went out on a boar-hunt or something and got in a row with his uncles over something, stabbed 'em both and took a mortal wound himself, only he had the horcrux, of course, so that was all right. Well, he thought so. His mum heard he'd been murdering her brothers and she set the bit of wood on fire. Did for him all right," Sirius said. "It's all in Ovid, and Phoenix tells it in Homer I think, but they get it wrong. Why?"

Harry had drawn his knees up against his chest and curled his arms around them; he looked younger than his years, and for the first time Sirius realised that Harry was a child too -- or rather, Harry was a child who wasn't allowed to be a child.

Except here, in the privacy of his bedroom, listening to stories of the old magic as Sirius had heard them from his nursemaids.

"Does he have a horcrux?" Sirius asked, leaving no doubt as to who they were discussing now. Harry nodded. Sirius closed his book and crawled forward on the bed, settling himself next to Harry. "Well, they're not that hard to wreck, at least."

Harry tilted his head against his knees, regarding Sirius with eyes that revealed very little. Sirius picked up Harry's book and put it with his own on the bedside table. He retreated down to the end of the bed and, when Harry didn't move to keep watching him, Changed into Padfoot.

Harry slid down under the blankets and curled up on one side. Padfoot, snuffing innocently, crept back towards the headboard and insinuated himself up against Harry's chest. He exhaled a satisfied sigh when Harry's fingers found and scratched the bit between his shoulderblades, where the fur grew crosswise and itched.

Soon enough both man and dog were asleep, Harry dreaming of an unending search through the halls of Hogwarts while Padfoot fled through a monochrome dream world full of predatory humans who wanted to take away his Map.

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