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Remus was an early riser by inclination, as many bookish sorts are, and he prepared breakfast with halting slowness before climbing the stairs to wake Sirius and Harry.

He was used to a certain degree of physical infirmity, but this lingering exhaustion irritated him. His hands shook as he made breakfast and he had trouble lifting things; he had to stop for breath twice on the stairs. He fretted, especially since the moon was coming and there would be no Wolfsbane potion. He had survived without the potion and without companions before -- indeed, most of his early youth and the twelve years between the fall of Voldemort and Remus' tenure as a Hogwarts professor had left their legacy of scars.

But it was hard, very hard to go back to solitary moons without the potion. The last three years had been a welcome respite, and he thanked his stars that Dumbledore had bullied or bribed or blackmailed Severus into continuing to make the potion for him. Except now Snape had fled back to his true master and no one else who could be trusted was talented enough to brew it.

And yet...he wondered. It would have been so easy for Severus to poison the drink, to slip something into it. It was still experimental; no one need even know it was poisoned. Just an adverse allergic reaction or an unexpected physiological quirk. It wouldn't look like murder. He supposed it would look like incompetence, and Severus would never brook the belief that he was incompetent. Perhaps rightly so; the man was a genius, that much was obvious. Though Remus knew what he had seen in Severus' hateful glares that one year he spent at Hogwarts was jealousy -- jealousy and envy, because Remus had been a better teacher than he and had been popular with the students. Genius did not always translate well between people.

There had been only one moon since Dumbledore's death, and he had been tempted to seek out Fenrir's pack on the off-chance that he might get lucky and kill one of them while he was Changed. Too much of a risk, however; he might just as easily kill a human -- and he had heard stories about children fathered on werewolf females in heat. So he had locked himself in the cellar, which had been...painful, but effective.

He had no options. The cellar of the house had sturdy barrier charms on the doors, and if he was already weak, perhaps the wolf would not be so destructive as it had sometimes been in the past. Augustus Pye would be there, even if Remus couldn't really afford the cost of a Healer. Tonks would be there too, though he had made her promise to wait until the sun was fully up before she would come find him.

He opened the door to Harry's sitting room and passed through it, noting the crumpled blanket on the couch and the pages of parchment lying on the rolltop desk. Good; Harry was already making this place his own, and perhaps there would be redemption for the old house after all.

He knocked quietly on the inner door leading to the bedroom, then eased it open a few inches.

Harry lay on his side, younger in sleep, one palm resting against his cheek and blocking sunlight out of his eyes. The early-morning light filtered through the dusty windows and washed out the colours, turning Harry's skin a dull dun, his hair deep grey rather than its usual messy black.

Curled up in the crook of Harry's legs, head resting across his hip, Padfoot slept obliviously on. He'd never made much of a guard dog, though anyone who would try to attack someone sharing a bed with a creature of that size was clearly a fool to begin with. As a dog, he was still clumsy and gangling, not quite fully out of puppyhood. Remus remembered Padfoot at full growth and prime, before Azkaban. When he walked down the street, even at the heels of James or Remus or Peter, he drew stares from everyone.

Harry made a quiet noise and shifted slightly. Remus touched his elbow gently.

"Breakfast, Harry," he said.


"It's just me. Breakfast is ready. Ron and Hermione will be here in an hour or so."

Harry sat up and blinked in the light, reaching for his glasses on the side-table. "Right," he said muzzily. "I'm up."

His movements slid his legs out from under Padfoot's great furry head, and the dog blinked and yawned, stretching.

"All right, Padfoot," Remus said, rubbing him behind the ears affectionately before turning to the door. "Come down when you're ready."

It didn't occur to him to find Sirus and Harry sharing a bed at all strange; he couldn't count the number of times he'd slept with Padfoot on the bed, an enormous and reassuring warmth pressed up against the small of his back. When he'd visited the Potters on holidays after Sirius moved in, they'd had no choice -- they only had one guest bed and someone had to share it.

Back downstairs, there was owl post that had arrived in his absence -- a letter from McGonagall updating him on the Hogwarts situation and the morning edition of the Prophet. There was a letter for Harry included in McGonagall's owl; Neville, writing from Ireland. Remus recalled, dimly, something about a summer apprenticeship at a magical arboretum there.

Harry and Sirius clattered down the stairs a few minutes later, looking freshly if not very thoroughly washed. Remus gestured at the covered platter where the eggs and toast were staying warm, and they helped themselves.

"Anything we should know about?" Harry asked, nodding at the Prophet. Remus folded it and shook his head, passing it across.

"The usual. Disturbances, thefts, attacks; no murders, thankfully," he said.

"Some things don't change," Sirius murmured. "Sounds just like most of the conversations we have -- we had," he corrected himself.

"They had changed," Remus replied wistfully. "We had ten years of relative peace, once upon a time."

"Intermission," Harry said darkly, reading the front page.

"Temporary truce to reload," Remus answered.

"Naptime," Sirius said lightly. The other two smiled at him, but the laugh he had been angling for did not materialise. He took a few huge bites of toast to hide his dismay.

"I'm going to Diagon Alley this morning," Remus said, adjusting his shirt-cuffs unnecessarily. "I can get anything you need, if you give me a list."

"Are you sure you'll be all right alone?" Harry asked.

"I'm meeting the twins there."

"I'll repeat my question..."

"We should be fine. Nobody's going to pick a fight in broad daylight," Remus reassured him. "Bill's not far away; we're meeting him and Fleur for lunch. Besides, I haven't really any choice. I have to go to St. Mungo's anyway. Augustus Pye wants to check on me but he's on rotation, so I promised him I'd show up."

"We could go with you," Harry persisted.

"I think not, Harry. You and Ron and Hermione have a lot to discuss," Remus said.

"Some of which I have to tell you, too."

"Save that for this afternoon, then; I'll be back soon enough."

"I don't like it."

"Harry," Remus said, growing slightly annoyed. "While I appreciate your concern, I have managed to keep myself from being killed for the past thirty-seven years. Which is more than can be said for some of us at this table."

Harry's head snapped up and fury showed bright for a moment in his eyes. Remus realised that what he had intended as a joke was not, in fact, at all funny.

"Bollocks to your condescention, Remus," Harry said, and he would give the boy this; a year ago it would have been a shout, and now it was...well, almost calm. "You're not safe anywhere anymore, and you know it."

"It's very hard to kill a werewolf," Remus reminded him.

"Sirius could go with you."

"Certainly not. You heard McGonagall."

"I wouldn't mind -- " Sirius started, but Harry interrupted.

"Bollocks to her too."

"Harry, you don't mean that," Remus said, while Sirius stared at Harry in horror.

"Why shouldn't I? You know what happened the last time someone tried to lock him up here."

"That was different."

"Excuse me," Sirius said loudly, and they both turned to look at him. "Moony's never needed a bodyguard yet. I want to stay here; I want to know what Harry has to tell the other two. Therefore Moony has to go on to Diagon, because I want a pound of Honeyduke's chocolate, and Harry and I and everyone else have to stay here and talk about Voldemort so we can plot to kill the bastard."

Remus leaned forward slowly and rested his chin on one hand while Harry sullenly lapsed into resentful muttering.

"Nice to have you back, Sirius," he said with a smile.


Harry didn't speak much through breakfast, and when Sirius found him after finishing his own rather more leisurely meal and seeing Remus off, he was in his sitting-room, sorting books rather violently.

"What're you doing?" Sirius asked.

"Research," Harry said vengefully, thumping a book down so hard Sirius winced. He picked up the next one Harry reached for, bent on saving it from his wrath. "Which is apparently all I'm ever supposed to do. Talk and look things up -- " he reached for another book, which Sirius took out of his hands. "Pretend like I'm still a child -- stop taking books from me!"

"Then stop abusing them!" Sirius retorted, setting the pile he'd collected on the table, gingerly. "They never did anything to you."

Harry threw himself down into a chair, rolling his eyes.

"What's got into you? He's just going to Diagon. And he's right, you know, he is older than us."

"For six years they've been telling me I can't go here or there and that I'm not ready and finally Dumbledore says I am ready and then goes and gets himself killed..."

"I don't think Remus thinks that," Sirius said reasonably. "He's been treating you pretty much like a man, far as I can see. He only told you off when you stopped acting like one."

Harry glared up at him, but Sirius had undergone worse. He settled himself on the chair next to the desk, crossing his arms atop the books and resting his chin on them.

"We can't afford to lose anyone else," Harry said.

"You mean you're afraid that if you aren't there he's going to get killed."

"Well, is that so unreasonable?"

"Yes," Sirius said.

Harry let his head fall back, staring up at the ceiling.

"I don't mind it here," Sirius tried.

"Yes you do."

"Well, all right, but there are worse places one could be."

"Yeah, I know. I'm going to one."

Sirius tilted his head. "What?"

"After today. I'm leaving Grimmauld Place soon; Remus doesn't know yet. Do you know where Godric's Hollow is?"

"Course, that's where James' parents live...." Sirius hesitated. "Lived. I stayed there...I guess for quite a while, if what you say is true. Nice little place. Sort of suburban, though. I mean. Little white houses all-inna-row kind of a place. Flower gardens and gossippy neighbours." He grinned, reminiscently. "Made a big scandal when I showed up. Tongues a-wagging."

"Did you deserve the talk?" Harry asked.

"Reckon I did, considering what we got up to last August."

From downstairs came the woomph of the floo, and then Hermione's voice. "Harry? It's us!"

Harry moved quickly to the door, leaning out. "Up here, Hermione! Sirius is too."

Hermione and Ron arrived in short order, dusting the soot and ashes from their clothing. Hermione gave Sirius a curt nod, behind which Ron offered an apologetic smile.

"Sirius," Harry said, hesitant now. "I need to talk to them."

Sirius echoed Harry's eye-roll from a few minutes before and stood up. "I'll just go stick my fingers in my ears," he said. "Mind if I use your bedroom?"

Harry shook his head and Sirius left, closing the door firmly behind him. Whether Harry believed him or not, he understood how Harry felt better than anyone would probably know. He couldn't use his wand, couldn't be told secrets, couldn't leave Grimmauld Place.

He flopped onto the bed, reaching out for the book. There were spyholes everywhere in the house, of course, and monitoring charms he didn't even think anyone had found yet. Most of them were into the bedrooms, however, rather than out from. Sirius recalled his uncle Sabik, a rather disturbing middle-aged man who liked to invite guests to stay at Grimmauld Place, feed them a rich and aphrodesiac-laced dinner, and then spy on them in...well, in this bedroom, as a matter of fact.

He shivered. Between uncle Sabik, Cissy and Bella (who knew when uncle had time to actually fuck Auntie enough to get three daughters out of the deal?), Sirius' senile and violent Gran Black and his vague, hard-drinking father, they almost made mum's family look sane.

Almost. Except nobody could out-mad mum, not even uncle Sabik, because mum would watch at peepholes to make sure you didn't do anything enjoyable. He'd found that out the hard way, the first time he'd tried to have a private wank one summer holiday after learning about such things at school...

She never caught Bella and Cissy with Lucius Malfoy, though, because Lucius was a wealthy pureblood. So he could fuck both sisters at once and try for the third if he pleased, even if he was ten years older than either of them and Cissy was barely two years older than Sirius himself. Until he picked one of them, he had his run of the Black harem.

Andromeda knew better, though; she'd got herself knocked up by a pleasant, even-tempered Muggle-born and run off with him, and a sweeter little girl than Dora had never existed.

Sirius brooded, ignoring the book spread before him. Sweet little Dora, who had kissed his Moony goodnight last night. Moony himself had to be ten years older than her; he remembered Dora begging for a ride on the motorbike when he and Moony and James visited Andromeda last summer, and Moony laughing and plonking his borrowed helmet down on her head and saying perhaps when she was older.

It had always been understood by everyone at school that Moony was his. His to protect, his to study with, and no-one was to mess with Moony on pain of a thrashing from Sirius and James. But...everything was different now. Harry clearly thought Moony belonged to him, and little Dora was making a decent bid as well, but Moony himself looked like he hadn't belonged to anyone in a long time. And that was Sirius Black's own fault for bollocksing everything up, five years away from who he had been when the Map had been finished.

Harry opened the door, cautiously. Sirius looked up.

"Fate decided?" he asked.

"You'd better come in," Harry said. Sirius closed the book, sliding off the bed and joining the others in the sitting-room.

"We've agreed," Harry continued, as Sirius sat down next to Ron on the sofa, "that you should know. You know some of it alrea -- "

"But you mustn't tell anyone," Hermione interrupted. Sirius gave her a stony look.

"Yes, Hermione," Harry said. "He knows that. This goes no further than this room, for now -- Remus may have to know, and Tonks, but what we talk about here stays here until I say otherwise. Dumbledore told me not to tell anyone but Ron and Hermione, and I wanted to abide by his wishes...but he's dead, and McGonagall was right, not that I'd admit it to her. I can't do this as if he were still alive. Things are changing. We have to keep up, and that means telling -- probably Remus and Tonks. Definitely Sirius; he can help us."

Hermione was still watching Sirius suspiciously.

"You know what a horcrux is," Harry prompted.

Sirius nodded. "And Voldemort has one," he added.

"Six," Harry said. "Well, four now."

"Six?" Sirius asked, incredulous.

"We assume six," Hermione said. "There's no proof he actually managed to make them all."

"We can assume a few, though," Harry replied. "Dumbledore's destroyed one and so have I; we tried to find a third, but it was already gone, replaced by a fake. We don't know if it's been destroyed or not. Dumbledore thought the fourth was probably put into the snake he keeps -- and the fifth is probably in an artefact he stole from a witch when he was still a young man. A cup owned by Helga Hufflepuff. We've no clue what the sixth is, or even where to start looking."

Sirius listened, bewildered. "Six?" he repeated, dumbly. "Is that even possible?"

"It must be," Hermione answered. "He did it."

"But that's...that's madness," Sirius stammered. "My mum was mad for wanting to have one, and even she realised how mad it was in the end. Look what happened to Meleager. It always ends that way."

"Meleager?" Ron asked Harry.

"Later," Harry said. "Listen, we know he's mad. The point is, we haven't a chance against him unless we can destroy the horcruxes."

"Should be horcruces," Hermione muttered. "Proper plural."

"Whatever the plural," Harry said, "The reason we're here now is because we need a plan. We can't just go randomly searching England; they might not even be in England. Hermione's been doing some work on it..."

Hermione reached down into a bag sitting near her feet and drew out a cheap notebook with a red cover and, incongruously, a large brass locking mechanism on one side. She took a key from a chain around her neck and unlocked it, flipping the catch back and passing it to Harry.

"Couldn't they just tear the cover off?" Sirius asked curiously. "Or is the lock a binding charm?"

"It'd take some pretty powerful magic to rip off the covers through the charm," Hermione answered, slightly less snootily.

"What'd you use?" Sirius asked, distracted. "Glomgour's binding or uh, pixie brass on the key?"

Hermione blinked at him. "Glomgour's binding, actually. I couldn't get any pixie brass."

"Meanwhile, back in the war..." Harry said, and they both turned their attention back to him. He opened the book and leafed through the first few pages, which were covered in Hermione's small, tidy handwriting. "Citations and bibliography?" he asked, amused. Hermione flushed.

"If you're going to do a thing, do it properly and in correct grammatical fashion," she said. "I thought I'd sort them by...well, the destroyed ones first, then in order of how much we know about them -- so that the ones we still can add information about are at the back."

Harry turned the page and smoothed it down; there was what Sirius recognised as a copyquill reproduction of a page out of some book or other. It showed a large picture of a ring, top and side, and then below that a coat of arms. The opposite page was again filled with Hermione's handwriting.

"That's one of them?" he asked.

"The one Dumbledore destroyed," Harry said.

Sirius craned his neck to look at it right-side-up, and bit his lip. "That's the Peverell coat of arms, isn't it? Deo non fortuna hinc mihi salus -- yeah, must be. They were all religious nuts."

Harry looked up at him. "What does it mean?"

"Not through Luck but through God comes salvation to me," Hermione supplied, pointing to a line of text. "I translated it."

"But this one's been destroyed?" Sirius asked. "Looks a bit like my dad's ring -- well, his is Black, of course."

"Toujours pur," Harry murmured, turning the page. Yellowing, flaking newspaper articles had been pasted in; one about the death of a Hogwarts student years before even Sirius' time, one about the abduction and subsequent rescue of one Ginevra Weasley.

"Your mum?" Sirius asked Ron.

"My sister," Ron said tightly, glancing at Harry with something like resentment. Harry's lips tightened into a thin line.

"I destroyed this one," he said, turning again until he reached another drawing, this of a large snake.

"I did what I could with what you told me, Harry," Hermione said. "I think I know...well, what breed it is, and that sort of thing."

Harry nodded. "Good work. We'll save her for last; there's no reason to tip our hand now."

"That's dangerous stuff," Sirius said. "Animals aren't reliable. Even for spells that aren't as complicated as this one. That's why the animagus transformation is so dangerous. You need to really understand animals."

"Voldemort understands snakes," Harry said briefly. The next page had a newspaper article and a drawing of a cup on it. The article seemed to be about the murder of an elderly woman by her house-elf, which just went to show you, Sirius thought, that having a human cook was a good idea after all.

"Helga Hufflepuff's cup," Harry explained to Sirius. "We think it was stolen out of the woman's house -- that someone else killed her and set up her house-elf."

"They took a locket too," Hermione said, reaching out and turning the page. "Slytherin's locket."

Which is where it gets complicated," Harry sighed. "He took the locket and made a horcrux out of it, but when we went to retrieve it, someone else had beaten us to it."

Sirius studied the page of writing below the little drawing of the locket and the large bare space below it, which looked as if it were waiting expectantly for something. Harry took a smaller locket out of his pocket and flicked it open with his thumbnail.

"The fake," Harry said. Inside was a crumpled scrap of parchment that he unfolded and pressed into place in the notebook. It stuck, but Sirius wasn't paying attention to the adhesion spell. Instead he was staring in shock at the handwriting.

"That was inside the fake?" he asked, mouth dry.

"You all right?" Ron asked. "You've gone all over white."

"Regulus," Sirius said hoarsely.

"What?" Hermione asked.

"That note. It's from Regulus. You said -- " Sirius turned to Harry. "You said he was a Death Eater. You said he was killed for trying to get out, that they hunted him down in a matter of days."

"That's what I'd been told," Harry answered. "RAB -- "

"Regulus Alphard Black," Sirius said.

"Are you sure?" Hermione asked.

"I think I know my own brother's handwriting, thanks," Sirius said. "For fuck's sake, Reg..."

"At least we know who RAB is," Hermione ventured. Harry touched Sirius' arm.

"What would he have done with it?" Harry asked.

"Fuck your locket, my brother's dead," Sirius answered, angrily.

"But you knew that," Hermione said reasonably. "Harry must have told you."

"It's all right, Hermione," Harry said. Sirius was still staring at the letter in his brother's handwriting. That was Reg, all right; stupidly romantic about everything, morbidly overdramatic, and he always had to have the last bloody word.

"That's all there is anyway," Hermione said, in a quieter voice. "I mean, I know what you told me, Harry, to start looking up artefacts that might have belonged to Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, but I couldn't find much. I wrote down the names of some books that might help, but they're not the kind of book you can put on order with Flourish & Blotts."

"So..." Ron said uneasily. "Where does that leave us? Two down, a snake, a cup, a locket, and something we don't even know. How're we going to find this stuff?"

Sirius slid down to the ground next to Harry's chair, crossing his legs and resting his hands in his lap, back propped on one of the chair legs.

"Well, we could try to see if there's some way of detecting horcruces," Hermione said. "You don't suppose Slughorn knows anything more about it?"

Harry shook his head. "Even if he did, it was hard enough getting anything out of him the first time, and I don't fancy having to get him drunk again. The woman who owned the cup said that it was rumoured to have all kinds of powers. Could you find out, Hermione?"

She nodded. "I've been looking. I don't think that'll help either, though."

A thought occurred to Sirius, rising up around the idea that James was as dead as Regulus, and that he was more or less alone in the world.

"If I was twenty-one when it all ended," he said slowly, "that means Regulus couldn't have been more than nineteen. Hardly out of school."

Harry glanced down at him. "We know when he died..." he said, rising up out of the chair. "The family tree has the dates."

"If he hadn't left school, he'd still be living here, wouldn't he? It's not like you'd notice Slytherin's locket in with all the other rot my parents kept," Sirius said. "What'd you do with it all?"

"The harmless stuff we mostly threw out," Harry said. "The really bad stuff -- oh bloody hell, I wonder if Dung's nicked it?"

"No, he couldn't have -- the stuff he stole was all stuff that was still out. He's not ambitious enough to actually go chasing after things," Ron said. "We put most of it in a sack, didn't we? I remember cos Kreacher kept stealing things out of it and Sirius had to send him off."

"Bloody elf," Sirius muttered. "What'd you do with the sack?"

"The attic, wasn't it?" Hermione asked. "The family tree's up there too."


Regulus Black, the tapestry read when Hermione unfurled it. Next to it was a small hole, blackened around the edges, where Sirius could just make out Si and ack in gold lettering on either side.

Regulus Black
1962 - 1980

Sirius followed the line up to his father, and then over to his uncle and down again, to the three girls. Narcissa's name was connected to Lucius -- well, he could have figured that, Lucius liked them young, probably why uncle Sabik had hit it off with him. Down from their names was Draco Malfoy, the little second-generation Death Eater who hadn't even been born yet, in Sirius' world.

"It's got to be one of these two," Ron said, dragging a sack out into the dusty open space in the middle of the attic. Harry followed with another one. "Careful, some of this stuff bites."

"Let me," Sirius said.

Ron shrugged and untied the top of the sack, folding back the edges. Sirius carefully removed some of his family's most prized heirlooms, now dented and scraped and growing rust or mold. A good metaphor, he decided, and he threw them down on the floor as roughly as he could, trying to add a few good dents. Harry had opened the other one and was carefully picking out one object at a time.

There were necklaces and collars and bracelets, goblets, miniature portraits, brooches, snuffboxes, musicboxes; as Sirius reached the bottom of the sack he saw a glint of gold and reached in to retrieve it, but he knew when he grasped it that it wasn't the locket.

He pulled it out and held it in his palm. It was his father's signet-ring, the silver-inlaid band covered in a verdigris patina. The seal, however, looked as though it had been polished daily. It glittered in the dusty light of the attic.

This belonged to him now; his father was dead. Perhaps really it belonged to Harry -- his other self had given everything in the house and vaults to Harry -- but some things were stronger than wills and legality. Only a blood-heir of the house ought to wear this, and as much as Sirius hated the house of Black, he was the last in the direct line. That little shit of a Malfoy spawn be damned.

His father had only worn it on special occasions but he had never permitted Sirius or Regulus to try it on, even as inquisitive children who knew no better.

He slipped it over the index finger of his left hand. It fit snugly behind his second knuckle.

Only then did he realise that everyone else was silent; he looked up and saw Harry holding a thin golden chain. A crudely-made locket hung on the end, engraved with an ornate, serpentine S.


Endnote: "Deo non fortuna / hinc mihi salus" is a combination of two RL mottoes, one for the Peverel family and one for the proper Peverells. In an interesting twist, I also located the Pettigrew family motto, which translates to "Nothing without the sun".

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