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When Remus arrived at Grimmauld Place just after noon, laden with three large bags, the four conspirators were sitting silently around the kitchen table.

"I've brought lunch," Remus volunteered, wondering if Harry was still angry with him. He set the sack of food down on the table as a peace offering. "Bill knows a bloke who runs an Egyptian place and he packaged up some food for you."

Harry looked up at him, then at the sack. "Thanks," he said dully. Remus set the other two bags down on the kitchen counter and sank gratefully into a chair that Sirius kicked out for him.

"What's happened?" he asked. He was exhausted, but Pye had given him a few invigorating potions and Bill had just forced at least two meals' worth of food down his throat, so he felt as though he was probably up to at least one more ordeal before he fled for the comfort of his bed.

The others exchanged looks; Remus saw that a sort of silent vote was being taken. Finally, Harry turned to him. "We've found something," he said hesitantly.

"Oh?" Remus asked. Sirius took hold of one of the take-away boxes and slid it across the table, opening it to reveal several lamb kebabs. "There's pitas too," Remus said to Sirius, who nodded and rummaged in another box. Ron was hesitantly poking the stewed beans in the third box.

Harry's hands had been folded in his lap; now he opened them and offered a heavy, metallic object to Remus.

He cradled it in his palm, letting the chain dangle through his fingers. It was heavy and not very well-made; there was an intricately carved initial on one side, but other than that it was polished smooth more by time than by intention. There were little burrs on the hinge, and the clasp appeared to be sealed shut.

"Well, as finds go, this is interesting, but I'm not sure why it's important," he said hesitantly. "It feels...heavier than it should. And Dark -- but then one expects that, in this house..."

"It's a horcrux," Harry said. Remus' head snapped up, sharply.

"Where did you learn that word?" he asked.

"Where did you?" Hermione inquired.

"That's almost all I do know. I've come across it a few times in the last ten years. Mostly in old books. They hardly say what it is -- only that it's very, very Dark," Remus said. "Harry, what am I holding?"

"We need to talk," Harry said.

Remus wasn't quite sure, when he'd assured himself that he was able to tackle one more hurdle, that this was it.


Sirius watched, rather wistfully, as Ron and Hermione did the washing-up after lunch with the help of a few cleaning spells. They said he didn't have to help, but he knew what it really was -- nobody wanted to see him, unable to use his wand, having to hand-scrub the table or hand-dry the plates that Ron had fetched for the food while Harry explained to a stunned and startled Remus that they had, in their possession, one-seventh of the soul of Tom Riddle.

Remus had kept the locket in his hand, lying flat on top of his smooth pale palm, studying it while Harry spoke. He'd asked only one or two questions, weighing the gold object as if he thought he could calculate the weight of a soul's fraction. Wizards didn't have the dilemma of asking whether or not humanity had souls, but not much was known about them outside of raving madmen who had pushed the boundaries too far and ended up in the secure ward at St. Mungo's.

Finally, as Ron and Hermione were finishing, he closed his fingers around the locket, turned his hand over, and placed it cautiously on the table in front of Harry.

"It belongs to you," he said. "It's yours to dispose of as you see fit, Harry. I wouldn't wear it, if I were you, but it seems reasonably dormant for now. You saw what happened to Dumbledore when he broke a horcrux. I am asking you..." he hesitated, "...not as a teacher or a parent but as a friend, not to try to destroy it yet."

"I wouldn't know how," Harry said.

"Poisoned fang seemed to work a treat last time," Ron muttered.

"There are other reasons -- I think some research is in order. Hermione," Remus said, turning to where she stood at the sink. "Can I send you back to Diagon with a list of a few volumes? Flourish will know where to find them."

She nodded, grinning.

"And there are two books in your room, Harry," Remus continued, reaching into his pocket. He drew out a handful of knuts and sickles, looking down at them regretfully. Another pocket produced a single galleon. He sighed.

"Well, buy what you can," he said, giving the money to Hermione.

"I'll buy them," Hermione said, giving it back. Remus glanced up at her, embarrassed, and then put the money back in his pocket. Sirius watched, slightly confused.

"Tonks has contacts in Knockturn -- I can tell her what to ask about...if I can tell her, of course," Remus said, with a questioning look at Harry.

"I think you'll have to," Harry answered. "But it doesn't go beyond the six of us."

"Which reminds me, mate, we need to talk to you," Ron said to Harry, sitting down at the table again. "Privately. Unrelated matter."

Harry spread his hands and glanced at Sirius, who was sitting next to Ron, and Remus, who was still looking at the locket.

Hermione, who seemed to know what this was about, coughed politely. "Remus, could you write that list up? Ron and I can go a little later this afternoon."

"Of course," Remus said. "Sirius, you can help me get the books from Harry's room."

Sirius vaguely resented the secrecy, but he had already been taken into one confidence today, which he supposed was all you could ask of people you'd only met three days before. He followed Remus out of the room; before the door closed he heard Hermione say, "Harry, it's about Ginny..."

"I've been wanting to speak with you alone at any rate," Remus said, turning to give him a friendly smile over his shoulder as they climbed the stairs. "I -- hmh..." He paused, and Sirius reaslied he was catching his breath. He stopped, and Remus looked grateful to stop as well. The older man drew a few deep breaths and then continued up. "I realised there are things you should know..."

Another pause at the top of the stairs, and then Remus spoke again. "Things you should know about what your...other, your older self did in his life."

"Harry told me about Snivellus," Sirius said. "I wouldn't do that, though."

Remus pushed open the door to Harry's sitting room and sank gratefully into a chair.

"Severus Snape and the trick you played on him, you mean?" he asked.

"I wouldn't do that to you," Sirius insisted.

"It is...complicated. I don't think -- I never did think -- that you meant to. I think it was a harmless taunt that he took too seriously. You did fix it -- realised what you'd done, told James...I forgave you. Severus did not. Neither one of us, nor James."

"Is that what you wanted to tell me about?"

"In part. Harry's told you a great deal -- your time in Azkaban, your death. And Sirius, never once should you think that you were not a good man," Remus said. "We all have our flaws."

"I hadn't thought much about it," Sirius lied. "But I won't be him."

"One hopes not. His life was difficult and miserable, in the end. A waste of a brilliant mind, for which I was in part responsible. I believed you had betrayed us. You are impulsive, Sirius, and not overly given to thinking through the consequences of your actions."

Sirius gestured to himself. "As the map is proof."

"Yes." Remus stood and went to the bookshelf, reaching up to the highest level to take down a thick, black-bound volume. He found a book on a lower shelf with a rather lurid green cover, and set both on the table. "These are the only ones we'll need, but...ah."

There was a set of four matched books on one of the higher shelves, bound in amber-coloured calfskin and stamped in gold. Remus took down two of them.

"I'd like my own copy of Shop Gods back, but you're welcome to read yours," he said, holding one up. "You had the complete set from Graveworthy's own hands....which, before you take these, is something else we have to discuss."

"Bloody hell, did I get him killed too?" Sirius asked tiredly. "More horrible revelations about me?"

Remus sat down again, holding the second of the two books in his hands and looking down at it.

"I don't know how much to tell you about who you were," he said, slowly. "Because as you've said, the man you were is not the man you're going to become. But you need to know his secrets. Do you understand?"

"What is it you don't want to tell me?"

Remus gave him wry look. "There's a lot I don't want to tell you, but in this case I think I'd better. You know Graveworthy joined the Order shortly after we did, in the last two years of the war."

"Yeah, Tonks told me about it."

"The reason these books are yours, Sirius -- the reason Graveworthy even wrote Animagus Winter -- is that you two became...close friends."

"Really? Me and Ellis Graveworthy?" Sirius said wistfully, then paused. "Wait, you mean he wrote Animagus Winter because of me?"

"Yes. He knew what you were."


"None of us were precisely secretive about it, if you'll recall," Remus said, with a sidelong smile. "An observant man wouldn't have too much difficulty, and Graveworthy spent...oh, a lot of time observing you, after I introduced you to him."


"I suspect, at first, because you were young and loud and very handsome," Remus said. "And later because you appealed to his writer's sensibilities. You were -- are -- so much larger than life sometimes, Sirius, such a dominant personality. He often said he wished he had written a character so perfectly literary as you were."

Sirius bit his lip. He wasn't sure what Remus was trying to say, but he had a suspicion it wouldn't be easy to hear.

"He was in love with you, Sirius -- you or the idea of you, we never could separate it out," Remus said. "In many ways it was not an easy love on either of you, but you both held up well. He died barely a week before James and Lily."

"We...?" Sirius asked, eyes wide.

Remus lifted the copy of Animagus Winter and read the dedication, there in black print on the white page. "For my black dog, who has more loyalty than good sense, and has taught an old soul new tricks." He looked over the edge at Sirius. "And then there's the inscription, which I really think I oughtn't to read aloud in case you blush."

Sirius took the book from him and flicked back to the blank first page, which was nearly filled with elegant copperplate handwriting.

My dearest Animus, my soul in the whole of the thing, this is yours and always was; forgive me for keeping a part of your own self from you for so long, but I needed it. I give it back to you now and with it your liberty if you so wish, because youth has not yet left your heart and god forbid it ever should. But I beg this of you, that you remember Wren and do me the honour of tendering your freedom back again, as I promise I shan't take advantage of it.

You made me want to speak into the silences and there is no greater gift --

"Me and Ellis Graveworthy?" he asked, looking up. "But we all....when we were in school he was my favourite writer -- "

"Merlin knows why he chose you, since having more loyalty than good sense isn't hard when you haven't any good sense, but I must say he was good for you," Remus said. "Taught you a few things about the world. In return, I imagine you gave him what he needed to write again. He didn't think he would, after Shop Gods. He thought he'd said all he had to say. Then you came along."

Sirius turned the book over in his hands, thoughtfully. "He wrote a book for me?"

"He wrote a book around you, at any rate. I..." Remus looked embarrassed. "After he died and after you were sent to Azkaban...well. You may like what you find there; you may not."

Sirius closed the book and smoothed his hand over it, slowly. "What a miserable life," he said.


"And now I have to live it over again. Parts of it. There's still a war; there's still him," he said. "And now Moony teaches us our lessons and my best friend's son teaches us how to fight. Child soldiers. Just like in Shop Gods."

Remus was quiet.

"Can I come with you, on the next moon?" Sirius asked, suddenly. "Please let me come."

"Sirius -- "

"Please, Moony."

Remus studied him, head tilted, eyes terribly closed off.

"If you want to take on that responsibility again, I won't say no," he said finally. "But I want you to consider it carefully."


Remus started to laugh, quietly. "All right then; don't consider it. But I am in my prime, so they tell me, and you're still not fully grown -- not a match for the wolf. I'm still going to lock myself in the cellar."

Sirius' fingers clenched on the cover of the book. "Is that what it was for you, after I was gone? Cellars? Threadbare robes and fifteen sickles to your name?"

Remus shrugged. "What else was there? I'm still alive; that's what matters." He smiled at Sirius' stubborn look. "It's all right, Padfoot. I never blamed the other Sirius, and I would be a fool to blame you."

"I don't care about you blaming me," Sirius replied. "There's enough gold in the Black vaults to keep you and Harry both out of trouble for the rest of your lives."

"It was given to Harry."

"He doesn't need it."

"I don't want it."

Sirius shook his head. "I told you that your pride would choke you one day."

"Many times," Remus agreed. "I'll accept your help on the full moon, Sirius. More than that I don't want. And we," he added, pausing to pile up the books, "should take these downstairs. Will you fetch my Shop Gods for me?"

Sirius, frustrated, went to the other room to pick up the book; when he stopped at the doorway, book in hand, he peered through and saw Remus with his head bowed over the desk, breathing deeply, one fist pressed against the centre of his chest. As soon as he came into the room, however, the older man looked up and stood, so quickly that Sirius almost wondered if he'd imagined it.

"Thank you," he said, accepting the book. He did not meet Sirius' eyes.


Harry was having no easier a time of it.

"It's just stupid, Harry," Hermione said, for what seemed like the thousandth time. "Didn't you learn anything from Tonks?"

"What's Tonks got to do with it?" Harry asked tiredly.

"She didn't care that it's dangerous," Hermione said. "And when you think about it, it's a lot less dangerous for Ginny than for Tonks. You're not a werewolf."

"Ginny's not an Auror. She's barely sixteen," Harry replied. "She doesn't understand how dangerous it is. None of us do."

"Yeah, but you don't turn into a slavering monster every twenty-eight days, mate," Ron said.

"Listen, did she put you up to this?" Harry asked.

"She didn't have to, Harry," Hermione sighed.

"The point is, Ginny's my sister and if you break her heart I'm going to kill you," Ron added. "So really it's more dangerous to keep up like this. And I know you don't like it and neither does she."

Harry rested his chin on his crossed arms, regarding the horcrux sitting on the table in front of him.

"I told Ginny that being with her was like a part of some other person's life," he said.

"Fat lot of good that does when you dump her two minutes later," Ron said angrily.

"But it was true," Harry answered, an odd calm settling over him. "It didn't feel like my life, Ron. It felt like something out of a story. It was nice, and it was nice to fool myself that I could have someone...but I don't have time for stories or schoolkid romance."

"I suppose that's what you think we are," Ron retorted, gesturing angrily at himself and Hermione. "Stupid schoolkids for thinking that it's possible to be in danger and in love at the same time."

Hermione looked up at Ron sharply, and Harry almost laughed. He didn't think they were schoolkids, but he did think he hadn't the luxury of acting like they did.

"In love?" Hermione asked in a very small voice. Oh god, Harry thought, it really is like something out of a storybook.

"Well what the hell did you think this was?" Ron asked her, rolling along now on a momentum of anger rather than good sense.

"Love?" Hermione asked, and then it hit Ron with comical abruptness.

"I think you have a few things to sort out before you come lecturing me," Harry said, grinning. Ron was staring at her, face bright red. "Go on, Ron. If Ginny wants your help, she'll ask."

And he stood, while Ron was still staring confusedly at Hermione, and left the room. Behind him, he heard Hermione say "Oh, Ron..."

He ran into Remus and Sirius as they were descending the stairs, books in hand; Remus looked exhausted. Harry guided them back into Remus' bedroom, rather than out into the front rooms. Lord knew what Ron and Hermione were about to get up to in the kitchen, and Harry didn't fancy being an inadvertent eavesdropper.

Remus, unlike Harry, had chosen a single large room with a bathroom next door. Its main advantage, aside from being ground-floor, was that it stood directly across the hall from the back of the staircase where there was a door down to the cellar. His bedroom had once been Jupiter Black's study and it was still dark and somewhat gloomy, but the presence of yet more bookshelves and an enormous red quilt on the bed had made it into a sort of warm, cosy gloom. Sirius seated himself on the bed without being invited; Remus gestured Harry into the wingchair and took the other chair, which sat in front of a rather more plain desk than Harry's upstairs.

"Ron giving you brotherly advice about Ginevra?" Remus asked Harry, who cursed him internally for being too perceptive for his own, or anyone else's, good.

"Unsolicited," Harry answered briefly. "Got that list for Hermione yet?"

"Not quite yet," Remus said, pulling a tattered half-sheet of parchment towards him and dipping a ragged quill into the inkbottle. He wrote as he talked, a skill Harry would dearly have liked to master. "I don't know how much any of this will help, but it can't hurt. I've no clue how to destroy something like this; I wonder if simply melting it down would do it."

"Dumbledore had to crack the stone on the ring to break that horcrux," Harry answered. "You saw what it did to him."

Remus nodded, opening one of the books and paging through it deftly. "This is an Aurors' procedure guide -- I picked it up from Tonks, she has the whole thing memorised," he added, running his finger down one page and scribbling down a reference. "Unfortunately, most of the section on Dark objects boils down to Don't let anyone touch it until you can get an expert in," he sighed.

"Well, so, where are the procedure guides for the experts?" Sirius asked.

"They're not written down," Remus said, closing the first book. He bowed his head over the papers and rolled his shoulders, resulting in an alarming series of cracks as his vertebrae realigned. "And in these times I'm not sure I'm comfortable taking something that Dark to anyone outside the Order."

"Or most people inside it," Harry agreed.

"But there are at least two more out there we're going to have to destroy as well, not counting the bloody snake," Remus continued, opening the second book. "It's illegal to even own this book, you know. Came with the house," he added, gesturing towards the ceiling in an arc that figuratively encompassed the entire property. Sirius leaned forward and picked up the Aurors' guide, idly thumbing through it.

"I don't see how we're expected to do anything when nobody even knows anything," Harry said.

"You said Slughorn knew something?"

"Not more than we took from his memories."

"Well, Tom Riddle had to learn somewhere," Remus said. "He had to have heard about them before he left school, if what you say is true. And wherever he went after he left school, he learned more there. I don't think he just experimented randomly; he's a maniac, but he's not a fool. He had to know that every murder he committed put him in more danger of being caught."

"Didn't seem to stop him very often," Harry muttered. Remus glanced up, and Harry saw his brown eyes unusually expressive, filled with a mixture of remorse and sympathy.

"Well, to be honest I don't much see him picking up this kind of thing in Africa or out on the Pacific Rim; their idea of Dark isn't even the same as ours, most of the time," Remus said. "America's practically empty when it comes to wizardry at all, and besides, there were always rumours..." he made another note on the parchment, "that Tom Riddle was seen in eastern Europe during that time. The Carpathians, Romania, the Steppes...I wonder," he said suddenly.

"What?" Harry asked.

"How much do you know about Grigori Rasputin?" Remus asked.


Sirius wasn't really listening to Harry and Remus talk; undoubtedly it was interesting, but he'd picked up the knack of half-paying-attention in Magical History, and he could listen for important keywords (Sirius, Padfoot, Dinner, Sex, Danger) with part of his brain while actually devoting his attentions to something completely different.

The manual was interesting in theory, but in reality sort of dry; all kinds of adventursome headings like "Smuggling, Counterfeiting, and Conspiracy" ended up being long paragraphs about an Auror's legal responsibility in any given case. He nearly flipped past the section on Youth Outreach until he noticed a small grey "footnote box" in one corner.

It is sometimes difficult to interpret the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery in such a way that children, particularly those who have just received a wand, will understand its importance. It is vital to impress on parents the necessity of enforcing the Decree in their own household. Children caught violating Paragraph C are to be handled with particular care and attention to detail. For a more thorough explication of the function of the Decree as it applies to Aurors and their ability to enforce, see section 8.2.2.

Remus was going on about cyanide poisoning and some political coup; Sirius hastily flipped through to section 8.2.2.

He had always assumed that there was some sort of monitoring system; either their wands were enchanted with a Decree-specific hex or there was a central office that kept tabs on magical children. He'd envisioned a giant map of Great Britain, little blue-coloured dots indicating each child, turning red whenever the Decree was violated. Reg had once hexed a Muggle boy's ears off for making fun of his admittedly funny-looking pet owl, and Dad had been forced to pay a hefty fine to hush it up.

Now that he came to think logically about it, there had been dozens of times over a handful of summers when they'd been doing magic of a sort, if you considered the Animagus transformation to be a proper spell. And how could they possibly monitor every child in Great Britain? And even if they could, would he show up? Being dead ought to have at least one or two advantages...

Section 8.2.2 - Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery - Explication - Function

Sirius read the text with a growing sense of glee while Harry asked Remus questions about some Muggle assassination a hundred years ago. This....this was ridiculously simple to crack. He wondered why they hadn't bothered before, but he supposed the incident with Reg had put the fear of the infamous They who ran the government into his fourteen-year-old heart.

Magical usage in high-Muggle-traffic areas was monitored. Within private homes owned by wizards or witches, parents were expected to enforce the Decree personally. If someone under the age of seventeen were to be out with two adults in a Magical area, the odds of getting caught were nearly nil. And Sirius was sitting in a bedroom in the ground floor of a house owned by an adult, in the company of two wizards of full majority.

He wished like anything that he hadn't left his wand in the upstairs bedroom; he'd have given quite a lot to give Harry a hotfoot and see the look on their faces.

Then again...

It suddenly occurred to them that if Hermione was right (not that he would admit it) and he was just a...a part of himself, a walking charm attached to a map the real Sirius had helped to make, his wand might not even work. The idea was horrifying; he'd rather be dead than a squib.

"Sirius?" Harry asked, and Sirius glanced up, immediately casting his brain back a few seconds.

...can't very well go to Russia to find out about it. What do you think, Sirius?

"I think Russia's out of the question," Sirius said. "Why Russia, again?"

"Rasputin?" Harry prompted.

"Oh yes -- bloke that blew smoke up the Tsar's arse," Sirius replied. "What's he got to do with anything?"

Remus smiled indulgently at Sirius' summation of the political life of Gregori Rasputin.

"I was saying," he said, scolding lightly, "that Rasputin was extremely difficult to kill. It took poison, three bullets, and a dunk in a freezing river to do it. It's quite possible he had a horcrux; if so, it's a starting place. I have contacts there -- I don't think we'll need to go ourselves. If Tom Riddle learned how to go about it in Russia, we should find traces."

"Which still doesn't help lead us to the cup," Harry sighed.

"I thought you said you were a patient man?" Remus asked, smiling. "Baby steps first. We have to know what he knows, you're aware of that."


Harry and Sirius glanced at each other with a smirk. Tonks' voice.

"In here," Remus called, a faint blush spreading across his cheeks. He stood as Tonks put her head in the doorway.

"I just walked in on Ron and Hermione -- what on earth did you feed them for lunch?" she asked.

"My fault," Harry volunteered. "I egged Ron into saying something he shouldn't have."

"Well, whatever it was, Hermione certainly seems to have enjoyed it," Tonks answered. "What are we talking about?"

Harry and Sirius exchanged a glance, and Remus quietly allowed Tonks to rest a hand at the nape of his neck, rubbing gently.

"I'll tell her," he said.

"I'm sure you will," Harry answered with a grin.

"Out with you, whelp," Remus replied. "Go break up Ron and Hermione."

"I never signed on to be chaperone," Sirius said to Harry, sliding off the bed.

"Good; I think we're being bad ones," Harry replied, closing the door firmly behind them as they left. "I'd rather not go witness the face-sucking."

"That's okay," Sirius said, a wicked gleam coming into his eye. "I have an idea or two of my own."

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