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Author Notes:

Warning - This chapter includes a mild heterosexual sex scene.

"Mmm, now, what is it you're supposed to tell me?" Tonks asked, as the door closed on Harry and Sirius in the hallway.

Remus turned, his arm fitting itself around her waist naturally but still a little awkwardly. He never allowed himself a moment of complacency about Nymphadora; he had learned better than that in the past fifteen years. She nuzzled his jaw affectionately.

"Harry's made some interesting discoveries," he said. Her hand pressed against his stomach, warm and reassuring.

"You look exhausted," she said, lips just barely brushing his throat.

"I am. It feels like I'm suffocating every time I climb stairs."

"What did Augustus say?"

He shrugged. He was unused to people inquiring after his personal health; it had been years since anyone other than Sirius had been allowed close enough. He didn't really know how to tell this kind of thing.

"He said I'm still sick. It may be a while before I'm...not," he answered. "I have potions for it. Sirius has said he'll spend the moon with me. That'll help."

She kissed his chin, grinning at him. "And this news of Harry's...can it wait?"

He raised his eyebrows. "I don't think I'd be worth much at the -- oh -- "

She had found a knot of tension at the base of his skull and her knuckles made one deft, expert motion that loosed it all at once.

"You don't always have to be useful," she said, fingers combing through the short hair at the back of his head.

"Really, what Harry found is rather important -- "

"He doesn't seem to mind you putting it off."

He let out a breath and closed his eyes, leaning into her. It took effort. He was still unused to this. Back...sometime in the distant time after Sirius died it had been comfort and he had never meant it to be anything more -- just sex, some kind of release. They hadn't touched except to get each others' clothes off as quickly as possible and hadn't talked except to work out the logistics of bed or chair or wall?

But then suddenly she had started staying and he had started making her breakfast and it had become a big mess of feelings. And now here they were. Just standing in the middle of a room, fully clothed, touching. And he could not remember a time he had wanted any woman more.

Well, nearly fully clothed. She was managing to unbuckle his belt with one hand and unbutton his worn shirt with the other, which just went to show that Auror training could result in some particularly unusual skills.

"Harry and the others -- " he began, but she slid the heel of her hand down from his belt buckle and he gasped.

" -- it's been a long day," she said softly, "and I want you to myself before dinner."

Part of the reassuring thing about Nymphadora was that he was rarely even fractionally in control of anything about their relationship. He suspected Ted Tonks had gone the same way over Andromeda, in fact. She was an independent-minded woman like her mother and it was so easy just to trust in her, particularly when he was so tired. He sometimes, especially in the last two days, felt as though the world was moving a fraction of a second faster than he was. Tonks slowed it down to proper speed -- or at least didn't expect him to fully keep up.

Her durable Aurors' robes fell to the floor with a soft whump and her bare shoulders were warm under his hands even as she let go of him to pull the hem of her sleeveless tunic over her head. He shrugged out of his shirt, resulting in another alarming series of pops in his joints. She grinned at him.

"Getting stiff, old man."

He groaned. "Tonks, that was really awful."

"See what I have to resort to in order to make you smile?" she asked, hips pressing against his. She traced a line down his chest with her knuckle, then hooked her fingers in his unbuckled belt and in one swift movement stripped trousers and pants down and away. He'd been barefoot to start with and he was at ease with the nakedness; too many moons waking up somewhere in the Forest that way as a younger man, being hustled back to the Shack by the others in the dawn hours.

"Where does it hurt?" she asked, and he wanted to laugh, but the thing was...she was quite serious. One of her hands was already back on his neck, kneading the sore muscles there, filling his body with warmth.

"I don't...know that..." he hesitated, and she pressed a kiss to the nearest available skin, which happened to be his shoulder.

"Remus, I'm not going to ask you to perform unusual and athletic sex," she said softly. "I just want to know where you hurt."

He laughed against her hair. "Well, that's a relief." He took her wrists gently and moved them so that her fingers touched his temples. "Here," he said quietly. And..." he moved one of her hands to his chest. "When I breathe."

She sucked in a worried breath.

"And..." he continued, moving her hand again so that it rested in the small of his back. "" He pressed both of her palms to his belly, looking down. "Because I'm frightened."

She kissed him. "Of what?"

"What we know. What we have to do. What I've been told. What I think it means."

He released her wrists and she raised her hands to his shoulders, pushing him gently against the bed. He sat, watching quietly as she banished the rest of her clothing and slid her thighs over his, kissing him again.

"Forget," she said softly. He wrapped his arms around her, cupping his hands up against her shoulderblades.

"I can't. Nor can you."

"We can. Just for a few minutes."

He wanted to believe her and, well, he had been wrong before. Wrong in rejecting this, for a start, in rejecting the curve of her breast and the smooth skin of her belly and --

"Remus," she said seriously. He raised his head from the crook of her neck, meeting her eyes. They were green today. "Forget," she insisted, and her hips slid forward and he moaned at the overwhelming sensation of touch - her - here - now - yes.


Sirius led the way up the stairs, waving Harry on to the other rooms as he ducked into the small bedroom, retrieving his wand and tucking it in his sleeve.

In the sitting room, Harry was studying the two books Remus had taken down -- the calfskin-bound Graveworthys -- and Sirius felt an odd and sudden proprietorship.

"Those are mine," he said.

"Sorry, I was only looking," Harry replied. "They were sitting on my desk."

Sirius picked them up and moved them to a chair by the door. "Well, they were put in here by mistake."

"So what's this idea you have, anyway?"

Sirius grinned and jerked his arm forward. His wand slid out of his sleeve in a quick, smooth motion (he'd spent months perfecting the toss and trying to find the right kind of shirt for this) and he caught it by the proper hand-end. He flicked it at himself. "Maculatne."

He'd been wearing the same shirt he came through the map with, allowing Harry to clean it with a simple charm each morning, but now he rid himself of the blue inkstains even as Harry gaped at him. He hadn't known if it would even work, but of course it was better to rip the plaster off one's skin all at once, metaphorically speaking.

"Are you mad?" Harry demanded, reaching out to take the wand from him. He flicked it away, laughing. He still had his magic; the world was good.

"No, I'm well-researched," he replied, and then in a singsong, "I know how the Decree works -- and I know they won't do anything if I've done magic in the house of a fully-grown wizard. They can't tell!"

"Bloody hell, that's no excuse!"

"You," Sirius said, pointing the wand at him, "are too grown up for your own good."

Harry tried to grasp the point of the wand, but Sirius flicked it out of his reach twice before lifting his arm and letting it fall back down into his sleeve.

"Besides, I might not even be noticed. I'm just a bit some map vomited up," he said.

"You might warn a person!" Harry exclaimed.

"Relax," Sirius said, flopping down onto the sofa. "So. I have magic and you have magic and it sounds like Ron and Hermione are ripe for having their lips permanently glued together. Want to have a try?"

"They're my best friends!"

"Well, yes," Sirius said, mystified by this apparently irrelevant statement. "What did they want to talk to you about, anyway? That Ginny kid?"

"She's not a kid, she's your age."

Sirius shrugged. "Some of us are born kids; some have kidhood thrust upon 'em. I was never young. I was always as you see me now. You and her...?"

"Yeah, we had...something, for a bit," Harry said, dropping onto the couch next to him. "I ended it. Ron's annoyed. She's his sister."

"You break her heart?"

Harry snorted. "It'd take a lot more than me dumping her to break Ginny Weasley's heart."

"Lots of Weasleys," Sirius mused.

"Seven, if you count Percy. Nobody does, mostly."

"Why not?"

"Won't speak to his family. Thinks they're all on the losing side or something. I think Percy has his head up his bum, personally, but then it's not as if he's any great loss. All he ever did was lecture about things."

"Bill Weasley grew up all right, didn't he?"

Harry gave him a quizzical look. "Yeah, I reckon so. He used to work in Egypt -- works for Gringott's now. Well, he will, when he goes back. He's getting married to Fleur soon -- the blonde girl who's surgically attached to his arm."

"Well, she'll have to be good-looking for both of them, I guess," Sirius grinned. Harry laughed.

"That's what she said..." he stopped, abruptly. "Well. When we found out about it."

"Harry..." Sirius said, turning to regard him. "Really, do you really think we can do all this?"

"All what?"

"Finding the other horcr...uxes," he said, deciding to ignore Hermione's horcruces contention. "And destroying them and all. I mean even if you do, he's still...really powerful, you know."

"Yeah. I know," Harry said, rubbing his forehead with the side of his thumb. "I don't know...I don't know."

Sirius impulsively reached out and ruffled Harry's messy hair, so like James'. Harry grabbed his wrist, holding it in a viselike grip. He did not laugh.

They watched each other warily. Finally, Harry lowered his hand, still holding Sirius' wrist. He turned it over, and Sirius opened his palm to show he hadn't meant to hurt him.

"Sorry," Harry said, letting go. "I'm not used to that."

"Obviously," Sirius said, leaving his palm outstretched. He tilted his hand so that it was bent towards Harry, stretching his wrist.

"Hey look," he said suddenly, pointing to his hand.

"What?" Harry asked.

"Look -- right there," Sirius said, pointing to his palm. Harry bent over to examine it, and Sirius whacked Harry's nose with his fingers, bursting out laughing. Harry grinned sheepishly and rubbed his nose.

"I can't believe you fell for that! James would never have fallen for that. Even Peter knows better than to fall for that."

"Wait," Harry caught his hand before he could draw it back, holding his palm with warm, dry fingers.

"No you don't -- "

"No, I'm serious," Harry said.

"No, I'm -- "

"Oh, god, not that old joke," Harry groaned. "Honestly, look at your hand."

Sirius cautiously examined his palm.

"There's no life line," Harry said.

"Oh, for Loki's sake," Sirius sighed. "First the tarot, now this. I've told people Divs aren't worth anything, but will they believe me?"

Harry turned over his other palm. There was no life line there, either, but Sirius rather enjoyed the sensation of Harry's thumb rubbing across the spot where it ought to be.

"Maybe I never had one, you don't know," Sirius muttered. "Bloody inbred Blacks. Some kind of birth defect, probably. I don't care; let's come up with something fun to do."

Harry looked up at him over his outstretched palms, and let go of them, folding his arms across his thighs and slouching forward.

"We really should go talk to Ron and Hermione. We need a plan."

"Bollocks! We need a drink," Sirius replied. "But we can get that in the kitchen, too."

"I think we have some butterbeer," Harry said, standing up. Sirius stood too and followed him to the door.

"I'm pretty sure I saw some firewhiskey and I'm almost positive there was a bottle of mandrake vodka. You're seventeen, it's not like it's illegal."

Harry shrugged. "What's the point?"

"Why does there have to be a point? When was the last time you did something just because it feels good?"

"Well, I'm not going to go get drunk and shag someone, if that's what you mean."

Sirius rolled his eyes as they descended the stairs. "I see you got Evans' squeamishness."

"My mum was not squeamish!"

"She is so. No sense of fun at all, not what I'd call fun. Not bad fun herself though -- confront her with a spider or a lizard or a dead fish -- " Sirius smiled nostalgically. "We have great plans for this eel that James found...had great plans, anyway...she hates...hated, anything slimy," he finished awkwardly, realising he'd once again been speaking of someone long dead in the present tense.

"No wonder she never got on with Snape," Harry murmured. Sirius gaped at him before bursting out laughing.

"You're all right, you are," he said. Harry smiled at him over his shoulder.

"Ta," Harry said. "So're you."

Sirius shoved his hands in his pockets and tried to ignore the warm sensation in the pit of his stomach as Harry knocked on the kitchen door. There was a crash and a muffled curse.

"Come in!" Ron's voice called after a minute. When they entered, he and Hermione were sitting on opposite sides of the table. Hermione was paging through her notebook, twirling a lock of hair around her finger. The notebook was upside-down.

"Everything settled?" Sirius asked in a deeply amused voice.

"Yes, thank you," Hermione answered.

"Ron, your..." Harry gestured to his trousers. Ron looked down, horrified, and zipped his flies.

"Learn anything from Remus?" Hermione continued.

"A little. He's going to talk to some people he knows. He'll have some addition for your notebook pretty soon, I think," Harry said. "You'd better start a section on Tom Riddle, nineteen...forty-five to fifty-five. And..."

Hermione had obediently taken out a quill and flicked a few pages into the blank sheets, writing in large, even lettering TOM RIDDLE, 1945 - 55. Her quill remained poised in the air, and Sirius had to admire this, that Harry's friends were at least as devoted to him as James' had been.

"Start subheadings on Igor Karkaroff and Antonin Dolohov," Harry said. "I don't want you doing work on that, Hermione, I know what Dolohov did to you in the Department of Mysteries -- we'll find someone in the Order who can do that research. But I want all the information to come to you. I'm going to owl Charlie Weasley and see what he knows about Dementors, they're something in his line. And...."

He bit his lip. The others waited.

"Don't tell Lupin. Start something on Fenrir Greyback. In a separate notebook."

Hermione and Ron both looked at Harry, curiously.

"Who's that?" Sirius asked.

"He's a werewolf," Harry said. "He's the leader of the faction that's siding with Voldemort. He's the one who's responsible for Bill's face. And Remus."

Sirius went very still. "What?"

"He made Remus what he is. I don't think he ever knew while he was at school, but he told me so. Voldemort's promised Greyback prey in return for his help." Harry nodded to Hermione as she closed the notebook. "So keep that one separate. That's personal."

Hermione and Ron were both looking past him, in the direction of Lupin's room; Sirius felt his fists clench and forcibly relaxed them.

"We need to call an Order meeting and give out assignments," Harry said. "We can find out who knows anything about locating magical objects -- Ron, your dad..."

"Right," Ron said. "I know his department has ways."

"Good. The Aurors can get started on Dolohov and Karkaroff. Remus has his own research to do."

"What about me?" Sirius asked.

"You're going to help me," Harry said. "I need to know more about the Map."

And just like that, Sirius was suddenly a grown-up.


Remus was not sleeping, but he was certainly not entirely awake; drifting in warm lassitude, wrapped in the big scarlet quilt on the old and slightly sagging bed, his thoughts moved at three-quarters pace. He found he didn't mind.

There was a sudden loss of warmth, however, and he opened his eyes to see Tonks sliding out of the bed, reaching for her clothing with a grace that, he thought, she was still not accustomed to possessing.

"Going somewhere?" he asked, voice slurring slightly from the combination of tiredness and really quite enjoyable afterglow.

"No -- just putting on a few clothes," she said, turning to smile at him. He felt stupid even thinking it, but she looked like some kind of Renaissance painting, half in shadow, breasts still bare and a healthy pink blush on her cheeks. But then perhaps she knew that; if a woman could make herself look like anyone, why shouldn't she choose a Botticelli or a Da Vinci?

Clearly he was getting soft in his old age.

She pulled her trousers up around her waist and leaned on the bed to shrug back into her tunic. He propped himself on one elbow and reached out to straighten the edge of her collar.

"We do need to talk about what Harry's told me," he said.

"You should sleep," she reminded him.

"Augustus gave me some potions," he said. "In the bag, near the door. He said they'd help."

She went to the bag and retrieved a handful of small vials. "Help you sleep?"

"No, help me keep from sleeping so bloody much. Just one. One of the blue-glass ones."

She offered him the vial. "Want some water?"

"No -- it doesn't taste bad." He swallowed it quickly, because that was a complete lie, but he didn't want Tonks going anywhere. She climbed up on the bed and crossed her legs; he sat up to face her, settling the blanket around his lap. She brushed some hair out of his eyes for him, affectionately.

"Puts some colour in your skin," she observed, as the potion sped up his heartbeat. He waited until the sensation had passed and found that he did breathe easier.

"Glad something does," he answered.

She smiled. "Tell me what Harry's found."

In a few brief sentences, he sketched out the discovery of the horcruxes, both the ones yet to be found and those already destroyed; Sirius' information about Meleager and his own suspicions about Rasputin. She listened attentively, intelligently, and when he was finished she sighed.

"It's a lot of work...a lot of effort for not much return. We don't know much about them. I wouldn't have the first clue how to go about destroying one," she said. "Dumbledore must have, but he..."

"Yes." Remus leaned forward slightly, curling in on himself; Dumbledore's death had been a hard loss in two years of hard losses, almost as bad as losing Sirius and more harmful to the Order in the long run. He would not be a wizard if it were not for Albus Dumbledore. He would likely be one of those wretched creatures who knew little more than Fenrir Greyback's pack.

"I can ask around, but I have to be careful," Tonks said. "I'm already being watched."

He glanced up at her. She shrugged. "Scrimgeour was suspicious back before he was Minister. Now he has the power to waste on watching young Aurors who know more than they should. It's so absurd," she sighed. "Such a waste of time. They're frightened so they're doing stupid things to make up for it when they could actually be helping."

"Well, as you say, they're scared. Fear can be immobilising."

"Funny how when people are scared of evil they don't do anything, but when people are scared of Muggles they commit murder," Tonks said. Remus sighed. "Harry told Scrimgeour off right enough, though. He still won't even comment on any imprisonments he's made since he became Minister, anymore."

" makes me worry, rather."

"About what? You don't think he's going to try to lock up werewolves?"

Remus shook his head. "I don't know. I doubt it. If he did, it would be outright war between Fenrir's people and the wizarding world. Scrimgeour knows that, he won't risk having to set a curfew on the full moons. No...but if Harry makes enough trouble, Chosen One or not, he'll be in danger. Public sentiment swings wildly when it comes to Harry. And if it's known we've recovered Sirius -- he's not the subtlest of boys. If he's found out, they may very well choose to send him to Azkaban too."

"But he hasn't done anything!" she said.

"Yes -- and if they put him away he won't get the chance, will he?" Remus sighed. "Nobody's thinking logically about anything right now, certainly not about teenaged copies of someone plenty of people still believe was Voldemort's right hand."

She shook her head, somewhat dejectedly. "It's too big for us."

"Life generally is." He studied her carefully for a moment. "Come here."


"Come here," he repeated, gesturing her forward. She slid around, moving back to rest her head against the hollow of his neck, shoulders against his chest. He settled his arms around her, nuzzling her pink hair.

"Now, listen to an old man," he said, and she laughed. "We are only responsible for -- "

" -- what we can do, I know," she chimed in. "You told me that when Sirius died. It didn't help then, either."

He gestured with one hand, soothingly. "Every generation faces its own Voldemort. Some are worse than others. But for every dark age there has been an enlightenment and for every Grindelwald there is a Dumbledore. Human history is nothing if not a series of cycles. Sometimes the upswing comes a little later, that's all, and at a little more cost."

"Have you tried telling Harry this?"

"Harry wouldn't understand; he'd think I meant he has to sacrifice himself," he said. He tried to keep the hesitancy out of his voice; if what he suspected was true, Harry would not be wrong. "Voldemort threatens only those who oppose him or who have what he wants. That's why people won't act against him. But if nobody does, soon he'll want what you have, or what I have, and then it won't matter. He'll kill us anyway. Better to fight now, while he hasn't as much power as he could."

"That's a terribly morbid reason for being optimistic," she said.

"Well, it works. I could say worse."


He kissed the edge of her ear and sighed. "Either we win this war and come out the other side triumphant, in which case bring on the parades..."

"I like that part."

"Or we die trying, in which case the outcome won't matter to us anyway, presumably."

There was a moment of silence.

"I don't like that part as well," she said finally. "Besides, there's a fallacy in it."

He looked down at her. "What's that?"

"What if some of us die, and some of us don't?" she asked. "I don't see any up-side to surviving you."

He shook his head. "Believe me, you would go on. I did, when I lost James and Sirius and Lily -- and Peter -- all together. Sirius did too, after losing twelve years of his own life. And he is now -- imagine having lost your school, your friends, your family. Every point of reference which made your world real to you, all gone in an instant. But we survive, you know. Whatever else one may say about the human race, we are first-rate survivors."

"I wouldn't want to survive you," she said.

"Nymphadora, you are much too intelligent to be saying things like that."

"Well, I'm feeling petulant and disinclined to agree with you, especially when you call me Nymphadora," she said, tilting her face up to his. "Blame it on my impetuous youth."

He bowed his head over her shoulder, inhaling deeply. The potion was having some sort of euphoric effect, he decided.

That was what it was, surely.

"At any rate," he said, after a minute, "we have work to do. Tomorrow I'll have owls to send, which I should write tonight. You need to rest, you've worked all day. And someone ought to make sure Sirius and Harry haven't set fire to the place."

She laughed and slid off the bed, gathering up the rest of her clothes and passing his to him. "We'd have smelled smoke."

"Small comfort."

"We can make them cook dinner, that'll be something to keep them busy," she said, raking her hair into some semblance of order with her fingers. He held the door and gestured her through with a polite, only slightly mocking bow. She swept past, patting him on the head as she went.

When she had passed, he straightened and leaned on the door for a moment, gathering his strength and regaining his equilibrium. He reached into the bag and slipped two more blue vials into his pocket; Pye had said every four hours, but one never knew. Particularly now, when Sirius needed Moony, and Harry needed a guide to fill Dumbledore's considerable place.

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