Work Header

The Debt of Time

Chapter Text

The Life Debt

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
(Fix You - Coldplay)

July 2nd, 1997

"Harry, his funeral is today," Hermione tried to reason with her best friend once again. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, but we need to focus on the future and destroying Voldemort. That's what's important." Her tears had been threatening to spill over for some time now. The look on Harry's face kept her in perpetual grief; more so on his behalf than her own. "It's what Dumbledore would have wanted."

Their headmaster, the greatest wizard who ever existed, was dead. Though the rest of the world seemed all too ready to embrace grief and move forward, Harry Potter was determined to find a way around it. Hermione knew he blamed himself for Dumbledore's death, regardless of how often she and Ron insisted otherwise. The fault rested in the hands of the Death Eaters who had broken into the school, Draco Malfoy for letting them breach the protective wards of Hogwarts, and the murderer himself: Severus Snape.

It almost felt obscene to be at school after everything that had happened, but shortly after the funeral, they would be getting back on the Hogwarts Express and heading home to an uncertain future. While the professors and house-elves prepared for the funeral, most of the students were happy to be outdoors now that the weather was decent enough. As gloomy as the castle felt without Dumbledore at the helm, the majority of students could not stop themselves from embracing the typical excitement that came from preparing to go home for the summer. Either that or they were nosy and wanted to watch as funeral guests arrived.

Gryffindor Tower was empty save for Harry and Hermione. However warm it was outside, the common room felt cold even as embers continued to dance in the fireplace. Ginny, holding her head high after her breakup with Harry, had abandoned last minute packing in favour of one final pass around the Quidditch pitch. Ron had been all too eager to accompany her, leaving Hermione to "fix" the angry and desperate look in Harry's eyes on her own.

"You can't know what he would have wanted, Hermione," Harry stubbornly contended. "Can't you just . . . ? There must be something in the library; the Restricted Section, maybe. You could use my cloak to go. No one has to know about it. Can you look? For me?"

"Harry, you can't bring back the dead," she said, hoping to put an end to the outlandish idea. "Snape used the Killing Curse. No one survives that!" The immediate expression on Harry's face made her regret her choice of words.

"I did!"

She recoiled at his volume but still placed a gentle hand on his arm. "You are not to blame. Just because you survived the Killing Curse does not mean anyone who is killed is more deserving of being spared from it than you." She lowered her tone to something softer as she saw his eyes begin to glaze with tears. "Besides, you didn't die and come back, Harry. You repelled it. There's a difference."

She hoped he would finally allow himself to grieve and move on. Dumbledore was dead, and there was no bringing anyone back from the dead. They had been taught that lesson entirely too well over the past few years.

July 9th, 1997

One week later, Hermione sat in Ron's bedroom at the Burrow, a book on Horcruxes open in her lap. It was one of the tomes that she had summoned from Dumbledore's office prior to leaving Hogwarts, and while there were things in the texts that she would have rather never read, she had other chapters saved with several bookmarks for later perusing. The subject of death had become something of an obsession for her. There was definitely no coming back from the dead. However, in-depth research of Horcruxes had shown her the concept's grey areas; a far cry from the black and white demarcations that Hermione had previously believed about life and death.

One thing was certain: there was no possible way to bring back Albus Dumbledore.

Nevertheless, something in the book called out to her.

After skimming a few paragraphs, Hermione perused the rest of the volume with great interest. If they were going to hunt and destroy the things keeping Voldemort connected to this world, she wanted to know as much about life and death as possible, so as to take down the Dark Lord without losing anyone else in the process.

There was an informative chapter on the Killing Curse that went into detail on how to use it and its physical effects before and after death. While there was no mention of survival, there was a small, handwritten note at the bottom of one page. In the script she had come to recognise as the hand of her former headmaster, read: Sacrificial Love: Lily Potter, 1981.

Eager to avoid the reminder of how and why they had ended up in this situation, Hermione snapped the book shut. Chores needed to be tended to. While she had been able to avoid most of the Weasleys thus far—especially since they were walking on eggshells around her after discovering that she had Obliviated her parents—it was time to face the rest of the world.

Hermione stood, adding the volume to a stack that continued to grow in the corner of Ron's bedroom. All the books she had brought from her home and Hogwarts were heaped on top of one another in organised piles, waiting to be either set aside or packed for the Horcrux hunt. When she made to leave the room, the books tumbled onto the floor behind her. Letting out an exasperated sigh, she turned to clean the mess, noticing as she did that the volume she was just reading had fallen open. The chapter title on display caught her attention, and she narrowed her eyes:

Life Debts

Pulling the text back into her arms, she scanned the words carefully. 

A magical bond formed between a wizard or witch and the person whose life he or she saved. The one who owes the debt to the saviour is one day obliged to repay the deed by performing something beneficial to or for said saviour. Such a bond can be formed between even the worst of enemies, regardless of whether either of the involved parties desire it. As this bond is magically binding, the indebted could commit the act of repayment without acknowledging it or even against his or her will.

Because the magical binding of a life debt is so resolute and impossible to resist when called upon, most witches and wizards in such a debt offer to repay it immediately and without hesitation.

The life debt ritual itself is a spell that calls the debtor to settle their account by use of Blood Magic and sacrifice. This powerful magic flows through the pair so strongly that, once enacted, the debtor is bound to the saviour. Life debts were often abused in times of war, when a Dark wizard would purposely endanger the life of a witch in order to save her and indebt her to him. He would then use the life debt ritual to bind the witch to him against her will, most especially if a proposal of marriage had already been refused by the witch and her House.

The ritual itself was banned—though never specifically outlawed—in 1242 after the wizard Cadmus Peverell was thought to have endangered and subsequently saved the lives of six daughters of a rival House with the intent to use the life debt ritual to bind them all to him. Peverell used the leverage over the rival House patriarch in order to gain the marriage of one daughter willingly as opposed to six by force.

When his betrothed perished before their wedding, it is rumoured that Cadmus intended to use the life debt ritual to call her from the grave but was unsuccessful. When performed correctly, the life debt ritual, as detailed below, can extend through time and space. Though it is powerful enough to pass beyond the veil, death by Killing Curse is the one exception to this ritual.

"Exactly what I told him. No one comes back from the Killing Curse." Hermione shook her head in mild frustration as she recalled her argument with Harry before Dumbledore's funeral.

With a deep sigh, she closed the book again and reorganised her stacked archive, but not before placing a red ribbon between the pages. Though unrelated to the Horcrux search, life debts had always been something of interest to her, and it would not hurt to keep the page marked for light reading later on.

She had already known a bit about life debts from casual reading, though nothing about a ritual had been mentioned to her before. She could only imagine the lengths that greedy wizards would go to in order to hold power over others. Hermione was confident that she owed a life debt or two to plenty of people. Harry for certain, though he owed her just as many himself, if not more. She smiled, thinking how grateful she was that this ritual was, for the most part, unknown. Hermione knew that Severus Snape had owed Harry's father, James Potter, a life debt for saving him from a werewolf attack during a full moon. The thought of Harry's father purposely binding Professor Snape to himself in order to call in a life debt was almost laughable. From what she had heard about James Potter, he was not one to be that cruel. Sirius Black on the other hand . . .

Hermione stopped in her tracks as the colour drained from her face. She darted back to the stack of books, almost tripping in her haste over a Quaffle at the foot of Ron's bed. Flipping open to her bookmark, she re-read the passage. 

When performed correctly, the life debt ritual, as detailed below, can extend through time and space. Though it is powerful enough to pass beyond the veil, death by Killing Curse is the one exception to this ritual.

"Powerful enough to pass beyond the veil." She stared, eyes wide at the words, her hands shaking. "Oh my God."

July 21st, 1997

After almost two weeks of intense research that involved two trips to the Hogwarts library, courtesy of the Floo Network in Professor McGonagall's office, Hermione had a plan in motion. Unfortunately, she was not the only one:

Mrs Weasley had a demanding plan regarding a rather large wedding for Bill and Fleur. The Order had an intricate plan relating to the removal of Harry from Privet Drive. Ron had a lazy plan on how to tell his parents that instead of returning to Hogwarts for their seventh and final year, he, Harry, and Hermione were going to traipse around Great Britain in the hopes of discovering severed bits of Voldemort's soul wrapped in shiny packages like rings and lockets.

Everyone had a plan.

Hermione's plan, however, required immediate action before the ability to enact it became limited by the Ministry, the Order, and the Weasleys. It did not help that she felt she had to keep both Ron and Harry in the dark. However, she needed to tell someone.

While Mrs Weasley was outside tending to the garden and Ron was upstairs sleeping in late, Hermione threw Floo powder into the fireplace under the guise of heading out for a last minute trip to Diagon Alley for school supplies. She waited for the green flames to erupt before shouting, "The Den!"

On the other end of the Floo, Hermione stepped out of a shallow fireplace and into Remus and Tonks's cottage, also known as "The Den." Coughing, she dusted the soot off her robes before clearing her throat and calling out, "Remus? Tonks?"

The couple had only been married for a few weeks, so Hermione stayed put, unwilling to creep about their home and accidentally walk in on the newlyweds in a private moment. She smiled, gazing around the comfortable drawing room. It looked lived in and warm, like the Burrow, but not nearly as cluttered. It felt quiet and peaceful, like Remus—subdued in nature, if a room could be such a thing. However, the bright splashes of colour here and there—in addition to the Auror robes that were flung over the back of a chair—made it very clear that Tonks lived here.

"Wotcher, 'Mione!" Tonks said as she entered the room from the small, adjoined kitchen.

Hermione winced at the nickname that Ron had given her. She detested nicknames and had been vocal about it from the beginning. The only person allowed any deviations from her full given name was Grawp, because how exactly does one argue with a giant? Correcting anyone who called her anything other than her name became a futile mission, and she had given up when it became apparent that her friends were either ignorant of her wishes or too lazy to say more than three syllables.

Tonks's bright, bubblegum-pink hair shone even in the shadows of the dimly lit room that was kept dark by the curtains closed against the rising sun in the distance.

"Sorry. Full moon was last night," Tonks mumbled with a tender smile before opening the drapes. "He gets headaches sometimes the morning after."

Hermione waved off Tonks's apology and returned the smile. "It's good to see he's being well cared for."

Despite the momentary lack of faith she once had in regards to her former professor years ago in the Shrieking Shack, Hermione had always felt a strong sense of concern when it came to his well-being. She chalked it up to her empathetic nature when it came to all beings despised by the pureblood supremacists in the Wizarding world. Muggle-borns, werewolves, elves, goblins, giants, and centaurs: all unworthy of magic. Though she, as a witch, would be given far more opportunities than the others, the unfairness of it made her want to strive for their freedoms all the more.

"I would have come to help if you needed it."

"It's not a problem," Tonks said. "Got to learn how to deal with him on my own."

"Is he well?" Hermione quietly asked.

"Much better, thanks to a fully stocked potion cabinet." Tonks's smile took a slight mischievous turn as she added, "Plus, I slipped him a Sleeping Draught yesterday at breakfast and forced him to rest up."

"Are you sure you were a Hufflepuff? That sounds terribly Slytherin of you," Hermione teased. "You're a good wife, Tonks. I'm glad he has you."

Hands on her hips, Tonks blew a strand of hair out of her face, feigning exasperation. "Well, I'm kinda stuck with the big beast now, aren't I?"

A dishevelled Remus Lupin yawned as he entered the room, a warm-hearted look directed at his wife. As he kissed her cheek, he asked, "Weren't those your wedding vows?"

Hermione's smile brightened. "Good morning, Remus!"

Her voice drew Remus's attention, and his face briefly lit up. He inhaled, squeezing Tonks lightly around her shoulders before offering a calm smile in greeting. "Hermione, you're looking well."

Hermione watched the subtle way that Tonks leant into Remus's touch, the sight tugging a bit at her heartstrings. "And you. Marriage looks like it agrees with you, Remus."

When he inclined his head in agreement, she could see a faint blush creep up his cheekbones. It was a delightful sight compared to the sickly pale he developed during the week of the full moon.

"It's 'cause he's got such a fit, young wife," Tonks boasted, teasing her husband.

Remus barely flinched at the mention of their age difference, a startling contrast to his behaviour only a month or so prior.

Hermione smiled thoughtfully. "'Youth is wasted on the young.'"

"Oscar Wilde," Remus said with a knowing grin.


He chuckled, gently correcting her, "Wizard."

Eyes wide at the revelation, Hermione asked, "Really?"

"Who?" Tonks raised a brow in confusion at Hermione's excitement. "I swear I never know what you two chatter on about. Might as well be speaking Mermish for all the good I get out of your conversations." She laughed, throwing herself down in a large, fluffy armchair. "So what brings you by, 'Mione?"

Hermione's smile faded, and she began wringing her hands together. "Actually, I need your help with something of serious importance," she said, choosing her words and the emphasis of those words deliberately.

While Tonks's expression implied that she was oblivious to Hermione's tone, Remus's jaw twitched slightly, and his brows raised a fraction of an inch.

"Is it about Harry?" Tonks asked.

"In a way, yes, but not directly," Hermione tried to explain. "I need, first, for you to trust me. And then I need your assistance in something dangerous and . . . possibly illegal." She spoke the words softly, waiting for either of them to shove her back into the Floo. When neither Tonks nor Remus made a move, she continued, "I need to get into the Ministry of Magic."

Remus's mouth pinched in trepidation, a concerned expression growing on his face. "Again?"

"Don't frown; you'll get wrinkles," Hermione chided him automatically without thinking, something that only made his frown deepen. "No, not like last time. Security is different, which is why I need an Auror." She cocked her head at Tonks. "I'm aware that Minister Scrimgeour is making a grand declaration tomorrow morning."

"Yeah," Tonks confirmed. "Some big press conference to remind the world that the Ministry knows what they're doing." Her eyes rolled, changing in the process from a deep brown to a bright blue. "So you want to go to the press conference?"

"No." Hermione shook her head, taking a deep breath to steel her nerves. "I want you to get me in the door, and then," she said, turning to Remus, "I want you to come with me to the Department of Mysteries."

Remus's brows retreated to his hairline. "Are you serious?"

"Interesting choice of words," Hermione said carefully. "And yes, I genuinely want to go back there. It's important. I've made a discovery, and I need to test it out. I don't know when else I'll have the chance to. I know the Order believes that the Ministry will soon be infiltrated if it hasn't been already. Currently, there's enough confusion that I can get away with what I want to attempt. If Voldemort takes over the government, there may not ever be another chance. What I need right now could be destroyed at any point in the future, and I'm not willing to let that happen before I can test my theory."

Tonks looked more than pleased to help, which was surprising, considering the fact that she had absolutely no idea what exactly Hermione was planning.

Remus, brilliant wizard that he was, seemed to be in tune with Hermione's thoughts somehow, or perhaps it was something more primal than that. His intense gaze made her feel like he was looking for a quality in her that she did not possess; as though the way she breathed around words and held her posture when speaking was missing something crucial. To be found lacking made her want to look away in shame.

"All right," Remus agreed after a long moment of contemplation. "I trust you."

"Thank you." Hermione breathed a sigh of relief, her shoulders losing a bit of the tension she had been carrying. "I have everything I need ready to go. Shall we meet here tomorrow morning, say six?"

"That will work," Remus said.

"Are you sure? Do you need more time to recover?" Hermione inquired, a worried look in her eyes.

He smiled kindly at her. "I'll be fine, Hermione, thank you. Six is good."

"Sounds good enough to me," Tonks echoed. "Big speech is set for seven since Scrimgeour is an early bird pain in the arse. That'll give us enough time to get ready to Side-Along to the Ministry. I can get you through during the commotion. Security's only going to be tight in the main Atrium where the Minister will be. I can take you in through the Auror entrance in the back; we've got a private lift. How long do you think you need to do whatever it is you're gonna do?"

"I'm not sure." Hermione winced, the tension in her shoulders returning as she thought back over the details of her plan. "Do you know if the Department of Mysteries is active right now?"

"It might be. They put a lot of effort into repairing the damage you lot caused last summer." Tonks's words were tinted with mirth and admiration as though she were applauding the destruction that had been caused during the battle against the Death Eaters. "'Course, I threw a few good hexes myself," she said smugly, settling back in the chair as though it were a throne. She doubtlessly did not want anyone to overlook her part in the fight, especially considering she had ended up unconscious by the end of it. Battle scars were like badges of honour to Aurors who had been trained by Alastor Moody.

"Will they be there tomorrow?" Hermione asked. "The Unspeakables, I mean."

Tonks snorted, shaking her head as she answered, "Unlikely. Whole bloody building will be set up for the Minister's big speech. Scrimgeour's just trying to make the Ministry look like they're all one big team on this. Bloody nonsense."

"I agree." Hermione reached into her pocket and removed a small Galleon, handing it over to Tonks. "Here."

Tonks grinned, rolling the coin back and forth between her fingers. "Late wedding gift?"

"Communication," Hermione explained, bouncing on her heels. "I created them a few years back when Umbridge took over Hogwarts. The defence group Harry created needed a way to communicate so we would know when and where to meet. I put a Protean Charm on these Galleons. When I charm mine to send a message, yours will grow hot, and then you can read it. I used to charm the numbers to change to a specific date and time, but I've been trying to adjust them to send short phrases. When Remus and I are done with my mission, I'll send you a message so you know we're ready to leave, and we can exit."

"Wicked!" Tonks exclaimed as Remus snatched the Galleon out of her fingers.

"You said you created this a few years ago?" Remus asked, examining the coin with a familiar curiosity as though he had seen one like it before.

"Yes. I got the idea from Death Eaters, actually," Hermione said with a nervous laugh. "The Dark Mark, I mean. It's not Dark Magic, but I figured I could use a Protean Charm to mimic the type of spell I think is used."

Remus nodded in understanding, quickly burying his previous expression to instead smile at her. "It's extraordinary, Hermione."

"Right," Tonks said, "so you'll heat up the coin, and I'll come and fetch you out. If you're done in time, we could probably slip out with the rest of the media. I could transfigure your features, make you less noticeable."

"No," Hermione objected right away but then reconsidered after a moment. "Well, maybe transfigure me a bit, just in case. If I'm successful, we'll need to leave back through the private entrance and Disapparate as fast as possible. Here, preferably, if you don't mind," she said, gesturing to their home. "I would suggest Grimmauld Place but—"

"But we don't know if Severus alerted the Death Eaters to its existence," Remus finished her thought with an understanding nod. "Good thinking."

"Thank you. So, we'll meet back here tomorrow at six and go over everything again before leaving?"

"Sounds like a plan to me." Tonks stood up quickly and embraced Hermione. "Can't wait. I love surprises," she said with delight. "You will eventually tell us what you're planning, yeah?"

Hermione smiled nervously. "If it works, I won't have to."

"Go on then." Remus gestured to the fireplace. "I can't imagine you've told anyone else about this plan of yours, which means you've lied to Molly about your current whereabouts." His eyes flashed with mischief for a moment, and both Tonks and Hermione grinned a little, though the latter flushed with embarrassment. "Better get back before she catches on. Tonks will owl later to ask for your help with something tomorrow morning. Something for Bill and Fleur's wedding, perhaps. I imagine that'll put Molly at ease with letting you out the door."

Hermione chuckled. "Might be the only thing that would do it. If I were one of her children, she wouldn't let me set foot on the front porch unless I was there to sweep it." She hugged Tonks once more and then moved to embrace Remus, who looked hesitant to return the affection at first. As he gave in to her hug, it felt as though he were holding his breath. "Thank you both so much."

"All right, safe trip back, Hermione," Tonks said as she moved toward the kitchen, stopping to turn and level a teasing glare at her husband. "Remus, get in here and eat some bloody breakfast! You're still much too skinny for your own good. I like a wolf with some meat on his bones." She winked at him before leaving the room.

Hermione smiled as Remus turned—an embarrassed blush on his cheeks—to offer her a look of apology on behalf of his irrepressible wife before retreating after her.

Stepping toward the fireplace, Hermione reached for the Floo powder when her beaded handbag fell from a pocket in her robes. She cringed on instinct, wondering if Remus and Tonks would have heard the sounds of shifting objects as the illegally-charmed bag tumbled over itself on the ground. The Undetectable Extension Charm had been essential considering all the necessities packed inside of it for the Horcrux hunting trip. She made a mental note to put a Sticking Charm on the bag as well so she would not be in danger of losing all of their supplies.

As she leant down to retrieve the bag, she overheard Remus and Tonks in the kitchen. Though she was not one to normally eavesdrop—especially on her friends—she could not help but be a little curious when she heard her name spoken. Desperate to know whether or not they were genuine about wanting to help her, Hermione listened.

"I'm sorry about that," Remus muttered. "Sometimes Hermione can just—"

"No need for that," Tonks insisted in a loving tone. "We've been through this for a year. Ever since you told me the truth. It's nothing to be ashamed about. It's definitely nothing I need to worry about."

Hermione could hear the smile in Tonks's voice. For some reason, it filled her with ease despite not knowing the specifics of the conversation.

Remus's tone, however, was tense and worrisome as he asked, "You're certain?"

"As certain as I am that I'm your mate," Tonks said firmly. "You think she's going there to get the—?"

Remus sighed. "It's possible. Though I doubt her reasons are the same as mine."

"But you're sure that it's close?"

"Close." Remus sounded uneasy. "If we survive this war, then maybe. Only time will tell, I suppose."

"You worry too much."

"You know I love you, right?" Remus asked with quiet fervour.

"I know," Tonks replied. "It's okay, love. There are some things you can't help, and this is absolutely one of them. You didn't plan how all of this turned out. We can't help how we feel."

"But you know I love you, right?" he asked again.

Tonks laughed. "Yes, Remus, you love me, you'll never leave me, I'm your mate; I get it."

Hermione could tell that the conversation was something that had occurred more than once. At the sudden silence coming from the kitchen, she blushed as she realised that she was intruding on a very private moment between the couple. Stepping into the fireplace, Hermione tossed the Floo powder and whispered, "The Burrow," before disappearing.

"She was still here," Remus informed Tonks the exact moment he knew that Hermione had vanished from the cottage. "Probably heard every word we said."

Tonks flicked one of his ears teasingly. "You and that lupine hearing."

She left his side, opening up the cooling cabinet and staring at it with an intense glare as though she could intimidate it into making breakfast for them. When nothing happened, she shrugged and grabbed a plate of leftover roast that Molly had sent over at some point. She set the food down in front of Remus—still cold because she had yet to even manage Warming Charms when it came to cooking without burning the food—and smiled sweetly as he took a bite without hesitation.

"So, has she always been a terrible snoop?"

"You have no idea what that girl is capable of," Remus said with a tired chuckle. "And right now, neither does she."

Chapter Text

Wake me up inside, wake me up inside
Call my name and save me from the dark
Bid my blood to run, before I come undone
Save me from the nothing I've become
(Bring Me To Life - Evanescence)

July 22nd, 1997

"I told you, it's a surprise." Hermione smiled brightly. "Just let me do this, okay?" Her smile turned stiff as she faced a tired Ron in the living room at the Burrow. With Bill and Fleur's wedding fast approaching, Mrs Weasley was done letting anyone in the house have a lie in. "Tonks and Remus just got married, and she's got plenty of ideas on wedding gifts for Fleur, so I asked for her help." The lie came with ease, though inside, her stomach twisted into a large knot.

"I just don't see why she can't come here," Ron whinged, sighing in obvious frustration. "Everything that's going on . . . Hell, Mum hates it when Dad leaves for work every morning. It's not a safe world out there, 'Mione."

Hermione rolled her eyes in response. "Yes, well, I'll be with an Auror—"

"Who trips over her own feet," Ron interrupted.

"And Remus will most likely be with us. I'll be perfectly safe. Besides, speaking of safe," she said, giving him a reproachful glare, "you should take this opportunity to tell your mum what our plan is this year." When he cringed, her glare intensified. "Don't you dare wait until the last minute, Ronald Weasley." She poked a finger into his chest. "You will not throw Harry and me under the bus."

Ron cocked a brow, brushing away her finger poke. "Under the bus?"

Sighing in mild frustration, Hermione explained, "It's a Muggle expression. It means that you will not leave this for Harry and me to explain because you're too afraid of your own mother. Do it yourself, and I'll see you when I get back." She headed toward the fireplace, double-checking the Sticking Charm on her beaded bag. "I don't know how long it'll take—might be a few hours—so just in case, don't have your mum save me any meals. I might convince Tonks to make a girls' day of it."

Screwing up his face, Ron slumped his shoulders forward and groaned. "But you hate girl stuff."

"I do not." Hermione planted her hands firmly on her hips. "I hate Lavender and Parvati girl stuff, not Tonks and Ginny girl stuff. There's a tremendous difference," she clarified, giving him a contemptuous look that she hoped rivalled Malfoy's when Ron laughed at her in reply. "There's less giggling and squealing. Now stop stalling, and go talk to your mother. Write out a speech if you think it'll help."

Just after half six in the morning, Remus and Hermione approached the back entrance of the Ministry of Magic, led by Tonks in her Auror robes. Remus had not been transfigured at all, as he was known to wander about the Ministry from time to time to speak with various acquaintances, put in job applications, or visit his wife. Hermione, on the other hand, was too easily recognised. Before Disapparating, Tonks had transfigured Hermione's hair black, straightened her curls, and aged her a good ten years in the process. A pair of glasses and a set of secretarial robes later, and Hermione would not be recognisable to anyone except maybe Harry or Ron.

Remus found her new appearance disconcerting.

Tonks pressed the tip of her wand against a dirty-looking door next to a large skip, and it immediately opened onto a lift. It was not until they were fully inside with the door shut, plunging them into darkness, that Tonks reached for a protruding box, slamming her hand against it. A metal cover opened up, giving her access to a dimly lit panel of numbers. When she pressed the number nine, the lift jolted, and then began its descent.

Unlike the guest entrance into the Ministry of Magic, there was no overhead voice welcoming them in this lift, only the loud, echoing sound of gears grinding together. Remus looked at Hermione, noticing how on edge she appeared.

"You all right?" he asked. "Does the noise bother you?"

She looked up at him, forcing a smile that did not reach her eyes. "The last time I was here, we'd been following Harry into battle, and I was much too distracted, but now I'm wondering how the lifts run without electricity."

Chuckling softly, Remus offered, "I have a book on Muggle to magic engineering. It's old and likely outdated, but you might find a few chapters interesting."

Before she could reply, the lift jolted again, throwing them forward. He stopped himself from falling by catching his hand on the door, but Hermione stumbled into Tonks. She muttered quick apologies that were brushed off with an easy, "You get used to it."

As they descended, Hermione reached into her pocket and removed the Galleon. "You've got yours, right?" she double-checked with Tonks.

"Yup!" Tonks smiled, showing off the coin before stowing it back in her own pocket. "I'll be checking it from time to time just in case. I'm not scheduled to be at the front of the press conference, just lingering in the back, so no one will notice me. In fact . . ." She trailed off, concentrating a bit until her bright pink hair became the same sandy shade as Remus's, save for the flecks of grey his bore.

Remus rolled his eyes. "Lovely."

"Aww, you know you're beautiful, love." Tonks grinned at him, and Hermione stifled a laugh as he crossed his arms over his chest petulantly while his wife affectionately ruffled his hair.

The lift came to a halt, and the doors opened to the ominously dark corridor that led toward the Department of Mysteries.

"Right," Hermione said with a slight tremble, exhaling nervously. "This is us." She stepped slowly out of the lift when the grilles opened.

Remus followed behind, pausing only to kiss Tonks goodbye. "Be safe."

"See you soon," Tonks said. "Don't do anything stupid!" she added before the doors on the lift shut tight and carried her away to the Atrium.

Remus could hear the way that Hermione's breath quickened as she turned and looked around the area. "Take it slowly." He placed a calming hand on her shoulder, and she reacted by touching it, presumably using his gesture to ground herself.

"Thank you," she whispered before moving forward down the corridor, Remus close on her heels.

They walked in absolute silence before reaching the large black door at the end of the long hallway. Hermione closed her eyes, taking in a sharp breath before putting her hand on the doorknob. The door opened immediately.

"Seriously?" She shuffled back a step, her mouth falling open in astonishment. "It's not even locked. What on earth are they thinking? Six teenagers broke in here a year ago, and they can't even bother to keep the department locked—"

"Hermione?" Remus interrupted her with a wink. "Let's not look the gift hippogriff in the beak." He held his wand out, equally suspicious and ready for an attack just in case. It was not mere speculation that the Ministry had been infiltrated; the Order just lacked an exact count of which departments were corrupted by Death Eaters.

"You're right, you're right. Still, maybe I'll send an anonymous owl later," Hermione muttered under her breath, causing Remus to chuckle quietly.

Moving into the large room, she waved her wand. Suddenly, the darkness around them was broken by illuminated candles, the light revealing a number of large doors encircling the two of them.

"All right, close the door."

Despite being older and more experienced, Remus conceded, closing off their entrance and eventual exit at her insistence.

The moment the door shut behind them, Hermione aimed her wand. "Flagrate!"

A large, fiery line appeared across the door to mark their exit. Almost immediately, the wall began to spin around them, making them lose track of which door was which, save for the one she had marked.

Remus wrapped an arm protectively around her, and Hermione braced herself against him to stop from getting dizzy, though it only took a moment to assure herself that the floor had stayed steady.

Once the wall stopped spinning, she reluctantly let go of Remus and turned her attention to the door she had marked. "It won't last forever."

"How about we add this?" Remus pointed his wand at the flames and whispered, "Immobulus." The fire that marked the door froze in place. He smirked when Hermione huffed.

"How did I not think of that?" she grumbled. "It's in The Standard Book of Spells Grade 2, for goodness' sake. I've been using that charm since I was twelve."

He chuckled. "You're too bright sometimes. You think too big. Remember, it was all of those small charms in your earlier years that kept you alive when roaming the castle on Harry's heels."

"Please," she said with a roll of her eyes. "It's more like chasing after his heels. That boy can't help but run into danger."

"All the better that you're always there looking out for him," Remus said and quietly added, "For everyone."

Hermione smiled appreciatively up at him. "To be fair, Harry has looked out for me from time to time. Granted, he does tend to get me into a bit of trouble as well." Her gaze turned forward, and she took a breath. "Here we are."

"Which door is it?" he asked. "I can't remember, myself. When we arrived to rescue you all, it was a bit of a mess, and most of the doors were already open with people rushing about in here."

"I can't recall specifically. I suppose we'll just have to investigate." She sighed lightly, approaching a door. Upon opening it, she peeked in without stepping foot inside and blinked a few times. "Huh," she muttered. "What does that look like to you?"

Remus glanced within and cast a Wand-Lighting Charm, which had no effect on the darkness of the room. When he squinted, he could see lights glimmering above them. "The sky, I suppose."

"Space Room," Hermione said and promptly shut the door. "Not going in there. They have a variation of a Limbo Mist Charm on the ground. Harry faced something similar in the Triwizard Tournament. Ron, Ginny, and Luna got caught in here last time," she said, marking the door with a large circle to differentiate from the exit, and immediately immobilised it per his example.

Remus turned to the next door and opened it. The sight within caused his eyes to widen.

"Oh!" Hermione exclaimed, stepping inside. "Be careful, I've seen first-hand what Time-Turners are capable of."

"You have no idea," Remus murmured, his heart racing as he stepped into the room, scanning every detail.

Hermione's sudden smile carried a surprised nostalgia. "I can't believe they were able to put it all back together."

"You destroyed it? Why am I not surprised?" He laughed quietly before his attention was caught by a particular object. A Time-Turner with blue sand inside a carefully constructed hourglass, wrapped in a silver casing with a thin chain hanging off it like a necklace. He reached his hand out and touched the piece with reverence and fear, looking at the bottom of it where he saw engraved a rune he knew meant "predestination."

A hopeful smile crossed his face.

"Death Eaters," she corrected him, her voice echoing off the walls and ceiling as she examined a large hourglass sitting on a shelf on the opposite side of the room. Huffing, mildly offended, she added, "did not destroy anything. I know better than to mess about with Time-Turners. Then again, you know all about that."

"What?" Remus jumped and turned around, looking as though he had been caught with his hand in the biscuit tin. "Why would I know that?"

"Because I used a Time-Turner during third year," she clarified. "I've told you this before. When we saved Sirius from the dementors?" She raised a brow with a concerned look in her eyes.

"Oh. Of course." He shook his head. "Forgive me; I was lost in thought."

Hermione smiled and headed for the door. "Well, we're procrastinating."

"We're leaving?" Remus's forehead crinkled in confusion.

"Yes. I don't need the Time Room," she said quickly as she exited.

Remus hesitated, looking around the room. He glanced back at the Time-Turner with the rune marking. Reluctant to put his faith in destiny, he snatched up the device and slipped it securely into his robes before making a hasty retreat to the large circular room once again.

As the door shut behind him, Hermione marked it and moved along to the next doorway.

"Hermione, are you going to tell me . . . ?" Remus began as she opened the next door.

The look on her face silenced him immediately. He turned his attention to the inside of the room and let out a gasp, his nostrils flaring at the sight.

A large, dimly lit, rectangular room stood before them. Stone benches lined the walls on every side, descending like large steps toward the centre where a familiar pit held a large stone dais. On the dais stood a massive archway unsupported by any surrounding wall.

Remus could barely take his focus off the thing. His gaze on the heart of the room was so intense that he did not notice Hermione had stepped inside the door until she began to move down toward the pit.

"Hermione!" he called out after her in a panic. "What do you think you're doing?"

She turned back and glanced at Remus, a hint of remorse on her face. "This is why I came. I asked you to trust me," she reminded him. "Do you still?"

"I . . ." He wanted to, but the words caught painfully in his throat. "Hermione, please, please don't go near that thing. I can't . . ." The idea of losing her the same way he lost Sirius was unfathomable. He could not go through it again.

"If you won't come down with me, then guard the door."

Remus stood there, gobsmacked as Hermione continued to move forward, approaching the stone arch much too fast for his comfort. He had not had the time to observe the arch and veil closely when he had last been here. Now, he could barely stand to look at the thing. To the casual observer, it looked to be just a simple construction, though what lie beyond was indefinite.

This was a terrible idea. Remus had been positive that she had come for the Time-Turner. In fact, he knew that this specific Time-Turner in the pocket of his robes now was the sole reason for him being there. So why had she brought him into this horrible room of death and misery?

"I'm sorry that I didn't tell you everything, but I was coming here regardless of your assistance." Putting her wand down next to her, she knelt in front of the large archway. She pulled a small, beaded bag out of her robes and sank her arm into it up to her elbow.

He tried to reason with her as he made his way down toward the centre of the room. "Hermione, I can't imagine what you think you can accomplish here, but I beg you to get away from that thing. Please." His heart sank at the thought of the worst-case scenario.

"I'm not going through it, I assure you," she promised as she dug around in her bag.

She pulled out what looked to be a stained t-shirt, followed by a small black pack that Remus recognised as a field mediwitch kit, which generally held an assortment of potions. Finally, she picked up her wand with a shaky hand and stood, facing the arch.

"Hermione . . ." Remus moved closer, his gaze frozen. Terrified, he kept a diligent watch on her, taking note of every step she took. He was prepared to pull her away if she got too close to the veil. He had been unable to save Sirius. He had been miles away when Voldemort murdered James and Lily. He could not live with himself if he watched Hermione fall away.

"I appreciate your concern, Remus, I really do, but I need to concentrate or else we've come here for nothing." There was a note of irritation in her voice.

Remus shut his mouth in reply and breathed heavily through his nose, his heart beating hard within his chest.

"Invocato Vita Debitum!" Hermione shouted, waving her wand in a circular motion in front of her. Golden swirls hung in the air as she moved, and the hovering circle pressed forward at her gesture, floating toward the archway. "Aperi!" The golden circle pressed against the stone, engulfing it with light.

Suddenly, the flowing black curtain in the archway turned white, and Hermione and Remus fell back, shielding their eyes with their hands from the brightness of the veil.

Hermione reached for the t-shirt, which Remus could now see was stained with blood. He swallowed hard, hunching his shoulders and pressing his hands against the floor, not wanting to smell the air to find out whose blood it was. He did not want to know. She had not told him a thing about what she was doing here, and he was honestly petrified of the answer. A part of him was apprehensive about facing his next boggart, all things considered.

"By blood," Hermione whispered, regaining her feet as she set the t-shirt on fire, levitating the ashes into the air and pushing them through the veil. "And sacrifice." She held out her open palm and inflicted a light Severing Charm against her skin, cutting it just enough to bleed. Hermione squeezed her hand tightly, allowing the blood to pool in the palm of her hand before flinging it into the veil. "Do ut des!"

The veil grew brighter.

"I have come to collect! Debitum Naturae! Domum Filius Nigrum!"

Remus's jaw dropped as she spoke, all at once very clearly aware of what it was that Hermione was trying to do. He took in a sharp breath of worry and anticipation. It was not possible. How could she have found such a spell? He stepped forward, hands shaking, aching to reach out for her.

The light surrounding the veil burst, throwing them both backward again, away from the arch and into the back of the pit before the room fell completely dark.

Remus coughed, holding his bruised ribs. "Hermione . . ." he muttered, reaching out for her. "Hermione, what were you thinking?"

"Son of the House of Black," Hermione whispered, repeating the last words of her incantation, this time in English. She panted, moving to stand, and reached for the wand that had fallen from her hand.

Remus growled at her. "I know what you said!"

"Accio wand!" Hermione ignored Remus's roar as her wand flew into her hand. "Lumos Maxima!"

A bright light ignited from her wand, illuminating the entire room.

His focus fell to the arch, which looked as it had upon their entering the room, save for Hermione's beaded bag on the ground, the medic kit, and a large shaking figure lying in the centre of the stone dais.

"It can't be," Remus murmured as he stood, gazing at the body with trepidation. Long, black hair covered the face, but the sight of tattoos peeking out from the edges of burgundy robes had him sucking in a sharp breath.

"Sirius!" Hermione screamed, rushing toward the shivering form and placing her hands tenderly on his back.

The man flinched in response.

"Help me, Remus! Turn him over," Hermione instructed as she opened the medical kit, sticking her lit wand between her teeth. Before touching anything in the kit, she smeared dittany onto her bleeding hand, fumbling for potion phials as soon as the cut had stopped bleeding.

Dumbfounded, Remus moved without conscious volition, dropping to his knees next to her and staring at the trembling form in front of him. His hands shook as he grasped solid shoulders and pushed. The body rolled, and he stared, horrified, into the face of the best friend he had thought long dead. Yet there Sirius was as if he had been struck down by Bellatrix's curse but not pushed through the veil by it.

"He's . . . Sirius . . . Merlin, Hermione, how did you do it?"

"Life debts," she answered as she fumbled with the phial stopper. "Cast a Warming Charm." She tilted Sirius's head back and opened his mouth, letting the green liquid slip down his throat.

Remus reacted right away, casting the charm and watching quietly as Sirius's body stopped shaking. When his limbs relaxed, the chestnut wand that had still been tightly gripped in his hand fell free, clattering to the ground. Remus pocketed the item right away.

"Life debts?" he echoed automatically, wondering if he was going into shock as he watched Hermione administer a third potion.

"I saved Sirius, remember?" she answered quickly as she continued to rummage around in the kit, fumbling with the wand in her mouth. "Here, hold this." She handed her wand to Remus. "He would have been given the Dementor's Kiss. They were already on their way, and I broke him out of the classroom he was locked in. He owed me a life debt."

"Hermione, life debts can't bring people back from the dead!" Remus shouted, noticing his volume and wincing. "Sorry." He focused his attention away from her and rubbed his hands over his face.

She handed him a phial. "Here, have some Pepper-Up." With a shrug, she added, "I'm sure as hell not giving it to him." Her chuckle was nervous as she reached for the Calming Draught. When she poured the liquid into Sirius's mouth, she frowned in concentration. "And no, generally, life debts can't bring back the dead."

"So how did you—?"

"Unless they didn't die from the Killing Curse," she said and then hesitantly muttered, "and you use a life debt ritual."

Remus gaped, silently scolding himself for underestimating her. "Hermione, that was Blood Magic."

"Yes," she confirmed, not going further into detail.

"How did you get Sirius's blood?" he demanded, wondering how long she had been planning this mission of hers.

"I didn't. Not exactly. That was Harry's t-shirt. Malfoy broke Harry's nose on the train last year, and this was the shirt he was wearing. Glad I never took the stain out. I honestly didn't know if it was going to work." She laughed shakily, clearly depleted by the energy she had put into the spell.

"How did it work?"

"Harry is James Potter's son, and James's mother was—"

"Dorea Black," Remus finished her sentence, shaking his head as memories of the formidable witch flew through his mind.

Turning, he fixed his attention on Hermione. "That gold light. I've only ever seen something similar during bonding rites; Tonks and I had one at our wedding." He gave no further information as she considered him with an inquisitive gaze; it was the look that she always got when eager for knowledge of something new. When he turned the expression back on her, she shrank away from his attention.

"Right," Hermione mumbled. "Let's go ahead and not talk about that right now." She snatched her wand from Remus's hand and aimed it at Sirius. "Petrificus Totalus!" His body went rigid. Zipping up the mediwitch kit and sticking it back into her bag, she reached further in and pulled out something that shimmered silver.

"Not talk about it?" Remus eyed her with suspicion. "Hermione, did you accidentally marry Sirius?"

"Don't be ridiculous," she said with a shake of her head, handing him the fabric in her hand. "It's completely different, so stop talking and help me."

Remus grimaced as a migraine began to develop. "And you stole Harry's Invisibility Cloak."

"Borrowed," she corrected him. "I was doing some research for Harry and needed to get into the Restricted Section of the library. I'd meant to return it to him on the Hogwarts Express, but I had my mind on other things. Besides, even if I did steal it, I think he'll forgive me, don't you?" She gestured to Sirius before taking the cloak back and covering him with it. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the charmed Galleon, tapping it with her wand. "Now, levitate him if you will, because I barely have the strength to move, and we need to get out of here quickly."

"Is he . . . Is he really alive?" Remus asked her, not wanting to get his hopes up. "Hermione, he's my best friend, and he . . ."

She reached out, taking Remus's hand gently within her own. "He's alive."

Before she could take a step toward the exit, Remus wrapped his arms around her. He pressed his face into the crook of her neck and whispered, "You're brilliant," before kissing her temple, cheek, and then forehead. "Absolutely brilliant."

Hermione laughed, hugging him back, and beaming at the praise. She would have likely basked in it a touch more, but her attention refocused on Sirius, and she sighed. "Come on, Remus. There'll be plenty of time to celebrate after we get him out of here."

Minutes later, they reunited with Tonks outside the lift. Slowly, they made their way inside, Remus holding his wand out as he levitated an invisible Sirius ahead of him.

Tonks gave them a teasing grin. "Good trip? Bring me back anything?"

"You could say that," Remus muttered, removing a section of the Invisibility Cloak to reveal Sirius's face.

"What the fuck?" Tonks screamed, jumping backward and almost into Hermione's arms.

Unprepared for the attack, Hermione collapsed beneath the weight, and the two women hit the floor as the lift began to move upward.

Remus chuckled mischievously.

Shifting her focus up from the floor, Tonks saw the underside of Sirius's body where it was not covered by the Invisibility Cloak.

Hermione groaned. "You said you liked surprises." She removed her glasses as Tonks's transfigurations faded away, her straight black hair shifting back to honey-brown and winding back into bushy curls.

"Bloody hell," Tonks spluttered, looking up to meet her husband's eyes. "Is that—?"


"And is he—?"

"He is."

Tonks gestured to Hermione. "And she—?"

He nodded. "She did."

"Bloody hell," Tonks repeated, lifting the Invisibility Cloak once more to look at her cousin's body. After a beat—with Remus and Hermione anxiously observing her—Tonks flicked her wand and Disillusioned Sirius, muttering, "Just in case."

Once safely back at Lupin Cottage, Hermione let out a loud sigh of relief and collapsed into the large, fluffy armchair.

Lowering Sirius to the sofa, Remus removed the Invisibility Cloak, passing it to Hermione so she could secure it away in her bag and return it to Harry. He then released the Body-Binding Curse, watching as his friend relaxed into the cushions.

"I should go," Hermione said. "If I don't get back to the Burrow, they'll all come looking for me. The last thing I want is for anyone to show up before there's been a chance to explain. Certainly, not before things can be explained to him." She gestured to Sirius, kneeling down beside him and affectionately brushing the hair from his face.

The hollow, sunken cheeks he had upon their first meeting in the Shrieking Shack were gone, and his hair was no longer matted and hanging down to his elbows. He was the Sirius she had come to know over the last handful of years, not having aged a day since he had fallen through the veil.

As her hand brushed lightly against his cheek, his pale grey eyes opened and stared up into her face. "M-My . . ."

Hermione gasped. "Sirius?"

Remus and Tonks flew to her side.

"Pads?" Remus asked, leaning over Hermione's shoulders.

"My . . . My-uh," Sirius repeated, dazed.

"Do you think that it was the potions?" Hermione asked, worried, as she cranked her head to look up at Remus only to catch him sharing a knowing look with his wife. She didn't have time to question it; her attention was returned to Sirius when she felt him squeeze her hand.

He stared at her as though he were frightened. His free hand reached up, his fingers brushing against the softness of her face, tracing the outline of her jaw.

She saw the beginnings of tears in his eyes, and her breath caught.

His voice was shaky, but clearer, when his chapped lips parted, and he whispered again, "Mia?"

Chapter Text

Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long
No matter what I say or do
I'll still feel you here 'til the moment I'm gone
(Gravity - Sara Bareilles)

July 22nd, 1997

"Sirius?" Hermione touched his cheek affectionately, her worry written clear as day on her face as he stared at her in shock. When she said his name, he opened his mouth to repeat the only word he had uttered since waking: Mia. "Sirius, it's Hermione. You're going to be just fine. We're here with Remus and Tonks. You're safe."

Sirius's wide, grey eyes stared at her as if she were the only thing in the room that mattered. His fingers flittered over her skin as gentle as a butterfly's wings—worshipping her. Finally, he swallowed hard, his gaze turning over Hermione's shoulder to Remus, who stood there looking grief-stricken as he slowly shook his head.


Sirius removed his hand quickly from Hermione's face as though he had been burnt and turned his focus completely away from her, trying to move, but physically unable to.

He hissed as pain shot through his body. "Fuck, it feels like I haven't moved my legs in . . ." He looked up at his surrounding audience. "What happened?"

"You should get some rest, Sirius," Hermione instructed. "Remus will explain everything when you feel better. I have to get back to The Burrow. Harry's coming home soon," she offered with a bright smile.

Her words triggered something inside of him: panic. "Is Harry all right? I remember . . ." He blinked rapidly before shutting his eyes tightly in an attempt to focus. "I remember something."

"Don't worry about it. Focus on getting better," Hermione urged. "Meanwhile, Harry is perfectly safe and healthy."

Sirius silently nodded in reply, finally looking up at her, grateful for the news of Harry's safety. Tears began forming in her eyes, spilling over onto her cheeks, and it was physically painful for him to not brush them off her skin.

She smiled at him and leant forward, pressing her lips to Sirius's forehead, and he shivered in response.

"I have to go." Standing quickly, she turned to Remus, hugging him close to her and chastely kissing his cheek. "Thank you."

Sirius watched as Remus clenched his jaw tightly while the girl held onto him, his gaze meeting Tonks's sad smile as he let Hermione go.

"Thank you. I can't tell you . . ." Remus began but looked down, clearing his throat.

"Then don't." Hermione turned to give Tonks a hug. "Thank you so much for your help."

Tonks grinned and hugged her back. "You know me, always up for a little adventure."

Hermione laughed and made her way toward the Floo, glancing back once more. As brown eyes met grey, she exhaled shakily and turned her attention back to Remus and Tonks. "Can you call an Order meeting? Tomorrow night? If he's well enough, bring him to the Burrow; if not, then . . . I'll just explain as best I can, but the Order needs to know." She gave them all a smile as she threw the powder into the fireplace and said, "The Burrow!"

"What the hell happened, Remus?" Sirius roared the moment Hermione vanished. He sat up, albeit too quickly, and started to slide off the sofa before Tonks rushed to his side to help him stay upright. He grimaced, bringing a hand to his head.

"You should be resting, idiot," Tonks scolded. "Do you want some Sleeping Draught?"

"I want some firewhisky," Sirius grumbled.

"That's definitely not going to happen." Remus shook his head firmly as he approached the fireplace.

On the mantle rested a stack of parchment, an inkwell, and a set of quills. While Sirius complained under his breath from the sofa, Remus scribbled out several short notes, folded them quickly, and walked over to the window where a small cage housed a young barn owl. "Get these to the Order," he instructed, passing the bird a small treat before attaching the neatly folded pieces of parchment to her foot. "The Burrow first."

The owl promptly took flight through the open window, and Remus let out a small sigh before turning back to his recently-returned friend.

"Coffee then? Am I allowed coffee? Or am I back in Azkaban where every move I make is dictated for me?" Sirius said, his voice gravelly as he levelled Remus with a hard glare to emphasise his indignation.

"Well, you're just as chipper as you've ever been, love." Tonks stood, dusting her hands off on her robes. "I'll go and get you some tea." She paused as Sirius narrowed his eyes at her. "No, you'll drink tea. Hermione was insistent that you need rest." She smirked at him before turning, squeezing Remus's hand, and then leaving the boys in the living room.

"What happened, Remus?" Sirius asked again, this time at a lower volume.

He scanned the room, immediately recognising it as the old Lupin Cottage where Remus had grown up. Sirius had not been here since Voldemort's return. Before that, it had been when he had broken out of Azkaban and fled Hogwarts on Buckbeak's back. He had gone to the cottage for a quick stop to get information before making a break for it and spending another year on the run.

Remus chuckled, but the laughter never reached his eyes. "That's the question, isn't it?"

Sirius stared into the face of his best friend, catching sight of many new lines, a few extra scars, and a bit more grey hair than he remembered. "Mia?"


Scowling at the correction, Sirius cleared his throat. "She's grown up."

Remus angled his brow at his friend. "Still Hermione."




"You've missed a bit since you've been gone."

"He's all right, though? Safe? I remember fighting." Sirius narrowed his eyes in concentration, trying to focus on the details that he felt were slipping away from him. His emotions ran strong—worry and panic at the very top of the list—but also the brilliant feeling of adrenaline coursing through his veins.

"Department of Mysteries. Voldemort put a vision in Harry's head and made him think you'd been captured. Harry and his friends broke into the Ministry to save you," Remus explained in short sentences as he tried to fill in the blanks, while Sirius put the pieces together himself.

"I think I remember something like that," Sirius muttered. Suddenly, an image flooded his mind, and his fists clenched. "My cousin?"

"Tonks?" Remus blinked and glanced toward the kitchen where he could hear his wife putting on the kettle.

"No," Sirius growled fiercely, shaking at the memory. "The crazy bitch!"

"Bella," Remus hesitantly confirmed. "She got away."

"Fuck!" Sirius threw his arms and legs out in frustration, unable to reach anything to throw or break, and became abruptly aware that he could not feel a wand on himself. He looked up and saw the familiar piece of chestnut wood resting on a nearby table, and he snatched it up quickly, checking to make sure it had not been damaged.

At the feel of his wand in hand, Sirius scowled as the memories came flooding back. The Department of Mysteries. He had gone to rescue Harry. Not just Harry, though. No, she had been there too. She and a number of other students: the youngest Weasleys, he remembered; Alice and Frank's boy had been there; and there was a girl who bore a striking resemblance to a witch Sirius had been acquainted with in school.

There had been fighting. Death Eaters had broken into the Ministry: Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix, and a number of other people Sirius had the misfortune to know by name.

"I remember duelling," he recalled laboriously. "And you and Tonks were there. Kingsley and Moody too. Some big room that looked like the most depressing theatre I've ever seen."

"It's a room in the Department of Mysteries. Appropriately called the Veil Room or . . . the Death Room."

Sirius's eyes widened as he peered up at his friend. "She killed me, didn't she?"

"To be fair, you're not exactly dead right now," Remus said with an awkward shrug.

Sirius glared at him impatiently. "You know what I mean, Moony!"

"Well, yes and no. She didn't physically kill you, but she is the one who caused you to fall into the veil."

"And Mia brought me back?"

"Hermione brought you back, yes," Remus corrected him again.

Sirius snarled at him. "Don't talk to me like I'm stupid, Remus. I know who she is."

It was starting to feel like their first real conversation after the incident in the Shrieking Shack following his breakout from Azkaban: Sirius asking questions, demanding answers, and Remus constantly setting him straight on the proper use of names.

"No, we both know there's a difference," Remus insisted. His eyes, while normally a soft green colour in human form, briefly flashed specks of gold—the wolf coming to the forefront as it did during stressful and emotional peaks.

Sirius caught the change immediately and inclined his head until Remus's eyes softened once more. "How have you been handling it?"

"Not . . . well." Remus shook his head. "It was hard enough dealing with the ghosts of my past before you . . . left, but between losing you, the war, and . . . other inconveniences, I sometimes have difficulties even on days when the moon isn't closing in on me."

Sirius nodded sympathetically. The extra grey hair was starting to make sense.

"Tonks has been very understanding, all things considered," Remus added quietly.

Catching the tone, Sirius glanced down at Remus's modest wedding band and smirked, glad for something to break the uncomfortable tension in the room. "You married my cousin? I knew you were stupidly in love with her, but I didn't think you'd ever take the leap, Moony. You're old enough to be her father, you know."

Remus rolled his eyes dramatically. "If that isn't the cauldron calling the kettle black."

Sirius grinned. "I'm always Black."

Letting out a sigh of relief, Remus clapped Sirius on the shoulder. "It's good to have you back, Padfoot. If you're well enough to make terrible name puns, then the world has somehow righted itself."

"Drink up, love," Tonks said as she walked in with two cups in hand, passing one over to Sirius and the other to her husband who smiled up at her with grateful, adoring eyes. Sirius chuckled softly as he caught the glance, shaking his head in amusement at the idea of the two of them married.

Tonks smiled down at him. "You all right then, Sirius?"

He gave her a lopsided grin. "I will be. You know me. Can't keep this old dog down. And speaking of old dogs . . ." He winked at his young cousin. "Looks like you finally got this one collared."

Remus growled in reply, and Tonks ran her fingers affectionately through his hair. "Yeah, I did," she said with a hint of triumph in her voice. "You should see the matching leash."

Sirius let out a loud, barking guffaw while Remus groaned.

"Right, boys," Tonks said with a laugh. "You look after each other. I've got to get back to the Ministry before they realise I'm not there. I need to make sure no one caught our great escape."

Remus stood to walk her to the fireplace. "Be careful."

"Always am, love." She grinned, kissing him quickly before vanishing into the Floo.

Sirius sat up straight, grimacing as he finished his tea and set his empty cup on a nearby table, surreptitiously scanning the room for Remus's stash of firewhisky. He knew that his friend's father had had an old shelf in the corner of the room that housed the few decent bottles ever on hand; ones that Sirius, Remus, and James had constantly been replacing the few times they had been allowed over prior to their sixth year at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, while the shelf was still present, the beautiful bottles of liquid amber had been replaced with wedding photos.

Temporarily giving up on his treasure hunt, Sirius ran his hands over his beard thoughtfully. "All right, fill me in. What's happened with Harry?"

"We're at war, officially," Remus said on the end of an exhausted sigh.

Sirius scraped his hair back from his face. "We're always at war."

"True, but this time the Ministry isn't arguing the point. Rather, they're going above and beyond the call of duty to remind the people how safe we all are and how everything's under control." At this statement, both men made rude hand gestures.

"Which essentially means that it's worse than we imagined?"

Remus nodded in reply. "Moody's sure that the Ministry has been infiltrated by Death Eaters." When Sirius raised an incredulous brow at the declaration, Remus added, "Kingsley agrees with him."

"That's good enough for me." Sirius ran a fidgety hand through his hair, contemplating its length. "How long was I gone?" While it could not have been too long, the way Remus and Tonks spoke suggested that a lot had happened in his absence.

"A little over a year," Remus answered.

"Shit," Sirius groused. "Haven't I lost enough years?"

"We'll be collecting Harry in a few days," Remus said, trying to distract his friend. "The Order has put together a plan. It's his coming of age next week. We'll be removing him from his aunt and uncle's house permanently."

Sirius's nose twitched in disgust. "Sodding pricks."

"We're being paired off when we go to Little Whinging. Half of us will be Polyjuicing ourselves into Harry's likeness to distract potential ambushing Death Eaters."

"Good plan. Mia's idea? Girl's always loved her Polyjuice."

"Hermione," Remus clarified again. "No. It was Mundungus's actually."

Sirius raised a sceptical brow and scoffed incredulously. "I highly doubt that, Moony."

"So," Remus carried on, ignoring Sirius's disbelief, "we'll pair off, fly out to separate safe houses, and Portkey back to the Burrow. It's headquarters now."

"What about Grimmauld Place? My mum's screaming finally drive you lot out?"

Remus turned his attention briefly away from Sirius's stare. "We think it may have been compromised."

"Impossible. Dumbledore is the Secret-Keeper. It can't be compromised, and I know because I made him the Secret-Keeper myself. I know better now than to be switching Keepers about. Fool me once—"

"Sirius, he's dead."

Sirius gaped in shock at Remus, feeling the blood rush out of his face. He opened his mouth to say something, likely on the profane side, but no words came to him.

"I'm sorry," Remus continued, "there's no easy way to say it."

A heavy silence fell over the room as the two friends sat, regarding one another. Remus held Sirius's gaze as he flashed between anger, confusion, and grief—trying to focus on not letting his emotions get the better of him.

He tried not to take his fury out on his friend. Remus had been there during the moments of Sirius's life when he had lost people: his father and brother, James's parents. Though Remus had not been there the night James and Lily were killed, Sirius knew that he understood well enough to know that it took a thing like death to bring him to tears, however angrily he fought them off.

"Who?" Sirius finally broke the silence, the word pushing through his teeth on the edge of a low growl.

"Snape," Remus said quickly.

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" Sirius stood up and kicked the nearby table hard enough that it flipped over, knocking the teacups to the ground. He staggered briefly, trying to establish balance, his strength still greatly lacking. "I knew it! I told you! I told all of you that we couldn't trust that snivelling traitor!"

"Well, you'll have a lot of time to say 'I told you so,' but it won't do a bloody thing to change what's already happened." Remus moved from his seat, flicking his wand to repair the damage Sirius had caused.

As the two men stood face-to-face, Sirius looked into Remus's eyes belligerently. His friend had a good four or five inches on him and was clearly using that leverage to get Sirius to calm down and return to his seat on the sofa.

"Dumbledore's dead, Grimmauld Place is compromised, Snape's a traitor, Voldemort is infiltrating the Ministry, and Harry's in danger. He's always in danger," Remus said, taking a step forward and forcing Sirius back.

The friends growled at one another, their canine and lupine counterparts vying equally for territory. Sirius's nose twitched, and he let out a low, dog-like whine when Remus growled louder and stepped forward again, invading his space. When a sharp pain stung his shoulder—a magical reminder of his place when it came to the old game of werewolf versus Animagus—Sirius finally backed down, and he collapsed on the sofa behind him, unable to stand any longer.

"So, where do come in?" he asked in defeat, arms crossed over his chest like a petulant child stuck in the corner. "I assume Mi—Hermione had a purpose for bringing me back? Some grand plan where I am greatly needed?"

"Actually, no." Remus shook his head, looking surprised by the day's events. "Not that I'm not thrilled you're alive, Padfoot, believe me, but she gave no reason. Mentioned that she'd discovered something while researching and needed to get into the Department of Mysteries to test a theory. That's all she said. I agreed, of course, because I naturally assumed she was going there—"

"To get the Time-Turner?" Sirius interrupted him.

"Yeah," Remus affirmed. "We found the Time Room, but after a minute of looking around, she left to find the room with the veil."

"So she didn't . . . ?"

"No. She didn't get it."

"So, what does that mean?" Sirius asked, panic in his voice. "How old is she?"

"Almost eighteen."

Sirius did the math in his head. "Another year?"

Remus nodded. "If we survive it."

"And then what?"

"And then I do my part," Remus said with a small smile as he reached into his robes and removed a Time-Turner.

". . . and you think we're just going to let you, Harry, and Hermione go gallivanting off on some harebrained adventure!?"

Hermione could hear Mrs Weasley screaming from the kitchen the moment she stepped out of the fireplace. Wincing, she tried to quietly make her way toward the staircase in order to avoid being caught up in the conversation that Ron should have had with his parents weeks ago.

"Oh, no you don't!" Ron called after spotting her. "Don't go throwing me under the bus!"

She turned and crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at her red-headed best friend, a dare in her eyes. "If you can remember what that expression means, I will gladly step in and fix this for you."

Ron stared back, stuttering out a few syllables as his ears turned red.

"Hermione?" Mrs Weasley appeared in the doorway, and her gaze worried. "Could you please explain to me why my son thinks he's not going back to school this year?"

Hermione sighed in defeat but not before glowering in Ron's direction. "I'm sorry, Mrs Weasley, but we have to do this. It's up to Harry now. It's always been up to Harry, and I, for one, am not going to let him go it alone," she tried to explain. "Ron has voiced that he feels the same."

Mrs Weasley's voice was high, bordering on a shriek as she demanded, "And where are you going? What will you be doing? Why can't the Order or, Merlin forbid, your own parents know about it?"

Hermione flinched at the word parents, and Mrs Weasley caught the reaction immediately.

"Oh, my dear girl." She walked quickly over and pulled Hermione into a hug. "I'm sorry, Hermione, but . . . I can't lose any of my children. That includes you, just so that you're aware."

"I know." Hermione nodded. "But we've put our trust in Dumbledore and in Harry. Unfortunately, this mission is not the only thing we need to deal with. Harry needs to come here—come home," she clarified with a sad smile as she looked up at Mrs Weasley, who was now crying for what was clearly not the first time that day.

The conversation was interrupted by a tapping sound at a nearby window. Hermione inhaled sharply as she recognised Remus's owl. Ron raised a questioning brow, catching her reaction, but she shook her head, a silent plea for him to drop whatever suspicions he had about the anxiety on her face.

"Order meeting tomorrow," Mr Weasley said as he walked into the room. "Remus says it's important, but that we shouldn't worry ourselves."

"Easier said than done," Mrs Weasley said with a huff. "Don't think you're getting out of this, young man." She pointed a stern finger at Ron who swallowed, a lump in his throat, and nodded his head hastily as his parents left the room.

Once out of their sight, Ron snatched Hermione's hand, practically dragged her up the many flights of stairs to his room, and slammed the door shut.

"Silencing Charm," Hermione scolded him before he opened his mouth.

"Muffliato!" Ron threw it up quickly and turned to face Hermione. "What was that about? You knew that the Order was getting together tomorrow?"

"Yes. I was with Tonks and Remus today," she revealed calmly.

"What's it about? Something wrong with Harry? Has the plan changed?" he demanded in obvious panic.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Sit down before you pass out. No, the plan has not changed as far as I'm aware. Just . . . something new." She shrugged her shoulders lightly and knelt on the floor where she removed the mediwitch kit from her bag. "Remind me to refill this tomorrow. I need to make sure our potions are stocked and ready before we go."

"Why's it empty?"

She sighed. "You'll find out soon enough."

The worried edge of his voice grew more pronounced as he asked, "Hermione, what's going on?"

She turned to face him. "Calm down. I'm fine. It's just, well, tomorrow at the meeting there are going to be a few people who are very happy with me, and some others who are probably going to be very angry."

"What did you do with Tonks? I thought you were putting together a wedding present for Fleur?"

"I lied."

"You lied? Why would you lie to me?"

"Because if anyone knew what I was planning on doing, no one would have let me out of the house. Before you ask me again, no, I'm not telling you. You'll just have to wait. I hope, however, that no matter what happens tomorrow, you'll be by my side." She looked up at him with pleading eyes. "On my side."

"Of course," Ron assured her, "but I don't like the secrets."

"I know you don't. I'm sorry."

"Am I going to be one of the people who's happy with you, Hermione?"

"I hope so. But really, in the end, it was all for Harry. He'll be happy, and that's what matters."

Chapter Text

Someone who knows when you're lost and you're scared
There through the highs and the lows
Someone to count on, someone who cares
Beside you wherever you go
(Gift of a Friend - Demi Lovato)

July 23rd, 1997

In the late afternoon, the members of the Order of the Phoenix gathered in the Weasleys' living room. As each wizard or witch stepped through the fireplace, another member was there to quiz them using a previously established security question. Considering that the entire Order would be engaged in a mission involving Polyjuice Potion in just a few days, they, more than anyone else, appreciated how tight security needed to be.

Mrs Weasley had created a feast as usual, though instead of waiting to sit down to eat at the end of the meeting like they often did, most people gravitated to and from the table of food, snacking as they moved about the room, engaging one another in conversation.

Everyone, save for Hermione, openly wondered why the meeting had been called in the first place.

Green flames lit up the living room once more, and they all turned to the fireplace as Tonks stepped through with a look of excitement on her face.

Before anyone had a chance to say anything, Alastor Moody approached, wand pointed directly at her. "Your first day as an official Auror, you stepped into my office and tripped. What item of mine did you break?"

Tonks snickered, daring to look proud. "Two Sneakoscopes, a brand new Foe-Glass, and a Secrecy Sensor."

"Aye, and you still owe me a new one of each," Moody grumbled. "Where's your husband, and what's this meeting all about?"

"Learn some patience, and stop worrying so much." She smiled and directed a wink at Hermione, who felt as if she were about to vomit. "Calm down, love," Tonks whispered as she moved to Hermione's side. "Everything's going to be fine. Everything and everyone," she added, "is fine."

"They are?" Hermione asked, almost choking on the words. She clenched her hands together, lacing her fingers to stop from fidgeting. "Nothing's wrong?"

Tonks chuckled softly. "Someone might need a bit of an ear-bashing, but that's normal, innit?"

The fireplace lit with another burst of green flames, and Remus stepped into the room, immediately seeking out Tonks and Hermione. His reassuring smile left Hermione feeling as though she had not only his approval of what she had done but also his support in this meeting.

"Remus!" Bill Weasley stepped forward. "If that really is you . . ." He eyed the man with a smirk on his face, feigning suspicion. Between the two men, who would likely be able to smell the lycanthropy in one another, the security questions were pointless. To appease the anxious crowd, however, Bill asked, "When I woke up in the hospital wing last month, what's the first thing you said to me?"

"'I told you that I hoped you like your steaks rare.'" Remus grinned and clapped Bill on the shoulder. "Speaking of which, are you doing all right?"

Bill shrugged, brushing off the concern even as Mrs Weasley huffed over the reminder of the attack on her eldest son. "Better than you, I'd imagine. I got a little anxious a few nights ago, full moon and all, but it was nothing I couldn't handle."

"Now that the pups are all reacquainted," Moody interrupted with a scowl, "anyone going to tell me what the bloody hell was so important we needed to risk another meeting so close to retrieving Potter?"

Hermione's breathing and heart rate increased as she began to shuffle restlessly. When she felt a comforting hand on her shoulder, she assumed that either Remus's enhanced senses picked up the change or she was being profoundly obvious.

"We're not all here actually," Remus said. "Now, before I call our last member, I need everyone to keep an open mind and remain calm. You can ask all the security questions you need, but keep your wands where they are. You've already spoken to Tonks and myself, so you know we are who we say we are. I'm asking you to trust us now."

Most of the Order nodded anxiously, while a few—most notably Moody—looked angry that details were clearly being left out of whatever it was that was happening.

Instinctively, Hermione reached out and clutched Ron's hand tightly, using her other hand to grip Tonks's robes.

Remus approached the fireplace, tossed in Floo powder, and shouted, "The Den!" before sticking his head into the green flames. "Come on through," he called loudly before stepping back to make room.

The green flames burned higher and brighter. When they finally died down, every wand in the room was drawn as the shocked Order members stared defensively into the grey eyes of Sirius Black.

"Some 'Welcome Home' party this is." Sirius looked pointedly at all the drawn wands. "Surely only one or two wands are necessary. What'll happen if everyone shoots a curse off at once? The whole bloody house will cave in." Catching sight of Mrs Weasley, Sirius flashed his well-remembered smile. "Molly, you're looking well."

Her jaw had dropped at the sight of him. She clutched at her husband with her wandless hand and shrieked, "You're looking alive!"

"And handsome as ever," Sirius said with a grin, dusting off his robes. "All right, Remus said you lot use security questions now, yeah? Let's get this over with. It's been a long time since I've had some good home cooking, and I can smell the treacle tart from here."

Mr Weasley gaped at him. "How are you alive?"

"That," Sirius said, pointing at the man, "is a terrible security question, Arthur. Try again."

"Umm, I . . . What song wouldn't you stop singing when we all spent Christmas together at Grimmauld Place?" Mr Weasley blurted out, clearly too flustered to think of a good question.

"God Rest Ye, Merry Hippogriffs," Sirius answered blithely. "Good to see you, old friend. I've been told you have my bike. I'd like it back." He peered at the man warily, and Mr Weasley laughed in response, still in shock. Sirius predictably turned toward Moody, who was fuming with suspicion. "Next?"

Moody narrowed his one good eye at Sirius, while the other spun in its mechanical socket until it was facing backward as though he were waiting for another recently not-dead person to come up on him from behind. He slowly and deliberately asked, "When we escorted Harry Potter to King's Cross, what were his last words to you before we left you behind at Grimmauld Place?"

"Trick question! I came with you, and you were really bent out of shape about it." Sirius smiled smugly, rocking back and forth on the heels of his black, pointed-toe boots. "For no good reason, might I add. I played obedient lap dog quite well."

Several members in the room chuckled at the joke.

"Fine, fine," Moody growled, looking Sirius over intently. Though he refrained from casting hexes, his wand was still in hand, moving over Sirius like a Muggle metal detector, presumably searching for Dark Magic. "Now answer Arthur's first question. How the hell are you alive, Black?"

"Magic?" Sirius offered with a wink.

"Sirius, you're pushing it." Remus cautioned his friend.

"Well, what the hell am I supposed to say? I woke up on your bloody sofa not knowing where the hell I was or why your new wife wouldn't give me a proper drink!" Sirius's focus moved to his cousin, but his stare was quickly transferred to Hermione, who was still unconsciously clinging to Tonks's robes.

The charming smile he gave her made her feel as though the entire room suddenly revolved around her. Her cheeks warmed over, and they must have turned pink because his smile turned into an amused grin.

"You mean you don't know how or why you're alive?" Mrs Weasley stepped forward, blocking Sirius's line of sight. "Were you even really dead? Where have you been?"

"Yes, really dead. Don't know where I was." Sirius leant in to give Mrs Weasley a quick kiss on the cheek. "You're as temperamental as ever, Molly. Lovely to see you."

"Sirius Black," she hissed through clenched teeth, "you cannot just Floo into my house after being dead for over a year and expect to go on like nothing happened! This is serious!" she shouted and then pointed a finger in his face as she caught him about to speak. "Don't you dare say it!"

Sirius smirked, bouncing on the balls of his feet, clearly having far too much fun wreaking havoc on Mrs Weasley's nerves.

Moody broke the tension by loudly clearing his throat, causing a few members to raise their wands in response. "How do we know this isn't some sort of plot by You-Know-Who?"

Sirius scoffed. "Oh, for fuck's sake!"

"It's not his fault!" Hermione broke in, and everyone's attention fell on her as she dashed to Sirius's side, her hands shaking as she twisted them together. "I did it. I found . . . I found a way to bring him back."

"And I am forever grateful, kitten." Ignoring the shocked expressions and whispers, Sirius leant forward to place a kiss on her temple, moving the warmth in her cheeks down her neck.

Hermione smiled nervously at him and then looked at the rest of the gathered crowd, most of whom looked surprised, scared, or angry—save for Fred and George, who were quietly applauding her.

"And how did you do that?" Moody quickly stepped forward, pointing an accusing finger in Hermione's direction. However, before he got too close, both Remus and Sirius barred his way, low growls emitting from their throats.

Hermione took a sharp breath, and as the two Marauders faced off against the angry Auror, she peeked around Remus to gauge everyone's reactions.

Kingsley looked relieved but curious. Mr and Mrs Weasley were obviously on edge, though it was likely regarding the potential fight rather than Sirius's appearance. The Weasley brothers—save for Ron—looked ready to jump in, all led by Bill, who was attentively watching Remus's movements as though waiting for some silent command. Ron was the only one who still stared open-mouthed at Sirius Black.

"It doesn't matter how it was done. It was done," Hermione said. "I found the spell while researching the mission Dumbledore gave Harry, Ron, and me. In Dumbledore's own books," she clarified as though that let the Order members know that she had not used Dark Magic. Which, technically, she hadn't. Not all Blood Magic was Dark Magic, though it was not all exactly legal either—which was why she was keeping as quiet as possible about the details in front of everyone.

"I was there when she did it. I saw and heard the spell, saw his body come out of the veil, watched him wake up," Remus explained, looking down at Moody. "Sirius is alive again; Hermione brought him back. Now back off from the both of them."

The timbre of his voice should have been frightening, but Hermione found herself stepping closer to him without thinking.

"I don't like this," Moody grumbled.

"Noted," Sirius replied. "So if we're all done measuring our—"

"Sirius," Remus growled.

"I'm starved. Molly?" Sirius turned his attention to Mrs Weasley. "Not to be an imposition, but I'd love some dinner. I haven't eaten a proper meal in over a year. Tonks and Remus barely know how to brew a cup of tea; I'm amazed they're surviving together without anyone to feed them."

He stepped behind Remus, who was still guarding Hermione. His gaze fell on her, and he reached a tender hand out to her, pushing a brown curl behind her ear. She smiled, feeling grateful—more than anything—that he had recovered so well in such a short time.

One by one, the Order members moved from the living room, following behind Sirius as he heaped food onto a large plate, leaving only Moody, Remus, Ron, and Hermione in the living room. Remus still stood in front of her as though the old Auror posed a serious threat.

Hermione reached out to place her hand softly on his arm, feeling him tense under her touch. "Remus?" she whispered, noticing that he relaxed at the sound of her voice. "Remus, it's okay. I knew this would happen. I knew there would be questions." Moody grunted, and she turned to him. "Questions I still won't be answering."

Moody glared for a few more moments before giving her a curt nod and leaving the room.

Remus turned to watch him exit before bringing his attention back to Hermione. "Is there any way I can get you to stay here when the rest of us go fetch Harry?" he asked, his green eyes glimmering with flecks of gold in the light.

Hermione shook her head. "I'm going."

Remus's nose twitched in silent affront at her words, but he dipped his head and patted her shoulder lightly. "Very well. I suppose I'll have to make sure Molly can keep Sirius here on her own then. We won't be able to keep Harry safe if he knows that Sirius is alive. He'll have to be told once he gets here."

Hermione agreed. "Ginny'll help. Go and get some food. And keep an eye on him," she said with a soft chuckle, looking through the open doorway and watching as Sirius manoeuvred around the table of food. He had a plate balanced in one hand as he shoved a chicken leg in his mouth with the other. Some people were still watching him anxiously. "I'm worried he's going to make someone angry and undo all the hard work I did to get him back."

Remus laughed, leaving her to make his way through the crowd that had gathered around his best friend.

"What the bloody hell did you do?" Ron quietly said from the room's periphery.

Hermione turned to see him, still wide-eyed, staring at her. "You're supposed to be on my side," she reminded him.

"I am on your side!" he insisted as he quickly approached her. "But I didn't know you knew how to bring people back from the bloody grave!"

"Language," she scolded him. "And keep your voice down, Ronald. For your information, I don't know how to bring back just anyone. I can't reverse a Killing Curse. That's how I found the spell. Harry wanted me to look for a way to bring back Dumbledore. I knew it was pointless, but I wanted to maybe find a way to protect us when we go off on this mission. I stumbled onto the spell, made the connection, and asked Remus and Tonks to go with me to the Ministry because Tonks is an Auror and could get me in."

Ron exhaled and ran a hand through his hair, still shocked by what Hermione had done. "Bloody hell."

She smacked his arm. "Language!"

Ignoring the assault, he laughed. "Can you imagine the look on Harry's face when he sees him?"

"That's almost all I've been thinking about." Hermione smiled as the imagined image of Harry and Sirius's reunion returned to her mind. The happy feeling, however, was quickly replaced by a flood of apprehension, and she felt her eyes prick at the rise of emotion. "If we have to go on this hunt, this is it. This is the end; I can feel it. I needed to give this to Harry. He needs us, and he has us, but . . ." She wiped a tear as it fell down her cheek. "Harry needs his family. He needs to have something of his own to fight for."

July 27th, 1997

"Sit and stay!" Ginny Weasley ordered, her wand trained on the wizard in front of her, a devious grin on her face.

"I'm not a dog." Sirius glared at her. When she snorted, he conceded, "Right now. I'm not a dog right now. And I've already said I'll be good and sit tight until everyone gets here." He angrily turned toward the kitchen where Molly stood, staring out the window. "Which they should have done by now!"

"There's a Portkey!" Molly yelled, ignoring him as she flew out the door.

Sirius moved to stand, but Ginny shook her head and levelled her wand. "No, Sirius, you promised. If something's gone wrong, we need to figure out what happened and tend to anyone who might have been hurt. Harry won't be able to focus if he sees you right off."

Her tone eerily reminded him of Lily, and Sirius was almost forced into submission by the memory of her. "Fine," he allowed, grumbling under his breath. "Go and help your mum."

Ginny eyed him suspiciously for a moment, then nodded and ran out the door.

The second she was gone, Sirius shifted into Padfoot, swiftly slipping out the open door and into the shadows of the bushes that surrounded the Burrow.

The moment Padfoot's gaze fell on Harry arriving, his chest panged. He whimpered, his paws begging him to move forward, but he knew better. It had been his recklessness that had gotten him killed last time, and he knew that not only would he hurt Harry if he did something like that again, but his impatience would demonstrate a lack of gratitude he needed to show Hermione for everything she had done for him.

So he waited, watched, and listened.

"The Death Eaters were waiting for us," Harry told Molly. "We were surrounded the moment we took off. They knew it was tonight. I don't know what happened to anyone else. Four of them chased us; it was all we could do to get away, and then Voldemort caught up with us . . ."

Padfoot growled at the mention of Voldemort, his large body shaking as he stared at his godson, the mirror image of James. Knowing that the wizard who had killed his best friend had attacked Harry this very night had his blood boiling with rage.

In the distance, another blue light flashed.

As the group turned to await their friends, Padfoot caught the scent of blood, and his eyes widened as Remus came running toward the house, carrying with him the wounded body of George Weasley. Padfoot stayed put, still on the edge of his paws, wishing that he could do something to help, but remembering everyone's precautions.

Wait for everyone to get back, then go to Harry.

Everyone made their way into the house, and Padfoot winced, knowing that soon Ginny and Molly would notice his absence. He listened quietly from outside as Molly tended to her son's wound; it was not life-threatening from the sound of it, though he felt a modicum of grief for the boy—a fellow Marauder—who, from the sound of things, would certainly no longer look like his identical twin.

"What creature sat in the corner the first time Harry Potter visited my office at Hogwarts?" Padfoot overheard Remus ask. "Answer me!"

"A grindylow in a tank, wasn't it?" Harry nervously replied.

"What was that about?" Hagrid roared.

"I'm sorry, Harry, but I had to check," Remus said tersely. "We've been betrayed. You might have been an impostor."

Outside, Padfoot looked back to the field by the Burrow, waiting for anyone else to arrive, his eyes scanning the area carefully, his ears perked up, alert for any threats. Remus said they had been betrayed. He mentally went through the list of Order members that he recalled, growling as his memory fell on Mundungus Fletcher. Remus told him it had been Fletcher's idea to use the Polyjuice, but Sirius knew Dung was not smart enough to have come up with something like that. It must have been a trap.

Padfoot continued to guard the Burrow, listening all the while to Remus scolding Harry inside the house. He was on edge at the volume and tone his best friend was taking with his godson—though he had to admit, it was for the boy's own good.

"Harry, the time for disarming is past! These people are trying to capture and kill you! At least stun if you aren't prepared to kill!"

"We were hundreds of feet up! Stan's not himself, and if I had stunned him, he would've fallen and died the same as if I'd used the Killing Curse!" Harry insisted. "Expelliarmus saved me from Voldemort two years ago."

"Yes, Harry," Remus conceded with painful restraint, "and a great number of Death Eaters witnessed that happening. Forgive me, but it was a very unusual move then, under the imminent threat of death. Repeating it tonight in front of Death Eaters who either witnessed or heard about the first occasion was close to suicidal!"

Another blue light emanated from the field, and Padfoot caught the scent instantly, every bit of his soul urging him forward. Staying put was painful as the scent overpowered him. He struggled to fight the instinct to dash forward, and only the sight of Harry and Remus rushing out the door to meet Kingsley and Hermione finally stopped him.

He watched closely as Harry enveloped Hermione in his arms. As though she knew exactly where he was, he felt her gaze immediately upon him. She looked exhausted but grateful to be alive. Padfoot stood, moving uncertainly on all fours until she shook her head at him from over Harry's shoulder, silently requesting that he stop. He whimpered, physically aching from not being able to go to them both, but obeyed her—this time—and retreated into the shadows.

"Where's George?"

"He lost an ear," Remus said.

"Lost an ear?" Hermione repeated in a high voice.

"Snape's work."

"Snape?" Harry shouted. "You didn't say—"

"Severus lost his hood during the chase. Sectumsempra was always a speciality of his. I wish I could say I'd paid him back in kind, but it was all I could do to keep George on the broom after he was injured; he was losing so much blood."

Sirius had seen the Sectumsempra Curse in use before, and the memory caused him to shake with anger. Not only had the filthy Death Eater betrayed and killed Dumbledore, but he was now using his old favourites to attack teenagers. Unable to contain himself any longer, Padfoot growled loudly at the mention of Snape and his betrayal.

"Did you hear that?" Harry spun at the noise, pointing his wand at the shadows where Padfoot remained hidden.

"Harry, pay attention! We need to wait for Ron and the others!" Hermione tried to distract him, but Harry stepped forward, completely undeterred, his wand lit and aimed ahead.

Padfoot flinched at the sight, immediately regretting that Remus had just insisted the boy not hesitate to use offensive tactics.

"Harry!" Hermione called after him, rushing in front of her friend.

"Move, Hermione. Someone's over there!"

"Harry!" Kingsley bellowed.

The Order members who had arrived made to follow the boy, but Padfoot watched as Hermione shook her head. She turned to Remus, who seemed to understand right away, his attention drawn to Padfoot's hiding spot.

"Everyone inside then!" Molly ordered, and one by one, they all moved into the house save for Harry, Hermione, and Remus.

Hermione put her hands on Harry's chest. "Harry, stop. I can explain."

"Explain what?" Harry's green eyes flashed with panic. "Hermione, what's going on? Who's back there?"

Knowing it was inevitable now that he had fucked it all up, Sirius shifted back into his human form and slowly stepped out of the shadows, hands held up in surrender to show his godson that he was unarmed. He gave a very brief, apologetic glance to Hermione, who looked like she was undecided whether she should be sympathetic to his need to see Harry or incredibly angry over his imprudent impatience.

Sirius smiled. "Harry."

The look on his godson's face was agonising, and it broke Sirius's heart to know that his foolhardy actions had left Harry in a grief that he himself understood all too well. As he slowly moved forward, Harry shook his head and stumbled back.

"Wha . . . ? No. No . . . Sirius? But . . ."

Remus placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "It's really him."

"No." Tears began to gather in Harry's eyes, gleaming an unnaturally emerald hue from the flickering light emanating out of the windows of the house. "No, Sirius died! I watched him die. You told me, Remus; you told me he was gone!"

Sirius took one more careful step toward him but stopped immediately when Harry's wand hand stiffened. "Ask me then. Ask me anything to identify myself. It's what the Order does now, yes?"

"I . . . I . . ." Harry quickly used his free hand to wipe his cheeks, his voice trembling as he asked, "What were the first words you ever said to me?"

Amused, Sirius said, "I assume you mean at the Shrieking Shack, in which case, I told you that I thought you would come to help your friend, as your father would have done the same for me." He took a moment, his smile softening. "But if we want to get technical, my first words to you were, 'Merlin, look at this head of hair.'"

Harry lowered his wand. "Sirius?"

"It's really me, son."

Sirius pulled Harry into a tight hug the moment the boy rushed into his arms, patting his back and affectionately ruffling his messy black hair. He listened as Hermione sniffled but left her to be tended to by Remus.

"You did well."

"Go wait for Tonks. I'll stay with them," Hermione said kindly.

"I don't understand," Harry said as he finally broke away from Sirius, though not letting go of the grip he had on his robes, clearly worried that if he let go, Sirius would disappear. "How is this possible?"

Sirius grinned and gestured over Harry's shoulder to where Hermione stood, quietly taking in the scene in front of her. "You've got a very clever witch on your side, son."

"Hermione?" Harry spun around and looked at her. "You . . . You brought him back? How? You said that—"

"I couldn't bring back Dumbledore, but I kept researching, and I found a spell." She smiled, leaving out every single detail of exactly how she had gone about pulling Sirius from the veil.

Without words, Harry reluctantly let go of Sirius and moved to Hermione, pulling her into a warm hug and burying his face in her shoulder.

She closed her eyes and clung to her friend, hushing his incoherent mumbles of gratitude. "You've done too much already, Harry. Had too much taken away. I saw a chance, and I had to take it. To give something back to you. Especially with what we need to do next."

"I'm sorry, what do we need to do next?" Sirius questioned, interrupting them.

Harry drew away from Hermione, swiping at his eyes before turning his attention back to Sirius with a resolute smile. "We win this war."

Chapter Text

But nothing's greater than the rush
That comes with your embrace
And in this world of loneliness
I see your face
(Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis)

August 1st, 1997

"Careful there," Hermione said as she approached Sirius, taking the seat beside him at the large round table in the back of the marquee.

The table was flanked by empty chairs, and half-empty bottles of butterbeer dotted the place settings that surrounded them. Everyone else under the tent was on their feet, dancing beneath the floating candles that lit up the room, enjoying the company, and congratulating Bill and Fleur.

Sirius eyed Hermione curiously. "Careful of what?"

"Careful, or you might bury yourself so deep in this misery you're wallowing in, that you'll come out the other side cheerful." She leant over and gently bumped his shoulder with her own, drawing a small smile out of him. Her own smile was bright and joyful, and her eyes sparkled.

He raised an amused brow at her. "How many butterbeers have you had?"

"Three, but that's beside the point."

Sirius chuckled at what a lightweight she was as he took a sip from the small glass of firewhisky on the table in front of him, letting the liquid roll over his tongue pleasantly before swallowing and cherishing the familiar heat that burned its way down his throat.

Hermione looked out at the crowd and laughed quietly, pointing out Ron uncomfortably trying to dance with Luna Lovegood, who was obviously quite content to dance by herself. The strange, twirling movements the girl was making had no need for a partner.

"I told him that he should ask her to dance. I think he's regretting listening to me."

"How come you're not out there?" Sirius asked her, eyeing her lilac-coloured dress, amused by the ridiculously uncomfortable shoes she was wearing.

"How come you're sitting here?" she countered.

He tipped his glass to her. "You first."

"Nervous." She shrugged. "But even if we weren't in the middle of a war and preparing to leave any day now, I'd still probably be sitting here. The last time I was asked to dance, I was fifteen and that man," she said, pointing to a large bloke with a short beard in fancy robes, "was my date." She buried a reminiscing laugh in her palm, leaning closer as she continued to speak as though she were sharing a secret. "He spoke little, made my friends angry, and couldn't even pronounce my name."

Sirius briefly narrowed his eyes at the unmistakable face of Viktor Krum, remembering exaggerated articles in Witch Weekly and the Daily Prophet about the love triangle encompassing his godson, the little witch, and the famed Bulgarian Seeker.

To hide his mild irritation, Sirius returned his attention to Hermione and smirked. "You afraid he's going to ask you to dance?"

She shook her head emphatically. "I made sure that the second he walked through the door Fred and George introduced him to Fleur's veela cousins." She pointed to two blond women batting their eyelashes at Krum. Fred and George were lingering nearby, most likely waiting for Viktor to choose a girl, thereby leaving the twins to pick up the pieces of a broken heart left behind by the Quidditch star.

"So, instead of finding someone else to dance with, you've come to keep company with the sad sod sitting in the corner?"

"Ah, but why is the . . . I am not saying that," she insisted, shaking her head. "Why are you sad and sitting in the corner?" She watched his movements as though she would be able to visibly discern if he were lying.

Ever since she had brought him back from the veil, Sirius noticed Hermione keeping a close watch on him. While the Weasleys were left preparing for the wedding and following orders given by their matriarch, Hermione and Harry would sneak off to Remus and Tonks's home to visit Sirius.

It was easier to make plans for the approaching year when visiting Sirius, as Molly had put a hard stop on the trio organising their Horcrux hunting trip. Harry and Hermione now had to work on the details outside the Burrow, and because Harry absolutely refused to keep him in the dark about anything, Sirius quickly made the former trio into a quartet.

"I'm sad because I don't like weddings," he admitted. "Spent much of my childhood attending them in uncomfortable robes."

"Hence your current rebellious sartorial selection?" Hermione gestured to his leather jacket and trousers.

"Leather looks good for any occasion." Sirius winked, grinning when he saw her blush. It amused him to no end that despite being tipsy, she could still use multi-syllabic words. "To answer your question, yes, I avoid dress robes unless absolutely necessary. Not that I don't have them or look good in them. I look fan-fucking-tastic in dress robes," he said smugly, taking another sip of his drink.

"Most of the weddings were for cousins, aunts, and uncles of mine, all destined to marry one another." He chuckled as he watched Hermione flinch at the notion of the Black family's tradition of inbreeding. "Or they were married off to the worst type of people to ever exist, like the Malfoys and the Lestranges."

"I'll drink to that." Hermione reached for his glass of firewhisky, took a sip, and then proceeded to immediately choke on it.

Sirius laughed and pulled the glass away from her. He stood up and beckoned for a passing server carrying a large tray of champagne. "Here. It's not water, but it's better than choking."

"That was awful!" Hermione grimaced even after she had rinsed the taste from her mouth. "How can you drink that?"

Sirius smiled thoughtfully, old memories burning in his chest. "You get used to it. Firewhisky holds a special place in my heart." He swirled the amber beverage in his tumbler, watching the candlelight sparkle through the colour. It was his very favourite colour. Too many years had passed since he had seen a certain pair of amber eyes staring back at him.

"Well, at least my brush with death got you to smile." Hermione's voice brought Sirius back from his memories. "So, you don't like weddings."

Sirius frowned. "Only ever been to one good one."

"Harry's parents."

He nodded.

"Was it beautiful?"

"Of course it was. Lily was gorgeous as always. James was nervous as we expected. We kept him well plied with firewhisky just to get him down the aisle." He laughed at the memory, absentmindedly fingering a small silver chain that hung around his neck.

Hermione's eyes widened. "He had to be drunk to get married? That's awful!"

"No, he had to be drunk to be convinced that Lily wasn't going to change her mind." Sirius chuckled, recalling his best friend's ridiculous pre-wedding panic. "Spent the whole night at our—" He paused in frustration before correcting himself. "—my flat pacing back and forth going over a list of reasons why Lily would bolt at the last second."

Hermione put her elbows on the table, resting her head in her hands and smiling at the story. "But she didn't."

"Absolutely not. By that point, the two of them were so besotted with one another that it was hard to be around them." Sirius smiled brightly at the memory for just a moment before it faded into a melancholic frown. "And then they got married, had a wonderful honeymoon, came home, and life turned to shit."

"They had Harry," Hermione argued. "Perhaps not everything was 'shit,' as you call it."

"Harry was . . . a very good thing in a really bad time," Sirius agreed. "After James and Lily got married, we . . . I . . ." He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration.

"I'm sorry," Hermione said, frowning. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories. I actually came over here to cheer you up."

"It's all right, kitten." Sirius reached for her hand, giving it a light squeeze before letting go. "That's what you do. You try to fix everyone. Just remember that you're not always going to make everyone happy. It's not your job to fix the world. I . . ." He paused, looking down at his glass. Making a decision, he tossed the firewhisky back as he stood, holding his hand out to her. "Come on."

"Come where?" she asked, pulling away from him.

He reached for her hand again, undeterred. "Here. You, come dance."

Hermione laughed, shaking her head. "Absolutely not."

"You're adorable. You thought that was a request." He snatched her hand, yanked her to her feet, and dragged her out onto the dance floor.

Hermione struggled the entire way, nearly tripping over her high heels in the process, cursing his name as they moved. "Sirius Black, I will get you for this!"

"Oh, kitten has claws."

He grinned and pulled her up against him, close enough that he could see the various shades of brown coalescing in her eyes. From far away, they looked like chocolate, but up close like this, with the light reflecting in them, they could look like firewhisky if he wished hard enough. Hermione narrowed those intoxicating eyes at him as he gripped her hand in one of his, placing the other on her small waist and spinning her in his arms. Within seconds, Sirius had her laughing and slapping his chest playfully. "Well, how about that, I might like weddings."

"Ah, my devious plan worked." Hermione smiled triumphantly. "I'm glad you're smiling again, Sirius."

"Me too, kitten, me too."

Hermione eyed him. "Have I mentioned that I hate nicknames?"

"It's a pet name, not a nickname," he argued as he took her hand and spun her out carefully before tugging her back against him, smiling when she tilted her head back and laughed. The sound drowned out the music playing, and it lit him up from inside. "Besides, haven't you noticed I don't always do what people want me to do?"

"Sirius Black? No, I thought he was the very perfect model of obedience and consideration," she said sarcastically.

"I am very considerate. For instance, despite the fact that you are enjoying dancing with me so much—"

She laughed again. "So much."

"—I am going to part with you, even though it's obvious that you want to keep dancing with me all night," he added. "Who could blame you? I am very handsome." Despite being only a little sarcastic, she did not laugh but instead locked her gaze on him, causing him to lick his lips.

Clearing his throat and his head, Sirius manoeuvred around another couple. "I do this because I am so very considerate of the fact that I am not the only sad sod sitting alone in a corner." He gestured to Remus, who was leaning against the entrance to the marquee by himself, a glass of firewhisky in hand.

"He's not sitting or in a corner," Hermione argued.

"Fine." Sirius rolled his eyes. "Sad sod standing at the door."

"And you're leaving me to go be sad together?"

"On the contrary my dear . . . kitten . . ." He stressed the word with a smile that he felt brighten as her eyes narrowed. "You've put an end to my corner-sitting sodding sadness, and I wish to share the gift of your dance moves with others. Moony! Come cut in! She can't keep up with me!"

Hermione suddenly looked a perfect mixture of embarrassed and angry, and Sirius grinned, pulling her close to him as he waved Remus over. His friend raised a brow, seeming hesitant to participate in Hermione's humiliation. Sirius sent him a mischievous grin, silently communicating that if he did not intervene soon, Sirius would only go and make things worse.

Setting his glass down on a nearby table, Remus approached the dancing couple. "Having fun, Padfoot?"

Sirius took the moment to dip Hermione, drawing an unexpected laugh. He felt something in his chest tighten when her hands clung to the lapels of his leather jacket. "Best wedding I've been to in years, Remus," he said as he set Hermione upright once again. "I'm sure yours was fine and fancy. Then again, seeing as I wasn't invited to it—"

"You were dead at the time," Remus interjected.

"—I have decided to let you make it up to me, by occupying this young witch's dance card in my stead." Sirius took Hermione's hand and placed it in Remus's.

Sighing in resignation, Remus gently led Hermione back to the dance floor as Sirius grinned at them and walked over to join Harry and Ron. The two young men were sitting at their table and watching the scene with amused expressions, having a good-natured chuckle at Hermione's expense.

"You look weird Polyjuiced," he said to Harry, ruffling the boy's currently red hair.

Harry laughed. "You look weird in leather trousers."

Sirius snorted in amusement and gave Harry's shoulder a playful shove before taking a seat at the nearest table. "Bugger off, the two of you. Go find some pretty witches to dance with."

"I'd rather get another butterbeer," Ron said, looking awkward as Luna passed by them.

As the boys vanished into the crowd wearing smiles that warmed Sirius's heart, he turned his focus to Hermione and Remus, watching them attentively as they swayed to the music. Using his Animagus senses, Sirius concentrated on the pair, having no remorse about eavesdropping.

"How much has he had to drink?" Remus asked.

Hermione shook her head. "I don't want to know. But he didn't step on my toes during our dance, so I think he'll be okay."

"You would be surprised the number of things that man can do while properly intoxicated." Remus chuckled softly, pulling her closer. "You look lovely by the way. Lilac is a good colour on you."

"Thank you, Remus."

Even from where he was sitting, Sirius caught the sudden blush on her cheeks.

"Where's Tonks?"

"On duty. I offered to join her, but she insisted that I enjoy myself," he said the words as though they were a punchline to a joke.

"Happy wife, happy life."

"I try," Remus said with an amused little smile that faded slowly as it was replaced by a haunted look. "Keep them out of trouble, will you? I know you'll be leaving soon, and it's dangerous for each of you. They'll be after all of you because of Harry. They'll be after Ron for truancy, you for being Muggle-born, and Sirius because he hasn't come into the Ministry yet after everyone found out he's alive. He shouldn't even be here right now. If you four have to be out, try and keep him in his Animagus form, please?"

"I will," she promised. "I'll take care of them, Remus."

Sirius looked away from the couple, feelings of unease returning to him. He understood where Remus was coming from, but that didn't mean he wanted Hermione to feel responsible for his own actions. Then again, he would not put it past his best friend to assume he was listening in on their conversation and use this moment to drill it into his head to be especially careful considering everything they both had to lose.

"I know you will," Remus said. "But . . . please take care of yourself, Hermione. If something were to happen to you—"

A silver light burst into the marquee, pulling Sirius's attention away from the couple.

The Patronus landed in the shape of a lynx, and everyone turned to get a good look at the large cat. Its mouth opened wide, and it spoke in the loud, deep voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt: "The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming."

Silence spread outward in cold ripples from the place where the Patronus had landed. Then somebody screamed, and everyone panicked, rushing toward the exit.

Sirius's first instinct was to look for Hermione, who he saw being pushed toward him by Remus. Walking steadily toward her, wand in hand, Sirius scanned the room for Harry and Ron.

Hermione pulled her own wand as she reached him, and Sirius tucked her into his side just as the crowd erupted into chaos. Guests were sprinting in all directions; many were Disapparating—the protective enchantments around the Burrow had broken.

"Harry!" Hermione screamed. "Ron!"

"Hermione!" Harry shouted, pushing his way toward them.

Shortly behind Harry, Ron appeared. "We need a safe place to hide," he pointed out as Sirius rushed them away from the panicking crowd.

"Grimmauld Place," Harry suggested.

"Don't be ridiculous, Harry! Snape can get in there," Hermione said.

"Ron's dad said they'd put up jinxes against him. And even if they haven't worked," he pressed on, interrupting Hermione as she opened her mouth to argue, "so what? I swear, I'd like nothing better than to meet Snape!"


"Hermione, where else is there? It's the best chance we've got. Snape's only one Death Eater."

Sirius nodded in agreement. "Harry's right. Apparate to the top step of number twelve. You can't be seen from the street in case they've got people watching it."

"Side-Along then," Hermione insisted. "Or else we'll end up knocking each other over once we Apparate."

Paternal instincts kicking in, Sirius automatically took Harry's arm, grateful when Hermione grabbed Ron's. He would have liked to have been able to take all three individually for safety reasons, but time was not on their side. On the count of three, the four turned on the spot, vanishing into the compressed darkness.

Sirius stepped into the house first.

The moment that the front door closed behind them, the old-fashioned gas lamps lit up the front hallway, casting light on the spun cobwebs that draped from one wall to the other. It was eerily quiet, and the stale smell of neglect hung in the air. A thick layer of dust covered the framed artwork, the lamp fixtures, and the row of house-elf heads still hanging on the wall. It looked exactly as he had last left it. The only thing even slightly out of place was the troll leg umbrella stand lying on its side as though Tonks had just knocked it over again.

"I think somebody's been in here," Hermione whispered, pointing toward the troll leg.

"That could've happened as the Order left," Ron murmured back.

Harry frowned and studied the shadows on the walls. "So, where are these jinxes they put up against Snape?"

"Maybe they're only activated if he shows up?" Ron suggested.

Sirius moved ahead, glancing back to see the teenagers standing close together, their backs against the wide door, looking afraid to move further into the house. He did not blame them.

"Well, we can't stay here forever," Harry said, and he took a step forward, joining Sirius.

Moody's voice whispered out of the darkness. "Severus Snape?"

"Do I look like an ugly git to you?" Sirius snapped. "We're not bloody Snape!"

A few more curses and jinxes meant to trap Snape were easily averted by the four, though the thing that made the younger three jump highest was the screeching sound of Sirius's mother's portrait in the hallway.

"Mudbloods! Filth! Stains of dishonour! How dare you taint the halls of the House of Black!"

"SHUT UP!" Harry and Sirius bellowed simultaneously. With an explosion of red sparks from Harry's wand, the curtains swung shut, silencing the vociferous painting.

"I'm gone a year, and no one's thought of anything better than curtains yet?" Sirius questioned the three, who all shrugged in response. He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Hell, I'm just going to plaster over the old bitch when we're done with this bloody war."

Shivering slightly in the draughty room, Hermione perched on the sofa, hugging her knees to her chest.

Instinctively, Sirius made his way to her and wrapped an old blanket he had pulled out of a nearby cupboard around her quivering form.

She smiled up at him gratefully before her focus switched to Ron, who was peering through the windows.

"Can't see anyone out there," he announced.

"Harry?" Hermione asked worriedly.

Hermione's voice drew Sirius's attention to his godson. The polyjuice had finally faded completely, which would have been a happy sight, except that Harry wincing in pain and clutching at his forehead. The image, he was certain, had taken years off of Sirius's life as the panic raised in his chest. "Harry!"

"What did you see?" Ron asked, advancing forward. "Did you see him at my place?"

"No, I just felt anger. He's really angry."

"But that could be at the Burrow," Ron said worriedly. "What else? Didn't you see anything? Was he cursing someone?"

"No, I just felt anger . . . I couldn't tell—"

"He's still connected to you?" Sirius asked with concern, pushing Ron out of Harry's face. "I thought that'd been fixed by teaching you Occlumency." He looked to Hermione, hoping for answers as Harry was still caught up in the aftershocks of the painful vision.

"He never finished his lessons," she disclosed. "Snape refused."

"That prick. Dumbledore was supposed to set him straight," Sirius growled, reminding himself that Snape was a traitor and had likely stopped the lessons on purpose to keep Harry from blocking out Voldemort. "Then we'll pick it back up. I'm not the best at it, mind you," he admitted. That was certainly an understatement. Memories of the first time he had tried Occlumency still made him slightly nauseated. "But better than ignoring it and letting that sick snake inside your head."

Harry exhaled. "Thanks, Sirius."

Hermione shrieked. The other three drew their wands in response, spinning around to see a silver Patronus soar through the drawing room window and land on the floor in front of them, where it solidified into the weasel that spoke with Arthur's voice: "Family safe, do not reply, we are being watched."

The Patronus dissolved into nothingness, and Ron let out a noise between a whimper and a groan, dropping onto the sofa. Hermione joined him, gripping his arm.

Sirius walked over and patted the boy on the shoulder. "See? Takes more than the Ministry falling and a wedding being attacked by Death Eaters to take down a Weasley shindig." He chuckled, trying to ease the tension.

Ron gave a half-hearted smile in response.

"We should get some rest," Hermione insisted as she grabbed her beaded bag, reaching in and pulling out a stack of bedclothes.

Sirius smiled at the sight. "Undetectable Extension Charm?" he inquired, and she silently confirmed. "Haven't seen one of those in years."

He gratefully took the clothes offered to him, though he wondered if his bedroom upstairs had been left alone. He probably would have things to wear in there, but the idea of revisiting old times just now was not appealing. Best wait for the morning.

August 2nd, 1997

Blinking his eyes open, Padfoot glanced around the room, quietly groaning at the reminder of where he was. The arm draped over his furry body, however, was a pleasant surprise.

Not wanting to be separated, Sirius had insisted they all sleep in the drawing room for the night. Ron had a fit of gallantry and insisted that Hermione sleep on the sofa cushions. Sirius, irritated that he had not thought of that first, had shifted into Padfoot and crawled in between Ron and Hermione, settling down on the floor beside her for the night.

A narrow beam of light was visible between the gap in the heavy curtains. It was the cool, clear blue of watered ink, somewhere between night and dawn, and it was quiet save for the slow, deep breaths coming from Ron and Hermione.

Glancing up, he saw Harry stretching his arms above his head, his hair in more disarray than normal, which was truly saying something. Though it was easy to remember that the two were separate individuals, the silhouette that Harry created against the light in the room was a painful reminder of James.

Padfoot stretched out his front paws and then back, shaking out his fur, drawing Harry's attention. He nodded toward the door, waiting for Harry to take his cue before he looked down at the sleeping girl next to him. Leaning forward, he pulled the sleeve of her fallen arm up with his teeth and set it back down on the cushions.

He glanced at Harry as he walked out of the room before making his way up the staircase, shifting back to his human form mid-step, Harry following close behind.

"What an arsehole," Sirius growled after opening his bedroom door, looking inside to see that his room had been completely torn apart. He could still smell Snape's presence there, though the greasy git had clearly vacated months ago. Grimmauld Place must have been the traitor's first stop after murdering Dumbledore.

"I take it you didn't do this?" Harry asked as he walked in behind Sirius.

"No. I'll admit to being messy, but I have respect for my own stuff," Sirius grumbled as he made his way to a stack of papers and fallen photographs, most of which were of himself, James, and Remus, with Peter's face scratched out of them.

He was glad to see that Snape had not snatched up the few photos he had left of Lily. Sirius smiled at the living memories as they danced on paper in front of his eyes, and handed them over to Harry. "Here you go. Saved them for you."

Harry hesitated before taking them. "You should keep some of these, Sirius."

"Got my own copies and then some." Sirius inclined his head toward a large locked box near the bed. He picked up his wand and waved it over the rusty container, smiling when it glowed gold for a brief moment. "Still intact. You'd need a bloody Curse-Breaker to get into that thing."

"What've you got in it other than pictures?"

"Pictures are enough. Memories keep you grounded when the rest of the world goes to shit," Sirius explained, leaving the details murky. He picked up an old copy of A History of Magic from the floor and tossed it on top of the locked box.

"Oh, damn." He picked up a crumpled piece of parchment, feeling heavy-hearted. "Here," he said and handed it to Harry. "It's a letter your mum wrote me."

Sirius smiled softly as he watched Harry get a little teary-eyed at Lily's words.

"We had a cat?" Harry asked with a laugh.

Sirius chuckled, unconsciously rubbing at scratch marks on his arms that had healed years ago. "I hated that fucking beast. It used to be Mi—mine." He cleared his throat, lost in emotion. "But we didn't get along so great, so I handed it off to your mum."

"Harry? Sirius?"

"Up here, love!" Sirius called. "What's happened?"

There was a clatter of footsteps outside the door, and Hermione burst inside, looking exasperated and relieved all at once. "We woke up and didn't know where you were!" she said breathlessly before turning and yelling over her shoulder, "Ron! I've found them!"

Ron's annoyed voice echoed distantly from several floors below, "Good! Tell them from me that they're both gits!"

"Harry, don't just disappear, please; we were terrified!" she exclaimed, calming down as she took a good look around the room. "Did you make all this mess or was some of it done when you got here?" She glanced suspiciously at Sirius, who narrowed his eyes back at her. "Sorry." Hermione held up both hands as a sign of surrender. "Why don't you both come down, and we'll put together some breakfast?"

The three left Sirius's room, closing the door behind them and heading back down the stairs, Sirius close on Hermione's heels with Harry lagging behind.

As they passed a door on the right, out of bitter habit, Sirius made a fist and punched the sign that hung on it as he continued down the stairs.

"Hermione, Sirius! Come back up here!" Harry said.

Hermione looked back up the stairs. "What's the matter, Harry?"

"I think I found him!"

Sirius looked back, concerned. "What's wrong? What'd you find?"


"You found . . . Oh my God! How did I not put that together?!" Hermione said excitedly as she reached the landing. She smiled and hugged Harry tightly and then reached out for Sirius as he approached the two of them, Ron coming up behind him.

"Someone want to clue me in? You found R.A.B.?" Ron asked.

"What's R.A.B.?" Sirius scanned the door carefully. Surely, they didn't mean Regulus? What the hell would these three need from his dead brother?

"The fake locket Horcrux that Dumbledore and Harry found had a note in it from one of You-Know-Who's followers," Hermione explained to him. "One who defected and stole his Horcrux intending to destroy it."

"Good for him, sticking it to old—Wait. R.A.B.? No." Sirius shook his head. "Absolutely not."

"It fits, Sirius," Harry said.

"No," Sirius growled, remembering the last time he had seen his younger brother, complete with Death Eater regalia. "Regulus was a Death Eater. He was a bloody idiot who bought into all the pureblood nonsense that my parents taught us."

"Would you recognise his handwriting?" Hermione asked, reaching into her beaded bag and pulling out the fake locket. As she popped it open, a small piece of folded parchment tumbled out.

Sirius took it quickly and opened it, immediately recognising the script. He and Regulus had been forced to go through penmanship lessons since the moment they could hold a quill. As usual, Sirius had rebelled and scribbled his way through most of his early years, only appreciating the need for proper penmanship when he began writing love letters to girls in school. It also set his notes apart from James's, which looked like a bunch of bowtruckles had gone swimming in an inkwell and then flopped around on a piece of parchment. Regulus, on the other hand, obeyed from the outset—as always—and set to prove he had the most beautiful handwriting.

"This doesn't . . . It doesn't prove a thing. Why does it matter? Regulus is dead and we have a fake locket," Sirius said brusquely.

"Would you be okay with us searching his room for the real one?" Harry asked.

"Have fun. I'll be downstairs." Sirius turned and fled the landing, making his way past the drawing room to the back door, which he popped open before pulling out the pack of cigarettes he kept in his leather jacket. Tapping one out, Sirius reached for his wand and used a small Fire-Making Spell to light it. He took a deep drag and exhaled slowly, as though this one small stick would keep him from breaking.


"I'm fine, Hermione," he answered before she bothered asking. "Did you find it?"

"Not yet. Harry and Ron are still looking," Hermione replied as she approached him.

"Good luck to them, then," he said bitterly.

She pointed at the cigarette. "That's a disgusting habit."

He grinned at her. "You might not always think that. It's helpful when you're stressed."

Pursing her lips in disapproval, she opened her mouth again to say something when a loud crash echoed from upstairs, followed by Ron shouting down, "We're fine! Everything's fine!"

Hermione sighed and shook her head, crossed her arms, and stepped closer to Sirius. "Tell me about your brother."

Sirius groaned as he blew his smoke out the side of his mouth away from her face. Why couldn't she ever just let things be? "Maybe another time, love," he demurred. The last time he opened up and talked about his brother had been a long time ago, a memory he was not ready to revisit.

She tried to reason with him. "If this is true, that means he didn't die for nothing."

"Still dead, though."

"Was there a funeral?"

Sirius sighed, giving up and flicking the cigarette through the opening of the door, closing it behind him quickly to avoid the cold. "I imagine so. I wasn't invited. I got a lovely letter from my mother telling me that my father and brother were both dead."

"That's awful."

"That was typical."

"So you didn't even get to say goodbye?"

"Not in the way you're thinking." He moved and sat down in the armchair, putting the pack of cigarettes back in the pocket of his jacket. "I said goodbye to them all the moment they blasted me off that tree in the other room. When Reg died, though . . ." He paused as he considered whether or not he should say anything more. "I said goodbye by drinking my way through a bottle of firewhisky with a girlfriend."

"At least you weren't alone," Hermione noted, but there was a hint of bitterness in her tone.

Sirius grinned at the way she answered him, wondering if that was jealousy he was picking up. "No, not that time," he continued on, not wanting to point out the brief look of anger on her face. "We got drunk, and she made up stories about my family. Said that deep down they were all good people caught up in bad situations. Lovely fairy tales." The fragment of nostalgia that had momentarily lit up his countenance faded. "Made me feel better until I sobered up."

Hermione patted his shoulder. "Maybe they weren't fairy tales."

"We'll see."

Chapter Text

Keep holding on
'Cause you know we'll make it through, we'll make it through
Just stay strong
'Cause you know I'm here for you, I'm here for you
(Keep Holding On - Avril Lavigne)


August 2nd, 1997

Sirius had shied away from Regulus's room at all costs, insisting that he would help by looking downstairs for the locket. In reality, he went in search of a hidden bottle of firewhisky and Remus's old stash of chocolate bars, located in a locked tin box beneath the kitchen sink inside a cauldron labelled: Broken—Possibly Cursed—Don't Touch.

"Idiot," Sirius had muttered to the absent werewolf, reaching inside for the wrapped sweets in triumph.

After several hours of avoiding the upstairs bedrooms— and once the alcohol had been consumed—with chocolate bars in hand, Sirius made his way to join the cause, stopping on the landing nearest Regulus's room. "Did you find the locket yet?"

"Not yet, but I have an idea," Harry said, closing the door behind him just as Hermione and Ron each appeared out of their old rooms.

Harry moved past Sirius with a determined look, descending the stairs two at a time. "Kreacher nicked loads of things from us. He had a whole stash of stuff in his cupboard in the kitchen. C'mon."

Ron and Hermione thundered down the stairs after Harry, Sirius sauntering slowly behind.

They made so much noise that they woke Walburga's portrait as they passed through the hall. "Filth! Mudbloods! Scum!"

Sirius flicked his wand at his mother's likeness, shutting the curtains—uttering a stream of profanity quietly under his breath—and then closed the kitchen door behind himself.

Harry ran the length of the room, skidding to a halt at the door to Kreacher's cupboard, and wrenched it open.

Kneeling down beside him, Sirius glanced inside the filthy cupboard. There was the nest of dirty old blankets the house-elf had once slept in, but they were no longer glittering with the trinkets Kreacher had gleaned. The only thing of worth left behind was an old copy of Nature's Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy.

"Damn," Harry exclaimed and pulled out the old book. "Nothing here but this book and a bunch of rubbish." He sighed as he handed over the volume to Sirius, who dusted off the cover.

"What is it?" Hermione asked as Harry and Ron continued to dig through Kreacher's cupboard.

"Old book on pureblood genealogy," Sirius answered, running his finger along the spine. "My brother and I had to have the thing memorised before we entered Hogwarts. Make sure we didn't mingle with impure blood." He rolled his eyes and opened the book, flipping the pages in disgust as he stood and walked around the room. "It's magically updated, so when a new child is born or someone dies, the parchment changes. A lot like the tapestry upstairs."

"You think my family's in there?" Harry wondered aloud just as Sirius landed on the page where fine ink script was written across the top:


Sirius glanced over the page anxiously, running his thumb over the names he recognised so well. One in particular stood out, and he touched the name affectionately with one finger before reaching up and tugging the silver chain around his neck.

"Sirius? Do you think my family's in that book?" Harry asked again.

Sirius looked up from the pages and let go of the chain. "Sorry; got lost for a bit."

He cleared his throat and met Harry's gaze over the top of the book, while his wand, which was screened by the large pages, touched the parchment. Using a non-verbal Vanishing Spell, the Potter page disappeared from the book altogether.

"Potters used to be in the book," he explained, "but when I ran off, my mother tore the page out. Probably burned it." He shrugged his shoulders and looked away, not enjoying the fact that he needed to lie to his godson.

Ron sighed. "There's nothing else in here, Harry. Just a few dead rats."

"It's not over yet," Harry said, and he raised his voice and called, "Kreacher!"

Nothing happened.

"Why isn't he coming?" Hermione inquired.

"Maybe he finally died," Sirius muttered under his breath as he closed the large book, handing it over to Hermione. Suddenly, his own words reached his head, and he grinned at the idea of the old traitorous elf, dead somewhere. "Too bad he didn't leave a cake behind that we could celebrate with."

Hermione glared at him. "Sirius!"

He groaned. Not this again. He thought he was done dealing with her elf rights bullshit.

"Wait, what if you being alive makes your will invalid? What if he knows?" Harry asked, crawling back out of the cupboard and dusting off his trousers.

Sirius raised a brow. "You mean I'm still in charge of the little monster?"

"Call him and see," Harry suggested.

"Bloody hell . . ." Sirius sighed. "Kreacher!"

There was a loud crack, and the house-elf that Sirius had so hoped would not appear did, popping out of nowhere in front of the cold and empty fireplace: tiny, half human-sized, his pale skin hanging off him in folds, and with white hair sprouting copiously from his bat-like ears.

"Master has returned," Kreacher croaked in his bullfrog's voice, peering up at Sirius with a look of disdain. "Oh, my poor Mistress will be so disappointed to know that the ungrateful swine lives to bring further ruin to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Oh, my poor Mistress will be so disappointed with Kreacher for failing to get rid of the blemish on her great and noble House."

"You did just fine, you little piece of shit!" Sirius reacted immediately and kicked the rotten little monster, punting him forward a good three feet.

"Sirius!" Hermione shrieked.

He forced himself to look ashamed as he recalled how the diminutive witch used to reprimand him for his mistreatment of Kreacher.

"He has a point, Hermione," Ron noted, clearly no love lost between himself and the elf. "Kreacher's the reason Sirius died."

"I know that!" Hermione snapped at him.

Sirius narrowed his grey eyes at her. "Then maybe show a little less consideration for that thing!"

"Out, both of you." Hermione pointed at Sirius and Ron. "Harry and I will deal with Kreacher." She looked incredibly upset and not just because of how the elf had been treated.

Sirius opened his mouth to protest, but she stepped into his personal space and narrowed her eyes at him stubbornly. "As far as I am concerned, Kreacher is a product of his environment. You treated Kreacher poorly, so Kreacher turned on you. You are both to blame. Right now, I am having a hard time dealing with either of you when there are more important things to be concerned about."

Clenching his teeth angrily, he mentally reminded himself that she might not always feel that way. He turned his anger on Kreacher, glaring down at him with pure hatred. "You stay in this room and answer every one of their questions. Got it? You are not allowed to leave this fucking room unless they tell you to!"

"Whatever Master says." Kreacher bowed low before him. "Kreacher lives to serve the Noble House of Black."

Sirius spent a moment trying actively to avoid kicking the elf again, keeping his eyes fixed on Hermione's firm stance, using her to ground himself before storming out of the kitchen. Ron followed quickly behind him.

Hermione sighed in relief as the door closed.

Harry immediately began interrogating the elf. "Two years ago, there was a big, gold locket in the drawing room upstairs. We threw it out. Did you steal it back?"

There was a brief silence, during which Kreacher straightened up to look Harry full in the face. "Yes."

"Where is it now?" came Harry's jubilant query while Hermione looked on, gleeful.

Kreacher closed his eyes as though he could not bear to see their reactions to his next word. "Gone."

"Gone?" echoed Harry, deflated. "What do you mean, it's gone?"

The elf shivered and swayed.

"Kreacher," said Harry fiercely, "I order you—"

"Mundungus Fletcher," the elf croaked, his eyes still tight shut. "Mundungus Fletcher stole it all. Miss Bella and Miss Cissy's pictures, my mistress's gloves, the Order of Merlin, the goblets with the family crest, and . . . and . . ."

Kreacher gulped for air, his hollow chest rising and falling rapidly. Then his eyes flew open and he uttered a blood-curdling scream. "And the locket—Master Regulus's locket! Kreacher did wrong! Kreacher failed in his orders!"

As Kreacher lunged for the poker standing in the grate, Harry launched himself at the elf, flattening him. Hermione's scream mingled with Kreacher's, but Harry bellowed louder than both of them, "Kreacher, I order you to stay still!"

But Kreacher continued.

"Harry, make him stop!" Hermione cried as she watched the old elf continue to try to punish himself despite Harry's attempts to prevent him.

"I'm trying!" Harry shouted.

Hermione shrieked, "Kreacher, stop!"

Kreacher stopped.

"What the hell?" Harry's jaw dropped in shock.

Hermione knelt beside the elf, worried that he had done permanent damage. "Kreacher, are you all right?"

"Yes, Mistress. Kreacher obeys Mistress," Kreacher said bitterly, narrowing his large eyes at her. Hermione's own eyes widened at the words, and she swallowed hard as the elf continued to speak. "Even if Mistress is a filthy Mudblood brought into the Noble House of Black by the ungrateful blood-traitor."

Harry gaped. "Wait, Kreacher, you obey Hermione?"

"Kreacher lives to serve the Noble House of Black."

"Harry, go tell Sirius that Mundungus took the locket," Hermione requested, panic rising in her chest.


She turned a fierce look on him. "Harry, go! I'll deal with Kreacher. Please."

Her best friend nodded, eyeing Kreacher once again before walking out the door.

Hermione promptly turned her attention back to the elf in front of her. "Kreacher, why did you call me Mistress? Why did you obey me?"

He glared at her, shaking his head. "Kreacher can see the bond with his own eyes. Kreacher sees the Mudblood Mistress tied to his blood-traitor Master. Oh, my poor Mistress," he wailed. "To see what's become of her beloved House. Mistress would never forgive Kreacher."

"You see the bond? You see the bond between Sirius and me?" she asked him. "That doesn't make sense, Kreacher; Sirius and I are not married. I am not your Mistress."

"Kreacher sees the magic." He looked at her as though examining her for something. Clearly disgusted by whatever it was that he saw, Kreacher grimaced and looked away. "Marriage makes no difference; magic was used to make a bond. The Mistress tied herself to the Noble House of Black with her filthy blood."

Hermione swallowed again, her heart racing. "Kreacher, you will speak of this to no one, do you understand me?" She looked down at the elf, feeling wretched for giving him orders and watching as he bowed before her.

"Kreacher lives to serve the Noble House of Black."

"Kreacher, did you see Mundungus steal the locket?" she asked him, getting back on topic.

"Kreacher saw him!" The elf gasped, tears pouring over his snout. "Kreacher saw him coming out of Kreacher's cupboard with his hands full of Kreacher's treasures. Kreacher told the sneak thief to stop, but Mundungus Fletcher laughed and r-ran . . ."

"You called the locket 'Master Regulus's'. Why? Where did it come from? What did Regulus have to do with it? Kreacher, sit up and tell me everything you know about that locket and everything Regulus had to do with it."

The wizards all sat in the upstairs drawing room, waiting for Hermione.

When Harry entered, Sirius raised a questioning brow at his godson, who shook his head, looking confused, and muttered something under his breath about Hermione and her bloody elves. Sirius could tell that Harry was hiding something, but as he himself had vanished an entire family tree out of an ancient book just to keep it away from prying eyes, he did not feel like he had a leg to stand on in probing for Harry's secrets.

Shortly after, Hermione entered the room looking pale.

"What's happened?" Harry asked quickly.

Hermione's gaze fell on Sirius.

"What'd the elf say?" he asked.


"Don't say it!" Ron shouted, and the rest of them rolled their eyes.

"You-Know-Who asked Regulus to borrow Kreacher years ago. He took him to the cave where he was keeping the locket. He made Kreacher drink the potion that Dumbledore took," she glanced back to Harry. "You-Know-Who used Kreacher to put the security measures around the locket. Then he left him there to die. But Regulus had ordered Kreacher to always return to him, so he did."

She moved to the sofa, sat down next to Sirius, reaching for his hand. "Kreacher told Regulus what he'd done, and Regulus figured out You-Know-Who had made at least one Horcrux. He had Kreacher bring him back to the cave to retrieve it. He drank the potion himself and switched the lockets. Gave the Horcrux to Kreacher and told him to destroy it."

"Regulus drank the potion?" Harry asked quietly, and Hermione nodded. "The Inferi?"

Sirius saw Hermione nod just before turning his focus down at both of her hands wrapped around one of his. Her words ran over and over in his mind, and he turned his attention to his other hand, holding a glass of firewhisky.

"Kreacher said he went beneath the water."

He could hear the tremble in her voice, and a part of him hated the pity he felt coming off of her. The rest of him wanted to bathe in her comfort. She pulled one hand away, and he looked up to see her wiping away stray tears from eyes that were now focused exclusively on him.

Unwilling to speak about his brother's death or potential redemption, Sirius avoided the subject of Regulus entirely, breaking the silence with, "So . . . where is it now?"

"Umm," Hermione stammered for a moment. She looked like she wanted to push him until he disclosed the history between his brother and himself.

He gave an expression that told her not to force the issue right now.

"Kreacher said Mundungus took it. I sent Kreacher off to find him for us."

"How do we know he'll do it?" Ron asked. "What if he vanishes and betrays us? He already betrayed Sirius once."

"I was very specific with his orders," Hermione replied.

Ron raised a brow. "And he'll obey you?"

"Of course," Hermione affirmed, receiving curious looks from each of the men. "Sirius told him to, and he cannot ignore his Master's orders. The house-elf's highest law is his Master's bidding."

Ron dipped his head in acceptance, but both Harry and Sirius stared at her suspiciously.

"Here." Hermione handed the fake locket back to Harry. "Keep this safe. I told Kreacher he could have it when he gets back. It made him very happy. Took me a bit to get him to stop crying actually."

Sirius gawked at her. "You gave the elf a present?"

"I'm putting an end to the cycle," she affirmed. "Harry's going to defeat You-Know-Who, we're going to win this war, and when that happens, I'm done watching Muggle-borns, goblins, werewolves, and house-elves being put under the heel of someone else. It doesn't mean I like him."

The distaste in her voice was shocking, and she must have read the surprise on Sirius's face because she frowned at him. "He betrayed you, and you ended up dead because of it. But you're not dead, so I'm looking to the future. And I'm ending the cycle of hatred. I expect all three of you to be nice to that rotten elf when he gets back!"

She stood up and fled the room in a huff, storming up the stairs. A moment later, the sound of a slamming door echoed through the house.

"Just keep Kreacher away from me when he gets back," Sirius groused. "If you want, I'll give him back to you, Harry."

"We'll eventually need to leave Grimmauld Place," Harry replied, shaking his head. "We'll tell him that if we don't return at any point, he should go back to Hogwarts. At least he won't cause trouble there."

August 4th, 1997

They waited days for Kreacher to return, growing more and more anxious by the minute. Harry and Sirius practised duelling in the cellar, which had been emptied of everything except a large, old, iron cage that Remus had used to secure himself during the full moon before Grimmauld Place had been compromised. Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione usually kept to the drawing room, Hermione reading the book of stories that Dumbledore had given her and Ron playing with his Deluminator.

Making their way up the stairs from the cellar, Sirius could feel the tension in the room as he watched Hermione's eyes narrow in on Ron while he clicked the little instrument in his hands and watched as the lights went in and out of the nearby lamps.

Before she had a chance to completely snap and attack him, Sirius snatched the Deluminator out of Ron's hands.

"Hey!" Ron glared.

"You'll get this back when you learn to do something else with your boredom. You've got a hand fixation; go smoke," Sirius suggested, tossing his pack of cigarettes to Ron.

Ron blinked at the small box, but before he made another move, his gaze switched to Hermione, who looked absolutely murderous.

"Don't. You. Dare."

Ron flinched. Harry averted his eyes. Sirius grinned at her.

"I think I'll pass, mate," Ron said, handing the cigarettes back to Sirius, taking a step out of the room, likely trying to avoid the potential blast radius.

Hermione turned her narrowed glare on Sirius, who was not only willing but also eager to face whatever wrath she had in store for him. Before either could say a word, however, the security curses shot off in the front hallway, and everyone banded together in the drawing room, pulling their wands.

"Hold your fire. It's me, Remus!"

"Oh, thank goodness," said Hermione weakly, pointing her wand at Sirius's mother instead; with a bang, the curtains swished shut, and silence fell. Ron, too, lowered his wand, but Harry and Sirius did not.

Remus moved forward into the lamplight, hands still held high in a gesture of surrender.

"I am Remus John Lupin, werewolf, sometimes known as Moony, one of the four creators of the Marauder's Map. I am married to Nymphadora, usually known as Tonks, and I taught you how to produce a Patronus, Harry, that takes the form of a stag."

"Oh, all right." Harry lowered his wand. "But I had to be sure, didn't I?"

Remus appeared to relax.

"What the hell?" Sirius asked, continuing to hold his wand up, daring his friend to make a move. "What about my security measures, Moony?"

"Really?" Remus scowled at him. "Fine, during my sixteenth birthday party, you, Sirius Black, during a game of Veritaserum or Dare, publicly admitted to kissing—"

"Fine! Fine!" Sirius shouted, holding his wand up in surrender. "Fucker," he growled as Remus, looking triumphant, stepped into the room and embraced his friend.

Moving to Harry's side, he clapped the boy on the shoulder. "Speaking as your former Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, I quite agree that you had to check, Harry. Ron, Hermione, you shouldn't be so quick to lower your defences."

"What about me?" Sirius wondered.

"You gave in under the pressure of public humiliation." Remus shook his head. "Frankly, I'm embarrassed for you, Pads, and I hope you never end up being questioned under torture. The mere mention of your teen years will have you pouring out Order secrets to anyone who asks." He chuckled, and Sirius rolled his eyes, leading them into the house. "No sign of Snape, then?"

"No," Harry said. "What's going on? Is everyone all right?"

"Yes," Remus replied, "but we're all being watched. Let's go downstairs. There's loads to tell you, and I want to know what happened after you lot left the Burrow."

They descended to the large dining room where Hermione pointed her wand at the grate in the corner. A fire sprang up instantly, giving the illusion of cosiness to the stark walls; light from the flames reflected off the long wooden table.

Remus pulled a few bottles of butterbeer from beneath his travelling cloak, and they sat down.

Sirius looked at him expectantly.

"Butterbeer or nothing."

Sirius took the small bottle but grumbled about it.

"I'd have been here sooner, but I needed to shake off the Death Eater tailing me," Remus said. "So, you came straight here after the wedding?"

"Yes," Hermione confirmed. "Since all four of us couldn't Side-Along together without serious risks of splinching, this was the only semi-safe place we could think of on such short notice."

"Tell us what happened after we left; we haven't heard a thing since Ron's dad told us the family was safe," Harry begged.

"Well, Kingsley saved us," Remus said. "Thanks to his warning, most of the wedding guests were able to Disapparate before Death Eaters arrived."

"Were they actual Death Eaters or Ministry people?" Hermione interjected.

"A mixture, but for all intents and purposes, they're the same thing now," Remus answered. "There were about a dozen of them, but they didn't know you were there, Harry. Arthur heard a rumour that they tried to torture your whereabouts out of Scrimgeour before they killed him. If it's true, he didn't give you away."

"That's surprising," Harry admitted.

"The Death Eaters searched the Burrow from top to bottom," Remus went on, "and then they interrogated those of us who remained for hours. They were trying to get information on you, Harry. Of course, no one apart from the Order knew that you had been there. When that didn't work, they began asking about Sirius. Though no one outside the Order has seen you since you've returned, at least not until the wedding, rumours had reached their ears."

"What did they ask about me?" Sirius inquired, sipping his butterbeer.

"Mostly if any of us knew if you were really back, and if so, how it was possible." Remus sighed and looked to Hermione. "They were just trying to rile me up, I could tell. Didn't work, though," he said with a smile.

"'Course not." Sirius grinned. "Takes more than an interrogation to break you, Moony."

"Others . . ." Remus's smile faded. "They burned down Dedalus Diggle's house, and they used the Cruciatus Curse on Tonks's parents."

"What?!" Sirius jumped up and kicked his chair over, sending it skidding across the room, where it splintered against the wall. "They hurt 'Dromeda?!"

"She's fine," Remus assured him. "Shaken, but otherwise okay. I promise. They're my family now, too." Remus stood and grounded Sirius by placing a hand on his shoulder. "Tonks is home now, taking care of them both."

"How could they do that?" Hermione gasped. "It's illegal!"

"What you've got to realise, Hermione, is that the Death Eaters have the full support of the Ministry on their side now," Remus said. "They've got the power to perform brutal spells without fear of identification or arrest. They managed to penetrate every defensive spell we'd cast against them, and once inside, they were completely open about why they'd come. They've made Harry a fugitive, wanted for questioning over Dumbledore's death. And Hermione . . . they've begun a Muggle-born Registration Department. All Muggle-borns have to register. It's a cover for bringing them in and accusing them of stealing magic."

"That's ridiculous! You can't steal magic!" Hermione objected.

Ron began pacing, nervously chewing on the inside of his cheek. "People won't let this happen."

"It is happening, Ron," Remus said, his attention on the younger three, pointedly ignoring Sirius. "Muggle-borns are being rounded up as we speak. It doesn't matter. You all are on a mission, and I imagine what you need to do involves keeping under the radar regardless."

As he continued to speak, Sirius turned his attention to his friend. Something was off. He sniffed the air once and narrowed his eyes at Remus. Standing up, Sirius kicked the leg of Remus's chair lightly. "Come have a chat with me, Moony."

"I'm fine here, Padfoot."

"Now, Remus!"

After hesitating just a moment, Remus stood and made his way through the door. Sirius slammed it shut behind them. He could hear it when Ron asked, "What the bloody hell was that about?"

"What's going on?" Sirius demanded of Remus point-blank.

"I don't know what you mean," Remus denied quickly but firmly.

"Don't fuck around, Remus!" Sirius shouted, lifting his wand threateningly. "Why do you smell like . . . fear and shame? What've you done? I know you didn't tell the Ministry anything about me or Harry, so what is it?"

"I . . . I . . . I want to come with you," Remus pleaded. "I want to help."

Sirius eyed him. "That shouldn't make you shameful. What does my cousin think about you joining this little band of misfits?"

"She's with her parents."

"That's not what I asked," Sirius growled. "What are you hiding?"

His shoulders sagged, and he looked down as he whispered, "She's pregnant."

"She's . . ." Sirius lowered his wand at the unexpected announcement.

He remembered the moment that Lily had told them that she was expecting. It had been one of the happiest moments of all of their lives, an announcement that helped push them past a great deal of grief and sorrow.

Yet this moment was tense, and Remus looked so . . . guilty.

Sirius wanted to celebrate with his friend, congratulate him, but he promptly figured out why the werewolf was in no celebratory mood. Eyes wide, he slapped Remus hard over the head. "You dickhead!"

"Ow! What the hell?"

"You're leaving her? You stupid fuck!" Sirius shot red sparks out of his wand at the floor, nearly setting Remus's cloak on fire.

"She'll be safer without me!" Remus yelled back. "I can do better being with you, helping Harry! It's what James would've wanted—"

Suddenly, Sirius's wand shot back up as his blood boiled beneath his skin. The look on Remus's face said that he knew exactly how poorly his words had been chosen.

"You want to tell me again what you think James would've wanted? You are not Harry's godfather. I am. I am here to protect him, not you. I don't have a family. You do. Now get your arse out of this house and go home to them. That's what James would have wanted!"

"Don't you see what I've done?!" Remus's normally pale face briefly reddened in anger. "I've made her an outcast! Bellatrix tried killing her because of me! And now she's . . . And now my child . . . What if it's . . . What've I done?!"

"You still think that you're going to pass it onto your kid?" Sirius asked him incredulously, desperately wanting to hit him again. "How thick are you? You've been told for years that can't happen!"

Remus shook his head. "You don't know that."

"It's in the saliva, stupid! Mia told you that every year. And even then it's only in a bite when you're fully turned!" Sirius lowered his wand and ran frustrated fingers through his hair. "Merlin, you know all of this, Remus!"

"There's no conclusive evidence," Remus muttered quietly.

"No conclusive . . ." Sirius snarled, threw his wand down, and launched himself forward, sinking a balled fist into the side of Remus's jaw.

Remus stumbled backward and turned, hitting Sirius hard on the side of the head. Just as his fist connected, Sirius shifted into Padfoot and latched his jaws onto Remus's forearm tightly, growling loudly as Remus continued to shout and growl back.

"What in Merlin's name?!" Hermione screamed as she burst through the door, Harry and Ron right behind her. "Immobulus!"

Both instantly froze.

"Are you both mad?!" she snapped and retrieved their wands—Remus's from his hand, and Sirius's from the floor.

With a flick of her wand, Padfoot fell to the ground, growling. He quickly shifted back into human form and moved to the other side of the kitchen as Hermione unfroze Remus.

"Now, one of you tell me what happened!"

"Tonks is pregnant," Sirius said hastily.

"That's wonderful!" Hermione brightened, and she moved to hug Remus, but he shrugged her away, guilt plastered on his face. "What's wrong? Is Tonks okay?"

"No, she most certainly is not okay," Remus barked.

"Watch your tone with her, mate," Sirius growled ominously enough that both Harry and Ron stepped away from him, looks of genuine fear in their eyes as they kept drawn wands moving between the two wizards.

"What's wrong with Tonks?" Harry finally blurted out.

"The baby could be a werewolf," Remus said out loud for the first time

Sirius rolled his eyes. "He's an idiot!"

"Oh, Remus." Hermione approached him carefully, placing a gentle hand on his unwounded arm. "Come sit down, and let me fix that." She gestured to the large bite wound on his other arm where Sirius had latched on.

Remus quietly obeyed, tugging on the leg of a chair with his foot, and pulling it out far enough to drop into it. Hermione smiled at his acquiescence and then turned to Ron. "Would you go and get my bag? There's a small bottle of dittany in it; please bring it here."

"You sure?" Ron asked cautiously, his gaze wavering between Remus and Sirius as though he was preparing for them to start fighting again.

"Everything will be fine, please go," Hermione said. She returned her attention to Remus, bringing a hand to his face and tilting his chin to force him to look at her. He did but immediately looked away again, blinking aside tears. "Remus, you're going to be a wonderful father. And your child will not have lycanthropy. It's only transmittable through a bite on the full moon."

"That's what we've been telling him since Hogwarts," Sirius grumbled irritably.

Remus shook his head. "There's no proof."

Completely fed up with his friend, Sirius scoffed loudly. "You want proof? Moony, if saliva, semen, or blood transferred your furry little problem to others without a full moon, then I'd have a furry little problem of my own!"

Instantly, Harry and Hermione gaped at Sirius; Remus turned his head and looked quizzically at him. Sirius blinked a few times, trying to understand their expressions before explaining.

"Oh, uh . . . blood," he clarified, subconsciously scratching at his left shoulder where a scar rested beneath a pattern of tattoos. "Fifth year we did a whole . . . And then after Hogwarts, it was . . ." He groaned attempting to describe it, his gaze narrowing at Remus in the process for not helping. He gave an emphatic shake of his head, and Harry swallowed a laugh. "It was like a blood brothers thing. Like Muggles do. Not with semen. You know . . . nothing with that."

"See?" Hermione smiled, stifling her own burst of laughter as she turned back to Remus, and thanking Ron as he re-entered the kitchen with the small bottle of healing extract.

"You are going to go home to your wife," she instructed clearly as she placed drops of dittany on the bite wound. "And you are going to rub her feet and buy her ice cream and do anything she wants. And you are going to do it with a smile on your face."

"And get over yourself in the process," Sirius added.

"Well, that's not how I'd put it." Hermione frowned at Sirius. "But yes. Get over yourself. You're a good man, a good friend, a good husband, and you'll be a good father."

"I agree with Hermione," Harry said, and when Sirius cleared his throat, he added, "and Sirius."

Sirius watched as Remus said nothing, taking Hermione's hand within his own. His eyes drifted to her shoulder, left partially bare by the dark blue vest she was wearing. The corners of Remus's mouth turned up slightly in a sad little smile at the sight of her blemish-free skin. For several minutes, the room was silent while he worked through his conflict internally with nothing but Hermione's hands and the presence of friends for support. Eventually, he stood up, turned to face Sirius, and muttered, "Sorry."

"Do me a favour, Moony?" Sirius requested as he approached, placing a hand on the man's shoulder. "Stay with Tonks. Hide. Don't fight. I don't care what happens. I don't care if it comes down to the end; you stay with your family. You need to survive this." He glanced briefly at Hermione before returning his attention to his friend, whispering, "I need you to survive."

"I need to survive this," Remus repeated.

"You have a job to do," Sirius reminded him. "So you stay with your wife and child. Make yourself the bloody Secret-Keeper, and stay in the fucking house. No repeating history."

Remus nodded firmly, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. "No repeating history."

Chapter Text

Cause without you I can't breathe
I'm not gonna ever, ever let you leave
You're all I've got, you're all I want
(I Will Be - Leona Lewis)

September 4th, 1997

Harry, Ron, and Hermione successfully broke into the Ministry after Mundungus arrived at Grimmauld Place, dragged there against his will by a vengeful house-elf under direct orders from Hermione. Dung told them all about how he had lost the locket, and then pointed out the picture of its new owner in the Daily Prophet: Dolores Umbridge.

Sirius overheard Hermione and Ron talking about the scars on Harry's hand, and it took him very little effort to figure out that Umbridge had harmed his godson permanently. Coupled with the fact that she had been behind a number of terrible things at Hogwarts, the stupid anti-werewolf legislation, and now the ridiculous Muggle-born Registration Act, Sirius wanted to go after her himself. It took both Harry and Hermione pleading with him—in addition to threats of petrifying him and leaving him alone with only Kreacher as company—for him to back down.

Completely contrary to their plan, Sirius followed the trio to the Ministry of Magic. He lingered across the street in his Animagus form while they infiltrated the institution under the influence of Polyjuice Potion.

It took him less than an hour to arrive outside the entrance: a large bathroom where men and women lined up outside the stalls. Padfoot paraded around as a lost dog as he waited impatiently for the trio to return. Every once in a while, someone stopped and patted him on the head, something that made him roll his eyes. He wanted to growl and bite but knew it would cause more attention than being docile. So he held back and gritted his teeth as old ladies ran their sweaty hands over the top of his head while calling him a "good little doggy." At one point, someone glanced at him and screamed, "Grim!" before running the other way, giving Sirius a good chuckle in the process.

After what felt like an eternity, Ron, Harry, and Hermione finally exited the Ministry in a great haste. Sirius immediately caught sight of the Death Eaters on their tail; he shifted to his human form and grasped Harry's hand as Harry took hold of Hermione, who gripped tightly to Ron. It was dangerous and stupid, but they had little choice in the matter as Yaxley reached for Hermione. Mid-Disapparition, Hermione managed to shake off the Death Eater, but only after he had seen the entrance to Grimmauld Place.

Side-Along Apparition with another person was risky. Taking two people was ill-advised. Three was suicidal.

Hermione landed them in the forest where the Quidditch World Cup had been held—as Ron hastily explained to Sirius—and the men all fell to the ground, wincing as air pushed its way back into their lungs.

Harry and Ron were on their knees, bleary-eyed and dizzy. Sirius, too, had a hard time regaining his senses, but the first that came back was his sense of smell. He breathed in a faint coppery odour and knew immediately that someone had been splinched.

His head swivelled as he followed the scent, only to discover it was Hermione that was gravely injured. Sirius cradled her blood-covered form to him in order to retrieve her small beaded bag, and then he began rummaging through it. He threw the contents of the bag across the ground until he found the bottle of dittany she had used a month earlier on Remus in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place.

Sirius heard Harry gasp, watching as he pieced Hermione's back and shoulder together. A long cut slashed along her right arm, wound across the back of her shoulder blade and down beneath her blouse. He tore the garment away, revealing nothing but severed skin. He applied the dittany carefully, using his wand to close the wounds as quickly as possible.

"There's a tent; get it up," he ordered brusquely with a cold tone that told both Harry and Ron he wasn't going to stand for any hesitation.

While the tent was being pitched, Sirius moved around the boys, constantly attending to Hermione's small unconscious form, never looking either of them in the eye. The boys, in turn, did the same.

Sirius was angry; somewhere along the line they had gone and buggered it all up, and now Hermione was suffering. Each wizard took his fair share of the blame silently, though Ron and Harry were more comfortable talking with one another about it.

Once Hermione was safely inside the tent on a bed that Sirius enlarged, he pulled open a small black mediwitch kit and began pouring Pain Relief Potion and Blood Replenishing Potion down her throat.

By the time Harry and Ron dared to enter the tent, Sirius was already in his Animagus form at the foot of Hermione's bed, standing guard over her sleeping form.

And there he remained.

Quietly, the two boys discussed the Horcrux while they waited for Hermione to wake or for Sirius to change back. When it became obvious that they should each take a turn wearing the locket, Sirius stepped off the bed and inclined his head toward Harry, silently requesting the locket be placed on him.

And so the days went on.

Sirius kept vigil over Hermione's recovery, shifting into human form only when changing her bandages, feeding her potions, or waking her enough to give her the opportunity to eat—though they had little food available. On those occasions, he said as little as possible, refusing to meet her eyes though she pleaded with him to look at her. Unable to let her see him break, Sirius retreated into his Animagus form knowing that it was near impossible for her to read the expression on his face that way.

The locket, unfortunately, made everything worse.

Sirius wore it at night and would dream of Azkaban and dementors. He saw visions of James and Lily dying, of Peter's ugly, twisted sneer, and of a girl he loved vanishing into nothingness, leaving him alone in the world. He was grateful to be rid of the bloody thing each morning, but he observed with frustrated intensity as the Horcrux infected the other two wizards.

Harry withdrew into himself, and Sirius kept a watchful eye, often removing the locket early if he noticed Harry being weighed down by it too quickly. Ron complained constantly, though a warning growl from Padfoot shut him up instantly.

Despite her attempts, Sirius insisted that the piece of Voldemort's soul not touch any part of Hermione at any time.

September 7th, 1997

"We need to leave soon, Harry."

"I know. You think she's well enough to Apparate, though?"

Sirius could hear the boys whispering outside of the tent where they were supposed to be standing guard. Only one needed to keep watch at a time, but it was obvious to everyone that Ron wanted away from the tension inside.

"How the bloody hell should I know? Can't get anywhere near enough to see. Not when he's wearing that thing."

The tent door flapped in the breeze, and Sirius caught a glimpse of the boys standing there, huddled together as though perfectly unaware that he could hear every word.

"You go in and see if you can figure it out," Ron suggested. "Get some sleep after."

Harry must have agreed because he was inside a moment later. Sirius watched as he flicked his wand, igniting a few lamps in the corner of the room to light up the dark space.

Attention turned to a large bed in one of the corners, Harry slowly approached, hands up to show that he was not a threat. Padfoot eyed him balefully as he stepped closer, watching as Harry's eyes darted to the locket hanging around his furry neck.

"Sirius?" Harry asked quietly. "It'd be really nice if I could talk to you. I need to know how Hermione is." He gestured to the body of the girl sleeping behind him.

Her small frame was tucked carefully beneath the blankets, but the bandage over her back was still visible when Padfoot craned his neck to glance at her. Sirius knew that Harry blamed himself, of course, though each of the wizards took their turn carrying the weight of the guilt.

Padfoot lowered his head, allowing Harry to remove the Horcrux. The moment it was gone, he let out a quick breath and shifted back into human form, rubbing the sore muscle in his neck. "Is it me, or is that thing getting heavier?"

"You all right?" Harry quietly asked.

Sirius glanced at Hermione's sleeping form and sighed. "Better today."

"You going to tell me what's going on yet?"

Sirius shook his head, knowing exactly what Harry was referring to. After such an incident, it was more likely for Sirius to have been worried about his godson, even if Hermione had been hurt. But it was obvious in the way that Sirius refused to leave her side that he was keeping secrets.

"Not my place. Just . . . She saved me. And I almost let her—"

"We," Harry corrected. "This is on all of us, not just you."

"It's my job to take care of you lot," Sirius tried to explain.

"It's my job to save the world." Harry shrugged his shoulders. "She's in the world, therefore it's my job. You can't take my job, Sirius. You're not the Chosen One, I am."

Sirius rolled his eyes and huffed out a weak chuckle. "Oh, stop with the bloody Chosen One nonsense."

"Can she travel?" Harry asked, ignoring him. "You know we can't stay in one place for very long. We've already been here for days."

"You still having visions?" Sirius inquired, noticing the exhausted look in Harry's eyes.

Harry shifted his gaze away as he sighed, nodding. "I want to stop, but none of us is in any shape to practise Occlumency right now. It would only make us weaker," he admitted sadly. "He's searching for a wand, and he's kidnapped Ollivander and killed Gregorovitch."

"Might be the Death Stick," Sirius suggested.

"What's that?"

From behind them, Hermione mumbled, "It's just a myth."

"Go back to sleep, love," Sirius instructed.

She ignored him, rolling up to face Harry. "It's a myth about an unbeatable wand. There's a story about it in the book Dumbledore gave me."

"That thing's all in runes. When did you have the chance to translate it?" Sirius asked her with a raised brow.

"I've been sitting here doing nothing for days," Hermione shrugged, wincing in pain as her shoulder protested the movement.

Sirius cocked an eyebrow at her. "You're supposed to be resting."

"And you're a terrible watchdog; you constantly fall asleep. When you do that, I read." Reaching for the book that she kept beneath her pillow, Hermione brushed off Sirius's hands when he tried to help her get comfortable.

"In the story, it talks about three brothers who are able to evade Death, as though Death were a real person. Death offers them each a gift. One brother asks for a wand powerful enough to defeat any wizard. I assume that this is the same fairy tale wand that's known as the Death Stick or the Wand of Destiny. Professor Binns mentioned it a few times in History of Magic," she said, frowning down at the book in her hands.

"So do you think it's real?" Harry asked.

Sirius shrugged. "Maybe."

"Of course not," Hermione said at the same time. "Sirius, it's ridiculous to even think that something like that could exist."

"Oh yeah? Tell Harry what the other two brothers asked for in the story." He gestured as if allowing her to take the stage.

Hermione glared at him. "Fine. The second brother received a stone that could bring back the dead. The third brother asked for a Cloak of Invisibility."

"So a Cloak of Invisibility . . . But not just any cloak, a cloak that never loses its charm, never breaks or tears, and is impervious to jinxes and hexes." Sirius grinned smugly as though he had already won the argument. He tapped his index finger against his bottom lip, ignoring the dark look that Hermione was directing at him. "I wonder where we could find such an object."

"Even if the cloak exists, the other two are preposterous," she protested.

"Yes, it's preposterous to think that people could come back from the dead," Harry said sarcastically and turned to Sirius for backup. Sirius dipped his head solemnly; he figured that his expression would have appeared almost genuine if not for the glint of mischief he knew was in his eye.

"Harry, Horcruxes," Hermione admonished when he chuckled in amusement. "What we need to be concerned with is how to find a way to destroy the locket and then find the others." She reached for her bag. "Now, I've been researching—"

Sirius growled. "When the hell have you been resting?"

"When Ron's in here," she answered as she eyed Sirius and Harry. "You two won't leave me alone. Now, there're only two known ways to destroy a Horcrux: basilisk venom and Fiendfyre."

"Do you know how to cast Fiendfyre, Sirius?" Harry asked.

"Cast? Yes," Sirius confirmed. "Control it? Well, it's complicated. It's a last resort kind of option. If it needs to happen, I can do it. But we're talking about Apparating to a deserted island, placing the Horcruxes on that island, casting the fire, and then getting the hell out before it consumes us with it. Might even want to learn a spell that can sink an island."

"Last resort, got it. I'm going to go and tell Ron that we'll be able to move today." Harry smiled at Hermione. "It's good to see you looking yourself again."

October 17th, 1997

"I thought you knew what you were doing!" Ron shouted at Harry as Sirius entered the tent. "I thought Dumbledore had told you what to do. I thought you had a real plan!"

Sirius turned a dour gaze on the teen for daring to raise his voice to his godson, but he was not one—these days—to jump into a fight without proper provocation. He looked to Harry and Hermione for an explanation. "Did I miss something important?"

"We think we found a way to destroy the Horcruxes," Hermione enthused. "Harry used the Sword of Gryffindor to kill the basilisk our second year, and the sword is goblin-made and therefore—"

"Only takes in that which strengthens it," Sirius finished her sentence. "Bloody hell, that's . . . inspired." He laughed and scratched his chin in thought. "So what now?"

"Nothing now." Ron glared daggers at the rest of them. "Because the bloody thing's been stolen from Hogwarts, so even if we were able to sneak back into the castle—which we can't because it's being run by bloody Death Eaters—it's not even there for us to take!"

Sirius growled at him, not liking his attitude one bit, nor the way he was staring at Harry and Hermione. "Watch the tone there, boy."

"It's because of the locket," Hermione said, frowning. "Ron, take it off. You wouldn't be talking like this if you hadn't been wearing it all day."

Harry glowered at Ron. "Yeah, he would. He's been doing nothing but complaining this whole time! He's starving. As if the rest of us aren't. You complain more than any of us, and Hermione got splinched and almost died!"

Ron narrowed his eyes. "Piss off, Potter!"

"Why are you even still here?" Harry asked Ron.

The redhead threw his hands up. "Search me."

"Go home then!" Harry snapped.

"Yeah, maybe I will!" Ron shouted and took several steps toward Harry, who did not back away.

"Ron, take off the locket!" Hermione begged.

Sirius's fingers twitched around his wand, watching and listening, desperate to put an end to the boy's childish outburst—even if he only used a Silencing Charm. However, Hermione and Harry stood between him and Ron, and the boy's temper was unpredictable, especially with the Horcrux hanging around his neck. Sirius felt that Hermione was right, but that did nothing to mollify the nervous anger he felt when the redhead glared at both of his friends with such malice.

Harry stared icily at Ron, both boys ignoring Hermione's pleas for peace. "Just go home to your family, and let your mum make you a big dinner and wipe your face for you. That's what you want anyways."

Ron bellowed back at Harry, "What I want is to make sure my family is alive! It's all right for you, isn't it? With your parents safely out of the way—"

"Uh-oh," Hermione groaned. Before she could act, Sirius grasped Ron's collar and lifted him high into the air.

Sirius felt his countenance turn dark, reminiscent of his first meeting with the redhead in the Shrieking Shack as he stared grimly at Ron. "Too far," he said with a frightening amount of control in his voice.

"Sirius," Hermione pleaded, "put him down."

Harry glared at Ron. "Yeah, put him down so he can leave."

"Fine." Sirius slowly lowered Ron's shaking form back to solid ground, holding his stare the entire time. Not letting go of the boy's collar, he used his other hand to tear the locket from Ron's neck and then released him with a shove for good measure. "You ever speak to either of them like that again, boy, I'll transfigure what's left of you so no one will even know where to look," he threatened, his tone low and menacing.

Ron, impulsive as usual, responded by drawing his wand.

Sirius was much faster, of course, but before either could get a spell off their lips, a shield erupted between them. It expanded across the tent, separating Ron from the other three, visibly showing how the ties of friendship had been severed.

Glancing to the side, Sirius saw Hermione concentrating on the shield with her wand drawn.

"You're really staying here, Hermione?" Ron asked and then cast his eyes balefully at Sirius. "Who am I kidding? Of course you're staying here."

"We promised Harry!" Hermione cried, her wand still up—holding the weight of the shield.

"Bullshit, Hermione." Ron scowled at her. "You're not here for Harry. You're here for him," he said, pointing his wand at Sirius, who only growled in response. "Whatever you did to bring him back changed you. He should have stayed dead."

Just as when Ron had brought up Harry's parents, causing Sirius to snap, Hermione, apparently, had her own line to never cross. Sirius was not remotely surprised when she yelled, "Get out!" and pushed her shield toward Ron, forcing him magically toward the tent flap. "You don't belong here! Go away, grow up, and when this war is over and you've finally matured a bit, come and apologise to us. But we are done here!"

"Damn right I am." Ron glared at her and then left.

Silence filled the tent as though Ron had taken all the noise with him. Hermione looked up when Harry sniffed and wiped the sleeve of his shirt across his face. Sirius clenched and unclenched his fists as he slowly calmed down.

Harry eventually took a breath, running a hand through his messy black hair in frustration. He reached for the Horcrux. "I'll take first watch."

Sirius placed a hand on his godson's shoulder. "You sure?"

"Yeah, I need time to think, anyway. You two get some rest." Harry gave Hermione a small smile, and she returned it briefly as he left the tent. When her gaze connected with Sirius's, Hermione broke away immediately.

An hour later, when she could not stop thinking long enough to rest, Hermione sat up and sighed. She looked at Sirius and frowned when she caught him staring at her, bringing an uncomfortable warmth to her face. She felt like she had been caught doing something wrong. Walking to the tent door, she peered outside to find Harry leaning up against the trunk of a tree, staring intently down at his wand as though it would tell him what they should do next.

"You ever think maybe he's right?" Sirius asked.


Hermione shook her head as she made her way back toward the bed. The same bed that she had been unthinkingly sharing with Sirius since she had been splinched, though never in his human form. Somehow, she had overlooked the fact that the dog was still, in fact, a fully-grown wizard. She would snuggle beneath the covers, and he would crawl beside her, turning once in a circle before tucking his snout against his front paws. Absent-mindedly, Hermione would reach over and stroke his fur as though he were some old, beloved family pet and not Harry's godfather—a man who she had used Blood Magic to bring back to life, thus tying herself to him forever through ancient magic. But here, now—with him standing in front of her, his grey eyes trained on her face—Hermione shivered under the intensity of his gaze.

"Maybe I should have stayed—"

"Don't!" Hermione snapped at him. "The locket made him say those things. If you weren't here, he'd have found something else to yell about. Don't you dare say that you should have stayed dead."

"He's not entirely wrong," Sirius reasoned calmly as he approached her. "You're not just here for Harry." He closed the distance between them until he was inches away from her, the heat from their bodies colliding. "Neither am I," he admitted, his voice husky as he spoke.

That voice did things to her that she was not ready to acknowledge, at least not aloud.

"Don't do this, Sirius," she pleaded, glancing up at him and then instantly back down, unable to hold her own against his stare. Sirius, however, forced the issue by placing a finger beneath her chin and lifted her face to meet his. Hermione closed her eyes to avoid looking up at him, tears trickling out of the corners.

"Can't avoid it forever, kitten. The boy was right about another thing. Whatever you did to bring me back changed something," he said softly, running the pad of his thumb against the line of her jaw. "You're not the only one who's good at magic, Hermione."

He leant in close, pressing his stubble-covered cheek against her smooth one, brushing his lips against her ear.

Hermione's breath hitched in her throat at the contact.

"I know the life debt ritual," he whispered before pulling away.

Her eyes shot open wide. "You . . . You know? You knew? This whole time?"

"About the bond?" Sirius inclined his head in affirmation. "It's not Dark Magic, but what you did was Blood Magic which, in some families, means the same thing. The House of Black is no exception." He sat down in the large armchair facing her bed, kicking his foot up to rest on the opposite knee. "We eventually have to talk about it."

Hermione looked away from him. "I don't even know what it means."

"By the end of this war, we'll have a lot of talking to do. Let's make a date of it, shall we?" Sirius grinned at her, and she turned her attention back to him with narrowed eyes. "Your birthday," he suggested easily as if the weight of the world no longer rested on their shoulders.

"My birthday? Why my birthday?"

"Fine, the day after your birthday," he said with a smirk. "Gives us almost a year to finish this war, and if we're lucky, a little recovery time after what might go down in Wizarding history as the night everyone was smashed."

Hermione frowned. "Or mourn."

"No." Sirius shook his head. "I'm done mourning. Had too much grief in my life, and I'll spend the rest of this war making sure I never have to mourn again," he vowed, his tone once again firm and fierce. The sound of it made Hermione shiver and blush. Sirius took immediate notice and chuckled, causing Hermione to avert her gaze once more.

He stood up and reached for his jacket. "One day you won't do that anymore."

"Do what?" Hermione asked quietly as he made his way to the tent door.

"Be embarrassed about how I make you feel," he clarified, fixing a serious gaze upon her. Hermione let out a shaky breath as he broke their stare and ducked out of the tent, jacket and pack of cigarettes in hand.

"Do I want to know?" Harry asked as Sirius approached him from behind.

A lit cigarette hung from Sirius's lips as he slipped his leather jacket on. He took the stick in hand and exhaled, letting the smoke drift off with the wind. "Nice charm," he commented, noticing how the rain poured around them, never touching the dry circle Harry had created. Sirius smiled in reminiscence. "Your mum was always good at charms like this."

"Avoiding the question, Padfoot," Harry countered, using Sirius's Marauder name in a tone of voice that made him sound exactly like James.

Sirius laughed softly at the game, taking another drag from his cigarette. "I know what you're doing, you know. You figured me and Remus out easy. You've figured out that when you want information, calling us Moony and Padfoot in that voice makes us think of your dad, which it does," he affirmed, "and when you want to impose your opinion, you make eye contact to remind us of Lily."

Harry cocked his head to the side and folded his arms across his chest, an amused grin on his jaw. "I guess Mum had a way of being convincing?"

"Your grandmother Dorea would have loved you." Sirius let out a quiet laugh. "She and Charlus—your grandfather—almost made a game of hiding information when they wanted to. She'd always win. Drove your dad and me mental."

Harry grew quiet for a moment, his focus far away until he brought his attention back to Sirius. The amused boy was gone once again, replaced by the burdened soldier of war. "I think I want to go to Godric's Hollow."

There was a beat of silence as Sirius thought about it for a moment, knowing that Harry was likely to go on his own regardless of what anyone else said about the matter. Eventually, he sighed in resignation. "Consider it done."

Chapter Text

I'm all out of faith
This is how I feel
I'm cold and I'm ashamed
Bound and broken on the floor
You're a little late, I'm already torn
(Torn - Natalie Imbruglia)

December 26th, 1997

"Happy Christmas, Sirius." With a sad smile, Hermione entered the room from the tent's kitchen. The wizard was currently resting on the large bed with a bandage wrapped around his arm.

Sirius scowled at her. "Christmas was yesterday."

"Yes, but you were unconscious yesterday," Hermione explained, holding a small cup out to him. "And I brought you tea. Consider it my gift." She smiled as he took it, bringing the liquid to his lips, pausing only briefly to look up at her. She rolled her eyes, trying to look offended. "It's not laced with anything."

He narrowed his. "Can you understand my hesitance?"

"I maintain that I was doing the right thing slipping that Sleeping Draught in your tea." Hermione crossed her arms firmly against her chest. "You were exhausted and refusing to take care of yourself."

Sirius winked at her. "And it's your job to take care of me?"

"Stop that. Drink your bloody tea."

"She swears now," he said with a grin. "I'm starting to think I'm a bad influence on you."

"Drink the bloody tea, Sirius." Hermione scowled but dropped her anger a notch when she saw him obey.

Sirius held the now-empty cup out to her, going so far as to open his mouth like a child to prove that he had swallowed every drop.

"Feel better?"

He stared up at her with a knowing look and smirked. "Yes, but you could have just asked me to take a Pain Relief Potion. You're a shit liar, love."

Hermione flushed at the implied accusation. "Well, I never know when you're going to fight with me over something." She fell into the armchair, perturbed. "You always want to argue with me."

"That's because riling you up is fun."

She frowned. "I don't like fighting with you."

"You will." He smiled and caught her look of annoyance. Before she could counter, he cut her off. "Harry doing all right?"

"Yes. He's got my wand," she said. "He's been out there for a few hours."

"Still can't believe we lost two wands in that fight. One bloody snake."

The trip to Godric's Hollow had been less than successful. A trap. They had figured there would be a trap, but a snake hidden inside an old woman? That they had not seen coming.

Sirius, of course, knew right away that something was off and pleaded with Harry and Hermione to leave. When they both refused, he insisted, taking hold of each of them and threatening to Disapparate out. After visiting the cemetery, and it was clear that Sirius was serious about his threats, Harry and Hermione agreed, and only then did the snake attack, right there in the middle of the street.

Death Eaters Apparated in, and a duel broke out: Sirius squaring off against Dolohov and Rowle while Hermione faced Macnair. Harry, by himself, was left with the snake. It slithered around the street, striking at him nimbly and repeatedly.

Hermione easily bested Macnair, stunning him to the ground. She rushed to help Sirius, who looked like he was taking particular pleasure in landing curses on Dolohov. As she did so, Rowle stepped into her path.

The Death Eaters attacked the two fiercely, and when they were both distracted by a shout from Harry, Dolohov aimed his wand at Hermione. That was apparently enough to snap what little restraint Sirius had left, and a bright green light burst from the end of his wand, hitting Dolohov in the chest and dropping him to the ground, still and silent forever. Despite the horror of the scene, Hermione could not help but feel that justice had been served. After all, this was the Death Eater responsible for almost killing her in the Department of Mysteries.

"He's coming!" Harry screamed, and Sirius and Hermione rushed to him.

Sirius took hold of Harry's arm and pulled him quickly to his feet, throwing curse after curse at the snake. Nagini, however, dodged and deflected every spell with precision and speed that none of them were prepared for.

"More are coming!" Hermione shrieked as Death Eaters began Apparating around them.

Harry let out a loud yell, grasping at the scar on his forehead. A newly arrived Death Eater used the diversion to disarm Sirius.

"Shit!" he yelled at the same time that Harry let out a loud yelp of pain, his body falling rigid into Sirius's arms. "Hermione! We have to get out of here!"

"Hold on!" she shouted, grabbing them both, and Disapparated away just in time. Unfortunately, the landing was less than graceful, and Harry pitched forward, snapping his wand into pieces, thus leaving one working wand between the three of them.

"At least you can do wandless magic." Hermione sighed as she looked over at Sirius sitting on the bed, still recovering from the splinching that had marred him during their last escape.

She had felt terrible, of course; thankfully, it was not as bad as her splinching had been. She and Sirius argued passionately over whether or not he should be treating the wound himself, but in the end, he gave up, though only after Hermione threatened to stun him into submission.

"It's not that hard when you have the right focus," Sirius insisted.

"How'd you get so good at it? It's not something they teach much at Hogwarts." She pulled her knees to her chest and cuddled back into the chair, pulling a blanket over herself, wishing that she had her wand to cast a Warming Charm on the tent.

"I had a friend at school who taught me." Sirius smiled. "Very powerful witch."

Hermione chuckled. "Why am I not surprised that it was a girl?"

"Because I'm so devastatingly handsome?" Sirius grinned.

She shook her head, not taking the bait. "I'm not stroking your ego."

"Well, if not my ego, then would you like to—?"

"Don't finish that sentence!"

Sirius let out a barking laugh. "It's so easy to get you riled up. Very endearing."

"Hermione! Sirius!" Harry called as he entered the tent, soaking wet and shivering.

Hermione stood up quickly and rushed to him. "Harry! What happened?" She reclaimed her wand from him to perform a Drying Spell before shoving him into the nearest chair. Then she grabbed a blanket and hastily draped it over him. "Are you all right? Where have you been? You were supposed to have been keeping watch."

"It's okay; everything's fine. More than fine, I'm great. There's someone here."

"What do you mean? Who?" Hermione looked up and watched as Ron walked into the tent, standing there holding a sword and dripping onto the threadbare carpet.

"You!" she growled, throwing her wand onto a nearby chair. She fisted her hands tightly and ran at him, punching every inch of him she could reach. "You are a complete arse, Ronald Weasley!"

"I know, I know, I'm sorry!" he shouted, trying to protect himself from her punches.

"Oh, you're sorry, are you?!"

"Yes," Ron said calmly. "I . . . I was a right git. You were right; it was that bloody locket. I'm sorry for what I said." He looked up and caught sight of Sirius sitting on the edge of the large bed in the corner. "I'm sorry," he said to Sirius, who had narrowed his gaze.

After a long moment, the man nodded.

"Apology not accepted!" Hermione yelled and reached for her wand.

"Hermione," Harry said, drawing her attention and sighing. "He just saved my life."

"What?" Sirius stood up. "Why did he need to? Were the wards breached?"

"No, I . . . I saw something."

"What did you see?" Sirius inquired, stepping forward and taking possession of Hermione's wand before she ended up cursing Ron with something permanent.

"A Patronus," Harry explained. "A doe."

Sirius's face paled. "What did you say?"

"A doe," Harry repeated. "It led me to a small frozen pond. I lit Hermione's wand and looked down and saw it." Harry gestured to the sword in Ron's hand and grinned. "We've got it. We can destroy more Horcruxes now."

"More?" Hermione asked, her temper finally calming.

Ron beamed at her apparent cool-down. He held up the locket, broken and black.

She snatched it from him and turned it over for a careful examination. "And you're sure it's gone?"

"Pretty damn." Harry chuckled, nervously running his fingers through his newly dried hair. "It fought back when I opened it. Ron stabbed it with the sword."

"Good redemption," Sirius commented, glancing between Ron and Hermione carefully. "How'd it fight back?"

Ron looked down shamefully. "I'd rather not talk about it."

"Wait, how'd you get the sword? You said it was in a frozen pond?" Hermione asked. When Harry flushed and avoided her gaze, her mouth fell open. "Oh no, Harry, you didn't."

"I did. Stupid, I know. Especially since the locket was still around my neck. It tried to drown me."

Sirius rounded on Harry. "What?!"

"Ron saved me. Dove in after me, pulled me out, and went back down for the sword. So . . . can we all just move on now?" Harry asked, exhaustion dimming his eyes.

Sirius gave a curt nod, but Hermione was still eyeing Ron distrustfully.

"Please, Hermione."

"Fine," she agreed, glaring at the redhead, contemplating the exact movements of Ginny's Bat-Bogey Hex just in case he said or did something else to rile her. "But I want to know how you found us to begin with."

Ron pulled out the Deluminator. "With this."

March 27th, 1998

The group had spent months continually moving from campsite to campsite, stopping for only a day or two before moving again. Sirius helped considerably with the locations, as he had spent a year on the run with Buckbeak before Voldemort's return.

It took several weeks of constant apologising, but Ron mended his friendships with Harry and Hermione—though the latter kept him at arm's length, spending most of her time researching with Harry or training with Sirius, expanding her skill at wandless magic.

Ron had also provided them with more than just the Sword of Gryffindor. Apparently, during his escape from the campsite many months before, he had been picked up by a group of Snatchers and was able to disarm one of them, thus furnishing Harry with a used wand. Sirius declined to take it for himself, asserting that whatever magic he needed he could do wandlessly—though it was admittedly less powerful.

It made no difference, however, when toward the end of March, one of their group accidentally set off the Taboo on Voldemort's name, and a large group of Snatchers surrounded and disarmed them.

Hermione had been smart enough to throw a Stinging Hex at Harry's face, thus obscuring his well-known scar. Sirius was too easily recognised, so he shifted into Padfoot before anyone caught sight of him. Hopes of escaping were put to rest due to the fact that he could not possibly leave any of them behind, especially Harry and Hermione, so while the Snatchers bound the two young wizards and the witch to another kid and a wounded goblin, Padfoot was tackled and tied down by Fenrir Greyback.

"Scabior! This ain't a real dog," Greyback insisted. "I can smell the magic—familiar magic—on him."

"Then bring it along; we'll figure it out at the manor," Scabior responded, grinning as he held up a copy of the Daily Prophet that showed Hermione's face. Hermione Granger, it read, known to be travelling with Harry Potter. A second look at Harry, swollen face or not, and Scabior looked like he had just struck gold.

The group Disapparated into the darkness, and when they reappeared, Sirius grimaced at the all-too-familiar sight of Malfoy Manor. The last time he had been there had been for Lucius and Narcissa's wedding, something he had not even been invited to. It had been a last-ditch effort to help save his cousin from a loveless and dangerous marriage arrangement, but Narcissa, as usual, had cowered at the thought of her husband and had Sirius thrown from the premises.

Now he was back, in the shape of a black dog, tied and thrown over the shoulder of the very same werewolf who had infected his best friend.

One of the Snatchers strode to the gates and shook them.

"How do we get in? They're locked, Greyback!"

He whipped his hands away in fright. The iron was contorting, twisting itself out of its abstract curls and coils into a frightening face that spoke in a clanging, echoing voice: "State your purpose!"

"We've got Potter!" Greyback roared triumphantly. "We've captured Harry Potter!"

The gates swung open.

"Come on!" Greyback ordered his men, shifting Padfoot against his shoulder and shoving the tied prisoners forward roughly.

The moment they entered the large manor, Sirius heard a familiar voice.

"Follow me," Narcissa directed, leading the way across the hall. "My son Draco is home for Easter holidays. If that boy really is Harry Potter, he will know."

The drawing room dazzled after the darkness outside. A crystal chandelier dangled from the ceiling, and portraits hung against the dark purple walls. Two figures rose from chairs in front of an ornate marble fireplace as the prisoners were forced into the room by the Snatchers.

"What is this?"

The dreadfully familiar, drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy fell on their ears. At the sound, Sirius let out a low and dangerous growl.

"Take that beast back outside," Lucius demanded.

"I don't think it's really a dog," Greyback explained. "I've smelt this magic before."

"An Animagus?" Lucius eyed Padfoot warily. "Take him in the other room, and force him to transform back."

Greyback begrudgingly obeyed, taking Padfoot into the next room where he threw him to the floor with a loud thud and cracked his neck eagerly, preparing to enjoy this interrogation. He leant down to grip the dog by the scruff, and Padfoot turned, viciously barking and snapping his jaws at the werewolf. Greyback responded by squeezing Sirius's throat tightly until he whimpered, gasping for breath.

"What's this noise?!"

Padfoot's eyes went wide at the voice, and he began thrashing violently against Greyback's hold. He craned his neck when Greyback adjusted his grip, and his blurry eyes caught a glimpse of Bellatrix in the doorway.

"Found this mutt with the Potter kid and his friends," Greyback responded. "Malfoy wanted me to get it to transform."

"You idiot half-breed!" Bellatrix used her wand to fling the werewolf backward into a large marble column, knocking him unconscious. "Well, well, well," Bella sneered down at him. "You're looking quite alive, cousin."

Though still bound, Padfoot snapped his jaws at Bellatrix who only laughed at him, swishing her wand in the air to constrict the ropes that bound his body even more tightly. He whined loudly as pain crushed in on his ribs.

"Oh, the Dark Lord will be so pleased! If the brat in the other room really is Potter, I will have such fun letting you watch him die in front of you. Or perhaps I should kill you in front of him? Again." She grinned and levitated Padfoot's body, floating him after her into the other room where Draco and Lucius were inspecting the prisoners, a look of fear on the younger wizard's face.

"Is it him, Draco?" Bellatrix demanded.

Draco flinched at the sound of her voice. "I can't be sure," he whispered.

"But surely," she inquired quietly, "this is the Mudblood girl? This is Granger?"

"Yes, yes, it's Granger!" Lucius insisted. "There beside her is Potter, we think! Potter and his friends, caught at last!"

"Of course it's them," Bellatrix said. "And I've just caught myself a wayward blood-traitor." She gestured to Padfoot, suspended in mid-air behind her. "Sirius Black, back from the dead."

Narcissa studied him with wide blue eyes. "Sirius?" she whispered, staring at him, fear and pity in her gaze.

Bellatrix dragged back her left sleeve: they all saw the Dark Mark burned into the flesh of her arm and knew that she was about to touch it, to summon her beloved master.

"I was about to call him!" Lucius claimed, and his hand actually closed upon Bellatrix's wrist, preventing her from touching the Mark. "I shall summon him, Bella. Potter has been brought to my house, and it is therefore upon my authority."

"Your authority?!" she sneered, attempting to wrench her hand from his grasp. "You lost your authority when you lost your wand, Lucius! How dare you! Take your hands off me!" She stopped struggling when her dark eyes fixed upon something in the corner where the remaining Snatchers stood, presumably waiting for payment.

Jubilant expression on his face, Lucius threw her hand from him and ripped up his own sleeve.

"STOP!" Bellatrix shrieked "Do not touch it. We shall all perish if the Dark Lord comes now!"

Lucius froze, his index finger hovering over his own Mark.

"What is that?" Bellatrix snapped.

"Sword," a Snatcher grunted.

"Give it to me."

"It's not yours, missus; it's mine, reckon. I found it."

There was a bang and a flash of red light, and Scabior drew his wand to a roar of anger from his fellows. "What d'you think you're playing at, woman?"

"Expelliarmus! Stupefy!" she screamed, disarming Scabior and stunning the rest of his group. She moved in on Scabior and threw him to the floor. "Where did you find this sword? Snape sent it to my vault in Gringotts!"

"It was in their tent," Scabior rasped.

"Draco, move this scum outside," Bellatrix ordered, indicating the unconscious men. "If you haven't got the guts to finish them, then leave them in the courtyard for me."

"Don't you dare speak to Draco like—" Narcissa began furiously.

Bellatrix screamed, "Be quiet! The situation is graver than you can possibly imagine, Cissy! We have a very serious problem!"

She stood, panting slightly, looking down at the sword, examining its hilt. Then she turned to look at the silent prisoners. "Put them in the cellar while I think of what to do! Take them down, Wormtail."

At the mention of the name, Padfoot growled and barked viciously, thrashing in the air as he tried to break free of his bindings, struggling to reach just an inch of flesh so he could tear it from the body of the traitorous rat.

"Wait," Bellatrix ordered sharply, "all except for the Mudblood and Sirius." She gestured first to Hermione and then to him. "Keep the blood-traitor away from Potter," she directed, likely figuring that keeping the two separate would cause them the most pain. Wormtail ushered the prisoners to the cellar, flinching when Padfoot barked viciously at him.

Hermione cowered against a nearby pillar as Bellatrix descended upon her, wand raised. "Where did you get that sword?" she asked the girl with a menacing look in her eyes.

Before Hermione could even answer the question, Padfoot began kicking in mid-air, paws lashing out against his restraints, barking madly and growling as loudly as possible. His barks echoed off of the marble floors and walls, nearly drowning out the screams of Hermione's name that came from the cellar.

"Shut up, you blood-traitor!" Bellatrix snapped. "Cissa, take him to the other room while I deal with the girl. Can't get an answer out of her with him making all that racket!"

"Bella, the girl . . ."

"Narcissa, go!" Lucius roared at his wife, his eyes narrowed. "Draco, go with your mother!"

Draco huffed but took his mother's hand in his and swept into the next room, flicking his wand upwards and levitating Padfoot to follow.

Once the door to the drawing room closed behind them, Sirius shifted into his human form, still tightly bound. He looked up into his cousin's blue eyes and into the grey ones—like his own—of her son. He had never before seen such a resemblance to the Black side of the family in Draco. Then again, the young wizard was a near mirror image of his father.

"Cissa, let me go," Sirius pleaded with her. "You know this is wrong!"

"Sirius, please be quiet." She turned away from him. "You don't know how dangerous this is. What you've brought into my house."

"What I've brought? Cissa! We were captured and brought here against our will. You know Bella; you know what she's going to do! You're just going to let her—"

But his sentence was cut off by Hermione's screams. Sirius's eyes widened, and he felt himself pale as the blood drained from his face in rage and fear. "No. No! Hermione! Cissa, she's torturing her!"

"I know," Narcissa whispered.

"Let me go!" Sirius shouted. "Cissa, do the right thing. For once in your life, do the right thing!"

She looked down at her cousin with tears in her eyes. "I can't, Sirius; we're dead if I let you go."

"You're dead already!" Sirius countered. "You're trapped under the heel of a dictator, your husband is wandless, and your son has been sacrificed!" He eyed the boy who turned away, consciously covering his left forearm. "Cissa, let me go, and I will help you."

Narcissa shook her head. "There's no helping me."

"Mother, maybe . . ." Draco began hesitantly but stopped mid-sentence, as the screams coming from the other room grew louder.

"I'm sorry, Sirius," Narcissa said regretfully.

"So am I, cousin." Sirius stared up into her terrified face. "Invocato Vita Debitum!"

Narcissa's eyes widened dramatically, and she stumbled as though someone was pressing down on her shoulders, attempting to force her to kneel. "What are you doing?"

"You owe me a life debt, and I will call it in now with or without your consent," he threatened.

Her voice broke as she whispered, "Sirius . . ."

"What's he talking about?" Draco demanded.

Sirius gave her a dangerous look that said he was at the end of what little patience he had.

"Let him go," Narcissa ordered her son quickly. Draco pulled out his wand and set loose the bindings that trapped Sirius. "Cousin, please, can you save us?"

Sirius stood up, shook off the ropes, and moved to the door. "Stay here," he ordered them both, and then shifted back into his Animagus form. He was still unarmed, and despite his power, he was no match against Bellatrix without his wand.

Silently slipping back into the drawing room, Padfoot flinched at the smell of blood invading his nostrils, and his eyes widened as he saw Hermione lying on the ground, tears streaming from her eyes, her arm extended and marred by the familiar scars carved into her otherwise perfect flesh.

No, he thought. Not this. Not here. Not now.

Fury fuelled him as he crept forward in a silent frenzy. At the last second, he let out a soft growl and watched as Bellatrix turned to see his dark frame. Padfoot launched himself forward, landing on her body, pinning it to the ground, and knocking her wand from her hand. She actually looked afraid for a split second, and he imagined how wonderful it would feel to watch the bitch get carted off to Azkaban again. But then Remus's words to Harry months earlier echoed in his mind:

"Harry, the time for disarming is past!"

And so was the time for mercy.

One glance to the side where Hermione's still body was sprawled on the floor sent him teetering over the edge. He turned and bared his sharp teeth at his cousin, opening his jaws wide enough to sink his wicked fangs into the flesh of her neck.

Bellatrix tried to scream, but the sound died as Padfoot tightened his grip on her throat and violently tugged backward, tearing it from her body.

"Crucio!" he heard briefly behind him, and sharp pain racked his entire body. Padfoot fell to the ground, whimpering as the sensation of a thousand knives carved into his flesh.

Looking up, he saw Lucius Malfoy staring down at him with scorn, Hermione's stolen wand in hand, and a hint of joy in his face at the position he was in now. Padfoot snarled between whimpers of pain as his gaze met Lucius's. He recalled a time long ago when the same Death Eater had had a wand trained on him just like this. A small scar to the left of Lucius's nose was a reminder of how that last encounter had ended.

"Narcissa! I think it's time to reaffirm your loyalties and vows, my love," Lucius said coldly. "Your blood-traitor cousin just murdered your sister. While there is no love lost between myself and Bellatrix, the Dark Lord will not be pleased."

"Bella," Narcissa whispered, bringing a hand to cover her mouth.

Draco stood beside her protectively, blanching at the sight of his aunt soaking in a puddle of her own blood, throat ripped from her body.

"Kill the beast," Lucius ordered his wife, pointing at Padfoot.

Narcissa shook her head defiantly. "Lucius—"

"Do it yourself willingly," Lucius said with a sneer, "or I will make you do it."

"No." Narcissa stood firm. "You've been using the Imperius on me for twenty years, and I'm done being your little puppet."

"You insolent . . ." Lucius hissed as he raised his wand to his wife. "Avada—"


The scream came from behind Lucius, and the elder Death Eater turned with wide, cold eyes to his attacker, and toward the wand pointed aggressively in his direction. The wand in Lucius's own hand fell from his grip as blood seeped through his finely pressed shirt. As his body fell forward, Padfoot traced his gaze along the hawthorn wand gripped in white-knuckled fingers, to blemished arm, and then to Draco, who stood tall and firm, staring with hard, cold, grey eyes at his fallen father's back.

Chapter Text

Raise your voice, sticks and stones may break my bones
I'm talking loud not saying much
I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
(Titanium - David Guetta)


March 27th, 1998

"Hermione? Love?"

Sirius had transformed and was wiping the blood from his mouth, ignoring the pain still pulsing in his bones. He crawled up next to the witch, cradling her head gently in his hand, combing his fingers through her messy chestnut locks. Her eyes fluttered open, and he smiled, running his thumb along her cheek affectionately.

"Hermione? Can you say something?" he asked, needing to gauge her mental clarity.

She winced, the pain from the lingering Cruciatus Curse clearly still doing its damage. "Sirius? What happened?"

He followed her gaze around the room, to the bodies, the blood, and the faces of Narcissa and Draco Malfoy staring down at them. "You're safe," was all he was able to say in reply to her question as he exhaled shakily.

"Is she going to be all right?" Draco asked.

Sirius let out a resounding sigh of relief at the comical way her eyes widened in shock, likely over Draco's concerned tone of voice. "She'll be fine. She just needs rest and time to heal."

"You need to get her and the others out of here," Draco urged. "Quickly. I need to call the Dark Lord." He lifted the sleeve of his shirt, revealing the Dark Mark, but not touching it just yet.

Sirius looked up at the teen and growled. "Excuse me?"

"It's not what you think." Draco held up a hand to Sirius before he acted on the pent-up rage that his killing of Bellatrix had not released. "I'm on your side."

Sirius narrowed his eyes. "Bullshit."

"I've got Veritaserum in a safe if you want to test me," Draco offered.

Sirius stared at the boy for a long minute until he felt Hermione grasp his shirt tightly as another wave of pain washed over her body. He peered down at her with worry and then back up at the boy and Narcissa.

"Go," he said shortly, wondering if he had made the right call.

"Where are Harry and Ron?" Hermione rasped, throat clearly tender from screaming. "And did I hear right? Malfoy's on our side?"

"Possibly." Sirius rested her head back on the floor. "I'd pick you up, love, but you'll just be in more pain with every move. You need to stay there until it's safe to leave. Then we'll go somewhere you can heal properly." His eyes flickered to the word carved into her arm, and he growled.

"That won't heal, will it?" She blinked away a few straggling tears.

Sirius shook his head. "No, it'll scar. Her blade was cursed. I'm sorry."

"So am I," Narcissa whispered, kneeling down beside Hermione with a pillow in her hands, eyeing the girl curiously.

She looked at Sirius as she moved, showing that she was not going to touch the young witch without his permission. Apparently, she understood how protective he was over Hermione.

Sirius lifted Hermione's head to help Narcissa make her more comfortable.

"What do we do, Sirius?"

He turned his attention to his cousin. "Apparently, we wait for your son. Is he telling the truth?"

"I don't know," Narcissa confessed. "I was never allowed in the meetings. Draco always attended with Lucius. He's different around his father and the others. At home, here with just me, he's always been a kind boy. I was heartbroken when Lucius dragged him into the inner circle, branding him like that." A few tears escaped from her eyes. "I should have listened to you all those years ago."

"I've got it," Draco said as he entered the room once again.

Before he had a chance to reach Sirius, a voice shouted from behind him, "Expelliarmus!"

The wand flew out of Draco's grip, and he turned, scowling at Harry, who stood beside Ron. They both had wands in their hands aimed at the young blond, who held his hands up as a sign of surrender.

"You're making a mistake, Potter. Ask your godfather."

"Sirius?" Harry eyed him, keeping his wand trained on Draco. Sirius saw the moment Harry noticed Hermione on the floor, and he winced at the look of fear crossing the boy's face. Harry dropped his attention from his wandless rival and rushed to his friend's side. "Hermione!"

"It's okay, Harry. Listen to Sirius," she insisted.

"What's going on?"

Sirius clapped him on the back. "First, where's Wormtail?"

"Dead," Ron answered from behind them, his wand still aimed at Draco's face. "Tried to kill Harry until we reminded him of the life debt he owed. When Harry let him go, Pettigrew's silver hand turned, and he strangled himself to death."

Sirius did not know how to process the information. A man whom he had once considered a friend, a brother, was dead. But that same man was the reason for so much pain and evil: James and Lily's deaths, his twelve years lost to Azkaban, and Voldemort's return in the first place. No, Sirius would not mourn Wormtail.

"That's good, actually," Draco observed. "It'll help the story I need to create."

"What's he talking about?" Harry asked.

"If you'd tell your pet weasel to point his wand elsewhere, I'd be thrilled to inform you, Potter," Draco sniped. "This is Veritaserum. Pass it to Granger if you don't believe me; she can spot it, I'm sure."

Ron snatched the phial from Draco's grip and tossed it to Sirius, who handed it over to Hermione. The witch looked at it carefully, uncorking the top and sniffing it. "There's no smell."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Of course not, Granger. It has no smell."

"It's a trick." Ron scowled. "It's poison."

"Someone tell the weasel why that's moronic," Draco jeered.

"Because the Veritaserum isn't for us," Sirius explained. "It's for him."

"I'll take it, and you can wait and see if I die. Then one of you can take it to test and make sure I'm not lying," Draco offered, his jaw set tight, his eyes glaring at Ron. "Agreed? Honestly, we shouldn't be dawdling here."

"Give it to him," Harry said and watched as Sirius stood to hand the phial over.

Draco unstoppered the container and used the accompanying eyedropper to place a drop on his tongue. He clearly knew better than to use more. He might have been willing to prove his allegiance but it would be stupid to let the truth serum stay in his system long enough for his former rivals to take advantage of the situation.

"Only Black can ask questions," he insisted, handing the phial back.

"Now, one of us . . ." Harry muttered, snatching the phial from Sirius.

Hermione took it away from him and scowled at her friend. "Are you out of your mind? You're worth too much to risk."

Before anyone could stop her, Hermione placed one drop of the potion on her tongue. Sirius gaped at her, angry about the risk she had taken.

She waited a few seconds and then nodded. "All right, is someone going to ask me something?"

"What happened second year when you messed up the Polyjuice Potion?" Ron asked before anyone had a chance to think of a question to verify the potion.

Hermione turned and gave him the most heinous glare possible.

Harry immediately averted his gaze as he awaited the answer.

"The potion wasn't messed up," she said, the words flying out of her mouth against her will. All too familiar with the effects of Veritaserum, Sirius did not envy her. "But I accidentally took a cat hair instead of a human hair and ended up turning myself into a cat. You're dead to me, Ronald Weasley!"

"She turned into a cat?" Sirius chuckled, looking at Harry, who bobbed his head as he stifled his own laughter.

Ron snorted in amusement. "Well, it's really Veritaserum. She wouldn't willingly repeat that story to anyone outside the two of us."

"Why were you three brewing Polyjuice Potion in second year?" Draco asked, seeming eager to take what little advantage of the situation he could, knowing that Hermione was still under the influence of the Truth Serum.

"Because we thought that you either were or knew who the heir of Slytherin was, so Harry and Ron Polyjuiced themselves into Crabbe and Goyle and sneaked into the Slytherin common room to question you," Hermione blurted out and then immediately covered her mouth, eyes wide.

"And I'm the untrustworthy one?" Draco scoffed. "All right, Black, let's get this over with before it wears off. But at the end of this war, I've got some bloody questions of my own," he said, pointing to Hermione and Harry, purposely ignoring Ron who still kept his wand trained on him.

"All right, who holds your loyalty?" Sirius asked Draco.

"My mother," Draco said at once.

"Not Death Eaters?"

"No," Draco insisted.

"Are you a Death Eater?"

"Technically," he said through clenched teeth.

"You said you were on our side. How so?"

"At the end of fourth year, I was recruited as a spy because it was assumed that I would be pulled into the Death Eater ranks because of my father. Therefore, I was deemed a valuable asset," Draco explained. "I've been watching, passing information, and helping the Order ever since."

"Who recruited you?" Sirius asked.

"Severus Snape."

"Let me hex him!" Ron shouted angrily.

"Severus Snape is a bloody traitor!" Sirius growled. "He murdered Dumbledore!"

"No." Draco shook his head. "I don't know all the details, but I was told that Snape and Dumbledore had some arrangement. After I was instructed to kill Dumbledore myself, Snape took me aside and told me to fulfil the mission as completely as possible with the exception of actually killing Dumbledore. I was to disarm him and wait for Snape to show up. I didn't know he was going to kill him."

"He's telling the truth," Hermione said.

"Even if Snape did betray your precious Order, I haven't," Draco insisted.

"Prove it," Ron demanded.

"Prove it? I'm under Veritaserum, you fucking idiot."

"What have you done that can be counted as proof that your loyalty is still with the Order?" Harry asked.

Draco took a deep breath before turning his gaze on Hermione. "Your parents made it to Australia," he disclosed with a smug look on his face. Hermione gasped in response, her eyes widening; the wizards surrounding her glowered at Draco. "They weren't supposed to, for the record. Are we done now?"

"Let him go," Hermione ordered.

Ron scowled. "Hermione, you can't be serious!"

"Do it!" she snapped.

"What's the plan?" Harry asked.

"You lot take yourselves and my mother out of here. I'll grab Greyback from the other room and bring him in here," Draco said, pointing to Bellatrix's body. "She was mauled. The Dark Lord doesn't need to know by what or whom. I'll summon him once you're gone and tell him that Greyback and Scabior turned on us when Bellatrix refused to pay them. We fought, Snatchers died, but Potter escaped because Wormtail betrayed us." He looked to Sirius. "See? Works in our favour."

"And he'll believe you?" Hermione asked.

"I'm an excellent Occlumens," Draco boasted. "Which is why you're taking Mother with you. She's not."

"I'm not leaving without you," Narcissa insisted.

"I'm not asking." Draco glared at her. "You're a blood-traitor now, so you stay hidden no matter what." He turned to Sirius. "Keep her safe."

Sirius looked at the other body on the ground. "And your father?"

"Potter killed him," Draco explained. "He's already known to be quite effective at using Sectumsempra." Harry glared daggers at him in response, but Draco ignored him. "Take all the wands. Mother, give me yours."

"Why can't you just take back your own?" Harry asked, holding the wand in his own hand.

"Priori Incantatem," Draco explained. "If the Dark Lord suspects me at all, he'll check my wand and see that I was the one who killed Lucius. It's better if you disarmed me, killed my father, and I took my mother's wand as she escaped. Speaking of escaping, take Ollivander, the goblin, and the other two."

Ron and Harry shared a look.

"What?" Draco pressed.

"They're already gone," Ron said.

"Gone? How?"

"Dobby Disapparated them out," Harry revealed. "House-elves can Apparate in places where wizards can't."

"Dobby is pleased to help Harry Potter," a small voice called from above.

The group turned their collective gaze upward and spotted the elf hanging on the large chandelier. He smiled down, glancing briefly at the body of his former Master, and shook for a moment, his large ears flapping.

"Dobby? Can you Apparate this many people out of here?" Harry asked.

Dobby nodded, disappearing from the chandelier and reappearing on the floor in front of them all. He looked at Draco for a moment as if assessing the character of the boy before smiling at the result and reaching out for Harry's hand.

One by one, the group reached out for one another, physically connecting, leaving Narcissa to say a short goodbye to Draco.

Sirius lifted Hermione into his arms, ignoring the look of protest on her face. After an adjustment that was only difficult thanks to aching joints courtesy of Azkaban, he tucked one hand beneath her to grasp Harry's arm.

"I'll send a Patronus if I hear of any movement," Draco promised.

"You can make a Patronus?" Ron mocked. "What is it? A ferret?"

"Get out," Draco growled, and before Ron could say another word, Dobby Disapparated them all away from Malfoy Manor.

April 4th, 1998

The large group had been staying with Bill and Fleur for a week, and the small cottage was overly crowded. Three guest rooms had been set aside for the wounded: Griphook, Ollivander, and Hermione, who insisted that her room be shared with Luna. Dean, Ron, and Harry took refuge on the couch and floor of the sitting room.

Sirius had escorted Narcissa to Andromeda's house after sending a Patronus to Remus and Tonks, who he knew were living with her.

Being the Secret-Keeper for both Andromeda's home and his own, Remus had met Sirius outside the wards in order to allow them all inside. He had been reluctant to shelter Narcissa, but Sirius gave his word that his cousin would behave properly.

The two sisters were able to reconnect, though not before a good screaming match that made Sirius groan over his promise to keep Cissa in line. It was not until they each discovered the common trait of recently becoming widows that they fell into a puddle of tears in one another's arms. Andromeda had loved her husband, and she had been shunned by her entire family because of him, but he had been worth it to her. Narcissa had feared her husband, and she had lost her entire sense of self-worth because of him. However, for her, he had been worth it all just because of Draco.

Sirius put up a set of incredibly complicated wards around Andromeda's house to protect his cousins, enlisting Bill's help as a Curse-Breaker to test them just in case. Despite her incredibly distended midsection, Tonks took a turn at testing the wards since, as an Auror, she felt very qualified.

The women all took refuge in the kitchen to drink tea afterward, while Remus and Sirius vacated to the basement to share some firewhisky and update one another about the war.

"How are they?" Remus asked, setting his small glass down on a folding table that sat between the two crates he and Sirius were using as makeshift chairs.

Sirius looked up, exhausted. "You mean how is she?"

"I have a large enough heart to be concerned about the entirety of our side, Sirius."

"You knew, didn't you?" Sirius accused. "Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix."

Remus inclined his head.

"And you never told me." Sirius stood and began pacing around the room. "I could have stopped it. I was there. If I'd have known when and where we were going and what would have happened—"

"You couldn't have done anything more than you've already done!" Remus snapped in a harsher tone than he had intended, frowning when Sirius petulantly retook his seat. "She showed me in a Pensieve. When I noticed the scars, I confronted her. That's when she told me everything. We've talked about this before, Pads. She swore me to only reveal it all to you when the time was right, which she insisted wouldn't be for at least a decade. I took an Unbreakable Vow."

Sirius growled and knocked his glass to the floor with a violent sweep of his arm. "Why the fuck would she do that?"

"Because she protects those she loves. If she had stopped it from happening to her, then Bellatrix would have tortured you, or Harry, or Ron instead."

"I should have known," Sirius berated himself. "This whole time, my own fucking cousin." He growled again and put his head into his hands. "You remember what I told you happened at Narcissa's wedding? I've never seen her so—"

"Unhinged?" Remus offered.

Sirius almost laughed. Almost. "That's putting it lightly."

"Her hatred of Bellatrix wasn't about this moment you know. It had almost nothing to do with what happened to her at Malfoy Manor. Nothing to do with the curse or her arm. It was horrible, of course, don't misunderstand me," Remus said, putting up a defensive hand as Sirius glared at him. "She hated Bellatrix because of you. Because of the Department of Mysteries."

"She's started having nightmares," Sirius whispered, ignoring the guilt that continued to build in his chest. He did not want to know that she was always thinking about him instead of worrying about herself.

"She's always had nightmares," Remus countered.

"No." Sirius shook his head. "Hermione started having nightmares. This is the source. This is the beginning of them."

"Maybe that's why she swore me to secrecy."

"How's that?"

"She took care of us constantly," Remus said. "Always hovering over me, making sure I was healed and never alone. But she was always vulnerable at night. That gave us a chance to take care of her. You can't deny how that bonded us all together."

He reached down and picked up Sirius's fallen glass, setting it back on the table and reaching for the bottle of firewhisky to top off his friend's drink. He slid the glass across the small table and offered a consoling smile.

Sirius looked up, genuine anxiety in his eyes. "What happens if I can't keep her alive? Any of them?"

"That's the thing about time," Remus reflected, a faraway expression on his face. "It's a loop, you see. Every moment has already happened, we're just reliving it. The very fact that we still remember everything from years ago—that we remember her—means that she made it through this. The fact that she wasn't entirely broken must mean that it all turns out right in the end."

Sirius glared at him, annoyed. "I miss the pessimistic and stressed out Moony. How are you this calm with a pregnant wife ready to pop any second and a full moon in a week?"

Remus smirked, tilting his head to the side as he looked at Sirius. "The dosage of Calming Draught I've been on the past three months would put a normal wizard in a coma."

Sirius openly gaped at him, finally noticing Remus's eyes were hooded, and beneath the lids, his pupils were dilated. "You're high?"

Remus grinned and raised his glass to toast. "Cheers to werewolf metabolism, Pads."

April 13th, 1998

"So, what do you want to do with the rest?" Hermione asked, holding a bundle of wands in her hand. Her own had been returned to her, and she almost hated to hold it now, knowing that Lucius Malfoy had used it to cast the Cruciatus Curse on Sirius and nearly killed his own wife with it. But it was hers, and she forced herself to hold it affectionately, determined to use it to bring about enough good to counter the evil it had briefly caused.

Harry considered the bundle before nodding decisively. "Break them," he said and then barely dodged a hex thrown at him by Sirius, who was sparring with him in front of Shell Cottage.

"You sure you don't want to pick one from the bunch?" Ron asked Harry.

A small crowd had gathered on the front porch to watch as Harry continued trying to disarm Sirius. Draco's reasonably springy hawthorn wand obeyed him with ease as though it were his own. Sirius had lucked into finding his original wand among the others they had brought back with them from Malfoy Manor; it had likely been picked up by Snatchers picking through Godric's Hollow after Christmas.

"No, I need this wand," Harry insisted as he threw up a shield to block a Binding Curse that Sirius sent his way. "Ollivander said it's mine, at least for right now. Its allegiance changed the moment I disarmed Malfoy. The wand chooses the wizard. I can't explain it—Ow!" He grimaced at Sirius, who had grazed his leg with a mild Stinging Hex. "For the time being, I need this wand."

"And break the rest?" Hermione double-checked Harry's instructions.

"Yes, Hermione. Those wands belonged to Death Eaters and Snatchers. Break them and be done with it all."

"Gladly." Hermione handed the bundle to Ron, keeping one wand in her hands.

With a vengeful flutter in her chest, she snapped Bellatrix Lestrange's wand clean in half and then used her own wand to set the pieces on fire. Feeling a bit more reinvigorated, Hermione grabbed back for the bundle of wands and held it out to Dean and Luna, offering them each the opportunity to select one as their own, since their wands had been stolen and possibly destroyed upon their capture. Once they had chosen, she moved to snap the remaining wands all in one go.

"Wait!" Harry shouted. "Sirius! Pause! I have a better idea. Dobby!"

The small elf appeared with a loud crack, looking up at Harry Potter with a bright smile. "The Great Harry Potter calls for Dobby?" His tennis ball-sized eyes glanced around at the gathered crowd, giving them each a smile, his ears flapping as a soft breeze blew across the front porch.

"Dobby, I would like you to break these wands," Harry said, snatching the bundle from Hermione and handing it to the elf.

"Harry Potter wants . . ." Dobby's eyes doubled in size. He immediately began shaking his head. "No, no, no . . . elves are not to touch the wands of wizards. Mustn't, mustn't." He looked around the porch, nervously wringing his hands.

"Dobby, don't you dare hurt yourself," Harry cautioned the elf who began to shake. "Dobby, these wands did not belong to wizards. They belonged to weak men who abused magic. They weren't fit to be wizards. These wands are tainted with Dark Magic. They've hurt many people and creatures. They were used to capture and enslave. I think it only right that a free elf be the one to break them and put those evil deeds to rest."

Hermione smiled brightly, ignoring Sirius who was rolling his eyes behind his godson. Next to Hermione, Ron mirrored Sirius's actions. Luna looked pleased with the idea, while Dean, Bill, and Fleur all grinned, encouraging the little elf with their smiles.

"Come on, Dobby," Hermione urged. "You're better than those wizards."

"If Harry Potter insists," Dobby said, taking an extremely hesitant step toward the proffered bundle of finely carved wands, each with a different colour and core, but all with a history of violence and death. Very slowly, the little elf reached for one wand, a black wand made of elm that Hermione recognised as Scabior's, the Snatcher who had brought them to Malfoy Manor.

With initial reluctance, Dobby held the wand between his two small hands and clenched his eyes tightly shut, looking as though he was waiting for someone to hit him. When no one made a move, Dobby snapped the wand in half and opened eyes that now shone brightly in the setting sun. A smile crossed his face, and he let out a loud laugh of pure glee, jumping in the air and throwing the broken wand to the ground before stomping on it vigorously.

As though it were his new favourite game in the entire world, the elf eagerly reached back into the bundle of wands, snapping each one with enthusiasm, laughing and jumping as each one fell to the ground in an ever-growing pile. Hermione grinned delightedly at the scene, and once the bundle was gone, Dobby looked around eagerly as if he could find more if he just tried.

Harry laughed and held a hand out to him. "Thank you, Dobby. You've taken a great burden off my shoulders."

The elf beamed, taking Harry's hand. "Dobby is always happy to serve Harry Potter, sir."

Chapter Text

Another head hangs lowly,
Child is slowly taken.
And the violence caused such silence.
Who are we mistaken?
(Zombie - The Cranberries)

April 30th, 1998

"It has to be there," Hermione insisted. "She was adamant that we'd broken into her vault."

They had circled around this argument before. Bellatrix's behaviour at Malfoy Manor the month prior had implied that something important was housed in the Lestrange vault and not just an imitation of the Sword of Gryffindor. Unfortunately, there was no way to get inside. Ron suggested Polyjuice Potion, but without a piece of Bellatrix to use, that was impossible. Harry wanted to return to the manor to see if he could find something to use, but Sirius refused to allow any of them to risk themselves on a suicidal mission.

Hermione wanted to ask Narcissa for help—she was Bellatrix's sister, after all—but Sirius explained that since the Horcrux would be hidden in the Lestrange vault, Narcissa had no claim to it despite being a blood relation to Bellatrix; not while Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange remained alive. It was Ron who then proposed hunting down the Lestrange brothers and killing them, after which everyone in the room proceeded to ignore him.

Harry suggested asking Griphook for help, which Sirius shot down quickly. He insisted Griphook would turn on the lot of them faster than Kreacher had betrayed him.

They had nearly given up hope when they were handed the Horcrux on a silver platter.

That silver platter arrived in the form of a dragon Patronus that burst into the kitchen at Shell Cottage late one night. All occupants save for Harry, Hermione, Sirius, and Ron were asleep. Hermione admired the intricate beauty of the Patronus as it hovered for a few moments before opening its mouth and speaking with Draco Malfoy's voice.

"Potter, I have information you might be interested in. The Dark Lord wants me to go to Gringotts with Rodolphus in order to fetch an item of great importance. He was enraged to find out that not only was Bellatrix killed but that the Sword of Gryffindor might be missing from her vault. We're headed to Diagon Alley tomorrow. If you find this information helpful, I'll expect to be accosted outside Gringotts. Let Granger or Black be the one to engage us. Weasel might hurt himself."

Ron glared as the dragon vanished. "Prick."

Hermione ignored him, practically vibrating with excitement."Did you hear what he said?"

Ron glowered. "Yeah, I heard the ferret."

"It wasn't a ferret; it was a dragon," Hermione corrected him, annoyed that he was focusing on childhood rivalries instead of the amazing gift they had just been handed.

"How come he gets a dragon?" Harry asked, looking deflated.

Hermione observed the wizards sitting around the table, each looking put out by the appearance of the Patronus, Sirius included. She narrowed her gaze at each of them. "Are you joking? Malfoy is offering to deliver us a Horcrux, and you have decided, instead of celebrating, to have a pity party over the fact that his Patronus is a dragon?"

Ron frowned. "Mine's just a stupid dog."

"Hey!" Sirius barked. "I take offence to that. Mine's a dog too."

"Well, of course yours is a dog; you're a dog!" Ron countered.

"Mine's a stag like my dad's," Harry added, clearly trying to make himself feel better.

"Well, then how come I got a dog?" Ron whinged. "It's nothing to do with me!"

Hermione smacked the back of Ron's head. "Oh, for crying out loud, you think my otter has anything to do with me?"

Sirius's eyebrows raised, and he looked at her with a confused expression. "Your Patronus is an otter?"

Hermione put her hands on her hips. "Yes. Got something to say about it?" she asked, daring him to poke fun at her otter.

There was a heavy knock on the front door, and everyone's head turned. Bill came running out of his bedroom, concern splashed across his face, pointing his wand at the door; Harry, Ron, Sirius, and Hermione did the same.

"Who is it?" Bill demanded.

"It's me, Remus Lupin!" came a voice over the howling wind. "I am a werewolf, married to Nymphadora Tonks, and you, the Secret-Keeper of Shell Cottage, told me the address and said to come in an emergency!"

Remus fell over the threshold when Bill wrenched the door open. He was white-faced, wrapped in a travelling cloak, his greying hair windswept. He straightened up, looked around the room, making sure of who was there, then bellowed, "It's a boy! We've named him after Dora's father! Edward Remus Lupin!"

Hermione shrieked, "Congratulations, Remus!" and rushed to him, wrapping her arms around his waist.

He hugged her back with enthusiasm and kissed the top of her head.

Sirius grinned brightly. "Tonks had the baby?"

"Yes, yes, she's had the baby!"

All around the room came cries of delight and sighs of relief at the news.

"Congratulations!" Fleur squealed.

"Blimey, a baby!" Ron said as if he had never heard of such a thing before.

"Yes, yes, a baby boy," Remus repeated, looking dazed by his own happiness. He strode around the table and hugged Sirius, then Harry; the scene in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place might never have happened. "You'll be godfather?" he asked as he released Harry, his eyes lingering on Hermione's smiling face for a moment as though he wanted to say something to her but held back.


"You, yes, of course. Dora agrees; no one better!"

"Hey!" Sirius protested, his brows furrowing as he sat back down. "I'll have you know I'm the only one here who's actually experienced in the act of godfathering."

"Poor Sirius." Hermione smirked and walked up behind him to place a kiss on the top of his head and pat his shoulder consolingly. Realising what she had done, she stood up straight and cleared her throat before crossing the room and kissing Harry's cheek while muttering, "Congratulations, Harry."

Her surprising act of affection silenced Sirius, though he kept his arms crossed over his chest in mute protest, and she could hear him grumbling under his breath, "It's not like I'm your best friend or anything."

Bill hurried to fetch wine, and Fleur persuaded Remus to join them for a drink.

"I can't stay long. I must get back." Remus, looking years younger than Hermione had ever seen him, beamed around at them all. "Thank you, thank you, Bill."

Bill had soon filled all of their goblets; they stood and raised them high in a toast.

"To Edward Remus Lupin. Teddy," Remus saluted joyfully. "A great wizard in the making!"

"A wizard?" Hermione questioned him knowingly, emphasising the word to make a point.

Remus grinned at her brightly. "Yes, a wizard," he replied and kissed her cheek. "Thank you, Hermione."

"Who does he look like?" Fleur inquired.

"I think he favours Dora, but she thinks he looks like me."

"Poor lad." Sirius snickered, and Hermione glared at him, but Remus just laughed.

"Not much hair. It looked black when he was born, but I swear it turned ginger in the hour since. Probably blond by the time I get back. Andromeda says Dora's hair started changing colour the day that she was born." Remus drained his goblet in one large swallow. "Oh, go on then, just one more," he said, beaming, as Bill made to fill it again. "So, have I missed anything important over here?"

Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Sirius all shared a look before Sirius finally spoke. "Nothing you need to worry about, Moony. You've got a wife and kid to take care of. In fact, since you've hurt my very soul by not making me the godfather of your firstborn, I'll accept your apology in the form of you staying inside a locked and warded house with your family."

Remus rolled his eyes. "Until when?"

"Until I send you a Patronus!" Sirius retorted, his tone darkening. "I'm not joking, Remus. The only reason you or Tonks step foot out your door is if Hermione or I tell you to."

Shocked to have been included, Hermione looked back and forth between the friends, having expected Remus to be as confused as her or for Sirius to take back his words. When neither did as she assumed they would, she glanced at Harry and Ron to silently ask them, but both boys were deep in their goblets.

"Fine, fine. I'll occupy my time with late night feedings and dirty nappies," Remus said, chuckling. "Now, I really must get back." He declined another goblet of wine as he got to his feet, pulling his travelling cloak back around himself. "I'll try and send some pictures in a few days' time. Everyone at home will be so glad to know that I've seen you."

After fastening his cloak, Remus made his farewells, hugging the women and clasping hands with the men. Then, still beaming, he returned into the wild night.

"Godfather Harry." Bill grinned and patted Harry on the back.

"Yeah." Harry smiled, still clearly dazed by the request. "Sirius, what does a godfather even do?"

"I'm not exactly an expert." Sirius shrugged, looking sadly down into his goblet of wine. "You just . . . take care of him. He's your family now. As good as yours. Keep him safe. The first couple years are relatively simple," he counselled, looking as though he was trying to sweep away the sadness that had suddenly clouded the conversation. "Spoil the hell out of him."

With a loud sigh, he set his cup down on the table and cleared his throat. "All right, enough of this sappy nonsense. We've got a Malfoy to mug tomorrow!"

May 1st, 1998

The plan was simple.

Sirius Apparated to a back street, just off Knockturn Alley, immediately shifting into Padfoot and making his way to the end of the road where his focus could be glued to the entrance of Gringotts. Ron had been transfigured and was now sporting black, messy hair that fell past his ears and a long goatee. He looked like a displaced Death Eater from Durmstrang, more Igor Karkaroff than Weasley. It was the best any of them could come up with on such short notice. Harry and Hermione were hidden beneath the Invisibility Cloak, eagerly awaiting Sirius's signal.

The plan had been to stake out the bank and wait for Draco and Lestrange to pass by, and then attack them when they exited, hopefully with Horcrux in hand. Ron was supposed to stand guard while Harry and Hermione attacked, at which point Sirius would rush in and snatch up the package, and the four of them would Apparate back to Shell Cottage.

It should have been simple, all things considered.

What they had not planned on was Voldemort's loss of trust in Draco. Whatever happened at Malfoy Manor after their escape remained unknown to them, but the morning before the plan to convene in front of Gringotts was set to go, Harry had a vision.

Despite helping Harry with his Occlumency, Sirius could do nothing when Voldemort's experiences bled through the connection while Harry was sleeping.

Sirius heard the screaming and pulled Harry into his arms, holding him as he thrashed for several minutes. When Harry eventually opened his eyes, gasping for breath, he informed everyone that had gathered around due to his screams that Draco had been attacked with Legilimency.

"I saw everything," Harry said, panting. "He kept up the lie, but Rodolphus told You-Know-Who that Malfoy might have been involved in Bellatrix's death. So they got to him while he was sleeping. This isn't new. It's been happening since we escaped. They've been torturing Malfoy trying to see if he'll eventually break and tell the truth."

Hermione visibly flinched, and everyone, Sirius included, saw the way she wrapped her arms around herself when Harry brought up Draco being tortured. Sirius, himself, felt a deep rage over what was being done to his young cousin, but his priorities needed to remain the same.

"We stick to the plan."

"It could be a trap," Ron said cautiously.

"If it is, then Malfoy's bait," Harry said, wiping sweat from his brow and prying himself out of Sirius's grip. "I don't like the prat, but I won't let him be another casualty in this war. Even if it's a trap, we have to go. We need the Horcrux."

"If we rescue Malfoy in the process, all the better," Hermione added.

Sirius was annoyed, but not entirely surprised when Draco was not only incredibly late—arriving at the bank just before it closed—but Rodolphus was no longer the only one to escort the young wizard inside Gringotts.

As the doors to the bank opened, Sirius's eyes widened at the sight of not only Rodolphus but also Rabastan Lestrange flanking Draco, along with Travers, the elder Crabbe, and Goyle Sr following behind.

Draco looked on edge as he descended the stairs outside the bank, glancing suspiciously around Diagon Alley, his lips curled into a scowl. There was a package in his hands—hands that appeared to be covered in very recent burns.

Sirius immediately recognised the results of what had to have been a Flagrante Curse, which was taught to the Black children early on in life when they were caught snooping through their parents' belongings. It was cruel and harsh, though he could not help but think that it would be a perfect trap to set inside a vault.

Scanning the alley once more, Padfoot nodded his head knowingly when he made eye contact with Draco. Visibly breathing deep, Draco took his mother's wand in hand, quickly ducking down whilst throwing up a nonverbal protection shield around his body that was purposely evident to anyone actually paying attention. The Death Eaters, thankfully, were not so observant.

Sirius shifted form and sent a pair of Stunning Spells toward the small crowd, hitting Crabbe first, then Goyle directly after.

From the other side of the street, Harry and Hermione jumped out from under the cloak that hid them, shooting spells, hexes, and jinxes at the gathered Death Eaters. Draco Disillusioned himself and slipped into the background with the package in hand. Spell after spell flew. Sirius took on Rodolphus, Ron fought Travers, and Harry and Hermione faced Rabastan.

"Stupefy!" Harry shouted, but Rabastan evaded the spell.

"We have to end this quickly! We're drawing attention!" Hermione yelled.

"Push them together!" Sirius ordered.

Ron called out, "Impedimenta!" The jinx hit Travers square in the chest, knocking him down between the bodies of Crabbe and Goyle. He then went to Sirius's side to help him fight the elder Lestrange brother.

"I know it was you, Black!" Rodolphus screamed. "I knew the Malfoy boy was a blood-traitor, and that my Bella wouldn't have been overpowered by a bloody werewolf!"

Sirius laughed. "No? But she was overpowered so easily by a mere dog."

"You'll pay for what you did!" Rodolphus bellowed and aimed his wand. "Avada Ked—"

Hermione screamed, "Confundo Maxima!" from behind Harry. Her Confundus Spell hit Rodolphus Lestrange before he had a chance to finish his curse, and the man tumbled backward against the steps.

"Petrificus Totalus!" Ron shouted, binding the Death Eater's body.

"A little help here!" Harry yelled as Rabastan descended upon himself and Hermione. Lestrange cast curse after curse at the two. Ron stood guard over the bodies of the stunned and bound Death Eaters while keeping eyes peeled for any potential backup.

"Crucio!" Rabastan's curse missed Hermione by mere centimetres.

Hearing the curse, Sirius spun to attack, but before he had a chance to retaliate—and before Rabastan could cast another Unforgivable in Hermione's direction—a voice from behind him called out, "Avada Kedavra!" and Rabastan's body fell forward, pale and lifeless.

Hermione gasped at the sight and looked up in time to see Draco Malfoy drop his Disillusionment Charm.

"What the hell, Malfoy!?" Ron screamed and stormed forward. "You tricked us!"

"Didn't I say not to let him do anything?" Draco scowled at Harry. "Here, get this away from me. It's given me nothing but trouble." He handed over the package roughly, shoving it into Harry's hands before turning his gaze on Ron. "If you couldn't tell, Weasel, I wasn't a part of this welcome wagon for you! Being on your fucking side has given me nothing but problems!"

Ron scoffed. "Oh, poor you."

"Granger, get your boyfriend out of my face before I set him on fire!" Draco threatened.

Sirius ignored the squabbling. Instead, he used his energy to check everyone for injuries since they seemed to be too busy to bother with such trivial things. Malfoy's tone, however, was grating on his last nerve.

"Ron, back off!" Hermione directed. "And he's not my boyfriend."

"Like I really give a shit about the specifics. Well, is that it?" he asked Harry who was staring at a fine, golden cup in his hands.

"This is it," Harry confirmed. "Let's get back to Shell Cottage."

"Not yet. You want them to follow you?" Draco pointed to the unconscious and bound Death Eaters behind them.

"They need to be arrested," Hermione insisted.

"Oh, I'll just go call the Aurors then, Granger." Draco's eye roll was accompanied by a long-suffering sigh. "Except if you haven't noticed, they're all working for the Dark Lord!" Shaking his head, his attention turned to Sirius who was walking up the steps.

"Look away if you can't do it yourself," Sirius mumbled under his breath, aiming his wand at the bound Rodolphus Lestrange who glared up at him with a viciousness that Sirius had rarely seen outside of his own family.

"Sirius . . ." Hermione whimpered.

Draco aimed his wand and sent a Killing Curse at an unconscious Travers. "This is war, Granger," he said, his voice cold.

"Sirius, please," Hermione begged. "I know this is war, but I think there's a very big difference between defending yourself in battle and killing an unarmed enemy."

Sirius tightened his jaw, struggling to reach a decision. Shockingly, he remembered a time when he was the reasonable one, as far fetched as that was. He normally would not have given it another thought, but the look in her eyes was causing him pain, and he could not help but lower his wand a fraction of an inch.

"Bloody Gryffindors." Draco scowled and stalked over past Sirius, aiming his wand and shouting, "Avada Kedavra!" killing the last son of the House of Lestrange. Draco then turned and aimed at Crabbe but hesitated.

Sirius, immediately aware of the boy's change in demeanour, approached and put a hand on his shoulder. "It's too much. You can't take lives without consequences. Don't end up like him," he said, and though he did not mention a specific name, understanding flashed in Draco's eyes. "You're not a killer. C'mon, let's go see your mum, yeah?"

Draco merely nodded.

The moment was cut by a loud scream as Harry gripped his head and collapsed to the ground. "Harry!" multiple people yelled as they ran to his side, Hermione reaching quickly for the Horcrux before Harry dropped it.

"What is it?" Sirius asked, gripping his godson by the arms. "What did you see?"

Draco rolled his eyes at the theatrics and incredulously asked, "Potter's a Seer now?"

"He's . . . He's . . ." Harry forced the words out of his mouth. "He's coming."

"Hurry, we need to Apparate back to the cottage," Ron urged.

"Don't be stupid, Weasel," Draco hissed. "He's got the Aurors on his side!"

"What the hell does that have to do with anything!?"

"They can track Apparition now!"

Everyone stared at the blond, wide-eyed in shock. That was certainly new.

"What do we do?" Hermione eventually asked.

"We leave a trail too difficult to follow," Sirius improvised. "We'll split up for the time being. Ron, Side-Along with Draco back to the forest where you returned to us," he directed. "Harry and Hermione will go somewhere Muggle, I'll Apparate to the cave where I stayed when I was on the run. Then we'll need to Apparate somewhere else and meet up."

"Malfoy Manor," Draco offered.

Ron paled. "What?!"

"If the Dark Lord is on his way here, that means he won't be there! The Floo in my sitting room connects directly to the headmaster's office at Hogwarts. It's how Snape and I have been communicating throughout this."

Sirius growled at the name, and Draco groaned. "Look, I know you've got a problem with him, but he's on your side! And we're wasting time!"

"We need to get to Hogwarts anyway, Sirius," Harry pointed out, his gaze unfocused as he slumped against Hermione. "It's where the next one will be. I saw it in his mind. I saw him trying to figure out where to go next."

"I still don't think we should trust—" Ron began, but Harry cut him off.

"We need to get going," he said firmly. "Can you imagine what he's going to do once he realises the ring and the locket are gone? What if he moves the Hogwarts Horcrux, decides it isn't safe enough?"

"That thing's a fucking Horcrux?!" The colour drained from Draco's face as he stared at the cup in Hermione's hand. He looked up at Harry. "What did you mean by ring and locket?"

"He's got more than one; we've been destroying them," Harry explained.

"Fuck." Draco grimaced, his face finally showing fear.

Sirius growled. "Everyone go. Now!"

Turning on the spot, they each vanished into the crushing darkness.

Sirius landed on the small road on the outskirts of Hogsmeade that led to the cave where he had hidden years ago while he had been on the run with Buckbeak. He had thought about Apparating directly into the cave, but he knew that if he aimed wrong, he would end up on the edge of a cliff.

Before he could take a single step, the air was rent by a loud scream that sent chills up his arms, and his hands flew to his ears.

"Caterwauling Charm, just fucking great," he groaned and made to Disapparate away only to find that Anti-Disapparition Charms had been cast over the village. He scowled and shifted into Padfoot, quickly moving around the outskirts of Hogsmeade, taking back alleys and side streets when possible.

Death Eaters roamed the hamlet in droves, wands at the ready as they searched high and low for whoever had set off the charm. "Look everywhere! Potter's got an Invisibility Cloak, so check every corner even if you don't see anything!"

"What about the dementors?" called another Death Eater. "Let 'em have free rein, and they'll find him quick enough!"

"The Dark Lord wants Potter dead at his own hands."

"Dementors won't kill him! The Dark Lord wants Potter's life, not his soul. He'll be easier to kill if he's been Kissed first!" the other Death Eater argued.

Padfoot flinched at the sight of the few dementors moving in and out of the streets. He swallowed hard, refusing to make eye contact, silently hoping that none of them recognised him in this form. If Sirius could sneak out of Azkaban from a cramped cell in the midst of at least one hundred dementors, he could manage this handful of them. It was difficult, however, as he pushed closer and closer to the creatures and felt all the happiness evaporating from his body. Terrible memories pricked at his mind the closer he got to the monsters, and he cringed as voices from the past echoed inside of his head.

"Sirius don't leave, don't leave . . . Please! Sirius, don't leave me!"

Shaking his head and trying to breathe, he focused as hard as possible and continued forward past the dementors, clinging to what little hope he had left.

Finally reaching the street that led up to Hogwarts, Padfoot ducked from sight, slipping into the back door of Honeydukes. The shop was closed, and it didn't look like it was just for the day. Death Eaters had completely taken over the sweet little town that had filled his youth with joy. It left a bitter taste in his mouth to see it so empty and lifeless, the joy literally sucked out of it.

He sneaked stealthily into the basement passage that he knew led to the statue of the one-eyed witch, and he ran the length of it as quickly as he could. When he reached the end, he spotted a figure. Padfoot skulked forward, low to the ground, taking in the familiar face, though she had aged twenty plus years.

Alecto Carrow stood at the end of the long passage, mumbling bitterly to herself about Snape and his high-handed ways.

"Check the bloody passages, Alecto," she said in a mocking tone. "Search the seventh-floor corridor, Alecto. Guard the Ravenclaw Tower, Alecto. Like he bloody does anything himself."

Padfoot rolled his eyes and made his way out into the open, whimpering softly and limping on his front right leg as though injured.

"Who's there?!" She aimed her wand before letting her gaze focus on him.

Padfoot stopped moving, blinking wide puppy eyes up at her and letting out a soft whining noise.

"Oi, get lost, mutt." She scowled and lowered her wand.

Fucking idiot.

Alecto's dying scream echoed in the passageway as Sirius crawled out from behind the one-eyed witch statue, wand drawn and searching for signs of life. Lamenting that he had not thought to take the Marauder's Map from Harry, he turned back into Padfoot, knowing that it would cause less of a disturbance than his human self. Only a handful of people knew he was an Animagus.

The halls were silent and empty save for a few prefects, all Slytherins, patrolling the corridors here and there in a desultory fashion. Padfoot ducked into dark alcoves and behind curtains, waiting for them to pass before he quickly moved on, making his way toward the Headmaster's office in the hopes that Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco were already at Hogwarts, and not waiting for him at Malfoy Manor.

When he was almost to the gargoyle, he suddenly realised he had no way of getting inside. Dumbledore's office was often easy to sneak into; with Remus as a friend, Sirius knew every sweet ever made and in alphabetical order. But Dumbledore was gone, and his murderer now occupied his post. To his surprise, the same murderer was now descending the spiralling staircase from behind the gargoyle, his black robes billowing behind him.

Sirius shifted back to human form and pointed his wand directly at Snape's throat. "Snivellus."

"Black," Snape's voice dripped with scorn, not looking surprised to see Sirius. "I'd heard rumours of your unfortunate return from the grave. Not that you were actually buried, of course. Tell me, were you even dead, or was it another poorly planned escape of yours?"

Sirius growled menacingly. "Get back up the stairs."

Snape sneered at him in reply, black eyes narrowing. "I advise you to get your wand out of my throat, dog. I stopped taking your threats earnestly years ago."

"You really shouldn't have. Get up the stairs now, Snape. I happen to have need of your Floo."

Snape's black eyes met Sirius's steely stare, neither man willing to back down. "And why would I possibly grant access to you?"

"Because your only hope of surviving another encounter with me hangs on the fact that a certain young, blond Death Eater has vouched for you, and I need that fucking Floo to speak to him." Sirius waited for a reply, staring coldly at his lifelong rival.

If Snape was surprised by the revelation, he did not let Sirius know it. "And how do I know that young Malfoy is, in fact, with you?"

"Because unlike you piece of shit Death Eaters," Sirius snarled, "I don't kill children."

Snape moved only slightly as he turned to the statue. "Speaking of children, I can only assume by your lack of emotional breakdown that Potter still lives? Dumbledore," he said, and the gargoyle slid aside, revealing once again the large spiral staircase.

"Dumbledore is your password? You're sick."

"And you are as dense as you ever were, Black," Snape said as he climbed the staircase. "If, in fact, Mr Malfoy has informed you of my allegiances, then you should know the headmaster's death was, in truth—"

"I don't want to hear it," Sirius snapped. "Just get me to the bloody Floo!"

Snape glowered as they entered his office. "Very well."

"Ah, see? I knew my worthless great-great-grandson wasn't really dead. Hiding out was he, Severus?" the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black remarked, staring daggers down at Sirius.

"He has not admitted such," Snape muttered. "Yet."

"The Floo, Snivellus!" Sirius barked.

Snape folded his arms across his chest, burying his hands within the sleeves of his robes. "Very well, it's open for your use. Though it only connects to one place, and I can't imagine you'll be welcome company."

"I bloody well know where it goes!" Sirius glared at him. "And you're coming with me."

"Absolutely not," Snape said impassively.

"He's coming to Hogwarts," Sirius said, his voice low and threatening. "Now."

If Snape betrayed any hint of emotion, it was minuscule, but he did silently stalk toward the Floo as if Sirius's words had sparked something inside him. "Do I want to know who's on the other end of this?"

"Not enemies."

"How very vague; thank you." Snape rolled his eyes, threw powder into the fireplace, and spoke aloud, "Malfoy Manor."

"After you." Sirius gestured and watched Snape enter the flames, following him moments later.

On the other end of the Floo, they exited a large fireplace and entered the sitting room at Malfoy Manor cautiously.

The room was lit brightly with beautiful lanterns. Per Narcissa's style, every piece of furniture matched, all priceless antiques in pristine condition. The floors were well-polished, exquisite art hung on the walls, and a large chandelier graced the middle of the room. The very opposite of what the atmosphere of the drawing room had been a month earlier.

It was not the lovely furniture, the gorgeous art, or the polished floors that drew Sirius's focus, though. His attention was drawn to the centre of the room where Harry and Ron had their wands aimed at the Slytherin; Draco, in turn, had his wand aimed back at Ron. Hermione stood to the side, screaming at the lot of them, the impatient and frustrated expression on her face rivalling the likes of Molly Weasley.

Snape glowered, crossing his arms and letting out an impatient sigh. "Oh good, our world is saved."

"What the hell's going on here!?" Sirius demanded.

"Sirius!" Hermione turned to him, relief on her face as she rushed into his arms, wrapping hers tightly around his waist. "I thought . . . Merlin, when you didn't show up—"

"I'm fine, kitten," Sirius assured her, gently tugging on one of her curls. "What'd Malfoy do?"

He caught Snape observing their interaction with a slightly raised eyebrow. His expression instantly shifted into a sneer when Sirius glared at him threateningly.

Hermione paid Snape no attention. "I don't know. Harry and I arrived, and Ron and Malfoy were screaming at one another. They drew wands, Harry jumped in, and other than insults, I haven't been able to get a word out of any of them!"

"Oi!" Sirius yelled, and the three young wizards looked at him.

Harry grinned. "Sirius!"

"What'd he do?" Sirius asked Ron.

"He bloody splinched me!" Ron bellowed, his wand hand shaking.

Draco scoffed. "Barely. Has he ever even done Side-Along-Apparition? Honestly, Granger, I thought you'd have him better trained by now."

"Look!" Ron held up his left hand where two fingernails were missing.

Both Sirius and Hermione stared at him incredulously. Before Sirius had a chance to scold the boy for whinging over a couple of lost fingernails in the middle of a war, Hermione went into a frenzy, rushing forward and smacking Ron hard in the head, snatching his wand from his grip in the process.

"Are you mad!?" she shrieked. "That's barely a splinch! Sirius was splinched! I was splinched! Get over yourself, and get into that Floo right this minute, Ronald Bilius Weasley!" She pointed to the fireplace where she spotted Snape for the first time; her eyes widened, and she raised her own wand.

"You!" Harry shouted, his wand pointed accusingly at Snape.

Sirius put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Not now. Bigger fish to fry, better wizards to fight. But believe me, Death Eater or Order member," he said, his focus turning to Snape, "you and I will have words."

Snape rolled his eyes and reached for the Floo powder on top of the mantle. "I look forward to it."

Chapter Text

I'm going under
Drowning in you
I'm falling forever
I've got to break through
I'm going under
(Going Under - Evanescence)

May 1st, 1998

"The Dark Lord is coming?" Snape asked once everyone had arrived at his office. He had thrown up a carefully placed Silencing Charm, somehow cutting off all of the portraits in the room. Most of them glared at him for doing so, but none more so than Phineas Nigellus Black, who glowered at Snape and Sirius in turn.

Harry stared at Snape for a long moment, his gaze accusing and hands shaking with rage. Only Sirius's hand on his shoulder kept him from attacking. "Yes. Not like you didn't know!"

"Harry, not now," Hermione admonished.

Snape's focus flew to Draco. "Does he have the snake with him?"

The young Death Eater paled at the mention of Nagini, but he gave a brief nod and turned to close the Floo behind him, making sure they could not be followed.

"Closer than ever," he disclosed. "Happened after he found Bellatrix dead. He won't let the thing out of his sight."

Snape's black eyes narrowed, and he turned around to face a large Pensieve on his desk. Looking extremely perturbed, he moved quickly to a large cabinet, opening it to reveal cupboards of phials, mostly potions, but some easily recognisable as memories. Retrieving an empty bottle, Snape unstoppered it and brought his wand to his head.

"What's he doing?" Ron asked loudly.

"Trying to concentrate, Mr Weasley, and your silence would be indispensable if it can be managed." Snape glared at the redhead before closing his eyes, concentrating hard, and letting his wand pull silvery strings from the side of his head, eventually twirling them around and pushing them into the large phial in his hand. Securing it with the top, he held the phial out to Harry. "Take it."

"What is it?" Harry asked.

"Those are memories. This—" Snape gestured to the large rune-covered stone basin on the desk. "—is a Pensieve. If I remember correctly from your abysmal attempt at Occlumency, you're acquainted with their use."

"I know what they are; what're they for?" Harry snapped.

"Answers on the occasion of my unfortunate demise," Snape replied, and both Ron and Sirius snorted at the use of the word unfortunate. "A death that is certain to be unavoidable as you've apparently brought the Dark Lord to the doorstep of this institution. Now, if the rest of you plan on surviving the night, I advise the Gryffindors to head toward the seventh-floor corridor."

"I knew it!" Draco scowled. "I knew that's where they've all been hiding. Couldn't get in myself when I tried, though."

Harry stared between Snape and Draco, concern written on his face at the mention of his Housemates. When neither said anything more on the matter, he demanded, "What's going on?"

"Students have been going missing all year. They're in the Room of Hidden Things. They had to have left someone in there at all times to keep Slytherins out. Smart," Draco admitted. "Must have been a Ravenclaw," he added with a sneer, and all Gryffindors in the room glared at him.

"Speaking of Ravenclaws," Snape interjected. "Potter, you'll want to head to the West Tower on the fifth floor."

Harry stared icily at his former professor. "And why would I go where you tell me to?"

"Because Death Eaters in the school were alerted by the Dark Lord that you would return to Hogwarts and you were to be kept from Ravenclaw Tower. I assume you're looking for something?" Snape queried, eyeing Harry. Both Hermione and Ron avoided his stare. "I'd wager that whatever you're looking for will be found there."

Snape turned to Draco. "As for you, return to the Slytherin common room, and keep them occupied if you're able."

"Easy." Malfoy bowed his head in acquiescence before making his way for the door, quickly disappearing down the spiral staircase.

"And you?" Sirius finally asked.

"I'll be making my grand escape, coward that I am," Snape said sarcastically. "I've been found out after all. I still have orders to follow. You remember those, Black? It's been a few years, I'll give you that, but if you recall, you had orders to remain within the confines of Grimmauld Place and not to go gallivanting about the Ministry and getting yourself killed."

"Don't." A wand was raised and pointed in Snape's direction.

Sirius smiled wryly as Hermione's brown eyes flashed in the flickering light as she glared daggers at her former professor.

"Just as I thought." Snape almost grinned. "Touchy subject, Miss Granger? Or is it Miss Po—" Snape slowly began, his gaze drifting to Sirius who cut him off with a low snarl.

"We are leaving now!" Sirius interrupted, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

Snape stared at Sirius for a long moment. Sirius broke eye contact first, turning and ushering Harry, Ron, and Hermione out the door.

Once the trio started down the stairs, he spun on Snape viciously. "What're you playing at?"

"I've had a feeling for several years but thought it was impossible. I almost didn't place her," Snape drawled. "But the way the girl dotes upon you and comes to your defence, raising her wand in threat even." He sneered at Sirius and scoffed loudly. "For Potter? Perhaps. But you? I imagine if the wolf was here she'd be raising her fists, the violent little—"

"Aren't you supposed to be making your grand escape?" Sirius snapped, storming out of the room and flicking his wand to slam the door violently behind him before Snape could say another word.

"What was that about?" Harry asked immediately as Sirius rejoined them.

"Nothing. Snape's an arse," Sirius replied as he moved toward the grand staircase.

"He seemed to know something about Hermione—" Harry began again, but Sirius stopped him, mid-thought.

"Harry, I'm sorry, but now is not the time to be questioning the words of Severus Snape. We've got jobs to do, right, son?" He put his hands on Harry's shoulders, trying to get him to focus. "Now, Ravenclaw Tower?"

Harry shook his head. "I don't even know what I'm looking for. I know it'll be something small like the rest, and it'll probably have belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. I say let's go to the Room of Requirement and maybe see if there's a Ravenclaw who could help."

"Might be the diadem," Sirius suggested offhandedly as they walked.

"What's a diadem?" Ron wondered.

"It's like a tiara," Hermione explained. "But wait, how do you know about the diadem?" she asked Sirius. "I only heard about it because Luna's a Ravenclaw, and she was mumbling about it on the train one year."

"We all went looking for the thing fourth year," Sirius disclosed with a shrug. "James, Remus, Wormtail, and . . ." He stopped, changing his train of thought. "And I."

"Did you four ever study?" Hermione demanded in exasperation.

Sirius laughed in reply and winked at her. "If we make it through this, I'll tell you all about how I got nine O.W.L.s."

"Nine!?" Hermione screeched, her eyes wide. "That's impossible! I got eleven, and I nearly killed myself doing it!" She stormed ahead of him in a huff, her curls—which had recently loosened into soft ringlets that fell gently down her back—frizzed up, sparking at the ends with agitation as she moved. Sirius, Ron, and Harry snickered from behind her.

Once they reached the seventh floor, Harry rushed to the entrance of the Room of Requirement while the other three remained behind, watching silently as Harry paced back and forth in front of the empty wall across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. As though the room had been waiting for Harry's arrival, a door appeared on the wall in front of him.

Slowly, he reached for the handle and opened the door, stepping inside; the other three followed him in.

The room was enormous and looked rather like the interior of a particularly sumptuous tree house or perhaps a gigantic ship's cabin. Multicoloured hammocks were strung from the ceiling and from the balcony that ran around the dark wood-paneled and windowless walls, which were covered in bright tapestry hangings.

They saw the gold Gryffindor lion emblazoned on scarlet, the black badger of Hufflepuff set against yellow, and the bronze eagle of Ravenclaw on blue. The silver and green of Slytherin were noticeably absent. There were bulging bookcases, a few broomsticks propped against the walls, and in the corner, a large wizarding wireless in a wooden case.

"Harry?" a voice called from below the steps that led into the room.

Sirius looked down to see Neville, Alice and Frank's boy, looking up at Harry with shock and elation, one eye swollen yellow and purple, visible gouge marks on his face.

"Harry!" he yelled and rushed up, taking his friend into a tight embrace.

At Neville's shouts, more followed.


"It's Potter; it's POTTER!"



"Is that Sirius Black?"

"I thought he was dead."

"Neville, what is this place?" Harry asked, eyes wide as he took in the giant room.

"Room of Requirement, of course!" Neville exclaimed. "Surpassed itself, hasn't it? The Carrows were chasing me, and I knew I had just one chance for a hideout. I managed to get through the door, and this is what I found! Well, it wasn't exactly like this when I arrived: it was a lot smaller, and there was only one hammock and just Gryffindor hangings, but it's expanded as more and more of the D.A. have arrived."

"And the Carrows can't get in?" Harry wondered aloud, looking around for the door.

"Only need to worry about one now, anyway," Sirius breezily commented.

Harry turned to look at him. "What's that?"

"What? The Carrows? Yeah, I spotted old Alecto on my way in. She's allergic to dogs," Sirius said with a devious grin.

Hermione frowned at him. "Do I even want to know?"

"She pulled a wand on me," Sirius said hastily. "It was all in defence, love, I promise. I didn't even have a wand in my hand."

Hermione narrowed her eyes. "Did you have hands?"

"Trust me, Hermione, if you knew the Alecto Carrow that I knew growing up, you wouldn't give her memory a passing thought. Or her brother either. In fact, I'm looking forward to a little reunion with Amycus."

"Can you just . . . I don't know, try to avoid trouble?" she pleaded with him, a stern look on her face. "Is that even possible?"

"You act like I purposely walk into fights," Sirius said accusingly. "If you haven't noticed, I've been pretty adept at not dying this year, and the only fights I get into are when I'm being attacked."

Hermione folded her arms across her chest. "You could be a little less enthusiastic about it."

"I have very few outlets for my energy," Sirius contended, his jaw tight. "At least this way I'm bloody helpful."

"Are they always like this?" Neville whispered to Harry who merely rolled his eyes, dipped his head in confirmation, and walked away from his feuding godfather and best friend.

Hermione clearly heard the comment because she glowered at Harry, watching as he moved into the crowd to be welcomed by old friends and acquaintances.

"I need to speak to any Ravenclaws," Harry declared.

Luna's blond hair stood out as she made her way through the crowd. They had only seen her a day earlier at Shell Cottage and had no idea that she had planned on returning to Hogwarts.

"Luna, is there anything in Ravenclaw Tower that might have belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw? Might be small? Maybe have an eagle on it?" Harry asked.

Luna stared off into space. "Well, there's her lost diadem."

Sirius chuckled. "Told you."

"Told who what?" someone said from behind Sirius.

As they all turned to look, Ginny climbed through a hole in the wall, closely followed by Fred, George, and another boy. Ginny gave Harry a radiant smile, and Sirius grinned at the blush that washed over his godson's face.

"I knew there was something still there," Sirius commented to Hermione.

"Of course there is. He only ended things with her to keep her safe." Hermione smiled as Ginny approached Harry and pulled him into a tight hug.

"He's like James that way." Sirius frowned. "Always tried to keep Lily safe."

"He's like you that way." Hermione beamed up at him. "You keep us safe. You've kept me safe."

Sirius scowled, his tone low and sombre as he said, "I let you be tortured."

"She's gone. I can't have that day . . . or moment back, but she's not out there looking to finish the job." Hermione took a slow deep breath as if trying to remind herself of the very facts that she was so eager to use to calm Sirius down. "I owe that to you."

"Thought you said you don't like me fighting." Sirius scoffed lightly, hoping to break the tension of the sober moment.

"I don't like you in harm's way. There's a difference. I'll admit it's a fine line . . ." She looked up, and Sirius grinned at her. "A very fine line," she added, narrowing her gaze at him. "Reckless and brave are very different things, Sirius."

"Good thing I'm a Gryffindor then, huh? We're very well known for our bravery."

"Weren't you almost put in Slytherin?" she teased, laughing when he glared at her in reply.

"I'm going to Ravenclaw Tower," Harry announced as he approached Hermione and Sirius, a look of determination on his face. "Luna's going with me so I can get inside. It's a shot in the dark, but I think the diadem is something he'd use, you know?"

"We're coming with you," Hermione said.

"No, stay here. Fred said he contacted the Order to let them know what was happening. They should show up, and when that happens, I need you here to fill in the blanks. He's on his way, and we need to act fast. While I'm gone . . ." Harry whispered, "deal with the cup."

"Okay." Hermione hugged Harry tightly. "Please stay safe."

"We'll see you soon, love." Sirius moved for the door only to be stopped by Harry's hand on his forearm.

"No, Sirius, you stay here."

Sirius almost growled, his eyes wide. "I'm not letting you out of my sight."

"Yes, you are," Harry insisted. "I need you to stay with them, especially Hermione." He leant in and sighed. "When Ron destroyed the locket, it . . . fought back in a way that almost overpowered him. Got inside his head and showed him ugly lies, preying on his insecurities and weaknesses. When I destroyed the diary, it nearly killed me. I need someone here with her."

They both looked back to Hermione, who was digging in her beaded bag, more than likely looking for the Sword of Gryffindor and the cup.

"Sirius, I trust you to take care of her."

"Fine," Sirius begrudgingly agreed. "But you get right back here," he said in what little fatherly voice he could summon up. He thought he could imitate what he imagined James would have sounded like in this situation but failed miserably. He should have imitated Lily. That girl's temper would have stopped a rampaging chimaera.

"I promise." Harry smiled and then disappeared through the door after Luna.

"Ron!" Hermione approached the redhead. "Sirius and I are going to go take care of the cup."

"I'm coming with you," Ron declared.

"No, someone needs to be here when the Order shows up. You need to get them all up to date. We all have jobs now; yours is to help Neville rally the troops." Hermione glanced back at the gathered students and let out a nervous sigh. "Maybe figure out how to get some of them out of here. The younger students shouldn't be fighting a war."

Ron frowned. "None of us should be fighting a war, 'Mione."

"No, I suppose not." She lowered her gaze to the cup in her hand. "All right, let's get going. Stay safe, Ron." She smiled and hugged him tightly before turning on her heel and stepping toward Sirius.

As he opened the door for her, Sirius cast a look back at Ron who was joined by Neville. He gave the boys a nod, hoping that his silent support would be properly conveyed.

"Where to, kitten?" he asked as they moved down the corridor.

Hermione clutched the cup tightly, passing the Sword of Gryffindor over to him as it was too heavy for her to carry and still move as swiftly as she needed to. "I'm . . . I'm not sure. I don't know where in the castle would be safe. Under normal circumstances, I would have suggested the Room of Requirement." She began to wear her bottom lip between her teeth anxiously. "Why didn't I think to ask Harry for the map?"

"You are forgetting one very important resource you have at your disposal, Miss Granger." Sirius grinned, puffing out his chest. "The person who made the map in the first place. There isn't a passage in this castle that I don't know about. Speaking of which, there's a perfectly secluded one on the fourth floor behind a mirror."

"Nope." Hermione shook her head. "Caved in years ago. You're forgetting that Harry, Ron, and I used the map to navigate all those secret passages you're so proud of," she said with a bit more snark in her voice than she generally let out.

The tone made Sirius chuckle deep in his throat. "I know it's caved in, but I haven't seen it in years. Is it completely caved in, or just blocked on the other end?"

"It's just blocked." She paused and then let out a frustrated sigh, evidently upset that he had arrived at the conclusion before she had. "Which essentially makes it a private, secluded room with only one entrance." Her eyes widened as she realised the implication. "You're brilliant!"

"Glad you're starting to see things my way, kitten." Sirius beamed and followed her as they made their way down the shifting staircases to the fourth floor. He turned heading down a long hallway that came to a dead end where a large mirror hung on the wall.

He reached out, pushing the mirror aside, and muttered, "Aparecium."

Just as he spoke, a doorway opened behind the mirror. Hermione smiled and they both entered.

"Lumos," Sirius whispered, dimly lighting the end of his wand and looking around.

Hermione was right; the back end of the passageway had caved in, completely blocking any chance of a secondary exit. He could not help but remember the last time he had used this passage.

As the door shut tight behind them, the room fell into utter darkness save for the soft glow from Sirius's wand.

"This will make things easier," Hermione said, reaching into her beaded bag and retrieving a glass jar.

At her wandless, silent spell, a bluebell fire erupted from Hermione's fingertips, and she immediately caught it in the jar as though the flickering flames were nothing more than harmless fireflies. She grinned up at Sirius and sealed the jar, setting it down on the floor to allow the fire to light up the passageway.

After setting the Horcrux on the ground in front of her, Hermione reached an empty hand out to him, silently requesting the sword.

Sirius hesitated for a moment, remembering Harry's words to him. The Horcruxes fight back. His heart thudded in his chest in anticipation of whatever fight the little goblet would serve up, but he relented and handed the sword to Hermione.

"Be careful, love," he whispered as he nervously watched her move closer to the cup.

She slowly approached, taking small, deliberate steps toward it. The sword looked heavy in her hands, but Sirius knew she could still lift it with ease. She was a Gryffindor, after all, and the sword was meant to be wielded solely by the hands of true Gryffindors. One step closer to the cup and the Horcrux began to shake as though anticipating the oncoming attack. As she took yet another step forward, a cold, high voice rang out.

Hermione looked prepared for the attack.

But Sirius was not.

"Sirius Black . . ." the voice hissed, stopping both Hermione and Sirius in their steps. "I can see your fears . . ."

Sirius's attention quickly fell on Hermione's form, silently willing her forward to stab the bloody thing before it got a little too chatty.

"I can see your heart. The past is your weakness."

Sirius growled. "No shit."

"And so is the girl."

"It's doing something," Hermione said, staring down at the cup that appeared to be filling with liquid and eventually overflowing onto the ground. "Please be water."

It was water. Rapidly flowing water. Before either of them knew it, they were standing in a foot of it, the cup submerged beneath the surface.

Hermione moved toward the Horcrux, but the closer she brought the sword, the faster the water rose, making it harder to move. Soon she found herself standing waist deep in the swiftly filling room.

"Kill that fucking thing, Hermione!"

"Sirius, I can't reach it!"

Behind her, Sirius aimed spell after spell trying to dam the flow of the liquid that was rising up the walls around them. Nothing was working.

"Shit!" he shouted, reaching for her, but as soon as his fingers touched her skin, the water around them began sloshing about in a circular motion like a whirlpool.

Hermione screamed and slipped, the waves dragging her beneath the surface.

Sirius lunged for her but missed, losing his wand in the process. "Hermione!

The jar of bluebell flames floated beneath the surface, light bobbing through the water and against the walls as it whirled around in the depths of the waves.

"Hermione!" he called again, but there was no answer.

When the jar of fire moved closer to him, Sirius caught it and held it above his head, desperately searching but not finding her within reach. His attention turned downward as the water reached his neck, and his gaze focused on a large shadow in the depths below and the glimmer of something shiny and gold. He took a deep breath just before the water came up and over his head, sealing them in as it touched the roof above.

Lighting his way with the jar, Sirius swam down in search of Hermione, fighting against the current that tried to carry him away. His eye caught another glimmer, but instead of the determination he had felt when he spotted the cup at the bottom of this watery tomb, the sight of the Sword of Gryffindor made his heart sink. He had last seen it in Hermione's grip.

Panic flooded him, and he instinctively reached for the hilt of the sword, gripping it tightly. A nearly overwhelming part of him wanted to find Hermione, to save her, but the very small logical part of his brain fought back with a vengeance. The Horcrux was to blame, and even if he found her, he could not hope to save her while still being drowned by a bloody goblet.

Sirius swam, moving swiftly despite the fight the Horcrux was putting up, as well as the awkward length of the sword in his hands. He caught sight of the cup and—even though the water pushed in against his chest, forcing what little oxygen was left from his lungs—he brought the tip of the blade up and thrust it down, stabbing through the centre of the object.

The cup began to shake violently as a black liquid seeped out, swirling into the water around it.

Sirius propelled himself backward to avoid the dark liquid. He struggled against the water around him, trying to kick his way to the surface of the sinking water level, catching only a brief glimmer of hope in the form of the broken rubble at the passage's exit where cracks in the cave allowed the water to swiftly escape.

When his head finally broke the surface, he let out a loud gasp, taking in air as deeply and quickly as possible, and coughing up water that had forced its way down his throat during the struggle.

Catching his balance as his feet hit the ground, the water finally having drained enough to allow him to touch the floor, Sirius scanned the room, searching for Hermione. The jar that enclosed the flames clinked against the hard floor and spun across the ground as the water all but evaporated from the room.

He finally saw the silhouette of the small witch crumpled in the corner of the room.


Her name was a mournful cry as he rushed to her, pulled her against himself, and tilted her head back. Face pale, body lifeless, eyes closed, and skin ice cold.

"Rennervate!" he yelled, but nothing happened. He focused, his entire torso tight with desperation. "Rennervate!"

His entire world threatened to close in on him as her body remained limp in his arms.

Chapter Text

Now that I know what I'm without
You can't just leave me
Breathe into me and make me real
Bring me to life
(Bring Me to Life - Evanescence)


May 1st, 1998

"Hermione, please wake up," Sirius cried, cradling her to his chest desperately.

For the first time in what felt like decades, tears formed in his eyes and fell swiftly down his cheeks, still wet from the Horcrux-created flood that had tried to kill him only moments ago.

"Mia," he whispered. "Please, wake up." His lips brushed gently against her forehead, and he shut his eyes so tightly that he saw stars behind his eyelids. His heart threatened to break inside his chest as he willed his own warmth to permeate her body, to bring her back to him. As though he could will his own breath to . . .

He gasped as a memory surfaced. "Lily."

Sirius cursed under his breath, hoping that he had paid enough attention the first time around. He moved Hermione's body gently down to the stone floor and did a rapid visual survey, determined to remember something from many years ago.

"Bloody hell. How did Mia do this?" He lifted Hermione's chin with his fingers, tilted her head backward, and pinched her small nose with his large, callused fingers before adjusting her chin to part her lips.

Leaning close, Sirius inhaled, his hands shaking as he lowered his lips over hers. Had it been any other moment in his life, had he not been trying to save her, had she not been so cold beneath his touch, he would have relished the feel of her lips against his. He would have groaned into her, devoured the feel of her mouth, lost himself in the sweetness of her breath with hunger and longing.

But she had no breath.

So he gave her his.

Breath after breath, he pushed the air into her, stopping only to press his hands between her breasts, forcefully compressing down multiple times, repeating the process over and over, silently praying to Merlin and Circe and Morgana and Godric and hell, even Salazar fucking Slytherin, if it brought the girl back to him.

Just as the light from the jar containing the bluebell flames finally died out, submerging them into utter darkness, he felt her body tremble beneath his hands.

Suddenly, Hermione convulsed upward, coughing and choking up the water that had tried to pull her from this world. She gasped loudly and cried out, and he pulled her against him, quietly sobbing into her mess of thick, wet curls.

"Sirius?" Hermione whispered, her voice breaking as her hands clung to his wet shirt.

"It's gone," Sirius muttered his assurances, lips pressed to her brow. "Merlin, don't ever die on me again."

He kissed her forehead, again and again, not caring that he could not see a thing, or that somewhere above them in the castle, loud, banging noises reverberated. She was alive. He drew in breath after breath, each one reminding his racing heart: She's alive.

He could hear her whimper as she threw her arms around his shoulders, stifling her cries in the crook of his neck. Desperate to comfort her, Sirius ran his fingers up and down her spine, leaving behind soothing trails with his tender strokes.

She let out a loud sob against his skin, and the sound broke him anew. He held her tight, reassuring himself that she was, in fact, still alive. As if his soul refused to believe it, he was forced to check again.

Reaching for her face, Sirius cupped her cheeks in his hands and pulled her away from his shoulder. Though he could not see her, he could feel her breath gently gliding across the skin of his jaw.

"You're alive." He said the words like they were a prayer, and he could feel Hermione nodding her head in his hands.

"I'm alive."

The sweet words roughly rasped from her recently breathless lips shattered what little resolve he had left. Remus had insisted that she would survive this. Sirius believed him, perhaps, but he had almost lost her, and now, more than ever, he felt the finality of war and death, and he could not let one more moment escape without loving her the way he was meant to, the way he was made to, the way magic wanted him to.

Without a second thought to the very damning consequences, Sirius pressed his lips against hers, revelling in the warmth that graced them once again. He waited for her to push away from him, expecting a solid slap across the face, but a sweet-tasting sigh escaped up her throat and vibrated against his lips. Surprised but elated, he captured the noise gratefully, swallowing it as his lips moved worshipfully over hers.

With little restraint, the ache in his body demanded that he taste her.

He feathered the tips of his fingers against her arms, trailing down until they grazed along her ribs, and she gasped in response. Her lips parted, and he took immediate advantage of the unconscious invitation, sliding his tongue into the wet warmth of her mouth and growling in appreciation when she pushed her own tongue forward to gently touch his. He groaned deep in his throat as an old, familiar thought came to the forefront of his mind:

She tasted how firewhisky felt.

He thought he had forgotten, worried he had imagined it all, but this was real. She was alive and in his arms, giving him as much as she was taking, and he sank into the feel of her. So overcome by the assault on his senses, Sirius almost missed the familiar tug of something deep inside of him that made him think: Do you feel that, too? Please feel it, too.

He dug his free hand into the tangle of messy, chestnut curls at the nape of her neck, holding her tightly against him as the hungry beast within his chest growled for more. She made sweet little mewling sounds against his lips, and he drank in every last one of them, promising to coax more out of her as though it was the sole purpose of his existence. Maybe it was.

Her soft whimpers and moans fueled a fire within him that had not burned in almost nineteen years, and he suddenly felt as though she had never left him. No death, no war, no Peter, no Voldemort, no betrayal, no loss, no bloody Azkaban, and certainly no veil. There was just her. Only ever her. Just this moment in the darkness, nibbling fervently at her lower lip and licking at the mark immediately afterward.

She whispered his name, and Sirius moved his hands to her hips, pulling her into his lap and against his hard body on instinct. She winced at the movement, bringing a hand between her breasts, inhaling slowly. He realised that he must have hurt her with the compressions earlier. A part of him thought to release her, but then he felt the pressure of her hands on his chest. Expecting to be pushed away, he was startled when she began to explore him instead.

Sirius keened at the touch, slanting his mouth over hers and stroking his tongue inside of her mouth in a desperate attempt to silently communicate all the thoughts in his head and his heart. He wanted her to know everything, to know the truth, and he worried that he would be dead before the right moment came for her to learn it all.

Magic plucked at his soul like a guitar string, vibrating between the two of them, a shared melody that formed itself into a song and repeated in both of their minds with only one lyric: Mine.

Hermione smoothed her hands up the column of his throat, burying her fingers in his long black locks and groaning against him, tightening the grip she had on his hair. The darkness made it easier. Gave her a confidence she did not know she had. She wanted to vocalise everything she was feeling but did not have the ability to properly form coherent thoughts, let alone voice them aloud.

She wanted to tell him that this kiss was everything to her.

Upon opening her eyes, she had felt the lingering tingle on her lips that told her how he had saved her life, and a part of the sob she had cried into his shoulder was over the fact that the tingles were fading, and she did not even remember what he had felt like.

She wanted to tell him that she felt those tingles now. They spread like Fiendfyre against the skin of her neck, flooding down her chest and burying themselves into a pool in her belly. She wanted to tell him that he tasted like Sugar Quills and how when she was deep in study mode, she sucked on the candy eagerly—a thought that put erotic and inappropriate fantasies in her mind, causing her to push further against him, trying to melt into the feel of his hands on her thighs.

She wanted to tell him many things but hide other secrets deep down. She wanted to hide her anxiety and worries. She wanted to hide the fact that she was terrified that it was the unspoken magical bond she had created with Blood Magic that was driving him to touch her, tease her, and plunder her mouth with such vigour. She wanted to hide her inexperience and the fact that though she had dreamt of a kiss like this for years, she had never experienced one like it. Or one at all.

Viktor had been nothing but a gentleman when he had escorted her to the Yule Ball fourth year, and despite what Ginny had told Ron, he had left Hogwarts with a mere kiss to Hermione's knuckles in farewell, nothing more. Cormac McLaggen had gotten close, going so far as to attempt to trap her beneath charmed mistletoe at Slughorn's Christmas party, but Hermione had escaped without ever touching his lips—though his hands had gravitated toward her arse more than she would care to admit. Everyone had assumed that she and Ron would end up together, but seeing what happened last year with Lavender put him in a new light, and whatever mild childish feelings she had formed for the redhead had turned familial all too quickly.

Her previous fancies and suitors had all been boys, save for the embarrassing infatuation she had once held for Gilderoy Lockhart—as well as a more secretive crush on a different Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher her third year. But this . . . this man in her arms was just that. A man. He did not fumble with his movements and did not touch her with hesitation. His affections were not clumsy or rushed; he was precise without being predictable—surprising considering how reckless and impulsive he often could be. His ministrations lit a fire in her belly. As his fingers grazed the side of her breast, her head fell back, and she let out a soft cry. A shiver descended her spine like cool water on the hottest day of summer.

Something fluid burned inside of her like liquid fire. It felt like it was flowing out of her and into him, returning to her body and bringing something with it that sparked with energy. The sparks went off in time like morse code, tap tap tapping between them, spelling out: Mine.

Sirius forced himself to pull away from her; the pulsating tone he felt more than heard inside of him was too reminiscent of moments from his past, and he needed to remind himself that this was still Hermione in his arms, and she was not ready to know everything that he knew.

He could hear her panting in the darkness, gasping for air, and a part of him felt guilty for depriving her of oxygen, considering the lack of such had literally almost killed her minutes ago. Though their lips no longer connected, he felt incapable of releasing her, knowing that the moment he did, she would leave his arms forever.

He had kissed her. He had just kissed Hermione, the eighteen-year-old best friend of his godson. And he had not just kissed the girl, he had properly and thoroughly snogged her. Half of him wished that the moment would not end so that he would never have to face the consequences of his actions. The other half of him was desperate for light, so he could see the dishevelled state he knew she was in. He wanted to witness for himself her wild curls, her flushed cheeks, and her swollen lips.

But darkness and silence continued, broken only by the sound of their breathing.

"Hermione . . ." he finally spoke, but his voice was immediately silenced by another. A high, cold voice that permeated the air around them. There was no telling from where it came.

"I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded. You have until midnight."

The silence once again swallowed them, and this time both were holding their breath.

Hermione was first to break away, both vocally and physically as she climbed out of Sirius's lap. "We have to go. We have to help Harry."

Without another word about what had just transpired, Sirius nodded and stood.

Searching in the dark, he whispered, "Lumos," when he found his wand. He looked down on the ground at the destroyed Horcrux and handed it to Hermione, who swiftly tucked it into her beaded bag. Then, he reached for Gryffindor's sword and made his way to the exit.

As the two made their way out of the corridor, a flurry of activity was taking place both above and below them. Something was attacking the castle, and the damage to the wards was causing the very ground to shake beneath them. Students and faculty appeared to move as one below, and they spotted Neville, who was following Professor Sprout with a half dozen other students, carrying what looked like silenced mandrakes.

Sirius gave a throaty chuckle and rubbed the pad of his thumb over his wand, adjusting his grip in preparation. "Looks like we almost missed out on all the fun."

"Room of Requirement," she blurted out, ducking her head down as she moved as though she were trying to hide the blush that he could so clearly see.

"We have to see if the Order arrived." She spoke quickly and moved faster, darting up the staircase and making her way to the seventh floor.

When they turned the corner, their eyes widened at the sight of Harry and Draco sitting against the wall, breathing heavily, with what looked like ash smudging their faces. Harry's glasses were partially fogged over, and Draco's normally white blond hair was stained grey. The unconscious bodies of Crabbe and Goyle were piled into a heap nearby; both boys had clearly been stunned and bound.

"What the hell happened to you two?" Sirius demanded.

"Malfoy . . ." Harry said in between breaths, " . . . saved me."

Hermione gaped. "You saved Harry?"

"Where do I collect my Order of Merlin?" Draco quipped, panting.

"Found it." Harry tossed a broken and blackened tiara at Hermione's feet. "How'd you lot do?" he asked, a chuckle slipping from his throat, followed by several loud coughs, clearing smoke from his lungs.

"Destroyed," Hermione said vaguely. "How'd you get rid of yours without the sword? And why are the two of you covered in . . . soot?"

"I remembered seeing the diadem last year when you made me get rid of the Potions book," Harry said, a remnant of bitterness colouring his voice. "I went in to get it and found myself face to face with Malfoy and those two." He gestured to Crabbe and Goyle.

"They tried to Avada Potter," Draco muttered, shaking his head in obvious disapproval. "Even if I wasn't on your side, that's a stupid move. Everyone knows the Dark Lord wants him for himself. I stunned them before they got him."

"Not before one of them cast Fiendfyre in the Room of Hidden Things," Harry blurted out.

"Fiendfyre?" Hermione shrieked. "How did you escape?"

"Take it down an octave, Granger." Draco scowled. "You are looking at the two best Seekers this school has ever seen. We flew." He gestured to the two singed brooms resting against the opposite wall.

Sirius glared at the unconscious Slytherins, and he must have been growling under his breath, because Draco stepped into his line of vision and said, "They're just like me, but they didn't get a way out in time."

"They tried to kill my godson."

"And they'll go to trial for that. You know what trials are, don't you, cousin?" Draco asked pointedly. "If I was informed correctly, you never got one. You wouldn't let me murder their fathers. You told me I wasn't a killer." He stood and came face to face with Sirius. "Don't be a hypocrite."

It was shocking for Sirius to see the family resemblance in the boy. Draco's dirty hair helped to disguise the fact that he was often thought the spitting image of his father; in this light, he could see the Black blood in him, especially his grey eyes which Sirius knew matched his own almost perfectly. Silently acknowledging their shared family trait, he took a step backward, refusing to admit defeat but instead calling a truce.

"Get them out of my sight," he ordered Draco.

Abruptly, Hermione let out a loud gasp, and all three wizards turned to face her with intense expressions and drawn wands. She covered her mouth and gave Harry and Sirius a guilty look. "Sorry," she whispered. "I just realised. Harry, the snake is all that's left!"

Before they had a chance to respond to her, the ground shook, and an explosion resounded at the other end of the corridor, followed by distinct shouts and the sound of spells ricocheting off stone surfaces. The four ran toward the commotion to find three redheads amongst a large heap of rubble.

"Ron!" Harry shouted.

Ron groaned and pushed large stones off his body. "M'alright." Fred and Percy stood protectively over him, each duelling a Death Eater. "Bloody Death Eaters are blowing up the bloody castle now!" he growled as Harry jumped over to help him to his feet. "What's new with you?" His blue eyes held a look of mirth as Fred and Percy grinned while shooting Stunning Spells and destructive curses at their opponents.

Harry laughed. "Oh, you know, fought a few fires, destroyed a couple of Horcruxes, made some new friends."

"We are not friends, Potter." Draco glared, and Harry laughed harder.

"Enough!" Hermione scowled at the scene. "Harry, it's time to end this. We need to find the snake," she insisted, reaching forward to grab his spectacles, running a gentle Scouring Charm over the lenses before handing them back to him. "You need to find out where Voldemort is because he'll have the snake with him, won't he? Do it, Harry. Look inside him!"

As Draco turned to help Fred, Ron, and Percy fight off their attackers, Sirius remained on the other side to make sure they were not attacked from behind. He kept an eye on Harry as he closed his eyes, Hermione watching carefully as she knelt next to him.

With a gasp, Harry pulled back and opened his eyes. "He's in the Shrieking Shack," Harry blurted out. "The snake's with him; it's got some sort of magical protection around it. He's there with Snape."

"Voldemort's sitting in the Shrieking Shack?" Hermione asked, outraged. "He's not . . . He's not even fighting?"

"He doesn't think he needs to fight," Harry said. "He thinks I'm going to go to him."

Hermione gaped. "But why?"

"He knows I'm after the Horcruxes; he's keeping Nagini close. Obviously, I'm going to have to go to him to get near the thing."

Sirius noticed that Harry was fumbling with the phial of memories that Snape had given him hours earlier.

"Right," Ron said, squaring his shoulders. "So you can't go. That's what he wants, what he's expecting. You stay here and look after Hermione, and I'll go and get it—"

Harry cut through Ron's words. "You two stay here, I'll go under the Cloak, and I'll be back as soon as I—"

"What cloak?" Draco chimed in.

"He's got an Invisibility Cloak," Ron answered.

Draco rolled his eyes. "Of course he does."

"No," Hermione said, "it makes much more sense if I take the Cloak and—"

"Potter," Draco muttered.

Sirius snarled, "Over my dead body!"

"Don't even think about it!" Ron shouted at the same time.

Draco raised his voice. "Potter!"

"I am just as capable as the rest of you!" Hermione snapped.

"POTTER!" Draco screamed, and everyone turned to look at him. "Grab your bloody cloak, and head to the shack. Take Black with you. Weasel will stay here with the other Weasels to keep the Death Eaters at bay while Granger and I cover you."

Ron glowered. "What gives you the right to hand out orders?"

"The fact that no one else is fucking doing it!" Draco barked, and before the two wizards collided, Hermione stepped between them, wand raised.

"Go, Harry. Put an end to all of this," she pleaded and then rushed forward, pulling her best friend into a hug and kissing his cheek. Harry smiled at her and turned to leave, gesturing at Sirius to follow, but Sirius paused, looking down at Hermione.

He realised that the two of them had not properly made eye contact since leaving the dark, caved-in passageway. Not that they had done much with their eyes down there in the first place.

"Go," she whispered and hugged Sirius close to her. "Come back safe, both of you."

Sirius smiled and kissed her forehead before turning on the heels of his dragonhide boots and following Harry.

Hermione watched, longingly, as Sirius disappeared around the corner.

"Come on, Granger," Draco ordered.

Ron gripped Draco's robes tightly and glared at him. "She's not going with you."

"We don't have time for this!" Hermione shouted and turned away from them both to go after Harry and Sirius. If Ron let Draco follow her then so be it, but she was not sticking around to watch another pissing match between the two while her best friend and her . . . and her . . . and Sirius risked their lives.

Hermione ran down the next staircase and found herself in the middle of several vicious duels. The portraits on either side of the fighters were crammed with figures screaming advice and encouragement, while Death Eaters, both masked and unmasked, duelled students and teachers.

Dean, with his stolen Snatcher's wand, faced off with Amycus Carrow, Parvati against Avery, Seamus with Jugson.

It was at that point that Draco caught up with her, though he appeared to have a new bruise marring the sharp angles of his jaw. Hermione raised a brow. Draco lifted his right hand showing bloody knuckles.

"The other guy looks worse, trust me," he said with a smug grin, and she glared at him.

The two surveyed the onslaught before them, scanning the crowd for Harry or Sirius but could find neither. They stood braced, waiting for the opportunity to act, but before they could, there came a great "Wheeeeee!"

Looking up, Hermione saw Peeves zooming over them, dropping snargaluff pods down onto the Death Eaters, whose heads were suddenly engulfed in wriggling green tubers that looked like fat worms. A fistful of tubers had hit something up ahead; the damp green roots were suspended improbably in midair.

"Someone's invisible there!" a masked Death Eater shouted, pointing at what Hermione knew to be Sirius and Harry beneath the cloak.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" Hermione called out, and the masked Death Eater rose into the air, his limbs flailing around as he screamed in rage. She gave a sigh of relief as she saw a large black dog dash from beneath the cloak and make a run for the Whomping Willow, followed closely by a flapping, green-soaked cloak.

"Really, Granger?" Draco eyed her incredulously. "A first year spell?"

Hermione held Draco's stare with an emotionless look. With the slightest flick of her wand, the floating Death Eater was flung into a castle wall with a loud crunch and fell to the ground in an unconscious heap.

He smiled scornfully. "I'll deny it if you ever tell anyone, but . . . that was mildly impressive."

The moment was short-lived, however, when a group of Death Eaters attacked them from the other direction.

Hermione ducked behind a large stone pillar to avoid a Stunning Spell.

Draco's face changed immediately, looking very like the frightened boy he used to be, throwing up his arms in surrender. "I'm Draco Malfoy!" he shouted as if pleading with the masked invaders. "I'm Draco. I'm on your side!"

"Malfoy?" They gaped at him. "Where the bloody hell you been, boy?"

"Everte Statum!" Suddenly all three Death Eaters flew backward, landing on their backsides. Draco followed up the attack by disarming all three. He grinned, twirling his wand. "Idiots."

"You're dead, you little blood-traitor!"

"Incarcerous," Hermione said and watched as ropes flew out of her wand, binding the Death Eaters. "Epoximise," she added, and the ropes drew themselves downward, sticking to the stone floor beneath the new prisoners.

Malfoy sneered. "Showing off, Granger?"

"Not yet." Hermione chuckled and swished her wand. "Avis." One by one, a tiny flock of canaries burst from the tip.

"Still at war here," Draco muttered impatiently.

She grinned, a hint of mischief in her eyes. "Oppugno."

The canaries descended and began viciously attacking the Death Eaters, who began to scream and thrash against their bindings to no avail.

Draco, against his better judgement, looked amused by the sight, and Hermione beamed in response.

"Careful there, Granger." He gave her his famous smirk. "People might think you're flirting with me, and something tells me that you're already spoken for." He winked at her, and her face heated. Waving his wand, Draco strode fluidly through the Great Hall, expelling Death Eaters through its glass windows with every step.

"What do you know?" Hermione demanded as she caught up with him.

Draco laughed. "I know that I'm not as stupid as everyone else. I know that Black called in a life debt from my mother back at the manor, and when she hesitated, he threatened to use a very old, very powerful spell. Did you know, Granger, that life debts, when called in properly, can even bring back the dead?" He turned and grinned at her, a gleam in his eye as he watched her reaction.

"It's not Dark Magic!" she defended.

"No, it's Blood Magic." Draco's grin spread across his face. "It's Binding Magic."

"Malfoy, I swear if you say anything, I'll—"

"Oh, I'll keep your little secret, Hermione," he used her first name and laughed when she grimaced at the sound of it coming out of his mouth. "After all, we're practically family now."

Before she could say another word, silence fell over the castle.

Everyone stopped in their tracks, and the Death Eaters made a hasty retreat as if silently commanded to do so. Before anyone could ask what had happened, the walls echoed once again with the high, cold voice that Hermione knew to be Voldemort. Her eyes narrowed, and she turned to Malfoy for an explanation, but the blond wizard—who looked fearless in the face of multiple Death Eaters—shrank against the sound of the Dark Lord.

"You have fought valiantly. Lord Voldemort knows how to value bravery. Yet you have sustained heavy losses. If you continue to resist me, you will all die, one by one. I do not wish this to happen. Every drop of magical blood spilt is a loss and a waste. Lord Voldemort is merciful. I command my forces to retreat immediately. You have one hour. Dispose of your dead with dignity. Treat your injured.

"I speak now, Harry Potter, directly to you. You have permitted your friends to die for you rather than face me yourself. I shall wait for one hour in the Forbidden Forest. If, at the end of that hour, you have not come to me, have not given yourself up, then battle recommences. This time, I shall enter the fray myself, Harry Potter, and I shall find you, and I shall punish every last man, woman, and child who has tried to conceal you from me. One hour."

Hermione looked up, terrified at the thought that Harry and Sirius had not made it to the Shrieking Shack if Voldemort was still alive. But he had called for Harry specifically, which meant that Harry must still be alive.

She scanned the Great Hall where the wounded were being carried in by the droves. A glance at Draco, who was recovering from the announcement, made her think that he was trying to decide whether or not he had picked the winning side.

Chapter Text

For the life of me, I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise, and we'd never compromise
For the life of me, I cannot believe
We'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen
(Freshmen - The Verve Pipe)


May 2nd, 1998

The entire room fell silent when Harry and Sirius entered the Great Hall.

The large room had been set up as a temporary medical treatment centre. House tables were pushed together and the coloured banners that used to run the length of them were tossed aside or cut up for bandages. No longer did these banners symbolise the separation of Houses, but instead, the unity of the students, professors, and adults in the battle against Voldemort. The uninjured huddled together, providing support to one another while the injured queued around the Head Table, waiting to be examined by Madam Pomfrey and her aides.

Along the south wall, Draco was guarding the few captured Death Eaters, ensuring their bindings were tight and that they remained unconscious and wandless. Without any remorse in his eyes, he moved to snap each of their wands. If they made it to trial and were found innocent—which was highly unlikely—they could always purchase new ones.

Fred Weasley was brought into the Great Hall with deep, bleeding gouges across his face. While his poor mother paled at his appearance, Fred appeared to be in high spirits, gladly telling George at his side that he now resembled Bill more than his own twin. Fleur took Molly's arm and followed behind the levitating stretcher as it carried Fred into a private area where Madam Pomfrey was waiting.

Hermione was tending to the wounded with Luna and Ginny. The redhead sat beside a boy at the Ravenclaw table. He looked dazed as she splinted his broken arm. Next to him, and squeezing his hand in pain was Dean Thomas, who Sirius remembered from their stay at Shell Cottage. He was being tended to by Luna, who carefully wrapped a large cut on his calf.

Before Hermione had a chance to take a breath at the sight of Sirius standing in the entrance, Ginny rushed toward Harry, wrapping her arms tightly around him and squeezing as though he would disappear if she let him go.

Sirius caught Hermione's gaze and they shared a sad little smile at the sight. He noted her stance, nervous, clenching her hands together at the sight of him. Without further hesitation, he walked to her, enveloping her in his arms and breathing out a deep sigh of relief.

"What happened?"

"Snape's dead," he replied, trying not to let his emotional turmoil show.

He still did not quite understand how he felt about the demise of his long-time nemesis. It was not more than a day ago that he had wanted to end the man's life personally, but watching as Voldemort cornered the bloke and very nearly fed him to his giant snake was nothing short of horrifying. Sirius could not help but think of Lily and wonder what she would have thought about her childhood friend's ultimate demise.

"How?" Hermione wondered aloud.

"Nagini," Sirius said. "We went in after Voldemort left. Nothing could be done. Snape said that Harry has to go view the memories he gave him. No clue what's been sitting in that git's head all these years." He scowled, sighing as Hermione frowned at him. Ignoring her reproachful stare, he tucked a loose curl behind her ear. "Yeah, yeah, don't talk ill about the dead. Are you all right here?"

She looked down at her hands and leant into his touch. "We've just been treating the wounded. Percy and Neville are outside fetching the . . . the bodies."

Sirius only nodded. "I'm going up with Harry into the Pensieve."

"I'll come too." Hermione made to move, but Sirius stopped her.

"No, you stay here. You're useful here. Remus and Tonks both told me that you're brilliant with Healing Spells." He smiled proudly. "As if you'd be anything else." His smile widened when he watched Hermione blush at his praise. "We shouldn't be long. Nothing dangerous up there except the past, right?"

"Keep an eye on him," Hermione cautioned Sirius. She glanced at Harry, who had already made a beeline for the Headmaster's office, turning back to wait for Sirius. "He has a bad habit of trying to save everyone at risk to himself."

"I will, love." Sirius kissed her forehead quickly before following after his godson.

The truth was, Sirius was not certain what he and Harry were going to find in Snape's memories, and if the greasy git had included certain ones, it was dangerous for Harry to see them, let alone Hermione. Sirius was only accompanying Harry in order to preserve the past—or future, as it were.

"Password?" the stone gargoyle asked as they approached.

"Dumbledore," Sirius muttered, and Harry turned around to look at his godfather with wide eyes. "I know. Twisted."

Harry glanced hopelessly up at Dumbledore's deserted frame, which hung directly behind the headmaster's chair, then turned his back on it. The stone Pensieve was in a cabinet, and Harry seemed to know exactly how to access it. He heaved it onto the desk and poured the memories into the wide basin with its runic markings around the edge. One right after the other, they descended into Snape's memories, feeling overly anxious about what they were about to witness.

They fell headlong into sunlight, their feet landing on the warm ground. When Sirius straightened up, he saw that he was in a nearly deserted playground, a single huge chimney dominating the distant skyline.

Two girls swung back and forward, and a skinny boy watched them from behind a clump of bushes. His black hair was long and his clothes were so mismatched that it looked deliberate: too-short jeans, a shabby, overly large coat that might have belonged to a grown man, an odd smock-like shirt.

"Snape?" Harry cocked a brow.

Sirius inclined his head, staring at the familiar face from his past. It was hard to hate the man in that moment, looking at him as a child. Sirius, too, had only been a child when their rivalry began. He felt little remorse thinking back on his actions—save for a few that he certainly deserved to be guilty about—but looking at the child Snape with Sirius's adult eyes, he could not but help to feel pity for the boy.

Harry moved closer to Snape.

There was undisguised greed on the boy's thin face as he watched the younger of the two girls swinging higher and higher than her sister.

"Mum," Harry whispered, and Sirius frowned, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Lily, don't do it!" the elder of the two girls shrieked.

But Lily let go of the swing at the very height of its arc and flew into the air, quite literally flew, launching herself skyward with a great shout of laughter that brought tears to Sirius's eyes. Instead of crumpling on the playground asphalt, Lily soared like a trapeze artist through the air, staying up far too long, landing far too lightly.

They continued watching the memory play out, Sirius forcing himself not to look at Snape interacting with the young Lily. Despite the pity he felt for the boy, Sirius still remembered the man who did not deserve to know Lily. Not after what he had called her. Not after joining Voldemort. Sirius could not force himself to acknowledge that this small child was the cause of so much hurt to a girl he had thought of as family.

"Does it make a difference, being Muggle-born?" Lily asked.

Snape visibly hesitated. "No. It doesn't make any difference."

"Good," Lily said, relaxing.

"Fucking hypocrite," Sirius snapped, turning away from the scene.

"Sirius, stop," Harry scolded him.

For once, Sirius listened.

As the scene re-formed, Sirius looked around. They were on platform nine and three-quarters.

Snape stood, slightly hunched, next to a thin, sallow-faced, sour-looking woman who greatly resembled him. Snape was staring at a family of four a short distance away; the two girls slightly apart from their parents. Lily appeared to be pleading with her sister.

"I'm not a freak," Lily said. "That's a horrible thing to say."

"That's where you're going," Petunia said with relish. "A special school for freaks. You and that Snape boy . . . weirdos, that's what you two are. It's good you're being separated from normal people. It's for our safety."

Before Sirius could look around the platform in search of other faces from the past, the scene changed again.

"This is it! We're off to Hogwarts!" Snape said brightly, trying to cheer Lily up as they took their seats in an empty compartment.

Sirius grinned at the sight of himself and a young James Potter entering the same compartment. "Ah, now look at these handsome faces."

"You'd better be in Slytherin," Snape said.

"Slytherin?" James said. "Who wants to be in Slytherin? I think I'd leave, wouldn't you?"

"My whole family have been in Slytherin," the younger Sirius said.

"Blimey," James said, "and I thought you seemed all right!"

Young Sirius grinned.

The older Sirius let out a barking laugh.

"Maybe I'll break the tradition. Where are you heading, if you've got the choice?"

James lifted an invisible sword. "'Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart!' Like my dad." Snape made a small, disparaging noise. James turned on him. "Got a problem with that?"

"No," Snape said, though his slight sneer told otherwise. "If you'd rather be brawny than brainy."

"Where're you hoping to go, seeing as you're neither?" young Sirius interjected.

James roared with laughter.

Lily sat up, rather flushed, and looked from James to Sirius in dislike. "Come on, Severus, let's find another compartment."

"Oooooo . . ." James and Sirius imitated her lofty voice; James tried to trip Snape as he passed.

"See ya, Snivellus!"

"See?" Sirius pointed out as the memory followed Snape and Lily out of the compartment. "He's always been a git."

Sirius's scowl vanished as he looked up, eyes wide. The image ahead of them stunned him into silence. Instinctively, he turned Harry by the shoulders. "Are you sure you want to see the rest of this? We don't know what he was planning when he wanted you to see this, Harry."

It was a distraction, simple as that. Harry's green eyes focused on him, while behind him the scene played on in Sirius's view.

"Move!" Snape shouted, pushing his way past a short, bushy-haired girl who fell into a lanky, pale-looking boy.

Lily, following swiftly behind him, called out his name. "Sev, wait up!"

"I'm fine, Sirius," Harry said, brushing off his grip and turning in the direction that Snape and Lily had gone.

Though the memory followed Snape, Sirius could hear a familiar voice call out behind them from the open compartment door:

"Jamie, what did you do?"

Thankfully, the scene dissolved once again.

Harry and Sirius were standing right behind Snape as they faced the candlelit House tables, lined with rapt faces.

"Evans, Lily!"

The little redhead walked forward on trembling legs and sat down on the rickety stool. Professor McGonagall dropped the Sorting Hat onto her head, and barely a second after it had touched the dark red hair, the hat cried, "Gryffindor!"

Snape let out a tiny groan. Lily took off the hat, handed it back to Professor McGonagall, then hurried toward the cheering Gryffindors. As she walked, she glanced back at Snape, and there was a sad little smile on her face. Young Sirius moved up the bench to make room for her. She took one look at him, clearly recognised him from the train, folded her arms, and firmly turned her back on him.

Harry moved through the memory, drawn to his mother's small figure at the Gryffindor table, which was perfectly fine as Sirius's attention was drawn elsewhere.

James stood side by side with the familiar bushy-haired girl, Snape eavesdropping behind them. "Care to wager how long it takes the hat to stick me in Gryffindor?"

The girl laughed sweetly. "Something tells me it'll be instantaneous."

Sirius's heart clenched but he fought to keep his expression impassive in case Harry looked back around.

James grinned smugly. "Bloody right."

Professor McGonagall called James's name and the boy moved toward the stool. The hat barely touched his head before it yelled out, "Gryffindor!" and James grinned.

Harry made his way back to Sirius's side, while Sirius blocked his view yet again.

"Of course," Snape said.

"There's nothing wrong with Gryffindor."

Snape scowled. "Says another future little lion."

Sirius did his best to distract Harry once more by pointing at the Gryffindor table where James had joined Sirius and Remus. "Can you believe how young we were?" He chuckled as the scene played on behind him.

"You were friends right from the start." Harry smiled, ignoring Sirius's strange behaviour, likely assuming it was painful for him to relive the past like this. "Just like me, Ron, and Hermione."

"Just like you three. Yeah." He nudged Harry's shoulder, moving the boy along, side-stepping away from his past self as another Gryffindor joined the table. Sirius's eyes flickered back to her once before turning ahead again to watch as the rest of the Sorting took place, Snape eventually being put into Slytherin.

And the scene changed.

Lily and Snape were walking across the castle courtyard, evidently arguing.

Harry hurried to catch up with them, to listen in. As he and Sirius reached them, Sirius realised how much taller they both were. A few years appeared to have passed since the Sorting.

"What about the stuff Potter and his mates get up to?" Snape demanded. His colour rose again as he said it, unable, it appeared, to hold in his resentment.

"What's Potter got to do with anything?" Lily questioned.

"They sneak out at night. There's something weird about that Lupin. Where does he keep going?"

"He's ill," Lily said. "They say he's ill . . ."

"Every month at the full moon?" Snape challenged.

"I know your theory." Lily sounded cold. "Why are you so obsessed with them anyway? Why do you care what they're doing at night?"

"I'm just trying to show you they're not as wonderful as everyone seems to think they are."

"They don't use Dark Magic, though." She dropped her voice. "And you're being really ungrateful. I heard what happened the other night. You went sneaking down that tunnel by the Whomping Willow, and James Potter saved you from whatever's down there . . ."

Snape's whole face contorted and he spluttered, "Saved? Saved? You think he was playing the hero? He was saving his friend's neck! You know that Black tricked me into going down there. All because he was stupid enough to think I had a personal grudge against his little girlfriend!"

"Don't you?" Lily asked.

Harry turned and stared at his godfather.

"I . . ." Sirius started but stopped as he turned to Harry, a feeling of pure shame bubbling up from inside of him. "There's not exactly much I can say for myself. Except I was young, impulsive, and . . . and I thought he deserved it."

Harry shook his head. "You could have killed him."

"Yeah," Sirius confirmed. "Believe me, I was properly scolded by my friends for it too."

"All over a girl?" Harry asked with a raised brow.

"Not just any girl," Sirius whispered as the scene changed around them.

The surroundings solidified again and they stood on a hilltop, forlorn and cold in the darkness, the wind whistling through the branches of a few leafless trees.

An adult Snape was panting, turning on the spot, his wand gripped tightly in his hand, waiting for something or someone. He said nothing; instead, he merely looked up at Dumbledore. "Hide them all, then. Keep her . . . them . . . safe. Please."

"And what will you give me in return, Severus?"

"In . . . in return?" Snape gaped at Dumbledore. After a long moment, he said, "Anything."

"Sirius, did you know about this?" Harry questioned.

Sirius only shook his head. No, at that point it had been so long since they had seen Snape. They knew, of course, that he was a Death Eater. Everyone knew back then. At that point in the war, there was little to do with hiding behind masks. Voldemort was on the rise, and they expected a victory, why would they need to hide? But Sirius never knew that Snape had pleaded for protection for Lily, James, and Harry. Only that Dumbledore insisted he was a spy on their side.

The hilltop faded. They stood in Dumbledore's office, and something was making a terrible sound, like a wounded animal.

Snape was slumped forward in a chair and Dumbledore was standing over him, looking grim.

"Her boy survives," Dumbledore said. "Her son lives. He has her eyes, precisely her eyes. You remember the shape and colour of Lily Evans's eyes, I am sure?"

"DON'T!" Snape bellowed. "Gone . . . dead . . ."

"Is this remorse, Severus?"

"I wish . . . I wish I were dead."

"And what use would that be to anyone?" Dumbledore coldly asked. "If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear."

"He loved my mother," Harry whispered. "This whole time. Snape loved my mother?" He stared at the scene, watching his former professor—a man he had watched die not an hour ago—fall to his knees in grief-stricken sobs over the death of his mother.

Sirius turned away, unable to watch. He knew those sobs. They were all too familiar to him. Losing the woman you love was a pain unlike any other.

"Very well. Very well. But never . . . never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear . . . especially Potter's son . . . I want your word!"

"My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?" Dumbledore sighed, looking down into Snape's ferocious, anguished face. "If you insist . . ."

The office dissolved but re-formed instantly.

Snape was pacing up and down in front of Dumbledore. "—mediocre, arrogant as his father, a determined rule-breaker, delighted to find himself famous, attention-seeking, and impertinent . . ."

"You Potters sure do know how to leave an impression." Sirius sighed, raking his hands through his hair. This trip down Memory Lane—and not his own—was becoming more and more worrisome. Why did Snape need Harry to see all of this? To rub it in his face that he loved Lily first? One last moment to take a shot at Harry and James?

"You see what you expect to see, Severus," Dumbledore said, without raising his eyes. "Other teachers report that the boy is modest, likeable, and reasonably talented. Personally, I find him an engaging child."

The scene changed once more and they stood again in Dumbledore's office. Sirius and Harry watched carefully as Snape hovered over Dumbledore, staring at the blackened hand of the old Headmaster.

"You have done very well, Severus. How long do you think I have?"

Snape hesitated, and then answered, "I cannot tell. Maybe a year. There is no halting such a spell forever. It will spread eventually; it is the sort of curse that strengthens over time."

Harry openly gaped at the scene. "He was already dying."

Sirius put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"The Dark Lord does not expect Draco to succeed. This is merely punishment for Lucius's recent failures. Slow torture for Draco's parents, while they watch him fail and pay the price."

"In short, the boy has had a death sentence pronounced upon him as surely as I have," Dumbledore said. "Now, I should have thought the natural successor to the job, once Draco fails, is yourself?"

There was a short pause.

"That, I think, is the Dark Lord's plan."

"The boy must fulfil his mission," Dumbledore spoke, and Snape turned and scowled at him.

"You would have a mere child throw away his life?" Snape narrowed his eyes. "After all he's risked so far? The Marking ceremony nearly killed him!"

"I would have young Draco fulfil nearly his entire mission," Dumbledore clarified. "I would not have the boy's soul ripped apart on my account. You must be the one to kill me."

"Malfoy was telling the truth!" Harry shouted.

"And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?"

"You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation," Dumbledore said. "I ask this one great favour of you, Severus, because death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year's league. I confess I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair it will be if, for instance, Greyback is involved . . . I hear Voldemort has recruited him? Or dear Bellatrix, who likes to play with her food before she eats it."

Sirius audibly snarled at the mention of Greyback and his dead cousin.

At last, Snape gave another curt nod.

Dumbledore looked satisfied.

"Thank you, Severus . . ."

The office disappeared, and now Snape and Dumbledore were strolling together in the deserted castle grounds by twilight.

"Now listen closely, Severus. There will come a time . . . after my death . . . do not argue, do not interrupt! There will come a time when Lord Voldemort will seem to fear for the life of his snake."

"For Nagini?" Snape looked astonished.

"Harry!" Sirius called Harry to attention. This was what Snape had been referring to after all when he had given the boy his memories. Something about the bloody snake.

He listened closely, watching the two men carefully as if looking for subtle clues that they were hiding anything else. How had he not known the reason Snape turned against the Death Eaters? He had spent months around the table at Grimmauld Place staring into Snape's face while listening to reports, all the while wondering what on earth could have brought him there to begin with. Was it so easy to think that Snape could have loved her? Really loved her?

"Tell him that on the night Lord Voldemort tried to kill him, when Lily cast her own life between them as a shield, the Killing Curse rebounded upon Lord Voldemort, and a fragment of Voldemort's soul was blasted apart from the whole, and latched itself onto the only living soul left in that collapsed building. Part of Lord Voldemort lives inside Harry, and it is that which gives him the power to speak with snakes and a connection with Lord Voldemort's mind that he has never understood. And while that fragment of soul, unmissed by Voldemort, remains attached to and protected by Harry, Lord Voldemort cannot die."

"So the boy . . . the boy must die?" Snape asked quite calmly.

"And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential."

"Bullshit!" Sirius shouted. "We're done with this, Harry!" He growled and moved to raise his wand to bring them out of the Pensieve, but Harry pulled away from him. "Harry, I will not put your life at risk over the assumptions of a crazy old man and a so-called reformed Death Eater! I won't!"

"It's not your choice, Sirius. I'm not letting anyone else die for me!"

"No one's going to die for you!"

"My parents did! You did!"

"I'm still here! And I'm doing my job for once, James!" Just as Sirius caught his mistake, Harry caught it too. Sirius took in long deep breaths to calm himself, resting a hand on Harry's shoulder. "I'm supposed to look after you, Harry," he said clearly. "Keep you safe. I promised your parents. I promised . . . I promised to keep you safe."

The scene meanwhile played on.

"Expecto Patronum!"

From the tip of Snape's wand burst the silver doe. She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, his eyes full of tears.

Sirius could not look at it. He had known Snape's Patronus, and he had always been a little suspicious, but his belief that Death Eaters could not possibly love kept the truth far from him. However, seeing this . . . seeing the silver doe right in front of him . . .

"After all this time?"

"Always," Snape said.

Unable to witness anymore, Harry and Sirius rose up out of the Pensieve. Moments later, they were lying on the carpeted floor in exactly the same room; Snape might have just closed the door.

Sirius shook his head. "I don't know what to tell you, Harry."

"Snape loved my mother," Harry mumbled. "Do you think if he'd never called her a—"

"No! No, she would have ended up with James no matter what," Sirius said with as much emphasis and passion as a man defending his faith to an unbeliever. "Lily loved James, and James worshipped Lily."

Sirius held his head in his hands. The visions of the past had not all been pleasant ones. "One day, I'll take you back through my memories. And you can see . . . You can see how they were with each other. You can see everything. I'll tell you everything."

"I'm sorry, Sirius," Harry muttered softly.

Sirius frowned. "You've got nothing to be sorry for, Harry."

"Petrificus Totalus!"

Eyes wide as the spell hit him in the chest—knocking him backward and binding his body tightly—Sirius's gaze followed Harry as he frowned down from above him

"Thank you for everything," Harry said clearly. "You're the only father I've ever known, and you've done a good job with what you've been given. Take care of Hermione for me. Take care of everyone." He brought himself to a knee beside Sirius's frozen body and placed a hand on his shoulder. "This is my job, Sirius."

Our job, Sirius thought angrily as Harry walked out the door.

Chapter Text

This is my darkest hour
A long road has lead me out here
But I only need turn around to face the light
And decide flight or fight
(Hercules - Sara Bareilles)


May 2nd, 1998

"Hermione, you seen Harry?" Ron asked as he approached her while she was applying a generous coating of an orange paste to some deep hex burns on Lavender Brown's arm.

Hermione smiled at Lavender, who looked genuinely surprised by her gentle touch. "He went up to the Headmaster's office a while ago with Sirius."

Ron nodded at Hermione before smiling at his ex-girlfriend. "Hey, Lav." He winced at the sight of her burned arm. "How'd you get that?"

She shrugged. "Death Eater set my robes on fire," she answered casually as though fighting fire-wielding Death Eaters was as common as curling her hair.

Hermione had to stifle a laugh at the look of strange admiration on Ron's face. "Ron, go find Harry. We need to start planning what to do next." After shooing him away toward the doors of the Great Hall, she cast her amused gaze back to Lavender. "I think you should be okay unless the pain is too much. We're running low on Pain Potions, but I might have some Murtlap Essence around here somewhere."

"Why are you being so nice to me, Hermione?" Lavender asked.

"What?" Hermione raised a surprised brow. "Lavender, I'm doing my job. I'm treating everyone who needs to be healed."

"Yes, that, but you could have been mean to me considering everything that happened with Ronald last year," Lavender said. "I'm surprised you even let him speak to me just now."

"Ron's free to converse with whomever he pleases." Hermione rolled her eyes and then smiled as she finally caught sight of the Murtlap Essence, snatching it out of Neville's hands as he passed by her. She tossed him a grateful look, and he dipped his head to her appreciatively. "Ron can date whomever he pleases as well."

Lavender gaped at Hermione. "You're not together? But I thought . . . Ginny said you had been off running together all year. And you're telling me nothing happened?" She had her "gossip voice" on—a voice Hermione spent years trying to tune out.

"Ron and I are not together, never got together, and will never get together," Hermione said as clearly as possible, smiling testily. "Got it?"

"Got it," Lavender said thoughtfully as she turned in the direction Ron had walked off to. "So you don't mind if I . . . ?"

"As long as you don't do it in front of me." Hermione blanched at the image that popped up in her mind. She used her wand to syphon the rest of the healing ointment off of her hands. "You're all set to go. Maybe wait until the battle's over to go snog Ron? Just a suggestion."

As the words left her mouth, the memory of Sirius's large hands pulling her onto his lap came into her mind. She instantly recalled the firm feel of his chest as she pressed her hands against it and the taste of his lips and the way he sounded when he moaned into her mouth . . .

"Son of a bitch!"

Snapped from her daze, Hermione's attention darted toward a raging Sirius, his body rigid as he moved, his hair flying behind him due to the speed of his steps. A furious-looking Ron tailed him.

"What's happened?" she asked anxiously as she rushed to Sirius, stepping in front of him and walking backward as he continued to move. "Where's Harry?"

"Never thought I'd live to see the day when I'd agree with bloody Snivellus!" Sirius snarled as he moved toward the exit. He looked as though he barely even noticed Hermione as she pressed her hands to his chest to slow him down. "Harry really is as arrogant as his father!"

She glanced to the side as Ron rushed over to where Kingsley Shacklebolt stood among the gathered Weasleys as well as Neville and Luna, presumably catching them up on the situation.

Turning back to Sirius, she paled at the look on his face and gave him a good shove to stop him in his tracks. His movements stilled, and she sighed in relief and asked, "What happened?"

"He's gone!" Sirius snapped.

Hermione quickly realised what Harry had done. "Gone? You don't mean . . ."

"Yes, I mean!" Sirius growled and continued moving, side-stepping Hermione and forcing her to trot along next to him. "Snape's memories showed Dumbledore telling the greasy git that Harry's got to . . . My own godson cursed me! And now he's gone and—"

"It's inside him, isn't it?" Hermione asked.

Sirius stopped again, mid-stride, to turn and glare at her. "You knew? Of course you knew," he said with exasperation as though this was so very typical of her.

His tone rankled, and she tilted her chin up in response. "Not until you just told me what happened! Either way, I agree with you." She scowled, shoving past him, and made her way toward the large front doors of the castle. "He's an arrogant arse!"

As Sirius caught up with her, she heard him mumble under his breath, "Wait 'til you see his father," but surely must have misheard.

They made their way quickly through the grounds, heading toward the Forbidden Forest, Sirius filled with stress and worry and anger over what Harry had done. At the sound of murmurs behind them, Sirius turned and spotted nearly all the occupants of the Great Hall falling in behind them.

"What are you all doing?" Hermione asked.

"Harry's in there?" Neville stood awkwardly, the Sword of Gryffindor in his hands. "Oh yeah, you forgot this. Thought it could be important," he said with a small blush as he approached Sirius and Hermione across the grass.

"You hang on to it for me, Neville." Hermione smiled. "And yes, we think Harry's gone into the Forest."

"Then let's make haste," Minerva said as she stepped toward the shadows of the trees in front of them. Everyone paused to stare at her, save for Sirius, who followed in her footsteps, before they all jumped into action and began moving step-by-step toward the forest.

Just before they reached the edge of trees, dark shadows loomed above them, and the atmosphere grew cold.

Sirius heard Hermione gasp at the same time that he felt the air chill down his throat. He reached out for her, settling a hand on her arm. "Get ready."

Shapes moved out in the darkness, swirling figures of concentrated blackness, moving in a great wave toward the castle, their faces hooded and their breath rattling. Dementors, and more than Sirius had ever seen, even in Azkaban. His eyes widened, and he could not even bring himself to smile when he felt Hermione slip her hand into his. He squeezed her back in response and clenched his other hand firmly around his wand.

"Happy thoughts, everyone," Hermione muttered nervously.

Forcing a bubble of hope up through his chest, Sirius grinned down at her and winked. "I've got a good one. Expecto Patronum!"

A large, silvery dog erupted from the end of his wand and growled viciously at the dementors, moving forward just as a small otter reached its side.

One by one, those who could cast a Patronus did so, and soon, the large Grim and otter were joined by a hare, a cat, a terrier, a swan, a goat, a coyote, a hyena, a large bear, and a small weasel. The large group stepped ahead, urging their Patronus vanguard forward, and the dementors began to retreat, though not all of them.

The focus of the Order and the gathered students was secure and only faltered once when a few voices behind the crowd yelled, "Expecto Patronum!"

Three more Patronuses joined the fight. The large, familiar dragon belonging to Draco flew upward into the grouping of dementors, scattering them apart. It was flanked by two massive wolf Patronuses that charged forward together, side-by-side.

Sirius paled at the sight and dropped his focus, turning around to spot what he had been dreading. Moving forward into the fray was Draco Malfoy, wand aimed high controlling his dragon. Remus stood to the boy's left, and Tonks to his right.

"What the hell are you doing here, Moony!?" Sirius shouted.

Remus smirked. "Saving you from dementors. Again."

Sirius growled. "Harry saved me from dementors, you arsehole."

"I taught Harry how to conjure a Patronus, so I could still take credit for it," Remus replied smugly.

"Oh yeah, and who taught you?" Sirius eyed him, feeling like he had won this argument.

"I'll maintain that since I taught Harry, and Harry ultimately taught her, I still come out on top here." Remus chuckled until Sirius punched him in the shoulder, knocking his concentration so that he growled and lowered his wand.

"Get your wife and go home!" Sirius snapped.

"No! This is where we're supposed to be," Remus fought back. "I wasn't there when I should have been for James and Lily! And I was too late when you went through the veil. I'll be damned if I'm going to sit at home waiting around for more of my friends to die!"

Sirius huffed, not liking that his orders were being ignored. He was also not liking that Remus had brought up James and Lily at a time like this when all he wanted to do was keep his head. It was too emotional, and he hated thinking about the deaths of the past that haunted him. So he decided to bring up a death in the present to at least help fuel them both.

"Did I forget to mention that Greyback's dead?" he asked, watching as Remus's chest puffed out while his eyes flared gold and amber. He had purposely kept the information from his friend after the escape from Malfoy Manor, wanting to keep Remus's focus on his wife and child. Usually, Greyback's name was a reminder to Remus of what he was, and Sirius had not been in the mood to talk his friend out of another existential crisis about worthiness and fatherhood.

"Who did it?" Remus demanded.

"Draco," Sirius answered, nodding toward the young, blond wizard. "Long time coming, too. Now, with that victory in your head, will you get the fuck out of here?"

Remus rolled his eyes. "Nice try, Padfoot."

"They're gone!" Hermione called back. "Sirius, the dementors are gone!"

"Good." Sirius glared at Remus and shifted into Padfoot.

Using the extra strength and speed afforded to him in his Animagus form, he charged forward, letting the branches and bushes near the forest floor whip at his body as he rushed into the shadows. Sniffing the air, he pulled out Harry's familiar scent and raced head first in the direction that called to him. He could feel Remus sprinting after him, and the sweet scent of Hermione close behind, but he pushed on at record speed.

All the while, he cursed Remus and his stupid sense of honour and loyalty, cursed Hermione for following him to the edge of the forest and putting herself so close to danger, cursed Harry for his arrogance and sacrificial love for his friends. He even cursed James and Lily for ever thinking he was capable of dealing with their headstrong, stubborn, but oh-so-loving son.

The scent in the air changed, and Padfoot turned into a clearing, gazing wide-eyed down upon a sight he had hoped to never see: Harry's body on the ground, unmoving.

He watched closely from the shadows, trying to see if Harry was breathing. Listening for the soft sounds of a heartbeat. It was impossible to catch a sign of life with the loud crowd at his back on their way toward him and his own heart pounding in his chest, filling him with dread.

The gathered Death Eaters in front were crowded around another body that was rousing.

"That will do," Voldemort said. "The boy . . . is he dead?"

There was a complete silence in the clearing. The Death Eaters looked too terrified to approach Harry.

"You fear a dead child?!" Voldemort snapped, and immediately, several Death Eaters jumped into action.

A protective paternal feeling washed over his rigid body, and Padfoot lunged from the bushes with a growl, placing himself in between the Death Eaters and Harry, snarling viciously. The Death Eaters all took a step back, reaching for their wands and aiming them at him. He continued to growl as he stalked forward, his focus set on the red eyes of Voldemort.

While Bellatrix's blood had tasted like vengeance in his mouth, Voldemort's would most certainly taste like justice.

He readied his body to pounce, knowing that he could effortlessly clear the men standing in front of their master. Padfoot let out one last, low growl and leapt forward, paws and claws eager to tear through skin, jaw open and waiting to grip flesh. There was no plan; there was only raging temper and clouded vision. This personality trait was one that always came back to nip him in the arse: running headlong to confront Peter in a darkened alleyway just to be framed for murder, disobeying orders and recklessly rushing to the Ministry of Magic only to get blasted through that bloody veil, snogging Hermione in that hidden passage. There would be consequences for that too but damned if he cared.

Yaxley's voice interrupted his ill-timed ruminations. "Crucio!"

Padfoot fell to the ground in a heap at the feet of Voldemort, whimpering as the pain shot through his body in sharp stabs and deep burns. "No!" He heard a muffled yell and felt a rush of movement around him at the familiar sound of his best friend's voice.

Remus stepped into the clearing, wand drawn and aimed high.

With what Sirius assumed was the Elder Wand in hand, Voldemort aimed another curse at him, taking over where Yaxley left off. Strangely, this one did not sting as badly. It kept him immobile for certain, but he felt almost numb to the point that he wondered if he had been killed again. Not until he heard Remus take the offensive did Sirius realise he was, in fact, alive.

"Incendio!" Remus yelled, aiming a spell straight for the snake.

Voldemort laughed as the spell bounced off of his favoured Horcrux, unaware that the ricocheted curse hit Thorfinn Rowle square in the chest, setting the Death Eater aflame.

The man screamed loudly, attempting to extinguish his robes, but before he could reach his wand, Remus called out, "Expelliarmus," and disarmed him.

Voldemort sneered at the scene. With his wand held on Padfoot, he used wandless magic on Remus, hissing, "Petrificus Totalus!"

Remus turned a cold stare on Voldemort as he was frozen in place and levitated nearer. Unfortunately for Voldemort, Remus had been frozen with his wand in hand.

Padfoot watched Remus as he was brought closer—his wand automatically aimed downward. A feeling of pride filled Sirius as he watched his friend fight through the Full Body-Bind Curse, shouting, "Bombarda Maxima!"

The ground at Voldemort's feet exploded upward in a cloud of dirt and stone that covered Padfoot. Wholly freed from the curse, Remus rushed down to aid him.

Before either had a chance to move, Voldemort and three Death Eaters had their wands trained back on them, each growling out a loud, simultaneous "Crucio!"

The pain was so great, Sirius unwillingly transformed back into his human body as the brutal attack broke him out of his transfigured form. So lost in his own agony and the screams of his friend beside him, he almost missed the familiar scent, quickly approaching. Forcing himself to crane his neck—which, under the curse, felt like his bones were snapping—and he saw her there, hiding amongst the trees. Hermione, no . . .

Have to mean it, have to mean it. Hermione repeated her inner mantra as she approached the expanse in the forest where the Death Eaters and Voldemort had gathered. Aim your wand and mean it, she said again to herself as she brought her wand up ahead of her, letting her gaze linger for the briefest of moments on Harry's body before the grief was consumed by rage.

Have to mean it.

Her gaze locked onto a red stare, and she shouted, "Avada Kedavra!"

Voldemort did not move out of the way of the darting green light, but merely pulled one of his own Death Eaters in front of him as a shield.

Hermione's eyes widened as her curse, her first Killing Curse, hit Crabbe Sr instead of Tom Riddle. She gasped in horror over what she had done but had no time to properly react as her body went rigid and she felt herself being magically pulled forward.

"Well, well, well," Voldemort said as a too-wide grin stretched across his deformed face. His focus shifted to Sirius, Remus, and Hermione, in turn, as he identified them based upon their status. "A blood traitor. A half-breed. A Mudblood."

He gripped Hermione's chin with long, pale fingers, hissing in her face.

She cried out in despair, but it was edged with a snarl of defiance. She could hear Sirius and Remus behind her, thrashing and wailing on the ground as the Death Eaters maintained their torturous Cruciatus Curses on them. She could do nothing to help them.

"A perfect trio," Voldemort went on to say, dropping her so that she landed in front of the wizards writhing on the ground.

She turned her panicked gaze to the side, looking at the path from where she had come, hoping and praying that their backup was closing in on the clearing, but there was no one in sight.

"Allow me to show you what a Killing Curse is supposed to look like," Voldemort hissed, aiming his wand at Hermione.

She let out a quiet sob at the sight and felt as though time itself had stopped. For the smallest of moments, her fear was overpowered by stalwart determination, and she stretched her arms out to the side, pressing her back against Sirius and Remus as though she could shield them.

Be like Lily, she thought. Be brave like Harry's mum.

Hermione closed her eyes for a second, remembering the love she had for those she would protect: for Harry, whose body lay to the side; for Remus, who had always been good and kind to her, who had taught her so much and had always trusted her; for Ron, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and everyone from Hogwarts who would soon be on their way.

For Sirius.

For Sirius.

Her eyes opened once more and she looked daringly ahead. Yes, she could do this. Hermione would let history repeat itself. Let herself be taken, let herself be sacrificed, and her love would protect them all. Voldemort would never see it coming. He was too prideful to think that such a thing could happen to him twice. She would die, but if he tried to harm either of the men behind her once she was gone, the curse would bounce back and hit him—again. Then all they needed to do was kill the snake.

She glanced to the creature that was looking at her as though she were dinner. Her focus shifted to the side where she saw the most wonderful sight in the world: Neville Longbottom, Sword of Gryffindor in his hand, and a look of determination on his face. Hermione raised her wand and aimed it at Voldemort.

He paused, looked at her, and let out a loud, high, cold laugh.

She dropped her hand several inches while he was distracted and shouted, "Alarte Ascendare!" with her wand trained on the snake that immediately flew twenty feet into the air and away from Voldemort.

She watched in anticipation as Neville tightened his grip on the sword. As Nagini's large body landed with a thud on the forest ground, he used the dust that raised up as a shield and lifted the sword. The young Gryffindor, Scion of the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom, beheaded the last Horcrux.

Voldemort let out a violent scream. his wand still aimed at Hermione.

She closed her eyes.

She could do this.

She was ready.

"Avada Kedavra!"

"Expelliarmus!" a familiar voice yelled at the same time that Voldemort shouted, and Hermione's eyes opened to see Harry kneeling protectively in front of her.

The bang of the colliding spells was like a cannon blast, and the golden flames that erupted between the two wizards marked the point where the spells impacted. Voldemort's green jet of Dark magic met Harry's Disarming Spell. The wand flew high into the sky, a slim dark wand against the sunrise that gently broke through the trees overhead.

Harry, with the unerring skill of the Seeker, caught the wand in his free hand as Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, scarlet eyes rolling back. Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snakelike face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own curse which had rebounded, and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy's shell.

The briefest moment of silence occurred before the Order and the others burst through the trees, wands drawn and aimed at Death Eaters, most of whom attempted to flee only to be stunned, bound, and gagged before they could even think of Apparating.

Hermione sobbed, hugging Harry tightly from behind. "You're alive!"

He turned in her arms to glare at her, clearly irate that she had put herself in harm's way. "Were you really just going to let him kill you?"

Hermione laughed and kissed his cheeks, unable to be too angry with him considering he was alive and had just defeated the greatest Dark Wizard of all time. "Why not? You did!"

Harry's jaw twitched, but he finally broke into a smile and hugged her back tightly, muttering under his breath about how she was never allowed to do such a stupid thing again. She thought to argue her point, but soon she felt arms from behind wrap around her, and Sirius and Remus echoed Harry's statement with vigour.

"Harry, how'd you do it?" Ron asked, his tone filled with relief as he approached the Hermione hug-fest.

"Elder Wand." Harry held it up. "In the Shrieking Shack, Voldemort killed Snape because he thought Snape had won the wand from Dumbledore. But the wand wasn't waiting for someone to kill his Master, only defeat him."

"Malfoy," Hermione said with a loud gasp, eyes wide.

"What about me?" Draco stepped through the clearing, scowl on his face as he watched from afar while Order members contained the Death Eaters, looking as though he were making it a point to stay as close as possible to people who knew his true allegiance to avoid arrest himself.

"You disarmed Dumbledore."

"Yes, your point, Granger?" He narrowed his gaze. "Honestly, can any of you ever finish vocalising a thought?"

"You're the master of the Elder Wand, you prat!" Hermione snapped.

"Really? Potter?" Draco smirked and held out his hand to Harry. "I'd just love to have my wand back, seeing as I'm apparently its master."

Harry grinned smugly up at Malfoy, handing over the hawthorn wand with eagerness. "Thanks for the loan," he said and then turned back to Hermione as Draco accepted his own wand with ease, treating it as a long lost friend instead of a consolation prize.

"I disarmed Malfoy at the manor," Harry explained to Hermione.

Ron looked gobsmacked. "Bloody hell."

"Care to explain the playing dead bit there?" Sirius narrowed his eyes, threatening anyone with a stare to dare make a dog trick joke at his words. No one made to speak except Harry, who removed the broken pieces of his holly and phoenix feather wand from the moleskin pouch around his neck, using the Elder Wand in his hand to repair it.

"Oh, I died," Harry confirmed and looked at Sirius. "Came back. But compared to you, that's old news, I guess."

Despite the stress of the moment, Sirius let out a loud barking laugh, and Harry joined him, gripping his godfather affectionately by the shoulders and letting the moment sink in. Hermione sighed in exasperation and relief, sharing a smile with Remus.

Voldemort was gone.

The war was over.

All was well . . . for now.

End of Book One


Chapter Text

The Time-Turner

 Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this
(A Thousand Years - Christina Perri)


September 17th, 1998

Sirius sat on the front porch of his ancestral home, a glass of Ogden's finest on the step beside him, lit cigarette in his mouth. He scanned the neighbourhood curiously, smiling as he watched the people around his home going about their business. With Grimmauld Place under a renewed Fidelius and an extra Muggle-Repelling Charm for good measure, he was able to enjoy Muggle-watching from the open door of his home. Even though Hermione often called it voyeurism—considering the Muggles in question were unaware they were being watched—he still found it soothing.

It was only one of many criticisms that she brought up in regards to his behaviour following the end of the war. Muggle-watching was relatively low on the list of his annoying habits, especially when compared to his drinking and smoking. Now those were Grade-A pet peeves of Hermione's that she was not shy about vocalising. His smoking easily made it to the top of the list once he had permanently signed over Kreacher to work at Hogwarts; he avoided any talk of house-elf enslavement or mistreatment around her ever since.

In fact, Sirius had been going out of his way to knock items off her list of his annoying habits, thus avoiding any form of confrontation with her.

Which was why, at that very moment, he was enjoying an early afternoon drink and cigarette on his front porch because Hermione was currently not there to berate him about it.

Since Harry, Ron, and Hermione had moved into Grimmauld Place with Sirius, she spent most of her time secluded in her room. Sirius worried constantly, as did Harry, though everyone else—meaning most of the Weasleys—insisted that perhaps she needed time to herself. It was something Harry reluctantly agreed to, but Sirius outright refused to let her retreat into herself in the aftermath of war.

Following Voldemort's defeat in the Forbidden Forest, the occupants of Grimmauld Place had become celebrities. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were labelled war heroes and nicknamed the Golden Trio—a moniker that annoyed Hermione, seeing as she was very audible about her dislike of nicknames.

While the rest of the Wizarding world began repairing Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and the Ministry of Magic, those who fought in the war were still repairing themselves and the wounds they suffered because of it.

Harry's chosen way to heal was to move on with life and be as normal as possible. Sirius encouraged him when he joined the new Auror training class alongside Ron, invited by the Minister for Magic himself. Kingsley had offered similar positions to Sirius and Draco; both declined, Sirius with a string of colourful profanities, Draco with a mocking glare.

Instead of rejoining the workforce or the efforts to rebuild society, Sirius focused on rebuilding his family, which of course included Harry and Hermione, but also now extended back to his blood—family that he had long ago split away from. Per Hermione's encouragement, he decided to reconnect with his cousins. With Malfoy Manor having served as the headquarters for Voldemort and the Death Eaters, the property was confiscated by the Ministry, forcing Narcissa and Draco to seek shelter elsewhere. Andromeda had all but insisted that her younger sister and nephew stay with her, as both women had grown to rely on one another in their grief. Unable to stand the sound of the constantly sobbing women, or so he whinged to Sirius, Draco took his offer to stop by Grimmauld Place anytime quite literally, much to the annoyance of Harry and Ron.

Sirius took charge of Hermione's healing himself since everyone else assumed she was smart enough to know what was best for her. He would wake her every morning with breakfast treats from a nearby bakery, seeing that he had no idea how to properly use the kitchen in the basement. When she would return to her room or the library to lock herself in for hours of reading, Sirius would insist she take breaks and get out of the house. Venturing into the Wizarding parts of town made such forays difficult, as her celebrity status kept her in the constant spotlight, which she absolutely detested. So he had suggested some of his favourite Muggle locations where they would go and drown in mismatched memories.

The nightmares, of course, were the worst, but Sirius had years of experience in dealing with them. Harry and Ron, however, were horrified by Hermione's screams. When she woke up shrieking each night, the boys would rush to her room in a panic to find Sirius already there, holding her in his arms and stroking her hair and back until she fell asleep once more.

Harry admitted that he felt responsible for Hermione's condition. Sirius insisted that he was responsible for everyone in the house and that Harry needed to let him do his job and take care of them.

By extension, that meant Sirius was also responsible for taking care of Draco, who had been ostracised by most of the community, including pureblood society for his new blood-traitor status—something with which Sirius was quite familiar. He took the boy under his wing and did what he could to make Draco feel worthwhile. Harry and Ron refused to be anything more than cordial to the Slytherin, so Sirius had suggested that Draco help him get Hermione out of her shell.

The two shared the trait of being able to get under her skin, provoking her to emotions other than apathy, and Sirius was grateful for the help.

His gratitude might have been premature.

Draco's voice echoed within the house. "Sirius!"

Sirius launched his cigarette into the street as though it burned him, and he quickly poured his firewhisky over the side of the steps before pushing the glass itself out of sight. He took a deep breath just in time to hear Draco's frustrated sigh as the younger man cleared the corner of the entrance hallway.

A quick survey told Sirius he had been rash in tossing his vices. "Hermione's not with you?"

Draco's lips twisted in annoyance. "She'll be here soon. I took the Floo because I figured it would be faster since she was headed off to an Apparition point. Thought I should give you a heads-up about her current mood."

Sirius glared as he walked into the house, closing the door behind him. "What did you do?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "I did what you told me to do. Took her for lunch. And no I did not suggest that she was putting on weight—again. I've still got the burn marks from the hex she sent at me over that one," he said with a scowl. "We went to the bloody bookshop."

"Why's she in a mood then?" Sirius asked as they moved fully into the house. Reaching for his wand, he cast an Air Freshening Charm around his body to get rid of the remnants of the cigarette that he had abandoned too quickly.

Before Draco could say another word, there was a loud crack of Apparition from outside.

The front door blew violently open, and Hermione stepped foot into the house, her mass of wild curls sparking at the ends, a look of rage and humiliation clearly painted across her face. The second the door slammed shut behind her, the portrait of Sirius's mother began screaming, "Blemish upon the noble House of my Father!" but before she started spewing out more creative slurs, Sirius flicked his wand to shut the curtains.

He smiled sweetly at Hermione, approaching her carefully as though she were a wild hippogriff, nearly going so far as to bow before her. "Afternoon, love. Everything all right?"

At the sound of the slammed door, Harry and Ron appeared over the rails of the staircase. "What'd you do to piss her off this time, Malfoy?" Ron called down. "Are you two finally done being friends?"

"We're not friends, Weasel," Draco sneered.

"Fine, whatever you are. Is it over? I miss the good old days when we could hex you, and she'd punch you in the face."

"Shut up, Ron." Harry sighed in frustration. "Hermione, is everything okay?"

"No!" she screamed and immediately burst into tears, rushing past Sirius and Draco, shoving the latter with her shoulder as she flew up the stairs in a tornado of sobs.

Sirius watched helplessly as she brushed past Harry and Ron who tried to stop her but failed miserably. Her door banged shut and all of the men let out a collective sigh of irritation.

Draco finally broke the silence. "Seen the Daily Prophet this morning?" He handed the folded paper in his hands over to Sirius before turning on his heel toward the large, formal dining room, likely raiding Sirius's secret stash of scotch, Draco's not-so-secret guilty pleasure.

"How bad?" Harry asked as he and Ron descended the stairs to meet with Sirius in the hallway. They cast their gaze over the opened paper in Sirius's hands where a large moving picture of Hermione and Draco was plastered on the front page.

The two appeared sitting outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. Neither looked overly pleased in the photo, though as the picture moved, Draco pushed his half-eaten sundae across the table to Hermione. It had been only a few days ago when Sirius suggested the two get out of the house; Harry and Ron had been at the Ministry undergoing Auror training, while Sirius had made plans with Remus for the day. Hermione had spent the night dealing with a particularly bad nightmare, and when Draco showed up bored, Sirius had asked his young cousin to distract her.

It was not the picture that caught his attention but the ridiculous headline and attached article surrounding it.


"Ugh," Sirius groaned and began reading it aloud:

"It seems The Boy Who Defeated You-Know-Who Twice has more on his plate than fighting Dark wizards in the weeks following his great triumph. As this reporter stated in her latest award-winning biography, Golden Trio: Young Love in War, said Golden Trio (consisting of war heroes Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and their shared love interest, Muggle-born Hermione Granger) spent the better part of this past year on the run from the forces of darkness. Under the pressures of war, they found love in the arms of one another. Details of the love triangle can be found in the pages of Golden Trio: Young Love in War, available at your local bookshops now.

It's no secret that the Gryffindor Golden Girl spent the majority of her time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the arms of many famous young heartthrobs. She first appeared on the scene during the Triwizard Tournament which had been brought back to Hogwarts in order to establish unity between Wizarding Schools. Unfortunately, Miss Granger brought dissension to the tournament in the form of her first love triangle between herself, Harry Potter, and famed Bulgarian Seeker and Triwizard Champion, Viktor Krum.

Despite our world still healing from the aftermath of war, it appears that Miss Granger has no qualms about inflicting new wounds on her famed lovers, Potter and Weasley. The Princess of Gryffindor now finds herself in the arms of the self-proclaimed Slytherin Prince and supposedly reformed Death Eater, Draco Malfoy. It begs many questions including—"

"Stop reading," Draco advised him, reappearing at Sirius's side with a glass of scotch in hand. "Let's just say that mine and Granger's loyalties in the war are called into question, and she's also rumoured to be pregnant with my child. But, depending on whether or not the kid comes out with red or black hair, it could be one of yours," he said and gestured to Ron and Harry who gaped at him. "I know, I don't get it either. As if any girl would pass up sex with me for either of you."

Harry shook his head, staring down at the words. "This is really bad."

"Very observant, Potter. Now, one of you go fix her." Draco gestured his hand toward the stairs. "If I wanted to be around crying women I'd go home to my mother and aunt. In fact, I think I do prefer their company," he said, finishing his scotch and setting the glass down on a nearby dresser.

"Cousin, always a pleasure." He dipped his head to Sirius and headed for the door. "I fully expect to be compensated for being forced to deal with an irate Muggle-born."

"Prat," Ron muttered as Draco Disapparated from the top step of the porch.

Sirius turned and smiled at his godson. "You want to take care of her?"

Harry glared at Sirius and Ron. "Cowards."

Sirius shrugged. He knew that Hermione in this state was something he had a reputation for making worse. Sad and distraught he could handle. Scared or passionate he could certainly help with. But when it came to the humiliation of publicity, he was terrible at comfort. He'd had plenty of publicity himself and took it all in stride, either energetically feeding into the rumours for his own amusement or ignoring the papers altogether. Making such suggestions to Hermione would only piss her off, and this was one week where he was determined to keep on her good side at all costs.

"Remus is supposed to be over soon," he said. "If she's up to company we can stick her in a room with him. They can commiserate over bad publicity, and he can cheer her up by talking about boring books."

"Looks like I won't miss much, then." Ron nodded and headed toward the Floo. "I'm going to stay at the Burrow for a few days. Mum's upset 'cause I never come 'round anymore."

"Don't forget Hermione's birthday is Saturday," Harry reminded him.

"I got it," Ron said with a smile and stepped into the green flames of the fireplace, vanishing from sight.

"All right," Sirius said with a chuckle, returning his focus on Harry. "You go and be the big hero. Tell her you'll pull the Chosen One card and have the Daily Prophet shut down."

Harry shook his head with a laugh. "You really overestimate my influence." He made his way up the stairs toward Hermione's room just as the front door opened and Remus stepped through.

Though he complained to Sirius about little sleep dealing with Teddy and an exhausted Tonks, Remus still looked younger than ever. Fatherhood clearly suited him as well as marriage, though he often said that he was eager to get out of the house as often as possible considering he and Tonks had both been cooped up for the length of her pregnancy at Sirius's request.

"Is she here?" Remus asked.

"Upstairs in her room, more than likely sobbing her heart out onto Harry's good-natured shoulder." Sirius gave half a wry smile and led Remus into the large dining room where he narrowed his eyes at the open bottle of scotch on the counter. Sirius wondered how on earth Draco was surviving at Andromeda's place without having house-elves constantly picking up after him.

Remus sighed. "I take it she's read this morning's paper?"

"The suggestion that Hermione, of all people, would have a love affair with a Malfoy is hysterically funny."

"I'm sure she doesn't see it that way."

"Give her a couple of days," Sirius said, his words laced with hidden meaning that only Remus could fully understand.

"I personally think there are more amusing romantic pairings for Hermione." Remus grinned slyly at Sirius who rolled his eyes, giving him a rude gesture with one hand while he set his bottle of scotch back into the cupboard with the others.

He sighed as he ran his finger over the lineup of liquors in front of him, taking note of the ones that had collected dust over the years due to neglect. At the end sat an old, half-empty bottle of Blishen's Firewhisky that he remembered was his father's favourite brand. 1971. A good year.

"So what's left to do?" Sirius asked anxiously.

Remus raised a brow. "For the party?"

"I'm a little more concerned about what happens after the party, Moony." Sirius eyed his friend. "All I have to do is open my house to all our friends who want to spoil the witch. And stay sober the day of. You're the one in charge of the important stuff."

"Are you sure you're ready?"

"Does it matter?"

"No. It's always been a time sensitive issue," Remus admitted.

Sirius let out a loud laugh at the ironic choice of words. "I'm ready." After a moment, his laughter faded, and he eyed the firewhisky in the cabinet, wondering if the different brand would be able to ease his worries since Ogden's no longer did the trick. "I hate not knowing how this will all play out. If it works and she . . . It's going to bring up a lot of shit from the past, and I'm going to have to tell Harry everything. Never mind the rest of the world and, Merlin forbid, Molly Weasley."

"I'm planning on not being here when Molly finds out the truth," Remus admitted. "I'd like to at least live to see Teddy go to Hogwarts. Do you have the bracelet?"

"I snatched it from the Potter vault when I went with Harry a few months ago to find a gift for Ginny's birthday. I suggested he give her something of Lily's. Made it easy to dig through the jewellery boxes without him catching on. It's all wrapped up and ready to go. How about your little gift?"

"It's set."

Tugging anxiously on the silver chain around his neck, he asked, "You think she's going to be pissed at us?"

"At me? Possibly. You? Undoubtedly."

Sirius groaned and rubbed his hands down his face. "Fan-fucking-tastic."

September 19th, 1998

The evening of her nineteenth birthday was strangely calm. Hermione's friends gathered together at Grimmauld Place where Mrs Weasley had spent all day cooking up a feast, despite pleading with her not to make a fuss.

Since Hogwarts had yet to finish the repairs to the castle, the opening of the school had been postponed until November, which allowed Ginny to attend the birthday celebration. Hermione, however, had been upset about the delay, considering she had decided to return to school to make up her seventh year. Despite Sirius telling her over and over to take her time making up her mind about going back, she refused to be swayed.

Guests began to arrive, and Hermione tasked herself with being a dutiful hostess while Sirius played bartender to all the new arrivals. She thanked them for coming, insisting that they did not need to and hoped that they had not changed plans on her behalf.

As the presents were brought in and stacked on a large table in the corner, she paled. It was one thing to have her friends make a big deal about her birthday, but quite another for them to expect her to awkwardly stand in the spotlight and be doted upon with gifts she did not need whilst everyone stared at her.

It was not until Remus and Tonks made their entrance with little Teddy that she excused herself from the "Welcome Wagon Committee," taking the tiny boy into her arms with a bright smile.

"Can I just have him for my birthday?" Hermione grinned as she snuggled her face into the side of Teddy's plump cheeks, kissing him repeatedly as he giggled and changed his hair from straight blue locks to honey-brown curls.

"He's teething, feel free to keep him," Remus said with a smirk.

Tonks gave a little chuckle at her husband's comment and kissed Hermione's cheek in greeting.

Hermione took notice of Remus's tired eyes, and how he looked at her with a sad smile before excusing himself to the loo, slipping downstairs. She pretended to not notice the small gift in his hands.

"Give me my godson!" Harry demanded with a happy laugh as he stole Teddy from her grip and held the boy proudly as Teddy's hair changed from brown curls to straight black. "He's going to end up with issues. Parents who are too eager to hand him over and a hovering Hermione who won't stop kissing him. You're too old for him, Hermione!"

"Age is just a number, Harry." Hermione chuckled as she ran her fingers through Teddy's now messy, black hair, trying to get the back to stay down. "I should know; I've been reminded of my own age many times today."

There was a loud whoosh from the room, and Hermione looked up to see Ron stumble out of the fireplace, a haphazardly wrapped present in his hands.

"Happy birthday, 'Mione!" He kissed her cheek in greeting.

"Thank you." She smiled, looking at the gift. "Any chance I can convince you to return whatever that is and instead stop calling me 'Mione'?"

Ron scoffed. "You and nicknames. Sirius calls you 'kitten.'"

"That's not a nickname, it's a pet name," Sirius defended, handing a bottle of butterbeer to Ron.

"Do I look like a pet to you?" Hermione put her hands on her hips and then, as Sirius opened his mouth, she narrowed her eyes. "Don't answer that."

"Is it time for presents yet?" Ginny bounced on the balls of her feet, snatching Ron's gift and tossing it onto the large pile on the table. "I'm dying to know what everyone got you and if anything's better than my present . . . which is so unlikely."

Hermione frowned, feeling uncomfortable at the ridiculously large pile of gifts. "I really wish you all hadn't gone to such trouble." Ginny ignored her entirely, looping her arm through Hermione's and dragging her toward the table.

Gifts were opened, and Hermione spent the better part of a half-hour thanking people graciously—while feeling extremely guilty since so many people put forth so much effort and were far too generous. Most of her friends bought her books, which was expected, though Ginny had given her tickets to a Weird Sisters concert for when she would be home for Christmas. Harry had given her an old book on runes that he had found in his family vault; the inside cover had Lily Evans written in lovely penmanship. Fred and George gave her a large box of various Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes items that she was afraid to touch, and Ron had given her a gift card to Honeydukes.

When most of the guests departed for the night, Hermione was grateful to see them go. She had been more introverted than usual since the end of the war, and a big gathering made her a bit anxious. She had gone to help clean up after the party, but a determined Mrs Weasley refused her assistance, so Hermione thought to retire to the library. She turned to go down the stairs but was instantly blocked by a sweetly smiling Sirius, a small crimson box in his hands.

"You thought I didn't get you anything?" He grinned smugly, and she blushed. "Open it."

Hermione opened the small container as Sirius held it out for her, and her attention immediately fell on the shiny, gold bracelet within that flashed red in the flickering lights of the overhead chandelier. She gasped at the sight, instantly recognising it as goblin-made and, therefore, expensive—though she could not bring herself to yell at him for going overboard, considering the very genuine look of anticipation on his face.

She felt her cheeks flush, wondering if a gift of this kind was some sort of pureblood gesture. There was a book in the library about courting protocols, but Hermione had avoided it, not wanting to be teased should Harry or Ron—or God forbid, Draco—catch her reading it. "Sirius, this is too much!"

"It's really not," he insisted, pulling the bracelet out and putting it on her extended wrist, setting the clasp. "Just an old heirloom I had lying around."

He smiled down at her, and she momentarily got lost in the variations of grey in his eyes. The warmth in her cheeks turned red hot under his gaze, forcing her to turn away from him.

She and Sirius had yet to discuss the bond that came along with the life debt ritual she had used to bring him back from the veil. Any mention of the bond—or the extremely steamy kiss they had shared in the caved-in passage after destroying Hufflepuff's Cup—and he would repeat the promise he had made while they had been on the run: they would discuss it all the day after her birthday.

Though she was not certain why he insisted on putting it off any longer, she had agreed. Suddenly, she realised how nervous she was to bring the subject up with him. Despite the butterflies in her stomach, she whispered, "Tomorrow's the day after my birthday."

Sirius leant in close and tucked a curl behind her ear, making her shiver. "I remember. We'll talk then. I promise."

Hermione turned her gaze down to look over the beautiful gift. She strained her focus for a moment as she saw an engraving on the goblin-forged bangle and raised a brow. "Sirius, these aren't the words of your House."

"I never said it was a Black heirloom." Sirius laughed. "I wouldn't dare to give you anything that once belonged to my psychotic family."

"Animo et astutia," Hermione repeated the Latin words aloud. "Sirius, where did you get this?"

"By Courage and Craft."

She quirked her lips, knowing the translation of the words herself. "I asked you where, not how."

Harry came around the corner. "Where've I heard that saying before?"

"Anywhere in Godric's Hollow," Sirius replied. "You might have read it on anything in your vault at Gringotts. Those are the words of the House of Potter."

At his explanation, Hermione's eyes widened, and she moved to unclasp the bracelet as though it were suddenly deemed much too valuable and delicate for her to wear. "Sirius, I can't accept this."

"Yes, you can. It was . . . It belonged to Harry's family. Now it's yours."

"I'm not a Potter, Sirius, I can't accept this." She turned around, extending her wrist to her best friend, insisting that he take it off of her. "Harry, you should—"

"Nope." Harry shook his head, cutting her off with a smile that somehow made his green eyes sparkle. "I agree with Sirius. You're my sister, and that makes you a Potter. Besides, I like the idea of you having something that connects you to my family. If anyone honours the words of my House, it's you. Courage and Craft? Might as well just say 'Hermione Granger.'"

"See?" Sirius gestured to Harry. "Even Harry says it's okay."

"I still don't feel right about it, but fine." Hermione frowned, suddenly feeling very guilty and unworthy at the same time. "You can take it back anytime you want, Harry. When you have children of your own, you can pass it along to them."

Harry laughed. "Just take the gift, Hermione, and stop arguing with everyone. You've fought every single person who brought you a birthday present tonight."

"Well, I told you not to get me anything in the first place, so it's not my fault," she countered.

Sirius interrupted their back-and-forth. "I think we're missing a big moment here. I gave a birthday gift, and I haven't gotten any thanks."

"Thank you, Sirius," Hermione gently murmured before she leant in and kissed his cheek, the soft hair of his beard tickling her lips. "Now, if the two of you are done forcing presents on me, I'm excited to go down to the library and read all my new books." She grinned and hugged Harry before turning and walking down the stairs and through the open doors of the large Black family library where Remus had been kind enough to deposit the large collection of new books that her friends and family had given her that evening.

She turned to the stack of tomes that had been assembled in a tower on the large oak coffee table in the centre of the room. On top of the stack sat a small crimson box tied with gold ribbon. Assuming it was another gift from Sirius since the boxes matched, Hermione sighed and spun back to shout out the door at him. When she turned, however, she came face to face with Sirius and Remus, who were lingering in the doorway.

She narrowed her eyes at Sirius and gestured to the gift. "What's that?"

"That's actually from me." Remus smiled softly.

"Oh," Hermione said, embarrassed, as she recalled the box that he had earlier disappeared with. Her curiosity was certainly piqued as she wondered what could be inside that Remus would want hidden from the rest of the party guests.

"Dora and I are heading out. I wanted to come and say goodbye." Remus slowly approached her, looking incredibly anxious as he pulled her close to him, wrapping his arms around her. She hugged him back tightly, feeling as he breathed deeply. "I hope you had a wonderful birthday, Hermione. You really deserve something good after everything you've done."

She ignored the praise and released him, reaching for the box. "Let me open your present while you're right here."

Remus gently grabbed her wrist before she touched the gift. "No. Wait until I leave. It's . . . private." Her eyes widened slightly, and she watched as he winced, his face turning a bit pink. "I mean, it's just . . . You might not like it." He frowned, and his soft green eyes momentarily flashed gold. "The next time I see you, you can tell me if you like it."

"Is everything okay?" she asked quietly, knowing that those quick flares of colour in his eyes only shone through when Remus was dealing with emotional or physical triggers.

"Hope so." He gave her a tight smile before letting her go, placing a hand on Sirius's shoulder before vacating the library.

"Is he okay?" Hermione asked worriedly.

"He's got a lot on his mind," Sirius said. "We've been going through a few stints of nostalgia lately. Brought up some intense memories from the past." He shrugged and slowly walked into the room, reaching for her bracelet-clad wrist and tugging her toward him. "It's almost the day after your birthday."

She swallowed and nodded nervously.

"Before we dig into old magics and awkward adult conversations, will you allow an old dog one last moment of recklessness?" he asked, his grey eyes dark and deep.

Her breath hitched in her throat, terrified that the warmth his touch was spreading through her body was being caused by the magic she had used to bring him back to life. A strong part of her doubted the authenticity of his affections, but she did not have the heart to push him away, so she nodded her head in consent.

Sirius cupped her cheek with the palm of his hand and leant in toward her, ever so lightly brushing his lips against hers. She could tell he wanted more. His hands were shaking, and he appeared to be holding in a breath, leaving her struggling to think of how to respond. She knew what she wanted to do, of course, but with Harry just upstairs, she could not seem to find that infamous Gryffindor courage.

A shiver went down her spine, and she breathed in deeply. Sirius smelled like firewhisky, leather, and the lingering hint of tobacco—which made her want to scold him but not right then. Before she had a chance to properly react to his lips against hers, he pulled away from her with a nervous stare.

"Happy birthday, kitten," he whispered, his fingers momentarily tightening their hold on her. "No matter what happens . . . promise me you'll just try to be happy, all right?"

"Sirius, I don't underst—"

"Nope, no more talking until tomorrow. Now, open Remus's gift. He's been fussing about it forever." He smiled and stepped away from her, moving toward the doors of the library until, with what looked like great reluctance, he slipped out of the room.

Hermione exhaled slowly, trying to ease her racing heart. Why did Sirius have such an effect on her? It had to be the magic. He had been so different since she had pulled him from the veil. She remembered that, before he died, he sometimes avoided her while she stayed at Grimmauld Place—almost to the point where she thought he disliked her—which hurt because she had always felt a little drawn to the mysterious wizard. Since he had returned from the veil, Sirius had been overly attentive, protective of her, and abundantly flirtatious, though she assumed he was that way with many women. However, she had never seen him kiss another woman, and certainly not like how he had kissed her during the battle. Or just now.

Refusing to get caught up in the mysteries of Sirius Black, Hermione turned her attention to the crimson box on top of her new books. She smiled, thinking how silly it was that Remus was so worried about her not liking his gift. He was always so thoughtful. Despite the age difference and the fact that he had once been her professor, she considered him one of her most treasured friends. She was certain to love whatever it was he gave her. She picked up the small box and pulled on the gold ribbon. When her fingers touched it, she realised it was not ribbon at all, but a small gold chain. She raised her brow at the sensation, and her eyes grew wide in panic.

The chain suddenly glowed bright blue, and she felt a familiar tugging behind her navel that screamed Portkey! to her experienced body. But there was also another familiar sensation.

Something she had not felt in years.

The feeling of flying backward, very, very fast.

Chapter Text

You said, remember that life is
Not meant to be wasted
We can always be chasing the sun!
So fill up your lungs and just run
But always be chasing the sun!
(Chasing the Sun - Sara Bareilles)

August 1st, 1971

Despite the horror stories of getting splinched—including actually experiencing it herself while on the run the past year—Hermione still preferred to travel by Apparition over Floo or Portkey. While Harry and Ron each preferred the simplicity of using the Floo, Sirius agreed with her on her favoured method of getting from place to place, though he insisted that her reason for enjoying Apparition was simply because she had been the first in her class to get her licence, and continuing to use the skill she had so quickly picked up was a silent way of patting herself on the back without drawing attention or publicly inflating her ego. She never argued with him over it.

Hermione's least favourite method of travel was Portkey.

It was a rough process that was never as instantaneous as Apparating, and she had rarely ever been able to land squarely on her feet once she arrived at a destination. Still, sometimes a Portkey was the fastest and most efficient way to travel, especially over long distances.

Immediately after the war, she had obtained an International Portkey allowing her to travel to Australia to see her mum and dad.

She told passing acquaintances that her parents now lived in Melbourne, eager to start an early retirement. She told closer friends that she had altered their memories for their own good. But those who knew her best had been told the truth: there was no coming back from the in-depth way Hermione had Obliviated her parents. It was for their own safety, she knew, but they were lost to her forever. Still, she had requested a Portkey and, for eight hours, spent a day in Australia, tailing Wendell and Monica Wilkins just to make sure they were happy. When she went home, she had immediately collapsed and nearly vomited from the mixture of stress and uncomfortable sensation associated with Portkey travel.

This time, she actually did.

After spinning and speeding backward for what felt like at least twenty minutes, Hermione slammed, feet first, into the ground. Her knees buckled on impact, and she hit a cold floor, relishing the feel of the cool stone against her cheek. She felt briefly relieved before her stomach lurched and she violently retched up the birthday cake that Mrs Weasley had spent all day making for her.

It took several minutes for Hermione to regain her balance, but the moment she did, she realised the gold chain was still clenched around her right hand while the crimson box holding the end of the chain was in her opposite palm. She dropped them both immediately and reached for her wand, only to find it missing.

"Fuck," Hermione whimpered, the expletive on her lips showing the stress of her situation as it was something she rarely did.

Someone had planted a Portkey in her birthday present, she had essentially been kidnapped, and, if she remembered correctly, her wand was sitting on the bookshelf just inside her bedroom. She had not carried it with her during the birthday party since she saw no reason to, especially since the war had ended.

With no way of testing the object magically, Hermione slowly reached for it, assessing it by touch. When nothing happened, she let out a sigh of relief and pulled on it, slowly bringing the other end out of the box. Her eyes widened as she lifted the pendant that hung suspended on the gold chain.

It could not be mistaken for anything but a Time-Turner.

She paled at the sight of the instrument. "Okay, this is not good. So not good." She felt her anxiety build as she scanned the room around her. Not Grimmauld Place, that much was certain, but she still knew it well. Hogwarts. Specifically, what looked to be the empty and undecorated classroom where she had spent years learning Defence Against the Dark Arts.

It was that tiny factor that triggered something in her.


She reached for the crimson box the Time-Turner had been placed in and ripped the lid off completely. Inside lay a typical birthday tag that read:

Happy Birthday.

But it was not the tag that drew her attention—it was the neatly folded square of parchment beneath it, nestled at the bottom of the small box. Hand shaking, she retrieved the square and slowly opened it.

Her worst fears were confirmed. This was not some underhanded plot by an enemy. This was not a prank by the Weasley twins. This was not a burst of accidental magic.

It was Remus.

He had done it on purpose.

Dearest Hermione,

First of all, you are safe. I plead for your forgiveness for what I've done, but in all honesty, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either betray you, my dear friend, by tricking you into accepting this gift, or betray someone I loved a long time ago who made me promise to betray you. Please know that I've spent years conflicted over the choice.

When I was much younger, I was given knowledge that I've protected for many years. Knowledge, instructions, and a mission. That mission has now been fulfilled, and you hold in your hand the fruit of my labours. You might recognise the Time-Turner in your hand from when you entered the Department of Mysteries to rescue Sirius. Once I saw it and recognised it for what it was, I knew it was almost time. You needed to go back.

If I've charmed it properly, the instrument in your hands is not only a Time-Turner but also a Portkey. Very clever, those Unspeakables. Hopefully, you've been taken to Hogwarts, specifically the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom if I've done my calculations correctly. It should be the first of August, 1971.

Again, I beg your forgiveness and hope that in time you'll understand and forgive me. I'm only following the instructions of someone who understood time better than I ever did. She told me that time was a loop. Every action we take is the causation of destiny, time travel won't change anything.

You remember in your third year when you went back in time to save Sirius? You mentioned that the only reason Harry was able to conjure his Patronus is because he'd already seen it conjured. This is how time works. Which, unfortunately, means that nothing you do will change what is meant to be. It breaks my heart to know this. To know that you will be your brave, self-sacrificing Gryffindor self and run headlong into the fray in an attempt to stop a war that cannot be stopped, to save lives that cannot be saved, and to redeem those who are, at that moment in time, irredeemable.

But you will try anyway. Because that is your heart, Hermione. It's why you are so loved.

But please, I beg you, do not blame yourself over the future. What is meant to happen will happen regardless of how it comes to be. Live your life. Enjoy your life. And hopefully, very soon you will come across a very lonely boy who is terrified to go to Hogwarts and is desperate for some understanding friends.

Your ever devoted and obedient friend,


PS: Say hello to Dumbledore for me. He and I have always had a shared interest in "Chocolate Frogs."

"No!" Hermione shouted as the feeling of betrayal washed over her.

How could he have done this to her? She was just starting to live again, to feel as normal as she possibly could considering she had essentially lost her parents, went to war, had been tortured, and killed a man all within one year. That was not even including whatever it was that she had done regarding the bond that now existed between her and Sirius.


He had kissed her and promised her that they would talk tomorrow. They would be open and honest and deal with the "awkward adult conversations," as he had so eloquently put it just minutes earlier. She wanted that conversation! She wanted answers to the questions that had been bothering her all year when it came to the consequences of the Blood Magic she had used to bring him back to life. Remus had taken that from her, only to give her a new set of problems and even more questions without answers.

She read his letter again, unable to push down on the anger that was rising in her chest every time she looked over the words pleading for her forgiveness. He had stolen a Time-Turner, held on to it for over a year, and had followed through with an elaborate plan to send her away, all because someone from his past told him to.

Slipping the Time-Turner securely around her neck, she moved to leave the empty classroom. She needed answers; if this was not some horrible joke that her werewolf friend had played on her, and she really was in 1971, then there was only one place where she could get the help she needed.

"Chocolate Frogs," Hermione said to the gargoyle guarding the staircase that led to the headmaster's office. It had been just over four months since she had last seen it. They had won the war, and Harry had returned to the office to speak with Dumbledore's portrait, making plans to securely hide the Elder Wand. The castle had been nearly destroyed, though now it was nothing if not immaculate, or as immaculate as a centuries-old castle could be.

The gargoyle moved, and Hermione made her way up the stairs and through the open door. She was shocked to see how similar Dumbledore's office appeared to the one years in the future. The desk was littered with the same small jumping trinkets and baubles beside a large sweet dish that sat to the left side of the desk. On the right stood a large golden perch where the most beautiful red and gold bird sat, chirping a sweet song.

"Hello, Fawkes," Hermione said softly, with great affection.

"Good evening," a voice came from the nearby shadowed window, and Hermione let out a loud gasp. "Lovely sunset."

Hermione stared, wide-eyed, at the living figure of a slightly younger—and certainly not dead—Albus Dumbledore. The old wizard's eyes shone a bright, unnatural blue that sparkled with delight, mischief, and curiosity.

"I've always compared summer sunsets to the colours in a phoenix's tail. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes, sir," she answered without hesitation.

"You seem to be familiar with the creatures. Or at the very least one of them. You called Fawkes by his name. I can only presume that the two of you are acquainted?"

"Yes, sir."

"Loyal creatures. Mine especially, though I don't intend to boast."

Hermione smiled softly, knowing Fawkes's loyalty from Harry's stories of their second year when the beautiful bird came to his aid, blinding a basilisk and ultimately saving his life.

"He seems to trust you. I would like to think that I may put a great deal of trust in his judgement of character."

"I hope that means you'll trust me then, sir," she said quietly, her nerves aflutter.

"I hope so too, Miss . . ."

"Granger. Hermione Granger."

"A pleasure to meet you, Miss Granger." His eyes twinkled when he smiled at her. "Now, I have a question for you. The security wards around Hogwarts, put up by my own wand—" Hermione's wide-eyed gaze fell upon the Elder Wand on the desk, "—are pieces of very sensitive magic. They have the magnificent ability to prevent Apparition, you see. That being the case, they also alert me when breached, and I was alerted within the hour that a breach took place in the form of Apparition. Something which should not be possible."

"It wasn't Apparition, sir. It was a Portkey," She corrected with a frown, her stomach churning a bit at the reminder. "Well, sort of. Sir, I need your help."

"I will be happy to advise you as best I can. I trust you'll be forthcoming in helping me as well? I might have a few questions for you."

She hesitated to speak again, remembering the rules that had been drilled into her by Professor McGonagall during her third year when she had been given a Time-Turner to use for her classes. Thus far, she already had broken the most important one: do not let yourself be seen. But without any answers to how and why she had arrived here—not to mention how to get back—Hermione handed over the folded piece of parchment with Remus's words on it.

Dumbledore took his time looking over the letter, his impassive face showing no concern or fear like she was feeling. Hermione was about forty percent certain that she would somehow get in trouble for whatever it was that Remus had done to her. Eventually, Dumbledore adjusted his glasses and looked up from the parchment. "What year do you come from, my dear?"

The simple question caused Hermione's eyebrows to rise into her hairline. "You believe me?"

He chuckled. "While I don't consider myself overly attentive of the latest Muggle fashions, I can't imagine your clothing is of this era."

Hermione glanced down at her attire which she did not find to be so strange, but she recalled seeing photos of her parents from the seventies, and she could not help but let out a nervous laugh. Yes, she must look terribly strange. "1998, sir."

"Quite a trip."

"I didn't do it."

"No," Dumbledore agreed. "This Remus Lupin seems to have sent you here," he said the name with a smile on his lips, and Hermione wondered if the headmaster had already met the younger version of her friend . . . or whatever one would call someone who intentionally tricked a person into time-travelling. As if Dumbledore knew what she was thinking, he stated questioningly, "A friend of yours from the sound of this letter."

She hesitated. "Yes, sir. At least . . ."

"Do you feel that he lies, that he has sent you back in time with malicious intent?"

"No," she said quickly, no hesitation in her voice. "I trust him with my life." She remembered the final battle of Hogwarts in the Forbidden Forest. She had trusted Remus with her life, and he had trusted her with his. She had nearly sacrificed herself for Remus and Sirius at the hands of Voldemort. She could not help but feel deep pain over what felt like a great betrayal. "At least, I did until about an hour ago."

The headmaster chuckled. "Or a few decades from now, as the situation appears to be both."

"I need to go back."

"Mr Lupin's letter says otherwise."

"Sir, I've experimented with time travel before," she said, her voice gaining an edge. "In my third year, I was provided a Time-Turner in order to have access to multiple classes without overloading my schedule."

"Forgive me, my dear, but that sounds like the very definition of overloading one's schedule. Did it work out well for you?"

"It was . . . fine," she lied as she remembered how frazzled she had been by the end of the year, snapping at professors and friends, the lack of sleep having practically aged her an extra few years. "But I've studied Time-Turners since then; I know all the laws and rules of time travel. Me being here could be catastrophic. I could change things just by talking to you."

"According to your friend, you being here seems to have already occurred."

She raised a brow. "Sir?"

"I've had a similar thought about time. When using magic to alter the past, are we, in fact, altering anything, or merely inserting ourselves as the catalyst that causes the future to happen as it already has?"

"That is . . . I mean to say . . ." It did make sense. Remus had brought up the night of Sirius's escape and how Harry was able to summon his Patronus under the knowledge that it had already happened. Full circle. But that was not the only reason she needed to go home. "Sir, I don't belong here."

"Unfortunate as that may be, I regret to inform you, Miss Granger, that I know of no way to send you home." His words caused her heart to sink. No. If Albus Dumbledore couldn't help her, who possibly could? "And even if I were available to do so, I would hesitate to take action. You say you've studied time travel in depth? Have you by any chance read about Eloise Mintumble?"

Hermione had read about the famous time-travelling witch. Eloise had been an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries, researching in what Hermione now knew to be the Time Room. During her experiments, she had sent herself back in time five centuries and upon her miraculous return—which was still a mystery to the Wizarding world as Time-Turners were only known to go backward, not forward—she aged the five centuries she had travelled through and died.

Her eyes widened. "Oh my God. You're saying that if you were to send me back to my own time, I would instantly age thirty years?"

"That is a very large possibility."

She thought about it for a long moment. Would it be worth the risk? Would she even survive it? Did that matter? Her being there and speaking to Dumbledore alone could cause a rip in time and change everything. The Butterfly Effect. She had fought so hard and sacrificed so much over the last year in order to help win the war. What if she did something here and now that ruined it all? No. She had been willing to sacrifice her life for the cause four months ago in battle; this was no different.

"I don't care. I'd rather forfeit my life than to risk ruining the future by any actions I take."

Dumbledore smiled at her words as if taking a survey of her character. "Thinking back to Eloise Mintumble," he said, ultimately ignoring her decision, "I assume you read what happened as a result of her time alterations?"

"Her meddling with the past is the reason the Ministry of Magic enacted so many laws regarding time travel. She single-handedly erased over twenty-five people from history," Hermione said, repeating the words as though she were reading them directly from a book.

"Are you familiar with children's stories, Miss Granger?"

Hermione scoffed at the memory of the book that man in front of her bequeathed to her in his will. "Beedle the Bard?"

"One of my favourites." Dumbledore beamed excitedly. "Yes, the Bard took stories from actual events and wrote them in a way to tell a story, to entertain the masses, and to teach a lesson. What is your favourite tale, Miss Granger?"

"The Three Brothers," she said, biting back the sarcasm that she felt was due in her answer.

"I am a fan as well." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, and Hermione struggled not to turn her gaze to the Elder Wand on his desk. "And do you believe that Death, who handed over the Elder Wand, the Cloak of Invisibility, and the Resurrection Stone, was an actual being?"

"No, sir. Even if the brothers and their objects truly existed, which I highly doubt," she asserted with a silent chuckle, "death is not a person."

"So the tale has been passed down as instruction then. What lesson perhaps would children learn from such a tale?" he asked her.

"Not to treat death lightly," Hermione answered. "The brother who took the Elder Wand thought he could thrust death upon others by force, but in the end, there is always someone stronger than you. The brother who took the Resurrection Stone thought he could steal from death, but you cannot control who lives and who dies. The final brother thought to evade death by hiding, but death comes to us all in the end."

"What lesson, do you think, children and adults alike would learn from Eloise Mintumble's story?"

Hermione stared at the man as she pieced his words together. Then her eyes narrowed and her temper flared. "Are you saying that she didn't destroy twenty-five people? That the Ministry of Magic made it all up in order to avoid having people foolishly use magic to alter time?"

Dumbledore grinned. "That would be a very cunning story to create."

"Yeah, the author was probably in Slytherin," she muttered bitterly.

"Do you have the Time-Turner, Miss Granger?"

"Yes, sir." She reached beneath the collar of her shirt and removed the chain, lifting the instrument over her head and holding it out for the wizard to inspect.

"Marvellous," he said with an airiness, as though he were looking at a pretty flower or a piece of artwork instead of the life-altering device that it was. "I've only seen drawings of them myself, but not in great detail. I was, however, under the impression that for time travel to be possible, the sand must move through the hourglass?"

"No, that's not how Time-Turners work. You spin them and then go back a few hours at most, and then you move until you catch up with your present timeline. The hourglass is merely a container for the sands of time. I'm not sure if moving them in one direction or another is what triggers the magic," she said clearly. However, as she focused on the instrument in his hands, she furrowed her brow in concentration. Dumbledore was right. The sand in the hourglass was sitting firmly on one side, despite being turned upside down in his hand.

"Is this the same Time-Turner you used before?"

"No, sir, this one is . . . it was . . ." She recalled the night she and Remus had gone into the Department of Mysteries—when they had stepped into the reconstructed Time Room. She remembered how he appeared confused that she wanted to leave the room, surprised that it had not been her planned destination. "Remus said he took it from the Department of Mysteries. It's new. I've never seen one like it before."

"During your very busy third year, did you happen to take Ancient Runes?"

She actually rolled her eyes. As if not taking Ancient Runes was even an option. "Of course, sir."

"Tell me, what does this mean?" He tipped the Time-Turner to show her an engraving on the bottom.

It took Hermione only a moment to decipher the rune. "Predestination."

"Something tells me that your Mr Lupin knew what he was doing when he took this Time-Turner and gave it to you. You seem to be an intelligent young lady who adheres to the rules quite well." Hermione almost laughed. That was an understatement. It took a life or death situation plus Harry Potter to get her to break rules. "May I make a suggestion?"


"Treat this letter as your new set of rules." He held the parchment out to her, and she hesitantly took it, glaring down at Remus's familiar script.

"I can't just exist in this time, sir. I'm . . . I know what's happening out there right now. I know war is coming," she explained with a heavy heart.

"There are rumours." He gave a slight nod, refusing to give any more details to her than she was giving to him.

"Muggle-borns are being attacked," she stated, watching his face as he seemed to acknowledge the statement and agree. "Viciously. I'm a Muggle-born, sir. I can't just fall from the sky into this time and attempt to live without drawing attention to myself. I'm frankly not thrilled about the idea of coming face to face with Death Eaters." Again.

He smiled at her. "I have a suggestion. How would you like to return to Hogwarts?"

"I'm eighteen, sir, well . . . nineteen now. Today is my birthday. Or was. It was the nineteenth of September when I left." She sighed in disappointment as she remembered it had been close to midnight. The day after her birthday. She and Sirius were supposed to talk.

Hermione frowned. Damn you, Remus Lupin.

"Well, many happy returns to you, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said with such a genuine voice that it made her smile sadly. "Now, as I was saying, you've already crossed the boundaries of time, why not push the line a little further? I have, in my possession, a very rare De-Ageing Potion. It was a gift from a friend on my one-hundredth birthday. I've only kept it for emergencies. Every few years, I see a student or two attempt to age themselves in order to sneak into Hogsmeade to purchase firewhisky. The spell is rarely effective, and the hospital wing is often a refuge for a couple of elderly third years. Normally, we can de-age them with charm work, but I've always been worried that a student might accidentally go a little too far. Sometimes, a potion does the trick. I suggest that you take this potion and become a student here at Hogwarts once again. I believe it is the safest place for a Muggle-born, as you say."

She remembered seeing the work of an Ageing Potion; though Fred and George had not used it to purchase firewhisky. They had the Marauder's Map for that. No, the twins had used an Ageing Potion in order to try and wiggle their way into the Triwizard Tournament. A plan that backfired badly and left them in the hospital wing until they returned to their sixteen-year-old, beardless selves.

"How young?" She hated admitting defeat, but Remus had clearly left her no options in this awful situation, and without knowing a way home, she needed to make a plan to secure her own safety.

"I would suggest eleven. You will return to the school in one month to be sorted along with the new students. You would then not stand out or draw unwanted attention to yourself."

It made sense. Bringing her in any older would draw attention. Hogwarts had not had a transfer student in over a century. She would be as easy to pick out in a crowd as Harry had been, and she knew how big of a target that had made him.

"Would I be able to stay inside the school year-round? I would stand out during holidays. I've no family here, sir."

"Then we should find you one. Perhaps a good pureblood family. We could then further alleviate your worries about being recognised as a Muggle-born."

"I can't say I'm familiar with any good pureblood families, sir," Hermione snapped in reply.

"Luckily, I am." He beamed, his attention suddenly drawn to her hands. "That is a beautiful bracelet, Miss Granger. I am familiar with the words. Are you acquainted with the Potter family?"

Hermione held back her snort. "You could say that."

"And do you trust them?"

She frowned as she thought of Harry. Harry who had saved her life. Harry, who called her his sister. "They are . . ."

"Family?" Dumbledore offered.

"Yes," Hermione confirmed immediately. "But not . . . I'm sorry, sir." She frowned as wayward tears began to escape from the corners of her eyes. Would she ever see her best friend again?

"Nothing to apologise for, my dear." He offered her a handkerchief, and she smiled gratefully as she took it. "May I suggest a trip to the hospital wing? Perhaps a short rest will help."

"Thank you, sir."

He reached his hand into a drawer after waving the Elder Wand to unlock it. Removing a small, red phial, Dumbledore smiled. "Here is the potion we discussed. If you like, hand this," he said as he passed the potion over to her and then pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill, scribbling a note and rolling it up quickly, "and this letter to Madam Pomfrey. If you decide you agree with my suggestion, she will know the proper dosage. You and I shall meet again once I've conducted a little business on your behalf, and then we shall set a plan in motion to keep you safe and protected until I am able to privately investigate the instrument you've brought with you."

"Thank you, sir." She sniffled again. "You're being incredibly calm about this, all things considered."

"I am a man of many interests. The future is one of them. I must ask, however, that you divulge no further information about your origins to anyone, myself included. Nothing that could alter this timeline."

"But sir, I thought you said that anything I do has already been done."

"You are responsible for your own actions, yes," he agreed. "But not the actions of others. I can see you are fairly skilled at Occlumency, as I've been attempting to break through some of the walls you've erected inside your mind during our conversation."

"I'm aware, sir." And she had been. From the moment she arrived in the headmaster's office, she had felt the familiar nudges against the barriers in her mind that protected her memories. Occlumency had never been something that she was skilled at, but since the war ended, Sirius had forced Hermione into a pseudo-friendship with Draco, who had been assisting her with the skill. Though she imagined it was more for his own amusement over the fact that he had finally bested her at something.

"Forgive me, but I felt it was necessary to at least test your skills before offering my assistance at integrating you among my students."

"I understand, sir."

"I only bring that up, because if you speak of the future to others who are not so skilled, they could easily divulge the information to parties that would put you in grave danger, as well as others who might be privileged to your knowledge."

"I understand, sir. I won't speak a word."

He stood and walked her to the door. "Thank you, Miss Granger. Please get some rest, and I will see you in a few hours."

Chapter Text

You don't know about my past, and
I don't have a future figured out.
And maybe this is going too fast.
And maybe it's not meant to last
(Taking Chances - Celine Dion)


August 1st, 1971

Hermione slowly made her way down the corridor leading toward the hospital wing. It was so familiar and yet so different from all the many nights she had spent there. Nights recovering from accidentally turning herself into a cat and then, shortly thereafter, the time she spent after being petrified by the basilisk, or the days of recovery after the battle at the Department of Mysteries. The last time she had seen the hospital wing of Hogwarts had been directly after the end of the war when she had offered to assist Madam Pomfrey with the seriously wounded.

As she walked through the door to the infirmary, Hermione was surprised to see it empty and quiet. Just another reminder that she was, in fact, in 1971 and not 1998.

This was not home.

A younger-looking Madam Pomfrey approached, and the soft eyes of the mediwitch made Hermione smile. "Hello, dear. How may I help you?"

It had been jarring to see a living Professor Dumbledore, but this familiar face made her feel closer to her actual life. "Umm. The headmaster asked me to give you these," she said, holding out the rolled parchment in one hand and the bottle of De-Ageing Potion in the other.

Madam Pomfrey took the letter first, mulling the words over for a bit before eyeing the potion curiously, her brow raised. Eventually, she lifted her gaze once again to Hermione. "And have you decided what you want to do?"

"I . . . I'm not sure," Hermione admitted sadly, letting out a quiet sob as she covered her face with her hands. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

Remus had literally thrown her into an impossible situation. Just a few hours ago, she had been home, celebrating her birthday with the most important people in her life. Harry, Sirius, Ron, Remus, Tonks, Teddy, and the Weasleys. God, she would even be happy to see Malfoy at this point! How was she supposed to follow Remus's instructions and live her life? This was not her life.

Damn you, Remus.

"Do it. I don't have any other options."

"Very well," Madam Pomfrey agreed with a frown. "Have a seat on any bed. The headmaster insists that you get some rest, and if you are serious about taking this potion, you'll need to be lying down regardless. It can be a bit unsettling as it takes effect."

Hermione smiled kindly. "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey. It's nice to see a familia—" She faltered, suddenly realising she was about to reveal the fact that she had known the mediwitch in the future. Her brows furrowed. It was clearly going to take her some time to adjust to everything.

"I understand, dear." Madam Pomfrey nodded with a wave of the parchment. "Dumbledore explained in his letter. Not in much detail, mind you—he does like his secrets—but I won't be asking questions. I know better than most not to go about meddling with unfamiliar magic." She set down Dumbledore's note on the side table and turned her full attention to Hermione. "Now, how old are you, dear?"

"Nineteen; just turned, actually," Hermione said as she sat on the edge of the bed, taking a deep breath to steady her fraying nerves. She had planned to spend the rest of her birthday reading her new books and then maybe having a late cup of tea before going to bed. Now, she was here, planning to erase not only her most recent birthday but the seven that came before it.

"All right, you'll need to drink this." Madam Pomfrey measured out a large portion from the phial, pouring it into a small cup and handing it over to Hermione. "Take it quickly; it tastes fairly awful, and the adjustments won't be comfortable by any standard, but you can take a Sleeping Draught if you like, and you'll drift off before you feel a thing," she said, reaching for another small phial in the nearby cupboard.

Hermione worried her bottom lip between her teeth before hesitantly asking, "May I . . . May I request the Dreamless Sleep Potion?"

"Are you familiar with it?"

Dreamless Sleep was highly addictive, and Hermione would not normally ask, but without her friends and family here to help her through the night, she thought it would be better. The last thing she needed was to scare the daylights out of Madam Pomfrey by screaming herself awake. "I am. It's best for everyone if I take it. I've . . . I've been known to cause a stir in my sleep."

"I'm not opposed to dealing with a few nightmares, dear."

Hermione sighed irritably, knowing that the woman was just doing her job, but she was not in the mood to argue. Reaching her right arm across her torso, she tugged at the sleeve of her dress and began rolling it up her arm, revealing the deep, purple scars that covered her flesh.


Madam Pomfrey gasped, and her eyes widened. She looked up and met Hermione's calm gaze, and, without another word, she dipped her chin, reached into the storage cupboard, and handed the purple potion over.

Hermione gave her a grateful nod and tugged on the cork, downing the bottle in a single swig, the familiar liquid sliding down her throat. She then took the De-Aging Potion and swallowed every last drop. Squeezing her eyes shut and willing her tears to retreat, she turned and settled herself on the pillow as the Dreamless Sleep overtook her.

August 2, 1971

Hermione slept just a few hours, but she did not dream. She had no nightmares of Bellatrix Lestrange torturing her, no flashing images of Padfoot bound and thrown over the back of Fenrir Greyback or of herself being splinched, no thoughts of Harry lying dead on the ground of the Forbidden Forest or of Sirius and Remus being tortured.

Nor did she dream of home.

When she finally opened her eyes, she felt different. Sitting up, it was still dark, and she briefly wondered if she had not fallen asleep for more than a few moments. She was shocked when her dress got caught underneath her as she moved. Looking down, she realised her clothing was several sizes too large.

"I see that you made a decision." Professor Dumbledore stood at the foot of the bed, a soft smile on his face. "I'm very glad. I've come to inform you that I've obtained a home for you. A pureblood couple have agreed to take you in. I hope you'll trust my judgement in saying that they are good people—better than most, in fact."

"Thank you, sir." Hermione bowed her head sadly, her eyes twitching with surprise at the light, airy sound of her voice. Her words came out strangely as well. With a groan, she reached up, brushing her fingers against her mouth where she felt the protrusion of her overly large front teeth. "Wonderful," she said with a bitter growl. "Madam Pomfrey, may I make a request?"

"What do you need, dear?"

"I need . . . my teeth back to normal. I had them fixed fourth year, and I know it's completely superficial, but if I'm going to be forced to attend Hogwarts again, I'd rather not have one extra thing against me."

At the thought of being teased over her teeth again, she felt a string of very sharp emotions rise within her chest. She wanted to cry right then and there, which felt ridiculous considering that she had not cried over anything else that night. She let out a heavy sigh of frustration when she pieced it all together and realised that the De-Ageing Potion had not just made her look eleven, she actually was eleven years old. That meant dealing with puberty all over again, rapidly changing hormones, and growth spurts. She wondered if her mental acuity would be changed at all. Or, God forbid, her magic. Another thing she clearly had not thought through before taking the potion.

"I imagine when you've reached the age that your teeth were fixed, they will adjust automatically," said Madam Pomfrey.

Hermione rose a brow. "I don't understand."

"Well, dear, it's still your body. The potion doesn't exactly give your physical self a new start. You've already lived and gone through physical experiences, and at the age those occurred, your body will tend to readjust itself, as a way of catching up, I suppose."

Immediately, Hermione looked at her left arm, rolling back the now-too-large sleeve of her dress. A sob escaped when she saw the flawless skin of her youth, unblemished, scar and curse free. "But . . ." She looked up, tears in her eyes. "They'll come back?"

Madam Pomfrey frowned. "It's highly likely, my dear. I'm sorry."

"Then I ask that my teeth be fixed now. If I can expect my scars to all return to me one day, I'd like to have this one thing, I suppose." Hermione looked up pleadingly at Madam Pomfrey, remembering the many times that the mediwitch had treated her injuries and dried her tears. "If I had my wand, I'd do it myself. Can you . . . Can you shrink them for me, please?"

The older witch finally relented and approached the bed. "Of course dear, you just tell me when." She handed a small mirror to Hermione, who choked out a gasp as she looked at her reflection.

Eleven-year-old Hermione, almost twelve. Buck teeth and bushy hair, a smattering of light freckles across her nose and cheeks. She smiled sadly and nodded, opening her mouth to allow Madam Pomfrey to begin the spell.

Wincing a bit as she felt her teeth shrink, Hermione kept quiet until they felt and looked exactly as they had before. Then she nodded, running her tongue over each tooth. "Thank you. I feel a little vain about it, but . . ."

Madam Pomfrey smiled and gently squeezed her arm. "We've all got our own insecurities, dear. Think nothing of it."

"Now, Miss Granger, if you're feeling up to a Floo trip, I'd like to bring you to meet your new adoptive family," Dumbledore said. "Though none, save for the family in question as well as Madam Pomfrey and myself, will know any details of your true identity. I will ask all involved to take an Unbreakable Vow to protect your secret."

Hermione smiled gratefully. "Yes, sir." She stood up and almost fell off the bed, forgetting she was a few inches shorter now. The front of her dress fell off one shoulder, and Hermione grasped the fabric quickly, embarrassed as she looked with wide eyes at Madam Pomfrey. "You wouldn't happen to be willing to do a little more altering for me, would you?"

The mediwitch gave a soft chuckle, waving her wand over Hermione's dress, shrinking it to better fit her form.

"Not sure what I'm going to do without you, Madam Pomfrey."

"I suppose I'll see you in a month, my dear. Feel free to come by if you need anything once you've returned to Hogwarts."

"I will." Hermione nodded. "Thank you again."

Dumbledore stood at the door, holding it open. "Come, Miss Granger."

She quickly followed him through, staying a few steps behind him as the pair walked back to his office in silence.

The headmaster approached the fireplace, reaching for the powder on the mantle. "Here you are, my dear. Now, I've already explained a bit of your arrival to the family taking you in. They only know that you are a Muggle-born in need of great protection and that your family is no longer with us," he explained as he placed the powder in her small, open palm. "They've been kind enough not to ask any further questions, though I might have insisted upon it regardless. I promise you, they can be trusted with your life."

"I appreciate you putting such a great deal of effort into securing this for me, sir." Hermione smiled at the old wizard and stood back, allowing him to step forward into the large fireplace. She sighed as she looked at it, remembering that only four months ago she had been coming through that particular entrance, breaking into the school, alongside Sirius, Harry, Ron, and Draco.

"Listen carefully, and follow just behind me." Dumbledore tossed the Floo powder down, spoke a clear, "Potter Manor!" and vanished in green flames.

Hermione gasped. "Potter?" She knew she should not have been surprised, considering Dumbledore had brought the Potters up before, but to know that she was about to enter the home of Harry's relatives caused anxiety to creep up inside of her.

She summoned her Gryffindor courage and stepped into the fireplace. "Potter Manor!"

Hermione let out a gasp as she exited a massive fireplace, her eyes adjusting as she looked around a giant drawing room that rivalled that of Malfoy Manor. She had heard and said the word manor, but she could not wrap her head around it until now. It made sense, of course; Harry's ancestors were purebloods until his father married Lily Evans and moved to the cottage in Godric's Hollow.

Unlike the vast, chilled space that was the pristine Malfoy Manor, Potter Manor gave a much warmer impression. It was as if someone had put an Enlarging Charm on the Gryffindor common room; the large array of windows surrounding the circular room were draped in deep crimson crushed velvet curtains with gold lining, the furniture was made of polished dark oak, and the soft-looking armchairs and sofas were covered with pillows in a variety of soothing colours.

"Wow," she whispered, eyes lit up in awe as she scanned the room with a smile. How did this place already feel like . . . home?

"Is it to your liking, then?"

Hermione turned her attention toward the sweet feminine voice to see three other people in the room, all standing and watching her with amused expressions on their faces.

Dumbledore stood beside a couple who—though certainly older than Hermione's parents—were nowhere near as old as the headmaster himself. Both appeared to be in their early fifties, though there was a youthful twinkle in the man's hazel eyes. He had familiar salt and pepper hair that appeared to almost stand on end despite it thinning along his hairline.

The woman who had spoken bore an uncanny resemblance to Andromeda Tonks, all but the colour of her hair—dark auburn instead of brown. She smiled brightly, her grey stare and aristocratic features only enhanced by good humour and perhaps a little mischief in her eyes. She had a softness to her that reminded Hermione of Mrs Weasley.

"It's beautiful." Hermione smiled gratefully. "Thank you, for . . . for allowing me into your home."

"It's your home now too, dear. I've been in dire need of another woman around the house." The witch smoothed her hair before clasping her hands eagerly in front of herself. She laughed sweetly when her husband winked at her. "I'm desperate to escape the foolishness of youthful boys and old men who absolutely refuse to grow up."

"My wife exaggerates," the wizard said. "She loves it. Keeps her on her toes."

The witch extended her hand. "Dorea Potter."

The wizard grinned down at Hermione. "Charlus."

Shaking Dorea's hand, Hermione smiled at them both. "Hermione."

Dumbledore beamed, looking just a bit too proud of himself. "Well, I don't mean to be rude and under stay my welcome, but I have only one month left to prepare my speech for the start-of-term feast." He reached into his robes, removing a familiar-looking envelope and handing it to Hermione, who looked down at it with a twinge of nostalgia.

Her Hogwarts letter.

Her second first Hogwarts letter.

She wiped a tear from her eye, trying to push the memory of receiving it the first time out of her mind. Instead, she focused on committing this moment to memory. "Thank you, Professor. For everything."

"I look forward to seeing you again at Hogwarts in one month's time, my dear girl. Charlus, Dorea, I hope to see you both more often."

"Hopefully not too often," Dorea said in a teasing tone. "I'd rather not receive letters from the Headmaster of Hogwarts. I imagine it will usually be bad news."

Dumbledore shook Charlus's hand and then accepted a chaste kiss to the cheek from Dorea. He gave one last smile to Hermione before stepping back into the fireplace and vanishing in a burst of green flames.

Dorea turned immediately to Hermione with a sweet but energetic smile. "Now, Albus explained that you've had quite the rough night. We won't pry, promise," she said to Hermione's relief. "But the hour is late, and I insist we all get a good night's rest and start fresh and early tomorrow." She clasped her hands together as if she were already planning out a day full of activities, something that made Hermione slightly anxious.

"Tilly!" Dorea called, and, with a soft pop, a small, spritely house-elf appeared in front of the Potters and Hermione.

Hermione paled at the sight of the house-elf and took in a sharp breath. No. Absolutely not! She was not being adopted into a pureblood family that enslaved house-elves!

"A Young Miss?" The little elf looked up at Hermione with large, expressive eyes the colour of the sky on the brightest day in summer. The creature smiled up at her, jumping up and down with the excitement of a Weasley on Christmas morning, turning and grinning at Dorea and Charlus as though they had just gifted her something precious. "Tilly is so excited! Tilly has wanted to care for a Young Miss. Not that Tilly doesn't love the Young Master."

Charlus chuckled affectionately. "Be careful, Tilly; you don't want to play favourites now."

"Tilly does as Tilly does," the house-elf said with what sounded like a tone of humouring defiance. Hermione nearly choked as Charlus let out a loud laugh.

Dorea rolled her eyes. "Hermione, this is Tilly. She'll take you to your room. Be careful, or she's certain to go overboard and start dressing you up like a doll. And don't let her spoil you."

The elf rolled her bright blue eyes, mimicking Dorea's expression perfectly. "Tilly does not spoil," she said, sounding offended. "Tilly coddles, dotes, and pampers."

Charlus smirked. "That's the same thing."

"Tilly does as Tilly does." The little elf shrugged, brushing him off as she reached for Hermione's hand, giving a soft tug. "Young Miss will follow Tilly. Master and Mistress must go to bed, yes they must. Tilly will be cross if theys be staying up too late again."

"Yes, Tilly," Charlus said with a grin on his face, pretending to be scolded by the house-elf as though he were a young child. "Goodnight, Hermione. Sleep well. We'll figure everything out in the morning. You're safe here."

Hermione wanted to take another moment to properly show her gratitude to the couple, but she was tugged out of the room by the overly excited—and strangely independent—house-elf.

"Tilly? Can I ask . . . Are you treated well here?" Hermione whispered with a frown. "Do you . . . ? I mean to say . . . wouldn't you rather be a free elf?"

"Tilly is a free elf."

Hermione's eyes widened in shock. "What? You've been given clothes?" she asked, looking at the little tea towel that Tilly wore. Hermione knew it was the typical uniform of the house-elves, and the quality of their care could often be seen in the cleanliness of the cloth. Kreacher, for instance, had been perpetually filthy.

"Tilly does not need clothes to be free," Tilly explained in a tone that Hermione felt was just a bit patronising. Tilly continued to tug on Hermione's hand, leading her down another long hallway and up a flight of stairs.

"Tilly took care of Mistress Dorea when she was a Young Miss. When Mistress married Master Charlus, Mistress Dorea asked Tilly to come live with her. But Mistress Dorea's mother was not happy, no, no she was not. Tilly's old Mistress Violetta was not happy at Mistress Dorea's wedding. Tilly's old Mistress Violetta said that Tilly would have to stay with her just to spite Mistress Dorea. But Mistress Dorea yelled at Tilly's old Mistress Violetta; told her she was taking Tilly. She hexed Tilly's old Mistress Violetta good, yes she did. She hexed her."

The house-elf let out a happy, nostalgic sigh of contentment. "Tilly is very happy to takes care of Mistress Dorea and her family. Tilly is free from the bad Mistress Violetta."

"I'm glad." Hermione smiled, happy to hear that Tilly appeared to be well cared for. Her happiness was short-lived as she realised that she needed to set immediate boundaries with the elf. "Tilly. I insist that you don't clean up after me. I can do my own cleaning, and I am good at cooking as well."

Suddenly, Tilly stopped in her tracks and turned very slowly, wide eyes watering with fat tears, a sad little frown crossing her face. "Young Miss doesn't want Tilly?"

Hermione frowned, shocked at the sight of Tilly's expression. She was much more used to Kreacher's insults or Dobby's short attention span. "No, no, Tilly, I just don't want you to have to take care of me."

"Young Miss wants Tilly to be sad? Oh, poor Tilly!" She burst into tears, releasing Hermione's hands and covering her face as she sobbed, bracing herself against the nearest wall like a heartbroken woman in one of those old romance movies that Hermione's mother used to watch. "Tilly wished and wished and she wished so long for a Young Miss, and Young Miss doesn't want Tilly. All Tilly ever wanted was to care for a Young Miss."

"Tilly, please don't cry!" Hermione said, horrified by the scene she had caused. "Please, please. I don't want to make you sad. I'm sorry! Please, please stop crying." When Tilly's knees buckled and she collapsed into a crying heap on the floor, Hermione surrendered. "Okay, okay. You can take care of me, just please stop crying."

"Tilly accepts," the elf said, immediately halting her sobs and standing up, dusting her hands off on her little tea towel and looking no worse for wear. She reached again for Hermione's hand and tugged her toward a large room at the end of the hallway. "Tilly's new Young Miss learns fast, yes she does."

Hermione moved forward, gobsmacked. Had she just been emotionally manipulated by a house-elf?!

Tilly opened the double doors at the end of the hallway, pointing out the personal bathroom as they walked into the suite.

Hermione's eyes widened at the sight of the large room with a massive four-poster bed in the centre, draped with beautiful blue and gold curtains. A large antique wardrobe stood at the end of the room; its open door revealed not clothing, but a generous stack of various folded fabrics.

Tilly approached the wardrobe with a smile on her face, pointing to the linens excitedly. "Tilly is going to make Young Miss new robes and dresses. Young Miss needs new clothes and books and quills, and Young Miss needs a wand! Mistress told Tilly that Young Miss goes to Hogwarts soon with Young Master. Tilly will be sad to see them go, but she is proud, yes she is, ever so very proud."

Hermione could not help but smile sadly at what looked to be real tears—very different from the fake manipulating ones she had seen only moments earlier.

Tilly, though, had brought up something that Hermione had already forgotten. She looked down at the envelope in her hands and smiled, running her finger over the scripted lettering across it that read:

Miss Potter
Second Floor Room at the end of the Hallway
Potter Manor

She stared at the words with disconnected emotions. She knew that she would not be able to be called "Granger" here. Dumbledore had found her a pureblood family for a reason. As a Muggle-born, she was in danger and would draw unwanted attention over her blood status. She needed to appear as average as possible. But her surname was the last thing she had left of her parents, and the feeling that she had lost that now, too, broke something inside of her, something that needed to be broken. She had spent months mourning the loss of parents who were not actually dead.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she cracked the seal and removed the neatly folded parchment from the thick, heavy envelope. No longer Granger. Maybe she could learn to heal now.

Harry had apparently been right. Hermione was, in fact, a Potter.


Dear Miss Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on the first of September.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

Hermione allowed herself to smile as she read the letter. Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall. Some things could be familiar. Some things could still be home for her.

Her attention was reclaimed by Tilly who had, in the few minutes that Hermione had been distracted by her letter, fashioned a light blue nightdress for her and was now proceeding to try and dress Hermione herself, just as Dorea had warned her she would do.

"Tilly," Hermione mumbled, trying to tug her dress away from the house-elf's hands. "I can undress myself." She was caught off-guard when the feisty little house-elf actually growled, freezing Hermione in shock, at which point Tilly took advantage of the situation and proceeded to undress and then redress her.

"Young Miss is stubborn. Sleep now. Young Miss needs rest."

Hermione sat on the bed completely defeated, wondering if the basilisk had taken her down as quickly as this little elf. Voldemort sure had not been able to. She shook her head in amusement, trying to clear out the sudden image of a house-elf Dark Lord. Frightening and definitively undefeatable.

"Thank you, Tilly." She crawled into the bed quickly, a bit afraid that Tilly would drag her beneath the covers and tuck her in tight enough to trap her there.

The house-elf snapped her fingers, extinguishing all the lamps.

Hermione could only hope the Dreamless Sleep that she had taken the night before was still in her system. The last thing she wanted to do to this gracious family—and the overprotective house-elf—was to scare them with her screams.

Chapter Text

I learned from you that I do not crumble
I learned that strength is something you choose
All of the reasons to keep on believin'
There's no question, that's a lesson, that I learned from you
(I Learned From You - Miley Cyrus)

August 2nd, 1971

Hermione slept soundly without dreams and awoke rested and bleary-eyed in the comfort of a large four-poster bed. Confused at first at the feel of the bed that was so different from the smaller one in her room at Grimmauld Place, Hermione struggled to take in her surroundings. She studied the large room from right to left, her gaze coming to a halt on the silhouette of a figure standing before her in a blaze of sunshine.

The figure leant closer, and Hermione blinked to see a head of messy black hair. She smiled, stifling a yawn. "Mmm . . . Harry?" she murmured in her sleepy state.

"Who's Harry?" a vaguely familiar, but still strange, voice replied.

Hermione's eyes snapped open, and she blinked rapidly to clear her vision. She stared up into the face of a young boy with familiar black hair that stood up so high in the back that she could see it from her position in front of him. Instead of the sparkling emerald eyes she had grown so used to over the past seven years, she saw her reflection in hazel brown.

This was not her Harry.


Hermione drew in a sharp breath as everything came flooding back: the crimson box in the Black family library, the Time-Turner charmed into a Portkey, the letter from Remus, meeting with a very much alive Albus Dumbledore, Madam Pomfrey and a De-Ageing Potion, Flooing into a large manor, and meeting the Potters and that incredibly bossy house-elf.

And now there was a boy standing at the side of her bed, staring at her with a curious gaze and a crooked smile.

"So you're my new sister, huh?"

"Who are you?" she screamed and twisted violently away to the opposite side of the large bed. This translated, apparently, to an invitation for the boy to climb onto the mattress with her to get a closer look. She held up her hands defensively, flexing her fingers when she remembered how much smaller her limbs were again thanks to the De-Ageing Potion.

"Wait." She looked at the boy closely, shocked at the nearly identical resemblance to her best friend. How had she not assumed? 1971, Potter Manor. She gasped, bringing one hand to her mouth. "You're James? Oh my . . . goodness, you . . . you look—"

James grinned smugly. "Handsome? Dashing? Brilliant?"

Hermione let out a loud laugh, shocked by how genuine it sounded. She had not had a good laugh since this whole fiasco began. She smiled at him; his strong resemblance to Harry and his apparent lack of understanding in regards to personal space made him somewhat endearing.

"You look like a right mess is what you do. Do you even own a brush?" She subconsciously reached up to smooth his hair as she had done to Harry for the past seven years, unable to stop herself from doing so, as though her muscles acted on their own.

"You're one to talk." James laughed, reaching a hand up to shake out his hair, making it look twice as bad. He then ruffled her locks teasingly. "I think I see a bird somewhere inside your hair. Can you hide snacks in this mane of yours?"

"Never thought to." She scowled, almost taking the chance to properly scold the boy for talking to an adult like that, but then she remembered that she was no longer an adult. Her mind held the memories of a nineteen-year-old witch from 1998, but, in fact, she was now an eleven-year-old girl living in 1971.

"Well, since you don't, can I hide snacks there?" he asked with a grin. "Seems a bit more convenient than weighing down my pockets."

She rolled her eyes. "No, you cannot hide sweets in my hair."

He laughed again, the sound a joyous one, unlike Harry's which always seemed to come out like relieved surprise, as though he were continually shocked that he was able to find humour in life. James, however, was completely unburdened.

"Look at us, siblings already! Always wanted a little sister," he said, leaning back against the headboard. He rested his hands behind his head, making himself comfortable.

Hermione gathered that his parents had informed him of her apparent adoption. She was shocked to see that he was reacting quite well to the news.

"When's your birthday?" she asked.

"Twenty-seventh of March."

"Well, mine's the nineteenth of September, so technically I'm older than you . . . little brother," she teased.

Unaffected by her news whatsoever, James shrugged as he sat up a bit. "Technically, Mum said that we're telling everyone you're my twin sister. And I'm insisting that I was born first. After all, I was here first." He tossed his head back confidently—nearly smacking it into the headboard—as though he already had won the argument.

"Twins?" She raised a brow. "We don't look a thing alike."

"That's your issue?" James snorted loudly. "Considering that I woke up this morning to my parents telling me I had a brand new twin sister, and 'Oh, don't tell anyone that Albus Dumbledore dropped her off,' I think I'm handling this pretty well. And your problem is that we don't look alike? But hey, if you don't want a brother, fine. Not like I'm heartbroken or anything," he said, feigning a pout.

"No, I'm . . . I'd like a brother," she said, the words bringing a hint of pain with them as she thought about Harry. Harry was gone, but James—Harry's father—looked so much like him. It hurt to stare at him for too long.

James, noticing her shift in mood, frowned and paused a moment before reaching across the bed, yanking on a lock of her hair.

"Ow!" Hermione snapped, narrowing her eyes at him. "What was that for?"

"Well, we're siblings now, and I feel like I've missed out on some really good pigtail-pulling years with my sister."

She glared and rubbed the sore spot on the side of her head. "Remember that when I hex that mop of hair off your head."

"Can't hex me without a wand. And by next week I'm sure you'll have gotten over it. I have a very forgivable face. Mum says so."

He was incredibly arrogant, and Hermione could not help but chuckle at his confidence.

"What's next week?"

James beamed with excitement. "We're all going to Diagon Alley to get our wands and stuff for Hogwarts."

"Oh, I didn't even realise." She knew that she would be returning to Hogwarts and that her wand was left behind in 1998, but Hermione had forgotten that she would need to get a new one if she planned on attending Hogwarts again.

"What? Think you can do magic without a wand?"

Hermione chuckled again, knowing that she could, in fact, do just that. Unlike older and more powerful witches and wizards like Professor McGonagall, Sirius, and Remus, Hermione could only do such magic under great stress, but she had been getting better with Sirius's tutelage.

"Do you ever shut up?" she asked James.

"Very rarely," he answered, clearly unoffended by her jab. "Get up. Mum sent me in to tell you breakfast is ready." He bounded from the side of the bed and headed toward the door.

Hermione smiled. "Good, I'm starving."

He stopped in his tracks, his hand on the doorknob. "Oh hey, since you're going to be my little sister and all, I think there's something really important I should know."

"What's that?"

"What's your name?"

"You don't even know my name? Your parents didn't tell you my name?" Hermione asked in disbelief. "Your parents told you that you have a brand new sister, and you wake her up, jump on her bed, pull her hair, and you don't even know her name?" What was wrong with him? Did he have even one suspicious bone in his naive, scrawny body?

"They might have mentioned it. I heard sister and twin, but then Tilly showed up with breakfast . . ." he explained, scratching his head.


He raised a brow. "What?"

She smiled sweetly. "My name is Hermione."

"That sounds fake."

Her mouth fell open. "It is not fake!"

"That doesn't sound like a real word."

Hermione scowled at him. "It's not a word, it's my name."

"It's a mouthful, is what it is," he said, chortling. "I'm gonna call you Mia."

Having a brief flashback to her short-lived relationship with Viktor, Hermione slowly enunciated, "Her-my-oh-nee."

James blinked as he replied in a similar tone, "Her-my-uh-nee. My-uh. See?"

Hermione growled, pinning him with a glare she normally reserved just for Harry and Ron—and sometimes Sirius. "I don't like nicknames."

"I don't like bossy sisters. Clearly, we've both been shorted by this family." James shrugged, unaffected by her sour mood and her glaring. That would pose a problem down the line, she supposed.

"My name is Hermione Granger," she said firmly, already forgetting how her Hogwarts letter had been addressed.

"Potter," James corrected her.

She blinked. "What?"

"Your name is Hermione Potter. Mia Potter, actually."

"Potter? I'll . . . I'll have to get used to that."

"You're my sister," James said with a genuine smile, looking at her in a way that reminded her so much of Harry that it hurt, but she still smiled back at him. "And that makes you a Potter."

Hermione's nose stung as she felt tears well up. Wasn't it just last night that Harry had told her the same thing?

"There you are, dear!" Dorea smiled up at Hermione from the large dining room table as she entered the room behind James.

"Hello again, Mrs Potter, Mr Potter," Hermione blinked at James with wide eyes when he pulled out her chair for her, surprised that the boy who had tugged her hair just minutes ago upstairs was being a perfect gentleman. She eyed the Potter parents, who smiled proudly at their son and acted as if his actions were not anything out of the ordinary.

"Well, we should probably skip right ahead and have you start calling us Mum and Dad," Charlus suggested with a kind smile, and Hermione's chest tightened. "No sense in living a double life now; it'll just get confusing. Besides, we've made it perfectly clear that you are family now. It's okay if you don't want to talk about what happened before. Albus wasn't very forthcoming about the details, just that there was a young lady who needed a family."

"I'd always wanted a little girl," Dorea admitted with a gleam in her eye, and Hermione could not help but be overwhelmed by their instant acceptance of her.

James scoffed. "Thanks, Mum."

Charlus smirked at the boy. "Eat your breakfast, son."

"Albus left some parchments for us to sign and send to the Records Division at the Ministry in order to officially make you Hermione Potter," Dorea explained as she sipped at her morning tea.

"Mia," James blurted out, after swallowing a mouthful of porridge.

"What's that?" Charlus looked up from his morning paper.

"Her name's Mia."

"I hate nicknames," Hermione repeated, narrowing her eyes at James.

Dorea beamed at the two children. "I think it's cute. Mia is a lovely name," she said to Hermione.

"If you'd like, we will still call you Hermione," Charlus assured her.

"I'm not going to." James shrugged as he placed half the dish of sausages onto his plate. "She's Mia now."

"Fine." Hermione teasingly glared at him. ". . . Jamie."

"Well, that's . . ." James frowned, rolling the name over and over in his head before nodding. "Actually, I think I quite like it."

Hermione bristled.

"I'm glad you two are already getting along. If you have need of anything, Hermione, please just let us know," Dorea insisted.

"Thank you, Mrs, err . . . Mum." Hermione swallowed, the word sounding artificial in her mouth. "I think I'm okay right now. Just adjusting, I suppose. It's been a strange few days," she admitted quietly, letting her previous polite smile fall from her face.

"No frowning now," Dorea said immediately. "I know you have had some hardships lately, but we're Potters, and we push on. You take what happens, learn from it, and bravely move forward."

"Courage and Craft," Hermione whispered.

Impressed, Charlus said, "House words."

"I hope I can live up to them." Hermione smiled tightly, fingering the bracelet around her wrist, glad that none of the Potters appeared to have noticed it thus far. If they did, they did not care. Maybe they assumed Dumbledore had given it to her. She was worried that they would accuse her of stealing, especially since she had only known them for less than a day. Sirius just had to give her a Potter heirloom on her birthday. It would be difficult to explain how she knew their grandson.

Charlus grinned proudly. "I think she'll be a Gryffindor."

"Of course she will. All Potters are Gryffindors." James rolled his eyes as if the point were moot.

Dorea folded her arms across her chest. "I wasn't."

"Well, you weren't fortunate enough to be born a Potter, dear," Charlus teased.

"Don't you mean fortunate for you?" Dorea winked at him.

"What house were you in?" Hermione asked politely, reaching for a piece of toast in front of her.

"I was a Slytherin, dear," Dorea explained.

Hermione's eyes went wide. Harry's grandmother was in Slytherin?

"Sneaky little snake tricked me into our first date." Charlus scooted his chair closer to his wife, reaching for her hand which she casually allowed him to take, a devious smile on her lips.

"Are you complaining?" Dorea asked.

"Not a bit." He smiled flirtatiously, kissing her wrist.

Hermione chuckled and glanced at James who was rolling his eyes.

"Don't worry, Mia. Mum was probably the only good Slytherin to ever come out of that snake pit."

"Don't start causing trouble already, James." Dorea shook her head and sighed as she released Charlus's hand, picking up her cup of tea. "There's already enough animosity between the Houses. I won't have you walking into that school and being a problem child."

James widened his bright eyes and stuck out his bottom lip as he stared at his mother. "Does this look like the face of a problem child?"

"Don't give me that innocent look, James Charlus Potter." Dorea's eyes narrowed into slate grey slits. "I know better by now. Speaking of innocent, you better be exactly that when we go to Diagon Alley tomorrow."

James looked surprised but excited. "I thought we were going to Diagon Alley next week?" he asked as he refilled both his and Hermione's pumpkin juice from the carafe, oblivious of her astonished reaction.

She had never seen a boy do such a thing without an ulterior motive.

Dorea sighed in mild frustration. "No, we told you last week that we were going this week. Tomorrow in fact. Charlus, are you certain he's ready to go to Hogwarts on his own? Poor boy might get lost on the train or fall in the lake."

"No one falls in the lake." Charlus laughed.

Hermione joined in, chuckling at the memory of a young Dennis Creevey, who actually had fallen in the lake on the inaugural boat ride to the Sorting Ceremony.

Tilly appeared, clearing away plates and levitating new dishes to the table and refilling cups that the Potters had not refilled themselves. The small family smiled at her, all saying words of gratitude as she moved around the table with a determined air. "Tilly's young Master will not fall in the lake," she insisted. "Tilly taught him to swim—oh, yes she did."

"Tilly," James said with a pout, "Mum's not sure I'm ready to go to Hogwarts." He let his pout turn into a grin, and Hermione furrowed her brows, recognising the look. It was the same look Harry got whenever he and Ron planned on sneaking out of the castle beneath the cloak.

Tilly suddenly turned on Dorea, and with a fierce voice, said, "Tilly's young Master will go to Hogwarts. Young Master is the smartest wizard, brave and valiant. They lets young Master into Hogwarts to be the greatest wizard." She left a silent "or else" hanging in the air.

Hermione stared at the scene, only ever having heard a house-elf speak like that before when Sirius and Kreacher were in a row; those never ended well. However, Charlus was chuckling under his breath, Dorea seemed only mildly put out, and James looked smug at Tilly's endorsement. Well, now Hermione was certain she knew who was responsible for James's abundant self-confidence.

"I can't believe you turned a house-elf against your mum," she quietly scolded him.

"Our mum," James corrected, throwing her a crooked smile.

Hermione smiled, shaking her head and reaching for her empty plate as she stood.

Tilly got to the plate at the exact same time and sent Hermione a challenging look. "Tilly will take young Miss's plate."

Hermione pulled the plate back with a frown. "Tilly, I can clear away my own plate."

Tilly persisted, however. Though rather than the fake tears of the night before that Hermione was prepared to ignore this time, the house-elf began growling. Wide-eyed, Hermione promptly released the plate.

Tilly took the plate and beamed with the same sudden affection she had shown James not moments earlier. "Young Miss is the smartest witch. She goes to Hogwarts soon with young Master and will make her House so proud, yes she will!" She stomped her little foot at the end of her decree and vanished with a soft pop, taking Hermione's empty plate with her.

"I've never seen an elf so . . ." Hermione began, still in shock.

"Overbearing?" Charlus suggested with a hearty chuckle. "She's been like that since about a week after moving into the Manor. So happy to be here that she overdid everything. I didn't grow up with house-elves myself, so I was used to doing most things on my own just like you," he revealed. When he smiled at her, Hermione could not help but feel better. "I learned quickly not to get in her way. The third time she caught me hanging up my own robes, she threatened to bite my hand."

Dorea laughed at the memory and regarded Hermione affectionately. "It's true. So get used to her, love, but try not to let it go to your head." She dipped her head to her son with a knowing smile.

"I don't know what you're all talking about. Tilly's a genius." James shrugged and drained his pumpkin juice.

"I'll keep an eye on him at Hogwarts," Hermione offered, looking at James with a smirk. "I'm sure his head will deflate a little without Tilly there to dote on him."

Charlus smiled, leaning in conspiratorially. "You're officially taking on the position of sister?"

"Courage and Craft," Hermione repeated her new House words, yielding to the circumstances she had been forced into—or maybe lucked into. "I'm a Potter now. Something tells me that looking after him will come with my new name."

"You're a good girl, Hermione," Dorea said proudly.

Hermione swallowed hard and turned to smile at James. "Mia. I think I'd like to be called Mia."

James threw his fists into the air in a sign of victory.

After breakfast, Hermione retired to her room where she was forced into an incredibly large bathtub by a very pushy house-elf. She was only allowed to scrub herself because she had promised to let Tilly brush her hair when she was done. Hermione was glad for it in the end as Tilly took to her bushy locks with determination, taming the curls into submission and promising to look for a spell that would make it easier next time. Hermione wished her luck with that.

New, handmade robes waited for her, set out on her large four-poster bed in a variety of beautiful colours. She smiled as she touched them, never having imagined she would casually wear something so fine in all her life. She hated to be doted upon like this, but she could not help but feel grateful for the Potters who brought her into their home with such ease and no awkwardness at all. Other than Tilly, none of them coddled her or pitied her. For all they knew, her family could have been slaughtered by Death Eaters, and yet they treated her like any other child. Like their own child.

And James treated her like a sister already. It almost felt like she was with Harry, though he lacked the knowledge of pureblood etiquette that had been instilled in James from birth. Hermione wondered how much of that would change when they went to Hogwarts and he was no longer under the gaze of his parents. A part of her could not wait to see. The thought surprised her, and she swallowed a note of anxiety that threatened to push its way in, torn between wanting to get to know James better and knowing what the future had in store for him.

After dressing in the new robes that Tilly made for her, she reached beneath the mattress of her bed and pulled out the folded parchment that Remus had left in the crimson box. She read it again, over and over, frowning at the words. A part of her was still quite angry that she had not been consulted. His words were easy enough to decipher.

I'm only following the instructions of someone who understood time better than I ever did.

You needed to go back.

Remus had sent her back because she already had been back. If Remus and Dumbledore were right, and time was a loop, then sometime in his past, Remus had met Hermione and discovered her secret about the Time-Turner. She must have told him how she had arrived in 1971. Remus had likely been torn over his orders—this mission—and Hermione figured out that it must have been her who begged him long ago to make sure she was eventually sent back.

But why? If not to end the war early, if not to destroy Voldemort before he grew into power, if not to save so many lives . . . then what?

Live your life. Enjoy your life.

Was that the reason? Was Remus somehow giving her a second chance at life? Was this her reward for all her efforts in the war? A normal childhood with a chance to grow up in the Wizarding world without being knocked aside due to prejudice? She had been gone less than a full day, and somehow she already had been gifted with a family and a brother and a chance to experience Hogwarts without the need to fight trolls, three-headed dogs, basilisks, Death Eaters, and Voldemort.

Dumbledore told her that Remus's letter was her guide now—her new rules to abide by. As much as it pained her to agree with him, she did. She was good at following rules. Especially when Harry and Ron were not there to convince her otherwise.

Thinking of them hurt. Thinking of everyone back home in 1998 hurt. But hurting was against her new rules.

Live your life. Enjoy your life.

Hermione sucked in a deep breath and slowly let it out. She could do this. She would use the letter as her guide. She would live her life as instructed by Remus and Dumbledore. She would try to enjoy her life. But Hermione Granger's life came with baggage. Baggage that she could not carry here in 1971. So she would do the only thing she could do.

Her attention was drawn to a mirror that hung on the wall, and she examined her reflection with a nod of acceptance. She would leave the baggage with Hermione Granger and start fresh—as Mia Potter.

Mia spent her first day as a Potter getting a tour of the ancestral manor and a history lesson on her adoptive family. Dorea was a skilled witch who exuded intellect and grace but somehow still clung to that piece of mischief that lingered in her gaze. Charlus, not knowing how much Mia was privy to about the Wizarding world, attempted to educate her. She did little to stop him as it was an opportune time to bond with the man whom their world would see as her father.

"How are people not going to ask questions about me?" she asked him as they strolled through the family orchards—which reminded her a great deal of the ones in the Weasleys' back garden.

"Well, we're the last of the Potters," Charlus explained. "When Dorea and I married, a good many of the other pureblood families weren't too pleased with it. Her mother had wanted to marry her into one of two other families, but her father loved her and let her choose her own husband." He let a smug expression cross his features. "I like to think she chose well."

Mia smiled. "I do, too."

"Well, when we married, most of Dorea's family cut ties with her, and my parents died the year after. I worked from home for a long while, and it took years and years before we had James. By the time we had the 'Potter heir,'" he said with a roll of his eyes, "society didn't care much about what we were doing. People we went to Hogwarts with had all their children right out of school, so it was hard to fit in with the crowd after James was born. We didn't even publicly announce his birth. Didn't want Dorea's family causing trouble, you see. People know the Potter name, but we've purposely kept to ourselves. Dorea does her charity work, and I've consulted here and there over the years, but people who know that we have a son would be embarrassed to think they'd forgotten we also had a daughter, so they'll never question it."

"Is James going to be upset when he finally figures out that no one out in the world knows who he is?" Mia asked with a wry smile.

Charlus shook his head with a chuckle. "Your brother creates his own world, and in it, he's the highest ranking authority."

"We'll see about that." She was all too eager to take her new brother down a few pegs once they got to Hogwarts.

Meals were served in the formal dining room at the long oak table, though each member of the Potter family all sat at one end, close enough to pick off one another's plates, something that Charlus and James did constantly despite Dorea and Mia's objections. After dinner, the family gathered in the drawing room where Dorea and Charlus watched their children play game after game of Exploding Snap, talking constantly about their eagerness to attend Hogwarts in less than a month.

When Tilly announced it was time for the family to get some rest, Mia practically ran to her room, taking off her robes and throwing on her nightdress swiftly in order to make sure that the house-elf did not do it for her. When Tilly came in later to see if Mia had need of anything, she grinned at her as though she were a challenge. Instead of fighting her new young Miss, Tilly wished Mia sweet dreams.

But as much as Mia Potter wanted to set aside the baggage of Hermione Granger, the two identities were still of the same entity, and just a few hours into the night, Mia began screaming in her sleep.

"Please! Don't hurt them! Please! No!"

"Mia? Mia? Are you all right?"

"Let him go. Please, let him go!"

Her mattress dipped, the motion slightly drawing her out of her nightmare, and when she felt hands on her shoulders, she startled fully awake.

"It's okay." He patted her head affectionately. "It's just a nightmare. You're safe."

"Harry?" Mia whispered.

There was a long pause. "It's James."

Mia looked up at him, tears still welling in her eyes. "Jamie?"

"Yeah, it's me." He looked down at her with a sympathetic gaze, and in the dark, she could almost mistake the hazel colour of his eyes for green.

Her tears overflowed, and a bubble of pain burst inside of her chest as she cried and reached out to hug him close to her, sobbing quietly in his arms.

"It's okay, Mia." James patted her back when she hugged him tight. "I've got you now. You're fine. I'll . . . I'll protect you now."

Chapter Text

'Cause it's you and me and all of the people
With nothing to do, nothing to lose
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why I can't keep my eyes off of you
(You and Me – Lifehouse)

August 3rd, 1971

Mia woke up the following morning on the right side of her bed next to Jamie, who was using their tightly clasped hands as a pillow under his cheek. She smiled sadly, staring at the boy who looked so much like Harry that her heart ached. Then again, most things hurt these days. She'd had nightmares constantly since the war—since Malfoy Manor really. She had spent a month at Shell Cottage recovering from her run-in with Bellatrix Lestrange where Sirius kept watch over her while she slept, guarding her against the night terrors that plagued her. When she had moved into Grimmauld Place where the memories continued to haunt her sleep, Sirius would be there to comfort her—more than likely feeling responsible since it was his cousin who had tortured her. But when Sirius was not there, it was Harry who would hold her until she stopped crying and fell back asleep.

Regarding James now with his eyes closed, she could not help but see the son in the father, and it warmed her heart to think that somehow fate had smiled and given her a piece of Harry to keep with her in this time.

James was abundantly kind about the situation, and instead of asking Mia questions about her nightmares, or even bringing up the fact that he'd had to stay with her through the night, he teased her about her hair and began enthusiastically planning the rest of their day trip to Diagon Alley.

Much like the morning before, they had breakfast as a family—the conversation littered with many warnings about wandering off. Most of these were directed at James, who appeared to be oblivious to his mother's stern gaze.

When they stepped into the Floo, arriving in Diagon Alley seconds later, Mia smiled at the familiar sights.

Her focus was immediately drawn toward Flourish and Blotts, a strong part of her eager to get her hands on the earlier editions of books she had bought during her own time.

"Can you two be trusted to be on your own while I head into Gringotts?" Dorea asked, her attention strictly on James.

"You don't trust your own son?" he asked, pretending to be offended.

"The last time I brought you to Diagon Alley, you got lost for three hours, and we found you in the back storeroom of Sugarplum's Sweet Shop." Dorea stared down at her son accusingly, and James rolled his eyes.

"That was not the last time we were in Diagon Alley." James scoffed as if the date of the incident was the problem. He turned to Mia, shaking his head. "Mum exaggerates."

Mia quietly laughed as Dorea's jaw twitched, clearly debating whether or not bringing him was a smart move on her part. "I'll take care of him, Mum."

Dorea smiled thoughtfully at Mia, then she turned and pointed a finger at her son. "James, stay with your sister. I mean it, young man. You can look around for a bit, but meet me at Ollivanders in twenty minutes. And don't wander. And do not go anywhere near Knockturn Alley."

"Yes, Mum." James bobbed his head, and the newly acquainted "Potter twins" were left to their own devices, one incredibly eager to run amok.

"Do you want to go to Flourish and Blotts?" Mia asked, scanning the shop with anticipation.

James made a face at her idea. "Or we could go to Broomstix."

"Obscurus Books?" Mia suggested.

He smirked. "I counter your boring idea with a trip into Gambol and Japes."

A joke shop? Mia shook her head. Absolutely not. The last thing she needed was a Potter in a joke shop. She had spent enough time dealing with Harry and Ron inside Zonko's and eventually Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Though she missed her friends, she could not help but feel relieved that she need not worry about encountering Fred and George in this era.

"We should be looking for things on our lists for school." She frowned at him, unaware that she had adopted the look Dorea used when trying to rein in her son.

"Fine, fine. Let's head over to Quality Quidditch Supplies then," he said as though it was a great sacrifice on his part.

"You don't need Quidditch supplies," Mia scolded him. "First years aren't allowed to play."

"Then I'll be pretty famous when I make the team, won't I? Youngest Chaser in a century! That's what they'll call me," he said smugly.

"You're incorrigible," Mia said, laughing.

While she knew James would not become the youngest Chaser in a century, she could not help but feel a strange bit of pride in knowing that Harry would carry on James's Quidditch dream. Even if the sport was a ridiculous waste of time and an excuse to be barbaric. Was it too much to ask to deal with a boy, just one boy in her entire life, who was not obsessed with the insane excuse for a sport?

"Flourish and Blotts first, and then I'll agree to accompany you to your little broom shop. It's not like we even have money to buy anything just yet. We're only browsing while waiting for Mum."

James looked to be okay with the small compromise, and the two headed toward the bookshop.

A thin, sallow-faced woman stormed past Mia on the right, her feet stomping a little as she sped forward. She glanced back once, dark circles beneath her eyes and an exhausted scowl fixed to her jaw. "Severus, hurry, your father wants us back before noon!"


Mia turned around to follow the woman's line of sight, but as she moved she collided with someone, losing her balance, and gripped the only thing within reach to keep from falling: a threadbare coat.

"Don't touch me!" the boy she had run into shouted.

She looked up into a pale face draped in black hair, and dark eyes narrowed at her. Shocked at the familiar sneer, she let go of his coat and mumbled out a quick, "Oh, I'm so sorry."

His gaze narrowed angrily before shoving her out of his way. "Watch where you're going!"

Mia tripped backward, still awkward and unused to her smaller frame. She tried to recover her balance but fell to the cobblestone road, skinning her knees and scratching her palms against the rough surface of the street.

"Hey! Don't shove my sister!" James yelled, rushing forward.

"She should watch where she's going," the sour-faced boy said, glaring daggers at James as the two faced off.

"Severus! Get over here!" the gaunt woman yelled.

James scowled at the offending stranger. "Sounds like Mummy's calling you."

Mia sniffed and looked down at her bleeding knee. It certainly was not the worst injury she had ever had to deal with, and she almost laughed at the sting of the cut compared to the Cruciatus Curse or the feeling of being splinched. No, this was nothing, though she was slightly embarrassed by tripping so easily.

As James continued stalking after the other boy, presumably to make sure he did not double back for another round, a shadow fell over Mia from behind.

"Hey, you okay? That looked like a bad tumble."

"I'm fine," Mia grumbled as she tried to pick a few bits of gravel out of the minor wound on her leg.

She turned her attention upward to thank the person for being considerate, but when she went to speak, her mouth fell open as she stared up into a colour of grey that she was intimately familiar with and instantly set her heart aflutter: the colour of campfire smoke on an early autumn morning. Her breath caught in her throat.

"I . . ." She exhaled slowly and unconsciously whispered, "Sirius?"

The boy in front of her quirked an eyebrow, and a smile crossed his face. "Have we met?"

Mia blinked. "What?"

"You called me Sirius."

"What?" she repeated, silently scolding herself for being so easily distracted that she broke one of the main rules of time travel. Cringing, she sought out an excuse to cover her tracks. "No. I said are you serious? A bad tumble. Are you serious? I've had worse."

The boy pondered her answer as though he were trying to decide whether or not she was lying. "Huh."

Mia swallowed and decided to go for casual. "Why did you think we'd met?"

"My name is Sirius," he said with a wink.

She laughed. "Are you serious?"


He grinned, and Mia melted.

This was Sirius. Sirius Black. Her Sirius. No, no, not her Sirius. Her Sirius was not even her Sirius, and he was almost thirty years in the future waiting around for her, the day after her nineteenth birthday when they were supposed to talk about their bond.

Their bond!

Mia's eyes widened as she looked at the boy, wondering if the bond still existed here and now. She recalled reading about the life debt ritual and how it was supposed to exist throughout time and space, but did that mean time travel as well? Certainly not. Hesitantly, she tried to seek out that magical feeling inside of her but came up empty. Something was missing.

"I'm . . . fine," she finally answered Sirius's original question, trying to distract herself from gawking at him.

His lovely aristocratic angles were hidden beneath the softer features of his face, but she knew that those rounded cheeks leftover from childhood would soon fade to reveal a chiselled jaw. His fair skin—not sickly pale, like when she had first seen him in the Shrieking Shack—contrasted dashingly against the shiny black hair that hung just past his ears. Without the aged lines, numerous scars, and tattoos, Mia struggled to search the boy's face for the man who had left her in his family library just days ago.

There was the smallest hint of mischief in the boy's eyes, and Mia smiled.

Found you, Sirius, she thought to herself.

He gestured to her knee, pulling her out of her daze. "You're bleeding is what you are."

She frowned and looked down, embarrassed.

"Here," Sirius pulled a silk handkerchief from the pocket of his finely made robes—finer than even her own, which was truly saying something as Tilly's seamstress skills were excellent. He knelt down at her side and held out the handkerchief.

She eyed the black silk, taking immediate notice of the Black family crest embroidered in silver in the corner of the cloth. "Are you sure? This looks expensive."

He smirked. "All the better to ruin it, then."

She smiled gratefully and pressed the cloth to her small wound, wiping the blood from her skin. "I'm H—Mia, by the way."

James returned at a jog. "What an arse! You okay, Mia?" he asked, concern and irritation in his voice.

"Fine, just scraped my knee. And watch your language." Mia smiled up at James, who was ignoring her scolding in favour of observing the other boy.

Sirius reached out to Mia, helping her to her feet, and she awkwardly slipped his handkerchief back to him with a grateful look.

"Hey, thanks, mate." James extended a hand to Sirius.

Sirius nodded, taking the hand. "No problem."

"James, this is Sirius," Mia said, smiling brightly at what she suddenly realised was a very historically important moment. She beamed at the two boys, searing the memory into her mind. She hoped that she could keep it, so when—or if—she returned to Harry, she could tell him all about it or, better yet, show him inside of a Pensieve. "Sirius, this is my brother James."

"You like Puddlemere?" Sirius asked, gesturing to the shirt that James was wearing beneath his open robes.

James grinned. "Doesn't everyone?"

"I don't," Mia interjected. "I don't like Quidditch much."

"You don't like Quidditch?!" both boys shouted at the same time, eyes wide and gaping at her as though she just had sprouted a second head.

"What the hell, Mia?" James clutched his chest as if heartbroken. "I knew you didn't want to go into the Quidditch shop, but I didn't know it was this bad." He shook his head. Considering his reaction, Mia might as well have been infected with dragon pox.

"What's wrong with you?" Sirius gaped.

James sniffled. "Why do you want to hurt me?"

"Oh for the love of G—Merlin." Mia rolled her eyes at the melodramatic scene playing out before her. "Can we go look for our books now?"

"No way," James said with a scowl, his eyes narrowed at the bookshop. "That greasy-looking git that knocked you over is in Flourish and Blotts with his mum. I'd rather avoid meeting him again."

"Who was he?" Sirius asked, a matching scowl crossing his face.

James shrugged. "No idea. Just another sleazy snake in the making."

"Not a fan of Slytherins?" Sirius asked.

"Why, are you planning on becoming one?" James joked. "Then again, anyone who would plan to be sorted into Slytherin has to be mental."

Sirius laughed awkwardly and sighed. His smile completely faded from sight as he muttered, "Not like I have a choice."

"Sirius Orion Black!"

Mia's eyes widened at the familiar sound of Walburga Black, and she spun to see the horrible witch across the street, alive and in the flesh. It was more than a little uncomfortable to see the woman in front of her and not be able to cover her up with curtains after spending months inside Grimmauld Place being screamed at by her portrait. Walburga Black never hesitated to call her a "filthy Mudblood who was tainting the Ancient and Noble House" by stepping foot inside.

The wretched woman glared down at Sirius as she stormed across the street, ignoring James and Mia entirely. "Did I not tell you to stay by your brother?"

"What for? He hasn't let go of your skirt all morning." Sirius eyed the smaller boy who was, in fact, holding onto Walburga's hideous black dress with a tight fist.

His grey eyes, so similar to Sirius's, were small and wide as he looked nervously between his mother and brother. Mia held her breath at the sight of him—Regulus Black—remembering the grief in her Sirius's eyes when he spoke of his brother's death.

This younger version of Sirius did not look overburdened with grief. Instead, he appeared to be fuming with rebellious anger. "You probably didn't even realise I was gone until you looked for him."

"You watch your mouth, you little—" Walburga raised her hand, clearly having no qualms about striking her own child in the very public square of Diagon Alley.

Sirius, defiant as ever, did not even flinch.

Mia, however, felt like reaching for her wand to defend Sirius, only to remember she no longer had a wand.

"Walburga," Dorea interrupted as she glided over, approaching the scene. For as calm as she sounded, her eyes were cold and hard as she stepped between Walburga and Sirius, forcing him back to stand side-by-side with James and Mia.

Walburga glared, lowering her hand. "Aunt Dorea."

Dorea looked over Walburga as if assessing her. "It's been a long time."

"Not. Long. Enough," Walburga seethed.

Lifting a slender brow at the childish antics, Dorea looked away dismissively. "Still just as dramatic as ever, I see."

"Still married to a blood-traitor, I see."

"Blood-traitor, yes." Dorea laughed, looking down to examine her manicured fingers. "How clever of you. My brother must be so proud."

Still caught up on the word "aunt" that Walburga put in front of Dorea's name, Mia quietly observed the two women. She had almost forgotten that Harry's grandmother was a Black. She had researched it, of course, in preparing for the life debt ritual, needing something from the Black bloodline in order to call for Sirius. However, she had all but forgotten the connection after meeting Dorea face-to-face, finding no similarities between her adoptive mother and the vile witch standing in front of her.

Walburga turned her focus to James. "I'd heard you had a child some time ago."

"Yes, this is my son, James, and my daughter, Mia," Dorea said.

"A daughter too?" Walburga said the word as if it came with great shame. "I'd not heard." She openly patted Regulus on the head, silently showing off that she had provided not just one, but two sons to the "Noble and Most Ancient House of Black," thus one-upping Dorea.

"Well, you know how society is. Once you've got the heir, what more reason is there to celebrate?" Dorea remarked sardonically.

Walburga inclined her head. "I suppose you're right."

"I was being sarcastic, you overstuffed bint," Dorea said, nose twitching.

James and Mia both goggled, wide-eyed, up at their mother, who was usually so calm and collected but had just displayed the classic Black temper, grey eyes narrowed at Walburga.

Sirius, however, beamed up at Dorea Potter as though she were the greatest thing he had ever seen in his entire life. With a look of awe on his face, he grinned and extended his hand to her. "Sirius Black, ma'am. An absolute pleasure to meet you."

"Dorea Potter." She smiled down at the boy, ignoring the look of loathing that crossed Walburga's face as she took Sirius's hand. "And whom do you belong to?" she asked knowingly.

The sound of Walburga grinding her teeth together was audible as she fumed. "That is my son."

Dorea gasped in feigned shock. "But he can smile, Walburga. Where on earth could he have learnt to do that?"

Sirius's grin widened, and he looked over at James and Mia with great appreciation before turning his admiration back to Dorea.

"Sirius is the heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black," Walburga said proudly, though she refused to look at the son she spoke so highly of. The same son she nearly had struck only minutes ago. "You remember that, don't you, Dorea?"

"My own House? Yes, I'm fairly certain I can recall."

Walburga snorted. "Surprising, considering that you refuse to act accordingly."

"I act as my conscience dictates, and I teach my children to do the same," Dorea said, affectionately moving to stand behind James and Mia, putting a hand on each of their shoulders.

"Shame." Walburga glanced down at the children as if Dorea's actions immediately labelled them as blood-traitors. "I teach my children obedience and tradition."

"You teach bigotry and hatred, and you don't fool me for a second," Dorea said viciously, looking as though she were a viper ready to strike. Suddenly, envisioning Dorea Potter as a Slytherin was not so difficult for Mia.

Mia tugged on Dorea's sleeve, eager to get away from Walburga. "Mum, weren't we supposed to get our wands soon?"

"Yes, well." Dorea let out a shaky exhale. "If you'll excuse me, Walburga, my family and I have some school shopping to do."

"Sirius is attending Hogwarts this year as well. Certain to make Slytherin House very proud." Walburga turned her nose in the air and stormed away, clearly eager to have the last word. Dorea, likewise, turned and walked off in the opposite direction. Regulus immediately followed after Walburga, but Sirius did not move.

"I heard at the Sorting we have to fight a dragon," he said with a grin, acting as though nothing had happened.

Mia shook her head. "That's rubbish, Sirius."

"Sirius, come!" Walburga screamed from across the street, but Sirius continued to ignore her.

James's eyes brightened. "I wonder what kind of dragon it'll be!"

"Jamie, we don't have to fight a dragon," Mia insisted.

Sirius grinned excitedly. "I hope it's a Chinese Fireball!"

"Or a Peruvian Vipermouth!"


The boys laughed when they had realised they had spoken simultaneously.

Mia glowered. "Are you two even listening to me?"

"Sirius! Come!" Walburga screamed once more, stomping her foot.

"Woman treats me like a bloody dog," Sirius growled.

Mia stifled a laugh as he began to move. "We'll see you on the train?"

"Save me a seat," he said, smiling as he turned to catch up with his family. He dodged to the side as Walburga tried to smack him, laughing when she missed her target.

"Well," Dorea said as the children caught up with her. "Interesting friend you've made."

Mia sighed, her heart clenching as she suddenly realised just how much she had missed Sirius's smile and laughter. "He was nice. A boy shoved me down, and Sirius helped me," she explained, gesturing to her skinned knee.

"A son of Walburga Black helped a Potter?" Dorea laughed softly as she knelt down to examine Mia's injury. She waved her wand gently over the scrape, cleaning what was left. "Salazar Slytherin must be rolling in his grave."

Both James and Mia laughed.

"All right, we're a little behind thanks to that nonsense. I would have just walked away had it been anyone else," Dorea explained. "But there's something incredibly satisfying about ruffling that vulture's feathers."

The Potter family made their way to a narrow, shabby-looking shop ahead of them. Peeling gold letters over the door read Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.

Mia smiled brightly up at the sign, and James bounced on his toes as they entered the shop.

"Good afternoon." Mr Ollivander smiled as they approached the counter, glancing with anticipation at the children.

Mia regarded the man who, only months ago, had been devastatingly unhealthy the last time she had seen him at Shell Cottage. The man before her now looked bright and healthy despite his age, obviously eager to help two new customers.

"Dorea Black," Mr Ollivander said with a tone of fond nostalgia. "Ten and a half inches. Cherrywood, pliable, dragon heartstring core."

Dorea chuckled. "It's Dorea Potter now. My children are going to Hogwarts this year and are in need of wands."

Mr Ollivander grinned. "Always happy to provide wands to new Potters. Charlus's wand is eleven inches, walnut, supple with the core of a unicorn hair, is it not?"

"You know it is, you great show off," Dorea said in amusement. "James, you first."

"Hold out your arm. That's it." Mr Ollivander measured James from shoulder to finger, then wrist to elbow, shoulder to floor, knee to armpit and around his head. As he measured, he said, "Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Mr Potter. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no two unicorns, dragons, or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another wizard's wand."

Mia blinked, wondering if her original wand was somewhere in the shop, waiting to choose her, or if perhaps she would end up with something different and the beautiful vinewood wand would sit on a shelf and wait.

After only three tries, James eagerly reached for an eleven-inch mahogany wand with a unicorn hair core as Mr Ollivander held it out to him. His eyes lit up, and he let out a breath. "This . . ." he whispered, "this feels . . . good." He grinned and swished the wand which immediately sparked red and gold.

"Ah, wonderful, wonderful," Mr Ollivander exclaimed. "This has very consistent magic. Good for transfiguration. Now, the young lady?" He looked to Mia, who immediately approached the counter to be measured like her brother had been.

The wandmaker turned to the shelves and pulled out three boxes for her to try. The first was a brittle ash wand with the core of a unicorn hair, but it did not touch her fingers for longer than three seconds before he shook his head and removed it from her grip.

"Ah, here." He pulled a familiar-looking wand from a box, and Mia's eyes widened.

No, no, absolutely not!

"Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple."

Harry's wand. Mia recognised it immediately and hesitated to touch it. She knew this wand and knew its brother, and she swallowed hard as she slowly put her hand out, panic rising to the surface. She refused to swish it, to flick it, or to move it at all.

Mr Ollivander focused on her and frowned at her reaction to the wand and removed it from her palm, watching as she let out a deep sigh of relief. "Interesting," he muttered and replaced the wand with another.

A warmth ran across her fingers like soft bath water after being out in the cold for too long. "This feels . . . familiar."

"Ah, good." Mr Ollivander smiled. "Ten and one-quarter inch, vinewood with the core of a dragon heartstring."

Mia stared at the man. It was not her original wand—the measurements were slightly off—but it felt familiar in her hand. "Dragon heartstring?"

"Yes, Miss Potter, very powerful. The dragon that donated the heartstring was an old Ukrainian Ironbelly. He donated two others that year. A wand made of willow that I sold to a young Muggle-born girl just this week, and another vinewood in the back, just a bit longer than this."

Somehow she had ended up with the sister wand of her original; it made Mia feel like she had not left it behind in 1998 after all.

"Perfection, as usual, Mr Ollivander." Dorea smiled and placed fourteen Galleons in the wandmaker's hand. He bowed in thanks and escorted the Potter family through the shop door.

Maybe this won't be that bad, Mia thought.

1971 was slowly beginning to feel like home.

Chapter Text

And how can I stand here with you,
And not be moved by you?
Would you tell me,
How could it be, any better than this?"
(Everything - Lifehouse)

September 1st, 1971

Mia quickly followed James through the barrier that separated platforms nine and ten. The twins eased their way through the stone wall, both grinning as they pushed their carts; James's taller than Mia's as it held a large cage with one of the family birds, a small owl with speckled brown and white wings by the name of Hector. Though Mia had been offered the chance to bring her own familiar to Hogwarts, she had declined. A part of her was unwilling to bond with another creature, so soon after leaving, the same way that she had done with her beloved Crookshanks.

Smoke billowed out of the engine of the train. The familiar sight of the giant, scarlet steam engine calmed Mia's frazzled nerves—nerves that had been building since Tilly had woken her that morning. It was a familiar kind of anxiety; one that made her think of her original first trip to King's Cross and the anticipation of attending Hogwarts for the first time.

Despite knowing exactly what would happen when she stepped foot on the train that would take her to school, she was not lingering on memories of a battle-worn castle. She had spent the past month as Mia Potter, the daughter of Charlus and Dorea Potter, twin sister of James Potter, and it was practically effortless to get lost in her new life.

The small family rarely left the comfort of the manor; instead, they spent the late mornings reading together or separately in the massive library that rivalled that of the Black family library at Grimmauld Place. Afternoons were spent in the orchard, garden, or the small clearing that James was determined to eventually convert into a proper Quidditch field where he practised flying, pestering his sister to join him. She always refused.

Evenings were spent enjoying dinner together, listening to their parents tell stories, playing Exploding Snap or wizard's chess, and eventually, rushing off to bed to escape the grip of the overbearing house-elf who had apparently made a game of trying to tuck the young Potter children into bed. While James normally enjoyed being doted upon, he had seen the amused and proud expression on his sister's face when she had properly evaded Tilly, and he quickly decided to join in on the fun—much to Tilly's annoyance.

It was only the nights that made Mia's life difficult.

She had refused to let her parents know about her nightmares, not wanting to frighten them or let them see how utterly broken she was. Thankfully, James was always there, sneaking into her room and crawling into her bed an hour or two after they separated into their own suites. He would take her hand into his own, utter promises of protection, and the siblings would fall soundlessly asleep.

Life was strangely good here, and Mia was adjusting well, reading Remus's letter each night before bed to remind herself of her rules.

Live your life. Enjoy your life.

Dorea looked to her children, tears welling in her eyes. James immediately showed his soft side by hugging his mother tightly around the waist and not making a fuss as she affectionately tried to flatten down his black hair that was standing up in several different directions in the back. "Be sure to write to us after the sorting."

"When you get sorted into Gryffindor," Charlus added with a chuckle.

Dorea stared at her husband. "Or Slytherin."

"Anywhere's just fine."

Both Mia and James chuckled at the way that their mother crossed her arms over her chest before mumbling something derogatory under her breath that ended with, " . . . as if children of mine would be Hufflepuffs."

Charlus patted James on the shoulder once before bringing the boy into a tight hug. After releasing his son, he reached a long arm out for his daughter, pulling her in as well. "Go on then, you'll want a good seat."

"Hey, isn't that Sirius?" James asked.

Mia turned out of Charlus's embrace to follow after her brother, spotting the Black family off to the side—consisting of Walburga Black, a pouting Regulus, a tall man with a fixed sneer on his face that could only be Orion Black, and an utterly annoyed and impatient-looking Sirius, who caught her eye and broke into a grin as they passed him on the platform.

Mia started to smile until she made eye contact with Walburga Black. "Let's head inside, Jamie." Escaping the older witch's utter contempt was an absolute necessity.

Sirius sighed as he watched his friends disappear onto the train, wishing he could just make a run for it and escape his parents.

"Do not disgrace our family, Sirius," his mother threatened. "You have an attitude problem and a habit of flocking to ill-bred children."

She was doubtlessly referring to the Potters, whom she had great fun lecturing Sirius about after meeting them in Diagon Alley. He had mentioned that he stopped to help, offering Mia his handkerchief when he saw her knee bleeding. Any other pureblood girl, and Sirius might have been praised for his efforts, but his mother had been furious. She ended up incinerating the handkerchief and using a painful Scouring Charm on his hands, muttering about how one never knew the type of filth that blood-traitors mingled with.

"Luckily, when you're sorted into Slytherin, you won't have to interact with that kind of filth and muck as often."

Sirius groaned impatiently. "I'm going to miss the train if I don't go now."

"Please don't go," Regulus whispered.

"I'll write to you every week, Reggie," Sirius promised, seeing the tense look his brother was giving him. They were as close as they could be, given their home life, though it seemed almost as though their parents were intent on creating animosity between them as though they could hold Regulus over Sirius's head in an attempt to control him. He wished them luck with that.

Regulus frowned. "I want to go, too."

"Don't be ridiculous, my precious boy." Sirius's mother beamed and pulled Regulus closer to her. "You have a whole year just with me. Without distracting influences," she said, narrowing her eyes once more at Sirius.

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Subtle."

"What did you say?" she snapped at him.

"I said . . ." He tried to think of a lie—What rhymes with subtle? "Bubble."


He let out a disappointed sigh. "Yeah, I'll admit it, I wasn't even trying there."

"Get on the train before I change my mind and send you to Durmstrang," she said through clenched teeth. Though he knew she had no issues with publicly disciplining him, the platform was overly crowded, and she was clearly more interested in leaving as quickly as possible.

"Reggie, Father . . . Walburga, it's been great." Sirius saluted them all with a smirk on his face as he ducked away and rushed toward the door of the train, tugging his trunk behind him.

When he made his way aboard, he smiled as he ran into Mia and James, both having watched his farewell to his family from an open window. "You weren't really going to leave without me were you?"

"It's not my fault that you lingered behind to kiss your Mum," Mia teased.

"Ouch, kitten has claws." Sirius smiled broadly at her, and Mia beamed.

"Hurry up, you two," James called after them, "before all the compartments get taken up."

"You boys go find one, I'm going to watch the train leave," Mia said with a smile.

"Girls." James rolled his eyes. "So bloody sentimental." He laughed, and Sirius joined him. The two made their way down the aisle, eagerly searching for an empty compartment.

"Boys," Mia muttered affectionately, watching as her brother and Sirius disappeared into the crowded aisle.

Misty-eyed, she watched from the window when the train pulled out of the station as the clock struck eleven. Her new parents waved from the platform, and she let out a shaky breath as she was carried away from the anchors of her comfort in this world. Closing her eyes, she remembered that soon she would be at Hogwarts—her safe place. The place where she had grown and blossomed within magic. Her true home.

Mia summoned her inner Gryffindor courage and headed down the aisle to search for Sirius and James.

As she walked, something tugged inside of her as though an invisible string were pulling her gaze to the side. It felt similar to the something missing she noticed when she was around Sirius. She had originally assumed it was the magic that she knew existed between them but might have been fractured during her time travel. Now, however, she was forced to rethink her theory as a similar emptiness moved her gaze on a small compartment at the front of the train where a pale, thin boy with sandy-blond hair sat with his nose stuck in a book.

She raised a brow as she studied him, unsure as to why her magic was reaching out needily.

The boy's nose twitched, and she watched him sniff the air; immediately a confused expression painted his face as his soft green eyes turned and peered up expectantly at her.

She took quick notice that, unlike most of the other students, the boy was already wearing black Hogwarts robes. They looked slightly big on him, covering him from head to foot—save for his hands and the small expanse of neck where Mia could see the faint outline of what looked to be a fresh scar.

Mia let out a soft gasp.


She turned her head away from him, stifling her anger as she moved past his compartment, breathing heavily. This boy was the reason she was here in the first place. The reason she had been torn from her own time and thrust into the past without her permission. The reason she was an eleven-year-old again and forced to create a new life and a new identity.

Mia wanted to walk into that compartment and hit him. But then she remembered the confused expression on the boy's face and the scar on his neck. This was not the Remus that tricked her into going to the past; this was just a boy, a boy who, from the looks of it, was feeling very ill.

Mia suddenly realised that the full moon was due in just three days' time. Damn.

He was probably in a lot of pain, feeling sick and on edge, and now he had to deal with the stress of his first trip to Hogwarts.

And hopefully, very soon you will come across a very lonely boy who is terrified to go to Hogwarts and is desperate for some understanding friends.

Her frown deepened. Remus was her friend. No matter what he had done, she had always trusted and admired him. He had been the best teacher she'd ever had the privilege of being mentored by, and he was always there for her. She, in turn, had tried to be there for him, helping Tonks with his transformations and the healing that he needed afterward. At his worst moments—like when he doubted his ability to be a good father—it had always been Hermione to bring him friendly comfort and raise his self-esteem. She could not just turn her back on him now.

With a take-charge attitude, Mia turned back to Remus's compartment, poked her head inside the door, and smiled at him. "Hello!" she said brightly.

Remus jumped at the sudden noise and stared back at her with wide eyes. He clutched his book tightly to his chest, as though he was trying to physically erect a barrier between them.

"Umm . . . me? Hello, m-me?" he stuttered, a very confused expression on his face. "I mean hello. . . umm, hi."

"Are you waiting for your friends to join you?" Mia asked sweetly, trying to ignore the way he shied away from her.

Remus frowned. "No."

Mia tried to hold back her emotions. She had known that he would be alone and would not have been there with friends, but she could not very well let him know that.

"So you're here alone?" she asked, stepping further into the compartment and watching closely as he pressed his back tightly against the window, trying to distance himself more.

"D-Do you . . . ?" he stammered again, his breathing heavy as she closed in on him. "I mean . . . yeah, I'm alone. That's fine, though," he insisted quickly. "I'm okay. I mean, did you need this compartment?"

She watched him carefully, noticing that his gaze flickered between her and the door, looking like he wanted to make a hasty retreat.

"No, my brother's getting us one in the back," she answered, and then pointed to the book he clutched tightly. "What book are you reading?"

"Hogwarts, A History."

"Merlin, that's my favourite!" She grinned and sat down right beside him, watching as he took in a sharp breath and stiffened.

She took a moment to let him adjust to her presence, realising that Remus had probably been terrified at this point to be around other people, especially without his parents to look after him. She recalled an older Remus telling her how afraid he had been of hurting others, or even worse, infecting them. It explained everything about the terrified-looking, lonely boy in front of her. But the older Remus had implied in his letter that his younger self was in desperate need of understanding friends. And his letter was her guide and her rules, and she would obey it.

Mia smiled over at him, gesturing to the book in his hands, watching as he very slowly let his guard down a little.

"My favourite, too." He gave her a nervous smile. "I was really excited to go, so I wanted to read up. I didn't think I'd ever be able to attend."

"Why not? You're a wizard, aren't you?" she asked.

"I . . . I, umm . . . yeah. I mean, my parents weren't sure if they wanted to send me somewhere else is all."

Mia understood why he lied to her and did not push the issue any further. Instead, she beamed at him, offering a friendly smile. "Well, lucky us then."

He raised a brow as though he did not understand the word. "Lucky?"

"Yeah, you're coming to Hogwarts, and now we're going to be friends."

"Friends?" The word sounded painful as it left his lips.

She did her best to hide the expression of grief that threatened to escape her. Yes. Remus was her friend and would be her friend again. She needed him, just as he very desperately needed her.

Eventually, she held a hand out to him that he gaped at with wide eyes. "I'm Mia Potter."

"Remus Lupin," he said without touching her, still staring at her extended hand.

"You know, I don't have germs."

"I know, I mean . . ." He glanced up at her face and then back down at her hand, and she could almost see him calculating the risks. Any other child would have probably thought him to be completely strange or possibly have been offended by his reaction, but Mia knew better, which was also why she refused to back down.

Shake the bloody hand, Remus, she urged him silently.

After a moment, he looked up at her, and she tried to express to him the safety of the situation. Slowly, he took her hand, and she smiled as though she had just received an Outstanding on a test.

"Come on, Remus," she said, tugging on him like Tilly was constantly doing to her.

Remus looked panicked, but he did not struggle against her. "Where . . . Where are we going?"

"To join up with my brother and our friend." She watched as he hesitated, lingering in the door to the compartment that had—up until she arrived—been his safe and secluded place. She waited patiently, communicating with her stance that she was not letting up.

"If you come sit with me, I'll buy us all a feast off of the trolley," Mia said, resorting to simple bribery. "You like Chocolate Frogs?"

With mischievous grin, she watched as the invisible barrier he had put up between them fell down with a silent crash.

As they made their way to the back of the train, she could hear loud laughter coming out of a compartment near the end on the right side of the aisle. And then a very familiar voice shouted out, "See ya, Snivellus!"

Mia frowned. "Oh, no."

"Something wrong?" Remus asked.

"At least two things." She sighed in frustration as she witnessed a young Severus Snape bolt from the compartment door, a sneer on his face as he stormed down the aisle.

Severus made his way past Mia and Remus, shouting, "Move!"

Mia jumped back, not wanting him to push her over again as he had done in Diagon Alley.

A small red-haired girl passed Mia and Remus, tossing them an apologetic look before following after the boy, calling out, "Sev, wait up!"

Mia let out a growl of frustration and made her way to the compartment door, throwing it open and staring down at a laughing James and Sirius. "What did you do?"

Hazel eyes bright with delight, James smiled up at his sister. "We got a compartment!"

"That's not what I meant. Were you mean to the two other students that just came out of here?"

"We didn't do anything," Sirius defended immediately. "That greasy git started it."

"Yeah, he called us stupid."

"And the girl?" Mia asked, eyes narrowed at her brother.

"Probably just another Slytherin like that kid." James shrugged.

Mia rolled her eyes. Oh Jamie, if you only knew what you'd just done.

"You know he's the one that pushed you in Diagon Alley, right?"

Sirius growled. "Yeah, I'm not polite to blokes that shove girls."

She sighed in frustration, knowing that their intentions had, at least, originated from a semi-good-natured place, though she was not pleased with how they had gone about it.

"Thank you for defending me, I suppose. However, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself," she added stubbornly as she moved completely into the compartment, reaching back to grip Remus's hand and drag him inside with her, taking a seat across from James and Sirius and pulling Remus down beside her. "By the way, this is my new friend Remus."

"James Potter." James smiled and held out his hand.

Remus stared at it much the same way he had stared at Mia's when she had introduced herself, but this time he did not waste much time in shaking it before another hand was held out to him.

"Sirius Black."

"Remus Lupin," he offered with a small smile.

"What house do you want then, Remus?" James asked quickly.

"Gryffindor," Remus stated without a skipping a beat.

James grinned. "Good. Hey, Mia, you want to hear something funny? Sirius might end up in Slytherin."

Sirius scoffed and held his head high, determination on his face. "Not if I can help it."

"Mum was in Slytherin," Mia pointed out.

"Really?" Sirius baulked. "But your mum seemed so . . . nice."

"She's a Black. Like your mum," Mia pointed out.

"Your mum is nothing like my mum," Sirius said, quick to defend the honour of one Dorea Potter. "At least I hope not, for your sakes."

James cocked his head. "Your mum called my mum 'Aunt Dorea.' That makes us family, yeah?"

"All pureblood families are related somehow if you go far back enough," Mia explained, shifting her bookbag to the floor.

"I never cared to look too hard at my family tree," Sirius said with a grimace. "It crisscrosses too often."

Mia gave him a knowing smile. She had seen the Black family tapestry with her own eyes, and Sirius was by no means exaggerating. There never was a tree with more intertwined branches.

"We're second cousins, I think," she said, pointing to herself, James and Sirius. "However, considering what Sirius said about the crisscrosses in the family tree, there's a chance it could be once removed. Maybe twice. I'd have to research a little just to be sure."

Sirius chuckled. "She always talk like this?"

James grinned, poking Mia's leg with his foot, laughing when she shoved him off. "It gets better the farther she is away from a library or bookshop."

"Move it, first years!"

A shout came from outside the compartment, and all four inside turned to look at the window as a tall, blond boy shoved his way into view.

"Salazar, if I knew what House they belonged in, I'd already be taking away points," the boy drawled.

Mia's eyes widened at the sight. There before her stood the mirror image of a fifteen-year-old Draco Malfoy, recognisable smirk on his lips and two large boys flanking him on either side, also very familiar. For a second, she felt incredibly out of place before she realised that the blond boy in question was not, in fact, Draco, but his father, Lucius Malfoy, and the cronies at his side must have been Crabbe Sr and Goyle Sr.

She felt a sharp pain and pressure in her chest at the sight of Crabbe. Though she had watched as Lucius Malfoy had been struck down by the wand of his own son, seeing Crabbe was more difficult as it was her own wayward curse that had killed the man during the final battle in 1998. The first and only time the words "Avada Kedavra" had left her mouth.

She was distracted from her remorseful thoughts as Lucius Malfoy turned his bullying attention toward a boy in front of him.

"Prefect coming through. Out of my way!" he said as a small first year tried to walk past him. He shoved the boy violently, and the first year collided with the door frame of the compartment, sinking quickly to the ground, nearly being trampled by Crabbe and Goyle in the process.

James and Sirius stood quickly, scowls on their faces at the scene, and Mia jumped from her seat to reach the round-faced boy.

"How awful! Are you all right?" she asked, grabbing his hand and helping him to his feet.

"Yes, thank you," he mumbled, a sad frown on his face.

"What an arse," Mia growled, eyes narrowed at the back of Lucius Malfoy's head as he walked away from them. "Just because he's a prefect, he thinks he can go about shoving people?"

Sirius glared after Lucius, tapping his wand in his palm threateningly despite not yet knowing how to properly use it. "He thinks he can do whatever he wants because he's a Malfoy."

"You know that prat?" Remus spoke up.

"Met him over the summer. He's going to be betrothed to my cousin."

"You sure you're okay?" Mia asked the boy. He nodded, favouring his shoulder—it would certainly be bruised the following day.

"Come on in," James insisted.

He took a seat opposite Sirius, sandwiching Mia between himself and Remus. "Thanks for being nice to me."

James grinned and began another round of introductions. "Course, mate. I'm James."



"Mia." She smiled at the boy.

"I'm Peter," he said with a kindly, hopeful expression on his face.


Mia's smile disappeared with the what felt like all the blood from her face, and her stomach lurched. She turned her face away from the boy, trying to control her anger as cold dread flooded through her body. She tried to focus on something to ground her.

Sirius and James were already deep in discussion with one another, Remus had re-opened his book, and Peter sat there quietly, so close to Mia that she wanted to scream. She closed her eyes and tried to think of Remus's letter. Her guide and her rules.

Every action we take is the causation of destiny.

Mia silently ground her teeth together. Though she felt proud to have been the reason to introduce James to Sirius and Remus, she was also the catalyst that brought Peter Pettigrew into the company of the future Marauders. She swallowed her guilt and wondered if anyone would notice if she hexed the boy to her left into oblivion. Remus had told her in his letter that she could not change anything. That there were those who were irredeemable. She knew that one such person was sitting right beside her.

A voice distracted her from her bitter thoughts: "Anyone want anything from the trolley?"

She jumped up, desperate to get away from Peter. "I'll get it. My treat."

Sirius grinned at her. "Careful, if you spoil us too early, you'll never get rid of us."

"Like feeding a lost dog?" Mia chuckled, and her smile brightened when Sirius let out a familiar barking laugh, soothing the open wound that meeting Peter Pettigrew had caused.

"Can I get two boxes of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, and five . . ." she began, figuring she could not leave Peter out without appearing rude and suspicious. But then she remembered Remus was probably feeling sick due to the approaching moon. "No, six Chocolate Frogs?"

"Get me some Pumpkin Pasties, Mia?" James begged her.

"Can I have a Cauldron Cake?" Sirius added excitedly.

Mia rolled her eyes. "And what they said."

With her arms full of treats, Mia made her way to sit in between Sirius and James, wiggling her tiny hips and forcing both boys to make room for her. She subconsciously needed to feel surrounded by them both as she looked across at Peter Pettigrew, who was making himself comfortable next to Remus. Though she had been very content to sit beside the young werewolf, being so near to the traitorous rat had left her feeling sick inside, as though her magic were violently trying to repel him. Somehow, feeling cocooned between her brother and Sirius erased the sickness.

They crashed from their sugar high a few hours later.

Mia fell into a quiet slumber, grateful for James and Sirius sitting beside her to chase away the nightmares. Instead of memories of war playing behind her closed eyes, she dreamt of Hogwarts and of Harry and Ron.

When her eyes opened hours later, she blinked the sleep away and surveyed her surroundings with an amused smile on her face. James, to her left, had snuggled into her shoulder, his messy black hair tickling the side of her cheek as he softly snored. Sirius, however, had collapsed on her lap, his long black locks strewn all over her thighs, his legs splayed out toward the end of the bench.

Mia smiled down at him affectionately and ran her fingers through his hair without a thought as to how strange it might appear.

"You seem pretty close to Sirius after only just meeting him," Remus commented.

Mia glanced up with a smile. "I guess I have a habit of adopting strays."

"I heard that," Sirius mumbled sleepily, snuggling further into her lap.

Mia looked down at him, wondering how he was so easily affectionate with Walburga as a mother. She could hardly imagine that woman being the type to hug her children.

"If you're awake, why are you still on my lap?"

"This 'stray dog' enjoys having his head scratched." Sirius reached up without looking, took her hand, and put it back on his head. When she laughed and swatted him gently, he grabbed her free hand and laced his fingers with hers.

Mia blushed, shocked, but continued to run her fingers through his hair, remembering how an older Sirius would shift into Padfoot and crawl next to her, head against her thighs as she petted his soft black fur. Apparently, the man had always been a bit of a lap dog, and someone who clearly did not know the meaning of personal space.

"I'm going to ignore the fact that your head is on my sister's lap because there are more important things to take care of right now," James said with a yawn as he sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

"Like what?" Mia wondered, still running her fingers through Sirius's hair.

"Remus, Peter," James addressed them with a very intense stare. "I have a very important question for you both, and the future of our friendship hangs in the balance here."

Remus sat back with a concerned look on his face as though James were just about to ask if he was a werewolf. Beside him, Peter swallowed hard.

James's voice was completely serious when he asked, "Which Quidditch team do you support?"

Mia rolled her eyes. "Ugh."

"Puddlemere United," Remus answered immediately with a big smile.

"You like Quidditch?" Mia stared at him with shocked eyes, and Remus smiled at her and shrugged. She teasingly scowled at him. "Traitor."

"I've always liked the Falmouth Falcons," Peter answered but then quickly added, "But I could like Puddlemere."

"Good answer," Sirius said, his head still buried in Mia's lap, eyes closed.

"What about the Chudley Cannons?" Mia asked with a mischievous smirk.

"What?" James yelled, and Sirius, echoing James, pushed off of her lap.

"Are you out of your mind?"

"They haven't won the League Cup since like 1892!" Sirius shouted and narrowed his eyes.

Mia burst into laughter as she stood. "If it's that easy to rile you all up, this is going to be a fun year. We better get our robes on. I'll leave so you boys can change."

She caught a brief look of relief on Remus's face that she assumed had been because he was already wearing his robes and would not have to explain to his new friends about whatever scars covered his body.

Just as she moved to open the door to the compartment, a voice echoed throughout the train: "We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes time. Please leave your luggage on the train; it will be taken to the school separately."

She turned back once more at the compartment full of boys, watching as Sirius and James struggled to find their robes whilst Remus turned his attention quietly back to his book. Peter, however, was smiling up at her, and Mia could not help but hate him for it. She wondered if she treated the boy kindly enough, would he change? If she fostered a bit of courage in him, would he stand up to the Dark Lord and not betray his friends? No. Not only had Remus's letter said that she would not change anything, but a sinking feeling in her gut told her on instinct not to trust him.

No. Mia would not be overly kind to the boy who would grow into the traitorous man.

It was then that she remembered her first ride on the Hogwarts Express when she had accidentally created a bit of resentment between herself and Ron. This time, she decided to do it on purpose. Pausing in the door, she stared at Peter, and muttered, "You've got dirt on your nose, by the way, did you know?"

A few minutes later, the train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way toward the door and out onto a tiny, dark platform. A lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students, and Mia heard a familiar voice: "First years! First years over here!" Her smile brightened at the sight of Hagrid. "C'mon, follow me—any more first years? Mind yer step, now! First years follow me!"

Mia reached for her boys, tugging them along into a row to keep them close. She purposely kept Peter at bay as she moved ahead, linking her arm with James's as the students began walking behind the half-giant.

Hagrid led them through the darkness, separating the first years from the rest of the students who were entering large carriages drawn by thestrals. "You'll get your first sight of Hogwarts in a sec," he called over his shoulder. "Just round this bend here."

The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

"No more'n four to a boat!" Hagrid said, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore.

James and Sirius raced to get into a boat first, and James grinned as he won, claiming himself captain in the process. Mia reached for Remus's hand, and he politely held it to help her climb in, following swiftly behind her.

"Sorry, Pete." Sirius looked back at the boy with a shrug. "We'll see you on the other side of the lake, mate."

Peter nodded, and Mia could not help but feel incredibly satisfied. Her satisfaction did not last long, however, as the boats surged forward across the lake, and both Sirius and James began rocking back and forth.

"James Charlus Potter! If I fall in this lake and get eaten by a giant squid, I will haunt you forever!" Mia screamed, gripping the side of the boat.

James laughed. "Aww Mia, you know we'd save you if you fell in."

Sirius grinned. "Yeah, I'm sure one of us knows how to swim."

"Heads down!"

Everyone ducked obediently, and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy that hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They moved along a dark tunnel—which appeared to be taking them right underneath the castle—until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out onto rocks and pebbles.

"See? You're fine." James smiled at Mia, who had accepted Remus's hand to maintain her balance as she climbed out of the boat. If she had not been so annoyed with her brother and Sirius, she would have taken great pleasure in seeing Remus opening up so easily to her, taking her hand without hesitation when she reached on instinct for him.

They scrambled up a passageway in the rock following the light of Hagrid's lamp, coming out at last onto smooth, damp grass. They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded around the huge, oak front door.

Hagrid raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.

Mia took a deep breath as the doors began to open.

It's good to be home.

Chapter Text

I'll be there someday, I can go the distance
I will find my way, if I can be strong
I know ev'ry mile, will be worth my while
When I go the distance, I'll be right where I belong
(Go the Distance - Michael Bolton)

September 1st, 1971

The awed first years walked through the entrance hall, and Mia let out a sigh of relief; there were no battle scars in the hall, nor any signs of the war's wounded and dead. The beautiful stone walls were accented with lit torches, and the staircase drifted off to the side leading up to the dorms she was so eager to see once again.

Professor McGonagall led the students into the small chamber off the hall where they would wait to join the rest of the school in the Great Hall and be sorted.

James bounced eagerly on the balls of his feet. "Are you ready, Sirius?"

"It's going to be a Hungarian Horntail. I know it!" Sirius said excitedly.

Mia groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Oh, not this again."

"Wh-What about a d-dragon?" Peter sputtered out.

"We have to fight a dragon!" James said with a bright grin, turning to look at the short boy who cowered at the words.

"You get into Hogwarts or you burn alive!" Sirius exclaimed with a dark, amused look in his eyes.

There were other students in the back listening, all appearing equally terrified.

Mia scowled. "Will you two stop?"

"Or it eats you!" James added, ignoring her protests.

Remus leant in and whispered to a wide-eyed Peter, "They're taking the mickey out of you."

"Have you been sorted before?" James asked Remus with a devious smirk.

"C'mon Remus, you can help us take down the Romanian Longhorn!" Sirius patted his new friend on the back. "You, me, and James will take it down together. We'll be legends!"

"You guys are morons."

Mia turned at the voice to see the familiar face of the red-haired girl from the train. Severus Snape stood beside her, glowering at the eager Marauders.

The girl pursed her lips, folded her arms across her chest, and levelled James and Sirius with a condescending glare. "You're sorted by a magically enchanted hat."

"Oh yeah?" James turned and stared at her, an amused expression on his face as though she was giving him a proper challenge. "How do you know that?"

"It's in Hogwarts, A History," she, Remus, and Mia all said simultaneously.

Sirius and James burst into laughter just as the doors opened, and Professor McGonagall stepped back through them.

"Now, form a line," she told them, "and follow me."

The Great Hall was lit by thousands and thousands of candles floating in midair over four long tables where the rest of the students were sitting. These tables were covered with glittering golden goblets and plates. At the top of the hall was another long table where the staff was sitting.

The first years were led up to the front of the room so that they came to a halt in a line facing the other students, with the teachers behind them. The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight. Dotted here and there, floating above the tables, ghosts shone a misty silver.

Professor McGonagall silently placed a four-legged stool in front of the students. On top of the stool, she put a pointed wizard's hat.

James and Sirius eyed the dirty, old hat disappointedly, and the redhead—that Mia knew had to be Lily Evans—looked incredibly smug at the sight and raised an eyebrow at James and Sirius, muttering, "I told you so."

For a few seconds, there was complete silence. Then the hat twitched. A rip near the brim opened wide like a mouth, and the hat began to sing:

Stick me here upon your brow
And let me sing my song.
I'll dig inside your tiny minds
To see where you belong.

Sit right down and let me see
The puzzles in your mind,
For you will notice there is not
A secret I can't find.

You might belong in Gryffindor
And wear the red and gold.
Chosen by brave Godric,
Who picks the daring and the bold.

Perhaps you'll find in Hufflepuff
You prefer yellow and black.
The followers of good Helga,
Kindness they never lack.

If you find yourself in Ravenclaw,
You'll wear the bronze and blue.
And see that wise Rowena
Likes her students original and true.

If you're destined inside Slytherin,
Silver and green you'll don.
Salazar made Ambition
His House's words and song.

Regardless of where I place you
Hogwarts binds you all together,
For even once outside these walls
Your magic lives forever.

Professor McGonagall then stepped forward, holding a long roll of parchment. "When I call your name, please place the hat on your head and sit on the stool to be sorted," she said. "Abbott, Adrian!"

A blond boy slowly made his way to the stool, put on the hat and waited for a few moments.

"SLYTHERIN!" shouted the hat.

The boy made his way to the far end of the hall where a table dressed in green and silver was filled with fellow Slytherins waiting for him with applause. Among them, Mia immediately caught sight of the pale white-blond hair of Lucius Malfoy, his prefect badge glimmering in the light. To his left and right sat Crabbe and Goyle, respectively, and across from him was another head of blond hair belonging to a girl that Mia quickly assumed to be a young Narcissa Black.

"Alton, Samantha!"


"Bagman, Otto!"


"Belby, Damocles!"

Mia's attention quickly fell to the boy that approached the hat. She knew his name well as she had been researching him since the summer after Dumbledore's death. With Snape on the run, Remus no longer had a Potions Master to brew his Wolfsbane Potion—Slughorn was an excellent teacher but also a bit unreliable and had no reason to be charitable to an old student, especially without Dumbledore there to lean on him. She had taken up the task of attempting to brew the potion but had been unsuccessful at it. In her endeavour to get the potion correct, she had read about its history, and the wizard who created it: Damocles Belby. Staring at him in the Great Hall, she found herself eager to pick his brain over the coming years in an effort to secure the helpful elixir for her friend.

Eventually, the hat yelled, "SLYTHERIN!"

Mia smiled as she noticed who was next. "Good luck, Sirius."

"Luck?" Sirius grinned at her. "I don't need luck. I've got determination on my side."

"Plan on tricking the Sorting Hat in order to get into Gryffindor?" James snickered.

"That sounds very . . . Slytherin of you," Mia teased.

Sirius turned, stepping a little too close to her as though he were trying to be intimidating. Unfortunately, all it did was remind Mia of an older Sirius who was waiting for her somewhere in the future. "Just for that, kitten, I'm getting into Gryffindor just to spite you."

"Black, Sirius!" Professor McGonagall called, and they all watched as Sirius strutted forward, a smirk still on his face when the hat fell over his eyes.

Despite knowing the result, Mia watched nervously, waiting as the Sorting Hat took its time. Sirius did, indeed, look determined, and she could only imagine the mental argument he was having with the hat, refusing to be placed in the Hogwarts House of his ancestors.

"GRYFFINDOR!" the hat eventually shouted, and the table on the far left exploded with cheers.

"HA!" Sirius said with the brightest smile Mia had ever seen as he turned and pointed at her and then silently did what she figured was an "I told you so" dance on his way to the Gryffindor table.

Mia chuckled. "I'll never hear the end of this, will I?"

Remus grinned wryly. "Unlikely."

"Brown, Alice!" became the next Gryffindor to join the table, and Mia smiled at the young girl's resemblance to Neville Longbottom. The fact that the girl's last name was Brown made Mia wonder if she was related to Lavender.

"Carrow, Alecto!"

Mia narrowed her eyes, knowing the name well. The Carrow twins were Death Eaters that had evaded Azkaban after the First Wizarding War and spent the last year of the Second Wizarding War tormenting students as teachers inside the sacred walls of Hogwarts.

It was no surprise when the hat called out, "SLYTHERIN!" for the sister, and then again as her brother Amycus followed.

"Catchlove, Greta!"


"Evans, Lily!"

The redhead stepped forward and smiled nervously as she sat on the stool.

There was barely a second after it had touched her dark red hair, the hat cried, "GRYFFINDOR!"

Lily took off the hat, handed it back to Professor McGonagall, then hurried toward the cheering Gryffindors. As she went, she glanced back at Snape with a sad little smile.

James scratched his head. "Huh, pegged that one as a Ravenclaw."

Mia rolled her eyes. "You said on the train that she was probably a Slytherin."

"Nah. She knew about the hat like you and Remus."

Remus eyed James with a smile. "That make us Ravenclaws, too?"

"Hope not. You two leave me alone with Sirius? Who'll keep us in line?"

Mia scoffed when James winked at her. "If that's even possible."

"Fawcett, Julia" became the newest Ravenclaw, and "Gudgeon, Davey" was sent to Hufflepuff.

When an anxious-looking, lanky boy stepped forward, Mia smiled sweetly, patting his shoulder and offering him silent support. Despite his nerves, "Longbottom, Frank" was sent to the Gryffindor table without hesitation.

"I'm nervous." Remus swallowed, staring at the stool with a look of trepidation as his turn to be sorted grew closer. "That's not very courageous of me, is it? I shouldn't even be here."

Mia laced her fingers through his, offering a gentle squeeze of encouragement. "'It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it.'"

Remus looked back at her and smiled, surprised. "Oscar Wilde. You read Muggle literature?"

"I do. But he was actually a wizard."

"Really?" Remus asked excitedly.

"Lupin, Remus!" Professor McGonagall called out, and Remus turned, making his way toward the stool, taking a seat as the hat was placed on his head.

The Hat barely even touched him before it shouted out, "GRYFFINDOR!" and the large table of lions roared with cheers, none louder than Sirius who eagerly welcomed his new friend to the table. Mia applauded with everyone else, smiling brightly at Remus.

"Macdonald, Mary" followed Remus into Gryffindor, and soon after, a familiar head of straggly, waist-length, dirty-blond hair called "Maestro, Pandora" was sent to Ravenclaw.

Despite knowing the outcome, when "Pettigrew, Peter" was called forward, Mia prayed to Merlin that he would be sent to Slytherin or even Hufflepuff—or better yet, home. But Peter joined Sirius and Remus at the table with a smile, and Mia frowned.

"Care to wager how long it takes the hat to stick me in Gryffindor?" James asked with a grin, practically vibrating with excited anticipation.

Mia laughed at her brother. "Something tells me it'll be instantaneous."

James grinned smugly. "Bloody right."

"Potter, James!"

In record time—Mia was not even sure the brim came close to James's head—the hat cried out, "GRYFFINDOR!"

She smiled, watching as her brother darted down the steps and rushed into the applause that fueled him, turning back to grin up at her.

"Of course," came a bitter voice from behind her.

Mia turned and peered at Severus Snape, who had his arms folded over his chest whilst he glowered at the Gryffindor table. "There's nothing wrong with Gryffindor."

Snape scowled at her. "Says another future little lion."

"My mum was a Slytherin," she said with a shrug. "Just because it's tradition that they sort us into separate houses doesn't mean that it's correct. They try to divide us this way because it's tradition, but we all mingle in the world once we leave Hogwarts. You can still be friends with her, you know."

"No idea what you're talking about," Snape said with glaring eyes that focused on the Gryffindor table where Lily sat, purposely ignoring the ruckus that James and Sirius were causing beside her.

Mia shrugged. "If you say so."

The Gryffindors continued celebrating—egged on by Sirius and James—so loudly that Professor McGonagall had to pause the Sorting to throw a few sternly worded threats to her own House if they did not calm themselves. When she returned to stand beside the stool, she looked down at the parchment in her hands in irritation before calling out, "Potter, Mia!"

Mia muttered a polite, "It's actually pronounced My-uh," to Professor McGonagall as the hat was dropped on her head. The last thing that she saw before the hat fell over her eyes was the expectant expressions on the faces of James, Sirius, and Remus all waiting eagerly for her to join them at the Gryffindor table.

"Hmm . . ." whispered a voice in her ear. "Well, this is interesting. Wasn't expecting someone like you, Miss Granger."

Potter, Mia silently corrected.

"Ah, but you know you can't keep secrets from me. I can see every little puzzle inside your mind. Past, present, and future. Although for you I suppose all three are the same, aren't they?"

Mia impatiently sighed, thinking, Just put me in Gryffindor, please.

"Are you sure? It seems Ravenclaw was an option your first time around. You've got a clever mind indeed, very brilliant and talented, too. You'd do well in Ravenclaw."

I wouldn't be challenged in Ravenclaw, she mentally countered, determined not to end up anywhere but Gryffindor.

"No, no, you don't absorb knowledge for the fun of it, you like to use it, don't you? You take what your mind absorbs, and you use it. Very resourceful. Very cunning. Very ambitious."

Her eyes widened as she caught on to what the hat was insinuating. Don't. You. Dare. I do know where you are kept. Might be a little sad if you're too close to Fawkes when Burning Day approaches.

"Was that a threat? How very daring of you, Miss . . . Potter."

Yes. Daring! And very brave of me, if I do say so myself.

"Better be . . . . GRYFFINDOR!"

Mia let out a long sigh of relief, and she rushed away from the hat, still shocked that she had almost ended up in Slytherin this time around. Draco would faint if she ever got the chance to tell him.

She ran into a hug from James that awaited her at the Gryffindor table where her fellow lions were applauding her wildly. Taking a seat beside Remus, she stared across from her where Lily Evans gazed up at the Sorting Hat as "Snape, Severus" was placed in Slytherin.

Lily lowered her gaze sadly to the table.

Mia glanced up to watch Snape slowly make his way to Slytherin; an empty space was made beside Lucius Malfoy, who patted him on the back in congratulations.

Eventually, the final students were called to be sorted, "Shingleton, Gaspard" went to Gryffindor, "Stebbins, Rikard" was placed in Ravenclaw, "Tuft, William" joined the Gryffindor table, and a beautiful "Zabini, Elora" fell swiftly into Slytherin.

Albus Dumbledore had gotten to his feet. He was beaming at the students, his arms opened wide, as if nothing could have pleased him more than to see them all there. "Welcome! Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Zowzy! Biggly! Gimble! Bazinga!"

The students chuckled, save for the Slytherins who all irritably rolled their eyes and sneered.

Dumbledore—clearly unaffected by the attitudes of the Slytherin students—continued his speech. "A large welcome to all new students. May you find Hogwarts to be your home and sanctuary, a place of safety and familiarity in a world that can otherwise often prove strange and unfamiliar. Though, I will not deny that Hogwarts can be strange indeed. Now, before we send you off to bed, tuck in, and enjoy this wonderful feast!"

The golden plates in front of them were suddenly piled with food: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, chips, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, and gravy.

Everyone immediately dove in, loading up their plates.

Mia had spent years at this table eating many meals, generally surrounded by Harry and Ron who often choked on bites and made messes. She groaned, unable to think about dealing with that again as she looked over at Remus, James, and Sirius—all who were keeping themselves miraculously clean as they ate.

She gaped at the sight. "Merlin, the three of you actually have table manners?" Of course, she knew that James did, though she had worried he would somehow turn into a pig once around boys his own age.

Sirius eyed her curiously. "What did you expect?"

"From eleven-year-old boys?" Mia asked, laughing. "I expected you to be shovelling your plates down your throats by the truckload."

"Glad to surprise you?" Remus asked, the look on his face telling her he was trying to decide whether or not to be offended by her assumptions.

"Peter, wipe your face, mate," James called down the table. "You're lowering the bar we've apparently raised for ourselves."

Between bites, the boys quickly began discussing Quidditch, and even Remus joined in, tossing a smirk to Mia before speaking, clearly finding it humorous that she had assumed he did not like the sport simply because he loved books as much as she did.

Ignoring their conversation, Mia gazed across the table where the redhead in front of her picked sadly at her food. "Hi. I'm Mia Potter."

The girl gazed up, and her bright green eyes sparkled. The colour made Mia's breath hitch in her throat as her heart desperately called out for her best friend, for Harry.

"Lily Evans."

Mia collected herself and cleared her throat before speaking again. "I wanted to apologise for my brother and my friend." She gestured to James and Sirius who, despite having had manners five minutes ago, were now using their spoons to launch peas into one another's open mouths. They had surprisingly good aim.

Rolling her eyes with an embarrassed sigh, Mia turned back to Lily. "I'm not sure what happened, but I think they were rude to you and your friend on the train, and I would like to apologise on their behalfs."

"They were." Lily scowled down the table, glaring at James and Sirius before turning back to Mia. "But Severus can take things a little too seriously from time to time."

Sirius turned and smiled. "Someone call me?"

"Eat your treacle tart, Sirius," Mia ordered, and he bowed his head in feigned reverence, returning to his plate.

"Did you see the ceiling?" Alice smiled sweetly as she looked up in awe. "It's so beautiful."

Lily's solemn expression faded, and she smiled as her attention turned upward. "I've never seen anything like it."

"Are you a Muggle-born?" Mia asked Lily—already knowing the answer—using her knowledge to press for an open conversation with the girl who would grow up to be her best friend's mother.

"Yes," Lily admitted. "Something wrong with that?"

Mia frowned at the girl's tone. Clearly Lily had already been dealing with prejudice in the Wizarding world, and Mia knew exactly how that felt. "Not at all. I'd love to learn more about Muggle-borns if you're ever interested in sharing. I've read a bit about the Muggle world myself, but I've always wanted a Muggle-born friend."

Slowly, the visible tension in Lily's posture faded, and she tentatively smiled. "Really?"



"What about the rest of you?" Mia asked the other first years at her table. "What are your families like?"

"Pureblood," Alice admitted with a shrug. "I've got an older brother who graduated from Hogwarts last year."

"Same here." Frank Longbottom smiled. "Pureblood, I mean. I've got no brothers. It's just me and Mum."

"I'm pureblood, too." Mary Macdonald joined in on the conversation, switching her seat from where she had been on the other side of Gaspard and William. The two boys did not looked phased by the shifting, too caught up in looking at Chocolate Frog cards.

"Me, too," Peter chimed in.

"You're all purebloods?" Lily asked with furrowed brows, looking like she suddenly felt very out of place even more than she was.

Sirius looked over at Lily. "It's not all that it's cracked up to be, Evans. Trust me."

"Why's that?" Lily asked.

"Because most pureblood families have dwindled down so much that if they want to stay pureblood, they end up marrying their own cousins," Mia said, chuckling as Sirius nodded his head with raised brows.

Lily gasped. "Are you serious?"

"No, I'm Sirius." Sirius grinned. Remus and Mia groaned, but he ignored them. "And yes, it's true. My parents are second cousins. It's a flip of the Galleon whether or not purebloods come out crazy, but it makes for good-looking blokes like me." He winked at the small grouping of girls at the end of the table. Alice and Mary blushed, but Lily looked annoyed, something Mia appreciated.

"There are some pureblood families that don't care about blood status, though," Mia insisted, looking at Lily. "Like mine. The Potters are perfectly normal witches and wizards."

"Mia, look!" James yelled, excitedly.

Everyone turned to watch as the heir to the House of Potter, the only son, descendant of the great Ignotus Peverell—and future father of The Chosen One—balanced his wand on his forehead.

Mia stared at him in disbelief and let out an embarrassed sigh as glanced back at Lily.

"Your brother?" Lily asked with a raised brow.


"He's . . ." Lily looked at James, who was being cheered on by Sirius and Peter.

"He grows on you," Mia promised.

"I'm sure he does." Lily watched as the wand fell from James's forehead, hit the table, and shot red sparks upward into his face. James gave a shout and fell backward off his seat, his glasses going with him.

"Bloody hell!" James yelled as he retook his seat, slipping his wand back into his robes and looking at his broken spectacles with consternation.

"Give them here." Mia reached out, annoyed. James, however, ignored her expression as he placed his broken glasses into her hand and watched as she said, "Occulus Reparo!"

"Little sister to the rescue!" James beamed at her, taking his mended glasses.

"You're younger?" Alice asked Mia.

Mia rolled her eyes. "By barely a minute."

"You're twins?" Lily asked in patent disbelief.

"He got the Potter looks, I got the Potter talent." Mia grinned smugly.

"I'm talented," James insisted.

Mia stared up at him incredulously. "Says the boy who dropped his wand while balancing it on his face."

"In James's defence," Sirius interjected. "He had it up there for like a whole minute before it fell."

Mia scoffed, stabbing her fork into a carrot with a little more effort than was necessary. "I'm so glad that I'll be sharing a room with girls."

"You're really going to leave me alone with them, aren't you?" Remus looked up at her, shaking his head as though she had just betrayed him, though a small smirk played across his lips.

"You'll survive," Mia promised him. "If you manage to keep them in line, there's a Chocolate Frog in it for you."

"Deal." Remus's happy expression disappeared suddenly, and he clutched at his side, wincing.

Mia immediately frowned at the sight, something inside of her hurting for him. "Are you all right, Remus?" she asked quietly with concern, trying her hardest not to sound as though she were pitying him. She knew that the older Remus hated being pitied more than almost anything.

"Yeah. I, uh . . . I was sick last week." Remus frowned through the lie. "Might be coming back a bit."

"Do you need any . . . ?" Mia began but was cut off as Professor Dumbledore stood to speak once more.

"Ahem! A few more words now that we're all properly fed. There are some start-of-term notices. First years should note that the forest is forbidden to all students. Mr Filch, the caretaker, would like me to remind you all that magic should never be used in the corridors between classes. Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone interested in playing for their House teams should contact Madam Hooch."

"I'm trying out!" James insisted.

"You can't, you're a first year!" Mia said.

"We'd like to welcome a new addition to the staff," Dumbledore went on. "Professor Fenwick, who will be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts."

"Place your bets, everyone," a vaguely familiar voice called out, and Mia turned to see the red hair and freckled faces of two older boys. One carried a parchment in his hands, the other collected coins in his upturned hat.

"Bets?" Mia asked, regarding the twins who slightly resembled Fred and George.

"See how long this professor lasts. No Defence teacher ever makes it past a year," the twin collecting the coins said.

The twin with the parchment grinned. "They say the position is cursed."

"That sounds like rubbish," Peter spoke up, rolling his eyes.

The twin with the hat full of coins scrutinised Peter with a look. "Hear that, Gideon? Ickle firsties know better than us."

"I heard that, Fabian," the twin with the parchment said. "Care to put your Galleons where your mouth is?" He narrowed blue eyes at Peter, who instantly began to stutter.

Mia smiled at the sight. Gideon and Fabian Prewett: Molly Weasley's younger brothers.

Dumbledore was still speaking, oblivious to the gambling happening at the Gryffindor table. "Lastly, all students should be aware that Professor Sprout has successfully transferred and planted a Whomping Willow on the grounds. All students should avoid the tree at the cost of life and limb. Whomping Willows are sentient trees, and prone to irritable bouts of violence."

At the announcement, Mia's gaze darted immediately to Remus, who sat staring at his now empty plate with wide eyes, taking in slow deep breaths. She wanted to reach across the table and take his hand in a comforting way, but she could not let him know yet that she was aware of his secret and the real reason the Whomping Willow had been planted.

"A tree is violent?" Lily asked.

"Very. I've read about them," Mia said.

Sirius let out a barking laugh. "Of course you have, kitten."

"Now, off to bed with you all!" Dumbledore clapped his hands together and instantly all the dirty, empty plates vanished from in front of them.

"All right first years, follow me!"

Mia looked up to meet the familiar face of a young Kingsley Shacklebolt. It was odd to see the Minister for Magic this young, herding around a group of eleven-year-olds, but the shiny prefect badge on his robes made it all the more real.

As the students stood and headed for the door, each led by their prefects, Mia caught the glares that passed between Kingsley and Lucius Malfoy. She could not help but see the amazing parallels to the future. Kingsley Shacklebolt, future Minister for Magic and Order member, and Lucius Malfoy, Death Eater and Voldemort's right-hand wizard.

"Keep up now, don't get lost!" Kingsley yelled over his shoulder as the Gryffindors made their way through the entrance hall and toward the large staircase. James and Sirius were at the head of the group, trailed by Peter. Mia stayed behind, reaching for Remus's hand as he struggled going up the stairs, obviously in pain. "The stairs move frequently so keep that in mind, especially when you're running late to class. The professors aren't lenient, not even our own Head of House, and she knows all too well how easy it is to get stuck on the stairs. Or in the stairs, if you're not too careful."

"What do you mean 'in the—' Ow!" Frank yelled as his foot fell through the vanishing step.

"Trick step. It catches all the first years eventually," Kingsley said with a low chuckle as Frank blushed beet red.

Mia could not help but remember Neville's run in with the same trick step. Like father like son. She smiled, hoping that she could bring memories of Frank and Alice to Neville when . . . if she ever returned to her timeline.

Chapter Text

Oh, why you look so sad? Tears are in your eyes
Come on and come to me now. Don't be ashamed to cry
Let me see you through 'cause I've seen the dark side too
When the night falls on you. You don't know what to do
Nothing you confess, Could make me love you less
(I'll Stand By You - The Pretenders)


September 2nd, 1971

The morning after the Sorting Ceremony was spent at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall—new and returning students eagerly devouring breakfasts alike.

Mia smiled affectionately at her brother, pushing his hair back in an attempt to make it sit flat, much like their mother always did. James retaliated by messing up his hair worse than ever and grinning defiantly at his sister. Peter clung to Sirius's side the whole morning until the owls arrived to deliver the post.

All the children had written home the night before, so James and Mia were not surprised to receive letters from their parents who were excited over them both being sorted into Gryffindor. Each parent took a moment to offer words of advice for the coming year, and there was even a little note at the bottom of each letter from Tilly, who proudly praised the young Potters, writing about how she knew they would get into Gryffindor because they were so very talented and brave.

The reading was interrupted when a bright red envelope fell to the table in front of Sirius, dropped by a large Eagle owl that attempted to bite the boy as he reached for it, snatching a sausage off of his plate before taking flight again.

"Bloody owl." Sirius stared down at the letter in front of him with a sigh. "Well, I can't say this was unexpected."

"What's the matter?" James asked. "Wait . . . is that what I think it is?"

Mia shook her head, disgusted with Walburga Black. "A Howler."

"What's a Howler?" Lily asked, taking a seat beside Mia and looking across the table, curiously noticing the way Sirius was glaring down at the red envelope with disdain.

James and Mia each winced, waiting for the oncoming storm, while Lily looked on eagerly. The rest of the table politely turned their heads away, though Sirius was already getting curious looks from the nosy neighbouring tables of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs.

"Screw this," he growled and reached for the letter, tearing it open in bold defiance.

A roar of sound filled the entire Great Hall, and the enraged voice of a wailing Walburga Black deafened the large room:


Mia scowled at the familiar screams, her body tightening in response to years of having had to listen to the woman's derisive remarks.

Sirius sat firm, however, glaring at the crimson Howler with pure hatred, while all the rest of the students shrank from the noise as if they were hearing their own parents.


"Incendio!" Mia snapped with a flick of her wand.

Instantly, the red envelope burst into flames, the screaming voice fading away in smoke as the envelope curled and fell into a small pile of ashes.

James, Lily, and the other Gryffindors stared at Mia with wide eyes, clearly shocked to have seen her accurately cast such a spell, but she did not care. Her gaze, instead, fell upon Sirius who continued to look down at the remnants of the letter as though it were still yelling at him.

Students eventually left the Great Hall for classes, but whispers followed Sirius for the rest of the day. Mia and James were there to glare at people who stared at him, especially the Slytherins who knew the Black family and had found the scene hilarious. Somehow, in the aftermath of the event, very few remembered that Mia had performed magic even before she had stepped foot inside a classroom.

When Remus joined his friends for class, looking the worse for wear even though he had slept in, Mia smiled and quietly filled him in on what had happened at breakfast.

As they took their seats in Charms, the young Gryffindors silently encircled Sirius with James and Mia on either side of him; Remus and Peter taking the seats in front and behind him respectively. Sirius said nothing to his friends to let them know he was grateful, but he did turn to Mia and offer a small smile.

Distracted by the unsavoury morning events and Sirius's smile, Mia was not paying attention when Professor Flitwick asked the first question: "Can anyone tell me what the differences are between a charm, hex, jinx, and a spell?"

Mia knew the answer. She had spent six years at Hogwarts and was known as the brightest witch of her age. She had left her sixth year with top scores and received eleven O.W.L.s. during her fifth year. However, she had not been fast enough on this first day of Charms.

Lily Evans was faster.

Her hand shot up in the air in record speed, and she shook it desperately, sitting on the edge of her seat.

James and Sirius chuckled at the scene, and Mia stared at the girl from behind, horrified. Good God, is that what I look like? She quickly made the decision to relax and take her time, lowering her hand.

Her over-eagerness to prove her talent and intellect was what got herself, Harry, and Ron off to a rough start, and she was supposed to be enjoying this life. Mia nodded quietly to herself, deciding she would lay low. While she still planned on performing to her usual standards during lessons and exams, she knew she had nothing to prove to anyone else.

September 5th, 1971

Days went by, and the students fell into a comfortable routine.

Lily showed great talent in Charms, while James and Sirius both excelled at Transfiguration—which was sometimes hard to believe, considering they looked to be rarely paying attention and were constantly getting into trouble.

Unsurprisingly, Remus was excellent in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Mia sat staring at him during the entire class with a knowing smirk on her face.

Surprisingly, Peter was half-decent at Potions, but he was instantly topped by Lily Evans and Severus Snape, who became Professor Slughorn's favourites.

Herbology was a nightmare for everyone when Lily accidentally put too much water in the pots containing the blossoming bouncing bulbs, resulting in a class-wide mud fight led by James and Sirius. Almost everyone laughed and enjoyed themselves, except for Lily, of course, and Remus, who had been excused from class because he was sick.

Mia frowned from the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall as her brother and friends ate dinner. It was a lazy Monday evening, and the sun had just set. A full moon hung in the sky, and she could not help but be worried about Remus, knowing that he was spending his first night alone in the Shrieking Shack.

She excused herself early from the meal and sneaked back to the dorms where she dug into her trunk and pulled out a small bag of Chocolate Frogs that she kept on hand, just in case.

She found her way into the hospital wing where she smiled at Madam Pomfrey.

Madam Pomfrey looked up. "Miss Potter, are you feeling well?"

"Yes. I'm adjusting," Mia said, knowing the mediwitch was probably curious. "I was just wondering if Remus Lupin was cleared for visitors? I know he was sent here with a stomach ache a few days ago."

She said the words, but let her eyes do the talking for her. She hoped that Madam Pomfrey would understand.

If the mediwitch caught on, she refused to acknowledge anything specific about Remus or his current condition. "No visitors tonight, dear. Perhaps tomorrow."

She understood. Because she knew that Remus was not in the hospital wing at all, but in a shack beneath the full moon, somewhere between Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.

"Would it be all right if I left something for him?" she asked, holding out a handful of Chocolate Frogs. "These are his favourite. They'll make him feel better."

Madam Pomfrey inclined her head. "I'll take them, dear. It's very kind of you to think of him."

"He's . . . my friend." Mia smiled sadly and turned to walk away.

The following day, Remus was still missing from class, recovering in the hospital wing. He rejoined his friends that night for dinner, taking a seat directly next to Mia who smiled sweetly and filled his dinner plate for him while he lifted his arms on the table and rested his chin between his palms.

She gently brushed the fringe from his forehead.

He looked up at her gratefully as he reached into his pocket to pull out a Chocolate Frog card, placing it silently in front of her.

She looked down and saw the bold face of Godric Gryffindor staring up at her. The bottom of the card in handwritten ink read: Thank you.

Mia smiled at him. "You're welcome."

October 4th, 1971

Despite finding herself bored with the actual class work since she knew it all, Mia kept herself busy by taking care of her brother and friends.

James and Sirius had already received detention once for being caught out of bed after hours, attempting to find the kitchens to sneak snacks back into the dorms. Remus did his best to stay out of trouble, but James and Sirius were relentless in trying to get him and Peter involved in their escapades.

Mia was slowly building friendships with her roommates—Lily, Mary, and Alice—who were far less annoying than Lavender and Parvati.

During the approaching full moon, Remus fell ill once again, and Mia's heart clenched inside of her chest as she watched the boy descend into sickness. She felt helpless and anxious, and, when he disappeared to the hospital wing early Sunday morning, it took hours of pacing back and forth outside the Headmaster's office before Mia finally said, "Acid Pops!"

The gargoyle retreated, allowing her to walk up the spiral staircase.

Dumbledore greeted her with a smile. "Good evening, Miss Potter. How can I help you this night? I hope it's nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding your presence here in 1971? I've had little time to arrange a secure investigation of your Time-Turner."

She paused, caught off guard by his words. Had she already forgotten that Dumbledore promised to look into the Time-Turner and potentially send her home?

"No, sir, I did not imagine you had already done so. It's fine. I'm growing accustomed to this new life that I've been . . ." Forced—no—tricked into. She ignored the terms that floated across her mind. ". . . presented with. I'm doing what you said. Following the rules that Remus left me."

"Yes, your future Mr Lupin. I've noticed you've taken quite a shine to another Mr Remus Lupin here at Hogwarts. I can only assume they are one in the same."

She nodded with a sad smile. "They are, Professor."

"As much as I caution myself about knowing more about the future, I cannot deny that it gives me great relief to have a bit of knowledge concerning this one particular student," he said, sharing in her expression.

"That's actually the reason I've come tonight, sir," Mia said. "I know."

"You know?"

"I know the real reason the Whomping Willow was planted this year, sir."

"I see."

"I'd like to request permission to stay with him. Not in the shack, of course," she said quickly. "But before and after. In the future, I've taken care of him. I know how to heal his wounds and what potions he needs to let the pain pass by easier." She wished she knew the one that would make the most difference, the Wolfsbane Potion, but that would not come to exist for several years.

Dumbledore momentarily lost that constant twinkle in his eyes. "There is no cure for lycanthropy, Miss Potter."

"No. But . . . he's my friend, and knowing what I know . . . I can't let him be alone." She looked down. "It's painful."

"You have a good heart, Miss Potter, and good intentions. But, regardless of your presence, young Mr Lupin will experience the pain of his transformations." Dumbledore spoke clearly, with great sympathy in his voice. Mia knew that he had been the whole reason that Remus was even allowed to attend Hogwarts. He had a personal investment in the boy.

"I meant it's painful for . . . me," she said anxiously and then jumped to clarify, "to know that he suffers alone."

"I see. I suppose you have a way to inform him that you know of his condition?"

"Yes, sir. In my original timeline I'd figured it out on my own," she said, remembering the essay that Snape had forced her to write, purposely hoping that someone like her would figure out Remus's secret and publicly out him. But she had kept that secret for nearly the entire year. "I assume I'll just go along similarly to the way I did before."

Dumbledore smiled gratefully. "Then you have my permission to visit him during times when he is ill."

She sighed in relief. "Thank you, Professor."

"Unfortunately, Professor Sprout has already escorted young Mr Lupin beneath the Whomping Willow for the night. You are, however, welcome to wait for him in the hospital wing. Give this note to Madam Pomfrey, which will explain your presence. I give her permission to assist you with any potions you might have need of in order to help Mr Lupin recover more easily."

October 5th, 1971

Several hours later, Mia awoke in the hospital wing, having been offered a bed by Madam Pomfrey to wait out the long hours until the moon finally set and it was safe to have Remus brought back to the infirmary. She nervously waited for the mediwitch to levitate him into a nearby bed, and, when her gaze finally fell onto his broken and bleeding form, she covered her mouth to stifle the sob that threatened to escape her.

"I thought you'd seen this before, Miss Potter?" Madam Pomfrey asked.

"I . . ." Mia frowned and wiped the tears from her eyes. "I have, it's just . . . He's so young. It's not fair."

She made her way to the side of the bed, looking down at an unconscious Remus. In the future, he would be able to wake himself shortly after sunrise, but now, being so small and so young, the pain was too much to bear. She shook herself and stiffened her spine. "He needs a Calming Draught while I heal his wounds."

"It's on the table, dear." Madam Pomfrey pointed, and Mia nodded, reaching for the phial. After tipping the potion down Remus's throat, she examined the small scars scattered around his face, noticing that they were not from Moony's claws, but more than likely from the wolf throwing himself against the shack in frustration. Some even still had splinters in them that Mia slowly and carefully removed.

After Madam Pomfrey gently levitated and flipped Remus's body, Mia turned her attention to the deep wound that ran the length of his back along his spine, knowing this was where his skin split open during the transformation. Lifting her wand, she syphoned off the blood silently before repairing the skin. She did her best to remain emotionless despite the fact that it reminded her of the immediate aftermath of war.

"You're quite skilled at that, Miss Potter. May I ask if you were a Healer in your previous life?"

Mia frowned, thinking of the war. "No, just . . . skills I had to pick up over the years."

"Perhaps with this second chance at life you've been given, those skills could be put to good use in a career," Madam Pomfrey offered with a kind smile.

"I'm grateful that I have years to think about it," Mia admitted. Remus's letter told her to live and enjoy her life. She would do so by not worrying about the future. At least, no more than she needed to.

"He should wake soon," Madam Pomfrey cautioned as she watched Mia apply drops of Dittany to the marks on Remus's face. "There's more Calming Draught and Pain Potions should you have need. I'll leave the two of you alone."

Being alone, waiting for Remus to wake up, Mia could not help but recall the first time she had helped to heal her friend.

"It's all my fault," Hermione cried into her hands. "I should have asked Snape to teach me before—"

"I think everyone was a bit busy, yeah?" Tonks cut her off and gave her a sad, crooked smile.

"I should have learnt how to brew the potion. Now Remus is suffering." Hermione wiped her eyes. She had looked into the potion, of course, but with tracking down her parents—only to find the Obliviation irreversible—she had been too distracted to brew anything, let alone brew a potion that could prove lethal if improperly done.

"That is not your fault," Tonks insisted, her tired eyes dark.

She and Hermione had been up for hours, listening as the wolf in the basement below howled and threw himself roughly against the metal bars of the cage that kept him locked inside. Even Padfoot had not been able to keep him calm all night.

Teddy had caught a small cold, causing Remus to worry and stress, which apparently made the wolf inside of him as anxious as ever. Sirius had wanted to take him somewhere to spend the full moon outdoors where he could run off his energy, but there was not any place secure enough, and there was no way of knowing if Moony would try to make his way back to Tonks and Teddy, hurting anyone in his path on the way.

During the night, every time he let out a loud growl followed by a painful yelp, Tonks and Hermione jumped and closed their eyes tightly.

"You think he's up yet?" Hermione wondered, looking as the light from the morning sun streamed in through the cracks in the curtains.

"Almost," Tonks said with a sigh of relief. "I thought I'd give him an hour after the last of the howling stops. Give him a chance to recover his modesty before I go down. It's nice of you to come and help."

"Remus has always been there for me when I've gotten hurt." Hermione shrugged, remembering how she had woken up after the battle in the Department of Mysteries at the end of fifth year, and it had been Remus by her bedside, offering to take care of her while still quietly grieving over the death of Sirius.

"All right, let's head down."

As the two witches made their way into the basement of Grimmauld Place, Hermione was instantly met with the smell of blood and sweat. She frowned as Tonks walked ahead to make sure Remus was at least clothed.

Padfoot was asleep in the corner, looking worse for wear, having spent the entirety of the night trying to keep the werewolf in check.

Hesitantly stepping forward, Hermione eyed the cage at the end of the room where Tonks, wand at the ready, inclined her head to her. Remus had instructed them to be on guard. He stated that, even after transforming back to his human state, the wolf might linger beneath the surface. There was no way to tell what the lack of the Wolfsbane Potion would do.

"Remus?" Hermione whispered as she approached the open door of the cage.

Remus's eyes, she was surprised to see, were golden as he deigned to register her presence. When he made eye contact with her, he growled low and dangerous.

Padfoot, instantly awake, snarled in warning.

Hermione looked over her shoulder at the dog before returning her attention to Remus. She kept her distance and knelt on the floor without making any sudden movements. "Tonks, roll him the phial of Calming Draught. He's Remus, but the wolf is still on edge. The draught should bring him down," she explained and watched carefully as Tonks pulled a small phial out of the bag that Hermione prepared, rolling it forward to Remus, who stared down at it.

"Remus, take the potion," Hermione instructed, tilting her head to the side and exposing her neck as a sign of submission.

His lupine eyes appeared to glow for a moment at the sight before changing to the usual soft green irises. He let out a wince of pain and reached immediately for the phial, tipping its contents down his throat, coughing, and then collapsing on the ground.

"Hold him while I tend to his back," Hermione said to Tonks as they both moved swiftly into the cage and over to Remus's body.

"Hello, love." Tonks sat down by his head, stroking her fingers through his sweat-soaked hair and pulling gently on his shoulders to show the fresh wounds on his back to Hermione, who quickly removed the blood and healed the skin.

When Hermione finished, she signalled to Tonks, who turned Remus back over and smiled into her mate's eyes. "C'mere and let me clean up that beautiful face."

Remus frowned, struggling to keep from sobbing through the pain or falling unconscious. "It hasn't been this bad in years."

Tonks kissed his forehead. "The wolf's worried about Teddy is all. It's to be expected. Mum fire-called this morning, by the way. He's already feeling better."

Remus let out a sigh of relief, wincing in pain when Hermione mended another wound.

Hermione whimpered. "I'm so sorry, Remus."

"Not your fault," he said, reaching out and taking her hand. For some reason, the gesture looked like it brought him more comfort than it did her.

"I should have learnt the potion when I had the chance."

Remus shook his head. "There's nothing to apologise for, Hermione. If anyone can figure out how to properly brew Wolfsbane Potion for me, it'll be you. I know you can do it." He smiled over at her but then hissed as a new painful sensation rocked its way through his body.

"I'm going to go get more Pain Potion for you." Hermione moved to stand

Tonks shook her head and stepped out of the way. "You stay. I got it." She walked past Padfoot, motioning for him to follow. When the dog hesitated, she sighed. "C'mon. You need rest too, y'know." Tonks took the stairs up, two at a time, Padfoot slowly following after her.

Hermione studied the beaten man in front of her, feeling awkward. He was shaking from the pain. Biting her lip, she moved forward almost on instinct to run her fingers soothingly through his hair just as Tonks had done.

He sighed with evident relief, his voice breaking a little when he quietly said, "Thank you, Hermione. You've always been . . . very . . . very kind to me, in regards to my condition."

She frowned, wiping a falling tear from her eye. "You've never deserved anything less than kindness, Remus," she whispered and sat in shock as he broke down at her words. The man let out a quiet sob and pulled his arms around her waist, his shoulders shaking. Her eyes widened in surprise that he would show her such vulnerability, but she continued to stroke his hair, whispering words of comfort.

A soft swear on the stairs alerted her to Tonks's return, and Hermione stiffened for a moment, realising her position might look incredibly inappropriate in front of Remus's wife.

Tonks, however, did not appear to care in the slightest. Instead, she looked grateful and relieved as she approached, handing over the phial of Pain Potion.

Remus opened his eyes, his gaze landing on the chair beside his bed where Mia sat. He looked tired and confused, which she fully expected.

"Mia," he whispered hoarsely.

She smiled at him affectionately. "Hello, Remus."

He looked around slowly, panic rising in his eyes. "Wh-Where am I?"

"In the hospital wing. Do you need another Pain Potion?"

"What are you doing here? Why are you here?" He moved to sit up, but the action was clearly painful. He let out a quiet cry, one hand instinctively reaching around to his back.

She took a quick look while he was distracted, glad to see that the wound had healed cleanly, but the scar was still red, and the skin was pulled tight. It looked uncomfortable, to say the least.

When he returned his focus to her, he jolted, clearly unaware that she had come so close. To prevent him from hurting himself more, Mia placed her hands gently on the exposed skin of his shoulders. "Calm down, Remus, I'm taking care of you."

He pulled away from her, wincing as she touched him. "What? No, I'm fine, just a little sick is all. I don't want you to catch anything."

"I'm not going to, and you're not sick."

He looked up into her eyes, terror recognisable in his own.

"Remus, I know."

"You . . . know?"

His bottom lip began to quiver, and suddenly, Mia realised his age. This certainly was not the grown man that had been a symbol of strength for her. And that older Remus had been known to break down post-transformation, crying into her arms. This was a terrified, eleven-year-old boy who had never known kindness in regards to his condition, aside from his parents. However, Mia was convinced he had suffered at home, as well.

"I know about your lycanthropy," she said clearly with as kind a tone as possible.

"I don't know what . . ." he began but gave up when the tears welled in his eyes. Covering his face with his hands, he asked, "How?"

Anywhere she touched, he tried to pull away, but Mia refused to let him. She soothed the skin of his arms with gentle caresses and smoothed his hair away from his forehead with her fingers.

"I read books, I know the signs, and I'm even smarter than you," Mia said affectionately. "I figured it out last month when you were sick during the full moon. It's why I left you the Chocolate Frogs. I know they make you feel better."

She frowned when she reached up to run her fingers through his sweat-soaked hair and he flinched.

Remus whimpered, his head still in his hands as he cried. "You should go. I . . . You weren't supposed to know. I'm going to have to leave. No one was supposed to find out."

"No one's going to find out," Mia promised. "I brought my suspicions to Dumbledore, and he's given me permission to be here with you each month, before and after your transformation."

"You're . . . you're not afraid?" Remus slowly lowered his hands to look at her, shocked.

"Of you?" Mia smiled. "Why would I have reason to be afraid of you, Remus?"

"I'm a monster!" he shouted, eyes flashing gold.

Mia growled angrily, and the ends of her hair sparked with riotous magic. "Don't you dare! That's my friend you're talking about! You are a survivor of a situation that someone else put you in." Tears formed in her eyes as she related to her own words. "All you can do is follow the rules, keep people safe, and try to find some semblance of happiness in the process."

He shook his head. "There's no happiness in this, Mia."

"There will be," she promised him as she thought of Tonks and Teddy. "And until you figure it out, it's my job to help make it less painful. Do you need another Pain Potion?"

"Did . . . Did you heal me?" he asked, reaching behind his back to touch the scar. "Madam Pomfrey did it last month, and . . . it feels different."

"I'm a very fast learner."

Remus frowned. "I don't want your help. I don't want to hurt you."

"And I don't want you to hurt longer than you're forced to," she said, not taking no for an answer. "You let me take care of you and be there for you so you don't have to be alone. In exchange, I promise to never be in harm's way when you're close to your transformation. It's not like I plan to follow you beneath the Whomping Willow."

His eyes widened. "You know about that?"

"Once I told Dumbledore what I'd figured out and that I wanted to help, he explained everything to me."

"I'm . . ." Remus looked down, suddenly appearing embarrassed and self-conscious. She knew the look. She saw it constantly anytime people brought up Harry's past or Ron's family. It was the look someone got when they thought they were being pitied. "I'm not another lost stray like . . . like Sirius."

Mia smiled down at him. "No, you're not. Sirius is a lost pup who needs a good home." Sirius was wounded and beaten, and it had taken him weeks to properly bounce back after his mother had sent that Howler the morning after the Sorting. "You're a boy who happens to be a werewolf who needs a good friend."

"Why are you so . . ." Remus began, trying to look for the right word, " . . . kind to me, Mia?"

She swallowed the whimper that threatened to crawl its way out of her throat. Scooting over, she took a seat beside him on his bed, gently putting an arm around his shoulders. He shivered at the touch, and she could see him trying to hold onto his strength, trying not to show weakness.

"You've never deserved anything less than kindness, Remus."

He let out a quiet sob and wrapped his arms around Mia's waist, his shoulders shaking as he cried against her.

Her eyes softened at the boy exposing his vulnerability for what, she assumed, was the first time. It felt to her like he had opened up his heart right there. She promised herself that she would treat it well.

Chapter Text

Something's wrong, shut the light
Heavy thoughts tonight
And they aren't of snow white
Dreams of war, dreams of liars
Dreams of dragon's fire
And of things that will bite
(Enter Sandman - Metallica)

December 18th, 1971

Snow blanketed the grounds of Hogwarts whilst the students gathered their trunks together and prepared to spend the Christmas holidays at home. Few children remained at school, though the weather was perfect for snowball fights. Gideon and Fabian Prewett had even created a school-wide competition that ended up with seven Slytherins—and four confused Hufflepuffs who got caught in the crossfire—in the hospital wing. James, Sirius, and Remus had come out on top in the first year division of the games, but all three boys nearly got frostbite because of it. Mia refused to participate. Three of the Marauders, however, caught her giggling over the top of her book as she sat nearby when their fourth—Peter—was buried beneath a sheet of fresh snow that fell from the roof.

It was the day after the last full moon of the year, and Mia thought Remus was looking surprisingly healthy, considering. Somehow, over the months, being able to be there for him before and after the full moon appeared to make his recovery much easier. It also helped that she knew how to treat his wounds and what potions worked best to get him through the pain. He had put weight back on, and the colour had returned to his face.

Christmas was approaching, and the holidays had never felt better for her.

"Sirius, why are you still in your pyjamas?" Mia asked as she descended the staircase from the girls' dormitories. "We need to leave for the train soon."

"Mum . . ." Sirius said the word with a scowl on his face, "told me to just stay here."

He had sent letters home, specifically to his father and brother, leaving Walburga out of the equation after the Howler she had sent him months ago.

Mia knew that Orion Black wrote back once a month, requesting reports of Sirius's classwork and asking if he was in need of anything; the parchments looked more like a supply order form rather than a letter from a parent to a child. Regulus wrote back once, telling Sirius to stop writing to him, and calling him a blood-traitor. The words had clearly been fed to him by Walburga, who probably threatened Regulus with the same treatment as his older brother if he did not cut ties with his only sibling, but the effect had been the same regardless of the intent. Sirius had lashed out at the breakfast table, retreated into himself for several days, and then acted out in class, ending the week with detention.

It was not a surprise that Sirius was not wanted home for Christmas.

"Is your family going somewhere for the holiday?" Remus asked as he came down the stairs with his belongings in hand.

Sirius shrugged bitterly. "If they are, they haven't clued me in on their plans."

"Ridiculous. They shouldn't be angry with you over something you couldn't control," Mia said, though she knew that Sirius had desperately wanted to be in Gryffindor and had likely requested it of the Sorting Hat.

"Who cares?" He crossed his arms over his chest, reminding Mia of his older self being forced to stay trapped inside Grimmauld Place while the rest of the Order was free to come and go as they pleased.

Mia frowned and sat beside him on the sofa. "You do."

"Like hell!" Sirius snapped.

Despite his bitter mood, he reacted to her sitting next to him as he always did. He tilted to the side, landing his head in her lap and silently reached his hands up to grab at her fingers and place them on his head.

Mia smiled and began petting him affectionately.

"I'm better off on my own," he said with a sigh.

"Come home with us," Mia suggested as she stopped petting his head.

Grey eyes opened in wonder as he stared up into her face. "Really?"

She grinned, excited. "Absolutely! You'll spend Christmas at the manor. You need a proper Christmas, Sirius. I won't stand for you just sitting in the common room on your own. Remus, you're still coming too, right?" she asked, suddenly feeling guilty for not inviting Sirius sooner.

She had written home earlier that month asking if Remus could stay. He had told her that he believed his parents had both grown accustomed to not having their life revolve around his symptoms and were now nervous about having to go back to the way things had been before Hogwarts, if only for a short holiday. Mia's parents had been more than happy to invite Remus into their home, something he was clearly both nervous and excited about as he claimed he had never stayed with friends anywhere outside of Hogwarts.

"Of course. Trying to complete a collection?" Remus chuckled. "You going to ask Peter to go home with you next?"

"Absolutely not!"

Both boys widened their eyes at her tone.

"I just mean," she said, trying to recover from her mistake, "Peter and I aren't close like I am with the pair of you." She knew that both Remus and Sirius were aware that there was no love lost between her and Peter. She was never exactly rude to him, so they never made a fuss over it.

"I can only stay until Christmas Eve, though," Remus reminded her. "My parents will be home by then."

Mia inclined her head. "Of course."

James grinned as he slid down the railing of the stairs that connected the common room to the boys' dormitories. "You'll be happy to know, dearest sister, that I have everything packed, and I didn't use your bloody checklist to do it," he smugly informed her.

"You have all your clothes?" Mia asked with a raised brow. She had made the list for a reason. She saw how frustrated their mother had been in the days leading up to the first of September. James's trunk had been a nightmare.

"Yes," James answered.

"You packed all the books you need to finish your homework?"

"Yes, I did."

Mia looked him over carefully. "Jamie?"


"Where's your wand?"

Three seconds passed before his nose twitched, he cursed under his breath on a groan, and quickly ran back up the stairs.

"Keep your wand on you at all times, James Charlus Potter!" Mia called up after him.

Remus laughed. "How are the two of you related?"

"Pretty sure Mum accidentally hit him with a Confundus as a baby," Mia said cheekily.

From the top of the stairs echoed a loud, "Ha! Found it!"

Mia patted Sirius's head once more and shoved at his shoulders to get him off of her. "Go get ready."

Sirius rolled off of her, throwing his head back to get the hair out of his face, and yelled, "James! Come help me pack!" as he made his way toward the staircase.

"Thought you said you were staying here?" James raised a brow as he twirled his wand in his hand, hopping down the steps.

Sirius winked at Mia but was quickly thumped in the head by James, who had been trying to stomp out Sirius's bad habit of flirting with her.

"Your lovely sister," Sirius said as he turned back to an unamused James, "has invited me home with you for Christmas."

"Wicked!" James grinned. "We can go flying in the orchards, and you can help me set it up for Quidditch! Why didn't I think of inviting you?"

"Because you are apparently a terrible friend," Mia said, looking up at her brother with a smug grin.

James helped Sirius pack his trunk, and the boys quickly made their way down to the entrance hall where the students would be loaded into carriages and taken down to Hogsmeade Station.

"Sirius, look." James chuckled as he walked to the foot of the staircase, watching as Severus Snape walked ahead of them side-by-side with Lily Evans.

Sirius looked up and held his breath while James fired a jinx at Snape's feet, making him trip mid-sentence.

"Sev? Are you okay?" Lily knelt at her friend's side with a frown.

Snape growled. "Fine."

"My turn," Sirius snickered and sent the same jinx the moment Snape regained his footing. The boy fell forward once more, this time landing with a loud thud and a slew of mumbled swears.

Lily furrowed her brow. "Sev?"

"I'm fine, Lily!" Snape snapped at her angrily, and she took a step back from him, appearing hurt by his tone.

"I've got a good one. Locomotor Mortis," James whispered, flicking his wand just so.

Snape's legs snapped shut together. His eyes went wide at the sensation, and he bunny-hopped forward twice, trying to hold his balance before he tumbled forward into a line of Hufflepuffs, knocking them down like a row of dominoes.

James and Sirius burst into hysterical laughter.

Lily descended upon them.

Sirius jumped out of her way, having seen the kind of damage that she could do with magic when she was actually trying. The last thing he wanted was to be caught in the wake of an accidental outburst.

She poked a slender finger at James's chest, bright green eyes narrowing as her fury was aimed at him. "You!"

James smiled innocently. "Me?"

"Him?" Sirius also feigned ignorance.

"You ridiculously stupid, ignorant . . ." Her hair began to spark like Mia's often did, and Sirius braced for impact. "Toerag!"

Her scream gained the attention of every other student in the entrance hall, Snape and the tumbled Hufflepuffs included. Before James could say another word, Lily propelled the flat of her hand to the round shape of his cheek. The sound of her slap echoed off of the walls as she turned on her heels and stormed out of the castle.

Sirius stared at the scene, completely gobsmacked.

"Did Lily Evans just smack you?!" Remus demanded, eyes wide at the sight of James holding a hand to the side of his face.

"What?!" Mia shouted as she ran down behind Remus. She turned and glared at Sirius. "What the hell happened? What did you do?"

"Me?" His eyes went wide at the accusation. "If I did something, Evans would have smacked me! No, she hit James." He pointed at his friend, who stared off in the direction Lily had left, his hazel eyes wide and his hand still fixed to his reddening cheek.

Mia frowned. "What did you do, Jamie?"

"What's a toerag?" Sirius asked, feeling a modicum of respect for Evans for creativity. Then again, maybe it was a Muggle thing.

Remus tried, and failed, to stifle a laugh. "Lily called James a toerag?"

"Look, dear, there's Mia!"

Mia could hear her parents the second she stepped foot off the train. She smiled at the sight of them both.

Her father was not even trying to be quiet when he said, "That must be the Lupin boy. You don't think . . . she's too young for a boyfriend."

"I think it's cute." Dorea teased him. "You behave. Mia says they're just friends."

In the hopes of cutting off the conversation before Remus heard—though he likely already had thanks to his enhanced senses—Mia rushed into her father's open arms and hugged him tightly.

When he released her, Mia turned back and smiled at Remus. "Mum, Dad, this is Remus."

"Glad to have you, son." Charlus grinned and extended his hand to the boy. "Charlus Potter. This is my wife, Dorea."

Remus smiled slightly and reached his hand out to take Charlus's. "Remus Lupin, sir. I really appreciate . . . I mean, I am very g-grateful," he stammered a bit before inhaling a deep breath to calm himself. "My parents wanted to say thank you, for letting me stay for a few days."

Dorea beamed brightly. "You are more than welcome, dear. The more the merrier!"

"Oh!" Mia blushed when she realised that she had forgotten to send a last minute owl home. "I, umm, is it okay if Sirius stays with us for the holiday as well? His mum, well . . ." She did not want to divulge all of Sirius's concerns to her parents, so she looked up at her mother and tried to explain in not so many words. "He got sorted into Gryffindor."

Dorea frowned in obvious understanding. "Oh, dear."

Charlus chuckled. "Shame for Slytherins."

The moment Sirius approached, Dorea pulled him into a swift hug, beaming. "You lovely, little rebellious lion! I hear you're coming to stay with us for a few weeks? What a wonderful Christmas surprise!"

"Really?" Sirius asked with a raised brow and a smile plastered on his face.

"Of course, love! The more the merrier!" Dorea repeated her words from earlier.

Charlus turned his attention to Mia. "Where's your brother?"

All three children groaned.

Mia rolled her eyes and gestured to the train. "He'll be a minute."

Charlus opened his mouth with a curious expression when a loud shout came from the train: "Let go of my trunk, Potter!"

"The screaming redhead is Lily Evans," Mia told her father. "Jamie fancies her."

The boy in question was trying to carry Lily's trunk. "I'll carry it for you," James insisted. "Your hands are delicate flowers, you shouldn't have to worry about this big trunk. Want me to carry your bag, too?"

He smiled, touching his cheek when Lily ripped the handle of her trunk out of his hands.

"Get away from me, you prat!" she shouted, storming away as quickly as possible, her long red hair flowing behind her.

"Write to me? Owl me? Floo me?" James called desperately after her, waving his hands.

"Argh! Go away!" Lily's voice echoed in the distance.

"Mum!" James rushed into his mother's arms. Charlus stared down at his son with laughter in his eyes after watching the scene.

Dorea, on the other hand, looked horrified. "James? Is everything all right?" she asked as she examined his cheek since he could not stop touching it.

James beamed brightly. "Everything's grand. I'm in love!"

"Oh, dear." Dorea sighed again.

"I think it's cute." Charlus echoed Dorea's words from earlier, chuckling quietly as his wife glared at him.

"Just ignore him," Sirius encouraged the parents. "We had to spend eight hours on the train listening to his nonsense."

"Goodness, James, darling, did someone give you something?" Dorea felt his forehead. "Mia, was he poisoned?"

"Unfortunately not." Mia stared at her brother, still lost in the midst of his stupidity. "This is all him."

"She hit me," James said dreamily, staring up at his father with a proud look on his face as though he had just won the Quidditch Cup.

Charlus blinked, holding back another chuckle. "Who hit you? That little redhead?"

"Smacked him hard, too." Sirius barked out a laugh. "It was hilarious."

"Yeah." James smiled, not catching on that he was being teased. "Did you see her eyes when she did it? Prettiest shade of green I've ever seen in my life. Mum, can we go to Diagon Alley? I want to get her something for Christmas!"

Dorea frowned, concerned. "Umm . . . maybe later, dear. I'd like to get you four home, maybe put a charm on your face." She turned James's cheek to examine it closely. "Your eye looks a little swollen."

"You think it'll bruise!?" James asked excitedly and pulled away from his mother as though she had already raised her wand to put a glamour on him. "I'll wear it like a badge of honour."

"Eight hours, you say?" Charlus asked, looking down at Sirius.

Sirius smirked. "I almost wished I'd gone home to my parents, sir."

Charlus laughed. "That bad?"

Mia rolled her eyes. "I almost went home with Sirius to his parents."

The Potters and accompanying strays waited in line for the station's Floo to open, and one by one, each of the children arrived through the fireplace in Potter Manor, followed by both parents. Sirius looked unaffected by the surroundings of the house, but Remus's eyes were wide.

Mia smiled at his look of wonder that nearly matched her own the first time she had arrived inside the Manor. "Come on Remus, Sirius, grab your trunks, and I'll show you to your rooms."

Sirius raised a brow. "Grab my trunk?"

"You plan on sleeping in the drawing room?"

Sirius looked around. "No, I mean . . . I thought you had house-elves."

"Unfortunately, we do." Mia seethed, and James laughed. "But that doesn't mean you can't take care of your own things."

Mia was already not looking forward to a fight with Tilly—who still spoiled James to a ridiculous point—but she would be damned if she saw Sirius take advantage of Tilly's need to pamper.

"Mia has issues with the elves," James explained with a wry smile.

Sirius looked at Mia, completely confused. "You don't like house-elves?"

"I'd like it if the elves were able to choose for themselves whether or not they wanted to be tied down to a family," she tried to explain but knew it would be for nothing. She'd had plenty of these arguments with an older Sirius Black. "And I'd like it if the elves were paid for their hard work."

"Paid?" Sirius let out a loud, disbelieving laugh. "Are you taking the piss?"

"She's really not." James shook his head. "Come on, Remus, I'll show you your room. These two are going to be a while."

"Mia, that's what elves are for," Sirius explained as James and Remus vanished down the hallway.

"They are living creatures and not property that can be used and abused, Sirius!"

"They abuse back just as good as they get. My mother's elf is a rotten little sponge that acts just like her. Curses, spits, and bows at the same time."

Mia grumbled and looked away from him. The image of Kreacher popped into her head too easily, especially as she recalled him calling her "Mistress" and "Mudblood" in the same sentence.

"Maybe if someone treated them properly," she mumbled under her breath.

"Why the hell would I treat something properly that called me a 'beastly little ingrate?'" Sirius asked.

"Ugh, I am not having this argument with you again, Sirius Black!" Mia snapped at him, heat rising in her chest that she knew could trigger a panic attack at any moment.

He blinked at her in confusion. "What do you mean again?"

"I . . . I mean . . ."


How was it that he had the ability to make her forget what year she was living in? It was those grey eyes. They looked the same. In thirty years, those eyes would still be the same—the same infuriating, unnatural shade of grey that caused her to lose herself.

"Just drop it. I don't want to talk about it anymore." She reached for the handle of her trunk, carrying it off toward the hallway.

"Young Miss!" Tilly popped into the room with wide blue eyes and an excited smile. "Tilly is so happy you is home! Tilly will take Young Miss's trunk. Young Master tried to sneak his trunk upstairs." She eyed Mia as though she knew she was behind it. "Yes he did, but Tilly caught him. Now Young Miss will give Tilly her trunk, and Tilly takes care of it."

"See?!" Sirius pointed at the elf.

Tilly turned her attention to Sirius and examined him very closely. "You is Young Master Black, yes you is?"

"Yes, I am," Sirius said.

Tilly continued to stare at him. "Young Master Black takes his own trunk." She turned away from Sirius, taking Mia's trunk down the hallway.

"Oh, I should have mentioned," Mia said with a smug grin. "Your family was apparently really mean to Tilly. So I guess you'll have to carry your own trunk."

Sirius should have been offended, but in the end, he laughed. "Anyone who doesn't like the House of Black is okay in my book." He grinned defiantly at Mia and gripped the handle of his trunk, following after the house-elf.

The excitement of being home for Christmas lasted the entire evening. Tilly had made all of Mia and James's favourites, which happened to also be all of Remus and Sirius's favourites. The manor was decorated with a brightly coloured Christmas tree in every room, faerie lights twinkling from within, and mistletoe hanging over Charlus and Dorea's room. The guests were given a tour of the Manor, and the boys spent hours before bed flying out back over the freshly fallen snow that covered the orchard and gardens.

It was perfect.

But nothing is ever really perfect.

"No! No! It's a fake! Please! We've never been inside your vault . . . It isn't the real sword! It's a copy, just a copy!"

Sirius's heart pounded when he was awakened by screams. He leapt from his bed and looked out of his door just in time to see James rush down the hallway.

"What's going on?" Sirius demanded, panicked.

Remus popped out of another door. "Was that Mia?"

"What's wrong with her?" Sirius asked as he rushed after his friend, tugging on James's robes as the three boys approached the double doors at the end of the hallway.

"Move!" James shouted and burst into the room.

Sirius looked to see the girl thrashing and crying in bed.

Without another word, James crawled into the massive four-poster, pulling her into his arms. "Mia? Mia, love, it's fine. You're safe," he whispered over and over until her cries quieted.

Sirius stepped inside, looking down at his friends, scared and worried. Despite the life he had back home at Grimmauld Place, he had never heard screams like that before. "What happened?"

"She has nightmares," James explained. "Mia, you're safe. I've got you."

"Is she okay?" Remus asked, standing behind Sirius.

"I don't know." James frowned. "I knew she had nightmares, and I didn't even think to check and see if she was okay at Hogwarts. Has Evans, Brown, or MacDonald said anything to either of you?"

Sirius shook his head as he stepped closer. "How often does she have them?"

"Almost every night." James sighed, looking like he was doing a good job of berating himself. Sirius knew how protective his best friend was of his sister. "She's probably been having nightmares all year, and I didn't even think to talk to her roommates about it."

"Jamie?" Mia whispered, her eyes fluttering open.

James held her close. "I'm here, love."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to . . ." She started crying again, but James quickly wiped the tears with his pyjama sleeves and kissed the top of her head.

"No, no. You don't get to apologise. It's my job. My job to keep you safe."

Mia let out a quiet sob and clung to her brother.

Something inside of Sirius felt like it came to life in a singular moment, empty and wanting and lost all at once. "Our job," he whispered through the darkness

Mia sat up, looking at Sirius and Remus standing at the foot of her bed. She did not look embarrassed to have them there. Instead, she let out a sigh of what sounded like relief.

Sirius walked to the other side of her bed and reached out, tucking a curl of her hair behind her ear. "It's our job. Our job to keep you safe."

"Sirius?" she whispered.

"Hey, kitten. Scoot over will you?" He smiled and crawled into the bed beside her, flopping his head on her lap like always.

She laughed through her remaining tears, smiling down at him and running her fingers through his hair.

James narrowed his gaze at his friend. "We're supposed to be making her feel better, Sirius."

"No." Mia smiled up at her brother. "This helps." She beamed down at Sirius who was happily staring up at her.

"You boys should go back to sleep," she said, looking guilty.

"We're not leaving you alone," Remus stated firmly. "You going to make room for me? Or do I have to sleep on the floor?"

Sirius chuckled and scooted closer to Mia, making room.

December 19th, 1971

Mia's eyes opened as the light from the nearby window flooded her room. At night, the cold and dark memories plagued her nightmares, but in the morning, warmth enveloped her entire being.

She looked down at the mess of long, silky, black hair against her stomach. She chuckled softly at the feel of Sirius's arms wrapped around her waist, using her body as a pillow. She watched closely as he took slow, shallow breaths, and felt additional ones behind her. Craning her head upward slightly, she noticed that somehow during the night, she had navigated herself onto Remus's chest, bracing against him with one of his arms wrapped around her shoulders.

She smiled and leant into the embrace, a sense of peace gliding over her even as she thought of the future. A future where Remus would be ostracised from society, forced into poverty due to prejudice and fear. Left in loneliness for years and years whilst looking for some semblance of family. A family she knew he would eventually get, but not until he had suffered a great deal.

She wrapped her left arm against his, squeezing his hand gently. She would make it up to him somehow.

She was determined to love him enough so that he could get through the years of loneliness and pain that lay ahead of him.

A light snore from below brought her attention back to Sirius as he turned his head to face her, still asleep. He almost looked innocent like this. She smiled and reached her right hand out to run her fingers through his black hair affectionately. She could not imagine this boy, this sweet boy, would grow up to spend twelve years in the hell that was Azkaban. Innocent of any crime, put away without a trial, all while mourning the deaths of his friends. His soft skin was blemish free now, but she knew it would eventually be covered in scars, tattoos, and lines marking the years that would be stolen from him. Sure, he would eventually be free, but the veil would take him from her. She would call him back, but it would still be one more year stolen from him.

She was determined to love him enough so that he could get through those years of suffering and anger that were ahead of him.

"You look comfortable," an amused but tired voice came from the door where James stood, smirking. He yawned and made his way back to the bed, shoving Sirius's legs before retaking his place beside Mia, snuggling into her right side, using her shoulder as a pillow.

She smiled and rested her cheek on the top of his messy head of hair and blinked away the tears forming in her eyes.

In one hand she held Remus close to her, lacing her fingers through his. She wove her other hand through Sirius's hair, comforting them both as he slept.

A painful realisation came to her: she could somehow make Sirius and Remus's lives a little better by being there, but she had no hands left to grip tightly to James.

Nothing you do will change what is meant to be.

No matter how hard she tried, she would not be able to save her brother.

Chapter Text

Hit me with your best shot
Why don't you hit me
With your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire Away
(Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar)


February 28th, 1972

It was as if Charlus Potter had convinced his wife that children causing mischief was a rite of passage. James, Mia, and Sirius returned to Hogwarts after the Christmas holiday, new gifts in hand that had been delicately wrapped and given to them Christmas morning. Each with a very careful warning in Charlus's firm script:

Don't. Get. Caught.

In the two months since they had been back in school, James and Sirius had not been caught out of bed after hours once. That was due, in large part, to the fact that James now possessed the most fantastically charmed Invisibility Cloak.

When her brother had opened his gift Christmas morning, Mia simply stared at it. That very cloak was the cause of a lot of trouble with her, Harry, and Ron. Though, more times than she could count, it had gotten them out of trouble as well.

James had been floored by the present and used it nearly every night since returning to Hogwarts.

Dorea, likely saddened by the thought that Sirius might not have presents come Christmas morning, dug through her old Black family heirlooms—ones that had, in all probability, been looked over properly by a Curse-Breaker. When morning arrived and no gifts had appeared overnight for Sirius, Dorea handed her small gift to him with a bright smile.

He had looked shocked, clearly not expecting anything, let alone something that had belonged to his family. The small penknife fit perfectly in his hand, and he grinned brightly when Dorea explained that it was enchanted to be able to unlock any door and untie any knot.

Thus far, Sirius had used it to break into Filch's office four separate times.

Mia's gift confused her at first when she opened the small package containing a beautiful small hand mirror. That is, until she pulled it from the box, revealing its twin beneath it. She brightened, recognising the gift immediately; the last time she had seen the mirrors, one of the two belonged to Harry, and it was broken.

After thanking her parents, she gave the second mirror to James.

She had woken up every night over the Christmas holidays with her brother, Sirius, and Remus in her bed—all having arrived to the sound of her screams, at least until Remus left to spend Christmas with his family.

James had taken her aside before leaving for King's Cross Station. "Take the mirror and talk to me every night before bed. That way I know you're okay. And if you're not, you can come and sleep in my bed."

Since returning to school, she had called her brother through the mirror several times each week. Nights when the nightmares became too much, Mia would descend the staircase from the girls' dormitories and make her way up the boys' quietly, slipping into the room shared by James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter, and crawl in beside her brother, who kept the nightmares at bay.

Each morning upon waking, James would give his sister his Invisibility Cloak so she could slip back into her own room, unnoticed by snoring roommates.

Having to sneak around at night made Mia feel weak, especially since it was to keep a dead woman from haunting her thoughts. This weakness was why she had ultimately stopped contacting James at night a little over a month into the new term. He would ask her about it every morning, and she would lie, feeling guilty for making him worry over her. But a harsh reality check would hit her from time to time: James would not be around forever. She would need to sleep on her own at some point.

"Morning," Mia said with a yawn as she reached the Gryffindor table for breakfast.

James stared at her, or actually, stared at her hair.

She knew it was an especially spectacular mess—at least twice as voluminous as normal and looked tangled beyond repair. The dark circles beneath her eyes looking back at her from the mirror were nearly purple from exhaustion, and she was struggling just to reach for something to eat.

"You look awful, Mia."

"You flatter me, big brother." Mia narrowed her eyes but dropped the attitude when James poured her a glass of pumpkin juice and slid a plate of toast in front of her. She let out a soft sigh and smiled at him gratefully.

"He's right; are you okay?" Sirius asked, sitting down beside her. "Your hair is . . . less puffskein nest and more ball of tangled yarn." He grinned and poked the knotted mane on top of her head.

Mia growled, swatting at his hand, moving out of his reach as he tried to continue petting her wild, messy locks. "Don't touch my hair, Sirius. I woke up late and didn't have time to charm it properly."

"Why'd you sleep in?" James asked pointedly. "Were you . . . ?" he began to ask as he did every morning, but Mia shook her head.

"No. Lily, Alice, and Mary kept me up all night giggling over a bunch of nonsense."

Though Lily was more prone to serious conversations than Mia's other two roommates, she would still join in on ridiculous conversations about boys. It annoyed Mia to no end. Mostly because, for the first time ever, she actually wanted to join in.

In her original timeline, she had not even thought about boys in such a way until at least third year—the embarrassing exception being Professor Lockhart, and even then it was barely a passing thought. Ginny once explained to Harry and Ron that Hermione was far too sensible, but all other girls were normal.

"Did Evans mention me?!" James asked with a bright smile.

"I don't know, I tried not to pay attention," she lied.

In truth, no, Lily had not asked a thing about James. The only name Lily had mentioned was Remus, and even then it was under a blushing whisper that grated on Mia's nerves. It was not until Alice giggled about James, and Mary started talking about Sirius's beautiful eyes that Mia had had enough and stormed out of the dorm and down the stairs to get a head start on her homework, something she had not done—or needed to do—since they came back from holiday.

"Morning." Remus approached with a yawn, his face was pale and he looked just as tired as Mia felt.

She knew the full moon would rise the following night, and Remus needed his energy. Despite not feeding herself, aside from the few bites of toast that James had sent her way, she immediately went into precise, practised actions. She poured pumpkin juice into a tall glass and set it in front of Remus before reaching across Sirius for the large platters of bacon and sausage, loading Remus's plate with protein and fresh fruit. Once filled, she set it down in front of him.

She hardly noticed it when Remus fixed her breakfast in simultaneous silence. He poured her a small cup of tea, adding one cube of sugar, and pushed it across the table. The two worked in tandem, as he casually reached over her arms to set a bowl of porridge down in front of her.

"Sorry," Remus muttered as he spotted a raspberry in the midst of the fruit topping of the warm porridge, settled in the midst of blueberries. He reached over and plucked away the offending fruit, tossing it into his mouth.

As the two began to eat, the rest of the group stared in absolute silence.

"What?" Remus and Mia muttered at the same time.

James blinked. "That's . . . creepy."

Sirius laughed. "You've never seen it before? They've been like this for months."

Remus and Mia promptly rolled their eyes and ignored the continued jokes and stares as they turned back to their food. When Mia casually touched a piece of the toast that James had given her, Remus reached over Peter's seat, snatching up a jar of marmalade and scooting it across to her without even looking.

James looked positively perplexed by the behaviour. "You two develop mind-speak or something?"

Mia smirked, swallowing a bite of her toast. "Don't be jealous, Jamie. Just because Remus is my best friend doesn't mean you're any less my big brother."

"What the hell does that make me?" Sirius pouted.

Mia stared at him incredulously. "Usually? A pain in my arse that has somehow been tethered to me for eternity."

Sirius winked at her, not bothering to flinch when James reached across the table to thump him on the side of the head. "I didn't know you cared, kitten."

"What about me?" Peter asked, his tiny, watery eyes meeting Mia's blinking gaze.

She returned her attention to her food, ignoring him. If you can't say anything nice . . .

"I still think the breakfast thing is creepy," James remarked. "How come Remus can't get his own bacon? There's a plate right in front of Peter."

"Because he likes it undercooked," Mia replied matter-of-factly. "The plate in front of Peter is too burnt."

"Why don't you let me or James make your tea?" Sirius asked with a raised brow. "Last time one of us did, you didn't touch it."

"Because she doesn't take milk in it," Remus explained.

"How do you even notice things like that?" James asked.

At the same time, both Mia and Remus just shrugged.

James and Sirius had little time to come up with more questions or jokes at the pair's expense because, right then, Frank Longbottom stumbled over to the table looking worse for wear.

"Frank? Are you all right?" Mia looked up at the boy with concern.

He tried to smile but it did not reach his eyes. "I'm fine, thanks, Mia."

"You are not. What happened?" 

While the Marauders had banded together due to circumstances that first day on the train, their bond had solidified due to sleeping arrangements. Frank, on the other hand, roomed with the other two Gryffindor boys in their year, Gaspard and William, who had apparently been best friends since they were toddlers. Not wanting him to be friendless and left out, Mia had extended a hand of friendship to Frank.

Frank sighed loudly. "Some first year Slytherins hit me with a nasty charm when I caught them picking on some Hufflepuffs," he admitted, his face turning red. "I told the snakes to leave them alone, and they turned on me instead. I thought they'd maybe try a hex or two but didn't think one would actually stick."

"Which one?" Sirius asked.

"They stunned me."

"What?" Sirius snapped. "Those rotten, low-life snakes!"

"They stunned you?" Mia's eyes widened. She felt her own temper flaring, and Sirius's seething just egged her on. "Merlin, that's a fifth year spell! How did they even know how to do that?"

"Once I woke up, I overheard them bragging that Malfoy and Mulciber have been teaching all of the first year Slytherins advanced hexes and jinxes," Frank said bitterly.

"You should tell Professor McGonagall," Lily said as she sat down on the other side of Frank. Keeping her attention on her friend, she purposely ignored Sirius and James as though they were not even there, despite James smiling brightly at her.

Sirius growled. "No way. What we should do is get even!"

"Yeah," James agreed, bringing himself back to the conversation when Lily refused to acknowledge him. "You shouldn't have to take that crap from them. C'mon, Frank. You, me, Sirius, Remus, and Peter are going to go show those serpents why lions are the kings of this castle!" He stood up, turning his attention to the gang of Slytherin first years that were sitting at the other end of the Great Hall.

"You idiots are going to get points taken away from us!" Lily hissed. "If you get away with that, you'll still end up hexed. Frank just said that the Slytherins are using fifth year spells!"

But nothing Lily said deterred the boys.

James led the charge beside Sirius, followed behind by Frank who looked ready to redeem himself. He might have been as clumsy a child as Neville, but he had taken to Gryffindor courage almost immediately. With James's influence, he was also unfortunately taking to recklessness with ease as well.

Mia sighed and stood up when she saw Remus follow after the others. "I better go and help them."

"Mia!" Lily scolded her.

"He's my brother, they're my friends. I don't let people hurt my friends," she said firmly, and then she felt a dangerous chill run over her skin as she added, "ever."

"Lost, little lions?" Amycus Carrow asked as the group of Gryffindors approached the end of the Slytherin table. He sat there snickering with his small gang that included his twin sister Alecto, Elora Zabini, and Severus Snape.

Sirius narrowed his eyes at him. "Shut your mouth, Carrow."

"Piss off, blood-traitor," Alecto hissed. "Everyone knows that you're nothing but a disgrace now, Black. Ruined your family name."

"My family name was shit generations before I came along. In fact, I'd gladly trade names with you, except that everyone knows all Carrows are coat-tailing morons."

Alecto appeared enraged by the comment, but her brother—and obvious little leader of their gang—stayed in his seat, glaring up at Sirius.

"I'd rather be on the coat-tails of something proper than sitting in the filth with blood-traitors and Mudbloods," Amycus sneered. Alecto laughed, Elora Zabini rolled her eyes as though she were bored of this confrontation already, and Snape averted his eyes from the Gryffindors entirely.

A memory of Draco came to the forefront of Mia's mind.

"No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood!"

Though it currently did not show, she had the slur carved into her skin. By the end of her time at Hogwarts, Hermione had grown numb to the sound of the word when it was thrown at her, but something about this moment brought it all back up. It could have been the fact that she was young again, experiencing unstable emotions as her body fought to catch up with time and her own memories, or it could have been that Amycus was just a boy and already so filled with hate, much like Draco had been when he had first began bullying her. Just twelve years old and already prejudiced.

It was more likely, though, that it riled something up in her because, for the first time ever, the derogatory term was not being thrown at her, but at the table across the Great Hall where Amycus glared at the back of Lily's head.

Mia was not the Mudblood, here. Harry's mother was.

Fury built swiftly inside of her, and the memories of hate and anger and war and death all came to the forefront in one moment—egged on by the dangerous look in Sirius's eyes—and she finally snapped.

"You watch your fucking mouth, Carrow!" Mia stepped forward, pushing herself between James and Sirius, both of whom stared at her with wide eyes.

Amycus glared at her. "Or what, Potter?"

"You don't want to test me," she threatened, thinking of Marietta Edgecomb, Rita Skeeter, and Dolores Umbridge. She had been unforgiving during her original timeline, but now she knew what some of these children would grow up to be capable of.

Elora narrowed her eyes, suddenly interested. "Don't threaten us, Potter."

"We're not threatening," James said. "We're returning the favour. You lot hexed Frank first, without reason, too."

"Longbottom?" Snape drawled, rolling his eyes. "As if we'd need a reason. He hexes himself by accident twice a day."

"Get bent, Snivellus!" Sirius growled.

Snape's words were laced with sarcasm as he shot back, "Clever retort, Black."

"I'm serious," Mia told Amycus, and she watched closely as his hand hovered over the side of his robes. She could feel Remus right at her back, his breath on her neck and his hand on her shoulder. Without turning to look, she could not tell if he were trying to hold her back or stop himself from attacking. "You pull a wand on any of us again, and you'll regret it."

James glowered. "Forget wands, one more word . . ."

"Just one?" Snape's upper lip curled. "Surely you can count higher than that."

And, just like that, Sirius lunged over the top of the Slytherin table.

In all likelihood, the fight lasted for less than a full minute. Wands were drawn, though Sirius was more than happy to handle things "the Muggle way," as he so liked to call it when he threatened physical violence. Advanced hexes were thrown from the Slytherins; Mia, being fully developed in her magic, tried to non-verbally counter the spells without drawing attention to herself. Unfortunately, it was when Frank got involved that things went completely south.

The problem was that the only charm Frank Longbottom had properly mastered was a Wand-Lighting Charm, which would not have been helpful in the fight anyway. But instead of saying "Lumos," like he meant to, Frank flicked his wand forward and said "Fumos," accidentally casting a smokescreen spell.

A defensive cloud of smoke poured out of Frank's wand, covering the fight completely. Unable to see and aim wands properly, the Slytherins made to retreat, but the Gryffindors followed Sirius's example and went "full Muggle."

When Professor McGonagall stormed into the Great Hall and cleared the air of the smokescreen, she was left with four Slytherins and four Gryffindors on the ground. Sirius had Snape by the collar on the floor. James was struggling against Alecto Carrow and Elora Zabini—who were pulling at his hair—refusing to hit either of the girls. Remus pinned Amycus against the back wall, his forearm to the Slytherin's throat. He growled as he held back Mia, who was seething and trying to reach around Remus to scratch Amycus's smug face. The Slytherin spat toward Mia, causing Remus to turn on him instead. Frank stood in the middle of the floor with wide eyes, tightly gripping his wand that was still pouring smoke.

"Mr Longbottom!" Professor McGonagall shouted. "Put your wand down!"

Frank suddenly snapped to and dropped his wand, which fell to the floor and set off sparks. Thankfully, the smoke stopped.

"What on earth? All of you stop this moment!"

One by one, each Gryffindor stepped back, though it took Mia's help to get Remus off of Amycus. Sirius and Snape jumped away from each other, glowering, while the two Slytherin girls let go of James's hair and he pouted, rubbing his head.

"Shameful, each of you! Fighting like common thugs in the Great Hall! Mr Malfoy!"

"Professor?" Lucius Malfoy approached the scene slowly, having been sitting on the other end of the Slytherin table during the entire ordeal.

"Are you a prefect or are you not? A fight breaks out at your own table, and you sit idly by?"

"Forgive me, Professor . . ." Lucius stared at the young Slytherins, and they all averted their gaze. It was clear that the fighting was not the problem in the blond's eyes, but the outcome. "I'll be certain to be quicker on my feet next time."

"There will not be a next time. Twenty points from each of you! Mr Malfoy, I expect your first year charges to be escorted to your Head of House for proper discipline."

"Absolutely, Professor." Lucius dipped his head and walked away, the first year Slytherins following behind him and out of the Great Hall.

Professor McGonagall turned on the Gryffindors. "As for you. I expect better from my own House. Detention, all five of you, this Saturday!" she said and stormed away.

James looked around. "Five? There's six of us."

"Peter stayed back at the table," Remus said and gestured to the other side of the room where Peter swallowed as five pairs of eyes narrowed in his direction.

Sirius's mouth fell open in shock. "That little shit."

"Some Gryffindor." Mia rolled her eyes, still fuming. Realising that she was still gripping Remus's arm, she slowly released him, clearing her throat. "Sorry about that."

He grinned at her, his eyes momentarily flashing gold. "You're fun when you're all angry and riled up."

For the first time, Mia felt a strange bit of exciting adrenaline flood her chest at the sight of it. Normally, when she saw the gold in his eyes, it was in anger or stress, the wolf trying to break through Remus in a moment of emotional weakness. He looked anything but weak right now, though; he looked . . . thrilled. The grin he gave made her cheeks warm.

James laughed, breaking her from her daze. "Mia said, 'Fuck.' That was almost worth the detention."

"I did not!" The warmth fell from her cheeks as her face paled. She had rarely ever said that word, least of all in public! The occasional mild swear here and there, of course, but she had never been one to resort to crude language.

Sirius beamed at her, a look in his eye similar to the blush-inducing one in Remus's. "You absolutely did. It was fucking brilliant."

She put her hands on her cheeks, embarrassed. "I really said that?"

Remus chuckled. "You did."

"Oh Merlin . . . I blame you!" She removed her hands from her face to point at Sirius. "You're the one teaching us all foul language!"

Sirius laughed joyfully, holding his hands up in surrender. "Oi! I'm going to start blaming you every time I hit someone, then. You're violent, you are."

"Keep it up, Sirius. You got me detention. I've never been in trouble my whole life until I met you." Which was the worst lie she had ever told. She had been in detention before, but never for something like this. It was always for getting caught with Harry outside of the castle or teachers misinterpreting their efforts to save the world as causing trouble.

"You're welcome."

She huffed, folding her arms across her chest as she pinned Sirius with a stern look. "Excuse me? Welcome for what?"

His grin grew when she growled at him. "For fixing your boring life."

"Maybe let's stop talking, Sirius," Remus offered with a chuckle. "Mia can be a little scary sometimes."

March 4th, 1972

"I'm gonna hex Peter next time I see him," James said firmly as he stood in the trophy room with the other three Gryffindors, each with a worn rag in their hands, cleaning and polishing every surface, medal, cup, crown, and prize until they gleamed brightly.

They were supposed to have been separated for their detention, but Filch was not around to supervise, as he had been called away to deal with something on the third-floor corridor, mumbling ". . . bloody Prewett brats."

Frank had been excused from detention due to his cauldron melting the day before, where he ended up in the hospital wing with bandages on both hands.

"I'll do it," Mia offered. "Peter already knows I don't like him."

"Why is that?" Sirius turned around from the other side of the room to look at Mia, who was busy polishing the last Quidditch Cup to have been won by Gryffindors. "What'd Peter ever do to you?"

Mia glowered, wanting to stomp her feet in frustration. "I don't have to like everyone, you know. Besides, he didn't stand up for his friends."

"Yeah," Remus said thoughtfully, "but you've never taken a shine to Pete."

"I . . . I don't know," Mia snapped, not wanting to talk about it.

It was one thing to ignore the short, watery-eyed boy or set him up for a little jinx from time to time, but the boys were asking her to divulge the origin of her distaste for Peter Pettigrew, and she could not do it. Thinking about her hatred for the boy only brought up a sickening anger inside of her. Everything was Peter's fault. James and Lily's death, Harry becoming an orphan, Sirius getting locked up in Azkaban, and Remus being left alone for twelve years.

"Did he do something to you? Say something?" James asked, his gaze filled with sudden concern.

"No. He just . . . I don't know. I don't trust him," she said with a tone of finality, hoping none of them pushed the issue any further.

After what felt like minutes of absolute silence, Sirius walked the length of the room and rested his head on her shoulder. "I think you've only got room in your heart for the three of us, is that it?"

She laughed, hitting him in the face with the dirty rag in her hands. "You barely fit. If Remus and James get any taller, you're the first one to get the boot."

He grinned at her. "Ouch. I see how it is."

"I can only handle the three of you. Four would be a nightmare. And I can barely keep you and James in line." She pointed a scolding finger at Sirius. "Thankfully, Remus happens to be mature enough not to get caught up in your nonsense."

"You know he's right here in detention right with the three of us," James pointed out with a chuckle.

Sirius threw his dirty rag at Remus. "Hey, Lupin, want to come down off that pedestal Mia's put you up on?"

Remus's face turned red, and he smirked. "Shut up, Black."

"That's not a very mature thing to say, Remus," James teased. "Sounds to me like you're getting caught up in our nonsense."

James and Sirius broke out into laughter, and Remus narrowed his eyes at his friends. While they were distracted, he reached for his wand. "Vermillious!" Red sparks shot out, snapping against Sirius's backside like an electric shock.

Sirius gave a yelp and jumped in the air. He glared and then raised his own wand, sending the charm right back at his friend. "Vermillious!" The red sparks shot forward, hitting Remus right on the tip of the nose.

"Ow!" Remus growled in response and raised his wand again. "Vermillious!" The red sparks flew at Sirius, who tried running from them, but in the end, they snapped him on the side of the head.

"See, Mia?" James pointed out. "Remus is just as bad as the rest of us."

Mia glared at Sirius and Remus. "Stop provoking one another. We're supposed to be in detention!"

"Stop telling us what to do!" James laughed and aimed his wand at her. "Vermillious!"

She watched in shock as the red sparks shot from James's wand hit her forehead. "Jamie! I can't believe you!"

"You hexed your own sister?" Remus teasingly glared at James. "Vermillious duo!" Red sparks emitted from the end of his wand toward James, but then diverged midstream like a fork in the road, one spark hitting James in the leg, the other one hitting Sirius in the back.

"Ow! I didn't hex Mia!" Sirius shouted.

Remus laughed. "No, but you had that coming anyway."

Mia stomped her foot. "This is ridiculous! It's not even a hex, it's a charm. You three knock it off!"

"Not until you admit that Remus is just as bad as we are!" James grinned and moved around the room with the other two boys, each constantly throwing the same charm over and over, snapping the others repeatedly.

Mia folded her arms in a huff. "I will do no such thing."

"He's attacking us right in front of you!" Sirius pointed out, and Mia only smirked in reply.

"I happen to think you deserve it."

"Oh, just because you're in love with him—" Sirius began with a roll of his eyes but was unable to finish that sentence.

"Vermillious trio!" Mia said loudly, and the sparks flew out of her wand with an incredible strength, separating into three distinct paths, each headed for a boy's backside, snapping them hard and loud like a whip. They all yelped, turning wide eyes back at Mia.

"Whoa," James muttered.

Sirius gaped at her. "That was . . ."

Remus grinned. "Impressive. Vermillious!" A small spark flew at her, and Remus chuckled when she yelped as the snap hit her on the nose. He smiled at her with mischief in his eyes. "I don't know, maybe they have a point about me."

"What is going on in here?" Professor McGonagall demanded as she appeared in the doorway.

"Nothing, Professor."

They all looked down, avoiding the gaze of the intimidating witch. When she seethed and turned on her heels to leave the room, Remus, standing next to Mia, looked up. Their gazes connected, and when gold met brown, they both grinned, blushing.

Chapter Text

Got a secret
Can you keep it?
Swear this one you'll save
Better lock it, in your pocket
Taking this one to the grave
(Secret - The Pierces)

June 20th, 1972

"Please take care of yourself." Mia frowned as she stood in front of Remus, staring worriedly up into his soft green eyes. "And write to me if you need . . . anything."

The term ended with nothing more exciting than exams, Quidditch finals, and the end-of-year feast. No three-headed dog, or devil's snare, or giant chessboard, or flying keys, or dead troll, or Voldemort. Just a typical year of school. The biggest announcement by the end of the term was that the Slytherins had won the House Cup. It was not surprising, considering how many House points were taken away from Gryffindor thanks in part to the newly-minted Marauders and the Prewett twins.

"You worry too much. The past year with you . . ." Remus reached out and tucked a curl behind her ear. She beamed as she remembered that, at the beginning of the year, he had been too terrified to even shake her hand in introduction. It was amazing to see the changes that had occurred within the young werewolf. "Mia, I've honestly never felt better."

"Still," she said, fussing with the collar of his robes to keep her hands busy. "Don't think asking for help makes you weak or cowardly."


He turned at the sound of his name being called out just in time to be approached by a man and woman that Mia assumed were his parents. Suddenly, his confident disposition faltered in the face of his family, and she caught the change immediately.

"Hi, Mum," he said quietly.

The woman wore Muggle attire. A light brown, modest dress that was obviously handmade. Her sandy hair matched Remus's perfectly. While she was still in her early thirties, Mrs Lupin had clearly suffered through the years, as lines of stress encircled her beautiful eyes that were as green as Remus's.

Mrs Lupin slowly approached her son, reaching out as though she wanted to hug him, but she stopped mid-motion and patted him on the shoulder.

Mia watched the interaction carefully, sad to see the distance at which Remus was kept by his own mother.

A nervous-looking man stood an extra foot behind Mrs Lupin, bags under his eyes and his hands in his pockets. A good ten years older than his wife, Mr Lupin looked like a man who could have once smiled as brightly as Mia knew Remus was able to, but she doubted that Mr Lupin still had the ability or the will to even try.

Though Remus took after his mother in appearance, Mia could see the shabby, lonely disposition of an older Professor Lupin in the visage of his father standing before her.

It was painful to witness.

Remus's parents stood nervously, both obvious in their need to get out of King's Cross as quickly as possible.

Mia could not stand the tension, so she smiled up at Remus's mother. "Hello."

Remus flushed, embarrassed. "Oh, sorry. Umm, this is my friend Mia Potter. Mia, these are my parents." He gestured to them both, looking like he wanted to take someone's hand. Instead, he ran a nervous hand through his hair.

"It's such a pleasure to meet you, Mr and Mrs Lupin." Mia extended her hand which was taken immediately. The fact made her want to narrow her eyes at the couple. They had so easily offered their hands in introduction to a strange girl, but neither had properly hugged their son after not seeing him since Christmas. No wonder Remus was so terrified when she first met him on the train.

Mrs Lupin smiled kindly to her. "My boy wrote home telling me about his wonderful new friends."

The words were tense and matched the look on Mr Lupin's face perfectly. It was clear by their posture that both of his parents wanted to leave, but the fact that Remus was not moving apparently forced them to make awkward conversation.

Mrs Lupin's voice lowered to a whisper as she said, "I . . . I can't tell you how much I appreciate you keeping his . . . illness . . . Your discretion is—"

"It's nothing, Mrs Lupin. Remus is my friend," Mia said brightly, reaching out and curling her arm around Remus. "I would do anything for him."

Both Mr and Mrs Lupin gaped at the sight. Mr Lupin looked like he was on the verge of a panic attack, while Mrs Lupin looked as though she would burst into tears at any moment.

Remus winced, clearly noticing the shift in his parents. "Mum . . . Please . . . please don't cry." He sighed and attempted to offer a comforting hand to his mother as he often did with Mia when she cried. He stopped, looking as though he thought better of it, especially when Mr Lupin gave him a pinched look from behind his wife's shoulder.

"Honestly," Mia assured Mrs Lupin with a smile, "Remus has probably done more for me this year than I've done for him. Can't tell you how many times he's saved me." She chuckled softly and reached up to brush Remus's hair from his face, purposely touching him as much as possible; she felt the need to prove to the Lupins that it was safe—that he was safe.

Mia could not understand any of it. From what Future Remus—as she had named him in order to separate them in her mind—had told her, his father once worked for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. She knew the circumstances surrounding Remus's initial infection had been due to his father's stance on werewolves, but she had assumed, after his son being one for eight years, he would have seen for himself that Remus was not dangerous outside of the full moon.

Mr Lupin remained distant, staring at her as she continued to lavish friendly affection on his son.

Mrs Lupin, on the other hand, appeared to break through the wall that separated her from her child, and she smiled, approaching Remus and pulling him into her arms for what was clearly the first time in many years.

Remus's eyes widened, but he refused to hug the woman back, especially with Mr Lupin staring at them from behind, shocked at the display. Eventually, it was too much to bear, and Remus conceded, hugging his mother back tightly.

Mia smiled sweetly, trying to keep herself from crying at the sight of Mrs Lupin joyfully weeping on Remus's shoulder while he patted her on the back.

Mr Lupin cleared his throat. "Love. We, umm . . . We should go."

Remus broke away from the hug first, looking at his mother with a sad smile before she turned to Mia. "Please know you are welcome to our home anytime, you sweet girl!"

"Maybe not anytime, Mum," Remus said, looking exceedingly uncomfortable.

"Well, no, obviously, but she understands."

Mia smiled at Remus's mother. "I understand."

Mrs Lupin stared at her like she'd just seen magic for the first time in her life. "You truly do, don't you? Where on earth did such a kind girl come from?"

"Mum!" Remus looked down, embarrassed.


Mia turned and spotted her parents waiting down at the end of the platform—James and Sirius standing next to them. She waved and then turned to say goodbye to the Lupins. "It really was lovely to meet you both."

Mia reached up to hug Remus tightly, glad that he did not hesitate to hold her close to him with a level of comfort that was noticeably absent when he had hugged his own mother. He buried his nose in her curls, and she could hear him breathing in her scent. Mia hoped that it would help get him and his wolf through the long summer his parents had planned.

He had told her recently that the small village that they lived in the past few years had been compromised. Rumours of a werewolf roaming the village had reached the ears of the Lupins, and before anyone could become suspicious of Remus, they planned on relocating.

Mia would not see Remus again until the first of September. Thinking of that caused her to frown as she pulled away from him. "Have a good summer, Remus. I'll miss you."

"Have a good summer, Mia." Remus kissed her cheek before turning and walking away with his parents.

September 22nd, 1972

"Remus." Mia frowned down at her friend. "The full moon is tomorrow; you really should be back in bed resting."

"Can't rest. Quidditch," Remus said half-heartedly, vaguely motioning his hand in the direction of the Quidditch pitch.

Although they had been back in school for a few weeks, the summer had done a number on Remus. Somehow, being separated from Mia and the rest of his friends, coupled with needing to move and be around his nervous parents—mostly his father—Remus had reverted a bit back to the nervous and stressed out boy that Mia had met the year before. His face was once again pale, and he had lost the weight that Mia had taken such effort the prior year to put on his skinny frame. The only difference was that he now stood a good two inches taller than her.

"James and Sirius will understand," Mia argued.

Remus rolled his eyes as he rested his head against the cold bench in the Gryffindor stands, letting the frosty metal cool the skin of his face. He said that the approaching moon sometimes made his skin feel like it had the worst sunburn—hot and itchy.

"No, they won't. They'll say I'm a bad friend for not watching them try out. They've already taken the mickey out of me for not trying out myself."

Mia felt a breath of protective anger fill her lungs. "They're being mean to you?"

She had spent the summer worried for all the boys. Remus was practically missing, considering that he and his family were always on the move. He answered her letters when he could, but between relocating and dealing with the summer moons, he was ill more often than not.

James had crashed his broom during a particularly bad windstorm at the beginning of summer, breaking his left leg and hitting his head. Unable to heal it at home due to the specific way the bone broke, the Potters had to go to St Mungo's where James spent the night, prematurely ageing his worried sister.

Sirius had been another issue. Though he spent the first two weeks with the Potters, he had returned to Grimmauld Place and then remained there without a single owl sent to his friends the rest of the summer. When Mia and James finally reconnected with him on platform nine and three-quarters, the only thing Sirius would say was, "I don't want to talk about it."

Her boys were making it increasingly difficult for her to take care of them.

"I don't need you to protect me, Mia," Remus said irritably.

She glared at him, shocked by his tone. "Don't get snappy with me, Remus Lupin. I know that's the wolf coming out."

Sighing in frustration, Remus threw an arm over his face. "I'm sorry. I just . . . I miss enough of my life one day out of the month, never mind the lead-up to the moon and then recovering. I don't want to have to constantly hide away in my room."

"You shouldn't have to." Mia brushed her fingers through his hair, and he opened his eyes, squinting against the sunlight as he looked up at her. "I just don't like seeing you in pain."

"Worry more about your brother being in pain." Remus sat up, gesturing to James doing loops on his broom in the centre of the field. "Four Galleons says he loses his glasses and crashes into something."

Mia smiled, allowing Remus to divert their conversation. She looked to where Sirius sat on his broom near the end of the field, vertically balancing the Beater's bat on his head—just as James had done with his wand. "Another four says Sirius hits himself with that Beater's bat."

"Two Galleons says Peter falls off his broom."

"Only two?" Mia scoffed as she looked at the short boy, struggling on his broom that barely hovered more than ten feet from the ground. "That's easy money for you, Mr Lupin. You should have bet me twenty."

Remus laughed and then a cold breeze passed through the stands, causing his body to shiver and tense in obvious pain.

"That's it. Lie down," Mia ordered, patting her lap.

"Lie down?" He eyed her beneath furrowed brows. "I'm not Sirius. I don't need you to pet me."

She ignored him, his brusque tone, and his attitude. "If you refuse to go inside, then I insist you lie down out here. There's plenty of room on the bench. I'll rub your shoulders, too, if you like."

Remus raised a brow, contemplating her ultimatum for a moment before he sighed and leant backward, dropping his head onto her lap as though it were a pillow. Placing his arms on his chest, he laced his fingers together. "I'm not doing this because you're right."

"Of course not, love." Mia smiled and dug her fingers gently into Remus's shoulders.

"You didn't win this argument," he insisted.

"Wouldn't think of it."

"I'm doing this because no bloke in his right mind would ever turn down a shoulder rub from a pretty girl."

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, please."

"Please, what?" he asked, cracking open one eye and looking up at her.

"I'm already going to rub your shoulders, you don't have to . . . to . . ."

"To what?"

"I don't know. Act like Sirius?" She shrugged, frowning.

By the time the war ended, she had been more concerned with other things than how she looked, but being back in her awkward, younger body—even with her teeth prematurely fixed—brought up old self-esteem issues that she was forced to relive. She was well aware that her hair had always been a bit out of control, though Tilly had helped teach her spells to calm it into soft curls versus the bushy mess it often resembled. She had never developed the same curves that Lavender had, and her eyes were not as mesmerising as Lily's were.

"You don't have to lie to me," she said quietly.

"What did I lie about?" he asked, offended.

"For one, calling me pretty."


"Don't, Remus," she cut him off quickly. "Please. Just . . . lie down and let me help you."

"But I—"

Her eyes pleaded with him. "Remus . . ."

"Well, look at this sight," James said as he, Sirius, and Peter walked into the stands, their clothes covered in sweat and dirt, brooms slung over their shoulders. "Remus doesn't do a thing, and he gets special treatment."

"Yeah, I took a Bludger to the back. Where's my massage?" Sirius asked, grinning when Remus growled in response.

"You two go rub each other," Mia suggested to James and Sirius with a laugh.

James chuckled. "Sirius isn't really my type."

"James wishes he was my type," Sirius said.

"So?" Mia looked up at the boys. "Did you make the team or what?"

"Sirius and I made the reserve player list." James seemed to be happier about being allowed to have his broom at school than to actually have an official position on the team. No longer in the running to be the youngest Chaser in centuries, he had calmed down in reference to his future Quidditch career.

"Better than nothing." Sirius smirked and then looked behind him. "Right, Petey?"

Peter pouted, struggling to hold onto his gear. "It's not my fault I fell off my broom," he said, rubbing his backside.

James and Sirius shared another laugh while Mia grinned, passing two Galleons into Remus's open hand.

September 23rd, 1972

"Hey, where's Remus?" James asked as he entered the common room, catching Sirius and Peter in a game of Exploding Snap. Sirius laughed as a card blew up in Peter's face.

"Hospital wing," Sirius answered without looking up from the game. "Headache again."

"Again? He's always either going home to visit his sick aunt or in the infirmary." James frowned. "You'd think Madam Pomfrey would give him something better than a simple Pain Potion."

Sirius shrugged, more concerned with beating Peter for the tenth time in a row than whatever was happening with Remus. Sirius had his own secrets about his family and did not care to readily share them with his friends; he gave Remus the same respect.

"My point," Peter said with a grin as he tapped one of the cards that Sirius put down.

Sirius huffed and threw James a dirty look for distracting him from the game. Irritable over the loss of one point, he purposely threw down a manticore card, knowing it was already set to go explode.

"My poi—ouch!"

Snickering, Sirius shuffled the cards left in his hand. "My point."

"Mia said it's something called chronic migraines," James went on, gesturing to Peter's hand and silently giving him tips on the game. "Says Muggles get them a lot. Makes them sensitive to light or something. Probably why he stays in the infirmary when he gets them."

"We can get Muggle diseases?!" Peter exclaimed loudly and dropped all of his cards, a look of horror and disgust on his face. Two of the cards exploded in a puff.

"Of course we can, Pete." James rolled his eyes, waving away the smoke. "You've had the flu before, yeah?"

"Yeah. That's a Muggle illness?"

"Some of theirs we can't catch, and some of ours they can't get. Muggles can't catch dragon pox," Sirius explained as he gathered up what cards were unsinged, a bit put off by the tone in Peter's voice.

"Lucky them."

Sirius laughed at his friend. "Yeah, their pox is called chicken."

"What do they do with chickens to get sick from them?" Peter asked, looking disgusted.

"What do we do with dragons?" Sirius countered with a wry grin.

"Can you two shut up for a second?" James groaned, looking stressed out. "What's our Potion lesson this week?"

"Sleeping Draught," Peter said. "Remember? Frank messed his up the first time and had to be sent to the hospital wing for a Wide-Eye Potion."

"Does the Sleeping Draught contain aconite?" James asked quickly.

"Aconite? You mean monkshood?" Sirius looked up at his best friend with raised brows.

He knew James was not the best at Potions, but he was no Frank. Poor bloke had to sleep in the common room for a week because his roommates said that whatever potion he had spilt on himself clung to his skin and made their whole room stink. James had offered to let Frank sleep on the floor in their room, but he said the sofa in the common room was fine.

"No way, mate." Sirius shook his head, worried that James would accidentally poison himself. "That stuff's toxic. We're not allowed to use it yet. Why do you ask?"

"Because I found Mia making a list in the library," James whispered, taking a seat beside him. "I was under the cloak and meant to play a prank and move her things anytime she looked away. But then I saw a list she was writing. Had aconite on it."

"You think she's making a poison?" Peter asked, intrigued.

"Of course not!" James snapped.

"Maybe she's just skipping ahead, you know she likes to read," Sirius suggested, patting Peter on the shoulder to calm his nerves. They weren't exactly friends, but he did not think that Mia would poison Peter just because she didn't like him much.

"I don't know, some of the books she was reading. They, erm, looked like they were from the Restricted Section. Big potion books," James said and gestured their size with his hands.

"So ask her."

James frowned at Sirius. "I can't get up the girls' dormitory stairs."

"And why would you want to, Potter?"

They all looked up to see Lily Evans descending the stairs; her usual expression of contempt reserved only for James turned momentarily to indifference.

James predictably blushed. "Evans, I . . . I . . . "

"Evans, is Mia up there?" Sirius asked, patting James on the back. "We need to talk to her."

"No." Lily shook her head. "She went down to see Madam Pomfrey a few hours ago."

"A few hours ago?" James snapped back to reality. "What was wrong with her?"

"Same as usual I, suppose. She gets really bad headaches during, well, girl stuff."

"What girl stuff?" Peter asked, confused.

Sirius sighed, embarrassed for his friend. "Shut up, Pete, you wouldn't understand. She do that often, Evans?"

Lily narrowed her eyes at him. "About once a month like the rest of us."

"Not that. Honestly, how am I the most mature person in the room right now?" he asked, genuinely confused. James and Peter both shared a look of bewilderment, clearly trying to figure out what Lily had meant in the first place. "I mean how often does she go to the hospital wing?"

"Oh." Lily looked suddenly guilty. "About every time. She's been going there since last year. Said she gets really bad headaches when it happens."

James frowned. "How bad?"

"She usually spends the night there. Why? You didn't know she had migraines?"

"Migraines?" Sirius asked. "The Muggle headache?"

"Yeah," Lily confirmed. "She has to take a Sleeping Draught and a Pain Potion to get through the night when it happens."

"Thanks, Evans." James dipped his head to her, giving a knowing look to Sirius while Peter sat there restacking his set of cards, already done with the conversation. "I think I'll go check on her later. See if she's okay."

Lily frowned as she made her way to the portrait door. "You're welcome. Tell her I hope she feels better."

September 24th, 1972

"Sirius! Sirius, wake up, you prat!"

"What. The. Fuck. Potter?" Sirius groaned into his pillow, his long black hair tangled around his head the same way his bedsheet was tangled around his leg. He kicked that leg out, hoping to connect with James in retaliation for sticking his bony finger in Sirius's ribs. "Go back to sleep."

"Wake up, arsehole!" James smacked him on the back of the head. "Where's my cloak? You had it last when you sneaked into the kitchens two days ago!"

"It's in Pete's trunk, mine's full. Where're you going with the cloak anyway? What time is it?" He blinked away his sleep and looked at the window. "Shit, is it even dawn yet?"

"I'm going to the hospital wing," James said. There was a loud creak that Sirius knew was the sound of Peter's hand-me-down trunk opening. Peter gasped awake at the noise.

"You think something's up?" Sirius asked, sitting up.

"My sister's reading restricted potion books, making lists with poisonous ingredients, and she and Remus just happen to both get sick every month with the same Muggle illness?" James scoffed. "You don't find that at all suspicious?"

"Maybe they're off snogging," Sirius suggested, equal parts amused and annoyed at his own suggestion as it put an odd image in his head that he was not sure he liked very much.

"What the hell!?" James snapped, his eyes wide.

"What? It makes sense. They're always together."

"You need to stop talking. It's bad enough that you both are constantly snuggling up with her. Are you two coming or not?" James asked with a shout, kicking Peter's bed.

"It's not even six in the morning!" Peter whinged.

"Exactly," James pointed out. "I want to catch them doing . . . whatever they're doing before they have a chance to come back to the tower. If they're really sick in the infirmary, then they'll both just be asleep."

"Fine, but if I'm waking up this early, you owe me breakfast. And I don't mean wait until the table is full, I mean, you go down to the bloody kitchens and then bring it to me. In bed. On a silver tray." Sirius continued to grumble out requests—and addendums to said requests—as they slipped the cloak over themselves and left Gryffindor Tower.

"What happened?" Mia gasped as Madam Pomfrey set a bloodied Remus down on the bed. He had never looked this bad before, not even after the first moon she had seen him through in this time. He was pale and sallow, looking worse than usual. In addition to the long wound that opened across his back, he had four long deep slashes that covered his chest.

"It looks like he clawed himself up pretty badly this time." Madam Pomfrey sighed as she helped Mia close the wounds quickly.

"Oh, Remus." Mia frowned, blinking away tears. "Where's the Calming Draught?"

"Right here, dear." Madam Pomfrey placed the phial in her hands. "And the Pain Potions are in the drawer as usual; he'll need a Blood-Replenishing one as well when he wakes," she insisted before stepping out of the room.

"Come on, love," Mia whispered to Remus as his eyes began to open. "Drink this for me." She held the phial to his lips and let the liquid slip down his throat.

He coughed and reached out, gripping her arm to steady himself. "Mia . . ."

"I'm here," she promised him, kissing his forehead. "I'm going to fix you all up."

Remus turned his head away, but she still saw his eyes were wet as he tried to hide his face from her. "It's getting worse."

"It's because you're growing up. Hitting a growth spurt. You're a good two or three inches taller this year than last." She reached for the Pain Potion. "Not to mention . . . other changes, I assume."

Remus closed his eyes and clenched his fists. "I hate my life."

"Don't say that." Mia frowned, handing him the Pain Potion and letting him drink it on his own, which he did begrudgingly. She cupped his jaw. "Here, let me look at your face. These don't look too bad. I can use Dittany and they won't even scar."

"I'm so tired, Mia. I don't want it to hurt anymore. My skin breaks open, my bones shatter, and I lose my . . . myself." He refused to make eye contact with her, turning his head away from her gaze once again.

It had only been a year ago that he had opened up and let her see the vulnerable parts of him, but things were different now. As uncomfortable as the words were, she knew was right, they were growing up, and she did not just see Remus as her best friend anymore. There was something . . . something else lingering just beneath the surface. Something that she could not quite place. Remus must have sensed it too because he was pulling away from her and had been for some time. She wondered if it was just a boy thing—as she recalled Harry and Ron behaving differently at this age as well—or if Remus's wolf had something to do with it.

"You're in there still. I promise you," Mia whispered. "You're not alone in this."

"I am alone! I'm always alone!" Remus shouted and threw the empty phial across the room. "I go out to the shack alone, I transform alone, and I tear myself apart because of it! I wake up alone in the shack and start the long walk back to school alone before I usually collapse outside of the Whomping Willow. Alone."

"I wish I could be there with you," Mia admitted, trying not to take his anger personally.

Remus growled. "Don't be stupid, Mia. I'd kill you."

"I'll figure something out. I promise. I'll make this better for you, love. I'm . . . I'm going to try and find a potion to help. I don't know how to make it yet, it'll take some research, but I will."

"Nothing's ever going to get better, Mia." Remus sighed. "Just let me sleep. Leave me alone. Please." He closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands.

Mia took a moment to wipe at her eyes before asking, "Do you want the Sleeping Draught?"

"Yeah. Thanks." Remus reached out as she put the phial into his hands, but he refused to meet her gaze before tipping the draught down his throat and letting sleep take him quickly.

Madam Pomfrey approached with a frown a few minutes later. "He's out?"


"Poor thing. Breaks my heart every month. To think a sweet boy like that has to endure so much pain all because some sadistic creature decided to turn a four-year-old boy into a werewolf."

"He's never known anything but pain."

"I don't think so. You and those boys of yours show him love and friendship." Madam Pomfrey smiled. "And, as much as it pains me to say, even a bit of fun and mischief."

"He deserves better than this."

"On that, Miss Potter, I will agree with you. Are you staying longer?"

Mia looked up pleadingly. "If that's all right?"

"Of course, dear. I have to run some errands. If he wakes, you know where the extra potions are," she said, gesturing to the cupboard in the corner before walking out the door of the infirmary.

Just as the doors closed, there was the sound of scuffling in the corner of the room.

Mia jumped from her chair, wand aimed forward. "Who's there?" She narrowed her eyes but saw nothing. When no one responded, Mia took a deep breath and whispered. "Expelliarmus!"

Suddenly, there was a shimmer of silver as three wands shot toward her, pulling the Invisibility Cloak with them. The wands filled her hand, the cloak falling to the floor at her feet, and she looked up to see a hunched over James, clumped together with Sirius and Peter, all looking shocked and terrified.

"Jamie! How long have you all been there?"

James ignored her as he stepped forward, snatching up his cloak from the floor before moving to the bedside and staring down at his sleeping friend. "Is Remus all right?"

"Bloody hell . . . Look at him." Sirius's wide eyes moved over Remus's body.

Mia cursed under her breath for not changing the blood-stained sheets that clung around Remus's waist, revealing his bare chest that was covered with the fresh wounds from the night before.

Peter gaped at the sight. "Looks like he got chewed up by something."

"Jamie." Mia turned on her brother, panic in her voice. "How long have you been there?"

"I don't know." James shook his head and then glared up at her. "How long has my best friend been a werewolf?"

"Mia, is he okay?" Sirius inquired, still staring down at his friend, looking sick at the sight.

"He's fine right now," Mia whispered, ignoring James's outburst and favouring Sirius's concern. "He needs rest."

"Is he . . . Merlin, they let him into Hogwarts." Peter grimaced, and before he had a chance to blink away the look of disgust on his face, Mia had him at wand point, a look of absolute loathing in her eyes.

"Mia!" James shouted.

"Why shouldn't they let him into Hogwarts, Peter? Should they have cast him out? Maybe even locked him up? Like an animal?!" She growled, standing at the foot of Remus's bed, effectively separating Peter from the rest of them. "Who would be next, Peter? Round up all the Muggle-borns?"

"Whoa!" Sirius stepped forward defensively in front of Peter, something that made her blood run cold. "Mia, Pete didn't mean anything by it. Right?"

"R-Right," Peter mumbled nervously.

"See?" Sirius slowly approached her with calm grey eyes, reaching up and helping her lower her wand. "It's all right, love. We're just shocked. Remus is our friend, too. How long have you known about him?"

Mia frowned, letting her anger dissipate and be lulled away by Sirius's gaze. "Since first year. I read about it, saw the signs, went to Dumbledore and asked permission to help him recover each month. He can't be around humans when he changes because the wolf takes over, but I'm there before and after, to help with the pain and to heal his wounds."

"What happened to him?" James asked, concerned.

"He's basically locked up when he transforms," she explained as she moved, walking over and pulling out clean sheets from the cupboard by the bed. She pulled the top sheet off of Remus, keeping the one below to preserve his dignity. After tossing aside the blood-stained sheet, she draped a soft clean one over his sleeping frame. "Since he's alone, he lashes out and attacks himself in frustration."

"He told me he got those scars from camping trips with his dad," Sirius remarked. "Said he fell off a mountain last summer."

She turned and eyed the boys. "You can't tell anyone."

"Of course not," James agreed.

"No, I mean it." Mia grew serious. She trusted James and Sirius, of course, but Peter was still there, and it was taking every last inch of humanity inside of her not to curse him. "I want . . . I need you all to take a Wizard's Oath."

"Whoa." Sirius's eyes went wide. "Mia, you can't just take our words for this?"

"No. I'm sorry, not with his reaction." Mia's eyes turned to Peter, and she narrowed them into slits. "Remus trusts me to take care of him and to keep his secret. I know you all love Remus, but I can't risk anything happening to him. If people found out that he was here, they'd take him away."

"Done." Without needing her to say another word, James held up his wand. "I, James Charlus Potter, swear upon my wand and magic as a wizard never to reveal to anyone that Remus Lupin is a werewolf without his permission."

The wand glowed red for a moment before returning to normal, sealing the oath.

Sirius stepped forward without hesitation. "I, Sirius Orion Black, swear upon my wand and magic as a wizard never to reveal to anyone that Remus Lupin is a werewolf without his permission."

"Peter?" Mia eyed him carefully as his gaze turned to the floor, hesitating.

"What the hell, Pete?" James snapped. "Do it!"

"I-I . . ." Peter stammered nervously.

Mia stepped forward in a predatory manner that Remus and his wolf might have appreciated. "Make the oath. Or I'll figure out a way to Obliviate you." She could see James and Sirius stare at her from the side. "We're only second years; I wouldn't trust me to remove just this one memory."

"I love it when she's scary." Sirius exhaled with a grin, and James made a face.

"I, Peter Evan Pettigrew," Peter said quietly, gripping his wand with white knuckles, "swear upon my wand and magic as a wizard never to reveal to anyone that Remus Lupin is a werewolf without his permission."

Once the oaths were complete, the room fell silent, and Mia closed her eyes, listening closely to Remus softly snoring behind the four of them.

James nervously adjusted his glasses and finally broke through the quiet. "What do you need aconite for?"

Mia slowly tilted her head toward her brother, scowling. "You snooped through my things?"

James looked down guiltily. "Accidentally."

"Aconite is also called wolfsbane. I can't cure him, but I think if I try hard enough, I can come up with something to help him."

"What can we do?" Sirius demanded.

Mia shook her head. "Nothing. Just keep the secret." She glared at Peter and repeated, "Keep the secret. Educate yourselves about his condition. Be his friends, and don't treat him any different. He hates pity."

James frowned. "That's it? He's been alone through this since he was four?"

"A werewolf named Fenrir Greyback attacked him. Remus's dad was working at the Ministry, and Greyback had been arrested on suspicions of killing Muggle children. Remus's dad knew that Greyback was a werewolf, but because the Ministry doesn't know how to properly keep a registry, his name wasn't on it, and he was set free. Mr Lupin said . . . some awful things about werewolves in general; Greyback infected Remus in revenge."

Sirius shook his head. "And I thought I had a fucked up childhood."

"His parents did the best they could after." She was still a bit uneasy with Mr Lupin's continual prejudice against werewolves and fear of his own son. "They didn't think he'd be able to come to Hogwarts, so they taught him as much as they could at home."

"Always knew he was ridiculously smart for a reason," James said.

Sirius asked, "So how did he get in?"


"Hagrid's right." James grinned. "Great man, that Dumbledore."

Mia smiled at her brother. "We should leave. Let him get some rest."

The four made their way to the door of the infirmary, but not before Mia readjusted Remus's sheets and blankets, setting another Pain Potion on his side table in case he woke up. She smiled down at him, sad that she had somehow failed to keep the other boys from knowing his secret, but resigning herself to the fact that she knew from her original timeline that they had eventually discovered it.

"Hey, Mia?" Sirius asked as they left the hospital wing. "You say he can't be around humans, right?"


There was a long pause while Sirius contemplated something. Then, he visibly brightened. "What about other animals?"

Mia grinned.

Chapter Text

I'm so sick,
Infected with where I live
Let me live without this
Empty bliss,
I'm so sick
(I'm So Sick - Flyleaf)

April 25th, 1973

It only took five days for Sirius's world to go to shit.

He had not been eager to return to Grimmauld Place for the holidays but, for the first time since he had been shipped off to Hogwarts, his parents were abnormally insistent that he come home.

His father had suggested that he come back the summer before, and he had, only to have Walburga lock up their Floo Network and restrict all use of the owls, thus cutting him off from his friends in the hopes that he would figure out his priorities in regards to his family. That, of course, had not worked in the slightest. So when Sirius and Regulus arrived home in late April, he was prepared for a battle against his mother.

A battle that had not come right away.

While his parents prepared him and Regulus for the upcoming engagement party for Narcissa and her fiancé, Lucius Malfoy—the actual reason that he had been brought home for holidays—Sirius thought of new ways to remind his family that he was nothing like them.

His first night home, he charmed his standard green and silver bedspread and matching curtains to reflect his Gryffindor pride, changing them into deep crimson and a brilliant gold. He had also taken the few photos he had of himself, James, Remus, and Peter—courtesy of Mia—along with some Muggle posters he managed to procure, and placed them on his wall with a modified Permanent Sticking Charm.

The photos had not triggered a reaction in his parents.

The posters on the other hand . . .

"What have you done?!" Walburga screamed when she burst into his room to witness him on the bed, lazily flipping through a magazine as if he had not a care in the world.

Sirius offered her an innocent look. "What's that, Mother? I haven't done anything. I'm just sitting here, enjoying my lovely holiday with my delightful family. Relaxing for a bit and reading. Do you know what a motorcycle is?" he mused aloud as he returned his attention to the magazine.

"You ignorant and ungrateful child, what are those?" She pointed to the canopy of Sirius's bed.

He turned his attention toward the ceiling, following her shaking index finger, as though he were unaware anything was, in fact, on the canopy of his bed.

Sirius smiled and turned slowly back to her. "Why, dear Mother, they appear to be large photographs of women in various degrees of dress, or undress, depending on how you want to see it. Bikinis." He grinned as he relaxed back on his pillows to stare up, letting out a happy sigh. "Muggles come up with the best things ever."

She tried to remove the offending material, but Sirius was well-versed in Sticking Charms. He had been enjoying himself far too much to admit that he did not know the counter-spell to remove them even if she threatened to Avada him.

She swore he would be punished for it, but Sirius was no longer afraid of the back of her hand. She could try to hit him all she liked, but he would never again back down.

It was with this same cocky ego that Sirius entered Malfoy Manor, five feet behind his properly dressed family. Walburga was in a finely made purple gown on the arm of his father in traditional—yet stylish—black dress robes with his long ebony hair tied back with a leather thong. Regulus—ever the doting son—held Walburga's other hand, dressed to match Orion perfectly.

Sirius, however, strolled into the manor wearing black jeans, dragonskin boots, and his hands in the pockets of his long, open robes. His hair was left messy and down, hanging nearly to his shoulders.

"Cygnus." Walburga smiled as they approached her youngest brother, who stood proudly beside Abraxas Malfoy.

A cookie-cutter version of Sirius's mother in appearance, his uncle, unsurprisingly, barely smiled at her presence. His scowling attention was all for Sirius. "I see you're allowing the boy to dress himself these days. Are you suddenly destitute, sister? Have all your house-elves died, leaving him to his own devices?"

"The boy has a name," Sirius muttered under his breath.

Walburga ignored Sirius entirely, as well as any conversation pertaining to him. "Narcissa is as lovely as ever. She'll make a fine wife for your boy, Abraxas." She turned her attention back to Cygnus and sighed dramatically. "Shame, of course, that you were forced to break tradition and marry your daughters off out of order. Any word yet on dear Andromeda?"

Cygnus's jaw tightened, and his nostrils flared. "Still missing."

"Not that this isn't all fascinating," Sirius interrupted loudly, and all of the adults turned and gaped at him for speaking out of turn, "but can a bloke get a drink?"

"You ungrateful little—" Cygnus began, but suddenly a hand fell on his shoulder, silencing him.

"Let the boy be. How many of us were perfect little noblemen at thirteen? I'll get the little whelp out of your hair."

Sirius grinned up at his uncle Alphard, who moved past both Cygnus and Walburga to put an arm around him.

"You dote on him too much, Alphard." Walburga scowled but said nothing more.

Alphard chuckled deeply as he walked Sirius over to the bar, silently motioning to the house-elf behind it with two fingers. Sirius memorised the movement when the house-elf reappeared with two glasses of firewhisky. He made eye contact with the creature, gestured with two fingers the same way his uncle did, and the elf sneered at him before walking to the other end of the bar.

"You're going to give them heart attacks, you know."

Sirius snorted. "The elves?"

Alphard gave him a look. "Your parents."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Well, that's the plan. I figure if I time it right, they'll all drop dead at once, and you and I can take over the family. We could flip a Galleon for all the vaults and properties, Uncle. Or duel to the death, leaving one victor standing. Do you think you could take me?"

Alphard genuinely laughed and slid one of the small glasses toward him. "Here, boy. Drink up."

Grinning, Sirius looked down at the glass. "Firewhisky?"

"Your first?" Alphard asked, and Sirius nodded. "A momentous occasion, then. What should we drink to?"

"This sham of a marriage?" Sirius suggested.

"Be careful, Sirius," Alphard quietly advised. "Do not think yourself to be untouchable."

"You know this is wrong," Sirius ground out, taking his first sip of firewhisky, which burned going down. He coughed loudly, and Alphard patted him hard on the back. Sirius cleared his throat and let the warmth from the drink settle over him before he took a second hesitant sip that didn't burn as much. "Cissa's going to be miserable."

"Matches made this way are traditional. You'd do well to keep your opinions quiet on the matter. Your cousin will do what she's been raised to do. It's not in her nature to stir things up. Unlike yourself. I hear you're making a name for yourself at Hogwarts. You and that Potter boy."

"James." Sirius nodded. "He's my best mate."

"Be careful," Alphard warned. "Your parents have eyes everywhere. You won't be a boy much longer. That drink in your hand is the first of many, and once they realise you're approaching manhood, they'll be making more detailed plans for your future."

"What do you suggest?" Sirius asked, feeling his stomach churn at the thought of letting his parents sell him off the way Cygnus was doing with Narcissa. Then again, it might have just been the firewhisky. "Go along with them? Let them force me into a sham of a marriage like Cissa? Shit, I'm shocked they didn't have us marry each other."

"No, we live in a time now where the pureblood families are trying to unite together. Our world is changing, Sirius, and we all need to make decisions on how we're going to adapt to it." Alphard tilted his drink back, finishing it off. "If I go and make pleasantries with people I dislike for the sake of family, will you promise to stay out of trouble?"

"You want me to take an Unbreakable Vow?" Sirius suggested with a smirk, and Alphard laughed.

"No, I think not. I rather enjoy having you around for situations like these, and something tells me you'd end up breaking that vow all too quickly. And then who would keep me company?" He ruffled Sirius's hair before stepping away from the bar and making his rounds.

Sirius would have been perfectly content to remain by the bar for the rest of the night, but his focus fell across a blur of blond hair as Narcissa was pulled quickly from the large ballroom.

Curious and concerned for the one cousin he had left that was not a complete disaster, Sirius slipped into the shadows of the hallways and followed after, eagerly listening for voices.

When he came upon a door that had been slightly cracked open, he pressed his forehead against the frame and slowly opened the door just a bit to peer inside, only to find Narcissa and her intended husband face-to-face.

"All I said was that I thought it was an extreme reaction. Muggles have their own world that's separate from ours already; why even bother to have thoughts of them?" Narcissa asked coldly.

Lucius turned on her, positively livid. "You were not given to me to have opinions."

"I have not been given to you yet, Lucius!"

"Do you think you can get out of this marriage? I would very much like to see you try. Our arrangement was sealed with blood." He closed himself in on her, their noses nearly touching. "Only death will separate us now. So straighten your priorities on your own, or I will do it for you," he growled and stormed toward the door.

Sirius's eyes went wide, and he ducked away into the nearby alcove just as Lucius burst through the door, moving quickly back toward the ballroom. Inside, Sirius could hear Narcissa's sniffles.

He opened the door slowly and took a deep breath before speaking. "Cissa?"

She turned on him, quickly wiping the tears from her face. "Sirius! What are you doing back here? Get out!"

"You're not really going to marry that fucking creep, are you?" he asked incredulously.

"You're too young to understand." She scowled and made her way through the door, shoving past him. "If you were smart, you'd know better than to question my marriage when I overheard your mother in the early stages of planning yours."

"Oh, fuck that," Sirius snarled. He would make sure no other nasty pureblood family would even consider him marrying any of their girls. Trailing after his cousin, he reached out and gently took her hand to stop her from running away from him. At her cold expression, his own softened. "Cissa, do you need help?"

"I said, leave it!" She yanked her hand away from him and rushed back into the ballroom where the entire crowd had fallen into complete silence.

All eyes stared at the fireplace where a dark-haired witch had recently stepped through; the green flames behind her had not yet died.

"Dromeda?" Sirius gasped, eyes wide.

"You didn't think I'd miss my baby sister's engagement party, did you?" Andromeda smirked at Narcissa and moved to embrace her, but swiftly, the rest of the Black family—save for Alphard, Sirius, and Regulus—stepped in between the sisters. "I see. I figured this might happen." She shrugged and flashed a small diamond ring at the crowd. "I got married. Don't worry. I didn't expect any of you in attendance."

"You did not," Cygnus growled at his daughter. "Tell me you didn't run off with that filthy—"

"Muggle-born?" Andromeda smiled almost sweetly as she cut him off. "Why, yes, I did. He's a lovely man. And to think, I'd almost lost my chance to find real love and happiness."

"Get out, you nasty blood-traitor! You have brought shame, shame upon the House of Black!" Walburga shrieked.

"Wait!" Cygnus seethed, glaring at his daughter. "Andromeda, I will give you one chance to fix this. Put an end to that marriage," he spat the word. "And you can redeem yourself and your honour by letting me arrange a proper one for you."

"What pureblood man would take a girl who's been sullied by a Mudblood?!" Walburga screeched.

"I'll take her."

Everyone turned to see Abraxas Malfoy staring ahead at Andromeda, who instantly looked nauseated.

"My own wife died some years ago, and I've been looking for a replacement. I have my heir in Lucius, but . . ." He scanned her with cold, lecherous eyes. "A man has needs."

"Sorry to break hearts, then," Andromeda said coolly, not breaking her stare away from the elder Malfoy until he sneered at her in disgust. "I didn't just come for my sister. I came to see you, father." She stepped forward and reached into the pocket of her robes, pulling out what looked to be a small photo. She suddenly appeared nervous as she held it out to the man who took it and instantly froze, his face paling. "I've named her Nymphadora."

"Crucio!" The shout came from behind, and Andromeda fell to the ground screaming.

Sirius looked up to see his eldest cousin, Bellatrix, standing beside her new husband, the elder of the Lestrange brothers, both glaring down at Andromeda, who was seizing in the middle of the ballroom.

"Stop!" Sirius shouted and rushed forward, only to be held back by his collar by Alphard, who raised his wand.

"Bellatrix!" Alphard snapped. "This is completely unnecessary!"

"Father?" Bellatrix turned and looked at Cygnus as though waiting for permission to either continue or a request to let Andromeda go.

Cygnus glared down at the photo in his hands and shook his head.

"Uncle!" Sirius shouted, trying to somehow plead for Andromeda's life.

"Leave her," Cygnus growled. "She is no longer my daughter. Shove the blood-traitor through the Floo, and never let me look upon her again." He turned his gaze away from Andromeda and looked immediately to Walburga. "You should take to heart what has happened here. It is one thing for me to lose a daughter, but another for our House to lose its proper heir."

All glaring eyes suddenly fell on Sirius as he stood, shaking with rage.

April 30th, 1973

When Sirius and Regulus stepped off the Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade after their return, it only took a few minutes before the brothers collided with violent intent on both parts.

Sirius had not intended to clash against his younger brother that day, but when he and his friends stepped off the train to spot Lily Evans arguing with Snape near the horseless carriages, there was bound to be drama between Gryffindors and Slytherins.

Lily looked hurt when Snape gestured back toward the train where a group of his Housemates stood waiting for him. The Carrow twins were flanked by two older Slytherins, Evan Rosier and Titus Wilkes, and off to the side of the little posse was Regulus.

Snape sighed when he returned to his friends, looking defeated as he avoided eye contact with his fellow snakes. Sirius thought the defeated look on his face was kind of funny until he overheard the conversation.

Wilkes narrowed his eyes. "Are you done playing house with your little Mudblood, Snape?"

Snape did not respond but looked properly admonished.

Sirius, triggered by the horrible word, immediately went into a frenzy. "What the hell did you call her?!"

James followed suit and moved to stand in Wilke's face. Remus, who stood just as tall as the others, immediately flanked him, pushing Rosier out of the way.

Wilkes grinned smugly. "I called the little ginger bitch a Mudblood. What's it to you, Potter?"

Sirius turned toward Snape, growling as he shouted, "She's supposed to be your fucking friend, you bloody coward! You going to stand up for her, Snivellus?"

"Why would he?" Amycus glared at Sirius even as Snape remained silent. "Severus knows better. He might only be a half-blood, but his blood is still too rich for the likes of her. Is that it, Potter?" Amycus asked, turning toward James. "Eager to dirty up your House?"

"The Potters are already filthy," Regulus said, stepping forward. Already wearing his pressed Slytherin robes with his hair neatly pulled back, he looked the absolute opposite of Sirius regardless of the colour of their hair and eyes. "Hanging around with this blood-traitor."

Thinking of Andromeda screaming on the floor as Bellatrix cursed her while Narcissa—along with the rest of his family—looked on, Sirius snapped and punched Regulus right in the face, feeling a crunch beneath his knuckles.

It was the worst fight since he had started Hogwarts. Five students in total ended up in the infirmary. Regulus, Peter, Snape, and Amycus were all treated for broken noses, and James fractured his collarbone. Remus was the only one to get by with nothing but a few scrapes, and he stuck around the hospital wing long enough for Madam Pomfrey to get frustrated with Sirius and send him away. Remus was charged with escorting him to the common room as Sirius stubbornly refused to be treated for his black eye, split lip, and a burn on his neck from a wayward hex that he swore up and down he would get Snape back for.

Mia was worried.

Sitting in the common room, biting her nails, she expectantly kept her eyes trained on the door. None of the boys had taken the carriages back to the castle from Hogsmeade Station, and the Gryffindor table had been filled with rumours of a fight that had broken out between several of their own and some Slytherins.

After some prying, she discovered that most had ended up in the infirmary, but that they would be well enough for classes. Still, she waited on the sofa, staring at the door as though she could will at least one of them through it to give her some reassurance that they were all fine.

She hoped it would be Remus.

He had begun pulling away from her since the first full moon of their second year. She had not been aware if James, Sirius, and Peter had told him that they knew his secret, or if the Wizard's Oath she made the three boys take included Remus in their secrecy. Either way, no one mentioned it to her again. When she arrived at the hospital wing the following month to be with Remus, Madam Pomfrey sadly sent her back to the Gryffindor common room, letting her know that Remus had requested he be left alone.

Each month during the week of the full moon, Remus retreated into himself, ignoring anything she said or did to bring up his health or condition. She tried multiple times to talk to him, pleading with him to let her help.

On a good day, he would explain, "Please, Mia, stop waiting for me. It makes the walk back to the hospital wing that much harder."

On the days after the full moon, if she asked how he was feeling, he would completely ignore her and leave the room if possible.

She knew better than to bring it up on the days leading up to the full moon. Remus was downright volatile. More than once, she saw him stare at her in a predator-stalking-his-prey way that both terrified and excited her.

Eventually, James intervened.

"Yes, Mia, we've talked to Remus about his condition. It's . . . complicated. Can you just, I don't know, pretend you don't know that he's a werewolf?"

"What?" Mia asked, shocked by the request. "How could I just . . . ? Why?"

Her brother sighed. "It's personal. Look, you know you're one of his best friends, but you're a girl. And . . . he can't handle you as his caretaker anymore."

"There you are!" Mia shouted, pulled from her heavy thoughts as she watched Remus help Sirius through the portrait hole.

It was late, and she had heard that most of the boys were staying the night in the infirmary. All the other Gryffindors had gone to bed, but Mia had waited up, hoping for news about what had happened.

"Hey, kitten." Sirius winced as Remus dropped him on the sofa.

"I've got some Pain Relief Potion in my trunk upstairs if you want it," Remus offered.

Sirius shook his head.

Mia frowned and sat down next to him on the couch to look at his face. "Sirius, what happened?" Without answering her, Sirius tilted forward and slowly lowered his head to her lap. "No, no. You need to get fixed up. Didn't you go to the hospital wing with the others?"

"He refused to let Madam Pomfrey touch him," Remus said irritably. "We stuck around to make sure James and Pete were fine, and then I was told to get him back to the tower before he bled all over the infirmary."

"Mia can heal me," Sirius mumbled, closing his eyes and wrapping an arm around her waist.

Mia turned to look at Remus, who watched the scene with a sad smile, as though he were remembering how good it felt when it was him that she took care of and healed. When he noticed her staring at him, Mia could see him put his barriers back up.

"I'm going to bed," he said. "You need help up the stairs, Sirius?"

Sirius shook his head. "Good, here."

Remus offered her a small smile. "Goodnight, Mia."

She could only smile sadly in return.

Once Remus was gone, she tilted Sirius's head to look up at her. The soft curves that he had when they first met in Diagon Alley had given way to the sharp angles that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. There in her lap with his long black hair tucked behind his ears, and his face covered with evidence of a physical brawl, she could immediately recognise the older Sirius buried behind the stare of the teenager as he snuggled her.

"What happened?" she murmured. "Alice and I were helping Frank get his trunk from the train. When I looked back, the rest of you were being restrained alongside the Slytherins."

"Snape's a bloody git," Sirius grumbled, reaching up and grabbing her hand, putting it on his head like usual.

She frowned but stroked her fingers through his hair regardless. "What did he say this time?"

"Nothing, not a thing. Wilkes called Lily a you-know-what, and Snivellus just stood there. Didn't even defend her. And she thinks that James is a toerag while that greasy git parades around acting like her friend."

"So you punched him for it?"

He shook his head. "No. I punched Reg."

"Why did you hit your little brother?" she asked, eyes wide. "Sirius, he's eleven!"

"I don't give a shit. He's a little prick, just like the rest of my family." He pulled away from her, something that he had never willingly done before. There was a lost look in his eyes as he turned to gaze into the fireplace ahead of them.

"Come here, Sirius." Mia took her wand and muttered a Healing Spell for the swelling on his eye. She moved his collar to look at the injury she could see peeking out from beneath the fabric. "I've got some Dittany upstairs if you want me to fix your lip and the burn on your shoulder."

Sirius's hand touched hers, lacing their fingers together. "Can you just stay with me?" he asked, though not making eye-contact. "Let the things scar."

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, trying to imagine she was back home—back in 1998. It was something she rarely did these days: wish to go home. James, Sirius, and Remus had made it easy for her to do what Future Remus's letter instructed: Live your life. Enjoy your life. Her boys made it a simple thing to do just that. But lately, with Remus pulling away from her, and Sirius constantly getting into fights, she was reminded that these boys would grow up to become the wounded men she had known for years.

She could see the beginnings of Sirius breaking, and it broke her heart to know his future and not be able to stop it.

She missed Sirius. Her Sirius.

For a moment, she could pretend that the boy holding her hand innocently in the Gryffindor common room was the man who had kissed her passionately in the caved-in passageway. She could pretend that it was the day after her nineteenth birthday, and she was at home at number twelve, sitting on the sofa in the drawing room, holding Sirius's hand. They would talk about the life debt ritual, and he would explain to her what he knew about the bond that had happened because of it. She would ask him why he had kissed her in the middle of the battle. And, if she were very, very lucky, he would say it was because he wanted to. Not because of magic.

Mia opened her eyes and looked over at the thirteen-year-old boy sitting next to her, nervously licking the cut on his lip as he stared off into the flames, deep in thought.

Sometimes, this Sirius was easier to deal with. She did not feel much of a magical bond with him—just an itchy emptiness that tugged needily inside of her—which brought both annoyance and relief at the same time. Annoyance, because she knew he would grow up to be that beautiful man who had kissed her until her toes curled. Relief, because he was safe. Without a mystical bond to pull him toward her, Mia could trust that this Sirius said and did what he really wanted to. He was honest.

"What happened with your family? When you and Regulus were gone?"

Lost in his own thoughts, Sirius shook his head and leant against her as visions of Malfoy Manor and Narcissa's engagement party ran through his head. Bellatrix had tortured her own sister with the Cruciatus Curse, and no one had done a thing about it save for him and Alphard. Even then, they had not made much of a difference.

Andromeda had been blasted off the tree the moment they got home, and Walburga made him watch her do it. Then, at wand point and with a Blood Quill in hand, he had been forced to write the words of his House—Toujours Pur—repeatedly until they were carved into the flesh of his hand. The wound had only just healed, and he was happy to see it had not left a permanent scar.

"Just a bunch of typical drama," he lied. "Nothing to worry about, love. I'm fine."

"Sirius? Please don't hide things from me."

"It's just pureblood shit, Mia. My parents are apparently getting ready to plan out my whole future, wife and all." He laughed dryly and then smiled when he felt her growl in response to the news. "Don't worry, if they set up an arranged marriage, I'll just elope with James. That'll teach them."

"I'm sorry about your family."

"Can we not talk about them anymore?" Sirius asked, cuddling back into her side.

"Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"

Sirius tilted his head up and winked at her. "Anything?"

She rolled her eyes in reply.

"Well, since apparently my ideas are all off the table . . ."

"How many ideas did you have?" she asked, looking scandalised.

"About you, kitten?" He gave a teasing grin. "About six hundred and forty-three."

Mia laughed but still shoved him. "Get off my lap, immediately."

Sirius gripped his arms around her waist tightly, refusing to be pried away from her. "No, it's my lap! I'll behave!"

"You don't know how!"

"Then join me and start misbehaving!"


He let go and sat up quickly, looking at her with wide eyes. "What?"

"Not that." Mia rolled her eyes. "I mean, I figured out how to cheer you up. You say Regulus has been a prat?"

"Prick. I said prick," Sirius clarified.

"Whatever. How would you like it if I help you prank your brother?"

Sirius felt himself light up like a Christmas tree. She wanted to prank with him. She wanted to prank his brother. He very briefly wondered if he could figure out how to transfigure diamonds for her. "Really?"

She shrugged, suddenly looking nervous. "Maybe just once."

"But you said you hated pranks. You told me and James we were childish and immature because we made Rikard Stebbins's hair vanish." He grinned at the memory.

"Because you had a childish reason," she defended.

"And you yelled at me and Peter for charming Snivellus's shoes to quack when he walked," Sirius added.

"That was stupid. He just changed his shoes. You should have put a sticking charm on them," she said under her breath, clearly not realising she had spoken aloud when her eyes widened and she looked at him, covering her mouth.

But it was too late; Sirius heard. "You want to prank with us! Mia, I'm so happy!"

"Just once!" she reiterated firmly. "And only because I think Regulus deserves it."

Chapter Text

Perfect by nature. Icons of self-indulgence.
Just what we all need,
More lies about a world that. . .
...never was and never will be.
Have you no shame? Don't you see me?
You know you've got everybody fooled
(Everybody's Fool - Evanescence)

May 12th, 1973

It did not take long for Mia to come up with a half-decent prank to pull on Regulus, and Sirius was thrilled that it involved the rest of Slytherin House. Though she had been fairly quiet about the details of said prank, she promised him it would be worth it, and that all he had to do to help was borrow James's Invisibility Cloak.

When it came to pranking his younger brother with Mia, Sirius had only two conditions: the first was that it was only the two of them that pulled the prank. Saying that not only because he was not in the mood to explain to his mates why Mia had thrown caution to the wind to sully her reputation as a humourless swot just to make him happy, but because the four Marauders no longer fit under the cloak these days let alone squeezing in a fifth person.

The second condition was that they set up the prank for the twelfth of May.

Mia never asked why at first, assuming it had something to do with scheduling their misbehaviour around Quidditch practice. So, immediately after dinner on the twelfth of May, she and Sirius slipped beneath the cloak and headed down the staircase, walking in the direction of the dungeons.

She had never been this close to the Slytherin common room before but remembered Harry's explanation and directions regarding how he and Ron had reached the room on their quest to interrogate Malfoy about the heir of Slytherin during her original second year. The memory of sitting in the hospital wing, Polyjuiced into a cat, made her nose twitch in irritation. As they made their way deep beneath the castle, Mia was really wishing she had the Marauder's Map with her.

She chuckled softly. "Too bad there isn't a treasure map showing a big 'X' over the Slytherin common room. That would make this easier."

"A map of the castle would make a lot of things easier," Sirius quietly agreed, and Mia grinned.

Eventually, they came upon what looked almost like a dead end where they met a large expanse of bare, damp, stone wall.

"This it?" Sirius whispered, making a face. "There's not even a portrait here."

Mia flashed a smug grin. "What better way to hide something than in plain sight? Most of them are absolute prats, but Slytherins know how to keep their secrets." She thought briefly of Draco Malfoy being a spy for the Order of the Phoenix for nearly three years without anyone but Snape aware of the situation. Somehow standing here outside the common room to the snake pit, she almost missed the annoying prat.

"What now?" Sirius asked, practically jumping out of his skin in excitement.

"Now, we make sure no one's inside. Homenum Revelio," she whispered and waited for several moments. "We're good. They must all still be down at dinner. Good thing we left early."

Sirius lifted the cloak off of the both of them. "That reminds me, if the guys ask, you and I sneaked off early to go snog in a corner."

Mia turned, gasping at him, her face burning hot. "Sirius Black! You did not tell Remus and Jamie you were going off to snog me!"

"You left a few minutes before me." He smirked as he wiggled his eyebrows at her suggestively. "You should know better than to leave me unsupervised for any stretch of time. I'm shocked McGonagall hasn't put a tracking collar around my neck by now."

She rolled her eyes.

"But then again, they did look suspicious about me heading out after you. At least Remus did, and I figure if they're already thinking it . . ." Sirius laughed, and Mia smacked his arm. "Don't worry about your sweet little reputation, kitten. James was too busy asking Evans if she was going to come cheer for him at the Quidditch match next week."

Mia winced. "And what did she say to him?"

"Nothing. But she dumped her mashed potatoes on his head and told Remus to find friends who weren't idiots."

Mia laughed softly. "Poor Jamie."

Sirius scoffed. "Poor Remus."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean Evans clearly fancies him. And even if he's got it back for her, he's got the Marauder's Code to follow. Don't touch another bloke's girl," he said with a tone of finality. Mia's mouth dropped open, and her eyes widened in anger. "No, I'm not saying all girls should be in the Pussy Cat Club, Mia. You're strong and independent and can snog whoever you want, whenever you want, okay?"

"I am not snogging anyone!" she hissed. "And neither is Remus."

Sirius raised a brow. "What's that now? Oh." His eyes widened and he laughed, grinning brightly. "So, that look on your face isn't about us making up rules about dating birds, it's about Remus? You fancy Lupin?"

"Shut up. I do not," Mia growled, her heart racing. "One more word, Sirius Black, and I will march right out of these dungeons, and this prank is over."

She had no claim to any boy—certainly not Remus. She knew that for a fact. Tonks was his mate, though she was not even a month old in this time—a fact that caused Mia to shake her head a little—but at the same time, her three boys were just that: hers. And while she was more than okay knowing Lily Evans would someday marry her brother, she was absolutely not okay with the girl taking a fancy to her werewolf.

No, wait, not her werewolf.

"Fine, fine," Sirius agreed, pulling her out of her crisis. "But I reserve the right to make fun of you both if I ever catch him eating your face."

"Shut up, and let me concentrate," Mia said and then turned her wand on the wall in front of her, waving it back and forth as what looked like heat waves poured out of the tip, painting the wall with an invisible barrier in front of them. "There. That should do it. Of course, we won't be able to tell until some Slytherins come back."

Sirius tossed the cloak over the both of them, and they slipped back into the shadows, hiding in a dark alcove that faced the blank wall at an angle. They sat down, pressing their backs against the stones and crossing their legs so as not to accidentally knock over the suit of armour that stood in front of their guarded safe space.

"You going to tell me exactly what we're waiting for yet?" Sirius whispered.

Mia just grinned at him.

Less than five minutes later, the hallway began to fill with students dressed in black and green robes. It was as if Lady Luck decided to smile upon the two Gryffindors committing mischief. The first to appear was a smug-looking Regulus Black, flanked by his lanky cronies.

"I'll take that bet," Regulus said. "Twenty Galleons on Slytherin to win next week's match, another five if we win the Cup. And I'll give all my winnings to anyone on the team that can knock my blood-traitor brother off his broom."

From beneath the cloak, Sirius made a rude hand gesture, and Mia stifled a laugh.

"What's the password again?" Regulus asked the boy next to him.

"It's 'basilisk,' but . . ." The boy scanned the hallway. "Where's the—?"

"Did we take a wrong turn?" Regulus asked with raised eyebrows as he did a quick check of the wall, turning around to look back down the hallway.

Lucius Malfoy walked forward with Mulciber, Avery, Wilkes, and a scattering of younger Slytherins behind them including the Carrow twins and Snape. "What are you first years doing just standing around?"

"Nothing," Regulus said nervously, looking embarrassed. "I just . . . I mean . . . We can't find the entrance to the common room."

"Pathetic." Lucius rolled his eyes and turned, only to find himself in a similar position. Instead of speaking, Lucius scanned the corridor with narrowed silver eyes, his jaw tight before glaring down at Regulus. "What did you do? Where is it?"

"I don't know!" Regulus yelped.

"Should . . ." Alecto muttered. "Should we go and fetch Slughorn?"

"Absolutely not!" Lucius snapped. "You want to tell that bumbling idiot that his entire House can't locate their own fucking rooms?"

Snape rolled his eyes. "So, we're supposed to just sleep in the hallway?"

Lucius narrowed his gaze. "Unless you'd like to sleep in the lake, Severus, which can be arranged quite easily."

An hour later, not a single Slytherin had gone for help, but five had turned on one another.

Lucius Malfoy spent most of the night trying to keep his Housemates from tearing each other apart. Apparently, putting the already on edge and suspicious Slytherins into a stressful situation with no one to take it out on but one another caused them to do just that.

Sirius grinned from beneath the cloak as he and Mia watched the wonderful entertainment.

Eventually, the two silently slipped out of their alcove and down the corridor, leaving an entire houseful of sleeping snakes crumpled on the cold stone floor outside their common room with no way inside.

"That was bloody brilliant!" Sirius shouted excitedly once he and Mia were safely ensconced in the Gryffindor common room. "How did you do it? Was it a Locking Spell?"

"It was an adjusted Muggle-Repelling Charm mixed with a Notice-Me-Not," Mia said proudly. The smile on his face filled something inside of her up and warmed her thoroughly.

"That's amazing!" Sirius beamed. "You're amazing! You're pranking with us more often. We need your brains. Your clever, sadistic brains!"

He leant forward and kissed her forehead, and she smiled up at him, surprised at how Sirius was suddenly taller than she was, and how she had not noticed until now.

"I'll think about it."

"You better, kitten." Sirius grinned again and kissed her cheek.

He lingered.

The light feeling of stubble against her chin caused her to let out the smallest of sighs, but it was audible. Everything suddenly felt very warm, and Mia knew it was not just her because Sirius pulled back and dropped his excited smile, favouring a confused look instead as he stared down at her.

Mia swallowed hard and tried to not look at his lips. Those lips that were so young and untouched by time and circumstance. His innocence was still there behind his stare, and it made her smile as she forcefully pushed down the memory of an older Sirius pulling her into his lap, passionately devouring her lips with his own in the heat of battle.

Sirius cleared his throat. "Umm. Thanks," he said, breaking the strange spell that, for a moment, had them both wrapped in a cocoon of awkward tension.

"Anytime," she said with a soft smile.

"I can't wait to see Regulus's face in the morning at breakfast. To think, he's going to spend his twelfth birthday on the floor in the dungeon." He let out a barking laugh.

Mia's eyes widened, and guilt flooded her. "Birthday!?"

"Don't even try to feel bad for him," Sirius insisted, looking completely unrepentant. "Last November, my parents didn't send me a thing for my birthday, but Reg did. A lovely family photo where my head was cropped out and glued in place was a picture of our nasty house-elf. He deserves to be taken down a few notches, trust me."

Biting her lower lip as the guilt ebbed and waned, she finally conceded. "Well . . . he was trying to bribe people to knock you off your broom. Speaking of which, I don't want you and James playing in the game next week. It's too dangerous of a sport on a normal day, let alone with your own family plotting against you."

Sirius grinned and pulled on one of her curls, chuckling when it bounced right back like a spring. "Nothing's going to keep me from the sky, kitten. Besides, we're the only reserve players on the team, and at the Ravenclaw game, Smith and Morgan crashed into the stands. They're still in the hospital wing and aren't allowed to play. That gives me and James our chance to show what we can really do."

"Just . . . promise me you'll be careful. Jamie's my only brother, and you're . . ." Mine. "You're my friend."

"What are you two up to?" Remus asked as he descended the staircase from the boys' dorms, looking down at them.

Mia looked up with a blush.

Sirius grinned and shouted, "Snogging!"

Mia gasped—even as her stomach flip-flopped at the thought—and elbowed him in the ribs.


May 19th, 1973

It was a perfect day for Quidditch. The sun was shining—though there was the hint of a chill in the air—as Sirius and James caused an uproar amongst the crowd, taunting the Slytherins whilst flying overhead. Enjoying his moment a little too much, Sirius swooped down to the ground, gripping a handful of pebbles out of the dirt before taking to the sky once more. Throwing the pebbles into the air softly, Sirius gripped his Beater's bat and swung as though the small rocks were tiny Bludgers. As they sailed toward the Gryffindor stands, Sirius pulled his wand and transformed them all into roses, each landing delicately into the hands of the girls who were swooning and chanting his name.

Mia was grinding her teeth.

James, seeing Sirius's trick, swooped to the ground likewise, pulling a weed from the grass below and flying up and forward, holding it out with a grin toward Lily. "Evans! Want me to win the game for you?"

Just as sunlight struck the weed, it transfigured into a brilliant red Asiatic lily.

Lily, with no hint of malice on her face, reached up to touch the little flower, and everyone could see James hold his breath. Mia could see Lily—in the very moment that she touched the beautiful blossom—gripping her wand.

With a quickly whispered, "Incendio!" the flower in James's hand burst into flames.

"She's getting more creative at telling him to piss off," Remus commented with a small smirk as he sat next to Mia in the stands.

"She'll get over it one day," Mia said with a smile as she watched her brother fly away, deflated. A small shiver ran up her arms as the chilly breeze passed over her.

"You cold?" Remus asked, removing his red and gold scarf and wrapping it around her.

She smiled up at him sweetly, watching as his eyes flashed gold. Satisfaction served to warm her along with Remus's scarf as she had another confirmation on the change in their interactions.

All she had wanted to do was take care of him, but Remus—along with James and Sirius—were slowly becoming men right before her eyes, and men did not want to be taken care of, not in the way that Mia felt she needed to. It was worse with Remus, she knew, who had to compete with a primal wolf inside of him, struggling for control. When she had stopped trying to protect him, she immediately noticed a change; especially during moments like this when the wolf inside of him was clearly trying to protect her—even with something as small as a long scarf against a cold breeze.

"Thank you," she said softly, watching as Remus puffed out his chest a bit in response to her gratitude.

With a roar from the crowd and Madam Hooch's whistle, the players took to the sky. James flew fast, reaching the Quaffle before anyone on either team.

"And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Gryffindor Reserve Chaser, James Potter. Potter, speeding along, makes a pass to Smythe. Smythe to Prewett, Prewett back to Potter, and right past Slytherin Keeper, Emma Vanity! Gryffindor takes the first goal of the game!" the announcer shouted.

Mia and Remus cheered from the stands, shouting James's name, and soon the entire section was screaming, "Potter! Potter! Potter!"

"Oh, his head is never going to deflate now," Mia groaned.

Remus grinned. "At least this time he'll have an ego over something he's actually done."

"Slytherin now in possession," the announcer continued. "Captain Steve Laughalot isn't laughing now as he dodges Bludgers on his way toward the Gryffindor Keeper. Laughalot shoots and misses, thanks to a hit from Reserve Beater, Sirius Black! There's nothing funny about this situation now for the Slytherins!"

"Go slower!" Mia screamed as Sirius passed by her in the stands, laughing as he did.

Sirius was in his element and had never felt more fulfilled in his years so far at Hogwarts. James rushed down the pitch, desperate to knock at least one snake off their broom. Sirius, however, was being surprisingly obedient after being ordered by their team Captain to remain close to the end of the pitch to help their Keeper block the goals; she had just been released from the hospital wing after breaking her arm a month earlier.

As a flash of gold flew across the field, attracting the attention of both Seekers, a flash of something else caught Sirius's attention across the pitch.

Light reflecting off of pale blond hair in the distance. The sun hit the hair in such a way that it was almost reflective. This surprised him because the pale blond head was turning away from the game entirely rather than focusing on it. But that was not all: the blonde in question was climbing up the stairs toward the back of the stands.

"Cissa?" Sirius muttered curiously, wondering why his cousin was even out here. She hated Quidditch, and Sirius knew that Malfoy had not played since he was a third year—having been permanently banned for too many fouls.

Sirius narrowed his eyes as he watched his cousin, and when her arms went out to her sides like she was spreading wings, he realised what she was doing.

"No!" he shouted and flew at breaking speeds, dropping his Beater's bat in the process. He leant forward on his broom to gain momentum just as Narcissa vanished over the back railing of the stands.

"Both Seekers are in a race for the Snitch—Hey is that Black? Sirius Black has broken away from formation and is heading toward the Slytherin goals, no Quaffle in his hands, and he seems to have lost his bat! Is this a new secret play?" the announcer asked. "Black rushing at speeds unheard of for that Cleansweep for sure. Black flies through the Slytherin goal and . . . and . . . over the railing of the stands?"

Sirius dove over the edge of the railing, gripping his broom and gasping when he saw Narcissa ahead of him, falling toward the earth, her body relaxed as though she was not expecting impact.

He moved for his wand only to realise he could not remember a spell to slow her down, though he knew that one existed. "Fuck! Cissa!"

Sirius stretched his arm forward, grabbing hold of the bottom of her left foot and clinging to it tightly as he pulled his broom upward, slowing their descent, but it was not enough. He lost his grip and watched as she fell, still a good twenty-five feet above the ground. In a panic, he put his feet on the edge of the broom, pushing against the handle and launching himself forward.

He reached out and pulled hard once he had a grip on his cousin, rotating backward and tugging her into his arms just as his back collided with the ground.

May 22nd, 1973

When Sirius's eyes opened again, his vision was blurry.

"Cissa?" was the first thing he whispered when he remembered what happened. He recalled the game, spotting his cousin, and falling forward until . . . pain. He let out a loud cough and then yelped as the muscles in his back spasmed. "Ow! Fuck!"

"Well, it's good to see you're awake, Mr Black," Madam Pomfrey said as she approached. "Though, I can't say I care for your language myself. I'll let it slip for now as long as you tell me how much pain you're in."

Sirius took advantage of the punishment-free zone and snapped, "A lot of bloody fucking pain! Shit! Arse! My back fucking hurts. What the bloody hell happened?"

Madam Pomfrey stared at him, her hands on her hips. "Are you quite done?"

Sirius thought for a moment, took in a sharp breath, and then let out one word: "Tits."

The mediwitch rolled her eyes and pinned him with a scowl. "You'll be fine. Drink this." She shoved a Pain Relief Potion into his hand, and Sirius took it without question.

The pain dulled to a gentle throb, and Sirius let out a great sigh of relief. "What happened?"

"You strained your back, pulling various muscles when you hit the ground, and fractured your pelvis, young man. You've been here for several days now, unconscious for most of them, which is good considering what we had to do to repair the muscle and bone damage. You wouldn't have liked that one bit."

Sirius groaned. "Mia's going to kill me."

She had been worried about him hurting himself at the game, and not only had he essentially blown her worries out of the water, but he propelled them into space. Although, technically, he could argue that he had not hurt himself playing Quidditch.

"Where's my cousin? Is she all right?"

"Narcissa Black? She'll be fine," Madam Pomfrey said simply and then walked away.

"Wait! What happened to her? Is she okay?" When no response came, Sirius growled. "Is anyone even going to tell me if we won the game?"

"Is that really all you can think about right now?" Mia snapped as she stormed into the infirmary, the doors slamming against the walls in her wake. James, Remus, and Peter closely followed behind, almost getting hit with the doors in the process. "You nearly died, you bloody idiot! Have you any idea how worried I've been? How worried we've all been?!"

Her hair sparked as she glared at him.

Something in his chest expanded and warmed him. He loved it when she got angry. "Miss me, kitten?"

She let out a loud scream of frustration and then stormed away, using her wand to fling the doors back open before disappearing through them.

"Oh, she definitely missed me." Sirius chuckled and turned his attention to his friends. "All right, first, did we win? Second, where's my cousin?"

"Well, we won," James said with a grin, running a hand through his already messy hair. "Even secured spots on next year's team as long as your back is good to go come September. Full players too, not just reserves."

"Your cousin is fine," Remus said. "Nothing a Calming Draught and Muscle Relaxation Potion couldn't fix. You, however, took the brunt of the impact."

Sirius averted his gaze for the moment, knowing that if anyone understood what it felt like to be broken in the hospital wing it would be Remus, and the thought made him feel guilty for complaining so much earlier.

"Most people think she tripped," James added. "A lot of the Ravenclaws are spreading a rumour that another girl pushed her because they're jealous about her marrying Malfoy."

"What does Mia think?" Sirius asked, and the three other boys raised their eyebrows in silence. "Oh, shut it. I know she's got a theory. She bloody knows everything!"

"Mia thinks someone Imperiused Narcissa," Remus whispered. "That someone made her jump."

"Malfoy," Sirius growled.

"Mia thought so too. But you can't prove it." Remus frowned as he picked up the empty Pain Relief Potion phial, sniffing it and snorting as though he were amused at whatever the dosage was that Sirius had taken. "Mia already went to Dumbledore. Last we heard, Narcissa said it was an accident. She's going with the tripped excuse."

"No way." Sirius shook his head. "My cousins were walking with books on their heads to balance when they were four. Narcissa wouldn't just trip. If Mia thinks someone Imperiused her, then I believe it. And it's got to be Malfoy. He was threatening her at their engagement party minutes before her sister was tortured on the floor!"

James gaped. "What? When the hell did that happen?!"

"Shit." Sirius had not meant to tell anyone. "Look, it's . . . family stuff, okay." He looked away from his friends, his temper rising as he felt pity pouring off of them.

"My cousin, Andromeda, married a Muggle-born and popped a kid out, causing a fuss amongst the older folks." He grimaced, muttering "ignorant arseholes" under his breath. "That's not the point. I heard Malfoy tell Cissa to straighten out her priorities or he'd do it for her. Then he told her she could only end their engagement by dying."

"Aurors were called in," Peter spoke up. "Malfoy was at breakfast this morning when they came. He wasn't arrested, though."

"Your cousin was sitting with him," James said apologetically. "If he really did that to her, then he just got away with it, and Narcissa doesn't look like she's going to be accusing him of anything."

"Why'd Mia think it was Lucius?" Sirius asked. "It's obvious to me, but I'm curious."

Remus scratched the side of his head. "I'm not sure exactly. She just said that Lucius Malfoy was a monster who wouldn't think twice about turning his own wife into a puppet. Then she . . ." He looked down and sighed. "She said that he deserved what he got. I don't know what that means."

Sirius frowned, but then nodded slowly. "Probably the prank. She charmed their common room door, locked all the Slytherins outside of it. That's probably it. Oh, that reminds me, Mia mentioned the word 'map' during that prank, and it got me thinking."

Chapter Text

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than fucking perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you're fucking perfect to me
(Fuckin' Perfect - Pink)

July 17th, 1973

The summer before their third year at Hogwarts was filled with something Mia had not been familiar with until recently: fun.

Sirius had recovered from what would officially be labelled a "Quidditch Injury." Despite Narcissa's insistence that Lucius was not behind her accident, Sirius caused a scene in the Great Hall on the last day of school by punching Malfoy in the face and earning himself a month's worth of detention come the following September. His last words to his cousin before he was pulled off of her fiancé were, "You owe me a life debt, Narcissa Black!"

Sirius arrived at Potter Manor after what could not have been more than three hours alone with his family. He boasted that all it had taken for Walburga to let him leave was threatening to owl the Daily Prophet and provide them with an exclusive interview about how the newly infamous Sirius Black came to his cousin's rescue while her fiancé was missing in action. He promised he would be sure to include a detailed description of what it felt like to be a hero, and that he had already forgiven Lucius Malfoy for not even bothering to say thank you. Several derogatory terms were thrown at him as well as a large antique vase before he jumped into the fireplace and vanished over to Potter Manor where he had taken up residence in a guest room for the rest of the summer.

It was not until Mia grew bored enough to go searching for the boys in late July that she stumbled upon them taking a break from one of what was probably a twelve-game Quidditch series.

James had taken Sirius through the large orchards and came out on the other side of a winding river that cut through the edge of the property line. It was secluded and beautiful, and Mia cursed herself for not exploring the grounds earlier. She had thought to ask James why he had never shown her the river before, but Sirius was there, and it would look suspicious if Mia—who supposedly lived at Potter Manor her entire life—did not know where their land ended.

Determined to make up for lost time and last year—when she had spent an entire hot summer sweating inside—Mia asked their parents if they could have friends over to go swimming.

James and Sirius were thrilled with the idea, but Mia was not happy with their planning.

"Peter's birthday is this Friday; we should have him over for a party!" James said excitedly; Sirius appeared eager to join in on the idea of surprising their friend.

Mia had snapped out a quick, "No!"

"Why not?" James asked.

"I can't this Friday," she said before coming up with the worst excuse ever, knowing it would put an immediate end to the argument. She forced a blush across her face to appear embarrassed. "Girl stuff."

Both boys nodded quickly, awkwardly avoiding her gaze.

Mia smirked at them and rolled her eyes. "How about the Tuesday after that?"

"Why then?" Sirius asked.

"I don't know. It just feels like a good day to be with family and friends. To celebrate." She smiled and walked away.

"Fine. Fire-call your friends and tell them to be here July 31st!" James called after her. A full minute later, he shouted, "And make sure to invite Evans!"

"She's gone, mate," Sirius said with a chuckle, picking a splinter out of his hand and cursing himself for deciding to not wear gloves when flying. He made a mental note to try and sneak back over to Grimmauld Place before school started up again so he could steal something worth selling in Knockturn Alley for enough Galleons to get a new broom.

James stared off into the space where his sister had disappeared, his jaw slack. "Do you . . . Do you think Evans will come?"

Sirius smirked, waggling his eyebrows. "You think they'll wear bikinis like my motorcycle girls?"

He looked in the same direction that James was, where Mia had gone.

She had always been small and skinny, but the years had been as good to the girl. Of course, Sirius had always found her eyes to be appealing. The colour of chocolate. She was pretty when she laughed and even more when she was angry, especially with him; her cheeks reddened, and her hair sparked. One morning, a few weeks into the summer holiday, he woke from a dream with the thought of burying his fingers in her mess of curls. He blamed the motorcycle magazines for putting thoughts into his head. Not that it mattered, as he refused to stop reading them.

"Mia's looking fit," he muttered out the side of a grin as he recalled the way her blouse fit just a bit better than it had a few months ago. He was completely distracted by his vivid imagination until something hard hit him on the side of the head. "Ow!"

"My sister is not fit!" James snapped. "And she's certainly not going to wear a bloody bikini. That's a Muggle thing."

Sirius laughed but immediately pretended to be sombre. "Evans is a Muggle-born, maybe she'll wear one."

His laugh returned when James's face paled, the blood presumably travelling to points further south. "Hypocrite!"

July 31st, 1973

"I can't believe you bought that." Mia laughed as she, Alice, and Lily sat on her bed at the manor. On the other side of the room, Mary grinned, hands on hips, wearing her brand new pinstriped bikini.

Alice gaped at it, tilting her head to the side, her cheeks pink. "Where'd you even get it?"

"Muggle part of France," Mary said and, without any hint of modesty or shame, adjusted her cleavage. "You think Sirius will like it?"

Mia seethed visibly. All the girls swivelled to look as her face turned crimson.

Mary beamed excitedly. "You fancy Sirius!"

"I do not!"

"It's all right." Mary laughed. "Look at the boy. He's bloody perfection."

Lily rolled her eyes, pulling her hair over her shoulder to secure it in a long plait. "Don't tell him that. His head is big enough as is. Mia, how come you never told us you liked Sirius?"

Mia watched as Lily wrapped her arms around her own pink, one-piece swimming costume. She knew her friend was feeling awkward and uncomfortable considering James had already been staring at her that morning, and that was before she had so much exposed skin—though not nearly as much as Mary. Mia had needed to send several owls back and forth to Lily to convince her to come, all with the promise that she would be able to keep James under control.

"I didn't say anything because there's nothing to say." Mia walked into her bathroom, leaving the door cracked a touch as she fumbled her way into her solid black swimming costume. She glared at herself in the mirror, frustrated that, just when she thought she had gotten over her awkward stage of life, she had been thrown back in time to relive the experience. Her hips were bony, her stomach still held a tiny bit of baby fat, and her breasts were in an awkward in-between sizes stage that made her hate every shirt that she owned.

"We're young and shouldn't be concentrating on boys right now," she said with a glower as she walked out of the room, pushing the door open for Alice, who entered it to change.

Mary shrugged, fixing her blond hair up into a high ponytail. "Why not? They look at us all the time. I say it's only fair that we look right back."

"They look at you," Mia corrected.

"Oh, they look at you too, lovely. I caught Adrian Abbott trying to look down your blouse last year in Potions."

Mia's eyes widened. "That's disgusting. He's a Slytherin!"

Mary's smile remained in place. "He's also fit."

Lily rolled her eyes. "You think everyone's fit."

"I appreciate beauty," Mary said with a sigh, as though she were reflecting on the great wonders of the world. Mia met Lily's eyes, and they shared a laugh. "So fine, you don't fancy Sirius. That means you wouldn't mind if I snogged him today?"

Mia paled, and her fists clenched tight as she felt that emptiness inside of her fill with something boiling hot. She tried to tell Mary to have at it and that Sirius was as good as hers if she wanted, but the words would not come out.

Mary immediately took notice, gesturing in amusement. "See? Fine, fine. Sirius is off limits."

"All my boys are off limits," Mia clarified, a strange sense of possession coming over her. Visions of Lavender Brown eating Ron's face, and Cho Chang breaking Harry's heart came to her, and she shook her head. Not this time.

Mary laughed, jumping on the bed so hard that she knocked Lily off the edge. "You can't keep them all to yourself!"

"Fine, Lily can have James," Mia agreed, and Lily scrambled off of the floor, looking at her furiously. Mia only smirked in reply but refused to take back the announcement.

"Alice likes James," Mary pointed out.

"Alice can have Frank," Mia insisted, folding her arms over her chest defiantly. Both Mary and Lily giggled. "What? Tell me they're not perfect for each other, and I'll take it back."

Lily raised a brow after genuinely thinking about it for a minute. "Wow, they really are."

"Who's really what?" Alice asked as she walked out of the bathroom wearing a flower-covered swimming costume.

"You and Frank, perfect for one another," Mary answered.

Suddenly, Alice blushed to the tips of her toes, and she covered her mouth. "How did you know?"

Mary's eyes widened with the greed of a girl who breathed gossip as easily as oxygen. "How did we know what, little Miss Brown?"

Alice shook her head and made to run for it, but Mary was too quick and tackled her to the ground, straddling her waist and pinning her arms down beside her head, thus preventing Alice from hiding the blush that crept over her cheeks and the silly grin forming on her face.

"No way, you're not getting away! You've got a secret, and I will find out or die trying!"

"I kissed him!" Alice finally blurted out, and the other three girls gasped.

"How about that?" Mary sat back on Alice's legs and smiled slyly. "Frank Longbottom, you dirty boy, who knew? There you have it, Lils. Our little Alice is all grown up and over James Potter. He's all yours."

"I do not want Potter!" Lily screeched loudly. "If I fancied anyone—which I don't—it'd probably be Remus!"

Mary grinned as Mia's jaw visibly tightened.

"Like I said," Mia twitched her nose as she spoke, "my boys are off limits."

"What about the rest of us?" Mary laughed, finally moving off of Alice and letting her up. "Are we to die as old spinster witches, just us and our kneazles?"

Mia could not help but give in to Mary's beautiful smile. "Fine, you can have Peter."

Mary shrieked in horror, and the girls all laughed. "Eww, I don't want Pettigrew! He's always just staring at me in Charms."

"So," Sirius said smugly as he reentered James's bedroom where the boys had been changing into their swim trunks, "the sounds were a little muffled, but what I gathered is that Evans still hates James but might fancy Remus, except she says she says she doesn't fancy anyone. Brown used to fancy James, but apparently, Frank here failed to mention that he's snogged the bird."

"She kissed me!" Frank yelled as if defending himself as his face turned beet red.

"Good on you, mate." Sirius winked and continued with a grin. "Macdonald wants me. Badly too, I'm guessing," he said as though that were obvious. "But Mia's hopelessly in love with me and determined to become the next Lady Black. James, are you going to be my best man?"

"That's my sister," James grunted, throwing a punch to Sirius's shoulder that was easily dodged.

"I'm just taking the piss out of you," Sirius said with a laugh. "Mia wants Remus too."

Remus's eyes widened. "What? You're lying."

"Stop talking about my sister!" James yelled.

Sirius walked into James's bathroom, leaving the door open as he stood in front of the mirror to run his fingers through his hair, making sure his tousled look was perfect and did not resemble James's mess in the slightest. "I think it's only fair seeing that she was talking about us. Get over it, mate. We've got bigger things to worry about."

"Like what?" James narrowed his eyes.

"Like beating the shit out of Adrian Abbott when we get back to school."

"Do I want to know?" James asked with a sigh, hanging his head in his hands.

Sirius sucked in a breath, thought about not telling him, but decided against that plan of action. "It has to do with your sister's tits."

Looking ill, James muttered, "My sister doesn't have tits," under his breath.

"They say anything about me?" Peter asked from the corner of the room.

Sirius frowned, remembering Mary shriek. He made a mental note to talk to his friends about how to actually speak to girls instead of shadowing them like a creep. "Sorry, Pete, bad luck."

Twenty minutes later, the nine teenagers were at the river, half already in the water, taking advantage of the perfect weather. It took picturing Cormac McLaggen in order to keep the blush off of Mia's cheeks as the boys made their way through the orchard, shirtless. The other girls had not been so successful at hiding their looks of approval, though Lily had taken the high road by turning away and hiding her face entirely.

James spent his time diving off of the tree branches into the deeper parts of the river, doing back flips and cannonballs, each time surfacing in Lily's direction only to be disappointed when she was not looking at him.

Frank and Alice were on the other side of the bank quietly talking, and Mia could not help but smile when she watched her friend reach for Frank's hand and lace their fingers together innocently.

Remus was curled up beneath the giant oak, book in hand, occasionally looking over to watch while Peter failed to keep Mary's attention as he told her the story about how he successfully brewed a Shrinking Solution even though it was a third year potion. Mary sent Mia a look that said she would rather hear he could perform an Enlargement Charm.

"This," Lily said, interrupting Mia and Mary's silent conversation with a bright smile, "is called a transistor radio." Her green eyes lit up the same way that Harry's always did when talking about Quidditch, or the way Sirius looked when plotting a devious prank.

Mia watched with an amused expression on her face, while Sirius sat down and grinned at the redhead, his arms folded across his chest.

"It's a portable device that Muggles use to listen to music." Lily glanced between Sirius and Mia, and her smile fell. "And . . . and . . . you've got magic versions don't you?"

"Yes," Mia admitted with a chuckle.

"But do go on," Sirius encouraged her. "Tell me about this thing called music," he said sarcastically. "What is . . . mooseek?"

Lily glared at him.

"You're good fun, Evans." Sirius smirked as Lily shook her head, though she failed to keep a grin off her face as she stormed away from them, rescuing Mary from Peter's stories.

Turning the radio on, Sirius's amused smile turned genuine. "Muggles are awesome."

"Have you ever listened to Muggle music?" Mia asked.

"Yes," Sirius said, fidgeting with the knobs and buttons. "Used to sneak into Muggle London when Walburga took me to Diagon Alley. There was a record store I would hide out in."

"I never knew that," Mia said with a bright smile.

"Because I just told you. Oh bugger this," he said in a frustrated voice and reached for his wand, touching the top of the radio that was previously playing static but, with a little magic, suddenly began playing loud Muggle music, clear as day.

"Lean on me, when you're not strong . . ."

Mia beamed, recalling listening to this song on a tape that her Muggle mother made for her, unaware that most electronic devices would not work around magic but especially at Hogwarts. "I love this song. It actually reminds me of you, Sirius."

Lily gasped, looking back at Sirius. "You're not supposed to use magic outside of school!"

Everyone else chuckled sweetly at her, which only made her angrier.

Mia turned and smiled at her friend. "It's more to do with the International Statute of Secrecy thing than it is the Underage Magic thing. The Ministry isn't tracking specific wands or wizards but the presence of magic in general. When a Muggle-born is at home, there's a higher chance of random Muggles that aren't aware of magic stumbling upon the secret if children are just randomly twirling their wands about. However, in magical households, magic is constantly flowing, and the ministry likely leaves it up to the parents to make sure the children aren't using their wands outside of Hogwarts."

Lily's mouth had dropped open in shock, but before she had a chance to ask more questions or to retort about unfairness to Muggle-borns, Sirius turned the radio up, drowning out her protests.

"Please, swallow your pride . . . If I have things you need to borrow . . ."

Sirius scoffed. "Swallow my pride? This reminds you of me? Unlikely, kitten. But since we're apparently making song dedications . . ." he said with a devious grin, and the radio glowed purple when the tip of his wand touched it.

"Let's . . . get it on."

"Absolutely not!" Mia scowled and tapped her wand on the top of the radio, letting the song change once more.

"Baby, baby, don't get hooked on me . . ."

Mia laughed. "That's better."

"Already on my way there." Sirius grinned darkly down at her and touched the radio again with his wand.

"Touch me in the morning, and then just walk away."

Mia scowled, folding her arms across her chest. "You're doing this on purpose."

"Am I? Is there a problem, Miss Potter?"

Mia tapped the radio again.

"And they called it puppy love."

She burst into hysterical laughter, loud enough that everyone turned and gaped at her. Sirius stood by, an amused expression on his face as he tried to understand what exactly was so bloody funny. Mia continued to chuckle, tipping over and holding her side tightly until Sirius charmed the song again.

"You'll be the queen of my highway, my motorcycle mama . . ."

Mia rolled her eyes, charming the radio.

"You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you."

"Are you two done doing . . . whatever is it you're doing?" Mary asked from the riverbank where she and Lily were lying out on their towels, sunglasses resting on their eyes.

"Fighting?" Mia asked.

Sirius chuckled quietly. "Foreplay?"

"Just leave the music on for more than five seconds!" Lily snapped.

"Fine. But not this song. She doesn't get to win." Sirius grinned at Mia and tapped the radio once more.

"And there he was this young boy . . . a stranger to my eyes . . ."

Mia frowned. If he was still playing the game, it suddenly was not so much fun anymore. She had known this Sirius for over two years. Still, whenever she looked into those beautiful grey eyes, all she could think of were the equally beautiful grey eyes of a man somewhere far in the future, hopefully waiting for her.

She looked away from him, something that was difficult to do since he refused to stop staring at her or step out of her personal bubble.

"Strumming my pain with his fingers. Singing my life with his words. Killing me softly with his song . . ."

"What's wrong, kitten?" Sirius asked. "Weren't you just smiling two seconds ago? Want me to go tell Macdonald and Evans to piss off, and let us have our fun?" He grinned and reached out, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

"I felt all flushed with fever . . . Embarrassed by the crowd . . ."

"I'm fine, Sirius," she lied. "Just distracted. Thinking about school. It's only another month away, and I'm going to miss this." She gestured to the river and the orchard. "It's nice to be outside without worrying about everyone else. My own little private world where everyone I want to stay safe stays safe."

"You worry too much, love," Sirius said and leant back, dropping his head into her lap like he always did.

Despite the fact that the action was as innocent as it always had been, she wore nothing more than a swimming costume and was suddenly very well aware of how fast her heart was beating.

"You bloody well need to relax, woman. The world's not going to end just because we leave your little safety bubble." Sirius pouted when she had not started petting him, reaching up and putting her hand on his head in silent demand that she play with his hair.

"And then he looked right through me . . . As if I wasn't there . . ."

"You don't understand." Mia frowned and pushed him away.

Standing up, she made her way over to Remus as though he were the only other person there at the river. She sighed and sat down beside him, instinctively leaning her head on his shoulder, still frowning.

"Do I need to drown him for you?" Remus asked with the smallest of smirks, not even bothering to take his attention off his book, though he tilted his head slightly to the side to gently rest it on top of hers.

"I'm sick of his optimistic view of everything. Just tells me to relax as though there's nothing wrong in the world. Like I'm supposed to ignore all the things I'm worried about."

"Sounds familiar."

She sighed. "Don't start. Sirius trying to cheer me up is in no way like me trying to do the same with you. He doesn't know me. Not like—" like he's supposed to, "—you."

"Fair assumption, I suppose. Except that he does know you. Just because he doesn't sit around and talk books and dreams and fears with you on a regular basis doesn't mean he doesn't care. He's just acting out because he thinks you fancy him," Remus admitted and then sat back, watching her very carefully.

She shook her head, feeling herself blush. "That's ridiculous."

"Not so. You look lovely today, for the record," he said, turning back to his book.

Her breath caught in her throat, and her heart rate increased. She was used to Sirius's blatant flirting, but Remus was . . . different. When their eyes met once more, she could not help but think he actually looked a little smug.

"You look nice too." Mia smiled, and Remus scoffed. "What?" She quickly noticed that not only was he the only one of them that had not stepped foot in the water the entire time, he was also the only boy who was still wearing a shirt. James and Sirius basked in their pale frames, and, despite being exceptionally lanky and in dire need of sun cream, Frank was bare as well. Even Peter had taken off his shirt, eager to show that his leftover baby fat was edging away thanks to a growth spurt that summer.

"You're staring at me," Remus commented and raised a brow.

"You're still wearing your shirt," she said.

His eyes widened, and his face flushed as he frowned. "You know why."

"They're just scars, Remus." Mia smiled sadly at him. "'Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.'" She reached over and gently touched the side of his ribs where she knew three long, deep scars rested on his skin. "You're beautiful."

Remus's brows knit together, and he turned his soft green eyes to her, staring with a look of wonder and confusion. He looked like he wanted to say something but could not bring himself to find the courage, so instead, he broke eye contact, cleared his throat, and smiled down. "Who was that?"

"Khalil Gibran," she replied with a disappointed sigh. "Poet."

"Wizard?" Remus asked, playing their game.

Mia smiled. "Muggle."

Chapter Text

I believe I can see the future
Cause I repeat the same routine
I think I used to have a purpose
But then again
That might have been a dream
(Every Day is Exactly the Same - Nine Inch Nails)

September 2nd, 1973

The first few days back at Hogwarts, Remus almost felt normal.

The full moon was still over a week away, and he barely felt it approaching. Ashamed as he was to admit it, Mia had been right the year prior when she had suggested that his transformations were getting worse because of a growth spurt. Though he had grown another inch over the summer, his transformations were not nearly as bad as last year—still agonising to the point of wishing he could black out, but not nearly as torturous. The aches, pains, and nausea that came with the approach—and descent—of the moon, were dealt with, in part, due to a massive supply of chocolate that his friends had given him for his last birthday. Unfortunately, their supply ran dry within two months, but thanks to James's Invisibility Cloak and a few unadventurous nights scouring the castle that led to what Sirius dubbed "the most amazing discovery ever," Remus and his friends found the most glorious secret that Hogwarts had kept hidden: a secret tunnel leading to Honeydukes.

Well-plied with sugar and eager for the term to begin the following morning, Remus sank back into the pillows strewn about his four poster bed, welcoming the night with a book in his hands, while his three comrades were off sneaking in third and fourth helpings of dinner from the house-elves in the kitchens. It was only when he yawned, catching a faint scent in the air, that he was reminded of another unfortunate symptom of lycanthropy that had, until very recently, remained dormant.

"Jamie?" Remus heard Mia whisper softly.

He closed his eyes, letting the scent of her wash over him like the river behind Potter Manor had washed over his body once Mia finally convinced him to jump in with her. The water then had been cold—which was helpful—but the scent in the air that now poured over him was warm. Much too warm. He swallowed hard and tried to remain quiet.

"Sirius?" she whispered next, and a part of him bristled as he heard her pull the curtains away from the bed across from him.

She had come looking for her brother, of course, and Remus had immediately assumed it was because of her nightmares, which grew worse upon their initial return to Hogwarts each year. He felt terrible for her and wanted to help, but—despite the fact that Sirius's bed was directly next to James's—Remus could not help but silently complain over the fact that once she had found her brother missing from the room, she had gone to Sirius next.

He heard footsteps, and his eyes widened. He had known she would not find Sirius in his bed, which only meant that she would seek him out next, but he was yet unprepared as her scent grew closer, so he clenched his eyes tight to try and focus on something else. It was normal for a fourteen-year-old boy to deal with arousal, especially in the general vicinity of the female population, but it was something entirely different for one who had a nervously charged werewolf inside his head.

He finally heard her whisper his name and groaned quietly. He forced the sound back down his throat as he tried to forget that she had called him beautiful a month ago with her hand against his scars, nothing but a scrap of cotton separating her touch against his skin.

"Yeah?" He winced as he pulled the curtains back revealing a sad-looking Mia with dishevelled hair—which was not helping his issue—fidgeting with her hands. She had dried tear tracks on her cheeks. "You okay, love?"

"Are you okay? Oh, are you sick? I thought it had been getting better. I'll go." She frowned and made to move.

"No, it's nothing." Lie. "Not wolf related at least." Lie. "I think I just ate too much at dinner." Lie.

"Oh." Mia chewed the side of her lip, toeing the floor.

"Nightmares?" he asked softly, and she hesitated before nodding. "I don't know when James is due back. Those idiots ran for the kitchen the second we got back to the dorms," he admitted, a part of him annoyed that James was not here to take care of his sister. The wolf in him was grateful that he had been alone—the sole person left behind to care for the girl.

"I should just . . . This is ridiculous. I am this old, and I can't sleep without my bloody brother." She sniffed, looking embarrassed, and Remus knew for certain that she had woken up in tears from whatever it was that plagued her.

"Do you . . . Do you need company?" he asked, rephrasing his original Want to climb in? with something he felt was more appropriate. It had been a year since they had shared a bed at Potter Manor. It felt innocent then, especially since James and Sirius were both there with them, encasing Mia between them all as if to protect her from her dreams. They were barely twelve at the time. Hell, most of them still drank their pumpkin juice from straws.

But now . . .

"Is that all right?" she asked quietly.

"Come on." Remus scooted to the side, kicking back the covers and allowing her to slip beneath them. He set his book down on the bed, somehow using the pages to keep her body from touching his as she made her way beneath the blanket, and closed the curtains behind her, blocking out the light that the sliver of moon in the sky allowed into the room.

He was momentarily reminded of the many times she had crawled into his bed in the hospital wing on the mornings after his transformations, once she was finished healing his bloodied and broken body. At first, it had been healing to his soul to have her there, willingly touching him and showing kindness, but after so long, it became increasingly difficult to rely on her so much. Not only did he not want to become dependant on her, but a nagging sense of pride somewhere deep down said that he wanted her to see him as strong.

Now, with her head cradled against him, he was suddenly the caretaker, and his wolf gave an internal yip of approval. He remained absolutely silent, not wanting to question her about the nightmares or her dried tears. That was the comfort of their friendship. Words were never necessary.

The moment she fell into a deep, deep sleep, Remus could not stand it any longer. He leant forward and nuzzled his nose into her hair and breathed in deep, hoping that if he grew accustomed to her scent it would not feel like a craving every time she walked into a room. He exhaled slowly with a frown when it did not work. Yearning to inhale her scent increased steadily, and he gave in to it, burying his nose in her mane of curls again.

Just then, he heard the door to the dorm room open as his three friends returned.

"Don't take it personal, Pete," James said consolingly.

"Bloody house-elf called me fat," Peter bitterly grumbled as his footsteps carried him into the bathroom where Remus heard the shower turn on.

Sirius burst into a fit of laughter. "She didn't look like she was trying to offend. Just said how no other wizard enjoyed her food as much. Ever."

"Shh!" Remus scolded quietly, kicking the curtains around his bed aside.

"What's wrong?" James asked, raising his wand defensively, squinting across the room into the darkness toward Remus's bed.

"Lumos," Remus whispered and held his wand up to look at James, then moved the glowing stick over the form of the sleeping girl next to him.

James raised a questioning brow and nodded with a comprehending frown as he crossed the room to Remus's bed. Tucking his wand back in his pocket, he tossed the Invisibility Cloak over Remus's trunk and smiled appreciatively.

"Thanks," he said before collecting his sister in his arms.

Sirius frowned as he watched Mia subconsciously snuggle deeper into James's embrace. "Still bad?"

"Still bad." James nodded, and Sirius and Remus watched their friend bring his sister to his bed and tuck her in quietly.

All three boys shared a look of frustration and desperation. Wizards, the lot of them, and no idea how to fix the one person they had sworn to protect.

Our job, Sirius had said.

And they were failing.

September 3rd, 1973

Mia did not know what she was thinking when she chose her elective courses for her third year. The classes offered were as usual: Divination, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Muggle Studies, and Care of Magical Creatures. She was absolutely not going to have an exact repeat of her original third year at Hogwarts. Her life was already upturned thanks to a Time-Turner, and she was in no mood to use another one just to accommodate a full schedule.

It had been her plan to take on Ancient Runes with Remus and Lily—seeing that it was a subject she never tired of learning—as well as Arithmancy because it was the hardest, and she could use a refresher course. Despite what her friends were aware of, Mia had no need for Muggle Studies, and she laughed hysterically when she overheard the boys thinking about taking on Divination.

Sirius grinned at her. "You're not interested in predicting the future?"

"Not in the slightest, Sirius Black." Mia scoffed, as though she were offended by the question. "In fact, I might already be a Seer. Which is why I don't need to take Divination."

She smiled up at Remus, who passed her morning cup of tea across to her as she refilled his glass of juice, their tandem breakfast routine never breaking momentum as they engaged in conversation with others.

"You're a Seer? That's sexy. Ow!" Sirius winced and looked up to see James glaring at him. Brushing off her protective older brother, Sirius turned his attention back to Mia. "Come on then, love, give us a prediction."

"Fine," she agreed boldly in between sips of tea. "I predict that a girl will smack you by the end of the day."

"Ooo, I love it when girls smack me. Will it hurt?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "I'll do my best."

Sirius winked. "I bet you will."

"Knock it off!" James groaned and hit Sirius again, while Remus laughed quietly.

"Hey, she said she's a Seer," Sirius said in his own defence, holding up his empty plate as a shield against James and his attacks. "I want her to tell me my future!"

Mia frowned as a cold chill filled her.

She closed her eyes and could see it so clearly. Their future, her past. Sirius and Remus standing in the Shrieking Shack, reunited after twelve horrible years apart, both looking broken and wounded beyond repair. Images of Sirius being attacked by dementors, and of an older Remus sobbing in her arms after his first full moon in years without the Wolfsbane Potion. Memories of pulling Sirius from the veil, and of Remus crying over the thought of his child being infected with lycanthropy. A vision of them both being tortured by Death Eaters, and Voldemort with the Elder Wand aimed at her.

And nothing of James.

"Mia?" Remus whispered gently, reaching across the table to touch her hand. "Where'd you go?"

"Far away," she admitted sadly and then turned to look at James and Sirius, who looked just as worried. "Stop. I'm fine."

She finished her breakfast and pushed her plate away, but not before grabbing the last two pieces of bacon she had not finished and setting them onto Remus's plate. He looked up at her with a grateful smile but scowled when Sirius snatched one piece up for himself.

"You boys go ahead with Divination if you'd like. Write down all your little predictions and let me know what you 'see,'" she said, actually bringing her fingers up to use air quotes sarcastically. "I'll be more than happy to tell you how wrong they are."

A part of her thought how amusing it would be to really pretend to be a Seer. She would become the most famous Seer of all considering how much she knew about the future. As laughable as the thought was, it was equally dangerous. Mia could not imagine what Voldemort would do to her if he knew that she had detailed knowledge of his eventual destruction.

In the end, only Peter kept the course, which was fine with her as it was one less class where she had to look at him.

Despite standing firm on Divination, she had still broken down when James, Sirius, and Remus had guilted her into changing her choice of electives. While she kept Ancient Runes to stay close to Remus and Lily, she now stood outside the castle near the Forbidden Forest where a large group of small pens had been put together to look like a Muggle petting zoo.

A battle-worn man leant against a large post, looking grumpy as though someone had just rained on his parade.

"I'm Professor Silvanus Kettleburn," the old wizard grumbled. "Welcome to Care of Magical Creatures. Not that you'll actually be caring for anything of any real interest. As the Ministry has seen fit to remind me that if one's leg is eaten by a dragon, one shouldn't then try to introduce said dragon to students."

His left leg was missing just below the knee. Unlike Mad-Eye Moody, who wore a wooden prosthetic, Professor Kettleburn appeared content to just hop around.

"It wasn't even really a dragon," he added with a pout as though it made all the difference.

"Merlin, this is where Hagrid gets it," Mia whispered to herself as the professor, with his one remaining hand, scratched at the stump where his forearm used to be.

"Oh, this?" He gestured to the elbow as the students stared. "Chimaera. Cuddly little things. They've got quite the appetite, though." He smiled wistfully as if he were remembering an old pet. "Right then, come on over and take a peek at the pens. We've got nifflers right there, a few puffskeins, some nogtails, and a knarl. Thought I'd show you lot a handful of little things to start with."

James pouted, his shoulders slumping as he made eye contact with a nogtail that purred at him. "These fluffy things are pets. Where're the dragons?"

"I want to see the chimaera that chewed his bloody arm off," Sirius whispered.

"I want to be in Arithmancy," Mia complained.

Remus chuckled softly and patted her shoulder consolingly.

"Professor?" James asked. "Are we going to see anything, I don't know, bigger than this? I heard we've just got a herd of hippogriffs brought in. And there are unicorns in the Forbidden Forest, aren't there?"

Professor Kettleburn shook his head. "Not for you lad. Unicorns don't take much of a liking to young men. They wouldn't like you much."

"Evans must be a unicorn." Sirius chuckled, and Remus joined in, while James glared at them both.

"As for the hippogriffs, they're being evaluated before students are allowed near them. Temperamental, if you aren't respectful of them." He dipped his chin, and Mia quietly smirked; the thought of watching either of the Carrow twins getting mauled by a hippogriff—as Malfoy had been—made her happy inside.

"So nothing interesting, then?" Sirius complained.

"Depends on what you'd consider interesting. I think it's interesting that you've got a niffler about to take that Muggle watch off your wrist."

"Hey!" Sirius yelled, spinning around just as the tiny animal latched its little paws on his arm, tugging at the watch that he had bought that summer. "Let go!"

Rolling her eyes, Mia approached, putting her hands under the front legs of the niffler and prying it away from Sirius, giving the boy a reproachful look in the process. "It's only a baby," she said with a teasing lilt to her voice.

"You can ask me anything you want about any creature that exists, I've basically seen it all," Professor Kettleburn said and moved like he was going to cross his arms over his chest, except he was missing one of them. "I'd rather you see with your own eyes, but the Ministry has rules in place. So, you'll just have to trust your books there and my expertise."

"What's the proper way to feed a werewolf?" Sirius asked, and Mia turned and glared at him after putting the baby niffler back with the others.

Remus shook his head knowingly as he approached the niffler pen.

"Let's say," Sirius continued, "that you've got a werewolf—cute little thing. And your werewolf starts getting fat . . ." He grinned and watched as Remus turned and narrowed his eyes at his friend.

Professor Kettleburn stared at Sirius. "Mr Black. Werewolves aren't pets."

"They did this on purpose didn't they?" Mia asked Remus.


"You knew?"

He chuckled. "Of course."

"Is this the entire reason that we're even in this class? Remus, please tell me that we did not sign up for an entire class based on the fact that Sirius wanted to make a werewolf joke." She glared and watched as Remus turned and grinned wryly at her, silently confirming the answer she already knew. "Wonderful. I could have been in Arithmancy right now with Lily."

"You could be in Divination with Peter," Remus teased.

"I don't need to read tea leaves in the bottom of a cup to know that I'm going to throttle Sirius when Professor Kettleburn is not looking." She turned to glare at Sirius, who was now asking about dragons as though purposely diverting attention from the subject of werewolves, despite the fact that he had been the one to bring it up in the first place.

"I was never allowed to have a pet," Remus said under his breath as he looked down into the pens of the small animals, all of which appeared to be scuttling as far away from him as possible. Some were quaking and looked terrified. Remus exhaled sharply at the reaction and frowned.

Mia placed a hand on his arm and smiled. "Don't take it personally. They can smell you just as easily as you can smell them. They see you as a predator." She caught his immediate horrified look and sighed. "It's not a bad thing, Remus. Predator and prey is the way life is. It's the way animals work, even magical ones."

When he still refused to take the self-condemnatory look off his face, she went on. "Do you know much about hippogriffs?"

"Just what the book mentioned," he replied, gesturing to the tome in his bag.

Mia smiled, knowing that he had already read the whole thing. Had she not known him well enough, she would have assumed he had read all of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in order to make sure his name and address was not listed inside, but she did know him better and was well aware that Remus took his studies just as seriously as she did.

"Tell me some defining characteristics of a hippogriff."

Remus let out a frustrated sigh. "Why do I feel that this is one of the life lessons you're always trying to teach me?"

She narrowed her eyes. "Humour me."

"Fine. Hippogriffs are proud, easily offended. You're supposed to take extra caution when approaching them, bowing and such. They're extremely dangerous, but can be fiercely loyal and protective of . . ." He stopped and glared at her. "I am not a hippogriff, Mia."

"No, you're not," she agreed pleasantly. "Now, what do hippogriffs eat?"

"Small mammals," Remus answered. "Ferrets and weasels, usually."

"So hippogriffs are predators?"

"Technically," he said slowly.

"And would you say that hippogriffs are absolute bastards for being what they are?" Remus's jaw tightened, and his nose twitched. "Well look at that. If I didn't know any better, I would say that you have been easily offended. Wounded pride?" She asked, and Remus growled low in response. "You know that with that glare you've got in your eyes right now, you look extremely dangerous. But I'm not afraid because I know how fiercely loyal and protective you are."

"I am not a hippogriff," Remus repeated, his eyes flashing gold so quickly that she knew she was the only one to see it. "Stop trying to convince me that I'm not a monster."

She met him, glare for glare, and leant in close to his face, refusing to back down. "Stop trying to convince yourself that you are one!" she snapped and turned on her heels, storming away from him in a flurry of bouncing, wild curls.

Remus sighed in frustration as he watched her go, annoyed that the breeze blew toward him, essentially shoving the scent of her hair in his face.

"What did Sirius do now?" James asked as he approached Remus, watching Mia stomp away from the rest of the class.

"Sirius is still over there bothering Kettleburn." Remus gestured. "What makes you think he's the one that pissed her off?"

"He usually is." James laughed, and for a moment, Remus joined in. "So what did you say to get her that mad? She normally reserves that particular scathing look for Slytherins." He leant casually against the animal enclosure, and Remus took a step away from it, watching closely as the little nogtails made their way back to the centre of the pen, one even coming up to sniff at James's hand as it hung over the fence.

"She's pissed at me."

"That is obvious," James said with a chuckle, gently scratching the nogtail on the head.

"She tried convincing me that werewolves aren't monsters," he said, trying to take himself out of the sentence by referencing the species as a whole. It did not do much for the conversation, as James just shook his head and laughed harder.

"Oh, that would certainly set her off. There are few things that'll anger my sister to the point where she looks lethal, and anyone talking poorly about you is near the top of that list. It's about tied with anything to do with Sirius's family, or me putting myself in danger. Remember at the river when I slipped on that rock and hit my head? She yelled at me for hours after you all left."

"That's different," Remus insisted and lowered his voice despite the fact that they were not standing within hearing range of anyone except the little nogtails and nifflers. "She's naive if she thinks that she can talk me out of being dangerous."

"Get over yourself, mate," James said reprovingly. "Everyone's dangerous."

Remus growled. "Not like me."

"No, not like you," James agreed. "Mia's dangerous because she's too smart. Girl knows hexes and charms that we're not supposed to even learn until N.E.W.T. levels. Evans is the same. Sirius is dangerous because his temper's too short. The second years have a pool going around to see how many fights he gets into this year. It's a ten Galleon buy in, if you want."

Remus shook his head.

"I'm dangerous because I don't let people know how good I am at what I do," James went on as if he were a professor in his own class. "Everyone thinks it's ego and that I'm overcompensating. I'm not."

Remus understood. He, James, and Sirius had practise duelled a time or two the previous years, and James always dominated the two by speed alone.

"Peter's probably the only one of us who's not a danger," James laughed, trying to break up the tense moment.

"Peter's dangerous. He's too unsuspecting not to be," Remus said with a chuckle, and James followed suit.

"Hey!" Sirius ran over to them with a grin. "Did you guys know that chimaeras purr if you scratch their belly? And they make the same noise when they're eating human flesh."

They all looked back to Professor Kettleburn who was absently scratching his arm stump again.

Just before class ended, Mia returned, and without a word to Remus, she wound her hand back and hit Sirius over the back of the head. He let out a small yelp and turned to face her while James and Remus laughed behind his back.

"I must really be a Seer. I predicted that you'd be hit by a girl today."

Chapter Text

Sometimes I wish I could save you
And there're so many things that I want you to know
I won't give up till it's over
If it takes you forever I want you to know
(Save You - Simple Plan)

September 3rd, 1973

After lunch, the Gryffindors and Slytherins made their way to the first Defence Against the Dark Arts class.

Mia was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet as she walked into the room and took her usual seat beside Remus with James on the other side, and Sirius and Peter sitting behind them. Lily sat with the Gryffindors as usual—though as close to the Slytherins as was permitted, with Snape doing the same on the opposite side. Lily was flanked by Mary and Alice, who was offering a comforting glance to Frank who looked nervous, as this was his worst subject.

As Remus took his seat, he elbowed her. "What has you in such a good mood?"

He avoided talking to her directly throughout lunch. She assumed that he was worried she would bring up the subject of werewolves again, and they'd argue. She knew there was nothing she could say to change his mind about his own condition, but she was too stubborn to back down.

She had eaten in near silence, only casually talking about classes from time to time, though never with him. It was not until Sirius asked what the next class was that Mia cheered up dramatically. She was in her third year, on her way to Defence class, with Remus. Finding amusement in the little things helped to make her ignore the tension that was hovering in the near future.

A tall man with deep auburn hair stepped through the doors of the classroom, shutting them closed behind him before he made his way to the front in just a few strides as his legs were so long. He had a familiar twinkle in his eye, and when he aimed his wand at the board, a name appeared on it: Professor Ignatius Prewett.

"Good afternoon. Now, there's not much room in here, so everyone stand up," Professor Prewett instructed, and the students all stood from their seats. With a flourish of his wand, one by one, the desks in front of them transfigured into small wooden blocks. "Someone pile those in the corner. There will be no need for desks in this class! What you learn about Defence Against the Dark Arts is practical. You can only read so many books and write so many essays."

Sirius and James looked beside themselves with joy.

"That's not to say you won't have to write a couple essays." Professor Prewett chuckled, and Mia stifled a laugh as she saw James and Sirius deflate instantly. "Just not while you're in the class. When you're here with me, you will be learning to wield your wands, focus your magic, and defend yourselves properly."

Mia could not help but wonder what was happening out in the world right now. There had been reports in the Daily Prophet of Muggle muggings and a few attacks on Muggle-borns, and although the term "Death Eater" had not been used yet, it was obvious who was behind it all. She wondered whether Dumbledore had already formed the Order of the Phoenix yet. If so, she imagined that Professor Prewett was a member. She knew that his nephews—Gideon and Fabian—were, or would be at some point in the near future. She imagined that this immediate lesson on defence was for a reason. Things were getting bad outside the walls of the castle, and they all needed to be on guard.

"Can someone tell me what the greatest disadvantage one can have when dealing with the Dark Arts is?" Professor Prewett asked. Many hands went up in the air. "Yes, Mr Snape?"

"Incompetence," Snape drawled, staring across the aisle to glare at the Marauders.

Professor Prewett actually appeared amused by the answer and gave a throaty chuckle, which actually seemed to irritate Snape as he scowled up at the teacher. "Not quite, my boy, not quite. No. Fear," he explained. "Fear can be healthy when it's used properly. But fear can also be debilitating if not focused."

He turned around and gestured to a black trunk on the floor. He kicked it once, and the large chest began to shake from within. Some students gasped, others looked intrigued. Mia looked captivated with excitement.

"Who can tell me what a boggart is?" Professor Prewett asked.

Four hands jumped in the air: Snape, Mia, Lily, and Remus.

"Yes, Mr Lupin?"

Remus puffed out his chest, suddenly in his element. "It's a shape shifter that bases its form on the fear of others."

Professor Prewett grinned. "Ten points to Gryffindor."

"I've always wanted to see one of these," Remus quietly admitted to Mia, who beamed up at him proudly.

"Boggarts are usually found in dark spaces. Old dressers and wardrobes, inside cupboards, or beneath the stairs. This little bugger," the professor said with a chuckle, kicking the trunk again, "was found by my nephews while they were cleaning out the attic of a friend's house. I offered to take it off their hands. Now, when I let this creature out of its cage, what will we see?"

Lily's hand flew up quickly.

"Miss Evans?"

"We don't know, sir. If it takes the form of fear, then it will look differently to all of us."

"You're almost entirely correct. The boggart deals with individuals. So, it will focus in on one of you at a time. If you're in a group, such as you are now," Professor Prewett said, gesturing to the class as a whole, "then it'll confuse the boggart and give you a better chance of defeating it. But if it keeps its focus easily, then it will conform to your worst fears, and everyone will be able to see them. Not just you."

Several students paled, Mia included. Something deep down told her that she would not see Professor McGonagall this time, telling her that she had failed all of her exams.

"The charm that repels a boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing. We will practise the charm without wands first. After me, please . . . Riddikulus!"


"Miss Macdonald, will you come and help me in teaching the class how to focus the charm?" He smiled down at Mary, who slowly moved to the front of the class, staring down at the closed trunk. "Now, what are you afraid of?"

"Rats," Mary mumbled quietly.

Sirius, James, and Remus all shared a look. Peter looked down at the floor, utterly devastated. Mia caught the expressions and quirked an eyebrow, figuring that the boys had at least begun their Animagus training.

"All right, now, when I let this boggart out and it turns into your fear, I want you to aim your wand and envision something funny in your mind. See it very clearly, focus, and say, 'Riddkulus,' all right?"

Slowly the class moved away from Mary, but none faster than Mia, Remus, and Sirius who stood with their backs pressed tightly against the rear wall of the classroom.

Professor Prewett flicked his wand, and the latch keeping the boggart in the trunk opened. The lid kicked backward with a bang! A very large rat with small, watery eyes and long, yellow front teeth crept out. It was the size of a dog. It turned and sniffed toward Mary, who looked petrified.

"Riddikulus!" she finally shouted, watching as a large mousetrap appeared beneath the rat and sprung forward.

Peter gave a loud yelp and turned to vomit in a nearby dustbin.

Mia grinned vindictively at the sight but turned her attention back to the rat, which had turned into a rubber toy rat that squeaked as the metal trap continuously squeezed it.

"Well done!" Professor Prewett said with a grin, and Mary smiled. "Everyone form a line!"

They all did, save for the three frightened Gryffindors at the back of the room.

The professor gestured to Alice. "Miss Brown!"

There was a loud crack, and where the rubber rat had once sat now stood a large cockroach towering over young Alice.


The cockroach slipped on a banana peel that had appeared at its feet and fell backward onto its back, unable to right itself.

"Mr Pettigrew!"

Peter slowly stepped forward, nervously holding his wand in hand. With a crack, the upturned cockroach turned into a large cat that paced back and forth across the room, stalking with its yellow eyes turned on Peter, licking its jaws.


The cat shrunk down quickly to the size of a pygmy puff with a large red bow wrapped around its neck. It let out the smallest meow before the weight of the bow was too much and the little kitten toppled forward, smacking its small face into the floor.

"Miss Evans, you're up!"

Lily stepped forward just as the tiny kitten shifted and grew tall and large, taking the shape of a man with a white painted face, curly red hair, and big floppy shoes.

James gaped. "What the hell is that?"

"A clown," Mia answered quietly, and everyone stared at her. "It's a Muggle . . . thing." She shrugged and then added, "I read about it."

"Riddikulus!" Lily shouted, and the clown looked down at his chest as they all heard a ticking sound. He pulled open his large vest to reveal a clock strapped to sticks of dynamite stuck to his shirt. Suddenly, the clown exploded right in front of everyone, raining down confetti upon them all.

Professor Prewett looked impressed. Lily looked proud. James looked besotted.

"All right, Mr Potter, you're up!"

"Poor Jamie," Mia whispered to Remus with a frown. "He won't admit it, but he's afraid of snakes. The Slytherins are going to have a fit."

She sighed as she watched her brother approach the pile of confetti on the floor as it shifted in front of him. Though, instead of the large snake she had expected to see, all she saw was a set of double doors. Her mouth fell open as she looked up at those familiar white oak doors.

"Is that my . . . ?" she began with panic in her voice, and almost immediately she felt two hands on her shoulders, holding her steady. One belonging to Remus, the other to Sirius. She turned back and the looks on their faces said that they knew what was about to happen.

Mia looked on as James stared at the silent white doors, and suddenly a sharp scream echoed from behind them.

Mia's scream.

James stood frozen.

"Go ahead, James," Professor Prewett encouraged as the door continued to hold back the screams behind it.

"Riddikulus!" James finally shouted, and the scream behind the door turned to laughter.

Instead of looking proud or even smug, he spun away from the boggart with his head low and his brow furrowed in anger. Without another word, he turned and walked out of the room, not giving a passing glance to anyone as he left.

"That might do for now," Professor Prewett said as he aimed his wand at the boggart, shouting a charm to contain the creature, sticking it back inside the trunk. "Read chapter one in your books, and be prepared next class to dive into basic defensive spells. Dismissed."

Everyone turned to leave, none more eager than Mia and the Marauders who were determined to go after James, but unfortunately, the professor called out, "Not you three. Misters Black and Lupin, and Miss Potter, will you linger for a few moments?"

They each gave a heavy sigh.

Mia turned once the rest of the students had left and the door shut them in the quiet classroom. "Sir, I think I should go after my brother."

"Can I assume that the voice Mr Potter heard beyond that door was yours?"

"Yes," Remus and Sirius answered together, both looking stricken.

Mia stared at them with wide eyes, embarrassed. "I have nightmares sometimes."

"Are these nightmares shared?" Professor Prewett asked, his focus shifting between the three of them. "Some fears are much worse than others, Miss Potter. I hadn't thought that a group of thirteen-year-olds would have more to fear than a few bugs, a ghoul or two, perhaps a banshee if we were lucky. I made a mistake in my assumption, and for that, I apologise." He touched his hand to his heart in a gesture of true remorse. "I will say the same to young Mr Potter next I see him."

Mia inclined her head. "Thank you, sir."

"That being said, I refuse to allow my students to let their fears overtake them. It was the purpose of this lesson after all." He stood and moved to the trunk. "An important talent in learning to fight the Dark Arts is observing your surroundings. Do you know what I observed today?" he asked them, and they all shook their heads. "When I spoke of my intentions to release the boggart where everyone would see it, I observed a large group of curious but nervous students. And three students . . ." He pointed to each of them individually as he sat down on the shaking trunk. "Three Gryffindors at that, who were hiding in the back of the room, looking terrified."

Mia refused to break eye contact with the man.

"Gryffindors aren't known to back down from their fears. Being sorted with the bold into the House of the Great Godric does allow for weaknesses." Professor Prewett smiled softly. "Those include pride. I imagine each of you was not afraid to face the boggart, but more worried that others would see your fears for themselves.

"May I make a suggestion? I suggest that you face all of your fears. Both the ones you believe that the boggart will take the form of, as well as your fear of others seeing your personal phobia. Miss Potter? Do you trust these boys? Are they your friends?"

"They're my best friends," she whispered quietly.

"And do you trust them?"

"With everything." Except the truth.

Professor Prewett turned to the boys. "And the two of you?"

Remus dipped his chin solemnly. "I trust them."

"I don't want them to see," Sirius blurted out, a look of frustration and anger on his face.

Intuitively, Mia reached out and took his hand, and Sirius's anger melted into what looked like shame and guilt.

He laced his fingers with hers and just silently nodded. "Fine. But I don't go first."

Remus sighed. "I'll do it. They already know anyway," he muttered bitterly and stepped forward, gripping his wand.

Professor Prewett stood up, reaching for his own wand and aiming it at the shaking trunk. "Now, Mr Lupin, I want you to take your time with this. Don't just shout the charm quickly to get the boggart to go away. If I'm right . . . If I'm right, you'll each need time to focus on the image, perhaps examine your fears closer in order to conquer them, instead of hiding them away."

Remus gave a curt nod.

Professor Prewett flicked his wand, and the trunk flew open with a bang.

Nothing happened at first, which shocked Mia. She had fully expected to see the image of a moon appear in the centre of the room. She had seen Remus's boggart before, in this very classroom, during a lesson that he had been teaching. Of course, now Mia knew where Professor Lupin got the idea of bringing a boggart into the class in the first place.

A low growl could be heard, and Mia's eyes widened as a massive wolf slowly crept from the trunk.

Remus looked at their professor in a panic, but the man only offered an understanding smile. "Professor Dumbledore explained your situation, and you're safe here. No one's going to find out anything that you don't want them to."

The wolf's enormous paws hit the floor, and Mia gaped at the sight. She had seen it before, of course, though it had been at night with only the moon giving light to the scene. It had also been a blur of motion when she had first seen an older Remus transform into the beast that now stood before them all.

Almost as though history were repeating itself—at least her history—Mia could feel Sirius move closer to her. She turned slightly to see a protective look on his face and could not help but smile inwardly at the familiar gesture before her attention was brought back to the large werewolf that now stood face to face with Remus.

The wolf growled viciously, its golden eyes glared at Remus, who was shaking.

Mia observed silently, examining the eyes of the large wolf and the colour of its fur, completely unaware that its muzzle was drenched in blood; the crimson liquid dripped from its mouth creating a pool on the floor at Remus's feet.

"It's all right, son," Professor Prewett said, holding his wand tightly in his hand, just in case. "I'm here, take your time."

"It's beautiful," Mia whispered softly to herself as she noticed the way that the light hit the wolf's fur. A lovely colour of sandy blond, just like Remus's hair.

"Are you out of your mind?!" Remus turned on her, his own eyes flashing gold, reflecting the wolf standing behind him. He glared at her as if she were stupid, and the look took the breath right out of her. "Do you know what this is?!"

"Yes!" Mia yelled back at him.

"Do you know whose blood that is, then?" Remus growled at her, the sound almost identical to the snarling beast behind him. "Go on, Mia, take a fucking guess!"

Sirius reacted quickly by standing in front of her, but she pushed him away from her, never taking her focus off of Remus, his stare full of rage.

As if to make his point further, the boggart wolf dropped something from its jaws into the pool of blood on the floor. Everyone turned to look; and Mia gasped as she saw the glimmer of a goblin-made gold bracelet, engraved with the words of House Potter.

"I'm done." Remus shook his head, furious, and aimed his wand. "Riddikulus!"

The boggart wolf shrunk down, much like Peter's boggart cat had, into the small frame of a tiny wolf pup, the sight of which made Mia want to sob as she recalled that Remus had been bitten and turned when he was only four years old.

Remus glared at everyone before stalking toward the door.

"Oh, no you don't," Mia said firmly as she stood in his way.

"Move," Remus growled down at her.

"I am not afraid of you," she said, reaching up to touch his cheeks with her hands. He tried to pull away from her at first, but she held on. "No! You would never hurt me. And I am not afraid of you."

"You should be," Remus whispered, the expression of anger having fled his face as he looked down at her with grief as though he had already killed her—or worse, infected her.

Sirius's annoyed voice broke the tension. "If you're done with your pity party, Remus, I'd like to get my own over with and forget this day ever happened," he said bitterly as he approached the front of the room and glared at the professor, angry for being put in this situation. "Just do it."

Remus and Mia turned just in time to see the small wolf pup grow upward, changing into human form. Mia raised a brow as she saw Sirius standing there, face to face with himself. She stepped closer, followed by Remus, who had gripped her hand in the process, and the two lingered behind the real Sirius, staring into the visage of his boggart.

"Merlin." Sirius shook his head. "Walburga would love this."

Mia immediately noticed the differences in the boggart. Sirius's doppelgänger wore green and black robes, the Slytherin crest embroidered on the lapel. His hair, while still long and black, was neatly kept and tied back with a leather thong, much like the one Regulus wore. He also had a sneer on his face that immediately reminded Mia of a young Draco Malfoy.

Then, the boggart of Sirius raised his wand with a vicious smirk. As the robes came up over his arm, Mia saw the outline of something dark and black against his skin. She gasped, realising immediately what it was, but she had no time to say or do anything as the boggart silently mouthed, "Avada—"

"Riddikulus!" Professor Prewett shouted, and the boggart exploded into a thousand wisps of smoke.

Sirius stood there, staring ahead with wide, terrified eyes.

"I'm sorry, son." Professor Prewett shook his head. "Boggarts do not have the ability to cast spells, but . . . Habit I suppose, defending against curses."

Mia rushed forward and flung her arms tightly around Sirius who, unlike Remus, immediately held her against him, burying his nose in her hair.

"You boys did good work today. I'd like to work with you individually on a few things. I think it's important. As for you, Miss Potter, I'll be on the lookout for a new boggart so you can finish the lesson. In the meantime, I hope you're able to talk about those nightmares to someone. It's not good to let fear fester."

"Thank you, Professor," Mia said, though she certainly did not mean the words.

As soon as the three left the classroom, Sirius muttered, "Mia? What was your boggart going to be?"

She did not want to tell them, but they had both opened up, letting her see the weakest parts of themselves: their deepest fears. Fears she knew were unnecessary.

Remus was not a monster, and Sirius was not a Death Eater. But she could not help but frown, knowing their eventual fates. Remus would, in fact, be labelled a monster, cut off from society and forced into poverty because of his affliction. Sirius would eventually be labelled a Death Eater, framed for the murder and betrayal of his friends. Their deepest fears would haunt them for years to come.

"My boggart would have been the two of you," she said, "telling me how much you hated me."

Sirius and Remus had equal looks of confusion on their faces, and she could tell they thought her fear was stupid.

"That's . . ." Sirius began.

"Impossible," Remus finished, taking her face in his hands just as she had done to him earlier. "Mia, you're my best friend. I could never hate you. I actually can't think of a single thing you could do to ever make me hate you."

"He's right. Why the hell would you be afraid of something so . . . stupid?" Sirius asked, and Remus let out a sigh of frustration.

Mia didn't even flinch at them.

"Because you're that important to me. Because . . . I'm terrified to think that in twenty years you'll both be gone, everything will have changed, and you'll just . . . hate me." She shook her head and growled, "Look, fine, it's stupid, I get it."

Sirius offered a small grin. "At least you realise that, kitten."

Of course, she would not tell them the whole truth. Her boggart would have been the two of them standing in front of her, but instead of the thirteen-year-old boys who now walked beside her, they would appear as near forty-year-old men, and at their feet would be the body of a twenty-one-year-old James Potter, eyes blankly open—whom Mia had failed to save.

Chapter Text

I'm goin' home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he's got one
And he ain't seen me crazy yet
(Gunpowder & Lead - Miranda Lambert)

November 3rd, 1973

It had taken days for the Marauders and Mia to get back to normal after dealing with the boggart. None of them talked about what had happened—especially James, who had gone on pretending as though the entire class hadn't seen inside his deepest fears.

Regardless of what occurred, Mia still quietly slipped into the boys' dorm late at night, crawling into James's bed and holding onto her brother tightly to drive away her nightmares. Nightmares that were now plagued with visions of him dead instead of the usual images of Bellatrix Lestrange torturing her. Sometimes the nightmares would shift, and she would see Sirius and Remus being tortured all over again in the Forbidden Forest. She would get up quietly, so as not to wake her twin, and peek in on her other boys because she needed to see them with her own eyes to make sure they were safe.

The mood stayed with her for well over a month; the parallels between this year and her original third year that took place in 1993 were eerily similar: Sirius had spent his first month in detention with McGonagall, reminding Mia that it was in her original third year that the older Sirius Black escaped Azkaban. Remus put a great deal of effort into his studies, meeting one-on-one with Professor Prewett. The way he carried himself made her smile and think of the brilliant Professor Lupin she had met long ago, who raised her study of Defence Against the Dark Arts to a higher level than ever before.

Anytime she looked at James, she would frown and the happiness in her life would be sucked out of her as if a dementor was nearby. In fact, it was in her original third year when she had first come face to face with the dark creatures. Mia wished that she could conjure her Patronus to cheer her up without anyone noticing.

"Hogsmeade!" Sirius shouted with a grin as he plopped himself beside James at breakfast the first weekend of November. "All right, mates. Do we have our lists?"

Mia raised a suspicious brow. "Do I want to know what you four are up to?"

Sirius grinned at her. "Just a little project, kitten."

"Sirius found a secret passageway into Hogsmeade last year," Remus said with a chuckle. "He wants us to go looking for more while we're down there today."

"Oi! That was a Marauder secret! Remus, you're the worst secret keeper ever!"

Surprised by how his words triggered something deep down inside of her, Mia snapped, "He is not! In fact, Remus should always be your secret keeper." She eyed Sirius and then let her gaze linger on James before drifting to Peter. "Always."

Peter whispered, "I'm good at keeping secrets."

Mia internally grimaced, remembering the words which had been exchanged between Harry, Peter, and Sirius that fateful night in the Shrieking Shack.

"Oookay." Sirius raised a brow at the strange turn the conversation had taken. "Back to the plan. Are you all in?"

"I've got something to do first," James said and stood up.

Immediately, the boys groaned at the movement, clearly knowing what he was planning as he pulled his legs over the bench and began walking down the length of the table.

"This is going to be ugly." Remus shook his head and looked away.

Sirius, on the other hand, was watching eagerly with a devious grin on his face. "Who wants to bet he'll end up wearing whatever it is she's eating?"

"Beautiful morning, isn't it, Evans?" they could hear James declare down the table. "Not nearly as beautiful as you."

Mia winced and covered her eyes and waited for her brother to blow it.

"So, how about you let me show off that pretty face of yours in Hogsmeade, yeah?"

There was a loud crashing noise followed by a small round of laughter and applause as James walked back to his seat looking utterly devastated. A bowl of upturned porridge rested on top of his head, the warm milk leaking down his face.

"Could have been worse," Sirius suggested.

James pouted. "How?"

"You could have asked her last night. She had soup for dinner."

Remus, Mia, and Peter stifled their laughs as James slowly removed the bowl from his head and manoeuvred his wand to Scourgify his hair. It ended up looking worse once it was clean, sticking up straight in the back.

Sirius shook his head and sighed loudly, drawing all attention back to him. "Now that your weekly emasculation at the hands of Evans is complete, can we go back to our Hogsmeade plans?"

"You going to Hogsmeade, Black?"

Mia turned to spot a fourth year Ravenclaw grinning down at Sirius. Much to her annoyance, Sirius turned on his seat and grinned up at the girl.

"What's it to you, McKinnon?" Sirius asked, looking the girl over.

Mia clenched her fists tightly.

"Oh, I was just wondering who was going to walk me all the way down." McKinnon pursed her lips, and Sirius's gaze immediately drew toward them. "It's an awful long way to walk by yourself. You wouldn't happen to already have a date, would you, Sirius?"

"Well, I was planning on spending the day with these sad sods." Sirius gestured to his friends, all of whom now looked mildly offended over the fact that he had been an arse about this trip for weeks only to ditch them now for a pretty skirt. "But what kind of gentleman would I be if I let a pretty girl walk alone?"

"See you outside then." The blonde winked at him and sashayed off.

Sirius turned back and grinned at his friends. "Change of plans, mates. I've got a date!" he said excitedly and stood up from the table, patting James on the back before rushing out of the Great Hall, leaving a quiet table behind.

Every third year Gryffindor girl was staring at Mia. A few other tables had turned to gawk at the scene as well. It was not everyday a fourth year asked a third year to go to Hogsmeade, but then again, this was Sirius Black. Even a few passing Slytherins had been watching from the sidelines.

"Who was that?" Alice whispered to Lily.

"Marlene McKinnon," Lily replied stiffly. "She clearly didn't know better."

"She obviously doesn't know Mia," Mary added as she stabbed her fork into a piece of fruit on her plate, glaring at McKinnon from behind as though she would jump to attack if Mia would just ask her to.

Mia shrugged her shoulders, looking at her plate but no longer having the desire to eat. "It's fine. Sirius is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He's free to date whoever he wants. I would have just assumed he would have enough class to stick with someone his own age," she said, but then quickly tried to bite back the hypocritical words.

"She's a slag," Mary muttered angrily. "I saw her snogging a fifth year Puff not three days ago in an empty Charms classroom."

Mia scowled, feeling like all the blood was rushing to her head. "I said it's fine. Sirius isn't my boyfriend or anything."

"You should come to Hogsmeade with us girls." Lily smiled at Mia brightly, reaching over and taking her hand. "We're going to go to the Three Broomsticks to get a butterbeer, and then maybe stop by Honeydukes. No, Remus," she said when he turned in her direction. "You can get your own chocolate; you'll be down there yourself!"

Mia pushed her plate away from her entirely. "I'll think about it, Lily."

"Okay, meet us out front if you're up for a girls' day. I have to finish a Charms essay before I get ready. Meet you all back here," she said to Alice and Mary who smiled up at their friend as she stood and walked away from the table.

"You sure you don't want me to smack McKinnon?" Mary whispered conspiratorially. "I caught Rikard Stebbins trying to look up my skirt last week, and he begged me not to tell. I could trade the favour he owes me and get the password to Ravenclaw Tower. We could put flesh flies in her bed."

Mia stared at her friend in horror, glad when Remus cleared his throat, drawing her attention.

"Are you really that upset with Sirius going on a date?" he asked.

She rolled her eyes and let out an irritable exhale. "I just think it's immature of him to make plans with his friends and then back out over a girl."

"Trouble in paradise, Potter?"

Cringing at the drawling voice, she turned to see Snape standing behind her next to Regulus Black and a first year Slytherin who looked slightly familiar.

"Piss off Snivellus!" James snarled.

"He wasn't talking to you, blood-traitor!" the young Slytherin snapped.

Immediately, the Gryffindors were on their guard as James stood.

Regulus laughed, patting the boy on the back. "Back down, Barty. He's excitable, this one."

Mia scowled at the use of the boy's name. BartyYoung Barty Crouch, Jr. Her hands were shaking as she glared at him. This was not the best morning to come face to face with so many future Death Eaters, regardless of the fact that two of them would eventually defect; they had been Death Eaters all the same. It did not help that, as teenagers, they were incorrigible prats.

"What do you want, Snape?" Mia hissed.

"Just to see if you're all right," he said with a smirk. "That looked rather uncomfortable from where I was standing."

He chuckled, and the noise grated on her skin.

Regulus sneered, not nearly as amused as his friends clearly were by the situation. "It's embarrassing, watching my brother panting after that girl. Everyone knows that the McKinnons are blood-traitors. He should be put out of his misery. Next, he'll be off snogging Mudbloods."

Remus and James made furious moves forward, but Mia got there first—CRACK!

She punched Snape in the face with all the strength she could muster, and it had felt just as good as it did when she had hit Draco.

Snape fell backward, black eyes wide as he held the left side of his jaw in his hand.

"You rotten, hypocritical coward!" she screamed, glaring down at him.

Regulus and Crouch looked gobsmacked at the sight, and James and Remus were gaping as though they had never seen her before in their lives.

"I didn't bloody say it!" Snape shouted up at her.

"No! But you were content with sitting back and allowing the other Slytherins to voice your prejudices for you. Besides," she growled, narrowing her eyes at Regulus, "Sirius has already smacked this one for being a little prick."

"Miss Potter!" Professor McGonagall bellowed, and Mia turned to look at the older witch. "Do you care to explain yourself?"

Mia looked between Snape and Regulus who continued to stare at her with hate in their eyes. "No. Won't make a difference."

Nothing you do will change what is meant to be.

Words from Remus's letter floated across her mind. It had been too long since she had read it, but she needed the words now. She needed to remember her guide and her rules. To remember that he had told her she could not save lives that were not meant to be saved. She could not stop a war that was not meant to be stopped. And she could not redeem those who, at this moment in time, were irredeemable.

"Can I assume that I'm headed to detention shortly, Professor?" Mia asked. "And that I'm forbidden from attending Hogsmeade?"

"Absolutely, young lady. And I still want a proper explanation for your behaviour!"

"Very well." Mia almost smiled as she gathered her bags and turned to look at a very pleased-looking James, Remus, and Peter. She grinned at her brother and best friend before her eyes fell on the rat and she glared. "What can I say, Professor? I just can't control myself when the people I love are threatened."

Her eyes were empty and cold, and her body language was eerily calm and collected, but she noticed that Peter abruptly stopped breathing, only regaining the function of his lungs once her stare relaxed.

Sirius slipped through the portrait hole with a bright, smug grin spread across his face. His lips were swollen, and his hair was pleasantly dishevelled, or least it had been when he caught a glimpse in a reflection.

There were a few lingering first years on the sofas, hunched over rolls of parchment in a panic, still trying to find the comfortable routine of homework and life that the older students had fallen into since the beginning of the year.

Sirius practically skipped up the stairs to the dorms. Upon entering, he spotted Remus, who was sitting on his bed with a large book open in his hands, his body surrounded by empty candy wrappers and discarded Chocolate Frog cards.

"Hello, my fine, furry friend." Sirius threw himself onto his own bed and rested his hands lazily behind his head.

For as happy as Sirius was, Remus looked the polar opposite. He glared across the room at Sirius. "Where the hell have you been? Curfew was an hour ago."

"You're going to make a wonderful—or really inconvenient—prefect one day," Sirius said with a chuckle. "I was in Hogsmeade."

Remus did not look impressed. Sirius wished Peter was there to talk to.

"This whole time?" Remus sat up and closed his book, giving Sirius his full attention. "We went looking for you and couldn't find you anywhere," he said in an accusing tone.

"Marlene and I were out by the Shrieking Shack." Sirius waggled his eyebrows, and Remus's nose twitched. "Did you know that it's apparently haunted?" he joked, hoping to bring a little humour to the all-too-serious-looking boy. "Girls love it."

"That's ridiculous." Remus scoffed.

They had all heard the rumours. Ghosts had been heard bellowing out of the Shrieking Shack, and the town of Hogsmeade had been urged to avoid the place like the pox. The Marauders knew the truth, of course, and Remus did not look amused that couples were using the view of his "dog house"—as Sirius was prone to call it—to snog in front of.

"Ridiculous but true, mate!"

"So you've been out snogging a girl while staring at my . . . cage. How romantic of you," Remus said sarcastically, rolling his eyes as they briefly turned gold before returning to their normal shade of green.

"If you had been snogged like I was just snogged . . ." Sirius let out a satisfied sigh. "You might see that place a little differently too."

"Unlikely," Remus growled.

Sirius sat up and stared across the room at his friend. "What's got your tail in a twist? I've had the best bloody day of my life, and you're acting all morose and shit. You should be asking me for details, and I should be bragging about those details over a couple bottles of butterbeer with my best mates!"

"Then go find James and Peter, I'm not in the mood," Remus snapped and reopened his book.

"What happened? Honeydukes out of Chocolate Frogs?"

"Mia's in detention right now," Remus replied quickly, slamming his book shut.

"That's unlikely," Sirius said, disbelievingly, crossing his arms. Apart from the prank she had helped him pull on Regulus, Mia never stepped a toe out of line. In fact, she often tried to keep all of them out of trouble. Besides, he was certain that even if she ever did break a rule, she would certainly never get caught. Mia was brilliant, and her Disillusionment Charm was a thing of beauty. "What did she supposedly do?"

"No supposedly about it," Remus insisted. "She got busted in view of about fifty students and half the professors."

"Holy shit." Sirius was suddenly captivated. "What happened? What did she do?"

"Do you care?"

Defensive, Sirius jumped to his feet, officially done with Remus's pissy mood. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Is she all right? What happened to her!?"

Panic suddenly flooded him. Had something serious happened to Mia? Did the Slytherins retaliate for the prank they had played on them last year?

Remus slowly rose from his bed, standing, unintimidated, inches taller than Sirius. "Well, once you'd sauntered off on your bloody date, Mia was being consoled by her friends."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Sirius asked, confused. "What did she need consoling for? What happened?"

"Because you're a blind idiot, and you don't deserve what you can't even see!" Remus clenched his fists in a clear bid to contain his anger. "Mia fancies you, dickhead!"

Sirius stumbled back in shock.

Remus stepped forward, crowding him against the footboard of his bed. "She was upset about you running off with McKinnon!" Clearly angry, Remus's eyes flashed again, and the colour change did not go unnoticed by Sirius. "Then Regulus called you a blood-traitor and said you'd be bringing home Mudbloods next, and I'm pretty sure he even threatened your life, mate."

Sirius snarled, his brow furrowing together in anger. "They made fun of Mia?"

"That's not the point, Sirius. It wasn't about her. It was about you," Remus said, his voice lightly touched with envy. "She punched Snape in the face, made him bleed and everything, and McGonagall saw it all."

Sirius's eyes widened. Mia punched Snivellus?

"She did it for you, and you were off snogging some Ravenclaw that you'd never even met before today."

The silence was suffocating as he processed everything.

Mia had been unlike any girl he had ever known. She was James's sister, but nothing like a sister to Sirius. She had always been his friend—more than a friend. She had been his safe place for as long as he had known her.

"I . . . I didn't know."

"You don't even bother to try," Remus accused bitterly.

"What the hell am I supposed to do with this, Remus?" Sirius asked, wide-eyed. "She's James's sister. She's Mia. She's our friend . . . She's . . . She . . ." he stammered as he paced back and forth in the room.

He had been out in the snow not an hour ago, locked in his first snog with a fourth year Ravenclaw who obviously fancied him. It had been one of the best nights of his entire life, and that did not say much considering how shitty his life had been up until Hogwarts. Until he had met James and Remus and Peter and . . .


"She's ours," Remus said firmly. "Ours to take care of. Ours to protect," he went on, his eyes fierce. "Our job. Remember, Sirius?"

"I remember," Sirius whispered.

That first night in Potter Manor had been horrible. He thought the Potters to be this perfect family with perfect children. James and Mia exuded joy and love. To hear her screaming in the night had terrified him. He remembered watching as James crawled into her bed and pulled her tight against him, and suddenly, she had calmed down. Just like that. It had been like . . . magic. Sirius remembered feeling envious of his friend for having a power that felt so important. Sirius wanted that power. Wanted to be able to calm her screams and dry her tears. So he had taken it upon himself to declare that she belonged to all of them: James, Remus, and himself.

It had felt right at the time. James was her brother, and Remus had always been her best friend, and Sirius was . . . was . . .


"Our job," Sirius repeated, the words feeling like they were trying to choke him as they came out.

"Then do it! Bloody take care of the girl, and stop hurting her by being an arrogant prat! James can't take care of her forever, and if you don't man up and do it—" Remus stared at Sirius, eyes hard with conviction. "Someone else will."

"Oh, like you?" Sirius turned his narrowed eyes up at his friend, and suddenly, they were no longer children, no longer little boys who played with toy dragons and talked about nothing but Quidditch. A girl was involved and not just any girl. A girl they had both somehow claimed, even if neither was certain what that meant just now.

"Someone should!" Remus snapped back.

"What's going on in here?"

The voice distracted both of them, and they turned to see James standing in the doorway, a worried expression on his face as he watched his best friends looking as though they were nearly ready to start throwing hexes.

"Nothing," they both said at the same time and separated, going to their own beds.

"Okay." James watched them closely. After a few moments of silence, he made his way to his own bed and turned to look at his best friend. "How was your date?"

Sirius frowned. "Fine. It was . . . I don't think I'm going to see her again."

"Bad luck. You should have stuck around a while longer then. Did Remus tell you that Mia punched Snivellus?" James laughed. "It was hilarious. The only time I've ever seen her that angry before is when you were in the hospital wing last year."

Mia did not get back to the common room until well after midnight. She was exhausted after spending her entire day helping Professor McGonagall organise first year Transfiguration essays, and then—because her offence had been of a violent nature—she had spent her night polishing each and every candelabra in the Great Hall.

Instead of making her way back up to her dorm room, she collapsed on the sofa in front of the fireplace and fell swiftly asleep.

Her rest did not last long, and soon she jolted awake, heart racing. She covered her face with her hands and willed the tears to retreat as she forced the image of Voldemort from her mind. Forced the sounds of Sirius and Remus screaming from her thoughts. She stood, looking to the stairs leading to the girls' dorms with hesitation. She hated dreams that involved her boys. It always made her worried that somehow, if she did not see them with her own eyes, that meant that they were not safe.

Slowly and quietly she made her way up the stairs to the boys' dorms and slipped inside the room her brother shared with the other Marauders. She quickly peeked in on a snoring Jamie who was in a deep sleep, sprawled out across his bed, one leg hanging off the edge. She smiled and ran her hands affectionately through his messy hair, making it a touch worse.

Her gaze then fell across the room where she could see, framed against the moonlight, Remus's heartbreakingly beautiful silhouette. She watched closely as his chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. She made no closer move toward him, knowing that this close to the full moon he was a light sleeper, and she did not want to wake him when he needed all the rest he could get.

Before she turned to leave—and despite the fact that she was annoyed with him—Mia peeked behind Sirius's curtains to check on him. He was on his side with one arm crossed over his chest, gripping the other gently. Her brows knit together as she remembered an older Sirius. This was how he slept in the bed in the tent when they had been on the run. She remembered Apparating out of Godric's Hollow and how Sirius had been splinched. She had bandaged and repaired his wound just as he had done to her months prior. While he rarely complained about the injury that she took responsibility for, she noticed that he favoured the wounded arm in his sleep.

"You okay?" Sirius mumbled as his eyes opened.

She frowned, not noticing before that he was awake.

"Sorry," she whispered. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"Need me to get James?" Sirius sat up and rubbed his eyes, turning to look to the side where James was out cold. "Oh, well. I could wake him up."

"No, don't. I'm fine." Her focus drifted across the room hesitantly at Remus's bed.

"Come on," Sirius said and scooted backwards on his mattress.


Sirius frowned, looking angry. "You want Remus?"

"How was your date?"

His anger seemed to dissipate at her words. Without answering, he reached out and grabbed her hand, tugging her forward until she fell onto the mattress.

She hissed but kept quiet, not wanting to rouse the others from their slumber. By the time she righted herself into a sitting position on the bed, Sirius's head was in her lap, and she let out a frustrated growl.

"Shut up and pet me."

"Sirius," she groaned.

"Date was awful. Should have just gone with my friends."

Mia frowned, letting his words roll around in her mind. "I'm sorry you had a bad time. If it makes you feel any better, I didn't have the best day myself."

Sirius let out a quiet chuckle. "I heard about that. You know it's our job to defend and protect you, right?"

And just like that, she was back in the tent on the run with Harry, Ron, and Sirius. Only this time in her memories it was not Sirius in bed with a splinched arm, it was her in bed, the long scar on her splinched back slowly mending while she rested. The Tales of Beedle the Bard in one hand, the other gently stroking the black fur of the giant dog who slept with his head in her lap.

Mia frowned as she brushed her fingers through Sirius's hair. "Maybe we'll just agree to always take care of each other."

Sirius smiled.

Chapter Text

You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground"
(Roar - Katy Perry)

March 27th, 1974

Sirius did not take another girl to Hogsmeade for the rest of the year. He also did not take Mia. Despite not dating another girl after Marlene McKinnon, the fact that Sirius had gone to Hogsmeade with the girl—only to ignore her the next morning—had earned him a reputation. Regardless of the fact that he spent his nights in the Gryffindor common room playing Wizard's Chess and Exploding Snap with James, rumours began to circulate the school about the young playboy who was often "seen" snogging behind tapestries, in empty classrooms, and even, apparently, in Professor McGonagall's office.

It annoyed Mia more than it did Sirius, and she began to really understand why the older Sirius did not have much concern when it came to being in the Daily Prophet so often. His infamous reputation had been filling the gossip mill since he was only fourteen years old.

While the year started out stressfully, by the time spring rolled around, the Marauders and Mia were back to normal. She had taken to reading Remus's letter again before bed every night and sometimes in the morning; it was necessary to remind herself over and over of her number one rule: Live your life. Enjoy your life.

And so she did.

Once, during the middle of March, to celebrate James's—and technically her—fourteenth birthday, Mia slipped into the laundry room of the castle late the night before and grinned when she spotted a fresh stack of newly laundered Slytherin robes. She was suddenly very grateful for the sewing charms that Molly Weasley had taught her years earlier.

The morning of James and Mia's birthday, after opening the gifts that the owls flew in from their parents as well as the few treats that were given to them from their friends, Mia smiled deviously up at her brother.

"I have a birthday gift for you. Does everyone know how to do a Heating Charm?" she asked. "And can you keep it subtle?"

"Did you do something bad, kitten?" Sirius asked with a grin.

Mia only smiled innocently in response.

He barked a laugh and grabbed his wand, motioning the others to do the same. "Oh, this should be good."

"Now, everyone aim your wands to the Slytherin table and use a Heating Charm. Not hot enough to burn or scald, but . . . uncomfortably hot," Mia emphasised.

As one, the Gryffindors swished their wands and uttered the incantation, putting focus on the green and silver table at the other end of the Great Hall. At first, nothing happened and Sirius looked disappointed. They kept on with the incantation and suddenly there was a quiet Pop!

Followed by several more.

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Mia snickered as she watched Snape look up from his breakfast and cast a glance around the table. Amycus Carrow followed suit.


The older Slytherins were looking around, trying to find the source of the noise.

Pop! Pop! Pop!

"What's happening?" James asked with a grin.

Mia beamed. "Just watch."

Pop! Pop! Pop!

One by one, the Slytherins stood from their seats, confused and shouting. Pop! Some were struggling with their robes—Pop!—trying to get them off as quickly as possible.

All of a sudden, freshly popped popcorn kernels began shooting out of the lining of the Slytherin robes, overflowing their pockets and collars, covering their table and blanketing the floors.

Sirius smiled in approval. "Very clever, kitten. Not quite the most awful thing you could have done to them, but entertaining, to say the least. What do we give her, boys?" he asked, looking around the table.

"Exceeds Expectations," Remus said politely with a smirk on his face.

"I have to agree with Professor Lupin." James laughed, and Mia stifled a chuckle at the moniker.

"I'm only seeing Acceptable myself," Sirius admitted with a frown. "You need to learn how to get a little dirty with your pranks."

Mia merely smiled sweetly at him. "Do you know how long it took me to sew popcorn kernels into the lining of each and every Slytherin robe?" she asked with feigned superiority. "You need to learn patience."

"Wheeeee!" A joyous yell echoed from just outside the Great Hall as Peeves the Poltergeist flew through the open doors, a large bucket in his hands. "Sticky, slippery snakes!" he chanted, hovering over the Slytherin table where he tipped the bucket he carried, drenching each and every popcorn-encased Slytherin in litres of melted butter.

Mia's notional grades were immediately changed to Outstandings across the board.

The boys spent the better part of a month trying to figure out how she had been able to get Peeves to help her, but Mia kept her lips sealed. Peeves was a wild card that would ultimately be dangerous in the hands of the Marauders.

June 20th, 1974

"Mia, wake up."

"Mmm," Mia mumbled into her pillow.

There were only a few days left of school, and she was already looking forward to sleeping in her large bed back home. Exams were over, and she had performed outstandingly. Third in her year just behind Lily and Remus—tied with Severus Snape of all people. Mia, of course, knew that she could easily top them all—having already taken and excelled in all of the classes the first time around—but she also knew that Lily and Remus were being looked at for future prefects and the upcoming year would make all the difference for her friends. She had been a prefect before and something told her that doing so again would make it difficult to completely embrace Remus' instructions; her guide and her rules: Live your life. Enjoy your life. So instead of worrying about exams or future prefect badges, Mia dreamt about the orchard behind Potter Manor, where she had planned a summer of reading and watching her boys play Quidditch. Lazy mornings in the family library, afternoons with her mother in the garden, and maybe a repeat of last summer's gathering of friends at the river.

"Mia, wake up."

One of her eyes cracked open, and she groaned. "Sirius?"

Grey eyes sparkled down at her. "Wake up, kitten."

Mia bolted upright in bed, gasping as she gathered her sheets around her body as though he had never seen her in a nightdress before. "Sirius, how did you get up the stairs?"

Sirius chuckled at the action, clearly thinking the same thing. She had slept in his bed once, for crying out loud. Though when they had awakened the following morning, there was an awkward tension in the air. From that point on, when Mia had nightmares, she went straight to her brother.

"You're kind of sexy when you're embarrassed."

"Sirius! The stairs! How did you get up the stairs?" she snapped. "They're charmed so boys can't climb up them."

"You're adorable when you underestimate me."

Mia glared up at him, trying her darnedest to not let him see that she was in fact impressed that he had somehow figured out how to get around such an old charm.

"Now get up; you and I have a wedding to get to."

"A wedding?" Mia groaned and fell back onto her bed, pulling her blanket over her face.

"A wedding," Sirius confirmed, yanking the blanket back down and smiling at her.

"Are you proposing? Because it's been a few years since you've done that."

"I still maintain that buying me a Cauldron Cake is worthy of my eternal love."

She remembered their first trip on the Hogwarts Express and how she showered them all with treats from the trolley. James graciously gave her the title of Best Sister Ever. Remus and Peter thanked her for her generosity. An eleven-year-old Sirius implied that chocolate gifts were a traditional form of dowry and then begged her to be his wife.

Mia yawned, pushing him away from her face. "Well, you can earn my eternal love if you let me go back to sleep."

"No. I have a wedding to go to, and you're coming with me."

"You want me to be your date to a wedding?"

Sirius laughed, stepping back and running a hand through his hair. She wondered if that was a tell. She had never been able to figure out exactly when Sirius was trying to hide something.

"If this is a date, then I am officially worthy of all the shitty rumours going around this year. No, this is certainly not a date," he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her up into a sitting position. He tugged on her legs, moving them off the side of her bed as she continued to glare at him. "I just have to go to this wedding, and, well . . . I'd rather have you there than one of the guys."

Mia blushed as she remembered dancing at Bill and Fleur's wedding with an older Sirius. He had told her that he hated weddings because he had been forced to go to so many as a child.

"Most of the weddings were for cousins, aunts, and uncles of mine, all destined to marry one another, or married off to the worst type of people to ever exist. Like the Malfoys and the Lestranges."

She gasped at the memory. "Are you talking about Narcissa's wedding?"


She felt her heart still in her chest as she tried to blink away the images of a cold drawing room. "Sirius . . . I . . . I can't go."

"Why not? It'll be a laugh. By the way, how are your roommates still asleep? I expected to have three girls screaming at me by now. Or asking me to stay," he said with a wink.

"I put a Silencing Charm around my bed before I go to sleep," she curtly replied. "Where's the wedding at, Sirius?"

"Silencing Charm? Were you expecting me?"

"Sirius! The wedding! Location!"

He rolled his eyes dramatically. "Malfoy's place. Big manor that's as ugly and cold as—"

"I can't go," she stressed quickly, forcing the memories of a Cruciatus Curse out of her mind. The place where she had been tortured. Where her friends had been imprisoned. Where Sirius had almost died—again. "And . . . I don't want you to go there."

He frowned, his brow furrowed. "I don't want to go either, but I have to."


"Because Narcissa wasn't always like this," he admitted sadly, running a hand through his hair again. "She's my cousin, and I feel like . . . if it was me trapped in a situation like that, I'd really want someone to show up at the last possible second and offer me a way out."

Mia frowned at his earnest expression. "She won't take it. I'm sorry, Sirius, but she won't."

He shrugged his shoulders, undeterred. "Probably. In which case, you and I will drink the Malfoy's good firewhisky and champagne and then plant dungbombs inside the wedding cake."

"That might almost be worth it." Mia genuinely laughed. It was terrifying to think of returning to Malfoy Manor. She did not want to go, but Sirius was determined to leave, and the thought of letting him go by himself made her blood run cold.

He beamed excitedly. "It's settled then! Get up, and get out your good dress robes!"

"Wait. How are we getting there?"

Sirius pulled from his robes a silver envelope with beautiful black script written across the front of it and the Malfoy family crest in the corner. "Invitations are set up as Portkeys."

Mia eyed the envelope. "Sirius, that invitation is addressed to Regulus Black."

"Is it?" Sirius feigned innocence as he turned and examined the invitation. "Huh, I guess it is."

"I'm going to be sick," Mia said as she slowly stood up after landing outside of Malfoy Manor. She hated Portkey travel.

She scanned the grounds as they made their way up the long path leading to the intimidating home, James's Invisibility Cloak thrown over them. Glancing around, she did not know why she was shocked that it was still dark. "Why are we here so early?"

"It's the Summer Solstice."

Mia stared at him. "And?"

"And a new moon."

The two made their way inside manor, sneaking in behind a large family. The invitation tucked inside Sirius's robes granted them access through the security wards.

"And . . . ?"

"And what?" he asked, looking at her strangely until his cheeks turned a bit pink, and he winced. "Sorry. I guess I forget that your parents don't observe most pureblood traditions. Today is the Summer Solstice, and it also falls on a new moon, which calls for a wedding at sunrise. The Summer Solstice represents fire and cleansing, the new moon is a time to plant seeds for the future, and the sunrise speaks of birth . . ."

"Ugh." Mia made a face. "You have pureblood mouth."

Sirius barked out a laugh and then immediately quieted himself when a few guests turned to try and find the source of the noise. "Sorry, should I have thrown in a few 'fucks' and 'shits' to Muggle it up for you?"

Mia rolled her eyes. "You're so crude."

"You love it."

Her cheeks felt like they were suddenly on fire. She would never verbally admit to enjoying Sirius's crass language—language that had rubbed off on her when she was good and furious. Usually at his expense. "So, you're saying that they've chosen this day specifically? Is that why they pulled Narcissa out of school a few days before graduation? To get married?"

"Looks like the Malfoys and the Blacks think that this marriage will be the beginning of something big," he said sarcastically as they observed the gathered crowd. Most were older Wizarding families, Wizengamot members, Ministry officials, and the highest of pureblood society. Mia recognised Sirius's parents in the corner arguing and quickly tugged on his sleeve to pull him in the opposite direction.

"The union of the Malfoys and the Blacks is something big," Mia acknowledged. "It will create awful power. They plan on cleansing away inferior blood with fire, and using Lucius and Narcissa to birth and then lead a perfect pureblood world."

She grimaced as she remembered hearing such awful pureblood propaganda in her other time. How Lucius Malfoy had used his own family to further himself with Voldemort, and how Draco had been branded a Death Eater because of it. Mia grinned as she recalled Draco's defection.

"It won't work."

"Damn right it won't. I'm going to stop the bloody wedding."

"Sirius, that's not what I meant." Mia frowned as they ascended a large staircase. She paused as she thought about the fact that they had passed the drawing room and she had not even noticed it. How had that happened? It was the object of her nightmares, and she had just walked through it as though it were nothing.

"Here," Sirius whispered, breaking her concentration. "Stay under the cloak while I go in."

Before Mia could stop him, Sirius stepped out from under the Invisibility Cloak and slipped through an open doorway. Frowning, Mia followed, keeping the cloak tight around her as she watched.

"Cissa," Sirius said as he walked into the bridal room.

The young woman sat at a large vanity, her beautiful blond hair plaited back with soft curls framing her face. The blue ribbon tied around her elegant white dress matched her eyes perfectly. She was a vision, save for the missing smile a bride should normally be wearing.

Narcissa gasped at the sight of Sirius. "What are you doing here? You weren't even invited!" She stood and ran to the door, peeking out to make sure no one had followed him.

Mia ducked her head to avoid taking an elbow to the face.

"About that." Sirius pulled the silver envelope from his robes with a grin. "I wouldn't expect to see Regulus today. He sends his apologies, but the lad's lost his invitation."

"You have to leave," Narcissa insisted, looking to be in no mood for his games. Her voice was bitter and cold, but there was an edge of panic to it as she said, "Leave now."

Sirius shook his head. "Not without you."

"Are you out of your stupid little mind, cousin?" she snapped at him like a viper, quick and sharp. "This is my wedding day!"

"It doesn't have to be." Sirius dropped his casual attitude. "You can run. Go be like Andromeda. Find someone who actually loves you and won't treat you like a house-elf or a broodmare."

"I do not want to be like Andromeda," Narcissa said, tears trembling in her eyes.

"She's free. Free from all of this pureblood supremacy shit."

"She was tortured by her own sister!" Narcissa argued, picking the sides of her dress up in clenched fists as she began to pace back and forth in the room. "At my engagement party! And you, a fourteen-year-old boy, were the only one to try and stop it, Sirius! I am not Andromeda. I don't have the ability to walk away from this. My choice has already been made."

"Made for you."

"Yes, made for me," she agreed. "As yours will be for you. Andromeda ruined both of us by running off with that Mudblood," she spat, her eyes turning cold and distant.

"Don't call him that! You've never called them that before!"

"It's what they are." Her blue eyes narrowed at him. "They are Mudbloods, and you're a blood-traitor!"

"And the blood-traitors are right!" Sirius yelled and stepped forward, meeting her eye-to-eye. He reached for her arm to keep her from walking away from him. "Cissa, don't think I don't know what Lucius is up to. I overheard my parents talking to Abraxas last Easter. I know who they're following and what they're wanting to do."

"Don't," Narcissa begged, her stony resolve cracking.


"Please . . ."

"You're marrying a fucking Death Eater!" he yelled, and she fell to the floor, covering her face as she sobbed.

He silently stroked her hair, trying to offer her comfort in the only way he knew how. After a full minute, Narcissa finally spoke. "You're going to be one too."

Sirius jumped back from her as though she were infected. "Like hell!"

"You're too young," Narcissa said quietly as she stood, reaching for the nearby dresser for a handkerchief to wipe her eyes. "That's the only reason they haven't done it yet. Don't you see, cousin?" She turned to look at him sadly. "This is our life; obey or die."

"Like you almost did? He Imperiused you, didn't he?"

Narcissa did not deny it. She just stood there, her eyes blank of all emotion.

"Didn't he?!"

"I wasn't listening like a good wife," she conceded. "I told you; obey, or die."

"I saved you. And for what?"

"You shouldn't have," Narcissa said with a sigh. "I would have been better off as some grave memorial plaque on the back of the Quidditch stands at Hogwarts. As it is, I'm the future Lady Malfoy." Sirius blanched at the words. "And you're the Black heir. You need to forget about me, and start worrying about yourself, Sirius."

At the sound of footsteps, Mia scooted into the room, pulling the Cloak off to reveal herself. "Sirius! Someone's coming."

Narcissa's eyes widened in horror. "You brought a Potter to my wedding? Salazar! Sirius, are you not planning on surviving the year?" She shook her head and moved behind her young cousin, shoving at his back. "Get out, both of you!"

"Cissa, come with me," Sirius said with one last plea.

"Get out!"

An hour later, Sirius and Mia stood at the back of the gardens outside Malfoy Manor beside the hired servants and house-elves. Sirius had used the Invisibility Cloak to find Abraxas Malfoy's stash of firewhisky, and he had drained nearly half of a bottle already. They remained quiet and unobserved, looking oddly in place with the "commoners" who watched from the back of the gathered crowd.

At the front of the garden, Cygnus Black placed Narcissa's hand into Lucius's, and the presiding wizard tied their hands together with two cords; one black, the other silver to represent each House in the marriage. General introductions were made where the presiding wizard spoke of duty and honour but never love.

Sirius continued to drink, and Mia eventually took the bottle away from him, swallowing a large gulp herself before passing it off to a server beside her.

"Narcissa of the House of Black," the presiding wizard intoned. "Turn to your new Lord Husband and make your vow."

"I, Narcissa of the House of Black, give to you, Lucius of the House of Malfoy, my virtue and m-my voice. My body and my obedience."

Sirius winced at the words, and Mia took his hand in a gesture of comfort.

"To take your name as my own and uphold it with honour and purity. I pledge to you my firstborn son, your heir who will carry on your legacy and the legacy of your fathers. I . . ." Narcissa hesitated for a moment, and Sirius stood at attention, watching eagerly.

"I willingly bind myself to you until death separates us and swear this vow upon my magic. Suscipiam illud vinculum," she chanted, and the black cord around her wrist glowed before turning silver to match the other.

Sirius deflated, and Mia held his hand tighter. She waited for Lucius to make his vows to his new wife, but when none came, her brows knit together in confusion, especially when the presiding wizard said, "I now declare you bonded for life!"

There was polite applause, and the guests all stood at once to form a line and make their congratulations. Servants surrounding Sirius and Mia went to work, carrying around silver platters stacked with flutes of champagne and small tumblers of firewhisky.

"I think I'm going to be sick," Mia muttered, shocked by what she'd just witnessed. "He didn't vow anything to her. He's supposed to say something."

"Let's go, Mia. Suddenly, crashing the party doesn't seem so fun after watching my cousin willingly enslave herself." Sirius tugged on her hand to leave, but she stood firm as though she were still waiting for the ceremony to continue. For someone to shout "Stop! We forgot something!" but no one did.

"I've seen a wizard marriage before." She thought of Bill and Fleur, who had been bonded with love and devotion, each making beautiful vows toward the other. "That wasn't—"

"Normal?" Sirius asked. "No. That was an old bonding ceremony. Narcissa just tied her magic to Malfoy for life, and it wasn't even a proper Marriage Bond. It sounded more like what . . ." He hesitated, and a bitter expression fell over his beautiful features. "Like what happens when we get a new house-elf."

Mia grimaced. "There are different types of bonds?"

"What?" Sirius looked down at her with a raised brow. "Of course there—"

"Well, well, what do we have here?"

Mia froze on the spot, her eyes wide and frightened at the sight in front of her. She gripped Sirius's hand like it was her lifeline and silently began wishing that she was back in 1998, the day after her nineteenth birthday, where she and Sirius were safe and alive.

Sirius glared ahead at the young woman that stood before them. "Bella."

The woman looked much the same as Mia recalled, though younger. Her black hair was as thick and shiny—just missing the streaks of grey. She shared the sharp, angular features that appeared to be a Black family trait, and her hooded eyes were identical to what Mia remembered of an older Andromeda.

Sirius narrowed his eyes. "I'd say it's good to see you, but since your very appearance makes me want to Scourgify my eyeballs—"

"You are pushing your luck, little cousin." Bellatrix sneered at him. "You dare come here, step foot inside this house after everything you've already done?"

Mia wrapped her arms around Sirius's bicep, clinging to him tightly as the word "Crucio" echoed in her mind.

"And you've brought a Potter as your date?" Bella's stare fell on Mia, and she scowled at her with a look of hate that did not exactly rival the one an older Bellatrix gave to a young Hermione Granger before setting the Cruciatus Curse upon her.

"It's tradition, didn't you know?" Sirius smirked defiantly, apparently unafraid of the woman whom he had witnessed torture her own sister. "The official bridal-bonding with blood-traitors. It'll bring the happy couple wonderful luck for their marriage. Lots of blessings, many sons, blah, blah, blah . . ."

Bellatrix took another step forward. "You are nothing but an insolent little blemish on an otherwise perfect Noble House."

Mia looked up at Sirius's determined face and then turned to stare at Bellatrix. She remembered seeing an older Bellatrix with a bound black dog hovering behind her, cackling with glee.

"I've just caught myself a wayward blood-traitor. Sirius Black, back from the dead."

Something lit inside of Mia at the memory, and she felt herself reaching for her wand.

"I'd love more than anything to rid our family of you for good myself!" Bella snapped.

Mia shoved herself in front of Sirius, eyes blazing. "You will not touch him!" she growled, wand raised in time to meet Bellatrix's own.

Sirius gasped and reached for her hand. "Mia."

"Oh, she's got fire." Bellatrix grinned down at her. "I should smack that look off your face."

Mia glared up at the older witch. "I've had worse."

"You're lucky it's considered bad taste to spill blood on the morning of a marriage. Especially one so important." Bellatrix leant in close to Mia and whispered, "Maybe another day, little girl. I look forward to it. Dealing with you, my little cousin here, and all of your adorable blood-traitor friends. It's rumoured you even have a pet werewol—"

Too far.

"You will not touch my family, you bitch!"

Sirius put his arms around Mia's waist and tugged her back several feet, shoving himself between her and Bellatrix, his eyes wide.

"You dare speak to me that way? Do you have any idea who I am?" Bellatrix shrieked, her hands shaking with rage, and her eyes alight with fury. "You filthy little blood-traitor, I will enjoy watching you die screaming!"

She had screamed. Mia had screamed and screamed right there in Malfoy Manor, and yet she did not die. She vividly remembered the sight of the black dog launching on top of the dark witch, jaws clamped around her throat, ripping and tearing as she struggled for air.

Mia stood, unafraid as Bellatrix Lestrange looked down threateningly at her.

"And I will enjoy watching you die . . . gasping."

Before Bellatrix had a chance to raise her wand again, Mia tapped the bracelet on her wrist, the same wrist Sirius was gripping, and chanted, "Portus!"

Chapter Text

Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
(Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield)

June 20th, 1974

Sirius and Mia arrived in Hogsmeade Village under the vista of a beautiful sunrise that pushed its way over a lavish Scotland horizon. From the spot where they landed, Hogwarts could easily be seen in the near distance.

"Come on," Mia muttered as she began making her way up toward the castle.

"Mia!" Sirius shouted after her, reaching for her hand. "First, you can't just go back up this way and knock on the front door. We sneaked out; we have to sneak back in." He sighed irritably and tugged on her wrist, leading her through a copse of trees on a path that led to an old, abandoned cottage.

"What is this?" she asked as he led her through the front door.

"Old hunting lodge. Used to belong to the groundskeeper before they built the new one for Hagrid. We found it this year. It's dangerous to walk through. Pretty much condemned, but it's the cellar that we're after," he said and pulled lightly on her wrist, guiding her down a set of stairs that opened up into a small cellar. In the back was a locked door.

"Alohomora," Sirius muttered, and the latch opened. "It leads into Hogwarts. Now, are you going to tell me what happened back there? How the hell do you know how to do a Portus Charm? That's beyond even N.E.W.T. level."

"Do you trust me?" Mia asked, sighing when Sirius nodded. "Then know that I can't answer your questions all the time, but I have my reasons."

They walked through the dark passage, her lit wand the only light to guide them. The pair continued until it felt like they were climbing, up and up, over rocks and dips in the ground, as the cave-like tunnel ascended higher.

"I do trust you, Mia, but I'm seriously doubting your level of sanity, considering what I just saw," Sirius muttered quietly and the two fell silent once again.

He held his hand out to her automatically when a portion of the passageway was partially blocked by old barrel drums with Blishen's Firewhisky labels branded into the wood—obviously, someone had once used the inlet as a secret storage facility what looked to have been at least thirty years ago.

"You do know who you threatened, right?" Sirius eventually asked her.

Mia nodded calmly, ducking beneath an exquisite spider web so as not to damage it. "Bellatrix Lestrange. And I didn't threaten, promised. She threatened you, my family, and Remus. That I will not allow. Wait, this is . . ." She blinked and looked around as the secret passage finally came to an end.

"Just another passage. We've found loads so far. Door right there opens up to a mirror on the fourth floor. Look, you can't just go around threatening Bellatrix Lestrange. Merlin, I thought . . . She had her wand, and the last time . . . She could have killed you!"

"She didn't. We escaped," Mia whispered, placing a gentle hand on his cheek.

It broke her a little to see him so worried, so angry over something she had done. She put herself in harm's way in the worst possible situation, but she could not help herself. She had faced Bellatrix Lestrange, the object of her worst nightmares, and instead of being afraid of getting tortured again, Mia had only thought of Sirius. Of Bellatrix sending Sirius through the veil. Of their capture at the manor.

It was all for him.

She noticed that his breath was heavy. He was in good shape and still young, so the climb had not likely exhausted him, which meant that his adrenaline was still pumping out of fear. It only made her angrier at Bellatrix.

"I'm all right," she promised him, stroking his jaw with her thumb, always amused that he already had stubble. Remus did too, but James and Peter complained about their lack of facial hair, and she had even caught James using a Shaving Charm back at home in an effort to trick the hair into growing faster.

"I'm sorry I put myself in danger, but we're both fine." She hugged him tightly, pressing her face into the fabric of his robes. "We're fine. I'm fine. I'm alive."

"You're alive," Sirius repeated in a soft whisper, pulling her away from his body and to stare in her eyes. "Mia, you have no idea how . . ." he began to say but stopped. How scared I was, he silently finished. How scared I was to lose you.

Without a second thought to remind him of the fact that this was James's sister or that Remus would probably kill him for being so reckless with her, Sirius crushed his lips against Mia's, desperate to feel her, to taste her.

He had assumed she would be frozen in shock by such a physical declaration, but he was pleasantly surprised when he felt her hands at the back of his neck, holding him close to her. She whimpered against his mouth, and Sirius groaned at the sound, savouring it with delight and vowing to create it again.

He eagerly gripped her arms, holding her tightly, terrified that she would escape and this moment would end—because it would have to eventually end. He let his hands move down as he kissed her so that he could rub circles over her ribs until she whimpered again. He gently traced the seam of her lips with his tongue, silently requesting entrance. When she opened her mouth, he gratefully took the opportunity to explore. When her own tongue touched his, Sirius felt his body stiffen as a realisation—a truth—swept through him:

She tasted how firewhisky felt.

She was warm and delicious, and a burning sensation rose from deep inside of him. Suddenly, he was terrified. He had not felt this way with Marlene McKinnon months ago in Hogsmeade. No, his first snogging session had been wet and awkward, all hands and mouths. He had easily walked away from Marlene after snogging her and, other than the feeling of pride in his chest and the desire to brag to his friends, nothing lingered.

But this . . .

This burned him.

It scorched him from the inside out and lit a fire in his lungs that sucked all the oxygen out of them. His adrenaline-fueled passion turned swiftly to reverence, and his bruising kiss softened as his hand came up to thread through her messy curls.

He was certain she would hate him once he pulled away, so he needed to tell her how he felt right now, knowing that he would be unable to do so later with words. He worshipped every moan and whimper that she sighed into his mouth; for a singular moment, he imagined that the sounds could sustain him forever. They could heal him and make him no longer Sirius Black—no pureblood supremacy, no expectations, no hatred, or bigotry. No choices to make or future to face and certainly no dragging her down with him.

He was pulled from his despairing thoughts when she nibbled on his lower lip, and his eyes rolled as he felt every ounce of blood in his head rapidly drift south with the gushing force of a waterfall.

"Mia," he whispered, moving his hands to her hips and pulling her tight against him. She felt perfect. She felt like . . . like . . . Mine.

Mine, Mia thought and tried not to cry.

Her hands touched his chest, and her eyes opened. In the shimmer of her still-lit wand that had fallen to the ground, her eyes needily sought out inked flesh and scars but only found pale, flawless skin.

Her first kiss with an older Sirius had been passionate, desperate, and deliciously punishing. This younger Sirius lavished her with gentle hands and soft, eager lips. A part of her wondered if they were, in fact, two very different men, but he tasted like firewhisky and smelled like fresh cut grass and leather.

She kissed him desperately, trying to find her Sirius inside of him. She ran her fingers up the length of his neck and moaned when his hands graced her hips and held tight. She wanted to tell him. Tell him everything—the truth that she had been hiding for years, but she knew she could not.

He touched her so gently that it drove her mad, and she wanted nothing more than to crawl into his lap as she had years ago—or technically, as she would twenty-five years from now. The taste of him brought her back to her own timeline, and she fought back the tears that were surely on their way as he unknowingly plucked at the string of their bond; it vibrated through her, sending shivers up her spine.

He must have felt it too. He broke the kiss with a loud gasp the very moment that she felt the emptiness in her soul shiver with satisfaction.

"Mia, I'm so sorry."

She knew that look. A very specific type of panic.

She had seen it only once before in her life, shortly after the end of the war when Sirius all but tricked her into befriending Draco Malfoy, who was having trouble adjusting to his new blood-traitor status. The two had gone to lunch, and the little ferret insinuated that she was getting fat. In the silence that followed a typical spat between them, Hermione had looked up and offered him forgiveness. He blew it off immediately, likely having assumed she meant his most recent remark. She clarified by telling him that she forgave him for the way he had treated her their entire childhood; that after the war, she understood at least a small part of what he might have had to grow up with. And she forgave him.

Draco had gaped at her the same way that Sirius looked at her now—like he had been reminded of where he came from and what was expected of him. Like the history of his family just came crashing down around him, and he was unworthy of the gift she was offering. Why would a Malfoy be deserving of her forgiveness? Why would a Black be deserving of her love? Draco had walked away that day and ignored her for a week. They had never talked about it again.

Sirius would walk away now, too, she realised.

"I won't tell Jamie," she said sadly, accepting that for some reason Sirius needed to run and maybe James would be as good a reason as any. Sirius was not ready to face this, whatever it was between them. He would be one day. The day after her nineteenth birthday, he would be ready, and she would be willing. "You don't have to apologise. You know how I feel. I'm going to live my life, enjoy my life. I'd like to do that with you."

Sirius stood there, staring at her like he wanted to look away. As though he was struck by the light and beauty of the sun, but it was burning his eyes to keep staring.

"I'm not worthy of that," he muttered. Before she had a chance to follow up with an irritated scoff and a reproachful lecture, he cut her off. "Not of you. Not now. Hell, Mia. You defended me not an hour ago against the craziest witch I've ever known, my mother included. And I just stood by like a first year Hufflepuff."


"You deserve better," Sirius said quietly as he walked away from her. Hovering by the door, he softly added, "Remus is in love with you."

July 16th, 1974

Mia and Sirius did not speak again about what had happened in the secret passage.

They also did not speak about the fact that the passage was no longer a passage. After Sirius left her there alone post-kiss, she shot out an angry "Bombarda!" and the walls collapsed. Sirius had already been long gone when it happened, but she was certain that he knew she had done it since she overheard Peter asking about the broken passageway days later only to watch as Sirius hushed him and cast a sideways glance in her direction.

Everything else seemed to go back to normal after that.

Sirius returned to Potter Manor a week after going home to Grimmauld Place. Mia had asked him how things went with his parents when they found out he had stolen Regulus's wedding invitation. As usual, he responded with an, "I don't want to talk about it," but she caught the glimmer of something on the back of his hand where the words Toujours Pur sat on his skin: a scar. She wanted to press for information but knew better. Sirius rarely opened up about his family, and he certainly was not going to let himself become vulnerable like that with her—not after their kiss.

That kiss had rivalled her first.

Very much the same yet perfectly distinct from one another. She frowned at the thought that she might not feel his lips again for many years, if ever. Mia was ultimately terrified that if the timelines ever caught up with one another, she would vanish into thin air—into non-existence. She worried that since Future Remus remembered her enough to send her back in time, that it meant she had perhaps died somewhere along the way. She had never recalled meeting an older woman in the Order, and Harry certainly never mentioned having an aunt other than Petunia Dursley.

It had taken her days to push that unbearable thought from her mind, knowing that if she died here in the past, Remus would not have sent her back to face it.


"Remus is in love with you."

That was what Sirius had said to her in the dark passage. He apologised, said she deserved better, and then stepped aside and showed her whom he thought was just that: better. To him, better was Remus; and Remus, apparently, was in love with her.

Being around the boys was painful and confusing, so for most of the summer, she retreated to the family library, eager to research bonds in the hopes of getting answers about her and Sirius. She needed to know what she had created when she brought him back from the veil. She needed to know exactly what it was that tied them together, especially after witnessing that abhorrent excuse for a wedding ceremony at Malfoy Manor. The last thing she wanted was for Sirius to be tied to her like a house-elf.

"If I didn't know any better, I would say that you're hiding in here, my girl." Dorea stood at the entrance to the large library, a sly smile on her face and a cup in each hand. "Come and take a break," she insisted as she brought the cups to a nearby table and sat down on the small sofa. "Now, tell me what's bothering you."

Mia sighed, closing her book. "Nothing."

"A true Gryffindor then? Incapable of lying?" Dorea tutted. "No, no, I think not. Try again."

"Does it matter?" Mia asked sadly.

"If it matters to you, it matters to me." Dorea smiled and sipped her tea quietly, crossing her legs at the ankles. Unconsciously, Mia mimicked her. "You've been in this library since the moment you returned from school, despite the fact that your letters spoke of nothing but the orchards and the gardens and, yes, the library. You wouldn't be my Mia without a book in your hands, but this level of self-sequestering is unhealthy."

"I'm researching."

"Perhaps I can be of assistance?" Dorea offered. "It is my library after all."

Mia hesitated briefly, automatically throwing up her Occlumency shields despite the fact that her mother had never once mentioned anything about potentially having skills in Legilimency.

"I'm researching . . . bonds."

She waited, watching her mother, fully expecting her to be astonished or concerned. As it was, Dorea did not so much as lift an eyebrow, but she did smile teasingly as she reached for her cup of tea to again take a sip, letting the moment linger in the air before returning the cup to its saucer on the table.

After another much too long moment of silence, Dorea calmly asked, "Is this about Sirius or Remus?"

Mia's eyes widened, and she felt her cheeks warm over. "What?"

"I said," Dorea spoke clearly, enunciating every word, "is this about your bond with Sirius or your feelings for Remus?"

"How did you . . . ? I never . . ."

"Tilly," Dorea said.

At the call of her name, the little house-elf popped into the library with a bright smile on her face. "Does Mistress and young Miss need more tea?" she asked, staring at the cups curiously.

Before either witch could answer, she snapped her fingers and a teapot appeared in her small hands, and she began to refill the cups.

"Tilly, my daughter was just asking me how I knew about her bond with the young Master Black and her affections for the young Master Lupin. Do join us for conversations, dear," Dorea said to the elf. "Your opinions are quite strong on both matters, after all."

Tilly silently consented and took a seat across from Mia, a stern look on her face. "Young Miss made a bond. Tilly sees it with her own eyes, yes, Tilly does. Young Miss used Blood Magic. Bound herself to the House of Black," Tilly said clearly and then quietly added, "Young Miss should have been bound to her own House."

"The Young Miss is already bound to House of Potter, Tilly," Dorea kindly scolded the elf, gesturing to Mia's bracelet. "She wears our words upon her wrist."

Mia consciously covered the bracelet with her other hand, her heart race accelerating at an alarming rate. "And Remus? How did you know about Remus?"

The little house-elf smirked, looking at Mia with an incredulous expression that made her feel just a bit stupid. "Tilly has eyes."

"Thank you, Tilly," Dorea said, looking far too amused for the topic at hand. "As always, I appreciate your discretion when it comes to the Masters of this House."

"Tilly does as Tilly does." The house-elf chuckled softly and then vanished with a pop!

"Now, may I ask my daughter a few questions in regards to this bond that she has apparently made with Blood Magic?" Dorea asked carefully. Her words almost sounded like a threat or blackmail, but she showed no malice in her face or demeanour.

"I-I didn't . . . I can't tell you," Mia said, shaking and on the verge of tears.

Dorea reached for one of Mia's trembling hands and surrounded it with her own. "Calm down, sweet girl. I did not slip Veritaserum into your tea. Though I'm not above such things," she said with a wry grin. "I understand that you cannot tell me certain things as they pertain to the future; is that why you refuse to speak?"

Mia felt her stomach drop. "The future?"

"Yes, dear. Where you're from."

"How did . . . ? I don't . . ."

How had she messed up? Had she been talking in her sleep more than normal? Did Dorea use Legilimency on her without knowing it? Did Dumbledore break his promise to her? Had Madam Pomfrey been compromised?

"'Every action we take is the causation of destiny, time travel won't change anything,'" Dorea said, quoting Remus's letter. "I went through your belongings the first night you arrived here."

When Mia's mouth fell open accusingly, Dorea pointed at herself and said, "Slytherin."

"You've known this whole time? You read my letter?" Mia tried to catch her breath. "How have you not mentioned it until now? It's been years."

"Because it wasn't useful to bring it up until now," Dorea explained, and Mia stared at her mother, never before seeing her more Slytherin than this moment. "I have no care to learn the future. As ambitious as Slytherins usually are, my ambitions were always specific. I wanted Charlus as a husband, and I wanted out of my hideous family. Both achieved. According to your letter and my own research—" She grinned when Mia sat up a little straighter. "—Yes, I have been researching. Time cannot be altered regardless of your presence. According to your letter, you were sent back for personal reasons, not to change the world or stop this heinous war that appears to be all too quickly upon us."

"What if I could stop it?" Mia choked on the words as they slipped past her lips. "What if I could end it? Change it?"

"Is the time you're from a good place?" Dorea asked.

"Yes," Mia admitted sadly, "but only after so much suffering."

"And if you changed something now, who is to say that there would not be more suffering?" Dorea stood and moved to sit directly beside Mia, taking both of her hands within her own and sighing as Mia began to cry.

"You don't understand . . . people are going to die."

Dorea inclined her head. "People tend to do that. Mia, sweetheart, we are all given a number of years to live our lives. The content, not the length of those years, is what matters. You cannot cheat Death. If you were to change something now, save one life, Death would only take another."

Mia looked away, ashamed as she asked, "What if I didn't care who was taken instead?"

"You've lost so much, my girl, and we promised to never pry into your past." Dorea pulled Mia into her arms, stroking a hand down her curly hair. "But your loved ones mean just as much to you as anyone else does to their loved ones. A life is a life, and you are not capable of being so selfish to risk one for another when you already know the outcome."

Mia continued to cry, heartbroken. She did not want to hear these words, not from Dorea. She wanted someone to give her permission to fix the future, to save them all. The tears eventually stopped flowing, and she looked up at her mother and threw caution to the wind. Damn the consequences.

"What if it was Jamie?"

Dorea looked very briefly caught off guard, but her expression was shielded away almost instantly. She drew in a slow and calculated breath before firmly insisting, "My answer remains the same. I have faith that however long your brother's life is, it will be filled with meaning and love."

"How can you know that?" Mia broke down again, wishing, pleading for Dorea to change her mind and let her confess everything. The burden was too much.

"Because you wear our words," Dorea whispered, touching the golden bracelet on Mia's wrist. "James is currently the last of the Potters. Which means that in the future, he is either alive to give you this bracelet himself, or he has had children or grandchildren and they have placed this in your care. Therefore the Potter name continues, and James lived with meaning and love in his life."

Mia did not respond with words but nodded rapidly.

Dorea cleared her throat. "Now, enough with this sadness. I plan on helping with what I can in the here and now. Tell me about this bond. Are you married to Sirius in the future? Are you a Black?" she asked with a grin. "Don't mind my smugness, but the idea of a son of Walburga taking to wife a Muggle-born is immensely pleasing to me. I'm tempted to break out the good champagne."

"No," Mia admitted with a soft chuckle. "At least, I don't think so. He . . . I . . ." She struggled to find words. "I saved his life. He died. I . . . called him back."

Dorea's eyes widened in what appeared to be genuine shock for the first time since the conversation began. "A life debt ritual? Sweet Salazar . . . Do they teach Blood Magic that powerful to children in the future?"

"No, well I, I . . ." Mia cleared her throat. "I stole restricted books from Dumbledore and found the spell." Dorea laughed, and Mia gaped at her. "What's funny about that?"

"My sweet little Mia, who follows rules to the point where she refuses to divulge secrets about the future, stole restricted books on Blood Magic from Albus Dumbledore. I can't think of anything funnier than that."

"So what does this mean?" Mia asked after joining in on the laughter, wiping tears of amusement—no longer sorrow—from her eyes. "Before I left, Sirius said he knew what was happening with this bond that was created. And the Black house-elf recognised me as its Mistress even though Sirius and I are not married. I thought the bond was gone when I came back here, but he . . . Sirius . . . Sirius kissed me last month, and I felt it again. Like a strong vibration, deep inside." She touched her sternum, watching as Dorea's lips pursed in thought.

"That sounds to me like an unsealed bond," Dorea said and then sat back, tapping her finger against her chin. "There are several different types of bonds and they exist in the world whether created or not. Only when prepared or provoked are they visible to the eyes of creatures like house-elves. They have their own bonds that they are born into. That's why they can see them so well. It sounds like you added Blood Magic, which strengthened a bond between yourself and Sirius that already existed. Otherwise, the Blood Magic was what provoked an already prepared bond."

Mia stared. "I didn't create it?"

"No one creates bonds, we merely accept and define or decline them altogether."

"What do you mean define?"

Dorea stood and walked to a nearby glass case where several vases sat. She waved her wand in front of the middle shelf; the glass became wood and the vases vanished altogether. Another flick of the wand and a small door opened in the centre much like a safe would. Inside were several old books. Mia could not read all the titles, but she recognised Nature's Nobility, a book by Godelot—the same person who wrote Magick Moste Evile—and a book she was certain had something to do with Sex Magic. Relieved that her mother did not pick up that particular text, Mia focused on the book that Dorea did grab before closing the wooden safe and transfiguring it back into a glass case.

"There are four general types of bonds that exist," Dorea said, flipping through pages until she landed on the one she was looking for. "The first and most abundant is the Familial Bond. It exists between parent and child, brother and sister, and even extends through friendship. Most of those bonds are born finished and need no ritual to seal them. However, because they are not sealed, they are easily broken, as the Black family often does by blasting us off the family tree. You've been bonded to House Potter by your acceptance of this bracelet," she went on, pointing to the item of jewellery. "Because no ritual was formed, it was as though you were born into the family."

Mia smiled softly as Dorea handed her the book on Bonds. "So I really am a Potter?"

"If a Potter allowed this bracelet to be given to you with Familial intent, then you are in fact a Potter. Bonds begin with preparation triggered by emotions. You were emotionally connected to the Potters in the future, yes?" Dorea asked, smiling when Mia nodded.

"The second step to a bond is provocation triggered by actions. Someone had to actually give you this bracelet. Finally, bonds are sealed through intention. When Charlus and I sent in your records to the Ministry, you were officially ours. Officially a Potter, thus sealing the Familial Bond. Not that a bond would matter. You have been a Potter since you stepped foot into this home, merely because I willed it to be," Dorea said with an air of arrogance.

"What other bonds are there?"

"The Bond of Servitude." Mia felt her face pinch up in a self-righteous scowl, and Dorea sighed knowingly. "Yes, I mean house-elves, and no, Tilly was not forced into one. To this House at least. Those bonds are a one-way vow. Unfortunately, some older marriages use them similarly."

"Sirius and I attended Narcissa's wedding." Mia flinched, forgetting that she was not supposed to tell anyone that. "Well, I mean . . . we sneaked in."

"He took my daughter to a Black-Malfoy wedding." Dorea chuckled, more amused than anything else. "That boy has moxie. I bet Walburga was beside herself."

"She never saw us. We only spoke with Narcissa." Mia almost told her that they had seen Bellatrix as well, but she was not in the mood to deal with the possible outcome of that bit of information let loose. "Her vows were one-sided, and they were all about obedience and loyalty."

"That sounds like a typical pureblood wedding. At least among those who practice the old traditions." Dorea sighed as she sat back down, shaking her head. "Embarrassing, but it brings up the next bond which is Marital. Marital Bonds are sealed during a wedding ceremony, prepared by the interest of love or desire, and provoked either by a proper engagement or . . ." She cleared her throat. "Intimate matters."

"You mean a Marital Bond can be provoked," Mia clarified, eyes wide in shock. "Just when two people . . . are intimate?"

"Yes and no. When two people become involved romantically, the bond that already exists is manifested into defining itself, preparing itself for eventual sealing. If the pair does not eventually marry, the bond remains unsealed and essentially void." Dorea shrugged her shoulders as if it were nothing of consequence. "It is the marriage ritual that seals the bond."

"What's the difference between a sealed bond and an unsealed bond?" Mia asked.

"Sealed Marital Bonds can only be broken with death. There is no divorce in the Wizarding world, and bonds are the reason why. If a man was bonded in marriage to his wife and then left her for another, the new marriage would be rejected by his magic and by society. Sealed bonds of any kind amplify our magic. It's the reason witches and wizards generally live much longer than Muggles and why, when we're injured, we can tap into our magic and our bonds to heal ourselves."

"I never knew any of this," Mia said, enthralled and annoyed at the same time. "You would think that at least some of it would be beneficial to teach at Hogwarts, especially to Muggle-borns who don't have parents to pass down the information. How many Muggle-borns might have rushed into a magical marriage only to find no way out of it?" When the thought occurred to her, she swallowed nervously. "Do you think that Sirius and I have a provoked, but unsealed, Marital Bond?"

Dorea seemed to hesitate, which actually made Mia panic a little.

"No," she finally admitted. "I believe you have something very rare: a Soul Bond."

Mia felt something flutter inside of her chest as she nervously asked, "What's a Soul Bond?"

"It's a bond that extends beyond Familial and Marital," Dorea said softly, almost reverently. "It connects two magics together in a powerful way that can weave into the fabric of time itself."

"But that just sounds like what the life debt ritual can do. The book I read said that people used to use life debt rituals to bind others to them in marriage or servitude. How is a Soul Bond different?"

Taking Mia's hand, Dorea smiled sweetly, squeezing her fingers. "I believe that your life debt ritual added magic to your bond, strengthening it. If you knew Sirius in the future, then it stands to reason that he remembered you from his own past. Those memories and emotions from him would have prepared the bond, or perhaps your emotions for him here in this time began the preparation, I can't be sure." Dorea frowned in consternation. "Time travel is quite bothersome."

"Agreed," Mia said stiffly.

Ignoring her comment, Dorea continued. "Because the Soul Bond and life debt both extend beyond time, there's really no way to tell what the original catalyst was. However, the difference between the two is the fact that a Soul Bond cannot become a Bond of Servitude. A Soul Bond acts much like . . . werewolves," she said, smiling when Mia stiffened at the word. "Werewolves have mates. Sometimes they find them, often they do not. It's very rare if I understand. However, when a werewolf is properly mated, nothing comes before their mate. Protection and happiness are key. The same is true with a Soul Bond. Marital Bonds can still exist through abuse; Soul Bonds cannot."

Mia tried digesting so much information. "And you think Sirius and I . . ."

"Yes. It would explain how your bond exists in both timelines, and your behaviour with one another."

Mia feigned innocence. "What do you mean?"

"I mean James writes home just as often as you do. And I am not as blind as your brother and your father. While I haven't wanted to bring it up, because I imagine it involves your past and I made a promise," Dorea said with a sigh. "I know about your nightmares."

Mia frowned and looked away, embarrassed.

"I also know that when they happen, James takes care of you, but also, that Sirius does. I believe that is the bond calling him to you."

"So it's not his choice." Mia frowned, feeling sick inside. Whether she was the one to provoke it or prepare it or whatever, it all came down to the fact that Sirius was not in control of his behaviour. It meant nothing. "It really is magic. He protects me because of the bond, he kissed me because of the bond."

She looked away, suddenly angry at herself for allowing that glimmer of hope to creep in. She remembered being so worried in the future when older Sirius had kissed her and then did not speak about it for months. They were supposed to talk the day after her nineteenth birthday. Was that when he would have admitted that he had not meant to do any of it? That he had been forced into it all by magic? Had he wanted to wait because he knew he would need to let her down gently?

"Stop that!" Dorea said, her tone scolding as she pointed at Mia's head. "I can see the wheels turning. No, the bonds force nothing, they merely suggest. A bond, however, prevents harm. Sirius would never be able to harm you. Nor you him."

Mia scoffed. "I hit him all the time."

Dorea chuckled, grey eyes rolling in amusement. "I mean true harm. Nor would either of you willingly let harm come to the other. It's all about intent."

Mia nodded as she remembered how Sirius had so openly protected her while she healed from being splinched, and how he came to her rescue when she was being tortured by Bellatrix. Likewise, it was Bellatrix's threats against Sirius's life that had forced Mia's hand in threatening the witch. She began wondering how long the bond had been affecting them both. Was it the bond that made her want to bring him back from the veil? Was it the reason she followed Harry into the Department of Mysteries when he thought that Sirius had been captured? Was it the bond that had originally called out to her in desperation to save Sirius's life from dementors all those many years ago?

"For a Soul Bond to be fully sealed or on its way to being sealed with a ritual, both parties need to be all knowing of the situation and the bond, willing to openly accept the bond, and loving of their bond mate."

"That makes sense," Mia agreed. "That's why the bond feels different here. In the future, Sirius told me he knew about the bond, but here he doesn't, so it's different. Does that mean we're destined, though? It gives us choice, but . . ."

"But what if you wanted to choose another?" Dorea asked with a smirk. "Perhaps a young Mr Lupin?"

Mia shook her head, feeling her face burn hot with awkwardness. "No. I know Remus isn't meant for me," she insisted, the image of Tonks and baby Teddy entering her mind. "It's just . . . I feel trapped. Sirius kissed me and left me and told me I should basically go to Remus instead."

"Then why don't you?" Dorea asked plainly. "Your Soul Bond is not sealed, Sirius has not proposed marriage, and meant to be or not, you are young. Mia, I grew up knowing that in the future my parents would choose my husband for me. I would be bound to him in servitude and marriage, and I would be miserable all my life. But I chose to go against what I assumed was fate. I made my own, and I found love and happiness."

"Doesn't the Soul Bond existing mean that Sirius would be my happiness?" Mia asked sadly as tears began to form again.

"Not without both of you being knowing, willing, and loving at the same time." Dorea wiped the tears from Mia's cheeks. "In the meantime, I encourage you to follow your letter. Live your life."

"Enjoy my life." Mia nodded solemnly until something occurred to her and she jolted, looking up at her mother in shock. "Wait. Did you basically just give your teenage daughter permission to rebel?"

Dorea took in a deep breath. "Charlus is a sweet and naive Gryffindor, but I am not so trusting, even of my children. But since we're on the subject—diverted from the original topic of conversation as we may be—do you know how to perform the proper Contraceptive Spells?"

Mia bobbed her head anxiously and began stammering out, "Umm, yes. From . . . before. Not that I . . . cause I never . . . I have never . . . But I knew, because . . . just in case."

"Good." Dorea exhaled gratefully. "That only leaves one last important thing."

"What's that?"

"Do not tell your father or brother a word of what we've spoken about today."

Chapter Text

We're both looking for something
We've been afraid to find
It's easier to be broken
It's easier to hide
(First Time - Lifehouse)

September 2nd, 1974

Since the full moon fell on the first of September, Remus was not aboard the Hogwarts Express. Instead, he had been Side-Alonged to school a day early so he could be taken to the Shrieking Shack without bringing attention to himself.

Mia was taking her mother's advice to heart and decided to try and enjoy her life in the moment—with Remus.

After the Sorting of new students and the start-of-term feast were over, she retired to the hospital wing to wait for Remus, something she had not done for a few years. Madam Pomfrey initially insisted on sending her back to Gryffindor Tower, but Mia had taken a page out of her Slytherin mother's book and feigned sickness in order to stay the night.

When Remus was brought in the following morning, she was glad to see that his wounds were not as bad as she remembered. She watched from her own bed as Madam Pomfrey healed his back and the few scratches he had inflicted on himself, including a new one across his chest. Had he not been wounded, Mia would have blushed at the sight. Remus used to be very skinny, bordering on underweight, but playing Quidditch with James and Sirius over the summer—not to mention the physical stress of his monthly transformations—had put a little bulk on him.

When Madam Pomfrey stepped out of the room to let Remus sleep, Mia slipped behind the curtain, sliding onto the chair beside his bed, and quickly took hold of his hand.

Remus yawned, slowly opening his eyes and turning his head to the side to look at her. "Morning."

She smiled sweetly at him. "Morning."

"How was the train? Sorry I couldn't make it—previous engagement," he joked, and Mia could not help but chuckle quietly. His nonchalance at her presence warmed her inside, making her have the slightest bit of hope that he would not reject her presence there in the future. She only wanted to help. She only wanted to be with him.

"It was a bit of a pain without you there," she admitted, still holding his hand, marvelling at how much bigger it was than hers now that they were older. "Jamie asked Lily to sit with us since we had an extra seat, and she hexed him with a Hair-Thickening Charm." Remus cringed at the tale, and she smiled. "I know. If anyone doesn't need a Hair-Thickening Charm, it's Jamie."

Remus reached his free hand up and tugged on one of her curls. "I think all Potters should avoid that particular hex," he said with a playful smile.

She smirked, narrowing her eyes. "Funny. Sirius left the compartment an hour into the trip to go snog some brunette Ravenclaw." Noticing that Remus's stare went cold at the words, she pointed at his face. "What's that about? Why the angry eyes?"

"Sirius shouldn't do that in front of you," Remus said with a growl.

She brushed it off as genuinely as she could. While she was being as sensible as possible when it came to Sirius, she had a particular distaste for many of the girls he chose to associate with, which only made her question traits about herself that might be similar. She hoped that he did not have a type. What was more, she hoped that if he did, that she was an anomaly.

"I'm fine. He made his choice, and I'm not going to sit around like some lovesick puppy over Sirius Black, of all people," she admitted confidently. "He told me I deserve better."

"You do," Remus insisted. "You never did tell me exactly what happened between you and Sirius."

"Does it matter? I just want to move on." When Remus did not reply but continued to stare at her, she sighed. "We kissed, and he went mental." She shrugged her shoulders, leaving out the part in the story where Sirius told Mia that Remus was in love with her. "It's for the best."

She watched Remus as he swallowed, running the pad of his thumb in small circles over her knuckles. When he inhaled slowly, she watched his reaction closely. His throat bobbed, and his eyes closed. Had she not known him better, she might have assumed him to be in pain. But this was not Remus in pain; this was Remus trying to focus. Her heart thudded a little as she wondered about the thoughts possibly moving through his mind.

"So," he eventually said, his eyes opening once more and pinning her to her seat. "Where was Peter while Sirius was off confirming poorly constructed rumours and James was being hexed?"

Mia frowned, and the thudding of her heart changed into an irritated staccato.

Remus's brows knit together in obvious concern. "What?"

"He'll be in detention all this week. Peter was caught nicking things from the trolley."

"Stealing?" Remus frowned, his lips parting in surprise. "Peter's got plenty of money to pay for things. Even if he didn't, he knows Sirius or James would lend him a few Sickles."

"Caught in the act. Looking for attention, I'm guessing. Let's not talk about Peter, please." She laced their fingers together, relieved when he squeezed her hand instead of pulling away. "How are you feeling?"

He smiled softly at her. "Pretty good right now."

"Really?" Her eyes lit up. "What's different?"

"Nothing. The transformation was the same as usual. The waking up part has been good so far."

She smiled coyly at him and looked away, the intensity of his gaze strangely intimidating. It had not always been so; Remus had always been comfortable, though the change in his demeanour was not unpleasant or unwanted. "I thought you'd be mad at me for coming here. You told Madam Pomfrey to keep me out a few years ago."

"I just didn't want you playing mediwitch for me." He sighed, looking embarrassed as he scratched at his chest, startling when his fingers touched the new scar there. Tugging on the sheet to hide his skin from her gaze, he cleared his throat. "I don't like you seeing me like this. The only thing worse would be you seeing me actually transform."

Mia kept her face blank at his words, knowing that she had, in fact, once seen him transform into a large werewolf. A large werewolf that had turned on her, Harry, and Ron. A werewolf that had chased her and Harry through the Forbidden Forest.

"But you're okay with me here now?" she asked with trepidation.

"I'd be mental to say no to waking up next to a beautiful girl any day of the month."

She noticed that Remus's eyes flashed gold at her smile. She was certain that she was blushing, and his attention only made her blush more. Averting her gaze for a few moments, she did her best not to argue the fact that he had called her beautiful.

"I know it's a while off," Mia began, biting her lower lip nervously, staring at the floor. "But do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?" she asked hesitantly, slowly bringing her gaze up to look at him.

Remus sat there, pale and wide-eyed, his irises back to their soft green. "You . . . You want to go to Hogsmeade with me?"


"We've gone to Hogsmeade. You've never needed to ask me before."

"That was just as friends," she blurted out before she had a chance to think the words over. Realising her blunder, she looked away, humiliated, but Remus squeezed her hand again to get her attention, and she drew her eyes back to his face.

"You mean . . . a date?" Remus asked, needing clarification. "With . . . me?"

"If you don't want to, I understand . . . I just thought that—"

"Is this because of Sirius?" he asked, his brows furrowed, and his gaze suddenly dark.

"No," Mia answered immediately, much too quickly for his liking if the way his nose twitched was any indication. "No. I . . . I don't think so. I'm not asking you because Sirius broke my heart or anything. Because he didn't. I didn't kiss him, to begin with; he kissed me. I won't lie and say that him running off didn't hurt a little, but . . ." She exhaled sharply, fighting through the awkwardness of the situation. "I . . . I like you, Remus. I have since I first met you."

Of course, Mia was thinking of the first time she had met an older Professor Lupin who saved her and her friends from dementors—the first Patronus Charm she had ever seen. He was wise, kind, and powerful, and a schoolgirl crush had developed rather quickly. It faded over time, of course, only to resurface here in this time in the guise of a deep, abundant friendship.

"I don't want to be a backup," Remus whispered.

"You are not a backup. You deserve better than to be anyone's backup," Mia said firmly but then frowned. Was he? She knew about her bond with Sirius and knew that Remus would eventually find Tonks and have his own family. But a part of her did not care. Remus would not find Tonks for many, many years, and Mia did not want him to be alone the entire time. Neither did she want to be alone herself.

"I'm not like Sirius. I won't just take a girl to Hogsmeade, snog her, and walk back up the hill alone."

"So you're saying you want something exclusive with me?" Mia asked softly, her heart pounding against her chest back to that exciting pleasant rhythm. Remus must have heard the change because he looked guilty over her reactions.

"You deserve better than me."

Mia narrowed her eyes. "I'm getting really tired of boys saying that."

"I'm not messing about, Mia. We could never . . . I mean . . ." Remus swallowed and held her hand tighter, lifting their laced fingers from the side of his bed to her gaze. "This is it," he said firmly. "It's not fair to you. You deserve someone who can . . ." But he did not finish his sentence with words, merely raked his gaze over her body, letting his stare linger on her lips while licking his own.

His stare was enough. She understood his meaning even as he looked her over with heated eyes that left her feeling warm all the way to the tips of her toes.

"I could never . . . I could never kiss you."

"That's ridiculous! Of course you could!"

"No, I couldn't!" Remus snapped at her. "Mia, you've seen my boggart; my worst fear is hurting or infecting you."

"Your worst fear is you attacking me in your werewolf form," Mia argued, annoyed with him. "If you think I'm thick enough to go snogging your muzzle in the Shrieking Shack then we have bigger problems than I thought."

She glared at him, ignoring the twitch of his nose when she mentioned his muzzle. She knew he hated it when she referenced specifics of his lupine alter-ego, but Mia also knew that he needed to get over it.

"It's not happening in human form either," he vowed.

"Lycanthropy can only be transmitted through a bite wound from a fully transformed werewolf on the full moon."

She narrowed her eyes, recalling a similar argument between an older Sirius and Future Remus at Grimmauld Place the night they all found out about Tonks's pregnancy. Mia sighed irritably realising that if he was still worried in the future about his lycanthropy being transmitted to others without a full moon bite, then she knew she was going to struggle with convincing him now.

"Remus, I refuse to let you keep from enjoying every aspect of life because you're afraid of hurting people—of hurting me."

"I refuse to put you in harm's way," Remus growled and tried to pull his hand away from her, but she held onto it tightly, glaring at him when he huffed and tried again. "That's why you deserve better than me. It's this." He held their hands up to her face. "Or nothing. That's all anyone can have with me. Ever."

"Fine." Mia scowled and stood up, releasing his hand and turning her back on him. She watched in the reflection of the window nearby as he reached out for her instinctively and then pulled his hand back, looking shocked. He shook his head, and she wondered to herself what his inner wolf was trying to tell him at that particular moment. Was Moony wanting a connection? Or was the wolf trying to remind him that Mia was not his mate?

"I'll see you in class," Mia said as she turned back around. "You should probably talk to Jamie before Hogsmeade. It's two months away, but still. He'll probably want to do the whole 'big brother' talk." She rolled her eyes. As if James had any room to tell her whom to date considering the production he put on anytime he asked Lily to borrow a quill.

"Wait . . . what?" Remus blinked confusedly and looked up at her. "But I thought—"

"You thought I'd embrace your condition for the past three years of friendship and then turn tail," she said with a wry smile, "the moment it became inconvenient to me? I told you, Remus. I am not afraid of you, and I'm not afraid of your ridiculous rules. And they are ridiculous. Though to make you comfortable—for the time being—I will abide by them."

He sat in silence, looking utterly gobsmacked.

"Get some rest," she whispered as she kissed him on the cheek.

She would obey his rules like a good little Gryffindor, but the Sorting Hat almost put her in Slytherin, and if a Slytherin knew anything, it was how to exploit loopholes.

September 3rd, 1974

Gryffindors and Slytherins slipped through the dungeon doors to enter the Potions classroom. Cauldrons had already been set up at each station, and Slughorn stood at the head of the class, grinning brightly. The look on his face was incredibly disconcerting to Mia, who had never known the man to be happy without a self-serving reason.

"Good morning! Good morning! I'm very excited for today. Some of you have displayed a fine aptitude for Potions," he said, eyeing Snape, Lily, Damocles Belby, Adrian Abbot, and Mia. When his gaze fell on the four Marauders, Slughorn sighed. "Others still need a bit of improvement."

None of the boys looked more annoyed by the declaration than Remus.

"Over the next few months, in addition to brewing pre-approved potions from the textbooks, I am assigning each of you one specific potion ingredient. I want to see your skills at discovery and invention!"

Mia's eyes widened; depending on the ingredient, this could be an outright disaster. She could only imagine what Frank would do if given something like alihotsy; the common ingredient in Laughter Potion was also known to cause hysteria. While Alice was quite adept at brewing, one thing was for certain: Neville's aversion to cauldrons was a genetic trait passed down by his father.

Slughorn then went down the list. Alice received a chizpurfle fang, Amycus Carrow got dandelion root, and his sister received leech juice. Frank—thankfully—took eye of newt, which was not known to explode in any form. Mary received flobberworm mucus, and Elora Zabini took baneberry. That just left the Marauders and the future members of the Slug Club—though Mia was determined to avoid the group at all costs.

"Mr Black," Slughorn said with a smile and placed a small bottle on the table. "Your ingredient is fairy wing."

Sirius glared at the bottle as though it were contaminated. "These are used in Beauty Potions. Give it to one of the girls."

Both Lily and Mia turned and scowled viciously at him.

Slughorn merely ignored the outburst and moved down the line. "Mr Potter, you have onion juice."

James frowned and slumped forward against the table. "The only thing you can make with onion juice is a fungal removal potion."

Slughorn grinned as though that were the whole point. "And it's quite easy to make too. I hope you're up to the task.

James glared at the professor before sullenly staring down at his ingredient and huffing.

Slughorn placed the next bottle in front of Peter. "Mr Pettigrew."

Peter paled as he read the label. "R-Rat spleen?"

The Marauders all snickered audibly, and even Mia could not help but chuckle silently to herself.

"Yes, it's quite common in shrinking solutions. You seem to be rather proficient at the brew; I assume you'll do just fine." Slughorn grinned and moved on. "Mr Lupin," he addressed Remus, who still looked annoyed about being at the bottom of any class.

Remus eyed his ingredient as it was placed in front of him with a look on his face that said he was not amused in the slightest. He glanced between the other three Marauders as well as Mia, all of whom looked perfectly innocent.

"Moonstone, sir?"

"Yes," Slughorn jovially replied. "When in powdered form it can create a lovely Draught of Peace, but be careful. It's also known to be an active ingredient in love potions." He continued to give a good belly laugh while Remus blushed red.

Sirius laughed quietly. "Careful with that moonstone there . . . Moony."

Mia's eyes lit up at the nickname, and she turned to stare at the boys, all of whom looked mildly amused at Sirius's joke, except for Remus, who turned and punched him in the shoulder.

"Shut up, Padfoot," he growled.

She knew that the boys had begun their Animagus training, but despite the many rat jokes at Peter's expense, she had not realised that they were already so far along in their instruction that they had discovered all of their animal forms and created the lifelong nicknames that would accompany them. She could not help but smile proudly at their progress, which only made her realise that she had originally wanted to follow their lead into Animagus training—on her own at least—and she had barely even begun the meditations to start it. Thankfully, the boys were illegally researching all on their own, while Mia already knew the process after she had read a book on Animagi training following the war.

Adrian Abbot was given nightshade, and Lily was handed a bottle of ashwinder eggs, leaving Snape, Mia, and Damocles Belby.

"Mr Snape," Slughorn said the name proudly. "A phial of moondew."

Snape looked smug as he reached for the ingredient.

Mia rolled her eyes, knowing that he was already predictably planning on brewing a Draught of Living Death.

"Miss Potter." Slughorn smiled and handed her a container of lacewing flies.

She grinned at the sight of the main ingredient in the first advanced potion she had ever brewed: Polyjuice Potion. "Thank you, sir."

"And finally, Mr Belby." Slughorn set a bottle down in front of Damocles.

"Aconite." Damocles inclined his head curiously, and Mia's eyes widened.

"Also called monkshood," Snape chimed in.

Slughorn grinned. "Yes indeed, Mr Snape, five points to Slytherin!"

"Also called wolfsbane," Mia added.

The professor chortled, looping his thumbs in his suspenders and leaning back proudly as though every correct word out of the mouths of his students was a direct reflection on him. "It is! Though rarely known as such. Ten points to Gryffindor!"

Mia turned and grinned smugly at Snape, who glared at her in response. She shifted her attention back to Damocles with a kind smile. There were few Slytherins who could carry on a conversation without sneering or spitting slurs, and Damocles was one of them.

"I'm excited to see what you come up with. I've read a lot about it."

"You have?" Damocles asked. "It's usually used as a pain reliever or a poison. I can't help but wonder the properties it exudes when the stem, leaves, and flowers are brewed or stewed separately."

"The sprigs are an ingredient in Wideye Potion. Perhaps it could be used as a mind sharpening ingredient?" she proposed, smiling when Damocles nodded thoughtfully at her suggestion.

An hour into class, everyone was working silently while Slughorn was asleep in the fluffy armchair, which sat behind his desk instead of a proper seat.

Mia was busy examining her lacewing flies to prepare for her Polyjuice Potion, though she was seriously considering making a few adjustments to it to see if she had it in her to invent something new. She had always been terrific at creating and adjusting her own charms and transfigurations, but Potions was something for which she always felt she needed to follow the book. However, Snape—and therefore Harry in sixth year—were proof that potions could be altered for the better.

"What are you up to?" James asked as he approached the table she shared with Snape, Damocles, and Lily. Damocles had left his seat to dig through Slughorn's supplies, offering James his first chance to see what Mia had been talking to the Slytherin about.

"Nothing," Mia said innocently.

"I saw you talking to Belby," James whispered. "Still looking into wolfsbane?"

She eyed him carefully and confirmed with a quick nod.

James smiled, clearly remembering that when he had questioned her about the toxic plant on a list he found her writing, she admitted that she was wanting to use it to potentially create a potion that could help Remus with his "furry little problem" as Sirius was calling it these days.

"Speaking of," James said, tilting his head in the direction of Damocles's cauldron, "I heard a rumour that a certain sister of mine is trying to get involved with a certain friend of mine."

"Not a rumour. I asked Remus to Hogsmeade, and he's not the type to be casual about such things. I told him to talk to you instead of you finding out and thinking that we were keeping secrets," she said, daring him to challenge her.

"You asked Remus to Hogsmeade?" Lily asked before James had a chance to say anything.

Mia turned and her mouth fell open. She knew that Lily fancied Remus a few years earlier but had already forgotten, and now she felt bad for perhaps hurting her friend's feelings.

"Umm . . . yes. I'm sorry, Lily, I should have—"

"No. I think you two are well-paired," Lily said with a sincere smile.

Snape scowled, turning his attention to Lily. "Why do you care anyway?"

"Because Mia and Remus are my friends, Sev," Lily scolded him quietly before stirring her potion in the cauldron.

James looked at her hand and sucked in a sharp breath. "Evans. Is that . . . an engagement ring?"

Everyone turned and stared at Lily, shocked. It was not completely uncommon for witches to be betrothed so early, at least among old-fashioned pureblood families, but everyone knew Lily was a Muggle-born.

"What?" Lily held up her hand in obvious shock and rolled her eyes at James. "This is a mood ring, you dolt. My parents bought it for me this summer." At his continued look of utter non-comprehension, she shook her head. "It's a Muggle thing."

Mia laughed at her brother when he sighed in loud relief.

"How do Muggles make rings that tell your mood?" James asked. "That sounds like magic."

"It's not magic," Mia answered. "There are crystals in the ring that react to changing temperatures thus altering the colour of the ring." When she turned to see James—and several others—staring at her perplexed, she rolled her eyes. "Oh Jamie, honestly, read a book!"

"So what's your mood right now, Evans?" James grinned, staring at the ring on her finger.

"Annoyed," Lily answered immediately and turned away from him, putting her focus back on her cauldron.

Mia shook her head at James, and he frowned up at her innocently, looking genuinely confused over how he had messed that up. She grabbed his full attention by snatching his chin in her fingers to prevent him from staring at Lily. "So. Remus. What did he say to you?"

"Not much. A lot of stuttering. Sirius is still taking the piss out of him for it."

They both looked back to the Marauder table, where Sirius was indeed whispering to a consistently red-faced Remus, who was angrily trying to grind his moonstone into a powder.

Mia frowned. "Be nice."

"Absolutely not. He's a bloke that wants to snog my sister. Friend or not, there's a process he's got to go through," James said firmly, the hint of mischief in his eyes.

"He does not want to snog me." She gripped his face harder, and James's eyes widened at her volatile reaction. "He's a perfect gentleman and always has been. Much more than either you or Sirius could or will ever be. I will date whomever I please, James Charlus Potter, and you will get over it!" she snapped, releasing him with a shove so that he fell to the floor, staring up at her with evident awe.

Mia turned back to her cauldron and glowered down at it, resisting the urge to glare at Lily, who was stifling her giggles after watching James be literally put in his place.

James stood, dusted off his trousers, and made his way to the back of the classroom to rejoin his table.

Mia sighed, hoping that the awkward moment was over.

It wasn't.

"I'd go ahead and stop the Love Potion you're making there, Remus," James called out loudly. "I really don't think she needs it! My sister's just over the moon for you."

The classroom burst into laughter, and Mia turned red with rage as she swivelled on her stool and narrowed her eyes at her brother, who was looking smug at the little scene he had caused. Sirius was grinning next to him, and Peter was laughing quietly, trying to avoid Mia's glare.

Remus had his head buried in his folded arms, but she could see that his ears were a violent shade of red. Mia glared at her brother but then decided to smile in her mother's most threatening Slytherin manner.

Game on.

Chapter Text

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace
(Halo - Beyoncé)

October 4th, 1974

Mia let James think he was safe.

He was not.

As his sense of self-preservation was so off, he continued causing problems in all of their classes during the month that followed the initial challenge between the siblings. Poor Remus got caught in the crossfire; in each class, James would have something to say about the potential future relationship between his sister and friend.

Remus, ever the loyal Gryffindor, did his best to stay out of the fight itself and also to respect James's wish that he not start anything with Mia without permission—something that thoroughly pissed her off.

In Charms, James would summon things from Mia's desk with a well-timed Accio when her back was turned, claiming that Remus wanted a memento to get him through the rest of the day. In Care of Magical Creatures, James would loudly ask Professor Kettleburn for details regarding the mating habits of werewolves. In Herbology, he would transform fluxweed into roses and pretend to be a Muggle delivery service on behalf of Remus, who would stand at the back of the room with dirt on his face, hiding his embarrassment while simultaneously trying to plant his puffapod.

The only four classes in which Remus and Mia got a break from James's antics were History of Magic (where James and Sirius napped), Defence Against the Dark Arts (James was not stupid enough to mess with their new professor, Auror Proudfoot), Transfiguration (James and Sirius took this class seriously due to the nature of their Animagus training), and Ancient Runes (which Mia and Remus had without any other invading Marauders).

The two would sit beside one another in Ancient Runes. Often, in the middle of class with their heads buried in a book of translation texts, Remus would reach over to take Mia's hand and smile, lacing their fingers together. She would breathe in deep and let the feeling of calm that he exuded wash over her; somehow it made her feel that putting up with James was all worth it.

It was especially worth it the morning of the fourth of October.

"Just don't drink the pumpkin juice, and you'll be fine, Lily," Mia whispered.

"How did you even slip the potion into the whole batch?" Lily asked as the two girls sat at the Gryffindor table, waiting for the rest of the student body to arrive for breakfast.

"I'm friendly with the house-elves." Mia grinned, happy to know that in this timeline she was able to make peace with the small creatures, considering the elves at Hogwarts in the future were utterly terrified of her and her knitting habits.

"You sure it's going to work? It's brilliant, but you're going to get in trouble for it too." Lily eyed the High Table with a raised brow. "I'm not one to promote breaking the rules, but if you want Slughorn to give you credit for this, you'll have to accept responsibility for it."

"As long as I can still go to Hogsmeade when this is over with, I'll take whatever punishment is meted out," Mia said, beaming excitedly.

One by one, students filled the Great Hall, taking their seats at the tables. Slowly, in various stages of exhaustion, the four Marauders joined Lily and Mia. Peter, James, and Sirius looked worse for wear, but since they were in a post-full moon week, Remus was looking better and better every day.

"Morning, boys." Mia smiled brightly as she went into her usual routine of gathering a plate for Remus while he simultaneously fixed her tea and porridge. "What are you all so exhausted from?"

She had assumed they were up late practising their Animagus transformations. She had been doing the same thing, though in the privacy of her dorm room seeing as she was only in the early stages of meditations to find out what her Animagus form would be.

"Up late snogging," Sirius lied, smirking at her while Mia rolled her eyes.

A month ago, she would have been annoyed by his typical behaviour, but she was already long over it. Sirius had fallen swiftly into confirming all the rumours about his bad reputation to be true. His reasoning was that he might as well do the things he was being accused of. Peter was in awe, James was amused, Remus was disgusted, and Mia was suddenly indifferent. She had known that Sirius had a past when she, Harry, and Ron had listened to an older Sirius and Remus talking about their shared history and the rebellious nature of youth. Mia knew that she would be confronted with it at some point, and this was that moment in time.

So she ignored it and focused on her rules: Live your life. Enjoy your life.

And she was about to enjoy it immensely.

"Eat up." Mia smiled across the table at Remus, offering a nod of gratitude as he passed her a jar of marmalade. She noticed his eye turn to a tall, empty glass sitting in front of him. She normally filled it with pumpkin juice every morning, but today she made no move to do so.

He reached for the pitcher in the middle of the table to fill the glass himself, but Mia silently covered the top of it with her palm, shaking her head slowly as she sipped her tea and gave him a knowing look.

Remus's eyes widened as he realised that something bad was about to happen. He turned to the side and watched as James, Sirius, and Peter guzzled their morning juice as usual.

"Do I even want to be here for the fallout?" Remus whispered.

Lily laughed. "Oh, yes."

Suddenly, all across the Great Hall, each and every student partaking in their morning pumpkin juice experienced a bit of transfiguration: their hair shifting to various shades of vivid colours.

The Slytherins all gaped at one another and scowled at the shades of black and green that their hair had turned. The Ravenclaw table was almost entirely peopled with navy blue heads of hair, while the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors were a flutter with mixtures of yellows, bright greens, and various shades of purple.

Two of the three pumpkin juice-drinking Marauders were sporting a predictable shade of sky blue hair.

Lily looked perfectly scandalised at James's hair and mouthed "Oh my God" to Mia before covering her mouth to hide her shock and laughter.

James blinked and looked around the room. "What's happening? What did you do?" he demanded, narrowing his eyes at his sister before grabbing a spoon and examining his reflection.

"Oh, I just slipped a potion in with everyone's morning juice." Mia smiled innocently.

"Clever, kitten." Sirius chuckled, rolling his eyes as he ran fingers through his sky blue hair. "Is this supposed to be a prank? Random shades of colour? Could have done that with a simple Colour Change Charm. You wasted a potion on this? That's barely an Acceptable in my book."

Mia sat tall, looking down at her nails as though she were inspecting a fresh manicure. "Oh, I did use a Colour Change Charm. I used individual ones on each lacewing fly that went into my modified Polyjuice Potion."

"So you slipped us Polyjuice?" James blinked, confused as he blew strands of hair out of his face. It looked much more out of control than his black hair ever did, which was saying something. He patted his palms down his chest and then inspected his fingers. "I don't get it. Why'd only our hair change? And shouldn't we all look alike?"

"That's if you use the hair of any normal witch or wizard, but if you use the hair of a Metamorphmagus, you can allow the drinkers of the potions to essentially alter themselves."

Mia was grateful for her past friendship with Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin who had once confessed that Metamorphmagi were immune to Polyjuice Potion, as they could change the shape of their face and colour of their hair at will. She was even more grateful to find that Professor Slughorn's collection of strange and rare ingredients—which included hairs from goblins, werewolves, and one Metamorphmagus—rivalled that of Professor Snape. She was just as easily able to pilfer from one as she was from the other.

"Did you know that most Metamorphmagi hair changes colour to depict their moods?" She looked across the table at Remus, who was grinning at her, clearly impressed. "I got the idea from Lily's mood ring."

"Fine, fine. You're very bright; cleverest witch ever," James conceded while rolling his eyes. "Now what do the colours mean?"

"Well," Lily chimed in, amused. "The Slytherins are predictable—black and dark green showing anger and envy. They're presumably upset at what Mia's done to them and jealous that they didn't do it themselves. Ravenclaws are all dark blue, meaning that they're amused, and Hufflepuffs and most of the Gryffindors seem to be stuck between anxious, annoyed, and happy."

"And us?" Sirius pointed to his head of light blue hair.

"Oh, that particular shade of blue is my favourite." Mia beamed. "It means satisfied."

Lily blushed bright red, stifling a snort by burying her face in her hands.

"Satisfied?" James blinked nervously, swallowing as he looked at Lily.

"Yes. Tell me, big brother—" Mia leant across the table, lacing her fingers together and leaning her chin on them as she stared at James, a wicked gleam in her eye, "—in the half hour that you've been awake, what on earth could you have done to make yourself so amazingly satisfied?"

Remus's eyes widened, and he turned and covered his mouth, hiding his laughter with a loud cough. The rest of the Gryffindor table was not nearly as subtle with their guffawing and giggles.

James's face immediately turned bright red, and his eyes lingered on Lily before averting his attention elsewhere.

Sirius caught on quickly, but—rarely ashamed of anything—he shrugged his shoulders and looked at James. "Well I don't know what you're so satisfied about, but I woke up and had a wank in the shower."

The table broke out into a roar of laughter, and James slowly covered his face with his hands and waited patiently for the laughter to die down. In that time, his hair shifted from bright blue to a bright red to match his face before turning a slightly darker shade of teal, indicating acceptance.

He eventually smiled over at his sister, shaking his head.

"Well?" she asked.

James stood, bowing dramatically before her. "You win."

"And Remus?" Her eyes narrowed as James's hair shifted to a brighter green indicating anxiety, while Sirius's turned dark green. Mia ignored both shifting shades.

James laughed and reached across the table, extending a hand to his werewolf friend. "Remus, I hope you know what you're getting yourself into, mate."

Remus blinked at the gesture and then smiled, taking his hand.

Before letting go, James gave a good tug and leant forward, whispering, "You do realise though that if you hurt—or do anything unsavoury with—my sister, I'll be known as the famous James Potter, wolf slayer, right?"

"Got it." Remus nodded firmly, grinning.

"Now, just to test a theory," James said, reaching for the pumpkin juice and filling Remus's and Mia's empty glasses. "Go on. You want my approval? Drink up, Moony."

Remus cleared his throat and held his glass up to Mia, who merely flushed before toasting, "To us, I suppose," and the two drank their juice.

It took less than five seconds for both of their heads to turn a brilliant shade of soft pink. Mia immediately looked down, her cheeks flushed at the sight of Remus's hair, already knowing that hers would match it. Remus looked confused as he reached for a spoon to look at his reflection.

"What's pink, then?" James asked, looking at Lily.

Beaming excitedly at her two friends, Lily answered, "Infatuated."

March 26th, 1975

"Ow! Fuck!"

"You're all still concentrating too much on the transfiguration portion and not enough on the meditative state," Remus instructed his three friends as they sat in a clearing out by the Forbidden Forest where the three almost-Animagi practised their training.

Remus sat on the ground leaning up against a large tree, his eyes tired and his muscles sore as the full moon was the following evening. Thinking about his own transformation only made him less sympathetic to the mild annoyances that his friends were currently going through. As it was, James had grown half an antler that he had twice gotten caught in the branches of the low-hanging trees, Sirius was stuck with four big black paws but nothing else, and Peter had been able to grow a tail and elongated teeth, but was unable to return to normal. Their ridiculous appearances should have kept Remus in high spirits all night, but he was more stressed than ever.

"Whath's wong, Wemuth?" Peter slurred through his gigantic teeth.

"I still haven't bought Mia anything for her birthday," Remus confessed. Unable to even glance at Peter without laughing, he decided to turn to the friend that looked the least ridiculous, which was James. "What should I do, Prongs?"

Remus and Mia had officially been an item since the morning of what was now known as "The Great Rainbow Explosion of 1974."

Mia had ultimately taken credit for the prank, which earned her a week's worth of detention for drugging her fellow students, but also an extra fifty points from Flitwick and Slughorn each, for impressive work in altering a potion with a charm.

A few weeks later, she and Remus walked hand in hand down to Hogsmeade where he treated her to a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, and she lavished him with gifts of chocolate from Honeydukes before moving on to Tomes and Scrolls, where they spent hours eagerly digging through old books. After finishing their shopping, they walked back up to the castle, stopping to embarrass Sirius, who was snogging a third year Hufflepuff in view of the "haunted" Shrieking Shack, and then retiring to the Gryffindor common room where they snuggled together on the sofa in front of the fireplace to read their new books.

It was a comfortable relationship built on friendship and common interests, and most nights were similar to that first date: Mia leaning her back against Remus's chest while he draped his arm around her shoulders, nuzzling his nose into the crook of her neck while reading the book in his hand as she kicked her feet up at the end of the sofa, quietly browsing through her own novel.

James and Sirius eventually tired of teasing the couple, though Mary, Lily, and Alice were constantly asking Mia details about the more amorous aspects of her relationship with the quiet Marauder. No details were ever given because, as per Remus's original rules regarding their relationship, no details were ever created. While he remained adamant that they not cross any lines where she could possibly be infected with his lycanthropy, he was thrilled that she had not slipped him any more of what she now called Mood Juice, because every morning he would have walked to the Great Hall sprouting bright blue hair. Having a girlfriend was leaving him in quite a frustrated state. If pain were not an issue, Remus might have looked forward to the full moon, as the transformation always burned off excess energy.

His friends naturally made things much worse. It was completely impossible to talk to James, considering Mia was his sister, and she had been insistent that Remus keep Peter's nose out of their business. That only left Sirius who had—over the last six months—grown ten times worse in regards to the rumours that were going around the school about him. Sirius had almost come to his senses early January when he had shown up in the dorms looking unbelievably guilty.

"What did you do?" Remus asked immediately. "And why can I smell firewhisky all the way over here?"

"I fucked up," Sirius said, swallowing hard. "I fucked up bad."

"Padfoot, what did you do?" Remus's eyes flashed with worry as he stood to help his drunken friend to his bed.

"I had sex with McKinnon," Sirius confessed.

"Is that . . . not . . . normal?" Remus raised a brow, having believed most of the whispers exchanged in the Great Hall in regards to Sirius's nightly activities. While he was quite certain his friend was not the father of McGonagall's secret love child—all other rumours were never denied by Sirius himself.

"No, it's not bloody normal!" Sirius shouted. "It was the . . . it was the first time. Fuck, she's going to be pissed."

"Marlene? Why? Were you that bad?" Remus snorted.

Sirius looked up and glared at him. "No, I was fucking fabulous, thank you, Moony! But I . . . I kind of . . . ditched her right after." He winced, covering his face which was painted with shame.

Remus shook his head. "You're disgusting."

"I know! It's not even her I'm worried about. You can't tell Mia," Sirius begged. "She'll hate me."

"Why would my girlfriend care who you shag?" Remus asked, narrowing his eyes as a crack of jealousy became visible in his expression.

Sirius fell back on his mattress, groaning over his mistakes. "Because she thinks Marlene's a slag. And I don't . . . Fuck, Moony, I know she's your girl, but I still don't want her to look at me like everyone else does, okay?"

Remus had been jealous and annoyed, but a large part of him understood. He was territorial and possessive when it came to Mia, and he still did not understand how Sirius could have run away from her when she had clearly been so willing to open her heart to him. But he knew how it felt to look at the girl, think that the sun rose and set every day with her, and that he would never measure up.

Remus was constantly fighting the wolf within himself. A subtle voice in the back of his head that crept up every now and then demanded that he take her, kiss her, pin her up against a wall and ravish every part of her. It was that same wolf that would peek out from time to time and snap at her bitterly when she would say or do something he did not like too close to the moon. He was in constant worry that he was on the verge of dramatically screwing things up with her.

So he understood what Sirius's concerns were and promised his friend that he would keep his secret.

The secret of Sirius's virginity—or sudden lack thereof—did not last long despite Remus's efforts. Once the final line had been crossed, Sirius threw caution to the wind as he buried his personal issues—and himself—inside any girl that would have him.

When Mia had found out, she had scolded him profusely about being disrespectful of himself and others.

Sirius had then tried to crawl into her lap to have her pet his head—something that was incredibly funny now that the Marauders knew what form Sirius would take as an Animagus—but Mia had shoved him off of her, much to Remus's amusement.

They were all quickly growing up, and Sirius was trailing behind.

"What?" Remus blinked, brought back to the Forbidden Forest and his three friends.

James cleared his throat. "I said, you would know better what to buy Mia than I would."

"You still haven't got her gift? You're the worst boyfriend ever." Sirius laughed as he began using his massive paws to dig in the ground, a sight that actually caused Remus to laugh out loud.

"I meant to, but the last Hogsmeade trip was cancelled because of how The Magic Neep was attacked."

It had not been widely publicised, but the morning after the attack on the greengrocer's shop, Dumbledore had not been at breakfast. Rumours circulated around the school that the Muggle-born who owned the shop had been assaulted by wizards in dark cloaks and masks.

"I wanted this birthday to be a good one. You're all going to have your typical party in the common room, meanwhile, I'll be stuck in the bloody shack," Remus muttered bitterly, a growl escaping his throat.

"Bad luck that the full moon falls on our birthday." James frowned. "She'll understand."

"I know, that's what makes it worse." Remus sighed. "I'll wake up the next morning after not being around for her birthday, and instead of me doing something nice for her, she's going to be in the hospital wing, holding my hand while Madam Pomfrey shoves potions down my throat."

"Well, I know it goes against your instincts," James offered, "but maybe let her just take care of you."

Remus snarled at the suggestion, and his eyes flashed gold.

"Easy, Moony," Sirius said, holding his transfigured paws up in supplication. "Prongs is right. Girl's a caretaker, and you haven't let her do a single thing for you since first year." He shrugged his shoulders, shaking the dirt out of his paws and watching as they transformed back into hands easily. "Girls are all about the intimate stuff—"

James narrowed his eyes. "Watch it."

"Not that. Come on Prongs, look at Moony and tell me that he's having sex." Sirius chuckled at the thought. "Obviously not. He looks like . . . like . . . like you." James threw a rock at him that Sirius quickly dodged, then proceeded to bury. "I mean, girls like the little moments where you let them in your head. Show the softer side and all that crap."

Remus scoffed. "And you know this from experience?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. I know this because every girl I've ever snogged or shagged has complained about the fact that I don't do all of that mopey, vulnerable bullshit. So do that, and you'll get along famously."

James eyed Remus carefully. "Not too famously."

March 28th, 1975

Remus winced as he woke up in the hospital wing the morning after the full moon. It had been a particularly bad one. With no rest leading up to the transformation and the stress of worrying about Mia's birthday, Remus had shifted and then immediately taken his frustrations out on himself. It also did not help that Mia had come to say goodbye to him as he walked to the Whomping Willow, and she hugged him so close and tight that he could still feel the warmth of her body by the time the moon was high.

Frustrated did not even begin to cover it.

Sensing her nearby without opening his eyes, he asked, "How was your birthday?"

"It was sad without you there."

He opened his eyes to see her frowning at the deep cut on his right shoulder. She eyed it carefully, her nose twitching, and her hands fidgeting.

"Madam Pomfrey?" Remus called.

"Yes, dear?"

"No offence, but . . . could you let Mia heal me this once? It's been a few years, and I remember I liked the way she did it." He frowned, hoping to not upset the mediwitch responsible for his monthly recovery.

Madam Pomfrey smiled at the pair. "Of course. As long as you feel comfortable with that, Miss Potter?"

"Yes," Mia said immediately. "Are you sure?"

He nodded, offering her a beseeching look even as he forced down the primal urge within him that said, No! We are the protector! Don't let her see us weak! "I'd rather you do it this once. Please, Mia?"

She smiled at his request and reached quickly for her wand. "Roll to the side."

He could feel it as she syphoned the dried blood off with her wand. The pain did not hurt as much as usual; Madam Pomfrey was efficient but lacked a gentle touch due to time constraints. That, and there was just something about Mia's magic that spoke to him—that spoke to his wolf.

He rolled back over when his wound was closed, and he smiled with satisfaction at the pleased look on her face.

She eyed him with a smirk. "Was that my birthday gift?"

Remus shrugged. "James's idea."

"Smart boy, that James Potter." She smiled, taking advantage of the moment by running her fingers through Remus's hair and grinning smugly when he let out a relaxed moan. "You could just get over yourself and let me do this more often. It makes me happy to help you."

"It makes me uncomfortable," Remus admitted, forcing himself to get the words out in order to be honest with her, no matter how emasculating it felt. "But if it makes you happy," he relented with a sigh, "I could learn to deal with a little pampering from time to time."

He knew she wanted more—and Merlin, so did he—but he could not cross that boundary. Here, however, post-transformation, he had little energy to fight her off, and he knew she would never take advantage of him in a weakened state knowing how important it was to him that she always be kept safe.

She smiled and leant over, placing a gentle kiss on his cheek. "You make me happy."

Chapter Text

I miss that town, I miss the faces
You can't erase, You can't replace it
I miss it now, I can't believe it
So hard to stay, Too hard to leave it
(Photograph - Nickelback)