The Search for Life and Death

The Weeks Gone By

THE SEARCH FOR LIFE AND DEATH

XVI

The Weeks Gone By

If Sirius was truly honest with himself, Harry was not at all what he had expected.

He had, of course, had contact with his godson at points throughout his fourth year, but that was not the same as spending actual time in the presence of the boy, living with him. During their conversations after their reunion two years prior, and especially during the time they had been working together on an errand for Dumbledore after Voldemort's return, Sirius and Remus had been discussing Harry.

Sirius had wanted to know everything that Remus knew about the younger man – every little detail that he had learned from the first moment he had set eyes on the third year on the Hogwarts Express until the present moment at which they were speaking. Remus had obliged Sirius, of course – how could he not?

And he had told Sirius that Harry was so much like James; so very much. Except, Remus had not been specific, and so some small – and stupid, he would admit – part of him had expected to be living with a godson who was cracking jokes and pulling pranks and more oft than not wedging his foot in his mouth – less so now, of course, circumstances being what they were.

The person whom Sirius had met, and had been happy to, of course, was indeed very much like James. But Harry was not like his father had been in school, oh no. Harry was very much like James had been years after they'd graduated. In fact, Harry acted a great deal like James had after he and Sirius had spent a few years as Aurors and had... seen things.

Horrible things.

There was a look he could sometimes catch in those emerald eyes; one he would find directed at nothing presently there, but which always gazed far off, into the recesses of some distant place. It was a look he knew from having been an Auror – a look of someone who had seen things that left him afraid, burned.

Haunted.

It was a look that had been present in James' eyes, after extremely bad cases, in the dark moments when the two of them sat around a bottle of Firewhiskey, trying to outstare the alcohol, or drink enough to burn away the memories. He knew he had borne the gaze then, himself, and knew, too, that he wore it sometimes now, when the memories of Azkaban would become too much to ignore and he would fall again into that dark place where all he could remember was cold and fear and regret…

Harry wasn't at all like Sirius had expected, because he had expected to live with a child, and that wasn't the case. Harry wasn't a child, and damn Albus Dumbledore and the Dursleys and Voldemort and Wormtail, and damn Sirius himself for good measure, for causing Harry's childhood to be torn from him years – years – before it should have been.

What little time they'd had him – and looking back now, it seemed like such a short amount of time – Sirius and Remus had done all they could to help Harry, while giving him the childhood he so desperately deserved, and needed. It would never make up for what had been stripped from him, no, but Sirius was glad they were able to give him a little of what had been lost, just the same.

Standing in Dumbledore's Office now, Sirius looked at the hearth with regret. The students of Hogwarts would be returning to the school in a few days and the new term would begin. Sirius didn't want to leave Harry, but he knew he needed to. Not all of the professors at Hogwarts were aware of his innocence, and many were returning later today. The Headmaster had arrived only a week ago, though Sirius and Remus had done their best to avoid him up until this point. Neither of them had truly forgiven him yet for his failings, despite his apology, and Sirius didn't think it would take much from the old man to set Sirius on such an edge that he stole Harry away again, with no intention of ever bringing him back. It was only because of the Order and the knowledge that Sirius and Remus would be staying at Grimmauld Place, where the meetings were taking place, that the two were forcing themselves to endure the Headmaster's presence now.

For his part, he didn't look like he was enjoying it much, either. Of course, they weren't exactly being warm toward him, and he shouldn't dare to expect it any time soon.

"I take it Harry has had time to sufficiently recover over these last few months?"

Dumbledore's voice was sincere in its curiosity, and Sirius was sure that the man really did care, but he couldn't bring himself to be kind to the man who had caused his godson so much unnecessary pain.

"As much as he can recover." Sirius was aware of Remus looking at him from the corner of his right eye. The werewolf looked a little like he expected Sirius to lunge at Dumbledore, but that was Remus' job, being the furry-inclined member of their duo. Sirius was happy to launch his attack upon the headmaster verbally. Wasn't that why the damned old man was so fond of his pet Slytherin? Damn Snape to Hell, too.

That had not been pleasant, running into the greasy bat of the Hogwarts dungeons, who chose to linger within the stone walls long after he was supposed to be up and gone. Hadn't the Marauders succeeded in driving the foul man from a place that had better washing facilities than his hair tended to suggest?

Learning that the greasy git had been staying at the castle had been yet another unpleasant revelation on top of a high stack of the same. The first time he had seen Snape had been when they'd all eaten lunch together that first day at Hogwarts, but Sirius had run into him later in the week. It was strange, he had to admit, how one's view of another person could change when they were seen doing something unexpected. Sirius wasn't about to start thinking that Snape was the kind of person he'd want as a friend, but there was no way in hell he would be able to look at the dour Potions Master and think for a moment that he was as heartless a bastard as he pretended to be.

For some reason, Sirius couldn't even bring himself to be angry about the loss of this perspective.

With Ron and Hermione at the castle, Harry was spending a lot of his time with his two friends. Remus and Sirius had been spending most of their time around the three of them previously, just in case things didn't go as well as they had hoped. After all, while Harry was no different despite his disabilities, it certainly wasn't a cakewalk trying to communicate sometimes, with a boy who could neither hear nor speak. The journal helped, yes, but sometimes taking the time to write out responses to his friends' automatically-appearing comments was an inconvenience.

Having had both James Potter and Remus Lupin as his own best friends at Hogwarts, Sirius really should have expected better of Harry's two friends.

Watching the three of them interact was very telling. The three were still developing into themselves, yes, and they would change over time as teenagers were meant to, but four years in each others' company had clearly had an effect on each of them.

They could read each other.

It wasn't perfect, of course. Sirius would have been demanding to know which of them knew Legilimency, and which was a Telepath, were that the case. No, it wasn't perfect, but it was impressive. Remus and Sirius had watched the three for a few days, staying in the Gryffindor Common Room where the trio spent most of their time when they weren't at dinner, reminiscing over school days gone by, when a different trio could hold conversations that required no words at all.

It became apparent that they didn't need to be there to supervise. Harry was in good hands with his friends, so the two had decided to find their own means of entertainment. For Remus, this was visiting Professor Flitwick and scouring through the library. For Sirius, it was wandering the halls on the whims of nostalgia and thinking of his days as a student, when life was so much simpler, even though it hadn't seemed so at the time.

He was making his way down a corridor rather out of the way of the main halls when he heard a childish squeal echo up the stone walls, and then the pounding of sneakered feet on stone as a black-haired child bolted into view, waving a letter in his hand like it was the severed head of some defeated enemy.

For just a moment, Sirius was eleven again, running down the corridor at Grimmauld Place, a thick letter in his hand that he had just taken off the leg of a tawny owl. There was a grin plastered to his face that could not be removed, and he was screaming in delight at the top of his lungs, not caring how much trouble he would get into for it later, "I'm going to Hogwarts! I'm going to Hogwarts!"

"I'm going to Hogwarts!"

Sirius blinked away the memory at the same words, repeated in the voice of a different child. He looked again at the small boy racing down the hall, black slacks and green sweater declaring his Slytherin loyalties despite not having yet been sorted. A moment later, a tall, thin creature slid out of the shadows and into view, managing to catch up to the boy despite moving with an ethereal grace that could never be mistaken for running. Hands swooped down under the child, lifting him off his feet with an involuntary squeal, and then leaving him hanging somewhat haphazardly in parallel with the stone floor, his captor's right arm around his stomach as the boy's legs kicked slowly behind him and his hands jerked, searching for balance.

"Daa-aad," the boy declared in a whine.

"William," Severus Snape intoned severely, plucking the Hogwarts letter from his son's clenched hand with the swift delicacy that a chameleon uses when snapping flies from the air. "As I recall, you are presently located at Hogwarts, and therefore, running down the halls and screeching like a crazed banshee that the Headmaster has kindly agreed to permit you entrance is foolish and more than slightly asinine."

The stupid grin that appeared on the younger boy's face could not be ignored, and Sirius found himself smirking despite the fact that one of his mortal enemies stood not ten feet away. "Bet you did the same thing when you got your letter."

"That is besides the point." Snape swung his arm forward, propelling the boy's feet toward the floor and letting him catch his balance, before releasing his hold of the eleven-year-old. "Some form of dignity is expected of those who will have their names synonymous with the House of Slytherin."

The black-haired youth straightened the green sweater he was wearing, the grin now gone and an uncertain expression on his face, even as he refused to meet his father's eyes. "The hat…" The boy licked his lips and managed a glance at his father's face before finding something entertaining in the stones of the corridor floor. "The Sorting Hat might not place me in Slytherin."

From his place at the corner of the corridor, half-hidden in shadows, Sirius could see the eyebrow on Snape's face rise. The gesture was not unfamiliar, but it seemed different – less cold – when done to an eleven-year-old boy who looked remarkably similar to the man standing across from him.

"Did you believe that I was unaware of this?" Snape asked, an incredulous tone in his voice. "I assure you, William, that I have been teaching at this school long enough to know that blood means very little where the Sorting Hat is concerned."

Sirius was reminded rather sharply of his own sorting, which had been a monumental moment in his life that had been both wonderful and disastrous in the same incident. He doubted, of course, that it was the same sorting that Snape was thinking of, but the idea was the same.

"But won't you be… disappointed?" The in me was left unsaid, but it rang as clearly in the hall as if the boy had screamed it despairingly.

Snape scoffed, and the sweeping of his hand through the air seemed an attempt to cut the concern the boy held from his shoulders as one would sever a puppet's strings with the sweep of a sword. "You are my son, William—"

"But you just said blood—"

"William." The boy closed his mouth with a soft click of his jaws and stared at his father with wide eyes. Sirius swallowed convulsively as the tall man in black robes who had come to be known as a plague upon the dungeons of Hogwarts, knelt down on his knee in front of the boy, so that their eyes were level. "William, you are my son. You will be placed in whatever House would best suit you so that you may be around those who will understand you. No matter where you find yourself Housed, William, because you are my child, you will always have a part of you who holds a place in Slytherin. Even if it makes its appearance as nothing more than your fondness for snakes." He plucked his fingers at the sweater his son wore. "And the color green."

The younger boy smiled, though it was a shy, almost wary grin as he murmured his next query. "Even if I end up in Gryffindor?"

The Potions Master sneered in contempt, but there was no lie in his pitch eyes. "Yes, William. Even if, through some tragic lack of proper parenting on my part, you manage end up in the pitiful hovel that is the House of the Lions."

That had occurred weeks ago, and Sirius had not yet informed even Remus of what he had witnessed down the not-quite-empty corridor that he had been using to spar with his memories. Neither of the two had seen him, so engrossed were they in each other, and Sirius was content to let them both believe that such a moment had been spent only in the company of one another. Had it been he and Harry in that hall, instead, Sirius would not like to have known that someone had borne witness to such a private moment.

That thought had been passing through Sirius' mind with disturbing frequency over the past few weeks. Sirius did not know for certain, had he been in that position, if he could have honestly told Harry that he would be proud even if he had not been in Gryffindor. It was viscerally disturbing, to suddenly be so self-aware of one of his greatest faults, especially considering it was one that could so easily hurt his godson.

Sirius had been prejudiced against the Slytherin House since he was a young child. He knew this was because of his family and the fact that every one of them who was a Slytherin was also an ass-kissing Death Eater. His hatred of Slytherin had followed him to Hogwarts and, had all else not been sufficient, would certainly have been the deciding factor in making sure he was not in the same House as the rest of his family. His brother's and cousin's reactions, both verbal and physical, to his treason at becoming a Gryffindor, backed up by green and silver housemates, had spurred a seven-year rivalry exacerbated by pranks that ranged from harmless fun to borderline attempted-homicide.

Had Harry been a fellow student of Sirius' instead of his best friend's son and his godson, and had been sorted into Slytherin, Sirius knew how he would have reacted then. The boy would have become one of them, been labeled an enemy, a Slytherin, and loathed and pranked until the hatred Sirius felt was returned in equal measure, as he had made certain to do with every other member of that House.

Times change people, however, and it was more than just twelve years in Azkaban that caused Sirius' views to shift. Harry had told him and Remus that the Sorting Hat had originally tried to put him into Slytherin. Sirius was still glad that Remus had managed to respond first – to Sirius, by casting a silent Silencing Spell on him to shut him the fuck up before he said something that he would not be able to take back.

After thinking over it, Sirius had calmed down enough that he and Remus were able to talk about it once Harry had gone to bed. With Remus' logic and his over-sized brain working in tireless circles, he had made Sirius see what the man had never been able to as a child: what exactly the Slytherins were.

It never really struck Sirius as odd that Remus had no views of the different Houses as negative. At the start, it had been because Remus was Remus – purehearted Gryffindor, unable to hate anyone. Once Sirius had been knocked arse over teakettle by the truth, and had realized that Remus was a werewolf, it still came as no surprise. Why would Remus, who had spent almost his entire life as a creature feared and hated, look at others with prejudiced views that labeled them for something that was decided by a hat?

Sirius wondered if it would be so easy to change his ways. He could say that it wouldn't bother him now if Harry was a Slytherin, but Harry was a Gryffindor, and it wasn't possible for him to be resorted. He thought back to the young boy who had been running down the corridor, yelling about his Hogwarts letter. Sirius had been introduced to him first as Padfoot, and then later as himself. Both times, he had been told that the young boy's name was Conan, and he didn't know why Snape would call the boy William. That aside, if the young boy, who had been cheerful and kind (if a little overly exuberant), were sorted into Slytherin, would Sirius hate him based on principle?

He had no reason to like the child, save for the fact that Remus seemed fond of him, and vice versa. In fact, he had more reason to hate the young boy, being the son of his greatest school rival.

But that wasn't fair, to hate the child for who his father was. Sirius had met Elena Morely, as well, the supposed wife of Severus Snape, and she had been as kind as her son, if more refined, and quite beautiful. If those two people could balance out his biased opinion of Conan or William Morely, then would he hate the child for being a Slytherin?

Would he?

Sirius had no actual answer to the question, and that bothered him. What if Harry had been sorted as a Slytherin? Would Sirius have escaped Azkaban and come to Hogwarts, only to turn his back on his godson because of his House?

No. No, I wouldn't have.

Right?

Sirius had always liked to think that he was in the right. In school, he was a member of Gryffindor, the House that Godric Gryffindor had founded, from which great wizards had graduated. The House, it was thought, that Albus Dumbledore himself had graduated from. He had made great friends, and together, they had given the Slytherins what they deserved, pranking them extensively. The rest of the school, even some of the teachers, had laughed at their pranks, they were so grand, and such just desserts.

But, looking back, Sirius was beginning to wonder if the pranks weren't deserved – if the actions of the Marauders were, in fact, quite cruel.

When he and Remus had been talking after Harry went to bed (read: arguing), Remus had brought to light precisely what he thought of the four Houses, analyzing them in-depth for Sirius to see. And he had seen.

The Sorting Hat told them, every year, what kind of people each House held, but to the casual listener, the song was sometimes easy to ignore. Remus had laid it out for him.

Gryffindor, the brave, the daring, and the chivalrous.

Ravenclaw, the intelligent, witty, wise, and creative.

Hufflepuff, the loyal, dedicated, patient, and fair.

Slytherin, the ambitious, cunning, resourceful, seeking power.

"There, see! You've just said it yourself – Slytherins are all about power!"

"I said no such thing, Sirius, and don't you dare go putting words in my mouth. Slytherins often seek out power, yes, but they are also ambitious in their endeavors, resourceful with all that they have, and possess the cunning to achieve what they desire."

"No matter the means," Sirius growled.

"Yes, you're right. No matter the means." Remus gave him a long look. "What makes a person want power, Sirius? It's not evil. I want power."

Sirius scoffed. "You don't want power, Moony—"

"Don't assume so much, Padfoot; I assure you, I do. Everyday I wake up, I wish I were more powerful. Every night when I go to sleep, I wish I held more power than I do. There is little I wouldn't give for the power, Sirius, to control the wolf within me. Were it possible to attain a cure for Lycanthropy, I can likely name on one hand what I wouldn't give up, and who I wouldn't use to attain that cure. Were it necessary to achieve my goals, I, myself, could show the same cunning and resourcefulness as a Slytherin. Were it necessary.

"But it's not, because there is no cure for Lycanthropy. I have no need to be resourceful and cunning to achieve what cannot be achieved. I have no need to use ambition to seek a power that is not to be found. I do not. But those children – and they are children, Sirius; do not forget that. Those children may have need still to be cunning. They may have arrived at school with ambition, with an innate resourcefulness, seeking some form of power. Would it not make sense, that in mind, that Harry could have possibly been sorted in Slytherin? After all, what has he been doing for the past fourteen years but being resourceful and cunning? Do you think for one moment that he did not wish he had the power to escape from under the Dursley's roof? Sirius?"

Sirius swallowed thickly and raised his eyes from the floor to meet the green-gold gaze of his best friend. "I… never thought of it that way."

"I know. You're not the only one, Sirius. Most people don't look at it like that. They see the word Slytherin, and they think Dark Wizard. Just like they see the word Werewolf, and they think Monster."

Put in perspective like that, Sirius could understand, clearly, where Remus was coming from. He could never look at Remus and think he was a monster. Could he then look at a Slytherin and think they were bound to be Dark Wizards?

It's not fair.

No. It's a cruel thought – a line of thinking that ruined people's lives. How many wizards and witches who had been sorted into Slytherin had been turned dark, not by the House or by their own initial goals, but by the way they were treated by others? How many had shied from the Light simply because of who it was that dwelled there? How many had wanted to be a part of something great, who had wanted to stand against Voldemort those years ago, and had been driven off by the people who claimed to be in the right.

No, Sirius thought, his eyes widening in surprise at himself, I won't judge Conan if he becomes a Slytherin, or anyone else, for that matter. I won't. He peeked a glance at Remus, who was talking to Dumbledore. Because I choose not to.

"If you're ready, Sirius, we'll floo to Grimmauld Place." Dumbledore ignored Sirius' grimace of distaste. "At the moment, only a few people are present and it should be safe for us to continue our discussions there."

Sirius resisted the urge to sigh as he pinched a bit of floo powder and tossed it into the fire, calling out the dreaded name of his old home. He was whisked away in green fire and stepped out of the hearth a moment later, taking a seat at the kitchen table and waving his borrowed wand.

The floo flared twice more, depositing Dumbledore and Remus into the kitchen, as a tea tray with three cups, a steaming kettle, and a small plate of biscuits floated over to settle on the table.

"Ah, how lovely," Dumbledore said, plucking a tea cup from the tray and holding it aloft as the charmed kettle tipped and poured steaming water into it. Dumbledore stirred in a lemon drop he'd pulled from his pocket and sipped carefully.

"Now, where were we? Ah, yes." He set the tea cup down and returned his attention to Remus. "I know you are concerned, but I promise you have nothing to worry about. The Slumber of Ages potion has been used before on those with Lycanthropy, and asides from a minor difference in the way the potion releases one from its effects, everything should occur with you just as it will with the others."

"It's not just the effect on me that I am worried about, Headmaster," Remus said, clutching his tea cup in his hands. "You're sending seven people into another world – a world they access through their minds – to retrieve something that Voldemort is also sending people after. If you knew they would be searching for something, why did you not have us take the potion a week ago and keep these artifacts from Voldemort's hands completely?"

"Voldemort is aware of what he is looking for, Remus."

"And we are not." The flat tone Remus was using was a dangerous one.

"Not completely, no."

"I would be very interested to know, Headmaster, how that's any better."

Sirius tuned the two of them out. He thought Remus was being too generous, using Dumbledore's title, but he wasn't going to say anything. He was too angry. He didn't want Remus to take the Slumber of Ages potion. Not only was it brewed by that slimy—

Not only was it brewed by Snape, but the potion itself was dangerous, no matter how safe Dumbledore assured them it was. Despite what he had said, however, Remus had made his decision, and Sirius didn't want the two of them to get into another fight over it. They had tried that already, and some awful things were said, and when they were finished, nothing had changed. Remus was still taking the potion, Sirius was still forbidden to, and they were both still mad at Dumbledore.

Sirius was grateful that, at least, Remus didn't seem to be angry with him over some of the things that had been said, and he certainly wasn't angry at Remus, just worried for him. He turned his mind toward other things, however, not wanting to think on that anymore. The conversation the two were having didn't even involve him.

He allowed his mind to wander, thinking back to a few days prior, when the Hogwarts letters had arrived. Even while staying at Hogwarts, the letters were still delivered to Harry and his friends by the school's tawny owls. Sirius had never thought to meet someone as book-crazy as Remus, but he found that person in Hermione Granger, who went absolutely nuts over the booklist for classes, much to the apparent horror of Ron Weasley.

Sirius couldn't restrain the small smile that appeared on his face at the memory of Ron Weasley's face when the prefect badge came tumbling out of his letter, right after he had finished talking about how Percy how gotten bigheaded and pompous about his prefect status, in regards to the badge that Hermione had received in her letter. Sirius had seen Harry smile widely, and then quickly write down something in his journal and show it to Ron. It was quite a feat, in Sirius' opinion, for someone's face to turn as red as their hair.

It didn't appear that Harry was overly bothered by not being chosen as a prefect, and Sirius couldn't blame him a bit. While he was in school, he had done nothing worthy of earning the position of prefect, and he was, to this day, quite happy with that. Remus had been the good boy of their group and had probably been named prefect in a mere attempt to keep the rest of them in line. It had failed miserably, of course. Sirius wondered if that was why Dumbledore seemed to give up in seventh year, and just made James Head Boy, regardless?

Sirius glanced to the clock behind him. Ten o'clock. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had planned a trip to Diagon Alley to buy their schoolbooks. Ron had mentioned, more than once, that he was glad they were already at Hogwarts and he hadn't received his letter while at the Burrow. Apparently, all of his older siblings, save the twins, Fred and George, had been prefects in the family, and Ron's mother had a habit of making a scene when someone received such an honor. Or, as Ron called it, a shiny hassle.

Because they were at school and, with Remus and Sirius being forced to leave, without any of their guardians, Elena Morely had offered to escort them, as she needed to take her son to Diagon Alley to get all of his supplies, as well. As she told it, the boy could hardly sit still, he was so excited; this would be the trip during which he picked out his wand. Elena should be meeting them in the Great Hall in half an hour, from where they would take a portkey to the Leaky Cauldron. Sirius was a little disappointed. He had been hoping that he could go to Diagon Alley with Harry, as Padfoot, but Remus had expressly forbidden such a thing. Sirius knew he was right; it would be playing with fire, wandering out in public, even when under the guise of his animagus form. Still, despite knowing that it was too dangerous, Sirius was sad to miss it. He had missed so much of Harry's life, and he had to miss this, as well.

"Sirius?"

Sirius glanced up to see that Remus was staring at him, and the spot across the table where Dumbledore had been sitting was empty. He frowned at his friend. "Where'd the old man run off to?"

Remus gave him a look of gentle reprimanding, but Sirius ignored it.

"He went to go talk to the others who would be taking the potion."

"And who is that again?"

"Not that you'd been told the first time, but asides myself, there will be Alastor Moody—"

"Mad-Eye?" Sirius declared, sitting forward in his chair abruptly so it rocked off its feet. He crowed with laughter. "Is the old codger gonna lay off the paranoia long enough to take the potion?"

"Siri," Remus said with fond exasperation. The animagus merely grinned at him. "Bill Weasley, and Nymphadora Tonks."

"Wait, Nymphadora? As in my cousin?"

"One in the same."

"And Bill Weasley. Does Molly know that her oldest son is being sent on a secret mission?"

"I don't know, but regardless, you will not be the one to tell her."

"If I was her—"

"You're not, and I'm sure all seven of her children are happy for that." He rolled his eyes when Sirius stuck out his tongue. "Kingsley Shacklebolt." He ignored Sirius' loud groan. "Severus Snape and Mundungus Fletcher."

Sirius snorted. "I hope Dumbledore plans to be around when everyone's taking this potion, or you all might pop off to Dreamland, and Dung will be off pawning that potion to someone. How much does the Slumber of Ages potion go for?"

"I'm not telling you," Remus said pointedly, "because if I do, you'll try to steal the potions and sell them to Dung. And he would cheat you. You're a shitty haggler."

"Bite me."

"Not on your life."

Sirius crumbled a biscuit between his hand, scattering the tabletop with crumbs. He kept his eyes down and wouldn't look up at Remus. "When are you taking it?"

A hand settled on his shoulder and Sirius glanced up on instinct, into a pair of gold-green eyes. "It'll be all right, Sirius."

"But you were telling Dumbledore—"

"I was being difficult on purpose. I have no intention of making things easy on him." He patted Sirius' shoulder gently. "I wanted to go to Diagon Alley with Harry and bring you with me, Pads." Sirius gave him a confused look. "The-Boy-Who-Lived doesn't have a dog, Sirius, but the media doesn't follow my every move like clockwork." He shrugged at Sirius' surprised look and offered him a playful smile. "Don't look so surprised. The Sorting Hat considered me for all Houses – even Slytherin."

Sirius shook his head. "That doesn't surprise me in the least." He glanced down at the table, and then back up at his friend. "Are you worried?"

Remus shrugged and removed his hand from Sirius' shoulder. "As much as is normal before a mission. There's danger, yes, but we know the potion has been brewed properly, and we have everything planned out. And I have a feeling that Dumbledore knows more than he's telling us. He probably doesn't want anyone to know that isn't taking the potion."

"As if I would tell anyone."

"I know, Pads, but Dumbledore is determined to remain close-mouthed about this. Considering that he's finally told us all that has happened to Harry these past years, I think maybe we should give him his secrets in this. He'll have to tell me when we go to take the potion, and even if he told you, there's nothing you could do to help."

"And I'll be stuck in Boscastle." Sirius wasn't at all happy about having to spend the next week by himself in Remus' cottage in Cornwall. Some members of the Order of the Phoenix were unaware that he was innocent of the crimes he had been imprisoned for, and so he wouldn't be able to spend the next week at Grimmauld Place. Instead, he would be counties away from his best friend, alone.

"It'll go by quickly, Sirius."

Sirius grunted, deeply doubting that. He flicked grey eyes toward his best friend, who was looking like he felt guilty. "When do you take the potion?"

"Tonight," Remus said quietly. "Nine o'clock."

Sirius nodded. "Seven days, right?" Remus nodded. "All right. I can handle seven days." Sirius grabbed another biscuit and began to crumble it in his hands. I can handle it.

Author's Note: am aware of the fact that Severus calling Conan "William" may cause some confusion. You are not the only ones; Sirius doesn't understand it, either. This little mystery will be revealed in the next chapter, which promises to be a very good and exciting chapter. It will be up in time for the Winter Holiday.

I have found myself surprised by the amount of people who do not like the Harry/Ginny pairing. Frankly, I thought that I was a member of a very small group of rebels raging against the unfortunate romance. Regardless of the fact that it is not my first choice, I will be keeping this fic Harry/Ginny (likely more of a prelude to the actual romance in this story, with the romance evolving in the sequel). I consider it a two-fold challenge for myself: writing a pairing I do not like effectively, and trying to turn other people toward that pairing. I will see how I manage.

I would be interested to know, however, what pairings people enjoy, so you may consider this something of a poll, if you wish. Mention any pairings you like! Although this trilogy will focus upon the main pairings of Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, and Sirius/Remus, they will not be the only pairings therein. I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks.

Because there will not be another post before the coming holiday, I wish my fellow US-dwellers a Happy Thanksgiving. Please enjoy your dinner, whatever it may consist of (frankly, I am boycotting the turkey).

Thank you for reading, I look forward to hearing from you, and, as always,

Live long. Live well. Write. Read. Dream.

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