Table of contents
Prologue summary: Remus's assignment during Harry's fifth year is to act as a guard on Dudley Dursley at Smeltings, posing as his history teacher. Nymphadora Tonks, posing as his wife (disguised and aged "appropriately") will make regular visits with his Wolfsbane Potion. Sirius is disturbed by the quiet at home, now that everyone except Remus is gone.
Summary: Remus meets his office mate, a maths teacher named Allan Garvey, who tells him that his (Remus's) predecessor, boxing coach/history teacher Joe Levinson, left the position because of a mysterious disease. He also warns Remus that the boxers were pretty darned dedicated to Joe--a good fellow by all accounts--and Joe's replacement might have some trouble with them. In part 2, Remus teaches his first two classes, falling back into the position gratefully. He and Garvey are on their way to lunch when they meet a group of older kids bullying two of Remus's first form students. It appears to be led by Piers Polkiss, but the real leader of the group identifies himself--Dudley Dursley. Remus meets Dudley's class, and gets a brief Dudley's eye view of the world--full of little runts (Hitler, in Dudley's example) who need to be pounded before they start thinking they're too powerful. Tonks picks him up to take him home.
Remus realizes that he must meet and speak to his predecessor, both about Dudley and about his mysterious illness. He accepts Garvey's invitation to Sunday lunch. Tonks finds out about this when she brings the Wolfsbane and decides to come along. She also tells him that Sirius is so bored, he's cooking.
Sirius was in a sullen temper when Remus got back to Number 12, Grimmauld Place. There were cauldrons and pans all over the kitchen, and sauces indifferently wiped from the stone floor. Sirius himself sat in the midst of this mess, staring at the fire, not seeming to be doing anything.
"Are you waiting for a call?"
Sirius didn't look up. "No."
"Dora said you cooked lunch. It was very good. Thank you."
He shrugged. "Well, as Snape never fails to point out, my main position these days is keeping this house. Thought I'd see if I could out-Molly Molly." He jabbed a long finger around the kitchen. "I didn't do very well, as you can see."
Remus took out his wand and started cleaning up the various spills. After a moment, pans and cauldrons began trotting over to the sink around him, and the water began to run.
Once the kitchen was at least relatively clean--it did serve as headquarters after all, and people could appear in it at any time--they sat at the table with bottles of butterbeer, and Remus waited for Sirius to start talking.
For Sirius, it was a fairly long wait. He'd never tolerated silence very well, and it had spun out for nearly three minutes when he slammed down his butterbeer and said, "Bugger."
"Is that your entire comment?"
"Yes. No." He sighed. "I need something to do. Anything."
"I could put on an Invisibility Cloak and sit a watch."
"And if they happen to catch you, what story do you intend to tell them?"
"It's not like anyone else is there legally."
Remus didn't answer. Most of the Order guards at the Department of Mysteries could make up some reason for being in the Ministry. Even Molly, though Remus thought her excuse of trying to find Arthur was a bit thin.
"Or," Sirius went on, "I could put on the Cloak and follow Snape to one of their little meetings. I have a life sentence anyway. I could always put an unforgiveable on Lucius Malfoy. Maybe Snape as well--just to preserve his cover, of course."
"I don't suppose Dumbledore would allow it."
"I don't suppose he would."
"I'm going to set Buckbeak on McNair one of these days. Promised him an impressive snack. I'm trying to decide whether I should feed Peter to him as a human or a rat."
"I think you need new fantasies, Sirius."
"But these keep me amused." He smiled, a ghost of the smile he would give a Hogwarts when one of his master plans seemed to have crossed a line.
Well, most of the time when they crossed the line. Sirius hadn't always been good at spotting just where the line was.
"We could use your mind, Sirius. To think."
"I think all day."
"You brood all day. There's a difference."
"I can't think about matters I'm not really privy to. What brilliant idea do you think I'll have about how to get Voldemort into the Department of Mysteries, if he's not already there?"
"If I knew what kind of idea you'd have, I wouldn't ask you to try and think of one."
Sirius sighed. "All right. Snape's planted the idea that the prophecy has some vital information, but Voldemort hasn't moved yet. He's got to realize that we'll be keeping watch. That Dumbledore wouldn't leave something important unguarded."
This wasn't an entirely shocking analysis of events, but Remus didn't think Sirius was finished. He remained quiet.
"So, if I'm Voldemort and I believe I need information that's at the center of a trap, the last thing I'd do is go myself."
"Only he and Harry can retrieve the prophecy."
"He doesn't know that. We'll see other people long before we see Voldemort. And he won't care at all how many are caught. Is this what you mean by thinking, Remus, because honestly, there's nothing here that hasn't been thought of before."
"It is what I mean."
"Well, it's better than cleaning the kitchen, I suppose."
"It does have that advantage."
The ghost-smile came again. "Do you remember how awful the dormitory always was? How did we live like that?"
"We were boys."
The smile widened. "I just realized--Harry was born when James was twenty-one. Seven-year intervals... he's in the same dormitory as we were."
Remus did the arithmetic in his head. Gryffindor students kept the same dormitory for all seven years of their stay, which meant that every seven years, a new group would move into an old dormitory, on a rotating basis. So there would have been two groups in the dormitory after they'd all left school, and then... Harry. He shrugged. "You're right."
"I wonder if they've found all the hiding places yet."
"I get the impression that Harry doesn't spend as much time in his dormitory as we did. The five of them aren't always together. And one of Harry's best friends is a girl, so he does most of his planning in common areas."
"Right... I suppose that would make a difference." He took a swig of his butterbeer. "I do like Hermione, though. What a good girl she is. What do you think? Hermione and Harry?"
Remus shook his head. "They're like brother and sister. And you weren't watching closely this summer."
"So who do you think he fancies? Ginny?"
"Well, I'm quite fond of Ginny, but no. Not yet. And he may be a bit late if he comes around now."
"Well, there's someone."
"Why do you say that?"
"He's fifteen and mainly healthy."
Remus thought about it. "There was a pretty girl on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team that I think he was looking at the year I taught..."
"What on Earth are the two of you talking about?" Dora asked, coming down the stairs.
"Harry's love life," Sirius said cheerfully. "Who do you think he fancies?"
Dora shook her head. "You need a hobby, Sirius."
"And you have a hobby. What's your excuse?"
He grinned sheepishly.
"Honestly." She put down her tote--not a briefcase at all, but an old Hogwarts bookbag in which she carried her case files--and sat down on the end of the table crosslegged, one knee pointing toward each of them. "Now, if we can stop gossiping about Harry's love life, Remus and I need to create some gossip about ours."
"What's this about?"
"Dora invited herself to dinner with my colleagues from Smeltings," Remus said.
"I did not. That bald bloke with all the papers invited me. And his wife's anxious to meet me." She put her nose in the air in mock indignation. "Honestly, darling, I think you're ashamed of me. Your dear wife and all. How could you?"
"I'm a terrible husband," Remus said. "I just couldn't stand the thought of you wasting several of your off-duty hours gossiping with women twice your age about stories that aren't even true. It's scandalous what I put you through, really."
Sirius was looking back and forth between them, eyes dancing in a decidedly mischievous way. "So, how long have you been old marrieds?"
"That's part of the story we're trying to decide on," Remus said.
"No. I mean for real."
Dora rolled her eyes. "You know, Sirius, I can get you a good starter set of Chocolate Frog Cards. Dad keeps his in an album. Keeps him quite entertained, trying to get the whole set."
He stuck out his tongue at her.
Remus put his head in his hands, and let the two of them get to the business of making up a life.