Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Sirius awoke the next morning on the living room sofa, his head not pounding at all, fully looking forward to the day for the first time he could remember in years. The weather was surprisingly jolly for this time of year at this latitude--the sun was weak, but untroubled by clouds for once, and the wind made a cheery whistling sound as it cut through the thick grass of the island. Remus had left a loaf of bread on the table along with two eggs and half of a melon. Outside, Sirius could hear the hogboon making a racket in its mound as Remus made whatever cursory effort he was making today toward its expulsion. It really wasn't like Remus to treat a job quite this dismissively; Sirius guessed that being sacked from Hogwarts last year--for which Dumbledore really had a lot to answer, in Sirius's opinion--was causing a lot more bitterness than he was admitting, but he'd have to work that out on his own. Meanwhile, Sirius considered it perfectly just, given the terms of engagement.
He made himself breakfast and enjoyed the sunshine coming through the window. Remus came back inside just as he was finishing up the melon. His face was cut and bruised, and he was covered with dirt.
"Sounded like you got him good and angry, at any rate," Sirius said, gesturing at the back of the house.
Remus shrugged. "I got into one of the catacombs. I thought I could get it to come out. Unfortunately, it was exactly where it wanted to be. Have you ever seen a hogboon?"
"I thought they just looked like little men."
"Sort of. Except that they're not little, they have eight inch iron claws and an extra set of limbs, and they scuttle around like great crabs. Oh, and they're shapeshifters, so you can't count on them not fitting somewhere."
"So you've had a good morning so far."
"Quite refreshing, yes." Remus grinned. "Are you ready to go?"
"Absolutely ready. But next time you go in that mound, I want a bite at that hogboon. It sounds like fun."
"All right," Remus said, amiably enough. "Outdoor rules apply."
Sirius pulled a face at him.
Remus pulled off his filthy T-shirt and headed into his bedroom, his voice muffled through the closed door. "I'll get cleaned up, and then we'll"--he cut this with a curse as Sirius guessed he was cleaning out a wound--"get started over. No need to look too alarming. The boat's in a cove on the far side of the.... bloody... what the... mound, and it should... AAARGH... be ready to go." He cursed a bit more, then came out, clean and unwounded, buttoning the cuffs of an ancient, frayed shirt. The Muggle trousers he was wearing with it were in only slightly better shape, and apparently needed the braces that he drew over his shoulders.
"Did you find those in the mound?" Sirius asked.
"Dad's," Remus said briefly, then shrugged. "I have a few sets of Muggle clothes I could wear to work in the city--if I could get a job--but this is the only thing that seems right for rowing."
"Can you really row in the sea?"
Remus grinned. "Well, I said no Apparition," he said. "It hadn't occurred to me to do it without magic. Transform."
Sirius laughed. "Don't you feel like we should have the map and the Invisibility Cloak?"
"Well, the map wouldn't help us and the Cloak is more useful to Harry. But yes." He held his hand up, palm out, still smiling. "I solemnly swear..."
"...I'm up to no good," Sirius finished, raising his own hand. "I'll race you to the cove." He transformed and bounded out the door.
He ran a quick circle around Buckbeak, just to play, and Buckbeak happily nipped at him, but didn't take flight, though they'd given him a long enough tether to do so in a limited way. Remus flashed by on the far side, climbing the mound easily while Sirius ran full tilt around its edge. The grass was brown and aromatic, and still smelled of last night's bonfire. A few dead wildflowers crumbled into clouds of pollen.
Sirius burst out of the mound's shadow into a cold blast of sea spray as a wave crashed against the sharp edge of the island. He could see Remus descending the mound, headed for a part of the coast that dropped down abruptly into a tiny cove.
He put on a burst of speed, and arrived at the small rowboat just as Remus crested the low rise of gritty sand.
"I could have Apparated out here," Remus said.
Sirius shrugged--an obviously human gesture that would have caused suspicion had anyone been there to see it, but no one was--then leaped onto the boat. It rocked alarmingly and took on water, but a wave of Remus's wand got rid of it. Remus Summoned it over and climbed in carefully, pulling the oars out from under the seats. He held them in a way that suggested he'd never rowed anywhere in his life, letting them skim the surface of the cove about two inches deep, waggling them back and forth pointlessly. The boat moved forward calmly, in a perfectly straight line, and took them out into open water.
"I should have left a note for the Aurors," Remus said, pulling the oars back in a way that was gaining at least some marginal believability. "Dear Dora, Kingsley, Williams, Dawlish, or whoever might be coincidentally about, I've taken the fugitive for a day trip. Help yourself to tea." He glanced at the sky, then tossed over an old tattered blanket. "If you put it over your head and keep down," he said, "you can transform until we're close to land again."
Sirius did so. "If they're a wizarding family over on the next island, do you supposed they'd let you have any back issues of the Prophet? I'd like to know what's going with this tournament before I talk to Harry."
"It can't hurt to ask."
"I wish I could be closer to Hogwarts."
"So do I." Remus sighed, and Sirius saw a shadow start to creep over today's sunny mood, then he shook it off. "But as neither of us would be entirely welcomed by anyone other than Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Dumbledore..."
"Oh, right," Sirius said, grinning. "I'd wager half the smart girls at Hogwarts would welcome dear Professor Lupin back with open arms."
"Well, maybe a few. Ginny Weasley says the students have taken a shine to Moody, though."
"Ron's sister. She writes to me now and again."
"Huh. I thought you made that up about the students writing, to cover for Harry's letter with Dora."
He smiled fondly. "Oh, some of them do. Ginny is particularly aggressive about it. She doesn't talk much about Harry, though, so I didn't think you'd be interested. She's quite proud of how very little she talks about Harry."
"Oh," Sirius said. "Someone has a crush on Harry, eh?"
"Oh, yes, a painful one for everyone who observes it. Even Harry's not thick enough about girls to miss it, and trust me, that's saying something."
"My godson takes after you about girls?" Sirius shook his head. "Remind me to have a long talk with him on the subject, once we get him through this damned tournament. What else have your students told you? Anything unusual at the school?"
Remus shrugged. "Well, er... not really. It's been Ginny, plus one letter from Pansy Parkinson scolding me for being a werewolf the whole time she confided in me, then proceeding to tell me about the dress robes her mother bought for her, then scolding me again, possibly for being a half-blood, though I wasn't entirely clear on that. Pansy has her own unique viewpoints on the world."
"Pansy is what she is," Remus said complacently. "There was also one from Ernie Macmillan this summer, assuring me that my condition appears to him to be an external curse, for which it is unfair to persecute sufferers. And that's almost exactly how he worded it. It was co-signed by four more Hufflepuffs, and he apparently sent a copy to the Board of Governors."
"Justin Finch-Fletchley--he's Muggle-born, you wouldn't know him--and Susan Bones from his year. She's Amelia Bones's great niece." Sirius nodded; Remus went on. "He also got one of my O.W.L. students, Jamie Stebbins, to sign, and a boy the year below him as well. Stephen Summerby. I was surprised not to see Hannah Abbott; we got along well enough, and she was in Ernie's little group. But I suppose she was always the nervous sort about that kind of thing. Either that, or he didn't happen to see her over the summer holidays."
"That was damned decent of them," Sirius said. "And I'm willing to wager that if he'd waited until the school year to send it, there'd've been more signatures."
"Anyway," Remus said, "in terms of what you're interested in, none of the students who've contacted me have mentioned anything particularly disturbing, or anything about Harry. Luna Lovegood--do you remember Xeno? He was a fifth year when--"
"--when we started," Sirius said, rolling his eyes. "James Hexed Snape with something that made green slime run off his hair, and old Xeno told anyone who would listen that it was the first symptom of... something. Fulgeweed Fever, I think. Didn't exist, but I thought he was funny. What does he do now?"
"Runs a newspaper. I think there was an article about Fulgeweed Fever not long ago." Remus shook his head. "You'd like Luna, though. She wrote last week and said she'd heard that Moody had shown the fourth years the Unforgivable Curses, but that's just Moody for you--rules be damned. I always mean to ask him whether he was a Gryffindor or a Slytherin, but the conversation never seems to get around to it.
"He was a Ravenclaw," Sirius said. "He told me once when we were sneaking about in Knockturn Alley." They'd been looking for Regulus, or some news of him. It hadn't been long after he'd disappeared, and the entire Order had humored Sirius in trying to find him. Sirius forced his mind off of this track. "Anyway, he said he was a Ravenclaw."
"You're kidding." Remus frowned as he tried to processs this, then said, "Land. You need to transform."
The conversation was cut off that easily, but Sirius didn't mind. He saw the new island rising up from the sea, smelled new dead grass, and heard the laughter of children he hadn't yet met and had no reason to seek out. They would be the first completely new people he'd met since Azkaban (not counting business transactions), people who had no connection to his past, and the notion delighted him utterly.
Remus guided the rowboat into a little cove, and Sirius jumped out onto (relatively) dry land, shaking himself as though he'd got wet, just for the good feel of it. He took a deep breath--the scent of the grass and wildflowers was strongest, even over the salty smell of the sea, and in the distance, he could smell peat smoke from a fireplace. He waited while Remus tethered the boat, then they climbed the low hill together. A cottage sat at the bottom of the far side, and two children were chasing one another in circles around it. One had a toy broomstick, and there was a rusty cauldron rotting beside a well.
"Looks like they're magical, anyway," Remus said.
The larger child, a skinny girl with white-blond pigtails, looked up in surprise. "Mither!" she called, then said something so thickly accented that Sirius couldn't catch all the words, though he gathered that she was announcing their presence, as a woman came out of the door, drying her hands on her apron. She frowned up at Remus, then signaled for them to come down the hill.
Remus led the way down, his hand extended. "Hello," he said. "I hope it's not a bother, but I'm staying on the next island--"
The woman gave a frustrated roll of the eyes. "Mary McAllister's island?"
"The very one," Remus answered with a smile, picking up a bit more of a lilt ("very" came out "verreh") than Sirius was used to from him, though, to be fair, he usually had a bit of the Scot in him when he came back from summer holidays, due to having spent the summer talking to his mother. It wasn't entirely alien. "She's got me working on that problem hogboon of hers."
"Calum McAllister, may he rot," the woman said, not at all unkindly. "If that hogboon got a portrait's worth of him after he died, you'll have your hands full, if the tales are true." She stuck out her hand. "Fiona Brodie," she said. "My big girl is Kirsty--she's ten--and the littler one is Elspeth."
"Remus Lupin," Remus said, shaking her hand.
Fiona got a wary look in her eye. "I had a letter from a concerned Hogwarts parent last year, as Kirsty's getting close to the age for it. Seems I know your name. Werewolf, are you not?"
"I am," Remus answered evenly, "but the full moon's not for more than a week."
Fiona silently evaluated him, then shrugged. "I'll thank you not to be visiting then."
"I may lock myself in with the hogboon," Remus told her. "It seems a good use for it."
She laughed, but Sirius thought a bit of coldness had seeped in. "Either that, or old Calum'd get to be even more of a pest. Was there something you needed? Kirsty, stop gaping at the man and take your sister inside."
Remus sagged a little. "Well," he said, "as it happens, I wanted to know if you were"--he pointed at the cauldron and the toy broomstick, which Kirsty had propped beside the door--"one of us, and I wondered if I might use your Floo connection. Miss McAllister hasn't got the island connected, and I needed to place a call. I'd pay you for the powder, of course."
"No need for it. Who knows what we might need from you come winter?" She sighed, and opened the door. "Can't say I welcome you entirely," she said. "I doubt anyone with children welcomes a werewolf at the door. But you've been gracious, and I see no reason not to help."
"Thank you," Remus muttered. "I assure you, I don't share Fenrir Greyback's interests."
"That's a name I'll not have spoken in my house."
"Madam Brodie," Remus said fervently, "I am quite happy to go along with that particular rule. Snuffles," he said to Sirius, "I don't think Mrs. Brodie will want you inside."
Fiona waved it off. "I've no objection. The girls lost their dog last year; I'd imagine they'd like him." She led them into the house, a comfortable little place with a round rag rug on the floor and a comfortable mess in the living room. The girls were in the kitchen, playing with fashion dolls of the sort Dora had once had. The fireplace dominated the wall next to the stove.
"Will you need privacy?"
"No, not at all," Remus said. "I just need potion ingredients. I'm going to try an Ousting Effusion, and I need some Erumpent Essence."
"Will you stay for lunch? I've got enough."
Remus smiled, looking genuinely pleased. "I'd be happy to."
"Well, then," Fiona said, indicating the fireplace, "have at it."
Remus took a pinch of Floo Powder from a coffee can beside the fireplace, said, "Slug and Jiggers, Diagon Alley," and bent down to talk. Sirius wondered if he was actually bothering to order what he'd said he was ordering; the chance of Remus successfully brewing an Ousting Effusion was fairly slim.
The older girl--Kirsty--cooed at him, and he caught "'s yer name" in it somewhere. Fiona said, "Mr. Lupin called him Snuffles."
"Snuffles!" Kirsty said. She spoke to him more slowly than she'd spoken to her mother, and Sirius caught more of it. "Aren't you cute?" She scratched his scruff vigorously and kissed his face. "Aren't you then? Are you a good doggie? Good dog!"
Elspeth came over to join them, and Sirius let himself enjoy being toppled under their affections while Remus had his entirely non-essential conversation. Elspeth dug under the sofa and pulled out a dusty rope with a knot in it, and by the time Remus had finished, the girls had engaged Sirius in a good game of tug-of-war (he was careful not to pull too hard, as he was large enough to fling either of them across the room if he put real effort into it).
"I do appreciate the use of your fireplace," Sirius heard Remus say. "The owls keep being blown off course here."
"You'll learn to expect that if you stay here long," Fiona said, and there was a clank as she set down cutlery on the table. "Girls, get yourselves cleaned up, and we'll have lunch."
The girls protested for a moment, but let go of the rope. Each one patted Sirius a few times, then they disappeared into what he took for their room.
Sirius took the rope over to the sofa and put it as close to where they'd got it from as wouldn't be suspicious, then he padded over to the table, where Remus was helping Fiona set out bowls and plates.
"...which is why I don't get off-island very often," Fiona said. "There's no need for it, really, but it gets a bit dreary now and then."
"I've noticed that, with the shorter days," Remus said. "But the auroras are nice at night."
"I got bored with those a long time ago."
Remus smiled. "Not to pry, but your husband...?"
"Dougie got too close to that"--she glanced at the children's door, then hissed--"to that prison. He was out in the boat, fishing, and it was foggy, and he must have got too close to those guards. The boat came back with him in it, but he wasn't in his body."
Remus frowned at him. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Brodie. I didn't mean to bring up such a thing."
She sniffed and started slicing a loaf of fresh bread. "We're used to it now, much as we wouldn't like to be. He's at St. Mungo's down in London. We go visit him on his birthday--that's coming up. The twenty-second. Not that he knows any better. The girls barely remember him. I think they think of it as a chance to see the city more than their father." She finished the bread and Summoned over a cauldron of soup. "I suppose I don't help. I take them to shows and go shopping in Diagon Alley that day as well. I can't help thinking Dougie wouldn't want us to dwell on it, but it still feels wrong, if you ken."
"I do," Remus said. He looked around, very obviously casting about for a change of subject. "So... what do you do here?"
"A little of this, a little of that," Fiona said. "The Ministry paid us a fat settlement to keep quiet, and I didn't turn it down, so we're all right. What about you? Have you hired yourself out as a hogboon fighter, now that you're not at Hogwarts?"
"Something along that line."
"Is the pay good?"
"Hmph, with Mary McAllister, I don't doubt it. Be careful, or she'll pay you whatever she does pay in leprechaun gold."
"I'll keep it in mind," Remus said.
The door opened and the girls came out, not looking at all cleaner than they had been before, though Fiona didn't say anything. They sat down and Fiona said a quick grace--pausing every third word to scold Elspeth for trying to feed Sirius under the table before they'd even started to eat--then they tucked in.
The girls took over the conversation during lunch. They were excited about their upcoming trip to London--as Fiona had noted, they seemed to barely acknowledge why they were actually going. They would be there late, as they were going to see a special show on the Muggle stage (Kirsty was delighted about this, as she said that she didn't want to go to Hogwarts and become just a witch, she wanted to become a famous dancer and actress), and Elspeth announced happily that she would be up quite a long time after her bedtime. Sirius wasn't sure if they were speaking more slowly or he was picking it up better through the accent, but by the time they started clearing the table, he was catching everything. Kirsty was about to go into quite a soliloquy about the horrors of maths that her mother was forcing her to do in the afternoon, but Fiona held up her hand and said, "Mr. Lupin doesn't need to hear about that."
Remus, who looked like he was about to jump in and help, deflated a bit. "I'll help you clean up," he offered.
"No need," Fiona said, waving her wand indifferently at the table. "Now, as nice as it's been to have a guest, I do need to get to the girls' maths..."
"Yes, of course," Remus said. "We'll go straight away."
"Could Snuffles come back to play?" Elspeth asked, burying her nose in Sirius's fur. "I like him."
"It's not easy for a dog to swim the channel alone," Fiona said.
Remus sighed. Apparently, Fiona's need for company had finally been overridden by the thought of having a werewolf in her home. "Well, then," he said. "It's been lovely to meet you. If you need anything..."
"I'll not hesitate," Fiona said, but Sirius had a feeling that she'd find several other sources of help first.
Remus said his good-byes, and the children walked them down to the boat. As they were in a clearly magical environment, Remus just waved his wand and sent the boat back to his own island, then put an arm around Sirius's neck--offering the other for Sirius to bite onto for Side-Along--waved to the children, and Apparated both of them back home.
Sirius transformed as soon as they were inside (and Remus had ascertained that no Aurors were lurking), and pulled a sheet of fresh parchment from the pile on Remus's table. "She said November the twenty-second, didn't she?" he asked, scribbling, "Harry--I can't say everything I would like to in a letter."
"Yes," Remus said uncomfortably. "All day. A Muggle show that night."
"Well, we won't have to worry about the night. We'll just pop over while they're spending a pleasant afternoon shopping."
"Or a not so pleasant one sitting beside her dementor-kissed husband?"
"Would you prefer that we ask permission directly? 'Fiona, since you already trust me greatly on the werewolf front, perhaps you'd be glad to let an escaped convict who is also an illegal animagus use your fireplace. Which will, of course, end up with you as a conspirator, with a threat of Azkaban over your head.' Because if that's what you'd prefer, it certainly sounds better than sneaking around, but I'd like to keep both of you out of trouble, if I can."
Remus sighed. "November twenty-second," he said. "But you do need to worry about the night. How likely is it that the Gryffindor common room will be empty in the middle of the day?"
Sirius cursed himself for a fool--of course it would have to be night. He'd been so worried about his own side of the conversation that arrangements on Harry's had slipped his mind entirely. He shook his head. "Shows go late. If I can get him alone at midnight, there might be time if they're taking the Floo home. Maybe they'll even decide to stay the night."
"I'll stand guard."
"No. I don't want you around while I'm breaking the law. You have enough problems--"
"I'll stand guard," Remus said again. "Give the Aurors a little credit, Sirius--if they catch you breaking into someone's house the next island over after I've already been to visit, they're not quite thick enough to miss the connection. I may as well do what I can to keep you from getting caught."
Sirius grimaced. "All right, then. But I'm not going to take the chance of anyone overhearing your name. I won't tell Harry where I am, or that you're here. Is that an acceptable level of protectiveness toward someone risking Azkaban to keep me here?"
"I can live with that. Harry doesn't appear to want my help, anyway."
Sirius squirmed uncomfortably, and finished his letter to Harry, put it back on the barn owl, and sent him off, hoping that Harry would be able to make it work. When he'd finished, Remus had settled himself down on the sofa, reading a Daily Prophet that might have been a week old.
"If I give you money," Sirius said, "will you subscribe to the damned thing? I need to know what's happening."
"Sure," Remus said. "I'll pop over to the mainland tomorrow and send an owl. Do you want the back issues I have? They're in the back room where I gave you Harry's letter the other day."
"Do you have any from the Quidditch World Cup?"
"Yes, I kept those. It's Rita Skeeter's byline, though--read it with a grain of salt."
"Only a grain?" Sirius asked, and went to the back. The papers were stacked neatly in a cabinet, and Sirius brought them back into the living room. He settled himself in the frayed old chair and read them, dropping each to the floor in a rough circle around him, sometimes picking them back up to check facts, or what passed for them in a series of articles by Rita Skeeter, who, in her first year on the Prophet, had suggested that James's mother had an unhealthy interest in taking in "a particularly handsome young runaway," and had in fact been the reason that said youth had run away from his "good home." No names were mentioned, but Sirius doubted that anyone had been left wondering. Between the lines of her World Cup series, he gathered that the Ministry had been taken entirely by surprise, which wasn't a good sign. The Death Eaters had gathered openly, and people had run in terror, which was an even worse one. Worst of all, they'd only scattered when the Dark Mark had gone up... which meant that there was something even the Death Eaters hadn't anticipated.
He set aside the last Quidditch World Cup article and started a feature piece about the Triwizard Tournament that had come out shortly after it had been announced, before the champions had been chosen. It profiled each of the three schools--a warm remembrance of Hogwarts, a rather snide piece on Beauxbatons' high opinion of itself, and--
Sirius stopped cold, staring at the piece on Durmstrang.
"What is it?" Remus asked, looking up with some alarm.
"Igor Karkaroff is headmaster of Durmstrang?" He looked down at the paper in disbelief, at Karkaroff's graying hair, at his disdainful smirk. "Why didn't you tell me this?"
"I'm sorry," Remus said. "I forgot that you wouldn't know. It was an international incident, but it was eight years ago. Everyone's got used to it now."
"I'm not bloody used to it! He's a Death Eater! He was in Azkaban until he sold out some others to save his own skin."
"Which is why it was an international incident," Remus said. "As soon as it came out, the Wizengamot filed a formal grievance against the Durmstrang governors on behalf of the victims. After everything he did here during the war, they weren't particularly pleased to see him honored, let alone put in a position of training half the children in Eastern Europe." His mouth curled in a bitter half smile. "The Durmstrang governors were less than receptive."
"How could they justify that?"
"Oh, you wouldn't believe how outraged they were. It seems they would never judge anyone dangerous until he'd shown himself to be... and someone who had clearly seen the error of his ways deserved the second chance, and as far as they were concerned, he was clean."
"You don't believe them, I take it?"
"I applied for a post at Durmstrang. Their ability to reserve judgment is curiously limited to known Death Eaters."
Sirius snorted, and looked back down at the newspaper. "Did you go there for an interview?"
"What did you see? Did Karkaroff interview you?"
"He did." Remus sat forward. "I didn't see anything comforting, Sirius. He's taken Defense courses out of their curriculum."
"Then how do they learn to... Oh. He's showing them the Dark Arts first hand."
"He's not calling them Dark Arts. I believe he's teaching it as 'Traditional Magic,' as opposed to 'Contemporary Magic.' No one is fooled."
"And the parents go along with this? I know Durmstrang's never been precisely concerned with magical morality, but still..."
"These are parents who've been sending their children to Durmstrang for generations. I imagine they see it much the same way Lucius Malfoy sees sending Draco to Hogwarts under Dumbledore." He sighed. "And some of them aren't going along with it. The room that serves as their Great Hall was only about half full when I saw it--at lunchtime."
"That must be why Dumbledore brought Moody. Moody caught him the first time; he'll be on the lookout. But I don't like this at all."
Sirius continued reading into the night, circling himself with grainy images of smirking headmasters and leering Dark Marks that looked up from the floor. He slept only fitfully after midnight, imagining a Death Eater prowling the halls of Hogwarts, in easy reach of Harry, waiting for a sign that could come at any moment.
His thin sleep was broken by a knock at the door, and he transformed as Remus shuffled out of the kitchen to open it.
Dora Tonks had brought breakfast after her night shift, admitting flatly that she was today's surprise check-in. She looked worn out.
Remus served out breakfast. "Is there any trouble with the tournament?" he asked, pouring her juice.
"Not that I know of." She sighed and rubbed her head. "Fudge has us working on the World Cup. He's told us that he wants us to prove it was an aberration."
Remus stopped. "Wouldn't it make more sense to--"
"--find out what it actually was?" Dora finished. "Only if you're not a politician." She looked across the table into the living room, and frowned. "Why have you been reading so many issues of the Prophet?"
Sirius looked over, seeing the detritus of yesterday's reading binge.
"I looked after Harry for a year," Remus said. "And he was the child of two of my dearest friends. I'm concerned about what's happening."
Dora still seemed troubled, but she looked away. "I see you still have Snuffles."
"He can stay as long as he likes," Remus said.
She Summoned his dog bowl and started to fill it with bacon and eggs. Before putting it down, she added some porridge off to one side. Sirius sniffed it, then tucked in. Dora watched him for a moment, then turned back to Remus. "Have you heard about these new rules they're pushing through the Wizengamot?"
"The Umbridge laws?" Remus snorted. "Yes, I've heard about them. I may as well enjoy my last job while I have it."
"Mum's testifying with the people from Werewolf Support Services today. Maybe they won't pass it. But Aunt Narcissa is testifying that--"
"--a dangerous werewolf was loose on school grounds with her only child in residence?"
"Essentially." She turned her teacup thoughtfully in its saucer. "I think you should testify. If she's going to put a face on someone they think is threatened, you could put a face on someone who really is threatened."
"That's presuming that they'd listen."
"Do you even ever try to get them to listen?" She picked at her eggs. "They might, you know. There are decent people at the Ministry."
She raised her eyebrows. "I hear there's a shiny new Auror..."
"Aside from you."
"My friend Maddie. Kingsley Shacklebolt. He's a decent sort. And that bloke in Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, Arthur Westley--"
"Weasley," Remus corrected.
"Weasley, of course. I don't know him very well, but everyone knows that if you need a decent person to stand up for you, he's the one to go to. There are good people there."
Remus sighed, and put his hand over hers. "I know that, Dora. But they're thin on the ground, and there are fights they can't win."
Dora looked perfectly miserable, but she found a sunny smile. "Well, it was worth a try," she said. "Someday, I'll convince you that the whole world isn't out to get you."
"I don't think the whole world is out to get me. I just have expectations of the Ministry that are based on bad experiences."
"Well, try not to be quite so cynical about the lot of us, all right?"
"I'll make a good faith effort," Remus said, then patted her hand and let go of it. Sirius watched this with some curiosity--it was a strange sort of gesture for Remus, quite unlike him. He also had a tendency to lean toward her, like a broom caught on the edge of a wind current. Neither of them seemed to take this as anything in the least bit odd.
They talked of other things for the rest of the meal, including the tournament, continuing their good natured banter about Hufflepuff and Gryffindor. She lazily scratched Sirius's ears, and he rested his nose on her knees. He'd never thought a member of his blood family would be quite so comforting.
Especially given the fact that she had the power--and the responsibility--to send him back to prison.
They finished breakfast, and Dora announced that she needed to get some sleep before they pulled her in for another double-shift. She stood up and stretched, then looked around the living room again, frowning at the piles of papers. "You should pick those up," she said. "You wouldn't want them to trip you."
As soon as she was gone, Sirius transformed. "All right. You didn't tell me she was obsessed with housekeeping."
"She's not," Remus said, frowning. "Pick up the papers. We should start deciding what you need to tell Harry."