Notes: There is some use of Welsh; I did not provide translations because it is explained within context. All Welsh mythology is genuine in source, and only slightly twisted to suit my plot purposes. I was at some times rather free with JK Rowling's explantion of the pre-Harry world.

Disclaimer: The lovely and talented JK Rowling so far surpasses me that I hesitate to post; but one cannot help but imagine.


Part 21



Christmas : 1982


Remus removed ribbon from Harry’s fist, drawing it away from his mouth. He replaced it with a cracker, and suffered being climbed on. Lily came back from the kitchen with a juice cup and a plastic sip lid, and handed it to him. The juice was enough to settle Harry, not usually a very active child. Remus let him slide to the floor and run to his father with the cup.

James handed him a small package from under the tree. ‘Can you take this to Uncle Reemy?’

‘You shouldn’t have,’ Remus said.

Harry solemnly offered the gift to him, his eyes wide and unblinking.

Lily settled onto the carpet beside her husband. ‘We got it before,’ she said briefly. Sirius reproved her with a glance, uncomfortable. Remus took the box from the boy, and did not open it. He left it sitting on the chair when they broke up to begin their nightly routines, Christmas over at last.

Dinner hour found him on the front steps. Remus pulled his sleeves down to cover his hands. Christmas week was bone-chillingly cold, but sitting inside the house and trying to blend into the wallpaper had nearly suffocated him. He sat on the front step, shivering in his thin jacket and wishing he’d thought to bring the opium from his room.                                                       

A pitch of laughter rose inside, and he glanced back automatically. Lily. He heard Harry’s name. He wondered that such an unassuming baby could be the focus of such energy.

A hand came down over his eyes as he turned back to face the road. Remus stiffened, but even as his spine straightened rigidly, he relaxed his shoulders.

‘Sirius,’ he said.

The brown lanky body eased down on the step beside him, garish Christmas sweater shed and only a paper crown left to remind him that it wasn’t even yet midnight. Sirius smiled, but it was a small smile. His eyes, black in the moonlight, roved Remus’s face. ‘Jamie told me it was bad,’ he said, lifting a square hand to trace the path of the engraved line beside Remus’s mouth. ‘I didn’t think it would be this bad.’

‘Sirius...’ He reached up and tugged the fingers away from his cheek, but did not protest that they linked immediately with his. A warm thumb moved back and forth over his knuckle.

‘It’s been a long time.’ Sirius stretched out his long legs before him. ‘We missed you. All of us.’ His eyes lingered on Remus, and then he sighed. ‘What happened? You look– old.’

He smiled, a little bitter. He’d never decided if it was in character for Sirius to play games, or a habit made natural through years of practise. ‘Didn’t James tell you?’

‘He only said it was a spell gone awry.’ Sirius shrugged one shoulder. ‘You and your experiments. You never knew when to turn back, did you, Reemy? Never could, no matter the danger.’

His cheeks burned. ‘This from you?’ But looking into the frowning eyes meeting his, he thought, he doesn’t know. James *hadn’t* told him.

Sirius didn’t know. Remus felt grateful, and sick to his stomach.

Sirius exhaled softly, and pulled Remus’s hand into his lap, stroking it between both of his. ‘You should know,’ he began. ‘I’m... seeing someone.’

Ah. And still, his heart constricted, after all this time. ‘Do I know her?’

Sirius wasn’t quite looking at him. ‘Doubt it. Ravenclaw. She’s– like you. Real smart. Runs a tight ship.’ He glanced up. ‘She’s an Auror,’ he added.

He said, ‘I’m glad for you,’ and he was, sincerely, but at the same time he wished he were anywhere else.

‘Are you?’ Sirius finally looked at him. The relief in his voice hurt. But it was a passing pain. As it had, perhaps, been a passing passion. For them both.

Sirius grinned, the old grin: crooked, charming. ‘We never were a good match, you and I,’ he murmured.

Remus found a smile somewhere. ‘No.’

And then the grin faded. Sirius touched his face again, tenderly. ‘If you asked,’ he whispered, ‘if you told me that there was any hope– chance left for us, I’d come. Do you know that?’

Remus shook his head. ‘No,’ he said. ‘You wouldn’t.’

‘I would. I would. I do love you, Moony.’

There was unexpected heat behind his eyes. Remus blinked it back; he leant forward, and kissed his lover gently. Sirius linked a hand around his neck, and kissed him on the cheek, on both his eyelids, on his forehead.

‘I know you do,’ Remus told him. ‘I love you too.’


Lily turned off the lights. Remus started, looking around from his chair. He relaxed when he saw her.

‘It’s late,’ she said shortly.

He rubbed his eyes, stared into the barely glowing embers in the fireplace. ‘Come sit with me.’

She did not move from the door, gazing at him in the dark.

‘Please,’ he whispered.

At last she left the doorway. She drew a chair up beside his, and sat back, stretching her bare feet toward the hearth. The room was pleasantly warm, and the fragrant smell of the smoke was heavy and dry.

‘I loved him,’ Remus said. His voice was soft. ‘I was afraid to tell him. I was afraid that would make it real. And then it would really hurt. Then I would really care.’

‘I think you did care.’

‘I didn’t care enough. I should never have let him near me. I should have turned him out of doors.’

‘Don’t pretend to be sorry for it.’ She crossed her arms tightly across her chest, staring into the dead fire. ‘I don’t think you are. I don’t think you even liked him.’

His eyes found her face. He was silent.

‘And I don’t think he ever even liked you. You were cruel to each other and it made me sick to watch you together.’

‘I think you hate me,’ he said, a tight edge to his voice.

‘I hate what you did. I don’t know yet if I hate you.’

The line of his body was tense now, though he did not rise. He looked away from her. ‘Then why am I still allowed in your home?’

‘Because James loves you. Because he’s a good, simple man, and he’d forgive you anything because you were his friend in school.’ She sighed. ‘Because you came back, at least.’

He reached across the space between them for her hand. ‘I don’t want you to hate me. Even when we were kids, I wanted you to like me.’ Choked, he squeezed her fingers. ‘I want you to love me.’

She said, ‘I’m not your mother. I can’t be your mother, Remus.’ But his hold on her hand was so tight. She returned it. ‘Don’t ask me to pity you.’

‘I don’t want you to.’ He slid from his chair, and leaned against her legs. She smoothed back his tight curls as he laid his head in her lap. He smelled of spice and smoke, a strange lingering something that she thought she knew. ‘You judged me,’ he whispered dreamily. ‘And you were right. I’m tired of not being held accountable because I’m smaller or weaker. If I ever was, I let myself be.’ He sounded feverish, his skin was hot under her fingers. He spoke quickly, in a low undertone, his hand painfully tight on hers. ‘Everyone always forgives me. It drives me mad. I tried to drive them away. I tried to make them revile me. I’ve hated all of you, all of you at one time or another, or it’s always there, waiting for me to look at it.’

She didn’t want to hear him. But she listened, stroking his hair and waiting for him to run himself down.

At last it came, cutting him off mid-sentence. ‘She never hated me for what I did. I wanted her to hate me. I wanted her to never forgive me, ever. I should have died, not him. It should have been me.’


Narcissa laid her silverware across her plate, daintily dabbed her lips with her napkin, and tossed it to the table. She turned a cool gaze on the maids, who quickly vacated the dining room and left them alone.

Narcissa leant back in her chair, her expression inscrutable as she looked across the table at Lucius. ‘It’s time to discuss how this marriage is going to work,’ she said.

He laughed shortly, raising his wine glass and drinking deeply. ‘How is going to work, my sweet?’

‘According to a strict and dependable plan.’ She crossed her legs, the slit in her skirt revealing a long white streak of thigh. She watched him carefully as he glanced away. ‘As I thought, then.’

‘I am rapidly becoming unamused.’ He thunked his glass to the tabletop. ‘Say whatever it is you want to say.’

‘Very well.’ She smiled, but it was far from warm. ‘This is a marriage in name only, and I have plans that have nothing to do with you. We will lead separate lives. You will never come to my chambers, just as I will never go to yours. I will keep my affairs quiet, and you will look the other way.’ She touched her smooth belly. ‘I have given us an heir, which more than fulfils my duties to your family. And before you protest, I choose my lovers well– if there should be another child, he will have enough of your features to pass as your son. No-one will be the wiser, not even your own mother.’ She stood. ‘You will treat the children as yours and never spill a word to the contrary. In exchange–‘ She crossed the room briskly and tugged on a bell pull. One of the side doors opened, and Lucius sat stiffer than a rod in his chair as a handsome young man in serving livery came through it. He bowed deeply to them, and crossed his hands behind his back.

‘Grey eyes,’ Narcissa said softly. ‘I believe I chose well here, also, dear husband.’

‘You bitch,’ he whispered.

She smiled the same hard smile. ‘He’s yours. Do what you will, Lucius. This plan will work, for the both of us. Never let it be said that I didn’t provide for my husband.’


He hadn’t come directly back to Hogwarts after leaving James and Lily. He’d gone to the cottage, disturbed to see it occupied. A middle-aged man with a rusting truck lived there now. Repairing the back porch. Remus had watched him from the woods, trying to work himself up to an introduction. In the end, he’d only snuck away.

He’d been gone only four days, knowing that when he came back, he’d have to face the inevitable consequences of what he’d done. James had promised to speak for him, but Remus had no intention of calling him. Bad as it was, he didn’t want an innocent friend mixed up in it when it could only reflect badly on his career. Besides, James and Lily were lost to him now, and it was a wound he was determined to ignore.

He heard Dumbledore fooling with the tea things, but couldn’t bring himself to turn around and pay proper mind. Fog had surrounded the castle, and from the window all he could see was misty grey. It seemed to reflect how he felt.

‘Will I stand trial?’ he asked.

‘I don’t think it will come to that.’ The Headmaster came to him, and pressed a teacup into his hand. Remus lifted it to his lips and drank. It wasn’t hot enough and had been brewed too weak, but he drank it, and held the empty cup in his hand without even remembering it.

The old man was speaking again. Remus tried to tune into the words, but only caught one in five. He had Dumbledore’s voucher; he had, after all, never joined the Death Eaters, had done what he could to prevent the spell from working. He had turned himself in. There was still the matter of the deaths of David Balch and his associates. Something about mitigating factors.

He lifted the cup to his lips and was surprised to realise there was nothing in it. ‘Do you think they feel it?’ he asked suddenly.

Dumbledore paused in his monologue. Remus heard him sigh, but didn’t turn from the window and the fog. ‘They say it’s instantaneous,’ he answered softly. ‘The killing curse.’

Remus looked down at the cup he held, and rubbed his thumb along the smooth rim of the ceramic. ‘How do they know?’

‘They just do.’ The wizard hesitated. ‘Come sit down. Eat a sandwich, please. The Ministry representatives will be here in just a quarter hour. Best to face them with something in your stomach.’

Now he did turn. ‘Why are you helping me?’ he asked. ‘After what I did?’

And he received a jolt. Dumbledore was frail. Truly frail, thin and almost drooping. Whatever sparkle had been in his eyes in all of Remus’s memories of him was gone now, and he looked nothing so much as crushingly weary. When? he wondered. How did I never see it? Remus reached out and took Dumbledore’s hands, spotted hands with skin thin as parchment stretched over such fragile-looking bones, and he cradled them between his own. His eyes were burning. He closed them, and hot salty liquid squeezed out and soaked his lashes. He blinked, and a tear fell down his cheek.

A wizened and bent finger brushed it away. ‘This is no time for tears. You must be strong, Remus.’

‘Yes, sir.’ He cleared his throat. It took two tries, but he managed a steady voice. ‘Where are those sandwiches?’

By the time Crouch’s carriage arrived, Remus had managed another cup of tea and two watercress squares. He was far from hungry, but going through the motions gave him time to gather his thoughts. When the minister arrived, Remus stood, bracing himself.

Bartemius Crouch gave him a long, measuring look. ‘So we meet again,’ he said, and removed his hat and gloves. Dumbledore took them and laid them aside on a small table. ‘Well.’ Crouch rubbed his moustaches, then sighed shortly. ‘Let’s get on with this, then. Sit.’

Remus resumed his seat, though he would have preferred to continue standing. He opened his mouth to speak, but Crouch over-rode him, barely looking at him. He had removed glasses and was reading from a small notepad. ‘You spent four months at the estate of Lucius Malfoy, according to your debriefing. We knew you had entered.’ He glanced up to see Remus’s surprise. ‘Oh, yes, we have that one watched. Though I grant you it seems useless at times. We can only track public movements, and he’s careful.’ Annoyed, he ruffled his moustaches, then turned back to his notes. ‘And you say that during that time you witnessed the execution of one Balch, David, the same as you claimed was responsible for the death of your master. You further state that this–‘ Crouch paused thoughtfully. ‘This “You Know Who” commissioned you to write a spell, the whole of which you provided us.’ He looked up again. ‘Is that correct?’

He inclined his head. ‘Yes, Mr. Crouch.’

The thin man put away his little book and turned a frowning gaze on Remus. ‘So tell me, boy. Why come back here?’

He had the response that Dumbledore and Minerva had judged best. ‘Whatever friendship I had with Lucius Malfoy from our school days had ended. Any loyalty I expressed to Voldemort was through Lucius. I couldn’t be responsible for the things they wanted me to do, so I left.’

Crouch leaned forward. His voice was soft but intense. ‘Or perhaps you came back as a double agent.’

‘I did not, sir!’

‘Prove it.’

Remus stared, dismayed. Dumbledore was quicker. ‘Barty,’ he remonstrated. ‘You demand the impossible.’

Crouch stood abruptly. ‘I have no reason to believe in this supposed change of heart. In his school days he kept close company with two he now admits are Death Eaters–‘

‘He also kept close company with James and Lily Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew, three of whom are your own Aurors.’

‘Everyone knows he wished Balch dead--‘

‘Who was a murderer himself.’ Dumbledore’s gaze was dangerous. ‘Asper was a dear friend of mine as well, Barty. I confess I wanted to see Balch done a bad turn, myself. Will you arrest me?’

As Dumbledore had guessed, the minister could hardly debate that. Crouch was white-lipped in anger, however. Finally, he leant back in his seat, gathering himself together. ‘No arrests have been made,’ he said. ‘Yet. I will accept, for the moment, that Lupin is only a misguided innocent. But don’t expect him to walk to away scot-free. He *did* hand over a potentially valuable weapon to the enemy, and I find it hard to believe that he only watched while Balch was killed.’

Remus interjected before the Headmaster could reply. For the same reason he hadn’t wanted James to stick out his neck before Crouch, it wasn’t altogether wise for Dumbledore to expend his authority defending a man who was, essentially, guilty. He said, ‘I will accept whatever sentence the Ministry decrees.’

Both men turned to look at him.

He hadn’t informed Dumbledore of what he was going to say next. It was a gamble, and he knew it could fail and leave him in even more trouble. But he had decided it had to be tried.

‘But I have conditions,’ he finished.

Crouch’s eyes narrowed. ‘Conditions?’ he repeated, incredulously.

Now he stood, nervous, on the onset of an adrenaline rush. ‘Yes, sir,’ he said firmly. ‘And before you say no, just listen to me. I may not be a double agent, but I can offer you one.’

Dumbledore gazed at him expressionlessly, with only his sharp blue eyes expressing caution. Remus tried to show that he understood, before he faced Crouch directly.

‘You probably know from that’-- he pointed to Crouch’s notebook, hidden in a pocket, ‘that I said Severus Snape is a Death Eater. But he doesn’t believe in domination and killing or whatever it is Voldemort is thinking of. He’s a good man and I think he could be turned.’ The clincher, that might either send Crouch off in a rage or seal the deal. ‘For a full pardon of whatever crimes he’s already committed or will have to commit while under contract with you.’

Sure enough, fury had flushed Crouch red-faced. ‘You– *dare* to name conditions to me? A full pardon?’

‘A pardon will buy you eyes and ears in the highest circle of the Death Eaters,’ Remus retorted. ‘It could be the edge you need to finally get close to Voldemort. You’re not going to get it another way, believe me. I can make Snape listen to me. Do you have anyone else who can promise that?’

Crouch’s face was livid, but some seed of cunning had narrowed his eyes and put the tiniest restraint into him. His thin hands clenched and relaxed, clenched and relaxed. ‘I suppose you’ll want a pardon, too.’

‘No,’ he replied flatly. ‘I said I’d accept any sentence and I will. After you give a pardon to Snape.’ Dumbledore’s eyes on him made him restive. ‘In writing,’ he added.

The silence nearly killed him. Then Crouch stood and grabbed up his hat from the table, and shoved his hands into his gloves. ‘You’ll have that,’ he snapped. ‘And this little bargain session will reflect on whatever sentence you do receive. Dumbledore.’ He nodded sharply. ‘I expect you to keep him under watch. If he’s not here when I come back for him, I’ll see him in Azkaban.’

Remus slumped into his chair as Crouch left, and found he was trembling. Dumbledore pressed a glass into his hand, and filled it with wine. ‘You play a dangerous game,’ the Headmaster murmured.

He drank gratefully, weak in the aftermath of the confrontation. He looked up at the old wizard. ‘Did I do right, though?’

Dumbledore drew up a chair and sat facing him, arranging the heavy folds of his robe about his ankles. At last, he answered, ‘I do not know if Severus will thank you for it. And you may well have endangered both your lives.’

‘He doesn’t believe in it,’ he said. ‘And he helped me, where he could. He’s not evil.’ He hesitated, seeing Lucius in his thoughts, in his memory as a boy he’d respected and loved. Lucius standing at the top of the stairs, that look of savagery on his face as he cast the Cruciatus spell, his unquestioning devotion to his own advancement through Voldemort’s favour. He clenched his fingers around the stem of the wineglass. ‘The rest of them are too far gone.’

Dumbledore left on some errand, unable to waste more of his time on a former student-gone-traitor. Remus sat, staring out the window, trying to examine what had just happened and finding the task impossible. A songbird on a perch made a sleepy sound, then stuck its beak beneath its wing. He watched, wishing he had a wing of his own to hide beneath.

He hadn’t done it since the first night at the Potter’s. The itch was there, constantly at the back of his throat, at the base of his skull, in the tips of his fingers, in his crotch.

He threw open the window, leaning out so far he had to grab the shutter. He drew a deep breath of the thick muggy air.

He found one of Dumbledore’s old pipes in a drawer, and stood at the window waving the smoke into the fog.


Severus was grateful to be back in his own quarters, never more grateful than after a meeting of his dark companions. They were bold, and worse, they were restless. They knew well enough not to attack without their Lord’s consent, but tempers ran high. The adolescent balls-bragging of it all wearied him and left him feeling soiled.

But at Hogwarts, he lived well. Turbute had pointed him to a storeroom of old, unused furniture and told him to take his pick. Consequently, his bedroom and small study were well appointed, even luxurious. He’d chosen the thickest rugs of the selection to cover the cold granite floors, layered to hide the worn and ragged edges. Large paintings of long-dead wizards and imagined landscapes hung from the walls. A small fireplace of brick was offset by several antique braziers that gave unaccustomed warmth to the dungeons. Chairs that had been upholstered five hundred years gone were paired with candlestands of wood, rather than iron. It was a place of relaxation, of reflection. Severus shrugged out of his robe with satisfaction already washing over him, and with a murmured word sent flame to the hearth and all the candles.

He let out a startled noise before he could catch himself. Embarrassed, wary, he made himself cross the room to the cabinets, and take down the water pitcher. Pretending to be occupied with pouring two glasses, he said, ‘Remus.’

The chair scraped softly over the rug as the man stood. ‘Severus.’

He stared down at his hands. ‘Does Dumbledore know you’re here?’

‘He knows.’ Remus stood still at his back. ‘More to the point, Voldemort doesn’t.’

‘Don’t say his name,’ Severus snapped. ‘If you think he won’t hear you, you’re lethally naive.’

‘He won’t. Crouch had the Ministry in here, covering every inch with wards.’ A pause. ‘I’m surprised you didn’t feel them.’

He cursed himself for not paying attention. He could feel them, now that Remus had named the slightest of tingles. It was like the smell of an odourless potion.

Finally he turned, and thrust a glass at Remus, raking his eyes over the thin figure. Remus wore no wizard robes, not any more. Brown, plain brown, trousers and a flannel shirt like a Muggle. Like a Mudblood. ‘The Ministry,’ he said. ‘Protecting you, or me? How long have you been here?’

‘I think you can guess the answers to both.’

He caught Remus’s eyes. It occurred to him that Remus was as wary as he. ‘You’re not here to tell me you’re alive. You’re here for something else. What is it?’

Remus gestured to the chairs. Severus brushed past him, and sat. Remus did not, and he was angry to have given up the advantage. They were not friends, not here. Not now.

‘I turned you in to Crouch,’ Lupin said.

Honesty with a vengeance. He gripped the arms of his chair, and fought to keep his face expressionless. ‘Why are you here, then? Why not a dozen arresting Aurors? Why not James Potter and Sirius fucking Black?’ He caught his voice on the rise. He clenched his jaw to silence himself.

At last, Remus sat, drawing the chair near to close the distance between them. ‘He’s granted you a pardon. A full pardon for all your crimes.’

He felt stung, flayed. ‘And what are you getting out of it?’

‘You know me better than that.’

‘Do I really?’ He stood, forcing himself to his feet where he was the taller, the stronger. ‘You didn’t give enough of a damn about the rest of us you were leaving behind. Do you know the mood you created in our Lord? Men have died because of you. He set me to complete what you so artlessly betrayed him. And since I have no hope of navigating that road, I’ll be next!’

‘Then I’ll help you delay.’ Remus watched him stalk the room. ‘We’ll do whatever we have to do to distract him while you help bring him down from the inside.’

He turned to face him. ‘What?’

‘Exchange for the pardon.’ Remus held out a hand, palm up. ‘Spy for them. Lie, tell all the lies you have to. They’re massing, quietly. Training specially to destroy him. They just need to know where he is, how many are around him. I wasn’t privy to that. But you are.’

He spat, ‘I’m not a traitor, not like you.’ Remus only looked away; tense, nearly shaking with tension. Severus gripped his arm tightly, grabbed him by both arms and pushed Remus to his knees. The grey face turned up to his was taut with pain. He shoved Lupin away, saw him hit the chair and grimace, his back twisting. ‘I’m not you.’

Remus slowly arranged his limbs, drawing his knees up to his chest, rubbing his upper arms. His head bowed, hiding his face.

‘The hat told me,’ he said softly, ‘during the Sorting that I keep secrets too well. It was right. I did. I always knew what the right thing was. I just pretended I didn’t.’

He turned his back, unwilling to listen.

‘Asper tried to explain it. What being a Slytherin is really about. He tried to explain it for years, and I thought I understood, but I fell into the same stupid traps as everyone else.’

‘You know nothing about Slytherin! You never did, fucking with Sirius Black and those banal Gryffindors, imagining you would never have to stoop to politics, pratting your self-righteous twiddle straight from that old fool’s lips and refusing to open your eyes! And we protected you, we *nurtured* you–killed for you– ‘ He pulled himself short in his fury, releasing his clenched fists.

Remus came toward him, dared to touch him. A hand slid around his wrist, a quick pulse throbbed against the inside of his arm.

‘Only a Slytherin could sell to both sides,’ Remus whispered. ‘And do it because it needed to be done.’

His eyes hurt. He rubbed them, wiped away moisture leaking from them. ‘Stop touching me.’

‘No.’ If anything, his hold tightened. ‘Tell me you’ll do it.’

‘Go away, Remus.’

‘Not until you tell me you’ll do it.’

And if I don’t, half the Ministry will be down here to arrest me, he thought, and the taste was very bitter.

‘Let go of me,’ he whispered, and pulled away, wrenching from Lupin’s grip. He straightened his shirt tails. ‘I’ll present myself to Dumbledore. I’ll do whatever it is I have to do. And while I’m doing it, I want you to stay away from me.’

Remus said to his back, ‘I’m to be your contact.’ He sighed slightly. ‘If it helps, it’s meant more to punish me than you.’

‘I want it made clear,’ he said to the wall, to the air. ‘I will never forgive you this. You’ll *never* understand how much you’ve taken away from me. You never understood how much it meant to me, to have a chance to stand on my own merits.’

‘I wish you knew. You always did.’

‘Get out!’ he shouted. ‘Get away from me!’

Into the silence, a log in his fireplace popped loudly and fell through the grate. A command snuffed out the fire instantly, and left him standing in darkness.


Lily grabbed a passing man by a sleeve. He smiled a smile of elderly pleasure, looking her over. ‘What can I do for you, young madam?’

‘I’m a bit lost,’ she said sweetly. ‘I was hoping you could direct me to the office of Mr Crouch.’

‘Certainly, dear lady.’ He laid a hand on her shoulder and pointed down the hall. ‘Two lefts and up the stairs. Third door to the right. I could escort you, if that’s too complex.’

‘I think I’ve got it.’ She grinned a cheeky grin for him, and left him behind her. She moved smartly, her mind mostly on her son in the dubious care of her sister Petunia. There’d been no choice, with James in Suffolk on business and Peter with him, Sirius unreachable and Remus– well.

Remus opened the door on her. He smiled a tense smile, and stood aside to let her in. ‘I like your shirt,’ he said.

‘I borrowed it from– ‘ She stopped, shrugging. ‘I don’t suppose it much matters. Thank you.’

He indicated a set of chairs arranged around a small refreshments table and a dying arrangement of flowers. ‘Tea? Coffee?’

‘Coffee.’ She selected a chair, laid her coat across the back of it. ‘With cream, please.’

He poured a cup for her, and passed it before seating himself. ‘Crouch can’t be here. He was called to the Ministry outpost in Ireland. They’ve suddenly got a clan of Death Eaters, after these years of somehow keeping free of it.’

‘So it’s just you and I, then?’

He smiled at last, but it was grim. ‘No. We rate Fudge. He’ll get here when he can. Til he comes, we’re instructed not to kill each other.’

‘I thought we decided two weeks ago that we weren’t hating each other at the moment.’

‘Not you and I. Me and–‘

The door closed suddenly, making her turn. Severus Snape stood there, severe in black robes, looking down his nose at them.

Lily thought she understood. The look the two men were sharing was far from friendly.

She summoned a smile. ‘Tea?’

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