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Inspires Us To Greater Poetry

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Inspires Us To Greater Poetry

 

‘Mysteries do not lose their poetry when solved. Quite the contrary; the solution often turns out to be more beautiful than the puzzle, and, in any case, when you solve one mystery, you uncover others, perhaps to inspire greater poetry.’

--Richard Dawkins


Prologue: At the Weasleys

(From A Solution More Beautiful, Chapter 52:)

“That is our conundrum, you see!” Albus said brightly. “For we know Harry’s guardian is not hiding away in a cave as most suspect. Sirius has a perfectly lovely house with plenty of room for Harry, wouldn’t you say, Remus?”

“I’m sure all three of us would be delighted to have Harry live with us, sir,” Remus said. 

“I am very glad that you said that, Remus. Very glad,” Albus said, touching the tip of his finger to the end of his nose. “So our dilemma!” he said, his voice booming. “Harry must live with Sirius, Sirius is safe at Phoenix House. I have come to an agreement with Fudge and the Ministry through no small amount of threatening, that I believe is the best of all worlds. It shall involve some sacrifice. My solution will not, nor would I expect it to be, very easy.” Albus turned to look at Elodie, and then at Remus, and said, “And, I do hope that you will come to forgive me for it.”

“Forgive?” Elodie said, feeling anxious but not overwhelmed. She shook her head emphatically. Yes, her life would change, with Harry living with them, but that was hardly Albus’s doing. James and Lily were the ones who chose Harry’s godfather. 

“I did not tell Cornelius Fudge that I knew of Sirius Black’s whereabouts,” Albus told the room full of Order members. “Instead, I told him that there was an alternative option for guardianship. Two well-respected people, one unconnected to the politics that would seek to divide Wizarding Britain, the other loved and respected by James and Lily themselves.”

“Albus,” Remus said, his voice low and angry. Elodie didn’t catch what had made his voice sound so much like a warning, but she understood fully, when Dumbledore spoke again.

“They wanted a couple, you understand. The alternatives were quite ghastly-- Harry Potter growing up in the clutches of Lucius Malfoy? No, my solution allows everyone to live in peace at Phoenix House. It requires a simple deception, one that I believe is already somewhat assumed, at least by some nurses in Saint Mungo’s,” Albus said, with a slight chuckle.

Now Elodie understood, but it was too late. She couldn’t stop him.

“Harry Potter’s guardianship will be given to Remus Lupin and Elodie Merriman.”


Chapter One: For the Greater Good

 

“WHAT?”

As Elodie exclaimed in shock, she could hear Remus’s voice saying Albus’s name with just as much vehemence. Around her, other members of the Order were reacting in their own ways, and the shock she was feeling was amplified by every nod or affirmative reaction she saw. To her surprise, there were several.

Elodie could not, would not look over in Remus’s direction. She had only recently repaired the tattered threads of her friendship with Remus, had heard his confession to Sirius about how he’d fought against any romantic feelings towards her even as she wrestled her own feelings down in favor of her relationship with Sirius. She was dying to know what he was thinking, really thinking, though. Remus wouldn’t reveal his true feelings on something if he thought they would cause someone to forget things he thought were more important, especially when it came to the perception of his dangerousness.

That thought prompted another: what did her own face reveal in this moment? She knew she was blushing, could feel the shock adding context to the way her eyes had widened and the way her hands shook as they lifted to brush her styled curls away from her face. Elodie could feel tears starting to form in her eyes and knew they’d be misconstrued. Sirius’s dream! A home for Harry at Phoenix House. The thing Sirius saw as his reason to live through the horrors of Azkaban; that, and revealing Peter’s deception. Could she really be selfish enough to deny Sirius and Harry this chance? Would Remus?

“Albus, surely--” Remus said, his voice barely more than a gasp, yet loud enough to be heard by the whole room.

Albus raised his arms into the air and everyone fell silent. “You seem to be misconstruing my swiftness in making these choices,” his voice boomed, just on the edge of sounding angry. “I do not see this as rash. Indeed, Minister Fudge seemed most grateful. Harry’s appearance after the Task clutching the body of his classmate is an inconvenient truth for much of the families with divided loyalties. Minister Fudge is not eager for the news of Tom’s reincarnation to become widely accepted. He was actually quite obviously pleased at the idea of placing such a troublemaker in the hands of an unknown couple with little wealth, who would likely never think of attending social events to possibly disseminate unwelcome information!”

Elodie cracked a smile and instinctively shot a glance to where she knew Remus had been standing, despite her earlier determination not to. He was still there, and there was a hint of a rueful smile on his own face. They made eye contact, and she felt rooted to the spot. So much heartfelt information was written on his face; she could see his dismay, recognized the sadness he had to feel for Harry’s situation, but she could also see a gathering resolve in his set jaw and furrowed brows. 

She knew she should look away, but she couldn’t bring herself to. She tried to pour every apology she could into her expression; she felt responsible for this, somehow.

“Elodie?”

Remus jumped in surprise at the same time Elodie did, and right as she turned away from him to see who was speaking, she saw him shut his eyes, as if he were chastising himself.

“I’m sorry, I’m just-- I’m sorry,” Elodie said, shaking her head a little bit, trying to draw on the shock of it all for some sympathy at her being so disconnected with the conversation at large.

“I wanted you to tell him if you’re willing,” Mad-Eye said, stepping forward in the off-kilter walk he had. He pointed at Albus, then over to where she knew Remus was standing. “I know your man wants Harry to live with him, but--” He broke off and actually came over and put his hand out. Elodie took it and stood up. Mad-Eye put an arm around her and spoke like he was confiding in her, but his voice was every bit as loud as it had been before. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Say the word, I’ll fight whatever battle is necessary.”

Elodie threw her free arm around Mad-Eye’s neck, ignoring the way his magical eye seemed to fixate on that point of contact. “You’re lovely,” she whispered in his ear. “I’m good.” Then, after she let go, she lifted her head and looked for Albus. “I need a minute, that’s all. To--” she didn’t know how to explain what she was feeling, so she just repeated herself, her hand fluttering beside her head as if seeking specific words that were just out of reach. “I just need a minute.”

“Of course,” Albus said, solicitously. He gestured in an arc that encompassed the kitchen, the front door, and the stairs up to the rest of the house. Molly stood as if to go with her, but Arthur, who was seated next to her, actually reached up and pulled on her hand hard enough to sit her back down. A few people hid their amusement as the Weasleys started to whisper back and forth to each other, though it was mostly Arthur whispering ‘No, my dear, please, dear, no’ over and over to whatever it was that Molly was arguing, as far as Elodie could hear as she moved past them. 

She walked up the stairs with her head held high, but as soon as she was out of sight she cast a silencing spell on her feet and ran. She ran up and up until she was in a part of the Burrow she’d never seen before, an attic space with a low ceiling that seemed to be a cozy sort of sitting room. In one corner there was a make-up table with a mirror, and beside it was a window. A chair sat between the two, and Elodie sank into it, noticing how pale she looked in her reflection. A few seconds later, she saw a bobbing wand-light also reflected, and a few seconds after that, the face of the person who had followed her upstairs.

“That was quite a suggestion,” Nymphadora Tonks said, sympathetically.

“Can something be perfectly logical and completely insane at the same time?” Elodie asked.

Tonks laughed softly. “Absolutely. I’m pretty sure that’s a perfect description of Charlie, actually.” Elodie laughed at that, and nodded. Tonks asked, “You all right?”

Elodie thought about her answer for a full minute. “Yes,” she finally said. “I just didn’t want to be there when Remus tells Albus he won’t do it.”

“You really think he’d say no? I mean, cor… he looked shocked, he did, but…”

The room fell silent; its location was so far up in the structure that the sounds of around twenty people speaking loudly didn’t travel.

After a long minute or two, Tonks spoke again. “Were… would you say no?”

“Never in a million years would I refuse to do what Albus is asking,” Elodie said. She’d said it quietly, but the silence of the room and the importance of the question amplified the sound so much that it felt like she’d shouted.

“Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but, why wouldn’t you just say that before coming up here!” Tonks asked. Elodie looked over at her and saw that she looked shocked. The candy-pink hair color she usually wore had streaks of white in it, as if visualizing the effect of Elodie’s words as they flew past.

Elodie laughed. “Because they already know,” she said with complete confidence. Albus had seen the Gâteaufidél. Remus knew enough about how she thought she felt about him, whether or not he believed her. Honestly, those nuggets of knowledge, however valuable in context, were nothing in terms of the rest of the evidence, though. Elodie was always careful to keep Sirius’s presence known in Order meetings, whether or not he was able to be there physically, and this was the thing Sirius wanted above all else: a chance for Harry to live with him.

“So you know Dumbledore will guess correctly that you’re game for it, but thought Lupin would say no?”

Elodie nodded. Tonks nodded back, then threw her a shrewd look that told Elodie the Auror was shifting into investigative mode.

“What about my cousin?”

“He’ll be so happy we’ve come up with a way for Harry to live there that I don’t think he’ll be fussed about the details. Besides, he trusts Remus, he already knows about-- I mean, he trusts Remus.” Elodie’s slip didn’t go unnoticed.

“Trusts Lupin with you, you mean? There a reason he wouldn’t, then?”

“Tonks, please, I--” Elodie stopped herself. Here was a chance to be completely honest. To say the words out loud, to know that in saying them, she wasn’t hurting someone the way she seemed to hurt Remus, the way she’d hurt Sirius. “Okay. I’m shit at interrogations. I’m in love with him. With both of them. Remus first, actually, if you can believe that!”

Elodie covered her face with both hands, not because she wanted to cry, but because she couldn’t bear to see what Tonks’ reaction would be.

“Why do I have a feeling that Sirius took matters into his own hands, there?” Tonks said. Her tone was so commonplace and amused that Elodie felt brave enough to look at her. She was glad she had-- Tonks had grown her hair out in a Sirius-esque mane and was sporting his trimmed goatee, and the combination was pretty funny.

“Because you know him!” Elodie said, giggling at her approximation. “Hey, I yielded! You don’t have to torture me with accuracy!”

Tonks picked up the back of a chair that was resting against the wall and transfigured it into a whole chair. “No worries on that! I’ve been warned against ‘you’ll get bleedin’ stuck’ too often to give a genuine Sirius look a go!” she said as she sat down backwards on the chair, her arms resting comfortably on the back. She morphed her features back to her regular look, and smiled at Elodie. Somewhere in the depths of the house, Elodie heard footsteps, but she couldn’t tell how close they were. “Well, they’re probably down there worried you’ve Apparated home. What do you want to do?”

“I had a horrible thought that I should come down in a full wedding kit and ask where I am supposed to sign-- because after that, Remus would probably be grateful for anything lesser! How awful of me, honestly?” Elodie groaned.

Tonks stared at her. Elodie stared back. Then they both burst into hysterical laughter.

“That sounds like a Marauder kind of plan,” Remus said from the stairs.

Elodie’s neck hurt with how fast she whipped her head over to look in his direction. He was standing on the stairwell, half his body visible, his left hand splayed out on the flooring where he waited for her to react to his comment. He seemed like his normal, relaxed self, which was strange, but she’d take it, on a day like today. 

Elodie had promised herself that, where possible, she wouldn’t hold back her genuine reaction to Remus Lupin anymore. Now was as good a time as any to keep to her promise.

“Jesus, Mary, and Merlin, you scared me! How long have you been standing there?”

“Not long, I’m not one for eavesdropping,” Remus said easily. There was nothing contradictory in the thin smile he offered her, and she smiled back.

“So neither of us is going to run screaming to offer to teach at Beauxbatons? Tell me now, because I know just about four words in French, and I think of those, Sirius taught me three,” Elodie said, her tone light.

“I’m not going to run away from you or Harry, Elodie,” Remus said.

No power in any wand on the planet would have prevented the blush she displayed after hearing that. She was grateful for the dimness of the room.

“I’m going to head down,” Tonks said, getting up and darting down the stairs before Elodie had really registered what she’d said.

“I was not running away, you know,” Elodie said, hating the defensive tone in her voice.

“Don’t worry. I have never known you to run away from anything intimidating,” Remus said, walking over and sitting down sideways in the chair Tonks had vacated. He set his elbow down on the back of the chair, letting his hand fall loose over the side. “Apparently, Albus threatened Fudge with exposing the true events from the Task, if he didn’t agree to this.”

“Might have been better if he did, honestly,” Elodie mused. “There’s a whole institutional ‘everything will always work out’ mantra on this side of the ocean that makes me want to scream internally, sometimes.”

“I think we’ll be able to make this work with only a modicum of screaming in any form.”

Elodie was a split second away from asking if someone had dosed Remus with Calming Draught before she realized what a bad idea bringing that up would be. She settled on the unvarnished, true reaction she was having.

“You’re extremely calm for someone who’s been offered up as a co-guardian of this universe’s Chosen One?” Elodie said, phrasing it like she was asking a question.

“It was pointed out to me downstairs that fully half of my acquaintances already suspect a relationship exists between the two of us, mostly because of my visits to St. Mungo’s, as well as other incidental situations, such as our tour of the rental house,” he said, wincing a little bit. “I apologize--”

Elodie interrupted in a tone that allowed no argument. “I have never been, nor will I ever see something negative about my association with you, Remus Lupin.”

Remus coughed, the sound turning into a laugh after a few seconds. “Message received, my goodness.” He brushed his hair back from his forehead and shook his head in a way that Elodie could be persuaded was admiration. “Remind me to keep you on my side.”

“Always,” Elodie promised. “But, go on?” He nodded and took a deep breath, letting it out in a rush.

“The thing is, I’ve spent my life feeling frustrated and helpless by the assumptions people make when they look at me,” Remus said, flexing his hand into a fist before letting it fall limp again. “Here is a chance to get some value out of those assumptions, and all it costs me is a little dent to my integrity. There may be a bit more to it than that, but if it gives Harry a chance to live in a house full of adults who want nothing more than a wonderful life for him, then--” Remus’s voice broke, and Elodie nodded so hard that the movement knocked loose the tears that had formed on hearing his words.

“Yes. Yes,” she said.

“Everyone had started to leave when I said I would come up to get you, but-- forgive me, but I said you were likely to agree. I meant it when I said I’ve never seen you back down,” Remus said. The fact that his ears started turning red told Elodie that he remembered her correcting him to say that she did back down the once. She nodded again, and swiped at the remaining teardrops.

“Does that mean we can go home?” she asked him plaintively. “I’d feel like I was being marched back downstairs to nod my acquiescence--”

“As opposed to the one who was reluctant until persuaded by the entire Order of the Phoenix, you mean?” Remus said. Elodie made a face somewhere between wincing and hissing in pain. “That is to say, yes. Let’s go home.” He held out his arm for her and she knew it was to Apparate.

She didn’t hesitate. “Let’s go give Harry the good news,” she said.

“And Sirius the bad news,” Remus remarked wryly.

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Remus Apparated them to the basement beside his cage, which Elodie thought was thoughtful, since there was no telling where Harry and Sirius would be, but chances were great that they wouldn’t have been downstairs. Remus checked the basement bedroom, but Harry wasn’t there, so they went upstairs, where they found Sirius asleep on the floor with limbs akimbo, his back propped up on the couch. Harry’s arm was draped over Sirius’s shoulder, a handful of shirt fabric caught in his hand as he slept on the couch behind his godfather.

Elodie and Remus had both paused in the doorway to the kitchen when they’d seen the pair sleeping, and she reached down and squeezed his hand with hers.

“Good night,” she whispered, letting go of Remus’s hand and sneaking her way through the living room to the hallway. Instead of going directly to bed, though, she took her wand out and cast a silencing spell on the hinges to Remus’s bedroom, sensing somehow that he might not remember the way they liked to protest loudly if the door was opened past a certain angle. Elodie went into her own bedroom and watched through the cracked door as Remus opened his door too widely, wincing in preparation for the sound only to hear nothing. His surprised grunt was followed by a look in her direction, where, unerringly, Remus caught her eye even though she had the door cracked to barely an inch. He nodded his thanks, and went inside his room.

Elodie was smiling as she prepared for bed, and it was only after she’d extinguished the wand light that she wondered if she should feel guilty for how proud she’d felt at his recognition.

Shit, Elodie thought to herself. Is this the new normal? Questioning everything?

In her mind’s eye, Elodie saw the image of Harry’s hand full of Sirius’s shirt fabric, even in sleep.

Yeah, that’s worth being a bit more neurotic than normal, she decided.

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In the morning, Sirius came in to change his clothes and to find a few outfits to transfigure for Harry for comfort, in case his own clothes reminded him too much of what he’d just lost. Elodie took the time to give him a quick run-down of The Plan, but Sirius waved her off after a few sentences. He said he was too groggy from uncomfortable sleep to really pay attention, and his primary concern was getting Harry something to eat for breakfast.

Elodie hopped out of bed immediately, walking over to her side of the closet to throw on something decent.

“What’s the rush?” Sirius asked, sounding amused. “Remus is cooking.”

That just made her move faster. Socks weren’t important than a growing boy’s nutrition. Or his taste buds.

When Elodie walked into the kitchen, she saw that Remus and Harry were talking quietly while standing beside the counter. In front of them were all the supplies for pancakes, and the stove had the cast-iron griddle laid out, but nothing was mixed together yet.

“Good morning Harry. Good morning, Remus,” she greeted them.

“Good morning,” Harry said, nodding his head politely at her. He was wearing a pair of Sirius’s black skinny jeans and a black Weird Sisters t-shirt. They were a bit too big for him, which touched Elodie’s heart. Sirius had shrunk them, but not so much that they didn’t feel like someone else’s clothing. It was a thoughtful, loving detail.

“Why do I have the feeling that Sirius was sent in to threaten that breakfast was already in progress?”

Remus leaned his upper body toward her and said, “I have no idea what you could possibly mean.” His expression was playful, and she mock-glared at him.

“Out! Both of you, before I do this the Muggle way and give you the ones I make before I’ve correctly gauged the flipping time,” she ordered.

Two voices said, “Yes, ma’am.”

When Elodie was halfway through making pancakes, she heard a roar of male laughter from the living room. She peeked around the doorway rather than stood in it, not wanting to change the character of the conversation with her obvious presence.

Remus was sitting far forward in his chair, hands clasped in front of him, watching Harry and Sirius, who were seated on the rug. They were watching a conjured Quidditch Pitch, and Sirius was demonstrating a move using figurines on magical brooms. As she watched, Sirius’s wand lifted sharply, and the figurine with the Quaffle made a spinning move that dodged the Chaser that Harry was controlling. The Quaffle sailed through one of the scoring rings, and Remus reached out with lupine speed to catch it as all three of them cheered.

The smell of overcooked pancake tore Elodie away from the scene. 

Ten minutes later, she called them in for breakfast, having set out everyone’s plates ahead of time. Sirius was the first to come in, and after a look at what she’d done, he pulled her away from where she was wiping the counter.

“Wha--” Elodie was interrupted by a searing kiss. Sirius walked her body back to the wall and had her breathless in seconds. Only Harry’s delighted voice on seeing what was on his plate pulled Sirius away from her.

“You are brilliant. Thank you,” he whispered in her ear before bounding over to the table like he was the same age as his godson.

“Harry has a Snitch pancake, I have a Quaffle, and-- Elodie, did you overcook that one on purpose just so it would look like a Bludger?” Remus asked her as he handed her the syrup.

“No, I charmed it dark, should taste the same, but that is a good idea, I’ll have to do that next time,” Elodie said.

“It’s great, thank you,” Harry said.

“So what happened at the meeting after we left?” Sirius asked.

Remus started coughing.

“Albus has a plan, or more accurately, a Plan, with a capital P,” Elodie said, her voice full of amusement at Remus’s reaction.

“Will they need to put this house under Fidelius?” Harry asked, sounding worried.

“Hopefully not,” Remus said. “But, I wouldn’t worry. His plan is actually fairly simple. It involves some lying, which I suppose includes you, Harry.”

“Oh, I didn’t think about that part,” Elodie said. When Remus didn’t say anything further, she sighed. He was deferring to her, which she supposed was fair-- he wasn’t the one who was going to pretend he was in a relationship when he was actually involved with someone else, after all. It should be her news to break. “As you probably guessed, there are some issues with Sirius’s fugitive status. When you had Muggle guardians, the magical laws didn’t apply, but now they do. Sirius is your guardian, thanks to spells cast by your parents and Sirius when you were born.”

“So that supersedes anything the Ministry would try?” Sirius asked.

“Yes and no,” Remus answered. “They don’t know that you are safe and have a place for Harry to live, and they don’t know that Albus knows that, either. As far as they’re concerned, you’re living in the Brazilian rainforest and have no idea about Harry’s guardianship. Everything they’re doing right now is assuming you’re out of the picture.”

“I assume part of the lying will be saying I don’t know where you are, then,” Harry said, smiling at Sirius.

“Part of it, yes,” Remus said, looking uncomfortable.

Elodie decided to try to be as clinical as possible. “They need guardians for Harry. The lawful guardian is considered disqualified at this point, primarily because they don’t know his location, and secondarily because they think he’s an insane mass murderer.”

“Misunderstandings happen,” Sirius shrugged.

“Albus said that it was suggested that a well respected Pureblood family ought to have the chance to raise Harry as one of their own--”

“My arse!” Sirius interjected.

“Language,” Remus said.

“I apologize, Elodie,” Sirius said.

“Sirius,” Remus shot a look over at Harry, whose smile was quickly becoming a grin.

“Right. Sorry, pup,” Sirius said diffidently. “He doesn’t mind, I’m sure!”

“I’ll mind for him,” Remus said. 

At the same time, Elodie said, “That’s not the point!” She and Remus looked at each other, and Elodie could feel herself blushing even as she saw Remus’s ears turning red. 

Sirius looked back and forth between them, his forehead wrinkling in suspicion. “Go on?”

“Albus was able to persuade Minister Fudge there was a better option for everyone involved,” Elodie said. “Remember, the government’s position right now is more in line with the Death Eaters than not; they want to keep the return from being public.” Elodie didn’t go into details, trusting that everyone at the table with her knew she mean Voldemort’s return. “Putting Harry with a prominent family just gives him the access he’d need to change minds. That was Albus’s argument, anyway. Since he knows you have a place to live, Harry was always going to need to be with you. So his solution was to present a less prominent couple as guardians.”

“You and Sirius?” Harry said, his expression hopeful.

“No,” Elodie said. “That would be ideal, but--”

“It’s Remus! That’s the big lie! Oh, Merlin. Did he burst into flames right there in the meeting?” Sirius said, his voice loud and full of mirth. “Oh, Moony. Fate is a right bitch to you, isn’t she?”

“Language!” Both Elodie and Remus said, as if on instinct.

“I’m sorry, I’m sure the two of you are having litters of kittens over this, but it really is perfect.” Sirius continued as if no one had corrected him at all.

“So Professor Dumbledore told Minister Fudge that Elodie and Professor Lupin are a couple, and can adopt me?” Harry said, looking very pleased. “And because both of you already live here, I can stay, with Sirius? That’s brilliant!”

“It’s ‘Remus,’ Harry, and yes, that seems to be the compromise,” Remus said gently. “Obviously I am not happy with the need to lie, but the alternatives were not ideal.”

Elodie knew how Harry felt about Draco Malfoy, so she couldn’t resist adding, “The leading contender was Malfoy Manor, in case you’re wondering how much effort you’re willing to put into the lying part.”

Harry stared at her in horror. “I’ve never seen a happier couple than Pro- err, Remus and Elodie, in that case. Made for each other,” he said, his eyes still wide.

“Yes, well, you don’t need to start practicing now, ” Sirius said. “Eat up!” He reached over and prepared a forkful of pancake so large that Harry wouldn’t be able to talk for a few minutes at least. He then changed the subject to talking about Quidditch, and Elodie just sat back and enjoyed listening to everyone’s enthusiasm. There would be more fallout, she knew, but Harry was the focus right now, as he should be.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: #12 Grimmauld Place

 

After breakfast, Remus went to Firecall Albus to let him know that they were ready to head over to #12 Grimmauld Place. Harry was watching Remus, so Elodie pulled Sirius aside to ask him something.

“My memories of the books tell me there should have already been work done at #12,” she said. Elodie hadn’t expected Sirius to flash her a bright grin.

“They have been working there!”

“Without you?” she had to ask.

Sirius stretched his arms up and mussed up his hair before weaving his fingers together behind his head contentedly. “Albus was so grateful I offered up that old wreck of the place that he got some of the Order to agree to clear out some things before I had to see them,” he said. “I won’t notice a difference, most likely, but the longer I could avoid it, the better.” He sounded confident, but Elodie could sense the vulnerability in him, and she gave him a huge hug. If there was a way to infuse one’s affection directly into another person via magic, she would have done it right there.

Harry rushed into the kitchen, excited. “Professor Dumbledore says we are going to fly to the Order house. He agreed to let me use my own broom. He’s going to Apparate us as close as he can and we’ll be disillusioned so the Muggles can’t see us!”

Elodie froze up. She had never enjoyed imagining using brooms when she’d read the books, and while she found the idea of Quidditch fun in theory, she never had the thought of ‘boy, I sure wish I could use a broom, too!’ Sirius threw an arm around her and said something encouraging to Harry before the boy walked back into the living room to talk to Remus.

“You’re shaking! I can Apparate us, love. No brooms required.”

She buried her face in his shoulder. “I feel like a traitor to witch-kind!”

“Well, that’s why we teach them young, before the self-preservation kicks in,” he said, kissing her hair.

“Or, in your case, nonexistent?” she teased.

“Precisely.”

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On the whole, Elodie had found that scenes she’d read about in the books and then experienced in person were far more richly detailed and accurate in real life, as was to be expected. Watching #12 Grimmauld Place appear out from the middle of a block of other houses was quite similar to the film version, but still astounding to see. The Muggles in the surrounding houses seemed to feel no change to their location, despite the fact that there was a significant difference in footage once the house fully materialized.

Elodie hung back so that she and Sirius were last to enter the house. So much had happened in the past day and night that Elodie had not ended up preparing herself very much for the prospect of seeing Walburga Black’s portrait.

“Interlopers! Invaders, begone! You besmirch the very floorboards of the house of my forefathers!”

“Oh, lovely,” Sirius said with a groan as they walked over the threshold. “She’s awake.”

“I don’t blame her, it looks like the children were already here, and about seven people just walked in--”

Sirius stopped her by putting his hand over her mouth.

“There’s no reasoning with the woman, so don’t fall into that trap. Dismiss her, ignore her, hex the damn thing, but don’t make excuses for her!” he said, pulling his hand away from her to make an angry, dismissive gesture. Then, he jogged ahead of her down the unnaturally narrow hallway to speak with the cluster of adults in the room beyond.

“Oh, would that my traitorous son had died before me!” the portrait moaned, somewhere off to Elodie’s left.

That’s it, Elodie said to herself. Time to meet Mum.

She marched forward, following her instincts. The sound coming from the portrait was elevated slightly, and so when Elodie saw a few stairs up to a landing that turned a corner, she walked up them with purpose, her wand in hand. The hallway was dim, and she lifted the wand to illuminate her path until a voice startled her so much she almost dropped it.

“Another one! Dressed worse than a servant!”

Elodie turned to see a nearly full-sized portrait of an old woman with yellowed skin and bad teeth. Given the proportions of the frame and canvas, the image of the woman seemed too close, even when Elodie backed up until she felt the solid wood-paneled wall behind her. She looked down at what she was wearing; that morning she had opted for black leggings and a dark green t-shirt that clung to her body, hoping that they wouldn’t get pulled or ripped from getting caught on furniture. 

“Are you truly screaming at someone here to restore your house to its former glory?” Elodie asked. She’d meant to sound outraged, but fear of just how odd and intimidating the portrait was made her voice sound timid and almost respectful, instead.

The woman’s half-mad eyes seemed to brighten in an odd way. She leaned forward, the cap on her head doing nothing to stop her frizzy hair from staying out of her face.

“You’ll be too weak for the enchantments on this house, girl! They’ll eat you up, Slytherin or not!” the portrait said in mocking derision.

“Slytherin?” Elodie repeated, confused. Then she looked down at her shirt. “Right. Green,” she muttered under her breath. Instead of looking at the woman in the portrait, Elodie looked at the frame around her, noting the way the curtains that were pulled to the side seemed to be nearly destroyed by age and insect activity.

“Will you start with my curtains, then?” the old lady asked in a wheedling tone.

Suddenly a strong hand grabbed Elodie and bent her backwards into a theatrical kiss. Seconds before she realized it was Sirius (of course it was Sirius! she realized), Elodie wrenched herself free and lifted her wand toward her attacker.

“Blood traitor! Degenerate filth! Unhand her!” Walburga Black screeched.

Elodie stared at Sirius, and then she stared at the portrait. Sirius just stared at Elodie.

“I promised her new curtains?” Elodie said weakly, trying to explain herself. “I’ll have to measure--”

Sirius grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the hallway to the howling vituperations of his mother. Molly appeared at the end of the hallway and shook her head at them, her hands at her ears.

“What did you say to her!” Molly demanded, apparently rhetorically, as she rushed past them into the alcove. A few seconds later, the screaming had lessened; dampened, Elodie assumed, by the moth-eaten curtains that still hung from the portrait frame.

Sirius was still dragging her, and he didn’t let go until they were in the expansive kitchen at the end of the hallway. Quite a few Order members were assembled there, eating pastries and drinking from mugs.

“I’m with Molly. What in Merlin’s name did you say to her?” Sirius demanded, letting go of her wrist.

Elodie glared at him and didn’t answer until she’d cast a healing charm on herself, which caught Remus’s attention, among others.

“I stumbled into there following the sound of her voice, and she saw my green shirt and I guess she assumed I was a Slytherin, which might have made her like me? I said I was here to clean up the house, and she asked me if I’d start with her curtains…” Elodie trailed off, noticing that the sound of other discussions had fallen away and everyone was quietly staring at her.

“You made nice with my mother,” Sirius said incredulously.

“I didn’t do it on purpose!” Elodie said in despair.

“That’s so much like you it hurts, Elodie!” Tonks said cheerfully. 

“I mean, it couldn’t hurt to spend just a little to get fancy curtains she likes, could it? Don’t you think she’d be more willing to have them cover her if they’re up to her standards?” Elodie asked, filled with a sudden sense of outrage. Yes, Walburga Black’s portrait was a miserable wretch of a woman, but she was making everyone who could hear her miserable as well. “No sense in all of us suffering-- it’s not like an eyelid, those curtains. She has to look at them, doesn’t she?”

Elodie could tell by the mulish look on Sirius’s face that she had a point, and he did not want to acknowledge that point. He theatrically huffed in disgust and stomped away from her, brushing against a tall, ginger-haired man Elodie hadn’t met before. She mouthed an apology to the man, who smiled easily and walked over to her.

“Bill Weasley. You must be Elodie Merriman,” he said. His hand was warm and very strong. She tried not to wince before he let go of her.

“I never know how to react when someone says that,” Elodie admitted.

“That’s actually endearing,” Bill said, leaning over to whisper as if sharing a secret. He straightened, and added, “Many people are desperate for notoriety. Fewer are just hoping to be known. Rarer still are those who can be known before they’ve even been introduced in person.”

“That was poetic,” Elodie said, impressed. “And, thank you. Though nothing will persuade me that you’re referring to any sort of reputation that I may or may not have. I am, after all, most likely the only person you haven’t met in this house.” She smiled up at him mischievously.

“How about a bit of both?” he offered.

“I can live with that. Your letter was fun to read, I never got the chance to say,” she told him, remembering how he’d written about his life at Hogwarts. She’d especially loved how he had described the feeling of freedom of not being the oldest and most responsible, for a change.

Bill’s smile sobered, but in a way that told her that he was flattered rather than offended. “Thank you. I haven’t really gotten the chance to examine that period of my life much. I hope you got the answers you were looking for?”

“I did, thank you,” she said, wishing she had time to talk to him about Charlie’s unified theory of house behaviors, but she saw the way Albus, Molly, and Mad-Eye were standing in a cluster. She sensed that the assembled group were about to get their orders for the day’s cleaning activities, and she was right.

After assigning each witch, wizard, and student a general location and assignment, Albus requested that Elodie, Sirius, and Remus follow him. He led them to a small side library, shut the door, and warded it for secrecy.

“News about the Dursleys, then?” Sirius asked before the headmaster could even turn back around to face them. He threw himself on the lone couch in the room, stretched his arms out along the sides and his legs out in front of him, looking at Albus expectantly. Remus walked over and half leaned, half sat on the front edge of the large desk, his hands in his pockets. Elodie simply stood between them and waited, hoping she didn’t look as anxious as she felt.

“Yes. The cause of death appears to be… rather gruesome. Their automobile was involved in a sinkhole incident. The report states that a nearby factory experienced a failure of coolant water, which leaked out across their property and pooled under the roadside. The water eroded away the structure of the road, causing it to fail as they drove across that section,” Albus said. He paused, made a face, and then continued. “The water was at a high temperature. The car was submerged.”

“Would the road have collapsed no matter what vehicle drove across it?” Remus asked.

“Yes, it appears so. There is some question about why they were in that particular area, and a relative has stated that Vernon told her prior to his death that he’d been contacted to possibly purchase some property in the area.”

“Definitely not a coincidence, then,” Elodie said. “They were lured there.”

“That is also my assessment,” Albus said, looking regretful.

“So Lord Git has finally decided to move against Harry!” Sirius spat. “He’ll have us to deal with, first.”

“I do not think that Tom was involved in this scheme,” Dumbledore said. His tone was gentle and almost apologetic. Elodie wondered if he was trying to placate Sirius, who was showing signs of a growing manic anger fit. She walked over to stand near the couch. “The mechanisms could plausibly fool Muggle investigators. The cause of death was in no way magical in appearance, despite the likelihood of such events not being random.”

“He’d use something fantastical. He’d make an example of them,” Elodie said.

“Precisely,” Albus said.

“So this was, what? A sycophant’s gift to their master? That’s grim,” Remus said.

“I can’t imagine it’s easy for him to get quality help these days,” Sirius said, his eyes glittering with malice. “Even less easy if they start dropping like flies, don’t you think?”

“What, Mr. Black, would be the difference between you and the perpetrator of this crime then, do you think?” Albus said in a soft voice dusted with steel. “I understand your anger. I even appreciate that it exists despite the event bringing you to the situation you have wanted for so long. But that guardianship you long for is not served by this recklessness. It is perhaps a very good thing that you are not in a position to be the sole guardian of your godson.”

Sirius’s face was dark with anger, and Elodie decided to sit beside him and surround one of his clenched fists with her hands.

“Since you mention the guardianship, I was wondering: will one or both of us be able to attend Harry’s trial?” Remus said.

“I’m glad you brought that up,” Albus told him, pointing in his direction. “The forces that are working against us in the Ministry want to silence Harry. They fear my influence, and with the two of you able to step into the role I had intended to take at his trial, the event itself may end up being reduced to a mere formality.”

“You think they’ll see a working class couple with ties to his parents? People who don’t want to rock the boat, maybe?. People who won’t know enough about what happened to him to speak up for him.” Remus sounded angry.

“Well they’ll be wrong, there,” Elodie said. “We’ve got the school Pensieve at the house. Harry can pull out his memory of the attack, and we can be better informed about what actually happened.”

“Good point,” Sirius murmured. He was still as tense as a rock, his teeth gritted, but Elodie was undeterred. She was trying to breathe slowly and deeply beside him, hoping that he would subconsciously attune to her and start breathing more deeply himself.

“Albus?” Elodie said, a smile growing ever bigger on her face. “You need to warn me now if you think I’ll need to be demure. That’s the sort of thing I’ll need advance preparation for.”

Sirius and Remus both burst out laughing, and even Albus cracked a smile.

“Perhaps not demure, but deferential, certainly,” he said, bowing his head toward her.

“So are you saying you think they’ll slap him on the wrist and send him away with his obscure new family, provided they don’t antagonize the interrogators?” Remus asked.

“Just so,” Albus said. “You might even play that up a bit. Wear shabby clothing, appear slightly intimidated, but don’t try to hide your intelligence, either of you. You should come across as an earnest, loving couple without means.”

Remus had been looking in her direction before Albus added that last bit, and his face reddened a bit as he looked away. “Noted,” he said.

“I’m not concerned about the deception. The two of you have a level of familiarity with each other that could quite easily be misconstrued. Some bonds are obvious, whether or not their true nature is understood in observation,” Albus said. The words sounded comforting enough to Elodie, but she didn’t think they were anything of the sort for Remus. Sirius still looked quite upset, too. It was time for a subject change.

“Speaking of bonds, have you learned anything further about the soul link you discovered in Harry? The reason he passed out when leaving the maze?” Elodie asked.

Albus frowned at her, but he took a deep breath and spoke. “Nothing so far. I have suspicions, though. I need to speak to an old colleague of mine.” 

“If you need me to get ahold of Horace for you, please don’t hesitate to ask,” Elodie said, without thinking. She was still distracted by her plan to soothe Sirius with gentle touches and deep breathing.

All three men in the room stared at her, each with varying levels of comprehension. Albus’s eyes showed the most concern.

“Have you had a vision, Elodie?” he asked her mildly.

“Not really…” Elodie hedged. She wanted to hew close to the truth, here. Severus Snape and Tom Riddle weren’t the only accomplished Legilimens in the book series, after all. “I just made some assumptions. I happen to know that Horace is someone who is completely fascinated by fringe magic, and I have a feeling that whatever mechanism has Harry linked to another person is probably dark and obscure. Horace mentioned once teaching at Hogwarts, so I put two and two together.”

“Harry lived with Muggles for years before Hogwarts. Did he ever mention feeling attacked, or having a gap in his memory?” Remus asked, standing and walking over closer to the couch where Sirius and Elodie were sitting. His tone of voice sounded casual, but Elodie noted the way he was holding his arms rigid, his hands balled into fists in his pockets.

“None that he’s mentioned to me,” Albus said.

Sirius stiffened as he and Remus made eye contact. Elodie watched the play of emotions on both men’s faces, and knew what Remus was going to say before he said it.

“Unless it happened at Hogwarts, there’s only one time when Harry could have been exposed to dark magic like what you’re describing, Albus,” Remus said quietly.

Dumbledore sighed. “Yes, you’re right.”

“What are we going to do about it?” Remus asked, a hint of a threat in the smoothness of his voice.

“Has anyone ever asked Harry if he feels connected to some other person, or felt a presence in his mind?” Elodie said.

“He feels anger and negative emotions, connected to his scar, sometimes. He’s written me about it,” Sirius said, shaking his head. “I…”

“I must confess, Sirius, that I have long suspected that there was some kind of kinship between the two-- after all, Harry speaks Parseltongue, and he has mentioned feeling his scar pain him. I had hoped that it was simply a reflection, a remnant of Tom’s emotional state when attacking him, but I fear I may be wrong.” Dumbledore called over the desk chair with a quick spell and a flick of his wand, sinking into it with an unhappy expression on his face. “Tom having left a bit of himself in Harry is bad enough, but if--”

“If he did it on purpose?” Elodie suggested, when the pause Albus had left became unbearable.

“I will speak to Horace,” Albus said, suddenly patting at his robes as if looking for something. He pulled out a handful of jellybeans. “I trust the three of you will be able to keep this conversation to yourselves?” he said, popping two of the sweets into his mouth as he stood up.

“As long as we’ll be coming up with a solution that’s more cogent than ‘wait and see,’” Remus said. It sounded like a threat dressed nicely as a promise, and Elodie didn’t bother to hide her smile.

“Do you know, I believe the three of you will prove to be far better at holding me to account than Vernon and Petunia ever could have imagined,” Albus said. He turned around and walked out the door, humming.

“Those jellybeans are dosed,” Sirius said. Remus burst out laughing, and Elodie just shook her head, until Sirius turned to her and said, “Elodie, did you really just distract me from being angry by bringing up Harry’s soul link to Lord Git?”

“It worked, didn’t it?” Elodie pointed out. Sirius looked like he was about to get ramped back up again, so she pulled out her secret trump card. She had read the books. She knew what was papered all over Sirius Black’s walls. “Well, it’s about time you showed me your childhood bedroom, don’t you think?”

Remus started laughing so hard he had to sit down on the chair Albus had left in the middle of the room.

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By the end of the day, everyone was dirty, exhausted, and most were more than a little disturbed by the random encounters with dark magic they’d experienced. From where Elodie was sitting with Remus and Sirius on her end of the table, she could see Harry and his friends laughing and watching as Tonks demonstrated her metamorph abilities. Mad-Eye was at the opposite end from her, regaling the Weasleys present with a rousing tale of discovering a dark wizard where he was hiding with a friend. She could only hear snippets of the story, but just through observation she could tell that Moody was feeling a bit manic. She wondered if he was like Sirius, sociable up to a point and then prone to a bit of overindulgent madness when he was the center of attention for any length of time.

The crazy, magical eye he wore seemed to be fixated on her. Every time she glanced over in that direction, it was staring. So when he finished his story and called out to her across the table, she wasn’t surprised.

“Speaking of deceptions, Elodie, are you prepared for a Ministry interrogation about you and Lupin?”

Most of the conversations at the table stopped, and Elodie cringed a bit at the idea that everyone looking at her could be thinking about her relationship with Sirius, thinking about how she had to act loving to Lupin. Ah, yes. ‘Faking’ my love for my boyfriend’s best friend, how will I ever manage to do that?! she thought to herself hysterically.

“I assume you’ll tell me it’ll be worse than a roomful of Order members staring at me at dinner?” Elodie yelled back at Mad-Eye. Everyone laughed, and Charlie lifted his glass in tribute to her quick wit.

“Much worse!” Mad-Eye rumbled. “They might even make you kiss. Can’t hesitate, I know I’d suss that out immediately.”

“I can’t imagine what that would be like,” Remus said from beside her in a low whisper she knew no one else would catch. Elodie was glad he was able to joke, but also profoundly grateful that she was already blushing.

Sirius’s eyes widened in mock horror to tease her from directly across the table, and she kicked at him but was too slow to land a blow.

“Come off it, Moody!” Sirius yelled over at the auror. “You can’t have come across so many fake couples that you have a procedure for it!”

“Well,” Moody said begrudgingly, after a long silence. The implicit recognition of Sirius’s point ended up breaking the tension, and conversation resumed around the table, to Elodie’s relief.

Bill Weasley was seated across from Remus, beside Sirius. He’d watched the whole exchange with interest, and now he gestured to Elodie and Remus.

“Wait, so the two of you aren’t…” he said, trailing off politely.

“No, she’s mine,” Sirius said smugly. His eyebrows shot up in a clear challenge to Elodie. ‘Are you going to stop me from being outrageously possessive and risk the misunderstanding?’ his facial expression was asking, silently.

He likely hadn’t counted on Remus’s chivalry, though.

“Elodie isn’t a possession,” he objected, a thread of anger in his voice.

“He’s just trying to goad me,” she said, laying a hand on Remus’s arm as he reached for his cup. She could feel him tense up at her touch, and thought about Moody’s warning.

“Well, he ought to think about how his comments reflect on you when they’re overheard,” Remus said without glancing over at her. Instead, he continued looking at Sirius.

“Well, thank you for sticking up for me,” she said, squeezing his arm and letting go.

“Wait, so…” Bill said, looking from Sirius to Elodie to Remus in confusion.

Sirius shrugged. “She’s mine,” he repeated, grinning. Then he got up and put his plate beside the sink, and walked off into the long, dark hallway.

“I think the problem here is that Black’s the sort to say something like that even if it wasn’t true,” Kingsley Shacklebolt observed from Remus’s other side.

“That’s painfully accurate,” Elodie admitted, as Remus chuckled beside her. “It’s possibly unfair to try to curb his rebellious tendencies in this house in particular.”

“So you and Sirius are--” Bill started to say, his brows still furrowed. He interrupted himself to apologize. “For clarity’s sake. Moody implied there will be lying involved, for some of us, or I wouldn’t be so pushy.”

“Elodie kisses Sirius on purpose and plans to co-parent Harry with me,” Remus said in a bland voice that completely belayed the weight of private knowledge he was hiding behind his words. 

He stood up just as Sirius had; she felt him get up beside her even though she felt frozen in place by the memories his words stirred up. She felt the blush flaming bright red on her face as Remus’s arm came into her view, picking up his cup. She knew the longer she sat stock still, blushing, the more Remus would feel smug about his comment, and the more embarrassing it might be to witness for Kingsley and Bill. She shook her head and squared her shoulders, lifting her chin.

“I’m dating Sirius, is the answer you’re looking for,” Elodie told Bill. “Since his name still isn’t cleared and the Ministry thinks he’s hiding out somewhere remote, Remus and I have been or will be officially declared Harry’s guardians, which is presumably because we all three live in a house together.”

“Ahh, so he has a bit of jealousy to work out, I’m betting,” Bill said. “It’s all still new.”

“All kinds of jealousy, I imagine. He’s always wanted to be a father figure to Harry,” Elodie mused. 

“Yes, I’m treading in what he sees as his territory in more ways than one, I suppose,” Remus said from behind Bill, in the doorway to the kitchen. There was a sad kind of resignation in Remus’s voice, and Elodie filed that away internally. 

“Keep away from his motorcycle and he’ll probably be fine,” she said.

Remus thought for a moment, leaning his shoulder on the wall. “Would now be a bad time to tell him that because of his fugitive status, it’s my name on the title?”

“Oh, Merlin,” Elodie groaned. “Get out of here, you’re just making it worse!”

“Yes, dear,” Remus said in a long-suffering tone. Everyone around her was laughing and watching Remus walk away, which was good, because hearing Remus Lupin call her ‘dear’ was doing something to Elodie’s ability to breathe, damn him.

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“I hate to be a spoilsport, but it’s past nine in the evening. We should go home to bed, Harry,” Elodie said from the doorway to the library at Grimmauld. Inside, Harry and Ron were playing Wizard’s Chess, Hermione had a stack of books that from the looks of her face, she hadn’t even known existed, and the twins were at the desk, whispering and laughing over a vintage Zonko’s catalogue.

“Mum hasn’t called for us to head to bed. Harry’s probably fine,” Ron said in a dismissive voice.

Elodie felt a pang of loss. She had liked being just another ‘cool adult’ like Tonks and Bill, but her role had changed, and that meant the way she, Harry, and his friends all interacted with each other would also need to change. At the same time, though, authority was a funny beast when it came to teenagers.

She walked into the room and looked at the chess board, trying to gauge how much longer the game might go. “I’m happy to wait until one of you wins,” she said. “Or there’s a stalemate,” she added hurriedly, remembering the legalistic way she’d always tried to trick more time before bed out of her own parents.

“You mean, until Ronniekins wins,” one of the twins called out. “Not sure I’ve ever seen Harry beat him.”

“It’s happened,” Harry said, frowning.

“Yeah? Prove it!”

“Nice try, but just because I haven’t spent the last fourteen years raising a child doesn’t mean I don’t remember what it’s like to manipulate adults into delaying bedtime,” Elodie said cheerfully. “Besides, not to get grim, but trauma affects everyone in different ways, but sleep is a universal defense.”

Ron lifted his head from his intense scrutiny of the chessboard. “Huh?”

“Sleep will help Harry deal with everything,” Hermione said patiently. 

“Thanks, Hermione,” Elodie said. It helped that the Hermione she pictured in her head was somewhere between the canon 7th year Hogwarts version and a mid-twenties aged fanfiction version, rather than the awkward teen know-it-all who had rephrased her words for her.

“Checkmate!” Ron said, sounding pleased. Then, he added, “Sorry, Harry.”

“It’s all right. It’s been a long day,” Harry said. He clapped his friend on the shoulder and stood up, walking over to straighten Hermione’s pile of books. “Good night,” he said to the room. As everyone said their goodbyes to Harry, Sirius burst into the room.

“Ah! There you are, Harry. Time to go, then,” he said. “Don’t stay up too late, everyone. Remus thinks there might be a Boggart in the attic. He’d like everyone to practice on it tomorrow.”

They walked out of the library and into the dark, oppressive hallway and Elodie grinned to herself. A Boggart! She wondered if Remus would let her check it out. Did Boggarts have a certain amount of staying power that would deplete faster if an adult cast the Ridikkulus spell? She didn’t want to spoil his teaching opportunity, after all. As they passed the alcove where Sirius’s mother’s portrait was hung, Elodie had a thought. She hung back and watched Harry and Sirius walk ahead without her. Then, she snuck up the stairs and, as she’d done with the portrait of Phineus Nigellus Black, she cast a sound muffling charm nearby (on the doorway and the stairs), instead of directly on either herself or Walburga Black.

The woman in the portrait was mumbling angrily to herself. On an impulse, Elodie pulled her hair back and transfigured her black pants into an ankle-length skirt. She pulled a handkerchief she’d found stuffed in a hole in one of the rooms she’d cleaned that day, cleaned it off with a spell, and transfigured it into an apron. Then, rolling her eyes at herself, she spelled the apron green.

Slytherin green.

Elodie walked over in front of the portrait and cleared her throat before saying respectfully, “Excuse me please, ma’am?”

“Oh, it’s you,” Walburga Black said. In anyone else’s voice, the phrase and intonation would have been disgusted, but something told her for this particular witch, it was very nearly affectionate.

“I wanted to ask, ma’am, what color you would like your new curtains to be? Forgive me, but I can’t tell the color of the current ones.”

Sirius Black would break up with her and testify against her at the Wizengamot for war crimes if he ever found out what she was doing, Elodie was completely certain.

“Oh! Well. Green, of course,” the portrait snapped. “If you can find any of dear Regulus’s old House Scarves, the green from those. But you must get the most high quality curtains, you know. With anti-moth spellwork woven in, not just cast on the outside. I’ll know, if you try to cheap out, missy.”

“Of course, ma’am. Have a tolerable evening,” Elodie said, changing ‘pleasant’ to ‘tolerable’ at the very last minute. She didn’t think the woman had had a ‘pleasant’ anything, even when she was corporeal.

“Smart mouth, you’ve got, girl. Tolerable, indeed!” Walburga Black sniffed. She started griping to herself about the quality of the curtains she currently possessed, and Elodie snuck away, ripping off the apron and re-transfiguring herself back to normal as soon as she could. She had no idea if she could even afford new curtains, but as she’d said to Sirius and the other Order members earlier that day, could they really afford not to buy them?

Of course, Elodie had every intention of tearing down the brand new fancy curtains and burning them if they did nothing to improve the mood of the madwoman they would be purchased for. The entire point was that they would mask the misery for the rest of them.

A random thought sprung up as Elodie powerwalked through the dank hallway toward the room with the fireplace in it. 

What if she went through the frustration of this fake relationship with Remus, inflicted obvious issues with jealousy on Sirius ( and torture on me, she couldn’t help reminding herself) only for them to be found incompetent as caretakers, or discovered to be lying? Wouldn’t it be prudent for she and Remus to basically take extra precautions, for them to ‘buy the luxury curtains’ version of pretending to be a couple, just in case?

Exactly what would that entail?

Chapter Text

Chapter Three: Stars, Hide Your Fires

 

During the next few days, everyone from Phoenix House worked very hard to help out at #12 Grimmauld Place. So hard that on Tuesday, Elodie complained to herself that she had barely even seen Sirius, Harry, or Remus except in groups of other Order members. This seemed reasonable on the first day, but started to worry her on the second day. Now that it was the third day, she started to miss her housemates. 

Sirius had slept in the living room on the floor next to Harry on the couch both nights, but Elodie had no intention of saying anything to them about it until after Harry’s court appearance.

For one thing, Elodie wasn’t actually supposed to know much about how Harry thought about things, or what his everyday life was like at Hogwarts, but she was pretty sure that he was too lonely in the basement bedroom without his classmates. It was also probably too nice (or large) to remind him of life at the Dursleys, either. That was just fine with her, at least for now. Harry would feel like he belonged at Phoenix House eventually, and she didn’t want to push it.

She dearly missed Sirius’s presence next to her in bed, though. Sure, they’d formed a bit of a routine to their relationship, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t at times exciting and overwhelming, just as it had been when they’d started! At the same time, she didn’t want Sirius to think of her as needy. Harry was the person who needed Sirius the most right now, and he was devoting almost all of his time to Harry. Elodie told herself not to be jealous of the natural way he was prioritizing Harry above everyone else at such a delicate time.

Then, there was Remus. Elodie hated the idea of needing to come to him as a supplicant and asking him to please take some time to talk with her about their couple subterfuge. She knew he was intelligent enough to know that, given their dynamic, he should be the one to come to her, but it hadn’t happened, and all she could do was think about the consequences. They wouldn’t be prepared, they’d look like naive idiots trying to deceive qualified and experienced aurors like Moody…

At least one thing had gone exactly as she’d hoped it would: the curtains. Walburga Black adored them, and her screams were fewer and farther in between, though there was a new subject on which she loved to holler.

She absolutely hated it when the wind of passersby shifted the curtains away from the ‘just so’ she liked them to lay at.

Elodie was waiting for her chance to say ‘I told you so,’ but expected it would be a long wait, given that her plan’s greatest detractors had been Gryffindors .

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Well, it’s Wolfsbane week, Elodie told herself as she Flooed to Grimmauld alone again. I’ll have to see Remus at some point today, unless he miraculously chooses today to be the first time he dips out his own goblet of the stuff.

She was probably being unfair, especially to Remus. His time had been taken up working to clear one of the attic rooms of its infestation of nesting doxies-- pregnant, settled doxies. They were rare enough that even most magizoologists had never come across a colony of them. They were the most docile in the very early morning, which for pregnant doxies was the equivalent of waking a person up five or six hours after their bedtime, at their deepest sleep. They were also quite vicious and powerful even then, so Albus, Remus, and Alastor were the ones handling that room. Remus woke and left Phoenix House before the other three of them stirred. Sirius had taken to having Harry come with him on his morning runs, and it was more fun for them to go without having to worry about timing their return to the house. So they’d wake up around sunrise, eat something light, and leave, Apparating to an area close to headquarters once they were finished running.

Elodie checked the magical house layout scroll on the dinner table that listed where everyone was working. It was similar to the Marauder’s Map, but the parchment was flimsy and it was clearly only temporary. The places that still needed workers were color coded, and Elodie spent the morning hopping from room to room, helping out as needed. She didn’t see Remus at all, only saw the kids in passing, and only saw Sirius after most of the Order had lunch. Elodie had been helping Tonks and Hestia with a creature in the basement and all three of them had missed lunch. Elodie was the only one of the three who didn’t need to go back to her house and change clothes, so she ate a quick sandwich in the kitchen while she waited for the other ladies to return. There was still some cleanup to be done before they’d consider themselves completely finished.

“Hello stranger,” Sirius said, coming up behind where Elodie was standing in the kitchen sipping her tea. She smiled over her shoulder at him and he hugged her tight, his chest to her back. “Remus asked me to send you up when you are done eating.”

“In the attic?” Elodie asked, finishing the last gulp of tea. Sirius nodded. “I miss you a bit,” she mustered enough courage to say. “Glad you’re with Harry so much, though.”

“Yes,” Sirius said, smiling contentedly. “I have… Merlin, a lot to say about him. Someday soon, yeah?” He shook his head like he was stunned and pressed a hand against his chest. She could read the strength of his emotions in every breath he took, and she nodded.

“See you later,” she said then, smiling mischievously as she handed him her tea mug. Ordinarily she’d have cleansed it with magic, but she had just saddled Sirius with that job. He’d figure that out soon enough, Elodie chuckled to herself.

The attic at #12 Grimmauld Place was complicated to get to. It was an old, intertwined sort of house, with staircases and alcoves and plenty of dead ends. Sirius had told Elodie the secret, though. There was a kind of ‘spine’ to the house, and the corridors and staircases that made up that spine always had a gold color somewhere prominently in their decoration. Slytherin colors might be silver and green, but the erstwhile owners of this house still saw gold as a sign of wealth and status.

She was almost out of breath when she reached the top of the last staircase. In front of her were two rooms with a hallway between them. Sirius hadn’t specified which room, so she skipped the first (it looked empty) and braved the dark hallway to seek out the second room.

This room looked empty as well. She walked over to check behind some stacked boxes to see if Remus was there.

Behind her, a voice said, “Elodie?”

It was Remus, and he looked surprised to see her.

“Hey there,” she said to him. “Good job on the doxies! Sirius sent me up.”

Remus raised an eyebrow. “Did he? Were you listening to what he was saying, or his body language?” he asked, sounding unhappy with her.

“I’m sorry, what?” Elodie said, vastly confused. “He told me you wanted to see me upstairs.”

“Oh, Padfoot,” Remus sighed. He scrubbed a hand through his hair and let his arm drop in frustration. “I suppose you don’t see what he’s doing.”

A horrible suspicion bloomed in Elodie’s chest. “You mean the way he’s been avoiding me? You know why, then?” she forced herself to ask. She took a few steps sideways, noting the open room door and thinking she could position herself so she could move to close it and keep the upcoming conversation private, at least.

Remus chuckled mirthlessly. “You’ve managed to turn the most selfish wizard in Britain selfless, just through loving you. I’m impressed! And now, he’s throwing us together,” he said. It was half accusation, half revelation, and each half was wholly shocking. She shook her head at Remus, stepping back away from him toward the door. “He thinks it’s best for everyone, I suppose. He assumes neither of us will have to lie, you see, and Harry will have a loving couple as his guardians.”

“That’s not--” Elodie tried to object, but Remus’s voice just got louder as he continued. She hugged her arms to her chest and sidestepped again, never taking her eyes from him.

“He’s forgotten a variable, though, hasn’t he? Me!” Remus pounded his fist to his chest once, twice. “Any idiot can see that how you feel is no secret,” he scoffed, and Elodie gasped, feeling like he’d just stabbed her. She tried to catch her breath, but Remus kept speaking as if he’d been holding all of these words back for months and was finally forced by the situation to tell her the truth. “Sirius is wrong. I would still have to lie. I can not, and will not love you. Do you hear me? Never!”

“Stop!” she whispered, covering her face with her hands.

“Come now, you’re not stupid enough to--”

Elodie ran for the door, grateful to know that it was wide open. Her hands were still covering her face, but she didn’t care. She felt the edge of the doorway, but then she ran right into another person. She threw her hands out to brace herself, opening her tear-wet eyes to see who it was.

It was Remus, his own eyes wide and horrified, his mouth open in shock. Behind her, she could still hear this man’s voice coming out of her Boggart, saying horrible and cruel things. 

She wrenched herself free and tried to run away from him, too.

“No! No, Elodie, don’t, please. Ellie, no,” the real Remus said, struggling to catch hold of her. He sounded desperate, but he was the last person on the planet she wanted to face right now.

The stairs were right there and she had almost reached them when Remus’s arms came around her from behind, gentle but inexorable.

Wolf speed. Wolf strength. It was the start of his full moon week.

Shit, Elodie!” His voice sounded completely wrecked.

Remus’s grip held her arms against her body. She was completely unable to reach her wand, and she felt more vulnerable than she ever had as a Muggle. Elodie’s tears kept falling, and there was something particularly horrible about sobbing without being able to touch your own face, without being able to hide how hard and fast the tears were falling, without being able to stuff a hand in your mouth to keep the sounds in as best you could.

Behind her, Remus was breathing heavily too. Elodie didn’t want to know how much he’d heard, but the worst part had been the end, anyway.

I can not and will not ever love you, the Boggart had said.

“Muffliato,” Remus whispered, without moving at all. She had no doubt that the wandless spell had worked, though, and it was a painfully kind gesture on his part. The sounds she was making were unmistakable, and if anyone heard them, they’d come running to see who was in such distress. He adjusted his grip on her and she was afraid he wanted her to turn around. 

“Don’t,” Elodie repeated. Her voice sounded alien to her, raw and wounded.

“I have to. If I don’t, we’ll have no hope of convincing anyone we’re fit guardians for Harry,” Remus whispered. “Ellie.”

He was right, and in that moment she hated that he was right. His Boggart was the moon, she knew that from the books, but it might just as well be Moony. Remus Lupin was so buttoned up that even his Boggart hid what he was truly afraid of, Elodie thought to herself viciously. She knew they would have to talk this out, but not now, not with her face wet with tears and her heart beating outside of her chest!

Her wand was unreachable, and she thought about what she would have done if it wasn’t someone she loved holding her captive. Protego was cast on what the wand pointed to, she knew. Could she form that shield around herself?

Remus drew a breath to speak, and Elodie concentrated on tracing the wand movement in her mind and shouted out, “Protego,” her hand pointing up at her chest. 

She didn’t manage to cast a fully-fledged shield charm, but it was something, and most importantly it was enough to allow her to slip free of his grasp and run down the stairs as if a dark creature was chasing her.

She knew she must look like a fright, but Elodie ran down one flight of stairs, then another, until she was on a level that Order members had been using rooms to sleep in. She threw herself through a door and warded it shut, hearing Moody’s voice on the other side and ignoring him. The room she’d chosen at random was small, a servant’s quarters perhaps, but it had a bed, and Elodie threw herself on it and wept as hard as she had ever cried for any reason.

After a long time, she fell asleep.

8888888888888888

Elodie woke up in complete darkness. She was confused at first, as she’d managed to get used to the fact that Sirius’s bedroom didn’t have curtains. Now it was Elodie and Sirius’s bedroom, and it still didn’t have curtains, so she knew she couldn’t be there now, given that the full moon would be in about six days.

She rolled over onto her back and winced. If she’d been a robot, she’d have creaked, she thought. That mental image didn’t dissuade her from thinking about the full moon, and about Remus.

“Oh, fuck, what a mess,” Elodie groaned out loud. “Accio book of how to spontaneously die,” she added.

An odd sound had her sitting up and scrambling for her wand to cast Lumos.

It was a small room, and in one corner of it stood her housemate.

Elodie lifted her chin. She would not cry. Instead, she asked, in an even but angry tone that made her proud of her restraint, “How the fuck did you get inside my wards?”

“Moody,” Remus said. “He knows a spell that lets a person… slip through, without lifting them.”

“Well, given that he is not here, I’ll do you the favor of lifting them long enough for you to slip back out.”

“That’s, ah, going to be a problem,” Remus said, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand.

She knew Moody. She knew Remus. His reaction undoubtedly meant Moody had cast his own wards, probably ones that locked them both in. 

Elodie fell back onto the bed with a groan. A moment later, she got up and walked over to the window. She calmly opened it and noted the lack of screen. After she stuck her head out to see how far up the window was, Remus walked over to stand beside her.

“What are you doing?” he asked. The question made her want to laugh, but she ignored him instead, and pictured the object she wanted to conjure in her mind. After struggling for a few seconds with what word to use to bring it into being, she tried ‘ Producendum.’

A perfect replica of the emergency fire ladder that lived in her bedroom in Massachusetts appeared in her hand, complete with the hooking mechanism to attach to the window frame. It wasn’t until she’d thrown the bulk of the cloth and metal ladder out the window and started to attach it to the sill that Remus actually understood what she was doing.

“Elodie, you are not going to climb out of that window.”

“Yes, Remus, I am.”

Remus let out a sound of frustration that would have garnered sympathy from her if it had been any other day. “I really don’t know who to be more angry at right now. You, the Boggart, or Sirius,” he groaned, inexplicably unbuttoning the light cloth vest he was wearing over his button-down shirt. The action was so odd that she simply watched him as he stripped the vest off and worked on unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirt, rolling them up to his elbows. His words were confusing, but his actions were bizarre.

Too late, Elodie realized that Remus had distracted her long enough to move closer, blocking too much of the window for her to escape. In another shocking move, he reached out and took her wand from her and tossed it out the open window. Then, he held his own wand up where she could see it, then tossed it out, as well.

“You’re clever, I’ll give you that,” Elodie said when her shock had worn off enough to speak. She crossed her arms but didn’t step back, even though they were standing inches apart from each other. It wasn’t enough distance, so she added more by shutting her eyes.

“Don’t do that. Don’t shut me out,” Remus said gently.

“Not shutting you out has always been the problem,” Elodie said, scrunching her face up against the way her heart hurt to even say that. She shook her head and kept her eyes closed. “I’m fine with trying it now, for a change of pace. Will you back up, now, please?”

“No.” She could picture him shaking his head at her.

“I assume Moody has taken it upon himself to meddle up some wards that will prevent me from simply walking over and leaving through the door?” Elodie asked.

“Yes. He… he was worried when he saw how upset you were. Wanted us to--”

“I am not going to talk to you right now!” she interrupted, feeling a surge of anger. Elodie looked at him despite her determination not to; she told herself it was to be prepared for whatever his reaction would be.

Remus pinched the bridge of his nose for a few seconds, then nodded as though he’d made a decision. In a voice that sounded as stubborn as she’d ever heard from him, he spoke.

“I can’t make you talk to me, but I can make you respond to me, and damn Sirius back to Azkaban for showing me how!”

She backed away as he started toward her, and he didn’t stop moving until she was trapped in the corner. He braced himself on the wall with one hand and leaned over to look at her directly. Because this was Remus, it wasn’t until he used his free hand to brush her sleep-mussed hair away from her face that she really understood what he had meant. His comments about Sirius had been inexplicable unless they were about…

“You wouldn’t!” she exclaimed, less of an argument than an expression of disbelief. She laid her hands flat on the wall on either side, afraid of how they might betray her if she touched him.

Remus looked away from her eyes to watch his own hand as he sank his fingers into her hair. His thumb slid across her jawline and pressed, tipping her head toward him.

“I am not my Boggart,” Remus whispered, leaning in. “Talk to me, Ellie?” 

“No.” 

Elodie felt like Remus was playing chicken with her, trying to make her dodge first. He wouldn’t actually do anything more than threaten her with compliance, she was certain of that.

In a move of defiance, she twisted her head to break his grip. Now she was in control of the way her face was angled up toward him, but his thumb swiped back across her cheek and against the corner of her mouth. 

Then, he kissed her like a conqueror, like this was about what he wanted, and not about her at all. Remus’s thumb held her open for him and he chased her tongue with his, not allowing her to ignore him or what he was making her feel. This was no innocent kiss in the meadow or reluctant duty at the Third Task. It took all her effort to keep her hands still against the wall. His hand slid down to hook around her waist in a swift movement, pulling her closer against him. Her shirt rode up with the movement, pressing the skin of his arm against her bare back. 

He was warm. His touch felt so intimate, certainly forbidden in many ways, and Elodie scratched her fingernails against the wall in frustration. This just led him to press his body against hers more fully, his other arm coming down to support her weight as he actually pushed her up the wall, more in line with his height. Remus was dominating her, and she’d managed not to do much more than enjoy it without kissing him back. Her resolve was beginning to break before he started kissing down her neck.

“Stop me. Put your hands on me. Push me away,” he said, each word spoken between tastes of her. She shook her head. He’d said he was going to force a reaction, and Elodie was as stubborn as he was. 

“Stop yourself,” she countered, opening her eyes to see what he would do. 

It was a mistake. He’d kissed over to the join of her neck and shoulder, and when she’d spoken, it was right into his ear, her lips brushing against it. He groaned at the sensation, and scraped his teeth against her skin. She gasped at the flash of pure desire that shot through her and her hands came up to grasp his shoulders. This pushed her body toward him with the loss of leverage to hold herself up, and he caught her with his hips. Without even thinking about it, she reacted to this by wrapping one of her legs around his, aligning them just perfectly for her to feel how much he wanted her.

They stared at each other. Elodie bit her lip, awash in desire for him that she couldn’t repress, as if the Boggart had flayed open the space she kept her feelings for Remus, making them vulnerable for exploitation. Of all the times Elodie had kissed his lips and touched him, this was the one time there was no outside mechanism to explain or hide it away. There was no memory charm, no lycanthropic self, no dire necessity of saving her life this time. 

“Stop,” she whispered at him. She didn’t feel like she meant it, and he looked like he could tell.

“Talk to me, and I will.” His lips curled into a devious smile and his eyes lit up.

Elodie groaned and buried her head in his shoulder. She loved him so much in that moment that it physically hurt, and she wanted to kiss him until he gave up and believed her.

“Respond to me, then?” his voice rumbled in her ear, naughty and tempting.

Only bravery could have prompted her to lift her head to look at him, and prompt it did.

“You don’t really mean that,” she said, despite the evidence of him, pressed up against her. That was mere biology, she told herself. One plus one equals two. 

“I thought it through while you were sleeping,” he said. “We have court in three days, and we can’t be--” he paused as she reached down and eased her shoe off of the leg she had wrapped around him, rubbing against him in the process. She caught her breath, and he finished the sentence with a groan. “--distant.”

Elodie gathered up her sense of pride and said, in a small voice, “You think pretending you actually want me is going to make us look more realistic to strangers?”

Remus made a sound of frustration. “Do you think I could stand like this with your body against mine, your taste in my mouth, and not actually want you?” he whispered in a low, raspy voice. Remus spoke with his lips close to her ear. “‘ Stars, hide your fires. Let light not see my black and deep desires,’” he quoted. He kissed her shoulder, his breath hot through the fabric of her shirt. “Talk to me, or kiss me back, Elodie. Simple.”

Elodie felt drugged with sensation and bittersweet dreams fulfilled. At the same time, he’d just basically thrown down a gauntlet, and she didn’t have the discipline to ignore it. “‘On purpose laid to make the taker mad,’” she quoted, sliding her leg back down to help support herself. “‘Mad in pursuit and in possession so.’”

Remus looked so surprised that she’d quoted Shakespeare right back at him that she managed to wriggle free. Instead of chasing her, he rested his forehead on the wall she’d just vacated.

“Only you would quote a sonnet on lust in a bid to chastise!” Remus groaned. “Do you exist just to torture me?”

“If I did, Remus, I’d be halfway down the ladder by now.”

He spun around to face the window, but Elodie had sat down on the desk across the room with her feet on the seat of its matching chair, using it as a shield. She took off her other shoe and tossed it to join its mate, over near where Remus was standing.

“All right, then.” Remus slid his hands into his pockets gingerly. “The Boggart.”

Elodie grimaced. “I think I preferred the poetry.”

“‘Had, having, and in quest to have extreme; A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe,’” he quoted, his voice husky and quiet. They were the direct next lines of the sonnet she’d quoted to him.

“Even if Hogwarts does teach Shakespeare in Muggle Studies, something tells me this one isn’t in the curriculum,” Elodie said, feeling both shocked and daring. Somehow, talking about sex and desire in poem form with Remus was almost as intimate as him unexpectedly kissing her. “I didn’t learn it in school, either,” she told him. “‘Before, a joy proposed--’”

“Stop,” Remus said.

“But you wanted me to talk,” she said archly.

“Yes, about the Boggart,” Remus sighed, rubbing one eye with the base of his palm. “I’m sorry, Elodie, but I believe I heard everything it said to you.”

“I am not going to go over that, not today, not--”

He interrupted her again. “If I were Elodie, and the roles were reversed, how would I persuade you to talk about this?”

She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. He could talk all he wanted, but she wasn’t going to participate.

“I would probably make a list,” he said, walking into the middle of the room. “Does ‘lies to refute’ sound like a good title for it?” She refused to react, so he held up one finger. “Item one: Sirius is pushing you away.”

Remus waited, and she knew why. The Boggart had called Sirius the most selfish man in the country, she remembered. That could probably qualify as the first thing to refute, but Elodie had been serious when she said she didn’t want to talk about this today, so she didn’t want to let Remus bait her into it just to correct his mistake.

“Item two: that Remus Lupin could never love you.”

He’d used the third person, and she appreciated the distance. Still, she looked away, unwilling and utterly unable to let herself wonder what kind of facial expression he was making.

“Item three: that you could ever be considered stupid.” His tone of voice was derisive in a way that it hadn’t been for the other two points. This was gratifying, but also illustrated a problem.

Elodie had thought she could ignore him, but her Achilles heel was the fact that she loved him and therefore valued his opinions. There was no way she could continue to sit still and listen to this conversation in particular without being tempted to participate (which was his goal, damn him), so it was time to try a new tactic.

Remus Lupin wanted to talk about something Elodie Merriman did not? It was time to turn the tables on him. 

“Remus?”

“Yes, Elodie?” His voice was wary.

“Why are you so… physical with me today? It seems so--” she stopped, unable to properly articulate the change. Remus seemed to always have a low-level current of self control that was a part of him, and that seemed to have deserted him, today. There was no way in hell Elodie could be more blunt about it than that.

“Yes, I suppose you were asleep for…” Remus muttered, seemingly to himself. Then, he squared his shoulders and took a step closer to her and spoke. “Moody… stopped me, when I had followed you, earlier. We talked for a long time. He had a lot of advice on whether the Ministry was likely to be suspicious of us, and what they would be on the lookout for if they were.”

That wasn’t at all what she had expected him to say! “Go on?”

“Well, as you know, Alastor can be rather blunt,” Remus said, blushing. “I assure you that what I’ve… That is to say, my approach, what I’ve done so far, is-- is a bit tame, in comparison to--”

“Holy fuck, what on Earth did he say? Wait, on second thought, don’t tell me,” Elodie blurted out, horrified.

“Quite,” Remus managed. He wasn’t making eye contact.

“So you went with the Third Task approach instead, sans potion?” she asked, taking pity on him just a little.

“Yes. I wasn’t about to trick you or force you into something you weren’t willing to-- That is to say, I remembered you had responded-- Merlin, this is--” he broke off again and walked over to the window without saying anything further.

“It’s almost as if it’s as hard for you to think I want you as it is for me to think you want me!” Elodie said impulsively, laughing ruefully as she spoke. Then, when she realized what she said, she covered her mouth with her hand and stared over to where Remus stood at the window.

The thing was, he had to know by now. If he hadn’t known before the Third Task, he definitely knew by the time it was over. Vocalizing this was the taboo, because of Sirius. Elodie rushed to speak again.

“I haven’t forgotten-- I mean, no matter what I have said or done, I wasn’t trying to ignore or forget that I’m with Sirius, that I love Sirius,” Elodie said, leaning forward to reach for the back of the chair in front of her. She laughed bitterly, hating how hollow it sounded to her own ears. “I probably sound like a hypocrite.”

“You don’t,” Remus said. She saw that he was facing the window, but his head was tipped up toward the ceiling. “It’s an extreme situation,” he said after a long pause. He turned to face her. “The solution is for everyone to be truthful. Everyone.”

She thought maybe he was subtly scolding her until he walked over to stand a foot in front of her chair.

“I have no intention of coming between you and Sirius, barring whatever is necessary to make it appear as if we are a happy, comfortable with each other couple,” he said. He looked grave and sincere, fidgeting as if he were nervous about her reaction.

“I believe you. I trust you. So does Sirius, come to that-- or he wouldn’t have come up with that plan with the potion,” she reminded him.

He sighed, explosively. “I am both grateful and frustrated about that,” he muttered.

“Oh?” she pushed.

He looked at her with honesty blazing in his eyes. “I could have lived without knowing some of what I learned that day. It does make the ‘fake couple’ situation somewhat easier, I’ll grant.”

Remus’s demeanor was that of someone making a confession, but she wasn’t catching on to the specifics.

“I’m not trying to be deliberately obtuse, Remus, but--”

“I was bitten as a child, Elodie. I did not and do not ever intend to subject a woman to the life of a werewolf’s wife, and as it turns out, I don’t have the temperament for casual sex,” Remus said baldly. He dragged a hand through his hair, and Elodie saw that it was shaking a bit. His smile was self-deprecating. “I don’t like knowing what I am missing.”

Elodie said, “I can’t imagine anyone would make a better kind, intelligent, and thoughtful husband than you would, Remus. Most people have more time being selfish and vicious than one night a month, and they don’t even take a potion to mitigate it!”

Remus laughed.

“You’re not helping,” he whispered, leaning over to say this to her as if he were imparting a secret. 

“Just doing my part as your fake wife,” Elodie said as gently as she could. “Truth-telling, remember?” she added with an impish smile.

Remus shut his eyes for a few seconds, and when he opened them, she could tell he was about to change the subject.

“Speaking of which, come here?”

“Why do I have a feeling this is Boggart related?” she griped, climbing down from the desk.

“Because, unbelievably, that subject is less fraught than anything else we’ve said in this room,” Remus said. He held out his arm. “Do you know how to take a pulse?” 

She nodded, and stepped close enough to touch his pulse point. His heartbeat was steady and un-elevated.

“Promise me you’ll take this at face value and not argue with me?” he said next.

“Remus, you just guaranteed the complete opposite, you know that, don’t you?”

He leaned over, his face very near hers. “Try.”

“Fine,” she said. 

“Good.” He straightened, took a deep breath, let it out, and said, “Kiss me.”

“Remus John Lupin!” Elodie exclaimed. “What--”

He held up one finger. “One: an attempt to establish an illusion of intimacy. Two: to refute any mistaken belief that I am unaffected by you. Three--”

“Using lists is manipulative as fuck, you know,” she groused. “You know I love lists. Sirius doesn’t even use lists.”

He grinned at her.

“Three,” he persisted, “--you really would prefer this option to what Moody suggested.”

“Oh Jeez, fine, I concede that without even knowing what it was,” Elodie interrupted, covering her face with her hands.

“And four: a wife wouldn’t hesitate to kiss her husband if asked, and the Ministry may well ask.”

“Well, that’s just not true at all!” Elodie said. “I can think of at least ten reasons off the top of my head right now.”

“Are you trying to raise my heart rate by frustration and thwart my experiment?” he asked her in a tone of pure exasperation.

“Oh, were you trying to use your pulse rate as some kind of proof of--”

“I imagined that would be preferable to other, more… intimate confirmation, yes.”

Elodie made a rude, dismissive sound. “That’s just biology, that’s not really proof of anything.”

“That’s not true-- what about Moody, after your duel. His heart rate was elevated due to shock, but do you imagine he was aroused by your kiss?”

“That’s a poor argument, it wasn’t that kind of kiss,” Elodie said.

“Fine. If I were to go and bring Bill Weasley here, do you believe you could fire him up with a kiss, unprompted?” he pressed her.

“No, I barely know Bill Weasley!” Elodie said, loudly.

“So you do admit there’s an emotional component to this!” Remus said, sounding pleased.

“All right, yes, but--”

“Good. Then kiss me,” Remus ordered.

Elodie stamped her foot. “Fine!” she practically shouted at him. She marched over and saw that he was breathing as heavily as she was, and felt contrite. “I fucked up your pulse thing,” she said.

“You have a talent for it,” he said, clearly trying to suppress a smile.

“Oh, shut up,” she said. Elodie looked up at him and frowned. “I can’t reach you.”

“I don’t think being shorter would stop you if we were married,” he challenged, clasping his hands behind his back as if to show her she was completely in charge.

Elodie wanted to make some sort of quip about how his wife would probably beat him up as often as she kissed him, but she knew that wasn’t true at all, and she didn’t want to picture married bliss with Remus right now.

She stepped closer, close enough that her chest brushed against his shirt. Elodie bit her lip and looked up at him, and she could see the way his pupils darkened when he looked at her lips. The situation was rapidly changing from thought experiment to a faux romantic moment, so she lifted herself up on her tiptoes and reached up, sliding around the back of his neck with one hand and grabbing his collar with the other. Elodie pulled his head down and kissed him, angling her head so she wouldn’t bump noses. 

He was right, of course. Everything about that moment was heightened because of who he was and what she felt for him. The instant that her lips touched his she felt a surge of affection and desire, and that was reflected back at her when he responded, opening his mouth under hers, offering her more. She wanted more, she wanted his arms around her, she wanted him to touch her. The intensity of how much she wanted those things scared the hell out of her.

Elodie drew back and slid her hands down to his chest.

“Remus, what are we changing?” she asked in a hushed, frightened voice.

His hands came from behind his back to rest on her shoulders, thumbs brushing gently along her shirt seams. “Everything,” he said quietly. “It doesn’t have to be negative, you know.”

She laid a hand on one of his. “I don’t want to lose you because of this. I don’t want to lose Sirius because of this, either.”

“The best remedy for that is the truth,” he said. Then, he asked her, “Am I affected by you?”

This was a turning point, Elodie could tell. If she reached for his pulse, she would be placing a (reasonable, honest, caring) level of distance between them. They could overcome it for Harry’s sake, but it would be risky. If she pressed against him and kissed him again, she would be placing a (dangerous, honest, necessary) trust in him and in the deception they were being called to perpetuate.

If she did the latter, Elodie realized she would never, ever be able to shake either the memories or the hold he had on her heart, even if she succeeded in everything she planned to do, saved everyone she meant to save, and died at a crazy old age with Sirius Black at her side.

Under her hand, Remus’s heartbeat steadily increased.

“Elodie?”

Slowly, Elodie arched up and kissed the center of Remus’s chest. Then, she kissed a bit higher, then higher, and with each kiss she pressed herself against him a bit more. When she got to his neck, he made a groaning noise and folded his arms around her, and she could feel how hard he was, how much he wanted her in particular. 

When she got close to the edge of his jawline, instead of what she’d wanted to say --something encouraging, something loving, even-- what Elodie really said was, “I’m sorry.”

He was as smart a person as anyone she’d ever met, and she hoped he understood what she meant by it, even as she hoped he would never understand all of what she meant. 

He deserved a woman who loved only him, someone he could love back without reservation, despite all his misgivings. She was sorry that he clearly felt enough for her that he could respond in the way that he had, because it was her presence in his world that changed things so that he didn’t have Tonks.

The sonnet they’d been quoting to each other ended by saying that men still chased lust, even though they should shun it for the hell it wrought. When Remus turned his head to catch her lips with his, she wondered if Shakespeare thought that love brought the same, delightful hell.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four: Explanation, Preparation, and Accusation

 

Elodie and Remus ended up leaving the room via the ladder.

Moody hadn’t been altogether clear to Remus about what would lift his wards, and after judging the time based on the position of the moon outside, Remus had realized that he would miss his Wolfsbane dose if they didn’t do something drastic. They searched for their wands and Apparated home after walking out of the range of Fidelius.

Before going upstairs from the basement where they’d Apparated in, Remus told her he wished he could see the look on Moody’s face when he went in to ‘rescue’ them.

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Elodie followed Remus up the stairs to the main floor of the house, but once he had gone into his bedroom, she stood in the hallway and looked out at the living room. She couldn’t see Harry and Sirius, as they were behind the back of the Gryffindor couch.

She didn’t feel like she could sleep on the bed she shared with Sirius until she talked to him about what had happened, about kissing Remus-- about wanting to kiss Remus. At the same time, she didn’t want to sleep in the basement bedroom, because that sent the exact wrong message about how she felt. 

Shaking her head against the worry about Sirius’s ultimate reaction, Elodie went into the master bedroom and shut the door. She walked over to the wardrobe and traced her fingers over the motorcycle carving. Impulsively, she used her wand to call over her pillow and the giant comforter they slept with.

Elodie curled up right next to Sirius’s side of their wardrobe, right next to the wood panel he’d chosen for himself. The blanket was big enough to act as a cushion and covering, and after banishing several anxiety-induced thoughts, Elodie finally drifted off to sleep.

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“Elodie, love?”

Elodie opened her eyes to see Sirius crouching over her, the light from the bedroom window creating a bright halo around his head.

“Saint Sirius,” she murmured, smiling. “If I’m lucky.”

“It must have been a bad night if you couldn’t find the bed and you’re seeing visions,” Sirius said, barking out a laugh. Then, he reached down and lifted Elodie into his arms, massive blanket and all.

“You’re going to fall flat on your face,” she warned, rubbing her eyes with her fists. “This blanket is like a living thing, and it probably weighs the same as Buckbeak.”

“Remus isn’t the only one with spells up his sleeves,” Sirius said loftily. Then he cast a quick spell Elodie couldn’t make out, and the blanket around her started to float like it was infused with helium.

“Moody’s the tricksy one,” Elodie said, yawning deeply. Somewhere in the recesses of her waking mind, she remembered that it was important to find out if Mad-Eye had said anything to the Order as a whole or Sirius in particular. Suddenly she was falling, and she threw her arms out to catch herself, only to land in the middle of the king-sized bed. The huge comforter ended up bunched all around her like a melted throne.

“So were you and Remus really trapped in one of the bedrooms at Grimmauld? Or did the two of you leave for a mission and no one in the Order knew about it?” Sirius asked her. There was no worry or suspicion in his eyes, and that told Elodie that Moody had probably not said anything. She wanted to be sure, though.

“Yes, we were really stuck in a room. Did you get a chance to see Moody last night at all?”

Sirius finished arranging pillows with sticking charms before he answered her, reclining on his own makeshift throne. “Ahhh. Brilliant. Moody? No, he said he was off right before dinner. Part of why we wondered if the three of you were up to something.” He was close enough to touch her hand with his, their feet in a jumble of occupied space.

Thankfully, his weren’t cold, this time.

“A mission would have made sense,” Elodie said. “But, no, he-- wow, there’s just a lot to tell you. How about I do a band-aid version? Err, a plaster? Just a summary of events really quick, then I’ll go back and explain? Without commentary,” she added, reaching out and squeezing his hand.

“Tell me,” Sirius urged. “I’ll try to keep quiet.”

“All right. You sent me upstairs, and I ran into Remus, except it wasn’t Remus, it was my Boggart. He told me you were pushing me away, toward Remus, so we wouldn’t have to lie to the Ministry about being a couple.”

Sirius whistled and shook his head, but stayed quiet.

“The Boggart said some other awful things and I ran out of the room into the real Remus. Who immediately wanted to talk to me, but I ran away and shut myself into one of the bedrooms. I cried so hard I fell asleep.” Sirius made a sympathetic sound, but she fisted her free hand in the blanket, twisted it viciously, and continued with her story. “When I woke up Remus was there. He said Moody had let him in and made some inappropriate suggestions about the two of us and trying to look authentic in front of the Ministry. He demanded that I talk to him, and I refused, so he--” Elodie broke off and was about to prevaricate, say something to soften the coming words, but Sirius shook his head at her.

“The plaster isn’t off, Elodie. Rip it.”

“Remus said he knew how to make me respond to him, and he said, ‘damn Sirius back to Azkaban for showing me how,’” Elodie said in a rush.

Sirius grunted in surprise, but didn’t comment on the reference to himself. “He kissed you?”

“Yes.”

“And your Boggart was me rejecting you in favor of Remus. Bloody hell, woman, you do love to tip the world on its side, don’t you?” Sirius said, letting out a long breath. He tipped himself sideways as he spoke, landing on his back beside her, looking up at her face. “Do I have your permission to give him relentless shit for what he said about me?” he asked, his eyes dancing with mirth.

“Sirius,” Elodie said, biting her lip.

“You’ll have had to kiss him, that’s part of being a couple. I knew that. Remus knew that. Moody clearly knew that…” Sirius stopped talking, but dangled the end of his last sentence for her to finish.

“Yes, I knew that, but this was…” Elodie couldn’t help but shake her head.

“What did Moody tell him to do?” Sirius sat up.

“I don’t know, but whatever it was, that was the compromise, which is really saying something,” Elodie said, throwing her head back against her pile of blankets.

“I’ve heard enough!” Sirius said quickly. “Do you still trust Remus?”

“Of course!” Elodie said immediately, confused.

Sirius didn’t elaborate, but instead said, “Then I trust Remus.”

There was a knock on the door. “Sirius? You told me to check on you?”

It was Harry. Elodie cast a Tempus charm and winced at how early it still was.

“No wonder I’m still sleepy!” Sirius kissed her quickly, as if he’d been about to leave, but as soon as their lips met, he deepened the kiss possessively, as if he were helpless to resist the urge to.

A few minutes later, Harry knocked again.

“Right, yes, soon, Harry. I’ll be right out,” Sirius called out, his lips hot against her splinching scar.

“Sirius?” Elodie said, blushing at how husky it sounded.

“Dearest?” he answered.

“I love you,” Elodie said, simply. “I-- I know you need to go, but I wanted to tell you--”

Sirius had sat back on his haunches from kneeling to listen to her. He looked touched and vulnerable, and she reached out to push back his unruly hair.

“There’s time,” he said in answer to her unasked question.

“I cared about the two of you before,” Elodie said, unwilling to cast a silencing charm but aware of the unlikely possibility that Harry could hear her words. “--but the things that made me fall in love with you, with Sirius Black? Those weren’t written anywhere. You should know that. I love the way you feed Buckbeak, dragging out the bag without magic. I love the way you plan for the worst but use sheer force of will to make the best happen, no matter what. The way you love Harry, mistrust Albus, adore Minerva, hate Peter, care for Remus, and miss James, all of that makes me love you in ways I never could if I’d just read words on a page. You make it all real, you’re real, and I would waste away to nothing if I were sent back home without you.”

Sirius had stood up in preparation to leave with Harry, and as she spoke he’d sat on the bed, then slowly slid down off of the mattress to kneel, facing her, on the floor, listening to her as she continued.

“You are my Patronus, my happy thought. On that cold day, months ago, you said ‘it’s too late, I’ve fallen for you. It’s done,’ I understand that so well, now. No matter how angry I was!” Elodie sniffed back the congestion that came from holding back happy tears. “And somehow of course that’s the angriest I’ve ever been at you, at the same time.”

“Perfect,” Sirius murmured, leaning his face against her hand where it lay, palm up, on the bed. “My lioness.” He grinned, and she could feel it on her hand, though she couldn’t see it thanks to the mane of tousled hair that covered his face. He raised his head up, and she saw his eyes were moist. “You have my heart, but I have to leave, so I’ll rip it open sometime tonight and read you what it says on the inside, all right?”

“No ripping!” Elodie managed to say, though her breathing was affected by the look in his eyes and the passion in his tone of voice.

“Just like a plaster,” he said. Then, he flicked his wand at the door to their room and revealed Harry, his hand poised to knock for the third time.

“Good morning,” Harry said awkwardly.

“Good morning, Harry,” Elodie said, glad she’d gone to sleep in something respectable. “I’ll see you at the house later.”

“Off we go, then,” Sirius said. As he walked to the door, he turned and walked backwards for a few paces, his hand covering his heart. Elodie nodded, and his grin was, to her, brighter than the sun.

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An hour later, Elodie walked into the kitchen at #12 and saw Remus there, smiling and laughing with Bill Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt.

“Good morning Remus, Bill, Mr. Shacklebolt,” Elodie said.

“No,” Bill said, putting both hands on her shoulders and walking her out of the room to the laughter of all three men.

“Wait, what?” Elodie tried to protest, but Bill said nothing. He simply propelled her back into the kitchen and let go.

“Good morning gang,” Elodie said, an impish smile on her face.

“No,” Remus said, grabbing her hand and tugging her out into the hallway.

“Honestly,” Elodie said, but she was tugged back into the room and positioned so she stood in front of Kingsley.

“Why Kingsley Shacklebolt, I DO declare!” Elodie said in her best southern belle voice.

As Bill and Remus laughed, Kingsley took her hand and kissed it with extreme deference.

“Please, dear lady, call me Kingsley,” he murmured in a passable southern accent.

“If you insist, dear sir,” she drawled. Then, to the rest of them, in her normal voice, she said, “I’m glad I could provide some entertainment. I imagine you’re pleased to be done with the doxies?”

“Delighted, yes,” Remus said.

“Good!” Kingsley (she had gotten the message, loud and clear) stated with enthusiasm. “Time for the two of you to work on your cover story, then.”

Elodie barely had the chance to set down her mostly full tea mug before she and Remus were hurried into the small library on the second floor past the portrait of Sirius’s mother.

After she walked through the doorway, she turned and crossed her arms.

“I’m not a very compliant person,” she said.

Remus started to cough loudly, and walked farther into the room to stand by the back wall.

“Ignore him,” Elodie said in a sweet voice. “As I was saying, I’m not very obedient. However, I’ll overlook this and proceed to do the thing I was planning to do already in the time and place of your choosing if you promise you’ll tell me when Moody gets here, and agree not to tell him I’m looking for him?”

Kingsley looked at her gravely. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, until she’d studied his face for a full minute and saw the crinkling at the corner of his eyes. As soon as she relaxed, he relaxed.

“Agreed.”

Then, he nodded respectfully at her, then at Remus behind her, and left.

“I actually finished with the doxies yesterday,” Remus said. “Spent an hour this morning talking to Albus about the trial. He says that when couples are there for their children, the interrogators expect that the father knows the law, and the mother advocates for the child.”

“That’s convenient, given that I’m not British,” Elodie said, walking over to the desk and tracing her fingertip over the various items resting there.

“You are now,” Remus said.

“Right, by marrying you. Except we’re not married, and I assume magic is involved, so how does that work?”

“Albus suggested claiming a Muggle civil ceremony,” Remus told her, rubbing his neck with one hand. “Magical weddings can be as simple as one of those, or an elaborate affair with multiple spells cast that requires a large number of the attending guests to participate.”

“So we could say we’re planning one of the crazy elaborate ones, but wanted to get the legal part taken care of for my family, since I assume you can’t invite a large number of Muggles to one of the fancy ones,” Elodie said with some relief.

“Correct. It also seems that while they won’t see a Muggle ceremony as holding as much weight as a magical one, they don’t dis-qualify it as binding, they just won’t care to see the documentation,” Remus said cheerfully. “Albus has amassed quite a bit of evidence in Harry’s favor. He plans on showing up as a witness for his defense, which should go better now, because we’ll be standing up with Harry as his legal guardians,” he added.

“Won’t Minister Fudge think Albus is pushing his luck, since he called in that favor to place us as guardians?” Elodie asked. She picked up a small, round object that looked like a stamp with no ink.

“Possibly. I think it’s more likely that Fudge will appear as though he’s against Harry to keep the others from suspecting the influence Albus had on declaring guardianship,” Remus said, pushing off from the wall. “If it turns out to be a lesser favor --if Harry is expelled from Hogwarts and loses the right to use magic within a week of granting that favor…”

“Then he’s still beholden to Albus, nice,” Elodie said, nodding. “That shouldn’t be as encouraging as it is, but I’ll take it.” She turned the stamp-thing over to look at the bottom of it. Like a flash, Remus was beside her and taking it from her hand. He wasn’t even out of breath.

“Nothing to worry about, just a bit dangerous to aim at your face,” he told her.

“I suppose no matter how true it might be, I probably don’t want to show up at Harry’s trial with a magical stamp saying ‘Property of the Black Family’ on my face,” Elodie joked.

“Sirius is completely horrified that you’ve pleased his mother, you know,” Remus said, amused. 

“Honestly, there are too many Gryffindors in and out of the house if no one thought of that before,” she said defensively. “She’s quieter when she’s happy, and not one person who comes through here thinks it’s because I actually like the woman.” She looked up at Remus and saw he was nodding. “Sirius is less stressed out when she’s not screaming, too. If he’s determined to sleep on the floor for a week, it’s the least I can do.”

“You know it’s not about--”

“Yes, Boggart notwithstanding. I talked to him this morning,” Elodie said, feeling a strong desire to cross her arms or tense up defensively, which she resisted.

“Should I expect to be hexed or punched?” Remus asked in a neutral tone.

“Neither. He knows how important it is for everyone to believe us.”

“Speaking of which?” Remus said, letting the statement hang.

“Are you sure you want me to direct the substance of that conversation?” Elodie asked, walking over and sitting down on the ornate two person couch.

“On second thought, no. When did we first meet?” Remus asked her. His voice was full of mischief and smugness, as he’d neatly tricked her into being the person stuck answering the questions.

“At Hollyfield House, last June,” Elodie said. Then, she added, “It was a few days after the full moon.” If Remus wanted be smug, she could be smug, too. She knew things he didn’t know she knew.

“That’s true,” he said, sounding impressed. “Did anyone introduce us?”

“A poorly written book on wizarding history has that honor, I suppose,” Elodie answered ruefully.

“--and Ruth, at dinner,” he said. 

“True.” She watched as he adjusted the way he was standing to slide his hands into his pockets. Remus looked uncomfortable, and she knew why. “Want to swap roles?” she offered.

“No,” he said. Adopting an officious tone of voice, he asked her, “Tell me about your first date, please.”

“It would serve you right if I decided to be obtuse and tell you about my first ever date with anyone,” Elodie said. “To answer, though: I’m not sure we really had dates. We would meet and talk about books, and slowly those meetings got more important to me, I guess? Then we had an opportunity to rent a house instead of paying room rent at Hollyfield, and you don’t really have to go out somewhere on a date when you’re living with the person.”

“That’s well put, that, uh… works well,” Remus said. 

“I’d say thank you, but your ears are turning red and you look like you’ve just been called an inappropriate name by a portrait,” Elodie told him. “Are you uncomfortable with what I said?”

“No. Yes. Well…”

“Breathe, Remus,” she said, trying not to sound like she was amused.

He stood up and came over to sit beside her on the couch. “You’re a truthful person, and I like that about you,” he said. When Elodie quirked her eyebrow at him, he smiled and let out a short sigh. “You’re telling the truth, or as near to it as you can, and I assume you’re doing that so that whoever speaks to us will be able to draw their own conclusions?”

“Are you afraid that my answers will reframe our friendship for you in a negative way?” she asked, biting her lip.

“Not negative,” he said quickly. “Not negative. Your sincerity is disconcerting, that’s all. There is not much difference between you and the false persona you’ve constructed, and it’s taking some getting used to.”

“I hear you. This is definitely harder than it looks!” Elodie said. She reached out and grabbed his hand in both of hers. “Firstly, you’re my friend, and that’s the most important part to remember, in my opinion. When and if I touch you, I want this to be your first thought: ‘That is Elodie. She trusts me, and I trust her.’ Can you do that for me?” she asked.

“I can do that,” he said. She looked at his face for a few seconds and saw the look he made when he was reading a book that challenged his perspective on something. It made her feel like she was on the right track.

“Secondly, it might help both of us to be on the other end of this. What was the next question you were planning to ask?”

“May I have this back?” Remus asked her, squeezing his fingers around where her hands were grasping his. She let go, and instead of pulling back and away from her like she expected, he reached forward and hugged her with both arms. “I trust you,” he said, into her hair.

Elodie gulped back the tears that threatened to turn the moment super awkward again. When he pulled back away, he didn’t look uncomfortable anymore.

“I was going to ask about proposing, which I suppose should be mine to answer anyway,” he said, sitting back and resting his ankle on the opposite leg above the knee. “I could ask you what you prefer the answer to be--”

“--but that would come too close to the things that made you uncomfortable in the first place,” she said, shaking her head.

“Fair enough,” he laughed. “You’re right. Then I will say I proposed when you finally woke up in St. Mungo’s. The truth is that the house wasn’t the same without you.”

“Realistic and romantic, well done,” Elodie said. “Is there a system in place to track overseas travel? Would the Ministry know if either of us used a transatlantic portkey?”

He nodded. “Better to imply that your family used Muggle transportation means to come here. I’m not sure I could creditably pretend I’d been able to fly in a Muggle aeroplane for as long as those flights must last.”

“A British werewolf in Boston? Yes, I understand completely,” she laughed. “We can shrug off any questions as to why none of our magical friends attended, because, well. Can you even imagine that?”

“Given the political leanings of most of our friends, we would probably do well to not mention them at all,” Remus pointed out.

“Is it political to fight against a dark lord bent on eradicating everyone but a select few?” Elodie asked in amazement.

“It is now,” Remus said grimly. 

The two of them went over mundane things like food likes and dislikes (which they’d mostly known simply by virtue of being housemates) and other incidental things. Once the subject of books came up, Elodie and Remus spent the remaining hour of time before lunch discussing their favorite parts of the Nelson Mandela biography.

“One of my favorite coworkers at Orion’s Belt used to work for his campaign,” Remus said.

“Wow,” Elodie said, a bit starstruck at the thought of talking to someone who had worked closely with Mandela. “I’d love to talk to them sometime. Though I don’t know what I would even say!”

“If she lived here she’d be a candidate for the Order, honestly,” Remus told her, getting up from the couch and stretching. “She’d be delighted to find out I’m Harry’s guardian, but my plan is to keep that mostly low-key at work. Anonymity is hard enough without his surrogate father working with journalists.”

Remus froze completely still for a few seconds and then steadied himself by walking over to the desk.

“What?” Elodie asked, concerned.

“I never… I hadn’t framed it that way yet. In my mind.”

“Oh, ‘father.’ Yeah I’m due for one of those moments too, I imagine,” Elodie said, smiling at him. “Though I at least hoped to someday earn the title on my own.”

He looked over at her, his emotions still clearly roiling right under the surface. “You’ll be a wonderful mother, Ellie.”

“I’m rubber and you’re glue,” she said impulsively. He frowned, confused. “It’s a children’s saying. Meant to imply that the words bounce off of me and stick back to the person who said them.”

Instead of dismissing the implication, Remus leaned in while still destroying her argument. “Ahh, but it’s difficult to sire children without a mother to bear them.” He turned and opened the door. Once open, she could hear the sounds of the other Order members walking through the house, probably all heading for the kitchen area. When Elodie saw Remus was holding the door for her, she walked past him and tossed a final statement over her shoulder.

“Hard to find a woman to bear your children if you’re in the house writing all day.”

“Exactly,” Remus replied.

He looked unbearably smug as he sat down for lunch.

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It turned out that Kingsley didn’t have to inform on Moody’s whereabouts after all. Elodie went to the bathroom half-way through lunch, and when she returned, Mad-Eye was seated with his back to the wall, his head faced away from her.

“Incarcerus!” Elodie cast, and thick ropes flew from her wand tip to bind Moody around his middle, locking his arms in place and making them immobile.

“Merlin’s fucking balls!” Mad-Eye cried out, turning his head this way and that to see who had cast on him. Elodie was standing, but she’d lowered her wand hand and schooled her face to look neutral. Around her, several Order members had taken out their wands, but Kingsley stood up and put his hands out placatingly.

“Wait,” he said to them.

“Elodie,” Mad-Eye finally said.

“Yes, Alastor?” she said, using his first name for the first time.

“Lupin!” Moody called out in exasperation.

“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” Elodie countered, walking around the table and using her wand to turn his chair so that he was still facing her. “He had his chance to talk to you, now it’s my turn.”

“Cor, what in Merlin’s name did you do?” Tonks asked Mad-Eye. He looked up at Elodie and gestured with his head at his protégée. She nodded.

“I told Lupin what to do to deceive the Ministry,” he grunted. “Some of the advice was… lewd.”

“‘Obscene’ might be a more accurate word. And no, I didn’t tell her exactly what you said. You’re welcome,” Remus said, standing and walking over to stand behind Elodie. He was eating an apple, and he continued to bite into it as though Elodie threatening the powerful ex-Auror was an everyday occurrence. A few of the other Order members got up and walked over, as well.

“Well! I imagine being bested in a room of colleagues should be enough to overcome such an indignity,” Elphias Doge said. He looked profoundly uncomfortable to see someone of Moody’s stature bound at the lunch table.

“Maybe it would be, if that was the extent of it,” Elodie said. In a calm, loud voice, she continued, “Tell me, Alastor: what would have opened the door of the bedroom you warded us into? Can you say it out loud in mixed company?”

Remus laughed and shook his head. The room was silent except for the unnaturally loud sound of him taking another huge bite of his apple.

“You locked them in a room?” Kingsley asked.

“How did you get out, is what I’d like to know. The door’s still warded!” Alastor demanded. 

“I imagine it’ll stay that way until you manage to convince two people to Apparate in and do unspeakable things to each other,” Elodie said, shuddering. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sirius leaning over to whisper something into Tonks’s ear. Tonks slapped him. Moody still looked upset when she focused her attention back on him, so she leaned over and looked into his face. “You really don’t know?”

Moody’s magical eye glared at her with unsuppressed venom. It stayed fixated on her even when he shook his head in answer to her question.

“A ladder,” she said.

“Impossible,” Mad-Eye snapped. “Every magical house has anti-ladder wards on the ground outside!”

“My ladder never touched the ground,” Elodie said, grinning.

“Not even floating--”

“Hooked onto the windowsill,” Elodie said. She cast Finite on the binding spell. “Muggle fire escape.”

Moody’s sound of interested disgust was music to Elodie’s ears.

“I promise I will never attack another Order member at lunch if you’ll promise you won’t try to persuade Remus to do any of the things he’s too horrified to tell me about,” Elodie said. “Or Sirius, either.”

“Aww,” Sirius said, too loudly.

“Agreed,” Mad-Eye said, adding, “But you have to call me Alastor.” Around them, the other members of the Order started to relax and find their chairs again, though some of them came over and clapped Moody or Elodie on the back with respect.

“Agreed,” she said, finally lowering her wand. “I probably could have handled that better, but I was angry.

“Constant vigilance!” he said ruefully. “Got complacent.”

“You should feel safe here--” Elodie started to say, but Alastor waved her off.

“You saw what I did as an attack. I didn’t. That was my mistake in judgment. I could have foreseen this,” he said, jabbing his finger back and forth between them as he pointed to her, then himself. “And you!” he said, pointing at Remus. “You know her well. Good lad.”

Right as Alastor finished speaking, Ron came skidding into the room, Harry and the twins close behind him. “Someone said there was a fight?”

“You missed it,” Bill told his brother. “Elodie turned Moody into an eagle and forced him to eat crow.”

Elodie joined the rest of the adults in the room in laughter as Ron stood looking from face to face in confusion.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five: To Know and Be Known

 

The night before Harry’s trial was taken up completely by discussion for all the residents of Phoenix House. Despite knowing they were planning to meet Arthur at the Ministry at seven-thirty in the morning, no one seemed to want to call a halt to the contingency plans and retellings of Harry and Dudley’s frightening encounter with Dementors.

Finally, at just past ten, Elodie realized something.

“Harry?” she said to the young man seated on the floor with his godfather. Harry looked up, his glasses a bit askew from where he’d been resting his head on his hand. “Don’t forget we have a Pensieve, okay? Being attacked by Dementors doesn’t have to be the most lasting, final memory you have of your cousin. I know he was very immature and never got the chance to age out of that behavior--”

“If ever! His father was--” Sirius interrupted, but Elodie continued on, intent on reassurance rather than recrimination.

“--but two of the most repeated things that Muggles say about losing someone is wishing they could see them again, and wishing they didn’t have to remember them in a negative way. You are a wizard. You don’t have to settle for a chronological last memory.”

Harry had seemed to relax as she’d spoken, but when she finished, he made a little bit of a confused face. “I’ve heard it before, but, what’s ‘chrono…’” Harry trailed off, clearly unable to remember the exact pronunciation.

“Chronological,” Remus said slowly, sounding it out for Harry to hear. “It means in order of occurrence, by time or date. You arrive at Hogwarts, you’re greeted by Hagrid, you enter the Great Hall, you get sorted.” 

“Or, if you’re Elodie, you sneak into the Headmaster’s office and put on the Hat as an adult,” Sirius teased.

“The Sorting Hat gave you a House?” Harry sounded surprised, looking up at Elodie. “Which one?”

“Which one do you think?” Elodie asked, careful to phrase it like an opinion and not a sarcastic comment.

Harry sat for a minute, thinking, and then a grin started to transform his face. “Gryffindor. Definitely.”

“You’re right,” Elodie said, favoring him with a huge smile of her own.

After that, it was short work to persuade everyone that it was time to sleep. It wasn’t until Sirius and Harry had settled into their respective sleeping places in the living room that Elodie remembered Sirius telling her he wanted to ‘read his heart’ to her. She was disappointed, but not by much-- Harry was the focus for both of them, tonight and tomorrow.

Her dreams that night were filled with visions of the movie version of Dolores Umbridge, sitting at a high court table looking down at Elodie, demanding to know why she thought she had the right to change the books.

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The Lupin/Potter family was to be escorted into the Ministry by Arthur Weasley, and when they Flooed into the Burrow, Arthur told them he planned to bring them into the building a ‘thoroughly non-magical way,’ in order to recognize the severity of Harry’s charges. This meant they would side-along Apparate Harry one street over from the Ministry and enter via the telephone box. Due to the tight fit, Elodie and Remus waited to go on the second trip.

Elodie was fairly bursting with the knowledge that the hearing had been moved up an hour, but she and Sirius had agreed that she would only draw negative attention to herself if she said anything about it. Instead, she would try to guide their group of four so that they were either in the basement where the trial was to be held, or in Arthur’s office. She remembered that someone had come into the office to tell Arthur that the trial had been moved. She didn’t think the Dursleys’ death would affect the Ministry so much that this situation would change, but it was stressful nonetheless.

“You look like you’ve cast a levitation charm on your body but it’s been weighted down by your mind,” Remus told her in a quiet voice.

“Oh no, I don’t look upset, do I? Or, I mean, the appropriate level of upset? I don’t usually wear makeup and I didn’t think of putting any on this morning, should I look up a charm? Do I have time?” Elodie fretted. She looked around for a car window to peer at herself in. She’d worn a dark grey linen suit, lightweight so she didn’t appear sweaty and nervous, but a neutral color so as not to antagonize any of the Wizengamot.

Suddenly, Remus’s arms came around her, hugging her from behind. “You look lovely. It’s only from knowing you that I can spot you’re stressed.”

Behind them, the elevator clanged back into place, and he squeezed her tight for a second, then let go and gestured for her to precede him. For the ride down, Elodie’s anxiety about the trial warred with her excitement to see the Ministry of Magic. It wasn’t long after she and Remus were reunited with Harry and Arthur that they walked past the Fountain of Magical Brethren. She wasn’t ashamed to stare at it with as much rapt attention as Harry did beside her.

It was beautifully made, but somehow the craftsmanship made her all the more uncomfortable when looking at the unspoken message it was conveying. The whole thing made her uncomfortable-- the prominence of the wizard, the way the witch was both adored by the three creatures and yet still seemingly subservient to the wizard, and the fact that she knew that goblins looked down on magical humans in particular.

As they walked on to Arthur’s office, she saw Harry put his hand over his pocket, and she knew he was resolving to put a donation into the fountain. The sign had stated that proceeds were given to St. Mungo’s. 

This was all so much easier when I read the book, Sirius! How did I get here, how do I do this, I wish you could be here with me! she thought to herself. It was so much easier to face things she knew the outcome of when she had Sirius beside her to understand her unique perspective on it. This day felt inexorable and at the same time horribly unpredictable. What would Harry’s second orphaning do to the vindictive nature of some of Voldemort’s sympathizers, today?

She spent so much time worrying about it that she hadn’t looked at the time. Suddenly, a man burst into Arthur’s office, looking horrified. He told them that the trial’s time had been shifted to eight, and Arthur gasped after he checked his watch.

All four of them ran.

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“How convenient for the Minister to find a couple so close to your birth family that was able to take you in!” the Interrogator said. “It would have been truly unfortunate to have had to seek an unrelated benefactor to grant you their charity!”

Harry was seated in the defendant’s chair in the center of the courtroom. The high seats of the Wizengamot were arranged in a wide arc facing him, separated from the open area by a forbidding wooden wall. Elodie and Remus stood behind him, and Elodie felt as out of place as she had ever been in this universe.

They had been ushered in five minutes late after all their running, everyone looking hurried and anxious. As she’d walked behind the high chair Harry was told to use, Remus had lifted a piece of hair that had fallen from the french twist she’d schooled her hair into. With a whispered spell, he’d tucked it magically back into place, and she had looked over at him in surprise.

He had kissed her temple, and turned his gaze back toward the Wizengamot.

The whole thing had felt both scripted and incredibly tender, a perfect way to illustrate the sincerity of their relationship.

Elodie drew on that feeling of belonging as she stood and listened to the derisive tone the Interrogator used to question Harry. The man’s pinched, disapproving expression deepened as Harry stayed silent.

Finally, Harry said, “I’m sorry, sir. Was that a question?”

Elodie knew Harry by now. He’d held back nearly all of his insolence in that comment, but to a person who knew him not at all, it sounded incredibly disrespectful.

“Harry!” Remus said. He sounded like he was chastising Harry, but again, Elodie could hear the twinge of humor behind that, because she knew Remus so well.

It seemed that this was the perfect way to react, at least where the Interrogator was concerned. He seemed to appreciate that Remus was risking his ire to take Harry to task. Elodie looked up at Remus and smiled thinly as an encouragement, and when Remus turned his head to see her looking at him, the large doors at the back of the courtroom burst open and Albus Dumbledore walked in.

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As the three of them left the courtroom, Elodie’s sense of relief walked with them like a fourth member of their makeshift family. She could tell that both Remus and Harry felt the same way, so when a man’s voice called out to stop them in the hallway, Elodie felt a sudden stab of dread at this clear change from the books.

“A minute of your time, Mr. Lupin, Mrs. Lupin please?”

Remus’s hand came down to grasp hers, and they turned together to see a wizard walking toward them. He was wearing Ministry robes and carried a clipboard.

“It was fortuitous that the august Headmaster of Hogwarts was so diligent in coming to your aid, young man,” the man said. It was the same Interrogator who had been so nasty to Harry earlier in the trial. Without the imposing architecture of the courtroom around him, he didn’t seem nearly as formidable. She knew not to underestimate him, though. They’d clearly thwarted his intentions in there, with Albus Dumbledore taking up for them, and a witness, besides.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” Harry said. Elodie put an arm around his shoulders.

“Yes, well,” the man sneered. “Some of us are worried about his priorities of late. It seems that he may be neglecting his duties in order to foster certain side projects. It has been decided that we will need to oversee some of his recent decisions to ensure our most valuable young minds are still being stewarded well. To that end, Mr. and Mrs. Lupin, I am hereby informing you that a review of your guardianship will be begun some time in the next few weeks.”

The pressure of Remus’s grip on her hand increased.

“I understand,” Remus said with quiet dignity.

“After all, it could be reasonably assumed that James Potter might not have initially intended to become friends with a werewolf! There’s no way to know if he would have still found you a fit guardian for his son in the years since his passing. After all, it appears that he did not choose you as his Secret Keeper, did he, sir?”

Through her arm around his shoulders, Elodie could feel the way Harry was shaking with the effort it took to keep his composure. She didn’t dare look up at Remus, knowing he would see that as an attempt to comfort him, something he would reject in a moment like this. So, Elodie did what she did best. She spoke rashly.

“Honestly, that is quite insulting. We will submit to the review as you have requested, sir, but I will beg your leave to return home with my family. Good day,” she said in a quiet, rigid tone.

Then, she guided Harry to turn away from the man who had confronted them, hoping that Remus would follow her instead of remaining standing in front of such a vile, insensitive jerk. She was quite grateful when he did, maintaining his grip on her hand as he did so, something she hadn’t expected.

Elodie wanted to appear as a cohesive family unit as they walked away at a measured pace, leaving the Ministry official with what she envisioned as open-mouthed surprise.

“Could we pass the fountain before we go, please?” Harry said in a whisper.

“Absolutely,” Elodie whispered back.

Just as Elodie remembered from the book, Harry dumped out the entire contents of his wallet into the fountain before they left. Knowing he was going to do it didn’t make her any less proud of him.

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They Apparated Harry to Grimmauld Place and walked the narrow hallway with a sense of triumph. By the time the three of them entered the kitchen, Order members who had been working on the upper floors of the house started to come down to greet them.

Fred and George Apparated down next to their mother, who threw up her hands in exasperation and swatted at them. She missed, because they both Apparated a few feet away.

Molly shooed them out of the kitchen again, and Elodie realized she’d completely forgotten from the books that the Order members had organized a celebratory feast for Harry for lunch at #12. A quick conversation with Remus confirmed that he was also unaware. She was unable to snag Sirius and pull him aside to talk to him about either the feast or the trial, because he was entirely focused on Harry. The two of them disappeared for the rest of the morning, and when it came lunchtime, Elodie found them in Sirius’s bedroom talking animatedly with Ron and one of the Weasley twins. 

“Seems a bit manic, honestly,” said a male voice beside her. Elodie turned and saw the other Weasley twin. “Fred here,” he said good-naturedly.

“I’m sure I’ll learn the two of you eventually,” Elodie promised. “And yes. It’s almost as if he’s come to realize he has to give Harry up for Hogwarts, soon.” She had a thought and looked more closely at Fred. “He’s not making you uncomfortable, I hope?”

“No, nothing like that. Just… not used to adults being keen to spend the time,” Fred said.

“I imagine if one of your mother’s brothers came back suddenly they’d behave the same way. Trying to catch up.” Elodie smiled. “Do me a favor? Tell them it’s time to eat?”

“You’ve got it,” Fred said.

Elodie walked back downstairs instead of waiting for Harry, Sirius, and the others. She was struck by the sense that Sirius might be the only one in the house who was not entirely pleased by the way the trial turned out. Now that he finally had access to his godson, had physical custody of him in all but name, Sirius was loathe to give him up, Elodie knew. She hadn’t given much thought to what would have happened if the trial had ended the other way, but it was very possible that Sirius had. Would he have wanted Harry to lose, so he could tutor him in magic himself?

She’d paused in the narrow hallway while woolgathering, and she felt someone come up behind her. Elodie shook her head at herself and tried to remember which way she was going.

“Even from the back I can tell you’re upset,” Remus said, leaning over to whisper the words near her ear.

“Just a little bit. Worried about Sirius,” she whispered back. 

“I have something to ask you about, in regards to that, actually,” Remus said a little louder, as they walked in the direction of the kitchen. Elodie paused in the doorway to shoot him a worried look. “It isn’t awful, I promise,” he told her with a small smile.

“Forgive me if I looked anxious,” Elodie said. She felt hot and overdressed now that she had started to worry about the day’s events, so she took off the linen suit jacket that matched the skirt she was wearing. “I’ve had enough emotional roller coasters today!” she added, draping the jacket over her arm. She’d hang it on the back of her chair once she sat down.

“I hear that,” Remus agreed.

They had decided to keep the ‘Ministry review’ portion of the morning to themselves, and asked Harry to wait to speak about it until tomorrow. Elodie desperately wanted to talk to Sirius about it, because from her prescient perspective, it was the only negative part of the day, and it was related to her timeline interference. Elodie moved to sit in her customary seat at the table as Molly and Hestia moved to place various delicious-smelling foods at various intervals.

Would it be Remus and Tonks with custody, had she not been involved? Or were they too far along into the altered timeline to suggest something like that? After all, she had no idea where Remus would have lived after Hollyfield if she wasn’t involved. Given the fact that Horace Slughorn had to be tracked down by Harry and Albus more than a book’s time in the future, she didn’t think he would have been around to provide Wolfsbane. It was really Sirius’s bank vault that kept that going, and Sirius had been hiding in the tropics--

“There you go again,” Remus said in her ear. He’d seated himself at his customary seat, beside her.

Sirius used to sit across from her, but now he sat half a table away, next to Harry. She felt a pang of loss, and then frowned at herself.

She was not jealous of Harry Potter. She was glad that he had his godfather, and that his godfather had him. The fact that she’d been incidentally left out of Sirius’s life temporarily as he adjusted to this drastic and tragic change in Harry’s life was not something to worry about.

If she had to, she’d just repeat this mantra to herself over and over until it stuck.

“You promised not to worry about the review, Elodie,” Remus whispered in her ear. She suddenly realized she hadn’t responded the first time he’d said something to her, and she turned her head quickly to apologize. It was so quickly that Remus hadn’t moved his head back, and their lips brushed, by accident. Her mouth had been open, and it was as close to a real kiss as an accident could be.

Remus jerked back and swore under his breath, a reaction that seemed wildly disproportionate to an accident like that, despite how much it had made her heart race and her lips tingle. Then, she saw why.

Remus’s hand was bleeding, and the glass of pumpkin juice he must have been holding was in many bloody glass pieces.

“I’m so sorry, Molly,” Remus said, his voice polite but clearly strained as he dripped blood on the white tablecloth. “I forget about my strength, this week in particular,” he added ruefully, chuckling a bit.

It was a lie.

She could tell it was a lie, just like she’d been able to tell how proud Remus had been of Harry in the courtroom even as he’d seemed to scold him. Remus only chuckled at the end of an innocuous comment like that if he was hiding something. It was rare, but she knew him well enough to recognize it. Beyond that, Remus was always aware of the changes he went through for the full moon, which meant that whatever had happened had been beyond the iron control he kept himself under.

Elodie watched him pull a shard of glass from his hand and winced in sympathetic pain. She pulled out her wand, seeing that various members of the Order had stopped their conversations or tasks to do the same.

Impulsively, Elodie cast a numbing spell on his hand, without asking.

Immediately, everyone’s attention focused on her, and she realized she’d taken a liberty that was only probably, logically, acceptably afforded to romantic partners or family. She’d committed a social faux pas without even realizing it.

Remus turned to look at her, saw the look of regret on her face, and immediately responded. “Thank you, I hadn’t thought to cast that.”

It was an olive branch, she recognized. Not just to her, but to ease the reactions of the friends that surrounded them.

“Still in character, I see!” Molly said to her, affectionately. “Would you like more help, Remus?” she asked, and something in the way she said it felt like a mild censure to Elodie, as if showing her how she was meant to have done it.

“Thank you, Molly, but I think we’ve got it,” Remus said. Then, he turned his body toward Elodie and held his injured hand up with his other hand. “It’s my wand hand, would you mind, Elodie?”

Elodie couldn’t look at his face. She felt like the entire room would somehow know how she felt about him, feel that she’d betrayed everyone’s trust by agreeing to pretend something she felt in reality. Her adrenaline was pumping like there was a broken valve inside her somewhere, and Remus could absolutely sense it!

“I’d be happy to,” she told Remus, focusing on his hand. She cast a cleansing wound spell she’d learned months before, on the day she’d been splinched. Then she cast a skin repair spell, one that had an emotional component, which she hadn’t remembered might be recognizable until it was too late. The spell wasn’t necessarily a romantic one, just one that requires positive emotions toward the recipient. It was the kind used in battlefields between tight-knit soldier units or by midwives with close social or familial ties. 

Remus’s hand looked as if nothing had happened.

“That’s a really fine job, Elodie,” Kingsley said, leaning over from where he’d walked up behind Remus. “Might want to consider a new career in Mediwitchery.”

“Her current job is keeping me out of trouble, and she’s had to cast her fair share of Healing spells at home!” Sirius called out from across the room.

With a flick of her wand, Molly gathered up all of the pieces of glass and cast a bubble charm around them to keep the shards from coming loose. Elodie didn’t get to see what happened to them afterwards, but she assumed that Scourgify wasn’t the best spell for glass. Conversation resumed, and she felt less like a goldfish in a bowl. All that remained was for her system to absorb the vast amounts of adrenaline she’d flooded herself with. Adrenaline, and a little something else, thanks to that almost-kiss.

Elodie turned away from Remus and engaged Hestia Jones in conversation with enthusiasm.

After lunch came cake and ice cream. Elodie hadn’t expected the latter at all (neither had Harry, and his expression when the ice cream appeared quickly became her favorite memory so far of Harry Potter), and she also hadn’t expected Kingsley to stand up and address the room.

“Today was a positive step forward for the Order. It shows that the rule of law still prevails, at least for now. Part of protecting that rule of law is making sure we still live within its confines ourselves.” He looked around the table, and she felt like he took the time to make eye contact with every member seated there. “When school starts, when you head back to work, when you are out in public, remember what we are fighting against, how important it is, and who will benefit or suffer if certain people are aware of us. Feeling special about it won’t do any good when you’re overheard by the wrong person.”

“Button your lips!” Alastor boomed, pointing at the side of the table filled with Hogwarts students.

Conversation was a bit subdued after that, and most everyone simply went back to what they were doing before lunch. Elodie had been planning to follow Sirius and finally get the chance to speak with him at any kind of length, but Remus’s hand on her arm stopped her from leaving the kitchen. She looked up at him quizzically.

“I need to run something by you, something he won’t like,” Remus said, tilting his head toward the long, narrow hallway that Sirius was currently walking down with Harry.

“All right,” she sighed. 

Remus avoided the small library they often met in, and chose instead to walk outdoors via the back door. #12 Grimmauld had a small, enclosed back yard with a single tree and a few wrought iron chairs that looked incredibly uncomfortable. Remus cast a quick pillowing charm on the seating surfaces of two of them and gestured for her to choose one. When they were both seated, he looked at her apologetically.

“I’m sorry if this seems like a lot of ceremony. I don’t want to worry anyone about the review yet, and so talking outside with a mild noise muffling charm seemed like the best idea.”

“It’s fine,” Elodie said, mostly meaning it.

“Some of what Moody said to me a few days ago, combined with what that Ministry goon said made me worry about surprise inspections, and the like,” Remus said. The way his face didn’t change at all when using the word ‘goon’ made Elodie smile.

“Yes, I could see that being a thing,” she nodded.

“That will go very badly for all of us if they were to show up at the door, rather than requesting entrance at the Floo. We have some magical protections, but not against everything,” Remus said, rubbing his thumb against the knuckles of his other hand. “So, I’m thinking we’re going to have to ask Sirius to spend the bulk of his time here, at Grimmauld.”

“If he doesn’t sleep at home, Harry--”

“I know,” Remus interrupted, nodding. “Sirius can sleep at Phoenix House. He’d probably have to Floo in late, that’s probably the only way to do it. If someone shows up late at night he can at least transform into a dog. That isn’t something they know about.”

His ‘thank Merlin’ was unspoken, but she heard it anyway.

“He’s going to be crushed. I’m not sure I’m not crushed. Though I assume this is mostly until Hogwarts starts, yes?” she asked Remus hopefully.

“For now,” he nodded. “I’d like to think they’ll ease up once he’s not in our physical custody, but I can’t be sure.”

“It’s not that bad, I guess,” Elodie mused. “I mean, we spend a lot of time here, and that can continue for the four of us, even after the week spent cleaning up the place.”

Remus made a face. “That’s the thing. I think you, me, and Harry will need to spend at least some time at Phoenix House.”

Elodie stood up. “That will never fly. Sirius lives and breathes Harry’s actual, real presence in his life. We can not ask him to give that up for the nineteen days left until term starts!”

“I promise I understand what you’re saying, Ellie,” Remus said, standing up and walking over to her. “--but this could affect Harry’s ability to stay with us for the Christmas holidays and beyond. At the very least, we should expect they might show up before the full moon to check on what we have set up to restrain me.” Remus ran his hand through his hair and sighed. “It seems like we’re always in uproar lately.”

She felt like he’d said that to soften what she’d just heard, but she smiled up at him anyway. “The hair thing was clever this morning. You knew that, though.”

“That one was Moody-inspired. He said to make an effort to seem physically comfortable with each other.”

Elodie scratched at her lace collar and said, “Then I went and overdid that at lunch. Sorry about that. I immediately sensed that I’d crossed a line. It’s too bad I didn’t sense the line before I crossed it!”

Remus reached up and plucked a leaf off of the tree branch that hung over them. He laid it on one hand and brushed leaf debris off of it, looking like he was thinking about how to answer her. Just as she was about to say something to change the subject he spoke.

“Don’t stop doing things like that.” He looked up from the leaf, and his expression was unexpectedly haunted. “The last group of real friends I had took liberties like that, and they didn’t apologize. Instead, they spent years training to become safe for me to spend time with during the full moon. I never would have let them if I had known, and I’ll never stop being grateful that they did it.”

“You’re worth doing those things for, you should know that,” Elodie said, lifting her chin in defiance of how she expected him to react.

Remus looked down at his feet, smiling as he shook his head. “I’ve long outgrown arguing with the kind of people who say that to me, Elodie. But, thank you.”

“You can show your gratitude by not making me tell Sirius he has to spend the next few full days at Grimmauld?” she said, smiling as endearingly at him as she could. The effect was a bit marred by the vicious tug she gave the lace that was irritating her neck in the daytime heat.

“All right, but in return you get to know that I recognized the spell you cast to heal my hand, and I’m going to use it for my next column,” Remus said, looking up from the ground. “It’s an honor to have such a spell work so efficiently on me.”

“Yes, well,” Elodie said, giving up on the lace and pulling the whole lace panel free of the vee neck white blouse she was wearing. “You would do well to recognize how much the people around you hold you in high esteem.”

Remus clearly hadn’t heard this, because he was focused instead on her rose-shaped splinching scar. The blouse showed nearly the whole thing, which was why Elodie had chosen to design a little cover-up section of lace to enhance the bodice. The last thing she’d wanted to do was show up for Harry’s trial wearing evidence of a botched transportation spell on her chest, after all.

The tree branch was hanging over Remus, but Elodie stood in the full sunshine facing west, so there was no shadow to obscure her scars from his view. Remus stepped forward a bit and traced his eyes over her chest over and over, such that she wanted to make a sarcastic comment about taking a picture of it.

Which, come to think of it, Elodie wouldn’t mind having.

“I know people who would use tattoo ink and deliberate scarring to get an effect like that, and it still wouldn’t end up as striking,” Remus murmured. 

“Thanks to you, speaking of healing spells,” Elodie pointed out.

“I didn’t know what it would end up looking like, just that I needed you to stop hurting, stop bleeding,” Remus said in a pained voice. “I could never have guessed…” His hand twitched at his side, and Elodie wanted to tell him he could touch it, that Moony had, but something stopped her. Instead, she steered the conversation back to where it had been before she’d distracted him.

“So it’s a deal, your telling Sirius?” Elodie pushed, gently.

Remus jerked his head up to look at her in surprise, then he seemed to remember what she was referring to. “Yes,” he said quickly. “Yes. I’ll break it to him.”

After that, they went back into the house and found things to work on at the house. It was the last collective Order work day. Elodie ended up floating around and working with various members of the group, and by the end of the day she was exhausted, but very happy. She’d spoken to nearly everyone who was there that day, so that excluded Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore, but that was fine by her. The sense she’d gotten from nearly all of them was that they expected the Ministry to further antagonize their little family unit, so the ‘re-evaluation of guardianship’ that had been threatened didn’t feel quite as big a failure to her now that she knew most of the members expected something like it to occur. All that she and Remus needed to do now was tell them, a task that wasn’t nearly as daunting now as it had felt that morning.

Another fortuitous thing happened as well-- Ron had persuaded Molly to beg Sirius for Harry to sleep over at the Burrow that night. Sirius hadn’t protested much, Molly said, and Elodie gave the older witch a huge hug in thanks.

It would be so good to sleep with Sirius again. She missed his warmth, the way she would wake up with him nestled up against her… she even missed his snores. Tonight would be a subtle shift back to normal.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six: Twice Claimed

 

Elodie Merriman wanted to hex Remus Lupin. 

It started when she, Remus, Harry, and Sirius came home after the long day of trial stress and then work at Grimmauld. Harry gathered up the things he wanted to take over to the Weasleys and Flooed over with Remus and Sirius while Elodie got the room in the basement ready for when Harry would sleep there next. She was still down there redecorating for a teenage wizard instead of a thirtysomething witch when she heard the sound of shouting from the rooms upstairs.

She hovered at the bottom of the stairs to listen, loathe to insert herself into such a rare disagreement between her housemates. The sound disappeared for a few seconds before the noise came back, as if someone had hit ‘mute’ and then immediately hit the button to cancel it.

“--bloody cast Muffliato like you’re ashamed of what you’re telling me right now!” Sirius shouted. There was a thump that probably meant he’d either thrown himself on the couch or stomped a foot, both of which she could picture perfectly.

“You know perfectly well I would avoid this if there were any other way to keep you safe, Padfoot! It’s a short period of time, and the benefits--”

“Don’t Padfoot me, you smug, responsible git! I’m willing to risk a little danger in favor of the thing I’ve wanted every minute since James died!”

Another thump. “No amount of turning the word into a pejorative will make me think making responsible decisions is the wrong choice for everyone who lives here, Sirius.”

Odd, hysterical laughter had accompanied Remus’s words, and now Sirius laughed louder. “You threw a book at me! Am I bothering you, old man?”

“I did not throw it at you, Sirius, I dropped it, down at my feet. You were nowhere near,” Remus responded after a significant pause. He still sounded quite upset. “You are, as you well know, very frustrating and childish sometimes. I am sorry that the other two adults in this house have to pick up the slack in making important decisions.”

“Leave me out of this, Remus Lupin!” Elodie whispered from her hidden position on the basement stairs. She wondered after she spoke whether he could hear her, thanks to the lycanthropic changes he went through every full moon week. If he did, though, he gave no indication that she was aware of.

“She agreed with you? You talked this over without me?” Sirius shouted, all humor gone from his voice.

“Shit, Remus, honestly! Now he’ll be just as mad at me, ugh,” she said, not whispering now. The sound of Sirius’s tantrum was so loud that she doubted either of them would hear her, now. The sounds of things being thrown while Sirius stomped around were loud and frightening. Luckily, she had already gotten into the habit of protecting her books and certain notebooks and Muggle pens with impervious charms just in case Sirius got angry.

“You are every bit as bad a role model as Vernon Dursley in this moment, Sirius Black, and you ought to know that! Stop this nonsense,” Remus shouted at full voice. “There’s no reason to punish Elodie for seeing reason in this situation by throwing her things, and besides, I know she spelled them against damage just in case. What that says about you, given how much she loves you, I have no idea. You are an ungrateful, unworthy arsehole!”

With that, she heard the sounds of someone stomping off toward the front door, opening it, going through, and slamming it behind them.

Elodie had no idea which of the two men upstairs it had been.

She stared at the kitchen door at the top of the stairs in trepidation. It was true that Sirius had a volatile temper and she had protected her things in an effort to mitigate the damage if he chose to hurl them in his indiscriminate rages. But she hadn’t told him that, she’d just assumed he knew. If he hadn’t, would he see her action as insulting? Un-loving? If he did, Elodie admitted to herself that she would be angry with him. He was allowed to throw her things, but she wasn’t allowed to pre-emptively protect them? That would make her infuriated!

“Elodie, you are arguing with an idea right now, cut it out!” she told herself. “Go upstairs and help Remus clean up before Sirius gets back,” she added, starting back up the stairs. When she got up there, though, it was Sirius who was lounging on the couch in the living room, not Remus.

“I threw some things,” he said when he saw her. He looked upset.

“I see that,” Elodie said in a carefully neutral tone of voice.

“Already handling me, are you?” Sirius challenged, throwing his arms up along the top of the couch and tossing his head to move his hair from his eyes.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not Remus. I was not the one arguing with you,” Elodie said coolly. She didn’t feel cool. Her anger had jumped up to at least a seven out of ten at his insolent response. How dare he act like she was conspiring with Remus against him?

“You might as well have been!” Sirius complained. “Talking about it behind my back, making plans!”

“Want to see the memory?” Elodie challenged. She whipped out her wand and placed it at her temple. “The Pensieve’s right over there, you can watch us ‘conspire’ against you to keep you safe. Watch me tell him there has to be another way. Watch me tell him you’d never agree. Then watch him nearly in tears thinking about the way his friends at school never paused to think about what he wanted, when they conspired to become animagi. Tell me how unfair we’re being, trying to keep Harry from losing you TWICE!” 

She even made the air quotes with her hands, as she shouted at him.

“Elodie--” Sirius said, his eyes wide. He straightened his posture.

“Save it,” she snapped. “I was so lonely this week, Sirius. You have no idea, because I didn’t let myself tell you. I wanted you to have the time with Harry. I was jealous, and I hate that I was jealous, but I tried to act like a loving partner and give you the space you needed. I was looking forward to having you back for even one night tonight, but no, you had to go throw my things like I’m some sort of demented mother figure you’re trying to get back at! We are on the same side, you absolute jerk!”

She saw him open his mouth to say something, and the fact that she knew him so well made her completely convinced that whatever it would be, it would make her more angry. So Elodie did the thing that had to be the most insulting, infuriating, unfair thing any witch or wizard could do in an argument.

She cast a silencing spell around herself so she couldn’t hear him.

Then, she marched over to the door, opened it, went through, and slammed it, just like Remus had.

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Elodie wanted to hex Remus.

He didn’t need to tell Sirius he’d talked about the plan with her! She wasn’t really that much in favor of it in the first place, and of course Sirius would see them as a united front instead of the shades of subtle agreement and disagreement that she felt on the subject, instead.

When you got right down to it, Elodie thought that Sirius had acted precisely as expected-- he got angry, defensive, and bitchy. Remus was the one who had acted out of character, first by setting her up as the fall guy for his argument with Sirius (a completely predictable argument, it ought to be noted), and then by losing his own temper, something that hardly ever happened.

He was out there, somewhere, just like she was, and if Elodie ran across him, she was going to challenge him to a duel.

Not a dangerous one, just… a duel. Her honor had been questioned, and she wanted to defend it.

With flaming frogs, if she had to.

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Elodie was going to hex Remus, if she found him.

That would be difficult, because she was currently lost, angry, and in no shape to be Apparating anywhere lest she splinch herself again. It was full dark now, and Elodie had no intention whatsoever of using her wand to light her path, firstly because it was almost the full moon, and secondly, because she’d be easier to find, and if either one of the men she was in love with found her right now, she would hex them.

She hadn’t even had the self-preservation to march off in a single direction, to her eternal regret! She’d tramped around in the thicket beside the forest where she went collecting herbs sometimes, had even taken off her shoes and hose to stomp in the stream for a while. After that, Elodie had no idea what direction she’d walked, and now she was walking beside a country road. 

She knew Muggles lived nearby, but she wasn’t sure she remembered how to act Muggle enough not to frighten them.

She also knew that the people they’d bought the house from lived somewhere within walking distance, but she had walked at least four times that by now.

At least one Muggle car had passed by (Elodie had cast a disillusionment charm on herself until it was out of sight), and she could hear the sound of another car engine approaching. There was something different about it, but she couldn’t put her finger on why. She turned to squint at the top of the hill, the farthest spot of road she could still see, and suddenly she realized what it was.

It was a motorcycle.

She felt a surge of gratitude which quickly soured into irritation. If Sirius rescued her, he was going to be completely insufferable for at least a week.

Maybe that will ease his frustration about being banished from his, you know, HOME? Elodie’s internal voice pointed out.

She sighed.

It would.

So, she didn’t cast anything on herself, she just waited by the side of the road like the proverbial damsel in distress, until Sirius rode up beside her.

“You’re still angry, I assume?” he asked her, his voice neither contrite nor angry itself.

“A little,” she allowed.

“Want a ride?”

She crossed her arms, sighed, and nodded.

Sirius got off of the bike and walked over. “Can I tell you something?”

“Unless it’s ‘I’m sorry for wrecking your shit,’ I’m not sure I--”

“You are incredibly hot when you’re wearing business clothes and angry, do you have any idea? If I wasn’t half mad with anger myself I would have gone and had a hot shower wank and been weak-kneed for the rest of the night!” he said, his voice rough and low and all kinds of naughty.

“Sirius Orion Black!” Elodie gasped. She felt herself blushing so fiercely she felt sure he could see it in the dim headlamp glow of his motorbike.

“Come home and sleep with me, please? I’ll even let you sleep, that’s how sorry I am,” he begged her.

“There is so much wrong with that statement I don’t even know where to begin!” she said, helplessly.

“Elodie, get on the bike, Remus says Moony is about to break through, anxious about where you are,” Sirius said, sounding more authoritative.

“Goddamnit, Sirius, you just screwed it all up!” Elodie groaned. “Now if I come with you, later on you’ll wonder if it was because of Remus! UGH!” She punched him on the shoulder as hard as she could, but before she could get off another shot, he’d caught both of her arms and pulled her close.

“You’re right, that was bloody stupid of me, I take it back, Moony can go fuck himself, come home?” he growled into her ear.

“Do you want me to faint so you can throw me over your saddlebags and ride home in triumph?” she whispered, blinking up at him innocently.

“Witch, you will be the death of me,” he said, pulling her close so she could feel how aroused he was.

Right before he lowered his head to kiss her, she couldn’t resist one final jibe. With wide, guileless eyes, she said, “Oh dear, that’s not going to hurt on the ride home, is it?”

“It is. You’re right.” Sirius abruptly let go of her and walked over to the bike. As she watched in surprise, he walked it off of the road and into a small gully that allowed drainage from the nearby field to travel under the road. Then, he took out his wand and cast a series of spells on it, hiding it from view and keeping it safe from interference.

Then, he marched over to her and without stopping at all, he leaned over and lifted her up over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Then, Sirius Apparated them right into their bedroom.

“Your bike!” she said in amazement.

“It’ll keep. You were right, that would have been a right awful ride home. I’d prefer another kind,” he said, wagging his eyebrows at her. “First, though: I am feeling… aggressive. It’s not to punish you, at least not negatively,” Sirius told her, his eyes warm and sparkling with sexual energy. “Let me know if that’s all right? If not, if you don’t mind, I’ll take a shower and get some of that sorted before I spend any time with you.”

He wasn’t even blushing, Elodie realized. His confidence and the way he was comfortable and unashamed about what he wanted was intimidating but very attractive.

“I trust you,” she said. It came out as a timid squeak, and he narrowed his eyes at her.

Elodie gathered up her courage.

“Sorry, let me try that again. Fuck me into the mattress?”

Sirius let his head drop back, his hair falling away from his face as he let out a deep, animalistic groan.

“Yes,” he said, looking right into her eyes and walking toward her. When he got close, he lifted his hands and speared them into her hair, taking her mouth in a rough, needy kiss. His hands were wound up in her hair, and she reached down to unbutton his jeans, sliding down the zip and scrabbling at the loosened waistband. Every so often she was so overwhelmed by his kisses that she slid her hands over his chest and across his back before trying to take his trousers off again.

“Fine! Impatient wench,” Sirius mumbled into her mouth. She thought he was going to push his trousers down for her, but instead, he grabbed his wand and cast a spell that rid them of their clothes completely!

“Sirius!” Elodie protested breathlessly, as he leaned over to lick her neck, his thumbs brushing unerringly at each nipple. “I liked that skirt!”

“So did I,” he husked. “It’s in your closet right now. I don’t think you’ll make it over there to check, though.”

With that, he pushed her back onto the bed and knelt, kissing her inner thigh, one hand tangled with hers.

“Come up here, the bed is softer,” she whispered, overcome by anticipation.

“You’re soft,” he said, kissing higher. “And warm,” higher, “--and wet, fuck yes,” he groaned when he got where he was going. He seemed to know exactly how to touch her, one gently firm hand on her stomach, the other sliding in and out of her in rhythm with his tongue. He moved faster with her gasps and moans until she was right at the edge. That was when the hand on her stomach angled down to rub her clit in counterpoint to the tip of his tongue and she shuddered and quaked, coming so hard she almost forgot how to breathe.

He pulled his hands away gently and crawled up on the bed, pulling her boneless body up beside him into the middle of the blankets and pillows.

“Was I mad at you once? I don’t remember anymore,” Elodie joked, turning on her side to kiss his chest.

“I wouldn’t use orgasms to change your mind-- well, I would, but I won’t,” Sirius said in a lazy, amused tone of voice.

“You didn’t change my mind on one of the most important things I said, you know,” Elodie said, climbing over on top of him to kiss more of his chest and neck.

“Merlin, I love the way your hair smells,” he groaned, burying a hand in it as she kissed the hollow of his neck. “What didn’t I change?” he asked.

Elodie arched up to whisper in his ear. “You haven’t fucked me into the mattress.”

Sirius flipped them over so fast she wasn’t certain he hadn’t used magic. He hovered over her, his grey eyes nearly black with desire. If his hands hadn’t already been at her wrists, pinning her to the bed, she would have felt pinned by simply the look in his eyes. It was predatory but joyful, pure Sirius, and she ached for him.

“Leave them like this, or I’ll use magic, agreed?” he told her, sliding her wrists above her head. She could tell this was his way of asking permission while maintaining the illusion of control and power over her. She nodded and bit her lip, earning her a bruising kiss. He nodded in approval when she kept her hands still even though she lifted her head to push against his lips as they’d kissed. He spread his large hands wide and slid them down from her neck, over her breasts, down to her thighs. He spread her legs for her, lifting them up and bending them to bracket his hips.

“I am not this man,” he murmured almost too quiet for her to hear. He sounded like he was struggling. “But fuck, Elodie. You’re mine. Say you’re mine?” He positioned himself over her and looked into her eyes.

“Yours,” she smiled.

“Mine,” he repeated, and thrust into her. He set a rough pace, and she welcomed it, squeezing him closer to her with her legs around him, squeezing him inside to hear the way it made him groan. It was hard to keep her hands still but she managed, lifting her head to chase his lips when he leaned his head close. 

Sirius had other ideas, though-- he latched onto her neck and sucked, swirling his tongue as he pistoned into her. It was an odd kind of pain, and she realized with a gasp that he was marking her. This was his contribution to the deception being perpetuated at Phoenix House. She would bear a love bite on her neck that would take days to fade, and if anyone from the Ministry saw it, they would see it as proof of her relationship with Remus. It was so Sirius of him, to rebel against the confines of the world around him and make his mark, his literal mark, where he could.

“Come for me, obey me,” he pleaded, and she did. Her arms trembled with the effort it took not to touch him, and she screamed out in pleasure instead, the words lost in his own shouts. His hips stuttered and he came, burying his head in her hair, his hands coming up to thread his fingers through hers.

Elodie stopped paying attention to anything for a few minutes after that, and when she came back to herself, he was beside her and was playing with her hair.

“I don’t have an ownership kink,” she lied. “That was just…”

“It was,” he rumbled. “That kind of pleasure just should not be allowed, it’s ruination.”

“You took directions well, and the mattress has somehow survived,” Elodie praised him. He chuckled, deep and dirty, into her ear. “I assume my neck has a large purple mark on it, now?” she asked.

“I’m not sorry,” he immediately said.

“You don’t have to be, I just… are you comfortable with the implications?” she said delicately.

“You mean,” he said, hitching himself up on an elbow to look down on her. “Am I comfortable with people making incorrect assumptions about how it got there? Yes. In fact, I am looking forward to that.”

“I knew you would, you bad man,” Elodie teased. “It’s clever. When I realized what you were doing I almost came right then.”

“Good to know,” he said, interested. Then, he yawned, and laughed again, ruefully. “Now, love, I am going to sleep the sleep of the deeply satisfied.”

“You earned it,” she said, and snuggled up against him.

It took longer than she thought it would to fall asleep. The complexity of her relationship with both men and the way Sirius had woven himself into the pretend marriage made her feel powerless in an odd way, but she liked it. She couldn’t help any of it, and instead was swept away in the wave of passion that was Sirius Black, desperate for his love and grateful for the ability to return it. It was frustrating to feel a lesser reflection of those feelings for Remus, because Sirius deserved all of her heart, Elodie thought. What she felt for Remus was every bit as strong, but without the physical grounding of a sexual relationship it seemed like those emotions were experienced as if through a veil, hazy and hard to hold onto.

That thought made her hold tighter to Sirius’s sleeping body. She needed to make a plan about that, Elodie knew. Plans to lock down the Floo, to cast Anti-Apparition wards all around the house, and to lock this brilliant and passionate man in and throw away the key, come June.

She wasn’t going to let him fall.

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Elodie hadn’t forgotten about hexing Remus.

She woke up in a tangle of naked limbs with Sirius, which was wonderful, although sticky. Sirius gave her a lovely morning kiss and gathered his things for a shower, stopping before he opened the bedroom door with an apologetic look on his face.

“Remus felt it best to have me lock him in the cage downstairs, last night,” he said. 

Elodie sat up in horror. What time was it? She didn’t want to stop to check; she got out of bed, throwing Sirius an angry look for waiting so long to tell her. Elodie grabbed clothes without really looking at them, pulling them on despite her need for a shower, too.

“He wanted me to tell you to open it in the morning, Elodie!” Sirius protested putting up his hands in a sign of surrender. “He told me Moony sees you as part of the pack, someone I’m responsible for, and I failed by letting you leave the house.”

Elodie took in a deep, furious breath. “I am a grown woman and I have every right--”

“Arguing with the wrong wizard, love,” Sirius said, leaving the room and shutting the door without letting her finish.

Elodie threw her shoe at the door. It made a satisfying thump, and she knew Sirius heard it, too, because she could hear him laughing from the hallway.

So, she threw the other one.

She hadn’t calmed down much by the time she hurried down the basement steps to let Remus out of the cage. They’d specifically spelled it to be impervious to him if it was locked by anyone else, under the assumption that if he allowed someone to lock him in or was forcibly locked in, it was for good reason. Elodie didn’t think that ‘Elodie is missing, Moony is upset about that’ sounded like a good enough reason, but she hadn’t been there to help decide.

When she came down, she saw that Remus wasn’t reacting to any of the sounds she made. She released the cage locks and walked around to where Remus was sitting faced away from the door. He was hunched over on the lone chair at the back of the cage, his head hanging down.

“Remus?” she said, kneeling down to try to get into his eyeline. He didn’t seem like he was asleep, more like he was meditating. She reached out a hand, trying to cast a shadow into his line of sight, and he started in surprise.

When he looked up at her, his eyes were edged with gold, and his surprise in seeing her kneeling was evident. She saw him reach down to hold onto the frame of the chair he sat on, his knuckles whitening with the strength of his grip.

“Sirius sent me down,” she said, then stopped when she realized he hadn’t cast anything to cancel the silencing charms.

Remus stood and reached for a high shelf, fiddling with something that she assumed made sure it was a human hand retrieving the wand. Then, he traced out a few Finites.

“Sirius sent me down. I had no idea you were here or I would have come down earlier,” she said in a rush, getting up from her knees in a decidedly ungraceful way. 

“Thank you,” Remus said. “So, you also had an argument with Sirius and walked out?” he asked, sounding a bit amused. He rolled his neck, rubbing certain spots with his fingers as he walked out of the cage.

“And got lost. Yep,” Elodie said, laughing. “I wasn’t just mad at him, you know. I’m pissed at you, too.”

Remus stopped his self neck massage and looked over at her in surprise. “Oh?” he said, clearly in information gathering mode.

“You didn’t have to tell him I helped you make the decision about spending his days at Grimmauld! I did nothing of the sort, and now he’s upset at me. I almost want to hit you, but I think instead I’ll challenge you to a duel,” Elodie said, taking her wand out and crossing her arms, wand pointed in his direction in the cradle of her arms.

“What!” He sounded flabbergasted.

“Duel me,” she challenged.

“Wait, let me catch up,” Remus said, holding his hands up in the same surrendering position Sirius had already used that morning. “You went and got yourself lost, after an argument with Sirius, and you blame me--”

“Wrong!” she interrupted cheerfully. “Try again.”

He shot her a cross look, and she tried very hard not to find it sexy. She failed. “All right,” he said. “I told Sirius about a decision I made that you agreed with after a conversation between the two of us. You wish that I hadn’t?”

“That’s close enough, I suppose. I don’t think you had to tell him. I’m irritated at you. I was irritated at Sirius, too, if it helps any.”

“Did you offer to duel him?” Remus asked.

Elodie stared at him and raised an eyebrow. It took all of her self-control not to say something snarky, like ‘I asked him to fuck me into the mattress. Something tells me you’re not up for that?’  

Remus took a step closer to her, and he must have caught something in the way she smelled. He lifted his head like he was sniffing, and then his ears turned red and he stared at her. Elodie blushed too, because she had been so concerned with getting Remus out of his self-imposed imprisonment that she hadn’t taken a quick shower or even used a cleansing charm to at least lose the traces of what she and Sirius had done the night before. The shirt she’d grabbed by pure chance happened to have a high, decorative neckline before plunging into a v-neck, and she could feel the brush of the fabric up against the love bite Sirius had left on her neck.

Cinematic universe, again. If she sought to hide it more thoroughly now, he’d notice.

Remus was still staring at her, his stance wide, one hand clenched into a fist at his side, his wand in the other. He cast a spell that she assumed masked his hyper-sensitive sense of smell. She could see the edge of gold in his eyes, and it was frightening and fascinating to her.

If Remus was like this with a single ‘missed’ dose, what must it have been like before the Wolfsbane!

“Duel me, Remus. Let’s get the frustration out of our systems? We might have to fight side by side, someday, and knowing how we fight should help, shouldn’t it?” she said in a soft voice.

Remus walked over to her. He closed his eyes and swallowed, hard, and when he opened his eyes, there was no trace of gold in his eyes. He nodded, then bowed stiffly. Elodie bowed to him, then as Remus turned, she turned. He counted out three paces, then turned.

“Protego!” Elodie cast, blocking his immediate Expelliarmus. In her next breath, she cast a stinging hex twice in a row, the second catching him on his leg. His surprised grunt made her third Protego miss, and she dodged in enough time to limit his attack to only locking her right knee.

Remus was much faster than Moody, but his spells were smaller and more irritating. He seemed to have a style of attrition, his mind quick and his casting efficient, where Moody’s spells were damaging and inexorable. Elodie lost her socks, her hair wrapped itself around her face, and she had to hobble because the leg-locking curse was persistent. Remus had dodged most of her spells and blocked almost all of the rest, but she could tell that the ones that stuck were pretty irritating.

His shirt sleeves had grown to impossible lengths, and Elodie was impressed by how fast he’d rolled one up and sliced off the other, but she had managed to soak him with a conjured water bucket before he’d cast a shield charm with his newly liberated wand. She couldn’t succeed in landing the freezing hex, and trying too many times let Remus in on her penchant for spell combos. He took to casting Protego twice in a row, and it threw her off balance enough that she tripped against the wall. A quick Expelliarmus later, and she was disarmed.

Remus caught her wand, smiling in magnanimous triumph. 

Elodie had practiced the freezing hex a lot, with Moody. Enough that she was able to cast a pale cousin of it without her wand.

When his hair froze against his face, Remus shook his head and laughed.

“I should have known you would never give up so easily,” he said. Then, he tossed both of their wands into the corner of the room. “Well?” he panted, out of breath but still ready to challenge her.

Elodie knew that Remus was an expert at wandless magic. She knew she would probably still lose, but this was impossible to ignore. With the wall at her back, she cast a number of mildly irritating charms, all of which Remus deflected easily. In frustration, Elodie threw her hands up and shot harmless lightning from her fingertips, but the way Remus’s eyes lit up told her she’d made a tactical mistake.

Seconds later, her arms were caught in a spell that bound them to the wall behind her.

Remus walked over, his hair dripping meltwater down his face. “Do you yield?”

“No,” Elodie said. She had been able to cast a shield charm localized around her chest, once. She might be able to--

“Elodie! You’re beaten. Admit it and I’ll give you your wand back,” Remus said.

“I can move my wrist, see?” Elodie showed him. The shirt she was wearing was hiked up, the collar bunched behind her with the way she was positioned. Elodie saw Remus notice the hickey, saw his eyes flare full gold and back to normal. Her breathing quickened, and she saw him notice the way it made her chest move. 

“If you can make me move from this spot, using just magic, I’ll declare you the winner,” Remus said in a low voice. He was standing a foot in front of her. She could shove him with her feet, but that would be cheating. She didn’t know anything wandless she could use against him, and he knew it.

“I don’t like to lose,” she admitted.

His eyes flared gold again. “Neither do I.” He reached out and brushed a finger across the bruise on her neck. His next move was to lurch away from her. The action made it clear to her that Remus was fighting Moony’s influence.

“You need to leave,” he said, his back to her.

“Does that mean I win?”

“Elodie!” Remus said, marching over to her and slamming one hand on either side of her. “Stop.”

She saw the outline of gold that ringed each pupil. As he looked at her, they grew, then took over entirely as he looked back down at the hickey on her neck.

“I will enjoy the chase, Ellie, until I make you ours,” Moony promised her. 

She shook her head at him in shock, horrified at how upset Remus must be at the intrusion. A second later, Remus regained control and pushed off of the wall, stalking over to the corner with their wands. He picked them up and wordlessly held out hers.

“I will not become a monster that destroys the happiness of the people around me,” he said quietly, as if to himself.

“I’ll go,” Elodie whispered. She cast a wandless summoning spell to retrieve her wand, and Remus looked up at her, respect and gratitude in his eyes.

“You’ll need to stay away this cycle. Maybe every one. I don’t know.” He raked his fingers through his hair, leaving it in disarray. “He’s confused by the physical deception. I’m sorry,” he said. His tone was so full of despair that Elodie’s eyes filled with tears. She mouthed a silent apology and he held up a hand, shut his eyes for a second, and then added, his eyes still shut, “It’s quite possible this would have happened even if you never spoke to him in person. Don’t blame yourself, please.”

“Remus, you are--” she started to say, pouring forgiveness and affection and reassurance into her tone.

“Don’t,” he said loudly. Then, quieter, “Not now. Please.”

“It kills me to just--”

“I know, Ellie,” he said. The same level of affection and grace was evident in his tone, and it hit her like a caress. “Just go,” he whispered, and she went.

At the top of the stairs, she turned and rested her forehead on the wood. In that moment, all she wanted to do in the whole world was make things right for Remus. Yet, in that moment, she was the last person who could.

She was, it seemed, the very person causing him the most distress. What should she do? What could she do?

“Heard you two dueling,” Sirius said, walking in like her world hadn’t just been set on its side, spilling the oceans out into the deserts and destroying all life as she knew it. “Who won?”

“I have no idea,” she said.

There was only one thing she knew of that benefited from the surplus of emotions she was plagued with right now.

She started gathering the ingredients for Gâteaufidél.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven: Deception on Display

 

Harry stayed a few days at the Burrow, and the members of Phoenix House were invited over for dinner on the full moon, which was the sixteenth of August. Elodie contrived to have herself invited to stay the night there (Well, we don’t want to confuse his werewolf self so soon after he’s had to pretend I’m his wife, I’m sure you understand?).

It was almost their agreed-on bedtime for Harry when Elodie realized something. Since Remus didn’t know that the cookies he loved so much were Gâteaufidél, he might conceivably seek to share them with Harry, since she’d made them only a few days before, while Harry was away at the Burrow. If Elodie didn’t stop Remus, he might discover the truth about them on a day he had asked Elodie to stay away from him. Moony’s attachment to her was worrisome to Remus as it was, but if he were to find out that she provably loved Remus before she and Sirius had started a relationship, he might think of that as a prior claim.

There was no way Elodie was having that conversation in a Firecall, so she Apparated home into her bedroom, hoping that she wouldn’t freak out her family too much.

Then, Elodie realized that she’d thought of Sirius, Remus, and Harry as her family.

Sirius came to find her; he must have heard the ‘pop’ of Apparition coming from the bedroom. When he walked in, Elodie was sitting on the bed, wiping her eyes with a corner of their oversized bedspread.

“What happened?” he said, coming over to her.

“Nothing! I just realized you’re my family, and I started to cry like a little girl,” Elodie said, resentfully.

Sirius started to laugh and folded her into a huge hug. “You are brilliant, you know that?”

“Not brilliant enough to realize that Remus might accidentally offer Harry Gâteaufidél,” she sniffed into his chest.

“But you did, you’re here to stop it, aren’t you?” he pointed out. “Wait here.”

Sirius ran for the door, and she wanted to shout after him that he’d just draw more attention by rushing, but she didn’t want to draw the attention that yelling (and her presence in the house!) would, so she conjured a handkerchief to blow her nose on and Vanished it when she was finished.

“Hidden with a Notice Me Not charm,” Sirius reported, a few minutes later.

“You are the one who is brilliant,” she told him. “You can conjure up an Elodie pillow, if you miss me, you know. That’s what I did, months ago.”

“Before you even knew you were mine,” Sirius said, nodding. “I remember you telling me.”

“Quit trying to turn me on, I have to go back and learn how to magically fold sheets!” Elodie protested. She kissed him and thanked him again before Apparating back to the Burrow.

“One catastrophe averted!” she told herself.

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A week later, Elodie was on five catastrophes averted, though the definition of ‘catastrophe’ was a subject to be debated.

Harry and Sirius had been convinced for days that a Muggle had sighted them on Buckbeak, and Remus had lectured both of them about the fact that Ministry keeps tabs on local newspapers and follows up with the local magical population should a Muggle write in about a UFO or other supernatural activity.

They got two different owls from the Ministry with questions about their house and provisions for Harry, both of which implied imminent visits which disrupted everyone’s sense of peace and sent Sirius packing to Grimmauld for most of the day.

The worst (but least impactful) catastrophe was the day Remus left a few Gâteaufidél cookies on a plate and Harry found them. Elodie had been the only one home, so she explained that they were trick cookies that Sirius had left out for him, and the best way to thwart Sirius was to never speak of them again.

She had been rather proud of herself for that one.

By the thirtieth of August, Remus and Elodie had given up trying to be around at Phoenix House as ‘bait’ for the Ministry, which seemed content to send them letters at odd intervals asking bizarre things like how much milk Harry liked with his breakfast. They both felt that they shouldn’t become complacent, however. 

Order Headquarters had begun to be treated as somewhat of a social gathering place, so all of them were there when the owls came to announce the chosen Prefects for Gryffindor that year. Ron and Hermione were very pleased with their Prefect badges, though they tried to be subdued so as not to hurt Harry’s feelings when they saw he had not gotten one.

Harry was hurt. She could tell. Elodie let Remus be the one to pull Harry aside and talk to him, since she had never attended Hogwarts. Remus told Harry about how being a target can sometimes mean that adults make different decisions than they would have otherwise. She wished Charlie was around, because he had a great outlook on not being made Head Boy when his brothers had been.

Albus Flooed in after lunch, and he looked harried. She had already stood up and was in the middle of walking over to greet him when he gestured for her to follow him. He went into the small library, now their unofficial private meeting space, holding the door for her and casting a series of wards on it after it had closed.

“I feel like I should be offering you a lemon drop,” Elodie said sympathetically.

“Yes, Minerva described me as ‘windswept’ this morning,” he said. “I must ask you, Elodie: were you the anonymous writer who urged me this past July not to hire Dolores Umbridge as the next Defense Against the Dark Arts professor?”

Elodie made a face. “Yes,” she said, but before she could elaborate, Albus nodded decisively and settled into the desk chair.

“I thought as much. Truth be told, I ignored your letter. It was outlandish, the idea that I would ever choose to hire that woman.”

“Something happened, didn’t it?” Elodie guessed. In truth, she knew what he had to be upset over, but she wished she was wrong.

“It has. It all goes back to my original plan, you see. I wanted Bill Weasley for DADA this year. He has a contract with the goblins for curse-breaking until early December, and, well! That was that, as they say.” He straightened his arms out and then folded his hands in front of him at the desk. With a whispered, wandless spell, Albus adjusted his half-moon spectacles back up his nose. “Fingerprints are a bane, on these.” he explained, gesturing to them. “So I spoke with the goblins, and that got nowhere. They were most put out after the incident with the philosopher’s stone. No favors left, they told me. In the end, I’d decided that I could teach the class myself for a few months, get a good idea of how far along each year of students are versus where they should be.”

“That’s a sound plan,” Elodie said.

“Not according to the Ministry.” Albus frowned. “They’ve passed a new ordinance allowing them to choose professors if they dislike the way I’ve filled the position. So Professor Dolores Umbridge shall be teaching Defense this coming year, whether I protest the appointment or not.”

“Oh, no! I assume if there was something to be done, you’d have done it by now?” she dangled, hoping against hope that he had some kind of a plan.

“That’s why I wanted to talk to you. I assume you had a vision?” Albus looked to her with only a fraction of the hope Leia Organa had in Ben Kenobi, but it still felt weighty to her. It seemed that Albus’s plan was Elodie.

“Yes. I saw Harry leaving a detention with her, and he was holding his hand to his chest in pain. There was blood. I-- I was hoping I was wrong. That I’d just… imagined some awful scenario that couldn’t possibly come true,” she lied.

Elodie had agonized about sending the letter. In the end, she’d sent it anonymously, feeling that she couldn’t call on ‘visions’ every time something she didn’t like was about to happen. Umbridge teaching at Hogwarts felt inevitable, a symptom of the disease that was Voldemort. So, she’d sent the letter, and focused on contingency plans in case it didn’t work.

She hadn’t been Harry’s guardian, at the time. In retrospect, Elodie wished she’d slept outside of Albus’s office for a week to make her point.

“You’re sure it was her?” Albus asked.

“Certain. And I’ve seen it multiple times, enough to have spent time thinking about what to do should my letter not be enough,” Elodie said wryly. Albus motioned for her to continue. “I’ve been rereading certain chapters of Hogwarts, A History and one part in particular jumped out to me. There’s a section about the dedication and devotion to students that each successive Mediwitch in charge of the Hospital Wing has shown. Mentioned in it is a spell that isn’t named. It is a kind of ward that will notify its caster that the recipient is in pain or bleeding. The book states that certain accident-prone students were looked after in this way.”

“So you’re suggesting we catch her in the act of whatever bloody punishments she will mete out?” Albus asked her. “That has potential, but I fear that we must tread carefully. If you or I or even Remus were to be the genesis of such a spell, I am not so certain we would be believed.” He sat back in the chair and stroked his beard. “Tradition seems to be in order, here. Would you be willing to visit Madame Pomfrey tomorrow, perhaps during the time between when the Hogwarts Express leaves the station and the students arrive in the evening? You and Remus could request her assistance as a couple.”

“Attribute the request to… what? Bullying?” she asked. “I love the idea, I’m just thinking it would have more credibility if we didn’t come right out and state that we expect him to be physically assaulted by a member of the staff!”

“Quite so. Yes, his nature as a minor celebrity and the rancor the students have over the loss of Mr. Diggory seem like solid concerns to me,” Albus agreed. “Can I tell her to expect the two of you sometime tomorrow, then? You will, of course, purport to be married, something Poppy will likely be delighted about. She felt quite affectionate toward Remus during his days there.”

Elodie nodded stiffly. There was something far more awful about lying to people who cared about the two of them like Horace or Madame Pomfrey. Lying to the Ministry felt like getting some of their own back, at least to Elodie.

Albus must have sensed her discomfort. “Elodie, I haven’t said this to you because I respect your privacy, but, I feel now might be the right time to ask you about the day you showed up in my office with a certain recognizable baked item?”

Elodie scrunched up her face in amused regret, but nodded without explaining her side of that day’s events. She wasn’t going to give anything away for free, not today.

“I suspected at that moment that something extraordinary might have happened, and when a few weeks later it became clear that you were involved with Sirius, and not Remus…” 

Albus left off, clearly hoping she would rescue him, but Elodie had precious few chances to have one up on the headmaster of Hogwarts, so she smiled broadly.

“Go on?” she prompted. His eyes brightened with a grudging respect.

“I see you are pressing your advantage, young lady,” he said.

“I so rarely have one, do you blame me?”

“Can they both touch it, then?” he asked bluntly. She nodded. “That is rather extraordinary, you know,” Albus said, but he looked unsurprised. “If you’ll forgive me, that was part of my internal reasoning when looking for a suitable guardian pair. Your misfortune is definitely in Harry’s best interest, I’m sorry to say.”

“I’m not--” Elodie stopped herself, took a deep breath, and spoke more calmly. “I don’t mind as much, anymore. It’s human nature to get used to things, after all. I had hoped to persuade my heart to give up on Remus, but the guardianship makes that… difficult. Sirius deserves--”

“Let me stop you there, Elodie.” Albus leaned forward in his chair to fix her with a direct, but affectionate gaze. “You are a kind person who seems to always seek to improve the lives of the people around you. In so doing you may sometimes forget how much you’ve already done. I am ashamed to say that I hadn’t given much thought to where Sirius would be safest, after looking for a place for Remus to convalesce. Without you, both of them would be in far worse circumstances, I am sure.”

“Well, thank you,” Elodie said awkwardly. A thought struck her that had her sitting down on the nearest flat surface. “Does everyone else-- I mean, do you think people are questioning my… I don’t even know how to describe what I’m trying to ask, honestly,” she said, distressed.

Albus stood up and walked over to her. “No one who has seen you and Sirius interact could have any doubt about your mutual feelings. Remus holds himself apart for multiple reasons, some of which I disagree with, but he is naturally less demonstrative. It’s clear that you respect this, and so the way you and Remus interact is quite different, if that’s what you are asking. It’s obvious that the two of you have great respect for each other, the levels of which could be compared with Sirius and Remus, or perhaps even Minerva and myself.”

Elodie couldn’t tell him that this helped only slightly. After all, Sirius/Remus was one of the most popular fanfiction couples of the entire book series, and Minerva/Albus wasn’t devoid of fans. Still, he meant well, and she trusted that he would tell her if he thought she looked like she mooned over Remus when no one was looking. 

“Thank you, Albus,” she said, hoping the sincerity in her voice was evident to him. He smiled at her in a very kindly way, but his next words threw her for a loop.

“It would do the two of you good, in light of what I just said, to perhaps be seen in public this evening, looking like a happy couple. If the papers have no other way to snap a candid picture of Harry Potter’s new guardians, they may seek more invasive ways to go about it.”

“But, you just said--”

“That was about your behavior around the rest of the Order, Elodie. In public, you and Remus must foster a different impression, I’m afraid.”

Elodie stared at Albus. He really was good at manipulating other people while at the same time simply appearing like a kindly, meddlesome old man. “We could give Sirius some alone time with Harry and go buy him some Quidditch supplies at Diagon Alley?” she suggested in a dazed sort of voice.

“That’s perfect. Run along and warn Remus, would you? And send Sirius in? I need to give him some details about the magical parameters of guardianship while Harry is at Hogwarts. There are some spells we need to cast together, ones that biological parents and guardians aren’t required to perform.”

Elodie turned to leave, but Albus stopped her by touching her arm. In an unexpected move, he leaned over and kissed her cheek, and she moved quickly to kiss his cheek before he pulled back. He chuckled and she left feeling as if she had gotten at least some of her own back. 

Remus and Sirius were in Sirius’s old bedroom. Elodie knocked on the doorframe to get their attention, then walked in.

“Wow, you’ve done a lot in here!” she said. There was no dust to be seen anywhere, the bed was neatly made, and while it was still cluttered with furniture and random things like a Beater’s bat, the room looked clean. The posters of half-naked Muggle women were still on the walls, however.

“Not quite enough, judging by the look on your face!” Sirius said, coming over to her. He put his arms around her as if to waltz, and then dipped her deeply, giving her a thorough kiss. “So: why did you really come by, love?”

“Albus says there are certain spells you and he need to cast so that the guardian magic recognizes Harry’s allowed to attend Hogwarts. He says they’re different if you’re not blood relatives,” she told him. “He’s downstairs in the library.”

“I’m off, then,” Sirius said, squeezing her hand and walking to the door.

“Wait-- would you like an evening with Harry, just the two of you?” Elodie asked. Remus walked over, perceptive enough to guess that this meant he was going to be given an assignment of his own.

“Always,” Sirius answered without pausing to think about it.

“Albus suggested Remus and I make ourselves visible to prevent nosy reporter visits,” she said. “Has Harry hinted to you about anything he needs for school?”

“Gloves for Quidditch,” Sirius answered after a minute of thinking. “Go somewhere nice for dinner. I’ll transfer some funds over.”

Before either of them could object, Sirius Apparated out of the room instead of walking.

“You were thinking Diagon?” Remus said after muttering something derisively affectionate about Sirius under his breath. 

“Yeah. Albus pointed out that if we’re hard to find, they’ll just track us down at home, rather than wait for us to appear somewhere easily photographable,” she said by way of apology. 

“That makes sense. I shouldn’t have much objection to the lack of warning, since if someone did pop by the house, I would have none,” Remus said. He looked down at himself. “There are two hours until dinner. Should we go now, then head back to change before finding somewhere suitably ‘fancy’ to satisfy our housemate?”

Elodie looked down at herself. She’d chosen one of the long 90’s skirts from her collection in a solid color that matched her embroidered blouse.

“You look pretty, we should just go,” Remus said. “Any nicer and we’ll look too mis-matched as a couple to be believed,” he added, touching his wand to his frayed hem to repair it.

“Love knows no station, Remus, you know that. But, I know what you mean. You are sufficiently handsome to match, in my opinion.” She tried to say it matter-of-factly enough to not trigger his automatic rejection of compliments. He shot her a bit of a cross look that told her he knew that’s what she had been doing.

“If you knew how much I love when you look cross, you probably never would,” Elodie blurted out.

“What!” Remus said, bemused. “Surely not. It must be your frustrating ability to defend yourself against all criticism; you’re convincing yourself it’s attractive, instead. If you really loved it you’d be making me cross constantly.” He said the last word as he leaned over toward her, his hands in his pockets, and his face lit up in amusement.

If she didn’t know better she would have thought he was flirting with her!

“Hmph,” was all she said in response. “Let’s go buy our son some sports supplies,” she said, hoping he would look cross at her choice of phrasing. Instead, he looked a bit taken aback.

“Our son,” he mused. “That is definitely something I’ll have to get used to.”

Elodie should have said, ‘it’s all fake, anyway.’ She didn’t, though.

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Elodie spun out of the Floo at the Leaky Cauldron with a bit more grace than her first time, but not much. She managed to compose herself before Remus arrived, at least.

As they left the building, Remus reached down and grasped her hand with his, the action surprising enough that her pulse leapt at his touch and she sucked in a breath. All of a sudden, her anxiety level skyrocketed. They hadn’t talked about this! How were the two of them going to pretend to be in love and happily married if they didn’t coordinate in some way? It was going to be obvious to everyone that--

“Ellie,” Remus whispered, stopping her and pulling their joined hands up to his lips. He kissed her hand, and whispered to her, obscured by their hands. “Breathe. You are naturally loving. It won’t take much. I am naturally shy. The fact that I’m not pushing you away will be proof enough. So breathe, dear friend. Breathe.”

“Oh, Remus, I’m sorry, I’m a wreck,” she said aloud, leaning over and resting her forehead on his chest. He chuckled, and she felt him shake with it. He kissed the top of her head, and they started walking again.

“Your anxiety attack was probably more persuasive than anything pre-planned, ironically enough,” he said, squeezing their still-joined hands.

They stopped at the bookshop before the Quidditch supply store. Elodie was, as always, delighted that weight-lightening spells existed. When she’d handed him the fifth book she intended to buy, Remus made a mild comment about bookshelf space in their house, and Elodie quipped back about replacing him with an entirely new bookcase, since he seemed to be so expert at holding them.

Behind her, Elodie heard a woman say something about Harry Potter to her companion. Both of them stared at her, and Elodie re-shelved the book she’d been thinking about buying and went to tell Remus they were finished. He had added two books of his own, and they each tried to pay for all seven, holding out the coins to the flustered clerk.

“Excuse me?” Elodie turned to see the woman she’d seen earlier. “I’m so sorry to disturb you, but I saw your picture in the newspaper, I’m sure it was you! Are you the one who took in Harry Potter? You and your husband?”

“Oh!” Elodie said. “Yes. And, drat, one second--” she turned to see Remus looking smug, being handed back change. “That shouldn’t count, I was distracted!”

“You can buy them next time,” he said, grinning.

“I’m sorry to be rude,” Elodie said to the woman. “I was trying to pay for our books.”

“It’s good to read a lot around children. They spend too much time in the air on their brooms, these days! I just wanted to say that I’m pleased that Harry is living with magic folk, now, and to wish you well.”

“Oh, well, thank you,” Elodie said, unsure of how to react.

“Edmund is Muggle-born, you see.” The woman gestured to the man standing beside her. “You-Know-Who killed his parents when he was at Hogwarts, before he was defeated. There were rumors they were going to kill his sister; she got custody of him. But he was defeated a month later. Saved Edmund’s life, Harry did. I’ll always be grateful!” The woman had tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry to hear that, thank you,” Remus said solemnly. 

“You were ahead of me, I think. Hufflepuff,” the man said. “You four were something else!”

“Edmund O’Flaherty?” Remus guessed.

“That’s it! Good of you to remember. My daughter’s on the Hufflepuff school team. She’s mentioned how good Harry is at dodging her,” the man said proudly.

“He was born to fly,” Remus said, nodding. “We’re off to the supply shop. Very nice to see you again.”

The four of them exchanged respectful head nods and Elodie and Remus left the shop.

“That wasn’t so bad,” she observed. “I love that you recognized him!”

“Yes, well, he was a bit more memorable than some of his classmates.” Remus ran a hand through his hair. “I caught him smoking quite often. Most magical children avoid cigarettes.”

In the Quidditch shop, there was a commotion at the back of the store. Elodie could hear the sound of a very imperious young person, ordering the staff about.

“--must have new robes as Prefect! No, not that one!”

“Something tells me that is not a Hufflepuff student,” Elodie whispered to Remus. He laughed. 

They took quite a while in the shop; Elodie was loathe to rush Remus through the store, as he enjoyed looking at all of the new inventions since he’d been able to care about the sport. By the time they had finished buying Harry a new pair of gloves and gotten a few other things like a new broom repair kit, almost an hour had passed.

They had another thirty minutes or so before they ought to start thinking about dinner, and Elodie suggested window shopping and a walk before they Apparated back home. Remus agreed, but he seemed distracted.

Five minutes later, he touched her arm to get her attention.

“A former student seems to be tailing us,” he said. “His father was a Death Eater, and Harry has often clashed with him at school. I anticipate trouble.”

“Thanks for telling me,” Elodie said. She lifted up on her tiptoes and kissed Remus on his cheek, giving herself a view of the street behind him.

Draco Malfoy was conspicuously looking into the window of a quill shop. Elodie burst out laughing, dropping back down and covering her mouth with a hand.

“What?”

“He’s pretending to look at quills. Which I’m sure he is absolutely interested in,” Elodie said. “Should we give him a tour of the most boring shops in the Alley?”

“Let’s,” Remus said, grinning.

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Elodie stared at her wardrobe in complete and utter despair.

Should she wear a sexy dress? Did she own a sexy dress? It wasn’t near full moon week, but would something like that cause Remus trouble when it came full again? She groaned.

The restaurant they’d decided on was a well-known one on Diagon. Apparently, given how easy Apparition and Floo travel was, and the fact that telephones weren’t a thing, restaurants that took reservations expected witches and wizards to drop by in person to reserve a table. This one was known for mediterranean cuisine and required heels, skirts, and suits as a dress code. Remus told her that it had only started allowing reservations from non-Purebloods twenty years before.

Given the way the man they spoke to looked at her long skirt, she knew that trying to wear something similar when they came back was out of the question. That took most of her skirts out of the running.

“Calm down, it’s not as if you can’t just modify something you already own! They probably don’t have detection wards up for that… or do they?” she said out loud.

It would be a snooty restaurant thing to do, though, Elodie realized. She was going to have to find something to wear that she already owned instead of altering something.

At least with a wand, Elodie would be able to zip her own dress up and clasp her own jewelry. So the gods of the cinematic universe could go fuck themselves.

Cinematic universe, hmm, she thought to herself.

Elodie dug her hand back into the deep recesses of the wardrobe. Her clothes had all been moved into this space by Sirius when she was in St. Mungo’s. Since then, she’d found a few articles that she didn’t recognize, things that she assumed Sirius had bought at some Muggle second-hand clothes shop while under his magical disguise. Would he have ever bothered to buy her a dress, though?

And if he had, it surely wouldn’t be appropriate for a fancy restaurant! That was not the sort of place Sirius Black would ever want to be caught in, especially not the kind that would have admitted him with zero issues back in the 70’s when they only accepted Purebloods.

Elodie’s hand caught on something that felt like velvet. As far as she knew, she didn’t own anything velvet, even though it was the 1990’s, and velvet was definitely A Thing. Carefully, Elodie pulled the object free of the clothes around it until she pulled it free. 

It was a velvet dress with a fitted bodice and a short skirt, a cocktail dress, fancy enough for the restaurant they were planning on going to. The sleeves were sheer gauze fabric the same color as the dress, but the color seemed to be odd. It looked like it was f lickering, as if the dress had been created one color and spelled imperfectly to another. Elodie cast a spell she’d learned from the first magical book she’d ever read, the one from Mellie’s closet the day she’d arrived in this universe. It restored a piece of clothing to its original configuration, but it wouldn’t work if the piece had been messed with too much, magically.

After the spell, the true beauty of the dress was evident. It was a gorgeous emerald green, and Elodie loved it. She suspected that Sirius had indeed bought it for her, hated the green, and spelled it crimson, months ago. Elodie didn’t have any personal grudge against Slytherin green, even if her boyfriend did, but there was one thing she was worried about.

Would Sirius be upset if she wore this dress for Remus?

It wasn’t really for Remus, though. It was really for Harry, when you got right down to it. And Elodie wanted to wear this dress. It seemed like it had been designed for her, and given the way this universe worked, it might well have been.

There was a knock on the door.

“Elodie, I promise, you will look beautiful no matter what you wear, but Karavas Majicka will give away our table if we’re not there in five minutes,” Remus called out.

Elodie was still in her underwear, her hair undone, with no makeup on.

“No worries!” she answered gaily.

“You don’t fool me, Ellie. Just get dressed, all right?”

Elodie stuck her tongue out at the door, and started putting on the gorgeous dress Sirius had bought for her. She shoved down the pangs of guilt by reminding herself that Sirius’s primary goal was always Harry’s welfare, and if Harry’s new guardians were seen at a restaurant at Diagon, that was probably a good thing.

The sparkly book that Elodie had once transfigured into Pride and Prejudice had ‘to-go’ hairdos and makeup spells, and Elodie opened the door fully dressed, shoes and all, four minutes and twelve seconds after Remus had told her she wasn’t fooling him.

She walked right past him and toward the Floo, but when she got there, she was surprised to see he hadn’t followed her.

“Remus?” she called out, looking toward the hallway.

“Coming,” he said a few seconds later.

Elodie bit her lip when Remus walked into view. He was wearing an actual suit, and it fit him very well-- it almost looked tailored. His tie was white, but when he walked up to her, he tapped his wand on her shoulder, then onto his tie, and it magically changed color to match her dress.

“You look very handsome in that suit,” Elodie said.

“Yes, it’s tailored. The newspaper paid for it,” Remus said, answering her unasked question.

“I didn’t say anything!” she protested.

He finally turned to look at her. “You were thinking it.”

“Unfair to use your knowledge of me to your advantage,” she said, and stepped into the Floo.

“Unfair, but exactly what your husband would do,” he whispered in her ear on the other side a second later.

“True,” she agreed.

They made it to the restaurant a minute late, but the approving look in the eye of the maitre d made Elodie feel better. Their table was near the window, and Elodie raised an eyebrow at Remus, but he shook his head. When they’d been left with their menus, he told her he hadn’t asked for that particular spot.

“You have to admit it’s got its own charm, even if it isn’t in a secluded corner,” Elodie said, gesturing to the view of witches and wizards walking past in various kinds of clothing, all enjoying the warm summer weather. “I wasn’t trying to be rude about your suit,” she added, hiding behind her menu.

“I’m self-conscious about it. I would much rather have had the money to spend on an entire wardrobe, truth be told.”

“Well, you look fantastic,” Elodie said, grinning behind her menu. He couldn’t chastise her with his facial expressions if she couldn’t see them.

“And you look gorgeous,” he said in a low, quiet voice. Elodie felt like she might just wake up in New England the next morning, with all her dreams fulfilled.  She had newer, better dreams, now, but holy shit had Elodie always wanted to be told that by Remus Lupin, dating back to nearly the first moment that she’d read about him.

Elodie lowered her menu.

Remus’s menu was laid in front of him, and he was reading it with the studiousness Elodie would expect from Hermione Granger.

“Thank you,” she said, not sure if she was grateful or not grateful that he wouldn’t look at her.

They sat in silence until they ordered, and Elodie felt the uncomfortable tension building between them until she excused herself to go to the restroom. In the stall, instead of using the toilet, Elodie rested her head on the wall and tried to decide if she wanted to burst into tears or shake herself all over. What was wrong with them all of a sudden? They were the same people! They were just wearing pretty clothes!

She wondered if it had to do with the expectations weighing on them. They were under a lot of pressure, after all, and neither of them liked to pretend they were fancy people. Maybe they just needed to cut the tension.

Elodie did not cry, but she did splash some water on her face to try to cool down the permanent blush she seemed to be wearing. Her dress made her feel like she was on display, and she felt like she was enjoying Remus’s compliments a little too much. His suit was not helping, either.

This is getting away from me, she realized. Is there an anti-love potion? Would I be principled enough to take it?

Elodie walked back to the table and when Remus noticed her, he stood up. She smiled apologetically, and he pulled her seat out for her. When she sat down, he leaned over and kissed her lightly. She hadn’t been prepared, hadn’t guarded her heart or her body against him, and she reached up and tangled her hand in his tie, keeping his mouth on hers for a bit longer. When he pulled back, he touched her face, his thumb brushing her cheek before he went to sit down.

Elodie opened her mouth to say something, not that she was sure what it would be, but Remus reached out his hand to touch hers where it rested on the table.

“Don’t, we needed to cut the tension,” he said, his lips twisting into a wry smile. “It was starting to look like we were on a blind date, I think.”

“A little,” she said, granting him a small smile. Change the subject! she told herself worriedly, but Remus was ahead of her.

“I figured out what was wrong,” he said.

“Oh?”

“You hid your scars.”

“Oh, that,” she said, laughing uneasily. “I didn’t want to, but I didn’t really have time to figure out whether they would look okay with the dress. You know, because it’s obvious what they are. Scars from a mistake.”

“I think they would have been fine, but it’s your choice,” he said. He tipped his head to the side, clearly curious about something. “Are you ashamed of them?”

“Not really,” she said, quickly. “I only think of them that way when I imagine someone I don’t trust looking at them, I suppose. Or when I worry that someone will think I haven’t hidden them because I’m too stupid to understand I ought to, or too weak a witch to be able to.”

He looked like he didn’t like her answer, but then said, “Those are logical points. I might be too biased to be impartial, though. They’re a part of you, and you don’t seem quite you without them.”

“Is there a spell that hides things like that from strangers, but not loved ones?” Elodie wondered. 

Their food arrived, and the two of them were distracted for the next few minutes, long enough that Elodie had almost forgotten what she’d asked.

“There is, but those spells are almost always for spouses,” Remus said, almost too quietly to be heard.

Elodie looked around at the waitstaff hovering at nearby tables, fearful of being overheard. Remus must have seen her expression, because he shook his head decisively.

“Have you ever eaten at a magical restaurant like this before?” he asked her. She shook her head. “Look at the candle in the center of the table, then look at neighboring ones.”

She looked at their candle, which had a cheerful golden glow. When she looked around the room, she saw a pattern, however. The candles at tables with a member of the staff standing beside them were glowing red.

“Automatic Muffliato. The presence of a particular spell cast on the employees cause the candle to change in color, and dampen the Muffliato. I also cast an amplifier, just in case their spellwork is lacking,” Remus explained. “It may take the waiter a few seconds to break through, so don’t be surprised if you can’t hear them right away, and vice versa. Less expensive restaurants use less fancy conventions, but they’re all the same idea.”

“Thank you for explaining,” Elodie said. She felt, as ever, delighted and overwhelmed by the complexity of the magic that underpinned the world she loved so much. It wouldn’t have been relevant, of course, but she was sad that more of it didn’t work its way into the books.

“I didn’t mean to derail your thought, though. Just reassure you that our conversation is private,” Remus told her.

“I was just going to say that I suppose I ought to read more about magical marriage, or I’m bound to put my foot in it,” she said, making a face. “And considering I’m meant to be planning one, it would at least be in character.”

Remus looked like he was about to make a joke, but stopped himself. He looked down at his plate and Elodie waited to change the subject, just in case he changed his mind. When he did speak, though, his expression was serious. 

“If you don’t mind my asking, you looked upset when you came to find Sirius. What did Albus say to you?”

“Oh, shit, I forgot to tell you!” Elodie said, dropping the falafel she’d been about to bite into. She told Remus about the way the Ministry interfered in Albus’s hiring decision, and how he’d suggested the two of them go to Madame Pomfrey and request her help with a ward to let them know if Harry was hurt. “He asked if we would go to see her tomorrow. I haven’t given you much warning, I’m sorry!”

He reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “It’s fine. Fifteen hours is more warning than fifteen minutes. It’s a good plan.”

“You’re sure?” she asked.

“I’m sure. Though, are there any other visions I ought to know about, now that we’re on the subject? Have there been any about me?” he asked, his tone light, the kind of teasing someone makes when they don’t expect a serious answer.

She looked down at her plate, taking her fork and slowly moving the puddle of hummus away from another food she didn’t want it to touch.

“Elodie? Have you?” Remus asked again, the teasing tone gone entirely. “Have you had a vision of Padfoot?”

Elodie closed her eyes. What kind of a woman was she in this moment, hating the thought of Remus standing next to a glowingly happy Nymphadora Tonks at the altar almost as much as Sirius falling through the Veil? She was a piece of shit in that moment, she felt. And Remus still wanted an answer.

She reached for her glass of wine, but when she went to pick it up, it was stuck fast to the table. Elodie looked up at Remus in alarm, and saw that he was setting his wand back down beside his plate.

“What have you Seen, Elodie?” he asked her, a thread of anger in his voice now. She knew it was because she had ignored him, but it hurt, because she didn’t know an answer that didn’t sound like she was speaking in riddles. No matter what she said, she was going to make him upset. He was clever to force her to look at him by meddling with the wine glass, but somehow that made it worse. He was too clever, and she didn’t want to deceive him.

Elodie took a deep breath to calm her nerves and prevent herself from speaking impulsively.

“Forgive me, Remus. I don’t… the way my mind works isn’t very organized, you see. And what I’ve seen, or perhaps better that I capitalize it as Seen--” and Elodie emphasized the word to denote the difference, --are snippets of events without much context. The ones that are easiest remembered are dramatic, but it’s possible I’ve Seen things that I’ve dismissed as irrelevant. I don’t have a, a file folder in my mind of them, is what I’m trying to say.”

I don’t have a digital copy of the books, either, though I sure as hell wish I did, sometimes, she thought to herself. Not that I’d have any way to charge the device I could read them on!

He smiled in a self-deprecating way. “Yet, I know you, Ellie, and something tells me that things you’ve Seen about Molly Weasley aren’t in the same league as what you’ve Seen about the people you live with, hmm?”

“Fair enough,” she said.

“Your reaction was far more telling than you’d have wanted it to be, I think,” he said, taking a long drink from his wine glass. She reached for hers, lifting her eyebrows to ask if he’d released it. He nodded, and she started to drink, swallowing once, twice, until Remus cleared his throat, but she didn’t stop, and soon the entire full glass was gone. “Elodie, this is hardly--”

“Yes, I have,” she answered, ruthlessly suppressing the burp that threatened to mar her already embarrassing display further. The wine was potent, and she felt a lightness in her veins that wasn’t unpleasant.

“Well?” Remus pushed, setting his fork down, pulling his napkin from his lap and setting it on the table.

The wine succeeded where her sense of self-control had not. “You get married. You have a son.”

Remus stared at her in complete shock.

“That’s… not possible!” he whispered. Then, in an almost frightened voice, he added, “I thought everything you have Seen has come true so far. The riot, Moody in the trunk, the trouble in the maze at the Third Task--”

“I never said I Saw anything about the Third Task!” Elodie objected.

He shot her a withering look. “It was obvious. I have always assumed there are things you See that you don’t tell us about, and instead try to prevent or alter more subtly,” he said.

It was Elodie’s turn to be stunned. It was so easy for her to forget that the people she had first been introduced to as characters in a book, as seen from the perspective of a child, were fully-fledged adults with complete autonomy. She’d been keeping secrets, but so had Remus, it appeared.

“They’ve all come true,” he repeated, looking dumbfounded.

“This one won’t,” Elodie said. “It can’t.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“She’s with someone else.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight: The Red Branch of the Slow Autumn

 

“She’s with someone else.”

The words hung between them for long seconds of frozen time until Remus blinked at her, his eyebrows furrowed.

“Don’t be disingenuous,” Remus scolded.

“I’m not. It’s not me,” Elodie said miserably.

“Well that’s patently ridiculous,” Remus said, dismissing her statement so easily that she stared at him, unwilling or unable to comprehend the breadth of meaning in what he said and the way he’d said it.

The candle on their table flared red, and their waiter cleared away the plates and offered dessert.

“Yes,” Elodie said at the same time as Remus declined. She widened her eyes at him, and he shifted into an alternate Remus, a polite, fake Remus.

“You’ve convinced me. Dessert it is!”

The candle sputtered back to its golden light and Elodie still felt bold and empowered, thanks to the wine.

“Stop that right now, you sound like Percy Weasley!”

Remus laughed so hard he started coughing.

“It serves you right! Where on Earth did you pull that atrocious fake cheerfulness from? It was revolting,” she told him.

“It doesn’t matter,” Remus said, looking away.

James? something inside Elodie suggested.

The silence between them lengthened and grew until she was desperate to say something yet completely despairing of what to say.

“‘If I look at the crystal moon, at the red branch of the slow autumn at my window…’” Remus murmured, looking out through the window up at the sky outside.

“That’s pretty. Is it from a poem?” Elodie asked, her voice quiet, almost a whisper. Still, she startled him.

“Hmm? Oh, that. Yes, but it’s not important,” he said, his voice growing rather forceful. “Not important at all. Forget about it.”

Elodie wanted to write the words down, wanted to Google them and find out what poem, but his unexpected vehemence made her loathe to trigger more of it by pulling out a pen and paper. Instead, she repeated the phrase that she thought would be the most memorable. The red branch of the slow autumn, the red branch of the slow autumn…

She knew she would forget, and if it was imperative she forget it, he’d make sure she did, but maybe someday she would come across those words and they would trip the wire of remembrance to bring her back to this moment.

Their dessert came, a rich chocolate concoction that soothed away all of the tension between them into something comforting and less sharp. Their conversation shifted into the mundane and safe, and Elodie forgot the words he’d spoken so wistfully, just like she expected to.

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The next morning dawned bright and warm. Harry and Sirius had spent some of their time together the night before preparing his trunk for the trip to Hogwarts, and Remus spent a short time looking it over before declaring it ready. Harry was excited to leave but more subdued than she had expected, but a stray comment about a ‘Prefects carriage’ told her everything she needed to know about Harry’s behavior.

Elodie felt like she was off-kilter, and both Remus and Sirius seemed to behave the same way. Sirius was, of course, distressed about not being able to come with them, and at the very last minute before they left, stalked off into their bedroom without saying a word.

“I’m sorry, Harry. Sirius hasn’t had the benefit of living in society for nearly as many years as you have been alive,” Remus said, putting a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Part of why it seems so important to Mrs. Weasley or I that we teach you manners, or how to control your temper is that it can be a constant struggle, even as an adult.”

“Well said,” Elodie murmured.

When they’d gotten Harry and his trunk and Hedwig and her cage to the train station, however, they were met with a very enthusiastic black dog.

“He didn’t want me to tell you,” Harry said from his kneeling position in front of the dog. He was vigorously rubbing Padfoot behind his ears. “He’s been looking for a place to Apparate close to here for over a week.”

“That is incredibly dangerous,” Remus said with a deep frown. “I would hope that in future you’d warn me about something like this. Remember what I said about him not being fully socialized. Sirius has always been reckless, and he’s missed twelve some years of growing up.”

“Nearly fourteen, I’d say,” Elodie interrupted. Padfoot tried to nose some kisses into her hands but she lifted them out of his reach. “I am sorry about how confusing this is, Harry. Snuffles ought to know better.”

The black dog whined unhappily.

“It could have been worse. Now, SIT!” she commanded. Sirius/Padfoot/Snuffles sat.

They approached the gateway wall to Platform 9 ¾ and watched a few Hogwarts students and their families as they passed through the wall. A whooping sound echoed out behind them and all four of them turned to see the Weasley family.

“Oi, are you sure that thing’s housetrained enough for a train station?” Bill said when they were within speaking range.

“Definitely not,” Remus said darkly. “After you, Harry.”

Harry wheeled his trunk and Hedwig’s cage with him and confidently passed through the wall. So did most of the Weasleys, until just her housemates were left.

Elodie was suddenly, horribly certain that her Muggle prior life would prevent her from going through the wall. Remus would question her about why and it would all come out-- the fact that he was written to be a werewolf, how she’d loved him as a fictional character, how she’d ruined the books’ storyline with her meddling…

“I think you’d better stay here with the dog,” Remus said. He hugged her with one arm and walked purposefully into the brick wall and disappeared.

Elodie sat down on a nearby, dirty bench and covered her head in her hands.

“I was too chicken to try it, Snuffles,” she told the dog beside her. “Terrified I’d run at the wall as Pinocchio and never turn into a real boy.”

It was a long wait until Remus came back, and Elodie wasn’t sure which one of them was really being punished by that. Remus may have meant it to be Sirius, but to Elodie, the brick wall that led to Platform 9 ¾ might as well have had a flashing neon sign that said ‘FRAUD’ above it. Any spell that included a check of inherent magic was bound to discover her deception, she felt, and she would avoid the chance of failing those until there were no other options.

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When they’d all made it back to Phoenix House, Remus told Elodie he needed some quiet time before their trip to Hogwarts, and then disappeared into his bedroom.

Sirius was jittery. He kept fingering something in his pocket and pacing around, making it impossible for Elodie to focus on the article she was reading in the Prophet about the Ministry of Magic and treaties with their magical allies.

“What?” she finally said to Sirius after he tripped on the edge of the rug again.

“I want to talk to you, but--”

“Now is really a bad time,” Elodie responded. She realized she and Sirius had said the same phrase at the same time. “I appreciate that you recognize that. Could you maybe pace in the bedroom? Or, even better, in a memory?”

“Pace in a memory?” Sirius repeated, clearly confused.

“Yes! You have access to a whole host of memories you were preserving for Harry, don’t you? Pick a boring one and go pace.”

“I never… That’s…” Sirius stared at her.

“What? You miss your old friends, you are irritating your new one, and you could at least be near them if you did it this way,” Elodie pointed out. “I mean, it’s unconventional, but so are you.”

“Don’t think I missed the part where you called yourself the ‘new one,’ as if I’ve only got one new friend,” Sirius said, walking over to the Pensieve.

“Befriend a homeless person in the train station, did you?” Elodie asked tartly.

“I bet one of them would have offered sexual favors to calm me down,” Sirius joked.

“You can still go ask, nothing’s stopping you.”

“Ouch.”

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Elodie peered at herself in the mirror again, staring at her neck. There was only the tiniest outline of the hickey there, now, despite Sirius having ‘reinstalled’ it at least once. She didn’t want to wear anything around her neck, but she also didn’t want to show up at the school that her pretend husband used to attend and work at with any hint of something impolite or improper between them. Remus was not the kind of man to leave love marks in public places, she was certain of that.

Moony, on the other hand… 

She backed away from the mirror to look at her whole outfit. Elodie had opted for a skirt again, this time a honey-gold colored long one with red ribbons, along with a matching honey-gold shirt with a high, decorated neckline in crimson accents. It covered her splinching scars, but didn’t look uncomfortably formal, either. She decided to leave her hair down, and used a very minimal make-up charm.

Elodie really wanted to wear her charm bracelet, but she hadn’t been able to find it in months, which made her very sad. She regarded it as sort of a magical artifact, given the way it had popped into existence by accident when Remus had tried to conjure her favorite book. Every so often, she liked to touch the charms and think about the ways that the characters she felt they symbolized had affected her life. Alastor in particular had lived up to his inclusion, and so had Slughorn, if the cauldron really was meant to be his. She’d interacted with both Tonks and Kingsley a bit, but not enough to really feel like either of them were symbolized by the Auror badge, and there were still a few more charms that she felt she didn’t quite know who they stood for, yet.

With a last glance at her outfit (so very Gryffindor), Elodie left the bedroom and headed into the living room to meet Remus by the Floo.

“Sirius still lost in memories?”

“I told him if he was going to pace around like a wind-up toy, he could do it in a memory instead of on the carpet,” Elodie told Remus.

“Wind-up toy?” Remus repeated, confused.

“Never mind. Shall we?”

The Headmaster’s Office Floo was a bit of a walk from the Hospital Wing, but Elodie didn’t mind. As they walked, she asked him about the person they were going to see.

“Poppy Pomfrey was the first person at Hogwarts to see me at my worst. It was the strangest feeling for me-- I was bleeding, I’d barely dragged myself in from the Shack, eleven years old, just two weeks into term. She showed me that not everyone pre-judges. She showed me…” Remus broke off, stopping next to one of the windows that looked out on the grounds. The Whomping Willow wasn’t visible, but they both knew it was there.

“I couldn’t even guess at what you’re struggling to say, but she sounds lovely,” Elodie said softly.

Remus was resting his weight on his hands, leaning toward the window, but he turned to look at her. He looked sad.

“She showed me that my father was wrong. He had told me to act cold and distant to her, so she wouldn’t be forced to care for me, and I did it, that first morning,” he said, speaking with disgust in his voice. “I held myself distant from her and she was still gentle and respectful. She saw through me, and if she hadn’t, I could have ruined the way she saw werewolves for the rest of her life. I’ve always respected her for that, for the way that she listened to the patient, not just the chart, not just the family, not just the professor reporting the injuries.”

Elodie sensed that there was more behind what he was saying, probably related to James and Sirius, but she didn’t pry.

Suddenly, she realized what he was struggling with.

“Remus, you don’t want to lie to her, do you?”

“No. No, I don’t.” He sounded relieved to get the words out.

“Maybe we can couch our language? We’re Harry’s guardians, that’s true. We live together. We love Harry. That sort of thing?” she suggested. They started walking again, and he sighed.

“No, I think she would see through evasive language more than a direct lie, honestly. I will just look forward to setting the record straight with her, someday.”

It seemed like a natural thing for her to reach down and take his hand in hers, and that was how they crossed the threshold of the Hospital Wing. 

“Remus!”

The speaker was a small woman wearing a flattering Mediwitch uniform, the odd little quirks of which seemed perfectly suited for her. She had a kindly face and seemed almost ageless in the way that some women did when they got older. Her blue eyes were bright and happy as she made her way over to them.

“I was so pleased to hear you two would be coming by!” she took Remus’s hands in hers and looked up at him. “I was happy to hear you were able to take over Harry’s guardianship. Will you introduce me?”

“Hello, I’m Elodie,” Elodie said, hoping to avoid Remus needing to be explicit about introducing her as his wife. She held out her hand to shake, and the other woman shook her head and gave Elodie a fierce little hug.

“You’re lovely! Oh, Remus! I must say I am upset that I wasn’t invited to your wedding, though,” Madame Pomfrey said when she’d stepped back from Elodie. She actually put her hands on her hips to scold him.

“We haven’t had a magical one,” Remus said.

“We’re saving up,” Elodie said, walking over and looking up at him with affection. “It’s simple enough to conjure the things for a Muggle one.”

Remus put his arm around her, his thumb rubbing circles on her upper arm. “I wouldn’t think of leaving you out, I promise,” he promised Madame Pomfrey.

“Good!” the mediwitch said firmly. “I confess I got all the details about what you’re about to ask me from Albus already. I’m persistent,” she said apologetically. “I think it’s a fantastic idea, and I promise you I’ll be in communication about him, whether it’s Quidditch injuries or otherwise. His aunt and uncle actually served me with something called a ‘cease and desist’ order halfway through his first term, telling me not to bother! I hope it cost them a lot of money.” She made an angry noise of satisfaction.

“I don’t want to say I anticipate any medical issues, but he’s that sort of age,” Remus said.

“Thank goodness Fred and George’s younger brother isn’t as troublesome as your childhood friends!” Pomfrey agreed.

Elodie felt a pang. She saw the light of amusement fade from the woman’s eyes and wished she could tell her that Sirius wasn’t the man that history portrayed him as. Even though The Prisoner of Azkaban was Elodie’s favorite of the seven books, she couldn’t remember if Poppy Pomfrey was in on the secret of Sirius’s innocence.

“Remus, could I ask a very dear favor? There’s a young man whose parents are still dithering about whether they should allow him to attend. Albus is giving them a few extra days to decide,” Pomfrey said, stepping toward them, a determined light in her eyes. “He’s a werewolf, and his parents…”

“What can I do to help?” Remus said after she trailed off.

“Can I take a picture of the two of you? I want his family to see that there is hope. Elodie clearly loves you so much, and you’ve worked as a professor here, and you have a successful job at a newspaper, Albus tells me,” Pomfrey said passionately. “His father doesn’t want him to ‘get his hopes up’ that his life could be meaningful. He thinks it’s a waste of our time!”

“Remus spoke about your kindness to him when he first arrived. I think that had a great effect on his self-esteem. The young werewolf you’re talking about could definitely benefit from that,” Elodie said. She turned her body a bit so she could put her arm around Remus.

“I’ll run and get my camera!” 

When the mediwitch was out of earshot, Elodie said, in a low voice, “You don’t have to do it if it makes you uncomfortable. I can come up with something.”

“You are very good to me,” he said, leaning over to kiss the top of her head.

“You should know by now that you inspire goodness in the people around you,” Elodie said, moving out from the circle of his arm to look him in the eye. “Your father said the same things, didn’t he?” she asked.

Remus didn’t look at her. Finally, as they heard the footsteps of Poppy Pomfrey returning, he gave her a tiny, unhappy nod.

“He was wrong.”

Elodie walked over to him and reached up to place a hand on his shoulder, and then she lifted up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. She whispered in his ear.

“It’s not like we’re lying to her, you know. It’s not un true, just unrequited.”

The hand he’d rested at the small of her back tightened at this, but she dropped back down and turned to face Madame Pomfrey, who already had the camera up, taking pictures.

“Oh, dear. I hadn’t planned to kiss in the picture! I didn’t want to look indiscreet--”

“Oh, You’re a sweetheart! It’s perfect.”

“Maybe one more for my conscience?” Remus asked, and everyone laughed.

“All right, if you must,” Pomfrey said, holding the camera up again.

“No kissing, got it?” Elodie said, looking up at Remus and smiling impishly. He smiled down at her, and they turned to smile at the camera.

“Oh, Remus. I wish I could tell that scared little boy your first term what his life might be like, someday,” Pomfrey said, fishing into her apron pockets for a handkerchief.

“I would have preferred far less heartache for Remus, friend-wise,” Elodie said.

“Well, I’m sure you have much to prepare for,” Remus said with a note of finality in his voice.

“Ah! There’s the professor voice,” Pomfrey teased. “I’ll take care of your boy, I promise. Take care of each other, while he’s gone.”

Elodie and Remus said their goodbyes and walked out of the Hospital Wing.

As they walked back to the office, Elodie said, “You shouldn’t be ashamed of what you had to go through with your father. Your father is the one who should be ashamed.” Remus made a noncommittal noise beside her, and she nudged him with an elbow. “No, I’m serious! Harry needs to know that he shouldn’t be ashamed of the way his aunt and uncle neglected him, they way they abused him, and it won’t help if you’re reluctant to talk about that sort of thing, too. It takes time, that’s all.”

“Duly noted,” Remus said, but he smiled at her sharp look. “Old habits die hard.”

“They should die a horrible, painful death, is what should happen,” Elodie sniffed.

“Well, you sent Sirius into a memory to pace, do you want to go into the memory where I punched my father in the face?” Remus asked in too mundane a tone for such a revelation.

“Yes.”

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When they Flooed home, Remus told her that he was working on using the healing spell she’d used on him as the alternative for a more common, more generic spell in his column. She referred him to the chapter she’d discovered it in Hogwarts, A History, and he took the book with a murmured ‘thank you’ and locked himself into his room.

Elodie went to check to see Harry needed any clothes laundered, an action that was completely fruitless but which was already a habit despite him only living with them for just under a month before term started. When she came upstairs again, feeling foolish and emotionally affected all at the same time, she found Remus with his work briefcase, about to step into the Floo.

“Remus?”

“I’ve decided to get my office time over with for the month. Most everyone will be out for Term Day, so it will be quiet,” he said. 

“Will you be back for dinner?” she asked, settling into her seat. She looked up and almost missed the questioning look Remus shot toward Sirius.

“Probably,” Remus said. “I might grab something from the street market, though.”

He tossed in his Floo powder and spun out of sight.

“That was odd,” Elodie decided. She looked over at Sirius, who was leaning against the kitchen doorway. “Did that seem odd to you?”

“A bit,” Sirius said. He seemed distracted, and Elodie decided that he and Remus must have had some kind of conversation she’d missed that would explain their behavior. She shrugged it off as not her business.

Soon, Elodie was engrossed in a list. With Remus away, likely until after dinner, which was at least four hours from now, she could write down the things she remembered from the fifth book, especially relating to Dolores Umbridge. She felt fairly guilty that, in her hatred of the character itself, Elodie had avoided the kind of re-reading and dwelling on certain passages that had made her remember so much of the third book. In the Order of the Phoenix, Harry had gotten detention quite early in the term (luckily, Harry had promised to write them often), and the shocking nature of the punishment his professor had given him caused the boy to avoid telling anyone.

It wasn’t likely that they’d be able to remove Umbridge as soon as the first few days of punishment, but Elodie decided she was allowed to hope for that, anyway.

A noise had her looking up from her pages of parchment. Sirius had puttered around in the kitchen for a while before coming out to lean against the wall again, apparently.

“Elodie, could you… come into the kitchen to talk with me?”

Elodie looked at the empty spot on the couch where he usually sat next to her. “The kitchen? Why not just--”

Sirius had already disappeared from sight, so she stopped herself and went to go see what he was up to.

Sirius was sitting rigidly at the table, his hands folded in his lap. His chair was facing the chair next to him, and the setup almost looked like a job interview.

“Have you been poisoned?” she asked, a little too heavy on the sarcasm.

Sirius turned to look at her with surprise and then amusement. “No, but I imagine you know me well enough to guess something is going on. Please, sit?” He pointed to the chair beside him. Elodie chose the chair across the table from him, instead.

“Ellie…” he wheedled, but she shook her head.

“Something’s going on,” she said.

“Don’t you trust me?” he asked her, smiling that dazzling smile of his.

“Fine,” she huffed, moving to the chair he’d indicated. “What harebrained plan do you need to tell me about? I’m not sneaking you into Hogwarts; you can subsist on Firecalls and letters if you need more of Harry’s attention. His education is too important.”

“This is about Harry, yes, but more about-- look, I want to do this again someday. More meaningfully,” Sirius said cryptically. “But certain things from the books seem like they’re inevitable. Cedric. Umbridge. I need to make sure Harry is protected.”

Elodie could follow the latter half of what he was saying, but she had no clue what he meant about repeating the conversation. She nodded in encouragement about protecting Harry. Sirius reached out and grasped her hand, pulling it over to his own lap. He then seemed to think better of it; after squeezing her hand he let go, and she was forced to awkwardly draw her hand back.

“I want to make a partnership with you so that if I die, you’ll be able to continue in your guardianship of Harry and be able to use my estate to support him,” Sirius said, his tone and phrasing oddly formal.

“Is this why you kicked Remus out? Are you making a will?”

“No, I’m asking you you to-- well, yes, I asked Remus to give us some privacy, but--”

“Sirius, your hands are actually shaking! Okay, whatever this is that you’re doing, you definitely need to relax. Come here,” Elodie said. 

When Sirius held his hand out in front of him to watch it shake, she rolled her eyes and leaned over to kiss him. He actually resisted, initially, but when a chunk of the hair she’d tucked behind her ear fell forward releasing some of the sweetly spicy smell from her shampoo, he relented and kissed her back.

“That’s a bit better,” Elodie said. “What do you need me to sign?”

“Marry me,” Sirius said, staring at her with sober intensity. “On paper. Someday, when my name is cleared, we can have the most elaborate magical ceremony you’ve ever seen, with all the international newspapers and everything. But I don’t want to wait for that, and you don’t deserve the stigma.”

“...what?” Elodie asked, her heart in her throat and the prickling of tears in her eyes.

“I want to ask you to marry me someday, when my name is cleared,” Sirius said, scooting his chair close, his knees bracketing her legs. Gone was the formal tone and rigid body language. He was passionate, persuasive. “Right now, I want to marry you in name… well, not in name only, but secretly,” he said, amusement sparkling in his eyes. “I want to cast the spells, say the vows, mean the vows, make the commitments between us now, just me, you, and the magic. I didn’t want it to be a romantic question, but a pragmatic one.” He gestured to their surroundings. “That’s why I asked in here.”

“You weren’t trying to be romantic? That explains so much, ” Elodie said, trying very hard not to laugh. She was affected by the other things he said, but that part was just ridiculous. “But why stop there? Why not sit me on the lid of the toilet and perch yourself on the side of the tub?”

“You are my match in every way, you frustrating, adorable witch,” Sirius said in a grumbling, argumentative tone. “Say yes,” he demanded.

“I have a condition,” Elodie said, her mind working quickly. What was the spell they’d talked about last year, when she’d seen Karkaroff in Knockturn? The precursor to the Dark Mark, one that bound a woman to her husband, with a mark on her arm? She couldn’t remember, but she knew Sirius would.

“I am not sleeping in socks,” Sirius objected vehemently.

“No, you outrageous, gorgeous man,” Elodie said, mirroring his compliment seconds ago. “Nothing that mundane. Remember the spell you told me about where the nobleman could let his wife command his vassals, because she bore his mark? I want that. If this is a secret, that probably means I can’t have a ring, right?”

Sirius just looked at her.

“Do you remember telling me about it when I was trying to tell you and Remus about the Dark Mark? Binding a person to another’s life force, just like Lord Git. Except this would be your life force, and it would be like a tattoo I could wear,” Elodie tried to explain.

“I know what you mean, I am just-- do you know what you’re asking? Pureblood families used to use that to mark women as property, Elodie.”

“We wouldn’t necessarily see it that way, and what a great way to subvert a terrible tradition, don’t you think?” she suggested. “Pureblood Sirius Black marking a Muggle-born, out-of-this-universe-born witch as his? Your mother’s portrait would spontaneously combust!”

“You’re trying to manipulate me.” Sirius narrowed his eyes at her, but his gaze was heated.

“I thought you liked marking me,” she said in a faux sad voice.

“I do,” he responded immediately. “You’re making me like the idea, and not just because of… interpersonal reasons,” he grinned at her. “If something happened to me, you’d know right away.”

“I’m not going to let that part come true, Sirius. Even if I have to build you a cage with my bare hands and put it right beside Moony’s.”

He picked up her hand and kissed her fingers, then turned it over and kissed her palm. “I know. But I can’t live in a cage, Elodie, and I know deep down you can’t make yourself put me there.”

“Watch me,” she said under her breath. “I can’t believe you thought this wouldn’t be romantic,” she said, nodding at the way their legs were interlocked, her hand in his, up against his face, his lips on her skin.

“I tried,” Sirius said, kissing her wrist. He kissed his way up her arm, getting closer to her face, and then he slid his hands into her hair and kissed her. “Yes?”

“Yes,” she agreed. The importance of what he’d asked and why overwhelmed her, and she pulled away from him to bury her face in his shoulder. More than anything Elodie wanted to show Sirius how much he meant to her, how she would gladly stand in public and claim to be his. Loving him meant respecting what he found important, though, and she knew he wanted better for her, even if she didn’t agree with him. “How secret?”

“Not even Remus. Moony--”

“I get it,” she said. More secrets to keep from Remus. “How are we going to even do this, though? You’re a fugitive, and I assume heavy handed marriage spells don’t work on disguised or altered people?”

“I have a plan,” Sirius said. She was both thrilled and frightened to hear that.