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Chapter 48: Gifts

Danger woke up slowly and luxuriously, allowing the dual blessings of Christmas and freedom to flow through her mind.

Then she opened her eyes.

Draco’s head was floating without visible support in midair a few feet away, smiling at her. "Happy Christmas," the head said cheerily.

Danger screamed, waking the rest of the Pack instantly. Sirius took one look, got to his feet, and took a hold of where Draco’s shoulders should have been — where they were, Danger realized with a rush of relief, as Sirius pulled something silvery off the boy’s body.

"What," she demanded shakily, shooting a mental Don’t even start in Remus’ direction, "is that?"

"An Invisibility Cloak," Sirius said, shaking it out and looking at it. "Draco, where did you get this?"

"It was under the tree."

"And was it addressed to you?" Remus asked warningly.

Draco looked sheepish. "No," he said quietly. "But a corner of the paper got torn and it looked really neat and I kind of opened it by accident."

"You kind of opened it by accident," Danger repeated. "And then you scared the life out of me. Don’t EVER do that again, young man, or you will be spending three weeks doing all the dishes around here. Is that clear?"

Draco nodded quickly. Danger winked at him, and he made a face back. Good, there’s obviously no hard feelings.

"So who is it for?" Aletha asked.

"Let me look." Sirius bent down, searching among the torn wrappings, and Danger watched in fascination as parts of his legs seemed to disappear when the cloak covered them. "Uh-huh, that’s what I thought."

"Harry?" Remus asked with a knowing smile.

Sirius nodded. "Harry."

"For me?" Harry stared at the cloak as Sirius placed it in his arms.

"And I bet it’s from Dumbledore," Remus continued. "Right?"

"Handwriting looks like his. Ah, here’s the note." Sirius read it out loud. "‘Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well. A Very Happy Christmas to you.’"

"Sounds Dumbledorean," Aletha said. "James had an Invisibility Cloak?"

"Oh yes." Sirius grinned. "How else do you think we got into the Slytherin common room all those times?"

Harry was experimenting with making different parts of himself and Hermione disappear. Meghan had vanished completely.

This is all they needed, Danger complained silently. More incentive to make trouble.

Love, they would have got into trouble anyway. The Cloak just might help them not get caught.

Well, all right. But if they do, you’re dealing with it.

I’ll remember that.

So what did you want for Christmas? Danger slid onto Remus’ lap.

Remus wrapped his arms around her and looked down at her warmly. I wanted to see your eyes looking into mine again.

Hmm, eyes. Wonder if we have any of those hanging around...

Further conversation was irrelevant for a time.


The Pack had Christmas dinner with Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid — who took up one of the short ends of the table all by himself — and Amy Freeman.

"A toast," Remus proposed, holding his glass high. "To old friends and new freedoms."

"Here, here," everyone answered.

After dinner, Hagrid announced he had a present for the cubs. "It’s fer all o’ yeh," he said, displaying the large, domed object, which was covered with a cloth. "Yeh’ll have ter share it. Kin anyone guess?"

The room was quiet. Then, suddenly, from beneath the cloth, a soft noise emerged — who, who, who?

"An owl!" Harry exclaimed as Hagrid whipped the cloth away.

"Oh, it’s beautiful!" Hermione cried in delight at the sight of the large snowy owl, sitting serenely on its perch. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

"She’s a girl," Hagrid said, giving the cage to Draco. "Now yeh don’ have an excuse not ter write yer sister while yer away at school."

"That’s right," Meghan said smugly, sticking her finger into the cage and stroking the owl’s feathers. "Because she’s part mine too. Ow!" She pulled back, looking affronted. "She bit me!"

"Tha’ means she likes ya," Hagrid said with a grin as the adults chuckled.


Danger was in the kitchen that evening setting up her new table loom — a joint gift from the other women of the Pack — when she heard a faint buzzing sound.

Must be a bug in here. She picked up an old copy of the Daily Prophet and rolled it into a cylinder, eyeing the walls carefully. Ah, there it is.

The beetle was clinging to the wall near the window. It was rather large, hard to miss once you’d noticed it. Danger walked casually over to the cabinet nearest the window, keeping her eyes averted from the thing, then in one quick motion pivoted and struck.

The beetle slid to the floor, looking decidedly worse for wear. Danger scooped it up with the newspaper, opened the window, and tossed it out into the snow. Closing the window, she dusted off her hands and went back to her work.


"I think I’m going to be sick," Draco said nervously the next day.

Aletha hugged him. "You’re not going to be sick. You’re not allowed. Understand?" Draco smiled weakly at her. "Everything’s going to be all right, you know that."

"But what if I mess up and say something really awful?"

"Then you’ll be embarrassed. Has to happen sometime."

Harry was fussing with his hair. "Give it up, Harry," Remus advised, coming up behind him. "It never worked with James, it won’t work with you."

"But he didn’t have a stupid scar on his forehead."

"Don’t bother trying to hide it," Sirius said with a sigh. "They’re all going to want to see it anyway. Probably want to take pictures of it."

"I don’t want them to take pictures of it!"

"Fine, then they won’t," Danger said firmly. "We won’t let them."

"And even if they do," Aletha added, "the Harry in the photo will know you didn’t want that picture taken, and he’ll run off. That’s one way magical pictures are easier on the people being photographed than Muggle ones are."

"Showtime, everyone," Remus said, looking at his watch. "Let’s go."

We are lucky we’re not Muggles, Danger commented as the Pack entered the Great Hall. Then there’d be thirty or so of them, instead of just eight.

Isn’t there someone missing? Remus looked over the rather conservatively-clad reporters. Oh, never mind. Every person not here is another person who can’t bother us.

"Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen," he said aloud as the Pack seated themselves at the small table which was waiting for them. A flash or two went off. "A few ground rules before we begin — please be polite and don’t all shout at once. We can’t answer anything if we can’t understand you. We will try to take all your questions, but if the children start to get tired or unhappy we will leave. And that includes if you start badgering them. After today, we will not be giving any more interviews unless we feel like it, so please don’t ask. And if you come to our home or harass us in any way, we will take legal action. Are we quite clear?"

A subdued, affirmative murmur answered him.

"Good. Thank you. Then we’re ready to begin. You, sir, we’ll start with you." Remus pointed to a small, sandy-haired man with a neat goatee in the front row of chairs.

"James Scriven," the reporter introduced himself, standing up. "This question is for Mr. Black — what are you going to do now?"

"The same thing I’ve been doing for the last eight years," Sirius said promptly. "Live my life and enjoy it. The only difference is, now I don’t have to be looking over my shoulder every few seconds."

The reporter chuckled. "No special celebrations of any kind?"

"We might go on vacation somewhere," Sirius allowed, "but we haven’t decided yet. It’s the children’s last year at home before Hogwarts, so we want to spend this time together."

Scriven nodded and sat down. A dark-haired woman popped up.

"Mary Clark," she said. "Mr. Potter, how does life with your godfather compare to life somewhere else?"

"I don’t know," Harry said. "I don’t ever remember living anywhere else."

"You don’t remember your aunt and uncle’s house, or your parents?"

"I wasn’t even two," Harry said with a touch of scorn. "But I do know about my parents, and that they loved me very much."

"And do you like living with your godfather?"

Harry nodded firmly. "Yes, ma’am."

"All right, thank you."

"Adam Bartleby." A heavyset, confident looking man. "Mr. Malfoy—"

"I’m sorry, who?" Remus said politely.

"Mr. Malfoy. The blond kid with the funny look on his face."

Draco was scowling at the man.

"That ‘funny look’, as you call it," Danger said coolly, "is because you’ve just insulted him."

Bartleby stared. "Insulted him? By using his name?"

"It’s not my name," Draco said angrily, standing up. "My name is Draco Black. Either call me that or leave me alone. I haven’t been a Malfoy since before I was four years old, and I don’t want to be."

"All right, then," Bartleby said, looking a bit bemused. "Thank you, Mr. Black. Sorry to have offended you."

Draco sat down, slightly flushed. Harry high-fived him under the table.

The questions continued for about an hour and a half. Most of them, predictably, were funneled towards Sirius, Harry, and Draco, but Aletha and Meghan came in for their fair share, and Remus and Danger fielded a few. Most of the ones for Hermione were in the same vein: "So what’s it like living with The Boy Who Lived and The Boy Who Disappeared?"

"Annoying," was her glib answer. "They leave dirty clothes lying around all the time and they squeeze the toothpaste out of the middle of the tube and they don’t do their chores, so I get stuck with them." The reporters enjoyed this. One, though, was a little different.

"Miss Granger," said Adam Bartleby, standing up again. "I understand you’re Muggleborn."

"Yes, sir."

"And Mrs. Granger-Lupin is your older sister."

"That’s right."

"How do you think your parents would feel about you being raised in such an odd kind of a household, mostly with people who aren’t related to you in any way?"

Hermione glanced quickly at Remus. "I don’t know, sir," she said. "You see, my parents are dead."

"Yes, I know that, but if they were alive—"

"If they were alive, I’d be living with them," Hermione interrupted politely, "so it wouldn’t be a problem."

"Yes, but that’s not the point—"

Danger rose. "Mr. Bartleby, I think my parents would be proud of how their baby girl turned out," she said crisply. "I certainly am. Hermione’s a wonderful, loving, intelligent girl and she’s very happy where she is. Are you trying to ask if our family situation would have been in some way unacceptable to my parents? If so, I suggest you ask me, since Hermione never had a chance to know them."

"All right, Mrs. Granger-Lupin, do you think your parents would have approved of where you’ve taken your life — and your sister?"

"Absolutely. They always told me the most important thing in life was to find true friends, people you could be yourself with. I am more myself today than I ever was, and I owe it all to these seven people around me. One of my greatest regrets is that my parents never got to meet Remus, or Sirius and Aletha, or our children. I can say without fear of being wrong that they would have loved them all."

"Thank you," Bartleby said after a short pause.


When the reporters were finally satisfied, the Pack regrouped in the kitchens and allowed the house-elves to fuss over them, getting them each exactly what they wanted to eat.

"I just realized who was missing," Remus said halfway through lunch. "Rita Skeeter. She was at the trial, with the blonde hair and the bright blue robes. She’s opportunistic to the core, she’d never miss something like this—"

"Sir?" said Kady the house elf, tugging at Remus’ sleeve. "Rita Skeeter was being in the newspaper this morning, sir. Dobby is seeing it when Dobby is bringing Professor Dumbledore his newspaper, because Professor Dumbledore is laughing at it very hard indeed, and then Dobby is telling us all about it, sir."

"So why was Rita Skeeter in the paper?" Danger asked, surrendering to the role of straight man. Or woman, as the case might be.

"Rita Skeeter is being in the hospital, ma’am, for having a broken leg and three crushed ribs and a concussion."

"Ouch," Sirius said with a wince. "Wonder what hit her."

"She is saying it was a newspaper," Kady said with a puzzled look. "But newspapers is not hurting people like that."

Aletha shrugged. "She’s probably confused from the concussion. Maybe she means a newspaper truck."

"Who knows," Danger said. "May I have some more tea, please, Kady?"


The media furor died down somewhat after the interviews were published, and after Adam Bartleby tried staking out the Den and got chased away by a large black dog, which the Pack said they didn’t own and had never seen before.

Gerald reported an incredible rise in sales when the January issue of The Quibbler came out, with its cover photo of the Pack out sledding on the hill near the Den, and the headline "Sirius Black at Home — An Exclusive Interview with the Man Himself and His Family".

"It’s probably because you know us, so you knew what kinds of questions to ask," Aletha said one evening at the Den, wincing at a particularly loud thump from overhead.

"IF THE CEILING CAVES IN, YOU’VE ONLY YOURSELVES TO BLAME!" Molly Weasley shouted up the stairs.

"Everyone else is working from the ‘Sirius Black, terrible criminal’ idea," Remus said. "But you knew us as friends first. So that was helpful."

"People still point when I go out," Sirius said with a sigh. "It helped that I got rid of the beard. Now I’m not instantly recognizable, it takes them a moment. But once they figure it out, they still whisper and try to look like they’re not looking, if they’re polite, or they just plain stare if they’re not."

"Probably going to be that way for a while," Danger said realistically. "It takes people time to get used to new ideas."

"I can think of one thing that may help," said Arthur. "An official guilty ruling on Pettigrew. His trial’s coming up next week, isn’t it?"

Sirius groaned theatrically. "Don’t remind me. I know I have to testify, but I’m not sure I can look at his ugly little face without wanting to strangle him."

Aletha leaned over and whispered something in his ear, following up with a light kiss. Sirius’ face cleared. "I’ll manage, though," he said, smiling gratefully at his wife. "It’s what we do best."


Peter Pettigrew was tried on 24 January by a jury of his peers. The deliberations took only twenty-seven minutes, and the verdict was guilty on all counts.

"The maximum sentence for crimes as heinous as these is the Dementor’s Kiss," Amelia Bones said, speaking to a packed courtroom. "However, Sirius Black has prepared a statement regarding the sentencing of Peter Pettigrew, which he wishes to present at this time. Mr. Black?"

Sirius stood up. He was wearing conservative robes of a deep burgundy, and his hair was in slight disarray on purpose, since he knew he’d probably run his hands through it anyway without thinking about it. The rest of the Pack was also present, even the cubs, which had been a difficult decision to make, but in the end, the adults had decided it would give everyone a sense of closure. Besides, Harry and Draco had enjoyed watching Wormtail squirm as he had to admit to his crimes. I raised some bloodthirsty boys, didn’t I? I’m sorry, Lily, Narcy, don’t be too hard on me, they are boys after all.

Hermione had watched the proceedings from the shelter of Remus’ arm, with a serenity Sirius found disturbingly familiar. Letha’s rubbing off on her. I hope Danger’s right and her parents would approve of their little girl...

And Meghan had been very quiet, but when Sirius got a look at her face, he was startled by the amount of anger displayed there. His daughter knew very well indeed who was responsible for the circumstances of her first seven years of life.

Sounds like an opening line to me.

"Peter," he said, turning to Aletha and holding out his arms for Meghan, who was still just small enough to be picked up. "This is my daughter, Meghan Lily. I want you to take a good look at her." He paused, and a ripple of laughter went through the court as Meghan stuck out her tongue at Peter, who was staring at Sirius looking confused.

"If my life had gone the way I thought it was going to go, you would already know Meghan," Sirius continued, shifting the girl’s weight to his other arm. "You would have been part of her life, perhaps her Uncle Peter or something similar. You would have watched her grow up and become this lovely young lady. But my life didn’t go the way I thought it would. None of our lives did. One life, in particular, is different because of you."

Sirius paused to let Harry join him, that line having been the boy’s cue. "You remember Harry, Peter." It wasn’t a question. "You remember how happy we all were when he was born. I say we because you were happy too. Or at least you acted happy. I can never think of that time without wondering; were you a spy yet? Had you made your big decision? Did you report on our celebrations for Harry’s birth to Lord Voldemort?"

Sirius had to stop as the reaction swept the courtroom. When it was quiet again, he went on. "James and Lily Potter, Harry’s parents, are dead because of you, Peter. Twelve innocent people, who had never heard of the war or had anything to do with it, are dead at your hand. That’s fourteen lives on your conscience. I wouldn’t want to be you. How did you sleep all those years?"

"Badly," Peter squeaked out, causing far more laughter than Meghan had. Sirius waited it out.

"You have fourteen lives on your conscience," he repeated when the court had settled down. "And I have none. I’d like to keep it that way. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask that you sentence this man, Peter Pettigrew, to life imprisonment in Azkaban, so that my family and I can get on with our lives."

Sirius didn’t flinch as two or three camera flashes went off in his direction. It’s a perfect photo-op — Sirius Black, daughter, and godson — which is partly why I set it up this way, might as well pose for the photographs if they’re going to take them anyway...

The jury took only five minutes deciding — Peter Pettigrew would spend the rest of his natural life in Azkaban.

I don’t believe him. He actually looks happy about it. Sirius shook his head and held Meghan closer as two dementors entered the courtroom to take the rat away.

"No one ever said he was smart," Aletha murmured in his ear.

"Are you reading my mind?"

"No, I’m reading your face. You were brilliant, Sirius." She embraced him and Meghan at the same time. "And now it’s really over."

"Nice one, mangy mutt," Danger said with a smile, punching him gently on the shoulder.

"Good work, Padfoot," Remus said quietly. "I think James and Lily would have approved."

"I hope they do," Sirius said. "Somewhere."


The Pack was pulled away from their breakfast on 14 February by an immensely loud motor gunning outside their front door.

"Happy birthday, Sirius!" Hagrid’s voice called across the yard. The grinning gamekeeper was standing beside a gleaming motorcycle.

"And where has this been all this time?" Sirius demanded, running his hand lovingly across the handlebars.

"Here’n’there," Hagrid said vaguely. "S’in good condition, though, I checked it out fer ya."

"Thanks." Sirius pulled out his wand and pointed it at the seat. "Open in the name of the ignoble and most youthful scion!" he intoned.

The seat popped up, and something shot into the air, growing as it described a beautiful parabolic arc through the chill air. Sirius nonchalantly put his wand away and held out his hands, and the helmet fell into them with a plop.

"And if you only knew how long he had to practice to get that right," Remus said. "And how many times he dropped it."

"Oh, you’re a big help to my self-esteem."

"Your self-esteem doesn’t need any help, trust me."

"Who wants to go for a ride?" Sirius asked the cubs. The boys and Meghan volunteered immediately, and Neenie added her hand after a moment of hesitancy.

"I’m thinking of a number between one and ten," Aletha said quickly.

Harry guessed seven, Draco six, Meghan four and Hermione two. "It was eight, Harry goes first," Aletha said.

"All right!" Harry let Sirius conjure a helmet for him (and a coat, since he’d come outside without his), then climbed onto the back seat of the cycle and allowed himself to be magically affixed there so he wouldn’t fall. As Sirius climbed aboard, Harry felt an odd sensation of déjà vu, as if he’d done this before, a long time ago...

"The funny thing is, you have ridden it before," Sirius said later when Harry asked. "But it wasn’t me driving it — Lily would never let me take you up. It was Hagrid."

"He used it to take you to your aunt and uncle’s house," Remus put in. "But you can’t possibly remember, you were only a baby..."

"It wasn’t really remembering," Harry said, accepting a piece of the birthday cake, which he’d helped Danger to bake. "It was just a feeling."

"Well, just a feeling works for me," Sirius said. "Now what’s this big surprise you three have been so darned secretive about for two weeks?" he asked the other Pack-parents.

"We’re going to get you off the hook with the Ministry permanently," Danger said, smiling smugly.

"I’m sorry?"

"You’re still an unregistered Animagus," Aletha pointed out. "And that is still illegal. So we’re going to give you a cover story."

"We’ve started studying to become Animagi ourselves," Remus finished. "And when we go and register, you’ll come along, and then we’ll all be legal together. Sound good?"

Sirius nodded. "Sounds excellent."

"And then when we get to be thirteen, you can teach us," Harry said.

All four Pack-parents turned to stare at him. "And where did you get that idea?" Sirius said, folding his arms.

"You were thirteen when you started learning," Hermione said reasonably. "So we should be able to start when we’re thirteen."

"And because you’ll be helping us, we’ll be able to do it faster than you did," Draco said. "So we could be Animagi by the time we’re fourth years."

"No, you couldn’t," Remus said firmly. "Because it’s illegal and dangerous, and we’re not going to teach you how."

"Then we’ll do it ourselves," Harry countered. "The way Padfoot and Prongs did."

"And the worst of it is, they will, too," Sirius said ruefully. "Why does anyone have children?"

"Because you love us?" Meghan suggested.

"That’s debatable at the moment." Sirius looked at Aletha and Danger, who were obviously amused by this turn in the conversation. "Help here, ladies?"

"No chance," Aletha said with a smile. "You brought this one on yourself, Sirius."


"There’s always the possibility of Dark wizards targeting them," Danger said thoughtfully. "It might be useful for them to have a skill no one knows about."

"Whose side are you on?" Sirius turned to Remus. "You’re my only hope," he said pleadingly.

"That’s sad." Remus shook his head. "I can’t fault their logic, Sirius. They can and probably will try it by themselves. If we guide them, there’s that much less chance of something going wrong. Maybe it makes me a pushover, but in this case I think they’ve got us beat."

The cubs grinned at each other.

Sirius threw up his hands. "All right. I concede."

"Swear to teach us?" Harry asked, seizing the opportunity. "Marauder’s honor?"

"If you swear, Marauder’s honor, not to use your forms for trouble-making," Remus said sternly. "Do we have a deal?"

Harry looked at Hermione, Draco, and Meghan, then turned back to the man and nodded. "Deal."

The two alphas shook on their bargain.


February ended and March began, with Ron’s birthday and his Hogwarts letter arriving. The cubs celebrated by spending the entire day out flying and telling each other tall tales of what they would do and be when they got to school. Everyone’s favorite was Ron’s: "I’ll be Head Boy — and Quidditch Captain — and a great prankster — and get a Special Award — and — and — everything!"

The month, which had come in proverbially like a lamb, continued in the same vein, and Remus’ thirty-second birthday dawned clear and fine.

And that means it goes out like me. Remus chuckled to himself as he got dressed. Who in the world would have expected that as my Animagus form. He, Danger, and Aletha had performed the first portion of the spell, which was scrying for one’s form, only a few days before. Aletha had been unsurprised to discover she should eventually be able to turn into a winged horse, and Danger — of all things — would be able to become a wolf.

Maybe we should be the Pride, now, instead of the Pack... we’d still have cubs either way...

He was debating that back and forth with himself when someone knocked on his bedroom door.

"Come in."

It was Neenie, clutching an envelope and looking nervous but very happy. "Happy birthday, Moony," she blurted as soon as she’d shut the door behind her.

"Thank you, Kitten. Is that for me?"

Hermione nodded, but didn’t hand him the envelope. "I have to explain first," she said.

"Go ahead, then." Remus sat down on the bed and patted the spot beside him.

"I started thinking at Christmas," Hermione said, climbing up beside him. "When the reporter was so interested in Draco’s name, and then asking about me and how I’m not related to anyone except Danger. It made me think. I never knew my dad. You’re my dad, really, Moony. And you’re a great dad. But nobody else knows about it. And that isn’t right. The whole world should know."

"Are you going to tell them?" Remus asked jokingly. "Take out an ad in the Prophet, or owl everyone in the world?"

Neenie shook her head. "Better." She handed him the envelope. "Happy birthday."

And I want you to know, this was not my idea, Danger said in his head. I helped with the execution. Nothing more.

I’m getting worried here.

Don’t be. You’ll love it. She closed the connection.

Remus opened the envelope and pulled out the parchments within.

He had to read them three times before he understood.

"Kitten," he said in a whisper. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Hermione nodded eagerly.

He swept her into a hug. "This is the best birthday present I’ve ever had," he told her, holding her close. "I love you so very much."

The best present? Danger asked lazily. Really now?

Let’s not argue, please. Not today. Not after this.

As you like. He could feel the humor rising from her tone. But I’ll get you for it later.

Remus wiped his eyes, which were annoyingly damp, and led Hermione out of the bedroom and down to the kitchen. "Ladies and gentlemen," he announced to the rest of the Pack. "I would like to introduce you to a very special young lady."

Sirius and Aletha, obviously not in on the secret, looked quizzical, as did the other cubs. Danger was smiling.

"Miss Hermione Jane Granger-Lupin."

It took a moment before anyone got it.

"Granger-Lupin?" Sirius asked finally, just as Harry made a small noise of understanding and Aletha’s face lit up in comprehension.

"She’s changed her name," Danger announced, beaming. "Legally. It was her own idea."

"And a wonderful one, I think," Aletha said happily, hugging the girl.

"Now we’re all Marauders," Meghan proclaimed. "All Potters, Blacks, and Lupins."

"And you know what that means," Remus said, grinning as the realization hit him.

"What?" everyone asked, not quite in unison, but it was close.

"Think of Severus Snape’s face when he gets a look at his class roster."

The Pack didn’t stop laughing at this image for nearly ten minutes.

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