Credit for this goes to Thundramon, who reminded me that it's been over a year since this updated. I hope you all enjoy.


"Well, that was fun." Vulpine said, his smile completely missing and his tone utterly belying his words. Hermione stared at him, eyes watering and teary from the emotions she had felt- emotions not hers, perhaps, but real nonetheless.

"Harry…"

Vulpine held up a hand, a tiny, wan smile touching his mouth, an expression of sorrow that was incongruously gentle for him.

"Don't, Hermione. Please. I didn't share because I want pity."

Hermione stared at him, slowly nodding. She should have expected that, really. Vulpine sighed, dragging a hand down his face.

"Honestly, I don't know why I shared." He confessed, something distant coming into his eyes, the smile staying small and sad. He shrugged.

"Maybe I felt like it was the good old days all over again. The point is, I…I thought that- I…"

Vulpine shook his head, eyes bright with emotion. He looked at her, seeming to come back to himself.

"What I mean is, finding Delphi changed me. Trite as it sounds, it might have even begun to make me a better person. And then she died, and I went right back to being driven by revenge and anger."

Hermione watched as Vulpine sniffed and shook his head, blinking away the brightness in his eyes. She cleared her throat, quietly, hating what she was about to say but knowing that it had to be said.

"You know that, even if Voldemort makes the same decision, she won't be the same?" she asked. Vulpine rose to his feet so quickly that she flinched, despite herself. His voice was raised, suddenly angry, accusing.

"That girl deserves a chance at life!" he snapped, one hand rising to point at her. Hermione lifted her hands, fingers spread in a gesture of innocence.

"I'm not saying she doesn't, Harry. But all those people who will die for a chance at the girl you remember-"

Vulpines expression twisted.

"I know, Hermione. I know it's selfish. But I can't- I won't just accept that Delphi's lot in life was to be used as a figurehead and then discarded, like a broken toy! I will not let that be her destiny!"

His voice rose as he went on, hysteria beginning to creep in as he spoke. Hermione saw his fingers clench, nails digging into his palm and his glare becoming less focused, directed at something in the past. She stepped forwards, pushing his hand down and closing the distance on him.

"So you're just going to let Voldemort rise again, and assume you can stop him? Just going to sacrifice every life that he'll take while you wait for the sake of one girl who won't even be the same?"

"Yes!" Vulpine roared, the shout tearing from him with sudden violence. He spun away from her, a hand reaching up to his hair and dragging on an unruly clump with desperate frustration, pale fingers writhing among the darkness like twisting maggots.

"She deserves better," he snarled at the wall, "And I'll give it to her. All those people who'll die, they don't mean anything! If they're too weak to live, they deserve to die!"

"You don't mean that," Hermione snapped, ire rising sudden and unbidden within her. Vulpine whirled back to her, an ugly sneer crossing his face.

"Don't I?" he rasped, voice thickened by earlier sorrow and present anger. "You think they're somehow worth more, Hermione? So much for being in the right, willing to let a child die to sooth your fears."

That cut, but Hermione was well used to the lash of Vulpines tongue. He was angry, his words not as carefully chosen to bite. She replied calmly, her voice low and hard.

"I'd choose the lives of who knows how many people over one girl who would never even be born, yes."

Vulpine covered the ground between them in a lunging movement, that brought him into her face, his attempt at looming stymied by his short height but his presence still threatening, his eyes glittering with murder.

"What did you say?" he demanded, teeth showing. Hermione brought a hand to his chest and shoved him back. She must have caught him by surprise: he staggered back, normal grace lost in a wobbling stumble for several paces before he caught himself, pacing like a starving animal even if he didn't approach again.

"She's a child, Hermione. She deserves better," he insisted, his voice hoarse with feeling, "And she deserves it more that the people who have lived whole lives in content and plenty! What have they done to deserve to live? What has she done but be the daughter of a monster?"

Hermione heard it in his voice, the way his tone caught and cracked and she felt pity well up in her.

"Nothing, Harry," she said softly, "She hasn't done anything. But you know what I mean. You understand what I'm telling you. Ten lives, twenty lives, a hundred lives- when does the cost become too high? When do you stop? I came back to save lives, Harry."

Not to let them die for a dream and a memory, she almost said, but it was better left unspoken. Any progress she had made would be lost if those words left her lips. Harry stared at her, one hand tangling in his hair again. There was a glittering in his eyes, incipient tears, but none fell. He backed away, his voice lowering.

"I suppose this is where you walk off and tell Dumbledore, right? Let him know what I'm planning so that you can stop me?"

Hermione strode towards him, jabbing a finger at his chest and speaking in a low, hissing whisper.

"How dare you," she spat, "How dare you accuse me like that? Is that really what you think of me, Harry, that I would go running to Dumbledore? Maybe you're right and we were never really friends, because if we had been you would know better!"

Vulpine was visibly taken aback, his eyes widening. Hermione took advantage without pause, recognising that he was reeling for once. Maybe it was her vehemence, more likely the memory that he had put himself through, but either way she had the chance to say her piece and she was determined not to waste it.

"Listen to me, Harry. You're- you've got this complex that we're all against you. Fine. Think what you want, but don't think for a second that we want you to fail. Dumbledore and I, we both want Voldemort dead! We both want the Death Eaters stopped, and we'll work with you happily if it means getting that. But we aren't going to succeed if you're constantly working against us! And no matter what Dumbledore wants, Harry- do you really think that I would just be pleased to sacrifice a child? Do you really think that I want to make you suffer?"

"Sometimes it seems like it." Vulpine muttered, a hand reaching up and batting away her prodding hand. A sigh grated from his mouth, a noise of exhausted irritation.

"Both of you talk a lot, but that's all it is. Are you really going to look me in the eye and tell me that you wouldn't let Delphi die, let her never even exist, if it meant killing Voldemort as soon as he rose again?"

Hermione tried to meet his gaze. She really did. But…no. No, it was true. Vulpine sighed again.

"The Resistance changed you, Hermione. Neither of us can pretend that it didn't. Once upon a time hurting a child would have been unthinkable to you, but now…"

"I still won't hurt a child," she snapped defiantly. Hermione withdrew from him, fingers flexing restlessly and her neck burning under the weight of his gaze.

"Harry- I just- this is what I came back for. It's my life now, can't you see that? I'll never be able to forget all the things I've done and seen and condoned to try and stop the Death Eaters, and now you're asking me to just stand aside and watch people die!"

Hermione tilted her head back, swallowing against the burning in her throat.

"I don't want to prevent Delphi from being born. I don't want to have to fight you on this, I don't want to be the person who is sacrificing for some grander aim. But the alternative is to be the person who is sacrificing for a single life! To be-"

"To be me?" Vulpine interjected, the rough edge smoothing from his tone and leaving a voice soft as silk. Hermione set her jaw and turned to look at him.

"You're the only one who can answer that," she told him. Vulpine stared at her before his shoulders moved in a slow shrug.

"I suppose so, yes," he admitted, "But I'm not going to be dissuaded, Hermione. For once in my life I was- I really, honestly had something to live for. Something to retire for, even. If there's even a chance…I'm not going to give her up."

"Even if it means as good as killing dozens of people?" Hermione pressed. And Vulpine…Vulpine hesitated. Hermione saw it, knew it. He had been getting less ruthless. Less the monster, and more the pragmatist. Being back in time, or remember Delphi, or being reminded of the idealist he had once been…she didn't know why, but some of the edge had been scraped away. He hid it well, but not well enough, and his nonchalant shrug was just a moment too late.

"If I have to. But don't worry, Hermione, you'll have a whole year to try and dissuade me. It's going to be a while before Voldemort rises again, after all."

"I don't want to dissuade you," Hermione called after him as he tried to leave, "I want to help. Damn it Harry, you know there are better ways of doing this than leaving it to chance!"

He waved a hand over his shoulder, the smirk on his face visible before he turned his head away.

"But where would the fun be in that?" he rhetorically asked as he walked away, leaving Hermione staring after him.

"Why don't we see, Harry?" she murmured. "Why don't we see?"


Harry didn't like to admit it, but it really was possible that he was going soft. Here he was, back at Privet Drive, and he hadn't killed or even maimed anyone.

Admittedly he'd only been there for about twenty minutes, but he'd always assumed that he'd snap and murder his family the instant he saw them. Today, therefore, was a day of unhappy surprises. At least he had an exit plan in place. He'd made very sure of that, which was why he had borne Vernon's anger with stoicism. He didn't really understand why the man was so angry, actually. Yes, he remembered blowing up Margaret Dursley, but she'd been so fat anyway that- well, mentioning that to Vernon probably wouldn't help. He'd been sent to his room, the doors had been locked and that was that.

There was a booming bark from outside and Vulpine grinned. Sounded like his ride was here. Now all he needed to do was get out and make sure that Sirius couldn't cause too much trouble. Problem: the door was locked and his wand was in his trunk, locked under the staircase. Happily, he had a solution to that.

Wandless magic.

Wandless magic was the stuff of dreams and rumours, of legend and myth. Every Hogwarts student from Fourth Year on had heard the rumours of the greatest wizards and witches of their age, capable of wreaking devastation or forging wonders without ever needing to pick up a wand. Whispers and murmurs of Dumbledore splitting lakes with a wave of his hand, of Voldemort and Grindelwald killing with merely a gesture. It was magnificent. It was wondrous. It was complete and utter poppycock.

Wandless magic was a gimmick, and not even a good one in most cases. The average witch or wizard might learn to cast a single spell without a wand, assuming they knew it intimately and worked at it for years. A skilled witch or wizard would probably be too intelligent to even try. Vulpine wasn't certain about Dumbledore, but Voldemort had always scorned wandless magic as a cheap trick. After all, you couldn't cast a Killing Curse wandlessly. As far as Voldemort was concerned that made it useless. Vulpine, on the other hand, was…a little more flexible. He didn't find wandless casting particularly useful, but it had moments and so he had put a great deal of effort into a single spell. A single, solitary, useful spell.

Harry pressed his fingers to the door of his room and concentrated, a single word leaving his lips.

"Alohomora."

The lock clicked and Vulpine grinned, savage and satisfied. He still had it, he smugly told himself as he sneaked out. He had made sure to hide his Invisibility Cloak on him before he left the train, and now he pulled it around himself and crept downstairs. Sirius was hammering on the door, no doubt enjoying himself hugely, and Vulpine took the chance to slip past Petunia and Vernon to the kitchen. He slipped a pair of scissors from the cutlery drawer and returned to the hallway, cutting through the telephone cord just as Vernon yanked open the door. Better to make sure that Petunia didn't decide to ring the police or whatever else her neurotic mind might decide.

Although in all fairness, ringing the police was probably a reasonable thing to do in this situation.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Vernon roared, ripping open the door as Sirius continued to assault it. His voice choked off as he saw Sirius, wand in hand and beaming smile in place.

"Hello!" Sirius greeted happily, pointing his wand between Vernon's eyes. Vernon choked and Sirius stepped forwards, forcing Vernon back with a grin that was rapidly becoming less friendly and more manic.

"Now then, I don't suppose you know where my godson is, do you? I've come to…find him."

Vernon burbled. Petunia shrieked and clutched at her cheeks. Vulpine pushed back his Cloak and stepped out, waving to Sirius.

"Sirius Black!" he snarled. Petunia threw her hands up and fainted- or just fell down in dramatics, Vulpine wasn't sure- and Vernon went so red Vulpine was genuinely concerned that the man might have a heart attack. Not concerned for Vernon, of course, but having someone abruptly die would rob him of his chance to grandstand. Harry made the best of it by pointing a dramatic hand at Sirius, who was beaming at him.

"Come to kill me, Black?" he demanded. Sirius sneered in the best Snape impression possible, taking a step forwards without taking his wand away from Vernon.

"No, Harry. I've come for something far different…"

"Come on then! Tell me!"

"Harry…I've come…to invite you on a holiday!"

Sirius threw up his arms, wand leaving Vernon as his sneer was replaced by a ridiculous grin. Vulpine laughed, taking the offered high-five without pausing. Vernon had collapsed by the wall, one meaty hand over his heart. Petunia had sneaked over to the phone, the sly witch. It would probably have worked had- well, had Vulpine not sabotaged her.

"Did I tell you that Sirius was my Godfather?" Vulpine asked his Aunt and Uncle cheerfully, smiling at them with Sirius behind him. He blinked innocently as Petunia frantically tried to get the phone to work and Vernon wheezed. Dudley was nowhere to be seen as of yet, although that would probably change fairly soon.

"Where's your wand, Harry?" Sirius asked. Vulpine pointed to the cupboard under the stairs, a lazy gesture. Sirius squinted at the locked door and grunted in understanding.

"Alright, fair enough. Reducto!"

The lock exploded off the door and Vulpine took the chance to duck into the cupboard, riffling through his trunk and reuniting himself with his wand.

"Aww, I've missed this," he said, caressing the yellowish wood. Petunia stared at him, her expression pinched and her face white as milk. Vulpine idly wondered if it was her normal fear of magic, or if it was her conscience finally asserting itself. Was she looking at him, he wondered, and remembering all the years of neglect? Was she looking at him and wondering if vengeance had at last come upon her?

Probably not. Those sorts of thoughts required a personality with more depth than the average puddle in the Sahara.

"You can't use that freakishness in here! You'll be expelled, boy! Expelled!" Vernon roared. Well, more of a blubber than a roar, but the intent was there. Vulpine glanced at him, amused.

"I can't use magic in here. Sirius doesn't have that problem. He's overage."

"Didn't you get in trouble because an elf cast a spell in here, though?" Sirius idly commented, glancing up the stairs. Harry shrugged.

"Dobby made that happen on purpose. Any other time it wouldn't have registered. You can cast all the spells you want- even Hagrid did. Gave Dudley a pigs tail."

Sirius chuckled.

"Maybe I can top that," he said, malicious intent seeping into his tone before he sprang to his right and pointed his wand up the stairs.

"Locomotor Mortis! Gotcha you little sneak!"

Vulpine heard Dudley screech in terror as Sirius cast and sighed.

"Don't let him fall down the stairs, Sirius."

"Hmm? Oh yeah, right. Wingardium Leviosa."

Dudley bumped down the stairs, legs thumping on every step as Sirius levitated him none-too-gently down, dropping him on the floor near to Petunia.

"Dudders!" Petunia wailed, scrambling to the side of her son and sobbing in a high-pitched wail. Sirius scowled at her, waving his wand.

"Muffliato. There's no need for that, Tuney. And you- stay right where you are!"

Vernon had begun to rise but froze again as Sirius turned to menace him. Vulpine sighed, rubbing at his nose.

"You are not an expert at this home-invasion thing, are you?"

"In my defence, Harry, I've been in prison for the last thirteen years. It's not like riding a bike- is it?"

Vulpine glared at him and made a hushing motion and Sirius had the good grace to look momentarily embarrassed.

"Well usually, I guess you would tie them up and rob the house," Vulpine started, "If you want to do that?"

Sirius looked seriously tempted.

"Well this is a nice house. Probably better than mine. You think there's anything worth taking, though? Your family seem pretty boring, really."

Vulpine shrugged.

"I wouldn't bother," he admitted. Sirius rubbed his hands together.

"Well alright then. I guess this is the murder part, right?"

Sirius managed to look utterly deranged as he said that. Neither Vernon nor Dudley was really in a position to see it, but Petunia passed out- for real, this time. Harry could tell by the way she was breathing. He rolled his eyes.

"Normally you start with that."

"You- you do? Maybe I should have joined the Death Eaters after all, they probably get a leaflet and a summer camp on these sorts of things."

Sirius kept one eye on Vernon as he spoke, a glitter of malice entering his gaze.

"But they're your family, right? You don't want them killed?"

Vulpine shrugged.

"Don't really care. I have a few words for them, though."

Sirius grinned, taking a moment to levitate Dudley and Vernon into the living room and copying it with Petunia. Once they were awkwardly arrayed along the wall he waved his wand at Petunia.

"Locomotor mortis. Enervate."

Petunia snapped up, twitching as best she could while trapped in the Body-Bind Curse. With all three of them locked in place Vulpine walked through, eyes settling on them.

"You know," he started conversationally, "I have dreamed of this day. Not quite like this, maybe, but this sort of thing. For so long. So, so long. You know, it stills startles me that you could even…no. No point, is there? None of you have the ability to self-reflect. None of you can even begin to understand what a monstrous thing it is to be given a child, a baby, and make it live in a cupboard!"

The Dursleys cringed as Vulpine lunged forwards, catching himself just in time and turning back and away. Sirius was leaning on the wall next to Vulpine's trunk, his expression cold and hard, wand still in hand. Harry ran a hand through his hair, sighing.

"No. There isn't any real point, is there? Maybe Dudley could be a better person than you are. Maybe. But he won't, will he?"

Muffled moans of terror greeted his pronouncement, urine darkening Vernon's trousers. Vulpine rubbed at his chin.

"I've always dreamed of a bloody revenge, you know. After Petunia took a swing at me with the frying pan. Every time I was thrown into the cupboard, every time Dudley knocked me down or out of the way, every time he was encouraged in his childish cruelty I dreamed and I hoped and I thought: vengeance."

Petunia was sobbing, the Silencing Charm making the weeping soundless. Vernon had paled to the colour of off-milk, Dudley had his eyes screwed shut and his piggish features scrunched up. Vulpine gestured at Sirius.

"Sirius here was sent to prison for the murder of one wizard and thirteen Muggles. He was innocent, weren't you?"

"I was," Sirius confirmed. Vulpine nodded.

"You think you could have killed back then?"

"Not without a lot of trying."

Vulpine took a step back and a long breath.

"And…now?"

Sirius bared his teeth in a gesture that bore only the faintest resemblance to a smile.

"I'd be more than happy to, Harry. Just say the word."

Petunia sobbed even harder, Vernon still and stiff. Dudley was crying as well, fear consuming him and Vulpine stared at them, completely silent.

"This," he eventually said, "Is what happens. This is what happens when you sow the wind. You reap a whirlwind. I could tell Sirius to kill you all right now and he would. Because he cares. Because he cares for me. Because he's the family you've never been."

Vulpine kept his gaze on them, thinking it over. He could do it, maybe. But did he- well, did he really care enough? Or was it better to…a small, cruel smile curved his lips as he came to a decision.

"Sirius," he said quietly, the man stirring and glancing at him, "Let's go."

"You don't want me to kill them?" Sirius asked, only curiosity in his voice. Vulpine scratched his chin, glancing back at his whimpering family.

"Hmm. No, I don't think so. Death is too quick."

Vulpine turned suddenly, darting across the room to Vernon and grabbing him by the meaty jowl, forcing the fat man to look up at him and squeezing painfully on flesh. It must have hurt, slender but strong fingers digging into fat and flesh as he bent down. It probably looked ridiculous to an outside observer, a short and skinny thirteen year old threatening a hefty man, but Vernon was in no condition to make such observations.

"Do you hear me, Vernon? Do you hear me you fat fuck? I'll let you live, but I'll keep an eye on you. I want you to know that. I want you to know that I could have killed you at any time and that I might change my mind. Every creak of the stairs at night. Every knock on the door. Every breath of wind, that could be me, Vernon. That could be me, coming for you. I want all three of you to remember that. I want you all to remember me and remember that you turned me into this. Can you do that, Vernon? Can you remember me?"

Vulpine let Vernon go and straightened, taking a deep breath.

"God, I want to do it. I want to do it so badly, none of you can even imagine."

A sly smile crossed his face, eyes crinkling with mirth at the sheer horror and terror on the faces of his family, his voice a low and gentle crooning as he spoke again.

"But I think this is better, don't you? Remember, all three of you…I'll be watching."

And with those last words Romulus Vulpine, Harry Potter, turned and left the prison of his childhood behind for the last time in his life.


Hermione had never been that fond of the summer holiday. Oh, she didn't mind it- particularly when she was at Hogwarts, it was nice to be able to go home and see her parents- but she always found it somewhat boring. She wanted to learn, to practice, to find new things and explore new avenues of knowledge…but she could afford to take it easy, she supposed. She had always spent most of her Hogwarts summers reading her books, writing to Ron and Harry and storming through her homework. Age had given her a certain perspective, though, so she left her homework undone and wandered out, to take a walk around. It was a pleasant day, summer heat cut by a drifting breeze and she strolled without aim, content to take in the sights of her hometown and let her feet find their own path.

Still, it wasn't all peace and gentle thoughts. A pair of boys about her own age whizzed past her on their bikes, taunts and petty insults shouted at her as they went. She had never been particularly popular, and the familiar shout of "Beaver breath!" rang in her ears, her sigh accompanying it.

"Wow. Rude. You want me to kill them for you?"

Hermione jumped and barely stifled a yelp as Vulpine abruptly popped out of a bush, the silvery sheen of his Invisibility Cloak swirling off his shoulders and vanishing under his jacket. His grin was bright and cheerful, carrying none of the resentment that had marred his expression when they had parted on the Hogwarts Express.

"What? No!" Hermione snapped, responding to his question automatically. Vulpine pouted lightly.

"Ah, c'mon Hermione. I'll even do you a deal. Mate's rates, twenty percent off."

She frowned at him and he sighed, delicately brushing his fingers together.

"Twenty five percent off, and I'm cutting my own throat."

Hermione couldn't help it, she laughed.

"I'm not paying you to kill anyone, Harry," she chastised, though she was still smiling at the sheer ridiculousness of it. Vulpine grinned back at her, swinging out from the bushes and falling into step with her.

"Well, if you feel that way. Not like there'd be any fun in it anyway, I suppose. How are your parents?"

Hermione glanced at him, trying to see if there was any mockery in his expression, but he seemed sincere.

"They're well," she said, "But I haven't told them about…you know."

"Mm," Vulpine grunted, "Suppose that would be hard, wouldn't it? Even assuming they did believe you…"

"Did you tell the Dursleys?" Hermione asked, changing the subject without subtlety. Vulpine shook his head.

"No point in telling them anything."

Hermione gave him a searching look and he blinked at her.

"I didn't kill them," he protested, "Just a bit of mild terror. They'll probably move and I'll never have to see them again."

"You really have gone soft."

A sniff was her answer, Vulpine pursing his lips in thought.

"Maybe, I guess. But I didn't really want to- well, we'll see. Dudley had the potential to be more than a useless sack of meat at any rate, didn't want to spoil that. Besides, I just couldn't be…bothered. It's a long time since I've cared about them at all."

"Small mercies," Hermione muttered, before the next thought crossed her mind. "So what brings you here?"

Vulpine shrugged as they began to turn the corner, starting the trek back to Hermione's home- she led the way, almost unconsciously.

"Thought I'd drop by to have a chat before Sirius and I split. We've got an appointment with sun, sea and probably nude beaches, if Sirius has anything to say about it."

"Nude beaches, Harry? Really? You're thirteen."

"Nearly fourteen, I'll have you know. And I make a mean Aging Potion."

He winked at her, and Hermione genuinely couldn't tell if he was being serious or not. She decided, for the sake of her own sanity if nothing else, to simply move the conversation along.

"So what do you want to talk about?" she asked. Harry lost his teasing grin, his manner becoming business-like in an instant.

"Right. That. We should probably talk about Voldemort, right?"

"We're going to have to let him return, aren't we?"

Vulpine put his hands in his pockets, frowning and hunching slightly into his coat. He didn't give a direct reply, but he didn't need to: it was a rhetorical question by almost any measure.

"Just because he's coming back doesn't mean we have to just let him have his own way," he offered, his frown turning a little more thoughtful. Hermione chewed her lip in thought, trying to find the right way to address the elephant in the room.

"How were you going to do that?" she eventually asked, settling on the question. Harry scuffed a trainer along the ground, dragging a step in thought.

"I was going to make sure that Pettigrew was arrested, and then I was going to brainwash one of the other Death Eaters to take his place. That way I'd have some control," he admitted, "Although obviously that's gone tits-up now. Even so, maybe…"

He trailed off, shaking his head. Hermione glanced at him.

"Who were you thinking of using?" she asked. Vulpine shrugged, a faint grin touching the corner of his mouth.

"Maybe good old Lucius, he'll be much less paranoid now," he started, though the grin faded, "But I doubt he'd be the best choice. Probably Barty Crouch, he's a complete nutcase which makes him easier to brainwash and he won't be the hard to grab. There's only Winky in the way and it's not that hard to take a House Elf off guard, especially one who's fixated on someone else."

"You shouldn't talk about Winky like that," Hermione quietly chided. She received only a shrug in return and chose not to fight it: Vulpine viewed House Elves as he did most people, with dry apathy. It was better than active disdain, she supposed. Not great, but sometimes it was better to pick your fights.

"I'm still tempted to go after Crouch, and maybe Malfoy. Malfoy isn't the bravest, but he's smart and he provides a lot of the financial backing. But that's the problem, he's smart. And killing Death Eaters in numbers now would look suspicious, Voldemort isn't stupid," Vulpine mused, speaking more to himself than to her. Hermione cleared her throat to draw his attention.

"We could use Crouch as a plant," she suggested, "If you can brainwash him enough we could use him to murder Malfoy, maybe? And that will shake Voldemort's trust in his inner circle."

Vulpine looked up at her with the wolfish grin back on his face, eyes sparkling with amusement.

"Why Hermione, how very ruthless of you. I like it. And with Crouch escaping early, I might even be able to get him to persuade Voldemort away from that stupid Triwizard plan. I'd like a nice, quiet year if I can get one."

"You don't want to go out and show off again?" Hermione asked, her tone dry. Harry laughed.

"Not even a little," he said, still smiling, "Not even a little. What a waste of time it all is. Could you even see anything in the second and third tasks?"

"Not a thing. They provided entertainment during it instead- shows of magic and stuff. It wasn't…honestly, it wasn't that impressive. There's only so much Transfiguration you can see McGonagall do before it gets boring."

"Hermione Granger, bored by a teacher! Will wonders never cease?" Vulpine teased, smiling. Hermione swatted at his arm.

"Stop that. She's very impressive, just that I was more worried about you. Besides, I saw her animate the statues in Hogwarts to fight. Now that was impressive."

"Amazing, is the word you're looking for. I've been trying to work out how she managed that so smoothly ever since it was done and I still can't. I don't think it was all her work, but some sort of time-delayed mass animation…I can't even begin to work out how to repeat it."

Given that Harry was actually rather skilled in Transfiguration, that probably said a lot more than most people would think. Maybe that was a project worth looking into, Hermione pondered. Assuming she ever managed to get some free time. Vulpine coughed quietly, drawing her attention: the two of them were in sight of her house, and he had stopped walking.

"I don't suppose you'll mind if I don't come in to meet your parents? I have to catch Sirius before he decides it's too risky and outright flees the country," he said, quietly. Hermione shrugged and opened her mouth to answer, only to meet his gaze and become trapped in it. There was something intense in his eyes, something he wanted to say.

"What is it?" she asked, voice still soft. Vulpine pulled his eyes away from her, looking at her house.

"Your parents," he began, voice uncharacteristically hesitant, "You said that you haven't told them?"

"No," Hermione replied, just as quiet. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, a drifting sigh.

"I just- I can't do it, Harry. I don't want to have to look at them and tell them what I did. Even if I can get them to believe me."

Vulpine nodded, a brief, choppy jerk of his chin.

"Yeah. Yeah, I suppose I can get that. I just…"

His eyes seemed to look into the distance for a moment before they refocused, blinking.

"I think you should tell them earlier rather than later. The longer you wait, the more hurt they'll be that you didn't trust them. But that's not my decision to make, I just thought that…"

He shook his head and fell silent, but Hermione thought she understood.

"None of my business anyway," he said, offering her a smile, "Enjoy your summer, Hermione."

Hermione watched him walk away until he pulled his Cloak around himself and vanished from sight, thinking on what he had said and, almost despite herself, understanding it. He'd understand her fears that her parents might leave her. After all, he knew what it was like to be an orphan, even if he'd never known his parents. But then, how could she just tell them that she'd wiped their memories and sent them away, never to retrieve them? How could she even begin to have that conversation? Yet she knew that Harry was right. It would only grow worse the longer she waited.

But for the moment, she just couldn't bring herself to deal with it. Not right now. Not so soon. Maybe it made her a coward, but…Hermione sighed and pushed her thoughts away, turning away and beginning to walk home. She had more to think on than she liked.


"So, I don't want to sound like…uh…a responsible adult," Sirius started, "But how were you planning to fund our summer of debauchery? I spent all my money on the Firebolt and I don't think you can just swan into the bank."

Vulpine grinned, glancing at his godfather, who was currently reclining lazily in a slightly moth-eaten armchair in Grimmauld Place.

"Well," he began, "The way I see it we have two choices. Choice one is to go as we are and play it safe, make it through the summer on what cash I have and what you've got left."

"Boring!" Sirius complained. "What's the second choice?"

Vulpine let his grin widen even further.

"Second choice is something I've done before. You see, the Aurors over in the Magical USA are a bit less civilized than over here. USA is even worse than here, to the point where almost every country refuses to extradite criminals to them, so they've set up a pretty robust bounty system. Discreet, effective and well paid."

Sirius mulled that over for a moment and then looked at him, a smirk twisting his lips.

"You've already got someone picked out."

Vulpine waved a hand.

"Well, it might be that our old friend Fenrir Greyback took a trip to the States a few years ago, bit a few children. And believe me, they make the werewolf prejudice over here look welcoming so…"

"He's got a huge bounty on his head," Sirius finished, grinning wickedly now. Vulpine clicked his tongue and pointed a finger at him in affirmation, before wiggling his fingers.

"Even better, I know that a couple of the Death Eater old guard have themselves a weekly poker night. Macnair had a standing invitation- and I got a few hairs from our buddy Macnair when I killed him."

"Polyjuice," Sirius muttered, "I like it. But how are we going to take them down? Try to ambush them?"

"Always a good choice for a Plan B, but I've got something better in mind," Vulpine said, reaching into a pocket and pulling out two vials of potions. He held them up, glinting in the firelight and Sirius squinted at them.

"One's Draught of Living Death, right?"

Vulpine nodded.

"Right. Best sleeping potion in the world. Odourless, tasteless, doesn't wear off. Problem is getting it into people…which is where this one comes in."

He held up the second vial, this one filled with a grey fluid with just the slightest touch of pink.

"I call this the Sippy-cup of Sleep. It's much less powerful than the Draught but…it doesn't need to be drunk. It can be absorbed through the skin."

Sirius straightened in his chair.

"It can? So you can…"

"Spill it on someone and it'll work, yep," Vulpine confirmed, smiling widely, "But even better. I found this out by accident, but if you soak it into cards the cards will keep it in until someone touches it. Touchy sleepy. All it'll take is taking the antidote beforehand and a bit of sleight of hand. Or maybe…hmm…"

Vulpine trailed off, muttering to himself and patting at his pockets as another thought came to him. Sirius watched him quietly, one eyebrow raised- he was just becoming impatient enough to interrupt when Harry snapped his fingers.

"Of course. Much better choice, actually. I can brew a bit of Discombobulating Drink and soak it into the cards, all it'll need is a bit of heat and it'll fill the whole room. They won't know what's going on, they'll think they're drunk and I can drip a bit of Sippy-Cup into their drinks. There's only four or five of them, too, it'll be easy."

Sirius gave him an approving nod, although he still looked quizzical.

"And while you're doing this, what am I going to be doing?" he asked. Vulpine glanced at him, assessing and thinking. To his credit Sirius stayed quiet, apparently content to trust Harry on this. It warmed Harry's heart, it really did, a sensation like hot butterbeer sinking into his chest.

"I need you outside, Sirius."

Sirius pouted.

"Outside? C'mon Harry, let your of godfather get some action in! I'll never shake off the rust like this!"

Vulpine laughed.

"Oh, you'll get plenty of chances, Sirius. I need you outside in case something goes wrong and I need someone who knows what he's doing to come bursting in and join me in a bit of impromptu homicide. You're up for that, right?"

Sirius brightened at the suggestion before pouting again.

"Only if something goes wrong?" he asked. Harry rolled his eyes at him, still smiling good-naturedly.

"Don't worry Padfoot, you'll get plenty of chances to cause trouble after this one. I just want to keep this nice and quiet, you know? Stay on the down-low."

Sirius sulked briefly before cheering up.

"So long as you promise," he said happily, "I'll let you deal with this one. When do you want to go for it?"

Vulpine checked his watch, thoughtfully.

"Sooner the better. The Acromantulae will eat Macnair, but they might find his axe or something so it'll help get rid of suspicion. Next meeting is in three days."

"You can be ready by then?" Sirius asked, settling back. Vulpine glanced at the potions vials, already running through the recipe for Discombobulating Drink and the letter he needed to send to his old contact in the American Aurors.

"Shouldn't be a problem."


The former Death Eaters were not the brightest bunch, all things considered. Well, not Death Eaters. Hanger-ons. Macnair was the only one who had been a regular member of Voldemort's little clique: the others were low level scum. Even Greyback was little more than a beast on a chain, used only for his value as a terror piece. That said, even though they were stupid enough to use one of their houses for the meetings they were at least smart enough to change the location on the regular. Luckily Vulpine had known about these old meetings and had managed to snag the location from Greyback's mind as they both skulked around Knockturn Alley. He could have stolen the location from Macnair, of course, but he had been a little too distracted. He did know, though, that a number of the old Death Eaters remained in contact with each other. Most moved in different circles than this, though.

That sneaking bastard Lucius, Vulpine would have his head one day. Just needed to prepare things first. Maybe when Voldemort returned…

Vulpine shook the daydreams away and strode up to the meeting room, a small house in a London suburb. He was clothed in the crude, heavy form of Macnair, but he didn't let it bother him too much and the man behind the door didn't seem to think there was anything wrong. That was the first hurdle cleared. Now for the second one: actually fitting in. At least Walden was pretty predictable, all Vulpine had to do was be crude and racist. That wasn't too hard to fake.

"Walden!" Greyback bellowed, rising to his feet as Vulpine strode into the back room. The man came over, catching Vulpine a ringing blow to the shoulder in a friendly if rough greeting.

"Where've you been, Walden? I thought you were dead!"

Vulpine laughed, the noise coming out hoarse and harsh.

"Dead? It'd take a lot more to kill me than that Potter brat!" he boasted, taking a place at the table in the middle of the room. Fenrir slid a beer over to him, a grin widening his whiskered face.

"Oh, aye?"

Vulpine took a long gulp of the beer, chugging noisily before he nodded.

"Oh, aye. I was supposed to kill that bloody Hippogriff of that big bastard Hagrid, the half breed-"

"Giants!" Fenrir spat. Vulpine momentarily amused himself at the hypocrisy before he continued.

"Only it bloody ran off, didn't it? Well I followed the tracks and what did I find but Harry bloody Potter, out on his own in the Forest."

Vulpine let a leer settle onto his features as he paused, Fenrir looking at him with a sharp grin.

"Well you know me, Fenrir, couldn't leave the poor bugger on his own out in the Forest. Not with a Hippogriff and whatever else might be out there. 'Course, he didn't take it quite so well."

Fenrir roared with laughter.

"The Golden Boy escaped you, Walden?"

"He's not so slow on his feet, I'll tell you that," Vulpine continued, getting into the tale now, "And he was gone into the forest like he had a Firebolt up his arse! Off he went so I ran after him- thinking to save him, of course."

"Oh, of course," Fenrir repeated, a deep chuckle interrupting his words. Vulpine nodded approvingly, rapping his mug on the table.

"So there I am, running through a forest at night, and out of nowhere comes a bloody Acromantula!"

"One of those big bloody spiders?" one of the two other men in the room squeaked out. Vulpine could just about remember his name- Darby, he thought? He'd been another Snatcher, he vaguely remembered. Vulpine slammed his fist on the table and saw the man jump, pointing at him.

"Aye!" he roared, "A bloody spider the size of a troll! Fangs as big as yer arm, eyes like bloody crystal balls, venom pouring out like a waterfall! Came right at me, slobbering and as hungry as ten men!"

The man stared at him. Fenrir was still grinning, a slyness to the expression as he leaned back.

"Came right at me it did, ready to bite me arm off. But Walden MacNair isn't about to be eaten by some overgrown insect, no sir: I caught it right in the skull with me axe and laid it out with one blow!"

"One blow?" the man gasped, impressionable and amazed. Vulpine drained the rest of his beer in one gulp, dragging an arm across his mouth to brush away the foam.

"One blow," he declared, "Right to the face and down it went, screamin' and wailin'. But there wasn't only one of them, was there?"

"I'd heard there was a whole colony over in the Forest," Fenrir mused, rocking back and balancing his chair on two legs. Vulpine pointed at him.

"A colony, that's right. A bloody hundred of them came pouring out, gnashing and rattling to get me for killing their brother- or sister, who'd know with those bloody bugs. But I wasn't about to be eaten, not me, so off I went, running as fast as I could and casting spells behind me. Any that got to close I got with my axe, best as I could, until I was trapped. A big clearing, trees all around and spiders all about and the biggest one came forth, twice as large as the first and three times as vicious!"

The two men- Darby and another, Vulpine thought his name was Jack- leaned forwards, raptly intent. Greyback lounged in his chair and gouged at a tooth with a grimy fingernail, feigning indifference, although his eyes were intent. Vulpine grinned.

"Forwards this big bastard came and I shouted out to it, dared it to come at me. And come it did, charging like a whole pack of trolls. My wand was useless against something so big, so I went with my axe. Ah, my axe, that beauty," he said, letting his tone turn wistful at the end before it deepened and hardened again, "So there it was. It charged at me and I at it, swinging my axe for all I was worth. It was a tough one, lads, I'll tell you that, legs like steel and jaws gnashing. But I was quicker: I cut off one leg, then the other, made it fall and I climbed atop, getting ahold of the hairs on it's back and I cut it's head off right there, before all the rest. It cost me my axe: the handle broke on the last blow! But I stood there, lads, atop that beast, and I shouted at them to come and die like it had! And wonder of wonders, they didn't. I must have scared them good and proper, for they ran back into the forest and left me in there alone with a body and a broken axe."

Jack and Darby both looked amazed, but Fenrir made a rude noise, snorting.

"Well, it's a pretty enough story I guess," he grunted, "But I don't see it being anything else."

He grinned at Vulpine, challenging. Vulpine grinned back as he reached into his coat. Oh, he had come prepared for this.

"Well, I thought someone might say so, so I made sure to bring something with me," he told them, letting his voice lower. His fingers curled around the souvenir that he had made sure to venture into the Forest in search of- it had been a long trip, but not especially dangerous. Just a shame that most of the easily accessible corpses had been cleaned up by Hagrid and Dumbledore, he had been forced to go into the Forest itself and find one. But the effort was all worth it in this moment, as he pulled a fang nearly as long as his forearm from his coat where it had been concealed and slammed it into the table.

The needle-sharp point pierced the aged wood, the force used enough to drive it in so that it stood, quivering, atop the table. Vulpine gestured at it, a broad and victorious wave of the hand.

"What do you say to that, Fenrir?" he asked, smugly triumphant. Greyback dropped his chair back onto all four legs with a ringing crash, his yellowish eyes fixed on the fang with avaricious fascination. Acromatulae fangs weren't the rarest thing in existence, but they also weren't that common. Partly because the enormous spiders weren't native to Britain, but mainly because they were enormous predatory spiders with a fondness for people meat.

"It's real?" Greyback asked. Vulpine gestured magnanimously.

"Check for yourself," he invited, leaning back in his chair. Polyjuice still had time, he estimated, although he had a hip-flask full just in case. He'd prefer not to drink anymore, though- MacNair's hair had turned the sludgy potion a greasy red-black and to call it unpleasant was to vastly underestimate the taste and texture. Greyback reached out and wrenched the fang from the table, holding it up to his face and peering closely at it. Vulpine eyed him while he did so, keeping the lazily arrogant expression fixed on his features until Greyback snorted and slammed it down.

"I'll be damned, it's real. You really did do it, then."

Greyback looked at him, a flicker of consideration in his eyes.

"How much would you sell it for?" he asked, eyes glittering. Vulpine briefly wondered what Greyback would want with it- try to make a profit selling it to some unscrupulous potioneer, or keep it as a trophy to boast about, something to falsely inflate his reputation? Well, it didn't really matter. What mattered was that Vulpine had him right where he wanted him.

"I'll do you better than that, Fenrir," he said, reaching into his coat again and slapping a deck of cards down on the table, closest to the lamp that was there- closest to the warmth.

"I'll play you for it. You let me use this as my buy in, winner takes all. What do you say, Greyback?"

Greyback leaned further forwards, one long-fingered hand stroking at his scraggling whiskers in absent thought before he slammed his hand on the table.

"Agreed! But not with your cards, Walden."

"Ach, don't you trust me?" Vulpine protested mildly, but he made no further noise as Greyback reached back and pulled out his own deck. Slightly more tattered than the one Vulpine had brought out, it was in good enough condition and the two other men quickly agreed that they were in. Vulpine could have laughed at how well it was all going- he had a hard time keeping the smirk off his face as it was. Now it was just a matter of stalling until the Discombobulating Drink diffused enough to leave the three men helpless. Just a matter of winning just enough to stay in the game and losing just enough to keep the others interested.

Unfortunately for the three of them Vulpine was a reasonably capable poker player. Even more unfortunately, he was an extremely skilled Legilimens who could see through their feeble attempts at Occlumency with complete ease. Working out the cards someone had would be hard and a little bit invasive. Working out the general strength of their hand was as easy as pie.

This might actually be fun.


He'd been right. This was amazing fun.

"You've got the luck of the devil!" Greyback slurred at him, pointing a finger in a manner that was more friendly than threatening. Vulpine gave him a sharp, wide grin that would probably have looked more suitable on his own face than MacNair's, but Greyback was too pissed to care. The Discombobulating Drink fumes and the beer that Greyback had been hammering down were doing their job with superb efficiency. Darby was already snoring on the floor, and Jack was swaying in his seat, like a row-boat caught in a gale at sea. Only Greyback was making any pretence of functionality, and Vulpine could tell that it wouldn't last much longer. The man was robust, resistant, but not that robust. Vulpine made sure to add a little sway to his movement as he leaned towards Greyback, a pretence of tipsiness that he enhanced with a slur in his voice as he dealt a fresh hand. Best not to risk any suspicion right now.

"Mebbe someone has his eye on me, eh?" he cackled, "Explains why I'd catch such a fine prize!"

Greyback bellowed with laughter, leaning back and accidentally flashing his cards at Vulpine. A poor hand, though Vulpine had already guessed that. He said nothing about it, instead reaching across the table and snagging the last of the pitchers of beer that Greyback had brought in when they started playing.

"A drink, Fenrir! Can't play cards when you're thirsty!" he shouted. Greyback cheered, Jack raising a sleepier, more ragged echo, and Vulpine sloshed the liquid into three mugs, adding a few drops of Sleepy Sippy-Cup to all three before he hoisted his mug in a toast.

"To good luck!" he toasted dramatically, throwing back his head and gulping down the sour liquid. Some of it splattered his clothes as it overran his lips and he cursed, giving it a drunken lilt. Fenrir roared with laughter again, picking up his own drink.

"Can't even drink proper, Walden! I'll show ye how it's done!" he shouted with booming good humour, gulping down his drink before he slammed his hand on the cards.

"Come on then, lads, I'm feeling fortunate!"

Another hand. Vulpine had a good one this time, dealing out the cards and knowing he could win. But maybe it would be better to let Greyback win, to drag him out of the game? Jack was already down, folding barely a minute before he keeled off his chair and collapsed, asleep. Fenrir peered blearily down at him, eyelids growing visibly heavy as he slowly swayed.

"Can't- can't hold his drink, Wal'," he slurred, wavering. Vulpine looked at him and changed his mind: Greyback wasn't about to make it past the hand. A yawn left the other man with a gaping mouth, showing sharp and yellowed teeth as they finished the hand. Greyback slowly leaned down, a grunt leaving his mouth as sleep overcame him and Vulpine leaned in.

"Two of a kind, Fenrir? Not the best hand I've ever seen," he said, just as Greyback let his head fall onto the table and began to snore with noisy enthusiasm. Vulpine grinned. Stage Two, complete. Time for the endgame. Vulpine rose to his feet, drawing his wand from his sleeve and casting three quick Stunning Spells- no point in risking them waking up. That only left one man in the house, the doorman, and Vulpine poked his head out into the corridor with wand already in hand. The man was looking the wrong way, facing the door- a decent guard against the outside, but not the in. Another spell sent him crumpling to the ground and Vulpine moved on to the next.

A fit of whimsy went through him, a consideration that was brief and easy and he pulled a hand of cards from the deck, pinning them to the table next to the Acromantula fang. Two black Aces, two black eights and the Nine of Diamond. Dead Mans Hand. That might give them something to chew on he thought, tapping Greyback on the head and Disillusioning the man before he levitated him and began to walk out. As a second thought he retrieved his deck of cards and swiped the money that had been laid out on the table. Every little helped, after all.

He made his way through the house, hiding his wand in his sleeve and making sure to levitate Greyback before him. He was staggering a little, partly from the alcohol and partly from the mixtures of antidotes to the Discombobulating Drink and the Sleepy Sippy-Cup. He needed to make this quick, because while MacNair was big enough that he was only inconvenienced once the Polyjuice wore off Vulpine would be out of it for the best part of an hour. No sobering potion worked quickly.

No good one, anyway, and violent projectile vomiting was the sort of thing that Vulpine preferred to avoid entirely. No, better to make sure that he was away and done before he cleansed himself of the volatile mixture. He exited the house quickly, glancing across the street and hastily crossing before any cars came past. Sirius was there, waiting in an alleyway with the Invisibility Cloak thrown across his shoulders. He emerged from hiding as Vulpine approached.

"Did you get him?" he asked, his voice lowered to a hoarse whisper. Vulpine nodded, grabbing his godfather by the wrist and guiding his hand to Greyback. Sirius grinned as he felt the man, a jubilant look entering his eyes.

"Let's get out of here before anyone wakes up," Vulpine said, swallowing and grabbing Sirius by the wrist. Sirius nodded quickly, reaching into his coat and pulling out a tattered newspaper.

"Iggly-biggly, snackety-snick, let's get out of here right quick!" he whispered and Vulpine felt the familiar wrenching just behind his bellybutton as the Portkey activated. Vulpine had never been a graceful traveller when it came to Portkeys and his delicate stomach was not willing to accommodate him now: as soon as they landed in a darkened park he tore himself away from Sirius and vomited, barely lurching over to a bush before it bent him double. He cleared his stomach out, coughing and cursing mentally before wiping his mouth on his coat and spitting. A hasty charm dealt with the breath, but he simply abandoned the coat- it was old anyway. Sirius gave him a grin as he returned, though there was some concern in his eyes.

"Alright there, Harry?"

Vulpine nodded.

"I've never been good with Portkeys and the potion antidotes don't play well," he explained, dropping the Disillusionment on Greyback with a tap of his wand. Sirius gazed at their captive, eyes glittering.

"You know that this bastard was the one who bit Remus?" he asked, toying with his wand. Vulpine nodded.

"You think we should bring him in on this?" he asked. Remus could use the money, that was for certain, although Vulpine wasn't sure if Remus would be quite as willing to resort to kidnapping as Sirius was. Sirius scratched at him chin with his wand, Vulpine wincing.

"Don't do that," he snapped, "You could blow your face off."

Sirius gave him a surprised look.

"You sound like Moody."

"Yeah well he knows what he's about. Remus, though. What do you think?"

"Eh," Sirius said, "I dunno if he'd go for it. Well, I think he would, but…maybe we should go and get him. It's not like Greyback'll wake up soon, right?"

Vulpine straightened from bending over Greyback, a now-empty vial in his hand.

"Not anymore," he said with visible satisfaction. Draught of Living Death. That would keep the bastard down. Even transforming into a werewolf wouldn't break the sleep.

"Well, let's go see Remus then. Carefully though, we don't want to be tracked."

Sirius nodded, reaching down to lift Greyback by one of his arms and wrinkling his nose in disgust.

"Ugh. Doesn't he ever wash?"

Vulpine chuckled faintly.

"I'm sure he would call it masculine musk or something. But if it's bothering you so much, we can drop him in the ocean on our way over."

"Oh Harry, you say the sweetest things." Sirius simpered. A moment later the lonely park sounded with two muffled, cracking pops as the two of them Apparated away, leaving the place in silence once more.


They left Greyback in the cellar at Grimmauld Place, giving Kreacher orders to watch him and incapacitate him if he somehow woke up. While Kreacher was still somewhat sympathetic to the Dark Lord and the other purebloods that Fenrir was at least nominally aligned with, his vague loyalty to them and the frothing hatred for 'half-breeds' that had been beaten into him over the course of his life ensured that any miracle that awoke Greyback would be- well, rather less than miraculous in result. Kreacher was nothing if not maliciously inventive. That safely done, Vulpine pulled on a hat and popped in a pair of coloured contact lenses to hide his appearance and they set out. Sirius was a little better hidden, his black hair dyed blonde at Harry's insistence, but he still looked disreputable. They walked quickly, doing their best to stay under the radar as they made their way to Remus' home, a small bungalow on the edge of a forest. It looked poorly kept, but Vulpine knew why that was. Lacking qualifications in the muggle world and discriminated against in the magical, Remus was stuck without any way to make a fair living. The soft growl that Sirius let out was proof enough that he was thinking the same things, but Harry dug him in the ribs regardless.

"Stay calm," he muttered, "Don't have him worried before we're even there."

Sirius grumbled softly but acquiesced, forcing something like a smile onto his face. After a minute or two it even became real, his pleasure at seeing Remus overcoming his aggravation with the mans living conditions. Sirius was the one to knock, hammering on the door without even the slightest semblance of subtlety.

"Remus!" he shouted. He continued to batter on the door and bawl away until it was yanked open to reveal a very unamused Remus Lupin.

"Sirius? What on earth are you doing?" he demanded. Sirius completely ignored the question in favour of breezing past and into the house. Vulpine gave Lupin an apologetic shrug and Lupin sighed.

"Come on in, Harry," he said mildly, "Before Sirius breaks anything."

"You're not making me his keeper, are you?" Vulpine asked anxiously. Remus chuckled quietly.

"Well, I don't want the job. Sirius, what are you doing here? You shouldn't even be in the country."

Sirius tutted, inspecting a tattered cushion that he had snatched up from an old, drab sofa.

"Really, Remus? Beige? Even beige cushions. What happened to the man I knew in school?"

Remus sighed, his head moving like he was rolling his eyes, but Sirius didn't give him any time. Instead Sirius dropped the cushion and bounced towards Remus, hands waving excitedly.

"Remus. Remus, Remus. I've got something to show you!"

"Something so important that you came to see me personally, instead of leaving the country where you're a wanted man who'll get his soul sucked out if you're caught?"

"Yesss…yes. Definitely. I'm not going to get caught, anyway, and I'm leaving as soon as I show you. You'll take a look, right?"

Remus rubbed gently at his forehead, a gesture of tired exasperation. Somehow his voice remained level, evidently the result of a great deal of familiarity with Sirius.

"If I take a look, you'll leave the country immediately and stop putting yourself in danger?"

Sirius nodded enthusiastically.

"Yup! Marauder's honour!"

"We didn't have any honour," Remus grumbled, though he sounded a little less unhappy. "Come on then, show me this thing."

"Ah. Oh, right. Yeah," Sirius said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "I don't have it on me. It's at home, at Grimmauld Place."

"Grimmauld Pla- it's in London?" Remus demanded, all the faded irritation making a return. Sirius put his hands up defensively.

"Hey, hey, I didn't- Harry said-"

"I said it was a bad idea and you insisted," Vulpine immediately said, more than willing to throw Sirius under the bus. Remus sent him a suspicious look and Vulpine gave him the most innocent look possible, smiling back. Remus apparently thought that was good enough, returning his narrow-eyed glare to Sirius. Sirius had used the momentary distraction to compose himself, though, and returned a winning gaze.

"C'mon Remus, you don't have anything to do, right? And this is a good one. You'll like it, promise."

Remus sighed again, but he seemed to have been worn down enough.

"Alright, I'll come and take a look. It's only been a few days since you left Hogwarts, Harry, the two of you can't have gotten into too much trouble."


"Why is Fenrir Greyback in your cellar?" Remus demanded, his voice raising to a shout that would have cowed any unruly class at Hogwarts. Sirius cowered a bit and Vulpine looked down, pointedly avoiding eye contact. Hopefully Sirius could defuse the situation.

"We kidnapped him for money that we can use to fuel a summer of debauchery and depravity," Sirius said happily, doing the exact opposite of defusing the situation before he threw Vulpine under the bus, probably as revenge for earlier, "And it was all Harry's idea!"

Vulpine thought that Remus might have gone greyer in real time at that little announcement, but it was definitely not the time to be distracted by that. Now was the time for damage control.

"It was perfectly safe," he argued, launching into a quick rundown of what exactly they had done. Remus needed to sit down by the end, seeming to have aged ten years in ten minutes.

"Do either of you know how badly that could have gone? Mixing potions, taking antidotes with alcohol, locking yourself in a room with a violent werewolf- you could have been killed!"

Hmm. Ok, Harry concluded, it was probably time for some subtlety, then. Or maybe just brutal honesty would work.

"I did know that it could have gone badly, Remus. I've seen things go wrong before. But I checked that the antidotes wouldn't do anything more than give me an upset stomach before, and I was certain that Greyback wouldn't realise I wasn't MacNair. And even if he had, Sirius was waiting outside. The only danger in there was Greyback."

Remus pinched at the bridge of his nose and drew in a deep breath, looking up at them.

"Harry, I understand that saying something like 'you're just a child' would be- inaccurate, but you can't tell me that this wasn't reckless. You knowingly went into a place where there were three dark wizards and a known murder and cannibal and you relied on your ability to impersonate another Death Eater to stay safe."

And when put like that, Vulpine thought, it was a reasonable objection. He had been confident, of course he had been: Greyback was a brawler at best, and the other three meaningless as far as Vulpine was concerned. But Remus had a good point. If Greyback had suspected and launched himself forwards, teeth and nails at the ready, would Harry have been fast enough to stop him? He thought that the answer was yes, but thinking was a dangerous game.

"No," he eventually admitted, "It wasn't the safest thing I've ever done, but it wasn't the most dangerous either. It was a calculated risk and it paid off."

Remus didn't seem happy with it, but he let it go for the moment.

"And how, exactly, are you planning to turn Greyback into money? I doubt his friends can pay any decent ransom."

The sarcasm was thick in his tone, but Vulpine ignored it.

"Greyback has a bounty on his head over in America, and I knew a contact, back in my future. I've gotten in contact with him and he'll take Greyback in and split the bounty. We all get paid and Greyback will get the death penalty, just like he deserves."

Vulpine half expected Remus to voice an objection to the death penalty, but instead the man shook his head.

"A contact?" he asked. When Vulpine was reluctant he prompted further.

"I'm happy to help, but I need to know that you aren't putting yourself in any further danger. I need you to tell me, Harry."

Harry sighed, sitting down a rickety chair and getting comfortable.

"Alright. Alright, fine, I'll give the basics."

He chewed his lip for a few seconds before deciding where to begin.

"The man's name is Richard Drey. He's an Auror who works for the American SMET, Special Magical Enforcement Team. They're a group of Aurors who're basically the heavy mob- think of the more extreme Aurors working for Barty Crouch near the end of the last war with Voldemort and you won't be far off. They're very well trained, very aggressive, very ruthless and very successful. They only get sent out after the worst criminals, and they tend to have something like an eighty percent kill rate on their successful missions- dead criminals, that is. They're considered to be a last resort, but…well, when you're an assassin by trade who considers a law enforcement group to be professional rivals, you start thinking that maybe they're a little gung-ho."

Vulpine shook his head.

"Maybe that's just hypocrisy. The point is that they have a lot of autonomy in how they do things, so long as they get things done. That, in my future, led to a fairly profitable business relationship between a few members of SMET and I. They're trustworthy and so long as I wasn't causing trouble in the USA they turned a blind eye. Same thing here, only I don't already have a bad reputation."

Remus heard him out, nodding slowly.

"So how will the exchange work? I doubt you can just walk up to their office with Greyback in tow."

Vulpine nodded in agreement.

"Long standing tradition for this sort of thing. The SMET has a discretionary fund- it's supposed to pay for equipment, snitches and so on, but mostly it gets used for bounty hunters. It goes like this: I contact Drey, give him a location and a name. He'll meet us there to verify, and once he's content he'll take Greyback and leave the money at a dead-drop. He'll take a cut like all of us, four way split in this case, and then he'll recover the money from the governmental bounty and it'll go back into the discretionary fund. The government get their criminal and we all get paid, easy money."

Remus stared at him, an intensity in his tawny eyes.

"You're absolutely certain that this won't be a trap?"

Vulpine nodded firmly.

"They've no reason to trap me. Besides, a lot of what SMET does is along these lines- they need people like me to fetch the criminals who've fled. Attacking me would be biting the hand."

Remus still didn't look pleased, but he eventually nodded.

"You're going to take Sirius with you?"

"So long as you're happy to house-sit," Vulpine riposted, "And come on holiday with us afterwards."

Remus sighed, apparently understanding that his position was no longer tenable.

"Well, if you insist," he said, smiling wearily.


Auror Drey was a tall, bland man. He wore his robes with indifferent professionalism, and his broad, blunt face was adorned by a wide, bushy moustache. He looked more like a Victorian gentleman than a hardened killer, but Vulpine knew better than to underestimate him.

"You say this is Fenrir Greyback, Mister…?"

"You can call me Mr Fox, Auror. And this is my associate, Mr Hound."

Sirius was wearing a slightly better disguise than before, dyed hair and contacts along with some makeup. It probably wouldn't hold up to a prolonged scrutiny, but Drey wouldn't care. Vulpine was much the same, dye and contacts and an Ageing Potion sufficing in his case.

"Under Draught of Living Death?" Drey continued to question, prodding at Greyback with a boot. He didn't wait for them to nod, instead hunkering down and pulling at Greyback's face.

"You'll have no objections to waiting an hour, of course," Drey said, his tone suggesting that if there were any objections they had better be withdrawn pretty quick, "Not that I think you'd Polyjuice some unsuspecting, but we've had people try before."

The quick grin he showed afterwards indicated pretty clearly to Vulpine that those people had not gotten off well. Vulpine just spread his hands.

"Of course, Auror Drey. We've plenty of time, right Mr Hound?"

"Right you are, Mr Fox," Sirius promptly replied, settling himself on a rock and leaning back to catch the sun. They had made the exchange on the outskirts of Las Vegas, nearly in the desert, and the heat was stifling. Vulpine was extremely glad that he'd thought to look up the spells used to substitute for Muggle sunblock, although he was starting to wish he'd looked up some way to keep cool. Drey, of course, seemed utterly unphased.

"So what'll you be doing with him once you take him in?" Vulpine asked after almost fifteen minutes of waiting. He hadn't done this with Greyback in his own future, after all, he'd killed the man himself. He wasn't entirely sure what SMET had on Greyback.

"Multiple counts of murder, same of assault on a child, knowingly spreading a highly infectious and dangerous disease. Trial will be a formality, this one will hang," Drey replied, a glitter of satisfaction in his tone. He looked at Vulpine, eyes glimmering.

"You aren't squeamish about that, are you? Brits can be, sometimes."

"I'd rather be hanged than be dumped in Azkaban," Vulpine started, "And I didn't intend to leave Greyback alive. The only reason I haven't done for him myself is the larger bounty."

"Uh-huh? Bit of a grudge, Mr Fox?"

"I take exception to cannibalising children, Auror Drey, and I had the ability to act on it. Where I'm from we call that doing the right thing."

"I can well believe it, Mr Fox. But I'd also say you're a bit squeamish about the Dementors, hm? Not that I can blame you. Never liked the sorry things myself, glad we don't have them over here. Though maybe this one deserves it."

They continued much like that, sparring verbally over small topics. Vulpine liked Drey, in all honesty: the man was dryly humorous and knew when to stop asking. Sirius lay back on his rock, basking in the sun while they waited, and the hour didn't seem to take too long. When Drey checked his watch and nodded Vulpine felt a flash of disappointment, almost, that their time was nearly up.

"An hour in and no transformation. That'll do me, Mr Fox, that'll do me very nicely. You know how this works?"

"Dead drop in the city?"

"It'll be set up within the hour," Drey confirmed, dropping a small pendant on Greyback- a Portkey, Vulpine assumed. "Pleasure doing business with you, Mr Fox. Can I expect this arrangement to continue in the future?"

"We all have bills to pay, Auror Drey."

Drey glanced at him, a smile flickering around the corners of his mouth.

"That we do, Mr Fox. That we do. You have a nice day, sir. 'It's off to the cells with you, my lad.'"

And with that last parting phrase Drey was gone, Vulpine grinning after him.

"Told you it'd go alright, Sirius. Now, should we go and collect our prize?"

Sirius hopped to his feet, blinking sleep out of his eyes.

"How much was it again?"

"Two thousand and four hundred Galleons. Even a four-way split, that's a lot of debauchery. You think you can handle it, old man?"

Vulpine laughed as Sirius split the air with a triumphant howl.