Disclaimer: I disclaim everything I need to disclaim, and take responsibility for the things I'm responsible for. If you don't like it, stay home and eat linoleum. Bon appetit!
So yeah, this one took forever. I'd say that it fought me every step of the way, but it's more like I fought it. Simply put, summer is my busy time and things have been crazy. Hopefully the next chapter won't take this long. In the meantime, a huge thank-you to everyone who reviewed and commented on the last chapter, even the anonymous berk whose opinion amounted to "You're not writing fanfiction properly, stop it". I'm not going to do author's notes like that very often, but the responses I got were fantastic. I hope I can continue to provide entertainment value, even if it's just from picking apart my logic.
Ami returned again in the late morning the following day. Harry and Sirius were already up at the shrine helping set up for the festival, and Harry had asked his sister to look in on the Professor and bring him to join them if he was ready. Ami found the old man sitting in Harry's garden, chatting amiably with one of the neighborhood women. "Ahh, Miss Mizuno, come in," Professor Dumbledore called when he spotted the blue bob peeking above the gate. "Mrs. Ikeda has been telling me about the neighborhood's history, a truly fascinating subject."
Mrs. Ikeda, an elderly woman that Ami had seen in passing a time or two, smiled at his sincere enthusiasm and drained her tea cup. "I simply stopped to make sure that those two young Black rascals knew about the festival, only to find that they are already gone to help with it and a third Black in their place."
Ami's eyebrows rose in confusion, but Professor Dumbledore smiled. "Yes, my grandson Sirius is a much more reliable man than he likes to admit and my great-grandson Harry has been quite looking forward to his first festival. I dare say that I am as well."
"If you are ready, …Black-sensei, then I will bring you to the shrine. The shrine procession will be starting soon."
Dumbledore nodded cheerfully. "Yes, I would not want to miss that. Thank you, Mrs. Ikeda, for your delightful company, but I should go and change for the festival now. Perhaps we can have tea again? I will be here a few days more, if my grandson does not throw me out like the disreputable old scholar I am…" he said with a wink that made the old woman laugh behind her hand.
"Ahh, those Black boys," Mrs. Ikeda cackled as Dumbledore disappeared into the house. "They pretend to be such troublemakers and yet they have such good hearts. I see now where they get it from. If I were a few years younger and a lot less married… Maybe you should get your claim staked firmly on the nephew, that one is going to be hard to catch in a year or two." Ami just smiled politely and tried not to blush at the old woman's forwardness. Still laughing, Mrs. Ikeda pinched her cheek and wandered home to collect her own grandchildren for the festival.
A couple minutes later, the front door opened and Ami's eyes bugged out. Professor Dumbledore was dressed very traditionally and with surprising competence, but his kimono and hakama were ….hideous. The robe and the long pleated pants were color-coordinated, but Ami was certain that no kimono-maker in the world – even in China – would ever dye a silk garment that bright, eye-watering shade of magenta. His hakama were darker, but still painful to look at. Worse, both garments were embroidered with golden butterflies that fluttered their wings as she stared. "…How…" she managed to gasp out.
"Just a bit of magic, my dear… Since Harry introduced me to you as a wizard, I presume that he or Sirius have explained the existence of magic to you."
Ami nodded, then shook her head. "Professor…how can you wear that?"
He looked down at his outfit. "Is there something wrong? I asked for the proper traditional style when I went shopping…"
Ami hated to criticize an old man, especially a teacher, but… "…was it that color when you bought it?"
"Well, no, but it seemed to need some cheering up. The available selections of men's outfits were not very colorful, I'm afraid…" Dumbledore sighed. "Gone a bit too far, have I?"
"…yes. Also, Harry told me that wizard law says you have to hide your magic. The butterflies are …rather obvious."
"Ahh, but they're only charmed to move when I'm in private. I'm sure it will be fine." Regretfully he drew his wand and waved it over his outfit a few times; the color immediately darkened into a deep maroon. "Is this better?" he asked sadly.
Ami nodded and bowed apologetically. "I am sorry, Professor, but everyone would be looking at you and not the procession…"
Dumbledore smiled and tucked his wand back up his sleeve. "I suppose it would be polite not to upstage everyone," he said reflectively. "I'll turn them back later, perhaps when I return to Hogwarts. I won't say that they're used to my fashion sense there, but they are resigned to it." Ami giggled, and accepted the professor's arm when he offered. "I am very old, you see, and one of the benefits of being my age and so generally-respected in England is that I can get away with a great deal that they'd never put up with from anyone else. I've always loved bright colors, you see, but a teacher has to look respectable. After the War, everyone began according me so much respect and authority that when they began producing such marvelously bright and cheerful clothing in the Sixties, I just couldn't resist any longer. I decided to allow myself two indulgences and if anyone had an objection they could very well take their high governmental positions back. Sadly they've never taken me up on that threat, so I've been wearing shocking outfits ever since."
Ami laughed. "What was your other indulgence?"
"Sweets, particularly Muggle-made ones. There is an absolutely delightful confectioner in Edinburgh that I visit every so often. I'm afraid I've gotten a bit tired of magical sweets, they're as often troublesome as tasty."
"Oh? How so?" Ami and Albus chatted companionably about the dangers of Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans and the slipperiness of Chocolate Frogs as they walked down the street together. It was a warm and bright summer day, and soon the old wizard felt it necessary to ward off the sun. For someone who'd only been in the country a few days, he did a marvelous job at conjuring a traditional Japanese-style wood and paper umbrella, and Ami chose not to comment on the playful kittens painted on it. The Professor, though (more than) a little silly, was turning out to be excellent company.
For his own part, Dumbledore was increasingly impressed with this young woman and it was easy to see why young Harry had a crush on her. She took her studies very seriously, but unlike many Ravenclaws (and one particular Gryffindor) she seemed to have a grasp on how to have a life beyond books. A simple question had her explaining the subjects she was tutoring Harry in and Dumbledore's inner smile only grew as she talked about how hard he was working. She was pretty and sweet and intelligent and obviously had some affection for the boy, and given her age she would be a perfect unattainable first crush for young Harry. She would be kind enough to let him down gently when it became necessary, but in the meantime his study habits would improve. Yes, she would do nicely.
Dumbledore was about to subtly (at least in his mind) encourage her in that direction when they walked out onto a busy street and the chance to have his misunderstanding corrected vanished. The sidewalks were crowded with people, many of them in traditional clothing. There was a feeling of excitement in the air, and small children ran up and down the sidewalks, laughing and waving streamers. The old man smiled at their innocent joy. He rarely encountered the younger children, most Wizarding families home-schooled their children or sent them to Muggle primary schools before Hogwarts. It was a shame that there was no primary education in the Wizarding world; perhaps it was time to suggest it. Or perhaps he should get his own school in order before trying to start another one, he reminded himself.
As they walked behind the crowds of people together, the old man found himself growing increasingly surprised. "May I ask you a question, Miss Mizuno?"
"Of course, Professor, what is it?"
"Ever since I arrived in Japan I've seen an …impressive variety of hair colors among people of all ages, is it some sort of fashion trend? The dyes you are using are quite excellent; I have yet to notice any flaws in the color." Though he wanted to, he didn't inquire as to where he could purchase some just yet.
Ami blinked. "Dyes? I've never dyed my hair…oh!" she exclaimed as she looked around. "I forgot about that, it must seem very strange to you. No, everyone you see is wearing their natural hair color…I think. There might be a few here or there who have dyed their hair black…"
"Really? My dear, I may not be quite 'older than dirt', but I was not born yesterday. I distinctly remember the photographs from during and after the War, they all depicted the Japanese as a universally dark-haired people. Some of these hues I've never seen, well, outside of my closet let alone on a person."
"Yes, we were almost universally dark-haired back then… But something happened in the mid to late Seventies, not long before I was born – babies in Japan began to be born with strange hair colors. Mother tells me that there was a real panic over it at first, especially after older children began growing different-colored hair, but since it didn't seem to be harmful people eventually calmed down and now nobody really thinks about it. Apparently my Grandfather Misahara insisted that Mother dye my hair black as soon as I was old enough to be taken out in public, but she refused. My …stepfather told me that they fought about it quite a bit, but she wouldn't back down. 'My daughter is perfectly healthy,' she said, 'so until she's old enough to decide for herself she'll have whatever hair color nature gives her.' By the time I was old enough to go to school, colorful hair was so normal that I was never teased for it. My friend Mina told me that they have 'normal' hair colors in England, but what about in your hidden magic society?"
Dumbledore thought about it. "Well, we do have spells that can change hair color, but they usually don't last very long. It's easier to change something that isn't living, you see, and changing magical creatures like witches and wizards is even harder. There was a period in the Sixties when wild hair colors were fashionable at Hogwarts, and I did nothing to curb it since it WAS good Charms practice. The fashion eventually died out, though, once the students got tired of applying the spells ten or fifteen times a day."
Ami nodded cheerfully and would have said something, but a cheer went up from the crowd around them. The shrine procession was in sight now, lead by a quartet of men with cymbals, bells, and drums. It was hard for Dumbledore to describe what they were producing as music per se, but they were clashing and pounding out an energetic rhythm that excited the crowd. A short distance behind them was three or four dozen men carrying an enormous …thing. As it approached, Dumbledore's old eyes tried to make sense of it. It was an octagon-shaped box at its center, but the sloped roof mounted above it made it look rather like a gazebo. On top of the box and under the roof was an ornate iron brazier with a gilded 'flame' in the center. The box and its roof were elaborately decorated, and the whole thing was supported by three wooden beams. The men carried it on their shoulders, and though Dumbledore could tell that the contraption was solidly built and probably rather heavy, they not only carried it without complaint but they did it while chanting and bobbing the box up and down to the rhythm of the drums. What was more, there were people perched on it. A pair of short young women stood directly fore and aft of the box, feet on the beams and knees bent. They were waving fans and chanting along, keeping the spirits of the bearers up like cheerleaders. On the very front of the beams, though, was a tall man, clad in only a loincloth and a twisted headband. He was apparently leading the chants and directing the course of the bearers, waving a fan of his own and striking poses and making comical expressions that made the crowds laugh heartily. He was also Sirius Black.
Ami groaned something that suspiciously sounded like 'oh father…' as her cheeks flushed. Dumbledore blinked a couple times and looked again. Yes, it was Sirius, behaving as brazenly silly as only Sirius Black could. His loincloth was surprisingly skimpy, little more than a thong made of twisted cloth, and surprisingly he was not the only one so clad – he just happened to be the only one standing up on top of everyone else, hamming it up like there was no tomorrow. Ami continued to blush in embarrassment, and when Sirius spotted her and cried out a cheerful "Hey, Ami-chan, why don't you get up here? Always room for another cute girl!" she went absolutely rigid.
"Oh, is this part of the tradition?" Dumbledore asked, merriment shining in his eyes. He still had absolutely no idea what any of this was about, but the general air of fun was so infectious that he really didn't care. Ami felt herself nodding in spite of herself; it wasn't unknown exactly, but… Sirius waved for her to join him and the people standing around them were suddenly looking at her. Ami blushed bright red. "It does look rather fun," the old wizard mused. "Is there a problem, Miss Mizuno?"
As the crowd joined in trying to encourage Ami to ride on the shrine, she finally reached up to whisper in his ear. "I…I'm wearing a skirt…" she admitted, hoping this would be enough to get her out of this.
Dumbledore had not been a school teacher for more than fifty years without learning a thing or two, but sadly when not to help wasn't necessarily one of those things. He smiled reassuringly and rested a hand on her shoulder for a moment as he cast a wandless, silent Notice-Me-Not charm on her undergarments. "There, that should take care of it. Even if someone looks, they won't see a thing."
Thwarted, Ami sighed and let the crowd pull her into the street and to where the shrine was waiting. Someone gave her a boost, and Sirius lifted her up the rest of the way. He was grinning like a madman and gave her an impromptu hug as they both stood on the beams of the shrine. Ami was still finding her balance and thus was completely taken by surprise when she found herself pressed against the chest of a mostly-naked Englishman. He released the hug almost immediately but kept an arm around her shoulders to steady her as he waved his fan in the air. "This is my long-lost daughter!" he yelled happily. "The child of the only woman I've ever loved!"
The crowd cheered loudly, and the men carrying the shrine bounced it up and down a few times before starting to walk again. Ami's stomach lurched from both embarrassment and the sudden motion, and for a moment she was afraid she was going to faint or lose her breakfast. It was way too late to get down now, the shrine was in motion and the crowd was cheering for the bizarre combination of goofy man and cute schoolgirl. Sirius's arm stayed around her shoulders, which hindered his antics some but helped her keep her balance.
After a block or so, Sirius began to notice that she was …not exactly getting into the spirit of things. In fact, she was about as tense as a snitch at a Seeker convention. Letting the others carry the chant on their own for a bit, he looked down at his daughter curiously. "Ami, are you alright? You're not afraid of heights, are you?" Ami shook her head. "Are you getting motion sickness?" Another head-shake, though less definite this time. "Are you ashamed to be seen in public with me?" He'd asked it jokingly, but the sudden look of guilt on her face told him the truth. "Well, I guess you're not the first person to be disappointed in me," he said with a sigh. "Give me a minute and we'll find a place to stop so you can get down…"
Ami looked up at him. To her surprise, he looked …sad. Up til now, she had only seen Sirius Black in states of silliness, protectiveness, bewilderment, or snark-infested banter; sadness was something she hadn't seen on him before. While Ami was more of a cerebral than emotional person, she was hardly an incompetent in the emotional domain. The overwhelming feeling of embarrassment was swept away as Ami fired up her brain and analyzed the look on her birth father's face. Fact, he had no close family members still living, and even before their deaths he had been estranged from them. Fact, two of his best friends had been murdered after being sold out by another friend. Fact, he had then spent a long time in a very nasty prison where solitary confinement had more or less been the norm. Fact, after releasing himself, he had then spent a year on the run with a death sentence hanging over him. Fact, since arriving in Japan he had thrown himself into making friendly acquaintances, immersing himself in – she glanced at the loincloth and shuddered – local culture, and supervising Harry. Conclusion, Sirius Black was a man who had been alone a great deal and apparently did not like it one bit.
Her mind refused to stop there. Fact, his alternate form was a dog. Fact, dogs were social creatures, happiest when with other creatures whether they were fellow dogs or not. Fact, he had been happy to see her mother again, and overjoyed to realize that he had a daughter. Fact, even though he hadn't been pushy about being her father – thank heavens – he had always been genuinely warm and welcoming to her, and talked to her with respect and kindness. Fact, he had just literally and figuratively reached out to her, and when she had accepted he …had gotten a little carried away. Fact, he now looked very sad after realizing her embarrassment. Conclusion, he had reached out to her and now he was feeling rejected.
Her analysis complete, Ami turned the problem over to her heart to determine what to do next. Sirius was taking up the chant again and raising his hand to steer the shrine over to let her get off when her hand touched his forearm and gently pulled it down. When he looked down at her, she gave him an embarrassed smile. "Do you have another fan?" The girl standing behind them passed up one of hers and Ami linked elbows with her father. Together, they rode the shrine and lead the chanting through the streets of Azabu Juuban.
An hour later, the shrine returned to the temple grounds and was settled into its place of honor at one end of the festival area. Sirius got down first, wobbling like a drunken sailor, once he had his balance again he reached up to help Ami to the ground. She reacted to it in much the same way, staggering and bumping into his bare chest again. His hands gently took her by the shoulders and steadied her until the ground stopped lurching beneath her feet. "Ami-chan, I'm sorry I put you on the spot like that. I wasn't thinking." He was trying to look apologetic, but the sheer fun kept sparkling in his eyes.
She took a deep breath and sighed. "It's all right, father… You just wanted to share a happy moment with me. And after a while, it wasn't so bad."
Completely heedless of his state of dress, Sirius hugged her again. "You're a much better daughter than I could have ever have deserved. How did I get so lucky?"
She smiled shyly. "I don't know, but you'd better be careful. Once Mother hears what you yelled out to the whole district, she may try to silence you once and for all."
"Would she rather I was ashamed of you? Or does she want you to be ashamed of me?"
Ami shook her head. "No, the other thing. Is she really the only woman you've ever loved?"
Sirius grinned. "Absolutely. There was a time when I could have fallen head over heels for Harry's mum, but James had already staked his claim on her so I wasn't about to set myself up for THAT heartache. Besides, after she stopped wanting to kill him they were such a cute couple… I met your mum a few months after they officially started dating. After school, I was a bachelor for a while and then spent over a decade in prison. Who was I going to fall for in Azkaban - my homicidal cousin Bellatrix?"
Ami shuddered, then frowned as she worked up her courage to ask another question. "Do you…still love her?"
He thought about that for a moment. "I'm not sure how to answer that, Ami. I love the girl I met all those years ago. My memories of her helped keep me sane through some very bleak times. That night we all met, I could still see a bit of that girl in her, but she's grown up in ways I never have. She's brilliant and strong and she's made all her dreams come true no matter what stood in her way. She's even more beautiful now than she was back then. I think …if she wanted me around, I could fall for her again very easily. How…has she been?"
The girl sighed. "I really don't know. She doesn't come home until very late, and then she sits up drinking wine and brooding. I've tried to talk to her, but she insists that nothing is wrong."
"She's probably trying to come to grips with everything that's changed lately. I never intended to hurt her, but I am partly responsible for some of the hardest and scariest times in her life." He shrugged. "And now here I am, back in Tokyo and stirring up all the old memories all over again. Of course, I may be entirely wrong and she's worried about something else entirely. As strange as it may seem, I can't be the center of everyone's world." Ami giggled a little, and Sirius gave her a smile. "If she doesn't snap out of it soon, let me know and I'll do something outrageous to offend her. Chasing me around with a broom ought to be good for her spirits."
Ami giggled again. "Thank you, father…"
"Oh, so you've decided to claim me?"
"For now, at least. But I'd better go find the Professor, he might have gotten lost without me."
"Or he might have simply followed the procession here," Dumbledore said with amusement. He was sitting on a bench nearby, shaded by his kitten umbrella. "I must say, grandson, that's a very bold fashion statement even for you."
Sirius grinned. "I love this country; only the Japanese would take three meters of cloth and wear it like a thong. It's called a fundoshi, when that priestess girl sent me over to join the shrine crew she told me to ask for one. She said it was traditional. Hey wait, grandson?"
Ami sighed and rubbed her forehead. "Oh, Rei…"
"Yes, one of your neighbors came by after you and Harry left, so I introduced myself as Professor Aldebaran Antilles Black, your grandfather. Call me Grandpa Al if you like," the old wizard said with a wink.
Sirius stared at him for a moment, then laughed. "Mother would throw an absolute fit. Consider yourself adopted, "Grandpa".
Harry chose that moment to walk by, carrying a large box of carrots. He nearly dropped them when he double-taked at his godfather. "Sirius?! What the hell are you WEARING?"
Ami spent the afternoon showing Professor Dumbledore around the festival. They started with ice cream since the day was very warm; Ami stuck to her favorite, vanilla, while the old wizard tried a more adventurous double scoop of green tea and red bean ice creams. There was even mochi ice cream, ice cream balls covered in sticky rice, but neither of them were feeling THAT daring. After ice cream, they wandered up and down the rows of booths chatting amiably. A third of them appeared to be various food booths, frying pans and bubbling pots sending out the most heavenly aromas of indulgent food. Another third were festival games, slightly-rigged games of skill and chance with cheap but fun prizes. The rest were booths packed with items for sale such as souvenirs, good luck charms, accessories, and whimsical toys. Ami had to drag herself away from a booth selling handmade notebooks; their signature item was a diary-sized book whose paper was impregnated with real cherry blossom petals, gathered each spring on the grounds of the Hikawa Shrine. They were expensive and far too fine for writing study notes in, but Ami couldn't help running her fingers over the soft cloth-bound cover and wishing she could justify buying one this year.
Dumbledore was having a great time. At his age and at his level of fame, it wasn't easy to find places where he wanted to go, where he felt comfortable being, and where he wouldn't be bothered by people trying to show appreciation or trying to extract favors – and usually both at once. Here he still got plenty of looks, but they were more incredulous than awed. The people around him were distantly polite and content to write him off as just another daffy old foreigner. It was wonderfully refreshing. The festival itself was delightful, full of colors, music, and good-natured larceny. Dumbledore couldn't resist stopping at a shooting gallery, where he exchanged a 200 yen for the right to pick up an air-pumped rifle and shoot little metal spheres at targets. He ended up spending half an hour there, irritating the attendant with his slow and deliberate firing. Albus wasn't a marksman as such, the last time he'd held a real firearm had been in 1911, but once he got used to aiming with two hands his skill with a wand began to affect his aim. After that, only the general (and probably intentional) weakness of the gallery's air rifles prevented him from taking any and every prize he wanted. Once he set up his shot he would almost always hit his target, but most of the time it would refuse to fall over. Bystanders began to comment on it after a while, and when the attendant began getting nervous Dumbledore took aim for one last shot, added a little unseen oomph to the rifle, and won himself a stuffed raccoon-like creature.
When they walked away from the booth, a relieved-looking attendant behind them, Ami finally asked "Would I be correct in assuming that you could have taken the first prize with that last shot?" Dumbledore didn't answer, but his eyes twinkled merrily. "Why not?"
"What fun would that have been? Carrying around an enormous stuffed bison would have been tiresome, and shrinking it down to a manageable size would have been too obviously magic. Also, this little fellow is much cuter. I think I shall let him decorate my office for a while and help perpetuate the rumors of my senility," Dumbledore said with a wink.
They continued together through the festival for a while, the old professor picking Ami's brains about the structure and traditions of Japanese education. Mina turned out to be running the goldfish scooping booth, and upon being introduced to the old headmaster insisted on chatting with him as he gave the game a try. Her questions about Harry (mostly about his life and friends in England) distracted the old man quite well, and before he knew it all three of his thin paper paddles had disintegrated in the water without catching a single fish. He took his defeat with great amusement, though. Grandpa Hino and Yuuichirou were selling small wooden plaques painted with blessings for various purposes, and once the concept was explained to him Dumbledore bought one for safety – given what he knew of the year to come at Hogwarts, the school would need all the help it could get.
Dinner was fried noodles, from a booth that turned out to be where Makoto and Harry were hiding. Perhaps hiding wasn't the accurate word so much as being hid, as their counter was surrounded by teenagers of both sexes. The boys were definitely there for Makoto, whose flashing knives put on quite a show. The fast, precise cutting and chopping not only showed off her domestic skills (and demonstrated why it was dangerous to get close without her permission), but the repetitive motions gave her already-impressive figure a definite …rhythm. There were also girls swarming the booth, most of them younger, and they were there to check out the cute foreign boy manning the grill. He had a headband of twisted cloth keeping the sweat out of his eyes (and covering his scar), and his messy hair fell down around it. He'd already been cooking for a couple hours and his jacket was damp with sweat and steam, but what really drew in the girls was his smile. When facing the grill, Harry's smile had a definite edge to it. Makoto had taught him the basics that morning and he'd picked it up fairly easily. Even if it was just fried noodles, this was the first Japanese cooking he'd done and after a couple hours he was in the zone. The grill was his kingdom (his knifework wasn't anywhere near Makoto's speed so she'd assigned herself the prepwork), and he was its tyrannical overlord. With a spatula in each hand, Harry Potter was kicking serious fried noodle butt and loving every minute of it. When he stepped away from the grille to fill an order box and pass it up to Makoto, his smile became warm and friendly for a few brief moments, then it was back to Badass Harry Land. To the junior high girls, the combination was devastating.
Despite the wait, Ami and Dumbledore each managed to secure a box of noodles and set down on a bench at the central area to eat and watch the show. The sign read "Shiri-kun the Playful Wizard", which of course meant Sirius Black in his full Marauder glory. He was wearing a kimono and long loose pleated pants, had his long hair up in a ponytail, and was grinning wildly as he used a confusing blend of stage magic, real magic, and sheer showmanship to dazzle the crowd. He pulled mice from children's ears, then turned them into pigeons and made them do a silly dance on his arms. He conjured balls of fire and tried to juggle them only to drop one and set his pants on fire. Burning, he ran around the front row of his audience asking everyone for water; when someone finally offered him their drink he took the cup, tapped it with his wand, and poured about twenty gallons of water on himself. His next trick involved freezing the water on the stone walkway into ice and doing an improbable series of pratfalls, each of which he literally bounced back from like a rubber ball.
"May I ask a personal question, Miss Mizuno?" Albus asked as they ate their noodles and laughed over Sirius's antics. At Ami's nod, he hesitated a little then asked "Earlier, I believe I overheard you calling him 'Father'. Was I mistaken?"
Ami flushed a little, then sighed. "You were not. The night Harry and I met, I also discovered that I am the natural daughter of Sirius Black."
"That must have been quite a shock."
She nodded. "It was. My mother was quite …unsettled by seeing him again."
"I can only imagine. But if I may say so, you are both gaining a great deal in the connection. I think any man would be proud to call you his daughter, and while he may be rough around the edges Sirius Black is a very good man."
"I envy him…" Ami admitted. "No matter what he does, he is never embarrassed and everyone likes him. Look at him." She gestured to where Sirius had conjured a candy-striped pole in the middle of the ice and was trying to use it to pull himself to his feet. Mostly what he was accomplishing, though, was to spin himself around and around to the crowd's laughter. "He is making a complete fool of himself and no one is mocking him."
Dumbledore smiled. "Ahh but you see, Sirius has learned a great secret – humiliation is only humiliating if you are humiliated. If you act embarrassed, you are embarrassed. I watched you in the parade earlier, you know. Once you decided to play along, you weren't as embarrassed, correct?" Ami nodded slowly. "Sirius likes people, he likes pranks and jokes and silly games, and he has learned to not mind if the prank or joke is on him. Of course, he has had a few hard lessons in when to stop joking around…" he mused as a large white shape swooped toward Sirius.
Sirius dispelled the ice immediately upon spotting the bird, and was back on his feet when it perched on the top of his pole. He cocked his head and Hedwig bent down to speak into his ear. He nodded, and the snowy owl flew away over the cheering crowd. "Friends, honored guests, distinguished persons of no importance," Sirius began, raising his hands. "A not-so-little bird tells me that due to an emergency, the festival must now close and everyone must please carefully leave the temple grounds through the west side gate. Please follow the path here," he said with a point of his wand that made sparkles appear on the appropriate walkway, "and help each other keep moving and stay safe. The Hikawa Shrine apologizes for this interruption and thanks you for your calm cooperation."
The crowd looked uncertain at first, as if not sure whether to believe the magician. Then a woman's scream was heard from the direction of the main gate, and the crowd began to move. Some of them tried to run, but Sirius was already there, waving his glowing wand like a traffic control lamp. "No running, please, stay together and help out with the children and the elderly. It won't help anything if you trample someone or fall and get hurt yourself. This way, please…"
Ami put down the remains of her noodles and stood up. "Professor, would you please help Black-san?"
"Of course," Dumbledore said, standing up as well. "But shouldn't you be evacuating too?"
The girl smiled and shook her head. "My place is elsewhere," she said. Before Dumbledore could reply, she off and running toward the main gate.