Bloody hell, it's the end of this story! It seems like only yesterday that I was tentatively jotting down some ideas that had been milling around my head for some time but had been suppressed because I was too scared to start writing again. Now I have finished a story, I've written over 86,00 words and I've already planned what I'm doing with the second book. Part of chapter one is already finished so it won't be long until it's published; I am taking a short break from writing before I get back to it. I'll also be publishing a new Unconditionally one-shot as well, on the 1st of April…hmm, wonder what that story is going to be about? ;-)
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of my wonderful and incredibly loyal reviewers, followers and "favouriters" (yes I just invented a new word). Your ongoing support and encouragement throughout this story means more than you could imagine and I never would have regained the confidence to just keep on writing without you guys. You're all amazing, and I love you!
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters; it all belongs to the wonderful J.K. Rowling. Some scenes are taken from her story and bear resemblance to the scenes she wrote herself, but are now in a new context with Sirius being alive. But there are also scenes I have come up with and written myself as well. Enjoy!
He could vaguely hear voices around him but he couldn't make out what they were saying. Harry thought he could recognise one of them; it was a familiar sound that felt soothing. But that wasn't possible; that voice belonged in the land of the living, whereas he…
Where am I?
Harry opened his eyes and instantly regretted the action as light streamed into his line of vision. After closing them for a few seconds, he slowly and carefully reopened his eyes to accustom them to the brightness surrounding him.
"'The Daily Prophet' is having a field day," another familiar voice stated. "Of course Rita Skeeter is in her element right now; she's written two articles already on the death of Quirrell and Dumbledore's poor choice of teachers. I just spoke to Albus too; apparently they are dying to procure an interview with the 'Boy Who Saved the Stone', and his friends."
"Pigs ass!" snapped the other voice. "I will not have that Skeeter woman anywhere near my godson. As for Quirrell, if he wasn't already dead, I'd have done the deed myself the moment I found out!"
I saved the Stone?
Am I dead?
However, that question was immediately answered when a pair of strong arms suddenly pulled him forwards and into a familiar person's chest.
"Most stupid, brave, stupid, selfless, STUPID thing you have ever done!" Harry gasped at the sound of his godfather's voice. "I am torn between wanting to hug you and strangle you."
"I think you're doing both," Harry choked out from his godfather's arms.
"Let him breathe, Sirius." Harry could hear Remus but couldn't see through his godfather's arms, which were refusing to let go. The young boy breathed a sigh of relief as the werewolf gently prised the animagus from his body. Harry felt a slight weight against his face as someone placed his glasses over his eyes. Now able to see clearly, he looked at the two men before him. Remus was smiling at him, but he was obviously exhausted. Sirius was sitting on his godson's bed. The animagus looked pale and haggard, his unshaven face a clear indication of a couple of sleepless nights and he was looking at his godson through tear filled eyes.
"Hi," greeted Harry, still slightly dazed by his surroundings. A quick glance around him indicated that he was in the Hospital Wing. "OW!" He glared at the werewolf, who had just cuffed the back of his head. "What was that for?"
"For risking your life, you foolish boy!" snapped Remus, but there was a twinkle in his eyes. He tenderly brushed back the hair on Harry's forehead. "Did you want your godfather and I to have a heart attack and cark it?"
"Sorry," answered Harry sheepishly. He shook his head in attempt to wake himself up. "I keep forgetting you two are close to your deathbeds."
"Ha ha," said Sirius sarcastically. Evidently he was not in the mood for jibes about his age. He looked at the werewolf. "Moony, would you mind?"
Remus nodded in understanding and stood up. "I'd better fetch Madam Pomfrey. She's downstairs getting some supplies." He left the room but not before muttering, "Don't murder him, Pads," in the animagus's ear. Harry's eyes widened at the plea and he looked at his godfather worriedly.
"You're not going to murder me, are you?"
"No, that was just Moony's way of punishing you by instilling fear." Sirius rubbed his bloodshot eyes tiredly. "I must say though, the temptation to give you a royal hiding is surprisingly strong."
Harry knew that pretending to go along with Remus's advice (which the animagus always laughed at) was Sirius's way of punishing him so he relaxed at his godfather's words. A cursory glimpse at the window beside his bed showed that it nearly midday. The bespectacled boy suddenly frowned.
"How long have I been here?"
"Forever! Real time, three of the worst days of my life," answered Sirius curtly. He gazed at his godson intently. "Until Friday morning, I thought nothing could be worse than your parents dying."
The raw emotion in his godfather's eyes was almost unsettling. Harry shifted uncomfortably.
"I'm sorry I scared you," he mumbled.
"You bloody well should be!" snapped Sirius. When Harry shrank back against his pillows, he groaned. "I'm not angry, Pronglet. I'm just…exhausted." He regarded his godson for a moment before the question he had been seeking an answer to for the past three days burst forth from his lips.
"But really, what were you thinking when you went down there?"
"We had to do something!" protested Harry indignantly. He winced as his head throbbed at the change of volume. Sirius noticed this and deftly grabbed a damp cloth from the bedside table.
"Here," the animagus rubbed the cool fabric against his godson's forehead. Harry felt himself relax at the comforting ministration. "I've been doing this since I got here. Madam Pomfrey thinks I'm strange, but it always helped –"
" - to soothe my head," Harry finished for him. He gave his godfather a small smile. It was true; any time Harry had fallen ill or been injured somehow or even if it was just too hot to sleep at night, Sirius would immediately be at his side with a damp cloth and bowl of water. He allowed the material to calm him down before continuing, "We couldn't just stand back and do nothing! When I found out that Hagrid had revealed how to get through the trapdoor, we went to see Dumbledore but he'd been called away, so we went to McGonagall instead, and she definitely didn't take us seriously. No one believed us."
"Why didn't you come to me then?" questioned Sirius impatiently. When Harry suddenly lowered his gaze to his bed, the animagus felt his face fall. He manoeuvred himself closer to his godson and placed a hand on his cheek.
"Harry, why didn't you tell me?" he asked in a softer voice. The bespectacled boy shrugged, his cheeks flushed pink.
"You wouldn't have believed me either." When Sirius opened his mouth to protest, Harry elaborated, "You didn't believe me when I told you about what happened at the Quidditch match!"
"No, I believed that something strange had happened, I just didn't believe that it was Snape's doing. Which was right, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," answered Harry reluctantly. He still wasn't convinced though. "But you didn't believe me about seeing my parents either."
Sirius pondered the statement for a moment before finally nodding, "No I didn't. But I realised you were right when I found that Mirror myself. Only I didn't see…" the animagus stopped himself mid sentence before he divulged the one thing that had haunted him for many nights. "The point is that from now on I want you to tell me everything, Pronglet. It doesn't matter what it is, come to me for help before you take on the most evil wizard in the world. We used to tell each other everything, remember?" he said gently. Harry nodded.
"I know," the bespectacled boy mumbled. "I just didn't want to bother you after…you know…"
A leaden weight dropped in Sirius's stomach and he nodded in understanding. "I know you probably felt wary about speaking to me after what happened that weekend," added Sirius. It was his turn to hang his head in shame. He looked into his godson's eyes, willing him to believe his words. "I'm so sorry."
Harry shook his head. "It's OK, Sirius."
"No, it's not. I shouldn't have lost my temper. I just get so worried about you," the animagus picked up the discarded cloth and rubbed it across Harry's forehead, pausing briefly on the scar. "But I guess I can't protect you from everything, huh?"
"You can still save me from Remus's boring stories!" Harry assured him. "You always have."
"Yes I save you by pushing you aside into the other room and then I sit there listening to the man's incessant droning whilst you're happily playing with a Snitch or something."
"That's just another reason why you're the world's greatest Godfather. I'm sorry too," Harry suddenly appeared to find his fingernails extremely interesting, and his cheeks were even more flushed now. "I behaved like a little prat."
"Better than the buffoon that I was. Anyway, we're all good mate." Sirius ruffled the boy's hair affectionately.
"So I'm not grounded for the entire summer holidays?"
Sirius snorted. "You think I'm going to have my godson playing Quidditch in the house and smashing bludgers at the walls for the next two months? No, you're not grounded."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He looked at his godfather curiously. "Did you really believe that Snape was innocent at that match?"
"Honestly?" Sirius sighed. "I jumped to the same conclusion as you when Ron and Hermione said they had seen him muttering at that match. But then both Remus and Dumbledore told me to pull my head in and think logically." He gave his godson an embarrassed smile.
"For the love of Merlin, do not tell Remus that he was right. I may agree with him, but he doesn't need to hear it."
"I won't…yet," promised Harry innocently. Sirius knew what Harry really meant was that he wouldn't tell Remus if his godfather did something for him in return. He really was too much like his father at times.
"If you don't tell Remus, I'll...let you eat ice cream for breakfast when you come back for the holidays."
"You already do that anyway. Last Christmas holidays you even bought me strawberry jam for it because the added fruit flavour made it seem like a substantial breakfast."
Sirius whistled. "Wow, I do let you get away with a lot don't I?" When Harry continued to stare at him pointedly, he groaned. "Fine, I'll purposely and repeatedly embarrass myself in front of that attractive woman who works at Luigi's Pizzeria. Satisfied? Or do I need to walk down the street with my pants around my ankles?"
"No, that'll do." They shook hands. Sirius looked at him earnestly.
"Please promise me that you will never risk your life like that again, Pronglet. I can't do this, especially at my age." He winked at Harry. "I'm twenty five years old, after all."
Harry snorted at the fact his godfather had de-aged himself by seven years. "Yeah, must be why you've got all those wrinkles on your forehead. Because you're in your middle aged twenties."
"These wrinkles didn't exist until a few days ago, mate!" Sirius ruffled Harry's hair indignantly before pulling him into another hug. The young boy was pleased that his godfather's grip was not crushing his internal organs this time. As he allowed the animagus to hold him close to his chest, Harry found himself beginning to lose his composure. The weeks of isolation he had endured, the constant fear he had been forced to live with during his examinations, Lord Voldemort's face…
The fact that the fight he'd had with Sirius could have easily been the last time he had seen his godfather again.
He had nearly died.
Harry swallowed compulsively and blinked his eyes in an effort to rid them of tears but it was no use. Soon he was the one grasping his godfather tightly, breathing in and finding comfort in the familiar scent of aftershave and hair product (no matter how old the animagus got, he always relished in maintaining his 'fabulous' hair). Harry felt Sirius's hand rubbing his back soothingly, and a mantra was repeated constantly against his messy black hair.
"I love you so much. I am so proud of you. I love you so much."
What seemed like a long time to Harry was in reality only a few minutes before he loosened himself from his godfather's arms. The young boy quirked his lips at the animagus, who smiled gently in return.
"Madam Pomfrey should be here soon, so brace yourself. Are you hungry? I can get you something from the kitchens; trust me, it'll taste better than what they bring you up here."
Harry grinned – it was just like Sirius to cheer Harry up with food. He knew his godson too well. "I am a bit hungry. Maybe we could enjoy a Hospital Wing dining experience, like you guys used to when Remus was recovering from the full moon."
"Me? Nah I'm stuffed. I've been subsisting on candy," Sirius gestured at the side of Harry's bed. The young boy suddenly realised he had been the recipient of an enormous array of sweets and, for some reason, a lavatory seat. "You're Mr Popularity again. Everyone knows about what happened…or at least the gist of it. Fred and George sent you that seat by the way. Madam Pomfrey was going to confiscate it but I told her that no godson of mine will pass up an opportunity to own a Hogwarts toilet seat."
"I'm honoured," said Harry, rolling his eyes. "Although I know what you really mean is that you won't pass up the opportunity to own a Hogwarts toilet seat. Where exactly do you plan on putting this?"
"On top of the fireplace mantle," answered Sirius brightly. The thought seemed to cheer him up immensely. "I would like to know where exactly Fred and George got this from. They seemed even more smug than usual when they came up here."
The Hospital Wing's doors suddenly opened and Madam Pomfrey marched in, followed by Remus. The Matron clucked her tongue disapprovingly as she observed the bespectacled boy.
"What is it with you Potter boys?" she demanded. "I cannot count how many times your father ended up in here with some Quidditch related injury, or a prank gone wrong –"
"Accident proneness must run in the family," nodded Sirius.
"Don't you start, Sirius Black!" Madam Pomfrey pointed her wand at his face. "You are, without a doubt, the worst patient I have ever had to contend with. Showing up here at all hours of the night after being cursed by some heart broken girl, getting hit by bludgers in the most unfortunate of places…"
Harry and Remus roared with laughter. Sirius glared at them before raising his head proudly.
"No matter how many bludgers I've had come my way, it has never once hindered my ability to –"
"Shut up, Sirius," interrupted Remus bluntly. The animagus did so begrudgingly. Madam Pomfrey took a good look at Harry's face before finishing her appraisal.
"I think he will be fine in a day or two, though he still needs to get plenty of rest." She eyed Harry sternly. "No ifs or buts about it, Mr Potter, and don't allow your godfather to entice you into any mischief."
"Would I do such a thing?" asked Sirius innocently.
Madam Pomfrey pointed her wand at his face again in a warning manner before bustling away with some supplies. "Please inform me when Severus arrives."
"Snivellus?" Sirius stared at Remus. "If he's coming up here to see a comatose Harry, he will be sorely disappointed."
"Disappointed though I may be, that is not the reason I am here," a cold voice spoke. Snape had walked into the room with Dumbledore by his side. His eyes widened as he laid eyes on the toilet seat beside Harry's bed. Sirius, putting two and two together, snatched it and hurled it at the Potions Professor with a grimace.
"Take it. Ugh!" The animagus wiped his hands on the bed beside Harry's in disgust. Snape glowered at him and directed his attention back to Madam Pomfrey.
"A few doses of Acritudo Apocatstasis to restore energy and perhaps a calming draught should he have trouble sleeping." He handed her a few bottles then turned to look at Harry.
"You passed your examination by the way," said Snape curtly. "Though barely." Harry could have sworn that the man's eyes softened slightly but almost immediately there was a pronounced sneer on his face. The Potions Professor swept out of the room without a second glance at the rest of the occupants, clutching the toilet seat tightly.
Dumbledore sighed wearily but addressed Harry with a warm smile, "Good afternoon, Harry. How are you feeling?"
"Never better," answered Harry as he attempted to lift himself off the bed but failed immediately.
"Oh no you don't!" Sirius pulled Harry's legs back under the sheets. Dumbledore chuckled.
"It seems like only yesterday that you were in here yourself, Sirius. As I recall, you had a bludger collide with a very sensitive area –"
"Can we not?" snapped Sirius as Harry and Remus laughed again. The animagus got to his feet.
"Would you two mind staying here? I just need to pop outside for a few moments, mate. I won't be long," he informed Harry. The young boy nodded, but Remus's eyes were narrowed in curiosity as he watched the animagus leave the room.
"Wait!" Sirius called out behind Snape's retreating back. The other man stopped.
"What is it now, Black?" he questioned icily. Suddenly feeling incredibly uneasy, Sirius shoved his hands into his pockets and fumbled for the right words.
"This whole year…you were protecting Harry," he said frankly.
Snape eyed him coldly before nodding in return. "Yes." He continued down the passageway. Sirius took a deep breath before doing something he had never done before…
The Potions Master raised his eyebrow at the use of his first name. He turned around slowly. Sirius shuffled his feet awkwardly.
"Thank you," he murmured, though his voice was sincere.
"I wasn't doing it for you or your godson," hissed Snape. The animagus's words seemed to have only incited the man's anger. The Professor gave Sirius one last look of contempt before continuing down the corridor, looking as dignified and imposing as he could whilst carrying a toilet seat.
Sirius closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. "I tried, Remus," he muttered to himself.
"I know you did, Pads." Sirius jumped at the sound of the werewolf's voice. Remus had evidently left the Hospital Wing and had witnessed the vocal exchange himself. He was leaning against the wall, his arms folded as he regarded his friend. "Dumbledore wanted a word with Harry. Anyway, I think it's going to take some time to heal that rift."
"I'm not healing anything!" snapped Sirius, glaring down the now otherwise empty corridor. "If this is the way Snivellus is going to be, he can go jump in the Great Lake for all I bloody care!"
Remus sighed wearily and rubbed his tired eyes. He wondered whether the animosity between them and Snape – particularly in Sirius's case – would ever truly diminish. Maybe one day.
Sirius sank to the ground and leant his head the wall, groaning in exhaustion. He looked blearily at Remus, who sat down beside him. "I feel like I've aged fifty years over the past two days."
The werewolf laughed. "You'll feel even worse when Harry's fifteen, gets drunk and takes your bike out for a spin around the neighbourhood at three a.m."
"He touches my bike, he loses his Nimbus." Sirius placed his face in his hands and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Who knew that raising a child would be so bloody exhausting?"
Remus smiled at him. "You do see Harry as your son, don't you?"
Sirius opened his mouth to give a firm "no", but he couldn't speak the words. The mental and physical exhaustion had completely overwhelmed in in a matter of moments, and now all the emotions he had been fighting to keep under control for so long wouldn't be suppressed any longer. Refusing to meet the werewolf's eyes, the animagus took a deep breath.
"Are you going to tell him?" asked Remus softly. Sirius shook his head.
"I can't…I just…can't do it." He met Remus's gaze once again. "Maybe one day. I just…can't right now." Sirius didn't think he could handle Harry telling him that he didn't feel the same way.
Remus wisely dropped the subject. Sirius admitting that he saw Harry as a son was a huge step – perhaps that was enough for the time being. The werewolf could only hope that one day, Sirius would stop feeling guilty about James, and gain the courage to tell Harry how he really felt. Because whatever the animagus thought, Remus knew that deep down the feelings were reciprocated; Harry was just too young to understand.
Maybe one day…
In what seemed like no time at all, the end of term had arrived, and the trio found themselves back on the Hogwarts Express to journey home. Harry was relieved; although living in the castle had been far more bearable for the past week since the student body had forgiven him for losing so many points, he had become a person of even greater interest since their adventures under the trapdoor. As the three friends wiled away the journey in a compartment to themselves, playing chess and eating lollies, Harry tried to ignore the stares of passer-by's, who would point him out to their friends.
"Really!" said Hermione crossly, as a second-year actually poked his head through the door. She got to her feet, shut the door in the student's face and returned to her seat. "Don't they have an inkling of social etiquette?"
"I still can't believe Flamel destroyed the Stone," grumbled Ron. "They could have given it to someone else! I can think of a lot worse things in life than having money." The redhead observed the chessboard in front of him thoughtfully before ordering a pawn to move. Once he had been brought back to consciousness, he and Hermione had raced to the owlery to inform Dumbledore, only to meet him on the way. Thanks to Sirius, they had managed to sneak in occasionally to check on their friend whilst he was recovering in the Hospital Wing. The animagus told Harry that one night Ron had consumed too many Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and had thrown up all over his unconscious friend's bed. Instead of the irate matron escorting him out, it had been a very annoyed Auror who had booted Ron out into the corridor.
Frustration over the fact that the Stone and its immeasurable quantities of wealth had been destroyed aside, the redhead had been in very high spirits over the past week. Part of that was due to the fact he had passed his exams, but it was also because he helped contribute to Gryffindor's triumph over Slytherin. As Harry had been unconscious in the Hospital Wing at the time of the last Quidditch Match, it had appeared that the House cup would definitely belong to Slytherin House. Or so the entire school had thought until Dumbledore's speech at the end-of-year feast.
"Only the best chess players know that you will never win by making only forward moves. Sometimes you must make decisions that will take you backwards before you can make your way forward. To Ron Weasley – the knight who sacrificed himself for his team mates and the greater good – I award Gryffindor house fifty points!"
Ron - who had lived for so long under the shadow of his siblings – had found himself buried beneath Fred and George whilst Percy (probably for the first time in his life) merrily bounced up and down on his feet as he clapped heartily. Harry didn't need the redhead to tell him that his brothers' approval meant more than the entire school combined.
"If they kept the Stone intact, it would happen again," argued Hermione from behind her book. "Whether it would be You-Know-Who –"
"Voldemort," corrected Harry, ignoring their flinches.
"Yes well, whether it would be Him again or someone else, it's too risky," said Hermione decidedly. She turned a page. "Besides, there are more important things in life than money or trying to live forever."
Hermione had also in a particularly good mood since the feast, as Dumbledore had also included her in his speech.
"A very wise muggle author once commented that 'calmness is the cradle of all power'. To Hermione Granger – the witch who maintained her composure and logic whilst surrounded by fire – I award Gryffindor house fifty points!"
For the girl who had once commented sadly that she was never exactly popular to begin with, Hermione had found herself overwhelmed by the tumultuous applause that had followed Dumbledore's statement. Ron's shoulder had been forced to act as a pillow as she sobbed uncontrollably. The alarmed look on his best friend's face as he had patted Hermione's back awkwardly was something Harry would never forget.
"Dumbledore said the same thing," said Harry. He groaned as Ron beat him for the fifth time in the space of three hours. "It's for the best."
Harry could feel his two friend's watching him but refused to meet their eyes. Whilst he had filled them both in on what had happened with Quirrell, he hadn't divulged the conversation he'd had with Dumbledore in the Hospital Wing. In fact, he hadn't even told Sirius about it (although he had a feeling his godfather had already discussed it with the Headmaster himself). As such, no one in the school truly knew why Harry had survived that night, or how he saved the Stone. Of course, since the bespectacled boy had helped acquire the House Cup, that was of greater importance.
"Many people, when faced with a path laced with peril and adversity, cower and flee from confrontation. It takes an enormous amount of grit and determination to continue fighting, especially whilst dealing with prejudice." Several students hung their heads in shame at the Headmaster's words. "To Harry Potter, who possessed pure nerve and outstanding courage in the face of grave danger, I award Gryffindor house sixty points!"
The truth was that Harry didn't feel ready to discuss the real discussion he'd had with Dumbledore. The man had refused to tell him exactly why Voldemort wanted to kill him but had assured Harry that the man wasn't gone himself (privately Harry couldn't see how that was much of an assurance). Whilst Dumbledore had alleviated his curiosity regarding how he had managed to get the Stone out of the Mirror – by possessing a need to save the Stone, not to use it – the reason why Quirrell couldn't touch him still made tears well up in his eyes.
"Your mother gave her life to save yours. That unconditional love she possessed for her son is a power that Voldemort cannot understand. He was residing in a body that was also riddled with hatred and greed, and as such the love your mother had for you acted as a barrier. There is no way Voldemort could touch something so pure and good."
Sirius had told him on numerous occasions how much his mother had loved him; how she had marvelled at her baby's intelligence, cheekiness and thousand sweetness's, how she had squeaked in horror every time Sirius would hold Harry high in the air and spin him around in circles (the animagus had even showed him a scar Lily had left on his arm after emitting warning sparks from her wand). Sirius had already told him that his mother had protected Harry to the bitter end, but Dumbledore's words had made it all the more real. The bespectacled boy held his hand to his heart – the knowledge that his mother's sacrifice lived inside him, that she was always with him, was both comforting and strangely painful.
"Harry?" a soft voice jolted him from his thoughts. Hermione was watching him curiously. "Are you feeling OK?"
"I'm fine," Harry assured them quickly. He rubbed his eyes in what he hoped appeared to be a tired manner before returning his gaze to the chessboard. "I'm just tired – sleeping in my own bed has never seemed more appealing, even though Sirius probably has a stash of fireworks hidden under the pillows." He resumed playing and determinedly ignored the covert glances Ron and Hermione shot each other.
A few hours later they had finally arrived at Platform 9 ¾. As they waited for the surly station guard to allow them to pass through the gate, a voice spoke behind them.
"See you lot next year!" Neville beamed at them widely as he lugged his suitcase along the ground. Trevor croaked at them from his shoulder. A few days ago Neville would have ran away at the sight of Hermione out of fear of her casting another full body bind curse, but the fact that he had helped clinch the acquisition of the House Cup for Gryffindor had given the boy a boost of confidence that not even Snape's menacing scowl had been able to diminish.
"Bravery comes in many forms, but not least is the ability to stand up to our friends for the greater good. I therefore award ten points to Neville Longbottom!"
The sight of timid Neville being swamped by the entire Gryffindor House still brought tears of laughter to Ron's eyes.
The trio farewelled the boy and passed through the gateway. As they pushed their way through the throng of waiting families, Harry felt a hand close down on his shoulder. He quickly looked behind him to find a middle-aged man standing there.
"Harry Potter," said the man coolly.
"Mr Malfoy," greeted Harry curtly. Neither he nor Ron had ever met Draco's father before, but the similarities between them were far too great to assume that the man was otherwise. Lucius Malfoy's face was just as pale and pointed, his hair was also blonde, and the same grey eyes that glared at him from across the Great Hall every morning were now gazing coldly down at him.
"My son informed me that you deliberately mislead him into being out after curfew in order to get him into trouble," said Lucius. Draco smirked at them from behind his father.
"Come off it!" snorted Ron in disbelief.
"Quiet, Weasley," said Lucius derisively, without moving his gaze from Harry. "Well?"
"Whatever crap your son has fed you isn't true, Mr Malfoy," answered Harry bluntly. He shook the man's hand from his shoulder. "Now if you'll get out of our way –"
Lucius moved to block their path. "Didn't your godfather ever teach you to respect those above you?" he questioned, more coldly still.
"I taught Harry to respect those who have earned it," said a familiar voice. Sirius put his arm around Harry's shoulder and eyed the other man in dislike. "Nice ring on your hand there, Lucius. I'll be sure to remember it when it turns up in some pawnshop in Knockturn Alley in the next three weeks. We know you paid off someone to have your raid postponed."
"I had no idea that the Auror office troubled itself with Misuse of Muggle Artefacts matters," remarked Lucius softly, giving Sirius a look of equally great dislike. "Perhaps you should stick with what you know, Black. You don't want to embarrass yourself."
Sirius wiped his hand across his forehead in an exaggerated manner. "Phew! Thanks for the advice, Lucius. I always appreciate guidance given by a former Death Eater. But you see, that's the whole point; when it involves the doings of a prior servant of Voldemort, it is our concern. Although I'm sure you'll plead that you were under the Imperius curse again and had no idea you possessed a multitude of dark items in your house, but there's no need to point that out," he smirked at Lucius and nodded at a woman who was now standing beside Draco.
"After all, that's why your wife married you, isn't it, Lucius? Your charming lack of personal conviction?"
Lucius looked as though he was going to pull his wand from his pockets, but seemed to think better of it as he remembered his surroundings. Instead he merely sneered at Sirius and marched away with Mrs Malfoy and Draco in tow.
"Be careful, Pads." Remus had been standing a little to the side and was watching Lucius's retreating back. "You don't want to cause trouble."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Rufus knows what the Malfoy's are. As a matter of fact, he's the one who asked me to goad Lucius; we've got several ideas where he'll try and hide any suspicious items." The animagus grinned at his godson and clapped him heartily on the back.
"So after encountering a three-headed dog, nearly falling off your broomstick and facing Voldemort, you actually made it out of Hogwarts alive! I can't help but be impressed, Pronglet."
"Don't forget the fact that he actually was lugging a dragon around the school," reminded Remus. A guilt-ridden Hagrid had confessed the truth whilst Harry had been in the Hospital Wing, resulting in the enormous man running around with his buttocks on fire, courtesy of an irate Sirius. The werewolf gave Harry a look of both pride and exasperation. "Please tell me you're not going to put us through this for the next six years, Harry."
"'I don't make promises I can't keep'," Harry did a stellar imitation of Remus when the man lectured him for constantly resolving to stop concealing dungbombs in the werewolf's bathroom. Sirius chuckled.
"Atta boy, Pronglet!" He ruffled his godson's hair and grabbed the suitcase. After farewelling Ron and Hermione, the three Marauder's made their way out of the station. In spite of the animagus's cheerful attitude, he truly hoped that the year had merely been a fluke and that there would be no more incidents for the rest of Harry's school career (well, dangerous incidents anyway, pranks weren't included). He glanced at his godson as he opened the car door and for the hundredth time that week thanked Merlin he had been given a chance to make things right.
"What do you gentlemen think? Luigi's for dinner?"
Harry nodded enthusiastically and grinned. "Luigi is going to cry when he sees me walk through the door."
"I wouldn't have it any other way. Come on, there's a chocolate and cheese pizza that's waiting to be made!" Laughing, they got in the car and drove away; completely unaware of a small creature that was watching them leave. Its bulging green eyes had been observing Harry from the moment he had journeyed through the gate, and its bat like ears relaxed as the boy drove safely away. As soon as the car disappeared from sight, the creature clicked its fingers and disappeared with a loud CRACK!
To my lovely and always wonderful reviewers:
Danielle: I updated! Hahaha. Hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reviewing!
Katiek121: A massive thank you for your kind words and support throughout this story! I hope you enjoyed the final chapter and that you enjoy "Unconditionally: Second Year" too!
Jayfeatheris Awesome: Really, what were they thinking with that ad? Ugh. Hope you enjoyed the chapter and keep an eye out for the upcoming sequel!
Pottergirl3333: Glad you enjoyed it and I hope the chapter did Sirius's reaction justice! Thank you for reviewing and your support, and I hope you enjoying "Unconditionally: Second Year" as well!
Teachergirl: I understand that there are a lot of fans who dislike the Harry/Ginny shipping, but in my opinion Harry and Ginny are meant to be together and that's the direction I am taking with this series =) hence why I am warning everyone now. It's just my personal preference. Thanks for reviewing!
Fayanora: Sometimes I feel like an evil cow with all the heartache I put our favourite animagus through, hehe. So glad you enjoyed it and I hope you enjoy "Unconditionally: Second Year" too!