Disclaimer –
The story of Harry Potter isn't mine, and I'm receiving nothing for fiddling around with it. Everything recognisable belongs to J.K. Rowling. All I'm doing is messing around with her world. I won't accept any accusations saying I'm doing otherwise. The only things I take any claim for are the incantations and characters I have created for myself.

Author's Note –
I'll use italics for letters, thoughts, Parseltongue, and any other forms of verbal and non-verbal expression that seem appropriate. I won't use bold tags for anything except chapter titles.

As of 2016, I've amended the story for the purposes of grammar and wording.

Summary –
Six years after leaving Hogwarts, Harry Potter shares dinner with someone from his past and recalls some of the more important moments of his life. My take on the "brother of the boy who lived" story.

–– STORY ––

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
2:30 AM

Harry quickly woke at the sound of the first knock on his door.

He sleepily raised his arm and flicked his wrist, casting a spell to check the time. Seeing how early in the morning it was, and with no desire to get out of bed at such an hour – particularly when work was at eight – he chose to ignore his late night visitor's knock. He cancelled the spell with another flick of his wrist and rolled over, his arm wrapping gently around his fiancée, who shuffled up against him without waking.

The second knock also went ignored, though either the knock or his soft but irritable groan had Daphne shifting as though she, too, could hear it. Due to this, he was quite unable to ignore the third knock.

"Of all the bloody …"

He trailed off and grudgingly rose from the bed. It was clear whoever had decided to visit at such an hour was not going away. As he pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms and an old shirt, she turned around and faced him, half-awake as well.

"What's wrong?" she asked sleepily, tucking a long blonde lock behind her ear.

"Someone's been knocking on our door for a minute or two," Harry replied irritably, just as the fourth knock could be heard. He grabbed his wand and added, "I'm going to shoo them away. Be right back, love."

"OK," she murmured. She was asleep again before he left the room.

Harry slowly walked into the main hall of the flat he and Daphne had shared for three years, unknowingly sounding rather like his uncle, whom he'd only met in his early childhood, as he grumbled about the rudeness of people. If there was but one thing Harry Potter had in common with Vernon Dursley, it was a dislike of being bothered at night unless there was a damned good reason. Since Daphne was just fine and he hadn't heard anything from his friends, who would Floo-call in the case of an emergency, or Remus Lupin, who would mirror-call him in the case of an emergency, there wasn't a good reason Harry knew of.

"Hold the hell on, would you?" he shouted as yet another knock sounded through the flat. "I'm coming already!"

It was very unlikely there was an Auror waiting for him at the door: they would have made themselves known long before their fifth or sixth knock on the door. Perhaps somebody in the building needed help? It was rather annoying they'd picked the middle of the night to ask, but time rarely mattered when it came to trouble.

He flicked his wand at the door with a yawn, disabling the charms he used to reinforce the locks, and pulled open the door.

Idly, as he stared at his late night visitor, Harry couldn't believe his guess of Auror had been closest. He wasn't wearing Auror robes, though, so it couldn't be an emergency. Even on the off-chance it was an emergency, the man looked far too intoxicated to be on duty.

"Sirius," he said slowly. "What are you doing here?"

"Hi, Harry," Sirius Black replied, a distinctive slur in his voice, which confirmed Harry's thoughts. "May I come in?"

"It's two-thirty in the morning," Harry replied, pocketing his wand and crossing his arms now. "I work at eight. Matter of fact, don't you work early, too?"

Sirius waved that off. "I booked off tomorrow," he said dismissively. "Don't need to be up in the morning. May I come in?"

"No," Harry said irritably. "I didn't book off tomorrow, and I most certainly do need to be up in the morning. In just a few hours, actually. Go bother Jacob."

"Can't," slurred Sirius. "He has Quidditch practice in the morning, needs to sleep."

"Then go bother Dad."

"He didn't book off work, needs to sleep too."

"Unbelievable," he muttered. Louder, he added, "My father and brother can't entertain you, so you disrupt me?"

Sirius blinked. "Harry –"

"Good night, Sirius." And he shut the door in Sirius's face.

He stared at the door for about a minute, half-expecting Sirius to resume knocking – he was certainly sloshed enough to do so, it would seem – but Sirius gave no further sign he was still there. With an annoyed, tired sigh, Harry flicked his wand to enable the charms before returning to his room, forcing all thoughts of Sirius, Jacob, and James from his mind as he did. This wasn't too difficult a task, as the number of times he'd seen them since his Hogwarts graduation was a single digit number.

Removing his clothes once more and returning his wand to his bedside table, he slid into the bed beside his fiancée and wrapped an arm around her.

"Who was at the door?" she asked softly, not bothering to open her eyes.

"Sirius Black," he whispered. He quickly closed his mind to the negativity he felt before adding, "Pissed enough to bother us in the middle of the night, but not pissed enough to bother my dad or brother. He's gone now."

"Hmm," she breathed, turning over to face him and wrapping her arm around him as well. "Good." Her eyelids opened a crack, revealing a hint of the cerulean orbs he loved.

"Good night," Harry said, pressing a kiss to her forehead as she curled up into him.

"Good night, love," Daphne whispered, fast asleep once more moments after the words left her.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
7:55 AM

When Harry arrived at his desk in the Brain Room of the Department of Mysteries that morning, he found an envelope waiting for him.

"That showed up about fifteen minutes ago," said Broderick Bode, another Unspeakable. He was sallow-skinned, mournful-looking, and often spoke as though he was attending the funeral of a close friend. Not an easy man to get to know, but Harry thought they got on well enough despite their significant age gap. "Brought down by one of the Aurors."

One of the – oh. Of course. It could only be Sirius.

"Thanks, Broderick," Harry replied. Bode merely nodded before continuing on to the Hall of Prophecy for the monthly check.

Since he still had a few minutes until his shift started, and Croaker wasn't too particular about punctuality, he opened the envelope with a small blade and pulled out a letter, which was short and written in sloppy handwriting.

Harry –

I'm sorry about last night. You're right, it isn't fair of me to bother you just because your dad and brother aren't around. I'd still like to see you, though. Would you mind meeting me for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron this evening after your shift? I'll be there after five whether you do or not.


Harry sighed and tossed the letter into the waste bin. He seemed to be sighing a lot today, and it wasn't even eight yet.

Last night hadn't been a drunken fluke – Sirius really did want to speak with him. For the life of him, Harry couldn't think of a reason why. He couldn't even remember a time he'd really spoken one-on-one with Sirius without his father and brother also being around: Sirius was Jacob's godfather, after all.

It wasn't that he had something against Sirius. They'd probably get along splendidly if Harry actually knew him, despite the late night disturbance. That, however, was the point: Harry didn't know him.

So what did Sirius want?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
5:05 PM

Harry didn't know why he was bothering to meet with Sirius. His curiosity had won him over, he supposed.

When work ended at half four, he made his way to the atrium and used the Floo to return to his flat. He quickly showered and changed into casualwear, penned a quick note for Daphne to let her know he was meeting Sirius for dinner at the other man's request and would be back in a few hours, and made his way to the designated Hogsmeade Apparition point.

All too soon – the point was quite close to their building – he Apparated to the designated point in Diagon Alley and made his way to the Leaky Cauldron. As he stepped inside and took a look around, he noted that the old pub was not as busy as he'd thought it would be.

"Ah, Mr. Potter," said Tom the barman with a cheerful smile that could look rather creepy coming from the hunchbacked wizard with missing teeth. "The usual, I presume?"

"Not tonight, my friend," Harry said amiably, though he nonetheless approached the bar and offered his hand, which Tom cheerfully shook. Tom had been the barman for more than seventy years and was quite close to retiring. When he was finally ready to, Harry's friend Hannah would be taking over ownership. As he enjoyed talking to both Hannah and Tom, he did his best to spare a Galleon or two to drop by the Leaky Cauldron for a few drinks every other weekend. "Actually, I was invited out tonight by Sirius Black. Has he turned up yet?"

"He's over in the corner booth," Tom replied, pointing the way. "Mentioned he was meeting someone for dinner, now I think of it. What'll you have?"

"Steak and kidney pie, I think, and a Butterbeer."

"It'll be ready in a jiffy."

"Thanks, Tom," Harry said, dropping a Galleon and five Sickles on the bar. "You have a good night."

"Thank you, Mr. Potter, and you as well."

With what might be the hundredth sigh that day, Harry walked over to the booth he now knew Sirius was sitting at and, after a moment's hesitation, sat down across from him. He offered a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

"Hello, Sirius."

"Hi, Harry," said Sirius, looking relieved. He offered his hand and Harry shook it. "Thank you for meeting me for dinner."

"No problem," Harry said, waving off the thanks. "So, what's going on?"

"What do you mean?" Sirius asked, taking a sip of Firewhisky.

"Well, you showed up at my flat in the middle of the night without any warning," Harry pointed out, looking Sirius full in the face, "and then went into work despite being off for the day to invite me to dinner by letter. I sort of have to assume something's going on. I mean, I've been moved out of Godric's Hollow for six years."

"Six years," repeated Sirius, running a hand through his shoulder-length hair. "Has it really been that long? Merlin's beard, time flies …"

Harry didn't know how he was supposed to reply to this, and so he didn't. It wasn't a response to what he'd asked anyway. He decided to change the subject for the moment for now, but the question was not forgotten.

"Remus tells me you're doing well for yourself," he offered. "Still the number one Auror the Ministry's got, anyway."

Sirius grinned. "Yeah, I'm still something with a wand in my old age," he boasted.

"Forty-five is old?"

"Merlin be damned, I'm forty-five?" Sirius moaned dramatically, putting his face in one hand.

Harry chuckled. He had only ever seen this side of Sirius Black when the man was with Jacob and James. That thought quickly stopped any amusement he found: this wasn't a side he was meant to see. He didn't think so, at least.

"It was your birthday recently, wasn't it?" he mentioned. "Third of November?"

Sirius blinked. He blinked again. "You, er, remember my birthday?"

Harry smiled. "I have a good memory, Sirius," he replied, thinking about his dabbling into Occlumency during his later years at Hogwarts. "A long memory, too."

Apparently unsure of how to respond to this, Sirius looked away. Harry let the silence linger. Sirius hadn't explained why he wanted to meet, after all.

He still couldn't think of anything the two had to talk about. The last time he'd even exchanged more than a simple greeting with the man was at Remus and Nymphadora Tonks's wedding several years prior. Even then, it'd only been polite conversation and nothing more, just as it always had been between the two.

Remus, Harry's godfather, was the only person from his childhood who he kept in touch with. He and Daphne were even the godparents of Remus and Tonks's two children. Teddy was now four years old ("Four and a half!" he insisted) and they'd just celebrated little Anna's first birthday in September. They had dinner with the Lupin family once a week, an arrangement that also meant Harry was able to regularly visit Hogwarts, as that was where they lived.

One of Professor McGonagall's first decisions upon taking over as headmistress in 1997 was sacking Professor Binns and offering the ghost's post to Remus, who had been looking for paid work for almost a year at that point. He'd quickly accepted and, within a year, made History of Magic a favourite class for almost all students as he had done with Defence when he'd taught it during Harry's third year. To be closer to Remus, and because she was disgusted by the Ministry's vocal disapproval of Remus teaching at Hogwarts simply because he was a werewolf, Tonks had turned in her Auror badge and taken over the post of Transfiguration. Her abilities as a Metamorphmagus, while not helpful to students, at least kept them interested.

Daphne would join them at Hogwarts four years later when, at age twenty-one, she obtained her mastery in Potions. Shortly after the announcement was made, Professor McGonagall had quickly approached her with an offer to teach the subject up to the OWL year, leaving Professor Snape, who had taken over as deputy headmaster simultaneously to Professor McGonagall taking over as headmistress, to teach the NEWT classes only. She'd accepted the arrangement, and was to be amused when Professor Snape thanked her more than once for lightening his workload. As she'd also wanted to continue her independent research, teaching only the first five years was fine with her.

The only downside was that she couldn't take private quarters at Hogwarts because non-staff – Harry – could not live in the castle, but she'd assured the headmistress that she was perfectly fine with living in Hogsmeade if it meant she could continue living with Harry. Shortly thereafter, they'd moved from their Westminster flat and were settled in Hogsmeade, where Harry could Floo to and from the Ministry while Daphne also had the option of walking to and from the castle, which she usually did when weather permitted.

His thoughts changed course as he stared at Sirius, waiting for him to speak.

Harry still wished at times that he had a closer connection to his parents – or, really, a connection at all – but those times were fleeting. He'd never been close with his family. In fact, the longest interaction he'd had with his parents outside of holidays was on his eighteenth birthday, the day he'd moved out. They'd otherwise provided a roof over his head, food if he was hungry, and presents at Christmastime. He supposed it was better than living with the Dursleys, who abhorred magic, but it'd have been nice if they'd looked up from Jacob every once in a while and at least noticed him.

He remembered the day he'd realised he needed to do something if he didn't want to live in Jacob's shadow. It had been on his seventh birthday. At the time, the only thing he could think to do to prove himself was study, so he did. He'd kept himself busy with his studies, spending time he didn't spend with Remus on reading, researching, and writing down anything that was of interest to him. It hadn't been long before his bookcase was filled with scrolls containing his notes.

He'd surprised himself with how much he enjoyed learning. It was fun.

The more he'd learned, the more fun it had been for him. He'd discovered Arithmancy, which was taught from third year and on at Hogwarts, when he was eight years old, and he had been immediately drawn to it. At ten years old, Harry had been confident enough to believe that as long as he continued self-study whilst at Hogwarts, he wouldn't need to take the class in order to pass the OWL and NEWT tests.

Though he spent much of his time throughout Hogwarts on his self-studies, he refused to be isolated. He'd quickly found friends in his fellow Ravenclaw year mates, and even some of the upper years. He'd also befriended most of his age group in Hufflepuff, which had shared the most classes with Ravenclaw. Over the years, he'd even gained a few friends from the other houses.

He'd maintained top marks in his year all the while, tying often with Jacob's friend Hermione Granger, who had been just as devoted to her studies. The only subject he hadn't bothered with was Divination, class or tests, primarily because of the Seer teaching the class.

Of course, there had been bumps in the road. He'd found himself the target of Professor Snape's dislike in his first year, but he'd cleared the air with the man early on and had been treated neutrally from then on, which had suited him fine. He'd also originally had an enemy in Draco Malfoy, who'd surprised Harry with his agreement to a truce. They'd even had a friendly rivalry in Potions class, usually tying for top of the year along with Daphne and Hermione. They'd later become good friends three years following their graduation through Draco's marriage to Daphne's sister Astoria.

Harry also remembered being watched by Professor Dumbledore upon his arrival at Hogwarts. He'd felt the old headmaster's eyes on him at times, usually when he'd been in the Great Hall for meals, silently observing him. Not every time, but enough that Harry had felt uncomfortable. He'd learned the reason why from Professor Dumbledore himself when they'd met one-on-one for the first time: it had been a few months before Jacob, with Remus's help, had discovered and caught Peter Pettigrew.

Friday, December 17, 1993
2:00 PM

Harry looked at the large stone gargoyle with no small amount of nervousness. He had never been called to the headmaster's office before today and he didn't know why he was now. For the life of him, he couldn't think of any school rule he had broken.

"Liquorice wand," he said to the gargoyle, which nodded and stepped aside. He stepped through the threshold behind it and onto a spiral staircase, which began rising the moment both of his feet were on the step. It spiraled up several storeys until, far too soon, it ceased its ascent in front of a large oaken double door. Gulping audibly, he knocked twice.

"Enter," said a voice, presumably Professor Dumbledore's, behind the door.

Harry opened the door and slowly stepped inside, observing the room in wonder as he closed it behind him. Several tables were set up across the floor which held curious instruments of bright silver, some of which puffed out smoke, others simply glowing or spinning on one spot. Bookcases filled to the brim with books lined the circular office, and above the bookcases hung the portraits of Hogwarts headmasters and headmistresses of the past, all snoozing in their frames. Directly across from the door, upon a dais that barely reached a foot high, was an enormous claw-footed desk, behind which sat Professor Dumbledore.

"Er, hi, Professor Dumbledore, sir," Harry said nervously. It suddenly occurred to him that he'd never been alone with the headmaster before. Being alone with one of the most powerful and influential wizards of all time was, frankly, intimidating.

Professor Dumbledore looked up from his report. "Ah, Mr. Potter," he said with a smile, as though nothing pleased him more than spending a bit of time with his student. "Good afternoon to you as well, my dear boy. Please have a seat."

Harry quickly did as he was told, now slightly calmer: he didn't know why he had been called to the headmaster's office, but Professor Dumbledore seemed jovial enough that Harry was pretty sure he wasn't in trouble.

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Indeed," Professor Dumbledore replied. He pulled out a sheet of parchment and set it on the desk before him, all the while peering at Harry over his half-moon spectacles. Harry felt himself fidget at this; he felt as though the old professor was staring right through him, and not in the way people normally did. "I must confess I am a little concerned about you."

Harry blinked, confusion now overriding anything else he felt. "Concerned over what?"

The professor held up the parchment, which Harry recognised as the sign-up list for those who were remaining at Hogwarts for the Christmas break. Harry's name was highlighted in a soft gold light halfway down the list.

"Oh, that's why you called me, sir?" Harry said slowly, feeling better now. It was clear he was not in trouble, but … "I, er, I've always stayed at Hogwarts over the holidays."

A small sigh escaped from Professor Dumbledore as he set down the parchment. "I would not normally inquire about this, Mr. Potter," he explained, "as the decision to remain at Hogwarts over the holidays is between a student and his or her family. In your case, however, I have known your family for quite some time and am distinctly honoured to call them friends. As they are not leaving for any holiday trips I've been made aware of, I would think they'd want you to return home to spend Christmas with them."

So that's what it was about. With only a small bit of sadness, one he couldn't rid himself of at the age of thirteen, he replied, "I'm not as sure of that, Professor."

"What do you mean?" Professor Dumbledore prodded.

Harry looked down at his lap. "I've never been close with my family," he admitted. "I was too shy, too quiet. Other than Re-er, I mean Professor Lupin, who's my godfather, everyone was too focused on Jacob to pay me any real attention. I guess I've gotten used to it over time, but … well, Jacob basked in it, like any kid our age would. That meant I was never close to him, though, because he was always too busy enjoying his fame to pay me any mind." He paused. "My parents … more often than not it feels as though they don't have time for me, as though I'm not worth any real notice. I feel as though I have to prove myself to them, I guess as Jacob did after Voldemort's attack, just so they'll even so much as look at me. I thought getting top marks would help me there …"

He trailed off, still looking away in embarrassment. With a brighter smile, he added, "But it doesn't bother me as much anymore. I have my friends here, and I have my godfather when I'm not here. He's not as close with my parents anymore, but he still comes over to spend time with me. He's here over the break, too, so I'll get to spend some time with him while we're here."

His eyes focused on his lap, Harry didn't notice Professor Dumbledore's saddened expression at his words until the man spoke.

"I wasn't aware," he said, looking equal parts surprised and ashamed that he hadn't known. "I'm sorry, Harry."

Harry blinked again and looked up. Of all things, an apology was the last thing he had expected, particularly from Professor Dumbledore. "You don't need to apologise," he said uncertainly. "It's not your fault my family's the way it is."

"Thank you for that, my boy," Professor Dumbledore said with a small smile, "but I'm afraid some of the blame does lie with me." At Harry's confused look, he added, "It was I who explained to your parents that your brother was the one marked by Voldemort that night. I'd told them this to ensure they would prepare him for Voldemort's return, just in case he ever surfaced and tried again. I knew your parents would put a lot of focus on young Jacob as a result, but I did not think they would neglect you in the process, or perhaps as a result. For that, Harry, I am truly sorry."

Harry shook his head. Regardless of this bit of information, Professor Dumbledore was shouldering blame that rightfully belonged to his parents. He couldn't let the professor do that.

"It's still not your fault," he said. "My parents needed to know that Voldemort marked Jacob. If they hadn't taken him to St. Mungo's to have his scar inspected that night, who knows what that thing in his scar would have done to him later in life? You only asked them to be there for him and have him ready just in case Voldemort came back. You didn't ask them to be there only for him. You have nothing to apologise for, Professor."

A wave of relief seemed to wash over Professor Dumbledore as Harry finished speaking: his midnight-blue eyes twinkled once more and he sat straighter. Harry's words seemed to make a world of difference to the professor, though the reason why was beyond him.

"Thank you, Harry," he said again, eliciting a smile from Harry. He reached for a bowl on his desk and held it out. "Would you care for a sherbet lemon?"

Harry took one. "Thank you, Professor," he said politely as he popped the candy into his mouth.

"You're welcome," he replied, beaming at Harry. "Between you and me, sherbet lemons are my personal favourite candy. I make it a point to offer them to the many students who I have watched pass through this office over the years – and even a few professors – but few can appreciate the simple, wondrous taste. Some," he added with disbelief, "even have a ridiculous notion that the candies are dosed with potions, which, depending on the rumour, can control or even wipe the memories of the eater."

He laughed at the notion, and Harry, who was enjoying the candy and contemplating buying some of his own, laughed with him.

"They're all missing out, then," he commented. "This is really good. Besides, what would you possibly dose candy with?"

Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he put a hand beside his mouth and whispered conspiratorially, "Actually, some of the candies are mildly dosed with a calming draught, just in case the student in question is distraught at the time." In his normal voice, he added, "But I have a separate bowl for those."

Harry nodded. He hadn't noticed any change in his emotions since accepting the candy a minute ago, and potions were fast-acting. He thought it was a good idea, too.

Another chuckle, and then Professor Dumbledore's expression turned serious once more. "As pleasant as that interlude from our discussion was, Harry, let us return to the original subject of our meeting. I need a suitable reason to provide Professor Burbage with in order to excuse you from her class this afternoon, after all," he added with a wink, and it was Harry's turn to chuckle. "If I may speak frankly, I do not have an issue with you staying at Hogwarts over the holidays, especially in light of what you've just told me. However, I must ask if you're certain that your parents will not come to Hogwarts during the break to bring you home themselves."

"As certain as I can be, sir," Harry replied after a moment. "My mom will send their presents by owl or with Delphino, our house-elf – they don't forget about me at Christmas. I've already send them my presents with Hedwig, my owl."

"If you're sure," Professor Dumbledore said quietly. "It saddens me to hear this about two bright young folks I have had the pleasure of knowing for a long time … I only wish I was able to help you in some way, my boy."

Harry looked down at his lap again. "Are you going to talk to them about it?" he asked.

"Do you wish for me not to?" Professor Dumbledore asked, and Harry could hear the frown in his voice.

"Yes," he replied almost inaudibly.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see that Professor Dumbledore had walked around his desk and was now standing next to him. "I believe it's my turn to reassure you, Harry," he said gently. "I will not speak with your parents on your behalf. However, I believe you should speak with your parents on your own, and let them know how you feel."

Harry sighed. "There's no point, Professor," he said quietly. "They know I'm there, but they don't see me. It's always been that way."

He paused, unsure if he should continue. Professor Dumbledore nodded his head, gently urging him to do so.

"After my first year exams were finished," he told him, "I couldn't sleep for a week. Not because the exams were difficult. I found them easy, actually." This elicited a smile from Professor Dumbledore, and Harry had a small smile on his face as he continued, "No, I was excited to find out how I did, to see for myself that I had top marks in my year, so I could show them to my parents and to my godfather." His smile brightened. "Remus was beyond proud. He took me out for dinner that night to celebrate." His smiled faded. "My mother smiled at me, patted me on the head as though she was proud, and went off. My father didn't care at all."

The smile on Professor Dumbledore's face was gone now as well, but Harry wasn't finished yet.

"It doesn't matter anymore," he said, forcing a shrug to illustrate his point. "I'm working toward my goals for after Hogwarts. Plans that, er, don't include my family. Once I graduate from Hogwarts in a few years, I'll move out of Godric's Hollow and start my own life. Make my own name in the world. I don't want to be famous; I just want to leave a mark on the world …"

He trailed off, unsure if he should continue. "Go on," Professor Dumbledore urged him kindly.

"I want to work in the Department of Mysteries," Harry said swiftly. Seeing the look of surprise on the headmaster's face, he added, "It's always fascinated me – I know the Unspeakables study all sorts of magic, but everything they do is secret. I want to see what they do. I want to study magic. I want to apply for a position once I've finished my NEWTs."

The more he spoke, the more confident he became.

"I need top marks, of course, which I've been getting so far, and I know I can keep getting them. All I have to do is keep up with my studies like I've been doing since before Hogwarts. After a while, I won't even need my trust vault anymore. I can give them back every Knut. It's not like I ever use my vault for anything other than school supplies in the summer, or a treat every now and then …"

He stopped speaking, suddenly all too aware of just where he was, and just who he was rambling to. He looked up at Professor Dumbledore with wide eyes. He didn't know why he had said so much to the headmaster. Honestly, did Professor Dumbledore even care about any of that? He was world-renowned and had three important positions in the wizarding world, for Merlin's sake! He had more important things to worry about than the career goals of a third year. Harry suddenly felt very embarrassed.

It was to his surprise that Professor Dumbledore, far from rolling his eyes and muttering about children, smiled down at him and patted his shoulder.

"Said more than you thought you would?" he asked knowingly.

"Yeah," Harry replied meekly, averting his eyes, "I, er –"

Professor Dumbledore shook his head. "You don't need to apologise, Harry," he said softly. "You should never need to apologise for being excited for the future and what it has in store for you." With a grin, he added, "I assure you, while working at Hogwarts was one of my main goals in life, I did not foresee myself as a member of either the Wizengamot or the International Confederation of Wizards, let alone as a leading member of both, when I was in my third year."

Harry smiled at this. It was hard to imagine Professor Dumbledore as a young man. No matter how hard he tried, the waist-length white hair and beard were always imagined.

"I have seen your accomplishments thus far," the headmaster continued as he returned to his seat, his words surprising Harry enough to look at him again. "I have seen the records of your excellent grades. Being at the top of your year is very impressive, my boy." Smiling at Harry's embarrassment, he added, "I have also seen your non-academic efforts, which have reached farther than I believe even you have realised."

Harry blinked. "What do you mean?" he asked, a bit shyly.

"It didn't escape my notice that you reached out to both a student and a teacher with prejudices against you, if for differing reasons," said Professor Dumbledore. "It might interest you to know that Professor Snape treats your brother with the same neutrality he extends to you."

Harry raised his eyebrows. "That's good," he said, more surprised that he hadn't already known such than anything else. Then again, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor didn't share Potions together. "I mean, there's no point to either of them hating the other."

"You are right about that," Professor Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling with approval. "I am glad I spoke with you today, Harry, and I look forward to our next conversation. From what I have seen, and from what you have told me, I believe I am right in saying that you will leave more than just a mark on the wizarding world. I believe you will accomplish great things. I look forward to seeing that."

Harry blinked again. He was stunned. Unless he was very much mistaken, he'd just received high praise from the wizarding world's most powerful and influential citizen.

"I – thank you, Professor," he said in wonder. "I'll do my best to live up to your belief."

"I know you will," Professor Dumbledore replied, his smile widening. "Now, I believe I have taken up enough of your afternoon. As there is but a half hour left until your class ends, I see little point in disrupting your peers by sending you to the classroom now, so you are excused from the rest of your class. I will speak with Professor Burbage about it later."

"Thank you, Professor," Harry repeated happily.

"You're welcome, Harry. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon."

"You as well," he said, and it was with a head held high that he walked out of the office.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
5:15 PM

He remembered how hard he'd worked from that day on, fueled by his desires to set himself apart and to prove to Professor Dumbledore that his belief in him was not misplaced.

However, Professor Dumbledore would not live to see the end result of Harry's efforts. On a warm afternoon in August of 1997, Remus had dropped by Godric's Hollow to inform Harry, who had been so deep into his Occlumency research he'd barely noticed it was August, that the centenarian had passed away that morning. Harry recalled how numb he'd felt at the news, and how Remus had spent the rest of the day with him, the research temporarily forgotten.

As sad as the news had been, he'd known that Professor Dumbledore wouldn't want people to mourn his passing, and so he'd forced himself to remember the good experiences he'd had with the man. After all, he would be watching from the next great adventure, as he'd often called it. He wouldn't be watching every moment, of course, but he would watch, and Harry wouldn't let down the man who had both kept his confidence and expressed such faith in him.

Professor Dumbledore's funeral had been held a few weeks after Harry's seventeenth birthday, right beside the lake at Hogwarts itself. It was one of the clearest days in Harry's memory.

Saturday, August 16, 1997
1:30 PM

It was just as elaborate an affair as he'd thought it would be. Just by looking around, it was easy to see why so many said Albus Dumbledore was one of the most influential wizards of all time. The enormous turnout was the proof.

Evidently, Remus had similar thoughts. "Quite a crowd, isn't it?" he murmured.

"Yeah," Harry said softly, his eyes gazing at the assembled crowd.

"Dumbledore meant a lot to a lot of people," said Tonks, whose hair was its natural color of mousy brown for the occasion, hanging just above her shoulders. "A lot of these people probably never had the opportunity to be introduced to him, but everything he did for the world touched their lives in some way or another."

"It's still hard to believe he's gone," said Harry. "I mean, we all knew Dumbledore wasn't young, but it'd always felt like he'd live forever."

Remus clapped his shoulder. "Go on up to your row, Harry. We'll catch up afterward."

"Thanks, Remus, Tonks," said Harry, clapping Remus's shoulder in return before turning and walking away.

It was a beautiful day for such an event. He looked over at the lake as he walked up the aisle, his eyes catching the gentle ripples in the water, signifying that the merpeople were lurking just below the surface. From the corner of his eye, he could also see a couple of centaurs at the edge of the forest, silently watching the gathering before them. As his eyes moved toward the people themselves, Harry saw many faces, a few of which he recognised.

The Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, was in attendance in the front row with a delegation, all of whom had grave expressions. Fudge himself looked miserable, and Harry recalled one of his conversations with Hagrid about the man: he'd depended a lot on Professor Dumbledore in his early days in office – there might have been a friendship there, if only a tentative one.

Left of Fudge sat somebody who Harry didn't believe had a right to be involved with such an occasion. The look of grief on Dolores Umbridge's face wouldn't convince a newborn baby. Harry had a short list of people he had zero respect or tolerance for, and the current Senior Undersecretary to the Minister was nearly at the top. While it was true he'd never met her before, he was well aware of how difficult Umbridge made the lives of magical creatures using her position. One of her laws made it almost impossible for werewolves like Remus to find paid work. Harry could never forgive that.

It was amusing to listen to Tonks speak of Umbridge. As an Auror who occasionally crossed paths with the Minister's office, Tonks absolutely loathed Umbridge, who lorded over her position in the office – which was not as significant as she liked to believe, despite its high ranking – to lower-level employees. Her views on and actions against people like Remus only intensified Tonks's loathing.

Another face Harry wasn't thrilled to see in attendance, though he was far less surprised to see her, was Rita Skeeter, the infamous Daily Prophet reporter. Harry remembered all too well the tripe she'd written about his brother during the Triwizard Tournament two years before. Even now she was sitting in a middle row, a quill posed as though ready to jot down a juicy piece of news. He looked away, forcing down a scowl with great difficulty.

Then there were the Malfoys. They were seated in the row behind Minister Fudge. Lucius Malfoy, the Minister's advisor, had an almost convincing look of graveness on his face, with his hands clutched around the head of his cane. His wife, Narcissa, was less convincing, as her posture gave her away, though her face showed only what she wanted people to see. Draco, however, in contrast to his parents, looked rather bored: it was clear to anyone who looked that he wouldn't be present if not for his parents. Harry frowned at this, but looked away before his Potions rival could catch his eye.

There were already a few students sitting toward the front, both former and current. Some, including Harry, had been asked to speak at the funeral, and those who were asked were all honoured to do so. Jacob would be speaking, as would Neville Longbottom, though neither had arrived yet.

Harry wondered if Neville was picked to speak at the funeral because he could have been the boy who lived in another time and place, since he'd also met the terms of the prophecy. Then again, he thought, he himself did as well, and he was certain he was only picked to speak because he had spoken to the late headmaster one-on-one a few times, something Professors Flitwick and McGonagall were aware of.

He took a seat near the end of the aisle and folded his arms, staring solemnly at the white marble tomb, which was impossibly bright and mounted right beside the lake. It wasn't long until he felt someone approaching him. A moment later, Daphne took her seat next to him.

"Hi," she said softly.

"Hi," Harry replied, looking over at his girlfriend of nine months with a smile that didn't entirely reach his eyes, despite his best efforts. She would understand, though. He'd told her about his mostly one-sided connection with Professor Dumbledore. She might not understand the connection – he wasn't even sure if he did – but she would comfort him anyway.

"Are you all right?" she asked, placing a hand on his thigh just above his knee.

"I'll be fine," he replied, placing a hand over her hand. "It'd be selfish of me to wish he was still here, but … I wish he could have lived to see the result of my promise to him."

"I know," she said, squeezing his leg comfortingly.

He was grateful he had Daphne by his side. He remembered how nervous he'd felt when he asked her out in November, and how surprised he'd been – not that he'd allowed it to show on his face – when she'd accepted his offer for a date. Nine months later, here they were. He wasn't sure how far their relationship would go – engagement was certainly far from his mind, never mind marriage – but he had a feeling they would be together for a long time to come. That thought cheered him up some.

Unable to continue staring at the bright marble, Harry turned his head and looked around. There were more people arrived now than the last time he'd looked, many of whom he recognised but could not put a name to, such as the owner of the Three Broomsticks, the barman of the Hog's Head, and the trolley lady of the Hogwarts Express.

He also recognised a few others from the Minister's delegation. One of them was Amelia Bones, the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Harry was friends with her niece, Susan, and had even dated her a couple of times during their fourth year. He also recognised Barty Crouch, the head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, from when the man had been at Hogwarts that same year as a Triwizard Tournament judge. He noticed Percy Weasley sitting with him; Percy caught his eye and nodded, his expression flickering for just a moment, and Harry nodded back.

Soon enough, the funeral was underway. The official was a small, tufty-haired wizard from the Ministry, who spoke in a singsong voice about all of Professor Dumbledore's achievements in life: his work in alchemy with Nicolas Flamel, his discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, his nearly one hundred years of employment at Hogwarts, his work with the Wizengamot that began when he was still a student at Hogwarts, and his fifty years with the International Confederation of Wizards. Even his enjoyment of tenpin bowling was brought up. This amused Harry more than anything: he remembered Professor Dumbledore telling him in his fifth year that he was actually terrible at the game, but still enjoyed playing when he found some spare time.

The official droned on for at least an hour, though it felt like far longer. He eventually concluded the service and asked for the speakers to come forward and share with the audience their experiences with Professor Dumbledore. The first, of course, was the Minister for Magic.

"It seems only yesterday that I took the post of Minister," Fudge was saying, looking a bit happier now that he was recalling fond memories. "I'm sure some of you remember that brief time shortly after I took office, when funds were a bit tight – the Daily Prophet certainly enjoyed having it printed on the front page for a week or two."

Several members of the audience chuckled, and not all of them were from Fudge's delegation.

"I knew Albus had helped Millicent Bagnold with a similar problem when she was Minister, so I sent off a letter asking whether he thought it'd be beneficial to reduce the budget allocated to the Spirit division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. There hadn't been much activity in the division for about three years prior to my asking and, as I said, the gold could be better used in other, busier departments. Albus replied that I was, of course, well within my power to trim the budget if I saw fit to do so, but he also pointed out that ghosts and poltergeists around Britain might not like the reduced representation, and that he'd never been able to control Peeves."

The audience laughed appreciatively, particularly the older folks. Harry was surprised to hear himself chuckling, but not as surprised as he was to find that Cornelius Fudge had a sense of humour. Then again, Harry thought, he might be the Minister for Magic, but he was still a person.

"Dumbledore taught Transfiguration when I was at Hogwarts," said one of the older Aurors, a tall man with short brown hair and a deep voice, when he stepped up. His name was Dawlish – Tonks had mentioned him a few times – but Harry couldn't think of the man's given name. Jack, was it? "During one class, early on in my sixth year, we were tasked with transfiguring a raccoon into a sword. Transfiguration was not my strongest subject at Hogwarts, and during that particular class my spell was just a bit off: instead of transfiguring the raccoon's whole body into a sword, I somehow managed to transfigure its front paws into swords." As the audience laughed, Dawlish added with a chuckle, "My classmates laughed, and Dumbledore smiled as he told me I would receive part-marks for creating, as he called it, an Auror's sidekick."

Harry caught sight of Professor McGonagall in the row behind him. She had a handkerchief at her eyes, apparently crying and laughing at the same time.

A few more Ministry delegates and officials rose to speak about Professor Dumbledore, each one talking about their own little experience with him, with more serious recollections than amusing ones. Soon enough, it was the selected students' turn to speak. The first two, surprisingly, were Fred and George Weasley.

"Just like everyone else assembled here, we both have a lot of respect for Professor Dumbledore," said the twin on the right, who Harry knew was Fred; he'd always been able to tell the two apart. Whether that was because he was a twin himself or for another reason was beyond him.

"He passed away before we could get the chance to know him, though he was quite close with our family," continued George, who nodded at his parents in the crowd. Mrs. Weasley beamed at the pair through her tears. "But there's one experience we shared with Dumbledore that we'll never forget."

"A few years back, Hogwarts hosted the Triwizard Tournament," said Fred. "Dumbledore himself drew the age line around the Goblet of Fire. 'No one under the age of seventeen shall pass', he said."

"Well, we saw it as a challenge and accepted it," George said with a grin. "Took on the headmaster's spellwork, we did."

"After the goblet blasted out our names, we suddenly had matching beards," Fred said, also grinning broadly. "Long white matching beards."

Over the laughs of the audience, George added, "After reminding us of his foolproof age line, he complimented us on our beards. Said he'd never seen any finer."

Harry wrapped an arm around Daphne's shoulders and pulled her against him, and she wrapped an arm around his back, both laughing quietly at the twins' anecdote.

The other students who got up to speak didn't have amusing stories to share, but it was clear to Harry that Professor Dumbledore had influenced their lives in some way or form as well, not unlike how he'd influenced Harry's. When Jacob got up to speak, Harry was surprised to learn the headmaster had never summoned him for simple conversation as he had with Harry. No, Jacob's talks with Professor Dumbledore had always followed the little adventures he'd gone through with his friends Ron and Hermione during their first few years at Hogwarts, particularly when Jacob had saved the Philosopher's Stone from Voldemort and Professor Quirrell. He'd met Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel, the ancient immortals, a few days later when they'd personally travelled to Hogwarts to thank Jacob for his efforts.

"The extraordinarily long lives of Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel finally came to an end with their deaths five years ago," Jacob continued. "They made the decision to destroy the Philosopher's Stone in order to keep those who would misuse its powers from ever stealing it. When I asked why, they told me that at their age, well over six hundred years old, dying was a lot like going to bed after an extremely long day. Professor Dumbledore then mentioned that to the well-organised mind, death is just the next great adventure." He smiled at the tomb. "I'd like to think he was reunited with the Flamels and all of his friends and family in death, and they'll all experience that great adventure together."

The audience clapped as the boy who lived finished speaking. Even the Malfoys joined in, if only to keep up appearances.

A couple of other students got up to speak after Jacob, including Neville, and then it was Harry's turn.

"I didn't know Professor Dumbledore when he was teaching," he began, a bit nervous in front of so many people, "nor did I know him through his long-time involvement with the Wizengamot and the International Confederation of Wizards. In fact, the first time I ever spoke to him was just before Christmas during my third year, at his request. Since then, he invited me to speak with him on a few other occasions, and I got to know a little bit about the man behind the legend. I can't say I truly knew him, of course, as he valued privacy as much as he valued passing knowledge down to others, but I'll never forget our conversations."

His voice was getting steadier and stronger as he continued. From all areas of the audience, he could see several people nodding in agreement and smiling up at him.

"Professor Dumbledore was a man who didn't betray your confidence. He was a man so kind and just that he, one of the few humans to do so, bonded with a phoenix – one with a wicked sense of humour, I might add," Harry said with a smile. "The first time I met Fawkes, he burst into flames without warning and I thought for a horrifying minute or two that I'd somehow accidentally lit the Albus Dumbledore's bird on fire."

Most people in the audience laughed – from where he was standing, Harry could see the tufty-haired official and the Hog's Head barman among them. To his surprise, even Professor Snape was chuckling.

"He was a man who cared about the good that life had to offer and stood up for those who weren't fortunate enough to experience it for themselves. He enjoyed tenpin bowling in the limited free time he had and, despite his achievements, one of his proudest moments was having his name and picture put on a Chocolate Frog card. But most importantly, Albus Dumbledore was a man you simply couldn't help but trust. Despite his world-wide fame and influence, if you were having a private conversation with him, he never allowed you to believe you weren't worth his time."

Harry looked over his shoulder at the tomb and smiled. He said, more to himself than anyone else, "I think that's what I'll miss about him the most."

The audience clapped as he stepped down and returned to his seat. Neville clapped his shoulder as he passed, Hannah Abbott smiled softly from Neville's side, and Daphne took his hand as he sat down.

His mind was still wandering when the funeral ended. As he left with Daphne and her family, he didn't feel eyes identical to his own on his back, watching him with a thoughtful frown.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
5:25 PM

Not even one full year later, Professor Dumbledore's belief in Harry had been made clear.

On the day of his graduation from Hogwarts, Harry had been approached by an Unspeakable named Saul Croaker, who had been contacted by Professor McGonagall and informed of Harry's ambition to join his department. She in turn had been told by Professor Dumbledore before his passing. Since Harry had achieved top marks on all eleven of his OWLs and all eight of his NEWTs, Croaker was impressed enough to offer him a year-long contract with possibility – and likelihood, according to Croaker – of advancement, which Harry had accepted almost before the man had finished speaking. One year later, Harry had been promoted into a permanent position with the Unspeakables.

He and Daphne had remained together all the while. Between his high-paying Ministry job and her status as an international Potions mistress who taught at Hogwarts, neither would ever hurt for money. It also meant, as he'd hoped, that Harry had never needed to use his trust vault after leaving his family's home and settling into his new one.

He'd proposed to Daphne on her twenty-third birthday, during a trip to Paris. They'd settled on August of 2005 for their wedding. He'd quickly asked Remus to stand as his best man, just as Harry had been Remus's. Teddy Boot and Anthony Goldstein, two of Harry's closest friends from Hogwarts, would be ushers. Astoria would be Daphne's matron of honour, and Tracey Davis and Pansy Parkinson would be her bridesmaids. They were planning for a small wedding, attended only by family, closest friends, and their guests.

That was that. Harry was engaged to the woman he loved, had the job he'd wanted since early adolescence, and had made a name for himself that had nothing to do with being a Potter. He had a close group of friends and got on well with his fellow Unspeakables. He was still close to his godfather's family and doted on his two godchildren. The only thing missing from his life was the Potters, which didn't bother Harry anymore.

So why his past was attempting to reach out to him now, through Sirius Black of all people, was beyond him.

"So," he tried again, "why did you want to see me, Sirius?"

Sirius stared at him, gray eyes meeting green. "Because we haven't talked in a long time," he said after a few long seconds. "Hell, we haven't really seen each other in a long time, and we both work for the Ministry. I guess I'd just like to catch up."

Harry blinked. Could it be that simple? Was he overthinking it after all? His only connection to Sirius was the Potter family. Maybe it was that simple.

"OK," he said slowly, drumming his fingers on the table. "What would you like to know?"

"How's life treating you? How's work? Anyone special in your life right now? Anything you want to tell me, really. You don't have to tell me everything about yourself."

Harry didn't speak right away. He pondered what to tell the other man. "Well, there isn't much going on in my life right now," he replied. "I couldn't be happier, though. I can't tell you about work, of course, as I'm an Unspeakable."

"Of course."

"I can tell you that for the last few months I've been neck-deep in research at work, and while I can't give you any details, I can tell you that my findings may well change the way we all think about healing in the next fifteen, twenty years or so."

"Interesting," Sirius commented, looking a bit curious.

"It's a shame it'll be after most of our time," admitted Harry, "but it'll be a breakthrough either way. Anyway, my mate Terry just got married a few months ago to another friend of mine, Sally-Anne, and I was an usher. Learned the night before just how bad I am with Firewhisky if I have more than three in an hour."

Sirius snorted, throwing back some of his own Firewhisky.

"I've been with the same woman since we started dating in our sixth year at Hogwarts. We've been living together since the summer after our graduation, and we're getting married –"

Sirius snorted again, and this time a stream of Firewhisky launched from his nose and sprayed over Harry, who frowned and banished the alcohol and its residue from himself with a slight wiggle of his fingers.

"Sorry about that," said Sirius after a cough, not noticing the casual wandless magic, "but I thought you just said you're getting married."

"I did," Harry said, leaning back in his booth. "I proposed to her last year."

Before Sirius could reply to this, a tray bearing food and a bottle of Butterbeer arrived on the hand of a familiar face. "Here you are, gentlemen," said Hannah Longbottom with a smile. "One steak and kidney pie with Butterbeer, and one club sandwich."

"Thanks, Hannah," Harry said, shooting her a smile in return. "How're things on your end?"

"Quite well, thanks," she replied as she set down their orders. "Tom's just about ready to retire, so I've been working more and longer shifts lately. Makes it a bit tough to see the husband, since Neville's up at Hogwarts for most of the day during the week, but the days go quickly and he's over here at weekends, so I s'pose I can't complain. How's it going for you, Harry?"

"Splendid," he said. "Work's been better than ever lately, and Daphne is doing well, so I definitely can't complain."

"That's good to hear," beamed Hannah. She looked at Sirius, who'd remained silent during the exchange, and asked, "Would you like another Firewhisky?"

"It'd be nice," Sirius replied with a small grin, "but one is enough, I reckon."

"Of course. Enjoy your meals, gentlemen!"

She walked away, her strut attracting to her rear the eyes of many men in the pub as it always did, and Harry quietly snorted as he took a swig of his Butterbeer. He set it down and looked up at Sirius, who looked ready to continue their conversation.

"So, how are things going in your life?" Harry asked as he helped himself to some pie.

"Good, but they're not quite on the same tier as marriage," Sirius said with a snort after taking a large bite of his own sandwich.

Harry shrugged. "What else is there to say beyond that? I'm marrying the love of my life next summer. Mid-August, actually, a little more than two weeks after my birthday."

"Huh," said Sirius, looking slightly put out. "I can't believe I didn't know before now." He stuck a hand across the table, smiling brightly again. "Congratulations, mate."

"Thanks, Sirius," Harry said, taking the offered hand and shaking once. "Have you ever thought about settling down?"

Sirius laughed at the thought. "I suppose I should think about it someday soon," he admitted. "I'm getting too old for the carefree bachelor lifestyle. And yes," he added, referencing the beginning of their conversation, "forty-five is too old."

"Don't wizards and witches age slower than Muggles?" Harry pointed out. "You're practically in your thirties, aren't you?"

The thought clearly hadn't occurred to Sirius, for his eyes widened and he happily exclaimed, "Ten more years of bachelor life!"

"Here's to it," Harry said after a laugh. He raised his Butterbeer bottle and Sirius clicked his own bottle against it. "You can come to my wedding, if you want," he mentioned after a minute of quiet followed.

Sirius looked up at him, surprise clearly evident. "Are you serious?"

"No," said Harry with a shit-eating grin, "I'm pretty sure you're Sirius."

The older man thumped his head against the table, groaning loudly, which attracted the attention of diners around them for a few moments. "Someday," he promised, "I'm going to track down my parents in the afterlife, and then I'm going to slap them both – at the same time – with one swinging arm – for giving me a name with such a horrible pun."

"I'm not sorry," Harry told him, still grinning.

"Oh, I know," Sirius said as sat up straight again. "The only one who's sorry is me."

Harry laughed again, and then sobered up and became serious again. "But really, Sirius, you're invited. I mean, you're obviously not going to be in the wedding party, but you can still attend. It's set for the seventeenth of August, so book it off in advance if you want."

"Will do," said Sirius, who still looked surprised. "I'm just surprised you're inviting me, is all."

"To be honest, so am I," Harry admitted. "But the way I see it, you're an old family friend – granted, one I don't really know – and I don't dislike you, and you sought me out today, so I don't see a reason why I shouldn't. Daphne wouldn't be against it, either."

Sirius blinked after Harry finished speaking. Then he blinked again. He blinked four times before he finally said, "Thank you, Harry."

"No problem," he said. "Also, if you ever finally get married, I'm coming to your wedding."

"It probably won't ever happen, but deal," Sirius replied with a small smile. It disappeared quickly as he asked, hesitantly, "You're, er, inviting your parents and brother, right?"

Harry didn't reply right away. He looked away, pondering what to tell the other man.

If he was honest with himself, he didn't really want to invite his family. It felt wrong, somehow, to have them attend one of the happiest days of his life, when they'd never taken any real interest in his life before. Sure, he'd invited Sirius, another virtual stranger to him, but that was different: Sirius had never been under any obligation to notice Harry, and he'd been the one to make the effort today.

He knew Remus would want him to invite them. Remus would make it clear that the decision was Harry's to make, of course, but he would want Harry to invite his family, if only for Harry's benefit. Daphne, like Remus, would let Harry have the final say, even knowing that the Potters might not approve of her.

That was another reason Harry was reluctant to invite them: he wasn't sure how they would react to Daphne, simply because she'd been a Slytherin at Hogwarts. He recalled only too clearly how much Jacob had disliked Slytherins during their time there, and he knew James was the same way. Lily wouldn't mind so much – she'd been friends with Professor Snape for five years while at Hogwarts – but she probably wouldn't reign in Jacob if he made his disapproval known.

Their opinions didn't matter to Harry. Given the choice between his family and his fiancée, he would pick Daphne without even thinking about it. He was closer to her by far than he'd ever been to them. But he would not invite trouble to his wedding. If they accepted his invitation only to ruin the day, that would be the last straw for him.

It was always possible that things had changed since he'd moved out, of course. His mother in particular had been different, regretful, on that day.

Friday, July 31, 1998
3:45 PM

Harry looked around the room as he put the last of his shirts in his trunk. Not for the first time, he was glad he'd spent the money on a trunk with multiple compartments – five, to be exact. During his year-long stint as Defence teacher, Alastor Moody had told Harry where he'd ordered his own six compartment trunk from, which he had added a seventh to at some point during the war as a means of holding suspects, primarily Death Eaters. It was a very useful creation.

Things were looking up for Harry. His Hogwarts life was finally over. Though he would miss the castle and his time there, his life as an independent adult was just beginning. He and Daphne had found a flat in Westminster just a few weeks before that went for a reasonable monthly price, and in just under an hour it would be his new home.

It was thanks to his contract with the Department of Mysteries that they could afford the flat. Croaker had given him an advance of two hundred Galleons – out of his salary, of course, which was one hundred Galleons biweekly – and he'd immediately had it converted into pounds so he could pay off three months of prepaid rent and still have money to spare. His trust vault remained untouched: he'd told Croaker of his intention to leave it until the Potters eventually had its contents reabsorbed into the family vault, and Croaker understood.

Harry didn't know why the Unspeakable was doing so much for him – all he was to Croaker at the moment was a contract employee who wasn't even off probation yet – but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He'd been dreaming of this job for most of his life, after all.

The way he saw it, there was no better day to move out than today, his eighteenth birthday. It wasn't as significant as seventeen, the beginning of adulthood, but he couldn't have moved out last year. Well, he could have, he supposed, but he really didn't want to use his trust vault. He'd only used it for school supplies and the odd treat, and he was firmly against using it for anything else. He didn't want to be in his family's debt, even if they would never actually call him on it.

He turned toward his bed and, with a lazy flick of his wand, shrunk it enough that it would fit in the fourth compartment of his trunk. His pillows, blanket, and headboard soon joined it. He'd stored his clothes in the first compartment, his shrunken bookcases in the second, and his books and scrolls in the third. His desk and chair would be stored in the fifth. All that remained after that were the clothes on his back, his wand, and Hedwig, who he'd sent out for a fly with instructions to track him down at his flat later.

A knock on the door interrupted him. "Yeah?" he called out.

The door opened and his mother walked in. He looked up from his trunk, identical pairs of green eyes meeting, though he looked away quickly. She was dressed as impeccably as usual – as the mother of the boy who lived, Lily Potter was always dressed in a way women such as Narcissa Malfoy dressed. Elegant robes and the like.

"Hi, Mom," he said distractedly as he shrank his headboard.

"Harry," she replied softly. She looked around the nearly bare room and the small smile she wore dimmed noticeably. "Almost finished, I see."

"Yeah," he replied, a little awkwardly. He shut the trunk with a flick of his wand and sat down on top of it. "Another few spells, I guess," he said, looking up at her, "and I'll be finished."

Lily flinched. It was barely noticeable, but enough that he could see it.

"You can have supper with us before you leave," she said. "If you want to, of course."

Harry smiled and shook his head, gently saying, "Thanks for the offer, but I'm already meeting some school friends in Hogsmeade later tonight. We're having a joint birthday supper for myself and Neville Longbottom, since it was his birthday yesterday."

Lily nodded, looking a little disappointed. Harry wondered what had her upset. He didn't think it was anything he'd said or done.

"Something wrong, Mom?" he asked.

She sighed and sat down on the trunk next to him, looking straight ahead for a few long moments before turning to face him.

"It feels like I've missed out on something I can't ever get back," she admitted, and her voice was quiet to the point that it was nearly inaudible.

"Meaning?" he inquired, knowing there was little point to his question: he knew what she meant.

"That I've missed out on your life," she said softly.

It was Harry's turn to sigh. He wasn't about to refute something that was truth, but not doing so would make the whole conversation a lot more uncomfortable. "Mom …"

"Don't, honey," Lily interrupted, looking away from him. "I can't lie and say your father and I didn't often ignore you in favour of your brother, because it's obvious we did, but … I wish I could turn back time and fix that," she said lamely. "After hearing what you said at Dumbledore's funeral last summer … I – I don't know …"

He didn't know what to say or do. He really didn't want to have this conversation, least of all with Lily, but there was nothing for it now. She'd brought it up, and he couldn't just ignore her and continue packing.

Harry locked his fingers together in his lap and gazed down at them, contemplating what to say. There were two reasons why yelling and raging at her would be pointless. The first was that she was already aware of the issue, so there was nothing to gain by throwing it at her. The second was that he didn't actually feel any real resentment toward his family. He didn't have any strong feelings toward them one way or the other, actually. He loved them, he supposed, but he was otherwise rather indifferent, and had been for a long time.

"I don't know what to say, Mom," he said finally. "I'm not resentful or anything. I guess I would have been if I'd been alone, but, well, I had Remus, didn't I? It doesn't bother me anymore. I know he's more important to the wizarding world than I am, what with his early Hogwarts adventures and all, and that sort of thing is important to you and Dad." He smiled at her. "I'm eighteen now. A bit too old for childish jealousy, I think."

Lily smiled as well, though it was a watery sort of smile.

"That's one of the reasons why I've worked so hard at school, I guess. I would never be content with living in Jacob's shadow, and now I know I'll never have to. I have a great job, one I've been working toward for a long time, and now I have a place of my own, too. It's time for me to move on with my life."

He didn't bring up Daphne. He'd never brought her over, so he didn't know how Lily would react to hearing that he was moving in with her, and he wasn't interested enough to find out.

"I've never been close to any of you," he said quietly, "and I don't think there's much we can do about that now."

"I understand," Lily said, her voice trembling a bit. "I'm sorry we weren't there for you, Harry."

Harry unlocked his fingers and wrapped an arm around his mother's shoulders, something he'd been trying not to do, simply because he didn't think it would be appropriate. He wasn't sure whether he was surprised or not when she leaned against him, accepting the comforting gesture.

"Don't be sorry," he murmured. "I'm still your son. You're still my mother. I still love you."

"I love you too, Harry," said Lily in almost a whisper. She swallowed and changed the subject. "If you're willing to satisfy your mother's curiosity … where are you working?"

"The Department of Mysteries," he replied with a smile. "Professor McGonagall recommended me to Saul Croaker, and he offered me a contract the same day I graduated. It's just for a year right now, but, well, who knows?"

Lily looked up at him. "The Department of Mysteries?" she echoed, whistling softly. "That's wonderful. I – I'm proud of you."

He blinked. Those weren't words he'd ever heard from his mother before. He'd heard them from Remus many times, from Tonks and Professor Flitwick from time to time, and even from Professor Dumbledore once, but never from a member of his family.

"T-Thanks, Mom," he said quietly.

She smiled sadly at him and wrapped an arm around his back for a quick one-armed hug before standing up. "Do you need any help with the rest?" she asked him.

He shook his head. "I have almost everything packed now," he replied.

Lily was about to reply when they were interrupted by James walking into the room. "Lily, have you seen – oh," he said, sounding surprised. "That's right, you were moving today."

Any trace of a smile was wiped from Harry's face. He wasn't surprised his father had forgotten: it was Jacob's birthday, after all.

"Yeah," he said noncommittally.

He stood up and opened his trunk once more with a flick of his wand. With another flick, the desk shrank itself to a small enough size to fit into the compartment as it flew through the air toward him. The movements of his wand directing the desk through the air, he brought it over and lowered it into the compartment. He then repeated the process with the chair.

James watched his movements, looking impressed. "Those were well-executed silent spells," he said, his tone matching his look. "Can you use wandless spells, too?"

"A few," Harry replied, which was only partially true: he could actually use all of the spells learned during the first four years at Hogwarts without his wand, and quite a few from his fifth and sixth years. He put his wand in his pocket and pointed a finger at his trunk. A moment later, it gently lifted into the air and hovered three feet above the ground. He swished it around a bit by moving his finger around before setting it back down.

Now James looked really impressed. So did Lily. "You did that with more ease than I've ever managed," James said, letting out a low whistle.

The smile returned to Harry's face. "I've practiced a lot," he said simply by way of explanation, unsure of how else to react to his parents' praise.

Deciding to show off a bit more, Harry balled his hand into a fist and raised it to eye-level. He opened his hand, and Lily yelped as a ball of fire the size of an apple hovered an inch above his palm. He allowed the fire to produce a few embers before closing his hand again, dispelling the fire instantly. Seeing the looks on his parents' faces, he opened his hand once more, showing that the fire hadn't damaged his flesh in the slightest.

"Hours and hours of practice," he added.

"I think I'd better start practicing more myself," said James a little sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head with one hand. "I can also use some wandless spells, but what you've just done is way beyond what I'm capable of."

"Not really," Harry said with a shrug. "I think it runs in the family. From what I've read about Granddad, he was quite gifted without a wand, too."

"He was," said Lily with a smile. "He conjured roses for me without a word or wand the first time I was introduced to him. Very charming man, your grandfather."

Harry's smile dimmed a little. He would have liked to meet his grandparents. From what he'd heard about them, Dorea and Charlus Potter had been as close as two people could be without bonding their souls together. Charlus had been devastated when his wife succumbed to an illness in the last month of 1977, during James's final year at Hogwarts. She'd been fifty-seven years old at the time. Charlus, himself only two years older than Dorea, followed her in death only two years later of, according to James, a broken heart.

"I can send you the books I used to research wandless magic, if you want," he said, bringing the subject back. "They were a great help to me."

James grinned at him and playfully said, "You Ravenclaws and your books. That'd be great, yeah. I'll see if Jacob wants to improve as well – he's around my level, maybe a little lower."

Privately thrilled at the idea that he was more accomplished with the skill than his brother, Harry smiled and nodded.

"Well," he said, the awkwardness returning to his voice, "I guess I'd better head out. We're all meeting in Hogsmeade in a couple of hours from now, and I have some more things to pick up for the flat."

It was his turn to rub the back of his head. He had no idea how to say goodbye.

His parents didn't either, apparently. "I – yeah," James said lamely. He pulled Harry into an awkward hug. "Take care, son."

"Will do, Dad," Harry replied, clapping his father's back once before breaking away. The hug he shared with his mother wasn't as awkward, but it was still more uncomfortable than any he'd ever had from Daphne or Tonks. "Bye, Mom," he said quietly.

"Bye, Harry," she said just as quietly, holding him gently before letting go.

Harry smiled at them one last time. He raised his hand and snapped his fingers, and his trunk lifted into the air as though held up by a hook. With one last look around to make sure he had all of his things, Harry indicated for his trunk to follow him and walked out of the room. A minute later, he stood on the front porch of his childhood home, which he looked at one last time before taking his trunk in hand and Disapparating.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
5:40 PM

Harry sighed as he pondered his answer a bit more, helping himself to some more pie. He wondered if Sirius had ever felt this conflicted about his own family when he was younger. The Blacks had been abusive in addition to neglectful, true, but had it been as simple for Sirius as severing his ties with them without a backward glance?

"I suppose I'll send an invitation," he said finally. "Whether they come or not is another story. I have a feeling Dad and Jacob will have problems with Daphne, and if that's the case, well, there isn't any point to inviting trouble to my wedding, is there?"

"Why would your dad and brother have problems with your fiancée?" Sirius asked with a frown.

"She was a Slytherin at Hogwarts," Harry explained. "Most Slytherins and Gryffindors can't seem to breathe the same air without finding countless faults with one another."

Sirius's frown deepened, but he didn't refute the point. "Who did you say your fiancée was?" he asked after a few moments' pause.

"Daphne," Harry said. "Daphne Greengrass."

Sirius blinked. "I remember that surname," he said quietly. "One of my great-aunts was a Greengrass, I think. Quiet bunch, they are."

"Cilan and Linda run a small chain of apothecaries," Harry told him. "Daphne's parents," he added, noticing Sirius's raised eyebrows. "It keeps them busy. They were never on Voldemort's radar because they aren't rich or well-connected. They're just purebloods. He had no reason to target them, but he also had no reason to attempt to bring them into his ranks. They're well-off from running their own business, but they don't have anything close to, for example, what the Malfoys or Notts have."

"I don't think any family has close to what the Malfoys have," Sirius pointed out.

Harry shrugged. "I've never thought to ask Draco too much about his financial status. I accept that the Malfoys are filthy, stinking rich and leave it at that."

Sirius raised his eyebrows. "'Draco'?" he echoed. "You're on a first-name basis with the youngest Malfoy?"

"More than that," said Harry. "He's a good friend of mine. We had something of a Potions rivalry when we were at Hogwarts together, and he married Daphne's sister a few years ago, so we occasionally share breathing space. The more time Daphne and I spent with them, the better he and I got along."

It was apparent that Sirius wasn't listening. He seemed to have stopped listening after the first sentence. "You're friends with the Malfoy heir," he repeated blankly.


"A Potter is friends with a Malfoy."

"Well, for now," he pointed out. At Sirius's look, he elaborated, "After next summer, we're going to be brothers-in-law."

Sirius didn't reply. It wasn't entirely clear if he could reply.

Harry let out the longest sigh of the day. "Astoria, Draco's wife, is going to be the matron of honour at my wedding," he said. "That means Draco will be there. I really don't know if Narcissa and Lucius will also be in attendance – probably not, considering they have no real connection to me or Daphne, though she may invite them simply because they're her sister's parents-in-law – but there is no question of Draco's attendance."

There was still no reply from Sirius.

"Look," Harry continued, "if his presence at my wedding would be too much for you to handle, I would suggest declining my invitation now. I promise my feelings won't be hurt." When there was again no response, and Sirius looked as though he really was reconsidering, Harry added, "He's not the person you think he is."

"Really," Sirius said skeptically, his expression one of supreme disbelief as he finally replied.

"Really," Harry repeated, a bit coolly. "And, please, don't ask me if I'm sure about that."

"With a father like Lucius and a mother like my cousin Narcissa, you'll excuse me if I'm a bit disbelieving, Harry."

"You can be as disbelieving as you'd like," said Harry, his unblinking gaze boring into Sirius's. "I'm certainly not telling you what to think. I've been friends with Draco for several years now, though, and I've known him for even longer. I assure you, he's not a spokesman for the pureblood supremacists' agenda."

"That's not what Jacob tells me," Sirius said, looking angry now. "Little Malfoy was apparently quite the parrot for that agenda at Hogwarts."

"Did he happen to tell you that Draco had all but stopped with that by our fourth year?" Harry retorted. "Sure, he went on about it during our first few years at Hogwarts – when he was a child, fresh out of his parents' uninterrupted conditioning –"

"Exactly," Sirius declared, as though Harry had just proved his point. "The boy was brought up from the day he was born to believe he was superior to virtually everyone, especially half-bloods and Muggleborns. Sure enough, he gets to Hogwarts at eleven and –"

"– does his damnedest to not disappoint his family," interrupted Harry, resigned to the current conversation now. The catching up was effectively over. "Not every pureblood child is brave enough to rebel against their family at an early age, Sirius, and Draco didn't have a younger brother who could live the pureblood scion life for him."

He knew this was a bit of a low blow, but Sirius ignored it and said, "Are you really trying to tell me the Malfoy boy didn't enjoy his spoiled upbringing, Harry?"

"No, I'm not," he replied. "I'm sure Draco greatly enjoyed his spoiled upbringing, just as I'm sure Jacob enjoyed his and most other wealthy pureblood children enjoyed theirs." Before Sirius could interrupt, Harry smoothly said, "That doesn't mean Draco held to everything his parents believe. He might have parroted them as a child when he didn't know any better, but then he grew up. He formed his own opinions." Remembering something Rubeus Hagrid had once said, he added, "After seven years at Hogwarts, he didn't even recognise himself."

"You really think people like Malfoy just up and change?" Sirius scoffed, waving off Harry's words. "Don't be ridiculous. People like that are good at playing the other side, especially when they have to play up their embarrassment at being caught with their hand in the bowl of liquorice wands like Lucius Malfoy, but they never change."

"Severus Snape certainly changed," Harry said quietly, "and he was as deep into the Death Eater ideals as any of them when he left Hogwarts."

"Snape is a lot of things," Sirius said with a bite of coldness, "most of which I can't say in public."

"He saved Jacob's life in our first year," Harry reminded him. "Does that sound unchanged to you?"

"Keeping his cover is something Snape is very good at –"

"That's not an argument, Sirius," countered Harry. "Snape had no obligation to save Jacob. Quirrell cursed his broomstick in the middle of a Quidditch game, in a pitch containing almost all of the adults employed at Hogwarts at the time. Snape could have let it all happen and no one would have blamed him without every adult taking blame. Instead, he took it upon himself to fight off Quirrell's curse. Why would he do that if he hadn't really put his Death Eater ways behind him?"

"Use your head, Harry," Sirius replied. "When Voldemort fell, the only thing that stood between Snape and a one-way ticket to a lifetime in Azkaban was Dumbledore. Anyone with that level of protection would go above and beyond to keep it, and Snape is no different. Saving the son of a man he loathed was a sure-fire means of keeping it."

"Give me a break," muttered Harry. In a louder, more impatient voice, he said, "Dumbledore's been dead for more than seven years. If there was an outstanding warrant for Snape's arrest and Dumbledore was the only one keeping it from going anywhere, why is Snape still free now? Why is he now deputy headmaster of Hogwarts? People whose records were cleared of all charges can get promotions like that, but people on the brink of prison cannot."

"They can when people like Lucius Malfoy have the Ministry in the palm of their hand."

"That's your argument now?" Harry said scornfully. "Lucius Malfoy, who you seem to think is waiting for the proper moment to resurrect Voldemort because he's just that damned evil, is going to pull the strings to secure a promotion for a man who betrayed his side of the war? What's his motivation, exactly?"

"Slytherins protect Slytherins," Sirius said with a shrug. "It's a creed my family followed religiously. It never seems to matter who or why. Don't ask me to work out how they think."

So it wasn't just prejudice, Harry thought. It was unthinking prejudice. Blind prejudice. How people could actually be like that was beyond him. It was beyond incredible. "So it's basically down to the old argument that Slytherins as a collective can't be trusted," he said coldly.

Sirius's tone was firm as he replied, "Not as far as you can throw them."

Harry sighed. "I've made a mistake, then."

From the expression on Sirius's face, Harry thought for a moment that he might have gotten through to him somehow, but then Sirius said, "Yes, but it's not too late to fix it. You can – and should – still cut off ties with the Malfoy boy."

"No," Harry said in a voice barely higher than a whisper, "my mistake was inviting you to my wedding."

He could feel his veins run cold at the very thought of what Sirius was implying. His mind could easily show him what would come of cutting out Draco without explanation. Astoria would stand by her husband, her relationship with Daphne would be splintered, and Daphne would … he couldn't think about that.

And for what? Because Sirius was prejudiced against a man he didn't even know?

"We're not living in the seventies anymore, Sirius," he said in the same voice. He rose to his feet, what remained of his meal forgotten. "Things have changed for the better, in case you haven't noticed. The wizarding world isn't at war. Voldemort isn't lurking in the shadows anymore. I agree the world would be a better place without the many Lucius Malfoys of the world influencing it from the shadows, but people shouldn't have to be painted with the same brush as Death Eaters just because they were in Slytherin house. And that's about all I've left to say to you."

Sirius looked incredulous. "Harry –"

"No," Harry said, cutting across him. He kept his voice low so as not to draw too much attention to them. "Frankly, Sirius, we don't know each other, and if you showing up in the middle of the night to disturb my fiancée and I wasn't enough to show me we were better off keeping it that way, this conversation certainly was. Thank you for reminding me of a reason why I left home so early. I'm terribly sorry I didn't propose to a Gryffindor."

He walked away without another word, ignoring Sirius's spluttering.

Sunday, September 1, 1991
6:45 PM

Harry looked around nervously, taking in the magnificent hall and everything in it. He'd heard so many stories about Hogwarts growing up, mostly from Remus, but seeing the castle for the first time was on a different level from merely hearing about it. He was looking forward to living here for the next seven years.

Of course, he was also well aware of the many prejudices of the world which started here, right down to the feud between the school houses. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw didn't play any real parts in the feud – Hufflepuff was mostly dismissed by everyone involved, sometimes including themselves, while Ravenclaw was seen as the neutral choice – but Gryffindor and Slytherin were at the heart of it. Friendship between two kids in such opposite houses was simply unheard of.

He knew his family was primarily Gryffindor – his grandmother had been a Slytherin, which wasn't discussed in the Potter house – but he privately hoped he was sorted into a house with no involvement in the feud. Ravenclaw seemed ideal to Harry. He'd always loved reading and he was very studious; he'd spent the last few years studying Arithmancy on his own, after all.

He idly wondered, as he'd done many times before, if he'd be able to get away with simply taking the OWL and NEWT tests for Arithmancy without taking the class itself.

As Harry and the other first year students walked across the Great Hall, taking in everything from the house tables to the ceiling that seemingly extended into the skies above, he heard the nervous whispered chatter all around him. A bushy-haired girl next to him, for example, was telling anyone who would listen about the charm on the ceiling which allowed it to blend in with the sky. He saw Jacob glance over at Ron Weasley, who grinned back at him and rolled his eyes at the girl.

Sooner than they were ready, the students were stopped in front of the steps leading up to the head table, where almost all of the staff were currently seated. As Professor McGonagall walked up to a stool at the top of the steps, upon which was seated an old hat, Harry observed the professors. He recognised Professor Flitwick, an extremely short wizard who was seated upon several books stacked on his chair, and Professor Sprout, a squat witch with wavy grey hair. He also recognised Professor Snape, a thin man with long, greasy black hair and a large, hooked nose, from Remus's description of the man from his various stories, though Harry had no idea who the pale man beside Professor Snape was. He looked extremely nervous, and one of his pale blue eyes was twitching. What captured the most attention, however, was the large purple turban the man wore.

Harry soon looked away, as both Professor Snape and the professor wearing the turban were looking at him, the latter with no discernible emotion other than his nervousness and the former with traces of dislike. He hoped the professor had no preconceived notions about him. If he did, well, Harry would just have to settle them before they became a problem.

He returned his attention to the old hat on the stool. He wasn't surprised to see it, as Remus had told him all about the sorting hat the week before, but he was surprised when something that was rather similar to a mouth formed and the hat began singing. Harry listened attentively, learning little tidbits about the four houses from the song, and clapped appreciatively as the hat concluded and went still once more. A quick glance at his brother told Harry that Jacob hadn't known about the hat at all.

"When I call your name," Professor McGonagall said loudly and clearly, "you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted. Abbott, Hannah!"

The sorting, at least at the start, was quicker than Harry would have expected. Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones were both sorted into Hufflepuff, while Terry Boot and Mandy Brocklehurst were both sorted into Ravenclaw. Lavender Brown was then the first to be sorted into Gryffindor, and Millicent Bulstrode was the first to be sorted into Slytherin.

Harry paid less attention to the next few, having turned around to take in the four tables. His first thought regarding Slytherin house was that they seemed almost unpleasant, but a closer look showed him that only a few at the table really matched that description. There were other Slytherin students who looked proud, yes, but not unpleasant. Some even looked happy, or at least neutral. He wondered if his father and Sirius Black were just exaggerating about the lot of them.

"Finch-Fletchley, Justin!"


On the other hand, the Ravenclaw students looked to be a quiet bunch, with few noticeable exceptions. Two of the boys who had just been sorted, Terry Boot and a boy Harry was pretty sure was named Michael Corner, were chatting excitedly as they watched the rest of the sorting. Terry caught Harry's eye and grinned encouragingly, and Harry grinned back, feeling a bit better now.

"Finnigan, Seamus!"


The Hufflepuff students looked to be the happiest of the lot. Several of them from all different years were chatting amiably. The happiest was a tall girl with spiky purple hair, a hairstyle which was practically unheard of in the wizarding world, who was clearly a seventh year. Before Harry could look away, the girl's hair turned bright orange. He blinked several times, unsure if his eyes were playing tricks on him, before moving on to the final table.

"Goyle, Gregory!"


The Gryffindor table was the loudest of the four by far, and at the center of that noise were two red-haired students Harry had no trouble recognising as Ron's older twin brothers, Fred and George. He hadn't seen them as often as he'd seen Ron growing up, since Ron was Jacob's best friend, but he'd seen them enough and liked having them around simply because of how fun they were. As the Marauders had been before them, Fred and George were pranksters and mischief-makers at heart, and Harry was certain they'd work at Zonko's after they were finished at Hogwarts – assuming, of course, they didn't end up starting their own joke shop.

"Granger, Hermione!"


Behind him, Harry heard Ron Weasley groan. He wondered what Ron's problem with Hermione Granger was.

Finished with his observations, he turned around and watched as Daphne Greengrass was sorted into Slytherin, where she quickly joined a brunette girl who was also just sorted, who Harry was somewhat sure was named Tracey. He returned his attention once more to the sorting hat just as it sorted Wayne Hopkins into Hufflepuff.

They were almost halfway through now. Megan Jones was sorted into Hufflepuff as well, while Su Li was sorted into Ravenclaw and Neville Longbottom, who took the longest to be sorted, went to Gryffindor. Harry, who knew Neville a little, clapped loudly at his sorting, and tried his best not to laugh when Neville left to sit down with the hat still on his head. The hat was quickly given to Morag MacDougal, who was quickly sorted into Slytherin. Draco Malfoy, called up after her, was sorted before the hat even touched his hair. Lily Moon went to Hufflepuff, and Slytherin also gained Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson.

To Harry's surprise, another set of twins was called: Padma and Parvati Patil. Padma was sorted into Ravenclaw, and she had already taken her seat next to Terry Boot before her sister was sorted into Gryffindor, where she quickly sat with Lavender Brown.

"Potter, Jacob!"

The resulting whispers were about what Harry had expected.

"Potter, did she say?"

"The Jacob Potter?"

The excited murmurs continued as Jacob strode up to the stool and took his seat.


It wasn't as quick to sort him as it'd been to sort Malfoy, but it was still quicker than it'd been for most of the new students. Harry noted, half-amused and half-annoyed, that Professor McGonagall had no choice but to wait until the cheers died down and the Weasley twins were finished whooping until she could continue.

"Potter, Harry!"

Harry gathered himself and walked up the steps to the stool as the hall broke out into murmurs once more.

"Wait, another Potter?"

"Jacob has a brother?"

The surprised chatters didn't bother Harry. Even being called after Jacob on the list despite his name having alphabetical priority didn't bother him. He'd never been as prominent in the spotlight as the rest of his family. During all of their interviews and press conferences, Harry had spent his time with Remus and had enjoyed himself far more than he would have being stared at by hundreds of strangers. He certainly wasn't enjoying all of the stares now, but he especially felt the eyes of Professor Snape and the nervous man with the turban.

A moment later, he put the hat on his head and the hall disappeared from view.

"Hmm," whispered a voice in his ear. "Difficult. Very difficult. A bit of courage, I see, and a sharp mind. There's talent in spades and a thirst to prove yourself, to step out of your brother's shadow. Now that's interesting … so where shall I put you?"

Harry, unsure if he was actually being offered a choice, quickly began thinking to himself, Not Slytherin, not Gryffindor …

"Not Slytherin or Gryffindor?" the hat mused, chuckling softly. "Even more interesting … very few have ever made such a request of me …"

Not Slytherin, not Gryffindor …

"You could be great, you know," the hat continued, seemingly ignoring his thoughts now. "You could be great, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, there's no doubt about that … and with a family history of primarily Gryffindor … of course, family history has no real factor in a sorting, and there have always been exceptions …"

Not Slytherin … not Gryffindor …

"Rowena would certainly be proud to have a student like you in her house … I think there can be no question of how far you will go in RAVENCLAW!"

With a huge sigh of relief, Harry removed the hat and set it down on the stool again as the hall, led by the Ravenclaw students, clapped for him. Harry made his way to the area of the table where Terry Boot and Padma Patil were seated and sat across from Padma. She smiled brightly at him and he smiled back, blushing a bit.

"Hard to believe, isn't it?" she said as Sophie Roper went to Gryffindor. "Two sets of twins in one year, and both are separated by Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. I mean, what are the odds?"

"Yeah," Harry replied, looking up at the head table. "I imagine Professors McGonagall and Flitwick are surprised." He turned to face Padma again as Cynthia Runcorn joined the Slytherins at their table. "Are you upset that you're not in the same house as your sister?"

"A little," Padma admitted, "but I was always the more studious of the two of us, while Parvati was always more … gossipy, I guess. This will work out for the best." She turned toward the Gryffindor table, where Parvati and Lavender Brown were deep in conversation, before turning back to Harry. "What about you? Are you upset that you're not with your brother?"

Harry also faced the Gryffindor table, watching his brother chat excitedly with the Weasley twins while waiting for Ron, who was yet to be sorted, to join them. As Sally Smith passed across his line of vision on her way to the Hufflepuff table, Jacob looked over and caught Harry's eye. He frowned, apparently just noticing that Harry wasn't sorted into Gryffindor with him, before quickly turning away and laughing at something Fred had said.

"No," he said finally as Ron joined Jacob, "I'm fine with this. Like you said, it'll work out for the best."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
5:55 PM

Harry walked back to the Diagon Alley Apparition point in a decidedly worse mood than he'd been in coming from it. Thinking about it, he wasn't sure why he'd bothered with meeting Sirius at the pub. He supposed he really had been curious. With a frown, he pushed all his thoughts of his conversation with Sirius together before closing his mind to the lot of them.

Despite Sirius, Harry knew he ought to speak to his family soon. Daphne, whose family was very close, occasionally told him that he ought to extend an olive branch of some sort to his own family. He knew she was right, as she so often was, but he still didn't know how he'd go about reconnecting with them. He had his own life and they had theirs. He was content with living a quiet life, and they were thrilled to bask in the spotlight. He hadn't been convinced that a connection with them was possible when he was younger and he wasn't convinced now.

Even he knew, however, that the days of the spotlight were over. While the Potter family was still internationally famous, they had long since stopped receiving the awed looks and interview requests they'd become accustomed to before Harry and Jacob had even arrived at Hogwarts. The wizarding world, with few exceptions, acknowledged their importance and nothing further.

He'd never understood the appeal of fame. The idea of having every move he made scrutinised by the public, especially the press, was terrifying. Besides, the opinions of the masses could shift at the drop of a hat. Harry hadn't forgotten the heir of Slytherin rumours from his second year, nor Rita Skeeter's slander from his fourth. Words could hurt, yes, but what was the point of really, honestly caring about opinions which could so easily change?


He stopped, but he didn't turn around. He was just a few feet from the Apparition point, ready to return to his flat for the evening, and wasn't interested in further conversation.

"I'm sorry," Sirius said quickly as he caught up. "I didn't mean to upset you – it's just –"

"Just what?" Harry asked coldly. "You've just said you don't trust anyone associated with Slytherin house. That's a rather large portion of wizarding Britain, Sirius, and maybe you weren't listening during our conversation, but that portion includes my fiancée and even a few of my friends. If you can't accept them, especially Daphne, what do we have left to talk about?"

"You didn't leave because of that," Sirius retorted. "You're angry at what I said about Malfoy and Snape –"

"No, I'm not," Harry interrupted. "I couldn't care less what you think about them. You're a grown man and you're entitled to your opinions. What I take issue with is you telling me to break ties with people like them because you don't like them." He half-turned and looked back at Sirius, his posture tall and unmoving. "Meeting with you was a mistake, but we've only caught up for about forty-five minutes. We can go back to our lives after this relatively undisturbed. Before I do, though," he said, smoothly cutting across Sirius before he could interrupt, "I want to point out that if Remus can move past blind prejudice and be civil, even friendly, with Draco Malfoy, I'd think you could, too."

The half-angry, half-apologetic look on Sirius's face vanished as he laughed at Harry's last words.

"Now I know you're having a go," he said between chuckles. "Remus, a werewolf, on good terms with a Malfoy. I mean, come on."

Harry sighed and turned around again. This was a waste of his time. He wasn't even lying to Sirius. Sure, Remus and Draco didn't seek out private conversation with each other, but the two were cordial when they occupied the same room. There was tension between them, certainly, but there wasn't prejudice. Even Astoria, following her sister's and husband's examples, accepted and welcomed Remus on the rare times the younger Malfoy couple shared company with Remus's family.

But what was the point of explaining any of that? He certainly wasn't inclined to try convincing a man he barely knew, not when Sirius was so blind in his dislike, or perhaps hatred, that he was unable to look past a surname and form an unbiased thought.

"Believe what you want, Sirius," he said over his shoulder as he walked away. "Tell the Potters I said hello."

Sirius stopped laughing. Before he could say another word, however, Harry stepped onto the designated Apparition point and Disapparated without a sound, ending their conversation for good.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
6:00 PM

It amazed Harry that only an hour and a half had elapsed since he'd left work for the day. Though he now regretted meeting with Sirius at all, it'd been nice to see Tom and Hannah, and it was nice to remember some of the bigger moments of his life. Those moments served to remind him of how much he'd changed in some ways since his childhood, yet how much he hadn't in other ways.

From his desk in the bedroom, Harry could hear someone entering the flat. There wasn't a doubt, of course, but the clicking of heels upon the floor told him who it was.

"I'm home," she called out.

"In here," he called back.

Daphne walked into the room at the same moment Harry stood up. She smiled brightly at him and moved to kiss him hello, only to let out a squeak of surprise when he puled her up against him by her hips and deepened the kiss. She nevertheless responded in kind, her arms wrapping around his neck as she did, and only the mutual need to breathe saw them pull apart.

"Wow," she said breathlessly, her already rosy cheeks flushed. She brought her arms back down, leaving her hands on his chest, and added, "What brought that on?"

"I'm quite happy to see you," he replied, his forehead leaning against hers.

She was still smiling, but her expression flickered a bit, revealing her concern. "Is everything all right, Harry? Did something happen?"

Yes, he thought, but nothing he wanted to think about right now.

He would eventually tell her that he'd met with Sirius and invited him to their wedding, only to revoke the invitation when he'd seen how much trouble he'd be creating by going through with it. He would still speak with his family at some point, and perhaps he would even extend invitations to them, but if the behaviour of the man who was their closest friend was an indication of how they would behave, well, those invitations also wouldn't last. There was just no point if that was to be the case. It wasn't as though they were entitled to invitations, after all.

There was plenty of time to talk about all that later. Right now, all Harry wanted was to spend some quality time with his fiancée and not think about anything else. He'd done more than enough thinking for one day.

"Everything's fine," he assured her, adding truthfully, "It's just been a very long day."

"I'll agree to that," Daphne replied with a nod, pecking him on the lips once more before pulling herself away from him. She removed her travelling cloak and shoes and sat down on the bed, massaging one stocking-clad foot with relief clouding her face. "I'll never understand why I wake up some mornings and decide I want to both wear heels and walk to the castle. Merlin, my feet are sore."

"They do add to your overall sexiness," Harry offered as he pulled off his robe, letting it drape over the back of his chair.

Daphne looked up and poked her tongue out at him. "No question about it," she said cheekily, "but it's just not worth it sometimes, you know?"

"Here, let me," he said, having a seat next to her. She smiled delightedly and pulled herself back on the bed, allowing her to plop her foot onto his lap while making herself comfortable. As he began massaging it, starting gently and enjoying the feel of the soft nylon running across his fingers, she let out a moan of pleasure.

"I love you so much, Harry," she said softly after a couple of minutes.

"Ah, you're alright," he teased. He leaned back to dodge the kick of her other foot and hurriedly added, "I'm kidding, Daphne, I love you too."

She just smirked at him and presented her other foot, which he obediently took in his hands and began massaging. Her moan was louder this time.

"So, do I get points?" he quipped.

"Points?" she replied happily. "We'll do pretty much whatever you want tonight." Her eyes danced with mischief as she pushed herself up onto her elbows, batted her eyelashes at him, and seductively ran her tongue over her lips. "Whatever you want."

Yes, Harry thought with a smile, life was pretty damned good just the way it was.

Author's Note –
I've dabbled with this on and off since mid-April of 2014. Even now I'm not one hundred percent satisfied with it, but I probably never will be.

This is now the first of a series of one-shots for this universe. I've written the second installment, Negligentia: Absque, which takes place at the following weekend, and I'm currently developing the third installment, which is tentatively named Negligentia: Quaero and, flashbacks aside, will likely take place sometime around Christmas of 2004. I'll actually sit down and write it at some point, I'm sure. I've also considered writing a chaptered story – I've certainly left myself a number of possible plots to work with, which is part of the reason why I've written the series the way I have – but all I've done so far is consider it. As my other attempts at chaptered stories have proved, I'm probably better off sticking with one-shots.

Finally, it's probably obvious that I'm not European. In fact, I'm Canadian. As such, there's probably a lot of Americanised language. I can't help really this. That having been said, I've tried to incorporate British English as I know it.