VI. New Beginnings

After Ron and Harry had developed a plan of action for making amends with Hermione, Ron went upstairs to begin preparations whilst Harry waited in a chair by the fire for Sirius to show up.

Exhausted from the long day, and cozy from the warmth that emanated from the hearth, he soon began to drift off; the crimson and gold flickering in the fireplace faded into visions of a copper-haired young woman walking down a narrow lane…

He smiled sleepily at the sight, but soon was mumbling angrily in his sleep as he saw a dark figure approach her. As the man reached out to snatch her, Harry saw a very distinguishing mark on the wizard's forearm. The slumbering boy wanted to scream in defiance, but found he had no voice to protest with. The mystery man wrapped his cloak about the girl, hiding her from view. As he did so, a lock of platinum hair escaped his hood. The pair then vanished without a trace.

Harry sat bolt upright, screaming in terror. Panting to catch his breath, he still managed to declare to the empty room:

"Malfoy knows. Must…save…Ginny…"

Turn it inside out so I can see
The part of you that's drifting over me
And when I wake you're never there
But when I sleep you're everywhere
You're everywhere

Harry took the stairs to Ron's room three at a time. He silently burst through the door to find Ron asleep, drooling into his Charms book. Harry grabbed his wand and his invisibility cloak out of his trunk and made his way down the stairs. He paused at Ginny's bedroom door. Hoping that he was wrong and she was dreaming peacefully, he opened the door with a whispered "Alohomora" and peeked in.

Hermione was laying a top of her duvet, asleep in the outfit she'd worn to the party. Harry noted her puffy eyes and tear strained cheeks; he wanted to kick himself for letting down the two most important girls in his life in a matter of hours. Hermione, at least, was safe in bed.

The only thing in Ginny's bed was a sheet of parchment with a hastily scrawled note on it.

Despite his urgency, Harry was drawn to the parchment, hoping it might give him some clue as to Ginny's whereabouts.

Hermione

I've gone to Diagon Alley with Justin Finch-Fletchey. We were talking downstairs and…well…it all happened so fast…but I really want to get to know him better. With my brothers lurking about, that's an impossibility…could you please cover for me? I promise I'll return the favor!

Thanks!

Ginny

Harry's eyes had widened in disbelief as he read, but now were narrowed in anger. He fought the urge to rip the parchment to shreds; making his way downstairs, thoughts stampeded through his mind…Why did she go off with Justin? There's nothing special about him…Wait - What do I care who Ginny spends her time with, so long as she's happy?…I must just be upset that she left without telling anyone…that must be it, why else would I be so angry?…But she was alone when I saw her being taken - How could Justin have left her alone?

"If anything's happened to her I'll kill him," Harry muttered as he tossed floo powder into the flames. Wrapping his silvery cloak tightly about him, the now unseen boy-who-lived ordered 'Malfoy Manor' and spun off towards his destination.

Ginny shivered as she rolled over, and mumbled something incoherent. Slowly coming out of her disoriented state, she began to wonder where she was. Stone floor…cold…damp…reminds me of the potions classroom…potions…amulet…Diurn Alley…

"Oh, God, I've been abducted! Where the hell am I?"

She allowed her eyes to slit open slowly, but her caution was for naught as only darkness was revealed. She fumbled about for her wand, only to discover that it and her cloak were missing. All she had were the clothes on her back and the small amulet that was hidden underneath her shirt. She squeezed the small golden charm between her fingers and sighed in relief as she sensed its counterpart nearby. At least it hadn't been discarded on the way to …wherever she had ended up.

Why did I have to be such a silly girl and do a thing like faint? Now I'm alone, with no way to defend myself, and no one knows where I am! How could I have been so careless!

She began to cry. Her raking sobs were so loud, that she did not hear the soft click of the door, or the softly spoken spell. Only the sudden illumination of dozens of torches encircling the room were able to make her eyes raise and search for the one that brought light to her dark prison. When she found him, she nearly fainted again in utter disbelief.

"D-Draco Malfoy? But…that means…"

"Yes, Weasley, you are at Malfoy Manor. In the dungeons to be precise." The steely-eyed rival of none other than Harry Potter informed her. Forgetting she was defenseless, Ginny stood and began hurling insults at him.

"You worthless git! Torturing innocent muggle-borns isn't enough for you and your dear Deatheater daddy? Decided to have some fun with purebloods now? You'll never get away with this you -"

Draco rolled his eyes at her rants and interrupted. "Please Weasley, if I wanted to have a good time with a pure-blood you're the last witch who's door I'd come knocking on. As for my excuse for a father…say what you will about him, it won't be any worse that the things I've called him."

"What are you on about, Malfoy?"

"I'm 'on' about getting you the out of this god-forsaken place."

"Why? I thought you were going to inherit your father's mask and hooded robes? Not big enough for his britches, eh?"

"Would you rather I leave you here for Father to deal with as he sees fit?"

Ginny's parched tongue didn't know how to respond. Swallowing nervously, she considered the consequences of her answer. Should I wait for the fully trained wizard and Deatheater bastard to come and torture me…or go with said bastard's son, who is only a year older than me, to an uncertain destination?

Ginny Weasley sighed deeply, releasing herself from everything she thought about Draco Malfoy. If she trusted him, he just might prove himself to be more than everyone made him out to be.

"Let's go," she responded with confidence as she hooked her arm through his.

Startled, yet in a way pleased, Draco led her out of the dank chamber.

As the young Master Malfoy directed Ginny through countless ornately decorated halls of his family's estate, she began to question his motivations.

"Why are you doing this, Malfoy? Why are you saving me?"

"Because I don't want your blood on my hands. I know what my father's capable of and how much he hates you – not a good combination, Weasley."

"My name is Ginny, if you don't mind," she interjected curtly.

"I do mind, actually, couldn't your parents have come up with something less muggle for their only daughter?"

"Oh, and 'Draco' is such a great name?" Ginny teased, "What did you mother do, randomly choose a page in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Can you imagine – you could have been Kelpie Malfoy!" Ginny erupted into a fit of giggles.

"Quiet Weasley! Unless you want to get us both caught. C'mon, in here," he hissed, motioning for her to enter the door he had just opened.

Once inside the room, which was immaculately furnished in green and silver hues, Ginny's trepidations flooded back to her. Shakingly she began, "Is this…I mean, are we in –"

"Yes, this is my room. You can wipe that scared look off your face, Miss Weasley, we're only here because it's the last place my father would come to look for you if he got back early."

"Got back early? From where? Why would he kidnap me and then skive off?"

"If his master calls, Father goes…the coward…he has the audacity to call himself a pure-blood, but if he were really true to his name, he wouldn't go around mindlessly following the orders of some half-blooded excuse for the Slytherin heir. Voldemort may be powerful, but he'll never be a true pure blood."

Ginny was stunned by Draco's words. "You mean you really don't want to follow you-know-who?" she whispered.

"What, and end up like Lucius? Never spending time with my family, only concerned about power? What good is power if you have to spend your life hidden behind a mask, every second at the beck and call of some lousy git that tortures you for fun? Most likely die a traumatic death, alone, unloved, no one caring that you're gone – if anyone even notices? Yeah, sounds like a bloody good time," he finished, his words dripping with sarcasm.

"So, do you know why I'm here?"

"Not really. I was working on my potions assignment down in the dungeons when I heard father come back. He put you in that chamber and followed you in, but then he was summoned and locked you in there. Oh, and he took these from you," Draco pulled Ginny's cloak, wand, and the disguised amulet from his closet.

Ginny tried not to look as incredibly relieved as she felt, but Draco noticed the fire that surged in her eyes when she saw the seemingly worthless pendant.

"What's so special about this rusty old thing?" he prodded.

"Umm…er…it's just an heirloom is all. I had it with me to…to get it fixed."

"Oh? And just how were you going to achieve that? All the shops closed hours ago – surely you weren't wandering around London looking for a 24-hour jewelry repair shop?"

"Of course not! I was visiting a friend and just forgot about it that's all. It's no bother…I'll get it fixed another day. Can I have my things back now, please?"

Draco tossed Ginny her cloak and wand, but kept examining the amulet.

"You know," he drawled, "this doesn't look so bad, I'm sure I could fix it for you with a handy little spell or tw-"

"Give it here, Malfoy," Ginny ordered as she pointed her wand straight at the blonde Slytherin.

Draco raised an eyebrow as he responded.

Harry landed with a thud, covered with soot. Looking around him, he wasn't sure if he had made it to Malfoy Manor or not. Poking around in the dusty attic, he came across an old trunk that bore the Hogwart's crest and the initials 'LM'.

"It could be Lucius Malfoy's old school trunk, but with my history traveling the floo network, I probably ended up at Professor McGonagall's childhood home and this is her sister's trunk or something," Harry grumbled. "Well, there's one way to find out."

Harry undid the lock and his fears were soon proven unfounded, for amongst the old (though, it appeared, untouched) textbooks, were assorted green and silver Slytherin paraphernalia. Just to be sure, Harry opened a small photo album he found nestled between Unfogging the Future and Quidditch Through the Ages.

Inside the cover was a rather posh bookplate that read "Property of Master Lucius Malfoy, Slytherin House". Harry flipped trough the pages, which were mostly filled with shots of a young Lucius posing in the Slytherin common room, playing Quidditch, et cetera. Then one of the pictures caught his eye.

For a second, he thought he saw himself standing in between Ginny and Draco, until he noticed the others in the picture and realized it was his parents, accompanied by the Marauders, Arabella Figg, and a couple of girls he didn't recognize. The Gryffindors of days past were facing off against Lucius, a couple of burly fellows who had to have been the elder Crabbe and Goyle, and Severus Snape was lurking on the edge.

Something wasn't quite right in that picture yet Harry, anxious for any link to his parents he could find, pulled it out of the plastic sleeve. As he did so, a tiny folded piece of parchment fluttered to the floor. Intrigued, he picked it up and realized that it had been shrunken to fit behind the photograph he had just tucked inside his cloak. After a quick Engorgio!, he untied the sting holding the parchment shut and opened the makeshift envelope. He gasped at what he saw.

Severus Snape.

And Arabella Figg.

Snogging. In a dungeon chamber Harry hadn't seen before. But judging by the robes that they were half-wearing, it must be at Hogwart's somewhere. Harry pulled the picture he had nabbed out of his pocket and looked at it a little closer. He realized the reason that it looked odd – the rivals were all seething with anger, except for Arabella and Snape. They were eyeing each other nervously, mouthing silent comments to each other when the others weren't looking. This is going to be one interesting year, Harry thought.

As he flipped to the next picture in the stack, he wished he had left well enough alone. The rest of the shots were of Lily Evans in the prefect's bathroom wearing next to nothing. And what she was wearing wasn't anywhere near something Harry ever imagined his mother in.

He hoped to high heaven that she was unaware of Malfoy's little photo shoot. Either way, he knew he would have nightmares about those pictures for as long as he lived. He shook his head to try to clear the images from his brain and suddenly remembered why he was there in the first place.

He hastily shrunk the pictures back down and shoved them randomly into the album. After everything looked as he had found it, he started for the door. With a final glance back at the trunk, he shuddered at what it held before heading down the stairs in search for Ginny, swearing that if Draco dared to repeat the elder Malfoy's apparent obsession with red-heads, he would personally put a rather abrupt end to it.

"Give it here, Malfoy," Ginny ordered as she pointed her wand straight at the blonde Slytherin.

Draco raised an eyebrow as he responded, "Quite the brave little lioness aren't you? I don't blame you for being so shrewd about trusting me – rather Slytherin of you, if truth be told. I'm willing to bet that it's not just an heirloom, is it?"

Ginny kept her stance and only glared more fiercely in response, so Malfoy continued on speaking.

"Fine, we all have our secrets. So how about a trade? You tell me something I might find…valuable…and I'll give you your little bauble back."

"The necklace first, Draco," Ginny demanded, "or have you forgotten who's holding the wand?"

"As you wish," he drawled, "You don't have to go getting all swish-and-flick happy." Draco tossed the amulet into Ginny's outstretched hand, then leaned against the nearest bedpost. "Your turn."

Ginny narrowed her eyes, still unsure of Draco's motivations. Well, I've come this far...I might as well keep on, she decided.

"You stayed true to your word. How very Gryffindor of you."

"Touché," he smirked.

"So what do I know that you could possibly find useful?"

"Why you're a threat to Lucius, for starters. It escapes me how a muggle-loving girl such as yourself has him so worried."

Ginny lowered her wand, tucked it into her cloak, and settled herself onto the settee at the foot of the bed. "It's complicated. The abbreviated version is that ever since Tom Riddle's diary was destroyed, part of its magic stayed with me…and I have some sort of connection to Voldemort that allows me to occasionally see what he sees. It's horrible, what he does…" Ginny began to shiver at the memories and drew her cloak more tightly around herself.

Draco was staring into space as all the pieces slowly came together in his mind. "So that's why Father went to the trouble of snagging you himself. Usually things like that are left to wizards of much lesser status. But I'll bet this wasn't something Voldemort wanted done, or you'd be there, not here…Lucius must be acting on his own to try to cover his arse. Which would also explain why he was summoned right after he got back here with you. The dark lord must have been watching him…and now father is going to have to pay for his insubordination. It all fits, don't you think?"

Ginny couldn't answer him. Her worst fears had been confirmed. Lucius suspected that the diary had had some effect on her, and now Voldemort knew as well. Her future was as bright as Moaning Myrtle's; gleaning an understanding of the ghost's temperament, Ginny began to sob hysterically.

Harry roamed the halls of Malfoy Manor safely hidden underneath his invisibility cloak. As he made his way down the many flights of stairs he searched in vain for any hint at Ginny's whereabouts. After a while, he was ready to settle for any evidence that people actually lived in this rather museum-esque household; even the paintings were eerily stagnant.

After what seemed like an hour or more, Mr. Potter finally happened upon a house elf, unfortunately by stepping on him (her? it was hard to tell) as the servant creature was polishing the feet of an ancient suit of armor.

"Ack!" it exclaimed before regaining its composure and bowing its head in submission. The elf shakily spoke, "Who is there? Is that you, master? A million apologies for getting in your way, sir…wherever you might be…please forgive me for being so inconsiderate, my lord!" The elf then proceeded to be kicked by the armor (which it had charmed) as punishment.

Harry responded by snorting in as Malfoy of a way as he could muster, and continued on through the winding corridors, putting as much distance between himself and the small-yet-powerful beast as he could.

Something intangible made him go down a flight of steps to the right, then take a left at the landing down a well-lit hallway. Whatever that something was, he thanked God for it, because the hallway was lined with portraits of none other than Draco Malfoy, starting in infancy, and increasing by a year with every frame. As he neared a large maple door, he heard a sound he knew all too well. Ginny was in there, and she was crying.

His emerald eyes ablaze with fury, Harry stormed towards the door, whipping off his cloak as he went, with only one thing on his mind:

Hex first.

Ask questions later.

Draco didn't know what exactly to do. He'd seen women cry before (his father had made sure of that), he had even made a few cry with his trademark teasing and taunting. But this was something different. Ginny was crying because she was scared – and of the exact same people that he feared everyday. Knowing that he would be teased and cursed beyond recognition if another Slytherin were to witness his actions, but secure in the fact that he was safe at home, Draco joined Ginny on the settee and wrapped his arms around her, soothing her as best he could.

Normally, the littlest Weasley would have been repulsed at his touch, but she knew that things were different now, too. She knew that to defeat Voldemort would require every possible alliance… 'unless those of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for any of us' Dumbledore had said.

Draco knew the truth; he was willing to help; that was enough for Ginny. Still crying, but sensing that she was close to regaining control of her emotions, Ginny looked up at Draco with gratitude.

The oddly saccharine moment was broken, however, by the abrupt entrance of an enraged Harry Potter, who sized up the scene in the only way his mind could interpret it, raised his wand, and roared,

"Expelliarmus!"

Draco flew across the room and tried to stand when –

"Stupefy!"

– he fell to the floor in a heap.

Ginny rose to her feet in a rage, the startled look on her face drew Harry's attention away from her hastily burying the amulet in an inner cloak pocket. He couldn't figure out why she looked…well, mad.

"Aren't you happy to see me?"

"Why should I be!" she choked out, her voice still husky from crying.

"Um, because I just saved you from that lousy git?" Harry questioned, nodding his head towards the lump on the carpet that was Draco Malfoy.

Ginny rolled her eyes, "Just because you're the boy who lived doesn't make you everyone's knight in shining armor! I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but the 'lousy git' you're referring to happens to be the hero tonight. Enervate!"

Draco moaned as he came to, rubbing his head where it had crashed into the floor. As he straightened his robes, he smirked at Harry's incredulous expression before making his way to Ginny's side.

"Look, you don't have much time left. I'll make up something to tell Lucius, you get back home and pretend like nothing happened. Understand? I promise I'll contact you as soon as I can," Draco went over to his desk and pulled something out of one of the drawers, "Here, this is the safest way for you to return."

"A boomerang?" Harry asked, still utterly confused at Malfoy being civil.

"No, Potter, it's a rare Australian portkey. Father sent it to me one year while he was on holiday. First use your wand to tell it where you want to go, then once you get there you'll have five seconds to let go of it before it returns back here."

"Why would anyone want to travel somewhere and back so quickly?" It was Ginny's turn to be perplexed, and Harry's turn to be insightful.

"Oh, I'm sure Malfoy has had his share of fun with it…it's rare because it's contraband, not because it's hard to make. Quite useful for pulling pranks, eh, Malfoy?"

"As useful as that cloak of yours is," Draco shot back, pointing towards the silvery material draped over Harry's arm.

"Enough you two!" Ginny turned to Draco, "Thank you. If nothing else I'll talk to you on the train, alright?" Draco nodded, and Ginny gave him a quick hug before joining Harry in the middle of the room. As they grasped the portkey, she waved her wand over it and muttered 'Weasley Way'.

As they spun back towards home, soft, melodic words filled his head…

Just tell me how I got this far
Just tell me why you're here and who you are
'Cause every time I look
You're never there
And every time I sleep
You're always there

'Cause you're everywhere to me
And when I close my eyes it's you I see
You're everything I know
That makes me believe
I'm not alone
I'm not alone

The two young Gryffindors landed softly in a patch of grass beside a gravel road, and quickly set the portkey down in front of them. Once it had vanished, they stood and began making their way down the lane towards the Burrow.

"Why didn't you have us arrive inside?"

"Because I didn't want to have to explain that portkey if anyone is awake. Let's just hope everyone's still in bed so we won't have to fabricate a story to tell them."

"You mean you're actually not going to tell anyone what happened? You're keeping your word to Malfoy?"

"Yes, I'm keeping my promise to Draco, as I expect him to keep his promise to me. And I won't tell them what happened," Ginny motioned towards the nearing house, "but I will tell you…just not tonight, I'm exhausted."

"I would think so, it's nearly three in the morning."

"You don't know the half of it." Ginny muttered as she opened the front door. Once she saw what was on the other side, she wished she had decided to sneak in the back way.

The sound of footsteps and muffled voices caused the group worrying in the Weasley living room to fall silent. Nine pairs of eyes were immediately transfixed on the turning doorknob.

The creaking door.

The two rather ruffled looking teenagers.

In a domino effect, they spoke from left to right across the room.

"What happened to you?" the even more tear-streaked Hermione implored.

"Thank Merlin you're both alive!" Molly gasped.

"I was about to summon the Ministry! Why didn't you inform anyone of where you'd gone?" Arthur was boiling. In the blink of an eye, Ginny looked quizzically back at Hermione and Harry shook his head at Ginny, his eyes telling her Hermione didn't get her note.

Percy noticed their silent interaction and accused, "Didn't you have enough of a snog-fest this afternoon, Harry?"

"What the hell were you two thinking!" Sirius and Charlie chorused.

Fred and George asked if they could go back to bed now that everyone was accounted for.

Ron just glared.

Ginny rolled her eyes dramatically. "Honestly! I've been gone for twelve hours and you've only just noticed? I don't know what Harry was thinking when he left the Burrow, but I wanted to get out from under the Weasley microscope, thank you very much!"

After she stormed upstairs and was out of sight, the nine sets of eyes returned to Harry.

Mr. Potter mumbled something incoherent and tried to make his way to the stairs. Sirius swiftly blocked his path. Harry tried to turn, but found the Weasley clan was hovering immediately behind him. After an exasperated sigh, Harry launched feet-first into a tirade that, had he used his head, he would have realized was a lost cause (in other words, he was toast).

"Look, what Ginny was doing is her business, I was only trying to help. Since no one seems to appreciate me tonight, I'm going to go to bed. If you want to yell at someone, yell at yourselves! She was gone for half a day and not a one of you cared to notice. If you're so concerned about your 'little girl' why don't you try listening to what she has to say, not screaming at her because you were too wrapped up in your own lives to pay her any attention!"

Ron, who had until this point kept his silence, was the first to break it, "Go to sleep if you want, but not in my room…you won't last the night." With his glare still in place, he took the stairs two at a time, followed by the twins.

"My, my, look at the time…we must be getting to bed, dear. Early day tomorrow! See you all in the morning," Mrs. Weasley commented, overly (and forcibly) cheerfully, as she pulled her husband to their room.

After a glance at his own watch, Percy gave Harry an evil glare to rival Professor Snape's, and brushed by him roughly without a word.

Next up to bat, Charlie stood, seething with anger from every inch of his muscular body, staring down at Harry as if he were going to pounce at any instant and beat the magic out of him. Instead, he took out his wand, turned, and muttered something under his breath. A flash of orange bounced onto the couch and chairs in the room. With a smirk, the last Weasley in the room retired up the stairs.

Now Harry had to face his guardian. Sirius stood there staring at Harry in shock, anger, disbelief, hurt, rage…the emotions swirled in his eyes. A number of times he started to open his mouth, but words to match his thoughts could never be found. After minutes had passed, he growled from deep in his chest and transformed into his animagi form. As he pounced out the door, Hermione came out of the shadows.

"Harry, I don't know what to say. I would undo the hex on the furniture, but I think you need to lay awake all night and contemplate what you did. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was pretty damn stupid. You have a lot of explaining to do."

Harry laid down on the now rock-hard couch and tried to figure out what had transpired in the past few hours.

In the bright moonlight, a large black dog could be seen squeezing in the gate to an old private cemetery. He wove through the marble statues and headstones until he came to the most recent monument. Satisfied that the late hour and lingering fog were enough to keep him from being spotted, the scraggly canine transformed into a still-fuming Sirius Black.

He sat in front of the grave marker; as the time passed his scowl softened and tears began to fill his eyes. Reaching forward, he cleared the moss from the stone before him.

POTTER

James and Lily
b. May 2, 1955 January 31, 1956

d. October 31, 1981

May their love continue to shine,
No longer from their eyes,
But down from the stars
To light the way for the ones they have left behind.

"Why?" Sirius whispered, "Why did you have to make me his guardian? What do I know about raising children? How am I supposed to control him? Why did you have to die before you could see how proud he would have made you? Why do I have to try to discipline a boy that reminds me daily of the man I pulled pranks with?

"I feel like I've failed you both. I wasn't there for him, and now he's lost any hope of a happy childhood. Those bloody muggles probably came close to starving the boy a thousand times! I nearly let him get killed by Wormtail. Then I let Wormtail escape and run back to the Dark Lord, who nearly kills Harry because I was too blind to see through their plans. And tonight he sneaks off somewhere…those redheads – no offense, Lil – think he was off snogging. But I know he wasn't off having a good time; something bad happened tonight, I just know it. I should have been there to stop him from leaving, or at least help him with whatever he was off playing hero at. He doesn't trust me…he must not or he would have confided in me," he said, his heartbreaking.

"I can't stand myself, letting you both down over and over again. I'm not fit for the title of 'godfather' – there's nothing holy or paternal about me. What were you thinking? I can't properly raise him! I have to live as a fing dog, for Merlin's sake! The boy has no stability, no family life! And if he doesn't learn how to be a man, who's fault is it? Mine!" Sirius's whisper had grown to a full-fledged yell.

"And when Voldemort comes after him…I fear that history will repeat itself and I'll let down yet another Potter!"

Not being able to contain the innumerable emotions racing through his heart, Mr. Black fell back onto the soft grass, his tears glistening in the light of the stars.

The stars…he remembered his first few nights at Azkaban, when he was still in a right enough mind to appreciate the stars. As he blinked repeatedly to let the tears fall from his eyes, his vision cleared and the constellations above him came into focus.

"Aquila," he whispered, "The eagle of Zeus…"

"Sirius? Sirius, can you hear me?" a soft voice called through the bars of his cell door.

Inside, 26-year-old Sirius Black was leaning against the small hole that served as a window, lost in thought.

"Sirius? Sirius are you alright?"

He growled, not wanting to be disturbed from his wallows of self-hate.

"Padfoot, please, I know you're in there. It's not like the dementors to give you one last floo call."

After a hesitant silence, the woman heard him make his way to her.

"Pamela? Is that you? What are you doing here, shouldn't you be cursing the fact that you ever trusted me?"

"Oh, Siri, I don't believe what they're saying…I always knew when a Marauder was lying to me, and I know that you had nothing to do with…with what happened in Godric's Hollow. I'm sorry I didn't make it here sooner…bloody red tape. How are you feeling?"

"How am I feeling? How would you feel if your best mate and his wife were dead because of your lack in judgment? And your godson would be, too, if it hadn't been for some random stroke of good magic? I feel worthless, incapable, distraught, alone…I feel like anything good in the world has no place in my life. After all, I'm doomed to die in the most wretched of places on earth. I feel pretty damn lousy. You?"

"Keeping hope that things will work out."

"How can they? Harry living with those muggles…I've failed them, Pam. I've failed everyone."

"Snap out of it Black! Those damn dementors have started taking their toll on you. You have to fight all the negative feelings – let go of them, you can't change the past."

"I can't change the present either, or the future! I have to sit here and wish that James and Lily had never known me. If they hadn't, Harry would have a Godfather that could take care of him, and maybe James and Lily would have lived."

"Is that what you think – that this is all your fault? If it hadn't been for you, James and Lily may not have gotten married. If it hadn't been for you, they wouldn't have realized they were in danger. If –"

"If it hadn't been for me being a coward, they would have lived!"

"You can't honestly mean that, Sirius," Pamela Thompson whispered, trying to calm her friend down. "You-know-who would have gotten to them sooner or later; fate waits for no man – no matter how much he may charm her."

Her suggestive grin managed to bring a smile to his face. "Charming, am I?"

"Did Lily and James ever tell you why they picked you to be Harry's godfather?"

"Because I'm charming?"

"Because you're the most loyal wizard Gryffindor has seen in a long time. When you love someone, you do it with all of your heart. If you make a promise, it will be kept. I imagine the sorting hat had a hard time with you, didn't it? I know why you're a Gryffindor though -- because even your extremely Hufflepuffian loyalty pales in comparison to your chivalry and bravery. Lily and James chose you because they knew you would always protect Harry, no matter what."

"And I've failed them!" he roared. "I can't protect him from in here!"

"You did what you thought was best to protect them at the time. Let it go, Sirius, you have to have hope. If you can grab hold of what is true and good in the world, then you keep your sanity while you're here. If you don't escape first, I'm sure your name will be cleared eventually."

"How can you be so bloody optimistic, Miss Thompson?"

"For the same reason you're so damned thickheaded! I was just born this way."

"Well then, what happy thoughts do you have as to how I can manage survive in here?"

"You're already using your alternate identity to escape a lot of the Dementor's effects, I presume?"

"Naturally."

"Well, your sanity should be safe, then. Now to deal with your extremely male attitude."

Sirius glared at Pamela's comment, but waited silently for her to continue.

"How familiar are you with the summer constellations?"

"Enough to find my way home. Though I prefer the winter sky."

"Surprise, surprise," she responded dryly. "Well, Mr. Black, do you know where the star Altair is?"

"It's the head of the eagle, isn't it?"

"Got it in one. Aquila was Zeus's eagle; it is said in the old Greek myths that during the ten-year war between the followers of Zeus and the giant Titans, a magnificent eagle was ever by the side of Zeus waiting to carry his thunderbolts down to kill the monstrous Titans. It was for his loyalty that the eagle was given a position among the stars as the constellation Aquila."

"So, what, I'm supposed to 'be the eagle'?"

"In a sense, you already are. You may be the Great Dog in the winter sky, just as you are a brave Gryffindor to most. But I know the flip side of you. I know that you're just as loyal as the Eagle in the summer sky. I don't know when I'll see you next, Padfoot, but please remember that you have to stay strong for Harry…and for me." She wiped a tear from her cheek as she whispered the last few words.

"I promise."

As 40-year-old Sirius Black came out of his reverie, he looked at Aquila flying in the southeastern sky. "A promise is a promise…even if you haven't seen the person for fourteen years."

With a deep sigh, Sirius stood and shifted back into his canine form. He couldn't change the past. But he could do his best to make things right with the present; and starting over with Harry was at the top of his list.