Chapter 16

Lesson Part 1

"Accio" Megan flicked her wand with all her concentration. A second later she caught the flying apple like an agile seeker.

"Nice catch Megan" Ginny clapped with smile. "You are definitely improving."

"Thanks dear. I wouldn't have been able to but for Molly and Remus. Harry is good too; in fact he was the one who taught me this summoning spell. Like Remus he has a great deal of patience for students like me" praised Megan looking at Harry who was sitting between Ron and Hermione.

"No. I didn't do anything. You are quick to learn, Megan." Harry replied modestly taking a bite of his toast.

"Really..? Fred asked in mock pretense. "In that case we accept her in our classes too. We also have some stuff to teach her if she is interested."

"How about today afternoon" Fred offered.

"NO, that's not happening." Mrs. Weasley warned. "I don't want to see her getting hurt by your silly pranks. And that's final." She glanced at Megan apologetically and asked "Megan, I'm thinking of visiting the Burrow, so I suggest you come with me. We could try some advanced spells."

"Sure, I would definitely love that. Remus has cancelled his lesson for me today, so I'm all yours."

"Did he?" Mr. Weasley asked taking a seat next to Mrs. Weasley. He filled his plate with toast and scrambled eggs. "I came in late last night but Molly told me Dumbledore was here and took the three of you to visit Marlene." Mr. Weasley looked pleased to hear about their visit. "So how did it go?" He asked expecting an answer from Sirius.

But Sirius didn't reply immediately. He busied himself in pushing his scrambled eggs around his plate. There was a heavy cloud of guilt hovering over his mind. He knew whatever was happening with him would change something between him and Harry which was unfair especially when he had just gotten the chance to take good care of Harry.

"Sirius, what's the matter." asked Mrs. Weasley kindly. She had been observing him all morning and knew something wasn't right. He was unusually silent.

"It's nothing" said Sirius trying to fix his melancholy looks.

But that didn't fool Megan. She already knew the reason behind Sirius's saddened mood. The dilemma he was facing was really painful and in a way it was happening because she decided to come here in the first place. And that by default made it her responsibility to save Sirius from this difficult conversation. So she intervened.

"Well, to avoid unnecessary panic Dumbledore suggested me to accompany him, which I did." Megan got a grateful look from Sirius.

"Once we arrived there we explained Lena aka Marlene about everything including how Dumbledore recognized her in my memories as well as what happened fourteen years ago that put Sirius in Azkaban." Megan paused as she caught Sirius's looking at Harry with a hollowed expression. This motivated her to add the good part of the visit. "And then Dumbledore took her consent to scan her mind which I didn't understand how he did but he found something that is kind of fixable. He even assured her there is a likelihood of restoring her memories but it will better if someone named Poppy would do through examination first. Oh and then Sirius met his daughter Rhea for the first time. It was quite awkward because she wasn't there when we explained that Sirius isn't a fugitive."

"Yeah that was quite awkward until Marlene used a body binding charm on her" explained Sirius with a weak smile. "I hope Marlene will get her memories back before it's too late." He tried to sound optimistic but it came out quite the opposite.

"Sirius, please have some faith. I know it's painful but now isn't the time to lose your hopes" said Mrs. Weasley kindly. "You have already suffered a lot. Maybe it is time you taste some happiness."

But that didn't cheer Sirius; he just sighed and played with his food. What he needed at that moment was a conversation with Harry.

"So, where did Remus go?" asked Molly changing the obviously awkward subject.

"Dumbledore gave him some sort of work to do. I hope he finishes it soon." Sirius answered passively.

"Hmm, that's curious" said Mr. Weasley remembering something. "Because last night on my way home I met Tonks and she told me that early in the morning when she had been to drop a basket of lemon tarts Andromeda made for Madam Bones, she saw Dumbledore there. She didn't hear everything but she could make out that it was something about a case involving Fudge."

"That's interesting" replied Sirius distracted from his churning thoughts. "I hope whatever he is plotting would knock some sense in that buffoon for a Minister."

"Is he that bad? I mean I've heard Harry and you talking about him but it seems absurd to think a man who represents the whole wizarding world would try to discredit Dumbledore or Harry. I'm surprised why he even thinks that Harry would lie about Voldemort's return."

"Because Fudge is stupid and thinks Dumbledore is trying to steal his power and glory" explained Mr. Weasley.

"So if Dumbledore is really plotting something with Madam Bones doesn't that mean this situation will soon change?" asked Hermione intrigued by topic.

"Anyway who is Madam Bones?" interrupted Megan inquisitively to which Sirius immediately replied. "Madam Amelia Bones is a pure blood witch respected for her fearless and unbiased nature. She is the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement which makes her Tonks and Kingsley's boss. She also held a seat on the Wizengamot, the magical high court which gives her authority to keep an eye on people like Fudge, the Malfoys and many others who either fear or follow Voldemort" Sirius sneered the name with hatred. "She also respects Dumbledore's views and lends a hand whenever he needs her help."

"Oh, she seems pretty influential" said Megan.

"Yes, she is Megan" said Mr. Weasley. "And that reminds me I am supposed to discuss with you about the Ministry and other such important systems. So if you don't have any prior engagements I suggest we discuss it. This weekend after lunch sounds good." He suggested taking the last bite of scramble from his plate.

"Well, I don't know if Remus will be there or not. If he isn't then I'm okay with your plan."

"Hmm, let's see what happens then. Now, I must get going." With that Mr. Weasley got up from his seat, checked his robe pocket for something and then left.

Sirius followed Mr. Weasley's lead and excused himself from breakfast.

A few minutes later when everyone finished with breakfast a crack sounded and Kreacher appeared wearing a very clean tea towel. With a snap of his fingers he cleaned the dining table. Everyone looked baffled but the old elf ignored them and busied himself with his chores.

"Blimey! He really is weird" commented Ron with annoyance.

"Shh! Ron! He isn't. He is just helping and following Sirius's orders" said Mrs. Weasley getting out of her chair.

Hermione elbowed Ron as he stared unbelievingly at Kreacher. "Come on Ron, get up. I have something to tell you".

"Fine, let's go." He said stepping out of his seat. He looked at Harry for some clue but he shrugged and followed Hermione.

...

"Is Ginny coming?" asked Ron as soon as they were out of Mrs. Weasley's earshot.

"No, she isn't. She is going with Megan and Mrs. Weasley. And she already knows everything I'm going to tell you" informed Hermione entering the study. She took a seat around the center table. Ron and Harry did same.

"So what is it Hermione?" Harry asked curiously.

"Yesterday I visited Kreacher and asked him something" said Hermione.

"Yes?" Harry prompted.

"I asked him if he remembered Regulus doing something peculiarly different while he was doing his research on You-Know-Who. At first, Kreacher didn't understand so I asked him little differently."

"Really? And he responded to that?" asked Ron skeptically.

Hermione huffed to that. "Of course he didn't, until I assured him that it will be helpful in destroying the Locket."

"That's blackmail" teased Ron with a smirk.

"Yes, and I'm not proud of that." She replied in annoyance.

"That's okay Hermione" reasoned Harry. "So what did you ask him?"

"I asked him if Regulus was referring to a book or something for his research."

"What! A book? That's really classical Hermione" Ron looked disappointed.

This time Hermione ignored him. "To my surprise Kreacher nodded and said that Regulus was obsessed with a very dark book. He didn't remember the name but he described it as a very ancient and rare one."

"So where is this book now?" Harry asked hopefully.

Hermione looked uncomfortable. "Umm, you are not going to like this Harry."

Harry just stared at her and waited. "Regulus told Kreacher to deposit the book in his vault at Gringotts."

"And why is that problematic? I mean we can at least try to get it back."

"Only if we have a key Ron" said Harry with sigh.

"And that is the first problem" explained Hermione. "I don't know if there are other Black family members but as the elder brother, legally, Sirius became the owner of Regulus's vault. That means he is the one who can get the key and open the vault, which is quite impossible because the ministry is still hot on his trail."

"And we can't ask him because he will try to do exactly that which is risky and stupid" added Ron as he realized what Hermione was trying to suggest.

Harry too understood the difficulty. He knew that his godfather had been cooped up too long and would do anything to make himself useful regardless of the risk involved.

"No, we can't ask him to do that especially when he is finally getting a chance to live his life. I don't want to lose him for some stupid Locket."

"Which also means it's time we drop our search and do something else" she said staring at her friends.

They both nodded reluctantly.

"So what now?" Ron asked.

Hermione gave him a look and asked, "Did you finish your homework?"

Ron groaned as he saw Harry nod with a smile. "That's unfair mate. You know our ritual of finishing our homework on the train or after the welcome feast."

"No, not this time Ron. I was at Megan's and managed to finish it on time." Harry paused as he realized it was the best time he should be telling the entire truth. "Umm there is something else I want to tell you."

"What is it Harry?" Hermione looked concerned while Ron looked intrigued.

"Before I start you have to promise that you will try to understand before you react" said Harry directly looking at Ron.

"What is it?" Ron asked a little put out.

"Ron, just do as he says" chastised Hermione.

"Fine" Ron replied.

"Ron, starting from today Snape is coming over to teach me Occlumency."

"What! Are you nuts Harry" exclaimed Ron not even trying understand the meaning of Occlumency.

"Oh shut up Ron" Hermione interrupted. "You don't even know the word Occlumency. Let him explain first."

"Thanks Hermione" Harry felt grateful. "It's something that will help me to stop Voldemort getting in my head. Dumbledore told me it will be difficult but I need to master it as soon as possible."

"That's horrible Harry" Hermione looked horrified by the thought of Voldemort actually entering someone's mind, let alone Harry's. "You… you never mentioned this before."

Ron was beyond horrified he knew Harry's scar hurt whenever Voldemort was around but this was totally knew.

"I had a few nightmares at the beginning of last year. But they stopped suddenly. And now I'm having them again. Dumbledore thinks it will get worse if I don't do anything."

"Okay I agree, but why Snape? I mean why can't Dumbledore teach you this Occulumency himself?" asked Ron trying to keep his annoyance at bay.

"I asked him the same question but he said he has his own reasons and Snape agreed already."

"That's impossible! Why would he do that? I mean he hates you. And the entire school knows that." Ron simplified everything. "What if he has some hidden motives?"

"Ron, don't be silly. How many times should I remind you that Dumbledore trusts him" said Hermione fuming.

"She is right Ron and now we know he is a member of the Order too. And I don't think Dumbledore selected him without any double checks. I bet his sinister behavior is part of his spy act."

Ron gave a dismayed look to which Harry interjected as his patience started to wane. "Okay, if that's not sufficient for you then I'll tell you something else that will help you understand why I believe Snape.""

"I'm listening Harry" challenged Ron.

"Snape was the one who informed Dumbledore I was living with Megan. You know if he wanted he could have used this opportunity to inform Voldemort but he didn't. Instead he called Dumbledore. And not only that but when Dumbledore told him to brew the healing elixir for Megan he did it without any hesitation." Harry paused as he approached the most difficult part of his reasoning. "We never mentioned this but Snape donated his own blood, a part of his own magic to heal Megan."

"Merlin's hat! Snape really did that?" Ron asked with a shock. "Harry, that's blood magic! In our world giving someone your blood is considered ultimate sacrifice. It is either used for very dark or very sacred reasons. And that's why no one teaches blood magic at Hogwarts."

"Yeah, I know that. And to clear it out further it wasn't Snape's idea. Dumbledore convinced him to do that. Not only that but he made Snape live with us until the elixir had brewed completely. You won't believe this but it gave me an opportunity to observe him closely." Harry smiled when he explained the next part. "All through his stay he actually behaved like a normal human being. He even helped with the chores and never insulted Megan or me even once. He totally surprised me. If you ask me personally his behavior and all the insults and jabs are just an act. You know he gave me a heart attack when he accidently told me that he and my mother were childhood friends. And that does justify why Snape always keeps tabs on me. It wasn't because my father had once saved his life but it's because he knew my mom."

"Wow, that's umm... that's surprising Harry." Hermione said the words with some difficulty but nonetheless Harry appreciated them.

"I know it's weird to imagine Snape having a friendly chat with anyone let alone my mum, but it did happen. Believe it or not but the Snape I got to know at Megan's house was totally different than we are used to seeing at Hogwarts. He seemed humane around me and Megan.""

Ron still found it difficult to wrap his mind around the idea of a nice Snape. But the way Harry was explaining it Ron didn't find any reason not to believe. "I'm really sorry Harry but it's absurd and difficult to consider Snape a trustworthy person. May be it is his creepy looks and behavior that scares the hell out me." This time Ron sounded sincere. He seemed to be trying hard not to offend Harry. "Or maybe as Ginny said it's an old habit to think all Slytherins are villains. Frankly I'll need some time mate."

"That's alright Ron and I'm glad that you are trying at least" said Harry with a smile.

Hermione also felt relieved as Ron showed some unexpected maturity and avoided an unnecessary fight. With a sigh she looked at Harry and asked, "Harry do you think you will master this Occlumency before school starts. I mean if that doesn't happen then you'll need to keep this secret otherwise it would jeopardize Professor Snape's position as a spy."

"I didn't think about this but you do have a point Hermione. I need to work hard" said Harry thoughtfully. And that reminded him of Dumbledore's advice about reading books on mind magic. With that thought in mind he got up from his seat and asked "Would you like to join me in the library.""

Ron gave him a look of disgust as Hermione happily accepted the offer. Nonetheless he followed them to the library and studied until Ginny came searching for them when it was time for lunch.

The lunch was a surprise as it turned out Kreacher was the cook. He made chicken sandwiches stuffed with cheese and fried onion. He also made a delicious vegetable soup to go along.

Everyone ate with amazement and talked about the pristine kitchen. Harry listened but got distracted as soon as he noticed the absence of Sirius and Megan. He decided to find them once he finished with his lunch.

"Harry, slow down" said Hermione interrupting his thoughts. "Look how happy she sounds." She nodded towards Mrs. Weasley.

"Ur I think I missed something" Harry realized.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Charley is coming back from Romania. He got a job at St. Mungos."

"But how? I mean he studies dragons" Harry commented dubiously.

Ginny chimed in as she heard them. "When he graduated he wanted to become a Mediwizard but he also loved working with exotic animals. So he chose an apprenticeship which gave him a chance to master both."

"That's sounds incredible" praised Harry thinking he needed to think about his own future in case he survived Voldemort that long.

"Yeah that's really incredible" Ron joined them. "You never going to believe this but he was very good at Potions and had an O in his NEWT."

"Wow" Hermione exhaled with awe. "He is a genius then."

"Sure, you can say that. But what I think is he accepted this job because he cares about mum. He came here to clear out the mess Percy left for us" said Ron.

"I think that has already started to work. Look at your mum" said Harry observing the way she was looking at the letter Charlie had sent her.

"Hmm, that's true" agreed Ginny finishing her soup.

"So when he is coming?" Harry asked.

"On your birthday Harry" answered Ginny with a smile. "He has to join St. Mungos on August first."

Harry just nodded thinking about how fast time had gone by. It had been almost a month that he was living happily away from the Dursleys. He felt grateful for Megan coming in his life and giving him a chance to understand the real meaning of love and care.

"Harry?" Ginny tapped on his arm.

"What?" he asked startled.

"Are you alright?" she asked in low tone.

"Yeah, just thinking about something" he answered realizing he was staring into an empty bowl.

"Okay" said Ginny restraining herself from prying further.

Relieved Harry looked around and found no one looking at him. Even Ron and Hermione seemed busy chatting about something. He took it as queue to find Sirius and Megan. So without making any noise he left his seat and hurried towards the steps.

Once out of the kitchen he continued walking and climbing until he reached Sirius's bedroom door. He hesitated but then knocked lightly. He stood there waiting, counting the number of metallic flowers carved on the door frame. He was on number fifteen when a hopeless looking Sirius opened the door. Sirius quickly altered his expression for a smile.

"Harry..." Sirius opened his mouth but Harry interrupted him. "You missed lunch so I come looking for you. What kept you busy?"

"It's nothing, just Buckbeak. He seemed restless so I was giving him some company."

"Oh come on Sirius. Stop pretending" said Megan coming forward and making Harry jump in surprise.

"Megan? What are you doing here?" he asked trying to guess the reason.

"Thank god you asked Harry. If you hadn't, I would never have got this opportunity to tell you the real reason why your godfather is hiding in here."

"Megan, what is going on, I don't understand."

"Megan, please don't" Sirius pleaded but she ignored him.

"Harry he is having second thoughts about Marlene. He thinks it would be unfair to you if he had to share himself with Marlene and his daughter. "

It took Harry a few minutes to understand what Megan was trying to imply but when he realized he retaliated "Sirius that's absurd. How can you even think of it?"

Sirius wasn't expecting an outburst. "Harry, let me explain."

"No, don't even try because I'm really fed up of these sacrifices. I felt suffocated by their weight. It's painful, Sirius, to watch others suffer because of me."

"Harry, what are you talking about?" asked Sirius with confusion.

"What I'm saying is get your own life Sirius. Enjoy it while it lasts. And please think about Rhea and Marlene. They deserve to be with you more than me. Don't crush their hopes because of me. It is not fair to them."

"No, but you need me more than they do" argued Sirius.

"No, I don't" stated Harry quite harshly but instantly he realized his mistake as dejection crossed Sirius's features. "No, that came out wrong. I would love having you in my life but that doesn't mean you need to ignore your own family." He stared at his godfather intently. "Sirius, please listen. Your commitment towards your own family is not going to change the bond we have."

"But I don't want to leave you again. The last time I did, I lost you for twelve years. And you ended up with that miserable Petunia. Merlin knows how you survived with her but that was my fault. I left you alone without thinking."

Megan was overwhelmed by the despair Sirius was emitting. She knew it was her chance to say a few things, clear and loud. "Sirius, don't be foolish. What Harry said is correct. Rhea and Marlene have the right to be with you. You deserve to be happy. And where Harry is concerned, he is not alone anymore. He is with me and not Petunia. And I promise, I will take good care of him."

Sirius took some time to realize what Megan was trying to say. The possibility of Megan looking after Harry seemed a valid option to consider and thinking about it made him relax for the first time since he had visited Marlene. But again, he found a glitch. "But Megan you are alone and this is Harry we are talking about."

Megan gave Sirius a challenging look. "That's utter nonsense and I'm not alone."

"And what does that mean?" asked Harry with confusion.

Megan recognized her mistake but didn't know why she made it. As an answer a thought flashed in her mind but she immediately discarded it and came up with an acceptable reason. "I mean you all are going to help me, aren't you?"

"Of course we will" replied Sirius.

"Hey, I'm right here."

"Oh, I'm sorry Harry" said Megan ruffling Harry's hair playfully.

"Don't" he said getting out of her reach.

When he turned around Sirius looked much better. And for that Harry gave the entire credit to Megan. He felt grateful for Megan's timely intervention which saved him from becoming the reason for ruining Sirius's life.

Megan waited another minute or two before asking, "Sirius, what do you say to continue this discussion over lunch. I'm starving here."

That drew a weak smile from Sirius.

"Let's go then" pursued Megan.

"Fine, let's go" replied Sirius.

Just before they left the room Sirius stopped as he remembered something. "Harry, I heard that you were reading for Snape's class."

"Umm, I was trying to understand the subject but that's definitely a tiresome task." Harry told the truth.

Sirius smiled at first but then became solemn as he said, "Harry I want you to listen me carefully."

"Okay" responded Harry. He eyed Megan but she looked clueless.

"Harry, I don't care what Dumbledore thinks about Snape but I want you to be careful around him."

Harry opened his mouth for a protest but decided against of it as Sirius's expression hardened a bit. "Don't argue. Just promise me, if he tries anything suspicious you will come straight to me."

Harry knew it wasn't a request; still he wanted to tell Sirius that he was wrong about Snape. But then he saw a protective streak appeared in those grey eyes and realized it was the reason his parents choose Sirius as his godfather.

"Harry" insisted Sirius making his intent clear that he wouldn't be leaving Harry without the promise.

"Okay I promise" said Harry with sigh.

"Thank you" replied Sirius turning on his heels to follow a content looking Megan.

In the evening the hearth in Twelve Grimauld place flared green spitting an astute looking Severus Snape.

Continued…