"What do you mean Seamus? They're right…" Harry trails off as he feels for the glasses. The uncomfortable, but traditional, broken frames are not there. Yet, he's seeing clearly. Harry crosses his eyes to look at the empty bridge of his nose and decides that something is very off. "Or they aren't here. But yeah, I can see fine."
At Harry's confused look Seamus grins. "Mate, you're Harry bloody Potter. You don't do normal."
To this, Neville bursts out laughing, unable to contain his chortles. "Seamus is more than right; that's your family motto, isn't it?"
"Family motto?" Harry asks.
"Yeah, all big families have got one. The Longbottom one is something along the lines of 'Grandis est quercus superum angens vitis'."
"and just what doe that mean?" Seamus demands.
"It's just latin." Neville shrugs, "'Tall is the oak that survives the strangling vine'."
"Are they all that complex?" Seamus asks.
Neville frowns. "Mine is; Harry's isn't. He's lucky. 'Nos numfacis Normativis."
"Sounds short, whatever it is." Seamus says, looking at them expectantly.
"We don't do normal." Harry says, resting his head on the table.
"Well, if that doesn't describe you then I don't know what would." Seamus says as the final word on the matter.
"And on that note, boys, I'm off to pack." Harry says, pushing away from the table and standing up. As Harry walks away, Neville looks down at his half-eaten plate and over at Seamus full one, before looking over at Harry's. Harry's plate was half the size of either of theirs and, going by the crumbs, had less on it.
"What did he have, one slice of toast?" Neville wonders to himself, making a note in his head to watch Harry next term. To make sure he was alright.
Harry suspects none of that as he walks away. He steps aside for a gaggle of Hufflepuff girls and looks out of a window. Seeing the sun shining, the birds flying, and everything calm and okay, harry can't resist as a feeling of freedom and health fills him, and he can't help the smile that breaks out on his face. His mind whirls as it tries to comprehend the freedom of his last day. The previous years, his time was taken up by the hospital visits or other issues. This year, he had it free. He could do anything. Hell, he could even free another Dobby! Who does he know that mistreats their elves, and how can he get them inside the castle…
While he plots grand theft servant in his head, his feet carry him on a familiar path. Every Tuesday, after breakfast, he either has Defense, or visits Professor Lupin. It was so common that the portraits along the route had started giving him tips.
"Potter!" The shout comes from a portrait of three men smoking at a table. However, the voice does not belong to one of them. Instead, the shout comes from a visitor to that portrait. A teen boy, sword at his side under a well-worn cloak, stands huffing and puffing.
"Yes, Michael? What do you have for me today? Another one of the master's tips on how to not fall on my butt?" Harry teases. The man shoves one of the smokers aside and quaffs a tankard of something. Harry didn't really want to think of what Portraits drank. Ink? Sealant? Turpentine?
"Nay, laddie. I got a tip for you from meself this time. I was hanging around the Hufflepuff dorms, trying to get to that kitchens portrait you told me about. Fruit larger than I, yumm."the man shakes in pleasure before snapping back to attention, "So, I hears these two gals talking abouts a fencing class they're taking over the summer. In London, above a shop on Diagon. You really should learn you some type of weapon, something more than just a wand. Everybody's got a wand, but not just anybody has a claymore in their britches. As me Pap always said, 'Semper Vigilo!'" Michael shouts before he runs off again.
Harry had yet to catch the boy's family name, but he guessed that the shout was their family motto, having just heard about them from Neville. He had to find out what family had such a motto. 'Constant Vigilance,' it sounded exhausting. They were probably mattress makers by now. Still, such advice was rare to get free, especially from people who were training under actual masters. Given the historical bad blood between the various masters, namely the poaching and assassinations and feuds and you-get-the-point. Between all of that it is a miracle the portrait ever got completed. Harry takes the final few steps from the corner of the corridor to the door of the defense room and pauses. He hesitates, churning thoughts keeping him from knocking.
What if Professor Lupin was angry at him, or had just ran off with a pack of wolves, and was now going to terrorize Hogwarts until the ministry summoned Macnair to come and behead them all with that axe he had been waving around? 'If he hasn't come back,' Harry's internal voice rationalizes, "then someone has to pack his stuff. May as well be me', he thinks.
Just as Harry goes to knock, the door swings open. His upraised fist now beats not on the solid door it was poised over, but instead over Lupin's sparse hair. For a moment, they both blink at each other in surprise.
"Three things: one, James would tell us to stop making eyes at each other and get a bloody room; two, Sirius would joke about checking for empty space in my head; three, I'm glad you came by. I was meaning to find you sooner or later. There are important things here for you." The Professor says, breaking the moment.
"Really? About my dad and him. They really would have said that? And what do you have that is so important?" Harry asks.
"Yes, they tried to be jokesters and pranksters. Went too far once or twice. Come into my office, Harry. I promise I don't bite." Lupin says.
"Professor, no offense, but I've seen you. You do bite. And it's not fun. You aren't mad at me, right?" Harry says.
"Harry, you should know, I only bite at night. Or if someone asks me to. Some witches like that sort of thing I hear. Of course, they tend to rhyme with umbrella. No, I'm not mad at you. Why would I be?" He pauses and takes on a concerned look, "Should I be? Did you do something?"
"Er, no. I haven't done anything that warrants anger, I think. I came to see how you were doing." He says.
"Oh, I'm fine. This isn't the first time I've been run out of a job." Remus says with false cheer.
"I meant Sirius." Harry says quietly.
"Oh. That's more of a mess than I think you could understand. He was a good friend once upon a time and shall be missed. But, I'm not ashamed to admit I hated him for a large part of the last decade. Now I know Peter was the culprit, but feelings aren't so clear cut. His death, while regrettable, may have been for the best. You should know, those years in Azkaban changed him. What growing up he did after graduating, they stole back. The Sirius you met was a shell of the man I knew. And, from what he told me, it wasn't likely that he would improve. Dementor exposure is horrific stuff- and with how long he was trapped there, it was unlikely he could recover even part of his old self." Lupin says quietly.
"So you believe his story?" Harry asks.
"I do. Peter wouldn't have hidden unless he feared for his life, but he had plenty of time to come out. He was hiding with people we were allies with. They would never have hurt him. Sirius was locked away for 12 years Harry, nearly your entire life. Peter had plenty of time to come clean and be recognized as the hero everyone thought he was. There's more going on here than the 'known' truth. Remember what we talked about, Harry, to trust your instincts and think for yourself. I won't tell you what to think but know that I'm firmly convinced that Sirius was innocent all along." Remus says, leaning on his desk.
"So, who do you think killed him then?" Harry asks.
"That is something that you do not need to be thinking about. I have a few suspects in mind, and I may be planning to do some snooping when I leave, but it is not your fight, Harry." The professor says, "not because I don't trust you, but, unfortunately, because you'd only slow me down." Remus gives Harry a smile, and it's full of teeth. Sharp teeth. "I'm going hunting, for the first time in a very long time."
"I don't know whether to say good luck or have fun, sir." Harry says slightly nervously.
"I'll take them both, prongslet. You did good last night, with that lumos. Not many would have thought about using it like that."
"I just did what I could." Harry says sheepishly.
"Well, it bought you time for Buckbeak to rescue you. If I could still give points, you'd have earned them." Remus says warmly.
"I think I'll settle for having my life." Harry jokes.
"Better than the alternative." Remus says and they both grimace.
"Now, pup, some things you need to start thinking about. For one, when Dumbledore placed you with your relatives, he expanded the blood wards Lily gave you to encompass your Aunt's entire home, protecting all of them in addition to you. They were never designed to handle so much and have thus weakened considerably. You have two options: break them, which will eradicate his claim to keep you there, or find the ward stone, in which case we can pull them back to you intact. One way you keep your mother's protection, the other you eliminate Dumbledore's claim on you staying there. I mean, you could leave them as they are."
"It would be a waste of them, but they're not my wards." remus mumbles under his breath, yanking one of the hanging skeletons into a box, which gives off a terrible crash. Remus winces.
"Watch yourself around your Uncle too. You're losing that youthful look and resembling James more than before. Vernon hated James with a burning passion, quite literally. He tried to set James on fire twice. Once at your father's Wedding even. Proved for an interesting ceremony, the bride snapping off spells between vows. Made the front page of the prophet. He's dangerous." When Harry nods his understanding, Remus continues.
"With Sirius dead, some things are going to happen. For one, his will is going to be executed. I'm sure he left you something, but knowing him, he probably left it all to you. Expect Gringotts to be in touch. A second concern is the Family magics of house Black. It's complicated, and Sirius admitted even he didn't understand them all the way. But for now, just understand that there are certain things that he could access as the heir and head of House Black. When he died, he lost control of them. We aren't sure where they are now. Anyone related to the house could have them. Our best hope is that they reverted to the next best claim, his eldest cousin Andromeda. If it is as we fear, and the house is Patriarchal, meaning women cannot inherit, then they would have fallen to Draco."
"He cannot get them." Harry says firmly.
"That may not be up to you, pup. One last thing, "Remus says as they close up the last of his bags and trunks. "Lily told me she left a contingency plan at your aunt's house. Find it. I have no idea what it is, but knowing Lily, it's powerful and will be great help to you."
The duo walk to the door to the classroom, and step out.
"Have you seen Pettigrew on the map?"
"No, but I never saw him besides the once. I think Sirius spooked him and he forgot to recast whatever charm he was using to hide. Now, he's either long gone from the castle or hiding again. Harry, I want you to be careful if you ever see him again. Whether or not he killed those muggles and betrayed your parents, he did hide in your best friends' pocket for three years. Even if he's not a murderer, that makes him even more of a creep than he was when we were in school." Remus muses, walking toward the gate.
"This is goodbye, Harry. For now." Remus says, ruffling the boys hair. "There is a storm brewing, but it is not here yet. Go, enjoy the time you have left this year with your friends! Try not to antagonize your Uncle, or anyone else. A low profile would make this easier. But, knowing you," Lupin squeezes Harry's shoulder, "trouble will come knocking."
"Professor, you should know by now." Harry says, "It doesn't even bother to knock anymore, just sits on down for tea and biscuits on its own."
"Hah! Enjoy your final days here, prongslet." Remus says fondly. "I'll be in touch." With that, the werewolf walks out of the gates of Hogwarts, boxes in tow.
With a flash, the man is gone. Harry stuffs the map Lupin gave him back into his pocket and starts the trek up to Hogwarts. Remus told him to have fun, but Harry has some work to do first.