Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all of his world are works of J. . I'm not her, I'm playing in her sandbox!
AN: This story will involve issues of gender identity and gender-swap. The gender-swap will not happen immediately and nor will Harry learn about his real identity straight away. Cannon Harry is able to accept the change easier than most because of his lack of self-worth and family.
Instead Harry will develop a sense of family, an identity and an inner strength before the secret is revealed and so, hopefully, making the change much more of a journey for him.
I hope you can enjoy the story even if that isn't your thing.
18th June, 1994.
"What's that?" Vernon snarled, staring at the envelope Harry was clutching like a lifeline. To the small boy it was exactly that. "If it's another form for me to sign..."
"It's not." Harry announced cheerfully. The joy he felt from the simply owning the letter giving the far too small boy the bravery to interrupt his much larger relative. "It's a letter from my godfather."
"Godfather?" Vernon snarled, pudgy eyes narrowing. "You haven't got a godfather!"
"Yes, I have." Harry Potter, Boy-Who-Lived, and abused teen pushed on. "He was my mum and dad's best friend. He's a convicted murderer but he's broken out of wizard prison and he's on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though... keep up with my news... check I'm happy..."
The controlled rambling shut Vernon up. The perpetually angry man's only response being foul mutterings to himself as he stormed his way through the King's Cross crowd to get to his car. Harry was quick to follow and if there was a little bounce to his steps, Vernon wasn't to notice.
Harry's dream of living with his father's best friend, Sirius Black, had been shot down before it really got started. Yet the now spectre of a villainous godfather watching over him still had the power to improve his summer. It might even get the Dursleys to feed him properly.
The drive to Little Whinging was peaceful for Harry with Vernon's many frustrations aimed at any and all the walrus-like man saw on the journey. Though Harry was willing to bet that his uncle would be sorely disappointed to find out how close he had been to losing his soul to the vile Dementors only for them not to have the opportunity to finish the job.
Vernon was out of the car the moment they arrived back at Number Four, Privet Drive. Harry was almost certain his uncle hadn't even waited for it to stop moving before disappearing into the house without his annual 'Boy, get your things!' command.
Harry struggled with pulling his trunk and Hedwig's cage free from the car and wrestled both into the house where he found his first surprise of the summer and unintentional gift from Sirius. Aunt Petunia's eyes held a slight wide-eyed fearful glaze while Vernon looked like his was trying to dry swallow the Monster Book of Monsters.
"Take your stuff to your room." Vernon ordered. "I don't want any of your freakishness and you'll keep out of our way, you hear? As long as you keep quiet then you won't have that many chores and you can tell your godfather how happy you are this summer."
Harry had to fight the laughter that threatened to burst free and quickly nodded before dragging everything to his room. It was as he was pulling the door closed behind him that he realised it was the first summer they hadn't locked his trunk up in the cupboard.
He settled the trunk at the bottom of his lumpy bed and the cage next to the opened window for when Hedwig flew in. It was when Harry set up the water and owl treats that he made a mental note to let his friends know about the diet Vernon had ranted about during the drive. Apparently poor little Dudley had been unable to have his immense bulk excused away by the blind love of Petunia and had been put on a diet by the Smeltings' nurse. Petunia's horror at having to "starve" her little boy meant the shrew of a woman was sharing out of the pain by putting everyone on his diet. Which meant even less portions for the malnourished Harry. He hoped his friends would be able to send him enough food to keep him going until September.
It was that depressing thought which had Harry deciding he wasn't yet ready for life inside Privet Prison. He quickly and quietly slipped out of the house and headed to his favourite spot when not at Hogwarts.
The local park that had sprung out from the small wood nearby was large enough for him to enjoy daydreaming on the swings and be able to stay away from Dudley's gang at the same time. It was only when he wasn't being careful that his cousin would catch him there. It was barely five minutes later when a voice spoke up behind him.
"It's so disappointing that the Son of Prongs has free time and isn't playing pranks."
Harry was off the swing and spinning around, instinctively reaching for his wand before his brain remembered that it was in his room. The action and mental cross-fire had his legs take on a life of their own and he was sent sprawling to the ground in a heap. The laughter that came so close to the barking enjoyment of a dog had Harry blinking up in confusion at the sandy-haired man who had spoken.
"S...S...Sirius...?" He stammered once the actual words had sunk in. He scrambled to his feet and dived into the waiting arms of the man whose only response was to cling to him as tightly as he held back. "Polyjuice?"
"Glamour." Sirius explained. He pulled Harry away so he could get a good look at the son of his best friend. "Though for future reference always double check someone's identity if you haven't seen them in a while. It's a trick we picked up in the war."
"You called me the Son of Prongs." Harry pointed out with a bright smile. "I only found out you four were the Marauder's when Professor Lupin told us. Only the people in the shack would know I knew about those names, you wouldn't have been Pettigrew and the Professor has no reason to hide his face."
Sirius blinked down at his godson. "Did you truly work all that out or is this all hindsight?"
"I worked it out." Harry frowned first at the question then at the actual situation. "Wait, Sirius what are you doing here? You said you were going on the run. What if someone can tell its you? You shouldn't be here!"
"Don't worry about that." Sirius threw his arm over Harry's shoulder and chuckled at the frantic way Harry was looking around as though Ministry authorities were about to Apparate in. The Marauder led them to the trees at the far end of the park. "I've got it all sorted out and I'm proud of you for doing all that thinking so quickly. It'll make what's going to come easier and more difficult."
"The first time you saw me in my Padfoot form was when you got the Knight Bus, remember?" Harry nodded and wondered why he was okay with touching Sirius when he fought against physical contact the rest of the time. "Well it wasn't the first time I had seen you after my breakout. I'd been keeping a watch trying to learn what I could about my godson and found a good spot to rest at night. Welcome to my Wizard's Tent!"
They had slipped through the trees into a small clearing where a large green tent sat waiting. Sirius withdrew his arm and vanished through the flap leaving Harry to stand unsure about what was going on. He feared losing Sirius after they had only now found each other and wanted his godfather as far away from danger as possible. Yet a much louder part of him wanted to latch onto the moment with everything he possessed and hold on for dear life.
The fear of loss warred with the desire for a family and in truth there was never a doubt about the victor. He screwed up his Gryffindor courage and stepped into the tent only to stop dead at the sight that greeted him.
Harry had the urge to keep running in and out of the tent to test whether it really was bigger on the inside than the outside. The flap opened into a cosy living room with a rug covered floor, multiple comfortable looking seats and a table which had a bag sitting on it. Behind the now glamour-free and smiling Sirius Harry could see doors that meant there was even more to the magical place.
Sirius let loose another of his barking laughs that reminded Harry so much of the older man's Animagus form. His godfather looked clean, his teeth were a healthy white, but the physical baggage of Azkaban was there in the way the man moved.
"Come and take a seat." Sirius told him, waving at one of the chairs while he sunk into another.
The action seemed so natural that Harry was briefly shown a glimpse of what it would have been like to visit Sirius if his parents had survived. Harry quickly buried the pain, having learned that such things were never good to dwell on. Instead, he took the offered chair and allowed the multitude of questions to run rampant through his mind. Sirius was still on the run after all. The look in those old grey eyes made Harry want to squirm from their intensity. He felt his soul being weighed in the heavy gaze.
"First things first." Sirius declared with a playful smirk. He reached into the bag and pulled out a small object wrapped in a soft cloth and Harry took it with the same sense of reverence it was offered. "That right there, Pup, is one of the crowning glories of being a Marauder. It's a two-way mirror and I've got the one it's connected to. If you want or need to talk to me at any time then say Padfoot into it and I'll be there. James and I used them all the time when we were stuck in separate detentions."
Harry carefully unwrapped the mirror and thought of another magical Mirror as his fingers slid along the detailed edges. It was a bridge between Harry's past and present, a connection to the childhood of his father that allowed him to keep Sirius in his life no matter what events came. The tears began to form and, though he instinctively pushed them away, he was aware that it was the first time he had the chance to shed happy tears.
"Harry..." Sirius brought his attention back to the present. He looked up to see a haunted look in those grey eyes that he couldn't translate. "I need to know everything you've learnt about the Wizarding World."
That caught Harry by surprised. Out of all the topics Sirius could have started their bonding with this would not have been his guess as to the one that had been picked. It took Harry barely any time to go through everything he had come to know over the past three years, especially after admitting the lack of learning in his History of Magic class.
"Damn that man!" Sirius snarled in true anger, spinning up out of the chair to pace back and forth behind it. Harry instinctively flinched at the harshness in the voice but the Animagus was too caught up in his thinking to notice. "What about the Families? Do you know anything about them or the Wizarding Council?"
"Families like the Malfoys and Weasleys?" Harry asked, thinking about the pure-blood bigotry that seemed important to wizards.
"Morgana curse you, Dumbledore." Sirius shouted at the ceiling, his magic flaring out in a suffocating rage that had Harry cringing back against the horrible feeling pressing on his skin. This time Sirius did notice and made a focused effort to pull back his emotions. The child of Black quickly stepped in front of his godson and dropped to his haunches, pulling Harry into a tight hug. "It's okay, Harry, I'm not angry at you at all. I'm angry for you, Pup."
Harry was mortified at his show of weakness. He knew how to cover up the flinching at Hogwarts, never showing the little boy who had made being skittish an art form in surviving angry adults. Being back at the Dursleys seemed to immediately strip Harry bare of his protective shell. He straightened up in Sirius' arms and gave a weak smile, putting on a mask in the hope they could quickly change subjects. Sirius sighed sadly and climbed to his feet to resettle in his own chair.
"Kreacher." Sirius called out and almost instantly an extremely old looking house-elf appeared. It looked as run down and pitiful as Sirius had in the Shrieking Shack and Harry couldn't help compare it to Dobby. "Butterbeer and firewhiskey. This is going to take a while."
"Filthy master calls Kreacher, yes he does." The old elf complained much to Harry's shock and a little amusement. "Master comes back home where he broke Mistress's heart and now sitting down with little half-blood. Oh, Kreacher knows of Harry Potter, Kreacher does. The boy who stopped the Dark Lord but Kreacher not know how. Kreacher wonders how and why ungrateful master is sitting with the half-blood."
Harry didn't know whether to be impressed by the creature's rant or worried in a house-elf believing in blood purity.
"NOW, Kreacher!" Sirius snarled.
The elf nodded and snapped his gnarled fingers to make two unopened bottles appear on the table in front of Harry and a bottle of Ogden's Finest with a glass for Sirius. The strange elf popped away and the Marauder shook his head sadly and explained.
"He was my mother's elf. Fanatically devoted to her and the way she saw things. Since I grew up nothing like her he enjoyed making my life hell. Even as Head of House he still does it."
"Head of House?"
"Yeah... and we're back to why I asked you about Families." Sirius ran his hand over his face in exasperation, the anger back in voice even if it was muted. He poured a glass of firewhiskey, threw it back in one gulp, and topped the glass up again. "But I think you need to hear my story first, okay kiddo?"
"Sure, Sirius - "
"Padfoot. Call me Padfoot, pup. I'd like that."
"Okay, Padfoot." Harry remembered the name from the Marauder's Map although the way Sirius asked made it seem that it held more meaning than a simple nickname. The smile he got in return was worth the fear he had felt earlier. It was a smile of pride from an adult.
"As you know, I'm a Black. I am Sirius Orion Black, son of Orion Black and Walburga Black née Black, Scion of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black." Sirius smiled ruefully at the pompous wording that he had always fought against. "Yes, my mother was a Black before she married my father and I'll explain all about everything else I just said soon.
"The Families can trace their linages deep into Wizard history and were the ones who came together with Merlin to form the wizard Council. Today it's called the Wizengamot. There's a lot of history involved that we'll cover another time but right now the important part is that a lot of the Families have a motto that travels down through the generations. For the Blacks it's Toujours Pur – Always Pure – but my parents, especially my dear mother, took it to mean purity of blood and joyfully fell in with Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters. When I was growing up my parents pushed the idea of a Pure-blood being better than everyone, Muggles and Muggle-borns especially."
Sirius saw the distaste on Harry's face and laughed.
"Do you know what the official, legal, definition of a Pure-blood is, Harry?" Harry shook his head in negative. "The bigots won't tell anyone this, and it's hidden deep inside the laws so it can't be easily found now, but it's when your family up to your grandparents are all Pure-blood wizards. That's it. Three generations of Wizards marrying Witches without any Muggle relations and you've got a new Pure-blood family line. It won't be one of the Families, but they'll be officially classed as Pure-blood by the Ministry and society.
"The problem with society is that blood prejudice has become so deeply rooted that it's all forgotten. One way or another." Sirius' sneer as he took a sip showed his feelings towards those who didn't remember. Harry was captivated by the passion in his godfather's voice that he hadn't yet touched his own drink. "One night Lily gave us all a lecture about the blood issues in the Muggle world and how things were changing to be more welcoming to those who were different. She wanted us to see that even if we lost to Voldemort that someone, eventually, would come along and defeat him. It gave us the inspiration that we were doing the right thing."
"She sounds like Hermione…" Harry murmured, green eyes bright with hunger at hearing something of his parents.
"In a way she was." Sirius agreed. "And in a bigger way she wasn't. Lily was not only incredibly smart but she was also full of life and love. She had a lot of friends in school and, while there wasn't a problem she wasn't able to find the answer to in some book, she would often find a better one inside her head. From what I saw, Hermione hordes knowledge like a dragon with gold and sees it as the be all, end all. Your mum never did that, Harry. She saw knowledge and information as the means to a end, a support structure for free thinking."
Harry thought it over and had to agree with the way Sirius was subtly pointing out Hermione's flaws. His best friend loved her books, perhaps too much, and you definitely didn't want to be the one arguing that something written down was wrong. And Hermione's other issue...
"What about authority? What was mum like with them?" He asked, remembering their fight over the Firebolt.
"Let me guess, Hermione's first thought is to run to a teacher and yours is to handle it yourself?" Sirius cocked his head to the side and thought for a moment, then smiled at a memory when Harry nodded. "Your mum would go to a teacher if she had to, Pup. She'd tell them what she needed to in order to get things done. Despite the help Dumbledore gave Remus with his condition, she was never the headmaster's biggest fan and she also knew how to handle things herself too. By the end of Seventh Year she was our fifth Marauder."
"Anyway." Sirius shook himself down to focus his mind. "My family was obsessed with blood purity and me being the oldest son it was my responsibility to follow in their beliefs. I didn't, Harry. I fought against the bigotry and insanity with everything I was..."
Harry listened, growing ever more horrified at what his godfather had been put through. He was told of the years Sirius spent protecting his younger brother Regulus from their mother's ire, the many punishments that he took when he argued back or when little Reggie questioned why rather than accepted what had been preached. Harry listened and felt himself in Sirius place, had been in Sirius' place. Or rather Harry was coming to the understanding that Sirius had been in his place growing up.
Then the story moved onto the Hogwarts years, the loss at the connection between the brothers made worse by their separation in Gryffindor and Slytherin and finally the big fight that had forced Sirius to leave home and move in with James and the elder Potters. That Sirius' own mother had ended up using the Cruciatus curse on him before trying to beat him beyond death's door was as shocking as the Marauder's iron will in Apparating to the Potter's property and walking up the long path to the front door.
Harry understood what his godfather was doing and still couldn't stop the memories of his own childhood from rearing up. As Sirius finished his tale Harry began his own, tears cried by both men at the harshness of their lives and the tattered remains of what could only laughably be called a childhood they shared. Harry ended his story curled in Sirius' arms, the older man rocking him back and forth as invisible wounds finally had the chance to heal for the very first time.
"Harry." Sirius softly said. "I heard a lot of rumours about your first two years. I need you to tell me what really happened."
Harry pulled back, smiling weakly to show he would be okay, and did as asked. He was too raw to really hide anything now. Truth be told, the Hogwarts years were far easier to talk about even with the him being an outcast in second year than what he had just shared. Sirius took everything in the same way he had when Harry spoke about his life with the Dursleys. Not even Harry being a parselmouth fazed his godfather. When Harry finished explaining the time travel rescue Sirius could only sigh at what his godson had been through.
He pulled out a wand and cast a Tempus spell, the result shocking them both when it was revealed that it was almost eleven at night. They had been talking for hours and both were emotionally drained.
"Right," Sirius nodded to himself and his eyes hardened with determination. "A few more things before you go. First, why in Merlin's name did you pick Care and Divination?"
"Padfoot?" Harry blinked in confusion at the intensity of the question.
"We both know the reason, Harry. What I want is for you to say it, accept it, and then tell me if that's what you want for your life from now on."
A part of Harry, a big part that he had been listening to for years, tried to pretend to be confused and answer that of course Care of Magical Creatures and Divination were what he wanted to do. He didn't know whether it was the cleansing talk or the exhaustion that came from it but he made the decision to ignore the voice and do what Padfoot had asked.
"I took the easy answer when we had to fill out the option," he answered truthfully. "I remember thinking that if I failed then at least I'd have a Ron with me."
"And?" Sirius prompted.
"And..." Harry took a deep breath and saw a chance to do something different that merely survive. He had been forced to come face-to-face with how much the Dursleys influenced his life as a wizard and Harry found he didn't like the person he had allowed himself to become. "And I regret it. I want to be true to myself for once and not let the way I survived primary school to hold me back. I always loved maths so Arithmancy sounds like it would be perfect for me, especially from how much Hermione raves about it. And whenever I've seen her notes on Ancient Runes my fingers have been itching to pick them up to know what's going on."
"Good!" Sirius exclaimed happily, clapping eagerly. "Lily was a Charms Mistress and a potions genius but she could take apart and put together a spell or rune system better than anyone I've ever known. Runes is in the Potter blood too even though James' first love was Transfiguration. I'll get you some books on the two and if you study hard enough you could take an exam when you go back to Hogwarts to show you're ready for Fourth Year material. But this is only if it's what you really want, Pup. I refuse to make you into someone you're not."
Harry beamed at Sirius and was filled with enthusiasm. It was possibly his first real choice that he had made to his own benefit and the fact he had a parental figure so obviously proud of him for following his own mind was something new and intoxicating.
"Now, last things for tonight." Sirius went back into the bag and pulled out a small wooden box and what looked like a pocket watch. He opened the first and showed Harry that it was full with different coloured potions. "I saw how small you were and guessed your Dursley life wasn't as good as it should have been. Once the box is locked only the Map's password can open it. It's got an unbreakable charm on the off chance those animals try destroying it. There are two different potions here and don't worry, you aren't the only one that's on them."
Harry frowned at the last part and Sirius sighed, the pain of his Azkaban years coming to the fore.
"See, people aren't always in Azkaban for life. When a prisoner comes out they're given a schedule of potions that gives them back a healthy body. You're still older than you went in and the mental scars don't go away with a quick shot of magic but physically you're able to be in society again without scaring everyone away."
"But you should be taking these!" Harry cried out.
"I am." Sirius promised. "I got these from the goblins. Mine will have me physically healthy in a month, that's the usual time-frame for something like this, but with you I asked that the potions spread the changes out so they'll finish their work at the end of the summer. You still only have to take the same number of potions as me and this way it looks to everyone else like a growth-spurt rather than anything magical. The red ones have to be taken once a day for the month and they'll repair bones, muscles, maybe even your eyesight if your eyes are doable."
"My eyes?" Harry was in awe. Why hadn't he wondered if magic could fix his sight? That's right, he thought. Because I had my head buried in the sand.
"Yep." Sirius grinned back. "James had a genetic thing so he couldn't get his fixed until his mid-twenties. If yours is the same problem then you won't notice any changes or it might not be and you could be without the glasses by the time you return to school. I'll put a spell on your glasses so that they automatically update your prescription. It's a spell I had to learn for James in case he lost his and we had to transfigure an emergency set."
Harry thought about the idea of having better vision. Even if his eyes didn't get any better, Sirius' spell would still allow him to see better then he could right then. From the horrors of earlier he was feeling the high of being loved and cared for. He forced himself to listen as Sirius continued.
"The blue potion will help you put on muscle. You have to work out and run so your body knows what to do with the muscle. Once you stop working out you stop growing muscles even if you keep taking the potion. If you run in the mornings and join me in the exercise room that this tent has then we can give you the body you should have had all these years."
Harry took the box with reverence, the thrill of having a body that wasn't the result of the Dursleys 'love and care' caused his heart to beat wildly in his chest and he almost missed what Sirius said next.
"And this is an old family heirloom." Sirius showed him the gold pocket watch with what he assumed was the Black coat of arms on the cover. Two greyhounds rampant charged with a chevron, two five-pointed stars in the shield with a short sword blade upwards.
Sirius pushed a button and it sprung open to reveal what Harry could only describe as a work of moving art with the golden arms and intricately designed hour marks. Harry was sure it would be the most expensive thing he'd ever possessed. Another button was pushed and the watch face snapped out and hung down from the casing to reveal a small, familiar looking hourglass underneath.
"That looks like... that's a..." Harry stammered.
"That's right, kiddo." Sirius grinned like the schoolboy of years past. "The Black family time-turner, possessed by the Head of House and given to the heir Black when in need, last seen in the possession of my grandfather Arcturus Black. It's blood-tied to the Black line and I want you to have it. Arcturus' cousin was James' mother Dorea Potter née Black. Trust me, you have enough Black blood to qualify for its ownership."
Harry tried everything he could to refuse the gift until Sirius had him examine why he didn't want it. After admitting he felt he didn't deserve such a special object, Sirius was having none of it.
"Listen, Harry." The Marauder demanded. "This tent is under strong notice-me-not and anti-muggle charms. I'm planning on being here the entire summer teaching you everything you should have been told about the Wizarding World, your family and where you come from. You're being left ignorant from too many things that are important and everyone who should notice that you are lacking this knowledge are failing you by not giving it. I want you to use the watch so you can spend your days here and at the house doing your homework or any other study I think you need to. I'll have Pepper-up potions ready for you to use so you can handle the extra work so you won't burn yourself out. That is if you want to do this?"
Sirius' speech petered out into a shy question laced with fear and Harry realised that the plan was also a way of giving the two their chance to connect. Harry answered the only way he could, by tackling his godfather in a huge hug and taking the watch. They said their goodnights, Sirius giving Harry a strange set of instructions and then Harry left to get to Number Four. He spun back the number of hours he had been told and went to his room, mirror-calling Sirius to say that he was safe and that the Animagus could now leave the tent to pick up the younger Harry. With that piece of confusing closed-loop time-travel over with, Harry sat down to work on his summer homework with a sense of purpose his teachers would never believe.