Harry stared out the open window, watching, waiting, hoping. More than anything, he wanted to see Hedwig soaring toward him with another message from Sirius. Ever since his godfather's last note, Harry had been waiting patiently for his next letter. But so far, nothing…
He watched quietly for a few more minutes, transfixed by the magnificent landscape that Hogwarts had to offer. From his viewpoint he could see rolling green hills that led up to the vegetation-ridden forest and the crystal blue lake, shimmering with morning rays of sunlight. In the distance, he could see a group of students hurdling down the path toward the wizarding village.
It was a Hogsmeade weekend, and therefore, almost every student above third year had exited the castle early this morning, eager to explore. Harry had been forbidden to go because he hadn't bothered trying to get his aunt or uncle to sign his permission form; they would have never considered it. If something brought Harry joy, it was an automatic no.
Ron and Hermione had offered to stay behind, but Harry had insisted that they go on without him. He could find no reason that they had to miss out on something fun because of him, and after several days of spending nearly every spare moment with his friends, he was craving some alone time. Harry insisted that he still had a lot of work to catch up on, and they'd agreed to go to the village for a few hours. Once they'd left, he'd allowed his happy mask to slip into a more withdrawn expression. He was feeling much better than he had during the last several weeks, but he still wasn't the Harry that they knew from the past two years; he had changed.
His eyes flickered over the last line of Sirius's message again, "Have faith and hold on a little longer." I can do that, he thought. I can have faith.
Stowing the worn letter back into his pocket, Harry lifted himself from his position at the window and stared around his empty dormitory. There was no reason for him to waste any more time here. If Sirius wrote him another message, Hedwig would find him. He just needed to find something to fill his time with today. As the castle was mostly barren, Harry was overcome with the possibilities.
Lately, his days had been crammed with scheduled activities, but as it was Saturday, Harry was free to do whatever he liked. No classes were in session during the weekends, and he was only required to meet with Snape on weekdays.
Harry was relieved that he didn't have to see Snape again tonight, but he had to admit that his meetings with Professor Snape were certainly helpful. Though they hadn't talked much after his first session, for the past three nights, Harry had worked diligently for several hours in the potion's classroom. Whenever he had a question or didn't understand something, he'd call Snape over. The man would calmly lead him through solving whatever problem he was having, providing helpful examples and tips. Thanks to Snape, he had been able to get through all of his Transfiguration work, most of the way through Charms, and had even gotten some help studying for his upcoming Potion's quiz. With the end of the Fall term drawing nearer, it was beneficial to be catching back up on his studies.
He occasionally felt Snape's patience with him slipping. HIs eyebrows would narrow, and his mouth would morph into a scowl, but then the man would suck in a breath and the cool, calm expression would return. It was obvious that he was doing everything he could to keep his temper under control. Harry appreciated the professor's effort, but he was still keeping his distance from the man.
Aside from academics, Harry had kept all his conversations with Snape short and mundane. Snape's comments about Black had only discouraged Harry, who wanted more than anything to find proof that Sirius wasn't dangerous.
Though Hermione had been doing her best to find information for him, she hadn't uncovered anything of use. Harry had seen her yesterday evening, studying the article that described the man's incarceration. She seemed to believe that Sirius had to have murdered those muggles. According to her, "all the evidence points to him. There were multiple witnesses, Harry!" But Harry refused to give up hope; hope was the only thing keeping him going.
Though he hadn't received any word from Sirius since his last letter, he was just relieved that the man was safe. Over the course of the last few days, Harry had firmly decided that Sirius was telling him the truth. And if Sirius loved him as much as he had claimed to, then he was sure the man would find a way to get to him soon. Harry wanted to search the grounds late at night, looking for the bulky, black canine, but that wasn't an option, and he doubted that Sirius would be wondering outside anyway.
As part of the new safety precautions, the entrance to the Gryffindor common room was now locked from the inside and outside after curfew. Only important members of the staff, like Dumbledore or McGonagill would be able to enter through the portrait hole until morning. Unfortunately for Harry, this meant that he was always confined in Gryffindor tower at night, with no way to escape.
Thankfully, his nightmares had been much less severe during the last few nights. Even when he woke up sweating and terrified, feeling the weight of an invisible man lying limply on top of him, the thought of Sirius taking him away was enough to lull him back to sleep. For this reason, he had much more energy than he'd had during the past few months. The bags under his eyes were less noticeable, and his body felt somewhat rejuvenated.
In addition to his improved sleeping habits, he found it much easier to eat. On Madame Pomfrey's orders, he'd been eating as he should and taking his nutrient potions, and it was obvious he was making progress. He had gained nearly a whole stone. Lately though, he wasn't just eating to appease the mediwitch; he actually felt like eating. The painful knot that had been twisting within his stomach had disappeared, leaving him able to enjoy food again.
Harry felt as though he was making an enormous amount of progress in a miniscule amount of time, and he knew it was all due to Sirius. Knowing that he had a reason to live, was enough for Harry to put in effort. He knew it was silly, but he wanted to make the man proud. Sirius had been watching him for months, seeing him slowly deteriorate into a zombie, but he didn't want the man to see him that way anymore. He wanted to make a good impression.
Just because he was willing to put in the effort to act proper, didn't mean he was magically healed. Harry knew that he had many unresolved issues, but he hoped that, with Sirius's help, he might overcome them.
That is, if Sirius was who he said he was. It could have all been a big lie. Sirius could be fooling him. Harry's stomach twisted uncomfortably at the thought.
No… No. Harry couldn't afford to think like that. Sirius loved him, and he was going to save him. That was the truth, and he refused to think otherwise.
Each time Harry had a negative thought, he forced himself to think this way. Sirius would come. Sirius would save him. Sirius would love him. It had to be true.
Harry crept down to the common room, feeling relieved when he noticed it was mostly empty. Percy Weasley had been driving him crazy. The older boy always insisted on escorting him around the castle now, and it was nearly impossible to sneak out without him. He turned his head left and right, making sure that the head boy was not in the room, but there were only a few first years playing a game of wizard's chess. Harry exited the portrait hole and slipped his invisibility cloak overtop of himself.
He thought back to last night's meeting with the Potions Professor, and a slight smile appeared on his face. He knew what he could do.
During the previous night, just as Harry had gotten up to leave Snape's classroom, the man had reached out to him.
"Harry," he'd called. "If you wish to learn more about your father, from a more positive perspective, you might ask Lupin."
"Professor Lupin knew my Dad?"
"Indeed. If I remember correctly, they were fairly close friends," The professor had replied casually.
"Thank you, sir." He had said, offering Snape a grateful smile as he'd exited the room.
Just the thought of finding out more about his father put Harry in an uncharacteristically good mood. So good in fact, that Harry found himself striding down the corridor beneath his invisibility cloak with a bright smile plastered across his face.
He was going to learn more about his father, and he wasn't expecting to get the same information he often received from Snape: that his father had been a good-for-nothing, bullying, pompous arse. No, Lupin would tell him the truth about his dad. And maybe Lupin would have something to say about Sirius too.
He entered the Defense classroom, feeling apprehensive as Lupin looked up from his desk. The man's lined face looked curious as he noticed Harry standing in the doorway.
"Ah… Harry. What can I do for you?"
"Um… I was just wondering if… Well, Professor Snape told me that you knew my dad, and he said you could... Well, I thought you might tell me a bit about him," Harry sputtered nervously, though his grin never faltered.
"Of course, I knew James," Lupin said, smiling warmly. "He was one of my closest friends." He paused for a moment, furrowing his brow. "And you say Professor Snape referred you to me?"
"Yeah. He doesn't have many good things to say about my Dad, but he thought you might. Guess he realized I was tired of him grumbling about him all the time."
An odd expression settled over the man's face, and his light brown eyes lit with curiosity.
"Hmm, so you spend a lot of time with Professor Snape then?" He asked nonchalantly, shuffling some papers around on his desk.
Harry shrugged. "Lately, I guess. He's been helping me in some of my classes."
"That's quite nice of him," Lupin said, his smile growing larger.
The man seemed genuinely happy to hear that Harry and Snape were getting along, although Harry didn't understand why. It was as if Lupin knew something that Harry did not.
"Well, I have many stories about your father that I could share, although you'll have to promise not to attempt any of the stunts we pulled during school," he chuckled.
"Like what? Pranks?" Harry asked excitedly.
"Oh yes," said Lupin, his voice full of mirth. "Your father was known to be a trouble maker. He was a good kid, but he seemed to get into a fair amount of mischief. Often dragged the rest of us into it as well. I can remember quite clearly one of our adventures during our first year which included sneaking into the kitchens every morning and slipping some color changing potions into the pitchers of pumpkin juice before breakfast. The whole school had maroon hair for weeks before anyone found out it was us. But it made our house cup victory much more festive," he told Harry.
"You guys did things like that all the time?" Harry asked in wonder.
"James was always coming up with crazy schemes like that," Lupin told him. "It drove your mother crazy."
"You knew my mother too?" Harry asked.
"She was in our year at Hogwarts and in Gryffindor as well, but I didn't talk to her much until fifth year. We were both prefects that year."
"A prefect," Harry said dazedly, trying to picture his mother. The image he conjured within his mind was reminiscent of a red-haired Hermione.
"No one has ever told you this before?" the man asked, appearing bewildered.
"No," Harry replied, gloomily. "No one talks about them much. All I hear is that I look like my father but with my mother's eyes. Other than that, I don't know anything about them."
"Well I understand why Professor Snape wouldn't have told you much about James due to their rivalry, but I'm surprised he hasn't told you more about Lily."
"Why would he tell me about her?" Harry asked.
"He and Lily were close… Well, at least for their first few years at Hogwarts," he said as if recalling something unpleasant
"Oh..." Harry wasn't sure what to say. He wished that Snape would have told him that, and Harry was disappointed that he hadn't.
Professor Lupin decided to change the subject, apparently noticing Harry's dejected expression. He went off into more stories. The latest one had occurred during their fifth year. Apparently, James had participated in a prank war with another Gryffindor student that had lasted for months and got increasingly creative.
"By the end of it, James had given the other student a love potion and gotten him to fall in love with Professor McGonagill. The boy sang her a romantic ballad in front of everyone in the Great Hall. She was not pleased and ended up avoiding that student at all costs. So, James started placing portkeys around our dormitory to transport the other student into McGonagill's classroom, her office, and even into her private quarters once. Seeing Sir-" Lupin fumbled over a name that Harry suspected was Sirius's, and then continued. "The student confess his undying love for Professor McGonagill, who was dressed in a bathrobe, as she dragged him by the ear down the hallway was one of the funniest things I've seen to this day."
Harry laughed with the defense professor, imagining the stern Professor McGonagill, red-faced as she attempted to drag a lovestruck student to the headmaster's office. It must have been a sight to see.
Harry was enjoying learning more about his father, but he really wanted to ask Professor Lupin about Sirius; he just wasn't sure how the man would react. It was clear that Lupin must have been friends with Sirius as well as his father because this "other student" was mentioned quite often in his stories.
Deciding that he didn't have much time left to visit with the man, Harry gathered his courage and spoke.
"You must have been friends with Sirius Black too."
His words were followed by mind-numbing silence. Professor Lupin looked dumbstruck. His face suddenly looked much older than his thirty-three years. Something in his eyes seemed weary and broken.
"I thought I was," he said slowly in a voice barely louder than a whisper.
"So, you believe he did it then?" Harry asked, averting his eyes from the man.
"I would have never thought it was possible. The boy that I knew never seemed capable…" His voice drifted off for a moment, but then he continued in a voice devoid of all emotion. "But the proof was there. There was no denying it."
This was what Harry had been dreading. Lupin believed Sirius was a murderer as well. How could he make the man see that Sirius was innocent? If Lupin could have seen the skeletal man with eyes full of anguish begging Harry not to kill himself, then he'd have to believe him. Unfortunately, Harry could never tell him that.
The boy was getting increasingly agitated by his inability to prove his godfather's innocence without exposing his own secrets. He decided to try and reason with Lupin. Maybe he could get the man to question everything that he thought he knew.
"But what if they were wrong? What if he didn't do it?"
"Harry, that's not possible." Lupin said firmly. "What would make you think that he's innocent? It was only days ago that the man broke into the castle and nearly killed you!"
"He didn't though. He could have killed me. He had so many opportunities, but he didn't hurt me," Harry whispered. "And he's my godfather."
"Harry, it's true that Sirius was named your godfather, but you need to stop lying to yourself," Lupin warned, his eyes wide and stern. "Sirius Black is dangerous. If he ever receives another opportunity, he will kill you."
"No!" Harry said, shouting now. "He wouldn't do that! He's innocent!"
"You're just confused…" Lupin whispered. "I know you've been having a difficult year, Harry… But you're not well. Whatever you've imagined Sirius Black to be is not true…. I think you need help." He said gently, reaching an arm out to rest on Harry's shoulder.
The boy pulled away from him with one swift motion, jerking backward and slamming against a desk.
The anger was burning inside of him, and he wanted to scream. How could he make them understand? Sirius was good. Sirius didn't lie to him. Sirius loved him.
Lupin thought he was delusional. He thought that Harry needed to be sent away.
Harry's fury was like white-hot flames, searing through his veins. The rage was so powerful, it threatened to burst from within him. Harry clenched his fists and let out a sound that was half a sob and half a growl.
"I'm not crazy!"
Harry stormed out of the man's office before Lupin had the opportunity to say another word.
Severus had thought that by assisting the boy in finding out more about his father, he would gain Harry's trust. For the past few days, the boy had been relatively stoic and only replied to him in short, choppy sentences. "Hello." "Yes." "No." "Thanks." "Goodnight." It was infuriating. Even with the Draughts of Peace that he'd been taking prior to the meetings, he could barely keep his temper under control. But he knew that he needed to get Harry to open up to him, so he had to remedy the situation. Severus could only come to one conclusion about what had caused it: Harry had been upset by his remarks about James Potter.
Severus was under the impression that Lupin would sit Harry down, tell him a few stories about James, and then, Harry would show up for his next meeting with the Potions Master, feeling grateful for his help and more willing to open up. As it was Harry though, nothing could ever go as planned.
Lupin showed up looking flustered on Saturday afternoon. He strode into Severus's office to retrieve his Wolfsbane Potion with his face pale as if he'd just witnessed something traumatizing.
Severus did not appreciate the wolf barging into his room like this, and he was just getting ready to direct a scathing remark at him, when Lupin said the one word that made Severus forget everything else.
"Harry…" Lupin began, looking lost for words. "I think he… I think-"
"Spit it out!" Severus interrupted sharply. "What's wrong with Harry?"
Was the boy okay? Was he hurt? He was ready to shake Lupin for not speaking fast enough.
"I think he might need mental help," the man said slowly.
"He's very confused," explained Lupin. "He thinks that Sirius Black is innocent. He started asking questions about him, and he got extremely upset when I told him that Sirius was dangerous."
"What would make him think that Black is innocent. The man held a gun to his head days ago," scoffed Severus.
"That's what I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen. He knew that Sirius was his godfather, and he kept insisting that Sirius wouldn't harm him… His behavior was a bit disturbing. You don't think that Sirius was able to put a Confundus on him, do you?"
"I suppose that is possible, but what would Black have to gain from doing that? If he had time to modify Harry's memory, then he certainly had time to kill him," Severus replied, feeling puzzled.
He had been trying to discover what the child had been concealing for a week and had gotten nowhere. Was this what Harry had been hiding? He wondered if Black had somehow tricked the boy into thinking he was innocent and then gotten Harry to trust him?
Harry was an overly trusting child. It hadn't taken much from Severus to get the boy to cooperate with him. Severus would admit that his behavior toward Harry had been despicable. For two years, Harry had hated him, and now, after only a few brief conversations, they were on amicable terms. Perhaps it had taken Black even less to gain his trust.
Along with his naturally trusting nature, the boy's mind was in a delicate state. He was struggling with an eating disorder, depression, and Merlin-knows what else. Severus doubted that it would be hard to manipulate the child.
"Should we consult the headmaster?" Lupin asked, looking extremely concerned.
"I'll discuss it with him later," Severus told him coolly. "First, I want to talk to Mr. Potter."
"He told me that you'd been helping him," Lupin said slowly. "I'm glad to see that he has someone…" The man trailed off for a moment, making his way toward the door, and then said more quietly, "Lily would be glad to know it was you."
Severus nodded tersely, a bit taken aback by Lupin's words.
Lupin was wrong. Lily would be ashamed to see how Severus had treated her son. He had never treated the boy the way that he deserved, and even now, he was doing an abysmal job of caring for him. But he was trying.
Severus started the journey up to Gryffindor tower, intent on finding Harry, but then realized that it was lunchtime and headed for the Great Hall instead. The hall was relatively empty with most of the upper years gone to Hogsmeade, and he was able to immediately distinguish Harry, sitting alone at the end of his house table. The small Gryffindor was hunched over on the bench and tearing angrily at a sandwich. His messy black hair somehow looked even more disheveled than usual, as if the boy had been absentmindedly running his hands through it.
Severus approached the table at a brisk pace as if he expected the child to get up and run out of the hall when he spotted him. The Potions Master hovered over the boy for a moment before clearing his throat. Harry turned, looking startled.
"Come with me," Severus drawled.
"Why?" Harry asked apprehensively, his emerald eyes widening. "Where are you taking me?"
"Just outside, where it's private. I wanted to ask you a few questions."
"About what?" The boy said, but the forced casualty in his voice was laughable.
"Come on Harry. I just need to speak with you for a moment," Severus said sighing. Why must the boy be so easily upset. It was as if he expected Severus to attack him. How could the brat trust Black but not him?
Harry rose from his seat slowly and followed the Potions Master into the corridor.
Severus used the Muffliato charm to ensure they would not be overheard and then began. "Lupin has just informed me that you believe Sirius Black to be innocent."
"So, you're here to tell me that I'm insane too," Harry muttered irritably.
"No," Severus said, attempting to force his face to look somewhat comforting. "I'm here to find out why you feel this way, and to make sure you do not place your trust in the wrong person."
"I'm more than capable of deciding who to trust," Harry told him.
"I'm not questioning your decisions. I'm just curious to hear your reasoning," Severus stated, observing the child's body language.
Harry was turned away from him, looking toward the door to the Great Hall, as if he wished more than anything to be inside. His arms were folded across his chest defiantly, and his face was scrunched in annoyance. If the boy had been more mature looking, this look may have been effective. But as small as Harry was, he just appeared to be a petulant child.
"My reasons are my own," Harry declared.
"How do you expect me to agree with you if you provide no evidence," Severus prompted, smirking slightly.
"I can't tell you," Harry said, looking forlorn.
"I think you should know that if you don't reveal your reasoning I will be forced to go to the headmaster."
"Go ahead. Everyone thinks I'm mad anyways."
Severus was losing his patience. "You've done a pretty good job of proving them right," he snapped.
"No one ever believes me," Harry snarled. "Sirius could have hurt me. He's had multiple opportunities, yet I'm still alive. Explain that."
"What other opportunities?"
The boy seemed to realize that he'd said something he shouldn't have, and the anger faded from his face and was replaced with apprehension.
"I just meant that I was with him in the tower for quite a while. If he wanted me dead, I'd have been dead."
"Very well, but it would be wise for you to remember that the man nearly shot you. Even though you managed to escape that time, you may not always be so fortunate. Do you really expect that so many people would believe Black to be guilty if he was not?"
At these words, the boy glared coldly at Severus.
"There have been many times where people have believed me to be something that I'm not based on evidence that they did not fully understand. Think about that, Professor."
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