The following week was full of surprises for Harry.
First thing on Monday morning, he reported to the Hospital wing for his weekly visit with Madame Pomfrey.
"Ah, Mr. Potter. You're right on time," the mediwitch greeted as he sat down on one of the thin cots. She rifled distractedly through a stack of folders before pulling out one that said Potter, Harry J. "So, how are you feeling?"
"I'm okay," Harry replied tiredly. He yawned quietly and then rubbed at his eyes. He had stayed up late with Ron, chatting about the prank on Malfoy.
"Any pain, aches, new symptoms?" Madame Pomfrey questioned, raising a grey eyebrow.
"Alright, well, let me check your weight then. Stand up," she commanded.
Harry got to his feet and watched as the mediwitch performed her usual set of spells. Each time he came to one of these checkups, the mediwitch would check his height, weight, nutrient levels, and oxygen levels. But unlike during his other visits, in which she would tell him that he was doing better but still had a fair way to go, she turned to him and smiled.
"Well, Mr. Potter, Congratulations."
"For what?" Harry said, furrowing his brow.
"All your levels are normal, and you've just crossed the line into a healthy weight," she responded, beaming brightly. "I think this will be your last mandatory checkup."
"So, I don't have to take those retched potions anymore?" Harry asked anxiously, wrinkling his nose.
Madame Pomfrey snorted. "No, I suppose not," she chuckled. "Be sure not to tell Professor Snape what you thought of them though. I doubt he would find it amusing."
Harry nodded, knowing exactly what Snape would say if he heard what he thought.
"Those potions were not made for your enjoyment, you ungrateful dunderhead." Snape would growl sardonically.
"So, am I free to go?" He asked, gesturing toward the door.
"Yes, you may go. Keep up the good work, Mr. Potter, and don't let me see you in here anytime soon," she threatened affectionately.
Harry left the hospital wing in good spirits. He was heading to breakfast to meet Ron and Hermione when a figure clad in long, dark robes stepped out of the shadows.
The long-nosed man looked appraisingly at Harry before speaking.
"What are you so happy about?" Snape questioned curiously.
Harry thought about giving the man the silent treatment again but eventually decided against it. He was too excited not to tell someone the good news.
"Madame Pomfrey's just told me that I don't have to come for checkups anymore," Harry told him. "Or drink your lovely potions, sir," he added smartly.
"I see," he said. "Well, this must be your lucky day. Our evening meetings will be cancelled this week as I am hosting detention for a group of fifth year Gryffindors."
"What a shame," Harry said sarcastically. He was enjoying the friendly banter with Snape. It almost made him forget how angry he'd been at the man just days ago.
"Wipe that smirk off your face, Potter," he growled, but Harry thought he saw a slight smile appear on the Potion Master's face. "Our meetings will resume as usual next week."
Harry continued on to the Great Hall, practically skipping with joy.
On Tuesday, Fred and George ambushed Harry after class and pulled him into the bathroom, shoving Ron out into the hall.
"HEY! LEMME IN!" Ron roared, banging his fists into the wooden door.
"Ignore him," Fred told Harry, rolling his eyes.
"He's always been a bit dramatic," added George.
Harry grinned, trying to block out Ron's shouts. "So, what's all this about?" He asked.
"Well, young Harry," started Fred.
"We thought that it was time that we impart some wisdom on the next generation of pranksters," said George.
"Ron told us about your revenge on Malfoy, and we have a few ideas," Fred proclaimed, his voice full of mirth.
The twins' eyes glittered with mischief, and Harry felt excitement bubbling within the pit of his stomach.
"Why can't Ron listen?" Asked Harry.
"Ronnikins cannot be trusted with such sensitive information," explained Fred.
"You must swear not to reveal the secrets that we will share with you," murmured George, narrowing his eyes.
"Swear it," Fred demanded.
Ron continued to pound on the door, and his muffled shouts pervaded the room. Harry glanced in his direction before locking eyes with the twins again.
"I swear," he said seriously.
"Here," said George, thrusting out a folded piece of parchment.
Harry took it from him and examined it carefully. He turned it over and then stared curiously at the twins.
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," the twins said in unison, grinning slyly.
Harry had never seen such a spectacular display of magic. Once the twins had explained what the map could do, he was mesmerized by how useful the device could be. It would show any person's location within the castle as well as all the secret passages. Immediately he thought of how he could use the map to assist in Sirius's escape.
Fred and George insisted that Harry could use it as a tool to prank Malfoy. They presented him with about a dozen schemes, but Harry found them to be a bit too outlandish. Any one of the pranks could lead to his expulsion from school, and even Malfoy wasn't worth that. But Harry nodded and thanked them for the gift.
Just as he'd promised, Harry didn't tell Ron about the map. He decided that the tool would be more useful if he kept it a secret from his friends, but he couldn't wait to tell Sirius about it.
Wednesday brought the Gryffindor and Slytherin quidditch match that had been rescheduled after Sirius's break in. The whole school was buzzing with excitement. Everyone was up early to attend. Well, everyone except Harry.
Ron and Hermione were donned in Gryffindor apparel. Each wore sweaters, scarves, and hats of maroon and gold. They seemed surprised to see Harry when he entered the common room in his plain, black robes.
"Aren't you coming to the match, mate?" Ron asked quizzically.
"I don't think so," Harry replied. "I didn't get much sleep last night, so I thought after breakfast I would have a lie in."
It wasn't a complete lie. Harry hadn't slept great during the previous night. He'd been pretty anxious about Sirius getting caught lately, and he was up late worrying about it again. However, he was not planning on going back to sleep. The quidditch match provided him with the perfect opportunity to sneak away and meet his godfather. He was excited to show Sirius the map, and he hoped that the tool would help Sirius develop their escape plan.
"Are you sure?" Ron asked.
"Yeah," Harry answered. "I mean it would be weird to watch Gryffindor play. I've never not been a part of the match. I'd rather just spend some time alone."
Ron nodded, but Hermione looked suspicious. Harry hoped that she wasn't catching on to his secrets. She'd kept a close eye on him, especially in the past week. Harry supposed that she was still waiting for his explanations and his silence was only making her draw her own conclusions; he just hoped she was making the wrong ones.
After breakfast, when all of the students flooded out the castle doors to the quidditch pitch, Harry crept up the staircase toward the seventh floor and threw his invisibility cloak over himself. He reached the peculiar portrait of Barnabus the Barmy and then knocked four times on the wall, just as Sirius had instructed him to do when visiting.
After a moment, a door appeared in the hall and then swung open slowly. Harry slipped inside and slid off his cloak. Immediately, Sirius was in front of him, scooping him into a hug.
"Harry, I'm so glad to see you!" Sirius said, swinging him around in a circle.
Harry initially tensed at the sudden contact, but then he quickly relaxed in his godfather's arms. He laughed lightly as the man placed him gently on his feet.
"How were you able to sneak away without anyone seeing?" Sirius asked.
"The Gryffindor quidditch match with Slytherin is this morning, so everyone is outside," Harry explained. "I thought it was the perfect opportunity, but if it's not a good time, I can leave though," he added.
"No. No. This is great," Sirius said. "It's boring as hell in here, and I always want to see you."
Harry smiled and rifled through his bag. His fingers brushed against a rough, wooden object and he gave Sirius a devious look. "I have a surprise for you."
Sirius's tired eyes lit up at his words. "A surprise?"
"Actually, I have three surprises," Harry said slowly. He snatched the object from his bag and held it out for Sirius. "This is your new wand," he stated.
Sirius took the wand hesitantly, flicking it lightly and looking pleasantly surprised. "I think this wand suits me well. It won't work quite the same as my old wand, but it will definitely work. Thank you, Harry."
Harry beamed proudly, and then fished a second object out of his bag, handing it to his godfather.
This object was a lumpy, velvet covered bag. Sirius loosened the drawstring and peered down curiously.
"What is this?" He asked.
"When I ran away, I went to Gringotts and withdrew some muggle money. I didn't end up using it, but I thought that we could. If we're in the muggle world, we could at least buy food or rent a place to stay."
"That's a thoughtful idea, but it feels wrong using your money," Sirius said.
"I want you to have it. And it's not really mine. It was my parents', and I think they would want you to use it," Harry explained.
Sirius appeared to be thinking over the issue for a moment, but then he replied, "I guess they would want me to use it to protect you."
"There's one more thing," Harry said excitedly.
He pulled the blank piece of parchment from his bag and handed it to his godfather.
Sirius stared down at it in astonishment. Without saying a word to Harry, he raised his new wand and said shakily, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
The parchment sprang to life in his godfather's hands, and Sirius looked up at Harry in awe. "Where did you get this?"
"How did you know the password?" Harry asked, feeling confused.
"Harry, do you know what this is?" Sirius asked, his eyes wide.
"It's a map that shows where everyone is in the castle. Fred and George Weasley gave it to me. So, how did you know the password?"
"I helped to make it," Sirius whispered. "With your father, Remus, and Peter."
"Really?" Harry gasped.
Sirius pointed to the title which read: The Marauder's Map. Then he gestured to the group of small words above it that Harry hadn't noticed: Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs present.
Harry immediately recognized the nicknames, and he couldn't believe that his father had been a part of making it. He must have been a really powerful wizard.
"It's really great that you have the map. James would have wanted you to have it," Sirius whispered.
"Yeah," Harry said, feeling himself getting choked up. He decided to change the subject. "So, have you figured out any more about the plan?"
Sirius went on to inform Harry on how the plan had progressed. He had decided that on the night of Christmas Eve, when most of the students would be gone from the castle, Harry would sneak up to the seventh floor under the invisibility cloak. From there, Sirius and Harry would sneak to the owlery and board Harry's broom. Sirius would wear the invisibility cloak while on the broom, and Harry would fly them toward Hogsmeade. Once they were past the Hogwarts grounds, Sirius could apparate them to his family's home. They would be safe there until they decided what to do next.
To Harry, it seemed as though Sirius had thought of everything. Each question that Harry asked was quickly answered. Sirius had obviously put in an enormous amount of thought. But there were still a few things that Harry wasn't sure about.
"So, after we leave, we can never come back?" Harry asked.
"Well, it wouldn't be safe for us. Unless I can find a way to prove that Pettigrew is alive and I'm innocent, I can never be seen. They would take you away and kill me," he said gravely.
Harry gulped and nodded. "I'll never see my friends again," Harry whispered, talking more to himself than to Sirius.
"That's not necessarily true," Sirius began. "It probably wouldn't be safe to see them until after you're of age, but you could still write to them."
"Really? That would be amazing. And maybe if they knew that I was with you and you didn't hurt me, we could convince more people that you're innocent."
"Maybe," Sirius said sadly, but it was clear he didn't think anyone would ever believe he wasn't a killer.
Harry felt bad for Sirius. He knew what it felt like to have everyone against you. Feeling sympathetic, Harry placed a comforting hand on Sirius's shoulder. The man smiled at him slightly and nodded in appreciation.
"Harry, could I ask you something?" Sirius said grimly.
Harry nodded and looked at the man expectantly.
"Why did you believe so quickly that I was innocent? There was so much evidence stacked against me, but you seemed to trust me without much persuasion."
Why had he let himself believe that his godfather was innocent? To Harry, the answer was simple. Before Sirius, he'd lost all hope for himself. But Sirius had given him a reason to hope. He'd placed his entire will to live on his godfather. He hadn't trusted Sirius because he knew the man was innocent. He'd believed in the man because he didn't care if he was innocent. Harry was so desperate to find purpose that he'd decided to trust. It didn't matter if what Sirius had said was true because if he'd been a killer, then Harry's life would have been over. He'd trusted because he had nothing to lose.
"The truth is I didn't know if you were innocent, but I didn't care," Harry told him. "If you'd been a murderer, then I figured you'd kill me, and then I wouldn't have to do it myself. But if you were innocent, then I had a reason to keep going."
Sirius looked distressed by Harry's answer. "So, you only trusted me because you thought I would…" The man went silent, as if not able to finish his sentence.
"I mean I didn't think you were a murderer, but I wasn't sure. I just decided to take the chance because I really had nothing to lose," Harry explained, trying to make Sirius feel better.
Sirius only appeared more concerned for his godson. "How are you feeling now, Harry?"
"I'm okay as long as I'm with you," Harry said bluntly.
"But if we got separated somehow, would you still want to die?"
"I don't know," Harry said.
"Are you still feeling suicidal?"
"Not lately," he answered. "But I finally feel like I have a future with you. Before I had no one to talk to. No one would understand."
Sirius sat silently for a moment, looking contemplative. "Just promise me that if you ever feel that way again, you'll talk to me."
"I never want you to feel alone again."
"Thanks," said Harry, feeling a little awkward. He was still embarrassed that Sirius knew what he'd been planning. "Well, I should probably head back to the tower. Who knows when the quidditch game will end."
"Alright," Sirius said, sounding slightly disappointed. "Next time you should bring your broom. We can practice flying together."
Thursday afternoon brought the revenge on Malfoy that Harry and Ron had been waiting for. It had taken them much thought and planning, but they'd finally identified the perfect prank for Draco. Once they'd realized what would embarrass him the most, it hadn't been hard to develop a plan.
They'd only filled Hermione in on the plan during breakfast the previous morning, and she'd insisted that their prank was too harsh.
"Ronald, that's absolutely sadistic!" Hermione had whined.
"No. Fair is what it is. He's been strutting around the school like he's superior for three years and I'm sick of it. He needs to be taken down a peg. Besides, he took Scabbers and nearly killed Harry!"
Hermione had gone silent after that.
Harry knew that Draco had nothing to do with Scabbers disappearance and that the "murder attempt" hadn't been entirely the blonde prat's fault either, but he agreed that Draco deserved some vengeance. Malfoy needed to realize that he was no better than any other student, and their plan would definitely teach him.
Now, they were all stationed at their positions in the Great Hall, eagerly awaiting the reaction from the Slytherin.
Harry felt Ron's tense form beside him and shot him an excited smile. The two of them were crowded beneath the invisibility cloak and huddled up against the wall nearest the Slytherin house table. From their position, they could see Malfoy sitting a few yards away. In the distance, a nervous looking Hermione was peering frantically toward the wall.
"Ready?" Ron whispered.
Both boys raised their wands and stared expectantly at the entrance to the Great Hall. It wasn't long before the massive doors swept open and a herd of owls came barreling into the room. Birds of every size and color soared over the tables, delivering letters and parcels to the students below.
Harry's eyes were glued to the sinister looking black owl that flew toward Draco and dropped a pristine envelope into his outstretched palms.
Draco opened the envelope and pulled out a crisp sheet of white parchment. The Slytherin boy's eyes narrowed as he began reading, and by the time he set the letter down he was looking absolutely ill. His face had gone a pale shade of green, and his mouth seemed to be stuck in a permanent O.
After reviewing the plan so many times, Harry thought he could have restated the letter verbatim.
It hadn't been written by her, but the letter was addressed from Narcissa Malfoy. Written in beautiful calligraphy that only Hermione could pull off, the parchment read:
I never wanted you to find out, but unfortunately, that is no longer an option. Lucius has discovered my secrets, and it is now impossible to keep the truth from you.
Lucius Malfoy is not your father. We tried to conceive a child for years, as we needed a Malfoy heir for Lucius to inherit the fortune from his father. I feared that he was infertile and took matters into my own hands.
I had an affair with a muggle man from London. I don't recall that man's name, but he was your biological father. Once you were born, I placed powerful charms on you to conceal your true features, but those spells should be fading very soon.
You see, it is no longer necessary to hide your parentage. Soon everyone will know that you are neither a pureblood, nor a Malfoy. Lucius has left me and disowned you. The news will spread fast and I assume it will make the front page of the Daily Prophet before the end of the week.
I am so sorry, but you needed to know the truth. Your appearance is probably already changing. Keep your head held high, Draco.
Still staring at Draco's shocked face, Harry and Ron took action. Each shot a separate spell at the blonde boy.
Harry's spell hit the top of Malfoy's head, transforming his neatly combed blonde locks into a mess of walnut colored curls.
Ron's spell struck Draco at nearly the same time, changing the boy's slate grey eyes to a dull brown.
Draco began running his hands frantically through his changing hair, letting out noisy gasps of panic. The students around Malfoy looked shocked as his features shifted, many of them appeared to be asking him questions, but Draco only shook his head. Harry clearly heard Pansy Parkinson ask what was wrong before grabbing the letter from Draco's trembling hands and reading it aloud to the table.
As the words tumbled from the pug-faced girl's mouth, the students at the Slytherin table exploded in laughter.
"A MUGGLE!" One shouted hysterically.
"MALFOY'S A BASTARD!"
"NOT EVEN A MALFOY," another voice bellowed.
Harry and Ron could barely contain their laughter, and they shook violently from beneath the cloak. When Draco rose from his seat and sprinted for the doors, their giggles burst free and joined in with the rest of the hall. They only laughed harder when the newly-brown-haired boy tripped on the way to the door and faceplanted onto the stone floor.
Harry had never imagined that the prank would turn out so well. He knew that Sirius would be proud.
With all of the week's surprises, Harry wasn't expecting to be blindsided again on Friday.
He had just entered the Hall for breakfast when Dumbledore stood up at the head table. Harry was expecting the elderly man to disregard the rumors about Draco's parentage and to reprimand the pranksters who were responsible. Instead, the headmaster cleared his throat and looked out at the students with a somber expression.
"As you all surely know by now, Hogwarts was recently broken into by the escaped prisoner, Sirius Black," Dumbledore began.
The students responded with quiet murmurs of assent.
"The Minister for Magic has insisted that we increase our castle protections to prevent any future incidents of the sort. Not only will the dementors of Azkaban be guarding the perimeter of the Hogwarts grounds, they will now be stationed around the castle and guarding every doorway, active immediately."
The headmaster sounded slightly annoyed by this information, and Harry got the feeling that adding dementors closer to the castle had not been his idea. Harry wasn't too pleased about it either. He had been lucky enough to avoid the dementors all term aside from the incident on the train, and he was certainly not looking forward to meeting them again.
"As the dementors will be outside, no students will be allowed out of the castle unless traveling with a professor. Classes in the outdoor building will be relocated inside for the remainder of the term."
Harry zoned out for a moment, ignoring some of Dumbledore's speech. He was thinking about his plan with Sirius. Would the dementors affect their escape plan?
He supposed not. After all, they had been planning to fly out of the castle. The guarded doorways shouldn't pose a problem as long as they were careful. Calming back down, Harry focused on the headmaster's words again.
"Unfortunately, to place these new spells on the castle, it must be empty. Therefore, all students will be required to return home for the winter holidays. Following the end of term exams next Friday, your Head of House will escort you to the Hogwarts Express."
Harry felt his heart drop. That might be a problem.
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