Darkness hung over the entire island like a shroud, quickly extinguishing the hopes of those incarcerated there. Even in the middle of a beautiful summer day, sunlight didn't penetrate the dark fortress. Cold lingered in the stone fortress reinforced by the presence of Dementors. This was no summer day; it was a cold winter night with not even a moon for guidance. The stars were hidden behind a bank of clouds as if they didn't want to shine down on such evil.
Even in the black of night, the sky somehow seemed to darken even more. The Aurors guarding the wizarding prison of Azkaban alongside the infamous Dementors hated guard duty. It was considered to be the worst duty an Auror could pull. Angus Morrison, one of the Auror guards, peered up into the black night as he pulled his cloak tighter.
"Did ya see that?"
"What?" Angus turned to the other guard, Daniel Williams.
Daniel was peering straight up into the night, past the Dementors who hovered in the air above the island. "I thought I saw something moving."
Turning to his younger colleague, Angus said, "What could be moving? It was probably a Dementor."
"No, mate. It wasn't a Dementor."
Angus whirled around as the Killing Curse hit his colleague. He almost dropped his wand at the vision of horror that stood in front of him. Three men stood arrayed behind a fourth man. The fourth man almost didn't look human. He had no hair, no nose, and long pale fingers. He radiated evil.
Unfortunately, Angus recognised him immediately. The thought vaguely crossed his mind that the Potter kid had been right – Lord Voldemort was back. He lifted his wand, but before he could even think of a spell, he saw an all too familiar green light hurtling towards him.
Lord Voldemort laughed as the guard fell. "Is this the best the Ministry can offer?"
Looking at his Death Eaters, he commanded, "Release our comrades."
The three men took off towards the wizarding prison easily killing the remaining Aurors as they came upon the guards unaware. The prison's defences were easily overcome as no one was expecting an attack from outside the prison. It had always been assumed that between the remote, desolate spot and the Dementors guarding the prison that no one would attempt to breach the fortress. Any trouble was expected to be from the prisoners, although after a few months most did not cause any problems. Voldemort personally killed the warden of the prison before he could call the Ministry for help.
The Death Eaters each carried a map of the fortress that had been obtained by one of their Ministry contacts. Lucius Malfoy strode imperiously through the prison, inwardly thankful that he'd never been sent here. The prison was the bleakest place he'd ever been – it was cold, dark, and damp. Inside the cells, many of the prisoners were obviously deranged. The odours emanating from the cells made it clear that hygiene was not a priority for the prisoners. The more noxious odours of urine and faeces made Malfoy want to gag.
Discreetly, he wordlessly cast a perfuming spell that helped dispel the worst of the odours. He knew the Dark Lord would punish him if he attempted a Bubble-Head Charm. Malfoy and his fellow Death Eaters, Peter Pettigrew and Walden Macnair, had each been assigned cells to open. Lord Voldemort strode calmly after them laughing at the ease with which they'd taken the vaunted fortress. The evil of the fortress had a rival in its visitors that evening.
Lucius Malfoy soon found himself in front of the cell containing his sister-in-law, Bellatrix Lestrange. When he opened the cell, she walked past him, falling to her knees in front of the Dark Lord. While she prostrated herself, Malfoy continued opening the cell of Bellatrix's husband, Rodolphus, and his brother Rabastan. Malfoy handed them back the wands he'd liberated from the Ministry with help from the current Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge.
"Wormtail! You traitor! You betrayed James and Lily! How could you? After everything they did for you? Harry – how could you endanger Harry?"
A wild-eyed man with long black curls was standing at the bars of his cell glaring angrily at the man he called Wormtail, otherwise known as Peter Pettigrew.
The man called Wormtail laughed. "You never knew I was a spy. None of you thought I was good enough or smart enough, but I fooled all of you. I never imagined that no one would help you out. I was thrilled when they locked you up and threw away the key!"
With a lunge that seemed unlikely given his emaciated frame, the man reached through the bars and grabbed at Wormtail. Wormtail cringed and backed away from the man's cell to the laughter of the other Death Eaters.
"Sirius Black!" Lord Voldemort stood outside the cell.
"Voldemort!" Sirius said in disgust tearing his eyes away from his former friend. "Releasing your minions?"
"Of course I am releasing my loyal followers. I see the Ministry has left you to rot in this hell hole. Don't you wish you'd heeded your brother's advice and joined me?"
"Hell no! I would never join you. You murdered my best friend. James was more my brother than Regulus."
"I can offer you the chance to right the wrongs done to you. Dumbledore never listened to your protestations that you didn't betray the Potters. Your poor little godson, Harry, grew up without you because of Dumbledore – raised by those awful Muggles. The werewolf Lupin never doubted that you killed poor little Peter and all of those Muggles. None of them lifted a finger to help you. Join me and you can avenge yourself on them."
Sirius glared at both Voldemort and Peter. "I would rather die than join you."
Voldemort shrugged. "So be it."
He nodded to his Death Eaters. Bellatrix stepped forward eagerly. "Crucio!"
Stepping back, Voldemort allowed his followers to torture Sirius Black. Bellatrix, in particular, was eager to make her cousin pay for not joining the Dark Lord. Lucius felt a grudging respect for the wizard when he didn't beg for it to be over. He cried out when the pain became too much, but he continued to defy both his cousin and the Dark Lord. Insulting them and repeatedly refusing the offers to end his torture if he would only join them.
After a long torture session, at a nod from the Dark Lord, Bellatrix killed her cousin, leaving his bloody body on display in his cell. The words 'Blood-Traitor' were written in his own blood over his body. Miles away in a dorm room at Hogwarts, sixteen-year-old Harry Potter woke screaming. Shaking, he leaned over the edge of his bed and vomited on the floor.
His roommates, including his best mate, Ron Weasley, ran to get help. Harry was shaking, pale, and clammy. His head of house, Professor McGonagall, took him to the hospital where he was given both a calming potion and Dreamless Sleep Potion.
"Good morning, Harry," said Madam Pomfrey gently.
He turned to look at her. She could see the horror, hurt and grief in his normally expressive green eyes. "Good morning, Madam Pomfrey."
"Are you in any pain, dear?"
He shook his head. "I'm fine now."
Knowing he was far from fine, but unable to help him she reluctantly released him from the infirmary. "Professor Dumbledore wishes to see you this morning."
An angry glint came into his eyes. "Good, I wish to see him as well."
After stopping by his dorm to shower and change, he headed to the headmaster's office. He was grateful not to run into any of his friends. He didn't think he could deal with any questions at the moment.
Arriving at the headmaster's office, he realised he didn't know the password. Setting his hand on top of the gargoyle's head, he said, "Professor Dumbledore wanted to see me, but I don't know the password."
For a moment he didn't think he would be allowed in, but then the gargoyle moved aside revealing the circular stairs. Riding the stairs up, he gathered his thoughts together. How much was Professor Dumbledore hiding from him? Who was Sirius Black? Why had he never so much as heard his name before? Several times during the torture session, it was brought up that Sirius and James Potter were best friends, almost like brothers. Sirius had been James' best man when he married the love of his life. Sirius had been named Harry's godfather.
Wormtail, who Harry thought might be called Peter, was proudly boasting about betraying James and Lily. He claimed to have been a spy for two years before the Potters died. Sirius felt very guilty for suggesting some change that left his best friend vulnerable. Harry wasn't entirely sure what that was about.
One of the most heart-breaking parts of the night was the obvious love Sirius held for Harry. No one had ever spoken of him with such affection. Could Harry have avoided his horrible childhood and lived with his father's best mate?
Knocking on the office door, he entered when Professor Dumbledore called for him to come in. Stepping into the office, he was surprised to discover the headmaster was not alone. Professor McGonagall was there along with Professor Lupin who had taught Defence Against the Dark Arts in his third year. There were two people in Auror's robes who he had seen around, but he didn't know their names. He believed they were all part of the shadowy group that opposed Voldemort, called the Order of the Phoenix. He'd not met many members. He suspected that Dumbledore kept him away from the Order on purpose.
"Harry, it is good to see you up and about," the headmaster said cordially.
Harry nodded awkwardly and took the seat indicated next to Professor McGonagall. She gave him a rare smile. "You look much better this morning."
"Thank you for your help," Harry said.
"Certainly," she replied.
One of the Aurors spoke up. He was a tall, bald, dark-skinned man with a gold earring and a deep, pleasant voice. "Mr Potter, my name is Kingsley Shacklebolt. I am an Auror, and I was called to Azkaban this morning after the first shift showed up and found the carnage. I understand you somehow saw what happened."
"I don't know how or why, but I can sometimes see what Voldemort sees," Harry explained. His voice was hoarse from screaming so much the night before. He was heartened to see that Voldemort's name didn't scare the Auror.
"I am very sorry to hear that," Kingsley said. "It was bad enough finding them hours later. I can only imagine what it would have been like watching that horror."
Harry grimaced. "I guess you need to know what happened."
"If you can," Kingsley said.
Professor Dumbledore smiled encouragingly. "Can you tell us what happened?"
"Voldemort attacked Azkaban," Harry said. As calmly as he could, he told them everything he'd seen. He watched as they all paled when he described the conversation between Sirius Black and Voldemort. When he finished, he waited, but no one said anything.
"Is it true?"
"What part?" Dumbledore asked calmly.
"All of it!" Harry exploded. "Was that man really my godfather? Was he falsely imprisoned for years? Who is Peter? What were they talking about?"
To Harry's surprise, it was Professor Lupin who spoke up first. "Sirius Black was your father's closest friend – they were more like brothers. He was indeed your godfather."
"Why was he in prison?"
Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat. "We believed that he was your parent's Secret-Keeper. You recall the Fidelius Charm?"
Harry nodded. There had been talk about placing the Burrow under a Fidelius Charm the previous summer, but in the end, Dumbledore decided against it. The Weasley's house had been used as an unofficial headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix for the past two years, since Voldemort's rebirth, but when Harry was there, they tried to keep any meetings or visits at a minimum. Unfortunately, that also meant that Harry couldn't spend summers at the Burrow as he and his friends had hoped he'd be able to.
Professor Dumbledore continued. "We knew Voldemort was after your parents, so they went into hiding. They had almost been found several times. We thought perhaps there might be a spy in the Order, but we didn't know who. I recommended they use the Fidelius Charm. I offered to be their Secret-Keeper, but James insisted Sirius would be their Secret-Keeper. Halloween was a week after the charm was supposed to be cast, so we all presumed Sirius had betrayed your parents and given Voldemort your location. You must understand that most of Sirius' family was Dark. His cousins and brother were Death Eaters and those who weren't Death Eaters supported them. He was the first Black not to be sorted into Slytherin, and his parents essentially disowned him for that. It made sense that he would eventually be worn down."
"Except he wasn't," Harry said coldly. "Even after you left him to rot for over fifteen years, he still refused to join them. He died rather than joining them!" Turning to Professor Lupin, he asked, "Why did he mention you?"
"I was also a good friend of your father's," Professor Lupin began. "I was actually close friends with both your parents. I was in and out of their house all the time. I was one of the first people to hold you when you were born – right after James and Sirius."
"What?! Why didn't you ever say anything?" Harry asked in confusion.
Professor Lupin glanced over at the headmaster and looked down. "It is very hard to talk about your parents and everything that happened. As you know, I am a werewolf. Professor Dumbledore made arrangements that made it possible for me to attend Hogwarts. I was sorted into Gryffindor and was roommates with your father, James; Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew. By the middle of our second year, they figured out my secret, and to my shock instead of rejecting me, they didn't care.
"Not only did they not care, unbeknownst to me, they decided to become Animagi. It took them three years, but by our fifth year, they were all able to transform. They did this because as humans they couldn't stay with me, but as animals, they could be around a werewolf without fear."
"I still can't believe the three of them achieved it," Professor McGonagall said. "That James and Sirius could achieve it isn't a big surprise, but that Peter could manage the transformation is very surprising. He was never as clever or magically as strong as James or Sirius."
Professor Lupin looked down again. "Peter's form was a rat which should have told us something. We never suspected he was a traitor."
"If what you heard is true, they switched Secret-Keepers without telling anyone, which if Peter wasn't a traitor would have been a good idea. Sirius was the obvious choice for Secret-Keeper. He was James' best friend," Professor Dumbledore said.
"He was there at Godric's Hollow that night, but I'd sent Hagrid to bring you here. Sirius didn't want Hagrid to take you, but he gave in. He went after Pettigrew, and we believed he'd killed Peter as well as twelve Muggles. Peter must have transformed into his Animagus form and escaped. All they ever found of him was a finger. Sirius was found with the twelve dead Muggles and bystanders who'd heard Peter accuse him of betraying your parents."
"So now my godfather is dead because you couldn't be bothered to listen to him?" Harry asked coldly. "He said he didn't even have a trial. Is that true?"
Flushing, Dumbledore seemed disconcerted. "It does appear there was a major injustice done to Mr Black. He was not given a trial because it seemed so obvious that he was guilty."
Turning to glare at the man who now claimed to be a friend of his father's, Harry said, "I don't recall giving you permission to call me by my first name. Apparently, I am nothing more than another student to you. I was your student for an entire year and you never once mentioned you knew my father. I've seen you several times since then and you still never mentioned any connection you had to my parents."
Harry's eyes widened, and he turned back to the headmaster. "Wait, I told you that Wormtail helped Voldemort regain his body. I didn't know who Wormtail was, but you obviously knew who he was and you've known for well over a year that he was still alive. That should have at least triggered an investigation."
"What?!" Kingsley glared at the headmaster. "You knew this."
"I told Albus about their Animagus forms and our nicknames," Remus explained. "When I heard Harry's tale from the graveyard…I didn't know what to think. I couldn't imagine that Peter was still alive. I still find it hard to believe that he betrayed James. Peter thought the world of James."
"I concurred," Albus said. "There had never been any other indication that Peter was still alive and all we had was a nickname."
"Because Wormtail is such a popular nickname?" Kingsley asked incredulously. "Why didn't you say anything? We could have reopened the investigation. I would have spoken to Sirius at the very least."
Harry had been quietly listening. He swiped the tears off his face. "You give Snape all sorts of chances, but you wouldn't even talk to Sirius?"
Albus' face hardened. "That is Professor Snape. I have my reasons for trusting Professor Snape. I apologise for not notifying the Auror Department about Pettigrew, but I didn't have proof."
"That was for us to decide," Kingsley said coldly. "I would have looked for proof."
Harry felt his anger surge through his body. His head was throbbing and for once it wasn't because of Voldemort. "I could have lived with someone who cared about me, but instead you stuck me with my relatives."
Professor Dumbledore looked at him over his glasses, his gaze conveying his disappointment with Harry's continued anger. "I had no choice, Harry. I knew you might not always be happy there, but you were safe."
"Safe?! What the hell makes you think I was safe?" Harry yelled angrily. "My aunt and uncle don't want me, and they let me know it. My aunt thought if she made me do all of the chores and didn't feed me much, I would be too tired to do any magic. My uncle thought he could beat the magic out of me – he certainly gave it a try. My cousin – he learned from his parents. He interfered with my chores, told on me, made up things I had done, and of course helped his father beat me. Safe, what the hell do you know?!"
Looking over at his head of house who seemed horrified by the revelations, Harry said, "May I be excused, Professor?"
"Of course, Mr Potter," she replied.
"Harry." This time it was Professor Dumbledore who called out to him. To his relief, Professor McGonagall said, "Let him go, Albus. He should never have had to find out in this manner. You assured me he knew everything."
"Thank you, Professor." Harry hurried down the stairs and the hall. Suddenly, he didn't want to be inside anymore. He knew Ron and Hermione were going to have a lot of questions for him, and he didn't feel like answering them this morning.
Jumping down the stairs, he made his way out of the castle and towards the lake. There was an isolated spot that had become his sanctuary over the past year and a half. With the fear and isolation of the Triwizard Tournament, the death of Cedric Diggory, and the return of Voldemort, Harry needed a place to be alone.
His two best friends tried to help, but neither of them had faced the evil that he had. He tried not to hold Ron's behaviour the previous autumn against him, but it was hard to totally trust him; especially after Ron and Hermione had spent the past two summers together at the Burrow and followed Professor Dumbledore's instructions not to contact him. Privet Drive was hell during the summer. It was hard to think that while he was struggling with nightmares about Voldemort's return and Cedric's death, Ron and Hermione were having fun-filled summers together at the Burrow.
While they tried to downplay the fun they'd had, he'd heard plenty about walks into town, swimming in the river, and laughter filled dinners in the Weasleys' back garden. Harry wondered if they had started dating, but they'd not said anything to him. With both Ron and Hermione becoming prefects their fifth year, they seemed to have a lot less time for him.
Forcing his mind away from his friends, his thoughts returned to the meeting he'd just left. Vaguely he wondered if Lupin would claim that Dumbledore was the reason the man had never contacted Harry. Fury raced through him again – there was someone who seemingly cared about him who was dead due to Dumbledore's inaction. His faith in Dumbledore had wavered over the past several years, but it had shattered up in that office.
First, the wizard who was supposedly the greatest wizard in the world couldn't figure out that Ginny Weasley was being controlled by an enchanted diary and then Harry had to rescue her from the Chamber of Secrets. While he would never regret saving her, he didn't think it was fair that he had to. Secondly, Harry had been tricked into participating in the Triwizard Tournament. It was inconceivable to him that Dumbledore hadn't noticed Voldemort possessing both Quirrell and Ginny nor had he noticed that his old friend Moody had been replaced by a Death Eater using Polyjuice Potion.
Now, this. How was he to trust Dumbledore? What else hadn't he been told? Lupin had been at the Burrow on and off over the previous summer. Harry knew because Hermione had been thrilled with the help he'd given her. Apparently, Lupin had taken Hermione under his wing, and they had many discussions about magical theory. Harry and Ron thought it sounded dead boring, but Hermione thought it was an honour he'd taken such an interest in her.
Now with what he knew, Harry was angry. The man had never hinted or indicated that he had a close relationship with Harry's parents. Nobody had visited him at Privet Drive to check up on him – not when he was a child, not after he'd slain a basilisk, not even after he'd watched Voldemort regain his body.
Wiping away the tears he didn't even realise he'd shed; Harry stood to return to the castle. He wavered a bit in the Entrance Hall, he wasn't really hungry, but he thought he should probably eat. Madam Pomfrey kept a close eye on how much he ate and would talk to him if he skipped more than two meals in a row.
Turning, he saw Professor McGonagall standing near him. "Yes, Professor."
"May I have a word with you?"
Nodding Harry followed Professor McGonagall up to her office. She set a tin of biscuits on her desk. "Harry, I would like to apologise."
Harry was shocked. Both because she was apologising and because she used his first name. "For what?"
"I didn't follow up with Professor Dumbledore. I watched him leave you with your aunt and uncle – over my protests. He assured me that you were fine and were well looked after. I should have checked on you myself. I knew your parents quite well."
"Really?" Harry asked in surprise as he grabbed a couple of biscuits.
She nodded. "I was a friend of your grandmother, Euphemia, and I knew your father from the time he was a child. Your mother was one of my favourite students – I knew we aren't supposed to have favourites, but she reminded me so much of myself. I first met you when you were only a few days old."
Reaching out, she showed him a picture from a photo album. His eyes widened when he saw a younger version of her holding him as a baby. "D-did you know Sirius Black?"
A troubled look came into her eyes. "I did. As Mr Lupin indicated, they were in Gryffindor together. Sirius and your father…they were quite the pranksters." She shook her head with a faint smile on her face. "They could be troublemakers, but they were great students and a lot of fun. Some of the excuses they would come up with – it was so hard to listen with a straight face."
Harry smiled at the thought. He'd always liked the Weasley twins, and it sounded like his father and godfather were cut from the same cloth. He looked at the picture she pointed out. The two were dressed in Gryffindor robes. He could see the laughter and humour in their faces. It was hard to see the emaciated man in Azkaban in the laughing teen.
"How did he end up in prison?"
"I wish I knew. I knew of your parents' deaths, of course. I was with Dumbledore when he left you with your relatives." She shook her head. "I asked to be allowed to take you, but I was told you would be safest living with your relatives. I heard later that Sirius had been arrested and I told Albus I didn't believe he would hurt your father. I didn't realise he'd never had a trial. It shames me to say I didn't follow up on what happened to Sirius. At the end of the war, there was so much death and despair. I was busy with students who had lost loved ones and lost track of what was happening to him. It breaks my heart to think of him rotting away in that place for so long. He was always so full of life and laughter; he deserved so much better."
"He was definitely very brave," Harry offered. "I wish I'd known him."
"I didn't know that they knew Pettigrew was alive," she said. "They referred to him as Wormtail, and I didn't know what that meant. I learned this past summer that they'd become Animagi, but no one mentioned the nicknames."
"I don't blame you."
She studied his face for a minute as she debated the best course of action. "Sirius was your guardian, and I'm fairly certain you will be in his will."
"In the first Order of the Phoenix, we all made out our wills. It was such a tenuous time that we all agreed to make sure everything was in order."
"So why didn't my parents have a will?"
"Of course your parents had a will," she said. "I remember they'd spoken to my brother, Stephen. He's a solicitor, and he helped them with your guardianship." Seeing the look on his face, she said, "You never knew about that?"
He shook his head.
"I would recommend hiring a solicitor to look after your best interests. While Albus wouldn't work against you, I don't believe he would hesitate to ignore your best interests in the interest of the 'greater good'."
"How would I do that?"
"I can ask my brother to come to speak to you. He specialises in family law."
"That would be great. Thank you."
"Where have you been?!"
Harry had just entered the common room and turned to see Hermione and Ron standing near the fireplace.
"We were worried sick about you," Hermione said. "Ron told me what happened last night and then the papers this morning. All of those Death Eaters escaping! Did you see that? Why didn't you come to breakfast this morning? We were waiting for you, but you never showed. We stopped by the hospital, but Madam Pomfrey said you'd already left. We searched for you, but we couldn't find you."
Holding up his hand, Harry yelled, "Hermione, stop!"
Red-faced, she glared at him. Harry sighed. "I'm sorry I worried you, but I…it was awful."
"The paper said that the Aurors were all killed," Hermione said knowingly.
Harry nodded. "I talked to Professor Dumbledore and some Aurors."
"You should have come to find us afterwards," Hermione said reprovingly.
Glaring at her, he said, "Maybe I didn't feel like being interrogated. Did you ever think of that?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ron asked.
"I knew you would want to know what I saw. I didn't and still don't want to talk about it."
"But you can't keep it bottled up!" Hermione said shrilly.
"I talked to Professor McGonagall," he said shortly.
Turning, he ran up to his dorm room. Walking over to the window, he smiled. It was cold but clear. Grabbing his broom, he jumped on his Nimbus and flew out the window. After flying around the castle, he headed to the Quidditch pitch. He smiled to see a familiar figure out flying. Ginny's long red hair was streaming out behind her.
Smiling for the first time all day as he climbed in the air, he dove down behind her and heard her laugh. Without even saying a word, the pair of them played an elaborate game of follow the leader. Sometimes Harry would lead, sometimes Ginny would lead.
After a while, he spiralled down to the ground. She followed suit.
"You're looking good," Harry grinned.
"Thanks," she smiled back. "I'm glad that Ron finally calmed down about me playing." She rolled her eyes as she mimicked her brother. "'I don't know if I can protect you while I am playing Keeper.' As if I need him to protect me."
Harry laughed as he sat down on the pitch. Ginny sat cross-legged next to him. He cast a warming charm over the mostly dead grass that covered the pitch.
"You're a great player," Harry assured her. "I don't know why Ron would worry about you."
She shrugged. "I think he's just heard my mum fussing about me flying too many times."
He nodded as he played with the grass in front of him. As Ginny watched him, her heart went out to him. She'd heard from Ron and Hermione about Harry's nightmare the night before and the morning's paper spelt out the details of the Death Eaters' breakout from Azkaban. She was gratified to see he wasn't as pale as he was when he first flew out to join her.
"I guess you know what happened," Harry said as if reading her mind.
She nodded. "It sounds awful. Are you feeling better?"
Unconsciously he rubbed his forehead. "I'm fine."
"If you ever want to talk about it, I'll be happy to listen," Ginny said gently.
Looking into her eyes, he could see warmth in them. He knew he could trust her, but he didn't want to relive those images again. "Thank you. I might take you up on it, but not right now."
She smiled. "That's fine. I'm glad you're feeling better."
Harry turned towards the castle. He could see the tall form of his best friend walking towards them with Hermione hurrying after him. As they neared him, Harry stood up and reached his hand down to Ginny and helped her up.
"Sorry I just took off," Harry said. "It just…it was too much. I had to explain to Dumbledore and some Aurors what happened. I didn't want to talk about it anymore."
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Ron nodded. "I figured when I saw you out here flying."
"We read the newspaper article. It sounds horrid," Hermione said looking at Harry expectantly.
"It was, but I really don't want to talk about it right now," Harry said firmly as the four of them started walking back up towards the castle.
Hermione looked disappointed, but Ron nodded. "How do you think Hufflepuff will do against Ravenclaw next week?"
Two days later, Harry found himself wandering out on the castle grounds. Even though it was a cold and blustery day, he wasn't quite ready to go back inside. He'd just had a meeting with Professor McGonagall's brother, Stephen, and he was still trying to absorb everything.
Turning, he saw Ginny. He thought she looked beautiful with her shining eyes and pink cheeks. Today she was wearing a white knitted cap and matching scarf over her thick winter cloak. "Hi."
"Hi," she looked over him. "Are you okay?"
He shrugged. "I'm honestly not sure."
Linking her arm through his, she said, "I'm going to the kitchen to see if I can score some hot chocolate."
"That sounds like a great idea," Harry said with a smile. "It is a bit cold out here."
"A bit cold?" she laughed. "I just had Care of Magical Creatures, and I feel like an icicle. I know Hagrid loves his big animals, but it would be nice if we could have some of our classes inside – in a nice warm classroom. We could study Bowtruckles or imps or even Jarveys. They are all small enough to study in a classroom."
"Let me know if that works," Harry laughed.
The two chatted amicably about classes as they walked to the kitchen. Ginny tickled the pear, and they entered the kitchen.
Harry smiled as Dobby hurried over to great them. "Hi, Dobby. Do you know Ginny?"
The little elf nodded. "Dobby knows Ginny Wheezy."
"We were hoping we could get some hot chocolate."
"Of course!" Dobby hurried away, and by the time Harry and Ginny were seated at the small table, he returned with their snack. In addition to the hot chocolate, Dobby also brought them some eclairs and scones.
Leaning back in his chair, Harry relaxed for the first time in hours. "Did you read the story about the Azkaban breakout?"
Ginny nodded, her eyes wide. He sighed. "There was a large piece they left out of the paper. Have you ever heard of Sirius Black?"
She frowned as she considered the name. "I don't think so."
"He was my godfather and my father's best friend," he said simply. Slowly he told her about Sirius' death at the hands of the Death Eaters and what he'd learned from Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Lupin.
The scones and eclairs sat untouched as she listened to the story unfolding. "Merlin, so they never even tried to find out what happened?"
Harry shook his head. "That's the part I have the most problem with. He didn't get a trial, no one visited him or tried to help him. He sat in jail for fifteen years for something he didn't do. Dementors and the Death Eaters tormented him, but he still wasn't even tempted to join them."
He tried to blink back the tears that filled his eyes, but it did no good, they started to spill down his face. His face burned with embarrassment, but Ginny set her hand over his and squeezed his hand. Looking over at her, he could see her compassion, but no pity.
"They tortured him for hours. He was so brave. His last thoughts were of me," he said in a broken voice. "I wish so much that I could have done something for him. They always claim I'm so special with this stupid Boy Who Lived rubbish. Maybe I could have used that to help him."
Standing, Ginny walked over to the other side of the table and wrapped her arms around him. "I wish something could have been done as well, but Harry, you can't blame yourself."
Harry returned her embrace, awkwardly at first, but as he relaxed, he felt so comforted by her obvious concern and caring. After several long minutes, he pulled away. "Thank you."
She smiled and leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "You're welcome."
After she returned to the other side of the table, she asked, "Did something happen today?"
Feeling heartened by her concern, he nodded as he picked up an éclair and took a bite. "Professor McGonagall arranged for her brother, who is a solicitor, to review both my parents' and Sirius' wills. He took me to Gringotts today, and I was able to read all three wills." He shook his head. "They all…they were all so brave and so certain that what they were doing was right. My parents and Sirius all left me letters. They talked about how much…how much they loved me and how they hated the thought of leaving me, but if it meant ridding the world of Voldemort, they would do it."
As she listened, Ginny reached out and took his hand again. He appreciated the gesture. With his other hand, he fumbled into his pocket and pulled out a scroll which he offered to her. He watched silently as she took the scroll and read it. He'd read and reread the letter so many times he had it memorised.
We are watching you sleep right now and praying that we are allowed to see you grow up. Your mother and I have had many spirited discussions about what you might do when you're older – I'm leaning towards a professional Quidditch player. Your mum thinks you'll be a brilliant scholar. Honestly, as long as you are having fun, we don't care what you decide to do.
We've been in hiding for months now, and I want to make sure you realise why. Your mother is writing a letter of her own, but I wanted to be the one to explain this to you. Voldemort is hunting us down because of a prophecy that was made before you were born. It talks about the one who can defeat him. I hope Professor Dumbledore has told you about this already, but if he didn't this is it:
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...**
I don't know that I set much store in prophecies, but unfortunately, Voldemort is taking it quite seriously. If you are destined to defeat him, I pray we can help you along the way. If not, Sirius will be able to help you. Not only is he great at duelling, but he also loves you as much as your mother and I do.
More than that, I want you to survive and do wonderful things – play Quidditch, make some wonderful friends, and meet a girl who you can't imagine living without. I want so much for you to have a life without all of this hanging over your shoulders.
I love you, son,
Ginny's eyes filled with tears as she read the letter from Harry's father. "Did you know about this?"
"The prophecy?" Harry asked. Ginny nodded, and he shook his head. "Yet another thing Professor Dumbledore decided not to tell me."
Ginny looked up. "What else?"
"The goblins read my parents' wills and discovered that Peter Pettigrew was named as their Secret-Keeper. Dumbledore had their wills sealed after their deaths, so no one ever saw them. Stephen said he's sending the information on to the Ministry – to Auror Shacklebolt. I never knew that my parents were wealthy. I mean really wealthy. I have a family vault as well as my student vault – I could have replaced my all my cousin's hand-me-downs, that are too big for me, about ten times over and never noticed. I even asked Lupin about it once when he came with a group to pick me up so I could stay at the Leaky Cauldron the weekend before school started. He said he didn't think I had enough money and advised me to conserve my money. He knew how wealthy my parents were. Not only did my parents leave me their estate, but so did Sirius. I have so much money that I would never have to work, but I'm still stuck with my horrible Muggle relatives in these awful clothes because no one wants to help me spend my money.
"I know it's stupid to be going on about clothes when everything else has happened, but when I was at Gringotts today…I looked like a beggar off the street. Stephen told me that I was the heir to two powerful houses. He was nice about it, but he suggested I should look the part. I saw pictures of my father and godfather – they were always nicely dressed. They looked so elegant. I look like a scarecrow."
He held out his hand and showed her the ring he now wore on his right ring finger. "This is my family ring. Stephen told me that to dress like I am now while wearing the ring is basically an insult to my family…like I don't respect them enough. I don't want to disrespect them, but I don't want to take it off now."
"I'm so sorry," Ginny said softly. "I know what you mean about clothes. It is such a little thing, but they can make you feel good or horrible. One of my roommates loves to make fun of the fact that many of my clothes are hand-me-downs from boys." She perked up. "Did they give you the key to your vault?"
He nodded. She grinned. "We can fix your clothes problem."
She nodded. "Are you done?"
Looking down, he was surprised to realise he'd eaten half a dozen eclairs. Standing he said, "Yes."
Together they walked up to Gryffindor tower. When they arrived in the common room, Ginny said, "Wait here."
A few minutes later she hurried down the stairs of the girls' side with her hands full. "Can we go to your room?"
"Of course." This time he led the way. The room was empty, so he led the way over to his bed. She dumped a stack of catalogues onto his bed.
"You can order clothes through owl order," she said with a grin.
His eyes lit up. "That would be brilliant."
For the next hour, the two pored over the catalogues. Harry found himself with a well-rounded wardrobe and even managed to talk Ginny into letting him buy her a few items as well. They figured out their sizes and filled out the order form. Ginny showed him how to imprint his key.
As they finished up, there was a fluttering of wings, and Hedwig flew in through his open window. Harry grinned when he saw her and held out his arm. She landed softly, and he petted her. "Did you know I needed you?"
Hedwig hooted lowly and climbed up his arm to his shoulder. She nipped his hair and rubbed her wings against his cheek. "Can Ginny tie this onto you?"
Hedwig turned her large amber eyes towards Ginny and slowly blinked. Ginny took that as permission and tied the form to the owl's leg. Harry lifted the owl off his shoulder and carried her to the window. Ginny couldn't hear what he was saying, but he whispered something to the owl before launching her out the window.
When he saw her watching him, he blushed slightly. "I worry about her after she was injured last year."
"I don't blame you," Ginny said.
Harry sat down on his bed and pulled out his photo album. "Do you want to see something?"
Nodding, Ginny sat down next to him. He opened the album and pointed to a picture of two young men laughing together. One looked almost exactly like Harry; the other was a good-looking wizard with dark curly hair.
"This is Sirius."
"He's cute," Ginny giggled. Harry rolled his eyes but continued to show her the pictures.
"Where did you get this?"
"Hagrid made it for me at the end of my first year," Harry explained. "After I was injured going after the Philosopher's Stone, he sent out letters to friends of my parents and made this album for me. I never thought to ask who any of these other people might be."
"Is that Professor Lupin?"
Making a face, Harry nodded. "Apparently, he was good friends with my dad, and he knew my mum well as they were both prefects."
Looking puzzled, Ginny asked, "Did you know that?"
"Nope," Harry drawled. "He never even told me he knew my parents until after I dreamed of Sirius' death. He taught me for an entire year and even had private lessons with me, but never mentioned he knew my parents. Hagrid and Professor McGonagall are the only ones who've really told me anything about them.
"I didn't even know their full names until today. I don't know when they were born or what they were like. Hell, I didn't know where I was born until this morning. When I talked to Dumbledore and Lupin the morning after the breakout, Lupin told me he was there when I was born. He claims he didn't tell me because it is difficult to talk about, but now he wants to be my friend."
Harry nodded. "He doesn't care about me, and I hate that he pretends to care just to help out Dumbledore. Dumbledore knew about the prophecy but never told me. Sometimes I feel he's using me and giving me just enough information so I can help him and do what he wants. I don't know when he was planning to tell me he wants me to defeat Voldemort. He probably is going to give me some big speech to fire me up and send me out to face him."
"You need training."
Picking up James' letter, she pointed to one of the paragraphs. "Your dad mentions that Sirius could help train you. Unfortunately, he can't help you, but maybe someone else can."
Frowning, Harry reread the letter. Nodding, he said, "Who would help me?"
"Bill," Ginny replied promptly. "He's brilliant with curses, and I know he'd help you."
Ginny nodded. "After what you did for me and my dad, of course he would."
"I could ask Professor McGonagall," Harry said. "She's been brilliant about everything, and I think she would help me if I asked." Looking over at his newest best friend, he said, "Would you want to train with me?"
Her eyes lit up. "I'd love to."
Harry looked around at Hermione and Ron. He'd just finished telling them everything he'd already told Ginny. They were sitting in one of the unused classrooms that he'd used to train for the Triwizard Tournament. Ginny was sitting next to him offering her quiet support.
Ron looked stunned while Hermione was wiping tears from her eyes. Harry handed her a handkerchief while he hoped she wouldn't start crying in earnest. Crying girls made him nervous.
"I am so sorry, Harry. No wonder you didn't want to talk about it," Hermione said. "That is awful."
"It was," Harry said. "It still doesn't seem real to me."
"Why wouldn't they give him a trial?" Hermione asked outraged at the thought. "The Ministry of Magic is supposed to follow all of the British laws as well. I even read that there were some wizards at the signing of the Magna Carta."
Ginny nodded. "They aren't supposed to throw anyone in jail without a trial. In this case, Minister Bagnold signed an order remanding him to Azkaban so Sirius Black wouldn't serve as a rallying point for the other Death Eaters."
"Dumbledore and Lupin knew?" Ron asked.
"They knew he was sent to prison without a trial," Harry explained scornfully. "Dumbledore didn't even try to stick up for Sirius. He allowed Hagrid to stay after he was expelled, he allowed a werewolf to attend school here, and he gives Snape tons of chances, but Sirius didn't get any consideration. I told them someone named Wormtail participated in the ceremony in the graveyard. I described him to Dumbledore. I've seen a picture when he was younger; he doesn't look that different. Kingsley is angry with them. He told them that investigating is his job, not theirs. They should have told him so he could investigate."
"He didn't tell them?" Hermione asked in shock.
Harry shook his head. "No, he simply started telling everyone that Voldemort was back, which no one wanted to hear. He didn't explain what happened in the graveyard. I just found out from Kingsley that the Minister considered charging me with Cedric's death. Luckily, Madam Bones wanted more information before simply charging a fourteen-year-old with murder. She found the graveyard where the ceremony took place and told Fudge. They were able to confirm the use of Dark Magic. Of course, Fudge doesn't want to listen to reason, but it was enough to confirm my story that I didn't do it. I didn't realise it, but they also checked my wand. Kingsley thinks a lot of this could have been avoided if Aurors interviewed me after I returned to the castle."
"Why weren't you?" Hermione asked. "That does make sense. You were a witness to a crime; you should have been interviewed. I never thought of that before."
"Dumbledore didn't want them to interview me," Harry explained simply. "He is or was my magical guardian, so he was able to make me unavailable and once I'm at the Dursleys' people can only reach me with his permission or mine."
"He's not your magical guardian anymore?" Hermione asked.
Grinning, Harry shook his head. "Professor McGonagall is my magical guardian."
"How'd that happen?" Ron asked.
"She filed the paperwork," Harry replied simply. "She pulled me aside after that first awful meeting with Dumbledore and told me that she wanted to help. She was good friends with my parents and had believed Dumbledore that I was better off where I was. Now that she knows I was not, she had her brother, Stephen, help me."
He explained how Stephen had his parents' wills read as well as Sirius's. "My parents' wills plainly stated that I was not to go to my aunt and uncle's house. Because I was placed there against their wishes, Stephen was able to break the guardianship agreement." He shrugged. "My aunt and uncle didn't want me anyhow; I'm sure they will be glad to get rid of me."
"Harry," Hermione scolded. "You shouldn't say things like that."
Shaking his head, Harry came back to the original topic. "Anyhow, Professor McGonagall asked me if I would like for her to be my guardian. I know I've been a bit distant. I didn't mean to exclude you, but…it was all hard to talk about."
"It's okay, mate," Ron said.
Hermione nodded and hugged him. "I wish I'd known what was happening. I wanted to help."
Harry shrugged. "Sometimes, I just needed time to work it out on my own. I ran into Ginny and she helped me. We found a note from my dad."
He showed it to his two oldest friends. "Ginny suggested that we could ask Bill to help us in training."
"That's a great idea," Ron said. "He's an amazing fighter. Plus, he would know who else would be good to help us."
"Professor McGonagall said she would work with us on advanced Transfiguration and Professor Flitwick is going to help us with duelling," Harry explained.
Hermione looked at him as though trying to figure him out. "You actually asked them for help."
Harry flushed. "I know I have a really bad habit of not asking for help, but Professor McGonagall has been great. She helped me when Lupin and Dumbledore both didn't." Looking down, he said, "I'm going to stay with her this summer."
While Ron looked somewhat horrified, Hermione was thrilled he would have someplace to go where he would be welcomed.
Harry hurried down the corridor. If he'd timed it just right, he would make it to Charms as Ginny's class let out. He'd wanted to ask her to Hogsmeade for the past week, but something always came up. Today he was determined to ask her. Unfortunately, he could still hear Hermione's voice telling him that Ginny had given up on him. He hoped that for once, Hermione was wrong.
As he turned the corner, he saw the door open. He knew that Ginny usually wasn't one of the first out of the class and he was waiting for her when she emerged. She looked gorgeous as always. He didn't know how she managed to make the same boring robes look so good, but she did. She was wearing her hair in a ponytail today. He grinned, he loved her hair.
She smiled and blushed when she saw him. He grinned as she walked over to him. The fact that she still blushed at times when talking to him, made him hope that he still had a chance. "Hello. How was Charms?"
"Great!" she said cheerfully. "I love Thursdays. I have Herbology, Astronomy, and Charms."
Gently tugging her bag out of her hands, he lifted it over his shoulder as they started walking. Steeling his nerves, he asked, "Gin, I was wondering if you'd like to go to Hogsmeade with me next weekend?"
The smile she shot at him was blinding. "I'd love to."
He was sure he had an incredibly stupid grin on his face. "Really?"
She laughed. "Yes, really."
Harry walked slowly towards the Great Hall after his morning classes. He hated Tuesdays. On Tuesdays, Ginny was usually late to lunch, so he usually didn't see her. He contemplated skipping Defence Against the Dark Arts to see her. The retired Ministry worker who taught the class wasn't very good in Harry's opinion and he didn't feel he was learning a whole lot.
It was yet another thing he held against Dumbledore. With the war on the horizon, Dumbledore should have been beating the bushes searching for someone qualified to teach the most important class. Instead, it appeared he wasn't very concerned who he found to teach. At times, he even seemed entertained by how incompetent the teachers were. It frustrated Harry that the best teacher they'd had was an often-unemployed werewolf. As much as he used to like Remus, he had wondered how qualified he was when he talked about how often he'd been unemployed, and he'd never held a teaching job before teaching at Hogwarts. Surely there must be someone in the British Isles not only capable but qualified to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Entering the Great Hall, he found a seat and helped himself to a bowl of soup and a sandwich. A shadow fell across him and he looked up to see Ginny standing there. His eyes lit up. "Ginny! I thought you had the late lunch on Tuesdays."
"I do," she said easily as she sat down next to him. "I felt I needed to be here. I can't explain it, but…I felt I needed to see you."
He frowned for a moment but smiled. "I don't understand that, but I'm very glad you're here."
She helped herself to potato soup and a roast beef sandwich. "How was Defence Against the Dark Arts?"
He rolled his eyes. "Boring as always. I can't believe that Dumbledore always finds such incompetent teachers for such an important class."
The two chatted about their classes as they ate lunch. A few post owls arrived, but there usually weren't many owls at lunch. Harry looked up as three owls approached him with a large parcel. Ginny gasped excitedly as she shook his arm. "I bet that's from Diagon Alley."
Harry shared some roast beef with the owls as Ginny detached the parcel. She nodded as she read the label. "It's from Diagon Alley."
"Let's go look," Harry said. He grabbed the bundle, and they hurried up to Gryffindor Tower. Without even discussing it, they ended up in Harry's room. Setting the bundle on the bed, he ripped it open. There were several boxes that read, 'Tap once with your wand.'
Harry enlarged two of the boxes while Ginny enlarged the other two. He grinned as he started opening boxes. He'd never bought so many new clothes before in his life, nor had he been able to choose his own clothes before. It was a lot more fun than he'd have thought it would be.
With Ginny's help, he now had a respectable wardrobe with nice trousers, button-up shirts with jackets and waistcoats as well as a more casual wardrobe of jeans and nice shirts. Harry had bought Ginny several pairs of jeans and the flowy blouses she favoured as well as several summer dresses.
Neville walked in as they were opening the boxes. "You've been shopping."
Harry flushed. "I just found out that I had enough money to buy new clothes."
Gesturing towards Harry's ring, he said, "You've taken on your head of house duties."
Harry nodded. "I never knew anything about it."
"I'm sorry," Neville said, "If I'd known I could have told you more about what is expected of you. I thought you didn't want to be the head of your house. Some people thought you were rejecting your father's heritage."
"No," Harry said sadly. "I just didn't know any better. Professor McGonagall helped me, and Ginny showed me how to order clothes."
"I can review some things with you," Neville said. "Do you have your family's grimoire?"
"Stephen mentioned that, but I don't know what it is," Harry shook his head. He hated feeling so lost in the wizarding world. "What is it?"
"It is a family book of spells and incantations. It is very individualised. For a family as old as yours, it would be priceless. It should be in your family vault."
Harry nodded. He would have to ask Stephen about that.
Harry tried to smooth down his hair, but it didn't work. Looking around to make sure no one was around, he squirted a bit of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion into his hand. To his amazement, it worked like a charm smoothing down his hair. He'd been shocked to find that his grandfather had developed the hair potion.
Taking a step back, he thought he didn't look too bad. He'd dressed in a pair of his new grey trousers with dragon skin boots. He was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt under a darker grey jumper. It was a bit strange to be wearing clothes that fit, and at times he felt a bit exposed, but Ginny seemed to like his new look.
He walked down to the common room and smiled to find Ginny waiting for him. She looked gorgeous as always. Her long red hair was pulled back into a ponytail, so curls cascaded down her back. She was wearing a pair of jeans that Harry noted she filled out very nicely. Her dragon skin boots matched his except hers had a bit of a heel. She was wearing a lavender jumper with a lilac shirt underneath.
"You look really nice," he said shyly.
"Thank you," she said. "So do you."
After they climbed out of the portrait hole, Harry threaded his fingers through hers. He really couldn't believe she'd agreed to come with him. They chatted easily as they waited for Filch to let them out. Harry hadn't been allowed to go to Hogsmeade his third year, but he'd made a deal with his uncle and had his permission slip signed for his fourth year. He'd only been on one actual date to Hogsmeade. The previous year he'd taken Cho Chang to Hogsmeade – that was a disaster. His day with Ginny was already looking up. They held hands as they walked down towards the village.
They chatted easily about Quidditch and their classes. Harry had been thrilled and a bit surprised to be named Quidditch captain. He knew Ron had been a bit upset, but he recovered quickly. Harry didn't hold it against him, hadn't he done the same thing when Ron had become a prefect?
Even though it was cold, most of the upperclassman still came out to visit the village. Harry noticed a few Aurors and Order members along the road. He nodded to Kingsley while resolutely ignoring Tonks and Lupin who were walking together.
"Bill said he'd meet us at the Three Broomsticks," Ginny reminded him. She grinned. "I can't wait to see him."
Harry couldn't believe how easy it was to talk to Ginny. During his disastrous date with Cho, the previous year, he'd not been able to talk to her or hold her hand. With Ginny, it was easy and very exciting. Every time she smiled at him, he could feel his heart speed up. When they entered the village, they spent some time simply wandering around and enjoying being in each other's company.
When they entered the Three Broomsticks, Ginny spied Bill immediately. He stood up and hugged his sister and shook Harry's hand.
Once they were seated with a butterbeer, Bill said, "Your letter was very intriguing. I've spoken to Kingsley several times, so I have an idea of what this might be about."
"He told you about S-Sirius?" Harry asked, stumbling over his godfather's name.
Bill nodded. "I am so sorry for your loss. I can't believe you had to witness that."
Ginny squeezed Harry's hand and he managed a wan smile for her. "Thank you."
After drinking some of his butterbeer, Harry continued. "Professor McGonagall has been great and her brother, Stephen, has helped me with the legal stuff. I…I didn't know anything about being heir to an ancient and noble house. Stephen has helped me, but I've also been talking to Neville Longbottom and Ernie McMillan. They've been really helpful. I didn't even know anything about my responsibilities."
"Damn, I did wonder," Bill said. "I even asked Mum, but she said that Dumbledore was taking care of everything. I wondered about the clothes. Mum said it was something about Muggle fashions."
Blushing, Harry looked down at the table, tracing the wood grain with his free hand. "I can't believe anyone thought I would want to dress that way. My relatives never bought me any new clothes. The only clothes I had were from my cousin. I asked Lupin if I could buy some new clothes, but he said that he didn't know if I had enough money."
Harry nodded at Bill's astonishment. "It's like they don't think I need to know any of this stuff. I wonder if Dumbledore thinks I won't survive so there is no point in teaching me."
"I wish I could disagree, but I don't honestly know," Bill admitted. "He's been very keen on keeping you at your aunt's house. My mum asked if you could spend more of the summer at our house, but Dumbledore didn't think it was safe. I always had the impression that he didn't want you too close to the Order."
"I thought that as well," Harry said.
Looking over the young man who had done so much for not only the wizarding world but also for his family, Bill said, "What can I do for you?"
Reaching into his pocket, Harry pulled out a copy of his father's letter and handed it to Bill. The older wizard read the letter, paling slightly upon reading the prophecy. Once he'd finished, he looked up at Harry.
"Would you consider training us? I don't know who else to ask," Harry said simply.
"Of course," Bill replied. He seemed to be thinking over something. "If it is okay with you, I think Kingsley would be a great help and Fleur as well. Kingsley is a top Auror and he's an amazing dueller. Fleur is very good with charms."
Exchanging a look with Ginny, Harry asked, "They wouldn't mind keeping it from Dumbledore?"
Bill shook his head. "Kingsley is quite angry with Dumbledore at the moment. He blames Dumbledore's love of secrets for much of the foothold Voldemort has obtained in our world. If Aurors had been allowed to interview you the night of the Tournament, Kingsley believes things might be very different."
"I agree," Harry said. "It didn't dawn on me until later, but I was kidnapped from the school, and I was a witness to a murder. I should have talked to someone other than the headmaster." He shrugged. "I didn't talk to anyone after Quirrell died either. I guess I just figured if it happened at school, Dumbledore took care of it."
"Who the hell is Quirrell?" Bill asked. He was almost afraid to hear the answer.
"He was the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor during my first year. He had the minor issue of having Voldemort in the back of his head." Harry was gratified to see neither sibling reacted to Voldemort's name. He explained what had happened during his first year with the Philosopher's Stone.
Bill shook his head in amazement. Looking at his sister, he asked, "Did you know this?"
"I hadn't heard the whole story in that way," she replied, "but Ron boasted about the chess match forever."
Looking at the younger wizard, Bill stopped thinking of him as his younger siblings' friend. He was a powerful wizard, and he needed help.
"I will speak to Professor McGonagall," Bill said after they discussed what they thought Harry would need to work on.
When they left the pub, Harry took Ginny's hand once again. "Thank you!"
She grinned up at him. "Not at all."
Staring down at her, Harry couldn't remember making a conscious decision, but he leaned down and kissed her. She shifted and wrapped her arms around his neck, and he pulled her closer.
He couldn't have said how much later it was when he broke the kiss. He scanned her face looking for a clue to her reaction. Her eyes were shining and her cheeks were pink with the cold. She looked so beautiful that he dropped another kiss on her lips.
With a smile, he wrapped his arm around her, and they walked down High Street looking in the shops, waving to friends, and stealing a few kisses. For Harry, it was his best visit ever to Hogsmeade.
Hermione frowned as she watched Harry talking to Neville and Ernie MacMillan in the Great Hall. Over the past few months, the distance between her, Ron and Harry had grown. It all seemed to date back to the nightmare Harry had when Voldemort broke his followers out of Azkaban.
For several days afterwards, Harry had avoided her and Ron. While he'd finally told them what had happened and an abridged version of what he'd seen, for the first time it seemed that he was holding things back. It hurt her that he wouldn't share everything with them. Ron was upset that Harry suddenly started talking to Ginny. That didn't bother Hermione as much as the fact that he wasn't spending as much time with her and Ron. She overlooked the fact that she and Ron had shut Harry out over the past two years.
Hermione was shocked at Harry's behaviour, but the biggest surprise was Professor McGonagall. Hermione had watched as Professor Dumbledore tried to engage Harry in conversation whilst Harry was leaving the Great Hall, but Harry would not respond. When she'd seen Professor McGonagall approaching, Hermione assumed Harry was in trouble. To her amazement, Professor McGonagall scolded the headmaster for approaching Harry.
For the past four and a half or five weeks, Harry had been talking to a lot of students from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Hermione was especially distressed by him talking to two blonde sisters from Slytherin.
He was also dressing differently. While she was glad he was finally able to throw away his cousin's old clothes, it was a bit suspicious that he was suddenly so well turned out. To Ron's dismay, Ginny also had some new clothes which Harry had given her.
Ron had spent an evening fighting off bat bogeys when he asked what she did to earn the clothes. Now any comments he simply grumbled to Hermione.
"He's talking to the other pure-blood heirs," Ron said as he dropped into the chair next to her.
"Harry. He found out he was the heir to the House of Potter. About a month ago he took over as head of his house, that's when he started wearing the ring. I think that's what the clothes are about as well."
Hermione stared at him, unused to Ron being the source of information. Ron shrugged. "I heard him talking to Neville last night, and I asked him about it this morning. He's trying to live up to what he thinks his father and godfather would have wanted him to do."
"What do clothes have to do with being the head of his family?" Hermione asked. She didn't want to say anything out loud, but Mr Weasley certainly didn't dress like Harry was recently.
"The house of Potter is one of the Ancient and Noble houses," Ron explained. "They are a smaller group of wizarding families whose roots go back before Hogwarts. They helped form the Ministry. My family is an old wizarding family, but they aren't an Ancient and Noble house – there aren't very many of those. The Potters and Blacks are both Ancient and Noble families, and Harry is heir to both of them. To wear the family ring means you are representing your family and it is expected you will dress appropriately."
"That's awful!" Hermione exclaimed. "Why is he suddenly exploring his roots?"
Ron looked at her strangely. "Why shouldn't he?"
"How can you ask that?" Hermione asked angrily. "This is everything he is supposed to be fighting against – all that pure-blood superiority nonsense."
"Not all pure-bloods are like that," Ron said. "I'm a pure-blood and so is Neville. Being a pure-blood isn't the problem – it's believing that makes you superior that is the problem. Do you really think he shouldn't try to find anything out about his father's family? The Potters have always been considered a light family. Why shouldn't he explore his heritage?"
Flustered, Hermione thought it through. "It just…he's...he's ignoring us, but he's making friends with so many different people."
Ron shrugged. "He's asking questions. I feel badly that I never thought to talk to him about family responsibilities before. I'm the sixth son, so I don't have to know everything that he does. His family also has a lot more money and responsibilities than mine. I think it's good for him."
As lunch wound down, Hermione made a quick trip to the loo. She returned to the Entrance Hall to see Harry and Ginny leave the Great Hall. Remus followed.
Harry stiffened at the sound of Remus' voice and slowly turned around. "What?"
"Harry, please. We only want to help you."
"I don't want your help," Harry returned. He stepped to one side to allow a group of Hufflepuffs out of the Great Hall. "I have recruited my own help."
Remus frowned. "Yes, I know. I just want to help you and the headmaster wants to help you."
"Well, that boat sailed a while ago," Harry said angrily.
"Are you going to keep holding this against us?"
"The fact that you allowed my godfather to rot in prison? That little thing? I had to watch him be tortured and die a very slow and agonising death. So yes, I will hold this against you!"
Hermione watched in shock as Harry stormed away. Ginny turned to Remus. "You hurt him very badly. You need to give him some space."
Remus smiled sadly as Hermione approached him. "I guess you want to tell me how I messed up as well."
Biting her lip, Hermione looked up at the man she revered. "Harry told us about his vision and Sirius. I think you should have told him."
Sighing, Remus nodded. "I know. We made the wrong decisions."
Lifting his tortured eyes to his protégé, Remus explained what they'd discovered. "I wish we could go back…I wish I'd realised that Sirius would never betray James. They were closer than brothers."
"Still telling others about my parents?" came a voice from the entrance to the courtyard.
Hermione whirled around to see a very angry Harry in the doorway. Ginny and Ron were standing right next to him.
Remus flushed. "I am very sorry. Sirius…Sirius and James became instant best friends the moment they boarded the Hogwarts Express. Friendship with Peter and me came a bit later."
"I found a photo album in my parents' vault," Harry said. "There were tons of pictures of you. Hell, I even found pictures of you holding me as a baby. Did you never think to tell me any of this?"
"Dumbledore assured me that you were in a good home and happy with your aunt and uncle," Remus protested. "I know your aunt doesn't like magic, so I didn't want to disturb you."
"You knew my aunt hated magic, you knew she hated my mother, but somehow you thought they gave me a good home?" Harry asked incredulously. He glared at the man who his father had befriended. "Voldemort knows how bad my home life is, are you telling me that you and Dumbledore don't?"
Remus faltered. "It…it is important to…there are strong blood wards that keep you safe at your aunt's house."
"Do not come near me again," Harry said scornfully.
Harry stormed away followed closely by Ginny. Remus had to blink back tears as he watched the young wizard. Glancing over at Hermione, he said, "I never meant to hurt him."
"I know," Hermione said gently. "He's just…he's never really had much of a family."
"That's what kills me," Remus said. "Sirius loved that boy and he would have done anything in his power to make sure Harry had a wonderful childhood. I'm upset that I didn't do what I could."
Remus watched with a detached air as the fighting whirled around him. It was a cool pre-dawn morning and the fighting had been going on most of the night. He felt as though he was alone in a small pocket of death. He could smell the burning of spells; both those that had hit their mark and those that had missed and scorched the trees around him. The most overwhelming smell was that of coppery blood with an underlying hint of bodies torn asunder and just beginning to decompose.
Thankfully, it was not a full moon, so Voldemort was deprived of most of his werewolves, but he still had plenty of Dark creatures as his disposal. Remus had seen many Patronuses battling Dementors. The giants and Trolls had been put down fairly early in the attack, but they'd done their job along with the Acromantulas of unnerving the castle defenders and causing panic.
The flash of spellfire lit up the grounds of Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest. The cool dew was starting to soak into his clothes along with his blood loss making him cold and uncomfortable. He could also hear the shouting of spells and calls between the defenders as they chased the Death Eaters that had dared to follow their leader and attack Hogwarts. Albus Dumbledore was one of the first to fall, early the evening before, and Remus had truly thought all was lost until Harry stepped forward.
This was not the shy, eager to please Harry he'd met during his time teaching or the moody, brooding teen he'd heard about from Albus, nor was this the angry at the world Harry. Gone was the skinny, malnourished child; in his place was a confident warrior. This Harry looked every inch a champion. He was dressed in battle robes that carried the insignias for the House of Black and the House of Potter.
He did not fight alone, either. By his side was his rumoured fiancée, Ginny Weasley. She also wore battle robes, hers had the insignia of the House of Potter and the House of Weasley. Bill and Fleur Weasley, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and many of Harry's classmates were fighting with him. Remus was only slightly surprised to see Ron and Hermione fighting with him. In the past year and a half, Harry had gathered a group of students drawn from each house and trained them to fight.
It had worried Albus no end that Harry would not ask for help. Every time Albus reached out to Harry, Bill, or Kingsley, he was rebuffed. In the end, Remus had utilised his connection to Hermione to leak important information to them. Without Harry's knowledge, they worked behind the scenes to locate and identify the Horcruxes before letting Hermione 'discover' the information and share it with the others.
Remus winced as silver ate through his veins like fire. Looking over, he could see the body of Fenrir Greyback killed by Bill Weasley, laying ten feet in front of him. Remus had been so busy watching that fight, he hadn't noticed Antonin Dolohov casting the werewolf killing spell on him. It was an old spell, but it was still effective. Remus thought it would take him another ten or twenty minutes to die as the silver spread through his body.
He couldn't move, he could just stay slumped against a tree stump surrounded by death. Anton's body lay just behind him. One of the Weasley twins had killed him, exacting revenge for their long-murdered uncles. The coppery smell of blood was all around him and he could hear moans of other injured fighters, but he couldn't tell where they were.
A loud shout rent through the air followed by screaming, but this seemed to be more celebratory than scared. As his vision faded to black, he heard someone yell, "Potter did it! Voldemort is dead!"
Harry gripped Ginny's hand tightly as they walked through the Great Hall. The dead were laid out on the floor. He'd heard that twenty-one defenders had lost their lives in the battle. The most notable deaths were Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Severus Snape, and Filius Flitwick. Harry also knew three of the students who died; Colin Creevey, Alicia Spinnet, and Dean Thomas.
He stopped in front of Dumbledore and Lupin. They were laid out side by side. Dumbledore had fallen early in the battle to a Killing Curse from Peter Pettigrew whilst protecting the escape of some of the younger students. Lupin had been killed by a silver curse, the effects of the excruciatingly painful curse evident on his face.
"I never wanted them dead," he said quietly.
Ginny squeezed his hand. "I know."
He stared at the man, who for his first years in the wizarding world, had seemed like a grandfather, a protector, and a wise man. He'd truly felt the older wizard cared about him. Was any of it real? Was the old man ever going to tell him about the prophecy or train him to fight? Somehow, Harry didn't think so.
His feelings about Lupin were similarly complicated. He'd liked the man as a professor but hated that he wouldn't go against Dumbledore's wishes. How differently would things have turned out if Lupin or Dumbledore had said something about Wormtail? Could he have spent time with his godfather?
Earlier, he'd seen Hermione crying over Lupin's body. He knew she still revered and admired the man. He even knew that Lupin was feeding him information through her. He felt for Hermione's loss and knew that Ron had taken her to the hospital wing for a calming draught.
"I can't believe it's over," Harry murmured. He looked across the Great Hall to the section currently being guarded by the castle gargoyles, statues, and a few scattered Aurors.
Voldemort's body lay over there along with his devoted Death Eaters. Bellatrix Lestrange had fallen to Mrs Weasley's wand while her husband, Rodolphus, had been found on the grounds a victim of an unknown defender. He knew that Kingsley had been appointed Interim Minister for Magic. Kingsley was planning to cremate the bodies so no one could try to resurrect Voldemort again.
"Come outside, love," Ginny said quietly.
Nodding, he allowed himself to be led from the castle into the warm spring morning. The sun was shining as if it was chasing away the horrors of the night before. The dead and injured had been moved and now a group of Ministry witches and wizards were assessing the damage to the castle. Harry was surprised that there wasn't as much damage as he would have thought there would be.
He wrapped his arms around his fiancée and pulled her close. Looking down at her, he thought she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Even with her ripped robes, tangled hair, and scattered bruises, he thought she looked amazing. "Come with me?"
She nodded trustingly. Closing his eyes, he Apparated the pair of them to Godric's Hollow. He led his way into the churchyard and wended through the gravestones to his parents' white marble gravestone. A new marble stone marked the grave of Sirius Black. Harry had worked with Stephen McGonagall to make sure Sirius was buried at St Jerome's next to his parents.
"We did it," he announced quietly. "Voldemort is dead, Peter is dead."
Tears burned in his eyes. Once they started falling, he couldn't stop. Ginny wrapped her arms around him tightly and murmured words of comfort as he sobbed out his relief and grief. She held him and her tears mingled with his. The couple ended up sitting on the ground side by side with their backs against an older tomb near his parents. Harry reached down and threaded her fingers through his. Lifting her hand to his lips, he kissed the back of her hand.
"Thank you, love."
She smiled up at him. "I love you."
He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer. "I love you."
He stood and swayed before pulling her to her feet. The night of fighting and all the emotions of the past few hours caught up with him. "Let's go home."
As they walked out of the graveyard, Harry looked back. He smiled to think that his parents and godfather could rest easily now.
A/N: Thanks to my beta, StephanieO for her hard work! I wanted to explore what would happen if Sirius didn't see that fateful photo in the newspaper.
** Quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, pg 938 of the electronic version
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