Harry Potter ~ Heir of Gryffindor

Disclaimer: I own nothing - except the plot, I suppose. This is my first fanfic, please Review! Thank you! And additionally, all the Harry Potter stuff belongs to the genius J.K. Rowling.

Chapter One

He was running in what used to be an abandoned mansion, but was now used as a headquarters for Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters. As he rounded a corner, a shrill voice stopped him in his tracks. Straining to hear what was being said, he managed to catch the following phrase, ".everything had better be prepared, Wormtail, or you will wish you had never been born. Soon I will have the Potter boy; soon I will have my revenge." Inching forward into the room the voices came from, and peering around the corner, he saw a figure that had been haunting his nightmares for five years. The man who had mercilessly murdered his parents. Voldemort.

Harry woke with a start. He angrily cursed Voldemort, for disturbing his sleep again. In the past, seeing the Dark Lord in his dreams had frightened Harry Potter greatly, but now it had happened so many times that Harry regarded his strange visions as a waste of time. Still, after having determined last year that his visions were real, Harry was obligated to inform his headmaster Albus Dumbledore of what he had seen. Ever since Voldemort had come back, Harry had been seeing many visions, and by telling his headmaster about them, he was able to help prevent a number of deaths of innocent people. After Cedric Diggory's death, Harry had been determined to help with the battle against Voldemort, and helped in any way he could, although many times the best way to help was to simply stay out of the way. That was one thing that greatly annoyed him, but if it helped the Resistance, then he would do it.

Knowing that he wouldn't be able to sleep anymore anyways, Harry resignedly pushed himself out of bed. After he managed to locate his glasses and don them, he shuffled through his trunk till he found a spare piece of parchment and a quill. Dipping the quill into the first ink bottle he located, Harry hastily scribbled:

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

Last night I had another vision. Voldemort was in the Riddle Mansion, and Wormtail was with him. They were discussing a plan to kill me again, and Voldemort seemed extremely angry, probably because I embarrassed him in front of all his inner-circle Death Eaters. Hope you can do something with this information, good luck.

Sincerely, Harry Potter

Harry stared at it a moment, wondering if the "good luck" sounded a bit stupid. But then again, many people could die trying to destroy Voldemort, so giving luck wouldn't be that stupid and baby-ish sounding after all.

After sealing the letter, Harry turned to his snowy-white owl Hedwig, and beckoned her over to him. He tied the note onto her leg, and she spread her wings and flew off into the early morning sky. Satisfied, Harry quickly donned some muggle (non-magical) clothes and started down the stairs to the kitchen.

As Harry entered the kitchen, he automatically knew that something was wrong. His aunt and uncle were sitting stiffly and silently at the kitchen table, looking down at something that Uncle Vernon held in his hand. Aunt Petunia sniffed, and then began to weep silently onto Uncle Vernon's shoulder. Vernon, however, looked beyond tears, much as Cedric's mother had been when she learned of Cedric's death. Actually, he looked absolutely furious, but what he was furious with, Harry did not know. He decided to make his presence known.

"Good morning Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia. What's the matter?" He asked tentatively as he slowly entered the kitchen. At this Aunt Petunia was overcome with a wave of tears, and Uncle Vernon glared at Harry. He looked almost deranged.

"What's the matter? What's the matter! I'll tell you what's the matter! I just got word that Marge was murdered!" Harry was stunned; he hated Marge, but definitely didn't want her dead. "And guess who killed her, boy? It was one of your lot. A group of. wizards. (Vernon shuddered) attacked her town, killing everyone who was in their way. Marge was out walking her dogs when she was killed, BANG, like that!" Harry felt awful now. Although he wasn't connected in any way with Lord Voldemort (which was who probably headed the attack), he still felt guilt for how his fellow magical users exerted their power. Harry was about to tell Uncle Vernon how sorry he was that Marge had died when Uncle Vernon began to speak again in a sorrowful voice full of hatred.

"It's all your fault, yes, all your fault. If it hadn't been for you and your vile taint, magic would have never come to our family! We would have never had to harbor you and your. disease. for all these years. And Marge would still be alive! And now she's dead, all because of you!" Harry understood that his Uncle was very sad, but he didn't understand why her death had anything to do with him. He hadn't killed her, and he told his Uncle that. Vernon whirled on Harry and screamed out:

"Do you know why they went to that village, boy? Why they killed all those people? For fun! It said in the paper, they were laughing as they slaughtered the villagers like cattle! You are all the same! Only last year you did something to my own son (Harry briefly remembered the incident last year when one Fred and George's trick sweets had been eaten by Dudley. Chaos had ensued.), and while it happened you laughed! You are all the same! And I've had enough of it!" As he said this, his tone seemed to become hardened, like he had finally decided what he was going to do.

"I've had enough of your evil taint, boy, and I will not stand it any longer! Marge is dead because of your kind, and I will not let her death go un-avenged!"

Harry could see the blow coming before it hit him, but he could do nothing to stop it. Vernon drew back his fist and punched Harry again, harder, this time in the face. Harry felt his nose break, his glasses shatter, and white-hot pain nearly blind him. It seemed that Vernon had finally cracked, as he decided to blame Marge's death on Harry, just because Harry was a wizard. Things had gone far enough. Harry would not let himself be beaten up, just because his uncle had gone insane.

Harry attempted to stand up, but his uncle's fist caught him square in the stomach before he had gotten to his feet. He crashed to the floor, clutching his stomach and moaning in pain. He saw the fist coming straight at his face, and before he blacked out, his last thought was, "I'm in definite trouble now."

When Harry awoke, he was surprised to see that he was lying on the floor in his bedroom. Had he fallen out of bed? But then everything came back to him in a rush. His Aunt Marge was dead, and his Uncle Vernon had finally cracked, and had taken it out on Harry. Now that Harry focused, he was dimly aware of a slight pain in all of his limbs, most particularly his legs. Deciding that he should probably contact someone to tell them that his Uncle had gone insane, Harry attempted to prop himself up on one elbow. Instantly, white-hot pain seared through his shoulder, and with a gasp Harry collapsed back to the ground. Once the pain had subsided, and Harry was thinking straight, he realized that his arm was probably broken. "Well of course it is," he admonished himself, "It would be a miracle if after that beating something hadn't been broken."

Calming himself down, Harry stepped back to evaluate the situation. He was lying on the bedroom floor, with one or more of his limbs broken. He couldn't move because of the pain, and even if he could handle the pain, he could seriously damage himself even more than he already was. His wand was on the other side of the room, as were all his school things, and Hedwig was gone delivering a letter. But then again, Harry doubted he could have written a letter with broken fingers anyways, so he wouldn't have had much help there. And now that he evaluated himself, he realized that he was in serious trouble. If Vernon had seriously injured him once, he might do it again, and Harry was in no condition to stop him.

Just as Harry though this, Vernon burst into the room with an insane grin on his face. "Awake, are you? About time. Just lying there, doing nothing to help. Did it even occur to you the mess that you made in the kitchen? Blood everywhere! Took your aunt an hour to clean it up! And could you care less? No! You. ungrateful. little. wretch! (He lent down and pounded Harry in the stomach at each word.)"

Harry lay on the floor gasping for breath. His uncle had truly gone mad. "Uncle Vernon, I didn't kill Aunt Marge, don't punish me for that." Vernon's fist had connected with his face again, and Harry's already broken nose throbbed in agony. After Vernon had comforted his fist, he began to pound Harry, blow after blow, until Harry slipped into unconsciousness.

Harry didn't know how many weeks passed at the Dursleys during his ordeal, but he was now so hurt that it had become extremely difficult to do anything. His vision was completely blurred, even with his glasses on (which had long since been broken), and his nose was so overwhelmed with the stench of dried blood that he couldn't ever remember smelling anything else besides it. However, on August 5 (Harry had heard his Aunt telling Dudley the date), after waking from another beating, Harry realized something which he had completely overlooked. Sirius. He was supposed to write to Sirius every week, so Sirius could know that he was okay. He hadn't written in at least three weeks, meaning that Sirius had to suspect that something was going on. And Sirius may even come to see what was wrong. Harry's heart filled with hope. Maybe his ordeal would be over soon!

But Sirius didn't come. Not for ten days (which seemed like an eternity in Harry's pain-filled mind), which led Harry to believe that Sirius just wouldn't come. He would have to survive the next fifteen days until Hogwarts School started again before someone would notice that he was missing. Then he would leave the Dursley's (hopefully forever) and would be healed, and would go back to live at Hogwarts with his good friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. But a horrible thought struck Harry's mind. He didn't know if he could survive another fifteen days. Fifteen whole days.

Just before despair consumed him, Harry suddenly became aware of two voices arguing downstairs. This wasn't unordinary (Dudley and Vernon often fought), but this time the second voice was different. It was deeper, and seemed to be more pleasant sounding, although at this time it was filled with anger. Harry strained to hear what his Uncle and the stranger were saying (his hearing was the only thing about him that still worked properly), and he managed to pick up:

". can't see him! The boy is indisposed!" came the voice of Vernon.

"What do you mean, indisposed? I demand to see him now!" The strange voice said, although it seemed oddly familiar.

"I mean he is indisposed! This is my house, my rules, and I said that you can't see him!" Vernon shouted in anger.

"I don't care if this is your castle, Dursley, let me see my godson now!"

With a jolt Harry realized where he had heard the strange voice from. It was his godfather Sirius! Thank the lord! Harry was overcome with relief. Help was on the way, and would soon be here. His torment was over. Harry heard someone ascending the stairs, and Sirius telling Uncle Vernon angrily, "If you laid a finger on Harry's head, I swear Dursley, you will wish you had never been born!"

The door to Harry's bedroom creaked open, and Harry's godfather stepped into the room. It took his eyes a moment to register his godson crumpled on the ground, with dried blood at least three weeks old staining the floor around him. After his initial shock at seeing his godson lying bruised and broken on the floor, Sirius quickly bent down and began to examine Harry. He obviously thought that Harry was unconscious, which Harry was mightily struggling not to be. Wanting to reassure his godfather, Harry croaked out a weak, "Hey," which was all he could manage.

Hearing his godson's voice, Sirius turned to him and attempted to give Harry a comforting smile of reassurance, which failed miserably. "Hey. Don't worry, everything will be alright. I'll contact Saint Mungos, and they'll take care of you, and then I'll find out why the hell Dursley did this to you."

"Bet I look pretty bad, eh?" Harry grinned weakly.

Sirius looked at him with a pained expression. "You look fine Harry, don't worry. Now sleep, it'll help you recover. Go on, dormitus." Sirius said, placing his godson under a sleeping charm. Harry instantly fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, and for the first time since Sirius had seen him, he looked peaceful. Sirius, although aching to go crack Vernon Dursley's skull open with his bare hands, after seeing that Harry was in a painless sleep, took a small, clear orb out of his pocket. He stared straight at the orb, cleared his throat, and muttered, "St. Mungos."

The orb rose slowly out of his hand, and began to rotate in mid-air, faster and faster, until it began to glow slightly blue. The orb Sirius was holding was a telepathic orb, and when it was called upon, it created a magical connection between any other orb in existence. Because these orbs were extremely expensive, and extremely rare, not many people had them, so Sirius had never found much use for his family heirloom. But he had recently discovered that St. Mungos Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries was also in possession of an orb, meaning that Sirius could contact them quite quickly if there ever be a need. Now was such a time.

A female voice floated from the orb, saying lazily, "This is St. Mungos Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, how can I help you?" to which Sirius replied, "I have a severely hurt boy here who needs medical attention immediately."

"Of course sir. A team will be sent to assist you as soon as you answer these questions for me. It will take only a moment. Name of patient?"

Sirius growled angrily. His godson could die, and he didn't have time for stupid questions! But he couldn't seem to get help any other way, so he resigned himself to answering this woman's questions. "Harry Potter."

"Definition of Injury?"

"He was severely beaten, many bones are broken, and he has been in this condition for approximately three weeks."

"Location of. sir, did you say that the patient was Harry Potter? The Harry Potter? The one who single handedly defeated You-Know."

"YES! IT IS THE HARRY POTTER, AND HE IS ABOUT TO DIE IF YOU DON'T DO SOMETHING IMMEDIATELY!"

The voice gulped, and the girl replied that she would send over a team immediately. "Thank you!" Sirius replied angrily, hoping that they would get here soon. But if they came into this house to find Sirius Black, one of the world's most dangerous criminals, standing beside Harry, he would be in Azkaban before he could say "Quidditch." Sighing, Sirius snatched a piece of parchment and a quill from his dirt-lined pocket and scribbled down:

Harry,

I am sorry this happened, it was my fault that I didn't come to see you sooner. Get well, and good luck. Once your out of Saint Mungos you may want to tell the Ministry who beat you up. I think your uncle will sincerely regret ever laying a finger on you. See you soon. Till then, best of luck.

Snuffles

Sirius tucked the letter into Harry's pocket, and prayed for a moment for his godson to heal quickly. If anyone didn't deserve pain, it was Harry. He had been through enough pain, and he deserved a nice, quiet life. Sighing at the hopelessness of it all, Sirius glanced at his godson one more time, then transformed into a large, black dog and bounded out the window, just in time to see the team from St. Mungos arrive in Harry's bedroom. Satisfied, Sirius ran off into the inky-black night.

A loud bang, sounding rather like a door slamming, brought Harry out of his dreams. He opened his eyes, and was surprised to find himself in a large, blurry white room. Why was he here, and where was here? "Where am I?" Harry asked, hoping that he hadn't gone to heaven after the beating his uncle had given him, although it was entirely possible. He almost expected to see an angel flutter down out of the sky playing a harp. Instead, a kindly old voice chuckled, and replied, "You are in Saint Mungos Hospital on August 20, and it is ten o' clock in the morning." Slowly the face of Harry's smiling headmaster swam into view.

"Professor Dumbledore! What am I doing here? I don't remember coming here!"

Dumbledore chuckled, observing Harry in amusement. "Calm down, dear boy. Everything is fine. You are here thanks to the efforts of your godfather. Do you remember?"

Harry paused for a moment to re-organize his memories. Yes.he did remember his godfather coming. He felt a rush of gratitude towards Sirius Black. Harry shuddered to think what would have happened if his godfather hadn't shown up. But as to being admitted to the hospital, he didn't know. oh, Sirius must have brought him here while he was unconscious. But another thing was worrying Harry. What had happened to his uncle? Harry sincerely hoped that he had been arrested, because if anyone deserved jail, it was Vernon Dursley. Actually, now that he thought about it, there were many more people who deserved jail as well. Draco Malfoy, Lord Voldemort, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle.

"How are you feeling?" Dumbledore interrupted Harry's train of thought.

Harry was momentarily startled by the question, but then realized the answer. "I'm just fine, sir. I don't feel hurt at all!" And it was true. It seemed that the matrons at the hospital had magically mended Harry's broken bones. That meant that Harry may be able to leave the hospital soon! Although he deeply appreciated Saint Mungos help, he was feeling rather flabby from being bed-ridden (or floor-ridden) so long, and he was sincerely looking forward to getting some fresh air. But once he was out of the hospital, where would he go?

Dumbledore seemed to sense the question as though Harry had spoken it aloud. "You are no doubt wondering where you will go when you are released, so I took the liberty of arranging a place for you to stay." Harry looked at Dumbledore questioningly. "Sirius has invited you to stay with him for the remainder of the holidays. I would have preferred you to stay with your aunt and uncle, but owing to their new-found attitude towards you, I believe an exception can be made." Harry cheered silently at this. "You no doubt miss your friends immensely, therefore Sirius has invited Ron and Hermione to visit him as well. They have accepted the invitation, and will arrive at Sirius' home this afternoon."

Harry was elated. Not only would he be seeing his favorite (and only) godfather again, he would also get to see his best friends! "That's great professor! When am I being released?"

"Right now, if you are feeling better. I daresay you want to stretch your muscles a bit before seeing your friends again, am I right?"

"Yes, sir." Feeling better than he had all summer, Harry shoved his glasses on his face, and eased himself out of bed. When his feet hit the floor however, Harry's knees buckled, as though they couldn't support his weight. Harry grimaced, and tried to stand again, this time gradually putting pressure on his legs, until he was standing fully upright.

"Well then, it seems that you can manage well enough, Harry, so I'll be off. Good luck, and I'll see you at Hogwarts!" Dumbledore told Harry, and began to exit the room, before suddenly turning back, as though he had forgotten something. He regarded Harry silently for a moment, and then told him in a low voice, "I just wanted to inform you that the information of your dream that you sent me helped enormously. We were able to prevent a death eater attack on the village of Little Hangleton, and also managed to evict the death eaters from their hide-out. None were captured, unfortunately, but we have spelled the Riddle Manor so it will repel any who are devoted to the Dark Lord."

Harry looked at Dumbledore curiously. "Why are you telling me this, sir?"

Dumbledore looked Harry straight in the eye. "Because it was with your help that we managed to do these things, and you deserve to know what happened." And with that being said, Dumbledore gave a reassuring smile to Harry, and then glided out of the room.

Harry watched the door through which Dumbledore had exited for a few moments, before stumbling over to the bathroom. Inside, he changed into decent clothes, attempted to comb his hair, (which failed miserably) and basically made himself presentable.

When Harry stumbled out of the bathroom, a nurse was waiting by the doorway of his hospital room. She beckoned for Harry to follow her, which he did, and she led him through a series of hallways (all painted a sickly green color) until they reached the main doors. Outside, a large, lavender limousine was parked directly in front of him, and the nurse directed Harry to enter the limo. Grinning, Harry climbed in (his legs were now working properly) the limousine, which took off as soon as the door was closed. Harry then turned his attention to the driver.

"Excuse me, sir, but where are we headed?" Harry asked questioningly.

The driver turned his head slightly towards Harry, and replied in an official voice, "To Black castle," and went back to concentrating on his driving.

Harry froze. As far as he knew, the entire wizarding world believed that Sirius Black (who obviously owned the castle) was an escaped convict. What had happened while he was indisposed?

"Um. sir" Harry asked tentitavely, "Who exactly owns Black's castle?"

The driver sighed in irritation and replied, "It was granted to Dumbledore once Black was sent to Azkaban. Is there anything else you wanna ask, boy? Cause I'm trying to drive here, you know."

Harry smiled in relief. Sirius hadn't been caught. And now he was going to live with him! Of course, it was probably illegal to live with an escaped convict, but Harry couldn't care less. He was going to his godfather's castle! (Even though he didn't know that his godfather had a castle.) Unfortunately, Black castle was probably way far north, maybe even in another country, so Harry had a long ride ahead of him. He attempted several times to make conversation with his chauffeur, which totally failed, so Harry settled himself more comfortably in his seat and prepared for a long, boring drive.

When Harry reached Black castle, he was surprised by its appearance. Although not nearly as large as Hogwarts, the castle somehow seemed more. he didn't know. homely. It loomed high above him, flags waving proudly from the towers, and Harry simply felt like this is where he belonged. The stone, though quite old, was well cared for, and the sunlight glinted off it as though it was polished marble. But the most amazing part of Black castle was the grounds.

The grounds extended for miles in all directions, and where covered in lush vegetation. There were extensive gardens, (all extremely well cared for) broad, open fields, and even a large forest which rather resembled the Forbidden Forest. While passing the forest, Harry could have sworn he heard a roaring noise, but quickly dismissed it as a figment of his imagination.

Finally the limousine reached the outer walls of the castle, which were made of thick blocks of stone, and looked as though they could repel any invader. There were arrow slits in the walls, and here and there, there were scrape marks, as though a sword had been futilely slashed against the wall. Harry clambered out of the limousine, attempted to thank the driver (who completely ignored him) for driving him, and then turned to face the castle.

Harry slowly and cautiously entered the outer castle walls, not being sure what he would find there. His godfather had been a great prankster in his time, and Harry didn't want to find out what spells he had placed on his castle. As Harry approached the keep, he noticed a sign of movement near the main doors. There were two figures, and they seemed to be watching him. He drew his wand.

Harry slowly approached the two figures, wand drawn and ready in front of him. When he was about twenty meters away, he was surprised to see that one of them had a reddish tint to his hair, reminding him suddenly of his best friend- "Ron!" Harry shouted in realization. The figure (definitely recognizable now as Ronald Weasley) grinned at Harry in amusement, and ran up to greet him. The other figure (presumably Hermione) followed Ron a split second later, running to greet Harry as well. After they were finished hugging Harry, (and in Hermione's case, kissing him on the cheek) they backed off a bit to get a better look at their friend.

"Oh Harry, we've been so worried! When I heard what had happened, I was so concerned, and I tried to come see you but the hospital wouldn't let us in!" Hermione told Harry anxiously, as though she couldn't believe that Harry was okay. Ron, meanwhile, was scowling at Hermione, who didn't seem to notice it.

"Thank you Hermione. I'm all better now, though. My uncle just went insane, that's all. Everything's fine." He replied in a vain attempt to reassure her. It seemed to work, because Hermione stopped apologising, although her concerned look remained. She then noticed the glare on Ron's face, directed at her, as did Harry. Completely confused, and feelign extremely out of the loop, Harry asked what was going on.

Ron, in a severely annoyed voice, replied, "Guess what Hermione's been doing this summer? Instead of visiting you in the hospital, she's been in Bulgaria! Seeing Vicky! Even after I expressly told her not too."

"Give it a rest, Ron!" Hermione exclaimed in exasperation, "You don't control my life! I can do whatever I want during the summer, and if that means seeing Victor, then I'll do it! And you know very well that I tried to get in to see Harry, Ron, you were there too."

Harry looked from Ron's furious face to Hermione's indignant face, and nearly laughed aloud. They were arguing again, which meant that things were back to normal. "Look Ron," he said, "I haven't got a problem with Hermione visiting Krum. We don't own her or anything."

Ron glared at both of them angrily, and seemed about to reply scathingly, but apparently thought better of it, so he shut his mouth. Hermione smiled triumphantly, and gave Harry an "I'll explain later" look. Harry grinned at his two best friends, and made a gesture towards the castle. "So are we going to enter the castle, or just stand around talking?" Ron immediately started towards the front doors, followed by Harry and Hermione.

The entrance hall of Black Castle looked very similar to Hogwarts; in fact, after Harry got a good look around, he realized the hall looked exactly like Hogwarts's entrance. It had the same roughly-hewn stone walls, the same elaborate paintings and tapestries hanging on the walls, and unfortunately the same inhabitants. As Harry first set foot into the entrance hall, a ghost-like figure zoomed through the wall to his left and began to chuck peanuts at him. "Great," he groaned, "a poltergeist. This is exactly what I need."

Seeing the poltergeist attacking Harry, Ron and Hermione immediately grabbed Harry by the arm and dragged him out of harm's way. "You want to be careful Harry. This castle has a poltergeist, (Harry rolled his eyes) and we think it's out to get us. It's name is Gondo, and if you see him coming, run, cause he can be vicious." Ron informed him. From the look in Ron's eyes, Harry guessed that the two had already had a less-than-fun encounter with Gondo, which was why they were so wary of him.

Just as Harry was about to enquire about his friend's summer's in more detail, an unbelievable sight met his eyes. A handsome man in rich velvety black robes was descending the main stair case, looking no less regal than a King in all his glory. Seeing Harry's awestruck gaze, Ron pushed Harry forward a little and muttered, "Yeah, I know, it's amazing. Now go greet your godfather. And stop gawking!" At these words, Harry's heart leapt with the recognition of the regal man approaching them.

"Sirius!" Harry shouted in joy, as he dashed towards his godfather, his only living relative left, and one of his most trusted friends. Sirius grinned as he saw Harry flying towards him, and just before his godson tackled him, he vainly protested, "Harry stopppppp!" Sirius fell to the floor with an annoyed, "oomph" as Harry crashed into him. Laughing, Sirius pushed Harry off him and got into a cross-legged position, attempting, without success, to brush off his now dirt-covered robes. He glared pointedly at Harry.

Harry grinned sheepishly, "Sorry 'bout that Sirius." Sirius frowned at Harry for a moment longer, and then returned the grin. Realizing that he was on the floor, Sirius jumped to his feet and helped Harry stand. At this point Ron and Hermione were standing right in front of them, fighting with all their might to not laugh at the sight of their best friend having just tackled a man a foot taller than him, and succeeding.

Sirius composed himself, as he was supposed to be the responsible adult in the castle. "Well, now that we are all acquainted, (laughter) would you care for the grand tour? I was waiting for all three of you to arrive before I showed you around."

"Sure," Hermione answered, "We'd love to see the castle! Judging by the stone work and paintings in the corridors, I'd say that it was built sometime in medieval times, which is really quite interesting because there is probably a library here that would therefore have lots of books on the Middle Ages, which I've always wanted to know about, and- " Hermione was cut off by Ron loudly interrupting her, saying "Oh yes, lets read more books! I mean it's no like we haven't already read enough in school! No, we have to read during vacation too!"

Harry and Sirius burst out laughing while Hermione was looking furious. "Look Ron, just because you've never read a book in your life doesn't mean you are allowed to make fun of people who value an education!"

Now Ron was getting angry too. "Are you saying I don't value my education?! I am the most educated person you'll ever meet! (Harry chortled) Shut up Harry! Like I was saying, I have read thousands of books, and your just jealous that you haven't read as many as me!"

"Really? I'll have you know, Ron, that not only do you insist on lying about your knowledge, you are to stuck up to realize it!" Ron spluttered. Luckily, before Ron could say something he would regret later, Harry clapped a hand over Ron's mouth, and whispered for him to shut up. Taking the hint, Ron shut his mouth before Hermione got mad enough to hex him.

"Look, you two," interrupted Sirius in a pacifying voice, "your on vacation. Relax! You can fight when school starts? Okay?" Ron and Hermione slowly nodded their heads, sighing in resignation, while Harry beamed at his godfather. "Now, for the grand tour." And Sirius walked away, beckoning them to follow, which they did.

"So Sirius," Harry began, "Since when did you own a castle?" He had been wondering this ever since he had gotten here, since no one had ever mentioned that the famous murderer owned a castle.

Sirius grinned at Harry again. It was amazing how much his godfather had changed in the past month. Almost all the shadows in his eyes were gone, and he no longer looked like a skeleton come to life. "The Black's have owned this castle since. I can't even remember. Anyways, the point is that when I turned eighteen I inherited it, but I usually spent most of my time with James anyways." Sirius trailed off, seemingly lost in memories of his childhood, before James's death, before Azkaban.

Harry felt rather awkward. Sirius had been his father's best friend, yet Harry knew almost nothing of his father. No one ever talked about him except Harry's Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin, and his godfather, but they had never really mentioned James that much. Harry was only now beginning to grasp what his godfather had been through, losing his best friend, then being sent to hell for a murder he hadn't committed. How could the smiling man in the picture of Lily and James's wedding have turned into the gaunt skeleton Harry had met two years ago?

Sirius seemed to realize that he was drifting away again, and quickly refocused on the present. "Sorry, got carried away there. anyways, this is the dining hall, it's a bit smaller than Hogwarts, but there you go. C'mon in, there is a passage way here somewhere leading to the kitchens. ah, here it is!" Sirius walked up to a portrait of a man who resembled him, and reached towards the golden frame. Suddenly, Gondo the poltergeist zoomed out of the portrait, cackling at the surprised look on Sirius's face. Sirius growled and drew his wand in a flash.

"Get back here, you filthy little pilfering poltergeist." Sirius ranted, and Harry, Ron and Hermione recognized immediately who he sounded like, and began to laugh uncontrollably. Sirius paused, confused at why the trio were laughing at him. "Okay, what's going on?"

Hermione stopped laughing, and replied in an amused voice, "It's just that the caretaker Filch at school said exactly the same thing to Peeves in third year." and she dissolved into laughter. Kids, Sirius thought, and then realized how much he missed laughing with his friends. When had he last laughed with James and Remus? It seemed so very long ago. stop it, Sirius, you're just brining back painful memories, he reprimanded himself. Focusing on the task at hand, Sirius moved a hidden latch in the picture frame, and the portrait swung open to reveal a stone passageway.

The three kids stopped laughing, and gazed into the stone passage. Where does it lead? was the unspoken question. Sirius laughed at their questioning faces. "I already told you, we are going to the kitchens. Come on!" And he led them through the passage way, into a large stone chamber filled with about ten house elves, each preparing a particular dish or course, no doubt for dinner tonight. Ron and Harry looked happily around the room, taking in the sights, while Sirius watched their faces in amusement. Hermione seemed to be the only unhappy one in the room.

"Excuse me, but why are there house elves here? I mean, they get paid, and have sick leaves, right?" Hermione asked indignantly, frowning at Sirius. He looked, bewildered, at Ron and Harry, who gave him a long suffering look. Sirius quickly figured out what was going on, and reassured her.

"Don't worry Hermione, if any of them are sick, they always get to take a few days off, and if they want pay of course I'll give it to them." Hermione frowned a moment longer, contemplating if that was fair, and then decided it would have to do.

"I guess that's okay, as long as they aren't slaves or anything." Harry and Ron had to struggle not to laugh, and Sirius turned his head so that Hermione wouldn't see the smile on his face. Hermione seemed to know the boys' facial expressions pretty well, because she seemed to be getting annoyed, so Sirius quickly said, "Hey, who wants to go see the forest?"

This got their attentions instantly. Harry looked excited, Hermione looked scared, and Ron looked apprehensive. "Uh, Sirius," Ron stammered, "Just what exactly lives in the forest?" Harry immediately understood what his friend was getting at, and looked questioningly at Sirius.

"Oh, nothing interesting. No spiders, if that's what you were wondering, Ron. (Ron let out a sigh of relief, and now looked much more excited) Nope, just a few centaurs, a unicorn or two, and a whole ton of things that I can't remember right now. And, oh yeah, a dragon." All three gasped, mouthing the word 'dragon' to each other. Sirius burst out into laughter. "Just kidding with you! My god you three are gullible! Why, you didn't actually believe me, did you?"

Harry recovered himself quickly. "Well, we never know what to believe when it comes to you, Sirius." He grinned at Sirius, who looked at him uneasily. Where had he heard that phrase before? And then he remembered. It was after a Quidditch match, and Sirius had joked that he had brought a boggart into the common room for the party. James and Remus and gaped at him disbelievingly, and Sirius had grinned, telling them he was kidding. And James had said, "Well, we never know what to believe when it comes to you, Sirius." Those exact words. They had had such a good time back then, before the war, before Voldemort.

"Sirius?" Hermione inquired, concerned at his sudden pause. Shaking his head, Sirius simply forced a grin, replying "Nothing, Hermione. Just reliving old memories." Sirius managed a weak chuckle. "So, how about taking a walk in the forest? There isn't anything too bad in there." Sirius trailed off, pleased that the three teens were looking apprehensive again.

Exchanging a glance, the three reached a common verdict; Sirius wouldn't place them in mortal danger, and therefore it would be safe to visit the forest. Harry turned back, grinning to his godfather. "So show us this forest of yours, mom."

Sirius sputtered "Excuse me. mom?"

Harry laughed at Sirius's mortified expression, and was quickly joined by Ron and Hermione. The three dashed towards the front doors, chased by a furious Sirius.

It turned out that Black Castle's forest looked exactly as the trio had initially imagined it to resemble; huge, dark, and extremely scary. But the thing that jarred Harry the most was its location. Black Castle boasted huge, neatly trimmed lawns, which sprawled for miles upon miles, only being interrupted by a largish lake to the north east. So when one suddenly found oneself staring at a huge black forest, they had to wonder if it wasn't a bit out of place. The forest simply seemed to jut out of the ground, as if it hadn't naturally grown there, which was quite possible, as it seemed the front row of trees were in a fairly straight line.

Hermione was the first to question the forest's peculiar setup. "Sirius, why does the forest simply. start? In The Hundred Weirdest Forests in Britain, it says absolutely nothing about this forest, and this forest is obviously magically grown, because it is impossible for trees to just grow in a straight line. Unless muggles planted the forest? But that would be impossible, because the concept of planting trees in straight lines was only discovered in the last century, and these trees are really old-" realizing that she was rambling, Hermione went silent, staring with curiosity at the odd forest which stretched for miles. Strange, Harry thought, that he hadn't even noticed it was there till Sirius showed it to them.

Clapping his hands, Sirius exclaimed happily, "That's because the forest is magical! It's highly intelligent! It can even think for itself! Not a very good conversationalist, though-"

"Excuse me," Ron spluttered, "but are you trying to say that that forest can think? Or even. talk?" At Sirius' nod, a look of terror grew on Ron's face, rather akin to the one which graced his face during their encounter with Aragog and his offspring in second year.

Harry and Ron looked at each other fearfully, the wise words of Mr.Weasley echoing in their brains - Never trust something if you can't see where it keeps its brain.