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A Rat By Any Other Name
May 14, 1992, 12:10 PM, Great Hall
"Oh, it'll be fine." I closed my book and stowed it away before patting Su on the shoulder for the third time in the last five minutes. "You'll do great in the finals, you'll see."
I stifled the urge to laugh when I saw the dejected look the girl had on her face. At times, Su could be so adorable that it was hard for me not to just smush and pinch her cheeks.
"Yeah." Tony agreed, nodding with confidence from the other side of the table. "With everything we've learned from Adam, we're sure to get some very good grades, Su."
"But are you sure?" Su, on the other hand, did not share in the boy's belief. "What if I mess up a question and lose marks?"
I shrugged. "Then, you lose marks."
Su's eyes widened. She hadn't expected that answer. "What?"
"You lose marks." I said, scratching an itch on the side of my face. "Look, Su. That's just the way it goes. Sometimes you might get things wrong, and that's fine. It's okay to fail, as long as you try your best and you are learning from your mistakes. That's what school is all about. We learn to fail here so that we know what to do in the real world and succeed there. That's where it counts."
"I agree." A familiar, squeaky voice, said from behind me, making me and Su both jump. "Well said, Mr. Clarke. Well said, indeed! That will be five points to Ravenclaw."
"Professor Flitwick." Su and I greeted the short man and made to stand up.
"No, no." He waved Su down with a smile. "I'll only need Mr. Clarke, here."
I frowned, not sure what he wanted me for. "Is something the matter, Professor?"
Flitwick's pleasant face became strained for a few moments before he controlled himself. "There is, but you are not in trouble, Mr. Clarke. In fact, I would say you are the furthest away you can be from trouble."
I blinked and searched his face for a moment before moving my gaze to the Gryffindor table, where I saw Professor McGonagall picking Harry and Ron up, before moving over to Ron's three brothers; George, Fred and Percy.
Oh. My eyes widened in realization. So Dumbledore did read my note.
I had been very close to going with 'Plan B'.
I set my food down and got off of the table, shouldering my pack. "I'll see you guys later."
But I shook my head and turned back to my Head of House. "Shall we, Professor?"
"Of course." He said and led the way, with me following closely behind. "We shall await Professor McGonagall at the entrance and make our way to the Headmaster's Office together."
I nodded before wincing in self reproach when I realized that Professor Flitwick was in front of me and didn't see a thing. "Yes."
I really needed to stop doing that. Nodding instead of speaking was one of my recurring bad habits when it came to conversations.
No matter how hard I try, I can never ignore the part of me that just doesn't want to speak. I thought.
As we stood at the great big doors, we watched Professor McGonagall go about gathering the students.
"Was I right?" I said, making sure not to say any names or give out any specific information on the matter. I imagined that the Headmaster would not appreciate loose lips, even if the cat was about to be taken out of the bag. "About the note."
Professor Flitwick turned his gaze to me, looking at me with an intensity and darkness I hadn't expected. "Oh, you were. You certainly were."
I felt a shiver creep up my spine for a moment before I took a breath. "That…"
"We will speak more of it later, Mr. Clarke. For now…" Flitwick said just as Professor McGonagall approached, with Potter and the four Weasleys in tow. "Shall we, Professor McGonagall?"
The woman's face was as hard as stone, I realized as I saw her give Professor Flitwick a stiff nod. "Yes."
I fell in line with the other boys, noting that they were all sending me looks of varying intensity. Fred and George seemed to be annoyed with me. Harry, Ron and Percy Weasley, on the other hand, were confused.
I wondered why the twins were looking at me like that before shrugging. I didn't make it my business to figure out every little detail of people's lives. Whatever it was, I would deal with it in swift order.
That was all there was to it.
Besides. The sly voice said. They are going to change their tune as soon as they hear the news. They probably just think you used the Map to get them into trouble, or maybe you got caught with it and implicated them all.
That's ridiculous. I fired back. Why would they think that?
You know kids, Zero. The voice continued. Passionate as can be, but dumber than a sack of bricks for the most part. Even the so-called smart ones.
I wanted to disagree with the voice on principle, but I found that I couldn't.
"Adam—" Ron tried to say but was silenced by Professor Flitwick, who raised his finger.
"Now now, boys." Filius said as we went up the stairs to the Second Floor. "There will be time to speak when everything is well and sorted out."
"No more of that, Mr. Weasley." McGonagall turned her piercing gaze to the First Year boy for a moment before continuing on her path.
That's real anger on her face. I thought. Not the sort you get when you stub your toe. I suppose, considering her relationship with Harry's parents, it makes sense…
I took another breath and saw the look of fear stretched over Ron's visage. Maybe it was his first time seeing such emotion on anyone's face. I winced, feeling sympathetic to his plight.
His day was only going to get worse, too.
Soon, we found ourselves standing in front of the Gargoyle leading into Professor Dumbledore's Office.
"Now, boys." Professor Flitwick said as he muttered the password— "Jelly Cola!"— "We have contacted your parents, Messrs Weasley, as this is important news for you and them."
The boys' eyes flitted between the gargoyle behind the Professor and the man himself. Professor McGonagall, on the other hand, was staring at Percy and Ron with an almost pitying expression.
"Our parents?" Percy said in shock, unaware of his Head of House's gaze, before staring at his twin brothers. "This must be serious indeed. What have you two done?"
"I assure you all." Filius cut in with a gentle tone. "That not one of you is in any trouble whatsoever. There have just been some important discoveries we've had over the past few days, and it concerns everyone here, as well as the Weasley parents."
Everyone but myself blinked at the man's words, as if they still couldn't quite believe what they were hearing.
"Now." Flitwick said before moving to follow Professor McGonagall up the stairs. "If you will come with us?"
We all nodded and followed, and I noticed that everyone's demeanor changed at the Professor's persistent remarks. Looks like they're getting clued in that this is something much bigger than schoolyard nonsense.
"Come in." Professor Dumbledore said the moment they reached the door at the top of the stairs.
Professor McGonagall had already turned the knob before he had even spoken, used to the man's eccentricities at this point. The boys and I followed the teachers inside, and I saw Ron's parents for the first time.
A tall, thin man with balding red hair, as well as a short, plump and kindly woman turned in their chairs to look at us. In between the two was a little redheaded girl, who ran towards the group the moment she saw us.
"Ginny!" Percy said, smiling as the girl tackled him into a hug. "I missed you, too, but this is hardly the time—"
"Come, children." Professor Dumbledore called us over from his desk. "Join your family, so that we may get started. Thank you, Professors Flitwick and McGonagall."
"Headmaster." Minerva said before she and Flitwick left the office.
Our group came closer as the door clicked closed behind us, though Harry and I stayed back, watching the family reunite.
The boy and I shared a look before turning our attention back to the happy family. I watched as the boys were fussed over by their mother and greeted by their father with the love I always expected their family to have.
It was a beautiful sight, and it made me miss my real family in my old world all the more. Maybe someday.
I sent Harry another glance, as this was his deepest desire, as well.
"Of course." Professor Dumbledore said, nodding towards the two of us. "Arthur, Molly, allow me to introduce to you one of our students: Harry Potter."
I noted with a faint amusement that the little girl— Ginny— went white at the mention of the boy. Her crush was in full swing, it seemed.
"How do you do?" Harry said on instinct, taking a step forward and extending his hand towards Molly Weasley. "It's nice to see you again Mrs. Weasley."
Molly smiled and took the boy's hand, giving it a gentle shake.
"Oh, it's good to finally meet you properly as well, Harry." Molly said in return. "Our Ron has been speaking of you and his friend Hermione all year long. Did you get the sweater I made for you?"
Harry nodded as Ron exploded with embarrassment.
"Mum!" Ron said, scandalized that the contents of his private letters were being divulged in the open.
"Talking about Hermione, are we Ron?" Fred had a smirk on his face.
"Now, now." Arthur said, a half-resigned, half-amused look on his face. "None of that, boys."
He then turned to me. "And who might you be?"
"This, Arthur." The Headmaster answered before I could, getting Weasley senior's attention. "Is Adam Clarke."
Molly and Arthur's faces lit up in recognition of the name.
"Hello." I made sure to shake both of their hands. "It's a pleasure to meet the both of you."
"Likewise, young man." Arthur said as Molly sent me a warm smile. A moment later, everyone turned their attention to the Headmaster.
"Now that we have the introductions out of the way." Professor Dumbledore said as he stood. "I'm afraid I have news."
"News?" Molly said, her face shifting with nervousness, which turned to anger. She sent a look to her kids, before turning back to the Headmaster. "What has happened?"
"Peace, Molly." Albus said, raising a hand to forestall whatever she was about to say. "The children are not in any trouble."
That took the wind right out of her sails.
"Then, what is it?" Arthur said, sending a quick look towards us all and trying to figure out why Harry and I were here, as well. "It must be very important if you thought to bring us all here together."
Dumbledore sent me a quick look before turning his blue eyes to the parents. "Indeed, and if it weren't for Mr. Clarke, here, no one would have ever known of this terrible secret."
At that, I felt everyone's gaze rest on me.
"You know?" Ron asked.
I nodded, but said nothing else.
"What is it?" Fred said.
"Alas, I have asked Mr. Clarke to be silent on the matter." Professor Dumbledore said. "The reasons for which will be clear when I have finished explaining."
Smooth. I thought. Dumbledore hadn't done anything of the sort. In fact, I had thought that the message had been ignored and tossed away.
"I'm sure you had a good reason, Albus." Molly said with a nod, though she still seemed stressed.
"I thank you for your confidence in me, Molly." Albus said, smiling for a moment before he sobered up. "Though I fear that this tale will not serve to brighten your moods. Quite the opposite."
"Still." Arthur interjected with a solemn voice. "We are prepared, Headmaster."
Professor Dumbledore stared at everyone for a moment before nodding. "Very well. We have discovered a grave injustice, and it involves your family, as well as Mr. Potter's."
Dumbledore took a moment to organize his thoughts as everyone shared looks between each other.
"My parents?" Harry whispered to me.
My lips pursed as I nodded towards the Headmaster. "Listen."
Harry stared at me for a moment longer before focusing all of his attention on Albus.
"A grave injustice?" Molly repeated, eyes wide. "Whatever do you mean?"
"The tale begins near the end of the last war." Dumbledore said, taking his seat once again. "At the height of his power, Lord Voldemort was defeated by Harry, here. But, how did this come to pass?"
Everyone in the room but Harry and myself winced or flinched at the man's name,
The specter of his spell of taboo still haunts them. I thought, wondering if that was how Molly had lost her brothers.
"How did Harry survive?" Arthur said, shaking his head. "No one knows, Albus."
"Ah, my apologies. I did not speak fully." Albus said, shaking his head. "I meant to ask: how did Voldemort gain access to Harry's home, in the first place?"
There was a moment of silence before Molly began to speak. "They were betrayed, of course. By Sirius Black."
"Indeed." Professor Dumbledore said. "Sirius Black was imprisoned in Azkaban because he was thought to be the Secret Keeper for the Potters."
"Secret Keeper?" Harry's mutters were heard by everyone.
"Yes." Dumbledore nodded. "It is a core aspect of the Fidelius Charm— a very powerful spell meant to hide things, places, or conceal secrets. No one on this Earth, save the Secret Keeper, knows the information concealed by the spell."
Harry nodded his head. "And Sirius Black was this… Secret Keeper, sir?"
"Yes. He had been best friends with your father, you see, and so he volunteered to defend their lives with his own." Dumbledore said. "No one knew that he had joined Voldemort's ranks and had betrayed your parents by revealing their hidden location to Voldemort himself."
Harry's frown deepened, and I could almost feel the anger coming from the boy.
"However." Dumbledore said, cutting through Harry's sea of anger with a raised finger, making him blink. "It appears that he is not guilty of these crimes."
"What?" Harry said, shaking his head. "Then, who…?"
Dumbledore took a breath before saying the name. "It was Peter Pettigrew."
"Peter Pettigrew!" Molly said in shock, standing up. "It can't be, Albus! Black murdered him, along with twelve Muggle bystanders. All that was left of the man was a finger."
At that information, Percy froze.
I watched as he connected the dots together and his face became tinged with green. "Professor… Surely you do not mean…"
"You have caught on quick, my boy." Dumbledore nodded, sending him a sympathetic look. "Indeed, all that was left of Peter Pettigrew was a finger, and it just so happens that a certain pet rat of Ronald's is missing a toe."
Arthur swallowed and went over the information in his mind as Molly's face went white with shock.
"Scabbers?" Ron said, keeping his voice slow as he pieced it together. "He's been gone for a few days. I reckoned he ran away. You…"
And then he went quiet. Harry went to the boy's side without hesitation, placing a hand on his shoulder in support.
"Surely not, Albus." Molly tried to argue. "Scabbers has been in our family for ten years!"
"Ten years." Arthur repeated, the look on his face darkening. "A rather long life for a common garden rat."
"An animagus?" Percy said, putting his hand on Ron's other shoulder. "I've had a fully grown stranger pretending to be my pet— Ronald's pet— for years?"
Everyone in the room began to look ill at the implications.
"As I said…" Dumbledore said, leaning forward and steepling his fingers. "It is not a tale to brighten your moods, and for that I am sorry."
Fawkes gave his master a croon and sang a short song to lift everyone's spirits. The music weaved itself into my ears, intertwining with the very essence of my being and setting it alight with life.
Holy… I thought, staring at my hands in shock. I felt refreshed, as if I had just woken up. This is insane. Phoenixes truly are powerful and pure creatures of magic.
I wondered, for a moment, if they gained these abilities at birth, or had to learn them over their long years of life.
"Thank you, my friend." Dumbledore said with a nod to the bird, bringing me back to reality.
"And Adam, here." Arthur was the first to regain his wits as he gestured towards me. "Is the one who reported this to you?"
"Indeed, he is." Dumbledore said, smiling again. "Without Mr. Clarke's information, I fear that we may have left an innocent man to suffer at the hands of the Dementors for far longer, and possibly subjected your son Ronald to a terrible fate."
"I see… So, Sirius Black— he has been released, then?" Arthur said, and Dumbledore nodded.
"Good." Arthur said, getting out of his seat and nodding to himself. "Good."
A moment later, he turned and made his way to me, his facial expression a mixture between relief and pain. Arthur grasped my shoulder in a firm grip.
"You have done my family a great service, young man." The man said, his eyes shining with gratitude.
"I'm sorry for the bad news." I said, a lance of guilt going through me for not dealing with this sooner. "I should have noticed sooner."
"Nonsense." Molly said, also moving towards us. "There was no way you could have known. No one else knew!"
The two looked at me, asking me how I did it with their curious looks.
"It took some digging." Was all I said in reply. "I'm just glad that I was able to set that man free and put the real criminal in his place."
"I'm sorry." Harry piped up from his position. "But what does Sirius Black have to do with me, other than that he was friends with my parents, I'm guessing? I'm sure they had many friends."
"Quite a bit, as you will find out. In fact." Dumbledore said, raising a finger. "He should be on his way here, at this very moment."
"Here?" Harry repeated, his voice rising in alarm. "He's coming here?"
"Oh, yes." Professor Dumbledore nodded.
"But why?" Harry said. "Shouldn't he be recovering? Don't the Dementors have a terrible effect on wizards and witches' minds?"
"You have been reading ahead." The Headmaster with a raised eyebrow. "Five points to Gryffindor."
He paused for a moment before continuing.
"You are correct, of course. Yes, he requires the attention of a Healer." Professor Dumbledore said with a gentle smile. "But the man was insistent to see you. In fact, I daresay that you will very much welcome his arrival. He is after all, your Godfather."
Harry gaped at the man for a moment before realizing where he was. "He's my— what? My Godfather?"
"Yes, my boy." Albus said, nodding again. "It pains me to put all of this upon your shoulders at once. For that, I am sorry."
Harry did not answer for a while, and then he nodded. "It's all right, Professor. You couldn't have known."
Couldn't he? I wondered, not for the first time.
Contacting Dumbledore had been a calculated risk of mine, and I was happy that it had worked in my favor. It could have been possible that Dumbledore was the epitome of what the fanon wanted him to be— evil, manipulative and lacking morals of any kind.
I trust Alef, and he'd said that Dumbledore was all right, unlike some previous Headmasters that the school has had over the years. I thought.
"I thank you Harry, for your patience and forgiveness." Dumbledore said and checked his pocket watch. "Now, Mr, Black will be joining us at any moment. Arthur, Molly—"
"We'll get out of your hair, Albus." Molly said, though she looked pained to leave her children after such an ordeal.
But Albus shook his head with a smile. "I was about to suggest that you show young Ginevra around the Castle and spend some time with your children. I believe they will need the sort of guidance that only you can provide."
"A splendid idea. Thank you, Headmaster." Arthur said, clapping his hands and sending the headmaster a nod of gratitude. "Come on, everyone. I'll show you all of the good hiding spots."
"Arthur!" Molly reprimanded, though she seemed to be smiling as the Weasley family began to shuffle out of the office. Ron, who had been pretty lost throughout the reveal, gained his wits and mouthed Harry a quick goodbye before he went with his family, his hand clenched around his father's robe.
I moved to follow them, only to be stopped by Dumbledore. "Mr. Clarke, I would rather that you stayed, as well. I wish to discuss the finer details with you."
"Oh." I said with a nod, moving to stand next to Harry, once again.
"How long, until…" Harry said and stopped himself. "Until he gets here?"
The fireplace beside him burst with green flames.
"Now." Dumbledore said.
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