Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Harry Potter and the Dream Come True
Chapter Three – Enter Harry
Harry had not been having a good summer.
It wasn't the part about doing chores all day, every day, nor the ridiculous diet he was being forced to follow, that was the problem. No, Harry was having the most dismal summer of his entire life because of the never-ceasing worry that gnawed away at his insides every moment of the day.
Two weeks previously, Harry had witnessed the rebirth of the Voldemort. Ever since returning to his Muggle relatives, Harry had desperately scoured the news for something, anything, demonstrating that the world knew of Voldemort's return. Yet, no matter if it was Wizarding news or Muggle, there was not a single mention of anything amiss that could have been orchestrated by the Dark Lord.
Add that to Harry's dreams, which featured endless visits to the Little Hangleton graveyard to watch Cedric murdered, and he was quite understandably miserable.
Every now and then, however, he did get flashes of the outside world, through visions Harry suspected were a result of his connection with Voldemort. And so it was one late night, when Harry was restlessly tossing and turning in his cramped bed, that one of these unwelcome visions visited him.
.:The Riddle House:.
Harry was in a dark, mahogany-paneled room, which reeked with the unmistakable stench of evil. The source of this was soon made apparent – a striking figure with unnaturally pale skin and glowing red eyes was pacing back and forth in front of the roaring fireplace, gazing darkly into the flames.
"I am… displeased, Wormtail," Voldemort said quietly. The man in question, Peter Pettigrew, immediately winced and stepped back slightly.
"Er… why would that be?" he stammered, praying feverishly his Lord's displeasure was not his fault.
"I entered my private laboratory this morning," the Dark Lord hissed, "to find an entire shelf of potions spilled all over my meticulous floor."
Wormtail winced. "Imagine that."
"I don't suppose you are aware of the contents of one vial that was destroyed, my faithful servant? The one that said: Do Not Touch If You Value Your Life?"
Voldemort stormed over to the cowering man and slammed him up against the stone wall. "With that potion, Wormtail, I was able to send your dear friend James Potter to Hell fourteen years ago when I confronted him at Godric's Hollow. When someone so ignorantly destroyed that potion, however, his soul was released from Hell, and returned to our world!"
For the first time in fourteen years, Peter Pettigrew felt a ray of hope enter his traitorous heart. "Potter is alive, Master?"
Voldemort growled menacingly at his servant. "Can you see why that might present a problem for me, Wormtail?"
It was at this point that Peter realized he was in deep, deep trouble.
"Yet, upon discovering that one of my most hated rivals was loose in England once again, the first thought in my mind was not how to eliminate him," Voldemort said silkily. "Do you know what my first thought was, Wormtail?"
"Er…" Peter didn't even bother answering. The Dark Lord knew everything – he was simply toying with him.
"I wondered who would possibly think he could spill over ten thousand galleons worth of potions on the ground, and hope to get away with it. And do you know what I thought next, Wormtail?"
"I have a pretty good idea," Wormtail muttered.
"I thought: the only Death Eaters with access to my secret laboratory are Lucius Malfoy… and Peter Pettigrew. And of the two of you, my faithful servant, which is the clumsier?"
"Me, Master," Pettigrew replied miserably.
"That's right," Voldemort agreed. "If I could afford to kill you for your incompetence, Wormtail, don't think I would hesitate even a moment to do so. Unfortunately, you are still useful to me, and thus I will let you off with a minor punishment."
It seemed he would not die this day after all. Lucky him.
"Crucio!" Voldemort intoned, and Peter collapsed to the floor, screaming in abject agony.
"You deserved that, you know," Voldemort informed his servant almost paternally as Wormtail fought to regain his breath.
"Y-yes, Master," Wormtail coughed.
"What have we learned from this little mishap, Wormtail?" Voldemort inquired silkily as Wormtail staggered upright.
"Don't screw up," Wormtail muttered resentfully.
Voldemort's lips twitched in something that could almost be considered a smile. "You are not as ignorant as I thought, it seems. Now, I have a mission for you Wormtail, and you will not 'screw it up', as you put it, or else you will cease being useful to me."
A false threat, of course: Peter was the best spy the Dark Lord had. But that didn't stop Peter Pettigrew from being absolutely terrified of failing his Master.
"I want James Potter dead," Voldemort said succinctly. "Stone cold dead. I don't want him incapacitated, I don't want him humiliated beyond belief, and I don't even want him to live a life of misery as all his loved ones die around him. Although that is such a classy maneuver."
"Yes, Master. Dead. No classy stuff. I understand."
"You will not fail me," Voldemort warned the cowering man before him.
"I won't," Wormtail promised.
"Very well then," the Dark Lord intoned. "You are dismissed."
The room faded away into swirling black and green mist.
Harry woke screaming.
This was for two reasons. Firstly, these strange visions always unsettled him, bringing questions to his mind that he didn't know the answers to: questions like how he could be seeing such things, and, of course, if Voldemort had a similar window into his world. Secondly, thanks to whatever force established these connections between he and the Dark Lord, whenever Voldemort cast the Cruciatus curse or Avada Kedavra during visions, Harry felt every painful second as fully as if the curse were cast directly on him.
Needless to say, Harry did not enjoy these visions very much.
Still shaking slightly, Harry reached over to his bedside table and fumbled around for his alarm clock.
Harry gave a grateful sigh, and collapsed back in his bed, praying fervently for sleep to come. Unfortunately, it was not to be. He woke not three minutes later to the pleasant and melodious sound of Aunt Petunia's screeching voice, ordering him out of bed. Harry gave a heartfelt groan and rolled over in his bed, pulling his tatty pillow over his head in a vain attempt to shut out the noise.
"Boy! Get up now!" Aunt Petunia screeched, thundering up the narrow staircase to bang loudly on Harry's bedroom door. "If you aren't downstairs making Dudders breakfast in three minutes, you won't see the outside world for a week!"
"It's called a window," Harry snapped unwisely, wincing as his door was almost blasted off its hinges by his Uncle's gigantic fist.
"Show your Aunt some respect, you lazy, useless, freeloader!" Vernon bellowed. "Get out here now!"
Harry rolled his eyes and stumbled over to the door, pulling it open to present himself to his overbearing relatives. Aunt Petunia gasped in indignation at the sight of him, and Uncle Vernon slammed the door shut in his face.
"Put some clothes on first, miscreant!" Petunia wailed. "We taught you better than that!"
"And get downstairs as soon as you've finished," Vernon concluded, "or else you'll wish you'd never been born!"
"Terrifying," Harry muttered with a smirk as he ambled over to his dresser and began pulling out clothes at random. He was not, in fact, naked, as Aunt Petunia had suggested, but clad in a loose-fitting pair of boxer shorts emblazoned with golden snitches. Harry suspected the snitches were what had upset his Aunt, more so than his state of undress. It was hardly his fault, though. The Dursleys hadn't given him a pair of pajamas in three years, and it was too hot for his flannel pajamas that he wore in drafty Hogwarts castle.
Five minutes later, Harry was suitably dressed and down in the kitchen preparing breakfast for his beloved family, who, for all their criticism over his cooking skills, eagerly downed everything he set in front of them. It depressed Harry to note that he was probably a better cook than almost every student in Hogwarts, and he didn't even have a choice in the matter.
"Two more months," Harry murmured to himself as he snuck an apple from the fruit basket and slipped into the front hall to eat it. "And only one more with the Dursleys, if I can convince Dumbledore to let me visit the Burrow after all." He had corresponded a few times with the Headmaster since he'd returned to the Dursleys, and it looked like he wasn't going anywhere this summer, for reasons Dumbledore claimed were "too secret to put in print".
After finishing his apple, Harry proceeded to go through the motions of a typical day at the Dursley household. This included all manner of chores that, he having done them yesterday, could not possibly need doing again, as well as waiting hand and foot on Dudley and his goon squad. By the time the time to make dinner rolled around, Harry was thoroughly disgruntled with life, the universe, and just about everything in it.
Putting the finishing touches on the roasted duck he'd just pulled from the oven, Harry grabbed the carving knife and deposited slices of the juicy meat onto three plates – he, of course, would be eating last week's leftovers. Harry happily spent the next hour watching his relatives scarf down the meal, as well as the peach cobbler that followed, all three blissfully unaware of the tablespoon of dirt he had sprinkled liberally on their plates as seasoning. Harry felt no remorse over this – he firmly believed that even death would be too kind for his horrendous relatives.
Even though his day was miserable, though, it was no more or less horrible than any other day this summer, which is why after all the plates had been cleared, Harry had settled into his usual after-dinner sulk, and was certainly not expecting anything out of the ordinary to occur. Naturally, something completely out of the ordinary occurred minutes later, and Harry was once again given reason to suspect that God truly did hate him.
This out-of-the-ordinary incident came in the form of a knock on the door.
"Yes?" Uncle Vernon said politely as he pulled open the door. He then proceeded to turn a ghastly shade of white and whimper rather pathetically. "What do you want from me? Stay away from my family!" he bellowed.
Intrigued by his Uncle's reaction to whoever was at the door, Harry peered curiously into the front hallway to discover the source of the commotion.
To his delight, standing in the doorway was none other than Albus Dumbledore, resplendent in his indigo robes and neon orange Wizarding hat. Dumbledore had never bothered much with keeping up with current fashions, which might have been part of the reason for Vernon's horror.
As it was late, and quite dark out, Harry nearly missed the three cloaked figures standing behind the aged Headmaster.
"Will someone please tell me why we are in the middle of the Muggle suburbs, and who the hellthis fat man is?" the middle figure demanded crossly.
"No need to curse," Dumbledore said mildly, then turned back to Vernon. "I believe it is customary to invite guests inside the house, rather then leaving them on the doorstep, Mister Dursley?"
That provoked a reaction from the middle figure. "DURSLEY?" he boomed. "This is where you sent him? I thought you were intelligent!"
"In a moment," Dumbledore ordered, raising an eyebrow at Vernon, who paled even more so and scuttled backwards, giving the four visitors room to squeeze inside the front hall, and make their way, much to Vernon's dismay, into the living room. Petunia and Dudley were at the Polkiss's that evening, so the room was empty.
Meanwhile, the rather vocal man was speaking again, muttering furiously to his cloaked companions. "Who the hell is that porky kid in all those photos? This place is so tidy it's nauseating. Where is he?"
"That is an excellent question, James," Dumbledore agreed, handing his cloak to a terrified Vernon. "Harry, would you kindly come out now?"
Harry, recognizing his name, stepped hesitantly into the room, not entirely sure why the Headmaster was bringing strangers into his house so late at night. "Er… Headmaster?"
The muttering man gave a muffled gasp.
Harry blinked in confusion. "What are you doing here? Who are these people?"
Dumbledore smiled. "I am delighted to say that you know every person in this room, my boy, even if you haven't seen one of them in a long while."
No one moved.
Dumbledore sighed. "That was my cue to take off your cloaks, gentlemen."
The trio quickly shed the offending articles of clothing.
Harry's face lit up as he recognized the smiling faces of his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, and good friend, Remus Lupin, as well as his one and only Godfather Sirius Black. The third man, though… Harry had never seen him before, although he looked awfully familiar. His eyes were chocolate brown, but the rest of him reminded Harry strangely of…. himself.
"Professor…?" Harry asked slowly. "Is that… he looks an awful lot like…"
"Harry," Dumbledore said gravely. "Allow me to introduce you to your father, James Potter."
Harry gaped intelligently at his long-lost father, before falling to the floor with a thump, his weary mind unable to process this extraordinary turn of events.
When he came to, the first thing he did was stammer out: "But you're dead!"
James blinked. "Actually, I'm alive. That's what you call it when someone walks around, breathing and eating and the like."
Dumbledore waved aside James's babbling. "Harry, I know it seems incredible, and you will find it almost impossible to believe-"
"I know I did," Remus remarked dryly.
"- but the fact remains that your father was not in fact killed fourteen years ago, merely sent into… a limbo, of sorts."
"And thanks to a slip up by the Dark Lord, I was able to escape, and return to this world," James concluded, gazing hesitantly at his son, overwhelmed by how much they resembled each other. "You look exactly like me, you know."
"So I've heard," Harry returned quietly. "And I've got my mother's eyes." Staring up at his father, his eyes brimming with unshed tears, Harry was struck suddenly by a crazy impulse to hug his father. Then it hit him: why not? For God's sake, he had a father again! Surely that gave him an excuse for a sudden outburst of affection!
James, who was still staring at his son in awe, was therefore completely surprised when Harry suddenly leapt at him, hugging him for all he was worth. Astonished, and still not entirely believing his son was now a grown up young man, James tentatively returned the hug. Remus and Sirius didn't even bother concealing their amused grins.
"I still can't get over how much you look like me!" James exclaimed, pulling back to survey Harry at arms-length. Harry beamed. "You put on a few more pounds, and we'd be identical!"
At this point, Uncle Vernon, displaying the same courage he had the night Harry had first learned of his magical birthright, pulled himself together and squeaked out determinedly: "If this man is Potter's father, then does that mean he's leaving for good?"
This, of course, immediately killed the mood. Harry gazed uncertainly at his father, clearly expecting rejection. And why not? Rejection was the only thing he'd ever received from his family before this.
James immediately scowled at his son. "Of course it does! Do you honestly think I would leave my only child in the care of bunglers like you lot for a moment longer than necessary? What kind of parent do you think I am!"
"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Vernon bellowed, completely forgetting in his anger the fact that every single person in the room could blow him to pieces with but a swish of their wands.
"That means that I think you're an incompetent, horrendously awful excuse for a human being!" James snapped.
Remus, having developed a sixth-sense for this sort of thing over the years, winced at what he knew would come next. Sirius just grinned maniacally.
"You go too far, sir!" Vernon bellowed, heaving himself to his feet and flinging himself at James.
Harry watched in awe as his father stood calmly as the gigantic man rushed towards him. He's suicidal! he thought frantically.
At the last second, James smoothly slid to the side, and, with his target suddenly gone, Vernon proceeded to crash headfirst into the wall, sending several ornaments crashing to the floor, as well as effectively knocking himself unconscious.
James rolled his eyes as if he did this sort of thing all the time. "Now, as I was saying-"
"James," Dumbledore interrupted sternly. "That was unnecessary."
James scoffed. "I've seen enough to know that that overweight git got exactly what he deserved – and don't you tell me otherwise! We've already gone over my feelings over your decisions regarding Harry's guardianship!"
At this point James realized he'd completely forgotten about his son, who was standing in the middle of the room in complete bewilderment. Maybe I should hug him again, James pondered. He's only a kid, after all. Can't expect him to cope with this as well as Remus and Sirius did.
"Harry," James said slowly. "I can't pretend to know what your life has been like, being an orphan and all, but I do know that I'm back now, and I'm ready to try my hand at parent-hood again… if you want me, that is."
Harry blinked in astonishment. "Of course I want you! You think I enjoyed living in a cupboard under the stairs for the first decade of my life?" If Harry didn't know better, he'd honestly have thought his father delusional – had there even been the slightest doubt as to his answer?
His answer, interestingly, had quite a different effect on James than Harry had hoped. Rather than do something ridiculously corny, like hug his son and profess his eternal love, James had a rather disturbed expression on his face.
"You lived in a cupboard?" James asked softly.
"Er… well… yes, sort of…" Harry stammered uneasily, glancing towards his unconscious Uncle. If his father was willing to knock Vernon unconscious over a simple insult, what would he do once he heard about this?
"He beat you, didn't he?" James hissed, eyes darkening menacingly.
"He locked Harry in a room and put bars on his window; I wouldn't put it past him," Sirius snarled, drawing his wand, having not considered the possibility of bodily harm before. He'd always assumed it was just mental, and had effectively hardened Harry's mind and spirit, something which had saved his life a number of times during his encounters with Voldemort.
Remus and Dumbledore exchanged uneasy glances. "Gentlemen," Dumbledore began, "I'm sure Vernon Dursley did no such thing, or else Harry would have told me." He paused. "Wouldn't you, Harry?"
Harry shifted, not meeting his Headmaster's gaze. "It was only a few times, and not very hard, you know. I… didn't think you should be bothered with it, since you have such more important things to worry about."
"What?" James demanded.
Harry didn't know why his father was making such a big deal about this. It had been years ago, after all, and apart from the malnourishment, which Harry suspected had affected his growth somewhat, it had been tolerable. He certainly hadn't turned into an insane mass-murderer, like someone else in his position might have – namely, Tom Riddle.
"Look, it was a long time ago, alright?" Harry finally snapped, a little irritated at being fussed over, even if it was his father doing so. A teenage boy could only take so much coddling, after all. "They haven't laid a hand on me in four years, and even before that, it wasn't anything serious. I'm fine. Leave it alone."
James's eyes narrowed, but he respected his son's wishes. However, that didn't stop him from turning to Dumbledore and hissing, "It is your fault Harry was stuck with the Muggles in the first place. When I get my wand back…" he trailed off menacingly. Even though both men knew James didn't have a hope of defeating Dumbledore in a duel, the ancient Headmaster still dreaded the prospect. Hell seemed to have wrought many changes in his young friend, and Albus wasn't sure that was a good thing.
Meanwhile, Sirius was fuming silently, and Remus had laid a hand on Harry's shoulder an asked quietly, "Are you alright? You haven't been dwelling on the third task, have you?"
"Just dreams," Harry replied truthfully. "But I've moved on. Although Dudley has a go at me for screaming while I'm sleeping every now and then…"
Remus stared at him in concern.
"Don't worry," Harry hastily assured. "I threatened to turn him into a lobster, and he shut up nice and fast."
Remus suppressed a smile as James, Dumbledore and Sirius shot the duo questioning looks. "Good."
There was an uncomfortable silence as the five stared at each other.
James decided to break the silence.
"I still can't get over how much you look like me!" he exclaimed, effectively easing the tension in the room. "Shame about your eyes, but then, you can't have everything."
Harry beamed at his father, who winked and continued his assessment.
"You should be glad you got my hair," he continued seriously. "Your mother went into conniptions every time she had to choose an outfit to wear – said her hair didn't match anything made on Earth!"
"She should have gone to Jupiter, then," Harry remarked dryly. "I'd bet they'd have something that matched there, and besides, Ron claims he's invented a broomstick that can reach it."
Remus and Sirius laughed at the mention of Harry's friend, mainly because they could easily picture him claiming such a bizarre thing.
Harry grinned. "We were around three Veela at the time."
"That would explain it," Sirius said wisely.
"Indeed," Remus smirked. "Men have such interesting reactions to those delightful creatures. Why, Sirius himself attempted to eat an apple tree to prove his love and devotion one time."
Harry blinked. "How would that impress them?"
James grinned. "It wouldn't. In fact, they were so offended by his defacing of nature that they started chucking fireballs at him."
Harry whistled lowly. "I thought Sirius was a ladies man. That no woman could resist his attentions and undeniable good looks."
Sirius frowned. "Where'd you hear that?"
Harry cackled. "Remus."
The werewolf in question suddenly became very interested in the floor. "I'm going to go get Harry's trunk," he announced.
"It's not packed," Harry protested, not noticing the death glares Sirius was shooting at Remus.
"I'll take care of it," Remus promised, beating a hasty retreat from the room as Sirius began growling.
James, meanwhile, was staring at Dumbledore in bemusement. "Who is Ron? What's so funny?" He hated not understanding jokes.
"Ronald Weasley, youngest son of Arthur and Molly Weasley, best friend of your son," Dumbledore elaborated. James blinked, and then grinned.
"Oh. I get it now. This Ron kid takes after Arthur, I'm assuming?"
"In the emotional area, yes," Albus agreed. "He is as clueless as Arthur was at his age, although you will never find me admitting such a thing out loud."
James suddenly grinned. "Speaking of emotions, Harry, you're quite handsome, you know. I expect you're quite popular among the ladies at Hogwarts?"
Handsome? Harry thought. Well, the Tournament training did provide quite a bit of exercise, and all the yard work I've done has built me up somewhat…although you'd think my hair would cancel out any amount of handsome-ness. Harry's hair was actually quite attractive, unbeknownst to him, for it was about shoulder-length, making it infinitely easier to tame than before. The credit for his new and improved style couldn't go to Harry, unfortunately – he would have cut it ages ago, except he hadn't had any access to scissors, thanks to the Dursleys' fear that he might stab them in their sleep.
"Sort of," Harry allowed, remembering back to the Yule ball, when a multitude of girls had taken it upon themselves to trap him into being their escort. And of course the one girl I wanted to go with was the one who didn't ask me, Harry thought sardonically.
"Sort of?" James bellowed. "You're a Potter, boy! All Potters must have women eating out of their hands day and night! It's the law!"
Harry blinked. "Er… I'm sorry?"
"Sorry!" James scoffed. "It's not your fault, you just haven't had the proper instruction, that's all!"
Harry gave his father a hesitant smile. "I don't suppose you could teach me?"
James beamed. "Did you even have to ask? Can't have you disgracing the Potter name, now can we? Now, the first thing you have to remember is that women love attitude, so-"
At this point Remus returned with Harry's overflowing trunk, prompting Dumbledore to bring James's "teaching" to an end.
"As enlightening as this topic is," he interrupted, eyes twinkling, "I'm afraid that although we have established who Harry will be living with, we have not established where."
"Well, there is Grimmauld Place," Sirius began.
"Grimmauld Place?" Harry asked.
"The Black Ancestral Home," Sirius explained, lips curling in distaste. "Nasty place. Forget I mentioned it."
"Alright," Harry said uncertainly.
James, meanwhile, was thinking aloud. "It'd be nice to get out of the country for a while… but it'd mean a ton of paperwork, and that's never much fun…"
"The England manor?" Remus suggested. "After your… er… death, I believe it fell into Albus's possession until Harry turns of age, and I don't think he's touched it since."
"No, indeed," Dumbledore agreed. "The England manor has many wards and safeguards placed on it; it should be safe enough for our purposes. That is settled, then. Shall we head there now?"
"Actually, I was hoping to stop by Gringotts," James cut in. "I'm assuming that's where you put my wand after my disappearance?"
"Naturally," Dumbledore acquiesced.
James shot Sirius a grim look. "And while we're there, I have a few things to say to Minister Fudge as well. As well as get a new Auror license."
"You were an Auror?" Harry demanded. "Cool!"
Dumbledore smiled serenely. "Shall we be off, then?"
"Please, yes!" Harry exclaimed fervently.
Dumbledore laughed. "Well said, Harry. I suggest taking the Knight bus, as it is the simplest way of reaching your desired location. Once in Diagon Alley, you can easily purchase some Floo powder to reach the Potter Manor. Oh, and Sirius, do stay in canine form until James has had his… talk with the Minister, won't you?"
Hope twinkled in Sirius's eyes. "Oh, I will, Albus, don't worry. Although I can't promise you what I'll do after James is finished."
Harry gave him a quizzical look.
"An unconscious Cornelius Fudge and a machete come to mind," Sirius elaborated. "I'd advise you to keep sharp objects away from me while I'm around our esteemed Minister."
Harry laughed. "I'll do my best."
"Then it seems it is time to part ways," Dumbledore concluded. "Have a good day, gentlemen. And James, do send me an owl sometime. We have a lot to talk about."
James's eyes narrowed fractionally, although he had a smile on his face. "I'll be sure to." Harry wasn't sure if his father was pleased or absolutely furious with Dumbledore. He wasn't sure if he wanted to know, for that matter.
Dumbledore Disapparated with a pop.
A thought suddenly occurred to Harry. "Er… dad… everyone thinks you're dead, you know. Won't you start a panic if they see you walking around Diagon Alley?"
James grinned. "That'd be a sight, wouldn't it?"
"Reminds me of the old days," Sirius reminisced. "Good times."
Harry frowned. "Seriously."
"I suspect that the public will soon learn of James's reappearance anyway," Remus said. "This is simply a more direct way of doing so. Now then, shall I call the Knight bus?"
Sirius responded by shifting into canine form.
Thrusting his wand up in the air, the traditional signal for calling the Knight Bus, Remus and the others waited patiently, and then impatiently, for the elusive vehicle to appear. After five minutes, Remus huffed in annoyance.
"Where is that blasted vehicle?"
Harry grinned. Without explanation, he carefully positioned his trunk so that it was at the edge of the sidewalk, then drew his wand and stepped backwards, purposely tripping over the trunk. As Harry fell, his wand hand flew up in the air in an attempt to brake his fall, much as it had two years earlier. Landing on the road with a thump, Harry immediately rolled back onto the pavement, narrowly avoiding being run over by a massive violet triple-decker bus.
The bus ground to a halt, the as the doors slowly opened, Harry nonchalantly got to his feet, ignoring the incredulous looks he was getting.
Of the three, James was the most shocked; partially at his son's strange behavior (he himself had done stranger, of course, but that was beside the point), and also partially the fact that he'd almost lost his son for the second time. Sirius, the most used to Harry's impulsive and often dangerous actions, merely barked in amusement and trotted forward.
"He may be as insane as I am," James whispered in awe.
Remus smiled secretively. "You have no idea."
As the Knight Bus doors slid open, a pimply wizard decked out in purple velvet sprang forwards, and upon seeing James, began stammering incoherently. Taking pity on the poor conductor, James wordlessly patted the stuttering boy on the shoulder and swept past him onto the triple-decker.
"Don't mind Stan," the driver advised them apologetically. "He gets startled mighty easily."
"No problem, Ernie," James assured the wizened old driver. "I expect I'll be getting that reaction a lot today."
Ernie looked up at these words, and seeing James Potter himself alive and standing before him, apparently not having aged a day since his death fourteen years ago, he fainted dead to the floor.
James winced. "I don't suppose you know how to drive this thing, Moony?"
"I'm sure Sirius would know," Remus replied, "but I do not have his expertise when it comes to motor vehicles."
The duo stared down at Ernie, who was still lying unconscious on the floor.
Remus blinked. "Perhaps we should revive him."
James rolled his eyes. "You have the wand, genius."
"There is no need to be rude," Remus said, somewhat miffed.
"Since when did you get so sensitive?" James demanded.
Harry decided to take the initiative, in the form of leaning over and kicking the unconscious driver in the side until he woke up.
Sirius barked appreciatively.
Ernie woke with a start, and asked blearily, "How?"
"A long story," Remus supplied. "Suffice to say, there was very dangerous magic involved, and thanks to it James Potter is with us once more."
Thankfully, Ernie wasn't exceptionally deep, and didn't inquire further. Instead, he poked Stan in the ribs, gesticulating furiously towards their passengers. Stan quickly cleared his throat and began his spiel.
"Hello! Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transportation for any stranded witch or wizard! My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this-"
"Thank you, that will do," Remus said curtly. "I am Remus Lupin. This is James Potter, his son Harry, and our dog Padfoot. No, his stunning resemblance to a Grim is not coincidental. As pets do not require tickets, I would therefore like three one-way tickets to Diagon Alley. I would not like a toothbrush, nor a hot chocolate, nor any other ridiculously overpriced object you attempt to sell me."
Stan was so overcome by Remus's speech that he completely forgot his typical sarcastic remark, and blankly showed them to their seats. Harry was very impressed.
Due to the extraordinary ruckus the quartet had caused while boarding the Knight bus, the other occupants of the bus were now staring curiously at their newest companions as Ernie started up the engine and peeled off into the night. Having heard some of Ernie and Remus's conversation, their fellow passengers quickly put two and two together, and came to the conclusion that James Potter was somehow miraculously alive.
As luck would have it, the majority of the bus's passengers were members of the "Journalist's Guild of England," headed to their annual journalism conference held in one of the Ministry of Magic's many meeting rooms. James therefore spent the remainder of his journey bombarded by questions concerning everything from the details of his return to his favorite Quidditch team. By the time they pulled up at Diagon Alley, Remus had developed a painful migraine, Harry was blushing crimson from overtures of love one star-struck teenage girl was lavishing upon him, and James was on the verge of throttling one particularly obnoxious reporter.
Practically flying off the bus, all three men (and one dog) breathed a sigh of relief as the purple monstrosity rounded the corner and disappeared into the night, taking the gaggle of reporters with it. Keeping their heads down, the quartet entered the Leaky Cauldron as inconspicuously as possible. This turned out to be an excellent idea, as one of the reporters who had been with them on the bus had taken a photo of James sometime during their journey, and was now waving it wildly at the patrons of the pub, who seemed enraptured by the man's words.
After tapping the brick wall with his wand in the correct place, Remus led the way into Diagon Alley, absently noting that neither James nor Sirius had set foot in the alley in over fourteen years. He did not have time to dwell on this, however, because not ten seconds later they were besieged on all sides by witches and wizards frantic to ascertain for themselves that James Potter was truly alive. An almost equally large crowd spent a great deal of time rhapsodizing over Harry's winning the Triwizard Tournament three weeks ago.
James was not pleased.
"Get the bloody hell away from me!" he bellowed, yanking his arm away from a clingy old woman, who was trying to get him to sign her false tooth. "I didn't come back from the grave just to be smothered to death by you lot!"
The crowd thinned slightly.
James's gaze narrowed. "And if someone doesn't tell me what the hell my son was doing in the Triwizard Tournament, heads are going to roll!"
They had no trouble after that. What sane witch or wizard would tell a man who cheated Death itself that his son had nearly died in a tournament he wasn't supposed to be able to take part in in the first place?
Their first stop was Gringotts Wizarding bank, the beautiful, towering, white marble building in the heart of the thriving marketplace. Shoving past the golden doors, James stalked up to the nearest available goblin and snapped something impatiently. As Harry, Remus, and Padfoot rushed over to James's side, they found him arguing furiously with the teller.
"I don't care what you say, sir," the goblin snarled, "but 'James Potter' is listed as deceased in our directory, and unless you can produce some positive identification…"
"I told you," James retorted furiously. "I don't have any! For God's sake, I'd like to see you get sent to Hell, escape, and still have your wallet intact!"
Harry quickly thrust his vault key at the fuming goblin. "He's with me."
The goblin's eyes narrowed suspiciously as he examined the key. Then he gasped and began bowing furiously to James, who had a superior look on his face.
"My apologies, Mister Potter!" the goblin babbled. "Had we known of your sudden revivement… well, let bygones be bygones, as I believe Muggles are fond of saying! Let me just call you up a cart!"
As the teller snapped something in Gobbledegook to a passing underling, Harry, who was still holding the key out to the teller, reluctantly drew his hand back and gave his father a puzzled look.
"I was talking about the family vault, Harry, not your trust fund. We don't need a key for this," James told his son in a somewhat bewildered manner, clearly expecting him to know such things already. At that moment a goblin dashed up, gave Harry a superior smirk, and ushered the three men and one dog into the nearest side passage.
As they carefully boarded the rickety cart, James asked Harry, "You do know we have more than one vault, right?"
James frowned. "Don't tell me no one explained how your money was being handled! What else don't you know?"
"Well, I only really know that you and mum were the last Potters," Harry offered, hanging on for dear life as the cart took off down the tracks at breakneck speed. "That's about it, really. Oh, and that mom had green eyes, and I look exactly like you."
James was understandably distraught at his son's severe lack of knowledge about, well, just about everything. "Surely you know more than that!"
"It's not like people around here are in the habit of telling me anything useful," Harry muttered defensively. Sirius and Remus grew suspiciously quiet.
James frowned at his two friends before beginning his impromptu history lesson, pausing every few seconds to rub his backside after a particularly painful bump from the bouncing cart. "Right, then. The first thing you have to understand is that the Potters are a very old family."
"As old as the Malfoys?" Harry asked eagerly.
"Older," James replied with no small amount of pride. Harry grinned; some new blackmail material to use against Malfoy, courtesy of James Potter! Could the day get any better?
"Anyway, as you may know, generally old families mean old money."
"How much money are we talking about?" Harry asked suspiciously.
James smirked. "Son, I could buy a Ferrari a day for the rest of my life, and it wouldn't even put a dent in how much money we have."
Anticipation mounted in Harry as the cart rolled to a halt beside an enormous unmarked vault door. The goblin driver leapt out of the cart, trotted up to the door, and expertly slid his long finger down the middle of the portal. Harry waited with baited breath as the door's intricate locks slowly unlatched, and finally the vault door swung open with a dramatic creak.
There were no mountains of gold or jewels, of course. Not even silver sickles, Harry noted with mounting disappointment. Why would his father lead him on so cruelly? The only things inside the ridiculously small passage were two doors, one of each side of the broom closet-sized room.
Noting his son's unimpressed face, James impatiently shoved past him and swung open the left door. It was amazing how fast Harry's expression could change from dull disappointment to sheer amazement.
Inside the room was… gold. The sheer volume could not be described. There were piles… no… mountains of gold, stretching from the floor to the twenty-foot-high ceiling, and occupying every possible space in the room, which had to be at least a hundred feet long. That was a lot of gold. Interspersed in the room was silver and copper pieces, but the gold easily outnumbered them by a thousand-fold. Needless to say, Harry was very impressed. Shocked, more like. Suddenly, the thousand galleons he'd given to the Weasley twins at the end of last year seemed a paltry amount compared to the fortune in front of him.
"You think this is something," Remus said mildly as he and Padfoot strolled into the room. "This is only the England vault. You should see the vault James has got in Bangladesh. We were swimming in gold coins – literally. Sirius actually found a piece of wood and rigged it to the wall as a diving board."
Sirius whined pitifully. James, who was busy scooping Galleons into a green velvet bag, looked up in concern.
"What's the matter, Padfoot?"
Not daring to shift to man form while so near their goblin driver, Sirius merely growled and flopped onto the floor.
Remus rolled his eyes. "When Sirius was sent to Azkaban, they removed his vault from his custody, although he still managed to access it somehow. I expect Sirius is going into one of his self-pity phases."
James scratched Sirius's ear comfortingly. "Not to worry, old friend. As soon as we get what we came for, I will personally see you freed."
Sirius snorted in disbelief.
James bopped Padfoot on his furry head. "You git, you were given a life sentence for murdering me, among other things. You really think Fudge is going to object when I rise from the dead to inform him of his mistake?"
Apparently satisfied, Sirius barked happily and bounded off between the mountains of gold. James, amused as ever by his best friend's antics, chuckled and returned to his gold-stuffing, joined momentarily by Harry and Remus.
After collecting a small fortune in gold, the quartet exited the room and made their way across the hall to the other wooden door. This must be where Dad's wand is being stored, Harry deduced.
He was correct… sort of. True enough, on a cabinet right beside the door sat James's wand, placed there by an unknown party after his untimely demise. However, the rest of the room…
Approximately half the size of the previous room, this room contained… everything. There were swords, shields, books, wands, and an assortment of things that Harry didn't recognize (some of which looked rather evil in his opinion). James, Sirius, and Remus spread out to gather items they needed, and as they faded from view, Harry, feeling rather abandoned, decided to take a look around.
Harry was particularly drawn to the far corner of the room, which held an assortment of dark artifacts that the Malfoys would kill to have. The items had clearly been neglected, however, which led Harry to reason that they were placed in this vault for safe keeping.
On an old, half torn-apart cabinet was a very old, dusty item that looked like it hadn't been touched in centuries. It appeared to be a human skull with large chunks removed from it in a very symmetrical, very precise way. Harry shuddered and moved on.
A large gilt table held an assortment of nasty looking potions, some poisoned weapons and objects, and a rather large black sword with a very life-like silver snake coiled around hilt. This sword was what had been drawing Harry towards it, which prompted Harry to cautiously step forwards and timidly poke the blade.
Harry naturally panicked when the snake's head suddenly jerked upwards and hissed at him menacingly.
.:Who dares disturb my rest:. the tiny metallic reptile bellowed in Parseltongue.
Harry gaped in astonishment. "You're alive? You can talk?"
.:It certainly seems so:. the snake hissed dryly. .:Ten points to the scar-faced child:.
Go figure. He manages to discover a sword that can communicate with humans, and it turns out to be sarcastic. What were the odds?
The snake, however, was speaking again. .:Who are you? I highly doubt a weakling like you would be capable of communicating with a being such as myself. My master was the most powerful wizard in the world, after all:.
"My name is Harry Potter," Harry said somewhat shortly. "I'm a Parselmouth. I got the ability from Voldemort… who I'm going to guess forged you, or at least ordered you made."
The snake actually seemed disgusted by the notion. .:Do not make me laugh, boy. I do not know this Voldemort you speak of, but he is but dirt compared to my maker! I serve none other than Salazar Slytherin himself:.
Harry's eyebrows shot up in shock. "You realize he's been dead for a millennium?"
The snake, despite his evident pride at having Slytherin as his master, didn't seem overly concerned with the man's demise.
.:Well then, I shall simply have to find a new master:. the snake said firmly. .:Tell me about this Voldemort fellow:.
Harry blinked owlishly. "Er… he's an evil Dark Lord bent on world domination, who despises muggleborns and half-bloods, and tortures Muggles for fun. Oh, and his eyes are red."
The snake hissed unhappily. .:I've had enough of that type to last me a lifetime. There must be another Parselmouth I can serve:.
Harry racked his brain in thought. "To tell you the truth, I'm the only other Parselmouth I know of."
The snake eyed him appraisingly. .:As I do not particularly care to spend the next decade scouring the world for Parselmouths, I do not see any other option. You don't have as much ambition as I'd like, but there is some potential in you:.
Harry blinked. "I'm not following you."
.:You are now my master:. the snake declared.
Harry gaped. "What? Look, I can't be your master! I don't even know how to use a sword! Besides, I'm in Gryffindor! You served Salazar Slytherin himself!"
.:Slytherin may have created me, but I have my own mind. You are adequately powerful for my needs, and you seem to possess a decent amount of intellect. Now, cease your whining and strap on my scabbard – you own me now:.
Reasonably certain that this was an incredibly foolish and foolhardy thing to do, Harry dutifully strapped the scabbard onto his back, pulling the collar of his jacket higher to hide it from view. This was done, of course, because Harry was sure his father would not approve in the slightest of him stealing such a clearly Dark artifact from his own vault. A wiser person than Harry would have asked permission before doing such a stupid thing, of course, but Harry was never known for his good judgment.
.:Now, Master, you claim that you do not know how to use a sword properly:. the snake said. .:I will teach you, for I am well rounded in combative techniques, and I cannot have you disgracing me:.
"Now may not be a good time," Harry protested, hearing Remus ask James where his son had got to.
.:It seems you are not entirely unintelligent:. the snake observed. .:You were certainly correct when you deduced it would not be an intelligent idea to tell your Father about me:.
This didn't sit well with Harry. "Wait a minute. If taking you is such a bad idea, then why am I doing it?"
The snake rolled its miniscule silver eyes. .:You are my master – you have no choice. Feel free to leave me behind – you'll be drawn back before you take two steps. I don't suggest you try it – I understand it's immensely painful:.
"I don't like you very much, snake," Harry informed him unhappily.
"My name is Decimare," the snake informed him. "And I am not a 'snake', as you so foolishly put it. I am the physical manifestation of the essence of the blade you see before you, created to allow my Masters to interact with me more easily:.
.:It means I look like a snake wrapped around the hilt of the blade Decimare, but in fact I am merely a part of the sword, but one that can talk:. Decimare explained irritably. .:Do try and keep up:.
"You're evil, aren't you?" Harry sighed as he turned to head towards the exit.
Decimare seemed highly amused. .:I am a piece of cold steel, Master. Despite the many enchantments placed upon me, it is my duty to serve you. Therefore, if you are 'good', so to speak, I will behave in a 'good' manner so as to assist in forwarding your goals and dreams:.
"Fine," Harry said curtly.
.:I will become silent now:. Decimare announced. .:We will reconvene when you are in a suitable place to begin your training:.
Harry groaned, but was not entirely displeased with the concept. If learning to use a sword kept this odd snake-sword thing happy, then Harry figured it was worth it. And who knew? Maybe it would even give him an advantage against Voldemort next time they crossed paths.
"Harry!" James's voice echoed across the gargantuan room. "Time to leave, son!"
Harry shoved the sword back under his cloak and hurried over to the door where his companions were waiting for him. He noticed instantly that James and Remus seemed perturbed by something.
"What's the matter?" he asked, surreptitiously checking to insure the sword was completely hidden under his jacket.
James frowned. "Gryffindor's sword isn't in its case."
"Gryffindor's sword?" Harry repeated. "What was it doing in the Potter vault in the first place?"
"The Potters were given charge of some very important magical objects, as we are well known to be prominent Light wizards," James explained, still pondering the sword's disappearance. "Do you think it was stolen?"
"Of course not," Harry said absently.
James blinked. "Why not?"
"Well, the sword's at Hogwarts, isn't it?" Harry asked impatiently, then realized his mistake.
"And you know this… how?" James demanded.
"I pulled it out of the Sorting Hat in my second year," Harry volunteered reluctantly.
Remus's face brightened considerably in understanding. "Ahh! So that is how you survived! I'd always wondered."
"Survived what?" James said in frustration.
Remus shook his head. "We will go over everything later, Prongs, you have my word. Come, let's get going. I believe we've kept our driver waiting long enough."
Without further ado, the four exited the vault, drove back up to ground level, and stepped out into the bustling alley.
"Where to now?" Harry asked.
Padfoot tugged on James's pant leg, whining pitifully.
"The Ministry of Magic!" James announced. "We'll take the Diagon Alley entrance – it's closer than the visitor's entrance."
James and Remus led the way down the alley, into a small building at the very end named the "Useless Store". No joke. Harry wondered for the zillionth time today if being dead hadn't rattled his Father's mind slightly.
They entered the tiny building to find themselves in a small room whose only furnishings were a small wooden desk, at which a bored looking woman sat. In the center of the desk was a bright blue orb; other than that, the desk was clear. James led the way forward, sliding up to the desk to give the woman a dashing smile.
"What?" she asked in an utterly bored drawl.
"We'd like to visit the Ministry of Magic," James said, somewhat put off by the woman's lack of reaction to his best smile.
The woman grunted. James took that as a yes, and reached his hand forward to settle it lightly on the blue orb. He disappeared with a pop. Remus snorted, disgusted by the lack of security the ministry was displaying, before following his friend's lead. Harry quickly grabbed Sirius's collar and did likewise.
They emerged in a huge dark-wood paneled hall, with a gargantuan peacock blue ceiling, and fireplaces lining both side walls, which Harry supposed were for Floo travel in and out of the Ministry. Down the hall the foursome strode, past a large fountain titled the "Fountain of Magical Brethren", through a large golden gateway, up a gilded lift, and through the single door at the end of the elaborately decorated hallway. Harry found it interesting to note that at no time through their entire trek were they stopped and questioned as to their intentions or destination. The Ministry security really was lax.
As they passed through the large ornate door into the next room, Harry noticed a small plaque hanging above the door reading: "Minister for Magic's Office". He gave his father an uncertain stare, not sure simply barging in was the right way to go about things, but James just winked and walked onwards. Harry shrugged in defeat and followed his father inside.
The door shut behind them with a clang, blocking out all sound from the outside. The room they were in was small yet ornately decorated – most likely Fudge's secretary's office. Sure enough, they immediately spotted a rather attractive woman seated at a giant mahogany desk, whose name plaque read "Ann Cline, Secretary to the Minister for Magic".
Her blond head jerked up as they approached. "What?" she asked impatiently. Apparently politeness was not a pre-requisite when getting a job in the Ministry.
"I'd like to speak to Fudge," James snapped, returning her impolite tone. "Now, if you please."
The secretary frowned as she examined her fake nails. "Minister Fudge is busy at the moment. If you leave your name and address, he can contact you at a later-"
"Look, lady," James interrupted. "Not to be rude, but if you want to keep your job, then you tell Fudge that James Potter wants to see him now, and if he doesn't agree to meet with me, I'll come in anyway and kick his lazy ass from here to Switzerland!"
Cline sighed and hit the magical intercom button. "Sir, I've got a James Potter here to see you. He says if you don't see him immediately, he'll do something or other to you. He sounds rather impatient."
Fudge scoffed. "Don't be a fool, Cline. James Potter has been dead for fourteen years!"
"Not according to this issue of the Daily Prophet sitting on my desk," Cline droned.
"That's impossible!" Fudge protested. "He is a fraud! Under no circumstances is he to disturb me!"
Cline removed her hand from the button. She stared at the Minister's doors situated behind her.
"I think he wants to see you," she murmured. "Then again, I don't understand a lot of the things he says. Go on in, and try not to break anything. I've got to clean his office, you know."
As Harry stared in bewilderment at the impossibly emotionless woman, James directed the group towards the Minister's door. Grinning in anticipation, James grabbed the doorknob and flung the door open wide to reveal a short, chubby man situated in a huge room at a desk much too large for him. Seeing James, he gasped, and, quite understandably, passed out.
Remus sighed and moved forward to revive the Minister as James rolled his eyes.
Once the cowardly Minister had awoken, James said quite politely, "Good day, Minister. I hope you're well."
Fudge squeaked. "You're dead!"
James blinked. "Actually, I'm quite certain I'm alive, thank you." He then proceeded to sum up his past story/location for the Minister, who listened with wide eyes and a gaping jaw. When James finished, Fudge smiled shakily.
"Well, isn't this wonderful? Our most accomplished Auror alive and well! Wonderful…" Fudge said cheerily, but if you listened carefully, you could easily catch the sarcasm. James was listening for it, but nevertheless gave the man a mock-grateful smile.
"Thank you, Minister. It is ever so good to be alive again. One does miss it. Incidentally, now that I'm alive and well, how soon will my Auror's license be renewed?"
Fudge had relaxed to the idea by now, and was therefore able to smile sincerely. "Why, for the Ministry's best Auror? As soon as you like, my boy! I'll just call in the Auror council, and I'm sure they'll be glad to renew your license."
James nodded, glowering slightly at the term 'my boy'. When he was younger, Fudge had cozied up to him in hopes of gaining the Potter family's financial and political support. No doubt he was up to the same thing once again.
A few minutes later a group of men trudged into the room, all seeming rather annoyed at being pulled from their work on such short notice. There were five altogether, and while four seemed to be Fudge's little lapdogs (judging by the paternal look the Minister was giving them), the fifth was anything but. He was in fact a very familiar face, although this was the last place Harry had expected to see him.
"Alastor Moody!" James exclaimed happily. "Never thought you'd still be here! Shouldn't you be retired by now?"
Moody smirked, clapping a hand on James's shoulder. "I had my reasons."
James nodded wisely. "I can imagine."
Meanwhile, the other four Aurors, after doing the obligatory shocked staring at James for a few minutes, quickly got to work renewing his license. Once the task was accomplished, James returned his attention to Fudge.
"Now, Minister, I have something to ask you about."
"Anything!" Fudge said oblingly.
"I want to talk about Sirius Black," James said promptly.
"Not to worry, sir," one of the Aurors announced promptly. "Black has served time in Azkaban for his crimes, and although he's currently at large, we're hot on his trail, and should recapture him shortly."
James couldn't contain his amusement. "Really? Got some good leads, then? Where is he currently hiding, if I may ask?"
The young men exchanged nervous glances, as they had clearly been exaggerating their knowledge over Black's whereabouts. "Er… he's definitely somewhere in Australia," one of the Aurors stammered uncertainly. "We've got a few likely sites picked out…"
Exasperated by the ignorance of these so-called 'Aurors', James snapped, "You have no idea where he is, so don't pretend you do."
That shut them up quickly.
"The reason I brought up Sirius," James continued, "is because he is innocent."
Fudge and his Aurors stared blankly at James.
"Black, innocent? Impossible!" Fudge denied. "Death must have addled your memory, my boy. Sirius Black is a convicted murderer! For God's sake, man, it's his fault you died in the first place!"
"No, it's not," James said patiently. "Sirius Black was not my secret keeper. He had nothing to do with my murder, and he didn't murder those thirteen Muggles either."
"That's ridiculous," Fudge stammered. "Who was your secret keeper, then, if not Black?"
"Peter Pettigrew," James said succinctly. "It was Peter Pettigrew who betrayed me, not Sirius."
"But he's dead!"
"He faked his death," James snapped. "And don't you dare tell me I'm mistaken! I know for a fact that Sirius was not our Secret Keeper, having been the one to pick the person in the first place. You have my word, gentlemen. Sirius Black did not betray me."
"Then if Black didn't kill the Potters," one Auror stammered. "Why would he murder all those Muggles?"
"He didn't," James repeated. "God, how thick are you lot? I leave for fourteen years, and everything goes down the drain!"
Fudge blinked, clearly trying to find a way to escape the situation without taking too much blame. He opted for passing the buck to someone else. "That's absolutely appalling to hear! Poor Black, innocent all these years! When I find out who is at fault for this, Mister Potter, you can be assured I will deal with them harshly…"
"Of course you will," James agreed sarcastically.
"He'll need a trial before we can declare him innocent permanently, of course," Fudge babbled. "Unfortunately, since we have no idea where the man is, there really isn't much I can do…"
Your not getting out of this that easily, James thought. "Then isn't it lucky that I happen to know exactly where he is!"
Fudge blanched. "How fortunate," he squeaked.
"And since the Auror's council is here anyway, why don't we have the trial now?" James continued brightly.
"But… the Wizengamot…" Fudge stuttered.
"The Wizengamot has no part in this," James informed him shortly. "If they couldn't bother giving Sirius a trial fourteen years ago, then they certainly won't have a say in the matter today."
It was a mark of how much Fudge had deteriorated over the years that he couldn't even find a suitable retort to this statement.
James turned to Alastor Moody, who was chuckling under his breath. "Moody, fetch some Veritaserum while I find Sirius, won't you?"
Moody nodded and slipped out the door, smirking to himself as he shook his head.
James directed an elegant bow at the Minister. "I won't be but a moment, Minister Fudge."
James slipped out of the room with Padfoot at his heels. Moody returned a few moments later, still barely suppressing a smile. The next minute, James returned dragging none other than Sirius Black himself!
"Sirius Black!" Fudge and his Aurors yelped. Sirius rolled his eyes.
"Shut up!" James shouted just as loudly. "He's innocent, remember? Lord, talk about selective memory! Now Minister, you are going to give Sirius the trial he was denied fourteen years ago. The Veritaserum, please, Moody. Thank you."
James handed the potion to Sirius, who grimaced in distaste but nonetheless downed the potion in a single gulp.
"Right then," Moody declared in his grizzled voice. "Are you Sirius Orion Black?"
"State your birthdate and place of birth for confirmation."
"Can we hurry this up?" Fudge cut in irritably.
Moody decided to cut straight to the chase.
"Were you the Potter's secret keeper?"
Astonished murmurs from Fudge and his cronies. It was amazing. Fourteen years of being thought a murderous villain gone by just one little word.
"Then who was?"
"Why did Potter switch to Pettigrew?"
"It was my idea; the perfect ruse. I never thought Voldemort would use a weak, talent-less thing like Pettigrew to do his dirty work. I was wrong."
"And the thirteen dead Muggles?"
"Pettigrew killed them."
"And then you killed Pettigrew?"
"Peter is a rat Animagus," Sirius snarled. "He cut off his finger, blew up the street with his wand behind his back, then transformed and sped down into the sewers, leaving me at the scene of the crime."
"So you are saying you are completely innocent of all charges?"
"Was Pettigrew a Death Eater?"
"No, Pettigrew is a Death Eater. He showed up a couple of years ago, and has since rejoined Voldemort."
Moody grinned in anticipation as Fudge's face paled.
"Voldemort is dead," Fudge snapped.
"No, he was brought back to life at the end of June this year, thanks to Pettigrew."
"Impossible!" Fudge shouted. "He's lying! Arrest him!"
"Minister," one of the Aurors said timidly. "He's under Veritaserum. He can't lie."
"That's right," Sirius agreed. "And I am telling you that Voldemort is alive!"
The Aurors started muttering to themselves, seeming rather confused as to why the Minister was so fervently denying the truth. As they muttered, it became clear that they weren't pleased at all with Fudge in the least, and were definitely planning to use Sirius's false imprisonment as a way to do something about it. Through it all Fudge sat nervously at his desk, afraid to say anything to make the situation worse.
Eventually, Moody announced the Auror Council's decision. "Firstly, Sirius Black is hereby pardoned of all charges."
Harry, James, and Remus let out a resounding cheer, but that was nothing compared to Sirius, who actually screamed in ecstasy.
"I'm FREE!" he bellowed joyfully, grabbing his godson and dancing around the room with him. Remus quickly stopped them.
Moody cleared his throat, and the room gradually quietened. "Thank you. Now, my second announcement concerns our beloved leader, Minister Fudge." He paused. "Actually, I think this announcement would work better in the Grand Hall. Follow me." Bemused, the occupants of room followed the limping man out of the room, down the gilded lift, and into the main hall, where a crowd quickly gathered.
Moody lifted a gnarled hand, and the Grand Hall slowly fell silent as the multitude of witches and wizards awaited the old Auror's words. The silence was then quickly dispelled as the crowd caught glimpse of Sirius Black. Hexes flew across the room as a riot broke out. It took the Aurors about five minutes to calm the crowd down, during which time Remus and Harry snuck down to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to retrieve Sirius's wand from storage. One flash of Harry's scar was all they needed to get by the giggling security witch. Once again, the Ministry's security sucked.
Once everything was relatively quiet, Moody cleared his throat. "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Wizarding World!"
The crowd cheered. Moody grunted in irritation.
"This morning, James Potter was miraculously brought back from the dead!"
There were whistles and more cheering as James grinned and gave a bow.
"Yes, yes, quiet down," Moody grumbled. "However, his arrival brought a few issues around, namely the fate of one Sirius Black." The crowd gasped, and all eyes were focused on Sirius, who was trying to look as innocent as possible, but failing, as he'd never been innocent a day in his life.
"James gave some startling evidence, however, and I am pleased to announce that Sirius Black has been cleared of all charges!"
The hall became deathly quiet. Sirius frowned.
"Come on," he snapped. "You all thought me a murderer for fourteen years. The least you could do is cheer."
Quite a few people gave a relieved laugh as the hall broke out in cheering once more.
Moody glared around until the applause died down. "As it turns out, the crimes Black was pinned with were actually done by Peter Pettigrew, who is not in fact dead, but currently serving his master, whom you all know as Voldemort. Which brings us to my next point: due to overwhelming evidence supporting the fact, the Ministry of Magic regrets to announce that the Dark Lord Voldemort is indeed alive and at large, despite what Minister Fudge may claim."
Fudge, unable to take it anymore, darted forwards. "Please do not panic, my friends! Voldemort has not returned! That is simply a ludicrous story concocted by Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, and Sirius Black!"
"Which ties in nicely to my final point," Moody concluded. "The Auror's Council has determined that Cornelius Fudge is a danger to our society. He was given evidence that the Dark Lord had returned, yet instead of immediately increasing security and preparing a defense in case it were true, he dismissed it as false, and did not even bother informing the public of the possible danger they were in. Furthermore, he attempted to discredit Albus Dumbledore, simply because he was preaching truths the Minister did not want to hear."
Fudge was beet red, and would have angrily retorted, except for the fact that Sirius had helpfully placed a silencing charm on him.
"Therefore, and without further ado," Moody announced. "Minister Fudge is unfit to continue in his position as Minister for Magic. I move for a vote of no confidence in Cornelius Fudge."
As it turned out, no one really liked Fudge that much, and judging by the cheering, most thought him an incompetent bungler. Fudge, absolutely horrified, started to wave his arms furiously protest, but no one paid him the slightest attention. He was led from the hall in complete disgrace.
The only person who was not rejoicing was Harry, who, being the only child in the entire hall, was more than a little overwhelmed by what had happened. Sirius was free, Fudge was being sacked, his dad was alive… next thing he knew Snape was going to show up and give Gryffindor house points!
Forgetting his confusion for the moment, Harry couldn't help but laugh at the mental image of Snape in red and gold supporting Gryffindor, handing out lion-shaped marshmallows to all Harry's friends. That would be worth a thousand detentions just to see!
James, noticing his son had suddenly broken out in hysterical laughter, leaned closer and asked in concern: "You alright, Harry?"
Harry, nearly choking, gasped: "Snape… marshmallows… hahaha!"
James blinked. "On second thought, I'd rather not know." Everyone should be allowed their little oddities, James decided. His son just seemed to have a few more of them than most people.
Eventually, the purple sparks shooting from Moody's wand quietened the crowd down, and as silence finally fell, Moody began his speech. "Normally, when a Minister is impeached, a massive election would be called, money would be poured into campaigns, and the candidates would all squabble among each other over who would make the best Minister. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and let me assure you, the Dark Lord being resurrected indeed qualifies as a desperate time."
"That may be," Amos Diggory cried out, "but that doesn't change the fact that we still need a new Minister!"
"That we do," Remus agreed, stepping forward. "What we have figured is that, since the highest ranking figures in Britain are in this hall anyway, we should call for a vote now."
"And I suppose you'll be one of the candidates?" Amos shouted scornfully. "Or maybe you were thinking of making the Potter boy Minister. It's not like age restrictions have stopped him before!"
James darkened visibly. "I'm sure I have no idea what you're referring to, Amos, but that sounded an awful lot like an insult to me." He raised his wand menacingly. Amos blanched.
"Now, James," he pleaded. "I was simply suggesting…"
"I suggest you both calm down," Sirius cut in, placing a hand on James's chest and shoving him backwards a step. "Sound good?"
James growled ominously, but kept silent. Amos simply paled further and attempted to disappear deeper into the crowd.
"Now then," Remus continued. "We want to get this decided here and now. If you would like to nominate a candidate, please step forward and present your vote to Moody, who will keep track of the nominations."
As the crowd surged forward, Harry gave his father a pleased grin. "Thanks for standing up for me."
"Don't mention it," James said absently, still glaring murderously in the direction he'd seen Amos disappear. "I've never been too good with insults directed at my family. The nerve of that pompous git!"
Sirius wandered over to join them, and the trio spent a happy half hour in idle chit chat as Remus and Moody took it upon themselves to coordinate the voting. About ten minutes in, Amelia Bones, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, showed up and, after sternly lecturing Remus and Moody on 'over-stepping their authority', proceeded to take control of the voting.
Once all the votes were in, Amelia glided forwards to speak to the silent hall. "The nominations have been reviewed, and as of this moment, the only person who has a decently good chance of becoming Minister of Magic is Lucius Malfoy."
Harry's jaw dropped. Beside him, he saw James and Sirius turn crimson. Even Remus looked mildly annoyed, which was quite a display of emotion for the normally stoic werewolf.
"Since someone promised you we would have a new Minister before the sun sets," Bones ground out, glaring at Remus, who winced, "I suppose the best way to deal with this would be to have Mister Malfoy give an election speech. If he seems acceptable, we can proceed immediately to a vote, and hopefully have a new Minister before the day is out."
"But he's a Death Eater," Harry hissed to his father, who was biting his tongue to keep himself from yelling something unforgivable at Madam Bones
"Well, we'll just have to make sure he doesn't get elected, won't we?" Sirius countered with a carefree grin. How can he be so optimistic? Harry thought anxiously. We're about to elect a Death Eater for Minister!
Lucius Malfoy, smirking victoriously at James, Sirius, Remus, and especially Harry, sauntered up to the stage to give his speech. "Ladies and gentlemen," he began solemnly. "I am more honored than words can say that you think me a suitable candidate for the illustrious position of Minister for Magic. Yet I can assure you that, with every breath in my body, I shall strive to succeed where my predecessor has failed! A new age is upon us, it is true! The Dark Lord has returned, and there is nothing we can do to change that. However, as your Minister, I shall see to it that all who threaten the peace of our world are brought to justice! You will never be lied to again!"
The room exploded in deafening cheers. Madam Bones sighed. "It seems we have a new Minister." She didn't seem overly pleased by the prospect.
"Not until I have my say!" James bellowed, shoving his way forward to the front of the stage. 'Accidentally' shoving Malfoy aside, James announced: "Ladies and Gentlemen! I think you'll all agree with me when I say that Lucius made a damn fine speech just now!"
Applause rang through the hall.
"He's a good friend of mine, you know," James continued. Sirius snorted. "Shut up, Sirius. My point is, ladies and gentlemen, that I have every confidence that Lucy will do a fantastic job as our new Minister for Magic!"
The crowd cheered again, while Malfoy's face turned an interesting shade of green at the nickname 'Lucy'. "Potter," he growled softly. "What are you trying to pull?"
"Yeah, what is he trying to pull?" Harry asked Sirius in worry. "He's basically promoting Malfoy for Minister! And why does everyone care so much what he says, anyway? It's not like he was Minister or anything."
Sirius laid a paternal hand on Harry's shoulder. "Back when James was in his first life, he was the heir to the Potter fortune, as well as a top notch Auror. When your dad talked, people listened."
"Unless they were Snape," Remus added. "In which case, they hexed him."
"I'm trying to create a sense of awe here, Moony," Sirius complained. "Stop undermining me in front of impressionable youngsters."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."
"Yes, yes, by all means cheer!" James shouted. The crowd quietened again. "Lucius for Minister! Before we elect him, though, I was just wondering if you all could clarify something for me." His expression turned to one of angelic innocence as his audience listened attentively. "It's just that, back before I died, I distinctly remember that Lucius Malfoy was a certified Death Eater."
Lucius glared at James. "I'm hurt that you would make such a claim, my dear friend. As you would know if you read the newspapers, I was cleared of all charges when it became I was under the Imperius curse during all my Death Eater activities."
James gave Malfoy a shocked look. "I didn't know that people under the Imperius curse could still think rationally and make independent decisions."
"They can't," Lucius snapped. "Everyone knows that."
James drove his point home. "But I could have sworn I saw you running around in Death Eater robes at Thorn Rose ordering around the Dark Lord's troops."
As the crowd erupted in furious whispering, Harry struggled to remember any mention of "Thorn Rose" from his History of Magic classes. He vaguely recalled the name referring to a battle of some sort – the largest one ever between Voldemort and the Ministry, if he remembered correctly. Thanks to the heroics of two young recruits, and the brilliant use of an enlargement spell in a never-before-seen manner, over fifty Death Eaters had been captured in one fell swoop, almost single-handedly winning the battle for the Ministry.
"What do you know about Thorn Rose?" Harry demanded of Sirius, who for some reason smirked.
"Did you ever wonder where the twins got their ton-tongue toffee idea from?" Sirius asked innocently.
"Those two recruits who used an enlargement charm against the Death Eaters?" Harry guessed wildly.
Sirius cackled. "James and I kept trying, kid, but we could never get a mushroom to grow that big again!"
Harry blinked. "Are you telling me you were one of those two famous recruits?"
"Along with your dad, yeah," Sirius grinned. "When I told you we had some good times, I wasn't kidding."
Harry was beginning to realize why the Wizarding world was so devastated when James had been murdered fourteen years ago.
Back up on stage, Lucius seemed to realize he was losing his support. "You must have been hallucinating, my friend! Of course I'm not a Death Eater! Have I not proven through countless, selfless donations to excellent causes that I care only for the best for our world? My first priority is to my country and its people!"
"You mean to purebloods," Harry remarked dryly, unable to contain himself. As whispers broke out over his words, James gave him a discreet thumbs up.
"Then you wouldn't mind pulling up your left sleeve, would you?" James inquired pleasantly. "I seem to remember that all willing Death Eaters had the Dark Mark tattooed somewhere around there. If you are what you claim, surely you wouldn't mind showing us your arm?"
Lucius gave James the most deadly glare imaginable. Hissing in fury, Malfoy stalked out of the hall without another word. James grinned impishly.
"Should I take that as a no?"