Passing of the Torch
Distant voices slowly brought Harry out of his slumber. He felt sore and had a headache. As his senses started to return, Harry realized that he was tucked in a bed tightly with something on his chest. He groaned as he lifted his arm to move it and felt a familiar fur run through his fingers, Midnight's fur. Resting a hand on the dog's neck, Harry relaxed as he started to drift back off to sleep. Midnight was safe and that was all that mattered.
The sound of a door opening was quickly followed by a wave of chatter filling the room. There were too many voices to understand what any of them could possibly be saying. The door closed again quickly, dampening the voices much to Harry's relief so they were back to distant murmurs. He didn't want to see anyone. He just wanted to sleep.
"I see Sirius has found a comfortable spot," said the pleasant voice of Professor Dumbledore. "Both of them have earned some peace after all these years. I just wish it could last."
Harry felt a gentle hand touch his forehead. "Well, Sirius wants to talk to Harry first," said the quiet voice of Professor Lupin. "I think he's worried about Harry getting his hopes up. How long do we have before the Ministry takes him into custody?"
Professor Dumbledore let out a sigh. "It's difficult to say," he answered truthfully. "Harry's threat will give us at least a few days to arrange a trial and a defense for Sirius." There was a moment of silence. "That was a remarkable Patronus if I do say so myself. Did you happen to notice the third form that appeared resembling a lost pet?"
"I can't explain what I saw," admitted Professor Lupin. "How do I begin to explain it to Harry? No one has two forms much less three. What does this mean for him? Dumbledore please be honest. I need to know what to tell my cub when he has questions which he's bound to have. I need to know what to tell him when he wants to know how something like this mess with the Ministry could happen."
Harry groaned as he shifted, testing how sore his muscles really were. He inhaled sharply as he turned his head causing pain to shoot through his spine. So far a sore neck was all he could find. His movements alerted Midnight who quickly woke and jumped off the bed, transforming with a pop. Harry groaned again at Midnight's departure from the bed as he partially opened his eyes to see three blurry faces.
Professor Lupin gently slid Harry's glasses on his face, allowing the teen to see them clearly. "How are you feeling, cub?" he asked. "We were starting to get worried. It's been two days since your standoff with Fudge."
It took a moment for Harry to process what was being said. He had been sleeping for two days? How? It felt like it had all happened just moments ago. "Sorry," Harry said weakly. He figured he needed to explain what he did but think he had the strength to do it. "I—I didn't know what else to do. I—I couldn't let them—"
"Hey slow down, Pronglet," Black said as he sat down on the side of the bed, resting a hand on Harry's arm. He looked a little healthier and happier than when Harry had last seen him but there was a pain in his eyes that looked like it would never go away. "We're not going to yell at you. You saved my life and for that I will be forever grateful…no matter what happens."
Harry looked at Black in confusion. "What?" he asked. "What's going on?"
Black glanced over at Professor Lupin before returning his gaze to Harry. "Nothing worth worrying about, kiddo," he said with a soft smile. "You've done more than your fair share already. Now it's up to us to make things right." Black smiled as he ran a hand through Harry's messy hair. "I'm so proud of you, Harry. I know your parents would be too."
Harry didn't know why but he had the feeling Sirius Black was hiding something. It was almost like he was saying goodbye but why? He was getting a trial now and would be found innocent. It didn't make any sense. Glancing over at Professors Dumbledore and Lupin, Harry saw that they both had guarded looks on their faces. What weren't they telling him? Had he made matters worse? Was Black in even more trouble now? Were Professor Dumbledore and Professor Lupin?
"What's going on?" Harry repeated as he looked back at Black. "Why are you saying goodbye?"
Black looked taken aback. "Goodbye?" he asked as he touched the side of Harry's face. "I'm not going anywhere. I still have to sit though a trial but the important fact is that you know and believe the truth. That is more than I could ever hope for. I now have something to look forward to when this entire mess is over." Black glanced over at Lupin and smiled slyly. "That is if your guardian will allow it of course."
Professor Lupin grinned back. "We shall see, Padfoot," he said. "I have to do what's in Harry's best interests you know."
Black faked a hurt expression towards the Defense teacher. "Best interests?" he asked playfully. "Denying him access to his godfather is in his best interests? You wound me, Moony. You wound me deeply."
Harry just listened as his eyes closed. It was a welcomed change to hear Professor Lupin sound so relaxed and actually joking around. It was something that Harry had always wanted for Lupin. This made it all worth it, seeing Black and Professor Lupin like they most likely had been before his parents had been killed. Harry could only hope that it would stay this way.
It was another two days before Harry was allowed to leave his sanctuary which was the same day notice of Black's 'capture' and trial date was announced in the 'Daily Prophet'. The entire article was extremely vague about Black's capture, current location and the reason for a trial being issued when he was supposed to be receiving the Kiss. The trial was scheduled for early next week and was to be held in a closed courtroom meaning the press wouldn't be allowed in. Unfortunately Fudge had also pushed for no observers which meant Harry and Professor Lupin couldn't attend either.
Professor Lupin certainly wasn't happy about that. He wanted to be there to support his friend like he should have years ago. Professor Dumbledore had pointed out that neither Harry nor Professor Lupin would be able to attend anyways since the trial was during final exams but that didn't matter to Harry or Lupin. They were more than willing to miss them to support the third member of their family.
During Harry's recovery in Professor Lupin's guest quarters, Sirius Black never left Harry's side. They had talked about anything that came to mind, most of it was about those full moon nights when the Marauders strolled the forest and grounds as their animal forms. Professor Lupin hadn't been much help since he had a hard time recollecting what actually happened those nights with the wolf taking over his mind as well as his body. Black had also explained to Harry about Professor Lupin's transformations making Harry aware that they weren't a walk in the park. They were extremely painful and agonizing to witness.
Professor Lupin hadn't been too pleased about that talk. He had obviously wanted to keep his pain to himself.
The entire atmosphere at Hogwarts had changed dramatically since Black's 'capture'. Everyone seemed to be more relaxed since they all assumed that Black was far from Hogwarts. The twenty-four hour patrol around Harry had ended giving Harry some room to breathe and the chance to sneak away to meet up with his guardian and godfather. Ron and Hermione had been told everything but were the only students who knew Black was still at Hogwarts. They had even met with Black and Lupin, wanting to know more about the two most important people in Harry's life.
With everything going on Harry found it difficult to study for exams but Black had jumped into the role as tutor since Hermione was overwhelmed with her own class load. The lessons in August had helped Harry in Transfiguration, Charms, Herbology and Defense Against the Dark Arts which left Potions, Astronomy, History of Magic, Care of Magical Creatures and Divination for Harry to worry about. Black had been a great help with History of Magic, Care of Magical Creatures and Astronomy but admitted that he wasn't the greatest at Potions of Divination, leaving those two for Harry to handle on his own.
Harry had been there with Professor Lupin when Professor Dumbledore and Black—no Sirius—had left for the Ministry of Magic through the floo network Monday morning. They had been warned that the trial would probably last more than a day which meant Sirius would be put in a holding cell at the Ministry overnight. Both Harry and Lupin had asked about visiting but had been denied the right. Once the trial started the only person Sirius could see was Dumbledore who was overseeing the trial.
With the thought of the trial taking up the majority of his thoughts, Harry found it difficult to focus on his exams. He was basically going through the motions. Transfiguration was first followed by Charms that afternoon. Once they were over, Harry hurried to Professor Lupin's office for news but there was none. Harry's preoccupied state ended up being a plus in his potions final the following afternoon since he was too busy worrying about Sirius to even realize that Professor Snape was hovering over his shoulder most of the time he was brewing his Confusing Concoction. As a result, his potion had almost turned out at well as Hermione's.
After Potions, Harry had run out of the classroom so fast no one could try to stop him. Once again he met up with Professor Lupin for an update only to receive none forcing him to once again go through the motions during his Astronomy exam at midnight, History of Magic the following morning (Sirius' help had proved to be a life saver), and Herbology that afternoon. Entering the castle from the greenhouses, Harry saw Professor Lupin walking towards his office and knew from the nervous look on his face that there had been no news. He had to admit that he was starting to get worried too. How long did it take to have Sirius tell the truth?
Thursday morning brought the Defense Against the Dark Arts exam. Professor Lupin had created an obstacle course containing a Grinylow, Red Caps, a Hinkypunk and a Boggart. Harry had completed it and thankfully hadn't overcharged his Patronus when the Dementor/Boggart appeared. Ever since that night near the lake Harry had been extremely careful with casting spells. He couldn't risk something like that happening again.
Harry's final exam was Divination which was that afternoon. As he reached the classroom with Ron, Harry could only groan when Neville had warned them the exam would be looking into a crystal ball. He hadn't been able to see anything during class and knew he most likely wouldn't this time. This meant Harry would be resulted to do what he had done for most of the year in Divination: make things up.
Ron went before Harry and after twenty minutes came back out and could only wish Harry good luck before Harry's name was called. Entering the extremely warm room, Harry made his way through the empty chairs to where Professor Trelawney was sitting before a large crystal ball, waiting for him to take his seat. The strange scent of the room made Harry cough and his eyes sting.
"Good afternoon," Trelawney said softly. "Now, gaze into the Orb and tell me what you see. Please feel free to take you time.
Harry did what he was told and looked into the crystal ball. The swirling white fog seemed to be moving around quickly, making him dizzy. After a few moments, Harry was forced to sit back, close his eyes and shake his head. That had never happened before but Harry just pushed it off to exhaustion. It had been a stressful week.
"What is it, dear?" Trelawney prompted. "Did you see something?"
Harry opened his eyes and looked at her before returning his gaze to the crystal ball. The swirling had returned to normal but there was something almost resembling a dark cloud within the fog. It was faint but there was a distinct shape to it. "Er—there's something that almost looks like a rat," he said uncomfortably. "It looks like it's frozen while it had been running away from something."
Professor Trelawney instantly started scribbling on her parchment. "Interesting," she whispered. "Is there anything else around it? Another animal? A person maybe?"
Harry shook his head. "It's all alone," he said then sat back in the chair while still staring at the crystal ball. Why was he seeing a rat? Pettigrew was locked away and that was the only rat he knew. Remember it's all fake, Harry reminded himself. None of this is real.
Professor Trelawney nodded. "Very well," she said. "We can leave it there. Just remember sometimes what we see is more symbolic than actual."
Harry nodded and picked up his back and he turned to leave. He wanted to get as far from this classroom as possible. The crystal ball was really making him nervous. Harry knew that he needed to talk to Professor Lupin as fast as possible. Something about a rat running just settled wrong with him. He needed to make certain that Pettigrew was still in the custody of the Ministry.
A loud, harsh voice broke into his thoughts. "IT WILL HAPPEN TONIGHT."
Harry turned around quickly to see Professor Trelawney sitting stiffly in her armchair with unclear eyes and a sagging mouth. It was almost like she was in some sort of trance. "Professor?" Harry asked nervously.
Professor Trelawney's eyes started to roll before she spoke again in the same strange voice that was far from her own. "THE DARK LORD LIES ALONE AND FRIENDLESS, ABANDONED BY HIS FOLLOWERS. HIS SERVANT HAS BEEN CHAINED THESE TWELVE YEARS. TONIGHT, BEFORE MIDNIGHT…THE SERVANT WILL BREAK FREE AND SET OUT TO REJOIN HIS MASTER. THE DARK LORD WILL RISE AGAIN WITH HIS SERVANT'S AID, GREATER AND MORE TERRIBLE THAN EVER HE WAS. TONIGHT…BEFORE MIDNIGHT…THE SERVANT…WILL SET OUT…TO REJOIN…HIS MASTER…"
Harry slowly backed away in shock. Voldemort? Coming back? No, it wasn't possible. It just couldn't be possible. Not now. Not after everything he had been through to get to this point. Not after he had found Professor Lupin and Sirius. Staring at the teacher, Harry watched as Trelawney's head fell forward before it snapped up again, her eyes normal and staring at him like they usually did.
"I must have drifted off," Trelawney said softly. "I'm so sorry. You are excused, Mr. Potter."
Harry didn't need to be told twice and hurried out of the room as fast as he could. He definitely needed to see Professor Lupin now. Lupin would know what to do. Harry didn't stop until he reached Professor Lupin's quarters only to find them empty. Not wanting to forget anything Professor Trelawney said, Harry quickly pulled out a piece of parchment, his quill and ink then sat down at Professor Lupin's desk and wrote everything he could remember. He knew this had to be some sort of sick joke but there was just something about her voice that really freaked Harry out. It was almost like it wasn't really her speaking, like she was possessed or something.
He had nearly finished when he heard the door open and looked up to see Professor Lupin enter followed by Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall. All three of them had a seriousness about them that made Harry extremely nervous. Professor Lupin looked up, saw Harry sitting there and stopped in his tracks. The moment their eyes met Harry knew something bad happened.
Professor Lupin hurried to Harry's side, knelt down and turned the teenager so they were facing each other. "Harry…listen…there's something we need to tell you," he said gently. "The trial is over—it finished earlier today but something happened, something we couldn't prevent—"
Harry shook his head slowly as his eyes filled with tears. "No!" he cried in a shaky voice. "He's innocent! They can't do this!" He looked over at Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall hoping for them to tell him it wasn't true. Tears began to fall when they said nothing. It wasn't possible. How could the Ministry take him away? It wasn't fair! None of this was fair!
Professor Lupin gently turned Harry's head so they were looking at each other again. "Harry, listen to me," he said calmly. "Sirius was found innocent of serving Voldemort and betraying your parents but we weren't so lucky on the kidnapping charge. The prosecution was desperate to convict Sirius on something and so was the Minister. There was nothing we could do, cub. We had to reveal the real reason Sirius took you from your Aunt and Uncle's. We had to admit that you were being abused."
"Innocent?" Harry asked as he closed his eyes and let out a sigh of relief as the tears continued to fall. He had stopped listening after the second sentence, his mind unable to process any more. "He's innocent," Harry repeated to himself. "He's innocent."
Lupin pulled Harry into an embrace and held him tightly before glancing over at the other teachers in the room. All three of them finally realized how attached Harry was to his godfather. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall each conjured a chair and sat down, waiting patiently for Harry to deal with everything Professor Lupin had said and had yet to say.
The door opened and closed quietly everyone heard it anyways. Looking up, Harry's eyes went wide when he saw who had entered. Standing behind Professor Dumbledore, wearing a navy blue robe was Sirius Black. He had cleaned up making him look more like the Sirius Black in the pictures Harry had. His hair was even cut short which made him look a lot younger, even a little more respectable.
"Sirius!" Harry shouted as he pulled away from Lupin and hurried over to his godfather.
Sirius knelt down and pulled Harry into a fierce hug, holding him tightly while looking directly at Professor Lupin. Lupin stood up, catching a glance at the piece of parchment on the desk. Picking it up, Lupin read the lines written and paled. "Harry," Lupin said carefully. "What is this?"
Harry pulled out of the embrace and turned around. "Oh, that," he said nervously. "Um…Professor Trelawney acted strange during my exam and started saying that. I was going to ask you about it being true or not but…"
Professor Lupin handed the piece of parchment over to Professor Dumbledore who read it with Sirius looking over his shoulder. Harry felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Sirius looking down at him before looking over at Lupin. There seemed to be a silent exchange of words between the two as Professor Dumbledore stood up and nodded at Professor McGonagall to do the same.
"I know you three have quite a bit to talk about," Professor Dumbledore said pleasantly then looked directly at Harry. "I will look into this, Harry. It may be a real prediction. It wouldn't be Sybill's first."
Harry looked at Dumbledore with a raised eyebrow as the Headmaster left followed by Professor McGonagall. Professor Trelawney has made an actual prediction before? Who knew? Harry was pulled out of his thoughts as Sirius led him by the shoulder to one of the recently vacated chairs and urged him to sit down. Looking up at Black then over at Lupin, Harry realized that something else was going on.
Professor Lupin walked around his desk so he was standing beside Sirius. Both of them looked a little nervous. "Harry, did you hear me when I told you about the kidnapping charges?" he asked gently.
Harry thought for a moment then recalled the second half of Professor Lupin's statement. His eyes widened in alarm as the entire matter hit him. Sirius had to admit what he had seen at Privet Drive. "Everyone's going to know now, aren't they?" he asked nervously as his gaze fell to the ground. "They're going to know that I couldn't even stand up to my Muggle Uncle."
Sirius knelt down, put a finger under Harry's chin and lifted it so their eyes met. "I'm afraid the fact that your uncle was mistreating you will be in the 'Daily Prophet' tomorrow," he said gently. "I didn't want to tell, Pronglet, but I was under the influence of Veritaserum. I had no choice. You understand, don't you?"
Harry nodded. Professor Lupin had told him about Veritaserum so Harry knew Sirius didn't have a choice but he was still uneasy about his home life being brought public. What would everyone think? Ron and Hermione already knew but they were different. They had been through a lot over the past few years. They also had known how horrible the Dursleys were before this summer. No one else (other than the rest of the Weasley siblings) had any idea what Harry's childhood had been like.
"Listen Harry, I know this is a lot to handle but please remember that we will be here for you," Professor Lupin said tenderly. "You're not alone anymore. You're stuck with us for as long as you want."
"Really?" Harry asked hopefully. "We—we can be a family?"
Both Sirius and Professor Lupin smiled. "Of course," Sirius said as he ruffled Harry's hair. Looking up at Lupin, Sirius received a nod then returned his attention back to Harry. "Pronglet, I want you to know that I'm not trying to mess up what you have with Moony here but there are certain restrictions that prevent someone like Moony from doing what he has wanted to do for the past twelve years: to adopt you. I had the opportunity to do the next best thing for both of you so after my trial I was allowed to make a few requests. One of them was to be given custody of you with Moony as your secondary guardian. It took quite a bit of persuasion on Dumbledore's end but it was granted."
Harry's eyes widened beyond belief as he looked back and forth between Sirius and Professor Lupin almost daring them to counter what he had thought he heard. "Y—you mean I really never have to go back to the Dursleys?" he asked happily. "I get to stay with both of you from now on?"
"If that is what you want, Harry," Professor Lupin said with a nod. "We don't want to force you into anything. There are other families with more experience that would be willing to take you in—"
"—no, I want to stay with both of you," Harry interrupted. "Other families are other families. You two are my family." He smiled to himself and jumped out of his chair and wrapped his arms around Sirius who returned the embrace. "My family," he repeated as he looked up at Professor Lupin with a huge grin on his face. Professor Lupin knelt down beside Sirius and Harry repositioned himself so he was embracing both of the Marauders feeling truly happy for the first time he could remember.
The next morning was probably the most chaotic Hogwarts had seen in a long time. The Black trial was on the front page of the 'Daily Prophet' alerting everyone that Sirius Black was not only innocent of all charges but was the new guardian of Harry Potter. To Harry's relief, the paper only said that he had been mistreated by his uncle, not going into any detail that Sirius had most likely revealed during the trial. Most of the school overlooked the mistreatment and focused on Sirius Black being found innocent. Groups of students tried to find out more about Sirius from Harry but Ron and Hermione stuck to Harry like glue, chasing as many people away as they could.
The weekend after exams was a Hogsmeade weekend and the first one Harry was allowed to attend, with Professor Lupin and Midnight serving as his supervisors. Having Midnight at his side ended up being more of a laugh than everything. Half of the people that saw the large black dog believed that Midnight was the Grim and ran the other way. Midnight was certainly enjoying himself in playing fetch in with Ron and Hermione while Professor Lupin seemed to be trying to hold back his amusement. Sometimes Sirius could be a bigger kid than anyone.
Their enjoyable day hadn't lasted. It was early afternoon when Professor Lupin received an Owl from Professor Dumbledore then insisted that they return to the castle. The moment they entered the Entrance Hall, they were alarmed to see the Minister there flanked by two Aurors. Harry, Sirius and Professor Lupin were immediately taken to Dumbledore's office. Sirius and Professor Lupin were questioned about their whereabouts for the past few days. After nearly thirty minutes, Sirius had lost his patience and demanded to know what this was all about.
That was when Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, revealed that Peter Pettigrew had vanished from his holding cell. Sirius immediately started scolding the Minister for his incompetence but stopped when Professor Lupin reminded him of Harry. His outrage forgotten immediately, Sirius was instantly at Harry's side to comfort his godson. Harry couldn't believe it. How could Pettigrew escape? This was supposed to be over. Pettigrew was supposed to be tried and found guilty of his crimes.
Sirius and Lupin didn't say another word and took Harry to Professor Lupin's quarters where they spent the remainder of the day trying to deal with this new revelation. It wasn't just the matter of Pettigrew escaping that bothered them. There was also the possible prediction Professor Trelawney had made that weighted heavily on their minds. What if it was true?
All they could do now was hope it wasn't.
The following morning the entire school was in an uproar. It seemed that one of the Aurors who had been with Fudge had commented about allowing 'that werewolf Lupin' to teach children. Professor Lupin's secret was out. Fortunately, no one but the Slytherins seemed to mind since Lupin was such a popular teacher. The only benefit was that no one could really do anything about it now since the school year was over.
That morning was the day everyone left Hogwarts for their summer holidays…everyone but Harry, Professor Lupin and Sirius that is. The three of them were spending the entire summer at Hogwarts as a favor to Professor Dumbledore. Harry didn't know all of the details but he did know that his guardians were helping the Hogwarts staff with something for next term.
Standing outside the Entrance Hall, Harry watched as the horseless carriages left for the train station. It was strange. One year ago Harry dreaded the summer holidays and now he was actually looking forward to them. It as amazing how much could change in a year. He knew this summer would be difficult and exhausting. Remus and Sirius had already warned him. He was looking forward to the challenge.
The thought of his godfather made Harry smile. Instead of an Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin who despised him, Harry now had a godfather who risked everything to protect him and an 'Uncle' who would do anything for him. Remus (or Moony as Harry now called him) had resigned from his teaching position which had disappointed Harry greatly. He never gave a real reason for the decision but Harry knew it was partially out of fear. No one wanted a werewolf teaching their children and now that Moony's secret was out there was little anyone could do. There was also the small factor of his best friend coming back into his life. The two Marauders had a lot of catching up to do.
Harry continued to watch as the last carriage vanished from sight. His thoughts drifted back to two weeks ago when he had challenged the Minister of Magic for the freedom of Sirius Black. Everyone thought he had been out of his mind. Even Sirius questioned his sanity but it had worked and now Sirius was free. That was all that mattered.
A familiar hand touched his right shoulder making Harry look to see Sirius standing to his right, grinning. "Are you ready for a true Marauder Summer?" he asked happily.
Harry couldn't help but smile. "Ready as I'll ever be, Midnight," he said.
It was now a joke between them. Sirius insisted on being called Padfoot instead of Midnight but it just felt wrong. To Harry, Sirius Black, his legal guardian would always be Midnight, the one who saved him from his Uncle Vernon and the one who saved him from the lies the wizarding world had believed for twelve years. Midnight had also been the one to deliver him to Moony who had rescued his soul that had been damaged by the Dursleys. Harry didn't know where he would be if it hadn't been for Moony and Midnight. Right now, Harry couldn't think of any other place he would rather be.
A/N: And that's the end of Midnight Guardian. Year 4: Trials of a Champion has been posted and completed. Check out my Author page to find it.