Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters or situations you recognize in this story. They belong to JK Rowling.
There was one time a year when Harry James Potter felt just like any other kid at Hogwarts. When the school train turned that last corner and pulled into King's Cross Station in London, there were the usual bittersweet feelings in his stomach. Over the years, Hogwarts had become like a second home to him, but he was relieved to be going home after nine months away from his family. This past year had been rather full of excitement, both the good and bad kinds, and both of which had been quite exhausting. But what was really eating away at his peace of mind was the knowledge that in a little over two months, he would be starting his final year at Hogwarts, and then he'd be done forever. For the most part, he'd enjoyed his lessons that year—Defense Against the Dark Arts had once been his favorite subject, but after Severus Snape began teaching it, his love for the subject had fizzled. There'd been talk over the last few weeks that Snape would be leaving the position, though. Harry didn't know how true it was, since he'd heard the rumor from Seamus Finnigan, who'd heard it from Lavender Brown, who'd heard it from the Patil twins, who'd heard it from who knows where. His best friend Ron Weasley had seemed cheered to hear this news, and hoped it meant Snape was leaving the school too.
"Harry, are you coming, or are you just going to sit there and stare out the window until September?" asked Ginny, Harry's long-time girlfriend, with a grin.
Harry snapped out of his reverie and smiled. He hadn't even realized the train had come to a screeching halt beside Platform 9 ¾. "On my way," he said as Ron pulled down the trunks from the luggage racks. Hermione Granger stood at the compartment door holding her ginger cat, Crookshanks, looking on in amusement. "Need a hand, mate?" Harry asked Ron.
Ron only grunted in response as one of the heavy trunks slid down and caught him in the chest, causing him to topple to the ground from the impact. "Ow," he moaned from the floor. Harry rushed over to help him up.
"Boys," Hermione said to Ginny in a tone that she often used regarding the redhead on the floor—the one that suggested Ron was making things harder than they ought to be. "How old are you, Ronald?"
Ron sat on the bench to catch his breath. "What?" he panted.
Hermione exchanged a glance with Ginny, who rolled her eyes. "You're seventeen, are you not? That means you're of age in the wizarding world, and as such, you can use magic to get our trunks down."
Harry and Ginny couldn't help but laugh at the look on Ron's face. The thought had obviously never crossed his mind. "He's so worried about trying to impress Hermione that he doesn't think of doing things the easy way," Ginny whispered to Harry as they walked out of the compartment behind Hermione, who was still sniggering at Ron. The other boy, whose face was redder than his hair, had stacked the trunks two high and was now guiding both stacks down the corridor with his wand. "It's the same way at home..."
The four Gryffindors made it onto the noisy platform without incident and began searching for the Weasleys and Harry's guardians. It didn't take long for Ginny to spot Bill's long red hair. She grinned and ran to him. "Mum and Dad are a bit tied up at home, so they sent me," he told the others as they approached. Beside Bill was a tall witch with midnight black hair and a bright smile.
Harry smiled, then raised an eyebrow at the witch. "Hey, Emmeline," he said. "Where're Sirius and Remus?"
Emmeline Vance—Emmeline Lupin, Harry corrected himself; that'd take some getting used to—smiled and rolled her eyes. "They're in the middle of a rather intense chess match, which they've been at since breakfast. Neither of them will leave the library—they insist that if they even look away from the chessboard, the other will cheat."
"Sirius would." Harry grinned.
Emmeline laughed. "Probably. And Remus isn't much better. He'd probably cheat just to get the game over with. He's been drinking coffee for eight hours straight, and I think you can guess what that's done to him... Anyway, Naomi's acting as mediator in case things get too heated."
Harry and Emmeline said goodbye to the Weasleys outside the train station, where a Ministry car waited to take the pair back to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Bill had two taxicabs, whose drivers looked at each other warily as they set eyes on Crookshanks and Hedwig. They seemed quite relieved when Ginny handed the snowy owl to Harry with a kiss. The teenagers separated and Harry turned to wave at his friends as the car pulled out of the parking lot.
"So," he said, turning back to Emmeline. "What's been going on?"
Harry's welcome home dinner that night consisted of juicy pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans, and to his great delight, apple pie. The moment Harry and Emmeline had walked into the library upon their return, Remus threw his hands in the air, declaring triumph. Sirius had stared, baffled, at the chessboard while his best friend did a sort of victory dance that seemed quite out of character for the dignified former professor. (Naomi later claimed he wasn't dancing in victory, but the result of a full bladder.) All through dinner Sirius kept sending Remus suspicious glances, and when Emmeline brought the pie to the table, he finally spoke up.
"You cheated," he said simply to his best friend.
Remus only raised an eyebrow as he cut the pie and handed Harry a large slice. "You think so?" he said lightly.
"That's the only way to explain it," Sirius said, ignoring the pie Emmeline sat down before him. "We played for eight hours—that's got to be some kind of record—and I had your moves pinned. You had to have switched some of the pieces when I wasn't looking."
Harry saw Remus bite the sides of his cheeks to keep from laughing. "First of all, Padfoot, neither of us looked away from that board the entire time we sat there—I'm still seeing black and white squares. Second, you bought those bloody anti-cheating pieces that scream obscenities if the other player even attempts to cheat. And third, and most importantly, I don't need to cheat to beat you at chess. I never have. You're just a lousy chess player."
Harry glanced over the table at Naomi, who'd bent her head over her plate so her husband wouldn't be able to see her laughing at him. He had to look away quickly, his own eyes watering from suppressed laughter—he was sure he'd fractured a rib or two.
"I am not a lousy chess player!" Sirius said loudly, throwing his napkin to his plate. Unfortunately at this point, Harry and Naomi's eyes met, and they both burst out laughing. Emmeline wasn't far behind. "What are you people laughing at?" Sirius stared around the table at his family looking highly offended. "I'm not a lousy chess player," he said again. This only resulted in Remus to finally start laughing.
"Sirius," Naomi said, wiping at her eyes and holding her protruding belly. "Peter beat you at chess all the time in school."
"Luck," Sirius scoffed. "It's not like he was good at anything else."
Remus calmed down to the point that he could speak, though his face was bright red and tears were still pouring from his eyes. "Everybody beat you, Sirius. Remember fifth year when you challenged Julia, who'd never played chess in her life, and she beat you in about ten minutes?"
"I don't remember that," Sirius said, furrowing his brow in thought.
Naomi and Remus exchanged a glance and burst out laughing again. Sirius stared at them in confusion until they'd calmed again some ten minutes later.
"That's—because—" Naomi tried to say between her laughter.
"Professor Flitwick had to perform a small memory charm on you because you were so devastated," Remus finally choked out. "You looked like your dog had just died, and when you nearly started to cry, James wanted to do it, but Lily convinced him to find a teacher. One of the only times they ever worked together before seventh year..."
Sirius stared open-mouthed at his best friend and wife. "Flitwick put a memory charm on me?" he whispered, completely forgetting about chess.
"He had no choice, dear," Naomi said, patting his arm. "Your face was turning bright red and a vein was starting to pop out of your neck. Frankly, we were afraid you might turn around and curse one of us. None of us had ever seen you like that."
Sirius blinked a few times. "Well," he said in a carefully controlled voice. "I see now that you've all been conspiring against me. But I'm fair... Emmeline and Harry weren't involved. But you two," he glared at Naomi and Remus. "You were my friends." With that he left the kitchen, presumably for his room to pout.
Harry and Emmeline stared at Remus. "Flitwick actually did that?" Harry asked incredulously.
Remus was still grinning widely. "No way," he laughed. "Professors aren't allowed to modify students' memories over something so trivial as chess." And he and Naomi burst out laughing for the third time that night.
The other two stared at them in amazement. "They just pranked Sirius," Harry muttered in awe. "That was brilliant!"
The next morning, it was quite obvious that Naomi had finally told Sirius that Flitwick had never once modified his memory. He was still rather perturbed at her and Remus, and even smacked his best friend across the back of the head as he went to his chair for breakfast.
"Where's Naomi?" Harry inquired as he took a bite of his waffle.
Sirius swallowed a whole egg to answer. "Bathroom. Morning sickness," he coughed—the egg had gotten stuck in his throat. Remus reached over and thumped him on the back a bit harder than was really necessary.
"Shouldn't she be past that?" Emmeline asked, sitting beside Remus. "She's six months along..."
"It varies from woman to woman," Remus said. "My mum had morning sickness up until the day she gave birth to me."
"Well, that's because her body knew what a nasty little bugger you'd turn out to be." Sirius grinned. Remus threw a muffin at him. "Ooh, blueberry. Thanks, mate."
Remus looked at him in exasperation and shook his head. "I've got to get ready for work," he said, finishing off his coffee and toast.
"I'll be up in a minute," Emmeline told him, her lips twitching at the blatant immaturity of her husband and his best friend. "Sirius, I'm going to make Naomi a plate—don't touch it."
"I would never!" Sirius said.
Emmeline raised an eyebrow and turned to Harry. "I've taken to jinxing the breakfast leftovers to keep him away. I don't think he's learned his lesson yet, do you?"
Harry grinned. "I've been back for less than a day and I can already tell this is going to be a great summer."
Emmeline winked and excused herself to get ready for work.
"Any plans for the day?" Sirius asked, sipping at his pumpkin juice.
Harry shook his head. "Not really. The only summer work I have is Charms, Transfiguration, and Arithmancy, and I've got two months to do that."
Sirius nodded. "Well, Naomi will be here, obviously, so you'll have her company. Are you okay with that?"
"Yeah, it's better than being alone." Harry shrugged.
The Head Auror looked a bit uncomfortable. "Look, I know you've never really spent any time with Naomi, and most of what you know consists of what she's done in the past, but I'd really like for you to get to know her. I don't want to you to start off being her best friend or anything, but she's a great person, and I love her very much..."
"Sirius," Harry interrupted. "I thought we'd cleared this up... I'm fine with Naomi being here. It's not like she and I have never had a conversation before. And I promise not to treat her like an evil stepmother or anything."
"Okay," Sirius said with a small smile. "It's just... I know how strange it is with everything that's been going on around here—both Remus and me getting married, my wife already six months pregnant... And you've not really had the chance to get used to it. Naomi really wants to get to know you better—you know, she used to be one of your favorite people when you were a baby."
"Speaking of babies..." Harry said, frowning in his own discomfort. "What if she... you know... starts…" He gestured to his stomach and made a downward flowing motion with his hands.
Sirius fought the urge to burst out laughing and settled for a chuckle. "She's not due to have the baby for three more months, Harry. But if she does go into labor while Remus, Emmeline, and I are at work, call Mrs. Weasley—she'll be here in a heartbeat."
Harry had a look of relief on his face that suggested he'd thought he might have had to deliver the baby himself. "And if something happens between now and then, I've got the two way mirrors," Sirius continued. "After your birthday, Remus wants to show you how to contact us with magic."
"The Communication spell?" Harry asked, having seen his guardians contact one another by using their wands as walkie-talkies.
But Sirius shook his head. "No, a different way..." he said mysteriously. "Finish your breakfast; I've got to get ready for work too…"
Emmeline kissed Remus goodbye on the lift and hit the button to her department. Once the golden grilles slid open, she wished Sirius a good day and made her way to her office in the Department of Magical Transportation. Her mind was already on her inbox as she went through a list of what needed to be done that day. The Hogwarts students who'd turned seventeen over the last term would be coming in for their Apparition tests, and it was Emmeline's job to organize times and places to administer the tests. She had to go over a list of unauthorized portkey usage and determine if any of the offenders were dark wizards—in such a case, she'd send the list to Sirius so he could have them charged. If the offenders weren't dark wizards, a nice hefty fine would be charged to their Gringotts vault—the Ministry did not take unauthorized usage of portkeys lightly.
She smiled at the golden plaque on her oak office door that read Emmeline Lupin—Head of Department, and tapped the doorknob with her wand. Sighing, she began her morning routine, turning on the lights, and starting a pot of coffee, but stopped almost immediately. A filing cabinet behind her desk looked as though it had been forced open with a Muggle crowbar. Parchment and folders were strewn all around it—it looked as though someone had been searching for something and hadn't seen the need to cover their tracks. Urging herself to remain calm, Emmeline whispered a charm into her wand and watched a silver wolf burst out of the tip and disappear into the walls.
She walked out of her office, closing the door behind her, and glanced at the few employees who'd already arrived and were making their way to their cubicles to start their days. Months ago, Naomi had told her that one of her employees was working for Voldemort. Could one of them have broken into her office? And if so, who was it and why?
It only took ten minutes for Sirius to enter the Department of Magical Transportation, looking slightly confused. He spotted her and calmly walked over. "Got your patronus," he said in a low tone. "What happened?"
"Come in," Emmeline muttered, opening the door and letting him enter. "That filing cabinet in the corner is locked every night with charms and spells. But it looks like someone found another way into it..."
Sirius nodded and went to the cabinet, kneeling to examine the bent metal frame around the drawers. "What do you keep in here?" he asked in a brisk, business-like tone.
"Paperwork for portkey authorization and employee files in the bottom drawer, and Floo registrations in the top," she said. "Nothing that could warrant someone wanting to break into it."
"Wouldn't be too sure of that," Sirius murmured. "You look to be missing a good number of Floo registration files."
"What?" Emmeline said in surprise, going to stand beside the Head Auror. "Why would someone steal those though?" Unless..." She and Sirius seemed to come to the same conclusion at the same time.
"Unless someone wanted to know how to get into a house, but didn't know the address to Floo," Sirius finished.
"And most families have taken to protecting their fireplaces with passwords," Emmeline said quietly, her stomach filling with lead.
"Passwords don't appear in the files, do they?" Sirius asked sharply.
Emmeline sighed. "They do, but they're hidden from public viewing. There's a charm to reveal them..."
"Smashing," Sirius said sarcastically. "So somebody has a stack of Floo information, and judging by this little mess, I'm guessing they weren't just trying to pay old friends a visit."
"What now?" Emmeline asked.
Sirius stood and looked at her. "Now we find out who the hell has been in your office."
Naomi sat on the sofa in the library, flipping through a book of baby names Molly had let her borrow. She and Sirius hadn't really discussed what to call their baby girl once she was finally born, only that, one: she wouldn't be named after a star, and two: she wouldn't be named after either of her grandmothers. Sirius absolutely refused to name his daughter after his horrible mother, and Naomi's mother had already given Naomi her name (the witch's full name being Victoria Naomi Watts—well, Black now... And Naomi hated her first name). But Naomi had always liked Julia's middle name, though wasn't sure if Sirius would want to name their child after his first love.
"Hey," said a voice from the door. Naomi turned and smiled at Harry, inviting him in. "What're you reading?" he asked, sitting in an armchair.
"A book on baby names," she said, showing him the cover. "I never knew it would be this difficult to figure out what to call my baby. When your mum had you, she looked into your face for about two seconds before announcing what to call you."
Harry smiled. "Well, she pretty much named me after my dad and granddad, right?"
Naomi nodded. "Yeah, well, your granddad's name was Harold, but you get the picture. James inherited that as his middle name, and they gave you his first name as your middle. Quite original, the Potters were." She grinned.
Harry laughed. "So have you got any ideas yet?"
"Not really. I might just let Sirius decide. I've never been good at naming things—I used to have pet gold fish that were called Goldie One, Goldie Two, Goldie Three, and so on..." She chuckled. "I'm very open to suggestions, though, if you have any."
Harry looked at her in slight surprise. He'd joked to Sirius about wanting to name the baby, but he never imagined Naomi would ask him to help name her child. "Oh... er... I don't really know," he said a tad shyly.
"Well, if you think of anything, don't hesitate to tell me."
Harry assured her he would and they fell into silence. Naomi had never really had Harry on his own, not since he was a baby at any rate, and she was dying to have a proper conversation with him. Sirius had told her how like James he was, and she wanted to see if it was true. James Potter had been her best friend since she was a baby, more like a brother than anything, and with Harry around, it was almost like having a little of him back.
"So how's married life treating you?" the boy asked, obviously searching for a topic to discuss.
Naomi smiled. "Very well, actually. I don't remember the last time I was this happy," she said. "I've known Sirius most of my life, but everyday he does something sweet or funny to make me fall in love with him even more." She blushed a little. "But you probably don't want to hear about all that, do you?"
Harry smiled and shrugged. "I don't mind. It's good to see Sirius so happy all the time. He's been like a new person since you came to stay here. But it's not nearly as sickening as it was when Emmeline came to live with us. She and Remus couldn't go five minutes without kissing, and Remus had the dopiest look on his face for weeks."
Naomi chuckled. "Sirius just hides his dopey looks from you... If you want to see something really sickening, I'll have to show you some of the pictures I've got of your mum and dad. For the first two months after they got married, no one could be in the same room with them without having to witness the lovey dovey looks and the little kisses they snuck when they thought none of us were paying attention. Not that they noticed anything but each other..."
Harry smiled. "Sirius said you and my dad were friends your whole lives."
Naomi nodded. "That we were," she said a bit sadly. "Nobody knew him better than I did—not even Sirius or Remus. James and I could pretty much read each other's minds by the time we were five. You'd have thought we were twins, the way we interacted with one another. James was by far the best friend I ever had in my life—Remus and Sirius were close, as was your mum and Julia, but your dad... There was nobody like him, Harry." Naomi sighed. "You know, I've wondered for a long time what James would say if he knew how my life turned out. He'd always say he'd kill himself before joining Voldemort, and I felt the same... It's amazing how things change..."
Harry watched her for a minute. No one had ever told him why Naomi had joined the Death Eaters. After the few previous conversations he'd had with her, he'd mused later that she didn't seem to have the type of personality that he'd always associated with Death Eaters. At first, Harry hadn't wanted anything to do with her—he'd heard what she'd done to Remus, and that had been enough for him. But now, he actually found himself enjoying talking with her, and wondered how life would have been if she'd never joined Voldemort.
"Why did you join him?" he said aloud without meaning to. She turned her head away from the fireplace to look at him, and he felt his face turn red. "Sorry," he said hastily. "That's none of my business—"
"No," Naomi said quietly. "You deserve to know this just as much as Sirius and Remus did..." She took a deep breath and steadied herself. "You know, I wasn't ever officially named your godmother, Harry, but... you were one of the best things to ever happen to me. Just before you were born, the world was dark and miserable, and I didn't think the end of the war would ever come. We'd just lost Julia, and we were all very depressed—Sirius most of all, of course. But you were born in the middle of all that, and it was like we were in this whole different world—you just had this way of putting a smile on the most depressed person's face." She smiled a little, but it faded with a sigh.
"But after you turned a year old, it seemed like Voldemort turned the heat in the war up about five notches. I'd never been so confused in my life, Harry. People were being brutally murdered left and right; Order members were being tortured for information and then killed in their homes, even though they'd protected themselves with the strongest wards possible. None of us knew what, or who, might be next. And I will be the first to admit that, not only was I scared out of my mind, but that I was weak. Don't get me wrong; I loved my friends more than anything, and I would have died for any one of them without a second thought. But the Death Eaters knew that, and instead of threatening my life, they threatened Remus and Sirius, and Lily and James... and you. They'd convinced me that in order for you all to live, that I'd have to join them. I didn't know what to think anymore. I was scared to death that if I went to the Ministry or to Dumbledore, or even to my friends, one of them, or all of them, would die. But in the end, I guess it really didn't matter all that much—your parents... Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that I blamed myself for all that for years..."
"Wow," Harry said quietly, trying to absorb everything she'd just told him. He decided to push his luck and ask another question. "Why'd you leave Remus, though? The war was over... Wouldn't he have helped you?"
"In a heartbeat," she said promptly. "The problem was, I didn't know what would happen to me. The Death Eaters could have decided that, since I was the newest to be initiated, it was my fault Voldemort disappeared. Or another Death Eater could have recognized me and turned me over to the Ministry. Remus was already going through so much—your parents' deaths, Sirius being arrested, thinking Sirius had betrayed us and killed Peter—he didn't need all that added baggage. I know I didn't do him much good by leaving him like I did, but I didn't see any other way—I thought he'd be much happier without me, and in the end, turns out I was right."
Again, she sighed wearily. "I'm not proud of what I've done, Harry. Quite the opposite, actually. But I've tried to make it up to Remus and Sirius... and to you." Harry tried to hide his surprise at that statement. "I don't expect you to treat me like you do Emmeline—you've known her longer, and she's never done anything near what I have. But I would like for us to try to get to know each other..."
Harry hesitated for a moment, his mind numb. Finally, he swallowed and nodded. "I'd like that too," he said quietly.