Part 16: Convocation
"Wait a second." Ron buried his head in his hands and looked up helplessly at Sirius, who was trying not to laugh. "Who did Hermione do those Demian spells on the day we had the field trip to the Ministry and we got attacked?"
"Padma," Sirius answered flatly, leaning back on his arms. He, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were sitting beside the lake and discussing the events of the previous few days.
Ron groaned. "It's confusing enough, and then when you bring in time-turners…" he threw his hands in the air helplessly as he trailed off.
"So," said Hermione intensely, eager as always to comprehend the entire saga. "The Death Eaters attacked us, probably to get at Harry. But they didn't or couldn't get to him directly. They snatched Parvati instead, and they also took Padma from the Ravenclaw group."
"They probably got Padma first," Harry added.
"Right," continued Hermione. "They got Padma, beat her up, and then they got Parvati. They replaced Parvati with Padma because they're identical twins. Professor Lupin saved Padma thinking she was Parvati, but by then Padma was already under the Imperius Curse even if she was too sick to try anything whoever was controlling her wanted to do. Whoever put Padma under the Imperius Curse also gave her a time turner so she'd be able to be both Padma and Parvati. And she was also threatened, told that they would kill Parvati if she broke the curse. But she broke the curse anyway, in Defense Against the Dark Arts last week."
"Congratulations, Hermione. I'd give you points for Gryffindor for that explanation if I could," answered Sirius.
"But why would they want to hold Parvati hostage?" she pressed on.
"There are a lot of potential reasons, not the least of which is 'because they could.' It's fun for them to embarrass the Ministry or Hogwarts. They may have wanted to see if she could give them any information about Harry. They may have wanted revenge on someone in her family. The Patils have never had any involvement in dark magic. Perhaps they could have eventually traded her for something they wanted. There's also the rationalization that if Parvati had been at school, she would have seen that Padma was acting under the influence of the curse. Parvati has more practical ability in Defense Against the Dark Arts than Padma does, and if they had tried to put the curse on her, she might have broken it more quickly, and they would not have had someone who could walk around Gryffindor Tower undisturbed under their power."
"In other words, you don't know," said Ron.
"In other words, I don't know," Sirius agreed.
"Do you know who was using the Imperius Curse?" Ron continued keenly.
"No. We know that the wand Harry found was the weapon used, but it didn't belong to any of the students at Hogwarts. It wasn't even an Olivander wand."
"Parvati's going to be all right, though? And Padma?" Harry took over the line of questioning.
"No one's been allowed to see them. Well, Parvati's not even here but I've heard that Padma's friends haven't been allowed to see her," Hermione persisted.
"I saw her. I saw her yesterday."
"She was upset. Sometimes people who have been through an ordeal will fixate on one small thing, and she fixated on the day she transfigured all the desks in my classroom into wild boars and a few of her classmates got hurt. Some of the professors thought I did it myself-- which of course I would have when I was fifteen, if I'd thought of it. There is a passageway right above her seat in that room, so it was very easy for her to be controlled in that class. It's amazing that she managed to start to throw it off while she was there, even with Remus coaching her. It wasn't her fault. She didn't have to apologize for that any more than she had to apologize for anything else she did." Sirius shrugged.
Harry and Ron both thought it possible that Hermione muttered something along the lines of "It's not that she feels bad about it, it's just that she thinks you're hot," but surely she did not, because if she had, neither of her best friends would ever have let her hear the end of it, and they would have begun a fresh round of Gilderoy Lockheart jokes to boot.
There were really no more questions the three friends could have asked Sirius, but if there had been, they would have been delayed by the arrival of Harry's owl, Hedwig. She gave Harry a customary affectionate nip on the ear, but delivered the message she held in her beak to Sirius.
Dear Mr. Black:
As you already know, the professors of Hogwarts and selected representatives of the Ministry of Magic are as of this moment gathered in the conference room inside the Hogwarts Castle considering the matters of the formal outcome of your trial and the status of the potential conflict with followers of You-Know-Who.
Attendance is of course not required, but we strongly request your immediate presence.
Minister of Magic, Member of the Dark Force Defense League, Order of Merlin (third class), Honorary Mugwump, Member of the Unicorn Trinity, Keeper of the Aingingein Gem, Former Head of the Department of Magical Catastrophes, Honorary Member of the Enchanted Order of Medea
As Sirius rolled his eyes and handed the paper to Harry to read, Ron's owl, Pigwidgeon, dropped from the sky, wings flapping madly, and brought Sirius another note.
Ignore the note you have just received if you would like. Things are unlikely to go any way but ours. The Ministry will do anything to avoid any more embarrassment, as the Patil twins' parents are understandably seriously displeased and have been showing their displeasure publicly. Public confidence in the Ministry is not high.
The following conversation actually occurred before the meeting started.
Fudge: Then we have the matter of the wand's removal from Ministry storage facilities soon before it was to be destroyed.
Dumbledore: The Ministry is having difficulty with its storage facilities as well as with the ability to keep Death Eaters out of its midst? We may have to work on this, Cornelius.
(It looks like the ends justified the means this time.)
If I were you, I would show up after they finish hashing out your pardon. That should be in about twenty minutes. You may actually want to hear about the official war plans first-hand.
Say hello to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I wish I were out there and not in here.
Sirius looked up to see three questioning looks directed at him, so he handed over Remus' note to be re-read as well. Then, he asked Hermione for a quill and a scrap of parchment from the bag she had dragged outside with her and began his response.
Dear Minister Fudge:
I would love to attend the meeting you mentioned; however, I am busy catching up on lost time with my godson. I try to see him as often as I am able; perhaps it is a result of being unjustly kept from him for twelve years.
Assuming that I am declared innocent, I have some suggestions for the Ministry that may encourage me not to use my charming personality to convince the Daily Prophet and any other publication that will listen to me that the Ministry is every bit is incompetent as their readers' worst nightmares, and the recent statements of a certain Mr. and Mrs. Patil, might suggest.
I would like full, undisputed custody of my godson. I want all time-consuming Ministry regulations bypassed so that formal custody papers (and formal adoption papers if Harry so desires) may be signed and accepted as legal today.
I would like all of my assets to be returned to me with appropriate interest. Reimbursement for the money I would have made had I not been unjustly imprisoned would not be out of order, either. I shall not mention compensation for torture as long as my other suggestions are accepted.
I would like a safe place of residence to be provided for my godson and me during his summer holidays.
I would like any and all charges against anyone who is perceived to have helped me after my escape from Azkaban to be dropped.
I would like my godson to be allowed to obtain an Apparition license as soon as he is able to perform the appropriate spell, regardless of his age. He is too much of a celebrity and too much of a target to be left without this protective measure.
Should a certain flying motorcycle be returned to my custody at some point in the future, I would like it to be exempted from the Phillips Clause of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Act under a grandfathering arrangement.
And I want my wand back!
Wrongfully Convicted Prisoner, Azkaban Escapee, Unregistered Animagus, Purveyor of Aids to Magical Mischief Makers
He tied the note to Hedwig and sent her back as she had come.
Harry's voice broke the reverie Sirius had not known he had sunk into. "Yes, Harry?"
"Are you sure you shouldn't go?"
"Yes, I'm sure I shouldn't go. The important thing isn't Cornelius Fudge. The important thing is you. Now that Dumbledore is back, I won't be teaching you anymore. I have some things I want to say to you."
Hermione took her cue and jumped to her feet. "Come on, Ron," she said.
"What?" asked Ron lazily, his eyes half-closed.
"I want to see what the lake looks like from over there."
"So go see."
"I want you to come. Please?"
"All right." Ron dragged himself up off the grass and followed his friend.
Harry grinned at Sirius. "I'll bet that's almost exactly how she kept him from following me out of Remus' class the other day."
Sirius returned the smile. "He does look rather like he fancies her. Does that bother you?"
Harry shook his head. "No. It might, a little bit, under some circumstances, but knowing them they'll never get around to actually dating each other, or it won't last long if they do. But if they did, it could be good. They're my two best friends, and they're, you know, good for each other. And I see Ron without Hermione because we live in the same dorm, and Hermione without Ron because we're prefects, so its fair that they should have things without me, even if it's something a little more important. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?"
"No. I don't want to talk about your friends. I want to talk about you."
"I'm not that interesting."
"You're the only person in the entire wizarding world who believes that."
"Wouldn't I know better than the rest of the wizarding world?"
"Perhaps. You know a lot of things, including how to change the subject."
"What subject did I change?"
"Okay, but it will be awfully hard for you to talk with me if I do."
"You are allowed to answer my questions. You are not allowed to speak out of turn or distract me." Harry raised his hand, as if he were in class. "Yes?"
"So is this more like a class, or more like a hearing?"
"Transfiguration. What did you think?"
"I was just hoping it wasn't Potions. Or Divination."
"We aren't going to talk about the future. We're going to talk about the past."
"I'm not that crazy about History of Magic, either."
"Not that far in the past."
"Oh. How far?"
"I think maybe we should go back to the start of the term."
Harry made a face. "I was afraid you'd say that."
"You and Remus have both been watching me like you want to say something to me but you're holding back."
"Very perceptive of you."
"You know what else I perceive?"
"That they're waiting for you inside."
"They aren't waiting for me. They want me to go in there, but I'm not going to. This is more important. You're more important."
"You keep saying that."
"If I keep saying it, you might be listening one of these times."
"Fine. I'm important. You love me. I love you. Are we done?"
Sirius decided that, given Harry's sarcastic mood and his attempts to avoid having a serious conversation, he should not react outwardly to Harry's next-to-last sentence, no matter how wonderful it might have made him feel. "No, we are not. We haven't even started. I'd like you to tell me what happened the day you had your field trip."
"Don't you read the Daily Prophet?"
"Not when I want to know what's really going on, no."
"What happened, then?"
"How do you mean? I know you know most of what happened. I can't imagine that you and Remus haven't gone over this point-by-point."
"I mean, what happened to you, personally?"
"Personally? I ruined the glasses I was wearing and even though I didn't get hurt I couldn't help very much. I stayed with Neville. I tried to take his mind off his arm and he told me what was going on."
"I think the whole school was surprised that you didn't get points for Gryffindor and a special commendation."
"What are you saying? Are you upset with me?"
"No. Are you upset with you?"
"No. My ego is intact. If anything, I'm glad that Ron got the attention. He deserves it. He really is good."
"He's very good. Are you upset about Parvati?"
"I'm sorry that she got hurt. She doesn't deserve that. No one does."
"That's not exactly what I meant."
"I can't help you if you don't say what you mean," said Harry in a generic-professor-imitation.
"True enough." Harry was obviously going to force Sirius to say this straight out. "Did what happened to Parvati and Padma remind you of what happened to Cedric?"
"They aren't dead, and he is."
"I don't think you need me to tell you how close they came to death."
"Is Parvati really all right? Really?"
"Really. She is very much all right. She is going to make a complete physical recovery and she is going to be able to come back to school by the end of the term if she and her parents decide that she should. That doesn't change the fact that she was held captive and tortured, and that she probably suffered much more than Cedric did."
"Part of the reason they took her probably was because she's been associated with me."
"It could be."
"But there are other things, too. Her family, where she was, having a twin sister."
"That's also true."
"Are we ever going to know the whole story? Whose wand that was, who used it on her?"
"Probably not. The aurors tracked down six Death Eaters who were there that day, and they have confessions, but not confessions specifically about kidnappings. They have everyone who conjured a Dark Mark and they have three who worked with the dragon, and one who set off an explosion on the other end of the village from where you were. They don't know who the leaders are-- they only know who their immediate superiors are. That's how the organization works, so the head can't be cut off."
"We know who the head is."
"Well, he'd be rather difficult to arrest."
"Lucius Malfoy is next in line."
"You can't prove that, and neither can anyone else."
Harry looked dejected, but then he remembered what Parvati had said the last time he had seen her, the real her, and his face both brightened and hardened. "Pansy Parkinson actually threatened Parvati right before she was taken."
"I know. Pansy has the same alibis as the rest of the Slytherin fifth-years."
"Can't we just throw out the whole house? Or at least investigate them?"
"I wish we could. We don't have grounds to do any more than we've done. Pansy claims that that was an empty threat, and that she makes them all the time. She does, too, from what I understand." Harry was silent. "You haven't actually answered my question. How do you feel about Parvati?"
"We aren't really dating. The Daily Prophet made that up when people started saying I needed a better pretend girlfriend than Hermione."
"You know what I meant."
"I don't… I don't think it's my fault. I didn't ask for this. She knows who I am and what I am, and she started talking to me in public anyway."
Sirius exhaled a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. "I'm glad you feel that way."
Slowly, Harry began to drop the sarcastic manner that had characterized his half of their conversation. "I didn't, at first. I'm not sure I could have helped that day we were attacked even if I had been able to see. But then, when I was watching Parva-- Padma fighting the Imperius Curse, I was thinking, I don't mean this in a conceited way, that it would have been so easy for me to throw it off, but she was just fighting with everything she had. I couldn't help her throw it off, but somehow I knew that I could help, somehow. And I did. I found the wand, which didn't end up helping, but it could have."
"It could have."
"I can't help everything. I just… have to do what I can, like everyone else does. But sometimes because I happen to be" Harry randomly gestured at the famous scar that adorned his forehead "I can do more than other people. Not more important things, but more dramatic. Was that what you wanted me to say?"
"This isn't a test, Harry."
"Then what is it?"
"It's me, trying to figure out if something's bothering you that I can help you with."
"Not really. You can't find out what happened to Padma and Parvati, or stop it from happening again. You can't make sure that Voldemort won't walk in here tomorrow and Avada Kedavra everyone between him and me."
"No, but there are things I can do."
"Good. Then why did you make this conversation so difficult?"
"I just didn't feel like having it, I guess. It makes me feel like I'm one of those advanced Charms students from a few years ago who started practicing hexes on each other, and that doctor decided they were enjoying it and they had to go to a magical hospital for interrogation and everything."
Sirius laughed. "Have you been practicing hexes on your friends?"
"Not since before the Triwizard Tournament ended. And I felt bad about it then."
"The evaluation's over, then."
"Do I pass?"
"With flying colors."
"Speaking of flying." Hedwig had returned. She was not a small owl, but she seemed to be struggling with the weight of various rolls of parchment bound to her leg. Sirius relieved her of them and she ruffled her wings gratefully before going to sit on Harry's shoulder. Upon seeing the topmost paper, Sirius grinned.
The Ministry of Magic hereby acquits Sirius Black of any wrongdoing and removes any mention of criminal offenses from his official records.
Sirius handed the paper to Harry. "Pretty, isn't it?"
"The most beautiful thing I've ever seen," replied Harry, but he shuddered as he took it.
"What?" asked Sirius, concerned.
"Nothing. I just, I can't believe you almost gave this up for me."
"It wouldn't have been worth anything without you."
Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak, but confident that Sirius knew what he meant. Sirius for his part, was continuing through the rolls of parchment.
"Now this one is something we have to discuss," said Sirius.
"Well, this" Sirius handed Harry another square of parchment "is a custody form. If I sign this, you'll come stay with me on holidays unless we make other arrangements, and I'll be your legal guardian. As I should have been all along," he added with the slightest trace of bitterness.
"Do you still want me to sign it?"
"I figured as much." Sirius took out Hermione's quill and hastily signed his name, as if, despite the conversation he and Harry had just had, he was afraid that Harry might change his mind. Harry, for his part, was thinking that Sirius' signature on that line was equally as beautiful as the paper declaring his innocence. "Now, this," Sirius indicated another square of parchment, "is an adoption form. It's a lot like a custody form, but it makes me legally your father. How do you feel about that?"
"I… I think maybe you'd better sign that one too, if you want to." Sirius did so, and then stared at it as if in a trance until Harry asked what the other pieces of parchment contained.
"Let's see… Gringotts authorizations… they went over the number of galleons I asked for, way over, there won't be any problems with you finishing Hogwarts, and they're handing us a house free and clear… permission to have a flying motorcycle, never thought I'd get that... and--" Sirius broke off with a radiant smile. He had to have seen it before, but he had been so caught up in the idea of finally making Harry really, truly, his that he had not noticed.
"That's your wand? From before?"
"This is my wand." Sirius caressed the slender stick lovingly before remembering that such behavior was the root of all wand jokes, and that Severus Snape could conceivably be watching him out of a window and making an obnoxious remark. With that sobering thought in mind, Sirius muttered a summoning charm and then put his wand away.
Before Harry and Sirius now stood a heavy metal box. "That's what you summoned?" Harry asked curiously. "Is that one of the boxes you put in a vault at Gringotts?" Sirius nodded, hoping that Harry would figure out just which box this was before he had to explain. Harry did not disappoint him. "Is this the one those pictures from the trial were in?"
"Are you going to open it?"
"You are. Everything in it is yours."
"If you aren't ready to look inside yet, you don't need to. I promise you that nothing bites."
"No, I'm ready." Harry proceeded to open the box, hoping that he seemed reverent and not eager. Aside from the pile of gold in his Gringotts vault, he had inherited nothing from his parents but his father's invisibility cloak.
He knew right away what the first items in the box must be; they were nearly identical to something he already owned, something which was even now pinned to his chest. He picked them up together, a matched set, never meant to be separated. The design had changed only slightly over the years.
"Head Boy and Head Girl badges," narrated Sirius unnecessarily.
Beneath them were a handful of letters, some addressed in writing eerily like Harry's own and some addressed in a decidedly more feminine hand.
"Those were from just after they left Hogwarts. They got engaged right away, but your father was off on pre-auror training, so they wrote each other." Despite the melancholy of the moment, Sirius felt a smile tug at his lips.
Harry, noticing, shoved some of the confused emotions out of his eyes and spoke. "Have you read…"
"No, of course not. Not lately at any rate. I saw James' when he wrote them."
"And." Sirius gave a semi-sane laugh. "Your father loved your mother very much, Harry. Don't doubt that. But he couldn't write a romantic letter to save his life. They usually degenerated into derogatory comments about me."
Harry put the letters aside quickly, not wanting to bring up any more powerful memories for Sirius just yet. If Sirius became unable to handle to contents of the box, Harry knew that he would have no chance, either.
Next out of the box was a Rememberall. "Your mother thought it was pretty. She didn't need it," Sirius explained. Then came several pieces of jewelry, including an especially bright necklace filled with green gemstones-- emeralds?-- the same color as Harry's eyes. "Isn't it awful? I think your mother asked for it sarcastically and your father took her seriously. He had a more-money-than-brains day."
Deeper inside were several well-worn books: The Beaters' Bible ("rule number one: take out the seeker"), Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Noble Sport of Warlocks. "That one's a first edition," Sirius explained. "Your mother got it for your father around the time they started dating. The other two are just classics. I imagine you've read them."
"Not The Beaters' Bible. I don't like reading about all the ways they could attack me."
"You have to understand your enemy!"
Harry was suddenly overwhelmed by the need to ask a question. He could not fathom why he had never asked anyone before. "What position did my father play?"
"Mostly chaser. Sometimes seeker."
"What about you?"
"What makes you think I played at all?"
"You came out of hiding and risked your life to watch two years ago."
"Hardly conclusive evidence, but you're right. Sometimes chaser, sometimes beater. I tended to get a little, er, overenthusiastic when I played beater and lose Gryffindor more points than I was worth in fouls."
This bit of information surprised Harry not at all. The box was empty now, but for the photographs. Harry brushed through them haphazardly, wanting to look more closely but knowing that it would be difficult for Sirius to see them, particularly those that included Peter Pettigrew. Harry half-scowled and debated whether to have the blond boy's image removed.
"Thank you," did not seem enough, but it was what Harry said.
"I wish it were more."
"It's wonderful, but, Sirius?"
"It's been enough time. You're more than fashionably late."
"Do you want me to stay?"
"I like having you around, but I don't think you should make Remus sit through that all by himself."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive." Sirius nodded and took his leave of his godson, inwardly rejoicing that his leave would be neither permanent nor indefinite, that he would see Harry later that day, because Harry was his now, given to him by the law as well as by James and Lily. He would never be able to love a child of his own better than he loved Harry.
Sirius tore himself away from his bittersweet thoughts as he drew closer to the conference room. He had to be prepared to walk inside as if he owned it, as if he expected Cornelius Fudge to rise and bow down to him.
His near-swagger and his quick smile came instantly to him as soon as he opened the door. He felt years wash away, but remain, as even in this dangerous time sweet memories flowed back to him. He took his seat beside Remus and prepared to think derogatory thoughts about the Ministry in general, and Cornelius Fudge in particular. Voldemort was back; but was Voldemort any match for this group?
On the grounds far below Sirius, Harry remained where his godfather had left him. Ron and Hermione, seeing that Sirius had left, came back and deposited themselves on either side of Harry.
"Well?" asked Hermione.
Harry flopped onto his back, suddenly exhausted. "What you'd expect. Full pardon. Adoption papers." He groped for the box. "Old letters and things from my parents."
"Harry, that's wonderful! How can you be so calm about it? Can we see-- oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't ask that. But I'm so happy for you, and Ron is too, aren't you, Ron? This is amazing!"
Ron had flopped to the grass beside Harry. "Yeah, that's great, Harry."
Harry smiled. "I'm not really calm. It's just a lot to think about. And yes, I'll show you everything in there if you want to see. Just give me a minute."
"Oh, of course." Slightly more tentatively, Hermione lay down, too. "Did Sirius go to the meeting?"
"Are you terribly upset?"
"About the meeting? No. About Voldemort?" Ron winced but let Harry's use of the name pass. "Usually I would be, but today I just feel like he's not any match for us."
Hermione looked for a second as if she might reprimand Harry for being foolhardy, but Ron broke in instead. "That's the spirit." He reached across Harry to grab his hand, and Hermione's too, and dragged them into an odd three-way handshake that left them all laughing as they stared at the clouds above them.
Original Closing Note, 2001:The war subplot has been left open-ended because this story has two sequels, "Cyanide" and "Raised to the Third Power." "Cyanide" comes next, but since most of the readers of this story seem to be specific fans of one character (Remus, Sirius, or Harry), I feel obligated to warn you that they are not the focus of Cyanide. Percy Weasley took that story over, and didn't even have the decency to stay in character while he did it! The major supporting roles are Ron and Professor Snape. If you don't want to read about them, I recommend skipping to "Raised to the Third Power," which puts the focus back on Moony and Padfoot and Harry and his friends.
For those who are upset that I haven't entirely tied up the Patil Twins plot, I do apologize. But Harry is learning to deal with being out of control and the point of view is largely his. (Looks around anxiously hoping readers will buy that argument and not see this as a cliffhanger not to be resolved until "Raised to the Third Power," if then.) The primary plots of this story were intended to be Sirius' innocence and Harry's state of mind, and I think that those have both been wrapped up. The war subplot took over a bit when I was playing with twin switches, but the war subplot was supposed to be, well, a SUBplot that tied this story to its sequels. The three stories seem to be more of one story than I initially thought they would be. This is less of a stopping point than I expected it to be. I hope you aren't too mad at me.
Notice of Revision, 2007:The horror, the horror! I just finished reposting this six-plus years after the original writing, and I want to gouge out my own eyes so there will be no chance I ever have to see it again. (Gag me with a spoon. Over the top sappy, plotless, out of character much? Actually, I have no problem with plotlessness—I've loved many plotless fics, and some are even my own. And the character issues weren't so bad when canon consisted of four books.) I feel like I should apologize to everyone who has ever read this.
Anyway, the revision only involved correction of typos; obviously, the story has not been brought into compliance with canon.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed over the years; I read and appreciated them all.