July 20th, 1989
Harry was in the library reading when he heard the door creak open. He inhaled, and smelled his godfather's characteristic scent of animal musk, clean dirt, and pine sap.
"Are you in here, Harry?"
Sirius followed his voice. He couldn't well have just spotted him, Harry reflected. Harry had secreted himself behind three tall stacks of heavy, leather-bound books. If he had rearranged them, he might have made a protective igloo, if he were so inclined.
Sirius' face popped into Harry's vision over the stacks of books. "What's all this, Harry?"
"I can tell. May I ask on what?"
Harry carefully marked his chosen volume and closed it. "Can I ask you a question first?"
"You just did."
Sirius grinned and amended, "But yes, you can ask something pertinent."
That made Harry chuckle, but he sobered, and hesitated. "I'm…" he sucked in a deep breath. "I'm not sure where to begin."
"The beginning is always a good place to start."
Harry glared again.
"All right, all right, I'll shut up, cub. You know it's part of my godfatherly duties to tease you within an inch of your life."
"And an able job you do of it too." Harry's lips twitched with amusement. "I was remembering that trip to Diagon Alley when I was really little, when I visited all the vaults. I wondered why I have all this heritage and all this power. I know how powerful I am, Padfoot, I know what kind of potential I have and I know how much I can do. But that seems like a destiny I can't really live up to." He took a deep breath again, this time his voice beginning to tremble. "So I have a question: Given my individual power, intelligence, and drive, what is the meaning of the families to whom I am connected – why does it matter whose heir I am and whose cousin and which ancestor did what when?"
Sirius walked around the books, and sat down at a chair behind Harry. He sat there thinking for a few moments. "Let me see if I have this right," he said. "You're worried about the destiny you have and the hereditary burden you bear. You're worried you won't measure up. But even worse, you're wondering why you really ought to know about the burden at all, when it helps you only a little and will get you into far more trouble than it's worth."
Harry nodded glumly. "That's why I'm in here reading. All these books are about the families – Blacks, Potters, Flamels, and so on. All of them, as far back as they go."
"If any library would have that information, Nicholas' and Perenelle's would."
"They've had six centuries to collect books, and I think they've been bibliophiles since the invention of movable type in the 15th century."
Sirius shook his head. "Harry, sometimes you scare me. How smart is one kid allowed to be?"
"Didn't Moony tell me I've always been precocious?"
"There you go again."
Harry stuck his tongue out. "Well?"
"What you're looking at, in terms of family history, is just history, Harry. A bunch of long-dead people who may have done something of note and who are now notable only for moldering away in the ground. But your family is important, not because of who they are but because of who you are. They don't, or shouldn't, tell you your destiny."
Harry looked confused. Sirius kept talking.
"If you know who your family is, cub, you know who you are. That gives you an immeasurable advantage. Imagine if you came to Hogwarts not knowing about any of this. Imagine how lost you would be, to not know who you were connected to, by an overarching family story."
"But isn't that story going to tell me not only who I am but what I am?"
"Nobody can tell you who you are but you." Sirius reached over to Harry and grabbed his shoulder gently. "Harry, listen to me on this. There will come a time when it will be vital to know exactly who you are. When that time comes, you have got to be that Harry, and you need to accept who you are, and never apologize for it."
Harry was feeling mutinous, and he knew it showed on his face. Sirius kept talking.
"Knowing who your ancestors were tells you where you came from. You either like the story which your ancestors told about themselves and their family, or you don't, and then you know to change it. But you have to know where you come from first."
"And if it is a burden?" Harry's eyes flashed. "And if you'd rather be someone else some days, someone without fame, without history, without gifts, without anything, so that you don't have to feel like you're wearing a mask around people your own age?"
Sirius was stunned. "Harry…"
"Don't Harry me. That birthday party told me at least one thing: I will not have, and do not have, any equals. Ever. No one at that party even close to my own age matched me." Suddenly Harry felt stretched, tired, hollowed-out – even old. "I felt lonely for the first time in my life, Sirius, surrounded by the most people I've ever seen in one place."
Sirius hugged Harry before the latter could move away. "I had hoped you'd be older before you knew what that isolation felt like, cub." He let go and leaned back in his chair. "You're wrong, though, logically. The birthday party should tell you this: that you have to look harder, work harder, search harder, to relieve that isolation than people without your gifts ever will."
Harry chuckled. "I'll have to think about it, Sirius." He grinned wickedly. "For now, let's go outside and run along the cliffs, as wolf and dog."
"It's blazing hot out there."
"I don't care if it's the surface of Mercury out there. I've been in here all day, and I need to move space to change my mental luck."
Sirius laughed. "All right."
"Race you to the cliffs!"
Harry was gone in a flash and the noise of ruffled papers. Sirius shook his head. "What are we going to do with that kid?"
A/N: This story is, I regret to say, still dead. My files are still lost, and I have no plans of updating it ever again. That said, this came to me and it wanted to be written. I hope you enjoyed it!