It was hours later that Sirius and Harry re-entered the Great Hall. It seemed that most of the younger years had gone to bed while the older students sat around talking in hushed tones. They looked up as the two walked in, studying them and the two Auror guards that followed them.
In the far corner, that was still piled with wands, stood another two Aurors, glaring out at the students. Between them Mr Ollivander sat examining a wand. He closed his eyes for a moment before waving it in the air. A slip of paper shot out of the end and Ollivander wrapped it around the handle. "Daphne Greengrass," he called out.
A small blonde girl Harry recognised from Potions classes leapt to her feet and almost ran to retrieve her wand. She skipped back to the other two girls she had been waiting with and they all picked up their things and left. Apparently the other two Slytherins had already gotten theirs.
Harry looked up just in time for a small missile in the shape of Hermione Granger to hit him hard in the chest. He winced as he felt his ribs give slightly, but reached out to hold her. He glanced over her head to see Ron watching them, a silly grin on his face. They were probably the only three students below fourth year left in the Hall.
Hermione stepped back and studied him. Harry knew he looked a fright, even after three days away from Peter's torture, with bruises just beginning to fade from his arms, neck and jaw and a fair few scrapes showing around his t-shirt.
"You should sit down," Hermione said in a tone reminiscent of Madame Pomfrey. "You look ready to collapse."
Harry did feel pretty exhausted after the emotional rollercoaster of the last few hours, but wasn't prepared to admit it. "I'm fine."
"Maybe you shouldn't have jumped on him," Ron suggested lightly, despite the concerned look on his face.
"I'm fine," Harry said again as Hermione led him to a seat at the Gryffindor table and pushed him down. She sat close on one side while Ron sat opposite, both were staring at him as though he'd break.
Harry glanced up to see Sirius watching them with an amused expression. He sat on the other side of Harry and grinned at Ron and Hermione who seemed to have forgotten he was there with all their concern about Harry.
"Sirius, these are my best friends," Harry said redundantly. He'd told Sirius all about them while they were on their way here. "Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. This is Sirius Black, my godfather." Again, a pointless introduction, everyone knew who Sirius was.
"Hello, Mr Black," Hermione said warily. It looked as though she were still trying to make up her mind about him.
Ron gave Sirius a suspicios look but said nothing.
Sirius nodded to each of them. "Harry's told me a lot about you both," he said warmly. "I'm glad to see he has such good friends."
Hermione seemed to lose a little of her frostiness, but Ron just looked downcast.
"So, it's true," Hermione said carefully. "Everything you said, was true."
"It was," Sirius agreed.
"We got sent away," Harry told his friends. "They wanted to discuss everything before they made a decision. Dunno what there is to discuss though, Wormtail confessed to everything under Veritaserum."
"Wormtail!" Hermione exclaimed. "As in..."
"Yeah," Harry grinned. "And I'd like you to meet Padfoot." He waved one hand at Sirius.
Ron's mouth was hanging open in amazement.
"You already know Moony, of course," Sirius said with a wide grin. "The proffessorial one also known as Remus Lupin."
"And Prongs was my Dad," Harry finished.
"Are you serious?" Ron said in an awed tone.
"Yup, that's my name," Sirius said happily.
Harry just looked at him. "Was that supposed to be funny?" he asked. "Because it wasn't."
Sirius looked offended. "I'll have you know that my jokes are the source of great amusement to many."
Harry looked at him doubtfully.
"Give it up, Harry," Lupin's voice said from behind them. "You'll never get him to give up those jokes. Lord knows James tried for many years without success."
"They're all against me," Sirius said with a sad shake of his head. "You think I'm funny don't you, Hermione?" He gave her a look reminiscent of a kicked puppy.
"I... Well..." Harry didn't think he'd ever seen Hermione at a loss for words before. It was an interesting sight.
Lupin laughed. "You're wanted back in the Headmaster's office, Sirius."
Sirius stood up immediately. Harry was about to get up, but a hand on his shoulder kept him down. "Stay here, Harry. Talk to your friends, they've been worried about you. I'll come back down as soon as I can, OK?"
Harry nodded disappointedly. He'd wanted to be there when they declared Sirius innocent, but knew his godfather was right. He needed to talk to Ron and Hermione with no one alse around. He wanted to tell them about his week.
"It'll be alright, kiddo," Sirius assured him. "I'll have a word with McGonagall before I go. Get her to send some food and the nurse over."
"Good luck," Harry said.
Sirius smiled. "Don't need luck," he said. "But I'll take it anyway. I'll see you real soon."
Harry watched Sirius and Lupin walk confidently from the room. He wished he had so much faith in the decision they'd made upstairs.
He turned back to Ron and Hermione to find them watching him avidly. "Well," Hermione prodded. "Tell us everything."
Harry started by recounting that night exactly one week ago when Wormtail had taken him from his dormitory. He stopped when he noted a discomfited expression on Ron's face.
"What's wrong?" he asked his friend.
Ron squirmed in his seat. "I let him take you."
"Let him?" Harry asked, bewidered. "Did you know he was there?"
"No," Ron said. "But I should have. You would have saved me."
"I couldn't even save myself," Harry pointed out.
Ron frowned. "It's all my fault anyway. He was my rat and I brought him into the dorm."
Harry sighed. "How were you supposed to know? No one knew. I don't blame you at all."
"You don't?" Ron said hopefully.
"You're as bad as Sirius," Harry told him. "Both of you are blaming yourelves for something that isn't your fault. He blames himself for my parents death when it was Wormtail that betrayed them, not him."
"Where did Wormtail take you?" Hermione said, trying to get the conversation back on track.
Harry continued his story, casting frequent glances at Ron to make sure he wasn't still looking guilty. He'd have to watch Ron for a few days and if it looked serious the two of them would sit down and have a long talk.
As always Ron and Hermione were a great audience, they listened attentively, except for the time when Hermione heard her name called by Ollivander and jumped up to retrieve her wand. They were both outraged at what Wormtail had done to Harry and cheered when Harry got to the part about Sirius rescuing him.
As he talked food began to appear in front of him. He ate hungrily. Wormtail hadn't really bothered to feed him much, which made Harry grateful for the Dursleys' habit of starving him for days on end for the first time in his life. Even after Sirius saved him they were limited to what scraps Sirius could steal as a dog as too many people were looking for them to risk going into a shop.
As he finished eating Madame Pomfrey came over and started fussing over him. Harry cringed, wondering what everyone would think of the school nurse babying him, but he endured it. Finally she gave him a few potions to drink that would help his bones heal properly and a salve to rub into his bruises. She tried to convince him to come to the Hospital Wing to "sleep off his ordeal under a nice sleeping draught," but Harry refused.
"Now, come along," she said, as if he were being difficult just to annoy her. "You'll be better off where it's quiet and peaceful."
"No," Harry said, shaking off the hand she had put on his arm to help him stand. "I want to wait for Sirius."
Madame Pomfrey shot McGonagall a helpless look. McGonagall's answering look must have convinced the nurse that she should just leave Harry be for now for she spun on her heel and left the three Gryffindors in peace.
"What's taking so long?" Harry grumbled, ignoring the fact that he must have asked that at least five times in the last thirty minutes.
"These things take time," Hermione said knowingly. "There'll probably be all kinds of paperwork that needs signing for one thing.
Harry's stomach was tying itself up in knots. They had to clear Sirius, they just had to. If they didn't Harry would... he'd go to the Daily Prophet and tell them everything. Surely they'd be thrilled to print anything the Boy-Who-Lived said if it made them look good. Or he could ask Lupin to help him free Sirius and the three of them could go on the run together.
Harry was so busy going through different scenarios of what he could do if Fudge refused to see reason that he was quite startled when a hand was laid upon his shoulder. He spun around in his seat so quickly he almost slipped off of it and stared into the grinning face of his godfather.
"Did they do it?" Harry demanded breathlessly.
"Yep," Sirius said and Harry didn't think he'd yet seen the man so happy. "I'm free and Peter's going to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban."
"YES!" Harry cried and threw himself into Sirius' arms as Ron and Hermione looked on. Harry didn't see the bemused smile that passed between his two best friends who were clearly very happy for them both.
"I thought you'd have been sent off to bed by now," Sirius said into his hair.
"Madame Pomfrey tried," Harry told him, pulling away, suddenly feeling slightly uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the few students left in the Hall. "I told her I wouldn't until I'd seen you."
"If I'd known that I would have come back sooner," Sirius said. "I don't want her after me for keeping you up. She was the nurse when I was here and she fixed me up after more than a few Quidditch injuries. She is not someone you want to cross." He grinned suddenly. "Unless you've already got your escape route planned."
"Harry was worried Fudge would try to put you back in Azkaban," Ron said.
"I think he wanted to, but he really couldn't," Sirius told them. "Too many people saw Peter and heard my explanation. Besides, Amelia Bones is a fair woman, she would never have let him get away with it."
"Then why were you so long?" Harry demanded. "I was going crazy down here."
"Paperwork," Sirius said with a shudder. "Awful stuff."
Hermione gave Harry a pointed look.
"There was one other thing as well," Sirius said, with the air of one preparing to drop a bombshell. "You see, Fudge didn't want me to make a big deal about the fact that I was imprisoned without a trial, he's worried it'll make the Ministry look bad if it got out they went against the law, so he made me a few offers to get me to stay quiet. He'll make the announcement to the Prophet that I'm innocent, of course, but the details are to remain confidential."
"They should give you something for being unfairly imprisoned anyway," Hermione said righteously.
"Are they going to give you money?" Ron asked eagerly.
Sirius laughed. "As Hermione said I'll be getting a legal payoff anyway," he said to Ron. "Besides which, I'll also be able to access my family vaults without resorting to mail ordering and the Blacks have always been a wealthy family."
"Well, what then?" Ron asked with a frown. Coming from a family like the Weasleys who had never been well off it was difficult for Ron to understand what else could be used as a bribe.
"It turned out that there was very little that Minister Fudge had that I wanted," Sirius said, reaching into his tattered robe with one hand and removing a scroll. "However, there was one thing he was able to arrange for me in exchange for my silence."
Hermione was eyeing the scroll speculatively while Ron merely looked on agape.
Sirius handed Harry the scroll. "Read it," he prompted.
Harry unrolled it slowly so that Hermione, who was peering over his shoulder, wouldn't be able to read it. He had to squint to read the tiny script without his glasses. He gasped at what he read there and almost dropped the parchment. His gaze shifted to Sirius who was starting to look a little uncomfortable.
"It still needs one more signature before it becomes fully legal," he said gently. "It's your decision, I wouldn't want to make you do anything you don't want to."
Harry couldn't believe it. He'd been worried Sirius would want to go back to his normal life when he was declared innocent and wouldn't want Harry living with him, this went far beyond that and Sirius was sitting there, letting him make the final decision and staring at him with a worried expression as if there were any possibility of Harry saying no.
"This is... are you really serious about this?" Harry asked incredulously. "And if you make a joke about your name right now I'll never forgive you."
"Harry, I've never been more serious," Sirius said with a perfectly straight face.
Harry groaned. "That's going to get really old."
Sirius flashed him a grin. "I'd understand if you don't want to..." he began.
"I want to," Harry told him vehemently. "Definitely. Even if it means putting up with your bad jokes."
"Could one of you just tell us what's on the scroll?" Ron said impatiently.
"Isn't it obvious?" Hermione said. "Sirius is going to adopt Harry."
Harry sniggered at Ron's expression. "Got a quill, Hermione?"
For the first time in his life, Harry was happy to be going home.
He jumped off the train, dragging his trunk behind him and with Hedwig's cage clutched in one hand. He followed Ron over to where Mrs Weasley was waiting and allowed her to hug him tightly. "I'm so glad you're alright," she murmured into his ear before letting him go.
Someone took Harry's trunk out of his unresisting hand and placed it on a trolley.
"Sirius," Harry said happily and gave his godfather a hug
"Good to see you, kiddo," Sirius said warmly. He was much changed since Harry had last seen him about two months ago. He'd gained weight and his skin had lost its pallor making him look much healthier.
"Hey, Harry, we're leaving," Ron called. "Are you coming to stay this summer?"
"There's an open floo connection between the Burrow and Grimmauld Place," Mrs Weasley told Ron. "You'll be able to see each other as much as you want."
"Excellent," Ron said. "You can come over and play Quidditch tomorrow."
"Ron," Mrs Weasley admonished. "Let Harry spend some time with his new father."
"We're sticking with godfather, actually," Sirius told her. "James was Harry's father and I don't want to take his place."
Mrs Weasley nodded. "That seems like a good idea. Now, you two be sure to let me know if you need anything, even if it's just someone to talk to, I'm happy to help."
"That's very kind, Molly," Sirius told her, "But I think we'll be alright. Ron, that floo works both ways, you know. You can come over to see Harry whenever you want."
"Thanks," Ron said with a grin. "I might just do that."
"You'd better," Harry put in. "And Hermione too, when she's at your place." He glanced over to where Hermione wa being greeted by her own parents.
A few moments later Hermione hurried over to say goodbye to them both and then she was gone behind the barrier between the platform and the muggle world. Ron and his family left right after, for the Burrow, leaving Sirius and Harry alone on the platform.
"Time to go then," Sirius said, pushing the trolley towards the barrier.
"So,what's the plan for the summer?" Harry asked him.
"I think we're going to have an adventure," Sirius replied.
Harry followed him with a grin and stepped into a whole new world.
A/N: First of all, I'm sorry this wasn't as quick as I'd hoped, life took a couple of funny turns this last few weeks. I know it's not very long, but it's more in the nature of an epilogue than an actual chapter.
I'm not sure what happened when I posted chapter 9. My internet connection was being really slow and was slower still for some reason. Somehow I managed to upload the chapter twice, but when I went to delete one of them it told me it had deleted both, so I reposted it, but then there were two again. So that's what happened if you got two alerts for chapter 10 and then found it wasn't there. Sorry about that.
So that's it. The end of the story. I've got a few ideas for fics, not sure which ones I'll actually write. I want to do a proper sixth year story at some point and I'm also considering a Buffy/Sliders Xover. It probably won't be for a while though, unless I find myself with lots of free time.
Hope everyone enjoyed it and thank you to eveyone who reviewed.