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Disclaimer – JK Rowling and various publishers own the world of Harry Potter but the words are mine.
Book 3: Dark Moon
Snow had covered most of the land and heavy grey clouds occupied the skies. It was snowing relentlessly for four days now. Sirius Black, the escapee of Azkaban Prison, was now in more comfortable clothes that he had probably been ever in his life and in a place he would have never thought actually existed, the Valley of the Vampires.
He had always thought of the place as a myth, a fairy tale but never real, a story told to scare little children. His father had that bad habit when Sirius was younger and not very attentive to teachings and behaviour.
His host was something even more surreal than the place he was in – an Elder. There were of course vampires in the world but they were nothing compared to the Elder ones. They were faster, stronger and way more intelligent than anyone was giving them credit, not to mention more powerful in the magical arts that anyone could have possibly predicted.
His aid, a former human, Pete, now a vampire of stature, was there to see to his every need. Sirius had to admit no one had ever cared for him in that way not even in the times he had spent with the Potters.
In no time at all, they had transformed the former prisoner for twelve years in Azkaban into the respected form of a member of the Black family. As it turned out, Lord Sandro knew a great deal about it probably because he was thousands of years old and was there when it was first created.
Sandro revealed to Sirius the chambers of vision, a vision of times long gone. Sirius could hardly believe his eyes what this valley looked like a thousand years ago. He also saw the four great vampiric cities – Aetheris, Venkrat, Sanguine and Rostenguard. There were also another four that were actually spookier as they were adorned with skulls – Sacralise, Lorentia, Corpsless and Necropolis. But all these cities spoke of might and majesty he had never seen anywhere in the world. Later on he learnt they represented the domains of the Nosfaeratus and the Necromancers.
There were also the domains of the Pegasus Riders in majestic pearly white clouds and the desert labyrinths of the Genies, the dragon towers and the sea thrones of Oscia, the gleaming forests and shining caves of the Dwarven realm, and the beautiful tree cities of the High Elves, a race long gone from the world. It was indeed a glimpse into times long gone when the world was young and prosperous, not covered with darkness and greed. It was enough to make anyone feel young again.
Sirius still did not know why Sandro brought him here for despite everything all creatures have their own agenda and he was dead certain Lord Sandro had his. He got himself thinking – Lord Sandro was an Elder, a Nosfaeratus. Were there more of them around? Were they lying low and why?
The other thing that bugged him was Harry's new name – Solmyr, Nimbus Dracon and his guardian by the name of Thant, whoever that was. Why was Harry not with his muggle uncle and aunt? Did Dumbledore have a change of mind? These were questions he needed answers to but doubted his new host had them. He decided though to ask one never knows.
"Good morning, Mr. Black,"
A voice took him out of his thoughts. It was Pete. He entered his room and opened the curtains revealing a magnificent winter day outside.
"Good to you too, Pete," Sirius replied. His voice was still hoarse but was getting better.
"Lord Sandro expects your company in the study."
"I shall join him soon." Sirius replied politely to the invitation.
"Excellent," Pete said beaming. He began tiding the room completely ignoring Sirius.
Sirius on the other hand got to dress himself and freshen up. By the time, he had done so Pete had finished with his room making him wonder if he weren't part house elf as well. He shook head and left his room. Following the corridor and then the stairs down, Sirius arrived at the study.
Lord Sandro was sitting behind his oak desk and his nose was in some parchments written in a language Sirius did not recognize. He acknowledged Sirius' presence with a nod and continued doing whatever it was he was doing. Sirius sat in lovely chair and waited patiently.
"Mr. Black, good morning," Lord Sandro said finally rising head from the parchments.
"Same to you, Lord Sandro," Sirius replied.
"You have a question."
Sirius looked up stunned. What, his host was reading his mind now?
"Your face says so." Lord Sandro added helpfully.
Sirius relaxed. Yes, perhaps, his face was giving this impression. "Yes," he nodded.
"Fire away then,"
"I'm not sure how to position it." Sirius began.
"The beginning is usually a good start."
"Yes," Sirius said. "Um, I had hoped to see my godson Harry but along the way I learnt he is not with his muggle aunt and uncle..."
"No, he is not." Lord Sandro interrupted. "He is with someone else."
Sirius sensed the hesitation in Sandro's voice. So, he knew who had his godson.
"I know his name Thant something..." Sirius trailed off hoping Sandro will provide the rest of the answer. Sandro locked his eyes onto him and Sirius felt once more the odd penetrating gaze of his host. It was similar to the one of Dumbledore.
Sandro stood up. He walked to the chair opposite Sirius and sat down. He averted his eyes from him and then back to him. Sirius figured he was deciding what and how much to tell him. This bore to no good.
"Mr. Black," Sandro began slowly. "Mr. Potter is under the care of Lord Thant Solmyr of Blackshire."
"Black what?" Sirius screamed his eyes out of their orbit. This name belonged to a place of great darkness in wizard history. His eyes sought contact with Sandro's to confirm he had misheard but saw the truth starring back at him. It was worse than he thought.
Sandro smiled though. "You should see your face. You wizards are very amusing some times."
"Amusing?" Sirius repeated confused.
"Yes, amusing," Sandro repeated. "Of all the places, young Harry could have ended into, Blackshire is by far the best." Sandro shook slightly head and then continued. "You have nothing to fear."
"Are you hearing yourself?" Sirius blurted out. "Blackshire is a..."
"I'm aware of history, Mr. Black and there is a reason for that."
"Really and what is that?"
"Everyone actually," Sandro replied. Sirius' fear of it was entertaining. "The vampires mostly, well, they do know about it and from time to time they test it but they will never dare a frontal attack..."
"The vampires?" Sirius asked displaying confusion. "You are a vampire."
"He meant the Vampire Clans." Pete said entering into the study with a tray of breakfast.
"Vampire clans?" Sirius repeated even more confused.
"Yes," Pete said putting down the tray and sat down next to his master. "Some time ago, the Vampire Clans united and fought us, the Elders, and some of the rest, mostly the hosts of Blackshire, with the help of the wizards and won. Then the wizards turned on them as well and they ran.
Of course, Blackshire was and is still a target."
"Who lives there?"
"Well," Pete looked at Sandro that shrugged and continued facing Sirius again. "Given your reaction to that name, Mr. Black, if I told you there is a great chance you would either pass out or do something very stupid."
"Very well," Sandro took the word. "You remember the four cities I showed you after the vampire domain?"
"Yes," Sirius frowned wondering where this was going.
"Well, Blackshire is the domain of the Necromancers."
Sirius stared unbelievingly and then finally understood. It was breathtaking but Sandro had a point. Harry was in the safest possible place. Blackshire was feared and though wizards were known to live there it was a still a spooky place.
"Now, the wizard world does not know the place where it is actually and it knows it under a different name, which is why they don't fear it. They do know however Blackshire Hills and they call this place Blackshire. Are you following me so far?"
"I think so." In reality he was not.
"Blackshire Hills are not exactly Blackshire. They are part of it yes." Sandro saw the confusion his words created. "Come!" He stood up and gestured Sirius to follow him. They went down to the vision room. Sandro took out his wand and muttered some incantation. The vision circles disappeared and were replaced by another two. "Step into the circle." Sandro invited Sirius who promptly obeyed.
The view before Sirius' eyes was extraordinary. The domain of the Necromancers was actually enormous and yes Blackshire Hills were part of it. He also recognized where it was and which current modern territories it covered and understood Sandro's meaning completely.
"Now, you understand." Sandro said.
"Yes," Sirius nodded.
They returned to the study and sat down to enjoy their breakfast.
"So Harry is living at Blackshire Hills?"
"Yes, in Solmyr's Castle,"
"Is he alone?"
"No," Sandro shook head. "Lord Solmyr has two daughters – Xsi and Cassie. As I understood he took, young Harry from the rubbles of his parents' house in Godric's Hollow. It was only after that you and Hogwarts Game's Keeper showed up."
"But Hagrid had Harry in his hands?" Sirius exclaimed perplexed.
"I'd imagine he had something in his hands but not young Harry. If I had to guess, I would say Thant had used a spell."
"He is sneaky that way." Pete added.
"Of course, no one could suspect Harry was taken though I'm sure Professor Dumbledore figured it out sooner or later."
"I don't think he did, Master." Pete said. "Probably the spell simply wore off."
"Yes, probably," Sandro agreed.
Sirius had become silent at this exchange. He had been looking at a spell in the rubbles. Who could have thought that? He certainly wouldn't have.
"Why did you take me away from the school?" Sirius asked after awhile.
"I took you because you were about to do something stupid not to mention dangerous. Sometimes, you people do not think of the consequences of your actions not to mention the collateral damage. The last time, you faced young Mr. Pettigrew thirteen people died." Sandro explained.
"How do you know I'm after him?"
"I pay attention, Mr. Black!"
"Of course, the cursed picture,"
"I doubt Master Spectrumi would see it that way." Pete said.
Sirius grunted at this comment. That picture was the oddest and spookiest thing he had ever come across. But these two talked about this Spectrumi as though he were still a living and breathing entity. True, magical pictures retained some of the wizard's essence but only some not all of it, thankfully.
The day has finally come to an end, Harry thought cheerfully, putting his quill down, closing his books and putting the parchments into his school bag. It had been one heck of a last day before the Christmas vacation. They worked so hard that day as though it would have been the last day of their lives. The teachers had simply gone overboard but that was over now.
By the end of the Christmas holiday they will be back with their old teachers. The hunt for the three was successful and now everything was going to be back to normal, well more or less. Normal, the word resonated in Harry's mind. What was normal anymore? He certainly wasn't. After their passage through Stone Hedge he had gradually sensed himself changing, thinking on a different level. Hell even Draco was nice. They have changed and these changes were only the beginning.
But Harry was glad. He did not regret leaving the old life behind. He was liberated from hatred and prejudice well other than the hatred he had for Voldemort. The rest he did not care that much anymore. On that note, he remembered he had been avoiding his sisters, Hermione and Ron more than usual. He was spending much of his time with Draco and Alamar. The three had become inseparable. It was driving both the Slytherins and the Gryffindors crazy but perhaps that was the way to bring those two houses closer together.
The crazy picture before Gryffindor's house entrance was still there. Neal had not replaced it yet. Harry figured Neal thought it was the best way to protect them. The picture was rather spooky but Harry had gotten used to it and was not finding it spooky anymore. Actually he was finding it amusing. Every time it was something different. He had wondered does this creature never get tired of playing pranks. The other students however were not finding it that funny, except the Weasley twins, Fred and George.
The past few weeks everything has been calm. There were no more any disturbances. Sirius Black might have given up trying to sneak in. It had gotten Harry wondering why he had been trying to get in anyway. What was his interest in Gryffindor tower? The logical thought would have been him. But it was not making any sense. Why risk it all? Yeah, they said he was a supporter of Voldemort but still. Lucius Malfoy, Draco's father, was a supporter too and even he did not dare, at least not publically.
This bore more investigation. Why was Black trying to get so badly into Gryffindor tower? Perhaps the picture knew something about it. These past few weeks it seemed smirking every time Harry would get through. It had caught his interest.
Harry left his bag back at his room and then headed down. He exited and waited for the ghoul to show up. He did not have to wait for long. The ghoul asked his usual entry question but Harry remained still. The ghoul changed posture and most of his figure became more visible.
"What's on your mind, young Harry?" The spooky voice asked.
"I've been wondering..." Harry's voice trailed off hoping it is attracting the creature's interest.
"Has Sirius Black made another attempt to enter?" Harry asked.
The ghoul retreated but the smirk was even more visible. "Perhaps,"
Harry gaped. So, Sirius Black had made another attempt. Harry looked around. Satisfied there was no one around spoke with a loud whisper. "By Mortis, I ordain you to share."
Master Spectrumi stepped backwards rather surprised but also impressed. The boy was using well his influence.
"Some answers, young Prince, are better left alone."
"Why is he so adamant in getting in?" Harry pressed.
"Revenge," Spectrumi replied.
"On whom? Me?"
"So no, not me," Harry reasoned. "Who?"
"Your powers have grown young Prince but not that much." Spectrumi replied.
Harry frowned. Refusing to speak plainly when commanded in the name of Mortis meant the ghoul had to have adamant reason not to share.
Spectrumi was impressed. The boy's reasoning was perfect. He connected the dots pretty damn quickly.
"Yes," He confirmed.
"Back to square one then," Harry said though he did not direct this at the ghoul. He was speaking more to himself. So if it weren't him Black was after then who and why did he think he would find him in Gryffindor's tower?
"Primal instincts," Spectrumi said.
Harry looked at him strangely. What the hell was that? He wanted to ask more but the ghoul faded in the background. What did he mean – primal instincts? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Why can't everyone speak plainly? Why always so cryptic? Primal instincts, it could mean a lot of things. But then epiphany hit Harry, maybe it was trying to tell him something without breaking his promise. Ha, but what is it?
Harry shook head and knocked on the frame. The frame opened and revealed the passage to the tower. Harry climbed in and returned to his room. He quickly undressed and was quick asleep.
The next day it was visitation day to Hogsmeade and this time Harry did not intend on missing it. The students had lined up and were taken to Hogsmeade. Harry quickly understood the allure the village brought to everyone. The shops were amazing.
He stuck with Alamar and Draco joined them soon after. Crabbe and Goyle that usually followed Draco everywhere followed as well though they made it clear it was with great reluctance not that the three noticed at all. They enjoyed entering in every shop with its differences and delicacies.
"So that is the source of your pockets last time, hah?" Harry asked when they entered the Honeydukes.
"Yes," Draco smiled as he was going for the Pepermints' section.
"Be careful with those, they really burn the tongue." Alarm cautioned.
"I know." Draco said and grabbed a hand full of them.
Harry was in wonderland of sweets and bitter sweets. He grabbed a bit from everything. It was the best way to see what one likes and what one doesn't. And there was a lot he liked in here – different types of chocolate, Toothflossing stringmints, levitating sherbet balls, Fizzing Whizbees, fragile sugar-spun quills, and exploding bonbons, and many others.
Leaving the shop, Alamar proposed. "How about Madam Rosmerta's for a butter beer?"
"Agreed," Draco said.
"No argument from me." Harry shrugged.
They reached the Three Broomsticks and there on the door like on most shops there was a notice on the door saying:
BY ORDER OF MINISTRY OF MAGIC
Customers are reminded that until further notice, the Dementors of Azkaban will be patrolling the streets of Hogsmeade after sundown. This measure had been put in effect to safeguard the citizens of Hogsmeade and will be lifted upon the apprehension of Sirius Black. It is therefore advisable to that all shopping is completed before nightfall.
"Now that is a cheerful thought," Alamar observed. "Or be served cold to the dementors."
"It is better than been barbecued by exploding clouds." Draco remarked and the three grinned.
"That depends on the point of view, Draco." Alamar said.
Just as they were getting in, a chariot pulled over.
"Right this way, Minister."
"Quickly in!" Draco said pulling Harry with him.
"What? I'm authorized." Harry protested.
"That's not the point." Alamar said agreeing completely with Draco. They dragged Harry to the furthest table and sat down. Alamar levitated the Christmas tree and placed before them so they were perfectly hidden. "Don't you have the cloak with you?"
"Well I do but I don't see why..."
"Put it on!"
"Trust us!" Draco insisted.
"Oh, well, you moon faced assassins of joy," Harry said reluctantly and pulled his father's cloak over him disappearing completely.
In the next instance, the door opened and Professor McGonagall entered accompanied by Professor Flitwick, Hagrid, and the minister for magic Cornelius Fudge. They sat close by them.
Madam Rosmerta showed up soon enough with the order.
"A small gillywater..."
"Mine," Professor McGonagall said.
"Four pints of mulled mead,"
"Ta, Rosmerta," Hagrid mumbled.
"A cherry syrup and soda with ice umbrella,"
"Mmm," Professor Flitwick said smacking lips.
"So you'll be the red currant rum, minister?"
"Thank you, my dear Rosmerta," The Minister said. "So lovely to see you again, I must say. Have one yourself, won't you? Join us..."
"Well, thank you very much, Minister," Madam Rosmerta said. She went away and then returned. "So what brings you here, Minister?"
"What else my dear than Sirius Black?" Cornelius Fudge replied taking a large sip from his drink. I daresay you heard he snuck back in on Halloween?"
"I heard a rumour, yes," Rosmerta said.
McGonagall threw a dirty look at Hagrid.
"Someone can't keep their keyhole shut." Draco muttered.
"That's our Hagrid." Alamar agreed.
"Shh, you two, I can't hear them." Harry whispered.
"...you think Black is still around?" Madam Rosmerta was just saying.
"I'm sure of it." Fudge replied.
"You the dementors have already searched the village twice." Rosmerta pointed out. "Scared all my customers."
"I know, dear." Fudge said understandingly. "But it is a necessary precaution. They are furious at Professor Solmyr. He is not letting them on Hogwarts Grounds."
"Of course not," Professor McGonagall's nostrils flared up. "After what happened at the game,"
"I heard something unusual happened." Rosmerta said.
"Unusual doesn't even cover it." McGonagall said while throwing another accusing look at Hagrid. "The rainy clouds exploded."
"How can clouds explode?"
"With great difficulty, apparently," McGonagall said. "Professor Dumbledore is convinced Professor Mortimer was responsible for that. He was furious at Solmyr for it. The students could have gotten hurt."
"You see now the reason for the Dementors' presence." Fudge said using the situation to his advantage. "They are here to protect from something worse. We all know what Black is capable of..."
"You know what," Rosmerta said lowering her voice. "I have always had trouble with that part. Of all the people who joined the dark side, I would have never thought Black would be the one. I remember him when he was a boy at Hogwarts. If you had told me then I would have said you have beetles for brains..."
"You don't know the half of it." Fudge said confidently lowering his head looking cautiously around. "The worst he did wasn't publically known."
"The worst?" Madam Rosmerta fizzed. "What could be worst?"
"Do you remember who his best friends were?" Professor McGonagall murmured.
"Naturally," Madam Rosmerta exclaimed. "You could never see one without the others, so thick they were Black and Potter, and toddling behind Lupin and Pettigrew. They were inseparable."
Draco and Alamar exchanged looks. Harry's eyes narrowed hearing himself whisper. "WHAT?"
"Shush, Potter," Draco whispered back.
"Precisely," McGonagall was saying. "Black and Potter, ringleaders of troublemaking throughout the school..."
"Remind you of someone?" Draco whispered earning a grin from both Alamar and Harry.
"I dunno," Hagrid grinned. "Fred and George will give them a run for their money..."
"Try more the Solmyr sisters, and the newly founded alliance between Darkstone, Malfoy and Potter," Flitwick countered.
"Uh, what?" Fudge exclaimed stunned.
"Oh, yes, the three had been spending a lot of time together lately." McGonagall confirmed. "It is driving both houses very nervous."
"It is unprecedented." Flitwick shared.
"Unusual, indeed," Fudge piped. "But anyway, Potter trusted Black beyond all his friends. Nothing changed even when they left school. Black was their best man at the wedding when James married Lily then named him godfather of young Harry. Harry of course doesn't know. You can see how the idea would torment him."
"Because Black joined You-Know-Who?" Rosmerta inserted.
"Worst than that, dear," Fudge's voice dropped even more. "Not many people know that the Potters were aware that You-Know-Who was after them. Dumbledore of course was working tirelessly against You-Know-Who and had a few good spies among his followers, and alerted James and Lily. He advised to go in hiding and as we all know it is not easy to hide from You-Know-Who. Dumbledore presented them with the best way – the Fidelius Charm."
"How does this work?" Madam Rosmerta asked breathless with interest.
Professor Flitwick cleared his throat and answered instead of Cornelius. "It consists of magically concealing a secret inside a living soul. The information is hidden within this chosen person called the Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find, unless the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it. It is a very complex spell but as long as the Secret Keeper refuses to speak, You-Know-Who can search the village where Lily and James were staying for years and never find them even if he had his nose pressed against their window."
"So Black was Potter's Secret Keeper?" Madam Rosmerta reasoned.
"Naturally," Professor McGonagall said. "Potter assured Dumbledore that Black would rather die than betray his friend but still Dumbledore remained uneasy. I remember him offering to be their Secret Keeper."
"He suspected Black? Rosmerta gasped.
"He was certain it was someone close to the Potters that had been keeping You-Know-Who apprised of their movements. He suspected for some time that someone on our side had turned and was giving away information."
"But James insisted on Black?"
"He did." Fudge said grimly. "And then barely a week after the charm..."
"Black betrayed them?" Madam Rosmerta exclaimed.
"He did." Fudge confirmed heavily. "He was probably tired of the double game and declared his loyalties by divulging their location to You-Know-Who. But as we know You-Know-Who met his downfall on little Potter. Powers gone, horrible weakened, he fled. And this left Black in a very nasty position. His master had fallen at the very moment he had shown his colours as traitor. He had no choice but make a run for it..."
"Filthy, stinkin' turncoat!" Hagrid said, so loudly that half the bar went quiet.
"Shh!" Professor McGonagall said.
"I met him." Hagrid flared up. "I musta bin the last ter see him before he killed all these people. It was I who rescued Harry from the rubble of James and Lily's house the night they were killed. Poor thing, with a great slash across his forehead, and his parents dead…" Hagrid sniveled. "An' Sirius turned up, on that flyin' bike of his. Never occurred ter me what he's doin' there. I didn' know he's James and Lily's Secret Keeper. Though' he'd just heard of it and was comin ter see what he could do. An' yeh know what I did…I COMFORTED THAT BASTARD…."
"Quieter, Hagrid," Professor McGonagall scolded him.
"How was I ter know he weren't upset for James and Lily? It was You-Know-Who he care abou'. An' then he says: Give me Harry, Hagrid. I'm his godfather. I'll look after him. Ha! But I had me orders. So I told Black – no! Dumbledore said Harry was ter go with..." Here Hagrid paused a bit looking apprehensively at McGonagall that nodded and he continued. " ...his aunt and uncle. Black argued but in the end gave in. Told me ter take in his bike ter get Harry there. I wouldn't need it anymore, he said...I shoulda known ther's somethin' wrong right there. He loved that bike why give it ter me? Fact was it was too easy ter trace. Dumbledore knew he was their secret keeper. He knew he woul' have ter make a run for it.
But what if I had given Harry ter him? I bet he'd been dead halfway across the sea. His best friends' son! But when a wizard goes on the other side, there's nothin' sacred anymore..."
A long silence followed Hagrid's story.
Harry had now part of the puzzle but he could not explain Hagrid's brief hesitation and neither could the others.
"But Black did not escape? The ministry caught up with him?" Madam Rosmerta asked.
"If only, we had," Fudge said heavily and rather bitterly. "It was not we who found him. Alas, it was little Pettigrew. Maddened by grief I imagine and knowing he had been Potter's secret keeper, he went after him."
"The little fat boy running in their wake?" Madam Rosmerta said.
"He worshiped them." Professor McGonagall shared. "Never quite in their league, talent wise. I was often rather hard with him. You can imagine how I regret it now..."
"There, there, Minerva," Fudge comforted her. "Pettigrew died a hero's death. The muggles here there present though we wiped their memories said he confronted him. Sobbing he cried out – How could you Sirius – James and Lily? And then went for his wand but was no match for Black... Of course Black was quicker, blew him to smithereens..."
Professor McGonagall blew her nose. "Stupid boy, foolish boy, he was always hopeless at duels...should have left it to the ministry..."
"I tell ya what." Hagrid joined in. "If I had gotten their I'd not have bothered with wands, I would have ripped him with bare hands..."
"You don't know what you're talking about, Hagrid." Fudge said. "No one but the fully trained Magic Law Enforcement Squad would have stood a chance against Black once cornered. I was Junior Minister in the Department of Magic Catastrophes at the time, and I was one of the first on the scene after Black murdered all those people... I-I'll never forget it. I dream sometimes of it. A crater in the middle of the street so deep it had cracked the sewers below. Bodies were lying everywhere. The muggles were screaming and Black was standing there laughing with what was left of Pettigrew – a finger. A finger, Hagrid..."
Fudge stopped abruptly. Five noses were blown. "There you have it now, Rosmerta. You understand the need to recapture him quickly before he finishes up the job."
"You think this is why he escaped then?"
"Definitely," Fudge ascertained. "I was the last time at Azkaban. It did not seem to have to soften him even one bit. He even had the audacity to ask for the newspaper saying he was itching for the cross puzzle, aw, awful man!" Fudge exclaimed. "I was astounded at how little the Dementors have affected him. Most prisoners you know stay in their corners muttering and whispering but Black was fully lucent. It was very unnerving."
"You don't think he's trying to rejoin You-Know-Who's ranks, now are you?"
"I dare say this is his ultimate goal but not before he comes to finish off young Harry. It would be the best gift possible. I shudder thinking what would happen if he rises again."
"But minister, Harry isn't with his muggle aunt and uncle?" Madam Rosmerta said.
McGonagall sighed. She was hoping they would board this subject.
"No," Fudge said. "He's living with the Solmyrs."
"I thought Hagrid was bringing him to the muggles."
"I was but..." Hagrid was starting to say was interrupted.
"But Dumbledore changed his mind." McGonagall said quickly. She did not want really to say what had happened then. "He thought the Solmyr castle would be the last place You-Know-Who would look for Harry. The Solmyrs are a respected family in the wizard community and have a particulate indifference towards...well everything."
Madam Rosmerta was not entirely convinced but then again she shrugged and left them as she had clients to attend to.
"Well, Minister, if you are going to make it for dinner with the Headmaster, we should leave now." McGonagall said.
One by one they left.
Alamar and Draco were very quiet. This was part of Harry's past they knew nothing about and neither did he. Harry was pensive. Black, his father's best friend, the man everyone was hunting now, and who was trying so desperately to get into Gryffindors' tower, was also his godfather, and the man who betrayed his father's trust. But then why would the spooky one say he wasn't after him? He had no doubt the picture was saying the truth. So what then? Primal instincts, the picture had said. What was Black after really? It couldn't be him. Why risk the Dementors even if this powerful? Something here did not add up.
Harry was furious of course. Black could have betrayed his father's trust but somehow doubted it. Even his adopted father would have thought so. Friendship of this level isn't easy to break. Still he was furious and was sensing the need to express his bubbling feelings. So he stood up, shed the cloak away and ventured outside. Draco and Alamar followed him.
They reached outside the village where Harry let out his frustration. "HE BETRAYED THEM...BETRAYED THEM..." The echo repeated his frustration and then his anger took on new level. His wand in hand Harry's anger produced a crater in the ground. Snow flew in every direction. Draco and Alamar had to find cover. "DUMBLEDORE...HE KNEW...HE KNEW..."
Harry then sat down and buried his face in his hands. Alamar and Draco stirred from their cover and sat beside their friend. There they remained silent for awhile.
"I'm sorry mate." Alamar said comfortingly. "It seems there is no getting rid of dark moments in your past."
"No wonder the Dementors like you that much." Draco shared.
Harry looked up and it brought a grin to him that grew into a smile and then into laughter. It was not a happy one but a cold, dark one full with the bitterness of learning it. He then suddenly stopped. His expression reaffirmed into something that scared both of them. He stood up and raised his wand. Alamar and Draco looked at each other apprehensively.
"Something in that story makes no sense." Harry said.
"Nothing in there makes sense." Alamar said.
"No, I mean something is off." Harry said and then shared his experience with the spooky picture.
"What did he mean by primal instincts?" Alamar exclaimed.
"I don't know, yet." Harry said grinding his teeth. "But I intend to find out!"
"The truth will set you free." Draco added.
"Here, here," Alamar said. "Shall we go back?"
"Not yet," Harry replied.
"Of course, take your time, mate." Draco said and gestured Alamar to leave him alone. They left the glade they had been at. "It is sad."
"No shit, genius," Alamar shared and then remembered the story. "A finger... what kind of spell does that?"
"I've been wondering the same but the pity was not the finger."
"My, Draco," Alamar exclaimed astounded. "If your father hears you he would be having a stroke right now."
"Probably," Draco said. "And then he would disown me."
"That too." Alamar grinned.
Harry soon came and they returned to Hogwarts. Professor Snape was at the gates glaring at them. Apparently they were last to return and really late.
"My, my, Mr. Potter, you're late."
"Lay off, will you?" Draco brazenly said.
"Yeah, mind your own business, Professor." Alamar added.
Professor Snape stood blinking before them trying to assimilate this brazen behaviour. Dumbledore had warned him of this new development but he had hard time believing it, at least the part of Draco.
"Watch your tongue, Darkstone." Draco said. "The professor otherwise would be encouraged to do something irrational."
"Oh, my, how my boots are shaking?" Alamar said and both he and Draco broke into uncontrollable laughter.
Professor Snape continued to stare at them unbelievingly. What had happened to them under Stone Hedge? Dumbledore seemed convinced it was there the change had begun. They were acting and talking far more maturely than their age suggested.
"We're sorry we are late, Professor." Harry said. "It is my fault. I got astray in the woods and they had to fetch me. It won't happen again."
Professor Snape eyed them for a moment then sighed and said. "Alright, get in quickly."
"Oh and Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Darkstone, your houses lose fifty points. Let that be a lesson for you in manners."
"Yes, sir," The two said saluting like soldiers and ventured in still laughing with tears falling down their reddened cheeks.
Professor Snape decided it best not to say anything else. He was ready to say he would easily make those a hundred but then he did not want for Slytherin to lose anymore points. This year was crazy enough without adding more to it.
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