Disclaimer: this story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: This chapter is unbeta'd.
Chapter 15: Meet Sirius Black
Had it not been for Snape, Harry would've ended up with long-out on the floor. It irked Harry that even after years of taking the Floo, he still couldn't figure out how to actually use it correctly. And it was worse now that he was back in his eleven year old body than ever before.
"Are you all right?"
Harry looked up at Snape's soft question. The man still held his shoulder and was using his body to shield Harry from the people in the reception area. It filled Harry with warmth to know the man cared and it stilled some of butterflies fluttering around in his stomach.
"I'm fine, sir," Harry answered.
Snape didn't look like he quite believed Harry, but he didn't question it any further. Harry was glad he didn't, he was nervous enough as it was, no need to make it worse by dragging it all out in the open. He straightened his cloak, his fingers lingering on the Slytherin crest. Straightening his shoulders, he followed Snape as he made his way to the elevator. He didn't know how Sirius was going to react to him being a Slytherin, but he was still part Gryffindor inside and he refused to feel ashamed for his House.
They got out on the Fourth Floor: Spell Damage. Harry remembered it well, couldn't help but remember Neville's parents were here. Tonks had ended up there too, after the same attack that had killed Remus. St. Mungo's had been utterly destroyed two weeks after that, along with most people who had been present at the time. But right now, Harry couldn't care less about anyone who was here except for Sirius.
Snape stopped at a closed door with the number 37 on it.
"Do you want me to go inside with you?" he asked.
Harry tried to figure out if Snape would mind, but the man kept his face and voice completely neutral. Sometimes Harry cursed the fact the man was such a good spy, as it made him impossible to read when Snape wanted to hide something. Since Harry couldn't get a read on the man, he decided to just go with what he wanted and hope neither Snape nor Sirius would kick up a fuss.
"Yes, please," he said and pushed the door open, confident that Snape would be right behind him.
The room was small, just two beds. The bed closest to the door held an elderly man who was purple and whose hair was acting a bit like the vines of a Devil's Snare. But Harry's attention was riveted on the man lying in the bed by the tiny window. Sirius looked better than Harry had ever seen him. His hair was short and clean and he didn't look as gaunt as Harry remembered from the time Sirius had escaped Azkaban. He was still pale and thin, but the five weeks he'd spent at St. Mungo's had obviously done a lot for his health.
Quietly, Harry approached Sirius. When he was about half-way through the room, Sirius turned his head around and spotted him. He grinned, lighting up his face, and just like that he was the old Sirius Harry had known. He sped up and with a few paces he was beside Sirius, who was now sitting up.
"Harry," Sirius said with a wavering voice.
"Hey, uh…" Harry said, uncertain what to call Sirius, as officially they hadn't yet met.
"Call me Sirius, kiddo," he said.
Harry smiled and fidgeted a bit. Sirius padded the bed.
"Take a seat," he said. "How long have we got before you need to get back to Hogwarts?"
Harry sat down on the bed, and turned his face to Sirius. His legs dangled from the side and he was unable to keep them still due to nerves.
"Professor Snape said the Healers only allowed us an hour, but I can come back next week," Harry said.
"Well, then, let's make the most of it," Sirius said. "Tell me, how do you like Hogwarts?"
Harry smiled and launched into tales of his first year. He told about the Sorting, about Theo and Draco and Hermione, about lessons and his extra Potions lessons with Snape to learn how to make Wolfsbane. Nothing he said seemed to phase Sirius, who listened avidly to it all. They talked about Remus for a while, who, Harry learned, had visited Sirius last Thursday.
"I would've come then, but the Headmaster wouldn't allow it until today," Harry said. "He didn't want me to miss any school."
"Don't worry about it," Sirius said. "So, Remus told me about the photo album he gave you, and it got me thinking. I've got some stuff from the old days in my vault. Once they let me out of here, I'll get it. We can look it over this summer."
"That would be great," Harry said enthusiastic.
He fell silent then. He wanted to ask about where he was going to stay for the summer holidays, which started in four weeks, but he didn't quite dare.
"Spit it out," Sirius said.
Harry looked up from the patch of floor he'd been staring at, startled. Sirius had a wry smile on his face and a touch of fear could be detected in his eyes.
"Will they let you out in time for summer holidays?" Harry asked. "I mean, if they don't, then where am I…"
Sirius let out a barking laugh, which had Harry smiling despite his nerves about the upcoming holidays and where he would be staying.
"Don't worry, they'll have let me go by then," Sirius said. "I've already enlisted help in fixing up my house. It's in quite a bit of disrepair, but it will be at the very least livable by the time summer holidays start. "
"Great," Harry said.
He attempted to smile, but a small part of him was still unsure. Sirius had been known to treat the most serious situations as a joke, often underestimating things. It was that very trait that had gotten him killed.
"Hey, don't worry," Sirius said, placing his hand on Harry's and giving it a squeeze. "If they don't let me out, Remus will take care of you in the meantime."
"He can do that?" Harry asked surprised. "I thought, what with the Ministry and all…"
"He can't be your legal guardian, but nobody can stop me from hiring him as a temporary babysitter, for lack of a better word," Sirius said with a mischievous grin on his face.
Harry grinned back, reassured now that he knew he definitely didn't have to go back to the Dursleys. He started to ask some questions about where they would be staying during the summer, since he wasn't supposed to know anything about Grimmauld Place, but before he could Snape came up to them.
"The Healer has asked us to leave, since visiting hour is over," he said with an apologetic tone.
Sirius grimaced, but Harry couldn't be sure if it was because Snape was here or if it was because they had to leave. Harry embraced Sirius, intending for a quick hug, but Sirius clamped his arms around him. Harry relaxed into the hug, reveling in the feeling of being held by an adult who had always stood behind him. It was with great reluctance that the two of them let each other go, and only because Snape cleared his throat.
As Harry walked out of the ward after promising to come again next week, he looked back at Sirius, who was looking after him with a forlorn look on his face. When the man saw Harry looking, he smiled slightly and waved. Harry waved back, his heart light at the idea of spending a summer with Sirius, who was now free to come and go as he pleased instead of being stuck in Grimmauld Place.
The whole House was gathered in the common room for a House Meeting. They were going home tomorrow and Harry was torn between happy the summer holidays were there, which he got to spend with Sirius, and sad that he wouldn't see his friends until they were back at Hogwarts again. Both Draco and Theo had told him it would be unlikely their parents would permit them to visit Harry and Harry was equally sure Sirius would not let him go and visit the Malfoy or Nott family. Hermione would be gone on holiday with her parents for at least part of the summer, so he doubted they'd get the chance to visit.
Snape cleared his throat and the room fell silent. As Harry watched the man congratulate Slytherin House on winning the House Cup, he thought about how much everything had changed for him this year. When he'd gone back in time, he'd figured he'd be in Gryffindor, friends with Hermione and Ron, playing Quidditch, going after the Stone and in the end win the House Cup. Only being friends with Hermione and winning the House Cup had actually happened. But in light of the new friends he'd made and the fact that he'd gotten Sirius free and acquitted, he wasn't sorry at all for all the changes he'd made.
"Now, before I let all of you get some well deserved rest, I want to make it clear that even though you will no longer reside at Hogwarts come tomorrow, you are still very much a part of Slytherin House. This also includes those of you who will go out into the world instead of just going away for the holidays," Snape said.
Harry reflected that although he'd never been ashamed of being in Gryffindor, there had never been so much coherence, so much support from his old House. In fact, several times came to mind in which Gryffindor had been less than supportive. During his second year when everyone discovered he was a Parslemouth, during the Triwizard Tournament, during fifth year when Umbridge had wrecked havoc in the school and what had seemed like most of the wizarding world thought he was a lunatic. Examples enough, and Harry was feeling particularly relieved he wouldn't have to live through those trying times a second time.
"I will always be available should you need any help. You are free to send a letter to me at any time and should you find yourself in an emergency," Snape said, and Harry noticed he let his gaze linger on several Slytherins, including Draco and Theo, "you can use the Floo to go to my house. Just call out Spinner's End."
Harry knew he probably looked like an idiot, gaping at Snape as if the man had turned into a fairy. He certainly had not expected Snape, who was an intensely private man by nature and necessity, to open up his home for his students. Although this year had proved to Harry that Snape was not the selfish, arrogant and vicious man he had assumed the teacher was, this was still far more generous and caring than he would've given the man credit for.
Snape said a few more words of goodbye before leaving the common room. The Slytherins dispersed, not at all interested in going to bed yet. Harry ended up on a couch between Draco and Theo, talking and laughing. How different it was from what had been his usual routine of cramming in as many hours to do his summer homework before going back to the Dursleys. This time, he could do his homework out in the open, even ask Sirius for help if he needed it. As he relaxed with his friends, Harry thought to himself he was very glad he had forgotten to talk the Hat out of Sorting him in Slytherin.
The atmosphere in the train compartment was tense. It had all been fun and games until about half-way through the trip back to London. Then Hermione had started talking about staying in contact during the summer. Theo had tactfully said he wasn't much of a letter writer, to which Hermione had cheerfully replied that it didn't matter to her. Then Draco had piped up.
"We're not writing to a Mudblood like you and we don't want you writing to us."
It had been said in the snotty, aristocratic tone Harry was so familiar with from before, but hadn't heard since he'd been Sorted into Slytherin. Hermione had retreated into a book, Draco was staring moodily out the window and Theo was staring at the roof of the compartment.
Harry had enough of it, quite frankly. This was supposed to be his very first happy summer holiday and he was damned if his friends decided to spoil it with a last minute argument.
"This is bloody ridiculous!" he burst out.
Everybody looked at him, surprise showing even on Draco's face.
"We all like each other, and no Draco, you can't tell me any differently," Harry said, before Draco could even open his mouth. "You don't give a rat's ass about Hermione being a Muggleborn, or you'd have said something about it before."
Draco mulishly stared at Harry, but Theo was slowly nodding his head.
"Harry's right, Hermione," he said with a soft tone. "It's not that we don't like you. You're smart and you act like a witch and everything, but our parents…"
"They'd kill us for writing to you. If it's just in school, we can say we tolerate you, use you, whatever. But socializing during the summer? There's no excuse they would buy," Draco said.
Hermione huffed in agitation.
"This whole prejudice is just ridiculous. I've got just as much magic as any Pureblood."
"Nobody's denying that," Harry said. "Well, no one here, anyway."
Theo looked uncertainly at Hermione.
"You do understand why we can't write, don't you?"
"Oh, yes, I don't blame you," she said. Then she frowned. "But this whole Pureblood system is just so wrong. Did you know that a lot of rules, like no magic during the summer, are actually only enforced on Muggleborns? If there's an adult witch or wizard on the premises, the Ministry can't distinguish between their magic use and that of any children living there, so it's only Muggleborns who are actually affected by that rule."
"Yes, well, we're a long way off from being able to change that," Draco said. "If anybody even can."
Draco and Theo seemed to think that closed the subject, as they started talking and joking again. They were clearly relieved Hermione understood why they couldn't have contact during the summer and didn't hold it against them.
Harry knew better. He recognized the look she had on her face. There was no way she was going to let this go. Harry bent towards her, glad that Draco and Theo were engrossed in a loud discussion about Quidditch just then.
"Whatever your thinking about, count me in," he whispered in her ear. "And I'll pass along all the news this summer, there's no restrictions on writing to me."
Hermione smiled at him, a gleam in her eyes that made Harry remember S.P.E.W. rather uncomfortably. Even at such a young age, Hermione had been devious in the previous timeline, with a remarkable good grip on politics and PR. And he'd just thrown his not insignificant political clout as the Boy Who Lived behind her. He was doomed, he just knew it. At least it was for a good cause this time, instead of liberating house-elves who didn't want to be free.
"What are the two of you plotting?" Draco suddenly asked.
Harry looked at the blond wizard, surprised he'd even noticed Harry talking with Hermione. He'd seemed completely engrossed in the Quidditch argument. Draco rolled his eyes.
"Please, you'd have to be a lot more subtle to get anything past me," he said. "I'm a Malfoy, I was spoon-fed how to plot and plan."
"Well, we were just-" Hermione said.
"Talking about Quidditch," Harry interrupted. "A discussion we should continue once we're back at Hogwarts."
Hermione looked bewildered, but both Draco and Theo nodded their heads.
"Yes, I don't think our parents would like us to talk of nothing but Quidditch," Theo said.
Hermione's eyes widened in comprehension.
"Plausible deniability," she murmured.
Now it was Draco and Theo's turn to look bewildered, but they shrugged it off after a minute. Harry grinned and suggested they play Exploding Snap. The other three enthusiastically agreed and soon they were deeply engrossed in the game.
By the time the train rolled into King's Cross, the good mood between the friends had been restored and they cheerfully said goodbye to each other before exciting the train. Hermione immediately went off to her parents, as did Theo. Harry and Draco shouldered their way further down to platform, edging closer to the exit. Then Harry saw Lucius Malfoy. Draco had obviously seen him as well, as he gave Harry a cheerful wave and headed towards his father.
Harry continued walking, scanning the crowd for Sirius. His godfather had promised to be here to pick Harry up, but was nowhere to be seen. Harry bit his lip, worry overcoming him. What if Sirius had forgotten him? Or worse, decided he didn't want him and just left Harry on the platform?
But before Harry could descend into total panic, a cheerful voice sounded from behind him,
Harry whirled around to see a grinning Sirius standing not two feet from him.
"Sirius!" Harry cried out and hugged the man.
Sirius let out a barking laugh and hugged back. For a few moments, the two of them just clung together. It was Sirius who withdrew first.
"So, looking forward to this summer?" he asked.
"Yes," Harry said with a big grin on his face.
Sirius shrank Harry's trunk and took Hedwig's cage. Then he made his way through the crowd, away from the exit to the Muggle platforms. Confused, Harry followed him.
"We're taking the Floo," he said. "You go first and I'll follow with Hedwig. The wards are already keyed to you. Just say 'Twelve Grimmauld Place' and you'll be fine."
They'd reached a row of fireplaces that were tucked away at the other end of the platform. Harry'd never seen them before, but it was rather crowded. If Sirius had taken the Floo here, it was no wonder he'd been late. There were still people coming out of the Floo, looking haggard and in a rush. Sirius dropped two Knuts in a jar on the mantle of the fireplace and directed Harry to take a pinch of Floo powder from the jar next to it.
Harry threw the Floo powder into the fire, watched as the flames changed color. With a step forward, he was in the middle of the brilliant green flames and he shouted out the directions of Grimmauld Place. After a dizzying ride, Harry was spat out at the other end, causing him to go sprawling onto the floor.
He sat up in the unfamiliar room. The walls were a light crème color and the carpet on which he sat a rich, burgundy red. He had no idea where he was and feared he might've gotten off at the wrong fireplace. Until he looked to his right, straight at the wall-covering tapestry of the Black family tree.
The last time he'd seen it, the tapestry had been shabby and several names had been burned off. this time, however, it was clean and clearly restored. Because there, next to his brother Regulus was Sirius' name. The thread was clearly newer than that of his brother, but Harry didn't care. He searched out Andromeda's name, which had been linked to her husband's name, and Tonks was on it too.
Harry let out a delighted laugh. He wanted to bet most of the Black's on the tapestry would roll over in their graves of mortification. A Muggle, in the family tree, for all to see.
"What's so funny?" Sirius asked.
Harry hadn't even heard him come through the Floo. But he couldn't stop laughing long enough to explain to Sirius, so in the end he just pointed to Ted Tonk's name. Sirius seemed to understand him though, since he burst out in laughter as well.
Oh yes, this is going to be a great summer, Harry thought.
A/N: The story continues in the sequel Of Past Times. The first chapter is up and the story picks up straight from this chapter. Harry's summer holidays doesn't go as planned at all, but despite that he still needs to get his hands on Tom Riddle's diary. At Hogwarts things are changing as well, as Hermione starts the Society for the Integration of Muggleborn.