Chapter 5 Information is Not Knowledge
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Frank Zappa, lyrics to the song Packard Goose
"What are your intentions for my godson, old man?"
Albus Dumbledore stared at the implacable face of Sirius Black. It was obvious by his tone and demeanor that he came to Hogwarts ready for a fight.
Sirius had requested an audience with him and stormed into his office intent on seeking answers and assurances. He stood tense and ready to attack in defense of his godson if it came to that. Sirius was undaunted by his former headmaster's long silence, nor did he shift or squirm under his intense scrutiny. Albus had learned long ago that he could turn an altercation to his advantage simply by allowing time to pass in silence thereby dictating the direction of the confrontation. Very few had ever managed to hold his gaze for long before they buckled under his fixed stare.
Sirius, however, was not the least bit disconcerted. His breathing was shallow and his own gaze was fixed determinedly awaiting his response.
Albus sighed, "Peace Sirius. I have no nefarious designs on your godson. My only objectives pertain to his safety and well being."
"Not good enough, old man," Sirius roared. "I've seen what your good intentions have wrought on those I held dear. You consigned my godson to hell in order to keep him safe, and, had his relatives not been total bastards, he'd be dead right now." Sirius slammed his palms against his desk his eyes ablaze with righteous anger. "You left him on their doorstep like so much rubbish and then never deigned to determine his welfare."
Albus lowered his gaze; he could not fault Sirius for his accusations. This was an old argument, one they'd had many times before, and each time the guilt weighed heavily on his shoulders. There was no point in restating his reasons. He knew that he had much to atone for. He also knew that the fate of the wizarding word lay on the shoulders of a young man who may not be ready or even desirous to face his destiny.
"You knew what kind of people the Dursleys were. You knew Petunia's enmity towards Lily and how much she hated magic, and yet you went against James and Lily's express wishes. I will not allow you to play your games with him." Sirius snarled looming over his desk, his stance and demeanor aggressive while he unknowingly projected his magic towards Albus.
"Peace Sirius. Please be at peace," he tried to soothe, but it seemed as if his former student's anger had yet to run its course.
"You played with our lives like a chess master, moving us about the board like expendable pawns. We were young idealistic fools that followed your direction without question. We believed that you were infallible, invincible, the only wizard that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named feared. Dead, so many lives sacrificed for the greater good. Dorcas, Edgar, Benjy, Frank and Alice, Marlene, Gideon and Fabian, Ja …" Sirius faltered over the name, breathing heavily and swallowing the lump that he formed his throat. "James and Lily and for a time Harry."
Each name carried its own personal regrets, but none so much as the last. At least the others were aware of the possible outcome of their involvement in the war. Harry, on the other hand, was a child who had no say in the intrigues of war that were carried out by his word alone. He was charged with leading a war, and with that responsibility came the burden of life and death. Seemingly inconsequential choices would sometimes lead to the most devastating outcomes.
Suddenly Sirius seemed to collapse upon himself as he heaved a great sigh and sat heavily on the overstuffed chair that was placed before his desk. He slumped forward, his hands falling loosely between his legs. "Merlin knows my own impulsive actions led to his miserable childhood; my first thought should have been for him, not revenge against the bastard who betrayed us."
A long silence followed, both men lost in their own ruminations of past mistakes.
"Sirius," Albus' whispered entreaty appeared overly loud in the quiet stillness of his office.
His former student raised his eyes and stared up at him with a sorrowful expression. "I can only promise you this; I will try with all that I am to put Harry's wellbeing first." He stood from his chair and walked over to the window overseeing the black lake, staring out into the horizon.
"I have through my own choices and mistakes been given the mantle of responsibility for the wizarding world and it is I that must think of the need of the few versus the need of the many. If I can spare Harry any pain, I will, but his role in this upcoming war is crucial." Albus sighed deeply turning to face Sirius once again. "I cannot divulge more than that."
Sirius' eyes flared with righteous anger as he swiftly stood from his chair, hands fisted at his side as if ready to do battle with his former mentor. "Not good enough old man!" He roared once more. "Harry is no longer a child in need of a guardian, but if he allows me into his life, make no mistake I will be there to guide him through whatever machinations you have in store for him. I'll be watching you." Sirius stared at him with piercing eyes, studying, scrutinizing him and after a long intense silence he nodded his head and stormed out of the headmaster's office with the same intensity as he had entering it.
For the second time in as many days, Harry found himself lying on patch of sun warmed grass, only this time it was Ginny who lay her head on his stomach while he ran his fingers through her hair. It was hypnotic, the repetitive motion of his hands, the buzz of the insects, the wind as it rustled the leaves on the trees and their even, synchronized breathing. He felt content; it was a feeling he was unaccustomed to. He couldn't deny that he had happy moments in his life, but he'd never felt a sense of contentment. Ginny had a lot to do with that.
And yet he was unsettled as well. There were things he needed to resolve and come to terms with, issues he really didn't want to deal with at this particular time. It wasn't in his nature to ignore a problem and hope that it would just go away, but all he wanted to do at this time in his life was go to University and get to know Ginny Weasley. She was the one constant among all the changes that were thrust upon him in the last few days. You're a wizard, Harry. You have a godfather, Harry. What was so wrong about being a boy who just wanted to kiss a girl? And he did want to kiss her in the worst way.
Ginny aside, foremost on his mind was his godfather. He was the greatest unknown variable in the myriad of revelations that were hurled at him in the last few days. If he had a godfather, why hadn't he been placed with him instead of his aunt? He'd needed a godfather then; did he need one now? Did he even want to meet him after all this time? There was a part of him that wanted to say 'screw that. I don't need a godfather this late in the game. Where was he when I needed him?' The other part of him, the rational part, at the very least wanted answers. He wasn't sure where it would lead, but he wanted to speak to the man who knew his parents so intimately that they named him Harry's godfather.
He was also a bit wary of Headmaster Dumbledore's reasons for being so insistent on Harry meeting his godfather. While he didn't actually distrust the wizened wizard, he was unsure of his motives. He'd take his cue from Ginny for the time being since she seemed to trust him.
Before he met with Sirius Black, though, he wanted to know as much about him as he possibly could. He didn't want to go into that meeting totally blind; he wanted to be prepared. Who would he ask though? The only person he could question that he trusted was Ginny.
Well no time like the present.
"Hmm," came her groggy reply.
"What do you know about Sirius Black?"
That seemed to rouse her as she sat up from her prone position to face him, a curious expression upon her face. "Not much other than what I've heard during dinner conversations at the Burrow and what has been written about him in the Daily Prophet."
"Oh," all his disappointment was expressed in that single word as he sat up resting his forearms on his knees and dangling his arms between his raised legs.
Ginny drew up on her knees sidling up closer to Harry and placing a hand upon his forearm. "I'd be glad to tell you what I know, Harry, but it would be mostly things I've overheard through the years, hearsay and such, nothing that would be concrete." She bit her lip and furrowed her brow in concentration. Then her eyes brightened, and she smiled at him in that way that totally lit up her pretty face. "But we could go to the Wizarding Library in Diagon Alley; they have archived issues of the Daily Prophet on file that we can rifle through if you'd like."
"That would be brilliant. Would you mind taking me there now?" he asked with excitement.
"Of course, Harry." Putting her hands on the ground in front of her, she used them to leverage herself up onto her feet and, once standing, put out her hand towards him to give him a boost up. Taking her proffered hand he hoisted himself up; the momentum drew him flush against her as he looked down onto her upturned face taking in the smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. His eyes travelled next to the amber color of her eyes as they stared up at him so full of life. He then took in the flush of her cheeks, and then his eyes were drawn to her full lips, and, without conscious thought, he lowered his head as she too drew closer, their short breaths mingling, their lips almost touching.
Harry groaned, slowly raising his head and turning it towards the shouted greeting to see the twins in all their multicolored glory strutting towards them. He heard Ginny's colorful curses and had to agree with each expletive that dripped from the lips that he'd been just about to kiss. He groaned again at the lost opportunity, and then smiled broadly as he looked once again towards Ginny. She'd wanted to kiss him as well, and he took heart that he'd soon be able to follow through on the promise of that first kiss with her.
"We weren't interrupting…," started one twin.
"…a romantic interlude, were we?" finished the other.
Ginny merely growled at her madly grinning brothers but did a rather quick about face. "How'd it go for you today?"
Quite surprisingly her brothers were easily diverted.
"Spiffing, we made enough to set up another production run with a little to spare to go toward a down payment on the shop."
"That's fantastic, Fred," Ginny replied enthusiastically.
"Yeah, but it's going to take a while before we have enough for the full down payment and sufficient stock to open shop." George added glumly.
Fred threw an arm around his twin's shoulder, "Too true my handsome brother, but the mail order business is going like Goblins in a goldmine, and Hogwarts will be opening in a few weeks which will put us closer to our goal."
"Ah, my devastatingly attractive and brilliant twin, you are correct. Just a few more heretofore indefinite sales figures and Bob's your uncle we'll open our shop." George slapped his brother's shoulder.
"That's the idea Forge. Just give it some stick," Ginny encouraged.
Harry lost track of the conversation at Bob's your uncle. He watched the siblings interact with a smile on his face. Witnessing Ginny's repartee with the twins was always entertaining.
"Harry and I want to go to the Wizarding Library in Diagon Alley, and you need to give the appearance of chaperoning." Ginny threw into their frenetic banter.
"Perfect, you go to the library, and we can scope out the competition at Gambol and Japes," George agreed enthusiastically.
Linking her arm through Harry's she called over her shoulder, "We'll meet you at the Apparition point."
It wasn't so much a suggestion as an order as the twins seemed to hold back to allow them a good thirty foot head start. "Do they always do what you tell them?" Harry asked curiously.
"Of course, if they know what's good for them," Ginny grinned up at him.
"That formidable, are you?" Harry teased as they strolled arm in arm through Beaumont Park towards the hedged exit.
Though Harry's tone was light, Ginny took his question seriously. "The twins were often the recipients of my bouts of accidental magic when I was younger, mostly due to their teasing and pranks. So they've learned to respect my magical ability."
"Duly noted; never piss off the youngest Weasley," he kissed her temple.
"Too right," she gave a sharp nod to her head followed by a tinkling laugh.
They materialized with a light crack on Charring Cross Road. An elderly couple was standing only a few feet from where they'd appeared, but they paid no heed to the sound or their sudden appearance and walked right past them without a glance their way. Now that was a neat trick. He even commented on it as Ginny took his hand and crossed the street to the front entrance of a tatty looking pub.
"That's another Ministry Apparation point, but it's seldom used. Families with children who can't Apparate use the Floo network and those that can Apparate just do so directly into the Alley's own Apparation point. But I thought if you're going to be introduced to Diagon Alley it has to be done up proper and that means through the Leaky."
He looked up at the wooden sign that creaked on its hinges declaring the pub's name to be the Leaky Cauldron.
They stood there for a moment allowing Harry to take in the sight of the dilapidated façade of the building so incongruously sandwiched between the modern record and book shops; it looked as if it had been standing in the same spot for centuries. Again he noticed people walking by and taking no notice of the pub or the two teenagers standing outsides its entrance.
They heard a pair of cracks at their backs and turned to watch Ginny's brother cross the street. They'd changed into what Harry had learned to be traditional wizarding robes, trying to be, Harry assumed, less conspicuous.
"What you waiting for loves…"
"…An engraved invitation?"
One twin held the door to the pub open, waving his hand for the other to precede him, "Age before beauty then?"
Lifting his nose and sniffing with an air of disdain the other answered, "Pearls before swine, ducky." And with that they disappeared into the pub without a backwards glance.
Imitating her brother, Harry gallantly held open the pub door, but before he could form a cheeky comment, she put on a similar haughty air as her brother's preceding him into the pub with, "Beauty before Beast."
Harry laughed and followed her into the dark, dingy pub. He waited while his eyes became accustomed to the gloom; and took a moment to scan the layout of the pub. A bar took up the whole left side of the room while the other half was bisected by tables that were occupied by patrons eating a meal or simply partaking of what Harry assumed was some form of alcoholic beverage in large goblets. On the far side of the pub a very large fireplace dominated the wall and every few minutes would flare up with green flames, and patrons would either gracefully exit the grate or slide across the room on their asses. These were mostly school aged children who seemed to take it in stride as their mothers brandished their wands and eliminated the soot that clung to their cloaks and faces.
Ginny took his hand in hers and began to pull him towards a narrow hallway that led to a large wooden door which exited into a courtyard that was enclosed by a brick wall, each side of which was lined with crates, garbage bins and empty amber colored bottles labeled Butterbeer. He observed as Ginny strode to the opposite wall, took out her wand and tapped several bricks in a precise order. The scraping sound of brick against brick echoed across the enclosure as the bricks themselves began to slowly pull away and open a portal into Diagon Alley.
They crossed the archway made by the bricks and entered a world a century back in time. When he was younger Dickens was one of his favorite writers, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations being his obvious favorites. Diagon Alley looked, to him at least, exactly how London would have in the mid-eighteen hundreds - minus the myriad of magical items that were on display. It was absolutely brilliant.
Other than the small glimpse he was afforded from the backseat of a taxi to the train station that would take him to Oxford, he'd not had the opportunity to see all the history that could be found in London. He'd picked out the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, the former of which was almost a millennium old, so it wasn't as if England was lacking in historical buildings or establishments.
But what added to the ambiance of stepping back in time for Harry were the narrow cobbled streets, the bay windows on the storefronts, the street vendor carts that lined them, the wizards and witches strolling about in robes and pointy hats, the garb under their robes were so old fashioned to his modern eyes. It was all so surreal.
The first shop to his left sold cauldrons and to his right there was an apothecary. If he was in any doubt as to where he was, that certainly cemented it. They passed a Quidditch shop, robe shop, an owl emporium, a book shop and a variety of others before they came to the wizarding bank, Gringotts, towering over the other buildings in the Alley. At the end of the Alley stood Ollivander's, the wooden sign proclaiming its wares: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. Harry was surprised to see that the only display in the bay window was a single wand that lay on a faded satin purple cushion; it made him wonder if the wand had lain in its solitary perch since 382 B.C.
At the opposite end of the Alley stood an imposing classically styled building. Though not nearly as large, it resembled the New York Public Library. Two stone guardians stood sentry on either side of the entrance, though Harry had to admit that the eight foot tall dragons were much more imposing than their lion counterparts in NY. When he was twelve or so he'd gone on a field trip to New York City and one of their points of interest was the NYPL. He was like a kid in a candy shop. He'd somehow escaped the watchful eye of their field trip minders and wandered the library to his heart's content. He strolled through the marbled halls, the rows and rows of sleek wooden desks, the vast shelves housing every type of book imaginable. He loved the musty smell of the books and the silence that was broken by a cough, the turn of a page or the scraping of a chair.
Ginny smiled indulgently at his awestruck expression. As she began to tug him up towards the entrance he took a moment to admire the intricately carved, gilded, paneled relief on the massive doors. Each panel depicted a Greek mythological theme.
To the right of the doors an inscription carved in marble read: The place of the cure of the soul. Ginny placed the palm of her right hand upon the inscription, and the gilded doors opened wide.
As if anticipating the question she explained, "The library doors recognize the intent of the person seeking entrance. The same inscription was at the entrance to the Ancient Library of Alexandria; unfortunately the Ptolemy's didn't think to use that particular bit of magic. There is no greater treasure than knowledge, no?"
So intent was he on Ginny's explanation that he had taken several steps into the library before he took note of what awaited within. His mind could not reconcile what he was seeing with what his brain knew to be impossible.
"I think the word you're looking for again is wicked," Ginny teased him affectionately as she placed her fingers under his chin and closed his mouth. Harry gave her an absentminded nod and then shook his head as if to clear it.
The vast width and breadth of the interior of the library did not coincide with the size of the exterior. The architectural style of the exterior was classical in design, while the interior was positively ancient. Elaborate clay lamps hung from chains from the ceiling, hovering above the only semi-modern convenience of rows of perfectly aligned mahogany tables. Partitioned shelves that held both elaborately decorated scrolls and parchments lined the walls as far as the eye could see. The second floor encompassed the entire library and looked as deep as it was long and housed row upon row of bookshelves filled to the brim. Some were shelved in a very orderly fashion while others were stacked rather haphazardly.
Directly in front of them was a rather large, ornately decorated brass stand carved in the shape of an owl in flight upon which was positioned an equally large and ornate book. Ginny tugged him towards the book, pulling out her wand as she drew near.
Harry noted that the book's pages were old and yellowed with age and blank. The book, he noticed, was opened to the middle; Ginny tapped her wand against the page and murmured Quaero. The pages began to rustle and move as if stirred by a light wind and then settled once more. Daily Prophet Sirius Augustus Black. This time the pages glowed a bright blue for a moment then words started to appear upon the page in an Old English style. He felt Ginny's hand tremble in his own and then heard her mutter, "Merlin I hate that."
He looked at her askance. Her bottom lip was blood red where she was worrying it between her teeth. He shook her hand lightly in his and then gave it a gentle squeeze. She seemed to shake herself out of whatever had disturbed her and gave him a quivering but sincere smile.
She nodded her head towards the pages which now read: Second Floor, Row 12, Table W.
"We need to head towards that table. Every article ever written about Sirius Black will be waiting for us there."
They walked a ways towards the magical lift that was like a wrought iron cage. They stepped in, closed the cage and rode smoothly to the second floor of the library. A longer walk took them towards a row of tables similar to the ones that were located on the first floor. Waiting for them at Row 12, Table W were stacks of neatly piled newspapers that were at least two feet high. Ginny sighed next to him. "We probably should've stopped for a bite to eat first; this may take a while."
Ginny sat down directly to the left of the stack and handed Harry the first paper. He gaped at the front page. It had the appearance of what he supposed a 19th century newspaper might look like only the pictures moved. "Umm Ginny, don't know why I'm even asking, but why are the pictures moving?"
"All wizarding photographs move. It will move for a bit and then loop back to the start," she explained absentmindedly as she searched through the paper in her hands.
"Oh and by the way, any mention of Sirius Black will be outlined in the paper in red to make your search easier," she explained without taking her eyes from her article. "Um Harry, I'll separate anything I think you might find pertinent. We can requests copies of any article you might want to keep. They're usually a sickle for each article. I've enough on me for about ten or so articles if you like."
Harry smiled at her in appreciation. He hadn't thought he'd want to keep any articles, but now that she'd mentioned it he was grateful for the suggestion. Then it suddenly occurred to him that he'd like to see if there were any articles about his parents. He opened his mouth to ask her but then closed it. An irrational anxiety gripped him. Not yet. One thing at a time Potter. Focus on the here and now. He'd ask Ginny to come back at a later date; there was a certain trepidation yes, but anticipation and curiosity as well.
Back to the task at hand, he thought, opening the paper and rifling through it until he came to a birth announcement in the society page.
It is with great joy that the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black announces the birth of their first born son and heir Sirius Augustus Black on this Eleventh Nineteen Hundred and Sixty
Below the article was a picture of a sour faced woman, the man sitting at her side was scowling at the camera as if to negate the veracity of the birth announcement. Even the baby didn't look too happy to be clothed in what pretty much amounted to yards and yards of lace doilies. Harry chuckled.
Setting aside the paper in the do not copy pile that Ginny had started, he asked her for another. He found the article outlined in red in the gossip column whose byline was Rumor Has It.
Black Sheep Does a Runner
Rumor Has It by Pariah Prattle
Rumor has it that a certain young dog has left the kennel for greener pastures. A very prominent wizarding family has been heard to disparage the name of their first born pup for his less than purebred proclivities. Sources say, though not officially, that said offspring has been stricken from the family tree and soon will be stricken from the family will as well. Rumor also has it that our wayward little puppy has fled to the loving bosom of another distinguished and prominent family for shelter. Selfsame prominent family has a history of taking in strays, so it's of little surprise that another would be added to their kennel.
What the hell? Harry shook his head; he really couldn't make heads or tale of the article. Taking note of the date, he figured his godfather was about sixteen years old when the article was published. He assumed that the reporter was alluding to the fact that Sirius had run away from home. He turned to Ginny in hopes that she would be able to decipher the cryptic article.
She was worrying her bottom lip again, her brow furrowed as she read the article in front of her. She was sitting crossed legged on the chair with her elbows on the table. She looked rather small, almost childlike in the wide wooden seat. "Ginny, could you read this please? I've no idea what this reporter is talking about. I think she's implying that some kid ran away from home. Since she keeps making dog allusions I'm assuming she means Sirius Black."
She looked up at him, her eyes not quite focused as if she were still concentrating on the article she was reading. She shook her head slightly and then held out her hand for the paper without speaking and began to read. Her eyes skimmed the page quickly and automatically put the paper in the don't copy pile.
"Yes, that's probably it exactly. I vaguely remember an article with more detail about that when Sirius Black was exonerated back in my," she scrunched up her nose in thought. "I think it was my second year, but don't quote me on that." She paused in thought again. "I recall reading something about his 'having enough' of his family's pureblood bigotry and going to live with your grandparents, I think until he was of age."
She picked up the next edition from the pile and handed it over to Harry. "Here, I believe this contains the abridged –more like censored actually – trial transcripts, so those articles detailing his life should be in here." With that she returned to her own reading.
Sirius Black Arrested
By Verena Firinne
Sirius Black was arrested yesterday and sent to Azkaban without benefit of hearing due to the horrific nature of the crimes he committed. Sirius Black was confronted by Peter Pettigrew, a fellow Gryffindor housemate, in the middle of a Muggle street. Pettigrew accused him of betraying James and Lily Potter to the Dark Lord. The nature of that betrayal is as of yet unknown because Peter Pettigrew did not live long enough to tell the tale. Sirius Black raised his wand and, according to Cornelius Fudge Junior Minister for the Department of Magical Catastrophes, blew Peter Pettigrew to 'smithereens'.
Junior Minister Fudge is quoted as saying, "A crater in the middle of the street, so deep it had cracked the sewer below. Bodies everywhere. Muggles screaming. And Black standing there laughing, with what was left of Pettigrew in front of him … a heap of bloodstained robes and a few - a few fragments" The biggest part of Pettigrew they found was his finger. It took twenty members for the Magical Law Enforcement Squad to remove a still laughing Sirius Black from the scene.
Another article caught Harry's eye, though it wasn't highlighted.
War Crimes Tribunal Begins
By Verena Fírinne
"The choices we make today will have repercussions that reach far beyond the personal outcome of those that sit here accused today. The crimes committed against humanity were coldly and malignantly executed, actions so evil, so heinous that we cannot suffer them to be ignored lest we be forced to endure the repetition of these transgressions to be visited upon the next generation. We must temper our condemnation with justice and our malice with mercy." Opening statement by Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, November 10th, 1981
Harry read the trial transcripts more to become acquainted with the atmosphere present after the war than to gain any information regarding his godfather. He wanted to know how a man could be sent to prison without benefit of a trial and that became very clear to him based on the transcripts. Albus Dumbledore as Chief Warlock was present during the proceedings and while he would interject on behalf or against an accused, more often than not he appeared to be the only voice of reason during the trials. He even gave personal avowals of innocence to an inner circle Death Eater, Severus Snape, asserting that the accused had in fact been working as a double agent during the war.
The Chief Prosecutor, Bartemius Crouch Sr., was particularly harsh in his sentencing, though given the nature of the crimes presented Harry could not help but agree with judgments that were handed down. Other judgments, however, appeared too lenient. There were a few confirmed Death Eaters that were known to be in the Dark Lord's inner circle that were handed lifetime sentences when other minor players were given what was termed the Kiss which Harry assumed to be the wizarding world's idea of capital punishment.
Other more prominent members of society claimed to be under a curse that compelled them to perform horrific crimes in conjunction with other Death Eaters. This seemed so farfetched to Harry that he could not believe that such a thing was possible to be carried out on a single person for over a decade. That it would be allowed as a defense or that any credence could be given to their claims reeked of corruption.
He set aside the trial articles in the don't copy pile and proceeded to peruse the articles that fast forwarded twelve years to his godfather's escape from Azkaban prison and the resulting manhunt. There were several articles rehashing the war, its end and the trials ad nauseam. Almost a year later, it was discovered that Sirius Black was in fact innocent of the crimes he had been accused of. With the help of Albus Dumbledore and Remus Lupin, who was a friend of James Potter, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew during their Hogwarts years, it was discovered that Pettigrew was in fact alive. He had orchestrated his own death that November day in order to frame Sirius Black for his murder and Harry's parents' betrayal.
A tidbit of information that caught him by surprise was the fact that Pettigrew had been living as a rat with the Weasley family for those twelve years following the war. It came out during Pettigrew's trial that he, along with Potter and Black, were unregistered Animagi. Arthur Weasley was called to testify and several articles questioned his ignorance of harboring a known criminal for twelve years; however, after Dumbledore's endorsement of the Weasley family's patriarch, the speculation of culpability died a painless death. Harry made a mental note to ask Ginny about their involvement and to explain in detail about Animagi.
Directly after his exoneration, his godfather gave only one interview to the Daily Prophet regarding his time in Azkaban, how he came to escape and why. He gave a scant accounting of how he'd first contacted his friend, Remus Lupin, who had been teaching at Hogwarts at the time, and how he'd convinced him of his innocence and how they subsequently sought the aid of Dumbledore in proving his innocence to the wizarding world. After that one interview, the only mentions of Sirius Black were in regards to his attending Ministry charity events or decisions he'd made in the Wizengamot or donations to various charities. Other than those types of articles, which were rather rare, he seemed to be a bit of recluse.
Putting down the last article with a sigh, he sat back in his chair and stretched his arms above him, his bones cracking in the process.
"Done?" Ginny asked from beside him. She'd long since finished reading and had gone to request the copies of the articles he wanted to keep.
"Mmm," he affirmed pushing his glasses up to his forehead so that he could rub his tired eyes. He felt frustrated rather than satisfied with the information he'd learned. Yes, he knew facts about his godfather, but he didn't feel any closer to knowing the man.
Ginny stood behind him and began to kneed and rub his shoulders working out the kinks that had formed from sitting in the same position for so long and the tension he hadn't realized was there. "Let's go meet the twins at the Leaky. I'm starving, and we can discuss what we've read while we eat. How does that sound?"
Harry tilted his head back and stared at her from his upside down position. She lowered her own, her hair creating a curtain on either side of his face as they smiled at each other. He felt some of the tension pour out of him at her smile.
"Sounds great actually."
They walked back through Alley towards the Leaky in silence. Once inside the Leaky Cauldron it took his eyes a moment to adjust to the gloom inside the pub.
"Weasley," Ginny called out and received a staccato whistle in response. "Ah, there they are," she pointed out the twins who were sitting at a corner table.
"So dearest and favorite sister…"
"I'm your only sister," Ginny grumbled under her breath as she sat across from her brothers as Harry took a seat beside her.
"Yes, well be that as it may, you're still our favorite sister," the other twin, who Harry was pretty sure was Fred, said.
"Find what you were looking for at the library?" George questioned as he popped a chip in his mouth. "What were you looking for anyway?"
Ginny looked over at Harry who gave a slight not to her unasked question. "We were looking at old Prophet articles about Sirius Black."
The twins both looked at Harry with identical shrewd expressions on their faces. "That was smart of you," George asserted.
"I'm a smart guy," Harry rejoined, but before he could interject any further Harry was interrupted by the bar keep.
"What can I get you folks?"
"I'll have the fish and chips and a butterbeer please, Tom." Ginny requested.
Tom turned towards Harry for his order. "I'll have the same thanks."
"I'll be back with your orders then."
Once Tom was out of earshot the twins took up their questioning again, "So find out anything interesting?"
"Well I did find an interesting bit of news," Harry leaned forward conspiratorially.
"Oh, do tell," the twins responded in stereo.
"Well," Harry paused for affect. "I found out Peter Pettigrew lived in your house as a rat for twelve years."
The twins sat back in their chairs with a huff, "Damned Scabbers," Fred cursed.
Harry turned to Ginny for her reaction and unsurprisingly she was worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. "It seems as if I'm always apologizing for forgetting to tell you something or waiting for the right time. To be honest, I didn't know how to interject that into all the things I've already told you in the last few days."
"I'm not upset Ginny, just curious," he assured her.
Ginny smiled at him gratefully then turned to her brothers. "You guys tell it; I'm storied out." She slumped down onto the table cupping her face between her hands.
Harry chuckled at her theatrics then looked at her brother's with an exaggerated expression of excited curiosity.
"Those were dark times…"
"…Well yeah that's because it was nighttime."
"Ignore the man behind the curtain, and listen to the wizard of Devon."
"More like the cowardly lion, if you ask me."
"No one asked you…"
"…my boot up your arse."
Watching the shoving match that ensued made Harry wonder about the twins' sanity. "Gentleman!"
They stopped mid-shove and gave him a wide-eyed look, "Focus."
They nodded in unison and let go of each other's shirt collar, straightening them in the process and smoothing down their robes.
"Sorry," they said in stereo.
"Don't be sorry, just give the man the facts," Ginny interjected from his right. "They become a bit manic when confronted with a serious subject. Solemnity makes them nervous; they don't know quite how to act."
"You tell the story, Gred. I'll interject if you bollocks anything up," Hah, he was right, Fred was directly to his right and George to his left, this should make the ping-pong match that much easier to follow.
Fred gave George a rude hand gesture in response but then turned a serious face towards Harry. "Well, it really was an unsettling experience to know that we'd unknowingly been harboring a Death Eater in our home and treating it like a prized pet for twelve years."
Both George and Ginny nodded at Fred's statement. "Here we all were sitting down to supper one evening when who should Floo call but none other than the headmaster himself wishing to speak to our Dad."
"We didn't know what to think. The winter break had just started, so it couldn't be anything we'd done while at Hogwarts the previous term." George added.
"Didn't stop Mum for giving you an earful though," Ginny chuckled at their grimace.
"Yeah, well that's just a given with Mum, tirade first ask questions later." Fred grinned.
"You mean more like blame the twins first, hex second and ask questions later." This time the twins joined in the laughter at Ginny's words.
As soon as their laughter died down Fred continued with his story. "So anyroad, a half hour later or so our Dad comes home, goes up to Ron's room, comes back down with a sleeping Scabbers in his cage and proceeds to go back through the Floo to the headmaster's office."
"Now we're all really confused and Ron is particularly upset since Scabbers was his pet at the time…"
"I assume Scabbers was what you called Peter Pettigrew when he was a rat?" Harry asked to clarify.
"Yes, he'd been Percy's pet, but pretty much like everything at the Burrow Ron inherited Scabbers when Percy became a Prefect and he got an owl as his reward." Fred readily confirmed Harry's assumption.
"Anyroad, another hour or more later, supper and pudding are consumed, dishes washed, kitchen spotless and we're all at the dinner table sitting in our chairs as if Mum had hexed us there with a permanent sticking charm."
"The fireplace flares up once more, and there is our Dad with Albus Dumbledore in tow, asks for tea and begins to spin the tale that Scabbers is in fact Peter Pettigrew, and that the crazed mass murderer Sirius Black is actually innocent and there will be an inquest in the ensuing weeks where my Dad may be implicated for harboring a Death Eater." Fred seemed to summarize the events in one long breath, so much so that he heaved a deep sigh when he'd reached the end.
Allowing his twin to recuperate, George took up the story. "That we were all pretty much in a state of shock is the understatement of the century. Yeah, it was a shocker to think about Pettigrew hiding out in our house for all those years, but what really killed us was the thought that our Dad might face criminal charges for something he had no knowledge or control of."
"It was a pretty rough holiday for us," Fred agreed. "Nowhere near as bad as the previous summer but pretty damn close."
Ginny who'd been quietly listening to her brother's story cleared her throat lightly, causing them to turn their attention to her. "The accusation that he would knowingly give refuge to a Death Eater was laughable. Dad is rather proud of being known as a blood traitor."
"Dad's view on blood purity is well known and very unpopular in certain circles and the powers that be in the Ministry," Fred added. "The more agitated Mum became as the inquest date loomed, the cooler Dad became."
"Dad is the epitome of the 'still waters run deep' refrain," Ginny input. "People perceive our Dad to be a jovial, affable fellow, and he is, but faced with adversity or threats against his family and you see exactly why he was sorted into Gryffindor."
The twins nodded in agreement at Ginny's assertion. Harry could certainly recognize the pride that Arthur Weasley's children felt for their father. His favorite teacher at St. Jerome, Father Bean, always told Harry to judge a man not by what he says but what he does. It seemed that Mr. Weasley was a man of little words but great action.
"The week of the inquest was horrible. There was a battalion of reporters just outside our protection wards, and the things that were printed in the Prophet were terrible." Fred took up the story again.
George jumped in to add his bit as well. "Dumbledore personally represented our Dad. He came in and pretty much made the blowhard blood purists who had seats in the Wizengamot look like a bunch of fools; it was priceless."
"Dad was of course cleared of all charges," Fred said without missing a beat. "That didn't stop the Hogwarts' student body from giving us a hard time the next term."
"Bugger them!" Ginny exclaimed angrily, then gave the twins a wicked grin. "It sure did give us a lot of inspiration for the most wicked pranks on the worst of the bunch though, especially the Slytherins. That was a great term." Ginny sighed wistfully.
"That's because you're an evil witch," George crowed as the twins laughed at their sister's expression.
Harry waited for their mirth to run its course before he asked what he was most curious about. "So during the inquest did any of you have the chance to meet my godfather?"
It was George who answered. "No actually, our Dad did, and they've corresponded from time to time, a postcard at Christmas, but no we've never actually met him."
That was disappointing. He wanted to get their impressions on his godfather. Dry facts are all he had, and a large part of him wanted to let his curiosity about the man die a quick death - after all the more people he established a relationship with in the wizarding world the harder it would be for him to walk away. But he knew he was just being stubborn. He liked to do things in his own time and his own way, and he was just feeling overwhelmed by all he had seen and heard over the last few days. However, being able to talk to someone who knew his parents and who could give him answers was greater than his stubbornness. Thinking back on his conversation with Ginny he remembered why he'd come to England - for a connection to his past and to the family and heritage he had lost. He certainly wasn't going to let that opportunity pass.
He gave a deep sigh and slumped back in his seat. A few moments passed before he felt Ginny's fingers curl on his forearm. "It will be on your terms, Harry."
"Yeah I know." He looked into Ginny's eyes and saw nothing but compassion and concern in her expression. "My stubborn streak is wreaking havoc with my logic, but my curiosity just won't let it go."
One of the barmaids chose that moment to bring over their orders, levitating the plates beside their respective diner. George rubbed his hands together and proceeded to cut into his steak and kidney pie. "Well, no time like the present, ol' bean; there is an owl post office in the alley. And you can always ask our Dad about his take on Black."
Harry sighed. No time like the present. He really was beginning to hate that phrase.
Sirius and Remus materialized just outside the Apparition point coordinates given them by Dumbledore. He'd instructed them to walk east through a make-shift Quidditch pitch and a copse of trees, where they would come across what the Weasley's lovingly called the Burrow. They reacted the same way most people did when they first came across the ramshackle home: with a bit of incredulity and awe. They turned to each other smiled crookedly and said in unison, "Magic."
They crossed the yard, and just before they reached the steps the door swung open to reveal Arthur Weasley. "Good morning, Mr. Black; it's good to see you again, "he gave them a jovial smile as he extended his hand and shook each of theirs.
"Please call me Sirius, no need for formality with our history, and it's good to see you again after all these years."
"Only if you call me Arthur," he turned to the plump redheaded woman that was standing behind him. "This is my lovely wife, Molly. Molly this is Sirius Black and – Oh, I'm afraid I don't know your name."
"Remus, Remus Lupin. It's a pleasure to meet you both. I hope you don't mind my coming uninvited. I was very good friends with Sirius and James in school and I, well…"
Noting his discomfiture Molly Weasley rushed to assure him. "Not at all, we don't stand on formality here. There's always someone stopping by."
Sirius was trying to surreptitiously scan around for a glimpse of Harry.
"My daughter, Ginny, has gone to retrieve young Harry; they should be here momentarily," Arthur answered his unasked question with a sympathetic smile. "In the meantime can I offer you some tea? It's a lovely morning, so we thought we'd have breakfast outside." Arthur gestured towards a table that was set up on the far side of the yard under the shade of a tree a few yards from the house with two bench seats on either side.
"Yes, that would be wonderful, thank you." Sirius smiled gratefully and followed Arthur towards the table. It had five place settings that turned to six with a flick of Molly Weasley's wand. He noted that there was a butter dish along with a few jars of marmalade as well as clotted cream and sugar and lemon for their tea. As ramshackle as the house was, it also had a homey well-cared-for look about it. The scent of honeysuckle hung in the air, and the vines that clung to the trestle on the side of the porch and the lush white and purple hydrangea bushes at its side added to the quaintness of their home.
"I'll just bring the pot of tea, shall I," Molly offered as she walked back into the kitchen.
They made small talk about that morning's Daily Prophet article regarding Minister Fudge's bid for re-election until Molly returned with a rather large cast iron tea pot following in her wake. Sirius had been surprised to see that table was set with fine china.
"Tea?" and without waiting for a reply she poured tea into the cup at his place setting.
Silence followed, though not uncomfortably so as they each prepared their tea. Sirius was so consumed by his own musings and nervousness about the impending meeting that he was not aware that conversation had begun between the other three occupants of the table.
He felt Molly place a hand on his forearm; he shook his head to rid himself of the anxious fog he found himself in.
"You've nothing to worry about, you know." Her warm brown eyes bore into his own.
"Pardon?" Sirius asked perplexed.
"He's a fine young man, your Harry." She patted his arm reassuringly. "You've nothing to worry about. I don't think he's at all bitter about his upbringing or the hand that fate has dealt him. He's remarkably well adjusted considering the things he's had to endure and face in his young life," she explained, her voice a soothing balm to his distressed mind.
He felt himself relax a bit more under her words of reassurance; he looked over at Remus who gave him a smile of encouragement.
"Can you…would you mind telling me about him, at least what you know of him?" Sirius asked hesitantly.
He'd not felt this insecure since his childhood. He'd grown into a self-assured man, secure in the knowledge of his station in life. While he abhorred his family's obsession with blood purity, he could not deny the security and sense of entitlement that it provided him within wizarding society. He was not bigoted towards those who did not possess pureblooded status; he was however, an arrogant man. While his stint in Azkaban had tempered the condescension of his adolescent self, he could not deny the privileges his status bestowed. His place within the Wizengamot, his wealth, the deference he was afforded by others, and the power he wielded at the Ministry all served to mold him into the man he was today. His social status was more than likely the foundation of his initial friendship with James. They were both from Pureblood families, privileged sons of society. They had a shared commonality that drew them together an arrogance that can only come from the security of your place in the world.
That he was friends with Remus was a testament to his flaunting of the Ministry's and his family's intolerance when it came to dark creatures. He could give a Kneazle's arse that Remus was a werewolf. It mattered not to him. Remus by all accounts and purposes was a brother to him in every way but blood.
"Well," Molly looked towards her husband who gave her a nod to continue, "He's the spitting image of James Potter –"
"- but with Lily's eyes," Arthur interjected softly.
"Yes, they are quite stunning. Such a handsome boy. It's no wonder our Ginny seems so smitten with him. Though he seems to be a bit smitten himself. Wouldn't you say Arthur?" Molly looked across the table where her husband was seated next to Remus.
"Quite." Arthur affirmed a crooked smile affixed to his friendly face.
"I didn't see it at first, of course, because we weren't really looking for it." Noting what must have been the confusion written on his face, she clarified, "The fact that he looks so much like James Potter, the resemblance is quite striking once you're aware of who he is."
"As I told Albus he's really quite the remarkable young man. He's keenly intelligent but so unassuming and self-effacing," Arthur took over for his wife.
"That's Lily in him, no doubt. I told you he was Lily's child, didn't I?" Remus gave a bark of laughter his eyes shining merrily in his scarred face.
"Thank Merlin for that. One arrogant berk is enough," Sirius interjected with a deep sigh.
"Quite," Remus chuckled in response.
A barely noticeable displacement of air and the sound of bickering voices was the only warning they received as Harry and Ginny shimmered into existence a few feet away from the Burrow's porch.
"That was bloody brilliant Harry! That's a thousand times better than Side-Along." Ginny beamed at Harry who was sliding his hands along her arms and back as if to ensure that all of her limbs were in place.
"I still can't believe you talked me into doing that, Ginny," Harry's voice was disgruntled and scolding.
"I had complete faith that you could do it, Harry. Besides, what was the worst that could have happened?" Ginny cajoled, her hands placed firmly on his forearms. Her face lifted up to his with a teasingly open smile on her pretty face.
"Gee, I don't know Ginny; I could have left pieces of you all over England," he countered irritably.
"I'm sure I would have arrived with the parts you'd miss the most," she teased, her eyes gazing happily into his.
"Funny. You're a funny girl." Harry frowned at her disapprovingly but could not maintain his irritation for long at the look of outright admiration that shown in her eyes. He finally relented lowering his head to place a kiss upon her forehead that lingered longer than simple friendship would dictate.
Sirius for his part was transported once again by the sight. It was like looking at James and Lily when they'd first become a couple: the teasing and tenderness that followed their half-hearted bickering. He had no doubt that Molly and Arthur's words rang true; these two were well and truly smitten with each other.
Arthur Weasley cleared his throat, making the couple turn surprised eyes towards the group that was gathered around the table. They'd all stood in place at the table at the sound of their arrival. His godson had just Apparated through the Burrow's wards. How was that even possible?
Noting Harry's discomfiture Ginny gave all those present a welcoming smile as she walked forward, grabbing Harry's hand and tugging him along after her.
"Good morning, all," Ginny greeted. She released Harry's hand momentarily as she kissed her mum and dad who'd walked towards them to greet their arrival.
"You Apparated through the wards," Arthur commented to Harry as he shook his hand in greeting.
"Umm teleported," Harry said rubbing the back of his neck in a gesture so reminiscent of his father. "I teleported, and I umm didn't know I wasn't allowed to."
"Once again you prove that you're only limited by what you think you can do, Harry," Arthur rejoined jovially, as if Harry just appearing inside the wards, something that should not have been possible, was a commonplace occurrence. Sirius was baffled.
"Good morning, I'm Ginny Weasley. It's a great pleasure to meet you, sir." After greeting her parents, she'd taken Harry's hand again and pulled him along in her wake towards Sirius and Remus who were both openly staring at Harry.
It was obvious that their staring was making him a bit uncomfortable, but Sirius couldn't have willed himself to stop if his life depended on it. It was like looking upon James again; the memories painfully flooded upon his heart and mind.
He automatically responded to Ginny's introduction without taking his eyes off his godson, "Please call me Sirius."
Finally tearing his eyes away from Harry, he took Ginny's hand in both of his like a lifeline, flicking his eyes towards Remus as he tried valiantly to keep the tears at bay, a look of pleading in his eyes.
Remus came to his rescue as he diverted attention away from Sirius towards himself. "Good morning Ginny. I'm Remus Lupin, a friend of Sirius and Harry's parents." Ginny was hindered from offering her hands to Remus by the fact that Sirius still held them in his own. She either did not seem to notice or did not want to bring attention to the fact to spare his feelings, for which Sirius was eternally grateful.
He was vaguely aware of Remus taking Harry's hand in welcome but kept his attention on Ginny who was looking at the interaction between both men with a look of warmth in her eyes directed at James' son.
When he felt that he'd reigned in his emotions sufficiently he turned towards Harry once more to note that he was staring intently at Sirius with an indiscernible expression on his young face.
"Hi I'm Harry." He extended his hand, his expression open and friendly and Sirius felt a bit of his anxiety lessen.
Without knowing how, Sirius found himself holding Harry for the first time since that Halloween night when he'd relinquished his godson to Hagrid's care. It was an uncomfortable embrace his chin was pushed up against his godson's shoulder and Harry's arms were at his side. Sirius felt him immediately stiffen, and he consciously made to loosen his hold but his arms would not obey and just as he was about to step away he felt Harry raise his arms and pat him awkwardly on the back. They dropped their arms and stepped away from each other, Harry returned to Ginny's side taking her hand in his once more.
He lowered his eyes, his heart was heavy in his chest and his throat was tight, he cleared it several times before speaking. "I'm – I'm your godfather, Sirius."
Harry gave him a crooked smile, and once again Sirius was reminded of James. "So I've been told. It's good to meet you Sir."
"Ugh, Sir makes me feel so damned old. Just Sirius would be fine."
"All right, Sirius it is then," Harry agreed readily.
"Well I hope you're all hungry; I've made enough to feed a herd of Hippogriffs," Molly interjected happily. "Ginny, help me bring out the food."
"Sure Mum." She lifted her eyes towards Harry. "I'll be right out with Molly Weasley's famous scones." She gave Harry a cheeky grin and followed her mum into the house.
"Well gentleman, shall we have a seat." Arthur lifted his hand towards the table as they all preceded him to the benches. "There's tea in the pot, Harry. Go ahead and serve yourself."
"Thank you, Arthur." Harry poured himself a cup and poured another cup for Ginny. Sirius noted that he even prepared the tea for her with a dab of cream and a teaspoon of sugar. It made Sirius curious as to how long they'd known each other that he would know how Ginny Weasley liked her tea.
"How long have you been in England, Harry?" Sirius questioned.
Harry scratched the back of his head looking towards the kitchen door as Ginny and her mum exited, wands in hand, followed by platters filled to the brim. "About eight days," was his distracted reply.
Sirius himself was a bit overwhelmed. He'd not seen this much food on display at one sitting since Hogwarts. There were platters of fried, poached and scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fried beans and mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, scones and even crumpets.
"Molly, you shouldn't have gone to so much trouble." Harry looked up at the still standing Molly Weasley who was removing her pinny and banishing it with her wand.
"Nonsense, dear. This is pretty much a typical Weasley breakfast." At Harry's look of incredulity, she pointed towards Arthur Weasley who was currently piling his already full plate with a couple of fried eggs before passing the platter to Remus who was seated on his right.
"As thin as he is, that man has the appetite of a dragon. Where he puts it I'll never know. All of the Weasley's – Ginny included – eat their weight in food at every meal." Molly chuckled as she sat at the table next to Harry and took the platter of fried eggs from Remus, serving two for herself before passing it on to Harry. "Me, I'm a Prewett through and through. If I were to eat like them I'd not fit through the kitchen door. Merlin knows I do so love to eat what I cook, which is abundantly clear."
"You're pleasantly plump Molly, my dear," Arthur winked at his wife from across the table.
"And I'm just glad I've inherited the Weasley genes." Ginny winked at her mum as she placed a few links of sausage on her plate to add to the already growing pile of food.
"Oh, I don't know, Ginny. I'm sure you'd look just as beautiful as your mum pleasantly plump too," Harry teased.
Molly giggled at Harry's comment while Arthur reproached, "Charm your own witch there. Potter. One Weasley woman is all you can handle."
"No doubt. I'm not sure I can handle the one I've got," Harry joked back and outright laughed when Ginny smacked his arm with the back of her hand.
"Watch it, Potter, or you won't have anyone to handle," Ginny growled though her words and tone were bellied by the smile on her pretty face.
Sirius for his part was enjoying the easy banter and the comfortable atmosphere at the table. He noted the easy way in which Harry seemed to interact with the Weasleys, though according to Albus they'd only just recently met And if he'd only been in England eight days, how many of those were spent knowing Ginny Weasley? He must have met her a mere few days after he'd arrived, surely not enough time to establish their current level of comfort. They acted like a couple, though Sirius doubted that they were, but they certainly seemed to be going in that direction all ready.
They enjoyed their meal and each other's company, the conversation light and relaxed. Sirius asked about Arthur and Molly's children and Molly launched into a vivid description of each of her sons, their chosen professions, accomplishments and romantic interests or lack thereof. By the end he was shocked to learn that they had sevenchildren, with Ginny the only girl. Molly bragged about Ginny with the same enthusiasm that she extolled on her sons, much to her daughter's embarrassment if the blushes she gave in response were any indication. There was no doubt in Sirius' mind that Molly Weasley was very proud of her children. Arthur added very little to the conversation, just an interjection here and there, but Sirius could tell he was no less proud of his children by the wide grin upon his face.
All the while Sirius kept an eye on the interaction between Harry and Ginny. They would bow their heads towards each other talking in whispers, smiling and laughing. Every once in a while their hands would disappear beneath the table for a brief moment and then return to their meal.
After Molly and Ginny had cleared the plates and platters, banishing them with their wands to be washed in the kitchen, Molly poured rich dark coffee into their cups from a large coffee press. The clinking of spoons was a pleasant sound to fill the silence. Harry had a delighted look on his face when he took his first sip and thanked Molly for the coffee. She beamed with pleasure at his gratitude.
Harry looked at Sirius with a crooked smile. "I bet you've a fair few questions you'd like to ask me"
Sirius gave a loud bark of a laugh at Harry's statement. "A fair few."
"Well fire away; I have a fair few myself. Though truth be told, I've never talked so much about myself in my life than I have the last three days." Harry gave Sirius a self-deprecating smile.
"Well," Sirius paused to gather his thoughts, nervous once more about the enigma that was his godson. "I'm not really curious about where you've been, how you came to be in England and finding out about being a wizard; Albus filled me in about all those details pretty thoroughly, though I may have questions here and there. I'm much more curious about you."
Harry nodded his head in understanding but did not offer a reply to Sirius' unasked question. "I know a few details about you as well. Ginny and I went to the wizarding library and read quite a bit about you from archived Prophet articles."
Sirius was taken aback by Harry's revelation. He wondered what he'd taken away from those articles.
"I'd, well I'd like to get to know you, but that's something that only time and association can remedy," Sirius tried to explain as Harry's intense green eyes seemed to be boring into his as if to gain his measure, it was disconcerting.
"You're a grown man, Harry. I know you don't need a godfather at this point in your life, but I'd like to be a friend," he hoped that the desperation he felt was not evident in his voice.
At this Harry gave Sirius a wide smile. "I'm curious about you as well, and I could always use a friend," at this Harry paused and looked at Ginny who gave me a barely perceptible nod. "I – I do have some questions to ask you – about my parents," Harry cleared his throat and ran a nervous hand through his hair.
"Ginny told me a bit about what's known about their deaths and why, I – I guess, I'd like to know what happened, what you know of that night, and why." Harry looked at Ginny again their hands disappearing from view under the table.
"Merlin," Sirius let out a breath, he wasn't really prepared for that question. He should have been. Merlin knows he'd had the conversation in his head a thousand times before this meeting, but imagining it and being confronted with it were two completely different things.
It was Remus who broke the silence, "To answer the latter question we'll have to talk about the former first."
Sirius turned sharply towards Remus grateful for his friend's intercession on his behalf.
Harry turned serious eyes towards Remus, staring at him with the same intensity that he'd previously given to Sirius. "That makes sense. I want, no I need, to know what happened."
"Harry," Arthur Weasley waited for Harry to turn to him before continuing. "Why don't the three of you take a walk down by the river, give you all a chance to become acquainted, without having us under foot."
Sirius noted how Harry exchanged an unspoken conversation with Ginny, who nodded her head and gave him an encouraging smile. Harry stood, bending at the waist to give Ginny a peck on the cheek before looking towards himself and Remus. Extending his arm he motioned for them to follow in his wake towards the river.
They walked in silence towards the copse of trees that would, Sirius assumed, lead them to the river, allowing him time to gather his thoughts. He knew that he could not deny Harry the knowledge of his past and the link to his parents. He deserved to know what had happened that terrible night and the role he played in it. He only hoped that after he heard the story he had to relay that Harry could forgive him the sins of his past, the sins that had robbed Harry of a happy home. If Harry decided that he didn't want Sirius in his life once he related the events that led to James and Lily's death, then so be it, he'd accept his decision. What will be will be. Merlin, the thought alone made him catch his breath painfully.
He'd survived the anguish of the death of his dearest friends, betrayal by the hands of another, and endured the desolation of incarceration, but he feared that Harry's repudiation would be the one blow he could not overcome.
Harry sat in stony silence, his head in his hands.
I chose revenge over duty and responsibility to you.
I killed James and Lily.
The words were a constant loop through his mind, and he didn't know what to do or feel about them. Standing abruptly he walked to the water's edge much as he'd done that night with Ginny, trying to clear his mind.
He tried to conjure some emotions from the narrative of events that Sirius and Remus had given him, but the truth was he had none. It was like reading a book. He could conjure the emotions, but he could not internalize them. They did not belong to him; his parents were a like figment of his imagination, a child's fantasy.
He stared unseeing into the dark flowing waters of the river. He didn't hate Sirius Black for his role in his parents' deaths. Thinking about it logically, Sirius had not been much older than Harry was now.
I killed James and Lily. Fact: Sirius Black did not kill his parents. Voldemort cast the curse that killed them. His parents and Sirius made the choice to trust Peter Pettigrew. They made what at the time seemed the most prudent decision to make the least likely candidate the secret keeper. Unfortunately it cost them their lives.
I chose revenge over duty and responsibility to you. True, his life would have been vastly different had he been raised by his godfather, a man who knew and loved his parents and was devoted to him. He wouldn't have considered Harry a freak, wouldn't have abused and neglected him, and wouldn't have thrown him in a closet like so much rubbish or left him on the doorstep of an orphanage.
But would it have been for the better? Would he have lived with his godfather in hiding from a world that considered him a savior? Sure, he would have grown up knowing he was a wizard and attended Hogwarts at eleven like all wizarding children; but would he have been safe? Would he have lived under constant scrutiny? Would people expect him to live up to something that happened when he was barely out of diapers and had no recollection or control over?
Who knew? He certainly wasn't going to second guess or be bitter about a life that could have been better but also could have been much worse than the one he had lived up to that point. His experiences had molded him into the man he was today, and he thought he'd turned out pretty damn good.
Yeah, his godfather had made some bad decisions with some pretty fucked up consequences, but he did not hate him for it.
What he still did not understand was why his parents had been targeted in the first place. Sirius said that they had defied the Dark Lord, a guaranteed death sentence, and yet they'd escaped him three times. But surely they were not the only ones? So why would Voldemort target his parents specifically?
Heaving a deep sigh he returned to the conjured armchair. "I don't blame you…"
"I blame myself," Sirius growled.
"I don't blame you," Harry repeated forcefully. "I don't hold you responsible for their deaths. The fault lies at the feet of Pettigrew and Voldemort." Sirius and Remus winced at the mention of Voldemort's name, something Harry didn't quite understand. It was a ridiculous name, it sounded like some sort of foot fungus for fuck sake.
He stared intently into his godfather's eyes willing him to see the truth of his words. Sirius dropped his eyes. "I will live with the guilt for the rest of my life."
Harry had to strain his ears to hear the whispered, anguished words. "The only thing you are guilty of is trusting one of your best friends. That's not exactly an unforgivable sin. Did you make the wrong choice? Yes. But there is no way you could have known Pettigrew would betray my parents. If you want to hold yourself responsible, remember that my parents also put their trust in him, so they are just as culpable as you."
After a long moment without lifting his head, Sirius nodded. A pregnant pause followed where the only sound that could be heard were the rivers currents and the rustling of the leaves in the wind.
"I've a question though," Harry interjected in to the silence.
Sirius nodded his head in assent. When Harry remained quiet Sirius lifted his head and gave his godson an inquisitive look.
"Why my parents? Why did this Voldemort go after my parents, and why would he kill me? I mean I was just a baby. What threat could I have possibly posed?"
Sirius' eyes flicked to Remus before answering, "At first we, James and I, assumed there was an informant among the Death Eaters, someone that only answered to Dumbledore. We assumed that the mole told Dumbledore that they were being targeted. It wasn't until a few days before we cast the Fidelius Charm that Dumbledore told James and Lily the truth."
When his godfather didn't elaborate, Harry sighed in exasperation and prodded, "What truth was that?"
"Dumbledore was the recipient of a prophecy."
Harry snorted at the pronouncement, "A prophecy?"
"He was present when a Seer went into a trance and related a prophecy that was quickly approaching; there were two possible candidates: your parents, as well as another couple, Frank and Alice Longbottom."
Harry raised a skeptical brow. "Right." He drew out the word incredulously. "So on some wacko's word my parents went into hiding over a prophecy where they were possibly involved? What a load of horseshit."
Sirius opened and closed his mouth as if trying to come up with a response to Harry's skepticism.
"Harry, you weren't raised in our world. Prophecies, while not commonplace, are taken very seriously; there is even a hall of records at the Ministry where such things are kept, though it's not common knowledge. You shouldn't scoff at them out of hand. They are quite real." Remus gently admonished when Sirius was unable to respond to Harry's derision of what he took very seriously.
Harry sighed deeply, trying to take control of his cynicism over the absurdity of what he was hearing. He was a logical person and logic dictated that prophecies were nothing more than the spoutings of a charlatan. "I'll suspend disbelief for the moment. Please continue."
Remus nodded his head in acceptance of Harry's temporary acquiescence. "I wasn't aware of the circumstances behind your parents' sequestering, only that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had targeted them for extermination and that they were going into hiding. I didn't know where or when it would take place, only that they would be in hiding for an indefinite time."
Sirius cleared his throat gruffly. "As you know from the articles from the Prophet and to my eternal shame we thought that Remus was the traitor, so he didn't know about the prophecy until I escaped from Azkaban and told him everything I knew of the events. I told him about the prophecy, our switching secret keepers, everything."
"Yes, I know. We've already gone through all of this. I just can't believe that my parents went into hiding over a ridiculous prophecy that may or may not have been about them," Harry bit out exasperated with the whole conversation. This was just too ridiculous to be believed.
"Regardless of whether or not you believe in prophecies, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did!" Sirius, Harry could tell, was trying to rein in his impatience with his godson.
Something occurred to Harry, "Wait a second. How did Voldemort…" Sirius and Remus had been wincing every time Harry had mentioned Voldemort, and he'd about had it. "Oh for fucks sake; it's just a name! How did Voldemort know about the prophecy if Dumbledore was the only one who heard it?"
"According to Dumbledore a Death Eater overheard part of the prophecy and told He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named what he'd heard."
"Let's say I believe that for now, and let it go at that. Do you know what the prophecy said?" Harry asked, the disdain evident in his voice.
Sirius opened his mouth to retort but closed it when he felt Remus' hand upon his shoulder. Remus who had been quietly listening to the interaction between Harry and Sirius chose to respond to Harry's comment.
"Harry, I know you mean no disrespect to your parents' memory. I don't expect you to believe the prophecy out of hand, but your derision in regards to the prophecy and your parents' reaction to it gives that impression. I know you don't believe in it, but Dumbledore, your parents and Sirius and more importantly He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did."
Harry absorbed his words and took them to heart. He didn't realize why his reaction to the prophecy affected Sirius. He truly meant no disrespect, but his attitude of disbelief and contempt gave that impression.
"I'm sorry; I didn't realize how my reaction would be construed. I'm not by nature a fanciful person. I'm ruled by logic, and I rarely believe what I'm told out of hand. I meant no disrespect to their memory." Harry's tone was conciliatory and respectful.
"I'm sorry for my reaction as well; it's still painful even after all these years." Sirius was equally contrite for his behavior to Harry's attitude towards the prophecy. It was very evident to Harry that Sirius was still grieving for his friends.
"Do you know what the prophecy was about, the exact words?" Harry asked again.
Sirius and Remus shook their heads. "No," they said in unison.
Sirius gave a disgruntled growl. "Only Dumbledore is aware of the exact wording. Neither the Seer, nor the Death Eater that told Voldemort knows the full content."
Harry was surprised by that particular revelation. "My parents never told you?"
Sirius shook his head. "No. James told me they would honor Dumbledore's wishes that they keep the knowledge to themselves. They only told me that you were involved."
Harry sat with his head bowed and hands dangling between his knees contemplating his godfather's words. It seemed the more he pursued information, the more questions he had. The facts he'd attained so far about his godfather, while edifying, didn't really bring him any closer to knowing the man himself or bring him any closer to knowing the full truth about his parents' deaths.
While he didn't believe in prophecies, his parents had died to prevent its occurrence, and the only one who knew its full scope was Dumbledore himself. More questions.
He'd have to go to Hogwarts as he'd promised Ginny and talk to Dumbledore; he owed himself and his parents that much.