Title: Heart and Soul
Summary: The Dementor attack on Harry during the summer after his fourth year leaves him on the verge of having his wand snapped. Unwilling to leave anything to chance, Sirius Black sets events into motion which will change Harry's life forever.
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe is owned by JK Rowling. I do not claim ownership, or do this for any monetary gain, and fully understand she can shut me down any time she pleases.
Author's Thanks: Thanks to Cibbler and Déjà Vu for looking over the initial chapter and for glancing over my outline and telling me where I'm messing up. Also thanks to texan-muggle who has kindly lent his assistance for this clean up.
"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."
Prologue – Momentous Events
It was unfortunate but true—there were far too many similarities between Azkaban and 12 Grimmauld Place.
Of course, many would consider such a statement maudlin at best and outright farcical at worst. After all, how could a house—admittedly a run-down, gloomy mansion straight from a Muggle horror movie—be the equal of the most feared wizarding prison in the world, one which few, if any, were known to leave with their lives, much less their sanity, intact? For instance, while an inmate at Azkaban could expect no more than a small, dank, dirty, and cheerless cell, Grimmauld Place was at least spacious, with three levels, all of which were available to a tired and bored occupant.
But therein lay the similarities once again, as the accessible space in which to wander was no cheerier than the cell back in the prison had been, decorated as it was by dark, peeling wallpaper, a row of severed elf heads, and gloomy, threadbare furnishings, among other decorations, all equally cheery and attractive. And whereas the prison of Azkaban boasted some of the vilest creatures to ever roam the earth, the great house at Grimmauld Place boasted its own version of evil and horror: a house-elf who wandered around the house muttering about Blood Traitors, Mudbloods, and filthy, nasty masters and a painting of a dead, bitter old madwoman who berated everyone who didn't live down to her low standards. In a word: everyone.
It was an uncharitable thought about his mother, perhaps, but Sirius Black was nothing if not honest, and his life experiences had jaded him beyond the point of making meaningless excuses for his less than worthy relatives, even before his extended sojourn in Azkaban. His whole family, while most had not been Death Eaters, had certainly held similar beliefs with Voldemort and his merry band of crazies and had, as a whole, been about as pleasant as a nest of hungry acromantulas—and almost as personable too. Unfortunately, the décor in their main domicile had matched the family attitudes quite nicely—it had not been a cheery place growing up, especially for one who by inclination had never espoused the same ideals as his family.
The sun was setting in the west, illuminating the walls of the room in the softest pastels—yellows, oranges, and pinks, all mixed together, creating a brighter atmosphere in the old house than it would ever see at any other time of day. The room was large, and like the rest of the old house, the furnishings tatty. The wallpaper, where it had not completely worn down to the wall behind, was faded and gray, not that even whole it would have inspired any more than a glance and a shudder. But this room did have one redeeming feature—it was the home of his one faithful companion, Buckbeak, the hippogriff who was as highly sought after as Sirius himself.
Sighing, Sirius patted the sleeping hippogriff on the head and leaned back in his chair. He had never liked this house and could not remember having spent more than a few moments in his mother's room as a youngster. Even then, from what he could remember of his few times in this room, the room had been decaying, much as the rest of the house—falling into ashes as the proud history of his family crumbled along with it. At one time, the Blacks had been among the most respected and influential families in all of wizarding Britain. The changes in their family fortunes did not happen overnight, but although he was aware many of his family would have disagreed, to Sirius it was obvious that the decision of his ancestor Antares Black to support the dark forces began their decline. For more than four centuries, the Blacks had made a point of living up to their dark name, causing their former power to be sapped as the family died supporting lost causes and evil Pureblood agendas. Now, he was the last of the once strong family to bear the name—of his three cousins, one had been disowned, and all had married others and now bore different names.
And although he did not like to admit it, he was also painfully aware that centuries of inbreeding had contributed to the downfall. Just one example was his mother, whose maiden name had been Black—she had been a cousin of his father, Orion. There were far too many instances of such matches in his family tree, and Sirius had been desperate since he had understood the ramifications of such close marriages to avoid the same. Breaking the cycle of dark leanings and inbred marriages would, he hoped, change his family's fortunes and give his children a happier growing environment than the one to which he had been subjected.
Sirius snorted bitterly, causing his faithful companion to open one baleful eye in reproach before closing it and snuggling contentedly down into the mattress once again. The antics of his companion went largely unnoticed as Sirius stared at the walls of his mother's chamber, a tear slipping silently down his cheek in regret for the path his life had taken. There had been so much promise, so much to look forward to, now all turned to ashes.
He remembered the dreams of a group of teenage boys, dreams which now did not have a hope of coming true. Their sons (of course, the Marauders would all have first-born sons) would play together, eventually taking Hogwarts by storm, carrying on their fathers' tradition of pranks, mischief, and enmity with the hated Slytherins. Their families would grow closer and closer, forming a powerful force in the wizarding world, promoting change and equality for all, making their world a better place.
And where were they all now? Pettigrew, a traitor, betraying Sirius's best friend to his most hated enemy; Remus, growing old before his time due to his affliction and the life he had lived; Sirius, having spent most of his adult life in the worst hell on earth for the crimes of another; and James, now dead these fourteen years… all lost, ashes like all of their dreams for the future.
James—Merlin, how he missed James! The Marauders had been close in their mischief and adventures, although Peter had always been somewhat of an outsider even then, but Sirius and James had been like brothers, certainly closer than Sirius had ever been to his own brother.
A rare smile lighting his features, Sirius thought back to the day he had first met James. As a young boy of eleven, Sirius had been frightened at the prospect of going out into the world, but paradoxically, had been equally frightened at the thought of remaining in the decrepit old house which had been his home. Not knowing much beyond the world his parents had weaved for him, the only thing the young Sirius had known for certain was that the vitriolic Pureblood dogma, spouted so often by his mother, had somehow never sat well with him, although he certainly could not have claimed to have much experience beyond the confines of his home, his parents' circle of friends, and the few playmates he had had from among the children of his parents' friends.
Enter James Potter, one who Sirius knew immediately was a political enemy of his family, and Sirius could not help but be immediately charmed by his newfound friend's self-confidence and disarming charisma. Even at a young age, James had had a presence about him, much the same as his son had evinced many years later, Sirius decided after some reflection. They had become instant friends on that train to Hogwarts, and by the time they had reached the hallowed halls of the ancient institution, Sirius had known what his life had been missing amongst the conniving and hate-filled halls of his former house.
The Sorting Hat had certainly picked up on Sirius's strongest characteristic, as he was soon to find out, for it took a substantial measure of bravery to go against Lady Walburga Black. Not only had Sirius become the only member of the Black family other than his Aunt Andromeda to be sorted into a house other than Slytherin (even his great-aunt Dorea, who had defied her parents and married a Potter, had been a Slytherin), but even Andromeda had not had the audacity to be sorted into the much-hated house of Gryffindor alongside the aforementioned Potters, Blood Traitors, and enemies to the house of Black for centuries. Within days of the event, word had made its way back to his mother, who had responded with a steady stream of Howlers and diatribe-filled letters and communiqués to the Headmaster that he had made a mistake. His parents had even undertaken a journey by Floo to Hogwarts, demanding the Headmaster repeat the Sorting so their eldest could be removed from the "house of Blood Traitors" and placed back into the place for all "proper Pureblood wizards". Her anger and spite upon Dumbledore refusing her demand had been loud and long, but to the relief of the young boy, the Headmaster had stood firm, stating the Sorting Hat's decision was final, unless other factors made a student's position within a house untenable. Such was not the case in this situation.
Swearing her son was betraying the family, his mother was forced to retreat from the school in defeat, but not before informing Sirius, in a loud and wrathful manner, he was not allowed to return home for Christmas.
"You may stay in the house of traitors and cowards, if it means so much to you, but in my house, you are not welcome."
To that very day, Sirius was able to recall the exact words of her denunciation, the crazed look in her eyes, the spittle which flew from her foam-flecked lips, and the cold, austere stare his father had fixed upon him as he looked on with disdain.
Sirius chuckled, remembering his mother had always been the spokesperson of the family, while his father had always looked on in disapproving silence. In fact, his father, a dour, gaunt sort of man, had rarely, in Sirius's memory, spoken up or distinguished himself in any sort of manner. Sirius was uncertain whether this was by choice or by necessity, but he suspected his father had been a rather notable example of the perils of inbreeding. There simply was nothing remarkable or of note to remember him by.
As a result, cut adrift from his family, the young Sirius would have been lost were it not for his new friendship with young James Potter. Quickly figuring out the problem, James had immediately sent a message off to his father, receiving a response the next day, complete with an invitation to join the Potter family for Christmas. From that day forward, they were inseparable, becoming the brothers in spirit which James never had and sharing a closeness Sirius had never experienced with his own brother, Regulus.
Of course, Lord Potter had been a little distant and more difficult to get to know than his son, hardly surprising since the elderly man had lived with enmity with the Black family his whole life. But once Sirius had come to know the man, he had become almost like a surrogate father for a young boy in need of someone to look up to. In a way, James's father was as responsible for the man Sirius had become as was James himself—and certainly more than his father or any others of his family could be credited, even if they did want to take credit, considering the fact that Sirius had essentially turned his back on centuries of family political and philosophical leanings. Although he was called back to his parents' home on occasion over the years (generally in an attempt to persuade him of the "error of his ways"), from that point forward, Sirius spent much of his time with James's family, finally being disowned by his own at the age of sixteen. His father had died only a year after he completed Hogwarts, his mother following five years later. Although he had been disowned by his mother, it was supreme irony that his father had never made it official, perhaps realizing his brother Regulus was likely not destined for a long life as a minion of the Dark Lord (prophetic in hindsight). And with his incarceration being illegal due to his never having been convicted of any crime, Sirius retained his rights as Lord Black upon his father's death, regardless of his time in prison, whereas if his father had made his banishment from the family official, then Draco Malfoy, as the nearest relation to his father, would have assumed the title of Lord Black, greatly enhancing the rich, yet relatively new, family's fortunes and prestige.
The portrait of his mother now hung in the entrance hall to the old house, convincing Sirius it had been placed there to torture him and him alone. The first time he had ventured into the house after his escape from Azkaban, his mother had praised him for finally "seeing the light" and betraying those awful Potters to his rightful lord, her malicious and contemptible visage fairly glowing with glee at the demise of Sirius's closest friend. He swore his ears still rang with the shrieks his mother had made when he had told her, contempt dripping from his voice, that he had not betrayed his friends and certainly considered the monster to whom she so freely gave praise the lowest form of scum to be found. Only the memory of her wrath could bring a smile to his lips, as he finally gave the hateful old woman a dressing down he had longed to give during her lifetime.
As amusing as it was to bait his mother, Sirius found that today his mind could not stay focused, and once again his thoughts drifted back to his lost friend, and the melancholy which had become his constant companion once again settled into his soul. The death of James had left a hole which still felt like a gaping wound, even now, more than thirteen years later. He had hoped to begin healing the damage through a relationship with James's son—his godson—once his name had been cleared and he could take up his duties as Harry's godfather, but once again things had gone sour.
Sirius cursed loudly at his mistake—if only he'd thought to keep Pettigrew bound and unconscious until he had been safely handed over to the proper authorities, ensuring that the rat would finally reap his rewards for his nefarious deeds, then things would have turned out very different. With the rat being proven to be alive, Sirius was certain Wizengamot would finally have been forced to grant his long-delayed trial and the travesty of justice would finally have been overturned under the effects of Veritaserum. Then, he could have been granted custody of the young man and begun the task of improving his life, finally fulfilling the vow he had made to James as a young man to watch over and protect his young son. The whispers in the back of his consciousness, that he had been in no shape at the time to be responsible for a teenage boy, he conveniently pushed back to the recesses of his mind to be ignored.
No, instead the rat had fled and Sirius had been forced to continue in this half existence, hiding, skulking, avoiding the authorities as the most hunted man in magical Britain, wishing desperately he had some way to be useful, not only to Harry, but also in the fight to oppose Voldemort. His forced exile was seriously beginning to grate against his nerves, which had already battered by years of Dementor exposure.
The first months of his freedom had been trying, but he had made it through, intent on the need to protect his godson and bring the traitor Pettigrew to justice. Although the second goal had been unsuccessful, Harry's safety was by far the most important consideration, and Sirius had been persuaded by Dumbledore to go to a safelocations so he could begin to heal. His sojourn in the South Pacific had been restful and soothing, but his subsequent return to Britain due to Harry's inclusion in the Tri-Wizard Tournament had put him back on the run. Unable to bear being far away from Harry during his trials in the tournament, Sirius had decided to resume his Animagus form again. He had hidden out in a cave in the nearby mountains, near enough to Harry to be of use if necessary, hoping his nearby presence would give the boy a sense of confidence in the damnable tournament if nothing else. Between trying to be there for Harry, and trips back to Grimmauld to look through some of James's old papers, trying to find some way to improve Harry's life and assume his role of guardian, even if unknown to the general populace, Sirius had at least been busy enough that his own problems had become secondary, and therefore, largely forgotten.
However, once that had all been resolved, it had been back to Grimmauld Place, and this time, there was no escape from the disgusting old house; although he would cheerfully have gone back to the South Pacific and sat on the beach, Dumbledore had cautioned against it. Now that Voldemort had returned, even though the official line from Fudge was that his return was impossible, the Ministry was on the lookout for him leaving the country. That—and the fact that they had stepped up the search for him within the confines of Britain itself—meant Grimmauld had now effectively become his prison, much as Azkaban had been before it.
The worst part of his situation was the feeling of uselessness, which pervaded his entire being. He wanted—he needed to be of use to his godson. His promise to James upon the birth of the little sprog remained unfulfilled, wrecked by his impulsive decision to pursue Wormtail instead of caring for Harry as was his duty. He had no way of knowing if he still would have been thrown into Azkaban without trial for betraying James and Lily, but at the very least he would have been more coherent when the questioners came rather than standing dazed in the middle of a war zone, slapped in manacles, and carted off before he was aware of what was happening. He had failed Harry once, but he was determined the experience would not be repeated.
Harry—a part of him was amazed they had become as close as they had in so short a time. The adventure at the end of Harry's third year had forged a bond between them which could only be possible under the most stressful of situations, and the limited time they had been in one another's company had only served to strengthen it. Looking at his godson, Sirius could only be astonished at the resemblance he showed to his parents. He had traces of Lily in him—the eyes, which everyone commented on, being the most obvious—but otherwise, he was his father's son. Give him the brown eyes of his father, and Sirius would have been hard pressed to tell them apart.
In temperament, though, Harry was much more like his mother than his father. Lily had been introspective and studious, quiet until provoked, and then like a hurricane—tempestuous in her fury, but quickly calming once that fury had been spent. And although Harry was not as confident as his mother, his quiet and introverted nature was eerily similar to the woman Sirius had known. James, by contrast, had been brash and self-assured, even as a boy of eleven, likely to get into mischief, as his career as a Marauder later attested to, and to be honest, somewhat of a bully until age and experience had tempered his youthful exuberance. In other words, nothing like his quiet son, although Sirius suspected Harry's experiences with his relatives were a major cause of his demeanor. The mere thought of those horrid Dursleys caused Sirius's fists to clench in rage. If he had anything to do with it, Harry's removal from that house at the end of this summer would be his last.
Knowing his anger would not solve anything, Sirius forced himself to calm down, and his thoughts to return to his former musings. The other major player in both Lily and James's life was a certain dark and broody potions master. Sirius knew that much of James's problems with Snape—and what had occurred after—were in a large part due to their differences in temperament and their reactions to each other. Snape had immediately dismissed James as an arrogant Pureblood (Sirius had be to be honest and acknowledge the charge was to a certain extent true), while James had responded in kind, calling Snape a "greasy git" and an antisocial loner (in this sense, James had been completely correct). The two had struck sparks immediately, and the enmity between Slytherin and Gryffindor had certainly not helped.
If it had not been for Lily—who knew Snape before coming to Hogwarts—there likely would have been nothing more than a simple dislike between the two young men rather than the full-blown rivalry and hatred which eventually blossomed. Although Lily had been initially repulsed by James's manners and arrogance, he had quickly caught on to her displeasure and changed some things about himself, not only to impress Lily, but also—as he told Sirius several times—because it was the right thing to do, in order to improve himself. It was then that the man James was to become was truly unleashed, as he became more studious, more tolerant to others, and more at peace with who he truly was. He became and a better friend than ever—as true a leader as Sirius had ever seen.
This, of course, had the effect of improving his relationship with Lily to the point that by their fourth year the two had become almost inseparable, and Lily, although she was too studious and rule-oriented to ever actively participate in their mischief, became an unofficial member of their group, and in the process drew almost as close to James's friends as James himself. Sirius had even harbored a crush for the beautiful young witch for some time, but knowing how close Lily and James were—and suspecting there would never be anyone in her life to match James—he decided early on he would not invite the heartache of unrequited love. Instead, he had decided to control his feelings and be happy for them. Anything else, he suspected, would have driven a wedge between him and his closest friend, causing rivalry and bitterness, and likely dissolving their friendship.
Unfortunately, a direct consequence of James's improved relationship with Lily was her distance and eventual estrangement from her childhood friend. To say Snape was unhappy with the closeness between his closest friend and his greatest enemy would be a gross understatement, and the two had had many disagreements and outright fights over the matter. What Sirius had feared would happen between him and James had actually happened between Lily and Snape, to the point that by the middle of their fifth year the two former friends would not even acknowledge one another, let alone speak to each other. It was obvious Snape had blamed James for the loss of his friend (some cynical members of their group had insisted Lily had been Snape's only friend), increasing his bitterness and hostility.
Without a doubt, this had led to an escalation to the rivalry between the two antagonists, and Snape's openly hostile and vindictive behavior toward James had been actively reciprocated by the Marauders. It had finally come to a head when their sixth-year Defense professor had had the bad judgment only weeks into the term to pair them off for a dueling exercise in class. Unsurprisingly, insults had been thrown back and forth, unsuitable hexes and curses had been exchanged, and the encounter had degenerated into an all-out war between the two, the final result of which was that they had both landed in the hospital wing. Dumbledore had then stepped in, taking both Snape and James aside and informing them in no uncertain terms that their bitter rivalry had no place within the halls of Hogwarts—any further action between the two would result in significant repercussions, not excluding expulsion from school.
Their relationship after that could only be characterized as a cold war—neither relaxed in the presence of the other, and all their professors were careful not to pair them up or leave them alone for any reason whatsoever (not that it was a good idea to ever mix students from Gryffindor and Slytherin without excessive supervision). Things had continued in this vein until late in the seventh year, when it had become evident Snape had become a Death Eater. Sirius and Remus had discussed it, and then cornered Snape alone one night just before curfew, without informing James or Lily what they were doing. What had followed had been an object lesson in the perils of crossing the Marauders and an ultimatum for Snape to stay away from Lily and James—any attempt to contact them, or attack them in the service of his new master would be met with lethal force. The memory of an ashen Snape quivering in the corridor where they had left him was still impressed upon Sirius's memory almost a decade and a half later.
From that moment forward, Snape had avoided the Marauders assiduously, but although he could not prove it, Sirius suspected James and Lily's betrayal had been in some way influenced by the man. Whether he had somehow gotten past the mutual animosity and recruited Peter or had in some fashion passed off information to Voldemort which had been instrumental in his pursuit of the Potters specifically, Sirius could not say, but his memory of seeing Snape on their last day of their seventh year would not leave him. His expression had been one of revenge at all costs. Heaven help the man if Sirius ever discovered the truth of the events which had lead up to his friends' deaths—Merlin himself would not be able to save Snape against Sirius's wrath.
The sound of a chime broke through Sirius's musings and he stood and stretched. Although he had donated the old manor to the Order to use as a safe house (the primary occupants being, of course, himself and Buckbeak) and as headquarters, other than regular meetings of the order, there was not much in the way of traffic, which meant Sirius was left largely to his solitary musings. Periodically, though, someone would stop by for some reason or another, and Sirius did not much care who they were—as long as they could break up the monotony of his life.
Giving Buckbeak a final pat on the head, to which the hippogriff wuffed softly, Sirius exited the room and made his way down the stairs and into the main hallway on the ground floor. His arrival sent the painting of his mother into fits, presumably berating him once again for his "unfortunate" choices, but Sirius merely grinned cheekily and flipped a jaunty salute. The silencing charm he had finally figured how to lay around the portrait had caused her, if it were possible for a ghost, to experience an apoplectic fit, but for once, the silence suited Sirius quite well. Smiling to himself and thinking just how good it was to tweak his mother's nose, Sirius entered the front sitting room, where the fireplace was located.
He instantly knew there was something wrong. Although it was not unusual for Dumbledore to arrive at Grimmauld unannounced, the characteristic grandfatherly smile and twinkling eyes were absent and his visage held a look of concern and anxiety.
"Ah, Sirius, I was about to go looking for you," Dumbledore greeted him as he dropped into one of the armchairs, his hunched shoulders and almost boneless manner, generally foreign to the usually spry and active (especially for his age) Headmaster, betraying his weariness.
After staring at him with concern for several moments, Sirius finally followed suit and sat, already bracing himself for whatever news had rattled the usually imperturbable man. "What's wrong, Albus? I presume this is not a social call."
Dumbledore shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing in response. "Though I wish it were, alas, I fear it is only the beginning."
"It's Harry, isn't it?"
Dumbledore chuckled ruefully, causing Sirius to reflect that almost everything seemed to revolve around Harry. He was a flashpoint, a true magnet for trouble—as his time in Hogwarts had proved—whether he wanted to be one or not.
"Yes, Sirius, it is. I have just spent the past several hours in an emergency session of the Wizengamot, trying to overturn the ministry's decision to expel young Mr. Potter from Hogwarts."
Sirius was aghast at the Headmaster's words. "Expelled from Hogwarts?"
"I was able to convince them he should be allowed to tell his side of the story, although it was not easy and may have used up what political capital I have left."
"I think you had better start at the beginning, Albus," Sirius responded, still confused as to why the ministry could possibly be considering expelling his godson from Hogwarts. "What happened?"
Sighing yet again, Dumbledore glanced over at Sirius, his demeanor more wretched than Sirius could ever remember seeing. "It appears young Harry and that whale of a boy he calls his cousin were attacked by Dementors this afternoon."
Whatever Sirius had expected, Dementors was certainly not on the list. "Dementors? In Little Whinging?"
"I am afraid so, Sirius," Dumbledore confirmed.
"Is he all right?"
"Young Harry is fine. You have seen his Patronus—a mere two Dementors is child's play for the young man."
"So only two?" At Dumbledore's nod he continued, "But why? How did they end up so far from Azkaban?"
"Unfortunately, I have no answers, Sirius. I was called in by Arthur Weasley late this afternoon—he had gotten wind of the Trace detection and the actions carried out against Harry by the Improper Use of Magic Office. I Apparated to Little Whinging immediately and spoke with Harry myself. He and his cousin were set upon by two Dementors. Harry chased them away and helped his cousin home. Although Harry was not affected to any great extent, his cousin was still in bad shape from the attack."
"I went to the Ministry building immediately, but the notice had already gone out."
Sirius winced. "It was bad, I assume?"
"Standard procedure," Dumbledore replied with a shrug. "As this was not his first incident, it was considered a repeat offense. He was to be detained pending a hearing and have his wand snapped immediately."
"Without them even asking why?" Sirius was enraged now—the Ministry was messing with his godson, and he was not about to sit back and do nothing. "Isn't that what the term Reasonable is all about in the statute? How can the Ministry be so stupid?"
"It is not so much stupid, as deliberately obtuse. Minister Fudge, in his infinite wisdom, has decided that Voldemort "simply can't have returned" and has responded to the threat in the time-honored tradition of burying his head in the sand rather than attempting to determine if Harry is telling the truth."
Nodding in response, Sirius responded, "I know all about Fudge denying Voldemort's return, but what about the Dementors? How can Fudge possibly hide the presence of Dementors in a Muggle area from the people?"
"Simple. The Dementors are under the control of the Ministry and therefore could not have been so many miles away from Azkaban. Thus, Harry must be lying and must be punished."
"But this is a Patronus, Albus. This isn't casting a levitating spell or turning his cousin into a pig. How can the Ministry explain away the fact that he cast such a powerful, specific spell?"
"The Trace cannot pick up the specific spell—it can only report that magic has been used and by whom. In fact, there is some question as to whether it is even that accurate. You have heard about the incident before Harry's second year?"
At Sirius's nod, he continued. "If the Trace picked up the magic of a house-elf and the Ministry thought it was Harry, it casts doubt on the whole detection system the Ministry has in place. I have tried since then to find out what it actually consists of, but have been denied. Perhaps I should have worked for the ministry, some time in my past…"
Noting the Headmaster's introspective visage, Sirius decided he needed to push the conversation back to the salient points. "Were there any witnesses?"
"Only Harry, Dudley, and a Squib I have tasked with keeping an eye on the young man. You know their testimonies will be ignored, if they are even called to testify. Fudge seems determined to remove and discredit anyone who dares contradict him about Voldemort, and unfortunately, Harry, as the one who was actually there when he returned, is at the top of the list."
Sirius peered at Dumbledore intently. "I knew it was bad, Albus, but this I didn't know. What is he doing?"
"Fudge is, unfortunately, a passable peacetime Minister, but he is wholly unsuited to leading us during times of war," Dumbledore responded. "He has declared it impossible for Voldemort to have returned and has spent the past several weeks trying to erode my support in the Wizengamot and the ICW, completely refusing to increase the Auror force, freeze the assets of known Death Eaters, or do anything else useful, for that matter. We stand on the brink of war—only Voldemort's need to gather his strength has prevented his taking over the Ministry already."
"And the Wizengamot? Is there nothing that can be done by the legislative arm of the government?"
"Unfortunately, Wizengamot is paralyzed by opposing factions and is largely controlled by the Purebloods in any case—you know where their sympathies, if not outright support, will lie in the coming conflict, Sirius."
And Sirius did know all too well. In the past war, although only an ultraconservative few openly supported Voldemort, their leanings were evident. The powerful Pureblood faction was interested primarily in three things—protecting their power base, preserving their blood purity, and growing their wealth. The other faction to rival them could no longer be called true Pureblood because of their willingness to marry outside the core Pureblood society and were made up of families like the Potters—old, powerful, and rich, but to purists, they were tainted by the Muggleborn dregs of society, or Halfbloods, which were not much better.
Knowing, however, that the balance of power in Wizengamot was not the pressing issue, Sirius turned his attention back to the Headmaster, his mind playing with thoughts and half-made plans for his godson's future. Whether he had consciously considered the potential for magical Britain to become an unfriendly environment for Harry he did not know, but he had considered leaving the country for other reasons—notably due to his distaste for a society which had locked him away in a hellish dungeon without caring about the truth.
"What about Harry, Albus? Is there any way to salvage this?"
"My influence has been lessened in Wizengamot, but not eliminated. I was able to defer Harry's expulsion pending a hearing on the matter."
"That's all good and well, Albus, but Wizengamot does not sound like a friendly environment for Harry right now. What are his chances?"
"Difficult to say," Dumbledore responded, his hands held together, his fingers steepled in front of his face as he thought the matter through. "I was able to carry the day based on a sense of fairness—when I informed Wizengamot of the spell Harry cast and the reason for it, even some of the Pureblood faction felt it wise to hear him out on the matter in lieu of summarily pronouncing sentence, due in part because the thought of Dementors anywhere they are not supposed to be is of great concern to all, regardless of political leanings. I believe I still hold enough support to ensure Harry's exoneration, but it may be a near thing."
Sirius slumped back in his chair, regarding Dumbledore, trying to get a sense of his confidence level. "Albus, this is Harry we are talking about here. I don't know why Voldemort is coming after him with such single-mindedness, but I do know if Harry's wand is snapped, he's an easy target. We have to be certain we can ensure his freedom before we commit to this. Once you take him into the Ministry for a hearing, our course is set—if he is convicted, they will snap his wand and bind his magic right there. Are you certain you can persuade them?"
"Alas, my dear boy, nothing is ever certain," Dumbledore replied, rising to his feet. "But I believe in the ultimate rightness of our cause and that we will carry the day."
"Albus, perhaps it's time to remove Harry from England."
His voice was quiet, yet controlled, and his statement caused Dumbledore to blink in surprise and sink back into his seat, a look of contemplation etched on his face. However, he was not known as a powerful wizard and shrewd political opponent for nothing—he immediately recovered and regarded Sirius carefully.
"What are you suggesting, Sirius?"
"The political situation is no longer favorable for Harry here, if it ever was," Sirius replied regarding Dumbledore intently, making certain the other man knew through his body language exactly how serious he was. "I think the time has come to remove him from this society for his own good."
"And where would you take him?"
"Does it really matter? Anywhere would be preferable to here. We could relocate somewhere on the other side of the world, hire some tutors to complete his education—hell, I could help him complete the core subjects myself."
Dumbledore appeared lost in thought for several moments before focusing back on Sirius once again. He had a hint of the lecturing Headmaster in his manner, and Sirius felt like he was back in Hogwarts being taken to task for some prank. He had to admit to himself, somewhat ruefully, that although they had rarely been able to prove his complicity, more often than not, it had been he and his friends who had been the perpetrators of what had gone on in those hallowed halls.
"I believe your idea has two problems, Sirius. First, young Harry himself; he has made friends—very close friends—at Hogwarts, and I doubt you could convince him to leave them to Voldemort's tender mercies while he himself escaped to relative safety."
It was true—Sirius had not thought about that aspect of Harry's character. In that, he was very much his father's son.
"And the other?"
"Suppose we followed your plan and you moved with Harry to another country… then what?"
"I'm not certain I follow you…" Sirius responded uncertainly.
"Just this: if you were to go away from Britain, you may be safe for several years or even decades, but what happens once England becomes too small to contain the Dark Lord?"
To say Sirius was surprised was an understatement. "You aren't suggesting Voldemort will win!"
"I'm not suggesting it, Sirius, I am guaranteeing it. I believe Harry will have an integral part to play in Voldemort's ultimate defeat and he cannot do it if he is hidden away on some tropical island somewhere, drinking piña coladas and surfing."
Sirius regarded the Headmaster, his disbelief turning to a shrewd idea Dumbledore was holding back.
"You know something, Albus."
"Indeed I do," Dumbledore agreed with aplomb. "Now, however, is not the time to discuss this any further."
"Albus, he's my godson—I have to know."
"Rest assured, Sirius, in time I will tell you all I know. But the conversation must be deferred for another time—for now, I have some other tasks which cannot be delayed. Although we may have no other recourse but to flee from England at some future time, the situation has not become that desperate yet—we have no other option but to continue to play the game in the hope of turning it in our favor. Young Harry has a destiny which he must fulfill for the good of the wizarding world—and indeed the world at large. I had hoped to delay the inevitable to give the young man some time to grow and mature, but it appears events have conspired against us and our time is now dwindling."
"I will have an accounting, Albus," Sirius growled in response. Although Dumbledore was a powerful wizard and excellent leader, he had a tendency to be secretive and at times viewed those around him as mere chess pieces. This time, however, Sirius would ensure he understood what Harry was facing and would face it by his side. He owed it to James; he owed it to himself.
"I understand, Sirius. I promise to give you a full accounting, but for now I must leave you."
Dumbledore moved to the Floo powder and grabbed a handful of it. But before he went through, he turned back to Sirius.
"I will arrange to have Harry evacuated from the Dursley house and brought here. The situation there may now have become untenable in any case—they were incensed that Dudley's proximity to Harry resulted in the threat to his life and have demanded Harry's immediate removal, never to return."
"They won't do anything to him, will they?"
"Not at this time," Dumbledore confirmed. "I have informed his uncle we will be looking for alternate housing arrangements for the rest of the summer, but his removal will have to be handled with delicacy and kept from the knowledge of certain elements in the Ministry."
"I will inform Kreacher to prepare for an influx of guests."
"Be prepared for anything—the world is about to become a much darker place."
With that ominous pronouncement, Dumbledore disappeared into the Floo Network leaving Sirius alone with his thoughts.
Although he was worried about Harry's state of mind in the aftermath of the Dementors' attack, he knew of his godson's capabilities and was confident Harry would emerge unscathed from the experience. The more pressing concern was Dumbledore's words regarding Harry's destiny and the immediate threat of punishment. If Dumbledore could not convince Wizengamot to acquit Harry or at least agree he had acted in self-defense, then what? Could he possibly take the chance of failure? Was there anything he could do?
A grim yet determined smile crossed Sirius's face, as he considered that he did indeed have another option. It had fallen literally out of the sky onto his lap the previous spring while he was searching through some of James's old family documents, partially to determine if James had left anything behind which would be of use to his son, partially in a vain attempt to find some way to remove Harry from the Tri-Wizard competition. His search had led him to a most startling document which had the power to change Harry's life and bring him some desperately-needed allies. Although those plans were still some months away, they could be accelerated—had to be accelerated in order to be of use to his godson in the immediate future.
A twinge of guilt made itself known in Sirius's conscience, understanding as he did this revelation had the power to turn Harry's life upside-down and that it had far-reaching consequences for not only his godson, but also for a particular friend of his. Yet, it was obvious to Sirius that anything which could be done must be done for Harry's sake—he would never be able to live with himself if he left even one arrow in the quiver and the situation went wrong. But it would not do to tell Dumbledore at this stage—he would find out when everyone else did.
His mind made up, Sirius turned and stalked down the hallway to his room on the second floor. He simply could not chance failure—too much depended on this, especially if Dumbledore's words about Harry's importance to Voldemort's ultimate defeat were to be believed. Although Sirius could not do much to help his godson in his current situation, perhaps others could.
In his room, he rummaged around on the old oak desk in the corner, finding the device for which he had been searching, and activated the old communication mirror he and the other Marauders had created many years ago to keep in touch during the summer. Of course, that had not been the only use to which they had put the mirrors, Sirius thought with a smile—their pranking value had been incalculable.
A moment later, a face appeared in the mirror. "Sirius, so good to see you," the man began, his face lighting up in a friendly smile. "What can I do for you?"
His voice was soft yet melodious and deep; his accent, while present, was understated and almost unnoticeable, unless one was paying attention to it. He was an austere yet handsome sort of man, powerful in his own right and eminently competent, and although they had only been acquaintances for a few months, Sirius already considered him an ally and a potential friend. Sirius had contacted him upon finding the document, and the other man, to his credit, had listened to Sirius's protestations of innocence when even his own countrymen would not. A short visit and a dose of Veritaserum later, he had also been convinced of Sirius's innocence and had begun to plan for his ultimate exoneration.
However, it was the contents of the documents upon which Sirius had come across which now held Sirius's interest. The documents were important in several ways and his companion had a stake in seeing that they were implemented, not to mention the fact that he felt he owed something to Harry because of his actions the previous year. If they played this right, they could ensure Harry's freedom and perhaps even tweak Fudge's nose in the process.
"Jean-Sebastian we need to speak—something has come up."
The man was silent for a moment. "I presume your news is not good?"
Sirius snorted. "That's an understatement. Harry was attacked by Dementors today outside his home. We need to accelerate our plans."
Jean-Sebastian's eyes burned with fury for several moments before he visibly calmed himself. "Your country appears to be making every effort to make Harry's life as difficult and dangerous as possible."
"Agreed. But I believe we can turn this around to our advantage."
"Well, then, I believe you must let me in on your plan," he said with an upturned eyebrow.
Sirius grinned in response and began to lay out the events of the day and his ideas for their response. They spent several hours in earnest conversation, planning, plotting, and determining their course of action. That night, when Sirius finally lay down to rest, his face held a smile—he had done his best to help his godson. It was a good beginning.
In another country, several hundred miles away, a man deactivated his communication mirror and sat back in his high-backed chair, staring unseeing at the desk in front of him. The information Sirius had provided him had changed many things, and although he knew in his heart that what they were about to do was for the best, a part of him wondered if his assessment would be agreed upon by others who would be affected by this decision. After all, some of those others would have to bear the major portion of the consequences of his actions—not himself.
Sighing, he leaned forward and rested his chin in his hand, brooding over the unfairness of the world. The temptation to simply write the whole situation off as a purely British problem was there, but he knew that to take such a myopic stance would do more harm than good in the end. The current future in the beleaguered country was bleak with a newly-reconstituted Voldemort running amok and the Ministry doing little to prepare for a protracted fight. No, the future of England and perhaps the whole world lay with one young man, a man he had just pledged to help, whether it was deemed his responsibility or not.
Then of course there was the personal debt he owed Harry Potter, one which Jean-Sebastian was not about to forget or conveniently push under the carpet. He owed Harry Potter—owed him his every effort and entire ability to protect.
Knowing there was really no other choice, Jean-Sebastian sighed and called for his house-elf assistant. There was much to be accomplished.