Sirius and Remus were eating breakfast in the kitchen Saturday morning at Black Manor when Hedwig came through the open window, a scroll of parchment attached to her leg.
"He wrote back already? I thought we'd have to wait until at least Monday," Sirius said in surprise as Remus untied the letter. He handed Hedwig a piece of bacon and she flapped away, probably to go find a place to sleep in the small Owlery that was on the grounds.
"That's what I thought," Remus said.
'Dear Remus and Sirius,
Thanks for the letter. It is nice to get mail from Hedwig and she probably enjoys getting to fly around. I know we already talked, but that was mostly about the Twin secret and the newspaper. And stuff has happen since then, so I figured now was as good a time as any to write.
We've have a few more people in on the paper - Colin Creevey definitely agreed and Teddy is going to teach him how to develop Wizarding photos. Susan Bones' is going to write to her Aunt and see if she can't help us, and she'll probably want to talk to you two so you can split up the duties of finding stuff out for the paper. Dean Thomas, a Muggle-born is going to do a Muggle sports page. Lee Jordan was recommended by the twins for Quidditch reports. Marley, a fifth year Ravenclaw prefect, agreed to look over the paper for me. Professor Flitwick overheard Hermione and I talking about it and he said he'd look into places to print and Charms to help reproduce the paper! I'm so excited - now we just need something to report on...
Neville made a good point while we (Hermione, Neville, Blaise, Teddy, Millie, Susan, Luna, Colin, and I) were all talking about the paper in the library - we just scored a point for inter-House unity! Three Slytherins, three Ravenclaws, two Hufflepuff, and a Gryffindor. Then Dean, a Gryffindor, joined us at dinner after being annoyed by Ron - the twins pointed him in our direction because all of us were sitting at the end of Ravenclaw table. It's already doing some good - the paper I mean.
My week has been pretty good other than that. Classes are pretty easy, but we don't mind. It gives us time to plot things like the paper.
How has your week been? I hope it's been as good as mine.
That's pretty much all I have to say for now.
Harry L. Black.'
"Wow - he accomplished all that in one Friday night?" Sirius murmured.
"Harry certainly doesn't do things by halves, does he?" Remus agreed. "I miss him. It's so...empty without him, Hermione, and Neville running around."
"I know what you mean," Sirius sighed, going back to picking at his food. "It hasn't even been a year since I adopted him, but everything is so different."
"I can't imagine going back to life without him," Remus said.
"Agreed," Sirius said.
"I half wish we had home-schooled him instead of sending him away," Remus admitted.
"Me too! But Hogwarts is important for wizards - tradition, you know? It would have been weird for him in the future if he hadn't gone," Sirius pointed out.
"I know, but still..." Remus sighed. "I can't wait for Christmas break."
"I don't think I could agree more," Sirius said. "Should we have the Grangers and the Longbottoms come to stay with us for the break? I know they'll be wanting to spend time with each other."
"I was thinking about that. Maybe they should trade between each others' houses? But then again, it might be best to have them all here - though there is a full moon the first week of break - but we can handle that easily enough," Remus mused.
"This will be his second Christmas. It seems like just yesterday when we met a pale kid on the stairway of Potter Manor's kitchen," Sirius reminisced.
"Speaking of the Potters - what are we going to do?"
"I'm not sure," Sirius admitted. "I do want to knock them down a peg, but they were former friends and I don't want to stoop to their level. I still don't understand how we missed the changes in them - surely we would have noticed something different in their letters?"
"I think," Remus started slowly. "That maybe they are still pretty similar to the people we once knew. It all comes back to the Boy Who Lived business. Personally, I don't see how you'd know - but something about it probably scared them. Maybe they thought that they had to pour all their efforts into Hayden for him to succeed if Voldemort shows up again...Maybe they didn't realize what they were doing to Harry. They probably rationalized it away, saying that if Hayden lived then it would be worth it, wouldn't it?"
"That's ridiculous!" Sirius started angrily.
"Is it? What if you were told that Harry was the Boy Who Lived and he would probably have to face Voldemort in the future?" Remus said.
"I - I," Sirius faltered, not liking the image Remus painted. "I don't know Remus - but I know enough about being neglected and despised by your family to know that I would never, ever do that to my kid," he added stubbornly.
"James doesn't though. You know how Mr. Potter and Mrs. Potter doted on him. He was an only child - he never had siblings, much less a famous one, to compete with. His parents never had to divide their attention and so he never learned how to either. Add that with the prophecy...Who really knows what was going on through his mind? I know," Remus said, seeing the expression on Sirius' face. "It doesn't excuse it - but its a theory as to how it happen - and you're the one who asked."
"I know I did," Sirius frowned. "It doesn't mean I like the answer, but you're right - as usual - I can sort of see where James is coming from I suppose," he said grudgingly. "But surely he should have realized it by now? After we came, after all the arguments we've had, you'd think he'd have the sense to know he has been in the wrong."
"As I said earlier, he probably rationalized it. And he's become so used to deceiving himself, he can't tell anymore. I don't think he wants to face the truth now anyway, if I'm to be honest," Remus said bitterly. "Him and Lily are comfortable with their lives now - why face something so dark, so ugly - even if it's of their own doing?"
Sirius' face darkened as Remus spoke. Remus knew exactly how he felt - it was a mixture of frustration, bitterness, sadness, and anger. Their friends were lost in their own way, their son had paid the price for it, and now they couldn't even maintain a normal friendship with them because of their own blindness. It was a hard and very bitter for them to swallow.
"Either way, we have to tell the world at some point that I adopted Harry," Sirius said, electing to change the conversation back to their original point.
"We could just tell them," Remus said neutrally.
"Moony!" Sirius exclaimed in shock, as if Remus had just said something blasphemous.
"I know you want revenge - Merlin knows that I would love to cause some damage to their reputations, but we have to consider Harry," Remus pointed out.
"He'd go along for it - you know he would," Sirius objected.
"But would he want that smeared across the front page of the Prophet for everyone to see?" Remus said quickly, nearly cutting him off. "You saw how hard it was for him when it first happen - do we want to reopen that wound with all the sordid details? He may want them to be knocked but I'm not sure whether he properly thought through what that would entail."
That made Sirius pause.
"That's true," he eventually conceded with a frown. "I can't believe I didn't think of that..."
"It's alright Sirius - we already knew you were the spastic uncle type," Remus joked with a smile. Sirius allowed a small smile.
"That's also true. You've always been more of the responsible type - though I am trying," Sirius said. "I guess just letting it be known is all we really can do. I'll just make an official announcement, try and keep as much about how it came about out of it, and that'll be it."
"Now we just have to tell Harry," Remus mused. "Harry will probably be disappointed..."
"And that's why you should tell him. You're a lot better at this explaining business. And it'll sound better to have it coming from you - he'll already expect you to have a rational plan in mind."
"You should be there too - show a united front," Remus countered with a raised eyebrow and wry look.
"Of course," Sirius replied as though that had been his intention all along. Remus gave him a look and he smiled innocently. "When do we call him?"
Remus checked his watch.
"Well it's a Saturday so it's not like he'll have any classes to interrupt - why not now? It's a little before lunch." Sirius pulled out the mirror he always carried on his and enlarged it several inches.
"Harry," he said clearly.
"Hi guys," Harry answered in a whisper, his face appearing in the mirror. His cheeks were red and he was panting a little. "What's up?"
"I could ask the same thing - what have you been doing?" Sirius asked in amused curiosity as there were playful shrieks in the background.
"We're - no!" he cried, lurching from the ground where he had been sitting and appearing to take off. "Don't - don't you dare! I won't stand for this injustice!" he called to someone behind him.
"You don't have too," a faint voice called back with a laugh. "You can't do anything about it!"
"I can too!" Harry protested. "HA! BASE! I win!" he cried, coming to a sudden stop and sinking back to the ground with a huff and a smile.
"How did you become so fast?" the voice, a boy, said as he came closer and his voice gained more definition.
"I don't know - I've always been fast," Harry panted.
"Base!" Hermione shouted behind him.
"Harry?" Remus said, calling the kids' attention to the mirror.
"Who's that?" the boy asked curiously.
"Oh - this is Remus and Sirius," Harry said, lifting the mirror and twisting it to face a group of kids that had already called base apparently. "Guys - this is Blaise, Teddy, Millie, you know Hermione and Neville, Dean, Susan, Colin, Luna, you've met the Weasleys twins, Fred and George, and this is their friend Lee Jordan, Cedric Diggory, and this is Marley and her boyfriend Ben is still out there somewhere...Anyway, we were all playing hide and seek around the lake. You called right as Teddy came around the corner," he finished with a huge grin.
"Nice to meet you," the pale boy called Teddy said with a happy smile. "But I have a fifth year to track down..." He took off almost silently into the nearby trees. The kids started calling out all sorts of misdirections to confuse Ben and probably Teddy as well -
"He turned left!" Blasie immediately called. "Run Ben!"
"He went right," Hermione screamed. "Don't listen to Blaise!"
"Ignore the rug rats!" Marley said loudly. "They are both wrong!"
"Cupcakes, cupcakes!" Fred and George were chanting at the top of their voices.
"Pineapples, pineapples!" Lee added to the mix.
"Left, I say, left!"
"Right, Ben, Right!"
"He went straight! Then turned northwest!" Colin and Susan were saying in unison.
"They're all crazy," Neville laughed, coming to stand closer to Harry.
"True enough, but you've got to like the lot of them. Never a dull moment so far," Harry said. He looked completely relaxed and content to watch his friends laugh and come up with increasingly ridiculous chants. Sirius and Remus almost didn't want to disturb him in any way.
"I think it's the carkles," Luna said from her spot near Harry.
"The what?" all four guys said.
"Carkles - they induce euphoria," she explained. "And they have the small side effect of incessant silliness."
"Sounds awesome," Sirius laughed. "I wish they'd come visit Remus here - so boring it's making me crazy."
"Boring?" said Remus with an offended look. "That's not what you were saying yesterday when I turned your bedroom pink and ice blue with that artful dash of neon orange. It was beautiful Harry - I wish you could have seen it."
"It was horrendous - a blind pig could have done better," Sirius sniffed.
"A blind pig?" Cedric repeated with a raised eyebrow.
"A blind pig," Harry and Sirius repeated.
"They use the expression frequently," Harry added.
"Right," Cedric said. "So...Luna...you're father owns the Quibbler doesn't he?" They started talking about it as Neville and Harry became a little more serious.
"Why did you call?" Harry inquired.
"We decided what to do about announcing you as my heir," Sirius said.
"I'll let you talk..." Neville said, clapping Harry on the shoulder and going to stand by Hermione.
"What'd you decide?" he asked cautiously.
"We talked about it and we don't think it'd be good idea to tell the press everything. Just announce it and leave it at that," Sirius said.
"Yes, telling the press everything would make everyone look again at the Potters - but it'd do the same to you," Remus added. "Neville, Hermione, and the Slytherins because they should know the art of tact by now, wouldn't treat you any different. But there are loads of others who would."
Harry sat for a few moments, retreating behind his blank mask as he thought.
"Run Ben!" the students started screaming. Harry absently shifted the mirror so that Remus and Sirius could see an older boy running with Teddy hot on heels. A few feet from the tree and Teddy threw himself at Ben. They collapsed in a tumbling heap, the older boy clearly trying to keep from hurting the smaller boy.
"Teddy!" Ben yelled. "You little monster!"
"Monster I may be," Teddy said with a smirk as he got to his feet. "But I still tagged you before touched base."
"Dang it!" Ben said. "An eleven year old Marley! I was beaten by a firstie!"
"Well, how long has it been since you've played hide-and-seek?" Remus asked logically.
"What the devil?" Ben exclaimed, sitting up and looking around.
"Hi kid," Sirius waved cheerily.
"Um, hi," Ben said with his own wave and a slightly confused smile.
"This is Sirius and Remus - my guardians," Harry introduced. "This is Ben in case you missed it."
"And it's been awhile since I've played. I forgot how much fun it could be," Ben smiled.
"Remember that one time we played in the classrooms?" Remus asked, a mischievous glint to his smile.
"We swore we wouldn't bring that up again!" Sirius said, horrified.
"What happened?" the twins asked instantly.
"Nothing!" Sirius cried.
"Well, Sirius and I hid in McGonagall's classroom," Remus started teasingly.
"Moony!" Sirius shouted in panic, tackling his friend and causing him to drop the mirror as Remus hooted in laughter.
"Sirius! Stop messing with Remus and pick the mirror back up!" Harry shouted above the noise that they were making. A vase shattered when they knocked the stand it was on. "What did you break? If it was that black statue, I'm killing the both of you! That took a month to track down!"
"It wasn't," Remus called out as he shoved Sirius off him. "It was that horrid vase that Lily gave us years ago!"
"Oh," Harry sounded much calmer than he was earlier. "Well good riddance to it."
"Sirius!" Remus said as he was tackled again. "Would you relax? I won't tell the story!"
"That's what you said the last time!"
"Sirius!" Hermione suddenly screamed, panicked.
"What?" he said, getting to his feet and dashing for the mirror. "What is it?"
"I need you to stop fighting Remus for the duration of this call," she said calmly.
"Hermione!" he huffed. "You had me thinking lightning just struck someone or something! Merlin!" Remus laughed from where he was still lying on the floor. "Oh shut up Remus - you started all of this," he said witheringly.
"You tackled me first," Remus grinned. Sirius hated remembering what had transpired that day. Remus nearly forgot about it and found it as amusing as ever.
"Well if you hadn't brought it up," Sirius said, cringing and blushing at the memory. "I wouldn't have had to do anything."
"They're like children some days," Remus heard Harry tell his friends as he flopped next to Sirius on the couch.
"Sirius is a child," Remus said. "And he occasionally throws tantrums - as witnessed moments ago."
"Liar - he's just as bad," Sirius said. "Don't let the responsible look fool you."
"I am no where near as bad as you," Remus said immediately.
"I am not."
"You are too - why do you think we were scared of you in school?"
"You were not," Remus said.
"I was too!"
"I doubt that. Otherwise, you would have listened to me when I tried to make you and James see sense."
"You were a prefect. We didn't listen to prefects."
"I was your friend first and foremost – and when did I ever use my prefect powers against you?"
"There was that one time in fifth year – you said you'd report us…"
"I was bluffing and you both knew it."
"You were not."
"I was too."
"Children," Harry repeated in an I-told-you-so way. "Guys – it's time for me to go to lunch. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Alright Harry," Remus said.
"Remember what we said kiddo. Bye."
"Bye," Harry said. The mirror went blank.
"I wonder what he's thinking," Sirius murmured. "I'd be mad."
"He'll be frustrated to start with, but he'll think about what we said objectively before contacting us again," Remus said confidently.
"Probably," Sirius agreed.
"So what did they want?" Hermione asked lowly as they are lunch. They had joined Neville at his table, and the others had gone to their own tables.
"They said that they were just going to announce it – they weren't going to go into details or anything," Harry said, pausing in taking a bite of his apple.
"Why not? I thought Sirius wanted to knock 'em down," Neville questioned.
"He does, but Remus thought a lot about it and realized that it would end up hurting me as well," Harry said quietly. "Not in the same way, but it would have brought it all up again...to have everyone know about it...I already know I'd hate the glances and the whispers that would result from it."
"Oh," Neville said in realization.
"Wow - I never thought of that," Hermione said.
"I know," Harry agreed. "I'm glad Remus did see it, otherwise I'd have felt pretty stupid and very embarrassed."
"So when are you going to call them back?" Neville asked.
"After lunch Monday - I'll probably go up to the dorm, I just want to make sure that this is the right way to do it, if you all want to be there you can." he offered. Hermione and Neville traded looks.
"We'll let you talk to them alone," Hermione said. Harry smiled at them. He was glad he had them for friends - they understood that he would want to talk to them alone and they didn't pester him over it.
"So what did you guys think of our first Potions lesson?" Harry asked changing the subject.
"It's not really our first and we already knew how to make it," Neville pointed out with a small grin.
"So?" Harry questioned. "It was our first one at Hogwarts and with Professor Snape in a normal setting. I think it was great - right up until my shoes were almost melted."
"At least you weren't stuck having to escort them to the hospital wing," Hermione said with a grimace. "They ranted and blamed each other, Snape, and you the whole way up there. It was so annoying, I almost hexed the both of them."
"I almost dropped our vial of Potions, but Harry caught," Neville admitted.
"I had Teddy stopper ours - I wanted to be there just in case," Harry grinned.
"Don't worry about it Neville," Hermione said. "You'll grow out of your klutziness eventually. Everyone does."
"Tonks didn't," Neville pointed out.
"Tonks is the exception to the rule," Hermione quickly said. All three of them smiled, remembering the many falls and near misses of their klutzy friend.
"I'm nervous," Harry said a second later, startling his friends slightly.
"Because of the announcement?" Hermione questioned.
"Yes," he said. "I know I don't have reason to be - it's already happen. Has been for nearly a year. But I don't know - I just feel nauseous about the whole thing."
"I think," Neville said slowly, clearing thinking about this seriously. "That maybe you're nervous and naseous because it's bringing all of it back. It was a sudden thing, caught you unaware. It was painful and still hurts a little. Maybe you've only sort of made peace with it - and now that it's being brought up again, it's all coming back," he expounded. "But at the same time, maybe this will make it more official. Maybe this will be closure and you can finally put it to rest."
"Even if you're klutzy, you're still really smart Neville," Hermione smiled at him. Harry looked lost in thought but nodded a few moments later.
"I think you're right."