They Shook Hands : Year Three
An alternate (but realistic!) universe Harry Potter fic
Chapter Gamma - Missing Scenes from Year Three
"Narcissa, you should sit down."
Puzzled at Lucius' mysterious demeanour, Narcissa Malfoy sat on the sofa in the public part of the master suite.
"Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban."
It was impossible to fathom. Azkaban was the most remote and secure place in the wizarding world. It was guarded by isolation, magic, and soul-sucking Dementors. Surely her husband was having fun with her. Lucius liked to do that on occasion. It was in very poor taste; one did not joke about Azkaban. Yet the grave expression on his face confirmed that he was not joking.
"How?" Narcissa asked breathlessly. No one had ever escaped from the only wizarding prison. "The Dementors-"
"Failed, somehow. Nobody knows how Black did it. The Ministry was informed only hours ago."
"What does it mean? How will they catch him?"
Lucius drew his lips back in a sneer. "The Ministry couldn't catch a cold. They certainly won't be able to catch Black. If he was able to escape from a locked cell where Dementors patrol the corridor every hour, he's capable of anything."
"What will he do? Where would he go?"
"I don't know. He's got to be insane after twelve years in that hole. Who knows what he might take it into his head to do."
Narcissa didn't know what to think. "He could be headed anywhere, then. He could even come here. Lucius, he might hurt the boys!"
"He has no reason to come here."
"Would he need a reason?"
Lucius now looked grim. "I worry less about him coming after our family than I do about collateral damage. I believe that Black somehow got the idea that he can bring back the Dark Lord by murdering the one who vanquished him."
"Harry!" In her panic over her blood family, Narcissa had overlooked the boy her youngest son had befriended.
"Yes. He could be in mortal peril. By extension, so is Draco."
"What can we do?"
"I had faith in our defences when I went to work this morning. Now, I am not so sure. I've contracted a specialist to make an inspection and evaluation. If necessary, we will add to the protections."
"What about when school begins? They'll be safe at Hogwarts, won't they?"
Lucius sighed deeply. "I don't know," he confessed, sitting down on the sofa next to his wife. "I just don't know, and that scares me more than anything."
Narcissa felt a stab of despair. Lucius, who always knew what to do in any situation, was at a loss. How, then, were the rest of them to know?
"The best hope lies in the Hit Wizards that have been contracted. They are professionals at finding and eliminating people."
"But there's no way to know," she replied bitterly. "We can track under-age magic, but not an escaped prisoner."
"Be fair, my love; no one has ever done this before."
"Is it really so hard to put a Tracking Charm on these convicts?"
"It would have to have been thought necessary, my dear. The Dementors were deemed by the Ministry to be enough."
Narcissa said several very unladylike words about the Ministry and the buffoons who ran it. "Lucius, we need to get Harry here immediately. He's all alone in Surrey."
"Dumbledore has eyes on the boy. While I don't hold by the old man's discretion in letting him be abused by Muggles, he won't allow harm to come near."
"Since when do we have faith in Dumbledore?" she asked cuttingly.
"We don't. But I have already tried to Apparate to Surrey. There are powerful redirection spells cast over the whole place. I wound up in Argyllshire. I suspect broom and Portkey travel are prevented as well. Dumbledore does not want Harry taken out of there again."
"Lucius, I'm worried."
"So am I. I will keep thinking. If you have any ideas, any at all, I will try. With luck, Harry will manage to slip his bonds again and come to us."
Laine Slater was absolutely beside herself. She preened and smoothed her hair, glad she hadn't allowed her mother to put it into braids like a child would wear. Harry Potter himself had just asked for her help, right in front of her mates. He was so handsome and famous and wonderful, yet he had sought her out. Could life get any better?
"It's nice to see that Harry knows who to turn to when he needs help," she said proudly. "I don't know why he's going through all this trouble for a Weasley, but I'm sure he has a good reason." Laine didn't really know Ginny Weasley, but Mother said that all Weasleys were blood traitors.
"All that red hair is so vulgar," Michelle Holt said scornfully. "I can't believe we're going to actually do this."
"Well, if we take in the Weasley girl, Harry will come visit her. And then he'll also visit us," Sarrah Nolan pointed out. "Any friend of Harry Potter is a friend of ours."
"And the older kids really like her. They might take her along, and then she'd have to take us along," Shawna Osman agreed.
"Plus her brother's going to be Head Boy. My cousin Lila said so," Sarrah added, looking very pleased with herself. "So we'll be friends with someone very well-connected."
"Lucas is going to be so jealous," Laine simpered, running her fingers through her hair. "He's dying to become Harry's friend so he can get some Quidditch pointers. But now he's friends with us, girls."
"So what are you asking for your favour?" Sarrah asked of Michelle. "I mean, he's the Boy Who Lived. He can do anything," she squeaked.
"When I need it, I'll know. Having him owe me is enough," Michelle said. "Don't you think?"
"I- I think Draco's the better one. He has such nice hair," Shawna giggled, looking over the moon herself about getting a present from Malfoy. "What?" she asked defensively as Michelle directed a questioning glance her way. "He's very handsome."
"Come on, Shawnie. What's hair compared to the Boy Who Lived?" Michelle asked. "He's faced You-Know-Who himself. He's greatness personified, and now he owes me a favour," she said, looking quite satisfied with herself.
"Well, Draco has other qualities. He's very, um, heroic," Shawna said, before blushing as everyone giggled.
"Yeah, I'm sure he never passes a mirror before giving it a heroic glance," Michelle teased. "That hair looks more cared for than Professor Sprout's garden."
"Do you think Harry prefers girls with long hair or short?" Michelle asked suddenly.
Laine glared at her friend with a look that could have scared the Basilisk that used to live in the school. "Why?" she asked in a deadly tone. Sarrah suddenly got very busy cleaning her fingernails, while Shawna began opening a Chocolate Frog.
Michelle paled and fingered the edge of her robe. "Because Lucas finally convinced your folks to let him get a haircut, and you said you were going to try to get one too, and I was thinking maybe you should wait," she said softly.
Laine's pretty smile returned immediately. "Good point. You're a genius. I need to find that out," she said. "And I wonder if I could nick some make-up from one of the older girls for a bit."
"Also, you should make sure you have some nice dress robes sent up, just in case," Sarrah pointed out.
"Definitely. Harry would want someone who looks sophisticated," Laine said happily. "I think my blue ones would look best, don't you agree?"
"What about silver?" Shawna asked, nibbling on a frog leg. She was still looking rather pink.
"You mean like Malfoy's eyes?" Laine teased. "You're so silly; that boy is only in love with himself."
Credit: This scene was largely written by Elle, because she was once a twelve year old girl, and I was not.
"The Dementors must go! I won't have them near my school! Get them out, Cornelius! Immediately!"
Headmaster Dumbledore's voice was audible even through the Minister for Magic's closed door. Lucius Malfoy got to his feet and pushed the door open, ignoring the protests of Fudge's secretary. He stepped over the threshold and let the door shut loudly behind him.
"I decided not to wait any longer," he announced in the sudden silence that accompanied his intrusion. "As our visits are on the same subject, Headmaster, it behoves us to not intrude excessively on the good Minister's valuable time."
"Here about the Dementors, Lucius?" Dumbledore asked with a curious gaze.
"Indeed. They must go."
Dumbledore's political face was absolutely unreadable to Lucius, despite his best efforts. "Very well, say your piece."
"Minister, I am in unequivocal agreement with Professor Dumbledore in this matter. I speak for the other governors as well when I say that the Dementors are not suited to anything other than prison duty, and maybe not even that. Their presence at Hogwarts is already causing problems. The students at large are at more risk from the Dementors than they are from Sirius Black. What horrors will we put our children through in order to put up a strong show of force?"
Fudge looked like a trapped animal. His weak eyes were darting back and forth between Lucius and Dumbledore, finding no refuge, no friendly face. "Sirius Black must be caught, Lucius. The Dementors will find him."
"Black escaped the Dementors when they had him locked in a cell," Lucius sneered. "I will not hold my breath hoping that they can suddenly manifest the ability to halt him. Have they admitted culpability in his escape?"
"No," Fudge replied, seeming to deflate a bit. "They grow very testy when questioned about it, too."
"Well, there you are. They haven't told us how he managed to do the deed, either?"
"Incompetent on all fronts, then," Lucius declared. "If they cannot do the job, why insist on placing them near students? They must go, Fudge. Now."
Fudge finally gave up and bowed his head. "Very well, very well. I'll call down to Em El Eey and give the orders."
"Thank you, Minister," Dumbledore said, breaking his silence. "I'll be going now. Lucius, a word?"
Lucius gestured for the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot to precede him out the door and into the hallway.
"I am pleased to find us on the same side of an issue, Lucius."
"Whatever reasonable differences adults may have, Dumbledore, we should be undivided in the cause of doing what is best for our children. All magical children deserve protection, do they not?" Lucius could not resist the chance to throw the old man's opposition to the Magical Child Protection Act in his face.
Dumbledore smiled knowingly. "Good day, Lucius."
"Are you going to hog the mirror all night?" Jamie teased, poking her head into her sister's room. "Stare too long and you'll get stuck in there."
"I need to look perfect, Jamie. That takes time," Blaise retorted as she curled her hair with a liberal amount of enchanted gel. "So should I do it straight or curly?" she asked.
"Just look natural, dear. You don't want to seem too eager," Jamie explained, fetching a brush and combing out her sister's hair. "Try and pretend this doesn't mean anything much."
"But it does! I've been waiting so long for Harry to finally notice I'm a girl!" Blaise wailed. "I don't want to ruin it."
She looked so nervous. Jamie wondered where the little girl was who used to play with dolls and was afraid of the cellar? Her sister was truly growing up.
"You are going to be fine. You're so beautiful, you know. Harry won't be able to take his eyes off you. He better behave himself, or Father will make sure the Boy Who Lived, doesn't," Jamie said, clucking her sister under the chin.
She remembered feeling the same way on her first date with Elan. It was horrible to imagine that Blaise would face that same heart break over separation someday wondering if she would die of loneliness without him. At least, if Blaise was hurt, Jamie would be able to empathize with her.
"You really think so?" Blaise asked, her wide blue eyes making her look like a little girl. I want him to think I'm wonderful. He's a Hero and I'm just... me. What if he gets bored with me? What do I say to him?" she begged.
"First, stop being nervous. Boys don't like their dates to be agitated. Second, things have a way of working out and bringing people together. Look at Lynn Fawcett and Percy Weasley. They would have never met and now they're dating. I mean, he's from blood traitor trash and she's a Slytherin, but they're so happy together. Sometimes love comes in interesting ways."
Jamie smiled. She was going to be happy again; she couldn't be depressed for her sister. Things had gotten better for those around Jamie; good luck had to happen to her and her sister as well.
"So, just trust in the future? That's the most confusing advice I have ever heard," Blaise sniffed, sounding desperate. She looked on the verge of tears.
"Don't cry, pet. You'll be fine. Harry will adore you. And I said you should stop worrying about the future. You just have to wait for the right guy, and then he'll never get bored with you, and you'll always know what to say," Jamie said, patting her hand. "Now, what do you want to wear?"
Blaise put on a forced smile. "My new pink jumper and your burgundy skirt," she said, trying to sneak the request by her.
Jamie decided to let the request go this time. "An excellent choice," she encouraged. "He'll be here soon, so hurry."
Blaise stood up and suddenly hugged her sister. "Thanks Jaimes," she whispered, burying herself in her sister's shoulder. "You're the best."
Jamie smiled. "Thanks. Now, get dressed," she said, silently wishing her sister good luck now that she was entering the romantic world. She would need it; it was a tough road to travel. "Boys don't like it when you're late. Just be yourself and be on time!"
Credit: This scene was largely written by Elle, because she was once a sixteen year old girl, and I was not.
Elan's face grew wary. "I've always been discrete, Father."
"The train station is hardly discrete," Mr. Malfoy observed dryly.
"That was Jamie, not me!" Elan sounded defensive. "She hadn't seen me for months!"
Mrs. Malfoy turned to face her husband, stepping closer to Elan. "And who could blame her? I don't." She kissed her eldest's cheek. "We have a fine son, Lucius."
Mr. Malfoy shook his head. "She's a silly girl," he declared with finality. "The sooner you're rid of her, the better."
"I'll break up with Jamie when I choose, Father," Elan said. "And besides, what's wrong with showing affection?"
"In private, nothing." Mr. Malfoy waved his hand dismissively. "Do what you will, Elan. So long as you remember your responsibility to marry pure and carry on the family line, I don't suppose it much matters. I just wish you would consider the politics of the situation."
"Father," Elan said calmly, "I understand more about politics than I think you realize."
Mr. Malfoy peered at his eldest son with an inquisitive expression. "My love, would you excuse us, please? I think Elan and I need to have a father-son chat."
"Of course, darling." Mrs. Malfoy gave him a quick kiss on the lips. "I wanted to talk to Harry anyway."
"Be safe, Harry," Mr. Malfoy cautioned.
"And have fun!" Elan ordered as he left the room. Mr. Malfoy put his arm around his son's shoulders.
"So what is it that you understand so well of politics, my son? Have you found a noble Russian witch to bring home to your mother and I?" Lucius was intrigued by Elan's sudden cool gravity. Had Durmstrang really done so well with him?
"I know you've never approved of Jamie. You given me lots of reasons, but I've never listened. Truth is, ever since I've been away at school, she's become very boring. All of her letters sound exactly the same. 'I miss you; I'm thinking about you; I can't wait to see you.' I tried to tell her about all the things I was doing, but she only ever asked if I missed her and if I was thinking about her. Durmstrang is amazing, and all she cared about was holding me close under a lousy tree."
"And you're letting her believe your feelings have not changed?"
"Jamie's a fun snog, Father."
"Must you be so vulgar, Elan?"
"Well she is," Elan said defensively. "I might not be in love with Jamie anymore, but I thought I was, and people who are in love snog. It's not like it was when you were growing up, Father."
"No, it's not," Lucius retorted. "And more's the pity. You're just going to have to learn the hard way what I was taught as a maxim."
"Witches have wands and are perfectly capable of doing unspeakable things to you if you cross them."
"Jamie would never raise her wand to me," Elan said confidently. "She values her place in the pecking order too greatly. She tried to talk down to Percy once, you know. I had words with her about how to speak to her betters."
"When do you plan to rid yourself of her?"
"When I return permanently to England. There will be no escaping her then, and I will rightly claim that she's changed since I've been away."
"And do you have someone else in mind?"
"There are many possibilities, Father. I want to find a nice, pliant girl to settle down with, and I can't very well do that from Durmstrang. Not that there aren't lots of pretty girls there too, but I don't really want to add another blonde to the family, you know?"
"It's so very sweet, isn't it?" asked Narcissa Malfoy of her husband. "Soon Draco will begin dating as well. My little baby," she sighed. "When did he grow up on me?"
Lucius smiled in understanding. Only yesterday he had been wondering the same thing. "We asked as much when Elan first took a young lady out."
"I remember. You waited by the fireplace for hours, staring into the flames. You wouldn't budge even for a little swim."
Was it hot in here?
"I was worried." Lucius had struggled mightily to be able to admit it, but now he said it matter-of-factly. "He is our son. I will always worry about him."
Narcissa was the one smiling now. "You love your sons very much. You don't try to hide it under a stiff-necked pose. I think I love you half again as much for that."
"Family is of the utmost importance. Father said it often enough. 'Blood ties are binding. Family you can trust.'"
"It's more than that."
He said nothing more, merely smiling at her and drinking in her beauty. She was flawless, a blonde goddess taken of mortal form. Were her bloodline not firmly established, he might take her to have veela blood.
"Are you worried about Harry, then?"
Narcissa's question caught him off-guard. He was entertaining thoughts of an evening swim with his entrancing water nymph. He coughed abruptly, clearing his imagination of some stimulating images.
"Ah, Harry, yes. I have few worries about his outing tonight. I have gainfully employed several wizards to be present at the concert and keep an eye on our wayward boy. In the event of trouble, they are instructed to remove Harry via Portkey to just outside the front gate."
"You're spying on him?"
"Only in the most exaggerated sense of the word. His safety is of more importance than his eventual indignance at his first date not being entirely private. He should be grateful it is not chaperoned." Lucius doubted, however, that Harry would have tolerated being chaperoned.
"Do you intend to interrogate him when he returns?"
"No," Lucius decided. "We do not want to make him feel awkward. He doubtless is in great turmoil right now. Let us give him some time to digest it all. He will need to sort out his feelings before we can ask him about them. We will speak with him at Easter."
Theodore Nolan hadn't had even so much as an argument with any of his roommates for weeks. So it was very unexpected that the bedsheets wouldn't let him out of bed. If he made any sudden movements, the sheets wrapped tighter around him. If he made a move for the edge of the bed, he was dragged back into the middle. He didn't know who had set up the jinx, but someone was going to suffer his elder sister Sarrah's wrath when he told her about this.
"Help!" he shouted, hoping someone was still in the house and could hear him.
There was only silence. Everyone was down at the Quidditch pitch watching Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. That was where he should be as well. So why had he slept in? A quick glance at his bedside table showed that someone had turned off his alarm clock, probably the same person or persons who had jinxed his bed.
Ted struggled and fought against the sheets, knowing that the jinx on them couldn't last forever. If he could just outlast it, he'd be able to get free. He could only hope that the jinx hadn't been cast by an upper form student; he could be here for weeks!
At last, the magic could no longer tolerate his struggles and dissipated. Throwing off the sheets, he pulled his robes on over his pyjamas and ran for the Quidditch pitch.
He heard the roar of the crowd as he hurried down the path and ran even harder. He tucked his head down and therefore missed seeing the haggard figure in tatty grey robes who darted out from behind a rock formation.
The man grabbed the front of his robes and put his face very close to Ted's. His skin was deathly pale, his teeth yellowed, and his breath from the grave. In abject terror, Ted recognized the man as Sirius Black.
"Little Slytherin," Black growled at him. "Tell me the password to your common room, and I'll kill you quickly!"
Gibberish flowed from Ted's mouth as he tried to comprehend what was happening to him. Black's death-grip on his robes was choking him. Black shook him slightly, sending him flopping around like a rag doll. His teeth chattered together from both force and fear.
"Tell me!" Black said again.
"W-w-we m-miss K-k-kettleburn!" Ted gasped out.
Black stopped shaking him and smiled an awful smile that Ted knew he would see in his nightmares forever. "Thank you," he said evilly, and he let go of Ted's robes.
"Make it quick," Ted requested, closing his eyes and silently apologizing to whatever spirit was listening for having been so awful to his sister.
"Yah!" Black screamed loudly, and he lunged towards Ted as if to grab him again.
Ted's eyes rolled back in his head. He fell to the ground in a dead faint. Black stood over him for only a second; he headed up to the castle.
"Time to die, Peter," he muttered to himself in satisfaction. "'We miss Kettleburn'; 'we miss Kettleburn'. No one is going to miss you, Peter! Death to all traitors."
Dear Ron Weasley,
I've found your rat poking about in the garden. I know you lost him recently, so if you would please like to come get him, I'll be home this evening.
Professor Remus J. Lupin, Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, stood at the top of the Astronomy Tower watching the sky. In only hours, the full moon would rise, and he would transform once more into his hated form. Yet again, he damned the name of Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf who had given Lupin the Cursed Bite.
The Bite had ruined his life. He was a bloodthirsty monster for three days of every lunar cycle. He couldn't apply for many jobs, and those he could do were generally of a short-lived nature. He owned little. He needed little. So long as he had his wand, he would never go hungry; you couldn't conjure food directly, but a clever wizard soon figured out how to turn the trick. Still, it was not an easy life. Nomadic drifting wore hard on the soul. It was a lousy hand he had been dealt, but he could do naught but play it anyway. Life was too special to give up, even if it meant monthly torment of unspeakable agony.
The only peace he had ever known had been here at Hogwarts; first as a student, and later as a teacher. Now his inner beast was tamed by the Wolfsbane Potion, a highly complicated bit of brewing that Severus Snape, Hogwarts' Potions Master and Lupin's schoolyard enemy, was quite versed in making. In the days of his youth, Lupin had prowled the night with the Marauders.
Messieurs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, collectively known as the Marauders, had roamed the Forbidden Forest in animal form in search of adventure and fun. Now the brotherhood was broken, two dead and one their cause of death. Moony alone remained.
Moony stood at the top of the Astronomy Tower and wondered how it had all gone so horribly wrong. "And why did it need to get worse?" he asked of the uncaring stars. Fate seemed not content with taking away the only friends he had ever had. Now the betrayer had escaped from Azkaban and was after Prongs' son.
It was why Moony had taken the post of Defence teacher, despite the purported curse on it. He did not fear a curse if it meant that he could do right by James and Lily. Moony was all that remained to guard Harry. With such a direct threat, he would stand in harm's way and not flinch in the face of death.
He had no illusions that death was coming for him. Padfoot had always been better with his spells. If he had managed to get hold of a wand, it would take luck of the sort magic couldn't produce for Moony to take him down. And Remus had never been lucky.
He tore his eyes from the sky and looked out over the grounds. The Dementors stood watch over the front gate as though they were doing something useful. It was twisted to have those creatures of evil standing watch over children. It was all so needless. Padfoot would never use the front gate.
Somehow he had managed to penetrate the school's defences. Moony knew with grim certainty in his gut that it was one of the secret ways the Marauders had discovered. That instinct tore at his conscience; he had to speak out, protect Harry, help capture Black and see him executed for his crimes. But for Remus to reveal his knowledge would have meant admitting that he had betrayed Professor Dumbledore.
Dumbledore had admitted him to Hogwarts when no other headmaster would have done so. He'd had no idea the four Gryffindor boys were breaking the rules he had set down for his werewolf student, rules made clear for the safety of everyone.
Lupin's nights were haunted by the narrow close calls the Marauders had had while out on the prowl. He had led three boys into becoming illegal Animagi. He knew he should go to Dumbledore and tell him that Black was an Animagus, but he could not bring himself to face the timeless gaze of the greatest wizard of the age.
So he told himself that Voldemort had taught Black many Dark Arts. Surely he could have used one or more of these to infiltrate the school. Two years ago, Professor Quirrell had been possessed by Voldemort himself! Black being an Animagus wasn't anything to do with this.
Out on the lawn, Ron Weasley, Molly and Arthur's youngest boy was coming up the path. He had hands clasped in front of him, holding something close to his body. The boy stopped in his tracks as someone stepped out from behind a rock with a pointed wand.
Lupin peered closer. Great Merlin, it was Harry!
The pair exchanged some heated words, and Lupin gripped the battlement so hard his knuckles turned white. Weasley was completely at a disadvantage.
Don't hex him, he thought desperately. Please don't hex him when he's unarmed!
Then, proving that Remus Lupin had no luck at all, he saw the dog. He recognized it instantly, and his heart jumped into his throat. Padfoot!
Moony tore down the spiral stairs and down the hall. He was running as fast as he could, and people in the portraits were watching him with the fascination of those with endless time on their hands. He thundered past his office and nearly collided headlong into Snape.
"Watch it!" Snape drawled in a very annoyed tone of voice. "I've your potion, Lupin. Where are you off to in such a hurry?"
His potion! God, he'd almost done it again! He'd nearly put innocent life in danger because of his thoughtlessness.
"Thank you, Severus!" he gasped, grabbing the goblet and throwing the contents back at one go. Ignoring Snape's puzzled look, he ran down the hall and practically tripped down the eight flights of stairs to the entrance hall.
The foul taste of the potion was strong in his mouth as he ran his fastest down the steep path and across the lawn to where the Whomping Willow waved its branches in the windless night. He conjured a pointed stick with a wave of his wand and levitated it inside the Willow's branches. It had been many years, but he saw the knot instantly and poked it with the stick. The branches froze.
He dove down the secret tunnel and into the passageway. Hunched over in most places, he moved as fast as he could. Of all the times when it would have been convenient to change into an animal and he couldn't. It was not fair at all.
The tunnel began to rise, and he hurriedly climbed up to the trapdoor. Wand first, he poked his head out and scanned for threats. God, it was just like the war: sneaking around in the dark, wand at the ready to maim or kill, innocents in danger.
A floorboard creaked under his foot.
"Help!" a terrified voice shouted suddenly from above. "Sirius Black is up here! Help!"
Lupin thundered up the stairs. It didn't matter if he was noisy now. Obviously he'd already been heard. The door exploded in a shower of red sparks as his Blasting Hex blew it apart. He didn't even slow down as he hurtled into the room.
"Expelliarmus!" he shouted, using a wand movement he didn't teach the students. Sure enough, Black had a wand, and it popped into the air as the spell disarmed him. Lupin snatched the wand out of the air and took two steps towards Black.
"Sirius, my old friend," he said sadly. "Looking rather ragged, aren't we? Finally, the flesh reflects the madness within."
"Well, you'd know all about the madness within, wouldn't you?"
Severus Snape watched Harry Potter walk back to the castle with a spring in his step. The boy had just witnessed his parents' betrayer receive the Dementor's Kiss and hadn't batted an eye. His early life had been hell, and he appeared to have been tempered by the fire. Harry was made of stern stuff.
Small wonder he'd been Sorted to Slytherin. That had puzzled Snape at first. He had hated the boy on sight, for it was like looking at that damned James Potter all over again. Slytherin, though, that had surprised him. Still, Snape had determined to take a firm hand with the boy, to teach him that life was more than a sunny dream.
The boy had risen to the challenge.
Snape forced his students into knowing their material by virtue of constantly quizzing them on potions ingredients, their magical properties, and the magical laws that governed the art of potion-making. He always drilled a class heavily when starting off a term or returning from holiday.
Harry Potter had known the material. He'd answered three questions on random, unrelated subjects. He'd earned points for Slytherin and, more importantly, Severus Snape's respect.
It was small at first and grudgingly given, but Snape had been mentally set back on his heels by Potter's preparation for class. And while he was considering how to deal with the unexpected development, more things happened to distinguish Harry from his father. He conducted himself with decorum. He was respectful. He studied hard and had a firm grasp of the basics of potions-making. In that regard, he was more like his mother.
It was a bittersweet reminder.
It was enough for Snape to recognize Harry as his own person. That person was a Slytherin, and thus under Snape's protection. And without a doubt, Harry was a Slytherin. Snape had spent a great deal of time observing Harry and concluded that the Sorting Hat had not made a mistake.
Though he'd nearly reconsidered that assessment as that year had finished up. The crazy stunt of going after the Philosopher's Stone could only have been dreamed up by a Gryffindor. That he'd won through spoke volumes about his Slytherin qualities of cunning and ingenuity.
The situation with the Chamber of Secrets had at first also seemed like a display of Gryffindor stupidity (after all, any properly trained wizard who suspected a basilisk would transfigure any convenient object into a rooster), Snape had spent the whole summer analysing Harry's story to conclude that the motivating factor had been pride. House pride, certainly, because the Heir of Slytherin was darkening an already tarnished name; personal pride was also involved, because Harry had been accused of being the Heir, and his name was being tarnished. No true Slytherin would stand for being falsely accused.
Now he'd run off into the Dementor-filled night chasing a dot on an enchanted map. In the end, he'd managed to capture a Dark wizard and partially avenge the murder of his parents. Harry had told no one where he was going, and it was only by Merlin's luck that he was still alive.
"Quite a night, eh, Severus?" Dumbledore inquired when the boy was out of earshot.
"You controlled yourself quite well around Sirius. I'm very proud of you."
"Spare me the hollow words, Headmaster. I will never be able to forgive him. I'm not actively seeking to kill him anymore. Count that as progress."
"Indeed I do," Dumbledore nodded. "Has the knowledge of his innocence lessened your hatred of him?"
"I never believed Black would turn on Potter," Snape admitted. "Those two were too close. I didn't understand it, but the facts were the apparent facts. In the end, it didn't matter at all to me."
"No, certainly not." Dumbledore paused to gather his thoughts. "I must admit to a certain concern for young Harry," he said, changing the subject. "He is exhibiting most disturbing behaviour."
"In what regard, Headmaster?"
"I worry that he might be walking a dark path. He was so eager to watch Pettigrew be Kissed, and he showed no more emotion than my favourite paperweight."
"He has been walking in very dark places, Headmaster. Do not forget that he spent ten years of his life in darkness at the hands of Muggles."
"I do not need to be reminded of it, Severus." Was Dumbledore's tone a bit sharp? Snape thought it so.
"He went to the Muggles because his parents were betrayed and murdered. The man who sold them out was standing before him. He has brooded all year about how he would seek justice, and now he has it."
"I fear that he will find only emptiness in his 'justice'." Dumbledore's voice was very soft. "I worry about how he will fill himself."
You worry about how others will fill him, Snape thought. That's why you tried so hard to keep him away from Lucius Malfoy.
"He only learned about Black this year. I suspect he will soon refocus his attention on Voldemort."
"That is the crux of what concerns me, Severus. Harry is eager to face him. He has twice now sought him out in this school. No one should be happy about conflict. I fear it is only a matter of time before he decides to cheerfully throw his life away in some mad quest."
"Life is conflict, Professor. It makes us strong."
"It is also capable of destroying us most thoroughly."
"All life must die. That is the way of things. It matters only whether or not one's death has meaning."
"Should not life have meaning also?"
"And Harry's will. The dark places where he has been walking are now lighted by the hope and happiness he has found in the wizarding world."
Snape allowed himself a small, internal smile. It was not often that one could leave the wizened Dumbledore without words. He didn't approve of Dumbledore's role in exiling Harry from the wizarding world and inserted his opinion whenever he had the chance.
It had made the boy bitter and angry, a perfect environment to breed the sort of radicalism that had fuelled Voldemort's war. Now he needed to purge his dark emotions, and only judicious intervention at key moments would keep Harry from becoming a terror a thousand times worse then Voldemort. Letting him watch Peter Pettigrew receive the Dementor's Kiss had been just such an intervention.
Dumbledore regarded Snape with bemusement. "You think quite well of the boy."
Snape held his head higher, saying nothing.
The Headmaster added nothing further. Long moments passed with only the noises of the Forbidden Forest echoing around them. The full moon eventually poked itself up from beneath the horizon.
"And thus, once more, into the breach." Dumbledore said abruptly.
"An odd quotation, Headmaster," Snape observed neutrally.
"Not really," was the absent-sounding reply. "I think I'll stay out a spell. Good night, Severus."
The light of dawn poured through the window, spilling onto the office floor. Two loudly snoring men lay there. One of them wore tatty grey robes, no shoes, and had a tangled mess of black hair and beard. The other man was covered in a moth-eaten blanket, his clothes torn to shreds.
The naked man opened his eyes. He pulled the blanket tight around his bony body and reached into the drawer of the desk for his wand. He Summoned clean clothes from the wardrobe he had attached to the ceiling to keep it safe. He pulled on a shirt and fresh trousers, glad to feel like a man again. But this morning he had reason to reflect that the night hadn't been a torment.
The only times he'd had any peace from the beast within him had been with his Animagi friends. For twelve years, Moony had been alone. Now the night was no longer empty.
Padfoot was back.
The wolf, tamed by the Wolfsbane Potion, had been no ravening monster. Instead it had found peace and even joy, for it's old friend was here again.
Sirius stirred, and he raised his hand to block the sunlight. "Hell of a night," he mumbled.
"Just like old times."
"I don't remember ever being locked in a room in the old days," Sirius replied. "Well there was that one time when the Muggle police were chasing me on my motorbike-"
"That happened a lot, as I recall."
"But they didn't like it much when I disappeared out of the back of the paddy wagon and they mysteriously lost the evidence."
"Don't let Harry hear you tell that story."
Sirius sobered visibly. "My God, Moony. Can you believe him? It's James, and yet it's not James at all. It's like some creepy evil twin of James."
"He's had a hard life, Padfoot. Harry will tell you in time, but his Muggle relatives were not kind to him."
"Lily's sister and her oaf of a husband," Sirius said darkly. "I let Hagrid take Harry to them, Moony. I let him go so I could track down Peter. What do you mean they weren't kind to him?"
"It is not my place to tell you."
"Someone damn well better!"
"Harry will!" Remus said firmly. "Do stop shouting, Sirius. You'll wake the dead."
Sirius took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He changed the subject. "However those people treated him, it doesn't matter anymore. Harry's coming to live with me. I haven't got a place to live yet, though. I need to figure out money. I've still got my own account, and I can live off that for a short time if I must. My mother died a few years ago, you know."
"I remember you hated her."
"Blood this, blood that," Sirius replied with disgust. "But Mother never wrote me out of her will, officially. They told me that I was disqualified by reason of being a criminal. The inheritance went to my cousin Narcissa as the eldest Black. Now that I am a free man, I shall have to take it back from her."
"Narcissa married Lucius Malfoy, as you remember," Remus reminded him. "They have two sons. Brace yourself, Padfoot. One of them is Harry's best mate."
Sirius could not have looked more shocked if ice water had been thrown in the face. "My godson?"
"Yes. Sirius, I know this is hard to hear, but you need to stay calm. Harry is very close with the Malfoy family."
"By all that's sacred, how?"
"He's a Slytherin. He's famous. He has a lot of influence, even if he doesn't realize it yet. Is it any wonder that Lucius encouraged his son to befriend Harry?"
Sirius looked worried now. "Moony, I don't want them getting their hooks into him."
"It's a bit late, from what I gather." Remus was quite amazed that Sirius hadn't run out of the office yet. "The Malfoys took him in when he needed a place to go. He won't forget that easily. Harry and Draco Malfoy are fast friends. In a way, they actually remind me of us."
Sirius gagged. "What are we going to do?"
"I don't see much that can be done." Remus hated the feeling of helplessness. "If you try to break that friendship, all you're going to do is make Harry resent you. It would be like someone trying to make me reject you or Prongs or Wormtail. You were my friends; Draco is Harry's. The best we can do is to be positive influences in his life and do our best to keep him away from the Dark path."
"Thanks, Moony. Now I'm ready for it."
"You're very calm all of a sudden."
And suddenly, Remus didn't recognize the man before him as his friend, Sirius Black. "I have to be mature," the man said. "I can't do stupid things anymore. Harry needs me to be the adult. I promised James that Harry would be as my own son."
Remus had watched the war against Voldemort bring new gravitas to all of the Marauders, but Sirius had somehow retained just a touch of his disregard for his own personal safety. He had done more than his fair share of stupid, foolhardy, Gryffindor missions for the Order of the Phoenix. Now it seemed he had lost his death wish.
Snape stared at the door as Harry Potter shut it behind him. The boy had come to thank Snape for his actions in the Shrieking Shack, actions that had led to Sirius Black, the boy's godfather, being declared innocent of heinous crimes. Harry was now leaving Hogwarts to live with Black instead of the disgusting Muggles who had "cared" for Harry since the age of one.
The boy had just thanked him for nearly allowing his blind hatred to deprive Harry of the one thing he most needed: love. It had been clear as day to Snape when Black had told his tale in the Headmaster's office. Black had loved James and Lily Potter and loved their son as well.
And with his wand at Black's neck, the story nearly hadn't had a happy ending.
There were a few father-figures in Harry's life, and Snape was certain that James Potter was rolling in his grave over every one of them. Snape actually took a perverse pleasure in that. Taking an interest in the boy let him appreciate Harry's virtues while satisfying the bitter part of him that hated Potter. But whether he still hated a dead man or not, he was only the boy's teacher.
Lucius Malfoy was a stern man, born of a hard-minded father. He had been made harder by the consequences of his decision to support Voldemort, and the fear for his family had rendered him very cautious. Snape suspected he was only hedging his bet out of self-interest. Not there was anything wrong with that. But Potter would never have trusted one who once followed such an evil maniac.
Black, though, Black was different. He had been Potter's best friend, and the two of them had plagued Snape's existence in school. But even Snape, who loathed Black, didn't doubt the strength of his sworn word. Black was someone whose loyalties could never be questioned. He would put Harry first.
It was another of those judicious moments of intervention that Snape had determined would be needed to keep Harry from straying off into darkness. Snape had never predicted this particular turn of events, but it was wholly welcome.
Professor Remus J. Lupin entered Headmaster Dumbledore's office wearing his most determined expression. He could no longer bear the weight of his guilt. It was time for this sinner to confess.
"Remus, do come in. Take a seat. Sherbet lemon? Licorice bite?" Dumbledore was all smiles.
"No, thank you, Albus. I'm afraid I come on serious matters. I must resign my post at once; I have betrayed you."
There. It was out. He'd finally admitted his deed. There could be no turning back now. In a way, he felt glad of that.
"I've known all year that several of the most secret passages have been unguarded. Sirius got into the school through one or more of them, and I did nothing to impede him."
"Most secret passages, Remus?" Dumbledore questioned lightly. "Those that only you and Sirius know about?"
"Yes." Remus felt his guts turn to lead. Dumbledore was directing that timeless gaze at him that he'd dreaded so much. "Sirius didn't become an Animagus after he finished school. He learned while he was here at Hogwarts. So did James and Peter. They did it for me, so that I wouldn't have to be alone in my madness. And they helped me. Every full moon, we explored all the nooks and crannies of this castle and the grounds except the Chamber of Secrets. Sirius was using his knowledge of the tunnels to get into the castle after Harry."
"Peter," Dumbledore corrected gently.
"No, I mean Harry. Because that's what we all thought. Every one of us, even you, believed Harry to be in phenomenal danger. Unless you were having us on?"
"No, Remus, I believed Sirius was after Harry, but I was wrong; we were all wrong. It is an important lesson: even one wise and powerful can be wrong. We are all merely human and imperfect. I will not accept your resignation on these grounds."
Remus was dumbstruck. Far from shouting at him like he deserved, Dumbledore was treating him kindly. "Sir!"
"You made a mistake in not telling me about his skills. So be it. We must be thankful that no one was hurt." Dumbledore now sounded faintly reproving. "It very easily could have ended in tragedy. I hope you can see that, Remus. Some secrets should not be kept."
Remus nodded absently, still somewhat in shock. "Please forgive me, Professor."
"I forgive you, Remus," Dumbledore said easily.
Remus took a deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling the weight of his guilt easing. "I'm afraid I still must resign, sir. The public is in an uproar about a werewolf teaching their children."
"I can handle the public," Dumbledore responded forcefully. "Remus, the students love you. You excel at mastery of the subject material and make it understandable for these young minds. I need you here, teaching these children to combat the Dark forces in our world."
Remus swallowed a lump in his throat. "Thank you, Albus. That means so much to me. But I'm afraid I must. I don't feel myself suited to teaching for awhile. Perhaps in time."
"But not now. Not next year."
Dumbledore sighed heavily. "I cannot compel you, of course. I'm sorry, Remus."
"I'm sorry, too."