A/N: And here we are. Thanks for everything.
A Chance Encounter
"Wow." Theodore was the first of his friends to find his voice after Harry had told them the details of what had happened to him after he had taken that potion.
It was the first time he and his friends were alone since his ordeal with the potion which had successfully cleansed the Horcrux from his soul. They were all gathered in his room on the sofas in front of his fireplace, he sat between Daphne and Theodore. Daphne hadn't let go of his hand since they went to his room, if any of his friends noticed they kept it to themselves.
Harry was grateful for it. Her touch brought a surprising comfort to him. He had felt the pressure of it on more than occasion as he retold his friends about his time with his parents, the reassuring squeeze of her hand in his.
"You saw them?" Neville's voice was soft as a whisper. "You spoke to them, your parents?" His eyes were unable to rest on Harry or any of the others when he asked his question.
"Yes," Harry confirmed. He couldn't stop the smile that came to his lips at just remembering that conversation with them. To put voices to faces of the so many pictures he had of them, to finally hear them say his name, to talk to him like so many of the dreams he's had of them over the years.
"They're proud of you, Harry," Hermione's eyes were glistening with unshed tears after his story had ended.
We're proud of you, their voices sounded as clear and as strong as the first time he heard it. The words echoed in his mind and bringing with it a warm feeling in his gut that he cherished.
"So that's why," Tracey paused, "He came after you."
There was no doubt to Harry, who the 'He,' that Tracey was referring to, "Yes."
"But prophecies can be so tricky," Theodore shook his head, "Why would the Dark Lord put so much trust in such a problematic field of magic?"
"Fear," Daphne answered in a tone conveyed that she thought it was quite simple to understand.
All heads turned to Daphne with various looks of disbelief on their faces.
Harry gave her a curious look, but said nothing.
"Fear?" Tracey tried to laugh, but it sounded more like a strangled noise. "You-Know-Who afraid?" Her eyes were as wide as saucers, "Of a kid?"
"Of losing," Daphne told her best friend. "Everything Harry's told us, reveals his fundamental fear of dying," she looked at them, "the horcruxes," she scrunched her nose at the sinister form of magic, "the prophecy," she listed, "He's consumed by it."
"She's right," Neville said quietly. "Why else would he make so many of those things?"
"That's true," Hermione agreed, looking pensive.
"Did Dumbledore want you to tell us all this?" Tracey asked with a tinge of hesitance in her tone.
Harry shrugged. It was true that after he had awoken up from his potion induced slumber and after the words he uttered to Moony and Dumbledore that the latter had insisted that Harry's friends be removed much to their disappointment and protest. After, they had been removed, Dumbledore and the others had continued to question Harry of everything he remembered about his time with his parents.
Dumbledore had then promised to return with his pensieve so that he could witness this memory. It was an idea that Roxy, Cyrus, and Moony were eager to implement, but only with Harry's permission. He gave it to them knowing how important his parents were to them, and couldn't deny them a chance to see and hear them one last time. After all, he thought it was fitting that his parents' words he gave about them be heard by them instead of Harry, who would've been a poor substitute to such a powerful message.
Afterwards, Dumbledore had excused himself and left. Moony too had been overcome with the revelation of Sirius' innocence and had sought solitude and silence. No doubt reflecting on everything he thought he had known these past twelve years about his friendships with Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew.
Roxanne had kept Harry in her sight at all times. A skilled healer at St. Mungos she watched him carefully, alert for any symptoms of any side effects the potion could give him. Cyrus had allowed Harry's friends to return to his side, their presence was a welcome reprieve for him.
They didn't talk about what happened to him after he drank the potion, and instead slipped into easier if not more boring conversations into the upcoming school year, and plans for their last weeks of the summer holiday. It was a simple distraction, but it was a needed one for Harry to just listen to his friends' chattering amongst themselves.
It wasn't until later that a reluctant Roxanne let them retire into Harry's room, his friends in tow. With the promise that she'd be alerted to any lingering symptoms Harry felt from the potion. As well as the agreement that she would check up on them periodically throughout the evening, easy provisions that Harry was happy to accept.
It was when they had all gathered around the fireplace on the couches that Harry told them everything. There had been no prompting from them, no one asked, but all the same Harry divulged to them everything he could remember after he had taken that potion. Whatever had had recited to Dumbledore and the adults, he found himself telling his friends who took the story in with stunned silence.
That might have been Dumbledore's intentions not to say anything, but it wasn't Harry's. It felt to him like a betrayal to his friends if he kept them in the dark about the truth.
"You're my friends," Harry broke the silence from his self reflections. "You deserve to know."
"Thanks, Harry," Neville said sincerely.
"I should be thanking you," Harry insisted, looking around at his friends, "All of you."
In truth, he needed them. Harry wasn't sure how else he could cope with not just the revelations he learned, but in how to move forward and prepare himself for the things to come which Dumbledore had warned him about. Their friendship was a source of strength which had meant so much to him in the past two years, and moving forward, he'd need it just as much if not more.
"For sticking with me," he admitted, "I reckon I've gotten us into some trouble in the past."
"Some trouble?" Tracey sent him a sly smile.
"Okay," Harry relented, "A bit of trouble, but you stuck by me."
"That's what friends do, Harry." Theo said.
"Theo's right," Daphne said the words like it pained her. She gave a dramatic grimace when she finished.
"The words sound sweeter coming from you, Greengrass," Theo said with a not so innocent smile.
"We're with you, Harry," Neville put in before any argument could start between Theo and Daphne.
"We're not going anywhere." Hermione assured him.
"Yeah, you're stuck with us," Tracey winked.
Harry chuckled at that. "And I couldn't be happier about that."
Harry stood in the doorway of Remus' room. Glancing in to see the dimly lit room, but he could see the silhouette of his uncle clear enough. He was slouched over at his desk, a lit lantern casting him in a faint glow. His eyes were looking down at something he was holding.
"Harry." He sounded sad and tired.
He tentatively stepped into the room without invitation. Concern gripped him upon seeing Moony in such a state. Harry had expected Remus, Cyrus, and Roxanne to react strongly to the revelation that Peter Pettigrew, not Sirius Black had betrayed his parents. A lie they had believed for more than a decade.
A solemn silence hung over Remus' room like a storm cloud.
He had been in here a few times and it had always been tidy and organized, and well lit, but now, even with the poor light, Harry noticed the unmade bed, his dresser usually immaculate with nothing out of place had fallen into disarray, and as Harry stepped across the room, he felt his feet step or bump into countless items that seemed to be littered across the floor.
"Twelve years," Moony said softly.
Harry had to strain to hear him even when he was only a few feet away and getting closer in the quiet room.
"Twelve years I hated him," Moony's voice had gone cold. "I cursed him, I blamed him, I despised him," his fingers tightened around what he was holding.
Getting closer, Harry realized it was an old photograph. With the dim light of the lantern, he could see the outlines of what appeared to be four men, but as he looked closer, he noticed one of the faces had been blackened, of a tall, slender man who was standing between a clearly younger Remus and of Harry's father, while a short, and chubby Peter stood to his father's other side, his face unscathed.
No doubt, Sirius' picture had been the target of Remus' obvious wroth when he believed it was Sirius who had betrayed Harry's parents.
"Poisoned," Remus muttered, "that's what it is." He raised his head; dark rings were under his eyes which looked red in the light. "Twelve years it festered. Corrupting all of my memories of him, blemishing our friendship, and the adventures we shared as the Marauders." His lip twitched at the mention of the name they called themselves, a muscle memory, since there was no hint of mirth or nostalgia in his expression.
"For twelve years I stewed in nothing but bitterness and hate whenever his name came up in conversation." Remus looked down at the picture; of the four young men waving and smiling save for Sirius'.
"Only to discover it was all wrong." His fingers began to constrict around the picture. "Everything you thought you knew about someone only for it to be turned on its head."
"We'll set this right," Harry said, thinking that was the reason for Remus' ailment. "We'll make sure everyone knows Sirius was innocent!" He remembered the vow he made to his parents.
Remus let out a bitter laugh. "That's what I'm afraid of."
Harry frowned. He was caught off guard by Moony's curt tone and words.
"Twelve years, Harry. Twelve years in that dark dank pit known as Azkaban," Remus shook his head. "How many times did I think he deserved his fate? How many times did I take some sort of satisfaction in feeling that he was being punished for his betrayal of James, Lily, and Peter?"
"He was innocent, Harry!" Remus' hands shot up from where they were resting to seize Harry by the shoulders. "Innocent!" His voice hitched. "I'm afraid of the man who we'll meet." His eyes glistened in the dim light.
"Sirius escaped!" Harry argued. He wasn't going to give up on his godfather. The escape alone had to be proof enough that Sirius wasn't lost, and that he still had some of his wits with him to make such a daring escape from a prison that no one has ever escaped from.
Harry's words seemed to jolt through Moony's melancholy.
"You're right," he said. "You're right, Harry." He stood up. "Sirius is out there and he needs our help."
"Whatever it takes," Remus vowed, "Sirius will get his freedom back."
The Sequel to this story is posted and can be found on my profile page. It is titled, "The Slytherin Reformation."