And finally, the very last instalment of Black Vengeance! I hope you enjoy this. Now I can get back to my other story.
For those of you who did not get it, Black Island was based off Kirrin Island from Enid Blyton's Famous Five Series. Ten points to all of those that did!
Oh, and I changed a little something regarding the second task here and included a small scene regarding Peter Pettigrew's fate just before the epilogue ... I hope you like it.
Act III Scene I
Between extending his influence and making himself a well-known figure, managing the Potter and the Black fortunes (though he might as well call it "the Potter-Black fortune" as the two families were now fully combined), studying the locket and now finding out a way to help his son through the Tournament, the days slipped by for Sirius. Before he knew it, it was the thirteenth of November.
Looking at the date gave Sirius pause. It was five days away from the first task of the tournament. While he had been in constant contact with Harry, helping the boy as much as he could, he could not help feel that something was not right. The smiles seemed half-hearted, and the happiness in his demeanour felt forced.
Something was bothering his boy, and Sirius did not know what to do.
As if some divine being was hearing his thoughts, a handsome tawny owl flew into the room bearing a letter.
Opening the letter, Sirius perused the contents. Troubled, he set the missive aside and immediately drew a fresh piece of parchment towards him. Penning a short reply, he looked up to see the owl had left in the meantime.
Sirius swore before hanging his head in defeat. It looks like he would have to get this delivered through that demon owl. Really, he should have named the thing in the first place. "Voldemort the second" sounded like an apt name.
Harry sighed as he trudged down to the Great Hall for breakfast. His life was utterly miserable right now, and he found that he had no energy to go through the day.
He could not believe that he had thought that Fourth Year had started out on such a high note. When he had boarded the train, he was in high spirits: he had gone through a growth spurt (and was now reaching Sirius' chest), the summer's activities had seemingly paid off as he had noticed (or thought he had noticed anyway) a slight amount of definition on his otherwise smooth, flat stomach and skinny arms and legs. And to top it all off was the few hairs he had definitely noticed growing at important parts of his body (most noticeably, the five strands on his upper lip that he was really proud to show off). In other words, he was on his way to being a man.
But that did not compare to the joy he felt at having not only his friends, but a father. Sirius was the first adult to care for him like a parent should. He had taken an active interest in Harry's life and had helped in setting Harry on the right track. What was more he had actually cared enough to bring him in line whenever he screwed up. Harry did not like the punishments (he especially detested being made to sit in a corner – he could not decide if it was worse than the spanking) but he couldn't help but feel a small amount of belonging, like he mattered.
He should have known that things wouldn't last this way for long. It had started off small. Hermione had a tiff with him at the Welcoming Feast when he had repeated what Sirius had told him about house-elves and how in return for shelter and enhanced magic, they served their wizard masters. He had also tried to tell her that the elves actually wanted to help and do all that work. For some reason, he could not get through to her.
Thanks to the extra tutoring over the summer, Harry had a better understanding of how magic worked and for once, did not feel as if his brain had been wrung out on the first day. Professors McGonagall and Flitwick had actually praised him on being one of the few to get the spells right first. It had given him a warm feeling.
To top it all, Potions stopped being something Harry hated with a passion. Without the presence of Snape, the subject had become fun and easy to learn. The number of cauldrons blown up, melted or otherwise ruined by Neville had also decreased dramatically.
The teacher, a professor Slughorn, was a large and gregarious man who took delight in teaching the subject. What was more, he had also seemed to have taken a liking to Harry and Neville from the train ride itself when he had invited the two of them for lunch. While Harry found it slightly uncomfortable at first, he found himself liking the parties the man had organised.
But what really got him comfortable around Slughorn was the fact that the man had taught his parents and had a particular fondness for his mother despite, according to him, his surprise at her being Muggleborn.
Had this been said to Harry a year back, then he would not have liked the Potions teacher that much. But he had spoken to his dad about the same subject over the summer.
Sirius looked at his son thoughtfully after the subject had been raised. 'If I told you to make me a cup of tea, what would you do?' seeing the uncomprehending expression on Harry's face, he continued. 'Just humour me. I promise you it will answer your question.'
'Um,' Harry began slowly. 'Well, I would have to go down to the kitchen and get the tin of tea leaves. Then I would boil some water, put the leaves in it and –'
Sirius held up his hand. 'Watch this,' he said. Taking out his wand, he flicked it, causing the tea set to appear. With another flick, the teapot was filled with water. With a twitch, the leaves streamed out of the tin and into the pot. A tap caused steam to billow from the spout, and with a final wave, the pot floated up and poured tea into two cups, one of which was floating towards Harry.
'While I agree that blood is not indicative of power, there is still the fact that unlike the Muggleborn, Purebloods and Half Bloods will always be better at magic because we are simply good at it.' Sirius took a satisfied sip. 'Muggleborns and Muggle-raised are not brought up in magic. They are only introduced to it at a much later stage. They see it as an extra ability, like how a person can touch his nose with the tip of his tongue, or, Merlin forbid, a tool. We, who have been brought up in and around magic see it as a way of life. To us, magic is a part of our very beings. It isn't just any old ability, it is what we are. It is not easy for a person to stop thinking like a Muggle and switch over to thinking like a Magical and embracing magic as a part of yourself. Few can do it in a short time. Your mother was a good example of such a person. Despite being Muggleborn, Lily took to thinking like a witch with such quickness that by her third year, most of our peers thought that she had magical parents.'
Harry mentally conceded that Sirius had a point. But he wasn't done yet.
'Maybe if they let the Muggleborn and the Muggle-raised to perform magic over the holidays it wouldn't be so bad. The trace is quite unfair. That the Ministry knows only who performs magic only in Muggle neighbourhoods, stinks of a conspiracy to keep the Muggleborn down.' He had said, recalling what he had read from the library along with Hermione's numerous rants over the past year when she had chanced on that information in her search for an effective strategy for the now executed Buckbeak.
'What on earth gave you that idea?' Sirius replied incredulously. 'The Trace only works accurately in a Muggle neighbourhood; yes, that is true. The Ministry cannot tell if the underage person is performing magic in a magical environment giving Pureblood and Half Blood children the freedom to perform magic over the summer; again, that is a fact. But this conspiracy theory of yours is quite absurd. The main aim of the Ministry is to keep magic a secret. You have studied your history books, so you do know why we went into hiding in the first place.
'Now, the fact is that there are magical children born to Muggle parents. They are a danger unto themselves and to magical society as they cannot be expected to understand that they must not do magic in the presence of Muggles. In fact, no magical child is expected to understand not to do magic in front of Muggles or be discrete about it. Hence, we have the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. With that, everyone under the age of seventeen is prohibited from doing magic outside school. It's a blanket ban.
'Unfortunately, the Ministry does not have the technology to precisely detect who did what magic. If it were, then trust me, crime rates would be much lower, and Voldemort probably would have been behind bars the minute he committed his first murder. So the Ministry expects parents to supervise their children and keep them in line. The only time a Pureblood or Half Blood child will be caught doing magic by the Ministry sensors is if they are in a Muggle area and away from parental supervision. Adult magic usage falls under the Statue of Secrecy and believe me, the penalties are much worse there.'
Sirius spent a moment to gather his thoughts before continuing. 'It isn't really fair on the Muggleborn and Muggle-raised children as the law is more capable of monitoring them than indulgent parents of Magic-raised children, but that's the best the government can do at this point of time. There have been advances on The Trace, but they haven't been implemented. That's because applying those charms has been decried by the public as a major invasion in privacy. And interestingly enough, a majority of those naysayers happen to be Muggleborn. I remember Lily ranting about the topic when implementing those measures was proposed. She made sure James voted against that as well.'
Harry loved such debates. He and Sirius had talked at length about various issues over drinks (Sirius with a whiskey glass of his favourite single malt, and Harry with a similar glass, but filled with butterbeer) after dinner, before Harry had to go to bed.
From these debates, Harry was apprised of the history behind many issues in the wizarding world. He got to know that it was because of their general aggressiveness towards humans and inability to control themselves when transformed that fuelled all the anti-werewolf legislation. At the same time, the attitude towards vampires was warming up because of their recent switch to drinking from blood banks and keeping voluntary donors.
Finally, Harry fully understood what it meant to be The Boy Who Lived. Sirius told him that people's fascination with him with him was partly due to him being the cause behind Voldemort vanishing, and more importantly, because he was the only person in the entire history of the curse (which was about five hundred years) who had taken an Avada Kedavra in the face and lived.
Sirius had then talked him through how to react to being stared at. Harry did not have to like it, but he had to at least put on a game face. It would be something that would come in handy both in public and in the political field the day he becomes the head of the family.
It was the little things like this that helped Harry connect with his peers and made him more sociable during Slughorn's first meeting. He had made quite a few acquaintances that night.
He had fit right into Professor Vector's Arithmancy class with minimal trouble, and the model of the galaxy that Sirius had bought for him (a heavily expensive item) had made Astronomy a breeze. Well, that, and the fact that all of Harry's stepfather's ancestors had been named after a constellation.
So not only was he on top of his studies for the first time in his magical education (a pleasant feeling for sure). But life in school was looking up.
Of course, it all went to hell the night his name came out of that thrice cursed Goblet.
The whole of Gryffindor house was ecstatic at the news that one of their own had been selected in the Tournament of the Four Champions (as people were beginning to call it). However, they were the only ones. The other three houses weren't so happy about it. The Hufflepuffs supported their own champion, the Ravenclaws had thrown their lot in with Helga's house and the less said the better about the Slytherins.
The bottom line, though, was that nobody believed that he had not put his name in. Nobody really wanted to listen to the fact that he really could not have fooled an ancient magical artefact and Dumbledore's age line.
Harry felt that it wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the fact that Ron and Hermione also did not believe him. Both of them refused to talk to him (the only Gryffindors to do so). Ron had also called him a cheater outright!
The only people who believed him were his Quidditch teammates and, surprisingly enough, Neville. It was only because of the blond Gryffindor's silent support (along with the rest of the house being willing to talk to him) that Harry had managed to go through classes without snapping.
But it wasn't a complete success; especially after Malfoy and his lovely Support Cedric Diggory badges. Harry really did not care for seeing Potter Stinks flashed in front of his face in so many directions with so many laughing and jeering faces wearing those badges. He and Malfoy had actually traded spells right outside the Potions classroom.
Malfoy's had missed Harry by a hair's breadth, catching Hermione instead, while Harry's superbly aimed nonverbal Levicorpus (a feat that impressed the witnesses) had hit the blond git square in the face, hoisting him upside by his ankles, and showing the whole world that he did not believe in wearing underpants under his robes.
The collective had started laughing at the scene. While the Slytherins were divided as to whether to laugh at Malfoy's surprisingly hairless bits or Hermione's large front teeth, the Gryffindors had no such problem. They had unanimously decided that Malfoy's situation was the funniest.
And that was when Professor Slughorn had stepped in.
Knowing by now that their new Head of House would not favour them like Snape had, the Slytherins had been quick to hide the evidence from the teacher. So in the end, while suspicious, Slughorn let the incident slide without comment. He instead had focussed on the two duelling boys.
While Harry had received a detention, he wasn't too unhappy about it. He had managed to get his side of the story heard, thereby landing Malfoy in detention too. Besides, he had managed to embarrass the blond thoroughly. The detention itself had also been quite light.
However, by the end of the day, the badges were all over the place. The students were quick at keeping the alternative message of the badges out of the teachers' eyes, only stopping to show them to Harry.
Despite being urged to grass about the badges, Harry did not say anything. He did not want Malfoy to have the satisfaction that he had succeeded in getting to him.
The continued stress was beginning to wear on him, though. His marks were slowly dropping and he also found himself being reprimanded twice by two different teachers for not paying attention.
What really hurt was the smug look he had spied on Hermione's face when McGonagall was chewing him out.
The media hadn't helped matters either. After the Wand Weighing Ceremony, the article published by one of the Daily Prophet's reporters (a disturbingly artificial looking woman by the name of Rita Skeeter) had only given his schoolmates more ammunition to use against him.
To top it all off was Sirius. His stepfather had not said anything outright, but Harry had the feeling, in the few mirror conversations he had, that the man clearly suspected something and was waiting for Harry to come out and say it. He dreaded the next mirror call for he knew that it would be a matter of time before Sirius read the article. He seriously hoped that none of the teachers had written to the man about his performance in the school. That would result in significant discomfort.
Harry slumped down at the Gryffindor table next to Neville and half-heartedly filled his plate.
'So, what do you plan to do in Hogsmeade?' Neville asked.
Harry paused. He had forgotten that this was the first Hogsmeade weekend.
'I dunno,' he finally said listlessly. 'I'll probably go to the library.'
He had not forgotten the Tournament. Normally he would have felt a cold wave of dread in his stomach at the prospect of facing the unknown in front of so many people. But with everything happening around him and to him, Harry found he really did not have much energy to spare thinking about the first task.
He still had to decide whether it was a good thing or not.
While he put forth the effort to learn as much as he could, he knew that he was up against those who were three to four years older than him. It was quite hopeless really. He couldn't help but feel sorry for himself. If only he had listened to Sirius the first time and gone to Beauxbatons...
'I think you should come.'
Harry was jerked out of his internal monologue by the forceful tone in Neville's voice. He had not heard his friend speak so confidently before.
'I – I mean that you could use some time to relax and unwind.' Neville stammered. 'You're pretty overworked as it is.'
Harry looked at him for a long moment. 'Fine,' he shrugged. It would be nice to get away from it all for a while.
'I'm taking my Invisibility Cloak, though.'
Neville lifted a shoulder in a half shrug, 'Fine by me.'
The two of them set off towards the village. Harry never felt so free in his life. For the first time in days, nobody was looking or pointing at him or making snide comments behind his back.
After a bit of browsing and window shopping, the two headed towards the Three Broomsticks.
'You know, it's a bit crowded in here,' as far as the rest of the world was concerned, Neville looked as if he was speaking to himself. 'I know, let's use one of the private rooms upstairs.' Not giving Harry a chance to respond, he took off.
Wondering what this was all about, Harry followed his friend. He was sure that they would need to talk to Madam Rosmerta first. Neville, it seemed, was not of the same opinion as he weaved through the crowded room and up the stairs.
Seeing that they were alone, Harry removed the cloak. 'Don't we –' his question died in his lips as Neville pushed open a door to reveal his father sitting there.
'Harry, Neville! Come in, come in.' Sirius said, standing up and ushering the two of them inside.
'You boys want anything to eat or drink?' he asked sociably.
'Um, I just remembered something,' Neville said suddenly. 'I'll catch you later, Harry!'
With a quick wave, the blond left the room, leaving his brunette friend sputtering behind him.
'Sit down, Harry,' Sirius said, calling his son's attention to him.
Reluctantly, Harry sat down. They spent lunch in silence, occasionally talking about inconsequential things.
'Now,' said Sirius once they were finished. 'What's been bothering you?'
'Why don't you ask Neville?' Harry replied scathingly. As they had been eating, he had become angrier and angrier at Neville's and Sirius' interference. 'He probably has told you everything.'
Sirius very nearly rolled his eyes at this. 'For your information,' he said in a mild tone which no less had a subtle hint of a warning to it. 'Neville hasn't told me anything. He just mentioned that you were stressed and that he was quite worried about you. Oh, and he also told me that the rest of the school wasn't too happy about you being selected as the champion.' He added at the end. 'He wasn't willing to tell me the specifics when I asked. So, I told him to get you here.'
Harry was taken off guard at this revelation. 'Oh,' he said, still sullen.
After a long moment of seeing his son stare at the table, Sirius exhaled softly and with a wave of his wand, he gently floated Harry's chair next to him. Gently putting an arm around the boy, Sirius gently encouraged Harry to speak up. 'Come on, kid. Something is clearly bothering you. Don't keep it inside. I can help. Both Neville and I want to help. We care deeply about you, Harry and it hurts us to see you so upset.'
Hearing the softly spoken words, Harry's eyes involuntarily started tearing up. Before he knew it, he was on his father's lap, encircled in his arms as he clung onto the man and spoke of what he had gone through the past few weeks in between sniffles and hiccupping sobs. Once he was done with that, he continued on, talking about how he thought that he would end up dead, last or dead last in the Tournament and was afraid of how disappointed Sirius would be with him once that happened.
Sirius silently listened, rocking the boy back and forth as his son told him everything. He was furious at what Harry had to go through. The badges were clearly a case of bullying, and the teachers hadn't done anything to stop it.
At least he had taken care of the Daily Prophet. After reading that article, a furious Sirius had proceeded to show the editor of the paper just where the word "Blackmail" had originated from. Needless to say, he was positive that the paper would not be writing anything about his son or him without his consent.
Just to be safe, he was having the reporter in question tailed. A woman like that was bound to have some skeletons in her closet. He hoped, for her sake, that she was useful. Otherwise, he might just destroy her.
Sirius looked down at the top of Harry's head. The boy had quietened now. Soon enough, he began to stir. Sirius let go of the hold he had on the teenager who shuffled back to his chair, not meeting his eyes. Sirius knew that Harry was embarrassed over the breakdown he had.
Harry was startled when his father only gave him a handkerchief without comment and getting up, looked out of the window, giving him some small measure of privacy to compose himself. He was mortified that he had broken down like that. He was fourteen for Merlin's sake! And yet he had acted like a four year old with a skinned knee that needed babying.
Not that he minded it (and even the Cruciatus Curse would not get him to admit that bit). He was quite grateful that Sirius had not said anything.
Once Sirius felt that enough time had passed, he turned around, and stepped towards his son, engulfing him in a reassuring hug.
Stepping away from him, he grasped Harry's shoulders and met him in the eye, once again marvelling at how fast the boy had grown. 'Hey,' he said softly 'Let me make one thing clear, Harry. Nothing would make me prouder to see you come out on top in this Tournament. But, at the same time, I won't be disappointed should you fail. Even if you come in dead last, with negative points, I still wouldn't be disappointed or cross with you. All that matters to me is that you put up a good enough effort. Without getting yourself killed, of course.' He added at the last moment. 'Or grievously injured because you did not quit while you were ahead. Now that would definitely make me very angry and disappointed. So, as long as you don't get yourself killed or maimed, we're good, yeah?' he winked.
Harry couldn't help but give a small smile in return at the last sentence.
'As for the rest of the school ... well, I would tell you to ignore them for the most part because they don't matter, but I have a feeling that you won't really appreciate that kind of advice. It definitely isn't easy to ignore all that when it constantly grates on your nerves. So I will tell you that yes, things are not good right now. But just hold on a bit longer, and they will improve. At least you have one good friend.'
Harry looked at his father sourly. 'You and Neville set me up.' He said accusingly.
'Yes, we did,' Sirius replied unapologetically. 'And that's because we care about you. So lose the grumpy face.'
Looking at his father, Harry realised that he really wasn't angry at Neville or Sirius. He couldn't be.
It still irritated him though. With a huff, he looked away, muttering under his breath as he shoved his hands into his pockets.
Sirius rolled his eyes in amusement. 'Once they see what you are up against after the first task, it will be as if the past few weeks never happened.' He said.
'That's if I manage to do well in it,' Harry muttered.
Sirius stretched his lips in a half-smile. 'Don't worry about that.' He looked at his watch. 'Come on, we'll talk on our way to the school.'
Ushering him towards the door, Sirius spoke softly into Harry's ear, his breath tickling the fine, colourless and almost invisible hairs on the pinna. 'Now, back straight, and chin up, son. Remember, you are Harry James Alphard Potter-Black, the last of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter and the heir and scion of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. The world is at your feet.'
A pleased smile graced Sirius's lips when he saw Harry squaring his shoulders and straightening his back.
The duo looked quite impressive as they headed down High Street. Harry absently noticed that while everyone was looking at him, nobody said anything. Bolstered by his father's presence, he put on an aloof expression as he looked straight ahead.
Neville was up in the dorm when Harry came inside.
'Hey, Harry,' he greeted.
'Neville,' Harry eyed the blond for a long moment. 'You are a git,' saying that, he thrust a box into the other boy's hands.
'Chocolate truffles,' he explained, 'Specially made by Mr Flume.'
'Thanks,' Neville said. He really did like those. Picking up one, he popped it into his mouth. He wondered why Harry was looking at him like that. He didn't have to wonder long.
Harry smirked when Neville started coughing when his tongue encountered the spicy centre of the truffle. 'You're still a git, Longbottom.' Smiling openly now, he continued. 'The rest of the truffles aren't spicy, by the way.'
Neville glared half-heartedly at the other boy. It wasn't that bad a prank. After all, he did sort of enjoy the flavour now that he had overcome the shock.
'So what happened with Sirius?' he asked Harry.
'Oh,' Harry said sobering up. Taking a deep breath he continued. 'He is planning on having me enrolled in Town House.'
Neville did a double-take. 'Really?'
Harry only nodded.
'Oh,' Neville looked mildly saddened by the news.
'So, when will that happen?'
Harry shrugged, 'Dunno. It depends on how the discussion with Dumbledore goes. Though I hope I end up there.'
'Yeah, cause the alternative is my dad being sent to prison for murdering Dumbledore.'
Neville winced. 'He was that angry, huh?'
Harry nodded empathically. 'He looked right hacked off when we parted. He wasn't exactly what you would call "happy" by those badges.'
'I can imagine.'
Silently fuming, Sirius swept through the hallways towards the headmaster's office. His countenance was such that it sent any student in his path scurrying away.
He was met by Professor McGonagall at the entrance.
'Sirius,' the stern woman greeted with a crisp nod. 'I got your Patronus message about a meeting?'
'Indeed,' Sirius replied. With a sweep of his arm, he said, 'After you, Professor.'
McGonagall turned and gave the password to the gargoyle guarding the headmaster's office. Sirius followed his old Transfiguration teacher, a step behind her.
They rode up the moving staircase in silence.
Once they reached the top, Professor McGonagall knocked on the door. Upon being bid to enter, she opened the door and stepped inside, followed by Sirius.
'Ah, Lord Black,' Dumbledore said neutrally. 'To what do I owe this pleasure?'
In reply, Sirius extricated a badge from his pocket and tossed it on the headmaster's table. 'Why has this been allowed?'
Dumbledore looked at the phrase on the badge. 'I do not see the problem here. Students are allowed, even encouraged, to express their views. If they want to show support for one of our champions, then there is little we can do to stop them.'
Sirius only sneered in response. 'I see, and they are also allowed to show this message as well?' saying so, he pressed the badge, showing the alternative message.
'I will be the first one to admit that I support the idea of free expression, headmaster, but at the same time there should be a limit as to what is allowed. This is clearly done with malicious intent and designed to hurt an individual, namely my son. What is more, these badges have been in circulation for the past week. I find it highly suspicious that the teachers and the prefects have not noticed anything until now, when I managed to obtain evidence a few minutes after I stepped into the castle.'
Both teachers looked at the badge with heavy frowns on their faces. 'This is horrible,' Professor McGonagall exclaimed finally. 'Who could do such a thing?'
'Oh, I believe that it was Draco Malfoy, from what I heard,' Sirius replied succinctly. 'I trust that he shall be disciplined immediately?'
'I am afraid,' Dumbledore said slowly. 'That there is simply nothing we can do as we have no proof of Mr Malfoy's involvement with this ... incident.'
'Evidence, Dumbledore?' Sirius had a look of incredulity on his face. 'Did I hear right? It's quite interesting that you are looking at evidence now. I mean, a lack of evidence did not stop you before ...'
Dumbledore heaved a deep sigh as he rubbed his temples tiredly. 'Must we come to this topic again and again, Sirius? Yes, we incarcerated you without giving you a trial. But at the same time, we did have evidence. What the eyewitnesses had to say was quite damming. As was the fact that you, James and Lily had me believe that you were the Secret Keeper, not Peter.'
'"Eyewitness statements"?' Sirius asked sceptically. 'What eyewitness statements? You wouldn't possibly be talking about the Muggles that were there in the vicinity, would you?'
'And what if they are Muggles, Sirius?' Dumbledore asked mildly. 'Do you have a problem with them?'
'No, I have no problem. It's just that ... well, how can you count on their testimonies when they do not know what they are talking about or have seen? While what they saw and what they said is good for consideration, surely it cannot be the only piece of evidence. Any Auror will tell you that eyewitness statements from Muggles are circumstantial at best. They do not know what they see, and they can get things wrong. Had it been a witch or wizard, they would have known that I had cast a shield spell, and not some deadly curse.'
'And if you had given me a fair trial, or even asked me outright, you would have known that the Will left behind by James and Lily would have been enough proof! It was a legal document, signed by both the Potters with a statement that clearly pointed out that I was not the Secret Keeper.' Sirius scowled at the headmaster. 'Imbecile,' he muttered under his breath.
Dumbledore's eyes flashed as Professor McGonagall gasped out loud at the blatant insult. 'Be that as it may, it is not going to change the fact that I am not going to take any action against Mr Malfoy.' The headmaster said coolly. 'Finally, I think you know very well that I do look at evidence. After all, it was a lack of evidence on Severus' part that ensured that you were not expelled immediately for leading him to a fully-fledged werewolf.'
Dumbledore's remark seemed to make the room colder as Sirius stared at the old man with an inscrutable expression, his eyebrows raised. 'I see,' he said. 'So, that is why you put me in Azkaban without a trial and made Harry suffer for so long! It was vengeance because you couldn't expel me or James from school, was it?' Sirius laughed darkly. 'Snape was the one snooping around. I did not tell him to go into the passageway. I only told him how to access it. Any enterprising student who asked the right questions and read the right books would have been able to do the same thing. He was the one who decided to enter the passageway. I told you that then, and I tell you the same thing now. But the fact that you would actually take that incident out on an innocent fourteen year old is ... quite petty of you.'
'I don't want to hear it,' Sirius said holding up his hand when Dumbledore opened his mouth to reply. 'Whatever you have to say, I really have no desire hearing. Clearly Harry and I are out on our own. Thankfully, I have taken my rightful place as a member of the Board of Governors. After Malfoy was evicted, the Black seat was quite empty –'
At that moment, Sirius was interrupted by a knocking on the door.
'Enter,' Dumbledore called out.
The door opened to let Horace Slughorn inside. 'Sorry I'm late,' the corpulent man said, huffing slightly. 'I had a something that needed my attention at the very last moment. Anyway, Sirius, I received your Patronus message about a meeting. I'm afraid that I will have to postpone that. My meeting with the headmaster is quite delayed as it is.'
'Oh, it's no problem, Horace,' Sirius said affably. 'I just wanted to drop by for a bit of a chat. Also, I wanted to enrol my son into Town House, which I believe you are the new head of.'
'Town House,' Dumbledore repeated with tones of mild curiosity in his voice. Those who had experience with him knew that the man was incredibly surprised.
'Yes, Town House,' Sirius turned to the headmaster. 'You know … the unofficial fifth house of Hogwarts? Surely you remember that one. Granted, that the house isn't a house per se, and is general Hogwarts-slang used to refer to dayboys and while a person might be "in Town House", he or she is still a Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. They just go home after evening prep, unlike the boarders.' Sirius gave Dumbledore a condescending look. 'I am surprised you don't know about that one. I mean, five of your students are in Town House, after all.'
Professor Dumbledore only smiled blandly. 'Yes, well, I also do recall that an important qualification of being eligible for Town House is that you should be living in Hogsmeade. From what I know, the Blacks do not have a house there. And since Hogsmeade is a Magical World Heritage Site, construction of new buildings is forbidden, meaning that the only way you can get a house in the village is if an existing house were to fall vacant. And, considering the history and significance of the settlement, something like that only will happen if an entire family dies out or someone becomes so destitute that he is willing to sell his house. As of yesterday, Hogsmeade's population hasn't changed.'
Sirius' smile did not falter. 'True, headmaster, but you also forget something else. I come from a very old and very wealthy family. We have been around much before Hogsmeade was declared as a World Heritage site. So it stands to reason that we would have a house there. And let's not forget about the Potters. They too have a property in the village. They haven't sold it as the prices are quite astronomical as to be nearly priceless.
'Now both these families, like many other old pureblood families, have put these properties up on rent. And it so happens that the contract of the tenant of the Potter property has long expired. In fact,' he fished out a document from his pocket. 'The contract was to have been renewed by the Head of the Potter family, or his guardian, two years back. I believe that guardian was you.' Sirius smiled pleasantly at the old man. 'And you really haven't done that, now have you? So it looks like Mr Diggle and his family is going to have to find a new place. They have certainly overstayed their welcome.'
Seeing Dumbledore's eyes widen fractionally, Sirius continued. 'Ah! So you knew! And judging by that expression, Diggle went running to you and you obviously tried to change my mind. I guess I missed that letter ... shame.' He stroked his chin thoughtfully. 'Or did I burn it after reading its contents thereby ejecting the memory of reading that letter from my mind? Eh, whatever,' he shrugged.
'So it looks like I do have a house in Hogsmeade.' Turning to Professor Slughorn, he continued. 'I trust that the paperwork will be ready by Tuesday?' Getting a nod from the Potions master, he clapped his hands and stood up. 'Excellent, well, I must be going. Have tenants to evict and a house to renovate.'
'Sirius, you can't do this –'
'You will find that I can, Dumbledore,' Sirius replied coolly. 'That contract was to have been renewed, it did not happen. End of story. I did the gentlemanly thing and gave them two weeks' notice. It's not my problem that they haven't moved. Now, not only will I forcibly evict them, I will ensure that I collect the unpaid rent from the last two years in full as well. And I am going to slap them with a fine too.' He smiled chillingly. 'You were planning on wresting that property from Harry's possession and just giving it to them weren't you? You sicken me, Dumbledore.'
'Anyway,' he nodded to Professors Slughorn and McGonagall. 'Sir, Ma'am, it's always a pleasure to talk to you. Albus,' he sneered at the headmaster. 'Unfortunately, I can't say the same for you. Goodbye.'
Turning around, Sirius swept towards the door. Opening it, he turned to Professor Slughorn. 'Oh, and Horace,' he said pleasantly. 'I have it on good authority that one of your students needs watching over as he is something of a troublemaker. Make sure that Lucius Malfoy's spawn toes the line, will you? I would hate to have to step in otherwise.'
Getting a nod from the man, Sirius turned around and exited the office.
Minerva waited till Albus had finished with Horace before speaking up, her eyes accusing. 'Did you really try and swindle Harry?'
With a supreme act of will, Dumbledore repressed a sigh. 'No, Minerva,' he said heavily. 'I genuinely forgot about it. Truth be told, I haven't had much time for managing the Potter estate, which is why I left it to the goblins. Also, I never did have much of a head for accounts or money. I did not know who to trust to oversee the fortune, and frankly between the school, the Wizengamot and the International Council of Wizards not to mention counselling our Minister daily, I really have no free time. What I do have is spent trying to find out what Tom is up to and where he is. You can appreciate that some other things, while no less important, will be put on the wayside.'
Minerva could see the point the headmaster had made. 'Then why did you stay silent when Sirius accused you?'
His voice becoming sombre, Dumbledore said, 'Sirius has not forgiven me for what happened to him twelve years ago. He is, justifiably, angry at me, Millicent and Barty for the injustice done to him. As it is, he can only see the worst in my actions. He will not listen to anything I have to say now. I think him summarily ignoring my letter proved that.' he ended with a bitter smile. 'I have committed too many wrongs on the boy for him to forgive me. At least at this moment, I do have some hope for the future.'
Minerva looked troubled by this. 'Well,' she said after a few moments, regaining her brisk voice. 'The least we can do right now is right this one wrong.' She tapped the badge in front of him.
Dumbledore's face darkened as he picked up the badge. 'If this wasn't so malicious, I would actually be impressed at the Charm Work that went into it. However, I digress,' his voice dropped to frigid levels as he uttered his next few words. 'Call for a school assembly, Minerva. I think an hour before dinner is to commence would be apt. Attendance will be mandatory, and the uniform compulsory. We will put an end to this.'
Minerva had rarely seen the headmaster so angry before, so it always chilled her to the bone when it happened. The man was rarely, if ever, furious. Even Potter and Weasley's stunt in their second year hadn't been enough to get him this livid. She knew that if she were in his shoes at that time, both the boys would be feeling the cane for not only breaking the law by exposing magic to so many Muggles across the country, but for also risking their fool necks in a such a hare-brained stunt instead of using their heads. Flying a car to school, honestly!
Shaking her head, she got up. 'What about the foreigners, Albus?'
'I will take care of them, Minerva.' Dumbledore replied steadily. 'You just see to the announcement. There isn't much time as it is.'
Watching his deputy leave the office, Albus sagged against his chair. Sirius had proven to be quite a thorn in his side. The embittered man had stirred up the political world. His opponents, both domestic and international, were buzzing like angry hornets. He still remembered the remark his main opponent had made in the annual I.C.W. meeting.
'... I have to wonder about the kind of country Britain is,' said the Italian ambassador, Biaggio Ghirlandaio as he looked directly at Albus. 'If the representatives of her society are so corrupt and amoral that they would lock a man in prison for twelve years without giving him a trial... And they accuse other nations of not following basic human rights.'
While he had been shot down quite easily, the damage was already done. Albus could hear the hushed whispers in the background calling his character into question. The last time this had happened was when he was in school and people were talking about his father. Albus was surprised to note that time and age had not lessened or changed his feelings towards the situation.
It was only because plans had already been made and not possible to change without incurring huge costs that the Triwizard Tournament and the Quidditch World Cup had happened in Britain. There were quite a few international protests calling for the boycott of the World Cup. Had it been England playing in the finals, Albus was sure that the turnout would have been much lower.
Of the three of them, Albus was the least affected. Barty himself was desperately clinging onto his post, working day and night.
Millicent had been hit the hardest. Her reputation had been soundly destroyed, thanks mainly to Sirius Black. The Black Family had enough dirt on her to seriously damage her character. Amelia's people were already all over the former minister, sniffing out anything they could find while the poor woman's entire fortune was slowly but steadily being taken away from her battling Sirius who had accused her of every single crime against him that his legal team could pin on her. Albus suspected that Barty would have the full attention of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and consequently Sirius, as soon as the Tournament ended.
He had a lot of time to try and make amends with the man. While Albus seriously doubted that Sirius would be able to do much damage to his reputation (if he could survive Orion Black and Arcturus Black III, then he could survive Sirius Black III) he still wanted the man to let go of his anger. Albus knew that it would be only a matter of time before Voldemort rose again and the wizarding world would need to be united against him and his Death Eaters and dark forces. And Sirius, with his position as head of the Black family would be valuable.
Besides that, there was the more important fact that Albus also wanted to see Sirius at peace. He still remembered the fresh-faced happy schoolboy years before. He owed it to the Potters at the least to see to it that their son's close friend finally found some peace with himself.
But that was much later. Right now, he had two separate headmasters to talk to.
The students of Hogwarts filed into the Great Hall wondering what was going on. All the tables with the exception of the teachers' table had been shifted to one side leaving an open space for them to stand, sorted by year and house.
They spent a few moments speaking in hushed whispers, not daring to speak louder than normal as the Heads of Houses were looking over them with grim expressions on their faces. Professor McGonagall herself had a rather fierce scowl on her face. But that was nothing compared to the look Professors Sprout and Flitwick were sporting. Perhaps it was the novelty of seeing such expressions on the normally easy-going instructors, but every student there thought that, for once, the strict Head of Gryffindor House looked quite collected compared to the Heads of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
The sombre expression on Professor Slughorn, unusual on his normal jovial face, went without comment as he was new enough to the students. Besides, everybody was used to Snape, so it was easy to think of a scowling Head of Slytherin House.
Those observations went out of the window when the door of the staff entrance to the Great Hall opened and the headmaster strode in.
'Professor Dumbledore does not look happy,' Fred Weasley commented to his fellow Sixth-Year housemates.
'That is an understatement,' breathed Angelina. 'Did the two of you do something?' she accused, glancing at them suspiciously.
'Heavens, no!' George replied scandalised.
'We would never!' Fred said in a low voice.
'Not after the warning he gave us after our attempt to enter our names in.'
'Too right, George.'
'Wait, warning? What warning?'
'Well, the old beak came to the hospital wing when Madam Pomfrey was getting rid of our beards,' George said lowly, his eyes fixed straight ahead where Dumbledore was softly conversing with Professors Flitwick and Sprout as McGonagall was glaring balefully at the students, almost daring one of them to garner her attention.
'And he told us "While I find your usual antics amusing, I must request you gentlemen to cease these activities for the rest of the year."' Fred continued, doing a passable imitation of Dumbledore's voice.
'"Now, mind you, this is a request, not an order. But do consider who is making this request."' George's imitation was far better than his twin's. 'And then he looked at us in that way, if you know what I mean, and left.'
'Suffice to say, George and I aren't willing to ignore his request.' Fred concluded.
Whatever Angelina was about to say in response was cut off when Professor Dumbledore straightened and looked over at the assembled students.
'As you all know, the Goblet of Fire chose four champions for the Triwizard Tournament, an unusual occurrence to be sure.' He began in a deceptively mild voice. 'Pursuant to this, Professors Karkaroff, Maxime and I have jointly investigated the Goblet and have found evidence of tampering. Tampering that,' he gave them a particularly steely look, 'requires skill and expertise that can only be gained from years of intense study after school. In short, ladies and gentlemen, no student of any of the three schools could have done this. Further investigations made by the Auror department and the Dee Em El Ee have only corroborated this fact while ruling out all of the suspects, both usual and otherwise.
'In conclusion, Mr Potter has not entered his name into the Goblet, and has also not consented to the entering of his name either. Unfortunately, however, he still has to compete as whomsoever has done this tampering has also made sure that the Goblet recognises Mr Potter's name as a legitimate entry, meaning that he has no choice but to compete.'
Dumbledore paused to look at every assembled student, his blue eyes burning.
'Now I admit that it was an oversight on mine and the staff's part in not sharing this information with you, and I can appreciate, in hindsight, the feelings of betrayal and anger most of you must be feeling for whatever reasons. However, it does not excuse this sort of behaviour!'
The whole hall collectively flinched as the headmaster's voice echoed throughout the room as he let his true feelings be shown at the badges that he had spotted on some of the students.
Quick as a whip, he had his wand drawn and pointed at the crowd so fast that it took all those assembled a moment to realise that he held a wand. The sound of ripping cloth was soon heard as each and every single badge was summoned onto the table behind the headmaster.
Indignant cries from those who had their front pockets unceremoniously torn were quelled when the affected students saw the face of the headmaster.
With a furious expression, Dumbledore flicked his wand again, causing one of the badges to float off the table and stand next to him where it expanded till it was the size of a kite shield, the words Potter Stinks plainly visible to those who were standing all the way at the back.
'This,' he rumbled. 'Is the most vile and despicable acts of bullying I have ever seen in my years as headmaster. You all should be ashamed of yourselves for this!' he looked at them for a long moment before saying in a low voice that still carried to the back, 'All of those who were wearing these badges, step forward, now! And don't think to hide; I can clearly see the ripped pockets and your Heads of Houses have been also closely observing you. And don't try repairing them either.'
There was muted commotion as some of the guilty students shuffled forward. The others had to be weeded out by the teachers who were quick to call them out.
Dumbledore fixed them all with a gaze not unlike the one on Professor McGonagall's face. 'I am seriously disappointed in the lot of you. While I have no problem with you declaring your support for one of your champions, I do not approve targeting another student in such a manner. It is unbecoming of a student of Hogwarts, and even more so from one of our prefects.' He said with a glance at the lone prefect (a seventh-year from Slytherin house) standing there.
'Now considering the oversight on our part,' Dumbledore said after a long pause. 'We have decided that the punishment for this shall be lessened.' Pausing, he surveyed them with a look of extreme disappointment on his face.
'You will all lose fifty house points each.' He finally pronounced.
As one the students gasped. Those who could add quickly in their heads told their friends what this meant. Slytherin would be hit the hardest with a two hundred and fifty point loss with Hufflepuff a close second at two hundred. Ravenclaw had also taken significant damage, though had escaped relatively unscathed with only fifty points being taken away. Gryffindor was the only one to have been left alone.
With Quidditch gone for the year, it would be quite hard, almost impossible, for Slytherin and Hufflepuff to catch up to or beat Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.
'As for the rest of you,' the headmaster looked up at the crowd. 'If you have one of these badges, then I request you to turn them over to your head of house. There will be no repercussions. You have until Monday to comply. Anyone found with these badges after that day will be dealt with harshly. Of course, that will be nothing compared to what will happen to the person who made these badges, once they are discovered.' His eyes swept over the crowd one last time. 'You lot, stay here,' he said to the students standing in front of him. 'As for the rest of you, you are dismissed. Dinner will be served in half an hour.'
As the students started to move out, Dumbledore spoke up once again. 'Prefects, stay behind.'
The next day, the rest of Hogwarts found out that Slytherin had suffered the additional loss of one of their prefects. Dumbledore had been quick to dismiss the Slytherin seventh year. The other prefects also looked visibly chastened. Most of them had started taking to their duties with a renewed zeal.
Act III Scene II
Sirius sat in his seat, his nerves on edge as he watched the dragon handlers place the first dragon. He had hit many dead ends in his quest to find out about the first task. He really did not know where or who to approach without making his intentions clear. Ludo Bagman tended to have loose lips and Barty Crouch … he would rather grope a dragon than talk to that man. The same went with Dumbledore. He doubted Fudge knew much. So that left more indirect means that took a lot of time.
By the time he first met Harry face to face, he had found out that the task involved dragons somehow. It was, surprisingly, through Hagrid that he had found out that the champions had to just get past them and not (mercifully) fight them.
He had contacted Harry post-haste and (after calming the boy down) had developed a strategy.
He silently watched Amos Diggory's son take on the Swedish Short Snout. The boy was quite good at transfiguration. He winced in sympathy when the dragon nearly roasted the Hufflepuff, having lost interest in the transfigured dog.
It looked like transfiguration was not that helpful. Dragons, Sirius guessed, were quite good at spotting real animals from conjurations.
The veela girl's attempt was quite … interesting. He had no idea that veela could affect other species of their gender. The general rule was that male veela affected females and vice versa.
Viktor Krum's strategy was the one that he had initially thought of himself. But now, he was beginning to see the possible downside to that strategy. Firstly, it was hard enough to aim at a dragon's eyes, what with it being quite capable of moving, and secondly, getting past a rampaging half blind dragon that is even more pissed off at being blinded is very difficult.
As the whistle sounded, Harry walked out of the tent. As he approached the arena, he felt as if he was in a dream. Hundreds of faces were staring down at him from the stands and the horntail was watching him from the other side of the field, its great yellow eyes suspiciously tracking his every moment.
Assessing the situation, Harry realised one crucial fact. The Horntail was too far for him to accurately get its eyes. Another plan was needed, and quickly. Nervously, he dug his hand in his robe pocket, hoping for some inspiration.
He gave a little start when his sweaty palm closed around an object. Looking at his surroundings one more time, a plan began to take form in his mind.
Taking out his wand, Harry began to act.
Sirius watched as Harry took out his wand and cast a summoning charm with a frown on his face. They had not discussed this bit.
Sirius' jaw dropped when he saw the Firebolt come zooming out into the clearing. Harry surely wasn't thinking to outfly a bloody dragon!
Harry, on the other hand was not done. Running forward, he cast banishing charms at a few rocks, aiming at the dragon's head. He had only looked up the charm last night, and so was not as precise with the wand movements had he practised much earlier. However, sheer desperation enabled him to pull it off.
With a nimble swiftness, the dragon jerked its head to the side, neatly dodging the first boulder and getting into the path of the second which it obliterated with a lazy fireball.
But it was not prepared for the smaller projectile that was closely following the second stone.
Owing to its small size and lighter weight, the large packet of Dungbombs flew faster than the heavier rocks and was not noticed by the Hungarian Horntail till the very last moment when it exploded right in its open mouth.
Bagman actually stopped commenting as he and the equally stunned crowd watched as the dragon started gagging and coughing, rearing up as it tried to get the foul stuff out of its buccal cavity.
Not wasting much time, Harry jumped on his broom and flew towards the distracted Horntail and the golden prize nestled betwixt its clutch of eggs.
He was nearly there when the Horntail suddenly let out a jet of flame as it crashed down on all fours.
Ducking under the fire and feeling the tips of his hair getting singed, Harry made a sharp left and looped around the great beast's right foreleg till he was underneath the dragon's belly. Lowering his arm, he scooped the golden egg up and flew out as fast as he could, narrowly dodging a second jet of flames that nonetheless managed to singe his left side. But Harry did not care, as he was now properly aware of the noise of the crowd, which was screaming and applauding as loudly as the Irish supporters at the World Cup —
'Look at that!' Bagman was yelling. 'Will you look at that? Our youngest champion is quickest to get his egg! Well, this is going to shorten the odds on Mr Potter!'
Harry landed in front of Professor McGonagall; robes still smoking and a big grin on his face.
'Good work, Mr Potter,' the transfiguration teacher said with one of her rare smiles. She nodded towards the tent behind her. 'You better get that shoulder looked at.'
Nodding, Harry entered the tent.
He had barely set foot inside when Madam Pomfrey descended upon him.
'Dragons,' the matron sniffed in disgust. 'Well, sit. And take that robe off, let's see that shoulder.'
Examining the burn, she took a tub of yellow paste and started dabbing at the affected skin, muttering underneath her breath, 'You are lucky that this is only a second degree burn. This is lunacy I tell you!'
Harry quietly listened to her, trying not to flinch too much as the paste was applied onto sensitive skin.
'Now sit still. You can wait for a few minutes to get your score,' Saying that, the school matron left to go tend to the others.
But Harry was too keyed up to just sit in one place. As soon as he was left alone, he got up and began pacing. He was elated at having survived this task.
A minute later, Neville burst into the tent, sporting a huge grin himself. 'That was brilliant mate!'
'Thanks, Neville,' Harry replied.
'Come on let's go check your scores.'
Harry put on his robe and followed Neville out. He was met outside by Terry Boot and Susan Bones. The two of them were the first to apologise to him after Dumbledore had dressed down the whole school. While Susan had not worn the badge herself, she still felt guilty about not having said anything.
After some hesitation, Harry had accepted their apologies. He was on speaking terms with the two of them earlier in the year through Slughorn's party and had formed a tentative friendship before his name had come out. He understood that they really did not know him enough to be able to tell if he was being truthful the first time when he said that he had not put his name in.
Madame Maxime had given him an eight out of ten, while Professor Dumbledore was less strict with his score of nine. Bagman and Crouch were the most generous with full marks. The Durmstrang headmaster, on the other hand, was the least accommodating as the number four that shot of his wand showed, much to the indignation of Harry's friends. But Harry didn't really care. He was in first place, one point ahead of Viktor Krum. What was more, he wasn't feeling so miserable, isolated and friendless anymore.
A slow smile spread out on his face when he saw that most of the school, except the Slytherins (and he really did not care about them) was cheering for him. Just like Sirius had told him, seeing what he had to face had turned them around. The headmaster's speech had helped matters along too.
Feeling someone standing behind him, Harry turned around to see Sirius standing there with an inscrutable expression on his face.
'Good job, Harry.' He finally allowed a small smile to form on his face. Nodding, he greeted Harry's companions.
Harry grinned in relief. Sirius smiling meant that he wasn't displeased with the fact that he had not followed with the plan. Not that Harry felt that his deviation was unjustified.
'So,' Sirius said under his breath, slowly drawing him away from Neville and the rest, who were chattering amongst themselves, completely oblivious to what was happening behind them. 'Any reason you decided to out-fly a dragon?'
'That would be because of me, Sirius.'
'Alastor!' Sirius said as he turned around, a smile on his face. 'What do you mean?'
'Well I caught your kid warning Diggory about the first task,' Moody said, his magical eye focused on Harry even though he was facing Sirius. 'Apparently he knew that the other two champions also were forewarned and so wanted to level the playing field. I have to say, I am impressed at your lad's fairness.' He looked approving as he said that. 'So anyway, I decided to give him a bit of advice of my own.'
'You told him to go and fly against a dragon?'
'Fuck no, Black!' Moody barked. 'I only told him to play to his strengths. Everything else he did is his decision.'
Both men looked at Harry who stammered. 'W-well, I was going to do what we had planned, but seeing that Horntail so far away, I knew I wouldn't be able to hit it accurately in the eye from so far off. Getting closer wasn't an option as that would be a stupid thing to do,' he looked at Sirius meaningfully. 'So I improvised.'
'And that was a damn good plan!' Moody growled approvingly. You got the egg out in the least amount of time with minimal losses. With that kind of savior faire, you will make a great Auror.' He clapped Harry on the shoulder. Hard.
'Don't you think it is bit soon to be recruiting, Alastor?' Sirius, Harry noticed with relief as he rubbed his smarting shoulder, sounded like he was in a better mood when he spoke to the former Auror.
'You can't catch them young enough, Black.' Moody shot back. 'Besides, I am quite sure of this one's potential. Not only is he cool under fire, but he managed to throw off my Imperius curse!'
Sirius sniffed in return. 'Yes, that. Showing Unforgivable Curses to schoolchildren? And then putting them under it? That is a bit extreme. They aren't Auror trainees, you know.'
'We have been through this for the nth time, Black.' Moody said with a roll of his real eye. 'It's done with already. So shut the fuck up.'
'Wait,' Harry interjected. 'You agreed to this?'
'After much persuasion,' Sirius said sourly. 'I even made him swear an oath too.'
'Oh,' Harry was silent for a while. 'I think I want to be an Auror.' He finally said, making Moody grin maniacally.
'How about we talk about your career plans later on?' Sirius replied mildly. 'Right now, I trust you have your things packed?' Seeing Harry nod, he continued. 'Good. Mipsy!' The house-elf appeared with a crack. 'Please collect Harry's trunk from his dorm and send it to his new room.' As the elf disappeared, Sirius turned to his son. 'Meet me at the gates after dinner.'
Seeing the hesitant look on Harry's face, Sirius raised his eyebrows in a silent question.
'Well,' Harry started hesitantly. 'It's just that … they promised a party in the Gryffindor Tower tonight…'
'I see,' Sirius said. 'And what has Professor McGonagall said about this?'
'I say that it is fine,' the aforementioned teacher broke in from behind them. 'Mr Potter, congratulations again on doing so well on the first task. I am sure that your dorm mates are going to be missing your presence in the fourth year dorm, but know that your bed will still be there, should you feel the need to go back to being a boarder. As for the party that I am sure will be held in your honour, like I said before, I have no qualms about you attending.
'However,' the teacher broke in before Harry could cheer. 'I shall be there to collect you at ten. That is anyway the longest that I am going to allow the party. You do have school tomorrow.'
'I'll be waiting outside the gates to collect him, Professor,' Sirius promptly promised.
'Thanks, dad, Professor!' Harry said gratefully.
Sirius chuckled. 'You deserve it, kid. Just make sure that you don't touch the hard stuff. I know what goes on in those parties.' With another smile, he clapped his son on his shoulder, being much gentler than Moody. 'Now go and enjoy yourself!' With a smile he watched as the boy headed off towards the castle.
'Oh, and Harry?' When the boy turned around, Sirius continued. 'You were great out there. I am proud of you.'
Harry's smile was enough to light up the darkest night. 'Thanks, dad,' he said softly. And with that, he shot off towards the castle, easily catching up with Neville.
Hermione watched from a corner of the Gryffindor common room as her best friend was swarmed by various well-wishers and hangers-on.
Well, former best friend, she supposed. She wasn't sure if he was willing to talk to her after the deplorable way she and Ron had treated him in the past few weeks.
She still couldn't believe that she had treated him in such a way. Looking back on it, she figured that it had started all the way at the beginning of the term.
While she knew of some of the changes Harry had gone through in the brief time she had met him during the summer (and she wasn't only talking about the physical changes) she still was unprepared for the full extent of his vicissitudes and was quite taken by surprise with the same when they became apparent.
For one, he was now one of the few to get a spell right the first time. He had also started doing his homework on time, making sure to put in extra effort. But what truly surprised her was the fact that he had not once asked for her help, and if he did, it was only to clarify small facts here and there.
Initially, she had thought them to be positive changes. But when she asked him about it, and he had told her about having a lot of practise over the summer, she changed her opinion. She had, quite rightly in her belief, accused him of cheating and having an unfair advantage.
But before she could start on her passionate discourse on how the purebloods and the government discriminated against the Muggleborns, Harry interrupted her with a rebuttal that was so sound in logic that she had no valid answer, leaving her, for the first time, utterly speechless (much to Ron Weasley's never-ending amusement).
It was this issue, coupled with the argument they had earlier in the Welcoming Feast about house-elf rights that had Hermione convinced that Sirius was not influencing Harry in a good way. The prisoner of Azkaban was slowly but surely turning Harry into a Pureblood … just like Malfoy.
When she shared her view with Harry, the boy had become angry with her and had not spoken to her for the rest of the day. And then the very next day, the Goblet had spit out his name.
Hermione had been convinced that Sirius had been behind this. She had heard stories from various sources over the summer to know that Sirius was a bit of a braggart and arrogant in his time. She also knew for a fact that Sirius had a bit of a grudge against Professor Dumbledore, and would thus use this as a way to get back at the headmaster. After all, he had created quite a bit of trouble for the Supreme Mugwump within the international magical community. Hence she was unwilling to believe Harry's claims.
She had even been happy at the school's reaction to Harry's name coming out. Perhaps, she thought, this would make Sirius stop his senseless pursuit of revenge. It might also get Harry to stop idolising Sirius so much.
Hermione also couldn't help but feel smug when the teachers soon started pulling Harry up for not doing his homework on time and barely paying attention. Maybe now that he no longer had her help, he would understand just what he had lost. Maybe he would also realise that cheating does not help one get good marks. It was a hard lesson, but it was for his own good.
Ron had his own issues of petty jealousy (something that she thoroughly disapproved of – he was so childish) but the end result was that neither of them were willing to speak to Harry.
Of course, that was before Professor Dumbledore had set the record straight, so to speak. After that day, Hermione could not believe that she had been so uncharitable towards her friend or for that matter, his adoptive father.
Yet, neither she nor Ron had gone to patch things up with Harry.
Well, she would have to fix it. Ron may be too proud, but she wasn't. Besides, she had the sneaking suspicion that the ginger was waiting for her cue.
Mustering up her courage, she got up from her chair and approached the dark haired boy. As she moved towards them, she could overhear their conversation. She mentally sniffed at the topic. Heavy metal was something she hoped had not caught on in the wizarding world. It was more noise than actual music. She, like Ron (and other sane people) preferred bands like The Weird Sisters.
'Harry,' she began tentatively. 'Can we talk?' She had noticed out of the corner of her eye that Ron was standing behind her, no doubt having followed her like a sort of puppy.
It was only because of the blood adoption that he had gone through that Harry could pull off the rather haughty look he sent her way.
'Very well,' he said after a long moment, getting to his feet.
Hermione followed him nervously. A part of her wondered how he had managed to lend elegance to the very action of getting up and walking and since when that had happened. Was Sirius Black this graceful at that age, or was it James Potter?
'Well?' Harry finally said, indolently leaning against the wall halfway in the passage that led towards the boys' dormitory and facing the two of them, his arms crossed in a nonchalant manner.
It was Ron who first spoke. 'Harry,' he said, very seriously, 'whoever put your name in that goblet — I — I reckon they're trying to do you in!'
Harry looked at Ron with a disbelieving expression on his face. 'Caught on, have you? Well, it took you two long enough.' He sneered.
He watched the two of them. Hermione was looking nervously between him and Ron, obviously waiting for the ginger to speak up. Ron, on the other hand, was working his mouth up and down, no doubt thinking of something to say.
Getting impatient, Hermione spoke up. 'Harry, we want to apologise for not believing you and ignoring you for the past few weeks. Can you please forgive us so we can be friends again?' she ended hopefully.
Harry looked at her for a long moment. 'That's it?' he asked, a tinge of incredulity in his voice. Unable to help it, he let out a dry chuckle. 'You two are the absolute limit. I mean, really?' His expression turned ugly and his posture lost the lazy air as the anger, betrayal and resentment he had felt the past few weeks started to come out. 'Susan Bones, a person who I barely spoke to until a few weeks back came and apologised to me after the assembly. Most of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, people who I barely talk to, apologised to me for thinking what they did and the badges. And you know what? I could forgive them. After all, they do not know me. But the two people who have known me for more than three years?' he snorted. 'I honestly don't know what I find more insulting: The fact that you didn't believe me or the fact that you took this long to tender an apology when relative strangers have done so before you. I mean Neville believed me when I said that I hadn't put my name in. And he has no reason to do so!'
Whirling on Hermione he continued, his voice bitter. 'I fucking saved your arse from that troll in first year. If it wasn't for me dragging Ron over here to find you, the troll probably would have decorated the walls of that bathroom with your brains. And as for you,' he turned to Ron. 'I risked life and limb to save your sister when she decided to make friends with the most evil dark lord in recent times. I was there when you needed me. Every. Single. Time. Where the fuck were the two of you when I needed you?'
Turning back to Hermione, he continued heatedly. 'And if you think that not believing me and not talking to me is all you have to apologise for, then you are completely and utterly wrong, Hermione.'
'What do you –?'
Harry interrupted her. 'You think that I haven't noticed the smug looks you have been sending me the past few days?' he was deeply hurt at the way the girl seemed to take pleasure at the stress that he had been undergoing. 'Or how about those dirty looks you have been sending me every time I get a spell right? Or maybe how about the way you keep criticizing my dad?'
'James Potter is your dad,' Ron blurted out.
Harry closed his eyes. 'Yes, Ron, I know that.' He said quietly, 'Sirius Black is not my biological father, he is my stepfather. My biological father is dead, thank you very much for pointing that out!' His tone had turned scathing at that point.
His voice steadily rising, he continued. 'Yeah, I don't have real parents, they are dead, and I am an orphan. There, you happy? You have something I will never have.' Breathing hard, he broke off, staring at the wall. He really felt like hitting Ron right now.
Ron, on the other hand, looked stricken. 'I –'
'Sirius is far better than a real father,' Harry said roughly, interrupting the ginger before he could even begin his apology. Glaring at him (for glaring was the only way he could stop the tears from showing) he continued. 'He took me in and adopted me, made me his son out of his own choice. It only proves that he loves me more.'
'Harry, I –'
'I think I have had enough of this party, it is getting late anyway, and we have school tomorrow.' Harry said in a deceptively light voice. Roughly brushing past the two, he started walking woodenly towards the common room.
'Well, this is brilliant,' he said sardonically upon encountering most of Gryffindor house outside, obviously eavesdropping. 'Excuse me,' saying that, he started brushing past, the expression on his face was more than enough to clear his path.
'Erm, Harry,' Hermione timidly pointed out. 'You are going away from the dorm.'
Noticeably stiffening, Harry spoke without turning around. 'If you had bothered to talk to me a few days back, Granger, then you would know that as of today, I am a member of Town House. Ergo, I am now no longer a boarder, but a dayboy. Hence, I am now headed home, to my adoptive father.' Spitting the last two words out, he fairly stomped towards the entrance. Stopping there he turned around for a last parting shot. 'You should be happy, eh, Ron? After all, a few short days back you did say that you did not want to be in the same room as a "cheater". Well, you got your wish. Fuck you, Weasley.'
Having said that, Harry flung open the portrait with all the fury he possessed, much to the occupant's vocal protest. Not in the mood to listen to her, he just slammed the portrait closed and headed towards Professor McGonagall's office. He supposed that she would be happy that he planned on turning in early.
Speaking of which…
'Potter,' the aforementioned Professor said in surprise, nearly running into him. 'I was about to fetch you.'
'Well, professor, I've had a long day.' Harry managed to say in a normal tone of voice. He faked a yawn for effect.
If she had noticed signs of distress in her student, Professor McGonagall did not comment on it. With a brisk, 'Very well,' she led him out towards the grounds.
At the Entrance Hall, they ran into a lanky brown haired boy coming out from the basement.
'Mr Trevallion,' Professor McGonagall called. 'Headed home, are we?'
The boy gave a start and turned around. 'Oh, yes, professor,' he said. 'I got permission from Professor Sprout to attend the celebrations in the common room because of Cedric's performance in the tournament.'
Professor McGonagall stared at him, hawk-like. 'Yes, Pomona did tell me that. Well, come on, I am on my way to the front gates myself with Potter. You might as well join us.'
Trevallion shrugged and fell in step with Harry as they followed the transfiguration teacher down to the front gates.
'I did not know you were a dayboy,' the older boy asked Harry in a low voice.
'Just became one today,' Harry replied shortly.
'Oh yeah, I cannot believe I forgot about that! The town was quite abuzz with Sirius Black moving in and all. Apparently the previous tenant did not pay his bills or something.' He looked at Harry enquiringly.
Harry just shrugged. 'I guess,' he replied succinctly. His mind was still on the confrontation with his former friends. Ron's words kept playing in his head over and over in an endless loop. He seriously wanted to punch something.
The other boy, however, was not fazed. 'Andrew Trevallion,' he said, sticking his hand out.
'Harry Potter-Black,' Harry replied automatically, shaking the offered hand.
'Cedric told us about how you told him what the first task would be. He was quite impressed with your sense of fair play. Most of Hufflepuff is quite impressed as well.'
Effectively jolted out of his black mood, Harry looked at the other boy in surprise. 'Huh?'
'Yeah,' the older boy replied. 'And I have to say, that was some wicked flying out there; nothing short of brilliant! Even Krum hadn't thought of that!'
'Uh, thanks,' Harry said genuinely, slowly warming up to the Hufflepuff.
The Hufflepuff shrugged. 'It is fine, Cedric's my best mate. If he says you're alright, then you are alright.' He said simply
Any further conversation was stopped as they had reached the gates. Harry spotted Sirius standing outside in wait.
Sirius peered at Harry's companion. 'Aren't you the kid that lives two houses down the street?' he asked.
'Yes sir. My name is Andrew Trevallion,' the boy introduced himself.
'Pleased to meet you,'
The three of them headed together towards their respective homes.
'Well,' Sirius said after Trevallion had left for his house. 'Home sweet home, I guess.'
Harry looked at the modest two storey house. 'Yeah,' was the only thing he could think of saying.
After a brief tour around the house, Sirius showed Harry his room, which was almost like his old room in Grimmauld Place (Sirius had thoughtfully replicated all the posters and decorations Harry had put up in his old room) only a bit smaller. Wishing him a good night, Sirius retired for the night.
The next day marked the start of Harry's new routine. After having breakfast, he would meet Andrew outside the house, his schoolbag and broom in hand. They would then fly over to Hogwarts (something that Harry loved doing). According to Harry's new acquaintance, there were four other students who lived in Hogsmeade, but they stayed a bit further away and were either in second year or younger and quite a tight knit group, choosing to travel together with one of their mums or dads by broom. This effectively meant that until Harry came along, Andrew had no company.
After prep was done with in the evening, the two of them would walk back home since their parents had strictly forbidden them from flying in the dark.
On Saturdays Harry would spend some time with Neville and his other newfound friends. He would come home for lunch after which he would spend the rest of the day either completing any remaining homework or learning about his finances.
Sundays would be spent fully with Sirius. They would spend the day mainly relaxing, ending with a night out somewhere for dinner.
Being the only dayboy in Gryffindor also meant that Harry constantly got requests for sweets and other such things from the village as he was the only one allowed to go into Hogsmeade for all seven days. Harry didn't mind too much ... as long as they supplied the money and the demands weren't too unreasonable. It did ratchet his already high popularity up by a decent amount.
With the first task behind him, the badges gone and no more trouble from the press, Harry was beginning to enjoy his time at Hogwarts again. Even Draco Malfoy had stopped sending out snide comments, electing instead to glare resentfully and threateningly at Harry every time they met.
Not that Harry was concerned. He was constantly surrounded by a crowd of people during the day, and he was at home by the time dinner was served at Hogwarts. Even if the ferret (he still had to thank Moody for that neat bit of transfiguration) did get him alone, Harry was sure he could take him on. The incident outside the Potions classroom was proof enough. On top of that, Sirius had been teaching him quite a few neat spells as well as duelling.
As for Ron and Hermione … well, Harry found it quite easy to ignore the two of them. After all, it was a big castle, and he was there only during the daytime. They had not attempted to contact him, and he hadn't bothered speaking to them either. He still felt a visceral anger every time he saw Ron's face. The ginger had no right to decide who he called dad.
The one thing that dampened the good times was announced after transfiguration.
'Dancing? She wants me to dance? And that too with a girl!' Harry fairly exploded in greeting as he entered the house.
'And a hello to you too,' Sirius replied with a bemused smile.
'McGonagall has gone 'round the twist!' Harry said dramatically as he put his bag down. 'She actually expects me to open the Yule Ball.'
'How is that a problem?' Sirius asked mildly.
Harry looked at him incredulously. 'I can't dance!'
'Oh, relax! It's simple, really. All you have to do is feel the flow of the music.' Sirius replied glibly. 'And not step on your date's feet.' He added.
Seeing the dirty look being sent his way, Sirius said, 'I'm joking. I'll teach you a few steps. It isn't the end of the world.'
'I have to ask a girl out.' Harry whispered to himself, a look of dread on his features.
'That is generally the custom, yes. Unless you, uh, prefer blokes,' Sirius added with a mischievous smile.
Harry responded with another withering look. 'Not cool,' he said.
'Come on, Harry, relax.' Sirius said, putting a companionable arm around his son's shoulders. 'They are human, you know. They aren't a different species. They aren't going to bite if you ask them. All you have to do is walk up to them and just ask. Chances are they understand English. If they don't, well, you know some French. Hopefully they will be charmed enough by that to not kill you for the atrocious accent and beginner grammar.' He winked to show that he was joking. 'Girls are very impressed by confidence, you know.'
'Besides,' he added. 'You don't really have to worry about asking a girl out.'
'What do you mean,' Harry asked.
'You are one of the Triwizard champions,' Sirius said with a smirk. 'Trust me, girls will be asking you instead. They probably will fall all over themselves just to have you as a date.'
'"Falling all over themselves"?' Harry repeated with a slightly hunted look on his face.
'Oh yeah,' Sirius clapped Harry on his shoulder. 'All you have to do is say, "yes" to the fittest of the lot. In fact, don't commit straightaway. Just write down the names of those that ask you, put it up on a dartboard and let chance decide for you ... Unless, of course, you have someone you want to ask…'
'Well,' Harry said, blushing. 'There is this one girl.'
Harry had fully expected Sirius to tease him. But Sirius only asked neutrally. 'What's her name?'
'Cho, Cho Chang.'
Sirius whistled. 'Would it be that bird from Ravenclaw who plays Seeker?' Seeing Harry nod, he continued. 'Well, you might want to ask her out soon, mate. I have seen her, and well, she is quite fit. Someone will snap her up really quickly.'
'But how do I do it?'
Sirius just gave him a mildly exasperated look. 'Like I said, just ask her. She goes to Hogwarts and is British, so I am pretty sure she will understand English.'
'But, but she is always surrounded by her friends. Her giggling friends.' Harry complained.
Sirius chuckled. 'Yes, girls always travel in packs. Here's another fact. If a girl wants to go to the loo, her friends will tag along. So if you plan on ambushing Cho, well, you are out of luck. It is quite hard to catch a bird alone.'
'So what do I do?'
'Ask to talk to her in private?' Sirius spoke as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Harry took a deep breath as if steeling himself for something. 'Yeah, I'll do that the minute I catch her tomorrow.' He said grimly.
Sirius only shook his head. 'Relax! Anyone would think you are going into battle. You faced a dragon, a basilisk and dementors. A girl shouldn't be a problem.'
'Speak for yourself.' Harry muttered under his breath.
Harry did not say anything the next day after he came home. After dinner, Sirius could not stand it anymore and so asked. 'Well, did you ask her out yet?'
'Yeah,' Harry said, picking at his sleeve.
'And?' Sirius dragged out the word.
'Well, she said "no". Apparently Cedric already asked her.'
Sirius winced. 'Well, that happens. All you can do is move on. After all, your father was turned down by your mother quite regularly.'
Harry looked up, interested. 'Really?' he asked eagerly.
'Well, yes. Lily hated James' guts for the first five years. It was only near the end of sixth year that she started liking him.'
'How did that happen?'
Sirius narrowed his eyes and playfully glared at Harry. 'Well, James finally deflated his head enough for Lily to find him acceptable. But that is another story for another time. Right now, I want to hear the rest of the story. I know you are hiding something, so, out with it!'
'Well,' Harry began slowly. 'After lunch, as I was exiting the Great Hall, I saw Katie Bell headed outside. Suddenly I was filled with this sort of confidence and so I followed her outside and asked her.'
'Katie Bell?' Sirius furrowed his eyebrows. 'Isn't she on the Gryffindor Quidditch team?'
'Yeah. She's a year older than me, and one of the few that believed me the first time around.'
'That's nice. So what happened then?
'She looked at me steadily for the longest time ever. I – somehow, I just knew that I had to look her in the eye, which I did. Then finally, she said yes.'
Sirius' eyebrows shot up. 'She did?'
'Yeah! I was really lucky that her friends weren't around at that time. Imagine how mortifying that would have been to just stand there with them just giggling away.'
'That is pretty lucky of you.' Sirius observed.
'I was quite surprised.' Harry rambled on. 'Only after Potions did it register that I was going out with Katie Bell.'
Sirius smiled. 'That's my boy,' he said with a chortle. 'You bagged one of the fittest girls in school. Well done! I can only imagine how the others in the school must be feeling.'
'Well, they don't really know.' Harry said craftily. 'At least I think nobody really knows since there haven't been any rumours running around off late. But it's only been a day since I asked her, anything could happen between now and the ball. And I am not saying anything till then!'
'Why not?' Sirius asked with surprise.
'Just,' Harry shrugged. 'Besides, imagine the look on their faces when they see who I am going out with.' He ended mischievously.
Sirius threw his head back and laughed.
On the first day of the winter holidays, Harry and Sirius sat down with the golden egg. Neville, who had decided to accept Harry's invitation to stay for the day in the much quieter house (after getting permission), joined them.
'Mermaids,' Sirius said thoughtfully after the egg was shut and the last of the awful shrieking had gone. Neville just nodded in reply.
Harry, whose ears were still ringing at the cacophony, looked at the two of them incredulously, 'How did you know that?'
'Well, Mermish music is quite beautiful to hear,' Harry interrupted with a snort. 'Once you are in the right medium, that being water. So it is quite popular among the gentry, as concert halls playing that music are quite pricey. I might take you to a concert. You will like it, I think. Anyway, a few decades back, someone had the bright idea that Mermish music would be better heard in its purest form. This started off a trend where people would play recordings of it in open air, and pretend to be cultured as they enjoyed the shrieking and wailing. Of course, this fad did not last long, but my mother was quite taken by it.' He shuddered in remembrance. 'She forced me and my brother to listen to it almost every day and learn the language. One of the worst memories of my life,' he said with a shudder. 'She only stopped by the time I was to go to Hogwarts. I think father might have gone and destroyed the music crystals. It was one of the few sane things he had done in his life.'
Sirius looked at the egg thoughtfully. 'One of the only good things about Azkaban is that thanks to the dementors, I kind of am competent in Mermish. I think it said something about taking something of value? I don't recall the rest, and frankly I don't want to hear that screeching anymore. So you will have to put the egg and your head underwater to decipher the words. It's easier that way.'
He extracted his wand and waved it, causing a deep trough to appear.
'Have at it,' he said brightly after filling it with water.
A few minutes later, Harry withdrew his head for the fifth time. Gasping for air, he sat back in his chair.
Sirius was happy to see his son take out his wand and mutter a drying charm. The boy was beginning to think like a wizard.
'Well, they are taking something of mine, something dear to me, and I have an hour to get it back before it is lost to me forever.' Harry said. 'I wonder what it is.'
'Well, if I understand the Tournament properly and their love for dramatics, then it probably will be a hostage.' Sirius said after a moment of thinking.
Harry took a moment to think about that. 'So that would be you,' he said in a small voice.
'Probably,' Sirius said. Mentally he told himself that he wouldn't participate. While he knew now from his sources that extensive security measures had been implemented (that knowledge would have gone a long way in helping his worries in the first task) he still wouldn't put it past Dumbledore or Crouch to do something to make sure that he had a little "accident". Of course, if a hostage died, or any other deaths were to occur, for that matter, the Ministry and the Minister in particular would face heavy criticism. From what he observed of Fudge, Sirius knew that the man would point a finger at Dumbledore at the earliest opportunity. So they may not do anything. Not that he was going to bet on that.
'Though, I think not. Something tells me that adults aren't going to be participating in this.' He said aloud
'But, I can't swim!' Harry said desperately.
'Of course you can!' Sirius said patiently. 'I taught you myself when we went to Black Island, remember?'
'Yes, but I don't believe that the pool there comes even close in comparison to that lake!' Harry replied, his voice slightly hysteric.
'Hey, you got the basics. All you need to do is find a way to breathe underwater.' Sirius said soothingly. 'And I have just the spell for that.'
'What's it called?'
'The Bubble-Head Charm, it's a sixth year spell, however. So it will be a bit tough, but nothing you can't handle. After all, you managed a corporeal Patronus last year!'
'Actually,' Neville, who had been sitting there unnoticed, spoke up quietly, gaining the attention the other occupants. 'Why not use Gillyweed? It's far simpler.'
Sirius became thoughtful. 'Yes,' he said. 'That is a simple approach, but quite unconventional. Mainly because of its availability. I have a feeling that the other champions will definitely use a Bubble-Head Charm, so you might get some points for originality. 'Good thinking, Neville.'
The boy blushed at the praise, a pleased expression on his face.
'What we will have to focus on is getting to your hostage and rescuing them well before the others. So speed is a necessity.' Sirius thought for a few more moments. 'So I think we should practise. Find out the shortest route to the village.'
Harry nodded. Now that there was a plan, he felt less nervous. Of course, there was the fact that another person's life (most probably his dad's) depended on him reaching in time. That worried him greatly. But he kept his peace for now.
'Of course, we can't practise now.' Sirius said with disappointment. 'The lake will be unforgivingly cold, if not fully frozen. No, we will have to begin in January. So we leave off for now. In the meantime, I will place a large order for Gillyweed. I know someone in Greece who could get it fresh.'
With that part out of the way, the winter holidays were spent doing homework, playing in the snow, and other such activities.
The one hiccup came about five days after the start of the winter holidays.
Ever since he had moved in, Harry had his eye on the motorcycle that Sirius had recovered from Hagrid. He had heard stories about what his adoptive and biological father had been up to when they were teenagers. He had also remembered the dreams (which he found out were repressed memories) of being carried on the same motorcycle as a baby.
Add in the coolness factor (it was a big black Royal Enfield Super Meteor) and it was only natural that he wanted to ride it.
In his earlier experimentations with the bike, Harry had somehow managed to figure out the gear combination. He had yet to turn the engine on, however.
Today, while Sirius was out doing Merlin knows what, Harry would finally do that.
The bike, stored with Sirius' car in the expanded storage shed was quite heavy to wheel out, but with some persistence, Harry managed. Once he was outside the door, Harry straddled the bike and turned the key, feeling the excitement.
But before he could do anything else, a hand suddenly came from behind, twisted the key and removed it.
Looking behind him, Harry gulped at seeing the stern look on his father's face.
'Off the bike please,' Sirius said evenly. Taking the handlebars, he quietly rolled the machine inside. Once he had it parked, he turned around. 'Did you just try and take the motorcycle out, without my permission, on a ride in the middle of winter?'
Gulping, Harry silently nodded.
'And have you had any prior training riding one of these?'
'Er, n-no,' Harry said hesitantly. 'But it can't be any different than riding a broom, and I was a natural at that!'
Slowly, ever so slowly, Sirius palmed his face. There were so many words that he wanted to use at that moment to get his opinion of the teenager's intelligence across.
'Really,' he finally said, in a voice heavy with sarcasm. 'Except that to ride a motorcycle, you need to be able to change the gears properly, have a good balance, be mindful of pedestrians, and since it's winter, be aware of slippery roads!' he finished sharply.
'Do you have any idea about the number of things that could have gone wrong had you taken that bike out?' Sirius continued lecturing. 'Considering what kind of bike this is, just using that kick-starter would have grievously injured you since you clearly don't know what to expect. And forget slipping and falling and then injuring yourself, you could have run into something or someone and then seriously injured or killed yourself or another person. You weren't even wearing a bloody helmet! And what's more, that bike hadn't been ridden for thirteen years! It isn't fixed, and for all I know, just starting the engine could have made it explode!'
Harry didn't say anything, finding his shoes rather interesting instead. He felt about two inches tall right now. To think that it had seemed like such a good idea about two minutes back.
'Right, up to your room with you,' Sirius finally said after taking a few deep breaths. 'Think about what I said and what you nearly did. I suggest choosing a corner to stand in while you do said thinking. I'll be up in a few minutes.'
Once Harry was gone, Sirius sighed. Taking out his wand, he cast a few more protection charms. Now the only way it would move was if Sirius himself was doing the moving.
While he had not verbally forbidden Harry from touching or riding any vehicle (and that thought made him start weaving the same enchantments around the car) Sirius had hoped that the boy would understand that he wasn't allowed to take them out without being told that.
With another sigh, Sirius headed upstairs to deal with the wayward child.
Minutes later, Sirius regarded Harry as the boy ambled into the kitchen rubbing his sore backside. While Harry was now composed, Sirius could still see some redness in his eyes.
Pulling him in for another hug, Sirius said, 'You know, all this could have been averted if you had only asked me to teach you how to ride the thing.'
Harry looked up in surprise. 'Really?' He asked incredulously.
'Well, I would have considered it.' Sirius amended. 'But if I had said yes, then I would have only taught you in the summer. Not that it would do you much good, mind. The only time I would allow you to take it out by yourself is after you turned eighteen. But that also depends.'
'Oh,' Harry paused for a moment. 'Will you teach me then?' he asked hopefully.
'Yes you cheeky monkey.' Sirius said, tousling the boy's hair. 'But only in the summer, after that bike is fixed.'
'I don't think I would be able to sit properly till then anyway,' Harry said with another empathic rub, looking at Sirius with sad eyes, clearly trying to get his father to feel guilty.
Sirius snorted. 'Oh please, I only gave you twelve with the ruler. That is much lesser than the last time. If you think that's bad, wait until you feel the cane.'
Harry blushed momentarily. 'So, can I at least help you in fixing it?' he said quickly, trying to change the subject.
'All right,' Sirius said after a long moment of thought. He could teach the boy more magic, and it would give them some time to bond. 'But,' he said sternly. 'It can be quite dangerous. So no goofing around, or you will feel that cane.'
Harry gulped. 'Yes sir,' he said solemnly.
'Good, we shall start tomorrow.'
The next morning, Sirius wheeled the bike out in the middle of the magically enlarged shed.
'Now this,' Sirius said as he set the bike on its centre stand. 'Is a Royal Enfield Super Meteor. Made in ninety fifty two, it was one of the last motorcycles ever made by the company on British soil. I got this one off an American Muggle chap about a year before you were born. It was in surprisingly good condition then.' Sirius looked at the bike wistfully.
'Anyway,' he said, coming back to the present. 'I changed only the colour. I kept the other modifications, such as the handlebars that are angled back and the elongated body and customised tank. But I have put in some magical modifications.'
He then pointed out and explained the different parts of the bike, making sure that Harry knew them well.
'Now the magical modifications,' Sirius said once he was done. 'I put in a runic array for a refilling charm on the petrol tank to ensure that I never have to stop to fill up. Now those I am sure are intact so it shouldn't be a problem. The brakes, on the other hand need looking into. I don't know if the charms I have applied on those still work or not.
'Additionally, I put in a magical device to start the engine with this button here.' Sirius pointed at a small black button. 'That is partly for convenience's sake and partly because using the kick starter is quite hazardous.'
'What do you mean?' Harry asked in confusion.
'Well, this thing is a right monster,' Sirius said. 'It's quite easy to break your leg using the kick starter. I should know … it happened to me. I had accidentally left it in gear when doing that. That made the bike lurch forward violently. Between you and me, I didn't know what was worse; breaking my leg, or having Lily lecture me for half an hour while she fixed it.'
'Anyway, riding it is another matter. The bloody thing accelerates like a rabbit and kicks like a mule, so you would have to watch how you change your gears. But we'll talk about that when we get to actually riding it.
'Now once we are done checking the engine, the brake lines, the fuel lines and the charms, we will have to check on the enchantment that makes it fly.' Sirius stated.
And then they got started. In the next few days, Harry learnt a lot about Muggle motorcycles and their parts. But most importantly, was his magical education. He had learnt enough about runes to seriously consider taking that subject, and a lot about enchantments, a subject that would only be touched on briefly by Flitwick in N.E.W.T. level charms.
Sirius was quite impressed at the enthusiasm displayed by Harry. He decided to hold off on working on the Lamborghini till the summer. He would do that with his son. Besides, it would teach the boy more.
Not having forgotten his promise, Sirius was sure to teach the teen a few simple dances. These, he explained would be enough to do in a pinch. If the boy wanted more, then they would have to hire a professional. Sirius himself wasn't great at dancing.
On the night of the ball, Sirius looked at Harry as the boy descended the stairs, looking conscious in his new bottle green dress robes. He was followed by Neville who looked just as nervous.
Smiling, Sirius directed them to sit at the dining table. Taking a seat himself, he spoke up. 'Well, gentlemen, I believe that this is the first formal party the two of you will be attending without much adult supervision.'
Sirius' lips twitched as both boys nodded in unison, seeming to get even more nervous.
'Anyway, before you two head out, there is one matter that I feel needs to be discussed. Neville, I have spoken to your grandmother beforehand, and she has agreed wholeheartedly to me handling this matter.'
Hearing this, Neville blanched. He was sure that he wasn't going to like this.
Taking a deep breath, Sirius continued. 'Well, boys, you are slowly growing into men now. You have already entered puberty, and I am sure that you have noticed the various changes in your body. For example, I think you have noticed that hair has started to grow in certain … places…'
'Daaaaad,' Harry whinged, mortified. He could not believe that Sirius was having this conversation now, that too in front of his friend! Neville, on the other hand, was too terrified to even squeak.
'Oh stop whinging,' Sirius said irritably. 'That is quite natural you know. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, hair. Now, one major part of these changes on your growing bodies is something that I am confident that you haven't noticed.' He paused for a moment to see if he was going to be interrupted again. Satisfied that he could continue, he picked up his wand and said. 'And that happens to be your body odour. No matter how many times you boys have a bath it won't take long before people can smell you from a mile away. So, on that note, take out your wands. I am about to teach you a Deodorising Spell. It helps take the smell off for roughly an hour. Its primary use is in hunting, so that the quarry doesn't smell you, but it will do here. While you won't smell like roses, you won't offend people's olfactory senses. And with a beautiful girl in your arms, it is probably a good thing that you don't smell.'
Letting out a breath of relief, Harry and Neville took out their wands.
Once they had properly applied the charm, they turned to leave. 'Thanks, dad.' Harry said as Neville interjected with a 'Thanks, Mr Black.'
'You had us scared there for a moment.' Harry continued. 'We actually thought you were going to give us the "little wizard's talk"'
Sirius thought about what he had said and let out a bark of laughter. 'Well, I can see your point. That would have been quite awkward, no?'
Sirius waited till both of them had stepped into the carriage that he had hired to take them to Hogwarts and transport them back after the party ended. 'Now you two have fun, and make sure to treat your dates right. Remember the saying, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".' Getting nods, he stepped back.
'And one other thing,' he said getting their attention. 'That talk is going to be happening in the summer after you both turn fifteen! And don't worry, I have diagrams.' Cackling madly, he disappeared into the house, waving at Trevallion who was approaching the carriage that now contained two very worried boys.
Harry had quite a good time at the ball. Nobody knew about his partner till the very last moment when the champions had to stand on either side of the entrance to the Great Hall.
Harry wasn't the only one keeping secrets it seemed. Hermione had kept the fact that Krum had asked her to the ball a secret from the school as well. Harry absently noted that she looked quite beautiful in her blue dress robes with her hair done up and everything.
He pretended that he did not notice the forlorn looks she was sending him. He was still too angry at her. Though, he couldn't help the smug grin that graced his face. He was currently enjoying giving her serious competition, sometimes outperforming her at every class. While he wasn't as good with the theory as she was, he still got the spells down faster.
Harry couldn't help but smirk at the look on Ron's face when he saw who Harry and Viktor Krum had next to them. Somehow, he had a feeling that Ron and Hermione were soon going to have a major row about this. He idly wondered how long it would take before Ron blew up at her.
Padma, who Ron had somehow miraculously had as a partner, did not look too happy to be with him. Harry supposed that the dress robes the ginger was wearing had something to do with it.
Not that he cared.
Harry found himself seated next to Dumbledore and directly opposite Fleur who was with a very smitten Roger Davis. The French part veela was quite proud of her school. Though "proud" would be a nice word for it. A surreptitious glance around the table showed that all the members of the host school weren't happy about her putting Hogwarts down like that. Cho and Hermione especially were giving Fleur scathing looks.
Had this happened the previous year, Harry would have been quite content at holding his peace. However, that was before Sirius had rubbed off on him.
And so, instead of keeping quiet, Harry interrupted her description of Beauxbatons, a wicked comeback mentally prepared. 'That is quite interesting. The idea of Wood Nymphs serenading you as you eat sounds quite lovely.' He paused for a moment before continuing, politely. 'Do tell me more about the Great Hall. The interiors do sound impressive.' Unconsciously, he adopted the same intense pose Sirius used when pretending to give someone his full attention.
Harry ignored Cedric's wondering look as he concentrated on Fleur's face. Fleur, who sounded quite delighted at having an actively participating conversation, continued talking about the interior of great hall. 'Ze Great 'all is 'uge. Eet is bigger than zis.' She waved her hand around the Hogwarts Great Hall imperiously.
'I see,' Harry said neutrally. 'Is the ceiling as high as this one?'
'No, eet is 'uge. Much beegger zan zis one. Zere are carvings of important moments of wizarding French 'istory put zere.'
'Oh.' Harry paused to take a thoughtful bite of his dish. Swallowing, he continued. 'So, it's just a normal ceiling? I thought there would be some enchantment there. You know, like how ours is enchanted to look like the sky outside.' He finished innocently.
Fleur sniffed haughtily. 'I find zat to be too drab. 'Oo wants to eat under ze sky? You go outside for zat.'
Harry shrugged. 'You might have a point. After all, this enchantment has been around for ages now. I believe that Rowena Ravenclaw herself put it up when she and the others founded the school.' Looking at Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore he said. 'Isn't that about a thousand years ago, Professor?'
'One thousand and ninety five years to be precise, Mr Potter.' Professor Dumbledore replied with a twitch of his lips.
'Ah. Well that is a long time, indeed.' Harry replied. 'And it hasn't faded till now. In fact, it even mimics snowfall and rain! Only the snow and rain is dry, of course. It's quite fascinating, isn't it, Cedric?' Getting an approving nod, he turned back to Fleur. 'Of course, it isn't anything as grand as Beauxbatons. Why, your description of your Great Hall reminds me of the dining hall I saw during my summer holidays when I went to Buckingham Palace with my dad! Simply marvellous.'
Cedric coughed while Krum smirked infinitesimally at Harry's comment.
But Harry wasn't done yet. 'I don't suppose Beauxbatons has any secret passages, trick staircases or this weird feeling that the building is actually alive.' He gave a sigh. 'The school sounds very enchanting. And it's so modern! A whole three hundred years younger than this ramshackle old building with its millennium of history and powerful ancient wards and enchantments. This school is so old!' he said with exaggerated disgust. 'I mean, Merlin attended this school, that's how old it is. Who would want to be in such a draughty old castle when one could be in a bright sunny modern palace?'
Harry could have sworn that he saw a brief smile flash across Professor Dumbledore's face as Professor McGonagall's lips twitched.
Fleur, on the other hand, looked murderous.
'Zank you for your kind words, Meester Potter.' Madam Maxime interjected with a graceful bow of her magnificent head, neatly stopping any argument from forming. She surreptitiously sent a warning look at her champion, causing Fleur to subside.
'Should you wish to visit our school over ze summer, please, owl me. I will be delighted to show you and your fazzer around.'
'That was masterfully done, Harry.' Katie said as they danced much later. 'The way you subtly rubbed our history, magical strength and ingenuity in that frog's face all the while sounding as if you were degrading our school.'
Harry smiled. 'Thanks! That was the first time I did something like that. Did you catch the comparison I made to a Muggle palace?'
'So did most of the table. Did you see Crouch? He was grinning like mad! It was quite scary.'
'No, but I did see Professor Dumbledore's beard twitch. Though Madam Maxime did not look happy about it.'
'Yeah, she looked like she was going to step on you.'
Harry snorted. 'It was good fun though,' he said.
'Really? Well, then you'll find politics good fun. You should consider a career there.'
As the last syllable of the ritual died out, a manic grin lit up on the man's gaunt face as he watched the magic interact with the artefact. It had taken a long time to source the ingredients, as many of them were quite rare, but he had finally managed. Taking out a recording quill, he proceeded to the next step of the plan that had formed within his head when he had first found out what the artefact was.
'Harry! Neville! Had a good night?'
The boys in question looked around to spot Sirius sitting up in an armchair near the fireplace.
'Yes sir,' Harry answered, smiling happily even if he was a bit tired.
Harry waited till Neville had gone upstairs before speaking. 'Rough night?' He asked in concern. The wan expression on his stepfather's face had not escaped his notice. At the beginning when he had first come to stay with Sirius, he noticed that the unjustly incarcerated man used to have that same expression. It hadn't taken him long to figure out that it was mainly due to nightmares induced by his extended stay in that hellhole.
'Oh, nothing like that,' Sirius said with a yawn. 'Just been working really late,' he smiled reassuringly at Harry.
'OK, if you say so.' Harry said uncertainly.
'I'm fine,' Sirius said, getting up and briefly hugging the boy to him. 'Just tired. I haven't had any nightmares for nearly a month now. Now, off to bed with you. We'll talk tomorrow.' Giving Harry a playful swat, he sent the boy off to his room.
Late next morning, the three of them were seated at the dining table. 'You know,' said Harry. 'I don't think I want to go to Beauxbatons. For one, I don't want to end up being a stuck-up prat like they are.'
'What do you mean?' Sirius asked mildly.
Harry snorted. 'You should hear them speak about their bloody school and their country and their food. I mean, really, who criticises their host in their host's own home? The number of times I have heard them go on and on and on about their bloody school.' Doing a crude imitation of a French accent in a high pitched voice, he continued. 'Oooh, look at moi! My name is Flour and I am Franch.' Putting on a look of exaggerated disgust, he looked at his food. 'Zis Eenglish food is zo fatty and 'eavy.' Tossing his moderately long hair in an accurate impression of the Beauxbatons Champion, Harry said haughtily. 'Ze weazzer is zo cold and ze castle is zo zmall and booreeng. You should zee Beauxbatons! Eet is beautiful and elegant. Not like zis stoopid Eenglish School. Wood nymphs serenade us while we eat, and unicorns prance about in our grounds and seeng our names because we are Franch and zo zophisticated.' He flipped his hand effeminately.
Sirius looked on in bemusement while Neville laughed helplessly.
'I am sure that not all of Beauxbatons is like that,' Sirius said diplomatically.
'Maybe,' Harry replied in a normal voice. 'But if the champion herself acts like that in public without the headmistress saying anything, one has to wonder about the rest of the school. If it wasn't for me, Fleur would have got away with her remarks!' Seeing the questioning look on Sirius' face, he described what he said at the champion's table at dinner.
Sirius nodded approvingly. 'You might have a point, Harry. Though, perhaps the headmistress was planning on upbraiding her student in private. Maybe your response had her revaluate her decision and speak up in public.'
'I guess,' Harry conceded.
The remaining days of the winter holiday passed by quietly. To make up for the rather low key affair that was their first Christmas together, Sirius had bought tickets to a Pendragon concert. Sirius had introduced Harry to what he called "real music" over the summer, and this was one band that the boy really liked.
When the lake had thawed and the days had become relatively warmer, Harry started exploring the lake that was to be the venue of the next task. He was certain to do it as discreetly as possible. After all, he did not want the other champions to see his strategy.
Act III Scene III
All too soon, it was February and Sirius was taking his seat at the stands set up at the lake bank with the other governors.
Soon the champions were lined up side by side. Sirius gave an encouraging smile to Harry when he met the boy's eye, getting a nervous smile in return.
Once Bagman was done with his spiel, the cannon went off.
The audience gave out gasps of appreciation and awe as the water of the lake became magically clear to those sitting in the stands. It was like looking into a large bowl filled with liquid glass. Zooming in with his Omnioculars, Sirius could see the hostages tied at the centre of the village.
Immediately, Diggory, Delacour and Krum started wading into the lake before diving into what to them was murky water. The audience saw as Diggory and Delacour cast Bubble-Head Charms while Krum performed an impressive feat of partial transfiguration and gave himself a shark's head.
Harry, in the meantime, raised his wand and shouted, 'Accio.'
'And our youngest champion has opted to cast a Summoning Charm. Well, Mr Potter, there is no way you can fly out of this one!' Bagman's loud voice cut through the air eliciting a few laughs.
Suddenly, one of the boats used to transport the First-Years materialised, gliding to a stop in front of Harry.
Kicking off his shoes, Harry clambered onto the boat barefoot. Once he was inside, he tapped the side of the boat and cast the propulsion charm.
Sirius was proud of the plan that Harry had come up with. Instead of swimming all the way there and running into all sorts of obstacles, Harry had the bright idea to drop in on the Mermish village from above.
Since there wasn't anything in the rules of the Tournament forbidding this, Harry dove into the lake one cool day at the end of January, with the help of Gillyweed. He located the village where he had a hunch the hostages would be. Once he reached that area, he marked the position from the surface.
He then looked up a few other charms, mainly the propulsion charm that he remembered Hagrid using to get them across from the rock on the sea to mainland.
Sirius watched along with the rest of the spectators as Harry's boat glided across the lake. He, along with the rest, were mesmerised by the stunning effect of the vessel moving through what looked like liquid glass as the other champions and various aquatic fauna moved underneath. Sirius was glad that this was being recorded from the stands as it had been done with the first task. Harry would definitely be interested in seeing this.
Finally reaching his destination, Harry raised his wand and cast another Summoning Charm, calling for a rock from the shore.
Once that was done, Harry quickly removed his robe, revealing a pair of green swim trunks underneath. Conjuring a piece of rope, the youngest champion tied the rock to his waist and prepared to dive, Gillyweed in hand.
Just as the boy was about to take the plunge, the spectators noticed Fleur Delacour being besieged and shortly overwhelmed by a swarm of Grindylows. Unable to handle the water demons, the part veela was forced to surface, gaining the notice of the fourth champion as she took herself out of the race.
Sirius couldn't help but think that he should be worried at the way Harry was staring at the sobbing hysterical French girl as she was wrestled into the medical tent. Her plaintive cries for her little sister were heart-rending.
Seeming to shake out of it, Harry sat on the edge of the boat, popped the Gillyweed into his mouth and leaned backward.
Thanks to the extra weight, Harry dropped like a stone before the magical plant did its work. Once transformed, Harry kicked his now powerful flipper-like feet and powered down towards the lakebed.
Sirius watched with a sense of victory and pride. Thanks to thinking outside the box, Harry was the first one there.
But then he frowned. While Harry was quick to cut the chords tying Neville down, he did not make any move to leave with his hostage.
It was only when Cedric came along for his hostage, did Sirius realise why the boy had decided to stick around. Sirius groaned and put his head in his hands. Harry had taken the warning seriously. That silly, brave, child. He actually thought that the hostages would be forever lost if their rescuers did not reach them on time. He did not know whether he was proud or exasperated at this. After a moment's thought he decided that he definitely was proud.
Then again, Sirius couldn't exactly blame the boy. After all, Dumbledore and Barty Crouch were the driving forces behind the Tournament. They really couldn't be trusted.
Once Krum had spirited the Granger girl away, Harry swam towards the last hostage that was no doubt Fleur's little sister.
The Merpeople swam forwards to intercept the champion. They were quick to back off when they saw the wand being pointed at them. Sirius could only smile as he saw them scatter after Harry started counting off with his free hand, making his intentions very clear.
Once he was in the clear, Harry cut the chords, releasing the little girl from her bindings. Severing the rope tying him to the rock, he began to swim to the surface, dragging two hostages with him.
Listening to the reactions of the crowd and the comments made by Bagman, Sirius could tell that people were impressed by Harry's show of heroism. Going to rescue your hostages was one thing, but making sure that no one was left behind? That was something else.
Once he was near the surface, Harry dug into the pouch tied around his waist and ingested the counter to the Gillyweed, negating its effects. Once he was gill-free, he surfaced, joining the hostages.
'Moral fibre … Not bad,' Sirius said later that evening.
'Don't remind me,' Harry replied sourly. He was still sore about the whole incident. Now that he was on dry land, with the task well behind him, he realised that perhaps he shouldn't have taken that warning literally.
'Oh cheer up,' Sirius said brightly. 'At least the judges think it was worth full marks. Well, except for Karkaroff. But then, it really didn't matter anyway. You are in the lead! And the French champion is falling all over the hero that saved her little sister.'
Moaning, Harry threw his head back, covering his face with his hands to hide the blush. Fleur had undergone a complete character overhaul. From being a conceited, arrogant frog, she was now all over Harry. His cheeks still burned at the remembrance of her … enthusiastic gratitude.
Of course, that was nothing compared to the nine year old who he had "rescued". The moppet had clung onto him all the way to the lake shore, needing to be physically pried from him by the matron. Harry could only imagine her reaction when she found out his name. At least he had been able to pull on his robes and cast drying spells at himself and the girl before she had decided to impersonate a particularly hungry four-limbed octopus.
Neville had been a load of help. The blond had quite accommodatingly laughed his arse off all the way to the shore, and had sniggered for the rest of the day. Harry was sorely considering rewarding his friend's kindness by chucking him off the boat and making him swim to shore.
'Where were you anyway?' Harry suddenly asked Sirius. 'I looked all over for you afterwards, but couldn't find you.'
'Oh,' said Sirius. 'I had something I needed to retrieve.'
Harry looked at him for a long moment. 'What was it?'
Sirius smiled, 'Something rather important.' Seeing the look on Harry's face, he continued. 'I will tell you in due time. Just trust me for now, OK?'
Harry stared at him for a long moment before nodding. 'OK,' he said.
'Did you find out why I was entered into the Tournament and who did it?' Harry finally asked after several minutes of staring into the fire.
Sirius, who thought that his son had fallen asleep and was about to do the same jerked awake. 'Hm? No, no idea.' He replied.
Sitting up properly, he continued. 'I do know that Karkaroff is a Death Eater. He managed to escape Azkaban by squealing on his comrades, though, so I don't see him going back to Voldemort. And I am reliably certain that Pettigrew isn't involved, at least actively. I have been watching that map like a hawk, and nothing out of the ordinary has cropped up. Then again, I did start doing that only after you became a dayboy, so no one can tell if he was there in the school beforehand.
'So that leaves Karkaroff. And his behaviour isn't the type of behaviour I would expect of a man who had put your name in. After all, he was quite vehemently against your participation and was quite reluctant to give you marks. His behaviour does not fit the profile.'
'Speaking of which,' Harry mused out loud. 'Crouch confuses me. Both he and Bagman have been quite generous with their marking. And considering your history with the man, I kind of expected him to be strict about it. And Bagman actually offered me his help! Twice!'
Sirius looked at the ceiling in thought. 'Bagman's behaviour isn't alarming,' he finally said. 'I know for a fact that he tends to bet a lot. Rumour has it that he is in major debt with the goblins thanks to his gambling. I wouldn't put it past him to bet on you.
'As for Crouch…' Sirius shrugged. 'I think he might be trying to curry favour with me. Perhaps he thinks that I will get off his back if he gives you full marks. The man has tried many times to contact me, but I have rebuffed him at every turn. I do not want anything to do with him.' He said with a dark look that sent chills up Harry's back.
The days leading up to the final task went by. Once Harry found out what the final task would be, Sirius upped the ante, making sure that Harry was comfortable using both wands and could do the spells in his sleep. He also went so far as to wake the boy up in the middle of the night on occasion to duel with the sleepy lad, working on his son's drawing, casting speed and alertness.
Harry was also tasked with dual casting, a skill he showed a moderate aptitude in. However, that was in controlled conditions, Sirius knew that Harry's mettle would be tested in real battle.
Sirius also had Harry strap the penknife he had bought the boy to his ankle. It might come in useful.
On the last day before the third task, Sirius bought Harry a mokeskin pouch that could be attached to his waist.
'This is very rare,' Sirius explained as Harry looked at the furry pouch. 'The hide is such that if something were to be hidden in it, nobody but the owner could find it. I want you to keep your invisibility cloak in it.
'Thanks, dad,' Harry said.
Act III Scene IV
As Harry approached the entrance of the maze that was grown on the Quidditch Pitch, the predominant thought that passed through him was, it was soon going to be over. He had made some new friends this year.
He had finally been able to forgive his two oldest friends, but things never would be the same between them. The camaraderie they shared was forever gone now. He also hated to say this, but he had started to grow apart from the two of them, preferring instead to socialise with Neville, Susan and other friends he had made over the past year.
Upon hearing Bagman's voice, Harry focussed on his current surroundings. He had a tournament to win. Briefly he had an image of the cup in his hands while people around him cheered. Then the cannon went off, and he was running into the magical maze.
The man moved around the exterior of the maze as fast as he could, disabling as many traps he could find along the way. The fake eye he had obtained from the person he was now impersonating helped him along. However, it wasn't so easy since he was not used to the technology, having real eyes of his own. He could see potential uses of this type of equipment, however. The Dark Lord would definitely be interested in studying and replicating this.
Once he was done disabling what traps he could, he went back to scan for the other champions. It was a good thing that the Potter brat was skilled and so had a head start. It would make slowing the rest down easy.
The stuck up French half-breed was the easiest to deal with. All he had to do was reactivate one of the obstacles while she was right in the middle of it.
The Durmstrang boy was a bit harder since he was quite vigilant. However, a well-placed Imperius Curse at the right moment while he was distracted was enough. It would also kill two birds with one stone, leaving the Potter boy the only person in the maze.
He knew, however, that he could not incapacitate all three champions. With them all gone, Potter wouldn't have to touch the cup to win. So after having the Bulgarian stun the Hogwarts champion, he would have the Imperiused Durmstrang champion wander around in circles.
He stood outside the wall nonchalantly, watching with his magical eye as Amos Diggory's brat fell to a silent stunner. It would have been much sweeter to have him writhing under the Cruciatus, but he controlled himself. It would not do to gain attention. Not at this time.
Harry stood in front of the Triwizard Cup, panting. His journey through the maze hadn't been too tough, even if he had to deal with one of Hagrid's Skrewts (blasted thing was huge!) a sphinx, an acromantula and a myriad of other enchantments and spells.
Slowly, he limped towards the plinth. He had twisted his right ankle when dodging the acromantula when it had surprised him. In addition to that, he had a burn on his left shoulder thanks to the Skrewt. But on the whole, he wasn't feeling too bad. The task was quite easy compared to the previous two tasks!
Slowly, almost reverently, Harry's hand stretched out towards the cup. It hovered uncertainly for a long moment before his fingers closed around it.
Immediately, he felt a hook behind his navel and the next thing he knew, he was hurtling through a whirlwind of light and sound, his hand stuck on the cup's handle.
The Portkey (for he recognised it as a Portkey) slammed him onto the ground. Clutching his sprained ankle, Harry collapsed. He had only a millisecond to realise that he was in a graveyard when a flash of red light slammed into him.
Harry woke up with a start a few minutes later to find himself tied to a headstone, a gag in his mouth. He struggled against his bindings, only to find them too tight. Whoever had tied him had done a good job. He stopped when he saw a figure placing a huge stone cauldron filled with an unidentifiable potion in front of him.
Upon hearing the cold voice, Harry gave a start. The man was Peter Pettigrew! And he could remember that cold voice anywhere. It was Lord Voldemort. Just like in the dream that Harry had all those months ago last summer, the dark lord had a sort of body. Harry began struggling harder against his bindings. But it was no use. They were too tight.
Panic began to set in. Here he was, tied and helpless, unable to do anything while Wormtail and Voldemort did their … thing. Harry was certain that it was a ritual of sorts. And he had a good hunch as to what the purpose of the ritual was. Voldemort was going to be getting his body back.
Hearing his family's betrayer chant the first line confirmed his suspicions. Harry began to struggle harder.
He couldn't even call out for help. Not that there was anyone likely to be around here. He stilled suddenly when he noticed a large snake circling him and the cauldron.
'Flesh — of the servant — w-willingly given — you will — revive — your master.'
Knowing what Pettigrew was about to do, Harry shut his eyes. But he could not block the scream that pierced the night, which went through Harry as though he had been stabbed with the dagger too. He heard something fall to the ground, heard Wormtail's anguished panting, then a sickening splash, as something was dropped into the cauldron. Harry couldn't stand to look … but the potion had turned a burning red; the light of it shone through Harry's closed eyelids. …
It was at this moment that he realised one crucial thing. Pettigrew had not been able to find his wands! They were still there, snug against his arms. Carefully, he flexed his right ankle, working through the pain. The weight of the knife on the appendage told him that the knife hadn't been removed either.
Hardly daring to believe his luck, he pressed his back against the tombstone. The pouch was still there. Not that he expected it to be taken. After all, the hide ensured that Wormtail would not find it.
But before he could act on that, he felt Wormtail's fetid breath on his face.
'B-blood of the enemy … forcibly taken … you will … resurrect your foe.'
Harry could do nothing to prevent it, he was tied too tightly. … Squinting down, struggling hopelessly at the ropes binding him, he saw the shining silver dagger shaking in Wormtail's remaining hand. He felt its point penetrate the crook of his right arm and blood seeping down the sleeve of his torn robes. Wormtail, still panting with pain, fumbled in his pocket for a glass vial and held it to Harry's cut, so that a dribble of blood fell into it.
Harry realised now that he had no time left. He had to be quick. Not paying attention to what Wormtail was doing, he desperately visualised his knife flying into his palm as he shouted the incantation for the summoning charm through his gag.
Miraculously, it worked. Harry felt the knife slapping against his palm. Grasping the penknife, he flicked open the blade. Desperately, he began sawing against the rope.
The ropes, being magically conjured put up fierce resistance, making Harry's job difficult. Looking around, he noticed that Wormtail was too out of it to see what he was doing. So he doubled his efforts, giving no thought to discretion. However, he was too late. The last of the sparks had vanished and thick steam started billowing from the Cauldron. With a thrill of terror, Harry could see a shape rising. He froze in fear.
A tall figure emerged from the cauldron. With pale skin, long spider-like fingers, a face without a nose and lips, and burning hate filled red eyes; Voldemort was a terrible sight to behold.
Unable to think, Harry just stood there, his eyes wide open in dread. He watched mutely as Wormtail robed the evil wizard.
Examining his hands and body, Voldemort withdrew a wand from a pocket. Looking at it in distaste, he sneered at Wormtail. 'So, you haven't been able to find my wand? I thought you said that it would be there with the boy…'
'M – Master, I am s – sorry. I – I swear I thought that Black had taken it and given it to Potter. H – He must have changed his mind and handed it over to the Ministry.'
Harry's eyes widened even further. He had Voldemort's wand in his possession? It explained why he felt a connexion to it. Now that he remembered what Ollivander had told him about his wand, it also explained why that wand worked so well with him. They were brother wands.
But those thoughts were driven from his mind when Voldemort started speaking. Harry listened to the first few words before he slowly started to saw away at the ropes binding him, ignoring the rest of what the Dark Lord had to say. After all, knowing that he was using a Bertha Jorkins' wand really wasn't going to help him. He could not work as fast as he wanted to as doing so would garner unwanted attention.
He was halfway there when the Death Eaters came. Harry was unable to help being distracted again as he listened to Voldemort identify each of the masked men and continue with his speech.
He was interrupted again when Voldemort turned his (and the other Death Eaters') attention to him. Stilling, he tuned into what the man was saying.
'His mother left upon him the traces of her sacrifice. … This is old magic, I should have remembered it. I was foolish to overlook it … but no matter. I can touch him now.'
Harry felt the cold tip of the long white finger touch him, and shivered. Voldemort looked at him and Harry could see a momentary look of disappointment across his face before the wizard stepped away.
It was then that he realised that his scar had not so much as given a twinge of pain. Now that he thought about it, his scar had not hurt him at all for the past year…
But that would have to wait for later. Harry renewed his efforts on his bindings. He was nearly there when Voldemort turned to him again and raised his wand.
His first dose of the Cruciatus curse slammed into his body, lighting every nerve of his body on fire. He screamed through his gag. His very bones were on fire; his eyes were rolling madly in his head; he wanted it to end … to black out … to die …
And then it was over. Hanging limply against his bindings, he felt the last of the rope slowly give way. As awareness returned to him, he could feel the fingers of his hand painfully gripping his knife.
'Now untie him, Wormtail, and give him back his wand.'
The rat faced man hesitated. 'I – I did not find it on him, master. I think it might have become lost in the graveyard.'
'Then,' Voldemort said slowly and dangerously as he turned to the snivelling coward. 'Find it, you fool!'
With a squeak, Pettigrew trotted off searching for a wand that wasn't there with Voldemort watching his every move like a predatory snake.
Seizing his chance, Harry cut through the last of the bindings. Looking at the circle around him, he saw an opening. The Death Eaters and their master were nicely distracted, and there was a big gap through which he could see the gleaming cup.
Not wasting much time, Harry burst from the tombstone towards the cup. His movement was so unexpected that the Death Eaters and Voldemort could only watch as he slipped past the gap between Avery and Macnair. The cup was his only hope of getting out of there quickly. He did not know how Portkeys worked, but he hoped with all his might that the thing worked to get him back to Hogwarts.
If it didn't … well, he would cross that bridge later.
Suddenly he felt something clamp down on his arm. Spinning around, he lashed out with his still extended knife. With a pig-like squeal, Wormtail let go of him, his real arm clutching his right eye where Harry had slashed him while the silver one had let go.
Just then, he spied saw a spell coming his way. Diving behind a tombstone, Harry drew his wand and snap-cast a blasting charm in the general direction that the curse had come from. Scrambling to his feet, he ran as fast as he could to the cup, his injuries momentarily forgotten.
Yelling told him that he had hit his target. But Harry did not look back. The last thing he heard before he was taken out of the place was another anger filled scream.
The imposter looked at the cup with his fake eye as Potter touched the cup. As soon as the boy vanished, he let a sinister grin that, funnily enough, did not look terribly out of place on the face of his disguise.
As soon as his Lord was done, he would send the body back with the cup, having made the necessary modifications on the corpse beforehand. Potter's death would be chalked up as another tragic loss to the Tournament. And while the world was mourning over Potter's death, his master would prepare for his takeover. He looked at his watch. The wards around Hogwarts were so strong that travel by Portkey would take longer than normal as the object would first transport the victorious champion to a place outside of the school and then, after a few minutes, in which the magic would recharge, transport the winner back outside the maze with a second touch. That gave them fifteen minutes to act before people started suspecting.
Harry felt himself slam flat into the ground; his face was pressed into grass; the smell of it filled his nostrils. He had closed his eyes while the Portkey transported him, and he kept them closed now. He did not move. All the breath seemed to have been knocked out of him; his head was swimming so badly he felt as though the ground beneath him were swaying like the deck of a ship. To hold himself steady, he tightened his hold on the cold handle of the Tri-wizard Cup. He felt as though he would slide away into the blackness gathering at the edges of his brain if he let go of it. Shock and exhaustion kept him on the ground, breathing in the smell of the grass, waiting … waiting for someone to do something … something to happen. …
A torrent of sound deafened and confused him; there were voices everywhere, footsteps, screams. … He remained where he was, his face screwed up against the noise, as though it were a nightmare that would pass. …
Then a pair of hands seized him roughly and turned him over.
He opened his eyes.
He was looking up at the starry sky, and Albus Dumbledore was crouched over him. The dark shadows of a crowd of people pressed in around them, pushing nearer; Harry felt the ground beneath his head reverberating with their footsteps.
He had come back to the edge of the maze. He could see the stands rising above him, the shapes of people moving in them, the stars above.
Harry let go of the cup, and seized Dumbledore's wrist, while Dumbledore's face swam in and out of focus.
'He's back,' Harry whispered. 'He's back. Voldemort.'
'What's going on? What's happened?'
The face of Cornelius Fudge appeared upside down over Harry, beaming.
'Congratulations on your win, Mr Potter!' the face said. 'And the youngest champion too!' The expression soon morphed into one of concern. 'You don't look too well, lad. Perhaps you should go to the hospital wing? In the meantime, I shall get your father.'
The crowd around him were all cheering, chanting his name. Nobody knew what had happened. Nobody knew that dark times were ahead. The thought made Harry's head swim.
Dumbledore bent down, and with extraordinary strength for a man so old and thin, raised Harry from the ground and set him on his feet. Harry swayed. His head was pounding. His injured ankle would no longer support his weight. The crowd around them jostled, fighting to get closer, pressing darkly in on him congratulating him on his win, slapping his back and reaching to grasp his hand.
'He'll need to go to the hospital wing!' Fudge was saying loudly, obviously still there. 'He's ill, he's injured — Dumbledore, the other judges want to speak to you. …'
'I'll take Harry, Dumbledore, I'll take him —'
'No, I would prefer —'
'Dumbledore, the judges are insisting on your presence to confirm the results. Also, Karkaroff has disappeared somewhere. And he couldn't have found a better time to do so. Something has messed with his champion. Krum is acting definitely off. I think you should have a look at him before accusations are made.'
'Harry, stay here —'
Girls were screaming, passionately chanting his name. … The scene flickered oddly before Harry's eyes. …
Seeing the old man leave the boy alone, the imposter looked around. Black was still fighting his way through the mob. He was the only one close. He wouldn't get another opportunity.
Harry let Professor Moody lead him away, numbly answering his questions in disjointed sentences. Dimly, he registered a second pair of footsteps joining them.
When he swallowed the Pepper-Up Potion and noticed his surroundings, he found himself not in the Hospital Wing but in the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor's office.
Suddenly something caught his eye. Turning, he saw what could only be Alastor Moody's body lying there, missing his false leg and (if the sunken look of his eyelid was any indication) eye.
Confused, Harry looked back to find the other Moody standing over him with his wand pointed at him, a manic grin on his face. On Moody's right was Mr Crouch, the judge also had a wand pointed at him.
'What is –?'
'I put your name in the Goblet, Potter,' said the Moody standing over him, an odd grin on his face. 'It was I who delivered you to my master. Imagine how handsomely he will reward me when I end your life as well. The one person he wanted to kill above all others…'
'You – you, what?' Harry looked at the visage of Moody. Quickly he looked at Crouch, hoping the man would help.
'He cannot help you, Potter!' the fake Moody said. 'I have him under the Imperius.'
'It was hard, you know,' the imposter said softly. 'Getting you to that cup … I wasn't sure that it could be done. But then, you and that Blood Traitor Black were more than willing to win the thing. So I left it. And you played right into the Dark Lord's trap! Now, I believe it's time to die.'
As the imposter raised his wand, three things happened at the same time.
The real retired Auror and current teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts, Alastor Moody, who had been taken by surprise in his office had long since woken. Staying still, he evaluated his surroundings, listening to what was being said.
His attacker had not found his wand. So Alastor slowly palmed it.
When he heard the man about to commit murder, he knew he had to act. He may not have his fancy fake eye, or a functional leg, but he was still Alastor Moody, dammit! And no filthy Death Eater was going to take him down.
With a speed that belied his age, he opened his eye and whipped his wand out to where he knew the threat was.
At the same time, perhaps it was the excitement of the moment that had led to the caster losing his concentration, or perhaps it was being in captivity for so long, but Bartemius Crouch felt the Imperius curse being lifted. Gaining awareness of his surroundings, he turned his wand to the enemy on his right. The man may have been his son, but he was a threat. Taking him out of Azkaban was a mistake. He should not have listened to his wife.
While all this was happening, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall had finally reached Mad Eye Moody's office. The minute he had found out that Harry had been taken away by Moody, Dumbledore knew something was off.
They were followed by a worried and clearly agitated Sirius Black. He had overheard that idiot minister telling Dumbledore about Harry's whereabouts.
They had just reached the door to hear the last few sentences uttered within. Knowing that their window of opportunity was very small, Dumbledore acted.
Bartemius Crouch minor had barely uttered the first syllable of the Killing Curse when a bone breaking hex slammed into his wand arm from the side, sent there with deadly accuracy by Moody despite missing an eye. Simultaneously, a disarming charm crashed into his opposite side from his father at point blank range, sending him flying.
Bartemius Crouch major had only a moment to relish in the thought of throwing off the Imperius and disarming his son (possibly saving the Potter boy's life might get him some leeway from Black) when a spell crashed through the doorway. He landed in a heap right next to his son.
When Moody had raised his wand, Harry finally perceived that he was in danger. Acting reflexively, he had drawn his wand. That was when the flash of spell-fire had blinded him. Blinking the last of the spots away he took in his surroundings. To his left were the forms of Bartemius Crouch and the fake Moody while the real Moody was slowly sitting up. Ahead of him was the result of the spell he had thrown before the conflagration of spell-fire. He did not remember what it was, but it had left a nasty looking circle of melted stone in the wall. None of the spells he knew could do that. If it wasn't for the lightly smoking wand held in his hand, he wouldn't have believed it had come from him.
To his right, where the door was, were Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall and –
'Dad!' Harry breathed in relief when he saw Sirius.
'Harry!' Sirius replied, rushing into the room and hugging his son. Stepping back he looked searchingly at his son. 'Are you alright?' he asked as his eyes raked over Harry's body, looking for any other injuries.
'I'm fine,' Just then, his ankle throbbed, making him grimace. The rest of his nerves took that opportunity to make themselves heard.
Concerned, Sirius sat the boy back down. 'Where does it hurt?' he asked anxiously.
'Just twisted my ankle,' Harry replied. 'I think it's sprained. Anyway, what happened?' he asked, looking around once more.
'That scum snuck up on me!' Moody growled from his position on the floor. He waved off Dumbledore. 'Just ensure that both of them are down.
Sirius turned around in astonishment. 'Surprised you?' he said incredulously. 'How did he manage that?'
'Well, you would be quite caught unawares too if you see a dead man appear, quite hale and hearty by the way, in your office, Black.' Moody replied testily.
'What do you mean?' Professor Dumbledore asked.
'Just wait till the Polyjuice Potion wears off,' Mad Eye said impatiently. 'You won't believe me anyway. Get some Veritaserum from Horace while you're at it. He has a whole vat of it down in the dungeons anyway. Foolish man,' he muttered under his breath. 'Brewing all those potions just to show off to a bunch of children and then leaving them for anyone to take them!'
Sirius sent off a Patronus towards Horace Slughorn.
Turning towards Harry, he said softly. 'Come on; let's get you to the Hospital Wing. You need rest.'
'Sirius, I must disagree.' Dumbledore said firmly. 'While bed rest would be a good idea, I think Harry needs to know who put him in this predicament in the first place. It will help in the long run.'
Sirius turned to argue with Dumbledore, but at the last moment, Harry caught his eye. 'Please,' he whispered. 'I want to know.'
Deflating, Sirius nodded his consent. 'Very well,' he said reluctantly.
Just then, the pretender's features began to change. Moody's fake leg and eye popped out as they were replaced with the imposter's real ones. Grizzled grey hair turned blond, and the numerous scars smoothened out, leaving a much younger face.
When the man's true identity was revealed, Sirius was suddenly very glad that he had stayed.
Bartemius Crouch minor was soon dosed with Veritaserum by a very surprised Slughorn who clearly recognised the man.
The following interrogation was very interesting. It turned out that Bartemius Crouch major had, at the insistence of his wife, smuggled his Death Eater son out of Azkaban and subsequently hidden him from view, keeping him under the Imperius and an invisibility cloak. The only person who had found out about this was one Bertha Jorkins. Crouch major had erased the woman's memory.
However, Wormtail, after he had escaped, had chanced upon the woman when he was out in search of Voldemort. Not giving her any opportunity to raise an alarm, he immediately subdued her and took her with him.
Voldemort had been able to find out a lot from Bertha Jorkins: Including the location of one of his most trusted followers. Sirius knew that the man had been one of those that had tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom, two celebrated Aurors into insanity.
And so, the dark lord had come for Crouch Minor, who by that time, had started to gain a resistance to the Imperius curse. It was quite chilling to know that Crouch Major had taken his son with him to the match regardless. The curse had worn off briefly during the match, and the Death Eater had used the moment of clarity to steal a wand from one of the wizards sitting in front of him on the stands. He had used that wand to send up the Dark Mark.
By the time Voldemort came along, Crouch was all alone in the house with his son. It was more than easy to overpower the older man.
The newly liberated Death Eater was quite eager to serve his master. Originally, the plan had been to impersonate Alastor Moody, who, Crouch Minor had heard, was to be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.
But a survey of the former Auror's home had made that proposition too risky, causing a change in plans. Instead of Alastor, Crouch Minor impersonated his own father using Polyjuice potion, keeping the older man alternatively in an enchanted sleep or the Imperius.
That explained a lot to Sirius about Crouch's sudden desire to talk to him as well as his rather generous marking of his son.
On the day of the final task, Crouch Minor had revived his father, placed the man under the Imperius, and then ambushed Alastor Moody. With his father under the Imperius acting as the judge and himself as Moody, it was easier to set up the trap that lead Harry to Voldemort's clutches.
Even though Sirius kept a calm exterior façade, he was internally conflicted. On one hand, Harry had been kidnapped and forced to fend for his life. On the other hand, this was pure white Mithril! If Barty Crouch thought he had come out of a major ordeal with being held captive and placed under the Imperius, once he sees what Sirius has in store for him, he would consider that to be a walk in the park! After he was done with the man, the Crouch family would be utterly ruined. Sirius decided to focus on the good right now. Harry was safe, and he was going to bury Barty Crouch.
Harry watched the whole thing in shock. The events of the night had been quite stressful for him. Not only was his ankle throbbing, but his entire body was aching due to the effects of the Cruciatus Curse. He could also feel the place where Wormtail had cut him. But that was nothing compared to the fact that he had come close to death twice.
Professor Dumbledore wanted to take him to his office so he could ask Harry about what had happened that night. But Sirius put his foot down. Something Harry was grateful for. He did not feel like talking about the kidnapping.
However, Dumbledore was not to be easily swayed. And the next thing Harry knew, the two men were facing each other with him in the middle.
'If I may, gentlemen,' Professor McGonagall finally spoke up, interrupting the staring match between the two men. 'I believe a compromise can be worked out. How about this; Potter here goes to the Hospital Wing where Poppy takes care of any injuries that need immediate attention. Once Mr Potter is satisfactorily patched up for the moment, he can then tell you his story. Once that is done, we leave the boy in peace to rest and heal.'
With a great deal of reluctance, both Professor Dumbledore and Sirius agreed.
Harry limped to the Hospital Wing, supported by his father with Professor Dumbledore following. Mad Eye Moody had initially wanted to stay behind and guard the Death Eater, but after Professor McGonagall had the prisoner trussed up to the old Auror's satisfaction, he reattached his leg, inserted his magical eye into his eye socket and accompanied the three of them to the Hospital Wing. Slughorn, meanwhile, had gone to fetch the Minister.
Once he was safely in bed, his ankle healed and the cut on his arm sealed. Harry took a deep breath and began to tell them. As he spoke, visions of everything that had passed that night seemed to rise before his eyes; he saw the sparkling surface of the potion that had revived Voldemort; he saw the Death Eaters Apparating between the graves around them.
Once or twice, Sirius made a noise as though about to say something, his hand tight on Harry's shoulder, but Dumbledore raised his hand to stop him, and Harry was glad of this, because it was easier to keep going now he had started. It was even a relief; he felt almost as though something poisonous were being extracted from him. It was costing him every bit of determination he had to keep talking, yet he sensed that once he had finished, he would feel better.
When Harry told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger, however, Sirius let out a vehement exclamation and Dumbledore stood up so quickly that Harry started.
'He said my blood would make him stronger than if he'd used someone else's,' Harry told Dumbledore. 'He said the protection my — my mother left in me — he'd have it too. And he was right — he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.'
For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore's eyes. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it, for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat at the foot of his bed, he looked old and weary.
'It seems that Tom has overcome that one obstacle.' Dumbledore said wearily. 'Please, continue.'
And so Harry spoke about how he had managed to escape thanks to Wormtail's incompetence while Voldemort was busy grandstanding.
'Do you remember what he had said?' Dumbledore asked, leaning forward and looking at Harry intently.
'No, not really,' Harry replied. 'I was too busy cutting those ropes.'
Perhaps it was Harry's tired imagination, but he thought he saw fleeting disappointment cross Dumbledore's aged face.
'Very well,' the headmaster said tiredly. 'Thank you for telling me this, Harry. You have shown immense courage well beyond your years today. I think it is about time you rest.'
As soon as he brought the privacy wards down, Madam Pomfrey, who had been hovering around in the background came forward briskly and handed Harry a goblet of sleeping potion. With Sirius' help, Harry had drunk said potion and the next thing he knew, he was slipping off into a deep sleep.
Once Harry was asleep, Sirius turned to Mad Eye Moody. Instantly, he knew something was wrong. The old Auror was slumped over in his chair.
'Madam Pomfrey!' he shouted, getting the matron's attention.
The woman turned around. Seeing Sirius indicating to the slumped over figure, she hurried forward, waving her wand.
'Oh dear,' she said. 'Alastor is dead.'
'What? How?' Sirius said incredulously.
'Poison,' the matron said grimly. 'It was slow acting. The poison was administered about four hours ago. There was nothing that could be done for him. Alastor was a dead man walking ever since then.'
Sadness overcame Sirius at the death of his friend and steadfast ally.
Collecting himself, Sirius took a seat next to his sleeping son. A few minutes later, he was joined by the Molly Weasley, Ron, Hermione, Bill, Neville and Susan.
'Sirius,' Molly Weasley said. 'We just spoke to Dumbledore … how is he?'
'He's sleeping,' Sirius replied softly, staring at Harry. 'Physically, he's fine. Emotionally … I don't know.' He paused for a long moment. 'He was tortured by Voldemort. The Cruciatus was cast on him… .' He stopped, closing his eyes, unable to speak anymore. He could only imagine what his son must have gone through. Facing certain death at the hands of a madman… .
He nearly lost Harry. Again.
The thought caused bile to rise up his throat, burning away any and all optimistic thoughts he had.
Gently, he carded his hands through his son's hair as feelings of worry, terror and anger that he had buried ever since he had found out about the kidnapping attempt and subsequent attempt at murder surfaced.
Molly seemed to understand that he needed time to himself, because she stepped back. Whipping around, she admonished everyone present to be quiet, even though that action was unnecessary.
Several minutes later of just sitting around silently, they were interrupted again by a commotion that was coming from out of the hospital wing.
Sirius, who was half asleep, immediately raised his head, returning to full awareness as the Minister for Magic came inside followed by Professor McGonagall who, uncharacteristically for her, was visibly enraged.
In the heated debate that followed (Dumbledore had joined in) Sirius found out that Bartemius Crouch Minor had been Kissed by a dementor Fudge had brought along with him.
'By all accounts, he is no loss!' blustered Fudge. 'It seems he has been responsible for several deaths!'
'But he cannot now give testimony, Cornelius,' said Dumbledore. He was staring hard at Fudge, as though seeing him plainly for the first time. 'He cannot give evidence about why he killed those people.'
'Why he killed them? Well, that's no mystery, is it?' blustered Fudge. 'He was a raving lunatic! From what Minerva and Horace have told me, he seems to have thought he was doing it all on You-Know-Who's instructions!'
'Lord Voldemort was giving him instructions, Cornelius,' Dumbledore said. 'Those people's deaths were mere by-products of a plan to restore Voldemort to full strength again. The plan succeeded. Voldemort has been restored to his body.'
Sitting back, Sirius watched silently and thoughtfully as Dumbledore tried to convince Fudge about the return of Lord Voldemort. Fudge was proving to be quite adamant that Voldemort was not back. He had apparently believed that the dark lord was dead.
Soon enough, Harry's name was dragged into the conversation.
'See here, Dumbledore, the boy obviously has been through a lot, what with Pettigrew and Crouch kidnapping him. Naturally he would think that You-Know-Who is back! They must have made him believe it! You cannot honestly believe a traumatised child.'
'If you wish to speak to, or about my son, Minister,' Sirius said smoothly, interrupting the conversation that was quite frankly, an argument. 'I suggest speaking to me first. After all, I am the boy's adoptive father and his legal guardian. Harry is still a minor, after all. Or did you forget the old laws?'
'L – Lord Black,' Fudge said with a smile plastered on his face sweat breaking out on his face as he was reminded that he nearly had insulted the heir of an ancient noble house in front of his father. 'I did not notice you sitting there.'
'I imagine not,' Sirius said dryly. 'The three of you were quite busy right there.'
'Minister, if we are to continue this conversation, might I ask that we do so some other time and somewhere else? After all, this is hardly the place to be having such a spirited discussion.' Sirius said, fluidly getting to his feet before Fudge could even utter a syllable in response. 'This is, after all, a place of healing. It is hardly proper to expose the occupants of this room to such … passion.'
'I – yes, of course,' Fudge replied. Turning to Dumbledore, he said. 'We shall discuss this tomorrow morning. Until then, good day.'
Turning back to Sirius, the minister fixed a smile on his face as he said in much happier tones. 'Lord Black, the presentation ceremony shall be taking place tomorrow at eleven. I hope your son will be recovered by then.'
'He shall,' Sirius said with a smile. 'All he needs is a bit of rest and relaxation. Once the ceremony is done, and school is over, he will get plenty of that.'
'That is excellent, my lord.' Fudge replied. 'I hear France is a lovely place at this time of the year. Well, anyway, I shall be leaving now. Give my regards to Harry.'
'Sure thing, Minister,' Sirius said affably. 'Might I accompany you outside?'
Getting a nod of assent from Fudge, Sirius strode forwards and opening the door, ushered the Minister out. Closing the door, he followed the portly man.
Act III Scene V
'I cannot believe that Dumbledore would suggest such a thing.' Fudge muttered as they left the Hospital Wing. Looking at Sirius, he continued. 'Surely, you agree with me! Crouch is clearly insane! All those years of being under the Imperius would have certainly driven him mad!'
'I doubt he was sane to begin with,' Sirius said gravely. 'Remember, he was arrested and sent to prison for torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom because he and his cohorts believed that they knew where Voldemort was, despite the fact that his death was announced just days before.'
Fudge wore a thoughtful look. 'You have a point there,' he said. 'I cannot believe that Barty would do such a thing!'
'Indeed,' Sirius said neutrally.
'Imagine what the press is going to think of this! We will become a laughing stock in the wizarding world!' Fudge ranted in consternation. 'What will they think when they hear that a Death Eater was living free for all these years thanks to a person who was at one time the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement? They are going to eat us alive!'
At Sirius words, Fudge looked at him in confusion. 'What do you mean?'
'You could say that your investigative team found out all about Crouch hiding his son. Call it a secret committee that you set up to root out all the corruption in your administration. It was inspired by the injustice that happened to me. You, being who you are, could not help but think that might be more cases like mine, so you had Bagnold, Crouch and Dumbledore secretly investigated. They found out all about Crouch's son just a few hours ago. Acting immediately, you sent a party of Aurors to search for, and apprehend, both father and son. At that moment, you got a call from me after I had managed to subdue and capture both Crouch men after I encountered them trying to kill my son. Since Crouch minor is an escaped convicted criminal, he was given the Kiss on site. The Aurors have now apprehended the very corrupt and hypocritical Bartemius Crouch on charges of attempted murder, corruption, harbouring a fugitive, putting a minor in danger, supporting a follower of the dark lord and kidnapping.'
'That's – that's genius, my lord!' Fudge said with a beaming smile.
'Now I only need to know what to do about Dumbledore insisting that You-Know-Who is back.'
Sirius paused for a moment. Here was the defining moment. What he said next depended on whether or not he had fully forgiven Dumbledore. 'Minister,' he finally said thoughtfully. 'Let's look at the facts. We know that Peter Pettigrew was at large. We also know now that Bartemius Crouch had secretly broken his son out of prison. We also know that they all collaborated to get my son. Finally, as you said, Crouch minor was under the impression that he was doing it under Voldemort's orders. So I don't see what the problem here is.'
'So,' Fudge said slowly. 'You are saying that Voldemort isn't back?'
'You did not hear me say any such thing, Minister.' Sirius said gravely. He sent the minister a significant look. 'All I said was to look at the evidence that is there for anyone to see.'
'Ah,' Fudge said, understanding. 'I understand, Lord Black!' He tapped the side of his nose with a finger. 'Of course, you cannot say.'
A shark-like grin spread across Sirius' face. 'Also, minister, consider this. After defeating Grindelwald, Dumbledore has been offered the position of Minister many times now. Yet, he has stuck to teaching in Hogwarts. Now, I don't know about you, but if I were him, I would go for that position. Especially if I were on the last few decades of my life…'
Fudge jerked back at this. 'You are right,' he said thoughtfully. 'I shall consider your words. Ah we have reached the front doors. Thank you for your time and advice, Lord Black. You have helped me see things in a new light!'
'It was my pleasure, Minister.'
Fudge laughed. 'Please, call me Cornelius.'
'Only if you call me Sirius,'
Turning away from the Minister, Sirius ruminated that he had not, in fact, forgiven Dumbledore.
Sirius stayed the night in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey had initially objected to this, but that was until Sirius had pointed out that Harry had already been kidnapped once, and he wasn't going to risk a repeat.
The next morning, Harry woke up to see Sirius waiting for him, a change of clothes in hand.
The presentation ceremony wasn't too grand. Harry received his prize money and the Triwizard Cup, a large structure made of crystal and shiny white metal with his name engraved on it. A facsimile would be later handed over to him to keep in his house while the original would sit in the Trophy Room for an unfortunate student to clean up for detention.
That very night, Sirius was summoned to the Headmaster's office.
'Sirius,' the old man said neutrally.
Sirius smirked internally as he sat down. The absence of a twinkle in the old man's eye was the sweetest thing he had ever seen.
'Dumbledore,' he replied with the same amount of neutrality. 'How did your meeting with the Minister go?'
'It went badly, as you know,' Dumbledore replied in a low tone. 'The Minister was quite insistent that Voldemort was not back. He also seemed to be of the funny notion that I was after his position. I know you spoke to him. What did you say to him?'
'Nothing much,' Sirius replied carelessly. 'I just gave him what probably will be the same advice given to him by his press secretary, and that was how to make himself look good and weather through the Crouch incident.'
'Did you not try to make him see reason? I would have at least thought that you would have tried to convince him that Voldemort was back and a real threat.' Dumbledore said with a hint of steel.
'No,' Sirius replied glibly and left it at that.
It was at this point that Dumbledore lost his cool.
Slamming his palms down on his desk, he asked with uncharacteristic anger, 'What will it take, Sirius? What do you want? What will it take for you to stop this madness?' he could not believe Sirius. That he would actually stoop so low as to risk the wizarding world just to get back at him was something that Albus did not expect of Sirius.
Even though the portraits of the previous headmasters and headmistresses flinched at Dumbledore's sudden burst of anger, Sirius did not even react.
Letting a slow smile spread across his face, Sirius spoke up. 'I was wondering what it would take to get that kind of reaction from you. I must say, it is quite satisfying to rile you up, Dumbledore. Not many people can do that, I am told.'
The smile slipped off his face. 'As for what I want … how about twelve years of my life back? Can you give me that? No? Well then, how about the money you took from me? You know what, I don't want that either. What I really want is my sex drive back.' His face took on an ugly look. 'I went through my old collection of porn the day I was exonerated officially. You know, to have a celebratory wank? After all it was a really long time. Imagine my surprise when none of those pictures got even the slightest reaction from me. So I bought new material. Nothing, not even the most perverted magazine or picture got a reaction from me. It was when I was sitting in the Quidditch World Cup when the Bulgarian mascots came out that I realised that it could be a problem. There was a whole troop of veela dancing there. It affected every single male in the stadium. From the thirteen year olds (and I even saw a few ten year olds affected) all the way to the ninety year olds. All of them: Except me! They did not elicit even a twinge of a reaction in me.
'It took me a lot of time to work up the courage to get to a healer. And when I finally spoke to the healer, what did I find?' Sirius paused. 'I found out that I was basically impotent. The prolonged exposure to the dementors had sapped me of my virility. And I wouldn't have minded that if it wasn't for the fact that I also found out, much, much later, that every single Death Eater inmate of Azkaban is dosed with a permanent infertility potion. Merlin knows why they would do something like that, but apparently that was something that came out of Barty Crouch's twisted mind. What was more, you agreed to it.
'Not that you saw fit to inform the prisoners in question.' Sirius laughed mirthlessly. 'So imagine that. I find out that you lot not only screwed me of a dozen years of my life, but basically ruined my future as well. I can never have children. Ever. This was, by the way, after I adopted Harry, so you can imagine the amount of guilt I felt on top of the guilt at what I thought was me trying to steal my best friend's son. I know that it is illogical now, but it took me quite some time to realise that.
'So in a nutshell, you screwed me over, Dumbledore. You screwed over the one person who believed in you, the person who actually turned his back on his own family because of you. You used me and when you had no more use for me, you just threw me away like a piece of rubbish. And you think that I am going to do anything to help you now? You think that I am going to lift a fucking finger for you?' Sirius laughed maniacally. 'How does it feel to be screwed over by a person who you desperately wanted help from? Oh, how right they are when they say "revenge is a dish best served cold".'
'I could very well get Fudge to believe that Voldemort was back,' he sneered. 'I have the connexions, I know people. I know things about people who I am not familiar with. The influence of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black is still there. The name still carries weight. But I won't use it for you, nor will I use it for your fucking Greater Good.
'Of course, I am a reasonable man. So tell you what, I will go right now and convince Fudge that Voldemort is back. Hell, I'll even use the Imperius if it comes to it. In exchange you give me back the virility and fertility that you stole from me. I think it's a great deal. I give you world peace in return for the chance to screw a bird and have kids.' Sirius smiled sardonically. 'No? I thought so…'
He stood up. 'I would say, "Fuck you" but unfortunately, I don't have that capability. Goodbye, Dumbledore. I will not be joining the Order, nor will I offer my well warded and furnished home as headquarters.' With that, he swept towards the door.
'Oh, and one other thing.' He turned towards Dumbledore again. 'Don't even try and involve Harry in this. Trust me, I will know and when I find out … well, let's say that things will get even more difficult for you. And we wouldn't want that, would we? What will Magical Britain do then?'
With that parting shot, Sirius made to exit the office.
'If you leave now,' Dumbledore said slowly, speaking up for the first time since Sirius' monologue. 'And continue to follow the path you have chosen for yourself, then I will tell you what I told Cornelius. We have reached a parting of the ways. Hence I cannot guarantee that I will be there to protect you or your son should Voldemort decide to pay you a visit.'
Sirius only laughed. 'Oh, so you would help us if I agree to work with you, would you? Like that time you helped me because I worked with you? Yeah right. Go fuck yourself, old man. You have proven to me that Harry and I are on our own and to trust you would be foolishness.' Stepping past the threshold, Sirius slammed the door behind him with as much force as he could muster.
Looking at the closed door, Dumbledore bowed his head. His folly with Sirius was proving to be a mistake greater than what he had done to Ariana. How he wished he could take back his actions. Now the whole world will end up paying for his mistake and for Sirius' inability to let go of his anger and bitterness.
Two days later, after Harry had gone off to school, Sirius opened the door to see Remus Lupin standing outside. Stepping outside, he closed the door behind him.
'Lupin,' Sirius said neutrally. 'Finally decided to show your face around here, I see.'
'No thanks to you,' the werewolf growled. He looked at Sirius murderously. 'How could you?' he accused. 'I thought I was your friend. How could you have me infect another person? I also thought that you were against Voldemort. How could you deny his return when you know the truth?'
'How could I?' Sirius repeated incredulously. 'I wasn't the one who forgot to drink his potion that night. Nor was I the one who decided to volunteer to accompany Peter and everyone else out in the open in a full moon night! You know, if I didn't know better, I would assume that you were actually trying to help Peter out there. Perhaps hoping that by transforming, you would give him enough of time to change into a rat and escape.'
Remus was shocked. 'You know that isn't true!' he exclaimed. 'I thought I made it clear to you. I am not Voldemort's spy!'
'Really?' Sirius drawled sceptically. 'Let's look at the facts, shall we?' he held out a finger. 'One, you, knowing full well that you were a werewolf, went down to other humans on a full moon night after knowing who you would be meeting thanks to the Marauder's map. Two, you had the map, for half a year, yet you conveniently picked that night to "find" Peter Pettigrew. Three, knowing your condition fully, you still volunteered to escort Pettigrew. So yeah, I would say that it looks rather suspicious.'
Remus was speechless. 'I thought that you had killed Peter. So I wasn't exactly looking for his name, seeing as I was busy searching for yours!' he finally said heatedly. 'As for me being there at that night, well, the discovery of a long dead man and you together with Harry and two other students made me dash off. In the excitement, I had honestly forgotten about the full moon night! It happens to the best of us, Sirius!'
'Ah,' Sirius said placidly. 'That makes sense I guess. There is one small problem, however. See, you kind of testified against me back then. You told Dumbledore that I was the spy, that I was the one who was the Secret Keeper and that I was the one who had betrayed the Potters. Now, considering that Lily had left you a note in the last care package that I had delivered to your house telling you the truth, one has to wonder why you would do such a thing. After all, that could be considered perjury, you know. You are lucky that wasn't an official trial. Otherwise I would have hauled your arse in court for that. Pity, that. At any rate, you too "denied the truth" as you so eloquently put it. It's only fair that I do the same…'
Remus looked at Sirius in confusion before his face cleared up. 'Oh that package.' His features then morphed to one of horror and regret. 'I am sorry, Sirius.' He said with genuine remorse. Hanging his head, he remembered that night. 'I had only seen that package the morning after James and Lily died. When I saw that package, I remembered what Dumbledore had said. And, in my rage, I destroyed that basket. I did not even look inside.' He brought a shaking hand up to his face. 'Oh Merlin, I am so, so, so sorry, Sirius.'
If only he had gone through the contents of that basket … Remus remembered feeling regret at destroying it at that moment, but that had been because he had smelt the food coming out.
'I see,' Sirius was unmoved. 'So,' he said slowly. 'What was the reason that Harry did not even know of your existence till his third year? And how was it that he only found out that you were James' friend much later in that year?'
Remus' head dipped even lower. 'Dumbledore had told me that it wasn't a good idea to speak to Harry till he entered the magical world. By that time, I had left Britain, coming back only when Harry was in third year. Seeing him, I realised that I had completely ignored him. In my guilt, I realised I had to take it slow. After all, how do you go up to a student and say "hey, I am your dad's friend. He and I used to cause a lot of mischief when we were in school."'
'How very touching,' Sirius made no effort to hide the sarcasm in his voice. 'So, "Dumbledore said," huh? I guess I was right. You are a spy. I think of the four of us, only James and I were ever loyal to our friends. You and that rat were the spies. Wormtail was Voldemort's spy, while you were Dumbledore's.' Sirius sneered. 'Dumbledore's man, through and through, aren't you, Remus?'
Remus looked back at Sirius. 'It's not like that,' he said softly. 'Dumbledore has done a lot for me. He gave me an education despite my affliction!'
'And we stayed as your friends despite knowing about what you were!' Sirius snapped in response. 'James and I were not obligated to socialise with you. Yet we made the choice to befriend you. James and I both decided that it did not matter. We even went that extra mile and learned of a way to accompany you on those nights. The very least you could have done, in honour of that friendship, was to at least contact the man's son! Through writing if need be! But no, you didn't. Why? Because Dumbledore said so! Did you bother even looking through what I had put together for you and risked life and limb to get to your place? Again, no, you didn't. Why? Because Dumbledore said so!' he finished mockingly.
'Well, you made your choice, I guess. You decided that Dumbledore was the more important person compared to us, your friends. You know, out of the three of us, only James and I thought to remain your friends without any other person telling us? We had to convince Peter to still trust you! And you just throw that in our face!'
Sirius stepped away from Remus. 'You made your bed,' he said coldly. 'Now you can lay in it. Go bugger that old man. I know you want to anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if you spent most of the time in school secretly giving him blow jobs too. Don't talk to me again. And forget contacting Harry. I have spent the last year telling him everything. Let's just say that he hates you more than I do at this moment.'
Remus never thought he would have ever seen so much hatred in those grey eyes directed at him. Then again, he did deserve it.
'I'm sorr –'
'Save it!' Sirius said harshly. Regaining his composure, he continued in a normal voice. 'Your apologies mean nothing to me, Lupin. Now I suggest you get out of my property or I shall alert the authorities. According to the new laws, they won't exactly be gentle in throwing you out.'
'What new laws,' Remus couldn't help but ask.
'Oh,' Sirius slapped a hand to his forehead. 'The laws I, and this woman Dolores Umbridge, have you heard of her? Judging by your face, you have. Anyway, Umbridge and I will be introducing a few new laws to keep the populace safe from werewolves. After all, now that Snape is one of them, who knows what will happen? Anyway, you have half a minute to get your mangy, flea bitten arse out of my front lawn, werewolf. Because that is the amount of time it's going to take me to alert someone from the De Em El Ee. I hope you enjoyed the money Dumbledore stole from me and gave you, because you won't be enjoying that for long.' Saying that, Sirius spun on his heel and Apparated out, leaving a broken man behind.
Act III Scene VI
Absently stroking the large snake draped over his shoulders, Lord Voldemort looked at the large manor, a sick smile on his face.
While he had finally managed to get his body back after nearly two decades of living as a wraith, he had suffered what he considered to be a major setback.
The boy, Harry Potter, had managed to escape from right under his nose. And it was all thanks to Wormtail's incompetence. Voldemort hoped that the man truly felt the loss of his eye. It serves him right to have the boy blind him.
At first, he had been angry at his plans of taking over the wizarding world being scuppered. The boy would no doubt go running to Dumbledore who would then take steps to thwart him.
But then good fortune smiled over him again. While his faithful servant Crouch, may his soul rest in peace, had been captured, the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge had refused to believe Dumbledore.
Capitalising on this, he had Lucius use his silver tongue on the incompetent Minister.
While it was nearly a month since Voldemort had heard the report from his slippery friend, he still couldn't help but chuckle. Lucius actually had Fudge believing that Dumbledore was out for his job and was additionally using Hogwarts as his training grounds for his own private army.
It truly proved that Fudge was an idiot. Had the man actually sat down to think, he would have realised that a good ninety per cent of the Auror force had gone to Hogwarts when the old man was headmaster while the remaining ten per cent had been taught transfiguration by him.
If Dumbledore wanted to be Minister, all he would have to do is just say the words, and his wish would be made reality.
But all that was nothing compared to the other stroke of good fortune.
Sirius Black, the last remaining member of the illustrious family, also did not believe that he had returned. According to Lucius, his anger and bitterness towards Dumbledore had made sure of that. On top of that, he was now the guardian of the boy.
So that meant that Harry Potter was now within easy reach. Black had also quite conveniently let it slip to Lucius that he was going to be holidaying in France in a location that Narcissa remembered. Apparently he wanted to "reconnect" with the boy and ease their strained relationship caused by the subject of his return.
And that lead him to his current location. Harry Potter, the one prophesised to bring about his downfall and the one person he wanted dead above all others was in that house, far, far away from Dumbledore's protection.
Perhaps he would offer them a place within his ranks? He knew that Black hated Dumbledore right now. That hate could be useful for his cause. As for the boy … well, during his time as a wraith, he had done a lot of thinking and realised that the whole prophecy thing was malarkey. He was Lord Voldemort, the defeater of Death. No silly bint with a mystic voice was going to tell him what his fate was going to be!
Besides, there was no way the boy would ever be able to find out about his Horcruxes.
So offering the boy a place wasn't a bad idea either.
Waving his wand (he might as well call it his, Bertha Jorkins wasn't around to use it anyway), Voldemort analysed the wards around the house. Typically they weren't much of a challenge for him. Black, in his complacency, had not upgraded his wards. Oh well.
A few waves, flicks and muttered words later, Voldemort was walking up the impressive driveway and towards the front door.
A further flick of his wand blew the doors open. Striding inside (after letting Nagini slip in, unnoticed) Voldemort immediately spied Sirius Black. His quarry was unarmed! This was almost too easy. The man was truly as big a fool as James Potter.
'Hello, Black,' Voldemort said pleasantly, a cold smile on his face. 'Pleasure to meet you,' he made a show of looking around. 'And where is young Harry? I so badly want to meet him.'
'Riddle,' the other man replied steadily. Voldemort narrowed his eyes at the hated name. 'You are not welcome here. I suggest you leave before things go badly for you.'
Voldemort laughed in a high cold voice. 'Unless you have an army hidden somewhere in this house, Black, I very much doubt that you would stand a chance against me.'
While he had Black distracted, Voldemort could see Nagini slithering up behind the other man. 'I would suggest giving up now, Black. I only want to talk. Do not try to resist me, for it will end in your demise.'
'I do not want to hear anything you have to say, Tom!'
'So be it,' Voldemort snarled, raising his wand.
Inexplicably, Black gave off a feral grin.
Behind him, Nagini struck…
Lucius Malfoy stood in the dining room of his manor. His master had gone off to France to take care of his blood-traitor cousin by marriage and that Potter brat.
He could not wait for that moment. Once Black and the boy were gone, he would have unfettered access to the Black family secrets. Then magical Britain would be his. Well, it would be his lord's, but Lucius would hold all the strings. He would be the enforcer of the Dark Lord here, while his master went abroad to annex more countries.
Suddenly, he felt a spot on his left arm burn. The master had finished his work! He would be here soon.
In the next few minutes, the room was filled with the other Death Eaters. Seeing them assemble provoked deep nostalgia from Lucius. It was just like in the old days, when he was young and hot-blooded.
The faces around him were lined and wrinkled now, some having gained weight. But that did not detract from the moment. This would be the first step to greatness.
At long last, the doors opened and the Dark Lord swept inside.
Lucius and the other Death Eaters knelt. 'My Lord,' they all said with reverence.
'I trust that your mission went well, my lord?' Lucius finally spoke up after they were bidden to rise.
'Well, if you are talking about me, Lucy, then, yeah! It went quite well.' A different voice spoke up.
Immediately, all the Death Eaters turned towards the door to see Sirius Black standing there with a full blown smirk on his thin face.
Two jets of light flew off the wands of two of the more alert Death Eaters.
However, before they could even get near Sirius, they were met by a shield.
It took the collective a moment to realise that the shield had been put up by their master.
'Whoops,' Sirius said with a smirk. 'You might not want to do that. Tommy here might not like it. In fact, he might just react with violence the next time one of you clowns tries that.'
He glided towards the head of the table, sitting at the spot Voldemort was to have occupied. The Death Eaters could only watch in shock.
'Wh – how,' sputtered Lucius.
'Well, sit down,' Sirius said with a condescending smirk. 'Make yourselves comfortable. I have quite a story to tell you lot.'
Lucius' eye twitched as Sirius casually put his feet up on the polished mahogany, making the chair lean back on two legs.
'Now, now, don't keep me waiting.' Sirius said. 'Tommy here might just get angry otherwise.'
Unnerved by the unnaturally silent Dark Lord, the Death Eaters all sat down.
'Now that wasn't so hard now, was it?' Removing his legs from the surface of the table and letting his chair fall down on all four legs, Sirius started his tale.
'Now how to begin … Oh I know! Once upon a time, a long time ago … well not so long ago, more like seventy to eighty years ago there was a woman. She was born to a pureblood family, but tragically, she was a squib.'
'Her family, while pureblood and old were what you would call "broke" or "poor". They were also quite insane. This poor squib girl, her name was Merope Gaunt, by the way, was quite oppressed by her nutty father and homicidal brother. The only reason they kept her around was because she could marry her brother Morfin and have little inbred, cockeyed, ugly kids.
'Yeah I know,' Sirius said upon noticing the expression on one of the Death Eater's face. 'That is quite disgusting. Then again, I doubt there is anyone here who doesn't know that the Gaunts were a bunch of loons. Anyway, one day, she fell in love with a boy. This boy was everything her brother was not (including not being her brother). The problem was he was a Muggle and so, completely oblivious to magic and well unsuitable in her father's and brother's eyes.
'Now, Merope kept her love a secret, knowing full well that the handsome Muggle would never be with her. But one day, she became lucky. Morfin, and her father, Marvolo were arrested and imprisoned by the Ministry. Now that she was free, she could pursue her love.
'Of course there is another problem, and that was the fact that the Muggle was handsome and rich while she was ugly and poor. But that wasn't much of a problem as even squibs can brew potions.
'To cut a long story short, she made a love potion, ensnared him and had his kid. The problem was that the Muggle finally broke free from her enchantment because of which she was left alone, pregnant and destitute. Well, she died at childbirth.
'The boy she gave birth to was a handsome and powerful wizard. He attended Hogwarts, he got phenomenal marks, was prefect and Head Boy. But he was also just as homicidal and nuts as his dear uncle and grandfather. He was also quite bitter and had a major hatred for the Muggles as they had tormented him quite a bit when he was younger.
'So what do people like that do? Well, he turned to the Dark Arts and became seriously evil.
'But that wasn't the end of it, was it Tommy?' Sirius smiled at the silent figure standing next to him. 'No, see, this, well, he's practically a Muggleborn, so this Mudblood decided that being the average dark lord was quite pedestrian. So he decided to go the extra mile. And so, after years of study, he made a Horcrux. And, brilliant chap that he is, he managed to make one by the end of his seventh year.'
The Death Eaters all sucked in shocked breaths. Horcruxes were a taboo subject. Only those who had intensively studied the Dark Arts or were Dark themselves knew of their existence.
The Dark Families all had tried their level best to suppress the knowledge of these terrible devices, for there were things that should not be done, and lines that should not be crossed. And the splitting of a soul was one of those things.
The Dark and Light sides may disagree on many things, but the one thing they held in common was that the soul was sacrosanct. Splitting it was considered to be the ultimate evil.
It was this reason why many Dark Arts books did not have information of such devices.
Sirius looked at the collective. 'Now, this wizard wasn't fully satisfied with one Horcrux. No, he made many.' More gasps followed this revelation. 'He made a grand total of seven Horcruxes. At the same time, he had started gathering followers. He would then give some of his followers, the most trusted ones, these Horcruxes for safe keeping.'
Sirius paused for effect and then continued. 'Of course, by now we all know that this man happens to be standing next to me. Now Tommy here, made a major mistake. He left a Horcrux in the family home of the Blacks.'
Coldly looking at the form next to him 'Now what this Mudblood failed to understand is that the Blacks are one of the foremost families in all of Britain. We have been around much before the Founders of Hogwarts. In fact we were the first magical settlers there! And we have more collective knowledge than this pretentious prick.'
'The minute I found out what was in my house, well …' Sirius smiled as he thought back to the past year.
When he had first found out what it was, Sirius had then gone to the secret library only accessible by the Head of the House. In it there were books that dealt with the darkest of dark magic.
Unlike the other families that were more than happy to ignore the more gory aspects of Dark magic, the Blacks had actually experimented and studied those subjects. The chief focus of their studies was Horcruxes.
Now, just like the rest of the saner Dark wizards, they knew the costs involved with splitting one's soul. They had no intention of creating one. But they were paranoid enough to think that someone else might. So they thought up ways to use Horcruxes to their advantage.
Sirius had used the knowledge within the books to possess the bit of Voldemort's soul within. Once he owned that fragment of soul, he had extracted knowledge of the other fragments, hoping to find the bit that was roaming around and possessing Defence teachers and being served by certain rats.
Instead, he hit upon the revelation that there were more Horcruxes. One of which was destroyed.
So Sirius had sought them all out. He knew their locations, thanks to the soul fragment from the locket (which he found out much later was the biggest bit as it contained another fragment that was in Harry's scar before the boy had touched it) so the job was easy.
Taking the soul fragment by fragment was easier and carried with it a lesser price than it would have with one singular whole soul, as Polaris Black the first had mentioned in his book.
As a majority of Voldemort's soul was still tethered to the living realm, Sirius only had to sacrifice a small mammal to recall the soul fragment that had been released from its container. According to Virgo Black the fourth, a necromancer, this was significantly lower than the cost of a human sacrifice that was required to bring a full soul to the living realm.
Once he had six-eighths of Voldemort's soul, Sirius could see flashes of the Dark Lord's thoughts. Of course, he had to be close to the wizard to be able to do so.
Sirius ended the edited version of the past few months, watching the shocked expressions of the Death Eaters.
'Of course,' he continued. 'I had needed the man himself if I were to possess him fully. This is where you come in, Lucy!' He added cheekily, causing the blond man (who till then, had been caught up in the fact that he actually had a Horcrux in his house) to start.
'See, I knew you wouldn't hesitate to give up my location to Voldemort here. So you lead the wanker straight to me where I was happily waiting for him with everything prepared.'
Of course, Sirius ruminated. Fudge and the public not knowing about Voldemort's return was also part of the plan. That would make sure that no awkward questions were asked. It was a tricky thing though, as Dumbledore could very well prove to be more persuasive.
Convincing Harry was also tricky. The boy had been quite upset to find out that Sirius had aided in the Minister's belief that Voldemort had not returned. However, Sirius had won the boy over when he mentioned that Voldemort would not bother him ever again after the plan was executed. The prospect of having the man at his beck and call also helped matters.
'As soon as I saw that snake, I knew that it was another Horcrux.' Sirius continued speaking. 'So with the final bits of Voldemort's soul now in place, I could fully bind him.'
He removed an old fashioned oil lamp from a pocket in his robes. 'I think you have heard of genies? They are a result of a fusion of an Old Persian ritual and an old South American Voodoo ritual that bound a man, heart, body, mind and soul to another person, or in this case his bloodline. So Tommy here is fully mine! And he cannot even attempt to fight back! After all, he has no free thought.'
'Well, he is actually mine and Harry's and also any descendant of Harry's' Sirius amended, a shark-like grin spread across his face. 'Which means that, you lot, as Voldemort's servants, now belong to me!'
'Now as your new master, I have my first order.' Sirius said in a business-like tone. 'Swear the loyalty of your entire line to my line. Swear fealty to the Potter-Black clan.'
'Why should we?' A voice jeered. 'What will you do if we refuse? Personally I think you are just bluffing, Black!'
Lazily looking at the man, Sirius just said in a sing-song voice, 'Ooooh, Tommy.'
Voldemort vanished in a puff of smoke.
A minute passed by before the defiant Death Eater doubled up in pain as he felt the magical connexions to his family being severed.
As Voldemort reappeared, Sirius said pleasantly. 'As of five minutes ago, the Selwyn family is no more. All the members have been eradicated in a tragic fire.' Looking at the Death Eater still doubled over in pain, Sirius continued. 'Congratulations, Robert. You are the last of your line.'
Enraged, Robert Selwyn whipped out his wand. 'AVADA KEDAVRA' he shouted.
The jet of green light came out of the handle of his wand, hitting Robert in the stomach and killing him immediately.
'And now there are no more Selwyns.' Sirius said sardonically. 'I think you all know what happens to a Death Eater if he raises his wand against his master. Check your forearms.'
Cries of shock were heard when they all found the modified family crest of the Potter-Black clan on their forearms instead of the skull and snake of the Dark Mark.
'I have your loyalties, however forcefully taken.' Sirius said silkily. 'But I want the loyalty of your entire lines to mine. So come here and swear. Or else have your family eradicated by my very immortal, very deadly, and very skilled servant. I will point out now that the Blacks are related to all of you twits either by marriage or by blood. So whatever you decide, I will win. You only have a choice. Live now and enjoy your wealth with your lines continuing, or become extinct like old Selwyn here.'
'Oh, and Lucy, I would be the first to swear loyalty if I were you. As it is, currently I am rather ticked off by you freely putting my son in danger. I mean, where's the family loyalty, huh?' Sirius gave the blond a mocking look of hurt. 'Also, don't forget. Draco and Narcissa are in the house too. So it won't be that much of a stretch for Tommy here to kill them.'
Led by a trembling Lucius Malfoy, the Death Eaters stood up, one by one and came forward to carry out Sirius' instructions.
'Good,' Said Sirius once the last of the Death Eaters was done. 'Now, where is Wormtail?' flicking his head towards Voldemort, he said dismissively. 'Get that rat here.'
In a few moments, Sirius was staring at the trembling form of his former friend with a nasty smile on his face.
'Hello, Peter,' he said ominously. 'You must be wondering why it is that I am sitting here in such … company … well, the details are sketchy, but the gist is that I now control Voldemort here. Meaning I control you.' He grinned maliciously, showing off all his newly replaced white teeth. 'I am so going to make you wish that you had never escaped Azkaban a second time.' Looking around him, he addressed the other Death Eaters. 'Now, I know you aren't happy that I took control and all, so here's something that I hope will make up for it. I give you the man who made all of this' he swept his hand around him to refer to the current situation, 'possible. Do with him what you want. Just keep him alive. At least for … say, twelve years. After that, feel free to exterminate him.'
Standing up, Sirius left the room. As the door closed behind him, he smiled as he heard the first salvo of screams coming from Pettigrew. Turning on his heel, he headed home to tell Harry about his success. The boy would be relieved to know that Voldemort no longer posed a threat.
The public never knew of the major shift in power, instead believing Fudge's anti-Dumbledore propaganda.
Aided by Sirius, a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was placed in Hogwarts. Fudge had initially wanted Dolores Umbridge to teach, but Sirius had nixed the idea, stating that Hogwarts should not lower her standards for any reason. So, a retired curse breaker was appointed instead.
Since there was no threat to his son, Sirius allowed an ecstatic Harry to go to Hogwarts for his fifth year as Gryffindor prefect. They continued using the Hogsmeade residence, Harry was comfortable with coming home from school, and Sirius was only too happy to see his son at the end of the day.
The nineteen ninety-six batch of first years never got to see Dumbledore welcome them as headmaster. By the middle of August, the board of governors had booted him from the position. A tip from Sirius had Aurors going after the venerable old man on suspicions of harbouring the dangerous werewolves Remus Lupin and Severus Snape.
The former headmaster had swiftly gone into hiding. He had spent a long time searching for a person that was no longer there before he finally found out the truth.
But by then it was too late. Now that he was a wanted man for a little over a year, Dumbledore's influence was fully broken. He sought asylum in Germany, where he shortly died in isolation.
Harry had finished his schooling with top marks in his O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. Sirius had to admit that it wasn't exactly easy raising Harry. The boy had quite a few insecurities left over from his horrendous childhood at the Dursleys (Sirius had taken his time harassing the Muggle family before finally putting them out of their misery). At times he would regress, acting much younger than his years, and at times he would push the boundaries and be moody but Sirius was patient and made sure to be there for him and more importantly, consistent.
By the time Harry had left school as head boy and prefect, the youngest seeker in a century and the youngest registered Animagus, he was no longer the boy he had been when he had first entered Hogwarts. Now confident, well-adjusted, and magically strong, he set out to conquer the world. After the customary tour around the world, he obtained a doctorate in Defence Against the Dark Arts. His paper, dealing with research on the effects of brother wands was critically acclaimed. Once out of university, he took over the family's finances, occasionally playing Quidditch in the local leagues.
He reconnected with Padma Patil who was in the same university, studying for a degree in Potions. The pretty girl had blossomed into a fine looking woman. She had not forgotten the way he had "rescued" her from an evening of boredom at the Yule Ball by setting her up with another date. Fred Weasley might have been a handful, but he knew how to keep her entertained. Thanks to that, she thought of him in quite favourable terms even though they had barely spoken since in school.
The two of them had married three years after graduating.
In the meantime, Sirius had become quite a force in the political world. With the dark families now fully in his fist, he presented himself as a huge power bloc. Thanks to his progressive thinking, and measures to end the huge social gap between Muggleborns and the rest, Sirius had made serious inroads with the light families as well, thereby increasing his power.
Handing over the Wizengamot seat to his now forty year old son (who was almost instantaneously elevated to Chief Warlock thanks to his celebrity status and family power) Sirius had run for Minister, winning the office in a landslide victory.
As Minister, with Harry heading the Wizengamot, the two of them had become even more famous for eradicating the werewolf threat in the country after peace talks had failed. Of particular note were the captures and executions of Fenrir Greyback, Severus Snape and Remus Lupin. Of the three lycans, the latter two werewolves' notoriety may or may not have been greatly exaggerated after Sirius had heard rumours that the two of them were actually a couple.
By the time a ninety year old Sirius had retired as Minister, Britain was the first western country to be declared a werewolf free zone.
And now, at a hundred and thirty four, Sirius finally was at peace.
He was, for all intents and purposes, the last of the Blacks. The family had been merged with another ancient family to give Clan Potter-Black. He was also, at the same time, the first of this new clan with Harry (the last of the Potters) being the first scion. Although technically, Harry was the first since Sirius had never taken up the name "Potter-Black"
House Potter-Black had gone above and beyond House Black or House Potter. Thanks to him and Harry, the wizarding world of Britain was fully united with the people looking to them to resolve any conflicts. Thanks to a judicious use of their servant, the also country experienced a century of peace. And they would experience many more years.
The populace had started to consider them royalty by now. Their many contributions had ensured an almost fanatic level of adoration from the public, helped by reports of their stance of neutrality in politics. Sirius knew that word was out on the streets that one could always count on The Clan (as they were known to the public) to keep things stable. It would only be a matter of time before their royal status became official. Tears of happiness welled in Sirius' eyes as he thought of a nameless descendant of his being crowned magical king.
Sirius didn't know if that would happen, though. But the future, whatever it may be, was bright for Clan Potter-Black.