Chapter 9- Epilogue
"I am retiring," Albus Dumbledore announced to the Board of Governors on the last meeting of the year. "You were all correct in your assumptions. I learned early on that power is dangerous and seductive and tried to shield myself from being in a position of power. I've convinced myself that staying at Hogwarts I was not indulging in my power greed and was not in a position of power. But that is not true. I am. Because of my role in the war, in the Wizengamot and in the International Confederation of Wizards. I need to let go of my security blanket and admit that I haven't been the Headmaster in a long time. I need to accept that my responsibilities are others and thrive not to let that power go to my head, as they say."
"I was a coward. I was afraid to admit to myself the power I held and in doing so I have harmed many people. I apologize for this and hope to work to make things better. And to start this I announce my retirement as Headmaster of Hogwarts and my successor Professor McGonagall. She is a capable professional who has been doing the job for me for a long time, and now that she will have a deputy she will be able to concentrate on her duties alone and not those of four different positions. I know that, as has been brought up by the investigation this Board has conducted, Professor McGonagall was not fulfilling all of her duties as a Head of House, but this is not due to her being a poor professional but to me fostering on her more responsibilities than one single person can take."
"Professor McGonagall had been executing the duties of a teacher, Head of House, Deputy Headmistress and most of my responsibilities. That is why some of her responsibilities were overlooked. This time around she will have one job, and one job only. Headmistress. And I am confident in her capacity to do this job well. I believe that now Hogwarts is starting to go back to what it should have always been."
There were nods of consent all around. Being the last board meeting of the school year the findings of the Board's investigation had been exposed and were being dealt with. Sirius was glad Dumbledore volunteered to resign instead of them having to ask him to leave the job. The Board had already decided Dumbledore was stretching himself too thin. The same was true for McGonagall. Which is also why they had established a few new rules to be amended to the Bylaws.
From now on a Head of House could not hold another position besides teaching. Sure, all Heads were lacking and they had been neglecting their duties but McGonagall had been the worse one. Sprout hadn't been doing headcounts but she had House meetings, though not the individual ones. Flitwick had been on top of his students' grades and had called the ones with falling grades but hadn't check on the others.
Now things were looking up. All Heads had been following the Bylaws since the Wizengamot had ordered the Board to do a full investigation.
The Board was also glad to see that the teachers at Hogwarts had been taking a more active approach on the bullying going around since the whole Harry incident and they intended to make sure it continued.
They were satisfied with the choices for the Defense Against the Dark Arts and History teachers that Dumbledore had found. Two very competent individuals who were staying for the next year. Dumbledore had not found a new Potions Master but it was accepted due to the fact that after coming back to teach, Slughorn had asked to take over the classes Snape had left hanging when he just upped and left. Apparently Slughorn had been bored in his retirement. He was a competent teacher and a good Head of House so the board saw no need to change the arrangement.
McGonagall would be only left with the task of finding a substitute for her as Transfigurations teacher and Head of Gryffindor. She had already asked Professor Vector to take over as Deputy and the man had accepted. Her first choice had been Flitwick but due to the new rules the man would have to stop being the Head of Ravenclaw and he had declined. He had stated that he agreed he had been lax in his duties. That he had let the duties that he had let fall during the first war stay that way and he needed to fix it, for the current students and for those he failed and had already graduated.
The Board had individually spoken with each teacher and they had been pleased to find that by the time the interviews came all the teachers, with the exception of Snape, had done some serious soul searching and had realized that they had been complacent with the bullying going around. They couldn't pinpoint where it started. Most thought that it happened during the first war. But the fact was that they had gotten used to the fact that some students were just allowed to get away with things and a general apathy had been generated and perpetuated throughout the years. The Board was satisfied to see that during the last term, since the changes had started, the teachers had been all thriving to change this situation without the need for the Board to punish them.
Another decision the Board made, together with the Wizengamot, since this actually had needed a law to be changed, was give the Hogwarts Nurse the right to do a full examination of the students once they entered Hogwarts.
That hadn't been possible before. The nurse had needed parental approval, or in cases where abuse was suspected, the Headmaster could override the parental approval. But his approval was needed and only his approval was accepted. That had lead to Dumbledore choosing to not approve a full scan on Harry despite Madam Pomfrey asking permission for one. The Headmaster, being more worried with the Blood Wards Harry needed, convinced himself Madam Pomfrey was exaggerating and that there was no abuse. Since Harry never made any official claim, the exam required for the Headmaster to agree that there was suspicion of abuse.
Sirius had snorted at the irony of the situation. Since Dumbledore never agreed that there was abuse, and therefore never approved the full examination, he was also never presented with proof of the abuse, which exempted him from being culpable of not taking measures to take Harry away from the abuse. He was saved by his own will to remain ignorant. At least the man had admitted his fault in the Wizengamot hearing where they voted the change in the law. He admitted that one person alone couldn't hold that much power over others.
So now, a full check up was mandatory for every first year entering Hogwarts and for every student who was currently attending and was not given one. If a case of abuse was found Madam Pomfrey was obligated by law to contact Wizarding Children's Service. Not only that, but if any teacher in the school suspected abuse they could refer the student to Madam Pomfrey and authorize the check-up. It was not only at the Headmaster's or Headmistress's discretion any more.
But, despite everything, Sirius was pleased at how things were playing out. The school was shaping up, the Wizengamot seemed open to reviewing the laws and what needed to be changed. Sirius was putting up a project that was based on the Muggle correctional system to present to the Wizengamot. Having had firsthand experience with Azkaban, he knew that needed to be changed. It was what Muggles ruled cruel and unusual punishment and it made them no better than the people they sent there. Not to mention the fact that currently, in the Wizarding World, the punishment for murder and stealing a chicken was the same. Be sent to the Dementors. That had to change and it was Sirius's next crusade.
Things in his personal life were looking up too. He and Remus were doing okay, he wasn't sure he had completely forgiven the man but he was well on his way to and he knew Harry was also in his way to forgiving his friends. He had even asked what would happen next year. Tentatively. And with a lot of trepidation but he had and it was a huge progress for Harry to even cogitate going back to school, even if it was just a very vague cogitation.
Sirius, Remus and Harry had moved from their little flat. It was getting crowded. They moved to one of the Potter properties. It wasn't one of the lavish ones, none of the three were into lavish. But it was a nice two story cottage with a nice field for flying. Which Sirius intended for Harry to inaugurate with the brand new Firebolt Sirius had ordered for Harry's next birthday. Okay, so yes, he ordered two. But honestly, why would just Harry get a Firebolt? He deserved one too.
The house was being kept by the new house-elf they had acquired and Sirius was still doubtful of the elf's capacity to keep the house from blowing up in his eagerness to please. But, what could he do? Harry had asked. With huge green eyes.
They had stumbled on the elf at Diagon Alley trailing behind Narcissa Malfoy, carrying her purchases. Harry had taken Sirius to the side and told him that was Dobby. The house-elf that had tried to warn and "protect" Harry. Sirius felt sorry for the little guy and apparently Harry felt even sorrier because he had begged Sirius to help him. So Sirius had. He had stopped his cousin in her tracks and stated simply.
"How much for the elf?"
"Excuse me?" the woman had looked at him with a shocked face.
"Aw, come on Cissy, you heard me. How much for the elf?"
Narcissa had crossed her arms and looked at him from over her raised nose.
"Why should I sell you my elf?"
"Because I have currently in my possession mother's diamond necklace that you've always coveted," he said simply.
"That necklace belongs to Black blood," she sneered.
"Sure, that's why I was thinking of giving it to Dora," he said with a nonchalant air. Like Tonks would ever want to wear that. She had been positively horrified when Sirius had asked Andromeda to go through his mother's jewelry.
"That mudb-" Narcissa was cut short by a glare from Sirius.
"Think twice before insulting your niece, Narcissa. I might change my mind."
"Fine, you give me the necklace and I give you Dobby. Though why you want him is beyond me."
"That's my problem. Later today. At three at your lovely manor. What do you say?"
Harry had been worried about Sirius going to Malfoy manor but Sirius pointed out they made the arrangement in public, and Lucius hadn't been this sneaky for so long by being stupid. It still grated on Sirius that they were not able to prove he was behind the attacks. Even after acquiring Dobby. Lucius had made sure the elf-master bond they had had before passing him to Sirius didn't allow Dobby to speak about his affairs. So, Sirius became Dobby's master and then proceeded to free him at Harry's request. Dobby was now a the Potter-Lupin-Black household's employed house-elf, much to Kreacher's displeasure.
"Master is not disgracing Kreacher with such things as freedom," he spluttered as if it was a curse. "Kreacher knows his duties and Kreacher will keep the Black manor in perfect conditions."
And he had. And Sirius gave up selling the Manor, also because Kreacher managed to take down his mother's portrait and put it in Regulus's rom. Which Sirius offered to Kreacher.
The house was a good property after being cleaned over. And it was useful to have, right there in the middle of London. Not to mention it had belonged to his family for so long he just decided not to sell it.
Yes, things were looking good, even the Dursleys were paying for what they did. Social Services had concluded their investigations and the Dursleys had been arrested for bribery, kidnapping and abuse. After the police cars came to take Petunia and Vernon from their home all the neighbors felt completely free to come forward and tell them all they'd seen happen to Harry throughout the years.
Dudley Dursley had been sent to live with a distant cousin of Petunia, since after the investigation Marge Dursley wasn't deemed fit to care for a child. No, she wasn't arrested. Not much proof against her aside from her bad attitude. But the woman was arrogant enough to let Social Services know she approved of the heavy hand her brother used on Harry.
Dudley wasn't innocent but he was also a minor who was just parroting his parents beliefs so the authorities hoped that with a different environment he'd become a better person. Sirius was hopeful too. He knew the cousin he was going to live with. She had been at the wedding and Lily had thought very highly of her, probably why Petunia didn't keep in touch with her. She was a good person, and Dudley's chances of becoming a good person were increased by the upbringing he'd get from her.
Sirius was surprised when McGonagall's summoned him to her office in the middle of July but he would come out of the meeting with yet another problem solved as she offered him her old position.
"You had great Transfiguration skills and, despite not having a mastery, I believe you can fill the position well. Not to mention you can get one while you are teaching. And the most important aspect is that you really do care for these children's future."
Sirius nodded. He agreed. He cared for the future of the school. "The school is getting to where it should be and I want to help it get there. But I can do that better as a governor than as a teacher," he said simply. "If I become part of the staff I have to resign the Black seat to a family member. But just like you Minerva, nothing stops me from being related to a member of the staff, or else there would be no governors. Do you know Remus has a double mastery in DADA and Transfiguration? And he has done a wonderful job with Harry during these months."
McGonagall nodded and Sirius continued with a little smirk. He thought she might have expected him to reject the offer and she seemed glad he gave her a solution, "Of course, as his spouse I would be allowed to reside at Hogwarts and I think that if I am here and Harry is allowed to live with us and not in the tower he might be amenable to return."
"Students have to stay in their dorm," she said in a nonsense tone.
"Minnie," Sirius smiled and Minerva glared at him. "I read the Bylaws. I've learned them backwards and forwards. Faculty children or wards can live either in their House dorm or with their parent or guardian. And Remus and I have legally adopted Harry. We felt he needed the reassurance. So no one can't even say he is not our son."
Minerva looked uncomfortable and said, "Yes, but it has been the practice of the school that students, even if their parents are faculty members, live with their housemates."
Sirius leaned forward seriously, "Harry has made enormous strides. You have no idea how scary for him the mere thought of stepping through those doors is. But he misses the classes, he misses his friends and he is willing to try. But he is not ready for the full Hogwarts experience. You have to meet me half-way or else he'll continue in his bubble. He approached me asking if there was a way he could come back but stay with me at the same time. I talked to him and we both talked to his psychologist about the possibility and we all agree, to come back he needs a measure of security. My presence here may give him that. Not having to sleep where he was attacked gives him that too. Think on it and give me your answer Minerva. I'm working hard so this school can be once again what it should have been. And as much as I want that for society I want that for Harry more."
He hadn't had to wait much. The next day Sirius received the answer and Remus received a proposal to teach Transfigurations and act as Gryffindor Head of House. The family of three sat down and discussed their options and in the end Harry had agreed.
"You'll be there right?" he had asked about a hundred times and every time the answer from both men was the same. A resounding yes.
"Ron and Hermione say things have changed. So did Neville." Once the summer break had started, Augusta Longbottom had asked if Neville could visit. He had wanted to see Harry since Harry left but being at Hogwarts it had been hard for him. They had corresponded a bit during the year. But you know kids and letters. Not the best of friends. Neville had come often during the summer and so had Ron and Hermione. They had told Harry of all the changes. "I guess we can try."
"And if you don't like it, we'll be back here in a second," Remus assured Harry. "But I think you'll like it better there, with your friends." Harry had nodded and tried to smile but he had been too nervous to.
Remus had been right though and things were looking up. The very first day of school the same committee from all houses that had told him Parselmouths weren't welcome was there to greet him. But instead of hexing him, this time they were there to apologize.
"We shouldn't have done what we did. There are no excuses for what we did and if we could go back in time we would," the spokesman said. "We're really sorry and we get if you can never forgive us but you can be sure no one here will ever hurt you again."
Harry hadn't known what to say and had just nodded awkwardly and walked with his friends to the end of the Gryffindor table trying to avoid everyone. He wasn't successful though as the Gryffindors led by the ones who had burnt his truck pretty much repeated what the committee had said.
"You're welcome back in the tower Harry."
"I'm staying with my parents," he had said and it felt so good to say that. Parents.
"We know, we just want to let you know. You're place in the team is there for you to take if you want."
Harry had shrugged but he hadn't wanted to play again. He loved flying but he wasn't feeling very prone to team spirit yet. "Maybe next year."
"Maybe," the seventh year had said and had glared at Oliver's moan. "Harry can come back if he wants and only if he wants. Clear?" he asked and everyone nodded, including Oliver after Katie Bell slapped his head.
In the end Harry did go back to play in the spring term. He only went back to the tower in his fourth year, but Quidditch, was just Quidditch. And being back in the tower didn't mean he spent less time with his guardians. Quite the contrary, Harry was often seen in the staff wing when he was visiting or when he was in one of his special visits. The one only Sirius knew about. Not even Moony knew about them because Harry wanted to surprise him when he managed. But he came religiously, every Friday, during his free period which Remus was busy with his NEWT classes, and Sirius instructed him in the fine arts of becoming an Animagus. Sirius couldn't help but snigger to himself every time he pictured Moony's reaction once Harry was done and presented his Animagus form to him.
Everything had been perfect. Voldemort was gone, the school and society seemed to be improving and a certain rat thought he had gotten away with living right under Sirius and Remus's nose. He was merrily wandering Hogwarts thinking of the food Ron would bring him when he was faced with a large orange cat. He gulped. He had heard Hermione had gotten a cat but hadn't had the displeasure of meeting said cat yet. He tried to run, but he wasn't fast enough as Mrs. Norris stopped him in his track. The Wizarding World never found the escaped Death Eater Peter Pettigrew, and they never heard the squeaks as Mrs. Norris and her new friend, Crookshanks, feasted on a certain rat. Ron was devastated when Scabbers didn't come back but Harry and Hermione joined their money and gave him an owl for Christmas. That seemed to cheer him up.
This is done. I did not tell you Harry's form on purpose because I wanted to leave it to the imagination. Now Harry has his whole life ahead of him and I just wanted you to have a glimpse but not be too specific.
Thanks for all your support. I hope you all enjoyed. You can find the pdf version for download at my Yahoo! group. Link on my bio.