"How about this," Harry said, desperately bargaining and compromising in order to get what he wanted from his uncle. "You sign this slip for me, and I'll leave for the rest of the summer."
Vernon was understandably sceptical. "And where would you go?" he demanded gruffly.
"I'm sure I can figure something out with my sort," Harry answered. "Sign the paper, give me back my stuff, and shove me out the door. I'll walk to London if I have to."
Vernon sneered, but really it was nothing to the same expression on Snape's face. All the same, he held out his beefy hand for the permission slip and signed it when Harry handed it over. Send the freak out on his own, on foot, weighed down by that trunk of his, and with a mass murderer on the loose? If he was lucky, the boy would never come back! Of course, not that the boy knew about this Black fellow that was on the news, much too busy with chores, and he was forbidden all the luxuries of the media in the Dursley house.
Vernon then unlocked the cupboard under the stairs, releasing the freak's belongings to him, and reclaimed the padlock from the ruddy bird's cage.
Harry was out the door faster than Katie could score a goal against the Ravenclaw Keeper, and once he'd let Hedwig out of her cage, he started walking.
He'd barely reached the end of the street when he noticed that he was being followed. Now, Harry was a bright boy, but he was still just twelve, wouldn't be thirteen for a few weeks, so when he realised he was being followed, he turned around to confront whoever was following him, rather than pretending to ignore it and finding a police officer, or going into a shop.
Fortunately for Harry, he was being only being followed by a dog.
Harry stopped and smiled. "You look like you've seen better days too," he said to the dog, holding out his hand to the animal, letting it come to him. Animals were about the only friends he could make without Dudley getting violent, so as well as Mrs Figg's cats, Harry knew a lot of squirrels prior to being given Hedwig.
The dog approached cautiously, slowly, and finally sniffed Harry's hand.
Harry curled his fingers around and gently stroked and scratched the dog around the neck and ears, getting an appreciative whine for his efforts. "You want to come with me? I don't really have anywhere to stay right now, but I'm sure I can afford to get us somewhere, and you look like you could use a good bath and an even better meal."
The dog's ears perked up at the first suggestion, its eyes going bright at the word 'bath', and it practically leapt on Harry at the word 'meal', at which point it proceeded to lick Harry all over his neck and face.
Harry couldn't help but laugh – it tickled! – and was grinning when he pushed the large dog back so that he could sit up. "I'll take that as a yes," he said, rubbing the dog between the ears fondly.
As he stood up, his wand fell out of his pocket, and the dog went for it.
Harry rushed to grab it before the dog could, and held it up, away from the eager animal, so that he wouldn't have dog-drool on his wand like he did on his face. He was surprised to hear a bang and a screeching of breaks in that moment, and equally surprised to see a bright purple triple-decker bus stopped in front of him.
"Welcome to the Knight Bus," a skinny, pimple-faced boy greeted, he didn't look much older than the seventh-years at Hogwarts, so he probably wasn't twenty yet. "Transport for the stranded witch and wizard."
"Uh, but it's the middle of the day," Harry queried, confused.
"Not night, lad," the teen said, rolling his eyes. "It's knight, like thems as wear the shiny armour."
"Oh," Harry answered, nodding in understanding. "Erm, can we get a ride to the Leaky Cauldron?" he asked, gesturing between himself and the dog who was standing beside him, head cocked as he studied the bus.
The colour drained from the pimple-covered face. "The Grim!" he cried in a terrified whisper.
Harry blinked. "What?"
"It's a portent of death! It's -!"
"It's just a black dog," Harry cut in, shaking his head. "There are hundreds of black dogs all over the country. Nothing unusual about this one except for how skinny it is. How much to get to the Leaky?"
"Er, for you and the ... dog ... it's one galleon," was the answer, though it was clear that there was great hesitance about letting the dog onto the bus.
Harry rifled through his trunk until he found one of the gold coins and handed it over, getting two tickets from the pimple-faced conductor before nudging the dog in ahead of him and dragging his trunk behind, grumbling about wizards who didn't even seem to know what a dog was. If he didn't know better, he'd think that the dog was laughing at hi grumbling.
Harry was shocked again when, upon entering the Leaky Cauldron with the dog – who he was still just calling 'dog' for now, as he would need Hedwig's permission to get another pet, so getting prematurely attached would be a bad idea – witches and wizards all over the shop started screaming about 'the grim', like the bus conductor had.
"I don't believe this," Harry groaned. "Does the wizarding world really not have dogs in it?"
The dog wuffed quietly, shaking its head.
"No, that can't be right, Hagrid's got Fang... then again, Hagrid has had some very odd pets..." Harry mumbled, then sighed and walked over to Tom, who was quivering behind the bar. "How much for a room for the rest of the summer?" he asked.
"T-ten galleons Mr Potter," Tom got out, eyes still wide and fixed on the black dog that was guarding Harry's trunk just behind the boy.
Harry, having left his money-bag on top of his things after getting out the galleon to pay the bus fare, didn't have to rummage as long to get his money. He only had nine galleons, but thankfully had the rest in sickles and knuts, so was able to pay for his room upfront.
"Come on dog," Harry said, taking one handle of his trunk and heading up the stairs once he'd been given a key with a room number on it. "I need to go to the bank after this, get more money out. I want to enjoy my summer, which means buying a few things."
Hedwig flew in the window shortly after Harry had finished unpacking his trunk for the summer, and Harry was glad to see her.
"Hello girl," he greeted. "Did you enjoy stretching your wings?" Taking the gentle nip to his fingers as a yes, Harry ploughed on. "I made friends with this dog on the way here. Would you mind if I decided to keep him?"
Hedwig looked past Harry to the large black dog that was sitting by the empty trunk, then looked back at Harry and nipped his fingers gently again.
Harry smiled, taking that as a yes just as he had the last one. "Just need to give him a name then," he declared happily. "And get you a collar probably. Licence, leash, all that sort of thing. Approval from McGonagall to have a dog, since you're not one of the regular pets..." Harry sighed. "I needed to write to McGonagall anyway with my subject choices for the coming school year. I was thinking of taking Divination, but with all the screaming about a black dog being a portent of death, I am suddenly infinitely less enthused," he admitted, happy to talk to the animals as though they could answer him.
Both owl and dog barked, and Harry was sure they were laughing in agreement with him.
"So what? I'm definitely taking Care of Magical Creatures. After last year with the basilisk, I really want to know more about what other kind of creatures are part of the magical world. Ron went to visit his one of his brothers in Romania for a little while last summer, he works at a dragon reserve. That sounds like such a cool job. Hey, I think they're visiting another of his brothers this summer, in Egypt... Curse Breaker, that's it! I wonder what sort of things you have to know to be one of those?"
Harry went over to his trunk – it hadn't been completely emptied after all – and pulled out the list of course options. List in hand, he flopped backwards onto his bed.
"Arithmancy, that sounds like arithmetic, so that's probably numbers. I know that arithmetic is mandatory in muggle schools until students reach a certain age. Can't think why it wasn't mandatory at Hogwarts, or why English wasn't mandatory either. I wonder how the professors dealt with the essays they were always demanding," he mused absently. "Runes sounds familiar though. Actually, I'm fairly sure that muggles mess about with runes."
The dog perked up in surprise at that, and Harry noticed.
"Yeah," he said with a nod. "Muggles may not know about real magic, but there are shops full of mystic stuff. Never actually been in one of course, the Dursleys turn up their noses at that sort of thing. So... Care of Magical Creatures, Arithmancy, and Runes. I don't think I really need to take Muggle Studies, since I really know more about muggle culture than I do about wizarding culture, all things considered, and I already decided against Divination. It will probably be a tough workload... but I've never had a problem with hard work before," he added wryly, thinking of all the chores that had been forced on him for so long at the Dursley house.
Yeah, he was the only one who worked hard there. Dudley watched the television and played his games, Aunt Petunia watched her soaps or the neighbours, and Uncle Vernon sat behind a desk all day in his office in Grunnings. Though, now with him away at Hogwarts for most of the year, Aunt Petunia probably did a lot of the house work during the day. Or she got a service in. That sounded more likely really. She'd never stoop to getting her clothes dirty in the garden, or actually doing the dusting herself.
"Maybe I'll even try getting good marks this year," Harry speculated absently, then chuckled. "See if I can get better marks than Hermione, without going crazy over study-schedules and colour-coding my time table. Well, I'll write that letter. I'm sure you'd enjoy a really proper flight, wouldn't you Hedwig?" Harry asked with a smile, sitting up and looking over at his bird.
She bobbed her head in agreement.
Harry nodded and got to writing that letter. Once the ink was dry, he tied it to Hedwig's leg and sent her off, then turned to the dog.
"Right, now I think it's time you got a bath," he said firmly.
The dog immediately headed for the door – but not the one out into the hall, interestingly enough. The door the dog headed to actually led to the bathroom, which made Harry chuckle. He full on laughed when the dog climbed into the bath all under its own power and scrabbled eagerly at the taps, only to whine and look at him pitiably when it couldn't turn them.
Harry looked through the cupboards until he found a hose that he could fix to the spout, and then turned on the water, waiting for it to be the right temperature before he raised the fall of water over the animal's back, rinsing off the layers of dirt.
"I wonder if you aren't a white dog under all this dirt," Harry commented as he watched the grime-laden water run away down the plughole, and grabbed up a bar of soap and started to work that into the fur coat.
It took a while, and Harry was as wet as the dog by the end of it, but eventually the animal was properly clean. As he was already wet, Harry figured he might as well wash himself, letting the dog shake himself dry while Harry climbed into the tub and held the hose over his own head. Then he attacked both himself and the dog with the complimentary towels.
"Right," Harry declared once he was dry and getting dressed. "You need a licence, collar, leash, probably a check in at the vet to make sure you don't have worms or anything, and I need new clothes, that actually fit me, rather than Dudleys hideous hand-me-downs that I could hold a circus inside of. You first though, I don't want you taken away while I'm in the clothes shops."
The dog just barked and let Harry use an old belt as a temporary collar-and-leash.
There was, conveniently, a veterinary hospital not all that far from the Leaky. Rather than going through Diagon with the dog, he'd gone to Gringotts on his own, taken out and exchanged (what he hoped was) enough money to see him through the shopping he would be doing that day, and then headed for a phone box that had a directory in it.
The animal hospital had an attached pet-supplies shop, so while the veterinarian took x-rays of the dog to see if there were any hidden problems, Harry picked out a collar, leash, bed, dishes, and a couple of toys for the dog to entertain himself with and chew on.
"Mr Potter?" the vet called, summoning him back into the room where the dog was being looked over.
"Dr Mathers? What's the verdict?" Harry asked.
The man smiled, but it wasn't a happy smile. "He's got worms, but that's easily taken care of. He's malnourished, but you said you found him on the street?" the vet asked.
"Then he's in better shape than I'd expect really. Nothing is seriously wrong with him that can't be treated, and he'll put weight on once he's had a few worming tablets. His teeth aren't in good shape, but none of them need to be taken out. I'd also recommend giving him a bath with flea-shampoo, not just the regular soap. Other than that, it's slowly becoming standard to microchip pets, so that if they slip their collars they can be returned to their owners. Would you like me to do that?" Dr Mathers offered.
Harry frowned. "No," he said at last, thinking that if the chip reacted badly to the magic at Hogwarts – he remembered Hermione saying that muggle technology didn't work at Hogwarts, though admittedly he couldn't think why – he didn't want the dog to be hurt. "Not yet anyway. For now I'll stick with just a collar for him."
"That only leaves the question if you want him de-sexed," Dr Mathers offered.
Harry might have been imagining things, but he was certain that the dog suddenly looked panicked, and it definitely brought its rear legs closer together.
"No," Harry said more firmly. "Thank you, but I don't think that will be necessary."
The dog, Harry was sure, sighed in relief.
The vet smiled. "Alright then Mr Potter, here's a list of what you need to do to get your dog healthy again, and you can get the bill from Susan at the front desk."
"Thank you," Harry said, taking the paper from the vet, then took back his dog and headed once more to the supplies shop to get everything on the list the vet had given him, and a tag for the collar he had already bought.
While the sales clerk fetched the worm tablets and few medications, Harry put the collar on his dog, and talked names with the animal.
"I named Hedwig for one of the people in one of my textbooks," he told the dog. "Somehow, I don't think any of the names there would suit you though," he added with a crooked smile.
The dog snorted in agreement, making Harry's smile stretch even wider in amusement before he sobered again.
"I don't get to read for pleasure much, so I can't think of any other places to get names that might suit you," Harry admitted.
The dog raised a foot and waved it about a bit.
"Foot?" Harry asked, confused and amused. "A name to do with foot?" he guessed.
The dog barked, grinning.
Harry chuckled. "I'm not calling you 'Tootsie'," he said firmly, fighting a smile.
The dog shook his head.
"Uh, something to do with feet. Hm. You know, I browsed through one of the dog books they've got in here while the vet was checking you out, and you look like a wolfhound, and they're supposed to be hunting dogs. How about Fleetfoot?"
The dog cocked its head to the side, as if he were thinking about it, then barked and grinned again.
"Fleetfoot it is," Harry declared, and got that engraved on the tag that would hang from the dog's collar.
Then they went clothes shopping for Harry, stopping at a walk-in optometry clinic that would check his eyes and fill his glasses prescription on the spot, so Harry got new glasses as well as new clothes.
Harry, along with Fleetfoot (though not Hedwig, as she was a nocturnal bird after all) went all around London during that summer. The London Zoo, Hyde Park, the London Museum and Art Gallery, and the absolutely huge library that they had there as well (the last weren't keen on letting a dog in, so Fleetfoot had to wait outside, but Harry had fun all the same, and was even allowed to get a library card and borrow a few books). They went to Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square, and then of course there was Diagon Alley to be explored – and the other streets that branched off of it.
The only strange thing that happened was when, while at Gringotts and getting out a little more money in order to buy the books and supplies that he would need for the coming year (as his Hogwarts list had been delivered that morning), Fleetfoot had taken hold of his leash in his teeth and dragged Harry down a hall at the back of the building, not stopping until he reached a door with a name plate on the front reading 'Forgehammer', and banging his paw against it like he was knocking.
"Come in!" snapped a voice from inside.
Harry opened the door and did as bid, not really knowing what was going on, and officially stunned when Fleetfoot turned into a person, the way McGonagall had changed from a cat back in his first year.
"I, Sirius Black, claim sanctuary in the neutrality of Gringotts, in order to do business," the man said.
"Gringotts recognises Sirius Black," the goblin said from behind his desk. "Our files have it that you were never convicted, despite your imprisonment. Business can be conducted."
"Uh..." Harry stuttered. It was the first time he'd brought his dog into the goblin bank, he realised, and suddenly wondered if he'd been waiting for such a thing.
The man, Sirius Black apparently, smiled down at him. "I'll explain later Harry, I promise," he said.
Harry nodded numbly, then mimicked the man and took a seat opposite the goblin.
What followed was a complicated conversation about Lordships, inheritances, bank accounts, wills, and lots of legal jargon including words like 'political refugee'. Harry tried to follow it, but really what happened was his mind latched onto some details and stuck there, trying to figure them out until another detail caught his attention.
Another thing that happened was that Harry was taken to see a goblin healer, of all things, to give him a full physical and to check him for any magical tampering. Something to do with his parent's wills not being properly executed and seeing what else had been sabotaged.
True to his word though, after they had left Gringotts – Sirius Black once again Fleetfoot upon opening the door of the office – and returned to the Leaky after making all the purchases Harry had intended to spend his day acquiring, Sirius explained everything he could to Harry in much simpler terms, aware that all the legal jargon and the examination had left the boy feeling boggled.
When he was done, Sirius got down on his knees. "Can you forgive me Harry?" he begged.
Harry looked at the man before him, his godfather, who wanted him, who loved him, who had been kept from him for the past twelve years by Dumbledore of all people -! With tears in his eyes, Harry nodded, and flung his arms around the man's shoulders, for the first time in a long time, actually feeling young and vulnerable.
The next day, Harry went out to the pharmacy and purchased hair dye, a razor for shaving, and – to his horror – beauty products. He also stopped by a few clothing shops and made purchases for his godfather. People looking for a fugitive were more likely to not notice him in their searches if he didn't look like a fugitive after all. That's what the beauty products were for, but the new clothes would help as well.
Besides, Sirius had been in the same rags for over a decade. He deserved new clothes just as much as Harry had.
After a thorough shave, dying his hair so that it was a caramel sort of colour rather than the ebony colour it had been, a change of clothes, and a judicious application of make up, Sirius Black looked more like a man who had a stressful office job finally getting a vacation than a man who had just escaped from prison. Sirius apparated out, and Harry walked down and out of the Leaky. At the corner, they caught up with each other and went off together to enjoy the large servings of an Italian restaurant.
Sirius opened the door of his family's London town-house, and gestured for Harry to let him go in first. There was no telling what had become of the place since his mother's death five years after his own imprisonment.
"Bad Master has returned," noted a surly voice from the first doorway down the hall.
"I am the only master left Kreacher," Sirius said with an arched eyebrow. "Furthermore, I am disappointed to see the house in such a dismal state. What were your last orders that you let it get this bad?" he demanded cooly, indicating the peeling wallpaper and the mould in the cornices.
"Last order was from Master Regulus, to destroy a locket, but Kreacher cannot do it, he has tried and tried and tried, but continues to fail," the house elf answered, and started to pound its head into the floor.
"Bring the locket to me Kreacher, and then for God's sake get this house clean! Air the bedrooms, replace the wallpaper, get rid of the mildew! I may never have liked this house, but at least it was habitable once!" Sirius growled at the elf.
Kreacher scurried to obey, producing the locket he had spoken of before he started peeling off the rotting wallpaper and scrubbing away the moss that was taking over the floorboards like a carpet.
Sirius sighed and turned to his godson. "Sorry Harry," he said, holding the locket away from him self by it's chain over his finger, touching it as little as possible. "It's worse than I thought, so I guess I can't show you around the house. I'll work on it while you're at Hogwarts, how about that?"
Harry nodded. McGonagall's letter in response to if he could bring 'Fleetfoot' or not had been a resounding negative, so Sirius having something to do was just as well.
"I'll see if I can get access to Potter Manse as well, make sure it hasn't fallen into the same disrepair as this place, fix it up if it has. I'll probably need to get some new house elves to help out somehow, not to mention a new wand, but I'm sure I'll manage somehow," Sirius promised.
Harry nodded again. "It's the thought that counts at this point Sirius," he said. "And the point is that you're offering me a home, which is more than I've ever had before."
Sirius knelt down and wrapped an arm around Harry, still holding the locket away from not only himself, but from Harry as well. The nutrition potions he'd been taking since that physical with the goblins were helping the boy fill out the way he should have, but the growth-spurts hadn't started yet, so he did have to kneel to do that properly. As for the locket, he was going to get it examined by the goblins. If it couldn't be destroyed by a house elf, and he knew very well how resourceful the creatures were, then it was suspicious at least. The goblins had managed to remove all of Harry's scars too, the ones inflicted by his uncle which had slowly faded over time, and the cursed scar that had always looked fresh where it sat on the boy's forehead. Nasty thing it had been too, and it had infuriated Sirius to learn about it, and learn that no one had ever done a serious check on the damn thing, or even suggested that Harry get it looked at.
Was no one on the boy's side before now?
Harry turned from where he'd been giving Fleetfoot another bath (the fleas were a serious problem for his godfather, but it was interesting to note that his fur hadn't been affected by the hair dye, in fact, bathing in one form had no affect on the other at all, as had been evidenced from the first time Sirius had become a human again back in Gringotts) to see Hermione standing in the door of the room he'd rented for himself for the summer.
He grinned. He'd talked about all of his friendships with Sirius, and with a little prompting had come to the conclusion that some time over the coming two years, he'd work towards a,... deeper relationship with his bushy-haired friend. "Hello Hermione," he greeted. "Did you enjoy... er, where was it you went this summer? France?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes it was France, and no, not particularly. Very much an adult vacation, wine tasting and cheese sampling and business dinners of all things! And they didn't let me pack enough books to be properly satisfied," she grumbled. "But what about you? And who is this?" she asked, indicating the dog.
"This is Fleetfoot," Harry answered with a grin. "And he's my new dog. I found him when I left the Dursleys, got him checked out by a vet, and Hedwig doesn't mind him."
Hermione frowned. "But Harry, dogs aren't on the list of pets permitted at Hogwarts..." she said tentatively.
Harry nodded. "I know," he said. "But Lee Jordan has a tarantula, and Ron's got that mangy rat of his, which is probably almost past it now I think about it, so wrote to McGonagall about being allowed to bring him."
"What did she say?" Hermione asked.
"No," Harry answered shortly. "The return missive is on the desk over there still probably even," he said, nodding over to the desk where he'd been doing his summer homework and writing letters to his two friends who were holidaying on the continent that summer.
"Mr Potter," Hermione read. "No. It would cause an uproar. Sincerely, Professor McGonagall. What? Harry -?"
"Hey Ha- Ah! The Grim!" came Ron's voice from the doorway that Hermione had recently vacated.
Harry and Hermione turned in their red-headed friend's direction in time to see his eyes roll up in their sockets and for him to pass out.
"Grim?" Hermione asked, turning back to Harry
"Supposedly a large black dog that wanders graveyards and is a portent of death," Harry answered with a shrug. "Wizards don't have normal dogs," he continued. "They don't get that sometimes a black dog is just a black dog. They've got these things called krups, which are like terriers but with split tails, which have to be docked by Ministry regulation, and of course they know about wolves, but they don't seem to understand the concept of dog. I've been getting that reaction," he said, nodding towards the still unconscious Ron, "since I showed up here with Fleetfoot, so I understand McGonagall's response, even if I don't like it."
Hermione frowned. "So what are you going to do?"
"I've not been wasting my summer Hermione. I asked the goblins, since they give better advice than anybody else, and apparently I've got properties with servants staffed there. One of them is going to come and take Fleetfoot off to enjoy having an estate to run around in, which he'll like a lot more than being cramped up in the city like he's been I'm sure, and we'll spend some time talking and maybe he'll see me off at the station as well," Harry explained. He was lying through his teeth of course, but it was mixed in with truth and Hermione would likely never know unless he or Sirius told her. After all, he did have an estate, and Sirius in his disguise would be pretending to be attached to it in order to see Harry off on the first of September.
"Oi, what happened to Ronnie-kins?" the double tones of the twins asked from just beyond the door.
"He saw Harry's new dog," Hermione answered, stepping over Ron in order to block the twins' view in case they reacted in the same way. "Mistook it for a Grim."
The twins' eyes bugged, but then they grinned.
"Not very worldly is Ronnie-kins," observed Fred.
"Indeed not," George agreed. "Grims are only ever seen in graveyards after all."
"Too many witches and wizards aren't smart like that though," Fred quipped.
"Not like us, or Ronnie-kins' more intelligent friends," George added with a smirk.
"Come on in guys," Harry called from behind Hermione.
Hermione stepped aside and let the devil duo in, then followed behind and pushed Ron out into the hall, closing the door behind. She didn't notice, but while she'd shut Ron out, she'd also shut Scabbers in. Harry noticed though.
"Is that the same fat rat Ron's been carrying around the last two years?" he asked, pointing at it.
Twins and Hermione turned and spotted the animal as well.
Fred and George sighed. "Yep," they said.
"It's been getting balder, and thinner, lately," Fred explained.
"Ever since Egypt," George added.
"How long has that rat been in your family?" Hermione asked. "Ron said something about getting it from Percy?"
"Percy got it when Mum brought Ronnie-kins home from St Mungo's," George answered.
"On its way out then. You're better off taking it to the goblins," Harry said. "They'll pay two knuts for good rat meat," he explained with a chuckle. This was completely true. "Fleetfoot and I have been making some pocket money this summer as well, more for the fun of it than anything else." This was a lie, but good cover.
Harry grabbed Scabbers up and quickly dumped him into Hedwig's cage – which she was sleeping on top of, having had more than enough of being inside it at the Dursleys – then closed and locked the door.
"Here," he said, tossing a sickle each to Fred and George. "Because I know Ron will have a fit over the dumb thing when he finds it missing. Keep him too busy to notice?" he asked.
The twins laughed, nodding happily.
"And don't you tell him either Hermione," Harry said with a smile. "Ron needs to learn to actually appreciate what he's got."
Hermione sighed, but agreed.
The goblins would start the legal procedures now that they had Peter Pettigrew in custody, and Sirius would be able to be cleared without ever appearing before the courts – they guaranteed it. Still, it would be a slow process, so Sirius was in his disguise when he went with Harry to the station, helped him load his trunk – a new one that was better for keeping his things organised – into the compartment, and stared longingly for a moment at the man who was asleep in the seat.
"Moony?" Harry asked quietly of his godfather.
Sirius nodded silently. Both of them could see that the man hadn't been doing well. He looked as bedraggled as Sirius had the first time Harry met him. Cleaner, but no less like a broken man. He even looked older and thinner than Sirius had before he'd gotten a few meals into him and had a couple of months away from the effects of the Dementors of Azkaban.
"I'll work on my animagus transformation this year," Harry promised. They'd actually already made a start during the summer, figuring out the animal Harry would be and starting occlumency – having an even slightly organised mind helped the transformation happen faster. It was also magic that didn't require a wand, so he could practice it (the goblin lawyers had cleaned up the misunderstanding about Dobby in Privet Drive over the summer as well).
"You've got the communication mirror?" Sirius asked.
Harry pulled it out of his pocket, showed Sirius, then dropped it back in and patted it, showing that it was secure.
Sirius nodded. "I'll see you at Christmas?" he asked. "If I've got any of the houses liveable I mean," he added.
Harry grinned. "Even if you don't," he answered. "I'll help clean."
The two embraced, and then Sirius left the compartment, reappearing on the platform outside the window to smile and wave his godson off.
Harry couldn't help the smile on his face as, having lost sight of Sirius on the platform, he curled up against Remus. "You're coming for Christmas too Moony," he said firmly as he closed his eyes.
His smile stretched a little bit wider when he felt an arm wrap around him and a hoarse whisper say "Whatever you want Pup."