Chapter warning of mention of abuse
The signature of Cornelius Fudge looped its way across the parchment. It was attached to the official investigation report that concluded Sirius Black was innocent of the arrest charges in 'eighty-one, and pardoned for escaping Ministry custody and his actions during his time as a fugitive. The statement acknowledged the Ministry's culpability and awarded compensation to Black to the tune of ten thousand galleons for every year of false imprisonment and an additional five thousand for the year he had been a fugitive.
"The press statement?" Cornelius asked briskly as he added the official seal to the parchment.
Amelia exchanged a look with Brian Cutter and slid it across the desk to the Minister.
"Following new evidence, a Special Investigation was made into the matter of Sirius Black under the jurisdiction of Amelia Bones, the Head of the DMLE. The findings of the Special Investigation are thus: Sirius Black was imprisoned without trial. Evidentiary and legal procedures were not followed and his guilt or innocence never established beyond circumstantial hearsay. A review of all the evidence gathered at the time of his arrest, and the subsequent addition of new witness testimony following recent events at Hogwarts, including a statement by Harry Potter, has concluded that Sirius Black is innocent of all charges. Given his twelve years of unlawful imprisonment, we have pardoned him for the lesser charge of escaping custody.
Additionally, we want to announce that Peter Pettigrew is alive and a suspected Death Eater. He is hereby stripped of his Order of Merlin and is wanted for questioning in the deaths of James Potter, Lily Potter, and thirteen muggles. He is also wanted for conspiracy to pervert the course of Justice. He is considered armed and dangerous. Citizens are advised to report any sightings to the Aurors immediately.
Clearly a gross miscarriage of justice took place under the previous administration and, although it was a chaotic time, the current peacetime administration is appalled. We apologise unreservedly to Sirius Black for his loss of freedom, damage to his reputation, and disregard for his basic legal rights. While it is our understanding that he is currently abroad, he is once again a free citizen and welcome to return to Britain and public life without fear of reprisal."
"Comprehensive." Cornelius looked at Brian. "Is Lord Black happy with the statement?"
"He is and he's very happy to have this matter cleared up so quickly." Brian said.
"It's a shame that we can't make a joint press conference." Cornelius said with a longing look at the statement.
"Lord Black wants full credit given to the Ministry." Brian said firmly. "He'll make a positive statement to that effect as soon as he claims his seat in the Wizengamot."
"Do we have a date?" Cornelius asked tentatively.
"Probably at the next session which is scheduled for a week on Thursday." Brian replied promptly. "He has expressed a desire to meet with you prior to that."
Cornelius smiled widely. "That would be lovely, Brian."
"Minister," Amelia cleared her throat, regaining Cornelius's attention, "there is another matter that has come to light during the investigation."
"Oh?" Cornelius looked dismayed and his gaze flickered to Brian and back to her. "Perhaps we should speak about this in private?"
"Actually, I'd like Brian to stay as the topic relates to the guardianship of Harry Potter." Amelia withdrew a second report from her bag and handed it to Cornelius. It had taken her the better part of the previous evening after her return from Surrey and most of the rest of that day to finish the report and get things sorted with Brian. "This report is highly sensitive and details findings related to Harry Potter's current situation. Broadly, it concludes that he should be removed from his current guardians due to evidence of neglect, emotional abuse and some additional minor physical abuse."
"My goodness! Surely not!" Cornelius didn't open the folder. "I mean, I know there was a problem last summer but I thought that was down to the stress of the situation with Black."
"That problem last summer, Minister, was indicative of the way his guardians treat him generally; without respect for Harry, for his parents or for our kind. The woman admitted she insulted the Potters before she was obliviated." Amelia said dryly. "Additionally, one of the Reversal Squad noted in his report that if it wasn't against the new Muggle Protection Act he would have been sorely tempted to blow the Dursleys up himself after being subjected to their prejudice and scorn."
"It gets worse, Cornelius." Amelia interrupted him. "Albus Dumbledore had Rubeus Hagrid take Harry Potter from Sirius Black on the night of the Potters' death. That was part of Dumbledore's own statement given to the Aurors. He was responsible for placing the boy with Lily Potter's muggle relations. Now, there is some evidence that he had good reasons, most to do with Harry's safety at the time, but he circumvented the system: the Wizarding Orphan Office wasn't apprised of the placement and so no follow-up visitations were performed."
"He also disregarded the will which a source today told me would have been challenged by the Longbottoms had they not been incapacitated in a Death Eater attack." Brian added. "Add to that the fact that Dumbledore was Chief Warlock when Sirius Black was denied a trial and placed in Azkaban unlawfully, and his recent unwillingness not to have insisted on due process when Black was captured at Hogwarts…one might surmise that he has ulterior motives."
"Additionally, Harry has all the signs of an abused child but the staff at Hogwarts seems to have missed them." Amelia said with exasperation.
Cornelius looked torn between panic at the Harry Potter had been abused, and glee at how badly Dumbledore had erred.
"And the Ministry doesn't come out of this smelling of roses either since the WOO should have followed up on Harry Potter's placement – regardless of Dumbledore's lack of notification, he's the most famous orphan in our world! Not to mention more should have been done to investigate the incident last summer." Amelia warned him. "Cornelius," she said strongly, "it would be a political nightmare for everyone if it came to the attention of the press that Harry Potter was mistreated by his muggle relatives and nobody in authority noticed or did anything to address the issue – especially when Dumbledore is in the thick of it and you've met the boy yourself."
Finally, Cornelius blanched as the potential ramifications for his own position hit him.
"If you would allow it, Cornelius, Amelia and I believe we have a mutually beneficial solution." Brian said quietly.
"Please elaborate." Cornelius rallied but a dull flush remained on his face.
"As you know, Lord Black was already planning to challenge for guardianship," Brian began, "and I believe his own investigations raised questions about the suitability of Potter's muggle guardians. Now that the investigation into Sirius Black has concluded and he has been cleared, Lord Black wants to push ahead with guardianship being awarded to Sirius Black as per the Potters' will."
Cornelius sat back surprised. "Lord Black will openly support Sirius Black then? As I recall Black – Sirius, I mean – was a Dumbledore supporter and considered persona non grata by the Black family."
"I think it's clear from Lord Black's initial actions here that he has a different political agenda than the family's previous reputation," Brian said, "and as Sirius is the boy's godfather, he has first claim."
"Executing the Potters' newly discovered will to reward guardianship to Sirius Black would be a relatively simple matter." Amelia pointed out. "My main concern, as I've expressed to Brian, is Black's health after his time in Azkaban and a year on the run. I would say that we would only award guardianship on the condition that he receives medical treatment."
"How do we even know the man wants to assume guardianship?" Cornelius asked, sitting back with a contemplative expression.
"Once Amelia contacted me, I immediately wrote to Lord Black. I received a reply from Sirius Black himself confirming his request that I represent him in the matter of the guardianship of his godson." Brian explained.
A flicker of suspicion infused Amelia for a long moment, long enough that she only caught the end of Cornelius accusing Brian that Lord Black had harboured a fugitive.
"Under the old law, Cornelius, a Head of House could offer sanctuary to any member of his family." Brian said mildly. "But either way, there's no evidence that Lord Black knew where Sirius Black was at the time he engaged my services to approach you about instigating an investigation."
"It's all moot anyway," Amelia inserted before Cornelius got too wound up, "whether Lord Black was in contact with him before the investigation or not is completely beside the point; Sirius Black is innocent. We need to determine Harry Potter's guardianship. Brian, can you confirm Sirius Black's willingness to assume the role of guardian for his godson?"
"Yes, he's eager to look after Harry, and a week of healing in a private clinic abroad has been arranged for both Sirius and his godson." Brian said quickly.
"I'm not sure this will be acceptable," Cornelius argued, "Sirius Black's reputation is destroyed – and yes, partly our fault, I know, but if we announce that Black is innocent and in the next breath give him immediate guardianship of the Boy Who Lived there will be an outcry."
"You raise a valid point, Cornelius."
Brian's words flattered the Minister and Amelia breathed a sigh of relief at Brian's ability to handle him.
"Perhaps a staggered approach is required publically," Brian continued, "especially as I think we all believe that Albus Dumbledore should only be informed once this matter is settled beyond his ability to affect the outcome?"
They nodded in agreement.
"So, I propose that we sign the guardianship transfer today and allow Sirius Black to take immediate custody." Brian proposed. "The Ministry announces that he is innocent at a press conference tomorrow morning. I'll arrange some positive press for Black over the rest of the week, reminding people that he was a war hero before his arrest, for example."
"We can help with that to some extent," Amelia offered, "I'm sure Sirius's old colleagues would be prepared to support the work he did."
"And the story of his escape from Azkaban to protect his godson from Pettigrew would play well." Cornelius added. "Perhaps with the allusion he is seeking guardianship to return Potter fully to the wizarding world in line with the wishes of Potter's late parents that were previously ignored as the will was inaccessible to the Ministry."
Brian nodded and pointed at him with a smile. "Good suggestion."
Amelia hid a smile. Cornelius did have a talent for media spin. "So then we publically announce his guardianship at the end of the week?"
"I'll ensure we have a statement from Sirius Black readied as they could well be still abroad at that point in the clinic." Brian made a note on his legal pad.
"We should work closely on all press releases," Cornelius offered, "that way we can ensure both the Ministry and Black receive the greatest positive response to the affair."
"Agreed." Brian said.
"What about the muggles?" Cornelius asked suddenly. "We'll need to file appropriate records…"
"Already prepared," Brian assured him, "Petunia Dursley has already agreed to relinquish her guardianship subject to the investigation finding Sirius Black innocent. Lord Black's steward will handle the final signatures and take immediate custody of Harry Potter to deliver him safely to Black." He motioned at Cornelius. "If you're happy to proceed?"
Brian reached into his briefcase and handed over the guardianship documents. "If you could just sign at the bottom; Amelia, if you could witness."
The loopy signature was accompanied by the Minister's official seal. Amelia scrawled her own signature as witness and added the seal of the Head of the DMLE. Sirius Black was officially Harry Potter's legal guardian of record.
Brian handed Amelia one copy for the Ministry records. "I assume you'll register this with the WOO."
Amelia sighed and took the document. She could hardly complain.
"I'll forward a copy to Sirius and file my copy of the original in our legal vault." Brian retrieved another document for his briefcase. "A copy of the Potters' will for your records."
"That's very good of you, Brian." Cornelius said gratefully. "That will help ensure any complaints are quickly dealt with." He frowned again. "Amelia, there is one other question regarding the muggles and this abuse that was found…"
"I know," Amelia said sighing heavily, "I'd like to prosecute them but that's an impossibility." She held up a hand when Cornelius would have jumped in. "The procedure when we find a muggle-raised witch or wizard is in an abusive situation is to involve the muggle authorities. Usually there is current evidence that is available. In this case, the vast majority of the abuse took place prior to last year and the worst of it when he was a young child. Our evidence, based as it is on magical means is not admissible. There is no case unless Mister Potter himself gives evidence." She took a breath. "If we prosecuted muggles through our legal system, it would be exceptional, create a precedent I don't think we want, and create the very storm of publicity that we're trying to avoid."
"So we let these muggles get away with abusing a wizarding child? A child who should have been treasured especially after getting rid of You-Know-Who and losing his parents?" Cornelius ranted, getting on his soapbox.
"We can honestly say that we've removed him from the situation as soon as we became aware of the abuse that was involved." Amelia stated firmly. "Any other legal action will have to be pursued with Mister Potter's agreement."
"I'll discuss the matter with Sirius Black." Brian suggested. "As his guardian, Black will have a say in this and will probably be the one that will have to raise it with his godson."
Cornelius barely looked mollified and Amelia had some sympathy, although she suspected Cornelius's frustration was rooted in his inability to exploit the political capital of muggles abusing the Boy Who Lived and Dumbledore's involvement, rather than her own outrage that the muggles wouldn't be justifiably punished for their actions.
"Well, if that's everything, I have to tell my client that he's now a proud father of a thirteen year old boy." Brian said briskly.
Amelia sighed in relief as Cornelius smiled and nodded.
"I'll see you at tomorrow's press conference?" Cornelius suggested.
Brian agreed and Amelia stood up to walk out with him. They stopped outside of Amelia's office and she prevented him from leaving with a hand on his arm, wanting to follow up on the suspicion she'd had that had flared to life during the discussion. She cast a privacy bubble and regarded him directly.
"Brian, would I be correct in saying that Lord Black's first name is Sirius?"
Brian smiled gently. "I'm afraid I can't divulge the identity of Lord Black."
Amelia snorted and knew she was right.
"What I will say," Brian said a little hesitantly, "is that there is good reason why the House of Black has always been known for its cunning and regardless of his innocence Sirius Black is still someone it would be best not to anger."
"He realised his godson was being neglected when he saw him at Hogwarts, didn't he?" Amelia mused out loud.
Yes, she thought decisively, Sirius Black had seen his godson, starved of love and affection for all that he was a nice kid, and had known. And he couldn't do anything, not as a fugitive, but as Lord Black…that he had taken the measures he had and devised a way to clear his name all to protect his godson impressed her anew and made her feel even more confident that her decision to award him custody had been the right one.
Brian smiled at her again and tipped his hat as he made to leave. "I think Lord Black is going to shake things up."
Amelia let down the bubble and smirked back at him. "Tell your client I look forward to it."
Harry finished washing the baking potatoes and set them out on the counter to be pricked before they went into the microwave. Dinner was steamed chicken breasts (already cooked until shrivelled by his aunt), a salad (Harry had already prepared it) and the potatoes. It was not their usual fare and was only on the menu because Dudley was on a diet.
His relatives had been surprisingly polite to him since he'd gotten back. He believed in part that it was to do with his tale of his mass-murdering godfather on the ride home from the station but as the days had passed, he thought it was something else. Then there had been the surprise visit from the wizarding police-kind-of-ish Amelia Bones and Alastor Moody. He was still a little annoyed with his aunt that she hadn't warned him until she'd fetched him from the garden. He hoped, hoped, that it meant Sirius was going to get a trial or be declared innocent because then…
He stopped his thought before it could complete. He wasn't going to hope again that he could go to live with Sirius, with someone who actually wanted him. Although, in hindsight, he wondered whether Sirius did want him…the older man had looked somewhat surprised when Harry had agreed to live with him. But there had been the letter he'd received at Hogwarts (confirming Sirius was safe and Harry was more than a little annoyed that the Headmaster had prevented him from replying) and then another he'd received the day after he'd gotten home (a 'hope you're OK' message that Harry had replied to using the same owl Sirius had sent), and another (a 'glad you're OK and don't worry about me' message). For a godfather on the run, it wasn't too shoddy a showing of concern and much more than Harry could remember receiving from anyone else except his friends.
What had been a nice surprise was that his ex-Professor, Remus Lupin had also sent a very nice note welcoming Harry back from the holidays, reassuring him that he'd found an interesting job and encouraging Harry to stay in touch. Harry had promptly sent a reply with the rather majestic looking owl that had brought Remus's letter. He'd also sent a note to Remus after Moody and Bones had interviewed him and asked for more stories about his Dad, but there hadn't been a reply and Hedwig hadn't returned. It didn't mean there wouldn't be a reply, Harry reassured himself. Remus had said to stay in touch and with Sirius out of the country…
Of course, Remus hadn't actually contacted Harry at all for most of his life and Harry got the impression that he had only let slip his friendship with Harry's father by accident. They really hadn't had a chance to talk about that and it wasn't something Harry wanted to raise in a letter. But it did mean that he didn't quite trust Remus to reply to him in the same way he trusted Sirius. Although even his trust in Sirius probably floundered on the thought that Sirius, if given a choice, might continue to chase the rat rather than actually stick around for Harry.
Harry shook away his insecurities not wanting to dwell on them. Sirius had written; Remus had written. He had people who cared for him at last. His jaw set in all too familiar stubbornness that both Sirius and Remus would have recognised instantly although Harry didn't know it.
His mind travelled back over his third year at Hogwarts idly as he prepared the potatoes. It had been a strange year with the Dementors and Sirius. Better than the first two years – no Voldemort to battle – but odd in other ways. He really owed Hermione for helping him rescue Sirius. He flushed as he remembered what a prat he'd been to her about the Firebolt. Yes, he'd had cause to be angry but…she'd meant well. If only she hadn't gone behind his back…
Ron hadn't helped with his anger over it either. And then there had been Ron's constant battling with Hermione over Crookshanks and the rat all year. Harry had spent most of the time feeling like he was being pulled between them and forced to choose constantly.
Ron had been Harry's first friend of his own age and Harry knew his strong attachment to Ron was primarily because of that. And Ron was funny and loyal, if glued to his beliefs and prejudices, surprisingly smart in his own way under the laziness that even Harry could see. But in considering the previous year, Harry had become aware that he'd let Ron dictate a lot of their friendship – things like being mad with Hermione, who else they talked to outside of classes, and their subjects like taking the horrendous Divination because it was easy.
Maybe he could try for a little independence from his first friend, Harry considered; he trusted Ron not to drop him just because Harry made a few decisions for himself – like giving up Divination so he didn't have to hear about how horribly he was going to die every week, and taking a different subject, maybe Ancient Runes or Arthimancy. He should send a note to Professor McGonagall and ask if it was possible. Hermione would probably appreciate having him take one of the subjects she was interested in.
And he did owe her.
Besides, Hermione was his second closest friend and really Harry had no idea how he would have gotten through his studies for the past three years without her. Not to mention the traps around the Philosopher's Stone; not to mention working out it was a basilisk that was petrifying people; not to mention rescuing Sirius. She really was amazingly smart. He should appreciate her more even if her bossiness sometimes drove him round the bend. He could try to be a better friend to her.
He wouldn't mind making more friends, Harry mused absently. Oh, he liked to think he was friendly with most people in Gryffindor – when they weren't considering him the Heir of Slytherin – and he was mates at least with the Quidditch team, especially Fred and George, and with his dorm mates. But he knew he wasn't the easiest of people to be friends with between his unwanted fame and the trouble that seemed to follow him around. At least Ron and Hermione had stuck with him through thick and thin. Quality was more important than quantity, Harry determined, but still…one or two other people to hang around with wouldn't be a bad thing.
Before he could set the microwave's timer, the telephone rang. Harry didn't investigate – his chore was dinner and it was more than his life's worth to deviate from it, not to mention the call was unlikely to be for him. He could hear his aunt answer, her strident voice carrying down the hallway.
He found his mind wandering to the interview with Moody and Bones. Bones had been nice; strict but kind. She kind of reminded him of McGonagall. Moody though had been bloody brilliant. He hadn't made a fuss over the locks on the door or the pathetic bedroom Harry had. More importantly, he'd told him stories of his Dad. He couldn't believe that his Dad had been a Hit Wizard. He wondered what career his Mum had chosen. He'd ask Sirius or Remus; asking his aunt was an invite to trouble.
Speaking of said aunt, she suddenly poked her head through the kitchen door.
"Leave that and go and pack all your things in that trunk of yours." Petunia snapped. "I'll explain on the way."
On the way to where and what about dinner, Harry grumbled to himself as he went up the stairs to his bedroom. He hadn't been refused lunch but the meagre sandwich and apple had been hours before, and his breakfast had been minimal – a quarter of a grapefruit. He packed his trunk quickly – he hadn't truthfully unpacked a great deal of it. He picked up Hedwig's cage – she'd find him wherever he went. He struggled down the stairs and was briskly directed by his aunt out to the car.
He put his trunk and the cage in the boot of the car, and had just closed the boot lid just as his aunt came out of the house.
Betty Doon called out a greeting from the other side of the street and hurried over. "Why Petunia, wherever are you off to at this late hour?"
"Family emergency." Petunia said crisply, putting the keys into her handbag.
"Oh you poor thing!" Betty said but her eyes gleamed more with glee at having some gossip than genuine concern. "Is there anything I can do?"
Petunia shook her head. "Thank you anyway, Betty. We must be going." She speared Harry with a look. "Get in the car and none of your nonsense."
Harry made his way around the car and climbed into the back seat - he wasn't actually allowed in the front. He waited until his aunt had taken the driver's seat and put her seatbelt on before he cleared his throat nervously.
"Um, if this is about Aunt Marge perhaps I should stay here?" Harry offered. He couldn't think what other family they had who could possibly have had an emergency.
"This isn't about your Aunt Marge." Petunia said. "Now be quiet. I need to focus on driving." She rarely drove anywhere preferring his uncle took the responsibility.
Harry thought about asking what was going on again but decided it was probably best to keep quiet. They drove out of Little Whinging and took the main road towards Greater Whinging, the neighbouring town that was more affluent. His aunt had always wanted to live there. They took another turning, then another. They passed through the centre of Greater Whinging and made towards the countryside outskirts. At the end of one long winding road, his aunt took a left into a shady street with old trees weighed down with heavy branches of bright green leaves. They pulled into the driveway of a large house.
Petunia ordered him out. Harry went to get the luggage. He wasn't certain what was going on and keeping calm seemed like a good strategy.
The large green front door opened and Harry froze at the sight of Remus.
"Ah, good! You're here." Remus waved at him. "Leave the luggage, Harry. It'll be taken care of."
Harry obediently set down Hedwig's cage and his trunk back in the boot. "Uh, Professor Lupin…"
"Remus, please, Harry." He smiled at him. "Inside and I'll explain everything."
Petunia ushered Harry into the house ahead of her.
"In the front room to your right, Harry, if you wouldn't mind." Remus pointed at the open door.
Harry stepped through into a comfortable looking sitting room. It was chintzy but suited his aunt's tastes perfectly.
"Your aunt and I thought you might like to join me dog-sitting, Harry." Remus offered as Harry opened his mouth to demand an explanation.
Harry gaped at him and then at his aunt. Dog-sitting? Did that mean they were going to spend the summer with Sirius? His mouth snapped shut. "Really?"
"Really." Remus smiled at him. "I just have a couple of things to clear up with your aunt and then we'll get going." He picked up a stack of documents from the coffee table. "I just need you to sign these, Petunia."
Petunia sniffed, ignored the quill Remus offered to her and drew a pen out of her bag. She quickly signed the papers.
Remus sorted them into two stacks and handed her one. "These are your copies. Harry and I will use this room for another ten minutes and then we'll be on our way. You should collect the rest of your family and stay here until your things are moved magically by our house elf tomorrow."
"Very well." Petunia sniffed. She darted a look at Harry and made for the door.
"Aunt Petunia," Harry said impulsively, "thank you." He really did mean it. He didn't know how Remus (and, or Sirius) had convinced her but he did appreciate her agreement.
She stopped in the doorway and gazed at him with a strange expression. "You'll be better off with your own kind." She looked over at Remus and almost looked as though she wanted to say something else but if she did, she thought better of it and walked out, pulling the door shut behind her.
"Well," Remus pulled his wand out, "stand still a moment, I just need to check…yes, here it is; one tracking charm." He plucked a mouse from his pocket, tapped Harry and then the mouse. "Kreacher!"
A house elf popped into the room and Harry took a startled step backwards.
"Kreacher, can you take this mouse to…I don't know…York, and leave it there, please." Remus asked politely.
Kreacher nodded sharply, took the mouse and disappeared again.
"Right. Now, Kreacher's already delivered your trunk and Hedwig's already there so it's just us." Remus grinned at him and handed him a piece of blank parchment.
The blankness disappeared as soon as Harry touched it, words scrolling across the paper. "Mr Padfoot invites Harry Potter to 12 Grimmauld Place."
"Now, keep the address firmly in your mind, Harry." Remus said. He held out a dog's chew toy. "Take hold of the toy. It's something called a portkey and will transport us to the address when I give the activation code."
Harry did so, repeating the address silently in his mind.
Remus grinned at him again. "Padfoot."
The world around them disappeared and Harry felt his stomach lurch as something tugged him. His landing was awful – he ended up in a heap on the floor.
"Harry!" Sirius's concerned voice had Harry lifting his head quickly.
"I'm OK." Harry claimed as his godfather helped him up off the floor.
As Sirius briskly checked him over, Harry couldn't get over how different Sirius looked; his hair was cut, his facial hair neatly trimmed, he had clean clothes and looked as though he'd put on some needed weight. There were traces of Azkaban still in his grey eyes and sharp cheekbones but he looked better, much better. Sirius hesitated for a moment before pulling him into a hug.
Harry tensed before he returned it, letting the older man's genuine affection wash over him. "I can't believe I'm here."
"We couldn't tell you just in case things didn't go to plan; I didn't want you to get your hopes up and be disappointed." Sirius apologised. He rubbed Harry's back briskly and stepped away but kept his arm around Harry's shoulders.
Harry looked around the room eagerly noting the crest on the wall and the functional furnishing of what seemed to be a waiting room with a floo. "Is this your house?"
"Yes, well, my family's really," Sirius explained, "otherwise known as the London residence of the House of Black."
"The house is under a Fidelius," Remus explained, gesturing absently with the chew toy he still held, "so Sirius can hide without anyone knowing where he is."
Sirius guided Harry over to the sofa and pushed him into it gently. "My family and I didn't get along because they were heavily into the Dark Arts and bought into the whole pureblood agenda. Most of my cousins and my late younger brother followed Voldemort." He sat down next to Harry and Remus sat opposite in a comfortable looking chair. "Anyway, I inherited the family title, wealth and estates when my grandfather died, but obviously I was in Azkaban and when I got out, I didn't want to have anything to do with any of it. But I realised when you helped me escape from Hogwarts that I should swallow my pride and accept my inheritance so I could get things done like hiring a solicitor and," he waggled his eyebrows at Harry, "clearing my name."
"I gave an interview but they wouldn't tell me," Harry couldn't help the surge of hope that rushed through him, "did you…are you…"
"Yep," Sirius smiled widely back at him, "as of this evening I am an innocent man according to the Ministry."
"It's going to be announced tomorrow." Remus added. "Full pardon and compensation. Wormtail is going to find himself a wanted man."
"That's brilliant!" Harry said and tried to ignore the rattling nerves in his gut as his mouth dried up. And it was brilliant: Sirius was free and that was fantastic but…but maybe Sirius hadn't meant his offer to live with him if arrangements had been made just for the summer so…
"The other thing," Sirius said roughly, his eyes raking over Harry as though he'd read his mind, "is that I'm hoping you still want to come live with me because, uh, we managed to get the Ministry and your dear aunt to agree that, um, as of this evening I'm your guardian."
Harry stared into the anxious eyes of his godfather. "You are?" He barely got the words out, his chest was so tight and he thought he might not be able to breathe. Sirius really wanted him?
"I am." Sirius confirmed more confidently. "Remus has the paperwork if you need proof. So, living with me?" He nudged Harry's shoulder. "That's OK with you? Because, as much as I want you living with me, I really, really, want you to be OK with this too."
He nodded quickly. "It's…it's…" Everything he had ever dreamed about when he was in his cupboard.
Harry felt his throat close up and his eyes prickled with sudden tears. Sirius wanted him. He was free of the Dursleys and could live with Sirius who actually wanted him, cared about him enough, maybe even loved him enough to arrange it so he would be Harry's guardian, and who hadn't run off and left Harry alone again…Harry had no idea what was going on as his emotions raged and his magic responded, flaring up and rattling the ornaments.
Sirius immediately tugged him into another hug and Harry stiffened again before he went with it, trying hard not to cry as he pressed into the unfamiliar sensation of the warmth and security of someone, a parent type person, holding him.
"It's OK, Pronglet." Sirius whispered. "Let it go. I've got you."
And Harry felt the first sob wrench out of him sharply before he surrendered and gave into the need to cry.