Chapter warning of mention of abuse
26th August 1995
Remus winced as Harry made another sharp turn in the sky and rubbed his head wearily.
"…and then the shark turned pink with purple polka dots." Sirius said, finishing the tale of scuba-diving in the Great Barrier Reef with aplomb – or at least Remus thought that was what the tale was about.
"Very nice, Pads." Remus said absently.
Sirius snorted loudly, finally dragging Remus's attention back to his old friend and away from Harry's flying. "You weren't listening, Moony."
"I was…" Remus caught Sirius's knowing look, "alright, alright, I wasn't listening! How can I listen when Harry is up there doing that?!"
"Flying?" asked Sirius dryly.
"Have you seen the acrobatics he's doing?!" Remus argued, turning away from the window and pacing back to his seat in front of Sirius's desk. "He's going to fall and…"
"And turn into Snitch and be perfectly fine." Sirius completed. He looked at Remus speculatively. "So, what's going on with you, Moony?"
Remus lasted for all of a second before he gave a frustrated cry and collapsed into his seat. "She's driving me mad!"
Sirius's lips twitched and Remus's eyes narrowed on his oldest friend. Sirius remained silent and expectant.
"I swear the last couple of weeks she's just trying to make me go grey!" Remus complained plaintively. "I mean, the food cravings are weird enough, and she can't sleep except on her back, so don't get me started on the snoring – or the need to visit the loo every five minutes, but then she keeps insisting on going for long walks around the Estate and into the Alley! She's bought out every shop! She can't possibly need anything else!"
Sirius calmly got up and walked over to the side cabinet. He poured a single glass of whiskey and brought it back to Remus.
"Drink it, Moony." Sirius ordered briskly.
Remus frowned but he followed the instruction. The warmth of the alcohol hit the back of his throat before flooding through the rest of him. He grimaced a little at the taste.
"So, Dora's very pregnant and she's driving you mad because you're in overprotective Moony mode." Sirius summarised sitting back down.
"That's…" began Remus indignantly before catching sight of Sirius's knowing grey eyes and deflating, "fairly accurate."
"Look, you only have another month." Sirius said soothingly. "And you'll have a wonderful baby boy at the end of it."
"I might not survive another month." Remus protested grumpily.
Sirius coughed to hide a laugh.
"I'm sure as my best friend you're supposed to be more supportive!" complained Remus. "Honestly? If she's not driving me nuts with her independence, it's her cravings or her suggestions for names!"
"I thought you'd settled on John Theodore?" queried Sirius with a touch of bewilderment.
Remus didn't blame him. They had settled on the name before Sirius had left for Australia but then…
"Dora decided it was too boring." Remus said tersely. "She wants to call our son Ziggy!"
Sirius wasn't quite quick enough to disguise the bark of laughter but he waved an apologetic hand and gestured at Remus. "What can I do to make it better, Moony?"
Remus sighed. "You're doing it." He admitted. It was good just to talk to Sirius face to face. "I missed you these past couple of weeks."
"The holiday was good." Sirius said. "For both me and Harry."
Remus nodded. He could see it had been in the healthy glow of Sirius's skin, the peaceful look in his eyes, and the good weight he'd put on.
"So is Simeon coming to Britain?" He asked, changing the subject away from his impending parentage and Dora's strange pregnancy quirks.
"Yes." Sirius said. "He wants to come closer to the family. But Anna wants to stay in Australia until the baby is born so they won't move until next Summer."
Remus nodded, remembering how chaotic his and Dora's move to the farm and back had been. "Makes sense."
"How about you?" Sirius pointed to the window where Harry's flying antics with some of the younger members of Remus's pack continued. "Pack settled in?"
"Yes, although they're pleased we're still keeping the farm as a second sanctuary until things get settled politically." Remus said.
"Patrick doing better?" Sirius asked.
Remus smiled at the mention of his beta. "He's doing very well. The prosthetic is great. He's getting better every day." And getting closer with Sian. Remus was almost certain they were sleeping together. "I've been invited to an Alpha meeting in Paris early next month. I think Gregor and Robert are keen to make the alliance permanent."
"Good." Sirius said. "Stability can only be a good thing, right?"
Remus nodded. "But it will mean my duties to the pack will take precedence at times and…"
"And we should really discuss whether it's appropriate for you to stay as our steward." Sirius finished.
"I'm staying." Remus said firmly, a stubborn glint appearing in his eye. "I just need help." He gestured with the empty glass. "If I was yours and Harry's steward only, it would be fine, but I also look after the Wenlock and the Malfoy estates, and now…"
"Nott's and Dumbledore's." Sirius winced.
"Well, to be fair, Albus only really left a lot of books. His personal wealth wasn't all that much." Remus allowed.
Sirius pointed at him. "What's your proposal?"
"Patrick can cover the paperwork and most of the duties associated with my Alpha duties and I get a secretary to assist him." Remus immediately began. "There's a young werewolf, Kevin, who has just joined us. I think he and Patrick would be a good team. That takes care of my pack's day to day needs."
"Clara still helping you with the steward duties?" Sirius asked.
Remus nodded. "I want to put her in charge of the Black estates under my supervision."
Sirius inclined his head in agreement.
"I'll retain the Potter estates personally." Remus stressed. He didn't want to put Harry's future into anybody else's hands.
"That still leaves all the others." Sirius said dryly.
"Christopher Wenlock begins his service at the beginning of September." Remus reminded him. They'd had a meeting with the Wenlocks just before the trip to Australia. While their mother was still frosty towards Sirius and Harry, the kids were respectful and pleased to be included in the discussions of their future. "I'd like to put him in charge of looking after his own estates, mentoring him in that so he learns. The aim would be that once he has shown he can be a good steward, we'd expand his duties to other estates."
"And in the meantime?" prompted Sirius.
"I'd like to hire someone else to be the steward for the Malfoy and Nott estates." Remus concluded. "I have a candidate in mind." He passed over a single piece of parchment.
"Viktor Krum?" Sirius's voice was heavy with surprise and incredulity.
Remus smiled smugly. "Krum took a curse which means he's healing for the next year and out of Quidditch. He wants to stay in England and continue his courtship of Natalie Warren – it wouldn't surprise me if they announced an engagement. They've barely been separated since the battle."
"Hmmm." Sirius placed the parchment down. "So, you stay as steward, delegate more to your deputies and supervise two juniors? This right?"
"Wenlock and Krum both took Estate Management at Durmstrang. Wenlock was being groomed by his father to take over eventually and knows most of the Wenlock estate. Krum similarly has been taught by his father in regards to his own estate." Remus said firmly. "Neither are starting from scratch."
"Fine." Sirius gave in with a huff.
"I would have thought you'd be more pleased I've found a solution that allows me to stay on." Remus said, a touch aggrieved.
Sirius sat forward, leaning on the desk and clasping his hands. "Remus, you and I both know that you only took the job because you wanted to help me and help Harry, and the steward's position gave you a way of doing that and earning your keep – your words not mine." His grey eyes pinned Remus's gaze and he was unable to look away. "I would have happily have had you simply live with us as our friend and Harry's honorary Uncle Mooey, but you and I both know your pride wouldn't have accepted that."
Remus flushed because Sirius was right.
"And back then I could see you needed a reason to feel needed, to have something solid that gave you an excuse to be in Harry's life." Sirius continued. "But that was then. Right now, you're family. You're a member of the House of Black because you're Dora's husband. You don't have to create a reason to stay in our lives; you'll always be a part of the family. Merlin, you would be even if you weren't married to Dora and didn't want the steward's job anymore."
"I know that!" Remus felt compelled to say.
"Then why are you so determined to stay on as steward?" asked Sirius. "You can't tell me you wouldn't rather be writing books or teaching or both! If you took on the pack fully, and took a paying job as the Pack's Alpha – which you could because I know we set the terms of the trust for the Pack to ensure the salary was included – you could do that."
Remus sighed and slumped back in his chair. He gathered his thoughts into some kind of order before he looked back to Sirius and caught his gaze again. "I know in my heart that you'd never turn me away, that I don't need to your steward to be part of your lives. I know that. I also accept that there are other jobs I might prefer to do."
"But?" prompted Sirius gently.
"But last year I promised you I wouldn't walk away this time and…and not being your steward? It feels like walking away." Remus stopped there because the lump in his throat wouldn't let him continue.
Sirius sat back and nodded slowly. "Alright but we'll review this when Harry graduates from Hogwarts."
The relief almost turned his bones to jelly.
Remus gave his own swift nod of agreement. "That sounds fair."
Sirius gave a low hum.
"When do we find out about his exam results?" Remus asked, changing the subject.
Sirius shot him a look which told him he knew exactly what Remus was doing, but he cleared his throat to answer. "Tomorrow. We have a meeting with Minnie just before the memorial match."
Remus glanced out towards the window where Harry was still flying. "Will he play?"
"I'm not sure." For a moment, Sirius's face showed his worry and concern. "He'll play if he's ready." He glanced back towards the portrait of his grandfather. "Some things just take time."
Remus frowned wondering if he'd done the right thing to push Sirius to make peace with his grandfather's memory.
Dobby popped in right beside him and it took all of Remus's control not to shriek like a startled teen. He glared at the elf.
Dobby glared right back at him. "Miss Dora be wanting something called Weetabix dipped into peanut butter sauce. Mipsy panicked called me."
"It's a muggle cereal." Sirius offered helpfully.
Remus got up knowing his day was going to be spent hunting down his wife's latest craving in a muggle supermarket. "Tell Mipsy I'll take care of it, Dobby." The elf assigned to the Estate was wonderful with the Pack but she was always nervous about telling him anything that might even hint she was criticising Dora.
Dobby popped out and Remus turned to leave. He was almost at the door when Sirius called out to him. He turned back inquisitively, one hand on the door.
"I'm glad you're staying, Moony." Sirius said simply.
"I love you too, Pads." Remus said. He cleared the threshold and started to close the door. It was almost closed when he heard a soft sigh and…
"Time to wake up, Grandfather."
Remus closed the door and smiled.
Because he'd been watching him closely, Harry saw the moment when Dougal attempted to evade a bird and slipped from the broom.
He immediately dived after the falling boy and managed to get alongside him within seconds. Harry reached out and grabbed Dougal, pulling him onto Harry's broom. Dougal clung onto him tightly as the broom lurched. Harry focused on keeping control as they descended. He was relieved when he steered them down without incident.
Dougal was shaking as he clambered off Harry and he lowered himself to the grass with evident relief.
Harry summoned the runaway broom which Dougal had fallen from. The broom zoomed through the sky and stopped beside Harry, hovering in mid-air a couple of feet from the ground.
Dougal looked at the broom with horror. "I'm not getting back on that!"
"You should." Harry insisted firmly. "You over-adjusted when you evaded the pigeon; that's why you fell. You just need to get back on and get over it."
"I fell!" Dougal pointed out fiercely. "I would have been a pancake if you hadn't caught me!"
"But I did," Harry said, "and that's why you should always have someone with you until you get really competent; you're still learning." He dismounted and sat down beside the younger boy. "You can't let this get to you. I have this friend, Ginny? She fell off a broom last Summer. It was a really bad fall and she broke her arm. But she didn't let it stop her. She kept flying and she helped her team win the Quidditch cup."
Dougal lowered his head, his blond bangs falling into his eyes. "I'm scared." He muttered in such a low voice, Harry almost couldn't hear him.
He searched for the right words to say. "It's always scary," he began, "when you fall or something goes wrong and you get hurt. Because when you get up and have to face doing it again, you know how it felt when it went wrong, when you got hurt."
"So why do it again?" Dougal asked.
"Because if you don't face your fear and get back on the broom, you're letting yourself be constrained by it and you're denying yourself an experience which you love and enjoy." Harry said. "The fear will have won."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Harry's whole body vibrated with a realisation, an epiphany. Wasn't he doing the same as Dougal avoiding the Quidditch pitch? Yes, he'd almost died but he'd survived.
He'd lived and he deserved to fully live.
And maybe that was the thing he should focus on.
Dougal gave a heartfelt sigh and pushed off the ground. He reached for his discarded broom with a stubbornly determined look. "Alright. I'll go up again but…"
"I'll be with you." Harry promised, scrambling to his own feet.
The thought stayed with him as he and Sirius wandered into Hogwarts to get the results of the exams Harry had sat earlier in the Summer. Harry couldn't help but notice the bustling school preparing for the memorial match.
"You alright?" asked Sirius. "You've been pretty quiet since we got back from the Estate yesterday."
"Just thinking about things." Harry said as they moved through a restored corridor; its pristine walls and floor gave no sign of the battle that had been waged within it.
"Anything I can help you with?" Sirius asked.
Harry shook his head. "Something I have to work out for myself." He smiled at Sirius. "But thanks."
Sirius smiled back at him as they approached the gargoyle. "This have anything to do with you bringing your broomstick with you?"
Harry flushed he'd hoped Sirius wouldn't have noticed the shrunken broom in his robe pocket.
"Maybe." Harry gave a half-shrug and turned to the gargoyle. Before he could say the password the gargoyle moved granting them access.
He and Sirius continued up the stairs.
Sirius knocked sharply on the door before they entered.
Minerva sat behind her desk and to the side were Flitwick, Sprout, Babbling and Moody. The latter two Professors were new Heads for Gryffindor and Slytherin. "Come on in, Harry; Sirius." She waved and a set of chairs sprang up for them.
Sirius ushered Harry into one and took the other. "Well, how'd he go?"
Minerva smiled warmly at Harry. "Welcome back to Hogwarts and Gryffindor, Mister Potter."
Harry grinned back at her. He'd thought he'd done enough to secure his place in the school but it was good to know for certain. "Thank you, Professor."
Sirius clasped his shoulder for a moment. "Well done, kiddo."
"Now, we need to cover your lesson plan for this year." Minerva said tapping the parchment in front of her. "You've achieved Outstanding passes in your Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL, your Charms and Transfiguration."
Harry bit his lip. He hadn't realised he'd sat his OWLs! He'd thought they were just end of year exams.
"Your practical in your Defence OWL is also noted as an Outstanding grade at NEWT level." Minerva continued. "But we need to bring up your theory knowledge before you could sit that."
Harry darted a glance at Sirius who looked torn between glee, pride and shock.
Sirius took a breath and seemed to pull himself together. "Independent lessons then?"
Moody nodded. "You'll be taking your Defence with me, Potter."
Harry gave the old auror a smile. He liked Moody and he couldn't think of a better Head of House for Slytherin in the wake of the battle.
"And independent lesson plans with both Professor Flitwick and myself." Minerva said. "We'll obviously cover your Charms and Transfiguration lessons." She gestured. "You may have heard that I have appointed Miss Warren to the position of Associate Transfiguration Professor and as such she will only take the lower years. I'll retain schooling of the NEWT classes until she secures her Mastery."
Harry nodded in understanding.
Professor Babbling smiled happily at him. "I am also thrilled to say you also passed your OWL in Runes with an Outstanding. Do you wish to proceed to the NEWT class?"
"Please." He really enjoyed Runes and he was looking forward to the class. Hermione had also passed her OWL and would take the NEWT with him.
"The other classes will be taken with your year group." Minerva said. "On those classes combined, you came an overall fourth in your year, Harry, which given the…the distractions you faced is a remarkable achievement."
Sirius beamed at him, the picture of a proud father.
"You'll move back into the dorms and be required to wear the usual school uniform." Minerva continued.
Harry nodded. He'd expected that and, while the idea of moving back into the dorm did worry him, he figured Ron and Neville would support him through it.
"With one addition." Minerva concluded.
Harry frowned at her.
Her lips twitched and she tossed a badge to him.
He caught it automatically just like he had caught every snitch. He opened his fist and in his palm lay a shiny prefect badge.
"But…" he began.
"You and the four students who participated in the spell are being made Special Prefects." Minerva said briskly. "It recognises the service and the bond you have with Hogwarts. Of course, the other usual house prefects will receive their badges today. They received special letters this morning."
Harry wondered if Hermione had get one. She had been slightly despondent when the usual school letter had arrived without a badge attached to it. Luckily Minerva had been there to explain that the prefect positions would be announced with the memorial.
"I would also encourage you to try-out for the Quidditch team." Babbling said. "It would be good for Gryffindor to retain the trophy."
"And on the subject of Quidditch," Minerva said briskly, rising, "we should make a move and start to get things organised for today's match."
"Perhaps I could have a word with Harry while you are gone?"
Harry froze at the sound of Albus Dumbledore's voice. His eyes flickered up and left to the portrait he'd missed when he'd entered.
"Albus…" began Minerva in an exasperated remonstrative tone that told Harry she had warned the former Headmaster from making demands and had been ignored. The other Professors were also shooting looks of disapproval at the portrait.
"It's alright." Harry said before she could really get going.
Minerva looked at him sharply. "Are you certain, Harry?"
He nodded. If he was going to get back on the broom, he wasn't going to do it half-heartedly. He'd quite enjoyed talking with his Grandpa Black.
Sirius's hand landed warm on the back of his neck. "Do you want me to stay?"
Harry shook his head.
Sirius squeezed gently and let go.
"Actually, Sirius, I'd like to speak with you on something." Minerva said. "Why don't we use your old rooms? Harry can join you there when he's done."
Sirius nodded. "Lead the way."
Within moments, Harry found himself alone in the office.
"I am sorry, my boy," Dumbledore's portrait said, "I did not mean to put you on the spot."
"Yes, you did." Harry replied evenly. "If you really didn't mean to, you wouldn't have done it."
"Perhaps," Dumbledore said quickly, "but I felt it was important we speak after what happened. When you didn't come to see me after the funeral I believed I should take the next opportunity."
"We have spoken." Harry corrected the portrait. "I spoke with you through the Veil in my dreams. You told me you were ready for your next adventure especially as you wouldn't have lived long with the injury you took; that I shouldn't feel guilty; that dealing with the aftermath of a war was tough."
Dumbledore's portrait seemed completely taken aback. "Extraordinary."
Fawkes flashed into the office and flew to land on Harry's shoulder. He trilled at him gently. Harry let the bird soothe him.
"I'm the Master of the Hallows." Harry said, rubbing Fawkes's head. "I'll always be able to call them and use their powers."
"That amount of power…" cautioned the portrait.
"Is dangerous." Harry nodded. "The wand and the stone will cease to work when I die." He knew that like he knew the shape of his own hand. It just was. "Their purpose will have been served."
"Purpose?" questioned Dumbledore.
Harry wasn't unaware their conversation was gathering attention with the other portraits.
Hogwarts stirred, the dragon opening her eyes and staring out into the office. "The portraits are compelled to keep the Headmaster's secrets. They will not speak of anything you say to anyone else."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I'm not the Headmaster yet."
"Yes," Hogwarts said dryly, "you are and have been since you appointed the four who woke me. You just haven't assumed the position formally yet."
Harry accepted that. He guessed she would know better than anyone else.
"I died." Harry said starkly.
Fawkes let out another soothing trill.
"I don't remember much of it." Harry continued. "Just…overwhelming sense of peace and my parents' love mostly." He hesitated and forced himself to say the rest. "And Death."
Dumbledore's portrait had finally lost his twinkling eyes. "You spoke with Death?"
"Not exactly." Harry closed his eyes. "I stood with Death on every battlefield, I was the Raven on his shoulder, the dead around us and the Grim at our feet. I was in every moment of time, every possibility that was and will be." He opened his eyes and looked at Dumbledore. "It's my past and my future."
"Death's Champion." Hogwarts said solemnly.
Harry nodded. "I thought it was just about Riddle but…but it's more than that. Plans and actions put into motion centuries ago."
He felt the surge of butterflies in his stomach again because there were glimpses of the future he could only just sense; things to come that he'd Seen. Things he'd been denying and blindly ignoring as his body healed and his mind tried to make sense of it all.
But he was done being afraid. It was time to get back onto the broom.
Harry tilted his head towards Dumbledore. "I want to thank you. Both for Sirius and for me – we wouldn't be here if you hadn't stepped up."
The portrait Dumbledore looked pleased. "You are more than welcome."
Harry turned back to Hogwarts as Fawkes remained a stalwart weight on his shoulder. "Hogwarts."
"Yes, Headmaster." The dragon replied in parseltongue, an amused understanding flitting across her reptilian features.
"What can you tell me about Avalon?" Harry asked.
The dragon stirred, wings stretching out for a long moment before settling again. She looked at Harry almost approvingly. "There is a tale of a Once and Future King…" she began.
Harry sat back to listen.
It was much later when he left the office. He hurried to his and Sirius's old quarters, certain that Sirius was probably worried. He wasn't wrong. He found Sirius in his old room, looking out of the window at the busy rebuilt Quidditch pitch. It was teeming with people.
He saw Sirius's relief at the sight of him written as bold and brash across Sirius's face before his father managed to wrangle his expression under control.
"Good talk?" asked Sirius.
"Yeah," Harry smiled sheepishly, "I got talking to Hogwarts." He sat down beside Sirius in the window seat. "I asked her about Avalon."
Sirius's eyebrows rose and he peered at Harry speculatively.
"I carry Merlin's legacy." Harry said. "Hermione now carries Morgana's. I don't think that's a coincidence."
"No." Sirius agreed with surprising solemnity. "Probably not." He gazed at Harry with silver eyes that suddenly saw too much. "When you…" he stopped as though he was unable to actually say the words, "when you…how long did you spend with Death?"
"A second." Harry said. "An eternity." He gazed back at his father. "And you were always there beside me."
Sirius reached over and cupped his shoulder. "And I always will be." His lips twitched. "Whether magic tethers me to you or not."
Harry leaned into the touch, relaxing for the first time in what seemed forever. A movement outside the window caught his eye – the Gryffindor banner had been raised and was flying high from the North corner of the pitch.
Sirius patted his shoulder and slipped off the seat. "Try not to give Remus a heart attack with the tricks you do."
Harry grinned, contentment that Sirius just knew what Harry intended rushing through him in a wave of pleasure that Sirius knew him. He shooed Sirius from the room and called Dobby – there was a uniform he needed to put on.
He was more than a little surprised he didn't meet anyone on his way to the pitch – the corridors and staircases of Hogwarts silent and echoing with his footsteps. He jogged down the pathway, not slowing at the line of students waiting at the new players' entrance to the pitch. He saw the faces of some light up, some grinned knowingly, as he passed them. He got to the front of the line where Ron goggled at him with an open mouth and Draco rolled his eyes expressively.
Harry ignored them and nudged a widely-grinning Ginny. "Can I cut in, Gin?"
"You have to loan me your broom for my try-outs next year." Ginny retorted, her brown eyes shining with a familiar Weasley mischief.
"Done." Harry said breezily.
She stepped out of the line with an exaggerated step and ushered him into it with a sweep of her arm. She was giggling as the Gryffindor Chasers pulled her back into the line by them.
Ron finally closed his mouth and motioned at him. "I thought…"
"Have to get back on the broom sometime." Harry said with a shrug.
Ron looked at him but seemed to think better about whatever he'd been about to say. "Well…just make sure you get the Snitch."
Draco sniffed. "Don't expect me to go easy on you, Cousin."
Harry just grinned back.
"Right, then!" Ron turned to the waiting lines. "Don't forget the rules! Full team out at the start. Seekers stay on, two players change at the whistle on both teams! Players can swap roles about but you should try and play the positions which are coming off! Beaters will swap out first, then Chasers, then Keepers! Any questions?"
There was a snicker of laughter further down the line but everyone nodded, faces slightly anxious but eager to get going.
"And NOW," Lee Jordan's voice sounded over the pitch, "let's welcome the players to this Hogwarts' Memorial Pick-Up Match!"
And the game was on.
Theo watched as the first set of players took to the sky. He almost smiled as Harry was announced as one of the Seekers. He'd known the other boy wouldn't let his fear dictate his actions for long. After all, Potter was nothing if not a Gryffindor. Beside him he could see Blaise handing over a galleon to a smugly satisfied Neville while the Patil twins smiled at their antics.
On his other side, Ted Tonks gently poked him. "Alright, Theo?"
Theo nodded. Ted was a comforting solid presence. He was so unlike Theo's Father in so many ways that it was a blessing, and yet Theo knew Ted cared about him already; saw him as a son already. It was evident in everything Ted did to make Theo welcome; to ensure he had all he needed. Theo might have felt guilty for the affection he already felt for the other wizard but he knew his own father would want nothing more for him than to be safe and happy. Benjamin Nott had given his life to make that happen after all.
If he understood Ted, Theo was at a bit of a loss about the women in his new family. Dora was a constant surprise. So unlike the pureblood women Theo had been socially exposed to with his father's set of friends, yet so funny and kind and smart…she was a character. She was also settling into a big sister role with him so fast, Theo was hard pressed to remember when she hadn't been part of his life.
He was looking forward to the baby; to being an honorary uncle even if he wasn't certain the latest name for the baby boy would stick. Remus hadn't looked all that happy at the idea of calling his son Romulus and Theo couldn't blame him, but Dora looked equally unhappy at John.
Andy was a revelation. She was at the same time the epitome of a pureblood lady and the antithesis of one. She had the manners and style of a lady but her kindness and her generosity were astounding to Theo. He barely knew what to do with her maternal care. He had never truly had a mother figure before. But he figured he could quickly come to love it and her.
No, Theo was pleased. Harry and Sirius had welcomed him to the House of Black and already he felt part of the family.
His eyes strayed to the sky to where Harry was already leading Draco on a merry chase and smiled. Harry Potter was destined for great things; Theo was sure of that. The defeat of Riddle was only the beginning.
And Theo would be part of it, helping him, supporting him.
Theo missed his father but his future was something he looked forward to living.
"Oh my goodness!"
Percy tugged Penny closer to him at her exclamation at Harry's manoeuvre. His arm was around her shoulder and it felt good to have her close. He smiled back as she smiled up at him warmly.
He was pleased they'd decided to try again; pleased she'd given him a second chance. They'd taken things slowly all Summer, gradually getting to know each other again.
Percy hoped Penny could see how he'd changed. He winced remembering how stuck-up he'd been about his Ministerial job; how puffed up and self-important. He had been a prig.
His hand strayed to his belly where the faint scars of the werewolf scratches still remained. He had been so lucky. He had more of a taste for red meat and he'd noticed he was restless around the full moon but he wasn't a werewolf.
His new job was a good one. Working in Brian Cutter's office as a legal secretary was giving him valuable experience and, alongside his legal apprenticeship he was on his way to becoming a legal advocate for witches and wizards with special circumstances.
He sneaked another look at Penny; at her rosy cheeks and smiling lips; her bright eyes as they tracked Harry through the sky.
Yes, thought Percy with satisfaction. It might not have been the future he had dreamed about, but he was happy with the future ahead of him.
Amelia accepted the binoculars Brian handed her and peered with pride as Susan took to the sky, changing places in the pick-up game with a Chaser. Sue flew with confidence, dipping and diving. Amelia lowered the binoculars.
Beside her Richard winced and shifted his weight.
"Your ankle's fine." Amelia told her brother with exasperation.
"It hurts." Richard complained.
"You haven't been doing your exercises." Flick said, tucking her arm around her husband and leaning into him.
Richard grimaced. "They're silly."
"They're supposed to strengthen your muscles." Amelia retorted. "Honestly, Richard. If you don't want to start walking with a cane, do your exercises!"
"Yes, Mother." Richard said and stuck his tongue out at her.
"Merlin," Flick said laughing, "anyone would think you were Sue's age!"
They all turned to look at the young girl weaving in and out of the hoops.
"She's doing better, isn't she?" Richard said quietly.
"Much better." Amelia agreed. "She said she's looking forward to coming back to school and making a new start."
"She has good friends." Flick said warmly. "The alliance kids have been there for her." She smiled a little. "She and Neville seem to have picked each other up."
Richard frowned. "Neville?"
Flick slapped his arm playfully. "Not like that." Her amusement dimmed. "I don't think Sue will think about boys for a while. She misses Cedric a great deal."
Richard nodded but Amelia could read the relief in his eyes; relief that as a father he didn't have to worry about his little girl being with boys.
"Have you seen the Abbotts?" Amelia asked wondering if they were attending.
Richard shook his head. "Leonard flooed me yesterday. They're going abroad for a while. He's asked me to be his proxy."
"I can't say I blame them." Flick added. "I'm not sure I'd cope with the unremitting gossip here either." She sighed. "Karen won't even talk to me."
"It's a very difficult time for them." Amelia said.
Brian nodded beside her. "I've seen it happen with a lot of families who have a son or a daughter in prison. The shame and the guilt can be worse for them than for the culprit. A lot of people move homes trying to find somewhere they're not known."
Richard sighed heavily. "I think you're right. I think they're going to stay abroad and – truthfully? I think that's got to be the right move for them."
"As much as I hate what Hannah did to Sue," Flick shook her head, tears gleaming, "it could so easily have been the other way around if Crouch had targeted Susan and not Hannah."
Amelia nodded. She was so deeply grateful that Crouch had looked to Hannah first. Of course, she didn't discount that Crouch might have discarded Sue as an option due to her own familial relationship with her. If it had made a difference in his choice, she couldn't help be thankful as guilty as that made her feel about Hannah.
She hoped the combination of prison and mind-healing would be the right one for the girl who had spent so many years of childhood as Sue's best friend.
Her thought drifted as her eyes returned to the game. It had been a long Summer since the battle but a good one. It had been difficult dealing with the trials and the fallout of the battle but it had been worth it.
On a personal level, her family was safe; Sue was healing from the wounds she'd sustained with Hannah's betrayal and the death of her boyfriend. Richard was alive and well, his wife providing her family with love and support.
Professionally, Amelia couldn't remember a better time. Politically the landscape was stable; the Wizengamot revitalised and reformed. Cornelius was proving, with the right guidance, he could be a formidable Minister. Bertie was reinvigorating the DOM with new blood and new ideas. Her own patch was also re-energised. The losses they'd taken in the battle seemed to have bonded the Auror and Hit Wizard forces. There were more new recruits than ever.
She glanced over to where Sirius stood with the rest of the Houses of Black and Potter. Her lips twitched.
"What are you thinking?" asked Brian in a low voice, his mouth close to her ear.
Amelia turned to him and smiled. "Do you remember telling me how you thought Lord Black would shake things up?"
Brian's eyes widened as he recalled the moment in the corridor just after they'd convinced Cornelius to give over the custody. "I do. You said you'd look forward to it."
"Well, I might not have enjoyed every minute," Amelia said wryly, "but I'm so glad he did it."
Brian gave her an understanding smile, his arm sliding around her waist. She gave into the urge to lean against him. That reminded her…
"Brian," Amelia whispered, "how do you feel about a trip to Italy?"
Bill rocked as Charlie punched his arm with overexcited enthusiasm.
"Did you see Ginny make that turn?!" Charlie shook his head. "How did she do that?!"
"Ow." Bill stated, staring pointedly at his brother.
Charlie didn't pay attention, his eyes already back on the sky. "She's good."
"She's very good. I'm sure she's going to go into Quidditch." His mother said loudly.
Bill looked at his Mum shocked. He was beginning to think maybe the Wiccan ritual had given his mother a personality transplant. She had actually congratulated Bill on his assignment in Paris and had helped him pack.
"We probably should look at getting her a better broom, Arthur."
Bill exchanged a 'did Mum really say that' look with his Dad who shrugged and grinned, his freckled face alight with pride.
"Right you are, Mollywobbles." His Dad replied.
"She shoots! She scores!" Charlie whooped.
"Excellent play!" Percy agreed, dragging his attention away from Penny for a moment.
Bill shook his head and returned his own attention to the game where Ginny was exchanging high fives with another Gryffindor team-mate Katie Bell.
Across the pitch Fred, George and Ron were applauding their sister's run even if they had ended up on the other team.
"Your sister is a natural, non?" Fleur said, suddenly reminding Bill that he'd played host to his French tutor.
"She is." Bill said. "I don't think my Mum's wrong. I think she's headed for a Quidditch team." Especially since his sister had embraced finding her own path and stopped focusing on becoming Lady Potter.
"She is good." Fleur said and huddled into her coat when a blast of wind caught them by surprise.
Bill offered up a warming charm and Fleur smiled at him prettily. She was stunning and smart; very smart. When they'd been introduced at Gringotts they'd immediately recognised each other and Fleur had apologised for her behaviour at the school when she'd had a crush on him. He had suggested they begin with a clean slate.
They'd started a friendship which Bill was already coming to treasure. Fleur had provided him with a sympathetic ear about Caroline and had been a stalwart support as he'd adjusted to working for Gringotts again and prepared for his latest assignment. He enjoyed her company but he wasn't ready for anything more than friendship, and he rather thought Fleur was happy with the status quo too. Maybe one day that would change and there would certainly be opportunity as Fleur would be part of his team in Paris.
He was due to leave that week.
He was looking forward to it. He would stay in the Black apartment but he had already secured a standing invitation to the Delacours who had offered to show him around, and he had a challenging assignment to complete.
The next couple of years would be busy, he had no doubt about that. But Bill was determined to keep up the bonds he'd re-established with the rest of his family, the friendships he'd formed with Sirius, Harry and Remus. There would be a service to the House of Potter once he was finished with Gringotts and building a future for his own House to make a difference again.
He still didn't know if Caroline had been right but he would live his life to the full and ensure her sacrifice was worth it.
Draco rolled his eyes at the Weasley brothers celebrating their sister's goal. They were on the competing team! Still, he couldn't deny that the Weaslette was proving to be a very good Chaser. The Gryffindor team was going to be hard to beat in the coming school year especially with Harry resuming his previous place as Seeker.
Harry was across the other side of the pitch running interference with Fred and George to help Ginny and the Bell girl score. He wasn't actively looking for the snitch which was so far remaining elusive.
Draco was hovering and keeping a look out. Well, he would have preferred to have followed Harry around as he had at the start since he suspected Harry had some preternatural ability to spot the snitch and therefore the best strategy was to follow him and hope he could beat him to it once it was spotted. But this was a friendly match and he had eschewed his chase of Harry for a wait-and-see approach instead.
He shook his head.
He would never have believed that he would be so close to Potter; so close to Lord Black; so estranged from his father.
But it had happened.
His gaze drifted to where his mother sat in the stands, Regina in her arms.
Draco wasn't ashamed to admit if only to himself that he was head over heels about his new baby sister. She was beautiful. A tiny perfect human being who Draco was determined would never know Lucius Malfoy.
His father was banished to South America and a Malfoy plantation there. By all accounts he was drinking heavily and spending most of his days sozzled. Draco didn't wish his father dead but he was happy the man was out of his life. He still had nightmares from the alternative events Hogwarts had shown to him.
It felt strangely right that his future was with the school. He was actually looking forward to teaching; to being a Head of House. It would be a new start for the House of Malfoy, a better start. One that would give his baby sister everything she would ever need.
A glint of gold caught his eye.
And Potter nowhere in sight!
Draco dived after it gleefully.
Augusta watched as Harry managed to intercept Draco's run and completely disrupt it, ensuring the Snitch remained free. She rather suspected he'd done it so the game played on.
It was a touching sight. So many students had turned up to take part in the pick-up game. They were all cheering each other on regardless of the team. And so many parents were doing the same.
Her eyes strayed to where Neville stood with Blaise.
She felt a moment's satisfaction at how happy Blaise looked. He had stayed with them the whole Summer and looked better for it. She was quite certain the mind healing had helped him come to terms more with his relationship with his mother. Nora Zabini was still abroad and apparently seeing some Romanian Duke.
Blaise was quite enamoured with the Patil girl but Padma had a good head on her shoulders and it looked like quite a good match. Unlike her grandson and Padma's sister. Parvati was a nice enough girl but not for Neville.
Augusta smiled to herself. She wondered if any girl would ever be good enough for her grandson. But she hoped that once he was over the disaster with the Abbott girl, he would find a good match, the same way Frank had found a match in Alice.
Her heart ached a little at the thought of her son and his wife. She had moved them with Neville's blessing to a care home near to their manor. They would be well taken care of and they could visit often. It seemed a better environment than that of Saint Mungo's. Neville was pleased with the arrangement and that was the only thing that mattered to Augusta.
She watched as Neville laughed at something Blaise said but turned in a gentlemanly fashion to the girl beside him to include her in the joke.
He was such a good boy, she thought on a swell of pride. He had come into his own that year with Harry's friendship and the support they'd both received from Sirius and the House of Black. She believed Neville had a wonderful future ahead of him.
She looked forward to seeing it; to being there to see it. To watch him as he did find a girl he loved; to watch him walk down the aisle. She would hold great-grandchildren in her arms one day and she would happily tell them what a wonderful man their father was; what a hero he was on the day Harry Potter had defeated Tom Riddle.
And so she would continue to build a world that would be safe for Neville and his future children. Her work in the alliance was important and she wouldn't step away from it until it was time for Neville to take her place.
Neville turned to her as though he had felt her regard and raised an inquisitive eyebrow, asking silently if all was well.
Augusta smiled back at him and nodded. She had Neville, alive and whole. Her world was perfect.
Neville smiled back at his Gran and turned his attention back to the game. Draco had started shadowing Harry and the two seemed to be engaged in a spirited discussion. Probably about how Harry had thwarted Draco's glory.
Neville simply grinned and held out his hand.
Blaise grumbled and put a galleon in it. "That's so not fair." He said. "When we made that bet, Weasley was the Seeker."
"You really didn't think Harry would miss this did you?" asked Neville.
He had been pretty certain Harry would overcome his trepidation and get back onto the Quidditch pitch. But he could understand the trepidation.
Harry had died.
Harry had died protecting them. If it hadn't been for his bond to Sirius, they would have lost Harry the night of the battle. Neville couldn't help feeling grateful at the quirk of magic that had kept his friend alive.
He still felt his own trepidation about moving on and beginning to date again. He wasn't really on a date with Parvati. He was simply providing company for her while she accompanied her sister as a favour to Blaise.
He whistled as Harry dove for the ground, fooling Draco into following him and forcing the Slytherin Seeker to cut up his own team's run at the goals. Neville laughed and shook his head.
"Draco is going to go ballistic." Blaise said grinning widely.
"Krum taught Harry that move when they practiced together." Neville said cheerfully.
Blaise nodded. "Well, I think I know how this is going to end."
Neville didn't doubt the outcome either.
Harry was going to win.
After all, hadn't he already won just by stepping back onto the pitch? By facing his fear? And if Harry could face something so momentous as dying then…
Neville took a breath. He turned to Parvati and cleared his throat. "Parvati, how would you like to go on a date with me our first weekend back at Hogwarts?"
Parvati's head snapped around to him so fast, he was worried she had injured herself.
Her dark eyes were wide with surprise. "Really?!"
Neville nodded. "I'd like to take you on a real date."
"Oh Merlin!" Parvati squealed and clapped her hands together, happiness lighting up her face. "I have to find Lavender and tell her!" She took two steps away from him before she suddenly realised she hadn't actually answered him and swung back around. "I mean, YES!"
Neville grinned and waved her away to find Lavender. He turned back to the game, feeling pleased with himself.
"Really?" Padma said dryly.
Neville glanced at her.
Padma rolled her eyes and handed Blaise a galleon.
Neville shot his friend an incredulous look.
Blaise grinned at him. "Reckless Gryffindor courage at its finest." He slapped Neville on the back. "Never change, Nev."
And Neville burst out laughing.
Ron grinned as the whistle went and he retook to the skies. He exchanged places with Seamus who handed him the beater's bat with a wide smile.
Beater wasn't Ron's best position but the rules said the players swapping had to play the position which was up. Only the Seekers stayed the whole game in the same position as they were the only players exempt from swapping at the whistle.
He really hoped he'd still be in the air when the snitch was caught. He was glad he had ended up back on Harry's team. He was even gladder that Harry had decided to play.
He still felt bad about the argument they'd had earlier in the Summer. He hadn't meant to put Harry under any pressure, it was just…it was just important to him.
The match was about more than Quidditch.
It was about remembering the night of the battle and everyone who had fought; everyone who had lost their lives making sure Riddle and Crouch didn't win; everyone who had succeeded and come away with scars.
It was about retaking back Hogwarts and shouting aloud that the damage they'd done wasn't lasting; wasn't going to stop them.
Ron knew Harry knew it was important though and he'd been stupid to push him. He'd apologised and Harry had explained enough that Ron had apologised again and backed off completely. Ron figured there was more to Harry's previous reticence than simply not wanting to step foot where Riddle had been, where he'd had to end Riddle. Ron was confident that Harry would tell him when he was ready.
But then Harry being Harry had come through in the end. Just like he always did.
And in the meantime…
Ron smashed the bludger towards Angelina who'd ended up as a chaser on the other team. She dodged it but had to pass the quaffle and she shot him a look. He grinned back at her.
He felt a sense of peace steal over him as he flew over to intercept a bludger headed for Harry.
This, thought Ron contentedly, was his future. Hogwarts. Himself, Harry and their other friends. Probably Hermione would take over in the infirmary once she became a healer. Luna was convinced Neville would one day join as a Herbology Professor.
It would be great.
Even better his Mum fully supported Ron going into Quidditch first. Actually, his Mum was supporting all of them. It was weird. She hadn't yelled at Bill for going to Paris, or Ginny for saying she wanted to be a professional Quidditch player.
Ron shook his head. Bill's theory was that the Wiccan ritual had somehow affected her but Hermione had laughed at that. Her theory was simpler; that his Mum was just pleased that her family had survived to live the lives they wanted.
Ron glanced back to the stands where his family was gathered. They were really lucky. Apart from Fred's ear, some bruises and scratches…they'd all come through relatively unscathed. He didn't think he'd ever take his family for granted again. The night of the battle had given him a glimpse of how terrifying it would be to lose them.
And no money or title or recognition would have made up for losing any one of them.
His gaze moved to Harry weaving in and out in a lazy pattern on the other side of the pitch.
Ron was done being envious. Ron was pleased his friend had found a family with Sirius and the rest of the House of Black. He deserved a family; a father who loved him.
And Harry deserved a best mate who supported him. Ron renewed his personal vow to do better and –
Batted away a bludger.
He shook himself ruefully. Maybe he'd better get his head back in the game first. His future could wait a while longer.
Hermione touched the necklace she wore and reassured herself again that Harry was fine. Sure, he was doing his usual insane things on a broomstick but he was fine. It was tremendously reassuring knowing he could change into a bird and be safe if something happened. She still remembered all too well the horrifying moments when he'd fallen from the broom after the Dementors had invaded in their third year.
She fingered the letter in her pocket. It informed her she would be awarded a prefect badge at the closing ceremony for the memorial match. If she hadn't wanted it, she was to have informed the Headmistress, but Hermione did want it. She wanted it very much. Just like she wanted the Head Girl position one day. She sighed. She was prepared to admit her academic ambitions were probably not her most attractive feature.
She was happy with the news in the letter that the usual prefects would be joined by five new special prefects; Ron, Luna, Sue, Draco and Harry. Neville had been given the other Gryffindor fifth year badge. Theo had secured the Slytherin prefect position along with Daphne; Padma and Anthony in Ravenclaw; Justin Finch-Fletchley and Lily Moon in Hufflepuff. She wondered how the special prefects would fit into the usual model.
Hermione shook herself and returned her attention to the match. Harry was being followed closely by Draco but he didn't seem to be actively chasing or looking for the snitch. She was glad Harry had decided to play. She knew he'd been reluctant to do it, still caught up in memories of what had happened at the battle.
She had almost throttled Ron when he'd pushed the matter.
But that was Ron.
There were times he was just too passionate and tempestuous about something and he pushed too far. She figured even his newfound maturity – the memorial match had been Ron's baby – that he'd still have moments of being, well, Ron.
Luckily the boys had been quick to make-up and the argument had blown over with Ron surprisingly accepting of Harry's position. She had a feeling it would be something of a characteristic of their friendship, especially as Harry wasn't happy to passively go along with everything the way he had been before Sirius had come into his life and given him a home. She had a feeling it was going to be interesting when Harry became Headmaster and they had to work together. Her lips twitched at the thought.
She was slightly jealous of the new bond they shared with Hogwarts. It was something that she would never have and she was envious not only to their connection with the dragon, but to each other.
Hermione bit her lip. She'd put away a lot of her insecurities about her relationship with Harry. Some of it was down to the mind healing and understanding her insecurity better; some of it was because she and Harry were just closer in the aftermath; some of it was the strange connection they shared between the two of them after Morgana's blessing.
Hermione wondered if Harry had managed to speak to the dragon picture about Avalon. She frowned and thought back to the dream she'd had the night after she'd gone to the Ministry to start researching what it meant for her to have been chosen by Morgana…
She didn't recognise where she was but it seemed so familiar. Her hands traced the white washed walls of rough stone on either side of the corridor as she followed it until she emerged onto a balcony overlooking a wide silver lake.
There was an old lady sitting in a chair looking out at the view. She had short grey hair in a spiky style and her blue eyes twinkled as she looked over at Hermione. A tea service appeared on the table beside her. "Tea, dear?"
"Thank you." Hermione accepted the invitation to sit and took the tea-cup and saucer she was handed. The tea was perfect. She looked out and couldn't help feeling content at the peaceful serenity of the scene in front of her. "This is beautiful. Where are we?"
"Where do you think we are?" The old lady asked.
Slowly Hermione took note of the shape of the lake, the hint of mountains and…and a familiar castle beyond in the far distance.
"The Black Lake." She realised out loud.
"A man's name." The old lady remonstrated gently. "What does your spirit tell you?"
The word whispered through her.
Hermione breathed in sharply.
"Morgana's blessing granted you passage." The old lady commented and set her tea aside to pick up some knitting in a basket that had appeared at her feet. "The first witch in far too long to make the journey."
"I don't understand." Hermione commented.
"The truth has faded in your time; distorted by myth and legend." The old lady agreed. "You seek answers. You will not find them in the books of Wizards, my dear."
Hermione nodded slowly. "Will you tell me then?"
"It's why you're here, is it not?" The old lady smiled and turned to face her.
Hermione was suddenly aware of the light in the old lady's eyes, bright and compelling like stars, like moonlight, like the sun.
"Balance is always needed in the world." The old lady said. "Light is balanced by dark; love by hate; chaos by order. For every agent of Death, there must be an agent of Life."
"You…you're…" Hermione stumbled over her words, shocked.
"I have had many names; Gaia, Danu, Toci." The old lady said matter-of-factly. "Perhaps here Grandmother will suffice."
Hermione swallowed. She had seen Death; she shouldn't be surprised at a counterpart. "Morgana didn't choose me as her avatar, did she?"
"She chose you as mine." Grandmother agreed. "Balance was needed. Riddle wanted to escape Death and destroy life; he challenged us both." She smiled. "When Death sent his Champion to battle, I always sent mine to stand with him. Lily stood the first time; you this time."
Hermione reached for her tea, needing the normality of it to steady herself.
"Why do you think you were chosen, my dear?" Grandmother asked Hermione.
"Because I knew Harry the best of those in the circle?" offered Hermione tentatively.
Grandmother levelled a gaze at her that had Hermione flushing and squirming.
"Because I love him and he loves me." Hermione said quietly.
"And love is life." Grandmother said with satisfaction. "His mother's love protected him and guided him to the truth. It gave him the strength to stand; the strength to use the power he wields as Death's Champion, as the one who can call on his father's and Merlin's legacy. Love led him to create the bond to the father of his heart and soul, to tie him to life. It allowed me to send you to shield him and restore the balance. I have walked beside him every day because Harry loves and is loved."
"And now? What happens now?" asked Hermione.
"Now you are my Champion as Harry is Death's; equals. The most powerful witch balancing the most powerful wizard." Grandmother said. "Just as Morgana was Merlin's equal."
"So we're destined to be together?" Hermione double-checked, unsure how she felt about that.
"Your relationship is your own, child." Grandmother assured her. "You are no more likely to be with him than you are to be without him. It is your choice."
Hermione breathed out relieved. "But I am your Champion."
"Wiccan magic will bloom again under your hand." Grandmother said. "A balance for the magic of Wizards for the challenges to come."
"What challenges?" asked Hermione, alarmed.
Grandmother's blue eyes twinkled. "Now that would be telling, my dear."
And she had woken up.
Hermione had told Harry about the dream but he was the only one. Harry had smiled at the news they formed some kind of harmonic balance and frowned at the news of future challenges. But he hadn't been surprised. He'd just been pleased they would face them together. And she was pleased she would face them as his equal; someone who could stand beside him and not behind him.
An image leapt into her mind; a lioness. Fierce and proud; intelligent and strong. An equal to any lion.
"I see you found your animagus form finally." Luna commented, startling Hermione out of her thoughts.
"I thought I was just a domestic feline." Hermione said. It was what the family magic had changed her into after all and the form she had been diligently practicing.
"You weren't ready to embrace your true self until now." Luna pointed out with a bright smile.
That was true. But she had stood shoulder by shoulder with Harry against Riddle. She was Life's Champion.
Hermione glanced towards the lake.
"Avalon will sleep a while longer." Luna murmured. "Everything is as it should be."
Hermione smiled at her, wondering if Luna was speaking from her gift or just from her heart. "Is it?"
"Isn't it?" Luna responded.
Hermione heard the shout go up from the crowd and turned back urgently to the game just in time to see Harry narrowly missing a hoop as he avoided a bludger.
Her mother gave a gasp beside her; her father hushing her. Andy murmured something reassuring.
Across the pitch, a sheepish Matthew Inglebee held up the bat in silent apology.
Hermione shook her head as Harry simply grinned and flew on.
Typical, Hermione mused, torn between grumpiness and relief. She smiled suddenly. Harry was flying, playing Quidditch, and she was worrying about him. She guessed things were back to normal after all.
Luna was right; the future would wait a while longer.
Remus grumbled under his breath. "That shouldn't be allowed!"
"It was an accident, Wolfy." Dora said, dipping her chocolate biscuits into the jar of mayonnaise she'd brought with her. He'd given up trying to work out her cravings weeks before. "Stop getting your knickers in a twist."
"Boxers!" Remus spluttered out, his cheeks bright red. "I'm wearing boxers!"
He glanced at Ted who gave him a distinctly unsympathetic look followed by a shrug which said 'women what can you do.' Remus shifted his attention to Sirius.
Sirius was holding Regina, holding her securely against his chest with one hand and pointing out her brother and Harry with the other. He looked so completely at ease and so happy that Remus's breath caught in his throat.
"I was thinking we could name the sprog Michael." Dora said suddenly, dunking another biscuit.
"I thought we ruled Michael out because of Ted's drunken Uncle Mickey who is now doing ten years hard time?" Remus said, his heart sinking.
"Right." Dora grimaced.
"I thought we were going with John Romulus." Remus said coaxingly. Merlin knew it was much, much better than just Romulus or Ziggy which Dora had been set on for a while.
"John is so boring though." Dora grumbled. "I mean, no offence to your Dad, Remus, but his name isn't exactly unique."
Remus counted to ten in his head before he replied. "I thought you wanted something normal?"
"I do." Dora sighed and stuffed the mayonnaise dripping biscuit into her mouth.
"We could go with James." Remus suggested. They'd already discounted it thinking they should leave it for Harry but it was worth another discussion.
"No." Dora said firmly after swallowing her mouthful of food. She sighed, setting aside the jar and biscuits. She rubbed her belly before throwing up a privacy bubble. "Look, I'm thinking we definitely can't call him Theodore. I mean, my Dad is Theodore and his new uncle is going to be Theodore. We can't call him Theodore. And if we can't call him Theodore then I don't think it's fair to my Dad that we call him John."
"If it's important to you to call the baby Theodore, I don't think either your Dad or Theo will mind." Remus said soothingly.
"I'll mind." Dora stated firmly. "Look, it's not Theo's fault he's become part of the family – and I like him! He's a good kid. Scary smart. Mum already adores him and Dad…I can see Dad's already enjoying having a son-type person."
"Son-type person?" Remus repeated.
Dora poked him. "You know what I mean." She sighed, looking slightly downcast. "It's just…I don't ever want to make Theo feel unwelcome, and I'll never ever say I hate having him around, but I can admit I'm a little jealous."
Remus slid his arm around her to give her some comfort.
"I'm stupid." Dora sniffed.
"No," Remus said, "I would think a little sibling jealousy would be normal under these circumstances. It's alright for you to resent sharing your parents."
Dora sniffed again but she snuggled into his embrace. "I like Theo. He's really cool. He's going to be aces with the sprog." She sighed. "I just…it's the name."
Remus hummed under his breath. His eyes caught Sirius's. His best friend gave him a meaningful look asking if he needed help; Remus gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head back.
"You really want to call the baby Theodore." Remus surmised.
"Well," Dora said in too bright a voice, "not really Theodore." Her fingers caught hold of the buttons on his jacket and fiddled with them. "When I was little, I used to dream I'd call my baby Teddy, because I couldn't call him Ted as that was my Dad but I wanted to call him after my Dad because my Dad was the greatest, you know?"
"I know." Remus said gently.
Dora sighed and cuddled in.
"You know," Remus said considering the problem, "Teddy isn't only the derivative of Theodore. It's traditionally been used for Edward too."
Dora pulled back out of his arms and stared at him open-mouthed. "Wolfy, you're a genius!" She lunged forward and kissed him. She gave a squeal and clapped her hands. "Edward John; it's perfect."
Remus could live with that. He nodded happily.
Dora grimaced suddenly. "Damn, I need to pee!" She took down the privacy bubble and started to gather her purse.
"Bathroom?" asked Andy delicately.
Dora nodded unhappily.
"The new players' changing rooms have a visitor's set." Sirius reminded her.
Dora beamed at him. "You're a genius!" She waved a hand as she started to walk away. "Not as much of a genius as my Wolfy but a genius!"
Andy gave a laugh and followed after her daughter.
Sirius sidled up to him and Remus realised his friend had relinquished Regina back to her mother. "Everything alright?"
"Hormones, I think," confided Remus in a low voice that he ensured did not carry. "We agreed on a name."
Sirius raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Edward John." Remus informed him. "Teddy."
Sirius gave a slow nod. "Good name." He nudged Remus's shoulder. "You're getting good at the husband and father thing."
Remus smiled but he was pleased at Sirius's words. He was doing his best. He and Dora worked. Yes, she drove him round the bend with her cravings and her insistence on pretending she wasn't pregnant at times, but…they worked.
And he couldn't wait to be a Dad. To hold his baby son. To introduce his cub to his pack.
He glanced over to his left where Patrick was holding court with most of the ladies of the pack who were hovering around him concerned, Sian glaring at them with disdain. He figured his plan for covering all his duties would hit some rough spots but it was a good plan; workable. It meant he could be there for his pack and for its heart; his family – Sirius and Harry, Dora and his son…
"You know Teddy is going to need a godfather." Remus posited out loud, his heart beating a touch faster because he'd assumed Sirius was going to be the godfather, and had even spoken as though it was a done deal to Sirius about it, but he hadn't actually asked…
Sirius turned to him with a sly smile. "Is that a request? Because if it was a request…"
"Pads!" Remus remonstrated with him gently but firmly.
Sirius drew himself up and met Remus's eyes. "I'd be honoured, Moony."
Remus grinned and slapped Sirius on the shoulder. Sirius grinned back and turned away to watch Harry. Remus followed his gaze out to the sky above the pitch.
It was good to see Harry taking part in the match. It meant he was healing. It meant that maybe, just maybe, the worst was over. The world was safe. Safe for Harry. Safe for Remus's family and pack. Safe for his son.
Remus couldn't help the smile that broke across his face. He couldn't wait to meet him.
Sirius figured Harry was almost done playing. The match had lasted over an hour; a respectable time to honour the dead and the living. All of the kids had been up twice and the first players were back in the air. Harry would start actively targeting the snitch soon; Sirius was sure of it.
He glanced around the stands. They were filled to the brim with a happy crowd. Over in the Slytherin stands, Sirius could see Selwyn chatting away with Wilkes and Gibbon. The traditionalists had reformed under Selwyn and so far their agenda had been constructive. It would be interesting to see how the politics would play out in the Wizengamot.
Sirius's gaze drifted to Daniel Greengrass who was deep in discussion with Cornelius. The Minister was in his element. He had certainly risen to the occasion and his approval rating was through the roof. He'd go down in history as a good Minister. Sirius couldn't quite believe he and Cornelius had such a solid working relationship but he couldn't deny they worked well together. Of course, Sirius had a lot of help.
Daniel was a good man. He was taking on more of a leadership role with the Potter alliance and Sirius welcomed his assistance. Not that they would do anything alone; Augusta would be their third. Her contribution couldn't be overstated as far as Sirius was concerned. He looked around the stands and found more members of the Potter alliance conversing happily.
His Grandfather's portrait had been stunned at their political success and smugly proud.
"I always knew you'd be a formidable Lord Black, Sirius."
And there was acceptance there. He had spoken about the past with the portrait, and understood some of his Grandfather's motives more. They'd talked of how he had been reluctant to simply take custody of Sirius and his brother because he'd hoped his son was a good father despite Walburga's influence; how he'd realised too late just how much neglect and abuse had been in the home. Sirius had forgiven him because truthfully he wouldn't have changed where he'd ended up; he had loved the Potters and the Marauders.
His heart ached as he thought of Prongs taking form to deliver judgement on Peter. It had been heart-breaking yet so fundamentally right Sirius felt it to his bones. The rat was securely tucked away in Azkaban and Sirius figured Wormtail would only get another year from his defence of Remus against the vampires to add to his rat's life-span. It wasn't a perfect end – a part of Sirius still snarled with the fury that wanted to kill the rat – but it was justice.
His gaze caught Amelia's and she nodded at him in acknowledgement. Sirius smiled. The Director of the DMLE was a good friend. She was a good woman; a good witch. He owed her a great deal, Sirius mused. She had provided him with stalwart support since she had cleared his name.
He owed Bertie too, Sirius realised, looking around for the Director of the DOM, and finding him deep in discussion with Moody and Snape. Bertie's company almost made him snort with amusement – they seemed unlikely friends – but he shook his head and turned away. He was actually pleased to see that Snape had settled into a new life, one that didn't involve spying and where his former nemesis could indulge his passion for potions. Somehow Sirius thought Lily would be pleased with where Snape had ended up.
Sirius's gaze landed next on Bill. He was glad to see the Heir to Weasley House recovering from the pain of losing Caroline. The Weasleys were out in full force, Sirius realised. The youngest all playing while the older children cheered them on, all under the watchful eyes of Molly and Arthur.
Minerva's sharp remonstration to the commentator cut through the air and Sirius swallowed a laugh at her caustic rejoinder. His smile faded as he considered the offer she had made him when they'd left Harry alone with Albus's portrait: to move back to Hogwarts and the rooms he'd shared with Harry; to be a commissioned artist for the school. She had loved the artwork he'd produced and she wanted him to paint portraits of all the staff. Sirius wasn't sure what he was going to do.
He loved the idea of staying close to Harry; loved the idea of having a bolthole for his son if the scrutiny and pressure of being Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived to Defeat Voldemort, got too much. Sirius knew Harry's friends would provide him with support; Hermione would scratch the eyes out of anyone who would hurt him and Ron and Neville would help – all of the alliance would. But it didn't take away from the fact that Harry was famous and in the spotlight even more since he'd killed Riddle and saved the wizarding world.
He was also tempted by the work. He loved painting. He much preferred it to politics. And maybe with Daniel and Augusta taking the lead there, Remus and his cohort of deputies handling the estates – maybe, just maybe there was an opportunity for him to do something just for himself.
Something to think about.
And talk to Harry about.
As if Harry knew Sirius had thought about him, his son glanced over his shoulder at Sirius and their eyes met across the distance.
Harry gave some form of salute and suddenly he shot forward on his broom…
The game would be over soon and the future would begin.
Harry let the wind rush through his hair, drag his clothes close to his body. He arrowed downwards to the ground, weaving a crazy pattern across the grass, before lifting back shooting into the sky.
He was flying and he was free.
He hadn't let his fear stop him and his heart lifted with joyous glee.
He could live now, Harry thought happily.
He could date Hermione; spend time holding hands, kissing and maybe a little bit more…
He could spend time with Ron, playing Quidditch and debating tactics…
Gold glinted to his left and he spun sending the broom down…
He could spend time with Neville, his godbrother, who understood in a way the others didn't…
And he could even spend time with Draco who was flying like a dervish to catch up to him…he could cement the bond between them into a real friendship…
There was baby Lupin to look forward to; time with baby Reggie. Time with all his family; the Houses of Potter and Black, and all who fell under his protection.
He sent his broom to the left and the snitch compensated darting out of the way.
But most of all, he had Sirius.
He had a father who loved him, who cared about him. A father who had given him a home. A father who had loved him so much he had fought for Harry, fought for a future for him.
And now that future was within Harry's grasp.
Harry reached out and grabbed the snitch, lifting it high into the air in victory.
1st September 1995
Steam hissed and floated across the platform.
Sirius kept a hand on Harry's shoulder as they made their way through the crowds of parents and children. They garnered more than a few looks and Sirius was glad Harry had insisted on saying goodbye to the rest of the family at dinner the night before. He dreaded to think about the attention they'd have attracted if they'd come en masse.
Harry was already in uniform having decided he didn't want the hassle of changing mid-journey. It was weird to see Harry wearing the familiar colours of Gryffindor and Hogwarts after he'd spent so much of the previous year adorned with his own crests. They were still there; discreetly embroidered onto this cuffs but Harry was once again a Hogwarts' student. It still gave Sirius mixed feelings.
Part of him wanted to keep Harry home still but with the threat of Voldemort gone, Sirius couldn't deny that Hogwarts was as safe as it ever could be for his son. And he would be there himself; staying in their old rooms as Hogwarts' resident artist with Harry able to visit him often.
Harry tugged Sirius towards the front of the carriages. He was apparently oblivious to the attention he was garnering from the young girls around him, the stares of awe and hero-worship. Sirius knew better than to think Harry was oblivious, of course, but he allowed Harry the pretence. Harry felt that the best way to deal with his increased fame was to simply not acknowledge it and try to have as much normality in his life as he could.
It amused Sirius that he was turning heads as much as Harry.
Sirius had opted for casual robes over a muggle outfit of denim jeans and plain white button-up shirt. He was the very personification of 'dressed-down' but that didn't seem to stop many of the women, and a few of the men, batting their eyelashes at him and giving him come-hither smiles. He still wasn't all that interested in finding romance. He had his work, his friends, and more importantly, he had Harry. He was content.
Harry shot him a pleased grin as they finally reached their destination and boarded the train just behind the prefect compartment.
"Perfect." Harry commented. "We're in easy reach of the prefect compartment but have a whole compartment to ourselves."
Sirius hummed as he waved Harry's trunk into the overhead rack. Hedwig had eschewed the cage, and flew up to the luggage rack to perch there. She gave an approving bark. She was never very far from Harry.
The space seemed incredibly empty but he had a feeling it would fill up quickly; Harry's friends would show up sooner rather than later, especially as they were all prefects.
He didn't know how he felt about Harry being a special prefect, it seemed too much of a reminder that Harry was bonded to Hogwarts. But then Sirius really didn't mind that the bond ensured Harry would have a good profession one day which didn't involve him getting into too much danger. He still feared Harry deciding to go into Quidditch after school for a time.
Angelina Johnson had been awarded the Captain's badge again and had already written to invite Harry back to his old Seeker position.
"Right then." Sirius said gruffly, knowing his time with his son was drawing to a close.
"I've got my mirror." Harry reminded him. "I'll call you if there's trouble."
"Don't forget to eat the lunch Dobby packed for you." Sirius said. Harry was still a few pounds short of a good weight even if he was healthy and fit.
Harry reached out unashamedly and Sirius hugged him close. He let him go reluctantly which was stupid because he was going to see him in just a few short hours.
"Hey," Harry grinned at him, "I have a surprise for you."
Sirius smiled back. "A surprise for me?"
Harry shooed him back, still grinning.
Sirius rolled his eyes and obligingly stepped back. His back was almost at the doors of the compartment.
Harry took a deep breath and transformed. In his place was a young dog; a young Grim.
Sirius's mouth fell open as the Grim's tail wagged happily and he bounded over to him. "Pronglet." He breathed out the name and ruffled Harry's head. The memory of Harry's first accidental transformation as a baby filled his head; Prongs' panic and Lily's calm; his own delight that Harry had copied his form.
Harry allowed a few moments of petting before wrestling himself away and transforming back.
Sirius immediately hugged him again, a lump in his throat. "I love you, Pronglet."
"Love you too, Padfoot." Harry replied softly.
They stood there, soaking each other up in silence.
There was a courtesy rap on the door and it slid open to reveal Hermione. She stopped in the doorway as she took in Sirius and Harry hugging.
"Oh!" Hermione said, blushing faintly. "I'm sorry! I just…"
Sirius gave Harry one last squeeze and eased back to wave her inside. "It's fine, Hermione. We were almost done saying goodbye. Come on in."
He took control of her trunk as Harry moved forward to greet her with a chaste kiss, tangling their fingers together. Sirius smiled at the sight. Ah, young love. A bittersweet memory of James and Lily doing the same thing in their Seventh year drifted through his mind and he shook it away.
"Alright. Be good, you two, and enjoy the journey." Sirius instructed gently. He ruffled Harry's hair one last time. Harry's amused expression lifted his heart.
"See you on the other side, Padfoot." Harry promised.
Sirius nodded. "Pronglet."
They exchanged one last smile; one last look.
"Alright," Sirius said abruptly, realising the moment was lingering slightly too long, "leaving now." He stepped back and out of the compartment to the sound of Harry chuckling and Hermione giggling.
Sirius quickly made his way out of the carriage and down the platform to the apparition point. He nodded a few hellos, smiled in acknowledgement at Augusta saying goodbye to Neville and Blaise further down, and hurried to leave before anyone could stop him.
He just needed to catch his breath, to adjust to letting Harry go even if it was just for a moment and not really real because he'd see him in a few short hours; he just needed to be on his own…
He got to the apparition point, grasped his wand and spun on his heel, his destination simply home…
And landed outside Godric's Hollow.
Sirius laughed weakly and pushed a hand through his hair.
Despite everything his heart still couldn't let go of thinking of the cottage as home. Griffin House was home too but only because Harry was there. The cottage, on the other hand…
He gazed at the broken down house and his memory erased the reality of the untidy garden, dirty windows and crumbling walls, replacing them in his mind's eye with immaculate whitewashed stone covered with ivy; a garden filled with lavender and honeysuckle; gleaming windows underlined with their boxes of flowers and herbs.
Sirius could almost hear James's deep laughter; Lily's bright chuckle; the gurgle of a baby…
He remembered the night of their deaths; remembered all too well the horror of finding them gone; finding Harry hurt.
He remembered the poignant angst of showing Harry around the Christmas before; of telling his son the way the cottage had been before; of the happy home it had been for Harry and for Sirius.
But then another memory landed at the forefront of his mind.
A memory of himself standing in front of the cottage just over a year before and coming up with the most insane plan he could think of so he could raise Harry.
"Told you I'd do anything, Lily-flower." Sirius murmured.
It had been a plan of cunning and guile built off a stupid brave and reckless decision to tear down one world and rebuild it for Harry using all the power Sirius had never wanted but all the power he needed. A plan to keep Harry, to keep Pronglet safe.
"It was a good plan in the end, Prongs." Sirius said out loud. "He's safe now and he's alive and he's happy."
A breeze floated over him, the scent of lilies heavy in the air, the sense of love, family and safety Sirius had always associated with Prongs.
He reached out and touched the rickety old gate as though by touching it he could reach through time and space to his friends, to the brother and sister of his soul.
"Love you." Sirius whispered.
But it was time to leave the past behind.
Peace infused him at last; the heavy grief which had been his constant companion dissolving into acceptance.
And as he took a step away, and spun on his heel to leave, he knew they were listening; knew they'd approved back then and would approve for the days to come, because his plan always had Harry at its heart – and it was always a Marauder's plan.
Final Author's Note: So it is with both a sense of achievement and a sense of grief that I say goodbye to this story. It has been a journey of delight, discovery and determination. I hope you've enjoyed the journey with me even if every twist and turn on the way wasn't always to your liking. I have appreciated the support from seeing the people who followed and who have reviewed over the past four years.
If anyone has been affected by any of the storylines here, particularly in respect of the abuse/rape elements, or believes they may be the potential target of a paedophile, I would encourage you to reach out to your local support groups, and to any personal support you may have in friends and family.
You may have noticed a few hints about the future dropped into the this final chapter and yes, there are seeds to a sequel. However, I cannot guarantee it will ever be written and while I will never say never, a sequel is unlikely to happen in the near future. I may do some Harry Potter one-shots so probably worth adding me to your follows if you are interested in anything I would write in the future, but the immediate couple of months are going to be focused on finishing some other work which got pushed to the side for this story and which are under different pennames, and trying to finish and publish an original novel.
I also write under the penname Rachel500. You can find my fanfiction on Airwolf, Stargate, Hawaii Five-0, NCIS and Doctor Who under my profile here at ff. Alternatively, I have the same pseuds set up on AO3 where you can find all my work, including an additional story for NCIS and The Sentinel under the pseud TrekCat. To be clear, anything I write in the Harry Potter fandom will be posted under CatsAreCool.
I will be posting commentary about 'A Marauder's Plan' on my livejournal (rachel500) shortly for any interested. Some artwork for 'A Marauder's Plan' will be found over on AO3 shortly which provides a visual of the cast for the story in my head.
Once again, many thanks to you, the reader who sometimes had to wait an incredibly long time for an update and to you, the reader who has just found and finished this story for the first time. Good luck with your future reading and much happiness to you and your family in life.