AN Disclaimer Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling I own nothing. This is fanfiction, I make no money out of this whatsoever. Now that's out of the way...

Chapter 23

After Malfoy had left the rest of the journey passed reasonably smoothly, although Harry found himself the one subject to an interrogation now, on familiars and Grims in particular. He felt extremely grateful that Pa had taught him a huge deal about familiars and Grims, combined with his own experiences as a Grim cub, in anticipation of precisely this sort of interrogation, although he thought, smiling a little wryly, they had expected the interrogation to come from Dumbledore not a first year!

Harry had relaxed more as the journey progressed though, both Neville and Hermione looked like they could become good friends and he was relieved to know that he would be able to make friends in the magical world as well as in the muggle one. Soon though night had fallen, they had changed into their robes and the train was pulling onto the platform.

Nerves crowded up in his stomach and Harry pressed himself closer to Bardulf, twisting his fingers securely into the dog's fur. He felt a wave of love flow across the bond and he managed to summon up a shaky smile in response and he saw Hermione and Neville smile at him, though they too looked extremely nervous. For some odd reason that comforted Harry but he still stayed as close as he could to the grim as he clambered off the train and he noticed that both Neville and Hermione were also staying close to him and Bardulf, even as some of the older students hurried out of the way of the large grim and the three small first years crowded in beside him.

"Firs' years over here. Firs' years over here." The speaker was a giant of a man holding a large lantern and it was to him that Sirius led them and Harry noticed that there were a large number of students already surrounding him although several took a step back when they noticed Bardulf. Inwardly Harry sighed, it was going to be a long year if everyone kept flinching as soon as they saw Bardulf but that thought vanished a moment later, to be replaced with butterflies when the man spoke.

"Hello yeh lot, I'm Hagrid, Keeper o' the Keys. Now yeh all here we'd bes' be gettin' down ter the castle. If yeh'd all follow me."

The large man turned, a lantern swinging ponderously from his large hand and the gaggle of first years followed him, although several were giving the grim and the three first years surrounding it a large berth. The path was narrow and in the darkness it was easy to trip over stones and roots, Harry found him clinging even more tightly to Bardulf as the large grim with eyes adapted to seeing in the dark conditions, picked a path expertly down the slope and supported Harry whenever the boy stumbled.

"Yeh'll get yeh firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a moment." Harry heard Hagrid's voice boom out and in the next second they turned a corner and Harry gasped as Hogwarts came into view. His Pa had described it several times but Harry felt a sense of awe and wonder grip him as he took in the castle for the first time, he could see why Pa had said he could never describe it properly.

He realised his mouth was open and he snapped it shut, glaring slightly at the grim when he felt the wave of amusement which slipped across the bond but the glare vanished a second later when he caught the flash of pain and sadness hidden beneath it that he knew his Pa was trying to hide. Frowning slightly he pressed himself closer to the dog, though this time for Sirius's comfort and not his own as his mind skipped back to what his Pa had told him over a year ago when they had first reached Potter Manor.

The forest gave way then to a lake shore and Harry could see a fleet of boats drawn up on the sand, "No more than four ter a boat," he heard Hagrid call as he hurried to one of the nearest boats. He scrambled in, grabbing at the side when Bardulf leapt in after him setting the boat to rock him and he grinned a bit nervously when Neville and Hermione clambered in after him. He saw them grin back, though Hermione's eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared out across the lake but Harry knew his and Neville's weren't much better.

He wasn't the only one to start when the boats suddenly began to move forward with nothing more than a command from Hagrid. He may have spent a lot of time around magic in the last year but he had been raised primarily in the muggle world with magic just being something else that was around so the possibilities of magic still caught him off guard.

Soon the boat ride was over and Hagrid led them up several flights of stairs to a huge oak door which swung open to reveal a tall woman with a stern visage.

"The firs' years Professor."

"Thank you Hagrid." She turned and addressed the gathered crowd of first years, her eyebrows rising a fraction as her gaze landed on the small boy, his fringe smoothed down so the scar wasn't visible, who was standing next to the large grim with his fingers entangled in the grim's fur. She suppressed the shiver that wanted to rise along her spine at being in such close proximity to the creature but she steeled herself and continued with her speech.

Harry listened semi-attentively but more of his attention was focussed on relating the stern teacher in front of him with all the stories his Pa had told him. He hadn't really believed everything Pa had said about Professor McGonagall but looking at her now he could easily imagine her assigning awful detentions and being the strict Head of House. It reinforced the idea that she wasn't a person to cross and inwardly he made a mental promise never to get caught by her if he did pull a prank.

A light jab to his ribs broke him out of his thoughts and he realised that McGonagall had just finished talking about the sorting. She turned to him then and he tried not to fidget under her stern gaze. "Mr Potter," she said crisply, "After the feast you are to wait in the entrance hall and your Head of House will collect you for the familiar bond check." She turned her eyes back to the mass of first years, "The sorting will commence momentarily, I suggest you all smarten up."

With that she turned and strode through the double doors. They all heard the noisy babble of voices before the door swung shut and immediately chatter broke out, and many looked over at Harry, their eyes wide and staring as they searched his face for his scar and tried to back away a little when they saw the grim standing protectively by his side.

Harry bit his lip as he saw his classmates edging away, nervousness prominent on many faces and heard hurried explanations being given to the muggleborns. He didn't want to be an outcast at Hogwarts like he had been on Privet Drive. He felt Bardulf lick his hand comfortingly and send a wave of love and reassurance across the bond. Harry smiled slightly, a little of his nervousness leaving him, and when Bardulf nudged him in the direction of Neville and Hermione he relaxed further, seeing that they were just as nervous as him and that neither of them were edging away from Bardulf, rather, like him, they were finding comfort in the grim's presence.

"What did the Professor mean Harry?" Hermione whispered.

"They have to make sure that Bardulf is really my familiar so the Headmaster has to cast a spell to prove that there is a bond there otherwise Bardulf wouldn't be able to come." He told her and he saw understanding dawn in her face.

"How do they sort us?" She asked nervously, "I've practiced spells of course but I'm not sure I'd be able to perform them under pressure, I wonder which ones we'll need."

"I don't think we'll need spells," Harry said a little uncertainly, and he saw Neville relax a bit at his words, "I mean, a lot of us won't have done magic yet and they can't really do the sorting on something we haven't been taught yet can they?" It ended up sounding like a question but he felt his Pa send a wave of calm down the bond and he relaxed a little, although his nerves still jangled.

McGonagall arrived then and quickly the first years scrambled to get into a somewhat orderly line, the mutterings instantly cut off. Harry was relieved to see that Hermione and Neville stood close to him and the presence of his Pa at his side further soothed him as the door opened and they walked slowly into a large hall, crowded with students, the vast majority of whom were staring at the first years.

Harry forced himself not to shrink into the grim beside him. He didn't like the stares and he had never liked attention, a left over trait from the Dursleys where attention more often meant something bad and he disliked this attention even more. Although he had his Pa, he still harboured grief for his parents and he would have traded all his fame in a heartbeat just to be able to meet them for a day and be able to remember it. He didn't want any of the fame or recognition, all he wanted for his Pa to be free and for his parents to come back. But he knew they were dead and he would never see them again but that didn't stop him from wishing.

He felt a wave of love flow across the bond and he relaxed a little, his grief abating in the face of his Pa's love. His parents might be dead but he had his Pa and his Pa had given him so much and loved him so fiercely. He was everything Harry wanted in a parent, everything he could have asked for and everything that he hadn't thought to ask for.

The line of first years stopped as McGonagall stood by a hat on a stool, a large scroll in her hand. The waiting first years shifted as they looked round in wonder, staring at the obvious magic that was seeping from between the very stones of the castle and saturating the atmosphere from the stars overhead to the floating candles. Harry jumped when a rip opened in the hat's brim and suddenly a gravelly voice broke into song.

Harry was hard pressed to prevent his mouth from falling open as he was confronted with the spectacle of a hat singing about the four houses at Hogwarts. He had certainly seen some strange things ever since they had moved to Potter Manor and living with his Pa was an adventure because his Pa did have a mischievous streak a mile wide and did everything to ensure that the magic lessons were memorable so Harry had got used to being confronted with strange and weird objects when he was being taught but none so crazy as a singing hat!

His amazement didn't abate as McGonagall started to call out names and he realised that somehow this hat was sorting them and appeared to be able to read minds or something. That thought suddenly worried him. He had occulmency barriers up of course and the Black Heir ring to protect his mind but if the hat could get into his mind it would find out about his Pa and then his Pa would be taken away and hurt and Harry couldn't allow that to happen.

His fear spiked when his name was called but he had to go forward as there was nowhere to run and running would only expose his Pa further but that didn't stop the waves of nervousness from assaulting him as he perched on the stool, his fingers twisted tightly in Bardulf's fur, ignoring the whispers that had broken out as the hat dropped over his eyes.

Immediately he pushed his shields up and strengthened them as much as he possible could but he had never been so uncomfortably aware of the fact his occulmency was lacking before. However it was all for naught and he felt a wave of pure panic assault him as a voice spoke in his mind, completely bypassing his shields.

Well Mr Potter, I have to say you're full of surprises.

Harry scrabbled frantically at his occlumency shields, trying to push out a presence he couldn't feel. Get out of my head, he thought determinedly, focussing all his power on trying to expel the invasion.

Not until I've sorted you Mr Potter, the hat replied, And your occlumency will not keep me out either, although I am impressed one as young as you has such shields.

Please, Harry begged, If you stay in my head Pa will be danger and I can't let him be hurt.

Ah yes, the tone of the hat's thoughts almost sounded contemplative, Your Pa, and your Weard-Sworn. I have to say it has been many years since such a bond has been seen within these walls and I did not expect it to be the young Black, but then again he was the first in a very long time to go into Gryffindor.

Please don't tell anyone, Harry's thought were pleading, They think he killed my parents and they'll hurt him if they catch him.

I am forbidden from revealing any information I discover from the students' minds, The hat said a little testily, However I can understand your fears, now where to put you, where to put you?

Harry bit his lip hard as the hat continued to muse.

You could fit in any of the houses, you are loyal, brave, cunning and with a sharp mind now where to put you. You are loyal to those who you call family and friends but that group is small and you do not trust easily and while you are intelligent you do not love knowledge for knowledge's sake now that leaves just Gryffindor and Slytherin. You are cunning and you intend to do everything in your power to see Black freed, an impressive ambition and more so in that it is not for yourself however you are brave and you have a courage that Gryffindor would have admired as well as a large desire to see those you love safe. Now which to put you in, which to put you in. Slytherin would see you great, with fame and glory whilst in Gryffindor you would become a leader. Now where to put you?

I'd like to be in Gryffindor please Mr Hat, Harry thought. It felt a bit peculiar addressing a hat as Mr Hat but Harry thought it would be best if he was polite seeing as this hat had the power to decide which house he would go into.

There is no need to call me Mr Hat, came the answer and the thought seemed vaguely amused, My name is Alden but why Gryffindor Mr Potter.

Harry, He replied, if the hat was letting him use his proper name it was only fair that Harry let him use his,

Pa and my parents were in Gryffindor, he explained slowly, And Pa is the greatest person in the world, he's brave, loyal, clever and most of all he loves me. I want to be like Pa when I'm older and I'd prefer not to be in Slytherin because I don't want any more fame or glory, I'm already famous for living when my parents are dead and I hate it. Also Voldemort was a Slytherin and I don't want to be like him.

The House you are sorted into does not define who you will become, the Hat warned him, But nevertheless fame is not something you can escape Harry.

But I'll get more in Slytherin you said, Harry said, So please not Slytherin.

Are you sure, Slytherin would give you greatness and glory?

Not Slytherin, not Slytherin, not Slytherin.

Well if you are certain better be GRYFFINDOR!

The last word was yelled out for the whole hall to hear and the storm of clapping that erupted from the scarlet and gold table took Harry from surprise however a grin rose on his face as he removed the hat from his head and walked down to the Gryffindor table. His grin widened as he slid into a seat between Neville and Hermione, relieved he was in the same house as his first two wizarding friends.

He received relieved grins from them in return and he felt a surge of pride rush across the bond. It was only now beginning to sink in, he was at Hogwarts and a Gryffindor. He knew his Pa would have been proud of him no matter what house he had ended up in, but still he was happy to be in his parents and Pa's old house. It had mattered to him and feeling his Pa's pride had showed him further why. He wanted to be like his Pa and he wanted his Pa to be proud of him and it was certain that the later was true.

He stroked his fingers through the grim's fur almost absent-mindedly as the sorting continued. He wasn't quite sure how Sirius had managed it but somehow the grim had managed to slip under the table without freaking out the students and was now sitting at Harry's feet, his tail wrapped protectively around Harry's feet and his head emerging in the gap between the bench and the table.

Several people were regarding the grim with no little apprehension but thankfully the stares and whispered were diverted when Dumbledore stood. Harry's eyes narrowed slightly as he looked at the old man. While he was not directly to blame for Sirius's incarceration that did not forgive him, in either of their eyes, for his actions since then. Not only had he been responsible for placing Harry at the Dursleys, it had been mainly his pursuit of them which had caused them the most grief over the years, with only Dumbledore's friends coming close to catching them, namely Moody and from what the elves had said it was Dumbledore who had been leading the search so they had both built up a healthy dose of mistrust for the man.

Sirius was more wary than Harry, but some of Sirius's fear and worry had rubbed off on Harry. Dumbledore was a dangerous enemy and there was no doubt in either mind that he would attempt to prevent Harry from returning to Sirius in the holidays and summer and for that reason neither were willing to trust him, or even attempt to until he was completely aware of the situation and no longer trying to separate them but at the moment they had no proof of Sirius's innocence to offer.

Like the others he clapped when Dumbledore finished speaking but there was a reluctance in his movements and he stopped as soon as possible. He saw a couple of odd looks being thrown his way, especially from the older Gryffindors but he ignored them as the food appeared and he quickly filled his plate and dug in with relish, pausing only to fill a napkin with meat which he placed on the bench where Bardulf could reach it.

Around him the other first years were relaxing as their left over worry and nerves from the sorting drained away and they tucked in happily. Soon conversations sprung up and Harry found himself laughing and joking with his fellow first years as the feast progressed.

Dumbledore was watching the Gryffindor First Years attentively. He had been extremely relieved when Minerva had called the boy's name and he had come up to the sorting hat because until he saw the child sitting on that stool he had not been completely certain whether Black would let the child come to Hogwarts or not. That relief had been matched when the hat had called out Gryffindor, despite his fears the boy did not appear to have been corrupted to the dark as yet, so perhaps there was still hope although of course he wouldn't get a proper look until after the feast.

He had seen the grim that accompanied the child as well as the gazes being directed at it by a large portion of the student population and he knew that he would have to do something to lay both the rumours and fears to rest and a frown graced his features as he pondered how best to add it to his notices. However he laid that train of thought aside as he reviewed how the beast was acting around the boy.

He could see that the creature was protective of the child and Harry in turn was attached to the grim. The way the child had held onto its fur throughout the sorting and the way the creature pressed close to the boy and was wary, ready to respond to a threat told him that much. He was in no doubt that anyone attempting to attack the child would be met with claws and teeth and while he was pleased at the obvious loyalty of the creature and the love Harry seemed to have for it, its presence also raised questions.

If Harry had such a loyal and protective familiar did that mean the child was well treated by Black? He couldn't fathom Black being willing to accept a threat from an animal, even one bound to the child and he knew the man who had betrayed Lily and James would have no qualms about killing such a creature so the only reason that the grim was still alive must be that he had never seen a need to rise to his master's defence while in Black's company.

That thought both reassured and frightened Dumbledore. It was reassuring to see that the boy was well treated, that he hadn't suffered again at the hands of guardians that would neglect and treat him badly, and that he had been provided for and cared for, perhaps not loved but at least looked after. But it worried him as well. The hat had taken a long time to sort the boy and he wondered now if that meant Harry was already on the path to turning dark, for surely the only way the child could have survived being raised, and perhaps even loved by Voldemort's right hand would be if he could at least pretend to accept the man's teachings.

However there was hope. Harry was here, in Gryffindor and from what Dumbledore could see, was already making friends with the Longbottom boy and a girl he knew was a muggleborn. Perhaps it was not too late to turn the child from the dark path Black had placed him on, though make no mistake, he was going to be watching the child extremely closely. His last mistakes had led to the rise of Tom and he would not see Harry too fall to the dark path like his Godfather had done before him.

He nodded to himself, inwardly resolving not to fail. He would assess the boy when he came so that the familiar check could be performed and he would then try to ascertain the easiest way to ensure the boy did not return to Black's care, although that could be postponed until the summer as he had no intention of letting the child leave the castle until then, for regrettably there was no way a student could remain in the castle over the summer.

Harry shifted from foot to foot as he waited for McGonagall to come and take him to the headmaster's office. He was nervous although he was trying to hide it. Although he knew the bond was there it wasn't a familiar bond and although Pa had reassured him that Dumbledore couldn't tell the difference he knew that he wouldn't fully relax until the test was over.

He leant against the large grim, yawning. It was late and he was tired and nervous and worried. He pressed up against the grim, letting Bardulf take some of his weight as he opened the bond to its fullest and allowed his Pa's emotions to wash through him, soothing him. The grim's head came up and Harry felt Bardulf nuzzle him as if he was in his puppy form as a strong wave of love flowed through the bond. A smile rose on his face and he wrapped his arms around the grim as he waited for the school to finish exiting the hall and for McGonagall to take him to Dumbledore to be tested.

McGonagall entered the entrance hall no more than about ten minutes later and a smile tugged at the stern witch's visage as she took in the sight of the young boy and his familiar. At some point he had sat down and he was now leaning on the grim, his arms wrapped around the dog as he waited. Certainly the beast did not look as fearsome now, as before her eyes it nuzzled the child as if Harry was its own cub. It reassured her that the grim would not cause trouble once the students had got over their reactions for it was obvious the creature was devoted to the child.

She cleared her throat and Harry leapt to his feet, a slightly sheepish expression crossing his face as he turned to face her. Her breath caught for a moment as she realised just how much Harry resembled his father although his eyes were clearly his mother's and the way he was biting his lip reminded her of something that she couldn't quite place.

"I'm sorry Professor," Harry said quietly, "I didn't notice you." A slight pint tint in his cheeks gave away his embarrassment.

"As long as you don't make a habit of doing it in class Mr Potter I can overlook it," she said crisply, although her lips twitched. "Now come along. It is already late and you have classes in the morning."

Harry nodded and quickly followed; his eyes wide in wonder as they travelled through the castle corridors before eventually coming to a stop in front of the statue of a gargoyle. He looked at his Head of House in confusion but the confusion vanished as the witch said, "Cockroach Clusters" and the gargoyle moved aside to reveal a narrow staircase. Quickly he strengthened his occulmency barriers, Pa had told him that they had thought the man could use Legilimency and he was not going to let the man discover about Pa.

He was hard pressed to stop his jaw from hitting the ground as he entered Dumbledore's office. Harry had never seen a place so obviously magical or eccentric in his entire life, from the phoenix on a golden perch to the myriad of devices that smoked and spun and whirled. The whole room just screamed wizard, and the type of wizard a muggle would recognise, to him.

Harry heard someone chuckle and he snapped his mouth shut, his eyes searching for the person until his eyes came to rest on the figure of his Headmaster who was peering over his half moon spectacles at him. Instinctively he tensed slightly, Dumbledore's gaze was piercing and with the secrets he had to keep he found himself fighting to stop himself from shrinking back. He felt like he was being x-rayed and he strengthened his defences. He was not going to let down his Pa.

"Hello there Mr Potter," Dumbledore said, his blue eyes twinkling, "So this is your familiar?" Harry just nodded,

"Bardulf," He said quietly but the Headmaster just smiled.

"How long has he been with you Harry?"

"Five years," Harry replied, intending to give away as little information as possible, the less Dumbledore knew the safer they would be because he knew it was Dumbledore who had been leading the search for him. He saw the Headmaster nod, and then the man's eyes flicked towards McGonagall and Harry saw a brief flash of something in his eyes before Dumbledore took out his wand.

"Very well, the bond should be quite well established then so it should be easy to detect. Don't worry the spell won't hurt." Harry nodded, keeping his eyes trained on the wand as he tightened his grip on the grim's fur, holding his wand securely in his other hand, ready to cast should Dumbledore cast anything but the revealing spell.

"Coarguo copulae," The Headmaster and an almost colourless jet of light flew from his wand and struck Harry square over the heart.

Immediately a shining rope of gold materialised before their eyes, shining in the light of the office as it stretched from Harry's heart to Sirius's, thick and strong. A soft gasp escaped from Harry's lips as he looked at the bond for the first time. He knew that it was there of course, and he knew that others could see it but seeing it for the first time made a sense of majesty and awe rise in him. His Pa had done this for him, had bound himself to him with this thick shining rope of gold and it had been nothing but strengthened by his love.

Hesitantly Harry reached out for it but just before his fingertips touched it the rope dissolved as the spell wore away. He glanced up and saw similar expressions of shock and wonder on both McGonagall's and Dumbledore's faces. It was the Headmaster who was the first to speak.

"There is certainly no doubt that a familiar bond is present, in fact I have never seen such a strong one before my boy. You have something special there."

A smile lit Harry's face, "I know," he replied, relief and happiness obvious in his voice and he saw Dumbledore smile at him, like a grandfather would.

"Now I'm sure you are aware that some restrictions must be laid down." An unhappy expression grew on Harry's face but Dumbledore ignored it as he continued to speak, "While Bardulf will be allowed in classes the teachers can request he leaves if he is being disruptive or if he is taking your attention away from your studies and he must not harm another student or you will be punished. Furthermore I do not want to hear of any destruction of property, Bardulf is your responsibility and you will be held responsible if he breaks the rules, although no curfew will be placed on him. Is that understood?"

Harry nodded, "He won't break them," he said, "But would I get in trouble if he defends me?"

"It would depend on the situation," Dumbledore told him, "But why would he defend you?"

Harry shuffled from foot to foot, he knew full well that if Pa thought he was in danger he would fight until the threat was destroyed or he was dead but he didn't know how to describe it without giving away information. Eventually he had it, "He thinks of me as his cub," he said softly, "So he's very protective of me and will defend me if someone threatens me."

"I shouldn't be surprised," Harry heard the Headmaster muse, "It makes sense that a familiar would be extraordinarily protective of their master when they are so young." Harry had the feeling he wasn't supposed to have heard that, a suspicion solidified when the man turned to him. "Understandable my boy but you should not be threatened here. Now it is late and I'm sure you want to be in bed. Professor McGonagall will show you to the Gryffindor Common Room now off you trot."

Harry hesitated, his eyes sliding towards his Head of House but McGonagall merely beckoned him, "Come along Mr Potter," she said crisply and with one last look back at the office Harry followed her out of the office and up to the dorms he would stay in for the next seven years.

AN: And that is the update - late I know and please don't hurt me but I hope you all enjoyed in nonetheless and please review! Oh and for those who are curious the revealing spell is my own invention, made up from the latin words show and bonds.