AN: Here it is! The last chapter of my sequel "Crushed Velvet." Isn't everyone sad? *note sarcasm * Don't worry if you are, I have many more bunnies multiplying at home. There should be some more stories up in the near future. I have at least one prequel to SGNG and 2 sequels to this. Hah! And I said this would never turn into a series… Oh well! Read away and please check out my new story, which is a one-shotter. It's the one titled: "Who Wants to Live Forever?" and it's dedicated to Alexa Black for being SGNG's 50th reviewer. Enough blab, let's get on with the last chapter!
Part 11: I Would Have Loved You Anyway
Sirius heard voices calling him from the deep recesses of his mind. He tried to ignore them and return to the tempting warmth of sleep. However, they would not leave him alone and he could retreat no longer.
Wearily opening his eyes, he found himself the subject of unspeakable terror. Two large brown eyes met his and filled his whole blurry field of vision.
"Ah! What the… Rabbit! What the bloody hell are you trying to do! You want to give me a heart attack?" he yelped as he jumped back in surprise.
The sight of the rudely awoken Sirius's face was too much for the jovial American. He tried to not snigger at his poor friend's expense, but found himself unable to stop laughing.
"Well, I'm glad you're amused," growled Sirius. "At least one of us is."
"I'm-hehe-I'm sorry, Snuffles," Rabbit chuckled. "I was just-ha-trying to make sure you were still breathing. You have been out for 20 hours. We thought you might have really smothered yourself to death."
Sirius sighed in exasperation. "When I get out of bed, Rabbit, you'll be lucky if you yourself aren't smothered! I was tired, so sue me!"
"I understand that, my friend," Rabbit finally controlled his laughter long enough to speak. "I just thought that you might want to know that Harry is being discharged as we speak. The doctors also said that you are being kicked out as well. If you want to sleep all day, that's your business. Just do it at home and stop using all the sick people's air."
"Where's Remus?" Sirius asked trying to not give in to his personal wishes to rid the world of one extra American.
"With Harry. The Mooned One told me to wake up Sleeping Beauty, and I have done so… minus the kiss of course."
"For which I am eternally grateful, you have no idea." Sirius took some clean clothes set out for him and went into the bathroom to get changed.
"So when will Harry get all his things moved to Wolf's Haven?" asked Sirius when he emerged. He tried to sound nonchalant about it, but inside, he was reeling. If Remus was discharging Harry, then that meant only one thing: Harry had indeed taken up the better offer. He should not have been surprised, but he had wanted to prove that he had indeed learned from his mistakes.
"I was not aware that his things would be going anywhere," replied Rabbit casually as he led the way through the halls. "They are right where they need to be."
"But… didn't he chose Remus? Why else would Moony be signing him out?"
"And Hogwarts claims that you were one of the best and the brightest to enter its halls… Number 1: No, Harry did not chose Remus. Number 2: Because you were too busy up here snoring away like my great aunt Margaret to do anything useful."
Sirius stopped dead in his tracks. He slowly turned to Rabbit who crossed his arms in amusement. "He… didn't chose Remus? He wants to live with me? Really?"
For a moment, Rabbit considered playing with his friend a while longer. Perhaps make him squirm a little more in sweet revenge for all the hours the American spent worrying over him. In the end, however, he decided that Sirius had suffered enough of his teasing for now.
"Yes, really, Sirius," he answered kindly. "I'll not say he didn't take long enough to decide, but the result is the same. Moony is right, you can't get rid of each other no matter what you try."
Padfoot allowed himself a small smile to grace his handsome features. It was a look that his friends sorely missed on him. Warmth spread through his body and into every little crevice. Who could know that such a small announcement could have such an effect on him? He had been fully prepared for an unfavorable decision, so the knowledge that he would not have to bow to it made him that much more elated.
"Come on, Snuffles," Rabbit said smiling. "I'll take you to where they're waiting. Just follow the white rabbit, he'll lead you well."
Meanwhile, in the waiting room, Harry watched as Remus signed him out. His thoughts too hovered among the adoption papers. One he had signed and another he had rejected. Would he regret his decision, he mused. Perhaps his faith in second chances was foolish and he was only setting himself up for another crushing blow. Perhaps Sirius really would take this harsh lesson to heart and he would keep his promises now.
The link in the back of his mind never left his immediate thought. He feared that if he worried anymore of being spied on, he would go mad with paranoia. Such fears of being observed were not baseless with Javen, but he hoped they were with Sirius. Either way, he would have to deal with this fear one way or another.
These and other musings were running through his mind as he waited patiently for Remus to finish and for Rabbit to complete his mission of waking the slumbering Padfoot. In the few days Harry had known the American Unspeakable, he had grown to value him as a friend he could count on in the years to come. It was sad to know that he was due to give a report at the American Magical Departments later that evening. He would have liked to get to know him as a man rather than as Sirius' former partner or as one of his saviors. But it was not to be and the jovial foreigner would be leaving before noon.
Remus thanked the young nurse at the desk and returned to sit at Harry's side, breaking the boy from his reveries. He smiled at his young charge. "Is everything alright, Harry?" he asked gently.
"Did I make the right decision, Remus?" he asked uncertainly. The werewolf put a hand on his slumped shoulders.
"I'm afraid only you know what is right for you. How do you feel now that you've decided? What do your instincts tell you?"
"I… I don't know. He means so much to me, and I still think of him as my father despite what he's done. But maybe I'm making a mistake in giving him another chance. What if I get hurt again? I don't know if I could deal with that."
"Let me tell you a story, Harry." Remus sat back in the cushioned bench and faced the boy entirely, granting him complete attention. "You already know how Snape is indebted to James for saving his life, and you know how it was Sirius' fault that Snape was ever in danger in the first place. I'm afraid you never heard my version of the story. Well, when the morning came after that night, someone had to tell me what happened. My memory is not as good as it usually is after a full moon. I do not always remember what happens depending on what holds the wolf's interest at the time. I remember obsessing over this one squirrel for 2 months… but I digress.
"When I was released from the Hospital Wing the morning after, I returned to the Common Room to meet the others like I always did. I did not remember exactly what happened, only that the wolf was especially agitated. Almost as though it knew that prey was within its reach and somehow managed to escape. I asked the Marauders if they knew anything about it thinking it was merely another squirrel or something. Well, they had agreed beforehand that it was Sirius' duty to tell me the whole of it. So he took me aside and did just that.
"To tell you I was devastated at his confession would be an understatement. I was horrified and terrified all at once. One of my best friends in the world, one of the only ones to know what I was, had abused our friendship in the worst possible way. I had just begun to think that he was not like others who let their prejudices get in the way. When he told me, all the old fears came back to me. I was now convinced he thought of me only as a weapon, and he used me to cause harm. If his plan had succeeded, then Snape would either have died, or the wolf would have let him live in the wish of creating its own pup. If either had happened, not only would I have been expelled, but the Ministry would have been involved. They would have killed me, Harry. Held a quick hearing for me like all magical creatures deemed dangerous, been declared a danger to society, and then 'put to sleep.' Sirius hurt me badly in his disregard for this and it literally took years for him to gain my trust again. I decided to give him another chance even though he probably didn't deserve it."
"Was it worth it?" Harry whispered, moved by the emotion he saw in the older man's eyes. He had known about Sirius' failed prank, but he had never considered how it must have been for Remus to know that he had been used as a mere weapon.
"I believe it was. Sirius is not perfect, you know that well enough. He is fallible like any of us. But if given a second chance, he is not one to waste it. So the answer to your question: does he deserve another chance? I have given him one and it proved wise. Should you? Only you know that. Do you understand, Harry?"
"I-I think so. If you gave him another chance, then I can too."
"And nothing is set in stone. If for any reason you change your mind about him, my home is always welcome to you. Sirius and I are the best of friends, but every friendship has a line somewhere. I will not respect his rights over you if I do not feel it is warranted."
"Thank you, Remus," Harry smiled a true smile then. As it had been with Sirius, it was an occurrence that was sorely missed. Remus smiled as well and drew the boy into a light embrace.
"Now," the werewolf said standing up. "What do you say we find our lost Rabbit and Padfoot?"
Harry nodded and followed his godfather down the hallway. However, said missing duo turned the corner just then as though waiting for a cue. For a moment, Harry felt himself stiffen at the sight of the two men. Then he remembered what he had just told Remus and he moved to join the werewolf in greeting them.
The change he saw in Sirius was incredible. Sleeping for 20 hours must have its merits if it produced a wizard so changed in movement, appearance, and temperament. When he had last seen Sirius, Harry saw an unwillingness for eye contact from the man. Also, Sirius looked cowed and nearly a mere shadow of his brash and joyful self. Now, the first thing Sirius did upon reaching his best friend and son was to look the boy full in the eyes and smile. It was not yet a full-blown back from the past Padfoot grin that could still turn more than a few female heads. Yet, it had a hint of the old Sirius that Harry and Remus were pleased to see, for it held a promise for their friend's complete recovery.
"Do you know how hard it is to wake him up?" exclaimed Rabbit to ease any tension still lingering in the air between the small family before him. Remus laughed at this. His soft laugh that betrayed his true mirth. No more hollow chuckles that hid underlying pain. Any tension that survived the initial contact immediately dissipated.
"In fact I do know how hard it is," Moony grinned. "I had to wake him up every day for 7 years while in school. No one else was brave enough to try it."
"Well, you're no early riser either," Sirius defended himself crossing his arms. "I remember James having to roll you off your mattress more than once."
"Only after a full moon, Padfoot, and only when you kept me up previously with your insufferable snoring," Moony shot back quickly. Sirius had the grace to look offended.
"I? Snore? The Great Sirius Black do something so-"
"Come off it," Harry smiled, "You snore loud enough to wake the dead."
"Well I can see you're not going to be any help, are you?" Sirius frowned. "I swear, the day I get released from the hospital, everyone immediately gangs up on me."
"Reminds you of our innocent, carefree school days, doesn't it?" mused the werewolf. Rabbit raised an eyebrow.
"Innocent and carefree? You two? If the other two of your little passé were anything like you, I pity the poor educators of Hogwarts' youth."
"Speaking of the youth of Hogwarts," Remus said looking at his pocket watch, "I'm late for an appointment with Dumbledore."
"Will you be teaching again?" asked Harry excited at the prospect of a competent Defense teacher.
Remus shrugged. "If I do, it will only be until he can find a more permanent professor. It appears that shortly after your departure from the school, your last Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher disappeared and was later found a few days later stuffed into a toilet. We think Peeves had something to do with it, but no one can nail it on him. Rumor has it that Professor Anton packed up and left shortly after leaving the Hospital Wing. No one's heard from her since." He looked from his watch to his three friends. "I really must be going. Sirius, Harry, I will see you later. It has been a pleasure, Rabbit, and I trust you will keep in touch after you leave?"
"As often as I can," the American promised as they shook hands. Remus fled the waiting room with his wand in his hand, presumably to Apparate the moment he was safely away from the protective wards surrounding the hospital.
"We must be going too," Sirius said to Harry. "I want to see someone before we head home." The boy nodded, surprised at the ease with which Sirius spoke to him when only yesterday he had trouble maintaining his very composure. The idea of going home, wherever that might be, was tempting and he was warming up to the fact that he and Sirius would be sharing that home.
"I should be getting home too," Rabbit said, also looking at his watch. "President Alwin expects my report tonight."
"Will you Apparate or take a Portkey?" asked Sirius as the three walked out of the building.
"Portkey this time. Apparating between countries is generally frowned upon unless it's an emergency."
"There's an office just a few blocks from here," Sirius replied. "We'll join you. The building I'm looking for is near it anyway."
The minutes went by silently for a block or two as no one knew quite what to say. All that needed to be said had been said and that which was already discussed was not meant for a public stroll. As he walked, Harry chanced a sideways glance at his once-again father. Since the last outburst with the link in which Sirius pushed through the boy's terror, Harry could feel only echoes of the mental tendrils. Strangely silent, the link betrayed no hint of Sirius' emotions, and he felt no invasion into his own.
Harry knew of his father's lingering pain only by the slight favoring of his right side. The Healers could only do so much with Sirius' wound. Muggle weapons and magic often clashed and so was the effect here. The major healing needed was accomplished with only a few glitches, but in order to recover completely, Sirius needed to be gentle with his bandaged wound for a few weeks more. In the older man's face was a set glint in his eye that refused to acknowledge the wound. He would favor the wound, yes, but he need be the only one to know it.
"What is the new house like?" asked Harry timidly, trying to move his thoughts from the lingering guilt of Sirius' latest near death experience.
"Oh, the Celestial Tsunami? It's great! It's about the size of the Manticore's Den and it has a pond in the front that-"
"This isn't the house that Remus said had a swamp, is it?" Harry asked doubtfully. Sirius' eyes glittered at the joke though Rabbit was oblivious to the private humor of the situation.
"For the last time, it is a Japanese garden!" Sirius exclaimed. "And it's a very nice Japanese garden if I say so myself. Just a few miles away from Wolf's Haven too in case of emergencies."
"Did you get another stone angel?" Harry sincerely hoped not. Their last guardian cared more about her marble hair than their actual well being.
"No, but I have something better. You'll see it when we get home."
Harry was not sure if he trusted the happiness in his father. It could be one of his many practical jokes. Or maybe he really got a house guardian that did its job well. He did not really like the idea of a guardian anyway. Most houses did not have one, though with Voldemort's reputed return, more people were putting more effort into securing their homes. He knew that as a main target, he should understand the need for protection. It did not mean he had to like it.
"Here we are," Sirius exclaimed as they reached an old dusty shoe store. Going inside, Harry felt as though he sincerely needed a good sneeze to decontaminate himself from the layers of dust layering the floor and shelves. In the back of the ill-used store was an elderly man stocking his shelves with a bored look as though the monotony of a shop with nary a customer finally got to him.
"We're closed," he answered automatically when the door bell sounded
"Excuse me," Sirius said, "but we need a Portkey overseas."
"City and country," the shoe seller said without pausing to look up from his work.
"Boston, Massachusetts in the United States," Rabbit spoke up.
"How many passengers?"
"Just one. Me."
"One way or two?"
"Just one way."
"Very well." The shopkeeper climbed down from his ladder and ruffled through some black and white saddle shoes in a corner. He gave himself a small grin as he apparently found the right shoe.
"Here they are. It'll be 3 Galleons for a regular Portkey worth one trip to the States. 5 Galleons for an Untraceable Portkey."
"I'll take the Untraceable," Rabbit said fishing through his many pockets for some money. He grinned at Sirius and Harry, the latter of which found this building and its contents to suddenly be something to cause much excitement and curiosity. Paying for the portkey, Rabbit received the left shoe in a box. His companions followed him to a back door used for transportation.
"If you need to get a hold of me for any reason, you can send an owl to the Department of Mysteries in America labeled for Rabbit," the American said as they stepped into the room. "They'll get it to me."
"Can't we simply keep in touch?" asked Sirius. Rabbit shrugged opening the box to reveal an old ugly saddle shoe meant for the left foot.
"Such things are rather frowned upon among Unspeakables, and it's hard to reach us unless it's an emergency," he answered. He paused for a moment in quiet deliberation. Then he looked up to the two before him as though seeing them for the first time ever. His light blue eyes widened as they met both of his companion's eyes, testing them intensely. "Alan Becket," he finally whispered in a voice so soft that even Remus would have trouble hearing it. "My name is Alan Becket. Address personal owls as such."
Neither Sirius nor Harry spoke, too stunned for words. Even for the boy, who had very little experience with such things, knew the great importance of this simple revelation. It was a mark of great trust and respect to know the forbidden name of an Unspeakable. Should this knowledge reach the wrong person, Rabbit's life would no doubt be forfeit.
Then Rabbit's eyes lessened in intensity and glittered again in his ever-present humor. "The white rabbit's lost track of time and should have been in his hole a long time ago. I must be going."
"Have a safe journey, Rabbit," Sirius said shaking his hand. "Thank you for everything."
"Can't say it was my pleasure, but I'm glad to have been of some use. I'll always be reachable should you need me." Sirius nodded and let Harry come forth.
"I owe you my life, Rabbit," Harry began, unsure of how to approach the American. "I can't say how…"
"Listen, kid," interrupted Rabbit, "You're alright and where you belong. That's thanks enough. Just take care of each other and stay out of trouble, alright?" Harry nodded and received a fond ruffling of his hair from his new friend.
Rabbit backed off from them so they wouldn't be caught up in the magical energies. "See you around, you barbaric American," Sirius smiled. His friend laughed and bowed mockingly.
"See you around, you prissy Englishman," laughed Rabbit as he grabbed hold of the shoe. With a whirl, he was sucked into the shoe that soon fell lifelessly to the floor. Without a word, Sirius and Harry walked out of the store to wherever it was that Padfoot wanted to go.
They walked further into the city, through sketchy alleys and dark back walkways. Finally, without too much trouble, Sirius led them to an even smaller building than the Portkey shop. Knocking three decisive times on the door, Sirius gave his name to the young man on the other side.
Harry stayed close to his father throughout the treacherous trip to this new building and in entering it, he was able to relax somewhat. It was a cozy few rooms despite its sketchy location with red and gold adorning much of everything. The lighting was soft and almost completely from small candles or chandeliers. The younger man who answered the door led them into a library with comfortable chairs and bade them sit. It was then that Sirius deemed introductions important to the situation.
"Harry, this is an old friend from the first war, Thomas Turner. Thomas, this is my adopted son, Harry. You remember James' boy?"
"Remember him? Sirius, I remember tireless hours of babysitting duty while you and your three Marauders went off to save the world. Of course I remember him!" his dark green eyes were like jade and they reflected the candlelight as they looked upon the boy before him. He was a stately looking man, maybe only a few years younger than Sirius with long mahogany hair that was kept intact by a low ponytail. "Welcome to my humble abode, Harry. I am sorry we had to meet again so soon after these unfortunate events."
He moved to the back of the room to prepare some tea for his guests and a glass of dark red wine for himself. Briefly flitting his eyes to Sirius once, he proceeded the conversation lightly. "When you told me you were coming, Sirius, you failed to tell me why."
"Can't a man visit an old friend without needing a reason, Thomas?"
"So soon after such horrible events? Sirius, I can smell the stench of your lies from here." He handed a cup to his visitors as he took a seat across from them. "Now, tell old Thomas what's the matter."
"Alright then, if you really want to get down to business." Sirius put down his cup without ever taking a sip. He leaned forward as he always did when dealing with urgent and difficult subjects. "What do you know of the Contiosa Botaya curse?"
Harry had the grace not to look too stunned at what just was uttered from his father's mouth. Of all the subjects to be brought up, this was one of the most unexpected and yet the most obvious. His heart pounded further as he awaited Thomas' answer. He saw the man neither flinch nor start at the mention of the forbidden spell.
"I could give you the textbook definition, or if you preferred, I could tell you how the spell is performed. I could tell you cases of failed attempts or successful attempts that ended only in tragedy. If you liked, I could give you the case that caused the ban on the spell or tell you the penalty of performing the spell yourself or others. Sirius, you must be a little more specific than that."
"Alright then, fine. Javen performed the spell on Harry and when he died, I was forced to take it over. I was told that if one person died, than the other would be in jeopardy."
"You were told right," Thomas nodded. "The dominant person in the link can gain more control, maybe even surviving the loss of their partner should their control grow so great."
"Javen used the link to… to kill his son," said Harry quietly. "Then he transferred his mind to his son's body and took it over."
"An unusual form of possession, but very plausible," agreed Thomas. "Javen must have had great power."
"His power lay in persuasion and manipulation," said Sirius, "but we're not here to talk about him. He's very dead and very much out of the way."
"So it appears. So now you two share this link. What now?" Thomas took a sip from his glass calmly.
"I don't know," Sirius shook his head. "This link has been used for far more harm than anything else. The risks involved are too heavy. Is there a cure?" Harry perked up in his chair at the hope for a cure. This movement was not lost by either Sirius nor his friend.
"I'm sorry, Sirius," Thomas responded immediately. "There is no cure. Once your mind has become dependent on something, it is not able to give such a thing up. Should one of you abandon the link, you will both die unless the more dominant of the pair is the one leaving it. Then there is a slim chance of survival for the stronger of the two." He put down his wine glass and looked directly at Harry. "You must be very aware of what this spell does to you. You can be controlled or given vast amounts of abilities and power with a single thought. You know, more than anyone, what can be done with this link you share."
"Isn't there any way to transfer it to something else or get rid of it?" asked Harry.
"I don't blame you for wanting to try. But there is nothing that can be done to lose it. That is why it was outlawed; because of the lethality that comes with the gifts."
"What gifts?" demanded the boy. "I was forced to… do horrible things with it." The image of the dead Auror and screaming mermaid came clearly to mind. "Is there no way?"
"What gifts? Surely you can find some advantage of such a link. You can find your partner anywhere in the world with a mere thought. You can lend a loved one power in a duel that you cannot enter. You can be given abilities you have only read about. Forming a team that is unbreakable by any force in the universe is a team not to be taken lightly. You and Sirius could do such great things with your link." Seeing that they were not convinced, he sighed. "There is a way to minimize the effects of the link until it is barely noticeable. But that it the most that can be done."
"What do you do?" asked Sirius, willing to do anything to ease the fear in Harry's heart.
"Ignore it. You do not send messages, you do not receive them. Push it to the back of your mind until it is a microscopic pin of light in your myriad of thoughts. Do not even think about it or talk about it. The less acknowledgment it receives, the less it will flare up. This takes a lot of practice, but I've heard that it works well. Again, despite the spell's obvious disadvantages, I do not recommend this course of action. You have been given a gift. Use it for Merlin's sake!" He sighed and lifted his glass again. "At least promise to think about it."
"Why are you so interested in it?" asked Sirius, voicing what was in Harry's mind. For a moment, the boy thought his mind had been read, but he knew it hadn't. He would have known.
"Nothing more than magical curiosity, I assure you. I am in training to become a Duelimg Master, and this is fascinating from a dueling point of view. Not everyone gets to see a Contiosa Bond at work."
Sirius gave him a dry look. "Thomas, you are 389 years old and you have never observed a Contiosa?"
The man who looked so young laughed in pure mirth, revealing a neat pair of fangs behind his soft pink lips. "390 in two weeks, young one! And no, I have never had the pleasure of observing one. My Master, you could say, never did like his fledgling experimenting much." Harry's eyes widened as he finally realized what it was about his father's friend that put him on edge. And that was no wine in the glass, was it…?
"So we are an immortal's lab rats," Sirius observed, not sounding all that upset. Thomas shook his head still chuckling.
"Oh, please, Sirius, look who's talking. I seem to recall how you owled me twice a week in Hogwarts to help you with your homework when you found out what I was."
Sirius had the grace to blush at that. "What's the use of having a family steward if you do not use him?"
"Between Remus and myself, it's no wonder you did so well in Defense Against the Dark Arts," Thomas lightly chided. Then he rose from his chair. "It is late, Sirius, and I must be getting to bed." Harry was about to remark on how it was not yet noon when he remembered himself and stayed silent. Following the men to the door, he fell into deep thought as he pondered what they would do about the Contiosa.
"Thank you for your time, Thomas," Sirius said as his friend opened the door for them. The vampire shook his head.
"Think nothing of it, old friend. It was good to see you again. Now keep in touch from time to time. I never tire of your letters. And besides," he said with a wink, "I have an investment in you now. I need to follow my lab rat's progress."
"Goodbye, Thomas," Sirius sighed rolling his eyes.
"Thanks for your help," Harry said, surprised to find himself not at all uneasy about being so close to the immortal. A small voice in his mind found this humorous as it proved that he had a complete assortment of friends now. Even as he shook Thomas' hand, he felt no fear but only mused at how warm the hand was, and not the chilling cold he was expecting. His mind drifted back to the wine glass consumed previously and figured that that was the cause of the vampire's warmth and fleshed out appearance.
"Not at all, little one. I enjoyed seeing you again. If you ever need anything, do not hesitate to see me. And don't you worry about the Contiosa. No matter what you decide to do, it will all work out. A vampire's mind link to their Makers and siblings is very similar to the Contiosa and there isn't one of my kind alive who hasn't been abused by it at one time or another. The scars will heal. You were broken into it too quickly, but believe me when I say that you will one day cherish it as I do mine."
Harry only nodded, unsure of how to respond. He felt Sirius' hand on his shoulder and left the strange, gentle vampire with his strange, gentle home behind. They headed back toward the center of town where they could catch the Knight Bus to their new home.
"Don't mind him, Harry," assured Sirius, "He's not as strange as he seems. Vampires are a weird lot anyway, and he's a fairly young one as far as they go. Seen a lot in his time, though. More than most his age."
"That wasn't really… human blood in his cup, was it?" the boy asked tentatively. His father shrugged, humor creeping into his eyes.
"He gave up regular hunting when he became my father's steward before I was born. He won't say no to a particularly nasty criminal that gets too close to his territory, but he prefers to raid blood banks a few times a month."
"When he taught our class, Remus said that they can live off animals if they need to."
"Remember that he said 'if they need to.' There's a difference between living and surviving. He tried to convert to animals in the mid 1800's, mostly rats and the occasional poodle I hear, but he only wound up miserable. They do it if they must, a useful trick on a ship at sea, but never longer than they have to. You'll never find a vampire with his good health if they live only on animals. I expect he's been feeding pretty regularly on human blood if his good color is anything to judge by."
"Y'know," Harry remarked, quickening his steps to keep up with his father's longer strides, "I think I like him. I already know half giants, centaurs, werewolves, house elves, veelas, ghosts, Americans, and hippogriffs. Why not a vampire too?"
"I like your way of thinking, kid," said Sirius approvingly. "There aren't many who would accept your friends as easily as you."
"I know what you mean," Harry said determined to keep the conversation light. "You have to have a strong will to befriend an American. A New Englander on top of it."
They shared a laugh at poor Rabbit's behalf and continued on in companionable silence. As they walked, Harry reveled in the bright morning sun that contrasted so sharply to the air conditioned hospital and the chilling cold of prison. He could see now why Sirius insisted on going outside every time it was sunny out. Suddenly, his reckless laugh that was filled with such honest happiness at every ray of sunlight seemed less strange. Next to him, he could see his father's content countenance confirm what he already knew. They were of the same mind, and if it were up to them, every day would be filled with the warmth and light of the sun.
In their peaceful silence, Harry's eyes flitted over to a large beautiful house on a faraway hill that overlooked the city. It was upon a hill and glittered in the afternoon light. Ancient looking, it stood majestically alone with a large yard considering all the civilization nearby.
"They must have a lot of housekeepers or something to keep it running," he commented to himself. Sirius stiffened slightly.
"Or a lot of house elves," his father muttered. Harry looked over at him, noticing the discomfort as well as feeling it slightly over the bond.
"Do you know the people who live there?" he asked curiously. The man shrugged and snuggled back into his jacket unconsciously as though he had a chill coming on.
"Only one lonely hermit live there now," he said, unable to look at it further. "That's Black Manor."
"That's your… I mean… it…" Harry's emerald eyes grew wide as he struggled with his words.
"Yeah, it was my house. I haven't been in it since I went into hiding in 1981 a few weeks before Halloween. My father retired a few years back and doesn't like to come out now, or so I've heard."
"You don't talk about him often," the boy said softly and carefully. He had heard enough previously about how his grandfather had treated young Sirius upon his arrest.
"He was a part of my old life and has made no urge to contact me or be a part of my life any more. I can respect that and I've moved on." By the hurt evident in the man's sapphire eyes, Harry saw that moving on would take more time than this. He could only imagine being estranged from Sirius for the rest of his life even after he was proved innocent. The elder Mr. Black, Castor, seemed too proud, or was it embarrassed, to approach his son again after disowning him. He was glad once more that he and Sirius had closed their rift before such an estrangement could form between them.
"Maybe someday he'll want to talk to you again," suggested Harry with false optimism. "And you'll make up like we did."
Sirius shrugged noncommittally. "Maybe."
Their wait for the bus once flagging it down was not so comfortable with the magnificent Black Manor in perfect view, but at least it was a short wait. Padfoot visibly eased up once the old mansion was out of sight in the bus.
Sitting on a lounge chair, Sirius addressed his son who was perched on a stool. "I've been thinking about what Thomas said. You know, about how we can't get rid of the bond but muffle it instead. What do you want to do?"
Harry thought about it for a moment. Now that the initial panic of having to share his mind with Sirius was over, the thought of a bond wasn't half near as terrifying. Yes, he still feared it; it would take many years for his fear of the mind-numbing abuse to subside. "I won't lie and say I'm not still scared of it. I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable with the thought of having someone else in my head."
Sirius nodded, understanding perfectly. "It's up to you what we do with it. I don't want you to be afraid whatever you decide."
The boy leaned back in his stool and stared out the window for a few moments. Clouds floated by as the bus flew him to his new home. The colors of the far away countryside flashed before him. He could feel his father's patient gaze on him as he waited for the final verdict.
He realized suddenly that this choice was not so much a choice of privacy, but more a choice of trust. Couldn't he trust Sirius with his life? He felt confident that he could. Then why was trusting him with his mind so different? He didn't have an answer.
Tentatively, with no small amount of apprehension, he reached back into the deep recesses of his mind. The bright blue light that met him was unmistakably Sirius; had every feel of the man's bright spirit. Coming closer, he could make out the sitting form of his father within those blue flames with his eyes closed, the link unrealized. Just allowing himself to bask in the blue glow calmed the boy's jittery nerves.
Whenever Harry had dared to approach the link while Javen controlled it, he would be met with an almost painfully blinding ice blue light that used its coldness to stab through him. No memory was left intact; no emotion was too sacred to plunder. He had felt cut and exposed to the Dark Wizard on the other side of that link. Touching the azure flames of Sirius, Harry was astonished at how much of a difference two men could make in one simple spell.
Here, there was no pain, no naked exposure to a cold uncaring master. The light acknowledged Harry's own emerald aura with a dull glow as the blue figure opened his eyes. Bracing himself against invasion, Harry found that he had no need to. His father would not make one move toward the green glow nor reach out to explore Harry's mind without the boy taking the first step. The blue Sirius cocked his head to the side as he unknowingly projected his curiosity, but did not act on it. He sat there uncharacteristically patient as he waited for the boy to make the first move.
'You promised me you wouldn't use it against me,' Harry said. He was not angry anymore, but he wanted an explanation. 'But you did anyway.'
Sirius' face held no regret or embarrassment at this statement. 'I know. I'm not sorry I did it, Harry. I'd do it again if I had to. You were panicking, and frankly, you were scaring the shit out of me. You would have hurt me or yourself if I didn't intervene. I promised I wouldn't use it to hurt you. So in a way, my promise still holds. I'm only sorry you had to see what you did from my end.'
The boy shuddered slightly at the memory of what he saw. Images of Azkaban horrors flashed before him and he knew it would take a very long time to relieve himself of that extra baggage. He had also seen the dependency Sirius had for him and it frightened him a little bit. He had never known the sway he held before and he didn't know if he could deal with its consequences. Shrugging that away, Harry knew he would deal with it when the time came. Right now, he had a different kind of problem to deal with.
'Harry, I'm not going to lie to you. I would like to give the bond a try. I think it could be good for both of us. But if you have any fear whatsoever about this then let it be. We can muffle it so it barely exists like Thomas said. Over time, it may even go away entirely.'
Reaching his own emerald shimmering hand forward, Harry stepped toward his father. Sirius stood up and also held out his hand, but did not take his son's. If Harry wanted this link, he would have to come and get it. Sirius would do nothing to push it in either direction.
Harry took a deep breath and stared into Sirius' eyes. There was no danger there. Only peace, patience, and love. He would not hurt him. He was not Javen. He would never be Javen. It was all he needed to know. He took the last few steps separating them and took his father's hand. A bright teal flame arose from their conjoined hands as the bond flared to life.
'I want to try this,' Harry said into his father's mind. 'I want to trust again.'
Sirius nodded and smiled softly, holding up Harry's flaming green hand as though it fascinated him. Even through the mind link, he could feel how soft his son's flesh really was. They were gradually toughening through wand and broomstick use, but it solidified the fact that the boy was just that, a boy. A boy that had been fighting battles not meant for one so young for so long that Sirius nearly overlooked his age. He vowed that he would no longer let Harry's strength blind him to his youth again. Children were meant to be protected and by God Harry would be protected even if it killed his father. He marveled at his stupidity in this matter before.
'We'll make this work, Harry,' Sirius responded through the link gently, not letting his protective thoughts trickle into the bond. It would only ruffle the independent boy's feathers. 'We'll be a family again. You don't have to be afraid anymore.' He let reassurance filter through their bond and fill Harry with his confidence. 'I won't let this bond be what it once was to you. No more fear, Harry. Never any more fear.'
A sudden jar threw the two out of their meditation. Stan Shunpike had shaken Sirius to inform him that they had arrived at their destination. The Celestial Tsunami lay before the parked bus in waiting for her two masters to approach. Trying to get his grip on reality quickly, Sirius stood shakily and helped Harry rise. The boy offered a quick smile in thanks as they departed the Knight Bus.
Similar to the first time faced with the Manticore's Den, Sirius marveled at the sudden gleeful look on his son's face as he appraised their new dwelling. It had a slight oriental feel to it with a Japanese garden complete with pond, and not a swamp, in the front yard.
"This is it?" asked Harry. Sirius nodded, amusement glowing in his eyes.
"I bought it last fall after you left." Harry smiled at him and approached the blue house.
"It's perfect. Even better than the Manticore's Den."
"I'm glad you think so, young master," came a soft, but resounding voice. The boy spun around and found himself face to face with a large blue oriental dragon. Its head was level with his and the end half of it was still submerged in the pond that looked far too small for it.
"Harry, this is Lemures, the surprise I was telling you about. He is the guardian of the house," Sirius introduced, feeling the astonishment coming from his son's end of the link.
"Like the stone angel?" Harry asked quietly, feeling not a little nervous about the 40 foot creature not 2 feet away from him.
"Much better than any stone angel," snorted the dragon in indignation. "You will find, young master, that I am a worthy enough protector."
"I… uh… alright," Harry stammered backing up. Sirius chuckled softly and patted the dragon's maned head in a friendly manner.
"Just give him some time, Lemures," he said looking into the great golden eyes. "The last dragon he came in contact with tried to eat him." The dragon nodded and, with a bow of the head to Harry and Sirius, backed away in the pond once more. It disappeared completely so that there was no trace of Lemures anywhere.
"I thought dragons were… well…"
"Mere animals? Usually that's the case. But Lemures is very old and I hear he was raised by humans since he was a hatchling. If there is a such thing as a tame dragon, he is a good example. There is a spell over the pond that makes him the guardian of whoever lives there and now that spell extends to us. Don't be afraid of him, he's here for your protection. I pity any Death Eater stupid enough to cross him."
Harry nodded, and with another last glance to the innocent looking pond, followed his father into the house. His apprehension was lost once more as he entered his new dwelling. Some of the old furniture had been recovered from the last wreckage and was repaired so that you couldn't tell the difference, including Sirius' overstuffed pouf that Remus liked to sleep in so much.
"You approve then?" Sirius asked. Harry sent a wave of affirmation through the bond and continued in his exploration. The boy's eyes stopped their wandering when they came across two things laying so innocently on the coffee table between the couch and pouf.
A tattered photo album, his tattered photo album lay open, its page kept by a small snowglobe laying on top. He knelt at their side unbelieving that they had survived the attack. Peering through the album, he noticed that the pictures given to him by Sirius in the Manticore's Den were mostly all there too. Some looked more worse for wear than others, some missing completely, but most were there in relatively wonderful shape. A picture that included only the four Marauders came to life as the four boys waved at him enthusiastically, Sirius and James vying for the most attention while Peter and Remus sat back laughing. He smiled back, eyes misting over as he wiggled his fingers back in return.
"I'd hoped you wouldn't mind me putting them in the album Hagrid gave you," Sirius said from behind him.
"No," Harry whispered back, "I'm just so glad that so many made it out alright. And the snowglobe too… I thought for sure it would have been destroyed this time." The five animals were there like always, romping in the snow as they always had and as they always would. Even the small sparrow flitted through the stag's antlers as she teased the chasing wolf.
"Some things can't be destroyed so easily," was all Sirius said before moving to sit in his pouf. As though on cue, chimes rang throughout the house like a thousand tiny bells. "Someone's at the door," Sirius explained as he moved to open it. Harry turned around curiously and was shocked to find Professor McGonnagall standing there so calmly.
"Are you ready yet, Harry? Sirius? We cannot possibly wait forever," she said disapprovingly. Through her stern façade, Harry thought he saw a slight sparkle in her eye as she looked at him. Whatever it was, it was quickly hidden again.
"Ready? Ready for what?" asked Harry joining his father at the door.
"Why for your Rebirthing Ceremony," she sighed as though it were obvious. Sirius smiled at the puzzled look on the boy's face.
"You didn't think we'd let you stay banished, did you? You need your wand, your school supplies, and I daresay you'll want your Firebolt back too."
"Really? I can be a wizard again?" his emerald eyes lit up as he thought of rejoining the world he felt so lost without.
"We did consider letting you remain in this house until you were old enough to make a living in the Muggle world, but Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley threatened to drop out as well," replied the aging professor dryly, but they could hear the humor in her voice. "And I fear losing 3 promising students in one year would severely hurt the reputation of the school." She turned back to Sirius as a smirk threatened to escape at the sight of her student's elated face. "We expect you within the hour. Try not to keep us waiting too long." With that, she turned and walked to the sidewalk where she promptly disapparated.
"I thought they snapped my wand. Are they giving me a new one?" asked Harry as they prepared to leave as well. Sirius shook his head.
"That wand they snapped was just for show. Symbolism if you will. They kept your real wand in storage until they could decide what to do about it. Mr. Ollivander cleaned it up for you and purged it of Wormtail and Javen's ruddy spells. It's as good as new."
"What about school?" they made their way to the storage shed where Sirius' beloved motorcycle waited. "Will they let me go back?"
"You can return as soon as you feel you are ready. Dumbledore already spoke to the students. He didn't tell them everything, obviously, just that you were proven innocent and that they were not to ever bother you about it. He wants you back soon so you won't have to repeat the year." It was already mid-November and Harry knew he had a lot of catching up to do. Sirius caught up on that thought through the link and chuckled. "Oh I don't think you'll have too much trouble catching up. He's having Remus tutor you while he fills for Professor Anton. The OWL's will be fine, so don't worry."
The ride to the school was filled with comfortable silence, broken only by the occasional joke Sirius told through the bond to keep spirits up. The engine coupled with the blowing wind was too loud to use regular voices, so he chose to get used to his new link through humor. As the view of the great looming castle rose over the horizon, Harry used his end of the bond for the first time that ride.
'Dad?' he asked tentatively, losing the humor he had found in the joke about the dragon and the walrus. Sirius could sense this, and resisted the urge to look back at his son.
'Yeah?' he asked.
'If, um… If you had known ahead of time… that… that all this would happen. Y'know, with Wormtail and my parents and… Javen last summer and with the whole trial thing a month ago… would you have… I mean …'
Sirius sighed in relief as Harry managed to choke out the gist of his question. He had been afraid it would be something worth worrying over. Sending peace along the bond to the nervous boy, he smiled to himself. He squeezed his son's hands that were wrapped around his waist.
'Yes, Harry. If I had known about all that from the start, I'd have still loved you from the day you were born.'
(Finally! I might add)
I Would've Loved You Anyway
If I'd a-known the way that this would end
If I'd a-read the last page first
If I'd a-had the strength to walk away
If I'd a-known how this would hurt
I would've loved you anyway
I'd do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I'd a-loved you anyway
It's bittersweet to look back now
At mem'ries withered on the vine
But just to hold you close to me
For a moment in time
I would've loved you anyway
I'd do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I'd a-loved you anyway
And even if I'd seen it coming
You'd still've seen me running
Straight into your arms
I would've loved you anyway
I'd do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I would've loved you anyway
I would've loved you anyway
AN2: Just so everyone knows… I hate this story. I really and honestly do. It has its redeeming qualities I'm sure, but if I didn't love you guys so much, I would trash the whole stupid thing! Woah, now that I'm done bad mouthing myself, let me explain my absense. My grandfather was a painter and writer with 4 books out and 4 more on the way. His name was Ray Lacharite in case anyone is interested in looking him up on Amazon or something. Anyway, he died in June and since then, I have had little love for writing. He supported me in everything I did and we wrote story ideas to each other all the time. I loved him very much and will miss him terribly. Between that and the controversial Book #5, my muse decided to run away. Rabbit has agreed to be mine until she returns. Anyway, I made this chapter twice the normal size because I felt so bad and because I couldn't find a decent place to cut it. So I hope you enjoyed. You have been a great audience and I hope to hear from everyone again as I repost SGNG and post new things. Chiao!
Aims80; Well here it is, I hope it doesn't disappoint. Luv Ti ^_^
Kaceyrat: I know and I'm sorry. But this is the end, so no more cliffies for a long time.
Jpalmgren: Think of the link like a drug. It gives a person access to twice the amount of power. Soon, your mind becomes dependent on such a thing and it refuses to let go. The link isn't the problem, it's your own mind that refuses to lose this new source of stability. But your reasonings, all of them, are very valid. I hadn't even thought of some of them. Yeah, Sirius tends to think with his heart a lot of the time. The same is true for him in the books as well. Takes after his namesake in most regards in that he burns fiercely and passionately, but the faster it burns, the faster it dies. But I digress. As the series goes on, you will see them as they deal with the bond. Right now, it's in their fledgling stage. They probably didn't decide to do it for all the right reasons, but they have plenty of time to work things out. Thank you so much for all your input during this story. I really appreciate it!
A.Dee: Hehe, thanks. I'm glad I got all of my emotion across alright. Yeah, Sirius really is trying. And try not to get on me too much about Rabbit. I already love him and should really let him be. It's funny how the strangest things get attached to you. If I have my way, you'll be meeting him again. And you'll also meet his little girl sometime in the future. Don't worry, no Mary Sueishness. I don't do the romance thing. Shipping is bad and even worse when the person has no idea what they're doing.
Atrixo: Thanks for your support. As much as I can see where Jpalmgren is coming from, I also tend to agree more with you on those issues. Sirius is trying really hard. He's not perfect and he'll be the first to tell you. But he cares and he really does try. I was iffy on whether or not to do the link, I was actually losing some sleep over it. But in the end, I figured it was for the best. Thanks for your ideas and opinions and I hope to hear more from you in the future.
Englishgirl: Thanks! ^_^
Superman: Well, it's not up as soon as anyone would like, but it is up. Enjoy!
Ms. Issues: Thanks, and I hope you like this one too!
Lanfear1: Huh? *looks back and forth * I'm so confused. *runs and hides away from the scary people * Hostility is not good! I'm sorry, Lanfear! And you too, Samantha! Ah!
BlackPotterGirl: Hey, Katie! Who, me? Nice? Pfft! Yeah right! When am I ever nice? I don't think they can, but let me know how the research goes.
RavenLady: You got it, girl! It's halfway done and I'll get to work on it after I'm done posting all of SGNG again. I hope it's to your liking. It's not as sad as 'Who Wants to Live Forever' so that should please you.
HermioneG15: Woah, calm down there, girl. *hands you a wet cloth * maybe you should lie down. I don't think this story is good for your health. Maybe you shouldn't read it anymore… jk ^_^
Frizzy: You guess correctly. It was kind of obvious, but I want it to seem believable and not just a rehash of fluff. I hope you enjoy this chapter too.
Shiozaki: ^_^ Yes you may. And I know how you feel about stories like that. I've done it many a time myself.
Jen: *sigh * yeah, I know. I just can't write Ron and Hermione for beans. I'll try harder next time. But for now, let's just suspend belief so I can make the small excuse that the fact that they're still in school makes visiting not an option. It's not a good enough reason, but it's all I got. *sheepish grin *
Christy: A daunting task for any boy to be sure. Sirius did say though that he had all the time he needed. But even then it still seems rushed, doesn't it?
Azntgr01: Thanks, I think…
Black Panther: *big hug! * It's good to hear from you again! I missed you and all your death threats! No apology necessary. All is sweet and sunshine! And hun, if I thought you couldn't write, would I have asked you? Hmm? I would like you to consider it, I think we might make a good team and you would definitely keep me pushing things out in good succession so I don't disappear for months on end. I live in MA in the US of A. I'm at UMASS college currently, just moved in a while ago. I don't worry about saying this online since it's virtually impossible for yucky people to find lil ol me in a school of 28,000. Where are you in the world?
Padfoot10: I'm sure you knew who it was too. Enjoy!
Fanfictionfanatic: Updating quickly? What is this 'updating quickly'? No seriously, I had a rough summer with the death of my grandfather who was a published author himself and I haven't felt much like writing much since then. But I feel better now and can write in quicker succession. *jumps away from giant fly swatter * Ahhhhhh! Don't hurt me!
Collyn6: I hope this makes you happy again. ^_^
Crystal-potter 1: I know, I hope this sates you.
Madison Black: You live in Boston? Woah, I live like just an hour away from Boston. I figured to put him there just cause I knew that city the best. It's a great place, isn't it? ^_^ And I've never seen 8 Mile, so how is Rabbit like that? And I love him and Bren too. Those lovely Bostonians just grew on me. I put a little of myself in them and that makes them my babies *cuddles them * uh… hehe… you didn't see that. ^_^ And you know Yanks rule, girl!
Gohan Hugger: Definitely. As much as I want to, I'll never abandon a story.
Miss Panther: Hey, you snuck back in didn't you, Blackie? ^_^ Yeah, # 5 got me down like you wouldn't believe, but that's alright. I think it was done well and I love how she gushed over him every so often throughout it all.
Wandering Shadow: No more worries, Wanderer! Here's the next part! *hands out some brand name Ti' Tissues. *
Japonica: Hey hey, stranger! Jk, I remember you! No, no, don't die! Here's the last part, I swear!
Good story: The one before this is in the process of being reposted as you are reading this.
Black Potter Grl: Hey, again! Yeah, yeah, I know. I suck. I'm sorry :_(
Eva Phoenix Potter: Here it is!
Lauren: I know and without further ado, I give you the last chapter!