Chapter 1 – Recovery and Hope
He could hear the little bit of surf rolling up along the shore but Sirius couldn't tell if it was one stroke away or a hundred strokes more till landfall. It seems he had been out in the freezing waters of the North Sea for his entire life. His only driving desire was to save his godson and to make sure that the foul betrayer of his best friend and his wife was brought to justice.
But it was harder and harder to concentrate. He didn't know how much time he had left before the Aurors or the Dementors were turned loose to follow him and bring him back. It was curious that he felt no pride in being the first person to escape Azkaban; that's not what how he wanted to be remembered by. Sirius finally felt his grim form slip by the wayside as the cold and his fatigue finally began catching up with him. In spite of the time he had spent away from the Dementors, ten years of being incarcerated had been less than kind to his stamina.
The surf sounded closer now and Sirius could finally feel the up and down movements of the waves as he got closer to the shore. He gasped trying to breathe deeper but only got a mouthful of salt water for his effort. Sirius foundered briefly as the waves confused him. Which way was land? Was there a cross-current pulling him sideways? He just couldn't tell. He struck out again and was lifted up on another wave and tumbled over.
Sirius Black went under the sneaker wave and tried to get his bearings. There was a rushing in his ears and he couldn't tell which way was up. He was desperate for air and a direction to go in. It was hard to hold his breathe in but he didn't dare breath; that would be a sure path to drowning. And Harry really needed him.
Just as spots were forming in his eyes, one of Sirius's flailing arms struck hair and he felt a gentle grasp on his arm gently below the elbow. He was pulled upward to finally break the surface of the water and grab a quick mouthful of blessed air. Another wave crashed over them, him and whoever or whatever was towing him shoreward, but Sirius remained on the surface gasping desperately needed oxygen into his lungs. His dragging feet finally contacted a combination of sand and gravel and his aching legs make an effort to support his body.
The gentle tug on his arm continued as he half-dragged, half-swam and half–stumbled his way out from the water. He finally reached a place above the water line and fell to his hands and knees. The grip on his arm relaxed and Sirius vomited out the seawater he had swallowed in those last desperate yards.
A bit of heavy breathing sounded in his ear and Sirius looked sideways to see his benefactor. Even in the dark night he could tell it was a large shaggy dog, panting heavily and dripping water. Sirius reached up a shaky hand and rubbed the dog's head. "I don't know who sent you or where you came from but you've saved my life."
The dog ducked its head and lifted its muzzle under Sirius arm. It kept pushing him. "Get up huh? I'll try, I'll try."
It took four attempts before Sirius could stand on his own feet and even then the dog stood right beside him and leaned against him to provide support. The dog took a step and then Sirius took a step. This pattern repeated a number of time until Sirius realized that he was being led away from the beach he had landed on. He put a shaky hand on the dog's back and followed as best he could; the dog seemed to know when he needed to take a breather. Sirius didn't know how long he staggered along but he eventually tumbled under the branches of a low pine tree and collapsed in the relative warmth of the shelter. Sirius heard and felt the big dog pace around him once or twice and then settle down. An exhausted Sirius fell immediately to sleep.
Far away, the source of Sirius' major concern was still sleeping, vastly removed from the harsh conditions his godfather found himself in. The crowd in the Hogwarts infirmary had thinned out as the night dragged on toward morning. Hermione had watched the sleeping Tride for a while and then asked Knop to take him back to Potter Manor so that Assom could monitor him properly. Knop nodded silently and disappeared with Tride and the cot he was sleeping on. He returned less than a minute later.
The hour after the transmixture sequence had finished was the worst for all the concerned bystanders. Harry had gone through a period of convulsions a time or two and the girls had clasped his hands tighter. For some reason they couldn't get through to their husband mentally and it worried them. Myrtle and Joshua came to the infirmary about that time to check on Harry. Myrtle became very distraught at the uncertainty of Harry's condition and the two ghosts walked out through the walls to resume their guard duty at the Potter's new door.
Remus Lupin had walked into the medical wing around 1 am after being told about Harry's situation by some of the other house elves at the manor. Professor Snape held his tongue for a change but left soon after Remus sat down to help keep watch over Harry. Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall finally excused themselves to head back toward their beds after getting a promise from Madame Pomfrey to let them know when Harry woke up.
There had been a horrible time for Harry about 3 in the morning. His face had gone even paler than normal and his breathing slowed down. He eventually began gasping as if it was a monumental struggle to draw even a little bit of air into his lungs. Hermione and Ginny held his hands and poured a lot of love and magic through their bond to Harry. He hadn't regained consciousness but the crisis seemed to eventually pass as his breathing and color returned to normal. The girls relaxed a bit as Harry slumbered on.
But even Hermione and Ginny finally succumbed to the long hours and stress of worrying and watching their husband. Hermione watched Ginny fight off sleep for a while but finally told her to catch a nap for a bit and she would wake her up if there was a change. Ginny nodded but only lay down on the nearest cot so she could still watch her husband. A good sign was that the high fever Harry seemed to have was going away. He didn't seem to be sweating as much and Madame Pomfrey had checked his temperature a number of times and was pleased at Harry's appearance and overall condition.
It was nearing daybreak when Hermione felt her attention slipping away as sleep crept up on her. She gave Ginny a mental call and prepared to take a lie down herself. Ginny was coming back from a trip to the loo when Hermione tried releasing Harry's hand.
She was shocked that Harry clutched her hand tighter.
'… don't … go.'
'Don't be so loud Nonnie.'
'Ginny, Harry's coming out of it!'
Ginny slipped into the other side of Harry's cot and laid a hand across his forehead. His temperature seemed normal but it was nice just to be able to touch her husband again.
'I like that. Both of you. Terribly tired though; my eyelids feel like they weigh as much as Hagrid's boots.'
"It's okay Harry. You can sleep for a while longer; there's no big rush." Hermione felt Harry squeeze her hand one more time and he settled into the cot a little deeper and went totally back to sleep. Wrotkill rose from the chair he had sitting on to come over and look at his sometime apprentice. "He'll sleep normally now and recover. Have him come and see me when he's up to it."
Both Ginny and Hermione thanked Wrotkill again for his assistance and he silently vanished from the infirmary. Ginny turned to see Knop and Dobby and gave them the message that Harry was going to recover. Both elves smiled in their own way and Knop went back to tell everyone back at Potter Manor that Lord Harry would live.
Ginny and Hermione were elated that Harry seemed to be over his sickness but both were mentally exhausted after the long time sitting with him. Madame Pomfrey checked on Harry but then gave both girls a mild sleeping draught. "Your husband will be worried that you didn't take care of yourselves while he was sleeping. I'll wake you up when he comes around."
The girls protested against the potion but both admitted that they were tired. Ginny pushed a couple of cots together and the two Mrs. Potters snuggled up together but quickly fell asleep. Remus stretched as he stood up and wondered if he should be sending an owl out to Arthur and Molly Weasley.
It was a gust of wind that awoke Sirius Black just after daybreak. He shifted on the ground once and felt a warm presence against his back. The birds were chirping over his head and he saw a curious chipmunk watching him just at the end of a branch of the pine tree. The warmth behind him moved and just as Sirius was thinking about moving, a big sloppy warm tongue rasped over his ear.
Flipping over Sirius was nudged by the massive head of the dog that had rescued him early in the morning. The dog stood over him wagging its tail and Sirius tried pushing the big muzzle away. All he got was a handful of warm slime. "Ewww." The dog finally sat down on its haunches and Sirius saw that it was a fortunate bit of luck that led this particular breed of dog to the beach and his rescue. Why she had appeared at just the right time and place would be something that Sirius would ponder about over many nights in his future.
It was a fairly decent sized Newfoundland and Sirius could sense from the shape of its head that it probably was a female. Sirius held out one hand palm up and the black and white Landseer took a tentative step forward to check out her companion. She sniffed the hand once or twice and then just dropped her head to receive a good rub from Sirius. "That's a good girl, a great girl in fact. You saved me you did but I just can't stay here and pet you. People and other things will probably come looking for me soon and I need to find a place to hide."
Sirius looked down as his stomach rumbled. "I guess some food and clothes would probably be in order also. Got any ideas there girl?"
The Newfoundland turned and walked out from under the shelter of the pine branches. It took a few steps but paused and came back to take Sirius's hand gently in its mouth. It backed up and gently pulled at Sirius. "Moony would probably laugh at me but I think you want me to follow you."
The dog walked away again and after gazing around to check for observers Sirius followed her through the woods and away from the beach. They came to a paved road once but the Newf just walked calmly across without breaking stride. Sirius shook his head at the dog's actions but continued to trail after her.
Another fifteen minutes of walking brought Sirius to the edge of a clearing. The dog had stopped and Sirius slipped up next to her. They were looking down at a small farm. Three children were playing in the yard and Sirius sat down as he thought about what his next move should be. The Newfoundland dropped down beside him and laid her head on his knee. Sirius rubbed her head gently. "Thanks girl but if those are your kids, you ought to go see them. They've probably been worried about you."
The dog turned her head to look at him like he was crazy. "Okay then, how about we figure out a name for you while we're waiting. Girl is right but way too generic. Lassie doesn't seem quite right either. Charlotte? Taffy? Florence Henderson - after the famous nurse?"
The dog kept staring at Sirius. "This calls for a little bit of thought then; something distinctive." The dog woofed gently. "And appropriate for the gracious lady you are. That's it; of course! Gracie, come here."
Gracie stood up to wash Sirius's face with her wide tongue. "Okay, now that we have that settled, what's our next step?"
A sound from the farm caught both their attention. A loud shout accompanied the appearance of a bright yellow school bus and the three children lined up to board it. The school bus had the words West Cliff Primary School District on it which did absolutely nothing to help Sirius figure out exactly where they were. The bus started up and drove away and Sirius was about to sneak into the barn to hide for the day but the sound of a door opening and closing stopped Sirius and made him crouch back down. A man and woman emerged from the farmhouse and got into the black car that was parked in the driveway.
Sirius waited five minutes after the couple had driven away and made his way to the porch. Gracie followed behind looking over the nearby corral of sheep. After knocking at the door a number of times Sirius tried the latch. The door was locked but a nearby window was open halfway. Feeling a little guilty, Sirius opened it and gained entry into the house. Gracie barked once when he disappeared but Sirius stuck his head back out the window and asked the dog to just wait. Gracie surprisingly laid down on the porch and watched the road.
Fifteen minutes later, Sirius exited the window and closed it back down to its original appearance. He had found some clothes that mostly fit him and had quickly filled up two pillowcases; one with food and one with spare clothes and other items he thought he might need. Gracie stared at the pillowcases a little suspiciously but Sirius dug into one and brought out a ham sandwich for her. Gracie stared at him for a while and Sirius felt he had to explain himself. "We.. I need things to travel with and I did leave a note of sorts. If I'm not caught, I'll send Mr. and Mrs. Whitby back some money to pay for this stuff when I can."
Gracie grumbled a bit but did take the proffered sandwich. Sirius grabbed one for himself and ate as the two made their way back to the woods. "Great, a dog with a conscience. You can stay here you know Gracie. Those kids would make a nice home for you I think."
Gracie continued to follow Sirius back into the woods. Sirius stopped when they were under the cover of the trees and opened up one of the pillowcases. Gracie cocked her head sideways when Sirius started stripping off his clothes and putting them into it. She watched as her companion brought out a piece of rope and tied the two pillowcases closed and together.
Sirius patted Gracie on the head. "I have to go now. Don't follow. You can find a nice life for your own. But thank you again for saving me. Padfoot will go the rest of the way to Hogwarts."
Gracie back up two steps as the man in front of her transformed himself into a large black dog. The dog stood staring at Gracie for a second before picking up the pillowcases with his teeth. Padfoot looked at the position of the sun for a second and then turned with his burden to start loping northward. Gracie shook her squarish head at the sight but thirty seconds later barked and ran after the person.
Padfoot waited for Gracie to catch up and thought about how it would change his plans. The Aurors might be looking for him but not two wandering dogs. Padfoot tried to remember the location of the nearest town or railway line he had seen in the phone book back at the farmhouse. The ugly black dog found a trail through the woods and the black and white dog trotted along beside him.
There was a smell in the air that confused Harry. Part of it was the Hogwarts infirmary; Harry had woken up enough times there to recognize the combination of linen, potions and Madame Pomfrey's lilac fragranced perfume. There was something else very familiar and Harry managed to crack his eyes enough to see that Remus Lupin was carefully eating breakfast at a table next to the infirmary office.
Harry turned over and saw that Ginny and Hermione were curled up together on the cot next to him. What to do, what to do? Food or wives? Not much of a decision actually but Harry really didn't feel well enough to spring up on them. He settled for the next best thing; taking one of the pillows behind him Harry threw it up toward the ceiling but dived back under the covers. His aim was just a bit off – he only hit Ginny who rolled off the bed with a distinct thump. That sound brought Hermione awake and then Remus, Vika and Madame Pomfrey were up and investigating the noise.
Ginny whispered from her place on the floor. "Sorry everybody. I don't know what happened."
Madame Pomfrey was about to come over to check on her patient again but Hermione held up her hand. "It's early still. Harry hasn't budged as far as I know. I wish I knew when he was going to wake."
Harry was about to yawn and slowly come out of his sleep when he was bombarded by a pair of pillows. He looked up to see a grinning Hermione and Ginny looking back at him before they jumped and buried him in hugs and kisses. Madame Pomfrey was yelling at the girls to let her check Harry but Remus stood in front of her. "As much as everybody respects you Poppy, it might be a little dangerous getting between the three of them right now."
Poppy nodded but stood waiting patiently until Harry coughed once and fell back to the cot. "Make way, please. Let me check Mr. Potter first and then you can talk all you want."
Ginny turned away first and moved backward but Hermione gasped loudly as she held Harry out at arm's length to look at him before she turned him loose. "Harry, your eyes!" Ginny came back and quickly saw what Hermione had been shocked by. Instead of the warm green eyes that they both liked looking at, Harry's eyes now were even more distinctive. They were still green but they looked metallic or like emeralds; it was creepy, wonderful and hypnotic all at the same time. There were facets like jewels in his irises and they seemed to swirl if one stared at them too long.
Madame Pomfrey had sent Zillah off to notify Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall that Harry had woken up. Knop had departed for Potter Manor with the good news and Remus had asked an overjoyed Dobby to go to the Burrow and explain the situation to the Weasleys. All three house elves disappeared with a little string of pops. Madame Pomfrey actually shooed Ginny and Hermione away while she did a thorough exam on Harry.
The two girls sat down on the cot and stared at the privacy screen while they tried to figure out what the change of Harry's eyes meant. Remus came over and kept the girls company and tried to find out through them how Harry was doing. Other than a general tiredness, neither wife could state with any certainty the level of Harry's general health.
In the matter of minutes while Harry was being examined, Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall entered the infirmary and were told that Harry was awake and being checked out. It was another couple of minutes before Madame Pomfrey moved the screen aside and everyone could approach the patient.
Harry was smiling but yawned once before Ginny or Hermione could lean in and kiss him. He apologized. But both girls were smiling down at him and he was happy to hold their hands as they sat down on the cot with him. Ginny reached for his glasses but he stopped her with a shake of his head.
Madame Pomfrey cleared her throat to get everyone's attention. "Mr. Potter's infection has been terminated but I would like to keep him here for a day or two for observation. His magical core has been depleted from fighting off the combination of poisons and infection but it will recover soon. His eyes have changed in a manner I do not totally understand yet, but he has excellent vision now without his glasses. He is suffering from fatigue which is to be expected after such a experience. There are other changes going on with his body but I cannot say what the final effects might be. This whole transmixture scheme is totally unknown so I'm afraid Harry, excuse me, Lord Potter, will have to come in for frequent evaluations. Maybe it would replace his frequent visits here every year anyway."
Everyone gave a cautious smile at Harry for the guarded prognosis. Madame Pomfrey returned to her office to get some potions for Harry while everyone else clustered around his bed. Harry tried keeping up with all the conversations but held up his hands at one point to interrupt. "I'm glad I've woken up here in the infirmary again but I only have a vague memory of events. The last thing I really remember clearly was talking to everyone about going to Lady Longbottom's house next month about the list of changes that were proposed. So what happened to me?"
It was Hermione that took up the telling of the tale for Harry, Remus and the others in the infirmary. She described what condition Harry had been in when Vika appeared in their quarters and what had happened with the following investigation and discovery of the problems Harry had. Remus swore mildly as he heard the unorthodox procedure that had been attempted to cure Harry. Harry broke into the narrative to anxiously ask about the condition of Tride and seemed very relieved when he was told that house elf was just sleeping off the procedure back at Potter Manor.
Madame Pomfrey added her observations and report to the end of Hermione's tale as she brought out a couple of potions for Harry to take. He made a face but the look from his wives told him to follow the medical advice. The Stabilizing potion went down in one gulp but Harry asked for some water before drinking the other two. The diluted Pepper-Up potion caused a belch which Harry apologized for. The last vial, the Blood Replenishing potion, only stayed in Harry's stomach for about twenty seconds before Harry bent over heaving into a hastily conjured wastebasket.
"I think that will be the end of Mr. Potter's visitors for a while. We'll let him rest and get a little breakfast into him before we try the potions again. Everyone out with the exception of the two Mrs. Potters."
Harry was a little disappointed that everyone was leaving but in one way he was relieved. This was another huge change and he wasn't sure what was happening with his body and his life. Everyone but the two people he really counted on said they would drop on by later and check on him. Harry had to tell Dobby and Knop to return to the manor but he would call on them later. It was only a matter of minutes before Harry was left alone with Hermione and Ginny.
"So how are you really?" Ginny asked.
"I guess about normal for almost dying." Harry's answer resulted in his arm being slugged by the redhead and then Ginny sobbing into his chest.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you both. I'm just a little confused that the whole thing came on me so quickly." Harry rubbed Ginny's back for a while until she stopped crying.
"Sometime during the night Dumbledore said that your magical core was busy fighting off both the poison and infection without you being aware. When it couldn't fight any more, you just collapsed."
"That sounds like a reasonable explanation Hermione. Thanks for bringing in Wrotkill and the house elves."
"That actually was your idea Harry. There were a couple minutes where we could contact you mentally and told you about the double trouble. It was your suggestion that it wasn't a normal magical sickness and we needed to look elsewhere."
"I wish I could remember."
"We can share our memories with you later Harry. You should thank Vika; she stayed with you so we could rest up a little."
Harry shook his head again. He didn't have any memories of the girls or Vika visiting him. It was another sad point of things happening to him without any reason.
Hermione saw that Harry was getting confused and down again. She dropped on the cot a little hard and pulled him into a hug. "We're both glad you're awake and healthy."
"I'll reserved judgment on that until I can keep some breakfast and potions down" Harry responded.
"I'm sure that Madame Pomfrey and Zillah will be back in a few minutes. Right now I have a question for you Mr. Shiny Eyes."
"I'll try to answer it."
"Can I see your feet Harry?"
"I know what you said Hermione. I'm just wondering why."
"I'll tell you after I see your feet."
Harry threw the covers back and drew his knees up so his feet were exposed. Hermione went and looked at them both and touched them. "Good, you pass."
"Now will you tell me what that was about?"
"I was a little worried Harry. Your feet aren't enlarged and covered in hair."
"With your eyes being what they are, I was a little worried you were turning into a Hobbit."
Harry broke out laughing and brought Hermione close for another hug. He grabbed her cheek while Ginny just looked on confused. "What's a hobbit?"
Harry and Hermione explained the appearance of the fictional muggle race that inhabited Middle Earth. "I read one of the books over that Christmas holiday I spent at the Grangers."
Any further explanation of fictional beings to Ginny was interrupted by the arrival of Madame Pomfrey and Zillah with breakfast trays for the three Potters. They were hungry but Harry was disappointed to see that he only had porridge and toast and milk. Considering he had recently thrown up, Harry guessed that Madame Pomfrey wasn't going to take a chance of a repeat performance. Ginny and Hermione did sneak a few pieces of bacon and some scrambled egg off their plates for him without Madame Pomfrey seeing it.
Madame Pomfrey brought another Stabilizing potion to him after he finished his breakfast and watched as Harry sipped it slowly. She smiled when he kept it down and said she would let him rest for a while. That seemed to be a hint that the two Mrs. Potter should leave but they chose to ignore it.
"I am getting a little sleepy" Harry said after he had talked to both of his wives for another half hour. "You don't have to stay here with me."
Seeing both Ginny and Hermione shaking their heads, Harry sat up a little straighter and told the girls that one or both could go back to their quarters and at least take a nap and freshen up after their long night. Harry squinted his eyes just a little bit and then apologized to Hermione. "I'm sorry Nonnie. Because of me, your whole rotation is out of order. I see you had no time to even change because you're still wearing the Gryffindor colored knickers you had on Thursday."
Hermione's eyes grew wide and she made a feeble effort to cover herself up even though she was fully dressed. "You… you can see through my clothes with those new eyes?"
Harry blinked at her a number of times and didn't answer. Hermione was blushing like crazy and Ginny finally couldn't hold in her laughter any longer. "He got you good Nonnie. He knows we stayed here all night and you always wear your scarlet and yellow knickers the first time back when we visit."
Hermione's jaw dropped and she blushed even further but wagged her finger at her husband. "See if I let you pick out what I wear anymore. The idea!"
Ginny was still chuckling when Harry turned his attention to her. "And you're not much better. Polka dots on a Friday? What would your mother say?"
Ginny jumped up too quickly in protest but then covered up her embarrassment by saying she had to go to the loo. Harry watched her flounce away but then turned back to the other Mrs. Potter. "That however was just a lucky guess Hermione. I can't really see through your clothes. I would have been totally tongue tied if I could."
"Speaking of tongues, why don't you rest yours for a bit? One of us will stay here and lie down on the cot and the other will go back to our new quarters for a proper kip."
"You could both go back and have Dobby bring you a change of clothes if you wanted. We haven't talked yet if you want a female house elf for you and Ginny."
"Ginny got a little nap earlier so she will probably stay. I like your idea about a change of clothes though so maybe I will go back and ask Dobby to fetch clean clothes for all three of us. Your outfit from yesterday should probably be burned since you were sweating out poison. I'll be back in a few hours Jamie."
Hermione gave Harry a quick kiss and then talked to Ginny briefly before she headed out for their new quarters. Ginny glared at him for a bit but just chuckled and tucked Harry in a little bit and made sure he didn't need anything else. Harry fell asleep to the quiet voices of Ginny and Madame Pomfrey talking.
Harry didn't know how much longer it was when he woke up. The voices he heard this time were not quite so gentle and he shook himself awake as Ginny came over to help him sit up. The voices were coming from the hall and Harry heard that Dumbledore's voice was protesting the loudest. He and Ginny sent a mental wake up to Hermione and told her something was about to happen in the infirmary.
The voices became closer and louder and Harry wasn't too surprised to see Dumbledore open the door. The people that came after him brought him instantly awake. Following Dumbledore into the infirmary were Tonks and Madame Bones; neither one looked very happy to be there. It was the last person that came through the door that really upset Harry. The Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, strode through the door and walked angrily toward where Harry was lying.