Blah. I guess I can't help updating constantly :-) It's a bit longer than the last two, but it covers more time, as well.
Okay, so this has my thoughts of Potions, Occlumency, and a few other things. Like everything else, these are my interpretations, so hopefully no one finds them too ridiculous.
The two went back to the castle, and Renee showed them to the rooms they would be staying at. She apologized, saying that lunch had already been served, but she could bring up some soup for them. Sirius thanked her and agreed.
By the time she came back with their lunch, the two were finishing unpacking their trunks and bags. Sirius asked for directions to the potions lab. Renee smiled at them and said she would be happy to.
Half an hour after that, Harry found himself standing above his cauldron, working on the first ever potion he'd done, one to cure boils. After reading the intro book, he finally understood the importance of each ingredient, why you ensured there was no dust after cutting them, why you stirred fast or slow, and hundred other things he'd never understood.
In under two hours, Harry had capped three vials of perfect boil cure, handing one to Sirius. He was horrified when Sirius then gave himself boils on his own arm.
"Sirius!" he cried, wondering why his godfather would give himself boils just to test the potion.
The older wizard smiled at him. "What? At least I didn't test it on you," he joked, then poured the cure over his arm, watching as they disappeared faster than usual. "Now that is impressive," Sirius complimented, wiping off the residue. "Normally it takes a bit longer to work. You did a good job on this."
Harry blushed at the praise. "Should I start another, or did you want to work on something else?" he asked hurriedly.
Sirius sighed. He would make sure by the end of the summer that Harry would be able to accept a compliment. "Tell you what. Is there a potion that only takes an hour to brew?" he asked.
Harry thought so, but flipped through his second year book to make sure. "Yep. The bruise balm takes 45 minutes, plus another ten to cool before it can be bottled."
"Alright. Start that one, and once you are done, we'll go to the dueling rooms," he promised, smiling at the excited look.
An hour later, Sirius once again tested the newest potion on himself, to his godson's horror. Once again, he was impressed. "Looks like you got your mother's Potions skills, kid. You sure you haven't always been this good?"
Harry snorted. "Not even close. I never understood why you did everything you had to in Potions until I read the intro book. Most of the time, I barely managed to scrape an Acceptable in the class. Of course, that class is mostly self taught. Snape just gives us the potion and yells at us if it's wrong."
Sirius growled. It was no wonder his godson never showed proficiency at Potions, he was never even given a chance. "Alright, well, like I said, this is impressive work. We'll do another potion or two tomorrow after breakfast. Finish cleaning up your station, I'll give your list of what you used to Renee and find out where the dueling chamber is."
Harry methodically cleaned his station, and considered the four bottles that were in front of him. He knew that it would be smart to keep some for himself if he ever needed it. But maybe he should give some of whatever potion he worked on to the Beauxbatons infirmary as a thank you for letting him use the ingredients? He would ask Sirius about it later.
The two went to the dueling rooms, and had to keep from drooling. The room was able to magically shift into any space that the seekers needed. Also, if someone was injured, Madame Mouton was immediately notified, and if someone was knocked out and not revived within five minutes, the room would revive them. This was a fail-safe in case a pair of duelers ended in a draw by stunning each other at the same time with no one around to revive them. Shaking them out of the awestruck wonder, Sirius changed the room to resemble Diagon Alley. There were no innocents, but there were shops, booths of merchandise to use for cover, and alleys to run through. Harry was amazed at all the space, but was brought back when Sirius started firing spells at him.
He leapt behind a barrel of dragon dung, waited for the barrage of spells to end, then stood. His casting speed was still slow, but he was working hard to fire spells as fast as he could. He fired three Stunning spells and two disarming hexes before having to go on the defensive again as Sirius fired spells back.
The duel lasted for another ten minutes before Harry was caught by a Stunner. After his godfather revived him, they started again. Sirius won each mock battle, but it was expected.
Sirius called them to a halt when he realized they had less than an hour to get ready for dinner. Harry grumbled good naturedly, promising to beat his godfather soon. So far, he'd only won once, and that was by using the snake trick.
There was no need to wear their formal robes now that they'd had their meeting, but they still wore the nicer of their casual robes.
During dinner, Harry worked hard to try and follow the conversations, but he was still struggling. Sirius was helpful and would speak a little slower than the others, who realized the problem, and spoke a bit slower as well. Harry was feeling stupider by the minute, but at least he was able to keep up with the conversations now. He was just glad that Sirius had taught him with a halfway decent accent, so he wasn't completely thrown off by native speakers.
Following dinner, Harry spent some time reading another chapter of his Occlumency book, and Sirius was reading a DADA book. After about two hours of reading and meditation, Harry stood. He had read about a new method, but wasn't quite ready to test it out just yet. It had spoken of using two or more shields to protect your thoughts. This way, if someone breached the first shield, you still had time to eject them from your mind before they reached anything. The book spoke of people who were able to use one massive shield covering everything, and smaller, though still strong, shields to protect groupings of memories. Apparently, it helped to view the individual shields as boxes, rooms, trunks, or things of that sort, and that each one contained different subjects of memories. Harry knew that method would take a lot more meditation than they had right now, so he would work on it over the next few days to see if it was possible for him to emulate, as well as what type of images to use for the individual shields.
Sirius looked up to find Harry standing and looking at him. "Ready?" he asked, marking the page of his book.
Harry just nodded, focusing on his shield. He had gone over it many times, each time finding weaknesses that he would reinforce, but he wasn't sure he'd gotten them all.
Sirius knew that he didn't need to whisper instructions anymore, so he gave Harry a moment to prepare himself, then whispered the spell.
His first thought was that he was impressed. The shield was even stronger that night. He went around the shield a few times trying to find its weakest point, and eventually found a small crack. Gathering all his strength, he threw himself through the shield, memories flashing along as always. The Sorting Hat was telling him he would do well in Slytherin, Malfoy mocking him for not having a proper family, Marge whacking him with her cane when he was five, and Voldemort forcing Harry to bow to him.
As Harry saw the last memory pass in front of him, he felt the familiar rage fill him. There was no way he would ever bow to that megalomaniac! Without realizing that he had already dropped his wand, he raised his empty hand and shot a wave of raw magic out, forcing Sirius to fly into the far wall, breaking his concentration.
When his mind was empty, Harry hurried to build back his shield, and looked over. His godfather was crumpled on the ground, unmoving.
Harry swore his heart stopped beating for a moment as he ran over and dropped to his knees. "Sirius?" he begged. He lifted the older man's head slightly, and felt a warm stickiness. Pulling one hand back, he saw blood covering his hand. Harry gently laid him back down, then turned and retched, throwing up his dinner. He had injured his godfather who had done so much for him over the past week!
At that moment, he forgot that he would have been able to revive him with a simple spell. All he knew was that he needed help. Then he remembered something that Madame Mouton had mentioned about the castle, that if anyone needed help, they just had to tap the door with their wand twice and whisper the name of the person they needed, and they would be notified. It only worked for staff to be notified, but it was still a good idea. Harry scrambled to grab his wand, and did what he needed. Within a minute, the door opened, and the Assistant Headmistress hurried in. She had been able to tell by the pain in Harry's voice that it was an emergency.
She took in the sight of Sirius on the ground and Harry's tear streaked face. "What happened?" she demanded coldly, gripping her wand tightly, wondering if she needed to curse him.
"He hit the wall pretty hard, his head is bleeding a lot," Harry said as fast as he could. "Please, just help him!"
She took another moment to stare at him, then nodded, kneeling by the crumpled form. She was proficient at healing, which was good since the Potions mistress and the nurse were both gone for the summer. She healed the laceration, then looked up to the ashen faced teen who was vanishing the evidence of his sick on the floor.
"Do you have any bruise balm or blood replenisher?"
"I made some bruise balm this afternoon," Harry said, going to his bag and grabbing the half empty bottle that Sirius had tested earlier. He handed that to her, as well as a full one just in case. "I haven't made any blood replenisher, though."
"Well, it is a fifth year potion, do you think you could manage it? My Potions teacher is gone for the summer, as is the nurse."
Harry nodded vigorously. If there was ever a time that he could brew a potion perfectly, this was it. He hurried to the bag where they had bought books only that morning, and flipped through the potions book, finding the one he needed. "It takes three hours to make, and half an hour to cool before it can be ingested," he read aloud. "Would you stay with him?" he pleaded.
She nodded at him, and he took off for the potions lab. She watched him leave, and when he was out of earshot, she levitated Sirius onto the bed, and cast an Enervate to wake him up.
"Huh?" was all Sirius could say at that moment. He was a little confused.
"Shush," she soothed. "You hit your head pretty hard and lost some blood. I'm not terribly concerned, since head wounds bleed more than most, but you need to rest. Now, Harry gave me some bruise balm to use, and he's working on a blood replenisher as we speak."
Sirius sighed. Even through the pounding headache he was having, his thoughts went to Harry. Clearly this happened during Occlumency. He must have come across a memory that Harry was upset about, causing him to shove him out rather forcefully. He nearly groaned. Harry would never forgive himself for this, Sirius thought.
He sighed in relief as she spread some of the bruise balm on his head, helping the pain immensely.
"I really need a blood replenisher?" he asked, sitting up slightly.
"It's better to be safe than sorry. And I don't know what happened here, so I figured sending him out of the room was the best I could do for you both."
Sirius started to shake his head, then remembered why that was a bad idea. "No, actually I think he needs to be here, but no matter. I'll talk to him when he gets back."
"Well," Madame Mouton started. "Since it appears there are no hard feelings, as Harry actually threw up after this accident, and you aren't upset, I find myself wondering what on earth you two were doing, since you are aware of our dueling chambers."
Sirius sighed, knowing a veiled order when he heard one. "We practice Occlumency every night. Harry has a lot of bad memories, and sometimes he reacts more when I see one that he doesn't want me to. It's great practice, since he's getting good at throwing me out. But something happened tonight that was different, I can't remember what…" Sirius trailed off, groaning in frustration. There had been something different about how Harry pushed him out than was usual, but he couldn't remember!
"Well, until you are sure you two are safe to practice, might I suggest a cushioning charm on the immediate area? Or perhaps taking this to the dueling chambers?" she suggested.
"Thank you, Madame Mouton," Sirius said. "Cushioning charms do sound like a good idea right now."
"Madame Mouton is a bit formal after you've bled on me. You can just call me Caroline," she said with a smile.
Harry needed to take a moment after arriving to stop shaking. If he was shaking while cutting the ingredients, it could be disastrous. After all, this wasn't a simple potion for class, this was for Sirius. He read through the instructions four times before setting to work. The potion needed to simmer for half an hour when it was an hour in, so he started flipping through the book again, trying to find something else that would help. He found the simplest pain potion, which took 75 minutes to make and 15 minutes to cool. Harry had never made more than one potion at a time, but he felt jittery, and knew that he needed to at least try.
So while his blood potion was simmering, he went to work on the pain potion. He chose each ingredient with care, making sure it was the freshest of its kind, and took care with how he diced, powdered, and skinned each one. After a while, his moves became automatic: stirring one clockwise five times, then going to the other to pour in another ingredient that he'd diced, then back to the first. He only noticed the passage of time by how long each potion was taking. Soon enough, the pain potion was taking time to cool, and he carefully ladled it into two vials. Then he realized that he didn't want to think, he just wanted to do. Working two potions at once had helped keep his mind off the blood that had been on his hands, and wasn't now only because he had scrubbed them until they were raw, needing to get Sirius's blood off of him before he could even think.
As soon as the pain potion was ready to go, he chewed his lip slightly. The blood replenisher would be ready to cool in another half an hour, and he didn't think he could stand another hour without keeping his mind occupied. He thought back to the bruise balm he had made earlier. He didn't have the instructions in front of him, but he remembered them as clearly as though they were. He cleaned up everything around his second cauldron that had made the pain potions, and set up two more cauldrons. Before he started on the balm, he double and triple checked everything on his blood replenisher. Seeing that it was going as well as could be, he started on a huge batch of bruise balm, making as much as he could. He was making sure that he stocked up in case Sirius needed some more, and also was now determined to give some to the school, since he now knew the Potions Mistress wasn't there for the summer.
It was exactly what he needed: it kept his hands busy and his mind where it needed to be. His movements were automatic, as though he'd been brewing potions his whole life. Well, he only learned the summoning charm the night before he needed it to defeat a dragon, he learned a NEWT charm – the Patronus – at thirteen, and Ron had learned the levitation charm only by using it on a troll. It seemed pressure was what was needed sometimes.
The blood replenisher was taken off the flames and was cooling, and Harry was finishing up what he needed to do for the massive amounts of bruise balm. Soon enough, everything he'd been brewing was cooling, and he had time to think.
In truth, he knew that the injury wasn't dire. Sirius surely had worse happen; after all, he'd been an Auror. But Harry couldn't get over the fact that this wasn't a Death Eater that hurt him, it was Harry, his own godson! Everything Sirius had done so far had been to help him. So he was going to do whatever it took to help him now. He knew they couldn't stop the Occlumency lessons; Sirius had mentioned how important they were, but Harry could start taking precautions. He had just relearned the cushioning charm a few days ago as it was a fourth year Charm, and vowed to cast it everywhere before he would think of starting the lessons again.
The first that was ready to be bottled was the balm. Harry was amazed. He had made ten bottles of the stuff! As soon as every last bit was scraped out from the cauldrons, he hurried to bottle the two vials of blood replenisher. Part of him wanted to leave the mess and hurry back, but he knew that would be beyond rude, and he knew that if Sirius was truly in danger, Madame Mouton would have taken him to the hospital.
He hurried to clean everything up, putting the borrowed cauldrons back where they had been, as well as the knives and mortar and pestles. Finally, he was ready to go, and had found a small canvas bag to carry everything in. Unfortunately, there were so many bottles of bruise balm, he needed to carry the vials of blood replenisher.
He kept a tight grip on it as he hurried back to his godfather's room. He felt an unimaginable amount of relief when he saw Sirius sitting up in bed talking to the Assistant Headmistress who was sitting on a chair by the bed.
Sirius was the first to see Harry rush in, vial in hand. He gave his godson a grin. "Hey, kiddo. That for me?"
Harry just nodded dumbly, relief still choking him. Then he felt the weight on his shoulders, and he set the bag down, missing the wide eyes of both the adults. "Blood replenisher," he said, handing the vial to Sirius, and then reached in and pulled out the other two vials. "Pain potion," he said, handing one to him as well. He put down the two unused potions for each of the ones that he'd given Sirius, since the instructions gave enough for two vials. Then he handed the bag to the witch. "Bruise balm," he explained, seeing her confusion.
Sirius hadn't downed the second vial. He knew that Harry would work hard on the first potion, and he could already feel it working, once again much faster than he was used to. But to find that he had made not only this potion, which was certainly difficult, but another one that he'd never been taught. And how many bottles were in that bag?
The older witch stood, and glanced curiously at the younger wizard, who was standing awkwardly off to the side. Then she gently upended the bag onto the bed, gasping as all ten bottles rolled onto the bed. She stared at Harry.
"I needed to keep my hands busy, since the blood replenisher potion takes so long. So I started a pain potion, since I figured you could use that," he told Sirius, who was still staring at him. When neither said anything, he continued. "But then I still had an hour, and I was starting to fidget, and I remembered that you said the nurse and Potions Mistress were gone for the summer, and I wanted to find some way to thank you for helping Sirius, so I made a few batches of bruise balm. I figured you could use them in the infirmary." He finished his rambling, and was still a bit uncomfortable, as they were still staring at him.
"Harry?" Sirius started, still looking at the potion in his hands. "You realize that before today, you were struggling to make any potions, and now you make almost an entire vat to pass the time, not to mention two potions that are more than likely on your OWLs?"
Harry shrugged. "I do better under pressure, and I don't do well with waiting. I didn't have the bruise balm instructions in front of me, but I had just made a batch a few hours ago."
Sirius stared at him for another moment, before he started laughing. He laughed for a few moments before downing the pain potion, as his neck was still bothering him a bit. As he'd come to expect from Harry's potions, relief was immediate and wonderful. "Thank you, Harry," he said sincerely, waving Harry forward. He pulled his godson down into a hug, holding him tightly.
Madame Mouton could tell that they needed a few moments, but she just had to make sure first. "M. Potter," she said, starting to put the bruise balm back into the bag. "Tu dis…." She started, then shook her head and continued in English. "You are telling me that you made all of this for the school simply as a thank you?"
Harry shrugged, and looked down at the floor. In all the excitement, he forgot the etiquette training, and reverted back to how he behaved at the Dursleys. "I had been thinking about it anyway, since you were being considerate about allowing me to use your ingredients. But I needed something to do with my hands, and remembered that you said both the teacher and nurse were gone, and figured it would most likely be used, Madame Mouton."
Caroline stared at him for another moment, then smiled. "Thank you, Harry. That was very kind of you to think of that. And please, call me Caroline." She pulled out two of the bottles, and handed them back to harry, slung the bag over her shoulder, and left the room.
Harry took the two bottles and placed them on the dresser, along with the other two bottles (as Caroline had only needed to finish the half bottle), as well as individual vials of blood replenisher and pain potion. He kept his back to his godfather, fussing with the arrangement of potions. "There's a second vial here of the pain potion. The book said you can take it again in a few hours."
"Harry," Sirius started, wanting to talk to him.
"There's also a second vial of the blood replenisher," Harry continued as though he hadn't heard, still turned around. "The book says to wait at least eight hours after the bleeding has stopped before you take another one. I'm not sure how much you were bleeding, so if you need it, make sure you take it."
"Harry," Sirius said, more firmly this time.
"And there's plenty of bruise balm here for you, in case she didn't use enough." Harry kept talking, hoping that he could put this off.
"Harry James Potter, turn around," Sirius ordered, finally having enough.
Harry knew that tone, and spun around, eyes on the ground. His relatives never liked it if he looked at them before they punished him.
"Harry, come here please," Sirius said in a much softer tone.
The teen looked up for a moment before walking over and taking the chair that Caroline had vacated. "I'm really sorry," he whispered. "I swear I didn't mean to hurt you."
Sirius got up, and placed a hand under Harry's chin, forcing him to look at him. "Harry, I'm fine. See? It was just a little bump on the head, barely anything to worry about. Besides, you did everything. You brought in someone who could help, and then you completely overwhelm me with your sudden skill at brewing." He paused there, taking in the slightly fearful eyes, and pulled him into a tight hug. "There's nothing for you to be sorry about," he reassured. "You certainly didn't mean to hurt me. I'm guessing that I found a bad memory?" he guessed.
Harry nodded glumly. "It just made me really upset. I barely remember what happened. Just that seeing the memory again got me furious, and I didn't have my wand in my hand for some reason. I just lifted my hand, and felt a wave of magic pulse out of me. Next thing I know, you're crumpled on the ground."
Sirius gaped at him. "You did wandless magic," he whispered. There were only ever rumors of individuals with magic so strong they were able to channel it without a wand. But then he shook himself out of it. There would be time to consider it later. He guided Harry back to the bed, and the two sat side by side. "What was the memory?" he asked gently.
"It was in the graveyard," Harry answered, staring at his hands. He realized that there was still some blood under his nails, and started scarping at them, only stopping when Sirius grabbed his hands. "I told you after the Third Task that we had dueled, right?"
Sirius nodded, starting to remember.
"Well, he told me that I needed to bow, since it was the rules in a formal duel. I refused, and he cast a spell that forced me to bow to him."
Sirius grabbed his godson and pulled him into another hug, kissing his messy hair. "I am so sorry you had to go through that," he whispered.
Harry shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. "It's not that big of a deal. I mean, he made me bow. It's not like that's the worst thing that happened that night."
"That doesn't matter," Sirius told him firmly. "You deserve nothing that's happened to you, certainly not that.
Harry was ready for a change in topic. "You sure you're alright?" he asked, fingers picking at his sleeves.
Sirius smiled sadly. "Of course I'm fine, pup. And I appreciate you brewing the potions for me."
Harry just blushed and mumbled something vague, then went back to his own room. He didn't care what Sirius said, he was going to make sure he never hurt him again.
The next day, Harry woke at dawn. Still shaking somewhat from the night before, he pulled out his Potions essay, determined now more than ever to throw himself into his studies. He had just put the finishing touches on the essay when Sirius walked in. "Ready for breakfast?" he asked cheerfully.
Harry laid the essay out to dry and capped his inkwell. "Yeah, just give me a second to put these away," he mumbled. Soon as everything was ready, the two left.
"What were you working on?" Sirius asked curiously.
"Potions essay," Harry answered. "Guess I got a little inspired yesterday."
Sirius just nodded. He knew he was going to lift his godson's spirits, he just needed to think of something.
Breakfast was a subdued affair, and Harry and Sirius went down to the Potions lab. Harry set out making a common burn paste and sleeping potion. The first was a simple second year potion, the second was a fourth year one. As he'd done the night before, he made double batches of both and set aside half. Sirius was astounded. Just the day before, neither had been sure of Harry's brewing skills, but now it was clear he had a very strong ability for them. Harry had brought down two bags to carry the bottles in once they were finished, and took one of them up to their rooms, and gave the second to Renee with the list of ingredients he'd used. Renee had been shocked, but she hid it well, taking the bag and parchment with a smile.
After they were finished there, the two made their way to the library, and Harry was struck dumb at the sight. It was easily twice the size of the Hogwarts library, and was easier to navigate, not to mention a much more open feeling, clearly to encourage study groups to meet there. The two quickly sat at one of the tables and started working. Sirius was teaching him the basics behind Ancient Runes, and Harry found the subject fascinating. When the older wizard called them to a halt for lunch, Harry was actually disappointed.
They ate a light lunch and then went to the dueling room. Sirius had to suppress a sigh, needing to stun Harry five times in a row before the teen would send a single curse his way. He needed Harry to snap out of this. After another while longer practicing their dueling, Sirius had an epiphany, remembering something that Caroline had told him the night before.
"Hey, you want to head to the pitch and go for a fly?" Sirius asked, smiling when Harry's face lit up. The teen ran for his room to grab his broom and Sirius borrowed one from the school, and they set out for the pitch.
The Beauxbatons Quidditch pitch was smaller than the one at Hogwarts, but that was fine. The two had a great time flying around alternating Chaser and Keeper. By the time they landed to get ready for dinner, Harry's face was flush with happiness, and Sirius grinned, grateful for the fact that Harry was acting his age, the first time Sirius had seen him like that.
When they got to dinner, Harry was telling them about their games on the pitch, and Sirius mouthed a thank you to Caroline, who nodded knowingly. She then thanked Harry for his generous gift to the infirmary, and tried to tell him that it was unnecessary. Harry smoothly disagreed with her, saying that she was being a gracious host and it was the least he could do to thank her. He was silently grateful to Sirius for the coaching, which kept him from sound like a stammering fool.
After dinner, Harry and Sirius went back to their rooms, and Sirius challenged him to a game of chess. Harry learned right away that he shouldn't have accepted, as Sirius soundly beat him six times in a row.
"Is there anything you can't do?" Harry demanded, grumbling.
Sirius laughed long and hard at that. After a few minutes, he wiped his eyes. "Do me a favor and ask Remus that when we see him in a few weeks."
Harry got a sly look on his face. "I take it there are some stories he could tell me?"
Sirius froze. "No, you are forbidden from asking him!" he amended, smirking inwardly as Harry laughed.
There was a brief moment of awkwardness when he mentioned that they needed to start their Occlumency lesson, but they both got ready, and started casting cushioning charms at the same time.
Forty five minutes later, they finished a thankfully uneventful lesson, in which Harry was able to keep Sirius out three of the five times he'd tried.
Their days took on a pattern after that. There would be self study in the morning, then breakfast, followed by Potions. Harry kept making extra for the infirmary, keeping half for himself. Caroline had owled the school nurse, telling her not to stock up before coming back, explaining what was going on.
After Potions, Sirius would tutor Harry alternately in Ancient Runes and Arithmancy. Sirius was secretly relieved to see Harry struggling slightly with Arithmancy. The way Harry had been picking everything up so quickly, he was getting unnerved. It was good to see that Harry was still human. When Harry would get frustrated, Sirius would remind him that Remus was a better teacher, and would have time to help him before going back to school.
After these lessons, they would go to lunch, and then it was time for dueling. Harry was still leagues behind Sirius, but he was certainly getting better, starting to win a few of their duels, especially once Sirius reminded him that he wasn't going to break.
When they finished dueling, Sirius made time for something fun, not wanting Harry to crack under the pressure. They spent this time on the pitch, exploring the castle or the village, or going for a jog in the woods surrounding the castle. Harry was surprised to learn that these woods weren't forbidden like the Hogwarts forest, but students were actually encouraged to go for a hike. Of course, Harry thought wryly, they don't have a game keeper with a soft spot for dangerous pets. One day they went to the beach, and Sirius learned that Harry had never had swimming lessons. He rectified that, and by the end of the week, the two were having a blast swimming in the warm waters.
One day, Harry was reminded of the giant horses that the Beauxbatons students had arrived in when they found the stables. They had approached Rene about them, and she had gladly taken a day off to show them how to ride the wonderful Abraxans. It was a bit difficult at first, because of the sheer size of the animals, but after a while, it was found to be quite fun to ride around the vast land surrounding the school. It was nearly as fun as riding a broom, but Harry wasn't sure if he would go that far yet.
At dinner, the staff would inquire about their day, and Harry found that his French was improving by leaps and bounds. He wondered idly if Hermione spoke French, since she had visited a few years prior. He made a mental note to ask.
As soon as dinner was over, the two had some quiet time in their rooms. Harry would work on an essay or study for a quiz that Sirius set for him and work on his meditation. Then they would have an Occlumency lesson. Before the two went to bed, Sirius would tell Harry stories of his parents or the Marauders' school days. These were probably Harry's favorite time of day.
One day, Sirius cut their dueling time short, saying that he wanted them to work on portkeys. It took them a few hours; Sirius needing to remember how, and then to teach Harry. They tested them a few times, making sure that each one went to the proper place. Sirius had needed to help Harry quite a bit the first few times they did that, as Harry had experienced a panic attack, reminded of the Third Task. Not to mention, Harry finally learned how to land without falling down. Sirius made sure to drive home the point that portkeys were strictly regulated by the Ministry. While they couldn't tell when one was created or used, anyone caught making or using one without a permit faced the possibility of serious charges. It took Harry about three days of hard work before he was able to make portkeys as easily as Sirius.
On the morning of the 31st, Harry was surprised to find that he'd slept in, and he had a few gifts already on his bed. He hurried to get up and dressed, only to have Sirius come in as soon as he'd thrown on one of his robes.
Sirius grinned. "Happy birthday, pup," he said, giving the teen a tight hug.
"Thanks," Harry said with a grin back, plopping back down on the bed and reaching for his gifts. The twins had sent him a large box of their latest pranks with a note thanking him and mentioning they wanted to talk to him soon about his role in their business.
Sirius noticed the slightly flush. "What do the twins have to say?" he asked curiously.
Harry handed him the note as he placed the box on his desk, not wanting anything to blow up in his face this early in the morning.
Sirius looked at him strangely. "What's this about?"
Harry grinned at him. "I gave them my Tri Wizard winnings," he stated. Seeing Sirius's shocked look and interpreting it as disapproval, he hurried to explain himself. "I don't need it. I tried to give it to the Diggorys, but they wouldn't take it. So I gave it to the twins, since I have a feeling we'll be needing a few laughs now that Voldemort is back."
Sirius waved away the explanation, fighting the lump in his throat. "I think that was wonderful, Harry," he said meaningfully. "It was something your mum would have done without a second thought." He remembered times that Lily would do things like that for others. He forced his mind away from his memories of his almost-sister.
Harry flushed slightly at the praise, and busied himself by grabbing the next parcel, which was from Ron. It was a box of various sweets from Honeydukes with a note asking if he could make it to Diagon Alley before school started. Hermione had sent a book on famous seekers throughout history, and Harry smiled. It was just like her to send a book, but he could tell that she had put thought into this one. Harry was slightly surprised to find one from Remus. His eyes watered slightly as he opened the framed picture of James and Sirius with a few hours old Harry between them, twin expressions of pure joy. Harry handed the picture to Sirius, who mirrored Harry's reaction.
"I didn't know you were there that day," Harry whispered.
Sirius smiled sadly at him. "Of course I was. Remus couldn't make it until a few days later, since you were born the night before a full moon, and he didn't want to risk anything." Then he laughed. "I remember, though, having to forcefully shove calming draughts down your father's throat the whole time Lily was in labor. He kept freaking out, worried that he wasn't going to be a good father."
Harry surprised him by forcefully pulling him into a hug. "Thank you, Sirius," he whispered into the man's shoulder. Several weeks of eating right, and the two weeks of nutrition potions had given him a few inches, but he would always been on the shorter side.
Sirius held him tightly for a moment. "You haven't even opened my gifts yet," he teased lightly.
Harry discreetly wiped his eyes. "You didn't have to get me anything," he tried to protest, but knew it was useless.
Sirius laughed. "Well, I didn't spend any money, but something tells me that you'll like them more anyway."
Now Harry was curious. He took one of the gifts, and knew immediately that it was a book. Opening it, he found that it was Discovering Your Inner Animal; a book on the Animagus transformation. He stared up with wide eyes. "You think I'm ready?" he demanded, stroking the book reverently.
"Well, I was your age when I completed it, so yeah, you're ready," he reassured. Then he handed him a smaller wooden box. "This one is more of a hand me down gift from your dad," he said quietly.
Harry's hands shook as he accepted it. He opened the lid, surprised when something gold flew out. Instinctively, he reached out and snatched it from the air. Taking a closer look now that it wasn't moving, he gaped, looking from it to his godfather. "This…dad…his….?"
Sirius nodded, understanding the reaction and not teasing him for it. "Yeah, that was your dad's old snitch. He used to carry it everywhere with him. He played Chaser for the team, but was a reserve seeker, and practiced with it all the time."
The words were barely out of his mouth before he was given the strongest hug yet from the teen. The two stayed like that for quite a while, until Sirius pulled back, saying that they should get to breakfast. Harry nodded and gently placed the Snitch back into the box. "You were right, I like these more than anything you could have bought."
Sirius smiled at him. As soon as they walked into the dining hall, Harry was greeted to a round of Happy Birthday in French, and a lot of well wishes from the staff. Harry's face was burning, but he thanked each of them.
When they got to the Potions classroom, Sirius had him open the animagus book.
The first thing Harry noticed was the writing in the margins, and he realized that it was the one that James and Sirius had used when they were his age. Turning the page, he found a recipe for a potion. Skimming the introduction, he realized that if you took the potion, you found what your form was.
"The potion needs to brew for most of the day. You'll take it before bed tonight, and then you'll find out what your form is."
Harry was excited as he prepared the ingredients. "I can't wait to find out what I'll be," he said quickly.
"Honestly, it could be anything," Sirius admitted. "You could have wings since you're a natural flyer, you're as sneaky as a snake, but you also have a lot of strength to be a jungle cat. Or you could be a bug, who knows," he teased.
"Oi, I have nothing in common with Skeeter!" Harry yelled laughing.
"Huh?" Sirius asked, confused.
"Rita Skeeter, writer for the Prophet?" Harry started, and Sirius nodded. "She's also an unregistered Animagus. Hermione told me on the train ride home that she turns into a beetle, which is how she gets all of her stories, by listening in on everyone where they can't see her."
Sirius shuddered. "Well, here's to you not being a bug, then."
It took two hours to brew the potion, and it needed to simmer for ten, then cool for half an hour. Harry needed help in a few places, and Sirius gave him the advice, and soon enough, all they could do was wait.
Sirius tried to give Harry the day off of studying, but Harry insisted on an Ancient Runes lesson, so they went to the library, and stayed until lunchtime. Sirius was waiting for another few days to say something, but if Harry kept at the rate he was going, they would finish the third year material for Runes pretty soon.
Lunch was a fairly simple affair compared to breakfast, and Harry was content to sit back and listen to the chatter around him. If asked earlier in the summer how he would feel spending a few weeks with all women except for Sirius, he wasn't sure what his reaction would have been. However, he found that these women were nothing like Lavender and Pavarti. They were professionals, and Harry actually was learning a lot about various subjects, not just learning the language.
Following lunch, the two went to the dueling chamber, and chose a meadow this time. Harry was still in a good mood from the day, and it kept his mind clear as they traded hexes and spells back and forth. If there was one good thing about the duels, it was that Harry was getting in shape. He'd learned from the graveyard that it was a lot easier to dodge spells or use objects as cover rather than rely on a magical shield to protect you, so he kept running, leaping, and dodging the spells.
Harry tried to sneak up behind his godfather, only to find himself suddenly air born, landing with a thud a few yards away and his wand two feet from his hand. Hearing Sirius raising his wand, Harry desperately stuck out his hand and yelled the first spell to come to mind. "Accio!" he yelled, and his wand flew into his hand, and he swung it in an arc towards Sirius and cast a quick Stunning spell. It was only then that what he'd just done hit him. He had done wandless magic. According to Sirius, it wasn't his first time, but the first time he'd done so outside of Occlumency lessons. He hurried over to revive the older wizard, then sat back slightly.
Sirius sat up quickly once he was aware again. The two sat in silence for a moment, until Sirius spoke. "That's the second time you've done wandless magic in front of me," he mentioned.
Harry nodded. "It was strange," he found himself saying. "I felt a rush of magic leaving me, something I've never felt with a wand."
Sirius considered. "You could have a proficiency for wandless magic. I've certainly never come across anyone who could do what you've done just now, much less this summer."
Harry looked at him in confusion. "What do you mean, this summer?" he asked.
Sirius gaped at him. "You don't realize how incredible it is to become so proficient at so much magic in such a short time period? The speed that you've been picking everything up is astounding!"
"Really?" Harry asked, incredulous. "Most of it was just relearning, though," he protested.
Sirius scoffed lightly. "Harry, I'm not talking about your core subjects, though you have been doing that remarkably well. I'm talking about Runes, Occlumency, Potions, dueling. All of these, not to mention French, you have taken completely in stride, barely even stumbling over roadblocks," he said, slipping into a Muggle phrase.
Harry continued to stare at him. "I think the way you teach Runes and French has a lot more to do with my success than anything I do," he said, refusing to believe his godfather. "Potions, I don't know, I guess the fact that I finally understand the basics makes it a lot easier, and I've been decent at DADA for a while now, which would explain the dueling. But I thought I was really behind in Occlumency," he said, brow furrowed in confusion.
Sirius once again wanted to curse Harry's infernal relatives. He knew that his lack of self confidence was more their doing than anyone else's. "Harry, you are good at these things because you are a smart, powerful wizard. Some people have studied Occlumency for years before getting to where you are right now. Yes, you have a long way to go to measure up to someone like Voldemort or Dumbledore, but you are catching on fast."
Harry just shook his head, refusing to accept it. "So, you think I could learn to do magic without a wand?" he asked, going back to the original topic.
Sirius sighed, vowing to return to the topic later. "Yes. If it had just been once, during a fight for your life, it may have been written off as accidental magic. But I have seen you use it twice so far, which suggests you have an aptitude for it. We'll add that to the list of things to work on before we leave."
The two stood, getting ready to start again. "How much longer can we stay?" Harry asked curiously.
"Only another week," he said regretfully. "We still have to get back to Britain, and I'm sure you want to go to Diagon Alley with your friends before school starts." Harry just nodded, and got into position.
By the time they were finished, Harry had used wandless magic once more, and both were even more amazed. Right now, adrenalin seemed to be the key, as the first was in a desperate fight over a memory, and the other two were during a duel.
They went back to the lab to check on the potion, and found that it was coming along quite well. After that, they decided to go flying, and Harry brought out the Snitch, whooping with glee as he caught it again and again. They had another few games switching up Chaser and Keeper before going in for dinner.
Harry was amazed when they got into the dining hall. It seemed that a certain meddling godfather had mentioned Harry's favorites, because they were all set out. He gave a mock glare to said godfather, who just smirked in response. They all dug in with relish, finishing off with Harry's favorite treacle fudge.
After dinner, Harry wrote back his friends thanking them for the gifts, and letting them know that he'd be back in about two weeks. Part of him was disappointed at the idea of leaving. France was really a beautiful place, and he was enjoying his time with Sirius, getting a chance to know him more than he'd ever though he would. However, he also missed his friends and the castle.
Sirius gave him a quick Occlumency lesson, and was impressed that Harry kept him out four out of five times now. The last time he'd broken through, he knew was partly because of the excitement of going back and getting the potion.
Sure enough, Harry hurried to leave the rooms with Sirius, and they took the cauldron off the fire, giving it time to cool. They now had half an hour to wait, so Sirius passed the time by telling him stories of James and Lily.
Harry was howling with laughter at his dad's attempt at a Valentine's day for his mum in seventh year. The teen then chose to tell Sirius about the musical valentine that he'd gotten in second year, and then Sirius was the one clutching his stomach in mirth.
"Did you ever find out who sent it?" he asked, still chuckling.
Harry smiled. "I think it was Ginny, since she had a huge crush on the Boy Who Lived that year."
Sirius's laughter died down a bit. "Why do you do that?" he asked curiously.
Harry just looked at him in bewilderment. "Do what?"
"When you mention that ridiculous title, you make it sound like someone else," he explained.
Harry nodded at him. "That's because it is someone else, Sirius," he said sadly. "I never realized until I was in Hogwarts how much people idolized the boy who defeated Voldemort. They had this notion of who I was and what I was like before I even knew I was a wizard. I'm not that person, I don't live up to their ideals. The Boy Who Lived is an image, nothing more. It's one that I won't be able to fill."
For the millionth time, Sirius felt his heart break for his godson. He had been expected to fill a certain role in the Wizarding world since he was a year old, but didn't know about anything until he was eleven. Harry was right, the Boy Who Lived is an ideal, and no one should have that expectation hanging over their heads, because if he doesn't live up to it, he'll feel he disappointed everyone. There were no words for that moment, so he simply squeezed his godson's shoulder in commiseration.
Looking up, they realized the potion was ready, so Harry hurried to ladle it into a vial as Sirius cleaned the station. They went back to their rooms, and Sirius made sure that Harry was comfortable before giving him the potion.
"Be sure to tell me all about it in the morning, pup," he whispered, and kissed him lightly on his messy mop. "Sleep well."
"You, too, Sirius," Harry said, and he downed the potion in a gulp, slumping down onto his pillows without another blink.
Does this count as a cliffie? Not sure, though probably :-)