BOOK THREE: The Tale of the Disappearing Dog
Harry and Dudley entered the living room quietly. They had been summoned by Aunt Petunia saying Uncle Albus had brought a very important person with him and there was an serious matter to be discussed.
The whole family sat around the table. The important visitor, speaking excitedly to Uncle Albus, wore a green bowler hat, which Harry found a little distracting. He tried not to giggle when Dudley tweaked his elbow and rolled his eyes at the hat.
"Boys!" whispered Uncle Vernon. "Remember your manners. It takes all kinds to make our world. You mustn't be unkind because someone is different."
The boys hung their heads at the reprimand then Uncle Albus spoke.
"Harry, this is Cornelius Fudge. He is the Minister of Magic."
The boys gasped that such dignitary should be in their house in Little Whinging.
"It's good to meet you, Harry, and hello Dudley." Mr. Fudge shook Harry's hand and then Dudley's, just as if they were grown up! "I've come to see your guardians with some very serious news. They and Professor Dumbledore have insisted that you be told the truth."
Mr. Fudge sat down and explained to Harry the history of his parents' time in hiding and how their hiding place had been placed under a Fidelius Charm. Uncle Albus then explained how a Fidelius Charm worked and that his parents' best friend and Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, had been their Secret Keeper. Unfortunately, he had been a spy and had given the secret to Voldemort. Harry knew what happened next but he was brave as Aunt Petunia held his hand.
Then Mr. Fudge told how another school friend, Peter Pettigrew, had discovered Black at the scene of the crime and chased him. Black had cast a destructive curse that had killed Pettigrew and twelve Muggles. Black had confessed and had been imprisoned in Azkaban. Now, he had escaped.
Aunt Petunia clasped Harry's hand protectively.
"The authorities believe, popkin, that this man may try to find you."
"Me?" Harry's eyes widened enormously.
"We've been assured that you'll have every protection once you go back to Hogwarts." Uncle Vernon patted Harry's shoulder reassuringly. "The very best protection the Ministry can offer."
"Hello Aunt Marge!" cried Harry and Dudley as they helped her out of her car and vied which one would carry her overnight bag. Harry lost the good-natured tussle and took the leads of the dogs on the back seat instead.
"Hello boys!" Aunt Marge said, hugging both boys enthusiastically, then bustling off to say hello to her brother and sister-in-law.
"Hello Nipper," said Harry, scratching the dog behind the ears. Nipper yipped happily: he was such a nice, calm dog to have around children.
"And who are you?" asked Harry as looked at the new dog with interest.
It was as big as a bear and black as pitch, but its eyes seemed intent on Harry as it nuzzled Harry's hand and whimpered quietly. For as long as Harry could remember, he had wanted a big black dog – just like this one, in fact.
"Ah, you've met Padfoot, have you, Harry?" said Marge as Harry came through the door with the dogs.
"Padfoot?" queried Harry.
"Old folklore from Bradford, Harry," said Uncle Vernon. "It certainly does look quite supernatural."
"Quite a beauty, isn't he?" Aunt Marge ruffled the dog's ears. The dog looked at her adoringly. "Needs feeding up though. He's a stray – appeared outside my house a couple of weeks ago. Thanks Vernon," she said, sitting down and accepting a cup of tea. "Well behaved. Acts on commands. He must have had an owner. Watch this."
Aunt Marge turned to the black dog who was sitting by Harry, gazing at him.
"Padfoot!" The dog's ears pricked up as it looked attentively at Aunt Marge. "Sit! Stand! Speak! Roll over!"
The dog performed every command swiftly and precisely and waited for praise.
"Good boy! Good dog!" Aunt Marge crooned and patted the dog's head, which the dog took as a sign to return to Harry's feet.
"I've advertised extensively but no-one's claimed him so … so what I thought is …" she paused and looked indulgently at Dudley and Harry, "he'd make a great pet for two teenage boys."
Both boys roughly stroked the dog and the dog seemed to respond with happy barking and a thumping wag of its tail.
"Please, Mum, can we keep him?" wheedled Dudley, seeing the look on his mother's face.
"The carpet! The hairs!" Aunt Petunia whispered in horror.
"He's well trained!" claimed Aunt Marge. "All boys should have a pet, Petunia. Teach them how to care for something, teach them about … you know …" She mouthed the word 'death' and Uncle Vernon nodded sagely.
"That's true. Pet ownership is a responsible lesson for the boys to learn." Uncle Vernon slapped his knee in decision. "Right you are, Marge. We'll take him."
"Hurrah!" the boys cried as the dog barked joyfully.
"Marvellous, Vernon. It'll be fine, Petunia." She patted Aunt Petunia's hand. "He's house-trained and once I've taken him for the snip, he'll become far more docile."
There was a loud yelp, followed by the scrabbling of claws on the lino, and the dog fled through the open back door.
"Anyone would think it understood!" chortled Uncle Vernon as the boys ran out to find him but it was as if the dog had disappeared into thin air!
Platform 9¾ was thronged with people: not just students and parents, but most of the Auror Corps in their red robes too. One particular Auror called Kingsley Shacklebolt had been assigned to Harry's personal protection. It was quite daunting to have this imposing, quiet man shadowing Harry's every move, but Harry knew it was for the best.
Ron nudged Harry as Shacklebolt checked the carriage before they entered.
"Dad said some on the Wizengamot wanted to put Dementors on the train! I mean … Dementors, Harry! They'd suck our souls away! Luckily, Dumbledore put paid to that stupid idea!"
Harry laughed nervously as Shacklebolt finished checking the carriage for hexes, and allowed them to sit. Harry looked out of the window as Ron fished his exploding snap card from his bag. He was sure he saw that black dog, Padfoot, on the platform. But he couldn't have - could he?
"A werewolf?" gasped Draco. "You wait until my father hears about this! Having a werewolf teach at Hogwarts! This place has gone to the dogs!"
"Nice one, Draco!" smirked Pansy.
"I wasn't joking," seethed Draco. "How can they let a beast …"
"That's enough, Mr. Malfoy," said Professor Snape silkily, appearing silently at Draco's side. "Professor Dumbledore spent a great deal of time today explaining the Ministry's Equal Opportunities Policy for Magical Beings. No creature is a 'beast' any longer. Kindly refrain from using such slurs."
"But sir!" whined Draco. "Just because you call something a different name doesn't change its nature … it's still a dark creature …"
"Enough! You will join me on Saturday afternoon for Equality Reorientation lessons. I suspect it will be a very well attended lesson." Professor Snape sighed a very hard-done-by sigh. "Hogwarts is an equal opportunities institution, for teachers and students alike. I am personally collaborating with Professor Lupin on a potion to make the full moon safe, with a view to seeking a cure."
"That's very noble of you, sir," said Theo, sycophantically.
"No responsible adult could do otherwise, Mr. Nott," said Professor Snape. Harry was sure he saw the professor twitch when he talked of 'collaborating' with Professor Lupin, whether with pride or some other emotion, he wasn't at all certain.
Professor Snape strode away and Harry leant over the table to take a closer look at Professor Lupin at the top table. He certainly didn't look like a dark creature. Harry shrugged as Draco muttered under his breath and carried on eating his broccoli. After all, there would be no treacle tart until he'd eaten his all of his cruciferous vegetables.
The first lesson in Defence this year for all ages was about werewolves. Harry supposed there was no reason to be surprised by that given that Professor Lupin was teaching Defence this year, leaving Uncle Albus free to fulfil his headmaster's duties once more.
Harry thought it was great that they had a real live actual werewolf teaching them. Who better to tell them the truth of lycanthropy?
Harry and his year mates sat on the grass after their Defence lesson.
"Imagine having a Whomping Willow so near the school! What were they thinking?" said Theo.
"You wait until I tell …"
"Your father! We know," groaned the class in unison to Draco.
"Well, I think it was barbaric," said Hermione Granger, "keeping a school child alone in that horrid draughty house all on his own. He must have been so frightened."
"Sure! Until he turned into a slavering wolf!" chimed in Ron. "I'm pleased Professor Snape knows how to brew Wolfsbane, that's for sure."
The teenagers all nodded in agreement.
"Where did Professor Lupin say the tree had been moved to?" asked Neville. "I'd love to see it."
"You and your plants, Neville," Hermione teased. "Professor Lupin said it had been moved to a clearing in the centre of the Dark Forest.
"I heard Hagrid was upset about that. Apparently, it would trap the spiders. I mean … who cares about spiders?" cried Ron.
The teenagers all nodded again. Harry smiled at Kingsley Shacklebolt, who nodded as he patrolled the area around Harry.
Shacklebolt patrolled the clearing where the hippogriffs were gathered for Hagrid's first Care of Magical Creatures lesson.
Harry had been the first to volunteer to try to greet a hippogriff and he had been introduced to Buckbeak.
"O' course, if you'd'a been older, you coulda ridden 'im, Harry," said Hagrid, smiling benignly. "Maybe, one day, all of you will be able to try that."
Shacklebolt nodded in approval, pleased he had had a quiet world with Hagrid before the lesson had started.
"It would have been brilliant, wouldn't it?" sighed Harry as he and Ron made their way back to the castle.
Harry sat in Professor Lupin's office with Professors McGonagall and Lupin. He'd been invited to tea. He was very surprised to have such an invitation, but Professor McGonagall told him it would be the same sort of tea that he'd had with her and Professor Snape in the first year.
"Did you know my mother too?" Harry asked Professor Lupin.
"I was very good friends with both of your parents, Harry, although I knew your father better. We shared a dorm together and …"
"So you knew this Sirius Black?"
"Manners, Mr. Potter!" admonished Professor McGonagall.
"Sorry, Professors. It's just – I've only just learnt about Sirius Black."
"You don't need to concern yourself with Sirius Black, Harry. We are all here to protect you. There's no way he can get into the castle with all Professor Dumbledore's protective enchantments in place, even in his other form."
Professor Lupin looked uncomfortable, but Professor McGonagall piped up.
"We agreed, Remus. Mr. Potter should know the truth."
Lupin looked resigned and nodded.
"When we were all at school, your father, Sirius and Peter found out about my condition, even though I had tried to hide it from them. It was foolish really, thinking it could be hidden from bright boys like that. They had guessed my secret by the second year and they were wonderfully supportive. I hadn't expected them to be. I had thought I would be driven out. Anyway, they made it their mission to find a way to help me. After years of research, they taught themselves to become Animagi …"
"Terribly dangerous and utterly foolish!" fumed Professor McGonagall as Harry jaw dropped with excitement. Animagi! Wait until he told Ron!
"That's amazing! What forms did they have?"
"Yes, it was amazing, Harry. They took forms that were strong enough to control a werewolf. Well, your father and Sirius did, at any rate." He smiled at Harry's obvious pride, even though Professor McGonagall was still muttering about the dangers of a werewolf running free in the grounds. Harry didn't listen; he only had ears for this amazing story. "Your father took the form of a stag, Peter a rat and Sirius a large black dog."
"Padfoot!" murmured Harry, suddenly recollecting the bear-like dog from the summer.
"How did you know that's what we called Sirius?" queried Professor Lupin, frowning.
"I didn't. I mean, I don't think I did …" Harry took a deep breath and then told them about the dog who had nearly become theirs.
Harry watched Uncle Albus pace in front of his desk.
"So near. He could have snatched Harry from right under our noses!" muttered Shacklebolt.
"But he didn't," said Professor Lupin softly. "Don't you find that odd?"
"You know what Sirius did, Remus!" scolded Professor McGonagall. "You know he confessed."
"Yes, I do know," replied Professor Lupin. "I came back because Albus asked me to help catch him. I've told you everything I know. If the Whomping Willow were still in place, he might be hiding out in the Shrieking Shack, but there's no entry to that any more."
"If only we could know whether he's in the castle …" mused Uncle Albus.
Professor Lupin looked thoughtful and then his face lit up.
"There is one way we could find out – if Filch still has it!" He leant forward in his chair. "Filch confiscated it from us in our final year. It's a map. A map we charmed to show where everyone is in the castle!"
"Remus Lupin!" cried Professor McGonagall, scandalised.
Professor Lupin coloured a little and smiled sheepishly.
"I've charmed all confiscations to be unstealable. It should still be there," declared Uncle Albus.
Within half an hour, the Marauder's Map had been located and was now spread out on Uncle Albus's desk.
Professor Lupin was quite beetroot as he tapped the map with his wand and said, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good." He did not look up to see Professor McGonagall looking really, really cross.
"Whoa!" whispered Harry as he watched all the labelled dots moving around the map.
Uncle Albus ran one hand over the map.
"Clever magic, Remus, and this could prove very useful. I think I will keep this to search for future intruders and ..."
But whatever Uncle Albus had been about to say was lost as Professor Lupin let out a startled squawk and snatched up the map.
"What the hell's Peter doing in bed with Ronald Weasley?!"
Harry hadn't been allowed to go with Shacklebolt and the professors to Ron's dormitory, but Madam Pomfrey had come to take him back to his dormitory. As they walked back, Professor Snape ran past, his cloak flying behind him.
"Slow down, Severus! You'll trip!" Madam Pomfrey called after him, but he was gone in a flash.
Ron and his brothers and sister weren't at breakfast the next day. Dean told him that Shacklebolt, Uncle Albus and Professor Lupin had entered their dorm and stupefied Ron's rat, Scabbers, who had been sleeping on Ron's pillow. All the boys had crowded into the corner of the dorm as Uncle Albus had cast a spell on the rat and a fully grown wizard had popped into being.
Ron's rat was an Animagus called Peter Pettigrew! Dean was almost breathless telling the tale.
"And then!" he gasped. "Then, Professor Snape came running in and gave Pettigrew a few drops of a clear potion. I think they called it Veritaserum. And he confessed that he had been your parents' Secret Keeper. He betrayed them to Voldemort. Sirius Black is innocent."
"So, Sirius Black didn't betray my parents?" repeated Harry looking from Uncle Albus to Professor McGonagall to Professor Lupin to Shacklebolt after he'd been called to Uncle Albus's office.
"No, Harry. It was Peter Pettigrew all along."
"Didn't this Sirius Black mention this at his trial?" wondered Harry, thinking of all the cops and robbers television series he'd seen saying a person was innocent until proven guilty.
Shacklebolt and the professors looked uncomfortable, especially Uncle Albus.
"Alas, we all took his confession of responsibility to mean guilt and he was imprisoned without trial. We committed a grave error, Harry. There will need to be a full judicial enquiry of the Wizengamot into the systemic failures in our criminal system which led to this abject miscarriage of justice. Reparations will need to be paid. I dare say, Sirius will need extensive counselling and physical rehabilitation. It will be a long road for him."
Ron and his brothers and sister returned after a week. He told his friends that Ministry psychologists had interviewed and counselled them all, but especially Ron and Percy, in case Peter Pettigrew had enchanted the boys in any way.
The next Defence lesson was about Boggarts. Many of the students were quite frightened of having to meet whatever form the Boggart might take and they all talked excitedly amongst themselves.
"We will do a practical lesson with a Boggart soon," said Professor Lupin. "But first, we should discuss the theory behind dealing with them. Everyone take a seat." All the children sat and Professor Lupin took his place before the class. "Boggarts recreate our fears. Now, being afraid is a primeval response and a stimulus to action. So let's deconstruct this now ..."
Harry stifled a yawn.
The most amazing thing about Harry's third year was Hogsmeade. It was the first fully Wizarding village Harry had ever seen and full of incredible shops. Honeyduke's was by far Harry's favourite although he was very careful to only have a small amount of sweets and chocolate. Aunt Petunia had always been very careful to ensure the boys understood the benefits of a balanced diet – not just to weight, but for development and dental health too.
He shook his head as he admonished Ron, Neville and Draco for their excessive consumption of chocolate bars.
Then, they visited a joke shop called Zonko's but they couldn't get into too much trouble there: the shop had an 'age appropriate' policy on the sale of their items, practical jokes were subjected to strict health and safety testing and anti-pranking charms were in place over the whole castle anyway. A small outlet for childishness was permitted: common rooms were exempt, provided a prefect was present.
"My Mum told me her brothers used to let off fireworks in Potions classes!" whispered Ron as the group of boys stared at the range of products they were not quite old enough to buy.
"It must have been brilliant," sighed Harry but then shook sense into himself. "But not very responsible."
The boys agreed, a little crestfallen.
Harry finished writing his Comparative Studies essay ('Explain why Muggles Need Electricity') and then explained the function of electricity again to Theo and Draco.
"I suppose it's quite clever inventing a power source to take the place of magic," drawled Draco, grudgingly.
Hermione sighed heavily. "I wish we didn't have to take this part of Comparative Studies. I know about Muggles. I'd rather learn something more magical, like Divination!"
"No Divination until the fifth form, Granger, you know that," replied Theo. "Not when students are impressionable."
"I could easily take more subjects than we're currently studying," she moaned, doodling on her parchment.
"But you know the maximum number of topics allowed is eight. No student is allowed to take more," stated Harry. "All work and no play is no good for anyone." Aunt Petunia had always been very strict that her boys needed fresh air and leisure time as well as study.
The academic year passed without incident, punctuated by trips to Hogsmeade and occasional teas with Professor McGonagall and either Professor Lupin or Professor Snape. Harry enjoyed hearing tales of his parents. He hoped that when Sirius Black was discharged from St. Mungo's, he'd be able to tell Harry even more, especially about his dad being an Animagus.
When Harry loped (he didn't seem to run anywhere any more) towards his family at King's Cross, he couldn't help notice how tall Dudley was. As Uncle Vernon clapped his shoulder, Harry couldn't help notice how tall he'd grown himself!
"My boys are growing up so fast," cooed Aunt Petunia. "I'm so proud."
Harry had been very nervous about meeting Sirius Black, but his aunt and uncle had reassured him that Uncle Albus had promised that he was well on the way to recovery and that this meeting would be beneficial for both of them.
Aunt Petunia had made a lovely tea, and the family had sat with them as they talked. At first, Sirius had seemed hesitant and mistrustful, but it didn't take long before he and Aunt Petunia were swapping stories about Lily and they soon were very relaxed together. Sirius had brought photographs belonging to himself and to Professor Lupin and they'd spent a very pleasant afternoon listening to Sirius's reminiscences of James trying to court Lily over the years and their brief years of marriage.
"Well, I'm pleased you're free, Sirius," said Harry. "What will you do now?"
"Well, it's early days, Harry. I have a property in London which I think I'll sell. I may buy a house in Hogsmeade or maybe Godric's Hollow – start again. I'm not sure about work just yet, but I'd like to do something."
"It's important not to rush into any decisions," said Aunt Petunia, "so your recovery is complete. A terrible thing has happened to you, Sirius, and I hope you will always feel welcome here."
Sirius seemed very touched and the family exchanged their goodbyes.
Harry showed Sirius to the door and then whispered to Sirius, so his aunt wouldn't hear.
"How did you know to go to Aunt Marge as Padfoot?"
"I made my way straight here from Azkaban. I thought if I could become your pet, I could go with you to Hogwarts – protect you – and find Peter. It was the only responsible plan I could think of given my circumstances. One look in the window told me your aunt was not a dog person."
"I saw your other aunt when she visited and she clearly was, so I followed her home as Padfoot and insinuated myself into her good books. Sad eyes, pathetic body language. She couldn't resist me! It could have worked as well if she had threatened … well …" Sirius shuddered as his voice trailed away and Harry laughed again remembering the threat of 'the snip'.
"Sirius? Would you be able to teach me to be an Animagus? I mean ... one day, when I'm older?"
"Maybe," said Sirius, thinking of the near misses they'd had at school when they'd run with Lupin as a transformed wolf. It had been grossly irresponsible, even though their motivation had been to help their friend. What kind of a godfather would he be if he didn't learn from his own mistakes? "But you'll have to be of age, and registered if successful - agreed?"
"Agreed!" cried Harry happily.