Stronger At the Broken Places- 1/6 – enigmaticblue

Title: Stronger At the Broken Places
Series: The Many Lives of Sirius Black
Author: enigmaticblue
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Established Relationship, Family, Romance, Time Travel
Relationship(s): Sirius Black/Remus Lupin
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Brief mention of consensual sexual contact between minors, but nothing graphic.
Author Notes: I will admit that I’m playing a bit fast and loose with the timeline, as well as using fanon that doesn’t exist in the books. Just roll with it, okay? Especially since JKR never took the time to explain how the government worked. If you haven’t read My Sun Sets to Rise, I hope the prologue gets you caught up.
Word Count: 175,920
Summary: It’s 1994, and Sirius has Remus and Harry. Sirius has cleared his name, and taken back his place in the wizarding world. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t all a little bit broken, and it doesn’t mean the world won’t try to break them anew.
Artist: germankitty



The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ~Ernest Hemingway

Prologue: Previously, in My Sun Sets to Rise Again

In another lifetime, Sirius Black fell through the Veil, only to be reunited with his brother, Regulus, who gave him a choice: Sirius could move on to the afterlife, or he could walk through a door. He has the chance of a do-over by going back in time, knowing everything he knows about the future.

By touching the doorknob, Sirius gets a glimpse of each potential choice. In 1981, he arrives at the cottage in Godric’s Hollow just after the Potters’ deaths. In 1975, he goes back to Hogwarts. In 1995, he’s deposited back into the fight in the Ministry. In 1988, Sirius kidnaps an eight-year-old Harry with his enthusiastic participation.

In 1994, Sirius gets a glimpse of a bright future. He deepens his friendship with Remus, and they rekindle a romance. He hires a solicitor, and together they find a way to force a trial in front of the Wizengamot that ends up in a verdict of innocence. Once he’s cleared his name and received his trial, Sirius can take custody of Harry, who is happy to be free of the Dursleys, but also furious at the fact that Sirius didn’t receive a fair trial in the first place.

But  while Harry is angry and damaged from the years of neglect and abuse at the hands of the Dursleys, Sirius knows he has the rest of the summer to get Harry to a better place, and the rest of the year to prevent Voldemort from returning.

To do that, Sirius is willing to remake the world, and take his place as the head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.

When our story begins, Sirius has just brought Harry home, and they’re settling into family life as best they can…

Part the First: In Which Sirius Begins to Prepare

In the end, it’s the certainty that the door to 1994 offers that causes Sirius to choose it. Knowing that his name has been cleared, that he has custody of Harry, and having a clear idea of his path forward are determining factors.

And maybe both he and Harry are broken, but they can work on healing together.

Sirius finds himself back in the kitchen, a cup of tea still steaming in front of him, and he takes a deep breath. For good or ill, the choice has been made, and Sirius will just have to make the best of it.

He knows that he won’t sleep much, and Remus is in his own room tonight, so he goes to the study and picks up a book on wards. It’s either very late or very early when Sirius hears the faint sound of bare feet on the scarred, wooden floorboards.

Sirius looks up from his book to see Harry standing uncertainly in the doorway. “Couldn’t sleep, Harry?”

Harry shakes his head. “No. I couldn’t stop thinking about—about what happened.”

“You can say it,” Sirius says gently. “Whatever it is. I want us to be able to be honest with each other.”

Harry shrugs. “None of it’s fair, but it’s no good talking about it.”

Sirius hums. “It might help to get it off your chest.”

Harry throws himself onto the couch. “I already did.”

Sirius doesn’t press further. “Then perhaps we should talk about our plans for the summer.”

Harry perks up a bit at that, the oversized t-shirt he’s wearing slipping down one shoulder a bit. “Like the Quidditch World Cup?”

“Like that, but also some other things. Mad-Eye Moody will be here soon to work with us on our defenses,” Sirius replies. “He’s a retired Auror. And we’ll probably need to look at your academics, and see if there are weak spots that need to be addressed, based on what sort of job you might want after Hogwarts.”

Harry’s wide-eyed at that. “What do you mean?”

“Has anyone ever talked to you about that before?” Sirius asks, already knowing the answer.

Harry shakes his head. “No, not really.”

“You’ll probably get some advice when it comes to taking your OWLS, but it’s important to take the right electives, depending on what you want to do,” Sirius replies. “It’s something your parents would have talked to you about.”

Harry runs a hand through his messy, dark hair. “I didn’t know.”

“Did the Weasleys talk to you about it at all?” Sirius asks.

Harry shakes his head. “No, I just—well, I took Divination because I thought it would be easy.”

“Do you like it?” Sirius asks.

Harry shakes his head. “No, Professor Trelawney keeps predicting my death in new and horrible ways.”

Sirius chuckles. “It’s not too late to choose another subject. Ancient runes, for example, can be very helpful when it comes to setting up wards.”

“Wards?” Harry asks.

“Protections for a house, like this one,” Sirius explains. “The wards around this house were set by my family generations ago. I know when someone crosses the boundary onto the grounds, and strong wards can even repel Muggles or those with ill-intent.”

Harry looks intrigued by the idea. “That sounds useful.”

“It certainly is,” Sirius replies. “Plus, you should know a bit more about how the government works, because I fully intend on taking my seat in the Wizengamot once you go back to school.”

Harry tilts his head to the side. “Why?”

“Because I need to be able to protect you and Remus,” Sirius replies easily. “And that will help me to do so. Since you’re my heir, you’ll need to understand these things as well.”

Harry frowns, sitting up with obvious interest. “What does it mean to be your heir?”

“You’ll be heir to the Ancient and Noble House of Black,” Sirius says. “It’s not something I wanted—to be the Head of the House of Black—but I can do more to protect you that way.”

Harry leans forward eagerly. “No one ever said anything about that.”

“They used to teach a government class at Hogwarts,” Sirius replies, “but I’m sure they think that most students are going to learn what they need to know from their parents.”

“That doesn’t help the Muggle-born students,” Harry points out.

Sirius shakes his head. “No, it doesn’t, but I think you’ll find that there are all sorts of strategies to create barriers for Muggle-borns. Not everyone has the drive that Hermione does.”

Harry seems to consider that for a moment. “There’s so much I don’t know.”

“We can remedy that, pup,” Sirius says warmly. “As long as you want to learn.”

Harry nods quickly. “I do. No one ever explained about that before.”

James and Lily should have been the ones talking to Harry about all of this, but Sirius will do it in their place. “Someone should have,” Sirius replies. “Professor McGonagall should have at least given you some direction.”

“I think she tried,” Harry says awkwardly. “But Ron—well, Ron wanted Divination, and Hermione took every elective possible.”

“That’s probably good for us,” Sirius admits. “Otherwise, she wouldn’t have had the time-turner.”

“True,” Harry says, then yawns widely.

“You should try and get some sleep,” Sirius says. “And sleep as late as you want tomorrow. There’s a bakery down in the village, and we’ll walk down for pastries when you get up.”

Harry manages a smile. “Thanks, Sirius.”

“Any time,” Sirius replies, and watches him go. He stretches out on the couch, and feels as though they’ve made a good start.

~~~~~

The next morning dawns sunny and clear, and it’s well after 10 by the time Harry wanders downstairs—long enough for Remus to drink his tea, and Sirius to have his coffee, and for an owl from Moody to appear.

Mad-Eye’s note is short and sweet. “I can be there next week. Identity checks for all. I’m looking forward to evaluating the boy.”

“Well, this should be interesting,” Remus comments. “Where are we going to put him?”

“There’s another room upstairs that we can air out,” Sirius replies. “Shouldn’t take too long.”

There is another bedroom upstairs, as well as an attic, and they can move the junk that needs to be in storage up there.

Remus hesitates. “You know the full moon is next week.”

“So, I’ll write and tell him not to come until after you’ve been through the full moon,” Sirius replies reasonably. “It’s Monday, so if he comes on Wednesday, we’ll be fine.”

Remus nods warily. “I know there’s the Wolfsbane, but Moody is—“

“Unpredictable, so let’s not give him a go at you?” Sirius suggests. “I’m fine with that, Moony. I had a conversation with Harry last night about the next year. He might be interested in changing his electives.”

“Thank god,” Remus mutters. “I could tell that he hated Divination. What did you talk him into?”

“Ancient runes,” Sirius replies. “Good for ward work. Although if he decides he wants Arithmancy, too, that wouldn’t be so bad.”

“Ancient runes is useful,” Remus agrees. “We can help him prepare. We should probably give him some remedial help in Potions.”

“That goes without saying,” Sirius says wryly. “What do you think Snape would do if Harry went back to school as a prodigy?”

Remus laughs. “That might be a little ambitious, but we may be able to get him through the first term of fourth year Potions.”

Sirius groans. “And that reminds me—occlumency.”

“No question,” Remus agrees. “But that had better be you, Pads. You’re better at it than I am.”

“Now that we’ve completely filled up his summer…” Sirius sighs. “It’s probably too much.”

Remus shakes his head. “We don’t have much time with him. He faced Voldemort’s wraith first year, a basilisk his second year, and his parents’ betrayer this year, not to mention the Dementors.”

“Well, we have today, anyway,” Sirius says. “I said we’d go down to the village for pastries once he was up, and maybe we can go flying later today. There’s plenty of time to work.”

“It’s a beautiful day,” Remus agrees. “And you two deserve to spend some time together.”

“Don’t think you’re getting out of it so easily, Moony,” Sirius warns him. “Harry deserves to know you, too, as something other than his professor.”

Remus smiles. “You’re still not getting me up on a broom.”

“Spoilsport,” Sirius complains good-naturedly.

“I’ve never been that fond of the game,” Remus reminds him. “Besides, I can use the time to put together an educational plan for Harry that won’t overwhelm him. I’m assuming you’ll want to go over governance and estates, as well.”

Sirius nods. “I talked about that some last night as well.”

Remus hums thoughtfully. “I think there’s probably a way to make all of this interesting for Harry so that it doesn’t feel like work. I believe that’s where I generally excelled as a teacher.”

“I would believe it,” Sirius replies. “I’m sorry, Moony.”

“You know,” Remus says thoughtfully. “I’m not. Harry deserves the individual instruction. He’s going to be facing unique challenges that his peers will not. And I do believe that you’ll find a way to remake the world to be a safer place for him, and for people like me.”

Sirius is touched. “Thank you.”

“As you said, Harry is all we have left of James and Lily,” Remus says. “He deserves to have every opportunity.”

When Harry does wander downstairs, he’s wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, both with holes. “Sorry, I didn’t have much that was clean.”

Sirius gives him a critical look. “Come on. I should have something for you.”

Harry is shorter than him, but they’re about the same build, although Sirius is hoping they both put more meat on their bones. Sirius knows a few tailoring charms.

“Is this weird?” Harry asks from behind the bathroom door while Sirius waits for him to get changed.

“What? You wearing my clothes?” Sirius asks. “I wouldn’t know. Also, I’ve never worn them before, so it’s just as easy to put the tailoring charms on them now.”

The pants are quickly shortened, and the shirt pulls a little tighter across the shoulders. “I’m not used to wearing formal clothing outside of school,” Harry admits.

“Hm,” Sirius replies, looking at him critically. “Well, I hate to break it to you, pup, but even your casual clothing is probably going to need to make a statement, particularly once I take my seat in the Wizengamot. Good thing for you that wizarding clothes come with built-in comfort charms. And, in this case, cooling charms. You’ll be more comfortable in this than in a pair of Muggle shorts and a t-shirt.”

Harry pulls a face.

“That being said, you can wear whatever you like around here,” Sirius adds. “I have very strong privacy wards up, so no one will be spying on us. Did you want to invite your friends here this summer?”

“I thought we’d have too much to do,” Harry admits.

“Remus is putting together a plan,” Sirius replies. “And Hermione, at least, might enjoy joining in your lessons.”

Harry grins. “Yeah, Hermione would love a study plan. You should see hers. I think she color-codes it.”

“Word of advice, Harry: cultivate the friendship of an organized witch,” Sirius teases. “Your mum was similarly organized.”

Harry glances away. “Do you, um, do you think they’d be proud of me?”

Sirius’ heart aches. “Yeah. I think they’d be very proud.”

“My grades have only been so-so,” Harry confesses in a rush.

“You’ve also had to deal with Voldemort every year,” Sirius points out. “Your parents weren’t so burdened. Come on, I’m hungry.”

Remus smiles as they come downstairs. “Looking good, Harry.”

Harry shrugs, although he seems pleased. “I guess I can understand the need to keep up appearances.”

“Trust me, Sirius shoved me in new clothes, too,” Remus says dryly. “But the bakery in the village has excellent pastries, so we should get a move on. I’m starving.”

The walk down to the village is pleasant, the skies overhead clear and sunny, the day just beginning to turn really warm. Harry is looking around him, his eyes bright with interest, and he says, “I didn’t ask, where exactly are we?”

“It’s a village south of Paris called Saint-Aimo,” Sirius replies. “It’s not very big, but it has a few charms.”

“Like the pastries,” Harry replies with a grin. “I don’t know if I remember any of the French I learned in primary, to be honest.”

“There’s a language transference spell that we could do, although it works best with a native speaker who is about the same age as the recipient,” Remus says. “The correct, and most current, slang is more likely to transfer over properly that way.”

Harry perks up a bit at that. “Should I be able to speak French?”

“A lot of the Black holdings are in France, and it wouldn’t hurt, although it’s not strictly necessary,” Sirius admits. “But being able to speak other languages is a useful skill.”

“I don’t understand why Hogwarts doesn’t offer that sort of thing, too,” Harry admits. “I know that magic is a lot to learn, but there seem to be a lot of—well, a lot of gaps.”

“Gaps that well-off and pureblood families fill during school breaks,” Sirius admits.

“And then when Muggle-borns don’t do as well, they use that as evidence to show that they’re not as deserving,” Remus adds softly.

“There are plenty of people who are pureblood and go to Hogwarts, and who don’t have those advantages,” Sirius adds, “but that’s always been the case, and the same principle is true in the Muggle world.”

Harry’s expression turns thoughtful. “I hadn’t really thought of that. I know money and class in the Muggle world are important, but—“

“They’re just as important in the wizarding world, Harry,” Remus says. “People just have another element on which to judge you.”

“Does, I mean, I don’t want to offend,” Harry stammers.

Sirius smiles. “Spit it out, lad.”

“Should I not mention that the two of you are together?” Harry asks. “It doesn’t matter to me, but if I should keep it quiet…”

“It’s not for public consumption, but as long as you avoid commenting on it in the papers, we’ll be fine,” Sirius assures him. “There are political reasons as well as personal ones to keep it quiet, but I won’t be angry if you let something slip.”

“Okay, fair,” Harry replies. “Although I really try to avoid speaking to anyone associated with the papers.”

Sirius shrugs. “That might not be possible in the coming year, but we’ll see.”

He knows that there are a number of families who have summer homes in the area, so he’s not surprised that there are quite a few people on the streets. The three of them garner a few curious looks, including one from a boy around Harry’s age, as they enter the patisserie.

Sirius orders for the three of them in French, including a loaf of bread for toast and sandwiches, and they eat their pastries at a small table in front of the store.

Harry groans. “This is good.”

“One good reason to learn French: you can order your own food,” Sirius points out.

“Excuse me?”

Sirius glances up and sees the boy he’d noticed looking at Harry earlier. “Yes?”

“You are Harry Potter?” he asks in a thickly accented voice. HIs eyes are bright with curiosity, but also something else.

Harry nods cautiously. “I am.”

“I’m Lionel,” he says, holding out a hand. “I saw your picture in one of my sister’s magazines. It said you were a good Quidiitch player.”

Harry blushes. “Well, I try.”

“I go to Beauxbatons, and I’m staying the summer with my grandmother, I think you say. Would you like to play?” Lionel asks, almost breathlessly. “My sister, she is staying with her friend, and I am here alone.”

Harry glances at Sirius. “Up to you, pup,” Sirius says. “I’m sure we can make time.”

“That would be great,” Harry replies. “I don’t know anyone here. I’ve only just come.”

“We’re staying at the old Black place,” Sirius adds. “Your grandmother will know where that is. Come any time. We have wards up, so you won’t be noticed flying.”

Lionel’s hazel-green eyes brighten. “Merci. Perhaps tomorrow?”

“Come in the afternoon,” Sirius replies.

Lionel’s teeth are very white against his dark skin, and then he’s gone. Remus shoots him a look, but Sirius shrugs. Yes, they have a lot to accomplish this summer, but Sirius also wants Harry to have fun, and to broaden his horizons. Harry should know a world beyond Hogwarts and his studies there.

And if Lionel turns out to be a good friend, maybe Harry can do the language transference spell and learn French to boot.

“I know there’s a lot to learn,” Harry begins.

“There’s time,” Sirius insists. “And it would do you good to make friends outside of Hogwarts. You never know when you need a contact in another country.”

“It might be fun to have a local friend,” Harry allows. “I mean, besides Hermione and Ron, I haven’t had much luck in that department.”

Remus hesitates. “No offense, Harry, but I’m sure there are others you can cultivate. What about Neville?”

Harry blinks. “Oh, I guess. I just…you cultivate friendships?”

Sirius nods. “Not to put it too finely, Harry, but you’ll need to do just that in the next few years, and in the years to come. When you take your seat in the Wizengamot, you’ll need to be able to create a voting bloc. You’ll have to get people on your side, and to make them think that you’re friends, even if you’re not. I understand that’s been difficult, and it’s hard for me, too.”

Harry shrugs. “It’s just that a lot of my classmates are petty arseholes.”

“Granted,” Remus says, with a smile. “But you know that Neville was your godbrother.”

Harry blinks. “What?”

Sirius glances at Remus. “You didn’t know?”

“No,” Harry admits. “Not really.”

“Alice was your godmother,” Sirius replies. “And your parents were Neville’s godparents.”

Harry hesitates. “What happened to them? I know that Neville lives with his grandmother, but he’s never said why.”

“Neville’s parents were tortured into insanity by my cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband and his brother.” Sirius says frankly. “If things had happened differently, you might have been raised as brothers.”

Harry blinks. “Really?”

“You two were born only a day apart,” Sirius explains. “The prophecy could have been about Neville, or you, but Voldemort made it about you.”

Harry appears stricken. “I should have known about this. Does Neville know?”

“He might,” Sirius replies.”I don’t know. Frank and Alice certainly would have told him, but Augusta Longbottom has always had her own reasons for doing things.”

Augusta is a formidable witch, and has been since her days in Hogwarts. She sits in the Longbottom seat in the Wizengamot as Frank’s proxy—and Neville’s. Sirius knows that he’ll need to connect with her. While the Longbottoms have never been allies of the Blacks, their goals should align more with Sirius at the helm.

Harry’s expression turns thoughtful, and he says, “Then I should definitely reach out to Neville more. I know that Dean and Seamus are friends, and I hadn’t really thought about it, but that leaves him odd-man-out.”

“I think that would be a kindness, Harry,” Remus comments approvingly.

Harry doesn’t lose the thoughtful look. “I think—I think I’ve been so overwhelmed with everything that I haven’t really thought about anything.”

It’s an insightful comment, and Sirius suspects that he’s right. “When you’re in the middle of a war, Harry, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. You’ve been on the back foot without room to breathe, but this summer could give you the chance to change all of that.”

The next school year might as well, Sirius thinks, but even if Harry isn’t entered into the Triwizard Tournament, Voldemort or one of his followers might manage to do something else.

Harry nods. “To be honest, the idea of getting out of Divination is enough to have me really grateful for a study plan. I wouldn’t mind—well, I wouldn’t mind knowing a bit more about Potions, too. I hate the class because of Snape, but it’s been dead useful. If Hermione wasn’t so clever, we would have been in real trouble on multiple occasions.”

This time, Remus doesn’t bother correcting Harry about not using Snape’s title. “Knowledge is never wasted,” Remus replies, “and Potions is a very useful skill.”

“Household potions, common remedies, pain relief, Wolfsbane,” Sirius says, ticking each off on a finger. “Most of the time it’s cheaper to buy the ingredients and make it yourself than it is to buy it, and if you have some skill, you don’t have to rely on others.”

“And you don’t have to wonder whether others have the necessary skills either,” Remus adds.

Harry frowns. “I didn’t think you had to worry about something being expensive.”

Sirius smiles. “What do you think we would have done before my name was cleared? And you don’t always want someone knowing what you’re brewing.”

“Like the polyjuice,” Harry mutters.

“When did you use polyjuice?” Remus asks, sounding surprised.

Harry looks guilty for a moment.

“I’m not your professor anymore,” Remus reminds him, amused.

“We wanted to see if Malfoy knew anything about the Chamber of Secrets being open,” Harry admits quietly. “We got some of Crabbe and Goyle’s hair to sneak into the Slytherin common room. Unfortunately, Hermione got cat hair.”

Sirius barks a laugh. “Oh, that must have been awkward. How did she explain it?”

“Failed attempt at transfiguration,” Harry says with a crooked grin. “Since she’s an overachiever, no one questioned it.”

Sirius resolves not to think too hard about what might have happened to Harry with improperly brewed polyjuice. “That’s a complicated potion, Harry.”

“How badly could it have gone?” Harry asks wryly.

“Let’s just say that I’m very glad it turned out as well as it did,” Sirius replies.

Harry shrugs. “I’ve probably done more dangerous things.”

Sirius shares an alarmed look with Remus, and Sirius clears his throat. “That might be, but it would gut me if anything happened to you.”

Harry gives Sirius a startled look. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Sirius replies. “You might have to do dangerous things. I might not be able to prevent it, or protect you. But I want you to take care of yourself as much as you can.”

Harry nods. “I promise.”

“Good enough for me,” Sirius replies. “I just need to know that you’re not going to hurl yourself into danger like a Gryffindor.”

Harry laughs. “I thought that was my job?”

“Try to think about it before you do,” Remus says wryly. “I think that’s all we can ask.”

The sun is bright and hot overhead, and Sirius suggests, “Let’s stop by the store on the way home. I think we’re running low on supplies.”

Sirius isn’t much of a cook, but Remus is a competent one, and so they pick up a whole chicken and a roast and veg and potatoes. There are eggs and bacon and sausages for breakfast, as well fresh fruit.

Harry helps, pointing out the best fruits, the best green beans. “I can help cook, too,” he adds. “I can’t do anything gourmet, but I can handle the basics.”

“You can teach me,” Sirius replies. “But I’ll warn you, I might be hopeless.”

Harry laughs. “You just haven’t had enough practice.”

“That’s what I’ve said,” Remus replies with good humor.

Sirius shrugs. “I haven’t had much practice, true. I suppose I’ll figure it out this summer.”

They carry the groceries back to the house, and then Harry changes into his old clothing, and Sirius finds some old clothes of his own, and they go out flying.

Remus stays inside, and Sirius knows he’s working out a plan for Harry. They pass the Quaffle between them and Sirius shows Harry a couple of the feints that James had used back at Hogwarts. Harry’s a natural on a broom, as talented as his father had been, and it’s so easy to see James in Harry as they’re flying.

Sirius is grateful that he’s had the experiences that he has, including seeing James and Lily again, and it’s easier for him to see the differences between James and Harry, to see them as individuals.

After a few hours, they head inside, and Sirius can smell roast chicken. “I have a plan drawn up,” Remus says. “But I would suggest starting occlumency as soon as possible.”

Sirius nods. “I agree. Have you heard about that before?”

Harry shakes his head. “No. What is it?”

“It’s a way to protect your mind from outside influences,” Sirius explains. “There are witches and wizards who have the ability to read some of your thoughts. Given your background, and the secrets you’ll be protecting, it would be better if they couldn’t.”

Harry nods eagerly. “Yeah, that makes sense. I’m okay with it.”

“We’ll start tomorrow,” Sirius promises.

“In the meantime, here,” Remus says. “This is the book on Ancient Runes that’s most likely to get you caught up the fastest. If it turns out that it doesn’t suit, we’ll work on Arithmancy.”

“What about Potions?” Harry asks.

He sounds eager, and Sirius realizes that part of it is that he wants to impress them. Sirius doesn’t want Harry to think he has to do anything to earn their affection or love, but he knows the value of having people who care to spur you on to do your best.

“I have a book for that, too, and we can start with a pain relief potion,” Remus says. “It would be helpful to have on hand, and your challenge is to learn how to brew it, and as well as the theory behind it.”

Harry sprawls on the couch in the study to read the book, and Sirius has his own reading to do. Sirius does ask, “Do you need any help?”

“It’s all done and in the oven at this point,” Remus replies. “It just needs time.”

“Pain relief, huh?” Sirius asks.

Remus shrugs. “Harry has a practical mind. I thought starting him off with something like that would be more motivating.”

Sirius nods. “Makes sense.”

He joins Harry in the study and picks up his own book. He’s reading up on protective measures to send to Hogwarts with Harry. Assuming he can prevent Harry’s name from being put into the Goblet of Fire, they’ll still have to deal with Harry being in the castle with known Death Eaters. He already plans on making sure that Harry has a communication mirror. Unfortunately, an emergency portkey won’t work inside Hogwarts’ wards.

Dinner is far less fraught than the night before, and Harry even seems downright cheerful, and is appreciative of Remus’ efforts. He volunteers to help Sirius clean up, and then goes back to his book.

The next day sets up a pattern. The morning is filled with chores, homework, and lessons. After lunch, Sirius starts teaching Harry occlumency, and while Harry had expressed an eagerness to learn the day before, Sirius wants him to understand just how important it is that Harry learns the skill, no matter how difficult he finds it.

“There’s a connection between you and Voldemort,” Sirius says bluntly. “And he can use that connection. Occlumency helps protect your mind from him, and from his followers.”

Harry immediately leans forward, his expression grim. “Will it prevent the dreams?”

“Are you having nightmares, Harry?” Sirius asks gently.

Harry shrugs. “I don’t know if they’re nightmares or—or if I’m actually seeing what Voldemort is doing. It’s really vivid.”

“That’s an even better reason to learn how to protect your mind,” Sirius says. “We’re going to start slowly. Some of the meditation exercises will help if you ever want to be an animagus, too.”

Harry straightens up. “Do you think I could do that?”

“Your dad was a natural,” Sirius replies. “If you put in the hard work, I don’t see why not.”

Harry nods eagerly. “Okay, let’s do it.”

Sirius doesn’t expect Harry to get a handle on occlumency right away. Right now, Sirius just wants Harry to recognize when someone is trying to infiltrate his mind. If he can do that, Harry will at least know when the thoughts aren’t his own.

Sirius tries to get into Harry’s mind, feeling his anger. He’s well aware that Harry has a temper—in that, he takes after both his parents—but he can feel it now.

And then he feels Harry push at him, and Sirius grins. “Good job! You sensed me, and reacted appropriately. Let’s go over how to build up your mental walls.”

They’re still working when Sirius feels a ping from the wards. “All right, Harry, looks like we have company. I think it’s your friend from yesterday.”

Harry pops up, looking excited and nervous. “Is it too early in the day to quit?”

“It’s summer,” Sirius replies indulgently. “I think we’ve worked hard enough for the day.”

It is, indeed, Lionel, and he’s brought his grandmother, Louise, along. Lionel introduces her to both Sirius and Harry.

Louise has a firm grip and sharp eyes. She looks to be in her early sixties, and still very attractive. “I wanted to see who my grandson would be spending time with,” she says in very good English.

“Of course,” Sirius says genially. “I’d be wondering the same thing. Can I offer you something to drink?”

“Do you have wine?” Louise asks.

“Of course,” Sirius replies. “Let me just grab some glasses.”

Remus follows him out with the wine, bread, and cheese, the epitome of a good host. Sirius knows that appearances are important, and he’ll be judged for these sorts of things, and not just by his neighbors.

Louise has an approving light in her eyes as Remus and Sirius lay out the spread and pour the wine, and she says, “I have to admit, I was a little surprised to hear that Harry Potter was spending the summer here.”

“This was my grandmother’s house,” Sirius replies. “And I thought it would be ideal for Harry. I didn’t think he’d be recognized so quickly.”

Louise laughs. “Well, he might have escaped unnoticed if Lionel wasn’t mad for Quidditch, and if he didn’t sometimes flip through Witch Weekly.”

“He said it was his sister’s,” Sirius says with a smile.

Louise grins. “That’s what he’d like you to believe.”

Remus and Sirius both chuckle at that. “I’m glad that Harry might be able to broaden his horizons this summer,” Sirius comments. “I think it will do him good to make some friends outside Hogwarts.”

“Wider horizons are always beneficial,” Louise agrees.

On the front lawn, Harry and Lionel are chasing each other on their brooms, tossing a Quaffle back and forth, and clearly having a great time.

Louise asks, “What will you do once Harry goes back to school?”

“I’m taking my seat on the Wizengamot,” Sirius admits freely. “I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.”

She hums. “You have quite the mess to clean up.”

“I’m rather looking forward to it,” Sirius says cheerfully.

“Good for you,” Louise replies.

By the time Lionel and Harry have finished their game, and alight on the lawn with breathless grins, Remus and Sirius are relaxed with Louise, and it’s clear that Lionel and Harry have struck up a friendship as well.

“We don’t have much for dinner, just sandwiches, but you’re still welcome to stay,” Remus offers.

“We have dinner at home, but thank you for the invitation,” Louise says politely.

Harry looks from Sirius to Remus. “Could Lionel come over again?”

“Of course,” Sirius replies. “Whenever he likes. We can study in the mornings.”

“Oh, are you also studying this summer?” Lionel asks eagerly. “What are you working on?”

Harry begins explaining his educational plans for the rest of the summer, and Louise’s expression is approving. “A very well thought out plan,” she declares.

“I could come over and study with you,” Lionel suggests. “I prefer studying with others.”

Harry looks taken aback, but also very pleased. “Sure, if you want. I’d like that, too.”

They leave, and Sirius says, “I take it you made a friend, Harry.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Harry replies hesitantly. “He seems really nice, and we had a good time, but we go to different schools.”

“You could always be pen friends,” Remus encourages. “A lot of people have them, and you have an owl.”

Sirius doesn’t say anything about the Triwizard Tournament, and the fact that there will be Beauxbatons students at Hogwarts. He’s not supposed to know anything about that, and Lionel certainly wouldn’t be one of them based on his age.

After that, for the next few days, Sirius has Harry meditating and working on occlumency in the mornings, switching over to the more academic subjects afterward. Lionel typically joins them after lunch, bringing his own homework with him. Harry is making good progress with Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, and Potions, less so with occlumency, but Sirius keeps encouraging him.

Remus makes it through the full moon without issue—or without the issues that he had when not taking Wolfsbane.

And then Mad-Eye Moody arrives.

The old Auror stops outside the wards, and Sirius suspects that he’s testing their situational awareness. Constant vigilance is the watchword, after all.

Sirius pulls his wand and glances at Remus, who has drawn his own wand, as has Harry. “Did you sense his approach?”

Harry nods. “Is it Auror Moody?”

Sirius shrugs. “Probably, but let’s not take chances. Remus—“

“I’ll stay with Harry,” Remus replies.

Harry looks like he wants to protest, but he swallows his words when Sirius shakes his head. “I’m here to protect you, Harry.”

Harry nods unhappily.

Sirius strolls out of the house, wand in hand, to greet Moody at the property line. Moody grunts his approval. “Excellent ward work, although they could be stronger.”

“I’d rather not have lethal warding around the house when Harry is here,” Sirius replies dryly. “He occasionally has a friend over.”

“Constant vigilance!” Moody roars. “But your point is taken. Let’s get the identity checks done.”

Sirius snaps out a revelio, and then another spell he learned during the war, one designed to highlight any potions that are in a person’s system.

Moody is who he says he is, and Sirius submits to Moody’s rather thorough spellwork.

“Come on up to the house,” Sirius invites. “I’ll introduce you to Harry.”

Moody’s wooden leg thumps on the stairs that lead up to the front porch, and then in the hallway. Harry is waiting in the study, wand still in hand, with Remus.

Moody nods at the sight. “Good. You’re already on guard. You should be. Constant vigilance is the only way to stay alive!”

Harry’s eyes are wide, and there’s the beginning of a grin around his mouth. “Got it.”

“Well, let’s get the rest of the identity checks out of the way,” Moody says, “and then I want to see what you’re made of, Mr. Potter.”

Harry’s expression is a little nervous, but Sirius knows this is the right call. Harry needs to know how to defend himself, and Moody is a good teacher, if a bit rough around the edges.

Sirius knows that Harry’s favorite class is DADA, and he takes a dueling stance easily, with confidence. Moody shoots off a hex of some sort, and Harry shouts, “Expelliarmus!”

Moody’s wand goes flying, and he lets out a delighted bark of laughter. “Well done, but that’s a trick you’ll only be able to use once. But sometimes the simplest defenses are the best ones.”

They had told Lionel that they would be having company, so he doesn’t turn up that day, and Moody spends the afternoon schooling Sirius and Harry on defense, dueling, hexes, and—of course—CONSTANT VIGILANCE.

“Is it true that you’re going to be our DADA professor next year?” Harry asks when they break for tea.

Moody nods. “I am, as a favor to Dumbledore,” he confirms.

“Are you going to be teaching us stuff like that?” Harry asks eagerly.

“The basic curses, hexes, jinxes, and how to deal with them, sure,” Moody agrees. “But I generally don’t offer the private instruction I’m giving you and Sirius.”

Harry looks surprised. “How come?”

“Because I’m curious to see what you become, lad,” Moody replies. “And you need to survive what’s coming in order to do that, as does your godfather.”

Harry’s expression is sober, but there’s gratitude there as well. Sirius suspects that having an adult be open and honest with him, to the point of bluntness, is probably a refreshing change of pace. “Thanks for being honest.”

“You can count on my honesty, Potter,” Moody says gruffly. “And if I ever lie to you, you’ll know I’m not who I say I am, and you have my permission to stun me unconscious.”

That startles a giggle out of Harry, who looks rather delighted at the prospect. “That sounds like a good plan.”

“We’ll work on situational awareness tomorrow, and getting some power into your stunners and reductos,” Moody declares. “You ever get into a fight with a Death Eater, your best bet is to take their wand arm off.”

Harry is wide-eyed, and while Sirius doesn’t like the idea of Harry having to be in a position where he has to duel Death Eaters, he can’t fault Moody’s advice. Amputation is the least of what a Death Eater deserves.

Remus doesn’t even object. “He’s right,” Remus comments. “If anyone attacks you, responding with extreme prejudice is your best option.”

Harry nods. “Will you show me?”

“Of course,” Moody replies. “Easy enough to create some lifelike dummies.”

“Academics in the morning, defense in the afternoon,” Sirius declares. “Moody and I can work together in the mornings while Remus helps with the academics.”

Harry hesitates. “What about flying with Lionel?”

“Flying is good for coordination,” Moody says. “And if your friend wants to join you for lessons, I don’t mind.”

Harry gives Sirius a pleading look. “I’ll go over tomorrow and ask Louise if she minds,” Sirius says. “She might not be okay with it.”

“I’ll only be here for a week, Potter,” Moody says. “If your friend can’t come over while I’m here, you’ll have him back soon.”

Harry shrugs. “This is important. I know that. I have to be able to defend myself and my friends.”

“Just be cautious,” Remus tells him. “Your peers at Hogwarts won’t have the same training that you do, and you could very easily do them serious harm.”

Harry’s expression is sober. “I could hurt someone accidentally.”

“Or on purpose,” Sirius says ruefully. “I know you have your enemies at school. If Draco Malfoy tries to hex you in the hallway, and your first response is to take off an arm wand…”

Harry frowns, leaning forward, his green eyes flashing. “What am I supposed to do if he tries to hex me in the back? You don’t understand what he’s like!”

“Sure I do,” Sirius replies. “I nearly got Snape killed out of spite. You don’t need that on your conscience, Harry.”

Harry stares at him. “What?”

Sirius knows that he needs to come clean, partly because he doesn’t want Harry to make the same mistakes that he had, and partly because he doesn’t want Snape to be able to weaponize the story against Harry.

“You know we went to school with Snape,” Sirius says quietly.

Harry shifts. “Yeah, I guess.”

“He suspected that something was up with Remus, and he was following us around in order to get proof,” Sirius admits readily. “So, I told him how to get past the Whomping Willow, knowing that he’d try to follow on the full moon, and that Remus would kill him.”

Harry considers that for a long moment. “What happened?”

“Your dad saved his life,” Sirius replies. “I’m not sure what makes him angrier—what I did, or the fact that he owes his life to your dad.”

“Probably the last, given how much he seems to hate me,” Harry mutters.

“He was also in love with your mum when they were kids,” Sirius adds. “They were good friends before Hogwarts, before they got sorted into different houses. But I wanted you to know, Harry, because my actions could have resulted in Snape’s death, and they would have made Remus a murderer, and probably would have resulted in him being expelled or worse.”

“There are always secondary effects, Harry,” Remus says gently. “What if a spell in the hallway misses Draco and hits a friend?”

“Constant vigilance!” Moody shouts, causing the rest of them to all jump when he pounds a fist on the table. “When you’re aware of your surroundings at all times, when you know your strength and the strength of your wand, when you know your foes and your friends alike—that’s what will make you great on the battlefield.”

Harry nods, clearly soaking up the information. “What else do I need to know?”

~~~~~

The reality is that Harry is a natural at practical spellwork; it’s the theory that doesn’t come easily.

Sirius thinks it’s good that they’ve packed the mornings with the academics and the theory, giving Harry a chance to blow off steam in the afternoons by hitting the dummies Moody makes with various curses. His reducto is now lethal, and Sirius doesn’t know whether to be proud or sad.

He keeps his word and goes over to Louise’s place the day after Moody arrives, to offer Lionel the same opportunity.

Louise breaks out tea and some pastries. Lionel has apparently wandered down to the village to pick up some more reading material.

“And why are you asking?” Louise asks.

“Because Harry’s made a friend, and Moody offered, but Harry will still have time in the afternoon to fly if Lionel wants to come a little bit later,” Sirius says frankly. “Harry is facing burdens no child his age should, and I’ll spare him if I can, but I’m realistic. There’s a prophecy, and Harry may have no choice. I might not be around forever, as I plan on making plenty of enemies. Harry enjoys defense, and so it’s fun for him right now, but it won’t be forever. I don’t know that the same is true for your grandson.”

Louise smiles, her expression a little sad. “And so Harry is learning the things he must, and he wants a friend at his side as he does so.”

“That’s about the long and short of it,” Sirius agrees. He plans on having Harry invite Ron and Hermione, at least for his birthday, but thought it might be wise to get through Moody’s visit first. He doubts that Molly Weasley would approve of the defense and dueling lessons.

Neville hasn’t written back at all, but Remus thinks it’s because Neville doesn’t quite know how to respond, and also because Augusta is as protective as a dragon with a nest of eggs.

Louise nods slowly. “I will ask him. The war seems very far away from us, and never quite spilled into France, although we have our own blood purists here. I have no desire for Lionel to feel as though he has to fight, but I believe I would feel better if I knew that he could.”

Sirius hesitates. “He’s half-blood, yes?”

“He is,” Louise confirms. “His father is a Muggle, a doctor, I believe they say. My daughter is a Healer. I honestly didn’t think it would work out, but I have two beautiful grandchildren, so I can’t complain.”

“I’m very glad that Harry’s made a friend,” Sirius admits. “Lionel has been good for him. His peers at Hogwarts haven’t always been kind.”

Louise smiles briefly. “Children are savages. It’s our job to civilize them. I sometimes wonder what we’re playing at by sending them all away at such a young age, but then I went to Beauxbatons as well, and I look back on my time there fondly.”

“As I do with Hogwarts,” Sirius replies. “Although I’ll have a very hard time letting Harry go back.”

“You’ve only just found him,” Louise says. “I’ll speak with Lionel. If he wishes the lessons, he’ll be over earlier in the day. Otherwise, he’ll show up later in the afternoon.”

“You’re welcome as well,” Sirius says. “If you’d like to meet Moody and stay for dinner some night.”

Louise smiles unreservedly. “I believe I would like that very much.” She hesitates, and says, “Harry has been good for Lionel as well, you know. He was quite bored earlier in the summer, since his sister decided not to come, and his school friends already had other plans. I’m grateful that he’s still willing to spend summers here, but I wondered how long that might last.”

Sirius inclines his head. “Then I’m glad we could help each other out, as neighbors do.”

“Let me know if you want to do the language transference spell,” Louise adds unexpectedly. “It can go both ways, and Lionel has said that he wished his English was better.”

Sirius is a little surprised, but he says, “I think that would be good for the both of them. Thank you.”

The next day, Louise and Lionel turn up early in the afternoon, and Louise sticks around to watch the lessons. Moody doesn’t seem to mind another participant, and Lionel has just as much fun as Harry casting reductos at the dummies.

When Moody calls Sirius over to practice his dueling, Louise volunteers to assist.

Sirius is a little surprised, but Moody casts an assessing eye on her and nods. “Might be interesting for Black to face an opponent he doesn’t know well.”

Lionel and Harry are watching eagerly, and Lionel leans in to whisper something into Harry’s ear. Harry’s expression is startled, and so Sirius figures he’d better not take anything for granted.

“Ready, duel!” Moody calls.

Louise casts a silent hex that Sirius just barely manages to dodge, and Sirius realizes that he’s facing a fierce opponent.

Sirius knows that his own growth had been somewhat stunted by his time in Azkaban, but he’s determined to make a good showing.

He casts a wandless shielding spell with his left hand, and a disarming spell with his wand, which Louise easily deflects. She’s not as spry as Sirius is, but she moves like a woman ten years her junior, and Sirius is reminded of Minerva McGonagall.

Sirius is suddenly quite sure that he’s about to get his arse handed to him.

Louise casts a freezing spell, which Sirius manages to dodge, only to get hit with an expelliarmus, and his wand goes flying.

“Yeah, grandmere!” Lionel shouts.

Sirius shakes out his stinging hand and smiles ruefully. “That was well done.”

“Good duel,” Louise replies. “I’m a bit out of practice.”

Sirius raises his eyebrows. “If that’s you out of practice, then I’m not sure I would have wanted to face you when you were in your prime.”

Louise grins at him. “Oh, in my youth I was a curse-breaker, and quite the wild one. That was before I met my husband, however.”

“I hope you’ll continue to join us,” Moody comments, giving Louise a speculative look. “You have some moves I haven’t seen before.”

Louise smiles. “I just might. I’d like to make sure that my grandson is well-equipped.”

That’s a back-handed compliment if Sirius has ever heard one, and Remus coughs, apparently to hide a laugh. Moody doesn’t take offense, though, inclining his head respectfully. “It’s our job to train the next generation.”

Louise smiles. “Just so.”

The rest of their week with Moody goes well. Sirius can tell how much Harry enjoys the defense and dueling lessons, probably because he excels. He’s really buckling down with his academic subjects as well, blossoming under Remus’ patient instruction.

Even Potions is going well, with Harry admitting that he’s beginning to understand the theory. He’s already brewed a successful batch of pain relief, and is working on dreamless sleep now.

Remus had been right about Harry’s practical bent, and Sirius is starting to detect hints of interest in the healing arts.

Although, as much as he enjoys his defense lessons, he might decide to be an Auror, or pursue a position in the DMLE.

Sirius just wants to make sure that Harry has as many options as possible, and that he knows he has a future.

“You have a future as an Auror, Potter,” Moody says gruffly at the end of the week, as he’s taking his leave. “If that’s what you want.”

Harry blushes slightly. “Thank you, sir. And thank you for giving me lessons.”

“It was my pleasure,” Moody replies. “Keep practicing.”

“I will,” Harry promises.

That evening, with Moody’s visit out of the way and a routine established, Sirius says, “Why don’t you write to your friends and ask them to visit? At least for your birthday.”

Harry, who had seemed a little glum at Moody’s departure, brightens immediately. “I can ask both Ron and Hermione?”

“You might think about inviting Neville as well,” Sirius says. “But that’s up to you, pup.”

Harry nods thoughtfully. “Do you think Neville’s having lessons this summer?”

“Almost certainly,” Sirius replies. “Augusta isn’t going to allow Neville to lay idle all summer, that’s for sure.”

“I’ll write to him, too,” Harry says.

There are others that Harry could stand to cultivate a relationship with, but Sirius isn’t going to press the matter this summer.

That night, Harry writes three letters, sending them off with Hedwig. “Visit Hermione last, girl,” Harry says softly. “And wait for a response. Ron and Neville will have their own owls to send a response.”

Hedwig barks at him and nibbles his finger affectionately, and Harry launches her from the front porch.

Sirius feels a niggling worry that Harry’s friends won’t want to visit, mostly because of his own reputation, or because he and Remus are living together. He knows how close Harry is to the Weasleys, in particular, and while he hadn’t felt any sort of a chill from them when they’d been collecting Harry’s things, that doesn’t mean they’ll be keen to let Ron visit.

After Harry goes to bed that night, Sirius says, “We should probably start thinking about Harry’s birthday, as well as visiting Grimmauld Place.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to ever go back there,” Remus says mildly.

“I don’t,” Sirius says shortly. “But we may need a place in London, and we’re either going to need to clean it up enough to sell it, or enough to make it livable. Besides, I’m going to need to deal with Kreacher sooner, rather than later. If he’s not bound to obey me, Narcissa could certainly use him against us, as could Draco.”

Remus raises his eyebrows. “Are you going to formally announce that Harry is your heir?”

“That’s the plan,” Sirius agrees. He’s remembering his brother’s last words to him about Kreacher, and Kreacher keeping his secrets.

Remus hums. “Well, that’s certainly going to set the world on its ear.”

“Why? Because the boy destined to save us all is the heir to one of the darkest Ancient and Noble houses?” Sirius asks, his tone a bit sarcastic.

“There is that,” Remus replies with a twist of his mouth. “When do you want to go?”

“Let wait to see what Harry’s friends say,” Sirius says.

Remus gives him a knowing look. “You’re worried.”

“My reputation does precede me,” Sirius points out. “There might be some understandable hesitation.”

Remus smiles gently. “And if that happens, we’ll do what we need in order to rehabilitate your reputation, Pads. When do you want to go to Grimmauld Place?”

“Let’s wait to see what Harry’s friends say,” Sirius replies. “Maybe we won’t have to worry about it.”

“Have you thought about what you’ll do to reintroduce yourself to polite society?” Remus asks.

“Something after the World Cup,” Sirius replies. “But it will mean having a place to do so. This place is off-limits, since I want as few people to know about it as possible. There’s no way that Grimmauld will be ready in time. I have no idea what the state of Black Manor is.”

Remus frowns thoughtfully, taking a sip of his tea. “Perhaps we should visit Black Manor as well. Some of the portraits might have valuable information. Have you thought about what you’ll do with the Malfoys or Andromeda?”

“I’m thinking about cutting the Malfoys off completely,” Sirius replies. “And I’m going to lock down all of the Black accounts. As for Andromeda, I don’t know. I suppose it will depend on whether she even wants to be a Black again.”

“She might appreciate the chance to get to know your heir,” Remus points out.

“I’ll owl her and ask,” Sirius says. “We might be able to kill more than one bird with one stone, and just one trip.”

“When is the World Cup?” Remus asks.

“Sometime in August, I think,” Sirius replies. “Why?”

“Harry’s birthday is less than two weeks away,” Remus points out. “We could go immediately after that, assuming Harry’s friends don’t want to stay. Otherwise, we can go after the World Cup, before Harry has to go back to Hogwarts.”

Sirius hated to think about so much of the summer slipping away from them, how little time he had left to spend with Harry before September 1st. Their time together this summer was never going to be enough, but at least he had the winter holidays to look forward to, and there would be plenty of work in the meantime.

“I suppose,” Sirius replies. “I hate to think about sending Harry back to school.”

“I know,” Remus says sympathetically. “You’ve only now just got him back.”

That echoes what Louise had said. “You don’t think I’m crazy?”

“I think that you were cheated out of the first 13 years of Harry’s life,” Remus replies. “And that you’re forming a close bond with him now.” He finishes off the rest of his tea and stands. “Come to bed, Sirius. There’s no sense worrying any more about it tonight.”

And Sirius knows good advice when he hears it, so he follows Remus up to bed.

~~~~~

The day after Moody leaves, Lionel comes back with Louise in the early afternoon. He brings his schoolwork, and since he’s about a year ahead of Harry, and he’s also taking both Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, he can be of assistance.

After their studies, they practice defense and dueling, and then they go flying. It’s a rigorous schedule, but Harry seems to be happy with it.

While Harry and Lionel are flying, Louise says, “I thought I’d offer to do the language transference spell tonight.”

Sirius blinks. “That would be great. I know that Harry would like to be able to speak with Lionel without a language barrier, although Lionel’s English is quite good.”

“And getting better,” Louise replies. “Of course, being fluent in English will only help Lionel, and his flying is getting better as well. Not to mention his other skills. It’s good for Lionel to have someone to spur him on this summer.”

Sirius hesitates. “We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do yet, but Harry’s birthday is on the 31st. We’d be glad to have Lionel come.”

“Does Harry have other friends coming?” Louise asks.

“I’m not sure,” Sirius admits. “They’ve been invited, but we haven’t heard back yet.”

“And you’re concerned they won’t be able to come?” Louise queries.

Sirius shrugs. “I do have a certain reputation.”

Louise smiles. “Most of the Blacks do, but I saw the news. You were cleared.”

“I still have a reputation,” Sirius counters. “But I’m grateful that you’re willing to have Lionel spend time with Harry.”

Louise snorts. “Lionel is much happier now. You should have seen him moping about the first month of his holiday. I love having him here, but I was ready to send him home.”

Sirius chuckles. “Then yes, I’d love it if you could do the spell tonight. I think Remus is cooking, and we’ll have plenty for the both of you.”

“And how often does Remus cook?” Louise teases him.

“Most of the time, although Harry usually helps, and I always clean up,” Sirius defends. “Also, Remus is the better cook by far. My talents are limited to breakfast and beans on toast.”

Louise smiles. “It’s always good to know your own limitations.”

Lionel and Harry land, Harry looking windblown and flushed, and Lionel’s bright grin very visible. His hair is close-cropped, and his dark skin is glazed with sweat.

Lionel says something to Louise in French, and then grimaces. “Excuse me, Harry. I only asked if she’d told your godfather that she’s willing to do the language spell.”

Harry brightens. “That would be brilliant! Does that mean I’ll be able to speak French?”

“And Lionel’s English will be better as well,” Louise replies, with a smile to Lionel to take the sting out of her words.

“It will be good for me, too,” Lionel adds. “Fluent English will open up career possibilities.”

“Your English is great!” Harry protests. “But if it will help you, too, that would be good.”

“We’ll have dinner here tonight,” Louise announces. “The spell works best overnight, so Lionel will stay here, and I’ll return for him in the morning.”

Lionel groans. “Grandmere! I cold stay here until tomorrow afternoon.”

“I don’t mind,” Sirius says, “but only if your grandmother agrees.”

Louise nods. “Well, I suppose. Just make sure you don’t interfere with Harry’s lessons.”

“I brought my own work,” Lionel replies. “No big deal.”

It’s a warm day out, and Remus has a platter of sandwiches ready by dinner time. There’s cheese and tomato, ham and butter, and tuna with vinaigrette. All of them are delicious, and Harry and Lionel seem to eat their weight in food.

“So good,” Harry mutters at one point. “Thanks, Moony.”

“Very good,” Lionel echoes. “Merci boucoup.”

“You are very welcome,” Remus replies, clearly pleased.

Harry has a double bed, and since proximity is better for the spell, he and Lionel bed down together with Louise performing the spell. The two boys fall asleep facing each other, and then Louise casts the spell.

“The spell works best if they both use English and French tomorrow,” Louise advises. “The best thing would be for them to switch off with the languages.”

“Of course,” Sirius says. “We’ll make sure of it.”

Louise pats him on the shoulder. “You and Remus are good men, and you’re a good father. Don’t let yourself think otherwise.”

Sirius hesitates. “I haven’t been there for Harry in the way I should have been.”

Louise gives him a look. “We all do things when we are young and wild that we later regret. Some of us emerge mostly unscathed, and some of us do not. But a mistake like the one you made does not deserve so many years in prison.”

Sirius has grown to trust Louise in the way that you do when you’ve been dueling with them for a week straight. She’s a powerful and highly accomplished witch, and Sirius knows that he can trust her opinion.

“Harry needs you now,” Louise says. “Whatever happened in the past, it’s in the past. You can only do what you can do right now.”

Sirius nods. “Thank you.”

Louise pats him on the shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll bring dinner with me.”

When Sirius goes to his—their—bedroom, Remus is already stretched out, wearing only a pair of pants, his chest bare. Given how warm it is, Sirius isn’t surprised, and he strips down as well, stretching out next to Remus. “Louise says she’s bringing dinner tomorrow.”

Remus hums. “That will be nice.”

“Sorry I’m not of more use in the kitchen,” Sirius says.

Remus leans over and kisses him. “We all have our own strengths, Pads. And I don’t mind. You do a lot, and I don’t mind playing a supportive role.”

“You play an essential role,” Sirius counters. “I’m very glad to have you here, Moony.”

Remus presses a kiss to his mouth, rolling over to half-cover Sirius’ body with his own. “What you’ve given me is beyond charity, Pads. You’ve given me a home and security.”

“You should have had that already,” Sirius protests.

“And I didn’t,” Remus replies. “So, thank you. You’ve given me back a piece of what we had at Hogwarts.”

Sirius feels like he’s recovered a bit of that himself. He has Remus and Harry, and there are lessons and training. “Do you think I’m pushing Harry too much?”

“Harry needs to be pushed,” Remus says. “If he hated lessons, I’d have a different answer, but he’s—he might give Hermione a run for her money if he keeps this up.”

“Is that a good thing?” Sirius asks, feeling a little worried.

“Love, if Harry does well on his OWLS, he can take his pick of NEWTS and careers,” Remus says. “If he works hard now, the future will be wide open for him. If he doesn’t, he’ll be limited. Since he doesn’t know what he wants to do now, it’s our job to keep his options open.”

“I’m just worried we’re trying to cram too much in,” Sirius admits.

“Harry has Lionel, and they fly every afternoon, which is more than can be said of his Muggle relatives,” Remus points out. “Harry is happy. Let the rest go.”

And when Sirius distracts himself with Remus, with his taste and smell and touch, Remus responds.

It works. He sleeps well that night.

~~~~~

The first letter that comes back is from Hermione, although that’s probably not a surprise, since Hedwig had been instructed to wait for a response.

Harry’s face falls as he reads her letter.

“Pup?” Sirius says gently. “Is everything okay?”

“Hermione is vacationing with her parents, and she’s going to the Burrow shortly before the Quidditch World Cup,” Harry says. “But she doesn’t think she can get away before then, although her parents are in France, and we might be able to meet up.”

“Where are they staying?” Sirius asks.

“In Paris,” Harry replies.

“So, tell her that you can meet her there,” Sirius replies. “Date to be determined, unless you think she’s not willing.”

Harry shakes his head. “No, I think she just doesn’t want to cut her time with her parents short.”

Sirius is getting an idea. “What if we celebrate your birthday in Paris?”

Harry blinks. “What?”

“What if we have your birthday in Paris?” Sirius repeats.

Harry nods. “Yeah, if that’s doable.”

“So, write back and tell her that you can meet her there,” Sirius suggests. “Maybe the weekend before or after your birthday.”

“That would be great,” Harry says.

The next response, from Neville, comes a couple of days later.

Dear Harry,

Your invitation is appreciated, and I really wish I could attend. Unfortunately, my grandmother is hosting a birthday party for me the day before. I don’t think I’d make it in time. You are, of course, welcome to celebrate with me. I’ll send you more information when I can.

Respectfully,

Neville Longbottom

“Well, this isn’t a bad thing,” Sirius says. “We can always take an international portkey to the Longbottom Manor.”

Harry shrugs. “That might be kind of nice,” and there’s a wistful quality to his voice. Sirius suspects that this might be the first real birthday party invitation he’s received.

Ron’s response isn’t great, though. When that comes, it’s during Harry’s morning lessons, a week after they’ve sent the invitation. Harry reads it quickly and flings the letter on the desk.

“Do you want to tell me about it, or do you want me to just read it?” Sirius asks.

Harry shrugs sullenly. “You don’t have to do anything.”

In response, Sirius picks up the letter, and he winces as he scans.

Harry,

Glad to hear you’re having a good summer. Why don’t you come to the Burrow? It seems like your godfather and Professor Lupin are keeping you occupied, and it would be a shame if you turned into a swot like Hermione.

Ron

There really isn’t anything that Sirius can say. Harry is working hard, and he could be a bit of a swot if given the right incentives. Sirius doesn’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

“What do you want to do?” Sirius asks.

Harry’s expression is a bit sullen. “I want to go to the World Cup, and I’d like Lionel to go with us.”

“I think that can be arranged,” Sirius says, watching Harry closely. “But what do you want to do about your birthday?”

Harry gets a stubborn set to his chin that Sirius knows well. “I’ve never really had a birthday celebration, and I suppose I don’t need to start now.”

Sirius hates to see the hurt in Harry’s eyes, but he knows that Ron’s letter requires a bit of a difficult conversation. “Let’s set that aside for now,” Sirius replies. “We can celebrate in Paris with Hermione, and here with Lionel. But do you think you’re going to have a problem with Ron this year?”

Harry shrugs. “I don’t know. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it.”

“How do you want to respond?” Sirius asks gently.

“What am I supposed to say?” Harry demands. “I told Ron that I was having a good time, that I enjoyed learning all of these things, and I was making another friend who goes to Beauxbatons.”

Sirius has heard from Remus that Ron has a bit of a jealousy problem with Harry. “Do you think he’s jealous?”

“Probably,” Harry mutters.

“You know that’s likely to get worse before it gets better, right?” Sirius asks, keeping his voice gentle, and his tone even. “I’ll be taking my seat in the Wizengamot once you go back to Hogwarts, and you’ll be announced as my heir.”

Harry winces. “Which means that I won’t just be rich, I’ll be rich and titled.”

“I’m afraid so, Harry,” Sirius agrees. “You might be missing the Dursleys right about now.”

Harry snorts in derision. “No way. Being here with you is loads better than being with my aunt and uncle.”

“What’s disappointing you the most?” Sirius asks.

Harry sighs. “I like this place, and I wanted my friends to see it. I never really had a place I could invite friends to before.”

Sirius puts an arm around Harry’s shoulders and hugs him. “It might not happen this year, but we haven’t given your friends much notice. Next summer, it will be different.”

He hopes that next summer will be far less traumatic than it had been for Harry in the past. With any luck, they’ll get Harry through the school year without Voldemort being resurrected, and next summer he’ll have Harry for the entire holiday.

“It’s just—I wish Ron could be happy for me,” Harry admits.

Sirius leaves his arm where it is, since Harry doesn’t seem to mind, and he looks like he could use the hug. “It could also be that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley didn’t want to let Ron come to France on his own, and Ron didn’t want to admit it in a letter,” Sirius suggests. “They might not be comfortable with Ron staying with me.”

Harry brightens a bit at that. “That could be it. But they seemed to be pretty friendly towards you when we were at the Ministry.”

“Being friendly in that kind of situation is very different to letting their son come and stay here,” Sirius counters. “Or it could be that they can’t afford an international portkey, and aren’t comfortable with Muggle travel either. There are a lot of reasons that they might not want to let him come that have nothing to do with you or me.”

Harry nods. “Right, well, if it has to do with money, Ron definitely wouldn’t say anything.”

“Best thing to do in a situation like this one, when you don’t know all the details, is not to assume anything,” Sirius says. “I got into a lot of trouble during the war assuming that Remus felt things, and had certain motivations, and I was wrong about most of it.”

“But I think Ron will be jealous,” Harry admits. “Especially once he finds out about me being your heir. Either that, or he’ll think it’s stupid.”

“The Weasleys are one of the families that belong to the Sacred Twenty-Eight,” Sirius says wryly. “If they choose not to dwell on that fact, that’s up to them, but power is just a tool. If you have power, just like if you have money, there’s an obligation to use it for the good of others.”

Harry appears thoughtful. “That’s why you’re taking your seat in the Wizengamot.”

“That’s exactly it, and that’s why we’re going to be talking about how to manage and use your money and estate, and how to wield political power,” Sirius says. “By the time it’s your turn to take the Black seat, I want to make sure you’re well-prepared.”

Harry appears alarmed. “What?”

“Not for many years yet, I hope,” Sirius assures him. “I plan on living to a ripe old age.”

Harry nods. “I really want to help people and make a difference for something that’s not just about—you know, the usual.”

“Besides it being about the fact that you survived Voldemort when your parents didn’t?” Sirius asks bluntly.

“That’s exactly it,” Harry exclaims. “Nobody seems to get that.”

“I’m always going to remember your parents fondly, and I’m always going to honor the sacrifice they made for you,” Sirius promises. “They loved you more than anything on earth, Harry. Don’t ever forget that.”

Harry glances away, not meeting Sirius’ eyes. “It’s hard to remember that sometimes.”

“I imagine that it was hard to remember when you were around the Dursleys,” Sirius says. “You won’t have that problem around us.”

“No, that’s why I wanted to come live with you,” Harry says immediately.

Sirius squeezes his shoulder. “You’re going to do great things, and I’m going to give you the tools you need. That’s what all of this is about. Some might not understand, but I always will.”

“Thanks, Padfoot,” Harry replies with a fond smile.

Later, when Harry has gone to bed, and he and Remus are drinking a glass of wine together, Sirius asks Remus, “Do you think Ron’s attitude will be a problem?”

Remus hesitates, and then sighs. “Perhaps. Once Ron sees how well Harry is doing, he may get over his jealousy. And perhaps with Harry and Hermione both desiring to excel, Ron will get a little more serious himself.”

“Do I have to worry about Ron being a bad influence?” Sirius asks, mostly just wanting to know what he should look out for, not because he wants to interfere in their friendship.

Remus shakes his head. “Ron’s a decent student, just not terribly motivated. Honestly, he’s no more or less lazy than most students. But he also doesn’t have a Dark Wizard after him. You’d think he’d be a little more motivated if he thinks he’s going to stand with Harry. If both Harry and Hermione are committed to doing well, they might yank him along into greatness.”

Sirius snorts. “Like we did with Peter?”

“Ron is nothing like Peter,” Remus says firmly. “But you make a good point. Ron has the possibility of being an inconstant friend.”

Sirius shrugs. “I hate to say it, but that’s an important lesson to learn. It’s even more important for Harry to learn at this stage.”

Remus raises his eyebrows. “And you don’t want to protect him?”

“I know that I can’t,” Sirius says quietly. “I accepted that when I decided to ask him to live with me—or us. He’s going back to Hogwarts, where he’s faced Voldemort twice already. What can I do to protect him, Moony? The only thing I can do is to provide him with a safe place to land.”

“I think that’s all a parent can do, Padfoot,” Remus says gently. “What do you want to do?”

“Nothing,” Sirius replies. “Harry will have to work this out for himself. I just wanted to know what I should brace myself for, depending on how this next year goes.”

Remus smiles. “Come to bed, then, Pads. There’s nothing we can do about it tonight.”

They do go to bed, and it’s far enough away from the full moon that Remus is ravenous, free of pain and ready to get off.

That night, they engage in mutual hand jobs, and then they clean up quickly, going to bed.

The next day, Sirius gets up first, and he finds Harry already up with the ancient percolator going. He’s writing a letter, although he’s using one of the pens that are laying around the place, rather than a quill.

“Any coffee left?” Sirius asks.

“Sure,” Harry says easily. “I’m just writing to Ron.”

Sirius keeps his opinions to himself.  “And what are you saying?”

“That I’m really happy here, and I won’t be going to the Burrow,” Harry replies. “And that I’ll see him at the Quidditch World Cup.”

“Fair,” Sirius comments. “Do you want breakfast?”

“I could eat,” Harry says. “Do you want help?”

“After you finish your letter, but I’ve got it, pup,” Sirius replies.

Harry flashes him a smile. “I have to admit, it’s a nice change not to have to do all the cooking.”

“We’re already asking you to work hard this summer,” Sirius replies. “You don’t need extra chores on top of that.”

Harry is silent for a long moment as Sirius rummages in the cold box. “I don’t mind, you know.”

“Mind what?” Sirius asks absently, finding the eggs and bacon he thought they’d stashed in the back of the fridge.

“Working hard,” Harry says quietly. “I feel like—I don’t know. I feel like I actually have a goal in mind, instead of just reacting. I think I’ve been reacting ever since—I don’t know. Maybe ever since Voldemort killed my parents.”

Sirius focuses his attention on Harry. “I  kind of think we both have. I know things didn’t clear up for me until I saw that picture of Pettigrew, and realized that he was so close to you. It wasn’t until I escaped, and I got here, that I could finally start planning. And frankly, it’s my job to help you navigate and stop reacting.”

Harry nods. “I thought about this a lot last night. Ron might not accept that I have goals, and a direction, and he might not respond very well, but I can’t let that change my focus or my goals.”

“That’s a really good attitude to have,” Sirius replies. “There are others who might not understand that you’ve changed, too.”

“You mean Professor Snape?” Harry asks dryly. “I have a plan for that, actually.”

“Oh, do tell?” Sirius asks, seeing the mischievous glint in Harry’s eyes.

“Snape is a terrible teacher,” Harry says bluntly. “Which means I’ll have to teach myself. And the absolute best revenge would be doing so well that Snape can’t do anything other than give me an Outstanding.”

Sirius chuckles. “Well, that would show him.”

“And, if I can manage to interest others in a study group, and we learn from each other, we might really put a spoke in his wheel,” Harry says, sounding incredibly smug.

“Do you still have the map?” Remus asks as he enters the kitchen.

Harry glances up. “I do. Why?”

“There’s a place inside the school called the Room of Requirement,” Remus replies. “If you want a particular thing, and you pace outside it several times, thinking about what you need, Hogwarts itself will provide it. If you want a practice Potions lab, it will provide that. Or if you need something else entirely, it will provide that, too.”

Harry brightens at that. “Really?”

“Really,” Sirius confirms. “I’ve used it myself.”

Mostly when he and Lily had been working on Wolfsbane, but that had been another life. He can’t talk about that.

Harry leans forward. “So, there’s a safe place in Hogwarts away from prying eyes?”

“There is,” Sirius confirms.

Harry grins. “Excellent. I may bring this up with Hermione and Neville when I see them to gauge interest. If they’re interested, we can get more people on board. And if people are suddenly doing much better in Potions, and Snape still downgrades us, we’ll have grounds for an appeal.”

“Very good planning, Harry,” Remus says approvingly. “And if you can pull it off, it will be a prank worthy of a Marauder.”

Harry looks pleased by that. “Well, it will do everybody good.”

Sirius dishes up the eggs and bacon for everyone, and Harry finishes his letter. He doesn’t send it until after they’ve finished breakfast, and then he willingly buckles down to work. Sirius now understands Harry’s enthusiasm.

For the first time, someone is giving Harry a map to his future, a future beyond Voldemort. Someone is telling Harry that he’s going to survive, and he can do more than just manage to get through the next confrontation.

Harry is looking at the future in a very positive sense, and he’s making plans. Sirius couldn’t be more proud.

“I’m really proud of you,” Sirius says, feeling like he should say the words. “You’re thinking about how to help your classmates do better with what you’ve learned. James and Lily would be proud of you, too.”

Harry blinks rapidly. “Oh. Um. Thanks.”

Sirius can tell that he doesn’t know how to respond, so he doesn’t say anything more. He just basks in the sense that Harry is his and wonderful, and he loves him.

~~~~~

The next day, Lionel comes over in the early afternoon, and Sirius leaves them to their own devices. They study on their own for the most part, sharing information when necessary, switching between English and French.

Sirius drifts in and out of the study, overhearing snippets of their conversation, and he knows it’s not all about schoolwork. At one point, he overhears Harry say, “Yeah, but I’ve been friends with him since first year.”

“People drift apart,” Lionel replies wisely. “There was a boy I was very close to before we both went to Beauxbatons. I thought we would be friends forever, but we barely speak these days. There was no falling out, it’s just that we ended up going in different directions.”

Harry shrugs. “It’s just that Ron was my first friend, and sometimes my only friend.”

“Not any more,” Lionel replies cheerfully. “You’ll see me on breaks, right? You’ll come back here with your godfather, and we always visit my grandmother for holidays and such. We can write to each other during the school year. So, you have another friend.”

Harry’s smile is a bit shy. “Thanks, Leo. That does make me feel a little better.”

Sirius breathes out a sigh of relief. Lionel is just a bit older than Harry, enough so that there’s at least a sense that Lionel has a little more experience, and maybe a little more wisdom. Sirius certainly can’t fault the advice.

“Don’t borrow trouble, that’s what my grandma would say,” Lionel adds in French. “It might not be anything at all.”

“That’s what Sirius said, too,” Harry says. “Do you think you’d want to go to the Quidditch World Cup if it’s possible?”

“Want to?” Lionel exclaims. “I would love it! But I’m afraid that my parents would insist on meeting Sirius and Remus before they’d let me go.”

“We’re going to Paris to meet up with Hermione and her parents around my birthday,” Harry says. “Maybe we can meet your parents then.”

Lionel grins. “If your godfather doesn’t mind, maybe you all could come over for dinner.”

“You might want to check with your parents first,” Harry says with good humor. “They might not want us descending on them for dinner without warning.”

“I would warn them,” Lionel protests. “Actually, I’ll get my grandmother to warn them. I think she likes Sirius, so she’ll support us.”

Harry grins. “Awesome.”

Sirius doesn’t mind their scheming. It’s good to see Harry doing what a teenager usually does with friends—plan on how to get their parents and guardians to go along with their plans.

And he’s definitely going to to whatever it takes to make sure Lionel can go to the World Cup with them.

Sirius writes that day, requesting four tickets to the Quidditch World Cup as the newly minted Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black—capital letters all intended. Sirius doesn’t care much for titles, but he knows how to make it work for him, especially in this case.

He wants to take Harry and his friend to the World Cup, so that’s what he’s going to do, and he’ll use every tool at his disposal.

Sirius has confirmation that they’ll have the requisite four tickets before Harry’s birthday, offered for free—because, as Sirius knows, the more you have, the more people are willing to give you.

The following day, Sirius decides to address the issue head on and talk to Louise directly about getting Lionel’s parents’ permission to take him to the World Cup. Most people attending will likely camp out, but Sirius intends on sending Lionel and Harry home by portkey once the match is over, just to be on the safe side. He wants to stay to deal with any Death Eaters who might show up, but he’ll leave it up to Remus as to whether to stay.

Harry doesn’t get a choice, although Sirius wonders if he’ll be able to put a word in Arthur Weasley’s ear without tipping his hand too far. He can’t say why he suspects that the Death Eaters will make an appearance, and he certainly doesn’t need the suspicion that he might have insider knowledge.

Sirius goes over to Louise’s house with a bottle of good wine to ease the way, leaving Remus to supervise the boys at the farmhouse.

Louise raises her eyebrows when she sees the wine. “Now I know you want something.”

Sirius shrugs. “I know the boys are scheming, and I’m not above helping them.”

“Ah, the World Cup?” Louise asks slyly. “Yes, Lionel has been working on me as well. I told him that I wouldn’t take any action until I knew there were actual tickets involved.”

“I have four,” Sirius confirms. “And Harry has specifically asked if Lionel could accompany us.”

Louise chuckles. “And I doubt you’d ever deny a request from him, not when it’s so reasonable.”

“I think that Harry has felt far less alone this summer because of Lionel, and that Lionel is good for him,” Sirius admits. “And I don’t mind rewarding him.”

“He’s never been spoiled, and he’s passed the age where that might be a concern,” Louise agrees. “To your point, I’ve already spoken to my daughter about Harry, and have praised him as the polite, studious young man that he is. Assuming that they don’t take an instant dislike to you and Remus, which I strongly doubt, I think they’ll give permission easily enough.”

“Shall I give you the dates as to when we’re going to be in Paris, and let you make the introductions?”Sirius asks.

Louise smiles. “That would be fine. I don’t go to Paris often these days, but there are a few things I’ve been meaning to pick up there that I can’t find here.”

“Thank you,” Sirius replies. “I appreciate any help you’re willing to give.”

“Harry has been good for Lionel, as well, and his English is improving by the day. At this rate, he’ll be as fluent as a native speaker, which will open up his career opportunities beyond France.” Louise takes a sip of her coffee. “Besides, I happen to know that Lionel would kill to go to the World Cup, and won’t have another opportunity.”

“I aim to please,” Sirius replies.

“You are an excellent godfather,” Louise says. “You’re challenging Harry, but still providing a nurturing environment and time for fun. I was a teacher for years, and it’s an ideal situation.”

Sirius blows out a breath. “I really appreciate hearing that. Sometimes I feel as though I’m making one mistake after another.”

“That’s what parents do,” Louise comments. “We continually make mistakes, and then we try to make them right. It’s all you can do.”

Sirius appreciates the perspective. Remus can tell him that he’s doing a good job, but Remus isn’t an experienced parent, while Louise is, and it helps to hear her say that. “Thanks.”

“Every parent needs to hear that on occasion,” Louise says. “Luckily, I had my mother around to tell me as much. I thought I could do the same for you.”

Sirius is touched. “Thank you doesn’t seem adequate.”

She smiles. “I have a sense about things sometimes. Your Harry is quite powerful, even if he hasn’t fully tapped into that potential yet.”

“He’s turning fourteen soon,” Sirius replies. “I’m preparing Harry as well as I can, but I imagine that his introduction into that part of our world will make him very uncomfortable. It’s one of the reasons I plan on keeping the farmhouse, and keeping its location a secret. I’ll put it under a Fidelius if necessary.”

“I think you should,” Louise says approvingly. “And perhaps make someone your Secret Keeper who is completely unknown to the Death Eaters.”

“Are you volunteering?” Sirius asks. “Because I wouldn’t ask it of you.”

“Which is why I’m offering,” Louise counters. “Who would think that a little old lady in a very small village in rural France would be your Secret Keeper?”

“I’d rather no one know about this place at all, but you make a good point,” Sirius replies. “When we get back from Paris, before we go to London, I’ll put the house under a Fidelius, with only you and Lionel knowing where it is outside of myself, Remus, and Harry.”

Louise nods. “I think that’s wise.”

“I’ve rarely been called wise, so that’s a new one,” Sirius jokes.

“Then you had better start exercising it,” Louise cautions him. “You are going to need all your wits about you in the coming months.”

Sirius smiles ruefully. “Don’t I know it. Again, thank you seems so inadequate.”

“It is no easy task being the parent to the boy who is destined to face a dark wizard,” Louise comments.

Sirius doesn’t ask how she’s come to that conclusion; in retrospect, it’s probably fairly obvious to anyone who’s been around long enough, and understands the power of prophecies. Voldemort might have singled out James and Lily because they’d gone up against him, but a baby wasn’t capable of killing a dark wizard, or surviving a killing curse unless there was something more in play.

“Any other sage advice?” Sirius asks, completely serious.

“If you haven’t already, take him to a healer for a full medical scan,” Louise says. “You don’t know everything until you know everything.”

Sirius winces. “I should have thought about that.”

“You’ve been focused on getting him settled and making him happy, and he looks healthy,” Louise replies. “There was no rush, and no real need to worry. But it might be worth checking.”

“You’re right,” Sirius agrees. “Can you recommend a doctor in Paris? I’d rather go there than to one in England.”

“My daughter happens to be a healer, and she specializes in children,” Louise replies with some amusement. “I’m sure she’d be willing to do a scan on Harry and keep the results confidential.”

Sirius grins. “You’re a one-stop shop.”

“I’ve given it some thought this summer,” Louise admits. “Once Lionel told me that none other than Harry Potter had invited him over to play Quidditch. Lionel was more interested in the Quidditch, of course, but I knew who Harry Potter was beyond just a young object of interest.”

“It’s my job to keep him safe, and you’re right, a full work up by a healer is a necessity,” Sirius agrees. “If your daughter is willing, I would be most grateful.”

Louise nods. “I’ll have a word with her on your behalf, and she’s very discreet. I know she’ll take good care of your boy.”

“Much appreciated,” Sirius replies.

Louise pats him on the arm. “Of course.”

Sirius is grateful for the reassurance and heads back home. With a little bit of luck, they’ll be able to give Harry a very good birthday.

Part the Second: In Which Sirius and Harry Meet the Wizarding World

The days leading up to Harry’s birthday are easy. Harry studies and plays Quidditch with Lionel in the afternoon. Sirius and Remus alternate between teaching Harry, and researching what they need to know for the year to come.

Miriam has been incredibly helpful in that regard, providing intelligence on current members of the Wizengamot, as well as the laws they need to change, and the mechanisms they need to use to do so.

They’re coming up with a plan, and Sirius fully intends on taking his seat in the next Wizengamot session in September, but that means he’ll need to lay some groundwork ahead of time. The invitation to Neville’s birthday party comes by owl, and Sirius plans to attend. Remus isn’t included in the invitation, which doesn’t surprise him, although he hopes that will change over time.

“You’ll get more done without me there,” Remus says reasonably when Sirius hands him the invitation which names him and Harry.

“I’d like people to get to a point where they realize we’re a matched set,” Sirius complains.

Remus frowns at him. “And you’ll still need to charm people, which will be easier if they think you might be free for marriage. I don’t need to attend one of my former students’ birthday parties in order to be fulfilled.”

“I don’t want you to think I’m leaving you behind,” Sirius replies.

Remus smiles crookedly. “How can I? I’m the one doing the research for your first Wizengamot session, and I know what’s at stake. If you could even get the laws regarding werewolves loosened, it would be a huge step forward.”

Sirius knows that Moony’s right. Although there’s part of him that wants to tell the world that they’re together, he knows that would be counterproductive at this point. “Fine. You’re right. I hate it, for the record, but I’ll do it.”

“So noted,” Remus replies with a smile.

“What do we have for Grimmauld Place?” Sirius asks.

“It’s probably going to take some effort to clear it,” Remus replies. “But it may be good practice for Harry. I hate to say it, but as much trouble as he’s faced at Hogwarts already, he should understand how to deal with dark objects.”

“Agreed,” Sirius replies, and wonders why Dumbledore hadn’t done more to prepare Harry for the inevitable, since he’d known about the prophecy.

Although, Sirius has his own theories about that.

Harry and Lionel come tumbling into the house soon after that, and Lionel is nearly beside himself with excitement. “Grandmere said she’s spoken to my parents, and they’re willing to meet you in Paris, and for me to go to the World Cup with you.”

“That’s excellent news,” Sirius says. “We’ll be glad to have you join us. Are you staying for dinner tonight?”

“May I?” Lionel asks. “Grandmere said that I could if invited.”

“Consider yourself invited, then,” Remus replies with a gentle smile. “Do we need to notify your grandmother?”

Lionel nods. “Probably.”

“I’ll send a patronus,” Sirius replies, and does so.

Harry and Lionel chatter happily during dinner, mostly about Quidditch and the Bulgarian and Irish teams, and who they think will win. Both of them switch easily between English and French, and don’t even seem to realize that they’re doing it.

Sirius wonders what Harry’s other friends will make of Lionel, and the changes in Harry. Sirius thinks he’s a little more confident, and more focused.

After dinner, they play a game of Exploding Snap, before Sirius side-apparates Lionel home.

“Thank you very much for dinner,” Lionel says cheerfully. “And for the invitation. It means a lot to me.”

“You’re quite welcome,” Sirius replies. “You know we’ll be out of town shortly?”

Lionel nods. “Harry told me. It’s good that he has other friends, too.”

Lionel has a generosity of spirit that Sirius appreciates, and knows is good for Harry. “I think so, too.”

Sirius arrives back at their house to find Harry and Remus in the study, both of them reading. “What are you working on tonight, pup?” Sirius asks.

Harry glances up from his book. “I thought I’d work on occlumency tonight if you don’t mind. I’ve been reading up on the meditation techniques.”

“Sure, we can do that,” Sirius agrees. Harry is clearly in a relaxed, happy mood, which is an ideal time to practice occlumency. Sirius also feels centered, and he and Harry sit on the floor across from each other. “You remember what I told you last time?”

Harry nods. “Just relax and trust you, because you aren’t going to hurt me, and you aren’t going to be mad, no matter what you see.”

“Exactly,” Sirius replies. “And if you turn it back on me, and you see something?”

“You’re my godfather,” Harry says simply. “I trust you.”

“Good lad,” Sirius replies. “Just take a deep breath and center yourself. I’m not going to give you any warning this time. Your job is to figure out when I’m trying to get into your head.”

Harry closes his eyes, and Sirius watches as his breathing deepens. Sirius is by no means a great legilimens, but he has some skill at it. He pushes at Harry’s mental barriers, and realizes that Harry has been practicing. His mental barriers are much stronger now than they had been when they first started.

Sirius has to push a little harder than he has in the past, and Harry frowns. “I can feel that.”

“Good,” Sirius replies. “That’s good. Your mental barriers are much stronger.”

Harry grins briefly at the praise. “Thanks. I know you said the meditation exercises would help me find my animagus form if I wanted, too.”

“And is that something you want?” Sirius asks, still probing.

Harry frowns, and Sirius feels it when Harry pushes back on the intrusion. “I think so. I guess it would depend on my form. I wouldn’t want to be a rat.”

“I don’t think you need to worry about that,” Sirius assures him, pushing back again.

Harry’s mental barriers suddenly slam down, and Sirius withdraws. “Really well done, Harry.”

Harry smiles, clearly pleased. “Thanks. I’ve been trying to meditate before I go to sleep at night. I think it’s been helping with the nightmares.”

“Have you had many of those?” Sirius asks.

Harry hesitates. “I don’t know. Before I started meditating, and before I came here, the dreams were very vivid. I saw—I saw Pettigrew at one point, and it felt real.”

Sirius frowns. “How often were you having those dreams?”

“Not every night,” Harry hedges.

“Multiple times per week?” Sirius presses.

“Yeah, I guess,” Harry admits. “But it’s a lot better now.”

Sirius considers that information. “Anything else that’s gone on that’s out of the ordinary?”

Harry hesitates. “My scar hurts sometimes after the dreams.”

“Any other time?”

“Around Professor Quirrell when he was possessed by Voldemort,” Harry admits.

Sirius nods. “The wards might be helping, but if meditating is also helping, then you should make it a priority. And I think we need to investigate this connection between you and Voldemort.”

Harry winces. “I hate that.”

“And you should,” Sirius replies. “But it’s not your fault, Harry. If there is some connection, it’s his doing, not yours.”

Harry shrugs. “Maybe so, but if anyone ever finds out, they’re not going to care about whose fault it is.”

“Then we’ll make sure that no one finds out,” Sirius replies. “No one has to know, and once I take my seat, I’m going to be pretty militant about your contact with the press. They aren’t going to be able to talk to you without me or Remus present, and if they print things about you that are untrue or a violation of your privacy, I’ll sue.”

Harry blinks. “What?”

Sirius remembers how poorly Harry’s relationship with the papers had gone before, and he’s not going to let that happen again. “It’s part of my job to protect you.”

Harry still looks stunned. “You can do that?”

“Watch me,” Sirius says grimly. “If they want to get at you, they’ll have to go through me first.”

That’s the difference between now and then, Sirius thinks. Now that his name is cleared, Sirius has a lot more power to intervene.

Harry’s shoulders sag. “That’s—oh. That’s good.”

Serious smiles. “I hope it is. I’m afraid I might get a little bit vicious about it, Harry. I can’t lose you the way I lost your parents.”

Harry blinks rapidly. “I think that’s fine. I mean, no one has ever really cared before.”

“I’m sure the Weasleys do,” Sirius counters.

Harry shrugs. “Yeah, but they’re not my real family. I know they care about me, but it’s different.”

“It is different,” Sirius agrees. “Are you okay, Harry?”

Harry nods quickly. “Yeah, I’m good. I just—thanks.”

“Thank me when I manage to actually protect you, pup,” Sirius says. He glances at the clock. “I think that’s enough for tonight. Why don’t you head up to bed?”

Harry clambers to his feet nimbly. “Thanks, Padfoot.”

When Sirius stands—a little more stiffly—Harry gives him a quick, but sincere, hug. Sirius drops a kiss on the top of Harry’s head.

“You did well,” Remus comments when Harry has gone upstairs.

Sirius sighs. “It shouldn’t be revolutionary to have someone willing to protect him. Hell, the Muggles protect their children from the news rags better than we do!”

“Most wizarding families would do the same as you,” Remus says quietly. “James and Lily would go to war for him with the Daily Prophet. And you know it will get worse before it gets better.”

“I do know that,” Sirius says, thinking back to the coverage during the Triwizard Cup. “I just want to keep Harry safe from Voldemort this year. Even one year where he can just be a student would be something.”

“It would be better if we could prevent him from returning altogether,” Remus says.

Sirius nods. “Unfortunately, I don’t quite know how to do that. Maybe—well, there might be an answer in Grimmauld Place, among my brother’s things. I know that Voldemort relied on him heavily at one point before Regulus was killed.”

“What are you planning to do?” Remus asks.

“I’m going to have to make nice with Kreacher, and make sure he’s taken care of,” Sirius admits. “Not just to prevent Bellatrix or Narcissa from using him against us, but also for my brother’s sake. He loved that horrible old elf.”

Remus’ expression is sympathetic. “Would you tell me about him? Your brother, I mean?”

Sirius takes a deep breath. “You know he went to Hogwarts behind us.”

“Sure,” Remus says. “Just like I know he was a Death Eater. That doesn’t really tell me anything about him, or your relationship with him.”

Sirius sprawls out on the couch. “He was the sweetest kid,” he says slowly. “Before I went to Hogwarts, it was just the two of us, really. My parents were—well, they weren’t great. That’s why I ended up living with James.”

“They were kinder to your brother?” Remus asks.

“They were, in a way,” Sirius admits. “Not kind, but kinder, especially when he sorted into Slytherin. It was made very clear that he was the favorite child.”

“And yet you were the heir,” Remus comments, leaning back, a curious look on his face.

“My grandfather adored my grandmother, and I was her favorite,” Sirius admits. “Plus, while my grandfather was something of a blood purist, he hated Voldemort, and thought the Death Eaters were fools. He stayed neutral during the war, and he obviously never disowned me, and stayed pretty cagey about who the Black heir was right up until his death.”

“That says a lot about where his loyalties were,” Remus replies. “When did he pass?”

“While I was in Azkaban,” Sirius replies. “To be honest, it wasn’t until I got here and the wards accepted me that I knew for sure I was the Black heir.”

“And here you are.”

“And here I am,” Sirius agrees.

Remus appears thoughtful. “I had wondered. I knew your parents cut you off while you were still in Hogwarts.”

“Good old Uncle Alphard left me the money I used to live on,” Sirius replies. “But my grandfather never said anything.”

“Maybe he didn’t want to be a target,” Remus says. “Or he didn’t want you to be targeted by the other Blacks.”

Sirius shrugs. “Maybe. I’ll never know at this point.”

“What would you want him to say if you could ask him?” Remus asks kindly.

Sirius thinks about seeing Regulus on the other side, feeling as though he had finally gained some closure. In that case, it wasn’t about what Regulus had said, but more about what he’d done in helping Sirius to make the right choice.

“I don’t know,” Sirius admits. “I’m not sure. To be honest with you, I don’t think I’d want to know whether my grandfather approved of my actions or not, but I would at least like him to know that I’m innocent, and that I have an heir who can carry on the Black legacy.”

“Even though he isn’t a Black?” Remus asks.

Sirius shrugs. “He’s distantly related.”

Remus laughs. “And how would your grandfather feel?”

Sirius smiles thinly. “Again, I’m not sure I care. Harry is the only legacy that I need.”

“Will you accept your title?” Remus asks.

Sirius breathes out a long breath. “Do you think I should?”

Remus considers the question for a long moment. “Yes, I do. In both the wizard and the Muggle worlds. It’s a little more complicated, of course, but it could offer Harry more protection in the long term.”

“More responsibilities, though,” Sirius comments.

“He already has the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Remus counters. “I doubt the weight of a title will change things.”

“No, probably not,” Sirius replies. “Well, Harry will get a taste of it when we go to the Longbottoms’, and I think I’ll put it to him. It’s his life, and he should get a say in it.”

~~~~~

The day of the party dawns, and Harry comes down dressed in some of his new clothes and dress robes—black trousers, a dark gray shirt, black dress robes. “You look very nice,” Sirius comments.

Harry’s smile is fleeting. “Thanks. You, too.”

Sirius had dressed with care as well. He’s wearing dragon-hide trousers and a vest, as well as a crisp, white shirt and dress robes. He and Harry will coordinate well, befitting a lord ascendant and his heir.

There won’t be press at this gathering, but there will be plenty of others there who will be scrutinizing them.

“We’ll be taking an international portkey to and from the party,” Sirius tells him. “They can be a bit challenging for a first timer, or even a second-timer. Some people never get the hang of it.”

Harry frowns at him. “Was that supposed to be a pep talk?”

“No, just a warning,” Sirius replies with a grin. “I’ll do my best to keep you steady.”

“Thanks,” Harry replies uncertainly.

Sirius pats him on the shoulder. “It might be best not to eat much beforehand. Madam Longbottom is sure to have sufficient food once we get there.”

Harry nods uncertainly. “Do I have time for a cup of tea?”

“Of course,” Sirius replies.

Remus already has the kettle started, and Harry makes a cup of tea. “Anything I should be wary of?” Harry asks.

“You’ll need to mingle, and that will likely include people from houses other than Gryffindor,” Sirius replies. “Your house affiliation matters at school, of course, and can open doors for you after, but it’s important to build relationships outside of it.”

Harry gives him a curious look, but doesn’t say anything.

“Go ahead and ask,” Sirius says.

“I just—how do you know this stuff?” Harry asks.

Sirius takes a deep breath, remembering his conversation with Remus the night before. “Before I went to Hogwarts, I would spend time here with my grandparents, and my grandfather would give me these lessons. I didn’t realize at the time that he was grooming to be his heir.”

“And after you went to school?” Harry asks, leaning forward, his curiosity obvious. Sirius realizes that while he’s spoken extensively of James and Lily, he hasn’t talked much about his own past.

“Things at home became very difficult,” Sirius admits, “and I suspect my parents kept me away from my grandfather as much as they could, hoping that he’d select a different heir. When my brother was sorted into Slytherin, their attempts increased. To be honest, I didn’t see him much after my grandmother died.”

Harry’s expression was thoughtful. “Do you miss him?”

“I miss both of them,” Sirius replies. “It’s one of the reasons I came here. It was one of the last safe places that I knew.”

Harry glances around the homey kitchen. “I can understand that. It does feel safe.”

“That’s at least partially because you’re my heir, and the wards recognize you as such,” Sirius admits. “But back to the party. It will be appropriate for you to spend time with Neville, of course, but try to talk with the others there as well, especially the heirs.”

Harry looks apprehensive. “This is a big deal, isn’t it?”

“It’s a very big deal, Harry,” Remus inserts.

Sirius snorts.

“You were about to tell him that it wasn’t,” Remus says.

Sirius shrugs. “I was about to tell him that I don’t much care if he makes nice, although other people will, but I suppose it’s the same difference.”

Harry grimaces. “Basically, yeah.”

Sirius claps him on the shoulder.  “Just know that I’m not going to be upset or disappointed, no matter how today goes.”

Harry smiles. “Thanks.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Sirius says. “We’ll be fine.”

They apparate to Paris, and then get an international portkey to the Longbottom Manor.

“Do you have a manor?” Harry asks as they wait for their portkey to activate.

Sirius chuckles. “As a matter of fact, I do. Or we do. There’s the place in France, the manor, and a townhouse in London that we’ll see soon. It’s bound to be a bit of a mess, and there’s a crazy old house elf there that we’ll have to do something about. You’ll get to practice your Defense skills when we clean it out.”

Harry brightens at that. “Really?”

“Plenty of dark objects, I’m sure,” Sirius replies. “My parents weren’t the nicest sort.”

“Well, neither are the Dursleys,” Harry says. “We don’t get to pick who we’re related to, but we can pick our real families.”

Harry grins at him brightly, and then the portkey activates, cutting off whatever Sirius might have said in response. Sirius is prepared, but Harry stumbles, and would have fallen if Sirius hadn’t reached out to catch him.

“Steady there,” Sirius says, keeping a hand on Harry’s elbow. “Are you alright?”

Harry takes a deep breath and straightens. “I’m fine. The international portkey is definitely worse.”

“It is,” Sirius replies. “But you made it through, and you didn’t vomit, so points to you.”

Harry straightens his shoulders and looks at the gate of Longbottom Manor. “Once more into the breach, right?”

Sirius rests a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Just that. Come on, pup.”

They aren’t the first to arrive, but judging by the crowd, they aren’t the last, either. Harry glances around, his eyes a little wide as he takes in the people.

“Madam Longbottom would have invited not just Neville’s friends, but anyone she wants to cultivate in the Wizengamot, and anyone who might have children Neville’s age,” Sirius says in a low voice.

“Is this what my birthday is going to look like next year?” Harry whispers incredulously.

Sirius shrugs. “That’s up to you, Harry. As I told you, I’m going to be pretty militant about your safety and happiness. If you’re dead-set against it, we won’t.”

“But it could help you,” Harry says.

Sirius shrugs. “Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, love. We have enough work ahead of us today to be worrying about next year.”

Sirius leads Harry into the house to where Augusta and Neville are waiting to receive their guests. “Madam Longbottom,” Sirius says. He’d been introduced in the past, so there’s no breach of etiquette. “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“I was glad to learn about your innocence,” Augusta says. “I remember that you and James Potter were two peas in a pod.”

“He was a brother to me,” Sirius replies. “And his parents treated me like their own.”

“I have to admit, I had my doubts about your guilt for that reason,” Augusta admits. “I’m sorry I didn’t do anything about it.”

“You couldn’t have known,” Sirius replies. “I don’t believe you’re met my godson, Harry Potter.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Madam Longbottom,” Harry says politely. “Happy birthday, Neville.”

Augusta shakes Harry’s hand, and Neville manages a smile. “Thank you, Harry. And thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for inviting me,” Harry replies.

“Neville, why don’t you show Harry where the food is located,” Augusta says, her tone making it more of a command than a request.

Neville looks relieved. “Do you mind, Harry?”

“No, that would be brilliant,” Harry replies. “Sirius told me not to eat much before the international portkey.”

“Oh, quite right,” Neville says. “Those can be brutal. Where are you spending the summer then?”

As they retreat, Augusta glances around. “I’d like to speak with you about your strategy in the Wizengamot this coming session.”

“I was hoping you would,” Sirius admits. “I was well aware of Frank’s politics, and mine don’t depart from his much.”

Augusta’s eyebrows go up. “Indeed? Most unusual for a Black.”

“My godson is Harry Potter and my best friend is a werewolf,” Sirius replies. “I have a rather vested interest in the destruction of dark wizards and the protection of others.”

“Very Gryffindor of you,” Augusta comments. “Well, you’re in for a fight. We’ll be up against it in the Wizengamot, but you’ll have an opportunity to woo some folks today. I hope you’ll use that Black charm wisely.”

“But of course,” Sirius replies.

Augusta nods. “If you could send my grandson back in a little bit, I would appreciate it. He’s earned a break with his friend, and I’m sure there are people Harry ought to meet as well, but I think he’s really the only friend Neville insisted on inviting.”

That makes Sirius feel rather badly for Neville, but perhaps he and Harry will establish a bond on that basis. It would be good if they could, since they’ll both wind up at plenty of events such as this one in the future.

Sirius makes the first round of the room, grabbing a cup of pumpkin juice and a pasty, and just observing who is there, and who he knows.

Although they’d done quite a bit of research on the members of the current Wizengamot and their political positions and affiliations, there hadn’t always been pictures to go along with the information, and Sirius’ memory is wildly out of date.

From there, he begins the process of working the room. He greets the Greengrasses and makes pleasant small talk about how their daughters are doing.

“And young Mr. Potter?” Mrs. Greengrass asks. “I hope he’s settling in well with you.”

“Harry is a sponge, and he seems quite happy to be spending the summer with me,” Sirius assures her. “I’m rather hoping to steal him away from Hogwarts at some point for a Wizengamot session.”

“Excellent idea,” Mr. Greengrass says. “I think it always helps for a young person to get some exposure to the actual workings of our government. I feel that the students at Hogwarts are a bit lacking in that department.”

“You’re on the Board of Governors, right?” Sirius asks innocently.

“I am,” Greengrass admits. “But there are a number of others on the Board who are adamantly opposed to any curriculum changes.”

Sirius’ eyes narrow. “Is there going to be an empty seat soon?”

Greengrass’ eyes widen. “Are you thinking about throwing your hat in the ring?”

“I have a vested interest in my godson’s education, don’t I?” Sirius asks. “And I’ve been trying to address some of those deficiencies this summer. Luckily, he’s a very quick study, and an eager student. He’ll be fine.”

“That’s so good to hear,” Mrs. Greengrass says sincerely. “I was never comfortable with the idea that Muggles were raising someone like Mr. Potter. He’s far too important to our world not to be raised by wizards.”

Sirius is quite well aware of the blood purist politics of the Greengrasses, as they had been old allies of the Blacks in the past, but were mainly neutral during the last war. Not because they necessarily opposed Voldemort, but because they wanted to see who won and ally with that side.

“Well, I’m just happy to have him with me,” Sirius says, ignoring the opportunity to criticize Muggles, because there’s plenty to criticize with Harry’s relatives. If he got started, he might even be tempted to agree with them, even though he knows there are plenty of decent Muggles out there. Hermione has turned out well enough, after all.

“I’m sure,” Mrs. Greengrass says sincerely. “I can’t imagine the wreck I’d be if I were cut off from my girls.”

“Just so,” Sirius agrees. “It’s been good just to get to know each other again, and Harry is a delight.”

He exchanges a few more pleasantries, and then makes sure that he makes contact with all of the other neutral families who are present. There are a fair few, and it looks like Augusta had invited anyone who might be swayed to be neutral, even if they couldn’t be persuaded to join the side of the Light.

Most express their delight that Harry is finally in the wizarding world where he belongs, which Sirius can’t disagree with, but he’s not going to agree that Muggles are uniformly terrible.

An hour or so in, Neville is called back to Augusta’s side, and Sirius grabs Harry. “Have you eaten?”

Harry nods. “Enough. I’m all right.”

“We’re going to make nice with the people here,” Sirius says, “and I’m going to introduce you around. Madam Longbottom has invited quite a few neutral families, and they’re likely to say unkind things about Muggles. Our best bet is to not agree, but offer very neutral comments.”

“Yes, I’m very glad to be living with my godfather now, and he’s the best?” Harry asks wryly.

“Sure, if you can make that ring true,” Sirius replies with a chuckle.

Harry gives him a look. “I wasn’t joking. This summer has been brilliant, and I’m really excited about going back to Hogwarts. I feel like I’ll be better prepared this year.”

“You will be, and you’ll have a communication mirror to ask me or Remus any questions you might have.”

Harry grins at him. “Thanks.”

“Come on, love,” Sirius says. “Once more into the breach.”

Harry doesn’t object to Sirius’ comment, or the hand on his shoulder when Sirius steers him around the room. Harry is polite and allows the comments about the perfidy of Muggles to pass unremarked upon.

Harry handles himself with the grace and ease necessary of the heir of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Honestly, Sirius really couldn’t have asked for more, especially given some of the more impertinent questions asked of him, like who Harry was eyeing as a bride.

That came from Mrs. Greengrass, and Harry says smoothly, “I believe school has to be my focus. My OWLs and NEWTs are important to my future, and while I’m sure my estate could support me for a long time to come, I do plan on working, although I haven’t decided what my career goals are yet.”

“Commendable, young man,” Gareth Greengrass says approvingly. “What are you thinking?”

“Perhaps law, or maybe the healing arts,” Harry replies. “I’d like to make others’ lives better.”

In Harry’s guileless tone, there’s nothing to take offense at, but Sirius knows that the Greengrasses come from serious money, and none of them have done much other than manage it for the past few decades.

“It’s just that my parents died for me,” Harry adds earnestly. “I feel like I can best honor their memories by doing my part to make the world a better place.”

They both pale at that, and Greengrass says with a tight smile. “Quite admirable, Mr. Potter. I wish you the best.”

Harry glances up at Sirius as they scurry away. “Was that too much?”

“That was exactly enough, although whether it will be enough to get them off the fence, I can’t say,” Sirius says evenly. “But you made them feel very guilty without looking like you were trying to make them feel guilty. Pronglet, you are our new secret weapon.”

Harry’s delight seems to bubble up behind his eyes, and he’s clearly pleased by the comment. “Maybe I have what it takes to be a politician, after all.”

“I’m afraid you don’t have a choice about that,” Sirius says wryly. “You’ll take the Black seat in the Wizengamot eventually.”

Harry frowns. “Could we maybe make that a very long time from now?”

“I’ll do my best,” Sirius promises.

Augusta corners them before they can leave. “We need to have a conversation about your strategy at the Wizengamot. I saw you working the room.”

Sirius nods. “I need to get Harry home, but perhaps we can meet soon for tea, at some point when you don’t have so many guests.”

Augusta nods.  “Of course, that would probably be for the best. I’ll owl you.”

“I look forward to hearing from you,” Sirius replies.

“If you can make progress with Greengrass, you’ll be a miracle worker,” Augusta admits.

Sirius grins a wolf’s grin. “Oh, it won’t be me who works miracles. That would be Harry.”

They take their leave then, pausing to wish Neville happy birthday again, and Neville grins at Harry. “Sorry we couldn’t spend more time together, Harry, but I’m really glad you came.”

“Me, too,” Harry says. “Maybe next year we’ll be able to celebrate together.”

Neville’s smile turns softer and pleased. “I’d really like that. Thanks, Harry.”

“I’ll see you on the train if not before,” Harry says. “Happy birthday, Nev.”

“You, too, Harry,” Neville replies brightly.

They take the portkey home, and Harry stumbles again, but Sirius catches him easily. And then Harry pauses in the yard, staring at the old farmhouse with its peeling paint, the lantern shining brightly through the front window. Sirius can’t see Remus from this vantage point, but he knows he’s is in there somewhere.

Harry’s just staring at the house, though, and Sirius wonders whether he’s comparing the farmhouse to the Longbottom Manor, and he knows it comes up short. “What are you thinking, Harry?”

“Just that I’m going to miss this place when I go back to Hogwarts,” Harry admits. “I’ve never had a place to miss before.”

Sirius feels a little choked up at that. “I’m glad to hear that.”

Harry grins at him. “I actually had fun today. Thanks.”

“Thank you for going with me,” Sirius replies. “You did very well. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

And he watches Harry flush with pleasure, sees his smile, and Sirius throws an arm around Harry’s shoulders, pulls him close, and ruffles his hair.

When Harry hugs him back, Sirius isn’t sure he could be happier.

Remus greets them at the door with a gentle smile. “How did it go?”

“Great!” Harry says brightly. “Padfoot says I’m a natural.”

“He had Gareth Greengrass eating out of his hand,” Sirius says. “It was impressive.”

Remus nods. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

Harry beams. “I’m going to run upstairs and get changed.”

“I have sandwiches when you’re ready,” Remus replies.

Harry nods. “Brilliant! Thanks, Moony. I’ll be right back down.”

He thunders up the stairs, and Remus turns an amused expression towards Sirius. “So that went well.”

“Better than I expected, really,” Sirius admits. “Harry really did do well, charmed the socks off Greengrass and then said he wanted to help people to honor his parents’ sacrifice.”

“Greengrass is famously neutral and a blood purist besides,” Remus remarks.

Sirius shrugs. “I suppose we’ll see what happens. Augusta Longbottom wants to meet with me about my Wizengamot strategy. I’m hoping you’ll help me out with that.”

“Like I have been doing?” Remus asks, amused.

“I meant in a more active role,” Sirius replies. “I’d like Augusta to know that you’re at least working with me, even if we don’t go public with the rest.”

Remus grimaces. “I put her grandson at risk, I don’t think she’ll want to see me.”

“That was my fault for distracting you,” Sirius protests.

“And do you think anyone cares about that?” Remus counters. “Look, Pads, I understand what you’re trying to do, but the reality is that most people are going to blame me, and I’d rather not have a target painted on my back.”

“Would I let that happen to you?” Sirius asks.

“I think you might not have a choice,” Remus replies. “I don’t want the spotlight, Pads. I never have.”

Sirius knows when he’s pushed far enough, and the recognizes the line. “I get it. I’m sorry. I won’t push anymore.”

Remus breaks into a relieved smile. “Thank you. I appreciate that.”

“Hey, if you want to be the brains behind the scenes, I won’t be upset,” Sirius replies. “It’s just—you’re amazing, and I want everyone know that.”

Remus ducks his head. “Go get changed. I’m sure you’re ready to get out of the formal wear.”

Sirius is, and he gratefully exchanges his formal robes for pajama pants and a t-shirt. Harry is already downstairs, matching his informality, scarfing the tuna sandwich that Remus had prepared.

“So good,” Harry mutters between mouthfuls. “Thanks, Moony.”

Sirius doesn’t know what had caused the change, whether it was Lionel’s friendship, or just time, but Harry seems happy with them.

And then Sirius sits and eats his own sandwich, and wishes the summer could go on forever.

~~~~~

The next day, Harry’s birthday, is low key. Lionel comes over, and they order a cake from the patisserie in town. Sirius knows that Harry already has a broom, and that Quidditch is going to be canceled, so he buys him a wand holster and a dimensional store that can be transfigured.

“It can be anything you like,” Sirius says as Harry looks at the brown globe. “A bracelet, or even a pocket watch. You just have to cast the spell.”

“It’s amazing, thank you,” Harry replies.

Remus got him a book on French Quidditch teams, in French, “So you can keep your hand in,” Remus says.

“I will,” Harry replies. “I’ve promised to write Lionel in French, and he’s to write to me in English.”

“I don’t want to lose any fluency,” Lionel agrees. “But if we write, that will help us practice our written fluency as well.”

Remus smiles. “Good plan, lads. I think you’re right to focus on your writing skills during the school year.”

“I want to see how the dimensional store works,” Lionel says eagerly. “I may ask my parents for one for Christmas.”

The dimensional store is not just meant as a present, but also an opportunity to practice his transfiguration skills.

Lionel and Harry work on transfiguring the store, from a bracelet to a watch to a pendant. “I think a bracelet would be best,” Lionel says.

“I agree,” Harry says. “I like it best as a bracelet, too.”

He taps it with his wand, and the store forms an attractive wooden bracelet that Harry slides onto his wrist with ease. He grins. “I like it. Thanks, Padfoot!”

“I’m glad you like it,” Sirius replies. “I hope you’ll find it useful as well.”

“I’m sure I will!” Harry says. “Will we be seeing you and your parents in Paris?”

Lionel nods eagerly. “Yes, they’re excited to meet you. They’re impressed I’ll have a pen friend at Hogwarts, and that my English is so much better than it was.”

“We’re looking forward to it as well,” Sirius says cheerfully.

They have a full week in Paris planned, actually. They’re meeting Lionel’s parents, of course, but they’ve also made plans to meet up with Hermione and her parents, and for Sirius and Harry to meet Augusta and Neville to discuss Wizengamot strategy, as Augusta had decided that Neville deserved a trip before the school year started.

They’ve rented a flat in Paris for the week, because they’re also planning on getting some of Harry’s school things, including new clothes. They’ve mail-ordered some, but Harry’s wardrobe is in a sorry state, and he’ll need dress robes to boot.

Not that the letter has come out yet, but Sirius knows that Harry will need dress robes regardless of the Yule Ball.

Harry seems to be excited for the trip, and he divulged that he never really had a holiday before this summer. So, a week in Paris is an award for his hard work, and while Harry has indicated that he wants to continue working on his occlumency, they’re taking a break from the other lessons.

“I’ll have to show you some of my favorite places while we’re there,” Lionel enthuses. “There’s a crepe stand that’s absolutely brilliant.”

Lionel has been picking up some of Harry’s slang, and it’s amusing to hear British slang in a French accent.

Harry grins. “Oh, that sounds great. Where else do you think we should go?”

Lionel starts outlining all the places he thinks they should eat, places he thinks they should see. He talks about his favorite parks, and the place inside magical Paris where you can play pick-up Quidditch with anyone who happens to be there.

Harry immediately turns his eyes to Sirius. “Can we?”

“Bring your broom,” Sirius says indulgently. “We can certainly visit.”

Harry grins and turns back to Lionel. “Maybe you can be there at the same time? Do you think your parents will allow it?”

“I don’t know why not,” Lionel says. “They let me go by myself all the time. We don’t live far away.”

They’re busy making plans until Louise shows up to see Lionel home. “Ready to go, my darling?” she asks in English.

Lionel smiles at her. “We were just talking about where Harry should definitely go while he’s in Paris.”

Louise smiles. “Which reminds me, we have packing we must do, and it’s getting late.”

They take their leave, and Sirius asks, “How are you, pup?”

Harry beams at him. “Great. This was my best birthday yet.”

“That’s just because you don’t remember your first,” Remus teases gently. “Sirius gave you your first broom.”

Harry grins. “Yeah, Hagrid found a picture somehow. I was a little surprised not to get a broom this year, actually.”

“You already have one,” Sirius replies wryly. “But you don’t have a dimensional store.”

“True,” Harry laughs. “Good night, Padfoot, Moony.”

“Are you all right with me joining you in Paris later?” Remus asks once Harry has retreated upstairs.

Sirius gives him a look. “Whatever makes you most comfortable. I know the full moon is on Monday, and you’ll feel better if you’re here, and not in Paris.”

“It’s more secure,” Remus replies. “I just didn’t want you to think—“

“We’re meeting up with Augusta first,” Sirius replies. “And we planned it that way, since you wouldn’t be in town yet. What are you worried about?”

Remus shakes his head. “I don’t know. I just feel like you need someone to watch your back. You and Harry.”

“I think we’re okay for the moment,” Sirius says. “I’m more worried about you not having someone here. The day after the full moon is hard for you.”

Remus shrugs. “I’ve been through it before, and I’ll be fine, Pads. You know you hover.”

“I like taking care of you,” Sirius replies easily. “You can’t tell me that you don’t enjoy a bit of pampering now and then.”

Remus sends him an exasperated look. “It happens every month.”

Sirius gives him the most innocent look he can muster. “So, you need pampering every month.”

Remus laughs ruefully. “You’re incorrigible.”

“No, I’m Sirius,” he replies with a grin.

Remus gives him a look. “Come up to bed, Sirius. I think I’ll put your mouth to better use.”

Sirius had been hoping for as much.

~~~~~

He and Harry leave for Paris the following day, as Augusta had said that the weekend would work best for them. He and Harry turn up at their rented flat and meet the landlord to get their keys, and get the tour.

It’s fully furnished, and there are two bedrooms and a single bath. “So, no hogging the bathroom to primp, Harry,” Sirius admonishes him.

Harry rolls his eyes. “I think that’s you, Padfoot. I’ve had Moony use my bathroom because you take too long.”

Sirius is pleased that Harry feels comfortable enough to take the piss out of him. “This much beauty takes real effort, love.”

Their landlord, an elderly man who introduced himself as Enzo, laughs. “It’s lovely to see a father and son so close, and your French is quite good, young man.”

Harry blushes and grins, and he doesn’t try to correct the man. “I’ve been working on it this summer, so thank you.”

“I’ve always thought it useful to speak more than one language,” Enzo says. “I speak three myself. I hope you have a lovely week in Paris.”

“Much appreciated,” Sirius replies.

“Call if you need anything!” Enzo calls as he leaves.

Harry looks around the place. “This is really nice!”

“After years in Azkaban, there’s no way I’m spending time in anything less than ‘nice,’” Sirius says dryly. “Especially since I can afford it. We’ll have some fun this week.”

Harry gives him a look. “I still want to practice occlumency. I don’t think I can afford to slack there.”

“As you like,” Sirius agrees. “Whatever you feel up to doing. It’s your holiday, as well.”

Harry hesitates. “I don’t mind the studies, though. I don’t want to sound like—“

“Some will tell you that you can afford to slack off your first four years of Hogwarts, because nothing really counts until your OWLs, but that’s not true, Harry,” Sirius says. “Each year builds on the last, and if you wait until your fifth year to really tuck in, you won’t do as well as you should. You’re a good student. Your career aspirations shouldn’t be hampered because you’ve shot yourself in the foot by not applying yourself early.”

Harry shrugs. “I’m not that that good of a student.”

“You might not be as good as Hermione, but that does’t mean you’re not brilliant in your own right,” Sirius replies. “You’re likely better than her at the practical, which counts during OWLs.”

Harry shifts. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“Don’t let anyone shame you for being serious about your studies,” Sirius tells him, knowing exactly who he’s worried about. “When you have your pick of occupations, and someone else doesn’t, then they’ll be kicking themselves later on.”

“So, this week is for you, and you’ve been working hard,” Sirius continues. “If you want to continue the momentum, that’s up to you, and we’ll make time for it. If you’d rather sightsee or do something else, we’ll do that.”

Harry grins at him brilliantly. “Thanks, Padfoot. I needed to hear that, I think.”

“We have some summer left to us,” Sirius says. “And we have plenty of time.”

That sentiment is called into question that night, when he hears Harry whimpering. Sirius hasn’t slept well without Remus next to him, and so he wakes immediately when he hears the noises coming from Harry’s bedroom.

Sirius gets up, pulling on a t-shirt and heading into Harry’s room. He’s tossing his head from side to side and making distressed noises, and Sirius sits on the side of Harry’s bed cautiously, knowing that waking him up at the wrong moment could very well result in a fist in his face.

And then Sirius gets an idea, and while it’s probably not the wisest course of action, he thinks he might be able to interrupt Harry’s dream if he’s inside it.

It takes about two seconds for Sirius to realize that he’s not in Harry’s dream. This is something else entirely.

Something worse, something that Louise had tried to warn him about obliquely.

There’s a Muggle, an old man, and a horrible, withered form, and Pettigrew to boot. When the old man dies by a killing curse, Sirius manages to wrench himself and Harry out of the mind of whatever—whoever—has hold of Harry.

Harry sits up gasping. “Padfoot? Did you—did you see—“

“I saw,” Sirius says grimly, and pulls Harry into a rough hug. “That was no dream, Harry.”

Harry clings to him. “It wasn’t?”

“No, that was you seeing through another’s eyes,” Sirius replies. “Louise told me that I ought to get you checked out, and she suggested Lionel’s mum. I think we’re going to have to make that a priority this week.”

“What does that mean?” Harry asks, still pressing his face into Sirius shoulder.

“It means that you have a strong connection to Voldemort, and we need to get that shut down as much as possible,” Sirius replies. “So, we’ll certainly be practicing occlumency daily, and you’ll tell me about any other dreams you have.”

He makes it an order, but Harry nods, slumping against him. “Do you think Voldemort really killed that man?”

“I think it’s a near certainty, and I’ll see what I can find as far as Muggle papers go that might report on it so we can confirm it,” Sirius replies.

Harry swallows. “Why would I have that sort of connection to Voldemort? Is it because I’m—“

He stops, but Sirius can fill in the blanks for himself. “You’re not evil, Harry, and it’s nothing that you did, I’m certain of that. It might be the prophecy, or it could be your scar, too. The truth is, we just don’t know, but there are things we can do to find out.”

Harry stays where he is. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“I’ll stay here as long as you like,” Sirius replies, because he could do with a bit of a cuddle, too.

“I don’t want to be a baby,” Harry mutters.

“Are you kidding?” Sirius asks. “After seeing that, I need a hug. You’re doing me a favor.”

“I’m glad you were here,” Harry confesses. “If I’d had that dream alone…”

Sirius hates to think of Harry at the Dursleys with a nightmare like that, and no comfort after, but he’s pleased to be able to offer some small comfort now.

“Sleep now,” Sirius says, running his hand through Harry’s hair in a comforting gesture.

Harry falls asleep soon thereafter, but Sirius stays where he is, keeping guard over Harry’s mind.

~~~~~

They sleep in late the next morning, with Sirius moving to his own bed when the sun comes up. They sleep so late, in fact, that they have to hurry to meet Augusta and Neville for an early lunch. Augusta had selected the location, a cafe with a private room, and they both have to hustle to get presentable and to the cafe in time.

Sirius is fairly certain that someone like Madame Longbottom would not approve of tardiness.

The cafe is on a sunny street near the Paris branch of Gringotts, not too far from where they’re staying, and they have just enough time to walk there.

“Why do you think she brought Neville?” Harry asks curiously.

“Probably for the same reason I’m bringing you,” Sirius replies lightly. “You and Neville will be taking our seats in the Wizengamot eventually. It’s not too soon for you to start thinking about your strategies and alliances.”

Harry grimaces. “Really?”

“Politics are a fact of life,” Sirius replies apologetically. “And more so for you than most. If you don’t start playing the game now, you’ll risk getting played yourself.”

Harry sighs deeply. “I know. I wish I could just go to school and be completely ordinary, you know?”

“I understand,” Sirius replies with deep sympathy. “Your dad and I felt the same way.”

Harry perks up at that, as he always does with any mention of his parents, hungry to know anything and everything about his parents. “About the war?”

“We knew what we were facing, and we started really preparing our sixth year,” Sirius replies. “I’ll admit that I was young and believed in my own immortality, so I relished the idea of going into battle. Your dad and mum had each other, and just wanted to begin their lives.”

Harry frowns. “What about you?”

“I had your parents, and then I had you to live for,” Sirius replies. “I was quite content.”

“And now?” Harry asks.

Sirius slings an arm over Harry’s shoulders. “I have you, don’t I? And I have Remus, and an interesting challenge ahead of me. I have everything to live for.”

When they reach the meeting place, they’re led up to a private room above the cafe. Augusta and Neville are already there with tea on the table. “I hope you don’t mind,” she says. “I’ve already ordered for us.”

“No, of course not,” Sirius replies. “I’m sure you know what’s good here.”

“Well, I’ve ordered soup and sandwiches for the table,” Augusta says. “It should do for Harry and Neville, since boys their age tend to have hollow legs.”

Harry winces. “Sorry.”

“No, no, my Frank was that way as well,” Augusta replies with a small smile. “And you should eat your fill.”

The waiter brings a tureen of hearty ham and bean soup to the table, as well as a platter of sandwiches.

“This is lovely,” Sirius says. “And quite good.”

Neville and Harry nod, plowing through the food, although they’re displaying good manners at least.

“What are your plans for the Wizengamot?” Augusta asks, once she and Sirius have finished their soup. The boys are still reaching for sandwiches, which are all quite nice—ham and cheese, salmon, and cucumber.

“What’s your favorite?” Harry asks in an undertone.

“I can’t decide,” Neville replies in a bit of a mournful tone.

Harry grins. “More tests?”

“It’s inevitable,” Neville replies.

And they both go in for another.

Sirius catches Augusta’s eye, and she’s clearly suppressing a smile. As formidable as she is, Sirius can tell that she loves her grandson more than words. “I’m hoping to shore up our defenses, as well as address creature rights.”

Her eyes narrow. “That won’t make you particularly popular among the pure-blood set.”

“I don’t care about that,” Sirius replies. “And even if I did, I fought in the last war. My friend is a werewolf, and made overtures to the packs on our behalf, but the treatment of werewolves by our government made his job nearly impossible. I want to make us safer.”

Augusta nods. “I don’t disagree, and I would support such measures. The reality behind werewolves, in particular, is that it might befall any of us, and that’s something that most do not want to face. They would prefer to believe that werewolves somehow brought it upon themselves, but who knows how many victims Greyback had?”

“Too many,” Sirius agrees. “I know that no one wants to believe that Voldemort will return, and I’d rather believe that myself, but we cannot afford to let our guard down. No one knows what happened to Voldemort when he attacked Harry. I think it’s safe to assume that he’s not dead.”

“Well, it’s certainly safer,” Augusta replies. “For both ourselves and our boys. So, we strengthen the DMLE, and perhaps make it more uncomfortable for the Death Eaters who escaped before. What else?”

“We need to bring the neutrals over on our side,” Sirius replies. “And we need to appeal to the things that matter to them. Security, safety, and continued order in the world.”

Augusta nods. “One that doesn’t interfere with their own world views.”

“While protecting the Muggle-born and half-bloods,” Sirius agrees. “I suspect that most of them would agree they’re not so bad if they ever actually got to know one.”

“Well, as long as we were talking only about their particular friend,” Augusta agrees. “But I do agree. I think we should start out small, and then we can move on from there.”

“I’m all ears.”

Neville and Harry make their way through the entire plate of sandwiches while he and Augusta hash out a strategy, and Sirius begins to wonder if he’s feeding Harry enough, given how much he’s eaten here. Or maybe the sandwiches are just that good.

As soon as they’re gone, though, Augusta asks, “What’s your opinion, Neville?”

Neville looks terrified. “Oh, I don’t know, Gran.”

Augusta frowns at him. “We’ve talked about this. I know you’d rather spend your time in the greenhouse with plants, but it won’t do for you to be politically naive.”

Neville blushes down to the roots, and then glances at Harry.

“Go on, mate,” Harry said kindly. “I don’t have a good answer either, so I’m not going to judge.”

Neville hesitates. “Well, I would think that bringing in the neutral families would be key. Dangling me and Harry in front of them as potential husbands would be one way to do it.”

Augusta smiles at him. “Now, that’s thinking strategically. Not that I would have you make anything other than a love match, but it doesn’t hurt to let people assume something.”

“Plenty of older families still use arranged marriages, or at least betrothals,” Sirius admits. “So, Neville, you’re not wrong about that. Any other ideas to bring the neutrals our to our side, other than offering yourselves up as sacrificial lambs?”

Harry clears his throat. “Well, people are afraid, aren’t they? Is there a way we can alleviate their fears? Also, I did not agree to be a sacrificial lamb.”

Sirius chuckles. “Expand upon that thought, lad.”

“Well, what about Wolfsbane?” Harry asks reasonably. “What if we made it widely available for free? We could create a trust, or something. If werewolves weren’t so dangerous on the full moon, there would be less fear of them, and maybe not so many restrictions.”

Augusta nods. “That’s an excellent thought, Harry.”

He and Harry had spoken of the possibility, and Sirius is glad to hear him bring it up, as it shows he had been paying attention. “Anything else, Harry?”

“What about stronger due process protections for those accused of a crime?” Harry suggests. “Surely, some of the neutral families are thinking about what happened to Sirius, and may be wondering if it could happen to them. If we can get them to align themselves with us on some things, they might be more likely to go along with us on others.”

Sirius knows that Harry has a fine tactical mind, both from his past experiences, and his training with Harry this summer. Augusta and Neville wouldn’t know that, however, and Sirius can see Augusta’s surprise. “Very perceptive, young man.”

Harry blushes. “I’ve just noticed that it’s easier to get people to go along with you if they’ve already done it before.”

“Good, Harry,” Sirius praises. “And it’s likely that the Wizengamot will expect such a push from me, and will be sympathetic for obvious reasons.”

Augusta hums her approval. “If we couple that with a push to equip the Aurors and DMLE for investigations, that may work well.”

From there, they discuss who might be most sympathetic to them, who would bring the key votes, who would oppose them. Sirius is armed with Miriam and Remus’ research, but Augusta has years of experience in the Wizengamot and the knowledge of the interested parties and their personalities.

Sirius wonders what his grandfather would say if he knew that Sirius was planning on following Augusta Longbottom’s lead.

“I knew Arcturus, you know,” she says as they wrap up at the cafe, planning to meet again after the boys are in school, prior to the first formal session of the Wizengamot.

Sirius hasn’t even contemplated that possibility, although it shouldn’t surprise him. Augusta and his grandfather would have sat in the Wizengamot together after Augusta took the seat as Frank’s proxy. “Is that right?”

“I believe that he would be proud of you,” Augusta replies. “Arcturus always had a great strength of mind, and a presence in the Wizengamot. You take after him in that regard.”

Sirius has to swallow hard. “Thank you.”

“Have you been back to the Black Manor yet?” Augusta asks.

Sirius shakes his head. “No, why?”

“You might see if he left a portrait behind,” she replies. “He could have some useful advice for you.”

Sirius is none too sure that he wants to speak to his grandfather’s portrait, assuming he did leave one. He’s not sure he could handle hearing his grandfather’s disapproval if that was the outcome.

Still, he’s unwilling to betray that sort of vulnerability to Augusta, so all he says is, “Thank you. I do have plans to visit the old manor soon.”

That much is true, and if his grandfather had left a portrait behind, and he’s awake, well… Sirius will cross that bridge when he comes to it.

Perhaps Augusta senses his trepidation, but she’s too polite to say anything other than, “I’ll see you in a month or so, Sirius. I look forward to seeing what you’ll do in the Wizengamot.”

“So do I,” Sirius says wryly.

As they leave the cafe, Sirius says, “Do you want to do some shopping while we’re here? I think there’s a broom shop nearby.”

“Sure,” Harry says. “I’d like that.”

As they stroll down the wide boulevard, Harry is quiet and seems to be deep in thought. “Penny for your thoughts, lad?”

“Do you know if my parents left portraits behind?” Harry asks hesitantly.

Sirius blows out a breath. “Oh, Harry, I don’t know, but I greatly doubt it. Creating a living portrait is something that requires time, and usually quite a few sittings. The painter creates the likeness, of course, but the person being painted has to be in the presence of the painting so that it captures the essence of who they are.”

Harry swallows audibly. “They wouldn’t have had time.”

“No, I don’t think they would have,” Sirius admits. “And even if they had, I’m not sure your mum would have been willing. She was never entirely comfortable with them.”

Harry nods, clearly disappointed. “Do you want to see your grandfather’s portrait?”

“I don’t know,” Sirius admits, having pledged to be as honest with Harry as he could. “I’m not sure what we’d say to each other. I hadn’t seen him since before I left for Hogwarts. I don’t think my parents wanted me around him.”

“Why?” Harry asks.

Sirius shakes his head. “I’m not entirely sure, but likely because they wanted my brother to be heir.”

“What happened to him?” Harry asks.

“Who? My brother?”

“And your grandfather,” Harry replies. “You haven’t ever said, although I know they’re—they’re dead.”

“My grandfather died of a wasting illness after I had been shut up in Azkaban,” Sirius admits. “I don’t know what he thought of my arrest, as he never came to see me, but that may have been due to his illness. My brother was a Death Eater, and he was killed by Voldemort.”

Harry nods thoughtfully. “Did you get along with him?”

“We were very close before I went to Hogwarts,” Sirius replies. “But he was a few years younger than I was, and he believed in blood purist politics, just as my parents did, and he thought it was a travesty that I was sorted into Gryffindor.”

Harry snorts. “It would have been a greater tragedy if you’d been in Slytherin.”

“There were a lot of people in Slytherin who didn’t turn out to be Death Eaters,” Sirius tells him. “It’s best not to paint people with too broad a brush.”

Harry nods. “I know. It’s just—they’re kind of the worst, at least the ones I know.”

“It probably doesn’t help that Draco Malfoy is in your year,” Sirius says dryly. “Lucius Malfoy is a vicious bastard, and a Death Eater. He escaped justice at the end of the war, but I don’t doubt that he’s taught his son the same beliefs that he held so dear.”

Harry frowns. “So, it’s not Malfoy’s fault that he’s a prat?”

Sirius gives him a look. “Did I say that? Look at me. I grew up with the same sort of beliefs, and I rejected them. I believe that my brother rejected them before he died, even though he must have known the risk he was taking. We all make our own choices in life, Harry. We judge for ourselves, based on our own experiences, and who we are as people. You might make allowances for Draco should he ever see the error of his ways and express regret. But that doesn’t make him any less of a prat now.”

“Or any less dangerous in the hallway,” Harry mutters.

“Just so,” Sirius agrees. He glances up. “Ah, here’s the broom shop.”

There’s not much there that they haven’t seen before, although one of the French models seems promising.

The shopkeeper approaches them. “How may I help you gentlemen?” he asks in French.

“My godson here has a Firebolt, and is his House seeker,” Sirius replies in the same language. “We’re wondering if you have anything comparable.”

“You’re English?” the shopkeeper asks, switching from French to English.

Sirius hadn’t thought his French was that bad, although he knows his English accent comes through fairly clearly.

Harry, though, has a stubborn glint in his eye. “I go to school in England,” he says firmly in clear, unaccented French. Sirius knows how well the language transference spell worked.

The shopkeeper looks a bit taken aback by that, but immediately switches back to French. “Of course, young man. You have a Firebolt?”

“It was the best broom on the market last year,” Harry says assuredly. “My godfather got it for me, but I’m always looking for an edge in Quidditch.”

The shopkeeper’s face falls a bit. “Well, I must admit that the Firebolt is the best broom on the market currently, but Laurent is making improvements, and I believe will have a model to rival it next year.”

Harry perks up at that. “Oh, really?”

The shopkeeper shows them the most recent model, speaking excitedly over the planned improvements, and how it would differ from the Firebolt. Sirius allows Harry to take the lead, because he’s the one who’ll be using it.

Sirius has to admit that some of the improvements, if they pan out, would provide Harry a bit of an edge in a Quidditch match where everyone else has English brooms of one sort or another.

They leave the shop without purchasing anything, but with Harry promising to check back when the new Laurent model is released.

He laughs a bit as they leave, and Sirius asks, “What’s so funny?”

“The shopkeeper trying to figure out whether to use English or French,” Harry admits. “Apparently, I really do sound like a native. Lionel said I did.”

“It could be quite handy in a fix,” Sirius comments quietly.

Harry nods. “I know. If I need to disappear, and I could speak another language fluently, it would make it that much easier.”

“Do you want to stop anywhere else?” Sirius asks.

Harry shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe we should do some clothes shopping? I didn’t think I would care, but I kind of do.”

Sirius is pleasantly surprised. “Of course. You could use some smarter casual clothes. There’s no need to be formal all the time.”

Harry may have no interest in being a fashion plate, but Sirius also wants Harry to be comfortable, and to feel good about himself and his appearance. Besides, Sirius doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s not looking after Harry properly.

They stop in at a local clothing store. Although the store sells more formal, tailored items, they also have higher end jeans, and other smart casual items. When they walk out, Harry has several new pairs of jeans, as well as some nice, casual shirts and sweaters. It’s nothing that will stand out, other than perhaps to people who are interested in fashion and can recognize quality.

Harry flags a bit that afternoon, and Sirius can’t blame him, not after the rough night they had, in spite of sleeping in late. They eat an early dinner at a cafe near their rented flat, and head back for an early night.

The next day, Harry pulls on some of his new clothing, and they follow Lionel’s directions to the best place for crepes in the area. Sirius had deliberately chosen a flat to rent that’s in close proximity to where Lionel’s parents live, and not far from where they’re due to meet Hermione and her parents in a couple of days.

Sirius senses that Harry needs to release some energy, so they head for the park where Lionel said they could find a pick-up Quidditch game. Sure enough, there are a number of kids there, of all ages, and there’s a shout from across the field.

“Harry!” Lionel comes jogging up to them, grinning, speaking in French. “You made it!”

“I needed to blow off some steam,” Harry admits. “Have you found a game yet?”

“I was just speaking to Meline, but they were looking for one more,” Lionel replies excitedly. “Oh, hello, Monsieur Black.”

“You can call me Sirius, Lionel,” Sirius reminds him, resizing Harry’s broom for him. “I’m just going to read my book. You two have fun.”

Lionel and Harry run off together, stopping in front of a tall, broad girl, probably the Meline Lionel referenced.

Sirius sprawls on a nearby bench, pulling his book out of his pocket, but he doesn’t open it. Instead, he watches as Harry speaks to the other kids, and Sirius smiles. From this distance, Harry is animated and the other kids seem just as taken by him.

“May I sit?”

Sirius glances up to see a woman about his age, wearing pristine light-blue robes. She looks familiar somehow, and then Sirius realizes that she looks like a younger version of Louise. “Of course,” he replies in French. “You must be Lionel’s mother, Madame Deschamps, I believe?”

“Indeed, and you are Monsieur Black,” she replies in a melodious voice. “My mother has told me much about you and Harry, as has Lionel.”

“And you came to see for yourself,” Sirius says knowingly.

She shrugs. “Lionel told me that you would be here this week, and that he had told Harry about this park. I thought that as Quidditch mad as Harry was made out to be, there was a good chance you would come here, and it’s my lunch hour.”

Sirius leans back. “Did Louise also tell you that I was hoping you’d agree to evaluate Harry while we’re in Paris?”

“She did,” Diana replies. “I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised you’d ask a stranger.”

“I know your mother and your son,” Sirius counters. “A healer in England might be bought or bribed. You’re the only healer we’re even tangentially acquainted with, and I think I know the kind of person you are based on who your mother and your son are.”

Diana raises an eyebrow. “And did you not rebel against your parents?”

“But Lionel speaks of his parents fondly, and Louise could not be prouder,” Sirius replies reasonably. “And you’ve taken an oath as a healer, have you not?”

Diana laughs. “So I have, and I would be happy to examine Harry, and to do whatever I can for him. I have to admit that I am pleasantly surprised.”

“Because I spent so many years in Azkaban?” Sirius asks lightly.

Diana turns to face him. “Bluntly, yes. I have examined a few people who have come to France after only a few years in Azkaban, and their auras are far darker than yours.”

Sirius hums. “Well, as I’m sure you heard, I’m an animagus, and I spent most of my time in Azkaban in that form.”

She hums thoughtfully. “That could perhaps explain it. I assume that you would like to keep any examination or treatment of your godson as quiet as possible.”

“That would be my preference, yes,” Sirius confirms.

Diana nods. “Then I would be willing to visit you wherever you’re staying. I could come this evening, after I’m done at the hospital. Say, around seven?”

Sirius agrees readily, as it seems an ideal arrangement. “I would be very grateful. Harry’s early years were not kind to him.”

“I had assumed as much from what I’ve heard,” Diana admits. “If I find anything, and I can’t help your godson, I can refer you to a trusted colleague.”

Sirius knows that’s about the best he can hope for, other than Healer Deschamps finding nothing wrong with Harry whatsoever. It’s possible that the connection between Harry and Voldemort can be severed easily, perhaps through additional meditation and occlumency, perhaps with the help of an experienced mind healer who could help Harry put a block on it.

“I understand,” Sirius replies. “I will take any advice that you have for me.”

“Maman!” Lionel calls out, running over to them with Harry in two. “I didn’t know you were going to come.”

“I thought I would take a walk for my lunch,” Diana says cheerfully, “and I happened to run into Monsieur Black. Is this your friend?”

“Yes, this is Harry Potter,” Lionel replies, motioning Harry forward. “Harry, this is my mother, Diana Deschamps.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Healer Deschamps,” Harry replies politely.

“Have you been enjoying your time in Paris?” she asks.

Harry nods eagerly. “It’s been great. Actually, my whole summer in France has been wonderful.”

Diana smiles. “That’s lovely to hear.” She turns to her son. “I will be home late tonight, darling. I have a private house call to make. Would you tell Terese and your father?”

“Of course, Maman,” Lionel replies easily. “Shall we get back to it, Harry?”

Harry glances at Sirius, who nods. “We don’t have anywhere we need to be right now.”

Harry bobs his head at Diana. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Healer Deschamps.”

“He’s a very polite young man,” she comments.

Sirius smiles. “I’m afraid I can’t take much credit. He showed up that way.”

“Shall I give any credit to his previous guardians?” Diana asks.

Sirius smiles tightly. “I would really rather you didn’t.”

Diana again hums thoughtfully. “Very well, then. I will see you both this evening if you would give me directions.”

Sirius rattles off the address to their rented flat, and Diana says, “I know precisely where that is. I’ll see you this evening.”

Harry plays Quidditch for a couple of hours, and then he and Lionel approach Sirius. “We’re famished, Sirius,” Harry complains. “Lionel says there’s a good boulangerie just around the corner.”

“Well, then, I suppose that’s lunch sorted,” Sirius says cheerfully. “Off we go, then.”

Once they’ve devoured their sandwiches, they part ways with Lionel, and head back to the flat. After Harry’s vision, Sirius thinks it’s more important than ever that Harry practice occlumency every day.

They sit down across from each other on the floor, and after the Quidditch with Lionel, Sirius can tell that Harry is far more relaxed.

“Will this work even when I’m asleep?” Harry asks.

Sirius hesitates. “Perhaps, if your mental shields are strong enough, they’ll remain active while you’re asleep, but it will take time and practice for that to happen. We’ll work on it, though.”

Harry is getting better and better at sensing Sirius’ attempts at legilimency, and even turning it around on him, and then he senses Harry getting past his own mental barriers, dumped into a memory of being in Azkaban, at the mercy of the Dementors, and Sirius immediately pulls back.

Harry is pale and clearly shaken.

“I’m sorry, pup, you didn’t need to see that,” Sirius says regretfully.

Harry shakes his head. “You shouldn’t have been in Azkaban,” he says angrily.

“Granted,” Sirius says wearily. “But you managed to push past my defenses, which means you might have some ability as a legilimens, even if occlumency is difficult for you.”

“What good does that do me?” Harry asks bitterly.

“What would you give to be able to know someone’s true intentions?” Sirius asks. “Instead of needing to brew illegal polyjuice, you could have discovered whether Draco Malfoy had anything to do with opening the Chamber of Secrets.”

Harry thinks about that for a moment. “Wouldn’t he know?”

“Not if you’re very, very good at it,” Sirius replies. “But I wouldn’t recommend it. I suspect that Lucius Malfoy has probably given his son similar instruction, and he may sense it, but in an emergency situation, you may need to do it.”

Harry takes a deep breath. “I understand.”

“Good, we’re going to try again,” Sirius replies.

He grimaces. “Okay, I’m ready.”

They’re both exhausted by the time Sirius calls a halt to things. “Well done, Harry. Your mental shields are much stronger now. You should probably have a rest before Healer Deschamps arrives.”

Harry runs a hand though his hair. “Do you really think it’s necessary to see a doctor? I feel fine.”

“I want to make sure there aren’t any problems that need to be addressed before the school year begins,” Sirius explains patiently. “We’ve worked hard to address the academics, but there’s more to your life than school. I need to make sure you’re healthy, too.”

Harry sprawls out on the floor.  “I guess that’s fine.”

Sirius hesitates, not wanting to push. “Did the Dursleys starve you, other than this past summer?”

He already knows the answer, of course, but he wants Harry to tell him.

“I guess,” Harry admits reluctantly. “It was better when I went to Hogwarts, but summers were never great. I don’t know.”

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to about your time with the Muggles,” Sirius assures him.

Harry rolls his head to look at Sirius. “I don’t like thinking about it, to be honest. I’m not with them anymore, and I don’t want to ever see them again.”

“I hope that’s the case,” Sirius replies. “I’ll do my best to make that happen.”

Harry rolls to his feet with enviable ease. “I think I will take that nap.”

Sirius stretches out on the couch with a book, keeping an ear out for Harry, just in case he has another nightmare. He falls asleep, in spite of his best efforts, and wakes up to hear his whimpers. This time, Sirius shifts to his animagus form, and crawls into bed next to Harry, pressing a wet nose against the side of Harry’s neck.

Harry wakes with a gasp and then immediately rolls and buries his face in Sirius’ fur. “Thank you, Padfoot,” he murmurs. “I wish I could bring you to school with me.”

Sirius whines.

“The Muggles have emotional support animals, you know,” Harry says, some humor entering his voice. “What do you think?”

Sirius licks a stripe up the side of Harry’s neck. “Ew! Padfoot!” Harry protests on a laugh.

Sirius gets out of bed and transforms once again. “We should probably eat some dinner before the healer gets here.”

Harry nods. “Do you want me to cook?”

Sirius shakes his head, not wanting to put anything on Harry right now. “Why don’t I make breakfast for dinner?”

Harry smiles. “Sounds good.”

Breakfast is about the only meal that Sirius is any good at, if they’re not talking about beans on toast. He fries up eggs and sausages and makes toast, and they both tuck in. “Remus will be here tomorrow?” Harry asks.

“That’s the plan, and I haven’t heard differently,” Sirius replies. “We’re supposed to have dinner with Lionel’s parents that night, and meet up with Hermione the following day. And then we’ll have several days to spend as you please.”

Harry chews his bite of toast slowly. “That sounds good. I had fun playing Quidditch today. I learned some new tricks.”

“Good,” Sirius replies. “I’m glad you had fun. That’s the point of this trip, even if we do need to continue working on occlumency.”

Harry shrugs. “Better to be armed with some tools before I have to go back to school,” he says philosophically.

They had finished dinner and clean up when there’s a knock on the door, and Sirius let Diana Deschamps into the flat. Unsurprisingly, she’s right on time. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course,” she replies warmly. “I’m glad it could be arranged. If I do need to refer you to a colleague, it’s probably best to know that sooner, rather than later.”

Harry has risen to his feet, and he’s shifting nervously, but he manages to produce a smile. “Good evening, Healer Deschamps.”

“Good evening, Harry,” she replies warmly. “May I sit?”

Harry nods, and she sits down next to him on the couch, with Sirius hovering nearby. “First of all, Harry, I want to assure you that whatever I discover this evening will remain in the strictest confidence. I will not share any of your medical information without your permission, and only with those that you give me permission. Do you understand?”

Harry nods jerkily. “I understand.”

“Now, is it your wish to have your godfather present for this evaluation, or would you prefer he leave?” she asks quietly.

Harry glances at Sirius. Sirius hastens to assure him, “It’s completely up to you, lad. I won’t be mad if you’d prefer I left.”

Harry glances to Diana. “Will I have to get undressed?”

Diana is startled into laughter. “Have you never had an examination by a wizard or witch before?”

Harry shakes his head. “Just Muggle doctors, and they usually make you get undressed.”

Diana appears troubled by this news, although Sirius knows from Louise that her husband is a Muggle doctor, so he assumes she’s familiar with Muggle medicine. “What about at school?” Diana asks. “Did anyone gives you a comprehensive examination?”

“I don’t know what a comprehensive examination would look like, but I don’t think so,” Harry replies slowly. “Maybe at the end of first year while I was unconscious.”

Diana takes a deep breath at that, and then she smiles brightly. “Well, no matter. We’ll do a comprehensive examination now. It might feel a bit ticklish, as you’ve never had it done before. Most parents in the wizarding world have their children assessed every year. I know that Muggles do the same usually.”

Harry shrugs. “I don’t think my aunt and uncle even thought about it. I didn’t ever get sick as a kid, not really.”

“Your magic would protect you from most Muggle illnesses, but there are some wizarding illnesses that could be dangerous,” Diana informs him. “I don’t suppose you received your vaccinations, like for dragon pox?”

Sirius can’t believe that he hadn’t even thought about that.

Harry shakes his head. “Should I have?”

“It’s normally a requirement before going to school,” Diana says in a an even tone, but Sirius can tell that there’s anger kindling behind her eyes. “But never mind. We can get that taken care of before you leave Paris. That’s not a problem. Lie back on the couch for me.”

Harry gamely stretches out on the couch, his expression full of trepidation.

“This won’t hurt a bit,” Diana promises.

Sirius watches as she casts the diagnostic charm, which forms a bright green mist above Harry, forming and reforming into various arcane symbols that Sirius doesn’t understand, although another Healer probably would.

Diana’s expression is remote, and she’s clearly concentrating fiercely. After a long, tense ten minutes, she banishes that spell and says, “Harry, I would like to take a closer look at the scar on your forehead, but that is going to require a slightly more invasive spell. I don’t believe that it will hurt, but it will be uncomfortable. Do I have your permission?”

Harry swallows audibly. “Yes. It’s okay. I can take a lot of pain.”

Diana’s smile is tight.  “I know you’re a brave boy. Monsieur Black? Do I have your permission?”

Sirius nods. “You do. We need to know more about his scar.”

She raises an eyebrow. “I would agree with you. Please hold as still as you can, Harry.”

Harry hadn’t reacted much to the first spell, but this one pulls a grunt out of him. “I know it’s uncomfortable, but just a little longer,” Diana soothes him. “Just take some deep breaths for me.”

A few minutes later, she ends the spell, and Sirius can see the sweat on Harry’s forehead.

Sirius fills two glasses of water, and hands one to Diana and one to Harry. He puts a hand on Harry’s clammy forehead. “Are you okay, pup?”

Harry nods shakily. “I’m okay.”

Sirius perches on the arm of the couch next to Harry and puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. At least, he hopes it’s comforting. “What can you tell us?”

Diana takes a deep breath. “Harry, are you still certain that you would like me to share this information with your godfather?”

“I’m sure,” Harry replies with conviction.

“You have some healed fractures in your upper arms,” Diana begins. “I usually see those sorts of fractures when an adult has grabbed a child by the arm very roughly. In magical children, your own magic probably helped to heal you.”

Harry winces. “Yeah, sometimes my uncle would grab me there kind of hard.”

Diana nods. “You also have some nutritional deficiencies. I am going to recommend that you take a nutrient potion in order to address those, which will likely cause your magic to rapidly expand. It’s good that you’ve been so disciplined this summer, as that will help.”

So far, it’s nothing that Sirius hadn’t been expecting, and it doesn’t explain the grim set to her mouth. “What about his scar?” he asks.

Diana blows out a breath. “That is a little more complicated, I’m afraid, and I will need to refer you to a colleague for treatment, but it’s unlike any curse scar I’ve ever seen. Monsieur Black, I’m afraid I need to ask a rather delicate question.”

“Go ahead and ask whatever you need,” Sirius replies instantly.

“Was Harry’s mother working on any rituals shortly before her death?” Diana asks hesitantly.

Sirius has to think back. “Their cottage was under a Fidelius, and I wasn’t the Secret Keeper,” he explains. “We thought it for the best that I stay away as much as possible. I was there for Harry’s birthday, but I didn’t see James or Lily again after that, and neither of them said anything about a ritual.”

He pauses. “But Lily loved Harry more than words could express, and they knew he was going to be a target. If she devised a ritual of some sort to protect him, it would not surprise me in the least.”

“The scar bears the traces of his mother’s sacrifice,” Diana admits quietly, “and such rituals are generally regarded as dark magic.”

Harry goes even paler. “Why? My mum wasn’t dark.”

“Blood magic is often considered dark without consideration for the intentions behind it,” Sirius explains. “It’s possible that your mother put together something like a failsafe. If she were killed while protecting you, that sacrifice, done in ritual, would unleash tremendous power, thus causing the Killing Curse to backlash on the caster.”

“That’s why Voldemort disappeared?” Harry asks.

Diana shrugs. “It’s speculation, but it’s one explanation for what happened. But Harry, there is more to it than that. There’s something else contained in your scar, something very dark. It’s not part of you, and whatever your mother’s magic did in protecting you then, I believe it’s also protecting you now.”

Sirius watches the horror dawn on Harry’s face. “You mean, I might be carrying a bit of Voldemort around?”

“That is what I’m afraid of,” she admits. “But it will take someone with much more experience with that sort of thing than I have in order to confirm it.”

Harry winces. “Can I get it out?”

“I don’t know that either,” Diana says gently. “But I have a very good friend who may be able to assist you. I believe that we should move on this as soon as possible.”

Sirius glances at Harry, who’s looking at him with a desperate expression. “Please, Padfoot.”

“Agreed,” Sirius says immediately. “Please let your colleague know we will accept any help they’re willing to give us. If we need to stay in Paris a bit longer, that would be fine.”

Diana rises to her feet. “Harry, as Monsieur Black is your legal guardian, with your permission, I will provide him with a full, written accounting of my findings, as well as my recommendations.”

Harry nods, seeming a bit in shock still. “Yes, please. And thank you for seeing me, Healer Deschamps.”

“I think you can call me Diana,” she replies with a smile, and quickly kisses Harry on both cheeks. “We will find answers for you, my boy. Of that you can be certain.”

Sirius takes the hint and walks her out. “There was more,” he says once they’re standing in front of the building.

“Much more,” she replies. “Had you been his guardian for more than a few weeks, I would be quite angry with you, Monsieur Black.”

“Call me Sirius,” he replies. “Please, tell me.”

“He should have had a full diagnostic done before entering school, as well as been given the usual vaccines for a magical child. I realize that you did not have custody, and would have no way of knowing what had and had not been done, but someone should have known. Had they done so, I believe he would have been removed from his previous guardians immediately. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he’s been abused and neglected, and denied even the basic medical care that a magical child ought to be provided! I know where you were, but who was looking after him in the magical world before that?”

Diana’s eyes are almost glowing with fury, and Sirius can understand why she hadn’t wanted Harry to see her like this.

“I wish I could tell you,” Sirius admits, a bit ashamed of his lack of knowledge. “Everything about Harry’s entrance into the wizarding world was a bit haphazard, to be honest. The head of the British DMLE told me that Harry’s placement did not seem to be on the up-and-up. In fact, the office that manages the placement of orphans said they had no official record.” Sirius hesitates, and then admits. “From what I understand, Albus Dumbledore left Harry on the front steps of his aunt’s house, and that was the end of it, although I think there was a Squib around who sometimes kept an eye on him.”

Diana mutters furiously to herself in French. “I will contact my colleague first thing tomorrow, and will have an answer for you tomorrow at dinner, if that will suffice. I am looking forward to meeting your partner.”

Sirius manages a smile. “I’m sure he will enjoy meeting you as well, Diana. And I certainly appreciate that you are interested in being a fierce advocate for my godson.”

“As I am for all my patients,” Diana replies, visibly calming herself. “Very well. We will see all of you tomorrow at seven.”

Sirius bids her farewell, and then climbs the stairs to their flat, finding Harry on the sofa still, looking a bit shellshocked. Sirius sits down next to him, draping an arm over Harry’s shoulders. “Talk to me, pup.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Harry admits. “What am I supposed to say?”

“How about we start with how you’re feeling?” Sirius asks.

Harry just shakes his head. “I thought—I thought maybe this year would be different, you know? But instead I find out that I’m carrying a bloody piece of Voldemort around in my head.”

“So what?” Sirius asks quietly. “So what if you are? I admit it’s disturbing, and we’ll want to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible, but your mum is protecting you even now, love. She’s keeping you safe. That’s what you should focus on.”

Harry slumps against him wearily. “She really loved me, didn’t she?”

“She loved you more than anything in the whole world, except maybe for your father, but since he felt the same, it made no difference,” Sirius replies. “They both would have burned down the world for you, Harry. So would I. Remember that.”

Harry nods against his chest, and Sirius just hopes that he’s said enough.

~~~~~

Remus arrives the following day, meeting them in the morning at the flat. Sirius and Harry had slept in late, with Sirius popping out to pick up pastries for them. He figures that Harry deserves pastries after the revelations of the night before.

Harry’s munching on his pain au chocolat while reading one of the books he’d brought with him. Sirius realizes that it’s an arithmancy texbook, and he asks, “Are you enjoying it?”

Harry glances up. “Hm? Oh, yeah, I really like both arithmancy and ancient runes, to be honest. I’m hoping that the professors will allow me to take both of them.”

“I don’t know why not,” Sirius replies. “You’ve been working hard. They may allow you to do an independent study if it will get you caught up by the time second term starts.”

Harry manages a smile. “Well, it will certainly be loads better than having Professor Trelawney predicting my death in new and horrible ways.”

“We’ll manage it,” Sirius promises. “One way or another.”

There’s a knock on the door, and Sirius goes to answer it, pleased to see Remus’ smiling face. “Hello,” Sirius says, stepping aside to allow him entrance. “How did the trip to Paris go?”

“I ended up taking the early train in,” Remus replies, and Sirius is pleased when he leans in for a quick kiss once the door has been closed behind him.

“Hey, Remus,” Harry says, although he doesn’t sound quite like himself, and Remus immediately shoots him a look.

Sirius hesitates. “Harry, do you mind if I share Diana’s report with Remus?”

Harry frowns. “No, of course not. I just—I’m going to go sit out on the balcony to read, okay?”

“Of course,” Sirius replies, because he understands why Harry would want to not think about it. Once the door to the balcony has been closed behind him, Sirius says, “We ran into Diana Deschamps, Lionel’s mum, at the pick-up Quidditch game yesterday, and she agreed to come over last night to perform an examination.”

Remus sits down at the small kitchen table slowly. “I see. I take it the news wasn’t all good.”

Wanting to stall for time, Sirius asks, “Tea?”

“I would love some, but don’t change the subject,” Remus orders. “You have me worried.”

Sirius starts the kettle. “To a certain extent, the results weren’t a surprise. There were signs of abuse and neglect, and she believes that Harry has some nutritional deficiencies that will need to be addressed. She thinks Harry’s magic will see a rapid growth once we do that.”

Remus nods. “None of that was entirely unexpected.”

“Harry also has none of the vaccinations normally required to start at Hogwarts, and this was the first time anyone had performed a comprehensive medical examination on him,” Sirius says. “Diana was incredibly upset by that.”

Remus frowns. “Did someone waive the requirements?”

Sirius shrugs. “Who knows? Dumbledore might have, for reasons of his own. Perhaps he didn’t want anyone questioning whether the Dursleys were appropriate guardians for Harry. Dumbledore said something to me after the trial to that extent, that I didn’t have all the information.”

Remus nods slowly. “Okay, setting that aside for now, that can’t be all of it.”

“It’s not,” Sirius replies grimly. “The night before, Harry had a nightmare. I thought perhaps I could interrupt it a little more gently if I tried legilimency. It wasn’t a nightmare, Moony. Harry was watching as Voldemort ordered someone killed. I haven’t been able to confirm it, yet, but I have no doubt that a Muggle was killed that night because he stumbled across Voldemort.”

Sirius can see the realization dawning over Remus’ face. “The scar—it’s more than that, isn’t it?”

“Diana has a colleague who may be able to help, but she thinks that Lily may have done some kind of ritual to protect Harry, and that it’s still protecting him,” Sirius confirms. “But yes, it does appear that Harry is carrying a piece of Voldemort in his scar.”

Remus sips his tea thoughtfully. “That could explain things.”

“What things?” Sirius asks.

Remus shrugs. “Why did the killing curse rebound, leaving only a scar? Why did Voldemort disappear, but not completely? How would he come back in the first place?”

“What are you thinking about?” Sirius asks.

Remus shakes his head. “I have been to a lot of dark places in the world, Padfoot, including areas where the Death Eaters have a hold. They thought that Voldemort could defeat death; it’s one of the reasons they agreed to follow him. What if he did?”

“How?” Sirius asks, thinking about the Veil and the doors, and his own ability to come back from the dead.

“There’s a rumor of a rumor of a way to split your soul,” Remus says slowly. “And if there’s a piece of your soul still around, then you cannot be killed, not really.”

Sirius remembers the prophecy, predicting that neither could live while the other survives, and he wonders if that piece of Voldemort in Harry’s scar has something to do with it. “How do you split your soul?” Sirius muses.

Remus shakes his head. “No one has ever really said, and I’m not sure I want to know, to be honest. But if that’s what Voldemort has done, we would need to know how many times he’s done so, and where those pieces are.”

Sirius runs a hand through his hair. “If that’s the case, then the only hope for Harry is to discover and destroy those pieces.”

“I’m afraid so,” Remus agrees. “And it seems like Harry’s scar is the first step.”

“Harry was pretty upset,” Sirius admits. “I told him to focus on the fact that he still has Lily’s protection, and her love is what’s keeping him safe.”

Remus smiles. “I think that was exactly the right thing to say. Harry should be reminded of how much his parents loved him. HIs aunt and uncle certainly did him no favors in that regard.”

Sirius knows that to be true, and he’s hopeful that this summer will give Harry a firm base on which to grow. “Thanks. I really didn’t know what else to say to him. He was nearly distraught at the idea that he was carrying around a piece of Voldemort.”

“And no wonder,” Remus replies. “Did the healer give you a time frame?”

“We’re having dinner with them tonight, and she said she would have something for us then,” Sirius replies. “If we need to extend our time in Paris, I’m willing to do it.”

Remus nods. “Of course. I’ll be happy to stay until the next full moon at least.”

“I hope it won’t take that long,” Sirius admits. “Besides, we definitely need to visit Grimmauld Place, to see if my brother’s things hold some clue.”

“Do you have reason to think your brother would have known, besides his place in Voldemort’s inner circle?” Remus asks.

Sirius nods. “I do, but it’s not something I can really get into.”

He remembers Regulus’ cryptic comment about Kreacher, but Sirius can’t tell Remus that he’d seen his brother beyond the Veil.

Harry pokes his head inside. “Is it safe to come in?”

“We’re done talking about the Healer, yes,” Sirius confirms.

“Do you think we could go to the park again?” Harry asks with a hopeful expression. “I’d kind of like to play some Quidditch today.”

Sirius is glad to be able to some small thing for Harry, especially after last night. “Yes, of course. Whenever you’d like. Moony?”

“I could stand to get some fresh air,” Remus agrees readily.

Harry grins, relieved. “Great. Thanks. I’ll just go get changed.”

The walk to the park is pleasant, the sun bright but not too warm, and the skies above are clear. There are a couple of games going on when they arrive, and while Lionel isn’t there, Meline is, and she immediately waves Harry over.

Harry is immediately swallowed up in a group of kids his own age, and Remus smiles broadly. “Clearly, yesterday went really well.”

“I think it’s good for Harry to get out of Hogwarts,” Sirius replies. “Ordinarily, he would have had contact with other kids before school, and during breaks.”

Remus nudges Sirius’ shoulder with his own. “Don’t beat yourself up, Pads. You’re giving him what he needs this summer. Just look at him now.”

Harry has apparently taken the position of Chaser, and his practice with Lionel seems to have helped, because he’s doing well, passing the Quaffle and catching it on the fly.

“He’s doing really well,” Sirius agrees. “At least we a few more weeks left of the summer.”

Sirius doesn’t mind staying in the park as long as Harry likes. He takes a break for lunch, but then goes right back to it, this time playing Keeper for a different group.

He only wishes that Harry would be playing Quidditch at Hogwarts this year, so Sirius could go to the games. But there would be the year after that, and Sirius wants to make sure that Harry can face his fifth year without the threat of Voldemort hanging over him.

Sirius has every intention of making sure that Harry can at least enjoy this year at Hogwarts.

 


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enigmaticblue

I'm an attorney by day, fanfic writer by night. I have a husband, three spoiled cats, and a penchant for really good stories. If I'm not working, writing, or reading, I'm probably in the kitchen, whipping up a new recipe and drinking wine.

5 Comments:

  1. Oh man, I’m already hooked. I’ve rearranged my entire day so I can continue reading uninterrupted.

  2. A lovely continuation. Love how much Harry gained from his summer in France. It’s so nice to see a Harry that seems his full potential.
    Thank you

  3. Bloody Fantastic start.

  4. greywolfthewanderer

    bloody marvelous, this is!! off to a great start; I’m off to read the next bit!

  5. So excellent! I can tell theres no sleep for me tonight…thank you! :). I love when Harry gets actual care and adults do…adulting. it continues to set off a major eye roll for me though that three events involving four people and not even changing the pitch until late in the year cancels quidditch. I feel like jkr got tired of writing games

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