Title: Stronger At the Broken Places
Series: The Many Lives of Sirius Black
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.
Part the Fifth: In Which Sirius Faces the Wizengamot (Again)
The last few days before the start of the semester are spent mostly goofing off. Harry hasn’t spent much time in London, other than the trips to Diagon Alley before school, so they spend time touring the city. Sirius and Remus take Harry around the city to landmarks both Muggle and wizarding.
They get takeaway, and eat out at a couple of nicer Muggle restaurants, and generally just spend some time together.
Harry has already had a letter from Lionel, and he writes back enthusiastically, sending Hedwig off that same day. Sirius appreciates the time they spend together, knowing that he won’t see Harry again until the holidays.
Although he does have the communication mirrors, and that reminds him to sit down with Harry before the start of the school year.
That evening, Harry is reading in the study, and Sirius is reviewing some of his research with Remus.
“Harry, I wanted to give you something before school starts,” Sirius says.
Harry sits up from his sprawl on the couch. “I don’t really need anything else, Padfoot.”
Sirius smiles. “It’s not that kind of gift. You still have the medallion that Louise gave you?”
Harry pulls it out from under his shirt. “I never take it off.”
“Good,” Sirius replies. “This gift is along those same lines.” He pulls the communication mirrors that he’d retrieved from his vault at the bank. “The difference is that these will work even inside Hogwarts’ wards.”
Harry accepts the mirror and flips it open. “Is this—“
“A communication mirror,” Sirius confirms. “I’ll keep mine on me. That way, if anything happens, or if you need my help or advice, or even just to talk, you can open it up. The mirrors are joined, so I’ll get an alert.”
Harry’s expression is indescribable, and Sirius can hear him swallow hard. “Really?”
Sirius isn’t quite sure what’s hitting Harry so hard, and he says, “Really. Any time you need me, Harry, I’ll be on the other side of that mirror. Unless I’m in the middle of a Wizengamot session, and then I might not be able to answer, but I’ll try.”
Harry turns the mirror over in his hands, but doesn’t reply. “You want to tell me what’s going on in your head right now, pup?” Sirius asks gently.
“It’s just—I’ve never had anybody I could…” He trails off, clearly choked up, and Sirius goes to sit next to him on the couch, pulling him into a hug. Harry shakes his head. “Sorry. I don’t mean to be a baby.”
“You aren’t,” Sirius assures him, holding him tightly. “I know what it’s like, love. I never want you to feel like you’re alone, because you’re not.”
Harry turns his face into Sirius’ shoulder, and while Sirius doesn’t think he’s crying, not in earnest, he shudders a bit.
Remus gets up silently and mouths, “I’ll make tea,” and Sirius nods.
“I don’t want to cramp your style,” Sirius says slowly, “but I do hope you’ll use that mirror as often as you like. I’m going to miss the hell out of you.”
Harry laughs, although it’s a watery sound. “What style? I’m pretty sure I don’t have any. And I’m going to miss you, too. It’s the first year I haven’t wanted to go back to Hogwarts.”
“We’re going to have more time together,” Sirius promises, and maybe it’s reckless, but he is a Gryffindor, after all. “We’ll go to the farmhouse for Christmas, and see Lionel and his family. Hell, if you don’t mind too terribly, I might find my way to Hogsmeade during one of those weekends.”
Harry nods. “I don’t mind. But you’ll have to give me permission to go. I didn’t have a signed form last year.”
“I already sent that off to Professor McGonagall,” Sirius admits. “Just on the off-chance you wouldn’t mind me turning up at the Three Broomsticks. You have be able to go to Hogsmeade to make that work.”
Harry laughs and pulls back. “Thanks.”
Sirius doesn’t ask what Harry is thankful for, he just ruffles his hair. “Of course.”
Remus comes back, and Kreacher pops in with a tea tray. “Wolfy says you need tea,” Kreacher grumbles.
Harry snorts at the nickname. “Thank you, Kreacher. It was for me.”
“Master Black not be upsetting Master Harry,” Kreacher says.
“He didn’t upset me,” Harry is quick to say. “He just gave me something very precious, that’s all.”
Kreacher huffs and stomps out of the room.
“I think he likes me,” Harry says cheekily.
“He certainly likes you more than he likes me,” Sirius agrees. “You sure you’re okay?”
Harry nods. “Yeah, I’m good, Padfoot. Hopefully, this year is better, but knowing there’s someone I can call is just—well, I appreciate it.”
Sirius kisses the top of his head. “You are very welcome.”
Sirius hires a car to take them from the townhouse to King’s Cross Station. Hedwig’s cage has been shrunk down and put in Harry’s trunk, since Hedwig is off delivering another letter to Lionel, and will know to fly to Hogwarts.
He’s reluctant to send Harry away, but he knows it’s for the best, and he puts on a brave face.
They get Harry’s things unloaded onto a luggage cart, and then they pass through the barrier onto Platform 9 3/4. It’s busy, but there’s still about thirty minutes until the train is scheduled to leave. The Weasleys are nowhere in sight, but Harry spots Hermione and Neville right away.
Sirius and Remus go over to greet the Grangers cordially, making their reacquaintance. Then, Augusta Longbottom approaches, with additional introductions all around.
Augusta can be quite charming—when she’s not being terribly intimidating—and she’s gracious to the Grangers. “Your daughter is quite the impressive young lady,” she says. “According to my grandson.”
Hermione blushes and glances over at Neville. “Really?”
“You’re first in our class,” Neville says. “I was just being honest.”
The Grangers are both beaming. “We’re very proud of her,” her father admits.
They chat about the rest of the summer, just catching up on what they’d done on their holidays. Five minutes before the train is due to leave, the Weasleys show up on the platform en masse.
Sirius catches the grin that Hermione, Harry, and Neville exchange as Molly Weasley calls out instructions and imprecations and words of affection to her children. She catches sight of them and waves, rushing over.
“Oh, Harry!” Molly says warmly. “Don’t you look wonderful? This summer was good for you!”
Harry grins and accepts her hug. “It really was.”
Molly pulls back and holds him by the shoulders. “I can see that.” She turns an approving eye towards Sirius and Remus. “I see you’ve been feeding him well. He doesn’t look nearly so thin.”
Harry blushes brightly.
“I have to give Remus the credit there,” Sirius admits. “He’s an excellent cook.”
Molly smiles. “Well, it’s just good to see Harry looking so well.”
“We should really get on the train,” Hermione says.
“Right,” Sirius replies. “You should.”
There are more goodbyes, and Sirius is glad to accept Harry’s tight, hard hug. “Love you, pup.”
“Love you, too, Padfoot,” Harry whispers, before treating Remus to a similar embrace.
Sirius has to take a deep breath and get his emotions under control so he can wave goodbye with a smile on his face.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Mr. Granger says quietly. “In case you were wondering.”
Sirius coughs. “That obvious?”
“Hermione told us a little bit about Harry’s situation,” he admits. “And knowing Harry was with you brought Hermione peace of mind.”
“That’s good to know,” Sirius admits.
Augusta clears her throat. “Is anyone interested in breakfast?”
“I could eat,” Sirius admits.
Everyone else begs off, but Sirius suspects that Augusta is pleased by that, since it gives them an opportunity to speak privately.
“I take it the rest of your summer went well,” she says as they settle into seats at a small cafe near King’s Cross. Sirius has never been there before, but the cafe is divided into two areas, one that’s clearly for Muggles, and the other for wizards. Sirius sees other parents from the platform, also enjoying a post-delivery brunch.
“It did,” Sirius replies. “Aside from the unpleasantness at the World Cup, it was uneventful.”
Augusta snorts. “Please. It would have been far worse if you hadn’t been there, from what I hear.”
Sirius shrugs, trying to appear modest. “We were in the right place at the right time.”
“And Harry was well out of the mix,” Augusta observes sharply.
“His friend’s parents didn’t want him out all night, and we all know that those sorts of events can draw the wrong sort of attention.”
August appears to let that go. “What’s your first order of business with the Wizengamot?”
“Announcing the trust that will provide Wolfsbane for free to anyone who needs it, as well as announcing a large grant earmarked for the DMLE,” Sirius replies.
Augusta laughs delightedly. “You’re not going slow, are you?”
Sirius shakes his head. “Why should I? If all eyes are on me, they might not pay as much attention to Harry.”
Augusta nods slowly. “Perhaps. It’s not a bad strategy. They’ll be trying both of the Crouches during the session. Are you ready for that?”
“I’ll abstain from voting when it comes to Senior,” Sirius admits. “I’ve thought about it long and hard, but I can’t risk looking biased, and I have more reason than most to want to see him in Azkaban.”
Augusta nods approvingly. “I was going to suggest as much, so I’m glad you came to that conclusion on your own.”
“What about you?” Sirius asks. “What is your first order of business?”
“I plan on suggesting that the Ministry match your donation to the DMLE and reinforce due process procedures,” Augusta says grimly. “Especially since Senior will be getting more of a trial than you received.”
“It’s appreciated,” Sirius replies. “I might as well tell you that I’ve disinherited Bellatrix formally, and I’ve seized her vaults. There’s a curse breaker going through them now, but once he and the bank have taken their cut, the rest will be donated to St. Mungo’s spell damage ward.”
Augusta blinks rapidly. “That’s very kind of you, Sirius.”
“I don’t want her money,” Sirius says firmly. “And I don’t need it. I’d rather put it to some good use, and I can think of nothing better.”
Augusta smiles wistfully. “I do wish there was something more to be done for Frank and Alice, but even the best mind healers haven’t been able to do anything for them.”
“I’ve been Crucioed in the past,” Sirius admits. “That kind of pain can drive a person to madness, and you carry the memory of that pain for the rest of your life.”
Augusta nods. “I know you fought in the last war.”
“I wish I could have done more,” Sirius replies.
“We do what we can,” Augusta says. “I’ll look forward to seeing you at the Wizengamot session in a couple of weeks.”
He and Remus head back to Grimmauld Place, and when they enter, Sirius calls, “Dobby!”
“Harry Potter’s Paddy called Dobby?” Dobby asks, popping into the hallway.
“I hear you want paid work,” Sirius says with a smile.
Dobby nods. “Oh, yes, but no one wants to pay a house elf.”
“As it happens, I do,” Sirius replies. “I’d be happy to pay you to keep an eye on Harry this year. I know there are Death Eaters at that school, and you can get past the wards.”
Dobby actually looks torn. “Dobby would protect Harry Potter for free.”
“I know, that’s why I trust you to do it right,” Sirius replies. “I’ll give you a galleon a month.”
Dobby still seems conflicted, but he nods. “I accept your offer.”
“Great,” Sirius replies and pulls a galleon from his pocket. “That’s for the first month.”
Dobby pops away, and Remus chuckles. “I didn’t think you were actually going to hire Dobby.”
“Like I said, I know there are Death Eaters at Hogwarts, and while Harry has Ron and Hermione to watch his back, Dobby can come get me in case of an emergency,” Sirius points out. “And Dobby is completely loyal to Harry.”
“I didn’t say you were wrong to do so,” Remus replies, still sounding amused. “I think you should take every possible step in keeping Harry safe. I just didn’t realize you were going so far as to hire a house elf.”
“Who else is going to hire him?” Sirius asks. “Other than Harry.”
“True enough,” Remus says. “What are we going to do for the rest of the day?”
Sirius grins at him. “Oh, I can think of a few things.”
And then he pulls Remus in for a kiss, and they proceed to enjoy their empty house.
The next two weeks prior to the Wizengamot session are spent preparing. They go to Gringotts and set up the trust to dispense Wolfsbane to anyone who wants to use it, and still remain anonymous. Sirius goes over his accounts and the estate, and makes plans to visit Black Manor after the Wizengamot session.
He’s rather dreading that, since he knows there will be the family portraits to deal with there.
Sirius sends a letter to Narcissa, notifying her that he plans to excise anyone with the Dark Mark from the family tree, and invites her to visit him if she wishes to avoid that fate. The day before the Wizengamot session, he receives an owl from Andromeda.
Remus is poring over the books, checking on the financial status of the estates, since he has a better head for numbers than Sirius does. That’s a bit ironic, since Remus doesn’t have much money of his own—except for what Sirius is currently paying him, of course—but true all the same.
He glances up when the owl taps its beak on the window, and Sirius looks up from one of the tomes on dark magic he found in the Black family library, trying to find a way to track down the pieces of Voldemort’s soul.
For Harry, Sirius would engage in the darkest of magic.
The large eagle owl is unfamiliar to him, and he opens the window. It flies inside, landing on Sirius’ desk, and Sirius takes the letter that’s tied to its leg.
“Who is it from?” Remus asks.
“Andromeda,” Sirius says, a little surprised. “I didn’t think I’d hear from her before the session.”
“What does she say?” he asks.
Sirius quickly scans the letter. “Well, she congratulates me on being innocent and proving it, and she says that she appreciates the invitation to rejoin the family, but she would like to meet with me first.”
“Seems reasonable,” Remus says. “She probably wants to be sure you aren’t a raving lunatic after spending so much time in Azkaban.”
“Oh, thank you very much,” Sirius says dryly.
Remus smiles at him fondly. “Well, you were a bit unhinged for a little while.”
Sirius can’t exactly argue with that. “Anyway, she proposes meeting after the Wizengamot session.”
“Does she want to see what you’re going to do when you take your seat?” Remus asks.
“I would,” Sirius admits. “If she accepts my offer, I’ll be the head of her house. Andy always had a pragmatic head on her shoulders, and I imagine she’s thinking about her daughter.”
“How old is she?” Remus asks.
Sirius grimaces. “You know, I have no idea. She’s older than Harry, maybe in her twenties?”
“Do you know what she does?” Remus asks.
Sirius, of course, does know, but he shouldn’t. “No, I don’t, but just about any job would likely get a boost from having a relative in my position. Unfortunately, being tied to a pure-blood family does improve the chances of a good placement, and a good marriage.”
“If that’s the sort of thing she even wants,” Remus points out.
Sirius shrugs. “It’s always good to have options.”
Remus tips his head in acknowledgment. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to invite her over for dinner,” Sirius replies easily. “Her and her husband, right after the Wizengamot session.”
Sirius’ communication mirror chirps, and Sirius frowns. He’s had a couple of owls from Harry, but no communication through the mirrors. He picks it up hastily and opens the mirror. “Harry? Is everything okay?”
Harry frowns. “Sorry, was I not supposed to use the mirror except for emergencies?”
“No, you just hadn’t used it yet,” Sirius hastens to assure him. “How are you?”
Harry grins. “Good. Really good, actually. I’m really enjoying my classes.”
Remus comes to lean over Sirius’ shoulder. “Hi, Harry.”
“Hey, Moony,” Harry says readily. “Did the full moon go okay?”
“Not even a hitch in my step,” Remus assures him. “Are you staying out of trouble?”
“Malfoy is being a prat, but what else is new?” Harry asks philosophically. “Mad-Eye, I mean, Professor Moody, is great. Not as great as you, but still pretty great. He has a lot of stories, and I think I’m the only one who doesn’t jump when he shouts ‘constant vigilance.’ Apparently, I got used to it when he stayed with us.”
Sirius laughs. “Good. I thought Moody would be a good professor, especially for the practical applications.”
“Well, that is what I’m best at, but I’m developing a love for the theory, too,” Harry admits.
“How has Snape been?” Sirius asks.
Harry laughs. “Oh, he’s absolutely furious. Hermione and I started a study group, and we’ve been using the Room of Requirement as a potions lab. He hasn’t been able to find fault with anybody in the study group, and it’s driving him absolutely insane.”
Sirius laughs delightedly. “Now, that is the best prank I’ve heard of in a long time.”
“And he can’t even take exception,” Harry adds. “Some of the students have their parents sending extra potion ingredients, so we’re not taking anything from the school.”
“Why didn’t you tell me, pup?” Sirius asks. “I’ll send you anything you need, and anything I can’t send through owl post, I’ll bring with me to the next Hogsmeade weekend.”
Harry grins. “Thanks, Padfoot. I didn’t want to presume, but I kind of hoped you’d offer.”
“You can presume all you want with me, pup,” Sirius says. “Ask for what you need.”
Harry’s smile turns pleased and shy. “I will. Anyway, I really just wanted to call you and wish you good luck at the Wizengamot tomorrow. That, and I miss you.”
Sirius smiles, feeling a little choked up. “Miss you, too. And thank you. I appreciate the call, and you can call any time you like, even if you just want to complain about Snape.”
Remus nudges him. “Professor Snape.”
“He’s not my professor,” Sirius protests.
“You shouldn’t encourage disrespect,” Remus chides.
“I’m perfectly polite with Professor Snape, Moony,” Harry says. “And if Sirius was polite about Snape, I’d wonder whether he was under an Imperius.”
“Good,” Sirius says. “The less you give him to complain about, the unhappier he’ll be.”
Harry laughs. “That’s what I thought, too. You’re going to let me know how the session goes, right?”
“I’ll call you,” Sirius promises. “Right after. Promise.”
Harry smiles. “Okay. Love you both.”
“Love you, too, Harry,” Sirius says, and Remus echoes him.
It’s a gift, Sirius thinks, after Harry closes the mirror and the connection ends. It’s such a gift.
Remus squeezes his shoulder. “He reminds me so much of Lily.”
Sirius sighs. “I wish more people would see that. They look at him and see James. I loved James like a brother, but I feel as though Lily is too often forgotten.”
“He has his mother’s eyes,” Remus says.
“He does,” Sirius replies. “I miss him. I know we’ve been busy, but I still miss him.”
“The next Hogsmeade weekend is coming up soon,” Remus says. “We can go to the Three Broomsticks.”
“I’m really glad he called,” Sirius says. “I didn’t want to overstep.”
“I think you can probably call him,” Remus replies, sounding a bit amused. “For better or for worse, you’re his only parent.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Moony,” Sirius reminds him. “You were their friend, too.”
Remus hesitates. “I’m not his parent.”
“You’re his family,” Sirius reminds him. “You’re his Uncle Moony. Don’t forget that.”
Remus pulls him close. “You gave me that. I would have found something else to do, and I wouldn’t have been in a position to be anything to him.”
Sirius doesn’t try to argue, because he knows it’s true. “I should write Andy back.”
“You should,” Remus says, “and then we should go to bed.”
“This won’t take me long,” Sirius says, but he’s glad to have heard from Andromeda, and to have Harry call him. There’s something inside him that settled with Harry’s call, knowing that Harry misses him means everything.
He never had an opportunity in the past to have Harry stay in contact in a way that didn’t put them both at risk. He’s grateful for it.
The day of the first Wizengamot session dawns clear and sunny, the temperature warmer than usual for mid-September. Sirius dresses as carefully for this session as he did for his trial, knowing that he’s going to be scrutinized by the other members.
He wants to project an aura of confidence and power, because that’s what will be expected of him as Lord Black.
Sirius never wanted this responsibility, but he’s ready to embrace it.
Remus’ eyebrows go up when he sees Sirius’ outfit. “Dragonhide?”
“Too much?” Sirius asks.
“Depends on what you’re going for,” Remus replies with the hint of a smile.
“Confidence and power,” Sirius says.
“I think you’ve got that nailed.” Remus adjusts his own dark blue robes. He’s dressed somberly, in the kind of robes that will allow him to blend into the background, although it’s of good quality.
Sirius, in contrast, is wearing dragon hide trousers and a waistcoat in black, with a gray, silk shirt that matches his eyes. His robes are lined in silver, with a subtle pattern woven into the black fabric. It’s slightly ostentatious, but Sirius figures that it doesn’t hurt to remind people that he’s more than a match for people like Lucius Malfoy.
And to remind people that he plans to throw his considerable resources at defeating Voldemort.
They arrive at the Ministry early, since Sirius is hoping to catch Amelia Bones before the session opens to give her a heads up on his plans. Instead, Fudge waves him over, and Sirius holds back a sigh.
“Once more into the breach,” Remus murmurs.
Sirius snorts. “The real question is whose arse is he more interested in kissing? Mine or Malfoy’s?”
Fudge smiles as he holds out a hand for Sirius to shake. “Lord Black, it’s good to see you again.”
“It’s good to see you, as well,” Sirius lies. “How have you been?”
“Good, good,” Fudge says, and then he turns to a short, squat woman when she clears her throat. “Have you met Undersecretary Umbridge?”
Sirius smiles thinly. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”
Umbridge simpers at him. “It’s an honor to meet you, Lord Black.”
“Minister, you remember my chamberlain, Remus Lupin,” Sirius says smoothly.
Based on the look of disgust that crosses Umbridge’s face, she somehow knows about Remus’ furry problem. Fudge, at least, manages a neutral expression. “Of course, Mr. Lupin, it’s good to see you again as well.”
Remus smiles pleasantly, as though he hadn’t seen Umbridge’s obvious moue of disgust. “Minister.”
“Can you give me a preview of your plans?” Fudge asks.
Sirius spots Amelia Bones. “I plan to announce a grant to the DMLE, as well as a new foundation. But if you’ll forgive me, I really need to have a word with Director Bones before the session begins.”
Fudge nods. “Of course. I do hope your godson is well.”
“He’s doing very well,” Sirius says. “Excuse me.”
Bones seems pleased to see him when Sirius approaches. “Lord Black, good to see you. How’s Harry?”
“Quite well,” Sirius replies. “I hope your niece is doing well. Susan, right?”
“Yes, that’s correct, and she’s enjoying the beginning of term,” Amelia replies. “She’s excited for the Triwizard Tournament. Is Harry?”
“Harry mentioned the tournament in one of his first letters home, and he sounded disappointed that they were canceling Quidditch for the year,” Sirius admits. “Although his academic load is heavier, so he could probably use the extra time to study.”
The chime to indicate the beginning of the session sounds, and Sirius says quickly, “I plan on announcing a grant to the DMLE. I wanted to give you advanced warning.”
“After the events at the World Cup, we could use all the support we can get,” Amelia admits. “I can’t believe we had Death Eaters running around again.” She pauses. “I know you have your own duties, but your actions at the World Cup were impressive. Have you thought about becoming an Auror, even part time?”
“Are you asking me to help you hunt down Death Eaters?” Sirius asks.
The second chime sounds, and Amelia nods. “I am.”
“I’d be delighted to accept,” Sirius replies. “Anything I can do to make Harry safer.”
“We have to get in there,” Amelia says. “It was good to see you, Lord Black.”
“You as well, Director Bones,” Sirius says, and then he exchanges a look with Remus before striding into the chamber. He finds his seat for the first time, which is quite the change from when he appeared here last.
The chamber is largely dark, with only those on the floor illuminated at present. Sirius watches as Amelia takes her seat as head of the DMLE. Fudge and Umbridge are also seated, and Sirius wonders if he’s going to need to get rid of her somehow.
Dumbledore is presiding over the session, and he calls them to order. “Our first order of business is to welcome and recognize our new member, Sirius Black, who has taken the seat left open upon the death of Arcturus Black.”
There are murmurs around the room, and Sirius half-stands as he’s recognized.
“Our second order of business is, unfortunately, not so pleasant,” Dumbledore continues. “Please bring in Bartemius Crouch, Jr.”
Sirius sits back in his seat. He knows how this trial is going to go. There’s no way Barty Crouch, Jr. is going to make it out of here without a sentence of death being imposed.
Well, a sentence of being Kissed, which is worse in Sirius’ opinion.
They drag Junior into the chamber and push him into the chair, and immediately chains wrap around him, securing him tightly.
Junior immediately begins shouting. “The Dark Lord will return! He will return, and the entire world will bow at his feet! You’ll regret—“
Dumbledore pulls out his wand and says, “Silencio,” and the chamber goes quiet for a long, tense moment.
“Bartemius Crouch, Jr., you stand accused of escaping from Azkaban,” Dumbledore intones. “As you were previously sentenced to life imprisonment, and you were caught at the Quidditch World Cup, there is no question that you are guilty. The only question is what your sentence will be.”
“He should be Kissed!” someone in the Wizengamot calls out. Sirius can’t tell who the speaker was, but that sentiment is soon echoed by others.
Sirius maintains his silence, as he refuses to advocate for such a sentence, not when he’d nearly been Kissed himself.
Dumbledore calls for order. “We’ll take a vote. Those in favor of Mr. Crouch Jr. being Kissed, light your wands.”
The vast majority of those in attendance light their wands, although Sirius refrains, and he notices that Augusta does as well.
The outcome was never in any doubt, and Sirius isn’t sorry that Junior is going to be Kissed, not when he knows what a threat he is to Harry. Still, he wishes it weren’t necessary.
“The sentence is to be carried out immediately,” Dumbledore says, his tone heavy and sad. “Please remove him.”
Junior is carried out, still fighting the silencing spell, and Sirius can only hope that his sentence serves as a warning to other Death Eaters in the audience.
“Bring in Bartemius Crouch, Sr.,” Dumbledore calls.
Senior is escorted into the chamber, looking so pale his skin is nearly gray, the lines in his face deeper than what they had been before.
He’s seated in the chair, but not restrained, probably out of deference for his former position.
“Bartemius Crouch, Sr., you stand accused of assisting your son in escaping from Azkaban,” Dumbledore says. “How do you plead?”
For a moment, Sirius thinks that Senior will fight the charges, and they’ll have to bring in the house elf to give testimony. Considering most wizards don’t think much of house elves, that may be a tough sell.
Crouch pulls himself up straight, and then his shoulders slump. “Guilty.”
“But why, man?” Fudge asks plaintively, leaning forward.
Sirius knows that they’d been colleagues for years, and Fudge is only saying what everyone else in the chamber is thinking.
Senior looks up, and Sirius can see him trembling. “My wife begged me. It was her dying wish that our son be out of Azkaban.”
There are murmurs from around the chamber, and as excuses go, Sirius figures it’s not a bad one.
“Director Bones, what is the ordinary sentence for helping someone to escape from Azkaban?” Dumbledore asks.
Amelia leans forward. “The ordinary sentence for such an act is twenty years.”
Dumbledore nods. “We’ll take a vote. Lord Black, I would expect you to abstain, given your history with the accused.”
Sirius is a little nettled by Dumbledore’s assumption that he doesn’t know his business, but he tries to keep that irritation off his face, and out of his voice. “It was my intention to abstain from voting, Headmaster, but if I may be allowed to speak. As you said, we have a history.”
Dumbledore inclines his head. “Of course.”
Sirius stands, and his seat is illuminated. He can feel all eyes on him, other than Senior’s, who’s staring at the floor. “Mr. Crouch was instrumental in sending me to Azkaban without a trial,” he begins. “And his actions could have had serious consequences. Those of us who fought in the last war remember his son as a vicious Death Eater, and as you all heard today, he remains an ardent follower of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
He can tell that the whole room is focused on him. “However, Mr. Crouch, Jr. was recaptured, and no one was hurt. In fact, the most harm has come to the son, and to Mr. Crouch here, who has lost his reputation, and his position. Those of us with children know how far we would go to protect them. We cannot overlook the seriousness of the offense, but I am urging this body to show him mercy.”
Dumbledore’s expression is speculative as Sirius sits back down, and he can see the surprise on Fudge and Amelia’s faces. Sirius knows that Blacks generally have reputations as vicious bastards. His grandfather certainly wouldn’t have recommended mercy.
But Sirius wants to remind those assembled that he will go to any lengths to protect Harry.
Augusta asks to be recognized, and Dumbledore gives her the floor. “Madame Longbottom.”
“Lord Black’s urge for mercy is kind, but Mr. Crouch’s actions put many at risk,” she says, “including my own grandson. That said, Mr. Crouch has devoted his life to the Ministry, and twenty years in Azkaban would essentially be a death sentence.”
“Funny, that Lord Black speaks of mercy when he has none to show for his own family,” Malfoy drawls, without asking to be recognized.
Sirius isn’t above getting a jab of his own in. “Ancient and Noble families don’t air their personal disputes in public, although the Malfoys aren’t as old a family as the Blacks. Perhaps Mr. Malfoy missed that lesson.”
There are titters around the chamber, probably because it’s a line often heard in wizarding households. Family business is kept inside the family. It’s not necessarily a sentiment that Sirius shares, at least not always, but it’s one he doesn’t mind using against Malfoy.
“Order,” Dumbledore calls, although there’s the hint of a smile playing around his mouth, and Sirius suspects the old man hates Lucius Malfoy nearly as much as he does. “Lord Black and Madame Longbottom have argued for mercy. What say the rest of the Wizengamot?”
Fudge leans forward. “Mr. Crouch has long been a friend to the Ministry. I also call for mercy.”
Sirius knows that he and Augusta had opened the door for Fudge. As the Minister, he couldn’t make that request himself and not face a lot of political heat.
Which means that Fudge is going to owe Sirius, and that means it’s his arse that Fudge will want to kiss, not Malfoy’s.
Fudge is a useful tool for the moment; Sirius will just need to ensure that Umbridge isn’t in a position to harm Harry or anyone else. There ought to be a way to discredit her at least.
Amelia clears her throat. “Perhaps, in light of the arguments raised, we might decrease the penalty to five years.”
Dumbledore nods. “We’ll put it to a vote.”
This vote is close, but mercy wins out. Barty Crouch, Sr. is sentenced to five years in Azkaban, and is led away, his shoulders sagging.
Sirius is surprised at the jolt of pity he feels for the man, but maybe it’s because Sirius knows how miserable Azkaban is, and knows the chances are good that Crouch won’t last six months. Even if he does, he will never be the same.
“On to the next order of business,” Dumbledore says into the hushed and somber chamber. “I believe Lord Black has an announcement to make.”
Sirius gets to his feet smoothly. “I’ve created a new foundation that will dispense Wolfsbane for free to anyone who needs it. The affliction of lycanthropy can affect anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and as Greyback hasn’t been captured yet, and he was a supporter of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I want to do my part.”
There are murmurs throughout the chamber. Sirius ignores them. “In addition, I am giving a grant of five hundred thousand galleons to the DMLE to support their efforts. Obviously, the events at the Quidditch World Cup indicate that there are still followers of You-Know-Who at large. We need to shore up our defenses. We cannot allow Death Eaters to terrorize us again.”
Sirius had carefully tailored his speech to draw the least amount of ire. Only Death Eaters would disagree with the sentiment.
Augusta asks to be recognized and says, “I think we can all agree that the DMLE needs to be funded if we’re seeing a rise in terroristic activities. I have to believe that my son would be in this seat had the Lestranges not tortured him, and better funding is paramount. I would encourage an authorization from this body for increased funding so we can hire and train more Aurors.”
That sparks other testimonials from other Wizengamot members who had suffered depredations from Death Eaters in the past. The horrors of the last war are still real for many.
Malfoy is clearly furious, unable to keep his expression neutral. Sirius knows Lucius is a true Death Eater. As far as Sirius knows, it’s only the Malfoys’ wealth and status that kept him out of Azkaban, allowing Lucius to maintain the fiction that he’d been put under the Imperius curse.
But on this occasion, Sirius and Augusta have neatly boxed in Voldemort’s supporters. With Sirius using his own money, there aren’t many who can speak against him. He’s not asking for the laws regarding werewolves to change, and he’s already put up a substantial sum of money from his own pocket. The Death Eaters’ aborted attack at the Quidditch World Cup makes the rest of the Wizengamot eager to go along with additional funding to the DMLE.
By the end of the session, Sirius and Augusta have managed to get their initial agenda pushed through, with the Wizengamot voting to provide funding for at least ten additional Aurors.
It’s not enough, but it will do for a start. And it’s possible that they won’t need them if Sirius manages to get the horcruxes and destroys Voldemort before Harry has to face him.
His first Wizengamot session is over, and Sirius gets to his feet. He greets Augusta on the floor, and accepts the welcoming words from some of the other Wizengamot members, including Griselda Marchbanks and Tiberius Ogden.
Fudge bustles up to him, all smiles. “Lord Black, thank you for your kind words for Mr. Crouch today. I’m glad that someone could recognize how out of character this was for him.”
Sirius bites back the words he would like to say, instead landing on, “His actions were misguided, but having recently taken custody of my godson, I know the lengths someone will go for family.”
“A word, if I may, my boy,” Dumbledore says genially.
Sirius smiles. “Of course, Chief Warlock. I’d be happy to speak with you. If you’ll excuse me, Minister Fudge.”
Fudge nods. “I hope I can count on your continued support, Lord Black.”
Sirius nods. “I’m sure our interests will align, Minister Fudge.”
Dumbledore beckons to Sirius. “Perhaps we could find a more private location.”
“Happy to,” Sirius replies.
He follows Dumbledore out of the chamber and finds Remus waiting for him just outside the chamber. “The Chief Warlock wants to have a word with us, Moony,” he says.
“Actually, just you, Sirius,” Dumbledore says.
Sirius hums. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Remus has been an invaluable support this past summer, as I’m sure you can understand.”
Dumbledore’s twinkle dims slightly. “If you insist.”
“I’m afraid I do,” Sirius replies cheerfully.
He’s not sure why he needs Moony with him for this meeting. Normally, Sirius would agree to meet with Dumbledore alone, and fill Moony in later, but some small voice inside him is insistent, and Sirius decides to listen to his instincts.
They find a private conference room, and Sirius sprawls out in a chair, pretending to an ease that he doesn’t feel.
“I was surprised to hear that you had claimed your title,” Dumbledore says, sounding gently chiding.
Sirius shrugs. “I believe I can best protect Harry this way.”
Dumbledore frowns. “It seems like it will simply put a bigger target on your back.”
“If they’re targeting me, they’re not going after Harry,” Sirius replies pleasantly. “Now, what did you want to speak with me about?”
“While I think that you’ve been good for Harry, I believe it’s for the best for Harry to return to the Dursleys’, at least for the first part of the summer,” Dumbledore says.
Sirius takes a deep breath. “Do you?”
“There are protections for Harry there that you simply cannot match,” Dumbledore tells him.
“Is that right?” Sirius asks sharply. “You know the Potters’ will was quite clear about who was to raise Harry in the event of their deaths. The Dursleys didn’t even make the list.”
Dumbledore’s gentle expression turns more severe. “The protections—“
“Ah, yes, the protections,” Sirius interrupts. “Do you know, I took Harry to a healer this summer? It was the first time he’d ever had a full health scan. Muggle or magical.”
Dumbledore blusters slightly. “I’m sure that can’t be right.”
“The Dursleys never took him to the doctor, and apparently his magical guardian never took him to see a healer either,” Sirius adds. “Director Bones noted some irregularities in his placement as well. Were you the one keeping an eye on him?”
Dumbledore clears his throat. “It was for his safety.”
“I assumed that’s what you would say,” Sirius admits. “But I have to admit, it doesn’t make me feel very confident in your ability to know what Harry needs, since you missed the fact that a piece of Voldemort’s soul was lodged in Harry’s scar.”
Sirius catches Remus’ expression out of the corner of his eye, and he can tell that Moony really wants to laugh, probably because Dumbledore looks like he’s been hit with codfish.
Dumbledore clears his throat. “You said was.”
“I did,” Sirius agrees. “I found a French healer experienced in removing obscuruses, and he used a similar technique for Harry. It’s gone now.”
Dumbledore appears to understand what Sirius isn’t saying. “How much do you know?”
Sirius smiles thinly. “About Voldemort’s soul fragments? I know that one was in Tom Riddle’s diary, and Harry destroyed that during his second year. I recovered a locket from our house elf, Kreacher, who had received it from my brother shortly before his death. I’ve disowned Bellatrix and seized her family vaults. There’s a curse breaker looking for any other artifacts in there. How’s that?”
Dumbledore blinks. “You discovered all of this on your own?”
“Well, Remus was very helpful, and Bill Weasley is the curse breaker assigned to Bella’s vault, so I wouldn’t say I did it alone,” Sirius replies. “I think you heard me in the chamber. There is very little I wouldn’t do to protect Harry, so please, by all means try to tell me that sending Harry back to an abusive situation would be protecting him.”
“Not to mention the fact that Sirius and I would not be very happy if any harm came to Harry while he was with them,” Remus says mildly.
Sirius wasn’t going to mention the fact that Harry’s relatives likely wouldn’t survive harming him in word or deed, so he just smiles.
Dumbledore seems a little stunned by that, probably because the veiled threat is coming from Moony, and not Sirius. Remus has always appeared to be the mild-mannered one.
“So, you see, we have things well in hand,” Sirius replies. “And Harry will not be spending any additional time with the Dursleys. If you’d like to help with hunting down the pieces of Voldemort’s soul, we wouldn’t turn you down.”
“I have some ideas,” Dumbledore admits. “I had my suspicions, but no confirmation.”
Sirius smiles, getting to his feet. “Glad to have been of service. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we really must be going.”
Dumbledore nods. “I’m sure we’ll speak again. I’d like to know whether you find any additional pieces.”
“Of course,” Sirius replies. “I know we want the same thing—to keep Harry safe.”
Dumbledore smiles. “But of course.”
He and Remus begin to leave, and Dumbledore says, “One last thing, my boy. I was a little surprised that you spoke in Barty Crouch’s defense.”
“I’ve nearly been Kissed,” Sirius says quietly. “And I spent more than a decade in Azkaban as an innocent man. Strong emotions can cause a person to make an error in judgment. Crouch was just lucky that the outcome wasn’t worse.”
“Still, it showed a generosity of spirit that I don’t see very often,” Dumbledore comments.
Sirius shrugs. “I have to be a good example for Harry.”
They leave and head to an apparition point, and Sirius is almost glad to see Grimmauld Place again.
“Malfoy is going to be a problem,” Remus comments when they enter the house.
“Oh, I’m certain of it,” Sirius replies. “His comment during the session today demonstrates that. I expect to hear from either him or Narcissa shortly.”
“Nice way to shut things down, though,” Remus comments.
Sirius grins. “Well, old families are notorious for keeping shameful things behind closed doors, and I doubt he really wants everyone to know that I’m starting to excise members of the Black family who were associated with Voldemort. How did you think the rest of it went?”
Remus gives him a look. “I think you know that it went quite well. You accomplished what you set out to do, and you sounded magnanimous with Crouch, which is good for your image.”
“Honestly, I knew it would ingratiate me with Fudge,” Sirius admits. “I want him kissing my arse, not Malfoy’s. Umbridge is going to be a problem, though.” He calls out, “Kreacher!”
“Master Black called?” Kreacher says, sounding a little begrudging, but far happier than he has in the past.
“Would you please prepare tea for us both?” Sirius asks. “I would appreciate it.”
Kreacher glares at him suspiciously. “You want something else from Kreacher?”
“Just tea, and maybe something to nibble on,” Sirius says politely.
Kreacher pops away, and Sirius comments, “My bet is that he and my mother’s portrait gripe about non-pure bloods in private.”
“No bet,” Remus replies, following Sirius into the study. “At least he seems a little happier.”
“Small favors,” Sirius comments.
“And to your point about Umbridge,” Remus says, sprawling out on a chair. “I hope you’re not reacting that way on just my account. Plenty of people feel discomfort around werewolves.”
“First of all, I don’t like the fact that she knows,” Sirius says. “An Undersecretary has no business knowing about your private medical condition.”
Remus sighs. “You know the Ministry tends to keep track of known werewolves, right? She probably accessed those records. But you seem sure that she’s a danger.”
“I am sure,” Sirius replies. “Trust me, the sooner we can discredit her, and get her fired, the better off we’ll be. She might not be a Death Eater, but she’s a power hungry little toad.”
Remus nods. “Well, you know I trust you, so we’ll do what we need to do. How do you want to go about it?”
“Let’s see what we can find on her,” Sirius says. “Maybe Miriam would know a good investigator.”
“Good idea,” Remus says. “I’ll owl her.”
Kreacher pops into the study with a tea tray, and whatever his grumblings, the tea is perfect, and he’s made a plate of sandwiches and another of small cakes.
“Thank you, Kreacher,” Sirius says sincerely. “This all looks very nice.”
Kreacher huffs. “Kreacher is a good house elf. Not like that Dobby. You paid Dobby.”
“I would do anything for Harry, up to and including paying a house elf to protect him,” Sirius admits freely.
“Master Harry is a proper wizard,” Kreacher mutters and pops away.
Remus laughs. “He really does like Harry.”
“Harry reminds him of Regulus, I think,” Sirius replies.
Remus’ eyebrows go up. “I didn’t think he was anything like Regulus.”
“No, not really,” Sirius says slowly. “But he’s small and thin and wiry, the way Regulus was, and Harry has always been kind to Kreacher. The likeness is superficial, but if it means that he’ll take good care of Harry, I’ll take it.”
“Fair enough,” Remus replies.
Sirius feels the wards react to a visitor just before he hears a knock on the door. While he’d lowered the defenses somewhat, there are very few people who know about this place, and all of them are Blacks. “Ah, that would be Narcissa,” Sirius comments.
“Well, isn’t this just a fun day,” Remus mutters.
“The best,” Sirius replies dryly.
Kreacher is the one to get the door, and Sirius is grateful that they’d already put out things for tea. Narcissa shouldn’t be able to fault his hosting, although he has no doubt that she’ll get in a few digs. She’s always been the most proper of the Black cousins.
Narcissa follows Kreacher into the study, wearing a cold, remote expression. “My Lord Black.”
“Cousin,” Sirius replies, matching her tone. “Do you remember my friend, Remus Lupin?”
A faint expression of distaste crosses her fine features. “I was hoping we could speak alone.”
Remus gets to his feet. “I’ll leave you to your family business, then.”
Sirius would have rather Remus stayed, but he understands that Moony doesn’t want to be anywhere near this debacle. “Thanks, Moony.”
Remus tips his head. “Let me know if you need me.”
When he’s out of the room, Narcissa begins, “I received your letter. Grandfather would never have approved.”
“Grandfather named me as his heir, and I think he was well aware of my anti-Death Eater prejudices,” Sirius says dryly. “I may not do things the same way that he did, but I don’t think that really matters, do you? What matters is that I’m in charge.”
“I am no Death Eater,” Narcissa says, her voice trembling slightly.
Sirius gives her a long, cool look. “No, I don’t suppose you are. You’re too intelligent for that. But your husband is a marked Death Eater, and he was responsible for giving a piece of Voldemort’s soul to a small child.” When she opens her mouth to object, Sirius says sharply, “Don’t bother to deny it. I know the truth.”
Narcissa tilts her chin. “Yes, I can see that you do.”
“So, I think we are at an impasse,” Sirius says. “Your husband has access to the Black vaults through you.”
“What about Draco?” Narcissa asks, and Sirius can hear a thread of desperation in her tone.
Sirius takes a deep breath. “I assume that your son is going to follow in his father’s footsteps, if given the opportunity. Are you suggesting otherwise?”
“I’m asking that you close off the vaults to anyone with the Dark Mark,” Narcissa replies. “I’ll take an oath on my magic that the money won’t go to or for anyone but myself and Draco.”
“If he takes the Mark, I’ll disown him on the spot,” Sirius warns.
Narcissa swallows audibly. “I have had a letter from Azkaban. Bella isn’t doing well.”
Sirius swallows back his immediate answer, and instead says, “I’m sorry to hear that, for your sake if nothing else.”
Narcissa closes her eyes. “Do you not have any fondness for her, Siri?”
“I will always remember the child she was,” Sirius replies. “But what she’s done to people I care about cannot be forgiven.”
Narcissa nods tightly. “I see.”
“I don’t want to disown you, Cissy,” Sirius admits. “And Draco is part of my family. But I cannot take the chance that Black funds will be used in service to Voldemort and against Harry. You and I both know that Voldemort is making plans to return, and I will do everything in my power to prevent it.”
“What do you want me to do?” Narcissa asks.
“Swear to me that Draco won’t take the Dark Mark, and any Black funds remain with you, for your support and Draco’s,” Sirius replies. “If you do that, and Draco remains unmarked, I won’t disown you.”
He knows Narcissa, and he knows how much she cares for her only son. Even when they were children, she’d professed her desire to be a wife and mother, but the two roles have her conflicted. She cannot remain loyal to her husband and also protect her son’s future, and Sirius knows exactly how much those Black vaults are worth.
“I will make an Unbreakable Vow,” Narcissa declares.
“I’ll get Remus to witness it,” Sirius replies.
“That’s about enough,” Sirius snarls. “Moony has offered invaluable assistance in helping me clear my name and take my rightful place. He was a child when he was bitten by Greyback, a follower of Voldemort’s. His life was destroyed by that monster, so don’t you look down your nose at him.”
“My life was hardly destroyed, Padfoot,” Remus comments, re-entering the study. “I’m actually quite happy at the moment.”
Sirius feels his shoulders relax minutely. “Would you be willing to witness an Unbreakable Vow?”
“That’s why I’m here,” Remus replies. “Kreacher said I might be needed.”
“I should have expected that he’d be lurking around,” Sirius mutters. He clears his throat. “I won’t ask you to make any promises regarding Draco’s behavior towards Harry, but you may want to warn him off.”
Narcissa nods. “I will have a word with him.”
“That’s all I ask,” Sirius replies. “You may also mention that if he takes the mark, I’ll disown him on the spot.”
Sirius is hoping that it won’t come to that, and Voldemort will be destroyed by the time the next school year rolls around, but he’s not going to say anything about that to Narcissa.
Narcissa clasps Sirius’ hand, and Remus pull out his wand. “Speak the words of the vow.”
“I swear that I will use the Black funds only for my support and my son’s, and that I will do everything in my power to prevent him from taking the Dark Mark,” Narcissa vows.
“And I promise that I will not disown Narcissa or Draco Malfoy unless or until they become marked Death Eaters, and as long as the Black funds are not used to support Voldemort,” Sirius says, and Remus seals the vow.
Narcissa takes a deep breath. “I would appreciate it if you put the appropriate protections on the vaults and the money within them. My ability to redirect those funds once Lucius has made up his mind is somewhat limited.”
Sirius hears the unspoken warning in her voice. “I will. Do you want me to speak with Draco?”
Narcissa shakes her head. “No, he idolizes his father, and always has. He won’t listen to you.”
“Will he listen to you?” Sirius asks.
“I don’t know,” Narcissa admits. “But I know that the road he’s going down will only lead to the destruction of our family. I refuse to let that happen.”
“I don’t want that to happen either, Cissy,” Sirius says, allowing some warmth to fill his tone. “I’ve written to Andy, too. I’m hoping she’ll agree to be part of the family again.”
He’s not sure what her reaction will be, but Narcissa smiles slightly. “Andy always did know her own mind. I’ve heard her daughter is very much like her, and a metamorphagus.”
“Is that right?” Sirius asks, and waves Remus into the seat next to him. The next hour is spent in pleasant conversation about various family members and gossip about the magical world, and then Sirius escorts her to the front door.
“You’ve done wonders for this place,” Narcissa comments.
Sirius smiles. “Harry is the brainchild behind that. He reminded me I could have people to do the things we didn’t want to do.”
She hums thoughtfully. “That doesn’t match up with the boy that Draco has described.”
“Harry has done a lot of growing up this summer,” Sirius replies. “His Muggle relatives never took much interest in him.”
Narcissa smiles. “The things we will do for our children, yes?”
Sirius inclines his head. “We would burn down the world and remake it for the better.”
In this, at least, they understand each other, and Narcissa smiles. “I’ll have a word with Draco about Harry.”
She apparates from the front steps, and Sirius shuts the door behind her, taking a deep breath.
“Well, that was interesting,” Remus comments.
Sirius shrugs. “I hope that’s the end of it, and she can do as she promised. I know that Draco has been a total prat, but…”
“His father has a lot to do with that, from what I was able to tell,” Remus admits. “A lot of boys idolize their fathers, and I don’t think that Draco is any exception.”
Sirius hopes that’s the case. He’d rather not lose another family member to Voldemort, even if that family member is a vicious little toe rag. “I just hope Harry can forgive me for trying to save Draco Malfoy from himself.”
Speaking of Harry, Sirius’ mirror chimes, and Sirius pulls it out of his pocket. “Hey, pup.”
“How did it go?” Harry asks breathlessly. “Did it go okay? The Slytherins were in a tizzy at lunch. I think some of them were getting updates during the session.”
“Where are you?” Sirius asks. “Some of what I have to tell you isn’t for public consumption.”
Harry shakes his head. “We’re good. I’m in an empty classroom, and I have a little time until dinner.”
“How are classes going?” Sirius asks him.
Harry frowns at him. “Come on, Padfoot! I’ll answer your question once you answer mine.”
Sirius grins. “I couldn’t resist. The session went very well. I announced our Wolfsbane foundation, and my donation to the DMLE. The Wizengamot agreed to free up funds for additional Aurors.”
Remus moves so he can look over Sirius’ shoulder. “And he also got to tweak Lucius Malfoy.”
Harry grins. “Brilliant! What did you say?”
Remus begins to recount the tale from his own perspective, putting his own spin and embellishments on the story. In his view, Sirius had been confident and well-spoken, and he’d managed to shut Lucius down in such a way as to hold himself above the fray.
Harry’s smile is wistful. “I wish I could have been there to see it.”
“We have a pensieve,” Sirius reminds him. “I’d be happy to show you the memory on your next holiday. You should get a chance to see how the Wizengamot functions.”
Harry’s eyes widen. “Really? You would do that?”
“Of course,” Sirius replies. “I don’t have anything to hide.”
“What about the trials?” Harry asks. “The Crouches were being tried today, right?”
Sirius sighs, since Remus hadn’t covered the outcomes in his story. “They ordered Junior to be Kissed, and Senior was sentenced to five years, which is about a quarter of the time someone else might have received.”
“But you’re okay with it?” Harry asks.
“I’m as okay with it as I can be,” Sirius replies, not wanting to get into it. “Now, how are your classes?”
Harry shrugs. “Good. I’m still a little disappointed that we won’t have Quidditch this year, but I’m looking forward to not participating in the Tournament.”
“So, you don’t mind the age restriction?” Sirius presses.
Harry snorts. “What? Like I need to be in the middle of all that. I don’t need more attention.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear that,” Sirius replies. “I want you to be safe.”
“I would like to be safe, too,” Harry says wryly. “I kind of like the idea of having a boring year.”
Sirius chuckles. “I promise I’ll do anything I can to make that possible. Anything else going on?”
Harry visibly hesitates. “Well…Malfoy has always been a prat, but he seems even more insufferable than ever. I swear, I’ve had to dodge hexes in the corridors nearly every day.”
“That might get worse before it gets better,” Sirius admits. “I spoke with his mother today. If she wants continued access to the Black money, she and Draco will have to remain unmarked.”
Harry frowns. “You made a deal with his mom? Why would she even agree to that?”
Sirius knows Harry deserves an explanation. “Narcissa knows that if Lucius is caught as a Death Eater, the Malfoy money will likely be forfeit to the Ministry, and to any victims of the Death Eaters in reparation. If Narcissa and Draco remain unmarked and have access to the Black funds, they’ll be able to maintain their standard of living. She’s smart enough to know that.”
Harry frowns. “Okay, that makes sense. I mean, I don’t want anyone to join up with Voldemort and take the mark, even Malfoy. Voldemort is a monster.”
“More so than you know,” Sirius agrees. “Narcissa said she’d have a word with Draco, and would ask him to leave you alone.”
“I’m not holding out much hope,” Harry admits. “The other Gryffindors will watch my back, but uh, you know there’s a Hogsmeade weekend coming up. Were you thinking about coming still?”
“More importantly, do you want us there?” Sirius counters. “We don’t want to intrude.”
Remus leans in close. “There’s no shame in wanting to see your family outside of the regular holidays, Harry. If you want us there, we’ll be there.”
“It doesn’t make me a baby, does it?” Harry asks, sounding wistful.
“I’ve missed you, too, Harry,” Sirius says sincerely. “We’d love to see you.”
Harry smiles. “Okay, I guess I’ll see you both then. Maybe we can get lunch at the Three Broomsticks, if you don’t mind Hermione joining us.”
“Just Hermione?” Sirius asks. “What about Ron?”
Harry shifts. “I don’t know. He’s—he’s been a little weird since the school year started. I’ve needed to study more, and Hermione and I started that study group, but Ron was participating, but then yesterday he announced it was boring.”
Sirius can see the pain on Harry’s face, and he would do anything he could to protect him, but this is something that Sirius can’t fix for him. “He’s the one missing out, pup.”
“Hermione said just to give him time, and he’d come around,” Harry replies with a sigh. “And she’s probably right. Ron likes to procrastinate. He’ll probably come crawling back when exams are closer.”
“Are you okay?” Remus asks.
Harry shrugs. “I’ve been hanging out with Hermione and Neville, actually, and that’s been fun. We have all the same classes, anyway.”
“You’re sure you’re okay?” Sirius presses.
Harry waves a hand. “Nothing that hasn’t happened before. And I’m doing like you said. I’m investing in other relationships, including some with people in other Houses. Our Potions group has people from every house other than Slytherin.”
“That’s well done, Harry,” Remus says warmly. “I think it will serve you well.”
Harry smiles. “Lionel and I talked about it a lot, actually. I guess the house rivalries at Beauxbatons aren’t nearly as intense, and he thought it was pretty dumb that you wouldn’t try making friends outside your own house, and I kind of agreed with him, so I’ve been trying to do that.”
“You might think about making friends with at least one Slytherin,” Remus encourages. “It will give you an in, and an ally in that house.”
Harry nods thoughtfully. “Maybe Daphne Greengrass. She seems half-decent.”
“Not a bad place to start,” Remus says. “You might have someone from Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff approach her first.”
Harry smiles. “Thanks, Moony. That’s good advice. I should probably get to dinner.”
“Watch your back, Harry,” Sirius advises. “Or get others to do it.”
Harry nods. “You, too. Good job on getting your agenda pushed through. I’m proud of you, Padfoot.”
“I think that’s my line, but the sentiment is very much appreciated,” Sirius replies. “Love you, pup.”
Harry flushes in pleasure. “Love you, too. I’ll see you soon.”
“I think it’s probably a good sign that he wants to see us, right?” Sirius asks when he closes the mirror.
Remus snorts. “You are, for all intents and purposes, Harry’s father, Pads. And boys tend to idolize their fathers if they’re even halfway decent to them.”
Sirius snorts. “Come on. I doubt Harry really feels that way about me.”
“I think you’d be surprised,” Remus replies, and he presses a kiss to Sirius’ hair. “But I think it says something that he wants to see us at the Hogsmeade weekend.”
Sirius really is quite pleased with that. “So, what would you like to do with the rest of the day?”
Remus hums thoughtfully. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. It’s been a very full day.”
Sirius can’t disagree. “I’m going to dash off a letter to Miriam, then, and probably read for a bit. I still feel a bit wired.”
“Understandable,” Remus replies, and then presses a kiss to Sirius’ lips. “Don’t stay up too late.”
“I’ll try,” Sirius promises, because he still has trouble sleeping, and there are nights when it’s easier to just not go to bed.
Remus pats him on the shoulder in farewell, and Sirius does just as he promised. He writes a letter to Miriam to ask her recommendation on a private investigator to dig for dirt on Umbridge, and picks up a report on last year’s Ministry spending, hoping that it will be boring enough to help him wind down.
As a member of the Wizengamot, Sirius has access to most Ministry reports, and he’s hoping to find something in the data that will help him. He’s not even sure what he’s looking for, only that his grandfather had once told him, “When in doubt, follow the money, my boy. If you know where a man, or a government, spends their money, you’ll know what drives them.”
Sirius wants to know what’s driving Fudge’s government, other than fear.
And if he spends too much time that night on the reports, and drinking fire whiskey in an attempt to come down from the adrenalin high—well, who could blame him?
Part the Sixth: In Which Sirius Faces His Family Legacy
The morning after the first Wizengamot session finds Sirius asleep on his desk in the study, waking up when the sun hits his face. He sits up slowly, and curses himself for not going to bed, since his neck is stiff and painful.
When Remus enters the study with a full French press and a cup, Sirius lets out a sincere, “Oh, thank Merlin.”
Remus smiles gently. “Do you need a hangover cure?”
“I didn’t drink that much,” Sirius says defensively, pouring a cup of coffee. “I got caught up going over the Ministry’s financial reports.”
“Anything interesting?” Remus asks.
“I don’t know,” Sirius replies. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, but I think there’s money going places it shouldn’t.”
“I’d be happy to take a second look,” Remus offers.
“I would appreciate that, but not today,” Sirius says. “Today, I’d really like to be lazy.”
“Well earned,” Remus comments. “Although we ought to spend some time in the Potions lab.”
“That sounds positively relaxing,” Sirius admits. “Don’t tell Snape, but I actually enjoy brewing. Particularly when it’s for a good cause.”
“I would never,” Remus scoffs. “Not least because it would require me to actually speak to Snape.”
Sirius snorts. “Fair enough.”
They spend the morning in the potions lab in the cellar, brewing the next batch of Wolfsbane for Remus, and restocking some of the basic household remedies like pain relief and dreamless sleep. Working side-by-side with Remus is pleasant, something that Sirius will never take for granted. There are too many lives he’s lived where this wouldn’t have been a possibility.
They’ve taken a break for lunch when there’s a knock on the door, and Remus looks at him. “Were you expecting someone?”
Sirius shakes his head. “No, not at all, but the wards recognize him. It’s Bill.”
“What would Bill Weasley be doing here?” Remus asks.
“Maybe he’s coming with an update on Bella’s vault,” Sirius says. “It would make sense.”
“I suppose,” Remus agrees. “I’m just surprised that he didn’t owl ahead.”
Sirius shrugs. “So am I.”
He opens the door to see Bill standing there, looking flushed. “May I come in?”
“With an identity check, sure,” Sirius replies. “I’m taking no chances these days.”
Bill nods, still looking shaken. “Yeah, of course.”
They perform the necessary checks, and Sirius and Remus confirm their own identities.
“We were just going to grab some lunch,” Sirius says. “Are you hungry?”
Bill hesitates. “I don’t want to put you out.”
“It’s no trouble,” Remus assures him. “I’m sure Kreacher will be able to accommodate you.”
Kreacher grumbles but he prepares a third plate for the thick bacon butties that he’s made for their lunch, along with crisps. Sirius has told Kreacher not to make anything too fancy for them, not while Harry is away. And Remus still likes to cook occasionally.
Sirius is hungry, and he tucks in right away. Remus moves a little more sedately, but Bill just stares at his sandwich.
“What can we do for you, Bill?” Remus finally says between bites.
Bill clears his throat. “Blackthorn said that you’d asked for me specifically to clear the vault.”
“Mm, yes, we did,” Sirius admits. “Did you find another artifact?”
“i did, and it’s been destroyed as well,” Bill says slowly. “I was going to give you an update. I mean, I had planned to stop by or owl you anyway, but I received my payment from the bank for the vault today.”
Sirius smiles. “I trust you were satisfied.”
“Lord Black, I’m good at my job, but clearing a vault like this is usually given to a senior curse breaker, one with a lot more experience than me,” Bill says plaintively.
Sirius shrugs. “I like you. You did a good job with our last request. I trust your family. And those senior curse breakers have already had a number of vaults like this one under their belts. Something like this can make someone’s career.”
“I know!” Bill says a little wildly. “I just don’t understand.”
Sirius has some idea just how big Bill’s payday was. “I don’t want any of that money. I requested you because I know you, and I know your family, and I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about someone squirreling away a piece of Voldemort. A portion will go to Gringotts, of course, but the rest is being donated to the spell damage ward at St. Mungo’s. I know very well just what this will do for you. All I ask is that you do the same for someone else when you’re an old curse breaker and you see an up-and-comer.”
Bill shakes his head. “This—this is going to change my life, Lord Black.”
“Please, it’s Sirius,” he insists. “And I’d rather change the life of someone I know and trust than a stranger. I’m selfish that way.”
Bill shakes his head. “This is really too much.”
“Think of it as hazard pay,” Remus encourages. “You’ve dealt with two pieces of Voldemort’s soul at this point. You deserve it.”
“And maybe do something nice for Ron,” Sirius adds. “They’ll be holding the Yule Ball this year, and Ron has hand-me-down dress robes. Harry mentioned that he was feeling pretty self-conscious.”
“Yeah, yeah, I can do that,” Bill says with a laugh. “Hell, I can do a hell of a lot more than that. Thanks to you. You realize that you just jump-started my career.”
“I had some idea,” Sirius admits. “That was kind of the point.”
Bill laughs. “Well, thank you, really. If you need anything from me in the future, please just ask. It’s on the house.”
“Well, if we need a curse breaker, we’ll certainly know who to call, but frankly, I always pay people what they’re worth.”
Bill shakes his head. “I hope you understand that I owe you a debt that I can’t repay.”
“We’re destroying Voldemort,” Sirius tells him. “If we do that, the magical world will owe you a debt that they can’t repay.”
“I’ll get Ron new dress robes,” Bill says. “And this will go a long way towards alleviating some of my family’s problems.”
“How is Percy doing with the news about Crouch?” Remus asks, neatly changing the subject.
Bill grimaces. “Not well at all. He’s been reassigned at the Ministry, but you know how politics works. The stink of your boss being sent to Azkaban tends to follow you, even when it had nothing to do with you. Percy idolized him, and everyone around him knew that, so no one wants to touch him with someone else’s dead hand.”
“How is your brother with facts and figures?” Sirius asks, already knowing the answer.
Bill shrugs. “Very good. It’s what he’s best at. I have no idea what he’ll do if his job at the Ministry doesn’t pan out.”
“Do you think he might want to clerk for me?” Sirius asks.
Remus gives him a strange look, probably because he thinks that Sirius will eat Percy for breakfast, which he will, but he’s not planning on spending much time with Percy. He just wants his analytical abilities.
Bill shrugs. “Clerking for Lord Black? Yeah, that would definitely be up his alley. Percy is all about furthering his career, and working for you would do it.”
“Good,” Sirius replies. “It’s a time limited option, but I’ll keep him employed and busy enough so that when he needs to look for another job, folks will gloss right over his Ministry job for Crouch.”
Bill scrubs his hands over his face. “Yeah, okay, I’ll let him know. I know that will be a load off my parents. Percy has never been depressed before, but he’s been spending the bare minimum of time at the office, and he’s locked himself in his room the rest of the time.”
“I have numbers that need crunching,” Sirius says. “It might offer him a certain amount of redemption.”
Bill nods. “I’ll let him know, and I’ll have him owl you.”
“Your family has done so much for Harry,” Sirius replies. “I cannot do enough, and I mean that.”
“Harry is a good kid,” Bill replies. “And he’s under a tremendous burden. I’m just glad we could assist him.”
After that, there’s not much to say. They finish up their lunch, and Bill again thanks them for their intervention, and Sirius again tells him that it doesn’t matter.
As soon as Bill leaves, Remus says, “Percy? Really?”
“I figure I can give him research assignments and get long, detailed reports without having to do the work myself,” Sirius replies with some amusement. “I’m not planning on spending more time with him than I have to.”
Remus sighs. “Well, that’s a relief. I don’t think the two of you would get on well at all.”
“I don’t need to like him to make use of his research skills,” Sirius points out. “Like those financial reports from the Ministry.”
Remus chuckles. “You make a good point.”
“Besides, Percy might be an insufferable twat, but he shouldn’t suffer just because his boss got sent to Azkaban.” Sirius shrugs. “No one else should have to suffer because of what Crouch did.”
“Speaking of suffering, have you thought about what you want to do with Winky? You did mention wanting to help her,” Remus points out.
Sirius curses. “I completely forgot. I know the Ministry had her in their custody until after the trial, just in case they needed her to give evidence against Crouch. I’ll owl Amelia to see if she can be released to me.”
Remus chuckles. “Just don’t let Hermione know.”
“Oh, that’s right, I was supposed to send her a book on house elves,” Sirius says. “Harry says she’s campaigning for house elf rights.”
“There should be stronger protections for house elves,” Remus replies, “but I doubt Hermione realizes how house elves operate ordinarily.”
Sirius chuckles. “Dobby is certainly an exception to the rule, and I’m sure there are others out there. I’ll get that sent off today.”
Remus sprawls on the couch in the study. “Not to bring up a sore subject, but do you want to make plans to go to the Black Manor?”
“I thought after Halloween,” Sirius admits.
Remus’ expression turns somber. “Do you want to go to Godric’s Hollow?”
“I thought we might,” Sirius admits. “And I thought we might ask Dumbledore if Harry could be excused from classes for the day. They’ll be choosing the Triwizard participants at the feast that night, so Harry will probably want to be there, but I don’t think he’s ever visited their graves.”
Remus nods. “I got the impression last year that he might not even realize that Halloween marks the anniversary.”
Sirius winces. “Shit, I don’t think I told him that. I thought he knew.”
“I probably should have said something last year, while I was at Hogwarts, but I was still trying to keep my distance,” Remus admits.
“Were you worried about him finding out you were a werewolf?” Sirius asks, knowing how sensitive Remus can be about that fact.
Remus shakes his head. “I was ashamed I hadn’t been in touch with him before. How was I supposed to explain why I’d stayed away for so long, especially after I began to realize that Harry’s home life wasn’t as good as Dumbledore had led me to believe?”
“Water under the bridge now, Moony,” Sirius assures him. “And you more than made up for it this summer.”
Remus shakes it off. “So, we’ll go to Hogsmeade in two weeks, check with Dumbledore to see if we can take Harry to Godric’s Hollow on Halloween, and we’ll plan on checking out Black Manor after that. What are we going to do in the meantime?”
“Well, I’m going to work on finding an investigator to take out Umbridge, and I may take Amelia up on her offer,” Sirius replies. “And we need to see if we can find a way to hunt down the other pieces of Voldemort’s soul. Oh, and I would really like to find Pettigrew.”
“That’s quite the list,” Remus says with some amusement. “Are you thinking about becoming an Auror?”
“No, definitely not” Sirius says dismissively. “I trust Amelia, and Shacklebolt, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a number of Ministry employees are marked Death Eaters. I’m not going to put myself into a position to be cursed in the back.”
Remus nods. “I’m rather glad to hear that. I know you were a bit reckless with your life in the last war.”
It’s a mild rebuke, but Sirius know he’s right. From Remus’ perspective, Sirius had taken stupid chances; it’s something they’d fought about before. “I have everything to live for now, Moony. I won’t do that to Harry. But what about you?”
Remus hesitates. “I was hoping we could wait a bit before we went to Black Manor. I’d like to make some overtures to the packs, see if they’re willing to take Wolfsbane if they know it will be administered anonymously. A lot of werewolves have gone outside Britain, due to the registration requirements.”
“Do what you need to do, Moony,” Sirius replies. “I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, but if Voldemort does return, I’d rather the packs stay neutral, even if they won’t throw in with us.”
“They probably won’t,” Remus warns him. “They don’t trust wizards.”
“I don’t blame them,” Sirius replies. “But it sounds as though we’ll both have our hands full, so maybe we should take advantage of our time together while we have it.”
Remus grins wolfishly. “Oh, I think I can agree to that.”
The time leading up to the next Hogsmeade weekend are spent doing various things. Remus is reaching out to those he still remembers from the packs. Sirius meets with the investigator and sets the woman on Umbridge.
“What are you looking for?” Anna asks when Sirius meets with her in a private room of a London cafe.
“I’m not sure,” Sirius admits. “I just know that she’s a threat to Remus, and a threat to my godson. I don’t want her dead, I just want her discredited so she can’t hold a position of power.”
Anna nods. “I’ll do my best. She’s one of Fudge’s cronies, and he puts a lot of stock in her, so it’s a difficult task.”
“I understand that,” Sirius replies. “And I can always take my godson back to our farmhouse in France, if it comes right down to it.”
A few days later, Sirius gets an owl from the Ministry. Amelia writes to him personally, indicating that they have no more need of Winky, and she seems inconsolable. Finding her a proper placement isn’t a pressing concern—most wizards don’t think about house elves much, not unless they’re giving orders—but if Sirius is willing to take her on, that’s something off her plate.
Winky arrives the very next day, wearing a stained tea towel and weeping softly, accompanied by Shacklebolt. “Thank you for this, Lord Black,” Kingsley says.
“Of course,” Sirius replies, and then crouches down to Winky’s level. “Winky, please look at me.”
She raises tearful eyes to him. “Winky a bad elf.”
“No, Winky, I don’t think you’re a bad elf at all,” Sirius says gently. “I think you were asked to perform a task that was maybe a little beyond your abilities. I know that you’re a good and capable elf, and I would like you to be a member of my household if you’re willing. I have several homes, and Kreacher is old, and would prefer to stay here. I might need you to travel with us.”
Hope begins to replace tears in Winky’s eyes. “Lord Black wants Winky?”
“I do,” Sirius says gently. “I know how loyal you are, and I know you’d be loyal to me and my house.”
Winky nods violently. “Yes, of course, Lord Black, but—you not be paying Winky?”
“Do you want to be paid?” Sirius asks.
Winky immediately begins to pull on her ears. “No, no, no,” she nearly moans. “Lord Black be paying Dobby, but Winky is a good elf!”
“I believe in helping house elves to be happy,” Sirius tells her. “Dobby wants to be paid for his work, and it makes him happy. If you want to work for me, I promise I will try to make sure you’re happy with work you feel proud of, and I will not ask you to do something beyond your abilities, and if I do, I will not blame you for being unable to perform the task.”
Winky bursts into fresh tears. “Lord Black is too kind, too kind.”
“Do you agree to serve the House of Black?” Sirius asks.
“Oh, yes,” Winky says, still sobbing. “Oh, yes.”
“You will follow my orders, those of my chamberlain, Remus Lupin, or those of my heir, Harry Potter,” Sirius orders. “No one else’s.”
“Then you are welcome in my house, and you are now under my protection,” Sirius says, and casts a quick charm as he feels the tentative bond forming. Winky’s soiled tea towel turns bright white and clean, with the crest of the House of Black on the left breast.
Winky takes his hand. “Lord Black is merciful.”
“Check in with Kreacher,” Sirius says, keeping his voice gentle. “But you can begin your duties right away.”
Winky beams at him, her eyes still a little watery. “Winky will!”
She pops out, and Sirius straightens up. “Thank you for that. I didn’t like to think about her being set adrift, or winding up with a cruel family. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
“No,” Kingsley says. “She was following orders as best she could. It was good of you for taking her on. Not many wizards would have.”
“Harry has a fondness for house elves,” Sirius replies. “And Winky deserves a second chance.”
The following day, Sirius meets with Andromeda. To his surprise, she’s willing to come to Grimmauld Place, although that may be because she wants to see what, if any, changes he’s made to the house.
Andy is wearing lavender robes that complement her gray eyes and dark hair, her coloring similar to his own. She looks around the entrance, her expression admiring. “How did you get your mother’s portrait off the wall?”
“I told Kreacher that if he didn’t want it destroyed, he’d find a way to get it off the wall and put it where I couldn’t find it,” Sirius replies. “He actually likes the damn thing.”
Andy smiles. “And is Kreacher still around? I didn’t think you got on with him.”
“I don’t, not really,” Sirius admits. “But Regulus was fond of him, and Kreacher seems to like Harry. I can afford to be kind to him for their sakes.”
“Fatherhood suits you,” Andi says approvingly. “I caught your show at the Wizengamot. You’re already rejecting the Black family motto.”
Sirius shrugs. “I know that the Blacks have always interpreted the motto as referring to blood status, but we wouldn’t have to put that spin on it. We could also apply it to our family magic, keeping it pure from dark magic.”
Andy shakes her head. “You really have decided to upend things, haven’t you?”
“I had to,” Sirius says simply. “For Harry’s sake, if for no other reason. Can I offer you some tea?”
“I would love that,” Andy replies warmly.
Winky pops in to the parlor with a tea tray before Sirius even asks, and Sirius thanks her. He pours the tea, and there’s a plate of biscuits. Andy accepts a cup of tea and takes a biscuit, and she says, “I heard that you disinherited Bellatrix.”
“I needed access to her vaults,” Sirius says bluntly. “I had reason to believe she had an artifact belonging to Voldemort that could be used against Harry, and it turns out that I was correct. Besides, Bella helped torture Frank and Alice Longbottom into insanity. Alice was Harry’s godmother.”
Andy frowns. “So, it was revenge and expediency.”
“It was justice,” Sirius replies evenly. “We both know what Bella did during the last war, the crimes she committed, the lives she ruined. Harry is my heir, Andy. Do you think I want someone like Bellatrix still in the family?”
Andy sighs. “And why would you want me and mine back in yours?”
“Because you never should have been disinherited in the first place,” Sirius replies firmly. “I have no agenda here. You can rejoin the family or not, it’s up to you. I would at least like to provide Nymphadora with the same trust vault that any Black child receives.”
Andy blinks, her teacup halfway to her mouth. “Without her being a member of the House of Black?”
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s already a member, even if you were disinherited and don’t choose to be restored,” Sirius replies. “It’s the right thing to do.”
“And would be invaluable to Nymphadora,” Andy says quietly. “I’m aware of that, too.” She takes a deep breath. “You realize that my husband is Muggle-born, and Nymphadora is a half-blood. It’s the reason I was disinherited in the first place.”
Sirius levels a look at her. “Lily Potter was Muggle-born, and I offered to sponsor one of his friends, also a Muggle-born. I really couldn’t care less about your husband’s blood status.”
Andy gives him a look of her own. “Grandfather would be spinning in his grave.”
“Grandfather made me the Black heir, knowing full well what my blood politics were, namely, that I don’t care,” Sirius counters. “I suppose I’ll see what he has to say when I visit Black Manor, assuming he left a portrait there.”
“You’d wake it up?” Andy asks, sounding surprised.
Sirius shrugs. “I don’t know. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
Andy considers Sirius’ words, and she says, “And if you accept me back into the family, what then?”
“I’ll restore your trust vaults,” Sirius replies. “Beyond that, it’s up to you.”
Andy smiles. “Well, I’d like to meet Harry at some point, and you ought to meet Dora. Can I ask what your intentions are for Cissy?”
“I told her that I wouldn’t have a Death Eater in the family,” Sirius replies. “And she offered to make an Unbreakable Vow not to take the Mark, and to prevent Draco from doing the same if she can. If she can’t, I’ll disinherit the both of them.”
“Why Cissy if she’s not marked?” Andy protests.
“Because I won’t allow a single knut of Black money to go for the support of Voldemort or his Death Eaters,” Sirius replies fiercely. “Make no mistake, Andy. My entire purpose in this life is the protection of Harry and the destruction of Voldemort. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that.”
Andy seems taken aback by his ferocity, but Sirius doesn’t care. The sooner the wizarding world understands that fact, the sooner they’ll leave Harry alone—or face the consequences.
After a moment, she nods. “Harry is lucky to have you for a champion, Siri. I think I’d like to be a Black again, with you as the head of our House.”
It’s satisfying to hear that, and Sirius replies, “Then I’m glad to welcome you back.”
Remus gets home two days after his meeting with another werewolf pack after being gone four days. He’s clearly weary, having spent the full moon with the pack, to give a demonstration on how Wolfsbane works.
“How did it go?” Sirius asks, glancing up from the report from the investigator on Umbridge.
Remus smiles, and while he’s obviously tired, he looks rather pleased as well. “I think I managed to convince them that we had no ulterior motives, and that you really just want to help them.”
Sirius sits up a little straighter. “How did you manage that?”
“I told them about you and James becoming Animagi during school so you could be with me during the full moon, and about you supporting me,” Remus replies with a smile. “They were impressed with your devotion.”
Sirius shrugs. “I wish I could do more, to be honest.”
“I told them that, too,” Remus admits. “There aren’t many wizards or witches who give a damn about werewolves, you know.”
Sirius snorts. “I do know, which is a real shame, since all it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. How many victims did Greyback have during the first war?”
“More than we know about,” Remus replies. “How many magical families hushed it up?”
“Most of them,” Sirius replies. “If it had been me, I’m not sure my parents would have allowed me to live.”
Remus grimaces. “It’s probably a good thing I never met your parents.”
“You’ve seen my mother’s portrait,” Sirius says dryly. “I think you got a pretty good idea of just what sort of person she was.”
Remus lets out a chuckle without much humor. “Have you heard from Harry recently?”
“I received a letter from him yesterday,” Sirius admits. “Reading between the lines, his classes are going well, and he’s even doing well in Potions. But he didn’t mention Ron at all.”
Remus shakes his head. “We both knew that Ron might have some issues with Harry this year. Who did he mention?”
“Hermione is helping him lead the charge in improving Potions grades across the board,” Sirius says, and he’s rather amused by it. “Neville has been hanging out with them a lot. And apparently, after reading the book I sent, Hermione has turned her attention from freeing the house elves to finding a way to improve their conditions. Harry says she’s thinking about going into a career in law now.”
Remus smiles. “Fitting. And Harry?”
“He’s still leaning towards the healing arts,” Sirius replies. “Also, I met with Andy while you were away. She’s agreed to rejoin the family. We’ll perform the ceremony over the holiday break so that Harry can be a part of it.”
“I thought we were going to the farmhouse,” Remus objects.
“Oh, we are,” Sirius hastens to assure him. “We’ll spend some time there and do the ceremony shortly before Harry returns to Hogwarts. I want to have a quiet Christmas with just the three of us, other than maybe spending some time with Lionel and his family.”
Remus relaxes. “Sorry. I just—I was looking forward to it.”
“So am I,” Sirius says honestly. “I wouldn’t do that to you or Harry, Moony. I know you’re both looking forward to it, and it will be good to get away. But Moony, you’re family. You’ll be at the ritual as well. I need you there.”
“But not as your lover,” Remus says, sounding a little bitter.
Sirius frowns. “Do you want to be? Because if you want to be out, I’ll announce it to the world. I love you, you idiot. I don’t care if people know I’m off the market. That was a piece of our strategy, but not the whole of it.”
“Being connected to a werewolf—“
“I’m already connected to a werewolf!” Sirius says, exasperated. “Do you really think it’s going to come as any surprise to anyone to find out that we’re together? I started a foundation to provide Wolfsbane for free. I announced it on the Wizengamot floor. I did it because it was the right thing to do, but I also did it for you.”
Remus pulls back, clearly surprised. “You want to go public?”
“I’m saying I don’t care if it’s public, but it puts a target on your back, Moony,” Sirius replies, somewhat exasperated. “I would shout it from the rooftops, and I don’t care who knows. What do you want?”
Remus takes a deep breath. “I didn’t—I think I just needed to hear that. I don’t need it to be public, not when it would make things more difficult for you and Harry. But maybe, when Harry’s safe…”
“Say the word,” Sirius replies. “I’d marry you in a heartbeat.”
Remus stares at him. “A marriage bond with a werewolf would be political suicide!”
“Do you think so?” Sirius muses. “Good thing my Wizengamot seat is inherited, then, and I have more money than just about anyone. I don’t have to care. Fair warning, once Voldemort is gone and Harry is safe, I plan on living my life exactly how I please.”
Remus smiles. “Then I suppose we both have something to look forward to.”
“Never doubt what I feel for you, Moony,” Sirius says quietly. “Besides Harry, you’re the most important person in my life.”
Remus springs forward and pulls Sirius in for a kiss, and it’s rough and hot and everything that Sirius needs in that moment. One of the nice things about Harry not being at home is that they don’t have to worry about anyone—other than the house elves—walking in on them, and Sirius quickly jacks them both off.
Afterward, Sirius cleans his hand off on his discarded shirt, and Remus sprawls on top of him. “That was great, thanks.”
“It was good for me, too,” Sirius replies, running a hand through Remus’ hair. “What’s next?”
“The Hogsmeade weekend,” Remus replies. “I wanted to be sure I made it back in time for that. Are you still interested in finding Pettigrew?”
“I think we can focus on that once we’re past Halloween and the trip to Black Manor,” Sirius replies.
“Fair enough,” Remus replies. “It’s not as if we don’t have plenty of other things to do.”
“Not least dealing with this report from the investigator,” Sirius says glumly. “So far, no dirt on Umbridge.”
Remus drums his fingers on the arm of the couch. “Improper access to information or government records?”
“No evidence of that, I’m afraid, not that the investigator could find,” Sirius replies. “Although…” He trails off, thinking quickly. “There might be something we could do about that. If we planted information that she absolutely should not have access to, and we catch her at it, we’ll have the proof we need.”
Remus appears to think that over. “It’s going to have to be something explosive. As the Undersecretary, she has a lot of access, Padfoot.”
“But if we could pull it off, it would be the best prank,” Sirius argues. “It would have to be something that would embarrass Fudge.”
Remus’ expression turns calculating. “So, we get dirt on Fudge, bring it to him as a gesture of friendship, and make sure that information winds up on Umbridge’s desk in such a way as to make it look as though she was going to use it.”
Sirius grins. “Well, I suppose I’ll have the investigator start to look at Fudge then. Might not be a bad idea to have that in our back pockets anyway, just in case.”
“You’d commit blackmail?” Remus asks.
Sirius snorts. “For Harry? In a heartbeat if it kept him safe and happy.”
And sometimes he thinks that might be why his grandfather kept Sirius as his heir, because he knew the lengths to which Sirius would go.
The first weekend in October is the next Hogsmeade weekend, and he and Remus apparate to the village. He’s had an owl from Dumbledore, asking to meet with him regarding his request to take Harry to his parents’ grave and Godric’s Hollow on Halloween.
Sirius suspects that Dumbledore is going to make another play to have Harry sent back to the Dursleys, but Sirius doesn’t plan on backing down.
And really, Sirius has every right to pull Harry from Hogwarts on Halloween as Harry’s guardian. Plenty of other students are excused from classes for less legitimate reasons.
They enter the Three Broomsticks a little bit early, just before noon, since they’re meeting Harry for lunch. Rosemerta spots them and beams. “Well, look at you boys! You’re both looking quite well.”
“Thank you,” Sirius replies. “We feel pretty good. We’re meeting my godson and an unknown number of his friends for lunch.”
“Harry’s already here,” Rosemerta replies with a smile. “I set aside a private room for you all. I’ll show you the way.”
Sirius is a little surprised that Harry had turned up early, but the fact that Harry seems eager to see them makes him feel better. The way that Harry pops up as soon as they enter the room and immediately comes over for a hug is even more gratifying.
Harry seems unembarrassed by his display of affection, and he hugs Remus, too. “I’m glad you guys could come.”
Hermione and Neville are sat at the table, but Sirius doesn’t see Ron. “Are we waiting on anyone else?” Sirius asks.
Harry shrugs. “Ron wanted to spend a bit more time at Honeydukes. I suppose it’s even odds whether he stuffs himself on sweets or joins us for lunch.”
“My bet is on the sweets,” Neville mutters. “Hello, Lord Black. My gran sends her regards, and hopes you’ll contact her before the next session.”
“Does she have you acting as her owl now?” Sirius teases.
Neville shrugs good-naturedly. “I mentioned we’d be having lunch with you, and she said to pass the word along.”
“Thanks, Neville,” Sirius replies. “And I think you can call me by my given name, at least in private if your gran has objections.”
Neville grins brightly. “She probably will, but thank you.”
“The same goes for you,” Sirius tells Hermione. “Although as your magical guardian, I think you should probably call me Sirius even in public.”
Hermione smiles. “I don’t mind being more formal if necessary.”
“Not necessary,” Sirius says easily.
Rosemerta enters the room. “Do you lot know what you want to eat?” she asks. “Are you waiting on anybody else?”
“Maybe on Ron, but he was iffy on whether he’d be joining us,” Harry says. “I think we can go ahead and order if Sirius and Remus are ready.”
The menu isn’t terribly varied, so he and Remus both order pasties, and the rest of them do the same. “How has school been?” Sirius asks.
“Good,” Harry says immediately. “Although I think Professor Snape knows something is up.”
“Are the study sessions going well?” Remus asks.
“Really well,” Hermione says cheerfully. “I think we have—what? Fifteen participants?”
“Might be more than that now, with the younger students,” Neville says. “There have been a lot of first and second years asking for individual instruction.”
“That’s true,” Harry confirms. “More than we can really accommodate, so we’ve been working with the prefects to create study groups with the older students tutoring the younger ones.”
“Well done,” Remus says quietly. “It sounds as though the three of you have been showing a lot of leadership.”
All three of them blush. “Thank you for the book on house elves,” Hermione says. “I had no idea that they needed a bond with a wizard in order to survive.”
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to ensure house elves have additional protections,” Sirius says quietly. “We want that, too, Hermione. We’re working on it.”
Hermione leans forward. “Is there any way I could get some inside information about the Wizengamot? I can’t believe that Hogwarts doesn’t have a government class. I can read about it, of course, but it’s not the same.”
“Wizengamot members are notoriously tight-lipped,” Sirius admits. “Good thing for you that I have a responsibility to my heir to fill him in, and Neville is the heir to my close ally. What do you want to know?”
Hermione leans forward. “I want to know everything.”
Sirius enjoys telling stories, and he gives a blow-by-blow account of the last Wizengamot session, as well as some details as to what they have planned. He notices that Neville, Hermione, and Harry exchange looks when he talks about how he took Lucius down a peg.
“What was that look for?”
Harry rubs the back of his neck. “I guess I didn’t tell you what happened with Malfoy—Draco, I mean.”
“No, I guess you didn’t,” Sirius replies. “Care to share now?”
“Well, it was shortly after the Wizengamot session, I guess,” Harry starts out. “I was alone in the hallway outside Transfiguration—“
“Which hasn’t happened since,” Neville inserts. “We make sure there’s someone to watch Harry’s back at all times now.”
Harry sighs. “Right, well, Draco tries to curse me in the back, and Dobby turns up and disarms him. The noise must have alerted Professor McGonagall, because she came out and told Dobby that he shouldn’t be firing spells in the hallway, and Dobby said that ‘Harry Potter’s Paddy is paying me to protect Harry Potter,’” Harry says in a passable imitation of the house elf. “And that Malfoy tried to curse me in the back. Professor McGonagall gave him detention.”
“Has he bothered you since then?” Sirius asks.
Harry shrugs. “No, he’s mostly been ignoring me for a change. I don’t know if it was Dobby, the detention, or something else entirely.”
“Narcissa will have had a word with him,” Sirius says. “She knows what the Black money will mean for them.”
“Malfoy is basically a carbon copy of his father,” Harry mutters.
“Sure, but if his mom had any influence over him at all, that might mean a lot,” Hermione points out. “I mean, if he’s even a little less of a git it would be an improvement.”
“True,” Harry admits. “Anyway, the money for hiring Dobby has apparently been well spent.”
Sirius chuckles. “The novelty of paying a house elf was satisfaction enough.”
Ron never does show up for lunch, and Harry tells his friends that he’s fine and wants to spend time with Sirius and Remus, and he’ll meet up with them later.
“How are things, really?” Sirius asks him.
Harry shrugs. “Well, as you can probably tell, Ron is distancing himself. He thinks I’m a swot now, but I think it’s more that I have people in my life that aren’t him or the Weasleys,” he says, sounding bitter.
“Pretty sure the other Weasleys would understand, and you’re doing well, love,” Sirius says quietly. “You’re doing really well.”
Harry grimaces. “Would you think less of me if I said that I almost wish I was back to being the slacker that I was?”
“No, of course not,” Sirius says. “Do you want to go back to being that person?”
“No,” Harry says definitively. “No, I—I know that I have a future now. I know there’s something I’m working towards. I want to be a healer. I want to be able to fix the damage that other people cause. I want—I want to be able to fix the damage that the Cruciatus curse causes.”
“You want to be able to fix Neville’s parents,” Sirius says quietly.
Harry blinks. “Yeah. There’s still a chance for Nev to have his parents back.”
Sirius remembers Lily and her determination to help Remus, maybe not in this timeline, but another. Harry has her sense of loyalty and justice, and he can imagine Lily doing something similar.
“You remind me so much of your mum sometimes,” Sirius says. “She would have done the same for her friends.”
Harry blinks. “I always hear how much I look like my dad. It’s nice to know that I’m like my mum, too.”
“You have Lily’s heart,” Remus says quietly. “James had a big heart, there’s no question, but your mum wanted to work for the good of others. You’re doing so well, Harry.”
Harry manages a smile. “I hope Ron comes around, but as Lionel said, the only thing I can do is what I think is right, and Ron has to do the same.”
Sirius clears his throat. “I’m going to meet with Dumbledore this afternoon. If he gives his permission, do you still want to visit your parents’ graves on Halloween?”
“I didn’t even realize that was the date,” Harry admits. “A little bit, maybe, but I didn’t put it together. I can’t—I don’t want to be at the feast. I can’t—I can’t celebrate Halloween, not now.”
“They’re choosing the Champions at the feast,” Sirius points out. “Surely you want to be there for that?”
Harry shakes his head. “No, I mean I’ll support the Hogwarts champion, no matter who it is, but I don’t want to—be a downer while everybody else is happy.”
“It’s up to you,” Sirius replies. “And maybe Dumbledore, unless we completely ignore him.”
Harry smiles. “Thanks, Padfoot. I just don’t see how I can be in a celebratory mood knowing what I do now.”
“That’s fair,” Sirius assures him. “I’ll impress that upon Dumbledore. People will notice that you’re gone, most likely.”
Harry shrugs. “And my friends will ask, and I’ll tell them. Everybody else will assume I’m off doing something nefarious, or will accuse me of doing that.” He shrugs. “Welcome to my life.”
“As long as you know what you’re getting into, I can’t blame you,” Sirius replies. “As much as I can, I’ll give you a choice, Harry.”
“Thanks,” Harry replies. “So, uh…”
“Go,” Sirius says. “We’re supposed to meet Dumbledore shortly anyway. Go find your friends and have a good rest of your weekend.”
Harry hugs him again before he leaves. “Thanks for coming. It was really good to see you guys.”
Once he’s gone, Sirius looks at Remus helplessly.
“I know,” Remus says. “I miss the hell out of him, too. He’s always been a good kid, but he’s showing a new level of maturity.”
Sirius thought so as well, but maybe that’s just because Harry seems more comfortable with who and what he is now. “Shall we head up to Hogwarts?”
“Dumbledore is waiting for us,” Remus replies.
They pay the bill and apparate just in front of Hogwarts’ gates.
The gates swing open, and he and Remus begin the long walk up to the castle. Sirius isn’t really sure what to expect, although he’s fairly sure it won’t be entirely pleasant.
McGonagall meets them at the doors. “The Headmaster said you would be joining us this afternoon. As Potter’s Head of House, I’d like to know what you have planned.”
“I wanted the Headmaster’s permission to take Harry to visit his parents’ graves on Halloween,” Sirius replies as he follows McGonagall to the gargoyle that guards the stairs to Dumbledore’s office. “He knew they’d died around this time of year, but not the exact date. His Muggle relatives never told him, if they even knew.”
“I’m not sure what they did or didn’t know,” she says stiffly.
Sirius thinks she might know more, but her loyalty to Dumbledore is absolute, and whatever the circumstances were of Harry ending up with the Dursleys, he’s fairly certain they weren’t completely above-board.
“In any case, Harry never had the opportunity to visit his parents’ graves or Godric’s Hollow,” Sirius says. “He deserves that chance, and it’s the first anniversary of their deaths that we can spend together.”
McGonagall’s lips tighten. “I understand. Will you have Harry back here in time for the feast?”
“He says he doesn’t want to be a downer for the others at the feast,” Sirius replies. “He just found out the exact date, and he doesn’t want to spend the evening celebrating.”
Her expression softens. “I always thought the moniker of the ‘boy who lived’ to be in the absolute worst taste. James and Lily deserve to be remembered for who they were.”
Sirius couldn’t agree more, but he’s a little bit biased.
McGonagall says, “Fizzing Whizbees,” and the gargoyle moves aside. “Before you go up I want you to remember something, Sirius.”
She’s never called him by his first name, as far as he can remember, and Sirius stops dead. “What’s that?”
“I have always liked Mr. Potter,” McGonagall says, as proper as always. “But he was always a bit unfocused. I didn’t want to put additional pressure on him, so I never said anything, but he was not living up to his potential. This year, he has proven willing to take on new challenges, he has reached out to other students to form friendships and help them along, and he has even had moments of brilliance. And,” her eyes twinkle at this, “he has proven terribly frustrating for Professor Snape, who has been unable to downgrade many of his students.”
Sirius grins. “I told Harry it would be an excellent prank.”
“It has been quite entertaining, particularly since I’m not sure that Professor Snape knows why his students are doing so much better this year,” McGonagall admits. “With your permission, I would like to offer Mr. Potter private tutoring in transfiguration. With some specialized attention, I believe he’ll be able to take his animagus form by the end of the year. Since he wouldn’t need to register until he’s 17, it could prove invaluable.”
“Assuming Harry agrees, I would love that,” Sirius agrees. “Any tool in his arsenal would be helpful.”
“I didn’t want to assume,” she replies, her expression warming that much more. “But I did notice that his transfiguration skills have come quite a long way.”
“We’ve been working on occulemency and meditation,” Sirius admits. “Harry has been doing really well.”
McGonagall nods. “Then I’ll approach him when I have an opportunity. Do you know what he wants to do after school?”
“He said today that he wants to pursue the healing arts,” Sirius says proudly. “Focusing on spell damage.”
McGonagall blinks, and Sirius realizes that she’s touched. “Does this have anything to do with Mr. Longbottom’s parents?”
“Harry wants to give Neville his parents back,” Sirius replies.
McGonagall smiles. “He’ll do his parents proud. Let me know if I need to have a word with the Headmaster.”
They climb the stairs to Dumbledore’s office and find him waiting, sitting behind his desk.
“I received your owl,” Dumbledore says without fanfare. “You do realize that the Hogwarts’ champion is going to be chosen at the end of the feast.”
“And Harry just realized that Halloween is the date of his parents’ death,” Sirius counters. “He doesn’t want to depress anyone else, but it’s the first anniversary that we are able to spend together. He wants to see his parents’ graves, and I think he has that right.”
Sirius is watching Dumbledore carefully. He knows that Mad Eye hasn’t been replaced by Barty Crouch Jr., and he doesn’t think anyone else would have had the access to alter the Cup.
He hopes. He didn’t have any way of insisting on guarding the damn thing.
Dumbledore sighs. “I understand. I believe an allowance can be made. Harry has shown outstanding leadership with his peers this year. Professor Snape is rather put out.”
Sirius smirks. “We worked on Potions this summer.”
“Your care has been invaluable, I’m sure,” Dumbledore says. “He’s doing very well. But I still believe it’s important to have him spend time with his relatives this coming summer.”
Sirius gives him a hard look. “No, it’s not going to happen. I promised Harry that he wouldn’t have to go back, and I mean to keep that promise.”
“If he goes back, he’ll be able to maintain the same blood protections that Lily put into place,” Dumbledore argues.
“And Lily would probably find a way to come back from the dead to curse me if I let him go back to people who don’t care for him,” Sirius counters.
“Sirius right,” Remus adds mildly. “Lily would probably murder anybody who placed Harry with the Dursleys, who housed Harry in a cupboard under the stairs until they were shamed into putting him in an actual bedroom.”
Dumbledore sighs. “And the blood protections?”
“As I told you before, blood protections don’t do much when the people who are supposed to protect you don’t give a knut for your well-being,” Sirius replies. “As I know. I won’t subject Harry to that. I just won’t.”
Dumbledore sighs, apparently giving up on his argument—at least for now. “I have some ideas about other soul fragments, if you’re interested.”
“We’re all ears,” Sirius replies.
“Voldemort was obsessed with the founders of Hogwarts,” Dumbledore says. “There’s an excellent chance that he would have used something from Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin.”
“But not Godric Gryffindor?” Remus asks.
Dumbledore shakes his head. “I’ve been able to confirm the whereabouts of Gryffindor’s artifacts, the most famous of which is the sword.”
“We’ll start searching,’” Sirius promises. “Thank you for allowing Harry to spend Halloween with us.”
“That went better than I expected,” Remus comments as they take their leave.
Sirius snorts. “Oh, I don’t think that’s the end of it. He’ll have a reason for Harry to go back to the Dursleys’ that he thinks is more persuasive, and he’ll try again. It’s October; he has plenty of time to convince us.”
“Not that we’ll be convinced,” Remus says.
“This is Dumbledore,” Sirius counters. “He can convince a great many people of a great many things. But we know where Harry belongs.”
“That we do,” Remus agrees.
Sirius meets up with Augusta the following week to discuss their strategy for the next Wizengamot session. They aren’t expecting any trials, and Augusta hasn’t heard about major legislative changes to be proposed. She’s of the opinion that the pure blood families and the not-so-secret Death Eaters are trying to keep a low profile.
“I’m not sure we really need to do much,” Sirius admits. “I’d like to put forward some creature rights laws, but it might be too much, too soon.”
“I would agree,” Augusta replies. “You made quite the splash last time, and it might be a good idea to let the dust settle. Besides, we’ll need to gauge interest from the other members. You don’t want to bring a package cold.”
Sirius knows that doing so would weaken his overall message. Bringing a bill that falls flat, with no support, would leave him isolated and appearing weak. “Perhaps after the holidays. I imagine that some of the Yule parties will give us an opportunity to check with allies and foes alike.”
Augusta nods approvingly. “Are you going to attend the Malfoys’ Yule Ball?”
“I rather doubt they’ll invite me, and they certainly aren’t going to invite Remus,” Sirius says dryly. “And I wouldn’t walk into that den of snakes without someone watching my back.”
“Hogwarts will have its Yule Ball for the Triwizard Tournament,” Augusta points out.
“I’ll leave that up to Harry,” Sirius replies. “He’s indicated that he wants to spend the holidays with us, and we’ll likely go to our place in France.”
Augusta nods. “I hope you get your wish.”
“That’s the beauty of being rich, and having as many resources as I do,” Sirius replies. “I can make arrangements that suit us both.”
“I think we should meet with Tiberius Ogden and Michael Mayweather next month,” Augusta says. “They’re both neutral and would likely hear you out for the entertainment value alone.”
Sirius laughs. “It’s nice to know that I’m good for something, even if it’s just for entertainment.”
He’s rather cheered by the visit, though. The next Wizengamot session should be far less fraught, assuming that someone doesn’t come up with a surprise, which isn’t an assumption Sirius wants to make.
Remus goes with him to that Wizengamot session, held the week before Halloween, and this time Remus heads immediately to the gallery, and Sirius finds his seat without speaking more than a few words to anyone.
He takes his seat, and watches as the others file in. Augusta is already seated as well, and she looks serene, if stern. Lucius Malfoy, as always, looks as though he’s smelled something disgusting.
He spots Griselda Marchbanks and Michael Mayweather and makes note of them. Griselda has been around nearly as long as Dumbledore, and she’s somewhat notorious for being cantankerous. He doesn’t know much about Mayweather, although he holds an appointed seat, not a familial one.
Dumbledore calls the session to order. There are some minor budget matters to address, as well as a law on the thickness of cauldron bottoms that has been introduced.
Sirius isn’t sure he really cares about the mandated thickness of cauldrons, but Remus had lectured him about how important it is to ensure safety in potions making, so Sirius does have a position.
Not for the first time, Sirius is grateful that he has Remus to keep him honest. He probably wouldn’t have done the research on his own.
And then Umbridge gets to her feet with her annoying little hm-hm sound, and Sirius just knows that whatever comes out of her mouth, he’s going to hate. “I have a proposal to review the schedule of restricted potions.”
Restricted potions are those that can’t be manufactured except by certified Potions Masters, and generally can’t be distributed without going through the Ministry. There aren’t many potions that are restricted, since it’s hard to control the brewing and distribution when any witch or wizard could brew—or attempt to brew—whatever potion they like.
It’s actually easier to control potions ingredients, but other than things like unicorn blood, or things that can only be used in dark magic, most ingredients have both benign and malicious uses.
The list of proposed potions to be added to the restricted list appears in front of Sirius, and he was definitely right: he hates it. At the very top of the list is Wolfsbane.
There’s no reason for it other than pure maliciousness, and probably an attempt to undermine Sirius and put his foundation out of business before he can really get started.
The problem is that Sirius isn’t sure what he can do to combat it on short notice, not when his motivations for calling it into question would be clear.
Mayweather gets to his feet. He’s a portly wizard with brown hair just beginning to go gray. “Chief Warlock, may I have the floor?”
Dumbledore looks a bit surprised, which tells Sirius that Mayweather doesn’t often ask for the floor. “Of course, Mr. Mayweather.”
“Thank you,” he replies. “After the last session, and Lord Black’s surprise announcement regarding his foundation to distribute Wolfsbane, I wanted to do some research. I knew what most people know about werewolves—as a terror, a boogeyman to warn our children about. During the last war, Greyback bit and infected at least thirty-two people. Twenty-nine of them were children. Twenty-nine innocent victims.”
Mayweather pauses, letting that sink into the minds of those present. “I have four children and two grandchildren. I shudder to think that any of them might be targeted by such a monster, but I am not so arrogant to believe that my family is immune. If I thought the Ministry was choosing to make it more difficult to care for my children and grandchildren, to make it so they couldn’t be safe, or to make it more likely that they’d hurt others, well. I’m not sure I would be proud to serve a body such as that one.”
He sits down, and there are murmurs around the chamber.
Augusta asks to be recognized, and she rises. “I concur with Mr. Mayweather. I would hate to think that my grandson couldn’t get the help he needed as an innocent victim.”
Griselda Marchbanks is next. “There’s no ingredient in the Wolfsbane potion that’s restricted. It’s damn hard to brew, but we don’t restrict potions for that reason. This is a gross overreach of the Ministry to prevent people from getting the necessary treatment. This is a travesty, Minister Fudge! I can’t believe you’d allow this to go forward.”
Fudge clearly senses the tide in the chamber turning against him. “We can, of course, strike that from the list.”
“I think that might be for the best, Minister,” Mayweather says a little pompously. “I mean, think of the children.”
The vote to strike Wolfsbane from the list is unanimous, save for a few of those who abstain, and Sirius doesn’t even have to say anything. Mayweather has made all of his arguments for him, and has made it about protecting the children, not about werewolves.
Sirius thinks that Mayweather has started to turn the tide of the conversation. If most werewolves are regarded as innocent victims, rather than the scary monsters under the bed, then there will be more support for werewolves.
People will look at them as wizards and witches with an unfortunate medical condition.
That’s the most excitement of the session. The other matters are routine, and Sirius leaves the chamber with his head still spinning a bit. He catches sight of Augusta and quickly catches up with her. “Did you know?”
Augusta shakes her head. “Not here. Mr. Mayweather and I agreed to have lunch together, and we’re hoping that you and Remus will join us.”
Sirius nods. “Yes, of course. I want to thank him, anyway.”
“Wait until you speak with him before you offer your thanks,” Augusta cautions him.
Remus finds them a few moments later, looking a little wild-eyed. “What just happened?”
“I have a private room booked for lunch,” Augusta says.
The nearby restaurant is magical, and Augusta has, indeed, booked a private room in the back, as well as pre-ordering food, kept hot on a sideboard. There are pitchers of water and juice, carafes of tea and coffee, so they are going to be free from interruption, even from waitstaff.
Mayweather joins them shortly, and he immediately holds out a hand for Sirius to shake. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lord Black.”
“The pleasure is mine,” Sirius replies. “My friend and chamberlain, Remus Lupin.”
Mayweather’s eyes sharpen. “Ah, yes. And it’s a real pleasure to meet you, Mr. Lupin.”
Remus shakes his hand. “I have to thank you for your heartfelt speech today.”
Mayweather smiles tightly. “No offense, Mr. Lupin, because I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, but I had my own reasons for saying what I did.”
Sirius suddenly sees everything clearly. “Four children. Two grandchildren.”
“My daughter was nine when she was bitten,” he confirms. “She’s our oldest, and we made the decision to homeschool all of our children to keep her secret. We couldn’t afford Wolfsbane until you created your foundation.”
That’s one of the reasons why Sirius made it available for free. It’s difficult to brew, and those who need it really need it, and might be afraid of coming forward, particularly if they’ve hidden their condition for years. Those who can brew it can charge a premium, or will refuse to brew it at all, the prejudice against werewolves is so strong.
“I was five,” Remus says quietly. “It was Greyback.”
“She’s twenty-six, and she’s never left home,” Mayweather says. “We don’t mind, of course. We’ll support her until it’s no longer possible to do so, but she hasn’t been able to see a life for herself.”
“Does she want one?” Sirius asks. “Because we’re rather fond of werewolves in the Black family.”
“I’ll ask her,” Mayweather replies. “Any hope would be better than none. Mr. Lupin, if she’s agreeable, would you be willing to talk to her?”
Remus hesitates. “I’d be willing, Mr. Mayweather, but I won’t shade the truth for her. Without the support of Lord Black, my life would be very different right now.”
“Which is why I’d like her to talk to you,” Mayweather replies. “I want her to know that with the right support, and the right people, she can have a life.”
Remus nods. “Of course. I’d be happy to talk to her, if that’s the case.”
“Thank you,” Mayweather replies. “Although I’ll thank you to keep this information private.”
“I don’t out people who don’t want to be out, whatever the circumstances,” Sirius replies. “Unless they’re a Death Eater.”
Mayweather laughs. “Well, those dark bastards deserve it. Now, I’m afraid I have to run, but I look forward to seeing what you do in the Wizengamot, Lord Black. I hope we can work together.”
They say their farewells, and Augusta gives Sirius a look. “I told you that Mayweather would be a good ally.”
“Did you know that Umbridge was going to try to add Wolfsbane to the restricted list?” Sirius asks.
“I was tipped off a few days ago,” she admits. “And before you ask, I didn’t tell you because you couldn’t be the one to argue for it not being on the list. I knew Mayweather would argue the point eloquently, and very few people know, or even suspect, that one of his children is a werewolf. They assume that she’s unwell, and that the Mayweathers are too proper to air family business in public.”
“Well, they’re not wrong,” Remus comments. “Without the Wolfsbane, the full moon tends to leave a person wrung out and feeling pretty ill for a few days after. With it, there’s a faster recovery time.”
Augusta gives him a sympathetic look. “I had no idea.”
“It’s not like we advertise it,” Remus replies. “I don’t like disclosing it, although I think just about everyone has figured it out by now.”
“Having Lord Black’s protection is helpful, then,” Augusta comments. “And I’m sure he appreciates having a friend to watch his back.”
“I do,” Sirius says. “I wouldn’t have made it this far without him.”
Remus flushes, but he doesn’t argue. They have a pleasant lunch after that, and Sirius asks, “Will we see you at the next session?”
“That is the plan,” Augusta says. “Then we’ll be on break until February.”
Sirius nods. “I think February should be the session where we make our next big gambit. We’ll have time to feel out the other Wizengamot members in between now and then.”
Augusta agrees. “That should give us enough time, at least to see if we might be able to build a consensus.”
They have a nice lunch, and then part. Sirius and Remus head back to Grimmauld Place.
“Do you still want to go to Black Manor after Halloween?” Remus asks.
Sirius sighs. “No, not really, but I think I need to. Do you still want to come with me?”
“Do you want me to come with you?” Remus counters. “Because you might want privacy if you’re going to wake up your grandfather’s portrait.”
“I don’t need privacy, not when it comes to you,” Sirius replies. “And I haven’t decided if I’m going to wake up Arcturus’ portrait or not.”
“Sirius, I know you,” Remus says patiently. “Your curiosity is going to get the better of you.”
He sighs. “True. Well, let’s get through Halloween first. I’ll figure out what to do about the manor after that.”
Remus goes to visit the pack he’s getting close to the next week, and Sirius has another meeting with Andy and her daughter.
“Thank you for seeing us,” Andy says,
Sirius snorts. “Please, Andy, you’re family. Come in. I’ll get some tea for us.”
“Thank you,” Andy says. “I was intrigued by the events of the last Wizengamot session. I expected to hear you speak, given your close friendship with Mr. Lupin.”
“I would have,” Sirius admits. “Augusta is a better tactician than I am, so she kept me in the dark. If I’d said anything, they would have accused me of being biased, which I am, but it would have undercut the argument for including it on the list.”
Andy smiles warmly. “So, you are learning to think before you act.”
“I learned that lesson the night I went after Peter Pettigrew,” Sirius replies. “If I hadn’t acted so rashly, I might have had Harry for his entire life, and he wouldn’t have been placed with abusive Muggles. I can’t afford to act rashly. I never really could, but I didn’t realize that at the time.”
Andy’s expression softens. “And if Barty Crouch, Sr. had given you a trial, or done anything to ensure that you received a trial, you may very well not have spent time in Azkaban.”
“Well, water under the bridge,” Sirius says. “And Nymphadora, it’s great to finally meet you.”
She frowns a bit, and her hair turns a shocking shade of pink. “Tonks, please.”
Sirius smiles. “Tonks, then. It’s still nice to meet you. You’re a metamorphagus?”
She beams. “I am! And I’ve heard you’re an animagus.”
Sirius decides to show her and transforms.
Andy gasps, but Tonks grins. “Oh, I’ll bet you scare the piss out of people. You look just like a Grim!”
Sirius reverses the transformation. “I do, on occasion, and yes, I do enjoy it.”
Tonks laughs. “Oh, I think we’re going to get along swimmingly.”
This visit is far less fraught, and is mostly just them getting familiar with one another. They talk about Tonks’ ambitions as an Auror, as well as plans for the upcoming Christmas holiday. By the end of the visit, they have an agreement to get together so they can meet Harry, and be grafted back onto the Black family tree.
Andy makes a request just before they leave. “I don’t know if she’d want it, or would be willing to do it, but I would like to see Narcissa,” Andy says hesitantly.
Sirius understands. Bellatrix is lost to them, but Narcissa isn’t a Death Eater, even if she’s married to one. But Narcissa is Andy’s sister, and she hasn’t had contact with her family in ages.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Sirius promises. “If she’s willing, I’ll be happy to serve as Switzerland.”
Andy smiles, and he can tell that she’s tearing up a bit. “Thank you, Siri. I really had no idea what to expect, but you’re doing so well.”
Sirius smiles. “Your husband is a healer, right?”
Andi nods. “He is.”
“Then perhaps he’d be willing to let Harry shadow him at some point. He’s interested in the healing arts. He really wants to help to heal spell damage.”
Andy beams. “Everything I’ve heard about him indicates he’s an extraordinary young man. That just proves it.”
“Well, he’s aware at this point that his godmother is in St. Mungo’s because of the Cruciatus,” Sirius admits. “He wants to fix the whole world.”
“And I’m sure you’ll help him in that goal,” Andy says.
“I want to meet my cousin,” Tonks declares. “He sounds awesome, even if I kind of wish he’d join the Aurors.”
“Well, if he’s fixing spell damage, he’ll be fixing Aurors,” Sirius counters. “And I’m sure he’ll want to meet you. His Muggle cousin is a bully.”
Tonks frowns. “I’d tell you to point me at him, but they frown at Muggle-baiting, no matter how well deserved.”
Sirius laughs. “If it comes to that, I think I’d rather sic the Weasley twins on them. Their pranks are incredible. I’m thinking of funding their joke shop. I know they’re planning one.”
Andy frowns. “Pranks?”
“Everybody needs to laugh, Andy, even in a time of war. Especially in a time of war.”
“Indeed,” Andy agrees. “I fell in love with Ted because he made me laugh. Come on, Dora, I still have some shopping I want to do.”
Tonks rolls her eyes at Sirius, who stifles a laugh, and he sees them out. It’s been a pleasant afternoon, and Sirius thinks that they might be that much closer to making the Black family a little more inclusive than it has been in the past.
On Halloween, they turn up at the gates of Hogwarts mid-morning as previously arranged. Sirius is a little surprised to see Ron and Hermione waiting with Harry. Sirius hasn’t heard anything from Harry about his current friendship status with Ron, but Ron claps him on the shoulder when Sirius and Remus approach. “I know we’d get in trouble, but we’ll go with you if you want,” Ron offers.
“I wouldn’t want you to get another Howler from your mom,” Harry says gamely. “It’s okay. I appreciate the offer.”
Hermione hugs him. “We’ll see you whenever you get back tonight, Harry. I think this will be really good for you.”
“I hope so,” Harry replies.
And then the gates swing open, and Harry steps through, waving to his friends. “See you guys later.”
Sirius puts an arm around Harry’s shoulders. “Are you sure you want to do this, Harry?”
“I need to do this,” Harry counters. “I want to see where—where they died.”
“Just don’t forget that it’s where you lived, too,” Sirius reminds him. “You were such a happy baby. I think you knew how much you were loved.”
Harry hesitates. “I still know.”
Sirius feels a bit choked up. “Good. I’m glad to hear that. Ready?”
Harry nods, and Sirius side-alongs him directly outside of the cottage where his parents had been killed. No one has done anything to the property. Sirius can still see the damage that had been present when he’d shown up in 1981, and it’s deteriorated further. The roof has caved in on the right side, and ivy covers most of the rest. Sirius wonders why no one has torn it down yet, but supposes that perhaps people have left it to Harry to deal with.
“It looks awful,” Remus says. “I haven’t been back since before…”
“Yeah, it’s not exactly the cozy cottage it was when you were here last,” Sirius says, keeping a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “All right, Harry?”
Harry nods. “I think I can kind of tell what it probably looked like before. It was nice.”
“It was very nice,” Sirius assures him. “Your mum had a real eye for decorating, and she wanted everything to be perfect for you.”
“Do you think we can go inside?” Harry asks.
Sirius shrugs. “We can try. It might not be safe.”
“That’s okay,” Harry says. “I just want to look around a bit.”
There’s obvious spell damage in the foyer, and Sirius can remember finding James’ lifeless body at the base of the stairs. He shudders, and Harry presses close to him.
“The nursery is upstairs,” Sirius says hoarsely. “It was still mostly intact the last time I was here.”
“Is that where—“ Harry trails off. “Is that where Mum died?”
“It is,” Sirius replies. “I found her there. I found your dad here.”
Harry nods. “I want to go upstairs.”
“Let me go first,” Sirius says. “Just to make sure it’s safe.”
The stairs seem to be intact and safe enough to use, and Sirius leads the way up. The nursery has a wall blown out, but the crib is still intact. There are marks on the floor from spell damage, and part of the wall is gone, probably because of the spell backlash on Voldemort.
Harry moves towards the crib, touching the railing carefully, then turning towards the non-existent wall. There’s a child’s teddy bear on the floor, and Harry leans down and picks it up, inhaling. “It smells of mildew.”
“It’s been exposed to the elements,” Sirius says apologetically.
“It’s fine,” Harry says. “It’s not as though I’ve missed it, at least not that I knew of.”
“Let’s take it with us,” Remus says gently. “We can have it cleaned.”
Harry hangs on to the teddy. “I don’t know that I remember it, but it feels a little familiar.”
“I think,” Sirius says, heading over to the chest in the room that’s still intact. “Yes, here.”
He pulls out the toy broom he’d given Harry for his first birthday. “This is the first birthday gift I gave you.”
Harry laughs. “It’s so small.”
“You were flying almost before you could walk,” Sirius says. “If you don’t want it, I’ll take it.”
“You keep it,” Harry says with a smile. “It’s a little too small for me now.”
Sirius is glad to have it. “Thanks.”
Harry hangs on to the bear, and they look around for other mementos. Remus finds a book of Lily’s that he wants to keep, and Sirius and Harry find a few other things. There’s a Potter family photo album in the parlor on the first floor that includes the Potters’ wedding photos, as well as photos of James’ parents. There are books and other things, enough that Sirius calls on Dobby and Winky. “Please keep these safe for Harry.”
“Of course,” Winky says immediately. “I put them in the house.”
“Thank you, Winky,” Sirius replies. “We appreciate it.”
“Dobby cleans the teddy,” the house elf says. “If Harry Potter wants it.”
“Yeah, I’d like that,” Harry says, and hands the teddy off to Dobby. “Thank you.”
They’ve taken everything from the ruins of the cottage that they want, and then head to the monument. Sirius isn’t sure when it was put up, or by who, but from some angles it appears to be an obelisk with the names of those who had died in the last war. From another angle, it’s a sculpture of a family, clearly meant to be the Potters. There’s a man, a woman, and a small child, although the features are indistinct. Sirius thinks it a real shame, and if could be certain that it would work, he’d alter it.
There’s at least a nice commemorative plaque at the sculpture that notes the Potters’ names, what they did, and their dates of birth and death.
Harry stands and stares at it for a long moment. “It doesn’t say why they died.”
“Probably because they didn’t want to risk the statue being defaced by Death Eaters,” Sirius replies. “Do you want to go to the cemetery?”
Harry nods. “Yeah, I would.”
The graves are plain. A couple of tombstones with names and dates of birth and death, but that’s about it. When they arrive, the headstones are undecorated.
And then Winky and Dobby show up with the flower wreath that Sirius ordered, though it’s as large as the both of them combined, and they stagger underneath it.
The wreath is set up against their shared tombstone, and it looks good.
Harry kneels down in front of the graves and traces the names of his parents, “Do you guys mind?”
“We’ll just be over there,” Sirius says.
He and Remus move away, giving Harry the space he needs. “How are you?” Remus asks quietly.
Sirius shakes his head. “I don’t know how to answer that question,” he admits.
“I miss them,” Remus says quietly. “There are days when it’s easier to just not think about it, and then it will hit me all over again.”
Sirius feels much the same way. He misses James and Lily fiercely, maybe more so after having them back not that long ago. Before the Veil, he’d nearly forgotten what it was like to be around James and Lily, to accept James’ warm embrace, and to work with Lily to create the Wolfsbane. Even though that other life hadn’t ended well, he’s glad of it. It’s given him the needed space to look at Harry and not see James, or treat Harry as a substitute for his father.
“I miss them, too, every day,” Sirius replies quietly. “And every day, I’m grateful for Harry, because I would be so much worse off without him.”
Remus smiles. “Harry gives you a purpose that you wouldn’t otherwise have. I can see that.”
“I’m going to remake the world for Harry,” Sirius says. “I owe him that much.”
“It’s not your fault that you missed out on years of Harry’s life, you know,” Remus says gently. “If they’d given you a trial, you would have had him.”
“Or they would have decided I was guilty, and then I really would have been in hot water,” Sirius points out. “I’m fairly certain that Crouch thought I was guilty based on my last name alone.”
Remus frowns. “If they’d tested your wand…”
Sirius shakes his head. “I remember how things were at the end of the last war. Once Voldemort was gone, people didn’t want to think about it anymore. They wanted it over with. That’s how so many marked Death Eaters escaped justice.”
Remus doesn’t say anything to that, probably because there’s nothing to say. It’s the truth, after all.
Sirius is keeping an eye on Harry, and Harry gets to his feet, looking over at them. “I think he might be ready.”
Harry has red eyes and a tremulous smile, but he looks genuinely happy. “Thank you, Sirius.”
Sirius puts an arm around Harry’s shoulders. “It’s good to be here. Do you want to walk around the village some?”
Harry nods. “Sure.”
It’s a small, charming village, and Sirius points out the places he’s familiar with. He doubts the same people live here still, but they’ve soon seen everything there is to see. There’s a small pub, and that’s where they stop in for lunch.
The meat pies are hot, and the chips are nice and thick. Harry eats ravenously, admitting that he hadn’t been able to eat much at breakfast.
“Who owns the house now?” Harry asks.
Sirius is a little surprised at the question. “You do, Harry. The house belongs to the Potter estate. What do you want to do with it?”
“Do you think it can be fixed?” Harry asks.
Sirius glances at Remus. “What do you think?”
“It could probably be restored,” Remus hedges. “But is that what you want, Harry?”
Harry hesitates. “I know it’s where my parents died, but it’s where they lived, too. I don’t really have any bad memories there.”
Sirius has mixed feelings about repairing the place. There’s a part of him that would prefer to raze it to the ground, but he also has good memories of that house. He remembers eating meals with the Potters, watching Harry zipping around on the broom Sirius gave him for his first birthday.
“Why don’t I contact some people for you?” Sirius suggests. “We can find out what it will take to fix it up, and then you can decide what you want to do, and when.”
Harry nods. “Okay, that sounds like a plan.” He sounds relieved. “But, um, can we put something around it for now to keep people out? I hate to think of people desecrating it.”
“Of course,” Sirius says. “We’ll do that before we leave. Is there anything else you want to do today?”
“I changed my mind,” Harry confesses. “I thought I’d be too much of a downer to be at the feast tonight, but I think I want to be with my friends. My parents would want that for me.”
Sirius is a little disappointed to miss out on additional time with Harry, but he says, “They would. Your parents would absolutely want you to have a good time with your friends. I know we always enjoyed the Halloween feast when we were at school.”
“Maybe we can talk about what to do about the house when we’re together at Christmas?” Harry asks. “And I’d like it if you came to Hogsmeade again between now and then.”
Sirius is glad that Harry wants to spend the extra time with them, and he agrees readily. “I think we can be there the third weekend in November,” Sirius replies.
Harry grins. “That would be great. Thanks.”
“I want to see you just as much,” Sirius assures him. “We miss you, pup.”
Harry flushes a bit. “Miss you, too.”
They deliver Harry back at Hogwarts mid-afternoon, and watch as he goes through the gates and begins the long walk up to the castle.
“That went well,” Remus says quietly. “I think Harry needed that closure.”
“So did I,” Sirius replies. “Let’s go home.”
He keeps the communication mirror close by, hoping that they’ve done enough to prevent Harry from being entered in the Tournament.
Barty Crouch, Jr. had access to the Cup, but Peter wouldn’t be able to access it in the same way, and he’s the Death Eater who’s closest to what’s left of Dumbledore at the moment.
Remus notices his nerves, and he asks, “What’s wrong?”
“Let’s just say that they’re choosing the Triwizard champions this evening, and I’d rather that Harry not be one of them,” Sirius says grimly.
Remus’ eyebrows go up. “Harry wouldn’t enter himself. He’s too young.”
“But someone else could enter him,” Sirius counters. “And it would be just like a Death Eater to do something like that.”
So, Sirius waits in the study with a glass of fire whiskey, knowing that if Harry’s name comes out of the Cup, Sirius will be his first call.
It’s after eleven when the mirror chimes, and Sirius quickly picks it up. “Hey, pup.”
Harry looks tired, but pleased. “I thought you’d want to know, the Hogwarts’ champion is Cedric Diggory, from Hufflepuff.”
“How did you know I was worried?” Sirius asks, a little surprised.
Harry grins. “You have a tell, Padfoot. I don’t know why you were worried, but I could tell that you were.”
Sirius snorts. “The Triwizard Tournament is dangerous, Harry. If someone managed to get you entered, your life would be in danger, and if it’s all the same to you, I want you safe this year.”
Harry looks pleased. “Honestly, I’m just glad to have a quiet year. I miss Quidditch, but maybe if we see Lionel over the holidays, we can play then.”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Sirius promises. “At least you and I can go flying, pup.”
Harry nods. “Okay, it’s late, and I need sleep. Love you, Sirius.”
“I love you, too, Harry,” Sirius replies.
When he closes the mirror, he lets out a sigh of relief. Remus has already gone to bed, and Sirius strips off his clothes and joins him. “Everything okay?” Remus asks sleepily.
“Harry called,” Sirius replies. “The Hogwarts’ champion is a boy from Hufflepuff.”
“Good for them,” Remus says. “Hufflepuff rarely gets any glory. How did Harry seem?”
“Happy,” Sirius replies.
“Excellent.” Remus hauls him closer. “Now, go to sleep, Pads.”
And while Sirius expects to have difficulty sleeping, especially after being back to the Potters’ cottage, he drops right off, and he doesn’t dream.
Part the Seventh: In Which Sirius Faces His Legacy
With Harry safe from the Triwizard Tournament, and the next Wizengamot session two weeks away, Sirius and Remus turn to dealing with Black Manor. The place is unplottable, and Sirius remembers the wards being nearly lethal to anyone who isn’t a Black, so Sirius side-alongs Remus to just outside the gates.
Remus winces. “I can feel the wards.”
“Grandfather wasn’t going to take any chances,” Sirius replies. He puts a hand on the gates, and he feels the wards give way. “We should be good now.”
The gates swing open, and Sirius steps through, Remus at his heels. Black Manor is imposing, and Sirius knows that it has two separate wings, with over a hundred rooms, including bedrooms, drawing rooms, dining rooms, and various parlors. The wards had essentially put the house under a stasis charm, which means that there isn’t nearly as much dust as there would have been otherwise.
Remus lets out a low whistle. “This is something else.”
“I actually enjoyed the little time I spent here,” Sirius admits. “Everything was very formal, but I felt safe. I knew my parents would never hurt me at Black Manor, because Grandfather would intervene.”
Remus makes a wounded sound. “I hate that your parents were so cruel.”
Sirius glances at him. “I’m not. It helps me understand Harry better, to be honest with you. I don’t regret it.”
“I still hate that your parents were cruel,” Remus replies.
“And I’m glad that you care about me that much,” Sirius says. “You know, my grandfather used to have a veritable army of house elves. I’m not sure what happened to them.”
As though his words are a summons, three house elves pop in front of them. “Lord Black called!”
Sirius glances at Remus with a grin. “I suppose I did. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to remind me of your names.”
“I is being Cordy,” the lead house elf says, “I serve the Lord Black.”
Sirius vaguely remembers Cordy, and he says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you again. How many house elves are still attached to the Black Manor?”
“There be twenty of us, Lord Black,” Cordy replies. “But most are in an enclave because there be no one here.”
“I’m afraid that I probably won’t be living here any time soon, but I may need to entertain here,” Sirius replies.
“We be ready!” she says cheerfully.
Sirius smiles at her. “Until then, you should do whatever it is you’d like to do. But do you know whether my grandfather created a portrait before he died?”
Cordy nods quickly. “He did, but the portrait is sleeping in the gallery.”
“Well, I guess I’d better go see it, then,” Sirius says.
He hadn’t been to the Manor in a long time, but he still remembers where the gallery is. He’d spent time there on the rare occasion he’d been in the Manor, looking for any relatives that might not be like his parents.
Sirius had found a few who were terribly inappropriate, and he’d enjoyed speaking with them, knowing that there were Blacks who didn’t always toe the family line.
It had given him hope.
The clamor from the gallery as he enters is nearly deafening. All of the portraits are speaking at once, apparently excited to have a Lord Black in residence again.
“Enough!” Sirius roars. “I’m here now, but I’m not planning to take residence again right away. I would like to speak to my grandfather, if it’s all the same to the rest of you.”
There are grumbles from the gallery, and Sirius notes that Phineas Black is giving him a sharp look. He glances at Remus.
“I think I might wander around for a bit,” Remus says. “Let me know if you need me.”
Sirius nods and takes a deep breath, walking up to his grandfather’s portrait. Arcturus Black appears to be asleep, and Sirius considers just walking away for a moment. He didn’t have much contact with his grandfather after his grandmother’s death. He has no idea why his grandfather selected Sirius as his heir, rather than Regulus, or why he would have kept Sirius as his heir after he was sent to Azkaban.
At the end of the day, though, Sirius has questions, and he wants answers. He brushes his fingers over the nameplate at the bottom of the portrait, and pushes a bit of his magic into it. He’s never woken up a portrait before, but he knows the basic principles.
His grandfather is seated in a chair that Sirius recognizes from his study, and he begins to stir.
Sirius takes a step back, his heart in his throat.
Arcturus’ eyes flutter open, and there’s a long moment when Sirius waits for Arcturus to acknowledge him.
“Sirius?” his grandfather says. “Is that you, my boy?”
“It is,” Sirius replies. “I’m sorry it took me so long.”
Arcturus waves that off. “It hasn’t been that long for me. I’ve been asleep. When did you get out of Azkaban?”
“Over a year ago, but it took me time to clear my name, and then I had to get custody of Harry, and make sure he was cared for,” Sirius admits.
Arcturus’ expression clears. “Then you were determined to be innocent?”
“After a trial in front of the Wizengamot,” Sirius confirmed. “The worst they could charge me with was escape and being an unregistered animagus.”
“I always knew you were a clever boy,” Arcturus comments.
Sirius takes a deep breath. “I was surprised to show up at the farmhouse in France to discover I was still your heir.”
“And you’ve since accepted your title,” Arcturus observes. “I always hoped you would.”
“That still doesn’t explain why I was the Black heir,” Sirius counters.
Arcturus steeples his fingers in front of his face. “I knew that you were innocent of the charges. I could have believed that Bellatrix had killed so many Muggles, but even if you had been responsible for the explosion, I believed it to be accidental. I tried to intervene, but I was already ill by then.”
“But you named me as your heir, not Regulus,” Sirius argues.
“Regulus followed Voldemort,” Arcturus says. “And whatever my feelings might be about Muggles, I would not see our house follow the whims of a madman. I trusted that you would lead the House of Black in a direction that did not lead us to ruination.”
Sirius hesitates, and then he says, “Harry Potter is the heir to the House of Black. I doubt I’ll have any children of my own.”
“At least tell me that you’re going to adopt him magically,” Arcturus says dryly. “The Potters were an upstanding family.”
The Potters were a pureblood family, is what Arcturus actually means, but at least he doesn’t say as much.
“His mother was Muggle-born, was she not?” Arcturus asks. “The brightest witch of her age?”
Sirius is a little surprised that Arcturus knows that. “She was.”
“And Harry takes after her?” his grandfather asks.
“He looks a lot like James, but he has Lily’s heart,” Sirius replies. “And he’s bright, and excellent at the practical aspects of magic.”
Arcturus looks vaguely approving at that. “I’d like to meet him at some point.”
“I’ll bring him to the Manor,” Sirius promises, since it seems his grandfather isn’t as disapproving as he expected.
“Have you taken the seat in the Wizengamot?” Arcturus asks.
Sirius confirms that he has, and then Arcturus asks him detailed questions about what he’d done, and what his strategy is going to be. Sirius tells him about disowning Bellatrix in order to take over her vaults, to prevent Voldemort from accessing her money, and threatening Narcissa to keep Draco from becoming a Death Eater.
“And you’re restoring Andromeda to the family,” Arcturus says, and now there’s a hint of heavy disapproval.
“There aren’t many Blacks left,” Sirius points out. “At least she’s not a Death Eater. There are worse things than marrying a Muggle.”
“It wasn’t her marrying a Muggle that got her disowned, Sirius,” Arcturus replies severely. “She was betrothed to a perfectly nice wizard from a pure-blood family, and she ran off in spite of my wishes to the contrary.”
Sirius raises his eyebrows. “Andromeda was the most stubborn out of all of us. Why would you arrange her marriage in the first place? I’m assuming that you didn’t give her a chance to provide her own input.”
“Her input wasn’t necessary,” Arcturus replies decisively.
“I’m not interested in telling anyone who they ought to marry,” Sirius says, “so I suppose that won’t be a problem for me.”
Arcturus glares. “Wait until you need to make an alliance marriage.”
“With who?” Sirius asks scornfully. “The last war decimated the magical population.”
Arcturus sighs. “You may be right about that. Still, you ought to keep it in mind.”
“I’ll take it under consideration,” Sirius says. “But I should find Remus. We still need to get back home.”
“Thank you,” Arcturus says. “While I may not agree with you, I know you’ll keep the Black family going, whether by having children of your own, or adoption.”
Sirius wonders if that’s even something that Harry would want. He had parents of his own, and Sirius would never want to replace James.
He does feel a little better, having spoken with his grandfather. Arcturus might be a blood purist, but Sirius remembers why he’d felt safe around him and his grandmother. Arcturus had cared about Sirius in his own fashion, and in the end, he’d entrusted the Black legacy to Sirius.
“Cordy, do you know where Remus is?” he calls.
The house elf pops up in front of him. “He be in the library, I show you.”
Sirius is grateful for the guidance, because there are at least a couple of libraries that he knows about. Cordy leads him to one on the second floor, and Sirius remembers it well. It had been his favorite spot when visiting the Manor, out of the way of most of the family, filled with a wide variety of books.
Before Hogwarts, Sirius can remember being here with Regulus, reading to him out of one of the children’s books that Arcturus kept in here especially for that purpose. If he closes his eyes, he can picture it—him sprawled on the rug in front of the fireplace, Regulus curled up next to him. Sometimes, one or more of the Black cousins would join them if they happened to be around.
He opens his eyes and finds Remus looking at him with concern. “Are you okay, Pads?”
“I’m fine,” Sirius says quickly. “I was just—remembering. I have some happy memories here, more than what I did at Grimmauld Place.”
“How did your meeting with your grandfather go?” Remus asks.
“He said he made me his heir because he knew I wouldn’t drive the Black family into ruination,” Sirius replies, although he knows that isn’t entirely true. In that other life, he’d gone through the Veil, ending the Black line.
“Well, you’re certainly not going to follow Voldemort,” Remus says dryly. “Anything else?”
“He said he thought I should adopt Harry magically,” Sirius replies, sprawling in the other leather library chair. “But I’m not out to replace James and Lily.”
Remus frowns. “It wouldn’t replace them, but it might be something that Harry would want. If you adopted him magically, there’s nothing Dumbledore could do to get him to go back to the Dursleys, and Harry would know that.”
“So, you think I should talk to him about it?” Sirius asks, knowing that he sounds a little plaintive.
Remus takes a deep breath. “What if Harry wanted it? What if he wanted to call you dad?”
Sirius is getting choked up just thinking about it. “James—“
“James and Lily would want Harry to be happy and secure,” Remus says gently but firmly. “And if that would help him, wouldn’t you want that?”
“More than anything,” Sirius replies.
“Then you should talk to him about that over Christmas break,” Remus replies. “Because you never know, maybe it’s something Harry wants but doesn’t know how to ask for.”
Sirius hadn’t thought about it that way, and he supposes one of the reasons he’s hesitant is that he’ll be disappointed if Harry says no. Not that Sirius would hold it against him.
“All right, I guess that’s one more thing to add to our growing list of things to do over the holidays,” Sirius says. “Do you want to head back?”
“Sure,” Remus says. “Although the Manor isn’t nearly what I thought it was going to be.”
“It could be gorgeous again,” Sirius says wistfully. “It’s just too big for the three of us.”
Remus gives him a wry look. “You could get married and fill it up yourself.”
Sirius snorts. “No, thank you. Harry is the only kid I need to worry about right now. We have enough to do without adding a wife and kids into the mix, if that was even something I were interested in.”
“Why aren’t you?” Remus asks. “You liked girls at Hogwarts.”
“I liked girls, but I liked you, too,” Sirius counters. “And I don’t want anybody else. No one else knows me, Moony, not like you do.”
Remus smiles at him. “The feeling is mutual.”