|SIYE Time:17:10 on 22nd March 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.
Rating changed for later chapters.
*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Hitcount: Story Total: 102832; Chapter Total: 3120
Chapter Ten: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten, Part Two
Spring and Sirius
The Valentine's visit to Hogsmeade was, though her date was invisible, wonderful. Harry went un-invisible long enough to buy her a rose and a box of chocolates. They went up to the Shrieking Shack, in hopes of some privacy - and in Ginny's hopes for a kiss - but were sadly met with Malfoy and his cronies. Harry, under the cloak, splattered them all with mud, and sent them running back down the hill shrieking like little girls. Ginny cleaned the mud off his hands, and they walked back to Honeydukes. Harry kissed her hand before disappearing down the passage, and Ginny went back up to the castle smiling.
Ginny gave the Fat Lady the password and stepped into the common room, sniffing her rose, and was accosted by Ron and Hermione.
"Where's Harry?" Hermione asked stiffly.
"I'm not sure," Ginny lied easily. "He said he needed to get some homework done, so probably in the library."
"Where'd you get that?" Ron asked, gesturing to the flower in her hands.
"Hogsmeade," she said.
"Who gave it to you?"
"I believe that is none of your business," Ginny said, sticking her nose into the air.
"I know all about your boat-load of admirers," Ron said, "so which one gave you that?"
"I don't have a boat-load of admirers," said Ginny, as the portrait hole opened behind her.
"Yes you do!"
Ginny opened her mouth to retort when a pair of arms wrapped around her from behind. She turned around, and smiled at Harry.
"Where were you?" Hermione asked instantly, as Ron's jaw dropped from his face to hit the ground.
"Library," Harry said shortly, pressing a kiss to Ginny's cheek. She smiled at him warmly.
"Get your hands off my sister!" Ron spluttered, having finally recovered his jaw from his feet.
"Get your brain back in your skull," Ginny snapped.
"Ronald," Hermione sighed, "if Ginny didn't want Harry to do that, do you think she would have let him?"
"I, uh, well..."
"Get a clue, Ronald," Hermione said. "The important thing is that Harry was not in the library!"
Uh-oh, Harry thought.
I smell trouble, she thought back.
I smell something really good…
Stop flirting! Focus on Hermione! She's going to figure it out!
I don't wanna focus on Hermione!
"Stop thinking!" said Hermione in an utterly flustered voice.
"Hermione, shush up about it," Ginny said. "And he was in the library, he was just wearing his invisibility cloak." She quickly came up with an excuse and sent it to Harry.
"I might have annoyed Madam Pince," Harry said. "I spilled ink on one of her books, so she kicked me out. I thought it would be better to not bother her further and wear my cloak."
Hermione looked between Harry and Ginny, let out a frustrated sigh, and brushed past them, no doubt heading to the library. Ron glanced between them, and stalked off towards the couches. Harry looked down at Ginny and grinned.
You should have been in Slytherin.
I thought I was supposed to be in Ravenclaw?
That too, but you are unceasingly cunning.
Ginny chuckled, and pulled him over to the couches. She pulled out the box of chocolates he had bought her and shared with him. Ron kept shooting them annoyed looks, and Hermione mumbled under her breath about Charms and annoying friends. Both Harry and Ginny were tired from their trip to Hogsmeade, so they sat on the couch, just thinking.
February was quickly gone and March was prancing past. Harry still hadn't deemed a situation special enough for a kiss, but Ginny didn't mind as much. April brought rain and beautiful days. Hermione questioned Ginny about the possibility that Harry was sneaking into Hogsmeade without telling anyone. Ginny said that it wasn't likely, since — obviously — he was sneaking into Hogsmeade and telling her about it, but she didn't mention that to Hermione. McGonagall gave Harry back the Firebolt and they won their next game.
May came, and her birthday was a Tuesday. Harry promised to give her her present that Saturday, as someone had obviously decided to give her and Ron a treat and make that Saturday a Hogsmeade weekend. That Saturday morning, Ginny got up early, while Harry was still snoring, and got herself ready for a special day. Her heart was beating loudly in her chest, and she was so nervous her hands shook. She hoped that today would be the special day Harry had been waiting for.
She enlisted Hermione's help, though she refused to say why, to curl her hair and do her make-up. She wore a flowing pale blue chiffon skirt, a creamy white peasant blouse, jangly earrings her mum had given her for her birthday, and the bracelet Harry gave her for Christmas. She looked down at his name, and smiled like she always did. He was still asleep. Ginny glanced at the clock, and decided to have a bit of fun with him. She closed her eyes, and focused on Harry.
In his dorm, Harry let out a sudden shout of surprise and fell off his bed.
How's it feel to be on the receiving end of the shout?
And yet, you somehow can't get enough of me.
You shut up.
Get ready, it's half past ten.
When are we leaving?
Right. WHAT? I ONLY HAVE HALF AN HOUR? WHY DIDN'T YOU WAKE ME UP EARLIER?
If you needed more time, you should have set an alarm.
You — you — you —
Yes, yes. Half an hour.
While Harry rocketed around his dormitory, throwing on clothes at random, Ginny took her time in painting her fingernails and toes a dark shade of blue and pulled on sandals. She pulled her hair back with a clip so the curls cascaded down her back, checked her make-up one more time — she rarely wore it —, tugged on a denim jacket and said goodbye to Hermione.
"Have a good time!" Hermione called. "Who are you meeting?"
"Nice try," Ginny said as she stepped out the door. "You going with Ron?"
"Sort of," she said. "Want to tag along so it's not awkward?"
"Bye," Hermione said miserably. Ginny gave her friend a sympathetic smile and went down to the common room.
Remember the plan. I'm going straight to Hogsmeade, you go to the One Eyed Witch and meet me in Honeydukes.
I remember. See you soon.
Ginny handed Filch her permission slip and started down the path to Hogsmeade. She held her breath as she passed the Dementors, but they were soon behind her and she was standing in Honeydukes.
She was looking at a display of sugar quills while she waited for Harry, when Ron and Hermione stopped by to say hello. Ron gave her a once over and asked who she was meeting. She just smiled and sent them on their way. As the door closed behind them, Harry pulled the cloak off from behind the sugar quill display and stuffed it into his bag.
"Oh, hello there," she said, smiling at him. He wasn't looking at her, but watching Ron and Hermione disappear down the street.
"Good thing they walked away when they did," he said, turning to look at her. "I wouldn't want our... our..." he trailed off, his eyes wide as dinner plates as he stared at her.
"Cat got your tongue?" Ginny said, now smiling smugly at his reaction.
"Uh..." he said, rather intelligently.
Ginny linked her arm through his. "Come on, I want my present and you owe me a birthday dinner."
Harry recovered his wits by shaking his head jerkily. "You're wearing a skirt!" Or rather he recovered his power of speech.
"I am; glad you noticed."
"And — and make-up!"
"Yes, I am."
"You — you look really nice," he finished, a bit lamely, but Ginny beamed.
"Thank you; you look nice too."
Harry turned a lovely shade of pink, and turned to the street. He did look good: He'd worn a pair of khaki slacks, a white button up with the top button undone, and combed his hair —though that did little good. He glanced down it, making sure no one who could report him to one of the teachers was looking, and led her to the Three Broomsticks. Ginny made sure Ron and Hermione weren't in there before they found a table and ordered food and drinks. Harry was increasingly nervous as they finished their lunch. He fidgeted around, gulping down his drink, and kept staring at her. After half an hour of his behavior, Ginny was beginning to regret the skirt.
Harry, you're staring again, she thought as she sipped her butterbeer.
Harry shook his head with a jerk. "Sorry. It's just — you're really pretty."
She blushed. "Thank you, Harry."
"I should probably give you your present now," he said, almost to himself. Ginny smiled and nodded. "Right." He pulled a small box out of his bag, and handed it to her.
"You had better not have spent a lot on me, Potter," she said as she took it. Harry scoffed and waved a hand.
"Course I didn't," he lied. Ginny sighed, resigned to the fact that he would never get it through his skull that she was in his head and therefore knew when he was lying, and turned to her gift.
It was a small box, and fit in the palm of her hand. It was very thin, and light. She pulled the paper off, to reveal the velvet outside of a jewelry box. She opened it, and clapped a hand to her mouth.
"Harry!" she said, in a low and shocked voice. "This — this is —"
"Not incredibly expensive," he said quickly. "But I thought you would like it."
In the box was a gold chain with a simple heart shaped pendant, but there were gems set into the edge of the heart that Ginny — even though she was a tomboy and usually rejected anything girly — knew to be diamonds.
"It's not real gold, is it?"
"Well, the chain is sterling silver plated in gold, but the pendant is real gold."
Ginny's eyes were probably as big as Harry's had been when he saw her skirt. "Seriously?"
"It's a locket?"
"Yeah. Open it!"
Ginny saw the hinges and the clasp, and opened it with shaking fingers. There was already a picture inside; she and Harry sat on the dock by her family's pond, dipping their toes into the water and just looking at each other. She smiled; Mum had said that they looked so perfect right there, that she just had to capture the moment.
"Thank you, Harry," she said. She leaned over and kissed his cheek, letting her lips linger on his cheek a moment longer than necessary. He grinned at her. She pulled the locket out of the box, and raised her eyebrows at him. He took it from her, she turned her back, pulling her hair from the back of her neck, and he slipped the locket around her neck. His fingers brushed the back of her neck, and she shivered. She let her hair fall, and smiled at him again.
"And I've got one more thing for you," Harry said.
He leaned forward, and pressed his mouth to hers. Ginny practically melted. He pulled back, smiling, and Ginny grinned.
"This is the best birthday ever!" she said. "And yes, I know it isn't actually my birthday," she added, as Harry opened his mouth. He shrugged, and took her hand.
"Was that a good first kiss?" he asked shyly.
She nodded, beaming. "You know what would make it better?"
"A second one."
Harry laughed, and complied happily. After a few more minutes and a few more kisses, it was just about time to leave. She and Harry left the Three Broomsticks for the street beyond, and walked hand in hand back to Honeydukes.
She left him there to walk back to the castle. She didn't bother heading for Gryffindor Tower. She met Harry by the One Eyed Witch, and they found an empty classroom. They alternated between kissing and talking and thinking. When Harry's watch read quarter to seven, and their stomachs rumbled, they left the classroom for dinner, where Ron and Hermione met them with suspicious looks. Ron was eyeing their joined hands, and Hermione brought up the old argument of whether or not Harry had actually stayed behind.
Your turn to think of a way to distract her, Ginny thought.
I did it last! And you're the one who's sneaking out!
I don't hear you complaining.
Ginny blushed. Harry smirked at her. Ron groaned and hung his head in his hands.
Fine. How do we distract her?
I dunno. You're the one who has all the brilliant ideas.
Flattery will get you nowhere.
I may have to disagree with that comment.
Ginny raised an eyebrow. He smiled hopefully, wiggling his eyebrows. She chuckled, shaking her head.
"So where were you?" Hermione asked again.
Harry dropped his fork, turned to Ginny, and put both of his hands on her cheeks. Before Ginny could ask what he was doing, he crushed her mouth with his.
When he pulled back, not only was Hermione distracted, but half the table had ceased their conversations to gawk at them. Ginny was a very bright shade of pink. But she went back to her shepherd's pie as though nothing had happened.
Hermione did not try to interrogate Harry again that evening. Ron was in too much shock to threaten to pound Harry.
From then on, she and Harry did not bother to keep silent about their relationship. One evening, while she and Harry were sitting on one of the couches, McLaggen walked up to them and gruffly said that he would have been a better choice for a boyfriend. Ginny sent him to the hospital wing with a face full of blisters, courtesy of a hex Tom had learned in his fifth year. Her friends were happy for her, even if Pavarti Patil huffed about it initially. Hagrid let out a booming laugh of approval when he realized what had happened between them, and when Harry kissed her in front of Snuffles, the dog barked in what seemed to be amused joy.
Not only that, but during his next anti-Dementor lesson with Lupin, Harry created a perfectly formed Patronus; a strong and regal stag. When Ginny asked him what memory he had used, he turned pink and said the memory of kissing her. Though she was rather pink too, she tried the spell with that memory, and a silver tiger burst from her wand. To celebrate, she and Harry snuck off to an unused classroom, alternating between thinking and kissing. Sometimes both at the same time. It was very enjoyable.
All in all, life couldn't be more perfect.
And then Hagrid lost his case. Buckbeak was to be beheaded. There was still the appeal, but he had little chance of winning it. On top of that, Professor Trelawney made an ominous pronouncement to Harry at the end of his Divination exam.
Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione grabbed the Marauder's Map and Harry's cloak straight after dinner and sneaked down to Hagrid's cabin. Hagrid told Ron that he had found Scabbers hiding in the vegetable garden and gave him back the rat, but there was nothing they could do about Buckbeak. Hagrid shooed them out as the committee members approached for the appeal.
Under the cloak, they walked slowly around Hagrid's hut, warily watching the adults. Ron's fists were clenched in anger. Hermione kept sniffling. Just as they moved out of sight of the hut, Snuffles bounded towards them.
"Snuffles!" Harry whispered. "Go back! What are you doing?"
Snuffles ignored Harry's command. The dog bared his teeth, and growled at the group.
"Snuffles!" Harry scolded. "What's the matter? Be quiet!"
Harry reached out from under the cloak and grabbed Snuffles collar. He dragged the dog under the cloak with them.
"Scabbers! Stop that!" Ron was saying, as he shifted the squirming rat in his hands. "Yeouch! He bit me!"
Ron dropped the rat, and Scabbers streaked out of sight. Snuffles lurched forward, catching Harry by surprise. The dog tore after the rat, barking and snarling.
"Scabbers!" Ron said, tearing after Harry, Snuffles, and the rat.
"Snuffles!" Harry yelled. "Come back!"
Harry ducked out from under the cloak, and ran off after his dog.
"Harry!" Hermione called. "No!"
Harry, you idiot, get back here! Ginny thought desperately. She glanced at Hermione, who sighed, and they ran after the two boys and their pets, the cloak flying after them like a sail.
Ron dove into the shadow of a tree, yelling "Gotcha!" Harry lunged at Snuffles, trying to grab his collar, but the dog ducked out of Harry's reach and ran for Ron. Ron let out a yelp of surprise as Snuffles barked in his ear. Harry tripped over a tree root as he tried to grab Snuffles, and his glasses flew off his face. Ginny dropped the cloak and darted towards the dog, but she was too late. Snuffles' teeth had gripped Ron's sleeve, and was dragging him towards the tree. Harry was yelling at him to stop, Ron was smacking the dog's flank with the hand that wasn't holding Scabbers, Hermione was trying to find Harry's glasses, and the tree was angry.
A branch swung out of nowhere and caught Ginny in the stomach. She flew backwards, the wind forced out of her. She hit the ground, and gasped for air. Harry stumbled towards her, squinting to see without his glasses. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. Ginny saw another branch swinging towards them, and pulled Harry out of the way. Ginny looked around, to see that Snuffles and Ron were gone. Hermione threw Harry's glasses at her, and jumped out of the way of a branch. And, with a gasp of surprise, vanished.
"Hermione!" Ginny shouted. Harry shoved his glasses back on, and pulled Ginny out of the way of another branch. As she stumbled forward, she saw why Hermione had vanished. There was a gap in the roots, leading down to a tunnel.
"There!" she gasped, pointing to it. She pulled Harry forward, and jumped down the hole.
They slid down a tunnel, to hit hard dirt floor. Hermione was standing bent double in the tunnel in front of them, anxiously looking around.
"Where are we?" she said. "Where does this go?"
"I have an idea," Harry said glumly, pushing himself up, and accidentally hitting his head on the low ceiling. Rubbing the top of his head, he added, "But you're not going to like it."
"Why do all of your ideas end badly?" Ginny grumbled, taking his hand and standing.
"Oi! Not all of them!"
"Shush!" Hermione said, flapping her hands wildly at them. "I hear something."
Harry pulled out his map, and lit his wand. Ginny and Hermione did too. "Hang on, hang on... Yes! Ron's down here! And — and... oh no..."
"What?" Ginny said, looking at the map. Her jaw dropped. "No!"
"What?" Hermione said, looking flustered. She couldn't read the map upside down.
"Sirius Black..." Harry said. "He's got Ron..."
Harry shoved the map into his pocket. "Come on. We have to save Ron."
He led them down the tunnel, each one with their wand drawn. After several long, tense minutes, they reached an exit. Harry pushed it open, and climbed out. He turned, and helped Ginny out, then Hermione.
"Where are we?" Hermione whispered.
"I think the Shrieking Shack," Harry whispered back. "Follow me."
Everything was covered in dust, but for a stripe on the floor where something had been dragged up the stairs. Upstairs, Ginny could hear Ron moaning. She darted up the stairs, keeping her feet as light as she could, and spotted one door open slightly. She pressed a finger to her lips, and tiptoed towards it. She peeked in, and saw Ron sitting on the floor by a four poster bed that probably would have been elegant if it had been clean.
Ginny darted inside, dropping to her knees by her brother. Hermione and Harry followed her.
"What happened, Ron?" Ginny asked. "Where's Snuffles? Harry's map said Sirius Black —"
"He's Snuffles!" Ron gasped. "Sirius Black is Snuffles!"
"What?" Harry gasped, shocked.
"Snuffles is Sirius Black! He's an Animagus!" Ron raised a shaking finger, and pointed to the other side of the room.
The door shut with a crack. They jumped around, to see a ragged man standing by the now closed door. Matted black hair hung to his elbows, dark eyes stared out at them from sunken sockets, yellow, waxy skin clung to his bones. He had the weak, stretched look of a starved person who had just begun to gain weight. Ginny jumped up and stepped between him and Harry.
"If you want to kill him, you'll have to kill me first!" Ginny said.
"Ginny, no —" Harry started, standing up behind her.
"Only one need die tonight," the man rasped. He leaned his head to the left, and, with a grimace, cracked his neck. "Merlin, it feels good to be a man again."
"Did you hear me?" Ginny snapped. "I will not let you hurt him!"
"The filthy rat needs to die," Black spat. "You don't understand —"
"We understand a lot better than you think!" Harry shouted. "You killed my parents! You're the reason they're dead!"
"I won't deny it," Black said, his voice suddenly full of sorrow. "It was my fault. But I doubt you know the whole story —"
"The whole story?" Ginny said, shaking with anger. "You sold Harry's parents to Voldemort! Now you want to kill Harry!"
"What?" Black said, frowning. "Who said anything about killing Harry?"
Ginny faltered. Black looked confused as heck, and Ginny felt just as bewildered.
"Don't — don't you want to kill Harry?" Hermione asked in a small voice. "Because of — of You-Know-Who?"
Black opened his mouth to say something, but then the door burst open, and Professor Lupin strode in, his wand out. He stopped, looking between Black and Ginny standing in front of Harry and Ron still clutching Scabbers.
"Black," he said, turning his wand on the ragged man by the door. "What are you doing here?"
"Remus," Black said stiffly. "I came to commit the murder I was sent to Azkaban for."
"Will someone explain what the ruddy hell is going on?" Ron shouted. Lupin glanced back at Ron, and stepped towards him.
"What happened to your leg?" Lupin asked.
"I think I broke it," Ron said. Lupin bent and touched Ron's ankle. Ron hissed out a sound of pain.
"Broken," Lupin agreed. He waved his wand, and splints and bandages wrapped around him. "We'll have Madam Pomfrey see to it back up at the castle." Lupin turned back on Black.
"You understand I have to turn you in," said Lupin sadly. Black nodded.
"If that boy takes his rat up with us, I'll come quietly," Black said. "If I can't kill him, at the very least I should be able to prove my innocence."
"What?" Lupin said, frowning. "But — but it isn't — it can't be — Did you switch without telling me? How could he be alive?"
"We did," Black said. "Peter was Secret Keeper, not me. After Lily and James — after they died, the dirty rat faked his death."
"But his finger —"
"He cut it off," said Black gruffly.
Lupin stared at Black in confusion.
"Will someone answer Ron's question?" Ginny asked.
"You aren't after Harry?" Lupin asked. Black shook his head.
"But — But Mr. Weasley said you talked in your sleep — 'He's at Hogwarts,' he said you said," Harry stammered.
"You're not the only one at Hogwarts, Harry," Black said. "The rat's here too."
"What rat? Who are you talking about?"
"Peter Pettigrew," Black spat.
"Ron, let me see that rat," Lupin said, turning to Ron. Ron clutched Scabbers closer to him.
"What are you going to do to him?"
"I want to see if Sirius is right. If that rat really is just a rat, it won't hurt him."
Ron looked down at the rat in his hands. Scabbers was squeaking madly, flailing around and trying to escape his grip. Reluctantly, Ron handed Lupin his rat.
Lupin prodded the rat with his wand. Scabbers glowed blue. The rat squirmed harder, and Lupin quickly cast a Stunning Spell. The rat fell still in his hand. Ron let out a shout of indignation, but Hermione kept him from running to snatch his rat away from their professor.
"It is him," Lupin muttered, seeming to ignore everyone else. He stared at the rat a moment, then with a wave of his wand conjured a cage. He stuffed the rat unceremoniously inside, and shut the door with a snap.
"Back up to the castle," Lupin said. "I'm not saying I believe you, Sirius; I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt."
Ginny and Harry exchanged glances. So far, that evening was like something out of a book.
Lupin conjured a pair of shackles and chained Black's hands behind his back. Harry and Ginny helped Ron stand. Hermione was given the cage with the still cowering Scabbers. Lupin kept his wand on Black as they moved out of the tunnel. Harry scooped up the cloak as they passed it and stuffed it into his robes. They marched up to the castle, Lupin finally taking the time to berate them for sneaking out past curfew. Lupin led the way to Dumbledore's office, his wandless hand firmly gripping one of Black's arms. Lupin gave the password, and brought them up.
Dumbledore looked up in surprise when Professor Lupin stepped inside with Black, and even further bewildered when Ginny and Harry followed with Ron, and Hermione brought up the end with Scabbers' cage.
"What — Remus —" Dumbledore spluttered.
"I found him in the Shrieking Shack, along with these five," Lupin said, gesturing to them. "He claimed Mr. Weasley's rat was Peter Pettigrew. I performed a detection spell and determined that the rat is definitely an Animagus, but I did not want to force him to show who he really is in the shack."
Dumbledore, for some reason, glanced out the window, where the sun could be seen sinking down over the mountain. "Remus, it is close to nightfall. Did you —"
Lupin's face paled. "I — I forgot — I saw them enter the tunnel — and it slipped my mind —"
Dumbledore shot from his chair, and darted to the fireplace. Ginny and Harry exchanged confused glances. Dumbledore threw a handful of powder into the fire, and called "Severus! I need you!"
The flames roared bright green, and Snape stepped out. He gave Harry his usual sneer, then stopped in shock at the sight of the chained Black.
"Remus needs his potion," Dumbledore said. "Fetch it, quickly."
Snape spared Black one more confused look, before stepping back through the fire. A moment later, he returned with a smoking goblet. He handed it to Lupin, who gulped it down quickly with a look of disgust. He turned back to Dumbledore, still pale.
"I am very sorry, Headmaster, I cannot believe I did not think of it before I went after them — I just knew something was wrong —"
"I understand, Remus," Dumbledore said. "You have taken it now, and there has been no harm done. You were worried about the students, and you have been taking it all week. I understand."
"Headmaster," Snape said, "where did he come from?" Snape gestured to Black, his black eyes narrowed in loathing.
"Professor Lupin was about to explain," Dumbledore, returning to his seat behind his desk. "I would very much like to know as well. Severus, you may go."
Snape looked for a moment as though he would rather stay, but a look from Dumbledore seemed to end it. He turned and stepped back through the Floo.
"Mr. Weasley, please have a seat. It would be best if you stayed off your leg until Madam Pomfrey looks at it," Dumbledore said. Ginny helped Ron into a chair.
"Remus, please explain, and quickly."
Lupin began his explanation. He started with how he had been watching Hagrid's cabin, worried about Buckbeak and worried that they would try to go and see him. He had seen Snuffles chase Scabbers, and Harry and Ron chase the dog and the rat. He had watched the tree attack them, and them go down the tunnel, and had then decided that he couldn't watch anymore and went after them. He explained how he had found them in the Shack, and what Black had said and the consistencies with Black's story and what he, Lupin, already knew. When he finished, Dumbledore turned to Harry.
"And what is your side, Mr. Potter?"
Harry looked down at his feet as he explained their version of the evening's events, though tiptoed around the subject of the Map, since Dumbledore would probably want to confiscate it. When Harry finished, Dumbledore turned to Black.
"As you are aware, Sirius, I am Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. At the time when you were sentenced to Azkaban, I was over-ruled by Barty Crouch in the area of your trial."
"I didn't get a trial!" Black spat.
"Precisely," Dumbledore said. "I was in favor of hearing your side of the story, but Mr. Crouch was not. Given that he, nor any other Ministry official, is not here, however, he will not stop me from giving you a, albeit unorthodox, trial now. Please state your story."
Black blinked at Dumbledore, stunned for a moment, before launching into his story. "You know how James and Lily used the Fidelius charm to try and protect themselves, right? Well, they wanted to make me their Secret Keeper, but I convinced them to switch to Peter at the last minute. Everyone knew I was James's best friend, so people would assume that I was the Secret Keeper, but no one would suspect Peter. We thought we could trust him, but he was the mole. He betrayed James, and he framed me! The night they died, I went to find him, and he yelled for the whole world to hear that I betrayed them, and then he faked his death. He cut off his finger and blasted the street apart before I could stop him."
"How did he disappear, though?" Dumbledore asked.
"We're unregistered Animagi," Black said. "James, Peter, and I did it because of Remus."
Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all exchanged a glance. What did Remus have to do with this?
"What is your form?"
Black looked at his shackles a moment. "Can I take these off so I can show you?"
Dumbledore nodded to Lupin, who tapped the shackles, and they fell off. Black closed his eyes, and, with a pop, vanished. In his place sat the shaggy black dog Harry had adopted the previous summer. Harry let out a groan and hung his head in his hands.
“I thought — I almost thought that I recognized him on the train,” Lupin said, half to himself. “At the time, I thought it was impossible.”
The dog nuzzled Harry's hand, but Harry pushed him away. Snuffles looked at him sadly, then, with another pop, turned back into Black.
"I've been alone with Harry plenty of times over the year," Black said. "If I wanted to kill him, I could have done it already."
"And I am to assume Peter's form was a rat?" Dumbledore asked, one eyebrow raised.
"Please open that cage, Miss Granger."
Hermione turned the cage on its side so Scabbers couldn't get out and unlatched the door. Dumbledore crossed to her, and lifted the rat out of the cage. Dumbledore pointed his wand at the closed door, which glowed white for a moment, before turning his wand on Scabbers. He whispered a spell, and Scabbers squeaked in terror as he glowed brightly. Dumbledore set the rat on the floor, and a second later it was no longer a rat. A small man crouched on the ground. He had very little hair, and retained the looks of the rat. He had the look of a person that, in contrast to Black, had lost a lot of weight in a short time.
"Peter Pettigrew," Dumbledore said, his wand still on him. "I would like you to confirm something for me. Were you James and Lily Potter's Secret Keeper rather than Sirius Black?"
Peter Pettigrew sniveled, showing his buck teeth and squinting through his watery eyes. "I was," he said, in a voice that sounded just like Scabbers squeaking.
"And did you sell them to Lord Voldemort?"
Peter let out a moan. "I d— didn't mean to! He would have killed me if I didn't say!"
"You coward," Black spat at Peter. "You should have died rather than betray James!"
"And, if my calculations are correct, Peter, you were passing information to Voldemort for over a year before James and Lily made you Secret Keeper," Dumbledore said calmly. "What have you got to say for yourself?"
Peter's eyes darted around the room, taking in Ginny and her friends standing by the desk, the door, the windows that were too high off the ground to escape through, and Remus and Sirius standing between him and the door. "I— I— didn't want to! The Dark Lord — he has tools — evils found in only the worst nightmares! Please, understand! He would have tortured it out of me if I had not told him!"
"I hear only excuses," Dumbledore said. "Show me your left forearm, Peter."
Peter started. "My — my what?"
Dumbledore grabbed Peter's left arm, rather roughly, and pushed up his sleeve. Ginny leaned forward to see what was on his arm. A faint image of a skull, and a snake wrapped around it, rested upon Peter's skin. This image triggered one of Tom's memories, one from his sixth year.
"That's a Death Eater mark," she said, before she could stop herself.
Dumbledore turned to her, eyebrows raised. "Yes, Miss Weasley, it is. How did you know?"
Ginny turned pink. "My, er, dad told me," she lied, rather flatly.
The others in the room seemed to accept her amateur lie. Dumbledore frowned slightly at her, but after a moment his eyebrows rose nodded; he turned back to Peter. "This proves you are a Death Eater, Peter. I will have Professor Lupin and these students stand as witnesses to this trial; you have confessed to a weighty crime. I charge you with treason, murder of twelve Muggles, and aiding Lord Voldemort in at least two murders, and find you guilty. I will recommend to the Wizengamot that you be sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban, pending a formal hearing."
Peter's small eyes widened to the size of saucers. "No! Please!"
"My verdict does not change," Dumbledore said. "Sirius, I find you innocent of the crimes you were wrongfully convicted of and sent to Azkaban for."
Black's eyes grew to be larger than Peter's. "Really? I thought — I was sure you would take more convincing!"
"If the situation had been different, I would have been," Dumbledore said, "but upon seeing you enter the room, I activated a truth ward on my office. There was no way you could have attempted to deceive me without my knowledge."
Truth ward? Harry thought. Is that possible?
I think so, Ginny thought. Bill's a Curse-Breaker and he knows all about wards. He's told me a lot about them.
Do you think he'll know we left the Map out?
No, you didn't say anything about it, so the ward shouldn't recognize deception. If you had stumbled and mentioned something related to the map, and then covered it up, the ward would have noticed it.
Good. What about what you said about the mark?
He'll realize that I know because of Tom's memories, and let it go.
"Professor Lupin, would you please place shackles on Peter?"
"Certainly, Headmaster," Lupin said. He waved his wand and Peter's wrists were encased in a set of heavy black shackles. Peter let out a moan and sank onto the floor.
"Sirius, I would like to extend a official apology for the miscarriage of justice that ended in your imprisonment. I would like to know, though, how did you escape?" Dumbledore said, sitting back down behind his desk.
Black shrugged. "I transformed into my Animagus form and slipped through the bars when the Dementors opened my cell to give me food one day. The only reason I didn't go insane was because I knew I was innocent."
"I see. Thank you, Sirius. You know I will have to say that you and Pettigrew are unregistered Animagi, and will have to insist that you register yourselves."
"I know," Black said.
"Now, if I could have you all sign this paper," Dumbledore said, as he waved his wand and a slip of paper dropped onto his desk, "and then, Miss Granger, would you please escort Mr. Weasley to the Hospital Wing? Please be aware that the paper is charmed to hold you to your agreement."
Hermione nodded, and helped Ron stand. They both signed the paper, and left the office. Ginny read the paper quickly before signing it. It was a simple agreement, everything that was said was true, there were no exaggerations, and she was willing to be witness to Dumbledore's verdict. She signed it quickly and stepped aside so Harry and Professor Lupin could sign.
"Harry, if you would wait a moment," Dumbledore said, "there are a few things that should be explained to you. Miss Weasley, you might as well stay, since you will hear the whole thing anyway."
"Wait," Professor Lupin, said, frowning, "how will she hear?"
"Miss Weasley and Mr. Potter have a unique bond," Dumbledore said. "I suppose you deserve the full details. In short, their minds are connected and they can communicate telepathically."
"They mentioned telepathy before," Black said. "It always confused me."
"When have you mentioned it before?" Dumbledore asked, frowning at the two of them.
"Only when no one else could hear us," Harry said quickly. Dumbledore nodded understandingly.
"Now, Harry, you should know the exact details of Sirius and Remus's relationship with your parents."
Should we say we already know? Ginny thought, looking at Harry.
Nah. It would just get me in trouble.
Me too. Fine.
"First, Siriusis your godfather, Harry."
Harry did his best to look surprised. Ginny knew Dumbledore could see through it, but it seemed to satisfy Black and Lupin.
"Second, he is also your legal guardian. The reason you have lived with your aunt is because he was in Azkaban, as Lily made your aunt your godmother and therefore second in line to care for you. Now, Remus, if you would tell him the story?"
Remus let out a sigh. And then he explained everything. Sirius, Remus, James, and Peter had all been in the same year at Hogwarts. They were pranksters, and inseparable. They had made the Marauder's Map, and had gotten their nicknames from their forms. Sirius was Padfoot, as he turned into a dog, James was Prongs, as he turned into a stag, and Peter was, obviously, Wormtail as he was a rat. Remus was Moony, and a werewolf. They had become Animagi to keep Remus company during the full moon. That was what all the fuss was about when Remus mentioned that he had forgotten to take his potion that night. Sirius explained how they had suspected Remus was the mole, and that was why they chose Peter to be Secret Keeper. While they were speaking, Ginny remembered what Hagrid had said at Christmas, how Sirius had offered to take Harry the moment he learned James and Lily were dead. She compared this with the behavior she had seen that night and his behavior in his explanation, and came to the conclusion that Sirius Black really cared for Harry.
When the two men finished, Sirius glanced over at Dumbledore. "Professor, since I'm free now, Harry could come and live with me if he wanted to, right?"
Ginny's heart skipped a beat. Harry looked up sharply.
Could I? Harry thought. I wouldn't be with you.
You'd be with your father's best friend, Ginny thought.
My father's, not mine.
Dumbledore took his time answering. "Harry is currently living at his grandmother's house in Ottery St. Catchpole, where his aunt and cousin also reside."
"I know that, that's where I found him."
"Harry's aunt is in the process of finding a new home for herself and her son, and while I doubt she is planning on bringing Harry with her, she is taking her time about it. However, I do not see a reason to insist that she do, as long as he remains with his grandmother. Mrs. Evans continues to treat him better than his aunt, despite great changes in Petunia Dursley's character. But, I am afraid that Harry will need to continue living with his grandmother, rather than moving in with you Sirius."
Sirius opened his mouth, as though to argue, but Dumbledore raised a hand. "I have reasons for this, Sirius, and if you will listen, you might agree. First off, you don't have a place to live. Yes, I know about your family home, but it has been sitting empty for ten years or so, and I doubt your house-elf has kept it in good shape, nor will he be glad to see you back. Second, when Lily died to save Harry, she implemented a very old magic, an old magic that requires Harry to live with his blood relatives. He is protected with blood wards, among other things, and they would expire if he did not live with his grandmother or aunt. In the event that Petunia decides to move out of her mother's house and not bring Harry with her, I will transfer the wards from her to his grandmother. All in all, Harry must remain in his grandmother's home until he is of age. The only reason he lived with his aunt and uncle so long was because Petunia had legal hold over him and did not wish to relinquish it."
Sirius looked crestfallen. Remus patted his arm in a consoling way.
At least I don't have to choose between you and him, Harry thought.
Ginny didn't reply. She had rested one elbow on her knee, and had cupped her chin in her palm, thinking.
"Mr. Black," she said finally, turning to Sirius.
Sirius jumped and looked at her like she'd grown an extra head. Remus nudged him with an elbow.
"Don't call me that," Sirius said, his expression showing both disgust at the name and horror to think that someone would call him that. "You'll make me think I'm in trouble. Call me Sirius."
"Right, Sirius, what if instead of Harry coming to live with you, what if you came and lived with him? Or near him?"
Sirius thought about it a moment. "I suppose that could work," he said. "I wouldn't want to impose on Mrs. Evans, though I'm sure she would let me stay without batting an eye, so I'd have to get a flat near there. My house in London will definitely be uninhabitable for a good long time. I stopped by it last summer and it's right wild. I do need a place to stay." Sirius glanced at Remus, who shook his head.
"Sorry, Padfoot, but I haven't got a place for you. I have to start looking for a place to live during the summer."
"Why haven't you got a place?" Sirius asked, a bit demanding.
"I was evicted," Remus said with a wry smile. "My landlord decided he didn't want the liability of renting to a werewolf. Professor Dumbledore was kind enough to offer me quarters here, which is another reason I was so eager for the job."
"If you do not find a place, Remus, you are welcome to continue using your quarters here," Dumbledore said. "The same goes for you, Sirius."
"But, there are plenty of flats up for rent in the village near my home!" Ginny said quickly. "And, since it's a Muggle village mostly, no one will know about your lycanthropy, Professor."
Professor Lupin smiled at her. "Thank you for the information, Ginny. I would like to be near Harry as well; I haven't done James and Lily much service by staying away from you, Harry."
Harry smiled at their professor, albeit shyly.
Not used to this much attention, are you?
You'd think I would have learned after your mum and Gram.
Ginny let out a small laugh. Sirius and Remus frowned at them. "Nothing," she said, "just something he thought."
The two adults exchanged looks and raised eyebrows. Ginny looked at Harry and smiled. Obviously, his newfound 'uncles' would need to get used to their connection.
"I think this is all settled now," Dumbledore said, glancing out the window again; Ginny followed his gaze and saw that the sun had only just disappeared behind the mountains, leaving a red glow against the sky. The moon was nowhere in sight. "Professor Lupin, if you would escort Miss Weasley and Mr. Potter to Gryffindor tower-"
"Wait!" said Harry, as Remus made to stand. "What happened at the appeal? What happened to Buckbeak?"
For some reason, Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Oh, well; as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, I was asked to oversee the appeal, and since I happen to hold rank over the committee member that presided over it, I made sure that Buckbeak would be pardoned."
Harry and Ginny's jaws dropped, then Harry whooped in glee and Ginny jumped up and hugged Dumbledore. The old wizard seemed a bit surprised, but smiled at her, rather like a grandfather, and hugged her back.
"Now, off to bed," Dumbledore said when she pulled back. "Sirius, if you would be so kind as to accompany me to the Ministry, we will file the record of the trial and take Peter to the Aurors."
Aurors? Harry thought as they left the office.
Dark wizard hunters, Ginny thought back. They handle the big stuff like mass murders and serial offenders.
Remus took them back up to the tower. At the Fat Lady's portrait, he gave the password and held it open for them.
"Sleep well, you two," Remus said, and, with a twinkle in his eye, added, "in different beds."
Both of them turned bright red. "Professor!" Harry spluttered.
Remus laughed. "Harry, you needn't call me 'Professor' in private anymore. I would much rather you called me 'Remus.'"
Harry glanced at Ginny and grinned. "Could I call you Uncle Moony?" he asked, grinning.
Remus turned faintly pink. "Touche, Harry. And, I suppose you could if you wanted to. Good night, Little Prongs."
He shut the portrait gently. Harry grinned at Ginny.
Nice evening, he thought, chuckling. She laughed, shaking her head at him.
Wanna disobey Uncle Moony? She thought teasingly. Harry turned, if it was possible, redder. She laughed again, and kissed his cheek.
Oi! You can do better than that!
Better? Ginny thought, raising an eyebrow at him.
Yeah, like on the lips... he thought, the thought trailing off into a hastily buried image of the two of them locked together in a close embrace.
Ginny smiled. She gently pressed her mouth to his, letting it linger a second longer than normal.
"Good night, Harry," she whispered against his lips. She turned away quickly and darted up her stairs, leaving Harry standing in the common room with a goofy grin cracking his face.
The next day, the school was buzzing with the news that Sirius Black had been caught. As they prepared for leaving the following morning, students gossiped about how he had been caught, who did it, why Black let himself be captured, and other such things. It seemed Dumbledore had not yet told them Sirius was innocent. After a quick discussion with Harry, the foursome agreed to not bother telling people he was innocent, since they would find out on their own soon enough, and, to be honest, who would believe a couple of third years?
However, they did not have to wait long for an explanation. Dumbledore announced at the Leaving Feast that Sirius had been found, and due to new evidence, had been proven innocent. Over the eruption of the shocked students, he said they would be able to find the whole report in the Daily Prophet the next morning. He announced that Gryffindor, thanks to the Quidditch team's spectacular performance, had won the house cup, for the third year in a row. Harry grinned across the table at Ginny, but didn't think anything because the cheers and shouts that had sprung up at their table made it hard to hear each other think.
The ride back to Hogwarts the next day was interesting and eventful. Malfoy showed up at some point with Crabbe and Goyle, and, thanks to not only Tom's extensive knowledge of hexes but Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the twins' as well, ended up in the corridor with blisters, tentacles, rubbery knees, and bogeys flapping around their faces. All three were unconscious.
They met her family on the platform and Harry's grandmother. Mrs. Evans greeted them with the news that she had a surprise for them, and that Aunt Petunia had decided to not leave the farm but had gotten a job in the village. Ginny hugged Harry, but did not kiss him since her parents were watching, and promised to see him the next day.
All in all it had been an interesting year. Little did they know that the next would prove to be even more interesting.
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