|SIYE Time:22:04 on 25th September 2017|
The Road not Taken
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Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Sirius Black
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence/Physical Abuse
Story is Complete
Summary: The summer before his third year, Harry stormed out of his relatives' house and met a large dog. Instead of taking the Knight Bus, Harry throws his lot in with Sirius Black. Join him as he fights for his godfather and gets to know his best mate's little sister just a bit better.
Hitcount: Story Total: 18691; Chapter Total: 1504
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thanks again to Arnel!
“Cool scarf,” Harry commented as Ginny joined them the morning of the Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff match. She was wearing a red and gold scarf with a lion knitted into it.
“Thanks,” she replied. “My mum made it for one of my brothers — Bill I think.”
“That’s really nice. It’s great that she makes things for all of you.”
Ginny beamed, happy for the compliments to her mother. Ron made a face, but luckily he didn’t say anything. The four of them headed out onto the ground towards the Quidditch pitch. Even though it was cold and windy, most of the school had still turned out for the match.
“So who do you think will win?” Ginny asked as she pulled her scarf tighter around her neck and lower face.
Harry shrugged. “Oliver seems to think that Ravenclaw is in better form this year. I think he might have watched some of their practices. I’ve never played Ravenclaw before.”
“Hufflepuff doesn’t seem to have a great team,” Ron commented. “They haven’t won the trophy in years.”
“Let’s hope we win it this year,” Harry said cheerfully.
“Do you have a new broom yet?” Ron asked anxiously.
Harry shook his head. “No, but Sirius said not to worry about it.” He grinned. “I think he’s giving me a new broom for Christmas.”
“That would be great,” Ron said. “Do you think he’ll give you another Nimbus?”
“I told him I didn’t care as long as it wasn’t a Nimbus 2001. I don’t want anything Malfoy thinks is a good thing.”
The Weasley siblings nodded approvingly of this sentiment while Hermione scolded him. Harry simply laughed as they climbed up the stairs to the Quidditch stands. They took a row in the stands. Harry watched as the Ravenclaw team flew into the air above the pitch.
Their Seeker was a fairly good, she flew well. Harry watched her a bit longer and realized that she was really pretty, too. Suddenly she looked right over at him, he blushed and looked down. He looked up a minute later and tried to make sure he was watching everyone, not just her. The Hufflepuff Seeker was older than Harry — he thought maybe sixth or seventh year. He was big, but fast. Harry watched a bit jealously as the boy laughed and flirted with the pretty girl. He didn’t think he would ever have the confidence to do that.
“Her name is Cho Chang,” Hermione said laughter evident in her voice.
“She’s good,” Harry said a touch defensively.
“I’m sure that’s why you’ve been staring at her.”
Harry glared at Hermione before looking around in embarrassment. Ron didn’t seem to be paying attention to their conversation, but Ginny seemed upset for some reason and Harry didn’t feel right about that.
The match lasted for three hours. Ravenclaw flattened Hufflepuff. Harry thought Diggory, the Hufflepuff Seeker, was going to catch the Snitch, but at the last minute it swerved and Cho grabbed it.
“Damn, they’re really good,” Harry commented as they climbed down the stairs.
Harry was really glad to be going home for Christmas. He couldn’t believe how quickly everything had fallen apart. Hermione kept teasing him about Cho Chang and he was starting to get his feelings hurt. He’d never teased her about her stupid crush on Lockhart.
Damn, there was Cho. He really didn’t want to see her right now. He dove into an alcove so he could wait until she passed by. He almost groaned when she and her friends stopped nearby.
“Did you see Potter watching you at the match?” Harry felt his face burn as one of Cho’s friends teased her.
“He’s cute,” Cho said. Harry smiled, but it was wiped away with her next comment. “Did you see that Weasley slag hanging onto him?”
“She’s trying to dig her claws into him, but he seems to be resisting,” one of the girls laughed.
Cho laughed with the others and added rather meanly, “I heard she’s already spent a lot of time on her knees. I guess she has to supplement her family’s income somehow.”
“I heard she was doing laundry with the elves, I bet she was trying to earn some extra money. She learned fast enough how she could make easy money.”
Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. How could they possibly be saying such things about Ginny? He didn’t know how long he stood there after the girls moved off. Why were they so mean? Any crush he’d had on Cho died a quick death — he’d never date someone who was so horrible to a friend of his.
He headed back up to Gryffindor tower in a bit of a daze. Ron and Hermione were doing homework in the common room when he returned. Hermione looked and smirked when she saw him.
“Guess what? They’ve announced another Hogsmeade visit,” Hermione said. “You can ask Cho.”
“Enough, Hermione!” Harry ground out. He headed up to his dorm room; he really didn’t want to be around her at all.
“Mr Potter, please stay after class,” Professor McGonagall called. Harry nodded as he gathered up his belongings; he didn’t even look at Ron and Hermione. He was still upset about their attitudes. Hermione wouldn’t let up about Cho and Ron thought it was rather funny.
After the classroom cleared up, Professor McGonagall said, “Mr Potter, I’ve received a note from Sirius — you have permission to go to Hogsmeade.”
Harry almost groaned, he’d been half hoping he wouldn’t be allowed to go. “Okay, thank you.”
Professor McGonagall looked at him for a minute as though she was trying to figure out what was wrong with him. “Are you still interested in learning the Patronus Charm?”
That perked Harry up. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Very well, I will start your lessons after the holidays. Is that acceptable to you?”
Harry nodded. “Thank you, yes. That will be great. I don’t know if I’m going to run into those things again, but they were awful. I’d feel much better if I knew I could fight them.”
Her face softened a little. “Dementors are amongst the worst creatures that travel in our world. They make us relive our darkest memories and I’m afraid your darkest memories are quite awful.”
“It is awful, but…it’s the only time I’ve heard my mother’s voice,” Harry whispered.
Professor McGonagall blinked rapidly. “I’m so sorry, Harry.”
She gently put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “I promise I will help you conquer that charm.”
“Thank you,” he said simply.
Sirius waited quietly against the wall adjacent to the barrier to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. He was actually very excited about Christmas with Harry. He hadn’t celebrated Christmas since Harry’s first Christmas and a lot had changed since then. Most of the month of December he’d spent decorating the cottage he’d rented in Northumberland. He’d deliberately picked an area that wasn’t heavily populated and one with no connections to their past.
Looking around the platform he frowned when he saw Lucius Malfoy standing on the platform with his shiny boots and immaculate robes. That man should be in jail. It aggravated him no end that so many Death Eater scum had managed to worm their way back into society. Sirius looked away before he became too angry. So far no one had noticed him and he rather wanted to keep it that way.
A harried looking red hair woman hurried onto the platform. Sirius looked at her for a minute, trying to place her. She looked rather familiar. After a moment, Sirius realized it was Mrs Weasley. He wondered if he should say anything to her, but before he could decide anything steam started to fill the platform.
He watched with mounting excitement as the train pulled in. The scarlet locomotive never failed to fill him with a sense of anticipation. He felt a wave of longing for his best mate. He always equated the Hogwarts Express with James. They met on the train and for the first several years James was the first person he sought out on the train. After his fifth year, he’d lived with the Potters so then he’d boarded the train with James.
Students started swarming off the train. Sirius stayed back, he still didn’t want to draw any attention to himself. He sent a trip jinx across the station as Lucius and Draco exited the platform that sent the pair sprawling.
“I saw that,” Harry laughed as the Malfoys quickly stood and glared around the platform looking for the culprit.
Sirius smiled and reached out to hug him. “Welcome home!”
“Can we leave?” Harry asked.
“Of course,” Sirius said. He was puzzled. Harry had hugged him back and seemed happy to see him, but something was off. “Don’t you need to say good-bye to your friends?”
Harry shook his head. “I said good bye on the train.”
“Let’s go,” Sirius agreed. “We’re going to Apparate, do you remember what that is?”
Making a face, Harry nodded. Sirius laughed and took Harry’s arm. After the horrid feeling of being squeezed finished, Harry looked around. The cottage was relatively small, but it looked very cosy.
“We’re in Northumberland and fairly isolated. I thought you’d enjoy it.” Sirius led him inside. “I’ve been decorating a bit.”
When he caught sight of the lounge Harry started laughing. “A little bit?”
Sirius shrugged sheepishly. “I haven’t celebrated Christmas since your first Christmas so I may have gone a bit overboard.”
“It’s brilliant,” Harry said with a big smile as he walked around the tree.
It was a big tree that Sirius had decorated with multi coloured ornaments and strings of lights. There was an angel on top of the tree. Along the hearth were boughs of greenery and more fairy lights. Two stocking hung from the chimney — one read ‘Sirius’ and the other read ‘Harry’.
“I’ve never had a stocking before,” Harry said with a smile. “Thank you, Sirius.”
“You are very welcome,” Sirius said. “I just wish I could have done that before.”
Harry shrugged. “It’s okay.”
“It’s not, but thank you for saying so,” Sirius said, giving him a one armed hug. “You want to see your room?”
After showing Harry his room, Sirius headed back to the kitchen. He wasn’t the best cook in the world, but he was getting better. He’d decided upon a stew for today. As he stirred and seasoned the stew, he wondered what was going on with Harry. He didn’t want to push the boy, but something was obviously wrong.
He let Harry stay up in his room until dinner was ready. Harry came down readily enough and seemed to enjoy his stew and the freshly baked bread Sirius had picked up in town that afternoon. After dinner, Sirius quickly washed up the dinner dishes.
“Do you want to take a walk?”
Harry shrugged. “Sure. What’s around here?”
“There’s a lot of empty countryside out there. I’ve been out exploring quite a bit in the past month.”
Harry agreed and the two of them wrapped up against the cold and headed outside. Sirius led the boy along one of the paths that he’d found. Harry was rather quiet.
Finally Sirius couldn’t stand it anymore. “What’s wrong, Harry?”
Guiding his godson over to a low stone wall that marked the border of the property, Sirius cast a few warming charms and they sat down. “Kiddo, you didn’t want to say goodbye to your friends, you’ve spent the afternoon in your room, and you’ve been really quiet.”
Harry sighed and looked at his godfather. The older man was so cool and self-assured, would he understand Harry’s problem? He thought about it for a minute — Sirius had escaped from prison for him and risked getting caught to help him. If Sirius could do that, he wouldn’t laugh at him, right?
“You promise you won’t laugh?” Harry wanted to die when his voice cracked on the last word.
Sirius put his hand gently on Harry’s shoulder and slowly Harry looked up to meet his eyes. Harry could only see concern, no laughter. “I promise I won’t laugh at you.”
“It started last month,” Harry said. “I told you that I made up with Ron and Hermione, right?”
Sirius nodded and Harry continued, “I thought everything was going well. I’m doing well in school and I’m friends with Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. Ginny even taught me a really cool spell — Reducto.”
“That is a good one,” Sirius smiled. “It’s also an OWL level spell. It’s pretty impressive that a second and third year can perform that spell.”
Harry smiled shyly. He explained how he’d found Ginny trying to destroy Riddle’s trophy. Sirius frowned as his godson described the confrontation between the students and Snape. It made him more determined than ever to get Harry out of that man’s class.
“We went to the Quidditch match and…I-I guess…the Ravenclaw Seeker, Cho Chang, was really pretty and I guess I was watching her.” Harry’s voice trailed off.
“That’s only natural,” Sirius said when it was obvious Harry was struggling with what to say next.
Harry blushed and looked down at his hands. “Hermione noticed and she called me on it.” He looked up angrily. “I never said anything about her stupid crush on Lockhart. Why did she have to say anything?
“Then they announced the Hogsmeade visit and Hermione kept ragging on me about Cho and it was really embarrassing. Ron hadn’t even noticed anything until Hermione kept on about it. She was worse in front of Ginny.”
Sirius hid a smile. He suspected this might be the true cause of Harry’s anger. “Did you say anything to Hermione?”
“I tried,” Harry said miserably, “but she said it would be good for me to get to know Cho. She said that Cho was nice, but she was wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“I heard Cho and some of her friends and they were…they were horrible. They said all kinds of mean things about Ginny.” He glanced at his godfather. “I-I didn’t really even understand everything they said, but it wasn’t nice.”
“What did they say?”
Harry sighed and repeated what Cho and her friends had said about Ginny. Sirius was silent for a minute. Abruptly he stood up. “Let’s head back to the house. I have a feeling I’m not going to be wanting to siting on cold rocks for this conversation.”
The subsequent conversation was both embarrassing and enlightening for Harry. He’d never really had anyone explain things for him before. Aunt Petunia wouldn’t sign his form in primary school for the health class. Uncle Vernon had just told him that no normal girl would touch a freak and he better not get any freaks pregnant.
Sirius watched as Harry slowly digested everything he’d learned. It had been hard not to smile at times, but Sirius realized how difficult this was for Harry.
“Why would they say such horrid things?” Harry asked plaintively.
Sirius sighed. “Unfortunately, you are a famous and wealthy young man. I can tell you from experience that if the gold diggers think you are interested in a girl or she becomes too close to you they will stop at nothing to smear her name. I think maybe this girl, Cho, was a bit interested in you, but she’d seen you with Ginny.”
“But Ginny doesn’t even like me like that anymore,” Harry protested. “We’ve had fun and she’s a really great friend.”
“What do you think of Ginny?”
“What do you mean?”
Sirius smiled gently. “What do you think I mean?”
“It’s not nice to answer with a question with a question,” Harry said grumpily.
“You did it first,” Sirius laughed.
“This is so embarrassing,” Harry moaned. He looked over at Sirius and sighed. “I think she’s nice and she’s fun to talk to. She’s the only one who believed me — when Ron and Hermione thought you were a murderer, she believed me. She’s smart, but she doesn’t try to make me feel stupid like Hermione does sometimes.” He squirmed a bit before he added, “She’s really pretty.”
“Sounds like you might like her,” Sirius observed.
“But it doesn’t matter now,” Harry said, “she doesn’t like me like that anymore.”
“How do you know?” Sirius asked.
Harry looked at him in confusion. “Well…well I don’t know. She talks to me now and she didn’t used to. She used to blush and run away whenever we were in the same room, but we’re friends now.”
“I think she might still like you,” Sirius observed, “but I think now she likes you and not Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived.”
Harry sat quietly for a minute. “Like before she had a crush on someone who didn’t exist, but now she knows me? Is that what you mean?”
After thinking about it for another minute, Harry blushed and smiled. “That would be kind of nice.”
Christmas morning Harry woke when a big, black dog jumped on his bed. Harry wrestled with the dog for a minute, dissolving into laughter when the dog started licking him.
“Sirius, stop!” Harry laughed and he shoved the dog off his bed. He hopped out of bed before the dog could attack him again. He wiped the side of his face. “That is gross! You shouldn’t lick people.”
Sirius transformed and dissolved into laughter. “What are you going to do? Hit me and tell me I’m a bad dog.”
“The thought crossed my mind,” Harry said as Sirius enveloped him in a hug.
“Never mind that,” Sirius said. “It’s Christmas!!!”
Amidst much laughter the two demolished the pile of presents under the tree. Harry had used his day in Hogsmeade to get Sirius some Christmas presents. Harry received more clothes, boots, and books.
“This is more presents than I think I’ve ever gotten in my whole life,” Harry laughed. “You didn’t have to get me so much stuff.”
“I wanted to,” Sirius said. “Besides there are two presents you haven’t opened yet.”
Harry turned to his godfather in excitement. “What?”
Sirius waved his wand and revealed two more presents. One was long and skinny — Harry thought it was probably a broom. The other was a big box complete with a bow.
Harry walked over to the big box. There was a top that was wrapped separately from the box, so he could lift the lid off. He gasped when he opened it to find a black Labrador retriever puppy in the box. Laughing, he lifted the yipping puppy out of the box.
“He’s adorable,” Harry said and he petted the wriggly and rather squirmy puppy.
“Isn’t he?” Sirius laughed. “I saw him in the pet shop and he was too cute to pass up. He’s really smart, too. He’s already house trained.” He grinned at his godson lavishing attention on the little puppy. “It’s been hard hiding him from you. He’s wanted to meet you since you arrived home. He kept trying to sneak up to your room”
Harry grinned at the thought. “I can’t believe I didn’t notice. You did a good job hiding him.”
Sirius summoned puppy’s food and water while Harry continued to fuss over and play with the little animal.
“Does he have a name?”
Sirius shook his head. “I’ve just been calling him ‘pup’. I wanted you to name him.”
“Really?” Harry smiled at the thought. “I’ll have to think of a really good name for him.”
Turning to the puppy who was trying to lick him, Harry laughed. “We need to open my last present.”
Carrying the pup with him, Harry knelt down next to the last present. He ripped the paper off the gift and gasped. He reverently ran a hand down the broom.
“This is a Firebolt!” Harry exclaimed reverently.
Sirius was watching him with a big smile on his face. “It sure is. You know one of the great things about this cottage is you can fly in the back garden.”
Harry’s eyes lit up. Sirius laughed. “Get dressed first!”
Less than ten minutes later, Harry was inhaling a bacon sandwich so he could go outside. Sirius and the puppy accompanied him out to the back garden.
“You can’t fly over the trees,” Sirius called.
Nodding Harry took off. He whooped with excitement. The Firebolt was so responsive he hardly had to think about where he wanted to turn before the broom turned. Sirius settled into a chair to watch Harry fly with the puppy running excitedly under the boy barking and jumping.
It was the best Christmas Harry ever remembered. He loved all of his presents, but best of all he had Sirius to talk to and spend time with. They explored Hadrian’s wall and tramped in the fields and lands near the Northumberland National Park. The puppy, who Harry named Hadrian, was great fun and loved to run alongside them as they tramped in the fields. Sirius had even discovered an area of the forest where they could fly.
“So how is it we can fly here?” Harry asked. He and Sirius both had their brooms slung over their shoulders. Sirius hadn’t been able to resist buy a Firebolt for himself as well.
“This is the Otterburn training area,” Sirius explained. “Muggles think that the Ministry of Defence closes this area at times. Well to be fair, at times they do, but at times the Ministry of Magic closes the area.”
“Cool,” Harry said.
“We can go much higher here than you can at the cottage,” Sirius explained.
Up ahead Harry could see a clearing where a number of people were gathering. They all had brooms; some were dressed in wizarding robes while others were dressed in Muggle clothing. There were several benches as well as a cart that appeared to be selling hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and hot tea. The smell of roasted nuts filled the clearing.
A witch in robes and carrying a clipboard approached them. “Welcome to the Otterburn flight area. Have you been here before?”
“No, ma’am,” Sirius replied with a charming smile. “This is our first time here.”
“Glad to have you,” the witch replied. “You may fly up as high as five hundred feet. We ask that you respect the other flyer’s space — no fighting or bumping and no spell fire. Anyone engaging in those activities will be ejected and banned from further entry. Other than that, please enjoy yourselves.”
“Thank you,” Sirius and Harry said.
Harry rocketed up immediately at an almost vertical climb. After flying in circles and performing some loops, he dove almost straight down at the ground. He couldn’t hear the gasps of the others around him. At seemingly the last minute he turned the broom and flew with his feet inches above the grass before climbing once again.
Sirius flew at a much more sedate rate, but he too seemed to enjoy the freedom to fly. He kept a close eye on his godson, but more out of a sense of amazement than concern. He didn’t worry about Harry’s flying skill. He’d never seen anyone with the skills Harry showed.
“I should have known you’d be here.”
Sirius turned to see Minerva McGonagall fly up to him. “Minerva!”
“Hello, Sirius.” She watched Harry dive with an uncharacteristic smile on her face. “I see you got him a new broom.” She gasped. “Is that a Firebolt?”
“Yeah,” Sirius smiled. “I thought my boy deserved the best. Isn’t he amazing?”
“He is,” Minerva agreed. “That first time I saw him dive — it was amazing. He dove almost sixty feet without fear.”
“He told me he was afraid he was in trouble and was shocked that you were putting him on the Quidditch team.”
Minerva laughed. “Well, I do cultivate a bit of a stern exterior.”
“A bit?” Sirius laughed.
After they’d been flying for almost an hour and a half, Sirius took a break to find something to drink and Minerva joined him. They had just sat on a bench when a wizard approached them.
“Excuse me, is that your boy?” The wizard asked pointing to Harry.
“Yes,” Sirius said proudly.
“He is amazing,” came the reply. “How old is he?”
“Thirteen,” Sirius replied a bit more guarded this time.
The wizard must have picked up on Sirius’ unease. He handed Sirius his card. “I’m Max Gibbs. I’m a scout for the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Your son is an amazing flyer — I don’t know that I’ve seen someone that young fly that well. Does he play Quidditch?”
“Aye, he’s Seeker for Gryffindor,” Minerva spoke up.
“Professor McGonagall, I’m sorry I was so focused on talking to this gentlemen,” Max apologized. His eyes widened. “Wait - that is Harry Potter?”
“Please don’t say that too loudly,” Sirius said. “We’re just here to fly and have some fun.”
“Of course, of course,” Max replied soothingly. “Sorry, I’ve just never seen someone with such skill at such a young age. I will look forward to seeing him fly as he gets older. We will definitely be scouting him.”
“What does that mean?”
The three adults turned to see Harry standing just behind them with his broom in hand.
“I’m Max Gibbs, Mr Potter. I was just telling your…father here that I’ve never seen such talent. If you want to play professionally, just let me know. I will be following your career with interest.”
“Thank you,” Harry said in a bit of confusion. He liked hearing Sirius referred to as his father — that was nice. He moved past Max to stand next to Sirius, that’s when he noticed Professor McGonagall for the first time. “Professor! Happy Christmas!”
“Thank you, Harry. Happy Christmas to you as well,” she replied. “I see Sirius replaced your broom with style.”
Harry’s eyes lit up. “I know, a Firebolt! Can you believe that?”
He held out the broom for his professor to see, the scout forgotten. While Professor McGonagall admired the broom and listened to Harry’s glowing review of his new broom, Sirius thanked Max for his interest. Shaking Sirius’ hand, Max took his leave.
“Do you want to try it out?” Harry asked Professor McGonagall.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” she asked after a minute.
“Of course not,” Harry smiled. “I’ve been flying it all week. I wanted to see if they have some hot chocolate.”
Harry took her broom while she tried out the Firebolt. Sirius smiled as he watched Harry with Minerva. She may cultivate a fierce
attitude, but Harry had obviously wormed his way into the witch’s heart.
“Sirius, can I have some money?” Harry asked holding out his hand.
Laughing, Sirius gave the boy a handful of coins. Harry grinned up at him. “Do you want anything?”
“Why don’t you get some hot peanuts?”
Harry headed over to the cart and made his purchases. As he walked back to his godfather, he looked around the clearing. It was pretty amazing that so many people had come just to fly. He was really glad that Sirius had suggested this.
“Professor McGonagall is pretty good,” Harry commented as he watched his professor fly.
Sirius nodded. “She played Chaser for Gryffindor and not as many witches played then.”
Professor McGonagall returned Harry’s Firebolt a touch reluctantly. “It’s a great broom, Harry. I think you will do well with it.”
“Thank you,” Harry said. With a grin for both adults, he took off once again.
“That boy loves to fly,” Sirius said with a proud smile. “James would be so thrilled.”
“Aye, he would. To be approached by a scout at his age — what an honour.”
“James talked about trying out for Portree or Puddlemere,” Sirius said with a smile.
“He would have done well,” Minerva said. “Harry’s captain, Oliver Wood, is being courted by several teams.”
“What does Oliver play?”
“Keeper,” Minerva replied. “He’s quite good and he’s desperate to win the cup this year. We should have won the last two years — with Harry on the team we should be unstoppable.”
“So why haven’t you?”
Minerva grimaced. “The first year Harry was in the hospital wing for the last match. Last year the Quidditch season was cancelled with everything that was happening.”
“Hopefully nothing like that will happen this year,” Sirius grumbled.
After an enjoyable afternoon flying, Professor McGonagall accompanied Harry and Sirius back to their cottage. Harry was happy to introduce her to Hadrian.
“It seems as though you are doing very well,” Professor McGonagall commented. “Are things going well with Sirius?”
Harry nodded. “Sirius is great. He’s fun and he’s really smart, too. We’ve had fun flying and exploring the area. We even went to a Roman army museum one day — it was really fun. My aunt and uncle never let me go places like that.”
“That’s wonderful,” Professor McGonagall replied. “How are your classes going, Harry? Are you having any problems with the three
electives you chose?”
Harry shook his head. “No, I’m enjoying them.” He made a face. “Well I would be if Hermione would stop harping on Arithmancy.”
“Why does Miss Granger have a problem with Arithmancy?”
“She keeps trying to talk me into dropping it,” Harry said, his aggravation slipping through. “I don’t know why. I wonder if maybe she’s having problems with taking so many classes and she wants to drop one, but won’t if I don’t.”
Professor McGonagall frowned. “I hope she won’t force you to change your mind.”
“No, I’m really enjoying my classes,” Harry said. “Thank you for telling me about Arithmancy. I was talking to Ginny and she said that both Ancient Runes and Arithmancy are required for a bunch of jobs. I didn’t know that.”
“I am afraid you are quite correct,” the professor answered. “It appears we have become a bit remiss in our duties. We hold career training in your fifth year, but it might be a good idea to provide an overview earlier so students can better plan their electives. I will speak to my colleagues when I return. Does that mean Miss Weasley plans to take Ancient Runes and Arithmancy?”
Harry nodded. “She can’t decide if she wants to take another class or not. She’s trying to decide between Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies.”
“Either one would be a nice option,” Professor McGonagall replied. “If I recall correctly her brother Charlie took both those classes and
he might have some advice for her.”
Sirius joined them after checking on the roast he was preparing for dinner. The three settled into the cosy sitting room and Sirius stirred the fire so the room was nice and warm. Hadrian was curling up at Harry’s feet.
Professor McGonagall looked at both them before she said, “I wanted to speak to both of you about Harry’s desire to learn the Patronus Charm.”
Sirius looked a bit surprised. “Isn’t that a NEWT level spell?”
“It is,” the professor agreed. “Harry might not be able to perform it yet, but he is motivated and he is quite powerful. I think he might be able to pull it off.”
“I don’t have a problem with Harry learning the spell, but is there really such a great impetus now that the Dementors are gone?” Sirius asked.
“Perhaps not,” Professor McGonagall agreed, “but I think Harry’s extreme reaction to the Dementors would justify the effort.”
Colouring slightly he said, “Do you think you could help me brush up on it as well? I used to be able to do it, but since Azkaban…” He trailed off looking a bit lost. Harry scooted over and wrapped his arm around his godfather.
“Of course,” Professor McGonagall replied not sounding at all stern at the moment.
Professor McGonagall stayed for dinner. Harry found it a little odd to begin with, but he soon was having fun listening to the older two reminisce about the past. Both of them knew many stories about Harry’s parents and Harry loved listening to them.
After dinner they’d once again settled in the sitting room. Between the good dinner, the warmth of the room, and the wonderful smell of pine from the Christmas tree Harry was feeling very comfortable.
“Harry, do you know what a Patronus is?” Professor McGonagall asked.
“It’s a magical protection,” Harry replied. “It sounds like a magical guardian or something that can protect you against Dementors.”
“That is a good explanation,” she agreed. “Before you cast the spell, it is important that you think of a very, happy, positive memory. It is the strength of the emotions in that memory that will fuel your Patronus.” She looked over at Harry. “Your mother told me she used the memory of your birth to fuel her Patronus.”
A look of awe came over his face. The thought that he could be someone’s favourite memory was amazing. Sirius smiled at the look on his godson’s face.
“The moment that James put you on her stomach — it was beautiful. She looked at you and you looked at her and you both fell completely in love. She totally adored you and you loved her.”
Harry blushed and dropped his gaze as he blinked trying to get his emotions under control. He felt tears welling up in his eyes and he turned his head to wipe his eyes. He didn’t want Sirius or Professor McGonagall to see him crying. They both tactfully gave him the space to pull himself together.
“Back to the Patronus,” Professor McGonagall said. “I’d like for us to practice the charm tonight and then when we are back at the castle I have a plan to use a Boggart to help Harry practice in front of a Dementor.”
Harry looked confused for a minute, but then his face cleared. “Because my Boggart would turn into a Dementor, you’re going to find a Boggart?”
“The incantation for the spell is ‘Expecto Patronum’,” Professor McGonagall said as she demonstrated the proper wand movement.
Sirius and Harry both repeated her movements. Once she felt that had the wand movement down correctly, she instructed them to choose their memory. Harry’s eyes met Sirius’ and he knew exactly what memory he was going to use. He wondered if maybe Sirius was going to use the same one.
He recalled the moment when he realized that Sirius truly wanted him and let the emotions fill him up. Casting the spell, he was shocked to see a bit of silvery mist come out of his wand.
“Well done,” Professor McGonagall said encouragingly.
By the end of the evening, Sirius had managed to cast his Patronus which was the same as his Animagus form. He attributed his success to Harry being in his life. Harry had consistently been able to produce the silvery mist, but he hadn’t progressed from there.
After Professor McGonagall left Harry commented, “I never would have thought I’d spend the evening with her and have fun.”
Sirius laughed. “I know. James and I always tried to charm her and she never cracked, but once we left school she turned out to be a lot of fun. We even went to a few Quidditch matches together. She and your mum were rather close. Lily’s grandmother died just before she started at Hogwarts and I think McGonagall rather took that place in Lily’s life.”
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