|SIYE Time:3:26 on 25th May 2018|
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: 23017; Chapter Total: 2148
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thanks for the wonderful response! Again, thanks to my beta Arnel.
Harry walked out of the beach house onto the patio carrying a plate of eggs and toast. Sirius was already seated on one of the lounge chairs beside the pool. It was their second day in the Playa Blanca and Harry was having the time of his life. They’d made a stop in Casablanca the day they left England and Sirius had been able to purchase a wand. Once he’d bought his wand and a few other purchases, they’d taken several Portkeys to throw off anyone who might be following them. They finally landed on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands. Harry was rather glad to be done with Portkeys; they were rather unsettling.
The Black holiday house was in a Muggle resort community, but as with their London house it was well hidden from their Muggle neighbours. A wizarding cleaning company kept the house clean and ready for occupancy. The two houses were as opposite as possible. The holiday house was an impossibly bright white with a brilliant blue trim around the windows. The house was open and airy with lots of windows to take advantage of the view. There was a beautiful heated pool on their patio even though the house was a short five-minute walk from the beach. To Harry it was like a picture postcard had come to life in front of him.
“Good morning, kiddo,” Sirius said cheerfully. He slid a vial of nutritional potion in front of Harry who made a face, but dutifully swallowed it.
As Harry ate his breakfast, Sirius said, “I thought we could go over to Deiland shopping centre this morning. It has all sorts of shops so we can get some new clothes. We can also get some groceries before coming back home.”
“That sounds great,” Harry said. He really didn’t like shopping much, but he’d discovered in the few short days with his godfather that everything was fun with Sirius around.
“Good,” Sirius smiled.
Harry looked around the mall in astonishment. Aunt Petunia had never taken him anyplace like this before. Sirius saw his face and grinned.
“Pretty brilliant, isn’t it?”
Harry nodded enthusiastically. “This is great. My aunt usually just takes me to the charity shop if I can’t wear Dudley’s cast offs. I’ve never been to a mall before.”
Sirius frowned briefly at the mention of Harry’s relatives, but had to smile at his godson’s enthusiasm. Together the two of them started wandering around the mall. Both of them needed new wardrobes and they had fun picking out clothes that would be fun on the island, but would also work back in Great Britain.
It was a new experience picking out colours that he liked and clothes that actually fit. Whenever Harry thought he had enough clothes, Sirius would invariably add a few more. Soon he had not only jeans and t-shirts, but also nice trousers and dress shirts. Sirius threatened him with red heart covered boxers, but to Harry’s relief he didn’t actually purchase them although he did make sure Harry had boxers, pyjamas, and socks as well.
As they were leaving the shop, Sirius looked over at the teenage boy. “Harry, we forgot to get you a swimming costume.”
Harry blushed. “I-I don’t actually know how to swim.”
“No problem, kiddo,” Sirius said with a smile. “I can teach you. We can’t let that beautiful pool go to waste.”
Harry’s face lit up. “Okay.”
When they left the shop he was the proud owner of three pairs of board shorts. Harry liked the longer type of shorts because he felt the others emphasized his knobby knees. They stopped in a shoe store and bought both trainers and dress shoes for both of them.
It was after noon when Sirius said, “Are you hungry?”
Harry nodded his head and soon they had made their way to the food court and after much discussion they ended up in a sandwich shop. As they ate, they watched the people walking by.
Harry glanced over at his godfather. So far the day had been amazing. He’d never had so many things bought just for him. He’d noticed the amount of attention his godfather received from women in the mall. Sirius flirted with all of them, not just the young pretty girls, but also the older women, the young mums, and the heavyset girls. Most of the girls responded with an extra smile or blush, some of them blatantly flirted back. It amazed Harry how at ease Sirius was with them. He found girls to be rather mysterious and very confusing.
“Sirius, can I ask you something?”
Sirius nodded. “Of course, Harry.”
Harry sighed and when he didn’t say anything right away, Sirius smiled kindly. “Is this about a girl?”
Harry’s eyes grew wide. “How did you know?”
“What else ties teenage boys up in knots?” Sirius teased lightly. “Is this about your friend Hermione?”
“No,” Harry said making a face. “No, this is about Ginny, Ron’s sister.”
“Is she younger or older?”
“She’s younger,” Harry said. “She’ll be twelve in a few days. Anyhow she…she had a big crush on me. I don’t know if it was me or the whole stupid Boy Who Lived rubbish. I stayed with the Weasleys last summer and she was too shy to really talk to me. She would blush and stammer whenever we were in the same room together. It probably didn’t help that her brothers would tease her about it.”
“What do you think about her?”
Harry shrugged. “She’s nice and I wish she would talk to me more, I think we could be great friends. I’m great friends with Ron and the twins and I get along okay with Percy. Ron told me she never shuts up, but I never got to see that side of her. Ron…he’s not always very nice to her. He wouldn’t let her hang out with us or talk to us. Then…horrible things started happening.” He looked over at his godfather. “Have you ever heard of the Chamber of Secrets?”
“Slytherin’s secret chamber?” Sirius said after a moment. “It’s a lost chamber where Slytherin supposedly left some sort of monster or something, isn’t it?”
“A Basilisk,” Harry corrected.
Sirius closed his eyes briefly. “Do I want to know how you know that?”
“Probably not,” Harry admitted. “Strange things started happening and I started hearing voices that no one else could hear. It was a strange voice that wanted to kill.” He shivered. “It was really creepy and I didn’t know what to do. Ron and Hermione said I shouldn’t tell anyone I was hearing this voice — I don’t know if it’s because they couldn’t hear it, but…well, I didn’t tell anyone. Then students started getting Petrified.”
Slowly Harry told Sirius the story of the past school year. The students getting Petrified, how he was blamed, and how Dumbledore was forced out of the castle. Harry told him how Hagrid was sent to Azkaban and shared his adventure in the Forbidden Forest. When he reached the part where Ginny was taken into the chamber, Sirius stopped him.
“Harry,” he paused. “Why could you hear the voice and figure out where the chamber was when no one else could?”
Harry looked at his godfather, assessing him. “Promise you won’t hate me.”
“What? I could never hate you,” Sirius said fervently. “I promise I won’t hate you.”
Looking down at the table, Harry said, “I’m a Parselmouth. I can talk to snakes. That’s why I could hear the Basilisk and no one else could.”
Harry waited for Sirius’ outburst, but none was forthcoming. A gentle hand lifted his chin. “Is that why the students thought you were the heir of Slytherin?”
Harry nodded and explained what had happened at the Duelling Club. A look crossed Sirius’ face that Harry couldn’t identify.
“I’m so sorry, kiddo. I wonder where you got the ability,” Sirius mused. “I don’t remember James or his dad mentioning any Potters who were Parselmouths.”
“Professor Dumbledore thinks that Voldemort accidently gave me some of his abilities — you know, that night,” Harry explained. “My scar really hurt when I faced Voldemort during my first year and I can talk to snakes.”
Sirius nodded thoughtfully. “I guess that makes sense. Things obviously didn’t go the way Voldemort planned that night.” He reached out and set his hand on Harry’s shoulder and squeezed. “I’m so sorry you were ostracized for something that you had no control over. I don’t hate you and I’m not ashamed of you or anything.”
Harry smiled brightly at Sirius’ wholehearted acceptance of him. Sirius grinned at him. “Okay, so we left poor Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets.”
Harry laughed. “Sorry, that sounds funny.” He sobered up as he told Sirius about his trip into the Chamber of Secrets and his fight against both the Basilisk and the memory of Voldemort.
“He said he was memory trapped in a diary?” Sirius queried.
Harry nodded. “It was awful. He was getting more solid and Ginny…” he swallowed convulsively. “She was so pale and so still. I was so scared she was dead. Tom was laughing and telling me that once she was dead he was going to take her over. When Fawkes dropped the diary in my lap somehow I knew what to do. I stabbed the bloody book with the Basilisk fang. Tom screamed and ink poured out of the diary. When Tom disappeared Ginny woke up. I felt so badly for her, she was so scared and upset, but she was so brave. She told me that she’d wanted to tell me that morning what was going on, but she couldn’t.”
“She sounds like a brave girl,” Sirius commented. “Fighting off Voldemort for a whole year.”
Harry nodded. “She is. I was so worried that somehow they would blame her, but Dumbledore realized that Voldemort had somehow enchanted the diary and someone had planted it on Ginny. Stupid Malfoy!”
“Lucius Malfoy?” Sirius asked.
Harry nodded. “His son, Draco, is my year and he’s a bigoted, cowardly little ponce just like his father. Going on about Muggleborns and Blood traitors, he’s an idiot. His dad bought the whole Slytherin team the new Nimbus Two Thousand and ones so Draco could get on the team.” Harry laughed. “It still didn’t help. I grabbed the Snitch from right under his nose.”
Sirius smiled appreciatively. “Good for you. My cousin, Narcissa, is Draco’s mother. She was always a prissy little snot.”
Harry grinned, he loved that Sirius wouldn’t tell him to respect adults for no reason other than the fact that they were older than him.
“So, you rescued Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets,” Sirius said.
His grin fell from his face. “I just want to make sure she’s okay. From what Riddle said, he was awful to her. He’s so evil and she’s so young and sweet. I know he made fun of her and made her feel badly about herself. He used the things he’d made her do as reasons why her family and friends would hate her. He would make fun of the things she wrote. I asked Ron if she was okay and I could tell he thought I was stupid for asking. I want to write to her myself, but Ron specifically told me not to. He said that she would take that as a sign that I was in love with her or something.”
“What do you think?” Sirius asked gently.
Harry groaned. “I don’t know. I mean I’ve never really had many friends — I didn’t have any before Hogwarts. Somehow I don’t think she would be that…silly. She was so scared and I think it would be good to tell her that I’ll still be her friend. Ron is always joking that saving someone from a Mountain Troll cements a friendship. I would think that saving someone from a Basilisk would do that as well.”
Sirius stifled a groan at Harry’s casual reference to a Mountain Troll; he didn’t think he wanted to know what that meant. “I would agree that saving someone from a Basilisk would make you friends for life.”
“So do you think I should write to her?”
“It sounds like you really want to,” Sirius observed. “I think that shows that you should.”
“Did you see that shop next to the pet shop?” Harry asked. “It had all sorts of pretty things. I saw some really pretty hair clips. I’d like to get her one and send it to her for her birthday. Can we do that?”
“Okay,” Sirius said. “We can do that.” He shot a glance at his godson. “What colour hair does she have?”
“Her hair is really pretty,” Harry replied enthusiastically. “It’s red but with lots of other colours like gold and orange and copper in it as well. When she sits in front of the fire it lights up her hair and it’s really beautiful.”
Sirius hid a smile. It sounded like Harry was rather smitten with his young friend. Once the pair finished eating, they headed down to the shop Harry had mentioned.
The shop had a wide array of decorative barrettes and hair clips from which to choose. Sirius was quite patient and refrained from teasing Harry. He realized how important this was to the boy. The time he’d spent in Harry’s company had shown him that he needed to be gentler with Harry than he’d ever had to be with James. While Sirius could tease him about some things, too much teasing led Harry to shut down rather than retaliate as James would have done. Sirius understood only too well what a lifetime of living in a neglectful and abusive family could do. While Sirius had chosen to be the rebellious class clown, Harry was more serious and Sirius respected that choice.
After browsing for quite a while, Harry had narrowed his choices down to a larger rhinestone studded butterfly clip and a set of smaller lily combs that came in a variety of colours. Sirius watched as the boy kept going back and forth between the two.
“You could get both,” Sirius suggested. “It seems to me the clip would be useful for everyday wear, as you said she wears a lot of ponytails. The lily combs would be nice for a special occasion.”
“These are lilies?” Harry asked excitedly.
Sirius nodded. Harry turned to the shop clerk. “I will get the butterfly clip and a set of the purple lily combs.”
“Very good, sir,” the clerk replied. “Would you like them wrapped?”
Harry nodded. “Yes, please.”
Harry left the shop feeling quite proud of himself. At his urging the two stopped at the pet store to look at the animals. There were several black puppies and soon the two wizards found themselves in one of the play areas with a friendly, playful black lab puppy.
“Can you understand dogs when they bark?” Harry asked curiously as he watched Sirius playing tug-of-war with the puppy.
“Not understand them like I can translate bark for bark,” Sirius said after thinking about it for a moment. “Animals communicate differently. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but I can communicate easily with dogs. This little guy thinks we are both lots of fun and wishes he could come home with us. With other animals it’s like…like they are speaking another language or a dialect or something. I could mostly communicate with your parents’ cat, but a stray cat wandering through the garden I probably couldn’t communicate with.”
Harry nodded his understanding. He threw a little red ball gently at the puppy. “My parents had a cat?”
“Your mum loved animals,” Sirius said with a fond smile. “I can easily imagine they would have had a house full of kids and a yard full of animals. She wanted a puppy, but she wanted to wait until they were out of hiding. Lily was afraid if they got a puppy and they were attacked the dog might get killed or they would have to leave it behind. So until you could get a dog of your own, I used to transform into Padfoot and play with you. That was so much fun.”
Harry’s eyes shone as he listened to the story. He loved hearing about his parents, even if it made him sad on occasion.
Sirius laughed his barky laugh. “Lily used to threaten me that she’d fill the house with Siamese cats. I hated Siamese cats, my mother used to own them and they always seemed very creepy to me.”
“I don’t like bull dogs,” Harry volunteered. “Aunt Marge breeds them and one year her mean old dog chased me up a tree. He stayed under the tree barking and trying to bite me if I tried to get down. My stupid relatives thought it was funny. Aunt Marge didn’t call him off until almost midnight.”
Sirius growled. The words Harry heard him mutter under his breath most certainly would have caused Harry to get his mouth washed out with soap. Harry giggled. When Sirius looked at him in confusion, Harry said, “Most grown-ups don’t say rude words around me.”
Sirius laughed. “You wound me, Harry. I’m a grown-up? What has this world come to?”
They stayed playing with the puppy for quite a while and Sirius went out of his way to make Harry laugh. It was one of the sweetest sounds in the world and Sirius vowed to do whatever he could to make sure Harry laughed more often.
To Harry’s delight, he had taken to swimming quite quickly and was soon splashing around the pool having a grand time. Sirius enjoyed playing in the pool and the pair had several epic splashing wars. Sirius had even jumped in as Padfoot as few times, paddling around the pool as a dog.
For Harry this was paradise. Dudley had received swimming lessons, but of course Harry had not. The few times the Dursleys had taken him to the local pool, Dudley and his nasty little friends had tried to dunk Harry and hold his head under water. The lifeguards had to intervene several times. To have the time to learn to swim and be safe was nothing short of a miracle as far as Harry was concerned.
After both wizards ended up with spectacular sunburns on their first day on the island, Sirius had been vigilant in applying the sunscreen charm. As a result, Harry was becoming quite tan.
Two days after their shopping trip, Sirius padded back out to the pool patio with a platter of sandwiches. “Lunchtime, kiddo!”
“Okay,” Harry said. He pulled himself out of the pool and dried off quickly.
“Thanks,” he said as he selected a roast beef sandwich. Without prompting, he swallowed his nutrient potion before he started to eat. While he hated taking potions, he did feel they were doing him some good. He’d gained a little bit of weight and he could certainly see the difference in Sirius. He’d gained quite a bit of weight back and with his tan and styled shoulder-length hair, he didn’t resemble his wanted poster at all.
“Harry, you’re starting your third year, right?”
Harry nodded and Sirius continued. “What classes are you picking up?”
Squirming a bit, Harry replied, “Care of Magical Creatures and Divination.”
“What…why?” Sirius asked in confusion. “As the oldest son of a noble house you should be taking Ancient Runes at the very least if not Arithmancy also. Why Divination?”
His heart sinking Harry said, “I didn’t really know what to take. None of the classes were really explained very well and I ended up taking what Ron is taking.”
When Sirius didn’t respond right away, Harry lost his appetite. He hated disappointing Sirius. “Is that bad?”
Sirius seemed to catch Harry’s tone of voice and hastened to reassure him. “No, kiddo, it’s okay. Ancient Runes is a class that teaches about runes which are a different form of writing. It is more of a pictograph form of writing and it is often used in spell casting. Runes can be used to protect houses and people. The reason oldest sons usually take Ancient Runes is because they are often called upon to ward their homes and their lands, especially oldest sons of ancient and noble families like ours. We often have multiple properties and sometimes have other families working for us like on a farm or a large estate.”
When Sirius didn’t seem upset with him, Harry started eating once again. After thinking over what Sirius said Harry said cautiously, “Ancient Runes does sound kind of interesting. Do you think I should switch to that?”
“I do,” Sirius said. “I’m sure if you send an owl to Professor McGonagall, she’ll be more than happy to switch you.”
“Okay,” Harry said after a minute. He looked over at his godfather; he really wished he could have always lived with him. “You don’t think that Ron will be really mad at me, do you?”
“He shouldn’t be,” Sirius said firmly. “He can join you in the class or the two of you will be in one class different.” He watched his godson and he could see something was bothering him. “What’s wrong, kiddo?”
Harry smiled at the nickname Sirius had for him — it was really nice. He shrugged. “I just don’t want Ron to be mad at me. He…he doesn’t like doing a lot of schoolwork and…”
Sirius could see Harry was having trouble articulating his thoughts. “Are you afraid he won’t want to be your friend anymore?”
Harry looked down at the table, tracing a pattern on it. He shrugged. “I don’t know. Ron…he was my first friend ever. He doesn’t like doing schoolwork and he always makes fun of Hermione for doing so much. I don’t want him to make fun of me.”
A surge of anger swelled in Sirius at the unknown Ron. He could see how much Harry was agonizing over this. “I don’t know exactly what to tell you. I would hope that Ron would be supportive, but I don’t know him and I don’t know how he will react. I can tell you that I would hope you would do your very best in your classes and I hope Ron would respect that.”
Harry fidgeted slightly before he looked up at Sirius. “So you want me to do my best in school and not hold back or anything.”
For a moment Sirius was confused by Harry’s statement. Why wouldn’t he want Harry to do his best? Understanding flashed through him. “Your relatives didn’t want you to do well, did they?”
Blushing, Harry shook his head. “I’d get in trouble if I did better in school than Dudley and Dudley isn’t very smart so I’d…well, I wouldn’t do well on purpose.”
“Have you been doing that at Hogwarts, too?” Sirius asked gently.
Slowly Harry nodded. “I waited to see how well everyone did and I…erm, I kind of made sure I wasn’t the best or the worst in the class. I don’t have to fail things like I did in primary school, but I don’t try as hard as I can. Everyone talks about me as it is, I…I guess I just wanted to be average.”
Putting a hand on Harry’s arm, Sirius said, “When you get back to Hogwarts, why don’t you try to do your best and see what happens? I don’t like the idea of you not learning as much as you can because of your friends. Your friends should encourage you to do your best and support you, not hold you back.”
Taking a deep breath, Harry nodded, “I promise. I will try my best.”
After lunch, Sirius changed into Padfoot and the two of them headed down to the beach. Harry found a stick lying on the beach and soon he and Padfoot were playing fetch. For Harry it was great fun. He’d never really had many opportunities to just play and he loved it. Padfoot jumped into the surf after the stick and Harry followed.
It was a fun and relaxing afternoon for the two of them. In the following days, Sirius did something for Harry that no adult had ever done — he helped him with his homework. He read over Harry’s essays and discussed the ideas Harry was trying to get across. Unlike Hermione who tended to rewrite Harry’s work for him, Sirius helped Harry to rewrite his own essays. To Harry’s complete amazement, Sirius let him actually practice magic. It really was the best summer ever.
Harry reluctantly left the window to his room and headed to bed. He loved the beach and loved listening to the sounds of the waves lapping on the shore and birds screeching as they flew and dove in the water. As much fun as he’d thought a trip to the beach would be, the reality was so much better.
He and Sirius had spent almost two hours on the beach making sand castles that afternoon. It thrilled him to have someone to play with. That Sirius was willing to crawl around on the sand and play with him was brilliant. There was a little girl staying in one of the other cottages who had been watching them a bit wistfully. Sirius invited her to play with them. It was a new experience to play with a little child. On Privet Drive, no parents would let their four- or five-year-old anywhere near Harry. Here, the other parents smiled at him and didn’t have a problem with him playing with their children.
After making sand castles, Harry had been drawn into a football game with some other boys on the beach. It wasn’t very organized, but it was fun. Sirius and some of the other parents laughed and cheered them on.
Walking to his bed, Harry briefly wondered if Ginny had received her presents yet. He hoped she would like them. He still wasn’t used to giving presents, so he always felt a bit unsure about how they would be received.
As he was drifting off to sleep, he heard a strange noise. Jolted into wakefulness, he sat up and strained to hear. The noise came again. It was a moaning, upsetting sound.
Pushing back his covers, Harry followed the noise to Sirius’ door. He paused outside the door, unsure of what he should do. His aunt and uncle hated if he came in their room at night. Another moan made up his mind and he knocked on the door before pushing it open.
Sirius was tangled in the sheets obviously in the grip of a nightmare. Harry hurried over to his godfather.
There was no answer save for another anguished moan. Reaching out, Harry shook the older man’s shoulder. “Sirius, wake up.” After another minute, Harry repeated his actions, a little harder and louder. “Sirius! Wake up!”
Sirius woke with a start, sitting straight up, looking around blinking. “Harry,” Sirius said softly looking around in confusion.
“Are you okay?” Harry asked anxiously. “It sounded like you were having a nightmare.”
Wiping his eyes on the edge of his sheet, Sirius scooted over and Harry climbed up on the bed sitting on the foot, facing his godfather. Sirius lit the candle that sat by his bed.
“Did I wake you up, kiddo?” Sirius asked.
Harry shook his head. “I was just lying down.”
“I’m sorry,” Sirius said staring down at the sheet. “I…I had a nightmare about Azkaban.”
“What’s it like there?” Harry asked cautiously.
Sirius shuddered. “It’s horrible. The Dementors that guard Azkaban are the foulest creatures that walk the face of the Earth. They make you re-live your worst memories and they make everything so damn cold. You feel like you’ll never be happy again. It’s miserable re-living your worst memories over and over again, but it’s made worse by listening to those around you re-living their worst memories.” He shuddered again. “Trust me, some of those people have lived horrible, violence-filled lives.”
“That sounds awful,” Harry said sympathetically as he reached out a hand to pat his godfather’s arm.
Sirius nodded. “It’s such a desolate place. It seems like there is never any sunshine or warmth there at all. All hours of the day and night you hear the screams and moans of the other prisoners. They would feed us this…slop twice a day. It was a greyish, unidentifiable glop that either had no taste or bordered on rancid.”
“How did you survive?” Harry asked in astonishment. The horrors his godfather had lived through sounded torturous. It wasn’t fair that someone so good to him would have been treated to badly.
Sirius shrugged. “I lived a lot of my time as Padfoot. The Dementors couldn’t read my emotions as a dog so they left me alone. I will admit I’ve been hungry for the last twelve years.”
Harry giggled, making Sirius smile. Reaching out, Sirius ruffled Harry’s hair. “It’s thanks to you, kiddo, that I’ve been able to recover as much as I have.”
“Really?” Harry asked as he scooted closer to Sirius.
Sirius nodded. “I was in a pretty bad place when I broke out of prison. I don’t think I would have pulled myself back together as quickly as I did if I didn’t have you in my life.”
Harry grinned happily. No one had ever really wanted him before. Reaching out he initiated a hug, something he’d never felt comfortable doing before. Sirius pulled him into an embrace and dropped a kiss on the top of his head.
“Thank you for coming to check on me,” Sirius said.
“You’re welcome,” Harry replied a bit shyly.
Ginny sighed as she put her clothes away in her wardrobe. Egypt had been an amazing place to visit and she didn’t have words to express how happy she was to be able to talk to Bill, but she was glad to be home.
The beginning of the summer had been awful. Ginny had been plagued with nightmares that ended with her screaming and waking the whole house. While her parents had been understanding, her brothers weren’t as much. Percy had taken to treating her like she was a small child and unable to make even the simplest decision on her own. The twins were good to her. They seemed to truly feel badly that they hadn’t noticed what was happening to her.
Ron was the brother who confused her the most. At times he seemed sorry that he hadn’t spent more time with her during the school year, but at other times he was angry that she had allowed herself to be duped by an enchanted diary. He had yelled at her several times for Hermione ending up in the hospital wing and Harry almost getting killed. Ginny hoped that he would get the anger out of his system and be her friend once again, but so far that hadn’t happened. Out of everyone, he was the only one who never checked on her when she had her nightmares. In a way Ginny was glad, it was awkward enough with her parents hovering over her every night, but it would be nice to know he cared.
The time spent with Bill was wonderful. He’d always been her favourite brother and the one she went to for advice. He didn’t let her down. Unlike everyone else, Bill didn’t tiptoe around the topic. He talked to her about everything that had happened and he helped her see that it wasn’t her fault. She wished that he lived closer, but at least he was a good letter writer. She had promised to write to him more faithfully this year.
After putting away her clothes, she headed downstairs to see if her mother needed any help. She was set to work mixing up bread dough. Although she’d never admit it to her mother, it was one of her favourite jobs. She loved the feel of the dough as she kneaded it and the smell of freshly baked bread was one of her favourites.
As she worked, Ron gravitated down to the kitchen. He dumped his dirty clothes in the scullery before taking a seat at the table. He’d been grumpy since they’d returned to England and he’d found out that Harry was missing.
It was all very mysterious. Something had happened and Harry had run away after performing some accidental magic at his aunt and uncle’s house. About the same time, Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban. Everyone was concerned that Black had somehow caught Harry. Ginny hoped with all of her heart that Harry would be okay. It just wasn’t fair how so many bad things happened to Harry.
She set the dough aside to rise and washed her hands. A tapping on the window made her look up. A large, beautiful, exotic-looking bird was on the other side. Ginny opened the window and to her amazement, when the bird extended his leg he had a letter and a small package addressed to her.
She removed the bird’s burden and offered him some water and a treat.
“Goodness,” Mrs Weasley said as she entered the room. “What a beautiful bird! Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know,” Ginny said. She held up the letter and package in her hand. “He brought this for me. I guess for my birthday.”
Sitting down at the table she opened the letter. Scanning the letter, she gasped when she read the name at the bottom of the letter.
10 August, 1993
I hope you have a wonderful birthday! I bet you’re surprised I remembered, aren’t you? I’ve been thinking about you this summer and I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been worried about you, what a horrible first year you had. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t a better friend to you. I keep thinking that if we had just paid a bit more attention to you, then you wouldn’t have been writing in that awful diary.
This next year will be different, I promise! I want to be a better friend.
How was your trip to Egypt? I’m rather jealous, Egypt sounds fun. I know you’ve been to at least to Romania and Egypt. Have you been anywhere else?
I’m actually having a great summer. I’ll tell you all about it on the train. My godfather, Sirius Black (who is not a murderer) and I are on holiday. I can’t say where, but I’m safe and having a brilliant time. I’ve never been anywhere before and we are spending a lot of our time at the beach. Sirius taught me how to swim and I’m having a great time.
Anyhow, Happy Birthday! I’ll see you on the train.
P.S. I hope you like your present. The flower in the combs is a lily. I thought that was cool because my mum’s name was Lily — I don’t know, maybe it was stupid, but I thought you’d like it. I don’t know if you like purple, but I know you don’t like pink.
P.P.S. If you have to show people the letter that’s fine. Sirius says that people are probably looking for me. I’m fine and I’ll be on the train. Don’t worry, Sirius would never, ever hurt me!!
With a slightly shaking hand, Ginny opened the package. Inside the box she found a beautiful butterfly clip and a pair of purple lily combs. Both of them were made of brilliantly coloured stones set into gold and were both very pretty. She gasped, she’d never been given anything so nice. Her thoughts were spinning around in her head.
She couldn’t believe that Harry had written to her. He’d remembered her birthday!! She reread the letter — was Sirius Black actually innocent? She hoped for Harry’s sake that was true, Harry sounded really happy. She looked at the box again. They were quite honestly the prettiest things she’d ever been given.
“What is it, love?” her mother asked.
“They are from Harry,” Ginny said as she held out the box.
“What?!” Ron erupted. Reaching over he grabbed the letter from her hand. Mrs Weasley hurried over and read the letter over Ron’s shoulder.
Without another word, she hurried over to the Floo and called Professor Dumbledore. In just a few minutes, the venerable old wizard was seated at their kitchen table reading her letter. He performed several spells on both the letter and the package, but Ginny couldn’t tell what they were or what they showed him.
Ron had stormed angrily up to his room after reading her letter. Ginny wasn’t entire certain if he was angry at Harry or her, but she stayed out of his way. He scared her a little when he became so angry. She was rather glad he wasn’t in the kitchen while she talked to Professor Dumbledore.
“Is this the first letter you’ve had from Harry?” Professor Dumbledore asked kindly.
Ginny blushed and nodded. While a lot of her awe of and respect for the Headmaster had disappeared when he hadn’t been able to help her the previous year, she was still rather nervous in his presence.
“Do you have any idea where he might be?” Mrs Weasley asked anxiously.
“Unfortunately, no,” Professor Dumbledore replied. He sipped his tea before he elaborated, “We know that once Harry performed the accidental magic on his aunt he fled his house. He didn’t take the Knight Bus and as far as we can tell, he didn’t use any Muggle means either. I don’t know when he met Sirius Black, but evidently he did meet Black and is staying with him. I don’t know what means Black used to convince Harry to accompany him. Judging from your daughter’s letter, it is obvious that Black has lied to the boy.”
“Can’t you track him?” Mrs Weasley asked. “It worries me so much that Harry is in the clutches of such a man.”
“Harry said that his godfather wasn’t a murderer,” Ginny protested. “It sounds like he’s having a great holiday. If he meant to murder Harry I don’t think he’d take him on a holiday and play with him. I mean, he took Harry on holiday, why would he do that if he was bad?”
“I don’t know,” Professor Dumbledore admitted. “However, I would feel better if we knew where he has taken Harry and why he felt the need to remove him from his legal guardians. Regardless of his protestations now, I believe that he betrayed the Potters and murdered those Muggles, but I will admit I am not certain. Be that as it may, he has spent twelve years in Azkaban and who knows what sort of impact that might have made upon him.”
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