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SIYE Time:22:07 on 25th September 2017


The Road not Taken
By potterfan2008

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Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence/Physical Abuse
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 138
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: 18702; Chapter Total: 1692
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Special thanks to Arnel for her beta skills! I have changed a bit of Harry's family history and modified the history of the wizarding world. It just seemed to work better for my story :)




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Sirius smiled as he watched his godson double check his trunk. Harry had changed immensely over the past three weeks. He was tan and had lost that underfed look, but the biggest change was his attitude. He was more confident and much happier than he’d been when Sirius had found him.

On their way back to England, they had stopped once again in Casablanca. Sirius had purchased a vial of eye correction potion and Harry’s eye sight was now slightly better than 20/20. His glasses were now a thing of the past and Harry was thrilled about it.

“Do you have everything?” Sirius asked.

Harry nodded. “My trunk has never been this full before. I love all of my new clothes and new robes. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many new things all at once.”

“At least you got rid of all of those shiny new Lockhart books,” Sirius laughed.

Harry joined his laughter. He’d been able to sell all of his Lockhart books at a bookshop in Casablanca. The witch working there had been thrilled to receive Lockhart’s whole collection of books hardly used.

“I still can’t believe he lied all that time and no one caught on,” Harry groused.

Sirius shrugged. “A good lie is often rooted in truth. It seems like the events he reported were factual, it was just his presence that he lied about. Lockhart is a good looking and personable wizard who tells a good story.”

“I guess,” Harry agreed. “I just hope the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor this year is good. We haven’t had a really good professor.”

“Even without a decent professor you seem to have a good handle on Defence,” Sirius said.

Harry grinned. “Thank you.”

Closing his trunk, he looked at his godfather in concern. “What are you going to do? They are going to question me when I return. Are you going to be safe?”

“I’ll be fine,” Sirius reassured his godson as he had done frequently over the past few days. “I’m going into hiding. Just tell them the truth. You won’t be able to reveal where we stayed in London or the Canary Islands. The charms on the properties prevent that. You won’t be able to tell them anything that will lead them to catch me.”

“What if they…I don’t know… read my mind or something? Professor Dumbledore always seems to know everything.”

Pulling the boy into a hug, Sirius tried to reassure him. “It will be okay. If they do find me, I can tell them where Peter is now. Remember, do not do anything! I plan to approach Professor McGonagall, but I don’t want to just go after him without a plan. That obviously didn’t work well last time. I’m hoping Professor McGonagall will be able to help capture him and make certain he makes it to Azkaban.”

“I won’t do anything,” Harry promised fervently. “I don’t want to do anything that will result in Peter getting away.”

“Good!” Sirius said. He glanced at the clock. “We better get going.”

Sirius shouldered his own rucksack that was filled with his new clothes and other supplies. Nodding, Harry called to Hedwig who flew into her cage. Harry closed and locked the door after running his finger down the bird’s soft feathers. He grinned at his godfather. “I think Hedwig enjoyed the beach as well. She looks happy.”

Sirius smiled. “I’m sure she did. She liked helping you play fetch.”

Harry dissolved into laughter remembering their last afternoon on the beach when Hedwig would swoop down and snatch the stick Harry was throwing to Padfoot. The three of them had played a rather odd and lopsided game of fetch. Harry had laughed the entire time.

With his trunk and cage secured, the pair headed down the street. Sirius was dressed simply in jeans and a t-shirt with a ball cap on his head. The tanned and well-rested former prisoner received many second glances from the ladies they passed, but no one connected him with the scruffy and rather demented-looking wizard in the wanted posters.

As they drew within sight of King’s Cross, Harry sighed. For once the prospect of returning to Hogwarts wasn’t as appealing as it usually was. Sirius seemed to read his mind.

“Don’t worry, kiddo. I’ll be fine and I’ll stay in touch.” He grinned at the boy. “I’m thinking of heading north. Scotland is supposed to be beautiful this time of year.”

As they reached the station, Sirius reached out and pulled Harry into a hug. “I love you, kiddo. Please be very, very careful. No trolls or Basilisks this year.”

“I promise.” Harry laughed as he hugged his godfather tightly. Pulling back he looked up at the man who had become more of a father figure to him than anyone else had ever been. “I love you, too. You need to be careful, too.”

“I will,” Sirius said as he kissed Harry on the forehead. “Let me know how Ginny liked her present.” He shifted his gaze over to Hedwig. “When you send me messages, change owls frequently. As much as I’d like to see Hedwig she is too distinctive to use all the time.”

Harry nodded and Hedwig hooted her understanding. Before they entered the building, Sirius changed into Padfoot and taking a deep
breath, Harry headed to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, ready to see what awaited him.

He half expected to find rows of Aurors waiting to take Sirius into custody so he was happy to find it was the same chaotic frenzy that it was every first of September. Parents and children hurried along the platform while the shiny, gleaming, scarlet engine sent out billowing clouds of smoke. As he watched, Harry noticed a few extra adults who were scanning the crowd rather than seeing off children.
Aurors, he thought grimly. He gripped Padfoot’s fur tightly and the dog nodded slightly letting him know he’d also noticed the Aurors.

Harry skirted along the edge of the platform, hoping to avoid notice. He reached the back of the train without being spotted. To his surprise, the Aurors hadn’t given him a second look.

Several cars away he could see the Weasley family saying their goodbyes. His heart lifted at the sight of his friends. Kneeling down next to Padfoot, Harry hugged the dog tightly.

“I love you, Padfoot,” he whispered. Hedwig hooted as if in agreement.

Padfoot barked softly and licked him on the cheek. Harry laughed. “Have a good trip and be careful!”

With one last pet for the large dog, he headed towards the Weasleys. As he neared the group, Mrs Weasley was hugging Ron. It was Mr Weasley who noticed Harry approaching.

“Harry?”

The rest of the group turned as one, Harry coloured a bit under the sudden scrutiny. Mr Weasley quickly made his way over to the boy. “Harry, are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Mr Weasley,” Harry said easily. He wasn’t certain that Mr Weasley believed him.

“Harry, I am going to perform a charm on you,” Mr Weasley said as he drew his wand. Harry flinched as the yellow beam hit him. It didn’t hurt at all, but he didn’t like the sensation.

“There are no tracking or compulsion charms on you at all,” Mr Weasley announced. With another movement, something silvery flew out of Mr Weasley’s wand. “I’ve sent word to both Hogwarts and the Ministry to let them know you are safe.”

That seemed to trigger something in everyone else. Mrs Weasley bustled over and engulfed him in a huge hug. “Harry, we were so worried about you.” She pulled back and looked down at him. She seemed surprised to find he looked so good. “Where are your glasses? Did that man steal them? Can you see?”

“Yes, I can see,” Harry said indignantly. “Sirius got an eye correcting potion for me. He wouldn’t steal from me.”

Fred and George grinned at him. “We are glad to see our star Seeker is in one piece.”

“I’m good,” Harry affirmed returning their grin.

Nodding the twins headed out to find Lee Jordan. Hermione gasped, “Mrs Weasley, we need to get on the train. It’s getting ready to leave.”

“Of course,” Mrs Weasley said. She seemed rather flustered by Harry’s staunch defence of Sirius. She gave hugs and kisses to everyone and they hurried onto the train making it just before the train started moving.

Harry grinned at Ron. “It’s good we made it. I think we’d be in a lot of trouble if we missed the train two years in a row.”

“What happened, Harry?” Ron asked finding his voice.

“I’ll tell you in a minute,” Harry said as they looked for a compartment. They finally found a compartment with a sleeping man in it. For some reason the man looked a bit familiar to Harry, but he quickly dismissed the thought — it wasn’t like he knew any adult wizards. “We might as well go in here. Every other compartment is full up.”

“Go away, Ginny,” Ron said shortly.

Harry could see the hurt on her face and he glared at Ron. “No, Ginny. Please stay.”

Ginny looked between the two of them and obviously decided that Harry was serious. She scooted in and sat gingerly on the bench near the sleeping man. Ron and Harry put all of their trunks up on the rack and Harry petted Hedwig as he set her cage next to the cage that held a huge ginger cat. Whilst everyone was occupied in settling in their seats, Harry surreptitiously cast a sleeping spell on Scabbers who was peeking out from Ron’s pocket.

Sirius had coached him in the sleeping spell and Harry had practiced it all week. He didn’t want to take the chance that Scabbers might hear about Sirius and decide to make a run for it. Giving Ginny a quick smile, Harry sat next to her while Ron and Hermione sat across from him.

Eyeing the sleeping man nervously, Ron said, “I wonder who that is.”

“Professor R.J. Lupin,” Hermione said, promptly pointing to the man’s labelled trunk, sitting neatly above him.

Harry’s eyes widened at the name. This was Moony? He looked quite a bit older than Sirius did with grey hair and several scars on his face, neck, and exposed arms. Sirius had told him that werewolves aged more quickly than others, but Harry hadn’t expected the difference to be quite so dramatic. He wondered what Moony was doing here. Looking up at the battered trunk, he re-read ‘Professor R.J. Lupin’. Could Moony be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher? Harry didn’t know of any other opening that needed to be filled. That would be amazing, to learn from someone who was a great friend of his parents.

Hermione who had been looking Harry over finally had enough.

“Harry James Potter!” she scolded. “We have been so worried about you! How could you take off like that? Are you alright? You were kidnapped! How can you just be sitting there looking so tan and healthy? How did you escape from him? Did you get your books for this year?”

Harry was laughing by the time she ran out of questions. “I’m fine, Hermione. I wasn’t kidnapped, and don’t worry, I’ll explain everything.”

He was startled when she suddenly lurched across the compartment and threw her arms around him. He caught her awkwardly and gave her a tentative hug. She pulled back and sat back down next to Ron.

“I was so worried about you!”

“I’m sorry, Hermione. I didn’t mean to worry anyone,” Harry said earnestly.

“What happened, Harry?” Ron asked, hurt evident in his voice. “How could you disappear and then just write to my sister like nothing ever happened?”

Harry blushed slightly. “I’ll explain.”

He smiled at Ginny who blushed, but smiled back. “I guess that means you got my letter.”

She nodded and turned her head slightly so he could see that she was wearing the butterfly clip in her hair. “I did. Thank you so much, Harry. I admit I was surprised that you remembered my birthday. Thank you for the hair clip and combs. They are so beautiful.”

Harry grinned. “You’re welcome. I’m glad you like them. I was there for your birthday last year and…erm, I was a bit worried about you after everything that happened this year.”

“I’m getting better,” she said shyly. Harry smiled, glad that he’d taken the time to send her a letter.

“Okay, Ginny’s fine,” Ron said impatiently. “What happened?”

Harry laughed at Ron’s expression and began his story. “It all started with my Aunt Marge.” He explained how she spent the week insulting his parents and testing his patience.

“So she just blew up?” Hermione questioned sceptically.

Harry nodded. “It was kind of funny. She blew up like a balloon and floated away.”

Ginny giggled and Harry smiled, happy to hear the sound. Ron laughed as well. “The department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes found her and punctured her. They modified her memory and sent her home. Dad told us.”

“That’s good,” Harry said. “I don’t like her, but I’d hate for her to get lost.” He looked at his best mate. “Am I in trouble with the Ministry? I didn’t know what to do. Uncle Vernon was so angry with me and I was afraid the Ministry would try to expel me again.”

“You’re not in trouble for that, no,” Ron answered honestly. “They were more worried that you disappeared and that Black had found you. What happened? How did he catch you? Did you escape?”

“He didn’t catch me,” Harry said irritably. He was a bit upset that they didn’t believe him. “Didn’t you see what I wrote to Ginny? Sirius didn’t kidnap me! He rescued me.” Harry quickly explained how Sirius had found him and how he’d decided to go with Sirius.

“Harry, that was so dangerous!” Hermione scolded. “You took off with a man you didn’t know after a very brief conversation. Haven’t you learned anything? He’s a mass murderer. No matter what sort of excuse he might have given you, he killed thirteen people at once. He is a follower of You-Know-Who! He can’t be trusted!”

“No, he didn’t kill anyone and Sirius never followed Voldemort,” Harry returned heatedly. “Sirius was framed.” He explained how Sirius and Peter had switched Secret-Keepers and how Sirius confronted Peter. He kept Peter’s identity a secret for now.

When he was finished, he looked around at the others. Ginny was the only one who seemed to believe him. Hermione and Ron shared a look that started his blood boiling. It was a look that said they didn’t believe him.

“I’ve never heard of this Fidelius Charm,” Hermione said. “I’ll have to research it when we get to school. It seems rather complicated. If your parents knew You-Know-Who was after them why didn’t they just leave the country?”

“Gee, Hermione, I don’t know,” Harry snapped. “Maybe they did what they thought was best!”

Hermione seemed a bit taken aback by his anger. “I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t mean to criticize your parents; I’m just trying to understand what happened.”

“I can’t help you there, on account of the fact that they were murdered when I was a baby,” he replied coolly.

Ginny looked anxiously between the two friends, uncertain if she should say anything. She was rather surprised that Hermione didn’t believe Harry. If there was one thing Ginny was certain of, it was that Harry didn’t lie. While most of her embarrassing and rather debilitating crush had died on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets, she still admired and respected Harry. Only this time it was the real Harry Potter — the Harry who was a bit messy and moody, who loved to fly and didn’t like doing his homework and was horribly awkward around girls.

She glanced at her brother who seemed at a loss as to what he should do. Taking a deep breath she said, “How awful that he was in Azkaban for so long and he was innocent.”

Grateful that someone believed him Harry gave her a dazzling smiled. “I know. Can you imagine being in prison for twelve years for something you didn’t do? Azkaban sounds awful. Sirius would have some horrible nightmares some nights. I would sit and talk to him until he went back to sleep.” He looked back at Hermione. “Besides, he’s my godfather and my legal guardian. He can’t kidnap me, he’s the one I’m supposed to be with.”

“Harry, don’t you think people would know if Sirius wasn’t really a murderer?” Hermione tried a different tact. “It would have come out at his trial if he was innocent.”

“Were you not listening to me?” Harry demanded. “Sirius didn’t get a trial! He was thrown into jail because of his last name and because Professor Dumbledore wouldn’t listen to him. My parents changed Secret-Keepers without telling him.”

“You don’t know that for certain,” Hermione pointed out. “Besides the ministry must have had some other evidence on him. Professor Dumbledore wouldn’t have let them send an innocent man to jail.”

“Professor Dumbledore isn’t always right,” Ginny spoke up. “He makes mistakes just like everyone else. He let them send Hagrid to prison last year and Hagrid is the last person who would ever hurt someone.”

“Ginny!” Hermione was scandalized that Ginny was disparaging the Headmaster so freely.

“What?” Ginny returned. “He should have been able to figure out what was happening last year and he should have been able to help me. Instead, he hires some fake idiot and leaves when things got rough. He should have been able to put all of the clues together much faster than a group of second year students. As grateful as I am to Harry, it shouldn’t have been up to him to rescue me.”

“Maybe you should have used your brain and not trusted a diary that talked back to you,” Ron said snidely.

Harry gasped at the outright meanness in Ron’s voice. “Ron! It’s not her fault! Voldemort bewitched that diary. How was she supposed to fight against that?”

He turned to Ginny. “I’m really sorry we ignored you last year. I can only imagine how horrible it must have been for you. Please let us try to make it up to you.”

She blushed but managed a smile. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m sorry I put you in so much danger. Thank you for coming after me.”

He grinned. “You’re welcome. I’m glad I did and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Before either of the two older students could say anything, Ginny said, “So you went to the beach?”

Harry nodded excitedly. “Sirius took me to stay at a beach house. It was brilliant. I’ve never been to the beach before. The house where we stayed was really nice. It had a private pool and Sirius taught me how to swim and everything.”

He spent a good deal of time telling stories about his summer, careful to not reveal anything that might accidentally give away where they had stayed. Ginny was the only one who was acting normally. Hermione and Ron obviously still thought he was hiding something or that he had been kidnapped and didn’t realize it.

After some time Hermione sighed. “Well, I have to say Mr Black seems to have taken good care of you. You look quite healthy and I’ve never seen you so tan. I didn’t hear what you told Mrs Weasley about your glasses, why aren’t you wearing them?”

Harry laughed at the ‘Mr Black’. “Sirius gave me a potion that fixed my eyes so I don’t have to wear glasses anymore.”

“Really,” Hermione was intrigued against her will. “I didn’t know there was such thing.”

Harry shrugged. “I didn’t either, but Sirius asked me if I wanted to try it. We bought it at a wizarding market.”

“Where?”

He shrugged, he didn’t see a reason to hide that information. “Casablanca. We travelled through there on our way back to England.”

“Casablanca,” Ginny said excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to go there.”

“It was really amazing,” Harry said. “Their magical shops are mixed in with the Muggle shops. We went to this huge outdoor bazar and most of the magical shops are down what looks like a small alleyway. They were really huge stalls filled with all sorts of cool things. It was brilliant. The shopping district was inside the old city walls and it was this maze of shops and stalls. Sirius found his way around easily, but I know I would have been lost.

“There was even a stall selling flying carpets. I never knew they were real. I got to try one out. They had a little area where you could fly the carpets. I wish they weren’t illegal here or I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Sirius and I raced around on them. It was so fun.”

“That sounds like fun,” Ron said. “We got to ride a magic carpet in Egypt, but it was one of the large family-sized rugs. We didn’t get to race.”

“That’s too bad. It was a lot of fun,” Harry said. “The marketplace was really amazing. It was outdoors and had all sorts of stalls selling lots of things. I didn’t know what half of them were.” He reached into his bag that he’d packed for the train and pulled out an ornate, golden jar with bright boldly coloured jewels on the top. When he opened the jar an exotic scent wafted through the compartment.

Hermione leaned over to look at the jar. “Is that some kind of potpourri?”

Harry shook his head. “It’s a blend of herbs and spices that are used in protection rituals. There is turmeric, sage, holly leaves, rosemary…I know there’s other stuff in there, but I can’t remember it all.”

“Protection rituals?” Hermione asked sceptically. “That sounds like superstitious nonsense.”

“Protection rituals are real,” Ginny spoke up. “Our granny uses them every spring to rid her house of any unwanted spirits or any lingering spells.”

Ron wrinkled his nose. “It always stinks up the house. I hate cleansing time, I always get a headache.”

“It smells nice,” Ginny countered. Turning to Harry she asked, “Is there chamomile in there? That is supposed to be good to remove curses cast against you.”

Harry nodded. “Yes, I didn’t know that’s what it did, but the witch did mention chamomile. Sirius said my grandmother used to perform protection rituals every spring also. He and my dad used to help her get ready.”

“It doesn’t sound like it’s very useful,” Hermione said.

Harry shrugged. “I don’t think it’s supposed to be overly powerful. Sirius said it just provides good energy to the house. It won’t protect against Dark magic or anything, but it cleanses the house of negative energy.”

“It does,” Ginny said. “I love cleansing time. Not only does the house smell nice, but there is a nice energy in the house. My grandmother says that it is good to renew our commitment to our house to make it a home.”

Hermione looked over at Ron and noticed that he looked a bit worried as well. Harry kept using the phrase Sirius said over and over again. No matter what Harry said, a grown man taking a boy from his home without permission was kidnapping. Harry didn’t seem to realize what danger he’d been in.

As she watched Harry and Ginny talking, she realized with a start that she’d never heard him talk so much before. At least not about things not related to school or Quidditch. Harry was usually quite shy about talking to girls, but he didn’t seem at all nervous talking to Ginny. She frowned slightly as she listened to them talking. Could Harry possibly have a crush on Ginny? It didn’t seem likely, but as she listened to them chattering away she had to acknowledge it was a possibility.




It was early afternoon and Harry was enjoying his trip to Hogwarts. Ginny was a lot of fun to talk to. She was smart and funny and she didn’t want to keep harping on his alleged ‘kidnapping’. He didn’t know why Hermione was so angry about Sirius, but it was starting to get annoying. He didn’t insult or make mean comments about her parents, so why couldn’t she grant him the same courtesy? He didn’t understand her attitude. They had only finished two years of wizarding school, was it any wonder there were charms and spells they’d never heard of?

Reaching over, Harry grabbed two more pumpkin pasties off the pile of treats he’d purchased from the tea trolley. Ginny refilled her pumpkin juice and topped off Harry’s as well. She tossed her brother a chocolate frog.

Ron who’d been reading the latest issue of Quidditch Weekly accepted the treat with a rare smile for his sister. He ripped open the treat and quickly bit the head off the frog. Once the frog had been eaten he turned his attention to the card.

“Ginny, I have a Queen Maeve, do you want it?”

“Thanks,” Ginny said accepting the card.

Ron laughed. “Is Cliodna still your favourite?”

Blushing slightly Ginny nodded. Harry was intrigued. “Why is she your favourite?”

“I was really little when I first saw her card. She was so pretty — she had red hair and was surrounded by birds and flowers. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up,” Ginny explained. “You don’t often see pictures of famous people with red hair and she was so beautiful.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve always liked animals and the fact that she was an Animagus was fascinating. I was sure I would be an Animagus when I grew up. I read all about them and tried to learn as much as I could about Animagi.”

“Do you still want to be an Animagus?” Harry asked with interest. He’d always found the idea interesting, but since learning his father was an Animagus and watching his godfather transform he was fascinated.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I like Transfiguration and I like animals so I’d like to learn more about it.”

“It sounds really fun,” Harry said thinking of the fun he’d had with Sirius while he was Padfoot. He wished he could tell them about his father and godfather, but Sirius had asked him to keep that to himself for now.

“I don’t know,” Hermione said entering the conversation. “I’m sure it would be fascinating to spend some time as an animal, but what if you get stuck as the animal?” She shuddered, “I don’t know if I would enjoy that. Besides, is there a good practical reason to turn into an animal?”

“I don’t know,” Ginny said. “Being an animal could be useful sometimes. Bill told us about one of his co-workers who could turn into some kind of bird…” She looked at her brother who nodded.

“A hawk, I think,” Ron put in.

“He would fly over the treasure sites,” Ginny explained. “Sometimes when they were concerned about the floor, he would fly over them. It always sounded really cool.” She shrugged. “I can’t explain it, but it sounds like fun.”

Harry looked over to where Hermione was sitting. She had an overstuffed bag of books at her feet. While seeing Hermione with books was certainly not unusual, it seemed like more books than usual.

“Hermione, how many classes are you taking this year?” Harry asked. He looked over at her stack of books and saw not only Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, but Muggle Studies as well. “Muggle Studies, why on earth are you taking that?”

“It’s fascinating to see how the wizarding world sees Muggles,” Hermione replied earnestly.

“I’m glad I’m not taking that,” Ron put in. “Divination and Care of Magical Creatures should be the easiest, right Harry?”

With a sinking heart, Harry realized that it was time to come clean. “Um, I switched one of my classes. I dropped Divination and I’m taking Ancient Runes.”

“What?!” Ron was outraged. He glanced at the sleeping professor after his outburst and when the professor kept sleeping, he continued in a quieter tone of voice, “How could you do that? I thought we were taking all of our classes together. Why are you taking Ancient Runes? That’s for the swotty know-it-all types.”

“Sirius said that I should take Ancient Runes,” Harry explained. He desperately tried to recall the conversation with Sirius about changing classes. “As the heir to an ancient and noble house, it will be useful in the future.”

“Heir to an ancient and noble house?” Hermione asked curiously.

“So because you are an heir you are leaving me behind?” Ron asked hurt and upset.

“Ron, stop acting like a prat,” Ginny spoke up. “You know he’s right. That’s why Bill took Ancient Runes. We aren’t an ancient and noble family, but he works with a lot of them at Gringotts. Ancient Runes form the basis for any home wards and Harry will need to know that kind of stuff. It’s not like he can ask his father.”

Ron looked a bit ashamed of his outburst. “Sorry, mate. I forget sometimes that you weren’t raised knowing this stuff. I guess it does make sense that you would need to know that kind of information.”

“Why?” Hermione asked looking at the rest of them. “What does heir to an ancient and noble house mean?”

“I’m still not exactly sure,” Harry said. “Sirius said that my family is an ancient and noble house and I’m his heir as well and his family is also an ancient and noble family. It has something to do with the families that started the Ministry.” He looked over at Ginny who seemed to know what he was talking about. “Is that right?”

Ginny smiled gently. “Ancient and noble families are the families that have been around for centuries — even before the Roman invasion. There were some tribes that were strictly wizarding, but they also married into other ancient tribes. After the Romans left, they lived as any Muggle nobles of the time. They had keeps or castles and provided shelter to those who lived on their lands. The difference is that the ancient and noble families usually sheltered or provided lands for other magical families. For a long time we lived in peace with the Muggles, but during the Middle Ages the magical families started pulling away from the Muggles. They had to because if the Muggles were living until they were like twenty-nine and the wizards were living until they were over one hundred — it was really better if they didn’t mix.”

“I never thought of that,” Harry said thoughtfully. “I guess that would be hard to explain.”

Ginny nodded. “After the Civil War and all of the fighting over religion in the 1500 and 1600s, the ancient and noble families decided that they needed to form their own government. They gathered together and eventually formed the Ministry. I know that all of the ancient and noble families have a seat on the Wizengamot — usually multiple seats.”

“How do they get multiple seats?” Hermione asked.

“Different families die out and they owe their allegiance to another family, that family gets the seats of the family that died out,” Ginny explained. She shrugged. “I’m not exactly sure how it works, I went to work with dad one day and he took me down to sit in on a session of the Wizengamot. It was mostly boring. The Weasleys only have one seat on the Wizengamot, but my dad takes his responsibility very seriously. His Muggle Protection Act was a really great idea. Bill says it’s a great piece of legislation. Even if it made Lucius Malfoy angry, I think it was a good idea.”

“Sirius was really impressed with the Muggle Protection Act,” Harry said. “His relatives were really horrible and used to go Muggle hunting and horrible things like that, but Sirius isn’t like that. He said that the act was really needed and it is well written.”

Hermione sat back in her seat and picked up her book, but in reality she was watching Ginny more closely. The younger girl was not at all like Hermione thought she would be. She was smarter and more observant than Hermione expected.

Harry was almost asleep when the train slowed and came to a complete stop. Opening his eyes, Harry looked around. “What’s going on? We aren’t anywhere near the school.”

“I don’t know,” Hermione said as she peered out the window. She shivered. “It’s awfully cold all of a sudden.”

Ron peered out the compartment door into the corridor. He could see other students doing the same, but didn’t see any adults or any reason for them to have stopped.

The four of them huddled a bit closer as it became colder and colder in the compartment. Harry felt really strange all of sudden. It was like he would never be happy again. Neville stumbled into their compartment after a moment. “It’s so cold out there!”

Suddenly the compartment door was flung open again and Harry saw an apparition that seemed to be straight out of hell. It was tall and covered head to toe in a black cloak. As it glided towards them, the temperature, which had been cold, dropped well past freezing. As much as he wanted to, Harry couldn’t take his eyes off the creature. He heard Ginny whimper and wished he could comfort her, but truthfully, he couldn’t move.

“No!” he heard a voice shouting. Although the voice sounded completely terrified, it rather comforted him as though he should know whose voice it was. It was a woman’s voice, but that was all he could tell. He wanted to help her, but he couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from. He felt as though he was falling before his world went black.

He woke a minute later to see Ron crouched over him. When he realized Harry was awake, he pulled Harry up into a sitting position.
“Are you okay, mate?”

Harry nodded a bit uncertainly as he looked around the compartment. It was suddenly warmer than it had been. Ginny looked small and scared. Harry levered himself up to sit next to her.

“Eat this, Harry.”

Looking up Harry was surprised to find that Moony was awake. He looked at what he’d been given. It was a hunk of chocolate.

Obediently, he took a bite and an amazing warmth spread through him.

Moony nodded approvingly and he looked around at the other kids. “Everyone eat your chocolate. It’s the best thing for you after an encounter with a Dementor. I need to have a chat with the driver.”

Silence reigned in the compartment for a few minutes as everyone ate their chocolate. Looking over, Harry was glad to see that Ginny looked a lot better than she had when he’d first woken up. He hesitantly reached out and covered her hand with his.

“Are you okay?” he whispered.

His heart almost broke at the lost look in her eyes. “I…I could hear his voice. Tom, he was telling me…horrible things.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Tom’s gone, Ginny. Remember, I killed the Basilisk and stabbed the diary. He can’t hurt you.”

She gave him a wan smile as she took another bite of chocolate. “I know. Dementors… they make you remember the worse experiences of your life. Dad had to go out to Azkaban once and he looked awful when he came home.” She shivered.

Harry scooted a bit closer to her in an effort to keep her from shivering. “Poor Sirius, I can’t imagine living with that for twelve years. No wonder he has nightmares.” He thought back to what he’d heard. “I heard a woman screaming. It was horrible, I wanted to help her, but I didn’t know how.”

She squeezed his hand and he managed a smile for her. Somehow she just knew how to make him feel better, he didn’t know how she did it. He closed his eyes and she leaned her head against his arm. They sat like that for quite a while. The rest of the ride to Hogwarts was rather silent and Harry was glad of that fact.

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