|SIYE Time:22:07 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: 18703; Chapter Total: 1597
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thanks again to the wonderful Arnel!
Harry made his way into the Great Hall and sat down across from Ron. Ginny sat down next to him. Ron looked over at the two of them. “What was that all about?”
“She wanted to make sure me and Ginny were okay after the whole Dementor thing,” Harry said, still rather offended. “I don’t know why it’s such a big deal. We’re both fine and Professor Lupin knew to give us chocolate.”
Ron nodded and looked around. “Where’s Hermione?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t know. Professor McGonagall wanted to talk to her in private. She didn’t say why.”
Hermione slid into the seat Ron had saved for her just moments before Professor Dumbledore started talking. Harry’s attention was drawn to the headmaster. He really wasn’t sure how he felt about the man right now. He was still upset that someone so seemingly unconnected to him had made so many decisions that had affected him so deeply.
Since his first year he’d held the professor in the highest esteem and now he was a bit disappointed to discover that the professor made mistakes just like everyone else. It wasn’t just the fact that Harry had been sent to live with relatives who hated him. The fact that Professor Dumbledore had not helped Sirius was something Harry was having a hard time accepting.
He recalled Ginny’s comments on the train. It was rather disconcerting that the man who most people thought of as the most powerful wizard in the world hadn’t been able to help Ginny. While Harry would never regret going down into the Chamber of Secrets, he did feel upset that it had been necessary. Why hadn’t Professor Dumbledore known that Ginny was being possessed? Maybe it was a bit unfair to expect so much from one man, but Harry felt let down by Professor Dumbledore.
Harry knew that Sirius hadn’t really wanted him to return to Hogwarts. Sirius had reviewed all of his options with him — he could be tutored at home or he could attend another wizarding school. That had rather shocked Harry — it had never occurred to him that there might be other magical schools. Beauxbatons had been rather tempting, but in the end Harry didn’t want to leave his friends. Plus Hogwarts also had the connection to his parents that none of the other schools could match.
The opening feast seemed to drag on forever, but finally they were free to head up their rooms. Harry was rather upset to discover that the Dementors would be guarding the school all year. They made him feel so weak.
As he started the leave the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall appeared at his shoulder. “Mr Potter, the headmaster would like to speak with you.”
Harry felt his insides tighten and he suddenly wished he hadn’t eaten so much at the feast. He turned to his friends, but before he could say anything Hermione spoke up, “We’ll see you upstairs, Harry.”
Nodding, Harry followed his Head of House to the headmaster’s office. As they left the chattering excited student body behind Harry asked, “Professor, do you know what this is about?”
“The headmaster has some questions about what happened to you this summer,” Professor McGonagall said rather gently.
All too soon Harry found himself standing in front of the gargoyle that guarded the headmaster’s office. He followed Professor McGonagall up the stairs and into the office. Professor Dumbledore was standing behind his desk talking to a tall black man and an older woman with short grey hair. Harry didn’t recognize either of them, but the robes they were wearing indicated that both of them worked for the Ministry.
A low musical note sounded and Harry smiled automatically. He walked over to Fawkes’ perch and reaching out his hand, he stroked the phoenix’s beautiful crimson feathers. “Hello, Fawkes.”
Fawkes looked up at Harry who suddenly felt more hopeful and happy. Leaning closer to the bird, Harry whispered, “Thanks, Fawkes.”
“Harry, this is Kingsley Shacklebolt,” Professor Dumbledore said indicating the man with whom he’d been speaking. “He is an Auror. This is Madam Amelia Bones; she is Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. We have some questions about what happened to you this summer.”
Harry nodded and started towards the chair Professor Dumbledore indicated for him. He felt a bit overwhelmed by all of the official people there and he wished Sirius was there, but of course that was impossible. “Professor McGonagall, can you stay?”
“Of course, Harry.”
Professor McGonagall sat next to Harry and gave him a rare smile. He nodded back at her trying to convey how grateful he was that she stayed.
Once everyone was seated, Kingsley began. “Harry, can you tell me what happened on the night of the sixth of August?”
Nervously, Harry described Aunt Marge’s diatribe against his parents and how he accidentally blew her up. Professor McGonagall interrupted him at this point. “Didn’t your aunt and uncle say anything when she started insulting your parents?”
Harry looked at her in confusion before shaking his head. “No, they think the same thing, but they just don’t insult them all the time. My aunt hated my mum and she hates magic.”
To Harry’s astonishment Professor McGonagall turned to Professor Dumbledore. “Didn’t I tell you not to leave him there? No one should live where they are treated so poorly. I told you before you left him there that they were the worst kind of Muggles!”
“I do understand,” Professor Dumbledore said soothingly, “but it was necessary to leave Harry with a blood relative and still remains vital to his safety.”
“Why?” Harry asked, emboldened by Professor McGonagall’s defence of him.
“That is a discussion for another time,” Professor Dumbledore said. “We are here to find out what happened this summer.”
“We are and we need to get on with that discussion, but it seems Mr Potter’s living arrangements need to be looked into as well,” Madam Bones said with a disapproving look at the headmaster.
Realizing that he needed to get on with his story, Harry continued, “I grabbed my trunk and left my aunt and uncle’s house. I was so angry and I was afraid I’d be in so much trouble.”
“Why? It’s only a case of accidental magic,” Madame Bones said.
Harry looked at her in confusion. “Last year a house-elf made a pudding explode in my aunt’s kitchen and I got a letter saying I was in trouble for performing magic and I could be expelled for doing more magic — something like that. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it definitely said I was in a lot of trouble and I didn’t even do that. If I can be threatened with expulsion for something a house-elf did, I figured I would definitely be expelled for blowing up my aunt.”
“A house-elf?” Madam Bones looked between Harry and Professor Dumbledore. “Did you know about this Albus?”
“Yes, Dobby, the Malfoy’s former house-elf, took it upon himself to try and prevent Harry from attending school last year. I didn’t discover this until the end of last year,” Professor Dumbledore explained.
“If this Dobby will confirm Mr Potter’s account we can clear up his record,” Kingsley spoke up for the first time.
“That would be great,” Harry said. Taking a deep breath he continued, keeping his eyes on Fawkes while he spoke. “I went to the park trying to figure out what I needed to do when a man approached me. I didn’t recognize him or anything, but for some reason I trusted him. He knew who I was and he called me by name. I explained what had happened at my aunt and uncle’s house and he told me he knew my parents and that in fact he was my godfather. He asked if I wanted to go with him, so I did.”
“Just like that?” Madam Bones asked aghast that it had all been so simple. Everyone had imagined that Sirius had violently kidnapped the boy, not that he simply asked the boy to join him.
Harry nodded. “It seemed like a better idea than going back to my aunt and uncle’s house. My uncle was really angry. Sirius…he likes me and he wanted me to be with him. He told me everything that happened. He wasn’t my parent’s Secret-Keeper, Peter Pettigrew was.”
Before anyone could interrupt he explained how Sirius and Peter switched and how Sirius went after Peter. He wasn’t sure if he should explain who Peter was or not — after all weren’t these the same people who put Sirius in jail without the benefit of a trial? He decided to keep that part secret for now, but would let Sirius know about this meeting.
Kingsley had listened to Harry’s story quietly and now stood and withdrew a picture from his files. He showed the picture to Harry. “Does Sirius have this tattoo on his left forearm?”
The tattoo showed a snake coming out of a skull. Harry shivered for some reason and he shook his head. “No, he doesn’t.”
“Are you sure? He probably would have hidden it from you.”
“He taught me how to swim,” Harry said. “We spent most of the past three weeks at the beach. I would have seen it.”
“If he was a spy Voldemort might not have marked him,” Professor Dumbledore said.
“Voldemort marked his followers?” Harry asked in disgust.
Kingsley nodded. “Where did you go with Sirius Black?”
“He took me to the beach,” Harry said. “I can’t say where. There’s some sort of charm on the house, but it wasn’t in England. We had a great time. He took me shopping and taught me to swim and played with me. He told me lots of stories about my parents and even some about my grandparents. He even helped me with my homework.”
“Is Mr Black behind your request to switch to Ancient Runes?” Professor McGonagall asked.
Harry nodded. “He asked what classes I was taking and explained why I should be taking Ancient Runes. He gave me a book about Ancient Runes and taught me a bit about them. Sirius is really smart.”
To his surprise Professor McGonagall gave him another smile. “That he is.” She looked over at Professor Dumbledore. “I know you said the evidence against Sirius was overwhelming, but it never really sat right with me that he would betray James like that. In the three weeks he had Harry, he obviously hasn’t harmed him.” Turning back to Harry she asked, “Did he give you potions?”
Making a face, Harry nodded. “He said I was too small for my age and blamed it on my relatives. He gave me lots of nutritional potions and he even got me a potion so I don’t need my glasses.”
Kingsley whistled. “That’s almost eight hundred Galleons a dose.”
“That’s drop in the bucket compared to the size of the Black and Potter estates,” Professor Dumbledore said. “I am curious, Harry, why did you only send letters to Professor McGonagall and Miss Weasley?”
Blushing slightly, Harry replied, “I told you we weren’t in England. I…It seemed like a lot to explain in a letter, so I thought I’d tell Ron and Hermione when I saw them again. I wanted to switch to Ancient Runes, so that’s why I wrote to Professor McGonagall and I sent Ginny a birthday present. You know that. Ginny told me you read the letter.”
“I’m just surprised,” Professor Dumbledore said.
“I was worried about her,” Harry admitted.
“I think that was very kind of you,” Professor McGonagall said. “Are there any more questions for Mr Potter? He needs to be getting up to his room.”
“Do you know where Sirius Black is now?” Kingsley asked.
Harry shook his head. “No, he left me at the station and told me to be good and he’d be keeping an eye on me.”
“He walked you to King’s Cross?”
“He walked me to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters,” Harry corrected. “He’s not like my relatives; he made sure I got onto the train safely.”
“Sirius Black was on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters this morning?” Madam Bones asked incredulously.
Harry nodded and he had to hold back a laugh at the look on everyone’s face. Kingsley recovered first. “Do you know Sirius’ plans?”
“He wants to find Peter so he can get a trial and then we can live together like my parents wanted,” Harry replied promptly.
“Do you know how he plans to do this?”
Harry shook his head. Madam Bones said, “Thank you for your cooperation, Mr Potter. I appreciate your candour and hope for your sake that everything works out as you hope it will. I also plan to look into your home situation.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Harry said shyly. “Can you just make sure that when the Aurors are looking for Sirius they don’t hurt him? Those Dementors were horrible; I can’t even imagine what poor Sirius went through with those things for so long.”
“I will see to it,” she promised, exchanging a look with Kingsley.
“Thank you, Harry,” Professor Dumbledore said as he stood.
Harry nodded. He walked over and pet Fawkes once more before he left followed closely by Professor McGonagall.
“You did very well in there, Harry,” Professor McGonagall said. Harry smiled shyly, surprised both by her comment and her use of his first name.
“I wish I’d done more,” she said. “When your parents died, it was a very awful time, especially for those of us who knew James and Lily. I didn’t want Albus to leave you with those horrible people, but he said it was important that you live with your blood relatives and it was best if you grew up out of the spotlight. I accepted his assertions without checking up on you and I apologize for that.
“I didn’t know what was happening with Sirius, to be honest. I was busy here at school and we had so many grieving families: before You-Know-Who’s defeat we had deaths and disappearances very frequently among the student’s families. I was very involved in helping the students and their families that I…I didn’t pay attention to what was happening with Sirius. I testified to Mr Crouch who was head of Magical Law Enforcement at the time that I didn’t believe Sirius would betray James, but I didn’t have any proof and I didn’t know what had happened.”
“Sirius will be glad to hear you believed in him,” Harry said.
“He has been good for you.”
Harry smiled. “He’s brilliant.”
“Good,” she replied. “Not to change the subject, but I wondered if you had considered taking Arithmancy. I asked because it is required for several professions, not to mention I noticed in looking at your schedule that you have a free period tomorrow morning. Now of course you are allowed a free period, but I thought I would give you the option.”
Harry turned the thought over in his mind. “Is it hard? I’m just a bit worried that picking up three new classes would be too much.”
“It is more academic than some of our other classes, but you are taking Care of Magical Creatures, which does not usually have a lot of homework and essays. Arithmancy looks at numbers and how they affect our world. I’ve noticed that many Muggle-borns who did well in Maths in primary school do well in Arithmancy. Did you enjoy Maths?”
“I did,” Harry admitted. “Can I try it and drop it if it’s too much? I promised Sirius I would try a lot harder in my classes this year, but I don’t want to take on too much.”
“I understand,” she said. “Why don’t you take it for at least the first term and see how you like it? If it becomes too difficult to keep up with your classes, let me know.”
“Okay,” Harry said. “I’ll give it a try.”
“Excellent, I’ll let Professor Vector know and you can order a book tomorrow.” As they arrived at the portrait hole she said, “Have a good night, Mr Potter. The password is ‘Fortuna Major’.”
Harry was surprised that Ron and Hermione weren’t waiting up for him when he returned to the common room. Ginny was sitting by the fire, so he walked over to join her.
She looked up with a smile as he sat down next to her. He was glad to see she only blushed slightly.
“Were they asking about Sirius?” she asked.
He nodded. “Madam Bones and an Auror were there as well.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Wow, that’s really official.”
“I thought so, too,” Harry said. “I’m glad Sirius told me a bit about what might happen. I didn’t even know what an Auror was before he told me.”
“He sounds great,” Ginny said sincerely. “Actually from what you’ve told me, he sounds like my older brother.”
“Which one?” Harry asked intrigued.
“Bill, he’s the oldest,” Ginny said. Looking around the room she lowered her voice, “He’s my favourite, but don’t tell anyone I said that.”
“Is that why your parents took you to Egypt?” Harry asked.
“I think so,” she said. “They never said anything.”
Harry looked over and saw her downcast face. He could have kicked himself for upsetting her. “I’m sorry, Ginny. I didn’t mean to make you upset.”
“No, don’t worry about it,” she said. “I’m really doing a lot better.”
“Good,” Harry said in relief. “I asked Ron how you were doing and I think he thought I was crazy for asking.”
“Ron’s been…he’s been a bit odd this summer. He’s mad at me that I almost got you and Hermione killed and he’s embarrassed by me,” Ginny said sadly.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Harry said firmly. “Do you know what Sirius said when I told him what happened? The first thing he said is that you must be very strong.”
She blushed. “That’s what Bill said, too. I don’t feel very strong.”
“You are,” Harry said. “You stood up to Voldemort for an entire year and you didn’t give in to him. He wanted you to use the Basilisk to kill and you didn’t. He wanted you to give up so he could take over your soul and you fought against him. He even told me how you fought against him; of course, he was being stupid — he thought he won.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m not sure I deserve that much credit, but I’m really glad I was able fight as long as I did.”
“What are you doing still up?” Harry asked, looking around the common room. There were a few seventh years visiting in the corner, but otherwise most of the students had moved up to their dorms.
She sighed. “I don’t know my roommates all that well. I didn’t get to know them much last year and I felt a bit out of place, plus I had to talk to Hermione.” She made a face. “I have to do her laundry for three weeks.”
“Why?” Harry asked in confusion.
“As repayment,” Ginny said matter of factly. “All of the students who were affected by me last year…well, I owe them a debt. Most of them were fine, I apologized to all of the students and families at the beginning of the summer. Colin and Justin had intensive teaching over the summer — I know they used some really special kind of magic to help them learn so much information in such a short period of time. My dad had to pay a small fee to help with the cost. Penelope and Hermione didn’t miss as much class as the others so they didn’t need such measures, they both caught up easily.
“Justin and Colin’s parents were really nice and didn’t think I owed them anything. Penelope’s parents were really nice, also. Her mum is a witch and understands these things a bit more, I helped her with mending and housework a few days a week for the first few weeks of summer. Hermione’s parents left it up to her. I think she was more upset over the classes she missed than anything else. The punishment can’t be longer than they were Petrified, so I have to do her laundry for three weeks.”
“You shouldn’t have to do any of that,” Harry said, rather offended on his new friend’s behalf. “How could Hermione agree to that?”
Ginny shrugged. “She had read up on customs and thought it was a good punishment. Even though she understands that I was being controlled by the diary, she still thinks I should have known something was wrong and should have told someone. She thought it was an appropriate punishment.”
“That’s wrong,” Harry said.
“Is that why you didn’t want any repayment?” she asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“I owe you a bigger debt than any of the others, but my father asked and Professor Dumbledore said you didn’t want any repayment.”
Harry supressed a frown. While he didn’t like Dumbledore answering for him, he certainly didn’t want Ginny feeling beholden to him. “I think you went through enough last year, you don’t owe me anything.”
She shot a grateful look at him. “Thank you, Harry.”
Grinning, he changed the subject. “Where are Ron and Hermione? I thought they might wait up for me.”
“They were rowing,” Ginny said. “I don’t know how you put up with the two of them. Hermione’s new cat, Crookshanks, has taken a dislike to Scabbers. I don’t really blame Crookshanks, but they are both being stupid. Cats and rats don’t get along.”
“You don’t like Scabbers?” Harry asked in surprise.
She shook her head. “I know this probably sounds crazy, but I don’t like that rat. At the beginning of the summer I found him hiding in the drawer with my knickers, he was watching me get changed. It really creeped me out, I don’t know why — I mean, it’s a rat, right?”
Harry felt a swell of anger at Peter. How dare he spy on Ginny like that? “That is creepy. I don’t blame you.”
“Ron laughed at me,” Ginny said blushing as she remembered the unkind things Ron has said. Ron had laughed at her and told her no one would want to watch her get undressed because she was so ugly.
“That’s not nice,” Harry said irritated at his best mate.
“I slept with my door locked for a few days after that,” Ginny said. “Mum wasn’t too happy with me, but it made me feel better. I wish I could have a kitten, but mum said they are too expensive. We just had enough money to buy school supplies and Ron a new wand after
paying for the trip.”
She pulled her wand and Harry noticed how beat up it was. “I wanted a new wand too, but we couldn’t afford that either. I wish I had a way to make some money.”
“I know what you mean,” Harry said. “Before I knew I was a wizard I never had any money. Until Sirius took me shopping this summer, I never had new clothes — Muggle style clothes, I mean. I had to wear all of my cousin’s hand-me-downs and he’s like four times bigger than me.”
Ginny giggled. “That’s awful. I have to wear some hand-me-downs, but at least being the only girl I get some things new.”
“God, I can just imagine if my cousin had been a girl,” Harry said shuddering. “I would have been forced to wear her clothes for years.”
Ginny started laughing at the mental image. “I can just see it. I could have made a lot of money blackmailing you with pictures of you in your cousin’s favourite dress.”
Harry laughed as well, happy that he’d reversed her earlier unhappiness. “Just don’t tell anyone!”
Settling into the couch, he listened to her chatter about Egypt. It sounded very fascinating, maybe Sirius could take him traveling next summer. The sound of the clock made him glance up at the mantel clock. To his surprise, it was quite late.
“I guess we better head to bed,” Harry said. He didn’t really want to, but he knew he’d be tired in the morning if he didn’t get to bed now.
Together they walked towards the stairs, Harry paused before heading up to the boys’ dorm. “Thanks, Ginny. I had fun talking to you.”
“Me, too,” she said with a shy smile. She stared at him for a minute before saying, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Harry found himself waiting for Ron and Hermione in the common room the next morning. Ginny had already passed him on her way out. He was happy to see that she was talking to two of her roommates.
A noise alerted him to Hermione heading down the stairs. “Harry, I’m glad you waited for me. I’m sorry I couldn’t wait last night, Crookshanks was having trouble settling in and Ron was blaming him for going after Scabbers. Crookshanks was just exploring, nothing for Ron to get all excited about. Aren’t you excited to be starting our new classes today? Of course, we won’t get to start all of them today, but we will get to start some.”
Ignoring her comments about Crookshanks and Scabbers, he said, “That’s okay, I’m glad to see you this morning.”
“So what did Professor Dumbledore want?”
“He wanted to know about Sirius,” Harry said. “It wasn’t just Professor Dumbledore either, it was Madam Bones and an Auror named Kingsley. They at least listened to me. Madam Bones doesn’t seem to be a big fan of Professor Dumbledore.”
“That’s not good,” Hermione fussed. “Professor Dumbledore is one of the most powerful wizards alive and he’s head of the Wizengamot.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s infallible,” Harry said. At Hermione’s expression, his mood soured. “Yes, Hermione, I know what that means.”
“Don’t get upset,” Hermione said. “Do you think they will be able to capture Sirius Black?”
“I hope not,” Harry said. “They need to help him not chase him. Madam Bones said she would try to make sure no one injures Sirius if they do manage to capture him. I’m hoping he will be able to turn himself in once the circumstances are right.”
“He should just turn himself in,” Hermione fussed.
“That would kind of defeat the purpose of his escaping in the first place,” Harry returned evenly. “He won’t turn himself in until Peter is captured or he can prove he’s innocent.”
Luckily at that point Ron joined them and ended the conversation. When they entered the Great Hall, they sat down at the end of the Gryffindor table. The sight of Ginny chattering away with her roommates was rather calming to him. He was very glad she was starting to make friends with those in her year. He caught her eye and she smiled and waved. He happily returned the wave.
Looking up at the head table he was glad to see Hagrid up there. He imagined Hagrid’s class would be lots of fun. Moony was rather a surprise. Having heard so much about him from Sirius, Harry was surprised that Moony hadn’t acknowledged that he knew him. Maybe he’d changed since Sirius had known him.
Soon Professor McGonagall was handing out time tables. Ron’s voice could be heard over all the others at the table.
“Blimey, Hermione, how many classes are you taking? How will you be able to do all of that?”
Harry didn’t hear her response as Professor McGonagall had reached him. “Here you go, Mr Potter. I’ve spoken to Professor Vector and she will be happy to accept you in her class. She will have a book for you to use, but I suggest you order a set of books from Flourish & Blotts.”
“Okay, Professor,” he said. Looking up at her, he added, “Thank you.”
Heading out of the Great Hall, Ron and Hermione quickly caught up with him. Hermione spoke first. “I’m really sorry, Harry. I’m just worried about you and I don’t understand how this happened.”
“Please, just listen to me,” Harry said. “Sirius loves me and wants to take care of me.”
“Okay,” Hermione said doubtfully.
Harry could tell she still didn’t believe him, but she’d apparently decided to stop arguing. He appreciated that at least — he hated arguing, probably as much as Ron and Hermione seemed to enjoy it.
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