SIYE Time:3:26 on 25th May 2018

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: 23011; Chapter Total: 2004
Awards: View Trophy Room

Author's Notes:
Thanks again to Arnel for her hard work! Any mistakes in Hagrid's speech are strictly my own. Thanks for the wonderful reviews, it is much appreciated!


Hermione looked at Harry in confusion when he slipped into Arithmancy. “What are you doing here?”

“Professor McGonagall suggested I take Arithmancy,” he said a bit stiffly as he was still rather upset with her.

“Oh,” Hermione said before smiling. “I’m glad you are finally taking your studies more seriously.”

“Does that mean you’ll stop insulting Sirius every five minutes?”

Hermione bit her lip nervously as she looked over at Harry. “I’m sorry, Harry. I’m just worried about you.”

“I appreciate that,” Harry replied, “but I’m fine.”

He was rather relieved when Professor Vector entered the classroom. To his surprise, Harry found that he rather enjoyed Arithmancy. It was related to maths, but at the same time it was very different. Professor Vector seemed like a strict teacher, but she didn’t seem like she would favour one house over another or anything like that.

Harry caught up to Ron in the common room. “Sorry I didn’t tell you about Arithmancy. Professor McGonagall just mentioned it last night. I thought I’d give it a try.”

“That’s okay, mate,” Ron said. “I don’t know that I like Divination.” He looked at Harry very seriously. “I don’t know how to break this to you, but Professor Trelawney was quite upset you dropped her class. She said that you are cursed and she saw a Grim in your future.”

Harry looked at Ron trying to figure out what on earth he was talking about. Ron must have picked up on his confusion because he said, “A Grim is an omen of death. If you see one, you die.” Looking anxiously at Harry Ron asked, “You haven’t seen a great big black dog have you?”

Fighting back the laugh that was welling up in him, Harry assured Ron that he hadn’t seen a Grim anywhere. He couldn’t wait to tell Sirius about this.

“It doesn’t sound very likely,” Hermione added. “Harry wasn’t even in the class. How could she read his aura?”

“You’re just upset that she said you weren’t receptive to the future or whatever,” Ron said.

Harry looked back and forth between the two of them trying to figure out what was going on. Hermione certainly couldn’t have been in Divination because she’d been in Arithmancy, so how did she know what had happened in Divination?

A squeaking noise interrupted their conversation. Harry looked down and felt a surge of rage when he saw Scabbers stick his nose out of Ron’s pocket. Ron quickly picked up the rat and tried to comfort him.

“That stupid cat is really upsetting Scabbers,” Ron said with a scathing look at Crookshanks who was returning the look with equal loathing. Hermione hurried over to console her cat.

“Maybe you should make sure he’s safe in our room,” Harry suggested.

“That’s a good idea,” Ron said approvingly.

After securing the rat in his cage next to Ron’s bed, the two boys headed off to Transfiguration. Hermione followed slowly behind them. Harry realized that he was probably being a bit of a prat, but he didn’t want to hear any more about how Sirius wasn’t good for him or whatever.

When they arrived in Transfiguration, Harry noticed that most of the class were shooting furtive glances at him and whispering among themselves. He thought it was most unfair of some professor he didn’t know to predict his death to his classmates.

Shaking off his irritation, he listened with interest to Professor McGonagall’s lecture on Animagi. She talked about the need to register and the consequences of being an unregistered Animagus. It was very interesting and he was a bit disappointed that Ginny wasn’t in the same year as him. She would like this lecture. When Professor McGonagall turned into a tabby cat and back into herself, the class started clapping.

She gave the class a very rare smile. “Thank you. It is rather important that you know how to determine if an animal is an Animagus.”

She demonstrated the spell and had the class practice the spell and wand movement. Harry practiced along with the rest of the class. Once the students had practiced, Professor McGonagall asked for a volunteer. Not surprisingly Hermione raised her hand, but most of the class seemed startled when Harry raised his hand as well.

“Mr Potter, please come up here.”

As Harry made his way to the front of the class, he noticed the glares Hermione was giving him. Mentally, he shrugged, he had promised Sirius he would try harder in class he would worry about her hurt feelings later.

When he arrived at the front of the class, Professor McGonagall opened a basket that he hadn’t even noticed before. She withdrew from the basket, Mrs Norris, the caretaker’s hated cat. To his surprise, Mrs Norris was calm and well behaved for Professor McGonagall. He wondered if it was because she was a cat Animagus.

Setting the cat gently on the table in front of her so the whole class could see, she said, “Mr Potter, I want you to cast the spell on Mrs Norris.”

Nodding Harry did as he was instructed. To his relief, he was able to easily perform the spell and a light flashed from his wand and Mrs Norris glowed a soft yellow for a moment.

“Good, Mr Potter,” the professor said approvingly. “The yellow colour indicates that she is a natural animal. A blue colour indicates an Animagus. Now I will transform into my cat form and I want you to cast the spell on me.”

The slight worry must have shown on his face because she leaned in and said, “Don’t worry, Mr Potter. I have every confidence in you.”

He nodded and after she transformed he cast the spell once again. When the spell hit her, she lit up with a soft blue light. He released the spell and she transformed back into herself.

“Well done, Mr Potter. Five points for Gryffindor,” Professor McGonagall said as he headed back to his desk. “I want everyone to practice performing the spell. You may practice on your pets if you wish. The spell will not hurt them.”

At the end of class, Hermione approached him with a hurt look on her face. “How did you perform that spell so quickly?”

“I don’t know, Hermione,” Harry said. “I practiced with the rest of the class and I was able to do it. What is wrong with that?”

“I’ve never noticed you volunteer before,” she said a touch suspiciously. “What’s going on? First you sign up for Ancient Runes and Arithmancy and now you are volunteering in class.”

Harry shrugged as they started down the stairs towards the Great Hall. “I don’t know what to tell you, Hermione. I promised Sirius I would work harder on my schoolwork this year.”

She didn’t say anything else, but Harry could feel her eyes on him as she studied him during lunch. He didn’t understand why she was upset, he figured she would be happy that he was taking his studies a bit more seriously.

He talked mostly to Ron as they headed out to the paddock near Hagrid’s hut for Care of Magical Creatures. Ron didn’t seem the least put out that Harry had volunteered in class so Harry would rather talk to him.

Harry watched in amazement as Hagrid led at least a dozen hippogriffs out into the paddock and chained them to the fence so the students could see them. He’d never seen or heard of such an animal. Hagrid’s lecture was rather fascinating. It was a bit odd to hear his friend speaking in front of the class with his rough accent and less than polished speech, but Hagrid definitely knew his animals.

Harry somehow found himself volunteering to approach a hippogriff when the rest of his classmates held back. Riding the hippogriff was a bit uncomfortable, Harry wondered if he would have done better if he’d ever ridden a horse before. After bowing to Buckbeak, he stepped back and watched as his classmates warily approached the large animals.

Ron and Hermione were working with a chestnut animal and Harry watched them with interest. He felt a thrill of foreboding as Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle approached Buckbeak. Malfoy disregarded everything Hagrid had told them and blatantly insulted the large hippogriff. Harry could see the danger as Malfoy called Buckbeak a ‘great ugly brute.’

Without even stopping to think it was Malfoy he was saving, Harry dove at the boy and pulled him out of the danger of the hippogriff’s slashing talons. He screamed as the sharp talons slashed him across the upper back.

“Harry!” Hagrid quickly wrestled Buckbeak back into submission. Malfoy rolled to his feet and looked down at Harry in astonishment, for once his normal sneer was gone. “What the hell did you do that for, Potter?”

“Me? What the hell was that for, you idiot? Hagrid told us not to insult them, so the first thing you do is call him a name?” Harry glared at Malfoy in complete disbelief. As his anger started draining away, Harry felt some of his energy leaving as well. He swayed slightly.

Hagrid strode over to Harry and lifted him in his arms. “Malfoy, that’ll be fifty points from Slytherin. Harry take twenty points fer Gryffindor. Class dismissed.”

Harry tried to smile at his friend and reassure him, but the edge of his vision was becoming black. As they reached the castle, he passed out.

Harry looked up as the doors to the hospital wing opened. Madam Pomfrey had already healed his wounds and given him several potions. He was going to have to take healing potions for several more days and Madam Pomfrey asked him to wear a sling for two weeks.

To his surprise, it was Ginny who entered and headed over to his bed.

“Hi, Harry,” she said a bit breathlessly. “Are you okay? I heard what happened.”

“I’m fine,” Harry said. “I’m ready to leave.”

“That’s not a huge surprise,” Ginny laughed. “Where are Ron and Hermione?”

“They went down to dinner,” he explained. “They were here most of the afternoon. The only good thing about me getting injured is they stopped fighting.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Let me guess, they were rowing about cats and rats.”

Harry nodded. “I think they like rowing, I don’t know why. I hate the arguing, the not talking to each other and all.”

“Mr Potter, how are you feeling?”

Harry turned in surprise to see his Head of House standing there. “Professor, I’m fine.”

“May I ask you to describe what happened in your own words?” she asked as she sat down in a straight-backed chair next to his bed.

“Hagrid lectured us about hippogriffs. He told us how proud they were and he demonstrated how to approach one. I volunteered to approach Buckbeak and I actually got to ride him — that was really fun. Once I landed, Hagrid had the rest of the class work in groups and approach the hippogriffs. I noticed Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle approaching Buckbeak and I just kind thought it didn’t seem like a good idea, so I watched them. As soon as he got close to Buckbeak, Malfoy started insulting him. He didn’t even bow or anything that Hagrid taught us.”

“That would explain why the hippogriff attacked,” she said dryly. “So what happened next?”

Harry shrugged, he really hated talking about his actions. “I realized that Buckbeak was going to attack Malfoy and I didn’t want Hagrid to get in trouble. Malfoy’s always running on about his father and all that rot. I thought if Buckbeak attacked Malfoy, Hagrid would get into all kinds of trouble, so I pushed Malfoy out of the way.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, Mr Potter,” she said after a moment, “but please be a bit more cautious in the future. I would hate to see you seriously injured. I am pleased that you will recover nicely. Madam Pomfrey is going to keep you overnight, so rest up and listen to what she says.”

Harry grinned, despite the fact that he would be there another night. “Thank you.” A thought suddenly occurred to him. “Hagrid isn’t in trouble, is he?”

“Your account is in line with what most of the class described, so no, he will not be in trouble,” she replied. She stood with a swish of her robes. “Have a good night, Mr Potter. Good night, Miss Weasley.”

“Good night,” both students replied.

As Harry settled back against the sheets, a wave of pain washed over him. Madam Pomfrey seemed to have been watching for such an occurrence because she bustled over with a pain reliever in her hands.

“Take this, Mr Potter,” she said gently as she ran her wand over him. “It isn’t uncommon to have some pain with this type of injury.” She frowned slightly and summoned another vial of potion from her potions room. “This is a Blood-Replenishing Potion.”

Harry made a face as he swallowed it. “Sirius made me take this over the summer.”

“What other potions did Mr Black give you?”

As the pain potion started to take effect, Harry started to relax. “Mostly nutritional potions, but the first week he gave me the Blood-Replenishing Potion. He did that because my aunt and uncle didn’t feed me as much I needed it.” He shrugged. “I’m not exactly sure

“That was quite smart of him,” the matron responded. “Often those who are malnourished can suffer from anaemia or low blood counts. That is possibly what he was hoping to correct.” She gave him a rare smile. “Get some sleep, Mr Potter. You will be able to leave in the morning.”

“Okay,” Harry said. He was getting rather tired. He closed his eyes as Ginny pulled the sheet up over him. Opening his eyes he gave her a sleepy smile. “Thank you.”

She blushed, but said, “You’re welcome.”

Early the next morning Madam Pomfrey let him out of the hospital wing so he could return to Gryffindor Tower to wash and change before breakfast. He ran into Ron and Hermione in the common room. They were both pleased to see him out of the hospital.

“Did you hear about Malfoy?” Ron asked gleefully.

Harry shook his head and Ron explained, “Professor McGonagall pulled him out of the Great Hall and yelled at him for quite some time before giving him a week’s worth of detentions with Filch.” Ron chortled over his enemy’s downfall. “I hope he has to scrub the boys’ loo with a toothbrush or something.”

“Ron,” Hermione said reprovingly, “you shouldn’t get so much enjoyment out of another’s pain.”

Ron and Harry looked at each other and started laughing. There were some things that Hermione just didn’t understand.

Saturday morning, Harry found himself awake early and headed down to breakfast alone. Hedwig flew down beside him, but she didn’t have a note for him. Harry offered her a piece of bacon while he kept a look-out for any owl that Sirius might have sent. He had hoped to hear from him, but realized it might be difficult for his godfather to contact him.

He sighed, it was hard to see Peter in his cage by Ron’s bed, but he didn’t know what to do. He’d sent a note to Sirius the first day of classes and let him know that Peter was still with Ron. The only thing that held him back from doing anything was the thought of Peter escaping once again. Sirius had underestimated the rat and ended up in Azkaban for twelve years, and Harry didn’t want to mess anything up. So as difficult as it was, he just waited.

“Good morning, Harry.”

Turning he saw Ginny sit down next to him. “Good morning,” he replied as she loaded up her plate with eggs and sausage.

“Where are Ron and Hermione?” she asked after demolishing a good portion of her breakfast.

“Ron’s still sleeping,” Harry explained. “I have no idea about Hermione. She said something last night about the amount of homework she had, but I don’t know how she has so much homework, we’ve only had two days of classes.”

“I don’t understand it either,” Ginny said. “She bought books for lots of classes at Flourish and Blotts. Her book list was really long and she wouldn’t answer Ron any time he asked her about it.”

Harry furrowed his brow. “She wouldn’t try to take all of the classes would she?”

Ginny shrugged. “I don’t know. You know her a lot better than I do. What do you think?”

He laughed. “Well, if you could make more hours in the day, she might want to take all of the classes. I asked her why on earth she was taking Muggle Studies and she said she wanted to see how wizards saw Muggles.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “How do you like your new classes?”

“Care of Magical Creatures seems like it will be interesting, although I hope it won’t always be so dangerous,” Harry laughed. “I actually like Ancient Runes and Arithmancy. I was afraid Ron would be upset that I’m taking more classes, but he seems to be fine with it.”

“That’s good,” she said as she reached for a piece of toast. Harry slid the orange marmalade over towards her. He’d realized that was her favourite. She smiled her thanks as she slathered it over her toast.

“How are your classes going?”

She shrugged. “Okay, I guess. I remember more than I thought I would, so I’m not behind in anything.”

“I saw you talking to some of your roommates the other day,” he commented.

“Yes, I’ve started making some friends this year.” She sighed. “It’s so hard sometimes. I’ve never really had any girlfriends, I’m used to mostly hanging out with my brothers or my mum. Two of the girls in my year are…erm, rather catty. They are always commenting on my boys’ robes or my hand-me-down clothes. It’s really annoying.”

“I know what you mean,” he commiserated. “In primary school, Dudley would encourage the other kids to make fun of me. Most of them
wouldn’t make fun of me for not having parents, like Dudley would, but they’d make fun of my clothes or my glasses or whatever.”

“Your cousin sounds horrid,” she said as she pushed her plate away.

“He is,” Harry agreed. When he realized that she was finished eating, he stood up. “I’m going for a walk. Do you want to come along?”

“Sure,” she replied.

They headed out of the castle and started to walk down towards the lake. It was a rather warm September day and many students seemed to be enjoying their first weekend back at school outdoors.

Harry was content to listen to Ginny chatter about her classes. He found he liked listening to her. She was smart and funny and her observations about people were spot on. He didn’t understand why Ron complained about her talking so much, Harry rather liked it.

“I was so nervous that I wouldn’t remember anything and I’d have to repeat my first year or something,” she commented. “Bill helped me review some of the spells and theory when we were in Egypt. He’s really good at teaching, he’s very patient - a lot better than my mum.”

“What sort of things has your mum taught you?” Harry asked curiously.

“Well…everything,” Ginny replied giving him an odd look. “Mum taught me, well, all of us really, at home. She taught us to read and write, she taught us maths, history, geography, in our last year before Hogwarts she started teaching us basic magical theory, wizarding government and laws.”

“Really?” Harry was surprised. “I hadn’t realized that. Are all wizarding children taught at home?”

“Most of them are,” Ginny explained. “I know some families get together and have a group of children taught together and some of the rich families hire tutors to work with their children. Mum just taught us at home.” She looked over at him curiously. “Surely Ron must have told you this.”

“I don’t think so,” Harry said as he tried to remember what Ron had told him about his previous schooling. “I don’t think he said anything so I just assumed he went to school.”

Ginny laughed. “No, I don’t think we would fit into a Muggle school very well and my mum would have fits every time she had to communicate with the school. Muggles make my mum nervous.”

“I can understand that,” Harry said after thinking it over. “The wizarding world still makes me a bit nervous. I’m never sure if people are joking or serious about things and there are still so many things I have to learn about. Sirius taught me so much, but I think he was surprised at the things I didn’t know.”

“Like what?”

Harry shrugged a bit self-consciously. “I didn’t know about Apparition or Portkeys or anything like that, Sirius had to explain them to me. He’s always really nice about it and he explains things really well.”

Without even discussing it, the pair turned away from the lake and started crossing the expansive grounds, giving the Whomping Willow a wide berth. Harry entertained Ginny with the story of him and Ron crashing into the tree the year before.

She laughed at the thought of her dad’s old Anglia ejecting them from the car and running off to the forest. “I didn’t realize what had happened. There were so many wild stories flying around and when I asked Ron…well, he told me it was none of my business.”

“I don’t know why he has to be mean sometimes,” Harry grumbled. “He’s mean to Hermione sometimes too. I don’t understand that.”

Ginny laughed. “I don’t either.”

“Do you want to see if Hagrid’s home?”

“Sure,” Ginny replied easily. “I really like him.”

“He’s great,” Harry said. “He’s the one who came and told me I was a wizard. He gave me Hedwig, too.”

As they walked along, Harry noticed that Ginny had gone very quiet. He turned to look at her and was shocked to see the look on her face. She was very upset and looked to be almost on the verge of tears.

“Ginny, what’s wrong?”

She looked up and him and seemed to crumble. To Harry’s horror, she started sobbing. The only word he could make out was rooster. Then it hit him, she was recalling the previous year when she’d been forced to kill Hagrid’s roosters. He could have kicked himself for not thinking about how it might affect her. Why didn’t he go the long way around so she didn’t have to see the chicken coop?

Gingerly, he wrapped an arm around her. She immediately buried her face in his shoulder. Feeling very uncertain what he should do, he hesitantly wrapped both arms around her. That felt right and he used one of his hands to run down her hair. He remembered the night he’d broken down and Sirius had just held him, he tried to do for her what Sirius had done for him.

After a few minutes she calmed down and he could tell she’d stopped crying. He held her for a few more minutes until she eventually pulled back.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered.

“Nonsense,” Harry said as he handed her one of his handkerchiefs. “I’m sorry I didn’t think about that when we came this way.”

Blushing, she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. “I had this nightmare at the Burrow that I went and killed all my mum’s chickens and that Tom was still there making me do horrid things. My parents kicked me out of the house and none of my brothers would talk to me. It was horrible.”

Harry nodded sympathetically. He wished he knew what to do to make her feel better.

“The first time my mum sent me out to get eggs this summer I ended up huddled outside the coop crying. Ron started to make fun of me, but my dad saw what was happening and he intervened. My dad doesn’t usually get involved in disciplining us, but when he does…watch out.”

“I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that,” Harry said sadly. He hated that something so evil was upsetting her so much. It really wasn’t fair.

“Thank you, Harry.”

By this time they were close enough to Hagrid’s cabin that Fang started barking. Hagrid came to the door to see who it was. He smiled when he saw Harry and Ginny.

“Harry! Ginny! Come on in,” the friendly giant enthused. “How’s yer shoulder, Harry?”

“I’m good,” Harry said with a smile. The two teens followed Hagrid into his cabin. Harry loved Hagrid’s cosy cabin, it was full of all sorts of curious things.

Hagrid’s smile fell away when he saw Harry’s sling and he looked at his young friend sorrowfully. “I’m so sorry yeh got hurt. I reckon that startin’ with hippogriffs probably weren’t such a good idea.”

“You didn’t get in trouble did you, Hagrid?” Harry asked anxiously as he tried to keep Fang from licking his face.

“I had a meetin’ with Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore,” Hagrid said meekly. “They were both upset with me that yeh got hurt and Professor McGonagall said I was lucky that yeh pushed Malfoy out o’ the way as he would have caused all sorts o’ problems. Malfoy complained ter his dad, but as he wasn’t hurt Professor Dumbledore was able ter handle the complaint. Thank you fer doin’ that Harry, but I’m so sorry that yeh got hurt.”

Harry patted the large man on the arm. “Don’t worry about it, Hagrid. I’m fine and it was a fun lesson. Malfoy was just being an idiot as usual. You told us not to insult the hippogriffs and that’s the first thing he did. He deserved to get slashed by Buckbeak, but I didn’t want him to cause problems for you.”

“Thank you, Harry,” Hagrid said emotionally.

“You’re welcome,” Harry said with a smile. He watched fondly as Hagrid bustled over to the stove and prepared tea for the three of them. “So how have your other classes gone?”

“Good, good,” Hagrid said as he brought the tea service to the table. “I reviewed me lesson plans with Professor McGonagall an’ she thought everythin' looked good. There aren’t too many NEWT students, so I only have one NEWT class.”

Harry broke up his rock cake and pushed the pieces around on his plate. He fed it to Fang when Hagrid’s back was turned. Ginny had declined any rock cakes, so Harry reckoned she must have had experience with Hagrid’s cooking in the past.

After talking about his classes for a while, Hagrid’s gaze fell upon Ginny. He looked at her in concern. “What’s wrong, Ginny?”

She sighed. “I had a kind of flashback or something when we walked over here.” Looking up she met Hagrid’s eyes. “Hagrid, I’m really sorry I killed your roosters. I don’t really remember all of it. I sort of remember watching them and then…” her voice dropped off for a minute before she seemed to gather her strength to continue, “I ended up in the girls’ loo with feathers and blood on my robes. I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know who to talk to or anything.”

Hagrid patted her arm gently. “Don’t worry, Ginny. I went ter school with Tom Riddle an’ I know how he operated. He was a bad one. He fooled a lot o’ people with his good looks an’ good manners.”

Ginny’s eyes widened. “That’s right, you went to school with Tom.”

“He’s the reason Hagrid was expelled,” Harry said angrily.

“What?” Ginny was angry on Hagrid’s behalf.

“Tom showed me in the diary how he made people think that Hagrid’s giant spider was the creature who killed the girl,” Harry said angrily as he thought about how many lives Tom had ruined.

“No one believed me ‘cept Professor Dumbledore,” Hagrid said. “He’s a great man, Professor Dumbledore. Tom seemed so sincere an…” Hagrid ducked his head bashfully. “I ain’t never been able ter express myself as well as Tom could. I think most of ‘em were jest waitin’ fer me ter do somethin’ wrong.”

“Kind of like they did with Sirius,” Harry said.

Hagrid’s face split into a grin. “Professor Dumbledore tol’ me what ye tol’ him. I can’t believe it was Peter. Ye gave us quite a scare this summer, Harry. What happened?”

With a grin Harry launched into the story of how he’d run into Sirius. Hagrid was a good audience, gasping and laughing in the right places.

“I’m very happy for yeh, Harry,” Hagrid said sincerely. “You deserve to have someone there fer yeh. I really hope they can find Peter an’ Sirius can go free. I hated leavin’ ye on that doorstep. Professor McGonagall weren’t too happy ‘bout it either. She’d been watchin’ ‘em all day an’ she dinn’t like what she seen, but Professor Dumbledore said ye needed ter stay with yer mum’s sister.”

“Doorstep?” Ginny asked looking between Harry and Hagrid. “They left you on a doorstep in November? That’s horrible. What if you’d gotten sick or someone had taken you or something?”

“Professor Dumbledore cast charms ter keep him safe,” Hagrid hastened to reassure her.

“He was a baby,” Ginny said outraged. “What kind of person leaves a sleeping baby on a doorstep?”

Harry started laughing. “Ginny, it’s fine. I’m here now — no harm.”

“They still shouldn’t have done it,” Ginny grumbled. “Why couldn’t they have — I don’t know, knocked on the door and talked to your relatives?”

“’Cause then they never would have taken me in,” Harry replied honestly. “They didn’t want me and my aunt has always groused how her biggest mistake was bringing me in the house.”

Ginny’s eyes widened at his matter-of-fact tone. She couldn’t imagine being brought up in such an environment and she still thought it was awful that they left him on the doorstep, but she didn’t want to make either of them uncomfortable by continuing to complain about it.

Hagrid must have realized she was still upset for he said, “I know it seems harsh, but it were a crazy time. The news that
You-Know-Who was dead were jest makin’ the rounds. People were celebratin’ like crazy or comin’ up with reasons why they been forced to help him. I think Professor Dumbledore was afraid someone would go after Harry. Another family was attacked a few weeks later by some of You-Know-Who’s biggest followers — the parents were tortured into insanity. Professor Dumbledore knew it might not be the most fun house for Harry ter grow up in, but he could keep him safe there.”

“I guess that’s true,” Harry said after a minute. “I’ve been kind of mad at Professor Dumbledore this summer once Sirius found me and told me how he’d been sent to prison without a trial and that he was supposed to get me but Professor Dumbledore intervened…”

As Harry trailed off, Hagrid smiled at him gently. “It’s okay ter get mad, but Professor Dumbledore was trying ter keep everythin’ from fallin’ apart. He might not always be right, but he would never do anythin’ to hurt yeh. Maybe there were a better place to put yeh, but that night…”

“I guess that’s right,” Ginny admitted. “My dad told us stories about how scary it was when He was still in power. Families would disappear and people were tortured or made to do things against their will. One time Death Eaters came to the Burrow and my mum had to hide with all of my brothers in the orchard. I hadn’t been born yet, I think Ron was a baby when it happened. She got a message to hide and had just gotten everyone hidden in the apple trees when they attacked. Luckily my mum is really good with charms and hid everyone until help came. When the Death Eaters couldn’t find anyone they went through the Burrow looking for things to steal. They wrecked everything. Bill told me they were cleaning and fixing things for weeks afterwards. My parents don’t like to talk about it, I only know about it because Bill told me. He was not yet ten when it happened. I don’t think the twins even remember it.”

Hagrid nodded. “Those were scary times an’ the Ministry weren’t strong, so people looked ter Dumbledore to protect ‘em. I don’t know what happened with Sirius, why he didn’t get a trial, Harry, but before ye jest blame Dumbledore ye should ask him what happened. Ol’ Barty Crouch was runnin’ the trials in those days.”

Harry flushed feeling a bit reprimanded. It was so easy to blame Professor Dumbledore, but was it really fair? Maybe he should get Professor Dumbledore’s side of the story first. After all, he hadn’t know about the switch in Secret-Keepers.

Hagrid must have been able to see what he was thinking for the giant patted him on the arm. “Don’t worry about it Harry.”

The rest of the visit Hagrid regaled them with both stories of James and Sirius’ adventures as well as some of Charlie’s trips into the Forbidden Forest. Harry told both Hagrid and Ginny about his and Ron’s run-in with Aragog and his children the previous year. While Hagrid assured him that he had just misunderstood the spiders’ intentions, Harry was fairly certain the spiders would have happily eaten both of them if the old Anglia hadn’t rescued them. It was close to noon when Harry and Ginny left Hagrid’s cabin.

As they started to walk back to the castle, Harry felt much more relaxed and happier than he had since returning to school. He caught Ginny’s eye and grinned. “I always like visiting Hagrid.”

“He’s great,” Ginny agreed. “I came down and talked to him some last year before…well, before Tom.”

“I’m really sorry I forgot about the roosters,” Harry said earnestly. “I didn’t mean to bring back bad memories.”

“That’s okay,” she said with a sad smile. “I think I have to face some of these memories so I can put them to rest.”

Harry nodded, he could understand that. “If you need help with that, I can help,” he offered a bit awkwardly.

She smiled more brightly this time. “Thank you, Harry.”

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