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SIYE Time:22:07 on 18th November 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: 19708; Chapter Total: 1638
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Thanks again to Arnel! I appreciate her hard work. I gave Peter my grandfather's middle name - he hated it so I thought it would work for Peter.




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“Professor, did Harry do the spell wrong?” Hermione asked in confusion.

“No, Miss Granger, he did not,” Professor McGonagall replied firmly.

“But Scabbers isn’t an Animagus,” Ron protested. “He’s just a rat, an average garden rat.”

“How long has he been in your family?” Professor McGonagall asked.

Ron shrugged. “I don’t know. Percy had him before me. He’s always been around. This doesn’t make any sense. Look, you’re upsetting him.” He started towards the cage to comfort his pet.

“No, Mr Weasley, do not touch that cage,” Professor McGonagall said sharply.

“But he’s my rat,” Ron protested angrily. “This is mental.” He sat down on his unmade bed and glared at Harry. Hermione stood awkwardly at his side as she tried to understand what was happening.

After a few tense minutes the sound of footsteps on the stairs could be heard and Professor Dumbledore and Professor Flitwick entered the dorm. Professor Dumbledore spoke up first. “Professor McGonagall, how may we assist you?”

“I have an unregistered Animagus here,” she said crisply.

Harry heard Hermione mutter, “Harry could have done the spell wrong.”

Professor Dumbledore stepped forward and cast the same spell Harry had with the same results. The older wizard raised an eyebrow as he considered the circumstances. Looking over at Professor Flitwick he said, “Professor if you could cast a containment spell, I will force him to change.”

Harry watched with great interest as the diminutive professor cast a spell that shimmered over the cage. Professor McGonagall then Vanished the cage while at the same time Professor Dumbledore cast a spell that forced Scabbers to change back into Peter Pettigrew.
The three professors gasped as the short, balding man with watery eyes and somehow sharp rat-like features appeared.

“Peter Pettigrew!” Professor Dumbledore exclaimed in a shocked voice.

Ron and Hermione appeared beyond shock. Professor Flitwick immediately cast a spell that caused ropes to shoot from his wand. “I’ve prevented him from transforming, Albus, but we need to get the Aurors here.”

Professor Dumbledore nodded gravely as he looked between his deputy and Harry; for once his blue eyes weren’t twinkling. “Mr Potter, if you could come with me?”

Harry nodded grimly and turned to follow the two professors. Before leaving the room he turned to Professor McGonagall. “Thank you.”

She nodded and he followed the two men back to the headmaster’s office. Professor Flitwick secured their prisoner while Professor Dumbledore contacted the Ministry. Harry walked over to Fawkes to greet him. “Hello, Fawkes.”

A short, warm musical sound washed over him and Harry couldn’t help but smile as he pet the phoenix’s beautiful crimson feathers. “You always know how to make me feel better.”

It didn’t take long before Auror Shacklebolt and Madam Bones appeared in the office. They were accompanied by several other men in Auror’s robes as well as another Ministry official who wasn’t in Auror robes, but different colour robe. Harry didn’t know who any of them were.

Madam Bones gasped, “Peter Pettigrew.” She turned to look at Professor Dumbledore. “What happened?”

“I was just about to ask Mr Potter the same question,” the headmaster replied as he took his seat behind his desk.

Sinking into the closest chair, Harry faltered for a moment. The cover story Professor McGonagall had made up was going to be enough for his friends, but should he tell the truth to the other adults?

Feeling a bit nervous Harry said, “I talked to Professor McGonagall this afternoon and told her where Pettigrew was hiding. That’s why Sirius escaped from Azkaban. He saw the picture of the Weasleys in Egypt after winning the prize draw and Scabbers was sitting on Ron’s shoulder. Sirius recognized him right away.”

Madam Bones looked at him with an expression Harry couldn’t read. “Why didn’t you tell us this before? Why did you choose today?”
“I didn’t know if I could trust you,” Harry replied simply. “You work for the same government that sent Sirius to jail without the benefit of a trial. I figured if I presented Peter to you, you would have no choice but to investigate. I waited to hear from Sirius and he said I should go ahead and tell Professor McGonagall.”

“Do you know where Black is now?” Madam Bones asked.

“I can get him,” Harry prevaricated.

At the Auror’s request, Professor Flitwick lifted the Silencing Charm he’d cast upon the rat. Peter realized it immediately.

“Professor Dumbledore, sir. I think there has been some misunderstanding.”

“I think there has,” Professor Dumbledore said. He gazed at Peter with a mixture of revulsion, anger, and a touch of pity.

“Madam, I have some Veritaserum,” Auror Shacklebolt said.

At a nod from Madam Bones, two of the Aurors held Pettigrew while Shacklebolt administered three drops of the truth serum. Harry watched in interest as he realized that the Ministry employee who wasn’t an Auror was there to record everything that happened.
Peter’s eyes glazed over and Madam Bones began interrogating him while the clerk took notes.

“State your name.”

“Peter Alphonsus Pettigrew.”

“It was believed that you were dead, how did your evade detection?”

A strange smile lit Peter’s face. “I have been an Animagus since I was in school. Sirius didn’t think I would be able to make it, but James had faith in me. After I told the Dark Lord where the Potters lived, I left my flat. I knew Sirius would come looking for me once the Potters were dead. He was completely taken off guard, he never suspected me.

“He caught up to me on the street and I yelled something about him betraying James and Lily. He didn’t think I would do anything to endanger the people on the street, but they were just Muggles so I really didn’t care what happened to them. I cast a very dark spell and killed the Muggles.” Peter laughed. It was chilling to see the inappropriate happiness on his face.

“I’ve always enjoyed killing Muggles. That was the first time I’d tried that particular spell. The Dark Lord taught it to us himself, but I hadn’t had a chance to try it before. It was thrilling the feeling of power that flooded me. After cutting off my own finger I transformed into my rat form and ran off down the sewer. I really didn’t expect Sirius to spend so many years in Azkaban — that was just a bonus. I outwitted both Sirius and James — they didn’t think I was equal to them. They thought they were better than me and I showed them.”

Harry stared at the man in revulsion wondering how his father could have ever been friends with this man.

“How did you end up with the Weasley family?”

“I wanted to hide with a magical family so I was in a good position to hear any news of my Lord. I ended up in Devonshire and wanted to stay with a pure-blood family. The Diggory boy wouldn’t play with me, but Percy took a liking to me right away. He took me home and asked his parents if he could keep me. No one ever checked to see if I was an Animagus. I was thrilled when Ron became such good friends with Harry. I could keep an eye on him and await my master’s return. The only one who was ever suspicious of me was the girl.”

“Maybe if you hadn’t been hiding in her knickers and spying on her she might not have been suspicious,” Harry burst out, drawing the surprised attention of the rest of the room. Harry blushed, but said, “Ginny told me. She never liked him.”

“Great, a perverted rat,” one of the Aurors observed.

Clearing her throat, Madam Bones silenced everyone in the room. “Why did you betray the Potters?”

“The Dark Lord was so powerful,” the rat like man said. “There was nothing to be gained by fighting him. James never understood. I tried to talk to him, but he was too good and too far under her spell. A pure-blood family brought down by a Mudblood. I couldn’t believe he would actually marry her. She was smart and beautiful, but he could have kept her as a mistress. I thought for sure his parents would put a stop to their marriage, but they encouraged the match.”

“The Potters have always been on the side of the Light and have always welcomed Muggles and Muggle-borns in their family,” Professor Dumbledore observed. “So you were the spy who was betraying our plans to Voldemort?”

Harry was surprised that some of the Aurors gasped on hearing the name. How could they fight Dark wizards if a name scared them?

Peter smiled proudly and nodded. “I shared all of our plans with the Dark Lord. I was surprised that no one caught on to all of my lame excuses about my mother. I thought Sirius was a bit suspicious of me, but then he suggested that I be the Secret-Keeper. I was so excited to have the honour to bring the Potters to the Dark Lord.”

“What happened on the night of 31 October, 1981?”

“The Dark Lord wanted to use Halloween as a cover for his activities. I followed him to the Potter’s house in Godric’s Hollow and waited. I saw the green flash of the Killing Curse once on the ground floor. The nursery was at the back of the house so I didn’t expect to see anything, but suddenly there was a huge explosion. I could tell it was from the area of the nursery. I couldn’t imagine what might have happened, so I entered the house.

“I saw James lying dead in front of the fireplace. It was a sad end to a pure-blood line. Upstairs I suddenly heard the sound of a baby crying, which I didn’t understand. The brat should have been dead. I rushed upstairs and found the Mudblood dead on the floor and the baby crying in his cot. The Dark Lord was not there, his wand and cloak were both on the floor, but the Dark Lord had vanished.

“I picked up his wand and was filled with such power. I thought of killing the brat myself, but knew that if my Lord failed I would be able to do nothing. As my Lord’s body was not there, I knew some of his plans had worked and knew I needed to position myself to help my Lord when he returned.”

“What do you mean plans?”

For the first time Peter didn’t answer immediately, he seemed to be fighting and Harry couldn’t tell if he was fighting to answer or fighting not to answer. Auror Shacklebolt cast some sort of spell on Peter, Harry didn’t know what it was, but Peter stopped fighting and answered. “My Lord is the most powerful wizard in the world. He’s made many plans and some of them worked.”

“Do you know what these plans were?”

“No,” Peter said regretfully. “I wish I knew what my Lord had planned, that way I could be better prepared to help him.”

The Aurors exchanged concerned looks. “Are you saying you believe he still plans to return?”

“Of course,” Peter replied.

Exchanging a look with his boss, Auror Shacklebolt asked, “Is Sirius Black a Death Eater?”

Peter laughed. “No, Black turned down that opportunity on many occasions. He hated the Dark Arts and Death Eaters.”

As the Veritaserum wore off, Madam Bones had the Aurors take Peter off to the Ministry. She admonished them to be certain he could not transform and escape. Professor Flitwick bowed briefly and excused himself, leaving Harry with Madam Bones and Professor Dumbledore. Madam Bones sank into her seat looking rather weary. To Harry’s surprise, Professor Dumbledore looked rather old and tired.

It was Professor Dumbledore who spoke up first. “Thank you, Harry, for pointing out the error in our ways.”

“Does this mean Sirius will be free?” Harry asked in a hopeful voice.

“Indeed,” Madam Bones said. “I will issue a statement for the evening papers. Sirius Black is cleared of all charges and he has full guardianship over you. I wish to speak to him, but he is under no obligation to do so. There will be no punishment for his escape or becoming an illegal Animagus, although I would eventually like to know how he escaped.”

Harry smiled happily.

Professor Dumbledore smiled indulgently at the boy. “Harry, please take fifty points for Gryffindor. Why don’t you let your godfather know what has happened?”

“Thank you,” Harry said. He petted Fawkes once more before heading out of the office. He hurried to Professor McGonagall’s office. As soon as he closed the door behind him, Sirius transformed. Harry grabbed him in a big hug. “It worked!”

Sirius let out a loud whoop and swung Harry around while Professor McGonagall smiled at the pair of them. Sirius transformed back into Padfoot and danced around the room. Harry laughed and couldn’t help but join in. Eventually Sirius settled down and sat down in front of
a plate of sandwiches. He must have been eating while they were waiting for Harry.

“So, what happened, kiddo?” Sirius asked.

“It worked,” Harry said with joy and excitement in his voice. “Peter confessed under Veritaserum and Madam Bones said that you were cleared of all charges. Thank you so much, Professor. I appreciate everything.”

“You are very welcome, Harry,” Professor McGonagall said with a smile. “I am so thrilled that this worked out for both of you.”

Turning to Sirius, she said. “I would suggest getting in touch with Albus. He needs to know you are in the castle and I imagine he will have some questions for you. I think Poppy should look you over as well, I can’t imagine that twelve years in Azkaban have been good for you.”

“But Sirius won’t get into any trouble, right?” Harry asked anxiously as he looked between the two adults.

“No, he will not,” Professor McGonagall reassured him.

“Can we have Albus come to the hospital wing?” Sirius asked.

“That should be fine,” she replied.

Harry followed Padfoot and Professor McGonagall to the hospital wing and waited outside with his professor as Madam Pomfrey examined him.




Several hours later, Harry was finally convinced to leave Sirius for a while. He was so thrilled with everything that had happened that afternoon. Sirius was free! He still had trouble believing it, but Madam Bones had returned to the castle with a proclamation vacating his conviction as well as written proof of his guardianship of Harry.

The common room was practically empty, but Ron and Hermione were sitting by the fire, so Harry headed over to them.

“You’ve remembered us now, have you?” Ron asked angrily.

Harry stared at Ron in astonishment. “What are you talking about?”

“What am I talking about?” Ron’s hurt feelings were very obvious. “You discover my rat is an Animagus and you don’t even tell me? How long have you known?”

Harry looked up at Ron in surprise; he’d never imagined Ron would be mad at him.

When Harry didn’t answer, Ron seemed to get angrier. “Is that why you wanted him in a cage?”

“Yes,” Harry admitted. “Sirius told me about Peter over the summer. That’s why he escaped from Azkaban. He saw the picture of your family in Egypt with Scabbers on your shoulder.”

“He recognized a rat from a newspaper clipping?” Hermione asked sceptically.

“Yes, when Sirius confronted Peter over betraying my parents, Peter killed all the Muggles and cut off his own finger. That’s all they ever found of Peter was one of his fingers,” Harry explained. He looked at Ron. “Scabbers is missing a toe on his right front paw, isn’t he?”

“He probably lost it in a fight or something,” Ron dismissed Harry’s explanation.

“Did you see him?” Harry asked angrily. “I didn’t mess up the spell or imagine it. Professor Dumbledore cast the spell the same as I did and he forced Peter to change back into a person.”

“So you reveal that my family has been harbouring a Death Eater and then you run off to who knows where. Did you have a great laugh over how stupid the Weasleys are? How we didn’t recognize a Death Eater in our house?”

“Look, Ron, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Peter, but I didn’t want to take the chance that he might overhear and escape. Sirius’s freedom is way too important to me.”

Harry glared at Ron upset and hurt that his best mate had so little faith in his integrity or friendship.

“Sirius is more important than me?” Ron demanded.

“Yes!” Harry yelled. “I’m sorry that you feel stupid or whatever, but I was trying to free my godfather. He’s been in prison with those horrid Dementors for twelve years for something he didn’t do! So no, I wasn’t thinking about you.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Hermione demanded. “You could have tipped us off and we could have helped you. It’s like you don’t trust us anymore.”

“It would have tipped off Peter as well,” Harry replied angrily. “I’m sorry, but I did what I had to do. It’s not anything against your family and I certainly wasn’t laughing. I told Professor McGonagall and she came up to double check.”

“With Ginny.”

“What?”

“You couldn’t tell us anything, but you confided in my stupid sister,” Ron accused him. “What were you doing with my sister?”

“I was talking to her,” Harry ground out. “She was with me when Sirius found me today. I told her because she hasn’t been telling me I’m imagining things and she isn’t convinced my godfather’s a murderer. You’re telling me he’s a stone cold killer and Hermione thinks I have some stupid syndrome.”

“That seemed much more likely than the story you were telling us,” Hermione defended herself.

“Well, now you know the truth,” Harry replied. “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt, but neither of you were talking to me. I wasn’t going to trust you with my secret if you weren’t even going to try to believe me.”

“Harry!” Ginny raced down the steps of the girls’ dorm to join them. “What happened?”

“He’s free!” Harry’s good mood returned instantly. “He’s free and in the hospital wing!”

“That’s wonderful!” Ginny said enthusiastically. She threw her arms around him and gave him a big hug, which he returned happily.

“So tell me everything.”

Ron and Hermione looked put out that Ginny had joined them, but didn’t want to miss out on the news. The four of them sat down close to the fire.

“Madam Bones and a bunch of people from the Ministry came and they questioned him under Veritaserum.” Harry shook his head.
“Peter was horrible. He wasn’t even sorry that he betrayed my parents. I had to listen to him go on about how my father ruined his life because he married my mother who was Muggle-born. He laughed as he recalled how fun it was to kill all those Muggles.” He looked over at Hermione. “He would have killed you if he had the chance. He’s crazy.”

“Why didn’t he ever do anything?” Ron asked. He didn’t seem quite so angry anymore.

Harry shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure. He said he was waiting for a sign or something. He said something about one of Voldemort’s plans working.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Hermione asked sharply.

“I don’t know,” Harry said. “Peter said that when he found just Voldemort’s wand and robes he knew that one of Voldemort’s plans worked.”

Ginny shivered. “Tom was obsessed with cheating death. We already know that he managed that somehow.”

“Did you get some more chocolate?” Harry asked in concern.

Ginny smiled. “I did. Professor McGonagall made sure I got some.”

“Why?” Ron demanded.

“The Dementors attacked us when we were walking up to the castle,” Harry said with a slight shudder. “Professor McGonagall made them go away.”

“Why would Dementors attack you? They are supposed to stay outside of school grounds. You weren’t trying to sneak into town, were you?” Hermione asked disapproval obvious on her face.

“No, I wasn’t,” Harry replied stung by her lack of trust. “They came onto the grounds. Professor McGonagall said they might have been attracted by the emotions we were feeling.”

By this time students were starting to return from Hogsmeade. Trying to head off any more rows between them Ron said, “Why don’t we head down to the feast?”




“Sirius, I am truly sorry,” Professor Dumbledore said sadly much later that evening. Sirius had just finished telling both Professor Dumbledore and Remus Lupin his tale. “I did not realize that James had switched Secret-Keepers and Barty was quite insistent upon getting you to Azkaban as quickly as possible. It was feared that you would prove to be a rallying force for the other Death Eaters to gather around.”

Looking down for a moment, he looked back up at the young man who had been so wronged by his decisions. “I am sorry I did not investigate it more. I thought I knew you were James’ Secret-Keeper and he had obviously been betrayed by someone close to him. I let the system take care of you and for that I apologize.”

Sirius looked down at the floor, not meeting anyone’s eyes before finally looking up at the Headmaster. “I won’t deny that I have been furious with you for over a decade and I am still angry. I accept your apology because I think we need to work together. I am still angry and might not always be so calm about it, but Harry’s needs outweigh my childish need to hold onto my anger.”

“Thank you,” Albus said. “If you would like, you could stay here in one of the guest quarters in the short term. Poppy mentioned that she would like to put you under some treatment.”

Sirius didn’t answer for a moment. He looked over at Remus. “What do you think about that?”

“I would like very much to have my friend back,” Remus said emotionally. “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you. I went to sleep one night and woke up to find my world destroyed. I didn’t think to question what I’d been told. As Albus said, I thought you were the Secret-Keeper.”

“Peter did a lot to sow discord,” Sirius said generously. Looking back at Dumbledore he said, “I’ll take you up on that offer.”

“I will make arrangements,” Dumbledore promised.

“There is one more thing I’d like to talk to you about.”

Dumbledore sighed. “Harry.”

“Yes, Harry,” Sirius replied. “Why was he sent to those wretched people?” He looked over at Remus. “Why didn’t you take him? Don’t give me some line about werewolves either.”

“It’s true,” Remus protested. “The Ministry never would have allowed me to have Harry. He was much better off with his relatives.”

“The way I hear it the Ministry didn’t really figure into the equation,” Sirius glared at the other two. “There is no way the heir to an ancient and noble house should have been raised in the Muggle world. There are plenty of cousins or other distant relatives who would have taken him in.”

“Perhaps,” Dumbledore agreed, “but the Malfoys and the Notts were the families pressing the matter. Originally, I considered placing him with a wizarding family, but in the aftermath of his parents’ deaths his relatives seemed like the best alternative. I knew they had a son about his age and hoped they would accept him and grow to love him.”

“Instead they beat him, starved him, and treated him worse than a house-elf.”

“What?” Remus looked between the other two men.

“You don’t even seem surprised,” Sirius accused. His eyes widened. “You’ve used Legilimency on him, haven’t you? That’s illegal!”

“I apologize,” the headmaster replied soothingly. “It seemed the best way to understand what he was going through.”

“So you knew how he was treated and you still did nothing.”

“What was I to do? There was still the problem of where he would go. The Malfoys renewed their request for custody shortly after Harry started at Hogwarts. Can you imagine what his life would be like if they obtained custody? It seemed that his relatives’ worst behaviour
was in the past.”

“You didn’t see the relief on his face when Hedwig showed up in that park,” Sirius said. “Harry was so afraid his uncle would kill her — literally kill her. That little owl is practically the only thing that kept him sane in that awful place. It would have killed Harry if anything happened to her.”

“I am sorry that’s he’s had a hard time of it,” Dumbledore said regretfully. “I had hoped he’d find a home in his aunt’s house, but more importantly I was able to build blood wards with his aunt based on his mother’s sacrifice. Those were destroyed when he left his house this summer.”

“Do not even think about blaming him,” Sirius warned. “The man made Harry’s life miserable. I knew something was wrong within seconds of meeting him. For a boy to agree to run away with me minutes after meeting me, it was obvious that his home life was horrid. Some of the things he’s told me…well, I guess you know.”

“I do,” Dumbledore confirmed sadly.

“I understand that you did what you thought best, but I don’t want my godson going anywhere near those people.”

Dumbledore reluctantly nodded. While he thought Harry should stay with his aunt, Sirius had been granted custody and had the backing of the Wizengamot.




Ron slowly made his way down to breakfast. It was rather late, but it was a Sunday so he wasn’t too concerned. He didn’t see Harry or Hermione, but he didn’t really expect to because they both usually woke before him.

He still couldn’t believe the events of the day before. How could Harry have known about Scabbers for over two months and never said anything? Why had he trusted Ginny of all people?

It was confusing and rather upsetting. He wasn’t angry as he had been when he’d first discovered everyone in his room, but he didn’t really know exactly how he was feeling. Was Harry not his best mate anymore? Ron hoped that wasn’t the case. He counted Harry as his best mate. Hermione was his best friend, but that was different. Harry was the one he goofed off with — Hermione wouldn’t understand some of the things he and Harry did for fun.

As he reached the Great Hall he could hear a few whispers here and there, but he didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to them. People were always gossiping. As he suspected there was hardly anyone left at the tail end of breakfast service. Ron quickly piled eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast on his plate and piled up a second one. Once he’d missed his second helping of breakfast because he’d slept in so long.

He shuddered at the memory; that was a horrible day. He’d been so hungry by the time they started lunch service. Eating was one of the few ways that he and Harry differed. Harry didn’t eat half as much as Ron did and if Harry was upset or nervous he ate even less. Ron couldn’t understand that — if he was upset he tended to eat even more.

Hermione sometimes yammered on about his table manners, but she didn’t understand. In his house if you weren’t quick enough, you didn’t get as much food. He knew that Hermione’s family didn’t have to worry about money and they didn’t grow or can their own food or any of the things his family had to do.

Harry had never really said much, but Ron had seen his house. He was sure Harry never had to worry about food either. Harry had mentioned that his aunt and uncle were strict and from some of the things he said Ron thought that Harry wasn’t always allowed to snack in between meals, but Ron didn’t imagine either of his friends knew the fear of the food having run out. It had never happened before, but Ron was always worried about it - especially when his parents started worrying about money.

That was one of the reasons he’d been so upset about Ginny’s stupid mistakes from the year before. If any of the families whose children had been attacked had pushed the issue, the Weasleys would have been hard pressed to pay them. When she’d so stupidly almost ruined Hermione’s blouse Ron really wished that his sister stayed home. He knew his parents had talked about keeping her home and educating her at home. He thought it would have been much better; that way he wouldn’t have to deal with her.

Finishing his first plate of food, he pulled his other plate closer. Ginny. Why had Harry suddenly become such good friends with her? He and Hermione had discussed it the day before. Hermione thought Harry might have a crush on Ginny, but Ron wasn’t so sure.
First of all, why would he? Ginny was plain, boring, and really annoying. If Harry wanted a girlfriend he’d pick a good looking, fun type of girl, not someone like Ginny. Second of all, if Harry had a crush on Ginny he’d have told Ron, right?

Ron’s thoughts wandered to Hermione. They’d had fun the day before, even if she did tend to want to drag him into boring, old bookshops and natter on about historical events. He still didn’t understand how Hermione was getting to all of her classes. Harry seemed singularly uninterested in that topic, but Ron really wondered what was going on. All she seemed to do was homework. Every time Ron saw her in the common room she was surrounded by books, that couldn’t be good for her, right?

As he finished his second plate of food, the serving dishes were still there so he grabbed some toast. Looking around the Great Hall he noticed for the first time that he was alone at the Gryffindor table. He spotted a Daily Prophet a few spots down and he reached out to grab it.

Turning it over, he saw the huge headline ‘Black Innocent’. He started reading and almost choked on his toast. The whole story was there. How Peter had betrayed the Potters to You-Know-Who and escaped, framing Sirius in the process. Sirius described how he’d seen the picture of the Weasleys in the paper and escaped to protect his godson. Black credited Harry with ensuring Peter was locked up until he could be exposed to the Ministry.

Ron could feel his ears getting red and hot as he read and reread the article. How could they name him and his family? Looking around the dining hall again, Ron wondered now if some of those whispers were about him. Why couldn’t Black have left the Weasleys out of it? Would everyone think they were stupid for not knowing Scabbers wasn’t just an ordinary rat? Hermione had asked him several times why they’d never checked Scabbers, now others were sure to start asking questions as well.

Gulping down the last of his breakfast, Ron stormed up to Gryffindor tower becoming angrier and angrier as he climbed the stairs. Once he reached the common room he glanced around before heading up to the seventh year boys’ room.

Percy looked up as his youngest brother stormed in. Ron glared at Percy. “Did you read the paper? How could you have done this?
Didn’t it ever occur to you to check Scabbers?”

Percy’s ears flushed a deep red. “No, it didn’t. I found him when I was five years old, Ron. Five.”

“Why didn’t mum or dad check him?” Ron demanded angrily. “Do you realize how stupid this makes us look? A Death Eater hid in our house for twelve years and we never even noticed.”

“I know,” Percy said frigidly. “I’ve already written to our parents voicing my displeasure.”

“Why couldn’t Black have kept his damn mouth shut?” Ron moaned.

“I was wondering that myself,” Percy admitted. “He didn’t have to say which family had found and taken in the rat.”
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