|SIYE Time:15:58 on 26th October 2021|
A Sovereign Summer
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Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Other, Ron Weasley
Genres: General, Romance
Summary: Before Harry could treat Ginny like a queen, he had to change.
Hitcount: Story Total: 11489; Chapter Total: 1088
Awards: View Trophy Room
Refreshed, and much more comfortable, Harry returned to his room to find Sirius in deep conversation with thin air.
“But, I told him that!” Sirius exclaimed, a frustrated look on his face. A moment later, a look of chagrin came over him. “Oh, yeah, I remember.” Pause. “No, I won't forget again.” Pause. “No, you don't have to–Ow!” he yelled, and ducked. It was about that time that he noticed Harry's return.
“Oh, there you are! Back so soon?”
Harry blushed a bit. He was definitely not used to anyone taking any sort of interest in any of his comings and goings while in residence at the Dursleys'.
“Yeah. Um, who were you talking to?”
“Harry, didn't you learn any grammar? What did they teach you in primary school, anyway? The correct word is 'whom', not 'who'. Honestly, 'whom' is an object.” He paused. “Direct object? No. Well, maybe. We’ll call it an object. 'Who' is a . . . well, I'm not really sure, but it's not . . . the same. . . kind. . . of object, and you can't use it in the same situations as 'whom'. Now, say it right!” If Harry had taken the time to notice, he would have seen the shiftiness in Sirius' eyes, as the older dead man tried very hard to distract Harry from the conversation he'd walked in on.
“Okay. Whom were you talking to?”
“Harry, Harry, Harry,” Sirius said, unknowingly throwing Harry's mind back to the thoroughly unpleasant experiences he'd had with the absolutely useless Professor Lockhart in his second year. Not coincidentally, he remembered also the battle he'd fought in the Chamber of Secrets, to save Ginny's life. A rush of some kind of warmth spread through him at the memory of having saved her. Thinking about her, he decided that he should really offer to talk to her about her experiences being possessed by Riddle. He felt really ashamed at having forgotten about her possession, and maybe this year he could try to make amends for having ignored her for the larger part of three years after having saved her. His mind started envisioning possibilities for talking to her, perhaps they could visit the Room of Requirement, and have a nice, peaceful place to chat. Or, and this idea sparked something deep within him that he wasn't prepared to investigate fully, he could take her to Hogsmeade!
During the whole time that Harry's mind had been wandering down strange paths, Sirius had been, at first, trying to get his attention, then, seeing it was futile, continuing his argument with the unseen voice, hoping to conclude it before Harry came back from wherever he had gotten to.
'But what about Dean?' Harry's traitorous mind interjected. 'She said she had chosen Dean. What do you think she meant by that?' And with that, Harry's spirit, which had been soaring high above the room on wings of speculation, flew too close to the sun, melted the aforementioned wings, and crashed to earth in a paroxysm of despair.
Sirius, having concluded the argument, noticed the crestfallen look on his godson's face, and moved over next to him. “What's wrong, Harry?” He thought desperately about their conversation, trying to pick up the dropped threads. “Did something happen in the bathroom? I'm sorry if I bothered you, I was just teasing.”
Harry forgot about the grammar lesson, and the one-sided argument he had walked in on, and looked up at Sirius. “Nothing, Sirius, I just realized that Gi–this girl that I was thinking about probably already has a boyfriend. I was thinking maybe I'd ask her to Hogsmeade this year, but I guess that's out of the question now.”
Sirius smiled. This wasn't so bad. He knew what was in store for Harry the next night, and figured that if it didn't help him in precisely this situation, then nothing would.
“Well, Harry, I don't really know what to tell you. I'm not the best example when it comes to advice about your love life–I messed up the only relationship I ever really cared about, and the only lesson I can tell you about it is that you should never, ever, no matter what the supposed reason, lie to the one you love.” Sirius' face fell at the memory of his lost girlfriend, and Harry was tempted to ask for more details. But Sirius looked up again and continued. “But, Harry, your next visitor is supposed to talk to you about love and all that stuff. He'll come tomorrow night, and you could really learn a lot from him. So, cheer up, and hopefully James will--”
“James? You mean my dad is coming tomorrow night? Please tell me you're not kidding again. Please–is he really visiting?” Harry was ecstatic at the idea that he'd finally be able to meet his father. It would be a dream come true.
“Oh, Merlin! I wasn't supposed to tell you yet. Okay, um, you have to promise to pay attention to the rest of what I have to tell you, okay? Yes, your dad is coming to visit tomorrow, and he has a lot of fun stuff to teach you. But I have some stuff I have to tell you too, so, can you concentrate?”
Harry tried, he really did, to let go of the smile that seemed to have taken up permanent residence on his face, but no matter what, he couldn't. He settled for nodding, and saying, “I promise, Sirius. I'll pay attention. See? I've even got a pen and paper. Oh, I hope that's okay. I find them much more usable than parchment and quill, and if Uncle Vernon ever looks in here, he won't be as upset to see them.”
“That's fine, Harry. It doesn't matter, as long as you can write things down. Okay, let's get started.
“Now, the first thing you need to do is get some new clothes. I know that you don't really pay attention to what you're wearing, but you've been wearing those tents that Dudley's grown out of for way too long. I'd been planning on taking you into Muggle London to do some shopping–after all, your trust vault has more than enough money to allow you to get a pretty decent wardrobe–but we never seemed to have the time to do that, did we?”
Harry thought about this. It was true that he hadn't really thought about the clothes he wore, but he couldn't help, now that it had been brought to his attention, comparing his apparel with that of even Ron, or Dean (curse his name). “Okay, Sirius, I can see why it might be nice to have some clothes that fit better, but why did you come back from the dead to tell me this? How is it in any way important to what I have to do?”
Sirius smiled. “You'd be surprised, Harry. The way a man dresses has a lot to do with how he conducts himself. You may not realize it, since you haven't known any different, but your clothing affects your self-image. You have been raised to believe you're worthless. Do you still believe that?” Sirius genuinely wanted to know the answer to this, as it would give him a rather good gauge of Harry's psychological state.
“No,” Harry responded, after thinking for a moment. “I have some good friends, and they must like me for some reason, even if it's only because of my fame. So, I'm probably worth at least a little bit.”
Sirius sighed. He was grateful that he didn't have to completely rebuild Harry's self-esteem, but there was still a long way to go. “Well, whatever the Dursleys might have said, you are a wonderful young man–you are talented, brave, honest, and trustworthy. You are worth more than any ten Grunnings employees any day of the week, and about 72 Malfoys.” As he'd been hoping, this drew a laugh from Harry.
“So, what you need to do tomorrow is send Hedwig to Madame Malkins and ask for her Muggle clothing catalog. That will give you some idea as to what she can provide for you, until you have the opportunity to take someone shopping with you.”
“Why do I need to have someone go shopping with me?”
Sirius grinned. “Well, Harry, it's a well-known fact that the female of the species always has better dress sense than the male. So, when you're ready to go replace your whole wardrobe, take a girl along. Surely you know some young lady that would be willing to accompany you? Maybe Hermione?” Seeing the contemplative look on Harry face, Sirius decided to drop a little hint. “Or perhaps Ginny could go?”
Harry blushed scarlet at the idea of Ginny shopping for clothing with him. Maybe she'd help him see if things fit right–he abandoned that line of thought immediately. After all, she was just a friend, right? He really had no right to go thinking such things about someone who most likely had someone else she really cared about already.
“Yeah, um, maybe Hermione could go with me.” Even Harry could hear the lack of excitement in his voice as he said this.
“Well, whoever you choose, just make sure it's a girl, and that she's willing to let you spend some money on her too as a thank-you.
“Anyway, ask Madame Malkin to send a measuring tape too, so you can order the right size of things. Make sure you get enough to last you until the first Hogsmeade weekend, okay? Then you can go shopping with your girl,” Harry blushed, “and get whatever else you need. Trust me on this–wearing nice clothes makes you feel better about yourself, no matter what else is going on in your life.”
“So, the first thing to write down is to get better clothes, right?”
“Right,” Sirius responded. “And get started on that tomorrow.”
Harry scribbled away on his paper, then looked up at Sirius. “Okay, what's next?”
“All right. The next one is kind of a future thing to think about, okay? Cedric mentioned that you talked a little about my role as a father figure in your life. Is that true?” Sirius knew it was true, but needed to get Harry thinking about it.
“Yeah, we did. Let’s see, we were starting to talk about it, and then we got sidetracked into a discussion of Uncle Vernon's being a bad example.”
The grimace on Sirius’ face showed his complete agreement with that.
“And we decided that Arthur Weasley was a great father.”
Sirius chuckled. “That’s right, Harry. Now, you have a couple of other people in your life that would make good examples for you also. In fact, there is at least one, and perhaps two, besides Arthur, that would even make better fathers for you than I would have. Let's face it–I was never the fatherly type. I would have loved to have raised you as my own, and hopefully I wouldn't have screwed you up too badly. But I have always been much more of a rake. Well, not always I guess, but after I lost Rebecca, I didn't really see the need to settle down.” Sirius seemed to lose himself in his thoughts for a bit, then shook his head and refocused. “Anyway, I would have been a much better favorite uncle for you–someone to teach you pranking, and the best parts of dating, and where to take a girl to be alone for awhile. But teaching you responsibility, and maturity–I've not proven to be really good at that.”
Loyalty and honesty warred inside Harry. He really wanted to reassure Sirius that he would have been a great father, but judging from all the stories of the Marauders, and having seen Sirius' life himself for those few brief years, he found himself having to agree with the sentiment. “But, you would have been the best favorite uncle!”
Sirius laughed delightedly. “Thanks, Harry, that means a lot to me. Maybe you can see your way clear to, occasionally, mind you, pull a few pranks in my name this next year?”
Harry agreed rapidly. He hadn't really been too interested in pranks before, but this seemed like a good way to remember Sirius, and honor that memory. He just wished Fred and George were still at school–they could have helped him out. That little voice in the back of his head spoke up again. 'I bet Ginny knows how to prank really well. . .'
Sirius looked questioningly at Harry's blush, which seemed to have appeared for no reason, but Harry refused to elaborate.
“So, um, who are these other fathers?” Harry asked, in an effort to avoid more questioning.
“Well, you’ve already been told about Arthur, but I wanted to really emphasize him. I mean, what other family can you think of that is as incredibly loving, very well-run, well-disciplined, yet fun-loving?”
Harry thought about that for a moment, and Sirius continued.
“And no other family has more of what's important than anyone else that you know, right? Something the Malfoys, for example, will never understand. I mean, the Weasleys have their struggles, but they’re still able to provide a loving home for a skinny, black-haired boy every summer, and make him feel a complete part of it.” Sirius wasn’t sure he needed to talk up the Weasleys more than he already had, but figured that the more he pushed Arthur as a father figure, the more Harry would think about being a part of that family.
Harry sat back, thinking again about his best mate’s family. Yes, they were poor, no doubt about that, but they had so much love that they were able to spare some for him. They took him in as much as possible, and treated him as one of their own. They sent him Christmas presents–Weasley sweaters that warmed him more than mere wool ever could. It was true that Arthur wasn't the highest-paid department head in the Ministry, but he was happy with what he did, and made sure that his family had what they needed. Harry had the feeling, deep inside him, that if he ever had a serious problem, he could take it to the Weasley patriarch, and receive honest, intelligent counsel.
Sirius continued. “Arthur Weasley is one of the best men I know. I can't think of anyone better you could model your life after. I know he already thinks of you as one of his own. I think he'd be delighted to have you actually tell him what you think about him.”
“So, what's my assignment for this? Just, I don’t know, think of Mr. Weasley every so often?”
“No, Harry, your assignment is to sit down with Arthur, one on one, and tell him how you're really doing, and ask for his advice.” Seeing Harry about to protest, he rushed to forestall the outburst. “I don't mean you have to tell him the Prophecy if you don't want to, although you could do a lot worse than to share that with him. I just mean to tell him your worries, and your thoughts, and ask for some guidance. You'll be surprised, I think, at just how much he understands growing boys and their issues. After all, he's got six of his own, most of whom have turned out pretty wonderfully, Percy notwithstanding.”
Something inside Harry rebelled against the idea of sharing his burden with anyone–after all, it seemed to hurt the people around him. But there was another, larger part, that whispered that it would be really nice to have an adult that was in his corner, supporting him without reservation. And maybe Mr. Weasley could be that for him.
“Okay, Sirius, I'll talk to him. See? I'm writing it down.”
“Good boy, I knew you could do it. You won't be disappointed, Harry, he loves you like his own sons, and will never let you down. Besides, maybe this will help you with any other, shall we say, relationship goals you might have?”
Harry blushed again, but refused to rise to the bait.
“Okay, so, Mr. Weasley should be one of my father figures, I can see that. Who else are you referring to? You said there was more than one.”
“Well, remember that I said that I was more of the fun-loving uncle? There was another member of our little group that was much more responsible than I was, and who's only gotten more respectable as time went on.”
“Well, he's not really your professor anymore, is he? I'm sure he'd rather you called him Remus, or even Moony. But yes, he's who I meant. I know that he'd have loved to have raised you just like me. And if you were to write to him, and ask his advice, I think it would make him almost as happy as my cousin could.”
“Okay! Fine! I’ll try to play matchmaker with Prof–Moony and Tonks. I’ll even write it down!” He took pen to paper and did just that. “Why are you ghosts so interested in our love lives? Is it 'cause you can't have your own? You just have to live through us, vicariously?”
Sirius roared with laughter. Finally, after a couple of minutes of eye-watering guffaws, he calmed down. “Oh, Harry, that was great. Thank you!” A couple more chuckles, and he continued. “No, Harry, we don't live vicariously through your romantic escapades. Rather, let me tell you that the most important thing you can do in this. . . well, in life, is to find someone to love. This ranks higher than anything else–yes, even higher than killing Voldemort. Harry, your father will tell you more about this, but it's true–without love we really are nothing.” Sirius' face grew rather solemn at this line of thought.
Harry couldn't understand why his godfather had become so depressed, until he remembered what Sirius had said about this Rebecca. “Oh, Sirius. I'm so sorry–you, you're alone there, aren't you?”
“Yeah, Harry, I'm alone. Yes, I have your father and mother, and all the other people we knew, but I don't have a wife. I told you that I blew my chances with Rebecca, and I never took the time to mend fences, as it were.”
Harry felt his eyes start tearing up. “Does that mean. . . does that mean you'll be alone forever?”
“No, Harry, I haven't completely lost my chance. But it all depends on her, now. If she still loves me, and wants me, then after she dies she can come find me, and we can be together again. But I have to wait, and I'm not sure she'll ever forgive me. And it's not like I can woo her from the Next Great Adventure, can I?”
Harry snickered. “Did you really say 'woo'? Who says 'woo' anymore? That's just perfect, Sirius Black, renowned ladies' man, prankster, and all-around fun guy, wants to have the opportunity to 'pitch woo'!” Harry couldn't take anymore, and fell back on the bed, laughing more than he'd done for quite a long time.
Sirius' face was a study–he was glad Harry was able to find humor and really cut loose with a belly laugh like that, but he wasn't sure he wanted to be the butt of the joke. Finally he decided to take it in good humor and chuckled along with Harry.
“Make fun of me all you want, Harry, but it's really what I need to do. At least, after she dies.”
Harry's laughter finally subsided, and he sat back up. Wiping his eyes, he thought about Sirius' predicament. “Well, perhaps I can help, Padfoot. Where does she live? I could write her a letter or something, you know, plead your case to her. Or, you could tell me what to write. . .”
Sirius, who had flushed with pleasure at Harry calling him 'Padfoot', froze at the idea. “Really? You'd be willing to do that for me?” All kinds of futures seemed to open up in front of him at the idea.
“Of course I would, Sirius. I mean, you're doing this for me, why can't I help you out? After you finish telling me what you need to tell me, you can dictate a letter for me to send to her, and I'll do it, okay?”
Sirius cautiously put his arms around Harry. “Harry, this means–I can't tell you how much this means to me. I'd like to be able to apologize to her, and I hadn't ever thought I'd be able to until she died. Thank you!”
They sat there together for some time, Harry basking in the embrace of his godfather, content to feel that he was loved, and Sirius feeling hope that he'd long since lost.
Eventually Sirius looked at the clock and let go of Harry. “Okay, we have a couple of things we still have to cover, and it's getting late. We talked about your needing to help Moony and Tonks get together. I don't know how to tell you to do it, but help them to spend time together, and maybe mention how happy the other always seems to be after they're together for any length of time.”
“Yeah, okay. I got that. What else?”
Just then, his stomach growled, startling him, and causing Sirius to burst out in laughter again.
“I'd say food is next. Do you have any?”
Harry pulled the picnic basket out of his closet, where it had been hidden to make sure the Dursleys wouldn't see it and confiscate it. As he did so, he told Sirius about his arrangements with Tom and Scruffy.
Pushing the knot on the side of the basket, he pulled out some leftover roast and a bottle of butterbeer. Remembering his manners, he held out a second bottle for Sirius.
Sirius looked at Harry, then at the bottle, then heaved a great sigh. “Harry, I know you can feel me, and it seems like I'm alive, but remember, I'm dead. I can't eat or drink mortal food anymore.”
Harry instantly felt horrible. “I'm so sorry, Sirius, that was so thoughtless of me. I didn't mean to make you feel bad.”
Sirius smiled wryly. “No problem, Harry. It makes me happy that you thought of me, and I'm glad you're not put off just because I'm a ghost. Now, while your hands are otherwise occupied, is there anything in specific you want to talk about?”
“I thought you said there were things for you to tell me?”
“Yes, there are, but one of my directives was to give you the chance to talk about things too, and I’ve been doing most of the whole guiding-the-conversation thing.”
Harry paused in the middle of chewing to think about things. What did he really want to hear from Sirius? He knew his dad would be there the next night, so questions about his parents could wait until then. Well, he could think of two things that he'd like to know more about. Guessing that Rebecca might not be a topic that would bring any happiness into the room, he opted for the other question.
“What was the best prank you ever played while you were at Hogwarts?”
Sirius' face broke out into a huge smile, and he sat back on the bed. "Ouch! What the blazes was that? Something bit me in the . . . What? A bedspring? What kind of cut-rate mattress is this?" He moved over a few inches and found a more comfortable spot, then got a slightly evil look on his face. "Hey, Harry. Do you know what a 'mistress' is?"
Harry thought he knew, but shook his head, figuring that there was a good likelihood that either he was going to get some rather interesting information, or a funny joke.
Sirius grinned again. "A 'mistress' is halfway between a Mister and a Mattress." Then the older man roared in laughter, slapped Harry on the shoulder, knocking him over, and wiped tears from his eyes. "Ah, that's a fun one. Good thing Lily's not here, she always hated that one." Sirius subsided a bit, shaking his head, then relaunched his story. “Well, let me tell you about the prank that involved the capybara, the vat of mayonnaise, three buckets of orange Day-Glo paint, and the Slytherin Quidditch team.”
Eyes watering from laughing so much, Harry was finally able to calm down. “Oh, Sirius, that is classic! Didn't you lose any points at all?”
“The beauty of the whole thing was that no-one could prove it was us! Of course, McGonagall suspected, but with Lily to cover our tracks, there was no evidence.”
Subsiding into an occasional chuckle, Harry put the remnants of his middle-of-the-night feast back into the picnic basket and stowed the whole thing in the closet.
“Well, I just hope you don't expect me to do something like that! I don't think I'm that creative.”
Sirius smirked at him. “Yeah, maybe, but I bet you could find a pranking partner–maybe someone with red hair?”
“I don't think Ron could think of something like that either.”
Sirius just smirked again. “I wasn't thinking of a male Weasley.”
Blushing furiously, Harry cast around for a safe subject. “So, um, how much time do you have before you have to leave?”
Sirius looked at Harry's alarm clock, and said, sadly, “We'd better get on with it–sunrise is in a couple of hours, and I can't stay past that. So, where were we?”
“We were just talking about my playing matchmaker for Moony and Tonks.”
“Ah yes. Now, that may not sound like much, but their being able to express their feelings for each other will prove to be a great strength in the future.
“Now, the next thing is that you need to get better at offensive magic. I mean, you're going to have to get rid of the Dark Idiot sometime, so you need to be able to at least duel him to a draw. Coincidentally, I happen to know that your DADA professor next year will be someone who can actually teach you what you need to know, or at least, some of it. And what she can't teach you, Professor Flitwick can. So, the next item on the list is to ask both your DADA professor and Professor Flitwick for private lessons. They'll probably be delighted to do so, but you should pay them for their time. And yes, your vaults will cover the cost without any problem.”
Harry wrote this down on his list, then looked up at Sirius. “Okay, two questions. First, did you really mean 'she' when you talked about the DADA professor? The idea of a female DADA professor just makes me really worried. In fact, the only girl I can think of who would be a good DADA teacher would be Tonks.”
Sirius just sat there and smiled at Harry.
“Really? Tonks is going to be our teacher? That's way cool!”
Sirius laughed and said, “You didn't hear it from me, but betting on the outcome might net you some nice galleons.”
Harry smiled at the prospect of one of his favorite Aurors teaching what, in Harry's opinion, was the most important class at Hogwarts.
“And, what's the second question?” Sirius asked.
“Oh, um. . . Oh yeah. You mentioned vaults, as in, more than one. I thought I only had the one that I've been using. Did my Mum and Dad have more?”
“The strict answer is yes, they had another one that they used, but that wasn't really what I was referring to. Their other vault was a personal one, where they kept their important papers and what-not. It wasn't for money or things like that. The other vault is the one I gave you.”
“What do you mean? Did you leave a will or something?”
“No, I didn’t have time to update my will, although you'd think I would have, with all the time I spent in Grimmauld Place. But, even if I had, the Ministry wouldn't have accepted it, since I was still officially a criminal. But, what I did do was have Gringotts set up a secret vault for you, and put 200,000 galleons into it, just in case you needed it. Your parents were well-off, but had spent most of their money fighting Voldemort. So, I figured you'd need some money someday. Anyway, Gringotts will give you the key if you give them the password--and I'm sure you can guess what the password is, right?"
Harry thought for just a second, and smiled. "Yeah, I think I can figure it out."
"Good. Now, since we've been talking about vaults, one of the things you need to do is gain access to your parents' personal vault. Because it's not a money storage vault, the goblins won't have any sticky rules about you gaining access. There are some very interesting things in there, but I'll leave that to others to explain to you."
Harry nodded his agreement.
"Harry, are you writing this down? That's why you have paper and a pen, right? Come on, write it down! I don't want to get into trouble just because you forgot something."
Harry grimaced and scribbled down, Get DADA Training and Visit Sirius' and parents' vaults.
"Okay, I've got it. What next?"
"Well, this is more of a suggestion than a have-to, but it’s a pretty strong suggestion. When you get Filius and Tonks to train you, you're going to find out that you need physical stamina to be able to keep up with their lessons. If I were you, I'd start training for that right now. Go for a run each morning, as far as you can. Then do some push-ups and sit-ups. It's not so important to be incredibly strong, but you should work on your endurance."
"But, I thought I was in good shape! I play Quidditch!"
"Harry, do you really think that sitting on a broom is going to equip you for engaging in a long duel? What muscles do you really work in Quidditch? Your butt, and your right arm, right?"
Harry had gotten used to the idea that sports helped one get into better shape. This idea, that Quidditch really wasn't that great for physical stamina, was a startling one to him, so he took a moment to really give it the thought it deserved. "I guess you're right, Sirius. Of course, there has to be a first time for everything. So, I'll make a note for that, too."
Sirius snickered, then took another look at the time, then glanced out the window. "All right, those are the exceedingly important things, that will help you in your fight against Voldemort. Now there's a couple things that I think you should do that will make life a little easier for you. Am I right in saying that most of your years at Hogwarts have been rather painful?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, you are. I mean, it's better than being stuck here, 'cause at least I have friends, but there's always something that's really horrible."
"Okay, so, here's my first suggestion. Tell Professor McGonagall about Snape's mistreatment of you."
Harry sighed. "But what's she going to do? Nobody has ever really shown that they cared about what happens to me. Last year, when I told her about Umbridge, she told me to keep my head down, and that she couldn't interfere with other teachers' detentions. And any time I've tried to get help, adults have just ignored me. Why would this year be any different?"
Sirius frowned. "I didn't know that about Umbridge--you told Minerva about the Blood Quill and she just told you that she couldn't do anything?" By the time he'd gotten to the end of his sentence, Sirius' voice had become loud enough that Harry was afraid of the neighbors’ hearing.
"Sirius! Don't yell--people might hear you!" Harry whispered urgently.
Sirius immediately calmed down. "I'm sorry, Harry, I didn't mean to get so upset. But don't worry--you're the only one that can hear me during my visit. I am a ghost right now, aren't I?"
Mollified, Harry turned his attention back to the discussion. "Okay, but I didn't tell McGonagall about the Blood Quill. That detention happened after I talked to McGonagall, but I figured I'd get the same answer." Honesty forced him to admit, "Well, that and I figured by that time it was personal between that woman and me. I wouldn't give her the satisfaction of knowing she'd beaten me!"
Sirius grabbed Harry's arm. "You what? You mean you didn't tell anyone because of some stupid power game you thought you were playing against her? Harry, I love you, but that was one of the stupidest things you could have done."
Harry looked rather hurt at Sirius condemnation of him. Sirius relaxed a bit and started to explain.
"Harry, looking back at that incident--specifically the detentions--can you honestly say that she didn't win? I mean, did it really hurt her to have you not complain?"
Harry thought some more. Sure, Umbridge had been disappointed that Harry hadn't reacted strongly to the Blood Quill, but other than that, his defiance hadn't served any real purpose other than to get an ugly magical scar on his hand. "No--she won, and I lost, and it was stupid of me."
"Right you are, Harry. If you'd gone to McGonagall about the Blood Quill, she would have had legal grounds to not only have her discharged, but also taken to appear before the Wizengamot for use of a proscribed device on an underage wizard, which would mean a mandatory sentence in Azkaban! In fact. . ." his voice trailed off as he sank deep into thought. "Okay, Harry, this suggestion just stopped being a suggestion, and became an order. You will tell McGonagall everything about Umbridge's treatment of you. Oh, were any other students forced to use a Blood Quill?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, a couple. I know of at least two, and I could probably find some more."
"Okay, talk to McGonagall, show her your hand. Maybe you could give her a pensieve memory of one of the detentions. And give her the names of any other students you know who had to go through that. And, while you're at it, tell her the truth about how Snape treats you. You might want to give pensieve evidence about that too. She needs to know what's going on, and, being the Deputy Headmistress, she'll actually be able to do something about it."
"Sirius," Harry asked plaintively. "Why does Dumbledore let Snape get away with so much? Obviously he's allowing him free rein, but it hurts the students so much. I bet no-one outside of Slytherin and possibly Ravenclaw have gotten a passing mark in Potions on their N.E.W.T.s since Snape became the teacher!"
Sirius sighed. "Harry, I can't tell you. Obviously, Snape has come up with some way of 'proving his loyalty' to Dumbledore, enough that he can get away with whatever he wants. But I don't agree with that. Perhaps he really does have a use, and perhaps he's trustworthy, but regardless, he shouldn't be teaching children. I think that with McGonagall's help you can get him sacked, or at least removed from teaching."
Harry allowed himself to contemplate a Potions class without Snape spending his whole time intimidating the students. Perhaps there would be a professor who actually felt the need to explain why things were done in a certain way--or even offer to give the students demonstrations. The smile on his face showed Sirius that his suggestion was definitely going to be followed.
After noting this down on his paper, complete with mention of the pensieve evidence, Harry looked back to Sirius. "Okay, there was another suggestion you had, what was it?"
Sirius grinned. "Okay, this one should be really fun. When I was putting money away for you, I also authorized you to be my representative in a certain matter. It won't matter that I'm dead, or still considered a criminal, because this was a private arrangement between me and Gringotts. What you need to do is go to the bank and ask for Slimefoot. Tell him that the Marauders sent you to do their bidding. That's the passphrase that will allow him to fulfill his side of the bargain. Okay?"
Harry sat for a bit. "Wait, that's it? You're not going to tell me what it is? Sirius, I'm not sure I like surprises like that. Please tell me." The look on his face was enough to melt Sirius's heart, and he wondered where Harry had gotten so good at giving the puppy-dog eyes.
"Okay, fine, just, don't look at me like that!"
Harry immediately smiled, proud of his success.
"I got to thinking," Sirius continued, "that it's a crying shame that Slytherin house is flying on better brooms just because that git Malfoy bought his way onto the team. So, I set aside a certain investment that the family made, in the Swiftair Broom Company. It will be held in perpetuity for the use of the Gryffindor Head of House. The earnings from this investment should be used to make sure that the other three houses always have the best brooms on the market--well, given the limitations of the money available at any one time."
"What's the Swiftair Broom Company? I've never read of them in Which Broomstick."
"Ah, well, they're a South American company--they are very popular in the area around Montevideo and Buenos Aires, but they don't export their brooms, so nobody around here knows of them. They are usually comparable with the top of the line Nimbus models. So, the Gryffindor Head of House also has the option of asking the company for a complete set of brooms, rather than having to go buy some other brand. It's more cost-effective that way, and with the extra publicity they'd get, they might be persuaded to try their hand at an export business."
Harry was at a loss--he'd never thought of doing something like that. Of course, having been brought up all his life to think of himself as poor meant that thinking of anything that took money was against his nature. Witness the lack of proper clothing, when he'd had the money to correct that situation in his vault the whole time he'd been attending Hogwarts. He supposed that some of this attitude had come from the Weasleys, who had never had much money either. Their frugality had most likely rubbed off on him.
Having finished processing, and writing down, this particular chore, he looked back at Sirius, only to find him with a rather curious expression on his face. He looked as if he were having an internal argument. Harry tried to get his attention, but Sirius ignored everything, so Harry just waited. Eventually it seemed that Sirius was able to come to a conclusion.
"Okay, Harry, I think that’s all except..."
“Well, there’s that letter I was going to send to--”
"Rebecca?" Harry interrupted.
Sirius nodded. "Yeah. She's the only girl I've ever really loved, and I screwed up our relationship something awful. Are you sure you’re okay with doing this for me?" Sirius looked rather hesitant, as if he were afraid that Harry would refuse something like that.
"Of course, Sirius!" He hurriedly got out a parchment and quill, figuring that Rebecca might believe it more if it weren’t on lined notebook paper.
Sirius smiled, relieved. "Okay, here's what I'd like you to write. . ."
Letter finished, and sun just barely ready to creep over the horizon, Sirius pulled Harry into a hug. "Harry, thank you for all you've done for me. Even back when I was in Grimmauld Place all alone, knowing that you were alive and had accepted me, and even cared for me, was enough to help me stave off the incredibly bad feelings that my old home exults in. And thank you for being willing to write Rebecca. Who knows, maybe you and she will hit it off."
Harry blanched. "Sirius, she's too old for me! Bleagh!"
Sirius laughed. "That's not what I meant, Harry. I just think she'd be a good person to have in your corner. She could kind of act like an unofficial godmother to you. But then," he said, his mood dropping again, "maybe she doesn't want anything to do with me or my family." Forcing a smile back onto his face, he continued, "And besides, you and she could never be interested in each other like that, she doesn't have red hair!"
The blush on Harry's face was truly spectacular, and Sirius fell on his back, chortling at how embarrassed Harry had gotten. "Harry, you have to tell her how you feel. She deserves to know, after having waited so long for you."
Harry groaned. "I don't want to talk about it, okay? Even if I did like Ginny like that, I couldn't ever be with her. Haven't you seen how dangerous it is to be around me?" Then he gasped, horrified at what he'd let slip.
Sirius was not stupid. "Harry, you do realize that I never mentioned any names, right? So, at least you know who the girl in question is. As far as being dangerous around you, I disagree. But it's not my assignment, I'll let your dad discuss that with you. Now, I'm going to have to be going soon, so, is there anything else you need to talk about? Maybe you need The Talk?"
Harry blushed again, and stammered out a "No--no, th. . . that's okay. Um, I-I don't--uh, there's no reason."
Sirius laughed uproariously again, then beckoned to Harry. "Come here, Harry. I have to leave soon, and I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you." Harry moved over, and Sirius wrapped him in a tight hug. "I love you so much, Harry. I'll be watching over you, although I don't think I'll be able to do much for you. But always remember that I'm there. You mean so much to me, and to your parents, and we love you so much. Don't ever forget that, okay?" Sirius' eyes were suspiciously shiny, and Harry had started to sniffle too.
"Sirius, please don't leave. I miss you so much!" Harry couldn't keep the sobs from coming now. "I don't want to be alone again, please, stay with me!"
"I'm sorry, Harry, I can't. But you won't be alone--Ron and Hermione will always be with you. They love you too, and there are a lot of others who will be with you. Arthur and Molly love you as their own, and I'm sure you can think of someone closer to your age who loves you even more than they do. We'll always be with you, even if you can't see us."
Harry just sat there, wrapped up in Sirius's arms, crying out the pain and loss he felt. As his sobs started to finally fade, he felt a change in Sirius--he looked, and saw that the previously-solid man was starting to fade. The grip that Sirius had on Harry started to loosen too, and Harry knew it was time. "Goodbye, Sirius. Thank you for coming. I, um, I love you." Sirius' eyes widened, then softened as he smiled back at the boy who had, for the first time in his life, told someone else he loved them.
"I love you too, Harry. Thank you for everything."
And with that, Sirius faded away completely, leaving an emotionally exhausted teenage boy, who promptly fell into a deep sleep.
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