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Fics begun in 2003 (post-OOTP)

Author Notes:

YoR Redux will become the 'official' version of Years of Rebellion upon completion of each chapter.

Chapter Four
SIRIUS MATTERS

Harry turned and found another commotion.  Dobby stood near the doors, hands on hips and foot tapping, locked in a furious exchange with two goblins as Dedalus Diggle looked on.  The house-elf wore something made of denim swatches with a shiny trim; it looked rather like a tuxedo, but the bright orange socks and argyle fisherman’s cap pushed aside the image.

Dobby turned his attention away from the goblins as Harry approached.  “Is this suitable, Harry Potter?” he asked brightly.  “Winky tells Dobby that the servants of such an important person as yourself, sir, must make the proper impression.”

Harry shook his head.  “You’re not my… never mind that, why are you here?”

“It is Dobby’s job to greet Harry Potter’s guests, even if Harry Potter’s guests are at Gringotts Bank,” the house-elf explained.

“Your elf was not on the approved list,” one of the goblins grunted.

“Dobby doesn’t belong to me,” Harry said; “he’s a friend.  I want him here, so you can change your list.”

“It is a house-elf,” the other goblin said.  “House-elves are property.  Is the elf your property or not?”

“Dobby is a free elf, and he’s my friend,” Harry insisted.  “Er, I could ask Ragnok about changing the list if you like?”

“A free elf?” the first goblin said incredulously, even as the second quickly added, “Ragnok will not be needed – the elf remains.”

Dobby grinned and then bowed to Harry.  “Dobby will take his station at the entry,” he said.  “Will Harry Potter receive his guests at the front of the room?”

“Receive my…?  Uh, I’ll just stand here, I suppose,” Harry managed.

The doors slowly opened and Dobby began to say, “Welcome to the reading of Sirius Black’s –” The house-elf’s eyes bulged; he crossed his arms and squealed, “Dobby does not care about the list; you may not enter!  Dobby will not let you harm Harry Potter!”  In the open doorway stood Narcissa Black Malfoy and her son Draco.

Harry felt the rage flood back into him, into every chasm – into every empty space inside.  His wand was out in an instant.  “YOU!” he exploded, “How dare you show your faces here, you – you – MURDERERS!”  The goblins looked around uncertainly, weighing whether to protect Harry or the Malfoys.

Lupin said calmly from behind Harry, “Lower your wand; you heard what Ragnok said just now.”

Why should I?  You KNOW what they did!” Harry shouted, waving his wand wildly.

Lupin pulled Harry back a few steps.  “Harry, they were invited here by Sirius,” he said.

Harry’s jaw clenched.  “He wouldn’t… what was he thinking?”

“They’re Sirius’s cousins, of course,” Lupin said.  “This is your first opportunity to act as an adult.  Put it to good use.”  He made Harry take a few slow, deep breaths before moving away.  Dobby still stood before the Malfoys with his arms sternly crossed; he wouldn’t let them move beyond the doors.

Harry said to Dobby in a forced way, “Would you please take our guests’ cloaks?  Perhaps you could arrange for some refreshments?”  Dobby hesitated, his mouth drawn into a snarl.

Narcissa Malfoy coolly raised an eyebrow.  She showed no trace of having even seen Harry’s outburst.  “I will not leave my cloak with this creature,” she said.  “Why is it here?”

Harry replied as evenly as he could manage, “Dobby has chosen to work for me, Mrs. Malfoy.  Keep your cloak.”

Mrs. Malfoy slowly surveyed the room before she returned her eyes to Harry.  “Come, Draco,” she drawled.

Harry watched and waited for the slightest excuse to hex Draco – the first sign of any threat at all, even a cutting remark.  Malfoy didn’t react beyond a simple smirk.  The Black family tapestry had been hung near the table at the front of the room.  Mrs. Malfoy headed there and Draco followed; she peered closely at the entries near the bottom and visibly recoiled.  Snape moved quickly to acknowledge them and Harry’s rage continued to mount.

Dumbledore watched Harry with clear curiosity.  Harry decided to take charge of his relationship with the Headmaster for once; he stalked across the room like a sleek predator.

“We need to talk, and now is as good a time as any,” Harry said quietly after he drew close.

Dumbledore slowly nodded.  He casually waved his hand and Harry heard a faint buzzing.  “It is a simple muffling charm, one too weak for detection by goblins,” he explained.

“Snape was the eavesdropper, wasn’t he?” Harry blurted out.

Dumbledore pursed his lips for a moment and then said, “I am surprised that you revealed your… information… to him, although you were correct that he can conceal it.”

Harry ignored the attempt at diversion.  “Well?  Was he the eavesdropper or not?” he demanded.

“Severus was still serving Voldemort at the time,” Dumbledore said.  “It was shortly after that event when he first sought me out.”

Harry was suddenly struck by a horrible thought and it burst out of him.  “He could have saved my parents!  He was inside the Death Eaters – he had to know about Wormtail!  That…!”  He balled his fists and exploded into a stream of cursing that made his Headmaster faintly blush.

Dumbledore cupped his hand over Harry’s and said, “He did not know.”

Harry stopped in mid-curse.  “Wha –?” was all he managed.

“Severus was hardly within Voldemort’s inner circle; he was far too young at the time,” Dumbledore explained.  “He was not privy to all the Death Eaters’ undertakings, and I did not expect otherwise.  He shared what intelligence he could glean.  He confirmed that Remus was not a Death Eater, but your father was beyond listening by then.  I received an owl from Severus almost at the moment that your parents were killed.  He chose to accompany Voldemort, hoping to reach your mother first.”

“He had to know about Wormtail, then – he had to!” Harry insisted.

Dumbledore’s face sank, adding years to his eyes as he spoke.  “Pettigrew’s treachery was carefully concealed from us all.  None of us knew the truth for more than twelve years.  As for Professor Snape, he… oh, Harry, Severus chose the wrong door.  He went to the bedroom instead of the nursery.  By the time he reversed course Voldemort was ahead of him.  Professor Snape witnessed the death of your mother.  He has never fully recovered from that.”

“I don’t believe you,” Harry spat.  “How did he get out of the house, then?  It was destroyed, or was that a lie as well?”

“I taught Occlumency to Severus,” Dumbledore told him, “and thus he is unable to easily hide anything from me.  I probed his mind in the aftermath.  I was… I am not proud of my actions toward him, and I shall leave it at that.  In order to be cleared, the Ministry ultimately required him to take Veritaserum.  I was able to privately question him afterward, and confirmed everything that I could see in his thoughts and memories.  I ask you to believe what I am telling you.  I ask you to believe, and to attempt to understand.  Professor Snape is not evil, Harry.  He is capable of great cruelty and he harbours terrible anger, but he is not evil.  He is… broken.”

Dumbledore watched Harry and awaited a response.  Harry struggled for calm but couldn’t find it.  The whole room – all of Gringotts – seemed awash in so much emotion that he thought he might drown in it.  He thought hard about what to say and settled on the truth.  “I’m not ready to hear this now,” he said.

“I respect your response,” Dumbledore said with a faint smile.  “Now then, how have you been sleeping?  I understand that you had an unpleasant sight this morning.”

“My notes weren’t enough?” Harry sighed.

“They were most thorough,” Dumbledore assured him.  “I have but a few questions, for the sake of clarity.  Voldemort’s curse was performed using a wand?”

“Yes; I… erm, I mean, he was moving it around in different patterns,” Harry said.

“I see… can you recall the incantation?” asked Dumbledore.

“It was –”  Harry stopped.  The end of the vision suddenly seemed quite fuzzy.  “I’m… I’m not certain.  I know I heard it; it was clear in my mind.”

“Relax for a moment, and then try once again to recall it,” Dumbledore suggested.

“It was – ouch!”  Harry clutched at his temples.  “I don’t understand… I can’t seem to think on it at all!”

“Voldemort must have realized that you were present and attempted to confound you,” offered Dumbledore.  “The pain is an illusion, my boy.  Find your relaxed state, and think on the incantation one word at a time.”

“I don’t have a relaxed state,” Harry grumbled.  “It was only two sodding – er, that really hurts! – two sodding – oh, bollocks!”

Dumbledore laughed, “I have never heard the word ‘bollocks’ used in an incantation before; this must be something quite special indeed.”

Harry laughed with him and the pain relented – even the wave of emotion receded a little.  He heard an echo of the spell in his head and quickly shouted out, “Plasma trans-tulley!  Or… uh… something like that, I don’t know.  Does that make any sense to you?”

Dumbledore mouthed the words silently and a faint look of recognition came over him.  “It is vaguely familiar… quite old, I believe.  That may explain the incorporation of runes.  It surprises me that Tom would dabble in the old magics when he has shown such disregard for them in the past.   Some research is required to be certain.  Now, could you offer an explanation as to how Sirius figured into the vision?”

“Sirius wasn’t in the vision,” Harry returned.  “Did Lupin mention that to you?”  Dumbledore nodded.

“I had a dream before the vision,” admitted Harry.  “It wasn’t important.  I’ve been having dreams about Sirius since it happened.”

“Do you mean to say ‘nightmares’?” Dumbledore asked.

“I meant ‘dreams’, and they’re not important,” Harry said.  “Voldemort hasn’t turned up in any of them until now, and this was the first vision I’ve had since the end of the school year.”

“Excellent, Harry – this is an indication that you have made great progress, perhaps despite your instruction.  Still, nightmares will threaten your control,” Dumbledore warned.  “They open your mind to influence and penetration.  A small amount of Dreamless Sleep potion may be in order, or perhaps someone with whom you might discuss your dreams?”

“I’ve had enough taken from me,” Harry snapped.  “Dreams, nightmares – I don’t care.  They’re as close as I’ll ever get to Sirius again, and they’re mine.”

“These were merely suggestions for –” Dumbledore began.

I’ll handle it,” Harry said firmly.

Dumbledore watched Harry for a while.  Harry for his part was unwilling to let his eyes waver, even when he began to feel like a participant in an awkward staring contest.  Finally, Dumbledore suggested, “Perhaps you should greet the other beneficiaries?”

Mad-Eye Moody was hobbling around the hall, though Harry noticed he never moved more than ten steps clear of the door.  “Hello, boy,” he growled by way of greeting.

Harry was still fuming.  “Why are you here?” he snapped.  “Did you get a letter?”

Moody smiled his disturbing smile.  “Black and I weren’t what you call close,” he said.  “I’m extra security for the Weasleys and the Granger girl – Dumbledore’s request.  You can never be too careful.”

“Right… constant bloody vigilance,” Harry muttered.

With one eye on the door, Dobby walked amongst the small knot of goblins who had not yet left the hall; he offered them something red and bubbling in stone mugs on an iron tray, which they took without acknowledgement.  In a flash he was at Harry’s side.  “Dobby thought it best to keep the goblins well watered.  Dobby hopes that Harry Potter is satisfied with Dobby’s service,” he said.

Harry didn’t want to smile but he couldn’t help himself.  “You’re doing a fine job, Dobby, but you’re not a servant.  You work for me, right?”

“There is no need for the insulting, Harry Potter,” Dobby huffed.  “Dobby serves, and Winky serves.  This means we are servants – end of discussion, sir.”

Harry shook his head.  “I’m not letting up on this, you know?”

“Dobby is needed at the door,” the house-elf said quickly.  He ushered in Tonks and her parents, who waved to Harry as they passed.  Harry watched Dedalus Diggle wander the hall, oscillating between excitement and nervousness.  Diggle ended up in a sharp-looking exchange with Ted Tonks and Harry looked on from the corner of his eye until Professor McGonagall came into the hall.  He hadn’t expected to see her but Dobby was trying to attend to everyone all at once and she was moved along before he could speak with her.  The door had closed of its own accord and someone began to knock loudly.  I’m hardly royalty, Harry thought; I can answer the door myself, for goodness’ sake.

Molly Weasley stopped at the threshold and looked at him blankly for a moment before recognition set in.  “Harry, so nice to see you!” she said.  “Bill told us you’d changed a bit, but I had no idea…” She gave him a light hug, then stepped back to examine him.  “It looks as if you were fed this summer.  I suppose it paid to give your uncle a talking-to.”  She seemed subdued to Harry, a state he had never before associated with Mrs. Weasley. 

Arthur Weasley was right behind his wife.  “Hello, Harry,” he said.  “We’d like to offer our condolences – should have done it weeks ago.”  Harry thought Mr. Weasley looked as if he’d aged five years in five weeks.

Harry stepped to one side and insisted, “Come in, please!  I didn’t mean to block your way.”



“Dodgy time of day for a party, isn’t it?” Ron said.  He was still taller than Harry, though the gap had closed an inch or two over the past year.  Under the bright gaslights of the hall, there were dark circles under Ron’s eyes. 

Ginny budged Ron aside.  “Hi, Harry,” she said with a curious smile.  Harry wondered what she was playing at.  The twins waited for the others to clear the doorway.

As the other Weasleys moved toward McGonagall, Harry pulled Ron aside.  “Nice to see you, mate,” he said.

“Glad you’re okay, I suppose.  An owl or two wouldn’t have been too hard on you, eh?  Hope you’ve had a cracking good time,” Ron fired back.

“Ron, I –”

Ron’s face exploded in a full-out flush.  “ ’Course I know you’ve been really busy lately – everybody knows that, what with the whole world coming to a halt.  So how’s it feel being a big man now?”

The last thing Harry wanted was to handle a jealous rant.  “Save it for Malfoy,” he snapped.

“Malfoy… he’s here?” Ron snarled.  “He’s a relative and all, but I didn’t think the slimy git would dare show up.  I figured he’d be too busy kissing his daddy’s backside.”

Harry was confused.  “Kissing his… pardon?”

Ron gaped at Harry.  “What, you don’t know?”

Harry shook his head.  “No owls and no Daily Prophet this summer,” he said.  “I saw Neville at Diagon Alley and he told me about the attacks on Muggles.  Come to think of it, I heard about them first from Hermione on the phone but she didn’t have a chance to explain…”

Ron’s eyes lit up.  “You talked to Hermione on the fellytone?” he asked.  “How did she sound?  Did you talk to her before or after the scare they had?”

“During, actually,” Harry said.  “I was talking to her and she had to leave in a rush.”

Ron said with a shudder, “It had to have been V-Voldemort.  Professor Dumbledore was right to post a watch with the Grangers.”

“What was it – I mean, what did he send her?” asked Harry.

“A book and a rose!” Ron huffed.  “A bloody rose just shows up in mid-air, right next to her.  I mean, they’ve got wards on top of wards – no Floo, no Apparating in or out, nothing.  Then the book and the rose, they go all fuzzy and fall apart – bam! – nothing left but dust.  Who else would have done that?  I’d have been a lot happier if she’d gone somewhere else – maybe the Burrow – but Professor Dumbledore thought they’d be more comfortable there.”

Harry began, “I’m sorry –”

“That won’t scratch with Hermione,” Ron said.  “She was going spare, thinking you were dead or something.  I heard she made them give her Mrs. Figg’s fellytone thingy so she could be sure you were checking in.”

Harry changed the subject.  “What’s this about Malfoy and his dad’s backside, then?” he asked

“He got off; not a grand surprise, I suppose,” Ron grumbled.

“How could he get off?  How?  He was there – people saw him!” Harry demanded.

Heads snapped around in their direction, and Ron answered in a low voice, “It isn’t hard to figure.  People listen to Galleons, right?  He claimed the Imperius Curse and Fudge came out in favour of him.”

“He claimed the curse again – of course he did,” Harry sneered.  “Fudge… if anyone’s under that curse, it’s him.

Dedalus Diggle called out, “Attention!  Attention, everyone!  Thank you for coming, though I dare say, I didn’t expect that so many of you would arrive early.  Mr. Black stipulated that the reading of the will should conclude at midnight, which forced me to guess as to how long the reading would actually take.  We may as well begin now, on the change that I’ve guessed wrongly.  Take a seat, if you please!”  Ron drifted off to his family and Harry took a seat next to Lupin at the front of the room. 

Diggle took off his top hat and ruffled through a violet valise.  He took out pince-nez glasses and a thick sheaf of parchment.  “Now then,” he began, “I am Dedalus Diggle, for those who do not know me, and I was charged to represent Mr. Black’s interests in the event of his untimely passing.  Let me begin by expressing my deepest sympathy to all of you.  Mr. Black was a friend to many of you and a relative to others.  I met him more than twenty years ago and I consider it an honor to serve him now –”  He stopped and shot a pointed but nervous look at Dumbledore, before continuing, “ – despite how some may feel about the decisions he has taken.”  After some more ruffling of parchment, he added, “Mr. Black made more than one interesting decision, as you will all soon discover.”

He adjusted his glasses and looked up and down the top sheet of parchment.  “Let me confirm that all concerned have arrived before going further.  Harry Potter is here, of course.  Andromeda Black Tonks, Theodore Tonks and Nymphadora Tonks are here.  Narcissa Black Malfoy and Draco Malfoy are here; I do not see Lucius Malfoy…?”

“He will not be attending,” Mrs. Malfoy said.

Diggle nodded and went on, “Arthur, Molly, Ronald, Ginevra, Alfred and George Weasley are all here.  I do not see your other children here, Molly…?”

“Bill couldn’t attend and Charlie is in Romania,” Mrs. Weasley said.  “Arthur and I are representing them.”

“And Percival…?” Diggle asked.

“That would be a matter for Percy,” Mr. Weasley said sharply.

“I see,” Diggle said.  “Albus Dumbledore is here, of course…. Hermione Granger?”

“She will be here presently,” Dumbledore said.

Diggle pulled at his collar and Harry thought that the room felt a little too warm.  “Minerva McGonagall is here…” Diggle said.  “I see Severus Snape… Kingsley Shacklebolt?”

“I’m here, along with the Grangers,” Shacklebolt said from the doorway.

Harry turned quickly.  Shacklebolt was standing behind Mr. and Mrs. Granger.  Next to him, Hermione pulled back the hood of her dark cloak.  Her hair was less bushy than Harry recalled it – more a mass of curls and waves.  Dobby discreetly took her cloak.  She wore a long-sleeved black dress.  Harry hadn’t really paid any mind to what others were wearing; now he noticed that everyone was dressed rather formally.  Thank goodness Lupin made me buy a suit, he though.

Hermione caught Harry’s eye, looking at him with – sadness?  Sympathy?  She mouthed “I’m so sorry” to him.  He motioned to an empty chair between him and Lupin, but she inclined her head toward her parents.  The three of them moved into the row of chairs behind the Weasleys.  Shacklebolt remained at the back, near Dumbledore.

Diggle pulled out a quill and handed it to Lupin, along with a blank piece of parchment.  “Before we begin, I have a document that I am required to distribute.  It has been reviewed by Gringotts for safety and authenticity,” he said.  “Mr. Lupin, Mr. Black told me that either you or Harry would understand.”

Lupin’s lips twitched.  He touched his wand to the parchment and said, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”  Tonks snickered and the Weasley twins openly gaped at Lupin.  Dense rows of text appeared on the parchment.

Lupin passed the parchment back to Diggle who squinted at the text.  “This document is a confidentiality charm,” he said.  “In order to remain here and participate in the reading, you must first sign this.  The document limits that which you can discuss with anyone other than those who sign the document and remain present during the reading.  Some of them… er… do not strike me as things that would come up in a civil conversation…”  Diggle reddened to the sound of mild laughter.  “I would say that the terms appear reasonable.  I advise you to read thoroughly before signing, however.  If you do not wish to sign the parchment, then I must ask you to leave the room before we continue.”

He signed the document himself and then passed it back to Lupin, who shook his head as he read and then laughed loudly as he took the quill in hand and signed his name.  He passed it back to Tonks, who laughed and cried all at once as she looked it over and signed, before she passed it to her parents.

Andromeda Tonks said, “Sirius, you dog!” in a way that left Harry with more than a few questions.  She nudged Mr. Tonks, who leaned in and then snorted.  They both signed and passed the parchment and quill to Harry.  He noticed that the text swam and shifted as he took the parchment in hand.

 

I, Harry James Potter, solemnly swear that I will not divulge to anyone other than those present and signatory to this agreement that Sirius Orion Black thinks Draco Perseus Malfoy is a pathetic, spineless, spoiled git who deserves nothing in life.  Knowing this, I nonetheless promise that I will only do lasting harm to Draco Perseus Malfoy by accident or in self-defence. 

I further swear that I will not divulge the whereabouts of the eighth passage from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade to anyone other than those who swear their allegiance and their lives to me, unless I have a damn good reason than I know without a doubt Sirius Orion Black would understand.  

I solemnly swear that I will listen to Remus John Lupin, even against my better judgment, because he deserves my respect and is more often right than wrong.

I solemnly swear that I will hear what Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore has to say, at least from time to time, though I would be wise to doubt his intentions and it may be necessary for me to tell him to get stuffed.

I solemnly swear to stick by my friends, even if they forsake me from time to time, for true friendship is worth that price.

I solemnly swear that I will find time and opportunity to enjoy my freedom, in the best spirit of Messrs. Moony, Padfoot and Prongs – to hell with Wormtail.

I solemnly swear that I will keep true love at any cost, should I stumble over it, for this is the best way that I can honour my parents.

Finally, I solemnly swear that I will play by Sirius’s rules tonight, certainly against the better judgment of all those assembled, and shall refrain from cursing Sirius Orion Black’s name until tomorrow.

This I so swear before all authority, both civil and supreme, on this 30th day of July, Anno Domini Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Six.

Harry didn’t know what to think – it was funny, bitter, strange, inviting and dangerous all at once.  It occurred to him that perhaps he didn’t know Sirius very well at all.  He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, though he knew that he didn’t want to cry in front of a room full of people.  He scrawled his name on the parchment, quickly passed it along and then leaned forward in his chair to collect himself.

When he at last sat up, he saw Hermione’s eyes upon him.  She looked sad and concerned and something else that he couldn’t place.  There were so many emotions flying about the room that it was bewildering.  Harry wanted to talk to her, to ask how she was really faring.  Ginny was also watching him with a sort of concern, but it seemed lighter somehow.

“A Knut for your thoughts, Harry,” Lupin said.

Harry was still somewhere else.  “Wha…?”

Lupin said in a near-whisper, “You’re the only one to this point who hasn’t laughed.”

“What did yours say?” Harry asked.

Lupin raised an eyebrow.  “Do you suppose…?”  He turned to face the row behind.  “Andromeda, why did you call Sirius a dog?”

She blushed and gripped her husband’s hand.  “I don’t think that’s for public consumption,” she said.  “Let’s call it a private joke and leave it at that.”

Lupin nodded, smiling.  “The text must fully conform to the reader,” he said.  “Sirius was terribly creative with parchment enchantments.”

Ron had the parchment just then.  His brow beetled in confusion, and then his eyes narrowed and jaw tightened.  “I’m not signing this,” he said flatly.

Mr. Weasley took the parchment from Ron.  After a moment, he said, “Ron, I’ll let you be of your own mind on this, but I don’t understand the problem.”

Ron’s eyes nearly bugged out.  “You don’t see the problem?  I can’t sign that!  The things he said… how can you not see the problem?”

Hermione put her hand on Ron’s forearm and he pulled away as though stung.  “I won’t do this for you,” he spat at Harry.  “You have everything anyone could ever want – he had no right!”  Both Mr. Weasley and Dumbledore sprang to their feet, but Ron brushed past his family and hurried out of the room. 

“Ronald Weasley, come back here at once!” Mrs. Weasley shouted after him.

Mr. Weasley hurriedly signed the parchment and said, “Dedalus, I’m going after him.  I trust that I can leave and then return?

Diggle fanned himself with a stray parchment.  “Goodness, I’d not expected something like this!  Yes, of course – but do hurry back!”

“What gives?” Fred said, glancing at the parchment.  “Merlin!  George, get a look at this!”  George leaned in and his eyes grew wide.  They both stared intently at Lupin and quickly signed.

Mrs. Weasley took the parchment and quill from her sons.  “Leave it to Sirius to stir up trouble… oh… oh, my…”  She fumbled for a handkerchief.  “Oh, dear… but why would this upset Ron so?  This can’t be what he read…”  She dabbed at her eyes and asked Ginny, “Would you take a look at this, dear?”

Ginny took the parchment without acknowledging her mother.  She read it through, and then seemed to read it a second time, this time with one eyebrow raised.  “I… I don’t see anything to make Ron go off…” she said haltingly.  Her eyes never left Harry as she handed off the parchment to Hermione.



Hermione froze before her eyes reached the bottom of the sheet.  Harry knew terror when he saw it.  He was halfway to his feet when Lupin grasped him by the shoulder.

“This is between Hermione and Sirius,” Lupin whispered.  “You ought not interfere; honestly, I don’t know what might happen if you did.”

“Hermione?  Hermione, say something,” her mother said.

Hermione lowered the parchment to her lap and looked directly at Harry.  He felt like her eyes were boring through him, but he could read nothing in them – it was almost as if she was watching something well behind him.  He began to doubt that he would keep his oath not to curse Sirius’s name.

“Let me have a look,” Hermione’s father said, pulling at the parchment.  She wouldn’t release it so he leant over to read it.  “What’s all this?” he exclaimed.  “What are you people playing at?”

“I do apologise, but you’re not addressed in Mr. Black’s will.  Miss Granger is the beneficiary.  You are here as an allowance to her age.”

Mr. Granger turned crimson.  “She won’t be signing anything without our consent, and certainly not this.  I suggest that you –”

Without a word and without taking her eyes off Harry, Hermione pulled the parchment free of her father’s grasp, signed it and handed it to Professor McGonagall.  “Mr. Diggle, may I be excused for a moment?” she asked in a toneless voice and without awaiting an answer.

“Hermione, wait!” Mrs. Granger said, following her.

“I’m not going anywhere until I have an explanation,” Mr. Granger said sternly.  Lupin rose from his seat and made for Mr. Granger.  Harry used the opportunity to move quickly for the door.

Ron and Hermione stood a few paces into the corridor, arms crossed and exchanging glares.  Mrs. Granger had stopped just beyond the door.  She saw Harry and demanded, “Explain this.  Tell me anything, for God’s sake!  We’ve endured a 24 hour guard for the last month and all Hermione gives us is silence.  Dora and the others have explained more than she has, and we’re left with more questions than answers – and now this!  Perhaps now that you’re here, she’ll feel that she has permission to speak.”

Hermione’s head whipped around.  “I don’t need permission to speak, not from Harry or anyone else,” she sniffed.

“Hermione, we’ve been more than fair with you –” Mrs. Granger started.

Harry felt Mr. Granger behind him before he heard a voice.  “Yes, more than fair!” Mr. Granger growled.  “I’m a prisoner in my own house because of these people.  We… we should have followed our better judgment and ignored that Hogwarts letter in the first place!”

“Thomas, enough!” Mrs. Granger shouted.  “Hermione, did this Mr. Black ask you to do something?  Did you just agree to involve yourself in this conflict that’s happening?”

“It’s not a conflict, Mother; it’s a war.  You don’t agree to participate in a war.  It’s unavoidable – the entire wizarding world has to take sides,” Hermione said.

“This is absurd!” Mr. Granger said.  “You’re sixteen years old, for God’s sake!  That’s it, we’re going through with the move.  We’re – not a word, young lady, not a word – we’re going to sell what remains of the practice and move on.  Australia, Canada, America… anywhere but here.”

Ron’s arms fell.  “M-move?  What do you mean?”  Harry didn’t say it – he couldn’t seem to force a word out – but he was just as startled.



“I haven’t agreed to any such thing,” Mrs. Granger said angrily.  “I’m going to speak with my daughter now.  Go out into the hall and pace, or sulk, or whatever it is you do – I honestly don’t care at the moment.”  Mr. Granger clenched and unclenched his fists, harrumphed, and began to stomp away. 

“I… I’m sorry.  This is my fault, really,” Harry managed to say.

“We agree on something, then. Stay away from my daughter, Mr. Potter,” Mr. Granger stormed as he left.  Mrs. Granger studied Harry and he squirmed, waiting for her to say something.

Hermione broke the silence.  “I need to speak with Harry and Ron,” she said.

“I see,” Mrs. Granger said.

“Alone.”

Hermione’s mother kept looking at Harry.  “I’m not comfortable with that,” she said.

“After that, I’m going back into the room and I’m going to finish this.  You can wait with Dad, if you like,” Hermione went on.

“No,” Mrs. Granger said in a way that brooked no argument.

“You can drag me to Antarctica if you like, and it will change nothing,” Hermione said.  “I don’t know what else I can say to make you understand.”

“You could consider confiding in us!” Mrs. Granger pleaded.

“Perhaps I could confide in you, Mother,” Hermione said, “but if Dad was there, we’d be on the first plane to anywhere.  I need to speak with Harry and Ron – now, please.”

“She says the two of you are her best friends.  I hope you’re ready to act the part,” Mrs. Granger said to Ron and Harry before she headed after her husband.  As soon as she was gone, Hermione began to quietly sob.

“Hermione –” Ron started.

Don’t,” she said between ragged breaths; “not either of you!

“I wanted to tell you how sorry I am about that telephone call.  I was being cruel; I wasn’t thinking.  I’ve been doing that quite a lot lately: not thinking,” Harry said.

“Cruel?  What do you mean, you were cruel?” Ron snapped.

Tears welled along Hermione’s eyelashes.  “That call doesn’t seem so important just now,” she said.

“It is to me,” Harry told her.  “I was trying to hurt you, I think.  I can’t imagine anything more awful.  I thought – I thought I couldn’t hurt you.  Chalk up another mistake for Harry Potter, intentionally making his best friend feel horrid… wha…?”  Hermione enveloped him in a brief but firm hug; waves of her hair flowed across his face.  Rage and frustration flowed out of him.

“I think I know what you saw on the parchment, Ron,” she said.

Ron began to flush.  “You’re wrong,” he said.  “If you signed it, then you have to be wrong.”

“Obviously we all saw something different from one another,” Hermione said.  “Sirius must have charmed the parchment.  What did you see, Harry?”

“Yeah, I’d like to know that myself,” Ron huffed.

“He had quite a lot to say,” Harry ventured.  “I wonder if it’s okay for me to say anything now, or if we have to wait until afterward?  I don’t think any of us want to be hexed.” 

“Hadn’t thought of that,” Ron admitted.

“It’s a fair point,” Hermione said.  “But we have to talk later, then.  I have to talk to you about this – please don’t walk away.”

“I promise that much,” said Harry.

“Am I going to be a part of this, then?” asked Ron.

“If I’m right about what you saw, then I’m ashamed of you, Ron Weasley,” Hermione fumed.  “I can’t speak to him, Harry.  You tell him – you tell him that if he won’t sign, I may never speak to him again!”

“Well, you tell her that if she signed what I read, then I don’t care if she never speaks to me again!” Ron blustered.

“Oh, no, you aren’t putting me in the middle of this!” Harry snapped.  “Here we stand, arguing about something we can’t even talk about.  Do either of you think that Sirius wanted to set us against each other?  Well, do you?”  When both Ron and Hermione half-heartedly admitted the point, he went on, “The thing to do is set this aside until afterward, right?  We all sign the bloody thing and then we’ll work it out.”

“Language!” Hermione said absently.  Ron snorted and Harry started to laugh.  “Just because we’re fighting doesn’t mean that we should be coarse… stop that!” she huffed.  “It’s not funny!”

“Dunno… er… it’s rather funny, I think,” Ron said.

“And you?” Hermione asked Harry piercingly.

“Erm… it’s a little… amusing?  Just a tiny bit,” Harry offered.

“I’m returning to my seat,” Hermione said.  “What are you doing, Ronald?”

“I’ll sign the parchment – the bloody parchment,” said Ron.

Hermione growled at him and then said, “When you finish whatever bonding ritual boys use to settle their disagreements, I expect to see both of you in there.” She left them there, head held high.

“Ahh, I missed that walk of hers,” Ron said, “the one that says ‘I’m better than the rest of you’.”

“Look, I didn’t mean to make everyone angry by not answering posts,” Harry offered.

“I suppose you didn’t,” Ron said with a shrug.  “I would like to have gotten away from all of this, too – not much choice in that, though.”  He rolled back his sleeves to reveal a number of green-tinged welts.

“Merlin!  They look worse now than they did in the hospital wing!” exclaimed Harry.

Ron let his sleeves down.  “Thanks for that,” he said.  “There’s a bonus, too.  The brains showed me… things.”  He shuddered.  “I don’t know how you’ve managed it, having him in your head.  They only let me have Dreamless Sleep for the first two weeks.  I’ve been to Madam Pomfrey, three mediwizards and a mediwitch.  I’m not spirit possessed, I’m not carrying some sort of evil parasite, and I don’t have the Dark Mark – other than that, they don’t know a lot.”  Harry went very quiet.

“Say something,” said Ron.  “I can’t stand this, you know?”

“I figured that maybe we needed something else in common, right?  We’ve got Quidditch and food, sure – ” Harry managed a hollow laugh, then went on, “This isn’t what I had in mind.  I do know what you’re going through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  I just… look, just being around me hurts people.  I figured that if I was alone…” His eyes watered and he wiped at them.

Ron pressed his hand awkwardly against the back of Harry’s shoulder.  “Harry?  Don’t – stop that, now, you don’t need to – it’s not your fault, for goodness’ sake!”

“Not my fault?  If I’d left well enough alone, you and Hermione and everyone else wouldn’t have been hurt, and Sirius – oh God, Sirius… I may as well have killed him,” Harry said bitterly.

“Aww… did the Weasel say nasty things to ickle Potter?” a silky voice drawled from the doorway.  “And to think I thought this little party was going to be a bust!”

Ron snapped, “Sod off, Malfoy!”

“Ha – I know what this is about!  The green-eyed witch rears her head, eh?  Jealousy’s unbecoming, Potter, although I’d expect it from the Weasel and his sort.”  Malfoy looked gleeful.  “This will make for all manner of fun.  The Quidditch Jester and the Boy-Who-Shouldn’t-Have-Lived squabbling over the whiny bookworm – ”

“Don’t insult her,” Harry snarled.

Ron was right behind him, and added, “I’d watch myself if I were you, Malfoy.”

“Touching, isn’t it?” sneered Malfoy.  “Of course that’s exactly what you want to be doing, isn’t it, Potter?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ron growled.

“Don’t make me angry, Malfoy,” Harry said darkly.  “It’s not a good idea.”

“So it’s true, Potter?” Draco purred as a smile spread across his face.  “A little owl told me that you’re having control problems.”

“All the more reason to sod off,” Harry said as calmly as he could manage.  He gritted his teeth and added, “I don’t want to hurt you,” even as he screamed the opposite inside his head.  A warm draft began to blow through the corridor, adding to Harry’s tension.  He wiped sweat off his brow with one hand.

Malfoy wouldn’t leave it alone.  “Best you get a handle on it, then, before you and your Mudblood princess decide to, you know…?” he said, and then made an obscene and very obvious gesture with his hands.

Harry felt as if he was about to explode.  “WHAT DID YOU CALL HER?” he screamed; his voice sounded like it came from a supercharged Sonorus spell.  Harry kept screaming at Malfoy, spewing out five years’ worth of hatred.  Malfoy spewed a string of profanity back at him, with his hands clapped over his ears and through a grimace of pain.  There were angry voices in the background, voices that Harry could barely make out.



Stop it, mate – take a step back!”

What’s happened here?  Harry, calm yourself.  Mr. Malfoy, why must you always antagonize?”

Harry, don’t!  I don’t know why he needs to use that awful name, but he’s not worth this.”

Why is it so difficult for you all to understand the meaning of ‘no wizarding magic’?”



Harry’s head throbbed and he felt like he was moving in thick syrup.  He was surely on fire, the room was so hot.  A hand touched him and he heard the last clearly: “Harry, don’t.  Please!”

“NEVER CALL HER THAT AGAIN!” Harry shouted.  Draco clutched at his head, his eyes squeezed shut; something reddish seeped between his fingers.  Harry took deep burning breaths.  It was hard to find a calm place, but somehow the hand touching him made it easier.  Then there was agony…

 

Don’t stop now, Harry Potter!” Harry shrieked.  “I want your rage – it’s so delicious!” He swept around the candle-lit room, looking for Wormtail, but then realized that the rat had already gone to make preparations.  His balance was improving as he recovered from the phasma transtuli ritual, and the pacing seemed to help.

Hello, boy,” Harry said; It’s so nice of you to come visiting.  Let me leave you something more to remember me by.”

 

Harry couldn’t see or hear anything, and for an instant he didn’t know where he was.  He took a step and fell to the floor. 

The hand stroked his hair.  A voice echoed in his ears, through deep water.  “Harry!  Harry, can you hear me?  Are you all right?  Someone fetch a towel!”

He wanted to shout, but the shout emptied out into the same deep water.  He heard his own voice in the distance, hoarse and ragged.  “Someone help me!  I can’t get out!” 

He struggled to swim, but it was so hard.  He wondered what Hermione would think if he drowned.  She’d probably go running off with Ron, he fumed.  His feet pushed off the sandy bottom, and he dashed for the surface as hard and fast as he could…

“Potter!  Time to wake up, boy!  I don’t care if he’s unconscious; smear the chocolate in his mouth if you have to.  You’d think none of you had ever been in combat.  Stop coddling him, Granger.  And you – if you’re going to cry, go in the other room.  Potter!  Snap out of it, damn you!”

Harry’s eyes flickered, letting in searing white light.  “Am I dead?”  He blinked rapidly, his eyes watering. 

“Do I look like a ghost?”  Mad-Eye Moody was glowering over him.

“Urgh… uh – demon, maybe?” Harry managed, his voice strained and weak.

“He’s awake,” Moody announced.  A crowd of people seemed to materialize around Harry, and the corridor began to swim.  He rolled to one side and violently spewed up.

“Whoops – back up, everyone.  Give ‘im some room,” Moody said.  Harry saw a flash of movement in the corner of his eye, as he rolled to his back again.  Harry sat up, very slowly.  Everyone seemed to be clustered around him, excepting Snape and the Malfoys.

“Harry, I was so worried.  You scared me half to death,” Hermione said.  She knelt next to him, a tea towel spotted with blood in one hand, and chocolate held out to him with the other.  “Did you see – ?”

Harry nodded and took the chocolate.  He tore off a bit, and let it linger in his mouth until he decided that swallowing wouldn’t make him spew up again.  “It was like the time in the spring.  I was him.”

Dumbledore bent down, his head next to Hermione’s.  “This may not be the proper time or place, Harry.”

Harry reached out and grasped Hermione’s hand.  “You saved me,” he said.

“I – I don’t understand.”

“You saved me,” Harry repeated.  “I was lost and you saved me.”

Hermione looked away.  “I’m glad I signed the parchment,” she said. 

Harry didn’t know what to say.  He didn’t like feeling nervous around her.  It didn’t help that her father was fifteen feet away, trying unsuccessfully to burn Harry to a crisp with his eyes.  Harry just wanted everything to feel like his first and second years at Hogwarts again, before all the secrets, when he could tell Hermione and Ron anything in the world.  I have to talk to Dumbledore, he thought, like it or not.

“Hermione,” Harry said, “Dumbledore and I need to talk, and I don’t know if I can stand.  Could you…?”

Hermione stood up and said in a firm, loud voice that rivalled McGonagall, “Harry would like us all to get on with the reading.  That is why we’re here, after all.  He’ll be joining us presently, so why don’t we all return to the room?”  It was clear that she was not making a request.  Harry gave her a wave of thanks.

Dumbledore asked gently, “May I help you up?”

Harry waved him off, but Dumbledore conjured a small mauve sofa and carefully manoeuvred Harry onto it before conjuring an armchair for himself.

Dumbledore looked at Harry intently.  “Did you see Voldemort again, Harry?” he asked.

Harry nodded.  “He was in the same place as before, I think.  It’s difficult to know for certain, since there’s so little light.  He was angry; he said he wanted my rage.  He said…” Harry choked on the words.

Dumbledore asked, “What?  What did he say?”

The words tumbled out.  “He said that it was delicious.”

“I see.”  Dumbledore looked troubled.  “What else, Harry?”

“He knew I was there… said he’d give me something to remember him by,” Harry told him.

Dumbledore pulled a light blue handkerchief from his robes, giving it to Harry.  “You might want to hold that to your forehead.  Kingsley and Moody were able alternatives to a mediwizard, but Voldemort does not leave ordinary wounds.”

“What, is my scar bleeding?” Harry asked.

“No, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “He apparently tried to mark the other side of your forehead.  It should not form a scar, although I will ask Madam Pomfrey for an appropriate unction just to be sure.”

“Why –”

Dumbledore brought Harry’s hand and the handkerchief up to his forehead.  “Try not to think about it anymore, at least not tonight.  Would you like more chocolate?”

“No.”

“Lemon drop?”

Harry snapped impatiently, “I thought that you were finished mothering me.”

Dumbledore looked at Harry sadly.  “Is that what you took away from our last conversation in my office?  If it is, then I am sorry.  Why is it that we can not seem to get through to each other, you and me?”

Harry felt the same combination of anger and embarrassment that filled him at Gringotts.  “Let’s just finish this, all right?  Why did he cut me?”

Dumbledore sighed.  “I imagine that he wounded you in order to discourage you from entering his mind.  I do not believe that Voldemort intended to let you in, now or this morning.  You may be overwhelming his efforts at Occlumency.  I can think of nothing to be gained by revealing his plans or telling you that he desires your rage.  Why would he give you an opportunity to thwart his plans or to control yourself?”

“He didn’t know I was there until the end,” said Harry.  “He wasn’t deceiving me.”

Dumbledore looked at Harry with obvious interest.  “What makes you say that, Harry?”

“I – I don’t know.  It’s just something I could feel.  He wasn’t lying.  He wasn’t telling the truth, either.  It was all just, I don’t know. . .”

“Factual?” asked Dumbledore.

“Uh-huh.  He was just stating facts, or believed that he was.”

“Interesting.  Your Legilimency skills are also developing.  These are good signs, Harry.  Very good signs.”  Dumbledore smiled at him.

“There’s something else.  I –”

Dumbledore shook his head.  “You have had enough for tonight, Harry, especially if you truly wish to attend the reading.  Perhaps tomorrow –”

“This shouldn’t wait,” Harry insisted.  “He didn’t sound the same.”

Dumbledore said, “Explain this to me.”

“Even though – you know – he’s me, I sound like him,” Harry tried explaining.  “I hear his voice speaking, not mine.  It sounds a little different than in person.  I’ve wondered before if I hear his voice the way it sounds to him.  Anyway, I – erm, I mean he sounded different tonight.  The voice was deeper.”

“Curious,” Dumbledore said.  “I will need to think on this.  Thank you, Harry.”  Dumbledore extended a hand to Harry, who only accepted it because he couldn’t stand on his own.  The Headmaster continued to support him until he reached the door.  Harry found his footing and then strode into the room unaided to face whatever Sirius had wrought.

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