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Fics begun in 2003 (post-OOTP)

Chapter Five


Inside the room, most of the beneficiaries were looking at parchment envelopes emblazoned with their names as written in Sirius’ loopy handwriting.  Diggle stood next to Narcissa Malfoy, wildly gesturing and whispering.  Hermione was having something of a row with Ron, who had apparently signed the parchment.  Harry stumbled once, waved off Dumbledore, and lurched to his seat.  Hermione started to come to him but Ron seized her by the hand.  She sat back down – Harry thought reluctantly, but he wasn’t certain – and Ron kept hold of her hand.  Mrs. Granger had returned to the room, and seemed torn between staring at Ron’s handholding and glaring at Harry. Ginny gave Ron a strange look, and she moved to sit in the empty seat next to Harry. 

Dumbledore said, “Excuse me,” and everyone in the room stopped what they were doing.  “I will see what is keeping Professor Snape and Mr. Malfoy.  Dedalus, I believe that you should move along.  We will join you shortly.”

Lupin asked, “Are you sure you should be here, Harry?  That was quite an ordeal.”  Tonks leaned forward in her seat and patted Harry on the shoulder.

Harry said quietly, “I’ll get through it.”  He felt reasonably sure that was true.

Diggle twittered at Harry, “So glad to see you’re up and around – gave us a bit of a fright, young man!  I can scarcely take all this excitement!  I don’t suppose that was Sirius’ intention, but then again, who can be sure?”  He retrieved the violet valise from the table, and rooted around inside of it for something.  “I believe everyone has their envelopes.  Mr. Black left each of you a letter, some of them rather lengthy.  Harry, your letter was in the box that you received.  As for the actual will…”

He pulled a stone bowl from the valise, and then a smaller silver cylinder with intricate engraving.  Diggle placed the cylinder on one end inside the bowl.  He raised his wand, muttered under his breath, and pressed the tip of the wand hard against the exposed end of the cylinder.  The cylinder split in the centre and disgorged shining silver threads that filled the bowl.

Lupin whispered to Harry, “It’s a Solicitor’s Pensieve – very little capacity, but it holds the thoughts much more securely… still quite rare, though.”

Diggle tapped several times in a pattern, muttered another incantation, and grazed the tip of his wand through the silver threads.  A wave of silver rose from the bowl, spread out, and slowly resolved into a glittering Sirius Black seated on the edge of the table.  Ginny tightly squeezed Harry’s hand; she was as startled as he was, he figured.

“Welcome, everyone,” he said.  “For those who haven’t seen me in many years, I’m Sirius Black and I’m dead.  Isn’t that a kettle of fish?  I imagine I’m not terribly happy about it, you know – the whole death thing.  Then again, being trapped in Grimmauld Place has been a bit like death.  Thank you so much, Albus, for arranging my second captivity.  What else should I say…?  If you’re seeing this, it must be summertime.  I’m planning to update around the time that Harry returns from Hogwarts.  Sixteen is an important milestone, Harry, and I have arranged quite a surprise for you!  Of course, since you’re watching me from Diggle’s pensieve, I missed it.  Sorry, Harry, I’ve always been the last one to the dance and the last one home.”

The silvery Sirius stood up.  He wore a simple cloak, plain shirt and trousers, and boots that looked a lot like Bill Weasley’s dragon-hide pair.  He thrust his hands into his pockets and shuffled while he talked.  “I’ll have a bit to say to all of you before I’m finished.  But first, my ground rules – I have the gold… for now… so I make the rules.  If you’re seeing this, then you’ve already signed a little bond just between us.  It’s some of my best work, if I do say so myself.  If you don’t play by the rules, or if you curse my name tonight, then there will be consequences… nothing fatal or long lasting, but certainly worthy of my reputation.  Moony, my old friend, here’s hoping someone cheats or curses me – you’ll be proud, I just know it.”  Fred and George gazed at Lupin worshipfully. 

Harry noticed that Dumbledore had re-entered the room along with Malfoy and Snape.  Clearing his throat, silver Sirius said, “Now that you’re all about to be related by money, it’s important that you get to know one another.  One big happy family, that’s what I want.  The Black family could never get it right, so I’m going to help you along.  Remember: my gold, my rules… and you did agree to follow the rules.  Ah-ah-ah, no cursing – most of you won’t care for the result.”

He sat back on the edge of the table again, and rubbed his hands together vigorously.  “Now then, here’s your first task.  I want you to find the person in the room who you find the most intriguing – no spouses allowed!  Be true to yourself, or you might find you’re speaking with a voice that’s not your own.  Remember – the most intriguing.  I want you to ask that person one question.  That person must answer the question truthfully.  If they don’t then I’ve a really great trick up my sleeve, out of a Muggle children’s book that Lily once mentioned – the image stuck with me for some reason.  Some of you may have to answer several questions, so I’ll allot ten minutes for this task.  Don’t just sit there like great lumps – get up!”  The silver Sirius glanced at a ghostly pocket watch and then crossed his arms.

Lupin laughed, “This is too much, Sirius!  Right then, Harry, I’ve come up with a question for you.”

Harry smiled.  “What, me?” he asked.

Lupin said, “You have to admit, Harry, that a great many people find you intriguing.”

Harry blushed.  “Well… you don’t sound like a troll, so I suppose you mean it.  Ask your question, then.”

Lupin’s expression suddenly became very sober.  “How many times have you slept through the night since Sirius died?”

Harry hesitated before he answered, “All but three nights, including last night.  I’ve had dreams, but they haven’t woken me for the most part.”  He waited for a moment, and then added, “No extra head for me - I must have counted right.”

Ron spoke to Dumbledore, and Malfoy and Mr. Weasley waited behind him.  Andromeda Tonks tapped Lupin on the shoulder, and Fred and George queued behind her.  McGonagall chatted with Mrs. Weasley, to Harry’s surprise.  Hermione stood next to Snape.  Must be a coincidence – she’s looking for someone else, he thought.  She definitely asked him a question, though, and Snape appeared to mull over an answer.  Harry wondered if Ron had noticed. 

“Hello, Harry –”

“Hello, Mr. Tonks,” Harry shook Ted’s hand.

“I must admit that I’ve been caught up by your story,” Mr. Tonks said.

Harry had the feeling that he was going to be blushing quite a lot.  “I hope you’ve been hearing it from your daughter, and not the Daily Prophet.”

Ted laughed.  “I’m familiar with the fickle press, thank you.  My daughter has quite a lot to say about you.  She was very distressed by the treatment you’ve received from your relatives.  I work with Muggles quite a lot, you know?  Most are good sorts; it’s just like us – a few bad apples.  Enough of that, however – we should get to Sirius’ little game.  What I’m curious about is how you handle it all… all the attention, the public opinion, the danger?”

Harry really didn’t want to answer.  “Is that your question, then?” he asked, stalling.

Someone in the corner shrieked then started laughing hysterically, and others began to join in.  Hermione said, “Oh my goodness!  It must have been Pinocchio!” 

Dumbledore’s nose stretched out a full six inches from the rest of his face; he shook with laughter.  “My apologies, everyone,” he said between chortles.  “I just had to find out what Sirius had in store for us.  Mr. Malfoy, what was your question again?  Let us hope that a correct answer will return my nose to something less pronounced!”

Harry turned back to Ted and said, “I don’t handle it well, I suppose.  I hate the attention mostly, and it’s not fun to be targeted in the press.  The danger… I probably handle that the best.”

Ted nodded.  “Interesting.  You didn’t really want to answer, did you?”

Harry forced a smile.  “I think you’ve used your question.  Will you excuse me?”  He crossed the room to stand before the person who intrigued him the most.

“Good evening, Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry said.

“Mr. Potter,” she said coolly.

He said, “I believe I have a question for you.”

Narcissa Malfoy hesitated.  “I’m sorry, I must have misheard.  You wish to ask me a question?”

Harry steadied himself.  “That is how the game is played.”

“Fine,” she snipped.  “Ask.”

“Why did you betray Sirius to Voldemort?” he asked.  He realised that he’d asked at full voice when some other conversations stopped.

Malfoy snarled, “Why are you speaking to my mother, Potter?”

Mrs. Malfoy stared her son down.  “This is none of your concern, Draco.  Return to what you were doing.”  The rest of the people in the room also seemed to accept that as a command, although Harry thought that Dumbledore might still be watching.

She looked at Harry with venom at first, then something else.  He knew she was calculating an answer – he could feel it.   At length, she said very quietly, “I didn’t betray him.  Are you satisfied?”

Harry was determined to look her in the eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I was told that you did.”

“You should apologise for asking such an impertinent question!” she whispered angrily.

Harry kept looking at her.  “I’m not sorry for asking.  I’m sorry I was led to ask.”  Her mouth opened as though she was going to retort, but simply stayed open.  Harry turned to walk away.

“Wait,” Mrs. Malfoy said quietly.  “I haven’t asked my question.”

Harry turned back.  “Pardon?”

“I haven’t yet asked my question,” she said hesitantly.

Harry couldn’t imagine why she found him intriguing, or what she would possibly ask him.  “Ask away,” he said, waiting for the other shoe to drop – for Death Eaters to burst in or something along that line.

Mrs. Malfoy had slowly manoeuvred around Harry until he was near a wall and her back was to the rest of the room.  She spoke so quietly that she was almost mouthing the words.  “If my son was in peril and you were the one who could save him, would you do it?”

Now Harry found himself making a calculation.  He responded slowly and hoped to dodge hidden dangers.  “I need you to explain yourself,” he whispered.  “Are you asking if I would be willing to save Draco, or are you asking if I would be willing to put myself at risk to do it?”

She let out a breath very slowly.  “He’s a difficult boy to like, I know that about him – so judgmental, so cutting with his criticism… so like his father.    He does most of it without even thinking.”  Her voice remained very low.  “I’m asking you whether you would save him.”

Harry hesitated again, before replying, “I don’t know.  I won’t hurt him – not willingly.  If he were hanging from a cliff, I’d pull him up.  There are other circumstances where… I don’t know… I don’t know if I could trust him enough to save him.  I’m not certain that he would want saving if I were involved.  Are you satisfied?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, and walked away.

There was a quick tap on his shoulder.  “Wotcher, Harry.”

“Hey, Tonks.”

“Why do you shut everyone out?” she blurted.

Harry was startled.  “Wha… wait a minute!  Are you just curious, or is that your question?”

“It’s my question,” she said, twirling her hair into ringlets around her finger.  “You’ve got walls higher than Azkaban.  Why?”


“Come on, then, unless you want a foot-long nose,” she teased.

Harry realised she wasn’t going to give him the space to couch his answer.  “To keep other people safe,” he answered.

“From what?” Tonks asked.

“Sorry, no follow ups,” Harry said, heading for his seat.  He didn’t make it there.  Hermione’s mother stood in his path.

“Hello, Mrs. Granger,” he said, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. 

“Hello, Mr. Potter,” she replied sternly.

“Is this going to hurt?” he asked, hoping she would laugh.

She didn’t laugh, but she did smile a little.  “I hope not,” she said, “but let’s find out, shall we?”

“Right, then… ask away,” Harry said, closing his eyes.

“What are your intentions toward our daughter?” she demanded.

He stood very still, and turned the question in his mind like he was handling a cursed artefact.  “I don’t understand,” he finally said.  “What do you mean by ‘intentions’?”

“I mean exactly what I asked,” she said firmly.  “I don’t intend to make the question easier to answer.”

Harry let out a trace of a smile.  “I think I see where Hermione gets it.  My intentions…  well, she’s been my best friend for five years.  I care about Hermione very much, ma’am.  I suppose my main intention is for her to be safe… I would give my life to save hers.”

Mrs. Granger’s eyebrows rose.

“Did I answer your question?” Harry asked.

“Yes… but it’s not the answer I expected.  I believe you’re being truthful but incomplete,” she said.

“All right, now I know where Hermione gets it,” Harry laughed.

“Well?”  Mrs. Granger crossed her arms.

“I’m sorry?” Harry said.

“Are you being incomplete?” she asked, tapping her foot.  He concluded that Mrs. Granger was rather like Hermione fused together with Mrs. Weasley.

“I don’t have any other intentions,” Harry said carefully.

Mrs. Granger’s eyes narrowed.  “You’re dissembling,” she accused.

Ginny tapped him on the shoulder.  “Excuse me, Harry.”  She told Mrs. Granger, “I’m sorry but I need to get in my turn.”  Mrs. Granger unhappily let Harry go. 

Harry said to Ginny, “All right, I’m ready,” and flopped down in his chair.

She sat next to him and then whispered in his ear, “You’re intriguing, but not that intriguing.  I just thought you needed saving.”

The silver Sirius twirled his pocket watch on its chain.  “Well then, that’s ten minutes.  Wasn’t that ripping good fun?  Assuming the room is still intact and you haven’t all hexed each other from here to Hogsmeade, let’s press on to the second task.  This time, I want you to find the person in the room for whom you care the most – once again, no spouses!  I want you to tell that person why you care for them, and why they should care for you.  Remember… tell the truth!  I’ve concocted something unique for any liars; don’t press me on this.  This will be difficult for some of you, but you get the same ten minutes.  Go forth!  Mingle!”  He began to lazily twirl his pocket watch again, and looked positively smug.  Ginny slid away from Harry and quickly dashed across the room.

Harry slumped in his chair.  What in the hell are you trying to do to me, Sirius?  he wondered.  He didn’t want to watch Ron, but couldn’t help himself.  Straight for Hermione, Harry thought, I knew it.  Why doesn’t he let go of her hand?  Mrs. Granger watched Ron with great interest.  Harry forced himself to look elsewhere.  Mrs. Malfoy made a beeline for Snape, and it seemed that Snape had chosen her as well.  Malfoy sat stiffly in his chair with a careful eye on his mother.  Mrs. Weasley appeared to be waiting for Ron.  Mr. Weasley talked to Dumbledore; Harry figured he had assumed his wife and children were all out-of-bounds.  Ted and Andromeda Tonks quickly spoke with their daughter, who then headed for Lupin.  George flitted around them, and Fred looked rather lost.

As soon as Mrs. Weasley occupied Ron, Dumbledore suddenly struck up a conversation with Mrs. Granger.  Harry saw an opportunity, and zigzagged his way across the room to Hermione.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hello, yourself.  Do you, erm, have something to tell me?” she asked, her hands fidgeting. 

“You’re the one, of course,” Harry blurted out.

“ ‘Of course’?  What does that mean?” she asked briskly.

“I – I – didn’t mean – that is to say, I wasn’t trying to imply – uh, surely you –” He knew he was beet-red, and there was nothing whatsoever he could do about it.

She grinned at him.  “I was teasing you – relax!” 

“Oh,” Harry said, having absolutely no idea what to say next.

“Come on, then,” she told him, “spill it.  You know – why you care about me, why I should care about you, that business?”

Harry looked around the room.  Ron had malice in his eyes, but no one else seemed to be taking any notice of he and Hermione talking.  “I’m not sure that I should say.  I think Ron’s going to murder me in my sleep, first chance he gets.” 

Hermione sighed.  “He’s being so, I don’t know…”

“Smothering?” Harry offered.

She laughed.  “I was leaning toward ‘protective’, but you’re warm.”

“Yes, I am,” Harry said.  He wiped his brow.

She laughed again. “The sooner you say it, the sooner you’ll be finished.”

“Such a flair for the obvious!” he mocked.

“You’re evading me,” Hermione said.  “Why do you care, Harry?”

“Because you’re so easy to care for –” As soon as it came out of his mouth, he felt his hair grow warm and start to move.  Hermione’s jaw dropped and she stifled a laugh.  He was painfully aware that Mrs. Granger had taken notice.

“S-s-s-shouldn’t fool around with Sirius Black”, a reedy voice hissed, and Harry immediately realised what had happened.    

“Because you’re the smartest witch I know,” Harry said quickly.  At least it isn’t getting any worse, he thought.

“A little more honest with yourself, I see,” Hermione said, “a little better.  I have to hand it to Sirius; this must be more dramatic than Veritaserum.”

Harry’s breathing was uneven.  He was sure his voice was quivering, and he hoped that it didn’t crack.  “Okay, because you’re brave?”  There was less movement now.  “Because you’re a good person?”  He struggled for something else ambiguous.  “Because you’re loyal.”  No change.  “Because you’re a wonderful friend – the very best friend I could ever hope for.”  He ran his hands carefully through his hair, and it felt normal.

Hermione smiled at him.  “That’s wonderful, Harry,” she said, and gave him a chaste hug.  Thank Merlin I didn’t have to come up with anything else, he thought.  She released him, and said firmly, “Now the rest.”


“The rest, Harry.  You know, why I should care about you.”

He didn’t hesitate for a moment.  “That’s easy.  Because I would do anything for you – help you in any way that I can, protect you from anything.  I would give my life for you.”

He didn’t expect the response he received, not at all.  Her jaw tightened.  “No,” she said.

“What?  I don’t –”

“No, Harry,” she said.  “No.  Let’s finish Sirius’ stupid game, Harry.  Let me tell you why I care for you.”  She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.  “I am so tired of crying.  It seems like it’s all I’ve done this summer.”

Hermione sniffed, and wiped her eyes again.  “Harry, I care for you because you put the needs of everyone around you ahead of your own, even when it’s foolish to do so.  Even when people don’t deserve it… when they don’t deserve you.  Everyone else comes first, don’t they?  That’s why I care for you.  That’s why I worry about you.  Why should you care for me?  You shouldn’t!”  Her hair was replaced by thin, writhing snakes worthy of Medusa, and her face went from pink to red.  “Er – I mean, because I want you to be happy?”  The snakes stilled.  “Because that’s what best friends do?”  She flicked her fingers across her hair, and a few stray snakes still snapped at her.  

Hermione fidgeted with her dress, and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.  Finally, she said, “Because I need you… to care for me!  Because I need you to care for me.”  She shook her head, and her hair instantly returned to normal.

Mrs. Granger quickly walked up behind Hermione.  “Good Lord, Hermione,” she said, “that was frightening!  You look as if you could use some air.  Excuse us, would you?”  Harry looked to Ron, who made no effort to hide his feelings.  If Ron were a wand, Harry thought, I’d be dead.

“Hello, Harry.  How are you faring with Sirius’ little diversions?”  Dumbledore’s eyes had their familiar twinkle back.

“Of my two best friends, I can’t seem to manage talking to one and the other wants to kill me,”  Harry said dejectedly.

Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully.  “I noticed that you and Miss Granger were talking quite a while.  I gather Mr. Weasley is being difficult?” 

“She was the one he cared most about,” Harry said.

“And she apparently cares the most for you,” said Dumbledore.  “That is rather inconvenient for Mr. Weasley, is it not?  It looks as if you may have to face some uncomfortable choices.  By the way, Harry, in case you were wondering, I care for you because in the ways that truly matter, you are the strongest person I have ever known.  You should care for me because no matter what you may believe, I have your best interests at heart.”  Dumbledore smiled, patted Harry on the shoulder, and promptly struck up a conversation with McGonagall. 

Harry walked back to his seat.  As he passed Ron, Ron said, “I don’t know what you’ve said to her, but you’d better not hurt her.  I mean it – you’d better not!”

Harry said, “I would die first,” without stopping or looking at Ron.  Lupin had only just finished talking to Tonks, who was quickly conversing with George.  That took a long time, Harry thought, I wonder what that’s about.

Ginny sat down beside him again.  “I don’t know what to do,” she squeaked.

Harry grinned.  “You sound like a house-elf – what happened?” he asked.

“I talked to Dad instead,” she said glumly.  Her screechy voice made the hairs on the back of Harry’s neck raise.  He scanned the room, trying to figure out whom Draco Malfoy had sought out.

She continued meekly, “I heard – I mean, I saw you and Hermione.  Okay, I heard a little as well.  I don’t want to be hexed twice.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, “I must be a little slow.  Where are you going with this?”

“Harry, help me out here!” Ginny pleaded.

Harry suddenly understood, and felt himself blushing yet again.  “I care about you, too – honestly,” he insisted.  “I promise I won’t make fun.  Are you shaking?”

“I want to curse him so badly,” she managed, clearly on the edge of tears.  Her voice had returned to normal.

“Just tell the truth, and everything will be fine,” Harry encouraged her.  He borrowed Hermione’s turn of phrase.  “The sooner you say it, the sooner you’ll be finished.”

Ginny nodded, squeezed her eyes shut, and blurted out in one high-speed burst, “The truth is that I care about you because you’re the bravest person I’ve ever known, and you’ve made my stomach do loops since I first met you, and I don’t have the faintest idea why you should care about me because I have a pointy nose and big ears and a flat chest and I’m completely unimportant, and I can’t believe I just told you that, I’ve never been so embarrassed in my entire life, so I’m just going to crawl in a dark corner and die now – I hate you, Sirius!  I hate you!”

The words NO CURSING! erupted on Ginny’s forehead and her face turned sickly green.  She dashed to an empty seat behind her parents, and buried her head.  Harry sat stunned as Dumbledore quickly moved to attend to Ginny.  Mrs. Weasley glared at him without mercy, and Harry briefly contemplated the relative virtues of Privet Drive.

Mrs. Granger and Hermione came back into the room.  Neither of them looked pleased, Harry thought.  Mrs. Granger returned to her seat but Hermione stopped at the back of the room.  Mrs. Weasley looked back and motioned to the seat next to Ron, and Hermione responded by sitting down in Dumbledore’s armchair.

The silver Sirius put away his pocket watch.  “Well, that’s more than ten minutes, but I didn’t want to interrupt your fun.  There will be no more tasks tonight; now you just have to listen to me.  I’ve written letters for most of you, some longer than others.  There are a few things I want to get off my chest, but I’ll try to manage that as I discuss the bequests.  There are handouts – no need for note-taking, class.

“I am the custodian of two piles of money and property, my own and the Black Family Trust.  Now, I imagine you’re wondering how an escaped prisoner has control of the Trust?  Strictly speaking, I don’t, but I shall.  This will isn’t worth the pensieve it’s sitting in, unless my rights are restored.  If you’re watching this, I’ve been pardoned or forgiven or something along those lines.  In that event, the frozen assets in the Trust revert to me unless the next male heir in succession reaches adulthood first.  Special thanks should be extended to my dear mother, by the way, for going batty before she could restructure the Trust.  Some of my money has been frozen, and some has not.  If this will is being read, then everything has been freed up again.  Let’s start with the Trust, shall we?”

The silver Sirius produced a piece of flickering parchment and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses.  I never saw those before, Harry thought.  With the small glasses perched near the end of his nose, Sirius began to read from the document.

“I hereby divide the monetary assets of the Black Family Trust into twenty-two shares of equal size, to be distributed as follows: two shares each to Andromeda Black Tonks, Nymphadora Tonks and Theodore Tonks; four shares to Narcissa Black Malfoy, with two of the four shares accruing to Draco Malfoy upon reaching his majority; four shares to Arthur and Molly Weasley, with one share each accruing to Ronald and Ginevra Weasley upon reaching their majorities; one share each to William, Charles, Alfred and George Weasley; one share to Harry James Potter; one share reserved in the trust for the future spouse of Harry Potter, whom I hope will be worthy of him; and two additional shares to be reserved in the trust.  Narcissa Black Malfoy will receive one reserved share should she divorce and formally forsake Lucius Malfoy.  Draco Malfoy shall receive one reserved share should he formally forsake Lucius Malfoy.  To Percival Weasley, I leave a rubber Galleon and a swift kick in the arse as a reward for turning his back on his family.”  Sirius looked up again, and added menacingly, “I have no other living family members.  I want that to be perfectly clear.” 

He paused before continuing, “The secondary lines of inheritance are complicated.  It’s all been written, witnessed, and so forth.  If anyone I name at any time during this business is already dead, then first, my condolences, and second, call Diggle and have him straighten it out.”

From the document in his hand, he read, “The Black ancestral property shall be sold, and the proceeds divided as stipulated in the Trust charter.”  He glanced up and smiled faintly.  “That should put quite a bit of cash back into the Trust.  Your shares should be generous if Diggle does his job.” 

Looking back down, he continued, “Ownership of the property at 12 Grimmauld Place is retained by the Black Family Trust until Harry Potter reaches the age of seventeen.  Upon reaching the age of seventeen, Mr. Potter shall take ownership of the property.  There are two conditions of ownership, applicable both to the Trust and to Mr. Potter.  The first condition is that the owner must afford Remus Lupin lodging for the remainder of his natural existence, should Mr. Lupin so choose, for the sum of one Galleon per year.  The second condition is that the owner shall provide safe haven to Narcissa Black Malfoy and/or Draco Malfoy, at any time that either may seek it.  Lucius Malfoy is not welcome at 12 Grimmauld Place under any circumstance.”

Sirius stopped and looked up, took off his glasses, and sneered.  “A friend has helped me prepare something very special for dear Lucius.  If he ever enters the house, it will be an experience he’ll never forget.”

With his glasses replaced, he continued, “Now, to my own possessions.  To Harry Potter, I bequeath all of my personal monies, including those found at Gringotts Wizarding Bank and those on my person, and all of my personal effects not otherwise specified.   In addition, I bequeath to him the other property that accrues to me via the Trust.”  Sirius looked up from the parchment.  “Diggle has all of the information for you, Harry.” 

He continued reading, “As my ward, Harry Potter inherits the rights accorded to my eldest heir with respect to the Black Family Trust, and any titles or other hereditary privileges afforded to the primary heir of the House of Black.  However, I voluntarily terminate any parental rights over Harry that accrue to me, and oppose the assumption of those rights by any other.”

Sirius lowered the parchment.  “Harry, I’m going to catch a cauldron of hot oil for doing that.  Remember, all of you, no cursing my name tonight!  I’m no father, Harry.  I thank you for humouring me now and again, but it would have been an injustice to you – trifling, perhaps, but an injustice all the same.  There’s great injustice in what Peter allowed to be visited upon you and your parents, but there’s worse to be found than that.  The greatest injustice I have ever known is found in what the adults in your life for the past fifteen years have done to you, Harry.”

“Shame on you!” Sirius shouted, pointing randomly around the room.  “Shame on everyone who could have done better!  You let Lily’s accursed relatives abuse Harry for ten years!  It’s amazing that he wasn’t destroyed!  Since then, you’ve alternated between treating him like a spoiled child and a common criminal, and you’ve stuck him back in that hell every summer!  Shame on you!  Shame on you, Dumbledore!” 

The silver Sirius threw his parchment down.  “I’m freeing him from you.  How do you like that?  If he wants to serve you, he can do it with his eyes wide open.  How dare you hide things from him and deceive him!  How dare you condemn him to death!  His fate is his to decide, not yours, and certainly not some bloody seer.”  Harry heard a few sharp intakes of air at that.

Sirius stooped to pick up the parchment, and adjusted his glasses.  “Harry, life is so precious, and it’s so short.  Dumbledore’s the oldest person I know, and I’d wager even he would agree that it’s too short.  Don’t waste it.  You know carpe diem, right?  Seize the day?  Not good enough.  Carpe momentum, Harry.  Carpe momentum.  Enjoy your friends.  Spend some money.  Find love; if you’re lucky, you’ll make out as well as your parents in that department.  Life is so short, Harry, but your parents – they lived, lad.  This is all I can do to help you on your way, and I’m so sorry for that.  Shame on the adults, Harry.  Shame on Dumbledore.  Shame on me, Harry.” 

His voice faltered.  “Shame on me.  I wasn’t there, and in that, I failed you just as surely as everyone else.”  He stopped to wipe at his eyes with his fingers.  “Now… uh, right.  Make sure you go and pick up your birthday present at the appropriate time - it’s a corker.  Diggle, be sure the little package is in the box.  That’s all, Harry.  The rest is in the letter and my journal.”

Reading from the parchment, he went on, “Sufficient funds shall be withheld from my personal accounts to provide Remus Lupin with a salary of 2,500 Galleons per annum for the remainder of his natural life.  In exchange, Remus will serve as conservator for Harry Potter’s affairs in Muggle England as may be required until Harry reaches the age of twenty-one.  Remus will also serve as life trustee for the reserves held in the Black Family Trust.”  He looked up, a wistful expression on his face.  “Moony, my old friend, you’ve made your feelings clear.  This is as close as I can come to honouring them.  Watch over him, please.”

He glanced at the parchment, and said, “Ah, here it comes.  I love this one… sufficient funds shall be drawn from my personal accounts to establish the Sirius Black Memorial Quidditch Trust.  The sole beneficiary of the Trust will be the Head of Gryffindor House at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the sole purpose for which the funds may be used is the biennial purchase of international standard brooms for the use of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.  McGonagall, run Slytherin into the fucking pitch.”  Professor McGonagall gasped and Mrs. Weasley let forth an outright shriek.

He looked up with a smirk and said, “It’s in writing just that way, as a matter of fact.  That also provides a nice segue to the good Professor Snape, don’t you think?”  Sirius lowered the parchment.  “Severus,” he said, “I’m leaving you the potions portion of the Black family library.  Not only do I think you’ll find it useful, but some of the books would be dangerous in less capable hands.  The other thing I offer you is my forgiveness.  I mean that, and I hope you can find your way to do the same for me.  It should be easier for you now that I’m dead.  I know that I find it easier this way.”

He returned to reading.  “I bequeath my personal collection of books and all contents of the Black family library with the exception of the potions section to Hermione Granger, as well as sufficient funds to provide her with a perpetual annual book allowance of 500 Galleons.”  He stopped reading, and looked out toward the audience that had been imaginary to him.  “Hermione, you may want to hand some of the books straight off to Pince, so that they’re properly binned or tossed into the Hogwarts Restricted Section.  I know this bequest is a trifle when compared to everything you’ve done for Harry.  I’m struck by your love of books.  We have that in common – or had, is it?  Tenses are so hard to keep straight when you’re dead.”

The silver Sirius smiled and added, “I’ve got a few things for the Weasleys, as well.  Ron, an old friend left something in my possession quite a long time ago and I don’t know of anyone else who would appreciate it as much as you.  You’ve been there whenever Harry’s needed you, and you deserve this.  I leave you a Quaffle signed by all the players and reserves from the 1892 Chudley Cannons, along with an authentic season programme and team roster.”

Ron burst out, “Bloody hell!” which was immediately followed by a remonstrance from Mrs. Weasley and a scattering of laughter that drowned out a few of Sirius’ words. 

Sirius kept talking, of course.  “…and George Weasley are the only rightful heirs to Messrs. Moony, Padfoot and Prongs that Hogwarts has known.  I can think of no one else more deserving of my remaining supply of enchanted parchment, and my numerous journals detailing parchment charms, hexes, and other marauding mischief.  Sorry, Moony, but you’re not quite as much fun as you used to be.  Boys, be sure to misuse them wisely.”

Fred and George fell all over themselves, laughing, crying, pointing to Lupin, and bowing and scraping to Sirius’ ghostly image, as he continued, “As for Ginny Weasley… Ginny, thank you for sharing your musical abilities with me last summer.  You’re a natural secret keeper, so I’ll wager that you haven’t told a soul.  Musical passion has to be indulged, and you shouldn’t keep it bottled up.  You have great potential, and you can still live up to it if you start now.  I’ve never regretted lending you the Black family violin, and now I leave it to you along with all the sheet music that goes with it.  It’s very, very old – in the family for over 150 years, you know – so it needs tender care, but I’m certain you can handle it.  It may yet have a few surprises for you, Ginny, but I promise with all my heart that it’s not cursed.”

“Shacklebolt, old boy,” Sirius smirked, “I begin by extending my eternal gratitude to you for constantly missing your target.  I’m sorry to say this, but I was very glad not to see you.  I’m also leaving you… let’s get it right…” He peered at the document.  “I bequeath to Kingsley Shacklebolt my collection of personal arms and defensive gear.  In addition, sufficient funds shall be withheld from my personal accounts to provide Mr. Shacklebolt with a one-time stipend of 5,000 Galleons, in exchange for providing Harry Potter with regular personal training in the use of arms and defence against the Dark Arts.”               

He replaced his glasses and scowled.  “To Albus Dumbledore, I place in your hands sufficient funds to provide for the remaining education of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, and Ginevra Weasley.  Teach them what they need to know.  Protect them within reason.  Free them to find their own way.

He flung away the parchment.  “Diggle, I’m sure you’ve already set my instructions for Grimmauld Place into motion.  While you’re at it, be sure to set Buckbeak free.  If there’s a body, burn it and toss the ashes anywhere you like.  I’ve become accustomed to travelling light, so no memorial, and certainly no sending.  I never believed in any of that rot – sorry, Lils.  If you want to slide off to the nearest pub and get good and pissed, that’s all right by me.  Well, that’s everything.  Be seeing all of you soon enough.”  The silver Sirius bowed.  The room remained still and silent as the flickering apparition of Sirius Black sank into itself and faded into nothingness.

The moment that Sirius was gone, Draco Malfoy jumped from his seat as though he had sat on a tack.  “That man was a raving lunatic!  I can’t believe this is happening!”  He jabbed his finger toward Diggle.  “We will protest this – this – outrage!”  The room erupted.

Ron turned on Malfoy, shouting, “It’s fair and square, you bloody ferret!”  Draco lunged, his mother clung to the back of his shirt, and Mr. Weasley interposed himself.

Snape and McGonagall moved quickly toward the developing melee.  McGonagall snapped, “Boys, stop this at once!  Show some reason!” 

Snape hissed, “I agree – let’s all be reasonable.  That would be a welcome antidote to Black’s folly.”

McGonagall turned on Snape, “What folly would that be, Severus?” she demanded. 

Snape snarled back, “You must have loved all this, Minerva; looking forward to running us into the pitch, I imagine?  I wish that Draco were right about Black, but he is not; Black was no lunatic.  He was simply cruel.  He couldn’t help himself – it was an accident of birth.”

Narcissa Malfoy and Andromeda Tonks exclaimed as one voice, “Excuse me?”

Snape said, “I am sorry, Narcissa – Draco, sit! – I am sorry but I am also correct.  Perhaps it was different in your household, but I had the misfortune of meeting Black’s parents.  He was born to be calculating and cruel, and he died that way.  Look at what he has accomplished!”

Ron yelled, “Sod off, Snape!  You hated him, he forgave you, and you can’t handle it!”

McGonagall’s eyes became saucers.  “Mister Weasley!  Sit down now!  You will not speak to Professor Snape that way!”  Hermione, who had also moved toward the fray, pulled hard on Ron’s arm.

Snape turned on Ron, and shoved him down into his chair.  “Anything between Black and me is none of your damned business, boy!” he raged.

Molly Weasley bumped Snape back with her chest, hands on hips.  “Don’t you handle my son that way, you insufferable git!”

Ron said darkly, “I can handle myself, mum.”

Molly barked, “Be quiet and stay in your seat!” without looking at Ron, and then bumped Snape again.  “I’ve had it with you!  Why they have allowed you to poison an entire generation of Hogwarts students with your…”

Arthur Weasley said gently, “Molly, please calm down, and –”

Snape cut him off.  “This is between me and your pushy, overbearing wife –” Arthur swung and his fist connected with Snape’s nose.  Snape stumbled backward, clutched at his face, and muttered, “Blood…” Arthur lunged for him.

Ron shouted, “Get him, Dad!” as Mrs. Weasley tried to restrain her husband.  Lupin rushed across the room, and Dumbledore rose from his armchair.

“Enough!”  Harry had seen Dumbledore rise, and assumed that he was now putting a stop to things, but it was Narcissa Malfoy who had screeched as loudly as she could.  “I said ‘enough’!”  Everyone and everything seemed to stop in mid-sentence, mid-swing or mid-stride.

“Severus,” Narcissa said, her quiet voice rebounding in the stilled room, “Sirius didn’t accomplish this; we’ve done it on our own.  Look at us!”  She looked to her sister, and said firmly, “There will be no protest,” before she turned to her son and repeated with force, “No protest.”

Draco began, “But –”

His mother cut him off firmly.  “Think of your own reaction if one of your cousins chose to interfere with a decision that should have been left to you.  This was Sirius’ decision to make.  Be grateful and be quiet.”

“But what he said about Father, he had no right –” Draco whimpered.

Narcissa Malfoy stopped her son with a wave of her hand.  “I’m tired.  Mr. Diggle, I shall be in touch.  Come, Draco.”  She swept from the room without another word, followed closely by her son.

Dumbledore said, “It is growing late.  Dedalus, let us finish any other business that may be required this evening.  Would everyone please take a seat?”  

Snape fled the room and Mr. Weasley sat down, which was accepted by everyone as an invitation to do the same.  Diggle sat behind the table and twitched.

“Dedalus, other business?” Dumbledore prompted.

Diggle patted at his brow with a brightly coloured handkerchief.  “Yes – yes, of course.  Are there, er, does anyone have specific questions?”

Ron asked eagerly, “How big is the Trust?  What’s a share?”  Harry felt a flicker of irritation; Ron would be the one to ask about the money, wouldn’t he?  he thought.

Diggle rifled through parchment.  “An excellent question, one for which I should have an answer…  Most of the corpus was spent, prior to the disposal of property… and there were expenses related to the reinstatement of certain titles and privileges… ah, here it is.  As of this morning, the monetary proceeds in the trust totalled… hmmm; carry the four… uh… four hundred and sixty-three thousand, three hundred thirty two Galleons and change.  That would leave a share value of, what, around twenty-one thousand Galleons?”

Ron let out a low whistle.  “We’re rich,” he said nervously.  Harry heard Ted Tonks clear his throat.  He turned slightly and noticed that Mr. Tonks’ brow was furrowed.

Mrs. Weasley said to Ron, “We’ve always been rich, Ron.  Now we have some money to go with it.”

Ron asked Diggle, “What about the other pot of money?”

Mrs. Weasley snapped at Ron, “Don’t be impertinent!”  Harry shook his head in frustration.

Diggle looked at Ron suspiciously.  “Mr. Weasley, I really don’t believe that’s your concern.  The lion’s share of Mr. Black’s assets goes to Mr. Potter.  I really don’t see –”

“Tell him,” Harry snapped.  “It may as well be in the clear.  I wouldn’t want Ron to fester over it.”

“I don’t fester,” Ron retorted.

“If you insist, Mr. Potter,” Diggle said nervously.  “Mr. Black’s assets come from a wider variety of sources than the Trust.  I’ll have to calculate… I hope you’ll be satisfied with an estimate… subtracting the amounts for the Quidditch trust and Mr. Lupin’s support… and the funds for schooling… less unpaid taxes… I think I can provide a rough estimate.  I am withholding enough for the Quidditch Trust to earn 5,000 Galleons per year in interest, and I am setting aside enough reserve to pay Mr. Lupin for 75 years –”

“Quite an optimist,” said Lupin.

“Just being prudent,” returned Diggle.  “Another 20,000 Galleons to perpetuate Miss Granger’s book buying, 55,000 Galleons for Ministry back taxes, and around forty percent of Mr. Black’s Muggle funds to cover taxes and other legal matters.  The remainder amounts to the additional Trust property in Scotland to which Mr. Black referred… and about 4,000 Galleons… and somewhere in the neighbourhood of two-and-one-half million pounds.”

Ron asked Hermione, “What, is that a lot?”  She nodded, and Ron’s mouth hardened into a thin line.

Harry decided he’d had his fill of Ron for the evening.  “Mr. Diggle,” he said, feigning innocence, “why don’t you tell Ron what’s in my vault as well?”

Hermione snapped, “Harry!”

Harry stared at Ron, unflinching.  “Come on, Ron, I know you’re dying to know.  It’s burning a hole in you, isn’t it?”  Ron turned red; Harry knew it was from anger, not embarrassment.

Diggle fidgeted.  “I don’t really… I’m not certain that…”

Harry said, “You must know; we just went over my assets last night.”

Dumbledore said from the back of the room, “Harry, do not do this.”

Diggle was still fidgeting.  “Well, um, Harry, uh, are you just interested in your vault… er, the money set aside for your current use?  The Potter Trust is a large and complicated…”

Ron said through clenched teeth.  “I want to know.”

Hermione glared at Harry, then at Ron.  “Let it drop, both of you,” she warned.

Ron stood up.  “You wanted to dangle this in front of me, eh, Harry?  What, so you could be big and important?  Fine, then – show me how little I am, Harry.  I’m nothing next to you, am I?”

Harry wavered.  “Ron, I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said anything.  That’s not what I meant to –”

“Spill it!” Ron snapped.

“Ron, I don’t even know,” Harry said.  “I mean, I was just briefed for the first time on the Trust…”

Ron exploded.  “I – want – to – know!”

Hermione pleaded, “Please let this go, Ron.  Please.”

Harry knew he’d taken things too far.  “Ron, I’m sorry I baited you, mate; it was wrong.  If you let this go, I’ll … I’ll give you anything you want.  I’ll… I’ll give you fifty percent, sight unseen – fifty percent of whatever’s in my personal vault.  The money has never mattered to me, Ron – you know that.”

Ron hesitated.  “You’ll give me anything I want?”

Harry said, “Name it.”

Ron nodded.  “Stay away from Hermione.”

Harry and Hermione both froze.

“Did you hear me?  I said stay away from Hermione,” Ron repeated.

Hermione turned on Ron.  “Am I your property, Ronald?  You prat!”

“That’s not something I can give you.  I’m sorry,” said Harry.

Ron’s fists were tightly balled.  “You said you’d give me anything I ask.  So now you’re a liar, too.”

“RONALD WEASLEY!”  Hermione shouted.

“I couldn’t have imagined you’d ask me to stay away from my best friend,” said Harry.  “I don’t know you.  I hope the real Ron comes back from wherever you’ve stashed him.”

“Your best friend, is she?” said Ron, with ice in his voice.  “I used to think that was me.  At least I know where I stand.  I don’t want anything from you, not your filthy money, not your pity – not anything.”

“You know what Sirius had me swear?” Ron asked Hermione.  “He had me swear that I would stand by Harry, just as he would stand by me.  I signed it, just like the two of you said I should.  I swore an oath that if the time comes, I’ll protect Harry at all costs, above everything else, including you.  He mentioned you by name!  How do you feel about your precious Sirius now, eh?  Do you suppose he figured you’d live long enough to enjoy the books?”

Before Mrs. Weasley managed to rebuke Ron, Hermione’s open hand made a loud crack! against his cheek.  “You don’t know anything!” Hermione shrieked.  Ron cringed and ran out of the room.

Mr. Weasley said meekly, “Terribly sorry, everyone,” before hurrying after Ron.

Mrs. Weasley stared at Hermione for a moment, and then said, “He’ll calm down, dear.”  To the rest of the stunned room, she said, “We’ll be going now.  Good night.”  George and Fred meekly walked out.  Ginny – her face returned to normal by Dumbledore – hissed at Harry, “You shouldn’t have pushed him,” as she passed.

Harry moved to comfort Hermione, reaching out for her.  She jerked her arm away from him.  “I’m so tired of all this!” she snapped.

Dumbledore extended his arms and enveloped Hermione into a gentle embrace.  He said, “Kingsley, would you and Mr. Moody be so kind as to escort the Grangers home?”

Harry said his goodbyes to the Tonks family.  Lupin and Dumbledore followed them into the corridor.  Hermione lingered by the doorway.  I can’t let her leave like this, he decided, and he stood beside her.

Once he started talking, Harry couldn’t stop.  “Hermione, I’m so sorry about, well, everything.  I know I’m responsible.  I stirred him up and I knew I was doing it.  It was so foolish.  The things he said, they’re so hard to forgive.  But I’ll try, Hermione, I swear I’ll try.  I swear I’ll –”

“I was here,” she said, “I saw what happened.  I – I still need to talk to you, soon.”

Before he could register what she was doing or what was happening, she darted forward and kissed Harry on the cheek; she pulled back with a startled look on her face.  “Happy birthday, Harry,” she said.  Harry’s watch showed five minutes after midnight.  Hermione walked out to meet her parents, and Harry understood that he wasn’t supposed to follow.

Diggle reminded Harry to open the birthday package from Sirius.  Dumbledore was the last to leave Gringotts.  He promised to send unction for the cut on Harry’s forehead, and gave Lupin and Harry a portkey that took them within a modest walk of the Lion’s Den. 

Harry dashed to his room upon returning, rifled through the box from Sirius and found a small package.  Inside was a splinter of hardwood, and loopy writing on a small scrap.  The note said:

Happy sixteenth birthday, Harry!  This portkey can be used only once.  It will activate at eight o’clock on any morning after you open this package.  I’ve been arranging your gift for over a year, so at least pretend that it’s smashing.  Be sure to show it off – I guarantee that some people won’t approve.
- S.B. 

Harry wasn’t sure whether to be excited or concerned.  He knew that if the will were an indication, any gift that Sirius Black had spent more than a year concocting would surely be interesting.  He asked Dobby to rouse him by seven o’clock. 

Once in bed, Harry played back the evening in his mind.  Over the course of a few hours, he had found out that Snape was the eavesdropper at the Hog’s Head; had made Snape suffer for launching an Occlumency attack; had made up with Ron, and then broken off again; had made Draco Malfoy’s ears bleed; had been sucked into Voldemort’s mind and then attacked; had been driven into multiple conversations with Dumbledore; had found out that Mrs. Malfoy didn’t betray Sirius to Voldemort, and that she apparently wanted him to save Draco from something; had discovered that Ginny loved music, thought that she loved him, and apparently didn’t love herself; had nearly been eaten alive by Mr. and Mrs. Granger, and had been alternately fussed-over and reviled by Mrs. Weasley; had told Hermione how much he cared for her, and had found out that Hermione cared for him; had received a year’s worth of hugs; and had received one kiss on the cheek that he didn’t fully understand and couldn’t shake off.  He had to will himself to sleep.

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