WARNING: Lots of off-screen character death is mentioned in the lead up to time travel.
When he came back to himself, Sirius was tucked into his bed. He spent a moment wondering how he’d gotten there before his memory came flooding back.
“Master Sirius?” said Winky as she popped in. “Winky tells Dobby that Master Sirius is awake.” She popped out again.
Sirius felt numb as he climbed out of bed and put his dressing gown on. Harry was dead. He’d finally committed the ultimate failure, and hadn’t been there to prevent the death of his godson. James, Lily, Harry, now all dead, thanks to him. And Peter. After James and Lily had died, Sirius had thought he’d known what it was like to hate Peter. But that old hatred was like a candle compared to the furnace that was burning inside of Sirius right now.
Dobby popped in. “Harry Potter’s dogfather is awake,” he said. “Dobby is sending the Notarisation to the papers and the DMLE last night. Special Edition of the Daily Prophet talks about Harry Potter, rat wizard, and Harry Potter’s dogfather. Bones lady accepted Notarisation and wants to see Harry Potter’s dogfather as soon as possible to complete case. Bones lady promised that Harry Potter’s dogfather will not be harmed.”
“Why even bother?” Sirius asked dully. “There’s no point now.”
“The Great Harry Potter wanted his dogfather free!” Dobby said fiercely. “Dobby is going to make it happen! Sirius Black is getting up and getting his name cleared right now! There are still bad wizards out there and Harry Potter had friends he would want protected!”
“You’re right,” Sirius acknowledged finally, straightening his spine and turning towards his wardrobe. “For Harry, then.”
With Peter Pettigrew in custody, getting the legalities around Sirius’ freedom sorted turned out to be simpler than he’d ever thought it could be.
“You were never processed into the system properly,” Amelia Bones informed him briskly. “The only place you’re mentioned is in the Azkaban records. Anyone counting on Ministry records to determine what happened could very well come away with the idea that you stuck yourself in there.”
“But what about the Kiss On Sight order,” Sirius asked. “Surely that needs paperwork backing it up?”
“You would think so,” was the dry rejoinder. “It turns out that our beloved Minister isn’t interested in the paperwork side of things. I thought – a lot of us thought – that he was following Ministry procedure, but it appears that he felt that the office of Minister for Magic meant ‘absolute dictator’. We’ve discovered a particularly loathsome Undersecretary who has spent a lot of time running around behind his back, blackmailing various members of the government to either turn a blind eye or actively help him.”
Bones nodded. “Quite so. Now, I’ve recently been made aware that Harry Potter was your godson. As he was the last of his line, the inheritance side of things becomes a bit murky. Dumbledore has informed me that he is in possession of a Will that will clear these matters up-”
“What?” Sirius interrupted her. “Why would Dumbledore have Harry’s Will? Harry filed his Will with Gringotts back in December.”
“That is very interesting,” Bones said slowly. “Very interesting indeed. I’ll have to look into this.”
“The goblin who was handling it is called Baldok,” Sirius offered.
“The Diagon Alley branch manager?” Bones eyebrows rose. “I’ll be sure to liaise with him then. Thank you for your help, Mr Black. I’ll be sure to let you know when I discover anything further.”
“Thanks,” Sirius replied, getting to his feet. “I’ve set up a mail service, so if you need to get in touch with me urgently tell your house elf to pass a message to Winky.”
Sirius walked out into the street that afternoon a free man. He’d been looking forward to this day since he’d first asked Harry to live with him, but all the joy he’d expected to feel was missing.
Three days after Sirius received assurances from Madam Bones that his name had been cleared, Remus arrived back from Italy.
He came straight to Grimmauld Place, looking shocked and distraught. “Is it true?” he demanded. “Is what all the papers were saying true? Did Peter really kill Harry?”
Sirius looked up from where he sat cradling a half-full glass of firewhiskey. He was allowed one a day, and he’d learned to make each one count. When he had first bonded with her Winky was quiet and afraid to express an opinion on anything. Harry had painstakingly drawn her out, praising her each time she bossed her new master around for his own good. Eventually, she’d come out of her shell a bit more, until now she barely resembled the hesitant creature who had agreed to accept a bond with him.
For all her original timidity, Winky had become a tyrant when it came to his health and Sirius couldn’t bring himself to scold her for it. Sometimes he’d open his mouth to say something cruel and cutting, only to remember the look of happiness on Harry’s face as he explained that Winky would be able to make sure that he ate properly.
Even Kreacher was behaving differently. The usually temperamental elf had taken to following Dobby around when the little elf was there, a worshipful look on his face. Sirius had to keep stopping himself from going to tell Harry about it.
Dobby had brought Hedwig back with him the day after Sirius was freed, telling Sirius that she was his responsibility now. Hedwig seemed to agree, if her habit of perching on his headboard at night was any indication.
Upon being shown into the library, Remus collapsed into the chair beside him. “Never mind, I can tell by your face. Merlin, Pads, how did it come to this?”
“We trusted the wrong people,” Sirius said. He’d had some time to think about this, and some of the revelations since Harry’s death had been enlightening.
“You mean Wormtail, I suppose,” Remus said with a sigh. He looked around, taking in the cosy room. “I must say that given your descriptions I’d always expected this place to be a lot gloomier than this.”
“It was,” Sirius replied, taking a sip. “Harry convinced me to bond with Crouch’s old elf Winky, and between, her, Dobby, and Harry, the place has never looked more welcoming.”
“Are you going to share that firewhiskey?” Remus asked, voice suddenly rough.
Before Sirius could reply, Winky popped in. She gave Remus a once over, before popping back out again. When she returned, she had the requested glass of firewhiskey, and also a tray of finger foods that she placed on a small table that was moved over between them.
“Wizards is not drinking on empty stomachs!” she declared. “Winky will be watching!”
Remus stared after her when she popped out again. “Well,” he began, looking at his glass as if it might hold the answers of the universe. “She seems terrifyingly competent.”
Sirius gave a humourless bark of laughter. “Harry managed to convince her that I was helpless and unable to look after myself. She’s taken it to heart, and I can’t even say that she’s wrong. If she wasn’t limiting me to one glass each twenty-four hour period, I probably wouldn’t even be conscious right now.”
“Well, good for her,” Remus said, toasting the air. He took a sip. “Been raiding the cellars, have you? This is the good stuff.”
“It’s mine,” Sirius replied with a shrug. “Can you really perform a raid on your own property?”
“Good point,” Remus sat back.
“I’m taking up the Black Headship tomorrow,” Sirius said abruptly, when the silence had gone on too long. He was rewarded when Remus choked on his bite of prawn.
“You always said you hated your family!” Remus said when he’d gotten his breath back. “You declared that you were never going to take up the Headship!”
“Yes, well, things have changed,” Sirius swirled the liquid in his glass, admiring the colour. “Harry convinced me that running away was a good strategy when I was young and powerless, but now that I can take the power for myself it was my duty to try and make things better for others who might find themselves in the position that I was in.”
“Harry this, Harry that,” Remus said. “I wasn’t aware that you’d spent all that much time with him. When did all these conversations take place?”
“Here,” Sirius made an expansive gesture to indicate the room they were in as well as the house beyond.
Remus made a frustrated sound in the back of his throat. “That doesn’t make sense. He’s been at school all year!”
Sirius turned his head to look at his last remaining friend. “How would you know that?”
Remus looked surprised. “Dumbledore has been keeping me updated.”
“Oh, he has, has he? Well, that’s more than he deigned to do for me!”
Remus frowned. “Sirius, you’ve already made it clear that you and Harry were in regular contact. Why would you need Dumbledore to keep you up to date?”
“Because Dumbledore didn’t know that Harry and I were in contact!” Sirius yelled. “Why is it that you get more consideration than I do, you who abandoned Harry to grow up ignorant of his place in the world, of his magic and even your own existence? While I, his godfather, the man who achieved the impossible and broke out of Azkaban to protect him, was told nothing? If I was relying on Dumbledore for my information I’d still be sunning myself off the coast of Greece!”
“Are you angry at Dumbledore for Harry’s death?” Remus asked, anger making him blunter than usual. “He didn’t kill Harry, Padfoot, it’s not his fault. And hey, he managed to get you your freedom, didn’t he?”
“Is that what he told you?” Sirius snorted in derision.
“Well, he didn’t come right out and tell me, but I can read between the lines,” Remus replied. “Who else do you know that can put pressure on the DMLE to admit that they were wrong?”
“Funny you should say that,” Sirius replied grimly. “According to Amelia Bones, finding Peter alive was a rather large shock, as no one had even informed her of the possibility that he might not be dead.”
“Well, of course she’d say that,” Remus began, only for Sirius to interrupt him.
“She told me that when she investigated she could find no paperwork at all regarding my incarceration other than records of my presence at Azkaban! She said that the Ministry had no right to hold me, and that if she’d been informed of the facts earlier that this could have been cleared up much sooner! That regardless of my guilt or innocence she would have been forced to ensure that I was set free!”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that despite his claims of working to get me my freedom, Dumbledore very clearly didn’t bother speaking to the person most likely to help me! Madam Bones is known as a straight dealer who follows the law, even when she finds it inconvenient! She has a reputation for being un-bribable! Considering that I’d had no trial and was, in fact, innocent of the crimes that were laid at my door, then if Dumbledore was sincere about getting me my freedom then Amelia Bones was obviously the first person to speak to! So why is it that he didn’t!”
“I- I don’t know,” Remus sighed.
“Since I made that realisation, I’ve been doing some thinking,” Sirius eyed his glass, and then shrugged, throwing the rest back in a gulp that burned through his system. “I decided to look back over all the time I’ve known Dumbledore, and take a look at things through fresh eyes.”
Remus looked at him warily, but helped himself to a mini spring roll. “What view did your fresh eyes give you?”
Sirius grabbed one of the few remaining prawns. “I looked at everything I know about Dumbledore, everything he’s been involved in that there’s information on. I had Winky bring me some old editions of the Prophet, just to make sure I didn’t have any gaps in our memories. I looked at everything and made some lists. Like Lily used to do.”
“Lily loved her lists,” Remus murmured before snagging another mini spring roll.
“On one side, I wrote down what Dumbledore said. You know, what he wanted to achieve, why he was doing things, what he promised to do. And in the next, I put the verifiable actions or the result of the actions. For instance, I imagine that Dumbledore told you that he would ensure that Harry was taken care of, that he would see to his upbringing.”
Remus nodded apprehensively.
“Well, that is what he said. Whereas what we get, the actual result, is the last scion of the House of Potter raised to believe that his father was a drunk, his mother was a whore, and that he deserved to suffer for having the temerity to survive the car crash that claimed their lives, thus foisting his sub-standard freak self on hard working honest people like Vernon and Petunia Dursley. Yes, that Petunia. His bedroom was a boot cupboard, while his cousin had two of the four bedrooms upstairs.”
Remus sat up straight, eyes glinting yellow. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me,” Sirius replied. “Then, when he was eleven Hagrid came to visit, bringing his Hogwarts letter. He told me all about it. Hagrid told him that he was magical and took him Diagon Alley, where he very carefully made sure that Harry only bought the items on the supply list. He didn’t bother with the usual muggle-born introductory materials, didn’t even bother to let Harry know how to get to the train before Harry was bundled off to the muggles again.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!” Remus said with some distress. “I distinctly asked Dumbledore several times how Harry’s studies were going, and he always-”
“He always gave you an answer you wanted to believe, like how he was a chip off the old block, getting up to mischief,” Sirius nodded. He looked at his glass, wishing that it was still full before giving a sigh and putting it down. “Here’s another one, one that we were both there for. Think about this for a minute, Moony. You’re an adult now, with experience of the world and how people act and react. If you were an educator of an inclusive school and wanted to get a group of traditionally raised pureblood children angry and riled up enough to do murder, how would you go about it?”
Remus drained his glass as he turned the idea over in his mind, already seeing where this was leading. “I suppose the first thing I’d do is tell them that they couldn’t practice their ritual magic,” he replied unhappily. “Tell them that the way they’ve been brought up to do things is wrong, that people who are new to magic have better ideas. Favour and glorify those with non-traditional views, take their side, make sure they suffer no repercussions when the situation eventually comes to division and fighting.”
“Right,” Sirius said with a nod.
“He always used to talk about how important it was for the school to unite,” Remus said softly. “How we shouldn’t let differences drive us apart, how we should embrace diversity. But the entire time he was-” he stopped. “Can I have another drink?”
Sirius shrugged. “Not up to me. Let’s see what She Who Must Be Obeyed says. Winky!”
Winky popped in. “No more alcohol for wizards today,” she said with the finality of someone who’d made up their mind. “Wizards are going to be drinking lots after Will reading, until then they can have hot chocolate.”
“She does make incredible hot chocolate,” Sirius confided. He waited until he had his hands wrapped around a hot mug before resuming the conversation. “So, as I said, I’ve been making lists.”
“And your lists have shown you a pattern, and you want to do something about it,” Remus supplied. His mouth twisted up in a grimace. “I can’t help you with this, Padfoot.”
“Why in Merlin’s name not?” Sirius said, voice rising. “Haven’t you been paying attention? Can’t you see-”
“My eyesight is fine,” Remus replied tightly. “I can’t help you.”
Sirius stilled as a horrible suspicion dawned on him. “Not you won’t help me. You can’t. You’ve given him some sort of oath.”
“I have made an Oath of Fealty to Albus Dumbledore,” Remus confirmed.
“My acceptance into Hogwarts depended on it.”
“But you were a child!” Sirius objected. “Eleven! That’s illegal, unless… did your parents know?”
“They knew. They weren’t completely happy with it, but it was the only way to give me an education, the only chance I had. In the end, they decided that it was worth the risk. And anyway, it was Dumbledore. What harm could there be in swearing fealty to him?”
“What harm indeed,” Sirius replied grimly.
“And now I cannot take any action if I’m aware that it may bring harm to my liege,” Remus said flatly, before a devious grin spread over his face. “That doesn’t mean I can’t help you plan, I’ll just have to be very careful. If I say ‘no comment’, it will be because the magic of my vow is warning me.”
“Damn him to Hades,” Sirius spat. “This is something else to go on my list. If you’ve sworn to him as your liege, then he has a duty to ensure your welfare! Yet as far as I can tell you’ve existed almost hand to mouth since James and Lily died!”
Remus stiffened. “I can take care of myself.”
“Of course you can! But you shouldn’t have had to! Merlin, I want another drink!”
Harry’s memorial service was held on Hogwarts’ grounds a week after his death. It was an elaborate affair, packed full to bursting. Sirius and Remus attended together, although later Sirius couldn’t really remember much of it. The memorial service had been organised by Dumbledore, and Sirius could only be glad that Harry wasn’t around to witness his death being used as a publicity event.
The funeral had been held earlier in the day, in a small chapel that was attached to Raven Rock but outside the wards. It had been a private affair, just Sirius, Dobby, Winky, Remus, and Amelia Bones. While writing his Will, Harry had informed Sirius that he wanted to be cremated. He’d shared that he sometimes had nightmares of being buried alive, and was going to avoid that if at all possible.
After the memorial, Sirius and Remus joined Dumbledore, Molly Weasley, and her four youngest children, Hermione, and Flitwick, at Gringotts for the Will reading. Amelia Bones invited herself along as well, along with a dozen aurors in full uniform.
“Is all this pomp really necessary, Amelia?” Dumbledore asked, the twinkle in his eyes somewhat subdued as he gazed over his glasses at the head of the DMLE.
Bones exchanged a look with Sirius, eyebrows high on her forehead. “I’m sorry, Albus. Did we both just attend the same incredibly ostentatious memorial service, or was all that pomp my imagination?”
“Your aurors are not needed here,” Dumbledore said with severe insistence. “This is not the time and place for the Ministry to be flexing its muscles, Amelia.”
“You’re right,” Bones gave in gracefully. “Auror Graves, you and the others wait for me outside. Don’t go anywhere; I’ll be needing you soon.” At Dumbledore’s raised eyebrows, she elaborated. “I’ll soon have matters to attend to that I’ll need my aurors for, Albus. It is easier for them to wait a short while than to head back only to be rounded up again soon. Shall we get on with it?”
Dumbledore surveyed those gathered with a slight frown. “I’m not perfectly aware of why you’re even here, Amelia. Nor you, Filius.”
“Who cares?” Sirius broke in. “Neither of them is prone to blabbing to the papers, so what does it even matter? Just get on with it so that I can go home and try to drink away the memory of this awful day.”
Molly Weasley frowned disapprovingly. “I’ll thank you not to talk about your depraved habits in front of my children,” she said sharply. “No one wants to hear about your drunken debauchery!”
“I, for one, would be delighted to hear about it,” one of the twins said.
His brother was nodding along beside him. “Even better, we could join you!”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Molly snapped. “Now behave yourselves!”
Ron, Ginny, and Hermione were sitting quietly. Ron looked indecently pleased to be there, while Ginny looked more sulky than anything else, and Hermione’s red-rimmed eyes didn’t stop her from giving Sirius a mirror of the disappointed frown that Dumbledore was levelling at him.
Baldok entered the room, giving a short nod to Sirius and Amelia before fixing his gaze on Dumbledore. “Are you ready, wizard?”
“Of course,” Dumbledore replied, casting a quelling glance at the others in the room. “Here is the Will. Let us gather together so that we may discover Harry’s last wishes.” He produced a rolled up parchment from his robe pocket.
Baldok took the document and unrolled it, casting his eyes over it swiftly. Only the slight lifting of his eyebrows betrayed any emotion other than boredom. “This is the Will that you wish me to execute?”
“Very well. Thus begins the Will reading for Hadrian James Potter, last scion of House Potter. Present – Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Filius Flitwick, Amelia Susan Bones, Margaret Mary Weasley, Sirius Orion Black, Remus John Lupin, Frederick Andrew Weasley, George Martin Weasley, Hermione Jean Granger, Ronald Bilius Weasley, Ginevra Molly Weasley, Baldok of Gringotts presiding.
“Do you, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, swear that to the best of your knowledge this document is the Last Will and Testament of Hadrian James Potter, last scion of House Potter?”
Dumbledore frowned a bit, but nodded solemnly. “I do.”
“So let it be recorded. This Will was not filed with Gringotts and thus cannot be verified by us as true and correct. It is dated 19 August 1993, and the bequests read as follows. To Hermione Jean Granger, five hundred thousand galleons. To Ronald Bilius Weasley, five hundred thousand galleons. To Arthur Mark Weasley and Margaret Mary Weasley jointly, one hundred thousand galleons. To Vernon and Petunia Dursley jointly, ten thousand galleons to be converted into pounds sterling and transferred to their account with Barclays. To Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, the remainder of the estate, including all items and belongings of a personal nature.”
There was silence for a moment before Sirius broke out into uncontrollable laughter.
“Sirius Black! This is not appropriate behaviour!” Molly Weasley scolded, the smile wiped off her face at Sirius’ antics.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Sirius said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Don’t tell me that anyone actually believes that load of crap.”
“It is somewhat suspicious that Harrikins left money to the muggles,” one of the twins ventured.
The other nodded. “Considering that he hated their guts and couldn’t wait to get away from them.”
“Perhaps Harry had a better idea of duty, and what is owed to the people who housed and fed him since his parents died,” Hermione said snippily. “You don’t need to like people to be indebted to them, and I think that Harry has shown a very mature outlook in recognising that.”
“I don’t know why I didn’t get anything,” Ginny said peevishly. “I should have gotten something. More than Hermione, for sure.”
“What do you mean, more than me?” Hermione demanded. “I was one of Harry’s best friends; you were just the sister of his other best friend!”
“Harry and I were going to get married!” Ginny insisted. “It was all arranged! As his future wife, I deserve more than some muggle-born upstart who weaselled her way into his life!”
“Excuse me!” Hermione retaliated. “I’m pretty sure that Harry didn’t know anything about any arrangements, so why would he refer to them in his Will? Whereas I was essential to keeping Harry safe! Professor Dumbledore himself told me that when he enlisted my aid!”
“Well, you didn’t do a very good job, did you?” Ginny retorted shrilly. “Harry’s dead! That’s pretty much the ultimate failure!”
“There is no way I could have protected him from that!” Hermione insisted. “Really, if we’re honest I deserved more than Ron. At least I helped him with the first task, unlike Ron who was throwing a tantrum because he wishes he is as popular as Harry was!”
“What?” Ron’s face grew red with anger. “You have no idea what it was like sharing all your time with that git! You at least got away from him at night, but I had to share a dorm with him!”
Remus started humming a tune that Sirius didn’t recognise. Judging by her quick, furious, glare, Hermione did.
“What is that tune?” Sirius murmured, ignoring the squabble breaking out between Hermione, Ron and Ginny.
“It’s a muggle song,” Remus murmured back. “It’s sung by a woman called Cindi Lauper, called True Colours. ‘And I see your true colours shining through…’. The rest isn’t quite as applicable.”
“It’s about love,” Remus said with a shrug. “How long are you going to let that go on for?”
“You’re not enjoying the dance of the carrion crows?” Sirius asked. “Oh, very well. Quiet, everyone!”
Every eye in the room turned to him.
“I wouldn’t get too comfortable with what you got, since Baldok isn’t finished yet.”
“Thank you, Lord Black,” Baldok said with a grin that displayed a lot of very sharp teeth. He paid no attention to the reaction Lord Black’s new title had caused. “As I earlier stated, the Will provided by Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore and vouched for by him in his capacity as Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, was not verified by Gringotts. As it happens, I am in possession of a properly witnessed and filed Will, dated 20 December 1994. Regardless of the provenance of the Will already provided in this session, the Will held by Gringotts would obviously supersede any previously created Will.”
“If you knew that Will the Headmaster presented was obsolete, why go through the farce of reading it to us?” Molly Weasley said sharply, ignoring the way the twins were whispering quietly to each other.
“Because Madam Bones alerted us to the possibility that a false Will might be presented,” Baldok said. “It is illegal to falsify a Will. It is also illegal to be an accessory to the falsification of a Will. That means that if anyone knew this Will was forged and allowed it to be presented as true, they could be arrested and tried as a criminal. Another factor to be considered was that Hadrian James Potter was the last member of an Ancient and Noble line.”
“Of course we know that! It’s not like he ever let me forget over the years I’ve known him. What does that have to do with anything?” Ron asked, face still red.
“It means that someone, or someones, are in very deep trouble,” Sirius replied. “It gets even worse if the person or persons that the faked Will was set up to defraud decides to press charges.”
“I don’t see why,” Molly Weasley snapped. “What does it matter? It’s been discovered, no harm done, we can all keep it to ourselves.”
“Are you forgetting my presence, Mrs Weasley?” Bones asked politely. “Conspiring to commit further crimes while I’m right here is really not a good idea.”
Molly looked trapped, and glanced to Dumbledore for help.
“Forgive me,” Dumbledore said with what looked like a thin veneer of geniality. “We speak in terms of possibilities, not truths. There is no evidence that this will is falsified; only that it is no longer valid.”
“If that is so, then I would like you to tell us all how you came to be in possession of the Will that you presented and vouched for,” Bones said.
“I am not on trial here,” Dumbledore replied sharply.
“Come now, Albus,” Flitwick interjected. “You have nothing to hide. Tell Madam Bones what she wants to know.”
Dumbledore’s face took on the same trapped look that had crossed Molly Weasley’s. In fact, it made them look remarkably similar. Sirius wondered why he’d never seen the resemblance before. Was it because one was male and the other female? Maybe it was the long beard, or the half-moon glasses?
“That is not the matter under consideration here,” Dumbledore tried again. “May we not proceed with our purpose, and cease all this unmannerly squabbling?”
“It’s a simple question,” Bones said, her whole demeanour one of inexorable determination. “How did the document that you earlier presented to Baldok come into your possession? Nothing else is going to happen here until I have an answer from you.”
Dumbledore cast a quick glance at the impassive goblin standing at the front of the room, and seemed to debate with himself for a long moment. “Harry asked me to hold it for him after his first mishap with the dementors,” he said finally. “I agreed, of course. I had no knowledge as to the contents until today. I hope that suffices for you, Amelia?”
“Thank you, Albus,” Bones said dryly. She flicked a meaning-laden glance at Baldok.
Baldok took the hint. “The opening paragraph reads thus – Will of Hadrian James Potter, dated 20 December 1994. I, Hadrian James Potter, being of sound mind and body, do hereby state that this is my last Will and Testament. I also state that at this time, this is the only Will I have ever been party to the creation of. Any Will presented in my name that has not been legitimately filed with Gringotts should be held to be a forgery, and the full extent of the law brought against any being or beings found to be responsible.”
Almost before he’d finished speaking, Amelia Bones and Albus Dumbledore were moving. Dumbledore reached for his wand, the wand movements beginning before it was fully clear of its holder. “Maximus Ob-” he got out before Bones snapped a magic restraint on his wand arm, following that up swiftly with another for the other wrist, gathering the keys that emerged and retreating again.
“Albus Dumbledore, you are under arrest-”
“Fawkes!” Dumbledore called.
The door burst open, red-robed aurors charging through just as Fawkes flashed in. Dumbledore grabbed hold of the tail feathers and with a flash of phoenix fire they were gone, stunners and binding spells hitting the wall on the other side of where he’d been standing.
The Weasleys and Hermione stood there gaping, while Sirius broke into laughter again.
“Can’t you be serious about anything?” Remus sighed, shaking his head.
“I’ll have you know that I’m always Sirius, Moony,” Sirius replied. “But did you see the look on his face when he realised she’d cuffed him? I’ve never seen him look so shocked. Well done, Amy! That was fast work!”
“I believe I’ve already told you that my name is Amelia, Lord Black,” Bones said, but the corner of her mouth was crooked upwards. She surveyed the rest of the room. “Lord Black, Mr Lupin, and Mr Flitwick have all individually come to me with concerns about the validity of the Will that Mr Dumbledore said he was going to present today,” she informed the frustrated looking aurors. “Baldok is, of course, exempt, but every other person here will need to be brought in for questioning, to determine if they were involved in the plot to defraud Heir Potter’s true inheritor.”
“Do they need to be arrested right away?” Sirius asked. “Because if you take them away and lock them up then who knows how long we’ll have to wait until we can all be present for the Will reading.”
“I’m not arresting them,” Bones objected, before heaving a sigh. “As you wish, Lord Black. But my aurors remain in the room with us this time.”
Sirius nodded. “I have no objection to that. Baldok?”
“It matters not to Gringotts,” Baldok said with a shrug. “If we may proceed? Bequests are as follows. To Hermione Jean Granger, ten thousand galleons. To Ronald Bilius Weasley, five thousand galleons. To Neville Franklin Longbottom, five thousand galleons. To Arthur Mark Weasley and Margaret Mary Weasley jointly, ten thousand galleons. To Remus John Lupin, one hundred thousand galleons, to be placed into a trust administered by Baldok of Gringotts, the interest of which is to be made available on a quarterly basis. To Filius Flitwick, the Mastery journals of my mother, Lily Jasmine Potter nee Evans. To Frederick Andrew Weasley and George Martin Weasley jointly, the Marauders Map, copies of James Charlus Potter’s prank journals, ten thousand galleons and the lease of 94 Diagon Alley for one galleon per year for the duration of your lifetimes, to revert back to my primary beneficiary when you both are deceased. To Dobby the house elf, my primary beneficiary will be instructed to offer you a bond, if you so choose it. The rest of my estate, including lands, chattels, titles, moneys, and incidental belongings, is to go to Sirius Orion Black, my godfather and distant cousin. If Sirius Orion Black should pre-decease me, or not survive me by one month, then his portion should be liquidated by Gringotts and used to fund an orphanage for magical children of all races, to be overseen by Baldok and those he chooses to appoint.
“There is further technical language about what is to happen to the portions allocated if the beneficiary is not alive to receive their inheritance, but that is not relevant in this place at this time.”
There was almost a minutes silence before Ron erupted. “Five thousand galleons? A measly five thousand galleons? I wish he was alive so that I could kill him myself! I didn’t chain myself to him for four years just for five thousand galleons!” He turned to his mother. “You promised! You promised that I would be rich! Instead, I get the same amount as that squib Longbottom! Why does Hermione get double what I do? Why do Fred and George even get anything at all! It’s not fair!”
“Shoe’s on the other foot now,” Ginny said snidely. “You’ll note that I still don’t get anything, but again, you don’t seem to care about that.”
“Harry is dead!” Hermione remonstrated. “I can’t believe how mercenary and vulgar you’re both being! Harry didn’t owe you anything!”
“Like hell he didn’t,” Ron said angrily. “And be careful who you’re calling mercenary, little miss perfect. You were being paid to spy on him as well!”
“I was not!” Hermione sounded truly affronted. “Professor Dumbledore specifically asked for my help to make sure that Harry didn’t take any needless risks! He sat down with me at the end of first year and explained that he was worried that a lack of positive parental influence might lead to Harry turning dark, and that he hoped he could count on me to keep him on the straight and narrow! It’s only natural that he should compensate me for the time taken away from my own studies!”
“What is ‘the straight and narrow’?” Sirius murmured to Remus.
“It’s another term for the morally righteous path,” Remus replied. “Hush, this is very interesting.”
“Is that why you spent so much time bossing Harrikins around?” one twin asked incredulously.
“Why on earth did you think pretending to be his mother would have any effect other than to get his back up?” the other sounded just as surprised. “Aren’t you supposed to be the smart one?”
“I had to keep him safe! And I am the smart one!” Hermione replied, moisture gathering in her eyes. “I’m the smartest witch of the age!”
“I’m sorry,” the first twin said, poking at his ear as if he thought it might be defective. “Did you just really say what I thought you said?”
“She did if you thought she said what I thought she said,” the second twin interjected.
“Well, what did you think she said?”
“I thought she said what you thought she said!”
“Boys,” Flitwick said loudly, lowering his voice when they turned to him in enquiry. “Thank you. Now, Miss Granger. I’m curious as to where you came by the belief that you’re the smartest witch of the age.”
“I’m the only person in my year who’s in the top three in all my classes,” she declared, bushy hair bristling in affront. “Professor Dumbledore told me that I reminded him of himself at this age, and Professor Lupin actually said that I was the smartest witch of the age!”
“Your age,” Remus said under his breath so that none but Sirius could hear him. “And I think it was ‘clever’, rather than ‘smart’.”
“You mean last year, right after you told Harry that Moony was a werewolf?” Sirius said with a sort of unholy glee. “You exposed someone’s secret, they immediately said something flattering to you, and you believed it?”
“Miss Granger,” Flitwick said gently, sending a censorious frown in Sirius’ general direction. “It is true that you have an impressive recall, in fact, I might go so far as to call it eidetic. I imagine that you will do extremely well on your owls, particularly the theory portion.”
Hermione nodded in vindication, but Flitwick wasn’t finished.
“However, such a memory by itself is not the only factor when ability ranking is considered. You are extremely competent at finding and relating facts and following instructions to receive the desired result, Miss Granger, but the staff has yet to see any creativity in your work. Several of your year mates have begun making adjustments to spells, and one witch has refined a relatively common potion in such a way as to even receive approval and commendation from Professor Snape, who is known for being extremely difficult to impress.”
“What? That’s not…” Hermione spluttered, denial written in every line of her body.
“There’s a witch who just finished third year that has demonstrated a number of new charms that I have been unable to find any reference to,” Flitwick said, reaching out to pat her hand. “NEWT examinations are a much better rank indicator, since a good memory will only get you a pass. That is why we don’t provide student rankings until then. Even then, your ranking is an indicator, not a fact describing worth. In any event, it is probably best, my dear, not to spend too much time priding ourselves on our accomplishments. We must always look forward, rather than back.”
Hermione yanked her hand back out of the way. “If that’s the case, why are there student rankings posted on the common board?”
“There are none in my house, or in Slytherin,” Flitwick replied. “I’m fairly sure that Pomona wouldn’t allow something so divisive to be published publicly. I know I remember Minerva complaining that a number of muggle-borns had been pestering her to provide rankings, but that was the last I heard of it.”
“All this is beside the point,” Bones interrupted finally, looking up from where she’d been taking notes in a small paper notebook. “Thank you for your time, Baldok. Graves, Darrow, I want everyone but Lord Black, Mr Lupin, Professor Flitwick, and Baldok ready for questioning within the hour.”
There was a brief moment of chaos which soon resolved itself. Each person had a dedicated auror escort, aside from Molly Weasley, who rated three.
When they’d all gone, Sirius turned to Amelia Bones. “Three for Molly? Isn’t that a bit excessive?”
Flitwick shook his head sadly. “Molly Prewitt was a fine duellist in her school days,” he said reminiscently. “She was a dab hand at potions too, if I recall. Horace was particularly keen to arrange an apprenticeship for her, but she declined. She planned even then to have a large family, although at that point I think she was seeing young Selwyn, not that it came to anything in the end.”
“Lord Black, there is something I would speak with you about,” Baldok said gruffly. He cast a glance over at Flitwick. “You may come as well, I suppose,” he said grudgingly.
Bones took her leave, and Remus told Sirius he’d meet him back at Grimmauld place, leaving Sirius and Flitwick to follow Baldok.
They were led into a room containing nothing but a receptacle that looked carved out of a chunk of clear crystal encasing a large, dark red gem of some kind. Walking through the door, Sirius could feel the magic of heavy wards rippling over his skin, which made him very curious. What was it the goblins had warded so carefully?
Baldok gestured towards the crystal. “This is where we have been keeping the Siphon we removed from Hadrian Potter. We were careful to provide just enough magic to keep the syphon alive, yet not enough to provide any sustenance to the soul it had been feeding. Several of our arcanists were studying it on the evening of the twenty-fourth when it went inert.”
“Inert?” Sirius asked, wondering if maybe the gem had still been connected with Harry in some way.
“Upon further investigation, it was determined that the magical syphon had died. After some debate and experimentation – don’t ask – we can now state with only a two per cent margin of error that the syphon died when the magical soul that it had been sustaining passed from this world.”
“You mean – You-Know-Who is dead?” Flitwick squeaked, before clearing his throat and trying again. “He is really dead this time?”
“As far as Gringotts best are able to determine,” Baldok said. He levelled Sirius with a penetrating gaze. “I was hoping that this knowledge might convince you to be equally as forthcoming with me, Lord Black. Here at Gringotts, we are aware of the details reported in the Daily Prophet. We place no trust in that publication for truth, however, and so I ask you. What happened that night?”
Sirius rubbed his eyelids with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand while he considered Baldok’s request. In truth, if Voldemort really was gone then there was nothing to be gained by keeping this knowledge secret. Madam Bones had asked him to keep it to himself, and tell only those he trusted. So the question was, did he trust Baldok?
Sirius looked over to where the now dead syphon lay. Regardless of his other motives, Baldok had done Harry a great service by asking to examine his scar, and then removing it. It was only fair that Sirius did Baldok a service in exchange.
He squared his shoulders, turning back. “Forgive my delay in reply, Baldok, I will tell you what you wish to know.”
Rather than offended, Baldok looked rather pleased.
Flitwick leaned in. “A goblin would much rather be the recipient of a considered confidence than one blurted out with no thought,” he murmured. “The knowledge then imparted becomes more valuable, because not everyone will be receiving it.”
Sirius wanted to get this over with so that he could go and get drunk with Remus. He told Baldok and Flitwick everything that Madam Bones had told him, everything that her investigation had pieced together, even though his throat grew tight at one point of the tale.
“Wait, you’re saying that Mad-Eye Moody wasn’t Mad-Eye Moody after all, that he was actually Barty Crouch Jr?” Flitwick said, astonished.
Sirius nodded. “Moody was found in his own trunk. He’d been kept there all year, harvested every so often for ingredients for polyjuice potion.”
“But Albus and Moody were good friends!” Flitwick was nearly wailing. “How could he not notice!”
Sirius didn’t really want to go into it right now, so he shrugged and continued his tale. “And then Dobby returned them all to Hogwarts,” he said finally. “Cedric was smart enough to ensure that Amelia Bones was sent for right away, and she put most of this together. It would probably be a good idea to inform her of what happened with the syphon.”
“Do you give your permission that I should share it’s relation to Hadrian Potter?” Baldok asked.
“You might as well,” Sirius said with a sigh. “Amy’s a good sort, and it’s not like her knowing can hurt Harry now. Now, if you’ll both excuse me I have one last task to perform before I can go and get drunk enough to forget, even for a while, that Harry’s dead.”
Behind him, he heard Flitwick ask, “Does that mean that You-Know-Who was brought to his final defeat by a house elf?” He wasn’t interested in hanging around to hear the reply.
He walked out into the sunlight of Diagon Alley, paying no attention to the fearful glances his presence evoked. “Dobby?” he called.
“Is you ready, Harry Potter’s Dogfather?” Dobby asked as he popped in.
“I’m ready,” Sirius confirmed. “Are you sure this is okay, Dobby? It won’t tire you out?”
Dobby shook his head. “Dobby was gifted with magic by Death. He was saying it was in return for the help with a tricky customer.”
Sirius blinked. “You met Death? And he gave you some magic?”
Dobby nodded. “He came on his white horse to visit Dobby, said that Dobby would be needing the magic.”
“A white horse?”
“The horse’s name is being Binky. Dobby thought that Binky was a very pretty white horse, almost as pretty as a unicorn!”
Sirius wondered if this was what it was like to start the hangover before the drinking. If so, the bender he was heading for was sure to be epic.
“If Dogfather is ready, Dobby be taking us now!”
With a pop they left Diagon Alley. They also left Britain and the northern hemisphere.
Ten minutes later, they were floating in a bright orange inflatable dinghy in Sydney Harbour. After scattering Harry’s ashes, they sat back for a while to gaze at the water in silence. Eventually, Sirius stirred himself to ask Dobby if he wanted a bond with the House of Black. He wasn’t terribly surprised at Dobby’s refusal.
“Dobby has a plan,” Dobby stated mysteriously. “Dobby will be sure to tell Harry Potter’s Dogfather when the time is right.”
Sirius supposed he’d have to be happy with that. “Just… don’t be a stranger, okay?” he said, hearing the plaintive note in his own voice, and hating it.
“Dobby won’t,” Dobby said with certainty.
It didn’t take Amelia Bones long to determine that of the six present who had been asked to ‘assist’ the DMLE in the investigation into the forging of the Potter Will, only the twins were truly non-complicit.
Hermione, Ron, and Ginny were not prosecuted because of their age, although a notation was put into their files that would preclude any of them from being eligible for employment within the Ministry. For Hermione – who had ambitions to become Minister for Magic – it was a great blow, but Ron and Ginny appeared to disregard the implications and acted as though they had gotten off scot-free.
Molly Weasley was convicted of being an accessory to the presentation of a false Will. She was fined ten thousand galleons, and imprisoned for three months in the low-security wing at Azkaban. She only avoided a longer prison sentence because Arthur Weasley had gone to Sirius and humbly requested clemency. He revealed that Molly’s contributions to the family were necessary in order for them to be able to continue to send their children to school, and promised that thenceforth he would take a more active role in the management of his family.
Sirius felt a little sorry for him, and most of his initial anger at Molly, Ron and Ginny had faded. Also, Harry had once confided to Sirius that Arthur Weasley seemed like an extremely kind man, henpecked and busy but loving and welcoming to a lonely outsider. Molly’s welcome might have been mercenary, but Arthur Weasley had known nothing of his wife’s plans and would have strenuously objected if he had known.
On the discovery that Fudge hadn’t been fulfilling his role properly, the Wizengamot called for a snap election. Cornelius Fudge was ousted as Minister, replaced by Amos Diggory – largely on strength of his son’s fame and popularity as the Tri-Wizard champion.
As he now had several arrest warrants awaiting him, Albus Dumbledore could no longer hold the three positions that he had been so proud of.
He was replaced as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot by Griselda Marchbanks, who served in that role for a year before passing the role to Tiberius Ogden.
Babajide Akingbade succeeded Dumbledore as Supreme Mugwump with the ICW. Immediately afterwards, Britain was put on notice that an inspection was to be conducted to ensure that they were compliant with current ICW regulations. It turned out that during his time as Supreme Mugwump, Dumbledore had repeatedly blocked scheduled audits, and now Britain was long overdue. The ICW would, therefore, be doing a deep audit. It was expected to last upwards of six months, and was to begin in January 1997.
Minerva McGonagall was appointed as Headmistress of Hogwarts. Immediately following her appointment, Severus Snape quit, packing his things and leaving the premises in a single afternoon. Horace Slughorn was hired to replace him, once more taking up his old Head of Slytherin duties as well. Septima Vector was made Head of Gryffindor.
Flitwick was offered the Deputy position, but declined. His refusal was mirrored by Sprout, Vector, and Slughorn, and the post eventually went to Aurora Sinistra.
Sybill Trelawney was fired, and given a week to pack her things and leave the castle. In the end, she had to be forcibly evicted. Two weeks exactly after she was deposited outside the main gates, she was back there, this time as a corpse. There were no marks on her and no sign of poison, leading the investigators to check for magical residue. It came back positive for the high levels required for the Killing Curse. Upon being questioned, Headmistress McGonagall refused to comment, although there were those that later said she looked guilty as hell.
Up and down the country, raids began happening on muggle-born and muggle-based half-blood households.
Mindful of the debt that he still owed Hermione for helping to save his life, Sirius ensured that the Grangers were kept safe. As the attacks began escalating, he convinced Hermione’s parents that England wasn’t safe for her – or them – and that they would be best served by relocating. With Sirius’ help, the Grangers were soon set up with their own practice in Geraldton, a coastal city in Western Australia. Hermione was able to transfer to the magical school there, and her parents were delighted to discover that the students were able to return home at the end of the day.
Amos Diggory served as Minister for six months before being assassinated just before Yule.
Cedric had been accepted for training with the ICW’s Research and Development program held at ICW main headquarters, a hidden island off the Gulf of Lion, and came home for the funeral. While in London, he spent an afternoon with Sirius and Dobby, talking about everything that had happened to Harry from the point of view of an outsider.
It didn’t take them long to realise the huge discrepancy between what Harry had told Sirius and what Cedric, as an unconnected student, had been told happened.
“It’s like they wanted us all to hate him,” Cedric said, when he heard the real story of what had happened with the basilisk. “I mean, they never actually said it was him, I suppose. They just said that the student responsible hadn’t been acting entirely of their own free will, and that the problem had been taken care of. Of course we all thought it had been him! The whole school knew he was a parselmouth! We discussed it on the train home, and the general consensus was that he’d discovered that he accidentally hurt his friend, and that it was finally enough for him to want to get help.”
Sirius found that he quite enjoyed talking to Cedric. It was the closest he’d felt to Harry since-
They agreed to keep in touch, and Sirius promised to keep an eye on Mrs Diggory, going so far as to provide her with a well-warded house in which to live.
“It’s just sitting empty, so you’d be doing me a favour, really,” Sirius insisted when she looked too proud to accept. That wasn’t going to budge her either, so he decided to play dirty. “Cedric told me that it’s hard to concentrate when he’s worried that you may be in danger,” he confided. “The Black wards have never been breached, you know. He was so happy when I told him I had a vacant property that needed a tenant. And if you feel you must pay in some way then I would be delighted if you would work with my elf Winky to see the place refurbished.”
Mrs Diggory relented, and then took Winky on a decorating spree that encompassed all but the most stringently blood-warded Black properties. Sirius was happy to let her and watched with pleasure as she unerringly set aside special or heirloom pieces, consigning the majority of the dark and dismal furnishings to oblivion. He had Winky transfer the larger furniture rejects to the training yard at Raven Rock and had a brilliant time practising his destructive spells on them.
Sirius ended up spending more time with Mrs Diggory than he’d expected to. He soon discovered that she was a sensible and well-educated lady, with an understated sense of humour that she had taken to keeping to herself. She became a regular visitor at Grimmauld Place. “You shouldn’t keep yourself so shut away from the world,” she told him. “Is this what Harry would have wanted, for you to be little more than a hermit?”
Amos Diggory was succeeded as Minister for Magic by Ludovic Bagman. There were some who questioned where he had got the money from to appease his creditors, but since no goblins were popping up and demanding his head on a pike then he had clearly sorted out his financial problems.
One of Minister Bagman’s first official acts was the Ministerial Pardon he issued to Albus Dumbledore. It was a sweeping document that basically absolved Dumbledore from all wrongdoing to date, regardless of what it was. All speculation about Bagman’s reversal of fortune came to a screeching halt, most came to a similar conclusion.
With Pardon in hand, Dumbledore was once more a visible member of magical Britain. His previous roles had all been filled in his absence, but his Order of Merlin had not been revoked and meant that he still had a seat on the Wizengamot, and it wasn’t long before he was seen moving amongst his old faction again, talking and explaining and twinkling like the politician he was.
“Ah, Sirius,” he said one evening, approaching him after a rather boring session that had ended in a stalemate, as they so often did.
“That’s Lord Black to you, Mr Dumbledore,” Sirius replied, his polite smile not reaching his eyes. “I’m afraid that there’s nothing that I wish to speak with you about, and I’m already running late for my next appointment. Please excuse me.”
Remus caught up with him later in the day. “He’s reforming the Order of the Phoenix,” he related, nibbling on the steak tartare canapés that Winky had deposited in front of him. “No doubt he was going to offer you your old place back, perhaps ask for help with the funding. He’s asked me to sound you out about both options.”
Sirius snorted derisively. “After leaving me to rot in Azkaban, let alone what he did to Harry? I don’t think so. Is he really insane? Why would he believe I would want anything to do with him? I hope his teeth rot and his nasal cavity blocks and his knees give out and his hands get stung by a blibbering humdinger.”
“Don’t hold back on my account,” Remus said dryly. “He’s convinced that Voldemort is behind the latest attacks, and that he’s the only one who can do anything about it. Moody told me that he’s eyeing up Neville Longbottom as his replacement chosen one, something to do with a prophecy.”
Sirius stared at him. “Voldemort is dead. He was done in by a house elf, and according to the goblins, his soul has finally moved off this plane. Any prophecy made about his defeat is no longer relevant, if it ever was.”
Remus shrugged. “I guess no one thought to tell ‘my liege’. Well, if he ever asks me about it, I’ll be sure to tell him. In the meantime, I think that trying to convince you to lend your backing to his illegal vigilante group will be a full-time endeavour. Which beats the next job he’s got lined up waiting for me.”
“Don’t tell me that he’s sending you out to the werewolves again? They said that if you came around spying on them again that they would kill you!”
Remus gave him an exaggeratedly disappointed frown. “Now, now, Sirius my boy, I’m sure that a few strong words in the heat of the moment don’t really mean that they plan to kill me. No, no, it’s best that I go and make contact and try to sound them out. It’s for the greater good, after all. I’m sure everything will turn out just fine.”
“Well, tell him that you’ve persuaded me to listen to your arguments, if not to relent fully,” Sirius said, mind working on how best to safeguard his friend. “Hopefully that will hold you here for a while. Let me know if he starts getting too impatient, I’ll start to bend more in public. There’s no way I’m letting him get you killed!”
“You may not be able to prevent it,” Remus said with a sigh. “Don’t worry about it too much, Padfoot. I’ve had a good life, really. It’s been a thousand times better than most who were bitten as children can boast. In the end it was worth it, to have such great friends as you and James and Lily.”
“No.” Sirius got to his feet and went over to stand at the window, looking out at the people and vehicles going about their daily lives. He turned back to Remus. “No. He’s not going to get you killed, Remus.”
“There’s nothing you can do to stop him.”
“You think not?” Sirius ran his hand down the spines of some of the older books on the shelf beside him. “His power over you dies when he does, Moony.”
Remus shook his head. “Don’t go there, Padfoot. Being locked up again would destroy you, I know it would. That’s no fair trade.”
“That’s only if I get caught,” Sirius said, but let his shoulders slump as he took his seat again. “Very well, we’ll see how long we can drag this dance out for. If we’re lucky, someone else will do us a favour and off the old bastard for us.”
“I can drink to that,” Remus said, raising his glass in a toast.
Even as he reciprocated, Sirius began considering and discarding ideas about how to deal with Dumbledore.
Bagman lasted three months as Minister before he was killed in an explosion. An experimental warding matrix that had inexplicably been left lying around overloaded and destroyed the room where the senior Ministry members were having their usual monthly meeting. All the department heads present were killed, including Amelia Bones and Arthur Weasley.
Lucius Malfoy succeeded Ludovic Bagman as Minister for Magic.
“Augusta Longbottom told Dumbledore where to go,” Remus revealed on one of his ‘persuasion missions’, beginning to look haggard and worn down again. “Apparently Neville paid close attention to the things that went on around Harry and warned his grandmother in advance. The Weasley girl was trying it on with him as well, but someone seems to have told him about what happened in Harry’s Will reading since he won’t have anything to do with her or Ron.”
“What a shame,” Sirius said. “My heart aches for them. No, wait, it’s probably just indigestion.”
“Shouldn’t have eaten the extra four helpings of tiramisu,” Remus said with a marked lack of sympathy.
“You’re just saying that because you wanted it for yourself,” Sirius retorted.
Augusta Longbottom could clearly see which way the wind was blowing, and soon Neville had transferred to Castelobruxo, helped along by a glowing testimonial from Pomona Sprout, who was on good terms with the Headmistress.
The ongoing attacks had escalated, groups of robed and hooded magic users had begun attacking half-blood wizarding homes, and the people were finally beginning to demand that something be done.
Rufus Scrimgeour, Amelia Bones’ successor, looked to be at least trying to come to grips with the situation when he died in suspicious circumstances. It was reported as ‘an unfortunate splinching due to overwork’, and no formal investigation was conducted. John Dawlish succeeded him, at which point Sirius used his power as the Black to get his young cousin Nymphadora Tonks transferred to France, where her parents had taken up occupation of a Black villa in Tuscany.
Tiberius Ogden stopped coming to Wizengamot sessions. It was said that he was hiding in fear of his life, and Nathaniel Nott took over as Chief Warlock.
Cedric had two weeks off at the end of April and he spent the majority of that time with his mother, having split up with Cho over his decision to accept a place at the ICW without asking for her approval first.
He also spent some time at Grimmauld Place, ostensibly to use the Black Library but really to talk about Harry.
“No one really understands why I want to talk about him,” Cedric confided. “I didn’t even know him very well, after all. In fact, I think I know him a lot better now that he’s dead than I ever did when he was alive. They keep telling me that I need to move on, and I can’t. You’re the only one who doesn’t make me feel like I should just get over it. Mum listens, but she’s made no secret of the fact that she thinks wallowing like this is unhealthy.”
The day before Cedric was due back at the ICW, he came for one last visit. He’d been there ten minutes when Dobby arrived.
Dobby popping by wasn’t a surprise. He’d often visited when Cedric was there. He didn’t join in with their conversations about Harry, but he sat there listening with wide and sometimes tear-filled eyes.
“Hello, Dobby,” Cedric said with a kind smile, flicking his wand out to arrange the mat that Dobby usually sat on closer to the two of them.
Dobby stood in front of the two wizards with wild eyes. “Dobby has done it!” he shouted. “Dobby has bargained with the Old High One, and Dobby will be allowed to save the Great and Wonderful Harry Potter!”
Sirius could feel his heart in his chest, beating so hard it felt like it was going to pull of an escape attempt to rival his own Azkaban breakout. He would have spent more time wondering if he’d heard correctly, but the dawning hope and joy on Cedric’s face along with Dobby’s manic energy convinced him that this was really happening.
Dobby was so excited by his news that it took about half an hour to get him calmed down enough so that he was able to tell his tale in a somewhat linear fashion.
“Dobby wanted the Great Harry Potter back, so he went to the Simurgh,” Dobby said, eyes still lit up like they had fire behind them. “Dobby told her of the Great Harry Potter, how kind he was, how sad, and brave, and scared, and noble, and how he freed Dobby and then offered him a home.” Dobby’s ears wilted. “How he died.” He perked back up again. “The Simurgh saw Dobby’s memories and agreed that Harry Potter had been wronged. She called the Summit of Elders.”
Sirius and Cedric exchanged glances. The Simurgh was thought to be a myth, an origin story for the phoenix. And neither of them had ever heard of a ‘Summit of Elders’ before. But while house elves could be cryptic and were known to withhold information, they were also known as very bad liars. Whatever had happened, Dobby firmly believed what he was saying, and really, was it so incredible?
“The Elders argued a lot,” Dobby said with some satisfaction, like watching this had been the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. “The Chimera and the Leviathan almost destroyed the mountaintop!”
“Hang on,” Cedric interrupted. “Isn’t a Leviathan a sea-dwelling creature? How could it survive on a mountain?”
Dobby regarded him with pity. “There is being magic at work, Cedric Diggory. It be too cold for the Simurgh, too hot for the Yeti, too dry for the Leviathan and too crowded for the Chimera. The Raijū can exist everywhere but isn’t often staying anywhere long enough for talking.”
“Of course,” Sirius murmured, privately planning to do some research as soon as he was alone. Thank Merlin for pensieves, otherwise he wouldn’t have a hope of remembering some of the things Dobby was saying.
“It took a long time for the Summit to start talking about Harry Potter,” Dobby continued. “Dobby was waiting for hours while they talked about poisoned wells and missing hearts. Then the Simurgh suggested that the Great and Wonderful Harry Potter would be a worthy champion for them! Then she started suggesting that they bring him back for it.”
“What did the others say?” Cedric asked, leaning forward.
“Dobby doesn’t know,” Dobby looked a little sheepish. “Dobby gave the Simurgh a big telling off about trying to trick the Great Harry Potter into being her servant. Dobby told her that she was no better than Dumbledore, and that the Great Harry Potter was better off dead than made into a slave!”
Sirius couldn’t stop himself from laughing out loud. “You had a go at the Simurgh? In front of the greatest magical beings in the world? Oh, Dobby, you are one of a kind!”
Dobby’s ears were waving like they were caught in a breeze. “Harry Potter sir once told Dobby that he wished that everyone would just let him be ‘an ordinary bloke’,” Dobby said sadly. “Dobby is not going to help anyone force Harry Potter into something he doesn’t want to do, not even the Elders!”
“You are a good friend,” Sirius said fondly. “You made the right choice, Dobby. It would be the height of selfishness to bring him back just because we miss him, and lump him with a destiny he had no say in.”
“The Simurgh tried to fry Dobby, but the bad Malfoys taught Dobby to dodge very well,” Dobby said. “She was going to try again, but Death arrived and said he wanted a word with Dobby, and would the Simurgh please cease and desist if she didn’t want to see him get angry? He said she wouldn’t like him when he was angry.”
“Death,” Cedric said, as though he was wondering if he’d heard correctly. “Came to save you. From the Simurgh.”
“With his pretty white horsie,” Dobby confirmed with a nod.
Cedric looked helplessly at Sirius.
“The horse’s name is Binky,” Sirius said helpfully, enjoying the look on his young friend’s face.
Dobby was either not paying attention, or didn’t care. “Death took Dobby to see the Old High One,” he said reverently. “The Old High One! No elf has ever been in the presence of an Old High One before! Dobby didn’t even have to say anything!”
“And this Old High One is going to bring Harry back?” Sirius asked, hope rising inside him.
“Not exactly,” Dobby said, looking a little shifty. “The Great Harry Potter is not so much being brought back, as Dobby is going back.”
Sirius blinked. “You’re going back in time?” he said, wondering if he’d caught the gist of Dobby’s words properly.
“Yes,” Dobby nodded, before taking a deep breath. “And Dogfather and Cedric Diggory can’t come with Dobby. Dobby must go alone, or not at all.”
Sirius felt like his heart was seizing in his chest. “So either way we won’t get to see him again,” he concluded numbly.
Dobby came forward so that he was standing directly in front of Sirius, looking deeply into his eyes. “Dobby is going to go back in time and make everything right for the Great Harry Potter,” he pledged, the fire behind his eyes burning brighter. “The Old High One will make it so. Dobby will restore the missing heart and cleanse the poisoned well, and Harry Potter and his Dogfather will live happily ever after!”
“What’s the price?” Cedric asked, breaking the atmosphere. “Nothing this big can be done without a price.”
Dobby’s ears flapped. “Dobby is quite willing to pay the price, Cedric Diggory.”
“That wasn’t what I asked,” Cedric said gently.
“Dobby would prefer not to say.”
Sirius sighed. “Please, Dobby?”
Dobby shook his head fiercely. “Dogfather will try to tell Dobby that he can’t do it! Dobby doesn’t want to say!”
“I promise we won’t stop you if it’s the only way,” Sirius said softly. “But I think we deserve to know, don’t we?”
“Dobby knows no good will come of this. But Dogfather has very sad eyes, and not even Dobby can resist. So. Dobby will stay long enough to see his promises kept, and then he will be dying,” Dobby admitted. “The magic that was borrowed will be restored, and the balance will be kept.”
Sirius felt tears pricking his eyes. “The price is your death? You have to die?”
“The price is a willing magical life,” Dobby replied. “Dobby is glad to be able to pay it if it means happiness for Harry Potter.”
“No!” Cedric said emphatically. “It could be me! I owe Harry a life debt! I should have been the one to die that night, so if anyone is giving up their life to save Harry, it’s going to be me!”
“No, Cedric! You have your mother to think of!” Sirius reminded him. “Are you going to leave her alone? How do you think she’s going to cope with that?”
The stubborn cast to Cedric’s jaw softened, and he sighed. “You’re right. But I can’t let Dobby do it! He’s going to have enough to deal with, without his impending death to worry about!”
“No, I agree,” Sirius said, mind made up. “That’s why the sacrifice is going to be me.”
“Dobby can’t let Harry Potter’s Dogfather do this!” Dobby wailed. “This is why Dobby didn’t want to tell! Harry Potter would be so angry! He wanted his Dogfather free and happy!”
“If you let me do this I will be happy,” Sirius promised him. “All my true family but one are already dead, and he’s already on borrowed time if Dumbledore has anything to say about it. I’m doing my best to live because I know that’s what Harry wanted, but it’s so hard. Let me do this.”
Dobby was silent, eyes downcast.
“But what about the House of Black?” Cedric asked. “Do you have an Heir? Because everyone thinks that Draco Malfoy is the next in line, and considering his father is the Minister…”
“Did you know that your mother’s grandmother was a Black?” Sirius replied. “I’ve been doing some checking. If you allow me to ritually adopt you as my Heir, you will be able to inherit the Black without having to forfeit the Diggory.”
Cedric stared with an open mouth.
“Really, Cedric?” Sirius shook his head sadly. “The Simurgh and the Leviathan, Death and Time Travel, and the thing that makes you lose your composure is an offer of adoption?”
“The other things don’t seem real,” Cedric answered dazedly. “Ritual adoption… are you sure?”
Sirius nodded. “I’ve given it a lot of thought,” he replied. “I haven’t mentioned it before because there was always a chance that my cousin Nymphadora would produce a son, and I would be able to name him. But you were always my next choice.”
Cedric gave his head a shake. “It just feels like Harry not only gave his life for me, but I got everything else of his as well. I’m not sure how I feel about that.”
Sirius shrugged. “Better you than some others I could name. The only other contender was Neville Longbottom, and I’d hate to set him against his grandmother.” At Cedric’s enquiring look, he explained. “Neville’s parents were cursed into insanity by one of my cousins and her family,” he said. “Augusta didn’t declare a feud, but she’s shunned us ever since. Naming Neville as Heir of Black would just strain their relationship, and I would prefer not to do that. Harry liked Neville very much.”
Cedric nodded. “Well, if you’re sure you’ve thought this through then I would be honoured to be adopted into your house. I promise to acquit myself as the Black as best I can.”
Sirius turned to Dobby. “How long do we have to get this sorted out, Dobby?”
“Dogfather will not be moved,” Dobby said mournfully. “The Old High One will take Dobby back exactly one year from when the Great Harry Potter died, at Stonehenge. Dogfather has until then to make his plans.”