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Harry struggles a bit with what to say when he finds a quiet moment with Sirius after his trial. He isn’t sure how to express that as much as he wanted to go back to school he wouldn’t have minded being forced to stay here.

He thinks he would have quite liked it actually.

But Sirius had vanished and was avoiding not just that conversation, but Harry altogether. Luckily he’d caught a glimpse of his godfather heading into one of the already cleaned rooms and now he only had to work out what to say before things could go back to normal.

Or he could just wing it. It was the Potter way.

Pushing the door open he finds a strange sight. Sirius is standing in the centre of the room and all around him – in much the same style as the family tapestry – is a very large map. Harry can’t see many vowels in the place names so he guesses it’s a map of Wales.

To Harry’s left is Hestia Jones who grins at him and pats the floor next to her.

“Come sit down. I hope you weren’t hoping to get anything out of him.”

Harry sits blindly, staring at Sirius, who has yet to turn around or acknowledge that he was there.

“Is he…?”

“Mental? Definitely. He has this weird thing about Wales – I’m not convinced he doesn’t only like me for my accent.”

“Do you know him well?”

Jones shrugs. “Sort of. Not really. Better than most and a lot less than Remus. I was his designated healer during the war.”

“Designated healer?”

“When somebody ends up at Mungo’s as often as he did they end up getting to know the staff pretty well. And when you’ve got a personality that pisses off ninety percent of any room you aren’t that trusting about who gets to poke their wand in your face.”

Harry nods, wondering if he should get one in advance. “I didn’t know you were friends.”

Jones snorts. “As if you could, with how much he mopes about all the time.”

“Lancelot.” Sirius mumbles suddenly, still seemingly unaware of their presence. “But that’s easy. I need Merlin.”

“He’s very invested in Arthurian history.” Jones sighs, staring balefully at Harry. “I don’t know what he’s going on about.”

“Sirius…” Harry calls out. Sirius turns around and blinks at him for a long moment.

“Harry!” He sounds pleasantly surprised to see him. Maybe he hadn’t been avoiding Harry after all. “I didn’t notice you come in.”

“What’s all this?” Harry gestures, forgoing the conversation he came to have.

“Just a hobby. Your father was a great leader you know. A great man too but –” Sirius smiles at him, a little sadly, “I still wonder what he would have done.”

Harry isn’t sure what to say to that but Sirius doesn’t seem to be looking for an answer.

“Some stories play out again and again over history, always a little bit diluted.” Sirius walks over to them and sits down next to Harry. “Your dad was the perfect Arthur but a thousand years into the future so it was a very watered down kingdom he ruled over.”

“Kingdom?” Harry isn’t sure he can rule out that his dad was actually a king considering all the other things he doesn’t know about his family.

Sirius glances at him. “Not a real one. I mean us, the marauders. Like I said; diluted. But James was Arthur plain as day. Perfect for the role.”

“And you’re looking for Merlin?”

“Mm-hmm. I know it’s either me or Moony but I can’t fix the spell until I know.”

“You’ve mentioned Lancelot before.” Jones said. “Is that Pettigrew then? I’m not sure I see the connection.”

“Lancelot is the one who brought about the fall of Camelot by betraying Arthur. It’s almost too easy.”

“Right.” She says, drawing the word out to show her scepticism.

Harry finds the whole conversation quite interesting, even if he doesn’t see why it should spark such a flame in Sirius. But he is confused about Merlin.

“But you should have been secret keeper right?”

Sirius stares at him intensely, not saying anything; forcing Harry to go on.

“I mean you were mum and dad’s first choice because dad trusted you the most. So you have to be Merlin. Where’s the puzzle?”

“I…” Sirius trails off before leaping to his feet and back over to where he was standing before. “Could it be that simple?” He reaches out, seemingly tentatively, to touch the wall. The projection seems to shudder. “Harry are you sure?”

“Yes?” Harry doesn’t get it. Sirius sounds so intense; as though this is the most important thing in the world. “Yes.” He says more certainly.

At his confirmation Sirius splays his hand out on the wall and intones. “REPERIO.” The wall ripples and at first slowly and then much quicker a strand of liquid black flows outward from his hand until the entire room is dark.

“Lumos.” Sirius whispers, sounding giddy, and the sudden light reveals that one patch of map is unblemished. He turns to look at them; ecstatic.

Before Harry or Jones can ask what’s happened the door opens and Professor Lupin steps through. Harry immediately looks to him for answers but he looks just as perplexed as they feel.

“Moony! Look!” Sirius drops his hand from the wall to drag Lupin over to see. The black dims a little and Sirius waves at it, possibly for submission until it greys out entirely. Harry has just enough time to see Sirius roll his eyes and wave a hand before the world blinks out.

When the white bleeds out of his vision he finds that the map has been replaced with a picture-perfect simulation of a piece of countryside. He looks around at the image and at the others. Sirius still looks gleeful. Lupin and Jones have similar expressions of exasperation.

Sirius spins around slowly, taking it all in. “I’ve been working on this since I was sixteen.”

“You decided your best friend was King Arthur at sixteen?” Jones says disbelievingly.

“Oh!” Lupin breathes out. “This is about James?” He looks completely poleaxed.

Sirius stares at him. “I thought you knew.”

Lupin laughs. “Sirius. No one ever knows what you’re thinking.”

Sirius laughs too.

“What is all this Sirius?” Jones says tiredly.

Sirius doesn’t quite sober up but he does stop laughing. “Wales. I don’t know.”

“Sirius. You fucking –” She stops, shakes her head, “I’m Welsh. Trust me, this could be anywhere.” The ‘you idiot’ is left off but strongly implied.

“It isn’t anywhere though,” Sirius sounds happier than Harry has ever heard him, bubbling over with satisfaction, “It’s here.”

“Our friendship is my greatest regret.” She mutters, walking away from him with one hand stretched out in front of her. Sirius watches her bemusedly.

“Sirius.” Jones says after walking a distance away. “Where’s the door.” It’s more of a threat than a question.

“Back in London I imagine.” He says blithely.

“I hate you so much. You apparated us to Wales?!”

Harry stares. The grey, cloudless sky stares back at him.

“That’s impossible.” Lupin says, brows furrowed. “Sirius? You have to be touching people to apparate them and you have to know where you’re going. You can’t just pick a place on a map and be there.”

Sirius shrugs. “Magic.” He smiles enigmatically.

“You were such a mistake.” Jones says, shaking her head at herself. Harry notices that despite her words she looks completely relaxed and at ease.

“I’m inclined to agree.” Lupin says but he’s grinning.

Sirius laughs again. “What about you Harry? Are you on my side?”

“Sure.” Harry says, trying for casual and missing by a mile.

“So why are we here?” Lupin asks. “What are you looking for in Wales?”

“The sword?” Jones says.

“Or a grave?” Lupin asks.

“Both actually. Or neither.” Sirius speaks slowly, “But the sword is primary. This way I think.”

He heads off at a quick pace leaving the rest of them to follow slowly.

“How does he know where to go?” Harry asks. “There’s nothing around for miles.”

“He doesn’t know where he’s going.” Lupin bites out. “Sirius either operates on complete precision down to the last detail or, more often, wild instinct.”

“Good instinct?” Harry asks, looking dubiously at the empty horizon they’re jogging towards.

Lupin shrugs. “More or less. He’s quite brilliant actually.”

“Who cares?” Jones shouts joyfully, “Anything to get out of that mausoleum.”

“You’re only there once a week.” Lupin points out.

“And it’s awful, Remus. I don’t know how you two stand it.”

Harry stays silent, not wanting to admit to how desperate he is to get back to Hogwarts anywhere it might get back to Sirius. Today might be a good day but there’s no guarantee for tomorrow.

“I’ve been jumping from house to house for fifteen years.” Lupin shrugs. “This isn’t too much worse than the street.” He says it flippantly, for, Harry suspects, his benefit.

“I don’t mean living there.” Jones says. “I know none of you have any better options. I mean why aren’t you succumbing to your worst habits like everyone else?”

Lupin laughs. “You’re really asking me that ‘Tia?”

She smiles. “Well ok.”

When finally, after a silence, they are able to see something in the distance, Harry asks, “What do you mean? Succumbing?”

“Oh you know,” She says, despite Lupin’s frown, “Sirius is crueller than usual, more possessive and obsessive too. I don’t know the Weasleys that well and they’re the only other ones living here full time but when we do talk Molly seems terribly smothering and compares her children a lot, Arthur’s always seemed very friendly at the ministry but now he barely speaks and is dreadfully passive. Bill’s almost never here but he picks fights a bit too easily for someone who works with dangerous magic all the time; you’d think they’d root that out. I can’t speak about the younger ones.”

“Well I doubt we could stop you if you did.” Lupin says, not cruelly, “It’s hard to notice, Harry not if you aren’t looking for it.”

Harry bites his lip. “I’ve been feeling like this all summer.” He says, not denying that his behaviour hasn’t been the greatest.

“Yeah that isn’t the house.” Lupin says. “You’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Battle fatigue?”

Harry stares at him blankly.

“It’s a mental disorder.”

“I’M NOT MAD!”

“I didn’t say you were Harry.” Lupin says calmly, forcing Harry to also stay calm, “In this case mental just refers to it being an illness of the mind and not any sort of insanity.”

“Oh.” Harry says quietly, a sinking feeling overtaking him.

“It’s a muggle term. Possibly not surprisingly, we wizards don’t have an equivalent.”

Jones snorts.

“Anyway it affects many people who’ve been through something traumatic. It happens to lots of people involved in wars or who’ve been in a near-death experience. You’ve been through a lot in an extremely short amount of time.” He pauses, “Or if you want you’ve been through a lot stretched out over your entire life. It’s a miracle that it’s taken this long to catch up to you.”

Why hast thou lost the fresh blood in thy cheeks
And given my treasures and my rights of thee
To thick-eyed musing and cursed melancholy?” Jones quotes quietly.

Harry shudders at the words. Lupin claps him on the shoulder. “Run on ahead Harry, try and catch up with Padfoot before he vanishes completely.”

Harry does so, thankful for the escape from the conversation. He doesn’t run as hard as he could, wary of the panic that arrives when his heart starts beating too fast, but fast enough that he can hear his blood pumping.

It’s nice to know he isn’t insane, to hear that his situation isn’t unique, selfishly nice to recognise in Lupin and Jones voices the same things he hears in his own. From what Lupin’s saying, Sirius too, would understand what Harry’s feeling which…isn’t exactly surprising. Some days Harry’s surprised he recognised the dementors when they came to Privet Drive being as their effect is just how he feels most of the time. Thank Merlin for Dudley being there to let him know that this time it was real.

Up ahead, slightly blurred by the wetness in his eyes, there’s a single tree with Sirius’ cloak hanging off a branch. Harry stops and kneels on the ground.

He looks back behind him; he’s run farther than he’d thought, Lupin and Jones just barely in his vision.

By the time they catch up to him he’s shed his tears and cleaned his face on his shirt. “I can’t see him!” He shouts to them, not needing to raise his voice much to be heard over the non-existent wind. “But his cloak’s here.”

Lupin waves his wand and mutters something and a large lake shimmers into view with a fence seemingly made of pure light guarding it.

Harry’s mouth falls open. “Are those…?”

“Notice-me-not charms.” Lupin confirms. “A lot of them. Whoever did this must have been very worried about muggles finding it.”

“Not just muggles.” Jones says, wand out, “We wouldn’t have noticed it if Sirius hadn’t left his cloak. Instinct, huh?”

Lupin shrugs. “Brilliant, I said. Always was.”

He comes over and sits by Harry and they both watch Jones continue to cast more and more obscure spells.

“I should apologise for before Harry, I didn’t mean to upset you or imply anything about your mental state.”

“It’s nothing.” Harry says, feeling like he should apologise back for his random anger. “Should we just wait?” He looks around restlessly.

“I think so. Seeing as he hasn’t actually told us anything.”

Harry glances at him, but he really doesn’t seem bothered by this lack of knowledge – funny, how Harry would have expected the opposite purely because of his having been a teacher.

“He isn’t angry with you.”

“What?” Harry turns around fast enough to get whiplash.

“Sirius.” Lupin looks at him fiercely. “He’s jealous that you get to leave and scared you’ll hate him when you realise. This should help though – getting out. Sirius has always done better outdoors.”

“He seemed well last year.” Harry agrees, ignoring the other thing Lupin had said. “Even living in caves. Gave me good advice and…” Put himself in danger for me, he thinks, a warm feeling spreading through his bones. “Stuff.” He finishes aloud.

Lupin laughs. “Really? I wouldn’t have thought him capable. I missed it, you know. His growing up.”

“You’re the same age though.” Harry asks in confusion.

Lupin smiles. “It doesn’t work quite like that. Sirius was – he had his moments of childishness: the marauding we got up to mostly. And then the war forced us into adults, the same way it does again for you and your friends, but Sirius didn’t really take to it. He was always pulling us into trouble. That’s how I remember him. Or try to.”

Harry considers this. Hermione, certainly, is more mature than he and Ron and Voldemort’s return has forced him – them – into positions above of the others in their year. He thinks about that chessboard back in their first year.

Jones comes over to them, having finally dropped her spells.

“Found anything?” Lupin says half-heartedly.

She shrugs. “What you’d expect. The charms are very powerful; they block out everything else – we’ve no way of tracking him, but he won’t have gone far.” She pauses, and eyes the lake. “How’s his swimming?” She asks speculatively.

Lupin shrugs.

“Good.” Harry blurts out. “I mean,” He trails off when they both turn to him, “He must be. To have swum from Azkaban I mean.”

“Mm. I’d forgotten he had to swim.” Lupin says thoughtfully.

“Did he really?” Jones says in astonishment. “All that way?”

“He had to.” Harry replies.

“He could transform at least.” Lupin adds.

Jones snorts. “So? He’d still have been weak, underfed. It’s a miracle he didn’t drown.”

“He wants to survive too badly. It’s always been his trouble.”

“Trouble?” Harry questions. “What’s wrong with wanting to live?”

“He doesn’t.” Lupin says, standing up and looking sad. “He’s – I shouldn’t tell you this Harry, he wouldn’t want me too – but he’s very suicidal. We had to talk him down from the brink more often than I could count. He just doesn’t want anyone to take the choice from him.”

“What he means, Potter,” Jones says, “Is that in terms of mental instability you’re a patient and Sirius is the entire sodding hospital.”

“That is not what I said.” Lupin sighs, rolling his eyes.

But Harry, shamefully, is slightly reassured by her words.

“So we just wait here?” He says, going back to the start of the conversation.

“Mm-hmm.”

“Can you…can you tell me about this Arthur stuff? I never read any of the stories and it isn’t part of History of Magic.”

“No. It wouldn’t be.” Lupin nods. “We know, at least, that Arthur, Merlin, that lot, that they were real – which is more than the muggle historians can say. It’s only that that’s about all we know. It isn’t recorded anywhere. The theory is that someone went to a lot of trouble to purge all of the evidence.”

“Then how do we know?”

“Ghosts, family artefacts, things muggles couldn’t have got to. They think it was a muggle who destroyed it all you see. It should be taught in history actually, it’s very interesting. The idea is that that’s how magic and muggle became separated and it’s strange to consider that we didn’t hide ourselves away.”

“Why do you know all of this, Remus? Surely you aren’t a scholar of the subject?”

“Sirius did say he’d been working on this since he was sixteen. I picked things up.” He smiles fondly. “He used to ambush us while we were studying and read us old stories. Nutter.” He shakes his head. “Completely mad.”

“He said he was looking for a sword earlier?” Harry says, thinking of Godric Gryffindor’s sword in Dumbledore’s office. “Does it have to be a specific one?”

“Excalibur.” Lupin nods.

“No.” Jones interrupts him, “I thought it was the sword in the stone?”

“Aren’t they the same thing?” Harry says, proving his point about not knowing these stories.

“The sword in the stone proved that Arthur was the rightful king and Excalibur was given to him by the Lady of the Lake. So I’m inclined to think this is Excalibur.”

“Just because we’re next to a lake?”

“Why should it be yours then?”

“Because that’s how the story starts. And this is Sirius; it’s definitely going to be the weird option and not the one with evidence.”

“That’s…fair.” Lupin concedes.

“So why does he need either one of them?” Harry says quickly into the pause before they can start talking about anything else that will fly over his head.

Lupin shrugs. “He probably thinks it will help. Sirius has a strange thought process.”

“It’s the prophecy.”

“Hestia!”

“Calm down Remus, not that one, the old one about Arthur.”

“Oh.” Lupin looks slightly sheepish and for some reason glances guiltily at Harry.

“What prophecy?” Harry asks, feeling like he’s trying to pull the sword from the stone with how many tangents his easy questions seem to have.

’He will return when England has need of him.’” Jones quotes. “It isn’t a proper prophecy I don’t think but it’s lasted this long, stuck around in our consciousness enough that there’s a magic in it all the same.”

“We are in need.”

“And it’s…it would be a good rallying point. We need one of those.”

“Cedric should be our rallying point.” Harry mutters bitterly.

Lupin shakes his head. “Wizarding culture has always appreciated symbols more than people. You’ve seen that Harry, how many people see your scar before anything else?”

Harry sighs. “Too many. So if we need to rally around King Arthur then what was all that stuff about my dad?”

Two blank faces stare back at him.

“I don’t…” Lupin trails off. “Oh!”

“Remus?”

“Professor?”

“I think I might know what he’s doing but…it’s Sirius and he’s holding back for a reason.”

“Yeah, because he always assumes everyone knows what he’s talking about.”

“Well that too.” Lupin concedes. “But if I’m right then he knows exactly how in the dark we are.”

Jones rolls her eyes. “Do you have any idea how much of my life I’ve wasted listening to Sirius complaining about Albus’ cryptic bullshit only to put up with this?”

Lupin laughs.

Jones shakes her head. “If you’re right about this then you don’t get to gloat about it later.”

“If I’m right then I won’t care.” Lupin smiles, his eyes sparkling.

Eventually, not long after they’ve lapsed into a comfortable silence, the lake ripples and Sirius pulls himself onto the grass. Gasping gratefully at the air he gestures wordlessly at Lupin who only laughs and flips him off.

“No way. Not after last time.”

Harry looks at Jones for clarification but she just shrugs, ignorance written across her face.

“Tosser.” Sirius gasps out. “Harry can you get my wand? In my cloak.”

Harry pulls it out and passes it to him, interestedly; he almost never sees Sirius use his wand.

Sirius takes it with an almost unperceivable shudder and points it back at the lake. “Accio.” He mutters and then drops it gratefully onto the ground.

Fully out of the water now, Sirius takes the opportunity to pull his robe back on while they wait.

Harry watches the lake warily, “Is it working?”

Sirius nods. “It’s very deep.”

Lupin looks over at Harry and Jones and grimaces a little. He goes over to Sirius and starts whispering.

Sirius grins wider than Harry has ever seen and throws his arms around him. “Yes! Isn’t it great?”

“No gloating Lupin.” Jones calls out.

“I don’t think its him we have to worry about.” Harry says eyeing Sirius’ expression warily.

“How about we just put a moratorium on gloating of all sorts?”

“Good luck with that.” Harry laughs, “Hey Sirius, what’s happening? Can you tell us?”

“I suppose. Yes. See in sixth year it was just a game – a backup plan – but now it seemed back in fashion. I couldn’t say – I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up or get told to drop it.”

“Not that you would have done.” Lupin interjects.

“No. No I wouldn’t have done.” Sirius is still grinning but there’s a dark gleam in his eyes. “But it’s the same story again and again over history; it would be almost a crime to not try to bring him back.”

Harry sees, for the first time since their first meeting in the Shack, exactly why people thought Sirius could have been a death eater. Right now he looks very, very dangerous.

“Arthur?” He asks, swallowing his apprehension – but he still doesn’t understand the urgency behind this.

“No.” Sirius shakes his head. “No. James!”

“My dad?” Harry’s head shoots up.

Sirius and Lupin both nod. Harry’s mouth drops open; now he understands. His dad. Wow.

“Come on.” Sirius urges at the lake. “Come on.”

Just as Harry is about to suggest that he try the spell again a large stick flies out of the water followed by a sword. Sirius grabs the stick in time but doesn’t manage to dodge the sword before it slams into his side.

Harry winces but Jones is already there healing the wound before it can do more than slightly stain Sirius’s robe.

“No rusting at all.” She murmurs. “Is this goblin made?”

Sirius doesn’t answer.

“So, back to London?” Harry asks, not exactly looking forward to returning to Grimmauld Place.

Sirius shakes his head again, lips pressed tightly together even though the cut couldn’t have been that painful. He holds out his arm to Harry. “Godric’s Hollow.” He says as Harry takes it and the others nod.

Harry is aware of the feeling of apparition possibly before it happens and when they arrive – land? – his stomach feels as though it is still in Wales. He swallows back bile.

He looks around; he and Sirius are standing in the shadows next to a church. He can’t see Professor Lupin or Jones anywhere nearby.

“Where are we?”

Sirius looks at him in concern. “Are you alright? Did the apparition do something?”

“I’m fine. Should I have been here before?”

“Yes!” Sirius sounds angry. “Yes. Harry this is where you were born, where you lived. Your parents are buried in this churchyard. Have you never visited before?”

“No I’ve…I’ve never been to my parent’s graves. I’ve never even thought about it.” He’s struck by the enormity of this all at once: guilt spilling over him in waves.

Sirius pulls him close. “It’s ok. Not your fault.”

Harry sobs suddenly, “I haven’t seen Cedric’s either. I should.”

“Later. There’ll be time.”

They stand like that, still, until the sun has set and Sirius pulls away.

“Clouds. Good.”

They find Lupin and Jones around the front of the church and together they walk toward the graveyard. The three adults know exactly where they’re going – even Hestia who had said she didn’t know his parents that well, even Sirius who couldn’t have been here for more than a flying visit before he left the country on Buckbeak. Harry lags behind them and wipes away his tears whenever they threaten to fall.

He’s never been in a graveyard where he wasn’t fighting for his life before and he stares at the stone slabs curiously, wondering at the people they watch over.

“Here.” Lupin says and the stop. His parents have a joint grave – bone white marble and shining in the faint wandlight. Harry lets out a dry sob.

“Give you a moment.” Sirius says, stepping back.

Harry steps forward and reads the epitaph. The last enemy that will be defeated is death.

“Hi mum. Hi dad. I’m sorry I haven’t visited sooner; I wish I had. I don’t know if last year was real, if you were really there. I hope you were. You saved my life. Again.

I don’t really know what we’re doing but I hope it works. I hope I get to meet you properly. I’m sorry mum; I don’t think you’re coming back but I…I hope you don’t mind; I hope you won’t blame Sirius or Pro- Remus for what they’re doing – they’re doing a damn sight more than anyone else is!”

He breathes heavily for a few seconds, fighting another onslaught of tears before reaching out to trace his mother’s name.

“I think the real reason we’re not allowed to be in order meetings is because they’re ashamed,” He says bitterly, words tumbling out with no thought to the people behind him, “They screwed it up last time and now they’re just old and unprepared and I’ve –

Harry chokes on his tears.

“I’ve met Voldemort four times now and I’m still alive and they’re just sitting there and you’re dead! Sometimes I think we’ve already lost and now we’re just waiting for it to happen and I’m scared mum! I’m so scared.

“I hope you’re safe and well and not angry mum. Dad I hope I’ll see you soon.”

He makes to stand up and then pauses to lean forward and lightly press his lips to the gravestone. “I love you both.”

He turns around and nods at Sirius and Remus. Jones is nowhere to be seen.

“You should wait a bit away, Harry.” Remus says mournfully.

Harry obeys without question; he doesn’t want to see this. He watches the graveyard entrance instead, waiting for Jones’ return.

The night is silent, still. If Harry listens carefully he can hear the thud and scrape of the dirt being dug up. He wonders how deep underground a coffin lies. He walks a little further away and runs his fingers over the inscriptions on the stones. It’s too dark to make out the names or epitaphs but Harry takes the time to speak to the people there all the same.

Some of the graves are coated in lichen and dirt as though they haven’t been touched for centuries and Harry doesn’t think he’d have any better luck reading them if it were the brightest day ever, but others are smooth to touch and twice his fingers pass over fresh flowers at their feet. There doesn’t seem to be any order to the layout just bodies buried under every patch of earth, dead and dreaming. Harry shivers.

He looks up from the long tomb he’s been feeling to discover that he’s closer to the gateway than he’d thought. Pulling his hand away from the triangle carving he risks a look behind him to his parents’ grave.

It’s too dark to see them from this distance but now he’s listening again he can hear a triumphant noise from one of the men.

His consideration over going back and possibly seeing his parent’s bodies is quickly discarded in favour of the arrival of another person in the graveyard with them; he opens his mouth to yell a warning to Sirius and Remus before he recognises Jones’ silvery cloak and snaps his jaw shut.

He waves at her. From her wand a light sputters into view and starts to bob towards him.

Jones nods at him once she’s in speaking distance. “You alright?”

Harry doesn’t answer.

Jones doesn’t push it. “I’ve put the sword out, so that bit’s done.”

They walk back over to Sirius and Remus at a slow, dawdling pace.

The next second the world goes black.

Despite not having needed light to see before Harry immediately stumbles in the cold dirt and panics, his limited composure leaving in a heartbeat.

“SORRY!” Remus roars over, much too loud. There’s a sudden clang and a burst of light that barely filters through to Harry’s grasping eyes. “Sorry Harry.” Remus repeats, quieter, closer, “You don’t need to see this.”

Panic receding, the rest of the world filters in; beginning with the stench of rotting flesh and Harry turns away, feeling ill. He nods at where he thinks Remus is standing and mumbles something that could be a thanks.

“Here.” Jones says, taking his hand and leading it so he’s holding her arm. “I’ll lead you.”

The smell suddenly vanishes.

“Fuck.” Sirius swears, sounding waterier than Harry thinks he’d have liked to. “Fuck. That was harder than I’d thought.”

There’s a shuffle of footsteps that Harry can’t identify – not that he could identify much right now; he doesn’t think he could say if he was still facing the grave anymore.

There’s a thump that could be a lot of soil suddenly filling a hole again. Harry can hear every breath of Jones’ all too easily from his close quarters. He wonders again if she was telling the truth about not knowing his parents, or if it really is just that bad. He isn’t sure he wants to know. No. He knows he doesn’t want to know.

The walk out of the graveyard and to wherever they’re going seems to take a disproportionally long time even without the stops to hide from passing strangers or streetlights.

Eventually they stop and Harry hears the creak of unoiled metal before he’s ushered in.

“Sorry Harry.” Remus says.

And then Harry can see again. His gaze is drawn magnetically to the latest person to join their troupe – that is, his father’s walking corpse. He shifts his eyes at once but the image lingers.

“Sorry.” Sirius says, coming over and gently turning Harry away from the sight. “We need to have no other magic going while we do this.”

Harry nods; he can do this. He breathes out steadily, wipes his eyes once and turns back around. Sirius smiles proudly at him; he still looks giddy, but tempered now by what his best friend has become.

The house they’ve stopped at is a wreck of a place, and Harry knows without asking that this is where he should’ve had a childhood.

The sword sticking out of the pathway, though, might be a new addition. For the first time he gets the chance to properly admire the thing. It’s a thinner blade that Gryffindor’s sword was and without any gemstones adorning it or words running down the middle. There’s a locket or amulet of some sort forced into the hilt that looks to be made of some dull metal and just as Jones mentioned earlier there’s no sign of age anywhere on it. It’s about halfway submerged in the stone and while it looks as though the ground is only holding it reluctantly, when Harry gives it an experimental nudge it feels as though he’s pushing against the strongest of shield charms.

Remus pulls him away from it to stand with him and Jones. He squeezes Harry’s shoulder very hard when Sirius urges James forward.

Harry doesn’t look to closely at the corpse – at his father – but he’s there to see the grey hand loosely grip the handle of the sword.

With a quickly muffled sob Sirius leans forward and brings James’ other hand up and forces both sets of fingers into a stronger grip. Then he steps back and picks up the forgotten wooden staff lying on the floor. “Moony.” He beckons.

Remus grimaces but drops Harry’s shoulder and walks unsteadily to stand on James’ other side. Gingerly he and Sirius both grasp a shoulder.

Nothing happens. Harry waits, in case of an incoming incantation, but both Remus and Sirius look concerned as well.

“Come on boys.” Jones says lowly from their corner, “Before the sun rises. Come on.”

Nothing happens. Harry casts a look to his left where the sun is beginning to peek above the horizon. Unconsciously he crosses his fingers.

Suddenly and without warning the world goes white again and for a second Harry thinks the sun has exploded. As the white bleeds out and the world rights itself again thinks he can hear Sirius’ voice furiously chanting spells.

When his vision clears the scene has changed once again. Now Peter Pettigrew is standing next to Sirius, already trying to shrink into his animagus form.

Harry only just manages to stop himself from charging forward at the sight, once again, of his father. Instead he listens to the muffled conversation between the three men. They aren’t loud but there’s no birdsong yet and there appears to be some bubble around the old house protecting them from the outside world.

“Quit moving.” Remus snaps. “We need your help! You can go back to your master in a second.”

Peter stops struggling long enough for Sirius to force him into recognising James. “Don’t you dare transform and ruin this for us. Harry’s not going to stop me a second time.”

No. He certainly isn’t.

“Third.” Pettigrew squeaks.

There’s a sharp shot of silence where everyone seems shocked at his daring but then Sirius barks a laugh.

“C’mon Pete, one last run? Marauders forever right? We’d have done it for you.”

Pettigrew slumps – he’s not giving up on an escape just yet but he’s willing to play along with them as long as they stay non-murderous.

“Here stand next to Remus.”

“Wait, if he’s Lancelot shouldn’t he be right side?”

“I don’t have a spare hand.”

“You stand behind then. Merlin wasn’t on the table anyway.”

Sirius grumbles but acquiesces. Now they’re standing with his father in the middle, hands on sword. Remus on his left side, Pettigrew the right, and Sirius behind him. It looks suitably ceremonial.

Beneath them, terrifyingly, the ground rumbles and then the sword is free and in James’ hands looking for all the world as though it had always been there. There’s a quick worried glance between the marauders where Harry can see world’s being discussed when James remains zombified.

Pettigrew gasps suddenly; redirecting their energy onto him – dangerous move, Harry thinks.

“You’re doing this all wrong.” He says, surprisingly angrily, to Sirius. “You always focus too much on the past. We aren’t bloody Camelot.”

Sirius’ looks like he’s going to eat him alive.

“You were right Sirius. I’m sorry. Marauders forever.” He sounds like he’s dying, Harry realises suddenly, and to look at them Sirius and Remus have also lost some of their healthy pallor. “I solemnly swear…

Remus and Sirius pick up on it immediately. “That I am up to no good!” The last few words of the chant are practically shouted – unconsciously Harry can feel himself speaking with them – but finally, finally it’s working; James Potter is being magicked back to a living state before their eyes.

“Idiot.” Pettigrew says around the sheer heat of the magic.

“Not to pick sides Padfoot but I’m inclined to agree.”

“Shut up.” Sirius growls blearily.

The spell stops working suddenly, the warmth from its disappearance as sudden a lack as death itself, and Harry panics before seeing for the first time his father – a living, breathing man. His throat catches.

James’ eyes meet his and crinkle warmly at the edges. He opens his mouth –

And collapses to the ground, followed almost immediately by Sirius.

For a second there’s a quiet stillness of panic before its replaced with a flurry of activity. Remus and, surprisingly, Pettigrew both kneeling down to check the fallen men’s pulses. Pettigrew nods from Sirius’ body first and them Remus lets out a sigh of relief.

“The magic must have been too much for them.”

“Not exactly surprising.” Jones says dryly, but with a shake in her voice. Remus laughs in agreement.

“What happens now? Back to London?”

Remus grimaces. “Ugh. We’d better really, we’ve been gone long enough.” He conjures two stretchers, and then after a pause banishes one and doubles the size of the other. He stands back as Jones comes forward to load the two men in – healer, Harry remembers.

“You coming Pete?” Remus says after a healthy pause.

In unison with Pettigrew Harry turns to face him in disbelief. “Are you insane?” He bites out angrily. “Not that I’m not…grateful that he’s come through or whatever but we are not on the same side.” He gestures at the invisible wall that should be separating them from each other.

Remus shrugs. “No choice now. I think we’ve just formed a round table. We’ll have to wait until Sirius wakes up to get the details of course but I’m pretty sure we’re stuck together.” He doesn’t look quite as cut up about this as Harry thinks is appropriate.

“If we don’t have a choice then why ask if I’m coming with you?” Pettigrew says. He’s rubbing his left arm noticeably.

“Courtesy, mostly.” Remus smiles, not at all kindly. “You don’t really think I’d let you go again do you? You’d better transform.”

Pettigrew glares but does turn back into a rat and jump up into the stretcher. Turning to it Harry sees that Sirius and his dad have curved into each other, desperate.

Remus nods and waves his wand, disillusioning them. “Do you want to side-along them Hestia, or shall I?”

“I’d better.” She takes a shoulder in each hand. “You’re probably weakened by all of that.” She vanishes.

Harry walks over to Remus – and the house, cracked ground and all, disappears around him.

Apparating alongside Remus is different than it had been with Sirius; smoother for a start. But also more of a bleed from one place to another where Sirius’ had been a snap.

They appear next to the doorstop of number 12. Remus walks up and presses an ear to the door before walking over and tapping his wand to disillusion Harry. “I think we might have been found out. Stay quiet.”

When they got inside the charm was quickly proven worthless. Professor Dumbledore – not to mention what looked like the entire Order – was standing in the hallway, currently fighting with Hestia.

Remus groans as they step through and flicks his wand to make Harry visible again. Harry supposes there really wasn’t any point to it staying on seeing as Dumbledore had immediately made eye contact with him…except Sirius and his dad were still presumably invisible or they had been moved because they certainly weren’t visible.

“Albus.” Remus says in a bad integrating tone – reminiscent of the one Peeves the poltergeist would use in similar circumstances. “This is less bad than it looks, I promise.”

Before Professor Dumbledore can speak Harry pipes up from behind him. “It’s my fault Professor.” Unlike Remus he doesn’t bother trying to sound innocent; he already knows that that’s a lost cause. “I wanted to visit my parents.”

Dumbledore freezes with his mouth still half open.

“Their graves I mean. I’d never been before and it suddenly seemed like the most important thing in the world that I did.” He doesn’t have to fake the urge to cry. “I’d never –” He cuts off and swallows, gathering his composure. “After last year, with the priori thing, I just wanted to – to –

He breaks off, unable to finish. Remus comes over and wraps an arm around him. “Is Sirius ok?” He says after a moment, losing the smarmy tone, “He was a tad miffed at being made to stay behind.”

“He isn’t up yet.” Pipes a voice from the back of the crowd. Hermione. “I mean; we haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

“Probably drunk himself into a stupor.” Molly sniffs.

Harry bristles but Remus squeezes him quickly before he can speak.

“Ah.” He says. “Well I’d better go and look in on him. Come on Harry.”

“Wait.” Professor Dumbledore says sternly just before they pass him. “Why were you there Hestia?”

Jones sighs loudly. “I wasn’t. I just got in when you accosted me about having seen Potter.”

“And why are you coming here at all? There isn’t a meeting today.”

“I’m visiting my friend.” She says tersely, stepping aside to let Remus and Harry past her as they escape. “I took an oath Albus. I don’t like to think of him locked up here all day and night.”

“Hmm.” The headmaster doesn’t sound as though he believes them but he does step back and allow all three of them to slowly trail upstairs.

Once the upstairs hallway door swings shut behind them Hestia speaks. “Sorry about that; they came in from the kitchen when they heard the door, I only just had time to pass the others onto the elf. Don’t know where he’ll have stashed them though.”

“Kreacher, really?” Remus says disparagingly, “We’d better find them fast.”

Despite Hestia’s words Remus leads them surely – if a little unsteadily – up another set of stairs and across the hallway to one of the doors that has been locked since Harry got here.

It unlocks easily for Remus, who ushers them in quietly. “You’re dismissed Kreacher.” He says, not looking to the elf.

“Kreacher must stay and care for his master.” Kreacher’s tone is almost identical to the one Remus used on Professor Dumbledore.

“Stay then.” Remus mutters, smirking, “But if that’s your best excuse then you can’t leave until he’s well again.”

Kreacher disapparates.

Sirius and James are still hovering in their shared stretcher, despite there being a perfectly serviceable bed just next to them. While Remus moves them, Harry takes the time to examine the room.

Like most of the rooms in the old Black house it’s decorated in a very Slytherin style – but subdued by the Gryffindor paraphanalia hanging from the walls and large muggle pictures stuck everywhere – it must be Sirius’ old room. It doesn’t look like it’s been used recently.

Hestia pulls a hard chair from a desk table and conjures three more.

“I was hoping you’d forget about me.” Pettigrew transforms back into a human. Harry takes a step back from him and then, to cover it, pretends to be admiring a poster of a motorbike.

Hestia also ignores him, stepping over to the bed and doing another set of diagnostic charms on the men. She shakes her head and sits down. “They’re just sleeping. I have to go back to work soon, Remus.”

“I know.” Remus collapses into one of the chairs. “Can you check again?”

She doesn’t. “They’re just sleeping. Sirius is actually healthier than he’s been all year, though how he’s managed that I’ve no idea. James’ heartbeat’s a little slower than I’d like it to be but he’s cosmetically healthy. I’m not trained in legilimancy well enough to risk going into their heads. Especially not asleep. You won’t find anyone else to do it either. Not outside of Albus, anyway.”

Remus opens his mouth to argue, and then closes it.

“Thank you.” Hestia says. “I’ll come back as often as I can to do check-ups but I have to go. I’ll tell everyone downstairs that Molly was right about Sirius.”

She leaves.

“Does he drink a lot then? Sirius?” Pettigrew says casually, seemingly the calmest of the three of them, despite being trapped.

“Shut up Peter.” Remus says. “Just stay as a rat, you’re better – better protected like that. We don’t want anyone working out you’re here.”

“They still don’t trust you huh?” Pettigrew replies, “They really did think we were a matched set then?”

“Shut up!” Remus says swinging a punch at him. But Pettigrew shrinks back into a rat and Remus overbalances and staggers. When he stands upright again Pettigrew has vanished under the bed. Remus growls into the air.

“Argh. I never found anyone else like those three for winding me up.”

“He’s awful.” Harry says.

“Sure, but he’s my brother whatever happens.”

“You wanted him dead before.”

“I never wanted him dead.” Remus says, aiming a kick at a bedpost. “I just wanted to kill him.”

They sit in silence for an age until Harry hears Mrs Weasley calling everyone to dinner. “You’d best go.” Remus says. “Don’t want to arouse suspicion.”

Harry leaves, a little happy at being given a reprieve, but presses his ear to the door once he’s outside; he can hear Pettigrew speaking again.

After that day, and the awkward dinner that succeeded it, Harry tries to escape Ron and Hermione and the cleaning duty at least once per day to look in on Sirius and his father. Sometimes he arrives at the same time as Hestia and a couple of times Pettigrew is in human form when he gets in. He always transforms back when Harry arrives though.

Remus is always there, without fail, even though Harry knows he’s been on at least one order mission since they got back.

Harry knows Ron and Hermione, as well as some of the adults, are getting suspicious of him but he doesn’t feel too guilty about blowing off their concerns; he always has his ever-present anger at being left in the dark to fall back on, or scare them off if the need occurs.

By the 31st of August Harry still hasn’t given up hope that they will awaken before he goes back to school. That said he is counting down every minute with an increasing sense of dread, and he already knows that he will overnighting it in Sirius’ old room to increase his chances.

The next morning Remus shakes him awake with breakfast waiting to prolong the last few precious moments before he has to go. He wonders if it’s too late to have his pardon revoked.

Ron and Hermione both try to get him to talk during the journey to Kings Cross but let go of it much quicker than usually. Excitement, Harry supposes.

Getting onto the Hogwarts Express is made ten times more stressful and unwieldy by Moody’s paranoia and when they finally do sit down it’s without Ron or Hermione because they’ve got prefect duties.

But then they’re off and for the first time in his life Harry doesn’t want to be going to Hogwarts. He needs to stay in London. He needs to be there when they wake up. He needs…

He wants his father, or his godfather, to just wake up.

Chapter Text

Harry chews moodily on his ginger newt, listening to Professor McGonagall with half an ear while using the rest of his mind to draft a letter to Remus. He’d written the first one on the train after almost punching Malfoy in the face. He’d been so angry.

He was angry all the time these days and Remus had been the first one to ever put a name to it.

After the letter Remus had gotten Hestia to send him a book on anger management techniques and another on meditation. Harry wasn’t sure about either study but he read both of them diligently in his spare time anyway and sometimes he even had nights where he didn’t have any nightmares.

He should send her flowers or something. He’d ask Remus for ideas in the post script.

He’s lasted five whole weeks of Umbridge’s bullshit. Twelve lessons of keeping his head down and not responding to her barbs and taunts. Maybe he should thank Malfoy and Snape and the Dursleys as well, for giving him so much practice in the matter. Well, Snape and the Dursleys anyway; he’d always been able to fight back with Malfoy.

Sixteen hours of not mentioning Voldemort or Cedric or the endless nothings that they were reading about. Everyone else in class had complained at least once but until today Harry had held himself back every time.

Every time until now. Tragic accident, his arse.

And Remus had said, had said that Cedric’s memory wouldn’t work as a rallying point. But that didn’t mean they were allowed to forget him altogether.

“Potter!” McGonagall snaps. Harry looks up at her – her lips were the thinnest he’d ever seen them, and he thinks that she might have been trying to get his attention for a while.

“For goodness sakes Potter, are you listening to me?”

“Uh. Yes.”

McGonagall sighs. “I’ve heard how well you’ve been doing with Uh – with Professor Umbridge, and I’ve been very pleased that at least one of my students has been behaving with decorum. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting it from you though – do you perhaps have a lingering fear of expulsion?”

“I almost wish I had been.” Harry mutters.

“You miss Mr Black.” She sighs again and takes her glasses off to rub at her eyes. Harry’s eyes widen a little at the small show of emotion. “I was there; did you know? That night, I was with Albus when he left you at your Aunt and Uncle’s. I regretted it then. You’ve no idea how much I regret it now.”

“I –” Harry pauses and tries to work out what he wants to say and how to say it without breaking down. “Tom Riddle thought of Hogwarts as his home. I’m scared of becoming like him.”

“I’m so sorry Potter. Harry. We’ve placed far too much on you.” She stands up. “I have an errand to run. You may wait here until you feel ready to leave.”

She walks over to her fireplace and fiddles with a pot of floo powder. She turns to stare beadily at Harry, and for a moment it looks like she may apologise again. Instead she leaves.

It doesn’t take Harry long to take his cue – he isn’t certain that Professor McGonagall actually wants him to do this as it seems very out of character for her but he finds that he also doesn’t really care. Not at all.

 

(An aside now, because Harry is not in the room when it happens and as such doesn’t see but the very second the fireplace spits him back into Grimmauld Place Sirius’ eyes snap open. Seconds later, James’ do the same.

The bedroom they are in is empty of other marauders for once and Sirius has to face the storm alone. Honestly, he thinks this might be a bigger betrayal than the last one. Thanks a lot guys.

“Padfoot.” James croaks, and Sirius’ heart stutters – all things considered, he hadn’t actually had enough faith in himself to believe that he’d ever hear James’ voice again. “Fuck Padfoot. I just had the most awful dream.”

“I bet.”

Sirius sits up at the other end of the bed and meets James’ eyes. He sees the exact moment James realises. He also sees the exact moment James denies it.

“You look dreadful mate,” He sounds strained, and scared a bit, “Did you get captured again? You’ve got terrible luck.”

“Is that your best case scenario? I’m hurt.” He tries to laugh. It doesn’t work.

“Sorry.”

“I wish I was.”

“Please.”

Sometimes Sirius wishes he was a good man. Sometimes he just wishes he could wish for that. This is the latter. He also wishes he could at least pretend that he was doing this for Harry, or at least for the war.

“I’m sorry I convinced you to switch and I’m sorry that I went for revenge instead of growing up. But I’m not sorry for this.” He rolls off the bed and walks over to the window. Anything not to have to face James.

“Lily’s dead isn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t do this without her.”

“I know.” He turns back around, this time fighting the cruel smile he knows he’s wearing, “I couldn’t do it without you either.”

James swallows.

“Forget it.” Sirius says quickly, remembering that he didn’t want to hurt James. “But you’re going to have to survive. And fair warning, if they treat you anything like they did me, you won’t be allowed to mourn.”

James stares.

“I made such a mess of things Prongs.”

“Peter betrayed us.”

“Yeah.”

“Were you…angry?”

Furious. “I was stupid.”

“I’m angry. He’s here with you though – I remember…”

Sirius shrugs. “He helped us.”

“It’s not enough.”

“No.”

Unsteadily, James gets to his feet; he waves Sirius off when he makes to help him over to the window. They stare out over London together.

“Alright. Tell me what happened after I –

“I went after Peter.” Sirius swallows and makes an effort to put some emotion into his voice. “After I found you and Lily. I went after him and he tricked me.”

“Again.”

“Yeah. He framed me as the secret keeper.”

“And we didn’t tell anyone.”

Sirius hums in agreement. Up close James’ eyes look bloodshot.

“Did they let you explain?”

Sirius smiles wearily, but with genuine pleasure; no one else had ever been so quick to understand him as James. “No.”

James licks his lips. “Don’t suppose they let you off with detention, this time?”

“I got out the year before last.”

“So that’s…”

Choosing to ignore the obvious, Sirius instead answers a completely different implied question. “That’s why I haven’t let anyone know we’re awake yet. It’s not the same at all of course – I won’t do you the disservice of pretending otherwise – but time does stand still for prisoners and I figure it’s probably the best place if you want hell on earth. Not that you would’ve gone to hell.”

“You wouldn’t either.” James clasps his shoulder and Sirius – selfish as it is, relaxes; James doesn’t hate him. “But how long were you there Padfoot?”

“Twelve years.”

James drops his hand in shock. “Fuck. Seriou- Sorry, are you ok?”

“Not really. Don’t tell anyone.”

“Is it a secret?” He sounds dubious, and rightly so.

“Not really.” Sirius smiles wanly. “But Remus doesn’t need the extra stress and Harry shouldn’t have to worry about me.”

“Harry.” James breathes out. “My son is…fuck fifteen?” He sinks to his knees and looks at Sirius pleadingly. Sirius says nothing. What could he possibly say?

“Fifteen.” James says it like a curse. “He’ll be an adult in two years.” He sobs, not bothering to hide it; pride has no place here. “He doesn’t need me.”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m basically obsolete. Sorry. We were talking about you –

“Yeah, no.” Sirius sits down next to his best friend and looks at him seriously. “Yesterday – or whenever it was – was the first time he could remember being in Godric’s Hollow. He’d never even seen your graves. With Moony and me out of commission nobody really stepped up. Harry needs parents more than any other kid I’ve ever seen.”

“Wait, what happened with Moony?”

“You know what he’s like. And what the ministry’s like. And we all left him at once.”

“Sure. But this is Harry.” James stresses the name but doesn’t really need to. It isn’t his fault that he wasn’t there when Sirius and Remus had this fight.

“I think Albus might have pushed his hand a little.”

“Albus? What has Albus got to do with any of this?”

“Something something love. Something something family. He wants Harry to stay with Lily’s family.”

“Oh no.” James groans. “Not Petunia and Vernon? They hate me.”

“He knew I was innocent for barely an hour and he wanted to move in with me. The kid’s a mess, he needs all the help he can get.”

“Shit. I’m not ready to be a dad to a teen. I’m only twenty.”

“I’m thirty-four.”

James stares at him before sniggering. Sirius feels his face crinkle instinctively.

“You said it was like death.” James says slowly and more soberly than Sirius had expected; he’d been hoping the worst was over. “So do you feel thirty-five?”

“Four. And no. Maybe twenty-five but not thirty.”

“You’re a mess.” James says in wonder.

“Doing my best Prongs.”

James shakes his head. “You don’t have any whisky do you? I need something to help get this down.”

Sirius, if he hadn’t been using whiskey to simulate the warmth that’s been missing from his bones lately all summer would tell James not to get into this habit. As it is he rolls his eyes and calls Kreacher.

In the worlds least convincing subservient tone Kreacher asks what he wants and then hastens to obey.

Once he’s gone James lets out a snort. “He likes you.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Takes your orders, though?”

“He’s mine. We’re at my parent’s house.”

“Walburga finally coughed it?”

“Yep. While I was inside. Missed the funeral.”

“You said you’d never come back here.”

“I meant that then. The Order needed a headquarters.”

James looks up wild-eyed. “Don’t tell me Hogwarts is gone too!”

“Nah, nothing so exciting. From what I hear it’s a simple case of ministry interference.”

In time with James’ sigh of relief Kreacher pops back into the room.

“Ah, sweet oblivion.”

“Thanks Kreacher.” Sirius shakes his head at James’ theatrics. “I’m not letting you get drunk James. We’ve got work to do.”

James gulps down a large mouthful, then cradles the bottle instead of offering it. “Alright. Give me the highlights.”

“Hm. Well, Voldemort ‘died’,” Sirius put large finger-quotes on the word so James would understand. “Then there was ten years or so peace –

“Which you missed.”

“Heh, yeah. Then last year he came back. Harry was there.”

“Shit!”

“Understatement of the year, there. And the ministry thinks he’s lying and crazy – they don’t want another war – Moony’s doing undercover work with Greyback – that’s where he was last time – I’m stuck here, Pete’s a full time death eater – or was at any rate – Harry’s in his OWL year and we’re not going to let him become a soldier, and the Order is doing bugger all.”

“Shit.” James says again, this time quietly.

“Oh, and Snape’s spying for Albus.”

“Really?”

“Sounds like a bad joke doesn’t it? But no, he was so in love with Lily that he defected.”

“That's...fucked up. But couldn't he prove that you’re innocent?” One-track mind, James Potter, and always on helping his friends.

“It’s not a priority. Direct quote.”

“Oh Padfoot…”

Sirius breaths out roughly. “C’mon. Let’s go downstairs, talk to the rest.”

James takes another shot of whiskey and joins him at the door.

 

But anyway,)

Harry stumbles a little coming out of the grate, coughing into the quiet sitting room. It’s the one with the family tree and it’s currently (luckily) empty.

Harry slips out the room as stealthily as possible, while wishing that he had taken his invisibility cloak with him to defence class although he can think of a few ways that that could have gone wrong.

It’s also locked and Harry spends wastes more time looking for a paperclip, or similar, than he’d like; he doesn’t know how much time Professor McGonagall has bought him, after all. Eventually he gives in and alohomoras the door open. If he is expelled for underage magic then…at least he’ll have earnt it this time.

Luckily the house seems uncommonly empty, and the only person Harry meets in the hallways is Kreacher, who gives him a larger sneer than usual but otherwise ignores him. He heads straight for the bedroom but stops when he hears Remus’ voice behind a closed door. He raises his hand to knock.

Chapter Text

Sirius is the first one to greet harry when he steps into the door – he looks younger and more relaxed than Harry has ever seen him before, even with the new white streaks in his hair and the way he’s mostly held up by the staff he'd pulled out of the lake.

Next to him are Remus and Hestia, the latter leaning over the former and tetchily stitching together a scar on his throat.

Pettigrew is also there but Harry avoids looking at him. He avoids looking at Harry.

And closest to the door – and thus, to Harry – is James, a guilty-worried-smug expression on his face.

He starts when he hears Harry, and turns to stare a little too long. Harry stares back; it’s strange, seeing the truth to the words of everyone who’d ever told him how much he looked like James right in front of him.

Eventually, almost in unison, they drag their eyes away from each other.

Harry rubs at his arm self-consciously, “I didn't think wizards used stitches?” He queries curiously; certainly Madam Pomfrey had always healed him in easier ways that never involved needles.

Hestia scoffs. “I'm not being nice to this level of idiocy.”

“He'll get better.” Sirius says, “Eventually.” He pulls a second sword from nowhere and hands it to Pettigrew “Your turn Pete. James don’t aim for the neck this time; You don’t need to kill just incapacitate.”

Harry must look impressed because Remus takes that moment to speak up.

“Sirius can't do it either he's just too weak to practice right now.”

Sirius grins and holds his fingers a smidge apart. “I know the theory at least. I could certainly beat you lot.”

Harry steps into the room proper to watch.

It isn't a particularly impressive battle. In fact, it’s over in seconds, through no particular skill of either combatant.

“This isn’t going to work.” Pettigrew says, surprisingly sternly. “Not until James gets over wanting to kill me.”

“Good luck.” Remus says wryly. “Everyone here has wanted you dead at least once. I think Hestia’s the only one who hasn’t wanted to kill you herself.”

Hestia shrugs. “I probably would’ve.”

Pettigrew rolls his eyes. “Yeah I know. But I’m not fighting anyone who’s aiming to kill me.”

“I can…” Harry trails off when they all turn to look at him. “I mean; I’ve fought with a sword before. I could practice with you.”

James wrinkles his forehead. “Why have you used a sword? They’re archaic and unnecessary. Sorry.” He adds at Sirius’ look.

“In second year. I killed a basilisk in the chamber of secrets.” Harry reaches over and picks up Pettigrew’s sword. Its – heavier than he remembers Gryffindor’s being, which is strange, because he’s stronger now and –

“WHAT!?”

Harry startles and drops the sword again, twisting as he straightens, and looks at the door to see if they’ve been discovered.

But it isn’t that at all. His father’s face is an angry red colour, twisted in shock and horror, and behind him, to a lesser extent so are Sirius, Remus and Hestia’s.

“I…killed a basilisk.” He had forgotten that none of them would know about it. Were they disappointed that he’d killed something? He thought suddenly, guiltily, of Cedric. What was his father going to think of that? “It was petrifying muggleborns and I was the only one who could get into the chamber.”

He catches sight of Pettigrew shaking his head frantically out of the corner of his eye.

“Voldemort would have killed Ginny. I had to do something.”

“No.” James says, and then again much louder, “No. That didn’t happen. That can’t have happened. You’re a child.” He sounds plaintive, desperate, heartbroken; so much so that Harry doesn’t even protest the point. Actually he almost – when his father says it, he almost wants it, to be a child and have no part in adult conversations and wars. Huh.

“It happened.” Pettigrew says, quiet and stern in the face of James’ distress. Harry turns to look at him and sees, uncomfortably so, that he’s a real person; not just a villain but someone who was once family. “James. He isn’t lying.”

“You were there? You should have done something – hang Voldemort or Azkaban or whatever – this is Harry! Harry is the most important thing –

“I know.” Pettigrew says. “I know Prongs. I don’t have any excuses – you know that, or I would have offered them. But the world has changed. We lost, all of us.”

“I don’t suppose it was love was it?” Sirius asks into the sudden quiet, a cruel twist to his lips, “That made you betray us, Pete? Personally I think it’s a daft reason to do anything but Albus would probably forgive you.”

Remus laughs.

James looks suspicious but still asks, “What’s wrong with doing things for love then?”

Sirius grins toothily at him. “Well it’s all a bit of a con isn’t it? And if you do enough of it people will start to think it’s your actual personality when in fact you’re usually a right arse.”

“Is this an attack on me or someone else?”

“Much as it does fit you Prongs,” Remus sniggers, “I think in this case, Sirius is referring to dear Severus.”

“And it sets a bad lot for those of us who just don’t fall in that direction – I suspect that if I, too, had been in love with Lily – or anyone else, really – Albie may have directed some justice at me as well.”

This time James joins in with Remus’ laughter. Harry doesn’t; the joke is a) before his time, b) something he doesn’t want to know about Snape, and c) he just can’t find Sirius’ unjust imprisonment funny.

He hefts the sword again instead and tries to work out what’s so different about it to Gryffindor’s but puts it down again when he sees James’ pained expression.

“So,” He says haltingly, “A basilisk?”

Harry struggles to tell the story of his second year at Hogwarts, and then his first because he feels like he might as well, but part way through talking about Norbert he realises two things. Firstly, he realises that this is the first time he’s ever told anyone these things, as though he’d been hiding each neat year of school in his trunk and never unpacking it. It’s strangely relieving to say it all aloud.

Secondly, he notices that he’s using Pettigrew as a barometer for how much of the story to tell – sometimes Pettigrew will shake his head sharply and Harry will veer into a different part of the story; one that didn’t make his father look so pale, and other times he smiled and Harry knew to dwell on things like the treacle tart at Hogwarts feasts or his, Ron and Hermione’s favourite tree by the lake to study under, things that he had never thought of as particularly important before.

Part way through the retelling of his third year James starts glaring at Sirius and Remus in what is either amazement or irritation. Harry feels a twinge of guilt, because he’s been drawing this year out in dread of the next year. He skips over the memories that the dementors awakened in him because James is already white-faced from the past two years – Remus looks suspicious but approving at this, and Sirius grateful.

By the time he’s at his third year quidditch cup he’s forgotten why he started talking and is just jubilantly recounting that match with a lot of hand gestures and extra unneeded titbits. James was a much better audience than anyone else he’d ever talked to.

When he mentions the patronus, James actually whoops in excitement, “You did it! Hah! At thirteen! And without any actual danger. Though I suppose you might find it easier that way.” He adds ponderously. “Lily always did.”

“Did she?” Says Harry, “What was her patronus?”

“A doe.” James says smugly. Behind him the other marauders rolled their eyes in unison.

“What about you?” Harry says to them, “Are they all your animagus forms as well?”

“Mine used to be.” Sirius says, “But I haven’t been able to cast one since Azkaban.”

“I’ve never been able to cast corporeal.” Remus says after a pause. “But my cloud is always very bright.”

Pettigrew doesn’t answer until Sirius reaches over and taps him in prompt. “Oh. Uh. I can’t cast it anymore – or well I haven’t tried recently – but it used to be a wolf.”

Harry stares at him.

“All of my happiest memories were always tied up with the marauders and we never would have gotten so far without Moony.” He shrugs, looking guilty and sad. “What about you, Jones?”

Hestia laughs. “Oh, I can’t cast one. I never had any reason to learn. What’s yours Harry?”

“Yeah!” James shouts, tearing his eyes away from his sad grown-up friends. “What is it son?” He blushes suddenly, and turns to face the wall. Harry feels his face heat up in return. Son.

“Why don’t you show him?” Remus says slyly before Harry can answer.

Harry smiles, he loves casting his patronus – it’s probably his favourite spell – and raises his wand.

The massive silver stag leaps from the spell almost eagerly out of his wand and does a little canter around the room before coming to a stop next to Harry.

Facing James.

He reaches out to the stag, hand falling just short of touch, and swallows hard. The patronus’ light makes the tear tracks on his face stand out like snail trails. “Wow, Harry is that –

He breaks off, and shakes his head. “Wow.”

The patronus fades quietly away.

James steps forward and pulls Harry into a warm hug. He’s only a little taller than him, but it’s enough for Harry to feel safe and small in his arms. He wonders if his dad is still crying – for he certainly is.

Not sure how long it would be appropriate to hold on for – the last proper hug he had was from Mrs. Weasley after the third task, and he hadn’t ever wanted to let go; he wanted to even less now – Harry pulls back and looks down. Flushing somewhat he stutters out a question.

“Can…I mean could you show…I’ve never. Obviously.” He shuts up.

Somehow, miraculously, his dad understands him. He takes a few steps backward for space and transforms.

Harry’s mouth falls open; even knowing the size of Prongs from his patronus, he’s still shocked by how much room the animal takes up. He reaches closer – and laughs when Prongs pushes his nose into his open palm.

More confidence now, he steps forward and runs his hand over the stag’s head and down his neck. It’s odd with animagi – Harry knows that this stag is really a person (and his dad to boot!) but it doesn’t feel strange to be, essentially, petting it. The hair is bristly thick and slightly curved at the ends and perhaps a shade darker than Harry would have expected. If he’d thought about. Which he hadn’t.

Harry’s amazed by how accurate his patronus is to Prongs considering how this was the first time he’d ever seen him. of course, He’d been casting the stag before he’d ever known his dad could transform into one but even so the details astound him.

Prongs’ antlers are the same design that Harry’s seen so many times, and he’s even got the same slightly wonky one on the left that looks as though it might fall off at any moment.

(Yeah – Harry’s examined his patronus from every angle until he had it memorised – so what? Until recently it, photos and other people’s memories were all he had.)

The furs off though; there’s the colour of course, but even if he’d guessed right for that he’d completely forgotten how Professor McGonagall’s cat animagus had glasses markings around her eyes.

Prongs has those as well – the fur is darker, almost grey, in that area – and the overall effect is more than slightly ridiculous.

He wonders, for the first time, what markings Sirius shares with Padfoot. Or Pettigrew for that matter.

He turns around to ask them and finds that Sirius is crying. He’s very quiet and the others seem not to have noticed. Harry turns back around, embarrassed on his godfather’s behalf.

Behind him there’s a shift in the air, and when he looks back – unable to help himself – he finds that Sirius has transformed also.

Padfoot walks slowly over to Prongs, who stops standing still for examination and lowers his head to nudge at Padfoot. Padfoot whines.

Prongs stomps on the floor loudly in return and backs up a little so that he can prance in a circle. Padfoot barks sharply in appreciation and starts to chase him. It sounds exactly like Sirius’ laugh.

Pettigrew – now Wormtail – runs over to Padfoot and chitters until Padfoot picks him gently in his mouth and tosses him up onto Prongs. Wormtail starts to do the skipping trick that magical rats sometimes did.

Harry barely has time to wonder at Pettigrew’s trust that Sirius wouldn’t kill him – he wouldn’t have trusted it, himself – before Remus’ laughter joins the noise. He comes and slings an arm over Harry’s shoulders and draws him back so that the dance can get more elaborate.

Sword practice and Harry’s stories now completely forgotten the three animals perform more and more ridiculous tricks for the other threes amusement. Sometimes, Remus joins in – shooting targets out of his wand for Prongs to charge down or balls for Padfoot to catch.

Eventually the animals tire out and change back, Sirius and Pettigrew both sniggering at the bruise James has acquired from one of the rubber balls.

Harry flops over onto his back and smiles so wide it hurts. He wonders how hard it is to get a pensieve so that he can save this afternoon forever.

“Ughhh.” He groans. “I wish I could stay here forever.”

“Fifth year’s an important one.” Remus chides. “You need OWL’s to live well.”

Pettigrew raises his eyebrows and eyes Harry’s scar, but says nothing.

“I want to be an auror though.” Harry says, “And I’ve only had one good defence teacher.”

Remus smiles. “Maybe this one will surprise you.” He suggests.

“She won’t.” Harry says definitively. “Trust me.”

“So they still haven’t fixed the curse?” James asks, before Remus can reply.

“I always said – “

“Yes Sirius. We know.” His dad, Remus and Pettigrew cut him off in unison. Harry sat up and looked at them curiously.

“Sirius maintains that the curse is either part of the castle foundries or we have to wait for whoever cast it to die. It was a common conversation during our own fifth year. Our then teacher was a touch…touched.” Remus answers his unspoken question.

“I almost failed!” Sirius interjects.

“Yeah, right.” Pettigrew mutters.

“Who cursed it?” Harry says.

“Who knows?” His dad shrugs.

“Probably Albus.” Sirius says over the top of him.

James throws a ball at him. “I’ve been awake for less than a day Padfoot. Please don’t torture me with conspiracy theories already.

Harry makes a noise of interest.

“Sirius thinks Albus is to blame for everything. It’s irritating on its own and you certainly don’t need it while you’re attending Hogwarts.” James says sternly, glaring at Sirius.

“Maybe he’s right.” Harry says, thinking of Dumbledore’s refusal to be in a room with him since Voldemort returned, “And a lot of the teachers are dreadful.”

“Binns.” James says.

“Snape.” Sirius says louder.

“Me.” Remus says quietly. “And Harry’s new professor?” He prods inquiringly, to forestall the complaints.

“Dolores Umbridge.” Harry answers, grimacing. “But Dumbledore didn’t hire her. The ministry put her in to spy.”

“Dolores Umbridge!” Remus shouts. “Seriously?”

“No wonder he wouldn’t answer any questions about it in meetings.” Sirius says, eyeing Remus with concern.

“You know her?” Harry asks.

“She’s behind a lot of recent anti-werewolf legislations. The ministry couldn’t have found anyone worse.”

“Relax Moony.” James says tightly, “This just proves that her job is worthless to the ministry. They’re probably hoping the curse finishes her off.”

“Ha. Sure.” Remus replies. “But, really, anyone would be better.”

“Surely not anyone.” Sirius laughs. “Last years was a death eater, wasn’t he? Not to mention Snape.”

“You’ve mentioned him twice now.” Hestia points out, also laughing.

Harry thinks Sirius may be angling for more support about Albus but he agrees and answers anyway.

“Two, if you count Quirrel.”

James makes a very ugly face. “Hypothetically, how do you feel about home-schooling? Merlin! Can you guys imagine what Lily would say about all this?”

“I can imagine running for the hills to avoid it.” Mutters Remus just low enough for Harry to catch it.

James looks around at them. “No.” He points at Remus. “No.” At Sirius. “No.” At Pettigrew. “Hey Hestia –

“Fuck off!” Hestia flips him off. “Anyway I’m a healer, my defence is average at best. I didn’t even get a NEWT in it.”

“Bet you’d be better than Umbridge.” Harry wheedles.

“What’s she having you do anyway?” Hestia asks.

Harry shrugs. “Dunno. She kicked me out of class five minutes in for saying Voldemort was back.”

“Bollocks!” Surprisingly the affirmation comes from Pettigrew. “What utter –! I’ll go in tomorrow and –

“No you won’t!” James says, sitting up suddenly, “You can’t.” He doesn’t throw out a reason, or an explanation – although Harry seems to be the only one in need of it – just a long whine more suited to Padfoot than an adult man.

Peter looks across at him, slightly pityingly. “That is where this is heading, isn’t it?” He looks to Sirius for confirmation.

Sirius gives it, nodding once. “It’s not ideal of course, and I’d rather you stayed with us, but our best option is to go public as soon as possible.”

“Absolutely not.” James splutters. “I’m not having you do this over me.”

“I’ll do it over Voldemort then, James.” Pettigrew says flippantly.

“Prongs.” He says, steadfast, when James’ expression refuses to change. “Ah, Prongs.” Peter stands up and James does too. Peter reaches over and stops with his hand resting on James chest, above his heart. “Some things, James, really cannot be forgiven.”

James reaches up and clasps Peter’s hand, brings it to his lips. The whole scene is dramatic, almost unworldly, and yet Harry can feel the truth in every word and gesture: the truth in their lives so dramatic that maybe they belong to the stories already.

“I forgive you.” James whispers into Peter’s hand. “I do.”

“I know.”

“My brother.” James says, face wet. Sirius and Remus stand up as well, and join the loose hug. “My brothers.”

Eventually they sit down again, but their hands never leave each other’s grip – desperate and sad. Harry scoots over to them and slips under Sirius to lean against his father. Sirius’ arm drops away for a second and then encircles them both.

“I do miss the sky.” Sirius says longingly, lovingly, head tilted back to stare at the bland ceiling.

“Oh, me too.” James says, voice muffled by the force of all the bodies on him. “I can’t wait to go flying again.”

Sirius shakes his head, the motion of it making Harry turn to look at him. His face is fond but laughing – James having rather missed his point.

“I suppose I’ll have to talk to the ministry before I can get a broom though. Who do I even talk to about this anyway? Can any of you come with me do you think, or do you need an excuse for why we’re together?”

“I can say I was asleep upon your grave when you awoke.” Sirius answers, something dark glittering in his eyes. As Harry watches him, he can feel James turn away. “We are yours, as always.”

“In the story –

“In my life, James.” Sirius breathes out, long. “If you need me to swear on bended knee or some other act I will. Let me kneel, let me beg, let me –

He sounds manic, desperate, weak. Harry looks away, guiltily, unable to bear it.

“Peace!” James shouts over Sirius’ increasingly desperate pleas. “Peace, Padfoot. You are my brother and my equal. I’ll tell you so as often as you need. I won’t leave you again.”

Harry is uncomfortable, certain that this is a moment that they should be alone for, certain that Sirius, at least, would not want Harry to see him like this.

He moves his head, positions himself so that he’s still leaning on his dad – god, he can’t let go, not yet – but so that Sirius is also entangled in him. They are all one person now, the five of them.

Only Hestia is separate but Harry can still see the left of her face, loving; they are her brothers too. She crouches down to Harry.

“If you need an excuse for leaving, I’ll say that I’m your therapist. I don’t think anyone will deny you need one.”

Harry smiles drowsily at her, not offended this time, and nods in thanks. He blinks the sleep away to answer properly but when his eyes open Hestia is gone. He considers going to look for her but the pile of them is warm and he succumbs.

 

In the morning, Peter wakes him. “Sneak off early with me? I thought I’d get the thing out of the way before they try and write my lines for me.”

Harry laughs. Peter does too, a little.

“You think I’m joking. James is a complete ham though, he used to challenge people to duels at the drop of a hat. Him and Sirius together, always playing off each other. Boarding school does strange things to people I think.”

His sentences are disjointed, Harry wonders if he’s scared.

“I wanted to thank you.”

Harry stares, surprised; he’s only barely deciding that Peter isn’t his enemy.

“You haven’t attacked me, which is well warranted, or even slandered me. I know it isn’t for my benefit.” Peter stops talking; they’ve reached the fireplace. “But thanks anyway.”

Harry, unable to think properly, says in a rush; “I’m sorry we couldn’t be family.” Mind catching up with his voice, Harry flushes a deep red and throws the entire bowl of floo powder into the fire.

“Hogwarts!” He shouts, loudly, to cover the heavy beat of his heat. And he tumbles out, lucky to have said the right words, into the Gryffindor common room.

Harry flounders through the morning, dodging questions from Ron – who had covered for him from their dormmates in the evening – and Hermione – who had made copious notes for him from his missed classes – feeling as though something is missing.

Hogwarts has always felt like home in the past, even when he was a pariah – first year, after Norbert, second year, after the duelling club, last year, with the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. Now.

Even with these wide swathes of nomadity, Hogwarts has always been his home but now he finds himself missing, if not Grimmauld Place itself – dark and lonely, then the atmosphere of the previous day, loving and whole.

He takes his detention slip from Professor McGonagall first lesson, and skips his Defence Against the Dark Arts class, unable to countenance facing Umbridge when everything is hanging by such thin threads.

Finally, at the evening feast, it changes.

The prophet, which Hermione is still receiving, despite Harry’s cruel words with her over it, arrives on the Gryffindor table to slowly for his liking. He catches the owl before its landed and shoves a galleon at it.

Ignoring Hermione’s protests, he puts the paper between himself and the table so that he can read in private.

Harry isn’t sure what he’d expected but the voice in the article is flat and unflattering. Pitiable, even so.

I wish I could give you something better but the truth is that I never believed in anything he – Voldemort [Mr. Pettigrew’s voice shakes on the name, and I want to tell him that he doesn’t need to be brave about this but he speaks again before I can] – said. I think a lot of us didn’t actually, we were scared children. I was nineteen when I joined up, and he told me that I’d be a great asset. I think that if I’d ever had any belief it would have fled in that moment.

I wasn’t any great shakes as a wizard, or even as a man. So I knew, even then, that he was desperate. But I still joined him. I knelt before him as though he was my king. [Here, Pettigrew’s face shows more self-hatred and disgust than I have ever seen before.] I let him brand me.

[Pettigrew rolls up his sleeve and shows me a disgusting red mark upon his arm. It looks so much like it’s still smoking or bleeding that it takes me a moment to realign it into the Dark Mark.]

Not every follower has one of these, of course, so it isn’t a foolproof catch, but if you’ve got that one friend who never wears short sleeves, even in summer – well, maybe be careful around them.

So, where was I? Reason, yeah. [There are tears in Mr. Pettigrew’s eyes, and I am uncomfortable in how much I want to comfort him. This is not, readers, how we are meant to react to monsters.]

No, I didn’t have a reason. Certainly never a good one. I was young, I was afraid. Perhaps some part of me thought I could spy upon them once given the chance. But instead I betrayed my dearest friends.

My clearest memory of the war – I’ve tried very hard to forget it all, you see – is of the night James asked me to be his secret keeper.

Even knowing I was the second choice – Sirius was right there in the room with us, grinning at me – I was still flattered beyond compare. I think that if it wasn’t for what comes next, I’d be able to cast a patronus from that memory. There was even a second where I forgot what I was.

For a second I was only James and Lily’s friend.

And then I was myself again.

I said yes, of course – what would I have done if Voldemort had found out that I’d turned it down?

[I gather enough of myself to ask what’s changed? It’s been fourteen years since the Potters died, and if Mr. Pettigrew is to be believed, and dear Merlin, readers, but I do believe him, almost three months since Lord Voldemort returned. I want to know if it was the thought of Harry Potter that changed him.]

No. No, it wasn’t Harry.

The truth of it is – I’ve no right to these words, none at all – I do love Harry. But never enough.

Likewise, with Padfoot – Sirius Black, that is – I know I’ve cost him his freedom, and almost his soul, and that I was once his brother but I was going to allow that to mean nothing to me for the rest of my life. I sold my soul, after all. Why should anyone else get to keep theirs?

But the second I heard about James. This morning, over owl.

[About James Potter?]

Yeah, amazing right? From his letter I think it must have happened that same night as Voldemort. Probably something to do with priori incantatem. [Priori Incantatem, for those of you who don’t know, is a spell that allows one to see the last few spells a wand has performed. It takes me until I am finalising this article to realise what Pettigrew must be referring to.] James is alive.

[Pettigrew takes a moment to breathe deeply and shake his head. I do the same.]

I know no one’s going to believe this, after everything I’ve told you but the truth is that I am, and always will be, James’ man.

In heart and soul, me and Sirius and Remus [Remus Lupin, who two years ago was outed as a werewolf after a successful year as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts.] we were all always James’.

He’s like the sun.

He, actually, [Pettigrew laughs a little, and shakes his head incredulously] didn’t want me to do this. I went to see him, of course, after I got the letter [see page 4 for a photo of the letter in question], because I didn’t believe it, and he was so happy to see me, as though I hadn’t done anything wrong.

I’d diminished him in my memories.

He called me brother, and I knew what I had to do.

[Pettigrew smiles at me and leaves before I can gather my wits. I see the flash of an auror’s robes as the door closes and realise he must have called one in before coming here.]

 

Harry stares at the ink; some part of him not understanding – how can Peter have betrayed them and now be so willing to give his life away so thoroughly, how can this exist in the same person?

He drops the paper on the table; at least he understands now, what the purpose of the article was. Not telling everyone that Voldemort is back – that is almost a side note. Nor is it proving Sirius’ innocence – the way Peter talks, you’d think that was already a fact and that Sirius had been a bit player in the whole affair.

No, this article’s intention is one-hundred percent to let people know that James Potter is alive and well and that you should be willing to follow him through hell.

Peter’s confession is only background, sprinkled easily with dissent about Voldemort. It’s a love letter to Harry’s dad.

There’s a slight noise – a gasp, or else a glass spilling over – from the staff table. Harry looks up and meets eyes with Professor McGonagall, a copy of the prophet in front of her.

Harry stumbles to his feet. “I have to go.” He says quickly to Ron and Hermione, who only gape at him. He has to get out of here, has to get –

Ron and Hermione catch up with him almost immediately out of the great hall, his legs tripping over his heartbeat.

Ron has the paper gripped tight in his hands. He lets go of it to take Harry’s shoulder instead. Hermione picks it up from the floor and scans it quickly. Harry can tell when she reaches the end because her eyes go wide and she starts reading it slowly, taking the whole thing in.

“Harry –

She breaks off, unable to finish the thought. Instead, she passes the paper to Ron, pointing at the last few paragraphs.

“Blimey.” Ron says. “Did you know?”

Harry nods, wordless.

“Is this what was going on?” Hermione asks, “In the last week. You seemed so desperate to stay.”

He nods again.

“Are you ok, mate?”

“He woke up yesterday.” Harry says hoarsely. “I’ve –

Ron nods, and holds his shoulder tighter.

Tears slip down Harry’s face. “I’ve –

“Oh, Harry!” Hermione says tightly, “You shouldn’t have gone over there even for this you could be in so much trouble!”

Ron shushes her. Harry can’t breathe.

“I’ve got a dad.” He says finally, the words breaking out like a tsunami, his tears following, overwhelming. “I’ve got a dad.”