Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Beyond the Darkness: The Early Years

The Greatest Wizard of the Age

by OrionScorpio 0 Reviews

AU. What if Sirius Black had Disapparated right after Pettigrew framed him, and proceeded to kidnap Harry from the Durselys? Harry grows up with Sirius while hiding from former Death Eaters, the Mi...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Harry, Sirius - Published: 2006/12/20 - Updated: 2006/12/21 - 4700 words

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Chapter 7: The Greatest Wizard of the Age

15th April, 1985

Sirius carefully moved the razor down his chin, removing the last of the stubble. He ran a hand over his chin and examined his face in the mirror, feeling for any stubble he had missed. Satisfied, he put the razor down and grabbed a towel to wipe off the remaining shaving foam. Shaving Muggle-style instead of just using a charm had been one more way of rebelling against his pureblood parents when he was young. Sirius grinned wryly, as he remembered his mother's reaction when she came across him in the bathroom, shaving - with a Muggle razor! For a few wonderful moments, he'd allowed himself to hope she'd have a heart failure. Unfortunately, dear old Mum had survived the ordeal.

Dabbling on his face with the towel, he turned toward the raven-haired boy in the bathroom door, who had been following every move of the razor with intense concentration. Still in his pyjamas, four year-old Harry Potter was a bit too small for his age - he seemed to take after his father in that aspect, who didn't begin to really shoot up until his mid-teens.

Now the boy fixed his green-eyed gaze at him. "Sirius, are we out of money?"

Sirius stopped. "What makes you say that?" he asked guardedly.

"'Cause I looked in that bag you keep under your bed, and we are nearly out."

Sirius put the towel back on its peg. The boy seemed to be more perceptive than he had thought. "Look; I don't want you to worry about this, okay? I promise we are not going to starve. Now go put some clothes on, and I'll make breakfast."

Harry nodded. "Okay." What Padfoot promised would happen; that was one of the facts of life as far as he was concerned. Turning, he walked back to his room.

Sirius went down the stairs to the first floor and entered the kitchen, deep in thought. The truth was that they were out of money. The gold he had taken out of Gringotts was all but used up. The obvious solution would be to secure an income, but how could he do that? Since he was a wanted man in the Wizarding world, he couldn't just apply for a job, and he knew too little about the Muggle world to try there. It was something of a dilemma, and Sirius didn't know how to solve it.

With a few casual waves of his wand, the bacon jumped into the frying pan by itself. He was still pondering when Harry came down the stairs fully dressed and sat down at the kitchen table.

Sirius looked at Harry out of the corner of his eye. Money wasn't the only concern they had. The boy spent nearly his entire time in Padfoot's Den, and he really needed to be around kids his own age. Harry was already a quiet kid and since they lived mostly in isolation, Sirius worried over how he'd handle social situations once he got older. Schooling wasn't the problem; most wizarding families home-schooled their children until they went to Hogwarts.

On impulse, Sirius went into the living room and opened a drawer in his writing desk. It was completely empty, save for a single letter addressed to Remus Lupin. He just stood there looking at it for a while, making no move to take it. That was the letter that he had intended to send Remus almost four years earlier, only to have the misfortune of running into old Moony before he reached the Owl Office in Diagon Alley. The duel that ensured was something he'd rather not think about, but he couldn't help but remember the accusations that had hurt him more than Malfoy had with the Cruciatus Curse.

"You betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort. James and Lily, Sirius! How could you? They were your friends, they trusted you with their lives ... I suspected that you were the spy, you know. Ever since Peter showed me the Death Eater mask he found. I should have gone to Dumbledore rather than give you the benefit of the doubt."

Sirius gave himself a shake and determinedly picked up the letter. Finding Wormtail had been pushed further and further down his list of priorities as Harry grew older, and he had postponed sending the letter for nearly four years. Perhaps that was enough. Moony couldn't help it after all. All evidence did point toward Sirius.

"Sirius?" Harry called from the kitchen.

"What is it, Harry?" Sirius asked distractedly.

"Um, is the bacon supposed to turn black?"

Sirius dropped the letter. "Shit!"

Racing back to the kitchen, he found that what had once been their breakfast now resembled coal more than anything else, sending clouds of smoke toward the ceiling. Swiftly, he lifted the frying pan off the fire to put it in the sink. Unfortunately, it collided with a stack of dishes he had yet to wash, somehow twisted out of his grip and landed on his foot.

"Ow!"

Jumping around the kitchen on one foot, Sirius snarled several choice words at the offensive frying pan. He pulled out his wand from his back pocket and used magic to levitate the damned thing to the sink.

"Scourgify!" he growled at what remained of the bacon, banishing it instantly.

Sirius stopped as his eyes fell upon Harry, who was silently mouthing something with unfocused eyes. The boy suddenly became aware he was being stared at, abruptly ceased whatever he was doing and looked back at him with an innocent expression. Sirius frowned nonplussed; Harry couldn't possibly have been memorizing his cursing?

No... of course not.

III

In Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Severus Snape was not having a good day. He marched into his office with a ferocious scowl; his black robes billowed dramatically around him. He slammed the door shut with a resounding bang, stomped over to his desk and tossed a stack of papers down on it carelessly; sixth-year essays about the effects of dragon blood in an infusion of hellebore and fluxweed.

Severus' lips twisted in a sour grimace at the thought of grading those essays. As much as he loved potions-making, he absolutely loathed teaching it. He was a Potions Master for Merlin's sake! Where was the challenge in teaching potions he knew how to brew in his sleep by his second year?

Snorting contemptuously, he sat down heavily in his comfortable armchair. Of course, the fact that his talents weren't being put to use was old news, and responsible for only part of his anger. No, most of it was directed at /Potter/.

Severus barred his teeth in a bitter smile. It was so ironic; no sooner was the loathsome bastard of a father dead, before the son took over in their efforts to make Severus miserable - and he hadn't even met the boy yet! For years, both he and many other members of the Order of the Phoenix had spent a considerable amount of their spare time chasing after that damned boy - Severus no longer had time for potions research or any other pursuits.

He opened a drawer and took out a folder full of newspaper clippings from the /Daily Prophet/. With a sour grimace, he read the headline: 'No trace of Sirius Black or the Boy Who Lived.'

Severus' ecstasy at the Dark Lord's downfall had been tainted from the start by the knowledge that it was Potter's son who had accomplished that. He ground his teeth at the thought. Even from beyond the grave that insufferably arrogant bastard managed to get in the last word! Yet, Severus could have accepted that - not happily, but he could have accepted it - and moved on... if not for the ludicrous reverence everyone spoke of the boy with. Why, some moron at the Ministry had proposed naming the day of the Dark Lord's defeat the 'Harry Potter Day!'

Angrily, he jumped up from the armchair and began pacing. It was he who had spent years spying upon the Dark Lord! It was he who had risked death by torture to provide the Light with information! And what had the brat done? Nothing! He had just sat there, utterly defenceless - and then something unconceivable had happened... and Harry Potter had suddenly become the most famous boy on Earth.

It was ridiculous! It was prosperous! It was unfair!

Severus stopped and forced himself to breath deeply and evenly. He already felt like breaking something, and it wouldn't do to trash his own office.

Albus had convinced him to keep Severus' career as a spy secret. The Dark Lord hadn't been destroyed, after all - not completely. He would return, and then Severus' services would be required again.

He shook his head of those thoughts. Severus had owed James Potter a life debt, and now that he was dead, that debt had been transferred to Harry Potter. But how the hell was Severus supposed to protect the brat if he didn't even know where he was?

"Damn you, Potter!" he whispered fervently at the empty room. He wasn't sure which Potter he referred to, and didn't much care. "Damn you!"

III

Casually, Sirius stepped inside the Owl Office with Harry - currently a brown-eyed redhead - by his side. He wasn't particularly afraid of being caught by the Ministry or the Order; they had been to Diagon Alley several times since that fateful encounter with Remus. Yet, Sirius had been as meticulous as always when crafting their disguises.

He walked over to the counter facing the entrance. "I'd like to rent an owl to carry this letter to Mr. Remus Lupin," he said to the youth standing behind it.

"Yes, sir," the young wizard said and made a notation in a notebook. "Local or long distance?"

"Local."

"Name?"

Sirius cleared his throat. "I prefer to remain anonymous."

If the young man was surprised, he didn't show it. "That'll be eight Sickles, thank you."

Sirius paid him and handed him the letter. They stayed long enough to see the man fasten it to an owl and send it out of the window.

Now I can only hope Remus will believe me, he thought as they left.

Manoeuvring through the crowd, Sirius glanced down at Harry, who actually managed to stare around with wide eyes and flinch from the noise at the same time. He almost twisted his head off when he tried to follow a very wild-looking witch with his eyes. Seconds later, he cringed when a group of particularly loud warlocks walked past, discussing an article in /Transfiguration Today/.

"Are you alright?" Sirius asked.

"There is so much /noise/," Harry complained. "Why do they have to be so loud?"

Yes, he definitely needs to get out more, Sirius thought. "Look, let me just buy a newspaper, then we'll stop by Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour."

Harry readily agreed, and a few minutes later they were sitting under a parasol with each their multi-coloured triple ice cream sprinkled with chocolate. Sirius was paging through the /Daily Prophet/. Due to obvious reasons, they couldn't have it delivered to Padfoot's Den, so except for their occasional visits to Diagon Alley, they had no way of knowing what went on in the wizarding world.

Hmm, the Ministry is slowing down Auror recruitment efforts. Fools. A few years of peace and they think they are safe, Sirius thought in annoyance and turned the page. If anyone can survive being hit by a rebounded Killing Curse it will be Voldem - ohoi!

The caption on the next page captured his attention more efficiently than if the entire Order of the Phoenix had descended upon him:

The Black Family comes to an end

Yesterday, Mrs Lalande Cygnus Black died unexpectedly in an explosion of unknown origin in the Black Mansion. The Blacks are one of the wizarding world's oldest pureblood families, and the Black Family Fortune, while unspecified, is said to be one of the largest in Britain. Unfortunately, in later years this noble family, who were once a pillar of Britain's magical community, has gained a poor and undeserved reputation due to the actions of the notorious Death Eater, Sirius Orion Black...

Sirius snorted contemptuously. Very few people knew that his mother had been dabbling in Necromancy; an obscure branch of the Dark Arts that dealt with reanimating dead bodies. No magic could truly raise the dead, of course. The best a Necromancer could do was creating mindless zombies, so-called 'Inferi', who obeyed orders without question.

One of the backdraws of that particular kind of magic was that the spells and charms were highly volatile, and probably the source of the explosion.

Well, good riddance, you old hag, Sirius thought with scorn. He skimmed the rest of the article that consisted of equal parts rehash of his 'crimes' and pretty words dedicated to his so-called family.

...Mrs Black leaves no Will...

Sirius sat up straight, eyes narrowing as he re-read that sentence. She hadn't written a Will? But that meant... that meant that according to wizarding law, the entire Black fortune would automatically go to the oldest surviving heir.

In this case, him.

He put down the Daily Prophet and considered. He had never been very interested in money, but if he could gain access to the Black fortune, their current money problem would be solved forever. Both he and Harry could live comfortably of it for the rest of their lives if they so chose - and so could their great-grandchildren for that matter.

Of course, first he'd have to visit Gringotts. The Goblins rarely cared who their costumer was, as long as he had the key and all the charms on it were intact. They probably wouldn't even bother to check who the vault belonged to. Still, it was a risk to take.

But in the end, they didn't have much of a choice.

"Are you finished, Harry? Good. We'll just stop by at Gringotts for a moment, and then we'll visit Quality Quidditch Supplies."

"Yes!" Harry jumped up from his chair, eager to go. Ever since Sirius had told him about Quidditch, he'd wanted to learn everything there was to know about the game.

They swiftly made their way through the crowd and entered the Goblin-run bank. Right outside the entrance an old warlock with a short, grey beard was having a conversation with a younger, brown-haired witch. Neither Sirius nor Harry paid them any heed as they stepped through the doors of burnished bronze. The two Goblins standing guard in the entrance chamber opened the silver doors for them as they approached. Sirius and Harry walked over to the nearest free accordant.

"What can I help you with, sir?" the Goblin asked, pushing his spectacles higher up on his nose. Harry seemed to have a hard time not to stare. He had never seen a Goblin except on photographs.

"My new job requires me to spend a considerable amount of time in the Muggle world," Sirius lied. "I was wondering if there is any way to access my vault through a Muggle bank?"

"Certainly, sir," the Goblin replied. "Are you familiar with how to use a Muggle bank account?"

"I am," Sirius confirmed, having seen Lily withdraw money from a Muggle bank, once.

"Then I can set up a bank account that will appear normal to any Muggle, except that every time you make a withdrawal, the corresponding amount in wizarding money will be taken from your vault."

"I'd like one such account, thank you," Sirius said and handed the Goblin his vault-key for inspection. "One thing, however; what is Gringotts privacy policy in such cases?"

"Our privacy policy is total, sir," the Goblin explained with a superior smirk. "Once per year we inform the Ministry of the total amount of gold in your vault for taxation purposes, but whatever transactions you perform is solely your own business."

The Goblin gave him several forms he had to fill out and sign, but after fifteen minutes they were done and could leave.

"How old do I have to be before I can have a broom?" Harry asked excitedly as they left the main hall behind them, yet carefully avoiding using Sirius' name. "I mean a proper broom, not one of those that only hover a few feet off the ground."

They stepped through the outer doors, and into the sunshine in Diagon Alley. Sirius squinted against the bright light.

"Well-"

"Hello, Sirius," an familiar voice suddenly said.

Sirius came to a halt so abruptly, Harry almost stumbled and fell. The man who had said his name was the old warlock with the grey beard he had noticed on the way in. Beside him, the witch he had been talking to was staring disapprovingly at Sirius. Before Sirius could think of anything to do, or indeed even react to the fear which suddenly made his blood run cold, the witch gave an almost unnoticeable flick with her wand, and he could feel anti-Disapparation wards go up.

Instinctively, Sirius grabbed Harry's hand in his, while his other hand darted down into his pocket. Before he had more than halfway completed the motion, however, the warlock already had his wand out and snapped: "Accio Portkeys!"

The handle of a broken teacup and a tiny stone flew out of Sirius' and Harry's pockets, respectively, and landed at the stranger's feet. The warlock nodded in satisfaction, and with a few deft wand-movements, his beard changed colour from grey to silvery white and grew down to his waist, his eyes changed from brown to blue, and his nose grew considerably longer and more crocked. Lastly, he pulled out a pair of half-moon spectacles from a pocket and put them on his nose.

Radiating the intense power and authority that had made countless people declare him to be the greatest and most powerful wizard of the age, Albus Dumbledore stood before them. Standing to one side, Minerva McGonagall - who had been the witch - looked almost inconsequential next to the mighty scorcher. A ring of onlookers, having quickly identified the Headmaster, was rapidly gathering to see what was going on.

"Hello, Sirius," Albus repeated pleasantly, although the twinkle in his eyes were conspicuously absent. "When I read in the Daily Prophet that your mother had so unexpectedly passed away without leaving a will, I suspected that you might be desperate enough to claim the Black fortune. Being on the run from the Ministry tend to make it difficult to apply for a job and secure an income, after all."

Sirius kicked himself for being a fool. Of course Albus would be able to reach the same conclusion! The man might sometimes behave as if he were two steps away from senility, but as everyone who knew him could testify, there was nothing wrong with that razor-sharp mind. But how on Earth had he seen through their disguises?

"You are no doubt wondering how I was able to see through you disguises," Albus continued conversationally, startling Sirius slightly. "Don't worry; they were perfect. Minerva and I have simply been standing outside here all day, saying 'Hello, Sirius' to every man leaving Gringotts with a child in tow until we found one who flinched - and doubtless looking like a pair of fools in the process."

Sirius looked around desperately for a way out. The circle of onlookers had fallen back a little, and words like 'Death Eater' and 'Sirius Black' were being muttered along them. Most had made the obvious connection and pointed excitedly at Harry.

It would take several seconds to tear down the wards Albus had erected, even a quick-and-dirty job such as this. Meanwhile, Albus would have plenty of time to erect a new set of wards, or simply just stun him. Although he had completed two out of three years of his Auror training, Sirius was not arrogant enough to believe he could defeat Albus Dumbledore in a duel.

They were trapped.

"It's over, Sirius," Albus said solemnly. "Give it up."

Any resistance might just end up injuring Harry, and Sirius' shoulders slumped in defeat. Harry would be taken away from him, now, while Sirius himself would be sent to Azkaban. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the former that scared him the most.

III

While these bitter thoughts ran through Sirius' mind, a pair of emerald eyes paid close attention to the exchange between the two men. Harry had seen pictures of and heard stories about Albus Dumbledore, but he had never thought the ancient, grandfatherly wizard could be so /scary/. Instinctively, he stepped closer to his godfather. While young, he wasn't stupid, and he knew that the only possible reason why Sirius hadn't Disapparated them both had to be because there were wards in place.

He glanced nervously at the onlookers who had gathered. Harry knew that bad men were after them - Death Eaters, Sirius called them - and for some stupid reason he didn't completely understand, the Aurors wanted to send Sirius to Azkaban. Perhaps they were already here?

Harry let go of Sirius' hand and tugged at his robes.

Sirius looked down at him with wary and defeated eyes. "Yeah, Harry?"

"Can you remove the wards?" Harry whispered so only Sirius heard.

"Sure I can," Sirius whispered back. "But Albus will stun me before we can Disapparate."

A plan born of desperation formed in Harry's mind, and he gulped nervously. "Just remove the wards, and I'll take care of the rest."

"But-"

"Trust me."

Sirius gave him a strange look. "Alright, Harry."

Sirius hand slid slowly down into his pocket. The old witch who stood beside Dumbledore raised her wand immediately.

"Don't try anything, Mr Black," she said sharply. "There's no way you can defeat both of us."

Dumbledore, however, looked completely relaxed, and Harry gulped again. This was insane! The old wizard could probably transform him into a toad, or something worse. Like a snail, perhaps. Or an insect. An annoying little insect he could squash under his boot. Harry gave himself a shake to clear his head of the panicked thoughts.

He heard Sirius whisper an incantation, and there was a flash like from a camera, followed by a crackle of magical energy from the collapsing wards. Dumbledore reacted like lightning given mortal form. His wand came up in a blur, and he snapped: "Stupefy!" Harry barely had time to react.

By throwing himself in front of Sirius and into the path of the oncoming bolt of red light.

The stunner slammed into Harry's chest, and he felt something snap inside him. The sheer force of the normally harmless hex lifted him off his feet and threw him backwards. He got a brief glimpse of the expression of utter horror on Dumbledore's face before he collided with Sirius and darkness overtook him.

III

After a decade of war against Voldemort and his butchers, there was very little that could frighten Albus Dumbledore anymore. Well, right now he was terrified out of his mind, as he stood there staring at the spot Sirius and Harry had Disapparated from. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he tore his gaze away to meet Minerva's pained eyes.

"It wasn't your fault, Albus," she said softly.

"I- I know, Minerva," he stuttered. "I just didn't know- I didn't think- that Harry would do /that./"

"Me neither," Minerva said sorrowfully and pocketed her wand. "Sirius Black must have told him lies. Twisted him."

Her words carried easily over the crowd. The onlookers who had watched the confrontation were utterly silent, and just as shocked as Albus. He glanced at the spot where they had been only seconds earlier. Sirius was a very powerful wizard, so Albus had put everything he had into that stunner. Hitting someone as young as Harry was likely to send the boy into a coma or magically cripple him. The thought of having accidentally done that to any child was terrifyingly enough, but in this case there was also Sibyll's prophecy to consider.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies, /Albus quoted in his mind. /Great Merlin, I may have doomed us all.

III

Ennervate! Ennervate! Damn, it doesn't work! Harry? Please wake up!

The desperation in that voice cut into Harry's heart, and he struggled feebly against the blanket of sleep that held him. He tried to give some sort of sign that he was all right but he was so dreadfully tired. He needed to rest little, first...

Harry, can you hear me? Come on, you've been sleeping for hours.

Harry knew that voice, and he knew it would always help him, no matter what. He tried to force his eyes open to no avail. He felt himself drift away to that warm and safe place, again...

It's time to wake up now, Harry. You've been out for two full days, now. Can you hear me, Harry?

The voice sounded tired, now. Tired and so very worried. He tried to make a sound or lift a finger, but it was so difficult. It was like the entire world was weighing him down. He just needed to rest a little more, first...

Harry... Come on, wake up...

It was difficult to think, but Harry finally managed to fight off the darkness and force his eyelids up a quarter of the way. A blurry shape was looming over him.

"Harry?" a hopeful voice said.

"Mmmh."

"Ennervate!"

Most of the fog clouding his mind evaporated. Blinking, he looked up into his godfather's unshaven face. He tried to sit up but found that his entire body was numb and wouldn't respond properly.

"Take it easy, you are probably still feeling the after-effects from that stunner," Sirius said and helped him to sit up in bed, back puffed up against a pair of pillows. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," Harry said hoarsely, looking around and realizing that he was back home in his bed. "Chest aches, though."

"Not strange at all. Dumbledore's stunner broke one of your ribs. I healed it, but your chest is still going to hurt for a few days more." Sirius fumbled in his pocket and drew out his wand. "Here, take my wand and give it a swish," he said nervously.

"Why?"

"Just take it!" Sirius snapped.

Harry took the wand and swished, causing a few red, blue and green sparks to fly out of its tip.

Sirius let out a huge breath and rubbed his face with a hand. "Thank Merlin, you can still do magic." he muttered. Abruptly he seized Harry's shoulders and shook him.

"WHAT IN THE NINE HELLS WERE YOU THINKING, HARRY? ARE YOU INSANE?"

Harry flinched from the outburst. Sirius had never shouted at him before.

Sirius let go of him and began pacing back and forth, gesturing animatedly.

"YOU'VE BEEN OUT FOR THREE DAYS, HARRY! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU? YOU COULD HAVE GONE INTO A COMA! YOU COULD HAVE HAD YOUR MAGICAL ABILITIES BURNED OUT OF YOU! HELL, YOU COULD HAVE HAD A HEART FAILURE!"

He stopped pacing and let out an explosive: "WHY?"

"Because otherwise, the Ministry would have sent you away," Harry said in a tiny voice.

Sirius' shoulders slumped a little, and suddenly he just looked dreadfully tired. "But why did you have to throw yourself into the path of that stunner, of all things?" he asked in a more normal voice. "Do you have any idea what kind of risk you took?"

"It was all I could come up with," he tried to explain, near tears. Sirius had never before been mad at him, and it scared him badly. "They would have taken you from me. Who would take care of me, then?"

Sirius ran a hand through his hair. "I know, but- You almost paid a catastrophic price, Harry. I'd rather go to Azkaban than see you accidentally turn yourself into a squib." He sat down on Harry's bed, and hugged him close. "I want you to promise me you'll never do something like that again."

"I can't do that, Padfoot," Harry whispered brokenly against Sirius' chest. "You're all I have."

III
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