Harry deals with Luna and gets dealt an unexpected card by Sirius.
Chapter Nine: Sorting Things Out
Harry watched as his students fled his room in their usual near-panic. He hadn't even hexed any of them today, so why were they is such a hurry? They even had another class to go before lunch so it wasn't their stomachs driving them on. As the crowd thinned out, he looked at his last two remaining students, Ginny and Luna as usual. Ginny looked even more disheveled than last week and Harry had to wonder if her dorm mates forced her to shower regularly or if Luna convinced her to. Speaking of Luna...
"Miss Lovegood," he called before she could reach the door. "If I could have a moment of your time?"
Luna hesitated and Ginny glanced back at him, only for the briefest of instants, but Harry could see the fear in her eyes. Harry needed to speak to Luna alone and this weakling version of Ginny was starting to wear on his nerves.
"I'm certain that Miss Lovegood is capable of standing without your support, Miss Weasley," Harry said acidly. "Just as I am certain that you can survive by yourself for a few minutes in the hallway."
Luna reluctantly released Ginny's hand and began to make her way back towards his desk. Ginny simply stood there like a deer caught in a set of headlights until, with some impatient shooing motions, Harry got her to scurry out of the room. Harry reached into one of the drawers of his desk and took out the box from Honeydukes. He placed it on the desk where Luna had sat down. Luna's eyes were looking out one of the windows and Harry noticed her necklace of bottle caps hanging half in and half out of her robes. 'Not for much longer, Luna,' he thought silently.
"Miss Lovegood," Harry began; suddenly uncertain of exactly how to put this into words, "I realize that this may seem rather unusual but I assume that, like most young people, you like chocolate?" Luna nodded, even more uncertain than Harry was. "Well, I wonder, do you happen to like chocolate butterbeers?"
Again, Luna nodded and Harry nudged the box a little closer to her. "Well then, I thought you might enjoy these." He sat there waiting for her to open it but Luna, being who she was, simply sat looking at the wrapping paper as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. Finally Harry said, "Go ahead, open it."
Cautiously, as if expecting a Carnivorous Gobsnacker to leap out of the box and attack her, Luna untied the gold colored string and began to peel back the paper. After she was done she sat back and gazed at the white box now sitting on the desk.
"You know, you can open that too," Harry encouraged.
Luna looked up at him with her wide, slightly protrubent eyes and asked, "Why?"
"Because it's a gift, Miss Lovegood. You do know what they are, don't you?"
"Oh yes, Professor, my father always gets me gifts for Christmas and, of course, my birthday, but neither of those are today. Christmas isn't for 114 days yet, and my birthday..."
"Consider it a late Christmas gift from last year then."
"But you weren't here last year."
"And so I couldn't give you your gift, could I?" She tilted her head to the left in thought. "Hence, I'm giving it to you today."
Nodding at the inescapable logic of this, Luna slowly took the top off of the box and looked at the rows of chocolate bottles inside. The dark chocolate ones were so dark they looked as if they were carved from ebony, and the white chocolate shone like ivory. Luna hesitantly reached out for one of the dark chocolate ones. "May I?" she asked quietly.
"Of course, you may. They are yours, after all."
"All of them?"
"Yes, all of them." Luna brought the bottle to her mouth and delicately nipped off the top. Then she sucked out the syrup, almost giggling as she swallowed. Finally, she popped the rest of the candy into her mouth and chewed with relish. "While you're chewing, could you possibly do me a small favor?" Luna's eyes grew suddenly wary, she hadn't been sorted into Ravenclaw for nothing. "Would you please touch them?" Luna was quite plainly confused. "Just run your finger along the bottles, please. That's right," Harry said as she tentatively reached in and put a fingertip on one of the bottles. "Just run your finger along the row there. That's it. Now the next row, if you please. Make sure you touch all the bottles. We wouldn't want any of them to feel left out, now would we?"
When she had run her finger along each of the rows of chocolates in the first layer, Harry carefully lifted the tray to expose the second layer underneath. Without being told, Luna again ran a finger over each one in that tray as well, keying the spells and glyphs Harry had inscribed to her individual magical signature.
"Excellent," Harry said as he returned the first tray to the box. "Might I have one?" Luna nodded and Harry smiled as he chose a white chocolate one this time. Unlike Luna, he just popped the whole thing in his mouth.
"Thank you, Luna. That was very kind of you to share. But now, as I said before, these are a special gift for you and you alone. I don't want you to go sharing these with anyone else. These are just for you, OK?"
Luna swallowed her second piece and seemed lost for a moment. "Perhaps, sir, I could leave them here. Then I could have one or maybe two after each class?"
Harry understood her hesitancy but it only hardened his heart. "No, that wouldn't do. What if you wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden craving for chocolate? They wouldn't do you any good here then, would they? I think it would be best if you kept them in your dormitory."
"But, Professor," she said quietly, "I have several roommates and they..."
Harry beamed in the appearance of sudden understanding. "Ah, and you don't want to appear selfish? You presume they would think ill of you if you didn't share? Well, not to worry; I'm sure they'll understand this one case."
Luna seemed to shrink down into herself like a wilting flower. "They might just take them... when I'm not around."
Harry hardened himself even further. "I'm sure they wouldn't do that. Let's just write them a little note, then explaining the situation."
"Oh Luna, it will all be just fine. Here let me get you some parchment." With a wave of his hand a small sheet of parchment, a quill, and inkwell drifted over from his desk to settle in front of Luna but she wouldn't pick up the quill. "Just write them a short note explaining that these are a special gift just for you and that no one should take any of them."
Luna still wouldn't take the quill so Harry picked it up and placed it in her hand. She looked up and Harry saw tears building in her wide eyes. "Please, Professor, can't I please leave them here?"
Harry had a hard time keeping his resolve but he needed to do this. He tried to smile gently at the girl as he spoke, "Trust me, Miss Lovegood. Just trust me this one time. Write them a short note." Reluctantly, as if the ink was poison, Luna dipped the quill in the pot and loaded it. She pulled the parchment in front of her and began to write:
These chocolates are a special gift for me. Please don't take any. Luna Lovegood
"Excellent," Harry said as he picked up the note and placed on the center of the top of the box. Using a sticking charm, he affixed it there and closed up the box. "Now take it back to your dorm and set it on your nightstand." She looked at him, unsure, sad, and more than a little frightened. "Trust me, Luna, everything will be just fine." He smiled softly as she gathered up the box and her books and headed out the door. The door hadn't even closed before he saw Ginny step up to her and the two girls leaned their foreheads together to talk as they walked through the halls.
For the rest of the day, Harry had a hard time containing his good mood. Indeed, he was practically whistling as he strode through the corridors to dinner that night. He hadn't realized what a fearsome reputation he had gained among the students, with or without the assistance of the staff's gossiping, until he noticed the younger ones pulling back from him in fear at the sight of his grinning countenance. 'Well, no need bothering to try to counter their opinions with facts,' he thought to himself. Besides, having the student body fear him might just work to his advantage later on.
Harry took his seat, a little ways in from the far end of the staff table and, thankfully, about as far from Snape as he could be without eating in the kitchens, and looked out over the gathering students. He spotted Luna, sitting morose and alone, at the Ravenclaw table. He tried to give her a reassuring smile but, judging from the way she cringed away from him, he failed miserably.
A moment later, Ginny entered the hall and walked, her head down and her stringy hair hanging in front of her face, towards her friend. They had a brief, whispered conversation before Luna reached into her pocket and took something out. It was some of the chocolate. She handed one to Ginny and sadly ate the other herself. From the look on her face it was evident that these were the last of them, probably hidden in her pocket since Harry had given them to her. The rest of them had likely all already been taken by her fellow Ravenclaws. Harry's smile grew into a rather feral smirk. It was all just a matter of time now.
"Excuse me, Professor Harris?" The voice came from Minerva McGonagall. "I was wondering if you were free this evening?"
Harry thought for a moment then shrugged. "I believe I have some essays to grade but nothing pressing. Why?"
"We will be having a guest this evening, after dinner in the staff room. Someone you might be interested in meeting."
SIRIUS! Harry almost shouted. He hadn't read anything about his case in the papers the last couple of days. Not even an acknowledgement that he had been released. Was he finally free? Harry could hardly wait to see him. "Of course I'll be there. Around sevenish?" Minerva nodded and returned to her meal. Harry looked up and down the staff table but neither James nor Lily Potter was there. This only seemed to reinforce the idea that Sirius was free and Harry dove into his Shepard's pie with gusto.
He ate with such gusto, in fact, that he had finished his pudding and rushed his way up to the staffroom before he even bothered to check the time. It was only half six. He paced back and forth in front of the doorway for a few minutes debating with himself whether he should go in early or wait outside. He really wanted to see Sirius again, even if this Sirius hadn't the slightest idea who he was. He NEEDED to see him. He needed to see that one more of the people who had died for him was alive again. This would complete the group. His parents, Dumbledore, and Sirius; they were all alive and well, or at least as well as could be expected in Sirius's case. But Harry was sure that if Sirius could keep his sanity for twelve years in the old world then he could keep it for 15 in this one. It would take awhile for him to get healthy again but this time he wouldn't be on the run. He wouldn't have to hide constantly and eat rats to survive. No, now he could get proper care, and Harry was sure that his mum and dad would see to that. Harry wanted to burst through the door and give that old mongrel the biggest hug he had ever had. But he couldn't.
He couldn't because Sirius didn't know who he was and if he did try to hug him, Harry would likely get hexed for his troubles. He needed to play it cool and aloof. It had been a pure accident that had led to the revealing of Wormtail... pure serendipity, and Harry had to remember that. He wasn't supposed to have any idea who Sirius was and they had never met. He had to approach this meeting from that position. He was curious to meet the man but he had no real connection to him.
And so Harry had resolved to go back to his room for a bit, or maybe his office to grade a few of those papers he had mentioned. Then, fashionably late, he would wander down to the staff room to see what all the fuss was about. He turned to head to the Defense classroom, and his office, when a frantic young Ravenclaw, a second year Harry thought but couldn't remember the name, dashed down the hall and pounded on the staffroom door. Harry got there just as the Headmaster opened it.
"And what is all this commotion, Mister Warren?" he said with a twinkle.
"If you please, Headmaster," the young man panted, "I've come to fetch Professor Flitwick. Someone's pulled a prank on us at dinner, sir. Almost all of Ravenclaw!"
Albus chuckled and looked over his shoulder. "You might want to see to this Filius, it seems that some miscreant has managed some sort of mischief with your house." Harry heard a squeak of protest as the tiny wizard came out. "And just what sort of prank has been pulled, Mister Warren?" Dumbledore asked.
But before the fellow could gather enough breath, in his winded state, to give an answer, Filius pushed his way past Albus's robes and started down the hall towards the Great Hall. Mr. Warren at his heels and in hushed conversation. Albus turned his head and noticed Harry standing there.
"Ah, Odysseus," he said congenially, "you're a bit early but still, come right in. There's someone here who is rather anxious to meet you."
With his heart soaring and his feet like lead; Harry followed the headmaster into the room. He saw them instantly, of course. Although there were a half dozen others in the room he saw them first. They were huddled in a corner, one head of red hair and two of black, one short and two long, one messy and two neat. Sirius Black, James and Lily Potter were as close as it was physically possible to be without embracing. Harry could see relieved smiles on the faces of the Potters while Sirius still seemed to be in a daze. Harry stood frozen in place until Albus gave him a gentle push from behind.
"Sirius," he said loudly enough to cut through their conversation, "I have someone here you might be interested in meeting. The man who uncovered Peter right here in our midst." Sirius turned and looked at Harry. He was drawn and gaunt, as Harry remembered seeing him from his last life, but the fire of insanity, that thirst for vengeance that had come across so clearly back in the Shrieking Shack was missing. In its place Harry saw startled confusion. Sirius's mouth worked silently for a moment before he pushed past James and threw his arms around Harry.
"You're alive!" Sirius shouted. "They told me that you'd been killed, but here you are. You're alive." Sirius released his hug and held Harry's face firmly in his hands. Weak as he was from 15 years in Azkaban, Harry could have easily shook off his grip but at that moment having Sirius let go of him was the last thing in the world Harry wanted. "Those eyes, I'd recognize them anywhere." He turned back to look at Lily. "They're your eyes Lily, as sure as ever." He clutched at Harry again, even more tightly. "Oh, that was a rotten trick to play: scaring me like that. All this time I thought you were dead, but you're not. You're standing right here." Harry wrapped his arms around his godfather and held on for all he was worth. He'd give up every dream he ever had if this moment could just go on a bit longer.
"Sirius... ahh, Sirius," James said hesitantly. "I think you need to let him go." Reluctantly, Sirius relaxed his grip and even more reluctantly, Harry let go as well. "That isn't Harry."
"What are you talking about, James, of course that's Harry! Just look at him."
Harry cleared his throat; it was time to throw his heart away one more time. "I'm afraid he's correct, Mr. Black. My name is Odysseus Harris. The Potter's child did die that night."
Sirius stammered, his eyes flying back and forth between James and Harry. "But you look..."
"Yes, there is a strange similarity in our features," Harry said, trying with all his being to remain calm, or at least sound calm. "But there is no chance that it is anything but a coincidence. Besides, I am several years older than the Potter boy would be today." Harry glanced over at Lily Potter and saw the pain in her face. He saw how much it still hurt to even think about the child they had lost. He wondered for a moment if his own mother had felt that much love when she sacrificed her life in the hope of saving his. And he wondered if either woman could still love their child if they found out he had become what Harry had. He shook his head to throw off the thoughts and said, "But we aren't here to discuss the past. We're here to celebrate the future. A future you once again can look forward to, Mr. Black."
"Yes, indeed we are," Albus chimed in. With a wave of his wand, flutes of champagne appeared in everyone's hand. "Let us give a toast to a bright and shining future for Sirius and all of us!"
"The future," the group intoned with varying degrees of enthusiasm as they raised their glasses and drank. Downing the entire contents of his own in one gulp, Harry dashed his glass into the fireplace, shattering it forever. The rest of the room startled for an instant before doing the same.
"Tell us, Mr. Black, have you given any thought at all to what you are going to do now that the world knows you're innocent?" Harry asked, trying to get the conversation going again.
"Well, first off, you have to start calling me Sirius. You're the one who got me out of that hellhole so I think that gives you the right to a little familiarity."
"All right, Sirius," Harry said smiling, "but only if you call me Odd." Sirius got an amused look in his eye and was about to speak when Harry cut him off, "Don't. It's been done to death and I don't think you could say anything I haven't heard before, at least a hundred times."
Sirius smirked. "OK, but I reserve the right to come up with something original later." Harry nodded. "As to any plans, I don't think I've been rational enough to make any serious plans - no jokes from you either. This has all happened so fast that I don't think my feet have touched the ground yet. I'm still trying to catch up on what has happened in the world these last fifteen years."
Lily finally spoke up, taking charge of the situation and leaving no room for argument. "Well, you'll have plenty of time to read the newspapers and catch up as you rest. You will be staying with us here at Hogwarts for awhile until you're healthy again. Your nothing but skin and bones."
"OK, OK, Lily, I'm not going to argue on it. Of course I'll stay with you, as long as the Headmaster allows it, that is."
One look at Lily told any sane man that it would be folly to disagree and Albus, as balmy as he might appear, was quite sane. "Of course, you are welcome to stay as long as you like, dear boy. I wouldn't dream of sending you away. Besides, with you close by, Poppy can keep a close eye on you to monitor your recovery."
"Do you have any family you could stay with?" Minerva asked from her spot in the corner.
"Well, my mother was alive when I went... away, but I've been told that she died about ten years ago. I went to Gringotts and found out that even though they told me I was disowned, as the last remaining true Black, I've inherited all my parent's goods."
"I don't mean to pry, Sirius," she continued, "but is there enough for you to live on whilst you get readjusted? If not, I'm sure something can be arranged here at Hogwarts."
"No, I'm not a charity case yet, Minnie." The stern professor seemed to want to object to the use of such a diminutive but just couldn't, in keeping with the circumstances. "There's enough money for me to live on for the rest of a very long life, even if I never work another day."
Here Lily spoke up again, "Besides, I'm sure that the Ministry will be offering him a substantial compensation for the years he spent in jail."
Albus coughed. "I'm afraid that isn't very likely, Lily dear. As unjust as it was, everything the Ministry did was within the letter of the law and therefore I doubt Minister Scrimgeour would offer any payment for mistakes made by a previous administration."
"That's absolutely ridiculous!" Lily shouted. "They never charged him with a crime, never brought him to trial, they never had any real evidence. How could they justify their actions?"
"But as soon as real evidence was uncovered," Albus said with a nod to Harry, "they released him. He had been held as a possible threat to the public by a previous Minister. When they had proof that he wasn't, he was released. I'm afraid, rather than compensating Sirius and accepting responsibility for what happened, Rufus will quickly find a scapegoat to take the blame instead."
"That's ridiculous!" Lily repeated hotly.
"That's politics," Harry corrected. "But then again those two words do tend to be synonymous."
Sirius looked at him with a gimlet eye. "So young and still so cynical? I think I like this guy!" Everyone laughed but it quickly died. "But I don't want their money. No amount of money could be adequate for what they did to me."
"Then what do you want?" Harry asked.
Sirius stopped at this and thought about it. Slowly, he said, "I don't really know. It would be easy to say I want revenge but against who? Peter, of course, but he's already going to get his."
"The Kiss, that's what the little rat deserves," spat James.
"No," Harry countered. "That's too quick and too easy. Let him spend some time with the Dementors first. In a few years, after he's gone round the twist, then let them Kiss him."
"But he'll just hide in his rat form. The Dementors have less of an effect on animals," James pointed out, accidentally revealing clues as to how Sirius stayed sane all those years.
Harry was about to point out that he knew how to take care of that when Albus spoke. "I'm afraid the point is entirely moot as the Dementors no longer guard Azkaban."
Sirius nodded. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot. This last year was the easiest time I spent there, without the Dementors hanging on me."
At this time, Lily took Sirius by the arm and grabbed his attention with a kiss on the cheek. "Those are the only kisses I want to hear anybody talking about from now on," she said firmly. "We're here to get reacquainted, not to plot revenge." With that she turned Sirius away from Albus and Harry and reengaged him in her own conversation with James and Minerva.
Albus hmmphed and raised an eyebrow at Harry. Harry just grinned back as if to say, 'There's no arguing with a redhead.' Dumbledore reached out and appeared to take a cup of steaming hot chocolate right out of thin air. Harry reached down to an ice bucket on the table and retrieved himself a butterbeer.
Harry turned to the Headmaster and said, "Interesting, isn't it?"
"What's interesting, my boy?"
"How all this time everybody suspected that Sirius there was a Death Eater and no one suspected Pettigrew."
Albus looked at him searchingly. "How is that interesting?"
Harry gestured at James, Lily, and Sirius, once again laughing together. "Well, they were all classmates."
Albus nodded. "As was Peter."
"And Snape." Albus's eyes grew wary as Harry continued on. "Snape was recruited straight out of Hogwarts, was he not?"
"Actually, Lucius began his seduction while Severus was still a student."
"So, if Sirius was a Death Eater then it is logical to assume that they were being recruited at the same time." Albus nodded. "And initiated, and trained, in whatever way that Voldemort trains his followers."
"And your point is?"
Harry looked over at the older man and said, "How is it that your spy never mentioned to you that he had seen Sirius Black as a Death Eater? I mean, if you had any sort of proof that Sirius was a Death Eater then you would have removed him from the Order. You certainly wouldn't have let the Potters even consider him as their Secret Keeper, right?"
"Well, since Sirius isn't a Death Eater that hardly seems relevant."
"Did Snape tell you that Sirius wasn't a Death Eater?" Harry asked. "Or for that matter, did he ever tell you that Pettigrew was? They were both serving that bastard at the same time, it only seems logical that they would have known each other."
Albus nodded. "Voldemort is highly paranoid however; perhaps he kept groups of his followers isolated from each other for secrecy's sake?"
"Lucius Malfoy was certainly familiar with a large number of his fellow servants."
"Ah, but Lucius was higher up the chain of command so naturally he knew his subordinates."
"And they knew him," Harry said calmly, closing the trap.
"Yes, I suppose."
"And Sirius was supposed to be one of Voldemort's highest ranking supporters, according to the reports yet Snape never saw him and he wasn't marked."
"Indeed, it seems the Ministry did miss several important details."
"And you didn't miss them as well?"
"Odysseus, I am not perfect. I make mistakes just as any man."
"Yes, but it always seems to be others who pay the price for them, doesn't it?" Before Albus could reply, Harry continued. "Snape couldn't confirm that Sirius was a Death Eater."
"Because he wasn't."
"And he never mentioned that Peter was, even though they were both recruited around the same time."
"As I said, perhaps he never had the opportunity to see him."
"Or perhaps he did and never bothered to tell you."
"Why would he do that if he knew it would likely save an innocent man from Azkaban?"
Harry looked Dumbledore and sneered. "Perhaps to punish a childhood enemy? Perhaps to finally get even for all the slights, real or imagined, he thought Sirius had inflicted? Perhaps because he simply enjoys causing harm to innocent people?"
"Odysseus, you must stop this ridiculous vendetta you have against Professor Snape. I don't know what is behind it but it must stop!"
Harry shook his head in disbelief. "You have to know what he is? We have, right here in this room, proof that he withheld information that could have saved an innocent man from 15 years in hell and yet you still defend him?"
"I trust Severus completely. I know he is worthy of that trust. I believe, when this is all over, that he will be firmly and complete rooted on the side of the light."
"You know... You believe...." Harry sighed. "Or do you just wish to believe."
Whatever answer Dumbledore had was cut off when the door burst open and a flustered Filius Flitwick stumbled into the room.
"Filius, whatever is the problem?" Albus asked.
The small wizard fairly shouted, "Somebody's turned the Ravenclaw girls into pigs!"