Harry and Draco nervously stood together in the cramped dark space, waiting for the signal to go. Harry hid his unease, leaning against the wall while Draco anxiously peered through a crack at the chaos outside. As much to distract himself as Draco, he casually asked, “Nervous?”
Turning away from his peep hole, Draco put his back to the wall beside his friend and gave a weak laugh in response. Harry couldn't see his friends face but Draco's voice and aura were full of agitation. “Of course not,” the blond said shakily. There was a short pause before he swallowed thickly and added, “I think I'm going to sick up.”
“Try to relax,” Harry soothed as he stomped his feet, trying to get some feeling back. “It was the same with me my first time. Remember, you've trained for this, we both have.”
“So does the sick feeling ever go away?”
“No,” Put in Cedric from nearby. “You do get used to it, however. Now if you ladies are done chatting, we have a Quidditch match to win.”
Their faces burning, the second year Merlins took their places and mounted their brooms. Using one of the first techniques Sal ever taught him, Harry took slow, even breaths to help him relax and find his centre. Draco, recognising the meditation exercise, followed suit and soon both boys felt their tension melt away.
Feeling much better, Draco glanced at his best friend and with his trademark sneer, asked teasingly, “Scared, Potter?”
Having just finished his bogus sight spell, Harry answered flippantly, “You wish.”
In what seemed like no time at all, the doors swung open allowing the Hufflepuff team to take the field. Ravenclaw, having already finished their warm up, waved to the crowd while Harry's team did a few quick drills, trying get comfortable on their brooms in the cold winter air. For Harry, at least, it didn't feel necessary.
Regardless of the temperature, the moment they'd taken to the air, Harry felt truly at home. Exhilaration washed away any lingering traces of the pre-game tension that he'd been feeling and he let out a howl of delight. Draco, holding a tight formation with him, seemed to be having a similar reaction as they began their wild warm up laps.
Harry could feel his friend's aura was charged with excitement as they finished their first go-round and took position centre field, waiting patiently for Madam Hooch to signal start of play. Cadwaller, the other Hufflepuff Chaser and Jenkins from Ravenclaw, took their positions either side of Madam Hooch as she prepared to start the game. Harry, Draco and the remaining Ravenclaw chasers faced each other tensely as seconds counted down the the start of the match.
Harry's ears perked up as the Golden Snitch was released and shot past him with a metallic whir. Its glowing trail of sparks was quickly followed by twin streaks as the Bludgers were set loose next. Harry couldn't help but flinch a little as they went by, remembering his last encounter with them. The cheering from the stands muted and tension rose as the final game ball was pulled from the trunk and held aloft.
Madam Hooch held the Quaffle before her and tossed it into the air, bringing a fresh roar from the crowd. While not as magically charged as the other game balls, it still had several enchantments placed on it, making the ball easily recognisable to Harry. The Quaffle soared into the air with Cadwaller and Jenkins in close pursuit. Harry, Draco and the two other Ravenclaw chasers were right behind though, each trying to get possession of the ball. It was Jenkins, however, that got to it first, giving Ravenclaw first advantage.
Passing it to his team mates, they made quick progress down the pitch, putting it past Hodge and through the right-most hoop of the Hufflepuff goal, establishing an early lead.
“Ravenclaw scores the first goal of the game,” shouted Lee Jordan excitedly.
Regrouping quickly, Draco snatched the ball from Hodges hands and threw it toward Harry. “Passing drills,” he called as he dove to find an opening. Thus began a dizzying game among the Hufflepuff chasers that had their opponents so confused that one of them attempted an intercept that ended in an embarrassing and painful fall from their broom.
“Ouch!” cried Lee. “It looks as though Adams caught a Bludger! He'll be feeling that tomorrow – Malfoy scores! The score is now tied, ten all!”
The game went on much the same way for another forty minutes. The two houses put on an areal dance that was beautiful as it was brutal. Still, as the game progressed, Harry's team slowly pulled ahead of their opponents. For every goal Ravenclaw made, Hufflepuff matched or doubled. After the latest goal, Lee announced the score to be 130/80 with the Badgers in the lead.
Tension began to mount as Cedric and Cho Chang each spotted the Snitch and set out on a mad dash to get it. Hoping to distract the opposing seeker a bit, Harry called out, “Thread the Needle!”
Snatching the Quaffle from an unprepared Ravenclaw, Harry, Draco and Cadwaller began a tight, spiraling formation, passing the ball between them as they rapidly approached the hoops. The other team tried breaking the formation or steal the Quaffle but the Hufflepuff team was too closely packed and their beaters were running an effective interference to protect their run. Harry and his companions lay flat on their brooms, accelerating as they passed the Quaffle to each other on their approach to the hoops. At the last second, Harry threw the ball at the centre hoop ahead of him while angling his ancient broom to follow the ball. Draco and Cadwaller, each targeting one of the other hoops followed his example and the three chasers made a suicidal dash to the goal.
The Ravenclaw keeper had to make a split-second decision. He could block the ball and possibly get hit by at least one of the three maniacs charging him or he dodge and hope they missed the hoop. Wisely, he chose the latter course, though it did cost their team another ten points as the Quaffle, then Harry, tore through the centre hoop, his form barely fitting through the ring while his team mates followed suit on either side. The crowd roared in approval, first at the daring score, then at Lee's announcement that sounded both excited and annoyed at the same time.
“Cedric Diggory has the Snitch! Hufflepuff wins, 290/80!”
Harry and the rest of the team landed and mobbed Cedric as he held the Golden Snitch aloft in victory. It was an astounding win for the Badgers. Hufflepuff hadn't won by such a huge margin in years. After the obligatory round of hand shaking with the opposing team, made uncomfortable to Harry by the waves of resentment he felt coming from his house-mates, Hufflepuff lifted the entire team on their shoulders and carried them toward the castle and the victory celebration.
“You'd think they'd won the cup,” Draco yelled to his friend over the cheers.
“We've never won by so much!” answered one of the Beaters. “For years, even when we did win, it was by the skin of our teeth. Now with Cedric leading us and those new trick plays, we've got a real shot at the cup!”
In short order they were carried inside the school, upstairs and into the Hufflepuff common room. There, Harry was grabbed by an ecstatic Dudley and dragged through the crowd to be introduced to all his cousin's friends. Most of them Harry already knew, at least in passing. Still, he let Duds have his moment while trying to ignore the occasional cold or slightly fearful emotions he would get from some of the students.
Even though he'd expected it, people's reaction to him being a Parselmouth still bothered him. Though it had only happened the previous day, news of Harry's 'gift' had spread through the school like wildfire. Though everyone's reaction had been mixed, attitudes toward him seemed to be polarized along house lines.
The Gryffindors had reacted with the most negativity. Neville seized the revelation as proof that Harry had been playing some sick game with them this whole time and even began dropping hints that Harry might not be as completely sightless as he claimed, at least he did until his next detention with Professor Snape. After that he never mentioned anything about Harry's condition again, even when pressed by his mates, the boy seemed clueless to what they were talking about. Ron, oddly, was the notable exception. While not vocally supporting Harry, he'd still shown up for study group later that day and did his best to act if nothing had happened.
The majority of Slytherin were viewing Harry the exact opposite way, with notable exception of Thorne and his cronies; they were treating Both Harry and Draco with respect, a respect that bordered on reverence. Not only were they honouring the boys as heroes, the Merlins found they'd picked up an unexpected and unwelcome (on Harry's part) entourage made up of whatever Slytherins were available who would escort them between classes.
Both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, however, had bothered Harry the most. While there hadn't been the odd polarization as with Gryffindor and Slytherin, he felt a general haze of fear and distrust not only from Dudley's house mates, but his own as well. It was this undercurrent he was feeling as he moved between the huddled groups as the celebration continued.
After a time, Harry closed his inner eye rather than feel all the negativity around him and tried to enjoy the party. Unfortunately, conversations with anybody but his team mates or Dudley felt forced and uncomfortable. Quiet comments between some of the party goers, spoken in low mutters that they didn't know he could hear, finally drove Harry to leave the Hufflepuff tower. He'd thought to tell Draco where he was going, but hearing his friend boasting to a seemingly eager group of listeners about their chaser strategy, he decided not to ruin the party for his friend as well.
Stepping out into the corridor, he was met by their Slytherin escort. They'd begun following him around directly outside Dumbledore's office after the Duelling Club incident. He could smell the slightly musky aroma of Blaise Zabini's cologne and heard the hitching sigh that Daphne Greengrass used when bored.
“Blaise, Daphne,” he said by way of greeting as he passed.
Some silent communication passed between the two Slytherins and moments later Harry heard Blaise's slightly heavier steps following him toward the Ravenclaw tower. “Great game,” said the boy as he caught up with Harry. “It's the best I've ever seen the Huffs play.”
“You really don't have to walk me back to the dorms,” Harry grunted irritably. “I'm not the Heir of Slytherin.”
“Maybe you are, maybe you aren't,” Blaise replied lightly. “Bloodlines get so mixed up after a thousand years, you could be and not even know it. Anyway, that's not really the point. You're one of the top ten students in our year, you know more defensive magic than most of the fifth or sixth years I know and Probably more than Lockhart as well.”
“A first year Muggleborn would know more than him,” Harry pointed out as they made their way down a level on the moving staircases.
“Right,” said Blaise with a smile in his voice. “The thing is, you're a natural leader and while nobody can prove whether you're the heir or not, things happen around you. Those of us that are true Slytherins know how to feel which way the wind is blowing and when to grasp onto opportunity.”
They walked the rest of the way to Ravenclaw tower in silence. Parting at the portrait, Harry bid his escort a goodnight and went up to his dorm. Having lost the match today, his house mates were in less than high spirits and said nothing to him as he passed. Not feeling chatty himself, this suited Harry just fine. He was dead tired and wanted nothing more than to curl up under his covers. Tomorrow everyone would be headed home for Christmas Holidays and Harry couldn't wait to sleep in his own bed again.
Climbing into bed, Harry was greeted by his two pets. Hedwig, hissing a greeting from the pillow beside his head snuggled into the crook of his neck. Loki, bolder of the two, nestled himself on the centre of Harry's chest. The miniature Dragon was getting a bit large for this, however. The tiny creature that could hide itself behind one of his ears was now quite a bit longer than his forearm. Affectionately scratching Hedwig under her chin and patting Loki, Harry drifted off to sleep with the sounds and smells of home filling his dreams.
Early the next morning, long before the sun was due to rise, Harry made his way down to the dungeons in order to collect Draco for their last training session before the Hollidays. If circumstances had been different, They would have kept up the meetings in the Room of Requirement since Draco would be staying at the castle anyway and his own home being just a few minutes walk away. Professor Dumbledore would be in the castle over the break, however, and Harry couldn't help but feel the old wizard was watching them a bit more closely than before. For that reason, they would leave off their training schedule until school started back again in January.
Arriving at an apparently blank wall in the dungeon corridor Harry leaned toward it and whispered “Pureblood Pride.” The wall silently swung inward, revealing the dimly lit Slytherin common room beyond. Not having to rely on visible light, Harry navigated the room with practised ease. He'd visited Draco many times over the past year and a half and even with his inner eye closed he could move about with confidence. He'd made it part way across the room when a familiar hiss brought him up short.
True to his word, Draco had found a home for the summoned Cobra. He'd enlisted some of the upper year Slytherins to conjure the terrarium and set up wards to protect the reptile and keep it comfortable.
Reaching out with his senses, Harry located a huge open terrarium set up between the doorways to the boys and girls dorms. Coiled on a large rock, Fangs announced his presence in Parseltongue. Returning the greeting in kind, Harry made his way to the boys dorms and Draco's room.
A slight knock was all it took to bring Draco out. The blond had obviously been waiting for Harry and by his aura, was more than a bit annoyed. “You left me with the Puffs,” Draco hissed accusingly.
“You were enjoying yourself,” Harry replied quietly as they made their way out of the Slytherin common room. “I bet you didn't even notice I'd left for at least an hour.
“I told you, they're Puffs. You don't enjoy their company, just tolerate it. Anyway, I knew it the moment you left, I simply refused to be rude by leaving the party so soon.”
Draco's haughty demeanour cracked a bit when Harry made a rude noise in response to his assertion. They quickly forgot about the party altogether as they started work on new strategies to be used for Quidditch next term. In short order, they'd navigated the empty corridors and entered the Room of Requirement for their training session.
The boys workout with Ric were exhausting and informative but Harry couldn't help but miss Sal's influence on their program. It wasn't that Ric was a poor teacher; he was, after all, an echo of Gryffindor himself. Still, he tended to centre most of his instruction on combat and duelling tactics. Sal, on the other hand, took a more holistic approach to their training. He would teach meditation techniques, magical theory and even Muggle dance to improve their coordination. With him still missing, Harry felt a bit... lost. Unfortunately, Sal was still unreachable and they ended up sweaty, winded and bruised by the time their session was over.
“Go get cleaned up, you two,” the custodian said with a proud smile. “I'll see you in a couple weeks, after holidays.”
A quick shower and change of clothes (courtesy of the ROR) had the boys entering the Great Hall just as breakfast was being served. Arriving among the early risers, Harry and Draco sat down at the merlin table, across from a quite drowsy Terry Boot, the only other Merlin present as of yet, and tucked into their meals.
As they ate, Harry couldn't help feel, even without his sight, that he was being watched. Still not wanting to open his inner eye, as going without was much more comfortable within the castle; his senses, now restored, had regained their previous sensitivity to intense magics. A quiet question to Draco soon had him aware that a certain headmaster was trying, unsuccessfully, to keep an eye on Harry without being noticed. Not willing to have the first day of Holidays spoiled by anything, Harry chose to ignore it and concentrate on his meal.
Their breakfast was interrupted a few minutes later when an owl landed before them in a flurry of feathers. Harry, hadn't been using his inner eye at the time, had only a few seconds warning as he heard its approach. He was still able to save his breakfast platter, however and give the bird room to land.
“Who's sending you owls?” Draco asked after hastily swallowing a mouth full of eggs.
“I'm not sure,” he replied as he let his fingers trail over the birds form until he came across a fairly large bundle tied to its leg. Releasing it, Harry offered the owl a banger that was eagerly accepted before the bird flew away, allowing Harry a chance to examine his delivery.
“It's a book, I think,” Harry said as he ran his fingers over the paper wrapping. Locating a note attached to the package, he scanned it with his fingers, his expression becoming quickly more excited. “He found one.”
“Who found what?” Draco asked, his attention torn between Harry's acquisition and his morning meal.
“Remember I told you about writing Mr Borgin, asking if he knew of any books on dark creatures,” Harry answered as he methodically removed the paper from his package. “It looks like he must have found something.” Carefully folding the discarded wrapping, he sat it on the bench beside him before running his fingers over the book's cover. It was made of a tough yet supple leather and something in its texture screamed 'ancient'. Embossed on the spine was the book's title. “Ye Beasties Magical, Both Dark and Light,” Harry murmured as he opened it to the contents page. The Exuberant expression He'd been wearing all along darkened to a thoughtful frown as he ran his fingers over the parchment.
“Now what?” Draco asked warily as he noticed his friend's reaction.
“This may take longer than I thought,” Harry answered slowly. “The book only seems to list the creatures alphabetically and there's a lot of them.”
“So you have to read the entire book before you even know whether our snake is in there?”
Shrugging as much to himself as for Draco's benefit, Harry sighed and said with a resigned tone, “There's nothing for it.” Closing the book and placing it in his bottomless bag, explained, “I'll just have to start on it later when Duds and I get home.” What he didn't mention was the eyes of the Headmaster that he still felt surreptitiously trained on them.
Breakfast was soon over and as a group, the students going home for Holidays walked down to the express in Hogsmeade. While not taking the train, Harry, Dudley and Draco were among the other students accompanied by Professor Snape. Among them were several Merlins including Luna, Terry and even Ron Weasley from Gryffindor trailed along behind them for a bit. He was staying behind as well, with his other siblings but was seeing the other Gryffindors off. He stayed with them until Neville and Ginny came over and pulled him away, Longbottom whispering something fiercely in his ear.
Dudley, being his normal, hyperactive self, was pulling Harry along at a near run. While wanting to see his friends off at the train, Duds was more interested in getting home and seeing his mother. Caught up in the excitement, he kept chattering on about his new room and all the fun things they'd do over the holiday. Draco and Professor Snape followed along, hiding their amusement at young Dudley's antics while the rest of the Merlins just chuckled quietly among themselves.
At the station, everyone said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Most simply wished Harry a happy Holiday, though Luna slipped a turnip into his hand with the promise that it would keep him safe from Bandy-Legged Nurflers until his return to school. Harry already missed them all fiercely, even as the train was pulling out of the station. Still, free of the castle and evil giant snakes, it was turning out to be a wonderful Christmas Holiday, though he knew a good portion of it would go into studying his new book.
Between his family, Professor Snape and Draco, Harry's attention was centred more on them than his search for the chamber monster. Dudley was constantly under foot, over-enthusiastically guiding Harry as he familiarized himself with the now fully unpacked house. Petunia was little better; after an extended period of not having both her boys home together, she spent her time either clinging to them or popping up at the oddest moments to see that they were alright. While Professor Snape respected Harry's occasional need for privacy, and even ran interference when he could with Aunt Petunia, he made no such effort with the Malfoy heir.
Draco unilaterally made it his mission to keep Harry from spending the entire holiday wrapped up in his new book. On days where he didn't actually sleep over, he would beat on Harry's door almost before the sun had risen, eager to be about some new adventure. They had thoroughly explored the village and purchased everyone's Christmas presents. They'd even gotten something for Hermione and planned to leave their gifts on her bed-side table for when she woke. They'd also gone a bit into the Forbidden Forest, though stories of the dangers there kept them from going too far. The day before Christmas saw them in Harry's room, wrapping gifts for the next day.
Carefully folding the wrapping around Luna's gift, Harry grinned to himself as he heard Draco curse and crumple yet another sheet of paper. “This is pointless!” the Malfoy Heir declared as he threw the paper in the bin. “Why can't I just wrap it with magic like the house elves do?”
“You remember, we made a deal,” Harry reminded him as he finished his package and placed it aside. “I let you help me pick the gifts for my friends and we wrap them the Muggle way.”
In truth, Harry was glad for Draco's help when it came to shopping. He'd planned to give all his friends Muggle gifts to show them something of the other world. Draco had quickly nixed the idea, explaining that to most pureblood families, such gifts would be considered inconsiderate at best and more likely an insult even with an explanation. The shopping spree that resulted lasted three days with Draco in charge of the entire affair. The only time Harry's advice was even asked was while they were browsing the bookshop.
“What...” the blond asked haltingly as Harry ran his fingers over the spines of several books. “What kind of books do you think a Muggle-born witch might like?”
Pausing in his browsing, Harry quirked an eyebrow, though he kept his head turned toward the shelf to conceal a knowing grin. “Any witch in particular?”
“No!” Draco answered a bit too loudly. “I was just curious about Muggle-borns in general.”
“I don't know about everybody,” Harry replied as he tried to keep an even tone while fighting back a wave of mirth. “Now, someone like Hermione would love to get their hands on some of the older wizarding histories, she's a bit of a buff.”
“Right,” came the nervous response. “Well I'm sure most witches would be, the smart ones anyway. Look, I'm going to buy a couple things, I'll be back in a minute.”
Their purchases complete, the boys had spent the next day wrapping everything and were just now finishing in time to send their schoolmates gifts off by owl. Fingering Luna's, Harry couldn't help grin at the item he'd picked for her. He'd been in the kitchen helping Aunt Petunia wash the dishes when he'd picked up a fairly large metal colander. It was a stupid gift and normally he'd never have done anything like this but something about it just seemed right. He'd begged his aunt for the bowl and eventually gotten her permission to take it with a thorough cleaning. Now wrapped and shrunk, it was in the pile of gifts to be shipped off within the hour. The boys were carrying the packages downstairs when there was a knock at the door.
Moments later, Aunt Petunia entered the sitting room where the boys were putting their gifts around the tree. The man with her wasn't Severus, however, though his presence was familiar. The musty smell of old parchment beside a scent he'd first encountered at the London zoo, Announced to Harry that Remus Lupin had come for their long-overdue talk.
After a warm greeting and everyone finding a comfortable place to sit, Remus asked, “So, how's school, Harry?” The older man's voice sounded sincere but strained as well. It was like he had a lot on his mind and at least some of it unpleasant. His aura was a bit different to Harry's senses as well. Today the pattern of sparks more closely resembled Professor McGonagall's, but still differing in a way as well. Harry's study of it was cut short, however, by a polite cough from Remus.
“Oh, right,” Harry said with a start. “School's fine except for those weird attacks. I'm in the top three of all my classmates and the the Hufflepuff team, the one I'm playing for, we won our first Quidditch match the other day.” Frowning a bit, he went on, “You asked about Longbottom's invisibility cloak, we never got a chance to get a good look at it, unfortunately. He and I aren't getting along all that well right now and I don't know if anyone I know can get a chance to examine it. Why did you want to know about Neville's cloak so badly, anyway?”
Rustling cloth indicating Remus shifting uncomfortably, Harry perked his ears as the older man tried to explain. “Invisibility cloaks, most of them, are a fairly uncommon item. They are commonly made of woven Demiguise hair or spelled with Disillusionment or Bedazzling charms. Most aren't really all that effective and tend to fade in power over time. Your father had such a cloak, though it was different than any other I'd heard of before or since.
It had been handed down, father to son as far back as his family could remember. In all that time, the cloak never became weaker or less effective in hiding its wearer. The reactions of your friends that you relayed to me reminded me more of your father's cloak than of a standard one. When we packed your parents things away, I never saw it, most likely it's there and you've probably already found it and not known what it was.”
“I'm sorry, what?” Petunia asked from her place in the doorway. “What about his parents things?”
“Their personal items; books, clothes, everything that wasn't destroyed in the explosion at Godric's Hollow. Neither of you went to look though them after Professor Dumbledore gave you the key?”
“What key?” Harry and Petunia asked in unison.
“The key to their property vault at the Ministry. Everything from the scene was collected and held until it could be picked up by Harry or his guardian. Professor Dumbledore should have given it to you when he left Harry.”
“He never did anything of the kind,” Petunia said with a tight voice, the one that boded ill for those who crossed her. “He didn't even drop Harry off in person, he left the boy on our doorstep in the middle of the night!”
Alarmed by her quickly rising anger, Remus was quick to add, “While uncommon, when a wizarding child is left in the care of Muggles, it's not unheard of for the Wizengamot's agent, in this case it was likely Professor Dumbledore himself, to hold it until the child reaches maturity.”
“Let's,” Harry said with a heavy sigh. “Let's not worry about it until after the Holidays. We could owl the ministry or just ask Professor Dumbledore when I get back to school. Anyway, you were going to tell me about my Mum and Dad's other friends at school.”
“Right,” Remus replied, sounding even more uncomfortable than before. “James and Lily had many friends back then though there was a core group of us that became more like family. Your mother seemed to get along with everybody but for the better part of her school career, she was best friends with Severus Snape.”
“Did you know that Mum knew Severus, Aunt Petunia?” Harry asked, interrupting Remus' story.
Sounding a bit flustered, his aunt responded affirmatively. “I didn't, actually though mostly it's because I didn't recognise him. He used to come around the park Lily and I played with from about the time we were just turning nine. At the time, we didn't get along that well and I really only remember ever calling him 'that boy from Spinner's end. Why he never bought it up, I'm not sure but I think we'll be having a bit of a talk later.”
Feeling a bit unnerved by his aunt's tone, Harry turned back to Remus, wanting to change the subject. “What about my dad? You were friends with him from the start, right?”
A wave of amusement rolled off Remus as he basked in happy memories. “Something like that,” he said. “I met James on the train, we shared a compartment together. He and Sirius already knew each other, they'd been friends for quite a while. They acted so much alike, you'd swear they were brothers. The both of them were like puppies with a new toy, all energy and mischief. At the time, I, because of a condition I'd developed when I was younger, was a bit bookish and quiet. For some reason that I don't understand to this day, they adopted me into their group. Peter came to us half way through our trip. He ran into our compartment trying to hide from some older students that had been bullying him. When they found out what was going on, James and Sirius hid him in the luggage rack and bluffed the boys that came looking for him. From that point on, we slowly became closer and formed our own little group that we christened 'The Marauders.'”
“Your father and Sirius were the mad geniuses of our group. They thought that school, in and of itself, was far too boring for words. Therefore they took it on themselves to liven things up for everybody. They were natural pranksters, the both of them. One wild idea after another would seem to spring full blown from their heads that would involve mayhem or humiliation for some unlucky faculty member or student. The only problem was, they'd never consider how to make their plans work, that's where I came in.
“Peter and I were the practical side of the Marauders. When the other two would come up with a plan, I was best suited to do the research that made it work. Once we had everything in place, it was up to Peter to know where our target was to be found and when would be the perfect moment to spring it. He was our spy. He could move among all the houses, fairly unnoticed; people tended to simply overlook him, making him able to move about freely and warn us when we were in danger of being caught.
“For a better part of our school career, that's what we did. Though nobody ever knew that we were the pranksters, the Marauders were considered a menace at first. By the time we'd reached our later years, however, we were almost sanctioned by the staff. We were, after all, a welcome distraction from the last great war.”
“Voldemort,” Harry muttered distastefully. “Is that what happened to them? Were they killed by him, like my parents?”
“Not exactly,” Remus answered with a sad sigh, “though your parents death and their fate was tied together. You must understand what happened was and is a painful memory and I hate to dredge it up. Unfortunately, because of who you are, sooner or later in you school career it will come up as part of a history lesson. In fairness to you, I think it's best that what happened comes from me and not some dusty textbook.
“Late during the last war, You Know Who, for reasons nobody really understands, targeted your family in particular. To keep you all safe, Professor Dumbledore convinced them to go into hiding at one of the Potter family properties, a cottage in Godric's Hollow. To keep them hidden, James cast a protection spell called the Fidelius charm, on their home. It rendered the cottage unfindable except to their secret-keeper and whoever he told.
“James chose Sirius to be his secret-keeper and we all thought you'd be safe. Unfortunately, on Halloween that year, your parents were betrayed and killed when that traitor led the Dark Lord to your house.”
“Black betrayed his best friend,” Harry said hollowly. He could feel Draco tense up beside him, remembering as well what had happened just a year before.
“The next day, Peter somehow tracked Sirius to a neighbourhood in Muggle London. During their confrontation, Sirius cast a spell that not only killed Peter, it obliterated the street they were on and ended the lives of thirteen Muggles at the same time.”
“Why...” Harry choked. “Why did he do it? How could he betray you all like that?”
“Honestly, I don't know. Sirius did come from a family steeped in the dark arts but he turned his back on them years ago. He was even disowned by his mother before we'd even finished school. After they finished their NEWTs, he and your father both applied to become Aurors, Wizarding police. Before that night, Sirius was the last person I would have thought capable of doing something like this. He was devoted not only to Lily and your father, he regarded you almost as his own son... James even...”
“He what?” Harry asked unevenly.
“James... Sirius Black is your Godfather.”
The stillness following Remus' announcement was shattered when one of the vases on a nearby table suddenly exploded, sending glass, water and a very surprised bouquet of flowers into the air. Standing suddenly, Harry walked jerkily toward the staircase as dozens of small objects in the room began to rattle in place or leapt into the air and began to fly about like a swarm of angry hornets. In the sitting room, everyone sat looking uneasily at each other as Harry's door slammed and everything fell to the floor, returning the room to silence.
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