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Chapter 20 : Eventful Holidays
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Before they knew it, it was time to pack their trunks to go home for the Christmas holidays. Harry was looking forward to his first Christmas with Sirius. However he didn’t like the idea of being apart from Ginny for two weeks, but then Ron told him Sirius had invited all the Weasleys to spend the Christmas holidays at Grimmauld Place and they had gladly accepted. Hermione would spend the first week of the holidays with her parents, but after Christmas she would come to Grimmauld Place too. The biggest reason Harry was looking forward to talking to Sirius, was that he wanted to talk to him about Snape. He hadn’t really spoken much with his Potions Master anymore after his outburst in his first Occlumency lesson, despite the fact that they still had private lessons together. It was clear to everyone, however, that the open hostility between Harry and Snape had been replaced by a certain quiet understanding. Even Dumbledore, who had never seen Harry and Snape in class, noticed something had changed, but he didn’t say anything about it. He had an idea what it was about and knew Harry would have a hard time coping with the knowledge of his father and Snape being friends.
On their first night back at Grimmauld Place, Sirius cooked up an exquisite dinner. Harry had never really imagined his godfather to be a good cook, but he had to admit he even gave Mrs Weasley a run for her money.
After dinner, Harry and Ginny were seated on their favourite couch in the living room on the first floor. They had been telling Lily and James about their school year for quite some time when Sirius walked in, followed closely by Remus Lupin, who was staying with Sirius at Grimmauld Place.
They talked for a while before Harry decided to bring up the subject of Snape. He told the adults everything that had occurred in Snape’s office during his first Occlumency lesson. They were watching him, looking defeated.
“It’s really true?” Harry asked. They nodded. “Why did you never tell me?”
Sirius took a deep breath before he answered him: “We decided it wasn’t a good idea to tell you. When we met you, you were thirteen and you hated Snape, with reason seeing how he has treated you.”
“You still should have told me.”
“How would you have felt, Harry?” Remus said. “How would you have felt if you found out he used to be one of your parents best friends?”
James was shifting a bit. “You told me he has been spying for the Order since we passed?” They nodded. “I’m glad he seems to have redeemed himself. I was cut up by it when he took the Dark Mark.”
“But how?”, Harry asked. “What happened between you?”
It was Lily who answered. “I met Severus when were kids, before we even went to Hogwarts. I was muggle-born as you know, so I had no idea all those things I could do were magic. Severus lived in the same neighbourhood as we did and he had seen me perform accidental magic. He approached me and told me everything about magic and Hogwarts. I didn’t believe him of course.” She smiled. “But he was determined to convince me and eventually he did. We became friends.”
Harry and Ginny were sitting upright on the couch, hanging on to every word Lily said.
“Then we went to Hogwarts. We met up with each other on Platform Nine and Three Quarters. He was extremely excited to leave his home behind and start his own life. He wasn’t brought up in the most loving family.” she continued. “On the Hogwarts Express we met James and Sirius. I thought they were the most arrogant, insufferable prats I had ever met.”
Harry looked at his father and godfather who were grinning broadly. “We weren’t that bad!” James said. “A bit conceited maybe.”
Sirius snorted. “A bit conceited? We thought the sun was shining out of our – “
“Okay okay!” Lily said. “The thing is Severus was the only friend I had in the wizarding world, until I met Remus. I became close friends with him and so did Severus, until we found out that two of Remus’ best friends were the two bullies from the Hogwarts Express.”
Remus smiled. “Lily gave me quite a telling off then. We were still first years, but I can assure you she had no problem with telling people what she thought.”
Harry smiled as he was reminded of Hermione trying to prevent them from sneaking out at night back in their first year.
“She couldn’t believe I would be friends with them,” Remus continued, “but I managed to convince her they weren’t that bad once you knew them. After many objections she started to hang out with the four of us.”
“The fact that I became friends with the infamous Marauders meant that Severus automatically spent time with them too.” Lily said. “And miraculously, they seemed to get along. Quite well actually.”
“Now during our first years at Hogwarts Voldemort was steadily gaining power.”James jumped in. “But when we were in our fifth year, the first wizarding war erupted in all its cruelty. What first had been nasty incidents and disappearances now became open war.”
“It was common knowledge at Hogwarts that Snape was friends with us.” Sirius said. “We were never really best friends like the four of us were since our first day at Hogwarts , but it was clear for everyone that we were friends nonetheless. Snape had always had to endure provocations and torments from his fellow Slytherins, but when the war really started, it was hell for him.”
“Severus had friends in his own house too, but they had always kind of ignored the fact his other friends were in Gryffindor.” Remus spoke. “But many of the Slytherins back then were children of Death Eaters and a lot of them couldn’t wait to join them once they left Hogwarts.”
“It wasn’t bearable for him anymore.” James said. “Dumbledore knew about it, but there was only so much Dumbledore could do without proof. Snape couldn’t enter his own common room or dormitory without being at constant of risk of being cursed into oblivion.”
“Eventually Severus stopped hanging out with us.” Lily said sadly. “He still talked to us and we knew we were still friends, but he just couldn’t hang out with us without being a constant target for his classmates.”
“So Severus started hanging out more with the members of his own house.” Remus said. “You can imagine what that must have been like.”
“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.
“You see, the older Slytherin students took it upon themselves to make sure the younger ones had the beliefs and the views that can be expected from a Slytherin.” Remus answered. “Those kids were brainwashed from the moment they stepped foot into Hogwarts.” He had a disgusted look on his face. “They were more or less trained to join the Death Eaters.”
“We still kept contact, but then…” Sirius looked at the portrait of Harry’s parents uncomfortably.
Lily spoke up: “In our sixth year, James and I started going out.” She hesitated. “I always knew Severus had kind of a thing for me, but I had no idea…”
James sighed. “Snape was furious when he found out about Lily and I.”
“He didn’t think clearly anymore.” Lily said sadly. “He started ignoring all of us. Remus and Sirius both tried to talk to him, but to no avail.”
“Snape automatically assumed that the rest of us were siding with James.” Sirius said. “We have kept trying for months to get him to talk to us, but he hasn’t spoken a word to one of us for the rest of our time at Hogwarts.”
“The next thing we heard from him was when we all joined the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore told us he had taken the Dark Mark.” Remus said sombrely.
There followed a long silence while Harry and Ginny contemplated what they had heard. “Why did he return to our side?” Ginny asked finally.
“Apparently he switched sides when it became apparent Voldemort was after the Potter family.” Remus said. “But Dumbledore has kept it to himself.”
“No one of the Order knew.” Sirius said. “I only found out for myself when I talked to Dumbledore the night I was captured at Hogwarts, two years ago.”
“He regrets it.” Harry said. “It’s killing him.”
The adults looked at him inquisitively.
“You have to talk to him.” Harry continued. “This has happened so many years ago and you are all on the same side now. You should talk this out.”
Remus looked at him sombrely. “Harry, in the year I have thought at Hogwarts I have attempted to talk to Severus multiple times. My approaches were denied every time. I’m afraid he is adamant about closing that chapter in his life.”
“Well then you have to try again.” Harry said stubbornly. “If he has talked about it to me, he’ll certainly will talk about it to you. He has hated me for four years.”
“He didn’t hate you, Harry.” Remus said.
Harry laughed. “I think it was very clear for everyone to see that he did hate me.”
Sirius spoke up: “Harry, I don’t think it was as much you he hated, but the memories you brought back to him. You remind everyone of James and Lily when they see you, he wouldn’t be any different. He must have been constantly reminded by the mistakes he made in his past and the friends he lost.”
“Still.” Harry said. “I still think you should talk to him.”
Sirius nodded. “I think you’re right.”
He glanced over at Remus who was looking at him not too convinced.
“Oh alright.” Remus said. “But I never thought Harry Potter and Sirius Black would convince me to have a conversation with Severus Snape.”
Sirius told Harry a few days later that Lupin and him had talked with Snape. They had decided to bury the hatchet. They couldn’t erase everything that had happened between them in the past, but maybe someday they would be able to have a friendly relationship again. Snape had also promised Sirius he would treat Harry better than he had previously.
Harry enjoyed his Christmas holidays just as much as when he stayed at Hogwarts. Most of his friends were spending the holidays with him and Sirius was extremely enthusiastic about hosting Christmas. Harry was happy to see that Remus Lupin seemed very happy too. The fact that he had gotten one of his best friends back after Sirius’ name had been cleared, seemed to have given him a boost and he had never looked younger.
On Christmas Day after dinner, Fred finally asked Harry something he had been wondering about for quite some time now. The twins, Harry and Ginny were on the floor playing with Prongs when he said: “You never told us why you named your dog Prongs, Harry. I mean, the Marauder’s Map is brilliant and all, but why not one of the other three?”
Harry grinned. “Right, I meant to tell you guys about that.” He looked at Ginny who was grinning too.
“What do you know that we don’t?” George asked.
“Well we had the pleasure to meet the real Marauders in person.” Harry said. “You did too, actually.”
Fred and George stared at him with open-mouthed. “What are you talking about? Who are they?”
Coincidentally Sirius chose that moment to join the four teens. Harry gestured to his godfather and said: “It’s my pleasure to introduce to you the one and only Mr Padfoot.”
“No way.” George said.
“You’re yanking our wands.” Fred spoke.
Sirius laughed as he saw their shocked expressions. “Oh right, Harry told me you were the ones that found the Marauder’s Map. Nicked it from Filch’ office right? Couldn’t approve more.”
“You’re being serious, aren’t you?”
Sirius nodded. “We developed the Map back when we were at Hogwarts.”
“Moony.” Fred said slowly. He looked over at Lupin who was still seated at the table. “Of course. Lupin is Moony. It totally makes sense.”
“And Prongs was my father.” Harry stated.
“So Wormtail...” George said. “Wormtail must have been that bloke that pretended to be Scabbers right?”
They nodded. “Peter Pettigrew.” Sirius muttered.
Fred and George were deeply impressed. “You have no idea how much you have taught us.” Fred said with a wide grin.
Sirius laughed at this. “I’m glad the Map fell in the right hands to carry on the legacy of the Marauders.” he said pompously.
At that moment the fireplace lighted up and Albus Dumbledore stepped out of the fire, looking extremely worried. He looked around to see who was there and said: “I am afraid I have very bad news.”
Dumbledore told them there had been a mass break-out in Azkaban that day. It seemed like the Dementors had decided to side with Voldemort and all of the convicted Death Eaters had escaped and had probably joined their master again by now.
Harry felt anger running through him as he realized the man who had betrayed his father was free again, but the concerns of the Order members didn’t seem to be about Wormtail. He heard them talking about Death Eaters who had been in Azkaban who were just as feared and supposed to be just as cruel as Voldemort himself. Sirius told Harry, Ginny, Ron and the twins about Bellatrix Lestrange, his deranged cousin who had been Voldemort’s biggest supporter during the first wizarding war. The thought that she would join him again seemed to worry him a lot more than that Peter Pettigrew had escaped too.
Hermione joined them at Grimmauld Place two days after Christmas and stayed the rest of the holidays. One afternoon, three days before they would return to Hogwarts they were in the kitchen playing a game of Exploding Snap, when Dumbledore appeared via the Floo Network again. One look at his headmaster’s face told Harry something had happened again.
“What’s wrong, Albus?” Sirius asked, looking up from his game.
Dumbledore sat down at the table and looked at Harry compassionately. Harry watched his headmaster anxiously. “I am afraid I am the carrier of bad news again, Harry.” He hesitated before he continued: “This morning I received a message from St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries that one of my students had been brought in with serious injuries.”
Harry needn’t hear more to realize who Dumbledore was talking about. “Jacinta?”
Dumbledore nodded. “She had been beaten severely and was in bad condition. Naturally, I went to St Mungo’s immediately to follow up on her condition – “
“Will she be alright?” Harry interrupted him. He had grown quite fond of the little girl, despite the fact that she was a Malfoy.
“Yes Harry.” Dumbledore reassured him. “She will make a full recovery soon. That is actually why I am here. She has regained consciousness a while ago, but she didn’t want to tell me anything about what happened. She did ask after you.”
Harry stood up immediately. “Well let’s go then.”
Dumbledore followed his example and they walked towards the fireplace. After a quick goodbye to his friends Harry Flood to St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Once they arrived in the reception area of the hospital, Harry asked: “Who brought her here?”
“Her mother.” Dumbledore answered.
Harry furrowed his brow. “Do you think her father beat her?”
“That is exactly what I think, Harry.” Dumbledore said. “But if Jacinta doesn’t want to speak about it, I am afraid there is nothing we can do. This way.”
They had arrived on the first floor and Dumbledore led him to the door on their right at the end of the hallway. “Here it is.” Dumbledore said softly. “I think it is better if you go in alone.”
Harry entered the room nervously. A female Healer was writing something down on her clipboard while she examined Jacinta. When she spotted Harry, she smiled and said: “Ah Mr Potter. It’s good that you’re here. Jacinta has been asking for you for a while.” She smiled encouragingly and left the room.
Harry sat down next to Jacinta’s bed and took her hand. He was happy to see she was sitting up with a pile of cushions in her back, but she looked as if she had been through hell. She had a turban of bandages on her head, what told him she must have been hit on the head repeatedly. Her face was bruised much worse than the first time Harry had seen her like this and there were even bruises on her arms. In her neck, Harry saw a large dark purple bruise as if someone had tried to strangle her.
“What happened to you?” Harry whispered.
Jacinta started crying silently as Harry stroked her arm carefully.
“Did you father do this to you, Jacinta?”
The girl looked at him frightfully, tears still leaking from her big grey eyes.
“I know it is hard for you to talk about,” Harry said, “but if you don’t say anything it is impossible for us to help you. And we do want to help you, Jacinta. Really, we do.”
Jacinta squeezed his hand tightly. “I don’t want to go back there.” she whispered. “I don’t want to ever go back there.”
Harry felt a lump forming in his throat as he watched her. “Was it...” he said slowly. “Was it your father?”
Jacinta hesitated, but then she nodded slowly. Harry hugged her carefully and said: “You don’t have to go back to him, I promise. I’ll make sure of that.”
Jacinta smiled weakly and buried her head in Harry’s shoulder. “Mom tried to stop him.” she said. “But he was way too strong for her.”
“Who stopped him then?” Harry asked puzzled. Narcissa Malfoy was the one that had brought Jacinta to St Mungo’s. He had automatically assumed she had been the one to stop Lucius Malfoy from killing his own daughter.
“Draco?!” Harry yelled. “But who was the one that hurt you the first time then? It can’t have been your father then, you were at Hogwarts.”
“Crabbe and Goyle.”
It actually made perfect sense to Harry. Draco wasn’t the person to do his nasty chores himself. Of course he would have send Crabbe and Goyle to do the job for him. But why did he stop his father today? Maybe even Malfoy realized Lucius was taking it too far. He decided not to elaborate on the subject.
“Jacinta?” he asked carefully. “Do you think you could tell what you just told me to Professor Dumbledore? He will know what we have to do.”
Jacinta seemed scared to death but she nodded. Harry went to fetch his headmaster and Jacinta told him everything. When she was finished, Harry looked at Dumbledore and even he jumped at the expression on his face. He had never seen him look so angry and disgusted.
“I will make sure you do not have to return home.” Dumbledore said. “The Healers already said you will not be allowed to leave the hospital before the new term starts so we have until the end of the school year to make new arrangements.”
After this, the friendly Healer reappeared and asked them politely to leave, so her patient could rest. Harry smiled one last time at Jacinta, who gave him a real smile this time and exited the room together with Dumbledore.
“What will happen with her now?” Harry asked the moment the door had closed behind them.
“She will stay here for the remainder of the holidays.” Dumbledore said. “Then she will come back to Hogwarts, but she will have to stay in the hospital wing for some time, I’m afraid.”
“What about later?” Harry asked. “Where will she go when school is over?”
“The first thing I will have to do is file a complaint with the Ministry of Magic for child abuse. There will be a trial against Lucius Malfoy and if everything goes well, he will be convicted and Jacinta will be taken away from her home.”
“What if it doesn’t go well?” Harry panicked at the thought there was still a chance Jacinta would have to go back to Malfoy Manor.
“I think with this evidence there is no chance he will get out of this, Harry.” Dumbledore reassured him. “The testimony Jacinta gave me today will be useable in court as I am a senior member of the Wizengamot. A Ministry official will visit her shortly to take note of her injuries and the Healers who have treated her and will treat her will be called in to testify as well.”
Harry nodded. “And then? She won’t have to go to an orphanage, will she?”
“Not unless she is very unlucky, Harry.” Dumbledore said. “Once Malfoy is convicted, the Ministry will go looking for people who are willing to adopt her.”
“I could ask Sirius.” Harry said immediately. “Maybe he would be willing to take her in.”
“If Sirius would want to file for custody, I would strongly support that.” Dumbledore smiled. “But it’s quite a complex matter. The Wizengamot will have to consider all the pros and cons of every option and of course they will listen to the wishes of Jacinta herself. But let us not get ahead of ourselves, Harry. We have still a long way to go, before it will come to that.
Harry nodded, but decided to talk to Sirius about it anyway. “What about Draco sir? He might have stopped his father now, but the first time Jacinta was injured he wasn’t that innocent.”
“We cannot prove that, Harry.” Dumbledore said sombrely. “Jacinta told us she was attacked by Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. She did not see her brother anywhere around the incident. We will have to see what Mr Crabbe and Mr Goyle will tell us when we interrogate them.”
“What will happen to them, sir? To Crabbe and Goyle?”
Dumbledore sighed. “I expect they will be brought before Hogwarts High Court.”
“Hogwarts High Court?” Harry asked puzzled.
Dumbledore smiled slightly. “I am not surprised you have never heard of it. It has been a very long time since it was last necessary to call it together. 53 years to be exact.”
“So what is it?”
“It is sort of a law court, only it does not consist of members of the Wizengamot. The members of the Hogwarts High Court are the current Headmaster, the heads of houses, the Head Boy and Head Girl and the Prefects. And of course the members of the school board. It is only called together to determine a punishment when the offenses are too serious to let it be determined by one person. The decision to call the Court together rests with the current headmaster and the board of gouvernors. It is the only way a student can be expelled from Hogwarts, how different your teachers may want you to think”, Dumbledore added with a smirk.
“You think they’ll be expelled?” Harry asked.
“I think that would only be fair.” Dumbledore stated calmly. “Attacking a younger student in such way, with no ways of defending herself is a very low act. I think expulsion is the only suitable punishment. But as I said I cannot decide that alone.”
They had reached the reception area and Harry took the Floo Network back to Grimmauld Place. When he arrived there he was bombarded with questions from his worried friends. After he told them everything, they were appalled. Leaving his friends at the kitchen table, who were still debating the best punishments for Lucius Malfoy, Harry approached his godfather who was standing by the stove with a cup of tea.
“So you convinced her to tell Dumbledore everything?” Sirius smiled. “You did a good thing, Harry.”
“I didn’t do anything.” Harry muttered. “If I would have persisted more the first time this might not have happened.” He still felt sick if he thought of Jacinta, lying broken and bruised in a bed at St Mungo’s.
Sirius laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “You couldn’t have done anything, Harry. But she’s safe now and she will never have to go back to that abusive bastard.” Harry was slightly startled by the grim expression on Sirius’ face.
“When she is taken away from her home....” Harry said carefully. “She will need a new family.”
Sirius grim expression changed into a smile. “I reckon she will.”
Harry watched his godfather uncomfortably. He couldn’t just ask him to take in another child, could he?
Sirius grinned. “You never struck me as the big brother type, Harry.” he said cheekily.
Harry looked at Sirius hopefully. “Would you?”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Sirius said. “If that girl needs a place to stay I’d be happy to take her in, but it’s not that simple. We’ll go visit her together tomorrow so I can meet her. Let’s start from there.”
Harry grinned broadly, gave his godfather a hug and walked back to his friends. Sirius watched him walk away, finding himself amazed for the millionth time at how selfless and kind-hearted that boy really was. There was no doubt in his mind that this boy was the son of Lily and James Potter.
“The wounded recognize the wounded” – Nora Roberts
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