"Well, Uncle," said Penelope Greengrass. "There's been an interesting development."


"Remember Sirius Black?"

"Who could forget?"

"He escaped."

"What? How?"

"We don't know. What we do know is that he didn't turn up last time there was a head count. There were two theories, one that he'd died and the Dementors had just tossed his body off the cliff without reporting it, which happens. The other, that he escaped."

"But you're sure he's alive?"


"What does the Ministry believe?"

"I was able to get the assignment to investigate, and so I've been able to push the story that he died and was disposed of. But the Dementors' stories don't really support this. Apparently he was in his cell at dinnertime, and then as the door opened, he vanished. The Dementors tend to assume that this means that the prisoner died, but they reported being unable to actually locate the body."

"And why would you report otherwise?"

"I see an opportunity here. If Black has escaped, it would be best for us if he were not captured. Remember his connections. He will want to re-establish contact with the Potter boy. If he attempts to do so, and succeeds, we can use that to capture Potter."

"I'm intrigued. Tell me more!"


Sirius slept the whole day through and into the next. Kreacher had prepared his bedroom, and it was quite comfortable. Sirius had been delighted to be able to dispose of his prison garb, and while he worried that he might be tracked to the house, he decided that he had to risk sleeping. He hadn't counted on sleeping quite so long, but since no Aurors seemed to be engaged in breaking the wards, he decided it had been worth it. He hadn't felt so rested in.. well, since before the War, really.

"Kreacher?" Sirius called?

krak! Kreacher appeared. "What does Master Sirius require?" asked Kreacher.


"Right away, Master." Kreacher vanished with another loudkrak!

A few minutes later, Kreacher reappeared with another krak! bearing a tray on which were several poached eggs, toast, butter, black currant jam, a pot of tea, some fried potatoes and tomatoes, and a copy of the Daily Prophet. Sirius' eyes bugged out at the sight of so much food. "Thank you, Kreacher! This is fantastic!"

"Master is welcome. Will there be anything else?"

Sirius noticed that Kreacher was wearing an odd locket, made of gold, inlaid with green gems in the shape of the letter S. Curious. "No, thank you, Kreacher. That will be all." krak!

Sirius began to eat, slowly. He felt he could use the food, yet it was more than his stomach could easily encompass. While he was eating, he read the Prophet. On the front page, the headline read "Sirius Black believed dead at Askaban!" Beneath the headline was a photograph of Sirius in prison garb, looking young and angry.

The article quoted "sources at the Ministry" who had investigated Sirius disappearance from the prison and concluded that "most likely Black died, as many prisoners do, from despair." It listed the other surviving members of the Black family, including Narcissa and Bellatrix, and mentioned that Gringotts would not speculate on what would become of the Black estate now that Sirius was gone.

"As the heir of House Black, Sirius is presumed living until some member of House Black appears to contest that presumption, and then magic will decide. Of course, if a pretender to the head of House Black attempts to put on the House ring and it turns out that Sirius Black is still alive, the results would be.. unfortunate," the Prophet reported.

Sirius considered what to do about this. It would be unfortunate if Narcissa were to put on the ring. If her intention was simply to do her duty to the house, she might escape unscathed, but that wasn't really Narcissa's character—she'd claim the inheritance because she liked money. That could be a painful experience for her, and although there was little love lost between the cousins, Sirius did not want to cause her that kind of pain and disfigurement.

"Kreacher?" Sirius called. krak! "Can you take a message to Bonehammer at Gringotts?"

"Of course, Master. Is Master going to finally do his duty to House Black?" Kreacher looked partly worried, and partly gratified at this prospect.

"We shall see." Sirius dashed off a note and handed it to Kreacher, who disappeared again. krak!

"Now, then. What did Harry say. The Rookery." Sirius began to compose a note to Harry, taking nibbles of breakfast and sips of tea from time to time. His quills were in surprisingly good shape after so many years of disuse, and the preservative charms that came with his ink bottles hadn't worn out yet. His hand, however, tired quickly as a result of years of disuse, and his penmanship had deteriorated.

When he was done writing, he went upstairs to the Owlery, where he found a family of barn owls. The largest came up to him and stuck its leg out expectantly, so Sirius tied a letter to it and thanked the owl. The owl took off into the sky. Sirius went downstairs and consequently missed seeing a bolt of red strike the owl, which tumbled out of the sky, letter fluttering from its nerveless leg.

Soon after he returned to the bedroom, Kreacher appeared with a letter.

Sirius Black, began the letter.

We are unsurprised to learn that you have survived your journey from the foul rock. Because of your unusual situation, we have enclosed a portkey which you can use to come to Gringotts. It is a two-way portkey: when you invoke it, it will record the starting location, and return you to it when our business has concluded. Invoke it by reciting "Delenda Est."

In anticipation of profitable business,


Senior account executive, Gringotts

"Well, here goes nothing," Sirius thought, and, taking the portkey (an extremely corroded cylindrical key with "Bramah" enscribed on its body) he recited the activation phrase, "Delenda Est." He'd have to look it up when he got back.

The world spun about him for a few moments; fortunately Gringotts was quite close, as he might otherwise have lost his breakfast. He found himself in a modern, well-lit room with a stone table in the center, surrounded by conference room chairs. A goblin stuck her head in the door at the far end of the room, saw that Sirius was there, and said "one moment, please, Mr. Black."

Sirius sat down at the table and waited. After some time, the door opened again, and a goblin entered. "Bonehammer! You look well!" said Sirius.

"I wish I could say the same of you," said Bonehammer. "You look like a dog's breakfast. Azkaban was not kind to you, I take it."

"No. But I should recover eventually."

"What is your plan?"

"First order of business, the Prophet reported that I'm the heir to House Black. Is that correct?"

"Yes. Your father was never named heir, and your grandfather named you. Because your father wasn't an heir, he couldn't do anything to change it when your grandfather died. So although I'm sure neither of them would be happy about it were they still with us, you are indeed the heir."

"I'm not sure I'm happy about it either. I could have lived with Uncle Alphard's fortune and left the Black fortune alone. But it would be unfortunate if it went to Narcissa or Bellatrix."

"Yes, I'm sure we can imagine how they would spend it. Very well, here is the ring. Let's see what happens."

The ring was a reasonably elegant thing, gold. An emerald was inset in a channel (no frilly basket sticking up for a head-of-house ring). The ring was tapered with a trapezoidal profile, wider end inside. Engraved on the inside was a variant of the family motto that Sirius had not previously seen: "Tojours Puissant." How odd! Around the sides of the trapezoid were engraved many tiny runes, the meaning of which Sirius, his memory shot from years in Azkaban, could not make out.

He slipped the band over his right ring finger. It glowed briefly and adjusted itself, almost like a dog getting comfortable in its bed, until it fit snugly but comfortably around Sirius' finger.

"That's it, then. You've been recognized as the head of house," said Bonehammer. "What now?"

"I suspect I could use the services of a solicitor."

"I suspect you are right. You realize that if you present yourself to a solicitor, the solicitor will have to reveal that you are alive."

"I know. How long will I have?"

"The rule is that notification must occur within the fortnight."

"That should do."

Bonehammer snapped her fingers, and the door opened again. "Fetch me Hassle," she said. She added, looking at Sirius, "this could take a few minutes. While we wait, may I ask how you escaped?"

"I had assistance from an owl and a dolphin."

"Intriguing. Had you and the dolphin been previously acquainted?"

"Not to my knowledge. The owl belongs to Harry Potter, but I suspect the dolphin is a free agent. I honestly have no idea where it came from, but without its help I would have drowned, if I hadn't frozen first."

"How fortunate. You will have to find some way to thank the dolphin, then."

"Yes, I think so. What do you get a dolphin, though?"

"I understand they are partial to herring."

"Seems a bit cheap, though. This dolphin really did save my life."

"Well, perhaps fate will intervene. We shall see."


At that moment, the door opened, and a tall, middle-aged witch entered. "Mr. Black, I presume?" she asked.

"Yes. And you are.. Madam Hassle?"

"Athabasca Hassle, at your service. You may call me Athaba."

"Thank you, and you may call me Sirius. I suspect we will be doing a fair bit of work together. I know Bonehammer would not have brought you in if you weren't the best."

"I hope you are right, Mr. Black. I don't know what we will need to do to get started on your case—I'll have to fetch the trial records, of course. When the Ministry finds you've escaped, they will want to arrest you; it would be best if we finish our preparation before that time comes. Do you have a location you can go to that is secure from location spells?"

"Yes. I shan't tell you where, of course."


"Also, there won't be any transcripts."

"How is that possible?"

"There was no trial."

"WHAT? You were in Azkaban for SEVEN YEARS with no trial?"


"That's... quite shocking."

"At this point I'm more disappointed than shocked," Sirius said wryly.

"Quite. Well, then. Did you kill Pettigrew?"

"No. He's not dead, as far as I know."

"Interesting. What about the muggles?"

"What muggles?"

"You were accused of killing Pettigrew and twelve muggles."

"Oh my. I remember an explosion. I was just talking to Pettigrew, trying to get him to tell me why he did it."

"Did what?"

"Betrayed the Potters."

"That's going to be a hard story to sell. Everyone knows you were the secret keeper."

"Everyone's wrong. Pettigrew was the secret keeper."

"Hm. You will have to testify under Veritaserum in order for there to be any hope of proving that."

"I can do that."

Athaba looked impressed. "Very well. We shall need to meet again to go over the details, but I shall have to do some research first. Can we meet again this time next week?"

"Yes. Bonehammer, can you give me another portkey of the same type? I shan't be staying at my current location much longer—it's too obvious."

"Use the same one. It will reset when you return, so that you can use it the same way, with a different return destination."

"Same activation phrase?"

"Of course."

"Very well. May the blood of your enemies decorate your walls, et cetera."

"Very funny," said Bonehammer.

"Not at all! I'm Sirius!" Sirius spoke the activation phrase, and after another vertiginous whirl above London, found himself back in Grimmauld Place.



krak! "Yes, master?"

"Do you remember where you took me last time I left?"

"To the home of the blood traitors?"

"Yes, precisely."

"Kreacher remembers it well. Kreacher was punished severely for answering your call."

Sirius was taken aback—it had never occurred to him that his request to Kreacher would have such repercussions. "Kreacher, I'm terribly sorry. I should have realized that I was putting you at risk like that."

"It is Kreacher's duty to serve the Black family, and to be punished when the Black family chooses. There is no need for apology."

"Nevertheless, Kreacher. I was never at all kind to you as a child."

"MASTER NEED NOT BE KIND TO KREACHER!" screeched Kreacher angrily.

"I'm sorry..."


"Kreacher, stop."

"Kreacher must obey."

"We will speak of this further. But for now, take me to the Pottery."



Penelope cast Levicorpus as the owl plummeted, arresting its fall before it could crater on the pavement outside of Grimmauld Place. Delicately, she plucked the letter from the owl's foot and cast a warming charm to unseal the envelope. She cast Portus on the letter within. A delicate warming charm combined with a pressing charm was enough to renew the seal, and she tied the envelope back to the owl's leg. She cast a notice-me-not charm on herself, and then Renervate on the owl. The owl got up, confused, looked around, and, seeing nothing out of order, took once more to wing and flew off a little to the south of west.


Harry and Dudley tumbled out of the fireplace. Because of the threat of attack, they were commuting to school through a fireplace connected to the floo network. It had been installed in a steam tunnel under the school before the term began. Both boys wore watches that were charmed so that when tapped, a notice-me-not charm would activate. This enabled the cousins to slip away unnoticed into the basement of the school, where children were not customarily allowed.

The school itself had been warded with tamper-resistant detection wards that, when triggered by an unknown wizard crossing them, would trigger a portkey in each boy's watchband, returning them instantly home. If this were to happen, obliviators would have to go to the school to cover up the incident, but this was deemed safer than any other alternative. There was no way to ward the entire school with strong protective wards as it was not on a ley line and was not Harry's home.

Bella, Vernon and Petunia were all gathered at the table, reading the day's Prophet and talking amongst themselves. "Do you think he's really dead?" Petunia asked.

"It's hard to believe. The article is a bit thin on details. The bit about Gringotts doesn't tell us anything—they will never reveal information of that sort. It almost sounds like a cover-up. It's very embarrassing that Sirius escaped, if he did."

Harry's ears perked up. "Who escaped?"

"Sirius Black. A Death Eater. He was imprisoned at Azkaban for killing a wizard and twelve muggles shortly after Voldemort was killed. It's believed that the wizard, Peter Pettigrew, was trying to capture him because he'd betrayed your parents."

"Sirius wasn't a Death Eater," Harry blurted without thinking. "Oh dear," he thought, as all adult eyes turned to him.

"What do you mean?" asked Bella.

"I just know, okay? There is no way that he could be a Death Eater."

Vernon grabbed the phone and rang up Colin, who answered quickly. "Colin, can you come over? I think we need to have a conversation about the horcrux."

Harry didn't hear the answer, but Vernon hung up, and moments later Colin stepped gracefully out of the fireplace, brushing a tiny bit of ash from his shoulder as he stepped into the room.

"Is everybody okay?" Colin asked.

"Yes," Vernon answered. "But Harry..."

"I've been in communication with the Shard," Harry admitted.

"The Shard? That's an interesting name for it."

"That's what it calls itself."

"Has it been struggling with you?"

"It tried, but it seems that occlumency is highly effective against it."

"Good, I'm glad to hear it. But you know that it's not safe to trust the Shard, right? It can still trick you, even if it can't control you."

"Perhaps, but I can sense its emotions. I think I would be able to tell if it were lying to me."

"I don't know how we'd test that. Vernon, what brought this to your attention?"

"Harry said that he knew Sirius Black wasn't a Death Eater. How else would he 'know'?"

"Is that right, Harry?"

"Yes. I knew about Sirius from..." the wards stopped him from speaking for a moment, so he changed what he was going to say. "From the article in the Prophet."

The adults looked at each other with worried expressions. "What were you going to say before you stopped yourself," asked Colin?

"I can't say. But it's nothing to do with the Shard."

"Are you under some kind of spell?"

"Yes, but it's nothing bad. It's... family magic," he was able to sputter.

"Family secrets?"


"You're not going to be able to tell me anything about them?"


"Is there a person who told you these secrets?"


"Did you find out at Gringotts?"


"Did you go to a family home of some sort?"

Harry tried to answer and couldn't.

"Say no more. Vernon, I don't think we need to worry about this, although it's certainly interesting. Harry, you should be cautious about any old properties that aren't in good repair. If there's anything that seems the least bit unsound, stay out. We can figure it out when you are older."

Harry tried to nod, failed, and just shrugged, with an apologetic smile.

"Oh, hm. Did you go into the cottage at Godric's Hollow?" Colin remembered reading about the memorial in the article, and the picture of the cottage, left in its destroyed state.

Harry tried to indicate that he had not, but couldn't.

"Ah, okay. I'll take that as a yes. I get the sense that that place is really not safe, so you should stay out of it until you can get help or until you're older."

Harry again failed to do anything more than shrug and smile apologetically.

"Back to the Shard, then. What has happened with it?"

"Well, first it was pretty mean. But it wasn't very good at it."

"What do you mean."

"It tried to get me to call it Lord Voldemort at first, but it hasn't tried in a while, and doesn't seem to care anymore. It tried to cause me pain once, when I talked about telling people about it. But that only worked briefly, until I occluded. It was a bit disgusted.

"Later on I asked it about Sirius, and it told me about him. He refused to take the Dark Mark, and Voldemort didn't want him once he realized he wouldn't obey. He left home because of it. Voldemort tortured his mother, because she was the one who tried to get Sirius to take it. She used some kind of Imperial curse."

"Imperius. Interesting. What else?"

"He told me about his life. He was an orphan. He said that the Dursleys love me, and that I shouldn't worry. That was after I had my panic attack."

"Hm, well, it could be playing a long game. I think we can't assume it was telling the truth, Harry. I'm sorry."

"That's okay, but I think he was telling the truth."

"That's fine. If Sirius is still alive, maybe we'll find out someday."

"I hope so."