[A/N: Well, here we are at the end of Year 1! It's been a fun ride bringing this delightful story to y'all. I've appreciated all the wonderful reviews and helpful tips; I've even had a bit of fun with last chapter's 'prove me wrong' A/N2 bit. I saw a meme online and had to jump in on the fun. As a reminder, I have deleted The Economic Power series (my first four stories). If any of you are still interested in reading them in all their clichéd glory, go see 'Enchanting the Bookworm' on Facebook for details on how to obtain your own copy.]
Ministry for Magic, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge's Office
"Thank you everyone for coming promptly, I want to get this meeting done with so we can get the rest of our day moving," Cornelius announced, a bit pompously. He liked to think that he was an important and busy man but in reality, the only thing he had scheduled was a long lunch. "So, let's start with Amelia; what's the condition of Albus after his stint in our wonderful care?" A couple of people snickered, especially a woman in a hideous pink cardigan.
Amelia opened up her file folder and cleared her throat, "Well, simply put the Healers believe that Albus will never be leaving the confines of the Janus Thickey Ward. According to them, he's recently suffered a moderately severe stroke coupled with mid-level dementia. He doesn't recognize his surroundings anymore. He thinks that he's back home with his family and waiting for his younger sister to return home so dinner can be started. Ordinarily they wouldn't be handling his condition but send him onto a specialized hospice care out in the muggle world but our Healers and the hospice care staff feel that given Albus' mental state and his remaining power levels even with the magic inhibitor bracelets; he's still a considerable danger to those around him."
"What's that about his sister?" someone asked.
"His sister, Ariana had been attacked by several muggle boys who'd witnessed her doing accidental magic when she was only 5 years old. She essentially became an Obscurus as a result and was subsequently kept at home in secret by her parents. Their father was sent to Azkaban for his retaliation against the boys. The reports say that he died while in incarceration. Albus' brother Aberforth, took over care of their sister when their mother died. He currently operates the Hog's Head Tavern in Hogsmeade and there's no love lost between the brothers. Aberforth blames Albus for their sister's death but won't elaborate."
"Would it not be better to bind his magic down completely? Essentially make him a squib?" Cornelius asked her.
Amelia shook her head briefly, "No, the Healers considered that but feel that in this case, it would be too dangerous. They likened it to trying to squeeze a handful of thin mud in your fist. No matter how much you try to contain it, it'll squish out between your fingers. Plus, if they were to make him a squib at his age, it would result in his death. Now while I personally feel that would be a humane thing to do, the Healers don't want to go that route." Cornelius slowly nodded then gestured for her to continue.
"Next up, my team along with Director Croaker's group of Unspeakables has finished dismantling the so-called 'traps' that were discovered in an unused section of Hogwarts. The Cerberus has been moved to the Dover Customs Facility for transfer back to Greece; Rubeus Hagrid has been given a temporary visa so he can accompany the dog to its destination," She paused as she flipped a page, "Hagrid has also been suggested for a work-study program they have. Harold here was impressed by his ability to calm the dog plus some of the other items they noted in their report they submitted and that you have there in that packet." Cornelius pulled out the relevant parchment and pursed his lips as he scanned it then glanced over at the Beast Control Department Head who nodded in agreement.
It took nearly all of Amelia's self-control not to roll her eyes at the annoying interruption. 'Enter the Toad…' "Yes, Dolores?"
"I was wondering why that half-breed wasn't punished for owning such a beast and using it in a school full of our nation's children?" Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister simpered in what she thought was a pleasant demeanor.
'Yeah, right and I'm a unicorn and fart rainbows.' Amelia groused internally, "Hagrid has been working at Hogwarts for nearly fifty years and is widely known as a gentle, if not a bit simplistic, trusting soul. Given what we now know about Dumbledore's manipulations, it's quite clear that Albus tricked Hagrid into supplying the creature. Hagrid wouldn't have thought anything of bringing in the Cerberus because he felt that Albus was a 'Great Man' and the one who kept him on even after his expulsion from the school back in the forties."
"Why was he expelled anyways? I don't remember hearing or reading about a decent reason and he's rather hesitant about reliving the past," Harold asked.
Amelia flipped to the right page in her report, "According to this, he was expelled for keeping a monster that broke free of its confines and killed a student." Harold was about to inquire as to what type of 'monster' when he was interrupted.
"Let's put that aside for the time being and get back to the report on Albus," Cornelius interjected when he spotted Dolores getting ready to open her mouth, he was getting hungry, "Was there anything else?"
Amelia put down the report on Albus and picked up the one for Harry's case, "This next report is on the surgery to remove the Dark entity that was discovered embedded within Harry Potter's infamous scar." She just gave an overview of the procedure used and suggested that they don't look at the pictures if they were planning on eating any time soon. Cornelius paled and swallowed thickly before dropping the file on his desk.
"And before you start up with that fake throat clearing Dolores, the surgical staff was obliviated of their memories of the usage of the dittany that Croaker supplied. The surgeon himself is actually a muggleborn and therefore not in need of the memory adjustments." Dolores glared at Amelia who ignored the look.
"Finally, is the upcoming trial for Sirius Black…" Cornelius groaned; this was going to be a long meeting.
Saint Mungo's Hospital
Sirius was bored. Incredibly bored. Dangerously bored. Healer Tomkins promised that he would be clearing him today to be released to stand trial for the events of that horrific night back in '81. Tomkins also said that he'd be right back to escort him to Moony who was waiting for him at the floo to take him home briefly. That was twenty minutes ago. He tried to do some yoga exercises to center his mind and to calm his nerves but it wasn't helping. He stared out the window again before finally deciding what to do. He got up and tested the door handle to see if it was locked. It wasn't; a mischievous grin spread over his face…
"Hey! Who let that dog in here?!"
"Get back here, you mutt!"
The nurses' heads shot up at the sound of the orderlies yelling when they spotted Padfoot tearing off down the hallway at full tilt. He skidded around a corner a bit too fast and slammed into the opposite wall before scrabbling forward again. He glanced behind him at the orderlies who also slid into the wall and piled up in an entangled mass of limbs and bodies. He woofed smugly and kept running.
He transformed in one smooth motion and by using the inertia of his moving mass, slid passed them on sock covered feet with a playful grin plastered on his face. He transformed back into Padfoot in another smooth motion to the snorts of laughter and surprise from the amazed nurses. One more turn to the left and he dashed to his intended destination.
Saint Mungo's Children's Ward…
Sirius had discovered this ward during one of his walks to build up his stamina while in rehab. He peered in through the window and saw the children who had been suffering from various ailments were either resting in bed, reading quietly on puffy couches in front of brightly painted bookshelves or staring blankly out the window. It was a rather sad scene to be honest even if the room had been painted a bright and cheery palette. He could hear the faint sounds of a happy song playing on a phonograph. Sirius quietly opened the door then shifted into his Padfoot form. He silently approached one little girl who had a bandage wrapped around her arm and another around the stump where her left leg would've been. Putting on his best 'puppy dog look,' he inched up and rested his head on the edge of her bed waiting for her to spot him.
Her not so silent gasp alerted the others nearby that something was amiss.
When the nurses and orderlies finally caught up with Padfoot, they found him surrounded by excitedly chattering, happy children, a couple were brushing his fur; another was using the stethoscope on his heart and listening to his heartbeat while making 'diagnostics.' One was even attempting to draw his picture. All the while, the dog had a supremely happy and content look on his face. His tail wagged and whapped the legs of one of the younger giggling kids who kept trying to grab it while it was in motion.
Healer Tomkins along with Remus entered and smiled, "Well, I see that some people enjoy your company, Padfoot. Children?" They all turned to him, "This dog's name is Padfoot and as you can see he's a big softie. Unfortunately, his owner (he pointed to Remus) wants him back." This was answered by a host of groans and childish complaints. Tomkins held his hands up for attention, "I can see that's not popular so let me see if I can convince his owner to bring him by another day, eh?" This announcement led to cheers. Padfoot extricated himself from the loving attentions and trotted over to him and gave a sad sort of huff.
"What the heck was that, Sirius? You go and do something crazy right before the Healer was going to release you?" Remus complained much to Sirius' amusement.
"Whaaat, I was bored waiting for him to come back!" Sirius whined and threw his arms out. Tomkins laughed at the byplay.
"It's not problem, gentlemen. As a matter of fact, I think that this might be a good idea for a short-term outpatient rehabilitation job; if you're agreeable to it?"
Sirius cocked his head in thought, "I guess so. It'd be better than some of the other ideas I'd come up with."
Moony grimaced, "I can only imagine what sort of ideas you came up with."
Sirius flipped him the finger and grinned.
Late May Hogwarts, Headmistress' Office
Newly installed Headmistress Minerva McGonagall peered around her new office and sighed in exasperation. Everything had been left as it had been before Albus had been arrested so there was a pile of correspondence that had to be dealt with, the various trinkets he had scattered around the room and on a multiple of tables were making noise in some way or another.
"Maisy?" she called out.
There was a nearly silent 'pop' announcing the arrival of Maisy, one of the castle elves , "Yes, Heady Kitty?" Minerva grimaced at the reference.
"I have a list of things I need you to do. Get some help from the other elves if you need it. First, I want you to turn off all of Albus Dumbledore's trinkets and other noisy things, label and box them up along with anything else of his in this office as well as his apartment to be sent into storage. Second, everything that doesn't belong to him needs to be labeled with the appropriate names and if known, destinations then just store them temporarily in an unused room nearby."
Maisy nodded quickly, causing her ears to flap before vanishing. There were a couple of flashes of light and items started disappearing off the tables and bookshelves.
While that was being done, Minerva sat down on the chair behind the desk and started rifling through the pile of parchment. Sighing once more, she got down to the ordeal of slogging through the mail.
After separating and organizing the piles of mail, Minerva decided to take a break and called for a staff meeting. She ordered the gargoyle to remain open with instructions for the staff to just come up. First in was Pomona who smirked at the tired look on Minerva's face.
Minerva returned with one of her patented 'I'm not impressed with your attempt at humor' glares.
Pomona poured herself a cup of tea from the ever-present service and settled in to wait for the others. Next up was Severus who silently ensconced himself in the first available chair. Filius, Argus, Vector and Babbling brought up the last of the regular staff members. Sybil was probably still passed out drunk in her classroom, Binns had been exorcised earlier in the month and Hagrid was currently overseas. Charity was a no-show but Minerva had mentioned receiving a letter back in February stating that there'd been a family emergency. Aurora was probably still sleeping which no one would begrudge her on.
Minerva stood and addressed them, "Okay, thank you all for your prompt arrival. Let's get this meeting underway. First off, Albus as you all know has been permanently removed from his position as headmaster (there was a sigh of relief from Severus). I've been installed by the Board of Directors as the new headmistress and now for my first duty, I need to select a deputy. Pomona? How about it? Want the number two position?"
Pomona's eyes widened when Minerva offered the job and rapidly shook her head in negation, "Nooo… I don't want it. I don't know anything about how to navigate the muggle world! I like my nice, quiet routine."
Minerva peered over the rims of her glasses at her friend, "You sure? Learning how to navigate their world is not that terrible. I learned pretty quickly when the job was shown to me." Pomona still refused it but held up a hand.
"I still refuse the home visits but if you need someone to assist the incoming first years get acquainted with the school for the first week, then by all means I'd be pleased to."
Severus leaned forward as he readjusted his robes, "Really? Isn't that something for the prefects to undertake?"
"And they still will, I'd just be on hand if something came up that the prefects couldn't handle."
Minerva could accept that, "That'll be fine, then. So, who would like to take on the role of Deputy?"
"How about Trelawney?" Severus snarked to the laughter of the others, including Minerva who peered curiously at the usually dour man. His demeanor had changed drastically since Albus' removal from the castle. His responses were still acerbic but nowhere near as mean as it used to be. Severus caught her look and widened his eyes comically, "No way! Can you picture me going to the homes of potential first years?"
Minerva made a dismissively contemplative face, "Who else then? Charity? She's another pureblood who only knows about the muggle world through that idiotic textbook she 'teaches' out of. I'd bet that she's never even been in the muggle world. Septima and Bathseda are both busy with their classes and side jobs, Argus might be able to since he's had to study at one of their universities and I'm sorry Filius, but you wouldn't be a good candidate because of your heritage and stature." Filius waved off her concerns.
"It's no problem, Min. I wasn't even planning of throwing my hat into the ring for the position."
Severus sighed and grumbled a moment under his breath, "How long would I have to consider it?"
"Early July at the latest."
"Then I'll let you know then. Who's going to handle the current batch?"
"I'll continue until you either agree or I find someone else." He nodded once and settled back in his chair.
"Okay next is the replacement for Professor Binns. An Unspeakable came round recently to exorcise the ghost out of the castle so we need a new history professor. Any suggestions?"
Argus raised his hand, "I could take over if you're offering." The others looked surprised and he blushed, "It's not like I need to use any actual magic, just talk about how others used it in the past and frankly teaching history is the same regardless of the world we're in. I had to teach a short stint in order to get my degree in Art History and I think I've done a fair job of teaching the history of the portraits and other things here in the castle to Miss Granger. I would like to prove to others that I'm more than just the lowly squib caretaker."
Filius looked confused, "Who would handle the caretaker position then?"
Argus shrugged unconcernedly, "I say let the elves do it. They do most of the work I can't do anyways."
There were murmurs of agreement to his suggestion from the others.
"I think I can get it past the Board, Argus. Are you sure that you want to be faced with all those children? I seem to remember not too long ago, you swearing up a storm about 'those damn miscreants.'"
Argus snorted as he waved that comment off, "That was when I had just finished cleaning or repairing something. You would be mad too if all your recently completed hard work was banished to Hell by a rampaging herd of messy children." Minerva just gave him a sidelong look for a moment before accepting it.
"One final part then I'll open the floor to everyone else. Director Croaker and his team will be stopping by this weekend to go through and organize the Room of Requirement. If you want to take part, let me know and I'll send along the message. Given how big the room's gotten, it'll probably be a massive undertaking so you don't have to worry if you don't finish quickly or get sidetracked. They'll be setting up an age-line to keep anyone under the age of seventeen from the seventh floor so we won't have to worry about the Weasley Twins getting underfoot." Loud sighs of relief were heard by nearly everyone.
It was such a nice day that Harry and Hermione decided to commandeer one of the tables in the Sunroom to do their homework. Hermione was wearing a shirt that said, 'I'm not weird, I'm one of a kind.' Neville had disappeared almost immediately when the three entered though they knew that he'd probably join them after checking over his self-appointed chores list he had hanging in the potter's room.
"I can't believe the year's almost up. It's amazing just how busy it's been!" Harry commented as he peered around the room lazily. Cinnamon popped in and offered them both a tea service. They declined the tea but said they'd accept some fruit juice. Hermione dug into her bag and pulled out a stack of notes for their classes to study; Harry did the same with his notes.
Hermione picked up her glass when it appeared and sighed after taking a sip, "I know, right? So many people we've met, subjects we've learned and friendships made. What was the biggest thing for you?"
"In what category?"
She scrunched her nose up, "How about: friendship, surprise relationship, favorite class subject and hardest concept to accept?"
Harry pondered that, there was SO much from which to choose.
"Well, while you're thinking, I'll share mine. First up is my friendship with the girls in Slytherin House. Once we got past that whole blood status bigotry, we all discovered that we share a love of bike riding and complex puzzles. Incidentally, now that the weather has improved, I want to go out again. Pansy is positively addicted to Sudoku! Millie loves the three dimensional jigsaw puzzles while Daphne and Tracy both love the Runic Scrabble I came up with. The surprise relationship ought to be easy enough for anyone to figure out. Argus Filch is actually the First Doctor!" She mock swooned into her chair causing Harry to laugh.
"Class subject I think would have to be Transfiguration. It's so versatile and potentially useful back home if I were ever to combine that with muggle engineering." Her eyes unfocused as she drifted off onto a mental tangent. Harry tapped on the table top to get her attention again after a moment. "Right, where was I? Oh yeah, the hardest to accept thing would have to be crap that Dumbledore put you through. The nerve of him!"
Harry flopped back in agreement. He drained the last of his fruit juice and thought a bit more, "I'd have to agree with you on the hardest thing to accept especially since it's my life. I just can't wrap my head around how no one saw through his manipulations and tried to stop him earlier. I think another part of that was the Dark entity in my scar. I overheard Croaker telling his colleague that Dumbledore should've recognized it as Dark magic and done something to remove it. The man was supposedly the 'Leader of the Light' and therefore should've done something to protect me." He threw his hands up in dismissal, "Eh, it's over with and I'll never have to worry about it. Anyways, I think my friendship with Neville is my biggest accomplishment in a personal relationship. Draco, Vince and Greg are nice and all but they'll always have that bit of aristocratic snobbery that won't go away. Nev on the other hand, is a down to earth, gentle and easy going kind of guy. Someone to work together on a project then go get a drink afterwards."
Neville arrived just after he said that, grinning from what he overheard, "Thanks, Harry." He plopped down in an empty chair and poured himself a glass of the fruit juice then took a long pull from it.
"What about your classes? Which one is your most and least favorite?"
"Favorite? Charms. Hands down. Least favorite? History. Binns kept putting me to sleep and that's not the way to teach a class and hope your students pick up the information."
"Surprise relationship?" she asked after finishing another sip.
Harry pursed his lips, "Surprise good or surprise bad?"
"Hmmm…surprise good would have to be Draco and the boys of Slytherin. Get them away from their parents' influence and they become ordinary kids. Surprise bad would have to be the Weasley Twins. I appreciate a good joke every now and then but what they do is practically bullying. Speaking of which, didn't you say once that you planned on letting them get in one good school-wide prank at the end of the year for good behavior?"
She nodded, "Yeah, that reminds me I need to write a note to them and have an elf deliver it." She dug into her bag and pulled out a fresh sheet of paper and a pen and began writing.
"So what were you discussing besides praising me, if you don't mind me asking?" Neville queried Harry seeing that Hermione was busy speaking to Cinnamon.
"Just looking back over the events of this year and our involvement if any in them. Also we were talking about a couple of highlights that we'd noticed. You know, what's the biggest thing that's happened to you?"
"Yeah, like biggest or maybe I should say the best highlight of the year. A friendship you didn't expect, enemies that you didn't expect, most or least favorite classes; that sort of thing," Harry replied as Cinnamon came back with a tray of sliced veggies and a honey mustard dip plus a pitcher of chilled water. He thanked her and picked out a small radish globe and began munching on it.
Neville sighed as he thought about it, "Well, my favorite class is obvious and a surprise discovery would have to be this sunroom. I will be forever grateful that you introduced me here. (Harry gave him a thumbs up as he continued munching). A surprise friendship? Eh, it would have to be just about anyone since I was rather sheltered before Hogwarts. I don't really have any enemies, at least of the human variety. There's a couple of plants that I'd swear glare at me when I walk past."
"What about a least favorite class?" Harry asked as he swiped a baby carrot away from Hermione who'd been reaching for the same one. She growled at him then grabbed another one. He just scrunched his nose up at her and stuck his tongue out playfully.
"Hmmm, maybe astronomy since I have to be up late at night. We really didn't have to suffer Quirrell too long before getting that Auror replacement. What do you think will happen there?"
Harry shrugged indifferently; it wasn't his call.
Meanwhile in Gryffindor Tower…
It had shaped up to be a really lousy year for the Weasley Twins. Somehow they'd been humiliated in ways that they'd still hadn't figured out. Everything from being transported out of their beds to that farm and the random clothing changes to the most recent example where they thought their mother was chasing them around the castle screeching that she was going to be moving in with them and attending all their classes.
Fred was leaning up against his headboard while examining the Marauder's Map once again. He idly tracked the movements of the Flying Foxes or also known as Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell; the Chasers of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. As he shifted his position on the bed, he heard the crinkle noise of parchment being squished. Puzzled, he reached underneath him and retrieved a folded scrap with a worryingly familiar writing. The Twins' bane had written again…
"George, we got another message from our mystery anti-prankster," he called out to his brother. George looked up from where he was digging through his trunk and sighed, "What now?"
'To whom it may concern, It is nearing the end of the school year and so far your pranking efforts have been effectively curtailed to the joy of the others in the school. You have been exemplary in your abilities to control yourselves and restraint in trying to rebel. As a reward, I will allow you to pull ONE school-wide prank to close out the school year. This note has been given to you now to allow you plenty of time to prepare. Enjoy.'
Twin grins slowly spread and an evil glint returned to their eyes. Elsewhere, Minerva suddenly shivered…
Ministry for Magic, Courtroom Ten, Sirius Black vs. Ministry for Magic
Sirius took a deep breath to try and slow his heart rate but it just didn't seem to work. He glanced over to where Remus was sitting in the gallery. Moony caught his eye and gave him a thumbs up in support. His lawyer assured him that all this was really just a formality. His Healer had already given his testimony and most of the warlocks in the Wizengamot had been turned to his side. He wasn't really worried about those members of the Dark contingent, they would always vote against a Light-sider like himself.
"Attention! The Trial for Sirius Black shall commence! Aurors, seal the doors!" There was a brief banging noise then the crowd began to quiet down.
The prosecutor was invited to step forward and give his opening statement how Sirius shouldn't be allowed to be set free, how everyone knew that he'd been the Secret-Keeper for the Potters and how he'd been the right hand man in the Dark Lord's inner circle.
Sirius wanted to immediately call out that the man was a liar but his lawyer held him back and whispered in his ear that this was normal and there was no animosity towards him.
His lawyer got up and made his rebuttal statement while Sirius sat there and nervously picked at his nails before forcibly restraining himself and sat more upright.
"Mr. Black, please walk us through that night. What happened?" His lawyer asked him.
"I had just returned from a quick shopping trip for groceries when I got this uncomfortable feeling that something bad had happened. I floo called Peter because he was our point man for contacting the others in the Order. There was no response but I wasn't too worried yet, after all he could've been in the loo or something. I tried calling Albus but again, I got no response so I grabbed my keys and headed over to the town that I knew the Potter's lived in."
"That would be Godric's Hollow?" his lawyer interjected. Sirius nodded and continued how enroute he suddenly remembered where the house the Potter's lived specifically since once it was under the Fidelius, it had been removed from conscious thought.
"When I got to the house I could see that the upper floor where the nursery was had been blown out. There was debris everywhere…" Sirius visibly steadied himself before continuing, "I quickly checked the debris and only found a tattered robe that didn't belong to James or Lily. I raced inside and found him, James that is, lying on the floor, his eyes vacant and not breathing. I left him where he was and headed upstairs. The upper floor was swaying from the heavy damage it seemed to have suffered. That's when I found Lily. She was lying on the floor, one hand still grasping the bars of the crib where Harry was sitting."
Throughout his testimony there wasn't a dry eye amongst the visitor's gallery or amongst the Light and Grey contingent. If someone had looked closely enough, they would've been surprised to find a couple of moist eyes in a couple of the minor Dark warlocks.
Harry saw me and called out for his 'pa'foo.' I picked him up and checked him over. I vaguely remember casting a baby healing charm on his forehead which was bleeding. Then I heard a noise downstairs. I guarded Harry the best I could until I saw it was just Hagrid. He said that he was there to take Harry to Dumbledore which confused me. I am his godfather and therefore was responsible for Harry. I just remember a sudden feeling that I needed to go after Peter. It was weird now that I think about it."
"We Blacks are trained from childhood to resist or at least recognize mind compulsions. This felt sort of like a compulsion but not at the same time." He shook himself and shrugged off the memory.
"Your Honor, I submit into evidence an Unspeakable grade memory report that describes that Hagrid had been tricked into wearing an enchanted necklace that would overcome the childhood training against mind compulsion. This necklace, also contained the magical signature of Albus Dumbledore." That caused an uproar in the gallery until the Chief Adjudicator fired off a cannon blast and called for silence.
"Go on, Mr. Black."
"Well, I gave Harry over to Hagrid along with my motorcycle so they wouldn't have to travel by portkey. An injured infant wouldn't like the aftereffects of portkey travel. Once they were gone, I came down with the overwhelming rage against Peter. The rat was the Secret-Keeper! The only way Voldemort (that caused flinching throughout the courtroom) could've known where the Potter's were living is if Peter had told him. Anyways, I tracked him down and confronted him on the streets of Manchester. We traded a couple of spells before Peter yelled at the top of his lungs about how I betrayed the Potters and led to their downfall. He made a showing of him cutting off his finger on his left hand and let loose with a blasting curse at the street behind me. The explosion threw me across the street; I remember impacting the curb and not much after that. When I finally came to, there were Aurors and I'm guessing some Obliviators milling around. I don't remember saying anything coherently but was told later that I had been repeating 'my fault, all my fault.'" He sniffed sadly and nodded, "It was my fault. The murders of James and Lily? Yeah, it was my idea to suggest that Peter be given the role of Secret-Keeper because I was the too obvious choice. Everyone knew that I was James' best friend and brother in all but name so the Death Eaters would've been casting for me. Peter though? He was the sort of person most overlooked. Who'd ever suspect him?"
"Now Mr. Black, you called Peter a rat. What did you mean by that? Was it because he ratted out the Secret to the Dark Lord?"
Sirius shrugged briefly, "I guess you could say that but he's also a rat Animagus. His form is that of a common brown garden rat."
"Mr. Black?" the Chief Adjudicator spoke up, "from all records, Peter Pettigrew was a rather weak wizard; an animagus ability should've been beyond his capabilities. How do you know about his form?"
Sirius shifted uncomfortably, "I know because James and I along with Peter became Animagi in our fifth year of Hogwarts to keep our friend company during his monthly transformations. My form is that of a large black dog reminiscent of the Grim. James was a stag." The Chief Adjudicator nodded and motioned for Sirius to continue. There was a notation in the records about Remus Lupin's werewolf condition but he felt there was no need to bring it up in front of the crowd.
The rest of the trial passed rather quickly. Testimonies were given and a couple of memories from that time and the events of that Halloween and the following week were played for the record. In the end, it was the decision of the Wizengamot that Sirius Black was not guilty of betraying the Potters to the Dark Lord; he was also found not guilty of being a member of a terrorist organization by the expedient fact that he didn't have the Dark Mark on his arm. He was found guilty of being an unregistered animagus but the charge was commuted in light of the ten years he'd already spent in Azkaban.
Sirius Black was a free man. His hug to Remus was tight and almost desperate. Tears of joy and relief fell unashamedly.
"So what's next for you, Mr. Black?" asked one reporter who managed to get close.
"I want to see my godson. I want to see Harry."
Hogwarts, Hufflepuff House, Harry's Dorm Room
'Knock, knock, knock..'
Harry looked up from his reading; curious as to who the heck it could be that would bother knocking. Professor Sprout wouldn't bother him in his room, Neville was his roommate and Hermione just barged in regardless of his state of dress. He rolled out of bed and shuffled over to the door and opened it. Standing before him was Director Croaker and he had a smile on his face.
"Professor Croaker," Harry said with a knowing smirk.
"Smart assed kid. You gonna let me in?" Croaker unconvincingly growled. Harry moved back and let the older man into his room.
Algernon took the chair at the desk while Harry took a seat on the edge of his bed, "I just wanted to bring you up to speed regarding the spectral possession of Quirnius Quirrell. It's our determination that the wraith is that of Lord Voldemort. Both the wraith and the host are in a state of suspension so we could examine both safely."
"Wow…" Harry breathed.
Algernon agreed, "Additionally, the Dark entity that resided in your scar has been determined to be what's known as a Horcrux. I'm telling you this because it's related to another piece of information. Before you were born a prophecy was made; I can tell you the wording if you want?"
Harry shrugged indifferently, "I don't need to know it. I just want to know that you and your department are dealing with this problem."
Algernon sat up a bit straighter, "That brings us to the next topic. I would like to write a contract between the two of us to search out other Horcruxes that might be out there that keeps the Dark Lord 'alive' if you will and attached to this plane of existence." He pulled a scroll out of his pocket and handed it over for Harry to read. When he had finished reading, Harry reached for a biro and signed on the appropriate line.
"There you go, Director Croaker. I authorize you and your department to go out and act as my Hand in the quest to eradicate every instance of Voldemort's soul and legacy." The two shook hands and afterwards, Croaker got up to take his leave.
Late June, Leaving Feast, Hogwarts Great Hall
Minerva stood and congratulated everyone on another successful and educational year. It was definitely going to be a memorable one for a long time to come. The House Cup points were announced and it was a landslide victory for Hufflepuff; a first in recent memory. Just as she was finishing her speech, there was a loud bang, the room filled with blue smoke and a screech reminiscent of Molly Weasley was heard.
When the smoke cleared, the kids and staff were looking about them in horror and a lot of laughter. Every single one of them had been transformed into some kind of brightly colored tropical bird. The trick of it was that they couldn't tell that they had been transformed, someone else had to tell them! Girls were transfiguring plates into mirrors to check the damage but couldn't see any changes yet their friends were swearing up and down that they were covered in feathers and had a beak instead of a mouth.
Minerva glanced over at Pomona, who had taken on the resemblances to that of a flamingo. Severus looked like a raven (in her mind, that was a step up from his usual bat-like appearance), Filius had taken the form of a hummingbird. She dreaded to know what sort of bird she resembled.
"How bad is mine?" she asked her colleague. Pomona only laughed and shook her head.
"You're the only one here that doesn't look like a bird! The thing I have no clue as to who or what you're supposed to be." She turned to Severus and Filius, "Do either one of you know?"
It was Severus who supplied the answer, though it was given in short bursts because he was laughing too much, "She… she's dressed like…hahaha! She's dressed as Carmen Miranda!" He fell out of his chair from laughing and couldn't continue.
Minerva had never heard of this Carmen Miranda person so she had no frame of reference to go by just Severus' reaction. She called for a house elf and requested that they find a picture somewhere of this person she was supposed to be imitating. The feast continued while she waited, glaring ineffectually at Severus who kept snorting in laughter every time he glanced in her direction.
The elf returned carrying a photograph clearly taken in the muggle world (it didn't move). It showed a woman dressed in the most hideous and frilliest of costumes with a thigh high slit up one side of the skirt, enormously puffy sleeves with what looked like a bowl of fruit perched on her head. All she could do was roll her eyes at the image and her imagination of what she must look like.
She caught the eyes of the Twins and raised her goblet in silent congratulations.
Hogwarts Express, Heading South to King's Cross
Everyone reverted back to normal by the time morning rolled around. The Weasley Twins had received many accolades from the student and staff population for a masterfully done prank. They responded by saying that the effects of the potion and charm would last until the following morning. This was greeted with relief by the staff and most of the female population.
Harry and Hermione had passed their End of Year tests much to their relief. It was no surprise to anyone who knew Hermione that she got the top ranking in her year group. Harry had pulled fifth place behind her with Draco squeaking by him in fourth place. They found out later that Ronald Weasley had completely failed his tests and would have to repeat first year come September.
In their compartment, Harry had suggested that they take their lunch in the dining car again. Agreements were heard and so they traipsed to the second to last car of the train. The group took their seats and ordered what they wanted then sat back to chat and plan for the summer. The ride passed smoothly and without complaint. The Express pulled into the station on time and began disgorging its passengers. Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and the two manhandled their trunks over to the barrier where a guard waiting to assist them and to make sure that the muggleborns didn't swarm out of a hidden portal and scare the muggles. Hermione spotted her parents first standing next to the Dursleys. Dudley saw her waving madly and poked his father in the side causing him then everyone else to turn. Feminine squeals of joy were heard and the rapid babble of greetings spilled out intermingling with questions and answers.
On the ride home, Dudley turned to his cousin, "So? What's next?"
Harry leaned back in his seat and put his hands behind his head in an exaggerated manner, "It's summer, Dudley. I just want to veg out and not think about it. First year is done!"
[A/N2: Well, that's this year done! My thanks to all who stayed with me over this journey. I wish you all well and to keep an eye out for my next story arc.