WARNING: mentions of child abuse and self-harm.

A/N:

So, here it is. The long-awaited rewrite of Taking Over. I've changed some things, of course – there will be no bashing here, for one, even if it may seem like there will be at first – and the writing is much better, but most main events are the same.

If you think that Harry's is too calm when talking or thinking about his abuse, I'm just going off of canon, and the abuse is canon too. Take it up with JKR and her portrayal of abuse and it's effects if you want.

Updates will most likely be rare for the next few weeks or so due to family circumstances, but you can expect me to update more often once school starts again.

For those of you wondering if I'm all right, yes, I fixed myself. *big smile*

And I got a laptop, so that's something nice.

Well, enjoy!

...

'He's not your son,' said Sirius quietly.

'He's as good as,' said Mrs Weasley fiercely. 'Who else has he got?'

'He's got me!'

'Yes,' said Mrs Weasley, her lip curling,'the thing is, it's been rather difficult for you to look after him while you've been locked up in Azkaban, hasn't it?'

Sirius started to rise from his chair.

'Molly, you're not the only person at this table who cares about Harry,' said Lupin sharply. 'Sirius, sit down.'

Sirius, however, ignored Lupin as he stood up, the top of his head almost touching the low ceiling. When he spoke, his voice was barely a whisper, but it was enough to make Molly shiver and sink deeper in her seat.

'Excuse me? I may be a bad person, but no one gets to insult me except myself. Got it?'

Some of the adults raised their eyebrows at this slightly self-deprecating remark. To Harry's left, Hermione whispered, 'That's weird. He never usually responds to her.'

Harry turned his head towards her while keeping an eye on the table, where Mrs Weasley had gone red, her mouth opening and closing like that of a fish. Sirius had backed away from the table slightly, but his eyes were still burning with anger and something else that Harry couldn't identify. '"Usually"? You mean, she always says things like that?'

Hermione didn't answer, but the way she cleared her throat told Harry all he needed to know, and he wondered why Mrs Weasley disliked Sirius so much. Meanwhile, Mrs Weasley seemed to have found her voice again.

'Sirius, there are children here. Let's talk after they've all gone to bed—'

'Open your eyes woman, the only child here is you! They're all teenagers, for fuck's sake! Fine, you can continue saying that they're not allowed to be in the Order, yada yada, but a goddamn argument? You've really—'

'Shut up, Sirius!' Mrs Weasley interrupted heatedly. 'See, this is why we don't agree! You seem to think that, just because Harry has gone through a bit more than—'

'A bit more? So, according to you, battling Voldemort three times and coming out alive before reaching fifteen is nothing? Not to mention all the other shit he's had to endure along the way, including a teacher that can't get over a schoolboy grudge and feels the need to take it out on a teen who had nothing to do with it!'

Harry suddenly felt uncomfortable with how much Sirius knew. Who had told him?

'Now, don't bring Severus into this—'

'Why not? He's part of the reason James and Lily d—'

'Sirius, no,' this time it was Lupin who spoke, 'You know Severus apologised for that—'

'As if he meant it,' Sirius muttered under his breath.

'—and, besides, Harry is right here. You really want Harry to know that? You think he'll ever be able to trust Severus after that?'

Harry narrowed his eyes. Sirius was keeping secrets from him? And it had to do with Snape? What had Snape done?

'Harry deserves to know. And, as for trust, you think he trusts that snivelling slimeball as it is?'

'You know what I mean.'

Tonks yawned and whispered audibly, 'Are they gonna be at it for much longer? I want dessert.'

A couple of people snickered. Mrs Weasley, who was in the process of being hugged by Arthur as he whispered calming words into her ear, stood up quickly and hurried to the counter. Sirius sighed and sat back down, letting his head fall into his hand.

'Fine, you win. I won't tell Harry...for now. But I will tell him as soon as he turns sixteen, and none of you can stop me then.'

Mrs Weasley dropped a plate and turned around rapidly.

'Absolutely not! Telling Harry about that would mean telling him about You-Know-What, and no son of mine, biological or not, is finding out about that before finishing school!'

Sirius stood up again, kicked his chair away and slammed a hand down on the table. Everyone shuddered as they felt the magic in the room grow. Harry prayed Sirius had better control than him as he imagined an inflated Mrs Weasley floating out of the moldy old house.

'I HAVE HAD IT WITH YOU! He is not your son in any sense! James and Lily wanted me to look after him, I am his legal guardian, not you! Stop acting like you can take my child away just because he spent a few holidays at your house!'

Mrs Weasley went red and took a shaky breath. Harry prepared himself for the explosion and saw the others moving away from the Weasley matriarch cautiously.

But the explosion never came. Mrs Weasley took another breath and said, her voice shaking, 'Well...I can certainly see why you were placed in Azkaban without a trial now.'

The uproar was instantaneous. The teens started yelling at her loudly, and Tonks' hair changed to a dangerously red shade as she attempted to dump cake on her head. It took Lupin making a few bangs with his wand and Arthur pulling his wife out of harm's way for everyone to somewhat calm down. Surprisingly, Sirius hadn't done anything except stare at her murderously. When all eyes turned to him, he let out a single word, 'Why?' and held up a hand to silence everyone.

Seeing that no one was going to attack her, Mrs Weasley took a step forward and started speaking.

'Because you have no control, none at all! You act as if life is simply a game, a test to see who can fire off the most spells, spew the most insults...You're so irresponsible, it makes me wonder how anyone could ever make you a godfather! And then you act so surprised when something doesn't go your way. What you can't seem to understand is that life isn't the game you wish it to be, no one is going to play fair, actions have consequences. And maybe the years you spent in prison were simply a punishment for – for thinking the way you think, and—'

'No, I understand. I know I deserve what happened to me, and more, I don't need you to tell me that. I—'

'Sirius, that's not—'

'I – I think I'll go now, it's getting late...Yeah...Good night, everyone.'

And, with those words, Sirius left the room. A stricken silence descended upon everybody. Harry felt his temper rising and, before he knew it, he had stepped forward.

'None of that rubbish is true! Sirius didn't do anything to deserve what happened to him!'

Harry couldn't believe what he said next.

'And – and he's right. I'm not your son, Mrs Weasley.'

With those words, Harry left the room as well, ignoring Mrs Weasley's gasp and Ron's yell of, 'Hey, that's my mother you're talking to!' instead running up the staircase and past his room. He stopped at the next landing and looked around, realising that he didn't know where Sirius' room was. He decided go up to the third floor and check it. Once Harry got there, it didn't take long for him to find a door that had a nameplate with Sirius' name on it. Harry took a deep breath and knocked. A few minutes passed and Harry knocked again. This time, a very tired looking Sirius opened it. His eyes widened slightly when he saw who it was.

'Harry? What're you doing here?'

'I wanted to t-talk to you.'

Suddenly, Harry didn't feel so confident. What if Sirius didn't want to talk? What if he yelled at him for daring to disturb him? Harry held his breath as he looked up at Sirius, who seemed to be considering something. Finally, Sirius took a deep breath and said, 'Sure, come on in then.'

Sirius' room was very messy. Clothes that looked as though they were from the previous century were strewn across the floor, along with a bunch of books, and a knife was protruding from the nearest wall.

'Excuse the mess, I haven't had the time to clean up properly yet.'

Harry raised an eyebrow at the lie, but let it go. He watched silently as Sirius opened a closet, pulled out a dusty looking chair and thrust it at Harry.

'Here, sit.'

Harry obeyed, but not before subtly testing it's durability, something that didn't go unnoticed by Sirius, who smirked slightly and plopped himself down on his bed.

'Well, what did you want to talk about?'

Harry twiddled his fingers as he tried to think of something to say.

'What Mrs Weasley said – it's not true. You know that, right?'

Sirius didn't answer. Harry shrunk back in his seat slightly and waited for Sirius to kick him out. Sirius noticed that and said, 'Calm down, I'm not gonna kick you out.'

Harry sighed in relief.

'You're running away from the topic at hand though,' he pointed out.

'All right, you caught me.' Sirius' face suddenly became sour. 'I...do know I don't deserve Azkaban – not really, anyway, what I said there was just a ploy to see if I could get her to pity me so she could see sense,' Harry's eyes widened at this blatant manipulation of people's feelings, but he knew it made sense, and so it didn't anger him as much as it should have, 'but I just can't help but think that maybe I do — but not for the – er – reasons that Molly pointed out.'

'No, you don't! Why would you even think that?!'

'Harry, I'm the reason your parents are—'

'Don't even finish that sentence, because it's not true! You didn't – didn't know, you didn't ask – it's not like you wanted them dead!'

Harry was becoming increasingly aware that the same could be said about his encounter with Cedric.

'And yet, that's how they ended up.'

'You—'

'Look, let's not talk about it. They're dead, and that's that, we can't change it. Even though I wish I could... Anyway, what else did you want to talk about?'

It took Harry a few seconds before he found his voice.

'What you said there – about how you consider me your child - did you mean it?'

'Of course I did, you're my godson, aren't you? Unless you don't—'

Sirius didn't get to finish his sentence. Harry had crashed into him with a hug, making both of them fall back onto the bed. He buried his face in Sirius' chest, not caring that his robe was covered in dust and smelled like someone had violently attacked it with perfume the day before. Sirius considered him his child — it meant that Sirius wanted him! No adult had ever told him anything like that before, except Mrs Weasley, but she didn't count after what she said that evening.

The dust finally got to be too much, and Harry emerged, coughing and sneezing, and fell onto the floor. He heard Sirius chuckle from up above and attempted a glare, but it came off as a pout. Harry got up from the floor and sat down on his chair. He felt his face heat up suddenly.

'Don't worry, I was just as embarrassed when I hugged your dad's mum after she let me stay at their house. It's natural.'

'You stayed at my dad's?'

'Yeah, he sort of made me live with him after I ran away. I didn't want to stay for more than two days, but his mum made me my own room, and I couldn't refuse.'

'You ran away from home? Why?'

Sirius' eyes darkened.

'My family — they weren't exactly the nicest bunch out there.'

'Were they Death Eaters?'

'No, but they openly supported Voldemort and his agenda. They changed their mind after little Regulus got killed by Voldemort though.'

'Regulus? Who's that?'

'My little brother. The idiot went on to become a Death Eater at like sixteen. Didn't even do it because he agreed with Voldemort's rubbish, but to "make the family proud". Well, he got cold feet and tried to quit, but the thing is, you don't quit. Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater. Anyway, he went missing. Apparently, Voldemort killed him personally. At least, that's what we heard happened.'

Harry looked down.

'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up.'

Sirius waved a hand.

'It's fine, we weren't that close, doesn't matter.'

He cleared his throat.

'Anyway, you get the picture. I didn't want to end up like him, so I left the summer after my fifth year. I was supposed to become a Death Eater that summer, but I ran away before they could complete the ritual.'

He snorted darkly and added, 'They were afraid of becoming Death Eaters themselves, so they compromised and made us do it. Really caring of them.'

Harry nodded and started fiddling with his sleeve. He wanted to ask Sirius for more information, but would Sirius go against the Order's decisions? Him telling Harry things that were most likely top-secret could be counted as treason, could it not? What would happen to Sirius if he told him everything despite that? Harry didn't want him to get hurt, as absurd as the thought of Dumbledore hurting his followers was.

'What's bothering you?'

'In the kitchen – you said something about Snape. And Mrs Weasley mentioned a You-Know-What. What is it Snape did and how does it relate to this You-Know-What thingy?'

Sirius sighed.

'Look, I'd love to tell you, believe me. But I can't—'

'Because Dumbledore forbade it, I know. Doesn't matter then, don't think about it.'

Harry stood up, feeling his temper flare once again. It was so unfair! Why did Dumbledore have to decide everything? Despite all his titles, he was only Harry's Headmaster, nothing more. What say did he have in where Harry went for the summer or what his best friends could or couldn't put in their letters?

He decided to leave before he took his anger out on Sirius, who had done nothing wrong. His temper, he had learned, was best handled by waiting for it to calm down before he could interact with anyone else.

'I think I'll go now, it's really getting late. Bye.'

'Harry, wait!'

Harry turned around at the threshold and asked with unnecessary coolness in his voice, 'Yes?'

'I really wish I could tell you everything—'

'But Dumbledore told you not to, and you have to do what he says, because he is our God and we must bow down to him, right? Obviously, he knows what's best for you! And of course he has the right to tell people whether or not they should send letters to their friends and how to raise their children!'

Sirius stopped in his tracks. Without waiting for his reaction, Harry exited the room and slammed the door, ignoring the stream of curses that came from behind it. Right now, he really didn't care if Sirius had suddenly had an epiphany, he just wanted to find a place where he could cool off without taking it out on someone. He already felt bad for yelling at Sirius like that, especially since he only realised that maybe Dumbledore was wrong that evening himself.

He decided to go up to the fourth and last floor. There, he found a few doors. What stood out to him was a door that he assumed led to Buckbeak's room, judging by a few feathers littering the floor near it, and a door that had some strange words on it in a language he didn't know. Driven by his curiosity, he decided to check out the strange room first, only to find himself in a huge library. Somehow, it seemed bigger on the inside than the house actually was.

Harry wasn't a big fan of books, but he had nothing else to do, so he walked further into the library and looked around the shelves. Apparently, they were sorted by how Dark the book was: the Lightest and most harmless books were closest to the entrance, while the Darkest ones were furthest. Harry ran a hand along them, checking out the titles. A Complete History of Black, Your Inheritance and What To Do With It and Toujours Pur: Keeping Your Line Clean were some of them. This further reaffirmed Harry's belief that he was inside a typical pureblood house.

He continued looking through the books, hoping that one of them might catch his attention. Finally, he stopped at Guide To Self Defence For Beginners. Intrigued, Harry opened it and read through the first page.

Prologue

Want to learn to defend yourself? Tired of small fonts and complex instructions that expect you to already know half of the necessary material? Then this book is for you! Learn all you need to know about self-defence with easy step-by-step instructions, complete with pictures and an address where you can owl any questions you may have!The only requirements are a wand and hard work! Good luck!

Harry felt like he had just found a gold mine. He hadn't really thought about putting in extra effort to learn to defend himself properly before, but the existence of the Order and a You-Know-What complicated matters. He knew that the Order most likely only took in wizards who were at least semi-competent and capable of holding their own against most Death Eaters, and he couldn't become that wizard if he didn't start training while he was still in school.

And he did want to join the Order. He wanted to do all in his power to destroy Voldemort, and at the moment, joining a group with the purpose of doing exactly that seemed to be his best bet.

He flipped through a couple of pages and was even more convinced that this book would help him when he saw that its approach to teaching was similar to Lupin's, who was the best teacher he'd ever had.

Harry decided that, before attempting any of the spells in that book, he would read it first. He wasn't allowed to do magic at the moment, anyway. So, he found the nearest sofa, which was surprisingly comfortable, plopped himself down on it and opened the first chapter, which was titled 'The Introduction to Defence'.

Three hours passed, and Harry was in the middle of the last chapter, which was titled 'Defence In Other Subjects'. This chapter touched on the ways that other subjects could be used in defence. For example, you could use Transfiguration to conjure a pack of wolves and make them attack your opponent. Harry now felt so stupid for not paying any attention to other subjects and decided that, while focusing on defence, he would also review Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology and Potions, starting with first year. Perhaps Hermione would even agree to help him with that. He wasn't going to try to become the top student in those subjects by any means, as he didn't have time for that and that place was forever Hermione's anyway, but it wouldn't do any harm if he raised his marks a little.

Right now, though, he needed to sleep, or the others would be worried. Harry took the book with him, walked back to his room, where Ron was snoring peacefully, and went to sleep.

He never noticed an owl fly into the window above.

...

The next morning at breakfast, Harry was trying very hard not to make eye contact with Sirius — which was proving to be extremely difficult when the man was grinning like the Cheshire Cat and humming some catchy tune from a song Harry didn't remember the name of. Harry, however, hadn't been training with Wood for three years for nothing — if he could survive that, then he most certainly had the strength of will to not—

'Sirius, what's gotten you so happy?'

—do that. Harry slapped himself mentally and shrank back in his chair. Sirius looked up from his bacon and smirked.

'How long have you been holding onto that, my little mini-Padfoot?'

Harry rolled his eyes playfully and said, 'I'm not little. And don't you think I'd be mini-Prongs?'

Sirius faux-pouted.

'Spoilsport. Anyway—'

'—I'm sorry for last night.'

Harry's eyes widened as he realised he and Sirius had spoken the exact same thing at the same time. He had a good idea of how these things usually went, so he decided to see if they'd end up copying each other again.

'Apology accepted.'

'No chance of that,' Sirius remarked, standing up to make himself some coffee, as though he knew exactly what Harry was thinking. 'You're welcome, by the way.'

'Huh? But that's not how you—'

'Not my problem.'

Next to Harry, Ginny snorted into her milk. Looking around, he could see Ron and the twins sniggering. Even Hermione was trying to conceal her giggling.

'Oh, come on, guys! It's not even that funny!'

'Sirius' bad use of English is not. But the fact that you're the only one here who doesn't yet know the news is,' said Lupin as he entered the room.

'Oi! I'll have you know my knowledge of the English language is as impeccable as my luscious black hair!'

The twins shared significant looks and Sirius chucked a piece of toast at them, but missed and hit Lupin, who retaliated by sending a Stinging Hex at his behind. Ignoring Sirius' pained moans, Lupin sat down beside him, or rather, his empty chair, as Sirius was still making himself coffee, and discreetly slipped a pink-looking substance in his plate. Catching Harry's eye, he winked and said loudly, 'Sirius, would you please explain to our little mini-Prongs-Padfoot what has made you so happy?'

'Like I'm not always happy,' Sirius muttered, though he was still smiling. 'You see, Harry, your little anti-Dumbledore rant got me thinking.'

Harry's friends sent him weird looks and he mouthed, 'I'll tell you later,' while nodding his head at Sirius.

'Dumbledore says he can't do anything to get me a trial because the Chief Warlock, who is Fudge, won't allow it. But I worked as an Auror before – er – before the war ended, so I know their laws and know that, in the most serious circumstances, the Head of the DMLE can force a trial without waiting for the Chief Warlock's permission. I also know that Amelia Bones, who is the current Head, has always been fair and impartial, which is why if, say, an innocent but convicted murderer wanted to get a trial, she would be his best bet.'

Harry was growing more awed by the minute as he realised what Sirius was leading up to, and a big smile was blossoming on his face.

'Of course, said murderer can't just owl her and ask for a trial, as that would be way too suspicious. What said murderer can do, however, is give her an anonymous tip about the trial – or lack thereof – of Sirius Black, and it will set her off on a quest to check Sirius Black's criminal record. Once she finds the absence of a trial, she will no doubt be enraged at such a lack of justice, even going as far as to owl Sirius Black and invite him to a trial.'

Now openly grinning, Sirius turned around and gave Harry an expectant look. Harry felt his own smile widen.

'Does this mean what I think it means?' he asked.

'Depends on what you think it is,' Sirius answered with a smirk. Harry let out a yell of joy, ran around the table and embraced Sirius, giving up on trying to look cool. His godfather was going to have a trial, which meant that he could finally come live with him once his name was cleared!

Frowning, Harry slipped out of Sirius' arms as he realised something.

'But what – what if your name isn't cleared?'

The smile slid off Sirius' face. Suddenly, Harry could see that Sirius had already thought about this and was worried immensely. Now he felt bad for ruining their moment.

'Well, if they do prove me guilty,' said Sirius hoarsely, 'then I suppose we'll have some sort of contingency plan ready?'

He sent questioning looks at the occupants of the kitchen, Lupin in particular. Lupin nodded and the rest followed.

'We'll help you plan it.'

Some of the creases between Sirius' brows disappeared, though Harry could see that he was still worried. After all, there would be no more sending him back to Azkaban, since there was a Kiss-on-sight order against him. Harry decided to try and ease the tension before the silence in the room became awkward.

'So when's the trial?'

'The next day after yours.'

Harry sobered even more at the reminder of his upcoming hearing.

'Can't we make a plan for my hearing too?'

'Don't worry, Harry,' said Lupin as he approached him and put a hand on his shoulder, 'they'll let you off. You've done nothing wrong, there's no reason for them to convict you of anything.'

'Sirius has done nothing wrong too,' Harry pointed out.

'In any case, you'll have Dumbledore at your defence, he won't let you lose.'

That caught Harry's interest. Dumbledore was going to be there at his trial? It would be his first time seeing the man since Hogwarts, and he was eager to ask some questions. Namely, why he had forbidden his friends from writing anything more than nonsense to him and why he hadn't thought of doing what Sirius just did.

'Will Dumbledore be at your trial too?' he asked Sirius. Sirius looked thoughtful for a moment, before answering, 'Dumbledore doesn't know anything about me having a trial, I haven't written him yet. So, I suppose if he wants to, then yes? Even though what you said yesterday got me thinking, Dumbledore's still the best man for that kind of thing and I know he'll do all he can to help me.'

Just like he did all he could when he let you be carted off to Azkaban? Harry thought privately, but didn't say anything, as he trusted Sirius' judgement and his godfather seemed to still trust Dumbledore, so it was fine.

So he smiled instead and gestured back to the table, taking his seat across from Sirius. Sirius took a bite of bacon and spit it out immediately, spluttering as tiny pigs began falling out of his mouth. Harry roared in laughter as he watched Sirius tackle Lupin to the ground with a war cry, reminded of the time Ron had accidentally cursed himself to vomit slugs. Beside him, Ron had clearly had the same flashback, as his freckles suddenly seemed to stand out more prominently against his pale face.

'Were you guys like this at Hogwarts too?' asked Hermione interestedly, her lips twitching.

'Oh, yeah, we were,' said Lupin as he got up from the floor and wiped tears of laughter from his eyes, looking dishevelled, but otherwise unscathed. 'You should have seen James and Sirius at it, not a day passed in which they weren't pulling jokes on each other. Though they did it to others more, of course.'

'Yeah, especially Moony here,' Sirius added as he belched loudly, a stray pig falling out of his mouth. The whole floor was littered with the small pigs, and Harry thought he saw Fred – oh, how he loved being able to tell them apart – sneaking a few into his pocket.

Lupin snorted and swatted at Sirius, vanishing the cursed bacon swiftly with his other hand before anyone accidentally ate it.

'I gave as good as I got, mind you. Remember that one letter?'

'Ooh, yes, indeed I do.'

Sirius launched into a most exciting retelling of a joke which had involved a cursed letter from Lupin and him turning into a sheep. Harry noticed how Sirius' eyes lit up whenever he talked about his friends and smiled softly, deciding that from now on he would ask Sirius to tell him stories of his parents and their time at Hogwarts as often as possible. He'd seen how moody Sirius was a lot of the time and figured that helping improve his godfather's mood wouldn't hurt, especially since hearing people talk about his parents made him happy too.

So Harry joined the conversation, smiling and laughing as Sirius and Lupin went on to entertain them with tales of their days at Hogwarts — until Mrs Weasley walked in, that was. She let out a disappointed huff and said, 'Sirius, stop, you're giving them bad ideas.'

Sirius ignored her and continued to talk, a rather wide smirk coming on his face. Harry thought it was a little unfair how she'd completely ignored the fact that Lupin was doing exactly the same thing, almost like she had a personal vendetta against Sirius. Well, after what she'd said yesterday, it wasn't that surprising. Harry was still peeved at the woman for her words, but reasoned that she'd probably just misunderstood the situation and said that to hurt Sirius, not because she thought it was true. Still, Hermione had said that she'd been antagonizing Sirius for weeks now...

'Sirius!'

Sirius continued to ignore Mrs Weasley, which seemed to only rile her up more, especially when the the twins and Ginny sniggered and sent amused looks her way. It seemed that even her own children still hadn't forgiven her.

'Sirius Black!'

Seeing that he wouldn't answer to her, she apparently decided to change tactics. This was quickly turning into a war, and Harry was a lot more inclined to side with Sirius if it came to that. Mrs Weasley walked over to them and started pulling Ginny out of her seat, turning onto Ron when Ginny didn't budge.

'Come on, children, we've got a lot of work to do today. We'll start with the drawing room and then work on the far bathroom...Well, what are you all waiting for? I see you've had breakfast—' Mrs Weasley scowled, clearly not appreciating someone else cooking for her children, especially when that "someone" happened to be Sirius, '—so get moving, up you go!'

'Stop manhandling them, Molly,' said Sirius, obviously finding the whole thing funny. Harry was impressed by how his godfather managed to construct just the right "I-don't-care" attitude that got onto people's nerves. If only he was as good at hiding his emotions...Though he did have an "I'm-fine" mask, it still wasn't enough to conceal his anger and stop him from doing rash and reckless things — the sort of things that had made his life in Privet Drive unbearable.

Mrs Weasley bristled.

'Who are you to tell me how to discipline my children?'

'Who are you to tell me how to discipline mine?' Sirius countered, and Harry felt a surge of affection for his godfather. He still couldn't fully come to terms with the fact that Sirius actually considered him his child, but it made him infinitely happy, especially after what he'd gone through at the Dursleys'.

Mrs Weasley didn't answer, but continued to pull at her children, who all muttered protests. Finally, Ginny broke, stood up and yelled, 'Mum, I don't want to! Why do we even have to clean anyway? It's not like Sirius asked us to!'

'Yes, but you're staying at his house and should earn your keep! Besides, it keeps you busy, doesn't it?'

Harry flinched slightly at the "earn your keep" comment, something that was not missed by Lupin, who nudged Sirius and sent him a look. He hoped it didn't mean anything — they couldn't find out about his home life, or they'd laugh condescendingly and tell him that he was only making it up or that he was nothing but a weak whiny child. That was what all the other adults in his life had done, after all, even Mrs Taylor, who had been one of his favourite teachers in primary school.

'So you'd make your children do more chores than a house-elf just to keep them busy?'

'Well, they certainly do more than that house-elf of yours, that's for sure,' Mrs Weasley muttered, leaving Harry to wonder what house-elf she was talking about. She didn't say anything else, though, and gestured at her children to go upstairs.

'Well, actually, our dear mother—'

'We're legally adults—'

'So we don't have to do what you say any longer,' the twins finished together. Harry had no doubt that if a war did start, the twins would be on Sirius' side as well, if only to defy their mother. Funny, how I'm thinking of a war going on in our household when there's a real one outside.

Mrs Weasley glared at Sirius and said, 'Well, thank you, Sirius. Ron, Ginny, let's go.'

Ginny looked like she wanted to argue, but followed her mother quietly with Ron, who sent an apologetic glance at Harry, his ears red. Harry looked down, feeling a bit guilty with how they'd dismissed the woman like that. To his right, Hermione was clearly feeling the same and in half a mind to follow them. Still, they continued their previous conversation, but Harry couldn't shake the feeling that something was up with the way Lupin and Sirius glanced at each other and then at Harry occasionally. Were they onto something?

Their conversation lasted until noon, by which time Sirius and Lupin's throats were sore, the twins were itching to try out some of the tricks they'd heard about and Hermione looked like she was torn between congratulating them at such creative use of magic and disapproving because they'd broken so many rules. Harry, for his part, felt that this was the best conversation he'd had in a long time. He may not have his parents, but boy, was he lucky to have Sirius and Lupin.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence eventually, sipping on Butterbeers that Sirius had summoned out of one of the top cupboards, but it was soon broken by the twins.

'So, we noticed you call each other certain nicknames a lot—'

'Moony and Padfoot, to be exact—'

'And we wanted to ask if you, by any chance, might know who the Marauders are.'

The grins on the twins' faces matched those of Sirius and Lupin as they realised how Fred and George must have heard of them. Harry shared a look with Hermione. They both knew how much Fred and George idolised the Marauders, so meeting two of their idols would no doubt have them positively ecstatic. He wondered what their reactions would be when they found out who Wormtail was.

Sirius smirked.

'Oh, yes, we do know them. In fact, I know Padfoot better than I know myself.'

The twins' grins widened.

'You mean to say that one of the best masters of mischief Hogwarts has ever seen is a convicted murderer—'

Sirius nodded gleefully.

'And the other is a werewolf—'

Lupin smiled smugly.

'Who are the other two?'

That sobered the two adults slightly.

'One is James Potter, Harry's dad,' Lupin began.

'And the other is a lying traitorous backstabbing rat,' Sirius finished bitterly, his eyes gaining a dark and positively murderous glint to them, not unlike how they'd looked on that day in the Shrieking Shack.

Shock dawned on the twins' faces as they realised who Sirius was talking about and George asked, disgust clear in his voice, 'How on earth did Pettigrew become a Marauder?'

'That bitch's not worthy of the title!'

'And to think we've been idolizing him for years!'

'Well, we wouldn't have befriended him if we had known,' Lupin said regretfully.

Silence descended upon them all again, Fred and George still staring at the two Marauders with somewhat awed looks on their faces, until Harry remembered what he'd decided on yesterday.

'Hey, Hermione?'

'Harry?'

Hermione swept a strand of hair out of her eyes and turned to stare at Harry questioningly. Harry groaned internally when he realised that asking Hermione to help him study would mean having to follow a schedule for the rest of the summer.

'I was thinking and I realised that I can't possibly fight Voldemort if I'm an ordinary student. I need to learn all I can to defeat him and I thought that maybe I should start with the Hogwarts curriculum, so I wanted to ask if you'd like to help me study?'

Hermione's eyes lit up at the word "study". Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Sirius and Lupin gazing at him quizzically. They were probably wondering where his newfound ambition had come from. Well, he'd tell them. Maybe they could even help him.

'Oh, Harry, I'm so glad you're finally taking this seriously – of course I'll help you – when can we begin?' Hermione gushed, and was about to continue when they heard a scream coming from upstairs. Sirius, Lupin and the twins sprung up immediately, and Harry followed, dragging Hermione along with him. They soon determined that it came from the drawing room and ran inside to find Mrs Weasley sobbing and clutching a body that was lying on the floor. Harry realised who it was and his insides went cold. Ron couldn't die, it simply couldn't be—

But it couldn't be. Ron was standing right there, an ashen look on his face as he stared down at his own dead body. But then who..?

Sirius rushed past him and started pulling Mrs Weasley away from the body as he explained, 'That's a boggart, I think. I was meaning to get Mad-Eye to check it out, but — guess it's not needed anymore. Not surprising, really, considering the state of this hovel. Merlin, I really need new house-elves—'

Harry stood there, frozen, as Sirius continued pulling at Mrs Weasley, who screamed and clung to the body.

'Molly, it's not real, it's a boggart!'

'Let – go – of me, you heathen!'

Sirius threw up his hands in exasperation and levitated Mrs Weasley away, stepping in front of her to deal with it himself.

'My mother used to call me that, you know, so you're not—'

He trailed off as the boggart transformed into Harry's bloodied up and bruised body. Seeing his own dead body was even more disconcerting that seeing his best friend's, but Harry was more concerned about Sirius, who had gone white and was slowly backing away. Behind him, Mrs Weasley let out a whimper and more tears dribbled down her chin.

'Er, Sirius?' Harry touched his godfather's shoulder awkwardly. 'Please tell me you're not going to sob over my dead body, too.'

That seemed to shake Sirius out of his stupor and he laughed shakily. The boggart immediately disappeared with a pop. Sirius ran a hand through his hair and shook his head rather like a dog.

'I'm not saying I believed that or anything, but...Merlin, that looked so real.'

Harry didn't answer. He was quite shaken too, but it was more because of the fact that his death was apparently Sirius' worst fear. He'd expected it to be dementors or being caught by Aurors.

Despite the sensitivity of the moment, Harry decided to use it to his advantage, ignoring that it made him sound like a Slytherin.

'Well, to make sure that – er – that doesn't happen and I don't turn into that, I have to know all I can to defeat Voldemort...So maybe you could tell me what this You-Know-What is?'

Sirius looked down at him slowly, and Harry was afraid that he'd get yelled at for being insensitive, but a moment later his godfather let out a bark like laugh and said, 'You hear that, Moony? He's learning!'

Lupin pocketed his wand and nodded with a smile while sending a discreet glance at Mrs Weasley. Harry understood immediately and lowered his voice, 'She has no say in this, remember?'

'Yes, but I'm worried that she'll harp on about it until I evict her from this household,' Sirius answered, sending an annoyed glance at the woman in question, who apparently still hadn't recovered from the shock and was now being comforted by her children, Fred and George acting serious for once.

'Well, then just don't tell her?'

Harry was desperate. Sirius clearly wanted to tell him, and no one was going to ruin it, not even Mrs Weasley.

A devious smirk appeared on Sirius' lips.

'We'll go tell you, then—'

'But—' Harry and Hermione protested together, neither wanting Harry to leave his best friends in the dark.

'—and, if you wish your friends to know, you can tell them later.'

Harry calmed down considerably and followed the two adults into an unused bedroom after sending a reassuring glance at Hermione, letting her know that he would tell her and Ron everything. Harry sat down uncertainly on the bed, making dust puff up around him. The way Sirius and Lupin's faces had turned serious as soon as they entered was slightly unnerving, but he relaxed considerably when Sirius sat down beside him and slapped his back as if to say, 'It will be alright.'

'So? What is it?'

'Wait a minute,' Lupin waved his wand at the door and drew up a chair to sit across from them. At Harry's questioning gaze, he elaborated, 'Privacy charms. So no one hears us.'

'Oh,' Harry nodded dumbly. It made sense. 'So? What is it?'

Sirius took a deep breath, making Harry's previous relaxation disappear. He was starting to wonder if he was better off not knowing, with the way all the adults talked about it as if it was some knowledge that was going to doom them all.

'Basically, right after you were born, a prophecy was made. It said that a boy born at the end of July to parents who defied Voldemort three times would be the one who can defeat him, that Voldemort would mark him as his equal, but he'd have a power he knows not, and that "either must die at the hands of the other, for neither can live while the other survives".'

Sirius stopped, waiting for Harry to digest what he'd told him so far. Harry didn't like where this was going so far. He had an inkling of whom said prophecy was referring to, and it was not at all comforting. But then again, even knowing that Voldemort was out to get him because of a prophecy wouldn't change the fact that he was out to get him and wouldn't stop until one of them died. So it really wasn't all that surprising.

'Right, well, the prophecy was made to Dumbledore, but Voldemort's spy heard the first half and told him. There were two boys who fit the prophecy's criteria — you and Neville Longbottom.'

That elicited a shocked gasp from Harry. Neville could have been the Boy-Who-Lived? As much as Harry liked Neville, he really couldn't imagine the shy boy defeating Voldemort...Still, he wondered what his life would have been like if it was Neville. Would his parents have been alive? Or would they have simply swapped lives, Neville's parents being dead and his locked away at Saint Mungo's? There were so many possibilities, so many "what-if"s...

'Don't dwell on what could have been, Harry,' said Lupin, as though he knew what Harry was thinking. 'Focus on the present.'

Harry nodded numbly. Realising that Sirius was expecting some sort of verbal confirmation from him, he said, 'Continue.'

'Voldemort chose to go after you, so James and Lily went into hiding. Then, um, it happened and you were left with this.'

Sirius touched Harry's scar.

'Dumbledore thinks that this is how he marked you as his equal, by giving you this scar and some of his powers. Granted, Dumbledore also thinks that your power is love,' Sirius snorted derisively, 'so I don't know how true that is. It could be just that he marked you the moment he chose to go after you.'

'My mum's love kept me alive, though,' Harry pointed out, 'and Voldemort hadn't thought of that, so maybe that could be the power.'

'Let's not worry about what the prophecy means,' Lupin interrupted. 'Dumbledore also said that prophecies don't always come to pass, it doesn't define your whole life.'

'Yes, but Voldemort's heard it so he's going to keep chasing after Harry until one of them dies,' Sirius snapped. Harry got the feeling that his godfather was more worried about the whole thing than he let on.

'Well, then we just have to make sure that it's Voldemort and not me. Will you guys help me train?'

Lupin and Sirius both stared at Harry.

'What?'

He shifted uncomfortably.

'So you're not at all worried?' asked Sirius, concern lacing his voice.

'I am, but it's not like this changes anything. He's hell-bent on killing me, knowing why won't change that. And even if it wasn't for the prophecy, I defeated him as a baby. He's going to want revenge.'

'True,' said Lupin, nodding along with Sirius. 'There's one more thing you need to know, though.'

'What?'

'Voldemort's found out that there's a second half and now he's trying to get to the prophecy to hear it.'

Now that was news to Harry. So that was what the "guard duty" he'd heard them talk about was about? They were guarding the prophecy. Harry didn't know how a prophecy could be guarded, but perhaps there was a recording of it somewhere that Voldemort was trying to get to.'

'But, since we all know both halves, why not just destroy it?'

'Well, you know what Dumbledore's standing with the ministry is right now, right?'

'The whole "liar" thing? Yes.'

'Well, that's the reason we can't. Any other day, Dumbledore might have been allowed to just stride into the Department of Mysteries, which is where the prophecy is, and destroy it, but not now. So, we're reduced to simply guarding it and hoping that Voldemort doesn't get it.'

It was clear by Sirius' voice that he wasn't happy with the current arrangement, and Harry had to wonder how many other actions of the Order he disagreed with. It sounded like Sirius had only joined to feel useful. It wasn't like he had any part in their plans anyway, with his current predicament. Well, with luck, that would all change soon.

'Is there anything else you need to know?'

'Why did Voldemort choose me?'

That was the only thing that was really troubling him. By no means would he wish his fate on Neville, or on anyone else really, but he still needed to know what it was that made Voldemort decide to ruin his life instead of Neville's.

Sirius seemed to hesitate before answering.

'Dumbledore thinks that it's because you're a half-blood just like him, so closer to being his "equal".'

Harry knew that something was being left unsaid.

'And what do you think?'

Lupin shot a glance at Sirius and took over.

'You see, Harry, while Frank and Alice were both very good fighters, James and Lily were some of the most powerful fighters there were. Plus, James' father, Fleamont, worked against Voldemort before he died and was quite a formidable wizard, too. The Potter family as a whole openly opposed Voldemort — unlike the Longbottoms, who preferred to work on the plans and such. James and Lily probably took down more Death Eaters than anyone else in the Order. So for Voldemort, going after you would be killing two birds with one stone, since he was planning to kill your parents as well.'

'But then why would Voldemort tell my mom to step aside?'

'What do you mean? How would you know that?'

'He hears James and Lily's last words when the dementors get close,' Lupin answered softly. Sirius froze. After a moment, he cleared his throat and asked hoarsely, 'What did they say?'

Seeing Harry hesitate, he backtracked immediately, 'It's fine if you don't want to tell me – it must be a sensitive subject for you – oh, Merlin, what am I saying—'

'It's fine, Sirius. I'll tell you.'

Harry braced himself and recited his parents' last moments. The fact that the only time he could remember being with his parents was seconds before their deaths hurt, but offered a strange comfort at the same time, knowing that they'd loved him enough to die for him.

'My dad yelled, 'Lily, take Harry and go! Run! I'll hold him off!', then a lot of shuffling noises, then Voldemort burst in and told my mother to stand aside. She refused and asked him to spare me. He continued arguing with with her, telling her to give me up, but she didn't budge. She asked him to have mercy on me, to kill her instead. So he killed her and then turned his wand on me, then a load of green light, high-pitched laughter and that's it.'

Sirius' eyes were overly bright. Harry looked away, giving his godfather a moment of privacy while making it seem like he was too upset to look at them. And he was upset, but he hadn't known his parents nearly well enough to miss them specifically. He missed his parents, not James and Lily Potter, even though, from what he'd been told, they'd been amazing people.

'Harry...I'm sorry. It must be horrible.'

Sirius didn't say anything else, but Harry understood him anyway. He shrugged.

'It's not that bad. I mean, it's not like I knew them personally and it happened ages ago...Must be worse for you.'

Sirius opened his mouth, but Lupin, who wasn't looking all that comfortable either, cut in, 'Let's not argue over who's got it worse. Anyway, that does change a lot, Harry.'

'So why'd you think he did it then?'

Lupin looked up to the ceiling thoughtfully.

'Well, he didn't offer your father the same option, and I really think he'd rather keep the pure-blood alive than the muggle-born, so it could be that someone asked him to spare Lily. Sirius, you remember that friendship Severus had with Lily?'

That was news to Harry. Snape and his mum had been friends? He suddenly remembered his aunt telling them where she'd heard about dementors from and wondered if by "that boy" she'd meant Snape. From the way she talked, it sounded like she hadn't approved of their friendship. But then, his aunt didn't approve of anything related to his mum and magic.

'I do, but what – wait a minute. You think it was him? Oh, please,' said Sirius with a snort, 'Snivelly was too devoted to his Dark Lord. Besides, didn't they have a fight in fifth year?'

'They did, but still, maybe he never got over her. You remember how in love with her he was.'

Snape had loved his mum? Now that was just gross. Harry imagined himself with Snape's greasy hair and shuddered. "Harry Snape" wasn't a name that rolled off the tongue either. To his left, he saw Sirius looking similarly revolted and wondered how he and Remus had even found out. Snape really didn't seem like the type to talk about his feelings openly with anyone, much less his school rivals.

He decided to just listen for now and see how much more he could get out of them. That way of getting information had certainly worked well at the Dursleys'.

'Still doesn't change anything. Why else would he tell Voldemort the prophecy?'

'WHAT?!'

Harry was barely aware that he'd jumped to his feet as he stared at Sirius incredulously.

'You mean that – that greasy haired old shit is the reason my parents are dead?! And he's still a teacher?! How the fuck does Dumbledore still trust him?!'

He felt rage boiling up inside of him and for a moment he wanted to murder Snape just as much as he wanted to murder Wormtail. Perhaps his offence wasn't as great as Wormtail's, but he'd still played a part in his parents' deaths, and Harry had no doubt that Snape had done it on purpose; Snape loathed his dad, after all, Harry wouldn't put it past him to murder him in any way possible.

'Exactly my point! I really don't know what everyone sees in the git, he murdered James and Lily! If I had my way—'

'Calm down!' Lupin said loudly and Harry, who had opened his mouth furiously to continue ranting, closed it, but didn't sit back down. 'Sirius, Severus didn't mean to—'

'Yes, he bloody well did, Remus, you know that as well as I do! He hates James with a passion—'

'And you know as well as I do that he loves Lily! Do you really think he would have let her die?'

'Well, maybe not her, but he was all for letting James and Harry die! And don't you think his obsession with a dead woman is a little unsettling?'

'Just like your obsession with James?'

Sirius closed his mouth and glared at Lupin.

'You know that's different.'

'Different how, Sirius? You lost a friend, he lost a friend too.'

'I'm not oh so in love with him, though, am I? Stop comparing me to that git.'

Harry's resolve was wavering, though. Snape may have told Voldemort the prophecy, but if what Lupin had said was true, then he'd made a mistake — just like Sirius had made a mistake by suggesting Wormtail. Everyone made mistakes. Still, Harry wasn't willing to just let it go like that. He'd have to confront Snape later, as daunting as the thought was.

'Not until you see sense. You remember how Snape had apologised for setting Voldemort on James and Lily at that Order meeting. You think it was fake?'

'I—'

'Sirius,' Harry interrupted quietly, gaining Sirius' attention. 'you should give him a chance.'

'What? But how can you say that, Harry, knowing what he's done?'

'I'm not telling you to forgive him and be besties. Just give him a chance. He may have made a mistake, we all do. If I were to blame him for their deaths, then by that logic, I could also blame you.'

Sirius looked like he wanted to say something, but held himself back. Harry wondered if he was going to bring up the fact that he blamed himself again, which led to him wondering how hard he'd have to hit Sirius to beat it out of him. He winced at the phrase, being reminded of how his uncle also liked to "beat it out" of people. Namely, him.

'How about I confront him when I get to Hogwarts, and we'll see then?'

'Harry, I don't think that's a good idea—'

'Professor, please. What can go wrong? And it'll help me come to terms with everything.'

With a sigh, Lupin relented, 'Fine. And cut it out with the Professor business, I'm Remus to you, Harry.'

'Okay then...Remus,' Harry answered, the name feeling foreign on his tongue. Remus smiled warmly and added with a mischievous smirk, 'Or you could call me Uncle Moony, like your father tried to make you do when you were a baby.'

They all laughed, both Harry and Sirius feeling much calmer now, the prophecy all but forgotten.

'So, is there anything else you need to know in regards to what we've told you?'

Well, not quite. Harry thought for a moment and asked, 'Why did Dumbledore keep it from me for so long? And if he thinks that Voldemort won't rest until one of us is dead, then why didn't he give me any training?'

Sirius and Remus exchanged glances before Remus answered, 'He – er – thinks that you deserve to have a normal childhood.'

Fury blossomed in Harry's chest anew, and before he could stop himself, he bit out, 'He thinks that I had a normal childhood? That I ever even had a childhood? Oh yeah, with my parents dead and my relatives abusing me, not to mention the shitload of stuff I've had to go through at his school, very fucking normal childhood!'

'Harry...They abuse you?'

Harry realised what he'd done and cursed in his head. Why couldn't he just keep his mouth shut when he was angry? Not bearing to look at Sirius and Remus' faces, he turned on his heel and fled the room like the true and proud Gryffindor that he was.

He found himself face to face with Ron and Hermione frowning at him worriedly. He ignored their questioning looks and pushed past them, heading for the library, resolving himself to another night spent studying. He certainly wasn't going to come out until at least tomorrow, despite not having even had lunch yet. He was used to hunger and being locked up in one place, though, so he could handle it.

He was in the middle of a particularly difficult chapter of a guide to Potions that proved to be only slightly harder than the guide to defence that he'd found when he felt a weight settle in on the arm of his armchair. Harry looked up to see that it was Hermione, holding a plate of sandwiches as she read interestedly over his shoulder. She felt his gaze on her and blushed.

'I brought you lunch,' she said simply. Harry took the plate from her and bit into a sandwich gratefully. This was precisely why he loved his bushy-haired bookish best friend. Unlike him and Ron, her emotional tact was on point, and she seemed to always know what to say and do.

'It was bad, wasn't it?'

Harry swallowed the contents of his mouth and paused as he pondered how to answer her. Eventually, he said, 'Well, I wouldn't call it bad, more like...unsettling. I mean, I'd known what it meant even before knowing it existed, if that makes sense.'

It did to Hermione, apparently, as she nodded while biting her lip calculatingly. Knowing his best friend, Harry wouldn't be surprised if she figured out that it was a prophecy within the next twenty-four hours.

'So then why did you run away like that?'

And there it was — the inevitable inquiry.

'Because I accidentally told them something that I shouldn't have?'

His explanation came out as more of a question, as he wasn't sure if Hermione was going to accept it. Hermione apparently did, as she asked, 'It was about your relatives, wasn't it?'

Whatever Harry had been expecting, it wasn't that. In his shock, all he managed to do was blurt out, 'How did you know?' without bothering to clarify if he was asking her how she knew that it was about his relatives or what they had done to him.

Hermione answered both questions anyway, saying, 'You always make up excuses or change the subject when they come up. And Ron told me that when they went to rescue you in the summer of 1992, there were bars on your window, a cat flap and multiple locks on your door and a belt and a paper with "Harry's room" written on it in the cupboard under the stairs. Normal relatives, even the most strict ones, don't do that, Harry.'

Harry was unable to do much more than nod numbly and wish that he could sink through the floor and disappear. The sandwich he was holding crumbled to the floor, his hand going slack as he sat there, frozen, unsure of what to do.

'Why didn't you tell anyone? If you'd have told a teacher, they would have called a social worker to check on your house. You'd have been out of there in no time.'

As always with Hermione, there was no use in staying quiet or lying, as she would see through it all anyway, so Harry answered, while playing with his sleeves, 'I did. Didn't work, the Dursleys lied to the worker and made me out to be a lying ungrateful brat. The teacher didn't like me much after that either. And it only made them more angry with me.'

The implications behind his last sentence were left unsaid, though Hermione had undoubtedly figured it out, judging by the way her eyes filled with tears – and pity. Or compassion, more accurately, though he wasn't really sure of the difference between the two. That was new. Harry wasn't yet sure if it was a good thing, but it sure as hell was an improvement from the others' reactions. He smiled slightly and said, 'I'm so glad to have you, Hermione.'

Her features softened.

'I'm glad to have you, too, Harry. But where did that come from?'

'You're the first person not to laugh at me and call me weak or a liar,' he clarified. Hermione's eyes widened.

'But...Did Sirius and Professor Lupin...?'

'I didn't see them, but I'm sure they did,' he muttered bitterly. 'Everyone I've ever told has laughed and called me weak or a lying schizophrenic.'

Hermione's brows moved into a scowl and her eyes gained a dangerous glint. Harry didn't know if she was angry at him or not. He hoped it was the latter. Unlike with pity, anger was definitely a negative reaction in his book.

'And how many people have you told, may I ask?'

He struggled to remember everyone he'd told the truth, or at least part of it.

'Someone whom I considered a friend in primary, that teacher and a neighbour. Ron knows some parts of their treatment of me too, but he probably thinks it's just a Muggle thing, as do his brothers. They haven't said anything, anyway.'

'Well, get it into your thick head then, Harry Potter, that those people were idiots and don't deserve to even say your name. Got it?'

So, she wasn't angry at him then, but rather on his behalf. A warm feeling blossomed in Harry's chest and, were he a bit more...sensitive, he might have cried in happiness. But alas, Harry was a fifteen year old boy and couldn't remember the last time he'd so much as let a tear out, so he simply moved over and patted the seat next to him, wrapping an arm around Hermione's shoulders when she sat down.

'Thanks, Hermione. You're the best friend ever.'

'You too, Harry. Now, what were you reading before I came in?'

Harry laughed and passed his book to Hermione as he picked up the remains of his sandwich and threw them into the nearest bucket that looked like a centuries-old trash can.

'Wow, Harry, this is actually pretty good,' said Hermione, looking impressed. 'Where did you get this? I've been looking through the library in my spare time, but all I've found so far are books on being a "proper" pure-blood, and frankly, some of the prejudices I've seen are disgusting.'

'I found it in the back, not too far from the sitting area. Haven't you looked there?'

'No, I wanted to tackle it from the beginning.'

Knowing Hermione, "tackle" meant that she was reading every single book there was. Harry shook his head fondly. He just hoped that she didn't come across any cursed books, because he really wouldn't put it past a family of people like the Walburga Black he'd seen (and heard, unfortunately) to have curses on every possible thing. A thought occurred to him and he groaned.

'Do I have to leave this place then? You know, to see how Sirius and Remus really react.'

'It's your choice,' Hermione shrugged, 'But I'd go if I were you. If they don't think you're lying, then they're probably worried sick right now.'

Harry nodded. It made sense. He now felt bad for worrying them. It seemed that, no matter what he did, someone always ended up upset. Why was he like this?

'And if they do,' Hermione added, slipping into an angry scowl again, 'then I'll have more time to prepare to hex them to oblivion and back.'

'You know we're not allowed to do magic,' he pointed out. 'You'll only get to attend the hearing with me.'

'Well, actually,' said Hermione, her eyes lighting up mischievously, 'while I was looking through this place, I found a book on the laws of the wizarding world and found a most interesting passage in the chapter related to offences made by underage humans. Apparently, the Trace isn't tied to you or your wand, but rather to where you live. Basically, as long as there's another of-age magical recorded as having lived at your place of residence, you can do magic and you'll get away with it because they'll just assume that it was them and not you.'

Harry struggled to comprehend what this all meant, but frowned when he realised what it meant for muggle-borns.

'But that's unfair, isn't it? It means that—'

'It only affects people like me,' Hermione nodded sadly. Harry could see that she was upset over having to spend her holidays at her friends' place to practise magic. He grinned as he realised that it meant that he could now do magic at Grimmauld Place. He wouldn't have to limit himself to theory while he studied!

'Evanesco!'

With a wave of his wand, he Vanished his sandwich, accidentally vanishing the bin it was in along with it.

'...Oops?'

Hermione sighed and grabbed his hand.

'Your wand motion wasn't too far off, but you're poking and it's supposed to be more of a jab.'

She then traced the correct wand motion and Vanished a nearby tissue. Harry shook her hand off and tried again, this time succeeding.

'Wow, thanks, Hermione. Any chance you could help me with my other spells?'

There was no mistaking the gleeful smile that spread on her face as she worked through the first year spells with him. Luckily, there weren't many of those and soon they were done. Harry was slightly ashamed to realise that he'd been doing many first year spells wrong, but Hermione was patient with him, not at all like she usually was. But then, they were at home, where she was much less stressed than at Hogwarts.

Harry only feared that he wouldn't get to use even those easy spells after the 12th. Hermione saw him frown and placed a hand on his shoulder.

'Harry, relax. You'll be fine. I've looked it up and there's no way they can expel you.'

'If you say so, Hermione.'

He grimaced as he remembered the prophecy.

'About what they told me—'

'You don't have to tell us if you don't want to.'

'I do want to, but I just feel like – like it's somehow dangerous if you knew. Like Voldemort might come after you to—'

To find out the second half, but saying that would lead to telling Hermione about the prophecy, and Harry wasn't sure he wanted to anymore.

'To get information?'

He nodded, his insides going cold at the thought of Hermione being tortured for information. If Voldemort wanted something badly, it was practically impossible to stop him, and he might use Harry or his friends to get to it, as that seemed like a very Voldemort thing to do. And then it would all be Harry's fault. He knew that Hermione wouldn't agree to stop being friends with him to stay safe, though, so he didn't say anything.

'Well, if you ever do decide to tell us, I promise that I won't tell them anything.'

As he took in the stubborn set of her jaw and the fierce glint in her eyes, Harry wished he didn't have to make such a difficult choice.

'I – can I think about it for a bit?'

'Yeah, sure, take your time, Harry.'

Hermione stayed silent for a moment, and Harry could see that she was thinking about something, judging by the way she worried her lip and twirled a strand of hair around her finger. But then, when was Hermione ever not thinking?

Suddenly, her eyes lit up in something akin to realisation and she asked, 'Harry, Sirius said something about an "anti-Dumbledore rant" earlier today. Care to explain?'

'Well, I wouldn't call it an anti-Dumbledore rant, more like criticism. I – er – wasn't too happy with the Headmaster's actions over the summer — you know, the whole letter thing and keeping me in the dark — that piece of information I just got told is pretty important – not to mention sending me to the Dursleys every summer – well, I think you can understand why I'd be angry with him. That's not to say I don't respect him, he's a great man, but...' he made a half-hearted gesture with his hand, hoping that Hermione wouldn't tell him off for disrespecting authority.

'That doesn't mean you have to approve of everything he does,' Hermione finished for him. He nodded. 'You're not going to go wage war on him for it though, right?' she asked worriedly. 'He's still a good man, he's just made mistakes.'

'Good heavens, no,' Harry answered while privately wondering when the line between mistakes and deliberate harm had become so blurred. 'Even if I did want to do that, Dumbledore's the most powerful wizard alive, while I'm just Harry. I wouldn't have stood a chance.'

He noticed that Hermione was eyeing him with a weird look on her face and asked, 'What?'

'Nothing. Now, do you want to come down yet?'

Harry looked at his watch, but then remembered that it was still broken since the Second Task and cast a Time-Telling Charm, which showed that it was almost time for dinner.

'Can I go down after dinner, when everyone's going to be asleep? I don't want the others overhearing something like that.'

Hermione nodded understandingly and stood up.

'I'll bring you dinner, too, then.'

'You don't have to—'

'But I want to,' she interrupted and left the room, leaving a smiling Harry in her wake.

...

Harry bit into another brownie and closed his eyes in delight. He was taking advantage of the fact that everyone was expecting him to be extremely upset, and he knew it. It meant that he could finally have some alone time, with no one to disturb him but Hermione, whom he didn't mind anyway. Come to think of it, he valued Ron more for some reason, even though it was Hermione who had been there for him when he'd needed her more.

Like when his name had come out of the Goblet.

Harry noticed what he was doing and pushed the negative thoughts away. He'd forgiven Ron, so why bring up the past? And besides, Ron had gone with him to protect the Philosopher's Stone, opened his house to him, followed him down into the Chamber, told Sirius that if he wanted to kill Harry, he'd have to kill all three of them, and a pile of other good things. Harry really had no reason to be questioning their friendship at all.

He cast the Time-Telling Charm again and sighed as he realised that it was almost eleven o'clock. Hermione had gone back downstairs and subtly hinted at everyone to go to sleep, so that Harry could be left alone with Sirius and Remus. Boy, was he dreading the upcoming conversation. Still, he knew it had to happen, and he'd rather it be sooner than later.

Thus, Harry found himself walking down the stairs, wincing as one of the steps creaked (he'd have to remember which one it was) and hurrying the rest of the way so as not to be seen. Luckily for him, Mrs Weasley was still shocked enough that she hadn't questioned his absence at the dinner table, or so Hermione had told him. He reached the kitchen door and was about to knock when he heard muffled voices that could only belong to Sirius and Remus having an argument. So, Harry decided to wait and listen instead.

'Sirius, I know you're upset, but drinking isn't the way to—'

'Oh, shut it, Remus.'

Sirius' voice was ever so slightly slurred, but he sounded as if he was still in control of himself. Harry heard glass clinking and could only assume that his godfather had poured himself another one of...whatever he was drinking. Though, knowing the wizarding world's lack of originality, it was bound to be Firewhiskey.

'You know you're only proving your mother's predictions at the moment, right?'

Remus' tone sounded torn between amusement and compassion. Sirius laughed, a hollow sound that made Harry wonder if he only pretended to be happy for his sake. Well, it was most likely true. One didn't go through what Sirius had gone through to remain a happy person afterwards.

'What predictions? The one where she said I would grow up to be a jobless moneyless drunk and have to rely on Mudbloods to not become homeless?'

Harry winced at the slur. Sirius' mum sounded more and more like a bitter stuck-up cow each day, and this was only his second day here.

Remus seemingly didn't know what to say to that, so instead he asked, 'Sirius, what would Harry think if he saw you like this?'

What would Harry think? Curse his thoughts for being so jumbled up.

'Oh, don't start with the "role-model" rubbish. You know I lost any chance of being someone Harry could look up to the day I suggested the switch.'

Harry vowed to tell Sirius how much he looked up to him and appreciated him as soon as he next saw him. Well, maybe not right away, they'd have to sort out the thing with his relatives first.

Remus was quiet for a moment.

'You know, Sirius, I think you're focusing too much on yourself here, and less on the big picture. You want to keep wallowing in your self-pity so bad you won't even consider the possibility that—'

'Oh, so now I'm an attention-seeker, am I?'

Sirius' voice was rough and heated. Harry realised that this was a unique chance to find out what Sirius actually thought when he said he was "fine" and "didn't blame himself" and cast a Silencing Charm on himself to make sure he wouldn't be heard. It felt rather like reading someone's diary.

'I didn't say that.'

'Well, you thought it!'

'Sirius, calm down. You're not thinking clearly.'

'So you think I'm not right in the head?'

Harry hoped that this highly-offended version of his godfather only came out when he was drunk, because right now, he was acting like a girl during those days. He shuddered as an image of an overly-emotional Hermione came to mind.

'Well, considering you spent almost twelve years in Azkaban and never got a chance to move on from losing James—'

'Look, Remus, I know I'm messed up, but you don't have to rub it in like that.'

'I'm not "rubbing it in", I'm just telling you to stop focusing on yourself — stop making everything about you! Just because you're depressed, grieving and whatever other label you can put on yourself, doesn't mean you're the only one!'

Sirius made a noise of protest. Harry thought that what Remus had said was out of line, but then, he didn't know the full story. Perhaps Remus' words had some truth in them, after all.

'Look around, we're in the middle of a war! Yes, you have issues, but other people do too, so stop acting like no one understands you! Loads of people can relate – I can – I bet Harry can too—'

Harry shifted uncomfortably at being brought into this conversation. He didn't like it when people discussed him behind his back.

He heard a slam and a frustrated cry.

'That's the thing! I wish Harry didn't have to relate to me – I wish none of you did – and I'm part of the reason why he can—'

Harry clenched his fingers. Was his constant blaming himself for Cedric's death this annoying? He resolved to try and not blame himself anymore, if it left people feeling as frustrated and helpless as he was feeling now.

'No, you're not, Sirius! You didn't kill his parents, so stop blaming yourself!'

'Fine, Remus! I did not kill James and Lily! There, I said it, happy now? It still doesn't change the fact that I let him be sent to those horrid Muggles – I stood there and watched as Hagrid took him away – I even offered my motorbike – and all because I cared about revenge more than I cared about him!'

Harry winced. He had thought about this for a fairly long time – he just couldn't understand how anyone would give up their godson for the piece of filth that Wormtail was – but Sirius clearly regretted it and cared about him immensely, and he didn't know the full story anyway, so he forgave him.

'You asked Hagrid to give him to you, did you not?'

So that was what had really happened. Harry felt his mouth break out into a smile. Sirius hadn't given him up after all. I knew there was more to it!

'Yeah, but what does it matter? I still let him be sent there. I'm a terrible godfather.'

'You're not, you've just...made mistakes. We all do.'

'Well, I've made far too many. Not to mention today, when I found that his relatives abuse him and did absolutely nothing.'

Harry smiled and sighed in relief. Looking back, the notion that Sirius might even consider reacting like the others was ridiculous, and Harry felt a bit guilty for thinking of his godfather in such a way. And judging by the way Remus talked, he didn't think anything of the sort either.

'What were you supposed to do? We were both shocked.'

'Well, I could have at least said something! Judging by his reaction, no one's ever told him anything good! And now he thinks that I'm finding the whole thing funny, or think he's weak, or he's lying, or some other such rubbish!'

Harry froze. How did Sirius know what he had been thinking?

'How do you know that?' asked Remus, echoing Harry's thoughts. 'Maybe he reacted like that because he didn't want to worry us. You know how he is.'

'Because I know how abused children think! Maybe he didn't want to worry us, but that didn't warrant such a reaction. He would have started apologising, not ran away.'

'And how do you know how abused children think, Sirius?'

Remus' voice was strange. Sirius stayed quiet for a moment before sighing and snapping, 'Because I've been there, all right? Now can you please stop interrogating me?'

Harry almost fell over in his shock. Sirius had been abused too? Walburga Black did seem like the type of person to abuse their son. He felt himself being filled with compassion towards his godfather. If Sirius' time at home had been anything like Harry's at the Dursleys', then it was no wonder he had run away. Thank God for Hogwarts being a 10-month-long boarding school.

'Sirius, I knew your family wasn't exactly nice, but this...Why didn't you tell us? And how bad was it?'

'James found out when I showed up half-dead on his doorstep, but I made him promise not to tell any of you guys. I didn't want to worry you, and it wasn't that bad. All they ever did was withhold meals, lock me in my room and take turns in hexing me occasionally, it's not half as bad as some people have it. And I learned healing magic early on, so it was fine. I don't have any lasting scars anyway, at least not from them.'

Sirius' abuse mirrored Harry's own, except for the magic, Harry realised. As horrible as he felt for Sirius, some part of him couldn't help but be excited at having someone to relate to. His friends were amazing, but it really wasn't the same as having someone who could actually understand.

'Not that bad?! Sirius, you—'

'Yes, Remus, not that bad! See, this is why I didn't tell you, because I knew you'd react like this! I'm fine, it happened years ago, there's no need to overreact!'

'I''m not overreacting, we both know that being in this house is affecting you badly. You're having nightmares – yes, Sirius, I know you are – you sometimes look as if you're about to have a panic attack, especially around your room, which I frankly don't even know why you're still using, and I've seen you have obvious flashbacks. You're not fine.'

That was even more news to Harry, and he wondered how much more he would be able to find out if he turned eavesdropping into a habit. His heart also ached for Sirius, being able to understand and relate only making it more painful. He promised to himself that he would find a way to fix his godfather, whatever it took. And maybe fix himself along the way.

'Whatever, Remus, I'm going to turn in.'

There was a scraping of a chair on the stone floor and steps sounded. Harry looked around frantically, trying to find somewhere to hide, but didn't see anything and cursed himself for forgetting his Invisibility Cloak and not coming up with a backup plan as the door opened and he came face to face with Sirius, whose eyebrows raised in surprise. Harry went red immediately and started stuttering, but Sirius waved him away and said, 'Come in, then.'

Numbly, Harry followed Sirius back into the kitchen and sat down on the other end of the table, not at all oblivious to the looks that Sirius and Remus were now trading. Eventually, Sirius sat down beside Remus, who discreetly sent some kind of charm at him – probably a Sobering Charm, judging by the way his eyes cleared – and they both turned to regard Harry. He shivered under their imposing gazes, wondering how anyone's expression could look so unreadable while also clearly showing what they were feeling at the moment.

'So.'

Harry felt a swooping feeling in his chest. Even if he could deal with Sirius and Remus knowing about the abuse he'd suffered at the hands of his aunt and uncle, now he'd been caught eavesdropping. It was a wonder he wasn't being yelled at yet, never mind...something worse.

'So?'

His voice came out slightly high-pitched, and he wondered if it was normal for him to be more terrified of his godfather and his father's friend than Voldemort. Well, as normal as he could get, considering he was Harry Potter.

'Talk.'

His godfather went straight to the point, not at all like his usual self, getting side-tracked constantly and sometimes forgetting what he was supposed to be talking about. Harry realised that this was his first time seeing this version of Sirius. He had yet to decide if it was good for him or not; if he was threatened, as sad as it was for him to have to worry about being threatened by someone who was family in all but blood (and probably blood too, considering that the pureblood families were all interrelated, if the tapestry he had seen in the drawing room was to be believed).

Sirius and Remus' expectant stares brought Harry out of his musings and he took a deep shuddering breath, scowling at himself internally. Seriously, if he kept getting lost in his head like that, then perhaps the Daily Prophet's portrayal of him as a psychopath had some merit to it.

But what was he supposed to say? With any other person, Harry would have played dumb or worn his "I'm-fine" mask, but he knew that would not work here. They were clearly expecting him to tell the truth — so then, why not do just that? He knew how to defend himself after all, in case he turned out to be mistaken and one of them (or both) actually got violent with him, as unlikely as it was.

'Yes, they abuse me,' said Harry, fighting to keep his voice as impassive as possible. 'It's nothing serious, though, and they almost never get physical, unless I really piss them off, specifically Uncle Vernon.'

Sirius gritted his teeth and Remus let out a very wolf-like growl, but they both stayed quiet and so Harry took this as his cue to continue, realising that they wouldn't rest until they got as much detail as possible anyway.

'As a child, my room was a small cupboard under the stairs. I would get locked there for the slightest misdeed, and even for things that weren't my fault. Almost everything in the house got blamed on me, so I was in there quite often. Depending on the seriousness of my supposed transgression, my stay in the cupboard would last for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, though they only locked me in for more than a day when I didn't have school. I was only let out for bathroom breaks and such.'

'But...they fed you, right?' asked Remus.

'Yeah, I still got normal meals — well, what they thought was normal for a "freak", anyway. It's not like they could outright starve me, someone at the school would notice. Not that they didn't still make me as thin as a child could reasonably be,' he added darkly. 'They also made me do chores as soon as I could walk, and I had to learn to cook for all of them when I turned six. It's fine, though, I like cooking.'

Unless I'm cooking for a fat walrus. There was a loud smashing sound as Sirius' glass broke, spilling it's contents on his shirt. Harry had to suppress a laugh as he was reminded of Aunt Marge, even as revulsion at comparing his godfather to that woman settled in. Remus waved his wand absently, cleaning the mess, and Harry had to admire his ability to do magic without having to focus. Someday, he vowed, he would be able to do that too.

'Right, well, I was moved out of my cupboard when my Hogwarts letters started coming because my aunt and uncle were freaked out by them knowing my exact address. They toned it down after that, no doubt scared that I'd tell someone and get them cursed, or even curse them myself. That didn't stop them from putting five different locks on my door and bars on my window and feeding me through a cat flap in the summer of 1992, though.'

Sirius let out a strangled sound. Harry felt bad for him. He imagined what would happen if he found out that Ron or Hermione was being abused and shuddered. Plus, Sirius had gone through it himself, so Harry's predicament was probably very personal to him.

'They gave up on the locks after Ron, Fred and George broke me out, though,' Harry grinned in spite of the moment, remembering the day, or rather, night. If that wasn't true friendship and devotion, he didn't know what was.

'And, well, yeah,' he finished lamely, 'now, they simply make me do chores and hit me occasionally, nothing you should be worried about. I'm sure even normal parents hit their children sometimes too.'

'How hard do they hit you, Harry?'

They'd seemingly decided that Remus would be the one asking the questions, something Harry thought wise, as Sirius didn't look like he could talk without yelling and swearing at the moment. His expressions seemed to range between anger and guilt, and Harry once again felt guilt of his own for making his godfather go through that. If only he'd kept his mouth shut...Well, at least Sirius wasn't turning purple like Uncle Vernon had a tendency to do.

As Harry answered Remus' question, he waved a hand dismissively, 'Not hard at all, and it's not like they full on beat me, just the occasional slap and punch or push. It was worse when I was a child, but now, I don't think their behaviour could even be counted as abuse.' With a smile, he added, 'Not since I threatened them with a convicted mass murderer.'

While under any other circumstances, this would have garnered a smile or a smirk, now, Sirius simply sat there, ashen faced and looking as though he might keel over any second. Harry shifted in his seat, painfully aware that the silence was quickly turning awkward. Well, if it wasn't awkward before, anyway.

A few minutes passed and neither Sirius, nor Remus had made a single sound. Harry cleared his throat.

'Well?'

Remus blinked rapidly as if to shake himself out of his thoughts and nudged Sirius, who immediately blurted out, 'I'm sorry.'

'It's not your fault, Sirius.' Seeing that Sirius was about to protest, Harry added, 'Blame Wormtail and Voldemort. Well, and my relatives for being such heartless pricks.'

'Still, I'm sorry for not trying harder to get you out of there. If I'd known that they treat you this way, I'd have—'

'It doesn't matter anymore.' Harry was desperate to make his godfather see sense and stop this extremely uncomfortable conversation. He'd never been good with accepting apologies, especially if they were undeserved. 'Really, don't beat yourself up for it. I don't blame you for anything, so you shouldn't blame yourself as well. And that goes for you, too, Remus.'

Remus closed his mouth abruptly and gave a half-smile, while Sirius just nodded, though he still didn't look reassured. Still, it was better than him apologising constantly, so Harry considered that progress. He plastered a small smile on his face and said, 'Thank you.'

'Harry,' Sirius found his voice, 'when I'm cleared...I'm getting you out of there.'

He didn't say anything else, but Harry understood him anyway and his grin widened. Perhaps Grimmauld Place wasn't the best of houses, but it was better than Privet Drive, and he didn't care where he went, anyway. And if Dumbledore decided to interfere, then so help him. Harry respected the man, but the thing about blood wards and his mother's sacrifice was rubbish, and he didn't think he'd ever forgive him for forcing him to stay with the Dursleys. No matter what reasons, there was never an excuse for keeping a child in an abusive home.

Both men stood up suddenly and hugged Harry, pulling him up and out of his chair, which fell to the floor with a crash. He felt his glasses slide off his nose and fall down, being caught in his hair and hanging limply by his face. This hug was undoubtedly less awkward than the one from yesterday, probably because Harry wasn't the one who initiated it.

He eventually wriggled out of the group hug and sat back down uncertainly, wondering where this conversation was going to go next. Sirius and Remus sat back down as well, both looking considerably more at ease now that the main issue had been solved. Harry wondered if they were expecting him to be somehow damaged emotionally, as he'd heard abused children sometimes were — like Sirius, who apparently had PTSD from being in his old house.

On cue, Remus asked, 'Harry, are you all right?'

'Look, I know you guys probably expect me to be messed up and all, but I'm really not.' Both adults sighed in relief, and Harry did too. This was one instance where he was glad they could read him so well, because it meant that they wouldn't walk on eggshells around him. 'You don't have to worry about me. The most they've done is make me particularly prone to trusting innocent convicted murderers after only about half an hour of knowing them.'

He and Sirius traded grins, though Sirius' was slightly hesitant.

'So how are we going to pay them back?'

'Huh?'

Sirius expected him to get revenge on the Dursleys? A younger Harry might have jumped at the opportunity, but now...

'Can't we just leave them alone?'

'What? But, Harry, after all they did—'

'Please, Sirius, I just want to forget them and move on. I'll be living here soon anyway, messing up their lives won't benefit me at all. They'll get their comeuppance one way or another, we don't have to be the ones to enact that justice. Plus, there's a chance that it will be traced back to us, and then we might get in trouble.'

'But—' Remus stomped on Sirius' foot, '—fine, but only because we might get in trouble and I don't want to go back to Azkaban again.' He pouted petulantly and added, 'I hate you both.'

Harry snorted. Remus smirked and sent a Stinging Hex at Sirius, who yelped and demanded angrily, 'What was that for?!'

'So you can have a legitimate reason to hate me.'

Sirius shook his head and gestured at Remus to Harry, 'See. Don't let his Professor-ness fool you, Harry. He's just as bad as the rest of us.'

Harry laughed and they fell into a comfortable silence, broken only by the two Marauders' occasional friendly bickering and Sirius summoning an elf (Kreacher, Harry learned it's name was) to get them all Butterbeers.

'Harry, do you cut?'

Harry spit out his Butterbeer. 'What?! I – where did you even get that from? Why would I do such a thing?'

He'd heard about people who injured themselves – had seen it even, on the arms of a few Hogwarts students – but couldn't understand why someone would do such a thing. Wasn't the pain others inflicted on them enough?

Remus, who had tensed immediately when the question had been asked, sighed in relief. Sirius looked down guiltily and fiddled with his sleeves, and Harry felt a pit grow in the bottom of his stomach. Surely, his godfather hadn't been one of them?

'Well, it's just – sometimes, people inflict physical pain on themselves—'

'I know that there is such a thing as self-harm,' Harry interrupted. 'What I don't understand is why on earth someone would harm themselves on top of what others already do to them.'

Sirius stilled and the haunted look in his eyes became more pronounced as he spoke, as though reciting something from a textbook, 'Everyone does it for a different reason. Some do it to feel in control. Some do it to distract themselves from the mental pain. Some do it because it calms them down. Some do it because they feel like they deserve it.'

'And you?' asked Remus shrewdly. At Sirius' flinch, he added, 'Oh, come on, Sirius, it's pretty damn obvious with how you're acting and how much you know. Why did you cut?'

Well, at least the pink, almost white, perpendicular lines that Harry had seen on Sirius' forearms now made sense. He'd always thought they were from Remus, despite the fact that werewolf scratches couldn't possibly be so straight and ordered. Sirius' explanation also opened his eyes. He still didn't understand why they couldn't just find something like a hobby to distract them instead, but he supposed that fully understanding self-harm came with experiencing it. In which case, let's pray that I never understand it.

Sirius gripped his can of Butterbeer so tight that some of the drink splashed out and his knuckles turned white as he explained, 'I did it because I'd heard loads of stories about people who did it and I felt like I had to do it as well, given my predicament at the time — like I was supposed to. Kind of like smoking, a lot of people did it in our sixth year and so I tried it as well – I'm just lucky that I didn't like it at all. Well, wiith time, I became addicted to cutting and it took losing my knife for me to snap out of it, but that's how I started.'

Harry supposed that made sense, though he didn't want to think about how often Sirius had heard about self-harm for him to decide that he had to do it as well. Not for the first time that night, sympathy for his godfather welled up in him. For them to drive him to cutting himself, the Blacks must have been truly horrible. At least the Dursleys ignored him most of the time, he couldn't imagine the Blacks giving Sirius the same courtesy.

Remus turned his head to look at Sirius properly, just a hint of curiousness in his gaze, and asked, 'Can you explain how none of us ever found out?'

Sirius shrugged. 'A mix of Glamour and Memory Charms.'

The confession was rather anti-climatic, certainly nothing like the shows Aunt Petunia liked to watch, which involved a lot of screaming and crying. Harry felt a shudder go through him at the reminder. The random thought that forcing someone to watch those shows for an hour would be worse than any detention popped through his head.

'You – why, you—' Remus raised his wand and fired off a curse that had Sirius falling from his chair. 'I could have lost my memory! Any of us! There's a reason why Obliviating is so restricted by the ministry, and you just—'

'Okay, okay, I'm sorry!' Sirius got up and Harry immediately stifled a laugh. 'What? What's wrong with me?'

Chuckling, Remus led Sirius over to the refrigerator — probably new, as Harry doubted that the Blacks would have resorted to something so Muggle. Sirius squinted at his reflection and gasped.

'You will stay purple for a week, Padfoot,' said Remus, smirking smugly. 'Moreover, you will find that anything you touch will also be turned purple and—'

'Anything?' Sirius interrupted with a gleeful glint in his eyes.

'Except humans and parts of the house itself, like walls and such. But yes, any object you touch will be turned purple.'

Sirius pushed past Remus and ran out of the room. Harry raised his eyebrow at Remus and asked, 'Don't you think that's a bit old? I mean, Colour-Changing Charms, really?'

Remus smiled meaningfully and answered, 'That which is the most obvious is usually the most unexpected. Besides, Sirius hates the colour purple. And don't you think it'd be rather foolish to tell him about the modified Shrinking Charm I put on his nails and hair?'

Harry snorted and the two wizards followed Sirius out into the hall, the previous conversation all but forgotten. Clearly, they must have passed some sort of Silencing Ward, because suddenly their ears were full of very familiar screeching.

'BLOOD-TRAITOR, MUDBLOOD-LOVER, HOW DARE YOU TURN ME PURPLE—'

Sirius was running around and touching every trinket he could find while yelling, 'Take that, you old hag!

Harry was on his knees and clutching his sides in a matter of seconds. The scene was just too hilarious, and Sirius deciding that the space was too cramped for a human and turning into a dog made it all the more so. Beside him, Remus was laughing, looking more carefree than Harry had ever seen him.