They’ve despatched Dementors around the school because of Sirius Black. Everyone’s asking their parents for chocolates even though the Dementors can’t get into the school.
Even Madam Pomfrey is filling up her supplies in the Hospital Wing. Seamus reckons it’s for when students have to pass them on their way to and from Hogsmeade.
Not that I’m allowed to go to Hogsmeade. Neither Vernon nor Petunia haven’t signed my permission slip, but I imagine even if they had, then Dumbledore and McGonagall would have found a way to keep me there anyway. You know, for my own safety.
I’m gutted that I’m not allowed to see the village, but I’ll probably give Hermione and Ron loads of money to buy me something. And yes, Holly, I’ll share it with you.
I don’t like the Dementors. Oma, I hear my mum’s voice when they’re near. I hear her last words. I hear him killing her.
Thanks for the chocolates, Oma, but my last letter wasn’t a suggestion for you to send me some. I appreciate them, anyway. And Ron certainly did. Growing up in a pureblood family, he thinks muggle stuff is weird and thinks wizard sweets are better. I think between you and me, Oma, we’ve educated him otherwise.
Dean saw your packet to me filled with Dairy Milk and Toffee Crisps and everything else you’ve given me and used a school owl to ask his parents for the same. He did the same when Hermione and I started using fountain pens. Some purebloods still don’t like to admit that some muggle things are better, but many muggle-borns have written home for fountain pens. Fred and George have made some money by enchanting their inkwells to refill the pens.
Plastic doesn’t hold up well with magic as it’s not a natural material, but the twins are extraordinarily ingenious, and they’ve managed to adapt somehow.
Anyway, I promise I won’t sneak off to Hogsmeade. I wouldn’t want to worry you like that, and maybe next year, when the security measures are lifted, I could go. If I can convince Vernon or Petunia to sign my form, that is.
Classes are going well. Arithmancy was interesting – I was always good with numbers, so I liked the class a lot. Ancient Runes is more complex, and I can foresee it will be a challenging class. Everything comes easy for Hermione, so it’ll be a doddle for her, though I don’t know how she’s getting into all the class as some of them clash.
Speaking of predictions, Hermione and Ron had their first Divination class as well. I’m glad I didn’t take the class. The Divination professor, Trelawney, told Ron he was going to die.
This upset him, but when we went to McGonagall’s class, she said Trelawney always picks one student to die every year, and they’ve all lived despite her prediction. And then she told Ron that if he were dead, then he wouldn’t have to worry about homework, so, until then, he’s still expected to do some classwork. At least he didn’t complain about Muggle Studies.
Oh, guess what? Remember the biting book – Monster Book of Monsters? Well, Hagrid set that book. I couldn’t believe it when Dumbledore had announced him as the new Magical Creatures teacher.
And you won’t be able to guess what Draco Malfoy did in Hagrid’s first lesson…
Harry is sitting in the library. His friends are in Hogsmeade, so he takes the opportunity to research Sirius Black.
He starts with old Daily Prophet articles from Voldemort’s defeat, reading about the trials of various Death Eaters captured at the time.
He sees that Lucius Malfoy’s name is amongst those who got away claiming to be under the Imperius Curse. This leads Harry to search for what Imperius Curse actually does. He feels sick as he reads what the Unforgivables are. He remembers the green light he dreams of. It’s the spell that killed his parents.
He still dreams that nightmare occasionally, more so recently since his only encounter with the Dementors. Harry hopes they will be removed soon.
He almost dismisses one article until the name Longbottom catches his eye. As his curiosity is piqued, he continues reading, growing pale with every word.
The Ministry sentenced Rabastan Lestrange, brother to Rodolphus Lestrange, his wife Bellatrix Lestrange, and Bartimus Crouch Junior, to life imprisonment in Azkaban for countless crimes. All four have been found guilty of being Death Eaters and carrying the Mark of You-Know-Who. (Harry made a mental note to look up the Dark Mark, having seen it mentioned several times).
Amongst their numerous crimes, it was discovered the Lestranges tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom, lauded and formidable Aurors in their own right, to the point of insanity due to the overuse of the Cruciatus Curse, after the defeat of their master. Their son, Neville Longbottom, was with them that dreadful night and miraculously remained unharmed, possibly because he was well hidden, though not far from their bodies.
The Lestranges’ deranged quest for information about You-Know-Who left the Longbottoms in the Janus Thickey ward of St Mungo’s hospital for the rest of their natural lives, with no hope of a cure, requiring constant care.
This intrepid reporter has found out that the Longbottoms remember no one, including their infant son, Neville, who will reside with his paternal grandmother, Augusta Longbottom.
Harry drops the article shakily. Having just read about the Cruciatus Curse as one of the three Unforgivables, he understands what the Longbottoms were subjected to. And Neville was there, so close to his parents and probably able to hear their desperate screams.
Now, he sees his clumsy friend in a new light. Harry’s parents are dead, but he wonders if it is worse for Neville, whose parents are still alive but unable to recognise him and raise him as they should. Sometimes, there are fates crueller than death.
Since Harry confronted Voldemort at the end of his first year, he has hated him for killing his parents. Now, reading about Neville’s parents and the suffering they went through, the abstract thought of Voldemort having followers has become a sickening reality.
Hagrid and Ron had told Harry about people who followed Voldemort when he first entered the Wizarding world.
There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin, Hagrid once told him.
Harry had believed it at the time, so much that he had begged the Sorting Hat not to put him in Slytherin.
Reading this article, he realises that there were people who had believed in Voldemort with such a passion that they’d destroyed other people’s lives for it.
Harry decides there and then to be a better friend to Neville. From his stories about his grandmother and uncle, he knows Neville is constantly put down for not being a better wizard. Harry comprehends the power of confidence. The Dursleys never believed in Harry, so he thought he would never amount to anything, even if he tried hard enough.
Iris believes in Harry. She had made Harry believe in himself. He might not be a top performer like Hermione, simply not having her natural intelligence, memory and ability to understand things so quickly, but he still receives good marks in every class – except Potions.
Harry has still a couple of years to decide, but he is already debating whether to drop Potions as a class after OWLS. He cannot imagine studying under Snape for that long. Besides, Percy had told him that Snape only accepts those who score an Outstanding in the OWLs.
Neville suffers from worse confidence than Harry did all those years ago. Yet, when Lupin believed in Neville, even after Snape told him he was practically useless, he did well with the boggart. Neville just needed a push in the right direction. The other boy doesn’t have many friends. He seems to be a loner. Harry feels suddenly guilty of ignoring the other boy. He knows what it feels like to have no friends. Neville deserves a friend as well.
Harry continues to search about Sirius Black. He is only mentioned in one article Harry has found so far, and that is the one with pictures of his arrest: Black is laughing his head off as the Aurors drag him away.
There is something deranged about him, Harry thinks as he studies the article. He flicks through several copies of the Daily Prophet; he sees nothing about the trial for Black, which he finds odd since even those who claimed Imperius got a trial.
Harry continues to read through various articles before time runs out –about Sirius’ brother, Regulus Black, who also was accused of being a Death Eater but, in the end, had turned against Voldemort. He had cited pressure from his parents and talked of how he was tortured by his mother when he had tried to go against the ideals he grew up with. Regulus had named several Death Eaters who were convicted, but, oddly, not his brother. Harry thought that the brothers would have become Death Eaters together.
He carefully puts everything away, then leaves the library to meet his friends. They will be on their way back from Hogsmeade.
Dumbledore was mad when the Dementors swarmed the pitch – I didn’t want you to worry by telling you this, but Ron insisted I should. Gryffindor was playing against Hufflepuff instead of Slytherin because Malfoy was still milking his injury.
The Dementors still have a terrible effect on me. We lost the match when I fell from my broom. The Whopping Willow smashed my Nimbus into pieces. I asked Lupin for extra lessons to look for more precautions, as they seem to be particularly hard on me, but he said he was too busy, at least for the moment. He fell ill and said he’s catching up with loads of work but won’t start them until after Christmas.
Can you send me some more smarties and Lion bars, please? Hope Holly hasn’t already eaten all the chocolate frogs I sent her last time.
Thanks for the books you send me, Oma. I read the one about the Patronus very quickly. As Lupin won’t be able to teach me the charm until after Christmas, I’ll take the chance to revise the theory so as not to in blind.
And I appreciate the books and notes you sent me on Occlumency; I’ve already started doing the exercises you outlined, I’m trying to do them every night, and I can already tell how much difference I’ve made with them: I feel like my mind is sharper and it’s helping me retain information much faster – and that’s in 3 weeks!
Happy Christmas to you and Holly, Oma. I hope you enjoyed my gifts!
Thanks for the extra fountain pens. I needed a new one, and now I have four. I hope you liked the jewellery box and bracelets I sent you and Holly. I still can’t go to Hogsmeade yet, but Hermione brought me back a catalogue last time, and I picked out the ones I thought would suit both of you and then she bought them for me.
Did you get a Weasley jumper again? Mrs Weasley gave me one this year too. I chose a shawl for her, like the one I got you last year, Oma, but in blue instead of green.
I got a Firebolt for Christmas, a gift with no sender. Hermione went to tell Professor McGonagall behind my back, so she and I fought. I know she meant well, but she acted like I would go ahead and ride it. All right, maybe I got a little excited, but, come on, it’s a Firebolt. It’s the latest broom on the market I saw in Diagon Alley when I stayed at the Leaky Cauldron. Of course, if I could have afforded it, I’d have bought it, but I still have four years of school to get through.
Still, I wish Hermione had trusted me to speak to McGonagall myself instead of going behind my back. She should have trusted me, and it hurts me that she didn’t.
Ron’s angry at her too, but not entirely for the same reason. Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks, keeps going after his pet rat, Scabbers. I mean, all right, Scabbers is a bit useless: he’s old, and he doesn't have any tricks, just eats and sleeps. But still, Ron’s had Scabbers for years – I think he said twelve or something. He used to belong to his older brother Percy, then, when he was made Prefect a couple of years ago, he got a new owl as a reward, and Ron got Scabbers.
He talks badly about Scabbers, but we all know he’s protective of him, so he doesn't like that Hermione doesn’t take her cat trying to eat his rat seriously.
I’m actually on Ron’s side with this, and I’m not just saying that because Hermione got my Firebolt confiscated. I know cats chase mice and rats and whatnot, but it’s a little rude that Hermione’s not respecting Ron’s boundaries about his pet. She wouldn’t like it if someone else’s pet tried to eat her cat because Crookshanks would be lower on the food chain.
Hermione’s been frazzled all year, anyway. We kept telling her that she needed to take a break or drop 1 or 2 of her electives, but she’s too stubborn to listen. She hates Divination, so I don’t know why she keeps going to it, and she doesn’t need Muggle Studies because she was raised as one: both subjects are a waste of her time.
Harry is still looking for more information on Sirius Black. He has already found out that he was best friends with his dad, James Potter. He had come across an article mentioning it last month was combing through various editions of the Daily Prophet.
It was a small article published the year before Harry started Hogwarts on the anniversary of his parent’s death. It made him angry at the time, but now he understands why people kept telling him he should not go after Black.
Harry had almost thrown away his photo album – or at least specific photographs – when he had realised that Black was in his parents’ wedding photos. Black was in many photos. He didn’t look like a maniac in those. He looked… happy. Normal, even. Harry doesn’t understand. Was Black already planning to betray his friend at the time?
Harry has calmed down since then. He now spends his spare time between classes, homework, Quidditch and gymnastics, Patronus lessons and teaching himself Occlumency, searching more about Sirius Black and the other Death Eaters.
Harry had looked at their genealogy and family trees. Sirius Black and Regulus Black had been born to Walburga and Orion Black, had three female cousins, Bellatrix (now Lestrange), Andromeda (now Tonks) and Narcissa (now Malfoy).
Narcissa is, of course, married to Lucius Malfoy and the mother of Draco… Harry cannot help but roll his eyes at the Malfoys. His curiosity is piqued when he sees Snape’s name added separately.
Severus Snape was taken on as the ward and later the foster son of Abraxas Malfoy in 1977. Harry notes the date on his parchment to try to find the editorial in the Daily Prophet. In the meantime, he looks at the family tree. Severus Snape is the son of Eileen Prince – an old Pureblood family – but his father is Tobias Snape, a muggle. Harry wishes the Genealogy books had pictures for everyone. He would like to see what Snape’s parents look like.
My Patronus lessons are going well. Lupin is surprised at how well I’m doing, considering it’s such an advanced Charm. I managed to get a strong mist on my first try, and he reckons he will soon be able to start seeing a form. I wonder what mine will be. I wish I could find out what form my parents’ Patronus would take, or even if they could perform it. It’ll be interesting to find out.
It is entirely by accident that Harry finds it. He is glad that he is alone because he does not have to explain anything to his friends.
It is a small piece stuck to the back of the Daily Prophet in 1959, referencing the marriage of Eileen Prince with Tobias Snape. Less than a year later, there was another article, barely more than two lines announcing the birth of their son.
It is not the words in the article that catches Harry’s attention, though he quickly skims through those as well. It is the picture of a sullen-looking woman, sallow-skinned and thin. Harry has seen those lips smile. He has seen that face light up in laughter, her eyes crinkle up in mischief, crease in anger. He had never seen her so downtrodden and lifeless. He finds it difficult to believe that the woman in the picture is the same one who has tenderly tended his wounds for so many years.
Iris Pierce is Eileen Prince. The same Eileen Prince who is married to Tobias Snape. The mother of Severus Snape.
Harry closes his eyes, realises what this means, and groans to himself as his mind automatically finishes the thought.
Severus Snape, the bat of the dungeons and all-around greasy git, is Holly’s biological father. Sweet Holly. Cute, kind, caring and adorable little Holly is Snape’s illegitimate daughter. Harry flinches at the thought of it. None of those adjectives could ever describe the man he knows.
Merlin’s beard! Holly… is a Snape.
I did it, Oma. I finally did it! We were playing our last Quidditch match against Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor was in the lead. I saw the Snitch, and I went for it, but then people started pointing out the Dementors, and I pulled out my wand, casting a fully corporeal Patronus. Ron said it has antlers and Hermione, who got a better look at it, said it was a stag.
Apparently, it wasn’t a Dementor. It was Malfoy and his mates dressing up as one to scare me and knock me off my broom – not that I knew it at the time. I thought there were real Dementors, so I just cast my Patronus, and my stag knocked Malfoy on his bum. Serves him right. McGonagall was so angry that Malfoy had attempted such a thing that she gave him and his mates detention every day for 2 weeks.
And, even better, I caught the Snitch. Gryffindor won not only the match but also the Quidditch Cup! Oliver was so thrilled…
I must admit, I was surprised to receive your letter. I have been out of the country for many years… As I’m sure you have done your research, you will know that I was once a Marked Death Eater. Living at home was simply too much for me and, given that I testified against many of those who roamed free claiming the Imperius, I felt it best to leave. Also, to be honest, I needed to get away from my mother. She is dead now, and I do not regret her death, as harsh as it may sound. She was not a kind woman.
My brother Sirius and I had tried many things to please our mother. Eventually, Sirius stopped trying – or so I thought. I let my mother pressure me into joining the Dark Lord. Suffice to say; it was the worst mistake I have ever made. Leaving his service before his defeat nearly destroyed me. Inferii are not easy to fight. My family House-Elf, Kreacher, actually saved me: without him, my life was lost.
By the time I recovered, the Dark Lord had been defeated, my Mark had faded, and I was arrested and tried for my crimes. I was fortunate not to be sharing a cell alongside my brother.
Speaking of, I must confess my surprise along with the rest of the world that Sirius betrayed his best friend, James. He had a much better relationship with your father than he had with me. In fact, I was often jealous that he treated James more like a brother than his own blood.
I suppose it was because he was rebelling against Mother. Walburga Black did not hesitate to set her children straight with the help of an Unforgiveable, if necessary. I was still trying to gain my family’s approval. Mother simply vented the wrath of Sirius’ rebellion on me; he never seemed concerned about any of that. He was stubborn and selfish and only saw what he wanted to see. He saw his family as evil, and he cared more for his best friend James Potter than anyone else.
I didn’t lose my love for my brother. Ultimately, I stopped looking to him to protect me. He thought he was so proud to have become a Gryffindor. It was a slap in the face to my mother’. With her wand pointed at me, it was a hex in mine. Sirius was no different from her, really, just a snake in a lion’s clothing. Just like Mother tortured her sons at home, Sirius tormented various Slytherins in school – under the guise of a joke, of course.
Sirius lost all the respect I had for him the day I saw his picture in the Daily Prophet, all those years ago. He was nothing more than a hypocrite. Because, if I’m frank, I never saw it coming. Sirius always made out that Potter meant everything to him. I was not in the Dark Lord’s Inner Circle, and yes, we wore masks, but I would have recognised my brother anywhere. He never could resist showing off. But that does not mean that he did not turn on everything he claimed to have believed in. Turned on you, his godson.
Mark my words, Harry Potter. My brother is tenacious and persistent. He will not stop until he gets to you. And when he does, you are the one who must be prepared. If you get the chance to shoot first, take it. Do not hesitate. He won’t give you a second chance.
Take care, Harry Potter.
Harry continues to exchange letters with Regulus. He surprises himself by this. Upon learning his brother has escaped from Azkaban, Regulus has returned to Grimmauld Place, where his family home in London is located. Although Regulus writes about hating his brother, Harry still thinks he loves him.
Harry uses various school owls as well as Hedwig. Flying from Scotland to London and Surrey, which is not far from London, is not a short journey, and he does not want to tire his familiar.
It has taken Harry two weeks to conclude that he does not care that Iris and Eileen are the same person, that Iris is really Snape’s mother or that Snape is really Holly’s father. Harry has known Iris and Holly since he was eight and they have always been there for him. Snape had mistreated Jasmine so badly that she gave up her magic and left the Magical world forever.
He has looked up Jasmine Pierce in Hogwarts’ student records. She was a pretty witch back then, with red hair like the Weasleys and olive-green eyes. She had been a Ravenclaw and finished Hogwarts with nine OWLS and nine NEWTS, and she had gone on to work for the Ministry just after few years: she must have still been young when she was pregnant with Holly.
Whatever Snape had done to her had hurt her so badly that she passed that hurt to Holly – sweet, innocent Holly, who is nothing like Snape.
From the letters he is exchanging with Regulus, he realises that Harry’s dad and Sirius Black tormented Snape – and Lupin and Pettigrew, too. From what Harry can tell, James and Sirius were the worst, even after his mum and dad started dating. He struggles to understand why his mum had agreed to date his dad after everything he had done.
Regulus had told Harry that James had changed enough to make Lily believe he was a better person. Harry is astonished to read from Regulus’ letters that even though James was such a horrible bully, after Hogwarts, he took responsibility for himself and took care of Sirius when he had nowhere to go.
It hurts Harry to discover that his parents were like that. Harry does not know what Snape was like as a teenager, despite Regulus telling him some things from their school days. He does know what Snape is like now: as an adult, he is no better than a teenage James Potter. Harry has no respect for teenage James, though he still loves his dad. Harry has acquired enough memory from being near the Dementors to know that James Potter sacrificed himself to protect him and Lily, tried to give his wife and son time to escape. He had failed, but he had tried nevertheless because he loved them.
Harry wishes he knew enough about adult James and Lily. He could ask Lupin, but since he found Lupin’s part in bullying Snape and others they didn’t like, he has lost respect for his once favourite teacher. He is glad he has mastered the Patronus Charm. He no longer needs to visit Lupin in his office.
According to Regulus, Lupin might not have been an active bully like Sirius and James, but standing by and letting it happen is just as bad despite being a prefect. It briefly occurs to Harry that Regulus could be lying about it all, yet, he chooses to believe him because he still told him that Snape and Lily had been friends for years, since before they even started Hogwarts – like Holly and Harry. They stopped being friends because Snape called Lily a Mudblood when she tried to stop James and Sirius from bullying him.
Harry knows what it is like to lash out in anger. He likes to think he would never call Hermione a Mudblood, regardless of the provocation. Hermione may be bossy and uptight and a know-it-all, but she has a kind heart, and she has always stood by Harry. Even though he still thinks it’s wrong that she went behind his back to McGonagall, he decides he would rather be friends with her again than stop being friends over a broom. He knows enough about Hermione to realise that she had no friends before coming to Hogwarts like Harry. To lose one forever over something so silly would be wrong. Harry values his friendship with Ron and Hermione, and now Neville.
I always knew Neville was good at Herbology, but, honestly, I didn’t quite realise how brilliant he was. Hermione is book smart, but Neville… has a natural gift.
I told Neville, you have your herb garden, Oma, and he’s sent along these cuttings and magical growing powder. I’ve included the instructions Neville wrote for you, and he told me he has lots more as his family have a massive greenhouse at home, so there’s always extra growing powder to hand out.
Thanks for the advice on Sirius Black and my dad. The Dursleys always told me that my parents were useless layabouts who died in an accident. Everyone always kept saying how brilliant they were. My dad might not have been the kindest when he was my age, but I’d like to think he grew up.
And Regulus has been good as well. I’m surprised every time I get a letter from him, but I think he’s just lonely. He might have been a Death Eater at one point, but I can tell he regrets it. I still wonder why Sirius turned against my dad. He’s supposed to be crazy because of Azkaban and the Dementors. Maybe we’ll never know. Maybe he was never my dad’s friend at all. It would be a long time to pretend, though, wouldn’t it?
In other news, we tried to help Hagrid with Buckbeak. Hagrid lost his head at the appeal, but Dumbledore intervened and said his friend Newt Scamander took Buckbeak away. Hagrid is devastated that he’ll lose him, but at least Buckbeak won’t get executed. And Hagrid already knows Scamander will take care of the hippogriff.
Harry and Hermione rush into the tunnel from the Whopping Willow, following the route of the big black dog. Ron is injured, and they don’t have time to call for help.
If you get the chance to shoot first, take it. Do not hesitate. He won’t give you a second chance.
Harry recalls Regulus’ words from his first letter. They run through his head the whole time, but Harry is not able to do it. He cannot kill Sirius Black as much as he would like to. He simply isn’t capable of it.
They listen to Lupin and Black in stunned silence. Werewolves. Animagus. Secret Keepers. Pettigrew is a rat. Black is a dog. His dad was a stag.
Snape is lying unconscious on the floor. Pettigrew is lying bound in ropes. Even Ron has temporarily put aside his pain. They watch as Black and Lupin force Pettigrew to change back into human form.
Part of him is happy that his dad’s friend never betrayed him. He wouldn’t know what to do if Ron or Hermione ever betrayed him like that. He wouldn’t do it to them.
Harry believes Sirius and feels a little sorry for him. He still thinks the man was an idiot as a teenager, but twelve years in Azkaban is more than enough punishment. No matter what Snape reckons.
He also thinks that Sirius needs to grow up a bit and tell him to stop when he purposely hits Snape’s unconscious head against the wall as they levitate him out.
Lupin uses a spell to split Ron’s broken leg and levitates him through the tunnel; Hermione does the same with Pettigrew. Only Harry is left without anyone, so he follows Sirius, who is levitating Snape.
“You know, Harry, your parents made me your godfather,” Sirius begins to say. “I don’t know if anyone told you that.
“Yeah, I know,” he responds.
“Well, your parents appointed me your guardian,” Sirius says stiffly, “you know if anything happened to them…”
He waits for Sirius to complete his sentence. Does he mean what Harry is thinking?
“I’ll understand, of course. If you don’t want to leave your aunt and uncle, I mean,” Sirius continues. “But… just think about it. Once my name is cleared, if you wanted to… you could stay with me.”
Harry’s breathing stops at that moment. His brain freezes. Getting away from the Dursleys. For years and years, he had dreamed of leaving the Dursleys behind. This could be it. He could be living with Sirius. He realises that he cannot do that as his eyes land on Snape in the same instance. He cannot leave Iris and Holly behind. Iris isn’t aware that Harry knows about her real name, and he will wait for her to tell him. If she ever decides to. Because if she chooses not to, he is okay with that too. Iris and Holly could have left him behind so many times, yet, they didn’t. They come to see him off every year when he leaves for Hogwarts; Iris helps him with his homework and gives him books on everything she thinks he will need to learn better; she has taught him Occlumency. He won’t leave them behind.
And besides, Sirius needs help. He has been in Azkaban for twelve years, and he needs to fix himself first. And if he ever finds out that Holly is Snape’s daughter, will he ever take Harry to see her?
Not really believing himself, Harry says the words he never thinks he would ever say, “I’m sorry, but I would rather stay with my aunt and uncle.”
Sirius’ face falls in disappointment but nods in acceptance. Harry is relieved.
It is at the exit of the tunnel that everything happens at once.
“Oh, no. Professor! You forgot to take your potion,” Hermione exclaims, dropping Pettigrew from loss of concentration.
They all freeze. Ron is helpless, his face a picture of horror. Lupin doesn’t have time to levitate Ron downwards gently but drops him abruptly, causing him to feel pain as his injured leg hits the ground first.
Lupin stiffens, and his limbs begin to shake. Sirius drops Snape to the ground not too gently and transforms into his dog form, charging at Lupin, who has now shifted into a terrifying creature.
Harry reminds himself that he has faced a troll, a three-headed dog and a basilisk. He swiftly thinks about what he has learned of werewolves, even as his mouth dries up: learning Occlumency has certainly helped him pull information out of his brain faster.
“Hermione, you take Ron,” Harry manages to hiss. Ron is still lying on the floor, grimacing in pain. “I’ll get Pettigrew.” That still leaves Snape, who is still unconscious.
Sirius yelps in pain as he is thrown to the side by the angry werewolf, while the now transformed Lupin makes his way towards Harry and the others. A werewolf will always go for a human target. Wolfsbane is like poison to them – as is silver. They are strong, mindless beasts and cannot be reasoned with, nor can they be tamed like most other animals. However, Harry’s mind promptly hit upon a solution: like most animals, they still deal with survival; they can still be afraid of fire.
“Incendio!” Harry casts, pointing his wand towards the ground as the wolf aimed at him.
Hermione, catching on, copies Harry’s spell. Even Ron manages to cast it, however feebly, before falling unconscious. Harry steps closer to him, intending to shield his injured friend.
Sirius, still in his dog form, feebly gets back on his paws.
“Pettigrew’s escaping!” Hermione shouts.
Somehow, whilst everyone was distracted by the werewolf, Pettigrew has managed to undo the binds on him.
Harry grits his teeth in anger as he watches Pettigrew transform into a rat and scurry away while Sirius leaps to chase after him. He wishes he could do the same, but he is still busy handling werewolf Lupin. Also, he can’t leave Hermione alone with an unconscious Snape and Ron.
“Let him go,” Harry roars at Sirius, but he does not listen.
Harry cannot help but feel betrayed once again. Catching Pettigrew is the reason why Sirius had ended up in Azkaban, the reason he escaped, and here he is leaving Harry and Hermione to defend themselves against a werewolf. He can’t deny that this hurts him. It feels like Sirius will never make him a priority: he now knows he made the right decision about living with Sirius.
He begins to feel cold, and a distant scream echoes in his head.
“Dementors,” Harry yells a warning to Hermione, who pales even more since she does not know how to cast a Patronus like him.
“Take Ron. Go. I’ll stay with Snape,” Harry shouts to her.
“I’m not leaving you, Harry,” Hermione stubbornly stands with him, coming to his side.
He casts a powerful fire charm at the werewolf, which hits him. Harry didn’t mean it to happen, but as it singes the werewolf and scares him, he howls and runs off towards the Forbidden Forest.
“Come on,” he says grimly.
He hears Sirius coming in the distance, bounding back into his dog form. Harry cannot see if he has Pettigrew with him. Perhaps, he has decided to kill him, after all, and leave his body in the forest, despite Harry asking him not to.
Hermione has already levitated Ron, and Harry is about to do the same with Snape when the cold increases rapidly and the screams become louder. Together, they look up and see a cloud of Dementors descending on them.
Hermione shrieks in panic while Harry tries everything to focus on his happiest memory.
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” Harry roars.
Prongs, as he decides to call it, leaps out of his wand and chases the Dementors away. Stunned, Sirius transforms back to his human form and stares in awe at the silver stag.
Harry can feel his energy draining but maintains the Patronus.
“Pettigrew?” he queries.
“He got away,” Sirius answers, looking at Harry sadly. “I’m sorry. I should have stayed with you.”
Harry’s heart warms at Sirius’ apology. He is glad he came back, that he realised where he was supposed to be. Maybe there is hope for Sirius, after all.
Still holding the Dementors back, Harry turns to his godfather and utters, “I need you to promise me something.”
“I’ve been in touch with your brother. He’s still living in Grimmauld Place. Go to him. He’ll help you. Promise you’ll go to him.”
Sirius looks at Harry, confused.
“Promise,” he insists.
Sirius nods. “Al-all right,”
“Now get out of here. I’ve got the Dementors. Go!”
“Thank you,” Sirius manages to convey.
He gets up, swiftly gives Harry a hug, nods in Hermione’s direction and transforms back into Padfoot, slinking off towards the tunnel leading to the Whomping Willow, just in time as its branches snap back to life.
“You can’t keep holding them back, Harry,” Hermione states, her voice exuding panic.
Harry refuses to let go of his Patronus until the Dementors have turned away. It only takes a few seconds after that for Harry to lose consciousness, and Hermione is left alone with three wizards knocked out.
“I heard Snape outed you as a werewolf,” is how Harry opens the conversation once Lupin allows him into his office.
The professor has already started packing.
“Parents won’t be pleased to find out that their children are being taught by a werewolf, Harry,” Lupin sighs. “After last night, I could well understand their fears. I could have bitten any one of you.”
“I don’t care that you’re a werewolf.”
Lupin’s eyes light up at Harry’s words, and he feels guilty about what he’s about to say.
“Did you know Sirius was innocent?”
Lupin mentioned last night that he had confiscated the Marauder’s Map from the Weasley twins, which is how he knew to get to the Shrieking Shack. He had seen Sirius’ name on there. And Pettigrew’s.
“No,” he shakes his head.
“But you knew he knew many passages in and out the castle. Passages you didn’t tell Dumbledore about,” Harry continues, seeing Lupin’s face lower at his words.
“Dumbledore took a risk with you. Not once. Twice,” Harry says coolly. “You betrayed his trust. You didn’t know Sirius wasn’t a danger to me or anyone else in the castle. You knew he had a good disguise. You protected him all year. Yet, you didn’t even question why he might have betrayed my dad twelve years ago.”
“I know I should have told Dumbledore,” Lupin stammers, shocked by Harry’s words. He thought his relationship with Harry was good because he has spent so much time in his office throughout the year.
“Yes,” Harry cuts him off. “You should have.”
Lupin turns away in shame. “I’m sorry,”
“I’ll miss you because you’re a good teacher. But, you’re not a good friend. You don’t know how to do the right thing. I can see why Snape hates you. You don’t know how to stand up to your friends. You don’t know how to be a friend.”
Harry knows his words are harsh, but, deep down, he also knows that Lupin needs to hear these things. He might have had a hard life as a werewolf – he doesn’t pretend to understand what that’s like, though it certainly isn’t an easy one –Dumbledore had given Lupin an opportunity, and instead of using it wisely, he is still squandering it.
“I’m sorry if I sound cruel,” Harry apologises, “but I believe everything I’ve just said. It wouldn’t surprise me if you used the fact that you’re a werewolf as an excuse never to contact me again.”
He walks out without waiting for an answer.
“So you’ve been using a time turner the whole year?” Ron gapes at Hermione as she tells them her secret of how she attended all her classes.
“I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. But now I’ve handed it back to Professor McGonagall. I’ve decided to drop Muggle Studies and Divination.”
“Well, it’ll be a bit awkward if you decide to re-join Trelawney’s class next year after you walked out,” Neville snickers.
Harry joins in.
They are interrupted by a tapping on the window of their carriage. Harry gets up to let in the tiny owl, who lets him take the letter and then settles on Ron’s shoulder, much to the redhead's surprise.
Exchanging a curious look with his friends, Harry opens the letter and scans it.
“It’s from Sirius,” he explains briefly. Turning to Ron, he states, “Sirius said the owl is yours because he’s sorry you lost a pet through him. He said he sent me the Firebolt to make up for thirteen missed birthdays, and he also gave me a permit to give Dumbledore to go to Hogsmeade. And that he’s safe at the place I told him to go and that they’re planning to lead the Dementors away from Hogwarts.”
Hermione snatches the letter out of Harry’s hand to read it for herself. He exchanges an eye roll with Neville and Ron, who begins to stroke his new pet, a huge smile on his face.
Harry and Hermione have filled Ron and Neville in on what had happened, though he still wouldn’t tell them where he told Sirius to go. He knew Hermione had heard, but for Harry’s sake, she is keeping quiet. Harry appreciates this.
Then, casually, Ron points out, “You know, if you’d used your Time-Turner to go back and do your homework, and even get some extra sleep, you could have kept it for next year and still manage without losing your mind.”
Hermione loses her mind.
“Oh, look at you, Harry,” Iris exclaims, welcoming him inside. “You’ve grown up so much. What have they been doing at that school of yours? Stretching you over the rack?”
Harry laughs but is pleased with his growth spurt. He is still shorter than Ron, a foot taller than him. At least, he is now catching up to Neville and, even better, to Hermione.
“Harry!” Holly comes running up to him, throwing her arms around his middle for a hug, waiting for Harry to pull her close. He has missed her. His arms tighten around her as she looks up at him with black eyes. Snape’s eyes, he realises. Thankfully Holly has never looked at him with malice.
“Did you miss me, Harry?”
“Sometimes. When I was running out of chocolate and kept thinking of all the Chocolate Frogs, I kept owling you,” he jokes.
“Did you me bring me anymore?”
“No,” Iris put her foot down. “Enough sweets and chocolates for you, little miss. Harry, you seriously need to stop spoiling her.”
“All right,” Harry agrees. However, when Iris turns around to go to the kitchen, he pulls out a Liquorice Wand and hands it to Holly with a wink.
They are caught by Iris, who gives them a look between a stern glare and fond exasperation.
“I’ve brought you some Cauldron Cakes,” Harry says sheepishly, pulling three out from his shirt pocket.
Iris shakes her head and walks away, muttering, “I give up. Let all your teeth fall out.”
Holly giggles and follows Harry into the kitchen.
Several hours later, Iris has eaten all the Cauldron Cakes as Harry catches her up with the things he didn’t tell her in his letters and the events.
“And Dumbledore believed you? Without proof?” Iris asks in disbelief.
Harry nods. Truthfully, he was a little surprised at the time as well.
“Unfortunately, Fudge didn’t. Snape told him we had been Confunded, and the Minister believed him. Still, it’s enough that Dumbledore trusts us and Sirius is somewhere safe.”
Harry observes Iris at the mention of Snape. It might be his imagination, but he thinks she might have leaned forward slightly. He wishes he had something nice to say about Snape for the first time, at least for Iris’s sake.
“I expected Snape to deduct points for attacking him,” Harry mentions casually. “It was … unexpected that he didn’t.”
“Perhaps Dumbledore had intervened and refused to let him, given that it was your professor who said you were all under Confundus. Hardly fair to punish you if you weren’t responsible for your own actions,” Iris points out.
Harry grins. That is precisely what Dumbledore had done. He just realises that Iris has referred to all other professors by their name, apart from Snape. She keeps calling him “your professor” or “the Potions Master”.
He studies Iris as they fall silent. Her dark hair, black eyes, and sallow skin – even worse because she is still ill – are all the things he usually sees in Holly. Now, he sees Snape.
Catching Harry staring at her, Iris arches her brow at him, reminding him once more of another Snape characteristic.
“What is it, child?”
Thinking quickly, Harry says the first thing that occurs to him but has nagged him all year.
“I wish you would tell me what’s making you so ill, Oma,” Harry pleads softly. “I could help you. To find a solution – a magical one.”
Iris pins him with a stern look.
“Do you think I haven’t look at all possibilities, Harry? I have a library full of books downstairs.”
Harry flushes, realising she is right.
“Oh,” he says smartly, looking away and then back at her. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“No one lives forever, child,” Iris tells him gently. “I’m an old woman. Who knows when my time will come to an end.”
“Not for another hundred years,” Harry says fiercely. “Witches and wizards have long lives. And you… you’re still a witch.”
Iris gives him another kind smile, reaching across the table to squeeze his hand reassuringly. It’s a smile he can never imagine receiving from Snape.
Then, clearing her throat, she pulls back and asks in a business-like voice, “How are your Occlumency shields coming along?”
A little startled by the change of subject, Harry is slow to reply, “Er, fine. I think.”
“There’s something I need to tell you, but I’d like to test your barriers first.”
Cautiously, Harry nods with permission.
Quickly shoving all thoughts of Snape deep into the back of his mind, he instantly pulls up his barriers.
“When you’re ready, Harry.”
He looks Iris in the eyes and lets her test his barriers. They’re not perfect. He is still working on them, but Harry already has a memory lined up just in case they fail. One of the first time he cast the Patronus successfully.
It takes Iris several minutes to break his barriers, and Harry is disappointed that he can’t keep her out completely.
When she exits his mind, he is left with a pounding head.
“Well done,” Iris praises. She is pleased, which makes Harry relax. She gets up from the table to fetch him some paracetamol and a glass of water.
“Thanks,” Harry mumbles. Opening the tub of painkillers, he takes two and throws them back, followed by the glass of water.
“You’re progressing well,” Iris compliments. “Are you still doing your exercises every night?”
“Yeah, they’re getting easier now.”
“And it’s helping you with your lessons?” Iris prods.
Before Iris asks her next question to stall the actual conversation, Harry softly turns it around on her, “What did you need to tell me, Iris?”
Whatever it is, it cannot be worse than Snape being her son, he thinks.
She takes a deep breath whilst Harry holds his own in anticipation.
“It’s about Arabella Figg.”
“Aw, I wish I could go to the Quidditch World Cup with you,” Holly pouts.
“I do, too,” Harry says, feeling genuinely upset that Iris will not allow him to take Holly. “But I’ll buy you lots of souvenirs.”
Holly perks up slightly.
“Only for the winning team,” she stipulates. “I don’t want the losing team’s rubbish.”
Harry laughed and promised that he would get souvenirs for both teams and give her the winning one.
“We’re making demands again, aren’t we?” Iris comes in, giving Holly a stern look which she returns with an innocent one.
Turning to Harry, Iris hands him a package of new clothes: it has become a tradition for Iris to give him them for Hogwarts every year.
“If you outgrow these, send Hedwig, and I’ll send you some new ones,” Iris instructs him. Then, running her hands through his hair to try and tidy it, she mumbles, “Teenage boys grow likes weeds.” Then, “You need a haircut, child.”
Harry grins and allows her to pull him into the bathroom, where she directs him to sit on the edge of the bathtub and orders him to take his t-shirt off whilst she fetches a towel to wrap him in.
When she returns, she is holding the towel and a comb and a pair of scissors. As she goes around to wrap it around his shoulders, she freezes.
Harry knows what she is looking at – the collection of scars she has healed since he was eight.
“How have they been?” Iris asks in an odd voice.
“I told my relatives that my escaped convict of a godfather saw my scars and would come back to hurt them if they tried anything,” he replies nonchalantly.
Holly, who is watching from the doorway, giggles. Iris snorts. Harry is forcefully reminded of Snape once more.
“You should have let the Hat put in you Slytherin, boy. You clearly belong there.”
“Perish the thought,” Harry snarks with mock indignation.
“Careful boy,” Iris shakes her head, tapping him gently on the nape. “Or I’ll cut your scalp with a razor.”
Harry feigns innocence and sits still as she begins to snip away with the scissors.
Harry buys two large rosettes and two scarves in both teams’ colours and a flying Firebolt miniature for Holly; for himself, a pair of Omnioculars, adding two more to his order for Ron and Hermione.
He lets the excitement overtake him as he follows the Weasleys to the Top Box.
Harry takes the lunch that Iris had packed for him and accepts the hug from Iris and Holly. Holly is pleased with her gifts but pouts when Iris stows them away in her handbag, saying she can have them when she gets home.
As Harry gets onto the train, he wonders if Iris’s pinched look is due to what he told her happened at the Quidditch World Cup. They did not have a chance to talk properly.
He had almost decided not to tell her but was afraid she might find out from Mrs Figg. Rarely going to see her, previously he had no idea that she was a squib: in the month Harry was still at Privet Drive, and he intends to go over to visit her.
Mrs Figg was apologetic that she hadn’t told Harry earlier that about being a wizard. She made many excuses, but Harry found he was not angry; though he has to deal with brushes of danger every so often, he knows he has a good life. He has Iris and Holly. He has Dudley, more or less, who is still being nice to him. Last year he even received a gift from him. Harry had laughed when he saw it was a smelly bath set but sent Dudley a blue monogrammed towel that turned black when it was in needed washing. He has his friends. He has Regulus, who still send him letters, and now, he has Sirius. He thinks he might have Lupin.
His ex-professor had owled Harry once during summer to explain that the Map belonged to him, now, and reveal the nicknames' meaning. Harry is pleased to have another keepsake of his dad – it went nicely with his Invisibility Cloak. If Harry were the mischievous sort, like Fred and George, he would make trouble whenever he had the chance.
Harry sends back a letter to Lupin thanking him and phrasing it so that he can still owl back if he wants to.
Harry has not had a reply yet.
THEY’VE CANCELLED QUIDDITCH!!
Do you know what a travesty that is?
Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament this year, and we have two schools coming over to compete. They didn’t need to cancel Quidditch for that!
There’s a Quidditch shaped hole in my heart, Regulus, and you’re laughing at my pain.
How’s Snuffles doing? Is he enjoying the sun?
They drew my name from the Goblet of Fire. I have to compete. They’re making me compete. Hermione and Neville are the only ones who believe me when I say I didn’t enter. Ron too thinks I’ve put in my name in the Goblet, even though I already told him I wasn’t going to compete: now, he thinks I’m a liar, the git.
Hermione believes he’s jealous because his brothers or I always overshadow him. How’s that my fault? I never ask for trouble. It follows me around.
I just wish he would believe me.
All the Gryffindors think it’s great that I’m in the tournament, while all the Hufflepuffs support Cedric Diggory, which is fair because, well, he is their Champion, and he deserves it. But they hate my guts. I understand why but, I don’t have to like it.
Malfoy’s got all the Slytherins wearing POTTER STINKS badges, and most of the school bought them from him.
Ron is still not talking to me.
Seriously, Snuffles, Regulus, I’m surprised that he’s not got a POTTER STINKS badge as well.
Oma, what do I do?
Don’t the Blacks have some enormous libraries?
Is there nothing you can tell on how to get past one?
… so, in the end, I decided to use my Firebolt and outflew the dragon. It was brilliant.
Don’t worry, Oma, I didn’t get hurt.
I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard what creature screams when it speaks? It’s the ghastly sound that comes out of the egg.
My Firebolt was terrific, and I flew circles around the dragon. My shoulder got stung by its horned tail, but I still managed to get the egg.
Krum was impressed as hell: he and Bagman told me I could have a career as a Quidditch player. I wouldn’t mind. Quidditch is great.
Anyway, the egg contains the next clue, which shrieks or screeches instead of saying words.
Ron and I are friends again. I made him apologise properly for not believing me.
Regulus, you’re a genius.
Snuffles, your suggestions were less helpful but still appreciated. You’re as bad as Fred and George. They said it sounded like it was Percy in the shower. Why on earth do you know about your House-Elf warbling in the bath?
I managed to figure out the next clue, Oma. Regulus helped me work it out, and it turned out to be a mermaid. I have to rescue something I’d miss the most that’s supposed to be at the bottom of the lake: I only have an hour to look for it.
I hope they don’t take my Invisibility Cloak, my photo album, my Firebolt or that Gobstones set you gave me. I’d miss those the most. Bet that’s what they’re going to take.
At least that one’s out of the way; now, I have to worry about asking a girl out to the Yule Ball. Why do girls always travel in packs?
Now more than ever, I’m glad you taught me how to dance.
Remind me never to ask for advice about girls from an escaped convict and hermit with only a House-Elf for company.
I had a better time at the Yule Ball than I expected to – Better than Ron and Hermione, at least.
I asked Cho, the girl from the Ravenclaw team. I told you about last year to be my date, but she’d already agreed to go with Cedric. I didn’t realise they were dating.
It was upsetting, I suppose. Instead, I asked out Parvati, one of the girls from Hermione’s dorms.
Ron attempted to ask out Fleur, but he came back shocked that he’s even tried. I don’t remember if I mentioned this, but she’s a Veela, so the allure probably played a part. I’m glad I wasn’t there – I would have laughed my arse off.
He then tried to ask Hermione out – you know, in typical Ron fashion. He actually said to Hermione: “You’re a girl. You can go out with one of us.”
Even I knew that was the wrong thing to say. Hermione already had a date, anyway: she had agreed to go with Viktor Krum.
Conversely, he ended up going with Padma, Parvati’s twin sister, who was Sorted Ravenclaw instead.
I would have been happier not going, but, unfortunately, I had to open the dances as a Champion.
Ron acted like a miserable sod the whole evening. He was totally jealous that Hermione went with Viktor, so he tried to drag me into it by saying that she was fraternising with the enemy. That’s a direct quote, by the way.
Padma ended up having a miserable time because of Ron – The only good thing that happened to her all evening was when some of the boys from Beauxbatons asked her to dance. Parvati permitted me to dance with her sister as well, mostly of pity. Suffice to say, Ron ruined many people’s evening that night.
Ron can be thoughtless sometimes. Things are a bit frosty between Hermione and Ron at the moment.
You know this is my fourth year at Hogwarts and, even after all this time, I didn’t expect to make another friend.
I met this girl, Luna Lovegood, sort of by accident. She’s pretty unique. She was walking around barefoot one evening; at first, I thought it was strange that she was walking around with no shoes in a draughty old castle in the middle of winter.
Then she told me that her shoes had been taken. Now, I’ve gotten to know her the last few weeks, so I can tell she doesn’t like to say anything outright, despite her bluntness, but I gather that her dorm mates torment her a bit. More so than just her dormmates, in fact.
People always like to isolate those who dare to think differently, and Luna is about as peculiar as you can get.
I like her, in any case.
I’ve taught her some of those security spells you showed me, so now her belongings are as safe as mine. I just wish I could hex those idiots who still keep picking up on her. I know a few good ones now—the advantage of training for the tournament.
You know, Oma, I think I do like her that…
Albus follows a nervous Arabella to a well-kept house one street away from Privet Drive. Most houses in this part of Surrey all looked the same, and the one Arabella leads him to is no different. The house is detached, and the property is kept fenced. From the outside, it looks smaller than the Dursley’s residence, the garden is well maintained, and everything seems in its place.
It is the middle of the school day, and Albus has left Hogwarts in Minerva’s capable hands.
Arabella taps lightly on the white-painted door. Albus holds himself off to the side as he examines the ceramic garden gnome with interest.
The door opens, and Albus straightens up towards the residence.
“I’m sorry, Iris. He seemed to know already,” Arabella says in place of a greeting.
‘Iris’ looks at Albus, paling slightly, but seems to gather herself.
“Come in, Albus, Arabella.”
Iris moves aside, allowing them entry. They follow her to the kitchen, where she gestures for them to sit at the dining table. Albus pulls out a chair for Arabella first and then seats himself. Iris needs time to collect her thoughts, and he allows her to do so as their host moves around the kitchen with deliberate grace, gathering the items she needs to make tea for her unexpected guests.
Albus looks around the kitchen with great interest: there, on the fridge – a muggle cooling box – there is a picture of Harry and the little girl, Holly, whose information he has come to enquire about.
Finally, after a fraught ten minutes in which Albus waits serenely and Arabella sits fidgeting, Iris sits down opposite him, having placed a plate of biscuits, a teapot, sugar, a small jug of milk and three cups.
Iris makes no further move, so Albus pulls out his wand slowly and taps the teapot to begin pouring tea for everyone.
“Sugar? Milk?” he asks pleasantly.
“Two, please,” Arabella states.
Iris shakes her head at the sugar but adds a splash of milk.
She is the one to break her silence. “How did you find me?”
“A curious little spell,” Albus tells her. He takes a sip of his tea and reaches for the plate of biscuits, picking up a delightful looking one with a heart cut into the top layer showing a gooey red centre. He bites into it and is surprised at its pleasant raspberry flavour. “How long have you known Harry?”
“Since he was eight.”
Albus studies her critically. She is suffering, he realises. He wonders what illness is afflicting her. He listens as she explains how she met Harry and how close they have become over the years. It does explain how well-adjusted Harry is, given what Arabella has told him about his treatment at the Dursleys. He allows the sadness of that to wash over him. He has asked Arabella for proof in the past but now realises that only Iris knows the whole truth because Harry didn’t trust the older woman. He will have to get Harry somehow away from the Dursleys. Iris has to tell him exactly what the boy has suffered, and he will deal with Petunia and Vernon himself.
Once she falls silent, Albus asks, “Harry has told you about his participation in the Triwizard Tournament?”
“The second task will take place this Saturday under the Great Lake. I used a spell to find out which person each Champion will miss the most: Holly Pierce was the name spat out by the spell. I did not know any Holly Pierce currently attending Hogwarts, nor was she a student from the other visiting schools. I checked the school registry to confirm.
“Once I started looking up her location, I realised that her address was close to Harry’s home. I decided to check with Arabella first, given that she has been a resident for as long as he has been here.”
Arabella had blanched at Holly’s name but refused to say anything further. Instead, she had asked for Albus to follow her to the address in question.
Looking around at the pointedly muggle kitchens, Albus begins his questioning.
“How much does Harry know?”
“He knows I’m a witch. He figured it out last year and asked me about it.” Iris looks proud of Harry as she says this.
“Does he know your real name?” Albus looks at her intently.
“No. I haven’t told him.”
“Are you going to?”
Arabella sips her tea in silence, observing the two.
Iris doesn’t reply.
“Tell me about Holly,” Albus invites, taking a sip of his tea. “She is Severus’ daughter?”
The Headmaster listens with hidden astonishment at how Severus treated Jasmine. He remembers the Ravenclaw: she was a bright girl, ambitious in her own right. He is distraught to realise that her kindness has turned to bitterness given the treatment she received at the hands of Severus.
“And Harry does not know Holly belongs to Severus?”
“No,” Iris sighs. “That is another truth I have hidden from him. I don’t know how he will ever forgive me when he finds out.”
Albus is glad she said when and not if. He is guilty of many truths he has hidden from Harry, he knows; yet, he is still not as close to him as Iris is. It will hurt him greatly to find out that she has kept the truth about herself for so many years.
“I have noticed Harry is much kinder than he should be capable of, given the trials he has endured.”
“I won’t let you take Holly and have her participate in the tournament. Severus can’t see her.” Iris sits up and looks Albus straight in the eyes, who is pleased to see some spark of fire in her eyes. “You should not have let Harry participate at all.”
Albus nods his head in acknowledgement of the truth of this.
“I am here because I was curious, and now, I am not. Worry not, I won’t take Holly anywhere,” He assures her again.
The spell was performed for the other champions as well. They all came up with a personal connection, and their Headmaster (or Headmistress) spoke to their families. After outlining every safety measure they will take, only the Delacour's have consented to use their youngest daughter as a hostage.
Mr Krum’s family is unwilling to travel the distance, and Mr Diggory’s cannot spare the time, so they have had to resort to their Yule Ball dates. Luckily, the spirit of the tournament is still met.
“I will choose another hostage for Harry,” Albus tells her. For Harry, he will take Ron. They are best friends and have gone through much together.
“There’s something else I must tell you,” Iris confesses, darting a glance at Arabella.
Albus catches the underlying tension this statement provokes.
“What is it?” He feels a coldness descend upon him as Iris describes her illness and the effect of the medications she is taking.
“Oh, Eileen,” Albus says sorrowfully, closing his eyes in dejection.
The final task is tomorrow, and I can’t wait for the whole circus to be over.
I can’t wait to come home, Oma, and bake some shortbread with you and Holly.
Tobias needs the aid of a cane to get around. His knee pains him and stiffens when he sits for too long. He tries to take a short walk every day, but he knows not to venture too far from home.
He heads for the park and enters through the side gate. He sees her already sitting on one of the benches, watching the little children play. Tobias cautiously limps towards her.
She sees him coming and calmly turns back to the playground as Tobias sits rigidly beside her.
“Never thought I’d see you again, love,” he greets her gruffly.
Her reply is icy, like her tone of voice. “You were never meant to.”
“Is that any way to welcome your husband?”
Harry and Cedric do not expect the Cup to be a portkey.
They land – Merlin knows where – but it’s definitely not Hogwarts. Harry’s leg hurts, bleeding from the giant spider’s pincer and, when the beast drops him, he sprained his ankle.
Harry stares in horror as the flash of green fades and Cedric’s life is taken from him.
“I can touch you, now,” Voldemort laughs coldly as he traces the scar on his forehead. Harry screams in agony.
Harry watches in dread as Voldemort uses Wormtail’s Mark to summon his Death Eaters.
“You’re not going to go back to him,” Narcissa reminds Lucius.
Lucius is clutching his Mark in pain. They have been discussing this all year since the Quidditch match when the Dark Mark was released into the sky. They saw the signs. They knew this day would come.
Narcissa does not care one whit for muggles; she does not want to lose her family. Lucius has already gotten rid of the cursed Diary the Dark Lord gave to him. He was almost caught for possessing it as well, though there was no evidence to tie him to it, rightfully. Once the Dark Lord finds out that Lucius lost his possession, his life will be forfeit.
Narcissa cannot lose her husband.
The pain fades away. Lucius straightens up, cupping Narcissa tenderly and pressing a kiss to her brow.
“I’ll come back, darling,” he promises, leaving his study to fetch his Death Eater’ garb.
“I hope so,” Narcissa whispers to the void.
Sirius has no idea how to help his brother, assisting him into a chair. They are in Dumbledore’s office. Harry met them here before the task, and although Regulus can be seen in public, Sirius is still a hunted convict.
“The Dark Lord is back,” Regulus tells him urgently, clutching desperately at his brother’s robes.
Sirius feels the blood drain from his face.
“Harry,” he mumbles, knowing in his heart that his godson is in danger.
“I need to go.”
“He’ll kill you, Reg,” Sirius snaps.
“You know Harry is in trouble. The timing is suspect.”
Sirius reluctantly nods.
“Go find Dumbledore first.”
Sirius can only wait, hidden away.
Lucius is waiting for a chance to interfere.
“Bow down to death, Harry Potter,” cackles the Dark Lord.
The boy has been subjected to multiple Cruciatus Curses, is bleeding from his arm and leg, and can barely stand, but can still break through the Dark Lord’s Imperius Curse.
Lucius feels a reluctant admiration for the insolent whelp. He knows he is a strong player in this war that has started today. However, he is still a boy.
Lucius catches Petrus Parkinson’s eyes, who will do anything to protect his daughter. Then there’s Thadeus Nott, who was already planning to run away with his son. Crabbe and Goyle were on his side as well. It will be a difficult summer. They will always live afraid if the Dark Lord is not defeated this day.
Lucius knows of Severus’ Vow to Dumbledore. The idiot is planning to return to his spying duties; he wishes he could stop his friend, somehow.
He watches in awe as Potter’s and the Dark Lord’s wand connect. The boy is only fourteen, the same age as Draco, but he faces the Dark Lord and holds his own. Draco could not do that. Lucius admits to himself that he could not do this either. If he were not already planning to betray the Dark Lord, he would certainly change his mind after this.
Severus approaches Albus.
He can tell by his pinched face that Severus is in pain. As casually as he can, he raises his left hand to brush down the front of his robes. Only Albus can detect the almost imperceptible tremor. Severus’ Dark Mark is active.
Regulus Black rushes up to Albus at the same instance.
“I’m going to him,” Regulus says, eyes blazing. “We think he has Harry.”
Albus nods. The thought has occurred to him as well. Two of the four Champions had to be pulled to safety, and the spectators are getting antsy waiting for Harry Potter or Cedric Diggory to emerge as the winner.
“I shall go with you,” Severus says in a firm voice.
The Headmaster is surprised, but the choice belongs only to Severus. He was his spy thirteen years ago when Albus had demanded him to do it. Over the years, as Albus has got to know the younger wizard better, he has explored other ways to utilise Severus besides allowing him to continue his spying ways. His main reason for staying in Hogwarts is to protect Harry, and Severus does not need to be a spy to do it.
He still does not know he has a daughter, and Albus has promised Eileen that he will not reveal her secret. She has a year before her illness overcomes her.
Albus cannot justly stop Severus right now. If he did, he might suffer the consequences of the Vow, as Harry’s life is on the line. Albus does not doubt that Harry is wherever Voldemort is now.
Albus turns away from Severus and Regulus as they discreetly make their way towards the school gates, where they could apparate. He needs to find Alastor to see if his friend can locate Mr Diggory.
Albus is sitting behind his desk in his office, his head in his hands.
Lucius is standing behind his wife, who is sitting in an armchair near Albus’ bookshelf. Albus confesses that he is surprised that Lucius is here, having betrayed Voldemort, especially given his event two years ago, when he attempted to use his Lord’s possessions on innocent children. Albus is planning on speak to Lucius and Narcissa in further detail regarding this, but later. One mess at a time.
Harry is lying in the Hospital Wing, several floors up, resting from his ordeal. Albus is sorry for forcing Harry to voice his ordeal since he had just been through it, but he needed to know as much as he could. Time is of the essence, and they need to begin planning as soon as possible. Harry is not alone. Sirius has elected to stay up there in his dog form, and Albus has given Poppy his guarantee that ‘Snuffles’ is tame.
Regulus is sitting in the farthest corner while Severus is leaning on the mantle above the fireplace.
Severus has outed himself as a spy, barely escaping with his life. Albus is not sad that he can no longer be a spy for him, though he can tell that he regrets this more. The Headmaster fears that Severus will think he is no longer helpful if he cannot spy.
Albus finally breaks the silence. “Voldemort will remain hidden whilst he gathers his forces.”
“Fudge is already on the verge of denying it all,” Severus murmurs.
“Yes. That possibility cannot be denied,” Albus agrees. Cornelius is indeed teetering. On the one hand, he had statements from several Pureblood families, including Lucius, who certainly knew how to handle Cornelius; on the other hand, he would not be able to handle being a Minister in a war scenario and still believes there is insufficient evidence. Cornelius has even forced himself to believe that Lucius is suffering from some sort of Imperius’ aftereffects thirteen years later.
Cornelius cannot deny two things: Barty Crouch Senior broke his son out of prison, who had masqueraded as Alastor Moody for the whole year and put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire.
Any further discussion is disrupted when one of Albus’ gadgets suddenly begins blaring and smoking on his shelf next to the Malfoys. He immediately rushes up to it and plucks it from the shelf. It stops as suddenly as it started, and Albus returns it to its place, staring at it unseeingly, even as he is aware that his guests are watching him, waiting for answers. He had enchanted it in March after visiting Eileen.
Albus ignores them as he realises that Eileen has lied to him: she had assured him that she will live for another year and is looking for some hope of a better solution with her medication. It seems Eileen already knew she only had a handful of months.
“Albus? What is it?” Severus asks in concern, stepping towards Albus’ desk.
Knowing he will be unable to brush this off, Albus settles for a half-truth given his reaction. He pushes the truth behind his Occlumency shields but is still unable to look Severus in the eyes.
“I cannot speak of it at this time. This gadget is enchanted to inform me of the death of…” he is unable to come up with a false name, so simply says, “someone important.”
There are rare occasions when Albus would like to indulge in teenage tantrums of throwing and breaking things. This is one of those occasions. Sensing his feelings, his familiar, Fawkes, flies up from his perch and lands on his desk in front of him, then hops into his lap.
His guests exchange puzzled looks with each other, wondering who else could have died. They already have a grieving Diggory family upstairs in the Hospital Wing.
Before anyone could say anything else, they are further interrupted by the arrival of an owl that flies through Albus’ open window. He can make an educated guess as to the contents when the owl lands on Severus’ shoulders, dropping off the letter to the impatient Potions Master and then leaving the way it came.
Albus schools his face into something calm, knowing that he must react as if he does not know what information that letter contains.
“Well?” Narcissa prompts. She stands up from her seat and steps towards Severus when he does not immediately speak. “What does it say?”
“I have a daughter,” Severus replies faintly, continuing to stare incredulously at the missive.