Chapter 1 of 9
The sorry Ministry
“So, er- you see. That’s how we realized that the previous administration was holding you against the law seeing as they never questioned or even charged you, much less gave you a trial and that is why we hastened to correct those mistakes and what a pleasant surprise to know you are such a credit to our society.”
“You mean to say I’ve been kidnapped and kept prisoner for eleven years by the Ministry,” the black haired man said in a flat voice and a look that clearly stated he was not pleased with the explanation he just got.
The rotund man in front of him fidgeted with his bowler hat and looked at the ancient looking man with an extreme long beard and garish looking robes next to him for help. “Er, see- that was the previous administration- er - Barty Crouch, and Bagnold- they did that – but - er- as soon as we realized that you had not been even charged we hastened to correct- er- and they aren’t even part of the Ministry anymore. Barty Crouch was summarily fired and Bagnold, well she passed away a few years er- Amelia?” he practically begged the no nonsense woman next to him.
“What Minister Fudge means is that there is no excuse for what was done to you Mr. Black, nor that it took us this long to realize what had been done and correct it. The Ministry extends our most sincere apologies and we have already deposited a compensation into your vaults. I know this does not bring back the years you’ve lost but unfortunately it is all we are able to do at the moment.”
The man surveyed her with calculating eyes and it troubled Amelia to no end. After eleven years in Azkaban she had expected to find a bumbling mess and yet Sirius Black was as coherent as he had been when he was a trainee Auror under her back when Crouch was Head of the DMLE and she was Head Auror. Dressed in the fine robes that had been procured to him once they realized the gross and illegal miscarry of justice that had been done to him, one would have never guessed where he had spent the last decade if not for the emaciated look he had.
“So, let me get this straight,” he started in a calm and dangerous voice. “You,” he pointed to Dumbledore, “Allowed your whole student body to gang up against one student-“
“Er, it was discovered he was a parselmouth like You-know-“ Fudge tried to defend Dumbledore but was sharply cut by Sirius Black.
“Voldemort was also a human being, who attended Hogwarts, spoke English, wielded a wand, wore robes and had two legs,” he looked around at the group gathered in the Minister’s lavish office. “I guess that makes all of us in this room Dark Lords then?”
The others looked uncomfortable and in what was his customary calm demeanor Dumbledore tried once again to placate the man in front of him.
“You are absolutely correct Sirius. I am most ashamed of my students’ actions-“
“And yet you did nothing to stop them. Wouldn’t be the first time,” Sirius snapped giving Dumbledore an ugly look. “So, recapping, after allowing a student to be terrorized, said student, most normally and quite smartly, fled in fear for his life. Once you realized he did not go back to his ‘loving’,” and here he spat the word as if it was an insult, “relatives you decided to check Gringotts by what could amount to kidnapping Petunia- since I am quite sure she must not have gone on her own free will - to get her to sign off on the Goblins telling you if Harry used his money, which is when you found out that Petunia Evans Dursley is not my godson’s legal guardian seeing as I never lost guardianship because, as you so nicely put it, I was never convicted. So you hastened to give me a trial in order for Petunia to get guardianship when your plans went astray by the little tiny detail of me being innocent. To which you then hastened,” he stressed in a mock voice giving the Minister for Magic a nasty look, “to butter me up by giving me the comfort of a shower and new robes so I wouldn’t press charges for kidnapping, seeing as only convicted felons can be sent to Azkaban and I was never even charged. And now you want me to go to Gringotts and tell you where my godson is? Did I get that right?”
The three most powerful people in Wizarding Britain at the moment were at loss to what to say and Sirius wanted to snort. They obviously had not expected to encounter such difficulties when they noticed Harry missing last night. Monday night and Sirius wanted to groan. The last someone had seen of Harry had been Friday night when the Gray Lady had run into some seventh year Ravenclaws hexing his godson. And do you think they did anything? Took his godson to the Hospital Wing? No! Dumbledore only realized Harry had been hexed because when he didn’t show up for any class on Monday he called a school meeting at dinner to ask if anyone had seen him, which is when the Ravenclaw ghost had decided to open her mouth. Sirius never liked her, she never cared a wit about the students, always aloof and in her own world. Even the Bloody Baron, as intimidating as he was, tried to protect the students.
Sirius at first hadn’t known what was happening when the guards had stormed his cell and portkeyed him to a full Wizengamot trial. He had lost track of time in Azkaban, but he did know that he would never get a trial if he hadn’t gotten one back years ago. So he was quite surprised. Mind you, no one was being nice or anything. Procuring him a solicitor or even giving him time to look more presentable.
The guard shoved some Veritaserum down his throat and Amelia Bones started asking questions. Their intent was clear. They believed him guilty and thought this was a mere formality so they could get Petunia named guardian and make her sign the permission for the goblins to talk. Weren’t they surprised.
Once his innocence was evident their tune changed. He was taken to a nice room inside the Ministry and given all the time to shower and dress on the pristine new robes they gave him. Then he was led here, not dragged as before, but courteously and nervously accompanied to the Minister’s office where he was quite sure the Minister and Dumbledore had been certain that he’d be just as guidable as Petunia, the Muggle who would have been too afraid of magic to protest.
They probably thought he was completely crazy and he would have been if not for two very deciding factors. He was the Black heir and an Animagus. The Black heir, the future Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black was given extra protection when born. It was a spell cast by some many-times great-grandfather of his on the line of Black. Back when the Head of the Family and heir to the title of Lord Black had to fear for life attempts.
There had been several protections he was sure his mother loathed. One was that the heir couldn’t be disowned (which he was sure his dear mother threw a hissy fit about), he would always be the heir and most importantly for Sirius’ situation the heir was given a mental shield, much like an Occlumency shield, but instead of just wall between whoever was trying to get into his mind and him, he also had the ability of putting fake memories in front of that wall so the intruder wouldn’t realize they were being blocked. The shield also stayed up regardless of the heir’s current state or awareness, which didn’t happen with Occlumency where the person had to keep the shield up themselves. That shield protected Sirius from the Dementors’ effects completely and in turn he maintained his sanity. As the silence stretched Sirius decided to break it.
“Were the students who attacked my godson expelled?”
Dumbledore looked at Sirius with a reproachful look, “Sirius my boy, those students feel immense guilt and they have been reprimanded. I’m sure they deserve a-“
“Second chance? Yeah, you’ve always been all about second chances to the undeserving haven’t you Dumbledore?”
“I believe you yourself weren’t a saint in school-”
“I never sent anyone to the Hospital Wing,” Sirius said angrily. “I changed their hair color, their clothes color, had a laugh, a prank. But not once did I physically harm anyone. Snape and his friends on the other hand couldn’t go a week without maiming someone. And where did they end up? Oh, yes, with a nice little tattoo. If you won’t take action against those who burnt my godson’s things, kicked him out of his House, denied him food and then hexed him I will,” he finished icily. “And forget about me helping you. I’m going to find my godson and if he doesn’t want to he’ll be welcome to never set foot on Hogwarts again,” he finished turning around and storming out of the Minister’s office without a by your leave. Before he knew it he was in the Apparition point, and, as if he hadn’t spent the last decade without doing most magic, he gripped the handle of his wand that had been returned to him – since it hadn’t been snapped due to his lack of trial - and Apparated to Diagon Alley. He paid people no mind as a few recognized him, and not having been informed of his innocence yet, screamed and ran for cover as he purposely stalked to Gringotts stopping at the teller and without a good-day barked:
“Lord Black to see my account manager.”
The goblin gave him a nasty smirk and said, “He’s been waiting sir.”
Sirius had been led to a room in the back of the bank and was now sitting shaking his leg nervously as he waited for the account manager. What if Harry hadn’t stopped at Gringotts? Dumbledore thought Harry used his invisibility cloak to get out of the castle with the older students on Saturday as it had been a Hogsmead weekend, but the truth was Dumbledore had no way of knowing if Harry still had his cloak. The only way he had it was if it had been in his bag when the other Gryffindors burned his trunk. Apparently the Gryffindors had tried to open Harry’s trunk to see if he had any Dark objects and had been unable to. Ron Weasley had confessed to Dumbledore that Harry once told him he bought a trunk that could only be opened by him so his relatives wouldn’t be able to open it. Incensed, the Gryffindors threw the whole trunk into the fireplace. Harry should have gotten a fire proof trunk, but maybe Harry thought even Petunia wouldn’t be that evil.
The last time he had been seen was when he was hexed Friday night. It was Tuesday afternoon now. The Gray Lady had not been forthcoming about the hexes sent and too much time had passed for Prior Incantatem, as the students weren’t talking either. But the Gray Lady had said Harry looked pretty hurt. For all they knew he might have still been in the castle and all they would find would be his body.
Dumbledore seemed to think he was alive and somewhere new, something about blood wards having failed but the detectors he had on Harry still saying he was alive. Sirius’s inside was getting cold at the thought of where his pup was. All this time he thought Remus had him. That was what James and Lily’s Will had said. That was what the provisions he had made had said. He wasn’t stupid. They were at war. He knew there was a chance that he’d be incapacitated but not necessarily dead so he had made such provision as had James and Lily. Harry was to go to Remus Lupin if he couldn’t take him.
But Dumbledore had said Petunia had him and that Remus had left the Wizarding World after the ordeal. That Harry didn’t even know him. He hadn’t even seen Remus. He had not been at his trial. Granted, his trial had been put up in a matter of hours so maybe there had been no time to inform him. But still, Remus had a lot to explain.
“Ah, Mr. Black. I was wondering how long it would take to see you after Mrs. Dursley was unable to obtain the information she wanted.”
“Well, yes here I am and I want to know if my godson was here.”
“Do you wish to see the state of your estate?”
“I’ll come another time for that. Right now I want to know when was the last time Harry Potter’s trust vault was accessed and if he might have said what he intended to do.”
“Certainly,” the goblin told him with a nasty smile and without even looking at the ledger he said. “Mister Potter was here Saturday morning after having flooed from the Three Broomsticks to the Leaky Cauldron. He seemed quite distraught and hurt. He took some money, converted some into pounds and inquired if the Potters had left any real estate property. I also offered the services of our healer, for a fee of course, seeing as Mister Potter looked injured. He took them.”
Sirius sighed in relief, at least he had an idea of where Harry could have gone. He knew the properties, James had gone through them with him and made sure to key him to all of them. “What did the healer have to say?”
“That is confidential.”
“Mister Potter is a minor and I am his guardian.”
“Quite right, but I don’t know what she said. I can call her to tell you.”
“Please do,” after he heard the goblin give an order into a communication device he asked. “Did Mister Potter say which property interested him?”
Crap, he’d have to go to all of them . The Potters had been quite rich and there were many unused ones. Some had been rented out but he had no idea if those leases were still valid, especially since there had been no one to sign any renewal. Well, he’d go to each one of them if he had to. He’d start close by though. Harry seemed to have his head screwed up right. Leaving the place where he was in danger, procuring himself money and a place to stay. So he hoped he had been rational once again and chosen somewhere he wouldn’t depend on magical transportation to get to.
The healer came in and greeted Sirius, she waited for the goblin to leave and started detailing what she had fixed on Harry and what she suspected but needed authorization for a complete evaluation to confirm. Sirius stalked out of Gringotts furiously with his mind on two things. Find his pup and show him no one could hurt him and get away with it.
Harry regarded the parchment he had just received warily. He recognized the writing as Fred Weasley’s. That was the one thing the twins hadn’t managed to keep identical. Fred had said that they were sorry and that they were returning something that had been very helpful to them but they had recently found out was his. They said it wouldn’t open up to them anymore because they wronged the line of Prongs, whatever that meant. Harry looked suspicious. The other thing in the envelope had been an old piece of parchment. Fred had said he should state his name with his wand touching it and he’d understand. Harry thought maybe they had booby trapped the parchment and just didn’t want to hurt other people.
He would never forget how everyone looked at him after he stopped that snake from biting Justin. Even Ron and Hermione had looked at him like that. He had been scared and grabbed his bag and fled the room without understanding what the hell was going on. He only understood the next day when he looked up the word they called him, parselmouth, in the library. But that night he hid until he thought it might be safe to go back to his dorm, where Ron and Hermione would explain to him what was going on. Instead he found his whole house in the common room. Burning his trunk. Only Neville shouting at them to stop. Ron and Hermione to the side not looking at him or stopping the others. Then they said he wasn’t a Gryffindor and had no place there. When Harry refused to move they all moved at once and that’s when Harry knew he had to run. He knew better than that. He had spent his whole life running from Dudley and his gang.
He found an unused room and slept there. The next morning, Wednesday, he thought he better get breakfast before everyone but the other students were on to him and a committee from all houses was waiting for him in front of the Great Hall doors.
“Parselmouths aren’t allowed to eat with normal, decent people,” the spokesperson had said and had stung Harry’s hand with a hex as a warning “If you don’t leave on your own we’ll make you.” Guess Dumbledore would be proud of the house unity. He tried again at lunch and dinner and had the same result. He didn’t try again. Wouldn’t be the first time he went hungry anyway.
By Friday night he was starving and a bit sluggish which is why he wasn’t fast enough to outrun those Ravenclaws. They jumped him, hit him, kicked him and hexed him. It hurt so bad, he had burns on his arms and face and one of his arms was hurting like hell. He was sure he cracked a few ribs too. One of the ghosts showed up and Harry took the opportunity to run. He thought of going to Madam Pomfrey but decided against it and tended to his wounds himself. None of the teachers had helped him so far. And they’d all seen him. He’d gotten points taken for not having his books. He had been bumped in class, his cauldron had been tampered with. No adult did anything. But then again, they never had. He was safer in his empty classroom. But he knew he couldn’t stay. He’d be dead by the end of next week if he did. He’s luck was that on Tuesday he had put his Invisibility Cloak in his bag. He had been happy for that. Losing all his things had hurt, especially his broom and album, but at least he hadn’t lost his father’s cloak.
But he didn’t have much money left and he knew he’d need some. He knew this Saturday the upper years got to go to the village, so the gates would be open. If he just walked out with them he was sure to find somewhere with floo and he could floo to Diagon Alley. There he could find out exactly how much money he had. Ron had once said that he couldn’t have just his trust vault because the Potters were as loaded as the Malfoys. That he probably would be able to access the rest when he was of age. So he wondered, he couldn’t access the money but maybe there was a house. His parents had to have lived somewhere. And he could stay there. Under the radar. Maybe find a way to go to Muggle school. After all he knew two things, Hogwarts wasn’t safe anymore and if he went back to the Dursleys he’d be dead. So with a plan in mind he crept up to the owlery and told Hedwig to leave Hogwarts and find him wherever he went. He hoped she would. He couldn’t take her with him, she’d call too much attention but he didn’t want to leave her behind. He was worried someone would hurt her.
So, wearing his cloak he set out of Hogwarts and found this place. Hedwig had found him the next day and today this letter had arrived. Stealing his resolve he took a big breath and put his wand to the parchment over the counter.
“My name is Harry Potter”. He waited with baited breath but no explosion came, instead letters started forming on the parchment.
“Mr. Prongs is happy to welcome Mr. Prongslet to the pack.”
“Mr. Padfoot says Mr. Prongs should deflate his head and explain what Mr. Prongslet has just found.”
“Mr. Moony points out that Mr. Padfoot is delusional if he thinks Mr. Prongs is capable of deflating his head and bids Mr. Prongslet welcome to Mischief Making.”
“Mr. Prongs wants to point out Mr. Padfoot and Mr. Moony are mean and jealous and tells Mr. Prongslet that if he were to solemnly swear he was up to no good he might be pleasantly surprised.”
As a response a drawing of two tongs blowing raspberries to the last line appeared sound and all. Harry smiled and touched his wand to the parchment.
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” he said and his eyes boggled as lines started forming and a map of Hogwarts appeared with the title “Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers are proud to present THE MARAUDER’S MAP” but that was nothing compared to how high he jumped when he heard:
“I certainly hope not.”