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Free Life Posted on 8/16/2014 1:03:46 AM
Chapter 7: 4000 words and counting
Hero Posted on 3/25/2012 7:32:33 PM
Chapter 6 Chance and Choice: 3,600 words and counting
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Chapter 5: 0 words and counting.

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Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I in no way claim ownership of any rights to the Harry Potter Universe.

Author's Note: A heartfelt thank you for all the readers who took the time to review. Special thanks to Matt for his long suffering patience in regards to my "atrocious" (his actual word choice)grammar. Our arguments over plot are particularly invigorating.

Note: Notice-Me-Not is not an actual canon spell, it is a creation of fanfiction.

Chapter 4: The Opposite of Static
“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” Ralph Waldo Emerson American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882

The whirring crystal orbs and clinking metallic spheres buzzed incessantly in an erratic tattoo that competed against the wheezing, whistling snores of the portraits that hung on the walls, even the Sorting Hat’s slumbering murmurs added to the low cacophony of sounds. The current headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, was oblivious to the resonance as he sat behind his ornate mahogany desk. The sounds reverberating off the circular stone walls gave a repetitious susurration that could have been mistaken for the whispered conversations of the shades of past headmasters and mistresses.

Albus Dumbledore was lost in his memories, lost in the chaos of choice and consequence and the sum of all its parts. He lived in a world of lies, half truths and misdirection. He refused the outward political trappings that were offered to him for the challenge and delight of heading the preeminent school of wizardry in all of Europe, and yet the burden of responsibility lay heavily on his shoulders. His many choices had left countless lives affected, altered, destroyed.

His life, his choices, had all been dictated by his desire to achieve the greater good. To sacrifice one for the better of all – it haunted him. But no choice haunted him more than the one he’d made that Halloween night all those years ago. He had given no thought to the life the boy would lead or the treatment he would receive.

Harry Potter – Prophecy’s child.

He’d thought of him often throughout the years, but never so much as this summer, as the Death Eaters increased their attacks against Muggles and Muggleborns and the rumors of Voldemort’s return came to him with each passing day, although none of the accounts that came to him were conclusive or substantiated until his Potions Master revealed that the Dark Mark that was magically carved on his forearm had fully materialized. He knew then that his worst fears had come to fruition. Voldemort had returned.

The fact that Severus Snape, a member of Voldemort’s inner circle, had yet to be summoned was troubling enough in its own right, but it also meant that they were currently blind to Voldemort's activities and plans. Snape knew better, though, than to seek out the Dark Lord without an official summons. All they had to operate on were their own suspicions. Voldemort must have been informed of Harry Potter’s demise by his Death Eaters, of that Albus had no doubt. The words of the prophecy would playback in his mind in an endless loop, mocking him – and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. These words, while seemingly unrelated, gave him a modicum of hope.

Dead or alive? Few within his own inner circle knew that Harry’s body was never found. According to Mrs. Figg’s accounting, the Dursleys and Harry left early one summer morning, and in a week’s time they were killed in a car crash. Harry was nowhere to be found. The child of the prophecy, the only one that could bring about the demise of the darkest wizard of their time, was either dead or lost to them.

His attention was drawn to the fire that roared to life in his grate as the voice of Arthur Weasley came through.

“Albus, are you there?”

Albus rose crossing the room to stand before the mantle. “Good evening Arthur. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this fine evening?”

“May I come through for a moment to speak with you; it’s rather urgent.” Arthur Weasley’s voice was tinged with concern, and his usually calm demeanor was distinctly absent.

“I’ve nothing pressing at the moment; you’re welcome to come through,” he responded, pitching his voice in a manner that would sooth Arthur, one he’d had much practice utilizing over the years.

Without further comment the fire flared, and Arthur Weasley strode through the grate.

Walking towards a glass encased cabinet, Albus pulled out a bottle and two goblets. “Goblin wine, Arthur? I usually have a glass at this time.”

“Yes, a bit of liquid courage might be prudent.” Arthur settled on one of the chairs across from the headmaster’s desk. Settling in his own chair, he looked over his half-moon glasses at his guest. Arthur seemed to be contemplating the best way to approach his conversation, and after a few moments longer Albus prompted, “What can I do for you this evening?” That seemed to be sufficient impetus to loosen Arthur Weasley’s tongue.

“My daughter Ginny invited a young man to dinner this evening to meet the family,” Arthur began and took another sip of the Goblin wine.

He waited patiently for Arthur to continue as they drank their wine in companionable silence, and after a while he prompted again, “I would imagine this is not a common occurrence for Ginny?”

“Not at all. To be honest I was quite anxious to meet the young man that had captured our Ginny’s attention. She, well after her first year she was never quite the same, not as trusting,” he admitted starring out the window to the grounds lost in thought for a moment, and then his blue eyes snapped back to the present and looked directly at him. “While her bringing a young man for us to meet was surprising, the young man she brought with her was, to say the least, even more so.”

Albus quirked an eyebrow curiously, “How so?”

“Well for starters up until a few days ago he had no inkling that he was a wizard, until he met Ginny that is. He was born in England, but raised in a Muggle orphanage in Boston. But that’s not the most surprising aspect of this amazing young man.” Arthur chuckled appreciatively in remembrance.

Albus contemplated the wizard before him with a critical eye. He’d known Arthur Weasley since he was a bright-eyed first year at Hogwarts, served with him in the Order in the first war, educated his children and ate at his table. Arthur Weasley was a methodical man, calm, keenly intelligent. This man had seen much; that he would be impressed by a young man he’d just met was quite significant. He waited patiently for Arthur to bring to light why he’d felt compelled to relate whatever he was building up to.

“Albus, he taught himself wandless magic, with the cunning use of Muggle comic books.” This time Arthur outright laughed with glee.

Albus felt his eyes widen in surprise. “He taught himself how to use magic?”

“Yes, only he had no idea it was magic, no idea that wizards and witches even existed. He’s keenly intelligent Albus, extremely curious, yet cautious. I’ve convinced him to confer with you; he should be formally taught the theory and practice of magic. The things this young man has accomplished are quite frankly astounding.”

Albus smiled widely, eyes crinkling behind his half moon glasses at Arthur’s enthusiasm and admiration of this paragon of wizardry and was just as interested to deliberate with him as Arthur seemed to be. “And what is the name of this wizarding savant?”

He chuckled rather nervously and then announced the name in breathless, whispered awe, “Harry Potter.”

His eyes widened even further as his eyebrows raised in astonishment. The irony that he was contemplating the fate of Harry Potter prior to Arthur’s arrival was not lost on Albus.

He sat forward in his seat, his gaze intent on Arthur’s countenance, “You’re confident that he is in fact Harry Potter?”

Arthur’s response could not have been any more animated as he gave a bark of a laugh, “No doubt in my mind. He’s Harry Potter all right, the spitting image of James with Lily’s eyes.”

“You say he’s been in Boston all this time?”

“Yes, his relatives quite shockingly left him on the doorstep of an orphanage, and he’s been there ever since. He wasn’t in the car that killed them.” The disgust for Harry’s relatives was quite plainly visible on Arthur’s face.

Albus nodded and sat back in his chair, closing his eyes he heaved a deep sigh, “I never let it be known that his body was never found, the fourth member in the car was actually a Muggle friend of their son. Had it not been for the ignorance and disdain that our society in general holds against Muggles there might have been a more thorough inquiry. As it is, it took all of my formidable influence to curb the outbreak of Muggle attacks due to the manner of his death.”

“His body was never found?” Arthur asked incredulously, “Why wasn’t that disclosed? I don’t understand.”

Arthur’s blue eyes gazed into his own searchingly. He did not make the mistake of thinking, as so many others did, that Arthur Weasley was a simple man of limited intellect and intuition. Albus returned his gaze unflinchingly, though inwardly he could feel the sting of disapproval in Arthur’s eyes.

“I know that many in the Order questioned my decision to leave him with his Muggle family. Make no mistake, as Minerva was always keen to repeat, they were the worst kind of Muggles, but he had the blood protection of his mother there as long as he stayed with his aunt. He would be spared the scrutiny of the wizarding world. He would be safe.”

“Safe perhaps, but neglected and unloved, if their leaving him in a Muggle orphanage to rot is any proof of their character,” Arthur replied indignantly. Just as quickly the righteous indignation faded from his countenance as he seemed to give a self-recriminating mirthless laugh.

“But I cannot place the blame fully on your shoulders, Albus. We were all so caught up in the euphoria of a world without He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named that we, quite unforgivably, forgot about the boy who brought about his downfall. We never questioned your decision, not really.” Arthur gave a deep sigh, his eyes flicking towards the now completely darkened sky outside the headmaster’s window. Turning them towards the headmasters once more, he sighed deeply before continuing. “Even though the Order had disbanded, our responsibility at that point should have been towards Harry, but we were all too busy living our happy lives to even think of him, at least not until the reports of his death.”

“No Arthur, the blame of Harry’s fate lies solely upon my shoulders. It is my burden alone, and I alone must carry it. There is a fine balance between doing what is right for the good of all against the cost of a single soul.” Albus could feel the prickling of tears behind his eyes as the memories of past mistakes he always struggled to keep at bay flooded his mind. Fawkes trilled mournfully upon his perch, and yet the sound heartened him.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Arthur quoted sympathetically.

“Indeed.”

A few silent moments passed before Arthur nodded his head decisively. “He is willing to speak with you. I know I do not need to stress to you how vulnerable he is, but he has an open mind to whatever advice you have to impart in regards to his future. Do not mistake his ignorance of our world for naiveté, Albus; you only have one chance with Harry. You’ve always told us that our choices determine our circumstances, our very character; tread carefully, Albus.”

No, Arthur Weasley was not a slow witted man. He inclined his head in understanding. “Shall we meet this shining example of wizardry?”

Arthur’s eyes twinkled behind his spectacles. “We shall.” Arthur placed his now empty goblet upon the headmaster’s ornate desk, inclined his head in farewell, walked towards the grate and, throwing Floo powder into the roaring flames, intoned his destination.

*

It felt as if they had been talking for hours. They had pretty much exhausted the topic of Harry’s history, how he’d met Ginny, how he taught himself magic, or what he now knew was magic. He’d found the headmaster to be genuinely curious about Harry and engaging in his demeanor. Yet there was something off about him that Harry couldn’t quite put his finger on. Logic and reason could not always be counted on when it came to judging a person’s intentions, and when logic failed he relied on his instincts, which had always served him well. Albus Dumbledore, however, had him stumped. There was a twinkle in his eye that presented a good-natured, unassuming quality to his persona. Yet, behind the twinkle there was intelligence and calculation.

“Harry? Arthur tells me you’re interested in attaining a formal education of magic at Hogwarts?”

Harry focused back onto the conversation that was going on around him and the headmaster’s question, “Interested yes, though not totally convinced it’s necessary.” Harry responded.

“Harry,” Ginny admonished.

Harry turned to Ginny a wry grin on his face, “We agreed that I would speak with your headmaster and that I would go to Hogwarts. I’m going to give it my full consideration; it’s not an outright no, Ginny, just a wait and see.”

“Stubborn git,” he heard her mutter under her breath. Harry just smiled at her engagingly until she heaved a deep sigh and returned his smile.

“May I ask where your reluctance lies in taking on this endeavor? I assure you that what you will be learning will go beyond your wildest dreams and expectations of what it means to be a wizard.”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled behind his half moon glasses, his demeanor was beneficent and his tone grandfatherly, it practically screamed, trust me, I’m a good wizard. Harry wasn’t completely fooled by his affectation; he was a sly old coot and Harry would need to be on his toes around him.

“Well Sir, I set the path of my life quite a long time ago. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was ten and that was return to England any way I could.” Harry explained.

“You’re here in England now.” Dumbledore pointed out. “How does that hinder your decision?”

“Yes, I’m here in England. I’m here with a purpose. To obtain my Bachelor of Fine Arts; I’ve worked damned hard to earn a scholarship to Oxford, and I’m not going to just give it up without a good reason.” Harry’s voice had risen slightly in passionate defense of his position.

Dumbledore looked at Harry over his spectacles, his gaze piercing as if he was trying to read his very mind.

“That is quite understandable.” Dumbledore nodded, a faraway look in his eye. “When I was your age I too had set a path for myself, one that I had felt quite passionate about as well. Fate it would seem had other ideas for my life’s journey.” The twinkle in his eye had dimmed and his face had taken on a pained expression.

Harry took in every detail of the headmaster’s countenance: the sadness in his eyes, the tension around his mouth, his clasped hands upon the scarred wooden table. He was such an imposing figure. The power seemed to radiate off his very skin and spark around him as if it could not be contained.

“We do not always live the lives we thought we would or take the paths we thought we’d take. Some dreams are stolen from our very hands, others broken irreparably. I do not ask you to leave the path you’ve set for yourself or give up on your dreams, only that your dreams are deferred for a time. I believe that your magical training at this point in time is quite imperative given the current atmosphere in our world”

“My fear headmaster is that I will immerse myself so completely in this world that I will lose may way and never return. My dreams, my life as I saw it will be lost to me forever.” Harry’s reply was just as impassioned as the first.

“What have you seen of our world Harry,” Arthur interrupted from the head of the table.

Harry took a moment to respond taken aback by the abrupt change of topic. “Nothing. Ginny had planned to take me to some of the wizarding worlds more prominent landmarks today but thought it would be prudent to save that for another time.” He turned to her and gave her an understanding smile, squeezing her hand that was still clasped in his. “She was concerned about my safety and what would happen if I were recognized,” he explained.

“I never actually told you that,” Ginny hissed under her breath so that only Harry could hear her.

“What can I say; I’m a perceptive guy,” Harry answered in kind.

“Our Ginny isn’t Head Girl for nothin’,” George bellowed from across the table, bringing Harry’s attention across the table to where the twins were sitting.

“Yeah, we’re still upset about that one, taken her out of our wills we have,” Fred intoned, a look of abject disappointment on his face as he wiped an imaginary tear from the corner of his eye.

Dumbledore chuckled at their antics and looked towards Ginny affectionately. “Miss Weasley most assuredly earned her position, of that there is no doubt.”

Ginny blushed prettily, “I wanted him to visit Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. I even thought about taking him to Beaumont Park for a flying lesson.” At the last statement she’d turned to Fred and George who returned her mischievous grin. Harry could hear her father chuckle at the end of the table. “I didn’t think it was wise to go on our own and it would probably be prudent for him to be glamoured, just in case.”

“A good choice indeed,” Dumbledore agreed.

“Personally,” Ginny looked at Harry with a teasing smile, “I think Hogwarts will be the clincher. Who’d be able to say no to that?” She bumped her shoulder against his playfully. Harry chuckled at her conclusion, putting his arm around her and squeezing her shoulder affectionately.

“Perhaps Diagon Alley would not be a good first choice,” Dumbledore agreed, “given Harry’s current situation. While we would eventually need to visit Gringotts Bank in order to settle Harry’s estate…”

“Wait, estate? What estate?” Harry was confused by the headmaster’s declaration. He didn’t have an estate.

“Ah yes, you would not be privy to that information. Your parents left you a trust vault for your education; when you turned seventeen the contents of which have been transferred to the Potter vault. Your godfather is the executor of course – “

“Godfather! I’ve a godfather?” If the announcement of an estate wasn’t shocking enough the knowledge that he had family was even more unsettling.

“Oh Merlin Harry, I am so sorry, I totally forgot about that!” Ginny had placed her hand on his forearm, her expression totally dejected at having forgotten to mention that he had family. “After all we’ve talked about it totally slipped my mind that you had family.”

“Ginny, it’s all right; I understand how you could have forgotten.” He could tell that she wasn’t quite mollified.

“I am sorry Harry,” she said once again, the look of sadness etched firmly on her face. Harry placed his palm against her cheek and gave her a reassuring smile. He looked deeply into her eyes as if he could find the answers to his questions there.

A godfather. He really couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that he had someone he could call family. He could barely define the emotions that were currently running the gamut between pleasure and anger. If he did indeed have a godfather, why had he been consigned to the hell that was living with the Dursleys?

He would set aside his questions for another time. He didn’t want to give flight to those thoughts; they were too upsetting, and there would be time for that later.

He looked at the headmaster who seemed to be awaiting some sort of response from him. “So, I’ve an estate and a godfather?” Harry asked tentatively, unsure and unsettled about this new disclosure.

The headmaster nodded his head in assent. “Perhaps it would be prudent for us to plan a meeting with your godfather?” Dumbledore questioned. His tone seemed eager and insistent to Harry’s ears.

“I will be happy to contact your godfather and arrange a meeting. Am I mistaken in presuming that you would prefer this reunion to take place sooner rather than later?” The twinkle in his eyes made a reappearance. “Once I contact your godfather I’m afraid it will take all my formidable persuasion and magical ability to convince him not to track you down.”

Actually he would not like to meet his godfather just yet. Harry felt as if things were being thrust upon him that he was not quite ready to deal with yet. “You would presume incorrectly, Headmaster,” He could sense the tension that followed his pronouncement and felt Ginny squeeze his hand under the table.

He looked at Ginny’s upturned face and met her confused yet sympathetic gaze. She squeezed his hand again in reassurance and nodded her head in acceptance. He felt a stirring in his chest. He had her support, and for this he was immensely grateful.

He looked at the faces of all those assembled and the varying degrees of expression on their kindly faces - understanding, approval, astonishment and even humor from the twins mingled with a twinge of awe.

“If you don’t mind my asking, Harry, is there a reason you do not wish to meet with your godfather at this time?” The headmasters question was not censorious, so much as curious.

While he felt that he did not owe the headmaster an explanation for his reluctance, common courtesy required that he respond. “One reason would be that I’ve college obligations and functions that I must attend before term starts which requires my attention, that in and of itself is sufficient reason. However, the more pressing motive is that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. This is all a bit much to go on,” Harry explained. Frankly, the stresses of crossing the Atlantic, meeting new people and the experiences he’d had so far prior to discovering his heritage was more than sufficient stress. He needn’t add more to it in one fell swoop if it could be avoided. He wanted to put off any further emotional entanglements and surprises until he could properly process what he’d learned so far.

He could feel Dumbledore’s intense gaze boring into him. “I don’t see what harm there would be in at least meeting with your godfather. Once he knows of your existence he would be very desirous to meet with you.”

Once more Harry’s gaze scanned the faces of the assembled Weasley’s and guests. Again he saw no censure in their return stare. Whether intentional or not he did not like that the headmaster had used his godfather as emotional coercion.

“Look, I know what you want me to do; I can virtually feel your hand prints on my back.” Harry’s tone took on a hint of steel. “But I need to do this on my own terms and at my own speed. I need to be true to myself and not what someone else thinks is right for me.” Harry heaved a great sigh feeling the events of the past few days wash over him, his irritation at the headmaster dispelling with each deep breath.

“I will meet with him, perhaps in a few days, when I’ve been able to absorb all I’ve seen and heard. Maybe learn a little about my godfather before I meet him. Perhaps visit Hogwarts first, go to this Beaumont Park Ginny seems so keen on showing me.” Harry offered in conciliation.

“Either way, I’ll let Ginny know when it’s good for me. I will have her contact you. You’ve my permission to tell him about me if you like, but I don’t want to be pressured into meeting him.”

Once again he felt the headmaster’s intense stare, as Harry matched it with his own.

“Very well, Harry. I will be at your disposal, whenever you are so inclined,” Dumbledore agreed with a resigned sigh. “I will ask that you do not tarry overly long. I wish to remind you that every moment that you are in England and untrained you put your life and the lives of those with you in grave danger.” The headmaster cautioned solemnly.

Harry frowned, his eyes flicking briefly towards Ginny upon this pronouncement. Whatever would befall him would most likely affect her as well since it was very probable that she would be with him when he traveled within the wizarding communities. He was not at all pleased with what, yet again, appeared to be the headmaster’s attempt at emotional extortion whether intentional or not.

“Understood, I will have Ginny contact you in a few days time,” Harry answered rather brusquely.

Dumbledore rose from his seat. “I thank you for the tea and pudding Molly; it was exceptional as is your hospitality. I wish you all good night. Arthur, would you accompany me to the Floo?”

Arthur Weasley followed in the headmaster’s wake towards the Burrow’s kitchen door. Once they had cleared the threshold, Harry heard a long whistle from across the table.

“You’ve a pair of brass bollocks there Harry; I’ve never seen anyone stare down Albus Dumbledore like that,” Fred exclaimed in awe.

“Bloody hell,” Ron exclaimed, and before he could be reprimanded by his mum and girlfriend he interjected, “Sorry, but Merlin’s saggy pants, even You-Know-Who is afraid of him.”

“Not afraid,” Ginny interrupted, her voice grave and flat in its intonation. Her eyes were trained upon the shadows beyond the yard as all eyes turned to her.

“He has a healthy respect for Dumbledore’s power. But make no mistake, Tom holds him in great contempt; he thinks that Dumbledore is a sentimental old fool and that the world would be better off without his social equality ideology.”

Harry could feel the tension her words had evoked. He wondered once more how Ginny knew so much about the man that was so feared that his name was inviolable. Yet she did not fear his name, she’d called him Voldemort, the Dark Lord, and even the familiar name of Tom. He questioned what role this Tom had played in her life, since it appeared that she had a knowledge of him that was not common among the others.

“Ginny dear, are you…”

Molly began only to be interrupted by her daughter who gave her mother what Harry assumed was her attempt at a reassuring smile.

“I’m fine, Mum. No need to go into momma lion mode,” Ginny teased her mother.

It didn’t dissipate the somber mood in the least; it would appear that the jovial atmosphere of the evening would not be returning. Wanting to deflect attention from Ginny’s pronouncement and feeling that it was time to bring the evening to its conclusion, he made his own pronouncement.

“Mrs. Wea - I mean Molly - thank you so much for having me for dinner this evening, but I should be getting back. I really do have a university function I need to attend tomorrow.”

Harry stood and held his hand out to Ginny, who smiled at him gratefully. Molly stood up from her chair at the end of the table and walked over to them, her arms outstretched. She gave Harry a warm hug. “You will come again for a visit before your classes start, won’t you dear?”

Molly pulled away from the hug to give him a searching look. Harry was pleased that his choosing their world against going to the university wasn’t a foregone conclusion to her. It spoke volumes of her respect for his choices.

He gave her a genuine smile as he felt some of the tension leave his body. “I’d like that very much.”

“Good, you’re always welcome,” she told him sincerely.

“Will you give Arthur my thanks for having me over for dinner?”

“Of course, dear,” Molly asserted with a warm smile.

Harry turned to note that the Weasley men were walking towards them, Bill reaching him first with an outstretched hand. “It was good to see you again under better circumstances, Harry. As Mum said, don’t be a stranger. If you need anything at all have Ginny contact me,” Bill offered just as earnestly as his mother.

Harry could only nod in acknowledgement.

“Yes, old bean, don’t be a stranger,” Fred shook his hand as vigorously as he did earlier that evening.

“How else are we going to become acquainted with our future brother-in-law?” George in turn shook his hand just as vigorously and then yelped, grabbing his backside with both hands. “Yeow!”

“Oi! I didn’t say it!” Fred whined as a similar hex was thrown his way.

Ginny grinned evilly at the appearance of the monkey tails that sprouted from each twin’s backside. “Share and share alike, isn’t that what you always say, Freddie?”

The twins looked at their mother, identical looks of outrage on their faces. “Don’t look to me for sympathy. You act like cheeky monkeys; you deserve to look like ones.”

As if expecting that response the twins shrugged their shoulders and began to swing their tales enthusiastically.

Next to give their goodbyes were Hermione and Ron. “We should plan to do something, the four of us, you, Ginny, Ron and myself.”

“That would be nice. The Teddy Hall Music Society has concerts on the grounds of St. Edmund Hall every Sunday afternoon, though I’m not sure what they’re playing this weekend.” Harry turned to the redhead at his side, “What do you think Ginny, would you like to go with me?”

“I’d like that.” Ginny smiled at him warmly.

“Oi, not this weekend, the Cannons are playing. Remember I got those surplus tickets from my department?” Ron piped in, a sour look on his face at his plans being changed. “They’re playing the Harpies,” he said as if that was all that was needed to cement his plans.

“Oh Merlin Ron, I completely forgot,” biting her lip she looked at her brother with her eyes pleading. “Do you think you could get another ticket? I’m sure if we glamoured Harry he could attend without anyone being the wiser. I mean Bill, the Forges, and Dad are going too, aren’t they?”

Ron frowned in thought. “Maybe, yeah, I think I can wrangle one more ticket.” Ron’s face lit up as he punched Harry’s arm, “You’re gonna love Quidditch, mate. It’s the best sport in the world. It should be a good game, too. It’s the Cannon’s opening game, and this is their year. They had a great draft this year, hired a new Keeper and a new Seeker, their last one was shite and –“

There was a collective grown from his siblings as well as his girlfriend. “What? It’s true! Just you wait, this year they’ll make the playoffs!” Ron defended passionately.

“Ron, you’ve been saying that since you were five and Dad took you to your first Cannon’s match,” Ginny commented, a look of utter indulgence on her face.

“And every year before and since they’ve managed to finish –“ George began, pausing dramatically.

“Last!” Everyone chorused, laughing uproariously at Ron’s glowering visage.

Harry laughed along with them, noting the obvious affection in their teasing. Ron began to launch into a monologue about his favorite team’s chances for the playoffs as he felt Ginny tug at his hand, pulling him away from the lanterns’ glow and towards the edge of the wards that would allow them to Apparate back to Oxford. Holding her cool hand in his he gave one last look over his shoulder as everyone walked away from Ron and his diatribe blissfully unaware of their departure.


*

Sirius Augustus Black paced the floor of his drawing room like a caged animal. After the unexpected and at first unwelcome visit from his former headmaster and mentor he could barely keep his emotions under control. He hadn’t eaten and barely slept. He’d haunted every single room of his family home. The first few hours after he had received the news he’d poured himself a generous amount of Ogden’s Finest to share with his inner demons. His emotions were in such turmoil, he wasn’t quite sure how he felt. His feelings ran the scale of disbelief, anger, hope, fear.

Fear and hope were waging a war for supremacy, and fear it seemed was gaining ground. Above all, he knew that he would honor Harry’s wishes regardless of what they were.

He paced towards the fireplace that took up the whole expanse of the west wall, his hands gripping the mantle and a growl emitting deep within his chest.

Spinning away from the fireplace he resumed his pacing but then stopped mid-stride, his head dropping to his chest in an attempt to contain the tears that were struggling to be released.

Raising his head he looked out of the bay windows and onto the London streets. The obsidian sky was gradually turning gray as the sun was beginning to rise above the tree line across the park. The dawning of a new day, and here he stood witness to the unrelenting, unforgiving proof that time waited for no man.

He resumed his pacing once again, grinding his teeth in frustration as he ceaselessly clenched and unclenched his fists.

A loud crack stopped him mid-pace as he turned, wand at the ready pointing steadily at the intruder.

“You need to stop brooding. What will be will be,” Remus chastised, completely unaffected by the wand pointed at him with such steady precision. “Have you slept at all?” He came fully into the room and sat on the burgundy chesterfield, stretching his legs in front of him comfortably, his hands interlaced and resting on his stomach.

“I hate when you do that,” Sirius grouched.

“If you hated it so much you’d rescind my access through your wards,” Remus reasoned, nonplussed.

Sirius glared at him, not in the mood to put up with Remus’ jocund demeanor. Rather than take the bait he asked, “Have you had breakfast?”

“You know how much I love Weensy’s cooking,” he responded with a wolfish grin.

Both men turned towards the sound of the slight crack, “Master Remus called Weensy?”

“You’re up early Weensy,” Remus commented as he smiled at Sirius’ house elf.

“Weensy has not slept this night. Master did not rest, so Weensy did not rest. Weensy is a good elf,” she nodded her head for good measure, though she wrung her hands nervously in anticipation of her master’s reaction.

Sirius chose not to chastise her; she always took his words so to heart, as tears would swim in her gibbous blue eyes. “Thank you, Weensy. You’re a very good elf.” She beamed at the praise.

“How about some breakfast, Weensy?”

“As Master wishes. Here or in the kitchens?” There was a hint of censure in her tone. She hated when Sirius insisted on having a meal with her in the kitchen when he was alone in the house.

“Here will be fine Weensy, thank you.”

“Weensy -”

“Master Remus is wanting Weensy’s clotted cream and strawberry marmalade with his scone?” she preempted.

“Of course, thank you Weensy.” With a cheeky grin from Remus and an incongruous wink from Weensy, she popped out of existence.

“She’s a gem,” Remus turned to Sirius who was still standing in the middle of the room.

Sirius grunted in response, the calm demeanor he’d presented for Weensy’s sake no longer present.

“Sirius,” Remus sighed deeply, “You have to understand his reluctance to meet with you right away. There is so much he doesn’t know about you, his parents, why he was left at the Dursleys. If you don’t come to accept his wishes and his timetable you’re going to do both of you a great disservice,” he advised patiently.

Sirius opened his mouth to retort then closed it abruptly bowing his head and heaving a deep sigh. “I know it’s just…” He walked towards the fireplace again, staring at the fire in the grate fixedly.

“What?” Remus prompted after a long pause, as Sirius struggled with his emotions. He turned slightly, Remus now sat on the edge of the chesterfield, his forearms on his thighs, hands gripped between his legs, staring at him intently.

“I’m scared, Remus.” His voice was hoarse with emotion and barely above a whisper.

Remus stood and walked towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know you’re nervous about what his reaction will be upon meeting you for the first time. Whether there will be recriminations, rejection or even indifference. That he wants time to come to terms with the knowledge that he has a godfather says a lot about his character. He’s cautious and according to Dumbledore an intelligent and determined young man.” Remus gripped his shoulders in both hands so that he faced him in full. “He’s James’ son Sirius, but he’s also Lily’s. I’m willing to bet what little gold I have in Gringotts that her compassion and patience will shine through.”

Sirius lowered his head staring at the patterns on the Persian rug below his feet, taking in the words and trying to absorb the comfort that they offered. Sirius heaved a sigh and exhaled, some of his trepidation seeping out on the breath. He just needed to see him, to know that he was hale and hearty with his own eyes. That alone would set him at ease and allow him to wait out his godson’s decision to delay their meeting. A slow calculating smile formed on his lips as an idea began to coalesce in his mind.

“Sirius,” Remus’ voice carried a hint of trepidation. “You’ve that marauder look in your eye. Don’t go doing something reckless and impulsive,” he warned.

“Me? When have I ever done anything reckless and impulsive?” Sirius plastered a none-too-convincing look of innocence on his face.

Remus simply arched an eyebrow. “The better question is when haven’t you done something reckless and impulsive. Don’t do anything that will alienate Harry before you’ve even had the chance to meet him.”

“Pft!” Sirius waved his hand dismissively, “He won’t even know I’m there.”

Remus groaned and dropped heavily onto the chesterfield, burying his head in his hand. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”

*

Harry and Ginny arrived at a Ministry appointed Apparation point in London a few blocks from Hyde Park. Ginny had explained how there were several such Apparation points throughout Britain and that each designated area was protected by several spells; a Muggle Repelling and a Notice-Me-Not. It turned out to be the perfect day to be outdoors; there were only a few puffy white clouds in the otherwise crystalline blue sky. It had been a few days since he had seen Ginny, and he was surprised at how much he missed her in such a short time. He had a break from his university functions today, so Ginny was taking him to Beaumont Park for a flying lesson, and in a few days time they were taking in a Quidditch game which Harry was particularly excited about.

It appeared to Harry that Ginny was uncomfortable with the hustle and bustle of the London streets, and clung to Harry’s arm as he guided them across the busy London street. Once they’d crossed the park’s entrance the noise of the city seemed to pass away, muffled perhaps by the sheer magnitude of the natural environment that surrounded them. They walked along the lake that divided the commons as they enjoyed the sights and sounds and the feel of the warm sun on their faces.

Ginny guided him towards a hedged fence that stretched across the greens as far as he could see. Directly in front of them was an arched door lined with a verdant leafy hedge.

The doorway looked positively ancient to Harry’s eyes. It was massive and made of wood and iron. Across the arch were the words:

Welcome those of magic here with eyes to see the door appear
Tap me once you’re almost there; tap me twice I open with flare.
But tap me thrice and you’ll pay the price.


“Ginny what’s behind that door?”

“You’ll see,” she replied with a rather sly smile. That didn’t bode well for him, he feared.

Looking all around her to ensure that they were not seen, Ginny’s wand suddenly appeared in her hand. Harry observed her as she tapped the word ‘once’ with the tip of her wand and then the word ‘twice’, but the door did not open with ‘flare’ or at all for that matter. She lifted her wand again and tapped the word ‘thrice’ and quickly side stepped as a gush of water sprayed him full in the face.

“Welcome to Beaumont Park, Harry!” Turning towards Ginny he could see through the droplets of water that were splattered on his glasses that she was shaking with barely contained laughter.

“I’m sorry, Harry, but that’s every child’s initiation into Beaumont Park. I couldn’t very well exempt you from a wizarding child’s tradition now could I?” He stood there in shock, water dripping from his hair onto his shoulders. She stepped closer to him, laughing, he was sure, at his dumbfounded expression. He liked that she didn’t giggle or simper; her laughter and smile were full and genuine and completely infectious. After a moment he couldn’t help but laugh with her. He lowered his head and shook it like a wet dog, sprinkling her with water and making her laugh all the more at his antics.

As he shared in her enjoyment of the moment he couldn’t help but wonder if this would have been an experience he would have shared with his parents as a child. Would they have laughed as Ginny was laughing at him now? While the thought made him long for what might have been, he also knew that he would never have known that such a thing even existed if not for Ginny. He decided not to let his mind dwell on how much he had missed with them and instead decided to focus on this experience with wonder, as he might have if he were here with his parents for the first time.

Still laughing, she lifted her wand once again and cast what Harry assumed was a drying charm.

“Come on, Potter. You’re in for a pleasant surprise.” Taking his hand they walked through the now enlarged entrance.

He stood transfixed, his eyes going from one fantastical sight to another. It was as if his mind couldn’t quite grasp what his eyes were seeing. He turned to Ginny, opened his mouth and closed it again, trying to form the words that would convey what he was feeling.

“I think the word you’re looking for is: Wicked!”

He nodded his head slowly then turned back in awe. “Yeah, wicked!”

It was as if Harry had stepped back in time. There were witches and wizards dressed in long flowing robes. Some wore pointed hats while others did not. There were children in the air on – he blinked his eyes owlishly – brooms. They were riding brooms! Not the kind of brooms you’d see at the local grocery store either. There was an area not too far from where they were standing that was separated for flying lessons. He took particular notice of a broom being held by an eager young kid waiting for his lesson. Its brushes were made of thick bristled branches, and the wooden handle was thick and knobby in a dark mahogany color. If Harry were to guess the broom was painstakingly hand-crafted, not at all a familiar sight to his modern eyes. In effect it looked like the kind of broom one would imagine a witch would ride on a blistery, Halloween night.

His attention was drawn back to the brooms that were in the air, and Harry was struck speechless in awe at the speeds they achieved.” It looked exhilarating. Just watching them made his stomach clench in anticipation. Now this was a form of wizard-travel that he would definitely love to try.

He felt a small soft hand curl into his own and then a slight tug. He looked up to see Ginny half a step in front of him with an encouraging smile on her lips. “Come on, Harry. We need to check in with the Forges. They told me they’d be setting up their cart by the play park, and then I’m going to teach you how to handle a broom.”

“Oh, so we’re not going to take a lesson with –“

“Oh, no Harry,” Ginny interrupted. “That’s mostly for pre-Hogwarts kids looking to get a jump start on lessons before term starts,” she explained.

“Ah, good. I’d probably feel pretty silly among the munchkins,” Harry said relieved.

“Munchkins?” Ginny scrunched up her nose at him in confusion; he found the action rather cute.

“Oh, umm, it’s from a Muggle film,” he stuttered. “Like a dwarf or a gnome – you know someone small in stature?”

“Ah, gotcha, a Lilliput.” Ginny took Harry’s hand and resumed walking towards the play park. With her free hand she gathered her hair at the nape of her neck as a gust of wind whipped her hair in maelstrom of fiery strands.

He was momentarily distracted or rather enthralled by her hair. He shook his head to rid himself of the cobwebs; it was his turn to be confused by her choice of appellation. “Umm, Lilliput?”

“Mmmhmm, you know from Gulliver’s Travels.” She answered distracted as she waved at someone across the green, a schoolmate perhaps.

“Yeah, I know about Gulliver’s Travels. I was curious how you knew.” He tugged on her hand lightly to bring her attention back to him and what they were discussing. He was nothing if not curious which he considered one of his best and sometimes worst qualities.

“I read it, of course,” Ginny winked at him. Was she being purposefully obtuse, he wondered.

“You’re familiar with Muggle literature then?” he asked, trying and hopefully succeeding in keeping the exasperation from his voice.

“It’s not a Muggle story; it’s a wizarding one. Somehow it spilled into Muggle literature. When it was written it was meant as a satire on the state of the wizarding world. It just so happened that at the time it paralleled the conditions of the Muggle world as well,” Ginny clarified as she warmed to the subject. “Not surprising, really. It wouldn’t be the first or last time our worlds’ socio-political conditions converged. It was one of my favorite lectures in Muggle Studies.”

It was rather interesting and something he’d love to discuss with her further. He was about to ask another question when he spied the twins. ”Why are we meeting up with your brothers again?”

“It’s the only way I was allowed to bring you here today.” Harry arched a brow at her choice of words. It irritated him that he needed permission of any sort to spend a day as he saw fit in her world. He was an adult and balked at these virtual strangers presuming to place restrictions on his freedom. While he understood their concerns, he was quite capable of looking after himself and making his own decisions. He wasn't too keen on the glamour either, but he had relented only because Ginny had asked him to go along with it. For some reason he found it difficult to refuse her.

Ginny for her part either ignored or missed the frown that had appeared on his face as she continued to explain. “They’re playing chaperone - well more like added security really, in case something happens. Though with your glamour it’s very doubtful you’ll be recognized, but better safe than sorry, my mum always says.”

As he and Ginny approached, one of them set a cube on the grass near a sandy playground. They each tapped their wands against the surface of the cube, and Harry gave a long whistle in wonder as a bright multi-colored Kiosk magically sprung up in a loud cacophony of trumpets, fireworks and foghorn blows. A bright banner hung in the air above the kiosk proclaiming Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Proud Purveyors of Pranks, Puns and Practical Jokes Since Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Eight AD.

They were wearing hot pink vests over neon green shirts and matching purple polka dot ties. They sported outrageous floral print Bermuda shorts and orange trainers adorned their feet. The pair looked absolutely ridiculous and yet so very normal. People started to gather around the kiosk as the twins began to hawk their wares. One twin was passing out order forms, flyers and samples while the other ran the old fashioned cash register.

As they stood at the edge of the crowd, the first twin shoved a handful of sample sized merchandise at him and Ginny, “Cheeri’O, Ol’ Chap! Fancy seeing you here with the lovely Miss Weasley. Be a mate and pass these out to the impressionable young masses would you?”

Looking to Ginny who simply shrugged and started passing them out with a radiant smile on her face as children crowded around her. Shrugging his own shoulders, he followed her lead.

While passing out his own set he couldn’t help but notice the antics of a large dog at the edge of all the revelry that surrounded the kiosk. The dog would bark, run a circle around the kiosk and then sit on its haunches, tail wagging and tongue lolling. Every once in a while it would sidle up to where Harry was dispensing his adverts and bark up at him demanding his attention, which he would oblige by petting his head and scratching behind his ears before getting back to the business at hand.

They’d been at it for a while before they finally ran out. “Oi, Terrors! I’m off to tutor Harry here on the proper way to handle a broom,” Ginny yelled over the noise at the twins. “Meet up with us by the lake when you’re done here.”

George waved his hand at his sister in acknowledgement while stopping a particularly daring kid from hurrying off with some of the twins’ merchandise with a well placed hex, making said juvenile delinquent yowl and clutch his backside in the process.

“Come on Harry; let’s find a less congested spot for your first lesson.” Taking his hand in hers she led him towards a lake that circumvented the park.

“Ginny!”

Beside him he heard Ginny curse under her breath and turned towards the dark haired boy that called her name, a broom slung over a shoulder and a wide grin across his face.

“Andrew, umm, hi,” Ginny greeted awkwardly as Andrew came to a stop in front of them. She tugged on Harry’s hand pulling him closer to her. He didn’t like the look of this guy at all, and he definitely didn’t like the way he was looking at Ginny as if he had some sort of claim to her. “What brings you to Beaumont Park today?”

“I was playing Quidditch with some of my housemates,” he tilted his head toward his friends that were standing a few feet away with matching grins on their faces, “when I thought I saw you crossing the commons. My Dad finally agreed to buy me a Nimbus if I could come up with half the money. I wanted to try out for Chaser again this year, and with the right broom I’m sure to be picked.”

“Oh, yeah sure, the right broom should, umm, increase your chances.” Ginny’s tone, Harry noted, was not the least bit assuring of his chances.

Harry was observing the interaction with great interest. This Andrew had an almost puppy dog eagerness about him, wanting to please and be noticed. When Andrew took a step closer to Ginny and lifted his hand to take a hold of hers, Harry placed his hand around Ginny’s waist and cleared his throat exaggeratedly.

Andrew appeared to have taken notice of Harry for the first time, giving him an appraising look. Harry was not threatened in the least, not so much by his assessment of the boy as Ginny’s reaction to him.

Taking Andrew’s still outstretched hand in his, Harry pumped it rather vigorously in greeting. “Hi, I’m Harry.”

“I’m so sorry, how rude of me,” Ginny stated. She turned to Andrew and Harry in turn. “Andrew this is Harry, and umm Harry this is Andrew we…”

“Were dating last year,” Andrew interjected rather rudely. He gave an unmanly little yelp and abruptly withdrew his hand from Harry’s handshake, putting his hand as subtly as possible behind his back and shaking it. He glared at Harry who returned his cold stare with a smirk.

“We were study partners, Andrew. We were not dating.” Ginny’s response came through gritted teeth as if this were a very old argument given to a rather dense child. “What I was going to say is that we attend Hogwarts together.” Harry could see the storm brewing in Ginny’s eyes; if Andrew were smart he’d drop that line of thought quickly.

“Well, I thought we were and so did everyone else at Hogwarts. We went to Hogsmeade together, studied together, and you would sit with me at the Ravenclaw table…”

“This argument is getting old, Andrew, and we shouldn’t be having it in front of Harry.” Harry inwardly smiled at Ginny’s tone of voice as if she was struggling to be both polite and patient.

“But, Ginny…”

“No, Andrew.” Ginny turned to Harry, the irritation clearly visible on her face. “Excuse me for a moment, Harry.”

Grasping Andrew’s upper arm she dragged him a few feet away. While her intention was probably to afford them some privacy and maybe spare Andrew some humiliation, her angry voice carried to where she had left Harry standing.

Harry thought she was a sight to behold. Her eyes were flashing, and the wind whipped her hair about her face as she stood with her hands on her hips and turned the full force of her fury on the hapless boy. He looked just like the puppy Harry had originally described - a puppy about to be reprimanded by its master. The hangdog expression just added to the picture in Harry’s head.

“You assumed way too much last year. Sitting together in Study Hall and the Library, does not make me your girlfriend. My sitting with Luna at the Ravenclaw table does not make me your girlfriend. Tagging along with Luna, Neville and I to Hogsmeade does not make me your girlfriend. Your snog session with Lucy bloody Coosey under the Quidditch stands would definitely not make me your girlfriend. Never asking me to be your girlfriend adds to the validity that I am not nor was I ever your girlfriend. Had you asked me to be your girlfriend, I would have turned you down.”

And then just as quickly as it had come her ire had passed. Ginny gently placed her hand on his arm, looking up at him for understanding. “Andrew, I’m sorry, but we’re both too academically competitive to have worked together as a couple. We can be friends but never a couple. I’m sorry. Friends?”

Harry watched carefully for Andrew’s reaction. Ginny had let her hand slide from his forearm to his hand and took it in her own; he noticed the very slight tremor her touch evoked. Andrew bowed his head and lowered his eyes to their clasped hands, his thumb caressing the back of her hand. Ginny stood patiently waiting for his response.

Lifting his head he nodded. “Yes, if that’s all you’re willing to give then I’d rather be your friend than nothing at all.”

Ginny gave him a genuine smile. “Thank you.”

Dropping his hand and turning back to Harry she missed the determined look that passed through Andrew’s face. It would appear to Harry that Andrew had not quite given up hope of dating Ginny.

As soon as she reached Harry she took his hand and turned back to her rejected suitor. Harry smiled at him rather benignly as he released Ginny’s hand to place his arm back around her waist.

“If you don’t mind, Andrew, I was about to give Harry a flying lesson,” Ginny stated with a hint of dismissal in her tone.

Turning her radiant smile on Harry, she gushed in her enthusiasm. “Are you ready for your first lesson Harry? And from the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team no less.”

“You made Captain?” Andrew’s question seemed to be equal parts awe and jealousy.

Ginny brought up her arm to shine an imaginary badge with her forearm and thrust her chest out proudly. “Yup, the Cup is ours!”

“Congratulations, Ginny!” Andrew came forward to hug a surprised Ginny who returned his hug rather awkwardly.

Andrew smirked at Harry over Ginny’s shoulder. Harry mouthed dream on and returned the smirk.

Ginny began to extricate herself from the embrace. “Um, well it was, um nice seeing you Andrew. I’ll see you at school then.” Ginny stated as Andrew finally seemed to take the not so subtle hint.

“Yeah, sure, I’ll see you on the Express then.” Slinging his Nimbus over his shoulder he walked towards his mates that had been waiting patiently.

Turning to Harry, Ginny hooked her arm through his, lifting the broom to her shoulder. “Ready for your lesson?”

Harry mimicked her position as he answered, “Sure am, Professor Weasley. I’m very eager to see how a witch like you handles a broom.”

Ginny’s steps faltered at his suggestive comment but recovered quickly enough to respond with her own innuendo.

“No worries then, Harry, I’ll teach you just the right way to handle your broom there.”

Harry’s voice held a very serious note when he responded, “I’m looking forward to it, Professor.”

She chose an open spot near the lake that circumvented the park. “In case you fall off your broom, you can land in the water,” she’d teased. But Harry had a sinking suspicion that she wasn’t joking.

She pulled out her wand and two twelve inch sized brooms from her messenger bag, as she slung the bag onto the ground. Tapping her wand to each broom and muttering, “Engorgio,” the brooms extended to their original form. There was an apparent difference in appearance for each broom; one looked quite a bit the worse for wear.

She handed the sleeker, newer broom to Harry and held onto the older model as she grinned mischievously up at him. “What Andrew doesn’t know is that I’ve been saving my knuts and sickles since I was twelve and made the Quidditch team as Seeker. My parents and all my brothers pitched in the rest as a gift for my making Head Girl. That beauty in your hands is a Nimbus 2001.”

Harry couldn’t help but smile at her description of the broom he held in his hands. He didn’t know anything about brooms, but from an untrained eye and comparing it to the older broom it was quite a beauty. It was sleek and highly polished, and the twigs were neat and long and shaped like a flame at the end of a match.

“A broom is a like a wand. While it has magical properties that enable it to fly, if you’re not magical it won’t respond to you in any way.”

She placed both brooms on the ground and had Harry stand to the left of the Nimbus 2001.

“This is mostly done to get a magical feel for the broom for the first time. I suspect you’ll get this on the first try since you’ve a feel for wandless magic. Just let your hand hover over the broom and say ‘Up’, and the broom will come to you.”

Nodding he concentrated on summoning the broom as it smoothly and neatly floated to his waiting hand.

“No, Harry, you need to feel the magic of the broom, not count on your own magic to summon it to you,” Ginny reprimanded lightly. “That reminds me; don’t think I didn’t notice that little shock you gave Andrew when you shook his hand.”

Harry’s head whipped around to look at Ginny while affecting an innocent look. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you don’t, Harry. I’m not mad. He did deserve it for acting like a prat. No fair using your wandless magic to your advantage.” She shook her finger at him teasingly.

To this Harry laughed. “Meaning if you could have you would have liked to have done it yourself.”

“Precisely. Now back to the lesson.” She paused for a moment, biting her bottom lip in that way Harry liked so much,

Harry followed Ginny’s instructions this time, making sure to speak clearly as the broom slapped into his palm with a hard smack. He moved the broom to his other hand as he shook it out to soothe the sting.

“Perfect Harry,” Ginny praised, then looked at him speculatively. “You know this is a bit unconventional but, would you like to ride with me first to get a feel for it before trying on your own?”

Would he like to have a gorgeous girl pressed against him while riding a broom in the air? Stupid question that.

He answered as nonchalantly as he could muster, “Yes, actually that sounds like a very good idea.”

Smiling at him, Ginny took the Nimbus 2001 from his hand and straddled the broom then motioned with her head to indicate that he should mount behind her. Harry strode over to Ginny and hoped he wasn’t smiling as broadly as he felt at the prospect of riding tandem with her.

He swung his leg over the broom, his front touching her back lightly. He felt a bit awkward not knowing where to place his hands, but Ginny solved that problem soon enough.

“Normally I’d tell you to hold onto my waist, but I want you to get a feel for how the broom maneuvers, so um, put your arms around me and grab onto the handle in front my hands.”

Harry noted with satisfaction that Ginny was a bit breathless as she gave him instructions. Taking his time and savoring the moment as much as possible, he put his hands on her shoulders and slowly slid them down her arms feeling the goose bumps rise on her skin at the contact until he reached her hands and then placed his own on the handle as she’d instructed.

“Um, yes, good that’s good. Um, well we’re going to need to kick off together. “Okay, now shift your weight onto the broom and lift your legs off the ground.” As they hovered a few feet off the ground, Harry marveled over the fact that they weren’t actually sitting on the broom as slightly suspended over it as if sitting on an invisibly cushioned seat. It was such an odd sensation.

“Ready?” Harry could feel her voice vibrate off his chest and the breathless quality of her voice. He brought his lips to the shell of her ear letting his breath whisper across it. “Ready.”

“On the count of three then,” was her whispered reply.

Breathing the words against her ear Harry counted off with her in unison. “One, two and three.”

All thoughts of flirtation went right out of Harry’s head as he felt the acceleration of the broom into the air. He could sense the vibrating magical force of the broom handle on his hands and the exhilarating feel of the wind against his face and the swooshing feeling in the pit of his stomach at the speed. Harry gave a whoop of joy as they climbed higher and higher into the sky. Then suddenly they came to a stop and hovered in place.

“You all right there, Harry?” Ginny had turned her head to look at him, a happy smile on her face.

“Wonderful, brilliant, awesome! That’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever done in my entire life!” Harry was practically bouncing on the broom in his excitement. He brought his hands up from the broom to embrace Ginny from behind. “Thank you!”

Ginny had the most beautiful smile on her face. Harry could tell that she was pleased because she had made him so happy. “Are you ready to do some tricks and see how fast this thing goes?”

“Hell yes!”

She smiled at him wickedly and, lowering herself onto the broom, advised Harry to do the same. He felt a sudden tug as the broom took off like a shot. Harry had never felt so free or so alive as he did at that very moment. The speed, the wind, the power of the broom in his hands and the feel of Ginny in his arms was the best feeling in the world.

She did loop-d-loops, dives, corkscrew-like rolls , and then she did something she called the Wronski Feint that almost gave him heart failure – then he promptly asked her to do it again as he whooped all the way down.

“Are you ready to give it a go on your own now?” She asked after the third Wronski.

“Yes! Though I must say riding tandem with you does have its benefits.” Harry waggled his eyebrows at her.

“Lecher!” She growled as she brought them back to the ground.

As soon as they dismounted, Harry took Ginny in his arms and gave her a fierce embrace. “Thank you, Ginny, I can’t tell you how incredible that was, and I’ve you to thank for it.”

Harry felt her smile against his chest. “You’re welcome, Harry, but that’s nothing compared to how you’ll feel when you fly on your own.” She tilted her head to look up at him, “Are you ready to try it on your own now?”

Harry smiled down at her, and without thought pressed his lips to her forehead tenderly in gratitude. There were really no words to describe how he felt about her at that moment. There was gratitude of course, but also an indescribable sense of tenderness for her that was beyond anything he’d ever felt.

“Yes, I’d like to give it a try.” Releasing her from his embrace and picking up the Nimbus 2001 from where it lay on the ground, he straddled the broom. He gave her a cocky grin and following her earlier instructions kicked off and immediately set off into the sky.

He could hear Ginny’s laughter as she jumped on her own broom and followed him into the air. It was strange; he felt as if he were born to ride a broom. It felt so natural, instinctual even. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he’d first experienced the sensation of flying with Ginny, or maybe he just took to it like a duck to water.

Once he’d reached a certain altitude he hovered in the air waiting for Ginny to catch up to him. He looked over to see her on her own broom, and for a moment he was struck by how beautiful she looked with her windswept hair, the pink in her cheeks and the happy smile on her face that reflected his own.

Then with a wink and a challenging smirk to Ginny, he brought his chest flush to the broom handle and took off at break-neck speed across the sky. With a confidence and a skill he didn’t know he possessed, he performed all the tricks that Ginny had done while riding tandem with him, whooping and yelling all the while.

At one point he came to a stop waiting for Ginny to join him. He gave her another challenging grin and Ginny knew exactly what it was he planned on doing.

“Harry, no! You can’t just do a Wronski Feint on your first go, that’s insane!”

If that was supposed to deter Harry from doing it she’d failed miserably. He was off, pointing the broom upwards and ascending as high as he dared at a speed he couldn’t even begin to guess and then spiraling to a stop. He looked at the water’s surface sparkling below with a sense of excitement and natural fear as his stomach gave a nervous flip. Then just as quickly he brought his chest flush to the broom handle and began a rapid descent. He felt everything with such intensity; his world focused on the sensations created by flying on a stick of wood that was no more than five inches in diameter and the insanity of what he was doing. He watched as the surface of the water was coming closer and closer. The wind whistled in his ear as the air pushed against his body, trying to dislodge him from his broom. As he descended, he could see clearly the intense color of the shimmering water below him, and, just as it seemed he was about to crash, he instinctively pulled up on the handle and came level with the surface of the lake, never slowing his speed as the soles of his sneakers skimmed against the water’s surface. Lifting one fist in the air in triumph he whooped and hollered and then sharply turned as he brought the broom again into the air.

He laughed joyously at the thought that Ginny Weasley had indeed shown him how to handle a broom.

*

It was ridiculously easy to find him. All he’d had to do was camp out on the edge of a copse of trees directly outside the wards of the Weasleys’ home, cast a tracking charm on the youngest Weasley, and follow her to an alley in what he later learned was on St. Giles Street. A Disillusionment Charm later and he followed her to a tea shop. It was early enough that the street wasn’t congested with pedestrians, so he stayed as far away from her as he dared so that his footsteps could not be heard and would blend in with the ambient noise.

Everything he’d done so far had been things he’d learn in Auror training and utilized to his advantage on his missions for the Order during the first war. He’d no doubt, given the current atmosphere in England and the rumors that were bandied about, that his skills would come in handy soon enough for the Order once again.

A few steps from the tea shop she’d stopped suddenly, her hand stealthily inserted into the messenger bag that was slung across her chest and riding low on her hips. She looked into the shop window she was standing in front of pretending to view the wares on display. At one point she turned her head and looked directly at him standing a good fifteen feet from where she stood. He held his breath bracing for the possible wand fight that would ensue if she suspected his presence. She narrowed her eyes, cocking her head slightly to the side, let out a long steady breath and shrugged her shoulders. Once she’d turned away from him and resumed her walk, Sirius released his own breath in relief. The last thing he wanted to do was stun Ginny Weasley. It wouldn’t do to alienate the most important link that Harry had to the wizarding world at the moment, nor would it have sat well with him to do so. He’d not gotten a very good look at her face until that moment. His entire focus had been solely set on tracking her movements, and he gave a wolfish grin as he resumed trailing her. His godson had picked quite the looker and a redhead no less.

He wanted to stand in front of the tea shop window to see if she was indeed meeting his godson and not some other bloke but was unsure how the Disillusionment Charm would hold up to the reflection of the window. Disillusionment Charms were tricky; while you were virtually invisible, it was only a camouflage spell, and sudden movement and reflective surfaces often gave away your position with a slight shimmer as the spell worked to adjust and blend to its surroundings once again.

He stood at the edge of the shop, his eyes trained on the glass door. Patrons entered and exited from time to time, and he began to grow impatient. Finally, a good fifteen minutes later, the couple emerged, and his breath escaped harshly from his mouth. It was like stepping back in time, and his heart had not been ready for the shock. James. Lily. He watched Lily curl her hands around James’ arm and look up at him with a wide adoring smile on her face laughing at something he’d said and James responding with his roar of laughter so full of life and joy. They came towards him and he took a step forward to greet them, his heart pounding happily in his chest until they were almost abreast of him, and he looked into their bright smiling eyes.

Taking two steps backwards into the alley, he watched them pass; the only sound he could hear was the pounding of his heart and the rush of blood in his ears. And just as suddenly the sounds of the street swirled all around him bringing him back to the present. It was then he noticed the tears that were streaming down his face unheeded until that very moment. He wiped at them roughly and resumed trailing his quarry.

He followed their Apparation again with the same methods he’d employed previously, and once inside Beaumont Park he found a secluded spot here he removed the Disillusionment Charm and changed to his Animagus form. It always caused him a great amount of laughter to hear his dog form described as a Grim. While his form could very well be confused for such in the dead of night, during the light of day he could not be mistaken for anything other than a large, grey wolfhound.

While no longer under Disillusionment he felt more comfortable being nearer to them as he caught a bit of their conversation from time to time. He’d witnessed Harry’s introduction to Beaumont Park, and if a dog could laugh he would have. It was priceless, and he found himself not only liking Ginny Weasley, he also found that he was grateful to her as well. It was something James, Lily, as well as, Remus and Sirius had been looking forward to, and while it was bitter sweet to watch him experience it with someone else and twelve or fifteen years later than they had all intended, it made his heart swell with happiness all the same.

When he watched her brothers, because they could be nothing if not siblings with that mop of red hair, set up their kiosk he couldn’t help his exuberance as he ran around its perimeter. Now these were a pair he could relate to. He promised himself that when he returned to Grimauld Place that he would look into their business and see if an opportunity for investment would be feasible.

He watched Harry interact with Ginny and her brothers. A wide smile adorned Harry’s face as they joked and teased, and Sirius couldn’t help but sidle up next to him, tail wagging in excitement as he took in the crinkle around his almond shaped green eyes so like Lily and the mop of unruly raven black hair so like James.

And when he lay on the grass by the lake watching his godson fly a broom for the very first time, Sirius thought his heart would burst it was so full. Afterwards he watched them lay on the grass watching the clouds roll by on the azure canvas of the bright summer sky, and he felt content. His heart, the heart that became a stone in his chest on the night that James and Lily died, was alive, content, happy. And now that he’d seen with his very eyes how happy and well Harry was, he was content to wait to meet him on his own terms. He could wait.


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