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Chapter 2 – Lost And Forgotten

Harry Potter – A Life Lived 

By Jules6

Author Notes –

My very first and only AU story that will follow the books, movies and have a good dose of original ideas mixed in.    There will be new scenes, spells, events, places, people, animals etc and my interpretation of why some things happened or will occur.    Some of it will interweave with what is already on screen and written, other times it will not.  Some scenes will move time frame from when they occur in the book and movies or who it happened to, or a different result.  I don’t want to give too much away yet. 

This story will explore what would change to all events and characters if Sirius Black returns much earlier, BEFORE Harry goes to Hogwarts.   And to my way of thinking, Harry would take just a little longer to get used to a magical world that he doesn’t understand how it works, or the role he or anyone else will yet to play in it.  And continue through until the last book but the path may not be as direct or known yet.

I was going to add more to the synopsis, but for now I will leave you to read along and find out what happens along with Harry and the rest of the cast as I take them out of the box.  I promise to put them back when I am finished.  If you think you know what might happen throughout and the ending, hopefully I have created enough twist plots and changes.

I have not read or watched, nor intend to follow any of the “Cursed Child” boo so any reference to anything contained within it is purely coincidental and accidental.

Strong friendship only – no slash.   Very little romance (I am no good at writing that) – And plenty of angst, hurt/comfort.  For those don’t know my previous work – this won’t be a Disney version.

This will be a very very long story, with many chapters, and many of those being long as well – just the way I write.    And I usually try and describe from the viewpoint of multiple characters for any one scene.   As well as describe every rock, tree branch and blade of grass along the way.

I have a very complicated plot planned, and some may not agree how I have altered the course of things, or that I introduce them and Harry differently than the books or films.  Hopefully you will continue to follow and read as the story progresses.   If it hasn’t happened yet, or there isn’t enough information about something yet, that is usually deliberate on my part.  Sometimes there are subtle clues that I put in chapters, other times I don’t.

Now that Sirius is free from Azkaban, time to focus on what has been happening to Harry for the past 10 years – or some of it in this chapter.

If you don’t particularly like how I have written this, that is okay, no harm done, feel free to write and share your own version of events. 

I have taken information from a number of sources, some canon, some not, and a lot my own interpretation of why thing happen the way they do.

A new fandom for me, but to my other readers please know that I have been writing all of my other fandoms too and a lot of rewriting of those chapters and stories to come in addition to the new chapters and stories.

This story is going to build slowly so things will take quite a while.  Harry’s experiences, emotions and reaction will change with his age, time and as things slowly progress. 

Please Note:  My one big change at the beginning is the time Sirius has spent in prison, being closer to 10 years rather than 12 years. 

Disclaimer:  all rights and characters belong to J.K. Rowling.

at the end of the last chapter:

A small pale face and bright green eyes beamed back at them……………………..Harry Potter.

Chapter Two – Lost And Forgotten

From behind his glasses, Harry’s eyes widened in surprise at hearing his name called.  He deliberately took two steps backwards, using the man’s bulk as a shield.   The large man tried to prevent him to hiding within the folds of his over-sized coat.

Gripping onto one side of the warm coat tightly and stumbling backwards and almost tripping over his own feet on the unfamiliar floor.  A small hand emerged to push the thin wire arm back into place so that his glasses wouldn’t fall off his face.  It would be nice to own a pair that actually fitted him properly.  He did it so many times a day now out of mild annoyance and habit, he scarcely noticed.

Remus and Sirius exchanged a wry smile, the memory so clear to both of them, having James carry out the exact same gesture many times before during their friendship.  It was uncanny.   Their smiles faded as the loss of their friend hit home, even after so long.   What they wouldn’t give now to have James witness a smaller version of himself.

“Come on, don’t be shy now,” Hagrid urged, unaware of how loud his own voice sounded.

The thin boy startled in fright and ducked behind out of sight behind the larger man’s bulk once again.  Fear and wariness were coming off him in noticeable waves.

Sirius reached out with his hand, still kneeling on the floor, but pulled it back when he saw the boy shrink away again with unease and unfamiliarity.  Trying to hide his disappointment that the lad wasn’t showing any of the natural curiousness or confidence his father had possessed in spades.

For a moment, neither of the adults in the room was convinced that this alternative tactic was going to work either, unless the boy could be coerced out from behind Hagrid.

Remus attempted a different approach, standing only a few feet away, and using a calm, soft voice and simply calling his first name, “Harry.”

“You know me?”

Sirius nearly let out a loud burst of excitement from hearing the whispered question, almost tripping himself up as he got to his feet too quickly.  The whole scene of a very unco-ordinated and off-balance Padfoot was one moment of pure desperately needed brief comic relief.  An urgent hand gesture from Remus reminded them both that they were still walking on eggshells, so neither of them dared to let out a single snigger of laughter.

“Not for as long as I would have liked,” Remus answered cryptically and honestly, not knowing if the question was rhetorical or genuine.

“All three of us have known you since you were born,” Sirius responded, giving Remus a look that he had used in their youth when he or James thought their friend was being entirely too proper or studious.

This time Hagrid took control away from the boy, by moving to his left, leaving Harry with nothing or anyone to hide behind.   His eyes darting around in the darkened room, trying to find a safe haven.

“You don’t need to be afraid, Harry.  Nobody will hurt you,” Lupin promised, wanting to move closer to reassure their young charge.  He saw the skittishness just like Hagrid had forewarned them about when they first came in.

The expression on Harry’s face was difficult to read.   The Dursley’s had threatened him with being sent to this orphanage for weeks.  They had told him that the people who would come to collect him would not accept any of his abnormal or freakish behaviour.   So far, he didn’t think he had shown any in front of them since leaving Privet Drive, but one could never be quite sure.  He had few opportunities and even fewer reasons to trust adults.

“All of us know who you are, but I suspect you have a few questions of your own about who we all are?” Remus assumed, but the boy remained silent.

Lupin wasn’t perturbed by the lack of response, and hoped with persistence, he could very slowly and gently coax the boy out his shell.

Out of the corner of his eye, Remus could see that Sirius was pulling himself to his feet, and it was clear by the look on his face, that he was desperate to say something, and scared of what might escape his mouth at the same time.

Both of them had a distinct urge to fiercely hug the boy, but forced themselves to maintain a respectful distance, for now.  Until Harry felt more comfortable in his current surroundings.

“My name is Sirius Black.   This is Remus Lupin, and the person who brought you here, Rubeus Hagrid.”

Harry turned slightly and nodded his head at hearing the large man’s name for a second time, but his gaze quickly returned to the floor.

Sirius was hoping that the mention of their names might jostle the memory banks a little.

“How about we all move into the kitchen where there is a little more light,” Remus suggested.  “It is very late,” he added noting the time on the clock.

“Afraid I should be going,” Hagrid reluctantly refused the invitation.  “I promise you will see me again real soon, Harry,” giving him a genuinely warm smile.  “If either of these two characters give you a hard time, you just let me know,” he poked in jest, but the child’s face did not return any kind of mirth or laughter.

“You sure I cannot get you a warm drink?” Remus queried, “You came all this way?”

“Sorry folks, I better be getting my cycle back undercover, before anybody knows where I have been tonight,” Hagrid.

Sirius of course knew of only one vehicle that would have been big enough to carry them both.

“You have kept it all this time?” Sirius said genuine awe and gratitude in his voice.  He thought the ministry must have confiscated it or destroyed it a long time ago.

“Arthur Weasley has been most kind to keep it maintained and out of sight,” Hagrid admitted, but left any further explanation until another more appropriate time.

“Did you bring any belongings with you, Harry?” Remus asked, expecting that Hagrid had left a suitcase outside.

“I asked him before we left if there was anything he wanted to bring, but he shook his head,” Hagrid answered, and that was the same response that was being given now with embarrassment.

“Surely you brought his spare clothes?” Sirius asked, but watched Harry as he spoke, seeing the boy’s face flush red with shame before he turned it away.

“We can work that out later, Sirius,” Remus stepped in, seeing the boy’s distress level increasing by the minute.

“Oh, hold on a bit,” Hagrid announced, I do have something.   Dumbledore gave it to me himself and said not to give it to anybody else but one of you two.”

The large man searched through a number of pockets buried beneath the fur of his large overcoat.   Until his fingers reached inside one and clasped onto sealed paper envelope.

“Dumbledore was going to send an owl, but thought it best not to in case anybody was watching.  I am sure he will want to talk to all of you when he can.”

He handed the envelope to Black.

Harry was listening keenly to the conversation, even though he didn’t know anything that was being discussed.   Any minute now he was expecting to be scolded as Aunt Petunia would have done.    Why would these people be waiting to see an owl?    From what little he knew they were very impressive birds, but he had only ever seen pictures of them in books.

Harry was cautious and knew he couldn’t let his guard down.   And although never having experienced an orphanage before, this hadn’t been what he was expecting at all.  It was too early to tell of course, but this was the strangest night of all.

Sirius had tucked the envelope away into a pocket, intending to look at it with Remus, but mindful that there was a more important matter standing in front of them.   Harry had to be the priority.

The awkward silence was briefly interrupted with the loud roar of Hagrid’s motorcycle starting, and then fading away as he travelled further away from the house.

Sirius used the palm of his hand to rub any remains of tiredness out of his eyes, and to hide his own nervousness.  Out of everything extraordinary that had happened today, and that was certainly saying a lot.  Meeting again with the son of his best friends after mourning them for the past ten years, was certainly at the top of the list.

On any other day, he might have been tempted to ask Remus to pinch him, just in case.  And it was these thoughts that lead to the spontaneous comment that left his mouth.

“I just cannot believe you are standing in front of me after all this time, with that same messy black hair,” Black blurted out.  “Harry, you look so much like your father, James.”

The boy’s response to the statement was to look away from the person speaking and lower his gaze towards the floor.

“His eyes though are Lily’s,” Lupin interjected into the conversation.   Sirius nodded in quick agreement.

Both of them were a little perplexed by the boy’s only response.  Bringing up the subject of his parents might be too a bit too premature and painful for him.

Harry didn’t speak at all.  He recognized his parents’ names being used, but the Dursley’s had always instilled in him that he was never allowed to mention their names out loud in their presence.  He wasn’t allowed to ask questions about his parentage whilst living under their roof.    He recalled curiously asking Uncle Vernon about how they had died a few years ago when he turned eight.

He could also remember the bruises that marred his ribcage staying for over a week for daring to be disrespectful.  Uncle Vernon had screeched that they had died in a car crash and that he should have died along with them, and he would not been a burden to him, his Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley.  Maybe this was another test for these men from the orphanage to determine his suitability.

“I believe I mentioned about a warm drink in the kitchen,” Remus reminded, coaxing the boy with an outstretched arm towards the small kitchen table.  He was rewarded with a small smile from Harry.   “Come on, Sirius, you too now,” sharing a wink with the boy and trying to ease his trepidation.

Remus was pleased to see a little progress being made in gaining the boy’s confidence, but was no fool either, and realised that everything that had happened tonight was probably very overwhelming.  Especially being brought here by Hagrid.

Harry was now standing in front of a chair on one side of the table.  Sirius had taken his seat on the other side, grinning widely.   “Well sit down now,” Black coerced with restraint.   The boy hesitated before pulling out the chair and as he sat down, as though he didn’t think he would be welcome at the table.

“It is all a little dark in here,” Remus commented, turning on the light switch, and illuminating the sitting room.   Harry turned around and was looking intently at the new surroundings.

“Would a glass of warm milk suit you, Harry?” Remus asked.

“Yes, please,” Harry answered quickly, a little surprised of being asked what he would like to drink.

“Make it hot chocolate, Remus, and mine too, with extra sugar,” Sirius declared.

“I will see what I can do, Sirius,” Remus replied with mock admonishment.  He didn’t know if he had the correct ingredients, but saw the hopeful look on both faces.

Walking behind the boy’s chair, it was now that he noticed slight tremors running through his thin frame.  The boy was cold, and hadn’t even mentioned it to anyone.  The clothes he was wearing were clearly too big and unsuitable.

Remus disappeared into the room he had offered to Sirius for a moment, digging through a box.

“What did you go in there for, Remus?” Sirius asked as he saw his friend re-emerge with something large and soft in his hands.

“I thought our young friend here could use this,” Remus answered, draping the warm fabric of blanket around the boy and the chair.

“Sorry I didn’t notice quickly enough, Moony,” Sirius apologised.  Together they would have to work on getting this boy to talk more openly to them and tell them what he needed.

“Thank you,” Harry whispered, surprised that anyone had noticed, and even more so that they had done something about it, gratefully huddling within the warmth of the fabric.

“I have some food I made earlier, but that might take a little too much time to re-heat this time of night.  How about I make you a cheese sandwich, and bring it and your hot chocolate to you in the living room, Harry?” Remus suggested.

Harry got up from the chair, “Can I please take the blanket with me?” he asked dejectedly.  The man’s voice had seemed friendly enough, but he knew better than to argue back.

Most certainly you can,” Remus encouraged, leading the boy into the small living room, and over to a large sofa underneath the window.

Sitting on the edge of the sofa, secretly running his hand along the rich velvet fabric and softness.  Not hard at all like one might think at first glance.  He rearranged the blanket over his legs, and patiently waited.

“I will bring everything out to you in moment,” Remus said in a pleasant voice, but noted the sudden change in the boy’s demeanour, and exchanged a concerned look with Sirius as he walked back into the kitchen.

Less than ten minutes later, Remus took the mug of steaming hot chocolate and the sandwich neatly placed on a small plate.  “There you are, I hope they are both to your liking. I wasn’t expecting any late night visitors, and my pantry is usually only stocked with enough to cater for one.  If you need anything else, or would like some more, please tell me.”

Harry silently reminded himself that he should have known that sitting and sharing food with any adults was not permitted.   The Dursley’s had reinforced this rule as well, especially when Aunt Marge came to visit.  It appeared that Uncle Vernon ensured that the rules he had put into place at Privet Drive had been explained in great detail to the new people and were be going to be the same at this new place.

When Remus returned to the kitchen, leaving Harry to eat in peace for a few minutes.  Sirius ushered his friend into a more private conversation, one which wouldn’t be heard half a room away.

“As happy as I am to see Harry since he was a baby, Mooney, don’t you think this all sounds a little too odd?  What has happened here tonight I mean?” Black asked, his jaw clenched tight with emotion.

“It all sounds ‘a lot of odd’ to me, Padfoot,” Remus retorted, “I know as much as you do about this whole affair!”

Sirius gave him a brief apologetic look, but the multitude of questions coursing through his mind almost spilling out as one, “But what is he doing here, Remus?  Why doesn’t he have any clothes or belongings with him?  Why is he acting so timidly around everyone and nearly everything by the look of it?”

Remus sighed, knowing that Sirius was worried, stressed and a whole lot of mixed emotions balled into one at the moment.  Like himself.

Remus placed a caring hand on his friend’s shoulder, grimaced and silently noted how thin Sirius was, and promised, “Together we will work this all out.”

Sirius left the most important question to ask on its own, “Where has he been all this time?”

Before either of them could come up with a suitable answer, a small sound reached Remus’s hearing, and he went back into the sitting room, hoping that it was Harry trying to gain their attention.   Sirius followed into the room.

Remus dashed forward to rescue the precariously sliding plate and mug from Harry’s sleep limp hand, before the sound of them breaking on the floor could wake him.  A half-eaten cheese sandwich still sitting on the edge, the mug of hot chocolate in the middle, mostly consumed.  The boy had fallen asleep leaning to one side in a very uncomfortably and awkward upright position on the sofa.

“Here hold onto these,” Lupin said, as he quickly thrust the crockery at his friend.

Taking a long cushion from the end of the sofa, Remus laid it against the inside arm of the chair, kneeling down and pausing for a moment, trying to figure out which was the best way to manoeuvre the boy without waking him.  The first task was to remove his glasses, so with his long fingers, he gently slid the wire frames away from the sleeping features.

Sirius stood behind his friend, gripping the china tightly as he thanked the stars for the steady hands that his friend was using.   It wasn’t until Lupin deposited the folded glasses on the coffee table that he let out the breath that he had been holding onto.

Lupin laid a guiding hand on Harry’s back and one underneath the boy’s knees, turning him slightly until he was lying down.  The boy wasn’t overly tall and his small frame offered little resistance at being moved into position.   He had no experience in handling children of any age to speak of.

Sirius had placed the plate and mug aside, rescuing the fallen blanket and handing it to Remus.  “He didn’t move a muscle.”

“I think he is truly exhausted,” Remus nodded in agreement, taking the blanket and laying it gently over the sleeping youth.  “He still looks cold,” he added, hoping that would soon be remedied.

Remus got to his feet, the two of them looking down with mixed feelings at the sleeping young charge before them.  So much had happened in such as short space of time.  It was  difficult to fathom and acclimatise to all at once.

“I will leave this light switched on for what little is left of the night, Padfoot, in case Harry wakes and needs to find one of us,” Remus suggested, with practical solutions for all of them now needing to be assessed and implemented.

Remus could see his friend was looking just as tired as exhausted as Harry, “I think it is time we all got a little sleep, don’t you?” knowing that Sirius needed to begin taking care of himself as well.  Even more so now.  Sirius nodded his head, but without any real conviction of what he had just agreed to.

“Remus?” Sirius asked in a soft voice.

“Yes, Padfoot?” Lupin asked, expecting more questions about Harry.  “Could you make me a cheese sandwich?”

Remus blinked for a minute, the fragility and simplicity of the question causing him to smile.   A small part of Sirius Black was beginning to come back, ever so slowly. “Of course I can my old friend.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________

As the early hours of morning approached, the temperature outside dropped several degrees.   Not unusual for this time of the year in this part of England.  Inside the small house that belonged to Remus, the rooms were warm and quiet.

Lupin had not bothered to look at the hour on the clock when he forced himself to retire to his bedroom from the arm chair he had occupied in the sitting room.  The round alarm clock on the bedside table pointed to the time being 5.42am.  There was too much going on inside his head to allow him to return to slumber.  Rolling over and noting the beginning of a nagging headache from lack of sleep.  Restful sleep and he were strangers at best, but he knew it was not the current phase of the moon that was causing his fatigue and insomnia.

After dressing in casual attire, and making his way out of his own room and down the corridor towards the kitchen, he paused before reaching the table.  The lights in the kitchen and sitting room were still on, but it wasn’t their glow that drew his attention.

Remus couldn’t help but be struck by the absurdity of what had happened within the last twenty-four hours, and was under no illusion of the magnitude or how much of an impact an uncertain future may have on everyone involved.

Up until a couple days ago, Remus had been living a solitary, unremarkable existence.   Yesterday, he and the former Headmaster from Hogwarts had walked into one of the most secure rooms within the Ministry of Magic.   Dumbledore had presented some startling verbal and magical evidence that pointed accusatory fingers and blame at the feet of some very senior personnel with past misdeeds, incompetence and corruption to a Courtroom.

Veritaserum was from all accounts, a very unpleasant experience for any wizard, and one couldn’t begin to imagine the pain of being forced to relive one of the most traumatic nights when your best friends on this earth perished.  When it appeared that all things good in the world ceased to exist, and your very own life became a living nightmare.  Where every action you took that night, came under scrutiny and you were being accused of causing their deaths, before the truth was revealed by willingly submitting and ingesting such a vile concoction.

At the end of the hearing, Sirius Black, long time accused murderer, had been released from his illegal incarceration and time as inmate of Azkaban.  One of the few people he counted within his very small inner circle of friends.  The two of them had scarcely spent but a few hours in each other’s company, with barely any time yet to share a meal, let alone begin to rekindle the cold embers of their friendship.

Last night, Hagrid, who Remus had not seen in quite some time, had arrived in a cloud of secrecy, well after midnight and had virtually taken the door off its hinges.  With more questions being asked rather than answers being given in return.  And then the most extraordinary thing had happened………………… Harry.

Frightened, unsuitably dressed, in need of something to eat, cold, shivering, quiet, and with no belongings in his possession, the young boy had appeared just like that in their lives.  Looking confused in a place he probably never expected to be, with a group of strangers calling his name.

Today was going to be a new day full of more questions and finding out why the boy was suddenly in their custody.   Lupin knew that none of them was prepared or ready, but they needed to stand and face any challenge together.

Upon walking down the staircase, reaching the sitting room, Remus paused as he took in the figure of his friend.   Sirius had pushed a chair up to the head of the sofa, still dressed in the same clothes he had been clad in at the courtroom yesterday.  Too afraid to leave the room in case he awoke from the dream that he found himself caught up in.   His gaze fixated on the young form lying buried underneath the blanket asleep.

Sirius’ thin frame sat at an awkward angle, his left arm supporting his heavy head, his long locks of matted hair, hanging partially over his face.   He had not heeded his friend’s advice about getting some sleep, and his entire body language mirrored Lupin’s own tiredness.  But there was something more to his friend’s demeanour.

Neither of them was moving, almost as though this moment was frozen in time.

Remus approached silently, not alerting his friend to his presence, but not wanting to startle him nor the sleeping child either.  The only part of Harry that was visible was a shock of dark hair.

In all their years of friendship, he had rarely seen his friend this still or so quiet.  There were less than a handful of occasions that he could genuinely remember Sirius being rendered speechless.  The second, when James asked him to be his best-man when he married Lily, and in first place, when both parents asked him to be godfather to Harry after he was born.

A small noise came from underneath the blankets, and Sirius reached out a hand, but then withdrew it just as quickly.   A few moments later he tried reaching out a second time, and Lupin could see the desperate need to connect, the fingertips trembling, but not from the cool morning air.   The want was clearly there too, but was it too early or too soon for both of them?  He couldn’t say.

Remus surmised that the scene that he was confronted with would be one memory he would keep for a very long time.

Remus put a light hand on Sirius’ shoulder, and gave a warm smile of understanding in return to the confused and worried expression.  He wasn’t sure how light a sleeper the child was, so erred on the side of caution, “Has he been asleep all this time?”

Sirius slowly nodded his head in answer, both of them looking towards the sofa for any signs of the question being heard.

“It really has only been a few hours yet,” Remus commented, still trying to assess the best way to approach the subject of needing to talk about Harry, without feeling like he was intruding on valuable lost time.  To be honest, he would not have minded pulling up a second chair and sitting with Sirius until all of this mess was much clearer to the both of them.

“We need to talk………..,let Harry sleep,” Lupin began, but paused as the boy stirred at the sound of his voice.  He was pleased when Black stood and they both moved towards the kitchen out of hearing shot.

“I am sorry, Remus, I just couldn’t seem to drag myself away…….it’s just so unbelievable,” Sirius started, trying to stumble through a last minute explanation.

“You have nothing to apologise for, and for the record, I completely agree with your last comment,” Lupin quickly reassured, “But we need to make some decisions together.   Harry will wake at some point, and we need to be ready for any occurrence that might present itself.

Black attempted to rub the tiredness out of his face, but failed, looking slightly ashamed at his dishevelled state, “That shower you offered earlier, sounds great right about now,” he added in gratitude.

“Do you still have the letter that Dumbledore gave to Hagrid?” Remus queried.

Sirius reached into a pocket on his trousers, “I almost forgot all about it,” he admitted, pulling out the crumpled envelope.   The outer edges of the thick red wax was smudged in a few places, but otherwise the seal remained intact.    Strange that Dumbledore opted not to send it by owl, making the contents that much more intriguing and secretive.

Sirius handed the envelope to Remus, “I will take that shower first before we open it together.   I need to be more alert for any of this,” he commented.  Any idea of sleep had been left aside with the arrival of their new house guest.

“I will boil some hot water,” Lupin offered, wanting to keep his mind occupied.  “Harry may be looking for some breakfast too when he wakes,” he stopped the sentence short as he tried to manually inventory the food items in his house.  “We definitely need to get supplies from somewhere today,” was the last comment made as Sirius headed upstairs towards one of the guest rooms.

Remus had been lost deep in his own thoughts when the kettle began its shrill whistle, almost too late to stop it from disrupting the quietness of the morning he was trying to maintain.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Twenty minutes later, Sirius emerged, “They still fit me even after all this time, Moony,” Black declared as he walked back into the small kitchen, wearing a shirt and trousers that Remus would have easily recognized, even after being packed away.  “Hot water is a blessed thing that should not be taken for granted.”  The second hot shower he had enjoyed in as many days after a decade of going without.

Lupin turned and gave a tight smile of approval to his friend, but inside his heart was wrenching from the sight before him.  The clothes didn’t fit so much, as hung on his gaunt thin frame.  The legs of the trousers appeared too short, but that may have only been because Sirius wasn’t currently wearing any shoes.  There was a musty smell emanating from these clothes due to being stored in boxes for a length of time, but it was fainter than the one oozing from the clothes Eugene had provided yesterday.

“Do you need me to take care of any of your wounds? he asked, remembering seeing the rust coloured stains on the towels. “I have a few simple remedies on hand?”

Sirius shook his head.  “Thank you, but no.”   He didn’t like being fussed over any more than Remus did.  Remnants of his time at Azkaban could resurface at any time, and fresh assaults on his senses from such a cursed place would happen without warning.  The marks on his body would remain until they healed and faded.  The nightmare that had been his life for the past decade would remain for the rest of his life.

“Tea?” Lupin asked, having made a fresh cup for himself.

“Coffee, please, as strong and hot as you can make it,” Sirius requested.   “With plenty of sugar please.”

“Good to see some things don’t change,” Lupin grinned as he remembered Lily scolding Black of his unhealthy addiction to anything sweet tasting.

“It may take a while to get used to being myself again,” Black admitted ruefully.   Lupin wasn’t sure which one of them Sirius was trying to convince.

“Sit down at the table and I will bring it to you in a minute.  Would you like anything to eat?”

Sirius made sure to sit on the side of the table that had the best view of the sofa in the sitting room.   “I don’t think I could right now,” he added truthfully.  His stomach was tied in knots, but it was not from lack of food.

A few moments later, Remus put a steaming mug of black coffee in front of his friend, and sat down at the table himself, both of them sipping at their hot drinks and keeping their attention focused on Harry in the next room.

“I think a few well-placed precautions might be in order,” Remus suggested, pulling out his wand, but being mindful of their sleeping guest.  He uttered a quiet, simple incarnation that Sirius recognized, but had rarely used himself.   Often used to stop anyone over-hearing or inadvertently eavesdropping on what they were about to be talk about.   “Don’t worry, we can still see and hear Harry if he wakes.”

There was a distinct ‘pop’ sound as the silent, invisible walls rising up around them, signalling that the protective charm was in currently in place.  Remus could quickly remove it at any time should Harry awaken.  And he would only need to reverse it once they were done speaking privately.

“I still cannot believe he is here.  Feels so surreal,” Black muttered, both hands still gripping around the mug.

The crumpled envelope that Black had handed to Lupin now lay in the middle of the table looking back at both of them.   The intrigue was there about what the contents might tell them but despite it being written in by Dumbledore’s quill, curiosity was out-weighted by the mistrust and suspicion experienced by both men over a long period of time.

Knowing his former headmaster and the fact that the letter had been concealed and delivered only by one of his most trusted associates, Hagrid, there was bound to be a spell on the seal to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.   With a curt nod of approval from Sirius, Remus pulled out his wand and touched the centre of the seal on the back of the envelope twice.

The seal began to illuminate, the envelope itself, rising off the table an inch before falling back down and the flap falling open.  Remus reached in and pulled out a single piece of folded parchment.   He had been expecting a lot more.

Scrawled in neat, even script were only a few sentences.  Lupin was beginning to read silently when Black interrupted him.

“Come on, don’t leave me in suspense, Mooney!  What does it say?”

Remus smiled at his friend’s impatience.  A good sign that the old Sirius beginning to emerge again.

“Cryptic and entirely lacking in any real substance,” Lupin revealed, choosing now to read the contents out loud, whilst showing Sirius.

 

To Sirius Black and Remus Lupin

Please forgive me; explanations will need to wait until I meet with you in person.

By the time you read this letter, Hagrid will have safely delivered young Mr Harry Potter into your care. 

Use whatever skills you possess to keep him safe.  Protections and safeguards that were previously put into place are beginning to fail and are no longer strong enough.

Please refrain from using too much magic directly in front of him at first.  Young Harry has lived his entire life in the muggle world, and has little exposure to magic or wizardry.

I will be sending a very trusted friend to help you care for the boy until we discuss everything in more detail.

 

“Refrain from magic!” Sirius exclaimed in disgust, getting up quickly and gruffly shoving his chair away from the table, beginning to pace the floor, his anger threatening to grow exponentially.

A small noise from the cocoon of blankets soon curtailed any further outburst from him, as both men looked over at their sleeping young charge in the next room.  Remus rose from his own chair and walked over to the settee quietly, trying to gauge if the child had awoken.   Thankfully, Harry’s sleep was too deep for him to climb out of.

Lupin returned to the kitchen with a soft rebuke, “Please keep it down, Padfoot.   Don’t worry, I know you are certainly entitled to some frustration, considering where you have been living and everything that has happened up until tonight, but we will both have to pick our moments to do so.”

Black nodded, suitably scolded, trying to hide his guilt at his rash outburst.  But his mind was already two steps ahead going over the warnings in the letter.  “What could possibly be going on that Harry needs protecting from in this world?”

And Remus’ own mind seemed to have joined in, both of them speaking out loud what they were thinking, “And why did Hagrid need to deliver Harry to us?” There were so many pieces to the puzzle missing.  And the few scraps of information they did have, were not adding up to any kind of explanation at all.

Sirius repeated an earlier question and others were just began multiplying, “Where has Harry been all of this time?  What safeguards?  What protections?” “Muggle World!”  It was the last reference that perturbed him most of all.  Harry living his entire life in the muggle world?  James and Lily would never have wanted that for their son.  Why did that fool Dumbledore allow something like that to happen, under his very nose.

“Who is this trusted friend that is mentioned?” Lupin queried.  Their former Head Master knew that he lived a solitary and lonely existence, and rarely had guests or visitors.   And preferred it that way.

Both men were startled by a loud knock on the back door.   The same one Hagrid had put back in place several hours ago.  An impatient second pounding, had them looking over towards Harry, hoping that he wasn’t at risk of being woken up by the noise again.

Black jerked open the wooden door, but any harsh words on the tip of his tongue evaporated when he was greeted with a very jovial, “Good Morning, Sirius.”

The one-sided opening conversation from the plump red-haired woman continued as she entered looking about the room thoughtfully and taking a sharp eye at the men.  “Sirius, you don’t like you have slept at all poor man.  We will have to rectify that straight away.  You look like you could use a good meal or three, you as well, Remus.”

Out of anybody they could have imagined or thought of for Dumbledore to send to help them, this person had certainly not come to mind.  Both men were flabbergasted and struggled to find the correct words to say.

“Molly Weasley,” Remus identified the woman.  She was carrying a large basket, overflowing with vegetables and other unidentifiable wrapped food items.   There was also an older travel bag that had patches in a few places, from years of usefulness.

“At your service,” Molly replied cheerfully.  “Now let’s not hang about, I have a large crowd of my own to cook lunch for in a couple of hours.  How about you show me around a little later, but for now I will get started in here?”

“Started?” Sirius queried.  He could remember this lady from previous meetings, but they had all been a very long time ago.  Before his time in Azkaban, where some memories had been deliberately suppressed so they couldn’t be used against him during his incarceration.

“Albus did tell you I was coming, didn’t he?  I remember him telling me he was going to owl you?”  Molly said, leaving her heavy bag out of the way for now.  “But if his owl is anything like Errol….” she started to add, talking mostly to herself.

“He did say ‘someone’  in a letter but never specified who,” Lupin answered, noting that Molly seemed to have a knack of working out her own way around his simple little kitchen.

“Oh that is good then,” she seemed satisfied and went about her tasks.  She didn’t notice the two men let out a sigh of relief at her presence.  “I didn’t know what you needed, so I brought a little of everything to sustain you all for today.  I will be bring more tonight when I come back.”

The woman placed her heavy basket on the kitchen table and was now rummaging through the contents, leafy cabbages, pulling out a bunch of carrots, several apples.  Two jars, a loaf of bread.  She then took a large pot from the small cupboard underneath the stove and filled it with water and placing it on the hot plate ready to boil.

In a few short minutes, Molly had entered the small house, and seemed to have taken over and was preparing to cook for them all.

“Come back tonight?” Lupin stated in surprise.   Astounded at the amount of food that one basket could hold, most of it now laid out over his kitchen table, ready to be sacrificed to the pot of water.  There were a few other containers placed into his refrigerator and jars stacked on his pantry shelves.

“Oh don’t worry, most of it is from my own supplies and gardens,” Molly informed them.

“Are you sure that you will have enough for your own family?” Remus asked, knowing that the Weasley family did have a large number of mouths to feed at any given meal time, and they often didn’t have the extra money to buy from the market every day.  Hence why Molly propagated and attended to her own garden for most of what they needed.  “I can repay you for whatever you use?” he offered.

“Good heavens, no need for that,” Molly insisted, being proud of her family and their ability to provide for themselves.  She wouldn’t hear about accepting charity from anybody, even when it was well meant.

Remus nodded in acceptance, knowing that she would never take any he could offer, but quietly telling himself that he would repay her somehow for her kindness, even if it wasn’t with money.   He had no idea what she had intended making for breakfast, but already lovely aromas were beginning to assault them, causing even him to feel a little hungry.

Since Molly had entered the house, Sirius had said very little, but had watched her bustle about the kitchen, preparing food just like she would for her own family.  Dumbledore had been too secretive up to this point about everything to do with Harry.   But he had certainly made the correct choice about who to send to help.  Black wondered how much she knew about Harry and his upbringing.  Was she going to be the one telling them the parts that were left out of the letter?

Molly finished stirring the pot she had been preparing, and turning around with a look of hopeful expectance on her face, “Would you mind if I looked in on him…” she started to ask. “I haven’t met him before, but Lily was such a sweetheart.”

Before Sirius or Remus could answer, another noise came from the sitting room.  A parent’s instinct kicked in for Molly, as they watched her approach the settee with a motherly gentleness and practiced soft tread.

Harry had rolled over and was sleeping on his back, the blanket pooled around the lower half of his body and the settee.  This was the first thing to be rectified, as the woman carefully adjusted the blanket and draped it back over the boy’s shoulders.   It was now that Molly got to take her first good look at someone she had heard so much about.

Molly took up position on the chair that Sirius had vacated, and was softly humming a tune as she used her hands to smooth out the folds and ripples of blanket fabric.  Her touch was light, and comforting.  Harry could hear the music, and turned his head slightly to the pleasant sound, a small smile appearing on his face.

“He looks just like his father, James!” Molly couldn’t help but exclaim out loud.  Harry jerking at the sudden noise and frowning slightly.  “Sorry pet, you just go back to sleep,” she soothed, using a gentle hand to brush the dark locks of hair away from his forehead.

“Oh………..” Molly now whispered, “Such a nasty scar he carries there.  I have heard all the stories and rumours that followed of course, but I didn’t expect something like this.”

Remus and Sirius were both shocked to hear her comment, both of them coming over to see for themselves.

All three gazed down at the faint, faded but still visible ‘lightning bolt’ shaped line marring the pale complexion.

Lupin, like Molly Weasley, had heard the rumours, idle gossip that had followed the deaths of his best friends.  And the speculation of what had happened to their young child.  But he had not been in a position to follow up on the whispering or malicious talk, instead forced to remain out of sight and powerless to ask questions because of what the wizarding world perceived about his-kind.

Black took a step backwards…… sounds of the past assaulting him as he momentarily slipped back into the past when he first arrived at Azkaban.  The dementors had gone to great lengths and revelled with mirth at informing him that it was his fault that his friends Lily and James were dead.  That their small son, his godson had been injured, all because of his own selfishness.  Horrific screeching filled his ears, making him shake his head, trying not to hear them.   The coldness that crept back into his body was relentless as shards of freezing air stabbed at his senses and assailed his nostrils with the stench of decay.

A warm hand on the cold skin, and Sirius suddenly looked up, into the friendly, but worried eyes of his friend.  He tried to open his mouth to speak, but the words would not come.  He could not convey to Remus that he was alright because he knew the haunting look he was returning gave him away.   This was not the time, nor the place to discuss it, and he was far from ready to explain what he had just experienced, doubting that his werewolf friend was prepared to hear the details.

A small nod from Remus and a squeeze of his arm conveyed all the understanding necessary.  After all, Lupin too had experienced more than his fair share of dark times during his life, that most other people would scarcely be able fathom.  Pain, suffering, disappointment and isolation were constants both of them frequently endured silently throughout their years of friendship.

It looked as though Harry wasn’t ready to tell anybody yet either, a small hand escaping the cocoon of blankets and rubbing at his eyes.  He then rolled over onto his opposite side, pressing his face deeper into the small pillow.  He did not wake further.

“Leave him for now, we can take a better look later, when he is more alert,” Molly suggested softly, rising from the chair and heading back to the pot on the stove to stir its contents.  “Perhaps Dumbledore is prepared to tell us more about what happened.”

She didn’t miss the scowl that came from Sirius, reiterating to nobody in particular that the older wizard had been way too secretive for his liking.

“Don’t worry, I am sure he will be just fine,” Molly tried to convince them, seeing that both men were feeling a little out of their depth on what to do with the young boy.  And she could sense that their connection to James and Lily had been rekindled very strongly.  Their need to know everything about Harry and to protect him was also evident.

“There are a few simple spells in place that will prevent Harry from overhearing our conversation should he wake,” Remus informed her.  “Dumbledore’s hastily scrawled message may have been cryptic, but it did state that we should refrain from using magic in front of him for now.”

“Well, I am sure he knows what he is doing,” Molly replied, but a slight catch in her voice gave her true feelings on such a matter away.

She was a skilled witch herself, and used magic in many ways on a daily basis to help her own household cope with the many chores to be done and the number of mouths to feed.  She did prefer preparing, making meals and cooking with her own hands.  The food tasted better and she could always tell if a dish needed a little something extra, or if the seasoning needed adjusting.  She did not know of any spell that could teach her better cooking skills than those her own mother had taught since she was a small girl.

There was a time when any one of the three people currently in this small kitchen would not have questioned anything said by Albus Dumbledore, nor queried his motives.  But the passage of time and first hand experiences made them wary of any information that was gained second-hand.

When she turned around, both Remus and Sirius were waiting with knowing looks and waiting for her explanation.

“He didn’t tell me much either.  Actually I didn’t even see Dumbledore; instead he sent that stupid owl Errol of ours careening in through the kitchen window last night when everything was almost cleared away and the dishes were being sorted.  Most of the children had scattered back to their room’s by then, and Arthur had gone out on some late night task for the Ministry.  I don’t think anybody else saw except perhaps Percy.  He wandered back down looking for one of his books and saw the bird sprawled across the kitchen table.

“There was a message from the Dumbledore, telling me that I needed to go to this address this morning and help out.  It didn’t tell me who would be here except for you,” Molly continued and gazing back at Remus as she spoke, going into much more detail than she had when she first arrived.  “I didn’t know about you being here at all, Sirius.”

Molly paused for a moment before continuing, weighing up whether she should put her cards on the table, “Please understand, Sirius, if I had received a note from anybody else except Albus Dumbledore, telling me that you had been found innocent, and set free, I cannot honestly say that I would have believed them.  A small part of me still isn’t completely convinced after reading and being influenced by those articles in the Daily Prophet all these years.”

Mrs Weasley attempted to keep eye contact with Black for most of her poorly worded explanation, but she faulted when she thought of how easily she had been persuaded to believe the gossip pages and baseless articles.

“Arthur thinks that I don’t know about hiding that motorcycle, but he has always kept a soft spot for you.  Deep down, he has always secretly hoped that there was another reason, or someone else to be blamed.  But it is not a topic that we regularly discuss in private, nor in front of the family.”

“Thank you for your honesty,” Black answered, knowing that such an admission was not easily earned, and he could see the many questions written across her face, “Perhaps one day, we can talk more,” he gave vaguely, having no desire or plans to answer any of them.

“Dumbledore said all of that to you in the letter that he sent?” Lupin chimed in suspiciously and with carefully concealed annoyance.

“The headmaster’s note mentioned those points and that he would visit here as soon as he could to explain everything.  Something else came up rather urgently,” Molly answered, reciting what she had read.

“You hear that, Sirius,” Remus scoffed, turning away from Molly, “after reaching such heights merely yesterday, today, we both find ourselves right back where we have always been, forgotten about and treated with distrust.”

Sirius acknowledged his friend’s statement with a curt nod of his own, his emotions were creeping too close to the surface once more and he dared not speak the harsh words lingering on his tongue.

Walking closer to both of the men, Molly spoke up, “Can we please combine our efforts, and agree that the most important thing for now is making sure that Harry has everything that he needs?”

“For that, you have our undivided attention,” Remus promised.    Sirius nodded his own head, knowing that both of them would do whatever was necessary where the boy was concerned.

Molly returned to the pot she had left on the stove, stirring it with a large spoon and satisfying herself that everyone would be well fed this morning.  Caring for her own family and taking care of others came naturally to her.

“Everything is ready for breakfast, tuck in and help yourselves,” Mrs Weasley invited.

“Before we eat, it should be mentioned that when Harry arrived on our doorstep in the early hours of this morning, he didn’t have any belongings with him,” Lupin informed her.

“Nothing?” she questioned, shocked at such a revelation.

“Not even a stitch of clothing.   Hagrid asked, but said Harry merely shook his head.  He has barely said a word since he got here.  No books, no money,” Sirius whispered, looking over towards the sitting room and the blanketed figure.

“Not to worry, I suspect he is still unsure of his new surroundings,” Molly declared.   “I have some clothes that no longer fit my son, Ronald.  Both boys are similar in build and the same age, I will bring them by this afternoon when I return.”

“Thank you for your kindness and generosity, Molly, we are truly guided by your hands,” Lupin remarked.  “Please join us for a cup of tea.”

“Just this once,” Mrs Weasley commented, hoping to begin building a bridge of co-operation and rekindle an understanding.

Lupin and Black took up a chair each at the kitchen table, whilst Molly poured them each a fresh cup of tea, and a third for herself.  The aromas coming from the pot on the stove were enticing.  The air of uneasiness surrounding their past histories and associations was beginning to clear.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

In the sitting room, the figure beneath of the folds of blanket began to stir and awaken.   Slowly at first, sensing that whatever he was lying on was not his normal bed in the cupboard beneath the stairs.   He hadn’t heard his cousin’s loud footsteps coming down the staircase yet.  Perhaps the start to this day was going to be a little quieter due to Dudley sleeping late.

Some delicious smells assaulted his nose, making his mouth water at the thought of tasting food, but he if he was lying here, then that meant he was late for making breakfast.  Uncle Vernon would be waiting impatiently for his coffee and Aunt Petunia would making a list and giving him extra chores for making them wait.

Harry sat up, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the light as his hand started searching around him for this glasses.   He could hear more than one voice in the next room, but he didn’t recognize his Aunt or Uncle talking.   He had better get a move on before he got into more trouble.

When he began to stir, the spells that Remus had placed about the room had done their job, and alerted the two men in the kitchen that the young boy was now awake.   Without Harry seeing, Lupin briefly used his wand and a barely whispered incantation to reverse the spells he had put in place.

“Harry, I trust you slept well.”

The boy shrank away from the tall approaching figure, pulling the blanket with him, and pooling it in his lap.  “I-I am s-sorry for over-sleeping,” he stuttered, the same excuse that he would have been uttering if Aunt Petunia had been talking to him just now.

“I think you can be forgiven for that today, Harry,” Lupin smiled, but stopping from going further as he watched the boy edge further back against the sofa, his demeanour just as skittish as it had been the night before.  “I trust you were warm enough during the night?” he asked, trying to ease into a simple conversation.

“He’s awake,” Black proclaimed with enthusiasm, as he came into the room behind his friend, happy to see their new charge alert, but failing to notice the gesture to lower his voice.

The events from the previous night began to fill Harry’s mind, the pounding on the door in Privet drive, the motorcycle and being brought to a new place.  The orphanage he silently reminded himself, knowing that these people would have their own set of rules and instructions, in addition those already given to them by his Aunt and Uncle.

Both men could see the boy squinting back at them and having trouble focusing on them and attempting to gain his bearings.

“I left your glasses on the coffee table in front of you there, where you could easily find them,” Remus pointed out, not wanting to embarrass him.

Harry stood up from the sofa and reached forward across the large brown blurry surface that the man was gesturing towards, searching with his fingertips.   Taking possession of the bent and ill-repaired frames, unfolding them, sighing inwardly with real relief of familiarity as he put them on his face.  With his vision now much clearer, he found himself wanting to retreat from the strangers in the room.

The larger man with the large, warm furry coat that had brought him here was no-where to be seen.   They had told him their names, but at the moment, he couldn’t recall what they were at all, and looked towards the floor to hide that fact.

Remus was forced to hold back his tongue as he took a good look at the young boy in front of him.  The clothes he wore had seen better days, and they appeared to be too large and hung awkwardly on the lad’s slim frame.   He looked like he could do with a meal or three.

“Would you like to use the bathroom upstairs to wash your face before breakfast?” Lupin asked, watched the subtle fidgeting that the boy was displaying, clearly unsure of his new surroundings, nervous and unwilling to speak up about what he needed.

“Yes, please,” Harry answered, carefully folding the blanket and placing it neatly on the sofa.

He was directed up to a small bathroom, hesitating at the top of the stairs before being given some privacy, “Feel free to take care of any other personal needs.”

Harry knew that he would be expected to be ready to start his list of chores and responsibilities as soon as he came back out.  He would need to learn quickly and keep his mind on the tasks he was given.  Harry had convinced himself that the next few days would be for proving oneself.

A small snick to the latch, and Harry walked out into the hallway and towards the small kitchen.

“Just to reintroduce ourselves, my name is Remus Lupin, and my friend here to my left is Sirius Black.”

Harry wanted to take a step forward and shake their hands in greeting, but found his feet rather stuck to the floor in one place.  He was totally unprepared for the next introduction.

“I cannot tell you how happy I am that you are here, dear,” said a red-headed, middle-aged woman, as she engulfed his upper body in a hug, wrapping her arms around him and trying to squeeze the stuffing out of him.

“This lady, Harry, is Mrs Molly Weasley, and I am sure you will get used to her mothering ways all too soon,” Remus grinned, at the confused and startled look.  He observed the rather stiff stance and noted that he had not returned the woman’s affections.

“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Weasley,” Harry said formally.  “Where would you like me to begin?” he asked politely, expecting that the lady was in charge of the kitchen of his new living arrangements.

“With breakfast of course,” Molly answered, pulling the child towards the table, “Now you just sit there, and I will bring you something nourishing for your bones.”

A bowl of steaming food was placed in front of him, and he sniffed the contents hungrily and with gratitude, “Thank you.”

“Such lovely manners from someone so young,” Molly applauded.

Harry watched as the lady brought more bowls and placed them in front of the two men as they both took up seats across the table.  She did not appear to be joining them in the meal, but sat down at the table and sipped at her tea.  She smiled casually at him, and looked expectantly over the lip of her cup as she drank.

Usually he didn’t get to eat the same as other members of the household, but this being his first day, it may be best if he didn’t ask too many questions.  He knew what the rules were when it came to meal times, hoping that the bowl of food would still be a little warm when they had finished.

“Your cooking skills have not wavered in all this time,” Sirius praised as he got up from the table, hiding the fact that he had only consumed about half of his own food.  It would take his system a lot longer to adjust to having regular meal times.

All three of them were waiting for him to tuck into the food, but looked at each other around the table as the boy sat with his spoon sitting beside the bowl untouched.

“I can get you anything else if you don’t like it?” Molly offered in compromise, giving his forearm a light squeeze in reassurance.  The boy was far too thin not to be eating something.

Lupin had finished his own bowl, but noted that his serving had not been very large.  A unspoken thank you towards Mrs Weasley as well, seeming to remember that he didn’t part-take in large amounts of food.    Strange how well she remembered traits for those she had not been in contact with for such a long time, but he was grateful for that intuition.

Harry watched the man put his cutlery down, indicating that he had finished.  Normally Dudley and Uncle Dursley consumed large portions at each sitting, and often seconds and thirds if there was enough left-over.  So it was a little odd to see the smaller bowls of food and the two men signalling that they were satisfied.

“Go on then, eat up, that’s the boy,” Molly encouraged, but it was the two men showing that they had finished eating for now, that caused Harry to now pick up his spoon and slowly begin to eat.

“There is salt and pepper if you need it,” Lupin suggested, trying to rally some more confidence in the young man.   But Harry merely shook his head.

Remus smiled at the sharp in-take of breath he heard coming from Mrs Weasley at the suggestion that her food was not seasoned correctly.   She held back any defence when she saw Harry eating some small and careful mouthfuls.

Soon enough the bowl was empty, and the still hot food had been gratefully consumed.

“Would you like some more?” Molly asked, used to having her own children help themselves and look for more in the cooking pot if they were still hungry.

Harry’s focus remained on the top of the kitchen table as he slowly gave her a negative muffled reply, “No thank you.”

Lupin and Black had noted the downward cast, and barely audible response, exchanging worried glances.   The boy looked so much like James, but that was the only resemblance so far in the short time they had to observe their new young house guest.

“Well there is plenty left for later if you do,” Mrs Weasley promised, not reading the boy’s body language, and getting up from the table to clear away the dishes.

Harry almost tripped over getting out of the chair so fast to help her, but caught himself just in time.   Clearing away the table and the dishes was his responsibility, and there were punishments and reprisals if they were not done correctly or in a timely fashion.

Sirius had moved forward to try and prevent the boy from falling to the floor, but Harry had quickly manoeuvred out of his reach.  “Alright there, Harry?”

Harry nodded his head, inwardly thinking it was an odd question to ask.  People didn’t usually ask him how he felt or what he was doing.  Unless he was doing something wrong in their eyes, and when that was the case, they seldom spoke first.

He didn’t have any experience with orphanages before, but this one was turning out to be a strange one.  He had yet to see any other children of any age, but dare not ask any questions.

“I will be off now, dear,” Molly spoke to Harry, gathering the last of the possessions into her basket.  She was expecting to give him to come out of his shell a little more, but stopped in dismay as the boy made no efforts to move from that one spot in the kitchen.

“There is plenty in the pantry if you need anything before I come back later today,” turning and talking to Sirius.

Black nodded in acknowledgement and although there were some bridges to mend, he was thankful for the attention that she was showering Harry with.   She didn’t seem fazed by him only talking when being spoken to or his all too quiet nature.

“I will bring you back some spare clothes that you can keep,” Molly proposed, but was a little perplexed when the boy’s gaze returned to the floor, as though disappointed.

“Thank you,” Harry mumbled, looking down at the poorly fitting clothes he wore.  Because he didn’t bring anything with him, he would just have to be grateful for second-hand ones like he was used to receiving from his cousin.

They watched the door close behind Mrs Weasley, leaving only the three of them in each other’s company once more.

___________________________________________________________________________

“What should we do with you today then?” came the harmless query from Lupin, not realising that the wording took on a whole different meaning to the boy.

Harry took two steps backwards, shrinking away from the two men, expecting loud voices and possibly hurtful physical reminders to tell him what his punishment was to be.

“Why don’t you go and take a seat in the living room over there, whilst Remus and I have a little chat privately?” Sirius suggested.  “We will let you know once we decide.”

Harry nodded his head glumly in agreement, having been told many times before to leave the room when adults wanted to talk about matters that concerned him.  Even when they didn’t have anything to do with him.  At least this time there had been no yelling or Uncle Vernon thrusting his fist in his face to do so.

Sirius watched the boy leave but was perplexed; you would have thought the kid was walking to his doom, with the slumped shoulders and not a word out of him.

Walking into the sitting room, Harry sat down quietly beside the folded blanket and waited, wringing his clasp hands tightly together with nervousness.

The two men were talking quietly to each other, taking periodic glances towards him, he couldn’t hear anything they were saying.  Boredom was beginning to settle in.

Kneeling on the sofa, he turned towards the window, pushing the curtain aside and taking a glimpse outside.  His breath fogging up the window and his glasses a little at the same time.

The sky was a light shade of blue with a few floating clouds.  This tranquil morning was suddenly interrupted by a large bird flying swooping down and landing on top of the mailbox next to the gate.

He had never seen such a large bird up this close before.  It was an owl.  Varying shades of brown, with piercing eyes and a pale beak.  There was a soft exclamation of amazement from Harry who was pressing his face against the glass, “Wow.”

Although quiet, the change in posture from the boy and fact that his full attention was being drawn outside, the curiosity of the two men from across the room was undeniable.

“What do you see, Harry?” Remus asked as he approached the window to look for himself.

“Looks like the mail is in,” Sirius announced, opening the front door and heading out.

It wasn’t until he was half-way to the gate that he realised that this might have been the first time that Harry had seen the wizarding world’s postal service at work.  Looking back towards the window, the boy seemed more in awe about the size of the bird.

Sirius reached in and retrieved a single small envelope from the mailbox, turning it over in his hand to see who might have sent it.   A distinct red wax seal over the flap revealed it was from Albus Dumbledore.  With its duty now performed, the owl took this as the sign to fly away back to the shelf to await the next delivery.

Walking back to the house, Sirius saw Harry lower the curtain, a disappointed look on his face that the bird had flown away.

Remus tried his best to lift the boy’s spirit, “Don’t worry, Harry, we get owls in this area quite a lot this time of year,” sharing a knowing look with Sirius as he re-entered the house.

Harry though it rather odd though that a nocturnal bird would be seen in the daytime, but didn’t challenge the explanation given, nodding his head in acceptance.

Black tore open the small envelope, beginning to read the message:  “Meet me at Amelia Bones’ office at 10am sharp this morning,” he recited; turning over the piece of paper to make sure that there was no other message on the back.

“Well, that sorts out my whereabouts for this morning and perhaps longer,” Black scowled, not enjoying the notion of any such meeting, nor those who no doubt would be present.

“But that still leaves us with time on our hands, Harry?” Lupin surmised.

There seemed to be no final absolution yet for missing doing the breakfast dishes, but Harry was pleased that the topics of conversation had changed enough that it might be skipped over.

“Perhaps Harry and I should spend some time together getting to know one another,” Lupin suggested to the boy.

Inwardly Harry shuddered a little, thinking that this was where he was going to hear the long list of rules and what was expected of him whilst he was living here.

“That’s not fair, it means that I get to do the boring things,” Sirius pouted, knowing that his friend may be able to get him to open up a little more and be more comfortable around them.

“I was just going to take a walk to the local supermarket not far from here and gather some groceries for the cupboards to tide us over for a few days.  We won’t go far,” Remus added, knowing that Dumbledore probably didn’t want them wandering too far away from their current lodgings.

“Just watch he doesn’t bring home too much chocolate,” Sirius joked to Harry, “Has a bit of a sweet tooth there.”

Harry nodded his head to what was being said, but didn’t add to the conversation.  Chocolate was one of the things he definitely knew he was not allowed to have.   Aunt Petunia said so, but made sure that Dudley consumed enough for a whole crowd of people.

Lupin took the jibe good-naturedly, not bothering to tell Harry now, but promising to reveal that Black’s history of being partial to sweet treats and desserts, especially when they were at Hogwarts was a long one.  Together with James, they were both known to polish off a whole platter of pastries, or hide smaller ones in the pockets of their robes, and sneakily eating them during class.   There was more than one occasion where detention was handed out in punishment.    Memories like there were too few and far between of late.

“Do you have enough money?” Black directed at Remus, knowing that he had no funds of his own to contribute at this point in time.

“Enough for now,” Lupin assured him.  Not a whole lot to throw around by any stretch, but he had learned to hide away, and penny-pinch where he could over the years for someone in his situation.  And even now with two new house-guests that he had not been expecting, he would be willing to share every last cent with them.

“Ready to leave then, Harry?” waiting for Harry to be in front of him, before slipping a small-tin box from his coat pocket to Sirius.

A curt nod was exchanged between them, and Black knew he would have to wait until he was completely on his own to use the port-key.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Exiting the back door where he had arrived with Hagrid, Harry stepped outside to partially overcast day.   Quite a few more clouds were now scattered across the sky from when he had been looking through the front window.

There was no rear fence to this property, so he waited on the pathway to be guided in which direction he should go.  The road was quiet, and this house was at the end of a cul-de-sac, the nearest neighbour being half-way down the street.

“Not far, like I mentioned, but a nice walk to get us there,” Remus spoke, trying to lighten the tension he could see in the boy’s stance.   He walked closest to the road, in a protective role keeping his gait at a slow pace, whilst Harry kept away from the curb, and out of arms reach.

This time of year was a little cooler, and the clothes and shoes that Harry was wearing were still in poor shape, and Remus could see the breeze ruffling the torn shirt tails as they walked. He made a mental note to himself about looking at the small clothing store to see if there was something more suitable for the boy.

Lupin really wanted to coax the boy into talking some more, and getting comfortable in his new surroundings, but the boy was very closed off, not offering any questions and only giving short answers or head gestures when necessary.

“What should we eat today?” was the simple question.

Harry stopped walking, looking back at the man, with his bland expression changing to one of trepidation.  He had ‘never’ been asked that before when living with his Aunt and Uncle.  He could remember being allowed to go with them a handful of times and there had been the point made that he wasn’t allowed to ask for anything.

“I don’t know, Sir,” was the mumbled response.

Lupin frowned a little at the reaction, but to lighten the mood, meaning to put a supportive hand on the boy’s shoulder, but pulling his hand back, when Harry restarted his footsteps to avoid any contact.

“Let’s find out together then, shall we,” he encouraged, but there were a lot of thoughts swirling around about this boy.   There were pieces of the puzzle beginning to emerge, much as they did last night and this morning.   But there hadn’t been enough of them yet to discover the pattern.

“We cross the road here,” Remus guided, as the two of them approached the end of the street, and headed towards a more built up area, with houses on either side, and cars driving in opposite directions.   Just as he stepped up onto another curb, Harry earned a scowl and “watch where you are going” from a man who had been running down the footpath.

Harry found himself feeling overwhelmed as the number of people bustling about began to swell, and the crowd began to grow.   He found himself standing outside a large store; the building surrounding it was old.  The windows on the front smaller than other shops on either side, the wooden door frames must have been painted green in the past, but that was now peeling off in many places.  The sign overhead reading, ‘Winifred’s Market’.

Remus was mindful of Harry’s apprehension with people pushing past, tried to use a gentle hand at the top of his shoulders to steer him through the store doors, but he heard a distinct wince of pain from the boy.  Contact was lost between them by a number of customers exiting the store, and not even noticing what was going on around them.

Harry watched the man select a small shopping basket from the rack and obediently walked behind him as they headed down the first aisle.   He didn’t know how many people they were buying for today.   The other man had been intending to go out when they left.

He assumed that he was probably bought along because these new people didn’t want to leave him on his own in the house.  That was the only reason he had been allowed to accompany the Dursley’s on a few occasions was because they didn’t want him doing anything freakish in their home whilst they were away.   And the lady next door they often relied on wasn’t around now to keep an eye on him.

This store had been a local haunt for Lupin for a number of years.   It was a little more out of the way than the bigger centres in the city.  They catered to many ethnic cultures and offered up quite a lot unusual ingredients but also stocked the regular staples that most people were seeking.  The staff were accepting, helpful and didn’t judge their patrons by their appearance or what they purchased.

At first, Harry was content enough just to watch the man select a few items from a whole array of shelves and place them in his basket.  Bread, Milk, Eggs, the essentials for most kitchens on a daily basis.    It had been a while since his last forced outing with the Dursley’s and it shows with him gawping at the vast selection of goods on display.

When the man had selected a bottle of milk, there had been a whole fridge dedicated to that one product, with bottles of different sizes and coloured plastic bottle tops.   With the bread the selection had been even larger, with small loaves, large loaves, sliced and unsliced.  Some with the ingredients on the outside claiming how much fibre it contained and how soft it was.   He recognized the brand that Aunt Petunia used to buy, but it wasn’t the one put in the basket.

Lupin was scanning the isles looking back occasionally his shoulder to see if Harry was still there.  They started out side by side, but other people’s movements had begun to separate them.  It was time become actively involved with decisions that affected him.

They were still in the aisle that contained other dairy products such as yoghurts, custards and cheese.   The number of cheese varieties was even more than the bread and milk products.

“Harry, select some cheese you would like please,” Remus instructed, waiting patiently as a large woman dived directly in front of the boy, making him stop to avoid colliding into her.

The look that Harry gave him was similar to the one he had displayed when they had been walking to the store and asked what they should be buying.   The boy stared back at him with large expressive eyes rather than the cheeses, trying to make sense of what was being asked of him.

Harry turned his head towards the shelves, wondering if this was a test like he had been expecting all morning.   To see if he matched up to the criteria for being allowed to stay.

He liked cheese, but there were so many different types here to look at.  He had always been given the ends off the blocks that Dudley discarded.   Once when he was alone in the kitchen, he had taken a small slice for himself that wasn’t a dried out end piece.   It had been soft and fresh, and he had enjoyed it immensely, but had not dared to do it too many times again for fear of being found out and punished.

“Do you see the one you usually like,” Lupin prodded, but Harry only briefly glanced back, not wanting to admit that he didn’t see the outside packaging that Dudley insisted on.

“I like this one myself,” Remus offered, selecting a blue box, “And up until recently, Sirius wouldn’t normally care what brand is it, so long as it has the word cheese on it.

Harry nodded his head, relieved that the decision had been taken out of his hand and the choice made.  He looked back at all the cheese again, wondering how different some of them would taste.

Lupin watched the boy for a moment, just as puzzled.  The boy’s body language and behaviour was all wrong for someone his age.  If was almost as if he was too afraid to speak up and make a choice.  But surely that couldn’t be the case he thought to himself.   He had seen similar signs like this in other students back in his Hogwarts days, and he didn’t even like the thought that something like that could have been happening to Harry.

Moving to the next aisle which contained meats and small goods.  Moony decided to try again with Harry and allow him to make a choice based on his own preference.  “Would you like some roast chicken? I know that is one of Sirius’s favourites as well.”

Harry looked at the roast chicken with desire, remembering quite a few Sunday lunches where Uncle Vernon had roasted a chicken.   He had to be content with what few scraps had been left everybody else had eaten.  Like the cheese, he did like chicken, but he usually received the cold bits at the bottom of roasting tray that sat in the congealed meat juices.

“Could we try some, please?” Harry asked in anticipation, but then quickly looked downwards at the floor as though he had spoken out of turn.

“Of course we can,” Remus consented, turning to the person behind the counter and selecting the biggest one that was on offer.  The lady had been nice and gave a warm smile to the boy, thinking it was nice to see a child who wasn’t persistent or demanding.   There had been a brief moment of triumph, but there was still something that struck him as odd with the whole scenario.  He couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

By this time, the number of people in the store had grown even more since they had entered, and it was clear that it was beginning to bother Harry.   Remus didn’t usually like to be in crowds either, and actively avoided where possible.   He had wanted to get some ice-cream as well, hoping Harry would be like most kids and like the creamy treat and then eventually head towards the fresh fruit and vegetable sections of the store.

Harry moved about nervously, unsure of where he should be standing, and stepping around the other customers, but clearly wanting to escape all the noise and chaos.

“Let’s get out of here,” Lupin suggested, noting how quickly Harry nodded his head in agreement.   It looked as though he had been scanning the group of people and trying to figure out how to get to the nearest exit.

Harry certainly had his father’s trade-mark messy black hair, front and back, Remus noted as the boy stood in front of him as he prepared to pay the cashier for their small amount of goods.  But it wasn’t the total price being displayed that was keeping his undivided attention.

With Harry’s attention momentarily drawn to somewhere else, the werewolf could feel a sliver of cold fury run down his spine as he detected what appeared to be finger shaped bruising peeking out from underneath the dark hair on the back of the boy’s neck.   He had not noticed it last night when Harry slept on the sofa, and it must have been partially hidden by his shirt this morning.

Harry had picked up both shopping bags, and was ready to leave the store when he felt a gentle tug on the handles.

“How about we share the load?”

He cautiously nodded, releasing one of the bags into Lupin’s custody, but wondering why he wasn’t being expected to carry both.

The short walk back from the store left both of them trapped with their own thoughts.  Harry walked back further away from the curb again, with Remus closer to the roadway.  The aroma of the warm roast chicken was enticing.   The clouds were gathering lower and the threat of a shower later in the afternoon hung in the air.

He was going to have a hard talk with Sirius about his suspicions when they got back.  He was going to be intent on asking some hard questions from Albus Dumbledore’s about Harry’s living arrangements up until last night.  A knot in the pit of his stomach was beginning to form and whatever the cause was, he didn’t like it.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

After watching his old friend and Harry leave for their walk to the store, Sirius mulled over in his head whether he should have joined them.  Thinking about it a little more, the answer was definitely negative.   He wanted to get to know Harry more and spend more time with him too.   Although he nor Remus had any experience in taking care of a child of any age.

Although attending a meeting at the Ministry of Magic, with Dumbledore was low on his list of priorities right now, he also knew that he wasn’t used to having the opportunity to decide for himself yet.   Such a simple little thing choice, taken for granted on a daily basis, but when it was taken away from you for such a long time, then it became a precious commodity.

Black tried to make himself presentable, his facial hair was unkempt and shaggy, something he would need to fix when time permitted.  The man pulled his still long hair back from his face and secured it at the back into a ponytail.  This was the longest he could ever recall it being.  At some point he might have to go and see a barber to get it trimmed or cut back to a more manageable length.

Another thing he would slowly have to get used to again was to make sure that he carried his wand with him everywhere.  It had felt strange in his hand when Amelia Bone’s returned it to him yesterday, but he couldn’t hide his relief to have it in his hands again now.   That unexplained familiarity was definitely present.

A minute before the stroke of 10 o’clock in the morning, Sirius pulled out the small portkey pretending to be a box, and put his hand over the top before uttering the correct words.  As it had done the day before, the box glowed blue momentarily and he vanished from the little house owned by Remus, and found himself in a corridor within the Ministry of Magic.

Carefully looking about, and keeping one hand on the wand in his pocket, he looked about.   He was thankful that he had arrived on the second floor outside Amelia Bones’ office to avoid all of the security that would have been necessary upon arriving in the lobby on the ground floor.   And with only being released less than twenty-four hours, he was not ready for the craziness that was the floo network.   The place was like a rabbit warren as he had labelled it correctly yesterday, and nice and simple with a portkey was his preference.

“Good morning,” a calm voice addressed him.

It was Dumbledore, and Black was certain that the man had not been standing anywhere when he first arrived.  The man was like a ghost, turning up here and there and everywhere.

“Let’s get this over and done with,” Sirius announced, not wanting to be here any longer than absolutely necessary.

Black had been expecting Eugene Bigmore to be opening the door, and was a little disappointed when it was Amelia Bones herself, several minutes after the scheduled time.

Both men turned at the sound of loud and hurried booted footsteps approaching, Sirius immediately withdrawing his wand from his pocket when Cornelius Fudge showed his face.

“Now don’t be too hasty,” Dumbledore softly admonished, putting a hand of restraint on the man’s shoulder.  Black was well known for being brash with a quick temper before being sent to Azkaban.

It was Amelia herself who addressed the out-of-breath man, who was trying to pretend as though he had not been running to reach her office before the door closed.

“Minister?” she addressed coolly and cordially, barring entrance to her office.

“What is he doing here?” Black barked at Bones, not in the mood for any tactics that Fudge might have been planning.

“You should be back where you belong, Black, in prison, no matter what cockamamie evidence was invented yesterday,” Fudge shouted in response; he failed to note the narrowing and accusatory eyes of Amelia Bones at having her decision questioned directly in front of her.  The minister was walking on very dangerous grounds.

Continuing his tirade, the man turned to focus his attention on the Headmaster, “And you Albus, have become far too interfering in matters where the Ministry is involved for my liking.”

“Now see here, I have a right…………,” but his sentence was cut off before he could finish but a curt gesture from her hand.

“Mr Fudge,” Amelia warned with an authoritative tone, “Mr Black is here upon my invitation, this morning through Albus Dumbledore.  You, however, are not.”

A smug smirk appeared on the lips of Sirius, the face of the Minister reddening considerably and he looked like he was ready to blow a gasket at any second for being scolded like a junior wizard, and by a woman no less.

“This is a private meeting,” she emphasised, “to discuss what compensation and repercussions may be in order due to the Ministry’s serious denial of lawful rights pertaining to Mr Black.”

The explosion was imminent, Fudge scarcely about to contain himself and being astounded at the very notion of monies being owed to Black was being considered.

“Unless Dumbledore,” she pointed to the Headmaster, who shook his head with a negative response, “Or Mr Black, agrees to your presence at this meeting.”

Sirius was not about to be dictated to by anybody in this corridor, and had no patience today to pretend with niceties or the need to offer civility in any format, since he was no longer living in shackles.

“Absolutely not you pompous, fat toad,” Black spat forcibly.

The Minister’s face darkened to plum for a moment upon hearing the insult.

Amelia, certain she was going to have to defensively draw her own wand, was about to summon Ministry security to break up an altercation that was looming.   Neither Fudge nor Black were intent on hiding their intense dislike for the other.

Fudge could see the former prisoner wasn’t going to listen to reason, so he decided to attempt another approach, “Now see here, Sirius,” he tried to persuade, using the man’s given name, “Your parents long upheld the traditions decreed, and understood the responsibilities that naturally came with being from a pure-blood family in relation to matters concerning the Ministry.

With his wand plainly visible, Black took a deliberate and threatening step towards Fudge, “You’ll get no shred of courtesy from me, the scathing words began, there may have once been a time where other members of the mighty House of Black would have been fascinated with your not so subtle version of politics.  But let me make it perfectly clear to you just this one time, he added, changing and lowering the tone of his voice, all I have left in spades, is barely veiled contempt and a lifetime of disdain.”

Being satisfied that he had gotten his point across, to Dumbledore and Amelia Bones, but more importantly, Fudge himself, and he wasn’t about to wait any longer for further discussion from anyone on the subject, and entered the office.

“This is far from over yet, Dumbledore,” Fudge blurted out with frustration and impatience, before turning on his heeled boots and leaving the vicinity.  Somehow he vowed to find out what was going on in that meeting.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Remus and Harry had just made it back to the house to begin putting the groceries away, when there was a knock at the door.

Harry was still learning where to put everything in the kitchen, so offered to open the door.   Instead of a basket of food this time, she carried a bag with clothes.

“Hello again, Harry dear,” Molly greeted him, “I know I said I wouldn’t be back until later this afternoon, but thought you could use these a little earlier than that.”

“Hello,” the boy stammered a little embarrassed at not recalling her name, but rewarding her with a slight shy smile.

“Molly,” Lupin peered around the part-way open door, offering to take the bag from her.  “Please do come in, Harry and I just returned from the local store.”

“Just a few pieces for now, I will sort through some cupboards over the next couple of days and find plenty more I am sure.”

“Harry, why don’t you take this bag, have a look through it and choose what you might like to try on and keep,” Remus suggested, signalling to Molly that they needed to talk.

The boy nodded politely, heading into the sitting room and sitting on the sofa, his heart dropping with the thought of hand-me down clothes.   He could see the two adults, talking quietly in the kitchen from where he sat.

“Are you certain, Remus?” Molly gasped in alarm, horrified with what she had just heard.

Lupin nodded his head, whilst looking over at the boy.

He could see the strong mothering instinct in Mrs Weasley beginning to fire, and the very idea of she had just been told made her blood boil to the core.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

back at the Ministry of Magic:

Yesterday after the courtroom, Amelia had closed the window due to the weather, but with tensions already on edge, the room was feeling stuffy and closed in.   Walking over behind her desk, she opened the window half-way, allowing some fresh air to flow through.   The beetle that she had brushed off with some snow, now returned to the window sill, looking for a warmer spot.

“Please feel free to take a seat, Mr Black,” Amelia formally invited, like she had done the previous day.  But her request was met with the same refusal, and the same obstinate and rigid posture.  The confrontation in the corridor with Fudge, had not done anything but dig up more unspent hatred and defiance.

“I am not here to make enemies,” Sirius asserted, as he put his wand back into his pocket, and let the built up tautness in his body, relax. “But I would rather stand, if you please.”

“And nor I, Mr Black, as I mentioned in my decision yesterday, nothing that I did yesterday, nor do here today, can make up for the hardship that you have been forced to live through.”

Reclaiming the chair at her desk, she moved to get through this unenviable task at hand.  Looking over at Dumbledore before providing the information they had spoken about in private after Sirius and Remus had left.

“You might want to rethink the whole standing idea,” she prompted, taking a deep breath before plunging in head first with what she had to say.

“The relationships between you and other members of your immediate family were somewhat strained well before your imprisonment,” she tried to put delicately.

“Strained!” Sirius gave a short hollow laugh.  So that is what they want to call what had happened. That wasn’t exactly how he would describe his earlier years growing up.

Dumbledore stepped in, trying to soften any blow that was forthcoming, “Your mother, alas passed away five years, whilst you were in Azkaban prison.”

Sirius stared blankly at the other two people in the room, trying to fathom what he had just been told.   Dead?  Could it really be true?

“After your death of your father, Orion, in 1979, and the mysterious disappearance of your brother, Regulus that same year……….,” Dumbledore began to explain.

“Mysterious disappearance,” Black scoffed, through gritted teeth.   “Nothing mysterious about it, and he didn’t just disappear like my mother would like for everybody to believe.  He went and got himself killed when he became a death-eater.”

“Mr Black, we didn’t want to bring up news that might upset you.” Amelia started to say, but didn’t get to finish.

“If the old witch is dead, then so be it, but don’t expect me to be shedding a tear for my dearly departed mother.   My esteemed family is not a subject that I like to discuss at all, or in company, and I don’t know what any of it has to do with me being brought here today, but someone had better get to the point very quickly.”

Instead of speaking, Amelia held out two sets of keys to Sirius, one with two similar smaller keys, the second a number of odd assortments, with none of them being the same.

Black looked at them from a distance before walking closer, and taking them from her hand,” waiting for her comments.   He turned them over in his hand, recognizing the distinct shape of at least two of small metal objects.

“These belong to you, the first one, as you can see, is your key to vault 713 at Gringotts Bank.  Your vault.  When the ministry took custody of your wand, they also froze other assets, including any valuables and funds belonging to you.  Strong security counter measures were put in place that only their goblin staff had control over.”

“I have given written instructions to Mr Griphook this morning that access to that particular vault and the funds and any other items are to be released back to you immediately.”

Sirius nodded acknowledgement noting that there was a second Gringott’s key.

“The other ornate keys that you hold there, belong to Number 12, Grimmauld Place, but not the front door as you know.  We assume that the other keys belong to doors, cabinets, trunks or other locked spaces within the building.   Perhaps you may recognize some of them for yourself.   No one has been permitted to enter since Walburga Black passed away, and the house has remained vacant.”

Black’s mouth dropped openly slightly at such a statement, as he looked for positive confirmation from Dumbledore.

“But I thought………, she used to remind me endlessly that I was such a disappointment to her and my father.  To the whole family.   Made it plain that I was blasted from the Black Family Tree.  Just like Uncle Alphard and a few others I could name.”    His sentences sounded out of sequence and incomplete.

His whole demeanour changed; the lines on his thin face deepening a little more, as tension, regret, shame, guilt and shock all took their toll on his usually handsome features.

“The Ministry of Magic at that time of your mother’s death, put a restriction in place to prevent allowing the contents of her vault being added to yours, which is the usual practice for most families.  The second key belongs to her vault,” Amelia added further.

Sirius grimaced with resentment, just how much his mother had manipulated, not only him it seemed, but also places like Gringotts, her family, her father, his brother, everybody.   And the Ministry were just as much to blame.  It was difficult to work out who was worse.   Both had colluded, lied, cheated, and did whatever they damn welled pleased, just to get achieve their own goals.

“No doubt, your mother used harsh words against you, Sirius, but because of her status and marriage to your father, the pureblood laws about inheritance of property, chattels and other assets are seen as different to those that apply to other wizarding families,” Dumbledore acquainted him.

A frown crossed Sirius’ face as he thought back to his youth where his mother’s screams and insults echoed clearly, “My mother always told me that her will had changed and that I was disinherited.  She used to screech about how proud she was about blasting me from the Black Family tapestry, and disowning me to anyone who would was forced to listen.”

Black shared in a small bout of laughter with himself, and Amelia considered his mental capacity and stability.   Concerned that perhaps being exposed to the Dementors for such a long time had finally caused a lasting affect that they were just beginning to witness.

“Oh if I could only see her ugly face now, and throw everything back at her, about those wretched, stupid pure-blood laws,” Sirius sneered, “I hope she choked on them.”

“Now we come to the other reason for summoning you here today,” Amelia stated.

Sirius gave a dubious but amused look in response.  How could there possibly be something more?  The events and circumstances of the past day and a half were already way beyond surpassing anything he could have imagined.

Dumbledore went to the window, closing it and motioning for Sirius to move within closer proximity of them, and then allowing Amelia to continue their conference.

“I doubt you want to hear any figures, but please be advised that the Ministry of Magic, even without Minister Fudge’s blessing, owes you a great debt of compensation and other conditional rewards.  Some of this will be paid in the form of a monetary penalty, to be deposited into an account at your discretion and choosing.   The other remaining conditional rewards are yet to be determined.   But neither of those are not the most important things that we are here to discuss.”

Black had rarely been in a position without money, even when he had left his parents of his own free will and went to live with the Potter family.   He had always managed to find money somewhere.   He wasn’t caught up in the materialistic greed of money that plagued many bearing his family name.   But the fact that the Ministry had to been forced to admit its wrongfulness and pay him at all pleased him greatly.

It was only after going over her words in his head that he heard the second part of her statement, “Not the most important part……?” leaving a pregnant pause.

“Dumbledore advises me that you and Mr Lupin had a small visitor late last night,” Bones said, and she could immediately see the surprised look on former inmate’s face.

Black looked over to Dumbledore, ready to demand know what other secrets had his former Headmaster had been sharing with just anyone.

“I know that you are aware that before their untimely and most unfortunate deaths, James and Lily Potter, legally made you the only Godfather of one, Harry James Potter.”

That statement certainly saw Sirius’ legs turn to jelly, as he grabbed at the high-backed chair in front of him and plopped down onto it.  It was clear to those in the room, as he was mulled this piece of news over in his head with great irreverence.

“James and Lily asked me about being his Godfather, of course, and I tried to do the right thing when they were alive,” he whispered.  A few fleeing memories beginning to surface when he had nursed a small Harry Potter and played with the young baby.

“They done it legally?” he queried, thinking that it was an oath between the three of them.  James and he had never needed a legal piece of paper between them when making promises to each other.   They were like brothers.

“And not by magic,” Dumbledore interrupted, seeing how much of an affect playing such a role had once had on the impetuous former Auror.

“Not by magic?”

“We do not currently have the original muggle legal document, merely a partial copy that pertains to what their wishes were in regards to their son.   But it does hold some weight in the wizarding world, and it states that should something befall both parents, then you would become the full-time legal guardian of Harry.”

Legal Guardian, now that title certainly had some weight to it Sirius thought to himself.

“What about Remus Lupin, he had just as much to do with looking after Harry as I did, when they were alive?” Black asked with a sliver hope in his voice for his friend.  After all it was his house where Hagrid had delivered the young ward to.

“Alas, you know the views of the Ministry when it comes to werewolves and their classification, and I am afraid that the opinions of many witches and wizards have not been changed in that regard,” Amelia informed him.

“Maybe it is long overdue and time that it should,” Sirius remarked a little too loudly, getting up from his chair and pacing, so many thoughts now running through his head.

“The hands of the Ministry may be tied, Sirius, when it comes to Remus Lupin adopting young Harry, but I would suggest that you have the ability to change it so that he has as much contact and access to the boy, and be able to have a say in all manner of areas pertaining to Harry’s upbringing and well-being, if you so desired,” Dumbledore hinted at cryptically.

Sirius was about to challenge Albus about talking in too many riddles this early in the day, when an idea of his own struck him.  Something about what Amelia had said only a few moments ago.  “remaining conditional rewards!” and he saw the headmaster nodding his head positively.

Amelia squirmed uneasily in her seat, quite uncomfortable with the notion of what those conditions may entail.   Within reason, the Ministry could ill afford to deny little Black if he chose to be difficult.

For the next hour, Black carefully constructed clauses that came under the umbrella of “conditional rewards” which would see Remus being able to help him care for Harry, and not have the Ministry, or anyone else strike up an objection, based on his status as a werewolf, and any other disapproval protestation that others may invent.

Sirius could see the headmaster trying to give what appeared to be helpful suggestions, strategies or solutions as the three of them continued negotiating the remaining clauses.   And he wasn’t liking it.  He wasn’t about to be dictated to, and he didn’t feel obligated enough to explain his protective streak.

“I will expect everything to be drawn up, exactly as we have discussed here this morning.  There is someone else not here today who is able to give me sound legal advice.  Once they have perused the final draft, then signatures and magical oaths will be taken and copies retained and stored in a safe place.” Black told them.

“Know this; nothing, I repeat nothing, will be determined about or happen to Harry without my express permission and in his best interests,” Sirius forewarned.

“I will use the port-key again to go back to Remus’ house.   You and I have more things to discuss yet,” he informed Dumbledore, turning and walking towards the door without waiting for a response.

Amelia exchanged a worried look with the headmaster, both of them unsure whether Sirius was aware or prepared of the full ramifications of taking custody of Harry Potter.

“Good morning to you, Ms Bones,” Black addressed as he stopped and touched down on the small tin box and left the Ministry of Magic.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sirius had not waited to see if Dumbledore was indeed going to meet him back at the house.  On this occasion, the port-key took him the back door of 73 Outcast Road, heeding the previous instructions about not using magic around Harry just yet.

A few moments later, Dumbledore apparated to the same address, his features expressionless and not giving away any secrets that may be locked away.

Harry was just about to open the bag of clothes given to him by Molly when Sirius and the headmaster, came into the house.  The immediately stopped what he was doing, his attention drawn to the much older man now present.

“Good morning, Sir,” Harry said politely, standing by the sofa.

“I believe it is just about time for lunch,” Dumbledore answered, “Good Morning, Mrs Weasley, Remus, and to you too, Harry.”

Harry was a little surprised that the man knew his name, but said nothing.

“Good morning, Albus,” Molly greeted him warmly, “I was just about to organize some sandwiches for everyone.”

“Good morning, Dumbledore, would you like to join us?  There is plenty enough to go around,” Lupin said to the older man.

“Harry and I picked out some lovely cheese and some delicious roast chicken, Sirius,” Remus told his friend.

Black sniffed the air appreciatively at the smells that were assaulting his senses.  He was a little hungrier now, not having eaten a lot for breakfast.

In the back of Harry’s mind, he recognized the older man’s name he had heard whilst still at the Dursley’s last night.

“Harry dear, here you are,” Mrs Weasley announced, walking into the sitting room and handing him a plate with a sandwich cut into two equal triangles.  “Now you eat all of that up, and I will get you a nice cold glass milk to drink with it.”

“Thank you,” Harry replied, accepting the plate.

“When you are finished there you can take a nice warm shower, and try on some of the clothes that I brought along,” Molly suggested.

Harry nodded his head, thinking it quite odd to be going for a shower just after lunch.  The boy took a bite out of the first sandwich.  The roast chicken was still warm, and the cheese had begun melting into the soft fresh bread.  It was heaven to him.   He could scarcely believe that he had a whole sandwich, made just for him.

Molly went back into the kitchen and joined the three men, trying not to hover over him while he ate.

“We all need to have a talk,” Remus said matter-of-factly.

Black had some information of his own to share with his friend, most of it good news.  The bluntness in his tone of voice peeked Sirius’ concern and interest immediately.

Not wanting to disturb Harry’s lunch, the adults in the room went about sitting at the small kitchen table, with Molly handed out plates to each of them, a hand-made sandwich on each. She poured glasses of milk for Harry, and one for Sirius, but Lupin and Dumbledore refused her offer of a beverage to have with lunch.

The three adults were keeping watch over the boy eating in the sitting room, without him being aware of their attentions.   It was so obvious that Harry had paused whilst eating his second sandwich, almost ready to ask if he was doing something wrong.   Sirius was worse look out of all, continually looking up from his plate and looking over at Harry.

Remus could hardly blame Black though, as it still felt so surreal that he was right here in the same house as them.

Harry approaching Mrs Weasley with carefully measured steps, still uncertain of his place, “Would you like me to wash the plates?” he asked shyly, thinking that he wasn’t going to be able to avoid a second meal time without doing his usual chores.

“You just leave them to me,” Molly replied, taking the plate and joining it with her own, and two others to place in the sink.  “Now lets go and choose something for you to wear after your shower.”  Sirius still had half a sandwich remaining to eat on his plate.

Harry followed Mrs Weasley quietly over to the sofa, and sat down watching her rummage through the clothes.   She pulled out a couple of items and placed them gently in his lap.  One garment she sized up and decided it wasn’t quite right and returned it to the bag.    In a few short minutes, he had a small armful.

“Now you are, dear, all set.”

“Let me show you upstairs to the bathroom, Harry,” Lupin offered as they climbed the stairs together.  “There is plenty of hot water and towels.    There is soap here, and a few other bits and pieces you might find.  Take your time, if you need anything just ask.  We will all be here when you are ready to come back down.”

Harry stood just inside the bathroom door, looking at the back of Lupin as he exited the small room and re-joined the other adults.   There were many questions forming, but was not confident enough yet to ask them out loud.

Harry closed the door and went about turning on the shower.   The water was only lukewarm, because Aunt Petunia continually warned him that he wasn’t allowed to waste the hot water.   So much had happened since last night.

Once his shower was finished, he gauged the clothes that he had been given.   They were not as big as the ones that he received from Dudley.  The trousers were a little lose around the waist, but would not fall down.   The shirt was longer, so he was able to tuck that into the waistband.   The sweater was an earthy brown colour, and had a large ‘R’ on the front.   He didn’t know who the previous owner was, but perhaps their surname started with that letter.

Harry sat down with his back against the bathroom wall, and his legs bent and drawn up to his chest, resting his chin on top of his knees.   Being here in this house, with these strangers, and they had been entirely nice to him so far.  Everything that had happened so far was a lot to take in all at once.

What was going to happen in the near future he didn’t know.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

“I am sorry Remus, that I didn’t have a spare pair of shoes that I could find.  But no doubt there will be pair scattered about somewhere I can put my hands on,” Molly apologized.  “Though I think his foot size might be somewhat smaller than Ron’s.”

Lupin nodded his head in acknowledgement, but kept switching his gaze back and forth from Sirius back to the headmaster, trying to figure out how to word what he wanted to say next.

“Do you have any idea what I saw today when Harry and I went to the store?” Remus began his tone of voice, low but decisive and direct.

“I would like to know as well, if what Remus told me is true?” Molly chimed in, her question calmer, but a look on her face that demanded answers.

“What did you see?” Black asked, knowing it was unusual for both of these people to speak to the headmaster like they were.

Before anything else could be said, a set of footsteps descended the stairs, and a fresh-faced Harry with dampened hair, came into the kitchen.

“Well those fit you a treat I must say,” Molly declared, happy with the fit of her son’s clothes on the boy.

“The sweater is very warm,” Harry thanked her, pulling the knitted collar away from his neck, as the woollen fabric itched a little.

“Take that off for a moment and let me fix that for you a little,” Molly prompted.

Harry did as he was asked, but when he started lifting the sweater, that the shirt underneath began riding up with it, revealing the damage done to his back.

Molly had to bit her tongue and compose herself quickly, “Oh dear, those are some dark and nasty bruises, what happened?”

“I am afraid I am a bit too clumsy most days,” Harry muttered barely audibly, a little embarrassed, pulling the sweater back down to hide his shame.

Sirius wanted to stomp his feet on the floor in a fit of anger and shout that no amount of ‘clumsy’ would cause such bruising, but he didn’t want to scare Harry when he was already too skiddish around them.   “Do they hurt?” blurted out, not knowing what else to say.

“They did at first, but not so much now,” Harry stated, but his eyes gave him away that they were still painful.

Remus had turned away, knowing that his worst fears had just been confirmed.   He could see Sirius out of the corner of his eye, standing with his arms straight by his side and his hands clenched into tight fists.

Dumbledore remained quiet and brooding, waiting for the right opportunity to address the serious questions being asked of him, or perhaps avoiding it Sirius thought to himself.

“Do you like to read, Harry?” Lupin asked in a friendly manner, walking closer to him, and noting that the child took a defensive step backwards.

“Yes,” Harry said simply, his eyes lighting up a little, but then his face falling when he remembered that the only book he had managed to salvage from the Dursleys was still hiding in his cupboard at Number 4 Privet Drive.

“Lucky for you, Harry, I have always been a book-worm.  Sirius over there will agree with me and tell you so with vigour.  I spent many hours of my youth and school years, not only reading books, but collecting them.”   Remus walked over to a small alcove in the sitting room, that the boy hadn’t noticed when he first came in.

A small over-head light was switched on, revealing a small and modest sized bookcase, made of wood and having five evenly spaced shelves.   There were marks on the piece of furniture to mark its age, but it was still sturdy and useful.   Each shelf was filled with a number of books, some small, others large.

“If you would like to come over here, you can take your time and select anything you would like to read,” Remus encouraged.

“Any of them?” Harry asked hopefully, forgetting all of the questions about the marks on his body.  He was used to them.

The other two adults in the room wanted to say more to him, until they saw the look of pure wonder on his face as his fingertips travelled along the middle row, his eyes searching the various topics.

It only took a few moments for him to select a smaller book, pointing to it and silently asking for permission again, before pulling it out and surveying the cover.

“It is about animals,” Harry whispered, reading the words.

“Why don’t you take it back over to there on the sofa and wrap yourself up in the blanket, it can be a little chilly in that room at times,” Remus told him, and I can bring you another cup of hot chocolate if you like?”

Harry nodded his agreement to the drink, and walked over to the sofa.   He had never had people treating him so nice before, and strangers he only just met too.  He hoped it all didn’t end too soon.

Molly and Sirius took up a chair each at the kitchen table with Dumbledore.  Sirius could barely sit still, and pacing about the room would only alarm Harry.  Remus made the hot chocolate this time, some extra in case Harry wanted it later, as the other adults were too preoccupied with what they had just seen.

Lupin brought the warm drink in a cup and with saucer like before and set it down on the coffee table, pleased to see that Harry was now curled up with the blanket spread over his lap.  The book was open wide in front of him, and he was very slowly turning each page, reading a little, but more interested in the colour photographs.

Remus returned to the kitchen and joined the others at the kitchen table.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

“Whilst he is otherwise occupied, I think it might be wise to put back some well-placed precautions,” Remus said mindfully, keeping an eye on the sitting room.  He pulled out his wand, and once more uttered a simple set of spells that would suit their purposes.

Dumbledore was about to open with sentence in warning, but Lupin quelled his worries first, “Don’t worry, Harry won’t recognize that they are.   In addition to the ones those I already used earlier that will prevent anyone from over-hearing or eavesdropping our conversation, but alert us if he wakes.”

With half the mug of hot chocolate drunk, Sirius got out of his chair and walked into the sitting room, noting that Harry had fallen asleep.   “A little unusual for this time of day, isn’t it?” he directed at Molly as he paused in front of the scene that was pulling at his heart strings.  He wanted to lay the boy down like Remus had done before, but judged that he lacked the skills and finesse needed and would only wake Harry if he tried to move him.

Mrs Weasley joined him in the sitting room, taking the book, and marking the page where it open for when Harry woke, “It is fairly common in some children his age.   He only arrived in the wee hours of this morning and is bound to be tired.  Today going to the store would have been a fairly big adventure for him.”

Molly knew Sirius was worried about Harry, especially after seeing his back, but she gently encouraged him to return to the table in the next room, and let the boy sleep.  He would be perfectly safe, and they would all be keeping a close eye on him.

“I have a soft, waxy balm in a small jar, that I made myself at home.  It can be applied to the bruising once or twice a day, and it will help him heal a little faster and provide relief from any discomfort he might be feeling.  I will bring it back later this evening, when I come to help you make dinner.”

“Don’t make too much of a fuss when he does wake.  I know you want to find out now how this happened, but he may not be ready to talk about it.  Trying to get him to talk about it, might just have the opposite result.  He needs to trust first, and then he may be willing to open up.  Or he may never be ready.  One never knows in situations like this.”

Despite their earlier conversation, Sirius was beginning to accept that Molly’s mothering instincts would always be far superior to his own.  And he was grateful for her words of wisdom and caution.  He gave her a genuine smile of thanks without needing to say the words.

Molly and Sirius went back into the kitchen, allowing Harry to sleep in peace.   Remus raised an eyebrow at Sirius to ask what had been said in the other room, but a look of ‘tell you later’ was given in return.

Lupin turned directly to Dumbledore, not prepared for the headmaster to dance around the subject any longer.   “As shocked and appalled as I am at seeing those bruises on Harry, there are other things that I noticed today, that trouble me more.”

“What other things, Moony?” Sirius queried.

“His back isn’t the first place I saw marks.  At first I wasn’t sure, but seeing his back just now,” he started to explain.   “I think that is why he is so shy and timid around us at the moment?   Something traumatic has happened to him.   There are other marks on his neck, underneath his hair, that look like they were put there by a hand.”

Molly gasped out loud, apologizing for the noise, but looking over and seeing that Harry thankfully was still asleep.   Sirius’ look of displeasure at the headmaster just darkened.

“When we were walking to the store today, he was trying to keep some distance between us.   I know we have only just met, but the vibes of fear about his personal space radiating from him are quite strong.    He flinches badly if you try and make physical contact with him and he is continually jumpy.  None of these signs healthy for a well-adjusted boy of his age,” Remus explained.

Sirius was going over each of Lupin’s descriptions in his mind, recalling how scared the boy had been standing behind Hagrid’s coat, and needing to be coaxed out to meet them.  On the surface it had appeared to be just normal fear of meeting strangers.   And the observations that Remus mentioned just now were too undeniable.

“If you ask direct questions, he is unsure whether or not to voice his answer, and I think it is because he is genuinely afraid of what will happen.    I don’t know how deep any of this goes, what has been going on up until now or for how long.  But I believe you owe us the truth.   We need to get to the bottom of whatever has been going on.” Lupin added.

Dumbledore closed his eyes sadly, knowing that he did indeed owe these people an explanation.   As for the truth, that was subjective, and he wasn’t sure he knew it all himself yet or was ready to provide it to others.

“On the night you were arrested, Sirius, Hagrid collected Harry over there upon my asking him to do so.  Minerva McGongall and I proceeded to take the child to the only known living relatives that he had left.   She protested most strongly of course, having taken the time to watch the Dursley family.  She told me that they were not very nice people.  But alas, it was my decision, and I am fully prepared to accept any discord from any of you.   Anything that has happened to Harry whilst living under their roof, has been because of that judgment.”

“If you knew they were not fit people to look after him, why were you so determined to make it happen,” Sirius demanded, his voice raising a little.

Harry across the room changed his sleeping position and mumbled softly, but didn’t wake.

“I have shared information today that may have brought up some painful memories from your past, Sirius,” Dumbledore replied, “Please know that I did not wish for Harry to be put in a place that would bring him harm.   A very detailed letter was given to the Dursleys on the night Harry was left on their doorstep.”

“Detailed letter !  Left on their doorstep!” Black challenged, “You mean you didn’t even bother talking to them first, just gave him up and handed him over like some rag-doll?”

Sirius got up from the table, scarcely able to keep still at what he was hearing.  It was scandalous, it was reprehensible.

“Please let the headmaster tell us the whole story, Padfoot,” Lupin said, trying to calm his friend, his own discontent beginning to mount, but that wasn’t going to solve anything at the moment.

Black shot a murderous look back at Remus wanting to know why Dumbledore should even get a chance to explain.

Up until this point Molly Weasley had been sitting back, gravely listening to everything being said about Harry.  But she had a question of her own.

“Did you know that he was injured that night?” she asked, meaning infamous scar that the wizarding world knew about.

“Madam Pomfrey from Hogwarts school administered care to young Harry for the wound on his head, Mrs Weasley,” Dumbledore answered, but said nothing further on that point.

“James Potter was a very self-assured, bright student, skilful wizard, good friend.  However, it also cannot be denied that he could be obstinate, arrogant and a show-off.”

The headmaster put up his index finger to prevent either of the former marauders from interrupting, “I saw what popularly and did to James and wanted Harry to grow up without that sort of falsehood and fame.”

“I don’t deny that I wish there could have been somewhere for young Harry to go and live in this complex world of ours where he would be well protected, but unfortunately at that time there was not.  The Dursley’s have a son of their own almost the same age as Harry, and I hoped that his relatives would care for him with the same level of kindness and affection.”

“On the night Harry was taken to live with his Aunt and Uncle, strong magical enchantments were put into place to prevent any of Voldemort’s followers from ever discovering his whereabouts.  But there is more to it than that.”

“Enchantments?” Molly queried.

“Yes, there were advanced spells and wards put into place of course, and there were trusted people living near Harry, who would watch over the family as he grew up,” Dumbledore continued, “But there was also very rare family magic that existed, more powerful than just the spells.  It comes from Harry’s blood, and that protection comes from the bond shared his mother Lily and continues with Petunia Dursley.”

“Petunia Dursley and magic, hmph” Sirius scoffed out loud, the whole idea was completely preposterous.  “Petunia would declare herself above such things.  That buffoon of a husband of hers ’Vernon Darling’ wouldn’t know a spell if it hit that huge arse of his.”

He could remember the woman plainly as day and never liked her.   She was always putting down Lily and staring down her turned-up nose at her intended marriage James Potter.   Sirius had always felt saddened that Petunia kept calling her sister names and shunning her instead of loving the beautiful person that Lily was inside and out.

“The spells cast were time-sensitive and location specific.  They were set up to give Harry as much protection as possible.”

“To where the Dursley’s lived?” Molly tried to follow the intricate nature of the spells Dumbledore was talking about.

“Until when?” Lupin asked.

“Seventeen years old,” Dumbledore

“So what does all this lead up to,” Sirius asked, getting a little frustrated again.   So much had been kept from him at this point and worst of all Harry.  In the back of his mind everything that Remus had pointed out kept resurfacing.

“The Dursleys had better not be responsible for any of that bruising on Harry,” Black warned, tempted to wave his wand in front of the headmaster’s face for emphasis.

“We cannot bother making those types of assumptions at this time, Sirius,” Dumbledore said in a tone that sounded way too dismissive.

Dumbledore continued before Black’s temper could take center stage, “The wards are weakening, putting Harry’s location at risk of being discovered.  I cannot say by who or what method is being used to do so.  They have not completely failed yet, but the protection is no longer as strong for the boy as it was.  I urged on the side of caution by not taking any chances, so I arranged for Hagrid to collect him.”

“You already took way too many chances by putting him with those damn muggle relatives in the first place!” Black accused in full protective mode.

“What can be done right now?” Lupins stepped in, with emotions for everybody in the room clearly beginning to grow.

“This is why you had such a hand in those proceedings yesterday?” Black asked as a rhetorical question, already knowing the answer before the words left his lips.  “I am grateful of course for my freedom,” he ground out.

‘Harry knows nothing about you being in Azkaban prison,” the headmaster stated.

“I knew about you being Harry’s god-father, Sirius, and thought you might be willing to take on the responsibility,” Dumbledore put to him.

“Of course I am willing.  Now I will have the monetary means from my dearly departed mother.” Sirius replied.  “And the Ministry of Magic, as well as creating a detailed magical contract with them concerning Remus’ access to Harry.”

Remus gave a shocked expression at his friend about that statement.

“It will be all nice and legal,” Black promised, Sirius seemingly pleased with himself and the guppy face that he extracted from Lupin.  “I will explain later, Moony, you will have just as much say as I will about Harry.  And I will have plenty of money that to ensure that Harry has everything he ever needs, and every opportunity that my parents denied me.”

“Where will you all live?” Molly Weasley asked.  “This house is nice enough, Remus, but a little on the small side.”

“Although this is a good temporary solution, I agree with Molly that you may need to look at alternative accommodations, Sirius,” Dumbledore agreed.  “Remember that as long as you are still alive and breathing, that it is never too late to make a new start, or a new beginning.”

“What do you suggest then?” Black dared Dumbledore, already seeing that the man had thought about this before coming here today.  And just at that moment, remembering back to the meeting earlier with Amelia Bones, he saw the answer as plain as day.

“No!” he yelled at the older man, turning his back on him whilst he tried to gather some sense of control.  It was asking too much after all this time.

“Do you have any idea of what you are asking?” he roared at Dumbledore, but immediately regretted the volume of his voice as sleeping Harry startled across the room.

“What is the matter, Sirius?” Remus asked, walking over and putting a supportive hand on his upper of his friend’s thin upper arm.  He could feel the tension running through his muscles.

Molly got up from the table so the men could continue to have their heated discussions, walking over and soothing the boy back to sleep by running her hand through his messy black hair.  The child mumbled a few broken words at her touch that she couldn’t quite make out.  She sat on the end of the sofa and was pleased to see him fall back to sleep.

“I haven’t had a chance to tell you yet, Moony, but that horse of a woman called my mother, died whilst I was locked up,” Black answered without a shred of sorrow.  “Years ago, but the Ministry is only just now giving me everything she and my father owned, including Black Manor.  I haven’t lived there for many years, and I am sure you have all heard the stories about why.”

“Black Manor?” Remus repeated quietly.  He had never been there, nor James, and the way Sirius used to talk about his family, glad about that.

“Harry needs a place of safety and security, of love and kindness and you can give him that better than anybody else,” Dumbledore prodded.  “Especially when he will need all the extra support to learn about our world and his place in it.”

Sirius walked over to Molly in the sitting room, and looked down at the angelic face, his emotions torn and jumbled inside.

Harry turned over in his sleep, allowing Black to see the edge of the bruising on the back of his neck.   He owed it to James and Lily.  He promised them that he would always take care of Harry.

With a final decision reached, he strode back into the kitchen with relish, standing in front of the headmaster.

“The stained walls of that house, allowed my parents to hide their abuse to me on a daily basis from the rest of the world.   I couldn’t live like that anymore, when James offered me sanctuary with his family.”

“I won’t let anything like that happen to Harry.   He will have a completely different childhood from mine and whatever he has already been through.  I will make sure that he feels safe and has a family that loves and cares for him.”

Dumbledore smiled and nodded approvingly, but it diminished with the solemn words that Harry’s god-father spoke.

“I may have gained my freedom, but I want it on the record that I will never again trust the Ministry of Magic, nor others quite so easily.  As Harry’s guardian, I swear on the memory of his parents that he will never be harmed whilst living under that roof,” Sirius vowed with vigour and conviction.

 

to be continued…………………………………

 

Author End Notes:

Thank you for reading.  This chapter ended at a different spot intended – but I am happy enough with where it has finished for now.

I intended to use a lot more history of the Black family, but have kept it simple for now – and some of that will be included in later chapters.

Please note that I have altered the time line slightly for Sirius to be in prison only 10 years.

There were quite a lot of hidden clues, some deliberate and intentional of things yet to come.   The pace of the story is slow, so please bear with me as the story progresses.  There is so much more to introduce to you – even before Harry gets to school.   You haven’t seen the last of the Dursleys yet either.

I always intended to get to the end of this chapter without Harry knowing who Remus and Sirius are, much more time for introductions yet and I wanted Harry to think that he was going to an orphanage, even though it sounded strange as a one person one.

Any of the emotions/reactions of abuse for Harry are purely made up at the time of writing, thinking from his shoes of how a child might act/react in various situations, and how incidents of abuse may affect him later on in different settings as he ages.   It is something that I truly believe would take time to overcome, and in some cases, always be with him.

I am still not convinced that I am getting all of the characterisation correct yet – and in some cases, my interpretation of the different characters may be slightly different.  With Harry, he won’t always be scared and afraid, but things will develop slowly and over time.

Updating – I apologise to readers for taking so long – I am trying to do better and get back into my writing.   I cannot give a specific time frame, but please know that every story I have started will be finished.

Bonanza, SeaQuest and Stargate SG-1 are next to be updated, but with no specifics yet and in random order, just as I can.

Please know that this is an alternative universe story and facts, people and events will change from the books and movies as I need it to.

 

Jules6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One – Unexpected Introductions

ESCAPE THE DARKNESS – New Edition

By JULES

Author Notes –

This story was begun a very long time ago, and it was never my intentions to leave it unfinished.   This first was first published in 2003.  I have 12 chapters written – but want to add more to them and edit where necessary.

I will be going back through and editing a few scenes and adding to a few and fixing errors, now that I hopefully understand the Middle Earth world a little better since I first began.  I hope to add a sprinkling of “The Hobbit” details in certain places where is needed.

Real life just got in the way for a very long time and still is to a large extent. 

I was going to add more to the synopsis, but for now I will leave you to read along and find out what happens along with Frodo and the rest of the cast as I take them out of the box.  I promise to put them back when I am finished.  If you think you know what might happen throughout and the ending, hopefully I have created enough twist plots and changes.

Strong friendship only – no slash.   Very little romance (I am no good at writing that) – And plenty of angst, hurt/comfort.  For those don’t know my previous work – this won’t be the Disney version.

This will be a very very long story, with many chapters, and many of those being long as well – just the way I write.    And I usually try and describe from the viewpoint of multiple characters for any one scene.   As well as describe every rock, tree branch and blade of grass along the way.

I have a very complicated plot planned, and some may not agree how I have altered the course of things, or that I introduce them and Frodo differently than the books or films.  Hopefully you will continue to follow and read as the story progresses.   If it hasn’t happened yet, or there isn’t enough information about something yet, that is usually deliberate on my part.  Sometimes there are subtle clues that I put in chapters, other times I don’t.

This story explores the idea about what might have happened if Strider had come to the Shire to forewarn Bilbo Baggins about the Ring Wraiths that would soon come hunting for the One Ring.  Commences a few days before Bilbo’s Birthday party and before Gandalf returns to the shire as well. 

There are other changes that I will deliberately make to the story at a later date to explore how the journey may have changed as a result. “Hint Hint – some big changes that were the whole reason for starting this series”.

Strider had vowed to protect Bilbo when the Ring Wraiths are sent by the Dark Lord but he is unaware that the legacy of who is to carry the Ring to be destroyed falls upon a totally different Baggins hobbit.

In this story the corn fields in the shire are a little further away and I have added a lot extra between then and when the hobbit’s arrive at the Prancing Pony in Bree.

Hoping to add a few funny, light hearted moments in this one in between the serious stuff.

All mention of herbs or treatments used in this story or others come about from a little research I did into some and what their effects were. Some of them have been around since ancient times so I have no problem using in this time frame but still am not sure if they would have been grown near Rivendell.

Disclaimer – I do not own any of the characters I write about. I write about those created by J.J.R. Tolkien and marvel at such a story-tellers ability to enthral us all. There are occasional quotes from the movie in this story, just to keep the continuity going strong and to add just at the appropriate time.

Chapter One: 

the story begins:  Unexpected Introductions

Under the cover of nightfall, the cloaked Ranger took a brief rest on the top of the grass covered ridge he had ascended a few moments before.  A full moon allowed him to gaze below upon some very curious buildings, with uneven but sturdy pathways that criss-crossed through and around the hills.  During the day, smoke would normally be seen rising from a few chimneys, keeping the inhabitants warm and bringing a simple sense of normality to the gentle folk that occupied within.

Travelling west from the Brandywine river, this was the township named ‘Hobbiton’ Strider thought to himself.  Located within the borders of the Westfarthing and one of the larger communities that made up the central region commonly known as ‘The Shire’.

The Northern Rangers had guarded this district to ensure that it remained a peaceful and uneventful place.  Just the way that most of the gentle residents who lived there preferred it.  His watchful and alert band of men had often been granted the gift of stories, songs and legends from the hobbits that lived in this lush rural community.  Curiosity was tugging at the edges of his mind, but it was a grave matter and with a sense of urgency that had him urging his mount to move cautiously and silently under the cover of darkness towards the smials.

Strider used one hand to adjust the thick, heavy, long cloak around his shoulders and to pull it a little more tightly to shield against the chilly night air that was blowing against his neck. The second arm was hidden by the warm folds of fabric as he walked, his hand remanding within reaching distance of his ever present sword.

On the journey thus far, the man had no knowledge of any danger that may already lurking within the tight knit village.  He had learned that no matter how serene or quiet the setting,  dark times were approaching all too quickly on folk who knew nothing of the evil and greed that existed in other parts of this world.  Even now, as sweet tall scented grasses caressed his leather boots, he would need to keep his guard up against the encroaching shadows within Middle Earth.

The hour was particularly late and nobody would appreciate an unexpected visitor, Strider reminded himself, but the foreboding news that he carried could ill afford to wait.  He could no longer delay his need to speak with Bilbo Baggins.

The Ranger was able to manage and navigate the meandering paths and tracks with little trouble, in order to make his way to the outskirts of the Shire village without being detected.   The man’s footsteps along the well-laden roads of the Shire were soft enough not to disturb anybody in the houses that he had already passed.  Because of the late hour, most hobbit folk were safely tucked in their beds asleep.

Making his way towards Bagshow Row, he was pleased to note that the descriptions and directions he had been provided with were sufficient to come across the smial located on Hobbiton Hill.

After what seemed like only a brief walk, Strider noticed that the roadway he was travelling on began to have a steep incline.  Once he was at the top, he noticed a slightly larger hobbit dwelling, nestled off the roadway a little. From where he was standing, the Ranger noted that the occupant of this dwelling would be able to see out over the rest of the Shire, but be far enough removed from the noise and chaos to enjoy a peaceful, uninterrupted existence.

Making his way closer to the hobbit dwelling, the man noted that the house wasn’t just a little larger than those he had already surveyed further down in the valley. This home was significantly larger than any other hobbit abode nearby.

Standing in front of the gateway that led to this house, Strider could see two signs that indicated that this was indeed Bilbo Baggin’s home. The first was a large bold sign on the front wall of the house that read, ‘Bag End.’

A much smaller sign, hand written and nailed to the gate itself as the Ranger went to step inside the boundary read, ‘No Visitors – Except for Party Business’

Strider knew that Bilbo was an elderly eccentric hobbit who was particularly fond of his own company and preferred to be left alone with his books, journals and maps.   Approaching the round green front door and knocking twice as loud as he dared.  He didn’t know if Bilbo would be asleep or as his desk, writing well into the morning hours and he often was known to do.

inside the house:

Bilbo had actually retired to his bed approximately an hour ago, before he heard what sounded like someone knocking at the front door.  At first he was minded to just roll over and go back to sleep.   Grumbling a little at ‘unannounced visitors’ at all hours.

After a few more louder poundings on the door, and it became quite clear that whoever the late hour visitor was, they were not going to simply go away by ignoring them.  Concern for someone other than himself quickly entered his mind as he thought about his young charge, Frodo, who was asleep in his bedroom down the hall from the front door.

Bilbo whispered to himself as he quickly gathered his robe and vowed to stop the incessant knocking before Frodo was awoken.

“I am coming, I am coming,” Bilbo declared as loud a voice as he dared, tying the belt around his deep red robe. He looked briefly in the direction of Frodo’s room, but noted it still to be dark.  No noise could be heard from where he stood and so thankfully he could assume that the younger hobbit had slept through undisturbed.

“What is it at this hour?” Bilbo demanded as he undid the locks and opened the large round door a small crack. He almost stumbled backward in his surprise at the face that greeted him.

“I must say, you are a cranky little hobbit when you are so rudely awoken,” Strider challenged with a warm grin and a friendly handshake to the small hand reaching out to his own.

“Aragorn, what, pray tell, brings you to these lands on this night?” the greying hobbit questioned, stepping aside, and opening the door a littler wider and gesturing with his hand to the man to come into his home.

“Quickly, come in before someone sees you,” Bilbo warned.  “Mind your head on that ceiling, my good fellow,” pleased to see the man take heed of his words and duck his head as he entered.

Bilbo took the precaution of looking outside into the darkness of the night, trying to spot if anybody had seen the Ranger arrive or heard the knocking at the door. Inwardly he sighed in relief when he couldn’t hear anything but the chilly breeze outside.

Closing the door, Bilbo composed himself enough to surmise what sort of rumours would be spread around Hobbiton if one of the big-folk were to be spotted in the Shire in the middle of the night.

“Forgive my manners, please come,” Bilbo now said, leading the man out of the front entrance, through the parlour and into the kitchen. “You would be wanting something hot to drink I imagine,” he insisted, and went about putting a pot of water on to boil before the Ranger had even had a chance to reply.

“I am deeply sorry for the late hour of my calling, Bilbo,” Strider apologized as he gazed about the cosy home. From outside, nobody would ever dream of what sights and aromas would be waiting on the inside. The kitchen was richly scented with many herbs from earthenware jars that were resting upon a shelf near the fireplace.

The rooms were quite larger than expected, with plenty of room for a hobbit or three.  A little small perhaps for a man-sized person like himself.   In many ways, no doubt that the same space could be seen as comfortable and open to someone of Bilbo’s size.

“Please take a seat, Aragorn,” Bilbo requested with a flourish of activity around the table as a teapot was made ready and a loaf of bread and plate of cheese was kindly offered.

He was facing the wrong way to see the look on the Ranger’s face when he uttered the man’s other name out loud.  Strider had not yet corrected the aging hobbit, but he would need to speak to Bilbo about not using that name around these parts.

“You must be weary after your journey,” Bilbo guessed, trying to ease the obvious tension that saturated the room.  Rangers did not just visit the Shire upon a whim or without purpose.  “I would offer you a spare room in my humble home for as long as you intend staying,” he added.  This hobbit was no fool.  Deep down, he knew that one of the big-folk would not have ventured per chance into this township at night.

“Thank you, and I will take up your offer, for one night or two,” Strider nodded with gratitude. He knew that he would soon need to be leaving this place. There was no set time for when the dark forces may begin emerging into these tranquil lands or descending upon those least unprepared.

“Does your horse need tending to and bedding down for the night?” the hobbit questioned, knowing the mode of transport that the ranger would have used.

“I appreciate your generosity, but I left my horse in a secured location just outside of Hobbiton.  I did not think it wise for your folk to see such a large animal in these parts,” Strider answered.

Bilbo turned away from the fireplace with a steaming teapot in both hands, pouring the steeping brew and handing the Ranger a cup of the piping hot liquid.  A thickly folded square of fabric covered his hands, protecting them from the heat of the steam, but causing a little fumbling with his cup and saucer.

The elderly hobbit finding it difficult to conceal his unease and nervousness which was multiplying by the minute.  “Let us move into the living room where we will be more comfortable,” he invited.

The man’s facial expression did not give away any indication that he sensed all was not well, but perhaps it was the intuition that Bilbo had inherited from the Took side of the family that caused him to be a little more wary and cautious.

“Sit here, Ranger,” Bilbo fussed as he straightened the plump velvet cushions on the large chair, and removed a stack of drawings and charts to allow his guest to take up the vacant spot.

Strider was quite amused with the small hobbit’s mutterings, ‘I was looking for those last week to show Frodo’, scarcely aware that he speaking loud enough to be heard.

“I am afraid that my housework has not exactly been up to the highest standard of late,” Bilbo apologised, disappearing for a moment back in the direction of the kitchen and returning with a large decorated tin box.  With the lid open, the Ranger was tempted by several more different types of biscuits and tasty morsels.

Discretely squirming slightly, the man did notice that the chair was a little too cramped on the sides, but he did not want to voice any complaint.  Not all of Bilbo’s home was furnished or decorated with furniture that would hold the weight of a big person.

Travelling for many days on limited water and food rations, any respite was now welcomed with humble gratitude and thanks. The ground amongst the trees had been his pillow for the past three nights in a row.  The Ranger could scarcely remember what it would feel like to sleep in a bed, inside later on tonight.

A few more minutes of shelving away papers and books that had been left out, and the stout hobbit was ready to sit down and talk to his unexpected guest.  Bilbo took up a position in his own favourite faded and comfortably padded armchair, leaning forward so as to keep their voices subdued.

At first, there was no conversation between the two at all. The fire crackled and burned, giving light and warmth, but the room felt incredibly warm and cosy at the moment to Bilbo as he played nervously with the inside of his pocket.  He withdrew his hand and picked up the teacup and saucer, sipping at the hot liquid.

The Ranger refrained from speaking about the true reason for visit for a few more minutes, though he suspected that he would not be able to for long.  No doubt, his more than generous host was more than a little intrigued about his sudden arrival and his presence this night.

“How does the Shire fair these days, Bilbo.  Any news to speak of?” the Ranger casually enquired.  Knowing that he personally, and his men deliberately invested a lot of time, effort and man power to knowing what was going on within the borders of these sweet green lands, as much as possible at all times.

Bilbo paused before giving an answer, knowing that there had been a very large change to Bag End itself since the man was a guest in his home.  That change was only a few rooms away and for the past several hours, sleeping peacefully in his bed.   Bilbo had yet to reveal the presence of the one thing in the Shire that kept his old spirit young at heart and nourished his aging soul, Frodo.

“News, in the Shire, hardly!” Bilbo scoffed at the notion indeed.  “You would find more goings-on where you have come from, before any folk here in these parts.  Unless it was about the harvest next month and how big the pumpkins are expected to reach this year.”

“Tidings have reached me from much further afield, from Lord Elrond in Rivendell,” Strider hinted, bringing up the one place well-known to the hobbit.  The man pleased to see that the aging hobbit was beginning to relax and his curiosity stirring upon hearing the mention of a place with such special significance and memory to him.

“You have been home then!” Bilbo exclaimed, exuberance written across his hopeful face.  The teacup set aside on a nearby table as he focused on anything that was about to cross the Ranger’s lips.

Regretfully the Ranger saw some of that expression fall away at his next words, “Alas not for a very long time, but his messengers have found me when it has become absolutely necessary.”

For the next several minutes, they did speak, of Lord Elrond and the elves that were living there.  Time passed for them very differently to other races of Middle Earth, tales and songs about their environment and surroundings and living things were endless and ageless.

As the light-hearted conversation continued, the topic changed to things that had happened or changed since the hobbit’s last visit.  Unfortunately that visit had been so very long ago and Bilbo’s soul was beginning to feel very tormented and heavy for fear of not seeing the wonderful place again.

Bilbo knew that within him, there was an unmistakable and undeniable yearning to seek peace and solitude from other places, for the remainder of his days.  He silently admonished himself, knowing that he had been deliberately keeping these feelings from those dearest to him for far too long, stealing a glance towards the central hallway, and picturing Frodo’s closed bedroom door.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

All the time Strider and his host, Bilbo spoke, they were unaware of a few quiet footsteps that approached them from behind ………………………..

Outside, the quiet of the night continued towards the early hours before dawn.  Within Bag End, the glowing embers of the low burning fire kept those inside in the parlour room warm and comfortable.

When the Ranger had first knocked on the door, Bilbo’s young charge, Frodo had been on the cusp of sleep.  Tonight he had been reading much later than usual, and had only just put the book away that he had been reading.   The persistent knocking on the front door had done what the elderly hobbit had feared, and had prevented him from drifting off entirely.

Opening his eyes he laid quietly, trying to listen to the various noises, Frodo was brought fully out of his slumber further by the continual shuffling from his uncle meandering from his own room towards the front door.  At first the young hobbit thought that Bilbo must have been headed towards the kitchen.  Frodo had just been about to get up himself when he heard the cranky mutterings of his dear old uncle coming out of his room.

A number of sharp, loud knocks at the door made him startle, the sound came a second and third time, causing him to fully sit up in bed.  He heard his uncle demand to know who was at the door at such a time.  From that point onward, Frodo only heard whispered voices and more than one person walking about.  He could distinguish that some of the footsteps belonged to Bilbo, but there was a second set of distinct, heavier footsteps upon the wooden floor.

The young hobbit was convinced that it was time to find out for himself who had entered their home.   Dressing in a warm blue velvet robe, he quietly opened the door to this room and tiptoed out along one of the corridor’s towards the kitchen.   He paused though as the voices seemed to be coming from a different room of the smial now:  the living room.

The young hobbit was worried that his uncle might have been in danger from the late night visitor.  He didn’t quite know if he would be able to defend himself and Bilbo, but Frodo had enough courage in him to try if it became necessary.

Frodo moved as close as he dared, not wanting to intrude on the conversations between his uncle and the stranger.   He could make out the visitor from where he was standing and almost gasped out aloud in surprise when he noted how big this man seemed to be.

Frodo had been told a long ago, by Bilbo, about the race of men.  He had been fortunate enough a few years back, to see a group of men from a distance.  Up this close, their size was certainly more surprising than any tale, and a sight to behold.   The man inside his home was sitting down, but even now he was a good deal taller than anybody else Frodo had seen first-hand within the boundaries of the Shire.

This fellow’s features were hidden somewhat by the darkness of the living room.  It was only when the fire crackled brightest that Frodo could just make out the shape of his face, the eyes appearing to look right back at him.  The man’s voice not as harsh as he may have expected and sounding deeper when he spoke.

“You have many things to tell me Ranger, I can see them in your eyes,” Bilbo urged, with a hint of curiosity in the tone of his voice.  Although their last meeting had been quite some time ago, he knew the man well enough that he was not one to dance around with his words.

The man sighed, realising that this astute hobbit would see through his thin veil, “In a message meant only for me, he shared a brief and shadowy vision he experienced, concerning the Shire.  An evil presence approaching, but he could not determine its true nature.”

Bilbo sat back in his chair, a furrow forming on his brow as he thought about what he had just heard.  An idle hand reaching into the pocket of his vest and secretly caressing its contents, just as it so often did on many other occasions.   “Did he add anything further?” the hobbit asked cryptically after a few minutes.

“Lord Elrond’s desire was for me to visit this area, at the first available opportunity, and make sure that the Shire and all inhabitants continue to live in harmony as they have done for a long time,” Strider explained.   But it was the Ranger’s careful choosing of words and lack of real substance that caused Bilbo to raise an eyebrow in silent question.

The Master of Rivendell did not reveal his visions very often, nor the nature of any message contained within.  The fact that he had done so, and sought out Strider in particular, and sent him in person, bought up some very weighing questions indeed.

“You know you may have to make plans and leave this place, and soon Bilbo Baggins,” Strider stated plainly.

“Yes I know, I have already made preparations for such a journey, but there are a lot more to make,” Bilbo said, not realising that somebody else had heard these words.

Frodo threw himself back against a wall where he couldn’t be seen as he listened to his uncle’s words.  His heart was beating inside his small chest like it was ready to explode.   His eyes widened and held a stricken look as they began welling up with unshed tears at the thought that his beloved uncle was going away from Hobbiton.

The young hobbit had still not made his presence known to Bilbo and Strider.  With a heavy heart, and a swell of mixed emotions inside, he sought the sanctuary of his bedroom.  Flinging himself onto the bed and continuing to decipher all he had overheard.

Bilbo wandering away from Bag-End, for varying lengths of time was certainly no secret, even since he had been living here in the Shire.  And the purposes of his impromptu journeys were not always clear either.  But he had always returned, bringing back as many stories on his travels and sometimes wonderful and unique pieces from the peoples that he visited.

It wasn’t until the very early hours of the morning that Frodo had fell into a light sleep.  Many thoughts had been racing through his head as he tried to think of a reason why his Uncle was leaving the Shire.   Would Frodo find himself being left alone ??  Would he be travelling with Bilbo?   His Uncle certainly hadn’t discussed travelling anywhere in the past few months, or a desire to visit any place in particular.

Amidst his contemplations and speculations, Frodo promised himself that he would not let his dear Uncle Bilbo, leave without him knowing about it, where to or why.  The young hobbit would watch closely for any signs that Bilbo displayed.

These same wee hours of the morning, Bilbo and Strider could be found quietly finishing their conversation by the fireplace in the parlour.   The two of them still had much to talk about, but would wait until they were a little more rested to continue speaking further about such matters.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

the next morning:

The day had started early for Samwise Gamgee and his Gaffer.   Fresh crisp blue skies and a light breeze gently teasing leaves as they danced about in the sunshine.   Just the right time the two had wanted to finish getting Master Bilbo’s garden ready for the big celebration that was fast approaching.

The next few days would be busy with preparing the feast, tents, tables and chairs that would be needed for guests, so after today there would be little time for gardening pleasures until afterwards.  Hamfast Gamgee also wanted to make sure that Bilbo would have the freshest produce from the vegetable patch for the dishes that his lasses and other ladies of Hobbiton needed to prepare.

Gaffer had told his son that he needed to head back to their shed and gather a few more tools that he required for the day’s work.  Sam nodded in acknowledgement and told his father that he would be diligently tending to the smaller flower beds around the house.   More particularly, directly under the kitchen window Sam said secretly to himself.

Sam wanted to be able to see when his master Frodo was awake.  From the window he would be able to hear the young hobbit once he entered the kitchen for breakfast.  He took a forked hand trowel and whilst supporting himself on his hand and knees, began loosening the soil around the flowers.    The household inside was still quiet and he wasn’t of a mind to wake any of the occupants before they were ready to rise on their own.

Samwise was unaware that there had been a midnight visitor to Bag End.

Strider had only slept for a few hours, but was now seated in a corner of the kitchen that was perhaps a little darker than the rest of the room.  Weariness had allowed him to sleep initially, but after that, his body had begun to feel particularly cramped from sleeping on a bed.  Sleeping outdoors had become the normal accommodation for the past several months  .

He managed to boil himself a cup of tea and sat silently whilst he sipped the hot liquid, pondering what the day would ensue for Bilbo Baggins.   His stay within the Shire would have to brief as he would soon need to make haste and travel quickly to meet up again with his band of Rangers.

Bilbo was still sleeping soundly after he and the Ranger had bid each other goodnight.  It was doubtful that the old hobbit would stir for another hour or more yet.

However, Frodo Baggins, of whom Strider had no knowledge of yet so far, was just beginning to awake from his sleep.  Frodo reached up and rubbed at his eyes that seemed a little puffy and tired this morning, no doubt to a few snatched hours of sleep.   For a short time, the young hobbit temporarily forgotten all about any stranger arriving in the dead of night or any of Bilbo’s talk of leaving the Shire.  Upon waking he had little recall of any of the events and conversations that had unfolded the night before.

Frodo rose from his bed, washing his face in a bowl of water, trying to rid himself of an unusual heaviness that he seemed to be carrying on his shoulders this morning.  He dressed as he would have any other day and headed out to the kitchen for a cup of tea.

Frodo walked into the kitchen, but from where he stood beside the stove, the Ranger’s presence was still cloaked in shadows.  He went about his tasks, unaware that he was being curiously watched from behind.

Strider was surprised by the appearance of the young hobbit in the kitchen this morning.   He didn’t know who he was, but his attention seemed to be drawn to the lad for a reason that he couldn’t explain.

Bilbo had not mentioned that he shared his accommodations with anybody when they had spoken a few hours ago.  Perhaps the lad was just a helper or assistant of some kind to the old hobbit.   Bilbo was getting on in age and maybe this lad helped out with some of the household chores that were necessary.

Outside in the garden, Samwise had a smile appear on his face as he recognized the tell-tale sounds of his master being in the kitchen.   He stood up, watching from the window but had yet to greet Frodo, completely forgetting about the flowerbeds for a few minutes.  He had no idea of the chaos and confusion that was about to ensue.

Frodo had boiled the water in the kettle sufficiently for his morning tea.  He was of a mind to cook some breakfast too, but chose to wait a little longer for food.  Tea was something he had enjoyed for a very long time, warming him when he felt cold and leaving a feeling of comfort and contentment inside.

Frodo reached into one of the earthenware jars that was beside the fireplace and sprinkled a few dried, crushed leaves into the water, standing back and allowing them to infuse.   The aroma was both stimulating and welcoming to the senses first thing in the morning.

Strider decided that it would be best to let the young hobbit know of his presence.  Though he was quite unprepared for the reaction he would extract from Frodo.

Frodo held his freshly made cup of tea in a saucer and was gently carrying both to the small table in the centre of the room when voice addressed him out of nowhere.

“Hello there young hobbit,” Strider greeted Frodo, keeping his voice gentle, so as not to startle the lad.   Unfortunately though, the damage had already been done.

“Ahhhh,” Frodo exclaimed in fright at the stranger.  He stumbled back, spilling the hot scalding tea over his hand.  The cup and saucer fell to the floor and smashing into a number of larger pieces and small shards.

“Forgive me, I did not mean to scare you so,” Strider apologized as he rose from the chair he sat on and attempted to approach the hobbit.  He had seen the lad grimace at the pain the hot water had caused.

But Frodo’s fright only escalated exponentially as he realised that the stranger in the room was a big person.   The man’s height was imposing, making Frodo back away as far as he could, but alas his escape was abruptly halted by the wall behind him.

“Help,” Frodo called out, barely above a whisper due to the absence of his voice.

He pondered making an effort to further shield himself underneath the kitchen table.  Maybe the lower vantage point would benefit with the stranger being unable to reach him so easily.

“Bilbo !” Frodo shouted, much louder this time, before dropping down to the floor on his hands and knees and scampering across the short distance.   He winced at feeling a stinging sensation to a few places on his knees from the broken cup and saucer.  Having reached the safety he sought under the table, he cradled his scalded hand protectively tucking it against his chest.

Strider was bending over and reaching underneath the table, talking soothingly to the young hobbit, appearing to be hurt and afraid of him.   Somehow things had not gone as he had planned and he blamed himself for the young one’s pain and fright.  He had to make amends quickly.

Bilbo had yet to emerge from his room, the old hobbit’s sleep not being fully disturbed, and only stirring slightly as Frodo uttered called out for help.

Samwise, had heard his master’s plea, and had no hesitation at all, climbing up and scrambling through the slightly open window to come to Frodo’s aid.

“Stay back, stay back!” Frodo exclaimed in alarm as he tried to curl in on himself, and away from the outstretched hand of the stranger that was coming closer and closer to him.

“I am not here to hurt you,” Strider promised in a soft voice, trying to avoid any further distress.  Finally managing to grasp a hold on the young hobbit’s shirt sleeve and trying to pull him out from underneath the table, to see how badly hurt he was.

“No!, Let me go!” Frodo demanded as he reached up trying to pry loose the tightening grip on his clothes.

By now, Sam was fully in the room and ready to help his master from the unknown stranger.  The sandy-haired hobbit swallowed slightly as he looked at Frodo’s assailant and noted that he was one of the big-folk.  The man was very tall.   Much taller than anybody Sam had encountered before.  Although, Master Bilbo had mentioned them in his stories and tales.

Sam soon swallowed his own fear as he heard Frodo call out once more, ‘to leave him alone’.   Big-folk or not, this man was not going to hurt Frodo.

Strider, still slightly bent over as he held a twisting and wriggling Frodo, out in front of him, trying to assess his injuries.  The man was not prepared for the sharp sting of pain that resulted as Sam’s trusty forked trowel was now dug into his backside.

“Ow!,” Strider yelled as he whirled around to see what had struck him.   When he looked behind, he was not able to immediately see the reason for his pain.

Sam’s small, stocky body was shadowed by his own larger frame.

The sting had made him loosen his grip on Frodo’s shirt, but as he turned back to look at the young hobbit, he noted the paleness of the little one’s face.  He could see the boy was swaying slightly on his feet and didn’t look too well at all.

Strider attempted to readjust the hold he had on the young hobbit, to prevent him falling to the floor, but his actions only seemed to make things worse.  His hands had made a more of a pushing motion towards Frodo rather than preventing him from escaping.

Frodo felt the slight push, but with his unsteady stance, fell backwards towards the floor with an audible moan.   The groan was quickly replaced by a fresh yelp of pain as he had tried to stop himself falling and using his injured hand to support his weight.   The hand was now stinging and reddening from the hot water, as Frodo looked up with confusion and pain in his eyes.

Sam’s indignation had grown, watching the stranger push his master over onto the floor.  The man had already scared the young hobbit and had tried to bring harm on him.  He was not about to let the man’s actions go unanswered.

Once again he thrust his garden trowel towards Strider’s backside, this time with a little more strength behind it.

“Ow!”, Strider repeated, a hand quickly rubbing at the pained area as he felt another assault on his body.  This time his hand snaked up and caught a hold of the collar of the responsible party.

By now, Bilbo had heard the various cries of pains and shouts coming from his small kitchen.   When he came out of his bedroom, he was greeted with an unbelievable scene before him.

Frodo was still sitting on the floor, clasping his injured hand up and under his shirt, with broken pieces of crockery surrounding him.

Strider was standing in front of Frodo, and struggling in the Ranger’s grip, threatening trying to swipe at the man with his garden tool, was Samwise Gamgee.   Strider was careful enough to hold Sam just out far enough to prevent anything else happening.

“Good morning, Strider,” Bilbo greeted in an amused tone of voice.  “I see you already have everything under control,” he challenged, seeing the displeasure of the Ranger.

Bilbo bent down to Frodo and started talking soothingly to his young charge as he carefully began assessing the damage.

TO BE CONTINUED……………..

This story might take a few different courses – hopefully a lot people will be able to follow easily enough.  The plot might become a little more complicated once it gets going.

Going to crawl back to one of my more familiar fandoms for a little while before updating this one to see how people like it.

Enjoy and please let me know what you think.

Chapter One – A Second Chance

Harry Potter – A Life Lived

By Jules 6

Author Notes –

My very first and only AU story that will follow the books, movies and have a good dose of original ideas mixed in. There will be new scenes, spells, events, places, people, animals etc and my interpretation of why some things happened or will occur. Some of it will interweave with what is already on screen and written, other times it will not. Some scenes will move time frame from when they occur in the book and movies or who it happened to, or a different result. I don’t want to give too much away yet.

This story will explore what would change to all events and characters if Sirius Black returns much earlier, BEFORE Harry goes to Hogwarts. And to my way of thinking, Harry would take just a little longer to get used to a magical world that he doesn’t understand how it works, or the role he or anyone else will yet to play in it. And continue through until the last book but the path may not be as direct or known yet.

I was going to add more to the synopsis, but for know I will leave you to read along and find out what happens along with Harry and the rest of the cast as I take them out of the box. I promise to put them back when I am finished. If you think you know what might happen throughout and the ending, hopefully I have created enough twist plots and changes.

Strong friendship only – no slash. Very little romance (I am no good at writing that) – And plenty of angst, hurt/comfort. For those don’t know my previous work – this won’t be a Disney version.

This will be a very very long story, with many chapters, and many of those being long as well – just the way I write. And I usually try and describe from the viewpoint of multiple characters for any one scene. As well as describe every rock, tree branch and blade of grass along the way.

I have a very complicated plot planned, and some many not agree how I have altered the course of things, or that I introduce them and Harry differently than the books or films. Hopefully you will continue to follow and read as the story progresses. If it hasn’t happened yet, or there isn’t enough information about something yet, that is usually deliberate on my part. Sometimes there are subtle clues that I put in chapters, other times I don’t.

This first chapter is mostly setting up for what is going to happen later. There is usually method to my madness, but other times there is no method.

If you don’t particularly like how I have written this, that is okay, no harm done, feel free to write and share your own version of events.

I have taken information from a number of sources, some canon, some not, and a lot my own interpretation of why thing happen the way they do.

A new fandom for me, but to my other readers please know that I have been writing all of my other fandoms too and a lot of rewriting of those chapters and stories to come in addition to the new chapters and stories.

This story is going to slow building so things will take quite a while. Harry’s experiences, emotions and reaction will change with his age, time and as things slowly progress.

Please Note: My one big change at the beginning is the time Sirius has spent in prison, being closer to 10 years rather than 12 years.

Disclaimer: all rights and characters belong to J.K. Rowling.

Chapter One – A Second Chance

The silence of early morning in the kitchen of a house was punctuated by a burst of green flame erupting within the fireplace. The stone mantel was set a little lower, and the unannounced visitor was forced to duck his head as he stepped out. An older man grabbed the tails of his robes as he exited only to be met with a wand being pointed directly at him, for a few seconds but then lowered.

“Good morning, Remus,” Dumbledore greeted the occupant as he whispered a small spell of scourgify to brush the ash from his long attire.

The expression of mild surprise and embarrassment were hard to mask, as the wand of cypress and unicorn hair was tucked into the inside of a well-worn jacket, “Please accept my sincerest apologies, Albus.” almost making the mistake of addressing the older man as Headmaster. Strange how it had been many years had past since his schooling years, but the passage of time had paused for a moment.

“It is I who should have advised you of my early arrival,” Dumbledore offset as a lapse in proper etiquette.

“One cannot be too careful in such uncertain times,” Remus gave as a partial explanation. “I find myself being on edge more often than not lately.”

The thin young man walked over to the stove, turning back towards his guest to bring back a steaming hot kettle, “Can I interest you in a cup of tea this morning?”

A smile was shared between them, “Only a small cup if you please. Sitting down at the table, two lumps if I may,” he added as tea was poured into two waiting cups with milk and sugar added. “I regret that I have other important matters to attend to this morning after leaving your company,” Dumbledore added cryptically.

The Headmaster reached into his long silvery robe and withdrew two items, Remus watching with keen interest, but waiting to see what they were. The first was a small long vial of potion. The next a small bundle of folded newsprint. He placed them in front of him, but gave no further explanation for a moment.

Remus had already recognized the vial for what it was, his gaze drawn to it, something that brought both relief and misery at the same time. He made no attempt to reach out for it. The newspapers held his attention a little longer though.

“I bring your wolfsbane potion as arranged for this month, courtesy of Severus,” Dumbledore answered for the unspoken question of the potion.

Remus gave a brief dry laugh at such a statement, “Must have been like chewing glass for him,” but inwardly knowing that being without it when needed was too much to even contemplate.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” knowing that there was a reason behind such an impromptu visit. Whatever the subject matter, it certainly wasn’t for small talk.

“This is the first time I have been in your new home, Remus, care to give me a brief tour?” Dumbledore stood peering through into the next room in anticipation, entirely changing the subject and flow of the awkward conversation.

Remus now joined the man, switching on an electric light to illuminate the sitting room, “I have only been here a few months as you know. It is not very large. The last remaining materialistic possession purchased with the money left over from the estate of my dear parents,” he elaborated, using his hands to point. In total three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, a small kitchen we are standing in right now, the cosy sitting room there adjoining it on the ground floor. And a private cellar occupying most of downstairs,” his voice trailing off hoping that the short jaunt wouldn’t need to go down there.

“A nice simple room,” Dumbledore declared as he stepped into it and took in the sparse wall decorations. The embers in the fireplace had burned low, but a soft glow emanated from them enabling one to feel the gentle warmth.

“I suspect you must feel a little lonely at times with all of the extra bedrooms?”

“I have been living on my own for quite a long time, Albus. Even before coming to this house,” Remus pointed out, not sure where this series of questions and off-handed comments was leading to, but able to sense the under lying tones were more than mere curiosity. “Some of the space is currently taken up with a number of boxes of old useless objects and sentimental memories that have no need to be displayed at this time. He didn’t want to admit that quite a few of the boxes belonged to some very dear friends.

Dumbledore had been attempting to peer out of a raised curtain covering one of the windows facing out of the sitting room, but stood up at detecting some slight avoidance towards him and a request for plain talk. Out of any of his former students, this young man was probably one of the most underestimated for his intellect, intuitiveness and his guardedness.

Before speaking again, the older wizard turned away from the small square window, an unspoken question showing on his expression. The man’s face appeared upon first glimpse to be fairly young, but the flecks of grey through his tawny brown hair were the distinct signs of torment. But perhaps it was the way he stood, too-thin shoulders forced to carry an unseen burden for too long and its toll almost too costly, that held his gaze.

“No word of regular employment now that you have a more permanent place of residence?” Albus enquired, walking back towards the kitchen.

Remus looked down at his hands, “The wizarding world has not changed in an age. Pickings are slim and opportunities for someone like me almost non-existent.”

“For that I am truly sorry my friend, I wish the wheels would turn a little faster at the Ministry of Magic for a number of urgent issues, but since Cornelius has been appointed, it seems that some matters are not given the correct attention, nor any in a timely manner.”

“The witches and wizards who oversee the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures are still arguing over which division should be handling our classification,” Remus added with a barely disguised scoff. “And then there are others within the Ministry trying to make a name for themselves and would like to decree even tougher laws.”

Dumbledore’s eyebrows raised in surprise at this, having heard such whispers in long corridors himself but not having divulged them to anyone.

“The teaching position of Defence Against the Dark Arts became under review at the end of the last school term, and I have spoken upon your behalf, but alas it appears that the School Board of Governors have granted reappointment to a man by the name of Quirinus Quirrell.”

“Thank you for all your efforts, they are appreciated,” Remus mentioned in a humbled tone. “Reappointment? What qualifications does he bring to Hogwarts?”

“Much like yourself, a young teacher who showed great promise when he first joined the teaching staff at Hogwarts,” Dumbledore began detailing. “Very bright and enthusiastic on the subject matter in his first year, though there was some discussion and offer of taking the position of Muggle studies. I stepped in at this point and recommended that such a workload of both subjects was too much for one person. This position is adequately filled by Miss Charity Burbage.”

Lupin could hear the ‘but’ that wasn’t said out loud, and was rewarded for his patience, “Then he took leave for a year to travel, submitting that he wished to gain more experience away from a teaching environment. Speculation from other professors remains just that, but there was mention of him being in Albania. Any other personal reasons for needing to go there remain quite mysterious.”

“Why was there a need for a review by the Board of Governors?”

“Complaints from some of the sixth and seventh year students reached their parents about his manner of teaching. Whilst on the surface he seemed quite capable of relaying the theory of defensive magic to students wishing to complete their exams, when it came to the practise of the precise skills, wand movements and incantations he was less adept and challenging. Some of the students received less than pleasing marks and their results were far lower than expected for those interested in pursuing sought after careers.”

“So this year he will be under a fair bit more scrutiny,” Remus surmised, not being able to help but consider how much conjecture someone like himself would be under.

“I have spoken to him about this very matter, and deem it necessary from myself as well, as only a Headmaster should when considering the academic performance of all students. If the Board or I decide that a change of teacher is warranted after this year, then once again I would be willing to submit your name as a willing and most suitable candidate.”

“Once again, I appreciate the vote of confidence.” By now the conversation was being held back in the small kitchen. Lupin wanted to know the real reason for such an early visit. It certainly wasn’t to relay the discussions of the School Board nor their choice of teacher for Defence Against the Dark Arts.

“Thank you for this and last weeks editions of the Daily Prophet as well. I am sure they will give me a few hours of amusement in keeping up with what is currently occurring in various circles. Though I usually find myself a week or two behind most everybody else,” Lupin commented, picking up the bundle of papers and skimming through the few pages of newsprint.

“Which reminds me, do you have any plans for 10am this morning?” Dumbledore enquired as though he had almost forgotten to mention it.

“Ten o’clock this morning?” Lupin exclaimed, looking down at his watch and see that the hands signifying the current time to be 7.30am

Pulling the bundle away for a moment, before identifying a newspaper date two days earlier. “I think the article on page nine will be of significant interest to you.”

“I apologize for keeping you too long already this morning, Remus,” Dumbledore apologized before walking back into the fireplace. “Remember page nine and thank you for the tea.”

“Ministry of Magic,” the wizard stated clearly before being engulfed in the familiar green flame of the floo network.

Remus Lupin stood puzzled for a moment, looking over at the cup of tea that still showed some steam rising from it. The place of destination for the Headmaster didn’t escape him either, as he looked at the newspaper in his hand. The man could be irritatingly and deliberately evasive.

Putting the other papers aside on the table, and turning to the suggested page. Across the top a few simple advertisements. The announcement of the birth of a child to a wizarding family whose name he did not recognize, but showing a photo of beaming faces and a proud set of parents holding a fussing infant. It wasn’t until he reached the bottom of the page that he was grateful to be sitting down as he read a small article bearing a capital “M”.

Chief Warlock To Open Old Case

A review has been requested in relation to a ten year old matter. All interested parties are required to attend. The Ministry of Magic advised that Cornelius Fudge himself was unavailable for further comment or clarification. The details are sketchy at best, but the matter will commence tomorrow morning at precisely 10am. The Daily Prophet has learned from a reliable but unsubstantiated source, that the matter involves a certain prisoner who was sent to Azkaban Prison almost ten years ago for murder. This reporter will keep her quill poised for an update as soon as further information reaches her ears.

Rita Skeeter.

Remus was reading it again for a third time before the words written on the page began to form cohesive sentences. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind what the “case” was about or who exactly the prisoner was, even without a name. Sirius Black. He could scarcely believe the article had been printed by the Ministry. The fact that it was printed below everyday mundane information where it could easily be missed, said a lot about how secretive they were attempting to be.

Dumbledore was playing with fire, but did he realise just how many people remembered and who could easily be burnt even after all the years that had elapsed? There was much more at stake.


At 9.00am, Remus Lupin picked up a small tin box from his table. An ordinary looking, some might describe as rusty and old metal box that no longer held the contents advertised on the faded and torn label stuck to the top. It was a portkey, one that was yet to appear on the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects. Nor had its presence been detected or tracked by the Portkey Office within Department of Magical Transportation.

Lupin could have use the floo network, but decided against it, wanting his appearance to go as unnoticed as possible. Dumbledore hadn’t even mentioned where he was supposed to go once he had arrived. He didnt travel by this method very often at all. There had been only one other occasion that he could remember being in the high profile building, and that had not been by choice. Without knowing if there were any unfriendly spells or enchantments from stopping him entering a little more secretively, he didn’t feel comfortable apparating either.

A distinct pull from behind his navel, and Remus found himself standing on Level Eight of the Ministry of Magic. The Atrium, for those who had not been here before, or for a long time like himself, the re-introduction was a visual and sensory overload. Witches and wizards came into the expansive hall, arriving and carrying briefcases on their own, others in group of four to five, muttering and talking loudly that all the voices became one large drone of noise.

Remus removed himself to the outer edges of the corridor, trying to dissolve into the crowd and remain inconspicuous. For a moment, he was certain that a wizard dressed in a long coat and a hat concealing his identity had noticed him standing to one side. Just when he though the man was going to approach and ask if he was lost or needed to go somewhere in particular, a larger group of people had passed by, obscuring his direct line of site with the fellow. When the assortment had cleared, the man was no longer there.

Lupin was just about to remove himself from the area in case the man returned, but was startled by a hand tapping him lightly on the shoulder from behind.

Thank you for coming, we haven’t got much time,” Dumbledore uttered before starting to walk towards one of the elevators. For an older wizard, Albus certainly kept up a good pace as the two of them headed towards the golden security gates at the end of the corridor.

A wizard sat at a desk reading a newspaper, but looked up with disinterest at the sound of quickly approaching footsteps. There was a moment where Remus could have sworn that the man was about to speak to them. A demanding question to know their business forming across the furrows of his brow.

Dumbledore raised his hand in gesture at the man, “Good morning, Eric, so nice to see you, ” the older wizard greeted him cheerfully.

The man’s facial expression changed from a sour scowl to one of bewilderment and perplexity, as though he had forgotten what he was about to ask. He resumed his seat and picked up his newspaper, “Morning,” was the only word returned before he started reading again.

Remus never saw a wand in the Headmaster’s grasp and he didn’t hear an incantation, but would put good money on the bet that said Dumbledore had just cast a Confundus Charm on the unkempt watchwizard.

Both men stepped into another small hall beyond the gates, waiting for an elevator before climbing into a cage with others. Remus curtailed his tongue on demanding to know what exactly they were both doing here and why it was deemed necessary to use spells on unsuspecting Ministry officials.

Going down one level, if you please,” Dumbledore politely informed the witch closest to the door, who nodded her acknowledgement at the direction they wished to go.

Once the doors were closed, and with a sudden jolt that caused the life to descend to the floor below. The jangling of the doors echoed with them opening and allowing them to step out. No sooner had they done so, did the lift rattle back up towards the atrium where they had just come from.

Level Nine” came the clear announcement of their current location, but Lupin noted that the purpose of this particular division had not been included. He had not been in this part of the building before and couldn’t quite put his finger on the cause of his growing unease.

I originally wanted you to wait in Arthur Weasley’s office, Remus, but his office is too far away,” Albus conveyed as they approached a single door. “Unless you wish to consult with the Support Services part of the Beast Division,” he added in whisper.

A frown and clear displeased look from Lupin was all it took for that thread of conversation to abruptly end. Remus knew which support services Dumbledore was referring to, but this was not the place to voice his opinions where anyone could hear his scathing rebuke.

Why are we using a set of stairs?” Lupin asked assuming they had been intending to go through the door.

This level cannot be reached as others in this building,” Albus answered, starting down the stairs.

Remus couldn’t help but notice the dark stone walls, almost reaching out to touch one of the large cobbled blocks, but withdrawing his hand before doing so. The air was becoming much cooler on his face, signifying how deep they now were. Once they reached the bottom of the staircase, they were met with another short but dark and claustrophobic corridor and a set of large thick double doors at the end which read Courtroom Ten in stark white lettering.

The double doors were swung open by a wizard of small stature, who did not introduce himself.

It was a courtroom Lupin gasped inwardly as he took stock and looked around the room. There was a large gallery of seating wrapping around the back wall, dimly lit with evenly spaced torches. He was brought out of his inquisitiveness by Dumbledore whispering at him.

I said it would be best if you seated yourself up towards the back,” Albus repeated, “Please trust me,” he implored, a tone of voice seldom heard from the well-known wizard.

Lupin nodded without further query or argument and did as he was asked. From where he chose to sit, he could see the balcony where those presiding over any proceedings could plainly be seen. The area was quite large and would be able to accommodate a large number of member from the Wizengamot he calculated. In the centre of the room, sat a single high-backed seat. Chains could be seen dangling menacingly from the back of the chair.


With his watch now reading 9.45am, the quiet respect that such a room expected was shattered by the two doors re-opening for a second time, and a loud voice to be heard complaining. “I tell you I have no idea why this is even necessary,” came the shout.

Remus didn’t need to turn around to recognize whom it belonged to. Cornelius Fudge, the portly man wearing a pin-striped suit and his bright lime green bowler hat, making their way over towards Dumbledore. If he was perturbed by the outburst in any way, it didn’t show it as he reached out to shake hands with the Minister.

A flustered junior wizard followed Fudge, holding a briefcase and looking as though this was his first day on the job as assistant to the Minister of Magic.

There was a desk for each interested party positioned in front but to either side of the prisoner, allowing them to see him and for him to see them as events unfolded. There was no other assistant seated with Dumbledore, giving Fudge the viewpoint that he already had the Headmaster outnumbered and the upper hand.

Two other men now entered the courtroom and took seats towards the back as he had done but on the opposite side of the gallery. Lupin recognized one immediately, and perhaps the second as well, but couldn’t remember a name or place where he had seen the man before.

The doors to the courtroom where now closed and it seemed as though there would be no-one else attending.

I demand to know what this is all about, Dumbledore!” looking down at the extended hand, but choosing to ignore it.

I thought it was made quite plain in the application that reached your office, Cornelius,” Dumbledore countered.

Your application didn’t make anything quite plain,” Fudge argued. “I should have thought it………,” but he was interrupted before the sentence finished.

The application is not mine to make any kind of assessment based on its merits,” Dumbledore pointed out, “I merely act as advisor and counsel in this matter this morning. Have you had him brought here?”

Lupin could hear everything being said, with the acoustics of the room doing what they were designed to do, and couldn’t help but applaud Dumbledore’s unyielding pleasantness towards the Minister. Although on this occasion his calm nature and simple answers appearing to only fuel Fudge’s outrage.

Now see here, that is another area where I say you have overstepped your mark, Albus. Interfering with Ministry business and affairs far too much I suspect, without sufficient warning and”

I promise you that I have given no cause or intentions of interfering……?” now it was the Minster’s turn to infringe before Dumbledore had ended his explanation.

Sirius Black has been brought here. And most definitely not under my authority I assure you,” Fudge hissed. If the Daily Prophet gets word out to the public about this it could be very damaging for all involved. “A full investigation into who allowed such a dangerous person to be brought from Azkaban……..”

Any further veiled threat from the Minister ceased as a set of doors set on the other side of the room were opened. A man hunched over in his stance, finding movement difficult and impeded with heavy chains lashing his ankles. His walk was no more than an undignified shuffle. An Auror stood on either side of the prisoner, each with a hand grasped around an arm and a wand in the other. A third wizard followed them into the courtroom.

The three Aurors were unfamiliar to Remus, giving them an appraisal of suitability the position and such a task from a distance. The two on either side of the prisoner were tall, one wearing a long cloak that almost reached the floor. The other wore a hat that was a size or two too large, and was positioned lopsidedly to compensate, sitting on top on top of a nest of straw coloured hair. The third wizard was probably the least suitable upon first assumption, being considerably shorter and wider.

Not all that long ago, the werewolf would have thought himself fortunate to have good contacts within this department of the Ministry. Inside informants as it were, that would relay vital information as required, on a completely unbiased and secretive basis of course. But the tides of time had caused many changes for a great many wizards and witches and now those trustworthy sources had all but evaporated and dried up.

Visiting Azkaban prison was certainly not a viable option that he had ever considered since Black’s imprisonment. He had certainly heard of family members of other wizard inmates doing so for those considered of a lower security risk. But for one accused such as Sirius had been and a proverbial ‘feather in the cap’ of the Ministry’s self-proclaimed list of achievements, those privileges were never afforded to nor considered.

Many a night had seen him fearing a similar dreadful fate, through wrongful implication. Being found in the company of his old school chum, and Remus himself could easily have ended up a cell-mate. Despite this, it would be something that he never fully come to terms with and always regretted.

Nothing could have prepared him for the events beginning to unfold before his eyes today.

Lupin’s mouth went completely dry as he got his first glimpse of a friend in ten years. To believe that a decade had taken its toll would be the most erroneous understatement. His eyes went to Dumbledore who too seemed a shocked at the appearance of the man known as Sirius Black. For a moment he averted and closed his eyes, before returning his attention to the centre of the room, forcing himself to quell his anger and fixating an unseen glare at the back of Fudge’s head.

Remus could scarcely fathom that this dishevelled figure, with grey and torn striped thin fabric rags hanging from his lithe frame, wearing no shoes on his feet, was one of the closest friends he had ever known. The ever present wolf part of his sub-concious, wanted to release a foul discord of malcontent at the mere thought that a lifetime of loyalty and friendship had been reduced Black to this shadow of a man.

Under obvious duress, Black was directed to stand in front of the prisoner’s chair. A flash of defiance for the briefest of moments had the two Aurors, altering their grip quickly to maintain a good hold on him and to physically coerce him. Once seated, the prisoner was magically bound to the chair.

Even from the public gallery, Lupin saw a pained expression flick across his friend’s pale features as the cuffs at the end of the enchanted chains reached out and bit viciously around his wrists. Black was using his shoulder muscles to pull his arms away from the back of the chair, attempting to lessen the tauntness of the manacles and allow some blood circulation and colour back to his hands and fingers.

There was no evidence of the youthful expression, or enthusiasm, quick wit and fun-loving playfulness that was once associated by the mere mention of his name. If one didn’t know better, it would be fairly easy to assume that Sirius had allowed incarceration to beat him into submission.

Unshaven and with long knotted matted hair falling down and hiding his face, Sirius was not able to bring his hands upwards very far. Instead bowing his head downwards towards his chest, in what emerged as abject defeat. Considered dangerous and manic and a serious threat, and having every available method of restraint being used to demonstrate this mindset from those in the wizarding world who followed the Daily Prophet or listened to the word according to the Ministry of Magic.

Dumbledore cleared his throat, causing Sirius to raise his head and turn in the direction of the voice he heard.

At first Black didn’t give any indication that he was fully aware of his surroundings. His gaze flitted back and forth from the front of the courtroom, to either side and then back again, never staying long enough to acclimatise, nor turning his head too far in any one direction. The torches along the back wall barely gave off enough light, but the centre of the courtroom allowed sufficiently more awareness. Sirius closed his eyes, opening them and blinking rapidly a number of times as though light-sensitive. Being a long time prisoner of Azkaban, there wasn’t any chance of seeing sunlight and one could assume that the symptoms he was displaying currently were a direct result.

A hoarse croak gurgled from the back of Sirius’ throat, as though he wanted to speak. He made a second attempt, but still no definable words escaped his lips. His raised his arms as much as the restraints would allow and began clawing at his neck, the chains clinking at the jerks from Black’s cuffed hands. A silent plea.

Fudge made a motion towards the Aurors, as though instructing them into subduing the prisoner before any unforseen spell could be cast. Dumbledore, frowned and with a simple wave of his wand and uttering of the words ‘Urceus Cylix Aguamenti’ as an incantation, summoned a pitcher of water and a metal cup. The pitcher filled the cup with clear drinking water without further assistance.

It is merely water, for goodness sake, Minister. He is still a human being.”

Fudge looked ready to argue that point, but closed his mouth, seething inside that the Headmaster chose to put on a display of arrogance and self-righteousness in front of ministry staff members and others to make him look like a fool.

The cup drew close enough for Sirius to seize it desperately with both hands, bringing it painstakingly to his parched lips and all in the room watched the man drink the water with a frenzied desperation, some of it dripping down his chin.

As the cup was lowered, Black held it for a moment, his eyes coming to rest upon Dumbledore and Fudge. He allowed the metal vessel to fall from his hands, watching it intently as the two wizards saw it land at his feet.

Any previous sign of befuddlement could be belayed, as he fixed the two men with a stony-faced stare that would have caused lessor men to run or cower with fear.

Fudge’s junior assistant was about to move from his position and pick it up, but was held back by the Minister. A curt nod to the Aurors prevented them from needing to use their wands.

A small grin appeared on Black’s face, that Fudge and Dumbledore had indeed picked up on the underlying tones of his dare. The politician was afraid of his notable reputation. His former Headmaster, recognising the perceived threat and choosing not to antagonise.

Just so we all understand one another.

Sirius looked away from Cornelius and towards Dumbledore, but his expression was nearly unreadable, even to Remus some distance away. It certainly wasn’t friendly or one of respect for being brought before the courtroom. Barely concealed animosity was a more apt description.

Black’s cheek bones were sunken and his face pale, wan and tired. The lines attesting to someone who had gone for many nights and days without sleep or refuge. His fingers that had been trembling slightly when holding onto the cup of water, now lay listlessly across his lap, the fingernails chipped and broken.

His dull grey eyes looked haunted and heavy, but for Remus, what shone through from the shadows and lurked behind them was an intense and piercing gaze with shrewd attention to detail. A characteristic trait that had shown itself to be invaluable on many occasions during his youth. There was a look of sharpness and intelligence to them that didn’t come from learning second-hand magic from a book. Boldness, brashness and sometimes recklessness, but forever watchful.


A second set of doors to the courtroom were opened and the announcement of the commencement began with the introduction of Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Those already in the room watched as a witch with very short grey hair approached the bench. Following behind her was a particularly tall, but very thin middle-age witch with dark hair, Eunice Parks. She was recorded as being the court scribe, and was wearing thick glasses that did not sit well on her face.

The woman had barely had time to sit down in her chair and adjust her plum coloured robes when Cornelius spoke out of turn.

Forgive me, Madam Bones, but were you planning to conduct such an important and serious matter such as this on your own. Instead of the full Council of Magical Law being utilized.”

I have not even had a chance to determine the full extent of today’s proceedings as yet, Minister. This particular courtroom has not been used in many years, and is too dark for my liking. There have been many changes to the Council and how matter are conducted, as you have no doubt been made aware. But please enlighten me as to why you feel that I am unsuitable to conduct any matter on my own as deemed necessary?” she challenged in annoyance.

The Ministry feels a little like yourself this morning, Madam, in that we are in the dark as much as you as to why we have been called here today.” He didn’t pursue the issue of only one member of the Wizengamot hearing the application. Chances were it held very little caliber, at least to his way of thinking.

Then lets get on with it shall we?” she declared, not intending to give the man any further time to grand stand. “Please let me it be known that today’s proceedings are closed to the public unless I deem it in the interest of the parties involved to be made public.”

An audible sigh of relief escaped Fudge’s lips at this comment, as his junior clerk could be heard rifling through sheets of paper. Several pages were handed to him. The court scribe could be seen doing the same, though only one page was handed to her.

Introductions if you please,” Amelia requested, pointing to the Dumbledore for going first.

Good morning, Madam Bones, if it pleases the court, my name is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Though my capacity today is as representative, counsel and advisor.” A number of other bestowed titles had been deliberately omitted as was the mention of friend.

Advisor and counsel to whom?” Madam Bones queried, her own quill in hand, poised and ready to write notes of her own.

To the Applicant, Sirius Black, Head and Heir to the family of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black,” Dumbledore put forward, standing up as he addressed the court.

Madam Bones shifted her gaze to the Minister, trying to ignore the garish purple boots adorning his feet, as he too stood and took a step forward, puffing out his chest, “Cornelius Oswald Fudge, recently appointed Minister of Magic, Order of Merlin, and here to ensure that justice is upheld for convicted murderers like Sirius Black and they are given what they deserve,” he finished with emphasis on the last half of his speech.

Without the embellishments of your personal achievements if you please, Minister,” Bones instructed, as she adjusted her monacle and looked down at Fudge as though carrying on like a spoilt child.

Dumbledore hid a brief smile with courteous professionalism as he continued, “Madam Bones, unfortunately I am here today upon the request of Mr Black to ask for a review into a matter, that if proven in any manner to have occurred, would be a most grievous miscarriage of justice.”

Miscarriage………,” Fudge shouted out of turn, “This is an outrageous and most slanderous……..,” he was halted by a raised hand.

You will have the opportunity to put forward any remarks or questions you may have, Minister. But for the moment, it is for Mr Dumbledore who is speaking. This court will and all those who conduct themselves within these walls, observe the correct procedures, implied structure and decorum at all times.

Fudge folded his arms across his chest, looking contrite and suitably chastised, but scowling in Dumbledore’s direction. The Minister wasn’t used to being spoken to in this manner. Like some errant child who needed to be scolded and told to behave himself.

Ten years ago, Mr Black was sent to Azkaban prison alledgedly for several heinous crimes. But it would appear the administration within the Department of Law Enforcement and those acting within that office, took it upon themselves to ignore proper protocol and basic rights afforded to every witch or wizard, even if they are accused of such acts.”

The evidence against Black was overwhelming at the time…… I think this is some kind of farce and poor stunt being pulled by…….,” Fudge rambled, without hearing Bones’ call to cease on the first and second occasion. Clearly put off balance by the scandalous statement just presented.

Minister Fudge,” Madam Bones called out sternly, “That is a second warning, there will not be a third. Control yourself or you will be asked to leave these chambers until such time as you can listen.”

Black, silent and taking stock of everything that was being said, but the expression on his face revealed little more.

It is at the request of the applicant, that all evidence, statements and other materials be presented here today so that they can be examined by an impartial party and proved beyond reasonable doubt. There appear to be many inconsistencies during the original apprehension of Mr Black and what occurred that night. I leave it to him and his office to bring forth what overwhelming supporting documents they have,” Dumbledore concluded, resuming his seat.

Now Mr Fudge, you may respond,” Madam Bones directed to the Minister.

What happened that night to the Potter family is a matter of tragic history, I am sure we don’t all need to revisit here today after ten years,” Fudge began, he was beginning to feel more than uneasy about where Dumbledore was leading to.

Remus and Black both gasped inwardly a little at the mention of the Potter name. Sirius’ quiet demeanour remained, but the pain from the mention of his best friends names clearly visible now.

If it is Dumbledore’s position and intention that he wants to waste the court’s time and spend the rest of today dragging up old matters then I must object strongly to this application being heard. Especially since it is now a matter of public record and has been for quite some time.”

Madam Bones considered the opening rebuttal of Fudge for a moment before speaking, “I would have to agree with the Minister on that point, Dumbledore, if that is indeed the reason for this application appearing before me today. This is a most serious accusation against this Department and the Ministry of Magic, and I sincerely hope you can substantiate your reasoning.”

The reason for the application, Madam, is not only to assess the actions taken of those responsible immediately before and following his arrest on the night in question, but new information has been brought to my attention which I could not find myself ignoring in the interest of justice. The most troubling being that Mr Black was denied a trial of any kind before his imprisonment.”

New information? How and by whom?” Fudge stammered absolutely dumbfounded.

At the mention of the latter, Madam Bones sat up a little straighter in her seat and adjusted her monocle, “Denied a trial?”

Fudge found the paperwork in front of him a little more interesting despite such an allegation, something which didn’t escape the keen eyes of Amelia. She could see him pulling as the collar of his shirt, fidgeting with the top button as though constricting.

Is this true, Cornelius?” Madam Bones asked, briefly forgetting about proper name etiquette by the sheer impact of what she had heard, her tone of voice demanding nothing but a straight simple answer.

I am afraid I could not answer that question myself, Madam, as I was not the Minister of Magic at that time, and have little knowledge of what materials were kept or whom was spoken to,” he replied, but wanting to avoid what he already knew to be true. “Twelve muggles remain dead, as well as poor Peter Pettigrew. Any wizards or muggles who may have been interviewed on that particular night or thereafter, are certainly not going to appear in person here today.”

A short, barely detected growl could be heard coming from Black at the mention of Pettigrew’s name.

Remus could scarcely contemplate what Dumbledore meant by ‘new information’. The revelation was just as much a shock to him as others in the court.

Fudge looked up towards the bench and saw an astonished and displeased manner. He could see this day was about to become a lot more complicated and embarrassing for the Ministry and his office. He looked back towards Black and scowled at the very notion that he needed to prove that the right choice had been made all those years ago.

Then I suggest Mr Fudge, that you call upon whomever you need to, and very quickly. The suggestion that anybody, from a half-blood or pure-blood family having their rights diminished or denied in any capacity, must be dealt with forthwith and is very unsettling,” Amelia stated.

That would require that I call another Ministry official, Barty Crouch to this court, Madam. It could take some time, his position is now with the Department of International Magical Co-operation,” Fudge offered, as though it was going to be a lot of effort to carry out her request.”

We have all day, Minister,” Bones countered, not phased and rather annoyed for his nonchalant attitude. She turned to the junior wizard sitting at the desk, “What is your name young man?”

The junior wizard got to his feet, shocked and clearly nervous about being addressed, “Eugene, Madam. Eugene Bigmore.”

Mr Bigmore, please hurry to Level 5 and inform Mr Crouch that his presence is required immediately. Do not take ‘no’ for an answer, and tell him to bring with him ‘all’ materials and paperwork pertaining to the matter of Sirius Black.

The junior wizard gulped and swallowed the ball of fear in his gullet at the prospect of having to firstly find someone like Mr Crouch in such a large building, and then demand that he come with him. But he nodded dutifully and scurried towards the doors, the corridor on the other side and the stairway.

This court will convene again as soon as Mr Crouch arrives,” Madam Bones announced, not intending to leave the room.

May I approach the prisoner and confer with Mr Black whilst we are waiting?” Dumbledore queried.

Madam Bones considered his request for a moment before answering, looking at the security in place. “You may, the Aurors will remove themselves further towards the back of the room to allow you privacy, but the restraints will remain,” she granted with conditions, having read about Black’s reputation herself and knowing of his Family name notoriety.

Thank you.”

Fudge was clearly against the removal of the Aurors as he saw the elderly wizard approach Black and begin whispering to him out of earshot. A curt nod or shake of the head from the prisoner was all he could discern from this distance before he would be accused of eavesdropping.


Forty minutes later, with an anxious Fudge barely able to sit still any longer in his seat, the two main doors re-opened with Eugene Bigmore leading the way in, carrying a large cardboard box. Another taller gentleman strode in behind him, burdened with two equally large boxes clutched in his hands.

Approaching the desk, first impressions of the man were certainly very different to those observing Cornelius Fudge. A long grey coloured cloak draped over a dark pin-striped suit. A toothbrush shaped moustache situated above his upper lip. Leather shoes on his feet and a dark coloured hat of a much more appropriate style for someone in a position of authority.

Fudge’s sense of style could be described as comical and his character over bearing and pompous compared to Crouch whose presence drew attention and held respect. Setting the boxes on the table, Eugene handed him a long black cane and retreated to the gallery, but close enough if the Minister or his associate needed any further assistance.

With Crouch’s arrival, Dumbledore concluded any talk he had been having with Black and moved back towards his own desk. A nod of acknowledge at Barty was given as Fudge turned to his counterpart and began filling him in on what has transpired so far.

Crouch’s face turned a few shades paler as Fudge informed him for the first time who was sitting in the prisoner’s chair. Two broad steps around the portly Minister and Barty turned take a look at the person. A man whom he had tracked every waking moment a decade ago, but had paid little heed about since.

Sirius Black

Black glared back with narrowed and hardened grey eyes, daring each other to openly speak first.

Crouch and Fudge exchanged worried glances, with one of them realising that this issue was about to become very messy and complicated. Cornelius sat down leaving Barty to somehow salvage the argument about such an application. There had been some conversations and directions given that this Minister was not privy to.

If you are quite ready to continue, gentlemen?” came the question from Madam Bones, “I know it is not possible to apparate into this courtoom, otherwise your journey may have been much quicker,” she added, indicating that enough time had been wasted already.

Madam Bones, I have with me here today……,” Crouch began, after removing his hat as good manners required he do, and putting on his best diplomatic face.

An introduction if you please,” Bones reminded him, her quill once again making a number of notes in front of her.

Forgive me,” Crouch smoothed over, “Bartemius Crouch, currently employed with the Department of International Co-operation.”

Amelia was pleased to note that he too had left off any previous ministerial positions or achievements that didn’t need to be taken into account for this matter.

Before you go any further, you have been summoned here this morning upon my request, to address a most serious accusation made here by Mr Dumbledore as part of the application for a review of Mr Black’s imprisonment and subsequent sentence,” she warned him sternly.

She paused a moment before speaking again, making sure she had everyone’s undivided attention. “This is not a place for playing games.”

This review is not a trial, and because of the high profile positions each of you three gentlemen hold in the wizarding community, I shouldn’t have to ask but I will. What I have heard here this morning, in under the first hour alone, brings me to needing to make this point crystal clear. That everything you say here in these proceedings today will be the truth to any question and to the best of your knowledge.”

There certainly are methods that can be employed or devised to make you do so. For if not, and it can be proven, such an act would be deemed most grievous indeed and the consequences would be most severe.”

Yes, Madam Bones,” was the resounding affirmation given by those sitting at the desks. It could also be heard from Eugene Bigmore still seated in the gallery.

Mr Crouch, in relation to the matter of the imprisonment, it is alleged in the application by Dumbledore that Mr Black has not received a trial of any kind in relation to the crimes he was arrested on, including the murder of twelve muggles and a Mr Peter Pettigrew. I don’t want a long winded speel, a simple answer would suffice.”

Unfortunately it is not quite that simple, Madam, Bones,” Crouch responded, his hands firmly grasping the front of his jacket, ready to justify his actions at the time.

Yes or No, Mr Crouch,” Amelia demanded.

Barty was taken back a little by the bite in the tone of voice from the small woman. “No,” finally came from him.

No?” she repeated back to him, the quill in her hand moving quickly across the page showing her displeasure.

Not unlike yourself, I have sat as Head of various councils in this very courtroom where we are now, and determined matters upon their merit with the material presented at the time and statements made by witnesses,” Crouch offered in explanation. “However, might I remind someone like yourself, Madam Bones, that we are talking about a very dark time in our history, where some of the usual protocols were not always upheld due to the savagery of what was going on in the streets,”

No you certainly may not,” Amelia cried out hotly. “May I remind you Mr Crouch that I too have lived through such uncertain and troubling times as well. But that doesn’t give me, you or anybody else the permission to deny basic rights to anybody. Even in times of upheaval and discord.”

But Sirius Black isn’t not just any ordinary wizard or prisoner, Madam Bones,” Cornelius jumped up in defence.

Amelia was about to reprimand the Minister for speaking out of turn once again, but decided against it. It was just part of the man’s nature to be rude and interrupt.

Remus was aware that Sirius had received no fair trial, but because of what he was, long established prejudices and other factors prevented him from coming forth at that time to help his best friend. He had not known of Dumbledore’s intentions before today, but what he was hearing and witnessing cemented that there were still some who believed Sirius was not responsible for Peter’s death, or the muggles that had perished in that busy street all those years ago.

The person who remained silent during all of this confrontation, was Sirius. But one look at him could see that he was listening very intently.

Minister Fudge, your predecessor from my notes was Millicent Bagnold? For all intents a witch held in high esteem for at least a decade,” Bones addressed Cornelius. “Whilst she has made some rash statements very early in her career as Minister of Magic, she is recorded as being most prolific in dealing with breaches of the International Statue of Secrecy following the attacks on the Potter family.

Yes, Madam Bones, she was required to answer to the International Confederation of Wizards on a number of occasions during that time, that I can recall,” Fudge agreed.

She was a Ravenclaw during her days at Hogwarts, so I find it highly improbable that a Minister of that distinction would allow such blatant and biased judgment to occur under her management,” Amelia inferred.

Crouch reluctantly nodded in agreement at the assessment of her character. She had been someone he had followed well during his career and had hoped to take over from. But alas, that had not gone according to plan.

Mr Crouch upon your own admission here this morning, and with the support of your colleague Mr Fudge, you both leave me with very few avenues than to grant Mr Black his application to review the material from the time of his arrest and to hear any new information that Mr Dumbledore may wish to introduce on his behalf.”

Barty and Fudge both looked as though they had just swallowed something very unpleasant on their faces, their mouths drawn into thin lines of indignation.

There is no need to change the day for this, all relevant parties are here and the prisoner himself has been brought forward. There is no need to delay this matter any further,” Amelia stipulated.

Dumbledore looked suitably pleased with the outcome, whilst to Remus, Sirius appeared to have conflicting expressions on his face. The first being avid relief that some version of the truth may very well be heard, and secondly, a shadow of fear that exactly that might just happen.


Mr Black,” Madam Bones called out addressing the prisoner, “Please note that today will not be a full scale trial as should have been your right.”

Sirius gave a slight nod of his head to signal he had heard her talking directly to him.

Now turning to Dumbledore, without ignoring the protocols of the court, she was prepared to give a little leeway into which way the material would be examined. “In which order did you wish to present your information?” Bones questioned.

Dumbledore stood up as he spoke, “If you please, Madam, I believe there are a few steps which I believe should be followed here today to find out exactly what happened before, during and after the truly sad loss of the Potters. Firstly, I would like to ask Mr Crouch a few lingering questions concerning the arrest of Mr Black. And secondly, I have with me today, a number of witnesses to give testimony.”

This was the first time that Crouch and Fudge actively took the time to look about the room and peered objectively at a few unannounced visitors sitting in the gallery.

You will be allowed to ask your questions in a moment Mr Dumbledore. Mr Crouch do you have any witnesses to call upon today to give evidence?”

No Madam Bones, but I have in these boxes, a large number of first hand statements from both wizards and muggles who give a clear description of the chaos and horror that they were forced to endure on the night in question,” Barty answered.

As I mentioned Mr Crouch, this is not a trial, and therefore although I will in good-faith allow the submission of the statements. However, without the witnesses here themselves to corroborate what is contained within those pages, they may not hold much weight on their own.”

Duly noted, Madam,” Crouch delivered, but aware most other material used to convict Black was circumstantial.

Fudge motioned for Eugene to approach the desk, and instructed the young wizard to take bundles of paper towards Eunice Parks, the court scribe.

You may begin with your first question, Mr Dumbledore,” Bones directed.

During your capacity as a Ministry official, were you ever in a position to direct other staff about their duties?”

Nearly every day,” Barty claimed proudly. “It was my responsibility to apprehend dark wizards, not an easy task at any time.”

Did you ever extend the bounds of your position during that time?”

I don’t understand the question?” Barty asked, growing tiresome already of the focus being on his choices and commands rather than the crimes of Black.

Which members of your staff arrested Mr Black after it had been assumed that he killed the muggles and Pettigrew?”

AFTER it was clearly established that Sirius Black had committed murder,” Crouch ground out through clenched teeth, “I sent a number of highly trained and skilled wizards to apprehend him, at any cost.”

At any cost?” Dumbledore quoted, “After you hired a gang of Hit Wizards to hunt him down, no matter what little information you had at the time. And by granting them unparalleled permision to use spells that are usually preserved for Death Eaters themselves, even Unforgiveable curses.”

Crouch turned his face away from Dumbledore’s accusatory gaze, but then looked back at the older wizard again, knowing that there had been some wizarding families thankful that he had taken the stern and harsh methods that he was being accused of. “Yes, if that was what it took during times of unrest and pandemonium. Many people were looking to me to identify and fix the problems. Fullstop.”

A quick gasp of surprise echoed in the large room from Eugene Bigmore. He had never in his life thought a man like Barty Crouch would have authorized and sanctioned such methods.

Looking over at Fudge, the man looked as though he had just eaten a large chicken dinner, feathers and all. The man was in damage control, trying his best to soften the large blow that his Ministry and others were taking from within its own walls.

The questioning from Dumbledore continued along a similar unyielding path.

During your capacity as a Ministry official, were you acquainted with Sirius Black?”

The question seemed out of place and hardly noteworthy to Crouch, be he did answer, “The Black Family has been known in the wizarding word for hundreds of years. Many of them are skilled in the Dark Arts and a number of them have questionable backgrounds and have even been Death Eaters.”

You cannot give heresay evidence, Mr Crouch,” Bones interjected.

Turning back to Dumbledore, he rephrased his reply, “I did not know him personally, no.”

After his arrest, what happened once he was brought and placed into a cell of the dungeons in this very building?”

He was sent to Azkaban prison as we all well know by now, Albus.”

Was he searched before being placed in the cell?” Dumbledore queried.

The expression on Black’s face changed a little, the man clearly trying to dig through his own memory banks to recall what he had been carrying in his pockets.

Yes, and all possessions on his person were confiscated as is usually the practice for any convicted wizard for any serious crime.”

Including his wand?,” with anticipation hanging from the end of the short rhetorical question. Dumbledore was now at the very point of his questioning he had been trying to reach.

His wand?” Fudge interceded, not fully understanding what Dumbledore ploy was.

I believe that in cases where other wizards have been sentenced to Azkaban, their wands were snapped and destroyed.”

Usually yes, but not for Sirius Black,” Crouch informed, reaching into the last remaining box beside his feet and withdrawing a long, thick wand and placing it on the table for all eyes to see. He had meant to destroy it, time and time again. But something made him treasure it as a souvenir of sorts for capturing a man who had betrayed many.

Black’s attention was certainly drawn to it. He had not seen his wand for a very long time. There had been a time when he knew every minor notch or splinter, but despite being out of his hand for so long, there was an unfamiliar and undeniable hum ringing in his ears at seeing it again.

Looking up at Madam Bones, Barty knew that he could not give a believable excuse as to why it was still sitting in a long forgotten box.

For now, I have no further questions of Mr Crouch, Madam Bones, but may the wand remain in your custody until a later time?”

Yes it may, please bring it to me, Mr Bigmore,” Amelia directed Eugene. The junior wizard was only too happy to do as instructed, giving an apologetic look to Barty, as he removed it from the table and made his way to the front of the courtroom.


Whom are these witnesses you wish to give testimony, Mr Dumbledore?” Madam Bones queried.

Crouch and Fudge listened keenly to the names about to be introduced.

The first, a Mr Remus Lupin, please Madam. He has knowledge before the arrest of Mr Black that will prove most helpful.”

Fudge could be seen about to jump from his chair and object due to knowing about his condition, but was prevented by doing so by a restraining hand from Crouch, and a firm negative shake from his head, indicating he wasn’t to interfere.

Lupin had risen from his distant position at the mention of his name, and navigated the gallery seating to reach the middle of the courtroom.

Black’s mouth dropped open at Remus’s name, and his face grew a little paler at the first sight of his friend. Time, pain and torment had not been kind or forgiving to either of them.

Remus didn’t speak to Sirius, but a disguised smile reached to his eyes.

A chair was conjured and positioned in the middle of the courtroom so that all would be able to see and hear the witness.

You may remain standing for a moment and give your full name please,” Amelia requested.

In a hoarse, but audible voice, “Remus John Lupin.”

Fudge rose in front of Crouch, wanting to be the first to ask, “Can the witness please advise all here today of his current living arrangements and employment status?”

Dumbledore signalled for Remus to allow him to answer first. “I am afraid that Mr Lupin currently resides at an address which is under the protection of the fidelius charm, Madam Bones. It is a very complex form of magical concealment as no doubt you are aware, and the location cannot be revealed.”

I have employment at present, but live on my own and carry out odd jobs as they come along,” Lupin stated, answering the second half of the question.

That line of questioning will now cease Mr Fudge and the court is not here on a fishing expedition for you, Minister,” Amelia chastised and silently applauding his ability at insulting tone directed at him.

Mr Lupin, you may be seated, and then please tell everyone here in your own words where you were on the night when the events which occurred at Godric Hollow,” Dumbledore directed.

Looking towards Sirius briefly, Remus gave brief apology for what he was about to reveal, and no doubt the pain it was going to cause both of them. He looked down and began rubbing the palms of his hands together as emotions that he had tried to quell for a long time, bubbled to the surface.

On the night, Potters died, I wasn’t in the area, nor anywhere close to be of help to them or anybody else,” Lupin explained. “I was in the north of the country on other business.”

What other business?” Crouch demanded sharply, but his question was ignored.

By the time I had gotten back, no more than two days later, my whole world had been turned upside down. James and dear Lily were dead. Peter was missing and declared dead, and Sirius had been taken into custody, or so I managed to read in the Daily Prophet,” he uttered with a mixture of raw grief and disgust. “I lost four of my closest friends during that time and lived through some of the worst days of my life.”

This may be a most painful question, but please tell the court whom you believe the Secret-keeper to be for Lily and James Potter,” Dumbledore asked.

I believed the Secret-keeper to be Sirius Black,” Remus stated truthfully.

Crouch and Fudge could scarcely hide their triumphant smirked that the Headmaster had just given them the upper hand.

I have no further questions for this witness, Madam Bones.”

Barty stood up and prepared to ask one of his own, “Mr Lupin, can you give me a valid reason why you didn’t come forward even after being away on business as you claim, to help your friend?”

Lupin frowned deeply, knowing what Crouch was demanding he reveal about himself. “Because I am a werewolf, and at that time, Lord Voldemort might have been defeated and vanquished, but there was still much mistrust amongst folk. I was accustomed to such treatment and ridicule that others like me are subjected to every day. People have treated me as vicious and dangerous and no better than an animal, who should be hunted down and killed, virtually all of my life.”

Exactly, so why should we believe you here today?” Crouch punched home that statement.

Madam Bones, the witness has answered all questions as required. We are not here for mere character assassination as my colleague, Barty over there would have us all conclude today.”

I disagree,” Crouch argued sharply.

Well, I don’t Mr Crouch, the witness has already given his testimony. You, on the other hand, have done nothing to disprove anything he has put forward except to have us fear for our lives because of petty innuendo and scaremongering. I will not stand for it in this courtroom.”


Please call your next witness, Mr Dumbledore,” Madam Bones addressed, “Mr Lupin, you may step down and return the the gallery.”

Before I can bring out the next two witnesses, Madam Bones, I must asked Mr Crouch a question that I forgot to ask earlier. It is of a most sensitive nature though.”

Crouch turned towards Dumbledore, wondering what the blazes the old fool was up to now, still stinging from his failure to discredit Lupin further.

Mr Crouch, can you please advise what happened to Peter Pettigrew’s body after Sirius Black was arrested?”

What happened to his body?” Fudge demanded angrily. “Nothing but a solitary finger was left of the poor fellow, that is what happened to him. I had to present his poor dear mother with that finger and the Order of Merlin for Bravery that was posthumously awarded of course,” he continued to rant.

Black’s face had taken on a particularly darker shade at the Minister’s admission of how Peter had been found. Good Riddance would never be heard from his lips. Though it never did quite seem enough of a punishment.

I apologise once again, Madam Bones, but in lieu of we have just heard from the Minister, I now call upon my next witness, Dedalus Diggle.

The man made his way to the front of the courtroom where the vacant witness chair sat, nodding politely to Dumbledore as he passed by him. The man was wearing a top hat, which he promptly removed after a gesture from Amelia. He gave her a rue smile and unspoken apology for his lack of manners.

Would you also remain standing for a moment and give your full name please,” Amelia requested.

Dedalus Diggle, Madam,” he answered quickly, though his speech sounding a little too rushed. As though he had run a mile before talking.

Mr Diggle, can you please tell the court, why you felt it necessary to contact me at Hogwarts recently,” Dumbledore asked plainly.

Right sir, well as you know, I live in Kent now, and I read all those stories years ago in the Daily Prophet with the downfall of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. As well as that fellow which you just mentioned being dead. And like many I believed it for a long time too, thinking it was a terrible way to go.”

Which fellow do you mean?” Crouch asked the witness.

Pettigrew. I don’t remember his first name,” he added sheepishly, playing with the brim of his hat to hide his embarrassment. “And all this time, here was everybody thinking he was already dead.”

Are you saying that you have seen someone resembling Mr Pettigrew,” Barty asked, thinking it was the only logical explanation.

Not a look-a-like, it was him I saw. A little older now and balding on top and a bit more weight around the middle, but it was definitely him. I don’t do good with names you see, but I remember faces, even after years. Friends think I am barking mad sometimes.”

You saw Peter Pettigrew?” Fudge said in outright disbelief. There was no way what his man was saying could be true.

I used to see them quite regular in London, when they were at school you see. Sometimes just that one there,” he pointed to Sirius, “And the other good-looking one with glasses.” They used to come to London and sky-lark about, getting into mischief. Then there were other times though that there was four of them. Those two and two others, the long skinny one who was just sitting here a few moments ago and the much shorter one, Peter Pettigrew.”

That thin one might have gone a bit greyer on top now, and I haven’t seen that one again before today, and the one always wearing glasses, I haven’t seen him for a long time now. But Pettigrew I have seen twice, just in the last couple of months.”

The testimony from Diggle could scarcely be believed by anyone sitting in the courtroom. Remus had made a point to move to a closer seat, looking over at Sirius, who looked as though someone had just slapped him viciously across the face. Peter alive ;- neither of them wanted to believe it either.

Remus did recall times when they had all travelled to London. Just as Diggle mentioned, sometimes it had been just Sirius and James because a full-moon had been approaching or had just past, and Remus was too exhausted for the journey.

James usually persuaded Sirius to come with him outside of the wizarding world where they could just be themselves, few rules, parents, professors or homework. Even once or twice after they graduated, there had been occasions where they would reminisce and share a rare chance at freedom, trying to quell the fear they had been experiencing with war on their very doorsteps.

Diggle could see the scepticism and tension thickly blanketing the room and decided to speak up for himself, “So that is when I decided to contact Dumbledore at that Hogwarts school. I knew he would know who the boys were, especially since I couldn’t remember all their names. I keep to myself most days now and don’t meet a lot of other wizards, if you know what I mean.”

Crouch and Fudge were still conferring with each other, clearly having quite the heated discussion.

Crouch stood up, thinking how to word a question to the most preposterous idea he had just heard, “When you say you saw Mr Pettigrew in London, what was he doing?”

Well that is the strange part about it, isn’t it,” the pace of his speech making it difficult. “He wasn’t in the best parts of London. I am not sure if he fell on hard times or such, it looked like he had been living rough for a bit. But I did see him go into a few stores, a package or two tucked under his arm when he left.”

Did you manage to trail him for any length of time?” Crouch enquired.

No, but once I did try to. I started following him down the street thinking he might be a bit lost. I know I get like that myself in London sometimes. But by the time I walked around the corner, he had disappeared. Not sure if he knew a back route to where he was going, or if he ducked into one of the other stores, but I didn’t see him after that.”

Crouch was struggling to regather his own composure and any kind of shred or sense of normalcy after such unfathomable testimony was just exposed to everybody. Unsubstantiated no doubt, Peter Pettigrew was dead. But the stunned reactions from everybody in the courtroom in one form or another was enough for a very uneasy feeling to grow.

After a gap of time had elapsed, a subtle throat-clearing sound from Madam Bones brought Barty back out of his own thoughts, “I have no further questions for this witness,” he said discouragingly.

Thank you for your time today, Mr Diggle, you may step down and leave this courtroom, using the same path you arrived by,” Amelia said, “Mr Bigmore, you will see to it that he returns safely back to the visitor’s entrance.”

Yes, Madam Bones,” Eugene replied, waiting for the wizard to reach his position in the gallery, and proceeding to lead him out.


Not intending to give Barty or Fudge any chance to relax, Dumbledore started speaking once more, “My next witness, Madam Bones, is Tom,” turning to gesture at an elderly gentleman in the gallery.

With a extra nod of encouragement, the heavy set man stood in front of the chair. Despite his bulky size, the balding man appeared much more out of place in this setting than the previous witness. His gaze kept flitting about between Dumbledore and the two Ministry officials, as though he was very unsure of why he was there in the first place.

Would you remain standing for a moment and give your full name please,” Amelia requested a third time.

Tom,” was the soft spoken reply, barely audible.

Could the witness please speak up a little and repeat his full name to the court?” Crouch requested.

My name is Tom,” the elderly gent offered a second time, though barely louder than the first time. He gave a pleading look towards Dumbledore.

The witness is a muggle known as Tom, Madam Bones, and I am not aware of any witch or wizard who has ever come to know his full name.

Fudge gave a raised eyebrow and unappreciative scoff that Albus had dared bring such a person into the wizarding world.

Surely he must have a second name, Dumbledore,” Amelia questioned, surprised herself that he was introduced as a muggle, but not holding any preconceived ideas about such people.

Do you have a surname, Tom?”

Not that I rightly recall, no,” the man said, looking towards the floor. “Nobody ever asked me before now, and I have been around too many years to remember you see,” he added looking up at Amelia.

Eunice, let the record show that the witness has no known surname,” Bones instructed the court scribe, but muttering under her breath with irritability that she had never known anyone to go by just one name. “You may take your seated, Tom.”

Perhaps it might be better for Tom to identify what he does for a living,” Dumbledore suggesting, knowing it was of crucial importance.

What sort of nonsense is that frivolous piece of information?” Crouch challenged.

Please answer the question, Tom, in your own words,” Dumbledore asked politely, ignoring any glares he was currently receiving from the Ministry.

I am the inn-keep of the pub that leads to your world,” Tom answered somewhat cryptically. “The Leaky Cauldron” he named, “Located on Charing Cross Road, London,” breathing a sigh on relief that everybody in the room showed some degree of recognition and all had at least heard of the place.

Dumbledore repeated the same question that he had previously asked, “Tom, can you also please tell the court, why you felt it necessary to contact me at recently.”

Just like you heard, Dedalus there told you before, I saw Pettigrew too. Diggle came along to me before he came to see you, asking if I had seen him in my establishment,” continued as though talking to Dumbledore personally.

You also claim to have seen Peter Pettigrew alive?” Fudge shouted out of turn again. It was beginning to appear like some convoluted conspiracy that Black had somehow elaborately cooked up. And Dumbledore was helping him orchestrate it by going along with every concocted line of it.

The inn-keep jumped a little at the hostility directed towards him, but answered, trying to raise his voice and appear calm, “Over the years, I have seen him on quite a few occasions.”

On quite a few occasions,” Crouch parroted back with distrust. “This I am most eager to hear, please continue,” he added with a sarcastic tone.

Mr Crouch,” Madam Bones scolded, demonstrating her patience was running thin with the way he and the Minister were conducting themselves.

Well your lot go through my place on a regular basis to reach Diagon Alley don’t they,” Tom began explaining. “When he was just a lad, I used to see him coming through to get his school things. I don’t recall seeing any folks with him back then. But when he was a few years older, I remember seeing him with other boys.”

Can you name those other boys, Tom?” Dumbledore asked.

No, I cannot,” the man said knowing it was the truth. “Sometimes I do remember people, and names, but that was too long ago.”

What about claiming to seeing him recently?” Dumbledore prodded.

Oh yeah, I remember those times real well. The first time I couldn’t be too sure you see, as he was wearing a dark cloak, and had the hood covering most of his face. The next time, he dropped something on the floor, and the hood of the cloak fell away as he bent down too quickly and then stood up again. I only got to see him briefly, but I swear it was definitely him.”

I have no further questions from this witness, Madam Bones,” Dumbledore declared, retaking his seat, and satisfied that he had created enough doubt about Peter Pettigrew.

But I most certainly do,” Crouch stated a-matter-of-factly, standing up and rebuttoning his jacket as he scanned notes he had written on pieces of parchment.

Let me start by asking something a little simpler for a muggle like yourself to understand,” Crouch began, though there was no mistaking the underlying condescending tone. “How large is this building you refer to as a ‘pub’?

Not big at all, quite small some folk would say. Other regular people like me that are not wizards don’t seem to see it.”

Crouch nodded in acknowledgement, not giving away that he had certainly been to the ‘Leaky Cauldron’ on more than one occasion during his lifetime.

How many rooms does it contain?”

There is an upstairs and downstairs. The bar and tables are downstairs where I work. Sometimes I have a helper or two to wash the dishes and a maid to serve the patrons. Head up the handsome wooden staircase and that will lead you up to the guest rooms. More than five rooms to choose from. All containing comfortable beds, and a couple that have a fireplace.”

More than five?” Crouch queried, “You mean you don’t know the exact number of rooms you have?” This revelation was playing into his strategy very nicely if you please.

Tom looked down at the floor again, not sure what to say in admittance to his inability to count. He was certain that at least one of the rooms moved on a regular basis, although he had never been able to pinpoint exactly which one. There was that had a mirror on the inside with the ‘wheezy’ voice. Could be that one. And sometimes the brass numbers on the doors changed in order all by themselves, he had definitely seen this happening himself. But he was not about to public air any of these notions or strange occurrences.

Crouch decided to ignore the unanswered question, the next one should help to clarify just how addled the man was, even for a muggle.

How would you describe the inside of the bar-room downstairs?”

Very welcoming to all,” Tom said with conviction. He had few complaints about his service or the food. Misunderstandings were quite uncommon.

That is not entirely what I meant,” Crouch resumed, “Business is good on a regular basis? Plenty of people inside enjoying your hospitabilty?”

Yes, very good. Some days it can get quite over-crowded in there, and sometimes folk might have to wait a few minutes for a table if they want to share a meal with friends,” Tom gave with pride.

At what time of the day do you say you saw the person resembling, Peter Pettigrew?”

Late evening,” Tom replied.

At night, in a tiny, two-story building, which could be described at best as ‘dark and shabby’, you claim to have spotted a man who you claim to have seen on no more than a handful of occasions,” Crouch exaggerated.

A usually reserved man, Tom did take offence at the Ministry official’s insult at this house-keeping skills and was about to stand up from the chair and defend his business, but lowered himself back down with a gesture from Dumbledore.

In such a poorly lit room, did you manage to see what is was that he dropped on the floor?” Crouch asked, continuing his barrage.

At that time of night, there wasn’t so many folk about ordering drinks. I didn’t get a good look at it, but it sounded like something made of metal when it hit the wooden floor, that is all I can honestly say.”

Not a resounding or startling piece of deduction is it? And hardly helps give any real identification to the man you say you saw.”

Plain enough for me,” Tom stated without hesitation.

Do you have any further questions that you wish to badger this witness with, Mr Crouch?” Madam Bones asked, curbing her dismay at the ill-manners the Ministry was prepared to demonstrate.

No, Madam Bones, I do not.”

Thank you for your time today, Tom, you may step down and leave this courtroom, using the same path that Mr Diggle did earlier,” Amelia re-iterated, “Mr Bigmore, you will again see to it that the witness returns safely back to the visitor’s entrance. I am sure he would prefer being back at his business, serving friendly customers.”

Yes, Madam Bones,” Eugene replied once more, this time allowing a little more time for the elderly muggle to reach his position, and proceeding to lead him out to the staircase.


Madam Bones, I wish to call my final witness, Sirius Black, the applicant and prisoner himself,” Dumbledore declared.

I protest,” came from Crouch, and

I object,” from Fudge simultaneously as they both rose at the same time and carelessly allowed their emotions to show just a little too much.

Object and protest to what, Minister and Mr Crouch?” Bones demanded sternly. “Dumbledore has the right to call any witness he sees fit, within reason, and upon my approval, not yours gentlemen.”

Be that as it may, Madam Bones, Dumbledore has just presented three witnesses to this court that together, who collectively hold very little credible weight in my experienced opinion.”

Explain!” came the one worded direction as Amelia forced herself to remain calm and unbiased standpoint.

The first witness, Remus Lupin, whose very nature, according to this Ministry, is that of a recognised aggressive and dark creature. Who is unable to control the changes to his body and mind that occur frequently. And is a known long time friend and associate of the prisoner. His testimony is not only a fractured conflict of interest, but also a very flimsy alibi provided for his whereabouts at the time the events took place.”

The second witness, at least of of the wizarding community, admitted openly to not being able to remember names and prone to becoming lost in the very city he lives in, but apparently is able to match recent faces to those he could recall from years ago.”

The third, a muggle, not able to remember having a last name, nor how many rooms he has for rent. But by some unknown miracle, also able to identify people he has only seen inside his dimly lit, and over-crowded pub at night.”

So with those points fresh in mind, I protest against someone like Sirius Black, who comes from a known dark family, being able to give testimony against a persons and group of people who cannot speak for themselves because of his deeds.”

How are we going to ensure that he will be telling the truth?” Fudge questioned incredulity, tacking and voicing his own objection onto the tail end.

Mr Black is under the same onerous conditions as you are, Minister, and anybody else giving evidence in this courtroom today,” Madam Bones responded. “Probably even more so when chained in his seat.” She had wanted to suggest that the same could be done to Fudge but refrained from commenting further.

That is not good enough in my eyes either, Madam Bones,” Crouch broached, but stopped short when he saw Amelia adjusting her robes and trying to appear more formidable.

Before the woman could give Barty the tongue lashing she thought he so richly deserved for demonstrating such disrespect to her position, Dumbledore offered a simple suggestion.

Madam Bones, three drops of Veritaserum administered to Mr Black correctly should quash any need to doubt the answers he may provide.”

Crouch glanced over at Dumbledore, assessing and looking for any reason to doubt him.

Fudge had that ‘stuffed fat canary’ look about himself again, spluttering as though still trying to find a way to discredit anything Black had to say before he even opened his mouth.

The use of this potion is managed by very strict guidelines according to the Ministry,” Crouch retorted.

So there should be no problem with it being administered with the Minister’s approval,” Dumbledore reciprocated.

And Mr Black is prepared to undergo this drastic measure?” Bones interjected. She had never seen it used before, but knew why the strict controls were in place. Use on those under the age of seventeen was strictly forbidden, but the prisoner was well past that age of being considered a full consenting adult.

He is, having discussed and explained it with him earlier today,” Dumbledore assured her.

Fudge scowled in Dumbledore’s direction at this statement, somehow the older wizard was always one step ahead, predicting what he thought the Ministry would do. Before Crouch’s arrival in the courtroom, he now knew what the topic of private conversation had been with Black

In the gallery, Remus was surprised Sirius had agreed to swallow and submit to such a vile and powerful truth serum. He knew with his condition, that the poison used to derive the bitter potion would kill him, rather than force him to speak the truth.

The court awaits your approval, then Minister,” Bones casually motioned, knowing that Fudge’s hands were tied and he had no other option.

Crouch too was aware that his colleague had no choice, sitting down again whilst Fudge spoke, providing written authority to his junior wizard, Eugene Bigmore, and giving instructions on how to procure the required vial of potion.


Twenty minutes later, having doubled his efforts, Eugene returned with the small vial, holding it out at arm’s length, not wanting to place it carelessly in his pocket, or worse have it fall out of his hand and break on the floor, spilling its contents.

Ordinarily, I would have a potions master administer this, Madam Bones, but seeing as how that would delay proceedings even further today, might I be permitted to give it to Mr Black? I have been correctly trained how to do so.”

You may, Mr Dumbledore,” Amelia agreed, watching with intent as best she could from her elevated seat.

It was quite an amusing sight to see, Barty Crouch and Cornelius Fudge both clamouring to get behind Dumbledore, but being mindful of just who the prisoner was, and not wanting to get too close.

I regret that I cannot supply you with any water or other fluids at this time, Sirius,” Dumbledore informed Black, as he removed the stopper from the vial. “I have been told by others that it is definitely not the most palatable potion ever devised,” he added.

Sirius obediently opened his mouth, allowing the two Ministry official’s to see the three precious drops fall onto the tip of his tongue.

The reaction to the overwhelming and unavoidable after-taste, was unavoidable and almost immediate as he turned away and screwed up his face with revulsion.

Fudge was the first to speak, “It looked like the water from that jug and had no smell to it. How will we know when it is working?”

The effects should be almost instantaneous to anyone who consumes it. The liquid is both colourless and odourless,” Crouch relayed, his voice laced with tediousness, having seen it used successfully before. No sign of remorse on his face at requesting such a harsh method of interrogation.

Black, still shackled, brought his hands up to his face swiftly, the chains clinking noisily, each individual link straining from the exertion. The action had been so sudden and frantic that it had startled both Crouch and Fudge enough to take two defensive steps backwards.

A predatory smile reached his lips, as he slowly scratched at the side of his face with his fingers and then lowered them again.

His eyes should be bright and clear,” Dumbledore explained, though years of insomnia has caused dark circles to settle under Black’s eyes. “Ask him a simple question if you wish to test it out.”

What is your full name?” Fudge questioned.

Sirius Orion Black,” came the hoarse reply through cracked lips, his teeth stained.

No no, that is too simple,” Crouch insisted. “Something he could normally lie about.”

Please give your date of birth,” Dumbledore suggested.

Crouch was about to object once more to such a mundane question, but Black answered first.

3rd November,” Sirius replied quickly and concisely.

And the year if you please? Sirius Black has his school records recorded with the year 1960, to match the year of most of his friends.”

Giving Dumbledore a scathing look for revealing this piece of information about him, “1959.”

By my calculations, actually making him older than all of those friends except Peter Pettigrew,” Dumbledore announced too cheerfully for quite a few in the room.

A brief bubble of laughter escape from Lupin, at a memory that just randomly presented itself from one of the happiest times he had ever known in his life. ‘The baby of the group’ he said out loud for only himself, but it had been loud enough for others to hear. Their small band of friends had heard Sirius quote that title many times during their schooling years. He still wasn’t certain now that Lily had ever discovered or found out his correct year of birth.

Black turned his head and gave a small grin and nod of his head towards Remus.

Can we please get on with this instead of rehashing random facts about the prisoner,” Crouch uttered impatiently, “I believe that the potion is working correctly, but not because Dumbledore chooses to drag up useless piece of trivia,” he added, sitting back down and picking up his quill, preparing to listen to Black’s excuses.

Sirius Black, I know this will be very painful to recount, but could you please inform all of us here today, who was the secret-keeper for Lily and James Potter,” Dumbledore asked, noting the guilt that immediately spread across Black’s face.

For a moment, Sirius closed his eyes, opening them as before answering. The lack of moisture in his throat making the words sound strained, and clipped, almost catching in his vocal cords, “At first it was me, that is what everybody believed.”

Two days before that night,” Black began to explain, looking directly over at Lupin, keeping his attention focused, and the tears at losing someone he called ‘brother’ refusing to show. “James came to me on his own, scared for his family and wanting to protect them at any cost.”

It wasn’t done to hurt you, Remus, please believe that James was just trying to do his best when his family was the most at risk. He never wanted to deliberately leave you out of the small circle we had created, but it was imperative that only a few were aware of the switch. Only James, Lily, and I knew,” Sirius implored, hoping that his friend would understand. Maybe not forgive, but at least accept the truth.

What did you and James Potter do without Remus Lupin’s knowledge?” Dumbledore questioned.

“Changed the secret-keeper from myself to Peter,” Black answered, and in one short sentence, revealed a secret that had been his burden alone for the past ten years and had cost him more than he could ever have imagined. If he could have moved better without the chains and shackles, he would be on his knees at this point.

Looking over at Crouch and Fudge, Dumbledore could see that this shocking news was hitting home for them as well for the very first time.

“Why was it changed to Peter Pettigrew?” the Headmaster forced to continue, knowing that this dreadful day was becoming way too long for everyone involved.

“Why?” Black gave a hollow, self-depreciating laugh.

Dumbledore nodded sadly, at he could see how much damage was being inflicted upon someone who had once been so full of life and vitality.

Black decided since he was being forced to tell the truth, then he owed Remus a more complete version.

“There had been others, close to Lily and James who offered to be secret-keeper, and whilst they were considered at the time, I convinced James to use someone that very few people who suspect.” Dumbledore knew he had been one of those ‘other’ people.

“When we were at school, Peter was considered the weakest link of Gryffindor House, our graduating class, and even our select group of friends. He was always asking you, Remus, for extra help with homework, and asking James how to answer transfiguration questions that might be on exams. I was always helping him in a futile attempt to try and improve his duelling skills.”

“There was a time when many doubted he would ever be able to cast anything more than basic spells or mediocre magic. Back when professors and classmates thought he was harmless, and just needed a little encouragement. He was our friend. Lily even used to call him ‘little Peter’ and cook extra food for him when he came visiting.”

“We were all so wrong, Remus, so very wrong,” Black admonished, his voice thick with regret. The betrayal ran so deep and wide it had left wounds that may never fully heal, and scars that were a constant reminder of his own selfish overconfidence and pride.

“I was the one to blame! Foolishly trusting Wormtail and suggesting to James who the new secret keeper should be. Here I was thinking that I could take on the whole world. When the threat was right along side us the whole time.”

Without the prior consent of Madam Bones, Dumbledore ignoring protocol, placed a supportive and apologetic hand on the thin shoulder of Black, feeling the shudders and tremors that wracked his body.

“That concludes any questions I have at the moment, Madam,” Dumbledore mumbled quietly, taking in what he had heard himself and sitting heavily back down in his seat.

“Madam, I implore the court to show a little mercy and compassion, and not to have Mr Black recall the events of that night when he found Lily and James Potter. The outcome would prove very little and only cause more pain and anguish,” Dumbledore pleaded on behalf Sirius’ behalf.

“Let us hear what Mr Crouch has to ask of Mr Black first, before I make a final decision,” Amelia compromised. “If such details are not necessary for these proceedings to continue, then I will make a further ruling at that time.”

Crouch, who had appeared quite subdued during Black’s emotional answers, wasn’t about to let up on the man just because everybody else in the room was feeling sorry for him. The court scribe Eunice looked like she had been secretly wiping away tears. The fact that the man was under the effects of the truth potion was not lost on him though and what it could mean for the outcome determined by Madam Bones.

“On the night Lily and James Potter were killed, you went after Peter Pettigrew didn’t you?” he grilled sharply.

Black looked up at the man, the level of hatred and loathing towards him clear to see, “Yes I did.”

“After leaving Godric Hollow and the Potter house, you intended to confront him didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And kill him?”

“If I had gotten my hands on him that night, yes,” Black admitted with little remorse.

“And did you find him?” Crouch prompted.

“Yes, I found him, and was about to hex him into oblivion.”

Silently, Sirius was surprised that the Ministry official had neglected to ask about what mode of transport he had used that night to leave to chase after Peter. But Crouch hadn’t asked yet, and he wasn’t about to offer any further information about his motorcycle. He knew who he had seen with it at the time, but nothing since that night.

“And why didn’t you?”

Black looked away angrily at the question, but then turned to face Barty once more as he spoke, “Because the little ‘bastard’ had picked up a few tricks from who knows where, and was somehow able to creep up behind me and stun me.”

Amelia Bones frowned at the language released, but because he was under the influence of the truth serum, erred on the side of caution, and chose not to reprimand Black.

“You were telling the court only a short time ago, at how inept he was at even the simplest of spells,” Crouch challenged. “And that you doubted someone like him would even be able to cast a much stronger spell. At least one that would be responsible for the deaths of twelve people.”

“All I can tell you is that there were other people in the street that night. Muggles, so I had to be careful and kept my wand in the back pocket of my jeans, hidden by the back of my long coat,” Black answered matter-of-factly. “I cannot give you an explanation as to how he outwitted and over-powered me.”

“Did you use Peter Pettigrew’s wand that night?”

“No I did not! His wand always felt too thin and brittle to me. Chestnut wood and Dragon Heartstring core, quite short from what I remember.”

“And what happened after that?”

“The next thing I remember, is waking up behind a trash bin, down a deserted side street, with a very large headache, and missing a few hours.”

“You didn’t see Peter Pettigrew?”

“No, he was nowhere to be found when I woke up. My wand laying beside me a few feet away, and out of plain sight.”

“And for curiosity sake,” Crouch trifled, “Why didn’t you ever tell anybody about these details before today?”

“Because you never would have believed me!” he accused Barty, knowing the man had done nothing in all these years to hear his version of events.

“Was Mr Pettigrew’s wand recovered at any time, Mr Crouch?” Madam Bones enquired.

“No, Madam, it was never found, along with the rest of his body. It must have been destroyed in the explosion.”

“I have no further questions to ask of the prisoner,” Crouch spoke with finality, sitting back down beside Fudge.


“Do you have any any further witnesses, Mr Dumbledore?” Amelia enquired.

“No, Madam Bones, but with Mr Black still under the effects of the Veritaserum, I would ask him to identify that the wand still in Mr Crouch’s possession, on the desk in front of him, is indeed his own.”

Crouch stood and used his full height to object strongly, “I refuse to allow any prisoner to have access to a wand of any kind, Madam Bones.”

“For identification purposes only I assure the court,” Dumbledore submitted.

“The Aurors seated in the back may resume their previous positions,” Madam Bones instructed, “Once they have done so, I have no objection to Mr Black being ‘shown’ the wand only. He is not to have it in his hand.”

Fudge signalled the three Aurors to stand behind and on either side of the prisoner. Crouch walked around to the front of the desk and picked up the wand that had been produced earlier.

Crouch positioned himself in front of the prisoner, holding out the long wooden wand, but close enough so that he could determine the detail. Black in colour and quite thick in circumference, signifying that it could be wheeled with immense power by the right wizard or witch.

For a moment, the urge and desire to reach out and grasp it was very real. “It is my wand.” Sirius agreed.

“Let the record show the prisoner identifying the wand as he own property,” Amelia directed the court scribe. “Please pass it into my custody, Mr Crouch.”

Without being able to think of a valid reason, reluctantly, Barty did just that, passing it to Amelia Bones. She looked at it briefly, ready to set it aside beside the growing mound of parchment notes.

“Please, Madam Bones, I believe a strong case that has been conducted for Mr Black today, will be heightened even further if you will allow a very old but reliable charm to be used on that wand.”

“And what charm would that be, Mr Dumbledore?” Amelia asked before Crouch could do so himself.

Prior Incantato” Dumbledore said plainly, looking over to see if there was any reaction on Barty’s face.

“What will such an incantation do?” Fudge asked, not wanting to admit his lack of knowledge. He had heard it before, but was not aware of the full implication.

“It will force the target wand to demonstrate the last spell that was cast from it, Mr Fudge,” Bones stated, wanting to show her own comprehension. “It is a spell born from ancient magic, Minister. The results will speak for themselves, whatever they may be. Please indicate your consent to such a spell being cast.”

“Well that is settled then, it clearly should show what Black used to cause that explosion, and we can be done with this whole mess,” Fudge blurted out.

The brief flicker of confidence fell when he looked over at Barty and saw that he too fully understood.

“Will one of your Auror’s please step forward please, Mr Crouch,” Amelia requesting, wanting a experienced third-party to carry out the task.

Remus had tried to move forward in his seat to get a better view of what was about to happen. His own stomach was all tied up in knots, he could imagine how his friend was feeling right at this moment. This action by Dumbledore could either assist Sirius or sink any chance, in his quest for the truth to be known.

Sirius was trying to think back at what the last spell would be that he cast all those years ago. He was drawing a blank.

Almost everyone in the courtroom was holding their breath, as Crouch gestured for the tall Auror directly between him and Sirius Black to step forward towards Amelia Bones, and retrieve the wand to perform the spell.

Prior Incantato”the Auror said clearly and loudly for all to hear.

The wand in his hand started to move about, rising up from the palm of his hand and turning in a complete circle until the spell was complete.

‘Stupefy’ reverberated from the wand. The stunning spell.

Silence echoed throughout the courtroom. Such a simple spell. Shock and surprise was upon every face.

Fudge was the first to splutter any kind of response, “That can’t be true. The spell must have been done wrong.”

“The incantation was correct,” Amelia said sternly, but the ramifications of what it exactly all meant, was hanging heavily in the air.


“If it may be permitted that we be able offer a last comment before you,” Dumbledore said in conclusion, knowing that the spell had done more for Sirius than even he could have anticipated.

“You will have your opportunity to respond afterwards, Mr Crouch,” Madam Bones affirmed. “Following your closing statement, I will leave this courtroom to consider what has been presented by both parties and make a ruling pertaining to the application.”

“I don’t think there is much more that I can add, even after Dumbledore has spoken, Madam Bones,” Barty admitted. “However, can only assume that for someone who has been mere acting as “advisor” during these proceeding, his own personal interest in this whole matter is highly circumspect.”

Crouch resumed his seat, bringing his hand to his mouth and hiding his thoughts behind a calm, but rigid expression.

What once used to be a simple closed case of a mass murderer and madman being caught and put behind bars where he belonged in a place he could never possibly escape from, was quickly turning into a debacle. And his name was caught up in it all. Just like before, the tide of favour was beginning to turn against him.

“Madam Bones, despite the arguments from Mr Crouch and Minister Fudge about the character of my witnesses today, I think it is obvious to all, that some startling information has been put to this court. Mr Black was arrested, sentenced to a place of incarceration, that most of us dare not think about,” Dumbledore proclaimed.

“No less than two people have given evidence that they have seen Peter Pettigrew alive. That fact on its own is shocking enough. He was believed to be dead all this time. They are both respectable people, and would not benefit from any false testimony. Both have had connections with the wizarding community over an extended length of time, even Tom from the Leaky Cauldron.”

“Mr Lupin, who has been a life long friend of Mr Black, and he himself has faced scrutiny about his possible involvement. He is as shocked as anyone else here today, myself included, to learn that Pettigrew may still be alive.”

“A lengthy prison sentence such as the one Mr Black has been forced to serve and endure without a trial, was unwarranted, is unjustifiable and undeserved.”

“By any standard of fairness and decency that can be applied, if Sirius Black was allowed back then, to have his version of events heard. To have to undergo the miserable effects of Veritaserum. And have a spell cast on his wand, like has just been done earlier. Then we may very well have not needed to be here today, ten years later.”

Dumbledore sat down at his desk, his glasses falling forward to the end of his nose as he peered over at the two Ministerial officials, giving a polite smile.

“I thank you all for your time today, I will now take the notes I have made during the proceedings, and make an informed decision. I cannot give you an accurate time frame on how long that might take, but I ask that you be patient and the room remain civil during my deliberations,” Madam Bones concluded.

“Mr Dumbledore, you may provide Mr Black with more water during my absence,” Amelia granted as she rose, with Eunice Parks standing gathering her transcripts, ready to follow her out of the courtroom.

“The Aurors may once again take a position towards the back of the gallery,” she directed as she left the room.

Remus Lupin moved from his position in the gallery to speak quietly with Dumbledore. His presence was no longer a secret.

“You can begin repacking up all of this paperwork, Eugene,” Fudge called out to his junior assistant, fidgeting and scarcely able to sit still.

There wasn’t anything that they could do except to wait for Amelia Bones to return and give judgment.

Sirius Black remained silent, having refused any further water from the enchanted pitcher and cup with a shake of his head. He abhorred that the strength of his character was being based on people who claimed to have known him years before, but were virtual strangers to him. And the one person, Remus, who was known as one of his closest friends, had drawn suspicion to himself, been ridiculed and downright cast as nothing but a foul, dark creature.

What he had heard today had shocked him to the very core, and he didn’t know quite what to do with the mix of emotions that were swirling around inside him. Part of him wanted to scream from the top of his lungs, shout until he lost his voice at those who had allowed this all to happen to him. But the other half of him, wanted to lay down on the floor, crawl into a ball of abject pain and misery from all that he had suffered and lost.


More than two and a quarter hours later, Amelia Bones made a re-appearance, followed by her court scribe, taking her seat once more and looking out over the courtroom at those still gathered within its walls. The expression she wore on her face was one of professionalism and dutifulness. But it masked just how unsettled and dissatisifed she was feeling on the inside.

It was her original intend to give her determination first, but upon sitting down and glancing down at the prisoner still shackled in his chair, she changed her mind.

“Aurors, you may step forward please, and remove all shackles and restraints from Mr Black immediately,” she proclaimed.

Fudge looked ready to jump up and object again, but one swift stern look from Amelia was all it took for him to remain sitting at the desk. Crouch had responded by shielding his face with his hands, as though trying to avoid the impending onslaught that he could detect beginning to boil and overflow. Before she even gave her reasons why, he knew that his efforts to keep Sirius Black behind bars had been completely thwarted.

Remus couldn’t dare to hope what he had just heard Amelia Bones say in open court. He found himself wringing his hands tightly just to prevent himself from showing a completely inappropriate ‘whoop of joy’. He couldn’t even imagine how Sirius was feeling right at this moment.

The Aurors did as they were asked, approaching Sirius, pausing with hesitation for moment, and unsure if he would react and lash out at those who had kept him chained.

In a surprising act of acquiescence, Black held out his hands, palm sides up, waiting for one of the Aurors to produce their wand and complete the spell that would allow them to unlock. A stronger spell was needed for the shackles around his ankles, but they too soon released their grip.

There was a distinct amount of pain that came as blood circulation recommenced from weak muscles. Sirius flexed his fingers and raised one foot at a time, trying to help the process. The skin around his wrists clearly marred by red welts and he could feel deeper ones etched around his ankles.

“You may join Mr Dumbledore at his desk,” Madam Bones informed him, noting the shadows that still plagued his features.

Black turned towards Dumbledore and saw the wizard gesturing at a second chair that had been conjured for his used. The first step, unsteady, shaky and his gait measured, even for such a short distance. Once he did reach the desk, he clung to the armrest, sinking onto the unforgiving wooden seat.

He brushed the long tendrils of shoulder length hair away from his eyes, looking up towards Amelia and gave one word filled with gratitude, “Thank you.”

Madam Bones now focused on the important task at hand and she wasn’t about to allow any further delay or interruption.

“When I first came into this courtroom this morning, there was no way I could be prepared for what I have heard, seen and had demonstrated in front of me. In all my years of being appointed to the Wizengamot, I have never had to determine such a matter. I am dismayed, shocked and appalled at what has witnessed.”

“Mr Fudge, I can see on your faces, the displeasure that you feel towards my letting the prisoner be released before I have given my reasons. Mr Crouch I see the resignation. Both of you have recounted colourful portrayals of his involvement without any real substance or proof.

“Somewhere, the real possibility exists that Peter Pettigrew may be alive. He must be found and held accountable for his actions against Mr Black and ultimately the Potter family. All attempts to find him must be doubled and the wider wizarding population forewarned of his treacherous character the real danger that he poses until apprehended.”

“Mr Crouch, your actions are inexcusable. They were back when Mr Black was first accused, and they have been up until this point, where you have not only ignored basic rights of someone accused of a crime. But it would seem that you have deliberately turned a blind eye to procedures and practices this Ministry has prided itself on for a personal vendetta that you wanted to see through to fruition, no matter the damage.”

“A lie doesn’t become the truth, just because it is accepted by a majority. Right doesn’t become wrong, and good doesn’t become evil, based on a distortion of the truth, or by the deceit of a few.”

Madam Bones words were damning, scathing and unapologetic.

“Mr Black, any sentence you received due to these prejudices and grossly negligent actions are hereby set aside forthwith.”

“Do you require the services of a healer?” she asked in a softer tone of voice, watching him rubbing at his wrists, and then pulling down the cuffs on the end of his sleeves. Covering them to hide what he was doing so, when Dumbledore took a little too much interest.

Nobody had bothered for the past ten years. Sirius wasn’t ready for people to pity him or feel sorry for him.

A hoarse reply and slight nod of his head in acknowledgement that she had taken the time to ask. “No, thank you.”

“I will not go into the details of what compensation might be forthcoming from the Ministry or any other remuneration here this afternoon. That will be discussed in my office at a time of my choosing. Within a short space of time I assure you. You have been kept waiting for far too long. Nothing that I do here today, or at any other time can ever make up for the hardship after a decade. you have been forced to endure.”

“I hope to never be in the position or have to determine such a matter again during my appointment. What I will ensure is that I will be diligent in my efforts to endeavour to work towards putting safe measures into place that will prevent anything like this from happening. Starting with my own Department, and working with as many others in this building as necessary.”

“New procedures will be recommended to the wizarding community. And for those accused until proven guilty, there will be protections put into place before their freedom is sacrificed because of personal, narrow-minded actions and intolerant views.”

Amelia Bones gathered the pages of parchment that she had prepared, and looked directly at Sirius Black as she gave a closing statement.

“What is being done here today is of little comfort after what you have been force to endure and I can only wish that this all could have happened much sooner. Your liberty should not have been taken away so quickly without the relevant evidence. Today, I am giving you a second chance.”

Sirius wished he could have spoken a few words of gratitude, or shown his appreciation in some other method. Right at this moment, there was no feeling, only numbness and an emptiness that he couldn’t explain.

Dumbledore rose from his seat, and gave a brief bow of thanks. Remus was now standing at the end of the gallery and not wanting to intrude into the centre of the room, but still trying to take everything in.

Crouch and Fudge stood, flabbergasted at what had occurred in the past several hours. Sirius Black had been released from prison. And Peter Pettigrew was assumed to be alive.


“Mr Bigmore,” Amelia called out to the junior wizard, “Is there a way to provide a clean and more suitable set of clothes to Mr Black once he leaves this courtroom?”

Eugene thought for a moment, almost ready to give a negative shake of his head, but then he remembered something. “Madam Bones, there is a few sets of clothes available from the wizard who served the Minister, Mr Fudge before me. I am not certain of their sizing, but I found a bag at the bottom of a disused cabinet a few weeks into my employment. I haven’t had a chance to find an alternative use until now.”

“Splendid,” Madam Bones said with a smile. “I would like for you to locate this bag, and direct Mr Black to a bathroom together with anything else he may want or need.”

Up until this point, Sirius hadn’t even considered things like clean clothes and a chance to wash. He was drawn out of his own thoughts by Amelia speaking to him again. She could see the impact that his newly found freedom was having.

“Madam Bones, there are matters that I would like to discuss with you and Mr Black, in your office,” Dumbledore addressed, noting the confused look on Sirius face at what more there could possibly be to discuss. “These matters are most urgent, but also of a private nature. I do not wish to delay Mr Crouch or the Minister any further today.”

“Please attend my office on the second floor when you and Mr Black are ready to do so,” Amelia commented. And with that, waited for Eunice to gather together her transcripts and notes, before leaving the courtroom.

Fudge’s face turned an interesting colour. How dare the man stand there and declare that anything else was private about Sirius Black. He was the Minister of Magic after all.

Eugene found himself in an awkward and unenviable position, and receiving a scowl from the Minister as he walked towards the door with Barty Crouch. Listening to all the facts today, he couldn’t help but feel that his loyalty to Mr Fudge had been shaken from his foundations. And that maybe he wasn’t so infallible as people believed.

“What do you think that topic of conversation will be?” Crouch asked in frustration. With his reputation being drawn into serious question, he could be assured that Madam Bones would keep her word and insist on an investigation. He was going to have to work hard to regain any ground he had made.

“I have no idea. But I can tell you this,” he said with certainty, “Next time there is a matter involving me and Dumbledore in this courtroom, I will insist on a full Council of Magic with all the members of the Wizengamot court.”

Eugene Bigmore kept his distance for a moment, as the older wizard and Black remained at the table. He couldn’t hear any words being spoken between them, but they were communicating with body language and facial expressions

Sirius turned, looking at Remus, his long time friend. The silence between them deafening until neither could take it any longer. Both taking small unsteady steps towards each other. With one final desperate stride, they embraced each other fiercely.

Sirius let go and pulled back nervously from his friend, unsure of how others around him were going to react to him.

The former prisoner placed his own thin hand on Remus’s jacket, giving the smallest hint of a smile. Not daring to open his mouth at the tide of words that wanted to spill out. A large lump had formed in his throat, and he quickly swiped at the unshed tears.

We will talk later

Remus placed a hand on his trembling upper arm, looking at him with conviction, “Together we will fix this. I will always help you, no matter what.”


The journey back through the dimly lit stone corridor towards the stairway, felt longer for three of them, as they followed the junior assistant. He perceived the poor physical state of Mr Black and tried to slow his pace to match. Climbing the stairs proved more difficult, and soft grunts of discomfort could be made out at various intervals.

“Once you have changed clothes, Sirius, I will wait for you outside Amelia’s office,” Dumbledore informed them, “I want to stop by and talk briefly to Arthur Weasley.”

“We will meet you there,” Remus replied, keeping close to Sirius in case he stumbled, but knowing that he would not want anybody clinging to him and recognising his need for space. During past years, Sirius had developed and then openly displayed a strong sense of independence, and he could only hope to see that begin to emerge as time allowed it to do so.

The two of them watched Dumbledore head in the direction of the elevators. Talking to a number of other people whilst he waited.

“This way gentlemen,” Eugene urged nervously. As he guided them past the waiting elevators, he noted the questioning look from Remus.

“You don’t need to be afraid of us,” Remus said calmly, as the young wizard’s gaze kept switching between them.

Eugene tried his best to relax, thankful that the path he had chosen was not currently clogged with other people. Some parts of the building were busy and intimidating to anyone not used to the constant influx of wizards, witches and visitors.

“I know of some less crowded corridors in this building,” he explained, leading them through a closed door. “I am sure the last thing you are wanting at the moment Mr Black is an audience.”

Sirius opinion of the young assistant went up quite a lot at the consideration being given despite who his boss was.

“Right through this door, there is a private bathroom. It has everything you could need. Hot water, soap, clean towels. I will go and fetch that bag of clothes. Is there anything else I can bring back for you. Some food or refreshments perhaps?” he enquired, opening the door and standing back to allow them access.

Remus and Sirius were a little awe struck with the lavishness of the room that they could see from the door frame. The walls were constructed from slabs of intricately carved marble. The floor decorated with a contrasting but equally grand large tiles.

“There are several of these bathrooms throughout the building. Each has a different colour scheme or theme. They are usually reserved for special guests of the Ministry, or Mr Fudge himself,” Eugene disclosed.

“Thank you, for your kindness and understanding after such a difficult time,” Remus uttered politely. “Some water perhaps when we meet with Madam Bones. But don’t got the trouble of any food at this time.”

“I will be back as soon as I can,” Eugene promised and heading away from them towards his own office.

After the junior wizard was gone, the two friends peered into the bathroom. And then silently back at each other.

“Come on, Padfoot!” Remus encouraged gently. Ensuring the door was closed once they both entered.

Sirius paused at the use of his nickname. Nobody had called him that in a very long time. Such a simple act. He grinned and clapped Remus on the shoulder with genuine friendly affection.

It had been a long time. Too long for either of them. Remus willingly returned the gesture with relish.

Eugene Bigmore had returned shortly thereafter as promised, knocking on the door and handing the bag to Remus as he opened it. “Thank you.”

“I will wait outside until you are ready and escort you to Madam Bones office,” the young man stated.

Their footsteps echoed in the vastness of the large room. The soothing sound of running water came from a cascading waterfall on the right hand wall. In the centre of the room was slightly sunken with a seating area. Large leather and comfortable long settees were the furniture of choice.

On rows of shelving sat neatly stacked and folded towels, mostly white, but other shades mixed in. There were ceramic bowls with candles and sticks of incense spread throughout the room.

The opulence and richness radiated from every surface. The there were four large square pools at the back of the room. A constant plume of steam rising from the heated water. The ceiling was high, allowing an intoxicating and aromatic scent to infuse with the heated air, enticing anyone in side to relax.

Along the left hand side of the room was a row of large basins. The tapware adorning them made from brass and decorated with many different creatures and myths from the wizarding world.

Sirius slowly made his way over to the end basin. When you held your hands under the tap, the water flowed. Enchanted by a spell. He winced out loud as his knuckles stung from where the skin had worn away. Any other skin was cracked, discoloured and marred.

Remus approached, setting the bag aside on the bench. “I doubt even the Slytherin prefect bathroom is so richly decorated,” he jested.

Sirius tried to give a laugh at the comment, but it fell flat and sounded hollow. Like some kind of badly twisted dream, everything that had happened still felt too surreal.

Now that he was much closer to his friend, and close enough to be touch him, Remus couldn’t hide his sadness at the terrible toll confinement and neglect had inflicted. Taking one of the towels and dampening it in the warm water, and gently rubbing it over his friend’s torn hands. Cake dried blood smeared onto the fabric, revealing bruising and a number of shallow cuts which had gone untreated.

When he looked up at Sirius’ face, he saw his friend’s eyes were closed tightly. He didn’t know where to begin trying to help. Being in such a vunerable state and fragile state of mind, it would serve no purpose to go bombarding him with too many questions there wouldn’t be answers for. Explanations, recriminations and anything else could wait a little longer.

Remus was starting to think the offer of a healer might not have been such a bad idea. There were no potions, salves or spells in this bathroom to soothe or tend to any injuries. Somehow he knew Sirius would not agree to most offers of assistance. For now he was content enough that his own help was not being refused.

Putting aside the soiled an bloody towel, Remus reached into the bag and rummaged around the contents, pulling out random articles of clothing. They were covered in dust and smelled musty. “There isn’t much choice,” he gauged with disdain.

Black didn’t answer, but took a pair of trousers and a shirt, and started walking towards one of the heated ponds. Picking up two more towels with him.

Waiting on one of the leather couche, Remus was prepared to give Sirius as much privacy and time a he wanted to soak and remove some of the stench of Azkaban.

After fifteen minutes though, wet footsteps approached from behind, the wet and bedraggled figure of Sirius Black stood beside him. There were no shoes on his feet. His knotted hair had been pulled back away from his face into a makeshift ponytail.

Remus took a minute to look him up and down, almost wanting to hide a bubble of laughter from escaping. It was prevented from doing so from the deep exhaustion and paleness of Sirius’ face. For someone who was tall, the thinness of his body from lack of nutrition and good care made it appear as though he was wearing the clothes of someone much larger. The trousers hung low around his waist and the shirt was tucked in to keep them in place.

The way the fabric sprawled over his shoulders, Remus was able to see his collar-bone jutting out and count every rib down his torso.

Sirius broke the uneasy silence with a self-deprecating grin, “I look almost as thin as you, Mooney.”

Remus ignored the barb at his own lack of weight, taking the prison garb from his friend and shoving it into the bag Eugene had provided.

“Let’s get out of here.”

Sirius nodded in agreement, and the two headed towards the door.


“Oh, sirs, I wasn’t expecting you quite so soon,” Eugene stammered as he took the offending bag that was offered by Remus. He briefly looked inside, and tried to hide the revulsion on his face when the smell wafted up to him.

“What did you want me to do with this?” he asked innocently.

Sirius’ reply was brief and succinct, “Burn it!”

There would always be reminders of his imprisonment, that was a given. But he wasn’t about to keep the rags that he had been forced to wear as some kind of abhorrent souvenir.

The young wizard pulled back slightly at the venom in the man’s voice, but nodded in confirmation that it would be done.

“Allow me,” Remus stated, taking out his wand and pointing it at the bag.

‘Incendio’

The bag and its contents was quickly reduced to a smouldering mound of ashes.

Sirius gave a nod of thanks to Remus.

Eugene has not been expecting the such a drastic measure to be taken, and scanned the corridor, thankful that it was deserted and there was nobody else around. He had been planning to get rid of the bag in an innocuous manner, but understood why that particular spell had been chosen instead.

“I will now lead you to Madam Bones’ office,” he said. “This too is a much shorter and less used path,” he explained, guiding them.

‘The whole building is one giant rabbit burrow’ Sirius thought to himself. He doubted even the Minister knew all of the different corridors and doorways.

Sure enough, they had soon climbed higher in the building and came to a wide hallway. This is were this lessor known corridor met up with the one that wizards would normally use. The number of employees had now increased, some rushing about their duties, others talking in small groups.

Sirius felt very uncomfortable as they walked, and Remus was certain that at least one person had stopped to look closer at the both of them suspiciously.

Dumbledore was seated outside a large impressive looking door, with a gold name plate that read: Amelia Bones. He rose to meet the two men as they approached. He took a good look at Sirius and the ill-fitting clothes.

“Most unfortunate,” he offered in brief apology.

“This is where I will leave you, gentlemen,” Eugene said in parting.

“Goodbye,” Remus returned, but Sirius remained quiet.


Dumbledore stood in front of the three of them and knocked politely on the door. Opening it when they heard the invitation to enter.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” Amelia greeted them. She walked over to an open window behind her desk, bushing away some snow and a beetle from the ledge before pulling it closed and locking it.

She turned and resumed her position on the other side of the desk, facing her visitors, “Please be seated.”

Dumbledore accepted, but Sirius Black remained some distance back, refusing to do and his posture rigid and obstinate.

Amelia Bones sighed at the display, not really expecting the man to come in and wanting to have tea. “I understand your reluctance, Mr Black.”

She paused to take a good look at the man, noting the exhaustion coming from him in waves. She had meant to carry out some further discussion, but saw in all likelihood, that wasn’t going to happen.

“I can offer a healer again, Mr Black, if that is your wish?” she asked with compassion in her voice.”

“I respectfully decline,” Sirius answered sharply, but his hand betraying him and wrapping around his wrist and rubbing at the concealed welts.

“Before we go any further, this belongs to you,” holding out the wand and offering it to the man.

Sirius was almost hesitant for a moment. But then his expression changed to one of determination, and he accepted and reached out his hand

It was released into his grasp. And despite the years that had past, there was an unexplainable familiarity when the wood touched his skin.

Amelia could see that Black was going to be understandably difficult to deal with, and decided to be plain with him. “Mr Black, I made an error earlier when I spoke about having meaningful talks. You are clearly very tired, and in need of good food and much rest. Can I please suggest that we meet again in a couple of days?”

Dumbledore appeared to be disappointed with the suggestion, but failed to voice an objection.

“Madam, there are other matters that I would still like for you and I to discuss,” Albus advocated strongly.

“I will come by tomorrow after you both have had time to rest,” he said with that all knowing smile that they had seen before.

There was something that he wasn’t telling them, that was clear to both of them. Something important. Neither of them were in a mood to play games.

Sirius didn’t verbalise a response, but indicated with a nod of his head that he was willing to comply with her request.

“Do you have a safe and suitable place for him to stay for the immediate future?” she directed at Dumbledore.

It was Remus who spoke up, “Sirius is welcome to stay at my residence for as long as is needed.”

“Any may I ask the location of your home, Mr Lupin?”

“I am afraid not, Madam Bones, for his house is also under the fidelius charm for its whereabouts,” Dumbledore interjected.

“Very well then. Do you require transportation to return to it?”

“No, Madam, I travelled here by use of a portkey this morning. Into the Atrium of the building,” Remus answered, “I would ask that we both be allowed to use it once more from within the confines of this very room?”

“A portkey?” she sounded intrigued and apprehensive, “Highly irregular I must say. And I don’t likethat method of travel myself,” she went on to explain. “I had a bad experience during my senior year at Hogwarts, and have never tried it again. But this is no time to reminisce and you have my permission.”

Remus pulled the small metal box from his pocket, allowing Dumbledore to get a good look at it, and showing it to Sirius.

“Together my friend,” Remus said, holding it out within reach.

Sirius put his own hand over the top. The box glowed blue momentarily, and the two men vanished from the room.


The discussions continued in private between Dumbledore and Amelia Bones.

“Are you sure, Mr Dumbledore?” she demanded, shocked by the revelation he had just made to her.

“Quite sure,” Albus responded.

“I think I have had one too many surprises today,” she said forthrightly. “And this last one is certainly the biggest of them all.”

“Everything must be done to the best of our ability,” Dumbledore foreshadowed. “You now understand the need to act now, and ensure all possible safety measures as put into place.”

“I do understand, completely and agree with you,” Amelia stated firmly.

“Forgive me, but I must return to Hogwarts now and begin to set things into place.”

Once he had left her office, Amelia Bones sat down in her chair heavily, going over everything in her mind that had happened today. She would need a strong calming draught before the end of the night.


Making quite a rough entrance into his own house using the portkey, Remus made sure that he had a steadying hand on Sirius. The landing wasn’t always smooth, even for wizards who used this method of transport on a more regular basis. The sensation was difficult to describe, and could be alarming. He had known others to fall flat on their faces.

Sirius blinked a few times, looking around the room and trying to take in what he could see close by. Not everything he saw was registering with his brain. He felt as if there were large chucks of time missing from his memory.

“This is your place?” Sirius asked, knowing he had not been here before.

“I know it is not much, but it is all I need right now,” Remus conveyed with embarrassment. “I will give you a tour a little later.”

“Would you like to take advantage of a full shower?” Remus asked, not knowing what need Sirius would want to take care of first. The wash he had allowed himself at the Ministry of Magic had been too rushed.

“I have some of your clothes in a box, I will go and find it. I am sure you don’t want to stay in those over-sized garments any longer than you have to.”

Sirius had moved slowly towards the sitting room, and lowered himself into one of the comfortable arm chairs. His brain was working very slowly, feeling like it was stuffed full of cotton wool.

“You kept my old clothes even after all this time, Moony?”

Remus shrugged his shoulders, looking at the floor, and then back up again, “I couldn’t bare to throw them away, Sirius,” his voice thick with emotion. “They gave me hope that one day you come back. I boxed yours up after James and Lily………….” unable to complete the sentence, the realisation that they were dead being very painful to accept.

“I did the same for some things belonging to them, but for different reasons. Deep in my heart I knew they were not coming back. I couldn’t bare to throw anything away, for any of you.”

Sirius was about to pull himself out of his chair, but Remus motioned for him to stay where he was. “I will get some food on the table. But first, I will find that box,” trying to distract them both from the hardships and losses that neither of them were ready to face tonight.

A short time later, Remus returned with the required box, his friend’s upper body was sagging into the corner of the sofa. Lupin was reluctant to wake him, but knew that Sirius needed to eat before he slept. He would need to hurry up.

By the time he managed to move Sirius to the kitchen table, a delicious smell was wafting from the oven. Although he owned a wand and could use it with some skill, sometimes simplicity was best, especially when it came to food. Cooking was something he enjoyed, even though it was just for himself. It allowed him to forget all the troubles about getting a job, or find money when it was difficult to come by.

Putting a piping hot dish of lasagne in the centre of the table, Remus could see that his friend was fighting a losing battle to stay awake. The adrenaline and pure Black stubbornness that had been keeping him going through the day had evaporated, leaving behind only fatigue and dehydration.

Taking a plate and placing a serving of the creamy pasta onto the centre, he then set it in front of Sirius. He repeated the same for himself and poured glasses of cool water. Although they had shared a few sentences with each other, Remus couldn’t help but feel the yawning divide that had been created between them by Azkaban. He wasn’t sure how to cross it, but knew that it wasn’t going to be easy or tonight.

Trying not to watch his friend eat, Remus couldn’t help but mind the tension lines on his forehead and around his eyes. They stood out against his pale waxy skin. Sirius was too tired to think about anything more right now, even eating and drinking.

At first, Sirius had attacked the food with great enthusiasm, his taste buds craving anything with rich flavour and heavy in calories. But all too quickly, his appetite had waned even before he had managed more than a half-dozen fork fulls. He began twirling the fork around in his hand, his eyes darting back and forth around the room and now beginning to droop.

Remus took pity on his friend, and there was no further conversation as he gently pulled Sirius to his feet and placing a secure grip on his upper arm, manoeuvred them both down the hallway to the guest room. Apart from his own small room, it was the only other one in the house that wasn’t cluttered by storage boxes and mix-matched furniture.

The change of clothes would have to wait until the morning. Sirius had barely looked up at entering the room, his eyes already at half mast, and his body growing heavy. He laid on the bed before Remus had a chance to pull back the covers, his bare feet still exposed. The chafed and painful looking welts around his ankles visible.

Sirius was almost asleep, but it was anything but peaceful. His friend had not stirred, and he hoped that he wouldn’t feel any of his administrations. Remus took the opportunity to fetch a jar of healing salve, and tend to the raw, sore marks around his ankles and wrists.

Exiting the room, he left the door slightly ajar in case Sirius awoke during the night or needed anything. Remus returned to the kitchen to finish his own uneaten dinner. His muscles were too tense, and knew it would be many hours before he would be able to relax. It was still difficult to fathom that Sirius was no longer in prison, and was only in the next room, sleeping as he had left him barely ten minutes ago.


In the quiet, perfectly normal suburb of Little Whinging, London, the stillness of the night sky was interrupted by the sound of a motorcycle engine. The residents of this street were all tucked up safely in their beds, and didn’t bother to look out of their large and square houses to see what or who was making all the noise.

The night air was quite cool for this time of the year, and would grow colder in coming weeks.

The Dursley family who lived at Number 4 Privet Drive were sleeping soundly as well, except for one.

A small, thin boy with a crown of messy black hair, wearing glasses. And his name was Harry.

Right at this moment, he was having a battle with himself. There wasn’t anybody else to talk to.

He had really done it this time. He had heeded the warning Uncle Vernon had sternly given him about his meals before getting in the car on Dudley’s birthday. The one time he had been allowed to go with the family.

He still hadn’t worked out why they had agreed to that. Normally he didn’t get to go anywhere. His usual routine was to cook and complete chores for them and get locked away in his cupboard and ignored as though he never existed.

To the zoo, a most unexpected place. Somewhere exciting and full of mystery.

The very long python bred in captivity and with no family had been nice to talk to. Nobody else ever did, unless it was to yell at him for doing something wrong. He had felt sorry that it was locked up behind the enclosure, day after day. He didn’t know how the glass panel had disappeared allowed the snake to escape. But from the moment he had seen Uncle Vernon’s bulging features looking down at his mirth at Dudley’s predicament, he knew it couldn’t end well.

For the longest time, they had been threatening to send him to an orphanage. Telling him that he was worthless and would never amount to anything. They had instilled in him that he was abnormal and not like other children. They used fear to threaten him about such places who took in children, and didn’t have families of their own, or had been abandoned. He didn’t know which category his Aunt and Uncle could be apply to him.

Aunt Petunia had wailed all the way back to the house, about her poor, wet son. Uncle Vernon had parked in the driveway, gripping Harry too tightly as he climbed out of the back seat, demanding to know what had happened.

Harry had pleaded with his uncle that he didn’t know what had happened. But his explanation had not been sufficient, and he found himself being thrown roughly into the cupboard. Almost a week had passed since the 23rd June.

Inside the house, a small amount of light could be detected coming from the cupboard beneath the stairs. A grumble of hunger came from the boy. Wrapping the thin blanket around his shoulders, he huddled in what little warm it offered. He moved about trying to get a little more comfortable within the confines of the closet, but winced as he felt pain from the bruising he could feel on his shoulder. Even his hair still smarted and left him with a dull headache for the majority of a day from being nearly yanked out by the roots.

The dark-haire boy had almost fallen asleep, when he had been startled by someone pounding forcibly on the front door. Who would be calling at the Dursley’s house this time of night?

Heavy footsteps could be heard from Uncle Vernon as he descended the stairs, complaining about waking good honest folk from their beds in the middle of the night.

The door to his cupboard was normally locked most of the day and night, but on this occasion, Aunt Petunia had forgotten to do so when he had finished the dishes. Very slowly he pushed the door open a crack. From here, he could see to the front door. He switched off the small light so that he wasn’t seen.

Uncle Vernon could be heard shouting and demanding to know who was at the door. There was another voice on the outside, but the young boy couldn’t quite hear what was being said.

Harry could see his Aunt Petunia standing behind her husband, and his grossly overweight cousin, Dudley huddled up next to her.

Uncle Vernon continued his unyielding tirade.

“I told you there is nobody living here by that name. Now I must insist you leave at once, Sir!” shouted his Uncle, refusing to open the wooden door to the unannounced visitor.

All of a sudden, the front door was thrust open and was left barely hanging from its hinges. A large dark, figure moved through the door frame, into the house. He was not only tall, but easily twice or thrice as wide as Uncle Vernon. Harry had never seen such a large person before and couldn’t see the man’s face from his concealed position.

“Dry up, Dursley you great prune,” the man snarled back, shoving past him, walking down the narrow hallway towards the sitting room. The floor groaning under his large bulk.

Once in the sitting room, the heated discussion continued, but Harry was only able to work out odd words. Did he dare to move closer out of the cupboard and hear more? If he was caught, the punishment would be most severe. But the appearance of such strange and large person intrigued him.

Being as extra quiet as he could, Harry took a few careful measured footsteps out of his cupboard, keeping out of site. He would have to run back quickly before he was discovered.

“You don’t understand, I have orders from the Headmaster of Hogwarts himself, no less. Telling me to come and take Harry with me,” the large man tried to reason. His accent made it difficult to understand what he was saying.

Harry closed his eyes, knowing that the stinging words about a ‘brat’ were about him.

Cautiously looking back into the room, he could see the large man waving the pointed end of an umbrella at Uncle Vernon, “Never insult ……. in my presence.”

“Didn’t you tell him everything in that letter that came with him from Dumbledore?” the man demanded to know.

“Of course not, we burned all that rubbish,” Petunia stated in a high-pitched voice.

“I will not be listening to anything that crazy old crackpot has to say anymore,” Vernon declared, the cords of his neck standing out. “My family has been out of pocket and a whole lot more ever since the useless brat was left on our door step.”

Harry had missed the name given twice, sounded like, Elvis Dumpling.

The man looked around Uncle Vernon, fixating a smile at Dudley, “I haven’t seen you since you were a baby Harry, but you are much more further along than I would have imagined, especially around the middle.”

Harry’s heart jumped a little in fright when the man mentioned his own name. How did this man know him?

The man’s face was covered in a full thick beard and moustache, but his eyes looked friendly, as the boy dared to take a step around the wall, revealing his presence for the first time.

Dudley edged even closer to his mother, “I…. I’m not Harry,” he stammered, turning body around so that his ample backside was protruding.

“I am. I’m Harry,” the boy, announced with as much courage as he could muster to come forward.

“Well, of course you are,” the large man declared cheerfully. Seemingly genuinely seemed happy to see him.

There was a distinct scowl from Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, the expressions on their faces demanding to know why they could see him out of his cupboard.

“Excuse me, but who are you?” Harry asked.

“Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds of Hogwarts,” the man gave honesty and with pride. “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself proper.”

“What is Hogwarts?” the boy queried innocently.

“That’ll be where you are going to of course, when you get your letter,” the man answered, looking back a little confused at the boy’s lack of knowledge about such an institution.

“I will not pay for some freaks to teach him nothing but magic tricks,” Vernon yelled hotly.

“Tonight, you will be coming with me, Harry,” the large man stated, his tone not about to accept any refusal.

Harry nodded his head, accepting that the Dursleys had made some kind of arrangement with this man was here tonight. He was here to take him to the orphanage. They had chosen a time in the night so that the neighbours wouldn’t see him leave. No doubt some excuse would be given to them by his Aunt and Uncle for his sudden absence.

“Better not stay too long, getting a bit late and all,” Hagrid spoke. “Anything ya wish to be taking?”

Harry thought for a moment about the small number of trinkets back in his cupboard. There wasn’t anything that he wanted to remind him of this place. He carried enough bad memories, but didn’t want to tell that to the man sent from the orphanage.

“No,” came the timid short reply, his face flushing red with embarrassment.

The man must have thought this was rather odd.

The boy looked over at his Aunt, Uncle and cousin. Would there be a last minute reprieve or change of mind? He guessed not by their snobbish expressions down at him with upturned noses.

“Come on then,” he encouraged, leaving through the splintered door.


Outside, Harry shivered from the sudden change in temperature.

Assuming there would be a black sedan or similar car to drive him to the unknown orphanage, the sight of a faded blue motorcycle parked beside the curb was definitely not what he had been expecting.

Harry had never seen a motorcycle so large. Not even in books. The width and breadth of the vehicle matched perfectly with the man’s enormous proportions.

The large man must have thought it might be an impracticable mode of transport as well, looking back at him for a moment before straddling the over-sized leather saddle.

“Ain’t like I can travel any other way,” he offered sheepishly in explanation.

“Sit here in front where I can see yeh,” the man instructed. “Wouldn’t want ya fallin’ off half-way now.”

Harry nodded, and nervously climbed in front and sat down on the seat, having no intentions of disobeying. He was yet to be convinced that this was safe. He wasn’t sure where to put his hands. The handlebars were too far away for him to hold onto.

He didn’t what it was made from, but the fabric of man’s extra large coat was ticking the exposed skin on his arms.

The man seemed to notice his awkwardness, Harry letting out a squeak of fright, as a large arm pulled him backwards against his large bulky chest.

Looking upwards and watched a pair of goggles being put into place. Harry only had his own glasses, and he had no idea how effective they were going to be at shielding him during their trip. A light breeze started blowing onto his face.

The powerful engine roared into action, the boy feeling the thrum of the machine underneath them. Goosebumps appeared on his forearms. Indescribable sensations of trepidation and anticipation assailing him all at once.

Harry was tempted to look back at the only house he had ever known, but focused his attention ahead as the bike lurched suddenly to one side. The kick stand had been released and the tyres were rolling forward.

The bike had only travelled a short distance down the street, the butterflies in Harry’s stomach growing. His heart jumped into his throat, when he felt the rubber wheels leave the surface of the road, lifting the entire motorcycle into the air.

Surely they were about to crash.

But to his utter amazement the bike continued to rise higher and higher into the dark sky. The large man wasn’t panicking or showing any signs that they were in danger.

He had no idea how a motorcycle came to fly.

“Alright there, Harry?”

Fear had robbed him of his voice, and he shook his head vehemently.

The man’s coat offered a crude sanctuary for his much smaller body, protecting him from the worst of the cold wind as they picked up speed and altitude. It was still chilly though being up this high, and another shiver of cold ran through him.

His thoughts were too jumbled and mixed-up. What he was seeing made no sense. Where they were headed, he had no idea. What this new life would bring, he couldn’t say.


Approaching their intended destination, Hagrid looked fondly down at the precious cargo in front of him. Somewhere over Bristol, and halfway through the journey, the boy had drifted asleep, curling into the warm folds of his coat. His position didn’t look very comfortable, but he was loathed to wake him.

“No too long to go now, and yeh be back home where you belong,” he promised.

Ensuring this decent and landing was a little smoother, he kept a protective hand on the boy’s shoulder until the motorcycle to a complete stop.

Just when it looked like he would have to carry the boy as he slept, Harry jerking awake on his own now that the engine was once again silent.

He held onto the seat momentarily as he got off, his legs turning to jelly. The man was patient enough to wait until he was ready to walk again.

The street was too dark for Harry to determine where exactly they were. There was a house in front of them, but he couldn’t distinguish any of the details.

He was about to ask the large man if they were still near London, as they followed a path towards the back door.

Harry stood as close as possible to the large man as he used a large hand to knock loudly.


On the inside of the house, Remus had been dozing off in one of his comfortable arm-chairs when the knocking began.

Sirius let out a startling yell, and came stumbling out of the guest bedroom, his hair wildly sticking up all over the place because of its length. It was clear that he had been asleep.

Remus withdrew his wand, and Sirius retrieved his from the kitchen table where it still laid. Both of them exchanging worried glances at who would be coming here unannounced in the dead of night.

Without warning, and before they could identify their late visitor, the door burst open with force. The wooden structure failing to be much of an obstacle after the pounding from Hagrid’s beefy arm, falling to the floor with a horrendous crash.

“Sorry about that,” came the apology as the large figure leaned down and picked up the door, putting it back into place as best he could.

“Hagrid?” Remus asked, unable to keep the surprise from his voice.

“Dumbledore didn’t want me waitin’ til morning and such. He said he would meet me here to explain it all.”

Black was is no mood to see that man again quite so soon. Sirius was unable to mask his irritability, “Wait for what?”

“It is 3am in the morning,” Remus answered a little bemused. He had not seen the gamekeeper for a number of years, but remembered him fondly. He lowered his wand. It took a little a second or two longer for Sirius to do the same.

Both of them failed to notice the second pair of legs. He lifted up one side of his overflowing coat, reaching for the small figure behind him, “Come on now, where are yeh,”

He urged his young charge forward out of hiding with a gentle hand on the small head. The boy was nervous and frightened about meeting even more strangers.

“He is still a might shy and kinda skittish.”

Remus, feeling like he had just been punched in the stomach, stared in absolute astonishment

The wand in Sirius’s lax grasp, was forgotten as he collapsed on his knees to the floor. Neither of them prepared for the shock or wave of emotion.

A small pale face and bright green eyes beamed back at them……………………..Harry Potter.

To be continued………………….

Author Notes:

Description of the Ministry of Magic and Sirius’ memories from the night Lily and James died have been deliberately truncated for later on in the story. As was the newspaper article for the review, I was trying to keep some pieces of information secret from Remus and you as the reader. 🙂

Don’t worry this isnt the last time that the Dursleys will make an appearance. And explanations about the blood protection haven’t happened just yet for a few important reasons. There are enough clues in this chapter to choke a Hippogriff – but many more to come throughout the entire story.

One of the closing speeches by Amelia Bones was derived from a quote by Rick Warren and full credit is given. Words were added and subtracted to make it work for this story.

Whilst I tried to stick true to the characteristics and mannerisms, for some characters, others are merely my own interpretation with a dash of imagination about them.

The “question” to Sirius whilst under Veritaserum is still not to my liking. I wrote a whole different scene with Sirius and a long-winded Dumbledore, but removed that and may us that further on in the story.

Not much of Harry I know in this chapter and I changed where Hagrid took Harry from and have also been deliberately lacking in some details and altering others. And it wasn’t on his birthday. But there will be plenty to come I assure you. If you don’t like an over-protective Sirius and a caring Remus – this may not be the story for you. But it much longer and more complicated from this point.

Of course with Sirius set free this early, this changes a lot of events leading up to the “Prisoner of Azbakan” book and his escape from Azkaban wont happen. Don’t worry plenty of things to occur instead to the characters.

Any grammar or spelling mistakes are unintentional- apologies in advance. Some changes that go against what you may already know of the Wizarding World of course are deliberate.

I hope you have enjoyed it so far and will keep reading.

Jules6

Carefully Laid Plans

STOWAWAYS

By Jules 6

Ben Krieg thinks that he has everything planned for a few members of the crew to have a good time when the beginning of a new long tour is only a few days away.

Author Notes – New parts for my outstanding stories are slowly being written and I haven’t been around for a long time, but I hope to get some more writing done once more, completing the stories that need to be and putting up some new ones. This short one shot wouldn’t leave me alone and kept writing itself in my head, and I had to change the title.

Chapter One – Carefully Laid Plans

Current time:

Three wet and very bedraggled looking figures were marched from the launch bay towards the Moon Pool. Two of them, dressed in civilian attire were wearing damp towels draped across their shoulders and the third was still wearing a very sodden, partly torn Hawaiian patterned shirt. O’Neill had removed his glasses and was trying to wipe away the excess water from the lenses.

Following in their wake with very serious expressions on their faces was their second-in-command, Commander Jonathan Ford who was covering the remaining night shift and dressed in his usual smart black uniform. And the Captain of the SeaQuest, Nathan Bridger, who was wearing a royal blue robe with his own reading glasses folded and hanging around his neck. It was 3.20am in the morning.

The three men stopped in front of the Moon Pool, a few feet apart from each other, stealing glances at each other, wondering who was going to speak first.

By now they had expected Captain Bridger to be going ballistic at them, declaring that at the very minimum, they would all have stiff penalties and extra duties coming their way. But it was the silence that was causing the trio the most apprehension.

Ford was perturbed by the Captain’s lack of outrage and anger as well, “Captain, do you want me to outline …,” he started to ask, but Bridger held up a hand to him, asking him to wait whilst he struggled with the information he had heard from a number of sources, before the men had been returned to their custody for further investigation and punishment.

O’Neill was trying to get Krieg’s attention, turning side on and glaring at the Morale Officer, before facing forward once more and trying to figure out how in the hell he had been caught up in this whole mess. Krieg was either too worried about Ford and the Captain to return the stare or he was totally ignoring him and Miguel.

Ortiz stood to the right of O’Neill, his expression a little harder to read, but none too happy nevertheless, leaving Ben standing on the end, his focus directly at the floor in front of him.

Krieg rubbed the back of his neck, lifting his head and wincing as he did so, signalling that he had a substantial headache. A darkening bruise on his cheek also bore witness to undisclosed misfortunes having taken place earlier in the evening.

“Do you need medical attention, Lieutenant?” Ford forced out, showing his disappointment in someone, who recently and before this incident, he had begun to gain a little more respect for.

“No, Commander,” Krieg hissed out, wincing again as the echo from his words bounced off the inside of his skull and amplified his discomfort, knowing the the sequence of events of the night were more than a little hazy.

Krieg took a moment to look at his two superior officers, and then glance down the line at his two fellow crew members, noting their displeasure. The day had started out normal, and the afternoon should have been uneventful and the evening could have been a good time for a number of people.

Drowning out the voices in his head reminding him of his impending doom, he made himself to start thinking back. What about all the careful planning that he had put into place? Where had he gone so wrong to find himself in the current predicament? He wanted everybody to believe and understand his originally good-natured intentions.

Earlier that day:

Krieg was walking at a brisk pace towards the Bridge of the SeaQuest, just having exited the Mag-Lev, pausing to allow the large domed doors to part, before entering and making a bee-line for Miguel Ortiz. He was just about to talk covertly to the Cuban crew member about his plans when he felt someone standing behind him.

Turning and trying not to hide that he needed to talk to Miguel out ear-shot, standing up straight, he clamoured, “Commander.”

“Krieg,” Ford greeted him. “Will you be ready to depart on time this afternoon as scheduled?”

“Yes, Sir, as promised, about 3.00pm. I was just going to go over the inventory I am going to be bringing back with my volunteer Ortiz here,” Ben answered, giving Miguel a roll of his eyes to signal that he didn’t want to jeopardize what they had already talked about.

Ford looked down at some paperwork on a clipboard he was carrying in his hands, turning a few of the pages over, “I didn’t know you were planning on taking anybody else upworld with you. I do appreciate that you are using some of your own personal time to complete the job.”

“It wasn’t something that I had put on the report to you earlier today either, but after going over the amount of boxes and stuff, I approached Ortiz here, and he agreed to come along.”

“Now that Doctor Westphalen will be absent until very late night or early tomorrow morning, I need to keep a check on what other launches will be arriving and departing. Captain Bridger is planning to retreat to his cabin after dinner before the chaos of the new crew members tomorrow.”

“I didn’t know that Kristin was planning to go anywhere?” Ben scrambled in haste to query that tid-bit of news, trying to get as much information about the impending movements of those two people as possible.

“Well as you know a lot of the new members will be part of her science department, and I guess she wanted to get a head start on introducing them to life aboard a vessel such as this, before they do actually step foot in here tomorrow. She was planning to check on Lucas before departing.”

“All the more reason for me to go and complete task to take the pressure of anybody else. Both she and the Captain have both been worried about Lucas for the past week. It’s the least I can do for them,” Ben added. It wasn’t a complete lie; he had known that their resident computer geek had been sick with a bad respiratory infection for several days. He had been visiting the teenager himself as time allowed.

Ford nodded in agreement at the comments about Lucas before responding, “If anything else changes between now and when you leave, be sure to let me know.

“Sure thing,” Krieg promised, leaning on the top of Ortiz’s chair and inwardly sighing in relief when he saw the dark-skinned Commander walk to another area of the Bridge that required his attention.

“Are you sure you got this? If the Captain finds out…” Ortiz hissed without finishing the sentence, still facing his monitor to cover up any conversation they were sharing by using his hands and nervously adjusting his headset.

“Just be ready with your little bag of clothes to change into once we are on dry-land, and I promise to take care of everything else,” Ben replied. “And don’t tell the whole story to O’Neill until we get the launch going. The last thing we need on this little trip is panic or indecision, and with Tim, we get both.”

“I still cannot believe you are not going to tell him until afterwards,” Ortiz scoffed, a knot beginning to form in the pit of his stomach. What they were doing seemed harmless enough, but there was that little annoying voice starting to poke holes in that theory.

“Hey, Tim could use a little relaxing time like the rest of us,” Krieg said non-committedly, walking away and off the Bridge happy that he could keep everything under wraps.


In another part of the SeaQuest, another conversation was about to take place in one of the smaller rooms of the vessel.

Red-headed Doctor Westphalen knocked on the hatch door, and waited patiently for the occupant to open. She was carrying a few small items with her.

The distinct meshing of the inner workings of the hatchway door could be heard turning, and as soon as it was open wide enough, she looked around it and smiled, “How are you feeling today?”

Lucas left the door open and went back to his bunk, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to get away from her scrutiny. He hadn’t answered her question yet, not wanting to lie to her. Kristin could often tell if he wasn’t being upfront with her, which irritated him to no end when he was normally such a private person.

“Talkative today again, I see,” Kristin started the discussion and seating herself on the edge of his bed, “Open up,” she instructed, slipping a thermometer into his mouth when he complied with the request.

“Have you eaten since breakfast?” she asked, “No of course not,” she added with a little frustration in her voice.

A shrug of his shoulders was his comeback to acknowledge that she had been correct in her guesswork. The bland soup menu had done nothing to encourage his already poor appetite

“I know you don’t feel like eating much, Lucas, but you need to keep your strength up now that you are on the home stretch to recovery,” she softly rebuked him, removing the thermometer and looking at the reading.

“Temperature is normal today, so that is excellent progress,” she praised. “Anything else you are not telling me?”

Lucas felt too guilty after the care that the doctor had given him during his illness, not to be truthful. He still wasn’t used to having someone care quite so much about how he was feeling, and if he was warm enough or needed anything multiple times of the day. But secretly he had revelled in the new sensation of having someone wanting to know if he was alright. Captain Bridger had been around just as much as she had, but their approaches were different.

“I couldn’t sleep at all last night, and I have a nagging headache,” he admitted.

“Yes, I know you haven’t been sleeping very well lately. Your throat and the constant coughing during the night didn’t help at all in that regard. Do you need some medication for it?” She took a stethoscope and placed it on his chest to listen to his breathing. “Your lungs definitely sound a lot clearer, today.”

“No, it’s nothing much, more annoying than anything and probably only there because of the lack of sleep.” A wide yawn only served as evidence to such a statement.

“Well I don’t know if you know or not, but now that you seem to be on the mend, I am going to be leaving soon to go up-world and carry out some work,” Kristin informed him. “You won’t be alone and I should be back very late tonight. Nathan is here on-board if you need anything, as well as the rest of the crew. I am sure he will be by later to talk to you anyway. I will give you a number where you can contact me.”

“I will be fine, thank you,” feeling like that he had lost some of his independent streak whilst he was sick.

“I am sure you will, but just for good measure, I am going to leave these with you in addition to regular dose of antibiotic,” Kristin said, handing over two small white pills in a small plastic sealed bag. “These are similar to the ones you have been taking during the day, but these are a night-time blend. If your headache becomes worse, they should help with that and allow you to rest a little easier tonight.”

“I won’t need them,” Lucas stated with a touch of defiance, having had enough forced pill swallowing this week.

“Humour me, please, I won’t be around until much later tonight if you do decide to need something,” the doctor said, opening the pocket of his shirt, placing the bag inside and re-buttoning the flap.

Getting up from her temporary seat, “It goes without saying, that although you may be at the tail end of this, I expect you to take it easy for a few more days,” she motioned in mock sternness with a pointing finger. “Make sure you eat, keep warm and don’t stay up late working.” She started smoothing out the creases in the blankets and smoothing them out, but then ceased what Lucas had come to openly name her OCD tendencies.

Lucas tried to give her a mild look of surprise and offence at her accusation, but they both shared a brief laugh as Kristin gathered her belongings and prepared to leave the cabin. She looked back and gave him one last warm smile that said so much without the need for words.

After the door was closed, Lucas sat up on his bed for a few seconds, smiling to himself before turning back wards the aqua-tubes and attempting to find Darwin. He hadn’t seen too much of his marine friend and had missed being able to take a daily swim with him.


Nathan Bridger was currently near the Moon Pool, having seen Kristin depart for the surface for a few hours to sort out her new batch of people. But not before she had given him a running report on Lucas’s health.

With a very long and busy day scheduled for tomorrow and the coming week, tonight was hopefully going to be a relaxing one in his cabin. Jonathan was on the Bridge tonight, so he could afford to relax for a few hours.

Before intending to retreat to his own cabin and not do anything more stimulating than reading a book, the Captain swung by the mess hall, picking up a cylindrical item before heading back down the corridor in the opposite direction.

After a short walk, he too was outside knocking lightly on the hatch to Lucas’s small cabin.

Inside, Lucas had almost drifted off, propped up against the aqua tube running through it, when he heard the tapping on his door. “Come in.”

Bridger opened the door, looking to see if anybody back out in the corridor, saw him entering before resealing the door. “Shhhh, don’t tell Kristin, or we will both be in trouble,” reaching into the pocket of his jacket and pulling out the concealed cylindrical object.

“Oh you are a life-saver, Captain,” Lucas exclaimed at the small can of soda that was being offered. It might not have looked like much to anyone else, but to the teenager it was contraband that the doctor would not have approved of. “I promise I won’t tell a soul.”

Bridger smiled as he watched Lucas take the lemonade out of his hand, open the can and take a mouthful of the cold contents. To someone who had had a sore and scratchy throat for a number of days, it felt like a soothing balm and the relief was evident on the teenager’s face.

“Kristin tells me that you are slowly on the mend,” Bridger said as he took to sitting on a chair in the room. Lucas was readjusting the tangle of blankets on his bed for the umpteenth time today. “That is great news.”

“What else did she tell you?” Lucas asked as he paused briefly from what he was doing.

“Oh she gave me a whole list of symptoms that I am supposed to look out for whilst she isn’t here,” Bridger teased, knowing it would invoke a reaction.

“Yeah, yeah, I am sure she did,” the teenager grumbled half-heartedly as he punched his pillows and lay back against them. “She knows I haven’t been sleeping well.”

“Just looking at your face, Lucas would tell anybody that you are more than tired,” Bridger remarked truthfully, silently trying to think of any other reason apart from illness that would keep the boy from sleeping. It wasn’t unusual given his almost nocturnal habits to see his sleeping patterns become affected.

“The brain has felt like it was full of cotton-wool for days. I will go stir-crazy if I just sit here for too long like she wants me to do.”

Bridger was one of the privileged few, all too familiar with the teenager’s unspoken need to keep himself stimulated and thinking on an almost continual basis.

“Well I won’t nag you as much as she does,” Bridger pledged, “But for my sake as well as your own, please eat something before you go to bed tonight.”

“I tried at lunch time to have something, but everything tastes like cardboard, when it wants to go down at all,” Lucas sulked, rubbing at his throat signalling that there was some residual inflammation.

“I don’t think she would mind what you eat, within reason,” Bridger suggested, “So long as it is something in your stomach. I don’t think she would object to you getting out of this cabin and walking to the mess hall either. Might help clear your head to move about more than you have been able to do for the past few days.”

Lucas mulled over what the man was proposing. The chance at some fresh air outside of his own cabin was very tempting.

“If she asks, or you are apprehended, I will avoid all knowledge for my own safety and well-being,” the Captain joked. “Just think about what we both said. You are old enough to take care of yourself.”

“Thanks!” Lucas beamed in genuine gratitude; it wasn’t very often that someone said that out loud. “Maybe in a few hours I will feel tired enough to sleep.”

“Please just take it slow,” Nathan cautioned, “You don’t want to end up right where you started from.”

“You know where I am if you change your mind and decide that your need some company,” the Captain offered as he went to give the teenager some peace and quiet. He knew from his own experience that when you were on the home stretch after being sick for any length of time, being surrounded by people, even those who cared, was the last thing you wanted.

Bridger left the small cabin and Lucas was once again left to his own devices and the solitude of his room.


In the Launch Bay, Ben Krieg was making the last few preparations to leave for the mainland. Miguel was discreetly stowing a bag under one of the seats that he could easily retrieve later. Communications Officer, Tim O’Neill was currently seated in the pilot’s seat, completing a systems check before their departure. With O’Neill doing everything by the book, Krieg knew he still had more than a few minutes that he required.

“Finish this up, and I will be right back,” Krieg informed Ortiz.

The Cuban man looked back at the man, “Did you forget something?”

“Sort of…,” came the response as Ben jogged away to avoid any further scrutiny. He liked Ortiz, but like O’Neill some small pieces of the night’s festivities had deliberately left until the last minute to avoid any ugly confrontations. And spoiling the intended fun for all involved.

A minute later, and Lucas was considering locking his hatch door and putting up a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outside given the number of unannounced visitors, as he detected yet another knock upon his door.

He called out for the person to come in, but when he didn’t receive an answer and the knock was repeated a second time, he got up and opened the door, ready to make his annoyance known. His headache had increased up a notch in the last hour, and any energy that had returned earlier in the day with his health improvement was now gone.

“What!” he demanded, yanking the door open. Any other sharp bite was lost when he recognised his friend standing in the corridor.

“Is that anyway to greet your rescuer?” Krieg chastised, “Quick we haven’t got much time.”

“Quick time for what, Ben?”

“I am headed up-world in a few minutes with O’Neill and Ortiz in a launch for some supplies and a little extracurricular activity, and thought you might want to tag along.”

Lucas gauged his friend sceptically, especially at the last part of his explanation, “You want me to come?”

“Sure, I do, if you are up for it. I heard the Doc talking to Bridger earlier, more or less giving you a clean bill of health,” Krieg answered, “Well maybe not in so many words. You are feeling a lot better though aren’t you?” he asked, knowing that the teenager had definitely been under the weather.

The teenager nodded, but didn’t elaborate further. He didn’t want to admit about the headache or how tired he was to Krieg.

“Did you see Bridger today?”

“Just a while ago. But he did suggest that I should get out to get a little fresh air,” Lucas let slip, omitting that the Captain had meant within the vessel.

“Kristin wanted me to take things easy for a bit longer,” the teenager complained but nodding in the affirmative to his question, “And she is nagging me to eat more, no surprises there.” The idea of going up-world, even for a short time, was becoming more appealing by the minute. Surely they wouldn’t be gone long and he wasn’t a prisoner.

A knowing smirk from Krieg could almost see the wheels of Lucas’s brilliant mind slowly kick into gear. The kid could use a little fun, and there would be three of them to watch out for him. They would all be back before anyone was missed or unwanted questions could be asked.

“I think I can accommodate you there, my young friend, and solve your food problem,” Krieg relayed, playfully grabbing the teenager gently by the shoulders and ruffling his blond hair. “Where we are going, there are lots of good food places where you can take your pick.”

“Quick, change clothes and grab a coat and lets be on our way,” Krieg suggested, trying to keep to the short window of opportunity that they all had.

Krieg waited outside the door for his young friend to change, frowning a little when Lucas emerged wearing jeans, his regular favourite baseball shirt, minus any warmer jacket. “Far be it from me to be any kind of fashion connoisseur, but are you certain you will be warm enough in just that?”

“Says Mr I-own-four-Hawaiian-shirts, if we are doing this, let’s go,” Lucas shot back not about to let his friend become another mother-hen aboard the SeaQuest, closing his hatch door, and heading towards the launch bay.


“Ready to go gentlemen?” Krieg shouted as he boarded the launch, knowing that he was about to throw a major spanner into the works.

“I guess so,” Miguel announced, but anything else he wanted to add died on his lips, as he and O’Neill got a glimpse of another figure joining them.

“Lucas?”

O’Neill looked back over his shoulder at sound of Ortiz calling out a familiar name.

Right that minute, all three other members of this make-shift crew were aware that Krieg had not disclosed everything about this little intended jaunt.

The teenager himself took place on one of the long seats along the side of the launch while Ben busied himself with closing the door and preparing to leave.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Ortiz blurted out, looking back in a brief apology, sounding harsher than he had intended, but recognizing that everything had suddenly gone from simple to very complicated in the blink of an eye.

“What! Kid has been cooped up for days. He needs to get out for a bit,” Krieg retorted, feigning that he didn’t know why there were protests. This was Lucas after all, the crew’s unofficial mascot, even though he wouldn’t openly tell say that out loud so that his young friend could hear such a title.

“Have you told O’Neill yet?” Ortiz demanded, thinking that they were not all on the same page.

Lucas sat a little too quietly on his own, ignoring the bantering sitting with his head leaning against the back of the seat, his eyes closed. Ben motioned for Ortiz to come closer towards the cockpit, so that all three of them could talk without the teenager becoming too suspicious. He was going to use what little information he knew to appease those who were beginning to doubt his plan.

“Tell me what?” O’Neill questioned, swivelling in his pilot’s chair to hear what was about to be said, “The Captain and Westphalen have been worried about Lucas,” he began, knowing that such a general statement was the truth at any time, but not stopping when he saw he had a captive audience.

“They gave him the all clear today, but they cannot persuade him to eat much yet. Bridger himself said that Lucas needs a little fresh air, so I made a last minute decision and thought that while we were headed up-world, I would do them and Lucas a favour an entice him with some real food.”

“Are we getting this bucket of bolts under-way or not? And there better be good food, Ben.” Lucas grouched, as his headache spiked for a moment but then settled.

“You heard the man,” Krieg announced in triumph with a new sense of vigour, figuring that neither of the other two men had the heart to deny the teenager or have the guts to tell him to leave now.

Krieg took his place in the co-pilot seat next to O’Neill, when Ortiz leaned over and spoke in his ear, “You still haven’t told Tim what you have planned.”

“Later, later, I will,” Krieg ground out in a hushed voice, before giving a flashing smile towards O’Neill, who was looking over at the whispered conversation. O’Neill had been sure he heard his name mentioned, and the Morale Officer was using his usual look of over-confidence to mask what he was thinking.

Miguel took up a seat near Lucas, fastening his safety harness whilst the craft’s engines roared into gear and they began to move out of sanctuary of SeaQuest. Most members of the senior crew were aware that the teenager had been sick, but until today, hadn’t seen a whole lot of him. Even on the Bridge, which was a regular haunt for him. Westphalen had promised those concerned that she was treating him with a dose of antibiotics and rest.

“Okay there, Lucas?” Ortiz asked, noting that the tall youth was much more subdued at the moment than normal, especially with Krieg present.

Lucas opened his eyes, rubbing at them and trying to deny how much they currently burned from tiredness. He had heard someone call his name over the launch engines, and guessed that it must have been Miguel. Not wanting to admit he didn’t hear the entire question, he gave a thumbs up gesture with one hand, before closing his eyes and going back to his previous silent position.

The same knot that Ortiz had been feeling a little while ago on the Bridge was now growing larger, and the puzzled expression that had seen beginning to blossom across Tim’s forehead, signifying that this “ordinary” trip to get supplies was about to become anything but ordinary.


Back to current time:

Tim O’Neill had spent the last five minutes, trying to gain the confidence to speak up, “Sir, if I may…,” he managed to get out with as much conviction as one could muster, taking half a step forward whilst looking like a drowned rat.

“No you may not,” came the sharp response from Jonathan Ford, cutting off any further defence on his own behalf, and causing Tim to step take that half-step backwards.

“If you please, Commander,” Bridger signalled, taking several pages and glancing through them, and peering over the top to make sure that the three men were watching. He inwardly smiled as he took stock of their condition and how each of them was presented.

“Three thousand, four hundred and sixty-nine dollars, and twelve cents,” Bridger read out from the bottom of the final page.

“Sir, that can’t be right…,” stammered out of Miguel Ortiz, before he could scarcely think properly, shocked by the large amount quoted. He looked right and then left and saw the same look of couldn’t be right splattered across Tim and Krieg’s faces as well.

“Three thousand, four hundred and sixty-nine dollars, and twelve cents,” Bridger repeated, a whole lot louder this time, standing much closer to them all. This is the voice they had been originally expected.

“Indecent comments made against person or persons of the opposite sex,” he read out loud, punctuating each accusation with emphasis. “Evading a full taxi fare and hurling insults at the driver. Causing disruption and breakages in a local supermarket that have yet to be paid for. Setting off a fire-safety system in a licensed establishment, inappropriate touching of a staff member of said licensed premises and assault of a patron inside, unlawful damage of property.”

“And this is just the beginning, gentlemen,” Ford interrupted as Bridger took a breath. “None of you provided your U.E.O. Identification available when requested. And we expect communication with local lawful enforcement within the next half an hour.”

A audible groan from Krieg as his shoulders slumped and put his hands to his head and rubbed at his temples. He wished the floor would just swallow him up. He could scarcely remember any of the events that were alleged, and was sure there was a very bad misunderstanding about the involvement by all three of them in anything even remotely as bad as Bridger was griping about.

Ortiz couldn’t seem to stand still, moving back and forth from one foot to the other, struggling to take everything in. Poor O’Neill looked like he had swallowed something disgusting and had taken on a very odd colour to his face.

“I don’t know everything that went on tonight, gentlemen, and I use that term very loosely.” Bridger informed them as a group, his voice lower but that didn’t mean it didn’t have any of the same sting when being on the receiving end.

The Captain look the time to look at his watch, “Tomorrow, forgive me today is one of the most important days for this vessel in quite a while. In just a few hours from now, a batch of fresh faced science personnel and seamen and women are going to be arriving, expecting us to be at our best.”

“So from now until then, I don’t care if we have to remain here until sunrise, but we are going to start right at the beginning. And one by one you are going to each tell me your version of events, without leaving anything out,” Bridger instructed them.

Bridger turned away from the three men briefly, trying to think how they had arrived at this point. At least the three of them seemed to look contrite and ashamed enough as he turned back around to speak. “Surely three of my senior crew members, can offer an explanation of why a simple supply run turned into this.”

The Captain had turned away again to think of his next sentence, “I am going to give you all a minute to think of anything you want to tell me and own up to before we continue.”

Krieg and the two other men had heard the last sentence well enough, but it was the one before that caught their attention the most. Bridger had said THREE of them.

“Kristin is due back any minute now, and I have no idea what I am going to tell her. She has already had enough on her plate lately,” Bridger paced back and forth. “I guess I am just grateful that there hasn’t been enough time for rumours to spread yet. And be grateful that Lucas is still sleeping in his cabin and hasn’t awoken up and gotten wind of this fiasco.”

With that statement, their worst fears had just multiplied tenfold. Ortiz and O’Neill both turned to Krieg, scarcely able to get the words out that they wanted to shout without Bridger and Ford finding out. And Kristin didn’t know about their little joy-ride yet either. It was hard to work out who was going to kill them first.

“You said he was somewhere safe,” Ortiz said through gritted teeth, clenching his fists, daring Krieg to deny what he had told him and Tim at the supermarket. Everything seemed to go downhill after that point very quickly and they didn’t get the chance to ask more questions again before now. They had just assumed when Ben had meant ‘safe’ it meant he had returned to SeaQuest, perhaps with Kristin on the other launch. Up until the Captain’s comments, they didn’t know that he wasn’t on-board.

“Queue the firing squad,” O’Neill squeezed out, and Miguel couldn’t help but nod in helpless agreement. Ben was desperately trying to think back through all of the unfolding chaos of the night. His head ached abominably, but that was nothing compared to how bad his insides were beginning to feel.

And for the first time since coming back aboard SeaQuest and standing there, Ben thought he was going to be physically violently ill. The launch had left with four people inside it.

Krieg knew in less than one minute, Bridger was going to turn around and demand what else had happened. And Doctor Westphalen… he visibly shivered at what her reaction would be. He could hear her yelling ringing in his ears now, and this time, he couldn’t deny that he deserved it.

Lucas was still out there missing. The one person who meant the most to them all. Somehow he had lost Lucas.

to be continued…

This story was supposed to be one piece, but took a little longer than I thought. Will only be one more chapter. I know I haven’t been around for a while again, but trying to get more writing time. I write a few other fandoms now. More writing has been done to Seed of Doubt – and planning to fix errors in previous stories and improve them – as well as write all the ones I have planned.

Thanks for those still reading.

Jules

False Witness – A New Extended Edition

FALSE WITNESS

By Jules

Remembering

Heavy gray clouds overhead promised more snow before the end of the day.   The temperature had dropped noticeably since starting out from Virginia City.  Despite the ominous forecast, the return journey was at slow pace as the horse team was guided through the increasing snow drifts that hugged the narrow trail.  For now, visibility ahead was still fairly good, but no doubt in a few hours the good light would be begin to fade.

The wagon continued to meander along under the watchful look of the driver back towards the Ponderosa.  The bottom of the buckboard had been lined in mattresses to stop the rising cold from the ground penetrating through the timber floor boards and kept the meager amount of heat within the folds of the blankets that covered the occupants.

This arduous journey back home could have waited a few more days, even a week.  Lord know there were enough offers of accommodation in Virginia City if they had all thought staying was the best course of action.  The local hotel and a number of other establishments would certainly been glad to offer him and his boys any rooms that were deemed necessary.

Paul Martin would have quickly agreed that undisturbed rest and his family’s support were the best methods to begin Joe’s long recovery period.  Deep down inside, watching his son throughout the past few awful months, he knew in his heart that the healing, in all its forms, needed to start at home.

Ben Cartwright turned his face away from the cold biting breeze, reaching out and pulling the collar of his jacket more tightly around his neck and praying that they could make it home before the temperature dropped too much more.    He shuffled slightly to one side, mindful of not disturbing the nest of warmth too much before looking down and keeping his attention firmly fixed on the figure lying beside him.

The gentle fingers of a hand carded through the dark loose soft curls, not wanting to wake his fifteen-year old son, a practice used since his younger years that had brought comfort to Joseph when he was sick or injured or a soothing sensation when on the cusp of relaxing deep sleep.   Ben continued to caress the boy’s forehead and temple, but his son didn’t respond to his touch. It was like a brick wall had been built between them, and it was getting harder and harder to reach in and find the real Little Joe.

A gesture seldom shared now unless it was just the two of them and Ben had no doubt if Joe was awake and a little more alert, he would be openly protesting that he was older now and didn’t need to be treated like a baby.   The passage of changing seasons had turned into years as his sons grew, but what Joseph didn’t know was that his father still needed that tactile sensation with him, despite desperately needing to rest.

Picking at the corner of the very top blanket, Ben tugged on the woolen covering, tucking the edges in around Joe’s slim shoulders, and frowning at little at the slight tremors he could feel even through the many layers of fabric.   The back of a hand placed against a pale cheek gave a little relief with the natural warmth that he felt.   Paul had given the whole family a list of different symptoms to look out for.

Forty-eight hours earlier had seen Joe still in the grip of fevered confusion and constant pain.   Brief moments of restlessness had been noticed since the horses took their first steps, with a muttered word or a grunt of discomfort escaping his lips, before he was lost in the folds of sleep once more.

The sleep was not a natural one, however.  Paul had prescribed laudanum since mending the wound, but had lowered the dosage this morning so that the risk of the medication building up in his system was significantly reduced.  Sleeping powders and other milder pain relievers were suggested until tomorrow afternoon when the doctor would visit at the Ponderosa and make another assessment of Joe’s pain levels.

Physical pain and discomfort from the injuries he had sustained was one thing, but what about the emotional and other scars left behind that were much harder to detect or treat.  What about them, Ben asked himself.  How long would they take to heal? Would they ever fully heal? Would his young son ever recover from the torment that he had suffered at the hands of Butch Thomas over the last few months?

Butch Thomas, the name left such a bad after taste in his mouth.  He could not honestly say if someone asked him right at this moment how he feel or what would he do if he was standing face to face with the man, that he would be able to give them a satisfactory answer.    His time and efforts were needed by someone much more important.

If only he could have turned back the hands of time over the last few months and foreseen some of what would befall his youngest son, Ben would have taken the boy out of harms way. He could have simply packed up Joseph and one of his other sons, Adam or Hoss, and ensured that Joe was kept safe in another town away from the dangers that lurked too close.

The family could no longer deny how much that the boy had changed within the past few months.  Little Joe had begun to grow into a confident young man, full of energy and laughter who filled the house with love and joy.   His mischievous and cheeky smile could worm its way into Ben’s heart no matter how much he openly denied it.

The smile had faded to be replaced by tiredness, frustration and fear.   During the day, vitality and enthusiasm had been replaced by dullness, lethargy and hisses of pain from still healing injuries.   Nightfall and evenings came with nightmares, flashbacks and avoidance of what had happened.

Ben couldn’t put an exact date that it had all changed, but now Joseph was sullen and withdrawn and rarely spoke unless asked a question, and then it would be a one-sided battle to get some sort of answer.   Replies now came with a shrug of the shoulders, a shake or nod of his head and on very seldom occasions, one worded guarded truncated responses.

A solemn vow had been sworn that no matter how long it needed to take, that he, and his two eldest sons, Adam and Hoss would be there every minute of the day and night.   To bring Joe back from the brink of depression, guilt and self-doubt.   To instead provide encouragement, support and understanding but allow enough time for Joe to be trust himself again and to be comfortable around those that loved him unconditionally.

The distinct snap of a leather resign brought Ben back from his thoughts, as he felt the wagon lurch to the right briefly and then back in the opposite direction, adjusting the position he was seated in.   Whilst he wished to be nowhere else right this moment, his back was protesting loudly and looking forward when he would be sitting back in a saddle rather than riding passenger.

“Joe, alright back there, Pa?” Hoss asked, guiding the wagon team as slowly as he could over the rough dirt road back to the Ponderosa.  Stealing a worried glance or two over his shoulder at the unmoving mound of blankets lying beside his father.

Ben replied in a voice that held very little emotion at all, “As well as can be expected I guess, son.  We will just have to keep a close eye on him and see how your brother fairs until Paul comes to see him tomorrow.  It is going to be a difficult time for us all.”

Hoss nodded, feeling his gut twist that little more just thinking of what his young brother had been enduring.  He looked to the clouds and prayed that they held off for a few more miles.   A silent prayer of thanks was upon his lips as he saw the familiar gates of the Ponderosa looking back at him in the distance.

Guiding the team to a much slower pace as the buckboard pulled up outside the ranch house, the large man was grateful to see Adam, followed by Hop Sing coming out to meet the travelers.     Another few meters, and the horse came to a complete stop.    Hoss ran his hand through the mane of each animal, briefly patting each in gratitude before applying the brake and looping the reigns over the stick loosely.

Adam had volunteered to ride ahead of the rest of his family to make sure that everything would be ready in time for when his father and two young brothers arrived.   There was hot water boiling on the stove in the kitchen out back, plenty of warm blankets had been arranged on the chair in the bedroom upstairs.

Supper had been prepared and kept warm as well by Hop Sing, but right now food seemed furthermost from anybody’s list of priorities.

The head ranch foreman had heard the returning wagon, and ran over from the bunkhouse, grabbing a hold of the bridle of the horse on the right-hand side, trying currently kept the team as calm as possible for the men two men getting down.  “Thanks, Charlie, I reckon you are plum right on time,” Hoss voiced in  gratitude.

Adam took a look at his father, noting the tightness of his jaw, and the tension across his shoulders.   Whilst Adam hadn’t shared the ride back to notice the unspoken thoughts that plagued the eldest Cartwright’s mind, nor had he heard the discouragement in Ben’s tone of voice answering Hoss a few miles back. The tiredness etched on his face now, and the worry embedded deep into those brown eyes was unmistakable.    The past few months had slowly started eating away at the man’s soul and sense of justice.

Whilst it certainly wasn’t fair to label Ben a broken man, his inner strength was shining through because of the person currently laying still and wrapped in blankets on the floor of the wagon.  A few days ago, Adam had scarcely wanted to contemplate how his father would cope and continued on if Joe had not made it through thus far.   That assessment had changed when seeing it was his love for Little Joe, tethering him to faith and hope, and allowing him to keep a constant vigil despite his own weariness.   He doubted that he could have put into words how he felt right at this moment.

The look on Hoss’s large exterior was one of determination, and his unspoken role of protector was also shining through, daring any danger or threat to come near his family.

One fifteen-year old boy held the magical golden key to all their hearts and was continuing to keep those who cared around him united.   When this same boy had fallen along the way and was slowly withdrawing into himself and away from his family, it was up to all of them, to make sure Joe could turn to any of them for help and reassurance.

Despite the difficult times the boy had been forced to experience and the secrets that he had deliberately kept from them when he felt that there was nowhere else to turn;  now he could come and talk to any of them at any time.  That together they would help repair his sense of trust, and get past this terrible chapter in his young life, and that they all still loved him.

The first few delicate white snowflakes floated down from the clouds, causing everyone to shiver slightly and to make haste and double their efforts before the dusting gotten heavier.    They needed to get Joe inside quickly and into his warm bed.  The last thing he needed was to get sick from the chilly weather.

Hoss was beginning to lower the back board on the wagon, whilst he discussed with his father, the best method for safely removing Joe without causing any further pain.  The medication in his system should be enough to prevent him from waking.

“Take it easy,” Ben implored his second-eldest son, knowing that he was aware of Joe’s injuries.   A muffled weak groan of protest could be heard coming from the mound of blankets when Hoss had first lifted his shoulders from the mattress.

“Paul wanted us to check those fresh stitches on his side are still in place once we have him settled upstairs, Adam.  Heaven knows what that rough road had already done,” Ben asserted, knowing that there was a significant risk of the doctor’s handy work from being pulled and causing fresh bleeding.  And not to forget the pain from his older but still healing injuries.

Ben managed to move the still sleeping Joseph into a half-sitting position towards the end of the wagon, but the blankets had shifted in placed despite their best efforts to buffer against the cold.  An involuntary shiver ran through Joe’s body.     Adam moved his left arm underneath the covers, placing it carefully under Joe’s knees, and wrapping his right arm around the slim shoulders, in one fluid motion, he lifted the fragile boy out of the wagon.

Immediately, Ben had jumped down from the wagon, picking up one fallen damp blanket and hanging it over his own shoulder.   A hand resting carefully against the cotton shirt that Joe wore, could detect a little warmth emanating through the heavy padding and bandages.  He quickly adjusted one of the remaining blankets to cover up any extremities.    This time Joe remained quiet and still, not even reacting to a cold hand checking for signs of fever.

As Adam started took two steps backwards away from the buckboard and then turned towards the house, he couldn’t help but voice his frustration out loud at the far-too thin frame that he was conveying, “You need to start putting on a little weight again, Joe.”

The boy had lost so much weight from injury and stress his brother noted with dismay.  The never-ending war to get his younger brother to eat sufficiently decent meals on a regular basis had been fought, lost and won on many occasions before going to Virginia City.   But it looked as though, that fight and victory had been short-lived and the battle was about to be reignited.

Ben picked up the tails of the blankets from behind Adam and followed his eldest son, as Joe was carried into the homestead.

Hop Sing opened the door widely, allowing Adam to enter the large room and head towards the staircase.   The small Chinese man lead the way up the steps, making sure that there was no obstacle or tripping hazard.   The warmth of the house was welcomed by all, and noticeable as the family reached Joe’ room.

Carefully, Adam laid his sleeping brother on the clean sheets, as the bed clothes were pulled back briefly, shifting Joe’s upper body until he was resting comfortably on the pillows at the head of the bed.   Ben began taking off his boots but left the socks, laying the shoes on a chair near the fireplace to keep them warm for later.

Adam unbuttoned Joe’s trousers now that the boots had been removed, and had to keep his own anger in check as he saw the bruises and scratches that still marred the boy’s pale flesh. The trousers had been a little stubborn at first due to the thick bandages still adorning the boy’s left shin.  The bandages would remain on for at least another month or two, Doc Martin informed them, before they could be removed and Joe be allowed to attempt putting full weight back on that leg.

Hoss stood guard by the bedroom doorway, both Adam and Ben knowing that turmoil and guilt was beginning to eat the larger Cartwright up inside to see his younger brother hurt and so still like this.   Injured again, when he had barely begun healing in the first place.   It went against the very grain of thing to Hoss’s way of thinking, just like everything else that had happened to his brother.  He despised the men who had done this to Joe.  He had a strong dislike for the Judge who had put the boy through so much humiliation in front of everyone.   He didn’t understand a justice system that put its sole trust in the opinions of a few unreliable witnesses.  And most of all, he hated himself for being so angry.

He muttered a brief word about returning to help Charlie with the horses and gather everything else out of the wagon and left the room to go back downstairs.

Joe appeared to be sleeping peacefully and was probably due to stay that way for several more hours to come.  Adam had managed to get one of Ben’s shirts over the boy’s head and bandages, the two of them tucking the blankets back in around him.

Hoss returned to the house, and came into the bedroom once more, carrying the other reminders of Joe’s injuries.   Crossing to the other side of the room, he propped the two wooden crutches up against the wall in the far corner.    It was doubtful that his brother would be leaving his bed anytime soon in the next few days.

The crutches told the story that Joe needed more than his family’s love and caring at the moment just to stand. The boy had stumbled a number of times whilst trying to manoeuvre back and forth from the witness stand.  To Hoss and the rest of the family they only seemed to confirm their fears about how badly Little Joe had been hurt.

There had been a discussion about Joe’s hat before they had left Virginia City, which was now placed on a bedside table.   There had also been a question about his favoured green jacket, but that had been left back at Doc Martin’s due to the damage caused to it.  Ben had declared the garment beyond repair or salvage and could no longer bear to look upon it and see it stained with his youngest son’s blood.

Knowing it was going to be a long night for all, Adam suggested to Hoss that they both go downstairs and get some coffee and the hot food that Hop Sing had downstairs.    Hoss started to voice objection, but looking at his father and receiving a silent ‘work with me’ plea from Adam, reluctantly nodded in agreement, recognizing that their father needed some alone time with his son.

No doubt they would need to rotate between them, including Hop Sing, to take care of Joe during the night, none of them feeling comfortable enough to leave him unattended.   One step forward and two back seemed an apt description lately for everything.

“We will bring you a hot cup of coffee, Pa,” Hoss promised his father.

“That sure would be welcome,” Ben admitted, grateful for the warmth within the room from the fireplace.   Drawing the larger arm chair closer to the bed and removing his thicker coat, laying it beside the already discarded gloves, intending to occupy it later in the night.   Even with its gaudy floral fabric, the comfortable chair had almost become a permanent fixture to the room, but after sitting in it for hours at a time, Ben’s back had been thankful.

Joe had not awoken as such, but for a brief moment his quiet slumber was disturbed and he seemed to be having a battle against unseen shadows again.   Demons that had probably been created from the memories of the real monsters that had stalked him and then caused him so much hurt and pain. Suffering and fear that he had hidden from his family. A deep gnawing fear that bit into the boy’s very soul and stole his spirit with it.

Ben sat on the edge of the bed, for now, the only real important thing was to let the Joseph know that his family was right here with him and that he was safe and loved.   He spoke softly to the boy, reminding him of how much his family had missed him and how proud they had been of him over the last few days.

He continued to talk soothing words to his son as he slept, caressing his face, almost too afraid to touch the bruised cheek until all sounds of distress had ceased.

Ben’s mind started to take him back to a time about a month ago when everything seemed to be going fine. If only he could go back there now.

To be continued ………………

Author Notes:

Rewriting – a great many will probably ask why when there are lot of new ones to write.   Whilst this true, I felt that I needed to go back and fix the many mistakes that had been made when trying to finish in too much of a hurry.   But this extended story will be more than a mere going back to fix errors, this story is about to double in size, with much more new content to be added.   None of it having been seen yet, and hopefully enough twists to keep you reading, but not taking away from the original story that many liked to read.

This chapter didn’t have a lot of new content, but the next few chapters will be longer and more involved.

I hope you will continue to read all of my work.   I have a couple of new fandoms I write now, and plan to rewrite and add to a lot of my stories, because as readers, you deserve it, but as a fan of the characters, feel that I haven’t quite ended these pages enough just yet.

Thank you for reading.

Jules6

Fixing The Damage

FIXING THE DAMAGE

By Jules

Author’s Note:    This little story came about as I watched the Deleted Scenes from the episode “Nothing But the Truth” where Kristin was telling Lucas about how worried she was and about his room being destroyed by the hijackers.

In this story, it is assumed that Tim and Miguel were not present at the time of the SeaQuest being taken over.

and so the story continues:

Commander Jonathan Ford was walked towards the launch bay area, ready to greet the arrival of Captain Bridger and Doctor Westphalen.   A few of the other crew members were returning also, but only to help with the repairs that were necessary until they reached Pearl Harbor.

Ford had changed clothes from the black jumpsuit he had taken from one of the hijackers.  It had been almost 12 hours since Colonel Schrader had stolen a launch. The man had ignored Katie Hitchcock when she warned him the maximum depth that the vessel was and had paid the ultimate price.

As he turned the corner, he spotted Lucas standing near a bulk head, looking intently at some instrument panel that had been damaged by Schrader’s men.

“How’s it going, Lucas?”

Lucas jumped slightly at the Commander’s voice, not hearing anybody come up behind him, “Oh sorry, I didn’t see you.”

Ford could see from his stance, the remnants of tension across the teenager’s shoulders, “You don’t have to do this now.”

“I don’t mind helping out.  Everybody else is busy cleaning up.”

“You should be getting some sleep,” Ford pointed out, knowing that the Captain would be worried.   Tiredness was plainly visible, as well as a few other emotions that the teenager was trying to mask.

“Nah, I am good,” Lucas replied casually, pressing a few of the switches to see if they still worked, raking a hand through his messy blond hair, which only emphasised the fatigue even more.

Aware the strong independence streak that Lucas possessed, the Commander knew that the direct approach wasn’t going to work, but didn’t want to drop the subject entirely.

“So what’s the damage bill?” he asked, still trying to figure out the boy’s mood without arousing suspicions and keeping the tone of the conversation casual.  A difficult thing to do with a teenager who was often too secretive and intuitive.

Lucas was taken a back for a moment, looking up briefly with guarded interest, before giving a crooked grin.  He was generally chuffed that Ford was asking for his opinion, but he wouldn’t openly admit that to the Commander or anyone else.

“This panel doesn’t look too bad.  I wasn’t able to get a complete read out yet of what they were doing on the Bridge, but Katie said she would give me the run down later,” he explained.

“Lucas,” Ford prompted, waiting for the youth to look at him.  But he instantly recognized the pause in his own voice and knew the teenager’s suspicions would be raised.

“Yeah?”

The one word answer and the reluctant to turn and face him confirmed that the boy somehow worked out what Ford was going to say even before he did or the words left his mouth.

Ford took a deep breath, hoping the right words would come even if they sounded flat to begin with, “Lucas, I am proud of you………..”

The teenager stopped what he was doing, refusing to acknowledge the change in the Commander’s voice nor the few words of praise.   Ford was not expecting his sentence to be interrupted:

“Proud of what?   That I couldn’t handle it and cracked under pressure.” Lucas said with reproach and self-doubt, recalling how Ford had needed to talk to him and reassure him when they were trying to get back to his room to contact Bridger.

“There is nothing more you could have done, Lucas.  You did your best.   You were scared and had every right to be.”

“I really didn’t do anything, Commander.”

“Lucas,” Ford began to say, “That’s not true and you know it,” wanting to talk more

Lucas closed the panel that he had been working on, “I’m going to try and find Kreig and give him a list of the parts I am going to need,” cutting off the conversation.

“Looks like we still have plenty of need of our Chief Computer Analyst for a while,” Ford commented, trying to lighten the teenager’s sullen mood.

“For a while.”

Ford watched as the teenager walked away, silently thinking that Lucas was still trying to deal with what had happened on his own.  He made a mental note to talk to Doctor Westphalen when she arrived.

___________________________________________________________

Commander Ford continued his way to the launch bay, arriving just in time to hear the loudspeaker:  SeaQuest MR-5 has arrived at Docking Bay Number 3.

 “Captain onboard,” came the announcement. Some of the enlisted crew members were waiting by the doors, each proceeding with a smart salute to Bridger as he walked out.

“As you were, gentlemen,” Bridger said, returning the salutes.

Kristin was behind him.   Miguel Ortiz and Tim O’Neill had also returned with them on the launch.  They been fortunate enough to make it off SeaQuest before Schrader’s men attacked.

“Damage report, Jonathan?” Bridger asked plainly, wanting to assess the situation as quickly as possible.

“Levin is currently looking after Chief Crocker in Med Bay.  There were a few other minor injuries that will still need attending to,” Ford answered, looking at Westphalen as he spoke.

“I will be there in a few moments,” Kristin informed him, gathering her belongings together, “I talk further with you later, Nathan,” she added and then headed off in the direction of the medical area.

Ford continued with his report, “Crew are cleaning up E Deck as I speak, the water levels have dropped, but there is still a hell of a lot of mopping up to do.”

“Have you gotten any sleep yourself since this all ended?” Bridger asked, knowing that the majority of the clean-up and other urgent matters had fallen directly into Ford’s hands with neither of them having any control over the outcome.

“Yes, Sir, I did get a few hours of sleep.  I insisted that Commander Hitchcock got some rest too, and we have both worked together with the rest of the crew as best we could.”

“You two really did a terrific job, Commander,” Bridger commended, “The situation could have gotten a lot more out of hand if you and Hitchcock hadn’t kept your cool.”

“There are other people that need mentioning too, Captain,” Ford stated.  “Up until now I had seriously thought about not approving Krieg’s credentials, but he really pulled through when I needed him most.”

Bridger had a small smile on his face as he heard Ford’s report.  It was no secret that there had been some tension between him and Ben recently.   Ford must have thought he was chewing glass when speaking about the supply officer in such a positive way.

“The other person is Lucas, Sir.”

“Where is Lucas now?” Bridger asked.   The teenager was one of the first persons he had hoped to see upon arrival.   He had been assured that the boy wasn’t injured, but he wanted to check he was alright.

“I was talking to him just a few minutes before you arrived, Captain.  He seemed okay.”

Seemed okay?” Bridger prompted, noting a little hesitation in Ford’s statement.  The Captain could be just as intuitive when the situation arose.

“He was looking a one of sensor panels that had been damaged.  I told him that he had done a great job, but he tensed up and walked away, ashamed that he had felt scared.”

“Thank you, Commander, I will go and find him.”

“It’s me that should be apologizing to you, Sir,” Ford said, needing to say a few things to the Captain.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for, Jonathan.”

“I was worried enough, Captain, when I first found Lucas and Schrader’s men still controlled the boat.   Together we managed to subdue a couple of them and get to his room to contact you.”

“I can’t help but think I was to blame for Lucas getting captured, Sir.   We got to his room and he managed to send you that signal through the W.S.K.R., even though it was risky.”

“I am sure that you did everything you could to keep him safe, Jonathan, and I am very grateful.”

“You don’t know how bad Ben and I felt, hearing Lucas calling out for help when those guys found him.  They dragged him from that room and were fairly rough with him.”

“One of the clean up crew informed me earlier just how bad his room looked.   I know how important his computer equipment is to him.  If he needs any money…………”

Bridger interrupted him, “Thank you, Commander, that won’t be necessary.  I will go and find him and assess the damage to his room.”

The Captain couldn’t help but feel his stomach begin tying itself into knots at the additional details he had just heard.   Schrader’s men had used guns and everything could have turned out completely different.  He couldn’t help but feel guilty himself for not being onboard and able to protect the boy.

_________________________________________________________

When he had walked away from Commander Ford, Lucas could have gone in any direction, but suddenly found himself standing outside his own cabin.   He had yet to see the damage for himself, but slowly pushed the door open.

For a moment or two, his held his breath, too afraid that someone might hear the audible sigh he released from his throat, or the dismay written across his face.   Not physical pain, but he certainly felt like he had been punched in the stomach, surveying the destruction.

The room was eerily silent, but as soon as he put his foot through the hatch, the first sound he heard was the distinct breaking of plastic covers from his music collection.  He owned boxes and boxes of disks that had everything he listened to, hundreds of tracks.  Mostly original artists, but some that he had mixed together on his computer.

Instead of the rows of boxes that had been carefully stored and categorized in the most used, there was nothing but piles of broken and shattered disks.  Some had been splintered to pieces by the bullets that had torn through his room.  He bent down and picked one up, but it was mangled beyond repair and he let the half piece of disk fall back out of his hand again.

He couldn’t think of a coherent sentence that would explain just how much damage there was.  Nothing was untouched or undisturbed and his room was unrecognizable.  There were indiscriminate blackened char marks across the walls that demonstrated just how random the gunfire had been in hitting any object in the room.

Walking over to his music sound board, setting his jaw and refusing to allow emotions to dominate his thoughts, running a finger along the top, but seeing that it too was beyond repair.  The switches were damaged, cables in the back had been severed by the bullets and deep gouges had been made on the front where the control panel was.  There wasn’t even anything to salvage from it.

Lucas turned at the sound of footsteps behind him on the broken plastic covers, to see Captain Bridger standing inside the hatch way.  The shock on his face was evident too.

“Oh, kiddo, I am so sorry,” Bridger said softly, seeing through the mask on the teenager’s face.

“What’s to be sorry about?” Lucas said as he looked away, “There is nothing left.”

Lucas sat on his bunk, the slumped posture a testament to just how empty he was feeling at this point in time.   The Captain had no idea of just how much Lucas felt like giving in to the unspoken question of “How are you feeling?” between them.   The teenager was determined not to crumble and was not going to show weakness;  he was capable of keeping it all together.

“We will fix this, Lucas.  At least you are safe.”

Bridger walked over, sitting down beside the teenager and placing his hand on the thin shoulder, trying to offer what little comfort he could, and wasn’t surprised that the teenager’s brave resolve.   He had hoped that over time enough trust had developed between them to speak honestly with each other, but stubbornness was a shadow that often came to the forefront.

“It is all gone.  It will take me months to catch up on the programming I was doing.  Everything I ever owned was in this room.”

Bridger sat quietly, knowing that there wasn’t a lot he could say, his own anger beginning to grow at men like Schrader who didn’t care about anybody but their own cause.

“All my clothes are ruined,” Lucas said, picking up a shirt that was no longer good for anything but rags.   “I haven’t even got a bed to sleep in,” he said glumly, running a hand across his tired face.

Bridger could see the strain on the young man’s face and noted the defeated expression and was about to offer his own quarters to let Lucas rest for a while.  But before he could say anything, Lucas jumped up from the bed, needing to escape the confines of his debris littered room.

“I don’t want to deal with this at the moment,” he stated and ran out the door before Bridger could stop him.

Bridger wanted to go after him, but knew that the boy was hurting and probably looking for some space.   Still seated on the bunk, he idly picked up Lucas’s pillow, a stab of fear running through his spine as his fingers found two bullet holes in the fabric.

Lucas wasn’t ready to face what had happened to him yet, that much was certain.

Bridger left the room, closing the door behind him.  He would have to talk to Krieg later on, but perhaps Kristin first.

____________________________________________________________

Lucas had travelled quickly from his room towards the Moon Pool.  He stood beside the tank, trying to get his emotions under control.  With everyone else busy cleaning up, for the moment he was left alone with his thoughts and feelings.

He put his hand in the water, letting the coolness soothe away some of his frustration and anxiety.

Darwin surfaced a few minutes later, swimming up to his young friend and nudging his hand with the top of his head.

The dolphin let out a number of clicks and whistles which were deciphered through the vocorder sitting in its bracket against the pool; “Lucas, play.”

“No, not now Dar,” Lucas responded, his thoughts miles away.

Lucas hadn’t noticed Kristin Westphalen watching him from a stairway across the deck.  She had walked out of the medical area, satisfied that everything had been done as much as possible for those injured.

The doctor had not had a chance to talk to the teenager yet since she arrived back.   She was unaware of what had transpired between Lucas and Ford earlier in the day, or just a few minutes earlier in his own cabin with Captain Bridger.  As she watched, her motherly instincts kicked in and she could see that he was troubled and upset.  His face looked tired and perhaps still held a little trace of fear that he must have experienced.

“Hello, Lucas,” she greeted him, smiling at him, and hoping to put her own worry about him to rest.

Lucas turned at the voice, “Hi,” he said, but went back to playing with the water.

“I heard they destroyed your room?” she said gently, knowing that the computers were very important to him.

“Yeah,” came the one-worded response.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she urged.

Lucas turned sharply, ready to give an angered response, but the words died on his lips as he felt her fingers gently caress his cheek, “I was so worried about you.”

Lucas could feel the emotions in him beginning to swell again, and he tried to squash them down again, “Thank you,” he whispered, giving her a quick embrace.

“I have to go and find Ben,” he said too quickly, pulling away from her and walking away.  For a brief moment, wanting to surrender to her comfort, but the independent streak in him made him want to escape her company just as it had done with Bridger.

Kristin decided to talk to Nathan, concerned that the teenager was putting up the usual defensive walls and shutting out the people out that cared about him.

____________________________________________________________

Lucas walked from the Moon Pool, towards the Mess Hall.  He couldn’t stomach the thought of food, but a hot cup of coffee sounded good.  Within a few minutes, he was sitting at one of the small tables, holding the steaming cup in his hands, his mind wandering back and forth over Schrader and his unannounced visit.

He remembered how bad he had felt for accusing Commander Hitchcock of helping the hijackers too much.   She had been doing her job, and carrying out a direct order from Ford.  It took guts to do what she did and he hadn’t helped things very much.

The teenager sipped at his hot drink, hoping it would help him keep alert.  His body was worn out and he hadn’t slept since it all happened.  He had tried, briefly, to lay down and sleep, but too many images had plagued him, and he had quickly given the idea away as a bad joke.

“Hey Lucas,” came the cheerful greeting from Miguel Ortiz as he and Tim O’Neill entered the Mess.   They had been helping the clean up crews, and were taking a well earned break.

Lucas gave them a tired smile in return, but didn’t think he would make very good company at present.   He left them both looking a little bewildered when got up from the table and left his steaming cup of coffee unfinished.

________________________________________________________

For the last half an hour since leaving Lucas’s room, Bridger had found himself talking to a number of people and overseeing the clean up operation.

Kristin found him standing in a corridor, reading some schematic drawings with Commander Ford, showing where the water level had reached to.

“Nathan, I need to talk to you, please.”

“Sure, what is it, Kristin?” Bridger asked, handing the map back to his second-in-charge.

“Have you spoken to Lucas today?”

“Yes, I have.  I went and seen the damage to his room,” Bridger’s answered.  “You should have seen it, bullet holes riddled through every part of it.”

“I spoke him by the Moon Pool just a short while ago, but I don’t think he is coping very well with this whole incident,” she informed him.

“I think he was lost about the destruction to his room, I tried to offer and talk, but he ran off,” Nathan explained.   “I know he is hurting at the moment.  I planned to talk to Ben later and talk about what he will need replacing.”

“At the moment, I am more worried about Lucas then what needs replacing in his room.”

This statement certainly got Bridger’s attention and he focused his attention solely on Lucas.  Inwardly, he kicked himself for not talking to the boy more.

“Where is he now?”

“I don’t know where he went to after the Moon Pool,” Kristin responded.

“Let’s try the Bridge, maybe he had some fool idea about doing some work to keep his mind off things,” Bridger suggested.   “Commander, we will have to continue this later,” he said to Ford.  For now he was satisfied that things were progressing as best they could, given the crew restrictions and the length of time that had elapsed.

All three of them began walking to the Bridge to see if they could find the teenage computer whiz.

____________________________________________________________

Lucas left the Mess Hall and had roamed aimlessly down a number of the corridors, passing a few of the enlisted crew members.

He was just about to pass by the gymnasium, when he ran into Katie Hitchcock.  She too had been trying to deal with the emotions of what had happened, but her approach was to sweat it out and use the punching bag to get rid of her frustrations.

“Hey, Lucas,” she greeted friendly manner.

“Um, Hi,” Lucas returned, not wanting to be rude to her.    He didn’t stop to talk though and kept walking.

She could see the boy looked distant and sullen, but surmised he was still fairly worked up over becoming a hostage.  She was thankful that things had turned out the way they did, and he hadn’t ended up being hurt.  Although she had been scared for him when Schrader intended to take them both off the SeaQuest.

At the time she had been trying to figure out a way to help him, and had been mildly surprised when instead he had stomped on the captor’s foot and told her to get away.   She had yet to give praise to her ex-husband for being at the right place and letting the situation grow even more dangerous for her and Lucas.

Katie headed towards the shower room.  She was due on the Bridge to begin her shift soon.

_______________________________________________________

Lucas put his hand on the hatch, still thinking of where he could go onboard without running into anybody for a while.   He knew they cared about him, but at the moment he wasn’t ready to answer their questions or have them tell him that everything would be alright.

The door was locked, but he knew the access code, and quickly punched it in.   A green light signalled that it had been accepted and he walked in, closing the door behind him.   The usual occupant wasn’t there and wouldn’t be back anytime soon.   That suited him just fine at the moment.

He sat down on the bed and ran his hand through his unruly blond hair.  God he was tired.  Maybe he could keep himself awake a while longer and start writing a list of what stuff he needed to get fixed in his room.

Everything was trashed, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford to do it all at once, but he could do it a bit at a time.   He didn’t have any money that he could get access to straight away until the tour finished.

He managed to find a writing pad and a pen, and began scribbling his list.  He picked up the pillow at the foot of the bed and placed it behind his head and leaned against the back wall of the bed.  The thought of being without his computers and music that long depressed him even more.

Ten minutes later, the tired teenager barely noticed his head nodding towards his chest.

__________________________________________________________________

Captain Bridger together with Kristin Westphalen were talking to Ortiz and O’Neill on the Bridge when Katie Hitchcock arrived to begin her shift.

“Have either of you seen Lucas today?” Bridger asked.  They both had been looking for the teenager over the past twenty minutes without success and beginning to become concerned about his state of mind.

“He was having a cup of coffee in the Mess,” O’Neill answered.

“But he left when we came into the room, the cup was only half finished and still hot,” Ortiz continued.

“Have either of you seen him since then?” Kristin enquired.   Both men shaking their head with negative responses.

“What’s going on?” Katie Hitchcock asked, walking up the grated floor and approaching the group standing next to O’Neill’s communication station.

“We are trying to find Lucas, Commander, have you seen him?” Bridger asked.

“Yes, he walked past the gymnasium about half an hour ago.  He didn’t say much, just kept going,” she confirmed.

“He can’t have gone far then,” Ford suggested, trying to relay any fears that were growing about the youth.

“Is something wrong?” Katie wanted to know, seeing concern on the faces of the Doctor and Captain.

“We are worried about him,” Kristin commented.  “He has been avoiding everyone.”

“Katie, when he was with you, Colonel Schrader and his men didn’t hurt him did he?”

Hitchcock understood where the concern was coming from, “Not that I can recall.  They handcuffed him to the railing over there with me, but I didn’t see them physically hit him.”

“Nathan, maybe that is what he is hiding, apart from his being unhappy about his room,” Kristin said with worry in her voice.  “I couldn’t see any marks on him, but he did pull back rather quickly from the hug I offered.”

“He did look pretty worn out when I saw him,” Ford commented.  “He said he was fine, and brushed off any comments about him some sleep fairly quickly.”

“Don’t jump to any conclusions just yet,” Bridger remarked, trying to convince himself that Lucas had not been attempting to keep any injury a secret.  “He has to be somewhere.  We can’t use his PAL communicator to contact him, as it is still in pieces on the floor in his room.”

“I suggest we split into small groups and trying to find him, but quietly,” Kristin said, “If he is trying to avoid us, too many confronting him at once might just make the situation worse.”

“Commander Ford, you and Katie, you two remain here on the Bridge, but keep in contact.   O’Neill, you and Ortiz cover the science labs and Mammal Engineering.  I don’t think he would have gone back to his room, but I will check just in case.  Kristin and I will check the crew quarters and my quarters and make our way back to the Moon Pool,” Bridger instructed.

The crew members standing in the group nodded their agreement.

Bridger addressed Ford once more, “Jonathan, see if you can find Lieutenant Krieg, he might have seen Lucas as well.”

“Will do, Sir.”

The four of them now left the Bridge area, trying to find the missing and possibly injured teenager.

____________________________________________________________

Bridger and the Doctor began their search at Lucas’s destroyed room.   Kristin had gasped out loud at the sight before her, understanding why the teenager had been sullen.

There was no sign of him here though, so they moved onto the next most probably place, the Captain’s quarters.   There had been a few times where Bridger had returned to his room late at night after shift, to find Lucas in his room.

Bridger opened the door quietly, hoping that they would find the missing teenager curled up on the couch in the room catching up on some much needed sleep.

Kristin stated the obvious, “He is not here either, Nathan,”

“Where else would he be?” Bridger asked out loud.  He knew that Lucas had a number of little secret hiding places on the boat.  Secluded areas that were out of the way from the usual noise and chaos of the crew.  Could this be where he was now?

Kristin chewing her thumb, thinking logically about what she knew of Lucas and his moods.  She had to be honest and admit that this was how she thought they might find Lucas.   “If I didn’t feel like talking to anyone and wanted to feel safe, where would I go?” she whispered quietly.

“I have a hunch,” she declared and walked quickly out of Bridger’s quarters and down the hallway, with Bridger following.

“Are you going to share it?” Bridger prompted, but they hadn’t gone far before he found both of them standing outside a door labelled A119 that he recognized.

“Do you think…..,” he began to asked, but Kristin put her hand on the door and pushed it opened it.   A little surprised when the hatch opened easily.  On any other day, this door would be secured and required a code to unlock it.

Westphalen stepped inside the room, knowing that she had rarely been afforded an invitation to enter.   Bridger followed, recalling being here a few times, but usually for official reasons.

Kristin turned to Nathan and signalled for him to come further into the room, but she held her fingers to her lips in a gesture for him to be as quiet as possible.

The Captain gave an audible sigh of relief when they looked towards the bed and their eyes fell on a most heart-warming, almost comical scene.

“I better let Commander Ford and the others know,” Bridger whispered, leaving the room for a moment to use his PAL communicator.

“Ford here,” the man responded to the Captain’s page.

“You can stop looking, Commander,” Bridger informed him, proceeding to explain where they had found Lucas.

“Will do, Sir,” Ford said, pleased that they could all relax again and continue the clean-up duties.

______________________________________________________________

Ben Krieg was just walking onto the Bridge to give his final report of the day on the clean up to Ford.  The bottom of his trousers were soaked from the mopping operation on E Deck, and there were scuff marks on various parts of his black uniform.

“Still another couple of hours, but we are making progress,” he started to say, but then became aware of some strange looks on the faces of the few crew members present, “What?” he demanded, daring them to call him out on the state of his clothes.

“Nothing Krieg,” Ford suppressing a laugh at the expression of suspicion coming from the usually unflappable Moral Officer, “You did a fine job.”

Krieg was certain that Ford was about to be chastise him over something until he heard the comment.  He thought the Commander must be thanking him for his efforts during the take over.

“Don’t mention it, Sir,” but he had no idea what was going on.

“You did great, Ben,” Katie said from behind him.   She was giving him a genuine smile of appreciation, and the fact that she called him by his first name, in front of other crew members didn’t go amiss.

“Katie, don’t mess with my head right now, huh.  I am wet and want to change my clothes and get something to eat.  If you are going to hit me with an anvil, do it now.”

“I am not messing with you, Ben.  Everyone here appreciates what you did.”

Calling me by my first name twice in the same hour.

“Ah-huh,” was the only comment he could come back with.  He couldn’t work out what her game was, and was definitely waiting for the sucker punch to come out of nowhere.

“Don’t act like you don’t know, Krieg,” O’Neill taunted, thinking the guy was trying to pull some kind of gag himself.

Ben gave Tim the strangest look.  This was a guy that normally didn’t pull any practical jokes, but at the moment, he had the distinct feeling that they were all setting him up for something.

“Commander, what is going on?” Ben asked plainly, not wanting to beat around the bush anymore.

“Bridger talked to me just a few minutes ago and wanted you to bring him a spare blanket and pillow from your store,” Ford told him.

“A blanket and a pillow?” Ben repeated, not getting the punch line at all.   Krieg began walking from the Bridge, still stumped as what they were all up to.

____________________________________________________________

Ben was still trying to work out what Ford and the others were up to as he meandered his way back to his room.  Upon reaching his quarters, he was surprised to hear whispers coming from inside.

He paused at the door, listening for who it might be.  Usually his door was locked due to the amount of stores he held and was responsible for.   Once inside he was greeted by Captain Bridger and Doctor Westphalen standing inside, talking quietly to each other.

“You did a wonderful thing here today, Ben,” Kristin exclaimed, giving him a big smile.

“She’s right, I can’t thank you enough,” Bridger now added.

Ben was a bit puzzled for a moment, until he looked over at his bunk and saw Lucas.   He hadn’t had a chance to talk to the teenager due to all the clean up.

Kristin saw the expression, “You really didn’t know he was here, did you?”

“Um, no,” Krieg answered truthfully, not that he minded.   The conversation on the Bridge began to make a little more sense.  The crew thought he had found Lucas and taken care of him.

“Is he okay?” Ben asked, noticing the kid’s slumped posture.

“Four of us just spent the last half an hour combing this place upside-down for him,” Bridger told him.  “We were worried that he had been hurt and was trying to hide it from everyone.”

“Do you have that blanket and pillow?” Kristin enquired.

“Yeah, sure,” Ben responded, walking over to one of his larger supply cupboards and grabbing out a large pillow and thick blue woollen blanket.  “He looks really uncomfortable sitting up and with his neck at an odd angle like that.”

Bridger reached over and carefully took the writing pad back out of Lucas’s sleep limp hand.  “Looks like he is putting together quite a list,” showing Ben what the teenager had scribbled.

“Nathan, will you help lay him down.  He knows your touch and you are not likely to wake him,” Kristin spoke.

Putting aside the wish list, Bridger helped Kristin lean the slumbering teenager forward, the blond head coming to rest on his shoulder.   There was a slight incoherent mumble, but nothing more.  With the two pillows in place, Kristin nodded her head and watched as Lucas was gently laid down.   Nathan lifted his feet onto the bed and removed his shoes, showing great care the whole time.

Kristin and Ben gave a smile at each other, seeing the Captain share such a tender moment with the sleeping teen.  No doubt Lucas would blush bright red and declare hotly that he wasn’t a baby if he was awake.

The doctor wanted to examine him for any signs of injury, and laid her hand on his chest.  She pulled back at seeing Lucas stir, not wanting to disturb him further, telling herself that any other examination could wait until morning. Another incoherent mumble and he was lost to the land of dreams again.

Usually the teenager was a very light sleeper   “He really must be tired,” Ben commented, noting the lack of response from Lucas.

“No, he is just truly exhausted.  All the emotions and events of the last twenty four hours have finally caught up with him, Ben,” Kristin said, taking the blanket and laying it over him.  She briefly laid a hand on his forehead, but could only detect a natural warmth to his skin.

“Sleep well,” Kristin whispered, her voice filled with caring.

“Good-night, kiddo,” Bridger said softly to the slumbering teenager.

_______________________________________________

Krieg saw the Captain and the Doctor to the door so that they wouldn’t wake Lucas with their conversation.

Bridger spoke to Ben before they left, “I want to talk to you in the morning about the wish list that is here.  I think Lucas will want to add more to it.  Once it is complete, see how quickly you can get the equipment here.”

“All of it, Sir,” Ben asked, noting how much dollars they were talking about.

“Don’t worry about the bill, I will be paying for it.  It’s the least I can do when I wasn’t here to protect him.   I will add some extra cash and you can take him with you up-world to pick out what he wants.   If you have to use any of your own free time, just let me know and I will put a little bonus into your pocket.”

“You don’t have to do that, Sir, I’ll be happy to take care of it.”

“Sorry to take your bed for the night, Lieutenant,” Bridger whispered.

“Not a problem, Sir.  Lucas is welcome here anytime.”

Bridger smiled at this comment.  Krieg was notorious for not allowing anybody into his quarters.  Even going so far as challenging Crocker when the Regulator had been onboard about how much valuable equipment he had in the room.

“If he needs anything………,  Bridger began to say, “I am sure you will know what to do,” was the final comment as they walked away from Ben, grateful that Lucas was safe and in capable hands getting some much needed rest

____________________________________________________________

Ben Krieg closed his door and sat back on a chair for a moment, looking back at his sleeping friend.

“Maybe I should keep you around here for a few more days.  Then when everybody starts missing the Lucas-man, I will be a hero all over again,” Ben started to scheme.

On a more sobering thought, there was no denying that he had been worried about the teenager when Schrader’s men had taken him hostage.

“I will always be there for you, Lucas.”

As if in response to the comment, the teenager stirred briefly enough to turn his head.  His soft blond hair fanning out over the pillow.

Lucas looked peaceful when he was sleeping, showing his age and vulnerability.  Any stress that might have been present had been temporarily replaced by calm serenity.

“No wonder the crew fall all over you, buddy,” Ben said with a chuckle.  “All I have to do is keep you looking as cute as that for the rest of the tour and Ford will be choking on the admiration and praise that I receive from Bridger and the Doc.”

The End.

Just a little piece.  Probably too sappy at the end.

Any reviews are very welcome.  All updated and added to.     I am slowly updating and writing as time allows.  Thank you to anybody who is still reading my stories.

If you want to keep updated, please feel free to follow me here and subscribe to my writing blog.  You will receive notifications when there are new stories and updates or new chapters.

Onto the next story…………….

JULES

Rewriting Stories

Hello to all of those who have continued to support my stories and writing – very much appreciated.

I have decided to embark on a most onerous journey in that a lot of the completed stories need a lot of reworking and rewriting – to make them better and to add a lot more content to them all.

Please bear with me as this is done.

I will mark any chapters or stories plainly as this process takes place – so if you have read a story or chapter before now – you might want to take a look again at the new content.

Hopefully my writing has improved sufficiently since the early days to improve what is already on the pages of some early works.

Please know that any stories listed on the front page will be written – and they should be marked as to whether they are completed, a work in progress or a story that is planned and titled.

I hope you will all continue to follow my stories and enjoy reading them.

 

Jules

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