(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
“Offering forgiveness often seems reward less, especially when the act suffered runs deep. However, it is through forgiveness that one often finds the most unexpected allies.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
“You know, this does put an interesting spin on the world,” Sirius observed as he and Harriet lounged in the sitting room of Daniel’s house.
They were both sitting in recliners, upside down. DIDS was presently doing his best to curl up and sleep in Harriet’s belly-button.
“I know, right?” Harriet said. “I started when I was trying to figure out the egg.”
Sirius laughed. They were home alone at the moment. Sirius said that it was because everyone else had finally left to give them some quality time alone.
Harriet smiled more before her attention returned to the topic they’d been discussing before. “So… my mother’s favourite subject was really Potions back in the day?”
“Oh yeah,” Sirius nodded seriously. “Tops in the school in the subject she was. Well, used to go back and forth with Sniv—er, Professor Snape.”
“Feels weird thinking about anyone but him teaching it,” Harriet said.
“Oh yeah,” Sirius replied. “It was taught by a stuffy old duffer named Slughorn back in the day. He was head of Slytherin house too. Don’t get me wrong, plenty nice chap, but maybe a little too nice if you catch my drift.”
Sirius chuckled. “Slughorn played favourites; hard. And his favourites were the kids who looked like they’d go on to be famous or influential in one way or another.”
Sirius gave her a very pointed upside down look. “See, he helped them out, then he could call on them for favours later.”
“Ohhhhh,” Harriet nodded, understanding now.
“Yeah, and he was damned good at it. But that didn’t make him a bad person,” Sirius said. “Honestly, he was a lot of laughs. He was a little too close with my brother for my liking though…”
“What do you mean?”
“Ah, just that my brother was one of his ‘Slug Club,’” Sirius explained.
“The ‘Slug Club?’” Harriet asked, snorting in disgust.
“Nuh-uh,” Sirius said. “You don’t get to laugh. Your mum was in the club too.”
Harriet stopped sniggering at once.
“Was my dad?” she asked after a moment’s silence.
“No, no,” Sirius said dismissively. “James and I never had time for that claptrap. None of us did. We had our own adventures to live and stories to make. We didn’t need some old walrus face pulling our strings for us.”
“Oh yeah!” Sirius laughed, holding up his hands under his nose so his fingers hung over his lips like a large brush with very thick bristles.
“Looked just like thimf,” Sirius said, his voice slightly muffled by his fingers.
Harriet laughed at both the mental image of Slughorn Sirius was making, and the sight of Sirius himself.
“So Daniel wasn’t part of the club either?” Harriet asked.
“Nah, though he was on Slughorn’s radar, for sure.”
“So how did Daniel get to be an Auror then?” Harriet asked.
“Hard work,” Sirius said, shrugging. “Sometimes that can get people ahead in life, after all.”
“Did any of the rest of you want to be Aurors?”
Sirius chuckled. “Your dad, for one.”
“Why didn’t he become one?”
“Well, hard to do all the necessary training to be an Auror when you’re on the run from Lord Voldemort with your wife and infant,” Sirius explained.
“Good point,” Harriet admitted, feeling foolish.
“As for Remus—well—Aurors were never going to hire a werewolf. As for me, I’ve never exactly taken authority all that well.”
“So… you always talk about the stuff you got up to with my dad, but not Daniel and Remus as much.”
Sirius’ smile became a little forced. “Well, we were all friends, but I guess some of us were a bit closer than others. Your dad and I didn’t care so much for rules, unlike Daniel and Remus.”
“Then why did you all hang out so much?”
“Hey, our friendship wasn’t purely predicated on that,” Sirius replied. “You know… the real thing that brought us together the most I think was Remus.”
“Oh yeah,” Sirius said. “We all saw he was the odd kid out. We didn’t need to look out for Peter, he followed us everywhere we went whether we wanted him to or not. Remus was the kid who needed a friend. He was smart, and when he wasn’t being a stick in the mud he could actually be pretty funny. So I suppose James and I started hanging out with him, about the same time and for the same reason Daniel did. So, through Remus, we became friends with Daniel.”
Harriet pursed her lips as she digested the new information.
Sirius continued. “When we figured out Remus’ secret, James and I were a bit worried about what Daniel would do. But I guess it turns out we’d had an impact on him as well, because first question he asked was something like ‘what are we going to do to protect him?’”
“Really?” Harriet blinked. She smiled internally. The way Sirius was describing Daniel back in the day reminded her a lot of Hermione.
“Oh yeah,” Sirius agreed. “It was him and James who thought of becoming animagi. Two kids who couldn’t be more opposite, working tirelessly to help out one poor kid.”
“How do you mean, opposite?”
“Well…” Sirius looked as though he was thinking hard. “Your dad was a spoiled rich kid who pretty much got whatever he wanted. Daniel was from a working class family. Not quite Weasley level, but much closer to that end of the spectrum than my family or James’.”
Sirius smiled. “That was the kind of man your father was, though, Harriet,” he explained. “And Daniel still is. Yeah, Daniel cares about the rules and law, but he cares more about doing what’s right.”
“What about you?” Harriet asked.
“Me?” Sirius snorted. “I cared about fun. I cared about adventure. I cared about being my own man. I just happened to make some amazing friends along the way.”
Harriet looked over at Sirius. He wasn’t looking back at her, just staring at the ceiling. So Sirius had always been a bit of a loner and an outsider, it seemed. It sounded a bit like how Harriet often felt, now that she thought about it. She always felt like a bit of an outsider with her friends. They always had interesting things to talk about, and Harriet felt like she could never think of anything to say herself and so she would usually just listen until someone asked her something directly.
Well, that part isn’t much like Sirius, Harriet thought. There was something else though, she considered as she studied her godfather. Had Professor McGonagall been right? Did Sirius like the same sorts of things she did?
Should she ask him? Harriet wasn’t sure. It felt like the wrong time, for one. For another… what if Professor McGonagall had been wrong? She had said nothing was ever proven. It was all just rumours, wasn’t it?
But then there was the time in the Shack. Sirius had tied her so much better than she’d ever managed to do on her own. Harriet suddenly blushed furiously and looked away. No, no she was not ready to talk about that yet. Maybe ever.
“You okay?” Sirius asked.
“Hm? Oh yeah,” Harriet said quickly. “Just thinking.”
Sirius smiled. “That’s good.”
“Generally advisable, yes,” Sirius laughed.
Harriet giggled in spite of herself. Sirius was giving her an odd sort of expression now. Harriet felt her face get tight and she looked around.
“What?” she asked.
Sirius shook his head. “You are so much like your mother. It’s incredible.”
This somehow did not make Harriet feel any less self-conscious. In fact, at that moment, something welled up in Harriet’s stomach and words surged out of her.
“Everyone tells me that, how much like my mother I am but I don’t know anything about her. I don’t know what that even means? Why am I so much like her? Why aren’t I like my dad? No one ever talks about him? What was wrong with him?”
Harriet now felt rather small as she caught her breath. She stole a sheepish glance at Sirius and saw that to her surprise, during her tirade he had moved into a proper sitting position and was looking down at Harriet with a very serious look indeed. He did not look angry, but he did look concerned.
“Nothing,” Sirius said. “Nothing at all was wrong with your father. Your father was a brave, caring, and loyal man who loved you and your mother more than life itself. Remus told me about experiences with the Dementors, Harriet.”
Harriet fought back a scowl.
“That tells you all you need to know about your father. Your father gave his life to save you and your mother. He loved you both that much.”
In the back of her mind, what Sirius was saying made sense. She understood what he was saying, and could tell by his tone that what he was saying was a good thing. Yet it didn’t feel that way. It didn’t feel that way at all.
“Well he should have won so we can all be together!” Harriet felt herself shout.
Sirius looked as though Harriet had slapped him. A deep mix of shame and even more anger surged through Harriet and she managed to swing herself out of the chair with surprising grace in her haste and was up the stairs and had slammed the door to her room shut. She didn’t go to her bed, or to her desk. Instead, she just slumped back against the door and slid to the floor.
She couldn’t cry, even though she expected herself to start. She was staring at the ceiling instead. She shouldn’t have shouted like that. Why had that made her so upset? Thinking about her parents had never really made her angry before. She was tired of people talking about her in odd tones about them, as though Harriet was a hollow egg-shell that would shatter into dust if they spoke too loudly.
There was a bump against the door. Harriet blinked looking at the handle. No one had tried the door.
“Gave your dragon a fright,” came Sirius’ voice from the other side of the door.
By the sound of it, he was sitting on the other side of the door from her. The bump must have been him leaning against the door. Harriet didn’t say anything. She’d forgotten that DIDS was on her stomach. She felt even guiltier now as she watched the little dragon squeeze its way under her door before scuttling off to curl up next to the heat vent under her desk by the window.
“I wish I knew of an easy way to talk about your parents, Harriet,” Sirius said. “I don’t imagine anyone does. The thing is, Harriet… most everyone who knew your parents fell in love with them. And when we have to talk about them… we have to remember. And I guess it’s difficult for us to remember sometimes that when we’re talking to you in particular…”
Sirius trailed off into silence. Harriet didn’t say anything, either. She felt just as speechless.
“We forget that we’re not talking to someone who had to deal with it all the same ways we did, and hasn’t had the time to deal with it properly, either. The only memories you get back of them are the sad ones. And it’s not fair of us to expect you to deal with it the same way.”
Harriet slowly looked back at the door.
“The thing is, Harriet,” Sirius said speaking again. “Your father was my best friend. The night he died… I was destroyed. I felt like I had nothing worth living for in the entire world.”
Harriet heard Sirius take a deep breath that had a slight quiver to it.
“Yeah… the point is… I wish he hadn’t died that night either. I would give anything to have him back. Because that was also the kind of person he was, Harriet. He was the kind of person who always made you feel like you could do anything. He was the kind of kid who helped another kid who hated his family feel like he belonged. He was the kid who helped a werewolf feel accepted. He was the kind of person who always pushed everyone around him to be better. Even when he was at his complete thickest, gittish-est, big-headedest worst… He was the kind of person who made you want to be a hero, too.”
Harriet slowly got to her feet. She turned and opened the door. Sirius was getting to his feet too. He looked down at her, dusting off his clothes. He opened his mouth to speak but Harriet didn’t give him a chance before hugging him. He hadn’t intended to make her feel the way she did; he had no idea what he’d just done. But as his words washed over Harriet, they mixed with the things Dora had told her at the Yule Ball. Finally, after all this time, beyond Quidditch, the black hair, the glasses, and a sense of adventure, Harriet knew what really, truly, made her just like her dad.
* * * *
Sirius became the life of the house as the Christmas holidays wound down. He was perfectly happy to pour over decorating magazines with Aurora to give Daniel’s home a more lived in feeling. He delighted in helping Harriet, Nanette, and Rosie with their holiday homework. He had even taken over nightly reading duties from Harriet, which he took to with great revelry, putting on funny voices for all the characters.
Everyone else seemed happier too. Remus could often be heard whistling about the home as he cooked dinner or went downstairs into his basement shop. Daniel had a constant spring in his step everywhere he went as well. Aurora had seemed apprehensive at first, but it didn’t even take her two days to accept the fact that Sirius was here to stay.
In fact, the only time things seemed dull around the house was during Sirius’ bi-weekly check-ups down in St Mungo’s with Daniel. Daniel had been given more or less complete control of Sirius’ life until St Mungo’s, and the Ministry, determined he was mentally sound again.
It was the final week before returning to Hogwarts. Aurora was up at school getting ready for the start of term, while Daniel and Remus were at the shop. The girls were up in their room. Harriet was down in the sitting room, listening to music over the Wireless from Rathlin’s student run station. She kept listening, hoping to hear Finn.
However, Harriet didn’t hear him once. It was reassuring to hear Colm’s soothing, gentle voice, however. The effect was somewhat similar to Professor Binns’. Not that it was boring, it was more a soft and therapeutic effect. You just felt calm and placid when listening to him speak.
Sirius, meanwhile, was standing near the window. Apparently, Colm’s voice was having no effect on him. He kept peering out into the street, as though he was waiting for something.
“What’s up?” Harriet finally asked after the fifth time Sirius had done so that hour.
“Probably a giant mistake,” Sirius said under his breath.
Sirius gave her a forced smile. “Let’s… just say I decided it was time to attempt to bury a hatchet.”
“Bury a hatchet?” Harriet asked.
“Yeah,” Sirius said looking out the window once more.
At once, Sirius froze. His expression and rigid stance put Harriet in mind of a hunting dog that had just caught the scent of its quarry.
“Here he comes…” Sirius said finally. He turned and looked at Harriet.
“I want you in your room, understood. Tell the girls they’re not to come out, either. You’re not to come downstairs no matter what you hear, do you understand—”
“Do you understand?”
Sirius’ tone was so stern that Harriet got out of her chair and hurried upstairs at once. She paused and opened the door to Nanette and Rosie’s room.
“Yes, Harriet?” Nanette asked.
Harriet was about to speak when the spectacle of the scene finally broke through her distraction. Hedwig was sitting on the floor between the girls. Hedwig gave a cooing hoot and puffed out her chest feathers which Harriet now realized had been turned from white to glittering gold, and her wings into a soft lavender. All around her on the floor was the make-up sets the girls had received for Christmas.
“Wha…?” Harriet asked, a bit slack jawed as she pointed at Hedwig.
Rosie shrugged. “We wanted to know if the charms worked on feathers. They do.”
Harriet felt her anger rising. “So you just kidnapped my owl without—”
“Well, you were busy with Sirius, we thought,” Nanette said, sounding a little disappointed.
“So we just asked Hedwig,” Rosie added. “And she flew right into our room. So we didn’t kidnap her.”
Harriet felt her jaw fall even more open. She looked down at Hedwig.
“Is that true?” she asked.
Hedwig gave a hoot and fluffed out her golden chest to the fluffiest Harriet had ever seen it.
Harriet gave a sigh of defeat. “Whatever… anyway, umm, Sirius has a visitor I guess… he said to stay in our rooms until it’s done, and not to come out no matter what we hear.”
“Okay,” Nanette said. “Should we wear our battle helmets?”
“Your wha—” Harriet reconsidered. “—never mind. Anyway, he’ll let us know when it’s time to come out.”
The girls nodded and Harriet hurried into her room. She was just about to shut her door when the doorbell rang. She heard the sound of Sirius’ footsteps approaching the door as she hesitated, listening.
“Door shut,” she heard Sirius call.
Harriet glowered and shut the door. She hesitated again, thinking. She knew Sirius didn’t want her to listen, but something about this was much too fishy. Did Daniel know about this? Harriet doubted it.
She put her ear to the door. She could hear voices dimly. She couldn’t make out any words, but there was no mistaking the terse tones. Harriet closed her eyes and hoped.
Yes, Harriet thought as she heard the voices move into the kitchen instead of the sitting room. Sirius and whoever it was were right underneath her room.
Harriet crept to her desk under her window. She slowly pulled out her desk chair, laid down on the floor, and lowered her ear to the floor grate for the heating duct that also connected to the kitchen. After a moment’s focusing, she heard the voices clearly.
“Didn’t think you’d accept,” she heard Sirius say, his voice tinny-sounding through the duct.
“It was my first impulse to decline, yes.”
Harriet started before clamping a hand over her mouth. She just managed to stop herself from calling out. She knew that voice, it was unmistakable. It was the dark, brooding voice of Professor Snape.
“Why’d you say yes?” Sirius asked.
Professor Snape didn’t respond. Or at least, he didn’t respond verbally. All Harriet heard was the sound of something being slid across the top of the table.
“Wow,” Sirius said. “Didn’t think you’d agree to that either.”
“Rest assured, I did not do it for you,” Professor Snape replied, coldly as ever.
Another awkward silence fell over the room.
“So, I suppose you want to know why I asked you here?” Sirius asked. “Besides our little secret here.”
“You think you can make amends for the past,” Professor Snape said lazily. “I’m no idiot.”
There was another pause. Even through the vent, Harriet could tell Sirius was biting his tongue.
“No… even I will grant you that,” Sirius said.
“Well,” Sirius spoke up. “You are right. I have had a lot of time to think over this past year. While I know why you and James never got on, it wasn’t my place to take part in all that.”
“No, I don’t suppose it was.”
“Well, no. Anyway, I guess what I want to say is… now that things are settled… now that my name is cleared… It’s time to put the past behind us, and it’s time to be adults about things.”
Sirius paused again. Harriet could tell that it was paining Sirius greatly to say what he was about to say.
“I’m sorry, Severus.”
Harriet’s eyes went wide. After the hatred she’d seen in their eyes the previous summer, Harriet didn’t think she’d ever hear Sirius say that. By the sound of it (or lack thereof) Professor Snape hadn’t expected it either.
“For every hex, jinx, curse… everything.”
The silence that followed was deafening. Harriet’s ear was starting to hurt where she pressed it against the grate, so she quickly changed ears, not wanting to miss anything.
“I see. And what do you expect in return for this newfound remorse?” Professor Snape asked. “Forgiveness? Peace of mind?”
“No,” Sirius said, flatly.
“I want you to be nice to Harriet.”
Harriet raised her head now, staring down at the grate.
“What do you mean?” Professor Snape asked.
“And her friends,” Sirius added. “I’ve heard things… even under house arrest. Harriet tries in your class and you ignore her. Sure, she’s James’ daughter, but she’s a good kid, and she’s just as much Lily’s. You two used to be friends didn’t you?”
Now Harriet’s other ear was starting to hurt. Her eyes were starting to water as well, as she was too shocked to blink. Professor Snape and her mother used to be friends?
“I was under the impression I was already helping Miss Potter.”
“Well, here’s what happens when you give a mouse a cookie,” Sirius said. “But this is about you not taking out your anger with me on her. She has nothing to do with what happened between you and me in the past.”
“No… I suppose she does not…” Professor Snape agreed. “Potter has performed adequately in Potions,” Professor Snape said. “But she has a long way to go. Lately her work has left a great deal to be desired.”
“Well, maybe helping her out instead of ignoring her would get her a bit more interested and a bit less apathetic, wouldn’t it?” Sirius retorted. “Maybe her Potions Master not giving her the time of day has something to do with it?”
Harriet felt her cheeks going rather red now. She was starting to regret listening in. However, she couldn’t stop herself now.
“Very well,” Professor Snape said.
“We have an accord?”
“Yes. Does that satisfy you?”
“Yes,” Sirius agreed. “Harriet is my goddaughter. Her safety and happiness are all that matters to me now, and I’ll do anything to assure it.”
“Even setting aside your considerable pride?”
“Yes,” Sirius said, his voice sounding a little bitter.
There was another long silence. Finally, Harriet heard the sound of two chairs being pushed back as the men stood.
“We have a deal then,” Professor Snape said.
Harriet couldn’t help but notice that despite their coming to some kind of agreement, neither Professor Snape nor Sirius sounded all that pleased.
“We have a deal,” Sirius agreed.
She heard footsteps now. Professor Snape was leaving. Harriet listened, but neither man said anything else as she heard the front door open.
Harriet hurried over and as quietly as she could to crack open her bedroom door.
“Remember to tell Potter the effect only lasts an hour,” Professor Snape said. “And that should give her enough time—provided she doesn’t get lost.”
“I will,” Sirius said.
There was the sound of Professor Snape’s feet on the front step but he stopped yet again.
“Black,” Professor Snape said.
“Is it true? You were framed by Pettigrew? It was him who actually… who murdered all those people?”
“Yes…?” Sirius replied, sounding just as confused as Harriet felt.
No one said anything else. Instead, there was the sound of the front door shutting. Harriet immediately shut her door as quietly as she could and quickly flopped onto her bed, picking up her Transfiguration book from the bedside table and started pretending to read.
After a couple of minutes, she heard the creaking of Sirius ascending the stairs and him knock on her door.
“Alright,” Sirius called. “All clear. No fireworks after all. False alarm.”
Harriet got back off her bed and walked over to open the door.
“What was that about?” she asked at once.
Sirius chuckled. “Oh, like I said, burying a hatchet… at least I think I did. I got what I really wanted anyway.”
“Everything okay?” came Nanette’s voice from their bedroom door.
Harriet leaned out and looked, just managing to stifle a laugh. Both of the twins were wearing shiny aluminium colanders on their heads. Hedwig fluttered out of the room and swooped silently over Harriet’s head into her room. Harriet noted that Hedwig was back to her usual white self.
“Yes, girls,” Sirius laughed before returning his attention to Harriet. “Listen, about the second task…”
Harriet felt her throat tighten. Was Sirius about to give her what Professor Snape had given him?
“Daniel explained how we can’t help you out too much with the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Some rubbish about not making it seem like you’re getting through too easily. At least, that’s Dumbledore’s plan.”
Sirius scowled a little looking off in the distance. “I don’t know; this is all stupidly complicated. Anyway, all I’ll say is this. If it comes down to it, if the second task comes and you haven’t quite figured it out yet—again this is an if—but if you haven’t, send Hedwig to me—”
“Well I figured out it’s mermaids, and they’re going to take something of mine.”
Sirius grinned. “Excellent. But that’s not all. There’s another part of the challenge: getting back what was taken. If you haven’t figured out how to do that by the night before the task, send Hedwig. I’ll send her back with something guaranteed to help you. Something that might give you the edge to win.”
“Wouldn’t that be cheating?” Harriet asked.
Sirius smirked. “Oh a little. But you can be damned sure the others will as well. Still, promise me: if you don’t figure it out, send Hedwig.”
Harriet looked up at Sirius’ face, considering. She certainly wanted to win, but she didn’t know why that felt so much like cheating. Then again, Hagrid had helped her cheat in the first task by showing her the dragons ahead of time. However, that time Hagrid had just told her it was a “surprise,” it wasn’t blatantly telling her to cheat.
Sirius’ grin grew. “Besides, showing up all those big kids has to have its upsides as well, doesn’t it?”
Harriet blushed, but Fleur’s words from the night the Goblet of Fire chose the champions came to her mind.
“Zey say zat zis little girl is to compete also!”
Harriet felt her resolution steel itself at once. She’d show them all, once and for all. She looked up at Sirius and nodded.
“Okay,” she said firmly. “I promise.”