Apologies once again for the incredibly
long interval between posts. Title: Black Feathers Author: wylah
Reunions and Resolutions (04/40+) Pairing:
eventual Harry/Draco; Sirius/TonksRating:
R, for gore Warnings:
language, angst, disturbing content (cruelty to animals)Word count:
6,975 words Disclaimer:
I do not own Harry Potter, his co-characters, or the universe they inhabit; I merely play with them for my own amusement, and I make no profit thereby. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Summary:
Between O.W.L.s, the Ministry’s attempts to discredit him, troubles with Voldemort and the Order, and having to put up with Umbridge, all on top of the everyday problems of teenage life, Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts looks to be a busy one. He doesn’t know the quarter of it. This is the tale of how a skeleton in the Evans family closet turns Harry’s entire life upside down.( Chapter 4 part ICollapse )
It wasn’t until after the excitement of the trial died down that Ron, with Hermione hanging over his shoulder, finally told Harry about his ideas for using some of the darker Black artifacts against Voldemort. When Harry asked why Ron hadn’t said anything earlier - trying not to show how left out he was feeling yet again - the redhead just mumbled something inaudible.
“Because he wasn’t thinking, of course, Hermione interrupted, exasperated.. “He should have told you first of all, because Sirius will listen to you.”
“But - wait a minute, he told you? And you like the idea of using Dark Magic?”
Hermione crossed her arms. “I like to think I’m practical enough to see the possibilities,” she said defensively.
“She yelled at me for ages, then went off and read about it for hours, and only then did she admit I might be onto something after all,” Ron interpreted snidely.
Hermione dropped her arms with a huff. “Well, true. Except that I did think almost straight away that it could be a good idea. If there aren’t any side-effects or anything - and I still think there must be a reason for throwing so much away. We can’t be the only ones to have thought of this.”
Ron shrugged. “Everyone’s so busy getting the Order back together and running around after Death Eaters and Harry - no offence mate - I reckon they could overlook anything. More power to us for thinking of it, eh?”
“More power to you, you mean,” Hermione retorted. “Anyway, Harry, you will come with us to talk to Sirius, won’t you?”
No way, Harry thought straight away. Not even for something this important.
“I’m really not sure I’d be any help,” he prevaricated, adding to himself, He’d never stick around long enough for me to say anything. Though Ron’s right - I’d love to watch Pettigrew slowly gettign sucked into that quicksand carpet...
“But that’s the whole point,” Hermione protested. “He’ll listen if you ask him.”
“I doubt it,” Harry said uncomfortably. “You know what he’s been like.”
“But Harry,” Hermione complained.
Ron spoke at the same time, cutting her off. “Well if you can’t get through to him, who the bloody hell can?” he said, frustrated.
Harry, on the brink of a sharp rejoinder, suddenly smiled.
* * * * *
The three of them waylaid Remus when he came back from his latest mysterious ‘mission’, but the result was disappointing at first. Although he listened while they explained the situation, he dismissed their concerns straight away.
“It was a good thought, but you needn’t have worried,” he reassured them cheerfully, even as he took off his coat. “Sirius can be a little careless at times, but even if he doesn’t like his inheritance much, he still knows it’s value. He’ll simply have Evanesco’d what he doesn’t want to a safe place.” He smiled at their doubtful expressions. “Tell, you what, I’ll go along and ask him, just in case.”
As Remus vanished upstairs with his portmanteau bobbing behind, the three friends looked at each other doubtfully. Harry, at least, was feeling rather embarrassed - Ron had sounded awfully convincing at first, but now it seemed very likely they had misunderstood what Sirius had said and were making a great fuss about nothing. And the way Remus had put things, it sounded like he’d thought they were accusing Sirius of being stupid. Maybe he even thought Harry was trying to get his godfather into trouble!
That idea hadn’t crossed Harry’s mind before now. He found himself desperately hoping that Remus was right and the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He wasn’t too happy with Sirius right now, but still…
When Remus returned, though, he was tight-lipped and his cheerful assurance had evaporated. As he explained to them briefly, most of the artifacts had only been Banished as far as a corner of the attics, but he admitted that Sirius had got rid of ‘a few’ things that he’d thought were useless or too dangerous. The werewolf’s irritated expression said that it had been a lot more than a few. Harry’s heart sank. Now Sirius would really be mad at him.
“So I was right!” Ron exclaimed, overjoyed. “Can we help sort stuff out to be used? I’ve got some great ideas, like that rug -“
Remus cut him off with a raised hand. “Look, Ron, I don’t think you quite realise what you’re suggesting. We have to have experts consider all the artifacts individually. We need to consider the ethics of -”
Ron scowled as he interrupted the Professor. “Ethics! What, you don’t want to get your hands dirty? They’re Death Eaters -”
“But an awful lot of dark magic doesn’t seem to be that bad!” Hermione chimed in over the top of him. “It’s just prejudice -”
They both fell silent. Remus had drawn himself up to his full height and his eyes blazed amber for a moment in the gloom of the suddenly-small hallway as his normally gentle features hardeed into a mask of stern anger. Harry stared, shocked out of his gloomy thoughts by the sudden transformation. He’d never seen Remus really angry before.
“Come with me,” Remus almost barked, and Ron and Hermione jumped to obey. Harry followed them up the stairs, all of them half-running to keep up with Moony’s determined stride.
He thrust open the door to Mrs Black’s old room and sketched a quick, elegant bow towards Buckbeak (which the children breathlessly copied) before crossing to the collapsed bed, which was leaking feathers and bits of material all over the floor. A tap of his wand on the wallpaper next to the bedside table and a whispered word, and a door had appeared out of nowhere. Remus gestured for Harry and his friends to enter.
“Sirius and I found this room shortly before you arrived,” he explained curtly as they entered what seemed to be a storeroom, gaslights flaring into existance as they crossed the threshold. The windowless room was at least as big as the bedroom they’d entered by, and the walls were lined with finely crafted cabinets, the carved wood and glass shelves now dulled by dust. Moth-eaten jewellery cases filled some; others were crowded with carefully-arranged knick-knacks and ornaments. The centre of the room was filled with free-standing cabinets and bookshelves and carefully-piled trunks.
“What you have seen downstairs is only a portion of the Black’s magical armoury,” Remus told them, his voice hard. “Booby traps for the careless invader, simple tricks that would never fool a fully trained Auror, and the odd piece of nastiness well-disguised as something else. This is where many of the truly Dark artifacts were kept. We have left it so far because the main priority was to make most of the house safe for the unwary.” His glance made it plain that the teenagers were included in that category. Harry had no immediate desire to argue with that. If Remus classified what they’d found so far as ‘simple tricks’…!
Remus had been looking around the shelves near the door as he spoke. “Ah, I thought I’d seen this,” he murmured, picking up what looked like a necklace - or rather, a pendant on a narrow leather thong. It seemed to be a cylinder of bone, carved shallowly in an almost hypnotic pattern.
“Do any of you know what this is?” he asked, holding the thong up between two fingers, as if touching it disgusted him. The teenagers all shook their heads.
“Good,” Remus said firmly. “It’s a lesser variety of Fidelitas amulet. Have you heard of it now?”
“I - I read a little about them, not much. Just that they’re Dark Magic, and they reinforce loyalty to the person who made them,” Hermione said faintly.
“Five points to Gryffindor.” Remus still wasn’t smiling. “Do you know how they’re made? No?” as Hermione shook her head. “It’s a long, arduous process. First the dark wizard acquires a pet - perhaps a kitten, more often a puppy. He treats it with as much kindness as he can find within him, gives it a warm bed close to his own, feeds it the best foods with his own hands, pets it and plays with it until the puppy is fanatically loyal to him.
“Then the torture starts. Small things at first, a pinprick or a tiny burn, but always the wizard is there afterwards to lavish attention on his pet, to reassure the animal that it is loved. As time goes on the puppy is taught to accept more and more pain and still love his master. It’s taught to let itself be tied on it’s back, the ropes painfully tight, knowing that afterwards it will be rewarded, trusting that it’s master has good reason for hurting it. It’s taight to accept many things - broken bones, crushed paws, stabs and cuts and abrasions. The damage continues until the puppy is a mangled wreck, because the more pain that puppy can suffer without turning from his master, the more powerful the amulet will be.
“The final step,” Remus continued, his voice harsh with restrained passion, “is to cut off the dog’s right forefoot - while it is concious. If it’s loyalty doesn’t waver then, it’s ready. The first bone of the third toe is prepared - hollowed out, soaked in a special potion and carved. Then the dog is tied up, in the position he is used to, and his stomach is slit open. The amulet is thrust through the diapragm into the chest cavity, and carefully placed as close to the dog’s still-beating heart as possible. Then the dark wizard curls up beside the dog and pets it and soothes it while it’s lungs collapse and it chokes and bleeds to death, doing anything he can to ensure that the dog will trust him until the very last beat of it’s heart.”
Remus paused, then said quietly, “This amulet was made with the life and the loyalty of a dog. Other items in this room were made with human lives - possibly souls.”
Ron looked like he was going to throw up. Harry felt like he might, too. Hermione was shaking.
“I didn’t find anything like that in the library,” she said faintly.
Remus sighed. “Hermione, did you really think the Blacks would keep their illegal dark magic books where the most cursory Auror search could find them?” he asked patiently.
“Oh,” Hermione whispered, ashamed. She turned to Ron and buried her face in his shoulder. Ron’s arms went around her automatically, and Remus suddenly slumped, looking chagrined. He placed the amulet back on the shelf and silently ushered them out of the room.
“Well. I’m sorry you had to see that,” he said uncomfortably, his back to them as he sealed up the doorway once again. “I had to be certain you knew just how horrible Dark Magic can be, you understand, and why it isn’t a good idea to heedlessly use or destroy an object made with it. You don’t know what you might be tampering with.” He turned to face them, his shoulders slumping further as he took in the stunned teens, Harry rubbing Hermione’s back as she clung to Ron.
“Maybe…” he trailed off, then gave them a determined smile. “Well. Now you know, at least. And thank you for telling me that Sirius was being a bit careless. Much of what he threw out seems to have been fairly harmless, but we don’t want it falling into the wrong hands. And I assure you that anything we can use, we will. Even if that just means selling the less harmful and more valuable things off. Merlin knows we could do with the money,” he added under his breath.
“Now come on, you lot. I think we could all do with a nice cup of tea… No? Well, just as you like of course. But do come to me if you have any questions about the Dark Arts…” He abruptly left them with Buckbeak and headed towards the stairs, but Harry had caught something Remus had said and followed, suddenly determined to do something right today.
“Remus… does the Order really need money?”
Remus glanced at him, slowing his pace. “Any organisation needs money in order to function,” he said, his usual calm apparently restored by the change of subject. “The situation isn’t desperate, though; there’s no need to worry.”
Harry hesitated. “I’ve got some money that Mum and Dad left me… I don’t need all of it, maybe I could-”
Remus cut him off with a small smile and a shake of the head. “You’re very generous, Harry, but the Order can manage. Anyway, I doubt you’d be allowed to make any large withdrawals without an official reason; not until you come of age, at least.”
“Oh,” Harry uttered, dull frustration rising within him once again. He’d never realised that even his money was really under someone else’s control.
“It’s very good of you to want to help, though,” Remus said kindly as they reached the kitchen doorway. “Now, I think that a nice, strong cup of tea is definitely in order. Are you sure you wouldn’t care to join me?”
“Might as well,” Harry agreed, forcing himself to smile. It wasn’t like he could do anything more useful, anyway.
* * * * *
The rest of the holidays passed surprisingly quickly, as if Time had suddenly decided to indulge Harry’s desire to just grow up already. The cleaning effort went on sporadically until only the attics and and cellars remained unscrubbed, but now that Harry didn’t need a distraction the task wasn’t nearly as interesting. It didn’t help that Sirius had given the whole thing up as a bad job after being lectured by Remus, spending most of his time with Buckbeak. Nor that the twins had been let off so they could get in some advance studying for their NEWT year - at least, that’s what they said they were doing, and what they seemed to be doing whenever Mrs Weasley opened their door to check. Harry had the feeling that NEWT studies usually didn’t involve so many muffled explosions, though.
When they weren’t cleaning, Ron and Harry were mostly left to their own devices. Sirius was avoiding them even more obviously than before. Harry still felt guilty about dobbing the man into Remus, but after all, he hadn’t meant it that way. And it was really Sirius’ stupid fault, after all, for being an idiot, and there was no way he was going to apologise, with the way the man was acting. Anyway, he wouldn’t have a clue how to start.
Hermione spent much of her time in the library writing scroll upon scroll of notes on Occlumency, Defence and even Dark Artifacts, though she hid those scrolls from the adults. Harry didn’t know why she was still interested, anyway; after that talk from Remus, and the warnings Bill had given him, he’d made up his mind to just keep out of the Order’s way, and out of trouble. It rankled a bit, but what else could he do?
The informal Occlumency study sessions that Hermione organised were almost the only time they saw her, apart from mealtimes. Hermione had found a whole shelf of books on mind magic in the library - apparently the Blacks had been fond of both keeping their own secrets and prying out others’ - and had immediately started them on the lessons outlined in ‘Behind Barred Eyes:Teach Yourself Occlumency in Forty-Three And A Half Easy Steps’ by Iris O’Coolah The three of them usually spent at least half an hour a day on what Hermione called ‘breathing discipline’ and ‘exercises in visualisation’. Ron called them a load of bollocks, but by the end of the holidays even he could hold the image of an endless Egyptian desert in his mind for a few minutes at a time. Harry had nearly as much trouble as Ron, although he knew he was trying harder. He did find the exercises calming on the rare occasions he managed to succeed. Imagining himself floating in an empty sky while his problems and frustrations fluttered away towards the distant ground like dead leaves did wonders for his uncertain temper - well, for the few minutes he could hold the image, anyway.
The exercises weren’t much help when their Hogwarts letters arrived and Harry found that Ron had been chosen as prefect over him. It wasn’t like he didn’t want Ron to have the position or that he’d really expected to be chosen himself or anything - he hadn’t thought about it that much - but what had Ron done that he hadn’t? What had Ron done at all, really?
And then his rational mind caught up with his emotions and he was disgusted with himself. What sort of person was he to think something like that about his best friend?
All in all, Harry was very happy when the first of September finally rolled around and he could get away from the oppressive atmosphere of Grimmauld Place and back to Hogwarts, where he belonged.
* * * * *
Padfoot bounded alongside the straggling crocodile of kids and adults heading towards Kings Cross Station, elated to be in the open air again after weeks of being stuck in the mouldy old dump he’d had the misfortune to inherit. Of course, he’d be back there again in a few hours, but damned if he wasn’t going to enjoy his freedom while he could! No matter what so-called ‘calmer heads’ thought! He caught Molly glaring at him as he dashed past her to the front of the group - the old spoilsport. He lolled his tongue out at her cheekily before turning and trotting back to Harry, toenails clicking on the uneven pavement. He carefully wound his his way between rattling trolleys and past the Weasley kid - who smelled like he’d skipped his shower this morning to be ready on time - and fell in beside his godson, touching his nose to Harry’s hand to let him know he was there.
Harry wiped his hand on his trousers and moved away.
Sirius stopped dead, then had to jump to avoid being run over by a trunk. What the hell? He tried going round to Harry’s other side, but the kid moved away again. And his scent was off, too. There was a sour tone to it, a distant sort of wariness which left a bad taste at the back of Padfoot’s throat. He didn’t like Harry smelling like that, hurt and resentful, like Sirius had done something awful. He’d been fine last time Sirius had talked to him. Of course that had been a while ago. Well, maybe more than just a while, come to think of it…
Okay, maybe he hadn’t exactly been an attentive godfather lately, but Harry had enough people fussing over him. And surely he had to understand that it was a bit hard to go from planning adventures together to ‘oh, well, see you in the holidays, then?’. And just because someone was a bit preoccupied with other stuff for a few days… weeks… well, it didn’t really mean anything. Harry had to realise that. Didn’t he?
Maybe not, Sirius realised, his normally jaunty tail drooping until it brushed his hocks. Great. Merlin, he really hated feeling guilty
Hell, and he couldn’t even explain to the kid. Molly would strangle him with her knitting yarn if he changed back now, and that was nothing to what Dumblebore’d do. He’d never get out of the house again. It’d have to be a letter, and he was crap at writing. And at apologising.
Sirius nosed against Harry’s hand, persisting no matter how much the boy moved away, until he finally looked down.
“What?” the lad snapped, partly curious, mostly irritated.
Sirius whined and gave him his best puppy-dog look. Harry’s eyes narrowed.
“Padfoot, I speak snake, not dog,” he hissed, exasperation lacing his voice.
Sirius exhaled heavily through his nose. He’d have to spell it out, then. Apruptly he trotted a few steps ahead of Harry then dropped to his stomach and rolled, exposing his belly and throat while still giving Harry the best sad eyes he could manage. This has to work! No-one can resist Padfoot puppy eyes - especially with added grovelling, even if it is bloody embarrassing… Come on, Harry!
Harry stopped in the middle of the pavement and just looked at him for a long minute - most of the others did too, although the elder Weasleys bustled on unheeding - then huffed an exasperated sigh and crouched down. Padfoot wriggled in triumph. Yes! The puppy dog look strikes again!
“All right. I take it you want me to forgive you for being an arsehole lately. Is that right?” he asked sternly.
Padfoot madly wagged his tail, tucking his muzzle into Harry’s hand in agreement.
“Fine,” Harry sighed, giving him a perfunctory scratch under the chin. “Now get up, we’re going to miss the train at this rate.”
Right on cue came Mrs Weasley’s screech from up ahead. “Children! What are you doing? You’ll be late!”
Padfoot scrambled to his feet and started bounding in joyous circles around the group, herding them on, before falling back into place beside Harry, panting happily, and very relieved that he’d managed to fix everything without having to go through all those explanations and apologies. Some things were just easier when you were a dog.
* * * * *
Harry always felt rather awkward when the Weasleys dropped him off at Platform 9 ¾. It was nice to have someone to say proper goodbyes to, but at the same time he sort of felt like he was taking up time Mr and Mrs Weasley could be spending hugging and kissing their own kids. So he and Hermione left them to it, edging away a little into the clouds of steam that fogged the end of the platform. Padfoot nosed at his hand as if to remind him that he was still there, and Harry automatically scratched behind the velvety ears despite his lingering resentment. He was sort of glad Sirius was there, even if he was still pretty mad at him. He might not like the bloke very much at the moment, but he was still his godfather. And it was - sort of nice - to have someone who really belonged to you to see you off to school, even if that someone was a dog at the time.
The train gave an impatient whistle, and Mrs Weasley suddenly stopped pulling anyone within reach into a hug and started urging them towards the carriages instead. Unfortunately for Harry that meant reluctantly braving the crowds that thronged Platform 9 ¾ and facing the wizarding world for the first time since the Prophet decided to use him as a running joke - something he’d almost forgotten until he caught a few startled, assessing gazes directed at him as they wove through the station.
As he emerged from the clouds of steam Harry took in a sea of faces, every one apparently turned towards him, and suppressed a sudden, un-Gryffindor-like urge to just turn and walk away, all the way back to Grimmauld Place - and then perhaps Brazil. Instead he took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and started towards the train, looking straight ahead and avoiding eye contact with anyone. He wasn’t going to let them see what he was thinking, even if it killed him - although he couldn’t help wincing slightly when the crowd slowly parted in front of him as if no-one could bear to risk touching him. He was grateful when Ron and Hermione moved to flank him and the ever-cheerful Padfoot fell in at his heels, and for the crowd of noisy, oblivious Weasleys following them. But he still felt rather alone.
“Bloody Prophet,” he swore under his breath, still staring straight ahead.
“Er, mate,” Ron said in an odd voice, “I don’t think that’s the reason they’re staring.”
Harry’s head swung ‘round in surprise just as they passed a family of scowling Hufflepuffs, who pointedly turned away when his gaze passed over them.
“Yeah, right, Ron,” he hissed derisively. “Look at the Rowntrees. It’s like they can’t even stand to be in the same school.”
“Yeah, but look at Amanda Melville,” Ron said in an awed voice, pushing at his shoulder to turn him. Harry looked, and saw the pretty seventh year Ravenclaw smiling at him, one side of her lower lip caught between her teeth. After a brief second of surprise Harry smiled back, relieved that at least some people were still willing to acknowledge him. She gave him a little wave, and turned back a group of people who must be her family. A middle-aged wizard, probably her father, nodded politely in his direction, and Harry walked on feeling much better.
“Nice of her to do that,” he remarked quietly, still smiling a little.
“Huh? Mate, she was flirting with you!”
“Right,” Harry scoffed, startled. “She’s in seventh year, Ron.”
“So she’s not going to want anything to do with a fifth year.”
Ron grinned triumphantly. “Yeah, but you’re not just any fifth year, are you? And now... well! You’ll have them lining up to get a piece of you. Maybe some of them have friends - we could go on double dates! Just imagine - you with Amanda Melville, and me with her friend from Hufflepuff, whatsername? The cute one with the blonde hair…”
Harry tuned Ron out and looked around the platform, properly this time. Ron was right - well, maybe not about Amanda Melville, but where before Harry had only seen sneers and stares, now he saw that a good number of the crowd looked neutral or even friendly. Melville wasn’t the only girl - or boy - giving him what even Harry could interpret as interested glances - not the usual awed boy-who-lived rubbish, but admiring in a different sort of way. Which was strange, but sort of nice. And there really were a lot of people who weren’t taking much notice of him at all, despite the suffocating feeling of being under a microscope.
His heart started to lift and he turned to Hermione, who was listening to Ron’s continuing catalogue of the girls he’d like to date with a strange, sour expression on her face.
“Maybe this year isn’t going to be so bad after all,” he said cheerfully.
* * * * *
Damn LJ posting limits! => Chapter 4, part II