May 14, 1992, 12:30 PM, Headmaster’s Office
“Now.” Dumbledore said as the fireplace burst into a great blaze of green.
Harry took a step back in sudden alarm.
“It’s just the Floo, Harry.” Clarke said, pressing a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Wizards use it to travel through fire.”
Harry nodded and took a breath, calming himself as he witnessed a man exit the flames, followed by another. Both of them looked like they’d seen better days, but Harry imagined that the one who looked dead on his feet was Sirius Black.
He wondered who the other man was, however.
Harry took in the man’s very shabby and patched robes, as well as his tired face and graying, brown hair. He looked ill and exhausted.
“It’s him.” The man with the gaunt face said. Harry likened him to a walking corpse.
“It really is him.” His face morphed into a look of disbelief.
“Yes, Sirius.” The man beside him said, placing a hand on his shoulder as he sent the distressed man a look of sympathy. “It is.”
“Remus.” Professor Dumbledore greeted the one in the bad clothes, before his weary eyes took in the other man. “Sirius.”
“Dumbledore.” Sirius said, and Harry noted that the man’s voice was very raspy. Whether it was from disuse or the Dementors, Harry did not know.
Probably both. Harry thought.
Sirius Black turned his gaze back to Harry, not saying anything for the longest moment.
Harry fidgeted, wondering just why he was being stared at so hard.
“You look just like James, you know.” Sirius said, moving a few feet closer so that he could get a good look at the boy. “Just like him— except the eyes. Those are your mother’s.”
Harry relaxed a little and moved forward, shrugging Adam’s hand off of his shoulder. “You’re Sirius Black.”
“The one and only.” The man grinned but his yellow teeth were so atrocious that Harry flinched. He grimaced at Harry’s expression. “Though I suppose I’m not in particularly good shape, at the moment.”
“I told him that he needed to rest before coming.” The other man said, patting his friend on the shoulder. “But he insisted that the first thing he wanted to do was come here and see you, Harry.”
Harry blinked at the other man. “Is that so, Mister Remus…”
The man gave the boy an awkward look and nodded once. “Oh, yes.”
Harry considered what they’d said and focused on the familiarity they seemed to have with him.
“You knew my parents, then?” He asked, the hunger in his soul exploding from his chest and demanding answers.
Here, the two men looked pained, but nodded again.
“Yes.” Remus said. “James, Sirius and I were all close friends when we attended Hogwarts. We knew him quite well, as well as your mother, Lily.”
“And Pettigrew— what about him?” Harry asked on instinct, almost flinching when the rage entered Sirius’ eyes.
“Peace, Sirius.” Dumbledore entered the conversation, his voice gaining a note of sternness and warning. “Peter has been taken into custody and has already confessed to his crimes.”
Sirius swiveled to Dumbledore with furious anger before he swayed in place, clearly overwhelmed. “You… I wanted to…”
“Maybe this was a mistake.” Remus muttered in a low tone, but Harry heard his voice anyway.
One of the office chairs landed in front of Sirius, and Harry turned to see Adam with his wand out.
“Take a seat, Mr. Black.” Adam said. “Save your strength.”
Disoriented and weak, the man acquiesced to the boy’s words and sat down, closing his eyes as he attempted to gather his strength.
He looks so exhausted. Harry thought. And he came all this way for me?
Harry did not understand why anyone would do that for him, and he did not understand why it made him feel so… charged with emotion.
“Thanks… kid.” Sirius said to Clarke, who only nodded in response.
“Sure.” Adam said and sent a look towards Dumbledore. “I think we should give them a few moments alone. Wouldn’t you agree, Headmaster?”
“Indeed I would.” Professor Dumbledore’s blue eyes regained their twinkle before he gestured towards the fireplace. “We will be there if any of you three need us. And, Sirius…”
Sirius looked at the old man.
“I am sorry for how things turned out.”
Sirius stared at Professor Dumbledore for a long moment and then shook his head. “Not your fault. Couldn’t have known.”
Dumbledore gave the three a nod before he and Adam moved away to Dumbledore’s desk to give them some privacy. Harry stared at the two for a moment before turning his gaze back to the men before him.
“So, what now?” Harry asked.
The question seemed to floor them.
“What now?” Remus said, confused.
“They told me that you’re my Godfather, Mr. Black.”
Sirius shook his head at the boy.
“None of that. Just… Just call me Sirius, kid.” Sirius said between breaths. “Just Sirius.”
Harry lowered his head, remembering the words he’d given Hagrid, so long ago; ‘I’m just Harry.’
“Yes, he is your Godfather.” Remus said, giving Harry a pointed look before giving the exhausted Sirius’ shoulder a gentle pat. “Sirius here would have been the one taking care of you, had things gone a little differently.”
“But you’re free now!” Harry’s eyes widened and he took a step forward. “Then, does that mean that I don’t have to go back to stay with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon?”
Seeing the boy’s excitement, Sirius shook his head. “Lily’s sister? Is she as bitter as she always has been, then?”
“You could say that, Mr. Bl— I mean, Sirius.” Harry said at the man’s wince.
“I see. And yes, Harry.” Sirius said, gathering himself and straightening in his chair. “I know it may be very sudden for you— you didn’t know I existed thirty minutes ago, after all.”
Harry nodded silently, quite happy to let the man continue speaking.
“But would you want to… live with me?” Sirius continued, a deep sense of hesitation in his voice.
Harry did not answer, seized by sudden fear.
Will this be more of the same? Harry thought. He seems to actually want me in his life, but I’ve only just met the man, and he looks like a complete mess.
Anything is better than the Dursleys. Another thought came. Besides, he just came out of a ten-year stint of false imprisonment! ‘ Course he’s going to be a little loopy.
Harry remained silent, and so Sirius took that as his chance to continue; he gave the boy a nervous laugh. “I’m not sure how good of a guardian I would be, Harry, but I do know that I want to try. I want to be there for you, and to make up for the years we lost.”
“That’s not your fault.” Harry said, angry and outraged. “You were innocent.”
But Sirius shook his head and looked down. “The decisions I made that day…”
Remus grasped the man’s shoulder again.
“I can’t take them back.” His anguished eyes met Harry’s own. “Merlin knows I wish I could.”
A moment passed before Sirius’ look formed into one of hope and determination. “What I can do is make sure that I don’t fail you again— if you’ll let me have a second chance.”
Harry stifled the urge to shake his head; if he had any doubts before, then this little display seemed to cinch things for him. “All right.”
“All right?” Sirius repeated, and got a nod from Harry.
“All right.” Harry said and then clarified. ”I’ll come live with you.”
Sirius’ face shifted from surprise to happiness in a matter of moments.
“Thank you. Harry.” He said, grasping the boy’s shoulder with what little strength he could muster.
“You should save your strength, Sirius.” Harry said, but smiled at the gesture of affection.
His relatives had never treated him like this, and so he wasn’t expecting it from the man.
“Don’t worry.” Sirius rasped and lowered his hand before leaning back in his chair to rest. “This dog still has some life left in him. I’m to head to the hospital after this—”
“That’s not what they said.” Remus said in amusement, before looking at Harry. “He is already supposed to be there.”
“They can wait.” Sirius waved it off with a momentary dark look. “The Ministry can’t tell me what to do anymore.”
Harry nodded. This Ministry of Magic doesn’t sound like a very good place.
He wondered how Ron’s father, Arthur, could stand working there. The sort of government that would imprison a man without even bothering to hear him out— Harry gave a mental grimace at that.
With people like Draco’s father in power, something like this could happen again. Harry thought.
“But that’s enough of the world.” Sirius said, smiling at the boy. “Gryffindor, huh?”
“Yes.” Harry said, nodding.
“We were all Gryffindors, too.” Remus said.
“Old McGonagall damn near hated us, back then.” Sirius gave a weak chuckle. “I suppose we were a little rowdy.”
“A little.” Remus shook his head with amusement. “I’d say we were more than a little rowdy, Padfoot.”
Harry blinked at the strange name and filed it in his mind for future reference.
“Heh.” Sirius smiled. “Remember when we collected ectoplasm and put it in the Prefect’s bathroom?”
“Lily was not pleased.” Remus chuckled and sent a mischievous look towards Harry. “She hexed James quite hard for that one— he deserved it. Having ectoplasm in your hair… it’s not a good feeling.”
Harry smiled at the mention of his parents; he was enjoying this.
“So, Harry.” Sirius said after taking a deep breath. “You like Quidditch?”
Harry nodded in the affirmative and was about to speak, but Sirius started before he could. “Great! Don’t worry— we’ll whip you up into shape for your tryouts, next year.”
Remus rolled his eyes and chuckled.
“I’m already on the team.” Harry said, waving what he said off. “And Wood already whips us hard enough in practice.”
Harry shuddered at the thought of what Oliver seemed to consider to be healthy training.
“Already on the team as a First Year? That’s incredible.” Sirius looked impressed. “Well done, Harry!”
Harry smiled and said nothing to that, feeling a little awkward at the praise.
“Wood?” Remus said as he brought a chair for the boy to sit before conjuring one of his own with a wave of his wand.
“He’s our Quidditch Captain.” Harry explained, taking his seat.
“What do you play?” Sirius asked.
“I’m a Seeker.” Harry said.
“Brilliant!” Sirius said. “I can’t wait to see a game.”
“Next match is coming soon, actually.” Harry said, scratching the back of his head. “Wood’s been trying to kill us to prepare, I think. He always runs us ragged in the name of training— torture is more like it.”
The two men looked at each other, and then at Harry with sad expressions.
Did I do something wrong? Harry thought to himself. “What?”
“Your father used to say that too, you know.” Remus shook his head with a sigh.
“Really?” Harry grinned, happy to be close to his father, even in a way as small as this. “Can you tell me more about him? And my mum?”
Both men nodded and paused.
“Where do we begin?” Remus said, getting a little smile on his face. “How about the time James and Lily first met?”
Harry’s smile turned wider as he felt his heart soar.
His life was about to get so much better.
And I have one person to thank for it. Harry thought, sending a look at his fellow orphan boy, who was busy speaking with Dumbledore.
So it begins. I thought as Professor Dumbledore and I moved away from Harry, Remus and Sirius.
“I must thank you, Mr. Clarke.” the old man said quietly as we stopped to stand by the desk, still within Harry’s earshot but far enough that we couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying. “You have done a great deed. You’ve saved a man from a fate worse than death.”
“Ah…” I said, not looking him straight in the eyes. “Yeah. You’re welcome, I think.”
“I do hope you’ll forgive the delay in our response.” He continued, waving his wand and conjuring a chair in place of the one I had sent for Sirius. “Please, sit.”
I did as I was asked.
“I just assumed that no one believed me.” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “It was a fairly outrageous claim, after all, and I had no real proof.”
Dumbledore fished in his robe and produced the small bit of parchment in question, before handing it to me.
I took it and read its contents in a few moments.
Peter Pettigrew is an animagus masquerading as Ronald Weasley’s pet rat, Scabbers. He is missing a toe. This is not a prank. Sirius Black is innocent.
I winced at the small note and shoved it in my pocket, the very sight of it making me feel clumsy. “I suppose I could have been a little more forthcoming with details or approached the teachers personally.”
“Indeed, you could have.” Professor Dumbledore said, leaning on one of the arms of his chair. “So, why didn’t you?”
I considered his question.
He doesn’t need to know. The sly voice said, but I ignored it.
“I guess I didn’t think they would believe me.” I said with another shrug. “I have a lot of trouble trusting people to do what needs to be done.”
Dumbledore gave me a strange look; it was like he’d heard that line, or a variation thereof, before, somewhere. “Indeed? And, suppose that, for the sake of argument, we ignored this missive as a prank. What would you have done, then?”
I didn’t answer.
“I assure you.” Dumbledore opened his arms and gave me a kind look to set me at ease. “I am merely curious.”
Liar. You’re sizing me up. I thought.
“Sirius Black was innocent and imprisoned unjustly while the true criminal was free— and worse, sleeping in the beds of children.” I said, grimacing at the last part.
I should have done this sooner. I thought, feeling disgusted with myself and my previous, cavalier attitude with the situation. What the Hell have I been doing? Have I been so obsessed with acquiring more knowledge and power that I’ve forgotten just who I was before all of this happened? My morals, my values— are they meaningless?
Should they have meaning here? The sly voice pressed on with its incessant whispers. You are not the man you were before all of this, and therefore you must not judge yourself by your previous incarnation’s values.
“You haven’t answered my question.” Dumbledore said, cutting off my reply to the creature staying rent free in my brain.
More like your soul, Zero.
I felt the turmoil within me convert into anger and, for the first time, I looked the man in the eyes, daring him to use his Legilimency on me. “I would have done whatever I felt was necessary.”
“Whatever was necessary?” Dumbledore said, not looking surprised, though he did seem somewhat dismayed. “Including violence?”
“As little as possible, but yes.” I said. “Pettigrew would probably not have given up without a fight— or, judging from what he’s done so far— running away and going into hiding.”
Dumbledore did not answer, for he did not have one for me. His gaze, however, was turning reproachful.
It made me even more agitated and annoyed.
“I don’t understand your reaction to this, Professor.” I decided to be blunt. I was sick of hiding in the shadows and playing by other people’s rules. “How else would I have captured this man? By singing him a lullaby? With a hug, perhaps?”
“Take care how you speak, boy.” The portrait of a previous Headmaster said from beside us— a man wearing green trimmed robes, with black hair, dark eyes and a pointed beard.
Phineas Nigellus Black. I realized as he continued to speak. “Choose your words carefully. That is your Headmaster and you will show him the respect he deserves.”
I stared at the portrait for a moment before turning back to Dumbledore. “I apologize for the disrespect, Professor. My point, however, still stands.”
He likely expects me to go down on my hands and knees, begging for forgiveness. I thought. Fat chance of that.
Dumbledore, for his part, did not reply.
“It wouldn’t have been easy, avoiding violence.” I said, throwing him a bone. “I had originally thought to seek him out and use the Stunning Charm on him before changing my mind; a rat’s sense of smell and hearing are far greater than a human’s. I imagined he was already familiar with mine, and he would at least smell me coming before I even came close.”
“Surely you realize that the Weasley boy is a Gryffindor, and you are a Ravenclaw.” Phineas said with an acerbic tone.
“Oh, I know that.” I said in reply, shrugging. “But when I set a goal in my mind, I meet it. A—”
I stopped talking to watch Lupin pass me by with a nod, taking the chair and going back to the fireplace.
A moment later, I resumed. “A magically enhanced canvas painting is hardly an obstacle worth noting. But, in this case, I chose to show the Hogwarts Staff my trust. I’m glad to see it was not misplaced.”
Dumbledore’s expression shifted as he nodded. “It is a good thing that you came to us, Mr. Clarke. I would imagine that, had you tried a different method, we would be having a very different conversation.”
I shrugged. “Probably, but you said it yourself, sir.”
“It does not do to dwell on the past.”
Dumbledore shook his head, as if amused or exasperated with me. I couldn’t tell. “I have indeed said that. I’m heartened that you remember.”
“That mirror is very hard to forget.” I said, looking away. “Sometimes in the dead of night, I get the urge to go out and find it again, just to have one more look.”
Seeing my nephew again— it had been like a knife to the heart.
“It is a dangerous artifact.” Dumbledore nodded in agreement. “Many wizards and witches have fallen to its thrall and wasted away. You, on the other hand, have managed to resist it enough to tear your eyes away, though you were unwary and unaware of its capabilities.”
I nodded. I was aware of it, but the sheer insidiousness of that magical artifact had taken me off guard. If anything, my knowledge had made me underestimate the strength of its pull.
“So, what happens, now?” I said, looking to change the subject.
Dumbledore reached into a bowl and picked out a piece of candy, before popping it into his mouth. He held one up for me, but I raised my hands and shook my head in the negative.
“No thank you, sir; I just ate.”
Dumbledore placed it back down with a nod, looking like he was enjoying his candy.
That can’t be good for him. I thought, before shaking my head and waiting for him to finish. Then again, with magical remedies, things like diabetes have no meaning here.
“Well.” Professor Dumbledore said. “I’m sure that Harry will be pleased to know that he will be able to live with his Godfather, from now on.”
I nodded, feeling a little surprised that the Headmaster was basically giving the boy up without a fight. Then again, did I have any reason to doubt the man’s motivations concerning Harry?
Aside from the fanon, which likes to paint him in the worst light imaginable, I don’t have any reason to doubt the man. I thought with another nod.
“That’s good.” I said. “That’s very good.”
“Indeed.” Dumbledore said, smiling as he turned his gaze to the three by the fireplace. “It is what Harry deserves.”
I turned and saw Harry’s wide smile. He is so happy.
“Come.” Dumbledore said, getting off of the chair. “I gather, by the looks he’s been sending this way, that the man whose life you saved wishes to have a word with you.”
I nodded and pushed off of the chair, watching it disappear from view. “It would be rude to make him wait, I suppose.”
We moved towards the fireplace, where we were greeted with nods by the three.
“Adam.” Harry said.
“Adam, this is Sirius Black.” Harry said, gesturing at Black and then at Lupin. “And that’s Remus Lupin. They were friends of my parents. Sirius, Remus, this is Adam Clarke.”
“I’ve read about you in the papers.” Remus said, giving me a smile as he got up to shake my hand. “Moving up a year, and taking your Second Year exams despite starting late?”
He grasped it with a firm, strong grip, and I realized that the man was nowhere near as calm and collected as he pretended to be.
“Yes.” I said as he backed away. “With luck, I’ll get a passing grade.”
Harry snorted and rolled his eyes. “You can already pass your Third Year exams with flying colors, probably.”
“Don’t give me too much credit there, Potter.” I shook my head in amusement. “I’m a quick learner, but I’m not a machine, you know. I need to rest.”
“Too right. All work and no play.” Sirius Black rasped, extending his hand while still in his seat. “Sirius Black. I hear that you’re the one to thank for recent events.”
I took it, surprised at the strength I saw in the man’s eyes.
“You have done something for me that no one else has.” Sirius said, his voice thick with emotion. “You’ve given me a second chance at life.”
I shrugged. “It’s what anyone would have done.”
“I disagree.” Sirius shook his head before pulling back. “I know quite a few of my other inmates who would have let me wallow in prison forever.”
I pursed my lips at the offhand mention of Voldemort’s followers. “I suppose you’re right about that.”
“Tell me what you want.” Sirius said, shifting in his chair to get a little more comfortable. He sent a look at Remus, and then back to me. “I’ve been told that I was my Grandfather, Arcturus Black’s designated heir; and that he died a few years ago, while I was still in prison.”
I nodded, absorbing the information.
“So, tell me what you want, and I’ll get it for you.” Sirius said. “It’s the least I can do to repay my debt to you.”
“Whatever I want?” I repeated, and Sirius nodded.
“A new broom, a lifetime supply of prank products.” Sirius said. “Anything. You only need to ask.”
I considered his statement and decided to see how serious he was about this request.
“All right, then.” I said. “Adopt me.”
I shook my head with amusement.
He wasn’t expecting that, was he?