"I'm so excited for Hogsmeade tomorrow!" Ron said happily. "Where do you want to go first, Harry? The twins tell me Zonko's is great but I kind of want to check out Honeyduke's."
Harry frowned and rested his head on his fist. "I'm not going."
"What?" Draco said, alarmed. "What do you mean you're not going?"Harry leaned back with a sigh. "Severus won't let me. For my own protection he says," Harry responded, a tad bitterly.
"That's absurd!" Ron said, outraged.
At the same time, Hermione proclaimed. "He has a point."
They looked at each other, annoyed.
"Sirius Black is after Harry!" Hermione pointed out. "Hogsmeade isn't anywhere near as safe as Hogwarts."
"Snape is being ridiculous," Ron said.
"Professor Snape is acting like a new parent with a single child. He's a little protective," Hermione said in Severus's defense. "And Harry's a magnet for danger, so I suppose it is warranted."
Ron shot her a look. Harry cleared his throat.
"Anyway," he said, jumping back into the conversation. "Bring me some candy, won't you?"
"Of course, Harry," Draco said. "We'll bring you lots."
"Thanks," he said.
"What will you do while we're gone?" Draco asked.
Harry grinned mischievously. "I plan to dig out the old invisibility cloak and see if I can't learn the latest news about Sirius Black. Don't you think it's strange that there have been no sightings of him? It's been what, a month? More?"
Hermione nodded. "I thought it was a little strange. Though if you pay attention to the Quibbler, there have been plenty of sightings."
"What's the Quibbler?" Harry asked.
"It's a newspaper that prints nonsense," Draco said critically. "They'll listen to whatever addlebrained wizard sends in an article."
"Oh," Harry replied. "So the sightings aren't real?"
"Almost definitely not," Draco said.
"That's a shame. I want them to catch him already so I can go about my life," Harry complained. "Go to Hogsmeade."
"Well don't try anything foolish, Harry," Hermione said in a tone that implied she was warning against the inevitable. "There are more important things to risk your life for than a candy store and a joke shop."
"I know, I know," Harry said. "Don't think I haven't gotten the same lecture from Severus."
"Good," Hermione said. "I hoped that maybe he could talk some sense into you."
"Hey!" Harry said indignantly. "Are you saying I'm not sensible?"
Hermione gave a sly smile. "Think of your past two years, Harry. You're a typical impulsive Gryffindor."
"It always worked out in the end," he grumbled.
"Let's keep that streak going!" Ron said.
They shared a smile.
"Bye!" Harry said, trying to seem happy and enthusiastic. "Have fun!"
"See you, Harry!" his friends replied as the left the common room, gold rattling in their pockets and scarves to ward off the autumn chill. Once everyone had gone, the common room seemed remarkably empty. Harry sat down on a sofa. The twins came trotting down the stairs, heading for the portrait hole.
"You guys will be late!" Harry called.
"Oh, we're not going to Hogsmeade," George said.
"Yeah, that got old after a few years," Fred added.
"Got some...better things to do now."
"Later, Harry!" Fred called before following his brother out of the common room.
Harry shook his head. There was some sort of trouble brewing; of that, he was sure.
After deciding that he had procrastinated long enough, Harry went up to the empty dorm room to finish a few essays that were due the following week. This trying task took him most of the morning. When Harry finally set his quill down, he breathed a sigh of relief. Stretching, Harry rose from the bed and packed up his books. He withdrew from his chest the Invisibility cloak that was previously his father's. The silky smooth fabric flowed unbroken over his hands.
Gathering the shimmering expanse in his hands, Harry headed down the stairs. He planned on finding a few of the teachers, perhaps hiding outside the conference room in the hope of gleaning some information about Sirius Black. He could simply ask Snape but quite frankly this was more fun. If he learned nothing, asking Severus could be plan B.
Harry left the common room, traversing the corridors with ease, the castle being as familiar to him as his Nimbus 2000. He slowed when he heard footsteps and voices around the corner. He slipped on his cloak and rounded it quietly. It was only a group of Hufflepuff first years. He tore it off and bundled it under his arm.
"Excuse me, dear boy," a sweet woman's voice said from behind Harry. He turned quickly. "Could you tell me where I would find the teacher's conference room?"
Harry simply looked at her for a moment, dumbfounded. What were the chances of a strikingly beautiful woman going to the very place he was headed? He felt like this was a good opportunity to learn something.
"Follow this corridor to the end, then make a right. It will be the second door on the left," Harry replied.
"Thanks, dear," she said with a smile before starting off, glittering high heels clicking on the floor.
"No problem," Harry muttered. Her back was still turned so he put on his cloak once more. On silent footsteps, Harry followed her down the hall. She turned the corner and stopped to survey the corridor in front of her. Harry had to stop quickly to avoid colliding with her.
"Second on the left, did he say?" she asked herself.
Under the cloak, Harry rolled his eyes. Those directions had been given a whole thirty seconds ago. He watched her shrug and march up to the second door, knocking on it daintily. Harry came close, ready to slip in if the door opened for her. It did, but McGonagall blocked the way.
"Can I help you?" she asked, a bit shortly.
"Hello," the woman said with a smile. "I'm Adelaide Zabini, Blaise's mom. I've come looking for Professor Hagrid."
McGonagall's head tilted. "Is that so? Well this is really not a good time, we are entertaining the minister at the moment. Hagrid's hut is across the grounds, I could get a student to show you the way."
Adelaide laughed. "Surely you must be joking! A hut, really?" She lifted a foot. "Do these shoes look like they're made for traipsing across the muddy grounds?"
Harry saw McGonagall stiffen in annoyance. As if summoned by her laugh, a shorter man in a bowler hat appeared behind McGonagall.
"Why, hello there!" he said, obviously attracted to her. "Minerva, why haven't you asked her in for a drink? Surely you could summon Hagrid here."
Adelaide gave a winning smile. "Thank you. What's your name?"
The man pulled the door open wider, offering his arm for her to use to step over the small lip at the doorway. "I'm Cornelius Fudge," he said with importance.
She frowned. "Fudge, Fudge, I know that name from somewhere... I don't think I am thinking of the tasty treat..."
Harry watched McGonagall roll her eyes as he slipped past her into the room. She drew her wand and fired off a message to Hagrid. Then the door closed, trapping Harry inside. He took up a place in the corner, making himself comfortable for he had no idea how long he would be here. Fudge led Adelaide to a couch and sat down next to her.
"Would you like a drink?" he asked.
"A small gillywater?" she asked.
Fudge nodded and smiled. "Filius, would you get a small gillywater for the lady?"
"Of course," he squeaked, hurrying to do so. Fudge smiled with satisfaction.
"So what brings you to Hogwarts, minister?" Adelaide asked. "Are you here often?"
"Not very," he replied. "I'm here, of course, to check up on the search for Sirius Black."
Her eyes widened. "Oh? Any news?"
"Not as much as we would like," he replied. "Only a few sightings which turned out to be dead ends."
She shook her head, "I still can't believe it. I remember him, you know."
"You do?" Fudge asked, eyebrow raised. McGonagall was acting like Harry, observing and seemingly reluctant to contribute.
"Oh yes!" she grinned slyly. "He was so dreamy. All of the other Hufflepuffs liked him too but they knew they couldn't compete with me." Then, she frowned. "He was so nice. A little arrogant, but I would never guess he would turn dark. Such a shame. I wonder what he looks like now..."
"Have you not seen any of the 'wanted' posters?" McGonagall said sharply.
Adelaide ignored her. "And to murder all of those people... I just can't see it."
Fudge looked put off by her dwelling on the criminal rather than him. "And that's not even the worst he's done. You wouldn't want to go near him now, not if you knew."
She turned to him interest bright in her eyes. "What?" she asked. "Tell me, please?" Adelaide grabbed his hand with her long fingers, adorned with at least one wedding ring.
Fudge was unable to resist the looks she gave him. "What do you remember about his friends from school?"
"Well you never saw him without James Potter," she said. "Not a bad looker either." She gave a gay giggle. "They were such troublemakers! And so smart," her gaze turned dreamy.
Harry froze. It took physical effort to breathe and he was glad that he was under the cloak.
Fudge cleared his throat. "Yes they were best friends. Best man at Potter's wedding, godfather to his child, everything."
"Oh my, Harry Potter?" she asked. "Black is Harry Potter's godfather?"
"Unless you know of another Potter boy," McGonagall said, finally joining the conversation. "Yes, he is. Harry doesn't know, of course, could you imagine..." she shook her head.
"Poor darling," she said. "So James's best friend was really working for You-Know-Who? That's awful."
"That's not the worst part," Fudge said.
"Then what is?"
McGonagall spoke once again. "When it came out that You-Know-Who was after the Potters, they went into hiding. Dumbledore himself offered to be their secret keeper but-"
"Wait, what's a secret keeper?" she interrupted, much to McGonagall's annoyance.
Flitwick finally came bustling back over with her drink. "There is a very complex charm, a Fidelius Charm, that they used. Only the secret keeper knows the location and unless they choose to share it, no one can find them. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named could be on their very doorstep and he wouldn't see them!" Flitwick squeaked.
"So Dumbledore was their secret keeper?" Adelaide said, horrified.
"No," McGonagall snapped. "If you would let me finish, James insisted upon Black. He said that he would die rather than betray them. It seems he was wrong. Dumbledore had suspected there was a traitor among them but James wouldn't entertain the thought that it was Sirius."
"So Black betrayed them," Adelaide surmised.
"He did," Fudge confirmed. "Gave them right up to his master, showed his true loyalties. Then when the Potter boy destroyed You-Know-Who, Black was really in a fix. Everyone knew he was a traitor. He went on the run but his friend found him before the ministry could."
"Poor Pettigrew," McGonagall said sadly.
"That fat little boy that was always following them around?" she asked. "I always though that it was weird they were friends.
McGonagall nodded. "Yes, him. He cornered Black and was killed for it. Always was a foolish boy and he never could beat anyone in a duel, let alone Black."
Fudge shuddered. "It was a horrible scene. I was there, you know, after. I'll never forget it. Muggle witness say that Pettigrew approached Black and was screaming that he betrayed James and Lily. Then he drew his wand. Naturally, Black was faster, blew the whole block to smithereens then stood there laughing."
"Laughing?" she asked in horror. "Is he truly mad, then?"
"You would think, but I saw him in Azkaban the other day and he was remarkably normal. Much more-so than the other prisoners." Fudge laughed lightly. "Asked for my paper if I was finished. Wanted the crossword. Can you imagine?"
"I really can't," Adelaide said honestly.
Neither could Harry. He was still frozen, his brain trying frantically to process all of this information. Black betrayed his parents. He was the reason they were dead. This wasn't a random act of revenge against Harry, this was finishing the job. And no one had told him. Harry's blood boiled. He wanted Black to find him. He wanted revenge for his parents. Having heard enough, Harry looked for an opportunity to get out. It was several minutes of meaningless conversation before Hagrid showed up. Being so huge of frame, Harry had a good opening to get out before Hagrid could turn and close the door behind him. It did not occur to him until later that perhaps he should be concerned that Blaise's mom was there to talk to Hagrid. Harry was too furious to think of that.
Harry ripped off his cloak in the hallway and headed boldly for outside. He was going to Hogsmeade, whether Severus liked it or not. Sirius Black didn't matter anymore. He could have left the cloak on but Harry was feeling rash and he had a point to prove. He marched across the grounds, heedless of his surroundings. When he reached the edge near the forest, the path to Hogsmeade was blocked by dementors. Harry swore, wishing he knew the charm to keep them away. He was just about to take his chances when a dark voice spoke up from his left.
"Just where do you think you're going?" Severus said, leaning casually against the side of Hagrid's hut.
Harry swore and spun to face his guardian. He had a few things to say to him. A few things about a certain Sirius Black.