"Where did you find that?" Harry breathed.
Now it was Ginny's turn to be astonished. "You know what this is?" she demanded. "The documents inside?"
He looked at her suspiciously. "Why shouldn't I know?" Harry replied, puzzled. "Yes—it's the adoption cert with my name on it. I've come across it here. My…parents gave it to me. Said it was a gift from the living world. You see, they wouldn't answer any questions I had about it—the signature lines were blank, so I haven't any idea who started filling out those papers. I accidentally left the things behind, though." Then he repeated, "Where did you find it?" Ginny's eyes were shining brightly, as if she couldn't wait to tell him.
"Correction: it found us. Came straight to Grimmauld Place from the Ministry of Magic, addressee Mr. M.M.M. Obviously somebody didn't want it tracked in case it was intercepted."
"Somebody else? On my adoption papers? I thought there were only four Marauders. Who's Mr. M.M.M.?" Harry was even more mystified.
"That's what Dumbledore and the Order wondered, at first. Then they quickly discerned those names from the envelope, from the names on the documents, with who was known in or around the Order. This "mystery marauder" was logically someone who knew about Grimmauld Place, and the connection between you and Sirius. You see, unlike the ones you saw, these papers are signed."
Harry's heart was pounding now. Signed documents! Finally he could solve the mystery…
"Who's on it?" whispered Harry in a hushed voice. "Who wanted to adopt…me?"
"Besides the official witnesses—who are now deceased, the only four names listed are Petunia and Vernon Dursley as former legal guardians, Sirius Black as present legal guardian, and yourself."
That hit Harry full force. A warm feeling shot through his heart as he realised it was his godfather himself who had wanted to adopt him, and cared enough to make their small family official. Somehow, Sirius had managed to fill out the papers while on the run….
Harry even understood why Sirius would keep something like that quiet—didn't want to put his godson in danger whilst he was still a wanted criminal. For a moment, Harry couldn't speak because he felt so touched. But something darker penetrated his revere….
"Petunia and Vernon Dursley?" repeated Harry angrily back to Ginny. "They lied to me again. This means they've known for ages about the existence of Sirius Black. You know, those papers are just hardcore proof of how they've tried to rid themselves of their evil wizard nephew." He sneered and said, "I suspect the only thing stopping it from really happening was Dumbledore's Howler to Aunt Petunia. Why are they forever keeping things from me?" Harry jumped up and started pacing as his braid swung annoyingly about him. He tried brushing it aside in irritation and failed.
Ginny observed him in silence. "Quite obviously, you never looked at the date next to the signatures. Surely you realise even in the magic world nobody would transfer guardianship of a minor to a fugitive criminal?" she asked shrewdly. He swallowed.
"Actually, that sort of slipped my mind…."
"I see. No matter. Harry, these elusive documents were signed one day before your godfather was convicted and sent to rot in Azkaban Prison." Her statement hung in the air.
That was so very long ago…and it didn't make sense. Dumbledore had told him just recently the reason he'd had to stay with the loathsome Dursleys; why after he'd finally escaped ten endless years of neglect and abuse only to require returning once every subsequent year. It was that blasted blood protection thing.
"Why would Sirius sign adoption papers for me? I mean, I'm sure he knew the reason behind Professor Dumbledore's keeping me there…"
"Oh yes, he was quite aware of that," Ginny confirmed. "However, Sirius went as Padfoot to see for himself just what type of environment you'd be raised in on Privet Drive." Raising an eyebrow, she continued, "Needless to say, he was livid. After finding Dumbledore, Sirius lit into him about all that was wrong about leaving you there; how the professor was a prehistoric blithering imbecile with all the empathy of a sack of wet dung, how he was going to teach the Dursleys a lesson by hexing Dudley, and how he was going to rescue you from that hell on earth if it required going so deep into hiding that not even Mighty Merlin and his seven blind Dwarves would be able to find you with a radio telescope." Both her eyebrows were arched high now. "Their row was the stuff of legend," she finished in a storyteller voice.
Hearing this news left Harry beside himself. The fact that Sirius had cared for and defended him from such an early stage…and verbally hazed the Headmaster of Hogwarts to prove it! But still…hearing this from Ginny and all….
"And don't give me that look," Ginny said irritatedly, "the reason I know this stuff about Sirius is because Dumbledore himself confirmed their fight. Evidently, Sirius went to Privet Drive posing as some sort of custodial official—so that's why they never knew about your godfather. He'd got the Dursleys to sign the papers, and was all set to pick you up—all with Dumbledore's knowledge. Your godfather was never aware that he knew. Dumbledore was set to intercept Sirius—when Sirius was supposed to pick you up—but of course that was the night he bumped into Wormtail," Ginny finished with a rueful look on her face.
Despite the talk of Wormtail, this was very heartening! At last, someone who had fought to remove Harry from the horrid sentence of his relatives' dark domain…and the method Sirius had employed was just so….like him. Harry had no trouble picturing Black display the pure nerve required to defy the omniscient Headmaster of Hogwarts…and his godfather had done it all for him. Harry smiled broadly in spite of himself.
As Ginny watched him, she returned his look knowingly. "It's good to know Sirius took the role of godfather literally, isn't it?" Her eyes twinkled. "He always was the defiant sort, doing things his own way regardless of outcome…rushing in where wizards fear to tread…and for all that happened in his life, you were always his number one priority."
A warm feeling filled Harry at her words. Yes, he had always been his godfather's priority…even when he was in Azkaban, Sirius was thinking about him…. Harry was the reason Sirius was dead in the first place…don't think about it….
"I hate to interrupt your thoughts, but there's still loads to tell you," Ginny said softly.
Harry faced her almost reluctantly. It was always nice to have positive thoughts of Sirius…
"Another reason I know some of these things is the note left in the box with the adoption papers. It explained near everything behind the documents' history; save for how they came to be at Black's house or precisely who sent them. Apparently someone at the Ministry sealed the documentation in the Department of Mysteries hoping the papers would never be found. See, in the wizard world, certs like these have the strongest protective Impervious Charms put on them so they can't be destroyed," she explained.
"And yet somehow, they wound up at Grimmauld Place sent to Mr. M.M.M.," Harry prompted. "You said the Order figured out who that was?"
"Yes," said Ginny hastily. "Essentially it was Tonks who figured out the second part of the clue—after Mr. of course. She pointed out to everyone that the letters M-M-M are an acronym the Ministry of Magic uses to classify Metamorphmagi in their registry."
Harry studied Ginny intently. "But Tonks is the only Metamorph even remotely affiliated with the Order, isn't she? I mean, she told me they were very rare."
"We all thought so too. Only, it turns out she was the only known Metamorph among us." Ginny pursed her lips and stared at him.
He puzzled this out. "So, there is someone else then? Undercover or something?"
"Actually, there was someone else," she corrected very deliberately, "but he's no longer with us." No longer with us? Was she implying…
"Sirius was Animagus and Metamorph?" demanded Harry incredulously, "and he never told anyone!?"
Ginny shook her head. "No, sorry—you misunderstand. This person wasn't even aware of the ability before his untimely death." Suddenly her statements were clear to him. She couldn't possibly mean…
"Not…me?" he whispered, shocked.
"Yes Harry—you," said Ginny intently.
"No, maybe it was Sirius…he might've…" Harry gestured aimlessly, "How is this possible? Tonks told me Metamorphs are born and that you can't study to be one or…or…." he trailed off, at a loss.
"That I can't tell you," Ginny replied, truly apologetic. "But you're aware it was part of the evidence used to convict you."
"What did you say?" asked Harry. "'Convict'? More Ministry rubbish trying to get me chucked out of school with manufactured spells, I assume?"
Ginny just gaped at him openly for a bit and then practically shouted, "You mean you don't know?!" Now she was positively horror-struck.
Harry cast about uneasily, feeding on Ginny's fear. Her reaction to his simple inquiry had unnerved him. Nonplussed to silence, Harry simply gazed back at her.
Ginny was assuming an air of weeping again. But he watched her face; she gritted her teeth and clenched her fists, as if coming to a stiff resolve. When she spoke, her eyes were moist, but her voice was steady.
"Harry. Please sit."
Warily, he did as he was told.
"You, your cousin Dudley, Aunt Petunia, and Uncle Vernon all got into a violent car crash in London. It happened straight after you left King's Cross Station together; the Hogwarts Express had just arrived from school to drop the students off for summer holiday. You were all found, severely injured, in a park outside central London. You were also the only one conscious when they came across you. Evidently, Harry, you had extracted yourself from a vehicle that had rolled several times downhill. Getting out was something you would've had to do under your own power, as nobody had known where you were and your wand was irreparably broken."
Inexplicably, Harry's mind began violently spinning at the mention of his wand.… He had a memory flash and pictured himself in a shirt sling, pounding head, covered in red patches, twisting a munged black wire around his bloodstained broken wand…a lighting flash of energy passing through him as he held the damaged wand to the sky…
Harry whipped around to Ginny and desperately whispered, "The Knight Bus! I remember that…I swear I saw it come! Did the wand work? Did I get us help on time? Please tell me I was able to save them, Ginny!" he finished on a hoarse shout.
In response, Ginny closed her eyes shut tight and a large tear leaked out from under each eyelid.
"You've no idea how good it is to hear you say that," Ginny whispered painfully. "The things people have been saying about your vindictive homicidal nature…we knew you couldn't have…" she stopped abruptly and snapped her head up to look intently into Harry's eyes.
"Yes. Your quick thinking, resourcefulness, and inability to give up in the face of impossible odds saved the Dursleys—all of them." She said it carried on a tone of subdued pride.
Harry ran a hand over his eyes and heaved a great sigh of relief.
"At least I was able to get them help, even if I was evidently too late for myself. That's….that's all that matters, isn't it?" he said it so uncertainly, it almost sounded like a child needing reassurance from a parent.
Ginny studied him almost pityingly. "That very act is what quite likely proved your undoing," she answered. It wasn't at all what he'd expected her to say.
"Meaning what?" said Harry sharply.
"Harry, I know this will be nigh impossible to tolerate, but please allow me to explain what happened with a minimum of interruptions. I'll try and answer all of your questions, but please remember the order of events is very important."
He narrowed his eyes at her and folded his arms tightly. "Very well."
"When you and the Dursleys were found," she began without preamble, "all of you and the car you were in had been turned invisible. Only a very clever and shrewd healer riding the Knight Bus discerned your dilemma; that you were hurt and needed help to undo the charms because of a broken wand."
Harry winced in remembrance at the mention of the healer…imagined not being able to breathe…a tall dark-haired woman speaking soothingly to him.…
"Madam Adonna," he blurted, pleasantly surprised he remembered that detail.
"Exactly—Madam Adonna," Ginny said, impressed. "After she sent you inside the bus to sit, she began helping the unconscious Dursleys. Only she was intercepted due to the sudden arrival of Muggle law enforcement."
"Oh yeah—the Met!" Harry shouted, remembering the uniformed officers. "I recall Madam Adonna being very angry.…" he trailed off.
"Yes. And as she helped you, other witches and wizards who were on the Knight Bus removed your belongings from the boot of the car and found your wand and brought the whole lot to Ministry for safekeeping." She paused only for breath and went on.
"As she spoke to you, it became evident to her you simply did not look yourself—barring all your injuries. She'd learnt from Stan that your hair was the wrong length. When you were found, it was unnaturally long—" Harry grabbed his braid, "—and from you she learnt that your eyes appeared the wrong colour."
"She'd said my eyes were grey," remembered Harry, puzzled.
"Too right," answered Ginny. "At the time, you were under too much trauma, so she decided not to tell you what she'd discerned due to these dramatic changes of appearance," she gave Harry a hard look.
It hit him as a load of bricks.
"That I am—was—really a Metamorphmagus?"
"Bravo, Harry. Don't ask me how you are, I'm not an expert—but somehow it happened. Only just when Madam Adonna thought she'd got your injuries all sorted out—in front of Muggles on the way to Muggle hospital—it became apparent you'd had major ones that were overlooked. Injuries that were so severe, there is no way you should've remained conscious, let alone upright and conversing. The fight in you just wouldn't give up. Madam Adonna said she's never seen anything like it, Muggle or magical."
Harry shook himself…he was remembering the witch setting his shoulder, followed by the unbearable stabbing sensation along his right side.
"Something happened when she and Stan set my shoulder," supplied Harry as he rubbed his ribcage, "and suddenly I couldn't breathe." He paused, concentrating. "Madam Adonna freaked out after she Vanished my shirt and looked under it, but I think I fainted before I could ask…what…she…saw…" he gestured helplessly.