Harry Potter and the ? (Prisoner of Azkaban)

The Leaky Cauldron

James didn’t know where to begin, or what to say. What do you tell your best friend who just found out he would be sent to prison, a literal hell hole, for a crime no one would ever believe he committed. Of all the cruel, unjust things they’d seen in the future so far, this almost rivalled what happened to himself and Lily. He was almost afraid to keep going now, what other horrors would he learn?

Remus was the first to speak up after a very long, drawn out pause, as he said “Ah, so, what’s your deal with Fudge?”

Sirius shook his head from side to side as he sighed “you’re going to think I’m crazy.”

“We already think that” Lily stated, giving him her best smile as she continued “in the best way of course.”

Sirius gave an unamused snort, but told them anyways. “Just thinking, I don’t like that Fudge was the one to show up to make sure Harry was okay, not days after my supposed escape” here his face twisted off in that same fit of unease he now always felt at the mention of his fate. Quickly shaking that off he pressed on “me, a supposed Voldemort supporter, according to the general populace. Now, who more than anyone would want to go after Harry?” He finished rhetorically, noting the light the rest of them gained at once.

“You think Fudge thinks you’re after Harry” James said, going a little cross eyed at his own question.

Sirius just shrugged, with his arms still crossed on his chest, glaring moodily down at the book. “Honestly, I’m with Harry, can’t think of to many reasons the Minister himself would make an appearance, and be so relieved to find him alive, and be happy about him not going into Hogsmeade.”

“I see your point,” Remus nodded “but why is it bothering you so much?” Sirius seemed to be taking this as offensive as if someone had just told him he was going to be a mass murderer.

“Excuse you?” Sirius spluttered. “How would you like it if I turned to you and said, hey, someday soon people are going to think you want Harry dead, let alone being the one to kill him.”

Remus flinched back at all of the repressed venom Sirius was showing, but not angry one bit. He nodded in acceptance and apologized.

Sirius backed off at once, but he still looked a mixture of peeved, confused and hurt all the same. James exchanged a look with Lily, then said “time to play musical chairs you two.”

Harry, surprised, got to his feet and followed his mother over to the two seater couch Remus and Sirius had just vacated, placing Sirius in the middle of James and Remus. Harry thought he understood why once James leaned his weight imperceptibly into his best friends. Harry very dearly wanted to offer comfort as well, but recognized he could do no more then give false reassurances like his mother that everything was going to be okay. What Sirius needed now was both Remus keeping him in check, and James support.

It hardly fixed the main problem with him, but they really couldn’t think of anything else to say on the matter. No one here could think of much else about how wronged Sirius had been, but there was no way to fix it until they found out exactly what happened. Sirius very dearly wanted the exact opposite of Harry finding these things out, but there wasn’t much he could do to stop it. The very idea that Harry would be the one who found out what a horrible murderer he would apparently become made him want to burst into tears, it wasn’t fair that he might finally have a chance in this future to get to know the baby he loved so much now, and it would be forever tainted with Harry possibly fearing and hating him.

Yet Harry insisted he must have met Sirius at some point, and he had no ill feelings towards him now, but was he trying to lie and sugar coat it? He didn’t ask, unable to decide which answer would be worse.

Looking quite pleased with himself now that he could keep a better eye on Sirius, James took up the book and read.

Harry didn’t know quite what to do with all of his free time now. He’d never been allowed before to go wherever whenever.

“That would make any kid your age all kinds of happy” Lily agreed.

He kept his promise to Fudge and kept to Diagon Alley, but it was such an interesting place that wasn’t a hard chore. He spent every morning inside the Leaky Cauldron just watching all of the customers interact, witches and wizards comparing their buys of the day, fascinating creatures who blended in, and at one point Harry was quite sure a hag eating raw meat.

“I’ve sat around there a fair few times just to people watch” Remus agreed, wondering how on earth they could even keep going in such a normal tone after the bombshell that they’d received. He then reflected it wasn’t any odder then the whole situation of reading a book about the future.

After that he’d hit the streets, wandering up and down all of the shops and doing more people watching, where the customers were either talking prices, or

James grimaced almost as bad as if he’d had to say ‘mudblood’ again. If someone had told him at the start of this book Sirius would turn out to be alive, he would have skipped around dancing with joy no matter what the reason, now that he did have his reason he wanted to vomit and scream all over again at the unfairness of it all. He declined against saying this aloud though, worried it would make Sirius feel all the worse, considering how much he flinched at his own name as well as he continued.

talking of Sirius Black, where one mother swore she wouldn’t let her children out of the house until he was put away again.

Remus gave a weak, unamused chuckle, picturing some random person actually being afraid of a boy who had once cried all day because Remus had once accidentally turned his hair green, and it had taken a few seconds to correct the colour changing spell and put it right. Sirius had then given an exaggerated hurt expression all day about how Remus had ‘shown how he really felt about sharing a house with him.’ It was beyond ludicrous that a single person would really think so ill of one of his closest friends.

Harry was now free to do his homework where he chose as well, and favoured doing it in the local ice cream shop where the owner, Florean Fortescue, was very knowledgeable about his essay and was prone to giving Harry free icecream.

“Dang,” James grinned “now how come I never got that treatment.”

“Because you would have eaten him out of house and home before the first hour was up” Lily replied at once.

It became a real chore for Harry once he did visit Gringotts not to go out and empty his whole vault.

“Well here’s to self-control” Remus smirked.

He found himself wanting nearly everything he came across, including a lifelike model of the galaxy, which would have allowed him to quit his Astronomy class.

“Don’t be silly Harry” Lily chided “you’d still have to take the class, you’d just have an easier time on your homework. Honestly, I wouldn’t even be bothered if you’d bought something like that for school.”

Then Harry told her the price, and she did a double take before nodding seriously and saying “okay, good thing you didn’t buy it then.”

The worst temptation came about in his favourite store, Quality Quidditch Supplies.

James voice immediately spiked with glee, this could only mean something good. Remus leaned in eagerly as well, and Sirius finally looked almost normal again. What better way to distract him from something so horrible then his favourite sport.

He had to squeeze himself inside the shop to find a new model broom on display.

“Sweet” Sirius cried, almost bouncing in place as his eyes lit up like a child “a new broom! I thought the new Nimbus sounded fantastic, this must be even better!”

“What are all the models anyways?” Harry asked. Yes he’d had an in depth discussion with Ron about this, but he was enjoying watching the three boys acting like their high-strung selves again, and actually wanted to delay the reading for a bit.

James looked ready to jump in and try to describe the brooms in high detail, when Lily butted in saying “relevant information James” in a singsong voice.

James froze, and glanced over at her with a very hurt look on his face. “I find this very relevant!”

“Yes well I found the reason Astronomy is important to be very relevant” she snipped back.

James frowned, clearly struggling to remember when this had come up, then he offered “okay, I get to tell Harry about this, then you can tell him about the importance of tracking stars.”

Lily grinned and agreed, then James quickly launched into his explanation first. After a lively discussion of nearly every make and model, Lily almost regretted giving in to James, she found it so boring at one point she slipped out of the room to go in and check on baby Harry. James seemed to be winding down by the time she had reentered.

Once he was done, Sirius said in a suffering voice “alright, so why are we forced to take Astronomy for five years?”

Lily replied with a bit of an impish smirk “I would like to remind you all, in the very first chapter that ‘odd’ watch it mentioned Dumbledore owned. All of you knew how to read and understand that because you learned Astronomy.”

“So we can read a fancy watch,” James dismissed “we do own analogue watches. We only use those more for traditional reasons now. Got anything else?”

“It’s also very important in potion making,” Lily continued as if James hadn’t spoken “it doesn’t do a Potioner any good to have to sit around and take hours to figure out the position of the planets, which are important in many advanced potions. You need to be able to know and understand this in a very particular frame of time, so if you want a career in Potions you must keep up with Astronomy.”

Harry nodded, very curious about this indeed, but it was clear the other three boys were getting rather bored with this conversation. Lily considered going on anyways, just for a bit of payback at James boring her stupid with his broom talk, but lamented that you really couldn’t force knowledge, so she agreed to allow the reading to continue.

The shop owner was explaining to the crowd that this model was going to be the broom of choice for the Irish International team, and they were favoured to win the World Cup.

“Really?” Remus butted in eagerly. “They’ve gone up in the rankings.”

“Just tell me what it is already” Sirius demanded, nearly bouncing in place in anticipation.

Harry finally found a break in the crowd enough to read the title on a little plaque, The Firebolt.

“It’s a new model all together” James breathed, nearly drooling as he could only picture it, not having a previous model to go off of.

“Well read the sign already” Sirius all but begged, looking near to snatching the book away just to read it himself.

There was a sign underneath detailing every inch of the broom’s top of the line standards.

The boys spent just as long interrogating Harry on every detail he remembered of this broom, and Lily simply sat back and watched indulgently for a few minutes before cutting in again and trying to convince them to move on. James huffed and grumbled for a bit, but finally accepted.

The price wasn’t even listed though, and Harry reflected it would do him no god to empty his school vault for a new broom when he still had a perfectly good one on him.

Lily beamed with pride as she said “I’m so proud of you. I can’t imagine many boys your age, or older-” she cut herself off to give an obvious look at the other three boys “would take the time to consider that.”

Harry blushed a bit at the praise, thanking his Mum. After a pause, the boys finally admitted they were happy Harry didn’t buy the broom either, thinking in rational sense of course. It didn’t stop them from wanting it any less either.

This didn’t stop Harry from coming back every day just to look at it though.

Sirius nodded like this made absolutely perfect sense to him, making Harry laugh anew.

He did have some things he was required to buy though, like new school robes which were getting several inches too short.

“How come they don’t have some kind of place in school to fix that” Harry asked, this having bothered him several times towards the end of the school year. “Honestly, how come they don’t have any way to fix your clothes, I’ve ripped the hem of my trousers several times and just had to ignore it till summer.” He was also thinking of a few other times, like the basilisk biting his arm and leaving a sizable gap in that sleeve as well for the last few weeks of school.

Sirius looked perfectly back to normal after the nice long Quidditch distraction and explained for Harry “the house-elves have been known to take care of the worst of them, like for instance the time Peter got a hole ripped on his backside, long story” he added on when Harry looked about asking for details. “They also put some kind of charm, I think, on them when they go in the wash so that they don’t need them every bloody time you have to deal with Herbology. Dirt repelling charms, and maybe they strengthen the material or something, I’ve never stopped to ask to be honest.“*

Harry reflected that he’d never really thought about it, as the Gryffindor boys had a laundry shoot that just seemed to magically clean their clothes and shoot them back out perfectly folded, but it did make sense.

There were also his new textbooks for both his old classes, and his new ones Care of Magical Creatures, and Divination.

“Well, at least you did get your stuff” James muttered, mostly to himself as he remembered worrying about this, and trying to push away the impending feeling that they would just have to rehave that same conversation at the beginning of next book since Harry would still have to go back there! He grit his teeth for a moment before forcing himself to go on in that same light tone as before, not willing to let his good mood be spoiled again so soon.

Harry did get a surprise though, when he went to the bookshop and saw a window display of the Monster Book of Monsters.

“Oh” they brightened in understanding at Hagrid sending Harry that book.

Remus stated “guess that makes sense then, Hagrid would have sent you a textbook for one of your new classes.”

“That’s not what Kettleburn set us though,” Sirius pointed out “so why the change?”

“You don’t think there’s a new teacher?” Lily asked in concern, never having taken the class herself, but curious all the same.

“Wouldn’t surprise me” James shrugged “he would be how old now? With two limbs missing? In fact, you remember Hagrid’s letter, he was going to tell Harry something, like a surprise? Guess this might have been it. Of course Hagrid would get chummy with a new Care of Magical Creatures teacher.”

“Great, so we’re going to have to deal with three new teachers this year” Sirius rolled his eyes “I can only hope they’re at least competent. Harry hasn’t exactly had a good track record so far.”

“You can say that again” Harry agreed, wondering why this year in particular made him feel like correcting Sirius on this. Had he finally gotten a decent teacher, at least for DADA?

They weren’t happy about it though, as they were locked in a giant cage tearing each other’s pages out.

Sirius released a surprised snort of laughter, picturing books fighting having never come to mind.

Harry looked at his book list for the first time and saw the book listed as the one he’d need for Care of Magical Creatures, and couldn’t help almost sagging in relief. He’d been having horrible ideas about Hagrid perhaps wanting help with a new animal.

“Oh don’t” Lily shuddered in true terror “I don’t want to have to deal with anymore of Hagrid’s pets.”

“Well I seemed to be wrong” Harry soothed.

Harry went inside, and the moment the store owner laid eyes on him, he demanded to know if Harry was from Hogwarts, and when he said he was, the man pushed Harry out of the way,

“Well that was rude” Remus frowned.

“What’s his problem” Sirius agreed huffily.

going for a thick set of gloves and making his way towards the cage of biting books.

“What a jerk,” James agreed with a frown “Harry might not have needed that book even if he did already have it. Care of Magical creatures isn’t mandatory for Hogwarts.”

Harry stopped him though, telling that he already had that book. The man couldn’t have looked any more relieved if he wanted to, saying he’d already had to deal with five paper cuts this morning.

Lily winced in sympathy, but didn’t bother to say anything out loud this time. He really had been presumptuous in his actions.

From inside the cage came another tearing sound, coming from two of the books having pinned down a third and tearing its back off.

“Hope you’d at least get a discount on that book” Sirius laughed.

The owner shoved a cane inside and forced them all apart, complaining of what a nightmare they were to have around. It was worse than the time he’d bought a shipment of Invisibility books, and never found a single one of them.

“Ah,” Lily said in confusion “I don’t get it, they didn’t use the counterspell to make the books visible or...?”

“Don’t know” Harry shrugged, “didn’t ask for details.”

Harry did show him the list of books he did need though, one of which was Unfogging the Future. He led Harry over to the Divination section of the store, and Harry read the back of the book which detailed what he would learn, including palmistry and bird entrails.

“Bird entrails?” James repeated in disgust.

“Well it sounds like an interesting class at least” Remus chuckled.

Harry’s attention was off guard though, when he spotted another book labelled Death Omens. The owner looked where Harry was, and told Harry that wasn’t a good book to be reading, he’d start being paranoid about death being everywhere.

“Should he really be telling someone not to buy a book from him?” Sirius laughed.

“Well I appreciate it” Lily shrugged, noting Harry seemed to have a pessimistic side enough as is, he didn’t need that extra help.

Harry was still watching though, as the front cover was of a very large black dog,

“I’m not that big” Sirius scoffed, growing uneasy all over again at any kind of mention of him, even his animal.

Harry gave him a pitying look, declining to mention that his own imagination might have made that black dog in the alley way bigger than it might have really been.

remarkably close to the one he’d seen that night in the alley. The shop owner really did distract him by escorting Harry around to gather the rest of his books, but he was distracted as he left the shop and accidentally smacked into a few people on his way back to the Leaky Cauldron.

Now all four of them were frowning, each taking a worried glance at Harry. He was still frowning at Sirius, a perturbed look on his face. Finally Sirius couldn’t take it anymore and said “you’re starting to scare me there Harry, what’s on your mind.”

Harry jolted slightly, Sirius didn’t usually refer to him by his actual name, but he gave him a benign smile as he admitted “guess I just didn’t realize your animagus form was a death omen, and you know, not knowing then...”

Remus released a surprised snort of laughter, admitting “yeah, it honestly did surprise us a bit too when he first achieved his transformation, Peter’s a bit superstitious and actually called him a grim.”

James gave a surprised laugh himself, nodding and saying “we were actually going to use that as his nickname, we kicked around a few things before we settled on what we’ve got.”

“I can see how it would freak you out a bit” Lily nodded in agreement.

He dumped all of his stuff to the side and sat down heavily on his bed, thinking about how he’d seen that dog not moments before his head had nearly been crushed under the wheels of a bus. Aloud, he told himself it hadn’t been a death omen,

Sirius winced, and begin ducking into himself, wanting to apologize for clearly scaring Harry so much, since by this point they really were convinced that must have been Sirius, the coincidence was just too high. Before he could let himself feel too much pity though, James absently gave him a nudge with his elbow, and Remus flicked his ear. Sirius was instantly distracted from his thoughts and instead was playfully grumbling about how his friends abused him.

saying he was just overthinking about that stray dog he’d seen.

“Now that I’ll disagree with” James said lightly, still keeping a protective eye over Sirius to make sure he wasn’t going to sink back into that self-pity again.

Harry nodded in understanding, trying to catch Sirius’ eye to give him a confident smile, and succeeding after a moment; receiving one back almost instantly.

Looking into the mirror, he began to try and flatten his hair with nerves.

“Now there’s a lost cause” Lily said absently.

The mirror spoke back that Harry was fighting a losing battle with that one.

They all laughed weakly then, but Sirius still wasn’t in much of a mood to make the joke Lily had just mimicked a mirror of all things.

As the holiday continued to drag closer to the end, Harry began spotting some of his school friends, like the other Gryffindor boys Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas who stopped to have a chat with him. He also saw Neville Longbottom, but swerved to avoid him,

“Why?” Remus asked “I thought you liked Neville?”

“Wait for it” Harry told him simply.

as he was currently being told off by his haughty looking grandmother.

“Yeah, no one wants their friend around when they’re getting told off” Sirius agreed.

Harry dearly hoped she never found out he’d tried to use Neville’s name while on the run.

James released a surprised burst of laughter, personally he would have been flattered, but he could see the other side to that coin.

He woke up on the last day before school started, thinking he had just missed Ron and Hermione in the crowd and he’d see them tomorrow on the train.

“That is a little weird” Lily agreed, coking her head to the side slightly “they said they were going to be there.”

“Haven’t you been sending them mail with Hedwig?” Remus asked. “Didn’t they know they could find you at the Leaky Cauldron.”

Harry shook his head no and said “I didn’t send Hedwig anymore that summer, it was to close to the end of the holidays, and I didn’t know if she’d be back in time with an answer before I had to go back to school.”

The others disagreed, wanting to point out that Hedwig would have known to go to Hogwarts even if that were the case, but didn’t argue the point.

He got up to go and have one last look at the Firebolt,

James read that with nothing but fondness colouring his tone, knowing full well that was something he would have done too.

and was traveling that way when he heard his name being called from behind. He turned and found his two best friends waving over at him.

“Finally” Remus grinned.

“I have missed hearing about them” James agreed affectionately.

Ron was saying how happy he was to find Harry, that they must have just missed him at the Leaky Cauldron,

“Then how did they know you were staying there?” Lily asked.

Harry shrugged and said “I’m sure I ask him, since I was just wondering the same thing.

and they’d already gone around and got their own shopping done. Harry said he’d already done his as well, then asked how they knew where he was staying. Ron simply put that his Dad knew.

“Makes since,” Sirius shrugged “he knew about you last summer to, you seem pretty popular in his department.”

“I get the feeling everyone inside the Ministry always knows about me” Harry replied, not exactly happy about it.

This didn’t surprise Harry, as Arthur Weasley worked for the Ministry and would have knowledge of his Aunt’s mishap. Hermione brought up this very subject, asking if Harry had really blown up his aunt in an already stern voice.

“Go on, tell her the reason you did, and that stern voice will turn to outrage in a second” James sniffed.

Harry just shrugged without a response, having a good idea he didn’t actually do that.

Ron burst into laughter at once at the reminder while Harry lamely explained away he’d just lost control.

The four of them frowned at Harry sharply, not at all pleased this seemed to be the only explanation he was going to give his friends, but Harry was resolutely ignoring all eyes, and they admitted there was no since badgering him about it now.

Hermione told him off, saying it wasn’t supposed to be funny as Harry could have gotten into real trouble for that. Harry agreed he was surprised he didn’t, and asked Ron if his Dad had any idea why Fudge hadn’t?

Now because of Sirius, they wondered if maybe they had taken too light of the situation before, but none of them said it out loud. Sirius was still looking all kinds of moody any time this subject came up, so James refused to linger on it too long.

Ron just shrugged it off, saying it was because it was the Harry Potter. If he’d pulled something like that, the Ministry would’ve have his head, but then again they’d have to dig him back up as his Mum would’ve murdered him.

“I like to think Ron wouldn’t be put in that situation any more then Harry, or at least his Mum would have understood” Lily said, mostly to herself it seemed as the boys seemed to find that comment more amusing then anything.

Then Ron told Harry that the lot of the Weasleys, and Hermione, were going to be staying at the Leaky Cauldron that night with Harry, so he could go to the train with them tomorrow.

“Excellent” Harry beamed, more than pleased to hear about this, he’d missed his friends terribly over that summer.

Harry said this was excellent.

Then they all laughed a bit more as Harry blushed slightly at mimicking himself.

Ron changed the subject then by pulling out a long thin box,

“His new wand,” Remus grinned.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious” James snorted as he read.

showcasing his new wand. He also laughed back about when they’d told that shop owner they’d wanted two of the Monster Book of Monsters, and how the man had nearly cried.

“Poor guy” Lily said in sympathy, wondering why the store hadn’t simply found a better method of shutting those books closed with a belt like Harry, and simply selling them that way.

Harry then asked Hermione what all she’d gotten, as she had three bags ripping at the seams with all of her books. Hermione proceeded to list every extra subject Hogwarts had to offer, including Muggle Studies.

“How many classes is she taking” Sirius asked faintly.

“Why’s she taking Muggle studies?” Remus demanded “She’s a muggle?”

“How can she even take all of those classes,” James demanded “some of them run at the same time.”

Harry didn’t have an answer for any of this, but he asked something he’d been wondering for a while “which classes did you guys take?”

“Arithmancy and Study of Ancient Runes” James and Lily said at once.

“We both took Care of Magical Creatures” Remus said, gesturing towards himself and Sirius, “but I took Ancient Runes to.”

“Muggle Studies as my second option” Sirius responded, stretching out slightly as he forced himself to relax again at this rather normal conversation, might as well enjoy it while it lasted.

Harry nodded happily, enjoying the fact he didn’t seem to be getting that settling feeling that normally came with relearning things. This meant he’d never learned this about his family before, and he always enjoyed that.

Ron demanded to know by his friend was taking Muggle Studies,

Sirius opened his mouth, but Remus quickly said “yes Sirius, I mimicked Ron, let it go.”

Sirius just smirked at him, enjoying the moment anyways.

as she was a Muggleborn. Hermione said that she wanted to see wizards point of view on them, it would be all sorts of interesting.

“Props for that” Lily agreed, never having thought of that point of view before.

“Still wouldn’t take the extra class” Remus said in disbelief, thinking this poor girl was going to overwork herself in the first week.

Harry asked her if she’d planned on any time for eating or sleeping, but Hermione ignored them both.

“That’s a legitimate question” James said, his own amusement still lingering. He was picturing her come midterms and going to at least two professors to drop one of her extra classes just for a breath of fresh air, no one could keep up with that much!

Instead saying that she had some leftover money and wanted to buy herself a birthday present, and Ron suggested a book. Hermione politely declined,

Sirius snapped his fingers and said “darn, guess she already realizes she’s not going to have much time for free reading this term.”

and said that what she did want was an owl.

“Did she talk to her parents about that before though?” Lily asked in concern. “I asked my parents for an owl for years, but they never gave in to that one.”

“I think a girl like Hermione, she most likely did” Remus pacified.

Saying that as Harry had Hedwig and Ron had Errol, but Ron corrected that was a family owl, not his.

“And it’s kind of recommended they get a new owl to” Sirius agreed, wincing in sympathy for the old bird.

What he did have was Scabbers, his old rat, who was looking quite sickly himself.

“How old is he?” James asked in concern.

“Most only live for about five years I think” Lily said, frowning as she thought about it, “Ron said Scabbers used to be Percy’s, and that was almost three years ago at this point. Assuming Percy got him very young, he’d still be getting on.”

‘Poor Ron’ they all thought this time, not wanting the poor kid to have to go through the trauma of losing a pet.

Harry led the way to the local Magical Animal shop where both of his friends could attend to their needs, and they walked inside to find a large assortment of every fascinating animal.

“That sounds like all kinds of fun” Lily said in amusement.

“It’s one of my favourite shops” Remus agreed.

“Surprised you didn’t interrupt me every animal to say what it actually was” James told him.

“I’m not that bad” Remus scoffed, unwilling to admit he’d been mentally doing that anyways, though his friends knew better and exchanged superior smirks.

Ron went up to the counter first while Hermione began browsing the owls, which came in every colour and breed. Ron explained that Scabbers had been acting rather lethargic of late, while Harry was thinking about how Scabbers had once belonged to Ron’s older brother Percy, and next to the cage of younger rats, Scabbers looked particularly old.

“Bet he’s still better than those” Sirius sniffed, feeling a particular affection for Scabbers, like he would for any rat that reminded him of Peter, and the description was a pretty good fit.

The woman at the counter picked up the rat by his tail, asking how old exactly he was, and Ron didn’t know the actual age, just that he’d been around for a while. Scabbers was inspected from his torn ear to one of his missing toes, and noted that most of this species wouldn’t live longer than three years.

“Well she’s just a lovely conversation” Lily frowned severely, that was hardly something you told a child asking for help with his pet.

“And some can live longer” Remus agreed a little hotly, still feeling bad for Ron and wanting to defend his pet, even if he wasn’t there right now.

She offered Ron to buy a replacement, pointing at the cage where the black furred rats were playing an odd game jumping over each other’s tails. Ron just muttered that they were showing off.

James chuckled, he’d actually been fixing to say something similar before he read Ron’s response.

The woman switched tactics and instead offered Ron some medicine for Scabbers, calling it Rat Tonic. Ron agreed he’d buy that, beginning to ask for the price, when he screamed in pain.

Lily jumped, James had yelled that pretty loud, then scowled at him when she realized he was still reading “what was that for?”

“Ron said it” he shrugged, giving her a cheeky grin before reading curiously.

Harry was startled to see something very large and dark orange landing on Ron’s head, then leaping onto the counter after Scabbers.

“A cat I presume,” Remus said mildly, arching a brow in surprise “though props to it for getting out of its cage.”

Sirius popped him lightly, saying “you really want that thing to eat Scabbers in front of Ron?”

Remus just rolled his eyes as James continued.

The woman screamed for Crookshanks to stop, but Scabbers wasn’t waiting around, wriggling out of her hand and bolting from the shop. Harry and Ron tore after him, catching up to him curled up underneath a trashcan. Ron demanded to know what had attacked him, and Harry explained it was either a very large cat, or a very small tiger.

Which made everyone in the room laugh at Harry’s attempt at humour.

They made their way back to the shop for Hermione who should have gotten her owl by now, only to find her walking out of the shop with the same cat in her arms.

“Really?” Lily demanded. “She bought the cat that attacked Ron’s pet?”

“I’m trying to decide if that’s her subtle way of saying Ron annoys her” Sirius smirked.

“Hermione’s hardly subtle about anything” Remus snorted.

“I’m kind of with Lily,” James frowned in disapproval “it was almost rude of her to buy something that went out of its way to eat Scabbers like that.”

Harry wasn’t paying much attention to any of them, but was instead fighting the impulse to rub at his temple again. He’d never thought too much about Scabbers other then as Ron’s pet, and he had no real feelings towards Hermione buying whatever cat she wanted, but there was something here he wasn’t really seeing. Something important he really should remember about these two pets, James hadn’t seemed to notice his son’s silence as he continued.

Ron was outraged she’d bought the cat that had tried to eat his rat, and Hermione ignored him by stating that he was a beautiful creature. Harry didn’t really agree, its fur was very thick and poofy, its legs a too short for its long body, and it had a squashed face like he’d run face first into a wall.

Both Sirius and Remus released surprised snorts of laughter at that lovely description.

Hermione was cooing to her cat that she hadn’t really meant to hurt Ron, but Ron was still arguing that Scabbers didn’t need the hassle of a cat around, he needed his peace. Hermione was frowning at him now as she handed over Ron’s Rat Tonic, telling how Crookshanks had been in that store for ages as no one had wanted to buy him.

“That’s a real mystery” Sirius rolled his eyes.

Lily huffed and gave him the stank eye. Despite her misgivings about Hermione buying that particular cat at that time, she had nothing against the actual animal. It was in its nature after all, and Sirius mocking it just annoyed her.

They went back to the Leaky Cauldron, Ron and Hermione arguing the whole way, Harry phasing it out. When they got inside, he greeted Mr. Weasley at the bar, looking at the front paper where Sirius Black was still on display.

James frowned and grit his teeth for a moment, annoyed at once all the good mood seeping right out of the room at this near constant reminder. He wanted more than anything right now to find out what had really happened to his best friend, but the repeating commentary on him was grinding his gears.

Harry asked if there was any new news on him, but Mr. Weasley said that even though they’d pulled some people off their normal jobs to find him, they’d got nothing yet.

Instead of allowing his mood to sink back down, Sirius said in a forced happy voice “I think I should get some credit for that at least.”

Remus gave him a pointed look that said quite clearly he still didn’t find him making light of this situation any kind of funny, but no one told him off for it this time. It was better than him being depressed anyways.

Ron asked if whoever caught him would get a reward,

Sirius opened, then quickly closed his mouth. He had been fixing to ask how much his head was worth, but decided he really didn’t want to know the answer to that.

but Mr. Weasley snapped at his son not to go getting any ideas, and Harry noticed he looked a lot more tense than usual.

James voice spiked a bit in confusion upon reading that. What did this have to do with the Weasley’s really? Why would it put extra strain on Arthur, or was it something else altogether? Most likely it was the second.

Reminding them that it would most likely be the Azkaban guards who would catch up with him,

Sirius shuddered so hard at those words, he nearly shook the whole couch with him. Those guards were one of the reasons he felt like fainting at the mere thought of where he was fixing to spend the next twelve years of his life in a very short amount of time. He’d been around a Dementor once in his life, and the thought of forcibly being stuck in their presence for any prolonged time made him want to run for the hills without looking back.

James really couldn’t take it this time, and wrapped an arm around his friends shoulder for a brief moment until Sirius did stop his shaking again. He waited until Sirius offered a weak, unreal smile, but at least he attempted it, giving James enough confidence to keep reading and pray for a change of subject.

Remus was trying to swallow back bile at seeing his usually energized friend reduced to this state, while Harry dearly wanted to ask who on earth these guards were if they elicited such strong reactions from people he could hardly imagine being afraid of anything. First Hagrid, now Sirius, what on earth happened in this Azkaban? He still didn’t ask though, not wanting to be the one to linger on this.

The rest of the Weasley’s arrived then, Ginny coming in last and going red in the face upon seeing Harry. She’d always had a bit of a crush on him, and his saving her life last year most likely hadn’t changed that.

“Just what I wanted to be reminded of right now” Sirius whispered, thinking about that horrid Chamber the least helpful thing to get his mind off of death and regrets.

Percy spotted Harry as well and marched forward, offering his hand to Harry and welcoming him in the most formal way possible.

James forced as much amusement as he could into this small interaction, perhaps speaking a little louder then was necessary to make sure Sirius got his fill of what he was sure was about to be an amusing moment. Anything with the twins and Percy in the same room almost always meant a laugh.

Fred couldn’t let that slide, shoving Percy out of the way and mimicking his brother’s actions as pompously as possible,

Then James grinned, looking all too smug at being right, and just as pleased to see a genuine smile come back to his friends face at these twin’s antics.

George quickly copying him as well. Percy scowled at both of them.

The boys were outright laughing by this point, and Lily couldn’t help but smirk along.

Molly Weasley told them to knock it off, but Fred wasn’t done yet, pouncing on his mother’s hand and going on about seeing her as well.

Lily shook her head affectionately while this only doubled the boy’s amusement.

She really did get them to stop this time, before turning on Harry and giving him a warm welcome before boasting that Percy had made Head Boy, the second of her sons to have done so. Fred muttered he was going to be the last as well.

“Now that’s not really fair to Ron” Lily frowned at him.

“I agree” James nodded. He enjoyed being Head Boy in his time, but Percy was being the wrong kind as far as he was concerned. In fact he’d rather enjoy it if Ron got that opportunity, he’d very much noticed the boy’s lack of confidence in himself and some responsibility like this might just help him.

Mrs. Weasley wasn’t pleased at the slight, pointing out neither of the twins had been made prefects.

“That might be a little awkward,” Remus noted “only one of the twins getting that.”

Sirius nodded, agreeing “yeah, I’d almost feel bad for them.”

George scoffed he’d be mad to want such a thing, it would take all the fun out of their life.

“I resemble that comment” Remus smirked.

“I think you meant resent” Lily corrected him, knowing he had used the wrong word on purpose.

“That to” he laughed.

Ginny laughed at her brothers, and Mrs. Weasley noticed that to so she snapped at the twins to set a better example for their sister.

While no one else in the room took much notice of this, Harry suddenly looked puzzled. He had a rather distinct feeling Ginny wasn’t nearly the sweetheart her mother wanted her to be.

Percy said she had much better brothers to look to for an example, before exiting up the stairs. George confided in Harry they’d tried to lock that brother away in a sarcophagus in Egypt, but their Mum had caught them.

“Rats” Sirius huffed, snapping his fingers in agitation.

Lily gave him the stank eye, even though she knew he didn’t mean it anymore then George had.

They all had dinner together that night, and Fred was asking his Dad about how all of them were getting to the train tomorrow?

“I’m getting hungry” Sirius said at once, his mouth watering at the thought of dessert.

“You’re always hungry” James reminded him.

Lily ignored the pair, it was still a bit too early for lunch, so instead said “that’s a good question though, since they don’t have the Anglia anymore.”

Mr. Weasley explained that his job was loaning him a couple of cars,

“Well that was nice” Remus said, rather puzzled.

“Do the Ministry normally do this?” Harry asked at once, noting how confused the others seemed.

“They’re not known to” James shrugged, “it’s not their business to make sure every one of their workers gets around, but I suppose Arthur might have been able to make an exception for you” he finished, giving Harry an obvious wink. He didn’t really find it funny, the reminder of his son’s fame was only a thought away from how he’d gained it, but it made sense.

Harry nodded in understanding all the same.

Percy asked why, and George quickly cut in by saying it was all thanks to Percy. They were even going to put flags on the car for him, saying HB, while Fred finished up the joke by stating that it stood for Humongous Bighead.

Which gained a laugh from all present readers.

Everyone except Percy and Mrs. Weasley snorted into their pudding.

“I like the fact that means Arthur laughed as well” Remus grinned.

“Those twins had to get their sense of humour from somewhere” Sirius smirked.

Percy ignored them and repeated his question.

“That boy needs to lighten up” Lily rolled her eyes.

Mr. Weasley did explain that he’d managed to convince the Ministry to do him a favour, but he was going red just like Ron did when he was being pressured.

“Good to note an obvious Weasley tell” James grinned, feeling rather smug he must have guessed right from this.

Mrs. Weasley changed subject to asking if they were all packed, and Percy told his mother how Ron wasn’t, he’d put all of his books all over his bed.

“That boy is annoying,” Sirius rolled his eyes “what brother points that out to his parents about his sibling?”

Mrs. Weasley told Ron off for this at once, while Ron gave Percy a dirty look.

“That was a nice reaction” Remus rolled his eyes, thinking of a couple of worse things Ron could have done in retaliation.

When dinner was done, Harry heard a ruckus coming from Percy and Ron’s shared room, and he went over to find them both arguing. Percy’s Head Boy badge was missing, along with Ron’s Rat Tonic, and they were both convinced the other had taken it. Harry said he’d last seen Ron’s Tonic at the bar downstairs, but Percy wouldn’t let Ron leave until his badge had been found.

“What’s Percy’s right to tell him that?” Lily demanded hotly. “It’s his badge, not Ron’s. Ron’s not the type to take it for fun.”

Harry offered to get Ron’s stuff, going back onto the stairs, but coming quickly to a stop when he heard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arguing.

“Ouch” James winced in sympathy, wondering if this is why Arthur had looked so upset earlier. Were he and Molly having a fight?

Harry would have normally kept walking, not wanting to be caught listening in on this, when he froze at hearing his own name,

That sparked an interest in all of them, wondering how the couple could be arguing about Harry of all people.

so he inched closer to the door.

No one could blame Harry for that one bit, it was the normal reaction after all.

Arthur was saying that he wanted to tell Harry something, that he had every right to know.

“Know what?” Remus asked with unease, not liking the look of this already.

James didn’t bother with a response, hoping the book would explain more properly

He’d been arguing with Fudge about this, who’d been insisting on keeping Harry in the dark. Molly shot back that it would horrify him if he knew.

This short little bit already had Lily worrying at her lip all over again, and the boys weren’t looking any better. What worse thing could be going on right now?!

Arthur pointed out though it would be for his own good, he and Ron had already been known to end up in the Forbidden Forest twice,

“Technically,” Harry butted in, shifting his weight in agitation due to the mood circling around “I’ve been in twice, Ron’s only been in once.”

“So Arthur was generalizing,” Sirius huffed, his eyes narrowing “that doesn’t explain what they’re so bothered about.”

Harry winced at the sharp tone he used, though it clearly wasn’t directed at him specifically.

but Harry couldn’t do that kind of stuff this year. It was a miracle he’d lived the night he’d run away from home. If the Knight Bus hadn’t come and got him, he probably wouldn’t have been found at all.

James groaned and looked ready to toss the book away in anger. Why did he keep getting all the chapters that felt like mentioning how his son could die?

Sirius looked the opposite, ready to faint all over again as he vividly remembered how upset Fudge had seemed that night as well. He hardly wanted confirmation that his theory was right, but it seemed he was about to get it anyways.

Molly was insisting that hadn’t happened though, so there was no point in telling him, but Arthur argued back that they say Sirius Black is out of his mind!

James voice spiked all over again, having several testy retorts on his lips for that, but quickly bit them off. It’s not like he could blame the Weasleys for thinking this, they didn’t know any more about Sirius then Stan had. It just boiled his blood to know anyone thought that way of someone he considered a brother.

Sirius winced and pressed himself back into his seat cushions, wondering just how accurate that accusation was? Azkaban was known to drive people to death if they were there long enough, and his sentence more then met that time.

Remus was getting paler the longer this went on, clenching and unclenching himself up as he, like James, wanted very much to snap at someone for implying this about his friend.

He hadn’t met the man to argue the point, but it didn’t change the fact that he’d been out for weeks and no one had any leads on him. They only knew one thing, what he wanted.

“Is that right,” Lily hissed, her eyes narrowing dangerously “he’s told you this, or is it more guess work and slandering?”

Molly was still insisting it wouldn’t matter, Harry would be in no safer place once he was at school, but Arthur argued back that if Black could break out of Azkaban, it would be no problem for him to break into Hogwarts.

Sirius opened, then closed his mouth again. How he had broken out of Azkaban, he had not the slightest clue. The thought had never even occurred to him to figure out how, and he wasn’t keen on sitting around pondering it now. However, he did have the fullest confidence that if any student wanted to sneak in and out of that school, he was more than qualified. Everyone here knew this though, and he just couldn’t muster up the energy in that moment to say it with as much bragging rights as he normally would have.

Molly tried to pacify that they weren’t positive Black was after Harry,

Sirius winced at that nightmare of a sentence all over again, never mind that he himself had suggested it earlier. It hardly made him feel better he was obviously right this time.

James was resolutely ignoring him, wanting to laugh at how stupid that sentence was, and hoping for a clue what his friend really would be doing.

but there was a thunk inside, and Harry had the suspicion Mr. Weasley had smacked his hand onto the table in frustration before explaining that Fudge had told him a secret. He’d been to see Black the night before he’d escaped, and the guards had spoken of Black’s nonstop muttering in his sleep, ‘he’s at Hogwarts.’

Remus wrinkled up his nose in disgust, having to force himself to cut off a mocking laugh at this. Personally, if Sirius really was ‘after’ Harry, then to him it wasn’t even that surprising. Sirius first thought would be to go to his Godson, make absolutely sure he was okay. It wouldn’t even surprise him to learn if Sirius did end up spending the rest of his time hiding around and dogging Harry, waiting for a chance to talk to him and try to explain himself.

Black was crazy,

“Not used to hearing you refer to me by my last name” Sirius said quickly, desperately casting his mind around to distract himself from this depressing topic, even for the shortest amount of time “it’s really weird. I keep thinking you’re talking about my Dad or something.”

“Half wish I was” James grumbled, turning the page so viciously he almost ripped it out.

and he wanted Harry dead.

James gagged slightly again, but refused to let himself be cut off this time.

Arthur was convinced in fact that Black was under the delusion if he killed Harry, You-Know-Who would return.

Lily’s brows shot into her hairline at that, what an odd thing for anyone to think.

Black had lost everything the night You-Know-Who had vanished, and he’s spent these past years thinking of nothing but that.

“Well he’s got that part right at least” Sirius whispered to himself, casting an almost longing look around this once peaceful scene, and one longing look towards the ceiling where the baby was. Certainly not in the way Arthur had meant it, but he was more than sure a piece of him died that night this family was torn away from him.

Molly finally gave in, saying that if Arthur felt he had to tell Harry this, then do it. Then she added on that she was still positive Dumbledore wouldn’t let anything happen to Harry, adding on he did know of this secret, yes? Arthur agreed that he had been informed, as they’d had to ask him if he’d allow the Azkaban guards to be on the school grounds that year.

“You’re joking” Remus groaned, going a little green there for a moment.

“Sadly not” James almost growled, finding this to be a horrible idea the longer he thought about it.

“Surely he said no” Lily gasped “letting those, things, around children!”

Harry couldn’t help it anymore, this was such a vivid reaction from them he finally burst out “who are these guards?”

The four of them exchanged uneasy looks, no one wanting to be the one to answer him.

Finally Remus swallowed back the bile in this throat to answer him. The whole time he talked, Harry was nodding and seemed to be settling down at the information like he always did, but there was something new going on this time. He seemed to be watching Remus with a steady kind of look.

Harry was trying his hardest to simply listen to the awful explanation, but he was having trouble fighting down a since a Deja vu, like Remus had told him this before. That was ridiculous though, right?

Once he was done, James was quick to read on, wanting more than anything to stop talking about all of this.

Dumbledore had agreed to the idea, though he wasn’t happy.

Lily huffed and grumbled something under her breath, that they all heard and agreed with anyways.

Molly was shocked, asking why wouldn’t he be happy if they caught Black?

James paled to the colour Sirius currently was, knowing he’d rather die than let his best friend be dragged back into living with those things.

Arthur pointed out how much Dumbledore hated dealing with the guards, and while Arthur would normally agree with him, when dealing with people like Black, it was a necessary evil.

Both James and Remus voice spiked as they started to protest that sentence, but Sirius was the one to cut them off, only being able to speak just loud enough to catch their attention. He was still having some problems breathing properly to speak to loudly as he said “thanks guys, really I mean it. Come on though, you can’t start yelling about this every time it comes up.”

“You bet your arse I can” James snapped right back.

Sirius rolled his eyes indulgently, then took a moment to smile over at Harry. He looked just as frustrated as anyone else, but Sirius knew how the other boy was feeling about people yelling at something he’d rather just skip. It wasn’t the same thing, not by a long shot, since Sirius found it more than relevant that they should know what happened at the Dursleys Harry wasn’t talking about, but at least he could sympathize the feeling now.

The conversation ended there, and Harry scrambled farther down the stairs as the parents went to go and check on their kids. Further down the stairs, Harry found Fred and George snickering in the shadows, as they’d been the one to steal Percy’s badge and had been making improvements on it, as it now read Bighead Boy.

Sirius forced a laugh, but he was the only one who attempted.

Harry forced himself to laugh, went and found Ron’s Rat Tonic and gave it back to him, before going back to his own room, his mind stuck on one thing. Sirius Black was after him.

James scoffed deep in his throat, while Sirius sunk all the lower, unable to find anger this time. He’d thought it was bad before, but now he not only found out his horrible little theory was right, but Harry was still learning about him like this! It made him want to burst into tears and break someone’s ribcage all at the same time.

This time Remus slung his arm across his friend’s shoulder, and leaned in to whisper something in his ear. It didn’t make him laugh like normal, but it brought up a weak smile none the less, erasing that look however temporarily.

It did explain things, like why Fudge had been so relieved to find Harry alive he’d let him slide out of punishment, and why the Ministry was sending cars for the Weasley’s, all the better way to keep an eye on Harry until he was safely on the Hogwarts Express.

James had to cut himself off every few minutes to mutter what nonsense this was, but he got through most of it intelligibly.

As he reflected on all of that though, he realized he wasn’t actually scared.

That finally released a bark like laugh from Sirius. It was far more subdued then normal, but he turned gleaming eyes on Harry anyways.

Harry was quick to return it with a smile and say “probably because I knew deep down you couldn’t hurt a butterfly if you wanted to.”

“I almost resent that,” he said in an attempt at a snooty tone of voice “I can be plenty vicious when I want to.”

“Couldn’t hurt me then” Harry amended.

Which made them all beam with unrestrained pleasure. They could have sat around trying to convince Sirius all day about this, but in his mind it would have been more like false hope. He just couldn’t shake the horrible image swirling around his brain that he’d gone crazy in that place, and could actually harm his little pup. Coming from Harry though, even his instincts rather than actual memory, made him want to get up and hug his little godson all over again that he was still so confident of this feeling no matter what he heard.

He did of course remember how Sirius Black had ended up in prison, and clearly all of Harry’s elders thought he’d be terrified to find he was next on the list, but Harry agreed with something Mrs. Weasley had said, there was no better place for him then Hogwarts. Surely since his headmaster had been the one man Voldemort himself had feared, it stood to reason his second

All five of them snorted in disgust again, never not finding that one of the most laughable and insulting things yet.

would feel the same.

“I’m respectably afraid of the Headmaster” Sirius opinionated, though no one had asked him he felt obligated to answer anyways. “There’s a difference!”

“Sure Padfoot” James said in a soothing voice, giving him a condescending pat on the head, making Sirius swat it away and call James something that made Lily snap “Sirius!”

Harry and Remus were reduced to laughter again. It didn’t fully erase the unease that this topic kept bringing up, but it did remind them all that they were still in the present time. This was not a bloody prophecy to come, they would fix this mess!

Harry also decided that these guards must be something to recon with, and if they were blocking all entrances to the school, surely there was no way Black could get in.

Sirius scoffed, this time his cocky nature made a full appearance. No damn dementors were going to stop him from seeing his pup.

No, what in fact was really keeping Harry bummed out, was the fact that all of this meant he most definitely was not going to be visiting Hogsmeade this year.

Which made the four of them dissolve into renewed yet sad laughter all over again. To them, their world was still tipped upside down because of this constant reminder of such news, and yet Harry was still stuck on this one small thing in the grand scheme. It wasn’t really funny, it still made them want to cry that Harry would never properly know Sirius as the Uncle he should have been, but in that moment it was better to laugh then cry.

Sadly Harry now reflected that everyone else would consider this a good thing he’d be locked away in the castle for the year. Then his annoyance began to spike as he realized they all thought he couldn’t handle himself. He had come face to face with Voldemort three times now,

“Not something I wanted to be reminded of” James pointed out “no matter how impressive it is.”

he wasn’t completely useless.

“Useless” Remus rolled his eyes “is the wrong word for sure.”

“Besides, I’ve no doubt you could take me down just by batting your eyes a certain way” Sirius grinned, smiling indulgently at the boy “so maybe they should send you after me.”

This time James popped him lightly on the back of his head, ignoring that stupid comment.

Then his mind once again flashed back to that stray dog, that omen, before he snapped out loud to himself that he wasn’t going to be murdered!

“Of that I’ll make sure” Sirius whispered, mostly for James benefit who looked all the more annoyed now Harry himself was saying that type of stuff. At Sirius comment though, James relaxed like he never had before during this story. Hagrid, Dumbledore, and the Weasleys were a great source of protection for his son, but he did recognize in that moment the light in this dark subject. Sirius was free, and he would sooner give his own life then let anything happen to Harry. He prayed to Merlin it would never come to that sort of thing, that there would be a miracle sometime soon and the real cause for Sirius’ imprisonment would be found and Sirius would be free to look after Harry as he always properly should have, and that was the most reassuring thing of all.

His mirror told him to keep his spirits up.

“That’s the end of the chapter” James declared trying to pass the book along to Sirius, who didn’t exactly look keen on reading.

* question submitted by RoyalRose161, if anybody has any other plot holes or just random questions you’d like to see me try and explain away, feel free to ask.

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