Hey! How're we all doing? I hope you're all fabulous and having awesome days. Much plot juicyness in this chapter :D Enjoy xx
"Where are they?"
Sirius ignored the question again - having heard it 6 times already in the past hour alone. These people didn't seem to understand that no matter what they did to him, he wouldn't betray the Potters. Not again.
"Where are they, Black?" his interrogator snarled again, brandishing his wand threateningly.
So negligently it was almost insulting, the cloaked man flicked his wand, "Crucio."
Fire and ice at the same time, from the inside of every organ and the world around him. Wind so strong he couldn't breathe attacking him from every direction.
When his tormentor lifted the spell, Sirius couldn't help but laugh. Yes, that spell hurt; but it was nothing in comparison to the dementors.
"Fine, Black. You don't want to talk about that. Fair enough. How about you tell me about them then. In your own words - what are the Potter twins like?"
Sirius almost snorted out loud. Never in his life had he wanted to say nothing more; until now.
"Surely you're proud of their achievements?"
He didn't say a word.
"Okay then, Black. Shall we talk about how much you've already hurt them then? Hmm?"
He tilted his head back against the wall, making out that he was ignoring the interrogator in front of him.
"It was you. Your reactions were what led to the Potters ending up with the Muggles. If you hadn't gone after the rat, then you would've been Godfather to both of them. You would've got custody of both of them, Black. The old fool wouldn't have been able to place them with the Muggles and then they wouldn't have suffered… Well… not as much as they have anyway."
Sirius opened his eyes slightly to toss a glare at the speaker.
"If I've hurt them that much - if that is on me - then I'm damn well going to avoid hurting them more aren't I?" He snorted.
The interrogator rolled his eyes before stalking out of the room, his cloak flaring out behind him.
Sirius closed his eyes again; holding out during interrogation was a lot easier when he could access all the good memories he had of his time at Hogwarts with the rest of the Marauders. His face relaxed as he sunk into memories of happier times.
Out in the hallway, the thoughts and conversation were less positive.
"He's not talking…" the interrogator snarled, undoing the spell which hid his identity from sight, "We need to know more about the Potters if we are to properly punish them for their indiscretions."
The woman guarding the door nodded, "Perhaps we could find another source of information?"
The man went to snap back with a biting retort but stopped before the words left his mouth.
Yes, he thought with a self-satisfied smirk, there was an alternative source that would work well. Admittedly, the fact that the boy was an established enemy of the Potters would work against finding out any information. But overall he would be near them all year so any new information would reach The Group's ears quicker. His spy would be well placed. Now all he had to do was persuade the potential spy to listen to him, instead of the slick tones of his father. (And of course, convince his fellows of adjustment to the plan.)
Black's information on the Potters had just become useless. It would soon be time to dispose of him. However, the convicts' talents and the trust that the man already held - those would come in useful. So perhaps the usual disposal methods would have to be replaced with something a little more… inventive.
Besides, in the grand scheme of things the Potters weren't actually that important. What importance they had lay in what they represented and their social reach. They were the figurehead of magical society. If The Group were to succeed in reminding those of impure thoughts of the error of their ways, then they'd need access to someone the whole of the Magical World was watching.
The days passed quickly, the warm summer days slowly bleeding into days where it did nothing but rain. Before they knew it, the last day of summer was upon them - as was their replacement birthday.
Harry, nervous about how his present (owl-ordered) for Isa would go down, had left for the slightly damp orchard with a quilt tucked under one arm, broomstick under the other straight after breakfast. He was half hoping that the faster he got there, the quicker he'd know whether he'd made a colossal mistake or judged it right.
"I honestly don't know where this summer has gone," Hermione said, dropping onto the protective quilt next to him. "It seems like yesterday we were saying goodbye at the station."
Harry shrugged, the summer had felt like it'd lasted a decade for him. It was only in the last couple of weeks after the Quidditch World Cup that time had started to speed up for him.
"Did you manage to finish that Transfiguration essay yesterday?"
He nodded, thinking of the scroll (3 feet long) chucked in his trunk with the rest of his school stuff that wasn't used during the summer.
"If you want, I could look it over on the train tomorrow?" she suggested.
"If you don't mind," Harry said, smiling at her as she shook her head.
In record time, over the past couple of weeks, they had stormed through their homework. The girls had thought up a system for getting it done faster the day after the disastrous World Cup when it hit them exactly how little time they now had to complete all of the set assignments. By focussing on one subject a day, as a group and working collectively to find and understand the information needed they could cut down on the amount of procrastination and wasted time. Their essays were somewhat similar in terms of the facts included due to the limited amount of textbooks available - but they theorised that everyone else would also have that problem - what with not being able to access Hogwarts' library over the summer. As a result, all homework was thankfully now finished and out of the way, allowing for one final day of enjoyable holiday before they caught the train.
The sound of voices drifted through the trees behind them.
"-its a more challenging position overall though, Ron-"
"-but the flying is way more impressive-"
"-Surely the game is about the playing though, including playing as a team, not just solo flying-"
"-But Seeking is solo flying-"
"-Then why are they part of the team? Why not just have seekers with no other players?"
"-Because then it wouldn't be Quidditch, Isa."
"But Quidditch is a team sport, Ron, you can't win the whole match on impressive tricks from your Seeker, I mean Irelands' win is proof of that…"
Ron and Isa walked through the trees into the small clearing. Despite their spirited debate, both were enjoying themselves thoroughly.
They dropped onto the quilt, still debating.
Harry looked over at Hermione and rolled his eyes. Ever since the Cup, those two had been continually debating who's flying had been more impressive, Krums, or the Irish Chasers. Despite that the conversation seemed to go round in circles, they both enjoyed it.
Hermione gave him a small, slightly sad smile, before focussing on toying with a loose thread in the quilt.
Ginny skidded into the clearing at a run, her arms full of brightly coloured packages and a heavy scowl on her face.
"I swear if Percy doesn't shut up about how flipping marvellous the Ministry is and how Skeeter has 'no right to criticise how little the Ministry know about what caused the World Cup' I'm gonna transfigure his d-"
"Present time?" Hermione said loudly, forcing a smile.
Everyone placed their presents in the middle of the quilt, a clear line down the middle.
Harry added his present to Isa's pile, noting that hers seemed significantly larger than his.
"Harry, you go first," Isa said, her whole face lighting up with excitement.
He nodded, picking up a wrapped box.
Across the circle from him, Isa sat up a bit straighter. Harry glanced up at her. A wide, excited smile had spread across her face.
His fingers bit into the neatly folded paper around the edges, prising away the spellotape from the light brown paper and sliding the unwrapped box neatly into his lap.
A picture of a muggle camera was plastered on the front of the box.
Harry glanced back up at Isa, slightly confused.
"It's from everyone. Open the next one - then if you still don't get it, we'll explain." Isa said, vibrating with excitement.
Harry nodded, understanding now why his pile had been smaller.
He grabbed the next parcel, which was larger but flatter.
Again he lifted the spellotape holding the paper down.
A plain, cream coloured book slid out into his lap.
He smiled, he knew what this was, and why Isa had bought it for him. It was a scrapbook.
During the long nights of their captivity at the beginning of the summer when neither had been able to sleep, they'd frequently discussed what it would be like to get out and what they would do if they ever did. Isa'd said that she'd make the most of not being scared all the time and do everything she'd always wanted to do. Harry's had been similar; he'd wanted to treasure every single minute of being free.
He looked up from the cream pages he'd been slowly flicking through but not really observing. Isa wasn't sat where she'd been sitting previously. A hand was gently placed on his shoulder from behind.
Harry fought the urge to flinch frustratedly. He knew there wasn't anything to flinch away from here, but he hadn't quite been able to get over years of there being something to flinch away from.
He stood up and hugged her.
"That is the best Birthday Present ever, Isa. Thank you so much."
"It wasn't just me but no problem, brother," Isa said, pulling back to look him in the eyes. "Memories of every moment - if that's not treasuring every moment I don't know what is."
"Thank you so much, all of you," Harry said, as they broke apart and sat down.
"You're welcome," came the response.
"But won't the camera break when around magic?" Harry asked quietly to Hermione who was sat next to him.
She smiled, "No, it runs on batteries, but there's minimal chance for magic to interfere because it just rolls the photos out. You can get wizarding polaroids too but they're really expensive in comparison and spells and potions can make the occupants move in muggle photos for less money."
Harry nodded, picking up his next present and unwrapping it. Several boxes of Polaroid film soon lay in his hand enabling him to start the scrapbook straight away.
He made short work of the rest of his presents - receiving on top of the scrapbook stuff, some paints (from Ginny for decorating the scrapbook), and a book on some of the more complicated Seeker moves (from Hermione who'd purchased it before Isa had suggested the scrapbook idea).
Harry smiled widely, content with every single present he'd received. It was a strange feeling, he decided, to go so long without gifts and not really even know what they were or what it felt like to receive one, to receiving loads - all in the space of three years. But definitely a nice one.
It was Isa's turn to open her presents.
Harry sat up a little straighter, his stomach suddenly full of butterflies. He knew that even with Madam Pomfrey's potions Isa had been struggling with her physical appearance, so he'd looked into muggle ways of reducing scars. In his research, he'd stumbled across Rose Hip Oil, which when massaged into scar tissue regularly, could apparently help in reducing scarring.
He'd found it in a Muggle Aromatherapy shop down in Ottery St Catchpole, along with some other scents that were particularly soothing.
Additionally, he'd also bought her several fancy quills, different coloured inks (one of which had sparkles in it, while another changed colour until it dried - creating a rainbow effect across the page. The third was a soft sky blue which deepened in intensity according to the light it was being viewed in), three tasselled bookmarks (all stamped with the Gryffindor Lion), and a notebook which allowed the user to file their notes into order with a wand touch. Harry, being the opposite of the studying type, hadn't know where to start and so had recruited a particularly confused Hermione to help.
Isa started unwrapping her pile of presents, her face a picture of happiness mixed with mild confusion.
Gradually the pile of wrapped presents diminished, and the collection of unwrapped gifts grew.
After what felt like an age, Isa came to Harry's present.
Slowly she tore the paper off, revealing the aromatherapy scents. She glanced up at him, her brow furrowed slightly.
Harry gave her a look to say that he'd explain later and inclined his head towards the last present.
Isa opened it slightly more cautiously. Her eyes shot up from the collection of stationery, huge and staring.
Harry nodded, looking down at his fidgeting hands, "You're free to do as well as you want to now, I thought maybe this might help you starting that..."
He completely missed the incoming Potter-missile.
"Oof!" Harry exclaimed, flattened by a slightly tearful Isa.
"Thank you!" she sniffed, hugging him gently.
"You're welcome, Isa," he said as she retreated back to where she'd been sitting prior to launching herself at him.
"So what do you two want to do for the rest of today?" Ginny asked eagerly.
"I thought that we could maybe play some Quidditch before lunch?" Isa stated, looking at Harry for confirmation.
He nodded - Quidditch would always be okay with him.
He glanced down at the presents before him before speaking. "I might sit this first one out if that's okay with you guys? I want to see how this works - Isa would you mind showing me how quickly?"
After a round of affirmatives, it was only Isa, and himself left on the rug - Hermione having been cajoled into playing with the Weasleys for the time being.
He pulled the camera out of the box as gently as he could.
"Do you need me to go and find Mr Weasley to put an Unbreakable charm on it?" Isa joked.
Harry stuck his tongue out at her. It almost felt like old times, before everything had kicked off; the both of them sat in a field with a project of some sort in front of them, teasing, laughing and generally having fun - only this time they didn't have the threat of 'home' hanging over their heads. They were free.
Harry toyed with the idea of broaching the subject he'd been thinking about a lot lately - their return to Hogwarts.
"What is it, Harry?"
At his shocked look, Isa smirked and looked at him. "I can feel you debating with yourself up here." She tapped her head lightly.
Harry gaped slightly. He kept on forgetting about the bond. He could feel Isa clearly if he blanked out his mind and focussed slightly, but he didn't seem to have anywhere near the same level of awareness over it that his sister had.
"So what is it?"
Harry shook himself slightly. "How do you want Hogwarts to go? Telling people wise?"
"Absolutely no-one must know," Isa said without hesitation, all trace of teasing gone from her face.
Harry nodded, he'd been thinking along the same lines.
"I just hope he hasn't told the Bat." Isa snarled.
Harry nodded again. There was no question of who 'he' was. During their conversations in the past month, they'd discussed Dumbledore extensively, eventually coming to the conclusion that whilst he had held the strings on their lives before, they'd do everything in their power to reduce the sway he had on their lives now. They didn't not trust him, but they didn't trust him either. In particular with their lives.
He held the now free camera up to his eye, taking a picture of the Quidditch match occurring overhead. The camera churned it out the hole in the bottom. It was blank. But the longer he stared at it, lines began to appear, then the lines formed people. Within a minute the blank paper had become a picture. The figures didn't move, but it didn't matter - the joy written across Ginny and Ron's faces displayed precisely how much they were enjoying the game.
Harry placed the polaroid within the front page - he would stick it down later.
He tilted his head back and watched the match as Isa examined her presents more closely.
The stand out player was without a doubt, Ginny. She flew like she wasn't on a broom, red hair streaming out behind her. He watched her fly intently, not noticing Isa's knowing smile as she observed him.
"What do you think created the bond, Harry?" Isa asked curiously as she lay down in a sunny patch, pulling his eyes away from Ginny.
Harry thought, "I don't think it was magic. Nobody ever talks about anything like this, even in the wizarding world. But it can't be Muggle either?"
Isa nodded lazily, "That's what I thought. But then I realised - just because it isn't talked about doesn't mean it doesn't exist. By Merlin, I need Hogwarts' library."
Harry snorted, "You sound just like Hermione…"
Isa laughed, "I'll take that as a compliment. That's not all I realised though. Because it's obviously not that common, there must be something that we have that most people don't have. Which got me thinking; could it be that we're twins? Or what we went through when we were children? Or both? Or I could be way off the mark, and it could be something genetic…"
Harry stared at her, wide-eyed. "You've put a lot of thought into this…"
"Of course I have, Harry. I can feel where you are and what you're feeling every second of every day. I think it'd be odd if I hadn't thought about it." Isa insisted.
Thinking about it, Harry had to concede that maybe Isa had a point.
Isa sighed and sat up, "I need research more - do you mind if I tell Hermione? Nobody does research like she does."
"No, that's fine," Harry paused momentarily, debating how to phrase his next question, "would you mind telling me if you're going to tell anyone else though?"
Isa nodded, "Of course, Harry."
Harry relaxed back onto the rug, allowing his mind to wander. He was content. Their secret would stay secret. They wouldn't have to put up with staring, and pity, and the inevitable taunts from other students.
Then he was smacked in the forehead by a brainwave.
"If the bond is a twin thing," Harry said quickly, trying to voice the thought before he lost it. "We could always ask Fred and George?"
Isa's head snapped around from where she'd been watching the others toss a quaffle about.
"That, my brother, is a brilliant-" Isa stopped mid-sentence, squinting over Harry's left shoulder. "Is that Dumbledore?"
Harry craned his neck to look over his shoulder. Sure enough, their headmaster could be made out through the trees walking in their direction.
Isa met Harry's eyes; a question seemed to pass between them. What reason would Dumbledore have for coming to find them now when he'd see them at Hogwarts tomorrow?
The answer seemed to dawn on them at the same time.
They both shot to their feet, drawing the flyers attention.
Professor Dumbledore reached them just as Hermione dismounted from her broom next to Harry with a relieved sigh. Behind him, Harry heard the Weasleys hit the ground.
The Headmaster smiled slightly before addressing them somewhat pensively.
"The Ministry has received word of our… mutual acquaintances location. They're currently planning on approaching the building tomorrow night."
"How did they find him?" Harry asked coldly. He hadn't forgotten their encounter at the beginning of the summer.
"Harry!" Hermione hissed, motioning for him to shut up.
"No, it is alright, Miss Granger. Mr Potter is more than justified in his anger. It appears that our mutual acquaintance was kidnapped by a group of old Death Eaters - one of whom was picked up by Law Enforcement the other day and confessed. Of course, the Ministry assumes that Snuffles is collecting old friends and forming a 'New Age Death Eaters' or such. The Ministry's intention at this time is to send in the Dementors to start off with and see what happens after that."
"You have to help him, Headmaster!" Ginny blurted.
Harry turned to look at her. He hadn't known she cared so much about Sirius. She'd been friends with them enough at Hogwarts during the past year to the extent that she know who Sirius was and that he was free, but she hadn't actually been with them - finding out only after they had all gotten back to the common room after being released from the Hospital Wing.
"Ah but the Headmaster only helps those that further his cause, Ginny. The question is: does Padfoot?"
"Harry. Stop." Isa snapped, glaring at him.
"I'm sorry you feel that this is the case, Mr Potter. My intention is, as always, to prevent any grievous wrongs from occurring."
Harry snorted and walked back over to the rug where he'd dropped his broomstick when putting the quilt out earlier.
"Free him, Headmaster - from both the Ministry and the people holding him captive. Get him a trial. It would be nice if we could actually know our Godfather at some point. Now, if you'd excuse me, I have to go and have a word with my brother." Isa sighed, nodding once in
Dumbledore's direction before turning towards where Harry was mounting his broom.
Harry felt her right behind him as he pushed off the ground.
He couldn't help it, there was something about the man that just made him so angry. Most of this stemmed from the old man being the reason that they had been placed with the Dursleys in the first place. Some of it also came from the knowledge that it would've taken an event like at the beginning of the summer for the Headmaster to actually do something about their home situation. It wasn't like they'd never spoken to him about it in the past. The headmaster had been fully aware of what their home life had been like. The rest of his irritation came from the exact nature of the man himself. The arrogance disguised as caring - he couldn't stand it.
Harry banked hard trying to lose Isa, who he was reasonably sure was directly on his tail.
The slightly prickly feeling of indignation didn't go away or change in any way. Harry shook his head, marginally impressed and trying to bring himself to regret teaching her how to fly.
"Harry would you bloody stop! Or at least slow down?" she said, her voice coming from over his shoulder.
He shook his head as a response, not really caring if she saw it or not. Flying made him feel in control. Why would he hand control back over to someone else when he'd just got it back?
"Because it's me, Harry. You can trust me. You know that. You've trusted me for years, and I've never shown you any cause to betray that trust. Why would I start now?"
Harry slowed down slightly, making the hairpin turn he'd just completed more plausible for his sister.
"Harry, please. We need to talk. You can't just shout at people then run away!"
Harry stopped dead.
Isa cursed as she attempted to stop and avoid her brother.
Harry rounded on her.
"Why can't I, Isa?" he snarled as he began moving upwards.
"Because it's not polite, Harry. Yes, he's been an idiot - but that's no reason to be rude."
Harry rolled his eyes and pushed on upwards. He only stopped when he had a magnificent view of the rolling hills the Burrow was nestled amongst. Isa pulled up alongside him less then a minute later, the wind blowing her hair across her face.
"Why shouldn't I be rude, Isa? He subjected us both to no childhood. He's the reason we have to learn how to live again. Personally, I think that deserves a bit of rudeness. At the very least he should understand that what he did, and how inescapable he made it feel, are unacceptable."
Isa assessed him. He knew that she could feel the hurt at her lack of support and understanding. Realisation filled him. He suddenly understood why Isa was pushing this so much.
"It's okay for us to feel differently about things, Isa. I know that hasn't really been an option until now. But it is now" Harry said. "We're together and safe. It's okay for us to live our separate lives. It's safe for us to disagree and argue."
Isa seemed to deflate as she sighed and guided her broom closer to his. Slightly wobbly, she leaned across the gap between their brooms and hugged him.
As they separated and started their descent towards the now Dumbledore-less group, Harry felt the need to say something.
"Your flying's really getting there, Isa."
She grinned widely at him, "Thanks! My teacher was rubbish..."
"What information do you have for us, Miss Skeeter?" he asked, wearing his usual, cloaked disguise.
The woman in front of him smiled widely, showing all of her sharp, ultra white teeth.
"The Ministry is to move in on this place at half past midnight tonight. Dumbledore has managed to persuade them to not send in the Dementors and to give Black a trial."
He smiled gleefully. The bait had been taken. All that was left to do was wait for the tides of life to move the dog to where he would have most impact.
"Excellent, Miss Skeeter. I believe our agreed price was twenty-five galleons?"
Her expression soured immediately, "No. Fifty."
He rolled his eyes. They always assumed that negotiation was possible, even after he'd got what he wanted.
"Twenty-five is what we agreed, so Twenty-five is what you shall get."
It was remarkable how quickly Miss Skeeter went from an eager shark to sulky teenager. He sighed.
"If you want to earn more money though, I'm sure that can be arranged."
A shark grin, not unlike the wide one she'd worn previously spread across his own face. The woman was tempted by the promise of more money; he could read it on her face.
"How about a stipend of seventy galleons each month, with an extra twenty-five for each piece of relevant information?"
"And in return?" she queried, a perfectly sculpted eyebrow raised imperiously.
"In return, you go after only those people who we tell you to."
"And I'll still be able to write my articles the way I want to?"
"So long as you only go after those we ask you to."
Her brow furrowed slightly, "And if I find something on someone else that I want to investigate? Or if one of the people I'm investigating doesn't like it?"
He fought back the desire to slap her. Did the woman have no idea of proper negotiation etiquette? Some of his nieces had been better than this at age four.
"Then you bring it to us, and we'll see whether or not it harms our interests. If it does not, then you may write it. As for protection, I assume you would like some form of subtle protection?"
She nodded, slightly wearily.
"I'll get that written up," he said, reaching for the bell to summon his personal house elf.
The signing of the papers went quickly, far quicker then he remembered them ever going in the past.
"Very well, Miss Seeker, thank you for your time."
She nodded, clasping her bag with her usual confidence.
"Who would you like me to target first?"
He paused and considered who'd be most beneficial right now. There were two potentially useful targets at this moment in time. The first being the Potters. Their strategies reception would be determined by how much they knew about the brats. If The Group got it wrong, then there could be war. For too long had their movement sulked in the shadows. It was their turn to take to the light. Backing down again was not an option. Of course, the second option for Miss Skeeter to go after would also get them what they wanted. Peter Pettigrew. Otherwise known as the Rat. However, the nature of his usefulness extended to fulfilling a vendetta and avenging the one who brought them together in the first place; uniting them under a common cause and Master.
He knew what he had to do. Avenging their Master would've been fulfilling, but the Potters were more crucial to his legacy. And at this stage, his legacy could be advanced.
"Find out everything you can about the Potters. I need to know their strengths, their weaknesses, what they are like, who their friends are, what their friends are like; I need to know everything."
Miss Skeeter nodded eagerly, her eyes slightly narrowed. He imagined that her brain was already running through the possible avenues of investigation.
He stood up from his chair and walked her over to the door.
"Thank you for your time, Miss Skeeter. I hope our next meeting will be just as profitable."
"Thank you for yours. I hope so too," she stated, her fingers lightly tracing the clasp on her bag.
He turned away as she reached the Apparation point and disappeared with a loud crack.
Sighing happily, he walked towards the dungeons where Black was being held. The plan to isolate the Potters was going well. What they needed now was something which would both punish them for their astounding betrayal of magic whilst also leaving them with some measure of influence. He had a feeling that when Miss Skeeter was done, The Group would have no trouble finding such a piece of evidence, nor would they struggle to get it out there in a suitable manner.
All he needed to do before he cleared out of the house this evening, was to question Mr Black about an old friend's possible whereabouts. Shouldn't be too difficult given the pair's history. Just because Miss Skeeter could only focus on one avenue at once, didn't mean he couldn't focus on another.