Fudge and Sirius
The Knight Bus was more packed than Siria had seen it before. When she and Sirius had taken it to the Burrow and again when she, Ron, and Sirius had taken it to Hogsmeade Station, there had only been a handful or so of people. Today, Stan helped her get situated in the middle, where she felt rather lucky to find a seat. She gripped her chair as the bus made another BANG.
"Right then, whereabouts in London?" Stan asked her (B3,41). Siria opened her mouth to tell him "Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place," but her tongue seemed glued to her mouth. She had not seen anything to indicate that someone had Tongue-Tied her, yet that was the closest thing she knew. Stan chuckled at her.
"Alright there, Potter?" he asked.
"Diagon Alley!" She announced. Siria felt her throat. Now that she had no intention of saying Grimmauld Place, she felt perfectly fine. It wasn't as convenient as simply going to Grimmauld Place, but she could buy some Floo Powder and arrive that way.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
They blasted from place to place for a good hour, until they finally arrived. Siria collected her trunk and Hedwig's cage. Stan helped her lower her trunk to the pavement (B3, 41). "Thanks, Stan, Ern." Siria waved, but the two looked over the top of her head. When she followed their gaze, her emotions flashed from excitement to terror. In front of the Leaky Cauldron, stood Sirius Black with Kreacher… and the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge.
"There you are, Siria." said Fudge. He placed a hand on her shoulder and her throat sank into her stomach. Surely things like Underage Wizardry weren't directly under the Minister of Magic, but here he was. As if much smaller and lighter, Sirius whisked Siria off her feet and out from under Fudge's hand. Sirius kept his eyes on Fudge. Reflexively, Siria draped her arms around Sirius.
"We're glad you're okay." Sirius told her. Kreacher took Siria's trunk and Hedwig's cage.
"Yes," Fudge agreed rather shortly. He patted Sirius on the shoulder and Siria could feel Fudge tighten his grip. Siria felt he steered them into the Leaky Cauldron. Fudge asked Tom for a private parlor, and the innkeeper lead them all to a small nook. He snapped his fingers to wake the sleeping candles.
Cornelius Fudge removed his lime green bowler hat, placed it on the coffee table, and sat down. "Some tea, Tom, if you would." He asked. Tom nodded and left him with Sirius still holding Siria. Sirius looked to Siria with a different caution than before she had gone to the Dursleys'. More than looking at her like she might disappear, Sirius looked reluctant to put her down. He had already carried her through the bar, up the stairs, and into the parlor, which was rather odd as she wasn't hurt or tired. Sirius looked from Siria to Fudge, then back at Siria. Very slowly, he leaned down and slid her feet to the floor. Sirius kept a tight hold on Siria's hand, even when they sat down.
"You gave us quite a fright, disappearing like that," Fudge told Siria.
"I panicked?" She wondered aloud. There had been a moment, when the realization of having done magic in front of Marge, that Siria froze. Underage magic outside of school was only allowed in life threatening situations… Marge was not life threatening.
"Yes, well… you're safe now and that's what matters." said Fudge (B3,43). Tom returned with a small tray of tea and crumpets, of which Fudge immediately swept up a crumpet. While he buttered his biscuit, Fudge shot Sirius a look. It reminded Siria of when Hermione didn't approve of something, but wouldn't say aloud.
"Now then," Fudge leaned back into his chair with his cup of tea and crumpet. "Sirius and I have agree that it would be best for you to stay here, at the inn, and sticking to Diagon Alley— during the day of course. Can't lose you again, right?" He looked over the rim of his cup and smiled at her. Siria looked to Sirius, but he didn't look away from Fudge.
"Why can't I go home?" Siria asked them.
"Wouldn't you rather be here? Free to explore Diagon Alley, until evening?" Fudge asked.
"I've got a lot of work to do, right now. Did you hear about the escaped convict?" Sirius paused for the slightest moment because Fudge flinched and narrowed his eyes at him. "I'm helping them track him down."
"That sounds 'reckless'." Siria told him. He cracked a smile.
"I helped catch him last time," Sirius leaned forward and grabbed a crumpet. He broke it in half and gave part to Siria. "While I'm convict hunting, we need you safe. Pettigrew hurt a lot of people. He was a Voldemort—" Fudge flinched at the name "—supporter."
"Well, as it is my birthday," Siria pretended to be looking behind and around Sirius, "and you don't seem to have brought me anything, I think my present ought to be the rest of the day with you."
"Now that sounds like a great idea." Sirius smiled at her. Fudge coughed into his hand.
"Good!" Siria grinned at him. Fudge coughed again and looked at Sirius, who made a point of looking at Siria. "It'll be my first daddy-daughter date."
"Now, Sirius, I don't know if that would be such a good idea." said Fudge. "We have a lot of work to do, if we're going to catch Pettigrew."
"Now, Minister, Siria and I know it is a very good a idea. We can start back up tomorrow." Sirius rose to his feet. "Will you be checking with Tom for the room, or should we?"
"I'll arrange it," said Fudge. He placed his half full teacup on the table and stood as well.
"Sirius," Fudge locked eyes with Sirius's grey ones, "I expect discretion." Sirius said nothing, but gave one, very curt, nod. The Minister picked up his lime green bowler cap, patted Siria on the shoulder, and excused himself.
Once she could not hear his footsteps anymore, Siria stood up. She took hold of Sirius's sleeve, "Am I really not being punished?" She asked. Siria did not want to be punished, especially as she had not meant to do magic, but she had broken the law.
"My goddaughter?" Sirius asked back, in fake outrage. Siria had a feeling Sirius had little or nothing to do with her not being in trouble, but would let him have this.
"Not everyone how great you are." She smiled at him.
"But everyone knows how great you" he tapped her nose "are."
"I take it back— you're a dork."
Fudge and Tom entered the parlor with Kreacher. Tom had Kreacher set up the room before they even had to ask. She was given room twelve. The worn wood floor was shabbily covered with a faded rug. It had a bed so large that Siria, Sirius, and Kreacher could comfortably fit on it. There was a gentleman's chest, which she wouldn't need with her trunk, and a long oval mirror that somehow felt tired.
"Hedwig!" Siria exclaimed and hurried over to the fireplace mantel. Hedwig hooted softly at Siria, as she was pet.
(Book: B3, Tom compliments Hedwig for being smart and tells them that Hedwig arrived shortly after Siria)
Siria opened her trunk and rifled through her most recent letters. "That reminds me," she told Sirius, and she pulled out the Hogsmeade permission form.
"Hogsmeade already!" Sirius took the form from Siria. "We weren't allowed to go until our third year."
"I AM a third year!" Siria exclaimed. Sirius tsked and shook his head.
"When did you get so old?" He grinned and looked around the distressed desk for quill and ink.
"Sirius, a word, if you would?" Fudge asked. He jerked his head to the doorway.
"Minister, you'll have Sirius back tomorrow. Can't I please have him today?" Siria asked.
"Of course, Siria, but I just need a word," Fudge looked directly at the form, "with Sirius" and shook his head. Siria couldn't think of why Fudge cared if she went to Hogsmeade or not.
"You can't be serious!" Sirius told Fudge. Siria bit back her smile. "That coward wouldn't—"
"Mister Black! Please, if you would step into the hall with me!" Fudge spoke rather loudly over Sirius. Despite himself, Sirius followed Fudge into the hall. Siria raced to the closed door and listened at the crack.
"Pettigrew is mad, Sirius— he's changed" Fudge tried to explain.
"He's also out in the world without a wand— he isn't crazy enough to come near anyone without one." Sirius sighed so loudly it carried easily through the door.
"He escaped from Azkaban! He can do wandless magic! Black, think about it!" Fudge was whispering so loudly he may as well have just been talking at a normal volume.
"James and Lily wouldn't want her forced into hiding!" Through the door, Siria could hear Sirius's foot stomp on the wooden floor of the hall.
"James and Lily would want her to live— we all do!"
"There is more to living than being alive, Fudge. How do you think she is going to feel being forced to stay at Hogwarts while her friends all go to Hogsmeade?" Sirius asked, but his tone made her feel it wasn't a question.
"We'll catch Pettigrew and she can go later in the year. We may even catch him before the first visit!"
"Why should that rat getting out force Siria to do anything?"
Siria sighed and wandered from the door back to her chair. Something told her that, in the end, if the Minister of Magic said she couldn't go, she wouldn't be going to Hogsmeade. If Peter Pettigrew really did want to come after her, he would have one hell of time getting to her while she was in Hogwarts. Besides, once he was caught, she could go. She pulled her legs onto the chair and hugged them. Though she had only seen it in passing from the station, Hogsmeade seemed like fun. Siria sighed and waited for Fudge to stop arguing with Sirius.
Kreacher placed one of his small, grey-blue hands on her. "If Mistress would like to see Hogsmeade, Master could take her today," he proposed. He gave her one of his large, gummy smiles. She patted his hand. It was a sweet gesture and a fair point, but she could be patient. Siria would wait.
When he returned, Sirius had a slight twitch in the corner of his mouth, as if he ate something bitter was trying to keep a straight face. He marched straight for the desk, returned to the hall, and returned without a word. After pacing the floor three times, he sighed and knelt down beside Siria's chair. If she had not heard most of what happened in the hall, she may have found it cute. He looked up at her, as she sat, and sighed again.
In the flattest voice she had ever heard, one that could give Professor Binns a run for his money, Sirius told her "We're going to wait on that form, for now. It just doesn't seem like good timing."
"That's fine." She told him. Siria smiled. Going to Hogsmeade would be nice, but cheering up Sirius and having a good rest of the day would be better.
"Really?" He asked and cocked his head.
"Really." She nodded. "Now, are we going out or not?"
"We are." Sirius smiled, rose to his feet, and extended his arm to Siria. She took it with the largest smile she had made in nearly two weeks.
After lunch in the Leaky Cauldron, Sirius and Siria went into the backyard, tapped the third brick from the left above the trash bin, and entered Diagon Alley (B3, 50). Their first stop was Quality Quidditch Supplies, which both of them almost immediately regretted. In the window was the Nimbus Two Thousand Two. It was sleeker than her Nimbus Two Thousand, with a fine polished oak handle. The tail looked sharper than the Nimbus Two Thousand One, but she didn't need a more polished handle or sharper tail.
"No!" Siria grabbed hold of Sirius's sleeve. "I have a broom, a perfectly good broom— my Nimbus is perfect; it flies, I've never lost, I already own it!" Even in the broom was nicer, she couldn't justify Sirius getting it for her.
"Then I'll get myself one," he proposed.
"What do you need a broom for?" she asked, still holding onto his sleeve and keeping herself rooted to the spot.
"I fly." His tone gave him away; everything gave him away. He refused to look at her, was continuing to drag her closer to the shop door, and seemed even more eager than Dudley on his birthday.
"Sirius, no. What if they come out with an even better broom?"
"So I can get you a better one?" He smirked. Siria sighed.
"I don't need a new broom." She insisted.
"How can you not want it?" He asked and gestured to the smooth, polished oak handle.
"I want it— I don't need it." This was exactly what she was trying to convince herself.
They spent another half hour debating about the broom, but Sirius resigned. At every shop they went to, whenever she held something up, he told her "you want that over a new broom?" and she would put it down then glare at him. Even though she glared and he said it in disbelief, they would both smile when she put the object down. Besides, they both knew there would be a better broom out next year.
Candles flickered to life in the street lamps as night crept closer. They split a sundae at Florean Fortescue's as the shops started to close around them. Just to have a moment more of time, Siria fished every last piece of nut out of the sundae bowl. She opened her mouth to ask if he could visit her again, before school started, but closed it and started into the bowl. Somehow, Florean Fortescue's ice cream didn't melt. There was no ice cream soup at the bottom… nothing left for her procrastinate with.
"Ah!" Sirius sighed and leaned back in the chair. "I'm so full. Siria, you may have to carry me back." He grinned.
"You're too big." She smiled into the empty bowl.
"Uh," he placed his hand over his heart, "Siria Potter, you wound me." Siria gave a soft and short chuckle. "Alas, it is time for you to return to the castle, Princess."
"Princess? Don't you think I'm more of a knight?" Siria tilted her head at him.
"Nonsense— you are brave, determined, clever, and strong, all qualities of a grand princess."
"Whatever" she murmured. In the soft candle light, the blush of her embarrassment was just barely visible.
"If I'm a princess, shouldn't you be the one to carry me?" Siria joked.
"Brilliant idea!" Sirius smiled and hopped to his feet. He knelt down, "Come on, princess."
"You're ridiculous." she told him, but she climbed onto his back and let him piggyback her to the inn. Sirius even carried her through the bar and to a seat, where they had dinner. He tried to get her to let him carry her up the stairs, but it had lost its charm.
"Alright," Sirius sat beside Siria, who had just been tucked into bed. "It's not like me to say, but listen to the rules. It's not likely that Peter will seek you out, but Azkaban does terrible things to people."
"But why was he there?" Siria asked and sat up, against the headboard.
"You know," the usual tall posture he carried himself with fell a bit as he slumped down some. "You know how, when you ask how James and Lily were found, I say 'Sometimes people get lucky. Sometimes we trust the wrong people'?" She nodded eagerly.
Siria's breath was trapped in her chest. Nodding was the only thing she could do. The very idea that she might finally hear what happened to her parents had her inside so twisted with anticipation that it hurt. Sirius took a slow breath that shook so subtly that Siria only noticed because she was holding her own.
"I…" He rested an elbow on his knee and held his face in his hand. "When you got on the Knight Bus, was the Leaky Cauldron your first choice?" He asked. Siria gasped; she had not noticed her breath was being held.
"No! I tried to say 'Number Twelve Grimmauld Place'," she had to pause because she could say it fine now, "but I…" she tsked, "my tongue kind of— it was like 'Mimble Wimble'."
"Yes. It would be." He sighed. Siria wanted to shake him and beg him to continue, but felt she needed to be patient.
"I used the Fidelius Charm on Number Twelve, so only people I've told know where it is. Even though people I've told know where it is, they can't tell someone else. Molly and Arthur know, but can't tell their kids. Just like you got tongue-tied, they would too." Sirius shifted and laid over Siria's legs; his own dangled off of the bed.
"James and Lily were hidden with the Fidelius Charm. Dumbledore suggested it himself and offered to be their Secret Keeper— the only person to be able to say where they were." Sirius continued.
"Because Tom's afraid of Dumbledore!" Siria jumped in.
"But…" her eyes fell onto the blanket.
"But James and Lily wanted to use me, and I—" Sirius sat up and sat on the very edge of the bed.
He held his face in his hands before looking directly at Siria. Water glazed over his kind silver eyes, which had never looked more miserable. Siria shook her head. There was no way Sirius would have sold her parents out to Voldemort. After everything she had heard about them from him. Dumbledore wouldn't have let Sirius near her, dog or not. She tried to tell him there was no way, but her throat was so dry her voice only scraped weakly against it.
"I suggested we use Peter." Sirius hung his usually proud head so low, he could have been competing with Nearly Headless Nick over who could droop their head lower. "Dumbledore knew there was a mole, but I— I was such a fool." He covered his mouth, as if to stop himself from saying more. Siria released a shaking breath she had not even noticed she held.
"Sirius," Her voice was soft, but almost a laugh with the relief pouring over her. "I thought you… for a moment… but you and my parents agreed to use him."
"Siria," he rose his head, but did not meet her eyes. "I as good as killed them."
"No. If he's a coward, like you've said, then he would have looked like the worst Secret Keeper, so he would be the best." She tried to smile.
The truth of the matter was that Siria Potter wanted to cry. She wanted to scream at him, to ask how he could think anyone could have done a better job than Dumbledore. Siria's hands trembled in her lap. Sirius said nothing, but continued to look at her with the most apologetic expression she had ever seen. Even as Snuffles, he had not looked more sorry than now. She lost her parents and he lost his best friend— his brother even.
"How I see it," Siria almost stopped, with how much her voice trembled, it was only more difficult to say "Tom killed two of my parents, thanks to Peter" she shuddered as she tried to breathe steadily. "But my third parent lived, and his helping the Ministry track down the person responsible." Siria tried to subtly wipe her tears on her shoulder, but, for once, her messy tangle of hair wasn't in her face enough to hide it.
"Afterall, you, Lily, and James decided together to trust Peter…" Siria blinked as quickly as she could, to try and hold some of her tears back. "Peter made his choice, to stand by Tom, and you chose to look after me for ten years—as a dog!" She felt that even if she shouted it from the top of Gringotts, how much Sirius being there for her as Snuffles meant to her couldn't be shown.
"You were my best friend and you took me in the moment you could, and you're looking for Peter," she couldn't blink her tears back in the slightest, but neither could he. "You didn't know Marge was going to be there or think I'd run away— you just want me be safe. I— I," but Siria couldn't continue. Tears were pouring out of her and she was gasping for breath as her nose became more and more stuffy. With the mandrake leaf under her tongue, she was lucky she hadn't choked or else swallowed it.
Sirius slid her wet hair behind her ear and placed his hand on her cheek. They said nothing for awhile. He had carried the guilt of suggesting Peter as Secret Keeper for almost thirteen years, but that wasn't why he looked after Siria. Siria felt loved. Somehow, even in this musky, old inn, Siria felt she was home.