For all that Aunt Petunia had seemed to hate Padfoot’s wand the day before, Harry thought she might have made good use of one herself; the quarter-of-an-inch thick dust that covered everything vanished with a flick of Padfoot’s wrist, and a murmured spell was all that was needed to scrub the faded wallpaper clean and replaster it, or have the sponges polish the grimy windows all by themselves. It was odd - very odd - to go from being oblivious to magic’s existence one day, to living with someone who used it for even the most mundane tasks the next.
There were three bathrooms in Grimmauld Place and the only thing that worked was a single shower on the second floor. If either of them wanted to use the toilet, they had to go to the public bathroom in the small park across the road. Padfoot insisted on magical disguises - like the ones they’d used the night before - that changed with each trip, and also insisted they change clothes each time, which was easier said than done.
Harry only had a pair of faded, too-big jeans, a pair of baggy shorts and a few of Dudley’s oversized shirts, and the only clothes Padfoot owned was the dirty dress - which wizards called robes - he’d worn the day before, and whatever he could find in the house; he’d received an odd look from a woman at the park for wearing his brother’s embroidered waistcoat and pinstriped trousers and an odder look from the man who served them at the supermarket.
Kreacher had disapproved of Padfoot’s attire too, but for completely different reasons. “The blood-traitor’s trying to pretend he’s a Black again,” he muttered. “Oh, yes, Kreacher knows. Kreacher sees it. Oh, but if poor Mistress and Master Regulus were to see... Master Regulus would die of shame to see his fine clothes on Master’s ungrateful back. They say he went to Azkaban for murder, oh, Kreacher doesn’t doubt it, he always had a nasty temper, and to think Master Regulus’ best waistcoat is being worn by cruel, murdering Master-”
“Oh, shut up,” Padfoot snapped, tugging at the offending article. It was rather tight - it seemed Padfoot had broader shoulders than his brother - and Padfoot didn’t seem to like wearing it much at all if his grimace was anything to judge by. “Manere Frigus,” he muttered, tapping one of the cupboards inside the pantry. “Ah, finally.”
“What’d you do?”
“Refrigeration Charm.” Harry looked over with interest but it looked like a normal cupboard to him. Curious, he reached out and then pulled his hand away from the cold. “Could you pass the milk?” he asked Harry.
“Not even a please,” Kreacher said in his croaky voice from the pantry doorway, watching the pair of them. “Not that the brat deserves it, but Mistress would still be so ashamed to see her blood talking like a wretched mudblood-”
“What’s a mudblood?” Harry asked.
Padfoot dropped the milk. It landed on his foot and spilt everywhere, soaking his socks and the pin-striped trousers. Kreacher let out a shriek, snapped his fingers and the mess vanished. “Don’t say that word,” Padfoot said in a rather scary voice. “Not ever. Do you understand?” Harry nodded, feeling very small. “Get off, Kreacher,” Padfoot said irritably, kicking the elf away; Kreacher was lying at his feet, inspecting the damage done to the trousers. Padfoot sighed. “That word is... well... a rather nasty name for a witch or wizard born into a muggle family.” Padfoot’s face darkened. “Like your mum.”
“What do you call them, then?”
“Muggleborns. Did you hear that, Kreacher? I forbid you from using the m-word - that particular m-word - ever again.” Kreacher looked like he’d been forced to drink something particularly unpleasant. He skulked out of the pantry, muttering under his breath. “I really am sorry about him,” Padfoot said, staring at the elf’s back with dislike.
“Is he always like that?”
“Pretty much. He-” There was a croaky scream from upstairs, a loud thump and then Mrs Black’s horrid portrait began to shriek. Padfoot looked a little afraid but he stood and slipped out of the pantry, his wand clutched in his hand. “Stay here,” he told Harry in a quiet voice and crept up the stairs. There was another shrill yell and thump.
Harry waited a moment before he sneaked over to the stairs and peered up. He couldn’t see anything but the wall at the top, so he risked the ascension. He couldn’t see the main hallway - the dining room walls blocked it from view - and so when nothing immediately attacked, he ventured out a little further and glanced around the corner.
A lumpy umbrella stand zoomed past and landed with a thump and a puff of dust. Something beneath it squealed. Kreacher let out a little triumphant noise and Padfoot, who Harry spotted at the bottom of the stairs, let out a laugh as Kreacher sent the umbrella stand after another dust bunny.
“Harry!” he called. “You can come up if you’d like!” Harry stepped out into the hallway a little guiltily. “That was fast,” Padfoot commented, raising an eyebrow. Harry didn’t say anything but felt his face flaming up. He wondered what Padfoot would say; Uncle Vernon would have sent him to his cupboard by now. Padfoot gave him a contemplative look - leaned out of the way as the umbrella stand flew by - and then said, “Next time, you should wait longer before showing yourself. It’s not as suspicious.” Harry stared. “And stomping about, or pretending to be out of breath is something you might want to consider,” he added thoughtfully. “Just for effect.”
“You’re not... You don’t-”
“I don’t what?” Padfoot asked, patting the stair beside him.
Harry sat a little nervously. “You’re not angry?”
“Erm... no...” Padfoot said. His expression flickered and he looked troubled. “I’m really not cut out for this whole parenting thing, am I?” Before Harry had a chance to answer that, he shrugged and let out a bark-like laugh. “Tell you what: you eat your vegetables tonight with dinner and we’ll call it even. Deal?”
“Er... okay,” Harry said.
Padfoot frowned. “I’m definitely doing it wrong. You should have found that unreasonable.”
“Sorry?” Harry said.
“Don’t apologise, it’s not your fault.” Harry stared at him. Padfoot was quiet - the only noises were those made by Kreacher and the dust bunnies popping out of existence - and then said, “Fuck it.” Harry’s eyebrows climbed but he didn’t appear to notice. “-I’ll do this guardian thing my way. I’ll be as reasonable as I damn well want and you can just deal with that.”
“And I’d appreciate if you didn’t use that word I used before,” Padfoot added, looking sheepish. “Your mother would kill me.”
“Would would my dad think?” Harry asked curiously.
“He’d find it funny,” Padfoot said, smiling slightly. “He and Remus probably would have had a bet going about which word I’d let slip first, or how old you’d be before I corrupted you.”
The reaction fit with the laughing face Harry had seen in Padfoot’s mirror the night before. Slowly, he was building an idea of what his parents had been like, and the more he found out - which was still reasonably little - the more he wished he’d had the chance to know them.
Padfoot sniggered from next to him. Harry followed his gaze to Kreacher, who was trying to squash another dust bunny. “Why doesn’t he just use magic?” Harry asked, thinking about Padfoot dealing with them last night.
“House elves and dust bunnies are mortal enemies,” Padfoot said, shrugging. “Some house elves just want them gone, others get rather-” Kreacher shrieked. “-well, rather like Kreacher, and figure a painful death’s better, I suppose.”
“A house elf lives to please,” Padfoot said, and they both watched as Kreacher stomped on one of the little grey creatures. “A dust bunny is living proof that an elf’s failed to keep the house clean. They take it as a personal insult.”
“But Kreacher’s been here for years,” Harry said. “Shouldn’t they all be gone by now?”
Padfoot thought for a moment. “No. After my mother died, I think Kreacher recognised on some level - a very deep, subconscious level, mind - that he wasn’t serving anyone anymore. House elves only take pride in their work when someone’s around to appreciate it - or punish them for not doing it. Now that we’re here, he’ll take some pride in the house.”
“What are dust bunnies?” Harry asked, his eyes following one as it hopped past with Kreacher in close pursuit. “Are they alive?” They were quite small - the size of mice rather than rabbits - and grey, with long ears and round bodies.
“Not really. They’re magic,” Padfoot said. “A muggle house gets dirty if it’s not looked after, right?” Harry nodded. “Same with wizarding houses. The wards weaken a bit, if there are any, and magical residue leaks out and forms those.” He pointed at one of the bunnies which was contentedly nibbling on a patch of frayed carpet. “When they - die isn’t quite the right word but it’s the only one I can think of - the magic goes back into reinforcing the house and its occupants.”
“So the - did you call them wards?” Padfoot nodded. “Are weak?”
“I’ll need to do something about them soon,” Padfoot said thoughtfully. “But getting rid of dust bunnies is probably a good start.”
Harry watched Kreacher stamp another one into the carpet. “How?”
Padfoot grinned wickedly and then it wasn’t a man sitting there, but a large, shaggy dog. Harry jumped. That was going to take time to get used to. Padfoot leapt up and barked at Harry, his tail wagging and then went bounding after a dust bunny.
Between them, Kreacher and Padfoot seemed to have things under control so Harry watched for a bit - and laughed when Padfoot skidded in a patch of dust and made a yelping noise that sounded impressively like a swear word - and was then coerced into playing a game of tag with his dog-godfather, while Kreacher continued to wage war on the dust bunnies.
If the day was any indication of what was to come, Harry thought he was going to enjoy living with Padfoot very much indeed.
* * *
Remus Lupin had thought his life was about as bad as it was possible to get. He’d spent the past month at a werewolf camp, trying to talk sense into Greyback - who was getting restless again, and had bitten a girl a month back - and had returned only a week ago, with a number of new scars for his efforts, to learn that Sirius Black, his old friend-turned-enemy, had escaped from Azkaban; very little wizarding news got through to the camps, unfortunately. As if this all wasn’t bad enough, things had become a thousand times worse by the arrival of a weary - and for the first time since Remus had known him - scared - Professor Dumbledore.
“I don’t want the Aurors here,” Remus said. “I can handle Sirius if it comes to it.”
“I’d thought as much,” Dumbledore said quietly and then fell silent.
“It doesn’t make sense!” Remus said, his voice muffled because his face was buried in his scarred hands. “Sirius-” Remus had decided long ago that he would still call Sirius ‘Sirius’, for the same reasons he had called Voldemort ‘Voldemort’. “-didn’t have to tell the muggles he was taking Harry. It would have made more sense to just kidnap him.”
“I fear Sirius may have been unhinged by his time in Azkaban,” Professor Dumbledore said, his eyes lacking their usual twinkle. “What makes sense to him may seem like insanity to us.”
“Sirius was always a little mad,” Remus admitted, a shadow of a smile crossing his face before he remembered what had happened and he forced it off. “But I don’t understand why he took him! Harry killed Voldemort, so maybe Sirius wants revenge but if he was going to kill him then he’d have done it by now, surely? He wouldn’t have even bothered to ‘adopt’ him, he’d have just killed him and run.”
“You are forgetting the prophecy.”
Remus had to think for a moment. James had sat him and Sirius down years ago and explained in an unusually serious voice that Voldemort was after Harry. Peter hadn’t visited that day - he’d been sick - and so he didn’t know about it. Remus wished bitterly that Sirius had been the one who was sick and Peter had heard it instead. Lily and James might still- No. I won’t think about that. Remus forced his thoughts back to the prophecy. It took him a moment to remember it, and then a moment longer to identify the part Dumbledore was talking about.When he did, his heart gave a little leap.
“‘Either must die at the hand of the other’,” he breathed.
Dumbledore looked older than Remus had ever seen. “It is possible, of course, that Sirius killing Harry on Voldemort’s orders would fulfil this,” he said heavily. “But Voldemort, as we know, takes prophecy very seriously. Sirius doubtless told him the entire thing when he swapped sides, and, if I am correct, Voldemort will want to kill Harry himself. Sirius will merely keep him captive until that time comes.”
“So Sirius won’t hurt him,” Remus said.
Dumbledore closed his eyes. “We have no guarantee of that. The only thing we can assume - and even then, not safely - is that Harry is alive.”
“We have to find him,” Remus said, throwing himself to his feet to pace.
“Do you know anything that might help us find them?”
“Are you asking if he’s contacted me?” Remus said, stopping mid-step. “Are you saying I’m helping him?”
“Remus, sit down,” Dumbledore said with a sigh. Remus sat. “I said nothing of the kind. I’m asking for your help, because you know him better than anyone else.”
“I thought I knew him,” Remus muttered. He sighed loudly, throwing his head back. “You said he went to London?” he asked. “Is Enid safe?”
“Mrs Pettigrew is under guard,” Dumbledore assured him. “She will be moved to a safe house within the week.”
“And Alice and Frank’s boy. Neville?” Remus asked, worried Sirius might be out to fulfil the prophecy.
“Minerva is there now.” Remus nodded, relieved. “I have had it confirmed that Sirius visited the Leaky Cauldron.”
“I don’t think he’d have gone in to see Tom,” Remus said dryly. “He would have gone to Diagon Alley.”
Remus scrunched up his mouth and shook his head. “I can’t see any reason for him to go there, especially if Harry was with him. Children stand out in Knockturn Alley.” Dumbledore nodded. “So he probably went for money,” Remus said, staring at the ceiling of his living room. “I know no one was looking for Harry yet, but even so... to take him out in public was risky, and not something he would have done if he didn’t have to.”
“Why money? Sirius didn’t seem to care for it all that much during the Order days.”
“He doesn’t, I don’t think, but he’s not foolish enough to think he can get by without it. And money is the only thing at Diagon Alley that can’t be ordered by owl.”
“I’ll ask the Ministry to send people there first thing tomorrow. Anything else?”
“If I’m right about him going to Gringotts for money then he’s probably planning to stay in one place for a while... that makes me think he still has Harry with him... has anyone checked his old flat?”
“I made enquiries at the Ministry,” Dumbledore said. “It was reclaimed a year after he was sent to Azkaban. His belongings were taken as evidence and are being held in a Ministry-owned storage facility. The flat is currently inhabited, and under guard by Aurors in case Sirius decides to return.”
“But he hasn’t yet?”
“Not as far as the Ministry or I are aware. Can you think of anywhere else Sirius would be compelled to stay?”
“Hogwarts, maybe? James, Peter, Sirius and I knew it better than anyone... there’s no reason for him to go there, though. If Harry’d been at school he might have but he’s not...” Remus thought hard for a moment. Potter Manor had been destroyed in the War and Lily and James’ cottage in Godric’s Hollow was in no state to be inhabited. “The only other one I can think of is Grimmauld Place and Sirius hated-”
“It’s empty,” Dumbledore said. “Alastor searched it himself on Saturday and then again on Monday-” Harry was taken on Tuesday though, Remus thought. Dumbledore seemed to read his mind. “Marlene was told to keep an eye out and we’ve heard nothing.”
Remus nodded and then sighed. “I really can’t think where else he might have gone, Professor.”
“Thank you for your help, then, Remus. I need to get back to Hogwarts, but I’ll be in contact; your insight into how Sirius thinks could well find Harry.”
“That’s it?” Remus asked flatly.
“For now. I daresay the Aurors will have questions for you but they’ll be another day away, yet, I think-”
“This is the only way I get to help? Answering questions?”
“The only way? Remus, you’ve been invaluable.”
“I want to be out there helping,” Remus said. “I want to be looking for him. He’s James and Lily’s son! He’s my godson!”
“The night Harry was born, James and Sirius broke into the St Mungo’s administration room and put me down as Harry’s godmother. It’s not quite legal but James wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t mean it.” Remus said all of this very quickly, too agitated to care that his usual calm demeanour was slipping and that he was very close to shouting.
“Ah, yes, I do remember you telling me that-”
“So do I. It was the night you took Harry to his aunt’s house,” Remus said bitterly.
“Remus, you know why I couldn’t give you custody of the boy...” Dumbledore said.
“I can understand you wanting to keep him safe, and wanting him to grow up out of the public eye,” Remus said frustrated; they’d had this argument a number of times in the past. “I don’t understand why you forbade me to have any contact with him. And I certainly don’t know why I couldn’t get to know him after Sirius broke out; Harry would have been safer with me! You could have put up wards – maybe not as strong as they were with Petunia, but strong enough – and I would have been able to protect him.”
“Remus, you know why I couldn’t do that-”
“I’m dangerous for one night a month. He could have gone to Arabella’s, or back to his aunt’s for the full moon and stayed with me for the rest of the time! I-”
“The Ministry would not have approved,” Dumbledore interrupted.
“Since when have you cared what the Ministry do and don’t like?” Remus said.
“The last thing we needed was for the Ministry to worry about your ability to care for him and remove him from your custody and mine.”
“The last thing we needed was for Sirius to bloody kidnap him!” Remus shouted. With a shaky breath he leaned back against the wall. “I’m sorry, Professor,” he said, burying his face in his hands.
“There is no need to apologise,” Dumbledore said, resting a hand on Remus’ trembling shoulder. With it, Remus was surprised to find, was a scent of guilt. So Professor Dumbledore wishes things had been different now too... “You being upset is understandable, and you being angry is even more so. I really do need to get back to the school but I’ll see what I can do about getting you involved with the search.”
“Thank you,” Remus said, his voice muffled. “There’s Floo Powder on the mantel.”
“Yes, I remember. Take care, Remus, and let me know if you think of anything else. Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts.” There was a whooshing sound and then he was gone. Remus slid down the wall to the floor and began to cry.
* * *
Harry ran into the library, eyes looking for a hiding place. He immediately discounted the bookshelf covered walls – he’d never get to the top in time – the desk was fixed to the wall so hiding under that wouldn’t work... Harry ran out onto the second floor landing, nearly bowling Kreacher over in the process.
“Sorry,” he said hastily as the elf glared at him. Padfoot had threatened to free him after one particularly nasty comment and Kreacher was a little edgy around the pair of them now, even though Padfoot had no intention of following through with it; Padfoot had explained to Harry that Kreacher would remain in the house, if only so he didn’t go running off and tell the Ministry of Magic where Harry and Padfoot were. Harry, resigned to Kreacher’s company for the foreseeable future, was determined to be civil, despite not liking the elf awfully much.
“The Potter brat needs to watch where he’s going,” Kreacher said to the moth-eaten carpet. “Kreacher could have been hurt. Not that Master would have cared. Master’s a heartless wretch-”
“Do you think you could take me downstairs with your Apprarating thing?” Harry asked breathlessly. Yesterday afternoon, Padfoot had played around with a tapestry in the drawing room and managed to bind Kreacher to Harry. While the elf now had to obey Harry’s orders, Harry, who was well used to being ordered around, felt it was politer to ask. “Please?” he added.
“The brat has legs but he wants Kreacher to do his moving for him, oh, yes. Poor Mistress would weep to see Kreacher used as a form of transport-”
“I’m hiding from Padfoot,” Harry said. “It’s a game.” And if Padfoot finds me, he wins, but if he can’t, I win.” Harry had learned very quickly that Kreacher liked Padfoot about as much as Padfoot liked Kreacher, which wasn’t much at all. He’d learnt that either would do anything to spite the other; Padfoot liked to talk louder than was necessary about how horrible his mother had been and Kreacher liked to try to find loopholes in the simplest orders. “He won’t have realised I can get downstairs, because he’s on the first floor.”
“Master doesn’t like to lose,” Kreacher said gleefully. He fixed Harry with a curious look and then held out his hand. Harry took it. Kreacher’s bony fingers tightened on his and then they were both being squeezed. Harry’s ears popped and he felt like he was being pulled through a tube and then, before he was fully aware of it, he was standing in the kitchen. He grabbed the edge of the table for fear of toppling over.
“Thanks,” he panted, trying to re-orient himself.
“At least the brat has manners,” Kreacher muttered.
Harry ignored this and set about making tea. He figured that by the time Padfoot realised he wasn’t upstairs, tea would be ready and they could have a break before they went back to cleaning. “Would you like some?” he asked Kreacher as he fumbled with the polished silver teacups in the dresser. Kreacher stared as if he’d never seen Harry before. “Kreacher?”
“No,” Kreacher said slowly. “No, Kreacher is too busy for tea. Master would never let Kreacher rest for tea.”
“Padfoot won’t mind,” Harry said, carrying everything back to the kitchen bench.
“No, no tea,” Kreacher said. His ears flapped as he shook his head. “The Potter brat should sit down. Kreacher will pour. Master would never forgive Kreacher if the little brat burned himself on the kettle.” The elf wandered over and shooed Harry away from the bench. “Master likes scones with his tea,” Kreacher muttered. “Oh, yes, Kreacher remembers, scones with jam.”
“Do you want help?” Harry asked, getting up from his place at the kitchen table.
“No, no. Kreacher lives to serve the House of Black,” Kreacher said, snapping his fingers. Flour, sugar and eggs floated from the pantry. Harry was suddenly very glad they’d emptied and re-stocked the pantry the day before, since Kreacher probably would have made scones regardless of whether the ingredients were fresh or not.
When Padfoot finally came downstairs – almost an hour after Harry and Kreacher – Harry was on his third scone and his teacup was almost empty. “Figured it out, did you?” Harry asked, spreading more jam onto his scone.
“No,” Padfoot grumbled, having recovered from looking surprised. “I thought you might have been somewhere in my old bedroom.”
“Why’d you come downstairs then?”
“I smelled food,” Padfoot said with a sheepish smile. Harry sniggered and passed him a teacup. “You’ve been productive.”
“Thank Kreacher,” Harry said, taking a bite of his scone.
“Kreacher?” Padfoot said, freezing with his spoon suspended over the sugar pot. He shot a look at the now rather depleted plate of scones. “Kreacher made the scones?” he asked sharply.
“And the tea,” Harry said, unfazed.
“So he is good for something,” Padfoot said, frowning at Kreacher’s den. “Who’d have known?” Harry frowned too, but at his godfather. Padfoot noticed and sighed, making a face. “Thank you, Kreacher,” he called. Kreacher mumbled something from behind his den door. Harry’s expression cleared instantly, making Padfoot grin.
“What?” Harry asked.
“Your mum used to use that same look when James and I were invited to Ministry events and had to make conversation with stuffy old politicians.” Harry grinned. “Some of them were the most conceited bastards I’ve ever met and all of them were so boring they could put an insomniac into hibernation but we still had to be nice.” Harry laughed into his teacup. Padfoot stared at him for a moment, then at his own untouched teacup and then at the plate of scones. “These had better not be poisoned,” he said warningly. Harry snorted tea up his nose.
They spent the rest of the day in the first floor bathroom - like the rest of the house, snakes seemed to be a prevalent decoration; the cabinet handles, door-knob, taps and showerhead were all serpentine - trying to restore it to some level of functionality. Padfoot had had Kreacher help - the elf had managed to get the toilet working again - but he’d also had driven them both mad with his endless muttering, so Padfoot had sent him away again. “This reminds me of detention with McGonagall,” he said fondly, spraying the sink with a jet of soapy water from his wand.
“She made you clean sinks?” Harry asked in disbelief.
Padfoot smiled at his shocked expression. “The entire Prefect’s Bathroom,” he said ruefully. “And we weren’t allowed to use magic, either.”
“What did you do to earn that?” Harry asked, dropping his sponge.
Padfoot smiled in a way that Harry was getting to know very well; sheepish, but with no trace of regret for doing whatever it was he’d done. “It was James’ idea,” he said. “The Slytherin Prefect – Yaxley, I think his name was – was a real arse to us... always calling James and me blood-traitors and giving Moony a hard time because he had hand-me-down robes... Prongs already fancied your mum-”
“Is Prongs my dad?” Harry asked, confused.
Padfoot looked shocked. “I haven’t told you that yet?” Harry shook his head. Padfoot groaned. “Sorry, kiddo, yes, James was Prongs. Remus was Moony – you know that one – I’m Padfoot and Peter was Wormtail.”
“Hang on,” Harry said, staring at his godfather. “Your name isn’t Padfoot?”
“Er... no,” Padfoot said. Harry stared at him. “It’s Sirius. Surely you’ve heard Kreacher say it?”
“Sirius Black,” Harry mused, attacking a particularly stubborn piece of soap scum with his sponge. “No, I haven’t; he only calls you ‘Master’.” Padfoot – Sirius – sniggered. “So why did you have nicknames?”
“For our Animagus forms.”
“Padfoot for a dog, Wormtail for a rat... What were Moony and Prongs?”
“Moony was... a wolf,” Padfoot said, his expression changing slightly. “Prongs was a stag.”
“Was my mum an Animagus too?” Padfoot shook his head. Harry took a moment to absorb this. Then: “So what did you do to the Prefect’s Bathroom?”
Padfoot grinned. “As I was saying, Yaxley was a real git. He thought he was better than your mum, because he had wizarding relatives and she didn’t - remember the m-word?”
Harry nodded and then laughed. “He didn’t like her because her parents weren’t magical? That’s stupid.”
“That’s what the whole war was about,” he said gravely. Harry’s eyebrows shot up. “But you’re completely right; it is stupid. We decided to get back at him for that.”
“I wanted to put something in his food,” Padfoot said, testing to see if the tap worked. Orange, rusty water sprayed in all directions out of the serpent’s mouth and he hastily turned it off again and shook like a dog. “Make him grow a beard, turn his hair pink, something like that. Prongs didn’t think that was good enough. I can’t remember if it was Moony or your dad that did it, but someone got their hands on a live squid – we put a few charms on it to make it smarter and able to survive in bathwater, and we also spelled its ink to be sticky - and managed to get it into the pipes just before Yaxley’s bath.”
“Where’d it go wrong?”
“What makes you think it did?”
“You said you got caught,” Harry said.
“I blame Moony,” Padfoot sniffed. “As our researcher he should have mentioned that the charms we cast on the squid to add qualities to its ink would react with the Engorgement Charms in the bubble taps.”
“So what happened?” Harry asked, trying not to laugh at the image that was forming in his head.
“The squid grew,” Padfoot said with a barking laugh. He touched the tap with his wand again, muttering something under his breath and then turned it on. It ran normally, with nice, clear water. “The thing had no idea what was going on and sprayed ink everywhere – extra sticky ink, I might add-”
“Did it get Yaxley?”
“Oh, yes,” Padfoot said happily. “Yes, I don’t think he was properly clean for a month. But it also got us; Prongs, Moony, Peter and I trailed ink from the Prefect’s Bathroom to our dormitory.” Harry winced sympathetically. “Old Minnie was not happy when she found out.”
“Professor Minerva McGonagall,” Padfoot said. “Head of Transfiguration and also the Head of Gryffindor House.”
“Was she strict?” Harry asked. Her title certainly implied it.
“Yes, but fair, too, even if we didn’t think so at the time. You’ll see what I mean in a few years.”
“When you go to Hogwarts,” Padfoot said, giving him a funny look. “Didn’t we talk about this during dinner?”
“Right,” Harry said, remembering. He gave his godfather a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”
Padfoot grinned, picking up his sponge. “Don’t worry about it. But, when you get there – to Hogwarts, I mean – make sure you have a look in the lake.”
“Let’s just say a certain, very large cephalopod with extremely sticky ink now calls the lake home...”
* * *
“Bloody buggering hell,” Padfoot said emphatically on the third day. He dropped a newspaper onto the table.
“What?” Harry said, lowering his spoon.
“I’d half hoped Dumbledore and the Ministry would want to keep this quiet.”
“That I kidnapped you,” Padfoot said with a strained smile. He sighed at the paper and pushed it toward Harry. “They’ve organised a search.”
Harry stared at his photo on the front page of the newspaper, which was right beside one of Padfoot, snarling at the photographer. “How did they get my school photo? And why’s it moving?” He remembered the day it had been taken; earlier in the day, Dudley had shoved him and he’d shoved Dudley back, just in time for Mrs Peterson to see. She’d lectured him on treating his classmates with respect and proceeded to keep him in her sight for the rest of the day to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt anyone else. She’d been standing behind the photographer when Harry’s photo was taken, glaring at him. It really wasn’t surprising that Harry’s photographic-self looked so terrified.
“Your Aunt must have had a copy,” Padfoot said, sounding distracted. “And they’ll have enchanted it to move because wizards aren’t used to still photographs.”
“Huh,” Harry said, beginning to read the article:
The kidnapping of Harry Potter, the child we all know as ‘The Other Boy Who Lived’ (pictured above) has put doubts about safety from He Who Must Not Be Named’s followers into the minds of the magical community for the first time in seven years. It is believed that mass murderer Sirius Black (also pictured above) approached Potter at a playground near his Little Whinging home on Tuesday night and persuaded him to leave his muggle relatives, who, thankfully, were not harmed during the abduction.
Albus Dumbledore was responsible for sending the boy to live with the muggles in the first place and is now facing open criticism from the public for not moving the boy sooner. “The Potter boy should have been moved as soon as Black escaped,” said one witch from Bath. “Or at the very least, the house should have been placed under Auror supervision.”
In his statement last night, Albus Dumbledore admitted he himself had thought Harry would be safe in the wards he set up around the Little Whinging home shortly after the defeat of He Who Must Not Be Named. Junior Curse Breaker William Weasley spoke to reporters after investigating the property: “I don’t know what happened,” said Weasley. “As far as I can tell, the wards were fully operational on Tuesday night and started to decay very late Tuesday or possibly even early Wednesday. All I know is they’re gone now.” He also stated that the wards were “strong” and that such rapid decay “isn’t normal”. Clearly Black is behind it.
After leaving the Little Whinging household, it is believed Black altered his and Potter’s appearance before hailing the Knight Bus which took them to the Leaky Cauldron in London. Jeremy Philips, the Knight Bus Conductor conversed with the two without noticing anything unusual. “They seemed nice to me, like a normal father and son,” he said during his interview this morning. “I didn’t suspect a thing, but I suppose that’s a good thing, because I don’t have any special training. I might have ended up like Pettigrew.”
Staff from Gringotts Wizarding Bank confirmed Black and Potter visited and made a withdrawal from the Black family vault, though no figure has been given to Aurors or reporters. When questioned on the topic, staff refused to give any details other than the fact the two were there, due to everything else being “private”. Aurors are currently investigating the possibility of Black having a goblin accomplice but so far, the goblins are adamant they will not to become involved in wizarding affairs.
Black and Potter’s whereabouts remain unknown though they are believed to have stayed in Britain. In a statement this morning, Minister Bagnold “urge[s] anyone with any information about either Black or Potter to contact the Auror Office immediately.” She also “remind[ed] the public that Black is in possession of his wand and so should not be approached directly.”
In addition to the investigation led by the Department Of Magical Law Enforcement, wealthy Ministry benefactor Lucius Malfoy has agreed to finance a search led by volunteers: “I find it heart-breaking,” said Mr Malfoy as he left the Ministry last night, “that a child as young and helpless as little Harry Potter is in the possession of a man like Sirius Black. As a father of two boys the same age as young Potter, I felt it was my moral duty to assist in any way possible. My wife and I both feel that a little of our gold is a small price to pay for Potter’s rescue.” Mr Malfoy has also stated he will be joining the search himself when he has the time and is pushing for others to do the same: “I do not believe a few hours of my time, or anyone’s time for that matter, is more important than the life of a child. Anyone interested in helping may contact me via owl and I will assign them an appropriate role in the search.”
Until he is found, our thoughts go out to Harry Potter who is no doubt terrified, and to his muggle relatives, who must have been shaken by the abduction.
“Shaken?” Harry said, choking back a laugh. “Did they talk to the Dursleys at all?”
“Hmm?” Padfoot said, still sounding distant. “Oh, probably not,” His chair scraped as he got up to make himself a cup of tea. “Do you want one?” Harry shook his head. “What did you think of the rest of it?” Padfoot asked guardedly, gesturing toward the paper.
“I don’t know,” Harry said, staring at the headline: THE BOY WHO DISAPPEARED. “Everyone seems really worried...”
“I told you there’d be people after us,” Padfoot said, sitting down again.
“I just didn’t realise there were so many people who’d be looking...” Harry said, scratching polish off the table with his fingernail. Padfoot blew on his steaming tea before looking up at Harry again. “They don’t even know me!”
He was surprised to see that Padfoot looked upset. “I’ve made a real mess of this,” Padfoot said, dropping his head into his hands.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked, staring at his soggy cereal.
“Stupid,” he muttered. “I should have just left you there.” Harry stared at his godfather, who was still face down on the table. He waited a few seconds for Padfoot to say something, but he didn’t. Hurt and confused, Harry pushed his chair away from the table and stood. Padfoot made a funny sniffing noise and then looked up, confused. “Harry?” he asked, looking puzzled.
Harry turned and walked up the kitchen stairs. He didn’t know if he was happy or sad that he couldn’t hear Padfoot’s footsteps behind him.