It was always cold and windy in Azkaban, Draco thought grumpily, as he tried in vain to smooth his hair down. He, Mother and Hydrus stepped away from the rusted key that was their Portkey and headed up the narrow stone path that wound up the side of the cliff face.
At the top of that there was a big, grey archway that marked the edge of the prison - Draco had been daunted by it the first time he came but it no longer scared him at all - and then the path split into three.
The left headed off to the rows of cells, where Draco hadn’t ever been before; Mother never let him go and Hydrus didn’t want to, the right path went to the guardroom where Mother said they kept the prisoners’ things - Draco hadn’t been there either - and the middle path went to a big, grey stone building.
At either side of the entrance were Dementors. They were the only thing in Azkaban that wasn’t grey, and they wore big black robes with a hood and made Draco feel awfully cold no matter how many layers he wore.
The inside of the building was grey too but it wasn’t windy and the Dementors weren’t allowed inside. Draco liked it much better. There was a big rusty gate that led to the rest of the building but Draco knew from previous visits that the guards had to let them in.
Mother rang a little bell that hung from a lamp fitting and then they waited - Hydrus shivering and tightening his travelling cloak compulsively, Mother looking at her nails and then her hair and Draco trying to copy Mother by looking at his own nails - until footsteps approached and a tall, blond guard appeared on the other side. His robes were black like a Dementor’s.
“Hi there,” he said.
Mother gave a twitch of her lips that wasn’t a quite a frown but was close. “I was expecting Ernest.”
“He wasn’t feeling well,” the guard replied. “Went home about an hour ago. Who’re you here for?”
“My sister. Madam Lestrange,” Mother said.
“Let me grab my cloak and I’ll be right out,” he said.
“Right out?” Mother asked.
“To take you to her cell,” the guard replied, looking puzzled.
Mother’s expression soured slightly. “Did Ernest not tell you about the visiting procedure?”
“Ernest allows Bellatrix and I to meet in one of the interview rooms.”
The guard frowned. “That’s not prison policy, Mrs-”
“Malfoy,” Mother said, arching an eyebrow.
The guard paled slightly but said, “Mrs Malfoy, we don’t allow prisoners to leave their cells. You’re more than welcome to visit your sister but-”
“And what of my sons?” Mother asked. The guard frowned at Draco and Hydrus, as if he’d forgotten they were there. Draco frowned back. “Are you suggesting I allow them to be exposed to the other prisoners? To the Dementors?”
The guard let out a noisy breath. “Bloody hell,” he said.
“Watch your mouth around my children,” Mother said coolly.
“Sorry. Look, since you’ve got your kids, I’ll make the exception, but just this once, and just ‘cause it’s Easter.”
Mother smiled politely and he let them through the gate and further into the building. He said something to one of the guards - several of them were sitting around a large table playing Exploding Snap while Mother looked on in disgust - and then turned back to them and said, “Jordan and Carrow’ll bring her in.”
“Alecto,” Mother said, looking surprised as one of the guards - a woman Draco noticed, and an ugly one at that - stood.
“Mrs Malfoy,” the woman replied, bobbing her head. She followed the other guard, a dark-skinned man out through the gate.
“Follow me,” their guard said. “Room Four’s free.”
“Thank you,” Mother said. “Keep up,” she called to Hydrus and Draco.
“I don’t even want to see Aunt Bella,” Hydrus muttered.
Draco glanced ahead to make sure Mother wasn’t listening and said, “Neither.” Aunt Bella, to put it simply, was mad, and rather scary.
The guard unlocked a door with a tap of his wand and let them inside. Mother settled herself on the only chair in the room and began to look at her nails again. “Where are we supposed to sit?” Hydrus asked the guard.
The guard looked at them stupidly and then muttered something about going chairs. He left the room. “Not very bright, is he?” Draco asked. Hydrus sniggered. “I mean, what’s the point of being a wizard if you never use your wand?”
“A Mudblood for sure,” Mother said dismissively. They waited in silence and then the door opened and the woman Mother had greeted before walked in, followed by Aunt Bella. Aunt Bella was a tall woman with tangled black hair, hooded eyes and a heavy jaw.
The left sleeve of her prisoner’s robes was torn - as always - so that she could show off her Dark Mark. When the guards showed signs of staying, Mother folded her arms, wearing an expression that unnerved even Father.
“Are we not entitled to our privacy?” she asked, arching an eyebrow in a way Draco could not yet manage.
The male guard frowned at her. “It’s not safe-”
“This is my sister,” Mother said, incredulously. The guards shifted uncomfortably. “I have my wand,” she said with a pointed look in their direction. They shuffled out and Mother cast a Silencing Charm on the room as soon as the door clicked shut, and then she tucked her wand into her pocket and hugged Aunt Bella.
Hydrus went next and then Draco - who noticed she smelled like rocks and sweat and dead things - and then they sat.
“You look more and more like your father each time I see you,” Aunt Bella said, staring at the space between Hydrus and Draco. They exchanged an uncertain look.
“Thank you, Aunt Bella,” Hydrus said finally.
“A good looking man,” Aunt Bella said, crossing the room to look more closely at Hydrus, “your father is. He’s not much use for anything else, unfortunately, but Cissy’s always gone for looks rather than practicality.”
“Enough,” Mother said in a sharp tone.
Aunt Bella pinched Hydrus’ face between her thumb and a bony finger and twisted his head to better see it. “You’ve got your Mummy’s eyes,” she said, staring at him. “And her nose. I never could manage to turn mine up the way she can.”
“Bella,” Mother said warningly.
“Relax, Cissy,” Aunt Bella said, releasing Hydrus as she tottered over to Draco. He sat very, very still. “I’m just getting reacquainted with my nephews’ faces. Dementors are bad for the memory, you know.” She gave a mad little laugh and seized Draco’s face, her unkempt fingernails digging into his cheeks. He resolved to have a bath the moment he arrived home.
“You look like Daddy too,” she said. Draco gave her a weak smile, not sure what to say. “With Mummy’s smile!” Aunt Bella exclaimed. “I suppose yours is just as rare...” She made a tsking noise and her dark eyes met Draco’s grey ones. “You know, those could almost be Black eyes.”
“Black eyes?” Draco dared ask as Aunt Bella let him go.
“My eyes.” Aunt Bella’s eyes were a dull, dead grey. Draco shivered and fervently hoped not. “Regulus’ eyes, but you probably don’t remember him. I don’t suppose you’ve ever met Andy or Sirius?” Both Draco and Hydrus shook their heads. “They’ve got some self respect at least,” Aunt Bella commented.
“How is Andy? Still married?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Mother replied.
“You went to her wedding, didn’t you?”
Mother’s cheeks turned a pale pink. “That was years ago, Bella.”
“But you still went.”
“I had to see if she was happy,” Mother answered, staring at her hands.
“If marrying a Mudblood is the cost of happiness, I’d rather be miserable,” Aunt Bella said primly. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter if Andy’s happy or not anymore.” Mother didn’t say anything. “And Sirius?” Aunt Bella continued. “Has he been caught?”
“No, but he’s bound to slip up, and when he does, Lucius-”
“Bound to slip up?” Aunt Bella cackled. “Our tricky little cousin?”
“Well, yes, he’s mad-”
“Mad?” Aunt Bella asked. “Oh, no, he’s not mad. I had the cell two away from his for three years, remember? Everyone else would scream all through the night, but no sound ever came from his cell, except for a whispered name in his sleep but there was nothing mad about it, I assure you. They had to move him to a different cell,” she said, her lip curling, “one with more Dementor exposure and even then...”
“They say he served the Dark Lord,” Mother murmured.
Aunt Bella snorted. “Him?” she asked derisively. “No, Cissy. I don’t know what happened with the Potters, but it wasn’t our dear cousin that did it.” Mother stared at her hands, which were clasped neatly in her lap. Aunt Bella remained on her feet. “Has there been news?” she asked after a slight pause. Her voice was breathless, excited.
“Nothing,” Mother said.
Aunt Bella’s face fell slightly. “He’s alive, Cissy. I know He is.”
“You’ve said so before,” Mother said gently.
“Yet you still don’t believe me! Why don’t you believe me, Cissy-” Aunt Bella asked plaintively.
“There’s no proof,” Mother said curtly.
“Have you looked?”
“For what, Bella?” Mother asked.
“There is nothing,” Mother said. “Not even rumours to suggest He even exists. If there were, Lucius would stop at nothing-”
“Lucius,” Aunt Bella sneered and then opened her mouth again but Mother was quicker.
“Don’t you dare insult my husband!” Mother snapped. Draco almost smiled; whenever Father said something rude about Aunt Bella, Mother defended her just as vehemently.
“And why not?” Aunt Bella demanded. “What has he done, Cissy, for our Master?”
“Your Master,” Mother said quietly.
“I said He’s your Master, Bella, not mine,” Mother said loudly. “I never took the Mark.”
“But-but you want him back, don’t you?” Aunt Bella asked. Suddenly, she looked like the younger sister, even though Draco knew she was a year older than Mother.
“Of course I do,” Mother said, getting to her feet suddenly. She began to pace. Draco and Hydrus exchanged a look, having never seen her so agitated. “But think, Bella! The name Malfoy has always garnered respect from the Wizarding community but it’s at an all time high. Lucius has power over the fools at the Ministry and is perfectly placed should anyone hear anything about the Dark Lord’s location. If he were to be caught serving the Dark Lord - who may or may not even be alive - he would lose everything.”
“The Dark Lord rewards those who are dedicated-”
“At the moment, there is no Dark Lord!” Mother cried, stopping in front of Aunt Bella. “And until there is, until we can be certain, I will not throw everything we’ve worked so hard, and lied so hard to get!” Aunt Bella looked like she’d been slapped. She sat down in the empty seat and Mother sat down in hers. “How is Rodolphus?” Mother asked after a tense pause.
“Still in the cell next to mine,” Aunt Bella said dismissively.
She gave a careless shrug. “Couldn’t say.”
“And how have you been?” Mother asked. Aunt Bella shrugged again. “Here,” Mother said, passing Aunt Bella her wand.
Aunt Bella took it, a peaceful expression settling on her face. She gave it a wave and conjured a set of colourful, glowing lights.
“I’ve missed my magic,” she whispered, reaching out with one claw-like hand to touch one of the lights. She waved Mother’s wand again and they vanished. She seemed to struggle for a moment and then reluctantly passed the wand back. “Thank you.” Mother inclined her head as she pocketed it. Aunt Bella sighed noisily and said, “And thank you for this too, Cissy.”
Mother gazed around the interview room and inclined her head again. “I still hate the thought of you trapped in here, Bella, you know that. Anything I can do to make it easier-”
“It’s not supposed to be easy,” Aunt Bella replied. “It’s a sacrifice, Cissy, and He will know what I have given for Him, that I am His most loyal, most faithful-”
Mother got to her feet and went to hold Aunt Bella’s hands. “I know He will,” she said softly. “I just hope it’s worth the price.”
* * *
Harry held out a piece of bacon. The owl - he and Padfoot had named her Hedwig - accepted it with a hoot and let him detach the Prophet from her leg. Harry unrolled the paper and scanned the front page, stroking the owl with his other hand; she was still quite downy but her head was now more white than grey.
His eyes widened and Hedwig hooted indignantly when the petting stopped. “Apparently I’m dead,” Harry told the stirring, sleeping-bag-encased lump that was Padfoot.
“Oh?” Padfoot said sleepily, trying to flatten his tousled hair.
“They’re holding a memorial service at Diagon Alley for me tomorrow morning.”
“What’s the date today?”
“Sixteenth,” Harry said, checking the paper by-line.
“Exactly two months,” Padfoot mused. “Does this mean they’ve stopped looking?”
“No, Lucius Malfoy’s still recruiting on page three. He’s paying for any information and offering a thousand galleons to anyone who finds us.”
“Bastard. Now we’ll have all the lowlifes looking too.”
Harry sighed and turned the page. “Oh, wait, I can’t be dead; it says here we were at last night’s Cannons game.”
“Ooh! Who won?”
“Not the Cannons,” Harry said, apologetically.
“Damn,” Padfoot said, looking unsurprised. He yawned again and stumbled over to join Harry at the table. “What’s for breakfast?”
“I made bacon and eggs,” Harry said.
“I could go for eggs,” Padfoot admitted, glancing at Harry’s half-full plate.
Harry shielded his breakfast with an arm and used the other one to point at the stove. “Get your own.” Hedwig stole a lump of bacon off his plate, clicked her beak and flew across the room to perch on the mantel.
Padfoot chuckled. “Do you want tea or juice or anything?”
“Juice sounds good,” Harry said hopefully. Padfoot flicked his wand and a bottle of juice came soaring out of the pantry to land in front of Harry. Glasses from the cupboard followed half a second later. “Thanks,” Harry said, pouring himself a glass. “Do you want one too?”
“Yes, thanks,” Padfoot said, his voice muffled; he’d retrieved a fork and was eating straight from the fry-pan.
Harry sipped his juice and flipped the page. “The Minister’s retiring early,” Harry said. Padfoot came to read over his shoulder.
“End of the month,” Padfoot murmured. “Bet the Ministry loves that; they’ve only got a week and a bit to choose a successor.” He made a face. “The Prophet needs to get their priorities straight. The Minister’s retiring and yet the front page is dedicated to us. Poor Bagnold’s been shunted to page seven and doesn’t have as much as a photograph to thank her for nine years of hard work.”
“Was she a good Minister?”
“About as good as they come. Cornelius Fudge is going to be a joke.”
“That’s who the papers say’ll be next,” Padfoot said, grimacing as he tapped the article. “Him or Dumbledore and Dumbledore won’t take the position.”
“Do you know Fudge?”
“I did. He was with the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes when James and I were going through the Auror Training Program. Nice enough bloke but he’s... I dunno... just... I wouldn’t have picked it.”
“Who do you reckon it should be, then?” Harry asked, scraping the last few scraps of egg onto his fork.
Padfoot thought for a moment. “All I know of the current Ministry is what’s been in the papers these last three weeks,” he warned. “But I’d have to say either Kingsley Shacklebolt - he’s an Auror and an old Order member - or Amelia Bones... They’d never be picked though.”
“Too young. Kingsley went through a few years before I did. He graduated at the end of my third- wait, no, he was with Gid and Fab... end of my fourth year,” he amended. “He spent a few years travelling and then came back. We did the Auror Training Program together. Amelia was the year below us... she went through with Marlene, Frank and Alice.”
“More Order members?” Harry guessed. Padfoot nodded. Harry opened his mouth to ask about them but from the grim set of Padfoot’s mouth knew it could be nothing good. He sipped at his juice instead.
The two headed upstairs (after Harry coaxed Kreacher into doing the dishes) into what had been the dining room. Padfoot had shrunk the table and chairs and put them in the dresser for safe-keeping, effectively clearing the floor space. He’d also added Cushioning Charms to the walls, windows, floor and ceiling to absorb any stray spells that they might need to cast.
In one corner was a cauldron and a bookcase, loaded with potions ingredients and various books on spells and brewing. Harry hoped it would be wand work today; in the week or so he’d had his wand, Padfoot had been teaching him less history and less potions and had been trying to teach him basic charms and the theories behind them. He thought, a little dejectedly, that he was probably overdue for one of the less interesting lessons.
Padfoot, however, said, “Can you light up your wand for me?”
Harry drew his wand; this was one of the first spells Padfoot had taught him and he was fairly confident about using it. “Lumos,” he said. A bulb of light flashed out, illuminating the room in blinding white. Harry flinched. “Nox!” The light vanished and the lamps on the walls extinguished.
Padfoot re-lit the lamps with a wave of his own wand. “Not bad,” he said. “Try for a bit more control though. Less light, and hold it.”
Harry nodded. “Lumos,” he said again.
“Dim it down,” Padfoot yelped, covering his eyes.
“Sorry, sorry!” The wand tip dimmed slowly until it was emitting a faint white glow.
“Better,” Padfoot said approvingly. “Now, try to put it out without doing the lamps.”
Harry grinned sheepishly. “Nox,” he said. The light disappeared.
“Excellent,” Padfoot said. “Could you feel the difference?”
“Er... no,” Harry said. “But I could see it.”
Padfoot chuckled. “Fair enough. There’s another charm - Reparo-”
“The fixing one?” Padfoot had done that so many times since they moved in that Harry was fairly sure he could mimic the incantation and wand movement perfectly.
“Have you tried it?” Harry shook his head. “Go on then.”
“There’s nothing to fix in here.”
“Rubbish,” Padfoot said, glancing around quickly. “Diffindo,” The curtains severed and fell in a dusty heap. “Fix that,” Padfoot said while Harry laughed.
“Reparo,” Harry said tentatively. There was another puff of dust but nothing more.
“Say it like you mean it,” Padfoot told him. “You don’t ask magic to do things. You tell it to.”
“Reparo,” Harry said. The curtains fixed themselves back together but there was a large line - like a scar - where the cut had been.
“Not bad,” Padfoot said. He severed the curtains again and had Harry practice until he could manage it consistently, though it still left a scar. “We’ll go over the theory behind that later,” Padfoot told him, unconcerned. He was quiet for a moment, apparently deciding what to teach Harry next and then said, “Have you heard of Finite Incantatem?”
“Didn’t you cast it on that coat-rack that tried to punch you...?”
Padfoot grimaced. “Basically, it’ll undo or end a spell.”
“No. Some are resistant by nature, some are resistant by design. It doesn’t work very well on injuries or on potion induced effects either but it’s still damn useful... I think the best way to teach you this one, is to teach you some basic jinxes at the same time.”
Harry looked up, excited. “Jinxes?”
“I was thinking you could practice on Kreacher,” Padfoot said. Harry laughed, a little tempted – Kreacher had been rather foul lately - but shook his head. “I thought as much,” he said wryly. “I’m prepared to sacrifice my own short term well-being in order to give you a living target.”
“I don’t want to jinx you!” Harry thought that would be a very poor way to repay Padfoot for everything he’d done so far.
“I’m not going to be teaching you anything nasty; these are jinxes and very mild hexes.” Padfoot grinned mischievously. “When we move onto real hexes, we’ll definitely be using Kreacher.”
They were there for the majority of the day. Harry tried a Tickling Hex, a Jelly-Legs Curse, a Finger-Twitch Charm that made it very difficult for an opponent to hold their wand, a charm that made opponents dance and one that locked the opponent’s legs together. He had no luck with the Tickling Hex or the Jelly-Legs Curse but he picked up on the various Binding spells and on the Reversal Charm quickly.
“Good,” Padfoot wheezed as Harry removed a charm that made opponents cough uncontrollably. “Better than before.” Padfoot conjured himself a glass of water and sat down on the floor.
“Is that it?” Harry asked, flopping down next to him. He brushed his sweaty hair out of his face and pushed his glasses up. He hadn’t been moving around much at all, but his arm ached from holding his wand up and he had the beginnings of a headache.
“One more,” Padfoot said, standing.
Harry groaned and stood up. “Which one?”
“Your choice.” Padfoot let his hands fall down by his sides and took a deep breath. “Whenever you’re ready,” he said wincing slightly.
“Petrificus Totalus,” Harry said. Padfoot stiffened and swayed. Harry felt a little smug that he’d managed it first time. There was a muffled thump as Padfoot hit the Cushioning Charms on the floor. “Finite Incantatem,” he said.
Padfoot stretched and pushed himself into a sitting position. “Good,” he said. “Stronger that time.”
“How can you tell?”
“It’s tighter. Weaker body binds are elastic; they give a little if you push and some even break if you can get your magic between you and the spell. That one had less give than the others, less space for me to get my magic in.”
“So you could have broken that?”
Padfoot hesitated. “Yes, I could have, and so could any Auror or Hit Wizard.” Harry’s face fell. “We’ll work on it though,” Padfoot promised. “Give it a few more weeks and we’ll have it strong enough that not even Dumbledore himself could break free of it.” Harry gave him a doubtful look.
“Wandless magic’ll still break it, but wandless magic’ll break almost anything,” Padfoot said. “Body-Binds are simple. Simple in principle and simple in execution. They aren’t hard to get right.”
“Wow, thanks,” Harry said with a grimace.
Padfoot smiled and ruffled his hair. “You’re already better at jinxes than I was at eight. Andy didn’t teach me until I was ten.” He smiled a little sadly. “When you get to Hogwarts, you’ll be advanced for your age, I have no doubts of that. Until then, though, you’re a kid in a world of adults, and no matter how good you get, they’ve got more experience, more control and more power than you’re going to have for the next few years.
"I don’t want you hurt because you’re overconfident. Better that you’re wary and surprise them with a well-placed jinx than you going in, wand blazing, thinking you can beat them all. I've been there, done that and trust me, it'll only work once.” Padfoot stood and winced, rubbing his back. “Can you be bothered cleaning tonight?”
“I suppose,” Harry said shrugging as he tucked his wand into his pocket. “Which one?”
Since they’d moved in, Harry and Padfoot had fixed and cleaned two bathrooms, the kitchen, the library, one of the bedrooms on the third floor - despite this, both were still sleeping in the kitchen - and the training room. “Reg’s room, I think,” Padfoot said. “We can get you settled in properly.”
Harry beamed, excited at the prospect of having his own room. It wasn’t that he particularly minded camping in the kitchen with Padfoot but he’d never had a bedroom before. His excitement petered out a moment later; he’d only been in Regulus’s room two or three times but he knew it was very large and very, very dusty and was probably going to take a considerable amount of time to clean.
Padfoot glanced out the window at the sky; it was a pale purple and getting darker by the minute. “Kreacher.” CRACK! “We’re going to head upstairs in a moment. Could you have dinner ready for us in about an hour-” Padfoot glanced at Harry. “-please?”
Kreacher’s bloodshot eyes flicked between the two of them and he appeared to choke on an insult - Padfoot had forbidden him from saying anything rude, though he still managed on occasion - and then he vanished with another CRACK!
Padfoot turned to Harry. “I’ll race you upstairs,” he said, grinning.
“What? Now?” Harry asked as the shaggy, black dog dashed out of the room. “Cheater!” Harry called after him. “Kreacher!” CRACK! “Can you Apparate me upstairs? To Regulus’ room.” Harry asked. “Please?” Kreacher gave him a peevish look but held out his bony arm without complaint. “Thanks,” Harry said, grasping it.
The room distorted. He was being tugged, stretched, condensed and twisted all at once and then Regulus’ dark room materialised around them.
“Thanks, Kreacher,” Harry gasped. The elf cast a fearful look around the room and vanished without another word.
“I beat you!” he heard Padfoot shouting from out on the landing.
“Beat me?” Harry asked, pulling open the door. Padfoot whipped out his wand, swearing all the while and then slumped when he saw Harry standing there, staring at him in awe. Even Uncle Vernon hadn’t had such a comprehensive vocabulary.
Padfoot scowled. “You’re not to use any of those words or I’ll Scourgify your tongue. And how did you get up here? You were behind me!”
“Kreacher,” Harry said, grinning.
“And you call me a cheater,” Padfoot grumbled, walking into the room. He waved his wand and the lamps on the walls lit.
Harry stared. The room was bigger in the light, and all the more ominous; the lights were casting distorted shadows on the walls. The dark green curtains were moth-eaten but effectively blocked all but a thin beam that shone onto a painted Black family crest.
Below that was the bed, perfectly made with a dull grey cover and matching pillows. Harry stared around; the slightly open wardrobe revealed meticulously folded clothes and the desk and bookcase were neatly organised.
“Very neat, Reg,” Padfoot said, following his gaze.
“You’re one to talk,” Harry said, his voice almost a whisper.
Padfoot grinned. “I’m neat, but Reg is another thing altogether.” He picked a frame off of the bedside table and wiped it with his sleeve. “That’s him there,” he said, nodding at a thin boy surrounded by his green-clad teammates. Harry thought he could have picked him; Regulus had the same dark hair, grey eyes and proud look as his brother.
Next to that photo was another frame, silver again. It showed Padfoot and Regulus, both in their Hogwarts robes with a man and a woman behind them. The four of them were standing on the staircase, with the elf heads beside them.
After a moment Harry was able to recognise the woman as their mother, though quite a few years younger than she was in the portrait downstairs. She had a proud but not overly pretty face and with them standing next to each other, Harry could see a lot of her looks had gone to her younger son. Padfoot - who looked about sixteen - looked a lot like his father; tall, well-built and handsome.
Orion and Walburga Black took turns smiling proudly at Regulus’ green and silver tie, and scowling at Padfoot’s red and gold one. Padfoot was scowling too, looking very much like he’d rather be somewhere else, but even as Harry watched, Regulus gave him a little nudge and a small smile.
The photograph-Padfoot smiled back as if he couldn’t help himself and flung an arm over his brother’s shoulders. Both boys laughed and grinned at the camera while Mr and Mrs Black watched disapprovingly.
“You were close, weren’t you?” Harry asked, setting the photo down.
“He wasn’t ever as much of a brother to me as Prongs and Moony were, but he was more than Peter was, even before I knew Peter was a spy... so yes. We were very close growing up but then I became a Gryffindor and he was a Slytherin and he started sitting with Bella and Cissy instead of me at family functions.”
“But you still got along?”
“Better than you’d think. It wasn’t always easy - more often than not I wanted to hex his Slytherin arse - but we managed. I stayed in contact with him after we left school which is saying something, I suppose. Some of the Order didn’t like that very much but James talked them around.” He sighed and gave the photo a sad smile. “You can do the newspaper clippings, if you’d like. I’ll tackle the desk.”
Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and was instantly surrounded by a cloud of dust. “Argh!” he choked, his eyes watering.
“Oops,” Padfoot said. “Exsugo.” He held his wand over the bed like Harry had seen Aunt Petunia hold her hoover over the kitchen floor. What was left behind was faded green bedding and pale silver pillows. “Better?”
Harry sneezed again but nodded and Padfoot crossed the room to the desk and began to rifle through. Harry turned his attention to the wall. “They’re all about Voldemort.”
“Yeah,” Padfoot said, scowling as he torched scraps of parchment with his wand. “That’s not all of them either - I ripped them all down when I was fourteen and tore them into tiny little pieces.”
Harry scanned the walls and shivered. Man Disappears, Family Found Dead, Mysterious Wizard Gathering Followers were common titles. Others were more specific.
“Anything interesting?” Padfoot was leafing through a huge book titled Nature’s Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy.
Harry squinted at the faded clippings. “This one’s about the deaths of a Mr and Mrs Smith. One about Helen Meadowes and Alexander McKinnon and two about Dorcas Meadowes - one about a messed up assassination and one about her death-” Harry checked the dates, “-about a month later.”
“Dorcas,” Padfoot said softly.
“You knew her?”
“Of course. She was in the original Order with me and your mum and dad. Voldemort tried to kill her but someone tipped Dumbledore off and he moved her in time. She died a month later. Voldemort killed her personally.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said. Padfoot shrugged. “Her sister disappeared at the same time. Helen, is that right?”
“It must be. She wasn’t a part of the Order so I never met her. She died too?”
“Vanished, it says here.”
“Just like Dearborn,” Padfoot murmured.
“They found her partner’s body. It says here his name was Alexander McKinnon.”
Padfoot sighed heavily. “I remember Alex. I remember all of the McKinnons.”
“All of them?”
“Alex had a brother – Simon – and a- a sister. Marlene. Curtis and Patricia were their parents. Curtis was killed, then Alex and then the rest of them died just after your first birthday...” He shook himself. “What else is there?” Harry read the next article and froze. “Harry?”