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Disclaimer: The chapter's title comes from Led Zeppeling's song "Dazed and Confused"


Chapter 2

Dazed and Confused


 

“Professor Dumbledore?”
 
He was dozing quietly. His chest heaved calmly up and down, and his half-moon spectacles gave the impression they would fall from his crooked nose any minute now.
 
“Eh, Professor?” Harry insisted.  
 
This time Dumbledore opened one eyelid and stared confusedly at his interlocutor. Realising who it was, he smiled broadly and finally opened both eyes.
 
“Yes, Harry?”
 
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I need a word with you.”
 
“No worries. I rather enjoy your visits,” he answered with an honest smile. “How may I help you?”
 
“I found these letters,” Harry quickly began; he didn’t have much time for small talk. McGonagall had given him ten minutes. “I guess I better read them to you first.” His voice trailed away.
 
“I’m all ears.”
 
And thus Harry began reading each one of the letters he had found hidden in Sirius’ room. As Harry carried on with the reading, Dumbledore joined the tips of his fingers on which he rested his chin, adopting his pondering look. When Harry finished reading the letters, he finally asked the question nagging in the back of his mind since his arrival to Hogwarts.
 
“What do you think, Professor?”
 
“You can call me Albus. I’m no longer your teacher Harry,” he merely responded.
 
“Old habits are difficult to break,” Harry explained. “Besides, I like calling you Professor. But I’ll try calling you by your name if you prefer.”
 
Dumbledore smiled but did not respond immediately. Harry did not dare speak any further; he knew that when Albus Dumbledore was thinking, it was unwise to interrupt. He began rereading the letters in his mind as he waited for an answer. Finally, the former Headmaster started to speak.
  
“I’m guessing you believe Pauline is Sirius’ daughter,” Dumbledore began.
 
Harry merely nodded looking expectantly at his old headmaster.
 
“I don’t have an answer for that. Until now, I didn’t know Isabel had a child. But the maths adds, so our better guess is that she probably is the last living descendent of the Blacks.”
 
“She never told you? I mean, she said she used to correspond with you, that you were the only person who knew where she was,” Harry asked in a pleading voice. He had hoped on his way to the castle that Dumbledore, as always, had the answer for this as he had for everything. “She trusted you,” He finally sighed.
 
Dumbledore stared at him with a look Harry had only seen once in his old headmaster’s face: as if he was making up his mind. Harry thought he was probably considering how much to tell him and how to do it.
 
“Isabel’s story is a very sad one indeed. I guess I better start at the beginning.” He sighed once before carrying on. “She and Sirius fell in love in their seventh year. When they finished their studies and were of age they both joined the Order of the Phoenix as your parents did. Isabel was a very gifted witch; she contributed greatly to the Order. They were a great team: Isabel and Sirius. Both were very skilled in different and complementary areas and thus worked excellently together. Both of them, along with your parents, did great things for the Order. One of the hardest blows we ever orchestrated for Voldemort´s ranks was conceived by Lily’s cunning, designed by Isabel, and perfectly carried out –though a bit recklessly, I must say- by Sirius and James.” Albus sighed with an already familiar twinkle in his eye and a rather cheeky smile. “But then when Sirius was charged with the betrayal of your parents and the murder of Peter Pettigrew and a dozen other Muggles, she was suddenly placed in the eye of the hurricane.
 
“You see, Harry, when Sirius allegedly betrayed the Order, Isabel became, to the eyes of most, either another victim of his deceit or an accomplice in the disloyalty. She claimed quite loudly that he was innocent, but no one believed her. I’m ashamed to admit that even I rejected her cries for help and stood, arms crossed, when Sirius was taken to Azkaban without a trial. She asked more than once to see him before he was sent away, but they were not married, which meant by wizarding law she did not have any visiting privileges. This devastated the young girl, and she tried to commit suicide. Or so, I believe.”
 
Harry’s look of utter shock and surprise did not concern the former Headmaster. He carried on calmly with his account of events.
 
“One night she was taken to St. Mungo’s by Emmeline Vance, who had found her in the apartment she had shared with Sirius. She had apparently taken great amounts of The Draught of Peace. We could never manage to establish whether she had taken the potion because she needed a bit of rest or because she intended to kill herself. She never spoke on the matter. After the incident she told me she had decided to leave the country for good, and she re-established in France as the letter you now possess indicates. Before departing, she told me she continued to believe Sirius to be innocent and asked me to contact her if he was ever released from imprisonment.
 
“She wrote to me from time to time informing when she was changing her living address and giving me small amounts of information about her life: mostly reporting she was still alive and well. As she indicates in her letters, she always asked about you, and she was very concerned for your well being. She was one of Lily’s best friends and therefore very fond of you. She never, however, indicated she was pregnant or the mother of a young girl.”
 
Harry was completely crestfallen. He had hoped Dumbledore knew something about Pauline. He stared once more at the bunch of letters he held in his hands, lost in his own thoughts, wondering what to ask next.
 
“Did you contact her when you found out Sirius was innocent?” he finally inquired.
 
“Yes, I kept my promise,” Dumbledore answered. “I wrote to her the same night you helped Sirius escape with Buckbeak. I owed her an apology; she had been right about Sirius.”
 
“She says you contacted her when Voldemort came back,” Harry began.
 
“Yes, I did. As you well know, the night Voldemort came back, I reformed the Order of the Phoenix. Being that she was a previous member, I asked her to come back and help us.”
 
“But she didn’t.”
 
“No, she didn’t. She replied, saying that if she could help me from where she was, she would gladly do it. Otherwise, she was determined to stay in France. I didn’t push the matter further; at the time, I believed she wasn’t ready to face Sirius again. I never suspected any other reasons behind it. And to be quite honest with you, I didn’t give the matter much thought. I was busy recruiting other people to the Order. I merely required her assistance when Hagrid needed a place to stay during one of his missions.”
 
“When he went with Madame Maxime to search for the giants?”
 
“Yes,” he answered with a nod. “Obviously Sirius didn’t let the matter go.”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“Evidently Sirius asked her repeatedly to reconsider her initial decision,” Dumbledore said pointing at the letters Harry held in his hand. “I advised him to give her a little space, but he did not.”
 
“Sirius told you that they were corresponding?”
 
“Yes, he told me. He was very curious about what Isabel did right after he was arrested. I told him what I knew. He also wanted me to convince her to fight for the Order. Clearly I didn’t do such a thing, and, although at the time recruiting people was crucial to the Order, I tried to persuade him to stop his attempts as well. During a couple of meetings Sirius pointed out that if Isabel had been with us things would’ve been better, being that she was a very gifted witch. He always tried to introduce the issue subtly or mention briefly her name.  He even used to ask Remus to write to her asking her to come back and fight for us; I don’t know if he ever did. But in the end we all knew Sirius simply wanted to see her again.”
 
Harry had one more question but wasn’t sure if he should ask it. He wasn’t even sure Dumbledore had the answer, but he had to know.
 
“Was Sirius still in love with her?”
 
“Yes. I’m afraid very much so.”
 
“Where can I find her?”
 
“The last time I heard from her she lived in Paris. If you have quill and parchment I’ll dictate to you the address.”
 
“Thank you, Albus,” Harry said when he’d finished scribbling the street name on a wrinkled piece of parchment he had found in his left pocket.
 
“Anytime, Harry.” And with these last words, the portrait of Albus Dumbledore fell back to sleep.

 

***

 
"Please, explain that again because I just don't get it," Ginny said.

 "I already did. I have to go to France," Harry sighed. He had showed her the letters and told her about the conversation he’d just had with Dumbledore's portrait.
 
"Why can't you just owl the woman?" she pressed on.
 
"I want to talk to her in person. I want to meet her," he explained. Harry couldn’t understand why this seemed to be such a problem. He had expected Ginny to be excited about the mystery involving Sirius’ past and the prospect of another Black still alive. Instead, her features had hardened progressively as he told her the story, and now she was completely enraged.
 
"But it’s the end of the season; you promised to be there!" she insisted.
 
"This is important, Ginny!"
 
"I give you that, but can't you just wait until the season is over? You know that the Montrose Magpies are right behind us. We are just two games away from winning the British League!"
 
"I'll be back before the next game; I promise," Harry groaned. He could tell she was really upset with the prospect of Harry’s trip but couldn’t manage to understand what could be so infuriating about the whole matter.
 
"You said that last season! Were you there? No!"
 
"We had to round up all the remaining Dementors! I just couldn't say to Kingsley 'I hope you have fun patronusing these guys. I'm going to a Quidditch game now.'" He sighed. "Besides, we've already discussed this like a thousand times, Ginny. I already said I'm sorry!"  If there was something that bothered Harry beyond anything else, it was Ginny’s need to fight old quarrels over and over again. It seemed like ‘sorry’ just wasn’t enough; she kept ramping about things that had happened ages ago as if they’d just happened the day before.
 
Ginny stared at him but said nothing. Harry could see she was angrier than ever, but he wasn't going to give into this little tantrum. Ignoring her murderous glances, he went to the kitchen looking for a butterbeer.
 
"Don't you walk away from me, Potter!" she raged once more. “You always seem to think that whatever quest you begin is far more important than anything else. Maybe that was true years ago in Voldemort’s time, when you were destined to defeat him. But not everything is about you and your needs, the world does not revolve around you ‘Oh Chosen One”. The world isn’t yours to save anymore Potter! There are people back here in realityland who have lives as well and you don’t seem to respect that. This game is important to me, I need you to be there. You know that I play so much better when you’re in the crowd; you know I need you to be there.”
 
Oh-oh, she had used the 'Potter' word. This wasn't going to be pretty. Instead of turning back immediately, he summoned a bottle of butterbeer and waited lazily for it to come to him. Ginny was being so unreasonable, she was definitely blowing things out of proportion. He uncorked the bottle, took a sip and finally spoke in a conciliating tone. "Look, Ginny, this is very important to me. I am going to France for a couple of days to find out if Pauline is Sirius' daughter, OK? Please understand that it is important to me. Sirius was the only family I had left; I owe him that much!"
 
She stared at him with a disbelieving look. A single tear rolled down her cheek as enormous amounts of sadness seemed to ripple through her body. She stood there frozen as rage began to replace the disappointment her eyes betrayed. She picked up the small cushion she had just bought to decorate the sofa, and threw it at Harry. The cushion was soon followed by a couple more and her wand which she held in her left hand started to blow little red sparks.
 
“I can’t believe you!” She screamed pointing the wand at her fiancée.  “I just told you how important your presence is for me, and what’s your answer? More self-centred bullshit! You talk as if I was the egoistical bitch here, as if I didn’t understand the importance of Sirius in your life and how much you cared for him. I do understand Potter, I’m just asking you to postpone the trip for after the game. Is that too much to ask? Things won’t change until then, this Isabel lady will still be in France and the girl will remain to be Sirius’ daughter, or not. Why does this trip have to be urgent? Because you can’t put at bay your curiosity? You’re acting as if you’ve just received an owl informing you of her imminent death!”
 
“It is not like that Ginny. I do care about your game, I do want to go and see you play.” He walked towards her and reached for her hand. She jerked off and averted his gaze but softened her features and lowered her menacing wand. “Look, I know you are angry. You think I won't be back in time to see you play against the Magpies, but I promise you I'll be here. The game is ages away. I have all the time in the world to go, meet Isabel, and come back."
 
"I know your weird conception of time Harry; your 'couple of days' always turn out to be a couple of weeks." She retorted looking away.
 
"In that case, you shouldn't be worried at all; your game is in two weeks! I'll be back just in time!"
 
Ginny snorted. Harry knew she was still angry, but was sure she was coming around. He tried to embrace her, but she remained still and avoided his warm gesture.
 
"You’d better be. I'll never forgive you if you miss it!" She finally gave in.
 
"Not in a million years. You sound as if I hate seeing you play; you know I love to see you on a broom. You look incredibly sexy, my dear. And I really appreciate my VIP passes as well," he grinned.
 
"OK, Potter." She half-smiled. She walked towards the kitchen but stopped midway. She summoned another butterbeer for herself and turned back to her fiancé. "Now, Harry, we have to discuss the date subject; my mother is getting on my nerves,"
 
"What is the hurry? I am going to marry you, Ginny; I just want to settle a couple of things in my life before the wedding."
 
"But we could set a date, nonetheless." She sipped from her drink before continuing. "You just calculate how long it might take you to settle the mystery issues you've bragged so much about, and we'll set the date based on that."
 
"Tell me something Ginny," he began. He couldn’t believe they were talking about this again. They had had an argument about it the week before and had finally agreed to let the matter drop for a while. What was it about women and dates? "Is it really your mother who's pressing the issue, or is it you?"
 
That did it. She was furious, again.
 
"How dare you call me a liar?" She screamed.
 
"I'm not calling you anything. Its just that lately the date subject is always on the table, and to be honest I'm getting tired of it!" Harry sincerely couldn’t understand why she continued to press the subject when he had explained that he needed to rearrange different things in his life before marrying her.
 
"Why on Earth would you ask me to marry you if you don't intend on actually doing it?"
 
 "This is ridiculous! I want to marry you; I have since God knows when. I just want to get my life organised before I do. Why is that so hard for you to understand? We have all the time in the world, Ginny, we are still young. I'm only 21 for crying out loud!"
 
 "I knew it! You think I'm gonna suck your youth away," she cried. "Padma warned me against this." She finally muttered.
 
"Have you gone mad? It has nothing to do with my youth, Ginny. It's just that I haven't completed my Auror's training; I haven't got a place of my own; I-"
 
Ginny cut him off. "What do you call this then?" she asked.
 
"A shaggy flat!" he responded. "Besides, since when do you take advice from Padma?"
 
"Excuses!" she shot back. "Hermione and Ron are getting married in two months, and we haven't even set a date!”
 
"I don't know what your problem is, Ginny. This is not a race, it doesn’t matter who gets married and when. It's like you're a completely different person; I don't recognize you anymore. You used to be laid back, funny and calm. Now you are angry all the time! Every thing drives you mad, and you are always complaining. What has happened to you? Since you joined the Harpies you’ve become such a-" But he stopped in mid-phrase before he said something he would regret for the rest of his life.
 
"Say it," she demanded. "End your sentence."
 
"Nothing. Just give it a rest." He sighed as he ruffled his black, tangled hair.
 
"No, I'm waiting." Ginny crossed her arms and began tapping the floor with her left foot.

"It is not important. What is important is that-"
 
"You don't have the balls! I know what you were going to say. A bitch! That's what you were going to say."
 
"Ginny," he pleaded.
 
"It's OK, Harry. Maybe you are right. Maybe, I have changed so much we shouldn't be together anymore."
 
"That's not what I meant."
 
"Yes it is. You just don't have the guts to say it out loud." And without another word she Dissaparated, leaving behind a deafening emptiness.
 

***
 

 “And then she Dissaparated,” Harry groaned as he held his head in his hands. He had just finished telling Hermione what had happened between Ginny and him.
 
“Oh, Harry, I’m so sorry. What are you going to do now?”
 
“I don’t know. It’s been two days since she left, and I haven’t been able to get in touch with her. I’ve already sent her seven owls; I tried to reach her through the floo network; I even went to The Burrow, but she doesn’t want to hear from me.” Harry was getting really worried by now. First he thought it was another of Ginny’s fits; he had waited for hours for her to come back and talk things over once she calmed down. He had tried to contact her, tell her he was sorry and try to reason with her, but she seemed stubbornly decided to give him the silent treatment. He was even beginning to wonder if she really meant to leave him; the thought made his insides turn.
 
“Maybe you should give her a little space; I think that she needs to think things over.”
 
“She was so upset.” He took a sip of tea. He had hoped Hermione would serve him a full glass of Firewhiskey, but given the earliness of the hour, he didn’t even dare suggest the pouring of liquor in her house.
 
“Yes, I imagine she was. But still.” Harry could tell Hermione was trying very hard to choose the right words before continuing. “You may be right about her latest changes. She is somehow different,”
 
“I know. The thing is I can’t place a finger on what has exactly changed,” he began.
 
Hermione gave him an incredulous look. “Harry, you know she’s become a little more edgy, and she gets angry with us about anything. Even Ron and I feel we have to choose our words carefully around her; she seems to take everything so personally.”
 
“Yeah, I know what you mean, Hermione. It’s just that I don’t understand where all these temperament changes are coming from. Since she joined the Harpies she has become unbearable. I don’t understand. Playing professional Quidditch was her dream; now that she’s made it, she doesn’t seem happy at all.”
 
“Maybe she can’t handle the pressure,” Hermione suggested.
 
“Ginny is not the type. She’s been through worse.” He sighed. Indeed, Ginny had fought Death Eaters numerous times and spent a childhood surrounded by men; she was a tough girl.
 
“Yeah, Harry, but this is different,”
 
“How so?”
 
 “I guess she’s afraid to fail. I think that Ginny feels that if she screws up this one chance, her life will be over. There’s nothing else she wants to do in life besides being a professional Quidditch player.”
 
“But she’s brilliant, Hermione. She was chosen from a hundred witches to make the team. Witches older and far more experienced than her. She is a natural! Don’t forget I’m her former Captain, I know what she’s made of!”
 
“Have you told her that?” She asked, “Maybe she needs to hear that from time to time. And besides, this is the professional leagues, you know? There is so much pressure.”
 
“I guess you are right.” This didn’t make Harry feel better. Now he felt like a complete git. He had failed to see how much Ginny needed his support.
 
“Don’t feel guilty about it, though.” Hermione had obviously read right through him. “I guess that’s the problem with women sometimes. They assume their partners should be able to read their minds and automatically know what’s wrong with them. When the truth is, men are completely oblivious of such things. Ginny should be the one telling you this, not me.”
 
This is why Harry loved Hermione so much. She had the gift of putting complicated things into simple words. She was great with giving advice about the most complex thing in the world: women. Harry was The Boy Who Lived, he knew how to fight Dementors, trace Black Wizards, detect concealed, dangerous magic; he even knew how to cook a decent meal with magic. But he was completely useless when it came to understanding women.
 
“And what do I do now?” he implored.
 
“I don’t know. You won’t find the answer in that Best Way to Charm Witches or whatever-it’s-called book of yours though,” she snorted. “When it comes to relationships, things are not written in books.”
 
“Is this for real? Hermione Jane Granger actually saying that the answer for everything is not in books?” He asked half-laughing “And please explain, how is it that you know about The Book?” Harry was completely stunned. He was convinced the existence of the sacred manual was only known by a selected group of males related to the Weasley clan.
 
“You guys are so obvious.” She wore a smug look but didn’t elaborate any further. “I guess you better give her some space right now. Let her think things over. Don’t pressure her anymore.
 
“I guess you are right. I’m still going to go find Isabel,”
 
“Are you sure? I know that it is important, but is it really urgent?”
 
“Yes it is. I’ll leave Ginny a note at The Burrow so she knows where I am. And besides, by taking this trip I’ll prove her wrong; I’ll be back in time for her game. You’ll see. And when I come back I’ll try to set a ruddy date.”
 
“We will be waiting for you. If you have the time, you should go and visit Montmartre; it is beautiful. And I strongly recommend the Pére Lachaise cemetery if you like history. Also, you could go a visit all the monuments on the right shore of the Seine, and be sure to visit the islands because you’ll find the best pieces of French architecture. And-”
 
“I don’t think I’ll have the time for visiting monuments, Hermione.” Harry laughed cutting her off. “But if I somehow do, I’ll keep all your suggestions in mind.”
 
Harry stood up and thanked her for the tea. He explained he couldn’t stay for lunch because he had to pack before heading to the Dissaparating point; his departure was scheduled for 3:00 PM that afternoon. She gave him a hug and wished him good luck after instructing him to write should anything happen. 
 
As Harry packed his bags for the small trip he was about to make, he pondered over the Ginny situation. Although he had the feeling that by leaving for France he was probably going to mess things up more than he already had, he had made up his mind. He was going to find Isabel no matter where she was. This whole deal was very important to him; Sirius’ had been the closest thing he had had to a parent, and thus he felt he owed him at least this little voyage.
 
The idea of Sirius being in love had never crossed Harry’s mind before, which was quite ridiculous now that he thought about it. Sirius used to have a life before Azkaban, and it surely included a romantic relationship. He was a very handsome man; he probably was the Hogwarts’ most popular guy during his schooling years, and it would be very difficult to think that he didn’t take advantage of his looks where the women were concerned. Harry wondered why Sirius never mentioned anything about Isabel or dating women, for that matter. He felt a pang in his stomach when he realized that, as it had happened with Dumbledore, Harry had never discussed with his godfather anything different than the war and Harry’s role in it. They had hardly talked about his parents or their youth as marauders; he had never been very interested in Sirius’ past life. He had never asked much about it. Maybe that was because Harry had wrongly thought that after the war he would have all the time in the world to talk with Sirius. He had never considered the idea of losing him. He sought comfort in the thought that he would have had to be a sick person to have considered the idea that Sirius Black would be murdered before they could even begin a life together. Then again, they were at war, and every war has casualties, generally the most painful ones. 
 
As Harry set the auto-watering-plant spell around his flat, and sent a note to the Burrow explaining where he was and how to be found, he felt a bit guilty about leaving. Maybe Hermione and Ginny were right; he didn’t know how to set his priorities. Maybe what he needed was to start caring a little bit more about his fiancé’s needs and support her as she whished him to. But then he began wondering with a bit of excitement about Isabel. What is she like? What is going to be her reaction when I come knocking at her door? Does Pauline know anything about Sirius Black and the Order of the Phoenix? Will Isabel admit Pauline is Sirius’ daughter – if she is, that is- or will she deny her daughter’s father’s true identity? Harry was nervous at the prospect of the meeting, but he couldn’t wait to arrive in Paris and meet the woman who once had made his godfather a happy man. As quickly and suddenly as his guilt had assaulted him; it disappeared to be replaced by happy anxiousness and the urgent need to leave London.
 
He arrived at the Dispparating point just in time. After a quick explanation to a Ministry official of his motives for the voyage, he walked onto the international Apparating platform and vanished on the spot. International travelling took a few milliseconds longer than local movements, which was quite uncomfortable for Harry; he hated the plunging and suffocating sensation of Apparition. Although those additional seconds were not of great significance, they were enough to make the trip excruciatingly tiresome.
 
The streets of Paris were different from anything he had known; they were more jovial and welcoming. People weren’t so nice though; they seemed to be quite tired of foreigners, and so they acted as if the only ones that mattered were Parisians themselves. The rest were just lucky to be there. Harry then realized he loved the city.
 
Finding Isabel’s place wasn’t difficult at all. The hard thing was actually knocking on the door. He took a deep breath, and before raising his arm, he imagined what would’ve happened if, instead of remaining in London, Sirius had visited Isabel, found out he had a daughter and stayed there. A twinge of regret that didn’t belong to him rang through his body as he found his fist banging on the door. 
 
A few minutes later, the door slowly creaked open. A stunning pair of questioning grey eyes welcomed him, followed by the most perfect visage he had ever set eyes upon. There she was, the most beautiful woman in the whole world, and she was smiling at him.
 
“Oui, bonjour?” she asked.
 
“Er-” was all he was able to mutter.
 
“Est-ce que je peux vous aider, monsieur?” she inquired further.
 
“Hem, oui.” He finally managed to respond. “Do you speak any English?”
 
“Oh. British,” she acknowledged. “Yes. Can I be of any assistance?” Her English was quite fluent, unlike Fleur’s, but it still held French vestiges underneath its singsong tone. It was lovely.  
 
“I’m looking for Isabel.” He hesitated. “Er, what’s her name… wait. Oh yes. Isabel Atkins, I believe.” What was happening to him? He knew perfectly well Isabel’s last name! He had lost the ability of coherent speech or thinking, for that matter.
 
“Who is looking for her?” she asked in a grave tone.
 
“Harry Potter.”
 
“Oh, I see.” She just stayed there examining him. He felt annoyed when he realized she was staring at his scar as if confirming his identity. “Come in,” she finally whispered. “I’m sorry, but my mother died three years ago. I expected your visit much sooner, I was beginning to wonder if you were going to come at all.”
 
 

 

A/N: I want to thank my incredible beta reader India Inverse who always had wise and encouraging words. Please review, I really appreciate your comments as readers.

 

 

 

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