Walking In Slow Motion
Own nothing (except my shiny wonderful man). The Buffy stuff still remains the property of Joss Whedon, the Harry Potterness remains the property of J.K. Rowling. The song excerpt is from “To Her Door” by Paul Kelly (good Aussie song, highly recommend, one of my faves…)A.N:
Hi! An update! One that even involved something close to what actually happened in the books! Still really appreciate all my wonderful readers & reviewers (I ADORE constructive criticism and suggestions, hint hint) and thank you very much to the lovely people who nominated me for the Crossing Over Awards. Voting for me would be neat, too. Lotsa love XX
CHAPTER FIVEWalking in Slow Motion He came in on a Sunday, every muscle aching,
walking in slow motion, like he’d just been hit.
Did they have a future? Would he know his children?
Could he make a picture, and get them all to fit?
Dawn woke up early on the morning of Harry’s hearing, and from the moment her eyes sprang open she knew there would be absolutely zero chance of snoozing. So she tumbled out of bed, lit the lamps with a flick of her wand, and began to dress.
She half expected to be the first one up, but almost literally bumped into Sirius on the landing the moment she stepped out of her room. She couldn’t help but feel his eyes on her as he followed her down the stairs and it made Dawn grin to herself a little bit. She didn’t often get to dress in such feminine clothes, and she knew the little pinstripe suit with the pencil skirt worked well with her new boots, and that the loose bun complete with a few stray wisps of hair framing her face completed the look perfectly.
They reached Harry and Ron’s hallway before Sirius finally cracked. He grabbed at Dawn’s hand so she was forced to pull up short and swing around to face him.
“Yes, Sirius?” she grinned.
He just shook his head. She could see his Adam’s apple heave when he swallowed.
“You look bloody fantastic like that.”
She flushed prettily, eyes glittering in the semi-darkness. “Why thank you, Padfoot darling.”
They grinned, and the moment carried them into a somewhat forceful kiss that made Dawn thankful she was such a minimalist when it came to makeup. Sirius’ arms had wrapped about her waist, crushing their bodies together. It was several long seconds – or maybe minutes, or even hours – before Dawn finally summoned the will to push away. They were both panting a little.
“I have to wake Harry up,” Dawn puffed.
“I’m already awake,” a grouchy voice muttered, and when Dawn and Sirius whirled about (hastily putting some distance between each other in the process), Harry was easing the door to his room closed. Ron’s snores were cut off abruptly.
Dawn smiled bracingly at him, noticing with a little thrill that he was wearing some of the clothes she’d bought for him, black slacks and a deep blue dress shirt. They seemed to fit, too.
He grunted. Sirius slapped him on the back, recognising his Godson’s mood at once and deciding that silence might be the best way to make it through the morning without a major blow-up. Sharing a look with Dawn over the top of Harry’s head, he could tell she’d picked up exactly the same vibe. Harry was clearly snappy when nervous. Like his father.
It was a lot easier to get through the hallway near the front door now, thanks to Dawn’s efforts in removing the portrait of Mrs Black, but still, Sirius and Dawn were both surprised to hear Harry’s voice just before they were about to descend the stairs into the kitchen.
“Can I ask something?”
He’d stopped dead in his tracks, they both turned to look at him. It was Sirius who answered, prodding him to go on.
“If this hearing goes badly… can I… Can I come back here and stay with you?”
There was a moment of silence. Sirius bit his lower lip and looked at Dawn. Dumbledore would likely not want Harry around Order Headquarters any longer than was strictly necessary. More importantly, what about the blood protection? Harry had no choice but to stay with the Dursleys for at least some of his time. Harry had asked him this when he had first arrived at Headquarters, but Sirius had managed to fob him off. He’d been hoping the boy wouldn’t ask again.
“You’re not going to lose, Harry,” Sirius said evasively.
“But if I do?” Harry pressed. There was the faintest trace of desperation about him. What would the Dursleys do if he was just dumped back on their doorstep for good? “I’d really feel better knowing I didn’t have to go back to the Dursleys.”
Sirius looked to Dawn for help. He just didn’t know how to put this delicately.
Dawn squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “Look, kiddo, it’s not all up to us. As far as the Ministry is concerned, the Dursleys are your legal guardians you’re meant to live with them if you’re not at Hogwarts. There’s nothing we can do to change that.”
Harry opened his mouth, eyes blazing, so Dawn quickly cut him off before he could launch into a tantrum – this was not the day for emotions to be running high.
“But we can promise you that we will do everything we possibly can to make sure that you aren’t there for a second longer than you have to be, ok? You’re wanted here, Harry, don’t ever forget that. And we’ll do everything in our power to have you with us.”
Harry looked quickly at his shiny new shoes. Dawn must have spent a fortune on them. Before Sirius bought him his Firebolt, nobody had ever spent a fortune on him. He swallowed.
“Thanks,” he whispered.
Sirius grinned at Dawn. She didn’t know it herself yet, but she was working wonders with Harry. The sullen boy who’d shown up at Grimmauld Place only a couple of days before she had was slowly mellowing, slowly beginning to understand a little more about the way the world worked. Dawn noticed Harry still staring at his feet and winked at Sirius.
“Group hug!” she called, and she and Sirius converged on Harry from either side, enveloping him in a warm embrace before he knew what was happening.
They didn’t let go even when they heard footsteps approaching.
“What’s going on?” Remus asked, a slight grin on his face.
“Group hug,” Sirius announced, both he and Dawn reaching out simultaneously to pull Remus into the mix.
Remus joined in happily – it had been far too long since his last group hug, the Marauders had had them all the time, even after their Hogwarts days were over. Harry seemed a little tense, sandwiched in the middle, but Remus noticed that one of his rather small hands had latched tightly onto Sirius’ shirt at the shoulder.
“So why are we group hugging?” Remus finally asked.
“Because we love Harry,” Dawn replied promptly, giving her Godson an extra squeeze as she spoke.
“Fair enough,” Remus said, smiling a little as Harry couldn’t quite hide the way his face lit up.
The group hug finally broke up and they all headed downstairs to breakfast, Dawn fussing over Harry’s collar but not even wasting her energy on his hair. Potter hair was going to do what Potter hair was going to do, and no amount of mother-henning on her part was going to change that. Molly and Arthur were already in the kitchen to their surprise, Arthur dressed in what would’ve passed as a reasonably muggle pinstripe suit if it wasn’t for the orange bomber jacket, Molly still in her purple dressing gown. Tonks was at the table as well, a few seats along from Molly, yawning every couple of seconds. Harry wondered if she’d been out all night, up to something for the Order.
Molly kicked into gear and made Harry some toast, but after two bites Harry looked like he was trying to swallow sandpaper. Dawn finished making her coffee and poured him some juice. He shot her a grateful look and took a sip.
“Better?” she murmured, taking a buttered muffin from the stack for herself.
“Good. Look at it this way – if you eat your breakfast, you’ll have something in your stomach to hurl all over Fudge if we run into him!”
Mission accomplished: Harry laughed. He sobered up again when Arthur informed him that they would be taking the underground to the Ministry of Magic because arriving in non-magical means would make a good impression for his hearing. The last crust of toast dropped back to Harry’s plate and he pushed it away.
Arthur went on to explain that Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, would be questioning him. Tonks stopped yawning long enough to promise that Bones was ok and he’d get a fair go with her. Sirius and Remus were also chipping in their two knuts’ worth, Remus assuring him that the law was on his side and Sirius cautioning him against losing his temper.
Dawn’s lips quirked a little. Harry was nodding along with whatever was being said to him, but he was getting a little paler with every word. Sitting around here listening to bracing words was not helping in the slightest. Nor was Molly desperately attacking his head with a wet comb; now his hair looked greasy as well as messy.
“Maybe we should get going,” Dawn suggested lightly, and drained her coffee cup.
Arthur caught onto her vibe immediately and checked his watch. “You’re right. We’re a bit early, but I think you’ll be better off at the Ministry than hanging around here, Harry.”
“Ok,” Harry said, moving as if he was on autopilot.
He barely noticed the last words of encouragement from the rest of the adults remaining behind, barely felt Molly hug him, or Sirius pat his back heartily, and it didn’t register as Tonks offered to walk them out so she could Apparate home for some much-needed sleep. Sirius followed them to the front door so he could bolt it behind them. While Arthur was busy unbolting it, he pulled Dawn aside and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Be careful,” he muttered.
“You know me,” Dawn grinned.
“Exactly, that’s why I’m worried. It’s Tuesday, you know,” Sirius quipped, and Tonks laughed as Dawn’s hand shot out to whack him upside the head.
They stepped out into the cool, grey morning, Dawn managing to catch Sirius’ eye one last time before the door swung closed between them. Tonks was still sniggering softly to herself as she and Dawn followed a few steps behind Harry and Arthur’s brisk pace.
“Shut up,” Dawn sniped at the younger witch, whose sniggers were becoming outright giggles. “What were you even doing at HQ this morning, anyway? Was there a specific reason you needed to make contact, or were you just hoping to run into someone? Now who could you have been so keen to bump into, hmm? And exactly how much, ah, bumping were you hoping to do?”
It was Dawn’s turn to laugh as Tonks’ giggles broke off abruptly, replaced by a magenta blush on her cheeks that stood out in stark relief against the blond curls bouncing on her head. She’d suspected there was something, or potentially could be something, between Tonks and Remus for a while, ever since Tonks had let slip how much she loved Remus’ amber eyes when they were into their third bottle of wine on their ill-fated girls’ night in.
“No!” she said, too quickly. “I just needed to find someone to take my next night duty so I can have a night off. Arthur’s going to cover for me. Now I have to be going. Bye. Wotcher, Arthur. Good luck Harry,” she said, before disappearing behind a nearby dumpster. A second later, they heard the telltale crack of Disapparating.
They had reached the dingy underground station by this time, and Dawn, still snickering to herself, came up to flank Harry. There were a lot more commuters in the station than there had been in the deserted square, all of a sudden Dawn’s eyes were darting in every direction, trying to pick out potential Death Eaters or other threats. Arthur had become a little distracted by all the muggle things that suddenly engulfed him from all sides.
Dawn bought three tickets and they crammed into the next train, emerging at a stop in the very heart of London. Dawn and Harry shared a grin as they were swept along in the tides of suits all rushing out of the station and towards various buildings. They both blended in with the crowd perfectly, but Arthur’s bight orange bomber jacket stood out like a Hippogriff amongst horses.
“At least we won’t get separated,” Dawn smiled.
After giving Arthur a moment to get his bearings (he’d never needed to use the visitors’ entrance to the Ministry before, so it took him a few seconds to remember exactly which direction to head), they set off towards one of the dingier parts of town.
is where the Ministry of Magic is?” Harry snorted to himself. Hobos would find this area of town too rundown.
“Impressive, huh?” Dawn laughed, still not looking at him, but incessantly surveying the scene for potential threats. She and Arthur herded Harry into a beat up old red telephone box and Dawn picked up the handset and dialled six, two, four, four, two.
A cool female voice filled the phone box. “Welcome to the Ministry of Magic, please state your name and business.”
Arthur was uncertainly eyeing the receiver, so Dawn piped up as he was reaching to take the mouthpiece to lift to his ear.
“Arthur Weasley, Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office. Harry Potter, disciplinary farce… I mean, hearing. Dawn Summers, guardian for Harry Potter.”
Harry giggled slightly at Dawn’s take on his ‘hearing’, the sound drowned out by the clinking of metal in the coin return slot, and the cool voice requesting the visitors to attach the badges to their robes and submit their wands for examination at the security desk. Then the floor grumbled and dropped out from under them. It was like they were falling slowly through the ground. When it finally stopped, they piled out of the phone box into an enormous, dark stone atrium. Witches and Wizards were rushing about everywhere.
Arthur ushered them to a sleepy looking guard who examined Dawn and Harry’s wands, stared at Harry’s scar for a minute, then finally let them on their way when Dawn got sick of waiting and snatched the wands from his hand. As they were passing through the Auror Department, Kingsley slipped something into Dawn’s hands with a wink.
“Sirius should get a kick out of this,” he muttered, and was on his way before anyone could even suspect they’d exchanged so much as a ‘hello’. Dawn barely glanced down as she tucked her acquisition under the cloak slung casually over one arm. The offices were getting smaller and smaller as they moved along the hallway in Arthur’s wake, and by the time they got to his Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Department, an office that was barely big enough for one person somehow had two desks and a row of filing cabinets crammed in.
Arthur picked up a file and started muttering about regurgitating toilets, but Dawn wasn’t listening. She was glancing through the magazine Kingsley had slipped her, giggling quietly to herself. Sirius would definitely get a kick out of this.
“Ah, Harry, Dawn, this is Perkins,” Arthur smiled as a tiny old white-haired wizard panted into the office, but he paid them no mind.
“Oh, Arthur,” he dithered. “They’ve changed the hearing. It’s at eight o’clock in old Courtroom Ten now!”
Dawn looked at her watch. Five past eight.
* * * * *
Arthur was not allowed into the courtroom, but as Harry’s Godmother, Dawn refused to wait outside and passed straight into the room with Harry. They had taken only two steps from the door when Harry pulled up short and gasped. Dawn squeezed his hand and walked him forwards. There were torches placed throughout the dark dungeon courtroom, but the scores of figures in plum robes on the benches towering over Harry and Dawn were all shadowed.
Harry bit his lip. “Sorry. I – I didn’t know the time had been changed.”
The same male, cold voice replied. “That is not the Wizengamot’s fault. An owl was sent to you this morning. Take your seat.”
“If I’m not wrong, Justice Decree number twenty-seven A states that all parties involved in any courtroom proceedings must be given twenty-four hours notice of any proposed changes to schedule,” Dawn said, her voice quiet and calm, but carrying.
In the meantime, Harry had crossed to the centre of the room and perched gingerly in the uncomfortable stone chair, praying silently that the chains on the arms didn’t spring to life and bind him there.
“Why are you here?” the male voice snapped at Dawn, and now that he had moved forwards, Harry could see that it belonged to Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic.
Dawn smiled, but it was a horrible, cold smile that made her look harsh and unforgiving, like she was made of ice and steel. “I am here as Harry Potter’s guardian.”
“Harry Potter’s Aunt and Uncle are his guardians.”
“As his Godmother, I am authorised to act in that capacity.”
“Very well,” Fudge muttered gruffly. “Weasley, bring her a chair.”
“Oh, I’m fine standing, thank you,” Dawn said serenely, gliding over to position herself behind Harry’s seat. She felt Harry relax a little now that she was close.
In as forbidding a voice as he could muster, Fudge began to read out the charges, but was soon interrupted by a quiet, raspy voice announcing Dumbledore’s arrival as a witness for the defence. Harry’s head turned to fast towards the sound of his headmaster’s voice that he cricked his neck. Dawn squeezed his shoulder and tried not to smile too broadly at Dumbledore. She was, after all, still a bit mad at him for the way he was handling Harry. Even now he was staring up at the Wizengamot and had not even spared a fraction of a glance in Harry’s direction even though he was standing right beside his chair.
“You got our message that the time and place had been changed, then?” Fudge said, with much stuttering and a red stain on his cheeks.
Dumbledore cheerily replied that he hadn’t, luck had brought him to the Ministry three hours early, and conjured two incredibly comfortable-looking chairs. He insisted Dawn take the one with the fluffiest cushion. Dawn redoubled her efforts not to smile as she thanked him and graciously took the seat.
They waited quietly as Fudge and Madam Bones began their questions and Harry answered as well as he could. Yes, he was Harry James Potter, yes, he lived at number four, Privet Drive, yes, he produced the Patronus, and yes, it was a corporeal Patronus (once Madam Bones had explained to him what the term meant).
Dawn could see Harry getting more worked up; neither of the interrogators were giving him a chance to tell the full story, but before she could send him some silent warning to keep his cool, he spotted an opening and bellowed out that he’d only used magic to save himself and his cousin (fat and useless though he was) from two Dementors.
Predictably, Fudge tried to laugh the story off as the ravings of a pathological liar and attention seeker, but Dumbledore was ready and before anyone knew what was happening, he had Mrs Figg, Harry’s batty old Squib neighbour who had witnessed the Dementor attack, in his comfy chair and testifying.
Dawn almost felt a little sorry for Harry; his mouth was opening and closing and she could practically see his mind spinning behind those expressive green eyes. It was funny, they might be Lily’s eyes, but sometimes they reminded her so much of James that it broke her heart. Lily had this frightening ability to close off her mind to anyone in the blink of an eye, but James had never been that way. With one look, Dawn had always been able to read her brother’s very soul, and she was discovering to read her Godson in just the same way.
It seemed over in a heartbeat; one moment Dumbledore was arguing with Fudge, trying to get him to wake up and smell the Voldemort-flavoured coffee, and the next, they Wizengamot were casting their votes. There were identically whooshes as both Harry and Dawn let out the breaths they hadn’t realised they’d been holding. The vote had swung their way; Harry was cleared, he was going back to Hogwarts with his friends. Dawn watched as Harry turned to speak to Dumbledore, but the Professor still didn’t look at him. He escorted Mrs Figg to the exit without looking back. Harry was frowning.
“C’mon, kiddo,” Dawn muttered, leading him to the door before Fudge could speak again and she’d be forced to hit him. She didn’t fancy a stint in Azkaban at the moment. Knowing her luck, she’d have to share a cell with Bellatrix Lestrange.
Arthur was waiting outside, his face split into a wide grin when Harry announced that he was cleared in a strangled voice, but the expression froze when the door banged open again and the entire Wizengamot filed out. Last, of course, was Percy Weasley, but father and son seemed to see nothing but a black hole where the other stood.
Once they were alone again in the dingy corridor outside Courtroom Ten, the eldest Weasley led them to the lift.
“I’ll walk you out, I’ve got to go to Bethnal Green and see about this regurgitating toilet.”
As the lift carried them swiftly upwards, Harry allowed himself a bit of a giggle over the idea of a regurgitating toilet. Even though he agreed with Arthur and Dawn that the recent spate of anti-muggle pranks was very disturbing, and showed signs of more a serious hatred, it was hard to be serious right at this moment. He was going back to Hogwarts, to his true home. He didn’t feel so light-hearted a moment later when the doors of the lift sprang open and the trio inside found themselves face to face with two of their least favourite people in the world, Cornelius Fudge and Lucius Malfoy.
“How’s that vomit coming, Harry?” Dawn muttered under her breath.
Harry would’ve snickered, but he was suddenly feeling winded. How could that man stand there and look him in the face, sneering, when only weeks before Harry had seen him dressed in all his Death Eater glory, jeering louder than anyone as Voldemort tortured him in that graveyard. Dawn was glaring harder than even Arthur could manage. When they’d been Aurors, the only person the Marauders had wanted to see behind bars more than Bellatrix Lestrange (besides Voldemort, obviously) was Lucius Malfoy. None of them had been able to forget the attack on Dawn when they were only fifteen.
“Well, well, well,” Malfoy drawled. “Patronus Potter. The Minister here was just telling me of your, ah, snakelike
“There’s a lot of that going around at the moment,” Dawn returned quickly. She didn’t want Harry’s mouth to get him back into trouble the second he’d got himself out of it.
Harry himself was trying not to shiver. If Dawn’s voice wasn’t icy enough, the look in Malfoy’s eyes as he looked her over was enough to drop the temperature in the corridor several degrees.
“And Dawn Summers. I must confess I am surprised to see you here. I thought you had run off to live amongst the Muggles years ago,” the pale wizard sneered, his mouth curling cruelly.
Much to Harry and Arthur’s shock, Dawn only smiled her brightest smile in return. “Call me a blast from the past, Lucius. There’s a lot of that going around these days too, isn’t there?”
“Miss Summers,” Fudge broke in gruffly then. “You know Mr Malfoy, do you?”
“Oh, yes,” Dawn chirped, still smiling as if she didn’t have a care in the world. “Lucius and I go all the way back to Hogwarts days. Are you still a rapist, Lucius?”
The silence was explosive.
Fudge’s jaw was hanging so low it may have actually been dislocated, and Malfoy’s cheeks were growing steadily pinker. Arthur’s expression had frozen, but a look of horror was dawning over Harry’s face, which made Dawn send him a swift wink and hook her arm through his.
“Come on, Harry, I’ll buy you a celebratory ice-cream.”
She walked him forwards, but stopped for a moment in Malfoy’s face, glaring into his maliciously glittering eyes. “Oh, and give Wormtail a kiss for me. Tell him I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends. He’ll love that.”
And she and Harry sailed on towards the Atrium, Arthur following in a slight daze, leaving two fuming wizards in their wake.
* * * * *
Harry licked at his ice-cream, staring out over the city. He’d mentioned he’d never been on the London Eye before, and before he knew it, he was in one of the capsules with Dawn, gazing out at what felt like infinity to him. His mind was churning – so much had happened that morning, it wasn’t even lunchtime yet, and he felt like he had a million questions burning inside him.
Why was Dumbledore ignoring him? Why wouldn’t Fudge believe him about Voldemort? What the hell was Lucius Malfoy doing at the Ministry today of all days? What had Dawn meant by all those things she’d said to him? Why had she called him a rapist, and what was all that stuff about Wormtail?
“Something on your mind, Harry?”
Dawn was chomping on her ice-cream cone, seemingly staring out at the city as he was, but somehow Harry could tell she was watching him. He shrugged. It wasn’t so much something as and endless supply of things on his mind.
“Some morning we’ve had, huh?” she grinned when he still didn’t say anything.
She waited another moment before trying again. “I know you’ve probably got a lot of questions about everything, and I want you to remember that it’s ok to ask me about anything you want. If I can answer, I’ll tell you the truth. If I can’t answer, I’ll tell you.”
“Don’t know where to start,” Harry finally muttered.
“Start with whatever pops into your head first.”
“Why did you say that stuff about Wormtail? You told Malfoy to give him a kiss.”
Dawn sighed. “You don’t like the easy questions, do you kiddo? When we were at Hogwarts, Peter kinda had a crush on me. It got pretty bad at one point, almost tore the boys up… We all learned to ignore it, I guess, and he was pretty good at acting like nothing was wrong… When Remus told me the truth about what had happened with the Fidelius Charm, I figured out why Peter would do it.”
Harry frowned at Dawn over the top of his ice-cream. “What do you mean?”
“He might have been the weakest of us, but Peter would’ve died before he willingly gave up your Dad. James was his hero, Peter only ever did anything to keep James on his side, even if he was scared out of his wits.”
Harry’s ice-cream was starting to dribble over his fingers, but he didn’t notice. He was staring at Dawn, slightly open-mouthed, waiting for her to finish, even though in the back of his mind he knew where she was heading.
“There was only one thing Voldemort could’ve offered Peter to make him turn his back on James. Me.”
“No wonder Sirius wanted to kill him.”
Dawn laughed a little bit. She Vanished the forgotten remains of Harry’s snack and cleaned his fingers with a wave of her wand.
“You and my Dad were pretty close, then? As close as he and Sirius?” Harry went on, fuelled by the promise of an honest answer.
“We were as close as any siblings you can imagine,” she admitted, her eyes misting over. “I felt as connected to him as I did to my biological sister, Buffy. He meant the world to me.”
Harry nodded – she’d mentioned the sister she’d been separated from a couple of times.
“But James and Sirius, they were a different type of close. Not more, or less, than I was with James, just different. Like Fred and George, even. Finished each others’ sentences more often than not. Lily and I used to get whiplash looking back and forth between them!”
“Was my Mum your best friend?”
“No, she wasn’t.”
Dawn smiled – Harry looked so shocked, as if it would’ve been a given.
“Remus has always been my best friend in the world. When I arrived at Hogwarts in fifth year, Lily’s best friend was a girl named Isabel. She was a really cool girl, but she died that year.”
“Voldemort?” Harry asked in a hushed voice.
“Suicide,” Dawn whispered. “It’s probably not a good idea to bring any of this up in front of Remus, ok Harry? Isabel was his girlfriend, and something like that never really leaves you.”
Harry was suddenly wishing Dawn had lied to him. He was quiet, not even pretending to look at the view anymore and when their ride came to an end, he left the Eye still without a word. She let him wander in silence for a few minutes, scanning to crowds still for threats to his safety but spotting none.
They were wandering along the riverbank for a fair while before he spoke.
“The truth sucks, doesn’t it?”
“Yep. And the real bitch of it is that once you know, there’s no taking it back. I guess the trick is making damn sure you want to know the answer before you ask the question.”
Harry mulled it over.
“Why did you leave me at the Dursleys?”
She stopped in her tracks, staring with enormous eyes like a deer caught in the headlights.
“I know you couldn’t get custody of me,” he rushed on. “But why didn’t you visit?”
Her eyes were watering, but she was fighting hard against it. “Because I was only making it harder on you.”
“How could having my Godmother have made anything harder on me?” Harry snapped.
“Your Aunt and Uncle thought they could make you normal if they really tried,” Dawn mumbled, not able to look him in the face. “Part of that was cutting everything at all magical out of your life – erasing your parents, heritage, everything about your life. Having some Yank Witch bursting through their front door every other minute sorta got in the way of that.”
“What happened?” Harry asked. His voice was softer now.
“I knew they were mistreating you. You weren’t getting proper clothes, Petunia wasn’t bothering to change your diapers, would only let you have one a day not matter how bad it got, fed you about a quarter as much as they fed the beach ball. I mean, Dudley…”
She shrugged. “Nobody would help me, or if they were willing, there was nothing they could do. A lot of people in those first few months didn’t even want me anywhere near you – there were a lot of people still saying if Sirius was guilty, I had to be, too. I think some idiots like Fudge still kinda think that way. But I kept going back for you. Nothing could stop me – every second I had I was at the Dursley’s, taking care of you.”
“I realised what they were doing. Every time I saw you, they had to work twice as hard to squash the magic out of you. For every one thing I gave you, they took two away. In the end the only way to give you even the slightest chance was to leave you at their mercy until you were old enough for Dumbledore to step in. You had just turned two when I realised I couldn’t see you anymore.”
Dawn had lost her battle, she was crying silently now. She was still not looking at him, looking out at the murky water, with little droplets sliding quietly down her cheeks. Harry bit his lip. He should be mad, should be shouting at her and possibly even trying to drown her in the Thames. Instead he reached for her hand and she shuddered a little before reigning in her emotions.
“I kept an eye on you, though,” she said, meeting his troubled gaze at last. “Every now and then I would look in on you, make sure things weren’t too bad. Remember that horrible orange pompom sweater that shrunk so much you couldn’t wear it? I s’pose you’ve always thought that was accidental magic, but that was really me… And I suggested to Dumbledore that he should get Hagrid to deliver your Hogwarts letter, you know.”
Harry smiled and wiped at his eyes beneath his glasses with his free hand.
“Come on,” Dawn said, squeezing the hand he’d left in hers. “The others are probably going nuts waiting for news. We’d better get home and put them out of their misery.”
“So,” Harry grinned as they began to walk to the nearest Underground Station. “What’s going on with you and Sirius? Are you back together?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know,” Dawn sighed. “It’s complicated.”
“Do you still love each other?”
She didn’t need to think about that one. “Yes, we do. We’ll always love each other, that’s not even a question. But one of those sucky parts about being an adult is that love doesn’t automatically solve all your problems, Harry. There’s a lot to be worked out there, you know.”
Harry just looked at her like she was an idiot. One who liked to unnecessarily complicate things. “Well I think you should just go for it.”
* * * * *
The whole household was crowded into the kitchen when they returned; like they couldn’t wait an extra second to hear the verdict of Harry’s hearing. Hermione was slightly shaking in her seat with anxiety, when Harry announced he was going back to Hogwarts she almost fainted with relief.
Sirius cheered with the rest and gave his godson a one-armed hug before sending him off to celebrate with his friends. It didn’t escape his notice that Harry’s eyes were ever-so-slightly red-rimmed, however, and when he turned to face Dawn, she seemed to have developed the same mysterious affliction.
“Everything alright?” he murmured underneath the war-cry the twins and Ginny had started up in celebration of Harry’s beating the system.
“HE GOT OFF! HE GOT OFF! HE GOT OFF!”
Dawn managed a tiny smile and nodded her head in Harry’s direction. “Yeah. I think we understand each other a little better now, you know?”
“Oh, and here,” she pulled the magazine from Kingsley from under her cloak and pushed it into his chest. “Something to confess, lover?”
“HE GOT OFF! HE GOT OFF! HE GOT OFF!”
“You’ll understand later. You won’t be able to miss it.”
“HE GOT OFF! HE GOT – ”
“Shut up!” Molly roared at her three loudest, and moments later a semi-orderly lunch had got underway and the magazine was stuffed into Sirius’ robes pocket.
Sirius sat in his usual place between Dawn and Remus, Remus was chatting with Molly about healing spells and Sirius had to admit he wasn’t interested in the least. They’d covered all those in Auror training. Dawn wasn’t talking at all, just turning her food into mush with her fork and smearing it all over her plate. He could tell there was something on her mind, but she wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.
He himself was finding an unexpected emotion rearing up inside him – disappointment. A tiny part of him had decided that he wouldn’t be too horrified if Harry was expelled from Hogwarts, even though Hogwarts was the best place for him at the moment. He knew it was selfish, wrong, childish and probably even a little insane, but he couldn’t stop that miniscule voice in the back of his mind that kept telling him that if Harry was expelled, he would have a family. That everything would suddenly become perfect; he, Dawn and Harry would make their own little world within the confines of Grimmauld Place. It would be quiet, but safe, and complete.
He shook his head to rid himself of the thoughts and looked down the table to where Harry sat, grinning, in between his two best friends. What sort of guardian would he be if he could take that away from Harry? What was wrong with him?
The afternoon and evening passed peacefully enough, but Sirius could detect a sort of muted vibe in the air. After dinner, Harry gave the household a rundown of the morning, and his hearing, and while the kids seemed enthralled by his spirited retelling, it seemed just a little flat to Sirius. And it ended rather abruptly; Harry clammed up about what had happened after he was cleared, saying only that they had run into Fudge and Lucius Malfoy on their way out, then Dawn had taken him for ice-cream and brought him home.
The youngsters seemed to accept that readily enough – the hearing itself seemed to provide all the excitement they needed, but Sirius and Remus immediately turned to Dawn, who obliged by muttering the details of the exchange that had taken place between her and Malfoy. She too, however, was less than willing to discuss what had taken place between her and Harry afterwards.
“We talked,” she shrugged, then changed the subject by suggesting Dumbledore should be told that Malfoy was still frequenting the Ministry next time he made contact.
It was late that evening before Sirius even remembered the magazine Dawn had given him. The house had all retired for the night, and he was just pulling his robes off when he felt the weight in his pocket. When he had shed down to his boxers, he fished the magazine out of his robes and settled back against his pillows to flick through.
It didn’t take him long to find what Dawn was talking about. The Quibbler
had never exactly been the pinnacle of credibility, but this was wild even for them. They had published an article containing the testimony of some psychotic hag (because no sane person would suggest he would cheat on Dawn, let alone cheat on her for someone who looked like Slimer from Ghostbusters), who swore that Sirius was really a singer called Stubby Boardman, who’d been on a romantic date with her at the time of James and Lily’s murder and all that had followed. Sirius didn’t know whether to laugh or to write an angry letter to Xenophilius Lovegood, the editor, threatening to sue for defamation. The only singing he’d ever done in public was either a dare or a karaoke night.
His door opened and closed; when he looked up Dawn was standing a few steps inside his room in her boxers and t-shirt, looking at him with those luminous blue eyes.
“Um, is everything alright?”
“I’m not sure. I hope so.”
He smiled at that, appreciating the honesty. Dawn had drifted a few steps closer now, she was almost to the foot of his bed and chewing her lip. He patted the mattress.
“Do you want to sit down?”
She closed the distance between them, perching awkwardly on the edge of his bed. Her eyes flicked over his bare chest and she looked away, trying not to smile. He was thinner now, paler, still slightly sunken and she didn’t think he’d ever get rid of that sort of wasted air, but damn he was still so beautiful.
Without thinking, she reached out to touch him, tracing her fingers from his cheek, down his neck and then to his chest, feeling the last reserves of muscle that had desperately clung to his bones. Her hand brushed over his stomach (flatter than hers now, dammit) and he shivered and caught her hand in his. The movement startled her back into the present, her eyes flew up to lock with his and she felt the heat creeping up her neck at the look in his eyes.
“Dawn, what are you doing?”
She smiled sheepishly. “Taking the advice of an artless fifteen year old boy.”
He didn’t have a chance to question her answer because as soon as the words were out, she was moving forwards and somehow he was too, their lips fusing together somewhere in the middle. Sirius stopped thinking, he was feeling his way now as he grabbed Dawn and rolled her over until somehow she ended up laying on his bed beneath him, her hands tangling in his hair and his running up and down her sides.
It was several long, steamy minutes before Sirius pulled back to stare down into Dawn’s face while they both regained their breath. The colour was high in her cheeks and her eyes had come to life with a galaxy of sparkles.
“Are you sure?” he panted.
“Aren’t you?” she panted back.
He answered in the form of another kiss, slower and deeper and somehow more thrilling than the last and Dawn couldn’t quite bite back the moan that escaped from her lips as his hands found their way underneath her shirt, sliding it up over her head. Sirius didn’t stop to listen to the whispering of the fabric as it swished to the floor, he was too wrapped up in the body beneath him, kissing his way down her chest and to the waistband of her Gryffindor boxers (was fate trying to tell him something – her boxers perfectly matched his). He hooked one finger underneath the waistband and wordlessly Dawn obliged, raising her hips a little so he could peel them off.
As soon as her boxers were gone, Sirius leaned eagerly in for another kiss, revelling in the feeling of more of their bare skin moulded together as Dawn tugged his own boxers down over his hips, then used her feet to push them down his legs and kick them off over his feet.
All of a sudden both Sirius and Dawn seemed to realise that they were in a position they hadn’t been in for years, naked together, and about to make love. There was a bit of nervous giggling, and some trembling, and when Dawn, laughing and blushing, muttered that she felt like she was fifteen all over again, Sirius kissed her cheek and nuzzled her nose affectionately. He knew exactly what she meant, because he was feeling it too. He remembered what their first time had been like, how she had looked up at him with those indescribable eyes, nervous but trusting, and how he’d never been more nervous himself, anxious he would hurt her and desperate to satisfy her, to show her how he really felt about her and how amazing it could be.
Then the vibe changed again, there was an inexplicable spark between them and it was almost like their bodies were acting on memories of their own accord. The almost forgotten sensations threatened to overwhelm them as they came together at last; Dawn gasped out loud and Sirius couldn’t stop trembling no matter how hard he tried. The initial shock subsided quickly, though, the trembles between them giving way to waves of pleasure and raw emotion.
Sirius found himself completely captivated by Dawn’s eyes. He didn’t even try to control the way his body was moving against hers, their bodies seemed to be doing perfectly well on their own, but there was a whole world to be found in Dawn’s eyes and Sirius didn’t want to blink lest he miss a second of it. In the back of his mind, he knew what it meant when she started to make strange sounds somewhere in between a whimper and a full-blown moan, and it took a minute to register that half the moaning going on was actually coming from his mouth, and the next thing he knew they were lying side by side, panting uncontrollably and staring at each other in pure amazement.
“Oh God,” Dawn breathed.
“Uh-huh,” Sirius grunted. He didn’t know if sex had gotten a million times better with their age, or if the lonely Azkaban nights had made him forget how good it always was, but at the moment he didn’t really care.
“We should sue the Ministry for making us miss out on that for so damn long,” Dawn murmured, brushing her hand lazily through his hair.
“I don’t think anything could compensate for a minute lost with you, let alone a decade,” he said, rolling on his side to face her properly.
“I know what you mean,” Dawn started, but fell silent as Sirius began reacquainting himself with her body in detail, exploring it with his hands and eyes.
She blushed a little, looking away for a moment. She couldn’t help but feel a touch self-conscious. Sirius was the only man who’d ever seen her naked, but the last time he’d seen her in such a state she’d been only twenty-two, young, firm and whole. Now she was less so – she’d aged, she’d gained a size or two, and there were more scars spoiling her skin, most of them much bigger and uglier than the almost-invisible lines from the “Hell-God Incident”. Sirius noticed her look and reached for her chin, gently moving it so she had to look at him.
He smiled. “You have just got lovelier and lovelier, haven’t you?”
“You can drop the flattery now, Black. I’m already in bed with you,” she chuckled, but the colour in her cheeks morphed into something of a pleased glow.
On instinct they leaned in for a kiss, then snuggled in under the covers together, feeling complete and hopeful for the first time in far too long. Sleep claimed Sirius much more easily than usual that night, and for the first time since returning to his hated parents’ old house, the nightmares stayed away.
* * * * * A.N:
A little on the short side, but I’m going to be really lazy and leave it there, so at least I get to have an update and if I’m really lucky get some shiny reviews for Christmas! Sorta get the feeling like I’m rushing the Dawn/Sirius thing, but I really want to get things where they should be before Harry goes back to Hogwarts. Which should be in the next chapter or two. Happy holiday season, wonderful people! XX